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A while back during the ESPYs pre-show, Ronda Rousey pretty much owned Floyd Mayweather.
The UFC fighter joked saying she wonder how he felt finally being beat by a woman. Rousey admitted she had been holding on to that joke for a while, mainly because Mayweather pretended not to know who she was.
Mayweather went on SportsCenter to talk about his last fight and of course was asked about Rousey's joke.
"I've yet to see any MMA fighter or other boxer make over $300 million in 36 minutes," Mayweather said. "You know when she can do that... call me."
What kind of response would you expect from "Money" Mayweather?
With the release of the transcript from Tom Brady's Deflategate appeal hearing, we're finally getting some transparency on a controversy that has dragged on far longer than anyone would've hoped or expected.
Whether or not Brady was masterminding a plot to deflate footballs will never be truly known because that will not be the focus of Judge Richard Berman, the U.S. District Court judge based in Manhattan who is presiding over the case. No, Berman's sole responsibility is to decide whether or not the punishment process was fair to Brady and, after a review of the appeal transcripts, the prognosis looks far better for Brady than when the NFL was controlling the message.
In the last collective bargaining agreement the NFLPA gave the Commissioner total and final power over punishment, a move that has looked more and more foolish with each new controversy the league has faced. Now Deflategate might just be the straw that breaks the Commissioner's back, if not potentially costing him his job, or at the least costing him absolute power when the next CBA is negotiated.
Most disturbing from the Brady appeal transcript is the revelation of contradictory information to what Commissioner Roger Goodell stated as one of his reasons for upholding Brady's original punishment — the contents of Brady's phone and text conversations with the assistant in charge of preparing the game balls, John Jastremski, just after the Deflategate controversy broke.
Goodell stated: "In response to the question, 'Why were you talking to Mr. (John) Jastremski in those two weeks?,' Mr. Brady responded, in sum: 'I think most of the conversations centered around breaking in the balls.'"
The key words there are "In sum," because in reality Brady made plenty of mention that their conversations were about Deflategate. With the release of the transcripts Goodell has be caught at best cherry picking his quotes from Brady, and at worst flat out lying to support his punishment.
Of course they would be talking about Deflategate, because after Chris Mortensen's erroneous report that 11 of the 12 balls were more than two pounds underinflated, Brady and Jastremski must've been as confused as anyone. Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel brilliantly broke it down: “So the league created fake duress for Brady via false evidence and then found him guilty for reacting to it in an understandable fashion."
That certainly doesn't seem like a fair process, but the bigger problem for the NFL is one they willingly and blatantly did to themselves.
The Wells Report was supposed to be an independent investigation of Deflategate.
In theory, Ted Wells would go off, gather all the facts and then put together an unbiased report that the Commissioner would review before deciding on punishment. If it went like that, it would've been fair to Brady, but the NFL had its fingerprints all over the Wells Report from the get-go, and even went so far as to have the very law firm that put it together being the ones to represent the NFL at Brady's appeal.
When Wells was questioned at the Brady appeal as to how much NFL general counsel Jeff Pash was involved with the process, Wells confirmed he had reviewed drafts but stopped short of anything more, with the NFL claiming attorney-client privilege.
Pash had been dismissive of the Patriots' pleas to correct Mortensen's false report in February, and now we learn that he helped craft the Wells Report, which was expertly framed to paint a picture of the Patriots being guilty.
The NFL paid Wells between $2.5 and $3 million for his investigation. Wells has plenty of experience in this kind of thing, so why would the NFL need its attorney involved to help word it? Shouldn't the facts write themselves? The NFL was foolish to insert Pash in the process, even going so far as to have him named a co-lead investigator at the top of the Wells Report, something that threw even Wells for a loop.
Pash's involvement seems like it should be enough to illustrate that the NFL's process on Deflategate was neither independent nor fair.
Without any knowledge of the Ideal Gas Law, the NFL immediately decided the Patriots were guilty and every step the league took from halftime of the AFC Championship Game to the release of Goodell's decision to uphold Brady's suspension has been to support that initial decision, whether it meant disregarding select testimonies or the importance of timing when the balls were re-measured, or flat out omitting portions of Brady's testimony that didn't fit its narrative.
The implications of this kind of behavior can't be lost on even the most ardent Patriot haters. If the NFL can do this to one of the game's marquee players the league can do it to anyone.
That's why Deflategate might be the last "gate" Roger Goodell ever gets to decide punishment on, and might just be the controversy that seals his fate as Commissioner.
Tennessee defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie is expected to be one of the SEC’s top freshman in 2015. And by all accounts, the freshman is making quite an impression in fall practice.
On Thursday, video emerged from Tennessee’s practice, which features McKenzie destroying an offensive lineman during drills.
Needless to say, McKenzie is going to be a prominent member of Tennessee’s defensive line this season:
Another year, another preseason top-five ranking for the Alabama Crimson Tide. As Nick Saban embarks on his ninth year in Tuscaloosa, he will look to further cement his legacy a year after going 12-2 and winning yet another SEC title.
Fall camp started on Thursday for 'Bama, ahead of Sunday’s Fan Day and open practice for the football-deprived faithful who have waited seven excruciating months to see this year’s version of the Crimson Tide.
Alabama's Five Biggest Fall Camp Storylines
1. Will the Real Alabama Quarterback Stand Up?
Perhaps the only other competition to hold a constituency's attention span as captive as the one at Alabama for quarterback is the race for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. The current incumbent by seniority, redshirt senior and Florida State transfer Jake Coker, appears to have a loose grip on the full-time job, but redshirt freshman David Cornwell is climbing in the polls. Fans looking for an expeditious decision by Saban on a starter might want to taper expectations — Blake Sims, last season’s revelation under center, wasn't confidently entrenched in the starting job until week 4 against Florida.
2. Strong Enough Corner and Safety Valves?
Alabama football under Saban has been synonymous with stifling defensive play. And while that still holds true for the team's defensive front seven, the secondary as of late has slightly faltered. Over the last three games of 2014 the Crimson Tide allowed 456, 272 and 256 yards passing against Auburn, Missouri and Ohio State, respectively. The talent is there with cornerback Cyrus Jones and converted safety Geno Smith, both seniors, and new secondary coach Mel Tucker is no stranger to Saban's philosophies, having previously worked with him at Michigan State and LSU. Tucker will work with additional ‘Bama defensive backs sophomore Tony Brown and redshirt freshman Marlon Humphrey to shore up the embattled unit.
3. X, Y or Z Receiver?
Wide receiver Amari Cooper pulled in 124 passes for 1,727 yards and 16 scores for the Tide in 2014. But he’s now catching passes for the Oakland Raiders, so it’s up to fellow wideouts Chris Black, Robert Foster and ArDarius Stewart to try and replicate that production. Foster and Stewart, both redshirt sophomores, did their best Cooper-Julio Jones impersonations in the team’s spring game, combining for 243 yards on 14 catches. Foster, for good measure, also added two receiving touchdowns. Black, a redshirt junior and the most battle-tested of the bunch, lacks the size of Foster and Stewart, but he's a dynamic playmaker who will see a measurable increase in targets.
4. Enough Depth at Running Back?
Lead the team in rushing with 990 yards, average 5.8 yards per carry and score 11 touchdowns — that’s what ‘Bama junior Derrick Henry accomplished as a backup last season. No one doubts his potential. Alabama’s running back situation after Henry and senior Kenyan Drake, however, becomes murky. Drake’s 2014 season was cut short after suffering a broken leg at Ole Miss. He appears, by all accounts, to be fully healed. But if he struggles to regain the pre-injury athleticism that made him so dangerous in his first three years, the position group that has defined Saban’s offense since his arrival in T-Town might hit a few road blocks. This group was dealt a blow when five-star recruit Bo Scarbrough suffered an ACL tear in the spring, and when incoming freshman DeSherrius Flowers was ruled ineligible for the 2015 season. So depth could become an issue should Henry or Drake get hurt.
5. Will O.J. Howard Finally Emerge as a Threat?
Under Armour All-American Game alum O.J. Howard arrived in Tuscaloosa with much fanfare in 2013. Saban will now count on his large (6-6, 248) tight end to shoulder a good amount of the offensive load as he eases in whichever quarterback ultimately wins the starting job. Howard started three games last season and caught 17 passes for 260 yards. Alabama’s passing game has always relied on solid production from the tight end position, and Howard’s role in its success this season will be instrumental. Strong contributions from him will go a long way to keeping Alabama in the conference and national title hunt.
— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A Washington, D.C.-based sports writer, Hayes is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and he also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.
Alabama has a winning tradition, and they're eager to get back to that.
The Crimson Tide lost last year in the College Football Playoff to Ohio State. Of course that didn't sit well with the team and you can bet the farm they're still thinking about it and plan to use it as motivation to get back to the top.
For Alabama "The Process Begins Now" and they're ready to begin, but more importantly end it correctly.
Michigan opens up practice today but before that, Jim Harbaugh took time to answer some questions from the media.
That's when this little guy asked the head coach the most adorable question.
That's enough to warm your heart before practice.
If you haven't heard, Vanderbilt football has been in a little bit of hot water lately regarding a rape case.
That's why it was it was a little strange when the team's football account tweeted out this slogan.
Sure, they were talking about football, but on social media many things are taken the wrong way and it was just poorly worded. They've since deleted the tweet but that didn't stop outlets from getting after them about their word selection.
Vanderbilt has since apologized for the tweet.
We apologize for today’s tweet. It’s not a comment about sexual assault. Sex without permission is always wrong and not accepted. (1/2)— VandyFootball (@VandyFootball) August 6, 2015
Sexual assault is not acceptable at Vanderbilt University, Vanderbilt Athletics and Vanderbilt Football. (2/2)— VandyFootball (@VandyFootball) August 6, 2015
Mixed messages came out of LSU’s football program on Wednesday, the day before the Tigers begin fall practices for the 2015 season. After suspending junior offensive lineman Jevonte Domond on May 26 following a domestic violence arrest, on Wednesday head coach Les Miles reinstated his embattled tackle leading many to question the motive behind the decision.
On Monday, May 25, Domond was arrested on a felony charge of battery and domestic abuse, including strangulation by the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office. A Sherriff’s Office report released on Tuesday, May 26, cited Domond’s girlfriend stating she was “choked and battered during a heated argument.”
Miles immediately suspended the 22-year-old Arizona native stating, “It’s a crime that we cannot condone and behavior that we will not tolerate.”
Related: LSU 2015 Fall Camp Preview
The Sheriff’s Office report went into further detail about the domestic violence case with the victim detailing, “leaning over their new born baby’s crib (then being lifted) completely off the ground by her neck, and she began to lose consciousness.”
A he said, she said about what took place has ensued with Domond refuting the strangulation accusations but admitting he did pick up his girlfriend dropping her on their couch but only in hopes of getting her to stop pepper spraying him. The 6-foot-6, 310-pound, tackle said the alleged victim pulled a kitchen knife on him but the victim stated that was only after he had pushed her.
Domond’s case is still ongoing without any legal resolution. Per reports, Domond is reportedly seeking admittance to a pretrial diversion program.
On Wednesday Miles commented on Domond’s reinstatement stating, “He's in position to compete to play. We're letting the disposition of whatever entanglement he's involved in run its course. He's not suspended.”
LSU’s football program has been entangled in one ugly offseason legal matter after another seeing former defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao get arrested for robbing an unconscious man and punching a women in a parking lot outside a bar in Tigerland on June 14.
On June 12, four LSU players were arrested on unlawful entry charges in a reported attempt to retrieve goods believed stolen from 2014 starting quarterback Anthony Jennings. The arrest included Jennings, Maquedius Bain, and Dwayne Thomas. Bain left the LSU program on Monday after being reinstated to the team following a request by the alleged victim to drop all charges against the LSU players.
— 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.
While other ACC programs are opening the 2015 season against teams like Wofford, Bethune-Cookman and Alcorn State, Virginia Tech is opening with the metal of all college football metal. The defending national champion Ohio State Buckeyes come to Lane Stadium on Sept. 7 for the stand-alone, Monday night contest that annually closes out college football’s initial weekend.
Every program has questions. Virginia Tech will find out some answers a lot quicker than most. This puts added pressure on what happens during fall camp and provides a focus on the Hokies’ preparations for week one.
Virginia Tech’s Five Biggest Fall Camp Storylines
1. The Health of Frank Beamer
The greatest coach in Virginia Tech history had throat surgery last December. He coached the team at the Military Bowl from the press box. Those that have heard interviews with him in recent weeks can tell that his voice is not the same. But the 68-year-old maintains that he is ready for camp to begin and is eager to get the Hokies back to the top of the ACC.
2. Michael Brewer’s Decision Making
It was not surprising that Brewer needed some time to adjust to Virginia Tech. In his two years at Texas Tech, Brewer was part of an offense that ranked No. 2 nationally in passing both seasons. At Virginia Tech it is a little different. The first priority is to not put the defense in a bad spot by turning the ball over. Brewer has to become more comfortable with his role and reduce his 15 interceptions.
3. Offensive Line Cohesion
Beamer has coaches like Bud Foster, Bryan Stinespring, and Charley Wiles that have been on his staff for a very long time. But the offensive line coaching position has been a revolving door in recent years. Stacy Searles is back for a second year and Hokie fans hope this continuity is beneficial to a group that has much to improve on this fall.
4. Developing a Running Back Rotation
Virginia Tech does not have a standout, bell-cow back. J.C. Coleman looks like he will be the No. 1 running back, but don’t expect him to get a James Conner-like number of carries. What the Hokies do have is a number of solid ball carriers. Running backs coach Shane Beamer will spend the month of August figuring out a role for each of these players.
5. Luther Maddy and Brandon Facyson Returning From Injury
Entering last season, Athlon Sports named defensive tackle Maddy to its All-ACC first team and cornerback Facyson to the second team. But Maddy played in just four games in 2014 because of a meniscus tear, while Facyson appeared in only three games due to a stress fracture in his leg. If these two can return to 100 percent, the tough Hokie defense could be really, really nasty.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.
Utah is dipping into its past for throwback uniforms for the Oct. 10 matchup against California.
The retro uniforms unveiled on Thursday were used by the program in the 1960-70s. Overall, these are a sharp look for the Utes, which feature the interlocking U's on the helmet and the usual red and white look for Utah's uniforms.
Check out the Utes retro uniforms and helmets:
Back in June, BYU held its annual media day event for, whom else, the media. BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe had a quote from that day that has lingered with me for the past few weeks, and that was he felt BYU didn’t have the necessary depth to compete with Power 5 opponents in the later part of the schedule. Due to those thoughts, Holmoe has made a concerted effort to get many of BYU’s marquee games in the early part of the season, case in point this year, which is being dubbed as the toughest September schedule in the country.
When you look at BYU in 2015, depth is going to be a question mark that not only Holmoe has, but also everyone that follows BYU football will be asking, as the season gets closer to kicking off. BYU’s starters can go toe-to-toe with pretty much any team in the country, but if the Cougars suffer an injury or two, this season could get away from them in a hurry.
Fall practices open up this Saturday afternoon in Provo, Utah, and to get you ready, here are my five fall camp storylines to keep an eye on.
BYU’s Five Biggest Fall Camp Storylines
1. Quarterback Depth
Taysom Hill is a do-it-all quarterback who is one of the most dynamic athletes college football has to offer. With that said, Hill has suffered season-ending injuries two of the last three seasons. At a position where there is always the fear of losing your top signal-caller, BYU has that fear more than most. Those fears get amplified when the guys behind Taysom have not taken a rep in a live FBS game.
Tanner Mangum on paper appears to be the player that will emerge as the No. 2 option behind Hill. Mangum is a 21-year-old true freshman (that’s not a typo) who was the MVP of the Elite 11 for the class of 2012, and shared co-MVP honors in the Under Armour All-American Game with a guy named Jameis Winston.
While Hill is an elite runner, Mangum is the prototypical pocket-passing QB, the type that was synonymous with BYU football during the ‘80s and ‘90s under “Air Edwards.”
Keep an eye on Beau Hoge, son of former Pittsburgh Steeler and current ESPN analyst Merrill Hoge. The younger Hoge has received comparisons to Hill for his unique ability to pass and outrun his opposition.
2. Wanted: Pass Rushers
In recent years Bronco Mendenhall has built BYU into a program that hangs its hat on defensive football. Except for last season. Last year was the worst defense BYU has put out statistically since 1993. A lot of the struggles with the defense stemmed from a lack of pass rush up front.
Senior Bronson Kaufusi is switching back permanently to the defensive end spot after a year playing out of position at outside linebacker. Kaufusi is going to be looked upon this season to give this defense an elite pass rusher, something that’s been lacking since Ziggy Ansah graduated and went on to become a top-five NFL Draft pick.
3. Offensive Line Depth
The starting hogmollies that will be protecting Hill this season are very good, headlined by sophomore right tackle Ului Lapuaho and center Tejan Koroma. After the starters, however, it’s a big drop-off. BYU’s coaching staff is hoping that some members of the 2015 recruiting class round out the two-deep up front. Look for Texas natives J.J. Nwigwe and Jacob Jimenez to be competing right away for playing time as true freshmen.
4. Who replaces Jamaal Williams?
BYU suffered a significant loss on Thursday announcing that senior running back Jamaal Williams withdrew from school, and will redshirt this season.
Williams, who was recovering from a devastating ACL injury he suffered against Middle Tennessee last season was 924 yards away from becoming the school's all-time leading rusher. Now without the "Swagdaddy" in the backfield there is a large question mark looming over the BYU backfield.
Algie Brown will likely be the starter when BYU squares off against the Huskers next month, but there's doubt that he could be an every down back. Brown is BYU's best receiving rusher out of the backfield, but the Cougars will turn to a committee to try and replace the void left by Williams.
Walk-on Nate Carter who is a candidate to take Williams' scholarship this season will see an increased workload, but look for Taysom Hill to shoulder a lot of the success this group will have on the ground this fall. Which can be a scary proposition considering Hill's history of suffering injuries.
Related: BYU Wild Card Players in 2015
5. Sense of Urgency
BYU is a program that is built around high expectations. Look at the past 40 years; BYU is fifth in the entire country for wins. The schools ahead of them? Nebraska, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Florida State. That’s basically the who’s who of college football, and BYU is right there with them when it comes to winning. So needless to say, 8-5 the past three seasons hasn’t had many folks thrilled. A degree of restlessness is starting to creep up for a good portion of the fan base. Is that deserved? Debatable.
The good thing for BYU is that it has an opportunity with a nationally recognized senior quarterback, and an exciting schedule to inject life into the program. The key is that the Cougars need to have a sense of urgency, and get off to a fast start. If they don’t, BYU could be in danger of not going bowling for the first time since 2004.
Will we see a head coach that senses the time is now for BYU to win big? Will Hill have that urgency and display the necessary leadership that has been lacking for the past few years in this program? A lot of questions, but finally, we will start getting answers with the start of camp this weekend.
— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is the BYU reporter and insider for 1320 KFAN and co-host of "The Cougar Center" podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.
Mekka Don needs to just open every game for Ohio State with one of his songs. It's sure to get the whole team amped for any opponent.
The create of the Eziekiel Elliott Heisman hype video, and "The Silver Bullets Are Back," gives us anothe glimpse into the infamous "Zone 6" of the Buckeyes. Wide receivers of the past and present get some time to shine. The secondary of every team in the Big Ten just got put on notice.
Good luck trying to ground Zone 6 during the season.
Try this scenario on for size. You’re at the office Monday when a co-worker stops you and asks what you did over the weekend. You mention you watched the NASCAR race at Pocono. Your co-worker, not well versed in the world of stock car racing is interested in how the ending turned out. “Who won the race?” he says, a potential new fan in the making with your answers.
“How’d he do it?”
“Well… all the other cars ran out of gas…”
Nowhere in there is a buzzer beater that sent college basketball fans rushing the court. There’s no home run hit in extra innings to talk about, a walk-off shot that sent the local MLB fans scurrying to watch the replay at the bar. Nor is there a penalty shot (soccer), a power play goal (hockey)… you get the picture.
Now don’t get me wrong; purists, longtime stock car racing fans and media analysts like me loved Sunday’s race at Pocono. One of the sport’s last independent tracks has improved conditions both on and off the track in recent years, producing one of the best crowds we’ll see. The first 97 laps were a glimpse into the NASCAR racing of old; blown engines, spectacular crashes and wild passing, especially on restarts, ruled the day. The finish, one that was based on fuel mileage, happens in the sport from time to time. It’s been forever since we’ve seen that many failed strategy calls during the final laps, drivers dropping like flies and running out of gas to the point a few couldn’t even make it back to the start/finish line.
It’s hard to find a hardcore fan disappointed with the outcome of that one. But potential new fans? How do you explain that to them? How do you get them psyched about the ending of a race in which everyone ran in place, cutting off the engine over the final 20 laps at times to avoid simply running out of gas? While most people can relate to pushing their fuel gauge to empty, squeezing every ounce out of it before hitting the gas station, it doesn’t sound all that enticing to watch.
NASCAR ratings followed suit, as the Pocono race put up a 2.6 household rating for NBC Sports Network. While that’s competitive with what we saw from FOX Sports 1 this season, it still tied a 17-year low for the race itself. Yet everyone is sitting around smiling this week, pleased with the outcome and feeling that NASCAR’s Tricky Triangle produced one of the best races we’ve seen all season.
Hmph. Even when NASCAR feels it wins, it winds up losing to some degree. Such has been the story of a tumultuous 2015 filled with multiple rule changes, safety concerns and a continued disconnect with an 18-to-34 age group that needs to find itself enthused about the sport. Maybe it’s just me but when I was a teenager I dreamed of racing my car, banging fenders with someone like in go karts. Never did I dream about driving down the highway, sitting on cruise control as long as I could without running the darn thing out of gas.
Through the Gears we go….
FIRST GEAR: Mr. Consistency Makes His Presence Known
The second half of Sunday’s race became a runaway, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch distancing themselves from the field. Busch, going for his fourth straight win, ran about a second behind Logano, engaging in a little game of cat and mouse that kept them running at 110 percent. But both men, focused on speed never realized the race was tilting toward fuel mileage until it was far too late. Logano ran out first, sputtering with a little less than three laps remaining, while Busch found himself running short on the final lap.
It was a gamble both men felt like taking; Logano is locked into the Chase while Busch, on the precipice of qualifying, was going for his fourth straight victory. Instead, their loss turned into an unlikely gain for Matt Kenseth, a forgotten man this season in the midst of many changes at Joe Gibbs Racing. Running in the top 5 all afternoon, Kenseth was in position to capitalize and wound up with his second victory, improving his standing inside the Chase while knocking not one but two items off the bucket list.
“I won at Pocono,” said the 43-year-old who’s had his share of troubles there over the years. “I didn’t think that would ever happen. AND I won a fuel mileage race.”
What Kenseth also did was remind us that Busch isn’t the only threat for the championship running inside Joe Gibbs Racing. Even during a winless campaign last year, Kenseth and the No. 20 team fell just short of running for the title at Homestead. His 13 top-10 finishes are tied for fifth most in the series. If not for bad luck at the Russian Roulette tracks of the NASCAR circuit (Daytona and Talladega), his standing in the points would be much higher. The man whose mind-numbing, fifth-place finishes helped spawn the sport’s Chase format in 2004 is still well-positioned to be a factor.
Here’s one more note that should have you watching Kenseth: the emergence of young Erik Jones, the star 18-year-old Joe Gibbs Racing revealed this week will be running one of their Cup cars full-time by 2017. Right now, JGR has “no room at the inn,” at their four-car limit with Carl Edwards signed through ‘17 and Kyle Busch under contract long term. Denny Hamlin could be the odd man out then… or is it Kenseth? He’ll be 44 next season, the same age as Jeff Gordon, who has made this year his last in Sprint Cup. With a potential limited number of chances left to make a run a title that could give Kenseth and the No. 20 team a little extra motivation going forward.
SECOND GEAR: The Difficulty of Maintaining Momentum
For Logano, who led a race-high 97 laps, it’s been a difficult summer of trying to maintain momentum. The first driver that qualified for the Chase this year, winning NASCAR’s Daytona 500, Logano hasn’t cashed in on Victory Lane since. That’s despite a series-leading four poles, collecting 12 top-5 finishes (second only to Kevin Harvick), and ending 19 of 21 races this year on the lead lap.
In Logano’s case, he should be building momentum but missed opportunities for wins hurt Chase seeding. At the moment, he sits nine points behind Jimmie Johnson for the top seed in NASCAR’s postseason and missing that extra cushion could haunt him should Team Penske encounter problems inside the first round. Ditto for points leader Kevin Harvick, a driver who at times has dominated the Cup circuit this season yet has only two victories to show for it. His 1,362 laps led is almost double the next driver on the list, yet it seems like the team is always shooting itself in the foot. Sunday’s 42nd-place finish, the result of an engine failure, was the reigning champion’s first DNF of 2015 and reminded observers about worries that sprouted up last year, a series of early mechanical problems that would kill a repeat title bid should they happen in the Chase.
For Brad Keselowski, he’s in much the same boat despite a run toward the front in recent weeks. Kes ran second Sunday, which was a surprise recovery after running into two of his crewmen on pit road (remarkably, no one was hurt). A penalty from that left him a lap down at one point, an obstacle the team should be happy they overcame. But second place, in Keselowski’s eyes is simply the first loser and it didn’t earn him any extra points for the races that really matter.
“There’s always going to be some adversity,” he explained. “That’s part of the sport. But if we could have, quite honestly, not had that (pit road) issue during the race, I feel like we probably would have won today. That one is on me, so I feel really guilty for my team on that.”
THIRD GEAR: What’s Up at Hendrick?
The scariest incident at Pocono happened less than five laps into the race when Kasey Kahne lost control exiting turn 3. Slamming the boilerplate wall inside pit road, Kahne sent crew members and spectators scattering as he destroyed the front end of his No. 5 car. It’s an incident that left him dead last, confused over what went on and clinging to the final spot inside this year’s Chase.
That spot will dissolve the second Kyle Busch works his way in, expected to crack the top 30 in points by next weekend in Watkins Glen. For Kahne, who’s on a streak of five straight races of 19th or worse, that leaves him in a really tough spot. His struggles have been symptomatic of Hendrick Motorsports all summer; outside of Daytona, where Dale Earnhardt Jr. led a 1-2 finish, HMS has led a grand total of 91 laps since Michigan in mid-June. Typically, Jimmie Johnson and Co. enter experimental mode, trying some stuff out for the postseason, but HMS as a whole typically isn’t that bad.
Jeff Gordon, who finished third at Pocono, might be the only one breathing easier this week. But a winless campaign during his final season means even the four-time champ is still vulnerable to miss the Chase with five races left. HMS, whose engines and chassis have been considered the strongest much of the season, could conceivably have half of its four-car lineup wind up missing the Chase.
“We're going to be doing everything we can with the 5-24 teams being under one roof there at Hendrick Motorsports, working as teammates, working with our other teammates to try to do what we can to get both of us in,” Gordon said. “We’re going to be fighting for every position.”
FOURTH GEAR: Roush Fenway Racing’s Rough Road Continues
Could Roush Fenway Racing be any more dysfunctional? Greg Biffle’s fifth-place finish was of small consolation to a team reeling after an ugly weekend. Trevor Bayne, who’d shown signs of improvement this summer, blew his engine after running over a tailpipe. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., wrecking yet again this season, wrapped up his two races at Pocono with an average finish of 41.5. None of the trio appears in position to make the Chase, the first time ever RFR will have failed to do so.
But those struggles pale in comparison to an XFINITY Series team in turmoil. After some ugly contact at Iowa, Ryan Reed wound up in arguments with Ross Chastain and the retired Kenny Wallace. Teammates Chris Buescher and Darrell Wallace Jr. made contact again, leading to a heated argument between Wallace and Buescher’s crew chief. No wonder Elliott Sadler is choosing to bolt, leaving for JR Motorsports in 2016, instead of sticking out RFR and perhaps even earning a Sprint Cup opportunity down the road.
Can you imagine this team, just three years ago was a legit title contender across NASCAR’s top three series? My, how the mighty have fallen…
Kahne’s wreck, which caused over a 10-minute red flag, brought focus to the way Pocono’s pit road is built. A longer protection wall, SAFER Barriers, and extending pit road into turn 1 are some of several improvements being discussed for next season… Sam Hornish Jr., who slammed hard into Kurt Busch at Pocono, continues to disappoint in his first full-time season back in Sprint Cup. Running 39th on Sunday, he’s yet to score a top-5 finish with a team in Richard Petty Motorsports that’s more than capable… Boris Said is the only road course ringer entered in Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen. That’s the lowest number of “one-off” appearances for a Cup road course race in the sport’s modern era.
— Written by Tom Bowles, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and the Majority Owner of NASCAR Web site Frontstretch.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NASCARBowles.
Photos by Action Sports, Inc.
A new era will begin in Gainesville once fall camp begins. After a 7-5 season, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp was fired and the school hired Colorado State Rams head coach Jim McElwain to replace him.
Now that McElwain is running the show for the Gators, what can fans expect from Florida in 2015? Can Florida shock the SEC and win the East division?
Florida’s Five Biggest Fall Camp Storylines
1. Grier or Harris, Who Will Start at Quarterback?
Redshirt freshman Will Grier left spring practice with a slight edge over last year’s starter, sophomore Treon Harris, because of his strong throwing arm and decision-making.
Grier is probably better suited for McElwain’s offense because it is based off short, high-percentage throws, mixed in with some vertical throws off of play action.
Harris has more experience than Grier, but he didn’t perform well in the nine games he played in 2014. He finished with 1,019 yards pass, nine touchdowns, four interceptions, and a completion percentage of 49.6.
2. Losses on the Offensive Line
Florida returns only one offensive lineman who has ever started a game in college. The team has only six healthy scholarship linemen on its roster.
Because of the lack of experience, the Gators will need guard Trip Thurman to be 100 percent coming off a shoulder injury. The team will also need sophomore left tackle David Sharpe and incoming freshman Martez Ivey to both live up to their hype.
3. Can Jake McGee Become a Reliable Target?
During his final two seasons at Virginia, McGee recorded 71 catches for 769 yards and seven touchdowns. McGee transferred to Florida last year, but broke his fibula and tibia in the Gators’ season opener against Eastern Michigan and was out for the rest of the season.
Since 2012, tight ends in the Gators’ offense have caught only 30 passes for 279 yards and three touchdowns. McElwain’s offense while at Colorado State utilized the tight end not only as a pass and run blocker, but also as a receiver.
Whoever is named the starting quarterback, they will need a bit (6-6, 249) target like McGee in the red zone. Florida could have used McGee when the team dropped two balls in the end zone in the team's 30-27 loss against LSU last season.
4. How Will the Defense Perform Under the New Regime?
You can say a lot of negative things about the Muschamp era in Florida, but one thing you can’t say is he fielded a terrible defense.
Florida’s linebackers are a huge question mark. Leading tackler Antonio Morrison and Jarrad Davis are both coming off knee surgery.
Senior Jonathan Bullard and Junior Alex McCalister will help bolster a defensive line that will often rotate up to 10 players.
5. Special Teams
Junior placekicker Austin Hardin has to become more reliable. In two seasons, he has been successful on exactly half (11 of 22) of his field goal attempts.
Florida also has to replace talented returner Andre Debose, who scored five special teams touchdown while in Gainesville. Receiver Demarcus Robinson is expected to return kicks, while Hargreaves will be the Gators’ punt returner.
If Golden doesn’t have Miami contending for an ACC Coastal Division title, he could be shown the door at season’s end.
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.
The Pac-12 features a loaded group of quarterbacks for the 2015 season. The conference features proven superstars poised to challenge for All-America honors, along with a few breakout candidates in UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Oregon State’s Seth Collins. USC’s Cody Kessler ranks as the league’s top option, but California junior Jared Goff isn’t far behind.
Related: Pac-12 Predictions for 2015
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 Pac-12 for 2015.
Pac-12 Quarterback Rankings for 2015
1. Cody Kessler, USC
Kessler is a big reason why USC is considered a playoff contender in 2015. The senior’s 39 touchdown tosses in 2014 ranked second among Pac-12 quarterbacks last season, while his 69.7 completion percentage ranked third nationally. Kessler also finished the year playing at a high level, torching Notre Dame for 372 yards and six touchdowns and throwing for 321 yards and three touchdowns in the Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska. Even though Nelson Agholor left for the NFL, USC is stocked at receiver to give Kessler an opportunity at pushing for All-America honors in 2015.
2. Jared Goff, California
California averaged 38.3 points and 6.1 yards per play last season. Here’s a scary thought for the rest of the Pac-12: The Golden Bears could be even better on offense in 2015. Goff is among the nation’s top 10 quarterbacks after throwing for 3,973 yards and 35 scores in 2014. In conference-only games, Goff led all quarterbacks by averaging 341.1 yards per contest.
3. Anu Solomon, Arizona
Solomon was one of the nation’s top freshman quarterbacks last year and should continue to improve with another offseason of snaps in coach Rich Rodriguez’s offense. In 14 games in 2014, Solomon threw for 3,793 yards and 28 scores and also rushed for 291 yards and two touchdowns. The sophomore struggled with an ankle injury late in 2014 but will be at full strength in the fall.
Related: Pac-12 Breakout Players for 2015
4. Mike Bercovici, Arizona State
Bercovici doesn’t have a full season of starts under his belt, but there’s no shortage of confidence in the senior for 2015. While Taylor Kelly was sidelined due to injury against UCLA and USC, Bercovici threw for 998 yards and eight scores. The California native finished 2014 with 1,445 yards and 12 passing scores. The strong-armed senior will keep Arizona State’s offense near the top of the Pac-12.
5. Kevin Hogan, Stanford
With Stanford losing a couple of key players from last year’s shutdown defense, there’s pressure on the offense to pickup some of the slack in 2015. Hogan had his share of ups and downs in the regular season but finished with three solid performances (California, UCLA and Maryland) and tossed only one interception over his last four games. If Hogan picks up where he left off in 2014, Stanford’s offense should easily improve off last year’s 27.2 points per game average.
6. Vernon Adams, Oregon
Adams is the toughest quarterback to rank in the Pac-12 this season. The Eastern Washington transfer could be a few spots higher on this list, but he won’t arrive in Eugene until August and may miss the first few days of fall camp. Picking up a new offense and adjusting to the FBS talent level won’t be easy for Adams. However, Oregon is loaded with skill talent, and the senior is a good fit for coordinator Scott Frost’s up-tempo attack. Jeff Lockie was Marcus Mariota’s backup last season and had the opportunity to work as the starter in the spring. After a solid offseason, Lockie is the favorite to take the first snap of 2015. However, will he hold onto the No. 1 spot?
Related: Pac-12 Predictions for 2015
7. Sefo Liufau, Colorado
Liufau had a breakout season in his first full year as Colorado’s starter, and the junior is poised to take another step forward in 2015. In 12 games last season, Liufau threw for 3,200 yards and 28 scores and completed 65.3 percent of his passes. The junior should have plenty of help from his supporting cast in 2015, as the Buffaloes possess one of the Pac-12’s top receivers in Nelson Spruce, along with three starters back on the offensive line. Liufau’s emergence is a big reason why Colorado is trending in the right direction under coach Mike MacIntyre.
8. Travis Wilson, Utah
The recipe for success for Utah isn’t going to change in 2015. The Utes will continue to rely on their rushing attack (Devontae Booker) and defense to win games. However, if Utah can improve its passing attack, taking another step forward in the Pac-12 South is within reach. Wilson started 11 games for the Utes last season, throwing for 2,170 yards and 18 scores to just five interceptions. Kendal Thompson started twice before a season-ending knee injury and is back to compete for the job this fall. However, it would be a major surprise if Wilson does not take the first snap of the year in Utah’s opener against Michigan.
Related: Pac-12 Wild Card Players for 2015
9. Josh Rosen, UCLA
Expect to see Rosen higher on this list in future seasons. The talented true freshman enrolled in time to compete in the spring and is expected to edge Jerry Neuheisel for the starting job this fall. Rosen ranked as the No. 12 recruit in the 2015 247Sports Composite and has big shoes to fill with the departure of Brett Hundley. How quickly Rosen develops will determine just how high UCLA climbs in the Pac-12 South this season.
10. Luke Falk, Washington State
Regardless of whether Falk or Peyton Bender takes the first snap for coach Mike Leach, there’s no doubt Washington State will throw for its share of yardage and scores in 2015. Falk is the favorite to start this fall, as he was pressed into action last year after Connor Halliday was lost for the season due to injury. Falk threw for at least 346 yards in each of the final four games and tossed five touchdowns against Oregon State. Eliminating turnovers will be a priority for Falk after throwing six in Washington State’s final two games of 2014.
11. Seth Collins, Oregon State
Oregon State is a team in transition under new coach Gary Andersen. The Beavers return only nine starters, and have three freshmen competing for the starting quarterback spot. Collins is the favorite to start, and the California native is a breakout candidate to watch this year. In Oregon State’s spring game, Collins accumulated 292 total yards and two scores.
Related: Pac-12 Breakout Players for 2015
12. Jake Browning, Washington
Browning is mentioned here, but the battle to replace Cyler Miles is unsettled as fall camp opens for second-year coach Chris Petersen. Browning ranked as the No. 71 prospect in the 2015 247Sports Composite and enrolled in time to compete in spring practice. The Washington native is the most talented quarterback on the Huskies’ roster, but redshirt freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels and junior Jeff Lindquist will push for No. 1 spot.
For the first time since 2012, the Arkansas Razorbacks have high expectations placed upon their shoulders entering the college football season. Athlon Sports has the Hogs ranked No. 16 entering the season after Arkansas went 7-6 in 2014 while navigating the NCAA’s toughest-ranked schedule in the nation.
Arkansas has nine starters coming back on offense and five on defense, so experience shouldn’t be an issue. The carryover from last season is expected to help head coach Bret Bielema continue his smash-mouth running attack that shortens the game by running out the clock and absolutely wears down opposing defenses in the second half, turning three-yard gains into five- and six-yard pickups.
The Hogs have some gaps to fill on defense if they hope to maintain the success the unit enjoyed in 2014, defensive coordinator Robb Smith’s first in Fayetteville. He flipped the Razorbacks from the No. 76 defense (413.4 yards per game) in the nation in 2013 to the No. 10 unit (323.4 ypg) last season.
The Razorbacks have high hopes for the 2015 season but if they want to play in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta in December they must solve these five major question marks before kicking things off at home against UTEP on Sept. 5.
Arkansas’ Five Biggest Fall Camp Storylines
1. Increase Production in the Passing Game/Develop Wide Receivers
Every team Arkansas played last year knew the Hogs were going to run the ball. Despite every defender, opposing defensive coordinator, and all those watching at home and in the stands knowing what was about to happen, Arkansas still shoved the pigskin down the opposition’s throat and did it well. The Hogs finished with the No. 24-ranked running attack, averaging 218.0 yards per game. Advanced stats show Arkansas’ tailbacks gained 2.8 yards per carry before first contact while facing a conference-tying high (LSU) 7.3 defenders in the box per play. This means a wide receiver has to be open somewhere.
Arkansas’ best pass-catching option last season was tight end Hunter Henry. Wideout Keon Hatcher led the team with 43 receptions for 558 yards, but Henry has the best hands and was the most consistent option. Third-year starting quarterback Brandon Allen passed for 2,285 yards with 20 touchdowns against five picks, becoming a game manager without taking unnecessary risks. If Arkansas is to ascend back into the land of the elite this offense must be able to come up with more than 188.0 passing yards per game in 2015. Hunter will not stretch defenses vertically the way a true No. 1 receiver can.
Help could already be in town with redshirt freshman receivers JoJo Robinson and Kendrick Edwards, junior college transfer Dominique Reed, and true freshman La’Michael Pettway. A passing attack by committee is fine but a playmaker, or two, has to come forward.
2. Get Linebackers Ready for SEC Play
Arkansas will miss NFL Draft pick Martrell Spaight. Spaight manned the weak-side linebacker position, leading the SEC with 128 tackles. Junior linebacker Brooks Ellis moves over from the middle to the weak side, putting sophomore Khalia Hackett in a pivotal position for the Hogs. The Hogs also lost strong-side linebacker Braylon Mitchell to graduation with junior Josh Williams in line to replace him as the starter.
Williams played in 13 games last season, finishing with 29 tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss, and a sack. Hackett played in 11 games as a true freshman and recorded 10 tackles. A lot of responsibility is being leveraged on two potential question marks to track down SEC tailbacks and keep some of the best tight ends in the nation from moving the chains on third down.
3. Generate More Pressure on Opposing Quarterbacks
Arkansas was exceptional on defense last season but only came up with 24 sacks, which tied for 80th in the nation. Elite teams put pressure on opposing quarterbacks in crunch time, but who will be that guy for Arkansas this season?
The Hogs lost defensive end Trey Flowers and his team-high six sacks and 15.5 tackles for a loss to the NFL Draft. Junior defensive tackle Taiwan Johnson was second on the team with 4.5 sacks and his 8.0 tackles for a loss in 2014 are the most among any of the returnees.
The Hogs’ top defensive ends are JaMichael Winston, Deatrich Wise, Tevin Beanum, and junior college transfer Jeremiah Ledbetter. All four players are physically gifted and physically capable, coming in between 6-2 and 6-5 tall and weighing in around 270 pounds. A breakout star is not needed, although one would be nice, just as long as all four are consistent with their pass rush. More pressure should help the Razorbacks improve their No. 59 ranking on third-down conversions, after allowing opponents to succeed on 72 out of 182 opportunities in 2014.
4. Increased Productivity in Kick Return Game
Razorback Nation appreciated what they had in All-American punt returner Joe Adams and All-American kickoff returner Dennis Johnson, and would love to have a next generation reincarnation of either or both in 2015. But is any current Razorback able to do this?
The one promising kick returner the Hogs had in 2014, Korliss Marshall, left the team after off-the-field troubles. Marshall returned nine punts for 271 yards, including a 97-yard touchdown. The aforementioned Hatcher was second on the team with six returns for 139 yards, which translates to a respectable 23.2 yards per return.
Cornerback D.J. Dean had 11 punt returns for 121 yards, breaking one 63 yards that did not result in a touchdown. By season’s end he averaged 11.0 yards per return; not bad but half the return yards came on that one attempt. Remove the big return and Dean averaged 5.8 yards per return, which is not going to cut it if a SEC West title is desired.
5. Find Consistent Field Goal Kicker
Zach Hocker where are you? If Arkansas had a more reliable field goal kicker last season who knows how the Hogs would have ended their season? That doesn’t change the fact that Hocker, the Hogs’ all-time leader in scoring, is not walking back through the door thus Arkansas must find a way to carry on without him.
Adam McFain took over kicking duties midway through the season, finishing 7-of-10 with a long of 49 yards. The long-range makes are great, but a kicker that consistently hits from 40 yards in would make a world of difference to the Hogs in 2015. Arkansas got lucky last year, converting 12 of 19 fourth down attempts, 20th best in the nation. A kicker who can hit on stalled drives in or just outside of the red zone can take some heat off the Razorbacks’ offense and defense.
— 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.
The Big 12 is usually regarded as one of college football’s top quarterback conferences. However, this league features several question marks about its signal-callers for 2015. TCU’s Trevone Boykin is the clear No. 1 quarterback in the Big 12 this season, and the senior should be among the favorites to win the Heisman and earn first-team All-America honors.
However, outside of Boykin, there’s a lot of inexperience and question marks. Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes are breakout candidates for 2015, and Seth Russell should continue Baylor’s run of successful quarterbacks in a high-powered offense.
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 Big 12 for 2015.
Big 12 Quarterback Rankings for 2015
1. Trevone Boykin, TCU
Boykin emerged as one of the nation’s top quarterbacks last season, thriving under the addition of new co-coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham. En route to leading the Horned Frogs to a share of the Big 12 title, Boykin threw for 3,901 yards and 33 scores and rushed for 707 yards and eight touchdowns. The senior is among the favorites to win the Heisman in 2015.
2. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State removed Rudolph’s redshirt late in the 2014 campaign, giving the talented freshman an opportunity to start the final three games of last season. The results were promising for Rudolph, as he guided the Cowboys to a 2-1 mark in that span and passed for 853 yards and six scores. With a full offseason to work as the starter, along with an improving offensive line, Rudolph should push for All-Big 12 honors this fall.
3. Seth Russell, Baylor
Art Briles’ high-powered offense has a new signal-caller, but the Bears won’t miss a beat on offense. The last three quarterbacks – Robert Griffin III, Bryce Petty and Nick Florence – in this offense have posted prolific numbers. Expect Russell to do the same in 2015. The junior started one game in relief of Petty last season and ended the year with 804 passing yards and eight touchdowns.
Related: Big 12 Predictions for 2015
4. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
Texas Tech opened fall practice with some uncertainty at quarterback, as Mahomes and Davis Webb are expected to compete for the starting job. However, all signs point to Mahomes as the starter for the opener against Sam Houston State. Mahomes impressed in limited action last year, throwing for 1,547 yards and 16 scores in eight games. The sophomore also has good mobility, giving Texas Tech’s offense an added dimension on the ground.
Related: Big 12 Breakout Players for 2015
5. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
The biggest fall storylines in Norman revolve around the quarterback position and the transition to Lincoln Riley’s Air Raid attack. Mayfield transferred from Texas Tech and sat out 2014 as a result of NCAA transfer rules. In one year with the Red Raiders, Mayfield threw for 2,315 yards and 12 scores. Trevor Knight and Cody Thomas are also in the mix, but Mayfield is a heavy favorite to take the first snap.
6. Skyler Howard, West Virginia
It’s safe to assume Dana Holgorsen will push the right buttons to keep West Virginia’s offense among the best in the Big 12 next season. Filling the voids at receiver with the departure of Kevin White and Mario Alford is the biggest question mark, and the Mountaineers hope Howard continues to develop after a promising end to the 2014 season. The junior college product has to improve his completion percentage (50.9 last year), but Howard threw for 285 yards and three scores in a win against Iowa State and tossed three touchdowns and 346 yards against Texas A&M in the Liberty Bowl.
7. Sam Richardson, Iowa State
Richardson was one of the few bright spots for Iowa State last season. In eight Big 12 contests, Richardson passed for 1,912 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Florida native’s supporting cast was an issue last season, as the Cyclones had injuries up front and lost star receiver Quenton Bundrage with a torn ACL in the opener. With more stability up front, a healthy Bundrage and the second year under coordinator Mark Mangino, Richardson should quietly have a solid season in Ames.
8. Tyrone Swoopes, Texas
Swoopes is under the spotlight this fall after throwing for 2,409 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. Coach Charlie Strong and coordinator Shawn Watson are looking for a spark on offense, and talented redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard will have an opportunity to win the job in the fall. Strong has already indicated both quarterbacks will play in the opener against Notre Dame. Can the Longhorns settle on one quarterback early in the year?
Related: Big 12 Predictions for 2015
9. Joe Hubener, Kansas State
Former starter Jake Waters was arguably one of the nation’s most underrated quarterbacks in 2014. As Kansas State opens fall camp for 2015, four candidates are in the mix to replace Waters. Sophomore Jesse Ertz, true freshman Alex Delton, junior Joe Hubener and late junior college pickup Jonathan Banks are set to compete for snaps. Hubener is the favorite, but he never started a game at quarterback in high school and has played sparingly over the last two years.
Related: Big 12 Breakout Players for 2015
10. Montell Cozart, Kansas
New coach David Beaty inherited a massive rebuilding project, and the Jayhawks’ 2015 outlook didn’t get any easier after starting quarterback Michael Cummings suffered a knee injury in the spring game. Cummings is doubtful to play in 2015, leaving Cozart, T.J. Millweard and true freshmen Carter Stanley and Ryan Willis to compete for the starting job. Cozart has eight career starts over the last two years.
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 Big Ten to talk anonymously about their opponents.
Note: These scouting reports come directly from coaching staffs and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.
Big Ten Coaches Anonymously Scout Conference Foes
“We broke down games with Sudfeld and without him, and they looked like two different teams. Teams just loaded the box and made it tough for (Tevin) Coleman to run the ball.”
“They also lost Tre Roberson before the season, who went on to take Illinois State to the (FCS) championship game.”
“The true freshman (Zander Diamont) has some ability, I guess, but they didn’t trust him to do much. Became very one-dimensional. They wanted to redshirt him.”
“I think their offensive scheme is really good. I think Kevin Wilson is a very good coach.”
“Their offensive line was one of the better lines we played against last year.”
“Coleman was a legit back. I was nervous every time he touched the ball. You were just thrilled every time you held him under 10 yards. He had so many big plays.”
“Defensively, they still have issues. They just haven’t been able to get the type of players on defense that they have had on offense. Maybe that’s because Kevin Wilson is an offensive guy, but they just don’t have the talent on that side of the ball.”
“They are just okay. They aren’t bad.”
“They had a sixth-year quarterback. You would like to think they could have done better with so much experience at that position.”
“They weren’t very good up front on offense, and they weren’t very good defensively. They just changed coordinators, so we will see how that plays out.”
“Offensively, they were a week-to-week operation. They were very opponent-specific in their game plan. One week you might see a lot of one thing and not see it much the next week. You weren’t 100 percent sure what they were going to do, so they were hard to prepare for.”
“I thought (wide receiver) Stefon Diggs was pretty good. Maybe a little overrated. He will be a loss. We didn’t have a specific gameplan for him, though. He struggled to stay healthy. I think their other wide receivers were pretty good.”
“Their skill guys were pretty good. Strongest part of that program.”
“Their talent level was down a bit, but they still had some good players.”
“Their offensive line was a big problem. They kind of had the same problems that Penn State had.”
“I think Devin Gardner was better than people gave him credit for. He is a unique athlete who was capable of throwing the ball. He could have been a great college football player in the right system.”
“They had one of the most dangerous receivers in the league in Devin Funchess. They had two or three five-star running backs. They had a slot receiver (Dennis Norfleet) who could make some plays. So I don’t think it was a lack of skill.”
“They lacked confidence. That was a big problem.”
“They lost some tough games. They lost to Minnesota and looked bad, and then they changed quarterbacks because everybody was busting their chops.”
“It’s not like they were horrible. By no means did I think they lacked talent.”
“(Cook) is very clutch. Just knows how to make the big plays. He was huge in the bowl game.”
“Everybody talked about Pat Narduzzi and the Michigan State defense, but they averaged over 500 yards of offense last year. That was the story with that team.”
“The offensive line is a machine. They have a good stable of receivers. Losing Jeremy Langford will hurt. He was a really good running back.”
“They have a lot of talent. It’s better than they make it out to be. Their schtick is that they don’t have as much talent as other teams, but they have a bunch of really good players.”
“They have a great quarterback and a ton of great skill players. But Mark (Dantonio) is a great coach. I have a ton of respect for him and his staff. They do a great job.”
“Losing Narduzzi will be interesting. He was there for so long and did such a good job. Will be interesting to see how big of a loss he turns out to be.”
“I didn’t think J.T. Barrett was that great until we played him. He was very impressive in person.”
“We saw Cardale Jones on film in some mop-up duty on film, but he never threw any passes. And I’m embarrassed to tell you that I didn’t think he was very good. But we hadn’t seen him do much. Then you watch him in a game, and he was great. He has a big arm, and he’s big and strong.”
“Urban Meyer does a great job tailoring his offense to what the quarterback can do.”
“Ezekiel Elliott was fantastic down the stretch. Hottest running back in the country. He will be on a lot of Heisman lists heading into next year.”
“I wasn’t surprised they won (the national title). I thought they would win it. I told everybody who would listen that I thought they would beat Alabama and Oregon. They were one of the best looking teams I have ever seen in person. And they are well coached.”
“That offense was so good late in the year. A lot of it was confidence.”
Related: Big Ten Predictions for 2015
“I’m not big on how you play in a bowl game carrying over into the next season, but they may be the exception because it showed their guys they can figure some things out until they get on the other side of the sanctions. I think it was a big buy-in win for their staff that will pay dividends down the road.”
“They were a trainwreck on offense. I know the quarterback (Christian Hackenberg) is a good player, but my gosh, he got hit more times than I can count.”
“They’re still a year away from solidifying that offensive line, but it’s going to be better. With the group they bring back and a couple guys coming off redshirts, they’ll have a little bit of depth. They’re still not out of the woods.”
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Hackenberg because he wasn’t dealt a great hand, but he showed some toughness and hung in there. He’s got a big arm, but it makes the game really hard when you don’t have time step up in the pocket and throw the way he was taught to throw. Most of his mistakes start right there, but the reality is it would be really ugly if he wasn’t back there.”
“They’re really good on defense, really well-coached, great scheme.”
“Their main guys up front and in the secondary are probably going to be as good or better than they were last year, but linebacker could be an issue for them because the guy they lost (Mike Hull) was really the heart and soul of their whole defense.”
“Anthony Zettel is a guy who can cause problems on the interior because of his quickness; they’ve got a good combination there.”
“The quarterback (Gary Nova) had his best year under Coach Friedgen. They scored a lot of points, especially at the end of the year. Losing him will be a significant loss.”
“They lose Nova, but they have a good quarterback coming in, the transfer from LSU, Chase Rettig. He is supposed to be a pretty good player.”
“Their talent level is in the middle of the league. I thought they were good enough to compete with most teams in the league. I thought the offensive line was very good. The running back (Paul James) was good, but he got hurt.”
“You could confuse Gary Nova into throwing some interceptions. That hurt that team all season and really, all throughout Nova’s career.”
“Leonte Carroo is a really good player, one of the better receivers we saw. We were very aware of him. He made a lot of big plays. They ran a lot of play-action and then hit him deep. He was a perfect ‘X’ receiver for what they were trying to do.”
“I’m interested to see what they do this year. They were probably better than everyone thought last year.”
“They were fortunate to win some of the games they did late in the season. Penn State probably should have beaten them, and they got lucky and didn’t have to face Trevor Simien in the Northwestern game. But give them credit. They won.”
“Their defense was terrible. Almost everybody scored a ton of points on them and gained over 400 yards.”
“I can’t think of anybody on their defense that jumped out at you, where you thought, ‘Hey, that guy can really play.’”
“Offensively, Wes Lunt is okay. His injury obviously hurt him and the offense.”
“That slot receiver, Mike Dudek, is a really good player. Losing him is a really tough blow. Such bad luck. He is in the mold of a Wes Welker and Julian Edelman. He did it all for them last year. He runs routes, returns punts. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him.”
“Other than Dudek, they didn’t have any weapons on offense. Everything seemed to be a struggle for them.”
“That’s an interesting job. You would think that it’s a great job because it’s in Illinois and you have Chicago to recruit to, but they’ve never been able to win consistently there. Very strange.”
“You want to talk about a team on defense that you know what they’re going to do, they know what they’re going to do, and they just line up and play their 4-3. They know all the weaknesses of it and how to combat the weaknesses, so I’ve got a lot of respect for them defensively because they don’t try to do it with smoke and mirrors. They line up and try to out-fundamental you and out-leverage you and out-tackle you.”
“I still think Jake Rudock is a quality player, but they got sideways on offense too many times and it was definitely weighing on them to figure out why it wasn’t working. They might miss him.”
“The other kid (C.J. Beathard) probably gives them more of what they need because he can sling it around a little bit and run if he needs to, which is what you want from your quarterback when you don’t have a bunch of guys who can separate from the defense.”
“I think the key to their whole team is what happens at offensive tackle. For the way they play, they’ve got to be able to run the ball, and you’re losing two excellent tackles who played almost every snap the last couple years. I don’t know how you replace that.”
“They’re going to beat you with defense and ball control, and they can. They have just enough talent now to beat you.”
“They won eight games last year and they didn’t have a wideout with more than 18 catches. Except for maybe the service academies, that’s unheard of in this day and age.”
“You’d think they’d throw it more just by accident looking for some screens, open it up a little bit when they’re behind. But they’re going to do what they do and they’re very committed to how they play.”
“The tight end (Maxx Williams), I don’t know how they’ll replace him.”
“They may have to adjust their passing game a bit and get the ball out to the perimeter a little bit more, maybe add some tempo to just to give people a different look. I don’t think they’re going to change what they do dramatically, but they have some guys who are capable of catching it if the quarterback can get it there.”
“That tailback (David Cobb) was a hell of a player, but I know they like a couple of the guys they brought in.”
“The quarterback is kind of a reflection of their team. He’s a big, tough dude, but they need him to be more accurate.”
“They’ve been a great team defensively, probably one of the top two or three in the conference the last couple years. It’s a tough group.”
Related: Big Ten Predictions for 2015
“They bring back a lot of starters on both sides of the ball, but they lose the monster defensive end (Randy Gregory) and Ameer Abdullah, so those are two big pieces they’ll have to replace right off the bat. They’ll have a different look.”
“Tommy Armstrong is just a guy. He’s probably better than Taylor Martinez, but I don’t think he’s great. His skill set doesn’t really fit the system they want to run because he’s so limited throwing the ball. They may have to get creative and mix in some zone-read stuff to keep him comfortable unless they want to just start over at quarterback, but I don’t see that happening to a guy who’s started two years there. It’s going to be a square peg in a round hole until they can bring in the guys who fit their offense.”
“Do they have another 1,500-yard (rusher) waiting in the wings? They’ll probably have to do it by committee. I think they’ll still be able to run the ball, but I don’t know if they have that one guy who really scares you.”
“They’ve got some speed on offense. (De’Mornay) Pierson-El was a weapon in the return game and looked like he could be a pretty darn good slot receiver.”
“I don’t think you replace a guy as good as Randy Gregory, but the defensive line might still be the strength of their team.”
“That’s a pretty powerful combination inside. Maliek Collins is really athletic and has great hands, quick hands.”
“I thought they were one of the weirdest teams last year. I think they would have gone to a bowl game if the quarterback (Trevor Simien) hadn’t gotten hurt. They would have beaten Illinois in that last game. They only won five games, but they beat Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Penn State. That’s pretty good.”
“Their running back, Justin Jackson, is very good.”
“I think their scheme is very good. They are well coached.”
“They have a good receiving corps, but they dropped an incredible amount of passes. They had guys wide open, and they would drop the ball. They could have beaten Cal and Northern Illinois if they would have caught one or two more passes. They could have beaten Michigan too.”
“I’ve heard the name Zack Oliver. Don’t know much about him, but I’ve heard he’s a pretty good quarterback.”
“I like Fitz. I can’t speak for anybody else. He is the type of coach I like. Hard-nosed. Bright guy. Perfect guy for the job there.”
“I have no doubt that they will be back in the mix in the Big Ten West in the next few years.”
Related: The Big Ten's Best Alternate Helmets
“I thought they made a lot of strides last year offensively. I know it might not have shown on the scoreboard, but they were moving the ball at times. They put some scares in people. In this profession, that doesn’t mean much, but there was marked improvement offensively.”
“They haven’t been real consistent at quarterback. They got better after they settled on (Austin) Appleby in the middle of the year, but it’s always tough for a coach when your most productive guy isn’t your most talented guy.”
“(Akeem) Hunt was the one guy who could really run away from you, so they’ll have to find a way to replace him as a big-play threat.”
“I don’t think they have any choice but to ride it out and let Darrell (Hazell) try to fix the roster. Once some of their redshirt freshmen and sophomores start playing a little more you’ll have a better idea what direction they’re headed.”
“The linebacker (Ja’Whaun Bentley) is a guy they can build around. He was pretty explosive.”
“Losing their two safeties puts them in a tough spot from a depth standpoint. I think they’re going to have to move some people around or just play a bunch of freshmen to cover all their bases in the secondary.”
“Paul Chryst was who Barry (Alvarez) wanted in there after Bret Bielema. I’m not saying they got away from their identity when Gary (Andersen) was in there, but Paul is going to embrace everything about the program. He’s a natural fit and there are no surprises on either side.”
“I think the change will help Joel Stave a whole bunch. The mental part of the game is obviously big with him, and now he’s back with the guy who recruited him and believed in him from the beginning.”
“It will be interesting to see who they’re going to plug in at tailback. It seems like they’ve had a great tailback there for 10, 12 years straight.”
“I would think Corey Clement is capable of sliding over as the No. 1 guy, but having a second tailback is pretty important in their offense too. That’s probably the biggest question mark, and the other is whether they’re going to be as good up front.”
“The linebacker position is a red flag when you go from having two battle-tested seniors inside to a couple guys who haven’t played that much.”
“They don’t have a bunch of great cover guys in the secondary, but it didn’t matter as much because of how much pressure they put on the quarterback. They need the front seven to help them out.”
"I think their defense is fantastic. I was happy to see Chryst keep Dave Aranda because I think that’s the right thing to do."
It was announced on Wednesday that Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Von Pearson will not be charged for an alleged rape in which Pearson was named a suspect on April 24. Following a three-month investigation, Knox County District Attorney Charme Allen, released the following statement on Wednesday:
“After a thorough review of the investigation, I have determined that there is insufficient evidence to sustain a criminal prosecution against Von Pearson. Mr. Pearson will not be criminally charged as a result of the accusation made against him on April 24, 2015.”
Tennessee head coach Butch Jones announced on Monday in a pre-camp press conference that Pearson remained under suspension from school and all football activities. Jones did not address the media following Wednesday evening’s practice and has yet to announce any further update regarding Pearson’s status with the football team. It should be noted that Pearson has not been present at either of the Vols’ first two practices.
According to a spokesperson from the University, Pearson’s status remains unchanged in regard to his suspension from school following the Wednesday announcement that he would not be charged in the investigation. In spite of the fact that the Knox County District Attorney’s Office decided to no longer pursue the charge against Pearson, the University is under no obligation to do the same. The same holds true for Jones and the Tennessee football program. Even if the University should lift Pearson’s suspension from school.
Pearson’s attorney, Chris Coffey, stated that Pearson currently has a pending student conduct hearing regarding the matter, but school officials would not confirm Coffey’s claim, citing federal privacy law that prevents them from sharing information regarding student affairs.
Pearson, a senior from Newport News, Va., led Tennessee in touchdown receptions (5) last season. He also ranked second on the team in both receptions (38) and receiving yards (393). Pearson is expected to play a major role in the Vols’ 2015 offense as a starting wide receiver should he be allowed to re-join the team. His presence is sorely needed as the Vols currently have just eight scholarship players at wide receiver, including converted freshman quarterback Jauan Jennings.
— 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
The Miami Dolphins have been in training camp for almost a week and there have been a number of takeaways. One of the biggest areas of concern has been the play of the team's offensive line.
The Dolphins’ offensive linemen have struggled to keep players like Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh from getting pressure on the quarterback during drills and practices. Because of the performance of the offensive line, fans have been urging the team to sign free-agent guard Evan Mathis. Miami's offensive coordinator Bill Lazor refused to comment if Mathis would be an upgrade, but he did talk about the guards on the Dolphins’ current roster.
“I’m excited about the competition we have going as we go forward, it’s always better for the players to stay in the spot they’re in, moving in one spot, Lazor said. “Now that we’ve had three days with pads I think it’s heating up. I think we’ve got to do things as coaches, moving guys around at times to create ever more competition. That’s how we’re going to get better and it’s hard for me to focus on anything but the guys I’m watching every day.”
The competition Lazor is talking about is between Dallas Thomas, Billy Turner and Jamil Douglas. Thomas has the most experience of the three, but he hasn’t been good during his first two seasons in the league. In 2014, Thomas started six games at guard — three on the right side and three on the left and was graded by Pro Football Focus as No. 58 out of 78 guards.
Turner only played in two games last season and Douglas is in his rookie season, so both lack NFL game experience. While all three guys are competing for the two starting guard spots, Lazor believes Thomas has stood out.
“I think Dallas Thomas is a much-improved player from what we saw last year,” Lazor said. “Again we were talking about staying in one position. That’s one thing Dallas wasn’t able to do last year, but I think it is showing us he’s in one spot right now. I think he’s playing well. I think Jamil Douglas has impressed as a rookie. I think Billy Turner has come a long, long way from what he was as a rookie last year. You talk about a guy who was injured in camp and missed some preseason games and I think that probably set him back. As a football coach you want every protection to be perfect, but when you go up, get a shower, eat lunch and as you watch the film, it’s also kind of fun to watch them.”
And things may only get better depending on how quickly left tackle Branden Albert is able to return from a serious knee injury. In the Dolphins’ first eight games prior to Albert’s injury, the team gave up 17 sacks. After Albert went down, so did quarterback Ryan Tannehill, to the tune of 29 sacks over the final eight games.
“Well I’m always gonna feel better with Branden (Albert),” Lazor said. “I mean that’s an easy part of the question. I think we’re improving.”
If Albert can return to the same Pro Bowl level that he was prior to his ACL and MCL injury last season, the domino effect along the line should be apparent, including at both guard spots. Yes getting an All-Pro-caliber guard like Mathis would instantly be an upgrade, but that would potentially put Miami in a terrible cap situation years down the road.
It appears Lazor and head coach Joe Philbin would much rather develop the young guards instead of spending a lot of money for Mathis.
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.
Sports writers have hard jobs. They have to be ready at the drop of a hat to talk about teams they're covering.
During a phone interview on "The Rich Eisen Show," The Houston Chronicle writer John McClain went on to talk about the Texans and ran into a little trouble with the law. It seems McClain was in the car getting pulled over by police toward the end of the video. The most impressive part? The dedicated journalist managed to get out one last piece of information.
"Oops, Rich I am getting a ticket for changing lanes without using a signal," McClain said. "And I'll just say this, it's going to be Nate Washington if they played today."
Grade-A journalist right there.
The Louisville Cardinals entered the ACC last year with huge momentum. Head coach Bobby Petrino, who took over after a very successful tenure by Charlie Strong (who bolted for Texas) was able to build on the success of the program, taking the team to a 9-4 record, and a return trip to the Belk Bowl. Louisville also sent 10 players to the NFL draft, which was second in the nation only to Florida State (11) .
Petrino has historically made great leaps in his second year at every school he has coached at, and his tenure at Louisville is shaping up to be no different. Is Louisville the dark horse selection to win the ACC?
Louisville’s Five Biggest Fall Camp Storylines
1. Reggie or Will?
Louisville was able to go 9-4 despite spending the year searching for a consistent starting QB. The Cardinals will not be able to do that again. They must decide whether they are going to finally go with the age and experience of Will Gardner or the youth and athleticism of Reggie Bonnafon, with Kyle Bolin waiting in the wings.
2. Devante Parker 2.0?
Parker justified his 10th overall selection in the NFL Draft when he returned to Louisville after a foot injury and put up 855 yards and five touchdowns in just six games. His heir apparent seems to be James Quick, a player with similar freakish talent, and ability to go up after a ball, especially in the red zone. If Quick continues his ascension to a Parker-esque level, Petrino’s high-powered offense will hit its stride.
3. Defense Wins Championships
Todd Grantham has been masterful as the Louisville’s defensive coordinator, easily picking up where Vance Bedford left off. Grantham was left with a very full cupboard in 2014, and so it was very easy to build and restock for this season. Now the challenge is building quality depth around All-ACC players Keith Kelsey, Sheldon Rankins and James Burgess, which will aid the Cardinals in wearing teams down.
4. Make Your Case
Quite possibly the most important game of the year for Louisville is the first one. Opening against Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game is the statement that the Cardinals desperately need to make to be considered a serious contender this season. A win would instantly propel the Cardinals back into the national spotlight, and send a very clear message to the ACC and the rest of follege football.
5. Hold That Line
Last year Louisville was not able to get constant and consistent pressure on either side of the ball. The Cardinals must plug their holes on their offensive and defensive lines. Petrino must develop true depth at every position on both sides of the ball. That depth must perform on par with the starters in order to produce the kind of success this team has become accustomed to knowing.
— 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.
Everyone doesn’t deserve a trophy.
College football isn’t little league baseball and not everyone should be invited to the College Football Playoff party. The Big 12 found out the hard way last year what that feels like and has been crowing about it and attempting to fix it all offseason.
With all due respect to former colleague Mike Leach, exclusivity is a good thing. It makes for a far more entertaining regular season when it’s incredibly difficult to make it into the Playoff.
The ACC looks like the league with the toughest path to the postseason tournament in 2015.
Florida State and Clemson are the class of this conference (again). Georgia Tech, Louisville and Virginia Tech make up the next tier, however, none of those three appear suited for a national championship run. Sure, they could win the ACC title but the national title?
No, if the ACC is going to make a run at the Playoff it will come from Tallahassee or Death Valley.
The media spoke very clearly in Pinehurst, N.C., at ACC Media Days: Clemson is the team to beat in the ACC. The contingent here at Athlon Sports disagrees, picking Florida State in our preseason magazine and recent official ACC Podcast.
Either way, those are the two best picks in the ACC. But to win a national title, a team has to be perfect (or near-perfect) and the difference between being ranked in the top four and getting left out may be half-a-dozen plays.
Clemson is a really good team. They are extremely talented, have the best player in the conference in quarterback Deshaun Watson and get a lot of big games at home.
Podcast: Complete 2015 ACC Preview and Predictions
But for Dabo Swinney’s team to be playing in the College Football Playoff, four huge questions marks have to all be answered for Clemson.
First, Watson must stay healthy. He’s an incredible athlete and may be a Heisman Trophy winner before his time in college is finished. But he’s also been hurt before, during and after his first season at Clemson. It’s certainly possibly he remains healthy, but there’s a good chance he will miss a game or two — which could end any hope of a national title.
Second, Swinney must fill the Shaq-sized shoes of one of the top offensive minds in college football. Chad Morris left campus for SMU and Swinney promoted Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott. The system is in place and should be productive, but the odds of those two being capable of the same things as Morris is downright impossible.
Third, Clemson must prove it can reload rapidly because the Tigers return fewer starters (5) than any other Power 5 team in the nation. There are massive holes to be filled, and, while there is loads of talent, the odds of Clemson boasting the No. 1 defense in the nation a second year in a row also is extremely doubtful.
Lastly, the Tigers have to win nearly every game against a schedule that is one of the ACC’s toughest in recent memory. Notre Dame, Florida State and Georgia Tech all come to Death Valley and trips to Louisville, Miami, NC State and South Carolina will be very tricky. When’s the last time Clemson rolled through a slate like that without a slip-up?
It’s called “Clemson-ing” for a reason.
Could all of these things fall the Tigers’ way? Maybe. Would you bet on all of those things taking place? Not a chance.
So what about a Florida State team that has proven it’s the best program in the ACC and capable of winning virtually every game it plays?
This team has arguably the second-most talented roster in the nation behind only Alabama, so the players are there. But gone is Jameis Winston, all five offensive linemen, the most productive wide receiver in school history, possibly Dalvin Cook and the Mackey Award winner in Nick O’Leary.
The defense does return seven starters and the schedule is easier than what Clemson will face. However, critical games against Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida and Boston College come on the road. There are other interesting tests with Louisville, NC State and Miami at home.
But does this roster have the experienced pieces in the right places to win every game? The Noles needed the No. 1 overall pick and 10 other NFL Draft picks to barely get that job done last year and still got smoked in the Rose Bowl.
Clemson and Florida State are the class of the ACC and picking either to win the league title is a sound decision.
But it doesn’t look like this league has a team capable of going unbeaten — or finishing with one loss — and that is what it takes to reach the College Football Playoff.
Then it will be commissioner John Swofford’s turn to complain all offseason.
Tom Brady's emails are public, and what's in them may shock you.
Boston.com has released screenshots from the Patriots quarterback to a friend named Kevin Brady, and the subject is none other than Peyton Manning. These two are always competing on the field, but evidently their rivalry doesn't end there.
Brady said in response to an email about Manning's years left in the NFL, "He has 2." Keep in mind that Brady just turned 38 and Manning is only 39.
There's more. In another email with an NFL blogger, Brady talks about all the things necessary for Manning to succeed.
The November 29 meeting between the Patriots and the Broncos can't come soon enough.
The NFL Combine is a pretty brutal process but the prospects are young and resilient.
Ohio State's tight end and fullbacks coach Tim Hinton is another story. The Buckeyes assistant coach goes through all the routines in a video that's sure to be played on a loop in the locker room this season.