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Path: /college-football/james-franklin-setting-foundation-future-success-penn-state

James Franklin took over a Penn State football program in the midst of difficult times. His predecessor, Bill O’Brien, managed to keep the ship floating in spite of massive scholarship reductions and a four-year postseason ban for the program with a bitter taste attached to it in the fallout of the Jerry Sandusky scandal that rocked State College and the nation in the fall of 2011.


It has been decades since Penn State last played a factor in the national championship hunt, but the seeds of a potential College Football Playoff contender in Happy Valley have been planted and are now ready to start blossoming under Franklin’s leadership.


Penn State will not be a Playoff contender in 2015, or possibly even in ‘16, but the Nittany Lions will be a tough hurdle for potential Playoff hopefuls Ohio State and Michigan State in Big Ten East division play. From that, the measuring sticks will be used to show just how far Penn State has to go.


Related: Big Ten 2015 Predictions


In the meantime, Franklin and his staff continue to grind on the recruiting trial in hopes of establishing depth across the roster as the program still crawls out from the sanction phase of the last few years. Not every position can be addressed in the blink of an eye, so multiple recruiting classes will be put together with the intent of getting Penn State up to speed with being a Big Ten championship program once again. Given how well the program has recruited since Franklin made it a mission to “dominate the state,” it looks as though there is a bright future ahead for a program that could very well be a sleeping giant ready to be awakened.


The upcoming 2015 season will be crucial for the development of those championship aspirations in Happy Valley, and protecting quarterback Christian Hackenberg will be essential. This was an area Penn State did not thrive in last year, but one that should see some noticeable improvement in the fall.


The additions of Stanford offensive lineman Kevin Reihner and junior college transfer offensive lineman Paris Palmer will, if nothing else, add some depth in the trenches. They join a group of linemen that are able to flex at multiple positions on the line, something that has been a necessity at times given the shallowness of the depth chart in recent years.


Related: Penn State Needs Rebound Season from QB Christian Hackenberg


A reduction in scholarships meant fewer scholarships to hand out to top linemen in order to bring in players at skill positions like Hackenberg, running back Akeel Lynch, tight end Adam Breneman, and receivers like DaeSean Hamilton, Chris Godwin and Saeed Blacknall. All could play key roles in the offense this season, if Herb Hand can coach up the offensive line to take some steps forward. Given Hand’s track record, that seems likely to happen.


Last season saw Penn State give eventual national champion Ohio State all it could handle in a primetime game in Beaver Stadium. If not for a couple of officiating errors, who knows how the result may have been different form the overtime loss at the hands of the Buckeyes.


This season Penn State travels to Ohio Stadium in Columbus, a venue that has traditionally been unkind to the Nittany Lions since joining the Big Ten except for a few occasions. Penn State could also very well make its arrival in Columbus without a defeat if things go well early on. So could Ohio State, which will provide Penn State another opportunity to see just how close they are to being able to make a push for the College Football Playoff.


— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also writes for Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.

Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/how-jim-harbaugh-won-summer-2015

When Stanford hired Jim Harbaugh for the 2007 season, the move was hardly considered a stroke of genius. It was hardly even the biggest coaching move of the year.


That year, Nick Saban was hired at Alabama, Butch Davis returned to the college game at North Carolina, Dennis Erickson returned to a big-time program at Arizona State.


Move forward eight seasons, and hardly a day seems to go by when now-Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh isn’t in the news for one reason or another. He hasn’t coached a game at his alma mater, but he’s already shaken up the Big Ten and national scene.


Will a championship follow? Perhaps. Harbaugh has already won the title for Summer 2015. Here’s how:


April 24: Harbaugh vs. the SEC



In the absence of (actual) conference realignment drama or a controversial Heisman-winning quarterback, the biggest ongoing news story of the summer months surrounded satellite camps.


Big Ten coaches, starting with Penn State’s James Franklin, had poked this bear before, conducting camps for high school athletes in SEC territory. Harbaugh, though, became the focal point this summer, inviting two coaches from “every football playing college in AMERICA” to Exposure U in Ann Arbor.


Harbaugh invited coaches restricted from working a camp outside of a 50-mile radius — i.e. SEC and ACC coaches — to serve as a keynote speaker.


May 15: Harbaugh demonstrates proper inflation




We’re sure this is all in good fun and not a shot at a fellow Michigan quarterback who happens to be a four-time Super Bowl champ and the center of Deflategate.


Either way, Harbaugh tweaked the Patriots and Tom Brady with this tweet from his annual mission trip to Peru.


June 5: Harbaugh goes shirtless





Once Harbaugh actually got around to hosting his satellite camp in the backyard of Alabama and Auburn at Prattville High outside of Montgomery, he ensured the moment went viral.


On the hot June afternoon, Harbaugh ditched his long sleeve Michigan T-shirt and joined the high schoolers in a made-up game of Peru Ball.


June 8: Paul Finebaum? Never Heard of Him




There’s not a ton of reason for the Michigan coach and ex-Wolverines QB who spent his entire head coaching career in the state of California should know much of anything about Paul Finebaum.


Nonetheless, the exchange between an Alabama high school coach and a perplexed Harbaugh regarding the nationally syndicated voice of Southern sports is another reminder Harbaugh lives in a different world than the rest of us.


June 17: Jim Harbaugh’s America



Not surprisingly, no SEC coaches took up Harbaugh’s offer to serve as keynote speaker at Exposure U. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, though, did.

At the event, USA Today’s George Schroeder got this gem of a quote:


“In my America, you’re allowed to cross state borders. That’s the America I know.”


June 20: Lil Wayne is a fan




Michigan managed to get a signed jersey in the hands of Lil Wayne, which can never be a bad thing in recruiting.


July 1: An interview gone wrong






Anyone who has ever interview Jim Harbaugh knows the process can be a mixed bag. He can be golden — see the “in my America” quote — or he can be completely disinterested, as he was on national radio with ESPN’s Colin Cowherd.

How Jim Harbaugh Won the Summer of 2015
Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Overtime
Path: /overtime/joe-theismann-compares-redskins-name-change-caitlyn-jenner-bruce-washington

Recently a federal judge ruled against the Redskins in the case of the team's name. The judge went on to say it was "disparaging" Native Americans and even quoted Allen Iverson.


During a segment on Fox News, former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann disagreed with the decision, and also brought up Caitlyn Jenner. In regards to a name and who or what it represents, Theismann went on to say it's important to recognize the Redskins name and its history.


Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 21:27
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-qb-braxton-miller-ends-rumors-and-speculation-plans-competing-qb-job

The rumors and speculation about Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller’s future are officially over. Somewhat.


On Thursday, the Columbus Dispatch released an interview with the senior quarterback, and Miller states his intention is to return to Columbus in 2015 and not transfer to another school.


“I’m from Ohio, this is my home state,” Miller told the newspaper. “This is where I started and this is where I’m going to finish it.”


While Miller has officially declared he will be back at Ohio State, there’s still the other question to settle. Who will start for the Buckeyes in 2015 at quarterback?


Here’s Miller’s take from the article:


“As it stands right now, I know I am the best athlete in college football. If any competition wants to come my way, I’ve just got to be smart about things and just stay looking forward.”


Although Miller plans on competing at quarterback, his future in the NFL is likely as a receiver or running back. Considering his recent shoulder surgeries, a move to running back or receiver could accelerate his learning curve and allow J.T. Barrett or Cardale Jones the opportunity to start a full season of snaps.


Regardless of which quarterback starts for Ohio State, all three are expected to be key cogs in the offense for coach Urban Meyer.


With Miller officially announcing his intention to remain in Columbus, the focus can shift to the three quarterbacks and the upcoming battle for the starting job in fall practice.

Ohio State QB Braxton Miller Ends Rumors and Speculation, Plans on Competing for QB Job
Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 15:51
Path: /college-football/sec-announces-players-attend-2015-football-media-days

The 2015 SEC Football Media Days will be held July 13-16 in Hoover, Ala. The always anticipated event kicks off on Monday with Auburn, Florida, and Vanderbilt taking center stage. On Tuesday, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, and Tennessee will answer questions about the upcoming season followed by Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas on Wednesday. LSU, Georgia, and Ole Miss close out the event on Thursday.


This year's SEC Football Media Days will be held at the Hyatt Regency/Wynfrey Hotel. On Monday new SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey will open his first SEC Media Days having replaced Michael Slive as announced in March. Sankey was promoted up through the ranks after overseeing daily SEC operations in 2012. The SEC also has announced which players will be in attendance at Media Days alongside their respective head coach.


Related: SEC Football 2015 Predictions


2015 SEC Football Media Days Attendees



Head Coach Nick Saban

Reggie Ragland, Sr., LB

Kenyan Drake, Sr., RB

Ryan Kelly, Sr., OL



Head Coach Bret Bielema

Jonathan Williams, Sr., RB

Brandon Allen, Sr., QB

Keon Hatcher, Sr., WR



Head Coach Gus Malzahn

Jeremy Johnson, Jr., QB

Jonathan Jones, Sr., DB

Kris Frost, Sr., LB



Head Coach Jim McElwain

Jonathan Bullard, Sr., DE

Brandon Powell, So., WR

Vernon Hargreaves III, Jr., DB



Head Coach Mark Richt

Malcolm Mitchell, Sr., WR

John Theus, Sr., OT

Jordan Jenkins, Sr., OLB



Head Coach Mark Stoops

Melvin Lewis, Sr., NG

Jordan Swindle, Sr., OT

A.J. Stamps, Sr., S



Head Coach Les Miles

Leonard Fournette, So., RB

Vadal Alexander, Sr., OT

Kendell Beckwith, Jr., LB


Mississippi State

Head Coach Dan Mullen

Dak Prescott, Sr., QB

Taveze Calhoun, Sr., DB

Ryan Brown, Sr., DE



Head Coach Gary Pinkel

Kenya Dennis, Sr., DB

Maty Mauk, Jr., QB

Evan Boehm, Sr., C


Ole Miss

Head Coach Hugh Freeze

Evan Engram, Jr., TE

Mike Hilton, Sr., DB

C.J. Johnson, Sr., LB


South Carolina

Head Coach Steve Spurrier

Elliott Fry, Jr., PK

Pharoh Cooper, Jr., WR

Skai Moore, Jr., LB



Head Coach Butch Jones

Joshua Dobbs, Jr., QB

Curt Maggitt, Sr., LB/DL

Cameron Sutton, Jr., DB


Texas A&M

Head Coach Kevin Sumlin

Mike Matthews, Sr., C

Germain Ifedi, Jr., OT

Julien Obioha, Sr., DL



Head Coach Derek Mason

Ralph Webb, So., RB

Nigel Bowden, So., LB

Spencer Pulley, Sr., C


— 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, Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.

SEC Announces Players Who Will Attend 2015 Football Media Days
Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 14:15
All taxonomy terms: NBA, Overtime
Path: /overtime/throwback-thursday-rare-footage-michael-jordan-dunking-high-school-chicago-bulls

Michael Jordan has been taking flight since high school.


In honor of Throwback Thursday, we get a peek at rare footage of His Airness soaring for a dunk during his Laney High School days. It wouldn't be long after when we would see him soar in that same manner wearing Tar Heel blue and eventually Chicago Bulls red.

Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 13:07
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/serena-williams-rolls-through-maria-sharapova-again

After defeating her sister just a few days ago, Serena Williams took to the court and dominated her “rival” Maria Sharapova. In the Wimbledon semifinals, Serena cruised to a 6-2, 6-4 victory with a chance for a sixth Wimbledon title. Williams, the No. 1 ranked tennis player, increased her record against No. 4 Sharapova to 18-2 all time.


The last time Sharapova defeated Williams was in 2004, and since then, Serena has won 17 straight head-to-head matches. While the record may show to be so one-sided, the rivalry exists because of the intensity of their competition and how high the stakes usually are. On Saturday, Williams will take on Gabrine Muguruza in an attempt to collect her 20th singles Grand Slam title.

Watch below as Williams wins the match:

Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 12:53
Path: /college-football/breaking-down-lsu-defensive-front-2015-season

To 3-4 or 4-3, that is the question new LSU defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is asking himself going into the 2015 season.


The continued exodus of talent leaving Baton Rouge to the NFL started to take a toll in 2014, as a four-year streak of double-digit wins came to an end following an 8-5 showing. One of the many problems for Les Miles' team was inexperience up front on defense. That inexperience showed in both stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback, especially in SEC play.


The bad news is stud linebacker Kwon Alexander and his team-leading 90 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss, and 1.5 sacks are gone. The other bad news is defensive end Danielle Hunter (73 tackles, 13.0 TFL and 1.5 sacks) also has departed as has safety Ronald Martin (73 tackles, 2 interceptions, 11 pass deflections).


The good news is both starting defensive tackles are returning. Christian LaCouture and Davon Godchaux were solid in the trenches as first-year starters. Godchaux had 42 tackles, 1.5 TFL and 2.5 sacks. LaCouture had 40 tackles, 4.0 TFL and 2.5 sacks.


If tackle Travonte Valentine can stay out of Steele and head coach Les Miles' doghouse he is a difference-maker. At 6-foot-3, 325 pounds he is a force in the middle. Academic issues may keep him from playing time in 2015.


Another loss on defense is Trey Lealaimatafao. Lealaimatafao is off the team after being arrested for robbing an unconscious man and hitting a woman outside a bar in Tigerland in June. The redshirt freshman was a big 4-star recruit expected to fill in the two-deep this year. That leaves Greg Gilmore, Frank Herron and Quentin Thomas to fill in the spots.


The big question for LSU, will the Tigers get pressure off the ends in 2015?


Juniors Tashawn Bower and Lewis Neal are penciled in as the starters. Both played in 13 games last season, but of the two Bower was the only one getting real playing time. Bower had 16 tackles with 2.5 sacks. Neal had three tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss.


The status of Maquedius Bain is also in doubt. Bain was one of the guys arrested when starting quarterback Anthony Jennings went looking for his stolen property in someone else’s home. The indefinite suspension could linger until the legal matter is fully processed.


LSU only signed two defensive linemen in the 2015 recruiting class, Arden Key and Isaiah Washington. Key is already expected to contribute as a true freshman but has a lot of work to do over the summer to prepare. At 6-foot-6, 215 pounds, he's a good-sized human being compared to us regular Joes but slight for a SEC end. Washington has some time to spend in the dining hall and weight room as well. He comes to Baton Rouge around the 6-4, 225-pound range.


Cause for Concern in Baton Rouge

In 2014 the youth movement slowed down the front seven in Baton Rouge. The defense picked up 19 total sacks but even that number is skewed. Of the 19, seven came against Sam Houston State in a 56-0 romp.


Longtime defensive coordinator John Chavis is gone to Texas A&M and former Alabama linebackers coach Steele is the new guy in town. Chavis typically had so much talent up front and in the secondary he could run a base 4-3 shutting down anyone and everyone’s rushing or passing attack but a trend in the wrong direction developed between the 2013 and '14 squads.


LSU has long been known for its play on defense but the team was no longer fearsome in 2014. The 2013 squad was respectable, allowing 143.2 rushing yards per game, ranking No. 35 nationally and No. 3 in the SEC. In 2014 those numbers finished at 152.7 yards allowed per game , putting the Tigers No. 46 nationally and No. 7 in the SEC.


Steele may be deeper at linebacker, opting to run a 3-4 instead of a 4-3 defense to get production on the outside. A change in scheme could slow the reaction time of the players, forcing them to think instead of going full speed. Time will tell which direction proves more fruitful for the Tigers.


One positive up front is new defensive line coach Ed Orgeron. Orgeron has a reputation for being a great defensive coach despite his failures at Ole Miss. He turned around the fortunes at USC as the interim coach after Lane Kiffin was fired five games into the 2013 season. Can he do the same for LSU in 2015?


— 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, Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.

Breaking Down LSU’s Defensive Front for the 2015 Season
Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/keith-olbermann-once-again-out-espn

Keith Olbermann will be leaving ESPN once again, and it seems like this will be his last tenure there. The highly vocal and controversial figure had his own show on ESPN2 during his second stint with the network that began in 2013. ESPN decided not to renew his contract but still praised him for being "a tremendous talent".


Earlier this year, Olbermann was suspended for comments he made about Penn State on Twitter and has taken to social media plenty to voice his opinions. He also has been an adamant adversary of Roger Goodell, mostly for his handling of the Ray Rice domestic abuse case. The provocative figure first began with ESPN in 1992 but left the company in 1997, apparently burning bridges at the end.

See ESPN's full statement below:


Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 12:10
Path: /college-football/examining-overunder-2015-win-totals-big-ten-east-division

The Big Ten is home to some of the best storylines in college football. In the East Division alone, you've got defending national champion Ohio State, which has three QBs capable of starting for anyone in the country. Watching who will come out on top will be fascinating. Elsewhere, you've got Jim Harbaugh trying to resurrect Michigan while James Franklin continues to build Penn State. And don't forget about Michigan State, which is loaded with plenty of talent at key positions and could find itself in the thick of the College Football Playoff discussion when all is said and done.


Related: Big Ten 2015 Football Predictions


For the purposes of this exercise, projected win totals are broken down into three categories — definite wins, definite losses and toss-ups. Most of the conference games will in the toss-up category, especially ones on the road. This preview will offer thoughts on each team and if there’s any value either over or under.


Note: Over/under odds courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbook


Big Ten East


Indiana Hoosiers

(Over 6 wins +160...Under 6 wins -210)


Record Last Year: 4-8, 1-7


Returning Starters: 11 (5 on offense, 6 on defense)


Offense: Nate Sudfeld gets the keys to the offense after missing the final six games last season because of a shoulder injury. Sudfeld will not have leading rusher Tevin Coleman, who went pro. UAB transfer Jordan Howard and Tommy Mister figure to get a crack at replacing Coleman, but it's bad when your leading returning rusher is the backup quarterback. Howard will need to catch up after missing spring ball.


Defense: One of the worst defenses in the conference gets its front line back intact. There's a lot of work that needs to be done on this side of the ball so there figures to be a lot of shootouts.


Schedule: The Hoosiers host Southern Illinois, Florida International and Western Kentucky to start the season before playing at Wake Forest. Each non-conference game is winnable, which will be key with Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State on tap in October, along with a home game against Rutgers mixed in.


Selection: I agree with the line move. Six is an optimistic number with such a poor defense and an offense searching for weapons.


Maryland Terrapins

(Over 4.5 wins -145...Under 4.5 wins +105)


Record Last Year: 7-6, 4-4


Returning Starters: 10 (6 on offense, 4 on defense)


Offense: Quarterback C.J. Brown is gone and replacing him figures to be Caleb Rowe. Rowe got some time under center last year. He has a few WRs back from last year, although none are as talented or explosive as Stefon Diggs. Brandon Ross will carry the load out of the backfield.


Defense: This side of the ball will be getting a makeover, as coordinator Brian Stewart is gone. Stepping in is Keith Dudzinski, who has a fantastic secondary to build on. William Likely had six INTs in 2014 and was one of the better players at the position. The problems start in the front seven, which saw the majority of its talent graduate.


Schedule: The Terps host Richmond, Bowling Green and South Florida before traveling to Morgantown. They will need to be careful against the Spiders and Falcons in weeks 1 and 2 because both will be tricky games. The conference slate alternates between home and away games.


Selection: The lean is to the over here as I think Maryland takes care of business out of conference. Getting Indiana and Rutgers to close things out also will help the Hoosiers as they rebuild.


Michigan Wolverines

(Over 7.5 wins -115...Under 7.5 wins -125)


Record Last Year: 5-7, 3-5


Returning Starters: 11 (5 on offense, 6 on defense)


Offense: It'll be an intriguing race at QB with Iowa transfer Jake Rudock going up against Shane Morris. Mistake-prone Devin Gardner is gone which should cause Michigan fans less pain. Whomever is under center will want to feed Amara Darboh, who played well in the spring. The offensive line is almost completely back from 2014 and this group be opening holes for Derrick Green and Ty Isaac.


Defense: Michigan's calling card will be on defense where D.J. Durkin takes over. Everyone will be excited to finally see Jabrill Peppers on the field. There are some other pieces to like, thus providing reasons for optimism.


Schedule: The Wolverines travel to Utah before hosting Oregon State, UNLV and BYU. Michigan gets rivals Michigan State and Ohio State at home.


Selection: I think the under is the play here. Optimism over the new coaching staff is nice, but it'll struggle to translate on the field. What will fans say if they lose the season opener at Utah? This is a tough schedule for a group in transition.


Michigan State Spartans

(Over 9.5 wins -165...Under 9.5 wins +125)


Record Last Year: 11-2, 7-1


Returning Starters: 13 (6 on offense, 7 on defense)


Offense: It's a broken record, but Connor Cook is a Heisman candidate. In 2014 he threw 24 touchdowns to just eight INTs. Cook will need to find new weapons with WR Tony Lippett and RB Jeremy Langford departing. Delton Williams' status is up in the air and he'd be a nice chip for this offense to have.


Defense: Shilique Calhoun is a monster up front. Last year he had eight sacks, but caused a lot more issues that a stat page can't quantify. He's got help from Lawrence Thomas on the other side. The biggest question resides in the secondary where they have to replace standout cornerback Trae Waynes.


Schedule: An odd road game with Western Michigan starts things off before home matchups with Oregon, Air Force and Central Michigan. Sparty plays at Nebraska, Michigan and Ohio State this year.


Selection: Slight lean to the under for Michigan State. Calhoun and Cook are good leaders, but there are a few traps on this schedule. Be careful with Air Force the week after a tough tilt with Oregon. I'm not saying the Spartans will lose, but it may not be their best effort.


Ohio State Buckeyes

(Over 11 wins -195...Under 11 wins +155)


Record Last Year: 14-1, 8-0


Returning Starters: 14 (7 on offense, 7 on defense)


Offense: I can't wait to see who comes out of the QB race between Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller. Ezekiel Elliott is going to be the workhorse at RB after rushing for nearly 2,000 yards in 2014. The offensive line is pretty much back. If you wanted to nitpick a weakness, it's the WRs who have to get a little better.


Defense: Joey Bosa is real tough up front along with Adolphus Washington. Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell solidify the safety position. This unit will be good once again.


Schedule: Blacksburg, Va., will be where OSU begins its title defense as the Buckeyes play the only team to knock them off in 2014. After Virginia Tech come home games against Hawaii, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan. They couldn't have received an easier road schedule in conference with Indiana, Rutgers, Illinois and Michigan.


Selection: I don't think this team goes undefeated so I'm either not touching it or slightly leaning to the under. Virginia Tech will be rocking week one. They also could potentially lose to Michigan State or Penn State at home.


Penn State Nittany Lions

(Over 7.5 wins -230...Under 7.5 wins +170)


Record Last Year: 7-6, 2-6


Returning Starters: 15 (8 on offense, 7 on defense)


Offense: Some 2016 NFL mock drafts have Christian Hackenberg the No. 1 overall pick. He struggled with turnovers last year, putting up 15 interceptions to just 12 touchdown passes. Hackenberg should have more time in the pocket with the offensive line improving. DaeSean Hamilton is back after putting up nearly 1,000 yards receiving in 2014. The run game will be led by Akeel Lynch.


Defense: This was a stout unit last year that allowed just 18.6 points per contest. They return several players in each level of the defense led by Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel up front. The secondary is a strength with Marcus Allen and Trevor Williams.


Schedule: A sneaky-tough contest with Temple starts the year off in Philadelphia. The Nittany Lions then play five straight home games including ones against Buffalo, San Diego State and Army. PSU doesn't really have a tough schedule at all.


Selection: The over is the play here. Penn State could approach 10 wins. Not quite sure what Vegas sees here as the Nittany Lions will comfortably go over the number.


Rutgers Scarlet Knights

(Over 5 wins -145...Under 5 wins +105)


Record Last Year: 8-5, 3-5


Returning Starters: 8 (3 on offense, 5 on defense)


Offense: There's not much back from the 2014 squad. Leonte Carroo is a real good WR, but who is going to get him the ball? The QB competition features Chris Laviano and Hayden Rettig who are both sophomores. Paul James is a solid runner out of the backfield.


Defense: Rutgers was pushed around a lot last year, giving up 212.3 rushing yards per game. Steve Longa and Quentin Gause are a solid pair of linebackers. The secondary will need to be rebuilt a bit.


Schedule: It's a home-friendly non-conference slate for the most part as Rutgers gets Norfolk State, Washington State and Kansas in Newark while the Scarlet Knights travel to Army in November. Michigan State, Nebraska and Ohio State all come to New Jersey.


Selection: As long as you can find the under at plus money I endorse it. Rutgers could very well upset someone at home, but it also could lose to a tough Washington State team there too.


— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.

Examining the Over/Under 2015 Win Totals for the Big Ten's East Division
Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/accs-top-players-returning-injury-2015

Injuries are a big part of any college football season. Whether it’s a starting quarterback, a No. 2 receiver or a defensive lineman part of a deep rotation, injuries will always have an impact on a team.


To help preview the season, Athlon is taking a look at some of the injured players from 2014 and their return in 2015.


Players with a season-ending injury or ones that missed a major chunk of the 2014 campaign were considered for the article. Players that just missed a few games because of injuries and returned were not considered for this article.


Here’s a look at a handful of key players returning from injuries from the ACC in 2015:


ACC's Top Players Returning from Injury


Braxton Deaver, TE, Duke

Deaver was one of the ACC’s top tight ends in 2013 and is a key weapon back in the mix for new quarterback Thomas Sirk. The Charlotte native caught 46 passes for 600 yards and four touchdowns in 2013 and is expected to be at full strength from a torn ACL by the fall.


Brandon Facyson, CB, Virginia Tech

After a standout freshman campaign in 2013, big things were expected from Facyson in 2014. However, a shin injury suffered in the spring was aggravated in September, and the Georgia native sat out the rest of the season. Facyson was considered one of college football’s top freshmen in 2013, as he recorded 27 tackles and five interceptions in 12 games. If Facyson is at full strength, the Hokies could have the best secondary in the nation.


Related: College Football's Top Cornerback Tandems for 2015


Terrel Hunt, QB, Syracuse

The return of Hunt should provide a boost for a Syracuse offense that managed just 17.1 points per game in 2014. The Orange never got their offense on track last season and switched coordinators five games into the year. In five appearances last season, Hunt completed 83 of 145 passes for 983 yards and one score. However, the numbers for Hunt were better in 2013, as he completed 61.2 percent of his throws for 1,632 yards and 10 scores.


Related: ACC All-Conference Team for 2015


Nile Lawrence-Stample, DT, Florida State

Lawrence-Stample was expected to be a key piece of Florida State’s defensive line, but the Fort Lauderdale native suffered a pectoral muscle injury against Clemson and played in only four games. In limited action, Lawrence-Stample finished the year with 10 tackles. With Mario Edwards Jr. and Eddie Goldman off to the NFL, Lawrence-Stample needs to be a force on the interior for coordinator Charles Kelly.


Related: ACC Predictions for 2015


Luther Maddy, DT, Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech’s defense should be among the nation’s best in 2015. Eight starters are back for coordinator Bud Foster, and two key players – Maddy and cornerback Brandon Facyson – are back from injury. Maddy started all 13 games for the Hokies in 2013 and earned All-ACC honors after recording 13.5 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks. Maddy suffered a season-ending knee injury in the fourth game of 2014 and finished the year with nine tackles. He could be a candidate for All-America honors this season.


Kc McDermott, OT, Miami

The development of Miami’s offensive line is critical to its hopes of contending for the Coastal Division title. The Hurricanes return only one starter (Danny Isidora) and Taylor Gadbois (a projected starter) was dismissed in June. McDermott suffered a season-ending knee injury against Duke on Sept. 27 in 2014 but is expected to anchor one of the tackle positions for coach Al Golden.


Related: College Football's Bowl Projections for 2015


Demetrious Nicholson, CB, Virginia

When healthy, Nicholson is among the ACC’s top cornerbacks. However, the Virginia Beach native has played in only six games over the last two seasons. As a freshman in 2011, Nicholson recorded 60 tackles and two interceptions. In 2012, Nicholson picked up 56 tackles and 15 pass breakups. The senior played in only one game last season and missed 11 contests with a toe injury. If Nicholson can stay healthy, Virginia should have a solid cornerback tandem with fellow senior Maurice Canady returning in 2015.


Ejuan Price, DE, Pittsburgh

Price has bounced between linebacker and defensive end during his four seasons with the Panthers. Additionally, Price has experienced some bad luck with injuries, as he’s played in only one full year (2011) and has only six appearances in the last three seasons. In 2011, Price recorded 27 tackles (6.5 for a loss) and four sacks. New coach Pat Narduzzi needs difference makers on defense. Having Price’s ability off the edge should help the Panthers in 2015.


Artie Rowell, C/G, Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh’s line was critical in clearing the way for running back James Conner to rush for 1,765 yards last season, and this unit should be a strength for new coach Pat Narduzzi in 2015. Three starters are back, but this unit suffered a setback when projected right tackle Jaryd Jones-Smith was ruled out for 2015 with a season-ending knee injury. But the offensive line should receive a boost with Rowell returning to the lineup. The Pennsylvania native started all 13 games for the Panthers in 2013 and the first two contests in 2014 before a season-ending knee injury.


Related: ACC Predictions for 2015


Broderick Snoddy, RB, Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech’s rushing attack was hit hard by departures in the backfield, as only three of the top 10 statistical rushers are back in 2015. And two of those players – Justin Thomas and Tim Byerly – are quarterbacks. Snoddy is Georgia Tech’s top returner at running back after suffering a season-ending leg injury against Clemson in 2014. In 10 games last year, Snoddy recorded 283 yards and three scores on 28 attempts.


Related: 14 Position Groups on the Hot Seat in the ACC


Matthew Thomas, LB, Florida State

Thomas was a big-time, five-star pickup for Florida State on the recruiting trail, but the Miami native has been limited by injuries and served a six-game suspension to start 2014. Thomas played in eight games last year and recorded 26 tackles (2.5 for a loss). However, the sophomore had shoulder surgery in the spring and may not be ready by the opener. Getting Thomas back to full strength is critical for Florida State, as depth and proven options in the linebacking corps are a concern.


Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

Watson made only eight appearances as a true freshman last season, but the touted quarterback showed why he is already among the nation’s best at quarterback. Watson threw for 1,466 yards and 14 scores and completed 67.9 percent of his passes. The Georgia native torched North Carolina for 435 yards and six touchdowns and led Clemson to a 35-17 win over rival South Carolina by completing 14 of 19 passes for 269 yards. Watson’s ACL injury is expected to be fully healed by the opener. And the sophomore is Athlon’s pick to be the ACC’s top quarterback in 2015.


Related: College Football's All-Sophomore Team for 2015


Harris Williams, C, Boston College

Offensive line play has been a strength for Boston College under coach Steve Addazio, but the Eagles are essentially starting from scratch in the trenches. All five starters from last season are gone, including standout center Andy Gallik and tackle Seth Betancourt. Williams was expected to anchor one of the guard spots in 2014 but suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the opener against UMass. His return should give Addazio a potential All-ACC building block to starting the rebuilding effort in 2015.


Others to Watch


Travis Blanks, S, Clemson

Blanks missed 2014 due to a knee injury and did not participate in spring practice after aggravating the injury in bowl workouts. Can Blanks return to full strength by fall camp?


Ashton Broyld, WR, Syracuse
In addition to missing quarterback Terrel Hunt, Syracuse played most of 2014 without one of its top receivers. Broyld played in only five games and caught 15 passes for 174 yards. Coordinator Tim Lester plans on using Broyld in a hybrid H-back role in 2015.


Will Gardner, QB, Louisville

Gardner opened 2014 as Louisville’s starter and finished with 1,669 passing yards and 12 scores after a season-ending knee injury against Boston College. The junior has some ground to make up in the fall, as Reggie Bonnafon is considered the favorite to start under center.


Rayshawn Jenkins, S, Miami

Jenkins started 12 games for the Hurricanes in 2013 and recorded 46 stops and five pass breakups. The St. Petersburg native missed all of 2014 due to a back injury and is expected to push for one of the starting jobs at safety this fall.


Shai McKenzie, RB, Virginia Tech

McKenzie played in five games as a true freshman before suffering a torn ACL against Western Michigan. The knee injury was McKenzie’s second in two years, so the Hokies will be cautious with his return.


Marshawn Williams, RB, Virginia Tech

Williams was off to a promising start as a true freshman last season, recording 475 yards and four scores on 124 attempts. However, a season-ending knee injury against Duke sidelined him for the remainder of 2014. 

ACC's Top Players Returning from Injury in 2015
Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: NBA, Overtime
Path: /overtime/mark-cuban-and-chris-broussard-spat-over-sources-espn-mavericks-jordan

The DeAndre Jordan emoji-fest is over *happy emoji*.


The center is heading back to the Clippers. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban seems to be making peace with it.



Of course that's not where this story ends. The question of ESPN reporter Chris Broussard's "sources" came into play (as it so often does).




Cuban's brother Brian wasn't buying what Broussard's sources were selling and posed a very good question. How could the reporter have known such detailed information? Of course this isn't the first time that people have been skeptical of Broussard's reporting.



The next morning, Cuban tweeted to Broussard with his opinion of the reporting he had done.  






"Sources" tell me that this is far from over. 


I was right. Later in the day Cuban fired back with this.



Finally Broussard responds, admitting he may have jumped the gun on the Cuban tweet.


Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 11:26
All taxonomy terms: NBA, News
Path: /nba/mark-cuban-says-deandre-jordan-never-responded-yesterday

Naturally, the biggest NBA free controversy came to Mark Cuban, or more correctly didn’t come to him. After DeAndre Jordan seemed to have a contract in place with the Dallas Mavericks, he flipped back to remaining on the Los Angeles Clippers. However, as he made the decision, Mark Cuban claims that Jordan never talked to him yesterday.


While Cuban has made these remarks, he stated that he will explain the full details soon. Yet, he seemed both angered and upset by Jordan’s actions, which leaves the Mavericks without this superstar. Somehow, it always feels like Mark Cuban is at the center of attention.

See Cuban's message to fans below:


Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 11:23
All taxonomy terms: New York Giants, NFC East, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/new-york-giants-2015-team-preview-and-prediction

There’s only so much that even the most patient bosses can take, and it appears that Giants ownership is finally reaching its limit. Last season was a disaster. They’ve now suffered back-to-back losing seasons for the first time under Tom Coughlin. In the three years since they won Super Bowl XLVI, they haven’t made the playoffs once.


That is the failure that hovers over the Giants’ 2015 season. And any thought that John Mara still has patience with Coughlin and GM Jerry Reese was erased with his last answer in his season-ending press conference. He was asked if 2015 would be a “win or else proposition” for many of his employees.


“I don’t think that’s an unfair statement,” Mara said.


And so it begins. It’s either the end of the Coughlin era, or the Giants’ long-awaited return to prominence. And there seems to be very little room in between.


Buy Athlon Sports' 2015 NFL Preview Magazine



Considering all the questions hovering over Eli Manning heading into last season, his 2014 was remarkable. Last summer, he was answering questions about his injured ankle, the 27 interceptions he threw the year before, and his ability to learn a new offense for the first time in his career. In his 11th season, Manning threw for 4,410 yards and 30 touchdowns and had career high 63.1 completion percentage. His answer was one of his finest statistical seasons as he led the Giants’ offense back into the top 10.


This year they’re aiming higher — much higher — because they believe they have an offensive arsenal that compares to any team in the league. Start with the incomparable Odell Beckham Jr., the receiver who became an overnight superstar as a rookie. In 12 games he had what would’ve been a great season for most receivers in 16 games (91-1,305-12), and he did it despite being the Giants’ only viable option at times.


This season, Beckham expects to be flanked by former Pro Bowl receiver Victor Cruz, whom the Giants hope will make a full recovery from the knee injury suffered last season. And the inconsistent but dangerous Rueben Randle will be better off as the No. 3. Randle had a career-high 938 receiving yards, but his yards per catch dipped from 14.9 to 13.2, and he scored only three touchdowns. Manning also will now have a running back to throw to out of the backfield — ex-Patriot Shane Vereen — which is supposed to be a very key component in offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s plan. Vereen caught 52 passes last year for New England.


The key to all this, though, is the offensive line, which could give the running game a boost and give Manning more time to find his targets. They believe they’ll be better because guard Geoff Schwartz, last year’s big free agent, will be back after an injury-plagued season. They also drafted big Ereck Flowers, who should take over at right tackle, which would allow Justin Pugh to move inside to guard.


The Giants have the potential to have their best line — and best offense — since their Super Bowl team. 



It’s "Back to the Future" for the Giants after yet another disastrous defensive performance last season under now-ex-defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. There was no doubt whom Coughlin was going to tab as Fewell’s replacement — the popular Steve Spagnuolo, who was the Giants’ defensive coordinator in 2007 and 2008 and was the architect of the plan that beat the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.


Of course, “Spags” had a loaded team back then that included Hall of Fame defensive end Michael Strahan and a stable of young, talented pass rushers. This time around his cupboard is much more bare. The Giants’ entire pass rush hinges on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who got the “franchise” tag this offseason. He had a brief resurgence at the end of last season, but it could’ve been the by-product of playing some bad teams.


The team applied the franchise tag to its best defender in the offseason and reportedly had offered Pierre-Paul a $60 million contract extension, but that was before he seriously injured his hands in a July 4th fireworks accident. The damage includes the amputation of his right index finger as well as multiple fractures to his right thumb. Right now, JPP is expected to play this season, but this incident has definitely brought his future with the team back to the forefront, as he has yet to sign his one-year franchise tender, which would pay him $14.8 million this season, and the Giants have since pulled their contract offer.


Spagnuolo will bring an aggressive, attacking scheme that his players will love. He will find ways to utilize promising defensive end Damontre Moore, who is a pass-rush specialist but struggles against the run. He will bring corners and safeties on frequent blitzes, which will help a secondary that has some big question marks (corners Prince Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are coming off injury-plagued seasons, and with Antrel Rolle gone the safety spot looks like a big, black hole).


The key to making that work, though, is the presence of one premier pass rusher to get most of the offense’s attention, and to shrug off that attention and still make his presence felt. Pierre-Paul used to be able to do that. And the Giants’ defense could be very good if he’s the old “JPP” again.



The Giants haven’t had to worry about their kicker (Josh Brown) or punter (Steve Weatherford) the last few years. Brown is as accurate as any kicker in the league, and Weatherford — who battled through painful torn ligaments in his ankle last season — is a coach’s dream, at least when he’s healthy. The coverage teams on kicks and punts were even improved last season.


It’s the Giants’ return game that’s been dreadful, which is why they over-spent on Dwayne Harris, a virtually unknown Cowboys receiver/returner. The hope is that he’ll bring the speed and explosiveness they’ve been missing in their return game since they had a healthy Domenik Hixon. It also allows them to keep Beckham off of special teams, because until Harris arrived, Beckham was looking like their only option.


Harris — who also could be a terrific gunner on punt coverage teams — will still need solid play in front of him, and the Giants think they’ve found a small army of good special teamers both in free agency and in recent draft classes. It didn’t go unnoticed that some of their free-agent additions, such as  linebackers Jonathan Casillas and JT Thomas, are good special teamers too. The Giants’ beleaguered unit needs as much help as it can get. 



The Giants would never use injuries as an excuse, but how can you not factor that in when thinking about how much better they’ll be this year? They had injuries along their offensive and defensive lines, lost their previous No. 1 receiver (Cruz), their middle linebacker (Jon Beason), their top corner (Amukamara), their nickel corner (Walt Thurmond) and, for a time, their No. 1 running back (Rashad Jennings). No wonder the Giants finished 6–10.


But here’s the thing: They still had a top-10 offense, and there were at least four winnable games where a little luck and health might have made a difference.


That’s why they’re primed for a bounce-back year. They are essentially getting their 2014 free-agent class back, along with their ’15 class. They are adding help to free the unstoppable Beckham from double-teams. They’ve added a better defensive coordinator who’ll bring in a more successful scheme. Barring another onslaught of injuries, this team should be much improved and remain in the hunt in the NFC East.


Prediction: 3rd in NFC East

New York Giants 2015 Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NFC East, Philadelphia Eagles, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/philadelphia-eagles-2015-team-preview-and-prediction

Chip Kelly’s short tenure as Philadelphia’s coach has been anything but dull. It’s too early to tell if the many changes Kelly has made will pay off in postseason success, but there can be no denying the interest the team has created. In a town starving for good news in the light of the horrible play of the Phillies, Sixers and Flyers, the Eagles’ offseason personnel binge was a welcome diversion from the carnage afflicting the city’s other professional teams.


Now in his third year with the Birds, Kelly is completely in charge of the team on and off the field. The team is all his, and if some have been turned off by the decisions he’s made, Kelly frankly doesn’t care. He has a plan, and as one of the rare NFL coaches who also handles the personnel end of the business, he is in a unique position to carry it out. After two straight seasons of 10 wins — but no playoff success — the Philadelphia community is expecting more in 2015. It’s up to Kelly to prove that he knows what he’s doing.


Buy Athlon Sports' 2015 NFL Preview Magazine



The star of the Eagles’ offense is the scheme, which features a high-speed, run-first spread attack designed to leave opponents panting and confused. It worked well last year, since Philadelphia was fifth in the league in total offense, third in points per game and ninth in rushing. But thanks to a few significant offseason moves, there is no guarantee the Eagles will be able to replicate that success. Further, the success that top defenses — Seattle, San Francisco, Indianapolis included — had against Philadelphia last year may have created a blueprint for 2015 opponents.


The biggest change is at running back, where LeSean McCoy is off to Buffalo after rushing for 2,926 yards the past two seasons. By the end of last year, there were whispers that Kelly wasn’t happy with his featured back, who at times waited for a hole to emerge, rather than sticking his foot in the ground and powering straight ahead. That’s why the Eagles signed DeMarco Murray, who rushed for 1,845 yards and 13 scores — both tops in the league — last year for Dallas. Murray is more of a plant-and-cut guy, and Kelly likes that. He won’t get 392 carries, though, like he did last year, thanks to the arrival of Ryan Mathews from San Diego and the return of versatile Darren Sproles, although Mathews missed a big part of 2014 with a foot injury.


If Murray plays like he did last year, it will make life easy for new quarterback Sam Bradford, whom the team acquired in a trade with St. Louis. Although there were rumors the Birds were going to trade the team for Marcus Mariota, no deal happened, and Bradford is under center, so long as he doesn’t get injured again. Now on his third ACL, Bradford has played a total of seven games the past two seasons. If healthy, he can be accurate and productive, although he has limited potential to run from the zone read. Inconsistent Mark Sanchez will back him up.


For the second straight year, the Eagles lost a top-shelf receiver. After 2013, DeSean Jackson departed. Now, they will do without Jeremy Maclin (85 catches, 10 TDs), who signed with Kansas City. His loss hurts a receiving corps that now needs big contributions from second-year man Jordan Matthews, who has potential but isn’t a No. 1-type, disappointing Riley Cooper, veteran pick-up Miles Austin and rookie Nelson Agholor of USC. Agholor, the team’s first-round draft pick, is a Maclin clone who has good quickness and ball skills but won’t force opponents to double-team him. Tight end Brent Celek is a warrior, but he saw his production drop last year, so it’s time for third-year man Zach Ertz to develop into a major contributor.


The Eagles didn’t address the offensive line in the draft, but that’s not the worst thing in the world. Left tackle Jason Peters is still one of the best around, and center Jason Kelce is an All-Pro candidate. Right tackle Lane Johnson is solid but not yet a standout. There will be a new starter at left guard, as Evan Mathis was somewhat surprisingly released in June. Allen Barbre, who was slated to start at right guard before Mathis was released, will likely switch sides, while the other guard slot probably won’t be settled until the end of training camp, if not later.



Kelly’s offensive philosophy puts tremendous stress on the defense, and last year that was not a good thing. The Eagles finished 28th in the league in total D, tied for 22nd in points allowed and 31st against the pass. There have been some big changes made on the back end, but there remains no guarantee the unit can hold up against better opposition.


The trade for McCoy netted inside linebacker Kiko Alonso, who had 87 solo tackles and four interceptions in 2013 but missed all of last year with a torn ACL. If healthy, he is a downhill playmaker. If not, the Eagles are in trouble. The team re-upped inside man DeMeco Ryans, who tore his Achilles tendon in the eighth game of 2014 and could struggle getting back to top form. Mychal Kendricks spent the offseason upset about his contract and Alonso’s arrival, but if he plays hard, he can be a difference maker.


Sack man Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham are the main outside threats in Bill Davis’ 3-4, and it is up to Graham — who showed flashes last year — to play consistently. The Birds hope third-round pick Jordan Hicks can provide good depth inside, while second-year man Marcus Smith, the Eagles’ first-round pick last year, is still waiting to make his first NFL tackle.


The Eagles’ secondary was horrible last year, and fans welcomed the departures of Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams. Philadelphia will use former Seattle corner Byron Maxwell on one side and hope he wasn’t aided by the presence of Richard Sherman opposite him in the Emerald City. New addition Walter Thurmond could play on the other side, but he is more of a slot corner, as is holdover Brandon Boykin. By midseason, second-round pick Eric Rowe could have the job. Malcolm Jenkins is tough at free safety, but there is a hole next to him.


Up front, left end Fletcher Cox should be a Pro Bowler, while big Bennie Logan is a drain plug in the middle, and Cedric Thornton is a solid end.



The Eagles lucked into something good when they acquired Cody Parkey, who made 32-of-36 kicks last year, including 4-of-4 from 50 and beyond. Punter Donnie Jones averaged 43.8 yards per kick last year, a number that needs to improve. Agholor adds excitement to the return game, and Sproles is a threat to go the distance at all times.



This is a tough team to read because there are so many variables due to injury. If Bradford is healthy, the offense should be potent, thanks to Murray, but there are big concerns at wide receiver. The secondary is better (how could it be worse?), but the Eagles still need Alonso and Ryans to make healthy returns in order to make the second line of defense potent.


The Eagles will continue to try to outscore people, and while that works against some teams, it isn’t good enough against the NFC’s best.


Prediction: 2nd in NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles 2015 Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NFC East, Washington Redskins, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/washington-redskins-2015-team-preview-and-prediction

If 2014 showed the Washington Redskins in a state of anchorless drift — toggling between three quarterbacks, losing five games by 20 or more points and beset by the dysfunction and intrigue that have come to define the Daniel Snyder era — the 2015 version, at least in theory, will emphasize stability.


For Year 2 of Jay Gruden’s tenure as head coach, the team hired a proven personnel man, in Scot McCloughan, to be its GM — and more important, gave him full autonomy on personnel moves. The Redskins also announced early in the offseason that Robert Griffin III would be the starting quarterback — ending any controversy before it could begin.


The draft brought an emphasis on size and volume, as the team amassed 10 picks and earned widespread praise in the industry for its strategy. But having won just seven games the past two seasons, and with one winning season since 2007, this probably won’t be a speedy turnaround. 


Buy Athlon Sports' 2015 NFL Preview Magazine



For a coach who came in with a reputation as an offensive savant, Gruden’s first year steering the Redskins’ offense was a disaster. The quarterback position became a revolving door of mediocrity, and the three starters — Griffin, Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy — were sacked a staggering total of 58 times. Meanwhile the running game, behind top back Alfred Morris, regressed from the year before. Morris, in his third year, saw his carries, yards and yards per carry decline for the second straight year.


But Gruden and McCloughan ended the QB controversy early in the offseason by not only naming Griffin the starter but also picking up his costly option for 2016 — a surprising show of confidence. Then they set about building Griffin a better offensive line. They used three of their 10 draft picks on offensive linemen — including their top pick, fifth overall, on Iowa tackle Brandon Scherff, who is expected to start on the right side, opposite veteran Trent Williams. They also used a third-round pick to take running back Matt Jones out of Florida, a big, punishing runner.


With DeSean Jackson (a league-leading 20.9 yards per reception), Pierre Garçon and Andre Roberts as wideouts and Jordan Reed at tight end, the Redskins have solid skill-position targets for Griffin. The key in 2015 will be protecting him better. If he gets sacked at a rate of roughly four per game, as he did in 2014, it will be another long year.


But despite — or perhaps because of — the faith the Redskins showed in him, this will be a pivotal season for Griffin. If he has any hope of recapturing the dynamism he showed as a rookie in 2012 (if that is even possible after two injury-plagued seasons), it needs to happen in 2015. Griffin has always been big on personal mottos, from 2012’s “Know Your Why” to 2013’s “All In For Week One” to 2014’s “This Is For Us.” But after absorbing copious amounts of criticism for his penchant for oversharing with the media and on his own social-media accounts, Griffin has been determined to scale back in both regards. That may explain why, for a 2015 motto, he appears to be going with, “Talk Small and Play Big.”


With Cousins and McCoy both expected to be on the roster again, Gruden probably won’t wait long to pull the trigger on a quarterback change if Griffin doesn’t play big.



The Redskins have almost totally revamped a defense that badly needed revamping. Change started at the top, when the team parted ways with embattled coordinator Jim Haslett and tabbed Chargers linebackers coach Joe Barry as his replacement. Next, the Redskins severed ties with pass rusher Brian Orakpo, who never developed into the dominant player the team envisioned when it picked him in the first round of the 2009 draft.


The leader of Barry’s defense now is unquestionably outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who established himself as arguably the best in the NFC East with 13.5 sacks and five forced fumbles in 2014. To build around Kerrigan, the Redskins turned both to free agency (linemen Stephen Paea and Terrance Knighton, and defensive backs Jeron Johnson and Chris Culliver) and the draft, where they used two of their top six draft picks on linebackers — Mississippi State’s Preston Smith, who could become Orakpo’s replacement on the edge, and tackling machine Martrell Spaight of Arkansas.


McCloughan also turned to his past in bolstering the defensive line and secondary, signing lineman Ricky Jean-Francois and trading for two-time Pro Bowl free safety Dashon Goldson, both of whom he selected in the draft at previous stops.


It is possible, when it all shakes out, that the Redskins could have six new starters on defense, a staggering number — until you realize how bad this unit was in 2014.



It’s difficult to recall a time when the Redskins’ special teams were anything other than abysmal. It’s no wonder the team targeted this area in their draft haul of 10 picks, taking, among others, a potential return man (wide receiver Jamison Crowder), a core coverage man (safety Kyshoen Jarrett) and at least two other players who could have immediate impacts on special teams (linebacker Spaight and receiver Evan Spencer). Otherwise, most of the major players from 2014 — punter Tress Way, kicker Kai Forbath, long snapper Nick Sundberg and primary return man Roberts — all return in 2015. The most immediate question will be whether Crowder, the fourth-round pick, supplants Roberts as the top punt-return man. Don’t be surprised as well if Forbath, an accurate kicker but one lacking in length, finds himself fending off a challenger for his job in training camp.



In previous Redskins seasons, management may have chosen to blow up the franchise by ditching Griffin, trading away picks to move up in the draft and nab the latest flavor-of-the-month phenom signal-caller. To their credit, McCloughan and Gruden avoided that temptation and did exactly the opposite — doubling down on Griffin as their starting quarterback, trading down in the draft to stockpile extra picks and emerging with some new cornerstone players and a lot of added depth.


As before, so much of the offensive success comes down to keeping Griffin healthy and on his feet. If the newly rebuilt offensive line is as solid as the Redskins hope, that will be much easier to envision, and may even deliver a boost to a running game that hasn’t been the same since Griffin stopped being a significant running threat himself.


Defensively, there will be new looks both up front and in the secondary. With Orakpo gone and veteran cornerback DeAngelo Hall likely fighting to keep his job in training camp, the very soul of the defense is in the process of being transformed — which, if you know anything about the Redskins, can only be seen as a good thing.


This probably isn’t a team that can challenge the Cowboys and Eagles atop the division in 2015, but even a finish somewhere around .500 — which is entirely 


Prediction: 4th in NFC East

Washington Redskins 2015 Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/mlb-announces-home-run-derby-participants

The MLB has just recently released the participants for the upcoming Home Run Derby, and it certainly showcases some of the veterans and up-and-coming players in the league. In order of seeding based on current home run totals, the players will be: Albert Pujols, Todd Frazier, Josh Donaldson, Joc Pederson, Manny Machado, Anthony Rizzo, Prince Fielder, and Kris Bryant.


The format will pit two participants against one another per round based on the seeding. The new rules should surely add a new twist to the game, so expect plenty of deep home runs. Four of the eight have once participated in the event, but that leaves plenty of new talent that fans will get to see in this display for the first time.


Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 10:56
Path: /college-football/college-football-fans-dream-road-trip-2015

You can go to one college football game each weekend. You can't go to the same place twice and the travel budget is endless.


Where are you going? That's 14 straight weekends on 14 different campuses, so ask the spouse for forgiveness, not permission.


The possibilities are almost endless. And it would make for a dream come true for most college football fans.


So I dove into the 2015 schedule and plotted out my dream vacation travel itinerary. Here is where I would go this fall:


Week 1: Ohio State at Virginia Tech

One of the greatest football settings in the entire nation will host a Labor Day celebration. Ohio State begins its national title defense to the sound of "Enter Sandman" in Blacksburg, Va. The Buckeyes will have revenge on their mind in Week 1, but a very stout and prideful Virginia Tech defense awaits them for this national TV showcase in Lane Stadium at night. (For the record, I'd lay the 16 points).


Back-up plan: Texas at Notre Dame


Week 2: Oregon at Michigan State

Mark Dantonio and Connor Cook can not only exact revenge on Oregon in Spartan Stadium but can give themselves a serious Playoff feather in their cap in just Week 2. A win over the Ducks puts the Spartans in a position to snag a Playoff spot with what amounts to essentially a tie-breaker over a potential Pac-12 title team.


Back-up plan: Oklahoma at Tennessee


Week 3: Ole Miss at Alabama

Speaking of revenge, Ole Miss makes a short drive east to Tuscaloosa to play preseason SEC favorite Alabama. A win for Hugh Freeze would immediately upset the SEC West pecking order just three weeks into the season. However, the Tide have won 12 straight over the Rebels at home, dating back to 1988.


Back-up plan: Auburn at LSU


Week 4: Tennessee at Florida

With a late-season trip to Tempe pending, I’ll settle for my second choice. Florida has won 10 straight over Tennessee and a loss for the Vols would all but take them out of SEC East contention. A win for Florida gives Jim McElwain instant credibility. This once great rivalry could be making a comeback very soon.


Back-up plan: USC at Arizona State


Week 5: Alabama at Georgia

For the third straight week, I will tailgate in the SEC. The first two were just appetizers for this one. These two haven’t met in Athens since 2008 when Bama rolled 41-30. This is a massive, likely top-10 matchup and SEC title game preview all rolled into one that is must-see TV.


Back-up plan: Notre Dame at Clemson


Week 6: Oklahoma vs. Texas

With much respect to Florida and Georgia, there is no better neutral-site game in college football than The Red River Riv… Shootout. It’s one of the top rivalries in the nation, is always a close game and the Texas State Fair is a sight to behold for fans of all ages.


Back-up plan: Wisconsin at Nebraska


Week 7: USC at Notre Dame

Let’s head north to the hallowed ground of Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish and Trojans renew an 87-year-old battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh. USC has won five of the last six in South Bend but Brian Kelly’s bunch won the last meeting at home in 2013. This game could be a Playoff elimination game.


Back-up plan: Penn State at Ohio State


Podcast: Preseason College Football Playoff Preview

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Week 8: Auburn at Arkansas

Gus Malzahn and Bret Bielema can down play it all they want but these two programs don’t like each other. And Arkansas could be the top challenger to the state of Alabama. Auburn has a brutal schedule but this could be the Tigers' toughest road test of the year. One team will try to run a billion plays while the other will attempt the opposite.


Back-up plan: Florida State at Georgia Tech


Week 9: Oregon at Arizona State

A Pac-12 title game preview takes place in the desert when the Ducks fly south to take on Arizona State. The Sun Devils will be a sneaky good defensive team and Vernon Adams will be settled in as Oregon's starting quarterback by this point. Look for a late-night Thursday shootout.


Back-up plan: Ole Miss at Auburn


Week 10: Florida State at Clemson

Nov. 7 will be a huge day in the SEC West, as LSU takes on Alabama, Arkansas visits Ole Miss and Auburn heads to College Station. But I’m passing on all three to head to Death Valley, S.C. The Atlantic Division, ACC Championship and College Football Playoff spot could hang in the balance when the Noles and Tigers battle.


Back-up plan: LSU at Alabama


Week 11: Oregon at Stanford

The Pac-12 North will likely hang in the balance when Oregon visits Stanford in what has become one of the West Coast’s top rivalries. Offense vs. defense. Flash vs. toughness. Old school vs. new. The winner of this game has gone on to win the Pac-12 title five years in a row.

Back-up plan: Georgia at Auburn


Week 12: Michigan State at Ohio State

My decision on where to go in Week 12 likely hinges on what happens in Week 2. Should Michigan State beat Oregon, then both the Spartans and Buckeyes likely enter this game unbeaten and eyeing a Playoff spot. If Oregon wins, then I’m likely heading to Eugene to watch USC visit Autzen Stadium.


Back-up plan: USC at Oregon


Week 13: Alabama at Auburn

I wish there was three of me. Ohio State visits Michigan and Baylor visits TCU on the same day. But there is only one place I’d rather be than Fort Worth or Ann Arbor in Week 13 and that’s the Plains of Alabama for the Iron Bowl. Division, conference and national championships could be on the line in the 80th meeting between the two in-state rivals.


Back-up plan: Baylor at TCU


Week 14: Pac-12 title game

The Big Ten title game is going to be one-sided. The ACC champion could already have two losses. The SEC Championship Game has been lopsided two straight years and will likely once again see a heavy West Division favorite. The Pac-12 title game is the likeliest to have two one-loss teams vying for a trip to the College Football Playoff.


Back-up plan: SEC Championship Game


We want your feedback and it’s a fun exercise. Try it out on your own and let us know what your schedule would look like @BradenGall or @AthlonSports.

A College Football Fan's Dream Road Trip for 2015
Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Overtime
Path: /nfl/james-harrison-blasts-adam-schefter-releasing-jpp-medical-forms-steelers-jason-pierre-paul-espn

Giants star Jason Pierre-Paul reportedly had his finger amputated due to a fireworks incident over the holiday weekend. 


ESPN's Adam Schefter somehow got a hold of the medical forms indicating the amputation, and quickly proceeded to tweet it. 



Did he cross the line? Some say yes, others are kind of on the fence about it. Some people said it was the person who gave the infomation to Schefter who was in the wrong, and the ESPN insider was merely doing his job by reporting it.





While some journalists seem to be torn on the issue, players are getting in on the act. The Steelers outspoken, and downright scary defenseman, responded similar to a lot of people on social media.



That's one guy you don't want to be on the bad side of. 

Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 10:25
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12-stadiums-2015

Last summer, Athlon Sports asked 10 Big 12 experts Chip Brown, Blair Kerkhoff, Bill Connelly, Allen Kenney and more to rank their favorite stadiums in the Big 12.


Based on general atmosphere, fan support, home-field advantage, amenities, tailgating, surrounding campus and even scoreboards, here is how the voting shook out.


However, attendance is an increasing concern for all athletic directors and tweaks are made to college football stadiums every year. Using our expert rankings, here is a statistical breakdown and update of Big 12 stadiums and how they stack up against each other entering the 2015 season.


1. Memorial Stadium, Oklahoma

The top spot in the Big 12 to catch a game is regularly over capacity. Despite the worst home record of Bob Stoops' tenure (3-3), the Sooners still posted an impressive 103.7 percent capacity average while finishing 13th nationally and second in the league in attendance. Oklahoma is 373-84-15 all-time at Memorial Stadium and Stoops is still an impressive 90-8.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192582,112 (2nd)85,162 (13th)103.7% (3rd)86,031 ('12)


2. Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium, Texas

Plans to expand into the 115,000-125,000 range have been put on hold but Texas still boasts the biggest (100,119) stadium in the Big 12 and still leads the league in attendance (94,103). And the gaps between the Longhorns and Oklahoma in both of these categories are pretty wide. That said, Texas' building was only 93.3 percent full — ranking seventh in the league — and was one of only four schools in the Big 12 to see a drop from 2013 (down five percent).


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
1924100,119 (1st)94,103 (8th)93.9% (7th)101,851 ('12)



3. Boone Pickens Stadium, Oklahoma State

The drop off in size after the top two buildings is noticeable. The Cowboys ranked 37th in attendance nationally and ninth in the Big 12 in average capacity (90.3 percent). Additionally, only Kansas' 10 percent drop in attendance was worse than the Pokes' eight percent decline from '13. It's still a brutal place to play for teams, however, as Mike Gundy is 21-4 at home over the last four years.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192060,218 (4th)54,387 (37th)90.3% (9th)60,218 ('13)


4. Jones AT&T Stadium, Texas Tech

Texas Tech boasts the third-largest building in the Big 12 and was third in attendance last year, ranking 29th nationally. The Red Raiders actually saw a growth of two percent over 2013 and were fifth in the league in average capacity (96.8 percent). Kliff Kingsbury is 6-6 at home in two years.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
194760,862 (3rd)58,934 (29th)96.8% (5th)61,836 ('13)


5. Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Kansas State

It’s small on three sides and has some quirky lines, but Bill Snyder Family Stadium will rock when the Wildcats are rolling. At 106.2 percent capacity every Saturday, this building was the most packed of any stadium in the Big 12 last fall despite a one percent drop in overall attendance. Kansas State was 38th in attendance in 2014, even though it ranks ahead of only TCU and Baylor as the third-smallest venue in the  league. 


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
196850,000 (8th)53,081 (38th)106.2% (1st)53,811 ('00)



6. Milan Puskar Stadium, West Virginia

It's a heckuva party in Morgantown on Saturdays and 2014 proved that. West Virginia led the Big 12 last season with a seven percent hike in attendance compared to 2013. Milan Puskar finished 34th nationally in attendance despite finishing just seventh in the league at 94.5 percent full. Dana Holgorsen is just 15-11 at home in four years but has a win over a top-11 foe in each of the last two seasons.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
198060,000 (5th)56,686 (34th)94.5% (7th)70,222 ('93)


7. McLane Stadium, Baylor

McLane Stadium is Baylor's state-of-the-art building that ushered in a new era of Bears football with a Big 12 title last season. Baylor saw attendance go up by two percent and was one of three schools in the Big 12 to average over capacity (103.8 percent). The smallest building in the league finished just 49th nationally in attendance at 46,710 per game. For the time being, the Bears have never lost in McLane (6-0) and keep an eye on future expansion to host 55,000.

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
201445,000 (9th)46,710 (49th)103.8% (2nd)

45,733 ('14)



8. Jack Trice Stadium, Iowa State

Iowa State is home to one of the most underrated home atmospheres in the nation. Despite a horrible record and a six percent drop in attendance, Jack Trice Stadium still ranked 41st nationally in attendance — ahead of championship or division-winning programs like TCU, Baylor, Arizona and Georgia Tech. Paul Rhoads is 2-11 in the last two seasons at home.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
197554,800 (6th)52,197 (41st)95.3% (6th)56,800 ('12)


9. Amon Carter Stadium, TCU

TCU was fourth in the Big 12 in average capacity at 99.4 percent full last season. The Horned Frogs finished 52nd nationally in the league's smallest building despite a three percent growth in attendance. Like Baylor, TCU needs to sustain high-level success in the Big 12 to continue to grow its quaint home atmosphere.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192945,000 (9th)44,719 (52nd)99.4% (4th)50,307 ('09)



10. Memorial Stadium, Kansas

A poor home win-loss record (256-231-16) has caused major trouble for Kansas. The 10 percent drop in attendance last fall was the worst in the Big 12. So were the 34,077 fans that showed up per game and the horrid 68.1 percent capacity. The Jayhawks have much to overcome both on the field and with their home venue.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192150,071 (7th)34,077 (67th)68.1% (10th)52,530 ('09)
Ranking the Big 12 Stadiums for 2015
Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/tennessee-fan-creates-awesome-hype-video-2015-season-volunteers-butch-jones

Tennessee fans are excited for the upcoming season and with good reason.


The Vols are looking better than ever and by the looks of this fan-made hype video, a storm is coming to the SEC this season. As long as it's not "Sweet Home Alabama," Butch Jones is on board.


Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 09:38
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/best-supplemental-draft-picks-nfl-history

Since 1977, the NFL has hosted an annual supplemental draft, which is meant to provide a chance for players who had eligibility issues to be selected. However, it is widely overlooked because only 43 total players have been picked. And in many years, zero players were selected. This year’s draft begins on Thursday, so let's take a look at some of the best supplemental picks in NFL history, and how they ended up there


(listed chronologically):


Best Supplemental Draft Picks in NFL History


Bernie Kosar, QB (1985, 1st round)

Kosar is considered the most bizarre supplemental draft pick because of how it all unfolded. The former Miami quarterback graduated early and stated his desire to play for his hometown Browns. However, if he was to declare for the NFL Draft, the Vikings seemed destined to take him. So, he didn’t declare until after the deadline, making him only eligible for the supplemental draft, where the Browns were in line to take him. In 12 seasons, mostly with the Browns, Kosar passed for 23,301 yards with a very respectable touchdown to interception ratio of 124-87. Certainly not an elite player, he was definitely very respectable, and eventually earned a Super Bowl ring with the Cowboys.

Cris Carter, WR (1987, 4th round)

After signing with an agent (a NCAA violation) before his senior season, Carter was suspended for the year. Thus, he decided to enter the supplemental draft that season, and the Eagles took him in the fourth round. During his first three seasons with the team, he progressed significantly, becoming a primary end zone weapon. However, a battle with addictions to drugs and alcohol cost him a chance to continue his career in Philadelphia. The Vikings picked up Carter after his release from the Eagles, where he spent 12 years and cemented his legacy as a Hall of Famer. In his 16-year career, he hauled in 1101 catches for 13,899 yards and 130 touchdowns.

Jamal Williams, NT (1998, 2nd round)
After a great junior year at Oklahoma State, Jamal Williams was ready to continue with another impressive season. However, he was declared to be academically ineligible after the Draft, so he decided to enter the supplemental one. In his career, including 12 seasons with the Chargers, he went to three straight Pro Bowls as a nose tackle. He was especially important in the position in their 3-4 defense, as he was often regarded as one of the best in the league at the position. Williams’ ability to contain the middle was especially important, as he racked up 344 career tackles.

Ahmad Brooks, LB (2006, 3rd round)
It seems hard to realize that Brooks was a supplemental pick because he has been so productive in the NFL. However, he was dismissed from the Virginia for off-the-field issues. His career started off slow, as an injury sidelined him for his second season, after being named the team’s starting linebacker. But since then, he has been excellent as a starter for the 49ers, with whom he made the Pro Bowl with in 2013. In his six years with the 49ers, he has notched 39 sacks and 195 tackles as part of a stout, playoff-caliber defense. 

Josh Gordon, WR (2012, 2nd round)
After dealing with a marijuana problem in college that forced him to be suspended and ultimately to transfer, Gordon continues to have the same problems in the NFL. However, after he was drafted in the supplemental draft after sitting the year out at Utah, he made a strong impact in his first season with the Browns. Then in 2013, he dominated by recording a league-high 11646 yards to go along with nine touchdowns. Gordon seemed destined for greatness, but only played in five games in 2014 after testing positive for marijuana and pleading guilty to a DWI. And 2015 will be another year for Gordon to watch from afar, as he was suspended for its entirety for alcohol use, which was banned during his substance abuse program. Yet, Gordon clearly has the skill to be one of the league’s best receivers, and only time will tell if he makes it back in the league.

Best Supplemental Draft Picks in NFL History
Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/big-tens-10-most-underrated-players-2015

Every college football team has players most would consider underrated. However, defining underrated players is no easy assignment, as that term varies in meaning between fans and experts.


The Big Ten is home to college football’s defending national champions (Ohio State), but the conference is full of intrigue, especially as Jim Harbaugh returns to Michigan, and Penn State should improve in coach James Franklin’s second season. Additionally, Nebraska hopes new coach Mike Riley will elevate the program into Big Ten title contention. 


Related: Big Ten 2015 Predictions


With the 2015 season approaching, Athlon Sports wanted to take a look at some players deserving of more preseason accolades or discussion. In an effort to get to 10 names, we tried to stick to players that had yet to earn all-conference honors in their career. However, a few exceptions were made.


Big Ten's 10 Most Underrated Players for 2015


Jacoby Boren, C, Ohio State

Most of the attention on Ohio State’s offensive line revolves around standout left tackle Taylor Decker or guard Pat Elflein. But the play of Boren should not be overlooked, as the Buckeyes have one of the nation’s best offensive lines entering the 2015 campaign. Boren played in 16 games as a backup prior to 2014 and started all 15 games for Ohio State last season.


Related: Big Ten 2015 Predictions


De’Vondre Campbell, LB, Minnesota

Minnesota’s defense held opponents to 24.2 points per game last season, and with seven starters back, the Golden Gophers could be even better on that side of the ball in 2015. Campbell was a key find for coordinator Tracy Claeys in the junior college ranks, as the Florida native has played in 26 games in his two years in Minneapolis. Campbell started all 13 games in 2014 and finished the year with 75 tackles and 2.5 sacks. With Damien Wilson departing, Campbell is now the leader of Minnesota’s linebacker corps.


Related: College Football's Best Cornerback Tandems for 2015


Josh Ferguson, RB, Illinois

Ferguson led the Illinois’ offense in rushing in each of the last two seasons, finishing 2014 with 735 yards and eight scores on 146 attempts. In addition to his production on the ground, the Illinois native has 100 receptions over the last two years. And despite inconsistent offensive line play, Ferguson managed to average at least five yards per carry in back-to-back seasons. Look for Ferguson to have his best statistical performance of his career in 2015. 


Darius Hamilton, DT, Rutgers

As Rutgers enters its second season in the Big Ten, improving the play in the trenches will be a priority for coach Kyle Flood. The defensive front allowed 212.3 rushing yards per game last season, and the coaching staff hopes Hamilton and sophomore end Kemoko Turay can elevate the performance of this group in 2015. Hamilton has been a productive force for Rutgers over the last three seasons, recording 11.5 tackles for a loss in back-to-back years. Additionally, Hamilton generated 10.5 sacks from 2013-14 and recorded two forced fumbles in his career.


Related: College Football's 2015 All-America Team


Desmond King, CB, Iowa

The Hawkeyes had a stingy secondary in 2014, as this unit allowed only 12 touchdown passes in Big Ten play and held quarterbacks to a 48.7 completion percentage. King was one of the leaders for coordinator Phil Parker’s defense, recording 64 tackles and three interceptions in 2014. The Detroit native didn’t redshirt as a freshman and has played in 26 consecutive games to start his career at Iowa. After earning honorable mention all-conference honors in 2014, King should breakthrough with an all-conference season in 2015.


Alex Lewis, OT, Nebraska

In his first year with the Cornhuskers, Lewis was a key cog in a ground attack that averaged 240.2 rushing yards per game. The Colorado transfer started all 13 games in 2014 and earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. In addition to being one of the Big Ten’s most underrated linemen, Lewis is arguably one of Nebraska’s most valuable players. The Cornhuskers return just two starters on the offensive line and need Lewis to stay healthy in 2015.


Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015


Austin Johnson, DT, Penn State

The Nittany Lions boast one of the nation’s best defensive tackle combinations with Johnson and Anthony Zettel anchoring the interior for coordinator Bob Shoop. Zettel was among the nation’s best at the position last year, but Johnson’s contributions shouldn’t be overlooked. In 13 games, Johnson recorded 49 tackles (six for a loss), one sack and two fumble recoveries. At 325 pounds, the New Jersey native has the size and ability to dominate the line of scrimmage, as well as command double teams to free up Zettel or Penn State’s defensive ends.


Sojourn Shelton, CB, Wisconsin

With Shelton, Darius Hillary and Michael Caputo returning, Wisconsin’s secondary is quietly one of the best in the nation. Shelton was thrown into the fire as a true freshman in 2013, starting 12 games for the Badgers and recording 36 tackles and seven pass breakups. The Florida native continued the strong start to his career with 12 starts and 33 tackles in 2014.


Related: Big Ten Predictions for 2015


Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana

Either Spriggs or fellow lineman Dan Feeney deserves a mention in this space. Indiana’s offensive line has developed into a strength under coach Kevin Wilson, as this unit led the way for running back Tevin Coleman to eclipse 2,000 yards in 2014. Spriggs started every game in his first two years on campus and played in 11 games (with 10 starts) last season. Spriggs should push for All-Big Ten honors in 2015.


Related: College Football's Top Transfers for 2015


Lawrence Thomas, DL, Michigan State

The strength of Michigan State’s defense is in the trenches. End Shilique Calhoun is among the nation’s best, and there’s talent on the interior with Joel Heath, Damon Knox and Malik McDowell. Thomas has bounced between end and tackle during his Michigan State tenure and started all 13 games in 2014. The Detroit native has only recorded 34 stops and three sacks in his career, but that’s largely a product of playing on the interior and plugging the gaps up front. Thomas is expected to shift to defensive end in 2015, and his versatility is a huge asset for new co-coordinators Harlon Barnett and Mike Tressel.

The Big Ten's 10 Most Underrated Players for 2015
Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /mlb/ubaldo-jimenez-robs-hit-willie-mays-catch

With two men in scoring position with two outs, Orioles pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez was forced to channel his inner Willie Mays to prevent any runs to score. In the bottom of the third, Eddie Rosario had the opportunity to break the scoreless game. Jimenez delivered a high inside fastball that jammed Rosario, but it was a weak hit with the infield playing deep.


Thus, that left no player with a clean play, and Jimenez was the only one close enough to get to the ball. With his back turned to the ball and racing to the front edge of the infield, he reached up and out in front of him, snagging it. The catch was certainly incredible for any player, let alone a pitcher.


Compare this catch to Willie Mays’ famous one in 1954:


Post date: Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - 16:14
Path: /college-football/retrial-date-set-vanderbilt-rape-case

After the conviction then mistrial in the Vanderbilt rape case that exposed some major problems between sports and college, the judge has set a new trial date for November 30. Former Commodores Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey were convicted on January 27 for their role in a rape of an unconscious woman in June 2013 at a campus dorm. However, it was declared a mistrial after a juror did not disclose that he had previously been a victim of a sexual assault.


While the victim and prosecution have stated that they are ready for the upcoming trial, the defense seems to be worried about the lack of time. The prosecution remains optimistic about a conviction given the overwhelming evidence and success in the last trial.  

Post date: Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - 15:39