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All taxonomy terms: College Football, USC Trojans, Pac 12
Path: /college-football/ranking-toughest-games-uscs-college-football-schedule-2016

After a roller coaster of a season that had USC going through a coaching change, rebounding to win the Pac-12 South Division and finish with a loss to Wisconsin in the Holiday Bowl, the Trojans are hoping for some stability and a return to normalcy in 2016.


Clay Helton had the “interim” tag removed from his title right before USC played Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game. The 41-22 loss to the Cardinal and subsequent setback to the Badgers in the Holiday Bowl ended the Trojans’ season on a down note and it may be tough for Helton’s team to get off to a quick start this season.


Related: USC Trojans 2016 Football Schedule and Analysis


Faced with the toughest schedule in the nation, USC opens its 2016 campaign with an historic game against defending national champion Alabama at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The good news is that it can only get easier from there on in for the Trojans. With that in mind, here are USC's 12 regular season games ranked from easiest to most difficult.


12. Oct. 27 (Thursday) vs. Cal

With an out-of-conference slate already consisting of Alabama and Notre Dame, Cal moves into easiest game territory simply by virtue of “someone had to finish last.” While USC has a ridiculous win streak over the Bears dating back to the early 2000s, that’s not the sole reason Cal is in this spot. The Bears’ massive losses on offense, including No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick quarterback Jared Goff, will be hard to overcome and the Trojans will be motivated coming off a bye week.


11. Oct. 8 vs. Colorado

Colorado has slowly been improving over the past couple of years and 2015 was the surest sign of a team about to put things together. The Buffaloes wound up in a bunch of one-score games, where they had a legitimate chance to win at the end. Head coach Mike MacIntyre is entering his fourth season as and he will be expected to produce. The Buffalo are 10-27 during his tenure, but only 2-25 in Pac-12 play. If MacIntyre doesn’t start improving on his conference win total, he may not be around next season, but Colorado has looked much more disciplined and focused under his guidance. It’s only a matter of time before the Buffs start giving USC a run for its money.


10. Oct. 1 vs. Arizona State

Head coach Todd Graham has been tearing it up on the recruiting trail, but coming up short on the football field. Though the Sun Devils have found various ways to frustrate the Trojans in his tenure, the same could be said going the other way. The better team usually wins the game and USC will have the better roster of talent in 2016. Whether or not the Trojans can stay healthy is a different story.


9. Nov. 12 at Washington

The Huskies are still finding their feet under head coach Chris Petersen, but the end product is starting to look more and more consistent, reminiscent of what he had at Boise. Quarterback Jake Browning had one heck of a freshman campaign while Washington returns plenty of other key players and contributors.


8. Oct. 15 at Arizona

Rich Rodriguez made some changes to the Wildcats this offseason in an effort to seriously compete with the stronger defenses of the Pac-12. The result has produced improvement on the recruiting trail, but time will tell if new defensive coordinator Marcel Yates can couple that with on-field success.


7. Sept. 23 (Friday) at Utah

The Utes are always game and things get tricky when USC plays during the week and on the road. The big question mark for Utah is what the offense will look like without quarterback Travis Wilson at the helm. The Utes may also be the beneficiary of the body-blow theory by Bruce Feldman, which is the physical letdown that usually happens to teams following a matchup with Stanford. This game ends an extremely daunting September slate for USC with matchups against Alabama, Utah State and at Stanford preceding this trip to Salt Lake City.


6. Sept. 10 vs. Utah State

The Aggies played the Trojans close last time and they get the benefit of being sandwiched between Alabama and Stanford. The Trojans do get to play this game at home, but the Aggies have been to the Coliseum before and head coach Matt Wells isn’t afraid of a physical contest. If the Helton era happens to start unceremoniously, Utah State could find itself on the right side of a significant upset.


5. Sept. 17 at Stanford

The Cardinal have simply battered the Trojans the last couple times they have played. Running back Christian McCaffrey has enough tape of him running wild on USC alone to package up and send to an NFL scout. The Cardinal will show no mercy on the new USC offensive coordinator, as head coach David Shaw will be all too happy to put Tee Martin’s football IQ and adjustment strategies on notice.


4. Nov. 19 at UCLA

Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen had about as good of a freshman season as one can have short of winning a national title. He took home a host of accolades, but more importantly he proved that the preseason hype was warranted. Rosen’s abilities will only continue to grow as he matures and UCLA has done well to recruit skill position players around him. If Rosen doesn’t fall victim to the infamous sophomore slump, UCLA should be more than capable of handing USC its traditional loss at the Rose Bowl in the Jim Mora era.


3. Nov. 26 vs. Notre Dame

The work head coach Brian Kelly has done with Notre Dame is nothing short of impressive. After a shaky start because of some public comments, Kelly has settled in and become the next beloved figure to guide the Irish. Last season might have been his magnum opus with all the injuries the Irish faced. The Irish are a stout defensive team with an offensive system capable of putting USC on its heels. They’ve proven up to the task in a boat race and a war of attrition. This game has always been tough, but Kelly has reintroduced the physical mindset into Notre Dame’s personality.


2. Nov. 5 vs. Oregon

The Trojans get this one at home, but that hasn’t really hindered Oregon in its last two trips to the Coliseum. The Ducks are not afraid of the bright lights and could be competing for the national championship should transfer quarterback Dakota Prukop live up to expectations. Oregon is another team that reloads and a November run-in with the Trojans could look mighty good to the College Football Playoff Committee.


1. Sept. 3 vs. Alabama (Arlington, TX)

Playing the defending national champions is always daunting, but when it’s a team like Alabama, the task gets even harder. The Tide do not rebuild, they reload and this year is expected to be no different.


Fortunately for USC, its hardest game shouldn’t be its most costly game. Win or lose, the Trojans will have a quality name on their resume come Playoff selection time. USC would much rather have the win, however, as it is 2-5 all-time against Alabama.


— Written by Josh Webb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Webb is a recruiting analyst for BarkBoard, Scout’s Fresno State affiliate. A contributor to, Scout’s USC affiliate. He is also a regular guest and contributor for CFBHuddle. Follow him on Twitter @FightOnTwist.

Ranking the Toughest Games on USC's College Football Schedule in 2016
Post date: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/omaha-man-sue-nebraska-huskers-stop-release-balloons-home-football-games-memorial-stadium

It's been a long-standing tradition at Nebraska home football games for balloons to be released after the team's first score. One guy is trying to put a stop to that.


According to the Omaha World-Herald, a local man by the name of Randall S. Krause is suing the school to stop the balloons from being released because they are a threat to wildlife. His claim shows a balloon's effect on animals, but it doesn't directly tie those specific deaths to the Husker balloons.


"The mass release of Huskers balloons puts virtually all species of birds, turtles marine mammals and small animals ... in harm's way," the lawsuit states.


The suit also says children are in danger due to the balloons that land and become deflated, although it provides no example of this happening. 


"Children under 8 can choke or suffocate on deflated Husker balloons if they put them in their mouths."


Krause wants the court to declare the releasing of balloons illegal, although the school has been doing it since the 1950s. 

Post date: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - 10:47
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-quarterbacks-2016

The quarterback position in the Big Ten is filled with uncertainty in 2016. Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and Iowa’s C.J. Beathard are easily the league’s top options, but the question marks begin at No. 3. Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong takes the third spot in Athlon's early rankings for 2016, with Illinois’ Wes Lunt checking in at No. 4. Armstrong and Lunt have the potential to finish the end of the season in the top four, but it won’t be easy to hold off Michigan State’s Tyler O’Connor, Michigan’s John O’Korn or Wilton Speight, Minnesota’s Mitch Leidner and Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson. 


How do the new starters in the Big Ten project with Heisman Trophy candidate J.T. Barrett and Iowa's C.J. Beathard? Athlon has ranked all 14 starters for 2016.


To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2016. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2016 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the Big Ten for 2016.


Ranking the Big Ten's Quarterbacks for 2016


1. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior


Ohio State’s offense struggled to find its rhythm at times last season, but this unit took a step forward in the final two games, scoring 42 points against Michigan and 44 against Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. A big reason for the late-season improvement was Barrett’s return to the starting lineup over Cardale Jones. Barrett finished the year by recording 559 total yards in Ohio State’s last two games, giving him 1,674 total yards and 22 scores for the season. With Barrett a full year removed from his season-ending leg injury from 2014, and no quarterback controversy this spring, the junior should resemble the player that accumulated 3,772 total yards and 45 scores as a freshman.


Related: College Football's Top 20 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2016


2. C.J. Beathard, Iowa

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


Beathard was one of the Big Ten’s breakout players last season and a big reason why Iowa nearly won the conference title and claimed a College Football Playoff berth. In his first full year as the starter, Beathard threw for 2,809 yards and 17 touchdowns and added 237 yards and six scores on the ground. The Tennessee native was efficient (61.2 percent) but also connected on his share of big plays, completing eight passes of 40 yards or more.


3. Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


Armstrong had his share of ups and downs in his first season under Mike Riley. In 12 appearances last year, Armstrong threw for 3,030 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushed for 400 yards and seven scores. However, Armstrong needs to do a better job of eliminating turnovers and mistakes after tossing 16 interceptions last season. Additionally, increasing his completion percentage (55.2) would also help Nebraska’s offense take a step forward. Armstrong is one of the Big Ten’s most experienced quarterbacks returning in 2016 and is surrounded by one of the conference’s top receiving corps. 


Related: Big Ten's Top 10 Assistant Coach Hires for 2016


4. Wes Lunt, Illinois

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


New coach Lovie Smith has plenty of work to do on both sides of the ball to get Illinois into a bowl this year. But the first-year coach has a good foundation in place on offense with the return of Lunt under center. Lunt played in all 12 games last season after missing time due to a leg injury in 2014. In 12 games in 2015, Lunt threw for 2,761 yards and 14 scores and completed 56.1 percent of his passes. New coordinator Garrick McGee should help Lunt take a step forward in his last season in Champaign, but the offense suffered a setback when receiver Mike Dudek was lost for the year again to a torn ACL.


5. Tyler O’Connor, Michigan State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


Connor Cook leaves big shoes to fill in East Lansing, but the Spartans have two capable candidates competing for the starting job in Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry. This duo has already emerged in a tough spot for coach Mark Dantonio, as O’Connor and Terry shared snaps in Michigan State’s upset 17-14 win over Ohio State last year. O’Connor has completed 34 of 54 passes for 374 yards and four scores in his career and also possesses good mobility to add a running dimension under center. O’Connor is the favorite to start, but it’s also safe to assume Terry will see snaps in 2016.


Related: College Football's Top 30 Running Backs on the Rise for 2016


6. John O’Korn, Michigan

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior


O’Korn is penciled in here, but Wilton Speight made a push for the starting job at the end of spring. The battle to replace Jake Rudock under center for coach Jim Harbaugh is expected to continue deep into fall practice. O’Korn is eligible in 2016 after sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer rules. In two seasons at Houston, O’Korn threw for 4,068 yards and 34 scores. After a strong freshman campaign (3,117 yards and 28 touchdowns), O’Korn was benched after a slow start in his sophomore year and decided to transfer after the 2014 season.


7. Mitch Leidner, Minnesota

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


A foot injury limited Leidner in spring practice, but all signs point to the senior returning to full strength for fall workouts. The Minnesota native enters 2016 with 29 career starts and will be working under new play-caller Jay Johnson. Leidner posted career-best numbers in passing yards (2,701) and touchdowns (14) last season and added 270 yards and six scores on the ground. The senior has improved over the last three years and should have his best overall season in 2016.


8. Clayton Thorson, Northwestern

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


As expected, Thorson had his share of ups and downs in his first year as Northwestern’s starter. The redshirt freshman started all 13 games for the Wildcats and threw for 1,522 yards and seven scores, while adding 397 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Thorson was a four-star prospect coming out of high school and has the talent to emerge as one of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks over the next few years. The sophomore is a good runner but needs to take a step forward as a passer (50.8 completion percentage in 2015) to move higher on this list in 2016.


Related: Big Ten's Top 25 Draft Prospects for 2017


9. Trace McSorley, Penn State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


Penn State got an early glimpse of McSorley’s talent in the loss to Georgia in the TaxSlayer Bowl last season. After Christian Hackenberg was sidelined due to injury, McSorley completed 14 of 27 passes for 142 yards and two scores and ran for 31 yards on seven attempts against the Bulldogs. McSorley has never started a game and has only 40 career pass attempts entering 2016. He’s also working under new coordinator Joe Moorhead but is surrounded by a solid group of skill players, including running back Saquon Barkley and receiver Chris Godwin.


10. Bart Houston, Wisconsin

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


Houston waited his turn behind Joel Stave and is the favorite to take the first snap for the Badgers in 2016. The California native has barely played over the last three seasons but saw extended action against Illinois in 2015, completing 22 of 33 passes for 232 yards and two scores. While Houston has the edge in experience, he will be pushed for snaps by redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook. The battle between Houston and Hornibrook is expected to continue into the fall.


11. Richard Lagow, Indiana

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior


Lagow has big shoes to fill in replacing Nate Sudfeld in 2016. Sudfeld finished his Indiana career with the school record in passing yards and touchdowns and guided the program to a bowl trip last year. This will be Lagow’s third stop at a FBS program after starting his career at UConn, followed by a short stop at Oklahoma State before attending Cisco Community College. The 6-foot-6 passer has a transition period ahead as he adapts to the Big Ten. However, under Kevin Wilson’s watch, Indiana should find a way to get consistent production from its quarterbacks. 


Related: Big Ten's Top 10 Assistant Coach Hires for 2016


12. David Blough, Purdue

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


How’s this for uncertainty? A different quarterback has led Purdue in passing yards in each of the last eight years. Can Blough provide stability under center? After taking over the starting job from Austin Appleby last season, Blough threw for 1,574 yards and 10 touchdowns. Blough should show improvement as a sophomore, but he will face a challenge for the starting job from redshirt freshman Elijah Sindelar.


13. Chris Laviano, Rutgers

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


New coach Chris Ash made one of the Big Ten’s top assistant hires by tabbing Drew Mehringer to coordinate the offense in 2016. While Mehringer’s overall direction and scheme should benefit the Scarlet Knights, this unit won’t improve without better play from its quarterbacks. Laviano played in all 12 games (11 starts) last season and threw for 2,247 yards and 16 scores. However, he also tossed 12 picks and failed to eclipse more than 165 passing yards in five out of the last five games. Chase Rettig will push Laviano for the starting job once again in the fall.


14. Perry Hills, Maryland

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


Maryland quarterbacks tossed a whopping 29 interceptions and posted a dismal 47.2 completion percentage last year. Improvement should be noticeable under new coordinator Walt Bell in 2016, but can the Terrapins find a clear answer under center? Hills is the favorite to start after throwing for 1,001 yards and eight touchdowns and recording 535 yards and three scores on the ground. Maryland might not have an All-Big Ten quarterbacks this year, but Bell and the new coaching staff should get the offense moving in the right direction.

Ranking the Big Ten's Quarterbacks for 2016
Post date: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/five-american-athletic-conference-football-players-know-2016

The popularity and obsession of the big boys in college football - the Power 5 - has continued to rise. But there still are some very elite football players at the second tier of the FBS rankings - the Group of 5. The Group of 5 term refers to players from teams in the Mountain West, Conference USA, MAC, Sun Belt and American Athletic Conference. While the coverage and exposure for teams in these leagues has improved in recent years, plenty of the stars from the Group of 5 conferences fly under the radar each preseason. Who are the names to watch in 2016 as players on the rise in the Group of 5 rankings? Here are five names to know now that spring ball has finished across the nation:


Five AAC Football Players to Know for 2016


Marlon Mack, RB, South Florida

In just two seasons at USF, Mack already ranks second on the school's career all-time rushing yardage charts. He followed a touted freshman season – 1,041 yards and nine scores – with 1,381 yards and eight touchdowns in 2015. Coach Willie Taggart and the talented tailback have the offensive firepower to bring an AAC crown to Tampa.


Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

Standing at 6-foot-4, the prototypical wide out impressed many his redshirt freshman season. He tied Emmanuel Sanders - not a bad name to be mentioned with in the record book - for the school-record of most receiving touchdowns by a freshman with nine. Sutton also led the team in multiple categories: catches (49), receiving yards (862) and touchdowns caught (9). Expect offensive wizard coach Chad Morris to find more ways to get him the ball.  


Deyshawn Bond, C, Cincinnati

Ranked as the No. 6 center by CBS Sports for 2017 NFL prospects, Bond fits the mold to produce at a high level in the trenches. He was named to the Rimington Trophy Preseason Watch List for a second-straight season in 2015. The 6-foot-1, 291-pound linemen blocked for a Bearcats attack which ranked fifth nationally in total offense (559.4 ypg). Look for Bond to emerge as one of the AAC’s top offensive linemen in 2016.


Steven Taylor, OLB, Houston

Taylor earned second-team American Athletic all-conference honors and was one of only six Group of 5 players to record over 10 sacks last season. The Texas native filled the stat sheet as one of the leaders of Tom Herman’s defense, totaling 92 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, 12 hurries and a blocked kick. Herman and coordinator Todd Orlando will continue to look for ways to let Taylor shine on defense one last time in H-Town.


Jamar Summers, CB, UConn

Summers enjoyed a breakout season last year by showcasing his ball hawk ability with an AAC-best eight interceptions. For the second consecutive season, coordinator Anthony Poindexter has the best secondary in the conference. Led by Summers and hard-hitting safety Obi Melifonwu, they’ll strive to repeat leading the league in passing defense (189.3 ypg) and scoring defense (19.5 ppg). 


- Written by Lance Dozier

Five American Athletic Conference Football Players to Know for 2016
Post date: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/tracy-mcgrady-steph-curry-unanimous-mvp-vote-nba-watered-down-jump-espn-rachel-nichols

Tracy McGrady notices a difference in the league he once played in.


While on ESPN's "The Jump" he talked about Steph Curry's unanimous MVP, and mentioned the NBA is "watered down" these days.


"Think about when MJ played, Shaq, I mean those guys really played against top-notch competition," McGrady said. 


Post date: Tuesday, May 10, 2016 - 17:03
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/eli-manning-salsa-dance-victor-cruz-new-york-giants

Salsa is a harder dance than most. The optimum amount of rhythm is necessary in order to look good doing it.


Eli Manning decided to try the dance along with Victor Cruz, who's known for doing it after scoring a touchdown. The Giants quarterback's dance moves look exactly how one would expect. It's more of a two-step than a salsa but it's cool.


Post date: Tuesday, May 10, 2016 - 14:39
All taxonomy terms: BYU Cougars, College Football, Independents
Path: /college-football/top-byu-2017-nfl-draft-prospects-watch

BYU produced its third player in four years to go in the top 70 of the NFL Draft this year with defensive end Bronson Kaufusi being selected by the Baltimore Ravens early in the third round.


The Cougars have not had multiple picks in the draft since 2009. Next year’s draft may pose the greatest opportunity for BYU to get more than one Cougar star selected, as a handful of quality players will be eligible for the 2017 edition.


Power Five Conference 2017 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch
ACC I Big 12 I Big Ten I Pac-12 I SEC I Notre Dame I BYU


Here is an early projection for BYU’s top 2017 NFL Draft prospects (listed alphabetically):


Algie Brown, FB (Sr., 6-1, 245)

Last season, Brown was BYU’s feature running back. In 2016, Brown will take on more of a fullback role in new offensive coordinator Ty Detmer’s pro-style attack. Brown even acknowledged that he knew that if he wanted to play in the NFL he would need to make the switch to fullback. Brown scored 11 touchdowns last season.


Taysom Hill, QB (Sr., 6-2, 230)

Hill is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in college football when he’s healthy. The problem with Hill is that he hasn’t been healthy often. Hill has suffered season-ending injuries in three of the last four years. The other knock on Hill is that he is going to be turning 26 years old this August. Would an NFL team consider drafting a player that would be 27 before his first regular season game? If he wins the starting job this fall, he will be running a pro-style offense to prove he is more than just a running quarterback.


Harvey Langi, LB (Sr., 6-3, 249)

A transfer from Utah, Langi started his college career playing running back for the Utes, the same position where he became a four-star prospect at nearby Bingham High. Langi transferred to BYU after serving his LDS mission, and when he came to the Cougars he also switched to linebacker. Langi was a full-time starter last season, served as the anchor of BYU’s defense, and wound up being one of the Cougars’ better pass rushers. Langi is a good athlete, and he plays fast at his size.


Tanner Mangum, QB (So., 6-3, 215)

Despite being only a true sophomore, Mangum (above, right) is a draft-eligible prospect because he served an LDS mission for two years after high school. Mangum will be 23 years old this fall and by being an older prospect, the possibility of leaving school early isn’t far-fetched. But first, Mangum will need to beat out the aforementioned Taysom Hill for the starting quarterback job. If there were a quarterback to do it, Mangum would be that guy. In his first season playing college football, Mangum was one of the best freshmen in the country, throwing for 3,377 yards and 23 touchdowns.


Travis Tuiloma, DT (Sr., 6-2, 301)

As a 3-4 defensive tackle, you have to be really good at your job. Tuiloma does his job very well and he does it with very little fanfare. Tuiloma has been injury-prone the past few years, and when he is out, his absence has been noticeable. Tuiloma suffered injuries in the opener against Nebraska last year and the Las Vegas Bowl against Utah. Not surprisingly, in both games BYU’s defense struggled to get a push up front without him on the field. Tuiloma is expected to be ready for BYU when fall camp opens in August.


Jamaal Williams, RB (Sr., 6-2, 225)

Days before fall camp last year Williams withdrew from school for personal reasons. At that point, many wondered if Williams would ever wear a BYU jersey again. He’s now back, and from seeing him in spring practice, he’s looks better than ever. Williams has gained weight and is now playing at around 225 pounds.  With his weight gain, which is all muscle, Williams has the look of an NFL running back. He is 929 yards away from becoming BYU’s all-time leading rusher, and possibly the best part of Williams’ draft stock is that he will only be 22 years old by the time the 2017 draft comes around. This is a big deal considering the NFL continues to devalue the running back position more and more as each year passes.


— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is publisher of Rivals' BYU site,, and also is the BYU reporter and insider for 1320 KFAN and co-host of "The Cougar Center" podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.

Top BYU 2017 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch
Post date: Tuesday, May 10, 2016 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/mclovin-chris-mintz-plasse-frank-isola-new-york-daily-news-superbad-knicks-twitter

This is something you don't see everyday, but it's got social media in a mini-uproar.


Christopher Mintz-Plasse, the guy who played "McLovin" in the movie Superbad got into a bit of a twitter squabble with New York Daily News' Frank Isola, most-known for covering the Knicks. 


Surprisingly it all started when McLovin responded to a tweet that was almost a month old, and it was on from there.








Stay tuned for next weird sports Twitter battle. 

Post date: Tuesday, May 10, 2016 - 11:23
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12-coordinator-tandems-2016

Hiring a good staff of assistants and two coordinators capable of controlling their side of the ball in player development and scheme implementation is critical for any FBS head coach. While the head coach hire is the biggest and most important move for any program, good assistant coaches are often the unsung heroes in the overall success for every team.


With that in mind, Athlon Sports continues its countdown to the 2016 season with a look at some of the top coordinator tandems in the nation. The Big 12 features a couple of rising stars in the offensive coordinator ranks, including Baylor’s Kendal Briles and TCU’s Doug Meacham. On defense, West Virginia’s Tony Gibson and Texas Tech’s David Gibbs are two names to watch in 2016.


Ranking the coordinator tandems by conference isn’t easy. Considering there’s often overlap in which coach calls the plays and gets the coordinator designation, Athlon Sports is counting head coaches who control a specific side of the ball for a team. For example, Dana Holgorsen is West Virginia’s play-caller on offense, so he is considered the coordinator for the purpose of this article.


Ranking the Big 12's Coordinator Tandems for 2016
Rank Team   Offensive

Doug Meacham/

Sonny Cumbie

Chad Glasgow*

(Gary Patterson)

Picking TCU as the top coordinator tandem comes with an asterisk, as this takes into account Gary Patterson’s play-calling and design for the defense. Chad Glasgow is listed as the defensive coordinator, but Patterson is the architect on this side of the ball. Meacham’s hire has provided a huge boost for TCU’s offense. The Horned Frogs have ranked near the top of the Big 12 in scoring after finishing eighth in back-to-back years from 2012-13.

2 Oklahoma Lincoln Riley Mike Stoops

Bob Stoops’ decision to hire Lincoln Riley paid big dividends for Oklahoma’s offense last season. In Big 12-only matchups, the Sooners led the league by averaging 47.2 points a game. Riley’s arrival also bolstered the talents of quarterback Baker Mayfield within the team’s new offense. Mike Stoops returned to Oklahoma in 2012 after spending 2004-11 as Arizona’s head coach. He returned to Norman in 2012 and has called the defensive signals over the last four seasons. The Sooners led the Big 12 by holding opponents to 22 points a game last year. 

3 West Virginia

Joe Wickline*

(Dana Holgorsen)

Tony Gibson

Gibson might be one of the nation’s most underrated coordinators, as he’s played a key role in developing West Virginia’s defense over the last two years. The Mountaineers finished second in the Big 12 in scoring defense in 2015. Wickline is listed as the coordinator, but it’s no secret Dana Holgorsen calls the plays and designs the offensive scheme. Surprisingly, West Virginia has not finished higher than fifth in the Big 12 in scoring offense over the last three seasons.

4 Baylor Kendal Briles Phil Bennett

Briles is one of the rising stars in the assistant coach ranks. Despite injuries to Baylor’s top three quarterbacks last season, the Bears still finished 2015 by averaging 48.1 points a game. Bennett has nearly 40 years of experience at the FBS level and has helped the Bears take a step forward on defense over the last few seasons. Baylor led the Big 12 in fewest yards per play allowed (4.75) in 2013 and ranked third in the conference last year.

5 Oklahoma State Mike Yurcich Glenn Spencer

Spencer doesn’t get enough credit on the national level for his work with Oklahoma State’s defense. The Cowboys may give up some yards, but Spencer is focused on points per possession, forcing turnovers and getting timely stops. Yurcich has experienced his share of ups and downs as the play-caller. However, Oklahoma State is coming off its best season in yards per play (6.39) since 2012.

6 Kansas State

Dana Dimel/

Del Miller

Tom Hayes

Sixth might be a little low for this duo. It may not be pretty at times, but Miller and Dimel find a way to generate production on offense. Hayes is entering his 40th year in the coaching ranks and is regarded for his work with defensive backs. The Wildcats ranked inside of the top three in the Big 12 in scoring defense from 2012-14. 

7 Texas Sterlin Gilbert

Vance Bedford*

(Charlie Strong)

There’s a lot of pressure on Gilbert to turn around a Texas offense that has ranked near the bottom of the Big 12 in scoring in coach Charlie Strong’s two seasons. Gilbert did not call the plays at Tulsa last year, but the Texas native has worked under two outstanding offensive minds at previous stops – Art Briles (Baylor) and Dino Babers (Bowling Green). Bedford is listed as the coordinator, but this is Strong’s defense. The Longhorns ranked third in the Big 12 (conference-only games) by giving up 28.1 points a game last year.

8 Texas Tech

Eric Morris*

(Kliff Kingsbury)

David Gibbs

Gibbs was regarded as one of the nation’s top coordinator hires last offseason, but Texas Tech’s defense struggled mightily in 2015, surrendering 43.6 points a game. Most of the blame for last year’s problems aren’t due to Gibbs’ play-calling, and the Red Raiders could take a small step forward on defense this season. Morris is listed as the offensive coordinator, but coach Kliff Kingsbury is the play-caller.

9 Iowa State

Tom Manning/

Jim Hofher

Jon Heacock

Manning worked with new Iowa State coach Matt Campbell at Toledo from 2012-15 and was one of the top Group of 5 offensive line coaches during his stint with the Rockets. However, this is his first opportunity to call plays. Heacock also worked under Campbell at Toledo and made previous stops at Purdue, Indiana, Youngstown State and Kent State. Heacock should be a solid pickup for the Cyclones. 

10 Kansas

Rob Likens*

(David Beaty)

Kenny Perry/

Clint Bowen

Likens called the plays for the offense last season, but head coach David Beaty is taking over those duties for 2016. Bowen has the tough assignment of upgrading a defense that surrendered 46.1 points a game last year. The Jayhawks simply need more talent on that side of the ball.


Ranking the Big 12 Coordinator Tandems for 2016
Post date: Tuesday, May 10, 2016 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/bryce-harper-shouts-profanities-umpire-celebrating-washington-nationals-walk-off

It's pretty evident that Bryce Harper is serious about baseball.


After a walk-off home run, the Nationals slugger didn't hesitate to tell the umpire who ejected him earlier in the game just how he felt.


Spoiler alert: It wasn't very nice.


Post date: Tuesday, May 10, 2016 - 10:13
Path: /college-football/ranking-accs-quarterbacks-2016

Clemson’s Deshaun Watson is the easy pick as the ACC’s best quarterback for 2016, but the conference also features a handful of intriguing names to watch this fall. Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, Florida State’s Deondre Francois, Syracuse’s Eric Dungey and North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky are likely breakout candidates, and Miami’s Brad Kaaya should thrive under new coach Mark Richt. Additionally, Georgia Tech’s Justin Thomas is expected to rebound after a disappointing 2015 campaign, and Nathan Peterman returns after a solid debut as Pittsburgh’s starter. 


How do the new starters in the ACC project with Heisman Trophy candidate Deshaun Watson and rising star Lamar Jackson? Athlon has ranked all 14 starters for 2016.


To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2016. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2016 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the ACC for 2016.


Ranking the ACC's Quarterbacks for 2016


1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior


In his first full season as Clemson’s starter, Watson compiled one of the best individual seasons by a quarterback in recent memory. In 15 games, Watson threw for 4,104 yards and 35 touchdowns and added 1,105 yards and 12 scores on the ground. Watson finished third in the Heisman voting and was the first player in FBS history to record 4,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a single season.


Related: ACC's Top Draft Prospects for 2017


2. Brad Kaaya, Miami

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior


Kaaya already emerged as one of the ACC’s top quarterbacks over the last two seasons, but the junior is poised for a career year with new coach Mark Richt taking over as the play-caller in 2016. Kaaya enters 2016 with 6,436 career passing yards and 42 touchdowns and tossed only five picks on 389 attempts last season. The junior is also generating plenty of buzz among NFL scouts and early draft rankings as a potential first-round pick next April. 


3. Lamar Jackson, Louisville

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


Jackson is one of college football’s top quarterbacks on the rise for 2016. As a true freshman last fall, the Florida native started eight games at quarterback last year and finished 2015 with 1,840 yards and 12 passing touchdowns and added 960 yards and 11 scores on the ground. Jackson is still developing as a passer, but he’s a dynamic playmaker with his legs and capable of eclipsing 1,000 rushing yards with a full season of snaps. Additionally, with an offseason to work under coach Bobby Petrino, Jackson should improve as a passer and emerge as one of the ACC’s top quarterbacks for 2016.


Related: College Football's Top 20 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2016


4. Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior


The Tar Heels must replace second-team All-ACC quarterback Marquise Williams, but the offense won’t miss a beat behind Trubisky. The junior has played well in limited action, completing 40 of 47 passes for 555 yards and six touchdowns last season. Trubisky may not be as elusive as Williams in the running game, but he rushed for 101 yards and three scores on 16 attempts last year. North Carolina’s quarterback position is in good hands with Trubisky.  


5. Deondre Francois, Florida State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Redshirt Freshman


With Sean Maguire sidelined due to an ankle injury, Francois and true freshman Malik Henry staked their claim for the starting job in spring practice. Even though Maguire is technically the returning starter under center, it won't be easy for him to keep the job with two talented passers pushing for the No. 1 spot. Francois ranked as the No. 64 overall prospect in the 2015 signing class and used his first year on campus as a redshirt season. The Florida native concluded spring practice by completing 20 of 33 passes for 246 yards and two scores in the Garnet and Gold Game. If Francois hasn’t already earned the starting nod, he should unseat Maguire for the No. 1 job by the end of fall practice.


6. Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


Thomas earned second-team All-ACC honors in 2014 but struggled to get on track last season. The Alabama native isn’t solely to blame for Georgia Tech’s regression on offense, as a revamped supporting cast and a shaky offensive line played a big role in limiting the Yellow Jackets to just 23.5 points in ACC contests in 2015. In 12 contests last year, Thomas rushed for 488 yards and six touchdowns and passed for 1,345 yards and 13 scores. While Thomas may not rebound to All-ACC status in 2016, the senior should return closer to his 2014 form – 2,805 total yards and 26 overall scores.


Related: College Football's Top 30 Running Backs on the Rise for 2016


7. Nathan Peterman, Pittsburgh

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


Chad Voytik opened 2015 atop the quarterback depth chart for coach Pat Narduzzi, but the job changed hands early in the year, as Peterman emerged as Pittsburgh’s No. 1 quarterback after transferring from Tennessee. Peterman started the final 11 games for the Panthers and ended the season with 2,287 passing yards and 20 touchdowns. The Florida native also ranked second among ACC quarterbacks by completing 61.5 percent of his passes. Peterman should be better in his second year as Pittsburgh’s starter, but the senior must find a new go-to receiver after Tyler Boyd left for the NFL. 


8. Eric Dungey, Syracuse

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


New coach Dino Babers should make an immediate impact on Syracuse’s offense. Babers was regarded as one of the top Group of 5 coaches over the last two seasons and produced high-scoring attacks at Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green. The pairing of Babers and Dungey should be a good match for the Orange over the next couple of years. Dungey showed promise in eight games last season, throwing for 1,298 yards and 11 touchdowns. Transitioning to a new offense isn’t easy, but Dungey has the talent and coaching behind him to produce big numbers in Babers’ high-powered attack.


9. Matt Johns, Virginia

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


Even though Johns started all 12 games for Virginia last season, the senior will have to fight for the starting job in the fall. At the conclusion of spring ball, East Carolina quarterback Kurt Benkert announced his intention to transfer as a graduate student to Virginia for the 2016 season. With Benkert eligible immediately, Johns will face competition for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. Johns threw for 2,810 yards and 20 scores for the Cavaliers last year.


Related: Ranking and Grading the New Coach Hires for 2016


10. Patrick Towles, Boston College

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


The final statistics on Boston College’s 2015 offensive production wasn’t pretty. The Eagles managed only 9.1 points in ACC contests and averaged 4.4 yards per play over 12 games. Injuries were largely to blame for the lackluster production, but with a healthy depth chart returning, expect this unit to rebound in 2016. Towles transferred to Boston College as a graduate student and is eligible to play immediately. Towles threw for 5,099 yards and 24 scores in three seasons at Kentucky and also showcased his mobility by adding 305 rushing yards and six touchdowns in 2014.


11. Jerod Evans, Virginia Tech

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior


Even though Virginia Tech enters the season with uncertainty at quarterback, it’s safe to assume new coach Justin Fuente will find the right answer early in the year. Fuente played a key role in developing Andy Dalton at TCU and also transformed Memphis’ Paxton Lynch into a first-round selection in the 2016 draft. Evans was regarded as one of the top junior college quarterbacks in the 2016 signing class and was recruited by Fuente to Blacksburg. He’s the favorite to take the first snap in 2016, with Brenden Motley No. 2 on the depth chart exiting spring ball.


12. Jalan McClendon, NC State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


Jacoby Brissett leaves big shoes to fill in Raleigh, but the Wolfpack have an intriguing option in McClendon waiting to take over in 2016. McClendon was regarded as a four-star recruit in the 2014 signing class and used his first year on campus as a redshirt season. The Charlotte native worked as Brissett’s backup in 2015 and received only a handful of snaps. In seven games, McClendon completed 8 of 14 throws for 69 yards. McClendon could be one of the ACC’s breakout candidates at quarterback for 2016.


13. John Wolford, Wake Forest

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior


Wolford gets the nod as the starter here, but sophomore Kendall Hinton is also in the mix. Regardless of which quarterback earns the top spot, coach Dave Clawson has two proven options that can help Wake Forest take a step forward in the win column for 2016. Wolford was tossed into the fire as a true freshman in 2014 and has passed for 3,828 yards and 21 scores over the last two years. Hinton brings more mobility to the offense but completed only 52.2 percent of his throws in 10 appearances last season.


14. Parker Boehme, Duke

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior


Let’s put an asterisk by this selection. Duke’s quarterback situation is a mystery going into the summer, as starter Thomas Sirk is recovering from an Achilles injury and may not return in time for the start of the 2016 season. If Sirk doesn’t return, Boehme is slated to become the No. 1 quarterback for coach David Cutcliffe. Boehme played in 10 games last year, throwing for 579 yards and two scores on 43 completions. He also added 181 yards and five rushing touchdowns in 2015. 

Ranking the ACC's Quarterbacks for 2016
Post date: Tuesday, May 10, 2016 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/five-mac-football-players-know-2016

The popularity and obsession of the big boys in college football - the Power 5 - has continued to rise. But there still are some very elite football players at the second tier of the FBS rankings - the Group of 5. The Group of 5 term refers to players from teams in the Mountain West, Conference USA, MAC, Sun Belt and American Athletic Conference. While the coverage and exposure for teams in these leagues has improved in recent years, plenty of the stars from the Group of 5 conferences fly under the radar each preseason. Who are the names to watch in 2016 as players on the rise in the Group of 5 rankings? Here are five names to know now that spring ball has finished across the nation:

Five MAC Football Players to Know for 2016


Cooper Rush, QB, Central Michigan

After throwing for 25 touchdowns, 3,848 yards and completing 66 percent of his passes last fall, expectations are high for Rush to lead the Chippewas. He enters 2016 on pace to throw over 10,000 yards for his career, and does a tremendous job of spreading the ball around by having five receivers accumulate over 500 receiving yards last season. Four of those five playmakers return, making it seem that Rush will have another monster year.


Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan

The former freshman All-American sure has lived up to the hype since 2013. Davis is the active leading receiver in FBS with 33 career receiving touchdowns and should only increase his targets after All-MAC WR and teammate Daniel Braverman left for the NFL. Also getting back QB Zach Terrell for another year won’t hurt either.


Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo

With two wins over Power 5 teams last year - Arkansas and Iowa State - the Rockets are hungry for more in 2016. They are led by second team all-conference back Kareem Hunt, who rushed for 999 yards despite missing three games to a hamstring injury. The Ohio native has topped the 100-yard rushing mark 21 times in his impressive career. Hunt will eclipse over 4,000 career rushing yards this season and he’s ready to empower “Justice League” to new heights.


Jamal Marcus, DE, Akron

Marcus, an Ohio State transfer, has brought his big-play ability to Akron and it has translated quite well for coach Terry Bowden's defense. Last year he racked up 30 tackles (12.5 tackles for a loss), 5.5 sacks, 12 hurries, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. Marcus was a big reason why the Zips ranked third nationally against the run. Expect him to push for All-MAC honors in 2016.


Shawun Lurry, CB, Northern Illinois

Lurry is certainly a known commodity to most around the MAC, but the Florida native deserves more attention on the national level. There aren’t a lot of corners who can cover top receivers on an island, but the 5-foot-8 standout certainly can. After leading the nation in interceptions and having five games in a row with a pick last year, look for Lurry to contend for the Jim Thorpe award this season.


- Written by Lance Dozier

Five MAC Football Players to Know for 2016
Post date: Tuesday, May 10, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/ray-lewis-cris-carter-espn-randy-moss-join-nfl-countdown-mike-ditka-sean-mcdonough-monday-night

More shakeups are heading to ESPN.


The worldwide leader is getting rid of longtime NFL Countdown personality Cris Carter along with Ray Lewis. Mike Ditka is already out and that leaves the countdown crew with a whole new look for next season. It's rumored ESPN will bring legendary wide receiver Randy Moss over from his Fox Sports job.


Many speculated about Lewis' absence from ESPN's NFL Draft coverage, and it turns out the suspicions were correct. The network has quietly tried to phase him out in recent weeks.


Get ready for brand new coverage of the NFL from Bristol, including Sean McDonough to the Monday Night Football booth.

Post date: Monday, May 9, 2016 - 16:28
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/fox-sports-deletes-espn-analyst-jessica-mendoza-mike-north-mlb-announcer

It's rare to see a sports media company go after another so directly.


In a post that has since been deleted, Fox Sports used the headline, "Mike North: Jessica Mendoza is the worst announcer in baseball" to discuss ESPN's MLB commentator. To see the cached version, click here.


"Jessica Mendoza is the worst baseball announcer who has ever announced the game of baseball," Mike North says. "Now if you want to call me sexist go ahead, but I'm an observer and I've been observing and listening to baseball announcer for 20, 30, 40, 50 years."


Whether you agree with North or not, you have to admit that naming all the females he likes before mentioning one you don't raises more eyebrows than if he would've given his opinion straight up.

Post date: Monday, May 9, 2016 - 14:26
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/curt-schilling-rips-espn-dan-patrick-show-bigoted-intolerant-fired-mlb-analyst

Curt Schilling isn't handling his exit from ESPN well.


On Monday's "Dan Patrick Show," the former analyst spills the beans on his former employer and how the worldwide leader is being selective in how it handles certain employees. Schilling says ESPN favors those who are democrats, and wouldn't reprimand them the same way he was.


"The only irony in all this, for me, is that a company that is outwardly bigoted and intolerant is calling itself inclusive," Schilling said. 


Post date: Monday, May 9, 2016 - 13:02
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/wheelchair-basketball-game-ends-fan-brawl-turkey-bats-knives-eurocup

A wheelchair basketball game turned into something completely unexpected in Turkey.


During an IWBF Eurocup game some fans armed with bats and knives partook in a brawl. Though there were no serious injuries, police said the game had to be abandoned due to the violent nature of the fans. Seven fans were taken to the hospital, and six were released after treatment. No word on a make-up date for the game.


Post date: Monday, May 9, 2016 - 12:28
All taxonomy terms: Chicago Cubs, MLB
Path: /mlb/10-amazing-statistics-about-chicago-cubs-historic-start

Could 2016 finally be the Chicago Cubs’ year? The World Series is still five months away, but five weeks into the season the Cubs are clearly baseball’s best team.


After beating Washington 4-3 in 13 innings on Sunday, the Cubs extended their winning streak to seven and entered Monday night’s home game against San Diego with an MLB-best 24-6 record. That’s the best in franchise history since the 1907 team also got out to a 24-6 start. That year, the Cubs won the World Series, something they did again the following year. Since 1908, however, the Cubs have not won the Fall Classic.


But after making it to the NLCS last year and given how dominant this team has looked at times in the early going, could the longest championship drought in North American sports come to an end this October? Here are 10 statistics that should give all Cubs fans hope, even if it is only the second week of May.



The Cubs’ major league-leading run differential, a category that they lead by a whopping 58 runs. Chicago has scored the most (184) while giving up the fewest (82) runs entering Monday’s games. The New York Mets (+44) are second, while two teams (Atlanta and New York Yankees) have scored fewer runs than the Cubs have outscored their opponents. In fact, on Saturday the Cubs became the second-fastest team in major league history (since at least 1900) to reach plus-100 in run differential, according to Sportsnet Stats. The only team to do it faster was the 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates, who needed just 26 games.



The Cubs’ run differential on the road. They are 13-3 away from Wrigley Field, having scored 110 runs (6.9 per game) and giving up 40. Outside of losing 13-5 to Cincinnati on April 23, the Cubs other two road losses this season have come by two runs (at St. Louis, April 20) and one run (at Arizona, April 8).


The Cubs have already won 13 games by five or more runs. That’s more blowout victories than four teams (Atlanta, Minnesota, New York Yankees, Houston) have entering Monday and the same number of total wins that four other teams have. Chicago has 17 wins by four or more runs. Only eight teams have more total wins to this point.



It’s early, but Chicago is dominating its NL Central counterparts. Not only have the Cubs lost just twice in 15 games in divisional play, they have outscored the four teams 101-36. Cincinnati (6-1 record against) is the only team Chicago has faced twice, but the Cubs are 5-1 in the early going against Pittsburgh and St. Louis, the two teams they beat in last year’s playoffs before getting swept by the New York Mets in the NLCS.



Even though the Cubs are eighth in team batting average at .263, they lead baseball with a .368 on-base percentage. This is fueled by an MLB-best 156 walks, which is 26 more than the next team (San Francisco). Chicago hitters have drawn nearly nice twice as many walks as the pitching staff has allowed (88).



Dexter Fowler, who signed a one-year deal to return to the Cubs at the start of spring training, is leading baseball with a .462 on-base percentage. He also is tied for seventh in batting average (.340), tied for sixth in runs (24), already has 17 RBIs (fifth on the team), six stolen bases and has nearly as many walks (21) as strikeouts (26).



As good as the Cubs have been scoring runs, the scary thought is there’s room for improvement. As a team, the Cubs are batting just .248 with runners in scoring position, which places them 20th in the majors entering Monday. The hitters are still producing (MLB-best 146 runs) in these situations, and that’s despite the fact that guys like Jason Heyward (.229 average) and Ben Zobrist (.233) have struggled in the early going. Just imagine what this offense can do when everyone is clicking, especially when the wind is blowing out at Wrigley Field.


Related: Ranking the Best and Worst MLB Ballparks



Manager Joe Maddon has pointed out on several occasions that pitching is just as important to the Cubs’ run differential as the offense has been. The Cubs’ major-league leading team ERA of 2.48 is just one of several categories the pitching staff currently is No. 1 in. It also leads the way in WHIP (1.03), batting average against (.201), hits allowed (194) and opponents’ OPS (.586).



The Cubs are currently tied for fourth in the majors in quality starts with 21, but Maddon has gotten quality innings from his starter every time out. In 30 games the shortest outing of any Chicago starting pitcher has been five innings. For the season, the Cubs’ rotation of Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks is No. 1 in MLB with a 2.26 collective ERA and .209 batting average against while compiling a 19-4 record.


81 1/3

Because of the great work from the starters, the Cubs’ bullpen has only pitched 81 1/3 innings. That’s tied with Toronto for the fewest in baseball entering Monday’s games. Chicago relievers have done a pretty good job thus far, posting a collective ERA of 2.99 (seventh among bullpens) and holding opponents to a .184 batting average (second). The bullpen’s WHIP is just 1.06 and the relief corps is averaging an impressive 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings.

10 Amazing Statistics About the Chicago Cubs’ Historic Start
Post date: Monday, May 9, 2016 - 11:45
Path: /college-football/ncaa-helps-open-flood-gates-growth-nebraska-cornhuskers-future

When Nebraska secures a new football commitment, you’ll see Husker fans cheer across social media. A hefty amount of talent from all over is signing up to play for Mike Riley, but the NCAA recently did Nebraska perhaps the biggest favor it ever could in regards to recruiting.


Starting Aug. 1, schools are able to pick up the tab for a recruit and two parents or guardians to visit. With this ruling, the NCAA has given the thumbs up for Nebraska’s staff to roll out the red carpet not only for its athletic targets, but also for the people closest to them and quite possibly the ones that will ultimately help these recruits make their decision. Why is this so big?


While seeing the academic and athletic sides of what the Cornhuskers have to offer a prospect as a person and a player, one of Nebraska’s biggest recruiting assets will be on display for many who’d normally never be able to see it: the fans.


Two parents of current Huskers—one that prefers to remain anonymous and the other, Kim Westerkamp, mother of senior sensation wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp—were warmly welcomed by residents of the state.


“Lincoln was the only official visit where people ‘on the street’ knew who he was,” said the anonymous parent. “Strangers stopped us in restaurants or approached at breakfast in the hotel to say, ‘Welcome to Nebraska, we hope you like it here.’ And it wasn’t in a stalkerish, weird way, but in a genuine ‘welcoming’ way.”


Kim Westerkamp had a similar experience. “Jordan started being recruited by Nebraska as a sophomore," she said. "Everywhere we went in Lincoln, everyone we ran into was just truly genuinely nice. Six years ago when nobody knew who me and Bob (Westerkamp) were, they were just genuinely nice and that was just huge... When we went to the university, when we went to the hotel, went we went to the restaurant, the McDonald’s drive-thru, somebody passes by you and says, ‘Hi, have a good day!’ Simple, little things.”


There’s that word again: genuine. Both parents agreed that the fans and their fervor for the Big Red is a major influence in a recruit’s decision. Four-star wide receiver and legacy recruit Keyshawn Johnson Jr. can attest to that.


“They have these things that say, ‘Through these gates pass the greatest fans in college football’ and I couldn’t agree more," said Johnson. "I feel that the Cornhuskers have probably the best fan base in America when it comes to college football. I feel a lot of love from them."


You can understand how important it is for Nebraska’s staff to have that sincerely pleasant demeanor on display as much as possible if a young man’s going to spend his most formidable years in the Cornhusker State.


Now that the NCAA says that schools can welcome parents and guardians with open arms, expect the Huskers to take full advantage of the new rules now that money isn’t an obstacle.


“Can I get back the thousands of dollars we spent?” asked the anonymous parent. “(Kids of lesser means) rarely had a parent at the visit. Even if you book early, a cross country ticket is $400-$500. Not everyone can afford that.


"We went because we wanted to see where our son might end up living, playing, etc. But in general with any big decision (car purchase, etc.), you want a second or third set of ears. Different people remember and interpret things differently and it's good to have mom and dad's perspective/input after a visit.”


Kim Westerkamp was vehement that the NCAA’s decision was a long time coming.


“Parents coming with (recruits), guardians coming with them, it should’ve been like that all along," she said. "How can you send a 17-year-old kid (to a school), have them come home and expect them to tell you about it and you make a decision?”


Johnson can affirm that it was a boon for his mother to finally see what Nebraska can offer for herself.


“When she finally got to see it, she fell in love with the Life Skills program and stuff like that. To have both of your parents’ perception of the school, them getting a free trip just like the athletes, because they put in as much work as I do, it’s pretty cool,” he said.


A scarlet and cream cookie bouquet should be sent to the NCAA offices. While Nebraska must work hard to catch up to the Alabamas and Ohio States of the world, this ruling helps perhaps no one more than the Cornhuskers.


— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to like his Facebook page follow him on Twitter (@eightlaces) and on Periscope (eightlaces).

NCAA Helps Open Flood Gates for Growth of Nebraska Cornhuskers’ Future
Post date: Monday, May 9, 2016 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/canadians-upset-dwyane-wade-shooting-during-national-anthem-miami-heat-canada-toronto-raptors

Basketball players have to respect the national anthem, even if it isn't their own.


Dwyane Wade is catching heat from Canadian fans after shooting around during the country's anthem. Players and coaches are supposed to stand and observe during the anthems.



People took immediate notice of the Heat star's actions.




Wade issued a statement about the incident, stating that disrespect was not his intention.


"It's something that I do before every game that I prepare for, and I've been doing it my whole career," Wade told ESPN. "So I understand whatever is said from that standpoint, but I'm not a disrespectful person. So if anybody thinks I'm being disrespectful towards a country, then they have no idea of who Dwyane Wade is."


Toronto politician Norm Kelly had an interesting idea for the next game.


Post date: Monday, May 9, 2016 - 10:18
Path: /college-football/ranking-secs-quarterbacks-2016

Spring practice has finished for all 14 SEC teams, but the question marks at quarterback for most of the league will continue into the fall. Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly and Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs are easily the top returning quarterbacks in the league, with LSU’s Brandon Harris, Texas A&M’s Trevor Knight and Georgia’s Jacob Eason in the next group. Cooper Bateman holds a slight edge at Alabama, but Blake Barnett and David Cornwell will continue to push for the starting job. The question marks under center continue with new starters at Florida, Mississippi State, Auburn and South Carolina. 


How do the new starters in the SEC project with proven options like Dobbs and Kelly? Athlon has ranked all 14 starters for 2016.


To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2016. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2016 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the SEC for 2016.


Ranking the SEC’s Quarterbacks for 2016


1. Chad Kelly, Ole Miss

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


Uncertainty is the word that comes to mind when ranking the SEC quarterbacks for 2016. However, there’s no doubt which signal-caller ranks No. 1. In his first year with the Rebels, Chad Kelly threw for 4,042 yards and 31 scores and earned second-team All-SEC honors by the Associated Press. Kelly also completed 65.1 percent of his passes and connected on eight plays of 50 yards or more. Even though standout receiver Laquon Treadwell is off to the NFL, Kelly should have another All-SEC caliber season and finish 2016 as the league’s No. 1 quarterback.


Related: SEC's Top 25 NFL Draft Prospects for 2017


2. Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


The stock on Dobbs’ career is trending up entering 2016. The Georgia native led all SEC quarterbacks by rushing for 671 yards last season and threw for 2,291 yards and 15 scores in 13 starts. Dobbs also produced one of the SEC’s top individual performances from last season, accounting for 430 total yards and five scores in a 38-31 win over Georgia. Tennessee needs to stretch the field more with its passing attack in 2016, but with an improved group of receivers and Dobbs’ development over the last three years, this offense should easily rank among the best in the SEC.


3. Brandon Harris, LSU

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior


Ranking Harris at No. 3 shows how thin the SEC is at quarterback entering the 2016 season. In his first full season as a starter in 2015, Harris completed 53.6 percent of his throws for 2,158 yards and 13 scores. He also added 226 yards and four rushing touchdowns. Harris quietly connected on seven passes of 50 yards or more, which tied for third among SEC quarterbacks last year. While Harris still has a lot to prove, he’s surrounded by a good supporting cast and now has a full season of starts under his belt. Slight improvement out of the passing game could be enough to help LSU push Alabama in the SEC West.


4. Trevor Knight, Texas A&M

2016 Year of Eligibility: Senior


Knight’s decision to transfer to Texas A&M was a huge boost to a program that lost Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen to transfer prior to the Music City Bowl. Knight started 15 games over three years at Oklahoma, accounting for 4,277 total yards and 33 overall scores. The Aggies have a strong supporting cast in place, starting with one of the SEC’s top receiving corps and an intriguing transfer at running back in Keith Ford. Texas A&M doesn’t need Knight to be prolific, but his experience and ability to make plays with his legs should provide stability for the offense.


Related: The SEC's Top 15 Assistant Coach Hires for 2016


5. Jacob Eason, Georgia

2016 Year of Eligibility: Freshman


It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Eason rank a few spots higher on this list by the end of 2016. The Washington native ranked as the No. 5 overall prospect in the 2016 247Sports Composite and was regarded as a five-star recruit. Eason enrolled in time to compete in spring workouts and had a strong showing in the G-Day game, completing 19 of 29 passes for 244 yards and one score. Talent certainly isn’t the issue for Eason. However, will coach Kirby Smart start Brice Ramsey or Greyson Lambert early in the year while Eason gains experience?


6. Cooper Bateman, Alabama

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior


It’s hard to get a good read on Alabama’s quarterback situation, but Bateman seemed to have an edge over David Cornwell and Blake Barnett exiting spring ball. The junior has the most experience of the candidates vying for the starting job and completed 37 of 52 throws for 291 yards and one score last season. Bateman also started one game (Ole Miss) in 2015. Even though there is some uncertainty here as to the projected starter, Alabama should be fine at quarterback. 


7. Austin Allen, Arkansas

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior


Bret Bielema’s decision to hire Dan Enos as the Razorbacks’ coordinator paid huge dividends last season. Arkansas led the SEC (conference-only games) by averaging 34.4 points a game and generated 6.83 yards per play. However, Enos has some renovating to do this offseason, as quarterback Brandon Allen, tight end Hunter Henry, running back Alex Collins and standout linemen Sebastian Tretola and Denver Kirkland must be replaced. Austin Allen – Brandon’s brother – is expected to take over under center in 2016. Austin has attempted only 19 passes over the last two years, but the guess here is Enos and Bielema will get steady play from the Fayetteville native in 2016.


Related: College Football's Top 20 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2016


8. Luke Del Rio, Florida

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


Will Grier’s suspension derailed Florida’s offense last season, as the Gators only eclipsed more than 200 passing yards once over the final seven games. Treon Harris started the final eight contests under center but is expected to move to wide receiver in 2016. With Harris changing positions, Del Rio, Purdue graduate transfer Austin Appleby and freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask battled for the starting job in spring ball. Del Rio – a transfer from Oregon State – seemed to take control of the No. 1 spot during spring practice and should bring stability to the quarterback position for McElwain.  


9. Drew Barker, Kentucky

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


It’s no secret Kentucky’s hopes of reaching a bowl in 2016 could rest on the development of Barker under new coordinator Eddie Gran. Barker was a four-star recruit in the Wildcats’ 2014 class and received his first extended action last season. The Kentucky native completed 35 of 70 passes for 364 yards and one score in five games but never eclipsed more than 130 passing yards in a single contest. Barker was a four-star prospect coming out of high school, and it’s up to Gran to mold the sophomore into a consistent quarterback to improve an offense that managed 17.5 points in SEC games last year.


10. Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


Replacing arguably the best player in school history (Dak Prescott) won’t be easy. However, coach Dan Mullen has some intriguing options vying for the starting job. Damian Williams is back after a redshirt year, while Nick Fitzgerald and Elijah Staley are promising sophomores who gained experience in limited action in 2015. Fitzgerald completed 11 of 14 passes for 235 yards and three scores last season. The 6-foot-5, 227-pound Georgia native is a slight favorite to take the first snap in 2016.


Related: The SEC's Top 15 Assistant Coach Hires for 2016


11. Brandon McIlwain, South Carolina

2016 Year of Eligibility: Freshman


Will the Gamecocks turn to a former walk-on (Perry Orth) or hand the reins to top recruit Brandon McIlwain? Orth threw for 1,929 yards and 12 scores in 12 appearances last season and was expected to finish spring at the top of the depth chart. However, he missed part of spring practice due to a broken collarbone, allowing McIlwain to state his case for the starting job. The talented freshman completed 19 of 26 passes for 169 yards and two scores in South Carolina’s spring game.


12. John Franklin, Auburn

2016 Year of Eligibility: Junior


Franklin is penciled in here, but Sean White and Jeremy Johnson remain in the mix for the starting spot. Regardless of which quarterback gets the nod under center, Auburn needs big-time improvement from its offense. In SEC games last year, the Tigers averaged only 22.1 points a game. Franklin is still developing as a passer, but the former Florida State quarterback is the team’s most-dynamic option under center. At East Mississippi Community College in 2015, Franklin rushed for 451 yards and nine touchdowns, while throwing for 733 yards and seven scores.


13. Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason removed Shurmur’s redshirt midway through 2015, which allowed the Pennsylvania native to gain valuable experience for 2016. In five appearances, Shurmur threw for 503 yards and five touchdowns and completed 42.7 percent of his passes. While Shurmur has room to improve, he also needs more help from the supporting cast. The good news? Vanderbilt has help coming in the form of lineman Andrew Jelks and receiver C.J. Duncan after both missed 2015 due to injury.


14. Drew Lock, Missouri

2016 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


Missouri’s offense struggled mightily last season by averaging only 9.1 points in SEC contests. New coordinator Josh Heupel is tasked with improving this unit, but question marks remain at several positions exiting spring ball. Lock was pressed into action as a true freshman last year and threw for 1,332 yards and four scores. He also tossed eight picks and completed only 49 percent of his throws. Lock should be better in his second season as the starter. However, he needs more help from the supporting cast to rank higher on this list.

Ranking the SEC's Quarterbacks for 2016
Post date: Monday, May 9, 2016 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/five-group-5-players-know-2016

The popularity and obsession of the big boys in college football - the Power 5 - has continued to rise. But there still are some very elite football players at the second tier of the FBS rankings - the Group of 5. The Group of 5 term refers to players from teams in the Mountain West, Conference USA, MAC, Sun Belt and American Athletic Conference. While the coverage and exposure for teams in these leagues has improved in recent years, plenty of the stars from the Group of 5 conferences fly under the radar each preseason. Who are the names to watch in 2016 as players on the rise in the Group of 5 rankings? Here are five names to know now that spring ball has finished across the nation:


Five Group of 5 Players to Know for 2016


Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State

The Las Vegas native considered an early departure to the NFL but decided to lead the Aztecs for one more season. Pumphrey, the reigning Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, can do it all by leading the team in rushing and receiving- not to mention throwing a touchdown in San Diego State’s 42-7 bowl victory over Cincinnati. The all-purpose superstar looks to carry that momentum into 2016 and help the Aztecs push for another school-record 11-win season.


Taywan Taylor, WR, Western Kentucky

Overshadowed by All-American and NFL draft pick QB Brandon Doughty, Taylor will be a household name come this fall. The Biletnikoff Award Semifinalist ranked third nationally with 1,467 receiving yards and caught 17 touchdowns in 2015. Additionally, he has explosiveness which was put on display through a 17.1 yards per catch average. With all five offensive linemen returning, WKU’s new quarterback will have all day to let Taylor stretch the field once again.


Nick Mullens, QB, Southern Miss

New coach Jay Hopson knows how important having an established passer is, and he has one of the best in the nation under center. Mullens threw for 38 touchdowns and 4,476 yards last season and is on pace to set numerous school records for his final season. The four-year starter will be the glue on the offensive side for the Golden Eagles.


Latrell Gibbs, CB, Appalachian State

Gibbs emerged as one of the Sun Belt’s top defenders last season and showcased his playmaking ability with a 91-yard interception return to the house against Wyoming. The lockdown corner didn’t stop there, finishing 2015 with seven interceptions and 19 deflections on the year. Expect the junior to flourish as the anchor of the Mountaineers’ secondary next season.


Steven Taylor, OLB, Houston

Taylor earned second-team American Athletic all-conference honors and was one of only six Group of 5 players to record over 10 sacks last season. The Texas native filled the stat sheet as one of the leaders of Tom Herman’s defense, totaling 92 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, 12 hurries and a blocked kick. Herman and coordinator Todd Orlando will continue to look for ways to let Taylor shine on defense one last time in H-Town.


Written by Lance Dozier

Five Group of 5 Players to Know for 2016
Post date: Monday, May 9, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/gobowlingcom-400-kansas-preview-and-fantasy-nascar-predictions-2016

After a brief stop into the world of restrictor plate Russian roulette it appears on paper that NASCAR is returning to the world of normalcy this weekend at Kansas Speedway. The 1.5-mile intermediate oval was once the “cookie cutter” of all cookie-cutter tracks, serving as the final expansion pack with Chicagoland when NASCAR moved to its current schedule of 36 races prior to the 2001 season. Early races at Kansas were wreckfests; a single-groove racetrack frustrated teams and foreshadowed handling difficulties that would plague the Cup Series at all tracks during much of the past decade.


But a funny thing happened while the NASCAR has been busy trying to reinvent itself. The racing at Kansas, once a guaranteed snoozer, has suddenly gotten good. Even during the Car of Tomorrow era, you had weird finishes – there was Carl Edwards’ banzai effort to take the checkered that fell short during the 2008 Chase and Greg Biffle’s win while crossing the line in third (he ran out of gas under yellow) the year before.


A repave briefly halted the unpredictability but recent changes to both track and banking have served this oval well. Only three of the first 15 races held here produced more than 21 lead changes; we’ve now seen that happen four times in the last five events. The side-by-side racing has gotten intense and we’ve seen some fantastic battles for the lead, most recently the Joe Logano-Matt Kenseth contact that started their yearlong feud.


Will Logano and Kenseth come together again? Or will some other driver emerge with an unlikely upset? The lineup heading to Kansas appears to be unpredictable, a gargantuan shift for where this racetrack was headed as little as a decade ago. You never know...


2016 400


Time: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

Track: Kansas Speedway (Kansas City)

TV: FOX Sports 1

Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM Channel 90


Who’s at the Front: Brad Keselowski

Talladega, by nature is unpredictable, big wrecks taking a winner right to the wrecker on a second’s notice, but Keselowski has somehow found a way to beat the odds. The driver of the No. 2 Ford for Team Penske now has four victories there since 2009, the most of any driver and paced the field for 46 laps Sunday. His 2016 season feels a lot like Jimmie Johnson’s last year; a little off on speed but using his talent to maximize limited opportunities and eke out victories.


It’s hard to take any momentum from a victory where only four cars in the field didn’t have crash damage. But in a year where Joe Gibbs Racing has dominated, Keselowski has as many victories (two) as any other driver through ten races. The way he’s been able to keep up is impressive.


Who’s at the Back: Kasey Kahne

Kahne had a wreck beyond his control at Talladega, slumping to 39th a week after an encouraging fourth-place run at Richmond. But the fact remains the No. 5 car has yet to lead a lap this season for superteam Hendrick Motorsports and Kahne sits 17th in points, the first driver looking in on the Chase after 10 races. What’s discouraging is despite strong qualifying efforts an average start of 11.7 has been wasted; he’s only improved that performance in three of 10 events and has an average finish of 18.6. While there’s a long-term contract in place here it’s one of the worst performances from HMS we’ve seen in recent years; this team is going to need to pick up the pace.


News Briefs


Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano, after another brouhaha at Talladega appear to have talked Monday night and are “in a good place” heading into their little anniversary of contact racing for the lead at Kansas. Kenseth felt Logano ran him off the track during Sunday’s race and the two had a little public exchange outside the infield care center following the involvement of both in a multi-car wreck. That led to a conversation Monday night and according to FOX Sports 1’s RaceHub, Logano said the two have patched things up to a certain extent.


Danica Patrick, Kyle Busch and others were upset about the high number of wrecks and flipping inside Sunday’s race at Talladega. Busch, despite a second-place finish made it clear he didn’t want to be running the event and would rather be “sitting at home” due to two victories that already lock his No. 18 Toyota inside the Chase. As for Patrick, who endured the hardest hit of her Cup career, she was among a group of drivers becoming increasingly vocal about the risks this type of racing poses. No changes to the package have been considered or announced for Daytona in July as of yet.


Changes are coming to NASCAR’s Sprint All-Star Race in two weeks. The event is being expanded from 100 to 113 laps and turned into a three-segment race. The first two segments will be 50 laps with mandatory green-flag pit stops sprinkled in. The third segment will be just 13 laps and there will be a vote as to whether the top nine, 10 or 11 drivers will be forced to pit. The remainder will stay out on the track with old tires, moving to the front and creating a breathtaking sprint to the finish where the faster cars start in the back and are forced to move forward for the $1 million grand prize. The exhibition had grown stagnant in recent years as handling woes and aerodynamics caused the leader to easily coast to victory in what’s supposed to be a “for the fans, super aggressive” ending segment.


Celebrity Sighting: Baseball Hall of Famer George Brett will be on hand (without his pine tar) to give the Command to Start Engines and serve as Grand Marshal for this weekend’s race.  Brett’s Kansas City Royals won the World Series last year for the first time since his 1985 team.


NASCAR by the Numbers



Steering wheels that have come off during racing conditions this season, both from Hendrick Motorsports. Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s came off after returning from crash damage Sunday at Talladega; it’s a safety issue he takes the blame for, claiming he never checked to ensure the wheel was “locked in position” before leaving the garage.



The finishing position for Earnhardt at Talladega, the first time he’s run last in a restrictor plate race during his 17-year, full-time Sprint Cup career.


Playing the Odds (Fantasy Spin)


Top Tier


This race is expected to be another clash between superpowers Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing. And while HMS has been a step behind on intermediates this season they’ve got a leg up at this track; Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, respectively have won the last two spring races at Kansas. I’d go with Johnson again as the No. 48 team has a great track record: he’s got top-10 finishes in every race but one here since 2007.


Kevin Harvick had the spring race won last year until a late strategy call by Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus handed the victory straight to the No. 48. In the last two spring Kansas races Harvick has finished second, led 172 laps and looked absolutely dominant at times. I’d pick him for my roster any day.


Middle Tier


Martin Truex Jr. has come so close at Kansas in recent years but always has a late-race problem with handling that leaves him short. Truex led 95 laps here last spring before falling to ninth and has never been lower than 21st with Furniture Row Racing at this oval. Truex, the beneficiary of strong JGR setups under the new package should have another strong weekend here.


Bottom Tier


Chase Elliott, a Cup Series rookie, is listed on the bottom in most fantasy formats but he’s far from a C-list driver. After a pole and top-5 finish at Talladega he enters Kansas with momentum and surprised at a similar intermediate oval with this 2016 rules package (Fontana) back in March. Don’t be surprised if the No. 24 team sneaks to the top with another strong effort for the first-year driver.


What Vegas Thinks

Jimmie Johnson is listed as the favorite with +450 odds according to Kevin Harvick comes in second at +550 followed by last fall’s combatants Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth.


What I Think

Hendrick Motorsports has something to prove after Joe Gibbs Racing appears to have dominated the early part of the season. Johnson comes in, leads half the race and scores a third win this season heading to a track he owns next week: Dover Downs.


— Written by Tom Bowles, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and the Majority Owner of NASCAR Web site He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @NASCARBowles.


(Photo by ASP Inc.)

Teaser: 400 at Kansas Preview and Fantasy NASCAR Predictions
Post date: Friday, May 6, 2016 - 14:30
Path: /college-football/5-redshirt-freshmen-watch-big-ten-west-2016

Predicting which freshmen will play or make an impact on any given season is no easy assignment. Considering some players aren’t quite ready for the physical nature of college football or may need a year to work on developing within the scheme or playbook, a good chunk of every team’s signing class will take a redshirt season. With the 2016 season just a few months away, it’s never too early to take a look back at some of the recruits from 2015 classes who used last season as a redshirt year. Here are seven potential impact redshirt freshmen to watch in the Big Ten for 2016.


5 Redshirt Freshmen to Watch in the Big Ten West in 2016


Avery Anderson, S/Eric Lee, CB, Nebraska

Nebraska’s secondary has room to improve after ranking 78th nationally in pass efficiency defense last season. Most of the unit returns intact for coordinator Mark Banker, which includes likely All-Big Ten performers in safety Nate Gerry and cornerback Joshua Kalu. However, two redshirt freshmen – Avery Anderson and Eric Lee – could earn more playing time as the season progresses. Both players were regarded as four-star recruits in the 2015 signing class and should help a secondary that surrendered eight passing plays of 50 yards or more last season.  


Related: Big Ten's Top 10 Assistant Coach Hires for 2016


Carlos Davis/Khalil Davis, DL, Nebraska

At the conclusion of spring practice, it was no secret the defensive line was the biggest concern for coach Mike Riley. This unit lost standout tackles Vincent Valentine and Maliek Collins early to the NFL, end Greg McMullen decided not to return to the team for 2016, and end Jack Gangwish expired his eligibility. While there’s a lot of turnover here, the Cornhuskers still have talented options in place for new line coach John Parrella. After a redshirt year, twin brothers Carlos and Khalil Davis will be counted upon to make an impact up front. Both players were three-star recruits in the 2015 signing class by the 247Sports Composite. Fellow redshirt freshman Alex Davis is another name to remember up front.


Alex Hornibrook, QB, Wisconsin

Bart Houston is considered the favorite to replace Joel Stave under center in 2016, but Hornibrook made a late push in spring practice for the No. 1 job. The redshirt freshman stated his case for the starting spot by completing four of eight passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game. Even though it’s tough to read too much into spring game totals, Hornibrook certainly did enough to keep the battle open into the summer and fall workouts. The Pennsylvania native was a three-star recruit in Wisconsin’s 2015 signing class.


Related: College Football's Top 30 Running Backs on the Rise for 2016


Gabe Megginson, OL, Illinois

The pieces are in place for the Fighting Illini to have a solid offensive line in 2016. Tackles Austin Schmidt and Christian DiLauro provide a good foundation on the edges, while center Joe Spencer also returns after starting 12 games last season. Megginson ranked as Illinois’ top recruit in its 2015 signing class, as he was regarded as a four-star prospect by the 247Sports Composite. With both guard spots up for grabs, expect this talented redshirt freshman to claim a spot on the interior. 


Elijah Sindelar, QB, Purdue

David Blough showed promise in his first opportunity for snaps with the Boilermakers last season, throwing for 1,574 yards and 10 scores in 10 games. The sophomore is still expected to win the starting job for 2016, but Sindelar is a name to watch if Blough struggles at any point. The Kentucky native was Purdue’s top recruit in the 2015 signing class, ranking as a three-star prospect by the 247Sports Composite. Sindelar capped spring workouts with a solid performance (16 of 30, 248 yards and two touchdowns) in the Gold vs. Black game. 

7 Redshirt Freshmen to Watch in the Big Ten West in 2016
Post date: Friday, May 6, 2016 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/top-10-mlb-mothers-day-2016-uniforms

If your Mother’s Day activities this Sunday include taking in a MLB game in person or watching one on TV expect to see a lot of pink. In celebration of Mother’s Day and to help bring awareness to breast cancer, all 30 major league teams will be wearing specially designed pink-centric uniforms on Sunday.


In years past, players wore pink wrist bands and donned pink shoes, with or without the matching pink laces, while swinging pink bats on Mother’s Day and for breast cancer awareness. This year, every player will be adorned in pink, from head to toe. The Mother Day’s uniforms are the first of a series of special event looks that were created by MLB, working in conjunction with Majestic and New Era, which were originally unveiled in April. Besides Mother’s Day, teams will wear specially designed duds for Father’s Day, Memorial Day and the 4th of July as well.


Related: 10 Coolest MLB Special Event Uniforms


The good news is this is not being done just to make an atypical fashion statement, especially where the pink unis are concerned. MLB will donate a portion of its licensed uniform royalties to specific charitable initiatives that are associated with each of these holidays. For Mother’s Day the charity is Susan G. Komen,  a non-profit organization dedicated to saving lives and ending breast cancer forever.


So while baseball fans certainly aren’t used to seeing their favorite player or team wearing pink on the diamond, which Mother’s Day uniforms stand out from the rest? Here are the 10 Mother’s Day uniforms that caught our eye (in alphabetical order).


Atlanta Braves


Chicago Cubs



Chicago White Sox



Detroit Tigers



Los Angeles Angels



New York Yankees



St. Louis Cardinals



Seattle Mariners



Tampa Rays



Washington Nationals


(Photos courtesy of Click here to see the entire gallery of 2016 Mother's Day jerseys)

Top 10 MLB Mother's Day 2016 Uniforms
Post date: Friday, May 6, 2016 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/top-ten-rookies-2016-fantasy-football

While it was fun to speculate what would happen if certain players went to certain teams before the NFL Draft, now that all the picks have been made, we can actually look at the fantasy value for some of the rookies.


Related: Post-Draft 2016 Fantasy Football Top 150 Rankings


In dynasty leagues, values may be different, so this is just a look at redraft leagues for 2016. Here are the top 10 rookies for 2016, albeit still four months until the season actually starts.


Ezekiel Elliott, RB, DAL

Without question, the rookie running back worth drafting is Elliott. He will likely be the first rookie off draft boards this fall, and the arguments for him make sense. He has the talent, he's on a team that will use him, and Dallas' offensive line is one of the best in the league. Elliott immediately steps in as the No. 1 running back for the Cowboys, sending Darren McFadden back to possibly handle third downs as needed. Alfred Morris will step in when Elliott needs a break, but this is going to be Elliott's backfield. McFadden, behind Dallas' offensive line ran for more than 1,000 yards (and he wasn't given more than 10 carries until Week 7). It seems great, but keep in mind Elliott is still a rookie running back. Rookies sometimes struggle as they start in the NFL. He's worth a pick in the early second round of drafts, but it's a reach to grab him in the first round.


Corey Coleman, WR, CLE

Coleman could have done well on a team that already had a solid No. 1 wide receiver, but instead he ended up on a team desperate for a reliable, productive target. With Josh Gordon likely out for the 2016 season (and possibly indefinitely), Coleman will step in as the go-to guy in Cleveland. With guys like Brian Hartline and Andrew Hawkins leading the receiver corps before Coleman joined, he immediately would become the top target for Robert Griffin III or whoever is under center for the Browns. He also has some value on special teams, if your league's scoring system includes return statistiscs.


Derrick Henry, RB, TEN

Originally when looking at Henry and the scouting reports, it seemed that he would work best in an offense that also has a pass-catching running back to come in and share the workload. It just so happens that the Tennessee Titans signed DeMarco Murray, who certainly can catch the ball. Henry will likely complement Murray, but may end up with goal-line work as well. At this point, it's Murray's fantasy value that takes a hit, while Henry has the potential to be a RB3.


Sterling Shepard, WR, NYG

Before the draft, Shepard wasn't one of the most touted receivers on the board, but now that he's joined the New York Giants, he'll have fantasy value this year. Besides Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants don't have another solid receiver on the team. Shepard will play alongside Beckham, and he'll likely begin the season as the third receiver (assuming Victor Cruz's healthy enough to finally return). Luckily for him, Eli Manning likes three-wide receiver sets. Look for Shepard to step in as a WR4 with potential to become a WR3 sooner rather than later.


Paul Perkins, RB, NYG

The Giants added both a wide receiver and a running back that may make an impact for fantasy owners this year. Perkins has been compared to Devonta Freeman (last year's No. 1 fantasy RB). With only Rashad Jennings truly ahead of him on the depth chart (Shane Vereen will just handle passing downs), Perkins will likely see a significant amount of playing time in 2016. Jennings owners should definitely draft him as a handcuff, but even non-Jennings owners might want to consider grabbing him in the later rounds of the draft.


Laquon Treadwell, WR, MIN

While the Vikings don't have the best track record in drafting wide receivers (Cordarrelle Patterson), it's worth taking another shot to see if Treadwell pans out. He'll fit right into their offense, opposite Stefon Diggs. While Teddy Bridgewater hasn't shown that he can make his receivers consistently look good, he may be given the opportunity to throw the ball more this year. As Treadwell continues to heal from his injury (a devastating lower leg injury from 2014), he should gain some of the speed he was lacking at the Scouting Combine back. He's a late-round sleeper for 2016.


Jordan Howard, RB, CHI

It's hard to say that a player that will be buried on the depth chart will have fantasy value, but Jeremy Langford is truly the only back ahead of Howard in Chicago. Langford did get a chance to be the starter when Matt Forte was injured last season, but he wasn't very consistent with his opportunity. He didn't hit 100 rushing yards in a single game, but he did play a role in the passing game. If Langford is used on passing downs, perhaps Howard can step in with goal-line carries, between-the-tackles carries and eventually, perhaps, the starting role. He's a late-round sleeper.


Josh Doctson, WR, WAS

The biggest strength that Doctson has at this point is his size (6-'2), which makes him taller than Pierre Garcon. Doctson does have potential to be a WR3 for fantasy purposes this year. Washington will likely try to use him in the red zone because of his size. Playing behind DeSean Jackson and Garcon, Doctson doesn't start the season with a lot of fantasy potential, but an injury to either receiver vaults him into possible fantasy relevance.


Kenneth Dixon, RB, BAL

While Dixon was a fourth-round pick, it is possible that he will not only see the field, but also have fantasy value this year. Javorius Allen showed that he isn't going to win the starting job. Justin Forsett will be 31 during the season, and he's likely not going to make it through all 16 games. Dixon will be the next man up. Forsett owners should be sure to draft him with the hope that Dixon can pass Allen on the depth chart.


Jared Goff, QB, LA

Goff is on this list mainly because he's the No. 1 overall pick. As it stands now, Goff doesn't figure to have much fantasy value this season in standard 12-team leagues. He may end up being a bye week fill-in, but that's about it. He's going to be the starter for the Rams, but it's not like the Rams have a ton of weapons to help him succeed. The Rams' offense is going to revolve around Todd Gurley, and unfortunately that doesn't help Goff. He needs better receivers in order to be fantasy relevant outside of two-QB leagues.


Honorable Mentions


Michael Thomas, WR, NO
He's playing with Drew Brees and has potential to play in three-WR sets. There are always a lot of mouths to feed in New Orleans, but if Thomas can make his presence known, he can have some value.


Will Fuller, WR, HOU

He's going to be opposite DeAndre Hopkins and will step into a starting role. However, he does have Brock Osweiler throwing to him, which may be a downside. Hopkins is still an elite WR1, but if Fuller can carve out some targets the rookie also will have some fantasy value in 2016.


— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.

Top 10 Rookies For 2016 Fantasy Football
Post date: Friday, May 6, 2016 - 09:30