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All taxonomy terms: NBA, Overtime
Path: /overtime/watch-rare-footage-michael-jordan-tar-heel-chicago-bulls-rookie-year
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It's hard to imagine Michael Jordan as anything but dominant. 

 

There was a time, however, when people talked about the potential of a young MJ rather than the legacy. In this video there are rare interviews and highlights that true basketball fans will drool over. It'll give you even more appreciation for the man, the myth, the legend that is His Airness.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, August 4, 2015 - 10:36
Path: /college-football/pac-12-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2015
Body:

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year.

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2015, Athlon asked coaches in the ACC to talk anonymously about their opponents.

Related: Pac-12 Predictions for 2015

 

Note: These scouting reports come directly from coaching staffs and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.

 

Pac-12 Coaches Anonymously Scout Conference Foes

 

North Division

 

California

 

“I think those guys made a little more progress in Year 2 than most people expected.”

 

“They were really a handful of plays away from going 8–5, and most of it was because of their young kids, so that bodes pretty well for the future.”

 

“With Jared Goff, the numbers weren’t dramatically different from his freshman to sophomore year, but the film was much better. He’s pretty accurate throwing to all three levels, he doesn’t throw interceptions, and he doesn’t get sacked very often. That’s what you need in Sonny Dykes’ system. He had a clear conviction about the guy throwing him out there as a freshman, and it’s probably going to pay off this year.”

 

“They don’t have receivers that blow you away athletically, but they’ll go four or five wide and try to find a good matchup on the perimeter.”

 

“When they’re in a rhythm and playing at a high tempo, that’s tough to stop.”

 

“They had some issues defensively, and I think you’ll see a lot of new personnel on the back end because teams just threw it over the top on them all day long.”

 

“They brought in some juco guys, so we’ll see if that makes a difference. I know they feel like their depth has improved across the board.” 

 

“Their pass rush was basically nonexistent last year.”

 

 I think they’ll be better, but there aren’t a lot of easy wins in this league. They can definitely get to a bowl game, but it’s a thin line when you’re still trying to plug holes and rebuild.” 

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

Oregon

 

“In my mind, they’re still the team to beat until somebody knocks them off.”

 

“It’s not like this is the first time they’ve lost key guys and had to re-boot a little bit.”

 

“I read a bunch of stuff after the championship game about how their window was closing without Marcus Mariota, but they’re still going to be really good.”

 

“I haven’t really studied the quarterback from Eastern Washington (Vernon Adams) yet, but I’m sure they did their homework and feel like he’s got a chance to help them. Without having him in the spring, it’ll be interesting to see how much ground he can make up.”

 

“Their depth at receiver is sickening, and a lot of those guys can do different things. It’s not just all speed; they’re pretty good blockers too.”

 

“They’re so talented on the perimeter — I don’t think the next guy has to come in and be Marcus Mariota.”

 

“I’m not sure it would have made a difference against Ohio State, but I think losing Devon Allen in the Rose Bowl really hurt them.”

 

“Royce Freeman is already a grown man. He’s everything you want in a running back, and he’s only going to get better and stronger. He was as good as anyone the last half of the season.”

 

“They won’t be as good up front, but they got experience for some of their younger guys last year when Jake Fisher and Hroniss Grasu got hurt.”

 

“Switching Charles Nelson over to defense is classic Oregon. They recruit the guy to play receiver, he’s great down the stretch and then he willingly moves to defensive back because they needed more help there. That says it all about the culture they’ve got there.”

 

Related: Pac-12 Predictions for 2015

 

Oregon State

 

“I would think the difference in style of play is going to be pretty dramatic when you look at what they’ve got coming back and what Gary (Andersen) has done in the past.”

 

“They were one of the most prolific passing teams in the country the last two years, but unless one of their freshman quarterbacks is all-world, they’re going to have to completely change their identity and play more ball control like they did at Wisconsin. I don’t think that’s what they want to be long-term because they brought in Dave Baldwin to run the spread, but they just have a lot of question marks at quarterback.”

 

“Storm Woods is pretty talented, but he’s never been the focus of their offense. I don’t know exactly how the new staff is going to use him, but I’m sure those guys put in some tape of Melvin Gordon and said, ‘Let’s go,’ to fire him up, which is really half the battle. If he buys in, they’re experienced enough up front that they’ll be decent running the ball.”

 

“From a personnel standpoint, they’re pretty much starting over on defense, so your guess is as good as mine.”

 

“We know what Kalani (Sitake) did at Utah, but they’re going to need some time to get the right kind of players in there to run that system.”

 

Related: New Coach Gary Andersen Faces Tough Task Against "Best of the Best"

 

Stanford

 

“I don’t know why it hasn’t totally clicked with Kevin Hogan. He looks the part and he doesn’t get them beat, but for whatever reason he just hasn’t gotten to that next level everybody envisioned when he played so well as a freshman.”

 

“You can’t totally judge him (Hogan) on the numbers because of how conservative they play on offense. Still, it was a struggle last year. If they hadn’t turned it around the last three games, I’m not sure he’d have stuck around.”

 

“If he comes back with a big senior year, they have a chance because their tight ends, receivers and running backs are all good enough to win games in this league. It’s a solid group.”

 

“Ed McCaffrey’s kid (Christian McCaffrey) is going to be a big-time player for them. They’ve got to figure out a way to get him more touches.”

 

“Defensively, I think it’ll be hard for them to get back to where they were a couple of years ago.”

 

“It looked like their young guys got better as the year went on, but I just don’t see another Trent Murphy or Shayne Skov out there.”

 

“You can talk about system and player development, but you still need some difference-makers. (Blake) Martinez is good, he’s just not at that level. If the defensive end (Solomon Thomas, who redshirted in 2014) is as good as advertised, maybe he could be that guy.”

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Washington

 

“From the outside looking in, it seems like Chris Petersen had to clean up some stuff off the field from the previous staff, and that’s never easy. At Boise, he had the best talent in the league and everyone in the organization understood their culture. I think he figured out pretty quick this is a different deal.”

 

“When you look at some of the big-time guys they lost, I think they may take a few steps back before they move forward.”

 

“You have to give their staff the benefit of the doubt until some of their guys (they recruited) hit the field, but they’re going to have some personnel problems this year.”

 

“It’s hard to get a feel for the offense because they’re completely new up front and they’re basically starting over at quarterback. That’s not usually a great formula for success.”

 

“The backup from last year (Jeff Lindquist) has some experience, but they may have better options with their newcomers. It’s just hard to say until you see them on the field.”

 

“I don’t see how they’re going to rebuild the front seven on the fly unless all the guys who were backups last year are ready to start. They were pretty good there last season, but they lost a ton.”

 

“The secondary is probably the most established group on their team. Budda Baker was one of the better freshmen we saw last year. He could be one of those guys people just don’t throw on.”

 

Washington State

 

“People are going to focus on the quarterback situation, but I think that’s the least of their worries.”

 

“I hate to say this, but it may have been a blessing in disguise that Connor Halliday got hurt last year because they got a look at the other kid (Luke Falk) and probably have a pretty good idea what they’re working with going into the season. I don’t really know how good he is, but he threw the ball seventy-something times against Arizona State (45-of-74) so it’s not like they tried to hide him.”

 

“They bring back their entire offensive line back, and those guys were solid last year. They’ve got kids in the program now who know the system and what to expect.”

 
“They’re going to need some newcomers to show up ready to play on defense. They had one of the better linemen in the league last year (Xavier Cooper), but he and the nose tackle who was pretty good (Kalafitoni Pole) are both gone, so I’m not sure who they’ve got in there.”

 

“With a new defensive coordinator, I think they’ll make some changes schematically and look at some guys who maybe didn’t play a lot last year.”

 

“When you play like they do offensively, you’ve got to cause some havoc with your defense, and they just didn’t create a lot of turnovers.”

 

South Division

 

Arizona

 

“If anyone in the country got more out of his roster last year than Rich Rodriguez, I don’t know who it is.”

 

“You can say they got some breaks, and they did, but to come in with a (redshirt) freshman quarterback (Anu Solomon) and a freshman tailback (Nick Wilson) and win the best division in college football outside of the SEC West is pretty tough to do.”

 

“It seemed like Rich was playing mind games with the kid (Solomon) all season, and then he ripped him after the bowl game and said he had to win the job again. I laughed at that one. The guy threw for 4,000 yards as a freshman and is probably going to have a great year.”

 

“Their receivers and running backs are just fast across the board. Austin Hill was their third option in the passing game last year, and he’d probably be a front-line guy just about anywhere in the league. Cayleb Jones did nothing at Texas and instantly becomes a 1,000-yard guy in that system.”

 

“The tough thing about playing their defense is you can’t really scheme for Scooby Wright. Your guys know where he’s coming from and what he’s trying to do, but his motor is just off the charts, and he’s going to get five or six opportunities to make a game-changing play just off effort. He’s a special dude.”

 

“They need to find another guy besides Scooby who can pressure the quarterback.”

 

“People are going to try to throw over the top on them until their DBs prove they can cover. Boise State exposed them a little bit in the bowl game.”

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

Arizona State

 

“I can’t speak to their locker room dynamic last year, but I’m not sure they were playing the right quarterback. I know Taylor Kelly was their guy and they couldn’t take his job over an injury, but to me, they were more dynamic when Mike Bercovici was in there. He’s got legitimate arm talent.”

 

“Jaelen Strong made their passing game look better than it was last year. They had pretty good skill on the perimeter, but he was just so much physically stronger than the DBs in this league, it was almost comical. That’s a big loss for them.”

 

“The reason they’re moving D.J. Foster to the slot is because Demario Richard is the real deal. Physically, he looks like a grown man and runs like it too.” 

 

“Todd Graham ran the no-huddle back going back to Tulsa, and his teams have always put up a lot of points, but people forget he’s really a defensive guy. They’re probably more established in what they want to do on that side of the ball than they are offensively with everyone coming back but the safety (Damarious Randall).”

 

“He likes to blitz and get your offense out of rhythm. They switch up their pressure so much your QB has to really be on his toes and figure out where it’s coming from.”

 

“They’re one of the tougher teams to prepare for.”  

 

“When you’ve got two senior cornerbacks and an all-conference guy like Jordan Simone on the back end, you can take some chances with your pressure.” 

 

Related: Arizona State QB Mike Bercovici Finally in the Spotlight

 

Colorado

 

“I know ‘almost’ doesn’t mean much in this business, but they lost three or four conference games almost on the final play. They were a little better than their record.”

 

“I don’t think there’s a tougher rebuilding job in the country when you think about how far down they were coming into the Pac-12 and all the sudden everyone else in the division has it rolling a little bit.”

 

“They’re doing the right things to get on a level playing field from a facility standpoint, and they’re getting better. It’s just hard to get the momentum going until you start winning games.”

 

“You’re just not going to win very much giving up as many yards as they did in the running game (204.8 ypg) and not creating turnovers or sacks.”

 

“I think it’s pretty simple. If they don’t get better up front with the schedule they play, they might struggle to win a game in the league.”

 

“They’re maturing on offense. Sefo (Liufau) has a lot of snaps under his belt, and if he can be a little more consistent in his decision-making he can be really effective before it’s all said and done.”

 

“(Nelson) Spruce is just a fantastic route-runner. I was a little surprised he didn’t put his name in the draft after blowing up last year, but I’m not sure if the NFL guys are sold on him because of his (lack of) speed.”

 

“With what they’ve got coming back in the running game, I think their offense is going to be a net-plus.” 

 

UCLA

 

“I don’t think they’ll mind coming in a little bit more under the radar this year. The media got so fixated on the quarterback (Brett Hundley) last year, it kind of glossed over some of their other issues. This year people are going to talk about the new quarterback and forget that they’re bringing, like, everybody else back.”

 

“I don’t think they’re as talented player-for-player as SC, but they’re not that far behind.”

 

“(Jim) Mora is a hell of a recruiter.”

 

If they’re not a dominant team running the ball this year, I’ll be pretty surprised.”

 

“They took their medicine up front last year, but they were figuring it out by the end, and they’re going to be deeper with that group coming back.”

 

“I’m not sure how many people even realize Paul Perkins ended up the leading rusher in the conference. He’s not a guy with electric speed, but he’s a pretty smooth runner. He’s a bigger weapon than people give him credit for.”

 

“Everyone on the West Coast saw the (Josh) Rosen kid in high school, and he’s going to be really good. He’s a big, fluid, pro-style guy who probably fits what they want to do better than Hundley. It’s just a matter of whether they want to throw him out there right away. Getting him in the spring is huge.”

 

“If they figure out who’s going to play linebacker for them they’ll be the best defense in the league because they’re loaded up front and on the back end.”

 

“Kenny Clark is really the key in that three-man front. You can put two guys on him, but he’ll still make plays or free up space for their linebackers. He’s a monster.”

 

Related: Pac-12 Predictions for 2015

 

USC

 

“Their talent is just really strong across the board. Even in places where they lost some guys to the draft, it’s not like they’re taking a huge step back.”

 

“They may have the best player in the country at a few positions, including quarterback.”

 

“I’m not sure people nationally caught on because of what Marcus Mariota did, but in any other year Cody Kessler would have been the Pac-12 Player of the Year by a pretty big margin. He’s such an accurate passer and so good in the pocket, it makes the game pretty easy when you surround him with the kind of athletes they’ve got.”

 

“Unless they just have a bunch of injuries, I don’t see too many people slowing down their offense.”

 

“They’ve got everything you need. Great quarterback, great at receiver, good enough in the running game, experience on the offensive line and some big-play guys they can throw to down the field.”

 

“They’ve got some questions on their defensive front, but it’s not about talent. They just need a couple of the younger guys to figure it out.”

 

“If Su’a Cravens could have entered the draft last year, he would have.”

 

“You lose to Boston College last year and you can talk about scholarships, but I don’t think they’ve got any excuses this year.”

 

“I think they’ve got the best center in the country, which helps them play at the tempo Sark wants.”

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Utah

 

“They’re just not a fun crew to play against.”

 

“They don’t do anything unique on defense from a scheme standpoint, but they’re just really physical, they get off blocks and they fly to the ball.”

 

“They’re not going to give up easy scores, and their ability to disrupt you with a sack or turnover can turn a game around pretty quickly. That’s why you saw them play over their heads a little bit at times. I think they’ll be the same kind of team this year.”

 

“Nobody really blocked Nate Orchard all year, but a lot of that was because their defensive front was so good across the board. They probably can’t replace his production in terms of sacks and TFLs and things like that, but they’re still going to rush the quarterback because of their scheme and the long, athletic guys they bring off the end.”

 

“They kept going back and forth at quarterback until the kid from Oklahoma (Kendal Thompson) got hurt, and they’re probably going to be right back in the same boat this year.”

 

“They’re probably the only team in the league that truly doesn’t mind playing field position.”

 

“The big left tackle is gone (Jeremiah Poutasi) and that could hurt them. It’s a younger group up front, but they’ve got some guys who played last year that they can move around.”

 

“I like the tailback a lot (Devontae Booker), but they just don’t have enough firepower on offense overall.” 

Teaser:
Pac-12 Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2015
Post date: Tuesday, August 4, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/auburn-summer-workouts-are-brutal-tigers-sec-west
Body:

Think of your favorite college football team. Got it? Well, Auburn is probably working harder than them.

 

The Tigers give us a peek into their summer workouts and, although summer is fun, this looks anything but that. Being in the SEC West, Auburn doesn't have room to slack off in the least bit.

Let's see Lee Corso try to pick against this team.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, August 4, 2015 - 10:26
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-2015-fall-camp-preview-and-key-position-battles-watch
Body:

Ohio State begins fall camp on Aug. 10, and at first glance, casual observers of the Buckeyes would believe there are few areas of concern that must be on the mind of head coach Urban Meyer. After all, the defending national champion Buckeyes return starters at virtually every position, and a talented crop of incoming freshmen have arrived to reinforce the already formidable depth.

 

Dig a little deeper, and one can find position groups that the Ohio State coaching staff will be devoting considerable time and effort in making sure that the Buckeyes are in good shape when the season begins at Virginia Tech on Sept. 7, Labor Day night.

 

Related: College Football's Top 25 Non-Conference Games for 2015

 

Ohio State's Five Biggest Fall Camp Storylines

 

1. Quarterback

Braxton Miller may no longer be in the mix at quarterback, but just because a three-man race has been essentially cut down to two players does not make this decision any easier for Meyer. J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones will wage a battle that will be the focus of the fans and media, and it will be imperative to Meyer to make sure that this competition does not result in a divided locker room. Meyer has stated that a starter will probably be named by the end of August, so all eyes and ears will be focused firmly on this pivotal battle.

 

Related: Big Ten 2015 Preseason Quarterback Rankings

 

2. Defensive Tackle

Michael Bennett has moved on to the NFL, so one defensive tackle position is open for the taking. Adolphus Washington returns at one spot, but it will be incumbent upon the coaching staff to rotate defensive linemen to avoid injury and stay fresh. Tommy Schutt is a projected starter, but is by no means guaranteed the spot. Others in the mix include Donovan Munger (redshirt sophomore), Joel Hale (redshirt senior), Michael Hill (redshirt sophomore), Dylan Thompson (redshirt freshman), Tracy Sprinkle (redshirt sophomore), as well as freshmen Joshua Alabi, Robert Landers and DaVon Hamilton. Of these, Thompson is the lone player who has not yet been cleared for full participation in fall drills.

 

Related: College Football's Top 25 Position Groups Under Pressure in 2015

 

3. Tight End

Nick Vannett returns as a starter, but in an offense that often features two tight ends, finding a second is going to be a priority in fall camp. Redshirt sophomore Marcus Baugh is probably next in line, yet Baugh has had off-the-field issues that have landed him in the coaching staff’s doghouse. Incoming freshmen A.J. Alexander and Rashod Berry may be asked to contribute right away, provided they perform well in fall camp.

 

4. Defensive End

Joey Bosa is arguably the top defensive player in the nation, projected as high first-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. But Bosa was recently suspended for the season opener at Virginia Tech, due to a violation of university policy. Even with Bosa in the lineup, Ohio State needs to determine a starter on the other end of its defensive line, as both Rashad Frazier and Steve Miller have exhausted their eligibility. At the conclusion of spring practice, TyQuan Lewis was mentioned as the probable starter opposite Bosa. Other options at the position include sophomore Jalyn Holmes, redshirt freshmen Sam Hubbard and Darius Slade, and incoming freshman Jashon Cornell.

 

Related: Why the Ohio State Suspensions Will or Won't Matter Against Virginia Tech

 

5. Cornerback

Gareon Conley has been penciled in at the cornerback spot opposite Eli Apple, but does not have a firm hold on the starting job. Redshirt freshman Marshon Lattimore and sophomore Damon Webb will likely push Conley all throughout fall camp for the spot, and possibly even into the season.

 

— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a diehard Ohio State fan. Minnich also writes and podcasts for menofthescarletandgray.com, a site dedicated to Ohio sports with a special emphasis on the Buckeyes. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.

Teaser:
Ohio State 2015 Fall Camp Preview and Key Position Battles to Watch
Post date: Tuesday, August 4, 2015 - 10:15
Path: /college-football/sec-2015-preseason-quarterback-rankings
Body:

With fall camps set to open in August for all 128 college football teams, the 2015 season is officially around the corner. There’s no shortage of position battles or schemes to work on this fall, but quarterback competitions will steal the spotlight in August.


The SEC has an inexperienced group of signal-callers set to take over in 2015. Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott is the league’s most-proven option and the clear favorite to earn preseason first-team all-conference honors. After Prescott in the quarterback rankings is a combination of breakout candidates (Jeremy Johnson and Joshua Dobbs), along with veterans (Maty Mauk and Brandon Allen) looking to improve this season.

 

To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2015. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2015 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the SEC for 2015. 

 

SEC Quarterback Rankings for 2015

 

1. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State

 

Mississippi State has some holes to fill around Prescott, but the senior quarterback is a big reason why the Bulldogs will remain a factor in the SEC West this season. Prescott recorded 4,435 total yards and 41 scores in 2014 and earned first-team All-SEC honors. The senior is one of the top contenders for the 2015 Heisman Trophy.

 

Related: Ranking the SEC's Heisman Contenders for 2015

 

2. Jeremy Johnson, Auburn

 

All signs point to a huge season from Johnson in his first year as the starter. The junior isn’t as mobile as Nick Marshall, but the Montgomery native is a dynamic player for coach Gus Malzahn. Over the last two seasons, Johnson has completed 57 of 78 passes for 858 yards and nine scores. He also has two career starts.

 

3. Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee

 

A redshirt year was planned for Dobbs in 2014, but the Georgia native was pressed into the starting lineup midway through the season. Dobbs played well in the 34-20 loss to Alabama (19 of 32 for 192 yards) and assumed the starting role for Tennessee’s next game against South Carolina. Dobbs started the final five games for the Volunteers and closed 2014 with 1,206 passing yards and nine scores, while adding 469 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. With a full year to work as the starter ahead, Dobbs is due for a breakout year.

 

4. Kyle Allen, Texas A&M

 

Allen is another quarterback poised for a breakout campaign. The Arizona native was one of the top quarterback recruits in the 2014 signing class and eventually replaced Kenny Hill as the starter in November. Allen threw for 1,322 yards and 16 scores in nine appearances, finishing 2014 with his best performance (22 of 35 for 294 yards and four scores against West Virginia).


5. Maty Mauk, Missouri

 

Mauk’s first year as a starter had its share of ups and downs, but he finished with 2,648 passing yards and 25 scores and guided Missouri to a SEC East title. The junior needs to take a step forward in SEC play after only completing 48.9 percent of his passes in nine conference games last season. There’s a lot of potential with Mauk, but he will be throwing to a revamped group of receivers after the departure of last year’s top three targets.

 

6. Brandon Allen, Arkansas

 

There’s no doubt Arkansas will be tough on defense and with its ground attack once again in 2015. For the Razorbacks to improve on last year’s win total, improving the passing game is a priority under new coordinator Dan Enos. Allen was solid in 2014, completing 190 of 339 passes for 2,285 yards and 20 scores. With Enos at the controls, Allen should take another step forward in 2015.

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

7. Patrick Towles, Kentucky

 

Towles is a bit of a wild card on this list. He could rank a spot or two higher or he could lose the starting job to talented redshirt freshman Drew Barker. In 12 games last season, Towles threw for 2,718 yards and 14 scores and added 303 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. How quickly will new coordinator Shannon Dawson settle on a starter this fall?

 

8. Jake Coker, Alabama

 

For the second consecutive season, Coker is considered by some to be the favorite to take the first snap in Alabama’s opener. However, Coker was edged by Blake Sims for the starting job last season and only played in six games in 2014. Can the Florida State transfer hold off redshirt freshman David Cornwell this fall?

 

Related: SEC Predictions for 2015

 

9. Brice Ramsey, Georgia

 

The battle to replace Hutson Mason will extend into fall practice, as the Bulldogs added Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert to compete with Ramsey and Faton Bauta. Ramsey worked as Mason’s backup in 2014 and completed 24 of 39 passes for three scores and two picks. Regardless of which quarterback starts, expect to see a heavy dose of running back Nick Chubb for the Bulldogs in 2015.

 

10. Chad Kelly, Ole Miss

 

Ole Miss is another SEC title contender with uncertainty at quarterback. Bo Wallace expired his eligibility, and the Rebels had a three-way battle for the job in the spring. Kelly – a former Clemson quarterback – transferred from the junior college ranks and is considered the favorite to start over Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

11. Will Grier, Florida

 

The arrival of new coach Jim McElwain and coordinator Doug Nussmeier should pay dividends for a Florida offense that averaged only 4.9 yards per play in SEC games last season. Treon Harris finished 2014 as the starter, but Grier is considered the favorite to start. The redshirt freshman ranked as the No. 48 recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite and should be a good fit in Florida’s new offense.

 

12. Anthony Jennings/Brandon Harris, LSU

 

Improving the passing attack is priority No. 1 for coach Les Miles. LSU averaged only 140.6 passing yards in SEC games last season and finished 2014 with just 17 passing scores. Jennings started 12 games last year, completed only 48.9 percent of his passes and finished with 1,611 yards and 11 scores. There’s more upside with Harris, but how quickly will the sophomore grasp the offense?


13. Connor Mitch, South Carolina

 

Mitch finished spring as the favorite to replace Dylan Thompson under center. Talented freshman Lorenzo Nunez is an intriguing player to watch in fall camp, but Mitch is expected to take the first snap in the opener against North Carolina. The sophomore played in two games last season and completed 2 of 6 passes for 19 yards.

 

14. Wade Freebeck, Vanderbilt

 

It’s a tossup between Freebeck and Johnny McCrary as Vanderbilt’s starter for 2015. McCrary threw for 985 yards and nine scores last season, while Freebeck (as a true freshman) completed 34 of 72 passes for 376 yards and one touchdown. Both players should benefit from the arrival of new coordinator Andy Ludwig, but the supporting cast – especially at receiver – has to step up. 

Teaser:
SEC 2015 Preseason Quarterback Rankings
Post date: Tuesday, August 4, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/georgia-picks-up-commitment-3-star-texas-wr-davion-curtis
Body:

Georgia Bulldog fans might have been a little surprised on Monday with the announcement of Class of 2016 wide receiver Davion Curtis to their commitment list.

 

Curtis exploded onto the recruiting scene as a junior for Temple (Texas) High School after catching 40 passes for 901 yards with eight touchdowns. He also made a quick but memorable statement on special teams as a kick returner, taking one of two attempts 97 yards to the house for a score.

 

The Wildcats posted a 13-2 record in 2014 making it to the Texas High School State Championship Game before falling to Aledo 49-45 with college recruiters taking notice. Leading up to Curtis’ commitment to Mark Richt and the Bulldogs, he had 13 reported offers,  highlighted by Wisconsin, Kansas State, Houston, Kansas, Oregon State, Texas Tech, Minnesota, Colorado State and North Texas.

 

The Bulldogs have put together a solid 2016 class, securing 15 commitments led by 5-star quarterback Jacob Eason (Lake Stevens, Wash.) and 5-star defensive tackle Julian Rochester (Powder Springs, Ga). Curtis is the fourth wide receiver added to the class joining fellow Georgians Charlie Woerner (Tiger), Darion Anderson (Warner Robins), and Randrecous Davis (Atlanta).

 

— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.

Teaser:
Georgia Picks Up Commitment From 3-Star Texas WR Davion Curtis
Post date: Tuesday, August 4, 2015 - 09:45
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Tennessee Volunteers, SEC
Path: /college-football/tennessee-vols-2015-fall-camp-preview-position-battles
Body:

The Tennessee Volunteers have good reason to be excited heading into the 2015 season. The Vols return 18 starters (10 on offense and 8 on defense) from a squad that won four of its last five contests. This run culminated in a lopsided victory over Iowa in the TaxSlayer Bowl, the Vols’ first bowl win since 2008. Back-to-back top-5 recruiting classes also have infused the team with a high level of promising young talent that should pay huge dividends starting as soon as 2015.

 

Even the media has jumped on board the “Big Orange Bandwagon” with many experts predicting the Vols to win the SEC East this season. While Tennessee has a realistic chance to return to glory in 2015, there are still some lingering questions amidst all the fanfare as the Vols head into fall camp.

 

Tennessee’s Five Biggest Fall Camp Storylines

 

1. Offensive Line Woes

There is no question that the Vols’ Achilles heel in 2014 was the offensive line. Tennessee ranked an abysmal 117th in the nation, allowing 43 sacks last season, and ranked second to last in the entire nation in tackles for a loss allowed with 101. The good news is that the O-line will be returning four starters from 2014. This unit also added some quality depth with the likes of Drew Richmond and Jack Jones via the 2015 recruiting class. A deeper, stronger and more experienced group should yield better results in 2015. But, will it be enough to help Tennessee return to prominence?

 

2. New Offensive Coordinator

The addition of Tennessee’s new offensive coordinator, Mike DeBord, should be fairly seamless with the plan being to keep much of Vols’ 2014 offensive playbook and scheme intact. That said, it’s still a significant coaching change with an entirely different person calling the plays, and Tennessee fans have good reason to get a little nervous when it comes to coordinator swaps. They still have nightmares thinking about 2008’s “Clawfense,” as well as the 2012 Sal Sunseri 3-4 defensive experiment. We should find out in short order if DeBord is the right man for the job.

 

3. Middle Linebacker?

Tennessee has some big shoes to fill at the MLB position. In what should be the most competitive of all the position battles in fall camp, the Vols’ coaching staff will have a wealth of talent to choose from. The primary contenders include junior Kenny Bynum, redshirt freshmen Dillon Bates and Gavin Bryant, as well as true freshmen Darrin Kirkland and Austin Smith. The issue is that Bynum is the only one with any real game experience, and he may be the least talented of the bunch at a position of paramount importance to this defense.

 

4. Veteran Experience vs. Talented Youth

Tennessee returns most of its starters on both sides of the ball. The Vols have also brought in a ton of young talent that will give some of those veterans a run for their money in terms of playing time. Newcomers Kahlil McKenzie (DT), Shy Tuttle (DT), Darrin Kirkland (MLB), Drew Richmond (OT), and Justin Martin (DB) all have a legitimate shot at beating out their more experienced counterparts for starting jobs. It should make for an interesting fall camp.

 

Related: 5 Tennessee Volunteer Newcomers That Will Have An Immediate Impact

 

5. The Hype Machine

For the first time, in a long time, the Tennessee Volunteers are actually expected to be good, if not great. With the lofty preseason expectations continuing to grow amongst the media and a rabid Tennessee fanbase, how will Butch Jones’ football team respond to the pressure?

 

— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McVey is a diehard Tennessee Volunteers' fan who loves singing "Rocky Top" every opportunity he gets. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS

Teaser:
Tennessee 2015 Fall Camp Preview and Key Position Battles to Watch
Post date: Tuesday, August 4, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: NBA, Overtime
Path: /overtime/damian-lillard-raps-drake-10-bands-portland-trailblazers-damedolla
Body:

Let's get this out of the way: Drake's "10 Bands" is not an easy beat to rhyme over. It's popular and everyone knows the words.

 

Damian Lillard has never been one to be scared of a challenge, and it works out well for him in this case. The Trail Blazers point guard, DameDOLLA, shows he can hold his own over any beat. Usually the athlete-rapper crossover is a bad idea, but Lillard is the big exception to the rule.

The 6 God would be proud.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, August 4, 2015 - 09:25
Path: /college-football/florida-state-2015-fall-camp-preview-position-battles-watch
Body:

Even with the departure of several key players from last season’s team, high expectations surround Florida State in 2015. Quarterback Jameis Winston is the biggest loss in personnel, but the Seminoles also lose four starters on the offensive line, receiver Rashad Greene and a couple of key defenders.

 

Needless to say, coach Jimbo Fisher will have his work cut out for him in 2015. The Seminoles have won at least 12 games in each of the last three years. Can Fisher restock the starting lineup and settle the quarterback battle to lead Florida State to its fourth consecutive ACC Championship?

 

Florida State’s Biggest Fall Camp Storylines

 

1. The Quarterback Battle

Sean Maguire finished spring practice at the top of the depth chart, but the Seminoles added Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson in May. Although Maguire has more experience with Fisher’s offensive system and worked with the No. 1 offense in the spring, Golson is considered the favorite to win the job. Can Maguire stake his claim for the starting spot? Or will Golson win as expected?

 

2. Filling the Gaps on Offense

While the quarterback battle is going to grab all of the fall camp headlines in Tallahassee, Fisher has question marks at each of the other positions on offense. Running back Dalvin Cook’s status is uncertain for 2015 after an off-field incident, leaving Mario Pender and touted true freshman Jacques Patrick as the top options at running back. At receiver, the Seminoles lost the reliable and ultra-productive Rashad Greene, along with tight end Nick O’Leary. But the bigger concern for Fisher has to be up front, where four new starters will be looking to mesh.

 

3. Linebacker Problems

Florida State’s linebacker unit has been hit hard by injuries. Senior Reggie Northrup is recovering from a torn ACL, Terrance Smith was injured throughout 2014, and Matthew Thomas is expected to miss the start of the season after offseason shoulder surgery. The Seminoles use a lot of nickel defense, which should alleviate some of the depth and talent concerns about this unit. This fall will be a critical one for junior college recruit Lorenzo Phillips. Coordinator Charles Kelly and linebacker coach Bill Miller will be watching this unit closely during fall camp.

 

4. Upgrading the Pass Rush

The Seminoles recorded only 17 sacks last season and upgrading the play in the trenches is a priority for new line coach Brad Lawing. Standouts Eddie Goldman (DT) and Mario Edwards Jr. (DE) must be replaced, but there’s a handful of talented youngsters ready to emerge. Junior DeMarcus Walker and sophomore Lorenzo Featherston enter the fall as favorites to start at end, and Chris Casher, Rick Leonard and Jacob Pugh will provide depth. In addition to upgrading the pass rush, Florida State has to stop the run better after ranking No. 71 nationally in 2014.

 

5. Secondary Mix and Match

Jalen Ramsey is one of the best players in college football. The versatile junior is expected to start at cornerback this season, which leaves an open spot at safety. True freshman Derwin James is going to play a lot of snaps in 2015, but the top recruit could earn a starting spot. The other cornerback spot opposite of Ramsey is unsettled, with junior Marquez White the frontrunner over converted running back Ryan Green.

Teaser:
Florida State 2015 Fall Camp Preview and Key Position Battles to Watch
Post date: Tuesday, August 4, 2015 - 09:20
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas Longhorns, Big 12
Path: /college-football/charlie-strong-enough-texas
Body:

The hardest thing to do in this world is change. Change bad habits. Change jobs. Change locations. Change from one strategy to another. The hardest part about change is convincing everyone to do it, when NO ONE believes it is necessary or that it will even work.

 

The theme of change is the challenge that Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong is facing, as he convinces a football-crazy culture, a rabid fanbase, enflamed boosters, and an endless media presence that this is the year things begin to come together. Strong has a strategy of turnaround that involved sweeping year one changes. Those changes included the exit strategy of ALL players that would not follow “The Strong Way” of doing things. This strategy worked extremely well at the Louisville, where football has the opportunity to be an “also ran.” But this is Texas.

 

Related: Texas Longhorns 2015 Preview and Prediction

 

To be clear, Charlie Strong was born and strengthened working in cultures like Florida, Notre Dame and South Carolina. He is no stranger to strong football cultures. But this is not just a strong football culture. This is a CRAZED football culture that is wondering if Charlie is STRONG enough.

 

Strong’s small sample size suggests that his strategy could prove very successful. In his first two years with Louisville, he led the program to back-to-back 7-6 seasons and bowl appearances. However, it was Year 3 that produced a BCS Sugar Bowl win over his former employer Florida, while developing several NFL Draft first-round talents in QB Teddy Bridgewater, S Calvin Pryor, and WR DeVante Parker. Strong then backed that season up with an equally impressive one season in which the Cardinals went 12-1 and dominated a talented Miami team in the Russell Athletic Bowl. However, the biggest factor to Strong’s success may not have been the coach himself, but his lack of outside pressure.

 

Louisville is and probably always will be a basketball school, where football success is the narrative that adds to the bigger story that Louisville is the better “Commonwealth” school overall. The football fanbase is pleased with bowl appearances, and winning records, because it has never tasted anything beyond it. Strong never had to face questions about his “Change” strategy, because the university, the administration, the boosters, and the fans welcomed a change from his inadequate predecessor, Steve Kragthorpe. Anything other than 5-7 and 4-8 seasons was a welcome change. He produced winning seasons, which is all, at that time, that anyone could hope for from a football program that had never built true consistency. Strong did it with a winning formula, a philosophy built on true emphasis in character and leadership. He convinced young men to believe in his philosophy of change and doing things the right way. And he did it NEVER having to worry about pressure from the factors that most top-level programs must deal with. Louisville’s football program is now one of the premier programs in the country. But it still does not offer the pressure that Texas offers.

 

Texas comes with ALL KINDS OF PRESSURE. There is pressure from the Board of Regents and boosters, who are agitated by athletic director Steve Patterson, who seems to have alienated them from the hiring process that brought Strong to Texas in the first place. There is pressure from the fans who simply could not understand why so many players where unceremoniously exited from the program because they simply couldn’t get on board with the changes, leaving the team with a 6-7 record in Strong’s first year. There is pressure from the 24-hour Longhorn Network and statewide team coverage to justify the coaching changes daily. Strong will never get a break from it. It will never stop. And he must produce results today, not tomorrow. Which begs the question….Is Charlie strong enough to handle it?

 

I had the pleasure of covering Strong his final two years at Louisville. The media there treated him very fairly, never really placing him under the scrutiny that his counterpart Rick Pitino faces, nor the microscopic evaluation of his successor, the infamous Bobby Petrino.

 

Now, Strong is under the microscope. He is the top coach at a football school, in a football state. He is sitting in the driver’s seat of a program that carries one of the richest traditions in all of college sports. His predecessor is a legend that competed for and won national championships and had one losing record in 16 seasons. He is the hire of an AD that has already had his job performance questioned after less than 24 months on the job. Strong is living the classic definition of a must-win season. He must show significant progress and real growth, using his “change” philosophy, or there will be MAJOR consequences. Texas fans want to win now. The boosters want to win now. The Board of Regents wants improvement now. They won’t wait until Year 3 like his previous school. The time has come for Strong to show Longhorn faithful that he knows how to carry on the Texas tradition of winning.

 

I believe Strong will win at Texas. I believe he is more than capable of placing this team back on the national stage and competing for titles once again. But time is a factor. Texas may not be ready to make that leap in year two, but they will make that leap in a year’s time. But there is one question Strong faces now that will define his future.

 

Can Charlie be strong enough to stick to his change, underneath a mountain of scrutiny and turn Texas around? Or will the Board of Regents be making the next change?

 

— Written by Lloyd H. Spence Jr., who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Spence has covered both high school and college sports for several years, and has written for several outlets, incuding ESPNLouisville.com and CardinalSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @TalkinNOIZ

Teaser:
Is Charlie Strong Enough For Texas?
Post date: Tuesday, August 4, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NBA, Overtime
Path: /overtime/brandon-armstrong-does-best-kobe-bryant-impression
Body:

Brandon Armstrong is everyone's favorite person these days.

 

Yes, he does the greatest NBA impressions and yes he's back again. Kobe Bryant is the subject and he completely nails it. The fade, the quadrable team, and the chewing of the jersey is dead-on.

 

 

Bean would be proud. 

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, August 3, 2015 - 16:23
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/craig-james-sues-fox-sports-claiming-religious-discrimination
Body:

The marriage between Craig James and Fox Sports ended pretty swiftly, but the results remain.

 

The former NFL running back is now suing the network for religious discrimination. James spent less than a week with Fox Sports but it was his exit that most remember. The network fired James after the first college football Saturday because of his statements opposing gay marriage.

 

The lawsuit claims Fox Sports' action of firing James because of his views violated the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act.

 

"This is very troubling as an employee when your boss holds against you something you said about your belief system nearly 18 months before you were recruited and hired," James told Breitbart Sports. "I said nothing about my belief system on the air at Fox Sports. So, the fact that they reached back in my past nearly 18 months and responded to a comment about my biblical belief in natural marriage as a candidate — that's troubling."

 

A Fox Sports spokesman commented on the incident at the time, explaining why the network had to sever ties with James.

 

"We just asked ourselves how Craig's statements would play in our human resources department. He couldn't say those things here."

 

James has always made his thoughts on gay marriage and his conservative way of thinking known. Perhaps it was that he's such a public figure to begin with that ultimately caught up with him.

 

The former SMU star wants punitive damages and back wages from Fox Sports.

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, August 3, 2015 - 15:54
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Overtime
Path: /overtime/lee-corso-auburn-aubie-headgear-espn-college-gameday-pick-them
Body:

People tune in every Saturday morning to watch the talking heads of ESPN and hear their analysis for the day ahead. 

 

Lee Corso, arguably one of the most respected in the business, made it a Saturday tradition to put on the headgear of his prediction for which team will win the game of the day. From Oregon's duck to Alabama's elephant, they've all rested on the shoulders of Corso.

 

The only mascot he's never done had the pleasure of donning is Auburn's Aubie. The ESPN personality revealed that he's not allowed to wear the headgear of Auburn the Tiger. Only Aubies can be Aubie.

 

 

Corso's way around that is simple... he may have to pick the other team.

 

 

 

 

The "no talking rule" would definitely rule out Corso. The GameDay host did find a way around it last year when he picked the Tigers over Ole Miss, but it definitely wasn't the same.

Another interesting tidbit to add to the story is that Corso isn't allowed to wear Florida State headgear anymore, but for a very different reason.

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, August 3, 2015 - 14:44
Path: /college-football/cincinnati-unveils-new-uniforms-2015
Body:

Cincinnati is making the switch from Adidas to Under Armour this season, and the Bearcats officially unveiled their new uniforms on Monday.

 

The Bearcats’ black uniform is one of the best in the American Athletic Conference, and Under Armour kept the overall look intact with a few tweaks.

 

Check out Cincinnati’s new uniforms for 2015:

Teaser:
Cincinnati Unveils New Uniforms for 2015
Post date: Monday, August 3, 2015 - 14:18
Path: /college-football/michigan-state-2015-fall-camp-preview-key-position-battles-watch
Body:

Despite losing over a half dozen key contributors to the NFL Draft and graduation, not to mention arguably the best defensive coordinator in the country leaving for another job, the Michigan State Spartans enter 2015 fall practice as a dark horse contender for the College Football Playoff.

 

The Spartans need to replace three elite offensive weapons if quarterback Connor Cook is going to emerge as the Heisman candidate many are touting him as. Additionally, Mark Dantonio has the added pressure of entering the season without longtime defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, who left East Lansing to take the head coaching job at Pitt.

 

Michigan State's Biggest Fall Camp Storylines

 

1. Narduzzi's Departure
Michigan State's defensive unit has been one of the best in the country over the last half decade or so. Much of that can be attributed to Narduzzi. For the first time since 2006, the Spartans will be looking at a different coordinator — two of them, actually — for defensive direction from the sideline. Getting the kinks ironed out in in camp is going to be of critical importance if Michigan State is going to be a player in the national championship picture.

 

2. Replacing NFL-Caliber Talent on Defense
This is where we'll see how well Dantonio has actually recruited recently. Part of what made Michigan State's defense so good over the past few seasons was the play of the secondary. Two corners and two safeties from the last two Michigan State teams are currently in NFL camps. Do the Spartans have the depth at those positions to maintain the dominance they've shown in recent years?

 

3. Finding Playmakers at Wide Receiver
Cook has been the flavor of the offseason in the Big Ten. Big things are expected from him, but he'll need to do those big things with some receivers he hasn't had a lot of experience throwing to in actual games. Guys like Aaron Burbridge, Monty Madaris and R.J. Shelton are going to need to step up as dependable weapons quickly to replace Cook's top targets from 2014.

 

4. Finding Consistent Production at Running Back
Jeremy Langford was one of the toughest, most dependable runners in the Big Ten in recent memory. His are big shoes to fill, and right now, it appears those shoes will be filled by committee. From a numbers standpoint, that should be ok for now, as the Spartans are projected to field one of the better offensive lines in the conference. Down the stretch, however, Dantonio is going to want one guy he knows he can count on to get those tough yards in crunchtime.

 

5. Focusing on One Game at a Time
Outside looking in, Michigan State has two big games — Oregon and Ohio State. The ground truth, however is that Michigan State's schedule is full of underrated teams and potential trap games. The Spartans can't let up after those two big games and they must avoid letdowns in the event that they lose one or both. Trips to Nebraska, Michigan and Rutgers  — as well as a season-ending home game against Penn State — are going to require the Spartans to be firing on all cylinders both mentally and physically.

 

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Scott is the editor-in-chief of KnowItAllFootball.com, a Big Ten site for Big Ten fans. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

Teaser:
Michigan State 2015 Fall Camp Preview and Key Position Battles to Watch
Post date: Monday, August 3, 2015 - 13:30
Path: /college-football/lsu-2015-fall-camp-preview-key-position-battles-watch
Body:

LSU’ s 2014 season, by Les Miles’ standards, was a disaster. The Tigers tied the program’s worst record since Miles came to Baton Rouge in 2005, finishing 8-5 and lost 31-28 to Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl.

 

LSU has enjoyed seven seasons of 10 or more wins under their brash leader, just three times dipping to a mere mortal SEC-level of eight or nine victories. If the Tigers are hoping to right the ship and get back into SEC West title contention some serious question marks have to answered and solidified once camp begins on Aug. 6.

 

LSU’s Biggest Fall Camp Storylines

 

1. Which Quarterback Can Get the Ball to the Receivers?
LSU may have dodged the proverbial bullet when a request to drop unlawful entry charges against 2014 starting quarterback Anthony Jennings was made and granted. Jennings was reinstated on Friday, allowing him to join the LSU squad now clear of legal problems.

 

The junior signal-caller has the lead to take the ball once the Tigers kickoff against McNeese State on Sept. 5., but is that a good thing? Neither Jennings nor backup Brandon Harris could get the ball to the Tigers’ elite receiving corps consistently throughout last season. Jennings completed 48.9 percent of his passes with Harris finishing slightly better at 55.6, but he also had 182 fewer attempts. Of the two quarterbacks, Harris has a higher ceiling. If Harris wins the job he could grow into the player needed to deliver LSU back to the Promise Land.

 

Regardless of whoever wins the job, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron may need a magic elixir of some sort that will help his quarterbacks make their pre-snap reads correctly and allow them to make their progressions in the pocket. If LSU continues mediocre play under center again in 2015 the Tigers’ hopes of winning the SEC West will leave little margin for error.

 

2. Defensive Tackle Depth
The Tigers are solid in the middle with starters Christian LaCouture and Davon Godchaux but have lost some depth in the offseason with the dismissal of Trey Lealaimatafao and transfer of Travonte Valentine.

 

The big question at defensive tackle is what happens when Godchaux and LaCouture need a breather? How far does the talent level drop off when they are off the field?

 

Related: Breaking Down LSU’s Defensive Front for the 2015 Season

 

3. Production at Defensive End
LSU has an even bigger problem than their front line depth at defensive tackle with question marks at end. Juniors Tashawn Bower and Lewis Neal are expected to win the starting jobs with recently reinstated Maquedius Bain and true freshman Arden Key as the backups.

 

Statistics can be misleading but one stat that is telling for LSU is its 2014 sack total. The Tigers had 19 sacks in 13 games. Sadly seven of those sacks were produced in a blowout win against Sam Houston State.

 

Last year Bower had 2.5 sacks and Neal, a seldom-used player, had none. Can new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele find a way to utilize the talent on the roster in a way former coordinator John Chavis could not?

 

4. New Defensive Coordinator
Few can argue Kevin Steele’s resume or his knowledge of defense. Some could contend that his last two years at the Alabama are somewhat questionable. Steele spent 2013 as director of player personnel and then took over as linebackers coach last season. Talk was Saban was ready to let Steele walk before Miles hired him to replace Chavis, which raises other competency questions or personality friction problems.

 

Steele has two stints as a defensive coordinator, one at Alabama (2007) and the other at Clemson (2009-12). The big question that will be answered in Week 3 when LSU faces Auburn, if not the week prior against Mississippi State, is can Steele’s defense stop SEC offenses?

 

The presence of new defensive line coach Ed Orgeron will either help or hinder Steele in the long run. If LSU has trouble navigating the schedule in November, a battle for defensive authority could go down behind the scenes.

 

5. How Far Can Leonard Fournette Carry LSU?

Fournette is without a doubt already one of the best running backs in the nation but some questions still surround the amazing talent. The true sophomore from New Orleans eased into the 2014 season not really getting going as a featured back until Week 7 against Florida, when he carried the ball a season-high 27 times for 140 yards. Fournette’s other regular season standout games came against Ole Miss (113 yards on 23 carries) and against Texas A&M (146, 19). He closed his freshman campaign with 143 yards on 11 carries against Notre Dame.

 

In six games Fournette had at least 15 carries. If LSU wants to get back to the 10-win mark in the regular season, the Tigers will need him to bump that production up to at least 15 rushing attempts in each of the Tigers’ eight SEC games. Can he do it? That is the big question.

 

The preseason All-SEC tailback was listed at 6-1, 230. However, reports are Fournette has added some bulk in preparation for more carries but has maintained his speed. A scary thought for SEC defenses.

 

— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.

Teaser:
LSU 2015 Fall Camp Preview and Key Position Battles to Watch
Post date: Monday, August 3, 2015 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/college-fantasy-football-2015-running-back-rankings
Body:

As we turn our calendars over to August, the college fantasy football season is kicking into high gear.  Are you prepared?  

 

Athlon has teamed up with college fantasy veterans CollegeFootballGeek.com to help you dominate in 2015!  Over the course of the preseason, CFG will be providing insight into their player rankings, as well as helping you identify sleepers and breakout candidates to bolster your lineups.

 

Whether you play daily or season-long college fantasy football, CollegeFootballGeek.com (@CFFGeek) prepares you to win with the best advice, tools and customer service in the industry -- they've been doing it since 2008.  Click here to learn how you can subscribe to CFG for FREE.

 

Below, you will find CFG writer Mike Bainbridge's top 30 fantasy running backs for 2015.  To see all 232 ranked running backs, as well as their statistical projections that will be updated daily throughout August, check out CollegeFootballGeek.com.


 

Scoring system used for rankings:

 

Passing Yards, 25 yards = 1 point

Passing TD = 4 points

Rushing Yards, 10 yards = 1 point

Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receptions = 0.5 points per reception

Receiving Yards, 10 yards = 1 point

Receiving TDs = 6 points


College Fantasy Football: Top 30 Running Backs for 2015

 

  1. Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State

  2. Elijah McGuire, Louisiana-Lafayette

  3. Devontae Booker, Utah

  4. Jarvion Franklin, Western Michigan

  5. Nick Chubb, Georgia

  6. Devon Johnson, Marshall

  7. Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech

  8. Corey Clement, Wisconsin

  9. Leon Allen, Western Kentucky

  10. Marcus Cox, Appalachian State

  11. Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State

  12. Kareem Hunt, Toledo

  13. James Conner, Pittsburgh

  14. Ray Lawry, Old Dominion

  15. Aaron Jones, UTEP

  16. Nick Wilson, Arizona

  17. Samaje Perine, Oklahoma

  18. Paul Perkins, UCLA

  19. Leonard Fournette, LSU

  20. Royce Freeman, Oregon

  21. Derrick Henry, Alabama

  22. Michael Gordon, Arkansas State

  23. Daniel Lasco, California

  24. Marteze Waller, Fresno State

  25. Justin Jackson, Northwestern

  26. Shock Linwood, Baylor

  27. Kenneth Farrow, Houston

  28. Aaron Green, TCU

  29. Travis Greene, Bowling Green

  30. Matt Breida, Georgia Southern

 

- Mike Bainbridge (@MikeBainbridge2) is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a writer for CollegeFootballGeek.com. Please note that these are his personal player rankings, and not the consensus rankings of CFG.

Teaser:
College Fantasy Football 2015 Running Back Rankings
Post date: Monday, August 3, 2015 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/college-fantasy-football-2015-quarterback-rankings
Body:

As we turn our calendars over to August, the college fantasy football season is kicking into high gear.  Are you prepared?  

 

Athlon has teamed up with college fantasy veterans CollegeFootballGeek.com to help you dominate in 2015!  Over the course of the preseason, CFG will be providing insight into their player rankings, as well as helping you identify sleepers and breakout candidates to bolster your lineups.

 

Whether you play daily or season-long college fantasy football, CollegeFootballGeek.com (@CFFGeek) prepares you to win with the best advice, tools and customer service in the industry -- they've been doing it since 2008.  Click here to learn how you can subscribe to CFG for FREE.

 

Below, you will find CFG writer Mike Bainbridge's top 30 fantasy quarterbacks for 2015.  To see all 130 ranked quarterbacks, as well as their statistical projections that will be updated daily throughout August, check out CollegeFootballGeek.com.


 

Scoring system used for rankings:

 

Passing Yards, 25 yards = 1 point

Passing TD = 4 points

Rushing Yards, 10 yards = 1 point

Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receptions = 0.5 points per reception

Receiving Yards, 10 yards = 1 point

Receiving TDs = 6 points


College Fantasy Football: Top 30 Quarterbacks for 2015

 

  1. Trevone Boykin, TCU

  2. Fredi Knighten, Arkansas State

  3. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State

  4. Deshaun Watson, Clemson

  5. Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky

  6. Taysom Hill, BYU

  7. Luke Falk, Washington State

  8. Seth Russell, Baylor

  9. Matt Johnson, Bowling Green

  10. Marquise Williams, North Carolina

  11. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State

  12. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech

  13. Drew Hare, Northern Illinois

  14. Keenan Reynolds, Navy

  15. Cody Kessler, USC

  16. Jared Goff, California

  17. Anu Solomon, Arizona

  18. Josh Dobbs, Tennessee

  19. Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati

  20. Jeremy Johnson, Auburn

  21. Zach Terrell, Western Michigan

  22. Paxton Lynch, Memphis

  23. Greg Ward Jr., Houston

  24. Tyler Jones, Texas State

  25. Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech

  26. Taylor Lamb, Appalachian State

  27. Kyle Allen, Texas A&M

  28. Sefo Liufau, Colorado

  29. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

  30. Dane Evans, Tulsa

 

- Mike Bainbridge (@MikeBainbridge2) is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a writer for CollegeFootballGeek.com. Please note that these are his personal player rankings, and not the consensus rankings of CFG.

Teaser:
College Fantasy Football 2015 Quarterback Rankings
Post date: Monday, August 3, 2015 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Overtime
Path: /overtime/twitter-erupts-after-vikings-post-picture-adrian-peterson-son-family-day
Body:

If you've been under a rock in the past year, Adrian Peterson has been in the spotlight because of his method of reprimanding his son. It's been somewhat of the elephant in the room.

 

That's why when the Vikings decided to post a picture of the running back and his son at training camp, it rose a few eyebrows. It was "Family Day," but the photo didn't go as planned.

 

 

And then came the replies...

 

 

 

 

 

The past is in the past, but a photo of the two may bring up bad memories for some. However, there is a bright side. One could choose to focus on the future rather than the past.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, August 3, 2015 - 12:18
Path: /college-football/kentucky-2015-fall-camp-preview-key-position-battles-watch
Body:

Mark Stoops is 7-17 entering his third season as Kentucky's head coach. Stoops was hired during an SEC overhaul which also introduced the likes of Bret Bielema, Butch Jones and Gus Malzahn. Unlike the aforementioned, Stoops' teams have not achieved much success on the field. The Wildcats jumped out to a 5-1 start in 2014, upsetting South Carolina in the process, but failed to maintain momentum, as they lost six straight to finish the year. With three consecutive top-40 recruiting classes and an experienced roster, can Stoops get the Wildcats to a bowl game in 2015? If he doesn't, his seat will heat up in a hurry.

 

Kentucky's Five Biggest Fall Camp Storylines

 

1. Is Patrick Towles for Real?

It all starts with the quarterback and Kentucky returns a field general that turned some heads in 2014. But despite throwing for 2,718 yards and 14 touchdowns, questions remain about Towles' reliability. His impressive numbers last season were accompanied by nine interceptions and only a 57 percent completion rate. Redshirt freshman Drew Barker could provide relief if Towles struggles early in the season. Towles also showed some ability to elude pressure in 2014 with 303 rushing yards.

 

2. Trouble on the O-line

Speaking of Towles eluding defenders, most of his rushing yards came when he was running for his life. Kentucky's offensive line struggled mightily to protect the passer in the second half of the season, and in fact, has given up 71 sacks in Stoops' first two seasons. The Wildcats' offensive tackles will need to show marked improvement to fight off some of the nation's best pass rushers in the SEC East. An offseason of weight lifting should certainly help improve the unit's run blocking ability. Kentucky returns four starters up front.

 

3. A Solid Backfield

Stanley “Boom” Williams emerged as one of the SEC's most electrifying running backs last season. Williams led the team in rushing with 488 yards, including five touchdowns. He also accounted for 511 return yards, showing glimpses of elite speed, even amongst the SEC. Returning junior Jojo Kemp will assist Williams in the running game. Kemp accounted for 323 yards and four touchdowns on the ground in 2014.

 

Related: SEC Football Breakout Players for 2015

 

4. Absence of Pass Rushers

Kentucky will be without defensive ends Bud Dupree and Za'Darius Smith in 2015. Dupree was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, while Smith went in the fourth round. The impact made by Dupree and Smith last season leaves the Wildcats with glaring holes to fill. They should be strong on the interior of the defensive line, but the pass rush will likely take a step back in 2015. Jason Hatcher returns as the most experienced defensive end and could be the bright spot in a difficult situation.

 

5. Overall Depth

The 2015 Wildcats will be, without a doubt, the most experienced group of players Stoops has had so far. The roster is comprised of mainly Stoops' recruits, so it should also be the most familiar group he has had. Kentucky returns seven starters on both offense and defense. Despite some questions on the offensive and defensive lines, the Wildcats return significant depth at most positions and have few holes to fill in comparison to other SEC teams. If Kentucky is to achieve success under Stoops, 2015 could be the year.

 

— Written by Cody McClure, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a radio host and lead SEC Writer for Three Point Stance Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @CodyMcClureCFB.

Teaser:
Kentucky 2015 Fall Camp Preview and Key Position Battles to Watch
Post date: Monday, August 3, 2015 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: New Orleans Saints, NFC, NFC South, NFL
Path: /nfl/5-keys-new-orleans-saints-2015-season
Body:

New Orleans Saints training camp is in full swing at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Va. For head coach Sean Payton and his charges, the task at hand is putting last season’s 7-9 disappointing showing in the rear-view mirror and focusing on getting back to the playoffs.

 

Related: New Orleans Saints 2015 Team Preview and Prediction

 

With that goal in mind, here are five keys to the Saints’ 2015 season:

 

1. Protect Drew Brees

Whatever it takes, No. 9 must remain injury-free. Can general manager Mickey Loomis slip some non-monetary incentive clauses into the contracts of the offensive linemen based on keeping the quarterback vertical and unscathed? Will Payton mandate extra laps around the practice field, shuttle runs or other such drudgery for blown blocking assignments? Could the staff preparing the meals during training camp and at the practice facility serve each lineman his favorite dishes and in massive quantities if he does not allow a sack in the previous drill/game? Perhaps owner Tom Benson could use his clout to arrange for a Secret Service detail assigned to Brees, during the games at least? If the pride of Austin’s Westlake High School misses multiple games, the Saints and their fans should just start looking towards next year’s draft.

 

2. Replacement for Jimmy Graham

The top pass catcher in terms of receptions and touchdowns and third-most productive in yardage was traded to Seattle.  An All-Pro tight end, Graham also built a rapport with Brees that can’t be replaced in one season. However, someone must become that consistent target on which Brees can rely on every play, especially the ones that matter. Maybe longtime Saint Marques Colston can revert to his sticky-handed ways of just a few seasons ago?

 

3. C.J. Spiller filling Darren Sproles’ role

Sproles was only fourth in terms of rushing, receiving and combined yards from scrimmage respectively in his last season with the Saints in 2013. However, his versatility forced opposing defenses to respect him as true receiving threat; Sproles also was a threat to break off a long run when rushing the ball. Even though he could not always deliver a vital block against a defender bearing down on Brees, at least Sproles could catch a dump-off pass to turn a possible sack into a positive play. Brees needed that type of safety valve many times last season.

 

4. Secondary needs consistency instead of being liabilities

Stanley Jean-Baptiste needs to start contributing like a second-round pick should instead of making everyone question his selection in the 2014 draft. Could either 2015 selection — P.J. Williams or Damian Swann — show enough during training camp to be ready to play a significant amount and provide some needed depth?

 

5. Linebacker vacuum

With the release of Junior Galette, the Saints find themselves in a precarious situation. They wasted a sizeable amount of salary cap space on a player who will not be on the team. They also jettisoned the only defender who recorded double-digit sacks last season.

 

Can the Saints manage to find an adequate replacement among the available free agents or eventual training camp casualties from other teams that comes at a reasonable price? That seems unlikely since the team has more than 20 percent of its salary cap tied up in either paying players no longer on the team or deferred amounts owed to current Saints. This situation will continue to test Loomis’ skill in both personnel evaluation and budgetary finesse.

 

New Orleans drafted two linebackers (Stephone Anthony, Hau’oli Kikaha) in the first two rounds of this year’s draft. One of them will need to be on the field for a sizeable percentage of the plays this season, if not start a majority of the games.

 

 

The daily practices of August interspersed with four exhibition games will start to answer these issues. Unexpected cuts of veterans and acquisitions of free agents can alter any of these key questions into settled concerns or worsened liabilities. However, Saints fans will not get all of the answers they are seeking until the season has finished.

 

— Written by John La Fleur, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network. A graduate of Michigan State and LSU, La Fleur also has been a Saints fan since he was old enough to understand football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur.

Teaser:
5 Keys to the New Orleans Saints' 2015 Season
Post date: Monday, August 3, 2015 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Georgia Bulldogs, SEC
Path: /college-football/georgia-2015-fall-camp-preview-and-key-position-battles-watch
Body:

Georgia will enter the 2015 season with momentum from last season’s bowl win and lofty expectations in an SEC East that should be there for the taking. Mark Richt returns 13 starters, including one of the best running backs in the nation in Nick Chubb. The Bulldogs lost veteran leadership in wide receiver Chris Conley, running back Todd Gurley and quarterback Hutson Mason, but should be able to plug those holes with a plethora of talent.

 

The 2015 schedule is no easy task but Georgia only has three true road games. The question is and has always been can Georgia overcome themselves. An early October run of games (vs. Alabama, at Tennessee) should shape the rest of the schedule and give everyone a clear look at what Georgia will have to do to make the College Football Playoff. Will Georgia lose to an inferior foe once again or can they make it back to the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta?

 

Georgia’s Five Biggest Fall Camp Storylines

 

1. Greyson Lambert or Brice Ramsey?
The one question on everyone’s mind headed into fall camp is who will be under center? Lambert transferred in from Virginia, where he finished last year completing 59 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. A prototypical pocket passer, Lambert showed at times he could lead, but he also was engaged in a quarterback battle for most of 2014. Ramsey was a highly regarded recruit entering Georgia but hasn’t been able to distance himself from the pack. He also was outplayed by backup Faton Bauta in the spring game. Even with a solid returning core on the offensive line and Chubb running the ball, Georgia needs a quarterback who can control the tempo of the game and lead this team to wins.

 

Related: Georgia Bulldog Fans Need to Focus on the Present Quarterback Not the Future

 

2.  Brian Schottenheimer Offense
One thing that I took away from SEC Media Days was Richt’s faith in Schottenheimer, his new offensive coordinator. Schottenheimer’s ability to keep the offense the way it was is one of the reasons that Richt hired him. Mike Bobo led Georgia to an SEC-best 41 points per game last season. Those are huge shoes to fill, especially since the Bulldogs have yet to identify a starting quarterback. Schottenheimer’s offenses ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in each of his three years in St. Louis, but having Chubb will almost certainly help his cause. If Schottenheimer doesn’t produce quickly, he may get the “Fire Bobo” treatment quickly.

 

3. Filling the Holes Left by Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera
Wilson and Herrera were the two leading tacklers on a very good defense last year. Replacing these two will be no easy task, but second-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has plenty of playmakers to choose from. Jordan Jenkins will move to defensive end while Leonard Floyd, Tim Kimbrough and newcomer Jake Ganus will secure the second level for Georgia. Ganus is the wild card in this bunch. He transferred in from UAB as the team’s leading tackler each of the last two years and was a second-team Conference USA selection. If Ganus can react to the speed of SEC offenses, this should be one of the Bulldogs’ best defensive units.

 

4. Who Will be the Thunder to Chubb’s Lightning?
Everyone watching, playing against or game planning for Georgia knows that Chubb is going to get the ball a lot this year. But at some point you have to give him a break. Chubb is a phenomenal playmaker but he can’t do it on his own. That is why Sony Michel and Keith Marshall are so important. These two must be able to come in and give Chubb the necessary rest so that he will be healthy late in the fourth quarter. Michel played well last year and I see no drop off in 2015. Marshall is the key. He has lost some weight since last year but still looks to be just as big. If his knee holds up, Marshall will be the bruiser that Georgia will need to give Chubb a breather.

 

5. Jeb Blazevich
Yes, the Blaze. Blazevich should be a huge factor in this offense. With Justin Scott-Wesley and Malcolm Mitchell both coming off of injuries, Blazevich will need to be a reliable target in 2015. He finished his freshman campaign with 18 receptions, 269 yards and two touchdowns. In the past, Georgia has been known as a tight end factory and Blazevich has all the tools to be a great one. He will give whoever starts at quarterback an extra blocker on the line and a security blanket with great hands and the ability to get up the field quickly.

 

— Written by Justin Nails, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @justinnails

Teaser:
Georgia 2015 Fall Camp Preview and Key Position Battles to Watch
Post date: Monday, August 3, 2015 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: Baylor Bears, College Football, Big 12
Path: /college-football/baylor-2015-fall-camp-preview-and-key-position-battles-watch
Body:

Expectations have possibly never been higher in Waco. Baylor returns 18 starters from a team that finished the 2014 season 11-1 and was arguably the most deserving team left out of the inaugural College Football Playoff.

 

Head coach Art Briles has been very outspoken about why he feels the Bears have yet to receive the respect they deserve. But there may be no excuses this season as many feel Baylor has a chance to run the table. Can Briles and company meet those expectations and prove once and for all the Bears are one of nation’s elite programs?


Baylor’s Five Biggest Fall Camp Storylines

 

1. Is There a Blueprint to Beat Baylor?

The Bears return their entire starting offensive line, including All-American Spencer Drango. Shock Linwood and speedster KD Cannon also return for an offense that lit up scoreboards last season. However, Baylor’s sole loss at West Virginia proved the Bears’ potent scoring attack can be shut down. The Mountaineers blitzed more than 45 times last season on their way to a 41-27 victory, the Bears’ lowest scoring output of the season. Are there teams in the Big 12 that have the defense, or guts, to attack the Bears like the Mountaineers did? And if so, is that the formula to beating Baylor?

 

2. Will the Bears’ Schedule Come Back to Haunt Them?

Fair or not the Bears have been criticized for their non-conference schedule recently and their 2015 slate is not exactly stellar. Games at SMU, then at home against Lamar and Rice are actually worse than last season. The last four games of the season are brutal with Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State, at TCU, and home against Texas. With the “what have you done for me lately” mentality of the Playoff selection committee the Bears better hope the Longhorns are better this season than last. That game could very well be the lasting impression the Bears get to make for their Playoff resume.

 

3. Can Seth Russell Pick up where Bryce Petty Left Off

One thing is for sure, Russell is not inexperienced. The fourth-year junior played in eight of 13 games last season and led the Big 12 in pass efficiency (164.4). Despite his success behind Petty he is now tasked with replacing the record-setting quarterback. With weapons all around him Russell should have no shortage of “go-to” guys. However, he no longer has the luxury of stepping in with a significant lead. It is now his role to produce that lead.

 

Related: 10 First-Year Starting QBs Who Could Win College Football's National Title in 2015

 

4. Can the Defense Improve?

Baylor ranked 107th in the country in pass defense last season, allowing 264.2 yards per game. Both starting safeties and corners return, giving experience to the secondary after having three first-year starters last season. DE Jamal Palmer is returning from injury and Grant Campbell will be replacing departed LB Bryce Hager. You can expect DE Shawn Oakman to be a force on the line. But can the secondary step up against Big 12 teams that took advantage of the defensive backs last season?

 

5. Does the Wide Receiver Corps Become the Most Potent in the Country?

If you haven’t seen the aforementioned Cannon run you are missing an amazing feat. Cannon was a deep threat last season as a true freshman and is no longer under the radar. Fellow wideout Corey Coleman is on pace to be one of the most prolific receivers in Baylor history and is an early All-American candidate. Finally, Jay Lee is the most experienced receiver on the depth chart. Although steady, Lee has been overshadowed by both Cannon and Coleman. However, his 633 total yards on 41 receptions in 2014 shows he is a reliable receiver and could be the final piece to a pass-catching trio that could prove to be almost impossible to stop.

 

— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of BlueGoldSports.com, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow BlueGoldSports.com on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.

Teaser:
Baylor 2015 Fall Camp Preview and Key Position Battles to Watch
Post date: Monday, August 3, 2015 - 11:15
Path: /college-football/pump-brakes-joshua-dobbs-2015-volunteers
Body:

Picture your life ten years ago. You probably remember seeing George W. Bush begin his second term as President of the United States, and you probably remember seeing the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina on the city of New Orleans. You can likely recall seeing Michael Jackson and Lance Armstrong dominating the national headlines. But while you were discovering predictive text on your Motorola flip phone and sorting through your “Top Friends” on MySpace, do you happen to remember which SEC football team was expected to contend for a national title when the magazines came out in June and July? That team was the Tennessee Volunteers, ranked as high as No. 2 in the country in the preseason.

 

Indeed, 2005 was supposed to be the year for the Big Orange. Tennessee returned a plethora of talent from a 10-win team in 2004 that finished the season with a 38-7 Cotton Bowl victory over Texas A&M. Yet, after struggling past UAB in the season opener and fending off LSU in Baton Rouge, the highlight of the season, the Vols began their decline — a decline that has rarely subsided in 10 years. In 2005, the Vols lost to South Carolina for the first time ever in Knoxville. Vanderbilt beat UT that year for the first time since 1982, a game that also happened to take place in Neyland Stadium. Tennessee finished the year with a 5-6 record.

 

Then-head coach Phillip Fulmer’s glory days in Knoxville had come to an end. Despite reeling off 19 wins over the next two years and winning the SEC East in 2007, the magic just wasn’t there anymore. Tennessee had lost its luster and alumni had voiced their worries about Fulmer’s complacency in recruiting. Thus, after a rough start to the 2008 season, UT and Fulmer parted ways. The Vols lost 13-7 to Wyoming on Homecoming the following week. When Vol fans thought it couldn’t get any worse in 2008, how little they knew what was to come.

 

Lane Kiffin, a name now synonymous with ‘Spurrier’ in East Tennessee, was hired for the 2009 season. He was actually hired for longer than that, but the 2009 season alone was just enough time for Kiffin to lead the Vols to seven wins, then desert the program in the middle of the night, taking recruits with him. The roster he left behind was filled with transfers and arrests to the point that Tennessee lost nearly two full recruiting classes. Afterward, many of the same people who wanted Fulmer gone had come to realize he wasn’t so bad, even though the winning seasons were fading. It couldn’t get any worse for Tennessee, right?

 

Enter Derek Dooley. The son of legendary Georgia coach Vince Dooley, Derek became known for three things at Tennessee: wearing orange pants, coaching games from a stool, and losing. Dooley’s three years at Tennessee are widely recognized as the absolute lowest point in program history. There was the 2010 game against LSU, which Tennessee actually won in Baton Rouge, at least for a few moments before the officials realized the Vols had 13 players on the field on the final play. The Tigers got one play to punch in a touchdown and did so successfully for the victory.

 

In the Music City Bowl against North Carolina later that season, Dooley’s lone bowl appearance, there was a similar situation in which Tennessee thought it won the game and then actually didn’t. In 2011, Kentucky fans stormed the field after the Wildcats beat the Vols with a wide receiver playing quarterback. However, that wasn’t even the low point of Dooley’s tenure. In 2012, Tennessee lost 41-18 to Vanderbilt in Nashville. That would be Dooley’s final game as head coach of the Vols. He left Knoxville with a 15-21 record and never beat a ranked team. Tennessee fans don’t need to be reminded of these times. After three consecutive seven-loss seasons, the Vols were looking for a savior.

 

Welcome to the revival of Tennessee football. When Butch Jones flew into Knoxville from Cincinnati in December 2012, no one envied the job that lied ahead of him in rebuilding a once-proud football power. Sure, Tennessee had facilities and a rich tradition, but that was about it at the time. Relationships had been damaged, the roster had been depleted, there was a losing mentality amidst the program, academics suffered, and fans had stopped coming to games.

 

But since taking over, Jones has had a vision of rebuilding Tennessee brick-by-brick. He has spent the last three years tirelessly recruiting. Under Jones, the Vols have landed back-to-back top-10 recruiting classes. Facilities have been upgraded. Former players have come back to UT to get involved. The team’s overall GPA and APR score has improved. Jones has been endorsed by Peyton Manning, Jon Gruden and Mike Tomlin, among countless others. Tennessee beat a ranked team in 2013 and showed marked improvement last season, winning four of its last five games and scoring its first bowl win since ‘07.

 

It is no surprise that Tennessee is expected to take another leap in 2015. Not only do the Vols face a manageable schedule this season, but they also return an SEC-leading 18 starters from last year’s squad. Tennessee brings back a talented secondary on defense led by preseason All-SEC cornerback Cam Sutton. They also return two of the conference’s most prolific pass rushers, Derek Barnett and Curt Maggitt. On offense, the Vols will field a deep group of receivers led by Marquez North and Pig Howard, most of an offensive line that improved as the 2014 season progressed, and Jalen Hurd, who is unquestionably one of the SEC’s most talented running backs. Most importantly, for the first time since the days of Tee Martin in the late ‘90s, Tennessee will field an established mobile quarterback.

 

Joshua Dobbs is one of the smartest players in college football. An aerospace engineering major, Dobbs took over midseason in 2014 after Justin Worley suffered a shoulder injury. Dobbs threw for 1,206 yards and nine touchdowns. He also rushed for 469 yards and eight scores. Many fans point to Dobbs’ arrival as the key to Tennessee’s late-season success. His elusiveness and ability to dodge pass rushers helped remedy some of the glaring problems on the offensive line. As a result, Tennessee’s offense became more of a dual threat on the ground and in the air, while teams had to respect Dobbs’ ability to escape the pocket.

 

However, a closer look into Dobbs’ numbers from last season could reveal an underwhelming reality. Dobbs’ two biggest outings throwing the football came against two of the SEC’s worst defenses, Kentucky and South Carolina. Kentucky ranked No. 11 in the SEC in total defense, giving up 407 yards per game, while South Carolina ranked No. 13, giving up 434. In fact, Dobbs’ best game through the air, one in which he threw for 301 yards, was against the Gamecocks, a team that had the absolute worst pass defense in the conference.

 

Against the two SEC Championship Game participants, Alabama and Missouri, Dobbs threw for 192 and 195 yards, respectively. Granted, he didn’t play the full game against Alabama, but what about the final game of the regular season against Vanderbilt? Fighting for bowl eligibility, Tennessee struggled past the worst team in the SEC, winning 24-17, as Dobbs threw for 92 yards and zero touchdowns. In the bowl win over Iowa, Dobbs threw for only 129 yards. The good news for Vols fans is that Dobbs is, without a doubt, elusive. He ran for 75 yards against Alabama and 91 yards against Vanderbilt, a defense that got better as head coach Derek Mason became more involved. And of course, he set a Tennessee quarterback rushing record with 166 yards on the ground against South Carolina.

 

The point here is two-fold, and it could be seen as a good news/bad news situation for Tennessee fans. The good news is that Dobbs is an undeniable athlete. His running ability does help with the offensive line woes and he has shown he can escape the pocket and pick up yards against capable defenses. However, the bad news is a truth that Vol fans must accept until proven otherwise. Dobbs is still a somewhat-erratic, inconsistent passer. While he may have electrified the Tennessee program last season, he still hasn’t shown that he can get it done throwing the ball against the big boys. Dobbs will have plenty of opportunities to prove his worth in 2015, but there are tall mountains to climb.

 

Another problem for Tennessee that everyone seems to be forgetting about is the glaring hole at middle linebacker. Who will replace A.J. Johnson? Also, who will be able to get the job done on the interior of the defensive line? Kahlil McKenzie and Shy Tuttle both have NFL potential, but both will be true freshmen. When it comes to stopping the run, a deep rotation on the defensive line and a consistent tackler at middle linebacker are essential. The Vols will face three opponents in the month of October who share a simple philosophy: Pound the opponent into submission. Can Tennessee’s front seven withstand the bruising blows that will be delivered by Arkansas, Georgia and Alabama?

 

Recently, ESPN released its Football Power Index which has Tennessee favored in 11 of its 12 regular season games. The Vols are lurking between No. 15 and No. 25 in most of the preseason polls, but the consensus opinion is that Tennessee is poised and ready to compete for the SEC East. Jones’ team finally has the pieces in place to be a contender. The Vols only have four true road games — Florida, Alabama, Kentucky and Missouri. Tennessee is this year’s “media darling,” the team that is ready to take the next step and return to glory.

 

Hardly anyone is questioning the hype surrounding the Vols. After all, Jones has done things at Tennessee that haven’t been done since Fulmer’s heyday. Jones has made great strides, but those strides haven’t shown up in the win column against premier opponents yet. When wins over South Carolina and Iowa are considered major progress, there may be more work to do in the rebuilding phase. It could be until 2016 before the Vols are fully ready to compete.

 

The next logical step in the process is for Tennessee to start winning, and it looks like this could be the year. But I ask simply, what if the Vols don’t? What will happen if Tennessee starts the season 2-2 and loses to both Oklahoma and Florida? The wheels will fall off the wagon, that’s what. After all the good Jones has done for Tennessee, some of the radicals will want him fired. If you don’t think they can change their minds that quickly, take a trip back to 2005 or ‘08. Regardless, Jones would have another year, but the seat would begin to warm up and the pressure would build.

 

Of course, this is all hypothetical. And it’s not a knack on Tennessee fans. Vol fans are passionate and loyal, but irrelevancy in college football makes people do some crazy things. I just wonder if Tennessee fans could handle another 7-6 season without losing it. Even 8-5 to some would be considered a failure, due primarily to the fact that Tennessee has been the poster child to the “we’re back” campaign this offseason.

 

The fact of the matter is that while Tennessee certainly does have pieces in place to make a run, it still faces some very good opponents. Other than Bowling Green, Western Carolina, North Texas and Vanderbilt, which games could be circled as definite wins? Any college football coach will tell you that 7-6 and 10-3 aren’t that far apart. It could come down to a matter of just a few plays in the highly competitive SEC and toss-up teams such as South Carolina, Florida and Missouri are capable of making plays. If the ball doesn’t bounce right, the improvement made by the Vols over the past three years might not show up in the win column.

 

Sure, 10 wins is possible, but let’s pump the brakes until we see what Tennessee is really all about this year. It’s a good thing to have expectations. Tennessee’s expectations haven’t been this high in a long time. But with expectations, at some point comes a subsequent reality. In 2005, the Vols were expected to contend for a national championship, but their reality was a 5-6 season and a home loss to Vanderbilt. Tennessee fans could be set up for disappointment in 2015. John Wooden once said, “All of life is peaks and valleys. Don’t let the peaks get too high and the valleys too low.” The Vols are up high right now, but Tennessee fans should know as well as any fanbase what lows can ensue.

 

With 2005 in mind, let’s just hope fans don’t have their Motorola Razr phones ready to slice through Butch Jones’ contract if the Vols don’t win 10 games.

 

— Written by Cody McClure, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a radio host and lead SEC Writer for Three Point Stance Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @CodyMcClureCFB.

Teaser:
Pump the Brakes on Joshua Dobbs and the 2015 Volunteers
Post date: Monday, August 3, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /nfl/answering-nfc-souths-biggest-questions-2015
Body:

NFL training camps are opening up all across the nation, signaling the official return of pro football.

 

Athlon Sports is going division by division, asking and (trying to) answering the biggest question for every team in the league entering the 2015 season.

 

AFC's Biggest Questions: EastNorthSouth | West
NFC's Biggest Questions: East | North | South | West

 

NFC South

 

Atlanta: Can Dan Quinn build Seattle East?

The window for the Falcons is closing rapidly after 10 wins in two years led to a regime change from Mike Smith to Dan Quinn. The new staff used its first two picks and four of the seven total in the draft on the defensive line and in the secondary. Quinn has immediately tried to recreate in Atlanta what he had in Seattle with Vic Beasley playing the critical LEO position and Jalen Collins bringing size and strength to the cornerback position. Additionally, he brought in two defensive ends, two linebackers and a corner (actually from Seattle) in free agency. With a star quarterback in place, Atlanta can still win but Quinn’s defensive blueprint has to take hold quickly. There’s nowhere to go but up.

 

Carolina: Have the Panthers fixed their aerial issues?

The defensive front seven is nearly perfect and the offense’s ground game was among the NFL’s best last year. But the secondary and the passing game are issues. Cam Newton has some new weaponry to work with in the form of Jarrett Boykin, Ted Ginn Jr., and rookie Devin Funchess. The offense has some serious trees catching passes outside but needs to find someone who can stretch the defense. On defense, there is no star power and lots of aging legs on the back end. Someone needs to step up besides cornerback Josh Norman. Should both areas improve, a third straight division title is well within reach.

 

New Orleans: Can Rob Ryan fix the front seven?

Much like Atlanta, there are lots of question marks on the defensive side of the ball for New Orleans. The best pass rusher, Junior Galette, was released just a week before camp opened after multiple off-the-field issues. Cameron Jordan and Akiem Hicks both need to rebound in a big way. At linebacker, the Saints drafted three rookies and signed two free agents in an effort to retool the unit. Look for second-rounder Stephone Anthony to step inside and play right away while veteran Anthony Spencer and fellow rookie Hau’oli Kikaha will be asked to pressure the quarterback off the edge. This unit ranked 31st last year in total defense after ranking fourth in 2013, so the only hope NOLA has of reaching the playoffs this fall is a rebound year from Rob Ryan’s group.

 

Tampa Bay: Is Jameis Winston a star?

The Bucs' roster has lots of high-level young talent all over its roster but the main linchpin is the No. 1 overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft. The biggest difference between teams that have won in the NFC South and Tampa Bay is a franchise quarterback. For Tampa Bay to compete, Jameis Winston must be capable of going toe-to-toe with Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Cam Newton. Winston has maturity issues but is extraordinarily talented and basically won every college start he made (26-1). Look for the Buccaneers to immediately compete in a division with defensive question marks with Winston now under center.

 

Teaser:
Answering the NFC South's Biggest Questions in 2015
Post date: Monday, August 3, 2015 - 11:00

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