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  • By Steven Lassan, 2 months 1 week ago

    With Trevor Knight entrenched as Oklahoma’s starting quarterback, Blake Bell is looking for a way to get on the field. Bell started eight games at quarterback in 2013, but the coaching staff plans to move the Kansas native to tight end this spring.

    Knight finished the season with a standout performance against Alabama, completing 32 of 44 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl.

    Bell came into the 2013 season as a potential All-Big 12 quarterback but never settled into the No. 1 role.

    At 6-foot-6 and 252 pounds, Bell has the size to be a nightmare matchup for opposing defensive backs. And with Oklahoma losing Lacoltan Bester and Jalen Saunders, more weapons for Knight are needed in 2014.

    On paper, this seems like a good move for Oklahoma. If Bell transitions to his new role, he could be a valuable piece of the passing game next season.

  • By David Fox, 4 months 3 weeks ago

    The quarterback who rearranged the Big 12 wasn’t even in the lineup until the last five games.

    As Baylor and Texas learned, Clint Chelf is in some ways the nation’s most unpredictable player.

    Two weeks ago, Chelf, considered less of a running threat than teammate J.W. Walsh, rushed for 95 yards and two touchdowns to defeat Texas in Austin.

    But Saturday brought the biggest surprise as Chelf, not his Baylor counterpart, was the quarterback of the most explosive and efficient offense. Chelf completed 19 of 25 passes for 370 yards with three touchdowns to earn Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors.

    In defeating Baylor and Texas in the last two weeks, Chelf completed better than 70 percent of his passes and put Oklahoma State into the lead for the Fiesta Bowl.

    Athlon Sports Week 13 National Awards

    National Player of the Week: Clint Chelf, Oklahoma State

    The Cowboys’ offense has evolved through the course of the season, most notably with return to Clint Chelf as starting quarterback. Even though he’d shown marked improvement, an explosion like the one against Baylor was a shock. Chelf completed his first 11 passes as Oklahoma State built a commanding lead in the third quarter. Chelf, who has started the last five games, finished 19 of 25 for 370 yards with four total touchdowns.

    National Defensive Player of the Week: Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
    There were a handful of standout defensive performances in the ACC in Week 13, with Donald narrowly beating Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan and North Carolina’s Kareem Martin for this week’s honor.  With bowl eligibility on the line, Donald and Pittsburgh’s defense held Syracuse to 16 points and 307 yards on 67 plays. The Orange recorded 148 rushing yards, which was 73 below their weekly average. Donald once again wrecked havoc against the offensive line, recording nine tackles (3.5 tackles for a loss) and two quarterback hurries. Donald also blocked an extra point after Syracuse’s first touchdown.

    National Freshman of the Week: Trevor Knight, Oklahoma
    Like Oklahoma State, the rival Sooners started the season with one quarterback, switched and now returned to the opening day starter. Oklahoma went back to redshirt freshman Trevor Knight this week out of necessity with Blake Bell out following a concussion. Knight responded by completing 14 of 20 passes for 141 yards with a touchdown and an interception in a 41-31 road win over Kansas State. Knight added 82 rushing yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.

    Coordinator of the Week: John Chavis, LSU
    Chavis and his LSU defense did the impossible — shut down Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M offense. The Aggies’ 299 total yards were 279 below their season average and 187 below their previous season low (486 in the opener against Rice). Manziel completed only 16-of-41 passes for 224 yards — the fewest in any of his 10 starts this season — with one touchdown and two interceptions. Texas A&M also had its streak of 13 straight games with at least 40 points snapped. Not bad for a defense that had to replace eight starters from last season.

    Athlon Sports Week 13 Conference Awards

    ACC
    Offense: Andre Williams, Boston College
    Defense: Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
    Freshman: Jameis Winston, Florida State
    Coordinator: Blake Anderson, North Carolina

    Big 12
    Offense: Clint Chelf, Oklahoma State
    Defense: Jeremiah George, Iowa State
    Freshman: Trevor Knight, Oklahoma
    Coordinator: Glenn Spencer, Oklahoma State

    Big Ten
    Offense: Jeremy Langford and Connor Cook, Michigan State
    Defense: Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
    Freshman: Michael Rose, Nebraska
    Coordinator: Dave Aranda, Wisconsin

    Pac-12
    Offense: Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona
    Defense: Chris Young, Arizona State
    Freshman: Scooby Wright, Arizona
    Coordinator: Jeff Casteel, Arizona

    SEC
    Offense: Terrence Magee, LSU
    Defense: Chase Garnham, Vanderbilt
    Freshman: Reshard Robinson and Tre’Davious White, LSU
    Coordinator: John Chavis, LSU

     

  • By Steven Lassan, 5 months 2 days ago

    Oklahoma started slow but finished fast in Saturday’s 48-10 win over Iowa State.

    The Sooners had a few highlights on the field, but the best play of the day might be a tackle by a state trooper. A fan ran onto the field and was completely blindsided by the state trooper.

    Perfect form on the tackle, and most importantly, he avoided the dreaded 15-yard penalty and ejection for targeting.

  • By David Fox, 5 months 6 days ago

    Last week gave us plenty of news to break down on this week’s podcast. Alabama tightened its grip on No. 1, Baylor took another step to national title legitimacy and Stanford rearranged the championship and Heisman races. Co-hosts Braden Gall and David Fox dive into the debates while looking ahead to Saturday.

    On this week’s podcast:

    • Gall and Fox dive right into the Thursday night results and what they mean for the national championship race. Fox doesn’t mind people ranking Stanford ahead of Baylor and Ohio State for now, but that should change if Baylor beats Oklahoma State and Texas. Gall believes Stanford should remain on the same footing as undefeated Baylor and Ohio State.

    • Marcus Mariota’s injury and performance against Stanford toppled a quarterback who was securely in the lead for the Heisman, what does that mean for the field after Jameis Winston?

    • Gall and Fox have come to the same conclusion about where Johnny Manziel belongs in the race, but took two different routes to get there based on what he’s done right and what he’s done wrong.

    • Fox then goes on a quick rant about how AJ McCarron is the new “system quarterback” and that hurts him in the Heisman race.

    • And then in a look at this week’s game, our pickers are riding the hot hands for Auburn, Oklahoma State, UCLA and more.

    • Lastly, a quick look at Hot Seat or Not Hot Seat. Who is on the hot seat in 2013 and who gets a chance to go into 2014 scorching?

    The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com, iTunes and our podcast RSS feed.

    Please send any comments, questions and podcast topics to @AthlonSports, @BradenGall and @DavidFox615 on Twitter.
     

  • By David Fox, 5 months 1 week ago

    The Thursday we’ve all be waiting for is here as Oregon visits Stanford and Oklahoma visits Baylor. On this week’s edition of the Cover 2, hosts Braden Gall and David Fox prepare you for Thursday plus action for Saturday.

    On this week’s podcast:

    • In a a quick review of last week, Braden was impressed with exciting finishes in the Big Ten, but David is still fuming at a decision to put by Iowa.

    • We take one quick look at the “Jameis Winston is human” storyline, focusing on Florida State’s outstanding offensive line. FSU’s biggest concerns remains the lack of help the Seminoles will get from Florida, Miami and Virginia Tech and others.

    • On to Thursday: David is worried Oregon will run away with this meeting while Braden has more faith in the Stanford defense.

    • In Waco, Oklahoma will try to keep Baylor off the field, but both hosts agree it may not matter against Bryce Petty.

    • Moving on to LSU-Alabama, will this be the hotly contested matchup we’ve come to expect or is LSU not ready to go to toe-to-toe with the Tide?

    • Lastly, Gall and Fox take a quick look off the field at the new athletic hire at Texas and why the job is more than just making decisions around the football coach.

    The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com, iTunes and our podcast RSS feed.

    Please send any comments, questions and podcast topics to @AthlonSports, @BradenGall and @DavidFox615 on Twitter.

     

  • By Steven Lassan, 6 months 1 week ago

    Texas quarterback Case McCoy was destroyed by Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker in the first half of the Red River Rivalry.

    Check out this hit, which might be one of the biggest of the 2013 season:

  • By Steven Lassan, 7 months 3 weeks ago

    Surprise, surprise. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has picked his starting quarterback. And it isn’t the passer most expected to win the job after spring practice. Redshirt freshman Trevor Knight was selected as the Sooners’ No. 1 quarterback, edging junior Blake Bell this fall.

    Bell was widely considered the frontrunner to replace Landry Jones, especially since he played in a specialty role in the offense over the last two years. Bell recorded 24 rushing scores from 2011-12 but threw only 20 passes during that span.

    Although Bell showed he is a good runner, there were doubts about his passing ability.

    Bell is expected to continue playing in a specialty role, which will give Oklahoma a dangerous threat around the goal-line once again.

    What does Knight bring to the table? Since he hasn’t taken a snap, the redshirt freshman is largely a mystery. However, Knight was rated as a four-star recruit by Rivals.com and helped Oklahoma’s defense plan for Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel by imitating the Heisman winner on the scout team.

    Knight has good mobility, but even though the media hasn’t had much of a chance to watch him in practice, the redshirt freshman is regarded for having a good arm and is capable of making all of the throws to thrive in this offense.

    Oklahoma should be a factor in the Big 12 title picture. And if Knight ends up being a special player as some think he may turn out to be this year, the Sooners could finish the year as a top-10 team. However, as with every first-year starting quarterback, there will be bumps in the road.

  • By Steven Lassan, 9 months 2 days ago

    The Big 12 is one of the toughest conferences to predict this preseason. No Big 12 team managed to crack Athlon's projected final top 15 for 2013, as Oklahoma State, Texas, TCU and Oklahoma all ranked between 16-20.
     

    It’s not the biggest indicator when predicting success, but returning starters are an interesting trend to look at before the season starts.

    With 17 returning starters, Texas has the most in the Big 12 for 2013. Will that be enough for the Longhorns to get back to a BCS bowl? It's now or never for Mack Brown, especially with the rest of the conference in transition. 

     

    TeamOffenseDefenseOverall
    Baylor4711
    Iowa State549
    Kansas336
    Kansas State8210
    Oklahoma7411
    Oklahoma State5712
    TCU5913
    Texas8917
    Texas Tech4711
    West Virginia4711

     

  • By David Fox, 10 months 17 hours ago

    If Heisman voters were as open minded as Hugh Green’s peers in 1980, the fraternity of the award for the most outstanding college football player would be much different.

    During a tour organized to promote the 1980 football season, the Pittsburgh defensive end, along with five other top players that year, made a handful of stops across the country to meet with reporters.

    The tour led to plenty of down time for Green, Cal quarterback Rich Campbell, Purdue quarterback Mark Herrmann, Alabama running back Major Ogilvie, South Carolina running back George Rogers and Baylor linebacker Mike Singletary. During a stop somewhere in Indiana, Green recalls, the six conducted their own vote for who would win the Heisman in 1980.

    Whether through humility or foresight, Green was the only one who ended up making the correct pick. He chose Rogers.

    The other five picked Green.

    Green had a fine season in 1980, wrapping up one of history’s best careers by a defensive player. He won the Maxwell Award for Player of the Year on a team that finished 11–1 and No. 2 in the country. He was a consensus All-American and the Lombardi Award winner. He stood out on a team that included quarterback Dan Marino and Outland Trophy-winning offensive tackle Mark May.

    The Heisman, though, was out of reach for Green.

    South Carolina’s Rogers beat Green by 267 points in the voting that year. Still, it was a victory for defensive players. In the two-platoon era, Green’s 861 points were the most for a defender until Michigan’s Charles Woodson won the Heisman in 1997. Woodson, though, returned kicks and played receiver, putting him over the top in the Heisman race.

    “That’s the perspective of the best player — he has to have possession of the ball,” Green says. 

    Beyond Green, the 1980 Heisman vote was also notable for the third-place finisher, Herschel Walker. The Georgia running back earned the most first-place votes (107) and total points (683) for a freshman up to that point.

    So here’s the question: Had the 1980 Heisman vote been taken in 2012, would the result have been different? Would Green have won? What about Walker?

    Since 2007, the Heisman has undergone a major shift.

    That season brought the award’s first sophomore winner (Florida’s Tim Tebow), followed by the second in 2008 (Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford) and the third in 2009 (Alabama’s Mark Ingram). In 2012, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the award — albeit a redshirt freshman and not the youngest player to win the Heisman. That’s still Ingram, who won at age 19.

    And those are just the winners who have bucked Heisman tradition. Three defensive players have been Heisman finalists since 2009, and two of those — Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o and Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh — were purely defensive players.

    Related: Texas A&M team preview

    “Most of the barriers have been broken down,” Manziel says. “The way the award is set up, it’s more the most outstanding player in all of college football, whatever the situation. If people think you’re the best college football player that year, you deserve to win it, whether you play defense or whatever.”

    The mainstreaming of sophomores, freshmen and defensive players in the Heisman voting may have been tough to envision a decade ago.

    Just 10 years before Manziel (right) won the Heisman, the balloting was typical for the award most years. USC senior quarterback Carson Palmer won in 2002, a year when all of the top 10 vote-getters were either quarterbacks or running backs, seniors or juniors, with nine of them from power conferences. The only true outlier that season was Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich, who finished sixth.

    Since Palmer, only one senior — Ohio State’s Troy Smith in 2006 — has won the award. And now, the 2013 Heisman race opens with a handful of possibilities for rare and first-time achievements.

    Manziel has a chance to join Ohio State’s Archie Griffin (1974-75) as the only repeat winner in history. In theory, he’ll have three chances to join Griffin in elite company. However, after this season, Manziel will be eligible to leave school early for the NFL Draft.

    Manziel will be a contender in 2013, but to become a two-time winner he may have to beat out a defensive end. South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney is unquestionably the nation’s top defensive player and already appears to be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

    Related: South Carolina team preview

    In short, this isn’t your father’s Heisman.

    “There’s a clear demarcation from the Tebow point onward,” says Chris Huston, founder of HeismanPundit.com. “It doesn’t really matter if they are seniors or juniors or sophomores or freshmen. What wins out are these tremendous numbers.”

    If a defensive player is going to win the Heisman, though, the overwhelming numbers may be tough to acquire.

    Green has been beating the drum for a defensive player to win the award for several years. He begrudgingly latched onto Michigan’s Woodson, who played offense (17 total touches for 259 yards from scrimmage and three TDs) and returned punts (78-yard TD vs. Ohio State) in addition to excelling at cornerback (eight INTs).


     

    The former Pittsburgh lineman is convinced it will take a gargantuan statistical effort to overcome an offensive skill player.

    “This guy, to catch the eye of America, would have to have at least 17 or 18 sacks, five or six interceptions returned for touchdowns — something totally incredible. He’d have to totally dominate anything and everything he plays. …

    “He’d have to sack the quarterback and intercept him at the same time.”

    Clowney (right) would tend to agree. He was been touted as one of the best players in college football even before he landed at South Carolina. He was the consensus No. 1 recruit in the class of 2011 and earned SEC Freshman of the Year honors. As a sophomore, he was a first-team All-American and finished sixth in the Heisman voting.

    But even he concedes that the quarterbacks he’s bringing down have a better chance at the most coveted award in college sports.

    “That’s what the people like — touchdowns and more touchdowns,” Clowney says. “They don’t worry about the sacks and stuff. I guess they feel like offense is more of an individual side.”

    Ironically, the recent batch of defensive players to become Heisman finalists were contenders in the more traditional sense.

    Among Huston’s “10 Heismandments” are stipulations that an aspiring winner must put up good numbers in big games on TV, must have prior name recognition and must play for a title contender or a traditional power.

    None of those stipulations require a Heisman hopeful to be the best at his position or even the best player in his locker room.

    One could argue that neither Te’o nor LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu was the best defensive player on his own team the seasons they went to the Heisman ceremony. And does anyone remember that Suh was fourth in the Big 12 in sacks the year he was a finalist?

    Instead, voters gravitated to Te’o’s two interceptions in the Michigan game, Mathieu’s four defensive and special teams touchdowns, and Suh’s 4.5 sacks of Texas’ Colt McCoy in a Big 12 Championship Game loss.

    That’s why Clowney is the best defensive candidate for the award since Woodson.

    Related: Heisman contenders, challengers and longshots for 2013

    Anyone looking for a Heisman-type moment from Clowney just needs to do a quick YouTube or GIF search. Clowney’s finest play — his game-changing tackle and forced fumble of Michigan’s Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl — has been on a highlight reel since January.

    Name recognition? Check. Stats? Check. Game-turning plays in big games? Check.

    “He has as good as a setup for a defensive player as we’ve seen,” Huston says.

    But Clowney isn’t up against the Heisman field of a decade or so ago. He’s up against some of the most prolific quarterbacks in the history of the game.

    Huston, who has been studying Heisman trends since he worked in the USC athletic department when Palmer won the award, doesn’t attribute the change in voting trends to any new open-mindedness by voters. Instead, the numbers are impossible to ignore, he says. Huston describes the last six years as the rise of the Super Quarterback. The wide-spread use of spread offenses, the dual-threat quarterbacks excelling in these systems and the proof they can win at a championship level have changed voters’ ideas of the typical Heisman candidate.

    In a former era, Tebow’s bruising option attack, Bradford’s Air Raid approach, the track star ability of Baylor’s Robert Griffin III or Auburn’s Cam Newton, or Manziel’s improvisation would have been derided as a “system,” unworthy of the Heisman.

    But no matter the style, these offenses are run by great athletes who happen to play quarterback, and they’re the centerpieces of their offenses like never before.

    Each of the last five quarterbacks to win the Heisman since and including Tebow has topped at least 500 plays of total offense (carries plus pass attempts) in the years they won the Heisman. Manziel had 635 last season.

    Of the six quarterbacks to win the Heisman before 2007, only one topped 500 plays during his award-winning season.

    In addition, when spread quarterbacks compete for national championships or win in major conferences — rather than putting up numbers in Conference USA or the MAC — it’s that much tougher for a voter to write off a sophomore or a freshman who happens to be a so-called “system” quarterback.

    “It’s kind of overcome the usual biases that used to exist against freshmen or sophomores,” Huston says. “It was not an intentional change. It was structural. By the nature of college football, players need more time building name recognition. Now you have guys who are freshmen and sophomores doing all the things Manziel did. It’s easy to quickly gain notoriety.”

    Notoriety seems to be the key to a non-traditional candidate overcoming quarterbacks or running backs.

    Clowney has it. Te’o, Mathieu and Suh earned it.

    But what about offensive linemen? Have Heisman voters evolved to a point where linemen could become serious candidates?

    Prior to the season, a handful of columnists posed that question about Alabama’s Barrett Jones, who at the time was the most decorated offensive player for the Crimson Tide. During his career, he started at guard, tackle and center. He also followed one of Huston’s other Heismandments: He’s likable.

    If there were a perfect candidate to represent the offensive line in New York, it seemed to be Jones.

    Yet Jones was not one of the top 10 vote-getters in 2012.

    The last offensive lineman to make a serious push for the Heisman was Ohio State’s Orlando Pace, who finished fourth in 1996. It was the best finish for an offensive lineman since Buckeyes tackle John Hicks was the runner-up to Penn State’s John Cappelletti in 1973.

    Hicks, who blocked for Heisman winner Archie Griffin, says publicity will be the key for a lineman to win the award.

    “With the Ohio State publicity machine, if you have a great season here, you can win the Heisman here,” Hicks says. “Can a lineman win it? Sure. But he’s going to have be in the national conscience.”

    That’s a double-edged sword. Even if a lineman or a defensive player garners enough name recognition to get to New York through being on television and his highlights showing up on YouTube and social media, quarterbacks and running backs still have all those advantages, too.

    Plus every play of theirs is in the camera’s eye, and every stat readily accessible in a box score.

    “The problem with defensive players and linemen is the metrics,” Huston says. “The camera follows the ball. The people who argue on behalf (of linemen) tend to argue very nebulous things — they were triple-teamed half the season and things like that. If you look at a box score you don’t get tackle numbers, you don’t get pancakes.”

    But that’s the conventional wisdom. And if the last six seasons have proven anything, it’s that the conventional wisdom about the Heisman does not apply.

    In 2013, college football may be ready for another two-time Heisman winner. Or a full-time defensive player.

    “We’ll see,” Clowney says.

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