Articles By Steven Lassan

Path: /college-football/big-12-quarterback-rankings-2012

The 2012 college football season is still months away, but it's never too early to preview. Athlon continues its countdown to the upcoming season and spring previews by ranking the quarterbacks in each of the BCS conferences. The rankings take into account last season's production, what each player is expected to do in 2012 and the surrounding personnel. 

Here's how Athlon ranks the 10 quarterbacks in the Big 12 for 2012

1. Geno Smith, West Virginia (SR)
Passing Stats:
4,385 yards, 31 TDs, 7 INTs, 65.8%
Rushing Stats: 56 att., -33 yds., 2 TDs

Dana Holgorsen’s new pass-first attack didn’t disappoint the fans in Morgantown last season. The offense had a few ups and downs and struggled to run the ball at times, but Smith finished with 4,385 yards and 31 scores and tossed only seven picks. Smith capped off a solid regular season with a huge performance in the bowl rout over Clemson, gashing the Tigers’ secondary for 407 yards and six touchdowns. With another offseason to pickup Holgorsen’s offense, look for Smith to be even better in 2012. The Mountaineers are also loaded with options at receiver, and the offensive line should show some improvement. With plenty of suspect defensive backfields awaiting in Big 12 play, Smith could easily improve upon last season’s totals. 

2. Collin Klein, Kansas State (SR)
Passing Stats:
1,918 yards, 13 TD, 6 INT, 57.3%
Rushing Stats: 317 att., 1,141 yards, 27 TD

Fans likely didn’t know how special CK-7 was all until Week 3. On the road against Miami, Klein rushed 22 times for 93 yards and a touchdown to go with an efficient 12-of-18 passing effort (133 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT) in the upset win over the Canes. He went on to account for 40 touchdowns, including tying an NCAA record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a single-season, and led the Wildcats to the Cotton Bowl. Only Northern Illinois’ Chandler Harnish (1,379 yards) and Michigan’s Denard Robinson (1,379) had more rushing yards by a quarterback last season and Klein finished fifth in the Big 12 in rushing and led the league in scoring (12.5 ppg). The workhorse quarterback carried 317 times, third nationally behind only Bobby Rainey (369) amd Robbie Rouse (329). With a rebuilt offensive line in front of him, the sledding will undoubtedly be tougher in 2012, but Klein is still the unquestioned heart and soul of Wildcat football.

3. Landy Jones, Oklahoma (SR)
Passing Stats:
4,463 yards, 29 TD, 15 INT, 63.1%
Rushing Stats: 32 att., -24 yards, 2 TD

Not many players enter their senior season with over 12,000 yards passing, nearly 100 touchdowns and as many question marks as Jones.  The Sooner showed major development from 2009 to 2010, increasing his completion percentage (58.1% to 65.6%) and significantly dropped his interception rate (every 32.1 attempts versus one every 51.4 attempts). Yet, 2011 saw Jones regress in both categories (63.1% and 37.5 attempts/INT). Additionally, his road record has been a major issue. He is 7-8 on the road as a starter and is 19-1 in Norman. Finally, he limped to the finish in 2011, going without a single touchdown pass in the final three games of the regular season — with five interceptions nonetheless. With a full spring and summer to break in the semi-new receiving corps, there is no reason to think Jones won't bounce back as a senior and become the unquestioned leader of Crimson and Cream nation.

4. Casey Pachall, TCU (JR)
Passing Stats:
2,911 yards, 25 TD, 7 INT, 66.5%
Rushing Stats: 68 att., 51 yards, 2 TD

Pachall had the unenviable task of following arguably the greatest quarterback in TCU history, Andy Dalton, last fall and performed brilliantly. His 157.98 passer efficiency trailed only the legendary Kellen Moore in the Mountain West ranks — and Moore certainly doesn’t need to be reminded of what happened in their head-to-head meeting. Pachall passed for a career-high 473 yards and five touchdowns in the road win over the Broncos. TCU’s signal caller has all of the physical tools of an elite Big 12 quarterback, but making the week-in, week-out adjustment to “big-time” college football will be a test for the junior. With stellar wide receivers and an extremely deep running back group behind him, though, the Horned Frogs should have little trouble adapting to life in the Big 12.

5. Seth Doege, Texas Tech (SR)
Passing Stats:
4,004 yards, 28 TD, 10 INT, 68.5%
Rushing Stats: 54 att., 46 yards, 4 TD

This Texas Tech quarterback very quietly accounted for 32 touchdowns, topped 4,000 yards of total offense and completed nearly 70% of his passes. So it wasn’t really Doege’s fault that Texas Tech lost seven of its last eight games in 2011. That distinguished honor belongs to the defense. That said, six of his 10 interceptions came over the five-game losing streak that ended the season while only six of his 28 touchdown passes came during that span. If Doege can play like he did in the first seven games — where he posted a 5-2 record with six 300-yard games and 22 touchdowns — Tech has a chance to return to the postseason.

6. Nick Florence, Baylor (SR)
Passing Stats:
151 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 75%
Rushing Stats: 7 att., 14 yards, 1 TD

Florence might have one of the toughest jobs in college football next season. Replacing Robert Griffin’s production is difficult enough, but Florence has to find a way to keep Baylor in the Big 12 title mix, while replicating last season’s 10 wins. Although the senior may not be able to match Griffin’s physical ability or his production, he should be able to keep Baylor in the mix for eight or nine wins. After Griffin went down with an ACL tear in 2009, Florence started seven games and finished with 1,786 yards and six touchdowns. He also made one appearance last year, completing 9 of 12 passes for 151 yards and two scores. Florence has plenty of weapons at his disposal and all signs point to a standout senior year. 

7. Clint Chelf, Oklahoma State (JR)
Passing Stats:
307 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 66.7%
Rushing Stats: 3 att., -14 yards

As of early April, it was anyone’s guess which quarterback will start for Oklahoma State in the season opener. Chelf has the most experience on the roster, completing 34 of 49 career passes for 520 yards and five touchdowns. However, the junior has yet to play any meaningful snaps and is locked in a tight battle with freshman Wes Lunt and redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh this spring. It’s a lot to ask for a true freshman to come in and win the starting quarterback job in a semester, so the battle to replace Brandon Weeden will likely come down to Walsh and Chelf. Walsh brings a little more mobility to the table, but doesn’t have the experience. Although Weeden was one of the top quarterbacks in college football last season, expect whichever player wins the job to have a successful season.

8. David Ash, Texas (SO)
Passing Stats:
1,068 yards, 4 TDs, 8 INTs, 56.6%
Rushing Stats: 73 car., 103 yards, 1 TD

If Texas wants to win the Big 12 title in 2012, it’s all about the quarterback play. The Longhorns improved their win total by three games from 2010 to 2011, but need better play from under center to take the next step. Ash seems to have wrestled control of the starting position from Case McCoy, especially after he threw for 142 yards and a score in the Holiday Bowl. The sophomore also has good mobility, but had only one game over 25 rushing yards last season. Ash is only a sophomore, so he should improve with more playing time. The offense also figures to be in better shape in 2012, especially with another offseason to pickup coordinator Bryan Harsin’s scheme. 

9. Dayne Crist, Kansas (SR)
Passing Stats:
164 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 62.5%
Rushing Stats: 5 att., -16 yards

Only Terrelle Pryor was ranked higher than Crist when he signed with Notre Dame out of high school in 2008. And with Brian Kelly coming to town, he appeared to be only one letter away from savior status. After a strong start to the 2010 season — 2,033 yards, 15 TD in eight games — a torn knee ended his season for the second straight year. He returned in 2011 with eyes on the Irish starting job, but after a poor showing, Crist was benched for Tommy Rees in Week 1. Originally recruited by Charlie Weis to South Bend, Crist decided to transfer to Kansas for his final season. Reunited with his former coach, and eligible to play right away having already graduated, Crist enters his final collegiate season with one more short at redemption.

10. Jared Barnett, Iowa State (SO)
Passing Stats:
1,201 yards, 6 TDs, 6 INTs, 50%
Rushing Stats: 104 att., 437 yards, 1 TD

Steele Jantz began last season as Iowa State’s No. 1 quarterback, but an injury and turnover issues opened the door for Barnett to emerge as the starter. Barnett finished the year with 1,201 yards and six passing touchdowns, but also added 437 yards and one score on the ground. The sophomore also led Iowa State to its biggest win of the season, a 37-31 overtime upset over Oklahoma State in Ames. Although Barnett had a terrific performance against the Cowboys (376 yards, three touchdowns), he did not top 200 passing yards in any other game. The Cyclones have a new offensive coordinator and will miss All-Big 12 left tackle Kelechi Osemele. Although both of those are negatives for Barnett, he should be better with more snaps under his belt. 

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

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<p> Ranking the Big 12 quarterbacks for 2012.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 06:59
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-football-are-irish-top-25-team-2012

The college football season is a couple of months away, but the countdown to 2012 has officially begun. Athlon Sports’ 2012 preseason annuals will be hitting newsstands in early June and its official top 25 countdown will begin on May 1. Picking the order of finish in each conference and compiling the top 25 is no easy task. Each day leading up to the release of No. 25 on May 1, Athlon’s editors will tackle some of the top preseason debates and question marks facing the teams and conferences for 2012.

Will Notre Dame Be a Top 25 Team in 2012?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Notre Dame should flirt with the top 25 for most of the season, but the Irish may have trouble stringing together signature wins to have true staying power. This may be a team that wins eight games during the regular season and then has a chance to finish in the top 25 with a bowl victory. The easiest stretch of Notre Dame’s season will come in November with Pittsburgh, Boston College on the road and then Wake Forest, but those three games are sandwiched between road trips to Oklahoma (Oct. 27) and USC (Nov. 24), both of which should start the season in the top five. With eight starters returning on offense and playmakers likes Manti Te’o and Aaron Lynch on defense, Notre Dame has the ability to be a top 25, but if the Irish go on turnover binges like they did a year ago, all bets are off.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Notre Dame is an interesting beast. They never play an easy schedule — you won't find any Sam Houston States or Montanas on this year's slate — but the Irish are consistently overrated by the pollsters. So an eight-win Notre Dame is most likely a Top 25 team over an eight-win Iowa or North Carolina or Cal. But getting to eight wins with this schedule won't be easy for a team that still needs to find a quarterback. Boston College and Navy are the two easiest games on the schedule. Home tests against Purdue, Wake Forest, Miami (in Chicago), BYU and Pitt all have to be wins if Brian Kelly wants to go bowling. Road games against USC and Oklahoma appear to be the only two guaranteed losses while Michigan State, Michigan and Stanford look like true swing games.

The amount of talent Kelly has stockpiled in the front seven should allow the Irish to match-up with more physical teams like Michigan State and Stanford. And the offense has plenty of depth along the line, and, despite losing Michael Floyd, loads of talent at the skill positions too. Should Kelly find a stabilizing force to run his offense, a 10-win season is well within reach. Otherwise, the NFL-esque front-seven and ground game should carry this team to eight wins...and a Top 25 ranking.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I think Notre Dame is definitely one of the top 25 teams in college football. I was a little surprised the Irish did not win more than eight games last season, but turnovers and inconsistent quarterback play prevented this team from making a BCS bowl appearance. Brian Kelly is definitely the right coach to lead Notre Dame, but I think this team might be a year away from making a push to get 10 wins and a BCS bowl.

The biggest question mark facing the Irish in 2012 will be quarterback play. Tommy Rees is the team’s returning starter, but Andrew Hendrix, Everett Golson and Gunner Kiel will all get a chance to unseat him this spring. Rees can be productive, but he’s not a difference maker. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Golson or Hendrix take the first snap of the season. Outside of the quarterback position, the offense is in good shape. Cierre Wood is back after rushing for 1,000 yards last season, and tight end Tyler Eifert is likely a first-team All-American selection. The line also returns three starters.

While the offense has its question marks, the defense is starting to assemble some nice pieces. The line should be one of the best in college football, while linebacker Manti Te’o is back after recording 128 tackles last season. The secondary needs some work, especially at cornerback where Gary Gray and Robert Blanton depart.

The schedule is a key obstacle when examining Notre Dame’s chances of finishing in the top 25. The Irish play nine bowl teams, including USC, Michigan, Michigan State and Oklahoma. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Notre Dame pull off an upset or two, but 8-4 or 9-3 seems to be the most likely record, which places them anywhere in the 15-25 range of most preseason polls. 

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
It’s fashionable at this time of year to talk about how overrated Notre Dame will be in the upcoming season, but I strongly believe the Fighting Irish will be a top-25 team in 2012. There are some issues to be resolved — who will be the starting quarterback is chief among them — but Brian Kelly has assembled a talented roster that is capable of winning nine games against a very difficult schedule.

The Irish will no doubt miss receiving Michael Floyd, but I believe the offense will be better this fall thanks to the return of 1,000-yard rusher Cierre Wood, outstanding tight end Tyler Eifert and a solid nucleus on the offensive line. The defense, led by All-America candidate Manti Te’o, should be strong once again.

A big key for Notre Dame will be cutting down on its turnovers. Last year, the Irish committed a total of 10 turnovers in their first two games, a three-point loss to South Florida and a four-point loss to Michigan. Some turnovers are bad luck and some are the result of poor play by the offense. Luck, even at Notre Dame, can’t be controlled, but you’d have to think Kelly, one of the game’s top offensive guys, will have his team taking better care of the ball in 2012. And if that’s the case, you can expect to find the Fighting Irish in the top 25 all season long.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
My answer would be barely. Notre Dame looks like an 8-4 team, but I see the Irish potential as closer to 9-3 than 7-5. Obviously the biggest ND question for the 2012 season involves another quarterback battle between Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix, and Everett Golson, and it could possibly include heralded freshman Gunner Kiel. There are plenty of solid skill players back (Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick, TJ Jones, Tyler Eifert), but Brian Kelly must get more out of his signal callers. The defense should be a strength, especially in the front seven. Senior linebacker Manti Te’o and sophomore end Aaron Lynch will lead a unit that should keep the Irish in most games, especially if an inexperienced but talented secondary develops. Notre Dame got off to a rough start last season, losing two games that it controlled and should have won. If Kelly's bunch can avoid the costly turnovers from a year ago and settle on a quarterback, the Irish will be a dangerous team. Despite road trips to Michigan State, Oklahoma and USC, I still think ND finishes in the lower half of the Top 25.

Where will Athlon predict Notre Dame to finish in the 2012 final standings? Check back on May 1 as the 2012 Top 25 countdown will be released one team a day. 

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<p> Will Notre Dame be a top 25 team in 2012?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 06:58
All taxonomy terms: Arkansas Razorbacks, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/10-coaches-replace-bobby-petrino-if-hes-fired

The future of Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino is uncertain. Although Petrino sports an impressive 34-17 record in four seasons with the Razorbacks, he could be in danger of losing his job, after lying to athletic director Jeff Long about the details of his motorcycle wreck last week. Petrino did not inform Long that Jessica Dorrell – an Arkansas athletic department employee – was riding with him, despite indicating so in the police report.

Taver Johnson has been selected as Arkansas’ interim coach, but what if Bobby Petrino is fired? The Razorbacks likely won’t hire a full-time head coach until the end of the 2012 season, but it’s always interesting to ponder the possibilities.

If Bobby Petrino is fired, here are 10 coaching candidates Arkansas could target at the end of the 2012 season –

Mario Cristobal, head coach, FIU – Even though BCS programs have attempted to lure Cristobal away from FIU, he has yet to leave Miami. Cristobal inherited an awful situation and the Golden Panthers went 1-11 in his first season (2007). However, FIU has made steady progress since then, winning 15 games over the last two years and making back-to-back bowl appearances. As a Miami native, it will take a great opportunity for Cristobal to leave the state of Florida. However, there’s no question Cristobal is ready for the opportunity to lead a BCS program.


Dave Doeren, head coach, Northern Illinois – Doeren did a nice job with Northern Illinois in his first season, leading the Huskies to the 2011 MAC Championship with an impressive 11-3 record. Doeren has made stops as an assistant at Montana, Kansas and Wisconsin and so far, has been a good hire for Northern Illinois. With just one year of head coaching experience, Doeren may be too green for the Arkansas position if it comes available at the end of the 2012 season.


Sonny Dykes, head coach, Louisiana Tech Dykes enters his third season at Louisiana Tech with a 13-12 record, with an appearance in the Poinsettia Bowl last season. The Bulldogs return much of the core that won the WAC title last season and are expected to begin the year as the favorites to claim the conference title. Dykes has built a solid resume, making stops as an assistant at Kentucky, Texas Tech and Arizona. Inexperience is really the only concern about Dykes, as he hasn’t been a head coach at a BCS program and has only two years of head coaching experience. Dykes has Louisiana Tech on the rise and it’s only a matter of time before he jumps to a BCS program.


Skip Holtz, head coach, South Florida – The last name Holtz is certainly one that Arkansas’ fans are familiar with. Lou Holtz coached at Arkansas from 1977-83, leading the Razorbacks to a 60-21-2 record. Skip Holtz has made stops as a head coach at Connecticut, East Carolina and South Florida and has an overall record of 85-62. The Bulls are just 13-12 under Holtz, but the team could be ready to turn the corner in 2012 with a handful of key players returning. Holtz has the reputation of running a clean program, which has to appeal to Arkansas after dealing with Petrino’s incident.


Mark Hudspeth, head coach, Louisiana-Lafayette – Hudspeth is a rising star in the coaching ranks and likely won’t be with the Ragin’ Cajuns for much longer. After compiling an 86-21 record in seven years with North Alabama, Hudspeth worked as an assistant with Dan Mullen at Mississippi State from 2009-10. He inherited a Louisiana-Lafayette team that went 3-9 prior to his arrival and led the Ragin’ Cajuns to a 9-4 record and a victory over San Diego State in the New Orleans Bowl. There’s very little downside to Hudspeth. He’s a proven winner at two different stops, has some experience in the SEC and is only 43 years old.


Gus Malzahn, head coach, Arkansas State – Arkansas fans are certainly familiar with Malzahn, but would he want to return to Fayetteville? Malzahn was a successful high school coach at three stops – Hughes, Shiloh Christian and Springdale. Houston Nutt picked Malzahn as Arkansas’ offensive coordinator for the 2006 season, but the pairing never worked. Malzahn left after one season with the Razorbacks and joined Todd Graham’s staff at Tulsa. After two years with the Golden Hurricane, Malzahn became the offensive coordinator at Auburn and helped to lead the Tigers to a national title in 2010. Malzahn is making his first stop as a head coach in 2012 with Arkansas State. After the way his first stop in Fayetteville transpired, it would not be a shock if Malzahn does not want to coach at Arkansas. However, if the job is open, the Razorbacks should do everything possible to lure Malzahn to Fayetteville.


Paul Rhoads, head coach, Iowa State – Prying Rhoads away from Iowa State won’t be easy. The Iowa native has led the Cyclones to an 18-20 record and two bowl appearances through three seasons. Winning at Iowa State is not easy, but Rhoads has made the Cyclones a tough out each and every week in Big 12 play. In addition to his experience at Iowa State, Rhoads has worked as a defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh and Auburn.


Kirby Smart, defensive coordinator, Alabama – Smart’s name has been circulated on many coaching lists over the last two years, but he has decided to remain in Tuscaloosa. Smart has no head coaching experience, but has worked as an assistant at LSU, Georgia and with the Miami Dolphins. He has also served under college football’s top coach (Nick Saban) for the last five years. Although Smart will get his chance to run a BCS program, the lack of success by Saban assistants Will Muschamp and Derek Dooley could work against him.


Charlie Strong, head coach, Louisville – Strong may not be a perfect fit at Arkansas, but he’s pretty close. He was born in Batesville, Ark., and played at Central Arkansas. Strong also has SEC coaching experience, making stops as an assistant at Ole Miss, Florida and South Carolina. Although Strong’s record is just 14-12 in two years with Louisville, the program was in bad shape when he arrived, and Louisville is expected to be the frontrunner for the Big East title in 2012. If the Arkansas job opens up, Strong will probably be near the top of the wish list.

Willie Taggart, head coach, Western Kentucky – Just like fellow Sun Belt coaches Mark Hudspeth and Mario Cristobal, Taggart did not inherit a good situation. However, in just two years, he has turned the Hilltoppers into a Sun Belt title contender. After going 2-10 in Taggart’s first year, Western Kentucky rebounded with a 7-5 record and finished second in the Sun Belt standings. Taggart worked for three seasons (2007-09) under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford and is one of college football’s youngest head coaches.

by Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on twitter)

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<p> 10 Coaches to Replace Bobby Petrino If He's Fired at Arkansas.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 06:50
Path: /college-football/acc-2012-quarterback-rankings

The 2012 college football season is still months away, but it's never too early to preview. Athlon continues its countdown to the upcoming season and spring previews by ranking the quarterbacks in each of the BCS conferences. The rankings take into account last season's production, what each player is expected to do in 2012 and the surrounding personnel. 

Here's how Athlon ranks the 12 quarterbacks in the ACC for 2012:

1. Tajh Boyd, Clemson (JR)
Passing Stats:
3,828 yards, 33 TDs, 12 INTs, 59.7%
Rushing Stats: 218 yards, 5 TDs

The combination of coordinator Chad Morris, Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins quickly helped to turn Clemson’s offense into the best in the ACC last year. In his first year as the starter, Boyd threw for 33 touchdowns (best in the ACC) and averaged 273.4 passing yards per game. He posted at least three touchdown scores in seven games, but threw nine interceptions over his final six games. With another offseason to pickup Morris’ scheme, Boyd should be more comfortable with the offense in 2012. The Tigers also return running back Andre Ellington and the ACC’s top receiving corps. The offensive line has a few holes, but Clemson’s offense shouldn’t miss much of a beat in 2012.

2. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech (JR)
Passing Stats: 3,013 yards, 19 TD, 10 INT, 59.8%
Rushing Stats: 153 att., 469 yards, 11 TD

This monster athlete enters his second full season under center after finishing No. 2 in the ACC in total offense a year ago (248.7 ypg). In fact, his 3,482 yards of offense broke Tyrod Taylor’s Hokie single-season mark set the previous year. Checking in at 6-foot-6 and 262 pounds, Thomas conjures up slightly less explosive visions of Cam Newton with his ability to move the pile on the ground — he might be the best QB sneaker in the nation. He will be breaking in a new offensive line and running backs, so if Virginia Tech is going to win its fifth Coastal Division in six years, the junior quarterback must be an ACC Player of the Year candidate.

3. EJ Manuel, Florida State (SR)
Passing Stats: 2,666 yards, 18 TDs, 8 INTs, 65.3%
Rushing Stats: 151 yards, 4 TDs

Injuries derailed Manuel from fully capitalizing on his potential last season. After tossing six touchdown passes in his first two games, he was injured against Oklahoma and missed the following game at Clemson. Manuel came off the bench against Wake Forest and started the remaining eight games, but he seemed to be dealing with the shoulder injury off and on throughout the 2011 season. Combine Manuel’s health, a shaky offensive line and young receiving corps, and you start to see why Florida State ranked eighth in the ACC in total offense. With a full offseason to recover and a full complement of emerging weapons at receiver, Manuel should easily surpass last season’s totals. Manuel has always had the talent and should put everything together to have a monster season in Tallahassee.  

4. Mike Glennon, NC State (SR)
Passing Stats:
3,054 yards, 31 TDs, 12 INTs, 62.5%
Rushing Stats: -110 yards, 1 TD

Coach Tom O’Brien had to make a difficult choice entering spring practice last season. Although Russell Wilson was one of the ACC’s top quarterbacks, he spent the spring playing baseball, which allowed Glennon to get all of the work with the first team. Although Wilson decided to return to the gridiron, O’Brien made an interesting and risky decision, choosing to go with Glennon as the starter for the 2012 season. Although Glennon had zero career starts going into last year, O’Brien’s confidence in the 6-foot-6 passer was rewarded. Glennon ranked second in the ACC with 31 touchdown tosses and completed 62.5 percent of his throws. NC State loses receiver T.J. Graham and tight end George Bryan, but the offense is expected to get better with Glennon going through another spring practice as the No. 1 quarterback. It’s a tight battle between Manuel and Glennon for the third spot on this list – and both could be worthy of all-conference honors at the end of the 2012 season.

5. Bryn Renner, North Carolina (JR)
Passing Stats:
3,086 yards, 26 TD, 13 INT, 68.3%
Rushing Stats: 57 att., minus-88 yards, TD

The strong-armed junior enters his second full season as the starter in Chapel Hill after leading the ACC in efficiency a year ago (159.44). Renner was the only ACC passer to complete more than 66% of his passes and he finished second in passing yards behind only Tajh Boyd. Losing star wideout Dwight Jones will hurt, but right-hand man Giovani Bernard returns to the backfield to carry the football and take the pressure off Renner. In the face of NCAA sanctions, this Tar Heels team has a chance to push for the best record in the division, but much of it hinges on Renner’s continued — and expected  — development in Larry Fedora’s new offensive scheme.

6. Tanner Price, Wake Forest (JR)
Passing Stats:
3,017 yards, 20 TDs, 6 INTs, 60%
Rushing Stats: -53 yards, 1 TD

Price showed tremendous progress in his second year as Wake Forest’s starting quarterback, throwing for 3,017 yards and 20 scores, while tossing only seven picks. He threw for at least 200 yards in each of the first seven games and completed 20 of 32 passes for 320 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-10 rout over Maryland. Price’s numbers were a big improvement from a freshman season that watched him throw for 1,349 yards and seven scores. There’s no question Price is one of Wake Forest’s best players, but his top target (Chris Givens) departed early for the NFL Draft. With four starters gone on the offensive line, Price may not have as much time to throw this year, and Wake Forest’s coaching staff has to be worried about him taking too much upon his shoulders. As long as Price keeps his completion percentage around 60 percent and keeps his interceptions under 10, the Demon Deacons figure to be in the mix for a bowl bid.  

7. Tevin Washington, Georgia Tech (SR)
Passing Stats:
1,652 yards, 11 TD, 8 INT, 49.3%
Rushing Stats: 243 att., 987 yards, 14 TD

Washington got his first taste of the starting lineup at the end of the 2010 season when he filled in for the injured Joshua Nesbitt. He started off last season on a (relative) tear by throwing for over 200 yards per game in the first four contests. He then failed to top the 100-yard mark in five of his last seven games and completed no more than six passes per game until the final game of the season. However, he posted four 100-yard games over those last eight contests and showed signs of life in the passing game in the season finale (11-of-15, 137 yards, TD, 0 INT). Life will be tougher without wideout Stephen Hill, but this system only needs one or two big passing plays per game to succeed. As a senior in his second full season as the starter with four offensive line starters back, Washington should be poised for his most productive, most efficient season yet.

8. Sean Renfree, Duke (SR)
Passing Stats: 2,891 yards, 14 TD, 11 INT, 64.9%
Rushing Stats: 58 att., minus-58 yards, 4 TD

Tajh Boyd and Bryn Renner were the only two ACC quarterbacks who were more efficient than Renfree in 2011. And the Blue Devils quarterback did it with much less around him. Renfree only won three games a year ago, and certainly his stats might be padded by a few garbage-time situations, but Duke was competitive against bowl eligible teams North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech. Renfree loses one of his top targets now that Donovan Varner is gone but will have leading pass-catcher Conner Vernon back for his final season. With QB guru David Cutcliffe drawing up plays, Renfree has a chance to top the 3,000-yard mark in his final season.

9. Michael Rocco, Virginia (JR)
Passing Stats:
2,671 yards, 13 TD, 12 INT, 60.7%
Rushing Stats: 40 att., 20 yards, 2 TD

In his first year as the starter, Rocco did one thing no Cavs quarterback was able to do since 2007: Get his team to a bowl game. His efficiency — both completion percent and TD-to-INT ratio — need to show marked improvement if the Wahoos expect to return to the postseason once again. Yet, coach Mike London has this team humming at a level unseen in Charlottesville in a decade and the talent around Rocco the junior is only getting better. Yes, it was a blowout against a horrible Auburn defense, but the UVa quarterback posted his best game as a passer in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl when he completed 26-of-41 for his only career 300-yard game (312) and a career-high two touchdowns.

10. Stephen Morris, Miami (JR)
Passing Stats:
283 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT, 70.2%
Rushing Stats: 11 att., -2 yards, TD

Morris lost the starting battle with Jacory Harris last season but still saw action in five contests where he completed over 70% of his passes. But most of his production came in the Labor Day night showing against Maryland where he threw for 195 yards and scored his only touchdown. Considering his lack of playing time last year, Morris really hasn’t seen the field much since 2010. As a freshman, Morris got plenty of action down the stretch in relief of the injured Harris. He threw for 1,240 yards in six games and many thought had done enough to earn the starting job in 2011. With Harris gone, and a very young roster around him, the job appears to be Morris’ to lose. The junior will miss most of spring practice with a back injury, but is expected to return 100 percent in time for fall camp.

11. Chase Rettig, Boston College (JR)
Passing Stats:
1,960 yards, 12 TDs, 9 INTs, 53.6%
Rushing Stats: -84 yards, 1 TD

Rettig has taken his lumps over the last two years and could be ready to climb higher on this list in 2012. As a freshman, Rettig threw for 1,238 yards and six touchdowns, but tossed nine picks. Last year, he threw for 1,960 yards and 12 touchdowns, but threw for less than 200 yards in 10 out of 12 games. New coordinator Doug Martin did a good job of resurrecting New Mexico State’s offense last year and should bring improvement to Boston College. However, a new scheme won't fix all of the issues, as Rettig also needs help from the receiving corps and rushing attack. Although the coaching staff expects a better year out of Rettig in 2012, backup Josh Bordner could figure more into the gameplan. Bordner is a better runner, but does not have Rettig’s experience. 

12. C.J. Brown, Maryland (JR)
Passing Stats:
842 yards, 7 TDs, 6 INTs, 49.4%
Rushing Stats: 79 att., 574 yards, 5 TDs

Not much went right for the Terrapins last season. The offense ranked 10th in the ACC in scoring and passing and scored more than 21 points only once over the last six games. Brown made five starts last season and finished the year with 842 passing yards and seven scores, while adding 574 yards on the ground. His best performance came in a loss against Clemson, recording 339 total yards and four touchdowns. With Danny O’Brien transferring to Wisconsin, Brown is Maryland’s only scholarship quarterback this spring and any injury to him during the season would be costly. New coordinator Mike Locksley will incorporate more pro-style looks, which will require some adjustment on Brown's part for the upcoming season. Although Brown showed flashes of promise last year, he still has much to prove and begins the year ranked as the worst quarterback in the conference.

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

Related ACC Content

ACC Head Coach Rankings for 2012
College Football's Top 25 Head Coaches for 2012

College Football's Top Transfers to Watch for 2012
College Football's Top Spring QB Battles to Watch

Top Transfers to Watch in 2012
College Football's Top Spring Storylines for 2012
College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

<p> Athlon ranks the quarterbacks in the ACC for the 2012 season.</p>
Post date: Monday, April 9, 2012 - 08:33
Path: /news/can-california-beat-stanford-and-washington-2012-pac-12-north-standings

The college football season is a couple of months away, but the countdown to 2012 has officially begun. Athlon Sports’ 2012 preseason annuals will be hitting newsstands in early June and its official top 25 countdown will begin on May 1. Picking the order of finish in each conference and compiling the top 25 is no easy task. Each day leading up to the release of No. 25 on May 1, Athlon’s editors will tackle some of the top preseason debates and question marks facing the teams and conferences for 2012.

Can Cal Beat Stanford and Washington in the 2012 Pac-12 North Standings?

Scott Chong,, (@GoldenBlogs)
Cal, UW, and Stanford all have some big question marks heading into this next year.  Generally speaking, going with the best quarterback is a good starting point for predicting how the Pac-12 will shake out.  If he can stay healthy, Keith Price might be one of the top QBs in the league.  He'll have new WRs and a shaky defense, however.  It's hard for me to consider Stanford as a contender because they'll be breaking in a brand new quarterback.  As much as I hate to say it, Luck made that offense look a lot better than their talent-level, particularly at the skill positions.

For Cal, the biggest question marks are the offensive line, new inside linebackers and safeties, and consistent quarterback play.  Normally, you would expect a senior quarterback with a season of starting experience to be solid.  But Zach Maynard was so inconsistent last year that we still don't know which guy we'll get.  If we get the happy-feet, locking-on, turn-over machine, it'll be another 7 win (+/-1) season.  If we get the steady and accurate game manager that we saw during the late season win streak, then we have a shot to be competitive with UW.  Of course, quarterback play won't matter if we don't solidify our offensive line play.  We'll have at least two new starters, and might also need a new center if last year's starter can't learn to snap the ball consistently.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Cal can challenge for second place in the Pac-12 North, but I’m not sure if that’s a reflection on the Bears’ own merits as a contender or potential flaws with Stanford and Washington. Stanford likely will stumble without Andrew Luck. The question is how far. Will Stanford win nine games or take a nose dive? For Washington, the assumption is the defense will improve, but what if the Huskies continue to perform like the team that allowed 777 yards to Baylor in the bowl game? Cal might not be a contender for the Pac-12 championship, but the Bears could at least make things interesting in the division if Zach Maynard plays like he did in September. And don’t forget: Cal lost by single digits on the road to both Washington (by 8) and Stanford (by 4). Both of those games are back in Berkeley this year.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Absolutely, Cal can challenge in the Pac-12 North this fall. But quarterback Zach Maynard will have to play better football if the Bears are going to compete for anything in 2012. Through the first eight games last fall, he tossed 10 interceptions against only 12 touchdowns. He showed better care of the football over the final five games, throwing only two interceptions to go with five touchdowns. Cal turned to the running game over that stretch and went 3-1 to finish the regular season because of it. The rapport Maynard has with superstar wideout, and half-brother, Keenan Allen is obvious and the connection should be one of the nation's best combos. But Jeff Tedford needs his quarterback to play within the offense and undoubtedly wants to lean on the ground game.

Filling the gap left by Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Mychal Kendricks will be difficult. More pressing might be the rebuilt coaching staff. Tedford had to replace some of his brightest and best young minds when Washington pilfered his regime of Tosh Lupoi and Eric Kiesau. With his rear end firmly placed on the hot seat, motivation should not be an issue for the winningest coach in Cal history. The good news? The Bears get Stanford, Washington and Oregon — the top three teams in the division — in the shadows of Tight Wad Hill this fall. 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
With Stanford losing Andrew Luck and the uncertainty surrounding Washington's defense, I think the door is open for California to challenge for second place in the North. There’s no question 2012 is going to be an important season for head coach Jeff Tedford. The Golden Bears are just 12-13 over the last two years and have not posted a double-digit win total since 2006. There’s a lot to like about California going into 2012, as the renovations to Memorial Stadium are complete and the roster has some quality talent waiting to step into playing time after back-to-back top-15 recruiting classes. The schedule features tough non-conference matchups against Nevada and Ohio State, but division foes Washington, Oregon and Stanford will all visit Berkeley. The biggest question mark facing California will be quarterback Zach Maynard. Although he finished the year with more touchdowns (17) than interceptions (12), he needs to be more consistent. The offense also needs to develop more receivers outside of Keenan Allen. Although the defense loses six starters, this unit has plenty of talent and shouldn’t be an issue. The opportunity is definitely there for California, but I’m going to guess this team won’t be much better on offense and will fall short of finishing second place in the Pac-12 North.

Ted Lee, Staff Writer,
Although the Bears finished 7-6 last season – they played some of their best opponents very well on the road for a half last season – Washington, Oregon, Stanford – but as was the case with Solomon Grundy, sometimes a half just isn't good enough. This season, the Bears return all of their top offensive playmakers while other top teams in the Pac-12 North have suffered major losses, and at long last, they'll get to break in a newly refurbished California Memorial Stadium – something that's been on the boards to various degrees since head coach Jeff Tedford began in 2002.

Following a topsy-turvy offseason which saw the California Golden Bears on the verge of landing three five-star recruits and a top 10 recruiting class only to see it slip away with the departure of defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi to the Washington Huskies, the Bears have a lot to look forward this season. On offense, they return starting quarterback Zach Maynard, who threw for 2,990 yards last season and 17 touchdowns, and tailback Isi Sofele, who ran for 1,322 yards. Perhaps the biggest offensive weapon the Bears have will be 6-foot-3 wide receiver Keenan Allen, Maynard's half-brother, who had 98 catches for 1,343 yards and will be highly watched by NFL scouts this season. But if the Bears are to improve upon last season's record, they'll have to find successful replacements on defense as they have to replace two starting defensive lineman, both inside linebackers, including Pac-12 defensive player of the year Mychal Kendricks, and both starting safeties as well. They can take some encouragement from the fact that defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast rotates his personnel frequently during the game so that many of this year's replacements will have had substantial playing time. Add to that kicker Vince D'Amato, whose extra points should be far less adventurous than they were last year, and the Bears are well-positioned to pull off a few surprises in 2012.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
Cal has a chance at 2nd place in the Pac-12’s North division with Stanford losing Andrew Luck and Washington still trying to fix its defense, but I would not predict the Bears to finish that high. They do return some exciting skill players in potential All-America wideout Keenan Allen and running back Isi Sofele, but there were some key personnel losses that Jeff Tedford’s club suffered from last season. Cal lost its best offensive lineman (Mitchell Schwartz), defensive lineman (Trevor Guyton), the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year (linebacker Mychal Kendricks), both starting safeties (Sean Cattouse and D.J. Campbell) and two solid specialists (kicker Giorgio Tavecchio and punter Bryan Anger). That’s a ton of experience to be without when the Bears make September trips to Ohio State and USC. Cal does get division foes Oregon, Stanford and Washington at home, but the gap between the Bears and the Ducks and Cardinal still looks large to me. Stanford will have a nasty defense, and Washington should be improved with a revamped coaching staff that includes two Cal defectors - Tosh Lupoi and Eric Kiesau. If quarterback Zach Maynard can play less erratic, like he did last November, then the Bears have a chance to be very good on offense. However, the defense will take a step back after losing its best players.  I see Cal as a 7-5 club overall, finishing third or fourth in the North.

Where will Athlon predict Cal to finish in the 2012 Pac-12 standings? Check back in May as Athlon's 2012 Top 25 will be released starting on May 1.  

Related Pac-12 Content

2012 Recruiting Rankings: No. 25 California Golden Bears

College Football's Top 25 Coaches for 2012

2012 Stanford Cardinal Spring Preview

2012 Washington Huskies Spring Preview

Ranking the Pac-12's Head Coaches for 2012

Top Transfers to Watch in 2012

College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

<p> Can California Beat Stanford and Washington in the 2012 Pac-12 North Standings?</p>
Post date: Monday, April 9, 2012 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/big-east-2012-quarterback-rankings

The 2012 college football season is still months away, but it's never too early to preview. Athlon continues its countdown to the upcoming season and spring previews by ranking the quarterbacks in each of the BCS conferences. The rankings take into account last season's production, what each player is expected to do in 2012 and the surrounding personnel. 

Here's how Athlon ranks the eight quarterbacks in the Big East for 2012:

1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville (SO)
Passing Stats:
2,129 yards, 14 TDs, 12 INTs
Rushing Stats: 89 att., 66 yards, 4 TDs

Bridgewater was one of Louisville’s top incoming freshmen last season, ranking as Athlon’s No. 6 quarterback for the 2011 recruiting class. He took over as the Cardinals’ starting quarterback against Marshall and led the team to a share of the Big East title and victories over Rutgers, West Virginia and South Florida. Bridgewater finished with 2,129 yards and 14 touchdowns, but showed his inexperience by tossing 12 picks. The Cardinals should be the favorites to win the Big East title in 2012, and Bridgewater should build off a solid freshman performance with a sophomore campaign.   

2. B.J. Daniels, South Florida (SR)
Passing Stats:
2,585 yards, 13 TDs, 7 INTs, 58.9%
Rushing Stats: 132 att., 601 yards, 6 TDs

It’s a close call between Daniels and Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib for the No. 2 spot. Daniels threw for a career high in passing yards last season (2,604) and added 601 yards and six scores on the ground. He also tossed only seven picks and posted a career best 58.9 completion percentage. Although Daniels has been up and down throughout his career, the senior could have his best statistical season in 2012. The Bulls have surrounded Daniels with a solid cast of weapons and it certainly helps to have the same offensive scheme in place for the third consecutive season.

3. Ryan Nassib, Syracuse (SR)
Passing Stats:
2,685 yards, 22 TDs, 9 INTs, 62.4%
Rushing Stats: 65 att., 39 yards, 2 TDs

Nassib and South Florida’s B.J. Daniels are neck-and-neck for the No. 2 spot among Big East quarterbacks. Nassib had a solid junior campaign, throwing for 2,685 yards and 22 scores. He also completed 62.4 percent of his passes, while averaging 224 yards through the air per game. Nassib will have to shoulder more of the offensive workload in 2012, as running back Antwon Bailey has finished his eligibility and there's no proven player ready to handle the workload on the ground. Syracuse will also have to replace receivers Van Chew and Dorian Graham, along with tight end Nick Provo, but regain the services of receiver Marcus Sales. If the Orange want to return to the postseason, Nassib needs to have a similar statistical year, while keeping his interceptions under 10 once again.

4. Gary Nova, Rutgers (SO)
Passing Stats:
1,553 yards, 11 TDs, 9 INTs, 51.1%
Rushing Stats: 23 att., -114 yds., 0 TD

Nova and Chas Dodd shared the quarterback duties last season, with both players throwing for over 1,000 yards and 10 scores. Nova played in 10 games and tossed 11 touchdowns, but also threw nine picks and completed only 51.1 percent of his throws. Nova and Dodd are locked into a tight battle this spring for the starting job, but the guess here is that Nova emerges as Rutgers’ No. 1 quarterback. Considering Nova has yet to play a full season and is only a sophomore, there will be a few ups and downs. Rutgers also has a new offensive coordinator this year, which will require some adjustment from both quarterbacks. Although Dodd has the edge in experience, Nova has more talent and brings the necessary arm strength to help stretch the field.

5. Munchie Legaux, Cincinnati (JR)
Passing Stats:
749 yards, 5 TDs, 4 INTs, 47.4%
Rushing Stats: 41 att., 185 yards, 2 TDs

Legaux was thrown into the fire last year and despite his inexperience, kept Cincinnati in the thick of the Big East title race. Starter Zach Collaros suffered an ankle injury against West Virginia, forcing Legaux to start the next three games. The Bearcats went 2-1 in Legaux’s three starts, and he finished the year with more touchdowns (five) than interceptions (four). However, Legaux is far from a finished product, as indicated by his 47.4 completion percentage. The junior has talent and his experience should help him emerge as a solid quarterback in Big East play.

6. Chris Coyer, Temple (JR)
Passing Stats:
463 yards, 6 TDs, 0 INT, 60%
Rushing Stats: 69 att., 562 yards, 3 TDs

With Temple moving from the MAC to the Big East, it’s tough to figure out where Temple’s players stack up in the new conference. After all, the Owls have been playing MAC competition, and the defenses in the Big East should provide a tougher test each week. Coyer is a promising quarterback, but there needs to be a bigger sample size to rank him higher on this list. He threw for just 463 yards in limited action, but displayed his value as a runner by recording 562 yards and three touchdowns. With a rebuilt offensive line and running back Bernard Pierce off to the NFL, the Owls need Coyer to carry the offense in 2012.

7. Tino Sunseri, Pittsburgh (SR)
Passing Stats:
2,616 yards, 10 TDs, 11 INTs, 64.2%
Rushing Stats: 154 att., 86 yards, 4 TDs

Sunseri has been the source of frustration for Pittsburgh fans over the last two years. In his first season as a starter in 2010, Sunseri threw for 2,572 yards and 16 scores. He didn’t improve those numbers by much in 2011, throwing for 2,616 yards and 10 touchdowns. In fairness to Sunseri, Pittsburgh’s offensive struggles last year were largely due to the scheme not fitting the personnel. New coach Paul Chryst should do a better job of adapting his scheme to Sunseri and the offensive line can’t be any worse than it was in 2011. Expect Sunseri to play better in 2012, but for now, he checks in as the No. 7 quarterback in the Big East.

8. Johnny McEntee Connecticut (SR)
Passing Stats:
2,110 yards, 12 TDs, 8 INTs, 51.3%
Rushing Stats: 55 att., -148 yards, 0 TD

The race to start the season opener for Connecticut is wide open, with five quarterbacks competing for snaps. The edge in this space goes to McEntee after starting all 12 games for the Huskies last season. McEntee had virtually no experience going into the 2011 season and certainly struggled to move the ball through the air for the Connecticut offense. He finished with 2,110 yards and 12 touchdowns, but also tossed eight picks and posted a disappointing 51.3 completion percentage. There’s no guarantee McEntee wins the job this spring, as junior college recruit Chandler Whitmer and incoming freshman Casey Cochran will push for playing time. Considering how little McEntee improved last year, if he wins the job this spring, it would seem to be a bad sign for the Huskies’ offense. 

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Related Big East Content

Ranking the Big East Coaches for 2012
Ranking College Football's Top 25 Coaches for 2012

Big East 2012 Schedule Analysis

College Football's Top Quarterback Battles to Watch

Top Transfers to Watch in 2012
College Football's Top Spring Storylines for 2012
College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

<p> Athlon ranks the quarterbacks in the Big East for 2012.</p>
Post date: Monday, April 9, 2012 - 08:27
All taxonomy terms: Arkansas Razorbacks, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/arkansas-suspends-bobby-petrino-whats-next-razorbacks

Arkansas has been a team on the rise under coach Bobby Petrino. The Razorbacks have 21 victories in their last two years and have closed the gap on Alabama and LSU in the SEC West. Although Arkansas has some question marks on defense and with a rebuilt receiving corps heading into the 2012 season, it has been touted as a possible darkhorse national title contender, especially with the Crimson Tide and Tigers visiting Fayetteville.

But is all of Petrino’s progress at Arkansas about to fall apart? Petrino’s motorcycle wreck on Sunday was a serious incident, but the story took a turn for the worse after it was revealed he had a 25-year-old female passenger. Jessica Dorrell – also an Arkansas athletic department employee – was mentioned in the police report as a passenger, despite Petrino insisting he was riding solo.

As a result of failing to notify athletic director Jeff Long that Dorrell was a passenger, Petrino has been placed on administrative leave and it’s uncertain if he will return to Arkansas in 2012.

Although Petrino’s inappropriate relationship with Dorrell is certainly not the news Arkansas needs at this time, the bigger issue is lying to your athletic director. Had Petrino come clean from the beginning, the damage would have been bad, but it’s always the cover-up that is worse in any incident.

Long will review Petrino’s status, but there is no indication on when a decision on his future with the school will be determined. Assistant Taver Johnson, in his first season with Arkansas, will serve as the interim coach for now.

What does this mean for Arkansas in 2012?

Right now, it’s really too early to tell how it affects the Razorbacks’ chances of winning the SEC West. Most early predictions had Arkansas pegged for third place in the division, but a top-10 team nationally. Without Petrino, the Razorbacks are probably still picked to finish third, but could slip to the 15-25 range in most preseason polls.

Although Petrino made a huge mistake in lying to his boss and having an inappropriate relationship with a member of the athletic department, the odds seem to be favorable that he does return to the sideline in 2012.

Long could choose to suspend Petrino for a couple of games, which would certainly have an impact on Arkansas’ national title hopes with a game against Alabama on Sept. 15. Another possibility is a suspension that lasts the spring and summer, but Petrino would return in time for fall practice.

Even if Petrino returns to Arkansas, there’s no question his reputation is going to take another hit. Petrino has always been questioned and criticized for his commitment, as he spent only one season with the Falcons before bolting to Arkansas and many around the SEC haven’t forgotten the infamous jetgate incident with Auburn in 2003.

Considering the commitment issue could come up again, Arkansas and Petrino agreed to a long-term contract last May, which had a large buyout and prevented him from leaving for another SEC school. Armed with a long-term contract and a program that is ready to challenge for the SEC West title every year, Petrino appeared to be entrenched in Fayetteville for the next 10 years and finally ready to erase the criticism of being a job hopper.

However, thanks to the motorcycle wreck on Sunday night and the revelations on Thursday night, Petrino and Arkansas are facing an uncertain future. Petrino has been very successful in four years with the Razorbacks, leading the team to a 34-17 record with an appearance in the Sugar Bowl. Being a successful coach certainly doesn't hurt Petrino's chances of returning to Fayetteville, as the conversation could be quite different if this was a coach with a 10-20 record facing the same type of issues.

Although Petrino is going to be heavily scrutinized (and rightfully so), the focus now shifts back to Long and the athletic department. Can Petrino still be a successful coach with this in the rearview mirror? Could this hurt Petrino on the recruiting trail? Those are just two of the questions Long and Arkansas have to answer over the next couple of weeks. 2012 was shaping up to be a year where the Razorbacks could contend for the SEC title, but now there's a cloud of uncertainty hanging over this team.

Related Arkansas Razorbacks Content

Ranking the SEC Head Coaches for 2012

Arkansas Razorbacks' 2012 Spring Preview

<p> Arkansas has indefinitely suspended head coach Bobby Petrino. What's next for the Razorbacks in 2012?</p>
Post date: Friday, April 6, 2012 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-secs-college-football-coaches

Ranking the coaches in any college football conference is a difficult task. Many factors play into just how successful a coach is at any school. How well are the assistants paid? Are the facilities up to par with the rest of the conference? Can the coach recruit or is he more of an x's and o's manager? Are there off-the-field or age issues to take into consideration? Has a coach built a program or continued the success from a previous coach? How is the resume outside of their current position? These questions and more were posed to the editors at Athlon Sports, as they were asked to rank the coaches of each of the six BCS conferences. One thing to keep in mind - the record is not always indicative of where a coach should rank in a conference. 

Ranking the Coaches: ACC
Ranking the Coaches: Big East
Ranking the Coaches: Pac-12
Ranking the Coaches: Big 12
Ranking the Coaches: Big Ten
Ranking the Coaches: SEC
Ranking the Coaches: 2012 Top 25 Coaches 

Here is how Athlon Sports ranks the coaches of the SEC:

1. Nick Saban, Alabama (5 years)
Alma Mater:
Kent State (1970-72)
Record: 55-12 (2007-present)
Record: 48-16 (LSU, 2000-04)
Record: 34-24-1 (Michigan State, 1995-99)
Record: 9-2 (Toledo, 1990)
Overall: 146-54-1 (16 years)

There’s not much debate about this: College football’s top coach resides in Tuscaloosa. Saban has led the Crimson Tide to two national titles and four straight seasons of at least 10 victories. Saban’s track record is impressive, going 48-16 in five years at LSU, 34-24-1 in five seasons with Michigan State and a 9-2 mark in 1990 with Toledo. Saban is certainly one of the most demanding coaches in college football, but there’s no question he knows what it takes to succeed. Saban has returned Alabama to national prominence and has brought in some of college football’s best recruiting classes over the last five seasons. As long as Saban sticks around in Tuscaloosa, expect Alabama to be ranked among the top 10 teams every preseason. And after winning two titles in five seasons, expect the Crimson Tide to only add to that total in the near future.

2. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina (7 years)
Alma Mater:
Florida (1963-66)
Record: 55-35 (2005-present)
Record: 122-27-1 (Florida, 1990-2001)
Record: 20-13-1 (Duke, 1987-89)
Overall: 197-75-2 (22 years)

It has taken some time, but Spurrier finally has South Carolina into contention for the SEC title. The Gamecocks won at least six games in each of Spurrier’s first five years, but have combined for 20 over the last two. Spurrier also led South Carolina to its first appearance in the SEC title game and a top 10 finish in most polls last year. Spurrier has had plenty of success outside of South Carolina, finishing with a 122-27-1 record at Florida and leading Duke to a 20-13-1 mark from 1987-89. Building a program into a consistent challenger for an SEC title is no easy task, but Spurrier seems to have South Carolina on the right path, and the Gamecocks are positioned for another run at the East Division title in 2012.  

3. Mark Richt, Georgia (11 years)
Alma Mater:
Record: 106-38 (2001-present)

The longest tenured coach in the SEC (tied with Gary Pinkel) has had one losing season in his entire head-coaching career. The Bulldogs, under Jim Donnan and Ray Goff, failed to realize an opportunity to grow into the SEC power in the 1990s. While Alabama and LSU toiled, Florida and Tennessee took advantage and won titles. Goff and Donnan claimed seven seasons of six wins or fewer and the program posted only two 10-win seasons from 1984 to 2001. Richt entered the game in 2001 and proceeded to win the programs’ first conference title in 20 years in 2002. Richt posted two conference titles, six 10-wins seasons in his first eight years and won two SEC Coach of the Year Awards. However, Dawgs’ faithful watched its team get worse four straight years from 2007 to 2011 while Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Florida were winning national titles and returning to national prominence in a big way. Richt adapted, though, by finally making sweeping coaching changes that have saved his job. Todd Grantham reinvented the Georgia defense and Richt got to his fourth SEC Championship game in 2011. He has his team poised to be the favorite to win the East once again this fall.

4. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State (3 years)
Alma Mater:
Record: 21-17 (2009-present)

In Athlon’s meeting to rank the SEC coaches, Mullen and LSU’s Les Miles were the most difficult ones to rank. Mullen is only 39 years old, so his best coaching years appear to be ahead of him. However, his overall record is just 21-17 and his only SEC West victories came against rival Ole Miss. While winning the in-state battle is crucial, the Bulldogs need to start beating some of the other teams in the division. Mullen has also led Mississippi State to back-to-back bowl victories and should be in position to reach the postseason once again in 2012. Considering the depth of the SEC, winning big in Starkville is no easy task. Give Mullen the resources of what Alabama or LSU has and he can take Mississippi State even higher. The Bulldogs have ranked higher than ninth in the SEC in recruiting only once in the last six years, yet have a better record over the last three seasons than Tennessee (18-20) — a team that consistently recruits better than Mississippi State. While the record suggests Mullen is only a .500 coach, expect him to continue pushing the Bulldogs to eight or nine win seasons, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he left for a better job in the next couple of years. An overall record isn't always a good judge of how effective some coaches are and Mullen is the perfect case, as he has helped to turn Mississippi State into a consistent bowl team in a very difficult SEC West.

5. Les Miles, LSU (7 years)
Alma Mater:
Record: 75-18 (2005-present)
Record: 28-21 (Oklahoma State, 2001-04)
Overall: 103-39 (11 years)

Inexplicably, LSU, a program with as many built-in advantages as anyone in the nation, laid dormant for three decades. LSU won two conference championships from 1971 to 2000 and only three bowl games from 1971 to 1995. However, the name atop this list of SEC coaches entered the picture in 2000 and reestablished the Bayou Bengal brand. Nick Saban won more games in his first year (8) than LSU had won the two previous (7). He had LSU back in the SEC title game by 2001, giving the Tigers their first outright conference title since 1986. By his fourth season, Saban had returned the Tigers to the promised land by delivering their first national title since 1958. Enter Les Miles. The Hat has maintained an elite level of success with four 10-win seasons in six years, including the 2007 National Championship. He brings energy, intensity and an internal rallying cry to his locker room. The players love him, and he is certainly an entertaining character. He is a fantastic recruiter who has assembled arguably the best roster in America. However, he has also developed another reputation based on bizarre eating habits, poor end-game management, vocal gaffes, and now, the worst BCS performance in the series’ 14-year history. Questions about his teams’ mental focus, discipline and overall ability to adjust were beginning to subside after the 13-0 romp through the regular season last fall. However, those issues resurfaced after the most under-prepared, poorly game-managed title game of the BCS era. Miles and Saban will be eternally linked the annals of SEC football, and relatively speaking, Miles is one of the better coaches in the nation. But in the Southeast, the stakes — and standards — are higher (sometimes unfairly so), and after LSU became the first and only two-loss team to win a BCS title, Saban has been the far superior coach. Miles has lost 12 games to Saban’s six since 2007, and with what could be perceived as the best roster in the nation, three losses per season isn’t getting it done.

6. Gary Pinkel, Missouri (11 years)
Alma Mater:
Kent State
Record: 85-54 (2001-present)
Record: 73-37-3 (Toledo, 1991-2000)
Overall: 158-91-3 (21 years)

Not many people can say they started their football careers rooming with Jack Lambert and playing with Nick Saban while learning from Don James. But that is how Pinkel broke into this business when played tight end at Kent State under James. He spent nearly twenty years, most of it under James at Kent and Washington, before landing his first head coaching job in 1991 at Toledo. He earned one MAC championship, three MAC East Division titles and the 1995 MAC Coach of the Year honor before the Mizzou Tigers came calling. In his 11 years since, Pinkel has led Missouri to unprecedented heights of football success. His 85 wins are third all-time in school history. From 1983 to 2001, the Tigers went to two bowl games. Since Pinkel landed in Columbia, MU has eight bowls in 11 years, winning four of them. Prior to the former MAC guru tenure, Missouri posted two 10-win seasons in 111 years of football. He has won at least 10 games three times in the last five years. Eight of the Tigers nine top scoring teams have been ruled by Pinkel. He now has accomplished arguably his greatest achievement in Tigers football history by ushering his program into the nation’s best conference. There will be a major adjustment period, but for the SEC’s longest tenured head coach (tied with Richt), this has to feel like a juicy opportunity to continue the Tigers rise up the college football food chain.

7. James Franklin, Vanderbilt (1 year)
Alma Mater:
East Stroudsburg
Record: 6-7 (2011-present)

There hasn’t been this much energy on West End in, well, maybe ever. Recruiting is at an all-time high, the roster is dripping with offensive skill talent and one could argue that Franklin, in his first season, should have actually won MORE. And his six wins marked only the second time since 1982 that Vandy reached the plateau. The Dores scored 347 points last fall. It was the first time the Commodores had topped the 300-point mark since 1974 and it is the highest scoring Vanderbilt offense since 1915. The loss to rival Tennessee was crushing but it is clear that Franklin has brought an attitude to Vanderbilt football that has been lacking for decades. And while Bobby Johnson deserves a lot of credit for building up the talent, the Dores showed in the second half of the season that they are only getting better. If only they hadn’t fumbled against Arkansas.

8. Gene Chizik, Auburn (5 years)
Alma Mater:
Record: 30-10 (2009-present)
Record: 5-19 (2007-08)
Overall: 35-29 (5 years)

What a difference two years can make. Chizik was not the most popular selection when he was chosen as Auburn’s coach at the end of the 2008 season. In two years at Iowa State, Chizik posted a disappointing 5-19 record and won only two Big 12 games. Although it’s not easy to win at Iowa State, the Cyclones didn’t show much progress under Chizik and went 7-6 in the year after his departure. Chizik previously coached at Auburn from 2002-04 as the team’s defensive coordinator, before departing to work at Texas for two seasons in the same capacity. There’s no question that Chizik is a solid defensive mind, but there are some holes in his resume. Takeaway the 14-0 season in 2010 and Chizik’s career record is an underwhelming 21-29. The Tigers had a lot of young players stepping into key roles last season and there could be some transition as two new coordinators take over in 2012. Chizik has made the right moves at Auburn, but it may be another year or two before the Tigers are back into SEC West title contention.

9. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M (First Season)
Alma Mater:
Purdue (1983-96)
Record: 35-17 (Houston, 2008-2011)

After four so-so seasons under Mike Sherman, Texas A&M made a tremendous hire bringing Kevin Sumlin back to College Station. Sumlin will be charged with leading the Aggies through a difficult transition, as Texas A&M is moving from the Big 12 into the SEC. Sumlin has built a solid resume as a coach, making stops as an assistant at Washington State, Wyoming, Minnesota, Purdue and Oklahoma. He also coached at Texas A&M from 2001-02 as the team’s offensive coordinator. Sumlin comes to Texas A&M after spending four years as the head coach at Houston. The Cougars went 35-17 under his watch and made three bowl appearances. Sumlin certainly understands what it takes to win at Texas A&M and built a solid coaching staff to guide the Aggies into the SEC. If Sumlin turns the Aggies into a consistent eight or nine-win team in the SEC, expect to see him move higher on this list in 2013 and beyond. 

10. Will Muschamp, Florida (1 year)
Alma Mater:
Record: 7-6 (2011-present)

The track record is pretty prestigious for Muschamp. He won a National Championship as the architect of the LSU Tigers 2003 defense that allowed more than 19 points only once all season. He then followed head coach Nick Saban to the NFL for one season before landing as Tommy Tuberville’s DC at Auburn. He landed in his second national title game as Mack Brown’s defensive guru in 2009. He was named Texas’ head coach in waiting, but quickly realized Brown wouldn’t be stepping down any time soon. So after one of the most decorated assistantships in college football, Muschamp was given the keys to a Rolls-Royce of programs. Yet, with one of the most talented rosters in the nation, the Gators once again struggled on offense — try an unheard of 105th in the nation  — and Muschamp was left without an offensive coordinator and without a quarterback. He closed his first recruiting cycle with the No. 3 class in the nation, but anyone should be able to recruit to Florida. The jury is still out on his coaching ability, but Muschamp was out-coached in the Cocktail Party and he can’t afford to lose games like that in 2012 — not with one of the most talented defenses in the nation.

11. Derek Dooley, Tennessee (2 years)
Alma Mater:
Record: 11-14 (2010-present)
Record: 17-20 (Louisiana Tech, 2007-09)
Overall: 28-34 (5 years)

Dooley entered his first big-time coaching gig at one of the worst situations in SEC history. Phil Fulmer and Lane Kiffin did little to maintain the storied Big Orange tradition leading into Dooley’s tenure. However, Dooley has done little to distinguish himself in a league loaded with superstars stalking the sideline. At Louisiana Tech, he took a 3-10 team and turned it into an eight-win team in two seasons. Yet, he finished his Bulldogs career with a less than stellar 4-8 campaign at a program that has had plenty of success relatively speaking. In Knoxville, Dooley has proven to be an affable CEO who has finished strong on the recruiting trail in the face of coaching defections. However, he has yet to deliver a signature victory in two seasons. Other than the last two games of the 2011 season, a win over Vanderbilt and an pathetic showing in Lexington, Tennessee has won and lost every game it should have in two seasons. Dooley needs to prove he can be a great leader by reuniting a once-divided locker room, or his last name and end-game gaff in Baton Rouge will be his only claim to fame.

12. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss (First Season)
Alma Mater:
Southern Miss
Record: 10-2 (Arkansas State, 2011)
Record: 20-5 (Lambuth 2008-09)
Overall: 30-7 (3 years)

Freeze has experienced a quick ascension in the coaching ranks. He was a successful coach at Briarcrest High School from 1995-04, before jumping to work as an assistant under Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss in 2005. After Orgeron was fired at the end of the 2007 season, Freeze became the head coach at Lambuth for two years, compiling an impressive 20-5 record. After his stint at Lambuth, Freeze worked as the offensive coordinator for Arkansas State in 2010 and was promoted to head coach for one season (2011). Freeze brought instant success to Arkansas State, improving the Red Wolves from four victories in 2010 to 10 and a Sun Belt title in 2011. Freeze has a difficult task ahead of him in 2012, as the Rebels were the worst team in the SEC West and have a lot of holes to fill on the roster. Although Freeze has been an instant winner at each of his stops, don’t be surprised if the Rebels show slow progress in 2012, before contending for a bowl in 2013. 

13. Joker Phillips, Kentucky (3 years)
Alma Mater: Kentucky
Record: 11-14 (2010-present)

Fair or not, Phillips enters his third season in Lexington squarely on the hot seat. He deserves most of the credit for engineering one of the most successful offenses in program history while serving as the offensive coordinator for his alma mater from 2004-2009. The architect of the Wildcat offense saw names like Andre Woodson, Jacob Tamme and Steve Johnson carry Kentucky to four straight bowl games (2006-2009) for the first time in school history. However, the Cats have not improved on a win total since the 2005-2006 jump from three wins to eight. In fact, Phillips has watched his win total drop three consecutive years. And his once potent offense has fallen flat on its face. Kentucky scored 190 points in 2011 – or 285 fewer points than the powerful 2007 squad. It was only the second time (2004) that Kentucky has scored fewer than 200 points in a season since Hal Mumme took over in 1997.

14. Taver Johnson, Arkansas (interim)
Alma Mater: Wittenberg
Record: First Season

Johnson has been placed into a very difficult situation, as he was promoted to interim coach after Bobby Petrino's firing in April. Johnson is regarded as a solid defensive mind, but he has no head coaching experience and is just in his first season with the Razorbacks. The big question in Fayetteville is whether or not Johnson will serve as the team's coach for 2012 or an outside hire will be made. Athletic director Jeff Long has indicated Arkansas will conduct a search for a full-time coach, but it's very difficult to find a replacement in spring practice. 

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

2012 SEC Spring Previews

Alabama's 2012 Spring Preview
Arkansas' 2012 Spring Preview

Auburn's 2012 Spring Preview

Florida's 2012 Spring Preview

Georgia's 2012 Spring Preview

LSU's 2012 Spring Preview

Missouri's 2012 Spring Preview

South Carolina's 2012 Spring Preview

Tennessee's 2012 Spring Preview

Texas A&M's 2012 Spring Preview

Vanderbilt's 2012 Spring Preview

Other Spring Preview Content:

College Football's Top Transfers to Watch for 2012
College Football's Top Spring QB Battles to Watch

Top Transfers to Watch in 2012
Early Top 25 for 2012
College Football's Top Spring Storylines for 2012
College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

<p> Athlon continues its spring preview by ranking the coaches in the SEC.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 - 07:21
Path: /college-football/kansas-state-wildcats-2012-spring-preview

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer.

2012 Kansas State Wildcats Spring Preview

2011 Record: 10-3, 7-2 Big 12

Spring practice: April 4-April 30

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 6

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Collin Klein, 161 of 281, 1,918 yds., 13 TD, 6 INTs
Rushing: Collin Klein, 317 car., 1,141 yds., 27 TDs
Receiving: Chris Harper, 40 rec., 547 yds., 5 TDs
Tackles: Arthur Brown, 101
Sacks: Meshak Williams, 7
Interceptions: Nigel Malone, 7

Early Enrollees: ATH Dante Barnett, QB Tavarius Bender, DB Morgan Burns, DE Hunter Davis, FB Glenn Gronkowski, DL Samuel Harvill, LB Mike Moore, WR Steven West, DL Wesley Hollingshed (JC)

JUCO Transfers to Watch: WR Marquez Clark, OL Ellwood Clement, DB Kent Gainous, DL Wesley Hollingshed, DL Chaquil Reed, OL Tavon Rooks

2012 Schedule

Sept. 1 Missouri State
Sept. 8 Miami
Sept. 15 North Texas
Sept. 22 at Oklahoma
Oct. 6 Kansas
Oct. 13 at Iowa State
Oct. 20 at West Virginia
Oct. 27 Texas Tech
Nov. 3 Oklahoma State
Nov. 10 at TCU
Nov. 17 at Baylor
Dec. 1 Texas 

Offensive Strength: Collin Klein. The senior quarterback carried the Kansas State offense last season, accounting for 3,059 total yards and 40 overall scores. Although Klein dealt with injuries for various parts of the season, he managed to start every game and led the Wildcats to their first Cotton Bowl appearance since 2001. Kansas State may not have an all-conference performer at receiver, but there’s a nice collection of weapons, includuing Chris Harper and Tyler Lockett. 

Offensive Weakness: Running back John Hubert had a nice season last year, rushing for 970 yards and three touchdowns. However, the Wildcats need a little more punch from their ground attack and will likely look to get more from senior Angelo Pease and sophomore DeMarcus Robinson. The line isn’t a huge concern, but three starters depart, including two all-conference performers.

Defensive Strength: Outside of Klein, the biggest surprise in Kansas State’s season might have been the play of linebacker Arthur Brown. Although he was a highly-touted prospect coming out of high school, Brown never lived up to the hype at Miami. Brown finished 2011 with first-team All-Big 12 honors and recorded 101 stops and two sacks. Tre Walker joins Brown in the linebacking corps, which should be among the best in the Big 12.

Defensive Weakness: Each level of the defense seems to be in good shape, but the Wildcats have to be a little concerned about the interior of the line. Tackle Ray Kibble was a key cog in the rush defense, and JUCO transfer Wesley Hollingshed will be counted upon to have a major role early on. The defense will also miss cornerback David Garrett, but there may not be much of a drop off with Nigel Malone and Allen Chapman manning the corner positions in 2012.  

Spring Storylines Facing the Wildcats

1. The Wildcats were one of the Big 12’s biggest surprises last season, as they were picked to finish near the bottom of the conference, but posted a 10-3 record and made an appearance in the Cotton Bowl against Arkansas. The overriding theme when examining Kansas State’s 2012 prospects certainly has to be: Can the Wildcats do it again? There’s no question coach Bill Snyder is one of the best in college football and this team always seems to exceed most preseason expectations. In order for Kansas State to repeat last season’s 10 wins, there are some question marks that must be addressed. Defensive coordinator Chris Cosh departed for South Florida, and Snyder promoted assistant Tom Hayes to fill that spot. Also, both sides of the ball lost a couple of key contributors. The Wildcats were outgained by an average of 106.8 yards per game in league play, but were second in the conference in turnover margin. It’s not a perfect recipe for success, but if the defense continues to force turnovers, Kansas State certainly won’t beat itself in 2012.

2. If Kansas State wants to win the Big 12, it has to find a way to take some of the offensive pressure off of quarterback Collin Klein. The junior was one of the top quarterbacks in the Big 12 last year, rushing for 1,141 yards and 27 scores, while adding 1,918 yards and 13 touchdowns through the air. However, Klein dealt with various bumps and bruises throughout last season and asking him to shoulder the entire offensive workload once again is a lot to ask. The Wildcats need more from running back John Hubert, along with a receiving corps that quietly features some deadly weapons. Although Klein is a capable runner, it’s important for Hubert to take some of the wear and tear off his quarterback. If Klein is injured, the Kansas State offense could sputter.

3. The biggest concern on offense for Kansas State has to be an offensive line that loses three starters, including first-team All-Big 12 tackle Clyde Aufner. Left tackle Zach Hanson and guard Colten Freeze have also expired their eligibility in Manhattan, leaving guard Nick Puetz and center B.J. Finney as the group’s only returning starters. The line was an underrated part of Kansas State’s success last year, as this group led the way for the Wildcats to post 34 rushing scores and average nearly four yards a carry. JUCO transfer Tavon Rooks is expected to challenge for playing time right away, while the coaching staff has some solid options – Cornelius Lucas, Ethan Douglas and Keenan Taylor – to contend for the rest of the spots. A wildcard to watch is tackle Manase Foketi. The senior is expected to be granted a medical redshirt for the 2011 season, which will allow him to play in 2012. If Foketi is healthy, he would be a key addition to the line and would likely start at one of the tackle positions.

4. New defensive coordinator Tom Hayes inherited a good situation for the 2012 season. Although the Wildcats have to replace a key player at each level of the defense, there’s still plenty to be encouraged about for 2012. The defensive line returns end Meshak Williams (seven sacks in 2011) and tackle Vai Lutui. The linebacking corps will be among the best in the Big 12, as first-team all-conference selection Arthur Brown and Tre Walker are back. The secondary finished 103rd nationally in pass defense, but returns cornerback Nigel Malone and safety Ty Zimmerman. Considering what Kansas State has returning, Hayes doesn’t need to overhaul the defense. However, the Wildcats need to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks and find a replacement for tackle Ray Kibble. The interior line could be an issue against opposing rushing attacks, but JUCO recruit Wesley Hollingshed has the size (300 pounds) to take Kibble’s place in the middle.

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Related Big 12 Content

Ranking the Big 12 Head Coaches for 2012

College Football's Top Transfers to Watch for 2012
College Football's Top Spring QB Battles to Watch

Top Transfers to Watch in 2012
Early Top 25 for 2012
College Football's Top Spring Storylines for 2012
College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

<p> Athlon previews spring practice for the Kansas State Wildcats.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 3, 2012 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/washington-huskies-2012-spring-preview

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer.

2012 Washington Huskies Spring Preview

2011 Record: 7-6, 5-4 Pac-12

Spring practice: April 2-April 28

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 6

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Keith Price, 242 of 362, 3,063 yds., 33 TD, 11 INTs
Rushing: Jesse Callier, 47 car., 260 yds., 1 TD
Receiving: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, 41 rec., 538 yds., 6 TDs
Tackles: Sean Parker, 91
Sacks: Josh Shirley, 8.5
Interceptions: Sean Parker, 4

Redshirts to watch: WR Marvin Hall, DE Jarett Finau, WR Josh Perkins, S James Sample, OL Dexter Charles, DE Corey Waller

JUCO Transfers to Watch: K Travis Coons, DT Josh Banks

2012 Schedule

Sept. 1 San Diego State
Sept. 8 at LSU
Sept. 15 Portland State
Sept. 27 Stanford
Oct. 6 at Oregon
Oct. 13 USC
Oct. 20 at Arizona
Oct. 27 Oregon State
Nov. 2 at California
Nov. 10 Utah
Nov. 17 at Colorado
Nov. 23 at Washington State

Offensive Strength: Quarterback Keith Price had a standout season in his first year as the starter and he should build upon that success in 2012. Price finished with 3,063 yards and 33 scores last season, while completing 66.9 percent of his throws. USC’s Matt Barkley is locked into preseason first-team All-Pac-12 honors, but Price should be the conference’s No. 2 quarterback in 2012. Even with the departure of Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar, the Huskies have plenty of options at receiver and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins could be an All-American at the end of the year.

Offensive Weakness: There’s no doubt running back Chris Polk will be missed, and making matters worse is the fact the Huskies have no clear replacement on the roster. Polk rushed for at least 1,113 yards in each of his three seasons in Seattle and finished with 79 receptions and 30 overall scores. Jesse Callier and Bishop Sankey will compete for the No. 1 position this spring.

Defensive Strength: After finishing 106th in total defense last season, the Huskies certainly have some work to do on this side of the ball. However, there are some bright spots, including the secondary and linebacking corps. Although the secondary gave up a lot of big plays, cornerback Desmond Trufant and safety Sean Parker are two solid building blocks. A handful of key contributors are back at linebacker, including John Timu and Josh Shirley.

Defensive Weakness: There’s certainly talent for defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox to work with in 2012. However, each level of the defense has concerns. The line must replace two key contributors, including tackle and run stuffer Alameda Ta’amu. The linebacking corps loses second-team All-Pac-12 selection Cort Dennison, while the secondary must replace Quinton Richardson. No loss will be overwhelming, but for a defense that is struggling to find its footing, the Huskies need all of the help they can get.

Spring Storylines Facing the Huskies

1. Coach Steve Sarkisian has Washington on the right track, but after three seasons in Seattle, his record is just 19-19. Progress has been steady under Sarkisian and he took an important step in the offseason by firing defensive coordinator Nick Holt. The Huskies never showed much defensive progress under Holt and turned in an embarrassing performance in the bowl loss to Baylor. New coordinator Justin Wilcox should be an immediate improvement over Holt, while linebacker coach Peter Sirmon and defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi were two of the top assistant coach hires this offseason. The Huskies aren’t ready to challenge Oregon as the Pac-12 North champion, but with Stanford replacing Andrew Luck, the door is open for Washington to finish second in the division this year.

2. With Chris Polk’s decision to enter the NFL Draft, the biggest offensive spring battle will focus on the running backs. Jesse Callier rushed for 260 yards and one touchdown last season, but has never recorded more than 10 carries in a game. Bishop Sankey posted 187 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman last year and trails Callier on the depth chart entering spring practice. Sophomore Deontae Cooper has missed the last two years with a knee injury, but if healthy, will compete with Sankey and Callier for snaps. The wildcard to watch in the backfield will be Antavius Sims. The coaching staff is intrigued by the junior college transfer and he will get an extended look in the backfield this spring. With the uncertainty facing the backfield, true freshman Erich Wilson II could get a look for carries this fall. Washington may not replace Polk’s yardage by one player, but overall, this shouldn’t be a huge concern for this team in 2012.

3. Outside of finding a replacement for Polk, the biggest question for the Huskies’ offense will be the line. Left tackle Senio Kelemete earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors last season, but has finished his eligibility in a Washington uniform. Four starters are back, but guard Colin Porter is coming off shoulder surgery and will sit out spring practice. Fellow guard Colin Tanigawa is recovering from ACL surgery and won’t return until the fall. Right tackle Erik Kohler may also miss time this spring, which means the Huskies will be short-handed up front. If all three players return 100 percent and in time for fall practice, Washington’s offensive line should be fine. However, this group needs time to jell and asking all five players to come together with no practice time before the season opener is a tall task and a concern for Sarkisian and the offensive staff.

4. With Wilcox taking over as the defensive coordinator, Washington is expected to use more 3-4 looks in 2012, which will require a little adjustment in personnel. The line will miss tackle Alameda Ta’amu, who was a key presence in the Huskies’ rush defense. However, Hau’oli Jamora returns after playing in only four games due to an injury and the coaching staff expects big things from sophomore Danny Shelton in the middle. Josh Shirley recorded 8.5 sacks last season and should be a perfect fit as the linebacker/rush end in the Huskies’ 3-4 scheme. With some players moving around and a new scheme, don’t be surprised if there are a few growing pains early in the season. However, the key to the rush defense will be the play of Shelton and if Jamora returns at 100 percent early in the season. 

5. While showing improvement on defense is crucial to pushing Oregon in the Pac-12 North, the special teams suffered some key losses with kicker Erik Folk and punter Kiel Rasp finishing their eligibility. The Huskies have three kickers competing for time – Mihai Ion, Jacob Dunn and Travis Coons – but none have attempted a kick on the FBS level. Freshman Korey Durkee seems to have the inside track at punter after averaging 45.9 yards per kick as a high school senior.

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Related Pac-12 Content

Ranking the Pac-12's Head Coaches for 2012
012 Recruiting Rankings: No. 21 Washington Huskies

College Football's Top Transfers to Watch for 2012
College Football's Top Spring QB Battles to Watch

Top Transfers to Watch in 2012
Early Top 25 for 2012
College Football's Top Spring Storylines for 2012
College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

<p> Athlon previews spring practice for the Washington Huskies.</p>
Post date: Monday, April 2, 2012 - 07:26
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/goodys-fast-relief-500-martinsville-speedway-starting-lineup

The 2012 NASCAR season continues on Sunday with a trip to Martinsville Speedway. This will be the sixth race of the year, with Hendrick Motorsports' Kasey Kahne starting on the pole for the second time this season.

The green flag for the Goody's Fast Relief 500 is set for Sunday at 1:13 ET. 

Starting Position Driver Car Number Make Speed
1 Kasey Kahne 5 Chevrolet 97.128
2 Kevin Harvick 29 Chevrolet 97.048
3 Denny Hamlin 11 Toyota 97.003
4 Clint Bowyer 15 Toyota 97.003
5 Ryan Newman 39 Chevrolet 96.988
6 Brian Vickers 55 Toyota 96.765
7 Brad Keselowski 2 Dodge 96.75
8 Kyle Busch 18 Toyota 96.746
9 Jeff Gordon 24 Chevrolet 96.731
10 Joey Logano 20 Toyota 96.706
11 Paul Menard 27 Chevrolet 96.701
12 Marcos Ambrose 9 Ford 96.627
13 Martin Truex Jr. 56 Toyota 96.583
14 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 88 Chevrolet 96.43
15 Tony Stewart 14 Chevrolet 96.322
16 Bobby Labonte 47 Toyota 96.215
17 Regan Smith 78 Chevrolet 96.2
18 Jeff Burton 31 Chevrolet 96.18
19 Aric Almirola 43 Ford 96.049
20 Jamie McMurray 1 Chevrolet 96.049
21 Matt Kenseth 17 Ford 95.971
22 Jimmie Johnson 48 Chevrolet 95.854
23 Michael McDowell 98 Ford 95.849
24 David Ragan 34 Ford 95.83
25 Casey Mears 13 Ford 95.796
26 Greg Biffle 16 Ford 95.743
27 A J Allmendinger 22 Dodge 95.738
28 Carl Edwards 99 Ford 95.607
29 David Reutimann 10 Chevrolet 95.607
30 Josh Wise 26 Ford 95.583
31 Landon Cassill 83 Toyota 95.511
32 Juan Pablo Montoya 42 Chevrolet 95.477
33 Scott Riggs 23 Chevrolet 95.352
34 Travis Kvapil 93 Toyota 95.347
35 Reed Sorenson 74 Chevrolet 95.223
36 Ken Schrader 32 Ford 95.127
37 Joe Nemechek 87 Toyota 94.936
38 David Gilliland 38 Ford 94.78
39 David Stremme 30 Toyota 94.609
40 Kurt Busch 51 Chevrolet 94.567
41 Hermie Sadler 33 Chevrolet 94.486
42 Dave Blaney 36 Chevrolet 93.18
43 J.J. Yeley 249 Toyota 93.212

<p> Starting lineup for Sunday's Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.</p>
Post date: Saturday, March 31, 2012 - 16:46
Path: /college-football/texas-am-aggies-2012-spring-preview

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer.

Texas A&M Aggies 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 7-6, 4-5 Big 12

Spring practice: March 31-April 28

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 4

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Jameill Showers, 4 of 5, 40 yds., 0 TD, 0 INTs
Rushing: Christine Michael, 149 car., 899 yds., 8 TDs
Receiving: Ryan Swope, 89 rec., 1,207 yds., 11 TDs
Tackles: Jonathan Stewart, 98
Sacks: Sean Porter, 9.5
Interceptions: Steven Terrell, 2

Redshirts to watch: QB Johnny Manziel, WR Mike Evans, S Devonta Burns

Early Enrollees: QB Matt Davis, DB Tremaine Jacobs, DB Kenneth Marshall, WR Derel Walker

JUCO Transfers to Watch: DB Tremaine Jacobs, WR Derel Walker

2012 Schedule

Aug. 30 at Louisiana Tech
Sept. 8 Florida
Sept. 15 at SMU
Sept. 22 South Carolina State
Sept. 29 Arkansas
Oct. 6 at Ole Miss
Oct. 20 LSU
Oct. 27 at Auburn
Nov. 3 at Mississippi State
Nov. 10 at Alabama
Nov. 17 Sam Houston State
Nov. 24 Missouri

Offensive Strength: Moving from the Big 12 to the SEC won’t be easy, but Texas A&M has some pieces to build around in 2012. The offensive line should be one of the best in the conference, as tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews will both contend for All-SEC honors. In addition to the strength up front, there’s plenty of depth at receiver and three talented running backs on the roster.

Offensive Weakness: Quarterback play. Ryan Tannehill was solid during his tenure as Texas A&M’s starter and will likely be one of the first 10-15 picks off the board in the 2012 NFL Draft. Four candidates are in the mix to replace Tannehill this spring and the battle may go up until the final week of fall practices. Although the Aggies have three quality running backs, they have to be worried about the health of Christine Michael coming off a torn ACL in early November.  

Defensive Strength: Even with Damontre Moore expected to move to defensive end, the Aggies should feel good about the group of returning linebackers. Sean Porter recorded 79 tackles and 9.5 sacks last year, while Steven Jenkins pitched in 61 stops. Jonathan Stewart earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors last season and chipped in 98 tackles and three sacks.

Defensive Weakness: The play of the secondary was a constant concern last year, and the coaching staff still has plenty of issues with this group heading into spring practice. The Aggies allowed 276.3 passing yards per game last season in the Big 12 and lose a couple of key contributors. Although the passing attacks in the SEC aren’t nearly as dynamic as the ones in the Big 12, the Aggies need to shore up this area in preseason workouts.

Spring Storylines Facing the Aggies

1. Goodbye Big 12. Hello SEC. That’s the theme in College Station this spring, as the Aggies are on the move to the toughest conference in college football. Texas A&M has all of the resources necessary to eventually compete in the SEC, but the transition period will certainly have a few bumps in the road. As if changing conferences wasn’t enough, the Aggies will have a new head coach and schemes in 2012. Kevin Sumlin takes over Texas A&M after a successful tenure at Houston and should be a great fit in College Station. Sumlin is certainly aware of the expectations at Texas A&M, as he coached under R.C. Slocum from 2001-02.

2. The biggest on-field question mark facing the Aggies in 2012 rests under center with the quarterback battle. Ryan Tannehill departs after throwing for 3,744 yards and 29 scores last season, leaving four inexperienced candidates to compete for time this spring. Jameill Showers tossed five passes in a backup role last year and has the most experience of any quarterback on the Texas A&M roster. He will face competition from Matt Joeckel, redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel and true freshman Matt Davis. With a deep receiving corps, Sumlin and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury won’t be afraid to throw it around this year. However, the Aggies have to find and settle on a starting quarterback for the offense to take off. Although Showers has the most experience, this is really a wide-open battle that could be decided late in fall camp.

3. Outside of the quarterback battle, the running backs will probably get the most attention in spring practice. Christine Michael was off to a terrific start last year (899 yards and eight touchdowns), but suffered a torn ACL in the early November loss to Oklahoma. Although Michael is expected to return to full strength for the opener, this is his second major leg injury in three seasons with the Aggies. Kingsbury will slowly work Michael back into the rotation in the fall, which makes spring practice even more important for Ben Malena. The sophomore fared well in limited work, adding 83 yards against Texas and 77 yards and two touchdowns against Northwestern. Incoming freshman Trey Williams ranked as the No. 19 prospect in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100 and should work his way into the mix as the No. 3 back this year. Even if Michael is slow to return to 100 percent, Malena and Williams is a solid one-two punch to begin the year. However, it’s important for all of the running backs get into the mix this preseason and get comfortable with the new schemes.

4. New defensive coordinator Mark Snyder should be a good fit in College Station, but he will have his work cut out for him from the opening snap of spring practice. The Aggies previously ran the 3-4, but plan to switch back to the 4-3. The defensive line must replace end Tony Jerod-Eddie and tackle Eddie Brown, but return honorable mention All-Big 12 selection Spencer Nealy and linebacker Damontre Moore (8.5 sacks) is moving back to end. The linebacking corps is solid, but needs to be better in pass defense. The secondary is a glaring concern for Snyder, as cornerbacks Terrence Frederick, Lionel Smith and Coryell Judie and safety Trent Hunter have expired their eligibility. The coaching staff dipped into the JUCO ranks to help solve the question marks in this area, bringing in Tremaine Jacobs to help add to the depth and competition. The Aggies finished 2011 ranked 109th in pass defense, but won’t have to face as many pass-happy offenses in the SEC. However, shoring up the secondary and keeping the pass rush among the best in college football has to be the top priority for Snyder this spring. 

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

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College Football's Top Transfers to Watch for 2012
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<p> Athlon previews spring practice for the Texas A&amp;M Aggies.</p>
Post date: Friday, March 30, 2012 - 06:59
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/kansas-ohio-state-forgotten-final-four-matchup

While all the Final Four hype seems wrapped around the David-Goliath plotline behind SEC’s powerhouse, Kentucky Wildcats, and their in-state rival, Louisville; the overshadowed match-up between Ohio State and Kansas will be quite the game as well. Though there is little rivalry between these two, the talent and tenacity of both teams—and readiness to avenge a loss for Ohio State— will make it nearly impossible for any fan painted head-to-toe in blue and white, or sporting black and red; or any fan for that matter, peel away from their seats following the first game. Both two seeds have surpassed impressive teams to make it to this point and neither is ready to go home anytime soon.

Ohio State defeated 1 seed Syracuse 77-70 last Saturday to earn their first trip to Final Four since 2007 where they lost in the Championship game to Joakim Noah and the gang at Florida.  The Buckeyes overcame adversity when Jared Sullinger was called for two early fouls in the first game and sat for the remainder of the half. Upon his return, he scored 19 points and pulled down seven rebounds in the win over Syracuse. Sullinger’s performance was supplemented with Deshaun Thomas’s 14 points and nine boards; as well as, the team’s impeccable free-throw percentage down the stretch. The Buckeyes went 13 for 14 from the line within the final 68 seconds.

While it seems that Ohio State’s offense that helped them make the Final Four, it was Kansas’ hellacious defense that stunned UNC and booked them a trip to New Orleans.  Elijah Johnson’s back court presence overwhelmed the Tar Heels’ back-up point guard, Stilman White as the Jayhawks claimed the 80-67 victory.

While Sullinger’s performance seems to the key to the Buckeyes taking the game, he will have his hands full against Jayhawks’ inside presence.  Forward Thomas Robinson and Center Jeff Withey have both caused havoc in the paint on both ends of the floor all season long. If those two come to play, they will definitely give Sullinger a run for his money.

These teams met in December at Kansas, and while the Jayhawks defeated Ohio State; the absence of the Buckeye’s Sullinger was definitely not overlooked. If Sullinger can stay out of foul trouble, this game will surely to be a fight to the finish. 

by Jordan Coleman

<p> Kansas-Ohio State is the forgotten Final 4 game in New Orleans.</p>
Post date: Friday, March 30, 2012 - 06:52
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-buckeyes-2012-spring-preview

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer.

Ohio State Buckeyes 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 6-7, 3-5 Big Ten

Spring practice: March 28-April 21

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 9

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Braxton Miller, 85 of 157, 1,159 yds., 13 TD, 4 INTs
Rushing: Braxton Miller, 159 car., 715 yds., 7 TDs
Receiving: Devin Smith, 14 rec., 294 yds., 4 TDs
Tackles: C.J. Barnett, 75
Sacks: John Simon, 7
Interceptions: Two players tied with 3

Redshirts to watch: OL Tommy Brown, OL Chris Carter, DL Chase Farris, DL Kenny Hayes

Early Enrollees: OL Jacoby Boren, RB Bri’onte Dunn, QB Cardale Jones, LB Joshua Perry, DB Tyvis Powell, WR Michael Thomas

2012 Schedule

Sept. 1 Miami (Ohio)
Sept. 8 UCF
Sept. 15 California
Sept. 22 UAB
Sept. 29 at Michigan State
Oct. 6 Nebraska
Oct. 13 at Indiana
Oct. 20 Purdue
Oct. 27 at Penn State
Nov. 3 Illinois
Nov. 17 at Wisconsin
Nov. 24 Michigan

Offensive Strength: Quarterback Braxton Miller was thrown into the fire as a true freshman last season and that experience should pay big dividends in 2012. Miller totaled nearly 2,000 yards of offense, while posting 20 overall scores. With another offseason under his belt and new coach Urban Meyer bringing a spread attack to Columbus, Miller will easily surpass last season’s numbers and should be among the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks.

Offensive Weakness: There’s some concern about the running backs and wide receivers, but Ohio State’s biggest issue on offense is the line. Two starters are back up front (tackle Andrew Norwell and guard Jack Mewhort), but there’s very little depth and last season’s group allowed 3.5 sacks a game. In addition to the personnel questions, the line must learn a new scheme.

Defensive Strength: 2011 wasn’t exactly a banner year for the Ohio State defense, but it wasn’t awful either. The Buckeyes should be solid in all three levels of the defense next year, but the line has potential to be one of the best in college football. End John Simon picked up seven sacks last year and will benefit from the return of Nathan Williams from a knee injury. Tackle is in good hands with Johnathan Hankins and Garrett Goebel returning. The Buckeyes will also get some help from a talented freshman defensive line class, which will be key in replenishing the depth up front.

Defensive Weakness: With nine starters back, co-defensive coordinators Luke Fickell and Everett Withers should feel good about this group. However, there are a few things this defense needs to shore up in the spring. The pass rush generated just 1.8 sacks a game last season, while the defense forced 20 turnovers. Both of those numbers could improve in 2012.

Spring Storylines Facing the Buckeyes

1. Change is in the air in Columbus. After a messy season of distractions and a coaching change, things have finally settled down for Ohio State. New coach Urban Meyer is one of the best in college football and should lead the Buckeyes to a quick turnaround in the win column. Meyer also hired a top-notch staff, bringing in Everett Withers from North Carolina to help Luke Fickell coordinate the defense, while one of the rising stars in the assistant ranks (Tom Herman) will help call the shots on offense. Although Herman is listed as the offensive coordinator, expect Meyer to play a significant role in calling plays and developing the offensive gameplan. After Meyer dealt with health issues at Florida, it was important for Ohio State to hire a top-notch coaching staff, which it seems to have accomplished. However, it’s important for this group of coaches to jell, especially with some key question marks facing the roster in 2012.

2. Although there’s a lot of positive momentum going for Ohio State, the Buckeyes are ineligible to play for the Big Ten title and a bowl game in 2012. Although Meyer is a terrific coach, will the postseason ban have any effect on the team? With no postseason possibilities, it’s all about pride for Ohio State in 2012. If the pieces fall into place, it’s not of the question the Buckeyes can finish among the top 10-15 teams in the final postseason poll. However, with nothing to play for, Meyer and his coaching staff will have to work a little overtime to keep this team motivated and ready to play each week.

3. Michigan’s Denard Robinson should be the Big Ten’s preseason first-team all-conference quarterback, but Ohio State’s Braxton Miller should get the No. 2 spot. Miller had a solid freshman year and should flourish under Meyer. A key question facing the Ohio State offense is the playmakers around Miller. Daniel Herron departs at running back, leaving Jordan Hall, Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith as the top three options going into spring practice. True freshman Bri’onte Dunn will also be one to watch in spring workouts. The receiving corps was a disappointment last year, but there’s a lot of young talent and this group should be improved in 2012. Although there’s plenty of options at both positions, the coaching staff would like to see a pecking order develop and go-to options emerge this spring. 

4. If there is one area on offense that will likely give Meyer a reason to lose sleep at night, it’s clearly the offensive line. Tackle Andrew Norwell and guard Jack Mewhort both garnered honorable mention All-Big Ten honors, but they are the only two returning starters on the offensive line. Marcus Hall started five games last season and will be expected to emerge as one of the starters this spring. After those three, the battle to replace center Mike Brewster and tackles J.B. Shugarts and Mike Adams is the biggest issue facing Ohio State. In addition to the personnel losses, the Buckeyes are switching from a pro-style approach to a spread attack. Settling the front five and developing some depth could be the difference between finishing with seven wins and another disappointing season or 10 victories and a finish at the top of the Leaders Division.

5. Linebacker Andrew Sweat and safety Tyler Moeller will be missed, but Ohio State’s defense should be one of the best in college football this season. The defensive line is stocked with talent, including potential All-American end John Simon. This group also got an infusion of talent through recruiting, as recruits Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington, Tommy Schutt and Se’Von Pittman all ranked as a top 100 recruits in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100. Outside of building the depth on the line, the biggest priority for Fickell and Withers needs to be sorting out the linebacking corps. Etienne Sabino, Ryan Shazier and Storm Klein all have experience, but there’s very little depth. Curtis Grant figures to be the top option off the bench, but more options need to be found.

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<p> Ohio State Buckeyes 2012 spring preview.</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 29, 2012 - 07:13
Path: /college-football/danny-obrien-picks-wisconsin

By Braden Gall (@BradenGall on Twitter)

It is a perilous balancing act, but for the time being, Bret Bielema and the Wisconsin Badgers have their starting quarterback.

Redshirt junior-to-be Danny O’Brien announced on Wednesday that he intends to transfer from Maryland to Wisconsin following his graduation this spring. After a very public divorce from Terps head coach Randy Edsall, O’Brien will be eligible to play right away for a team that will feature a transfer under center for the second consecutive season.

And for the second consecutive season, the Badgers will likely be predicted to play in the Big Ten title game because of it.

Athlon Sports will sit down and hash out its 2012 NCAA Football predictions in the coming weeks. There are always heated arguments and flying office supplies. But with O’Brien’s decision to head to MadTown, one tough resolution has been made for us.

Ohio State and new head coach Urban Meyer have easily the best roster in the Big Ten Leaders Division. There is no reason to think that the Buckeyes won’t finish with the best record in their half of the conference. However, since the Buck-Nuts are not eligible to play in the Big Ten Championship or go to a bowl game, the second place finisher will be sent to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on December 1.

This leaves Penn State, following the darkest scandal in NCAA history and a coaching change for the first time in nearly half-of-a-century, Illinois and Purdue left to compete with the Big Red of the Dairy State. With only seven returning starters in Happy Valley, Bill O’Brien has a steep slope to climb. Illinois returns plenty of talent but is dealing with its own regime change following one of the worst collapses in recent history. Purdue, which will host the Badgers on October 13, returned to the postseason for the first time since 2007 last year and might be the top challenger in the division.

So for the time being, let’s assume Wisconsin returns to the Big Ten title game. Just how good can O’Brien and Heisman finalist Montee Ball be in 2012? Can Bielema win his third straight conference title and get to a third straight Rose Bowl  — something that has never happened to Wisconsin? Or are they simply a Leaders Division placeholder in the Oil Drum?

Unfortunately, with or without Danny O’Brien, this will not be an elite U of W team. It will not return to Pasadena. And it will not beat Michigan in the title game. Not without offensive genius and Badger alum Paul Chryst, who left to become the head coach of the Pitt Panthers, calling the plays. Not without three first-team All-Big Ten offensive lineman. Not without top wideout Nick Toon.

And O’Brien is not Russell Wilson.

Wilson was a rare leader who was poised and forced others around him to elevate their game to a championship level — and if not for two blown pass plays in the secondary, the Badgers would have been undefeated in the regular season. He owns basically every single-season, and many career, school passing records at Wisconsin in only one year. His 191.78 QB rating was a single-season NCAA record and he currently owns the NCAA all-time record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass (38 games).

Here were his stats when he left NC State to sign with Wisconsin:

36 games played
Passing: 8,545 yards, 76 TD, 26 INT
Rushing: 362 att., 1,083 yards, 17 TD

Wilson is second all-time in ACC history with 93 total touchdowns, and, after 39 more trips to paydirt and 3,513 yards of total offense, Wilson ended his college career with 13,141 yards of total offense and 132 total touchdowns.

Here are O’Brien’s stats with two years left in his career as he heads to State Street:

22 games played
Passing: 4,086 yards, 29 TD, 18 INT
Rushing: 64 att., 9 yards, 3 TD

O’Brien lost his starting job at Maryland (partly due to a terrible coaching hire by Edsall and the offense certainly missed Torrey Smith) and accounted for one touchdown in his final five games as a Terrapin. He threw more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (7) and, most importantly, his team went 2-10. Wilson was a team captain, topped the ACC in total offense and led the Pack to a 9-4 record in his final season in Raleigh.

Undoubtedly, the Wisconsin offensive line and backfield offer O’Brien a fresh start and a dramatically better situation for success. And this Big Red team should now be the favorite to represent the Leaders Division once again in 2012.

But if Wisconsin fans are going to hold O’Brien to a Wilson-esque standard of statistical and scoreboard success, they will be sorely mistaken.

Related Content

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<p> Danny O'Brien decides to transfer to Wisconsin, making the Badgers the favorites in the Big Ten Leaders Division.</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 29, 2012 - 07:10
Path: /college-football/big-east-2012-football-schedule-analysis

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

The start of the 2012 college football season is still months away, but it's never too early to take a look at the schedules and examine some of the key matchups and notes for each team. The Big East is the final BCS conference to release its schedule, and due to conference realignment and trouble finding a FBS opponent, Temple may only play 11 games in 2012. 

Here's a look at the schedule and some interesting notes, observations and games to watch for each of the Big East teams in 2012:


Sept. 1 Bye Week
Sept. 6 Pittsburgh
Sept. 15 Delaware State
Sept. 22 Bye Week
Sept. 29 Virginia Tech (Landover)
Oct. 6 Miami, Ohio
Oct. 13 Fordham
Oct. 20 at Toledo
Oct. 27 at Louisville
Nov. 3 Syracuse
Nov. 10 at Temple
Nov. 17 Rutgers
Nov. 23 USF
Dec. 1 at Connecticut

* Things get started in odd fashion for Cincinnati. The Bearcats start the year with a bye week (never a good thing) before opening the year against conference contender Pittsburgh on a Thursday night. To top it off, Cincy gets its second bye week out of the way by Week 4 of the season. This gives Butch Jones 10 straight weeks of football — all starting with a visit from ACC frontrunner Virginia Tech.

* Of the four other top conference contenders, Cincinnati plays only Louisville on the road. The Bearcats get USF, Pittsburgh and Rutgers at home this fall. In fact, Jones’ squad will only leave the confines of Nippert Stadium four times and will leave the state of Ohio only three times all season.

* If it expects to compete for a Big East title, Cincinnati will have to get work done early. It will face Pitt and Louisville in the first two conference games of the year. Syracuse, Temple and Connecticut — and two home games against USF and Rutgers — are the final five games of the season. An 0-2 start in league play could seal the Bearcats fate.


Aug. 30 UMass
Sept. 8 NC State
Sept. 15 at Maryland
Sept. 22 at Western Michigan
Sept. 29 Buffalo
Oct. 6 at Rutgers
Oct. 13 Temple
Oct. 19 at Syracuse
Oct. 27 Bye Week
Nov. 3 at USF
Nov. 9 Pittsburgh
Nov. 17 Bye Week
Nov. 24 at Louisville
Nov. 29 Cincinnati

* Connecticut will play one of the more interesting non-conference slates in the Big East this fall. Buffalo and UMass likely won’t present much of a challenge but Western Michigan was a bowl team and NC State is coming off a bowl win and first-weekend game against Tennessee — which will have them riding high or very angry in Week 2…

* However, the non-conference game with the most appeal is clearly a trip to Maryland to face former head coach Randy Edsall. Connecticut certainly won’t be overlooked by the man who built the Husky program and is in hot water in College Park.

* The bye weeks seem to be “interestingly” placed for the Huskies. This is a team that plays one of the tougher non-conference slates in the league, so getting two bye weeks in a four-week span after playing on eight straight weekends to start doesn’t seem right. An early bye week would have helped this team more.

* That said, the good news is the off-weekends come within the heart of the conference slate against top Big East contenders Pittsburgh, Louisville, South Florida and Cincinnati.

* Connecticut will play three games on days other than Saturday. The Huskies will open the season on a Thursday night and has two Friday night contests late in the year (at Syracuse, Pittsburgh at home).


Sept. 1 Kentucky
Sept. 8 Missouri State
Sept. 15 North Carolina
Sept. 22 at FIU
Sept. 29 at Southern Miss
Oct. 6 Bye Week
Oct. 13 at Pittsburgh
Oct. 20 South Florida
Oct. 26 Cincinnati
Nov. 3 Temple
Nov. 10 at Syracuse
Nov. 17 Bye Week
Nov. 24 Connecticut
Nov. 29 at Rutgers

* The Cardinals snapped a four-game losing streak to in-state rival Kentucky last season and will host the Wildcats in the season opener for 2012. The Cardinals have not defeated Kentucky in Louisville since 2006. However, all of the momentum is with Charlie Strong’s program after the Wildcats finished 5-7 last year.

* Louisville and North Carolina will match up for the second consecutive season. These two teams met in Chapel Hill last year, with the Tar Heels winning 14-7. The all-time series between Louisville and North Carolina is tied at three.

* You can bet revenge is on the mind of Louisville on Sept. 22. The Cardinals lost to FIU last season and won’t overlook the Golden Panthers this year. Although FIU must replace receiver T.Y. Hilton, this team will still be picked near the top of the Sun Belt and won’t be an easy out in their home stadium.

* A road trip to Southern Miss won’t be easy, but the Golden Eagles lost some of the key pieces from last season’s 12-2 team. Louisville has played Southern Miss two out of the last three years, and the Cardinals have a five-game winning streak over the Golden Eagles.

* If there’s an under-the-radar Big East game to keep an eye on, it’s the Oct. 13 date at Pittsburgh. The Panthers have a new coaching staff and some personnel questions, but this team could be a sleeper to finish among the top three in the conference. The Cardinals need to get off to a good start in Big East play, but a road date at Pittsburgh won’t be easy. Making matters even more difficult – Louisville has a four-game losing streak to the Panthers.

* Winning the Big East title is priority No. 1 for coach Charlie Strong, but the Cardinals are also hungry to snap a four-game losing streak to rival Cincinnati. The Cardinals host the Bearcats this season, and with the personnel losses for Cincinnati, this should be the year that streak ends.

* Louisville will have four conference home games and three on the road.

* The Big East usually schedules its expected top teams to meet in the season finale and 2012 is no different. Louisville will travel to Rutgers in a Thursday night showdown for a game that could decide the Big East crown. The Scarlet Knights lost coach Greg Schiano, but will remain one of the top teams in the conference. The Cardinals have won two in a row over the Scarlet Knights.


Sept. 1 Youngstown State
Sept. 6 at Cincinnati
Sept. 15 Virginia Tech
Sept. 22 Gardner-Webb
Oct. 5 at Syracuse
Oct. 13 Louisville
Oct. 20 at Buffalo
Oct. 27 Temple
Nov. 3 at Notre Dame
Nov. 9 at Connecticut
Nov. 17 Bye Week
Nov. 24 Rutgers
Dec. 1 at South Florida

* The Panthers will play two FCS teams, which means Pittsburgh will need seven wins to get bowl eligible in 2012.

* The Sept. 15 date between Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh will be the first meeting between these schools since 2003. The Panthers have won three in a row over the Hokies, including the last two in Pittsburgh.

* Although Pittsburgh takes on Big East preseason favorite Louisville in early October, the Panthers’ position in the final standings could largely be shaped by the final two weeks of the season. Pittsburgh takes on Rutgers on Nov. 24 and South Florida on Dec. 1 – both teams expected to push Louisville for the top spot in the Big East.

* Future ACC. Syracuse and Pittsburgh will likely meet for the final time as Big East members on Oct. 5. Although the Big East has previously mentioned it would hold the teams to the 27-month exit agreement, all signs point to the Orange and Panthers joining the ACC in time for the 2013 season.

* Pittsburgh and Notre Dame have met for each of the last four seasons, with each team winning two matchups. Can the Panthers go into South Bend and get a victory? If Pittsburgh can’t knock off Virginia Tech on Sept. 15, this would be its best opportunity to score a marquee non-conference victory.

* As mentioned previously, Pittsburgh’s game with South Florida should be one of the conference’s key games for 2012. However, the Panthers have won four in a row over the Bulls, but the last two games in Tampa have been decided by seven points (2010) and five in 2008. 


Sept. 1 at Tulane
Sept. 8 Howard
Sept. 15 at USF (date subject to change)
Sept. 22 at Arkansas
Sept. 29 Bye Week
Oct. 6 Connecticut
Oct. 13 Syracuse
Oct. 20 at Temple
Oct. 27 Kent State
Nov. 3 Bye Week
Nov. 10 Army
Nov. 17 at Cincinnati
Nov. 24 at Pittsburgh
Nov. 29 Louisville

* The most glaring aspect of the Scarlet Knights’ schedule is the final three weekends of the year. New coach Kyle Flood can point to back-to-back road games against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh before the season finale at home against Louisville as the defining stretch of action for his squad. It makes the early season game against USF that much more important…

* If the USF games stays put in Week 3, a key domino in the Big East title hunt will topple nearly as early as the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh game (Week 2). Other than an impossible trip to Fayetteville to face SEC contender Arkansas, every other game before November 17 is winnable…

* This is due in part to a weak non-conference slate that features Tulane, Howard, Kent State and Army. When mixed with home games against Connecticut and Syracuse as well as a road trip to Temple, the Knights could be looking at a 8-1 start if they can somehow go down to Tampa and win — a place the Knights have won two out of three all-time. USF is 2-5 all-time against Rutgers.

* The Knights will play six road games in 2012.

South Florida

Sept. 1 Chattanooga
Sept. 8 at Nevada
Sept. 15 Rutgers (date subject to change)
Sept. 22 at Ball State
Sept. 29 Florida State
Oct. 6 at Temple
Oct. 13 Bye Week
Oct. 20 at Louisville
Oct. 27 Syracuse
Nov. 3 Connecticut
Nov. 10 Bye Week
Nov. 17 at Miami, Fla.
Nov. 23 at Cincinnati
Dec. 1 Pittsburgh

* South Florida wins the marquee match-up award from its schedule makers. With the possible exception of Virginia Tech’s early visit to Pitt, there are few other key non-conference games for this league to prove itself. Arkansas will crush Rutgers, Syracuse will not challenge USC or Missouri, NC State will handle UConn with ease and Temple won’t play Penn State as tough in Happy Valley as it did last season in Philadelphia. The Bulls’ schedule features games against in-state rival Miami on the road (a place USF won in 2010) and Florida State at home, as well as an early road trip to Nevada. USF might have the best shot at a Big East defining non-conference win.

* Three road trips — Miami, Ball State, Nevada — and a visit from Florida State gives USF one of the tougher non-conference slates in this league.

* The bye weeks fall at perfect locations — the week before visiting Louisville on October 20 and the week before visiting Miami on November 17. These two games are “resume-building” wins for a team that hopes to contend for a conference title in 2012. Getting an extra week of preparation for those two marquee showdowns could prove large.

* The season finale, a visit from Pittsburgh, won’t ever be able to replace the Backyard Brawl (let’s get on that, Athletic Directors), but it might be a defacto conference title game. In that same week (Thursday), Louisville will visit Rutgers and both teams could know exactly what is at stake when they match-up in the New Sombrero — a BCS bowl bid.


Sept. 1 Northwestern
Sept. 8 USC (East Rutherford)
Sept. 15 Stony Brook
Sept. 22 at Minnesota
Sept. 29 Bye Week
Oct. 5 Pittsburgh
Oct. 13 at Rutgers
Oct. 19 Connecticut
Oct. 27 at South Florida
Nov. 3 at Cincinnati
Nov. 10 Louisville
Nov. 17 at Missouri
Nov. 23 at Temple

* For a team that will likely be fighting for bowl eligibility, the Orange has a rather tricky non-conference slate. Northwestern won’t be an easy out in the opener, although Syracuse knocked off the Wildcats 37-34 in the Carrier Dome in 2009. After taking on Northwestern in the opener, the Orange will play a neutral site affair against USC – arguably the No. 1 team in the nation. A date against Stony Brook should provide a victory, but a road date at Minnesota and against Missouri in November are two huge swing games for this team.

* Syracuse’s matchup with Temple is its first since a 34-24 loss to the Owls in 2004.

* Although the Big East previously stated its intentions to hold Syracuse and Pittsburgh in the Big East until 2013, there’s a good chance both teams depart after this season.

* In addition to Syracuse’s difficult non-conference slate, it has four Big East road games and only three at home in conference play. Considering the Orange will likely be fighting for a finish in the middle tier of the Big East, road games at Rutgers, South Florida and Cincinnati will be difficult challenge for this team as it tries to get bowl eligible.


Aug. 31 Villanova
Sept. 8 Maryland
Sept. 15 Bye Week
Sept. 22 at Penn State
Sept. 29 Bye Week
Oct. 6 South Florida
Oct. 13 at Connecticut
Oct. 20 Rutgers
Oct. 27 at Pittsburgh
Nov. 3 at Louisville
Nov. 10 Cincinnati
Nov. 17 at Army
Nov. 23 Syracuse

* For the third consecutive season, the Owls will open with rival Villanova in the battle for the Mayor’s Cup. Temple has won two in a row over Villanova, including a blowout 42-7 victory last season.

* Week 2 should be a good barometer test for Temple and Maryland. The Owls dominated the Terrapins 38-7 in College Park last season, but Temple loses a handful of key players from that team. Maryland expects to be better in Randy Edsall’s second year, but this is a very winnable game for Temple.

* The biggest challenge in the non-conference slate is clearly the Sept. 22 date at Penn State. The Owls nearly defeated the Nittany Lions last season (14-10), but have to try to pull off the upset on the road this time.

* Temple has only 11 games scheduled and may not play a 12th game in 2012.

* The Oct. 6 date against South Florida will be Temple’s return to the Big East. The Owls were a member of the Big East from 1991-2004, but were booted from the conference due to low fan support and struggling to be competitive.

* The Owls get four conference home games and three on the road.

Related Big East Content

Ranking the Big East Coaches for 2012
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Top Transfers to Watch in 2012
Early Top 25 for 2012
College Football's Top Spring Storylines for 2012
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<p> Athlon breaks down the schedules for the 2012 Big East season.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 08:23
Path: /news/virginia-tech-hokies-2012-spring-preview

— By Mark Ross

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer.

Virginia Tech Hokies 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 11-3, 7-1 ACC

Spring practice: March 28-April 21

Returning Starters: Offense – 3, Defense – 8

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Logan Thomas: 234 of 391, 3,013 yards, 19 TDs, 10 INTs
Rushing: Logan Thomas: 153 car., 469 yds., 11 TDs
Receiving: D.J. Coles: 36 rec., 480 yds., 3 TDs
Tackles: Antone Exum, 89
Sacks: James Gayle, 7
Interceptions: Tariq Edwards and Kyle Fuller, 2

Redshirts to watch: DT Kris Harley, LB Griffin Hite, RB Michael Holmes, WR Demitri Knowles, DE Dadi Nicholas, TE Darius Redman, DE Matt Roth, DE Justin Taylor

Early Enrollees: DE Dewayne Alford, RB J.C. Coleman, DB Donaldven Manning

2012 Schedule

Sept. 3 Georgia Tech
Sept. 8 Austin Peay
Sept. 15 at Pittsburgh
Sept. 22 Bowling Green
Sept. 29 vs. Cincinnati (Landover, Md.)
Oct. 6 at North Carolina
Oct. 13 Duke
Oct. 20 at Clemson
Nov. 1 at Miami
Nov. 8 Florida State
Nov. 17 at Boston College
Nov. 24 Virginia

Offensive Strength: Logan Thomas is one of the ACC’s top Logan Thomas is one of the ACC’s top quarterbacks and is a legitimate dual threat with both his arm and legs. Virginia Tech’s offense is in good hands with Thomas, who should continue to improve entering his second season as the Hokies’ starting quarterback.

Offensive Weakness: The offense returns just three starters and Virginia Tech faces the daunting task of replacing running back David Wilson, the ACC Player and Offensive Player of the Year in 2011. The offensive line must be rebuilt as well with center Andrew Miller the only starter returning. The returning wide receivers also must take the next step in their development to help Thomas and the passing game.

Defensive Strength: Virginia Tech returns eight starters from a unit that finished second in the ACC and top 10 in the nation in both total and scoring defense last season. The defensive line is fairly deep and the linebacking corps will get back its leader, Bruce Taylor, who missed the final six games of the 2011 season because of a foot injury. The Hokies also have two of the ACC’s top defensive backs in Antone Exum and Kyle Fuller.

Defensive Weakness: Although Taylor returns to bolster the linebacking corps, the unit is relatively young and will be without Tariq Edwards this spring. Edwards, who was the team’s third-leading tackler in 2011, will be out the next four months as he recovers from leg surgery. Outside of Exum and Fuller, the secondary is inexperienced and will be a focus of the coaching staff during spring practice.

Spring Storylines Facing the Hokies

1. All David Wilson did last season was rush for a school-record 1,709 yards, accounting for 65 percent of the ACC’s second-best rushing attack all by his lonesome. With Wilson off to the NFL, the opportunity is there for someone to take advantage of the opportunity and become the next in a long line of productive Virginia Tech running backs. The question is who? Daniel Dyer and Tony Gregory are the returning running backs with the most experience, but they combined for a grand total of 57 yards last season. Thomas is the team’s leading returning rusher, but the quarterback can’t expected to do it all, so the Hokies are really hoping someone stands out during spring practice. That someone could be either redshirt freshman Michael Holmes or early enrollee J.C. Coleman.

2. Virginia Tech’s offensive line was one of the best in the ACC last season, as it gave up the second-fewest sacks per game in the conference and ranked 22nd in the nation. Four starters, including three who received All-ACC recognition, are gone with center Andrew Miller the lone returning starter. It’s no secret that the Hokies have big shoes to fill when it comes to replacing the departed Wilson in their backfield, but the work the coaching staff will need to do along the offensive line should not go unnoticed. The good news is it appears the staff does have some potential building blocks to work with including senior Nick Becton, junior David Wang and Georgia transfer Brent Benedict. If Virginia Tech is unable to find the right mix along the offensive line, it may not matter if a new running back emerges or not.

3. Virginia Tech returns eight starters on defense, which is good, but some of those starters will be acclimating themselves to new positions this spring and depth will be a point of emphasis at linebacker and in the secondary. The return of Bruce Taylor to lead the linebacking corps is huge, but the loss of Tariq Edwards to injury and the dismissal of Telvion Clark are the latest blows to the unit’s depth and experience. In the secondary, cornerbacks Exum and Fuller should contend for all-conference and maybe even some All-America honors, but the makeup of the rest of the unit is unknown at this point. Sophomores Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett will get first crack at earning the starting safety jobs and will need to make the most of their opportunities this spring. The secondary is one of the key components to defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s schemes and game plans, as evidenced by the number of former Hokie defensive backs who went on to play in the NFL.

4. With the uncertainty at both running back and offensive line, the success of Virginia Tech’s offense in 2012 will depend largely on Logan Thomas. One of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, Thomas will need several wide receivers to step up to replace the production of Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale. Together, the duo combined for 121 receptions, 1,665 yards and eight TDs in 2011. The talent is there in D.J. Coles and Marcus Davis, along with Dyrell Roberts, who missed most of last season with a broken arm, but they lack the experience and chemistry Thomas had with Boykin and Coale. Spring practice will be a great opportunity for the receivers and Thomas to get on the same page, as the passing game will probably play a bigger role in the Hokies’ offense in 2012 due to the questions surrounding the backfield.

5. Virginia Tech has won 10 or more games in eight straight seasons and in 11 of the last 13 overall. The Hokies have won four of the last eight ACC titles and played in five BCS bowls in that same span. Under Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech has established itself among the premiere programs in college football. The Hokies have come so far that fans have started to take the team’s year-in year-out success for granted and raised the level of their expectations. Anything short of a spot in the ACC Championship game and a BCS bowl bid is labeled a disappointment. Even though Beamer and his coaching staff are having to replace eight starters on offense, including the ACC’s top player in 2011 and rebuild one of the conference’s best offensive lines, the fans’ expectations for 2012 remain the same. Championships may not be won or lost during the spring, but these next three weeks will be critical to laying the groundwork for the fall. After all, “rebuilding” is not a word Virginia Tech fans are used to hearing.

Related College Football Content

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2012 ACC Schedule Analysis

<p> Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas will be the focal point of a offense that must replace eight starters in hopes of running the Hokies' streak of consecutive 10-win seasons to nine in 2012.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 08:13
Path: /college-football/tennessee-volunteers-2012-spring-preview

By Braden Gall (@BradenGall on Twitter)

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer.

Tennessee Volunteers 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 5-7, 1-7 SEC

Spring Practice: March 26-April 21

Returning Starters: Offense – 9, Defense – 8

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Tyler Bray, 147-of-247, 1,983 yards, 17 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: Marlin Lane, 75 att., 280 yards, 2 TD
Receiving: Da'Rick Rogers, 67 rec., 1,040 yards, 9 TD
Tackles: A.J. Johnson, 80
Sacks: Prentiss Waggner, 2
Interceptions: Prentiss Waggner and Eric Gordon, 2

Redshirts to Watch: OL Alan Posey, OL Mack Crowder, S Geraldo Orta

Early Enrollees:

Cody Blanc, ATH (6-1, 200), Knoxville (Tenn.) Central
Alden Hill, RB (5-11, 180), Alliance (Ohio) Marlington
Justin Meredith, TE (6-5, 225), Anderson (S.C.) T.L. Hanna
Nathan Peterman, QB (6-3, 210), Fruit Cove (Fla.) Bartram Trail
Darrington Sentimore, DL (6-2, 273), Norco (La.) Destrehan (Gulf Coast C.C.)
Trent Taylor, DL (6-2, 271), Lakeland (Fla.) Lake Gibson
Tino Thomas, DB (5-11, 195), Memphis (Tenn.) Melrose

2012 Schedule

SEC 2012 Schedule Analysis

Aug. 31 NC State
Sept. 8 Georgia State
Sept. 15 Florida
Sept. 22 Akron
Sept. 29 at Georgia
Oct. 6 Bye Week
Oct. 13 at Mississippi State
Oct. 20 Alabama
Oct. 27 at South Carolina
Nov. 3 Troy
Nov. 10 Missouri
Nov. 17 at Vanderbilt
Nov. 24 Kentucky

Offensive Strength: The passing game. Quarterback Tyler Bray and wideouts Da'Rick Rogers (maybe) and Justin Hunter form one of the most talented QB-WR combos in the nation. Toss in an elite recruiting class at wideout and tight end Mychal Rivera and the Vols boast one of the best passing attacks in the country.

Offensive Weakness: Everything else. The running game was seriously lacking last fall and will once again be an area of concern for the Big Orange faithful. Finding a feature back and linemen who can create holes will be the top priority for offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.

Defensive Strength: The secondary. At least, the depth and experience in the defensive backfield. Veteran Prentiss Waggner is on the move from safety to corner. The top ten DBs from a year ago return to Knoxville.

Defensive Weakness: The linebackers, and more specifically, the pass rush are a major concern. New coordinator Sal Sunseri will be installing a new 3-4 scheme and needs to find playmakers to fill the starting linebacker positions.

Spring Storylines Facing the Volunteers:

1. Dealing with the Dooley drama. Head coach Derek Dooley is squarely on the hot seat after two losing seasons in Knoxville. He dealt admirably with a massive coaching exodus (more on this in a moment) by rebuilding his staff with quality coaches. And for the first time in years, this program returns a deep, talented and experienced roster. The expectation to win has to weigh heavy on not just Dooley but every member of the Vols program. The circus surrounding his tenure isn't going to slow anytime soon, so the quicker he can answer questions the better his team will be. 

2. Stabilizing and integrating seven new coaches into the program. With 19 starters back, it will be the coaching staff that needs to get acclimated, not the players. Chaney is still in place as the OC, but new running backs coach Jay Graham and offensive line coach Sam Pittman will have their hands full trying to restablish the dormant Big Orange rushing attack. There is plenty of talent to work with on that side of the ball, however, and the quarterback position is stable. With the implementation of the new 3-4 scheme, it is the defensive coaching staff that has the most work to do this spring. New DC Sal Sunseri brings an extraodinary track record with him to Knoxville in terms of developing linebackers — something that could be the difference between a bowl game and sitting at home this winter (and an employment check for everyone). Additionally, Sunseri and defensive line coach John Palermo will need to develop a scheme that can somehow put pressure on opposing quarterbacks (Tennessee finished 11th in the SEC in sacks, 100th nationally).

3. All of the above issues would be helped with much-needed growth and maturity from team leaders like Bray. Dooley and Sunseri can lead the horse to water, but it is up to the horse to actually drink. Names like Bray need take it upon themselves to prove that they can make others around them better by leading by example. The Corey Millers (currently dealing with academic issues) and Jacques Smiths need to live up to the massive recruiting hype and develop into every down performers. The last two seasons featured so much youth and inexperience, that mental mistakes — both on and off the field — were almost expected. This will not be the case in 2012 and it should not just be the coaching staff holding the team accountable — it needs to be the players. The star quarterback even admitted as much in his first media session of the spring, "Last year I wasn't the smartest guy. Kind of dumb. This year I'm trying to get my act together and trying to get this team where it needs to be."

4. Settling on a linebacker rotation and getting pressure on the quarterback is the top priority for Sunseri and Palmero. Smith seems to possess a perfect skillset for the Jack Back position, but will be pushed by Willie Bohannon. Youngsters A.J. Johnson and Curt Maggitt had quality first seasons, but have to adjust to the new scheme. Maggitt might be one of the biggest hitters in the SEC and is apparently loving his shift inside to the Mike position. His recognition skills now need to catch-up with his physical ability. He will be pushed by the contact-craved Herman Lathers, who returns after sitting out an entire year from a severe ankle injury. Former strong safety Brent Brewer, who tore his ACL in November, is gaining weight in order to play backer and also feels more comfortable because of it. Former fullback Channing Fugate might be making the biggest adjustment after being shifted to weakside linebacker. This was a thin position coming into spring and the shift to a 3-4 only puts added pressure on the depth chart. There are some nice pieces to this puzzle but Sunseri must implement a new system with players at new positions without wearing out his first stringers.

5. Helping the backers will be the new three-man front line. Maurice Couch needs to play the way he appears to be capable of more consistently on the interior. He has the ability to stabilize the front and allow for names like Miller, Marlon Walls and Daniel Hood to develop. Organizing this group will go a long way in helping to stabilize the totally reworked linebacker rotation. Junior college transfer — and former Crimson Tider in his own right — Darrington Sentimore might be the most intriguing new piece to the puzzle to watch this spring.

6. Dooley wants a feature back. There is only one issue - he may not have one on the roster. Marlin Lane is the leading returning rusher and might be the most talented, but is generously listed at 6-0, 205 pounds. He will most certainly split time with more physical Raijon Neal. Look also for diminutive sophomore Devrin Young (5-8, 171) to also get plenty of chances as well. Graham and Dooley know that 90.1 yards per game — where the Vols finished 2011, good for 12th in the SEC — is completely unacceptable in Knoxville. With another year of growth, an offensive line that has collectively become an upperclass unit together must develop into a strength for this team.

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<p> Tennessee Volunteers 2012 Spring Preview</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 08:01
Path: /news/iowa-hawkeyes-2012-spring-preview

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer.

Iowa Hawkeyes 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 7-6, 4-4 Big Ten

Spring practice: March 24-April 14

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 5

Returning Leaders:

Passing: James Vandenberg, 237 of 404, 3,022 yds., 25 TD, 7 INTs
Rushing: Jordan Canzeri, 31 car., 114 yds., 0 TDs
Receiving: Keenan Davis, 50 rec., 713 yds., 4 TDs
Tackles: James Morris, 110
Sacks: Dominic Alvis, 1.5
Interceptions: Two players tied with 3

Redshirts to watch: OG Austin Blythe, OG Jordan Walsh, DE Dean Tsopanides, DE Melvin Spears, DT Darian Cooper, DE Riley McMinn, LB Cole Fisher

Early Enrollees: OL Eric Simmons, QB Cody Sokol

JUCO Transfers to Watch: OL Eric Simmons, QB Cody Sokol

2012 Schedule

Sept. 1 Northern Illinois (Chicago)
Sept. 8 Iowa State
Sept. 15 Northern Iowa
Sept. 22 Central Michigan
Sept. 29 Minnesota
Oct. 13 at Michigan State
Oct. 20 Penn State
Oct. 27 at Northwestern
Nov. 3 at Indiana
Nov 10 Purdue
Nov. 17 at Michigan
Nov. 23 Nebraska

Offensive Strength: Quarterback James Vandenberg should be one of the top signal-callers in the Big Ten this year. Vandenberg threw for 3,022 yards and 25 scores last season and tossed only seven interceptions. The senior will have a quality group of receivers to throw to, led by Keenan Davis and Kevonte Martin-Manley.

Offensive Weakness: The Hawkeyes are usually strong in the rushing game, but that may change in 2012. The offensive line returns only two starters and last season’s returning rusher (Marcus Coker) left the team. Iowa usually churns out running backs, but it may take a group effort to match Coker’s production in 2012.

Defensive Strength: Even with the departure of Tyler Nielsen, the Hawkeyes will be among the top linebacking corps in the Big Ten. James Morris garnered honorable mention All-Big Ten honors last year, picking up 110 tackles and one interception. Christian Kirksey also returns after matching Morris’ 110 stops last year.

Defensive Weakness: Coach Kirk Ferentz has to be concerned about the glaring hole on the defensive line this spring. Four key contributors from last season's group depart - including second-team All-Big Ten selection Broderick Binns - which will create plenty of competition from some inexperienced candidates in the preseason.

Spring Storylines Facing the Hawkeyes

1. Has the program gone stale? That’s the big question Iowa fans are asking this spring. Although Kirk Ferentz has won 96 games with the Hawkeyes, the win total has declined over the last three seasons. There’s some fresh blood on the coaching staff for 2012, as offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe took a job in the NFL and defensive coordinator Norm Parker decided to retire. Ferentz appointed former Texas playcaller Greg Davis as the team’s new offensive coordinator, while veteran Iowa assistant Phil Parker will call the shots on defense. Brian Ferentz moves from the NFL ranks to join his father in Iowa City as the team’s offensive line coach, while LeVar Woods was picked as the team’s new linebacker coach. Will the staff changes inject some energy into the program? Davis was criticized during his tenure with Texas, but also coordinated some solid offenses. It’s important for this coaching staff to jell this spring and get the players adjusted to any changes in scheme on both sides of the ball.

2. Running the ball is usually not an issue for Iowa. However, there’s a major concern over the running back position in 2012. Marcus Coker left the team after the 2011 season, leaving behind a handful of inexperienced candidates to fill his shoes. Three sophomores have the early lead for playing time, with Jordan Canzeri the frontrunner to open the season as the No. 1 back. Canzeri rushed for only 114 yards last year, while fellow sophomores Damon Bullock and De’Andre Johnson chipped in 99 yards. Incoming freshmen Greg Garmon and Barkley Hill will also figure into the mix this fall. The Hawkeyes should be fine in this area, but they need to find someone who can consistently take 20-25 carries a game. Developing some type of rotation and pecking order in the preseason will be crucial to Iowa’s offense in 2012.

3. Even with the question marks at running back and the departure of receiver Marvin McNutt, the position with the most issues on offense is the line. Left tackle Riley Reiff decided to bolt a year early for the NFL, while stalwarts Adam Gettis and Markus Zusevics expired their eligibility. Iowa has two returning starters up front, including honorable mention All-Big Ten center James Ferentz. Sophomore Brandon Schreff has the inside track to start at left tackle and has three starts under his belt. However, he will get a push from fellow sophomore Andrew Donnal, while former starter Nolan MacMillan is healthy and back to compete for a spot on the right side. There’s some solid pieces in place, and Iowa’s track record suggests this position won’t be too big of an issue during the season. However, it will remain a question mark until the Hawkeyes settle on a front five and that group gives Vandenberg enough time to throw during the Big Ten play.

4. 2011 was not a banner year for the Iowa defense, as the Hawkeyes ranked seventh or worse in the Big Ten in rush, scoring, total and pass defense. New defensive coordinator Phil Parker certainly has his work cut out for him this spring, as only five starters return and major question marks exist about the defensive line. Tackles Dominic Alvis and Carl Davis are expected to play a significant role in the middle, but both will miss spring practice with knee injuries. There’s also very little experience returning at end, as three redshirt freshmen cracked the two-deep for spring practice. Although this is a position Iowa usually finds players, the recovery of Alvis and Davis will be crucial to the line’s success. Not only is establishing a rotation of linemen important, Parker needs to figure out how to generate a pass rush that was mediocre last year.

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<p> Iowa Hawkeyes 2012 spring preview.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 - 09:15
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-fighting-irish-2012-spring-preview


By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 8-5

Spring practice: March 21-April 21

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 6

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Tommy Rees, 269 of 411, 2,871 yds., 20 TD, 14 INTs
Rushing: Cierre Wood, 217 car., 1,102 yds., 9 TDs
Receiving: Tyler Eifert, 63 rec., 803 yds., 5 TDs
Tackles: Manti Te’o, 128
Sacks: Aaron Lynch, 5.5
Interceptions: Three players tied with 1

Redshirts to watch: QB Everett Golson, WR DaVaris Daniels, CB Josh Atkinson, CB Jalen Brown

Early Enrollees: QB Gunner Kiel, DE Sheldon Day

Transfer to watch: OT Jordan Prestwood (Florida State), RB Amir Carlisle (USC)

2012 Schedule

Sept. 1 Navy (Dublin, Ireland)
Sept. 8 Purdue
Sept. 15 at Michigan State
Sept. 22 Michigan
Oct. 6 Miami (Chicago)
Oct. 13 Stanford
Oct. 20 BYU
Oct. 27 at Oklahoma
Nov. 3 Pittsburgh
Nov. 10 at Boston College
Nov. 17 Wake Forest
Nov. 24 at USC

Offensive Strength: There’s plenty to like about Notre Dame’s offense for 2012. Cierre Wood leads the ground attack after rushing for 1,102 yards and nine touchdowns last season, while the receiving corps is solid with the return of Theo Riddick, T.J. Jones and tight end Tyler Eifert. Two starters must be replaced on the offensive line, but left tackle Zack Martin, center Braxston Cave and guard Chris Watt return. But the offense won’t go anywhere unless…

Offensive Weakness: …The quarterback play is improved. Three quarterbacks received playing time last year and none were able to consistently move the offense. Dayne Crist decided to transfer to Kansas, leaving Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix, redshirt freshman Everett Golson and true freshman Gunner Kiel to battle for the starting spot.

Defensive Strength: By the end of the 2012 season, the Irish could have one of the best front sevens in college football. End Aaron Lynch had a solid freshman year, recording 5.5 sacks and 33 tackles. He will be joined by junior Louis Nix at nose guard and sophomore Stephon Tuitt at end to form a solid trio up front. Senior Manti Te’o turned down the NFL Draft and will anchor a Notre Dame linebacking corps that could be among the top 10-15 in the nation.

Defensive Weakness: The Irish need to hope the defensive line can consistently get pressure on opposing quarterbacks early and often in 2012, as both starting cornerbacks (Robert Blanton and Gary Gray) and safety Harrison Smith are gone. There’s some experience returning at safety, but cornerback is a bigger concern. While the defensive line is talented, depth is an issue.

Spring Storylines Facing the Fighting Irish

1. High expectations surrounded Notre Dame in 2011, but the team started off the year with a disappointing loss to South Florida in the season opener and a last-second defeat to Michigan in Week 2. The Irish finished a respectable 8-5, but still fell short of preseason expectations, which pegged Notre Dame as a likely BCS bowl team. Going into Brian Kelly’s third season in South Bend, it’s important for this team to show progress. Is Notre Dame back on track or should Kelly be on the hot seat entering 2013? Needless to say, only one of those questions can be answered this year for the Irish. The schedule isn’t particularly easy, as the Irish will face eight bowl teams and two others (USC and Miami) that would have played in the postseason if it wasn’t for NCAA investigations. Although the schedule will be a challenge, the Irish should be able to contend for nine victories in 2012.

2. Getting back to a BCS bowl in 2012 will largely hinge on what happens under center. Dayne Crist started the season opener against South Florida, but was pulled in favor of Tommy Rees. Although Rees started the remaining 12 games, he enters spring practice locked into a tight battle for the starting job. Crist decided to transfer to Kansas, leaving sophomore Andrew Hendrix, redshirt freshman Everett Golson and true freshman Gunner Kiel to battle for the No. 1 spot. Hendrix played some last year, rushing for 162 yards and one touchdown, while completing 18 of 37 passes for 249 yards and one touchdown. Golson and Kiel are both highly-regarded prospects, but have yet to take a snap. This should be a wide-open battle with the winner not likely to be announced until late in fall camp. Although Rees is the returning starter and most experienced quarterback on the roster, don’t be surprised if Hendrix or Golson takes the opening snap for Notre Dame in 2012.

3. The quarterback battle is going to get all of the attention in spring practice, but the Irish also need to find a replacement for receiver Michael Floyd. Theo Riddick and TJ Jones each caught 38 passes last season and will be counted upon to fill a bigger role in the passing attack this year. Robby Toma and John Goodman are capable weapons at receiver, but the return of tight end Tyler Eifert for his senior year is the biggest positive in the developing the passing attack for 2012. Freshman Davonte Neal is also expected to challenge right away for playing time, so the Irish should have plenty of options. However, Floyd was clearly the go-to guy. Is Riddick or Jones ready to be that type of player? Or will Eifert see more passes in his direction? The Irish should be fine in the receiving corps, but it’s not easy replacing a talent like Floyd.

4. As highlighted in the strengths and weaknesses, Notre Dame’s defensive line could be among the best in college football by the end of 2012. Aaron Lynch, Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix are a promising young trio and should wreck havoc on opposing offensive lines. Senior Kapron Lewis-Moore will provide veteran leadership and recorded 32 stops last season. However, there’s very little depth up front, which could require incoming freshmen Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones to play right away. Although Notre Dame should be fine with its top four linemen, keep an eye on depth if an injury occurs during the season.

5. While the Irish are set in the front seven, all eyes will be on the secondary this spring. Cornerbacks Gary Gray and Robert Blanton, along with safety Harrison Smith have expired their eligibility, leaving the secondary with two returning starters – Zeke Motta and Jamoris Slaughter. While Slaughter and Motta should be a solid combination at safety, cornerback is the team’s biggest question mark. Bennett Jackson and Lo Wood are the team’s most experienced options, but neither is as proven as Gray and Blanton. The Irish expected incoming freshman Tee Shepard to play a key role at cornerback, but he decided to leave before spring practice started. Expect redshirt freshmen Jalen Brown and Josh Atkinson and incoming freshman Elijah Shumate to see a lot of playing time at cornerback in 2012.

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College Football's Top Transfers to Watch for 2012
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Early Top 25 for 2012
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College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

<p> 2012 Notre Dame football spring preview.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 26, 2012 - 08:18
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-college-football-coaches

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

Ranking the coaches in any college football conference is a difficult task. Many factors play into just how successful a coach is at any school. How well are the assistants paid? Are the facilities up to par with the rest of the conference? Can the coach recruit or is he more of an x's and o's manager? Are there off-the-field or age issues to take into consideration? Has a coach built a program or continued the success from a previous coach? How is the resume outside of their current position? These questions and more were posed to the editors at Athlon Sports, as they were asked to rank the coaches of each of the six BCS conferences. One thing to keep in mind - the record is not always indicative of where a coach should rank in a conference. 

Ranking the Coaches: ACC
Ranking the Coaches: Big East
Ranking the Coaches: Pac-12
Ranking the Coaches: Big 12
Ranking the Coaches: Big Ten
Ranking the Coaches: SEC
Ranking the Coaches: 2012 Top 25 Coaches (Fri.)

Here is how Athlon Sports ranks the coaches of the Big Ten:

1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State (First year)
Alma Mater: Cincinnati
Record: 65-15 (Florida, 2005-2010)
Record: 22-2 (Utah, 2003-04)
Record: 17-6 (Bowling Green, 2001-02)
Overall: 104-23

The resume is as complete as it gets: Two BCS National Championships, four conference titles, three conference Coach of the Year awards, one Heisman Trophy, one national Coach of the Year honor and the Sports Illustrated Coach of the Decade (2000-2009). Meyer’s success is unquestioned; he wins and he wins big. He built Bowling Green into a conference contender in only two seasons before taking Utah to a BCS bowl in two short years in Salt Lake City. In his second year at Florida, he earned his first BCS Crystal Ball. After a second title with the Chosen One under center, Meyer took a brief respite from the sideline in 2011. He returns to the coaching ranks renewed and reinvigorated — and back in his home state at the Big Ten program with the most natural and financial resources in the league. His ability to recruit was on full display at the close of the 2012 cycle and his offensive game plan is as proven a system as there is in the collegiate playbook. The only crack in his armor is the health concerns — aka his dedication. He coached only six years at what could be considered the second-best job in the nation, won championships, and simply walked away. Other than his long-term commitment, there are not too many better options in America.

2. Brady Hoke, Michigan (1 year)
Alma Mater: 
Ball State (1977-80)
Record: 11-2 (2011-present)
Record: 13-12 (San Diego State, 2009-10)
Record: 34-38 (Ball State, 2003-08)
Overall: 58-52 (9 years)

Deciding between Hoke and Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio as the top coach in the Big Ten Legends Division is no easy task. Hoke has done a good job of resurrecting two programs that did not have much success prior to his arrival. In six seasons with Ball State, Hoke recorded a 34-38 mark, including an appearance in the MAC title game in 2008. The Cardinals also made two bowl games under Hoke’s watch. After a solid stint at Ball State, Hoke left for the West Coast, choosing to coach at San Diego State. The Aztecs won just nine games in the three years prior to his arrival, but led San Diego State to a 9-4 record and an appearance in the Poinsettia Bowl in 2010. After Rich Rodriguez was fired at Michigan, Hoke was an easy choice to become the Wolverines’ next coach, especially considering he coached in Ann Arbor from 1995-2002. Considering he was born in Ohio, Hoke isn’t necessarily a “Michigan Man.” However, he is a great fit for the Wolverines, has done a good job of rebuilding two struggling programs (Ball State and San Diego State) and led the Wolverines to a BCS bowl in his first season.

3. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State (6 years)
Alma Mater:
 South Carolina (1976-78)
Record: 44-22 (2007-present)
Record: 18-17 (Cincinnati, 2005-06)
Overall: 62-39 (9 years)

If Brady Hoke is the top coach in the Legends Division, Dantonio is really 1B. In six seasons in East Lansing, Dantonio has turned the Spartans from underachiever to Big Ten title contender. The Spartans won 22 games through his first three years, but has posted back-to-back seasons of 11 victories. And there’s one more feather in the cap for Dantonio and Michigan State to brag about – the Spartans own a four-game winning streak over rival Michigan. Dantonio has yet to lead Michigan State to a Rose Bowl appearance, but with the program on the right track, it’s only a matter of time before the Spartans make the trek to Pasadena. Dantonio’s success isn’t just limited to Michigan State, as he posted an 18-17 record in three years with Cincinnati and led the Bearcats to two bowl trips. Dantonio seems to be a perfect fit at Michigan State and should keep this program among the best in the Big Ten as long as he sticks around in East Lansing. 

4. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern (6 years)
Alma Mater: 
Northwestern (1993-96)
Record: 40-36 (2006-present)

Fitzgerald is the perfect coach for Northwestern and barring something unexpected, will likely be here until he retires. As a Northwestern graduate, Fitzgerald is well-aware of the culture and what it takes to win in Evanston. The former Wildcat linebacker has led Northwestern to four consecutive bowl games and just one losing season. Fitzgerald’s overall record over the last six seasons is a solid 40-36, but is still searching for his first bowl victory. Northwestern is not an easy place to win, but Fitzgerald has found the right formula and will continue to make the Wildcats a yearly threat to reach a bowl and pull off an upset or two along the way. 

5. Bret Bielema, Wisconsin (6 years)
Alma Mater: 
Record: 60-19 (2006-present)

Hand picked by Wisconsin legend Barry Alvarez, few imagined Bielema had the talent to maintain the Badgers’ level of success. After six years of Meyer-esque winning percentages, those concerns have definitively been squashed. His back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances were the first for Wisconsin since 1998 and 1999, and despite not winning either game, the Badgers can hang their hats on back-to-back conference titles. In fact, Bielema’s bowl record might be his only weakness. He is 2-4 in postseason play and is likely the only thing keeping him from being ranked higher on this list. That, and the fact he was handed the keys to a program that functions in a vastly different manner than it did in late '80s. Alvarez took UW from an also-ran, bye week program and turned it into a $100-million Midwest football powerhouse. Bielema hasn’t recruited at an elite level — aka Top 25 nationally — but has done an incredible job evaluating and developing talent. Without a single top-25 recruiting class to his name, the Badgers’ head man has sent 11 players into the first three rounds of the NFL Draft since 2006. He has never experienced a losing season as a head coach and earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors back in 2006 when he led Wisconsin to a 12-1 record in his first season. Iowa Hawkeye leg tattoo aside, fans in Madison are very happy to have transitioned so seamlessly from Alvarez to Bielema.

6. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa (13 years)
Alma Mater: 
Connecticut (1974-76)
Record: 96-66 (1999-present)
Record: 12-21 (Maine, 1990-92)
Overall: 108-87 (16 years)

Ferentz got off to a slow start as Iowa’s head coach, posting a 4-19 record through the first two years. However, the Hawkeyes went on to reel off five consecutive winning seasons, including an appearance in the Orange Bowl and victories in the Outback and Capital One bowls. Iowa has claimed at least a share of the Big Ten title two times and has missed out on a bowl game only once since 2001. Ferentz has had his share of ups and downs, and the Hawkeyes are just 15-11 over the last two years. Although Ferentz has accumulated 96 victories – second-most in Iowa history – there are concerns from the Iowa fanbase that the program has gone stale. Ferentz’s track record suggests the Hawkeyes will get back on track, but a couple more seven-win seasons won’t sit too well in Iowa City.

7. Bo Pelini, Nebraska (4 years)
Alma Mater: 
Ohio State (1987-90)
Record: 39-16 (2003, 2008-present)

Pelini had an interesting path to become Nebraska’s head coach. After Frank Solich was fired following the 2003 season, Pelini served as the Cornhuskers’ interim coach in the Alamo Bowl, recording a 17-3 victory over Michigan State. Although Pelini led Nebraska to a victory, he was passed over in favor of Bill Callahan and instead of sticking around in Lincoln, chose to work with Bob Stoops at Oklahoma in 2004. After one season in Norman, Pelini left for LSU from 2005-07, helping to lead the Tigers to a national title in the 2008 BCS Naitonal Championship. Despite being passed for the job just a few seasons before, Pelini returned in Lincoln in 2008 to become Nebraska’s head coach. There’s no question Pelini is one of the top defensive minds in college football, but he is still looking to take this program to the next level. Nebraska has at least nine victories in each of Pelini’s four seasons at the helm, but is still searching for its first BCS appearance. Pelini is a solid coach and has the Cornhuskers back on the right track to emerging as a national title contender once again. However, the Big Ten is crowded at the top and Pelini needs to push Nebraska higher to be ranked ahead of some of the other names on this list.

8. Jerry Kill, Minnesota (1 year)
Alma Mater: 
Southwestern (1979-82)
Record: 3-9 (2011-present)
Record: 23-16 (Northern Illinois, 2008-10)
Record: 55-32 (Southern Illinois, 2001-07)
Record: 11-11 (Emporia State, 1999-2000)
Record: 38-14 (Saginaw Valley State, 1994-98)
Overall: 130-82 (18 years)

Considering Kill’s successful track record, a 3-9 record in his first year with Minnesota was somewhat surprising. Although the Golden Gophers weren’t expected to challenge for 10 wins, the schedule was favorable enough to contend for a bowl appearance. Minnesota pulled off two upsets to finish last season, but also lost to New Mexico State and North Dakota State. Kill also dealt with health issues last year, which certainly had some impact on the team and coaching staff. Kill has an impressive resume at four different stops, which includes leading Southern Illinois to five playoff appearances and posting a 23-16 record in three seasons with Northern Illinois. Although Kill’s debut season didn’t go according to plan, his successful track record at four other schools suggests it won’t be long until the Golden Gophers emerge as a consistent bowl team.

9. Tim Beckman, Illinois (First year)
Alma Mater: 
Record: 21-16 (Toledo, 2009-2011)

After learning under Jim Tressel at Ohio State and Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State, Beckman got his first chance at the big chair in 2009. After five years of tremendous success under Tom Amstutz, Toledo had eroded into one of the MAC’s worst programs. Three straight losing seasons (5-7, 5-7, 3-9) got Beckman into town. He proceeded to improve the team’s win total in three consecutive seasons from three to five to eight to nine. He has been responsible for developing such prominent MAC stars as Eric Page and Adonis Thomas and is now charged with another rebuilding project at Illinois.

10. Danny Hope, Purdue (4 years)
Alma Mater: 
Eastern Kentucky
Record: 16-21 (2009-present)
Record: 35-22 (Eastern Kentucky, 2003-2007)
Overall: 51-43

After 20 years as an assistant at both the college and high school levels, Hope got his first chance at running a program when his alma mater hired him in 2003. He never had a losing season at Eastern Kentucky and eventually got the Colonels into the NCAA playoffs after an Ohio Valley Conference championship in 2007. Purdue was familiar with Hope due to a solid five-year stint as the offensive line coach under Joe Tiller and Drew Brees during the Boilers most recent heyday (1997-2001). After one year as the assistant head coach in 2008, Hope was given the top job in 2009. It took him three seasons, but Purdue experienced its first winning season and subsequent bowl appearance since 2007 when PU beat Western Michigan in last year’s Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl. His Boilermakers have been one of the most injury-riddled programs in the nation of late and appear to be snake-bitten. However, that hasn’t kept Hope from pulling off a few massive upsets over perennial Big Ten powers (we're looking at you Columbus).

11. Bill O’Brien, Penn State (First year)
Alma Mater: 
Record: First Year

Romeo Crennel is 26-41 as a head coach. Charlie Weis is 35-27 as a head coach. Josh McDaniels is 11-17 as a head coach. Bill Belichick assistants have gone on to win 45.8% of their games as head coaches on both the college and NFL level. This is one of the few concrete pieces of statistical evidence available to evaluate Penn State’s hiring of the Patriots offensive coordinator. Much like the relatively unsuccessful Nick Saban assistants (Derek Dooley, Wil Muschamp, Jimbo Fisher), it can be a double-edged sword hiring a Belichick protégé. First, Belichick, like Saban, doesn’t hire bad personnel. You have to be a hard worker who is willing to grind out wins in the toughest of circumstances. Check. Yet, shockingly, the assistants never seem to be as good without the sage leadership of the head honcho to guide them. The only other piece of concrete evidence is O’Brien’s undeniable experience and knowledge of college football on the East Coast. He has coached at Georgia Tech (1995-2002), Maryland (2003-2004) and Duke (2005-2006). He has recruited up and down the Atlantic seaboard and this aspect of his resume should help him ease into what could be the most difficult situation in the history of college football. 

12. Kevin Wilson, Indiana (1 year)
Alma Mater:
 North Carolina
Record: 1-11 (2011-present)

Wilson deserves credit for creating one of the nation’s best offenses while at Oklahoma. Under his watchful eye from 2002 to 2010, the Sooners churned out 3,000-yard passers and conference championships. His offensive prowess in Norman culminated with the 2008 Broyles Award given to the nation’s top assistant coach and a trip to the BCS title game. While Indiana fans don’t expect Oklahoma-level success in Bloomington, Hoosiers fans deserve more than one win over an FCS opponent. In fact, the win over South Carolina State last fall was Wilson’s first and only career win as a head coach at any level. He went 0-10 in one season as the head coach of Fred T. Foard High School in 1989, giving him an all-time record of 1-21 as a head coach. Wilson showed marked improvement in one area last fall, however, as his rushing attack showed major promise in the second half of the season. Yet, losing out on the nation’s No. 2 quarterback recruit Gunner Kiel during the winter months didn’t lengthen the leash at all. There is still much to be proven for the former Sooner assistant.

Related Content Links:

College Football's Top Transfers to Watch for 2012
College Football's Top Spring QB Battles to Watch

Top Transfers to Watch in 2012
Early Top 25 for 2012
College Football's Top Spring Storylines for 2012
College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

<p> Athlon continues its spring preview by ranking the coaches in the Big Ten.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 07:50
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12s-college-football-coaches

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

Ranking the coaches in any college football conference is a difficult task. Many factors play into just how successful a coach is at any school. How well are the assistants paid? Are the facilities up to par with the rest of the conference? Can the coach recruit or is he more of an x's and o's manager? Are there off-the-field or age issues to take into consideration? Has a coach built a program or continued the success from a previous coach? How is the resume outside of their current position? These questions and more were posed to the editors at Athlon Sports, as they were asked to rank the coaches of each of the six BCS conferences. One thing to keep in mind - the record is not always indicative of where a coach should rank in a conference. 

Ranking the Coaches: ACC
Ranking the Coaches: Big East
Ranking the Coaches: Pac-12
Ranking the Coaches: Big 12
Ranking the Coaches: Big Ten (Wed.)
Ranking the Coaches: SEC (Thur.)
Ranking the Coaches: 2012 Top 25 Coaches (Fri.)

Here is how Athlon Sports ranks the coaches of the Big 12:

1. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma (13 years)
Alma Mater:
Iowa (1979-82)
Record: 139-34 (1999-present)

The Sooners have had a few down years under Stoops, but since his arrival in Norman, Oklahoma has emerged once again as a national power. Stoops’ tenure has been a picture of success, leading the Sooners to 10 double-digit win seasons and eight BCS bowl appearances. The biggest knock on Stoops has been the lack of success in BCS bowl games, as Oklahoma is just 1-5 in its last six BCS bowl appearances. And that criticism of Stoops always stirs this debate: Would you take a coach that struggles to get to a BCS bowl and wins one every eight years or take a coach that consistently gets there, but has a disappointing BCS record after six years? Regardless of whether or not Stoops wins three BCS bowls in a row or loses the next three, it’s going to be hard to knock him off the top spot in the Big 12.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       Bob Stoops has more wins (119) from 2001-Present than any other active head coach

·       Bob Stoops is 66-3 in home games 

·       Bob Stoops is 96-5 when scoring 30 or more points in a game

·       Bob Stoops teams have scored 30 or more points 101 times (68.24%)

·       Bob Stoops is 63-25 (71.59%) vs. teams finishing the season over .500

2. Gary Patterson, TCU (12 years)
Alma Mater: Kansas State
Record: 109-30 (2000-present)

Patterson coached at 10 different programs over a 16-year period before given the chance to lead TCU in 2000 (one game). The hard-nosed defensive guru went to bowl games in three straight seasons to start his career and needed only two years to register his first 10-win season. It was only the second 10-win season for the Horned Frogs in the Post-World War II era. He has rattled off eight such seasons over the last 10 years in Fort Worth, including a current streak of four straight. He has won the program’s first BCS Bowl (Rose in 2010) and has elevated TCU to a BCS level as the Frogs will join the Big 12 in 2012. In 11 full seasons on the job, Patterson has five conference championships, three conference Coach of the Year awards and was the unanimous 2009 National Coach of the Year (AFCA, AP, Walter Camp, Boddy Dodd, Eddie Robinson, Liberty Mutual). TCU has experienced one losing season under Patterson (2004), but has been to a bowl every year since, winning seven of those eight post-season games. TCU has gone 36-3 over the last three years with 13 NFL Draft picks over that span and two BCS bowl appearances.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       Patterson is 45-21 (68.18%) vs. teams finishing the season over .500

·       Patterson is 7-3 in bowl games

·       Patterson has won 10+ games 8 times from 2001-Present

·       Patterson's defenses force a 3-and-out or a turnover in 50.72% of possessions

·       Patterson's defenses have given up 20 points or less in 60% of the games he has been the head coach

3. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State (7 years)
Alma Mater: Oklahoma State (1986-89)
Record: 59-30 (2005-present)

Gundy has been slowly moving up the Big 12 coach rankings over the last few seasons. After posting 18 victories through his first three seasons in Stillwater, Gundy has led the Cowboys to four consecutive years of at least nine wins. Oklahoma State is coming off its first BCS bowl appearances and was one win away from playing for the national championship. The Big 12 isn’t getting any easier with the arrival of West Virginia and TCU, but Gundy has the Cowboys well-positioned to remain a conference title contender for the foreseeable future.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       Gundy's teams have scored TD's in 38.14% of offensive possessions

·       Gundy's teams have scored 40+ pts in 40.45% of the games he has been the head coach

·       Gundy is 1-6 vs. Oklahoma

·       Gundy has won 9+ games every year from 2008-2011

4. Mack Brown, Texas (14 years)
Alma Mater:
Vanderbilt, Florida State
Record: 141-39 (1998-present)
Record: 69-46-1 (North Carolina, 1988-97)
Record: 11-23 (Tulane, 1985-87)
Record: 6-5 (Appalachian St, 1983)
Overall: 227-113-1

Senator Brown has seen better days but still must be considered one of the league’s best options. After learning the coaching ropes at FCS power Appalachian State and Tulane, Brown rebuilt the North Carolina program. He posted three 10-win seasons in Chapel Hill and went to six straight bowls before taking the best job in college football. All Brown did in his first 13 seasons on the 40 Acres was win at least nine games and finish no worse than second in the South Division every year. After seven seasons, including three Big 12 South titles, Brown broke through with his first conference title in 2005. Behind the leadership of Vince Young, Texas won one of college football's greatest games ever played against USC in the Rose Bowl and the National Championship returned to Austin for the first time since 1970. Despite another trip to the national title game in 2009, Brown’s program eroded in 2010. He posted his first losing season since 1989 as a head coach and was forced to fire multiple assistants. The Horns returned to their winning ways last fall and 2012 will go a long way in proving whether or not Brown has gotten complacent or should be ranked No. 1 on this list. Texas is the single best coaching job in America with more natural and financial resources than any other program in the nation. Therefore, recruiting and on-the-field success should be measured with more scrutiny — especially for a man who has, for some reason, dealt with retirement rumors of late.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       Mack Brown is 56-25 (70.24%) vs. teams finishing the season over .500

·       Mack Brown is 23-4 (85.19%) in games decided by 4 pts or less

·       Texas won 60.34% of their games in the five years prior to Brown's arrival. Brown has won 80.28%

·       Brown has had 12 first round draft picks from 2001-2011

5. Bill Snyder, Kansas State (20 years)
Alma Mater: William Jewell (1959-1962)
Record: 159-83-1 (1989-2005), (2009-present)

Prior to Snyder’s arrival in Manhattan, the Wildcats had struggled to find much success on the gridiron. From 1985-88, Kansas State posted an awful 3-40 record and had only one winning season from 1971-82. Snyder won only one game in his first season, but recorded at least five in every season from 1990-2003. Under his watch, the Wildcats have made two BCS bowl appearances and won or shared the Big 12 title four times. The one concern about Snyder is his age. Although he shows no signs of slowing down, he will be 73 at the end of the 2012 season. If you are an athletic director looking to make a hire and Snyder is one of three available candidates – you have to wonder how many years he will stick around. However, Snyder understands the culture and what it takes to win at Kansas State. It’s not an easy job, but Snyder has transformed the Wildcats from a laughingstock to a consistent contender in the Big 12.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       Five years prior to Snyder being named the head coach, Kansas St. won 10.77% of their games. Snyder has won 60% and won 9+ games 11 times in his 20-year stint as head coach of the Wildcats

·       Snyder is 7-1 vs. Kansas

·       Since 2001, Snyder is 6-15 vs. Top 25 teams (Time of Game Ranking)

·       Since 2001, Snyder is 24-36 against teams finishing the season over .500

6. Art Briles, Baylor (4 years)
Alma Mater:
Houston, Texas Tech, Abilene Christian
Record: 25-25 (2008-present)
Record: 34-28 (Houston, 2003-2007)
Overall: 59-53

After a very long and very distinguished Texas high school coaching career from 1979 to 1999, Briles got his break at his alma mater. At Houston, Briles designed one of the most prolific passing attacks in NCAA history. Under the two previous regimes, (Kim Helton and Dana Dimel) the Cougars won an average of 3.2 games per year from 1993 to 2002 for an overall record of 32-79. Briles won more games (34) in his five-year stint at Houston as well as one conference title in 2006. He landed at Baylor after two straight C-USA West division titles and was charged with leading a dormant program into the new Big 12 era. After back-to-back 4-8 seasons, Briles (with a little help from Robert Griffin III) led the Bears to its first bowl game since 1994. Over the last two seaons, Baylor won its first postseason contest since 1992 and more games (17) over a two-year span than it has since 1985-1986 (18). Griffin III claimed the first Heisman Trophy in school history and will likely be the second pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Can Briles maintain the Bears’ current level of success without the most valuable player in the nation and most popular player in school history? This is what Briles is charged with in 2012.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       Baylor won 31.13% of their games 5 yrs prior to Briles' arrival. Briles has won 50% 

·       Briles is 16-49 vs. teams finishing the season over .500

·       Art Briles teams go 3-and-out on offense just 18.23% of the time

·       Art Briles is 4-20 vs. Top 25 teams (Time of Game ranking)

7. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State (3 years)
Alma Mater:
Missouri Western (1985-88)
Record: 18-20 (2009-present)

Winning at Iowa State is not easy. Auburn coach Gene Chizik posted a 5-19 record in two seasons in Ames, while Dan McCarney recorded a 56-85 mark from 1995-06. Even Johnny Majors had a so-so tenure at Iowa State, finishing with a 24-30-1 record from 1968-72. Although sustained success has been difficult to achieve, the Cyclones have some momentum after three solid years with Rhoads at the helm. The Iowa native has led the Cyclones to two bowl appearances and an 18-20 record. Although a losing record may not stand out nationally, considering how difficult it is to win at Iowa State – especially in a revamped 10-team Big 12 – Rhoads has emerged as one of the most underrated coaches in college football. Considering the head coaches in the Big 12, it’s not an easy conference to rank. Although Rhoads checks in near the middle of the rankings, one could argue (outside of Kansas State’s Bill Snyder) he has done the most with the least.  

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       Rhoads has lost 6 or more games in each of his 3 seasons at ISU

·       Rhoads is 3-12 vs top 25 teams (Time of Game ranking)

8. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia (1 year)
Alma Mater:
Iowa Wesleyan (1991-92)
Record: 10-3 (2011-present)

Holgorsen was supposed to spend 2011 serving as the offensive coordinator and head-coach-in-waiting for West Virginia. However, Bill Stewart was forced to resign in early June, forcing Holgorsen to step into the head coach role a year early than expected. Even though the coaching change occurred after spring practice, it didn’t have any impact on the team. West Virginia finished 9-3 in the regular season and won the Orange Bowl in impressive fashion over Clemson. Holgorsen is one of college football’s top offensive minds, but is still learning the ropes as a head coach. West Virginia’s move to the Big 12 is a good one for Holgorsen, as he has served as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. Although Holgorsen is a bright offensive mind, it’s hard to rank him any higher in the Big 12 coaching ranks after just one season in Morgantown.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       As an offensive coordinator and head coach, Dana Holgorsen's teams have scored 40+ points 51% of the time

9. Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech (2 years)
Alma Mater:
Southern Arkansas
Record: 13-12 (2010-present)
Record: 85-40 (Auburn, 1999-2008)
Record: 25-20 (Ole Miss, 1995-1998)
Overall: 123-72

Tuberville has perhaps one of the most intriguing coaching careers in the nation. He took a sanction-laden Ole Miss program back to the postseason, earning SEC Coach of the Year honors in 1997. When the opportunity presented itself after his fourth season, Tubes bolted for division rival Auburn. Tuberville went on to win the SEC West five times in six years, appeared in eight straight bowls and finished the 2004 season unbeaten — the only undefeated BCS team not to win a national championship. Auburn finished lower than second in the West one time in eight years (third in 2003) and after one bad season in 2008, Tuberville supposedly “resigned voluntarily.” He surfaced at Texas Tech with an outstanding track record and positive momentum after one year as a TV analyst. Tech won eight games and a bowl in his first year, but 2011 has cast a dark shadow over Tuberville’s reputation for a variety of reasons. Aside from posting the first losing season in Lubbock since 1992, the Red Raiders allowed 51.2 points per game over the final five game (losing all of them) after pulling what was arguably the biggest upset of the year over Oklahoma. To top it all off, the ‘radioactivity’ emanating from the Tuberville household makes him a tough sell to any AD. He is mentioned in a potential lawsuit back in Alabama involving alleged investment transgressions, and his wife has her own legal troubles following a car accident in late 2011. Just three years ago, Tuberville would have been near the top of this list. And his fall from coaching grace is as sensational as it was rapid.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       At Texas Tech, Tuberville's teams have given up 30+ pts 64% of the time

·       At Texas Tech, Tuberville's teams have given up 40+ pts 36% of the time

10. Charlie Weis, Kansas (First year)
Alma Mater:
Notre Dame
Record: 35-27 (Notre Dame, 2005-2009)

Gastric bypass surgery aside, Weis has had a lumpy head-coaching career. He took Ty Willingham’s players and went to back-to-back BCS bowl games where his Irish got shellacked by Ohio State and LSU. Since the loss to the Bayou Bengals, Weis went 16-21 as the head coach before getting aced by Notre Dame. He has shown he is a successful NFL offensive architect (NY Jets, New England, Kansas City), but has much to prove if he plans on keeping ‘Head Coach’ in front of his name on the college level. His Florida offense struggled mightily a season ago, but how much of that was spread players not fitting his pro-style scheme? For now, Weis seems to be closer to Norv Turner than Bill Belichick.

Related Content Links:

College Football's Top Transfers to Watch for 2012
College Football's Top Spring QB Battles to Watch

Top Transfers to Watch in 2012
Early Top 25 for 2012
College Football's Top Spring Storylines for 2012
College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

<p> Athlon continues its spring preview by ranking the coaches in the Big 12.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - 06:43
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-college-football-coaches

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

Ranking the coaches in any college football conference is a difficult task. Many factors play into just how successful a coach is at any school. How well are the assistants paid? Are the facilities up to par with the rest of the conference? Can the coach recruit or is he more of an x's and o's manager? Are there off-the-field or age issues to take into consideration? Has a coach built a program or continued the success from a previous coach? How is the resume outside of their current position? These questions and more were posed to the editors at Athlon Sports, as they were asked to rank the coaches of each of the six BCS conferences. One thing to keep in mind - the record is not always indicative of where a coach should rank in a conference. 

Ranking the Coaches: ACC
Ranking the Coaches: Big East
Ranking the Coaches: Pac-12
Ranking the Coaches: Big 12
Ranking the Coaches: Big Ten (Wed.)
Ranking the Coaches: SEC (Thur.)
Ranking the Coaches: 2012 Top 25 Coaches (Fri.)

Here is how Athlon Sports ranks the coaches of the Pac-12:

1. Chip Kelly, Oregon (3 years)
Alma Mater:
New Hampshire
Record: 34-6 (2009-present)

No coach in NCAA history has seen a rise from FCS coordinator to competing for National Championships in quicker fashion than Kelly. His meteoric rise from New Hampshire offensive coordinator to winning three straight Pac-12 titles is virtually unheard of in big time college football. In fact, Oregon had two outright conference championships between 1958 and 2008, giving Kelly more outright titles in three years as the program posted in the previous 50. He has two Pac-12 Coach of the Year awards on his mantle, the Ducks’ first Rose Bowl win in school history last year over Wisconsin and a trip to the 2010 BCS National Championship game. Kelly has created an offense that is the fastest in the nation and possibly the most difficult to stop. He’s had one tailback win the Doak Walker Award, finish as a two-time Heisman finalist and nation’s leading per game rusher in LaMichael James. He just had another claim Pac-12 Co-Offensive Freshman of the Year and reset the Oregon freshman scoring record with 18 touchdowns in De’Anthony Thomas. With the help of flashy uniforms and Nike dollars, Kelly has raised the brand image of his program more in the last three years than any coach in the nation. Two issues could remove Kelly from the Pac-12 coaching pedestal: Looming NCAA questions about potential recruiting violations involving Texas “handler” Willie Lyles and the lure of the NFL. Otherwise, there is one man who stands above all other Pac-12 coaches. 

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       As a head coach and offensive coordinator, Chip Kelly's offenses have scored 40+ points 69 of 106 (65%) games

·       As a head coach, Chip Kelly's offenses have scored TD's on 46% of offensive possessions

·       As a head coach, Chip Kelly's teams have scored 12 Special Teams TD's and given up 0

·       As a head coach, Chip Kelly's defenses are allowing points on just 32% of defensive possessions. This ranks him in the top 15 among active head coaches with a minimum of three years experience

2. Lane Kiffin, USC (2 years)
Alma Mater:
Fresno State (1994-96)
Record: 18-7 (USC, 2010-present)
Record: 7-6 (Tennessee, 2009)
Overall: 25-13 (3 years)

Considering he is just 36 years old, Kiffin has already had quite a career as a head coach. After spending two years with the Oakland Raiders (5-15), Kiffin landed on his feet as Tennessee’s head coach in 2009. The Volunteers went 5-7 in the season prior to his arrival, but posted a 7-6 record in Kiffin’s first year in Knoxville. However, Kiffin bolted Tennessee for a better job, choosing to succeed Pete Carroll at USC. The Trojans posted an 8-5 record in Kiffin’s first year (2010), but finished with a 10-2 mark last year. With the postseason ban lifted, USC is expected to be one of the frontrunners to win the national title in 2012. Kiffin drew headlines at Tennessee for his recruiting practices and comments about other SEC coaches, but has toned down his act since coming to Los Angeles. The Trojans are still dealing with scholarship reductions for the next three years, so Kiffin won’t have a full cupboard to work with during that span. However, Kiffin appears to have positioned the Trojans for a run at the national championship in 2012, while leaving the team in good shape to compete for the Pac-12 South crown in 2013 and 2014.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       As a collegiate head coach, Lane Kiffin is just 11-11 against teams finishing the season over .500

·       As a collegiate head coach, Lane Kiffin's offenses have ended possessions with a 3 and out just 15% of the time. This ranks him 6th among active head coaches with more than one year of experience

3. Mike Leach, Washington State (First Season)
Alma Mater:
Record: 84-43 (Texas Tech, 2000-09)

From 2000 to 2009, there were few things as guaranteed as Texas Tech’s quarterback throwing for 3,000 yards. Leach was the architect behind Tim Couch’s huge numbers at Kentucky and carried his lightning-quick spread passing attack to Lubbock. Leach-led quarterbacks B.J. Symons and Graham Harrell own the top two single-season passing marks in NCAA history with 5,833 and 5,705 yards respectively. Graham Harrell (3rd: 15,793 yards) and Kliff Kingsbury (15th: 11,931) are both in the top 15 in NCAA history in passing yards. Until 2011, Harrell was the NCAA record-holder for career touchdown passes with 134. Needless to say, Leach’s passing attack had reached unprecedented levels of success before his questionable firing. There were six total 10-win seasons in Texas Tech history and Leach posted a school-record 11 wins in 2008. His winning percentage of 66.1% trails only Pete Cawthon (69.3%) in Tech history — who won all of his games between 1930 and 1940. The highly-publicized divorce with Texas Tech (and mentally unstable Craig James) likely cost Leach a couple of years on the sideline, but is not enough to keep any athletic director from hiring him. His teams produce big numbers, his athletic departments make bigger money, his stadiums grow and subsequently sell out and, most importantly, he wins games. Look for a similar program-wide impact from Leach in Pullman. 

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       Mike Leach has won 8+ games in eight of the 10 seasons he has been a head coach

·       Mike Leach's offenses have scored 40+ points in 48% of the games he has been a head coach

·       Among active head coaches with more than one year of experience, Coach Leach has the lowest percentage of offensive possessions ending in a 3 and out (11.44%)

·       Mike Leach's offenses passed for an average of 394 yards in conference games during his tenure at Texas Tech

4. Kyle Whittingham, Utah (7 years)
Alma Mater:
BYU (1978-81)
Record: 66-25 (7 years)

Even after leading the Utes to six consecutive seasons with at least eight wins, Whittingham probably hasn’t received the national respect he deserves. Utah went 33-6 from 2008-10, which included a win over Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl. Whittingham has done a good job of guiding the Utes through their transition into the Pac-12 and nearly won the South Division with a backup quarterback last season. Whittingham is a solid coach who should continue to win consistently at Utah. The Utes have stepped up their recruiting since coming to the Pac-12, which is another testament to Whittingham and his staff continuing to build the program. The biggest hurdle Whittingham could face over the next few seasons is keeping his staff intact. Defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake is a highly-respected assistant and offensive coordinator Brian Johnson is a rising star in the coaching ranks. With Arizona, UCLA and Arizona State all making coaching changes this offseason, keeping Whittingham happy and his assistant coaches in Salt Lake City will be crucial to Utah's success.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       Whittingham has won 72% of his games as a head coach and has won 10+ games (including a perfect 13-0 season in 2008) in three of his seven years as head coach

·       Coach Whittingham is 6-1 in Bowl Games

·       When he has superior talent, Coach Whittingham has a 35-8 record.

·       Coach Whittingham's defenses force a 3 and out or punt on 66% of defensive possessions

5. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona (First Season)
Alma Mater:
West Virginia (1981-84)
Record: 15-22 (Michigan, 2008-10)
Record: 60-26 (West Virginia, 2001-07)
Record: 43-28-2 (Glenville State (1990-96)
Record: 2-8 (Salem, 1988)
Overall: 120-84-2 (18 years)

After an unsuccessful stint with Michigan, Rodriguez is hungry to prove he is still among the top coaches in college football. Rodriguez posted a 60-26 record with West Virginia, but recorded a disappointing 15-22 mark in three seasons with the Wolverines. Although he deserves some of the blame for the failed tenure in Ann Arbor, Rodriguez was simply a bad fit and Michigan never embraced him as its coach. Don’t expect any of those issues to arise at Arizona, as Rodriguez seems to be a good fit and should have the Wildcats in contention for a bowl game in 2012. Arizona had three winning seasons under former coach Mike Stoops, but Rodriguez is capable of taking this program even higher. 

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       As a head coach, his offenses have averaged 28 or more points per game in eight of the 10 seasons he has been a head coach.

·       Rich Rod’s offenses have scored 30+ points in 50% of the games he has coached over the last decade

6. Steve Sarkisian, Washington
Alma Mater:
Record: 19-19 (2009-present)

The time is now for the former Pete Carroll disciple. If nothing else, Sarkisian has proven he knows how to run a big-time college football program. Through excellent recruiting, he has elevated the level of talent across the board on the Huskies roster. He has taken the Huskies to back-to-back bowl games and produced a winning record for the first time since 2002 — yes, Washington’s 2010 7-6 season was the first winning season for the Huskies in eight years. And he clearly knows how to build a coaching staff in the face of adversity. With the hiring of Justin Wilcox and Peter Sirmon from Tennessee and Tosh Lupoi and Eric Kiesau from Cal, Sarkisian, along with more money from his supporters, has put his team in a position for long-term success in Seattle.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       In the five years before he arrived, Washington won 20% of their games. Coach Sarkisian has won 50% of his games as the head coach at Washington

·       In 2011, Washington's offenses was the 25th ranked scoring offense in the nation. This was the highest rating in more than a decade for the Huskies.

7. Mike Riley, Oregon State
Alma Mater:
Record: 72-63 (1997-98, 2003-present)

The circuitous flow of Riley’s coaching career can be difficult to track. He first landed in Corvallis in 1997 after winning two Grey Cups as the head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and leading the now-defunct San Antonio Riders in the WLAF. After two years with the Beavers (8-14), he left for the NFL. After a failed stint as the head man of the Chargers and one year as an assistant with the Saints, Riley returned to Oregon State. This time, Riley entered a program with a solid foundation left behind from Dennis Erickson and continued that success for the next decade. He posted at winning record in six of his first eight years (of his second shift) and produced only the second 10-win season in school history in 2006 and was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year in 2008. One of the nicer guys in the business will be facing a key season this fall as his win total has dropped four years in a row. That said, with three wins in 2012, Riley will pass Lon Stiner as the winningest coach in Oregon State history.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       Coach Riley's teams have won 8+ games in five of the last nine years

·       Coach Riley is just 26-38 against teams finishing the season over .500 and 4-11 against over .500 teams over the last two seasons

·       Coach Riley is just 9-27 against Top 25 teams (Time of Game ranking)

·       Coach Riley is 5-1 in Bowl Games

8. Jeff Tedford, Cal (10 years)
Alma Mater:
Fresno State
Record: 79-48 (2002-present)

The luster has worn off Coach Tedford in recent years, but Cal fans need to be careful what they wish for. Over the last five seasons, Cal certainly has been stagnant – losing 28 games over that span — and the offensive guru needs to win to stay employed. However, the track record of Golden Bear football proves that Tedford is easily the most successful coach in school history. Cal was 4-29 in the three seasons prior to Tedford taking over in Berkeley and he proceeded to start his head coaching career with eight straight winning seasons. Since 1950, this program has three 10-win seasons on its resume. Tedford has two of them. The Bears claim 21 postseason appearances and Tedford is responsible for nearly half (8) of them. Finally, no head coach has won as many games at Cal as Tedford has (79). He is undoubtedly on the hot seat in 2012, but the Cal administration needs to think long and hard about what Tedford has meant to the program before acting too quickly.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       In the five years before he arrived, the Cal Bears had won just 25% of their games. In his 10 years as head coach, Cal has won 62% of their games.

·       Coach Tedford has won 8+ games seven of his 10 years as head coach at Cal

·       From 1970-2001, Cal had just 10 seasons when they won more games than they lost. In Coach Tedford's 10 years, he has nine winning seasons

·       From 2009-2011, Coach Tedford won just 52% of his overall games and just 44% of conference games

·       From 2009-2011, Coach Tedford is just 5-15 against teams with winning records

9. David Shaw, Stanford (1 year)
Alma Mater:
Record: 11-2 (2011-present)

There is much to like about Shaw and there is much that is still unknown. This fall will feature the first in Palo Alto without a Harbaugh or a Luck on the roster and it falls to Shaw to maintain an unprecedented level of success. Jim Harbaugh deserves all of the credit for re-establishing the Cardinal brand nationwide and developing Andrew Luck into the best player in the nation the last two years. Replacing two first-round offensive linemen will also be an issue for Stanford in 2012. Shaw is steeped in Stanford tradition as a player and son of a coach for the Cardinal, but legacy alone won’t keep Shaw in Bob Bowlsby’s good graces. This is one name that could be ranked much higher (or lower) on this list come next offseason. 

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       In his first year as a head coach, Coach Shaw's offense scored TD's on 51% of offensive possessions and went 3 and out less than 10% of offensive possessions

·       Coach Shaw's defense allowed just 88 rushing yards per game in 2011

10. Todd Graham, Arizona State (First Season)
Alma Mater:
East Central (1983-86)
Record: 6-6 (Pittsburgh, 2011)
Record: 36-17 (Tulsa, 2007-10)
Record: 7-6 (Rice, 2006)

Graham has been heavily criticized (and rightfully so) for the job -hopping in his short career as a head coach. He spent only one season at Rice (2006) and agreed to an extension following the season, only to leave a few days later for Tulsa. After spending four seasons with the Golden Hurricane, Graham left for Pittsburgh and recorded a 6-6 mark this season. Although the Panthers were a disappointment, Graham’s track recorded suggested they would be back in the Big East title mix in the next couple of seasons. However, Graham bolted for Arizona State and the 2012 season will be his first in Tempe. Although Graham’s job-hopping should be criticized, his record as a head coach is a solid 49-29 and he has won at two difficult places to win – Rice and Tulsa. While you can criticize Graham for what happened at Rice and Pittsburgh, he is actually a pretty good coach and should win at Arizona State.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       In the five years before he arrived at Tulsa, the Golden Hurricanes had won 48% of their games. Coach Graham won nearly 70% of his games at Tulsa

·       Coach Graham is 14-24 against teams finishing the season over .500

·       Todd Graham is just 28-23 without Gus Malzahn as his offensive coordinator

11. Jim Mora, UCLA (First Season)
Alma Mater:
Washington (1980-83)
Record: 26-22 (Atlanta Falcons, 2004-06)
Record: 5-11 (Seattle Seahawks, 2009)

There were several eyebrows raised when Mora was hired as UCLA’s head coach in December. After making a run and striking out with some bigger names – including Boise State’s Chris Petersen – the Bruins didn’t have many appealing options on the table. Mora has only one season of collegiate experience (1984, Washington), but has two stops as a NFL head coach on his resume. He posted a 26-22 record with the Atlanta Falcons and a 5-11 mark with the Seattle Seahawks, with one trip to the playoffs on his resume. Considering Mora’s lack of collegiate experience, hiring a staff was going to be one of the most critical elements to his success at UCLA. Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has a wealth of college experience, while offensive line coach Adrian Klemm is one of the top recruiters in the nation. It will take some time for Mora to win over his detractors and adjust to the college game, but this hire may work out better than most expect.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

12. Jon Embree, Colorado (1 year)
Alma Mater:
Colorado (1983-86)
Record: 3-10 (2011-present)

Considering he played under Bill McCartney at Colorado from 1983-86 and coached in Boulder from 1993-2002, Embree is a good fit for rebuilding the Buffaloes. However, this is his first head-coaching position, so there will be several bumps in the road. Embree inherited a relatively bare roster and led Colorado to a 3-10 record in 2011. The Buffaloes finished with two wins in their final three games, but were largely uncompetitive in most Pac-12 contests last season. Embree will get a couple of years to turn things around in Boulder, but until this team shows more progress, he will be ranked near the bottom of coaches in the Pac-12.

What Coaches By the Numbers Has to Say:

·       Coach Embree's defense allowed TD's on 44% of defensive possessions

·       Embree's offense scored 20 points or less in eight games in his first season as head coach

Related Content Links:

College Football's Top Transfers to Watch for 2012
College Football's Top Spring QB Battles to Watch

Top Transfers to Watch in 2012
Early Top 25 for 2012
College Football's Top Spring Storylines for 2012
College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

<p> Athlon continues its spring preview with a ranking of the coaches in the Pac-12.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - 06:41
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-easts-college-football-coaches

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

Ranking the coaches in any college football conference is a difficult task. Many factors play into just how successful a coach is at any school. How well are the assistants paid? Are the facilities up to par with the rest of the conference? Can the coach recruit or is he more of an x's and o's manager? Are there off-the-field or age issues to take into consideration? Has a coach built a program or continued the success from a previous coach? How is the resume outside of their current position? These questions and more were posed to the editors at Athlon Sports, as they were asked to rank the coaches of each of the six BCS conferences. One thing to keep in mind - the record is not always indicative of where a coach should rank in a conference. 

Ranking the Coaches: ACC
Ranking the Coaches: Big East
Ranking the Coaches: Pac-12 (Tues.)
Ranking the Coaches: Big 12 (Tues.)
Ranking the Coaches: Big Ten (Wed.)
Ranking the Coaches: SEC (Thur.)
Ranking the Coaches: 2012 Top 25 Coaches (Fri.)

Editor's Note: Boise State, San Diego State, Memphis, UCF, Houston, SMU won't join the Big East until 2013. Navy will join the Big East in 2015. 

Here is how Athlon Sports ranks the current and future coaches of the Big East:

1. Chris Petersen, Boise State (6 years)
Alma Mater:
UC Davis (1983-86)
Record: 73-6 (2006-present)

Few coaching careers have begun like Petersen’s has at Boise State. After learning under Mike Bellotti at Oregon, Petersen began his Bronco career as Dan Hawkins’ offensive coordinator. For five years, Petersen churned out one of the nation’s most powerful offenses under Hawkins. When Hawkins left for Colorado, Petersen was given the reins to the Smur-ffense and has taken the program to a new level. In his first year, Petersen led Boise State to its first undefeated season and the memorable Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma. It would be his first of two BCS bowl wins. He has never won fewer than 10 games in a season and just watched the 2011 graduating class finish 50-3 over their four-year career. Kellen Moore quarterbacked those four teams and is now the winningest quarterback in NCAA history. Most importantly, Petersen has elevated Boise State football to a BCS conference as he will usher the Broncos into a new era of football when they join the Big East in 2013. He has had multiple opportunities to take “better” jobs and has come within two missed field goals of playing for a national championship.

2. Charlie Strong, Louisville (2 years)
Alma Mater:
Central Arkansas (1980-83)
Record: 14-12 (2010-present)
Record: 0-1 (Florida, 2004)
Overall: 14-13 (2 years)

It has taken Strong only two years to emerge as one of the top coaches in the Big East. After spending over 20 years as an assistant with stops at Florida, Ole Miss, Notre Dame and South Carolina, Strong has led the Cardinals to a 14-12 record and two bowl appearances. Even with one of the youngest rosters in college football, Louisville claimed a share of the Big East crown in 2011. The future looks bright for the Cardinals with Strong at the helm, as they should be the early favorite to win the conference in 2012. The biggest question for Louisville is whether or not it can keep Strong if one of the top programs in the SEC open up, but for now, he should have the Cardinals knocking on the door of a finish in the top 25 this season.

3. June Jones, SMU (4 years)
Alma Mater:
Oregon (1971-72), Hawaii (1973-74), Portland State (1975-76)
Record: 24-28 (2008-present)
Record: 76-41 (Hawaii, 1999-2007)
Overall: 100-69 (13 years)

Resurrecting one program is difficult enough, but Jones has been successful at two stops with not much recent success prior to his arrival. Jones took over at Hawaii in 1999, leading the Warriors to a 9-4 record after posting a 0-12 mark in 1998. Under his direction, Hawaii posted a 76-41 record and made six bowl appearances, including a berth in the Sugar Bowl. Jones went 1-11 in his debut season with SMU, but has led the Mustangs to three consecutive bowl appearances. SMU has made a solid financial commitment to Jones, but that won’t stop other BCS programs from inquiring about his services in the future. The Mustangs have come a long way over the last three years and should be in good shape once they make the move to the Big East. 

4. Butch Jones, Cincinnati (2 years)
Alma Mater:
Ferris State (1987-89)
Record: 14-11 (2010-present)
Record: 27-13 (Central Michigan, 2007-09)
Overall: 41-24 (5 years)

Jones has followed Brian Kelly’s footsteps at both Central Michigan and Cincinnati. He coached under Kelly at CMU in 2004 before he was given the Chippewas’ job when Kelly left for Cincinnati in 2007. When Kelly departed for Notre Dame, Jones, following two MAC championships in three years, again took over for Kelly at Cincinnati. After a tough rebuilding year in 2010, the Bearcats proved they made the right call in hiring Jones by winning 10 games for only the fourth time in school history. In total, Jones has at least a share of three conference titles in five years as a head coach and is poised to compete for Big East titles for years to come.

5. Skip Holtz, South Florida (2 years)
Alma Mater:
Holy Cross Junior College (1982-84), (Notre Dame 1984-86)
Record: 13-12 (2010-present)
Record: 38-27 (East Carolina, 2005-09)
Record: 34-23 (Connecticut, 1994-98)
Overall: 85-62 (12 years)

After successful stops at Connecticut and East Carolina, Holtz is still trying to find the right formula at South Florida. The Bulls are just 13-12 over the last two years and were unable to capitalize off a 4-0 start in 2011. Despite the early so-so results with South Florida, Holtz still has a solid 85-62 career record and led East Carolina to two Conference USA championships. The hype surrounding Holtz’s hire hasn’t quite matched the results, but with the results at East Carolina and Connecticut, it should be only a matter of time before the Bulls are in contention for the Big East crown. 

6. Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh (First Year)
Alma Mater:
Wisconsin (1986-88)
Record: First Season

No one can call Chryst a slacker. He has held 14 different jobs in the NFL, CFL and college ranks since graduating from Wisconsin in the late 80s. Once he finally returned to his alma mater in 2005, it was clear to fans he wouldn’t be around too long. In Barry Alvarez’ final season, Chryst led Wisconsin’s most prolific offense in school history, scoring 446 points. In each of the last two seasons, he has broken his own school scoring record, giving Chryst the credit for the three highest scoring teams in Badgers’ history. He led the Big Ten in rushing in 2008, led the Big Ten in rushing, total and scoring offense in 2009, posted the highest scoring team in the league again in 2010 and wrapped-up his coordinator-ship in Madison with the Big Ten’s highest scoring and most productive unit in 2011. Tailback Montee Ball posted the best single-season in Big Ten history as he tied Barry Sanders single-season NCAA touchdown record with 39. He takes over at Pitt with extensive knowledge of the Midwest and perfect personnel for his power-spread scheme.

7. Doug Marrone, Syracuse (3 years)
Alma Mater:
Syracuse (1983-85)
Record: 17-20 (2009-present)

The cupboard at Syracuse was pretty bare when Marrone was hired as head coach. The Orange were coming off a disastrous 10-37 record under former coach Greg Robinson and had slipped to the bottom of the Big East. Marrone’s first year showed some promise as the Orange finished with a 4-8 record and followed that up with an 8-5 record and a bowl appearance in 2010. Although Syracuse had some momentum coming into 2011, the Orange finished a disappointing 5-7 with one conference victory. Marrone is the right coach for Syracuse, but with a move to the ACC likely happening next year, the Orange can’t afford to fall too far behind. Syracuse will have low expectations in most preseason polls for 2012, but it would not be a surprise to see this team push for a finish among the top four in the final standings.

8. Steve Addazio, Temple (1 year)
Alma Mater:
Central Connecticut (1978-81)
Record: 9-4 (2011-present)

So far, so good for Addazio. In his first season as Temple’s head coach, Addazio led the Owls to a solid 9-4 record with a victory over Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl. Al Golden did a good job of resurrecting Temple’s program before leaving to take the top spot at Miami and now it’s up to Addazio to continue the momentum. Although Addazio did a good job in one season, this is his first head coaching stop and we need to see more of a track record before ranking him higher. However, this seems to be a good fit for both sides, especially since Addazio is familiar with coaching in the Northeast.

9. George O’Leary, UCF (8 years)
Alma Mater:
New Hampshire (1968)
Record: 50-51 (2004-present)
Record: 52-33 (Georgia Tech, 1994-2001)

The two-time ACC Coach of the Year spent a couple of years in the NFL after a resume snafu cost him the Notre Dame job. He landed on his feet at UCF and has built the Knights into a solid C-USA (soon to be Big East) program. The Knights had posted four winning FBS seasons when O’Leary took over and has since posted two of its three total 10-win seasons. He has won two C-USA championships (2007, 2010) and three Coach of the Year Awards (2005, 2007, 2010) and has a 50-40 record since 2005. O’Leary has been responsible for all four bowl appearances in UCF history including the program’s first bowl victory in 2010 over SEC power Georgia and will elevate the program for a second time when the Knights join the Big East in 2013. That said, falsifying his resume, the 2008 death of Ereck Plancher and widespread UCF athletic department transgressions keep O’Leary from being higher on this list.

10. Rocky Long, San Diego State (1 year)
Alma Mater:
New Mexico (1969-71)
Record: 8-5 (2011-present)
Record: 65-69 (New Mexico, 1998-2008)

After 11 years and recording five bowl games, but no conference championships at his alma mater, Long resigned in 2008 and became the defensive coordinator with the Aztecs. Under Brady Hoke, San Diego State went 13-12 in two seasons before he left for Michigan. Long was then elevated to the top spot and went 8-5 with a bowl appearance in his first year. Fans know exactly what they are getting with the dependable veteran. Long might not be the flashiest head coach, but the 62-year old should be able to maintain the Aztecs' upward trajectory into the Big East. Many believe this program is a “sleeping giant,” and with BCS funding, this might finally be true.

11. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy (4 years)
Alma Mater:
Hawaii (1987-89)
Record: 32-21 (2007-present)

After making three consecutive bowl trips, the Midshipmen took a step back with a disappointing 5-7 2011 season. Niumatalolo has done a solid job of continuing what Paul Johnson built at Navy, but will he elevate the program over the long haul? The Midshipmen will move into the Big East in 2015, which will be a step up in competition from playing as an Independent. Navy has only nine starters this year and more questions about Niumatalolo will be raised if the Midshipmen miss out on the postseason in 2012. 

12. Justin Fuente, Memphis (First Year)
Alma Mater:
Oklahoma, Murray State (1996-99)
Record: First Season

For the last five years, Funete has learned under one of the nation’s best head coaches at TCU. The first Gary Patterson disciple to land a “BCS” job, Fuente was responsible for the four highest scoring Horned Frogs teams in program history. He coached Andy Dalton to the program’s first unbeaten season since 1932 and won TCU’s first-ever BCS bowl when they went 13-0 in 2010. After losing the program’s greatest quarterback (Dalton), Fuente’s offense didn’t miss a beat behind sophomore Casey Pachall in 2011. Fuente is a relatively unknown commodity as a head coach, but Paterson doesn’t hire bad personnel and TCU’s offenses were dominant in Fort Worth.

13. Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut (1 year)
Alma Mater:
Penn State (1968-71)
Record: 5-7 (2011-present)
Record: 107-59-1 (Syracuse, 1991-2004)
Record: 34-17 (Western Connecticut, 1982-85)

Pasqualoni was a curious hire by Connecticut last season and the jury is still out on how well this marriage will work. The Huskies had some key personnel losses from 2010 to 2011 and watched their win total dip by three games. Connecticut’s offense was also a source of criticism throughout the year, and this unit has to improve if the Huskies want to push for the Big East title in 2012. Pasqualoni had a solid record at Syracuse (107-59-1), but his last three years with the Orange produced a 16-20 record. Only time will tell if Pasqualoni is the right coach to turn Connecticut into an annual contender in the Big East, but his first year with the Huskies wasn’t anything special. 

14. Kyle Flood, Rutgers (First Year)
Alma Mater:
Iona (1989-92)
Record: First Season

Flood will have to quell concerns that Rutgers made this hire to keep intact what turned out to be the program’s greatest recruiting class in history. The longtime Rutgers offensive line coach (2006-11) was elevated to assistant head coach in 2008. As a part of the most successful era of football in Piscataway, Flood is charged with replacing one of the winningest coaches in program history (Greg Schiano, 68 wins, fourth in school history). He is a complete unknown as a head coach, but will certainly have plenty of young talent to work with in year one.

15. Tony Levine, Houston (First Year)
Alma Mater: Minnesota (1992-95)
Record: 1-0 (2011-present)

Kevin Sumlin did a solid job during his four years at Houston and now it’s up to Levine to continue that momentum. Levine coached the Cougars in the bowl against Penn State, leading the team to an impressive 30-14 victory. Levine is well-liked by the players at Houston, but this is his first head coaching gig and he has no coordinator experience. He has stops at Louisiana Tech, Louisville and Houston as an assistant, with one stop in the NFL for two seasons with the Carolina Panthers. Levine’s debut was impressive, but can he continue that momentum over the next couple of seasons as Houston enters the Big East?

Related Content Links:

College Football's Top Transfers to Watch for 2012
College Football's Top Spring QB Battles to Watch

Top Transfers to Watch in 2012
Early Top 25 for 2012
College Football's Top Spring Storylines for 2012
College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

<p> Athlon Sports ranks the coaches in the current and future Big East.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 19, 2012 - 08:29
Path: /college-football/florida-state-seminoles-2012-spring-preview

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer.

Florida State Seminoles 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 9-4, 5-3 ACC

Spring practice: March 19-April 14

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 9

Returning Leaders:

Passing: EJ Manuel, 203 of 311, 2,666 yds., 18 TD, 8 INT
Rushing: Devonta Freeman, 120 car., 579 yds., 8 TDs
Receiving: Rashad Greene, 38 rec., 596 yds., 7 TDs
Tackles: Christian Jones, 56
Sacks: Brandon Jenkins, 8
Interceptions: Lamarcus Joyner, 4

Redshirts to watch: WR Kelvin Benjamin, DB Kaelin Smith, LB Arrington Jenkins

Early Enrollees: P Cason Beatty, OL Daniel Glauser, RB Mario Pender

JUCO Transfers to watch: OL Daniel Glauser, OL Menelik Watson

2012 Schedule

Sept. 1 Murray State
Sept. 8 Savannah State
Sept. 15 Wake Forest
Sept. 22 Clemson
Sept. 29 at South Florida
Oct. 6 at NC State
Oct. 13 Boston College
Oct. 20 at Miami
Oct. 27 Duke
Nov. 8 at Virginia Tech
Nov. 17 at Maryland
Nov. 24 Florida

Offensive Strength: The Seminoles struggled to find the right mixture on the offensive line last year, but that didn’t slow down the passing attack. Quarterback EJ Manuel is back for his second year as Florida State’s starter and the receiving corps is one of the deepest in the ACC.  

Offensive Weakness: As mentioned previously, the offensive line was an issue for Florida State last year and heads into 2012 as the team's biggest question mark. The Seminoles threw several young players out on the field last year and that experience should pay dividends in 2012. Getting improved play out of the line would also help jumpstart a rushing attackthat ranked a disappointing 104th nationally last season.  

Defensive Strength: With nine starters returning, Florida State should have one of the best defenses in college football next season. The defensive line will continue to set the tone for the rest of the unit, as ends Brandon Jenkins and Bjoern Werner are back after combining for 15 sacks last season. Despite losing two key contributors to the secondary, the Seminoles will be near the top of the pass defense stats once again in 2012. 

Defensive Weakness: Considering what Florida State has coming back, there’s not much to be concerned about on defense. The biggest issue will be finding a replacement for linebacker Nigel Bradham, who led the defense with 86 stops last year. While it’s not really a defensive category, the Seminoles have to find a replacement for All-ACC punter Shawn Powell.

Spring Storylines Facing the Seminoles

1. Here come the high expectations once again. Florida State was picked among the top 10 teams by most preseason polls, but finished with a disappointing 9-4 record and a berth in the Champs Sports Bowl against Notre Dame. The turning point of the season occurred in Week 3, as the Seminoles lost 23-13 to Oklahoma. Quarterback EJ Manuel was injured in the loss to the Sooners and missed Florida State’s loss to Clemson and came off the bench after the Seminoles fell behind against Wake Forest. Although the Seminoles didn’t meet the preseason expectations, they did finish with wins in seven out of their final eight games. Most preseason predictions won’t start coming out until May or June, but early indications have this team picked near the top of the ACC and among the top 10-15 teams for 2012. Considering what Florida State returns, there’s no reason for this team to finish with a 9-4 record once again – and the Seminoles are certainly hungry to prove they are back as a national powerhouse.

2. If Florida State is to contend for the national title, the offensive line has to show big improvement. This group allowed 3.2 sacks per game and rushers averaged only 3.3 yards per carry. Making matters worse is the line loses its best player from last year in left tackle Zebrie Sanders. While last year’s numbers are not pretty and replacing Sanders is a tall task, the Seminoles return several players with experience. Center Bryan Stork and guard Jacob Fahrenkrug are the most experienced returning options, but Bobby Hart, Austin Barron, Garrett Faircloth, Tre Jackson and Josue Matias all received starts last season. Line coach Rick Trickett is regarded as one of the best in college football and it will be important to find the right mix and develop some chemistry in preseason workouts. If Florida State struggles up front once again, this team will have trouble winning the ACC Championship.

3. The offensive line deserves much of the blame for last season’s struggles on the ground, but this is one area the Seminoles need to focus on in spring practice. Devonta Freeman is back for his sophomore year after rushing for 579 yards and eight scores last season. Big things were expected of James Wilder last year, but he managed only 160 yards and was suspended indefinitely due to an off-the-field incident. Freeman will likely be the No. 1 back when the season opens up, but incoming freshman Mario Pender could work his way into significant carries. With quarterback EJ Manuel and a plethora of talented receivers returning, there’s no question Florida State will be able to move the ball through the air. However, this offense needs to develop more balance in 2012.

4. Coordinator Mark Stoops should be feeling good about his defense in 2012. The Seminoles ranked fourth nationally in total and scoring defense last season, while finishing second against the run. Considering nine starters are back, it’s not out of the question this defense could be just as good, if not better than it was last year. The defensive line is one of the best in college football, led by ends Brandon Jenkins and Bjoern Werner. The interior line is stacked with depth, including future star Timmy Jernigan and honorable mention All-ACC performer Everett Dawkins. The two biggest question marks for Stoops and the defensive staff will be finding a replacement for Nigel Bradham at linebacker, as well as replacing Mike Harris and Terrance Parks in the secondary. Although those three players were key contributors, their departure isn’t going to significantly hurt the defense. There’s plenty of depth and young talent waiting to step into key roles this spring. It’s up to Stoops and this defensive staff to sort things out in the linebacking corps, as well as get the new faces acquainted in the secondary.

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<p> Athlon previews spring practice for Florida State.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 19, 2012 - 08:24