Articles By Steven Lassan

Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-5-wide-receivers-rise-2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Others to Watch in 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clemson Tigers 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 11-2 (7-1)

Spring practice dates: March 6-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

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

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

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

2013 Schedule

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

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

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

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

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

Spring Storylines Facing the Tigers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big 12 Team Spring Storylines and Quarterback Battles to Watch


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

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

Iowa State

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


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

Kansas State

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

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


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

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

Oklahoma State

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

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


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


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

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

Texas Tech

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

West Virginia

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

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


Writeups compiled by Braden Gall () and Steven Lassan ()

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big East Spring Storylines and Quarterback Battles to Watch


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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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



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

South Florida

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

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


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

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


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

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<p> Big East Football 2013 Spring Preview and Storylines</p>
Post date: Friday, March 8, 2013 - 06:25
Path: /college-football/usc-trojans-2013-spring-football-preview

was billed as a national title contender last season but finished with a disappointing 7-6 mark and ended the year with a three-game losing streak. The Trojans are still under NCAA sanctions, so coach Lane Kiffin doesn’t have a full complement of players. However, USC still has plenty of talent, so another 7-5 season could spell the end of Kiffin’s run. The coaching staff was shuffled after the disappointing year, with Mike Ekeler, Clancy Pendergast, Tommie Robinson and Mike Summers all coming aboard. Pendergast is the biggest addition, as he is charged with getting USC’s defense back on track.

USC Trojans 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 7-6 (5-4)

Spring practice dates: March 5-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

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

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

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

2013 Schedule

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

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

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

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

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

Spring Storylines Facing the Trojans

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

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

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

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

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

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

Washington Huskies 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 7-6 (5-4)

Spring practice dates: March 5-April 20

Returning Starters: Offense – 9, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

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

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

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

2013 Schedule

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

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

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

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

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

Spring Storylines Facing the Huskies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pac-12 Team Spring Storylines and Quarterback Battles to Watch

North Division


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

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

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

Oregon State

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

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


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

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

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Washington State

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

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

Pac-12 South


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

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

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Arizona State

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

Writeups compiled by Braden Gall () and Steven Lassan ()

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

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

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

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

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

Big Ten Team Spring Storylines and Quarterback Battles to Watch

Leaders Divsion

Illinois Fighting Illini

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

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

Indiana Hoosiers

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

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

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

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Penn State Nittany Lions

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

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

Purdue Boilermakers

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

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

Wisconsin Badgers

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

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


Legends Division


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

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


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

Michigan State

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

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


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

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


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

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

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Writeups compiled by Braden Gall () and Steven Lassan ()

Related College Football Content 

<p> Big Ten Football 2013 Spring Preview and Storylines</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 - 13:45
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-20-coaches-hot-seat-2013

The start of spring practice for all 125 teams is a chance to start fresh and forget the bad results that came along with 2012. For a handful of coaches, spring practice is also the first opportunity to turn around a program and save their job for 2014.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15. Charlie Weis, Kansas
Record at Kansas:

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

16. Dave Christensen, Wyoming
Record at Wyoming:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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<p> College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2013: Spring Practice Edition</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 09:55
Path: /college-football/sec-football-2013-spring-preview-and-storylines

Thanks to seven consecutive national championships, the rest of college football is looking up at the . And while there are some worthy challengers ready to make a push in 2013, there appears to be no end in sight to the SEC’s recent string of dominance.

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

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

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

SEC Spring Team Storylines and Quarterback Battles to Watch 

SEC East


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


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

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

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


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

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

South Carolina

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

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

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

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


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

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

SEC West


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


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


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

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


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

Mississippi State

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

Ole Miss

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

Texas A&M

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

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Writeups compiled by David Fox (), Braden Gall () and Steven Lassan ()

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<p> SEC Football 2013 Spring Preview and Storylines</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 06:20
Path: /college-football/nebraska-cornhuskers-2013-spring-football-preview

With Michigan, Northwestern, Michigan State and  all expected to be in the mix for a spot in most preseason top-25 polls, the Big Ten Legends Division could be the toughest in college football in 2013. The Cornhuskers are the defending division champs but finished the year on a down note. Nebraska was steamrolled by Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game and lost 45-31 to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl. Bo Pelini’s team loses a lot of talent on defense, but the offense will be one of the best in the . The Cornhuskers might have to win a lot of shootouts early on, but a favorable schedule should have Nebraska in the thick of the division title picture.

Nebraska Cornhuskers 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 10-4 (7-1)

Spring practice dates: March 2-April 6

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 4

Returning Leaders:
Passing: Taylor Martinez, 228 of 368, 2,871 yards, 23 TDs, 12 INTs
Rushing: Ameer Abdullah, 226 car., 1,137 yards, 8 TDs
Receiving: Kenny Bell, 50 rec., 863 yards, 8 TDs
Tackles: Ciante Evans, 56
Sacks: Jason Ankrah and Ciante Evans, 2
Interceptions: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, 2

Redshirts to watch: LB Michael Rose, OL Paul Thurston, DE Greg McMullen, LB Jared Afalava, DT Vincent Valentine, WR Jordan Westerkamp, LB Thomas Brown, DE Avery Moss

Early Enrollees to watch: OL David Knevel, LB Courtney Love, DB D.J. Singleton

JUCO Transfers to watch: OL Matt Finnin, DE Randy Gregory, OL Chongo Kondolo

2013 Schedule
Aug. 31 Wyoming
Sept. 7 Southern Miss
Sept. 14 UCLA
Sept. 21 South Dakota State
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 5 Illinois
Oct. 12 at Purdue
Oct. 19 Bye Week
Oct. 26 at Minnesota
Nov. 2 Northwestern
Nov. 9 at Michigan
Nov. 16 Michigan State
Nov. 23 at Penn State
Nov. 29 Iowa

Offensive Strength: It’s hard to find a weakness for the Cornhuskers on this side of the ball. Quarterback Taylor Martinez, running back Ameer Abdullah and receiver Kenny Bell should all earn All-Big Ten honors, while the offensive line returns three starters. 

Offensive Weakness: If there’s a weakness, the Cornhuskers have to point to the trenches. Two tight ends (Kyler Reed and Ben Cotton) are gone from last season, and center Justin Jackson must be replaced after earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors.

Defensive Strength: The secondary was clearly the strength of Nebraska’s defense last season, holding opponents to 168.1 yards per game and finishing ninth nationally in pass efficiency defense. P.J. Smith and Daimion Stafford are gone, but the Cornhuskers return plenty of talent, led by seniors Andrew Green and Ciante Evans.

Defensive Weakness: The front seven. The Cornhuskers have a lot of work to do this spring on the defensive line and in the linebacking corps, as end Jason Ankrah is the only returning starter in the front seven. Nebraska has some promising talent on the roster, but how quickly can the line and linebacking corps jell this spring?

Spring Storylines Facing the Cornhuskers

1. More growth from Taylor Martinez? There’s no doubt Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez was one of ’s most-improved players last season. After throwing for 2,089 yards and completing just 56.2 percent of his passes in 2011, Martinez threw for 2,871 yards and bumped his accuracy to 62 percent in 2012. With most of the supporting cast returning, the Nebraska coaching staff hopes the California native can take another step in his development. Martinez tossed four more interceptions in 2012 than he did in 2011 but also threw nearly 80 more passes. After a solid 2012 campaign, Martinez is entrenched as one of college football’s top-15 returning quarterbacks and should have his best year in his final season in Lincoln.

2. Restocking the offensive line. With two all-conference candidates (Spencer Long and Jeremiah Sirles) and one 14-game starter (Brent Qvale) returning, Nebraska has a good foundation on the line. Two spots will be up for grabs this spring, as the Cornhuskers look to replace center Justin Jackson and guard Seung Hoon Choi. There’s experience returning to compete for the open positions, including Cole Pensick (two starts in 2012), Mark Pelini and Jake Cotton. Sophomore Ryne Reeves also has good potential and figures to push for a starting spot at guard or center. This unit isn’t a huge concern for Nebraska, but coordinator Tim Beck and line coaches John Garrison and Barney Cotton need to get a good look at Pensick, Pelini, Cotton and Reeves to determine how to get the best starting five on the field. 

3. Finding the right answers on defense. Despite finishing fourth nationally against the pass, the Cornhuskers couldn’t feel good about their defense by the end of the year. Nebraska allowed 70 points to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game and 45 to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl. As if the close to the season wasn’t bad enough for Bo Pelini’s defense, this unit returns only four starters. Gone are first-team All-Big Ten selections in defensive end Eric Martin and safety Daimion Stafford, along with tackle Baker Steinkuhler and linebackers Will Compton and Sean Fisher. The front seven needs the most work this spring, and a handful of newcomers will be expected to push for time this preseason. End Randy Gregory was sidelined at junior college due to an injury last year but could push for a starting job in the fall. With Gregory not in the mix this spring, look for redshirt freshmen Avery Moss, Vincent Valentine and Greg McMullen to gain valuable practice snaps. The linebacking corps is also a work in progress, as David Santos (24 tackles) is the most promising player returning. However, keep a close watch on redshirt freshmen Thomas Brown and Michael Rose. With so many new faces stepping into playing time, Nebraska’s starting 11 on defense could be unsettled until late in fall camp.

4. Special Teams. With the heavy personnel losses on defense, it’s easy to overlook the departure of Brett Maher. However, the All-Big Ten kicker will be missed, as he connected on 20 of 27 field goals last season and averaged 41.8 yards per punt. Sophomore Mauro Bondi, Western Illinois transfer Pat Smith and freshmen Spencer Lindsay and Grant Schumacher will battle to win the starting kicker job, while Jordan Bellar is the only punter listed on the spring roster. Special teams are often overlooked, but Maher was one of the best in the country, and the Cornhuskers won’t easily replace him in 2013.

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<p> Nebraska Cornhuskers 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, March 4, 2013 - 06:50
Path: /college-football/acc-football-2013-spring-preview-and-storylines

With only two teams finishing in the final top 25 poll, 2012 was a down year for the ACC. Will 2013 be any different? On paper, the league should be stronger. Florida State will take a step back with the loss of a handful of key players, but Clemson could be a top-five team, and Miami, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech are all worthy of top 25 consideration. The Hurricanes are the early favorite to win the Coastal Division, but the Hokies, Tar Heels and Yellow Jackets aren't far behind. And Miami's hopes of playing in its first ACC Championship could rest on a pending NCAA sanctions case this summer. 

While the top six teams in the league seem set, the rest of the ACC is up for grabs. Pittsburgh and Syracuse join the conference from the Big East, with the Panthers joining the Coastal Division, and the Orange shifting to the Atlantic. Both teams should be in the mix for a bowl game, but it’s unlikely Pittsburgh or Syracuse will win either division in 2013.

New coaches will lead the way for Syracuse, NC State and Boston College next season. Scott Shafer replaces Doug Marrone at Syracuse, Tom O’Brien was canned in favor of Dave Doeren at NC State, and Boston College hired Steve Addazio away from Temple. All three programs seem to have made a good hire, but only time will tell how these new coaches will fare in the ACC. 

Spring Team Storylines and Quarterback Battles to Watch

Atlantic Division

Boston College

Can the Eagles rejuvenate their rushing attack?
In nearly every season since 2008, Boston College has slipped in the national rushing rankings. After ranking 63rd in 2008, the Eagles fell to 71st, then 90th in 2010, before rebounding to 82nd in 2011 and falling to 115th in 2012. New coach Steve Addazio leaned on the run at Temple and expects to implement a similar offense in Chestnut Hill. However, he needs to find a No. 1 back, and Boston College has a few candidates that will get a look this spring. Andre Williams has shown flashes of promise and finished with 599 yards rushing last year. Tajh Kimble and Rolandan Finch also have experience and will factor into the mix. The Eagles aren’t short on options, so Addazio just needs to develop some pecking order and figure out if true freshmen Tyler Rouse or Myles Willis will be a part of the rotation this fall.


Who will replace Andre Ellington?
Although the Tigers must replace center Dalton Freeman, tight end Brandon Ford and receiver DeAndre Hopkins, all eyes in spring practice will be on the backfield. Andre Ellington exhausted his eligibility last season, and the battle to be Clemson’s new No. 1 back is wide open. Roderick McDowell averaged 5.4 yards per carry on 83 attempts last season, while D.J. Howard chipped in 138 yards on 35 attempts. Zac Brooks was impressive in his freshman year, recording 119 yards on 26 attempts. True freshman Tyshon Dye and Wayne Gallman can’t be counted out either and should see an opportunity to earn snaps in the fall. Clemson has depth, so a committee approach isn't out of the question. However, the Tigers need to develop a pecking order and find out what options they have this spring.

Florida State

How quickly can the Seminoles reload their defense?
After owning one of the nation’s best defenses in 2012, the Seminoles will have several new faces on that side of the ball in 2013. The change starts on the sidelines, as Alabama assistant Jeremy Pruitt takes over at defensive coordinator, while Charles Kelly comes over from Georgia Tech to coach linebackers, and Sal Sunseri was hired to work with the defensive ends. Seven starters are gone from last season, including first-team All-ACC selections Bjoern Werner and Xavier Rhodes. There’s no shortage of talent due to Florida State’s recruiting classes in recent years, as sophomore Mario Edwards is due for a bigger role on the defensive line, while junior Timmy Jernigan could be one of the ’s best defensive tackles. The secondary will miss Rhodes, but Tyler Hunter, Ronald Darby, Nick Waisome and converted safety Lamarcus Joyner should form a formidable pass defense. With so many new faces, there will be a transition period for Florida State. This spring is all about getting those new faces acclimated as quickly as possible.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Jacob Coker (SO) vs. Clint Trickett (JR) vs. Jameis Winston (FR)
Trickett has two starts under his belt, so he enters spring as the frontrunner by default. However, Winston is the future at this position for Florida State, so he figures to get on the field sooner, rather than later.


Who will emerge on defense with only four returning starters?
With the departure of six starters, it will be a challenge for Maryland to match last season’s defensive numbers. The Terrapins ranked 21st nationally in yards allowed and ranked second in the ACC in rush defense in 2012. With the departure of standouts in defensive linemen A.J. Francis and Joe Vellano, along with linebackers Demetrius Hartsfield and Kenny Tate, coordinator Brian Stewart will have his hands full this offseason. Junior Cole Farrand should be a leader on the revamped unit, while the line is expected to get some contribution from A.J. Monroe, who missed 2012 due to a knee injury. Matt Robinson is expected to slide from safety to linebacker, which should help Farrand make up for the losses of Hartsfield and Tate. The Terrapins have some talent returning, but Stewart will need all spring to find the right 11 starters.

Quarterback Battle? Injuries wrecked havoc on the Terrapins’ quarterbacks last season, as three players made starts, and the No. 1 option (C.J. Brown) was lost due to a torn ACL in fall practice. Former New Mexico quarterback Ricardo Young will work as the top option this spring, but Brown is expected to regain the starting nod in the fall.

NC State

Can the Wolfpack find replacements in the secondary?
Considering the talent returning in the secondary last season, it was a surprise to see NC State finish ninth in the ACC in pass defense. The numbers were a little better for the Wolfpack in pass efficiency defense, as they ranked fourth in the conference. Thanks to the departures of cornerback David Amerson and safeties Earl Wolff and Brandn Bishop, this unit will need to be revamped in 2013. Dontae Johnson and Juston Burris will be the leaders for playing time at cornerback and should be a solid duo for new coordinator Dave Huxtable. At safety, the picture is less clear. There’s very little in the way of production returning, with Hakim Jones and Tim Buckley listed as the backups from last season. As with any coaching change, there could be some position changes to get the best four players on the field. 

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Manny Stocker (SO) vs. Pete Thomas (JR)
Thomas was a four-star recruit coming out of high school but didn’t live up to that potential at Colorado State. Stocker threw two passes in limited work last season, and even though Thomas has the edge in experience, Stocker’s dual-threat ability could be a better fit for Matt Canada’s offense.


Which receiver will be the new go-to target?
Not only is Syracuse breaking in a new quarterback, but the Orange are losing their top two receivers from last season. Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales combined to catch 136 passes for 1,952 yards and 15 scores last season and will be missed. While replacing Lemon and Sales is a tall task for new coordinator George McDonald, Jarrod West is back after catching 43 passes last season and tight end Beckett Wales is back in the mix after snagging 35 receptions. West and Wales are a solid one-two combination for the new quarterback, but who are the No. 2 and No. 3 receivers? Is that Christopher Clark or Jeremiah Kobena? Or will Syracuse have to wait and get some help from its freshman class, including touted prospect Corey Cooper?

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Ashton Broyld (SO) vs. Terrel Hunt (SO) vs. John Kinder (JR) vs. Charley Loeb (SR)
Out of all the quarterback battles in the ACC, this one might be the biggest head-scratcher going into spring practice. There’s not much experience returning, and a new coaching staff has added an extra element of uncertainty. Loeb has the edge in experience, but Broyld could move back to quarterback after playing running back in 2012, and Terrel Hunt has intriguing dual-threat ability.

Wake Forest

Will the offensive line find stability?
The final stats on offense for the Demon Deacons weren’t pretty. The offense finished 10th or worse in the ACC in rushing, passing, total and scoring offense. While the offense struggled when receiver Michael Campanaro missed time with a hand injury, the bigger issue for Wake Forest was a young offensive line. Ten players made starts up front, with the final depth chart featuring four freshmen. This unit allowed 2.3 sacks a game and struggled to open holes for its rushing attack (3.0 yards per carry). The line took its lumps last season and should be better with another offseason to work together. However, center Garrick Williams is gone and there’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the starting five. If the Demon Deacons can stabilize the line, it would help stretch the field for its passing attack, along with clearing the way for Josh Harris and Deandre Martin to jumpstart the rushing game.

Coastal Division


Can the defense show progress in spring practice?
Even though quarterback Sean Renfree is a big loss, the Blue Devils have sophomore Anthony Boone waiting in the wings. If Duke wants to get back to a bowl game, the defense has to make progress after allowing 521.2 yards per contest in games. Seven starters return from last season, including All-ACC cornerback Ross Cockrell. Will that be enough to bring this defense out of the ACC cellar? Injuries forced a lot of players to see time in 2012, which should help with the depth going into 2013. However, the Blue Devils still need to establish a pass rush and replace two starting safeties in Jordan Byas and Walt Canty. Needless to say, this unit will be the under the spotlight in spring practice.

Quarterback Battle? Anthony Boone started one game in relief of Sean Renfree last season and finished with 531 passing yards in 2012. Brandon Connette will likely see time as an all-purpose threat, but Boone appears to be the clear No. 1 passer.

Georgia Tech

Is Ted Roof the answer at defensive coordinator?
The Yellow Jackets allowed 20 or more points in five out of the first six games last season, which prompted coach Paul Johnson to dismiss coordinator Al Groh. Charles Kelly wore the interim tag for the remainder of 2012, and this unit showed some progress, holding USC to seven points in the Sun Bowl victory and finishing fifth in the ACC in yards allowed. With eight starters back on both sides of the ball, Georgia Tech should have a good chance to make a repeat trip to the conference championship game. However, much depends on how quickly new coordinator Ted Roof adapts the personnel to his scheme. Will the Yellow Jackets stick with a 3-4 or shift to a 4-3? There’s some promising personnel returning, but the defensive line loses two key contributors, and cornerback Rod Sweeting is gone after recording 58 stops last year. 

Quarterback Battle? Vad Lee pushed Tevin Washington to start last season and barring a bad performance in spring ball, the sophomore will start the season opener.


Can the defense find some answers?
After finishing third in the ACC in scoring defense in 2011, the Hurricanes fell to 10th in the conference last fall, allowing 30.5 points a game. Those numbers simply aren’t good enough to win the ACC. Five starters return in 2013, including promising end Anthony Chickillo, linebacker Denzel Perryman and cornerback Tracy Howard. However, Miami’s defense still has a long way to go to challenge for a spot among the best in the ACC. Each level of the defense needs work, but coordinator Mark D’Onofrio has to find a pass rush after the Hurricanes averaged a paltry 1.1 sacks per game last season.

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North Carolina

Who will replace Giovani Bernard?
Despite missing two games due to injury, Bernard was the ACC’s top running back last season. He averaged 122.8 yards per game on the ground and finished the year with 47 receptions. While Bernard will be missed, the cupboard is far from bare for coach Larry Fedora. A.J. Blue worked as the No. 2 back last year, finishing with 433 yards and nine scores. He wasn’t the only back to see time, as Romar Morris recorded 69 attempts and finished with 386 yards and two scores. It’s likely both backs will see time, and despite losing an All-ACC back like Bernard, North Carolina is in relatively good shape considering Blue and Morris have showcased solid potential in limited work.

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Can Paul Chryst find answers on the offensive line?
With a new quarterback taking over, and a season opener against Florida State on the horizon, the Panthers need their offensive line to set the tone early in the year. However, this unit loses second-team All-Big East center Ryan Turnley, along with guard Chris Jacobson, who started all 13 games in 2012. Three starters return for 2013, but there’s plenty of room to grow after allowing 2.9 sacks a game last season. Cory King and Matt Rotheram are the favorites to start at tackle, while Arthur Doakes and Ryan Sclieper have the experience to start out as the frontrunners at guard. True freshman Dorian Johnson is likely to get an extended look in fall practice for one of the tackle spots. Don’t be surprised if Chryst and line coach Jim Hueber work with several combinations this spring to find the best starting five.

Quarterback Battle Breakdown: Trey Anderson (JR) vs. Tra’von Chapman (FR) vs. Tom Savage (SR) vs. Chad Voytik (FR)
The Panthers have a wide-open battle this spring, as former Rutgers starter Tom Savage appears to have a slight edge over redshirt freshman Chad Voytik and junior Trey Anderson. However, true freshman Tra’von Chapman will get a look this spring. Whoever wins the job will spend a lot of time handing off to sophomore running back Rushel Shell.

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Is Mike London’s team ready to take the next step?
After an 8-5 finish in 2011, hopes were high in Charlottesville that the team was ready for an even bigger season in 2012. Instead, the Cavaliers went in the wrong direction. Virginia finished 4-8 and started 0-4 in conference play. Problems on both sides of the ball prevented the Cavaliers from contending for a bowl game, including quarterback inconsistency, as well as a lack of turnovers forced on defense (12). Due to the disappointing season, head coach Mike London revamped his coaching staff, hiring Steve Fairchild to coordinate the offense, Jon Tenuta to lead the defense, while former NC State coach Tom O’Brien will also serve as an assistant. With 13 starters back, the Cavaliers have enough talent to get back to a bowl game. However, the schedule isn’t easy, as BYU and Oregon both come to Charlottesville in non-conference play, while Virginia faces road trips to North Carolina and Miami late in the year. Could this be a make-or-break year for London? If the team fails to show progress, it will be an interesting offseason in Charlottesville.

Quarterback Battle? David Watford will likely push Phillip Sims for the starting nod, but most expect Sims to emerge as Virginia’s No. 1 quarterback. The Alabama transfer threw for 1,263 yards last season.

Virginia Tech

Can Logan Thomas regain his 2011 form?
In an effort to spark Virginia Tech’s offense, coach Frank Beamer made some much-needed staff changes. Former Temple and Auburn assistant Scot Loeffler was hired to coordinate the offense, Jeff Grimes is now in charge of the offensive line, and Aaron Moorehead will coach the receivers. After throwing for 3,013 yards, 19 touchdowns and completing 59.8 percent of passes in 2011, Thomas finished 2012 with 2,976 yards, 18 touchdowns and 16 picks. Considering the lack of a No. 1 running back and a revamped offensive line, it’s hard to place the blame squarely on Thomas’ shoulders. However, there’s no question he has to play better in 2013. Spring practice should give some insight into how quickly the Loeffler-Thomas relationship is coming together.

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<p> ACC Football 2013 Spring Preview and Storylines</p>
Post date: Monday, March 4, 2013 - 06:40
Path: /college-football/baylor-bears-2013-spring-football-preview

Baylor finished 2012 as one of the hottest teams in , winning five out of its last six games, including a 49-26 victory over UCLA in the Holiday Bowl. The Bears are coming off three consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history and despite the departure of a few key players, Art Briles’ team should be in the mix for another postseason appearance. The biggest spring question mark will be replacing quarterback Nick Florence, as well as finding more improvement from a defense that finished at the bottom of the Big 12 in yards allowed last year.

Baylor Bears 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 8-5 (4-5)

Spring practice dates: March 1-April 6

Returning Starters: Offense – 4, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Bryce Petty, 7 of 10, 97 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Lache Seastrunk, 131 car., 1,012 yards, 7 TDs
Receiving: Tevin Reese, 53 rec., 957 yards, 9 TDs
Tackles: Bryce Hager, 124
Sacks: Chris McAllister, 6
Interceptions: Eddie Lackey, 4

Redshirts to watch: WR Corey Coleman, WR Lynx Hawthorne, S Terrance Singleton, OL Tre’Von Armstead, QB Seth Russell, OL Kyle Fuller, LB Kendall Ehrlich, DL Dominique Banks

Early Enrollees to watch: QB Chris Johnson, WR/DB Kiante’ Griffin, DE/LB Brian Lance, TE Gus Penning

JUCO Transfers to watch: TE Gus Penning, DL Terell Brooks

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Wofford
Sept. 7 Buffalo
Sept. 14 Bye Week
Sept. 21 ULM
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 5 West Virginia
Oct. 12 at Kansas State
Oct. 19 Iowa State
Oct. 26 at Kansas
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 9 Oklahoma
Nov. 16 Texas Tech (Arlington)
Nov. 23 at Oklahoma State
Nov. 30 at TCU
Dec. 7 Texas

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Offensive Strength: Running back Lache Seastrunk started slow last season but finished with an average of 138.5 yards per game over the final six contests. If he picks up where he left off, Seastrunk will be the Big 12’s No. 1 running back in 2013. He isn’t the only option in the backfield, as Glasco Martin returns after rushing for 15 touchdowns last season. The offensive line returns three starters, including All-American guard Cyril Richardson and honorable mention All-Big 12 tackle Troy Baker.

Offensive Weakness: Quarterback. Despite losing Robert Griffin, the Bears never missed a beat on offense last year. averaged 340.5 passing yards per game and finished fourth nationally in scoring. Can the Bears keep it going in 2013? Nick Florence departs after a successful year as the starter, pushing junior Bryce Petty into the starting role. Petty has the talent to keep this offense performing at a high level, but he has only 14 career passing attempts.

Defensive Strength: With Bryce Hager and Eddie Lackey returning, Baylor could have one of the Big 12’s top linebacker units in 2013. Hybrid linebacker/safety Ahmad Dixon also returns after recording 102 tackles and two interceptions.

Defensive Weakness: The Bears showed signs of progress on defense late in the year, but this unit still has a long ways to go. The line will be getting a lot of attention from coordinator Phil Bennett this spring, especially with the departure of tackles Gary Mason Jr. and Nick Johnson. Cornerback Chance Casey and safety Mike Hicks will be missed in the secondary.

Spring Storylines Facing the Bears

1. Is Petty ready to lead Baylor’s offense? Transitioning from Robert Griffin to Nick Florence proved to be no big deal for Baylor. Will the same be said for the Bears at the end of 2013? Petty served as Florence’s backup last season, completing 7 of 10 throws for 97 yards and one score. Most of his work came in the season opener against SMU, but Petty did see time in the 49-21 loss to TCU. Breaking in a new quarterback always requires some transition. However, the track record of quarterbacks and offenses under Art Briles suggests the Bears won’t suffer too much in terms of production. If Petty struggles, true freshman Chris Johnson and redshirt freshman Seth Russell will get a chance to play. 

2. Finding help for Tevin Reese. With Terrance Williams and Lanear Sampson exhausting their eligibility, Reese is set to be Baylor’s No. 1 receiver in 2013. That shouldn’t be a problem for the senior, as he averaged 18.1 yards per reception last season and has 149 career catches. Outside of Reese, Baylor has dependable options in Levi Norwood and Antwan Goodley, along with tight end Jordan Najvar. However, the Bears would like to find a few more receivers to add depth and playmaking ability to the passing attack. Help could come in the form of incoming freshman Robbie Rhodes and redshirt freshman Corey Coleman. This isn’t a glaring concern for Baylor, but it’s important to find a few more weapons to take some of the pressure off of Reese.

3. Shuffling on the offensive line. Baylor quietly had one of the Big 12’s top offensive lines last season, allowing just 1.5 sacks per game and paving the way for the offense to average 5.1 yards per rush. This unit has a few holes to fill this spring, as center Ivory Wade and guard Cameron Kaufhold have exhausted their eligibility. Wade was one of the nation’s most underrated centers and made 49 career appearances. The cupboard isn’t bare for Briles, as guard Cyril Richardson is one of the nation’s best, left tackle Spencer Drango started all 13 games as a redshirt freshman last season, and Troy Baker made 13 starts at right tackle. Senior Stephan Huber could replace Wade at center, while Desmine Hilliard or Kelvin Palmer will likely battle to fill the void left behind by Kaufhold at right guard.

4. Taking the next step on defense. The final defensive statistics weren’t pretty. Baylor finished 2012 119th nationally in yards allowed, 110th in scoring and 119th in pass defense. While the final ledger was an eye sore, the Bears showed some progress at the end of 2012. Phil Bennett’s defense held UCLA to 26 points in the Holiday Bowl and forced three interceptions in a win over Kansas State. While it’s not a huge improvement, Baylor showed some life in the final few games. With seven starters returning, the Bears should be able to build on their defensive success in 2013. And playing better on this side of the ball should help relieve some of the pressure off of Petty's shoulders.

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<p> Baylor Bears 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 09:05
Path: /college-football/texas-am-aggies-2013-spring-football-preview

took the SEC by storm last season, finishing with an 11-2 mark with an upset over Alabama in Tuscaloosa and a Cotton Bowl victory over Oklahoma. The Aggies are an emerging power behind head coach Kevin Sumlin, and this team has to be considered one of the top-five national title contenders for 2013. Quarterback Johnny Manziel returns after winning the Heisman Trophy, allowing the Aggies to rank among the nation’s best on offense once again. While the offense is in good shape, the defense has some major holes to fill and will be the top focus during spring practice.

Texas A&M Aggies 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 11-2 (6-2)

Spring practice dates: March 2-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 5

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Johnny Manziel, 295 of 434, 3,706 yards, 26 TDs, 9 INTs
Rushing: Johnny Manziel, 201 car., 1,410 yards, 21 TDs
Receiving: Mike Evans, 82 rec., 1,105 yards, 5 TDs
Tackles: Steven Jenkins, 79
Sacks: Steven Jenkins, 2
Interceptions: Deshazor Everett, 2

Redshirts to Watch: LB Jordan Richmond, QB Matt Davis, OL Germain Ifedi, LB Tyrone Taylor, DL Polo Manukainiu, OL Kimo Tipoti

Early Enrollees to Watch: WR Ja’Quay Williams, LB Reggie Chevis, TE Cameron Clear, DE Jordan Points, LB Tommy Sanders, OL Jeremiah Stuckey, LB Brett Wade, CB Alex Sezer Jr.

JUCO Transfers to Watch: TE Cameron Clear, OL Jeremiah Stuckey, LB Tommy Sanders

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Rice
Sept. 7 Sam Houston State
Sept. 14 Alabama
Sept. 21 SMU
Sept. 28 at Arkansas
Oct. 5 Bye Week
Oct. 12 at Ole Miss
Oct. 19 Auburn
Oct. 26 Vanderbilt
Nov. 2 UTEP
Nov. 9 Mississippi State
Nov. 16 Bye Week
Nov. 23 at LSU
Nov. 30 at Missouri

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Offensive Strength: With Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel returning to College Station, the Aggies should have no trouble scoring points in 2013. Manziel led the team with 1,410 rushing yards, while throwing for 3,706 yards and recording 47 overall touchdowns. In addition to Manziel, the Aggies return a deep backfield and No. 1 receiver Mike Evans.

Offensive Weakness: It’s hard to call the offensive line a weakness, but the Aggies lose All-American tackle Luke Joeckel and center Patrick Lewis. Again, this unit may not be a weakness, but it’s also hard to say it will match last season’s production.

Defensive Strength: Considering the personnel losses on defense, it’s hard to pinpoint one position as a particular strength. While one level of the defense doesn’t stand out, this unit does have some promising young talent, including cornerbacks Deshazor Everett and De’Vante Harris and end Julien Obioha. A top-10 recruiting class should help improve the depth across the board for Kevin Sumlin's team.

Defensive Weakness: Expect the defense to get plenty of attention from Sumlin and coordinator Mark Snyder this spring. End Damontre Moore left for the NFL, and linebackers Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart exhausted their eligibility, so the defense is looking for a few impact performers. With Moore leaving, finding a pass-rusher and someone who can force turnovers is a top priority.

Spring Storylines Facing the Aggies

1. Transition at offensive coordinator. Kliff Kingsbury did an excellent job in developing Johnny Manziel from a first-year starter into a Heisman winner. However, Kingsbury departed Texas A&M for Texas Tech before the Cotton Bowl, which prompted Kevin Sumlin to promote Clarence McKinney from running backs coach to co-offensive coordinator. McKinney will be joined by Jake Spavital to share the offensive coordinator title, but he will call the plays. Considering the layoff between Texas A&M’s regular season finale and the Cotton Bowl, there’s enough time to gameplan and soften the blow from losing a coordinator like Kingsbury. McKinney and Spavital should be a good replacement for Kingsbury, but in-game adjustments during the season will be something to watch. Also, what nuisances will they bring to the table in 2013? Don’t expect a drop-off in Texas A&M’s offense, but this will be interesting to watch as the season unfolds.

2. Developing a rotation at running back. The Aggies lose Christine Michael, but there’s little concern about the rushing attack in 2013. Ben Malena rushed for 808 yards and eight touchdowns last season and should open spring practice as the No. 1 back. Trey Williams had a stellar debut in 2012, averaging 5.8 yards per carry and 22.3 yards per kick return. The backfield will get even deeper this spring with transfers Brandon Williams (Oklahoma) and Tra Carson (Oregon) ready to push for snaps. Considering the depth, this is a good problem for Kevin Sumlin to have. Developing a pecking order after Malena and finding different ways to get multiple backs on the field will be something to keep an eye on this spring.

3. Revamping the offensive line. It’s a little harsh to use the word revamp to describe Texas A&M’s offensive line situation, but the Aggies are losing two standout players in left tackle Luke Joeckel and center Patrick Lewis. Joeckel could be the No. 1 pick in April’s 2013 NFL Draft. While the Aggies will miss Joeckel, getting Jake Matthews to stick around for his senior year was a huge break for the offense. Matthews is expected to flip to left tackle. How will the rest of the lineup shake out? Junior college recruit Jeremiah Stuckey could get in the mix at right tackle, but guard Cedric Ogbuehi will likely slide outside and claim the starting job. Jarvis Harrison should claim one guard spot, while the other could go to Kimo Tipoti or incoming freshman Joas Aguilar. Sophomore Mike Matthews will likely start at center.

4. Improving the defense. Texas A&M’s defense wasn’t dominant last year and allowed 390.2 yards per game, but it held opponents to 21.8 points a contest. This unit loses its three best players from 2012, so there’s some work to be done. In addition to the personnel losses, the Aggies have to get after the quarterback and force more turnovers in 2013. With Damontre Moore leaving, the spotlight will be on sophomore Julien Obioha to play a bigger role on the line, while sophomore Brandon Alexander (returning to action after a redshirt year) and freshmen Daeshon Hall and Tyrone Taylor will also be asked to factor prominently into the pass rush. In addition to the concerns on the defensive line, the linebacking corps will have two new starters, while the secondary has room to grow after finishing 12th in the SEC in pass defense. The Aggies have talent waiting in the wings, but how quickly can that turn into production?

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<p> Texas A&amp;M Aggies 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 06:45
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-10-spring-storylines-watch-2013

The battle to win ’s 2013 national championship is officially underway. Spring practice kicked off for a handful of teams in February and will begin for most of the remaining FBS teams in March. While it’s often difficult to glean much from spring practice, it’s a time of new beginning for a1l 125 teams. Quarterback battles, coaching staff transitions and breakout players are always a preseason tradition in March and April.

With spring practice underway, it’s time to examine some of the biggest storylines around college football. All 125 teams have question marks or some uncertainty they want to sort out this preseason. For some teams, the depth chart is mostly set, while others are dealing with just a few returning starters.

Alabama is a heavy favorite to win the 2013 national championship, but this spring is the first chance for Oregon and Ohio State to find the right answers to push the Crimson Tide in January. Outside of Oregon and Ohio State, Stanford, Georgia and Texas A&M are top-10 title contenders but need to fill a few key voids.  

College Football's Top 10 Spring Storylines to Watch for 2013

1. Reloading Alabama’s offensive line
Perhaps the only obstacle standing in the way of a third consecutive title for Alabama is an offensive line that loses three All-American performers. Center Barrett Jones was one of college football’s most versatile linemen in his career, while guard Chance Warmack and tackle D.J. Fluker were a big reason why Alabama averaged 5.6 yards per carry in 2012. And as if the personnel losses weren’t enough, line coach Jeff Stoutland left for the NFL, with former FIU coach Mario Cristobal hired as his replacement. While Jones, Warmack and Fluker are huge losses, the Crimson Tide does return two starters. Left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio is a future first-round pick in the NFL Draft, while guard Anthony Steen has 25 career starts. Ryan Kelly will have the first crack at replacing Jones at center, and he earned SEC All-Freshman honors for his performance in a relief role last season. Junior college recruit Leon Brown and early enrollee Brandon Hill, along with last season’s backups in Chad Lindsay, Alphonse Taylor, Arie Kouandjio and Austin Shepherd will likely be fighting to fill the voids at left guard and right tackle. Don’t expect Alabama to have a huge drop in offensive line play. However, it’s also unrealistic this fall to expect this unit to produce at a level similar to 2012.

2. Ohio State’s rebuilding project on defense
After a perfect 12-0 mark last season, the Buckeyes have their sights set higher in 2013. The one-year bowl ban is over, and Ohio State is a legitimate national title contender. Quarterback Braxton Miller should take the next step in his development under Urban Meyer, and the offense also has an emerging cast of weapons ready to take the pressure off of Miller’s shoulders. However, the defense should have Meyer and his staff feeling a little nervous. Only four starters are back from last season’s unit, which ranked sixth in the Big Ten in total and scoring defense. While the Buckeyes played better defense in the second half of the season, there are some holes to fill with the departure of end John Simon, tackle Johnathan Hankins, linebacker Zach Boren and cornerback Travis Howard. Talent is never an issue for Ohio State but how quickly will young players like Noah Spence, Doran Grant and Adolphus Washington perform at a high level? If the defense comes together quickly, the Buckeyes could be Alabama’s biggest threat to a national championship.

3. Transitioning from Chip Kelly to Mark Helfrich at Oregon
Chip Kelly’s decision to go to the NFL came as no surprise to the folks in Eugene. And the Ducks were prepared for the transition, as Mark Helfrich makes the move from offensive coordinator to head coach. Promoting from within has worked well for Oregon in the past, but there’s always a transition period whenever a new coach takes over. Helfrich has no head coaching experience and didn’t call the plays under Kelly’s watch. However, he’s familiar with the players and doesn’t plan on making many drastic changes to Oregon’s up-tempo attack. The Ducks don’t have many holes to fill, but Helfrich needs to find a No. 1 back to replace Kenjon Barner, along with rebuilding a front seven on defense that loses Dion Jordan, Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay. Most expect an easy transition from Kelly to Helfrich. But this spring is the first test and should provide more clues on whether or not Oregon is a national title contender.

4. Quarterback battles in the Big 12
Take a look at the early predictions for the 2013 season, and you will see a lot of variety in the projected pecking order for the Big 12. Why the uncertainty? Quarterback play. All 10 teams head into spring practice with some type of quarterback question mark. For TCU, can Casey Pachall regain his confidence and find the form that allowed him to throw for 2,921 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2011? At Oklahoma State, three quarterbacks were forced to start last season. And all three are capable of winning games. Who does Mike Gundy turn to? If the Cowboys settle on a No. 1 quarterback, they could be the pick to win the Big 12. Landry Jones has exhausted his eligibility, which means Blake Bell steps into the full-time role. The junior has shown impressive rushing ability in limited action but is still an unknown as a passer. Kansas State must replace Collin Klein, West Virginia will likely turn to redshirt freshman Ford Childress to replace Geno Smith, and Texas is turning the offense over to David Ash once again. So much uncertainty, so little time for the 10 Big 12 coaches to sort out the quarterback position. 

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5. Encore for Kevin Sumlin and Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M?
The Aggies took the SEC by storm last season, winning 11 games – including a road upset against Alabama – and produced Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. What will Texas A&M do for an encore? How about contend for the national title? Reaching college football’s championship game is certainly within reach for Sumlin’s team, but the Aggies do have a handful of question marks facing this team. The defense ranked ninth in the SEC in yards allowed and 12th in pass defense. Improving on those totals will be difficult, especially with the departure of end Damontre Moore, linebackers Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart and safety Steven Terrell. Manziel will be just as dangerous in 2013, but Texas A&M must replace standout left tackle Luke Joeckel and receiver Ryan Swope. The Aggies host Alabama early in the year, and a victory over the Crimson Tide would put Sumlin and Manziel in control of the SEC West.

6. Make or break year for Lane Kiffin at USC?
After opening spring practice in 2012 with national title aspirations, there’s a different feeling hanging over the program in 2013. The Trojans were one of the most disappointing teams in college football last season, and coach Lane Kiffin could be entering a make-or-break season. Unfortunately for Kiffin, there’s a host of question marks surrounding his team this spring. There’s a rebuilt coaching staff, starting with defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, and it’s still uncertain whether or not Kiffin will call plays this year. The Trojans also have a quarterback battle on their hands, with Max Wittek and Max Browne set to square off for the No. 1 job. While seven starters are back on defense, All-Pac-12 cornerback Nickell Robey and safety T.J. McDonald must be replaced. The good news for USC is the 2013 schedule isn't all that daunting. The Trojans miss Oregon in crossover play with the North division, and swing games against Arizona and UCLA will be in the Coliseum. Getting to eight wins likely means Kiffin is back for 2014. Anything less than that mark will likely mean a coaching change is coming to USC.

7. How quickly can Todd Grantham rebuild Georgia’s defense?
The race between South Carolina, Georgia and Florida to win the SEC East should be one of the closest battles in college football next season. Each team has question marks, but if they can find answers, all three programs will be in the mix to compete for a national title. Georgia is the early favorite to win the SEC East, but the Bulldogs return only three starters. Coordinator Todd Grantham was courted by the NFL, and his return is key for the Bulldogs’ hopes of a quick reload on defense. Each level of the defense was hit hard by departures, as linemen John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers depart, while the linebacking corps must replace standouts Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree, and the secondary lost Sanders Commings, Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams. Talent isn’t an issue in Athens, as sophomores Jordan Jenkins (LB) and Sheldon Dawson (CB) are potential stars. However, Georgia needs to find a tackle capable of occupying blockers at the line of scrimmage, as well as find someone to generate a consistent pass rush.

8. Can Stanford find a spark in the passing game and replace Stepfan Taylor at RB?
With 14 returning starters and promising young talent waiting in the wings, Stanford is in position to make a run at an appearance in the national title game. The Cardinal didn’t suffer a ton of personnel losses, but tight ends Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz will be missed, while Stepfan Taylor departs after three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. There’s no clear replacement for the tight ends at Stanford, but the picture at running back has a little more clarity. Anthony Wilkerson, Remound Wright and redshirt freshman Barry Sanders will compete for time this spring, while Tyler Gaffney will rejoin the team later this offseason after a one-year absence. Gaffney rushed for 449 yards in 2011 and is a key addition to the backfield. Stanford may not replace Taylor’s production with one player, but there’s enough talent returning that a committee approach would work. In fact, the rushing attack is the least of coach David Shaw's concerns on offense. Quarterback Kevin Hogan garnered honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors last season but lacks weapons at receiver. The Cardinal will be strong in the trenches and on defense once again. However, if the passing game doesn’t find a spark, beating Oregon for the Pac-12 title could be difficult.

9. Everett Golson’s development at Notre Dame
Even though the Fighting Irish were handled by Alabama in the national championship, finishing 12-1 and making a BCS bowl were a sign the program is headed in the right direction. Notre Dame loses some key pieces from last season, including linebacker Manti Te’o, tight end Tyler Eifert and running backs Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick. While those losses are significant, returning to 10 wins and a BCS game in 2013 will hinge prominently on the development of quarterback Everett Golson. As a redshirt freshman last season, he threw for 2,405 yards and 12 scores and rushed for 298 yards and six touchdowns. Golson played better in the second half of the season, and Notre Dame needs the sophomore to take the next step in 2013. Golson doesn’t have to be Johnny Manziel, but if he can cut down on the mistakes, he should spark the Fighting Irish’s passing attack and soften the blow from the departure of two key running backs and Eifert.

10. Conference realignment
It seems to be an ongoing and evolving animal, but college football’s conference landscape will change once again in 2013. Pittsburgh and Syracuse will move from the Big East to the ACC, while UCF, Memphis, Houston and SMU leave Conference USA to join the Big East. The conference realignment shifts didn't impact just the BCS conferences either, as Conference USA expanded to 14 teams, the Mountain West gains Utah State and San Jose State from the WAC, while the Sun Belt added Texas State and Georgia State. Moving conferences doesn’t have much impact on the play on the field, but there’s a lot of new faces in different places in 2013 and spring practice is the first opportunity for these teams to start preparing for life in their respective new leagues.

Other key storylines to watch

Are the Tigers ready to take the next step? Improving the defense is a priority for coach Dabo Swinney, along with finding a replacement for running back Andre Ellington.

Will the Gators find playmakers at running back and receiver?

Florida State
Will highly touted redshirt freshman Jameis Winston win the quarterback job?

Running back and offensive line will be the areas of focus for coach Charlie Strong.

Can the defense find some answers after a miserable 2012 season?

Can the Wolverines find some help at receiver and running back for Devin Gardner?

Can the Cornhuskers rebuild a defense that allowed 115 points in their final two games?

How will the new coaches at Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee mesh with their rosters this spring?

Is David Ash ready to take the next step at quarterback?

Virginia Tech
Can quarterback Logan Thomas get back on track under new coordinator Scot Loeffler?

Will quarterback Keith Price regain his 2011 form?

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<p> College Football's Top 10 Spring Storylines to Watch for 2013</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 09:15
Path: /college-football/memphis-tigers-2013-spring-preview

While the final record was only 4-8, it was clear Memphis was an improved team in coach Justin Fuente’s first season. The Tigers suffered a disappointing loss to UT-Martin in the season opener but rebounded to win their final three games for 2012. After a disastrous tenure under Larry Porter, Memphis has found the right coach to lead the program into the Big East.

Memphis Tigers 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 4-8 (4-4)

Spring practice dates: Feb. 28-April 9

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 8

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Jacob Karam, 176 of 274, 1,895 yds., 14 TDs, 3 INTs
Rushing: Brandon Hayes, 118 car., 576 yds., 6 TDs
Receiving: Keiwone Malone, 44 rec., 476 yds., 3 TDs
Tackles: Charles Harris, 79
Sacks: Martin Ifedi, 7.5
Interceptions: Lonnie Ballentine, 3

Redshirts to Watch: WR Daniel Hurd, OL Markeith Minnick

JUCO Transfers to Watch: OLB Kewan Alfred, LB Ryan Coleman, WR Joe Craig, WR Adrian Henderson, OL Kevin McIntyre, OL Nykiren Wellington

2013 Schedule

Sept. 7 Duke
Sept. 14 at MTSU
Sept. 21 Arkansas State
Nov. 9 Tennessee-Martin

Big East dates TBD

at Connecticut
at Houston
at Louisville
at South Florida

Offensive Strength: There’s not a glaring strength on offense for Memphis, especially after averaging just 318.3 yards per game last season. Quarterback Jacob Karam was steady in his first year as the starter, and Brandon Hayes finished the year with back-to-back 100-yard efforts. Receiver Keiwone Malone is a solid go-to threat for Karam.

Offensive Weakness: Considering the Tigers ranked near the bottom of Conference USA in points and yards last season, Fuente needs more from this group in 2013. As a whole, Memphis needs more playmakers to emerge this year.

Defensive Strength: Eight starters are back from a unit that showed big improvement last season. The Tigers ranked 117th in yards allowed in 2011 but jumped to 50th last season. The defensive line should be the top unit on defense, led by potential all-conference performers Martin Ifedi, Johnnie Farms and Terry Redden.

Defensive Weakness: There’s room for improvement everywhere, but Memphis has to be better against the pass and force more turnovers in 2013.

Spring Storylines Facing the Tigers

1. Quarterback play? While quarterback Jacob Karam was solid in his first season in Memphis, the Texas native needs to show more progress in 2013. Karam did finish with seven touchdown passes over his final three games but topped 200 yards only twice. Backup Eric Mathews played sparingly last year, throwing five passes in eight appearances. Karam should be better in his second season as the starter, but Mathews and incoming freshman Brayden Scott will have a chance to push for snaps this preseason.

2. Movement on the offensive line. Memphis brings back three starters on the offensive line, but left tackle Jordan Devey (second-team All-Conference USA selection) is a huge loss. How will Devey be replaced? Center Antonio Foster, right tackle Al Bond and guard Chris Schuetz each started at least 11 games last season and will be the foundation for the line in 2013. Bond has the size to flip from the right to the left side, but sophomore Taylor Fallin was listed as Devey’s backup last year. The Tigers are also bringing in two junior college recruits to help on the offensive line, so this unit could be in flux until late in the fall practice session.

3. Are there difference makers on the roster? For the Tigers to take the next step in the win column, the offense needs to find a few more playmakers. Running backs Brandon Hayes and Jai Steib combined for 1,003 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, but Memphis could use more consistency and production from the ground game. In the receiving corps, Marcus Rucker departs after earning honorable mention All-Conference USA honors in 2012. However, the cupboard isn’t bare at receiver, as Keiwone Malone, Kevin Wright and tight end Alan Cross is a solid trio to build around.

4. Taking the next step on defense. With eight starters back on defense, Memphis should be able to build on its 2012 numbers. The Tigers ranked 32nd nationally against the run and averaged 2.3 sacks a game last season. There’s plenty of room for this unit to improve, especially when it comes to pass defense and holding opponents out of the endzone. The Tigers allowed 30.3 points a game last year, which needs to decrease if this team wants to make a run at six victories. Linebacker Akeem Davis and cornerback Robert Steeples are tough losses, but Memphis has enough returning talent on defense to expect more progress in its first year of Big East play.

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<p> Memphis Tigers 2013 Spring Preview</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 06:21
Path: /college-football/california-golden-bears-2013-spring-football-preview

After a disappointing 3-9 record last season, made a coaching change, firing Jeff Tedford in favor of Sonny Dykes. Although Tedford did a lot of good things in Berkeley, the program had two losing seasons over the last three years and failed to build off its 28-9 stretch from 2004-06. Dykes is no stranger to life in the Pac-12, as he coached at Arizona from 2007-09. He went 22-15 in three seasons at Louisiana Tech and should be a good fit in an offensive-minded conference like the .

California Golden Bears 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 3-9 (2-7)

Spring practice dates: Feb. 25-March 23

Returning Starters: Offense – 4, Defense – 6

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Allan Bridgford, 31 of 68, 277 yds., 1 TD, 3 INTs
Rushing: Brendan Bigelow, 44 car., 431 yds., 3 TDs
Receiving: Chris Harper, 41 rec., 544 yds., 2 TDs
Tackles: Nick Forbes, 85
Sacks: Nathan Broussard and Chris McCain, 3
Interceptions: Michael Lowe, 3

Redshirts to Watch: QB Zach Kline, LB Hardy Nickerson Jr., LB Michael Barton, C Matt Cochran, OL Christian Okafor

Early Enrollees to Watch: K Matt Anderson, QB Jared Goff, WR Drake Whitehurst, DE Kyle Kragen, DE Sione Sina

JUCO Transfers to Watch: DE Kyle Kragen, WR Drake Whitehurst, DT Marcus Manley, DE Sione Sina

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Northwestern
Sept. 7 Portland State
Sept. 14 Ohio State
Sept. 28 at Oregon
Oct. 5 Washington State
Oct. 12 at UCLA
Oct. 19 Oregon State
Oct. 26 at Washington
Nov. 2 Arizona
Nov. 9 USC
Nov. 16 at Colorado
Nov. 23 at Stanford

Offensive Strength: With only four returning starters and the departure of its best receiver (Keenan Allen), California doesn’t have a glaring strength. Running back Brendan Bigelow is a potential star but will miss spring practice due to knee surgery. Assuming Bigelow is healthy, the Golden Bears should have a solid rushing attack and a promising group of young receivers.

Offensive Weakness: Quarterback. Zach Maynard never elevated his play to an All-Pac-12 level during his career in Berkeley, and California’s offense suffered as a result. Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin have a lot of work ahead of themselves this spring, as they need to identify a No. 1 quarterback, as well as address an offensive line that returns just two starters.

Defensive Strength: Considering California returned five starters from a defense that led the Pac-12 in total and pass defense, finishing 10th in the Pac-12 in yards allowed was quite a disappointment. This unit has experience coming back, including defensive ends Deandre Coleman, Chris McCain and Brennan Scarlett. Despite shifting McCain and Scarlett to defensive end, the linebacking corps should be solid, especially if Penn State transfer Khairi Fortt is ready to contribute.

Defensive Weakness: The secondary finished 89th nationally in pass efficiency defense and loses cornerbacks Steve Williams and Marc Anthony, along with safety Josh Hill. The Golden Bears have experience coming back at safety and will get a boost at cornerback with the return of Stefan McClure from injury.

Spring Storylines Facing the Golden Bears

1. Who starts at quarterback? The good news for Sonny Dykes: California has seven options to choose from at quarterback. The bad news: None have proven to be a capable starter. Senior Allan Bridgford has the most experience but has completed just 44 of 100 passes in his career. Bridgford’s experience could give him the edge to take the first snap, but expect junior Austin Hinder, redshirt freshman Zach Kline and true freshman Jared Goff to push him for time. Kline ranked as the No. 4 quarterback in the 2012 signing class by Athlon Sports and could be the answer under center. If the Golden Bears struggle to find a quarterback, finishing out of the Pac-12 North cellar will be very difficult.

2. Develop depth at running back. Brendan Bigelow should be ready for fall practice after offseason knee surgery, but he needs help in the backfield. Unfortunately for California, backup Daniel Lasco is also out for spring practice, as he recovers from shoulder injury. To help with depth this spring, Jeffrey Coprich is expected to move from defensive back. With Lasco and Bigelow sidelined, Coprich, Darren Ervin and Jonah Hodges need to take advantage of the spring reps and quickly get acclimated to the new offense.

3. Address the concerns on the offensive line. The Golden Bears return just two starters on the line, which may not be a bad thing considering this unit allowed 3.4 sacks a game last year. However, the losses were significant, as left tackle Tyler Rigsbee is gone after starting all 12 games last season, and center Brian Schwenke has exhausted his eligibility after picking up first-team All-Pac-12 honors last year. Finding the right answer at center is crucial in California’s offense, especially since that position plays a key role in making adjustments and checks at the line of scrimmage in Dykes’ offense.

4. Adjusting to the 4-3. After playing in a 3-4 scheme under former defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, California will be making the switch to a 4-3 this spring. To help with the transition, the Golden Bears have three junior college linemen joining the team, along with the move of Brennan Scarlett and Chris McCain from linebacker to defensive end. How will all of the pieces come together? California struggled on defense last season, so it’s important for this unit to quickly adapt to the new scheme.

5. Cornerback. With Steve Williams leaving early for the NFL Draft and Marc Anthony exhausting his eligibility, California is thin at cornerback. Kameron Jackson played in all 12 games and picked off three passes, and he should be a lock to handle one cornerback spot. The other side will likely go to Stefan McClure, who missed all of 2012 due to a knee injury. The Vista native was considered among the top 150 prospects coming out of high school, so talent isn’t an issue. Even if McClure returns to full strength, defensive coordinator Andy Buh needs more players to emerge as reliable options. Considering the talent on offense in the Pac-12, having a thin secondary is never a good thing.

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<p> California Golden Bears 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, February 25, 2013 - 11:25
Path: /college-football/stanford-cardinal-2013-spring-football-preview

After earning three consecutive BCS bowl appearances, the bar is set high for Stanford in 2013. And the Cardinal return 14 starters from a team that won 12 games last season, so it's not out of the question David Shaw's team can compete for a spot in the national championship this season. The Cardinal has a favorable path to a Pac-12 North title but play Oregon and USC in a challenging November slate. Even if Stanford doesn’t make for the national title in 2013, another appearance in the Rose Bowl is certainly within reach.

Stanford Cardinal 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 12-2 (8-1)

Spring practice dates: Feb. 25-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 8

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Josh Nunes, 124 of 235, 1,643 yds., 10 TDs, 7 INTs
Rushing: Kevin Hogan, 55 car., 263 yds., 2 TDs
Receiving: Ty Montgomery, 26 rec., 213 yds.
Tackles: Shayne Skov, 81
Sacks: Trent Murphy, 10
Interceptions: Ed Reynolds, 6

Redshirts to watch: RB Barry Sanders, OL Nick Davidson, OL Johnny Caspers, WR Michael Rector, WR Conner Crane, LB Noor Davis, DE Jordan Watkins, C Graham Shuler, WR Dontonio Jordan, TE Alex Frkovic, TE Chris Harrell

2013 Schedule

Sept. 7 San Jose State
Sept. 14 at Army
Sept. 21 Arizona State
Sept. 28 at Washington State
Oct. 5 Washington
Oct. 12 at Utah
Oct. 19 UCLA
Oct. 26 at Oregon State
Nov. 7 Oregon
Nov. 16 at USC
Nov. 23 California
Nov. 30 Notre Dame

Offensive Strength: Quarterback Kevin Hogan still needs to develop as a passer, but there’s a lot to like about the Virginia native going into 2013. Hogan finished with 1,096 passing yards and nine scores, while adding 263 rush yards in 2012. Even though center Sam Schwartzstein finished his eligibility, the offensive line should be a strength. David Yankey is one of the best linemen in the Pac-12, while Khalil Wilkes, Kevin Danser, Cameron Fleming and a solid group of youngsters form one of the nation’s top offensive lines.

Offensive Weakness: The passing game. While Hogan is capable of guiding this team to another Pac-12 title, he has very little options in the receiving corps. Stanford’s top two receiving threats from last year – Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo – left early for the NFL, and Drew Terrell and Jamal Rashad-Patterson finished their eligibility.

Defensive Strength: Even with linebacker Chase Thomas and nose tackle Terrence Stephens finishing their eligibility, Stanford will have one of the best front sevens in the nation. The linebacking corps is stacked with talent, including senior Shayne Skov and first-team All-Pac-12 selection in Trent Murphy. The secondary also has first-team All-Pac-12 safety Ed Reynolds returning, along with rising star Alex Carter at cornerback.

Defensive Weakness: Is there really a weakness on this defense? Finding a replacement for Thomas will be a challenge, but the Cardinal has depth at linebacker. If there is an area of concern, it might be on the interior of the defensive line. Stanford gave up over 200 rushing yards in wins against UCLA and Wisconsin, which just happened to be two of the games Stephens missed at nose tackle.

Spring Storylines Facing the Cardinal

1. Upgrading the passing game. Considering Stanford’s strength in the trenches, it doesn’t need to throw the ball 35-40 times to win each week. However, with running back Stepfan Taylor gone, the Cardinal needs to find a spark in the passing game. Quarterback Kevin Hogan didn’t top more than 160 yards in each of his final three starts, but that’s not the biggest problem. With Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo departing at tight end, the receiving corps lacks weapons. Ty Montgomery was slowed by an injury last season, but he could be a go-to threat for Hogan. Outside of Montgomery, the Cardinal needs a big spring from receivers Kodi Whitfield, Kelsey Young, Michael Rector, Conner Crane and Dontonio Jordan. Sophomore Luke Kaumatule will likely work as the No. 1 tight end this spring.

2. A new go-to back? Stepfan Taylor capped off an excellent career at Stanford by winning offensive most valuable player honors in the Rose Bowl. During his four years with the Cardinal, Taylor rushed for 4,300 yards and 30 scores. Needless to say, Taylor will be missed. However, Stanford caught a break this spring, as Tyler Gaffney decided to return to school for his senior year. Gaffney left the team last year to play minor league baseball and recorded 449 yards on 74 carries in 2011. He will battle with Anthony Wilkerson, Remound Wright and touted redshirt freshman Barry Sanders for the starting nod this spring, but the Cardinal will likely lean on more of a committee approach. There’s plenty of depth and talent, but Stanford just needs to develop a pecking order this spring.

3. Who starts at center? It’s not a glamorous position battle, but Stanford has a large void at center with the departure of Sam Schwartzstein. He earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors last season and was a crucial part of Stanford’s success on the ground. Starting guard Khalil Wilkes is expected to slide to center this spring, with Conor McFadden, Kevin Reihner and Graham Shuler also getting snaps. The Cardinal also needs to figure out whether David Yankey sticks at left tackle or moves to guard, which would allow talented sophomores Andrus Peat or Kyle Murphy to win a starting spot. Stanford has depth and talent on the offensive front but cannot afford to have subpar play from center if it wants to win the Pac-12.

4. Replacing Chase Thomas at linebacker. Overall, Stanford is in great shape at linebacker with the return of Trent Murphy, Shayne Skov, A.J. Tarpley, Jarek Lancaster and James Vaughters. However, Thomas is a big loss from a leadership and production perspective. He recorded 7.5 sacks last season and ranked second on the team with 71 stops. Sophomore Kevin Anderson will get the first crack at replacing Thomas, but keep an eye on redshirt freshman Noor Davis.


Related College Football Content

<p> Stanford Cardinal 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, February 25, 2013 - 11:15
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-spring-quarterback-battles-2013

With spring practice getting ready to start for all 125 college football teams, quarterback battles will now take center stage. For most national title contenders – Alabama, Oregon, Ohio State, Stanford, Georgia, Notre Dame and Clemson – quarterback isn’t a question mark. However, there are a handful of teams that could be a conference title contender that enter spring practice with uncertainty under center.

Oklahoma State is Athlon’s early favorite to win the Big 12, and the Cowboys have three quarterbacks vying for the No. 1 job. Wes Lunt began 2012 as the starter but suffered a knee injury early. Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh each made starts in relief of Lunt, with Chelf impressing late in the season. The Cowboys could be a top-10 team next season, so identifying their starting quarterback is tops on head coach Mike Gundy's spring to do list. Outside of Oklahoma State, Arizona, Auburn, Florida State, Kansas State, Michigan State and Oklahoma are some of the other top teams with quarterback battles this offseason.

College Football's Top 15 Spring Quarterback Battles for 2013


The Candidates: Javelle Allen (FR), B.J. Denker (SR), Jesse Scroggins (JR), Anu Solomon (FR)

As Rich Rodriguez has proven from stops at West Virginia and Michigan, whoever is his starting quarterback is going to put up big numbers. Don’t expect that trend to stop in 2013, as Arizona looks to replace Matt Scott under center. Even though Scott is gone, having another offseason to work with Rodriguez and the coaching staff should be a huge boost to the entire offense. Denker came to Arizona via the JUCO ranks last season and made one start against Colorado, throwing for 136 yards and two touchdowns. He enters spring ball as the No. 1 quarterback, but redshirt freshman Javelle Allen and USC transfer Jesse Scroggins will get an opportunity to make a push. However, the competition will turn up a notch in the fall, as true freshman Anu Solomon arrives on campus. Solomon might be the best fit for the offense but lacks experience. Denker has the edge in experience within Rodriguez’s system, so he should finish spring as the No. 1 quarterback. However, this battle will likely extend into fall camp with Solomon having a good chance to steal the No. 1 spot.
Projected Spring Winner: Denker


The Candidates: Kiehl Frazier (JR), Jeremy Johnson (FR), Nick Marshall (JR), Jason Smith (FR), Jonathan Wallace (SO)

Auburn’s offense was a disaster last season. Gus Malzahn left to be the head coach at Arkansas State, prompting Gene Chizik to hire Scot Loeffler as the team’s new coordinator. Loeffler tried to switch the offense to a pro-style approach, which wasn’t a good fit for the personnel. Chizik and Loeffler were dismissed at the end of 2012, and Malzahn has returned to the Plains as the head coach. Three quarterbacks made starts last season, with Frazier leading the way with 753 yards passing, while Jonathan Wallace topped the stat chart with four touchdown tosses. Frazier and Wallace should be a better fit in Malzahn’s spread offense, but both will face competition from junior college recruit (and former Georgia defensive back) Nick Marshall, along with incoming freshmen Jason Smith and Jeremy Johnson. Marshall’s skill set is a good fit for this offense, but Frazier and Wallace have an edge in SEC experience. Don’t be surprised if this battle goes deep into fall camp.
Projected Spring Winner: Frazier


The Candidates: Kyle Boehm (SO), Allan Bridgford (SR), Jared Goff (FR), Austin Hinder (JR), Zach Kline (FR)

Although Bridgford made three starts last season, it’s anyone guess who will take the first snap for California this year. Adding to the drama is a new coaching staff and a new scheme, which has clouded the quarterback battle going into the spring. Bridgford was unimpressive in his limited work in 2012, finishing with 277 yards passing and three interceptions on 31 completions. Hinder came to Berkeley as a big-time recruit but has yet to throw a pass in game action. Kline ranked as the No. 4 quarterback prospect by Athlon Sports in the 2012 signing class, while Goff was rated as a four-star recruit by most scouting services in 2013. Considering the new scheme and overall inexperience of the returning quarterbacks, this battle may not be decided until the first snap of the season.
Projected Spring Winner: Kline

Florida State

The Candidates: Jacob Coker (SO), Clint Trickett (JR), Jameis Winston (FR)

After a 12-win season and an ACC Championship, the Seminoles have momentum entering 2013. However, there are some significant personnel losses, including quarterback EJ Manuel. Trickett has two starts under his belt, as he threw for 336 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-30 loss to Clemson in 2011. In a mop-up role in 2012, Trickett threw for 272 yards on 22 completions. While Trickett’s experience should give him the early edge, the coaching staff is excited to get a look at Winston – the No. 1 quarterback in the 2012 signing class. Coker has good size and intriguing ability, but he is probably behind Winston and Trickett entering spring ball. Trickett’s experience should give him an early edge, but Winston will be the quarterback as soon as Jimbo Fisher feels the Alabama native is ready to run the offense.
Projected Spring Winner: Trickett

Kansas State

The Candidates: Daniel Sams (SO), Jake Waters (JR)

Replacing Collin Klein is no easy task, but the Wildcats have two promising options on the roster. Sams played in eight games last season, throwing for 55 yards on six completions and adding 235 yards and three scores on the ground. He averaged 7.3 yards per rush, which ranked first on the team. Waters joins Kansas State from Iowa Western Community College after throwing for 3,501 yards and 39 touchdowns last season. As if those numbers weren’t impressive enough, he tossed only three picks on 333 attempts and is already enrolled and will participate in spring practice. Regardless of which quarterback wins the starting job, Kansas State should be in good shape to win at least eight games in 2013. Sams has shown dynamic ability as a runner but still has much to prove as a passer. Waters had an excellent career at Iowa Western Community College but he has to adjust to the speed of play at the FBS level.
Projected Spring Winner: Sams

Michigan State

The Candidates: Connor Cook (SO), Andrew Maxwell (SR), Tyler O’Conner (FR), Damion Terry (FR)

Replacing Kirk Cousins wasn’t expected to be easy, but most thought Michigan State would eventually find some stability under center. That wasn’t the case in 2012 as the Spartans averaged just 209.9 passing yards per game and finished with just 14 touchdown tosses. Maxwell started all 13 games, but the offense got a spark from Cook in the bowl game, which turned the position into an open competition this spring. O’Conner and Cook will get a chance to unseat Maxwell this spring, while Terry will join the competition in the fall. Terry is a dual-threat option, and his mobility could add a spark to a rushing attack that loses running back Le’Veon Bell, but he has some ground to make up in learning the playbook. Cook should push Maxwell for the job, but the guess here is the senior begins the year as the starter – on a very short leash.
Projected Spring Winner: Maxwell


The Candidates: Blake Bell (JR), Trevor Knight (FR), Kendal Thompson (SO)

Can Bell go from part-time player to full-time starter? That’s the big question in Norman this spring. If Bell can take his success in a part-time role and transform that into the course of a full season, Oklahoma won’t have much of a quarterback battle this spring. Bell has thrown for only 115 yards over the last two years but has rushed for 361 yards and 24 scores. Trevor Knight redshirted last season, but reports out of Oklahoma indicated he had an impressive year as the scout-team quarterback. Thompson is the third quarterback in the mix, but he did not play as a redshirt freshman last season. Make no mistake: This is Bell’s job to lose. If he stumbles, Knight figures to be Oklahoma’s starting quarterback this fall.
Projected Spring Winner: Bell

Oklahoma State

The Candidates: Clint Chelf (SR), Wes Lunt (SO), J.W. Walsh (SO)

Mike Gundy has a problem. But at least it's a good problem for a head coach to have. Oklahoma State has three quarterbacks that have shown the ability to win games. Lunt went into last season as the starter but a knee injury against Louisiana-Lafayette forced him to miss the next three games. Walsh replaced Lunt and threw for 415 yards and one touchdown in a win over Iowa State. However, Walsh suffered a knee injury in that game, forcing Gundy to go back to his true freshman. Lunt returned to the lineup against TCU on Oct. 27 but suffered an injury in the following week against Kansas State and didn’t play again until the bowl game. Chelf received the majority of his playing time in the second half of the year and was a pleasant surprise after starting the year No. 3 on the depth chart. He finished with 1,588 yards and 15 scores, which included 292 yards and four touchdowns in the 55-34 win over West Virginia. All three quarterbacks are proven winners and can lead Oklahoma State to a Big 12 title. If Chelf or Walsh win the job, should the Cowboys think about redshirting Lunt?
Projected Spring Winner: Lunt

Oregon State

The Candidates: Sean Mannion (JR), Cody Vaz (SR)

The Beavers were one of college football’s most improved teams last season, posting a 9-4 record after going 3-9 in 2011. Sean Mannion began last season as the starter, throwing for at least 270 yards in each of his first four starts. He also threw for 379 yards and two scores in a huge road win against UCLA in Week 4. However, Mannion was sidelined due to a knee injury in early October, which opened the door for Cody Vaz. Despite having little experience, Vaz proved to be more than capable of holding down the starting spot. He threw for 332 yards in a road win over BYU and 267 yards against Arizona State. Then in a role reversal, Vaz was bitten by the injury bug late in the year, which allowed Mannion to regain control of the job for the final three regular-season games of 2012. Vaz did return and started the Beavers' bowl game, but he struggled, throwing for only 194 yards and two interceptions. Mannion has the edge in talent, but this battle is virtually even.
Projected Spring Winner: Mannion

Penn State

The Candidates: Steven Bench (SO), Tyler Ferguson (SO), Christian Hackenberg (FR)

The Nittany Lions went from having one of the worst quarterback situations in the Big Ten to one of the best by the end of 2012. Matt McGloin thrived under new coach Bill O’Brien, throwing for 3,271 yards and 24 touchdowns, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. Despite the departure of McGloin, with O’Brien’s tutelage and a solid supporting cast, the Nittany Lions shouldn’t slip too far on offense. Steven Bench completed 2 of 8 passes for 12 yards last season and opens spring practice as the frontrunner. Tyler Ferguson enrolled in January after spending one season at the College of the Sequoias. During his one season in the JUCO ranks, Ferguson threw for 2,614 yards and 22 touchdowns. While Bench and Ferguson will get a chance to impress this spring, the battle really won’t get underway until Christian Hackenberg arrives this fall. Hackenberg ranked as the No. 13 overall prospect in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100 and is regarded as a perfect fit in O’Brien’s offense. Bench figures to hold onto the job in the spring, but all bets are off when Hackenberg gets to campus.
Projected Spring Winner: Bench


The Candidates: Trevone Boykin (SO), Casey Pachall (SR)

The battle to be TCU’s quarterback is one of the most intriguing in college football this spring. Pachall was the starting quarterback through the first four games of 2012 but was suspended from the team after a DWI arrest. Before he left the team, Pachall threw for 948 yards, 10 touchdowns and only one pick. Trevone Boykin was set to play some snaps at running back before Pachall’s suspension but proved to be a quality fill-in at quarterback. Boykin finished the year with 2,054 yards passing and 15 touchdowns, while rushing for 417 yards and three scores. Pachall gives TCU’s offense more of a downfield threat in the passing game, while Boykin is a better dual-threat option. Pachall is the right pick to start for TCU – and could lead the Horned Frogs to a Big 12 title in 2013.
Projected Spring Winner: Pachall


The Candidates: Joshua Dobbs (FR), Nathan Peterman (FR), Justin Worley (JR)

New coach Butch Jones has quite a task ahead of him this year. Not only do the Volunteers lose quarterback Tyler Bray, but receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter and tight end Mychal Rivera also depart. Worley made three starters in relief of Tyler Bray in 2011 and played in five games in 2012, throwing for 134 yards and two picks on 23 attempts. Peterman ranked as a four-star prospect by Rivals coming out of high school, while Dobbs was one of the key members of Tennessee’s 2013 recruiting class. Dobbs is a good fit for Jones’ spread attack but needs time to adjust to the FBS level. Worley’s experience should pay off and help him win the starting gig this spring.
Projected Spring Winner: Worley


The Candidates: Max Browne (FR), Cody Kessler (SO), Max Wittek (SO)

The Trojans got an early look at their quarterback battle for 2013 when Matt Barkley suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against UCLA. Wittek started the final two contests and finished with 388 yards passing and three touchdowns, but he also threw five picks and completed just 52.2 percent of his throws. Wittek will open spring practice as the starter, but Browne and Kessler will get every opportunity to unseat him. Browne ranked as the No. 1 quarterback in the 2013 signing class by Athlon Sports and enrolled early to participate in spring practice. Wittek’s experience has to give him an early edge, but he is probably just keeping the seat warm until Browne is ready.
Projected Spring Winner: Wittek

West Virginia

The Candidates: Ford Childress (FR), Paul Millard (JR)

Whether it’s Childress or Millard taking snaps for West Virginia next season, don’t expect the Mountaineers to stray far from their pass-first attack. The receiving corps needs to be rebuilt thanks to the departure of Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, but West Virginia should still be one of the top passing offenses in the Big 12. Childress is an impressive prospect, standing 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, and has excellent bloodlines as his father (Ray) earned five trips to the Pro Bowl during his NFL career. Millard threw 34 passes backing up Geno Smith over the last two years and is still a virtual unknown. Millard has the edge in experience, but Childress has more talent and should claim the starting job.
Projected Spring Winner: Childress


The Candidates: Jon Budmayr (SR), Bart Houston (FR), Tanner McEvoy (JR), Danny O’Brien (SR), Curt Phillips (SR), Joel Stave (SO)

Despite three consecutive Rose Bowl appearances, change is coming to Madison in 2013. Head coach Bret Bielema left for Arkansas, and former Utah State coach Gary Andersen takes over. The Badgers won’t change much on offense, but expect Anderson and coordinator Andy Ludwig to make a few tweaks. O’Brien, Phillips and Stave each started games last season, with Phillips finishing the year as the No. 1 option. O’Brien was a disappointment after transferring from Maryland, while Stave was a pleasant surprise but was lost for the final four regular-season games due to injury. McEvoy joins Wisconsin in the fall, after spending the first part of his career at South Carolina and then Arizona Western College. His athletic ability is a plus in Ludwig’s scheme but he lacks experience on the FBS level.
Projected Spring Winner: Stave

Other Spring Battles to Watch


The Candidates: Brandon Allen (SO), Brandon Mitchell (JR), Taylor Reed (SO)

Allen made one start in relief of Tyler Wilson last year (Alabama) and finished 2012 with 186 yards passing. He is considered a heavy favorite to start for new coach Bret Bielema, but Mitchell (if he moves back from receiver) and Memphis transfer Taylor Reed will also get a chance this spring.
Projected Spring Winner: Allen


The Candidates: Chris Johnson (FR), Bryce Petty (JR), Seth Russell (FR)

All signs point to Petty easily winning this job, but considering Baylor’s recent success, his progress in spring practice is worth watching. Johnson ranked among the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the class of 2013 and enrolled early to participate in spring ball.
Projected Spring Winner: Petty


The Candidates: C.J. Brown (SR), Perry Hills (SO), Caleb Rowe (SO), Ricardo Young (JR)

Injuries hit Maryland’s signal callers hard last season, as linebacker Shawn Petty was forced to move under center for the final four games. The Terrapins are in better shape this year, but this battle likely won’t get underway until fall practice when Rowe, Brown and Hills should all be back to full strength. Young started his career at Virginia Tech and transferred to New Mexico in 2011. The Washington, D.C. native is Maryland’s healthiest quarterback this spring and is familiar with coordinator Mike Locksley’s offense.
Projected Spring Winner: Young

NC State

The Candidates: Manny Stocker (SO), Pete Thomas (JR)

New NC State coach Dave Doeren was one of the offseason’s top hires, but the former Northern Illinois coach has a huge question mark under center. Thomas started two years at Colorado State where he threw for 4,269 yards and 18 touchdowns, while Stocker threw two passes in mop-up duty in 2012.
Projected Spring Winner: Stocker


The Candidates: Trey Anderson (SO), Tra’von Chapman (FR), Tom Savage (SR), Chad Voytik (FR)

Tino Sunseri wasn’t the most popular quarterback in Pittsburgh history, but he did finish his senior year with 3,288 yards and 21 scores. Replacing Sunseri appears to be a four-man race, including former Rutgers and Arizona quarterback Tom Savage. Voytik and Anderson will be the top competition for Savage in the spring, and the coaching staff is excited to see Voytik after a year of learning, as he was one of the top quarterback recruits in the nation in the 2012 signing class.
Projected Spring Winner: Savage

South Florida

The Candidates: Bobby Eveld (SR), Matt Floyd (SO), Mike White (FR)

Not only was Skip Holtz’s time at South Florida one of the most disappointing tenures of the BCS era, he isn’t leaving a ton of talent under center. Eveld had an eventful 2012, as he was supposed to redshirt but an injury to B.J. Daniels forced him into action. Unfortunately for the Tampa native, he was lost for the season after getting injured in his only game. Floyd tossed five picks over the final three games, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see White finish the 2013 season as USF’s No. 1 quarterback.
Projected Spring Winner: Floyd


The Candidates: Ashton Broyld (SO), Terrel Hunt (SO), John Kinder (JR), Charley Loeb (SR)

As if breaking in a new coaching staff wasn’t enough of a challenge in Syracuse's first season of ACC play, the Orange also have to find a replacement for All-Big East quarterback Ryan Nassib. Broyld is an intriguing athlete, while Loeb was the top backup last year.
Projected Spring Winner: Loeb


The Candidates: Austyn Carta-Samuels (SR), Johnny McCrary (FR), Patton Robinette (FR)

Whether or not the Commodores can keep their recent success going will largely depend on what happens under center. Jordan Rodgers wasn’t the most prolific quarterback but he provided valuable leadership. Carta-Samuels was the Mountain West’s Freshman of the Year in 2009, made 11 starts in '10 with Wyoming and one with the Commodores last year. Robinette was Tennessee’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2011.
Projected Spring Winner: Carta-Samuels


The Candidates: Greyson Lambert (FR), Phillip Sims (JR), David Watford (SO)

Sims finished the year as the starter, but all bets are off this spring with a revamped offensive staff. Watford is an intriguing dual-threat option, while Lambert was a top-25 quarterback coming out of high school. Even in a new system, Sims should have the edge this spring.
Projected Spring Winner: Sims

Washington State

The Candidates: Austin Apodaca (FR), Tyler Bruggman (FR), Connor Halliday (JR)

Mike Leach’s debut season in Pullman didn’t go according to plan. The Cougars expected to have a high-powered offense but averaged only 20.4 points a game. The quarterback position deserves part of the blame, and there’s an open competition this preseason. Halliday played well in a loss against UCLA (five touchdowns) but tossed almost as many interceptions (13) as he did scores (15). Apodaca and Bruggman are intriguing and could get a look if Halliday struggles.
Projected Spring Winner: Halliday

Related College Football Content

<p> College Football's Top Spring Quarterback Battles for 2013</p>
Post date: Monday, February 25, 2013 - 09:20
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-5-running-backs-rise-2013

With spring practice kicking off across the nation, the race to win college football’s 2013 national title has officially started. Although it’s hard to learn everything about a team in spring practice, the next few months are a good opportunity to get a look at how some of the open position battles are shaping up, along with how some of the underclassmen have improved since the end of 2012.

After taking a look at some last week, Athlon stays in the backfield with some names to watch at running back. Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey and Nevada’s Stefphon Jefferson finished at the top of the nation in rushing last season and neither were on the radar for All-American honors at the start of 2012.

Developing a criteria to determine which running backs are on the rise is never easy. Miami’s Duke Johnson had a standout freshman year, rushing for 947 yards and 10 scores, along with earning second-team All-ACC honors. While Johnson is due for a significant bump in yardage, he doesn’t make our list since he already earned all-conference honors.

Considering running back is one of the easiest positions to find new starters, don’t be surprised if some of the names on this list make a huge impression in 2013.

College Football’s Top 5 Running Backs on the Rise for 2013

Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska
The Cornhuskers got an early glimpse of their 2013 backfield when Rex Burkhead suffered a knee injury in the opener against Southern Miss. Burkhead returned later in the year but finished with just 98 carries and missed six complete games. With Burkhead sidelined, the Cornhuskers turned to Abdullah as their feature back. The Alabama native finished the year with 1,137 yards and eight rushing scores, while catching 24 passes for 178 yards and two scores. With Burkhead out of eligibility, the torch will officially be passed to Abdullah. The junior earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors last season and could be a first-team all-conference selection by the end of 2013.

Brendan Bigelow, California
Despite being a potential dynamic playmaker for California and posting an eye-popping 9.8 yards per carry, Bigelow was limited to just 44 rushing attempts and seven receptions last year. The Fresno native did play a key role on special teams, averaging 23 yards per kickoff return in 2012. With a new coaching staff taking over in Berkeley, along with C.J. Anderson and Isi Sofele expiring their eligibility, Bigelow will get an opportunity to secure the No. 1 spot in the backfield this preseason. New coach Sonny Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin built an offense at Louisiana Tech that averaged 227.2 rushing yards and 51.5 points per game in 2012, and both coaches should better utilize Bigelow’s talents. The junior will likely miss spring practice due to knee surgery, but if he’s healthy this fall, Bigelow is due for a breakout season.

Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
In addition to restocking the defensive line, the Buckeyes’ top priority this spring will be finding playmakers for quarterback Braxton Miller. Although the quarterback will play a key role in the rushing attack in Urban Meyer’s offense, Ohio State would probably like to decrease Miller’s workload from last year (227 carries). With Jordan Hall returning to full strength and a top recruiting class on the way, the Buckeyes should have more help for Miller in 2013. However, the key cog in the offensive attack will be the continued emergence of Hyde. The Florida native recorded four 100-yard performances over the final seven games of 2012 and finished the year with 16 rushing scores. Even with Hall taking on a bigger role in the backfield, Hyde should have no trouble eclipsing 1,000 yards and should serve as Ohio State’s top rushing threat in 2013.

Rushel Shell, Pittsburgh
With Ray Graham coming back from a torn ACL last season, the Panthers expected and needed a big contribution from Shell. And considering he ranked as the No. 5 running back in the 2012 signing class, it was no surprise Shell was one of the Big East’s top freshmen last year. In 12 games, the Pennsylvania native recorded 641 yards and four scores, while catching nine passes for 103 yards. Shell’s best game came against Virginia Tech, posting 157 yards on 23 attempts. With Graham expiring his eligibility, the job is Shell’s to lose for 2013. The sophomore will be running behind an offensive line that returns three starters but loses All-Big East center Ryan Turnley and guard Chris Jacobson. Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst molded some of the nation’s top rushing attacks at Wisconsin, and with Shell leading the way in 2013, look for the Panthers to feature a ground and pound approach.

Jeremy Smith, Oklahoma State
Joseph Randle was one of college football’s most underappreciated players during his career at Oklahoma State, rushing for 3,085 yards and 40 scores and catching 108 passes. With Randle leaving early for the NFL, Oklahoma State will have a new go-to back in 2013. However, Mike Gundy’s cupboard is far from bare, as the Cowboys have two potential standouts waiting in the wings. Smith has served as Randle’s backup the last three years, rushing for 1,439 yards and 25 touchdowns during that span. The Tulsa native has yet to tote more than 15 carries in a game but has already displayed a knack for the end zone and is averaging 6.2 yards per carry. Desmond Roland is another promising back that will see significant action in 2013, but the Cowboys will likely lean on Smith as their feature back.

Others to Watch in 2013

Jay Ajayi, Boise State
Rushed for 548 yards and four scores as a backup last season. With D.J. Harper gone, this sophomore will have a chance to threaten 1,000 yards in 2013.

Greg Bryant, Notre Dame
With Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood leaving South Bend, the Fighting Irish are looking for a new No. 1 back. Bryant ranked as the No. 8 running back in the 2013 signing class and will be pressed into immediate action this year.  

Brian Kimbrow, Vanderbilt
With Zac Stacy expiring his eligibility, the Commodores may turn to a committee approach to pick up the slack on the ground. Kimbrow may not edge Jerron Seymour, Warren Norman or Wesley Tate to be the feature back. However, the Memphis native could add big-play ability to the offense after averaging 6.3 yards on 66 carries in 2012.

DJ Foster, Arizona State
Will share time with Marion Grice but is due for a bigger role with Cameron Marshall expiring his eligibility. Foster rushed for 493 yards on 102 attempts and caught 38 passes for 533 yards and four scores in 2012.

Johnathan Gray, Texas
Faces hefty competition for carries in Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown, but Gray finished his freshman year as Texas’ leading rusher (701 yards).

Derrick Green, Michigan
With Fitzgerald Toussaint coming off of a significant leg injury, Michigan won’t waste any time in getting Green involved in 2013. He ranked as the No. 5 running back in the class of 2013 and could start for Michigan in its season opener against Central Michigan.

Savon Huggins, Rutgers
Huggins will get a chance to live up to his recruiting hype this year, as Jawan Jamison left early for the NFL, leaving the junior as the No. 1 option in Rutgers’ backfield. Huggins has 556 yards and seven touchdowns through his first two years on campus.

Storm Johnson, UCF
The former Miami Hurricane rushed for 507 yards and four scores on 113 attempts last year, including 75 yards in the Knights’ 31-16 loss to Ohio State. Johnson is due for a bigger role with Latavius Murray and Brynn Harvey expiring their eligibility at the end of 2012.

Senorise Perry, Louisville
A torn ACL ended a promising 2012 campaign, as Perry rushed for 705 yards and 11 touchdowns in 11 games. With Jeremy Wright leaving the team, Perry should be handling over 200 carries next season.

Alex Ross, Oklahoma
Damien Williams had a solid debut in his first season in Norman (946 yards and 11 touchdowns), but the Sooners will have trouble keeping Ross – widely considered a top-10 running back in the class of 2012 – off of the field in 2013.

James Wilder Jr., Florida State
Shared time with Chris Thompson and Devonta Freeman last year, yet finished with 640 yards and 11 scores. With a new quarterback taking over for Florida State, expect Wilder and Freeman to see even more carries in 2013.

Jamaal Williams, BYU
After Michael Alisa suffered a broken arm against Hawaii, Williams was forced into the No. 1 role in 2012. He finished with 775 rushing yards and 12 scores and caught 27 passes for 315 yards and one score. Alisa is back for 2013, but Williams showed enough down the stretch that he could win the top spot on the depth chart.

Related College Football Content

<p> College Football's Top 5 Running Backs on the Rise for 2013</p>
Post date: Friday, February 22, 2013 - 06:20
Path: /college-football/texas-longhorns-2013-spring-football-preview

enters a critical offseason as the first BCS team to open spring practice in 2013. After recording nine consecutive double-digit win seasons, the Longhorns have failed to reach that mark in each of the last three years. Texas hit rock bottom by going 5-7 in 2010 but has rebounded by going 8-5 in 2011 and 9-4 in 2012. Although Mack Brown’s team is making progress, the Longhorns are still a ways off from contending for a national championship. And at Texas – a place with all of the resources necessary to compete for a title every year – going 22-16 in the last three years is unacceptable.

Texas Longhorns 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 9-4 (5-4)

Spring practice dates: Feb. 21-March 30

Returning Starters: Offense – 9 Defense – 9

Returning Leaders:

Passing: David Ash, 214 of 318, 2,699 yds., 19 TDs, 8 INTs
Rushing: Johnathan Gray, 149 car., 701 yds., 3 TDs
Receiving: Jaxon Shipley, 59 rec., 737 yds., 6 TDs
Tackles: Steve Edmond, 103
Sacks: Jackson Jeffcoat, 4
Interceptions: Quandre Diggs, 4

Redshirts to Watch: OL Curtis Riser, DB Bryson Echols, DT Alex Norman, QB Connor Brewer, OL Camrhon Hughes, DT Paul Boyette, DL Hassan Ridgeway, QB Jalen Overstreet, LB Tim Cole

Early Enrollees to Watch: LB Deoundrei Davis, OL/DE Jake Raulerson, TE Geoff Swaim, QB Tyrone Swoopes

JUCO Transfers to watch: TE Geoff Swaim, OL Desmond Harrison

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 New Mexico State
Sept. 7 at BYU
Sept. 14 Ole Miss
Sept. 21 Kansas State
Oct. 5 at Iowa State
Oct. 12 Oklahoma (Dallas)
Oct. 26 at TCU
Nov. 2 Kansas
Nov. 9 at West Virginia
Nov. 16 Oklahoma State
Nov. 28 Texas Tech
Dec. 7 at Baylor

Offensive Strength: Skill players. The Longhorns have amassed an array of skill players, including one of the nation’s deepest backfields in Johnathan Gray, Malclom Brown and Joe Bergeron. The receiving corps is in good shape with the return of Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley, while Daje Johnson, Cayleb Jones and Kendall Sanders are promising options.

Offensive Weakness: The biggest weakness for Texas undoubtedly rests under center. Although David Ash has shown some flashes of promise, he struggled against Oklahoma and Kansas and nearly lost his starting job to Case McCoy. Ash holds the keys to Texas’ season. If he’s continues to improve, Texas can win the Big 12 title in 2013.

Defensive Strength: It’s hard to find a ton of superlatives for a defense that allowed 29.2 points a game last year. However, Texas returns standouts in defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat and cornerback Quandre Diggs, while linebacker Jordan Hicks is back after missing most of last season with an injury. The secondary ranked 36th against the pass last season and should be a strength with Diggs, Adrian Phillips and Carrington Byndom returning.

Defensive Weakness: If Texas wants to win the title, it has to find a way to stop the run. The Longhorns ranked 88th against the run last year and was steamrolled for 29 rushing scores. An injury to linebacker Jordan Hicks hindered the front seven last year, but questions remain about the front seven even with his return.

Spring Storylines Facing the Longhorns

1. With Bryan Harsin leaving to become the head coach at Arkansas State, Major Applewhite has been handed the reins to coordinate the offense in 2013. The former Longhorn quarterback had a so-so debut in the Alamo Bowl, as Texas scored only 10 points in the first half and never managed to get its rushing game on track against Oregon State. However, the Longhorns came alive in the fourth quarter, scoring two touchdowns to pickup a 31-27 Alamo Bowl victory. Applewhite will make a few changes from Harsin’s offense, as Texas wants to increase the pace on offense. Increasing the tempo and spreading the ball around through the air is an opportunity for Texas to spark an offense that ranked seventh in the Big 12 in scoring last year. How much of the new offense can Applewhite implement this spring? That’s the big question, just behind this one…

2. Is David Ash the answer at quarterback? Through his first two seasons on campus, Ash has shown flashes of promise but needs to be more consistent. Thanks to his performance in the fourth quarter of the Alamo Bowl, the junior finished 2012 on a high note. With some building confidence, the Texas coaching staff now wants to see Ash take the next step in his development. If Ash struggles early, redshirt freshmen Connor Brewer and Jalen Overstreet, along with senior Case McCoy will have an opportunity to replace him. Ash is a good fit for Applewhite’s desire to speed up the tempo, but can he elevate Texas offense into a position where it can contend for the Big 12 title?

3. In addition to seeking more consistency and production from Ash, the Longhorns need a big spring from receivers Daje Johnson, Kendall Sanders and Cayleb Jones, along with the offensive line. While Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley are entrenched as the top two receivers, the Longhorns lack proven options as the No. 3 and No. 4 spots. Johnson, Sanders and Jones have the talent and will be counted upon to fill the void left by Marquise Goodwin. The front five showed improvement last season and should have more depth in 2013. Is that enough to help the Longhorns contend for the Big 12 title?

4. There’s no doubt Texas was one of the most disappointing defenses in the nation last season. The good news for coordinator Manny Diaz is nine starters are back, including end Jackson Jeffcoat who missed seven games due to an injury. Jeffcoat’s return is crucial for this defense, especially since Alex Okafor has exhausted his eligibility. The Longhorns also unexpectedly lost defensive tackle Brandon Moore to the NFL Draft, which should provide an opportunity for sophomore Malcom Brown to have a huge season, along with a chance for redshirt freshmen Paul Boyette, Alex Norman and Hassan Ridgeway to work their way into the mix. Fixing the rush defense starts with interior play, so the spotlight is on Desmond Jackson, Brown and Ashton Dorsey this spring.

5. Not far behind the concerns on the defensive line are question marks at linebacker and in the secondary. Getting Jordan Hicks back in the lineup will immediately improve Texas’ linebacking trio, but the rest of the unit has to play better. Steve Edmond and Kendall Thompson could be pushed for snaps from Dalton Santos and Peter Jinkens. The linebacking corps has question marks, but considering the talent in place, this unit could end up among the best in the Big 12 by the end of the year. The secondary is in a similar position, as Quandre Diggs could be moved to safety, which would ease the loss of first-team All-Big 12 selection Kenny Vaccaro. If Diggs is moved to safety, sophomore Duke Thomas is the likely his replacement at cornerback and will be someone the coaching staff has to monitor closely in spring practice. Finding the right mix of talent and players in both units will be crucial for Texas this spring. 

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<p> Texas Longhorns 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 08:59
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-5-quarterbacks-rise-2013

The start of spring practice for all 125 FBS college football teams is officially right around the corner. Army kicked off its spring practice on Feb. 12, while Tulane begins one day later on Feb. 13. Texas is the first BCS team to open spring practice, starting on Feb. 21 and Pac-12 rivals California and Stanford both start on Feb. 25.

With spring practice in the air, it’s time to turn the page from signing day to the action on the field. Quarterback battles will be heating up over the next few weeks, and several new faces could emerge as a star in 2013. Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel wasn’t guaranteed to start after the conclusion of spring practice last year, yet won the Heisman Trophy and led the Aggies to an 11-2 record. Oregon's Marcus Mariota was locked into a tight battle with Bryan Bennett for the No. 1 spot last spring and was named as the Pac-12's Freshman of the Year for 2012. Considering Manziel and Mariota were both question marks after spring practice and ranked among the best quarterbacks in the nation, there will be other names that go from unknown to all-conference recognition in 2013. 

Although these five players might not be household names in February, it could be a different story by the end of the 2013 season.

5 College Football Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013

Blake Bell, Oklahoma
While it’s unfair to compare Bell to Tim Tebow, he is following a similar career path to the former Heisman Trophy winner. Tebow was used mostly as a running threat during his first year, which is the same role Bell has fulfilled for Oklahoma in the last two years. After spending the last two seasons as a change of pace player, Bell will make the transition to starting quarterback this spring. The junior has recorded 372 rushing yards and 24 scores on 104 career carries but has only thrown 20 passes. Bell isn’t guaranteed the starting job, as Kendal Thompson and Trevor Knight will get a chance to push him for the No. 1 spot in the spring. If Bell shows he can move the offense through the air, his dual-threat ability would provide a different dimension for Oklahoma’s offense, which ranked fifth in the Big 12 last season with an average of 38.2 points a game.

Michael Brewer, Texas Tech
With Kliff Kingsbury returning to Lubbock, the Red Raiders will be one of college football’s most intriguing teams in 2013. The former Texas Tech quarterback coordinated one of the nation’s top offenses in 2012 at Texas A&M and helped to engineer a similar attack at Houston with record-setting quarterback Case Keenum. With Seth Doege expiring his eligibility, Brewer is expected to become Texas Tech’s next prolific quarterback. As a backup to Doege in 2012, he threw for 375 yards and four touchdowns on 48 attempts. And the sophomore has been well-versed in spread offenses, playing under Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris when he was the head coach at Lake Travis (Texas) High School. Even though the Red Raiders lose Doege and receiver Darrin Moore, Brewer’s emergence and Kingsbury’s offense should keep Texas Tech in the hunt to match last season’s win total (eight).

Devin Gardner, Michigan
Gardner is a familiar name to most in the Big Ten, but he is poised to be a household name by the end of 2013. In three seasons in Ann Arbor, Gardner has thrown for 1,480 yards and 13 touchdowns, while also rushing for 175 yards and catching 17 passes for 268 yards. With Denard Robinson entrenched as the starter going into 2012, the Detroit native was slated to play receiver. However, Gardner shifted back to quarterback once Robinson suffered an elbow injury and started four out of the final five games under center. The junior had a strong showing in the last weeks of the season, throwing for 314 yards and recording six overall touchdowns in a 42-17 win over Iowa. Gardner completed 18 of 36 throws for 214 yards and three scores against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl and never threw more than one interception during his five-game stint at quarterback. Michigan will miss Robinson’s playmaking ability, but Gardner is plenty capable of leading the Wolverines to a Legends Division title. With left tackle Taylor Lewan returning to Ann Arbor, along with the arrival of touted true freshman running back Derrick Green, there figures to be plenty of help for Gardner in his first full season as the starter. 

Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Considering he started the last five games of 2012, Hogan is far from an unknown commodity. However, Hogan’s performance in limited action was promising and the rising sophomore will be a key cog in Stanford’s run at another Pac-12 title in 2013. The Virginia native’s first start came against Oregon State, in which he threw for 254 yards and three touchdowns, while also adding 49 yards on the ground. Hogan wouldn’t top 254 passing yards the rest of the way, but he didn’t toss an interception over his final three games and averaged 4.8 yards per carry on 55 attempts. With tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo departing for the NFL, Stanford needs to find more playmakers for Hogan in the passing game. However, with one of the Pac-12’s top offensive lines returning, along with Tyler Gaffney and Barry Sanders at running back, Hogan should be surrounded by plenty of help. The Cardinal needs to throw the ball better to reach the national title, which should be easy for Hogan to do with a full spring practice to work as the starter.

Bryce Petty, Baylor
Despite a new quarterback taking over in Waco, the Bears should still have one of the best offenses in the Big 12. With the emergence of running back Lache Seastrunk and receiver Tevin Reese, as well as the play of All-American guard Cyril Richardson, Petty will have a chance to ease his way into the starting lineup. The 6-foot-3 junior has played sparingly through his first two years on campus but was regarded as a top-100 recruit in Texas coming out of high school. Petty played in six games and completed 7 of 10 throws for 97 yards and one touchdown in 2012. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that he had a chance to work under Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence over the past three seasons on campus. Petty isn’t guaranteed the job, especially with the arrival of true freshman Chris Johnson this spring. However, considering his experience in the system for the past three years, it will be difficult to keep him out of the starting lineup. And considering the success of the last two Baylor quarterbacks, look for Petty to have a big season – if he’s the starter – in 2013.

Others to Watch:

Terrance Broadway, Louisiana-Lafayette
Started the final nine games of 2012 and averaged 278.2 total yards per game.

Ford Childress, West Virginia
Childress will have to beat out Paul Millard, but the 6-foot-5 Texan could be Dana Holgorsen’s next standout quarterback.

Jake Heaps, Kansas
Threw for 3,768 yards in two years at BYU but was benched after a disappointing start to sophomore year.

Vad Lee, Georgia Tech
North Carolina native is a perfect fit for Paul Johnson’s option attack.

Philip Nelson, Minnesota
Threw for 873 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012 and will benefit by working as the No. 1 quarterback during spring practice.

Daniel Sams, Kansas State
Showcased big-play potential on the ground last year (235 yards) but an unproven commodity through the air (55 yards).

Jameis Winston, Florida State
If Winston wins the starting nod, he should be one of college football’s top breakout passers for 2013.

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<p> College Football's Top 5 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 06:50
Path: /college-football/sec-west-football-2013-schedule-analysis

With signing day in the books, spring practice is just around the corner for all 125 FBS teams. And it’s never too early to start thinking about the upcoming season and some of the key games on the schedule. Alabama is widely considered the preseason favorite for 2013 and will be helped by a favorable schedule. The Crimson Tide has to take on Texas A&M in College Station but hosts LSU and misses Georgia, Florida and South Carolina in crossover play.

The SEC West should be one of the most competitive divisions in college football next season, as all seven teams have a legitimate chance to get bowl eligible. Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M could each rank as a top-10 team this preseason, while Ole Miss is a program on the rise after reeling in a top recruiting class. Arkansas and Auburn have new coaches that should get the program pointed in the right direction, while Mississippi State has made solid progress under Dan Mullen.

With spring practice getting ready to start across the nation, Athlon takes a look at the schedules for each of the SEC West teams and examines some of the interesting storylines, scheduling tidbits and trends to watch. 

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SEC West Football 2013 Schedule Analysis


Aug. 31 Virginia Tech (Atlanta)
Sept. 7 Bye Week
Sept. 14 at Texas A&M
Sept. 21 Colorado State
Sept. 28 Ole Miss
Oct. 5 Georgia State
Oct. 12 at Kentucky
Oct. 19 Arkansas
Oct. 26 Tennessee
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 9 LSU
Nov. 16 at Mississippi State
Nov. 23 Chattanooga
Nov. 30 at Auburn

* For the third time in six seasons, the Crimson Tide will open the year for a neutral site game in Atlanta. And this will be the second time Alabama takes on Virginia Tech in this setting. In 2009, the Crimson Tide defeated the Hokies 34-24. Alabama also knocked off Clemson 34-10 in the Georgia Dome in 2008.

* Alabama’s bye weeks come before arguably its biggest games of 2013. The Crimson Tide has an off date on Sept. 7, one week before traveling to Texas A&M. And Alabama’s second bye is on Nov. 2, a week before playing LSU on Nov. 9. 

* Despite being scheduled for Week 3, expect the Sept. 14 showdown between Texas A&M and Alabama to play a key role in deciding the SEC West title. The Crimson Tide’s only loss in 2012 came against the Aggies and this will be Alabama’s first trip to College Station since 1988.

* Former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain brings Colorado State to Tuscaloosa on Sept. 21. McElwain went 4-8 in his debut season in Fort Collins last year.

* In a bit of odd scheduling, Alabama plays four games in October and each team has a new coach for 2013: Georgia State (Trent Miles), Kentucky (Mark Stoops), Arkansas (Bret Bielema) and Tennessee (Butch Jones).

* Can Alabama break a recent streak in the series versus LSU on Nov. 9? The road team has won the last two regular season meetings in this annual SEC West matchup.

* Alabama faces one of the easiest crossover schedules in the West Division. The Crimson Tide misses on playing Georgia, South Carolina and Florida during the regular season and will play at Kentucky and host Tennessee – arguably the bottom two teams in the SEC East.

* Can the Crimson Tide continue their dominance against rival Auburn? In their last two meetings, Alabama has outscored the Tigers 91-14.  


Aug. 31 Louisiana-Lafayette
Sept. 7 Samford
Sept. 14 Southern Miss
Sept. 21 at Rutgers
Sept. 28 Texas A&M
Oct. 5 at Florida
Oct. 12 South Carolina
Oct. 19 at Alabama
Oct. 26 Bye Week
Nov. 2 Auburn
Nov. 9 at Ole Miss
Nov. 16 Bye Week
Nov. 23 Mississippi State
Nov. 30 at LSU

* Bret Bielema’s tenure in Fayetteville opens against a dangerous Louisiana-Lafayette team. The Ragin’ Cajuns are 18-8 over the last two years and return quarterback Terrance Broadway (3,616 total yards in 2012), along with running back Alonzo Harris.

* Arkansas will make its first trip to Rutgers in 2013. The Scarlet Knights defeated the Razorbacks 35-26 in Fayetteville last season.

* Arkansas and Texas A&M have played in each of the last four seasons but this will be their first meeting in Fayetteville since 1990. The Razorbacks own a 3-1 edge in the last four matchups against the Aggies.

* The Razorbacks face one of the toughest road schedules in the SEC, making trips to Florida, Alabama, Ole Miss and LSU. The Crimson Tide is heavily favored to win the SEC title in 2013, while the Gators and Tigers could each begin the year in the preseason top 10.

* Speaking of tough schedules…Arkansas might have one of the toughest four-game road stretches in college football next season. The Razorbacks play Texas A&M on Sept. 28, make a road trip to Gainesville on Oct. 5, then return home to play South Carolina, before finishing at Alabama on Oct. 19. Needless to say, Arkansas’ bye week on Oct. 26 will be a deserved break for the coaches and players.

* The SEC West should be college football’s toughest division in 2013 and if Arkansas wants to escape the cellar, it needs to take advantage of a schedule that features home swing games against Auburn and Mississippi State. 


Aug. 31 Washington State
Sept. 7 Arkansas State
Sept. 14 Mississippi State
Sept. 21 at LSU
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 5 Ole Miss
Oct. 12 Western Carolina
Oct. 19 at Texas A&M
Oct. 26 FAU
Nov. 2 at Arkansas
Nov. 9 at Tennessee
Nov. 16 Georgia
Nov. 23 Bye Week
Nov. 30 Alabama

* Frequent flyer miles? Washington State will be traveling just over 2,500 miles to play Auburn in the season opener. This isn’t the first time these two teams have met, as the Tigers defeated the Cougars 40-14 in 2006.

* Let’s go ahead and officially title the Sept. 7 matchup between Arkansas State and Auburn the Gus Malzahn Bowl. Malzahn led the Red Wolves to a 9-3 regular season mark and a Sun Belt title last season and left for Auburn before Arkansas State’s bowl game against Kent State.

* For a team that is hoping to erase a horrible 2012 season, starting with three home games and a bye week in September isn’t a bad way to open. Of course, Auburn has a date at LSU on Sept. 21, which should be a good measuring stick to see how far the program has improved since the end of last year.

* Bowl game? If Auburn wants to get back to a bowl, winning home games against Mississippi State and Ole Miss are a must. The Tigers should be able to sweep its non-conference schedule, which means two victories in SEC play will be required to get to six wins.

* It’s not out of the question the defining moment of Auburn’s season could rest from Oct. 19-Nov. 16. The Tigers have three SEC road games during that stretch and host likely SEC East favorite Georgia. Auburn has lost six out of its last seven matchups to the Bulldogs, including a 45-7 defeat in 2011 and a 38-0 whipping last year.

* Auburn’s Oct. 19 trip to Texas A&M will be the first meeting between these schools in College Station. The Tigers are 0-3 against the Aggies but these two teams have played only once since 1987.

* With Gus Malzahn taking over at Auburn, can the Tigers find a way to narrow the gap against Alabama? In their last two meetings, Auburn was defeated by a combined score of 91-14 and has lost four out of its last five meetings against the Crimson Tide. 

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

* LSU opens 2013 with one of college football’s marquee non-conference games. The Tigers will meet TCU – likely one of the top three teams in the Big 12 next season – for a matchup in Cowboys Stadium. These two teams have met eight times, with LSU owning a 5-2-1 series edge. However, the last matchup between TCU and LSU occurred in 1968.

* After the huge test against TCU in Arlington, LSU returns to Baton Rouge for home games against UAB, Kent State and Auburn. The three-game homestand will be the longest of the year for LSU, as the Tigers don’t have back-to-back home contests the rest of the year.

* The Sept. 28 matchup against Georgia will be a good barometer test for both teams. LSU lost a handful of key players to the NFL, while Georgia returns only three starters on defense. Both teams have SEC title aspirations and while an early loss won’t derail those hopes, it would put whichever squad loses in an early hole. Interestingly enough, three out of the last six meetings between the Bulldogs and Tigers have occurred in the SEC title game.

* Upset? LSU travels to Oxford on Oct. 19 to face a fast-improving Ole Miss team. The Rebels nearly defeated the Tigers in Baton Rouge last year but have lost the last three meetings in this series. LSU has dominated this series since 2002, and this game is a chance for the Rebels to make a statement in the middle of SEC play.

* LSU drew one of the toughest crossover schedules in the SEC for 2013. The Tigers have to play at Georgia on Sept. 28 and host Florida on Oct. 12. And there’s also a brutal stretch in November, which features Alabama (followed with a bye week), then Texas A&M and Arkansas.

* The Nov. 23 meeting for LSU and Texas A&M will be the first meeting in Baton Rouge between these two teams since 1994.

* Can the Tigers keep the road magic going in the Alabama-LSU series? Excluding the BCS title game matchup in 2012, the last two games have been won by the road team.

* The Nov. 30 date for the regular season finale between LSU and Arkansas is the latest meeting between these two teams since the Razorbacks joined the SEC in 1991.  

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Mississippi State

Aug. 31 Oklahoma State (Houston)
Sept. 7 Alcorn State
Sept. 14 at Auburn
Sept. 21 Troy
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 5 LSU
Oct. 12 Bowling Green
Oct. 19 Bye Week
Oct. 26 Kentucky
Nov. 2 at South Carolina
Nov. 9 at Texas A&M
Nov. 16 Alabama
Nov. 23 at Arkansas (Little Rock)
Nov. 30 Ole Miss

* The Bulldogs open 2013 with a tough neutral site game in Houston against Oklahoma State. Mississippi State hasn’t had a matchup against a Big 12 team (West Virginia was a Big East member when these two teams played in 2006-07) in a regular season game since 1999. The Cowboys are considered one of the favorites to win the Big 12 title in 2013, so this will easily be the Bulldogs’ toughest opener under Dan Mullen.

* One of the first observations when examining Mississippi State’s schedule is the split between the first and second half of the season. The Bulldogs will play three bowl teams in their first seven games but face four in their last five matchups.

* In keeping with the difficult close to the season theme, the Bulldogs will play three out of their final five games on the road.

* Could one of the biggest games of the season be against Auburn on Sept. 14? Considering the Bulldogs closed out 2012 by losing five out of their last six games, it’s important to start SEC play with a victory. The Tigers should be improved but finished winless in conference games last year.

* The Nov. 2 road date against South Carolina will be only the third meeting against the Gamecocks since 2007. Mississippi State has lost six consecutive games to South Carolina, including a 14-12 matchup in Starkville during the 2011 season.

* Trap game? Although Mississippi State will likely be favored to beat Arkansas on Nov. 23, it’s a crucial swing game that comes at a bad time. After the Bulldogs play at Texas A&M and host Alabama, they have to head to Little Rock to play the Razorbacks – which is one week before hosting rival Ole Miss.

* Expect plenty of intrigue around the Egg Bowl this season. After winning three consecutive games against Ole Miss from 2009-2011, Mississippi State was soundly defeated 41-24 in Oxford last year. A victory against the Rebels would give the Bulldogs some momentum, especially on the recruiting trail after Ole Miss brought in one of the nation’s top classes. 

Ole Miss

Aug. 31 at Vanderbilt
Sept. 7 SEMO
Sept. 14 at Texas
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 28 at Alabama
Oct. 5 at Auburn
Oct. 12 Texas A&M
Oct. 19 LSU
Oct. 26 Idaho
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 9 Arkansas
Nov. 16 Troy
Nov. 23 Missouri
Nov. 30 at Mississippi State

* The Ole Miss-Vanderbilt opener might not register as one of the top early-season games, but this matchup has plenty of intrigue. Both programs feature rising stars at head coach, while Vanderbilt and Ole Miss have been making a lot of noise on the recruiting trail recently. The Commodores narrowly edged the Rebels in Oxford last year and another close game should be expected in 2013.

* After a tough opener at Vanderbilt, the Rebels catch a breather against SEMO. The matchup against the FCS opponent comes at a good time for Ole Miss, especially with a road trip to Texas in Week 3, followed by a date at Alabama on Sept. 28.

* While the Rebels have four road games in their first five games, they won’t have to leave the state for the rest of the year until the postseason. The final road game for Ole Miss will be at rival Mississippi State on Nov. 30.

* Could Ole Miss push for a finish among the top three in the SEC West next year? It’s possible, especially with a schedule that features home games against LSU, Texas A&M and Arkansas. If the Rebels can upset the Tigers and Aggies, they will be in good shape to easily exceed last season’s three SEC victories.

* After dealing with a grueling start to the year, the second half of the schedule is very manageable. Ole Miss plays only one bowl team in its final five games and hosts two SEC teams that will likely struggle to have a winning record (Arkansas and Missouri). 

Texas A&M

Aug. 31 Rice
Sept. 7 Sam Houston State
Sept. 14 Alabama
Sept. 21 SMU
Sept. 28 at Arkansas
Oct. 5 Bye Week
Oct. 12 Ole Miss
Oct. 19 Auburn
Oct. 26 Vanderbilt
Nov. 2 UTEP
Nov. 9 Mississippi State
Nov. 16 Bye Week
Nov. 23 at LSU
Nov. 30 at Missouri

* The Aggies open 2013 with four consecutive home games, including a huge Sept. 14 showdown against Alabama. Considering both teams are expected to be among the top-five teams in the nation next season, the early clash will play a huge role in shaping the SEC West and national title picture

* Texas A&M’s trip to Fayetteville on Sept. 28 will be its first since 1990. The Aggies and Razorbacks have played in each of the last four seasons but three of those matchups were neutral site games. Texas A&M blasted Arkansas 58-10 last season, but the Razorbacks have won three out of the last four in this series.

* All four of Texas A&M’s non-conference games are against teams located in Texas. The Aggies host Rice and Sam Houston State in the first two weeks of the season, take on SMU on Sept. 21 and UTEP on Nov. 2. None of the four opponents should be an upset threat to Texas A&M.

* In a scheduling quirk, Texas A&M will play at Ole Miss for the second consecutive year.

* For a team that has national title aspirations, Texas A&M drew one of the most favorable crossover schedules in the SEC. The Aggies won’t play Georgia, South Carolina and Florida during the regular season and host Vanderbilt (likely to be picked No. 4 in the East).

* For the first time since 2008, Texas A&M will finish the season with back-to-back road games. The Aggies play at LSU on Nov. 23 and at Missouri on Nov. 30.

* Speaking of Texas A&M’s late-season matchup with LSU, the Aggies will be making their first trip to Baton Rouge since 1994. LSU has won the last two games in this series, including a 41-24 victory in the Cotton Bowl in 2011. However, Texas A&M won five consecutive games from 1991-95.

* Texas A&M closes out its regular season at Missouri, where it has not won since 1999. The Aggies are 1-3 in their last four matchups against the Tigers and have lost the last two meetings in Columbia.  

Related College Football Content

<p> SEC Football 2013 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 06:29
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-15-impact-juco-transfers-2013

Most of the talk on college football’s national signing day centers around which true freshman can make the biggest impact for a program for that upcoming season. While true freshman often make big contributions, the impact junior college recruits can have on the BCS level shouldn't be overlooked. While recruiting a JUCO prospect is risky, they are solid stop-gap solutions and a short-term answer for a team that might be short on depth at a particular position.

Kansas State is usually one of the top programs for JUCO talent, so it’s no surprise the Wildcats signed six community college prospects. In-state rival Kansas topped Kansas State in JUCO signees this year, as Charlie Weis is bringing in a whopping 17 recruits. For a team that won just one game last year, loading up on JUCO prospects should bring hope the Jayhawks can make some progress in 2013. However, relying on junior college prospects also cuts down on the amount of freshmen a team can bring in, which is a concern for the long-term outlook of the program.

Identifying which junior college prospects will make the biggest impact is no easy task. Athlon has compiled a list of 15 impact junior college transfers, as well as a list of other players to watch in 2013.  

15 Impact JUCO Transfers to Watch in College Football for 2013

Cameron Artis-Payne, RB, Auburn
Gus Malzahn is one of the best offensive minds in college football, but he will have his hands full after Auburn finished 2012 ranked 115th nationally in total offense and 112th in scoring. The Tigers need to find an answer at quarterback but also need help at running back. Tre Mason rushed for 1,002 yards and eight scores last season, but depth is an issue with Onterio McCalebb expiring his eligibility and Mike Blakely deciding to transfer. Mason should be the lead back for Malzahn, but Artis-Payne should see plenty of carries. The Pennsylvania native rushed for 2,048 yards and 25 touchdowns at Allan Hancock (Calif.) College in 2012 and ranked as the No. 1 JUCO running back by Rivals. Expect to see plenty of Artis-Payne in 2013.

Leon Brown, OT, Alabama
With the departures of center Barrett Jones, guard Chance Warmack and tackle D.J. Fluker, Alabama’s offensive line must be rebuilt in 2013. The Crimson Tide have recruited well, so there’s no shortage of options for Nick Saban. Adding to the rebuilding project will be a new coach, as Jeff Stoutland left for the NFL. Brown spent the last two years at ASA College in New York and ranked as the No. 10 JUCO recruit by ESPN. At 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds, he has the strength to move defensive linemen in the rush game, while possessing the athleticism to hold his own in pass protection. As with any JUCO recruit, Brown could use some development. However, he’s expected to help replace one of the three standout linemen Alabama lost after winning its third national title in four seasons.

Marquel Combs, DT, Kansas
After winning just three games over the last two years, Charlie Weis turned to the JUCO ranks for immediate help. The Jayhawks signed 17 junior college recruits this year, which Weis hopes will turn Kansas into a more competitive team in 2013. Combs ranked as the No. 3 prospect by ESPN and comes to Lawrence after two years at Pierce College in California. As a sophomore last season, he recorded 7.5 tackles for a loss, along with two sacks. Combs may not be a force in terms of statistics, but he should factor prominently into the rush defense, which could use a lot of help after allowing 192.6 yards per game last year.

Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
The Cornhuskers gave up only 105 points during their final six regular-season games but allowed 115 combined points in losses to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship and Georgia in the Capital One Bowl. In addition to finding the right solutions for a defense that struggled to get stops late in the year, Nebraska loses five key contributors from its defensive line. Gregory is one of six defensive linemen joining the Cornhuskers this season but is the only junior college prospect. He missed 2012 due to injury, yet ranked as the No. 2 JUCO prospect by ESPN. In his freshman season at Arizona Western College, Gregory recorded 82 tackles and nine sacks. After missing a year, Gregory will have to knock off some rust this spring. However, with the personnel losses and the struggles Nebraska had on defense late in the year, Gregory is being counted on to be a key member of the line in 2013.

Marcus Hardison, DT, Arizona State
Despite having the Pac-12 Defensive Player of Year (Will Sutton) anchoring the middle of the line, Arizona State allowed 182.9 rushing yards per game. If the Sun Devils want to push for the Pac-12 South title, addressing the run defense is one of the offseason’s top priorities. And landing Hardison from Dodge City (Kan.) Community College should be a huge help for Sutton and Arizona State’s defense. The 6-foot-5, 290-pound tackle ranked as the No. 5 JUCO prospect by ESPN and No. 14 by Rivals, while recording 50 tackles and four sacks last season. Hardison brings a good mix of speed and athleticism to Tempe, and coach Todd Graham and coordinator Paul Randolph are counting on him to contribute right away in 2013.

Lavon Hooks, DT, Ole Miss
Not only did Ole Miss land the nation’s No. 1 high school prospect (Robert Nkemdiche), but it also picked up the services of the top JUCO recruit (according to ESPN) in Hooks. The 6-foot-4, 290 pound defensive tackle recorded 9.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for a loss at Northeast Mississippi Community College last season. In addition to his time on the gridiron, Hooks showcased his athletic ability by playing basketball and leading the MACJC in rebounding as a freshman. Depth and talent in the trenches is always needed in the SEC, and it appears Hugh Freeze and his staff did an excellent job of rebuilding the Rebels’ defensive line for 2013. With defensive tackles Gilbert Pena and Uriah Grant departing, Hooks will be counted on to have a key role in the defense this year.

Deon Long, WR, Maryland
Long started his collegiate career at West Virginia but transferred to New Mexico before playing a down in Morgantown. The Washington D.C. native starred in his one and only season with the Lobos, catching 47 passes for 809 yards and four touchdowns. Long transferred to Iowa Western Community College after Mike Locksley was fired at New Mexico and led the NJCAA with 100 receptions, 1,625 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns in 2012. Long is reunited with Locksley in College Park and should team with emerging star Stefon Diggs to form a solid tandem for the Maryland quarterbacks.

Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn
Marshall is undoubtedly one of the most interesting JUCO prospects in the class of 2013. He was an excellent athlete in high school and played defensive back with Georgia in 2011, recording five tackles in 13 games. However, Marshall was dismissed from the team last February and landed at Garden City (Kan.) Community College in an attempt to resurrect his career. Instead of playing defensive back, he shifted back to his high school position of quarterback and threw for 3,142 yards and 18 touchdowns, while adding 1,095 yards and 19 scores on the ground last year. Marshall’s dual-threat ability is a good fit for Gus Malzahn’s offense, but he will have to compete against two quarterbacks that have experience at the SEC level in preseason practice (Jonathan Wallace and Kiehl Frazier). 

Chris Martin, DE, Kansas
Martin is no stranger to BCS teams, as he signed with Cal coming out of high school and spent the 2010 season with Florida. Martin was regarded as one of the top-20 high school recruits by Rivals and ranked No. 13 on its list of top JUCO players for 2013. Martin spent 2012 at City College of San Francisco, recording 65 tackles and 4.5 sacks. The California native isn’t the only junior college recruit headed to Lawrence, as coach Charlie Weis signed 16 other JUCO players, including defensive tackle Marquel Combs. Martin should help add some punch to a pass attack that averaged just one sack a game, while helping to fill the void left behind by departing seniors Josh Williams and Toben Opurum.

Chris Mayes, DT, Georgia
For any 3-4 defense to work, it has to have a big, space-eating defensive tackle on the interior. With Georgia losing John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers (each over 350 pounds), the Bulldogs needed to land a potential starter on the recruiting trail. Mayes initially signed with Georgia in 2011 but did not qualify academically. He recorded 17 tackles and a forced fumble in 2011 at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College but redshirted in 2012. Mayes is still a work in progress but with his size, he figures to contribute to the Georgia defensive line rotation prominently in 2013.

Kyle Peko, DT, Oregon State
Led by defensive end Scott Crichton and tackles Castro Masaniai and Andrew Seumalo, the Beavers showcased one of the nation’s most-improved rush defenses in 2012. After allowing 196.8 yards per game in 2011, Oregon State held opponents to 129.5 yards per contest in 2012. Crichton is one of the Pac-12’s top defensive ends, but the Beavers must replace Masaniai and Seumalo, leaving a gaping hole on the interior of the line. Peko was ranked as the No. 22 JUCO prospect by ESPN and recorded 46 tackles and three sacks last season at Cerritos (Calif.) College. Considering the losses on the line, Peko is expected to contribute for a starting spot this fall.

Quincy Russell, DT, Oklahoma
Fixing the rush defense is a top priority for Bob and Mike Stoops this offseason, especially after the Sooners allowed 192.2 yards per game on the ground last year. Making matters worse for Oklahoma is the departure of tackles Casey Walker, Stacy McGee and Jamarkus McFarland, along with ends R.J. Washington and David King. Considering the personnel departures and the spread offenses in the Big 12, the Sooners may mix in more 3-4 personnel in 2013. Russell was a key pickup for Oklahoma on the recruiting trail, as he adds much-needed bulk to the interior. The Texas native was a first-team NJCAA All-American at Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College and ranked as the No. 39 JUCO prospect by ESPN. Even if Russell doesn’t make a huge impact, he’s a valuable depth addition and should help Oklahoma improve its rush defense.

Corey Smith, WR, Ohio State
With a 12-0 record last season and most of its core returning for 2013, the Buckeyes are among the top contenders to play for the national title. While there are some concerns about the defensive line, the offense is hoping to jumpstart a passing attack that ranked 101st nationally last year. To help take some of the pressure off of quarterback Braxton Miller, the Buckeyes are bringing in running back Dontre Wilson and Ezekiel Elliott, along with receivers James Clark and Jalin Marshall. However, perhaps the most interesting addition came through the junior college ranks. Ohio State doesn’t recruit JUCO players often, which means Smith isn’t being brought in to sit on the bench. The Ohio native caught 51 passes for 733 yards and nine touchdowns at East Mississippi Community College last year, while posting 28 receptions for 438 yards as a freshman at Grand Rapids Community College in 2011. Smith doesn’t need to emerge as Miller’s go-to threat, but he should be a valuable pickup for a team that had only two wide receivers catch more than 15 passes last year.

Jake Waters, QB, Kansas State
Replacing Collin Klein is no easy task, but the Wildcats have two talented options waiting in the wings. Daniel Sams showcased potential in limited action last year, while Waters led Iowa Western Community College to a national title last season. The 6-foot-2 passer finished the year with 3,501 yards and 39 touchdown tosses, while throwing just three interceptions. Waters ranked as the No. 1 JUCO quarterback by Rivals, and he will have an opportunity to steal the starting job away from Sams in the spring. 

Sam Wren, DE, Oklahoma State
With both of the Cowboys’ defensive ends departing seniors, Mike Gundy and coordinator Glenn Spencer dipped into the JUCO ranks to pick up Wren, who could be a potential starter in 2013. The Texas native ranked as a top-20 junior college recruit by ESPN and was a first-team All-Western States Football League selection in 2012. Wren also recorded 14.5 sacks last season at Arizona Western College and possesses good speed and explosiveness off of the edge. Although Wren could add some bulk and contribute in an every-down role, his best fit right away appears to be as a pass-rush specialist in 2013.

Others to Watch

Ben Bradley, DT, Auburn
Nick Brassell, ATH, Ole Miss
Chris Brown, DT, Kansas State
Bear Cummings, DT, Florida
Tyler Ferguson, QB, Penn State
Shaquille Fluker, DB, Georgia
d’Vante Henry, LB, West Virginia
Andre Lewis, WR, Utah
Vincent Mayle, WR, Washington State
Tanner McEvoy, QB, Wisconsin
Devon Nash, DE, Kansas State
Damond Powell, WR, Iowa
Jonathon Rumph, WR, Georgia
Beau Sandland, TE, Miami
Dreamius Smith, RB, West Virginia
Za’Darius Smith, DE, Kentucky
Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
Aaron Wimberly, RB, Iowa State

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<p> College Football's Top 15 Impact JUCO Transfers for 2013</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/10-college-football-true-freshmen-likely-make-impact-2013

The first Wednesday in February for college football coaches is almost like Christmas morning. With national signing day in the books, each coach can officially talk about their recruiting class after months of hard work, which includes anywhere from 10-30 prospects. While no coach will admit they aren’t happy with their signing class, there are plenty of clear winners. Alabama brought in another loaded class, which includes standouts Robert Foster, Derrick Henry, Reuben Foster, Dee Liner and O.J. Howard. In addition to Alabama, Ohio State, Florida, Ole Miss and Notre Dame reeled in some of the nation’s top classes.

It’s never easy to predict which freshmen could make an early impact in 2013 but here’s an early look at 10 players that can make a big splash on the gridiron next season.

10 True Freshmen Likely to Make an Impact in 2013

Max Browne, QB, USC
Lane Kiffin’s 2013 signing class suffered some late hits, but Browne never waivered in his commitment to the Trojans and will be in the mix to win the starting job this season. Matt Barkley missed the last two games of the season due to a shoulder injury, which allowed redshirt freshman Max Wittek to get an early start on the starting quarterback competition. However, Wittek’s two-game trial was a mixed bag of results. He threw for 388 yards and three touchdowns but also tossed five picks and completed just 52.2 percent of his throws. Browne enrolled early and has an opportunity to surpass Wittek and sophomore Cody Kessler on the depth chart. The Washington native ranked as the No. 1 quarterback recruit by Athlon Sports in the 2013 signing class. 

Greg Bryant, RB, Notre Dame
With Theo Riddick out of eligibility and Cierre Wood leaving for the NFL, the Fighting Irish are counting on Bryant to play right away. George Atkinson III rushed for 365 yards last season but is best suited to play in a change of pace role. Bryant ranked as the No. 46 overall prospect in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100 and brings a good blend of power and elusiveness to South Bend. Atkinson and Amir Carlisle will start ahead of Bryant in spring practice, but Brian Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin will find it difficult to keep Bryant on the sidelines. 

Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Fuller’s commitment to Virginia Tech really came as no surprise since he had three older brothers play their collegiate career in Blacksburg. However, his commitment to the Hokies became even more important when Antone Exum suffered a torn ACL during the offseason and is questionable to play in the season opener. Fuller ranked as the No. 4 defensive back in the 2013 recruiting class by Athlon Sports and the No. 16 overall prospect. At 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, Fuller has the size and athleticism to match the top receivers in the ACC. With Exum’s status in doubt, Fuller could join his brother Kyle in the starting lineup.

Derrick Green, RB, Michigan
Although Michigan ranked fifth in the Big Ten in rushing last season, one of the top spring priorities for Brady Hoke and coordinator Al Borges was finding a go-to running back. Quarterback Denard Robinson led the team with 1,266 rushing yards last season, with the top rushing total from a running back being Fitzgerald Toussaint with 514 yards. Toussaint suffered a leg injury late in the year and won’t return to the team in time for spring practice. With Toussaint hobbled and no clear No. 1 option, Green will be awarded an opportunity to play right away. The Virginia native ranked as the No. 5 running back recruit by Athlon Sports and has the size and power to be an every down back. With Devin Gardner entrenched as the starting quarterback, if Green is as good as advertised, the Wolverines could be the favorites to win the Legends Division in 2013.

Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
Matt McGloin thrived in his only season under Bill O’Brien, throwing for 3,271 yards and 24 touchdowns to only five interceptions. With all of the turmoil surrounding the program in the offseason, the senior quarterback was a stabilizing force for an offense that lost running back Silas Redd to a transfer and had to break in four new starters on the line. With McGloin out of eligibility, O’Brien is searching for a new No. 1 passer. Sophomore Steven Bench has the most experience on the roster, completing two of eight passes for 12 yards. However, Bench will face plenty of competition in spring ball. Junior college recruit Tyler Ferguson has three seasons of eligibility remaining, while Hackenberg ranked as the No. 2 quarterback by Athlon Sports in the 2013 signing class. In his senior year at Fork Union Military Academy, Hackenberg threw for 2,144 yards and 24 scores. Hackenberg isn’t a lock to see any action in 2013, but if he gets on the field, he should thrive under O’Brien’s tutelage. The Nittany Lions have a tough road to navigate, especially with the loss in scholarships and no postseason appearances over the next few years. However, if Hackenberg is as good as advertised, Penn State may not take as big of a step back as most anticipated after the NCAA sanctions were announced last summer.

Robert Nkemdiche, DE, Ole Miss
By landing a top-10 recruiting class, the Rebels were the biggest surprise of signing day. And after a 7-6 season under first-year coach Hugh Freeze, the future of Ole Miss football is very bright. The Rebels’ recruiting class has plenty of names that can make an instant impact but none bigger than Nkemdiche. The Georgia native has the potential to be a game-changer for Ole Miss’ defense, similar to South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney. Nkemdiche ranked as the No. 1 recruit in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100 and will immediately bolster a defensive line that allowed 129.3 rushing yards and generated 2.9 sacks a game. Even if Nkemdiche doesn’t become an All-SEC player in 2013, he will be a valuable contributor in the rotation.

Ricky Seals-Jones, WR, Texas A&M
The Aggies' high-powered offense took the SEC by storm last year, averaging 44.4 points and 558.5 yards a game and producing a Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Johnny Manziel. Coordinator Kliff Kingsbury left to be the head coach at Texas Tech, but Texas A&M isn’t expected to miss much of a beat on offense next year. Coach Kevin Sumlin recruited Manziel plenty of help on the recruiting trail, including Seals-Jones and Sebastian Larue at receiver. Seals-Jones is a big target at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds but is still developing as a receiver after playing a variety of positions during his high school career. With the Aggies losing Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu, Seals-Jones' size and physical presence will be needed in the red zone and across the middle of the field.

Anu Solomon, QB, Arizona
After the Wildcats averaged 526.2 yards and 38.2 points a game last season, it’s safe to say Rich Rodriguez’s debut as Arizona’s head coach wasn’t a disappointment. Now the Wildcats head into 2013 with a question mark under center, as Matt Scott expired his eligibility after the New Mexico Bowl. Former USC quarterback Jesse Scroggins will compete with last season’s backup (B.J. Denker) and redshirt freshman Javelle Allen this spring, but the real battle will begin in the fall when Solomon arrives on campus. The Las Vegas native ranked as the No. 17 quarterback in the 2013 signing class by Athlon Sports and has the skill set to thrive in Rodriguez’s offense. Starting a freshman quarterback is nothing new for Rodriguez, as Pat White started after a redshirt season at West Virginia, while Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson saw playing time as true freshmen at Michigan.

Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida
Even though Florida finished last season 11-2 and made an appearance in the Sugar Bowl, Will Muschamp has a lot of work to do if the Gators want to remain in the hunt to win the SEC East in 2013. Improving the offense is the top priority, especially a passing attack that finished 114th nationally last season. While quarterback Jeff Driskel remains a work in progress, Florida must find a replacement for Mike Gillislee. The departing senior ran for 1,152 yards and 10 touchdowns last season and there’s no proven backup on the roster. Matt Jones rushed for 275 yards on 52 attempts last year and will likely open spring practice as the No. 1 back. Taylor is the son of former NFL standout Fred Taylor and ranked as the No. 3 running back in the 2013 signing class by Athlon. Even if Jones starts the opener, look for Taylor to see plenty of action next season.

Thomas Tyner, RB, Oregon
Even though Chip Kelly bolted for the NFL, the Ducks aren’t expected to miss a beat in 2013. New coach Mark Helfrich spent the last four seasons as Kelly’s offensive coordinator and isn’t expected to change Oregon’s up-tempo attack in 2013. Despite the return of De’Anthony Thomas and Byron Marshall, the Ducks need some help at running back. While Tyner may not handle 25 carries a game, he is expected to contribute significantly in the backfield rotation. The Oregon native has excellent speed and is another big-play threat for the Ducks to use in 2013.

15 More Recruits to Watch:

Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas
Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
Vernon Hargreaves III, DB, Florida
Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
Frank Herron, DE, LSU
O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
Ty Isaac, RB, USC
Dorian Johnson, OL, Pittsburgh
Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
Jalin Marshall, WR, Ohio State
Marquez North, WR, Tennessee
Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State
Max Redfield, DB, Notre Dame
Robbie Rhodes, WR, Baylor
Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

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<p> 10 College Football True Freshmen Likely to Make an Impact in 2013</p>
Post date: Friday, February 8, 2013 - 08:05