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Path: /college-football/florida-state-2015-fall-camp-preview-position-battles-watch

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


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


Florida State’s Biggest Fall Camp Storylines


1. The Quarterback Battle

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


2. Filling the Gaps on Offense

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


3. Linebacker Problems

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


4. Upgrading the Pass Rush

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


5. Secondary Mix and Match

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

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

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


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


Related: Texas Longhorns 2015 Preview and Prediction


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

Brandon Armstrong is everyone's favorite person these days.


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



Bean would be proud. 

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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



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





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

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

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

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


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


Check out Cincinnati’s new uniforms for 2015:

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

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


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


Michigan State's Biggest Fall Camp Storylines


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


LSU’s Biggest Fall Camp Storylines


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


5. How Far Can Leonard Fournette Carry LSU?

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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


Scoring system used for rankings:


Passing Yards, 25 yards = 1 point

Passing TD = 4 points

Rushing Yards, 10 yards = 1 point

Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receptions = 0.5 points per reception

Receiving Yards, 10 yards = 1 point

Receiving TDs = 6 points

College Fantasy Football: Top 30 Running Backs for 2015


  1. Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State

  2. Elijah McGuire, Louisiana-Lafayette

  3. Devontae Booker, Utah

  4. Jarvion Franklin, Western Michigan

  5. Nick Chubb, Georgia

  6. Devon Johnson, Marshall

  7. Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech

  8. Corey Clement, Wisconsin

  9. Leon Allen, Western Kentucky

  10. Marcus Cox, Appalachian State

  11. Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State

  12. Kareem Hunt, Toledo

  13. James Conner, Pittsburgh

  14. Ray Lawry, Old Dominion

  15. Aaron Jones, UTEP

  16. Nick Wilson, Arizona

  17. Samaje Perine, Oklahoma

  18. Paul Perkins, UCLA

  19. Leonard Fournette, LSU

  20. Royce Freeman, Oregon

  21. Derrick Henry, Alabama

  22. Michael Gordon, Arkansas State

  23. Daniel Lasco, California

  24. Marteze Waller, Fresno State

  25. Justin Jackson, Northwestern

  26. Shock Linwood, Baylor

  27. Kenneth Farrow, Houston

  28. Aaron Green, TCU

  29. Travis Greene, Bowling Green

  30. Matt Breida, Georgia Southern


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

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

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


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


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


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


Scoring system used for rankings:


Passing Yards, 25 yards = 1 point

Passing TD = 4 points

Rushing Yards, 10 yards = 1 point

Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receptions = 0.5 points per reception

Receiving Yards, 10 yards = 1 point

Receiving TDs = 6 points

College Fantasy Football: Top 30 Quarterbacks for 2015


  1. Trevone Boykin, TCU

  2. Fredi Knighten, Arkansas State

  3. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State

  4. Deshaun Watson, Clemson

  5. Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky

  6. Taysom Hill, BYU

  7. Luke Falk, Washington State

  8. Seth Russell, Baylor

  9. Matt Johnson, Bowling Green

  10. Marquise Williams, North Carolina

  11. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State

  12. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech

  13. Drew Hare, Northern Illinois

  14. Keenan Reynolds, Navy

  15. Cody Kessler, USC

  16. Jared Goff, California

  17. Anu Solomon, Arizona

  18. Josh Dobbs, Tennessee

  19. Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati

  20. Jeremy Johnson, Auburn

  21. Zach Terrell, Western Michigan

  22. Paxton Lynch, Memphis

  23. Greg Ward Jr., Houston

  24. Tyler Jones, Texas State

  25. Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech

  26. Taylor Lamb, Appalachian State

  27. Kyle Allen, Texas A&M

  28. Sefo Liufau, Colorado

  29. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

  30. Dane Evans, Tulsa


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

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

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


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



And then came the replies...






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


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

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


Kentucky's Five Biggest Fall Camp Storylines


1. Is Patrick Towles for Real?

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


2. Trouble on the O-line

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


3. A Solid Backfield

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


Related: SEC Football Breakout Players for 2015


4. Absence of Pass Rushers

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


5. Overall Depth

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


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

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

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


Related: New Orleans Saints 2015 Team Preview and Prediction


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


1. Protect Drew Brees

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


2. Replacement for Jimmy Graham

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


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

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


4. Secondary needs consistency instead of being liabilities

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


5. Linebacker vacuum

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


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


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



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


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

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

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


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


Georgia’s Five Biggest Fall Camp Storylines


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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

Baylor’s Five Biggest Fall Camp Storylines


1. Is There a Blueprint to Beat Baylor?

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


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

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


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

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


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


4. Can the Defense Improve?

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


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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


NFC South


Atlanta: Can Dan Quinn build Seattle East?

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


Carolina: Have the Panthers fixed their aerial issues?

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


New Orleans: Can Rob Ryan fix the front seven?

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


Tampa Bay: Is Jameis Winston a star?

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


Answering the NFC South's Biggest Questions in 2015
Post date: Monday, August 3, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Overtime
Path: /overtime/ohio-state-players-prank-garbage-trash-can-buckeyes-locker-room

Ohio State should have a great advantage when it comes to expecting the unexpected this season.


The Buckeyes are still pulling pranks on one another, and this time it's when they're most vulnerable. The locker room should be off limits but sometimes it's worth it.

Post date: Monday, August 3, 2015 - 10:47
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2015-preseason-quarterback-rankings

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


The Big Ten has a solid group of quarterbacks returning in 2015, starting with the Cardale Jones-J.T. Barrett duo at Ohio State. While it’s uncertain which quarterback will take the first snap, this duo is the top quarterback depth chart in college football. Michigan State’s Connor Cook and Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg round out the top three passers in the Big Ten this fall.


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 Ten for 2015. 


Big Ten Quarterback Rankings for 2015


1. J.T. Barrett/Cardale Jones, Ohio State


Regardless of whether Barrett or Jones takes the first snap for Ohio State in 2015, the Buckeyes will have the Big Ten’s top quarterback. Jones delivered under pressure last season, guiding Ohio State to three consecutive victories to end 2014 after Barrett suffered a season-ending leg injury. Prior to his leg injury, Barrett averaged 314.3 total yards per game last year.


Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015


2. Connor Cook, Michigan State


Cook enters 2015 with a stellar 23-3 career record as Michigan State’s starter. After passing for 2,755 yards and 22 scores in his first year as the No. 1 quarterback, Cook topped those numbers in 2014 with 3,214 yards and 24 touchdown tosses. Cook is a big reason why Michigan State will be in the mix to play in one of college football’s top bowl games this postseason.


Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015


3. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State


Hackenberg didn’t have the most productive 2014 campaign, but the Virginia native’s performance was tough to evaluate with a shaky offensive line. Talent certainly isn’t an issue for Hackenberg, as he’s regarded as one of the top quarterback prospects for next year’s draft. As a freshman, Hackenberg threw for 2,955 yards and 20 scores. However, despite exceeding his 2013 yardage total (2,977) in 2014, Hackenberg tossed 15 interceptions to only 12 touchdowns. Assuming the offensive line is better in 2015, Hackenberg should show marked improvement in coach James Franklin’s second year.


Related: Big Ten 2015 Predictions


4. Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska


It’s a close call for the No. 4 spot on this list. A case could be made for Armstrong, Lunt or Sudfeld. Armstrong gets the nod before fall practices open, but the junior has to adapt to a new offense and play-caller this season. Armstrong recorded 3,400 total yards in 2014 and 28 overall scores. Increasing his completion percentage (53.3 percent in 2014) is a priority in the new offense.


Related: College Football's Top Coordinator Hires for 2015


5. Wes Lunt, Illinois


If Lunt stays healthy, the junior should post huge numbers in coach Bill Cubit’s offense. However, keeping Lunt’s jersey clean will be a challenge for Cubit, as Illinois gave up 37 sacks in 2014, and this unit remains a concern headed into fall camp. Lunt played in only eight games last season due to a leg injury and finished with 1,763 yards and 14 scores.


Related: College Football's Top Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2015


6. Nate Sudfeld, Indiana


Similar to Illinois’ Wes Lunt, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Sudfeld climb a couple of spots on this list in 2015. A shoulder injury limited Sudfeld to just six games last season, but he threw for 2,523 yards and 21 scores as Indiana’s starter in 2013. Finding Sudfeld help at receiver is a priority for coach Kevin Wilson, especially after J-Shun Harris was lost for the year with a torn ACL.


Related: College Football's Top Transfers for 2015


7. Jake Rudock, Michigan


With Jim Harbaugh taking over in Ann Arbor, expect Michigan’s offense to take a step forward in 2015. Harbaugh won’t elevate this attack into one of the best in the Big Ten in one year, but improvement should be noticeable. Rudock transferred from Iowa after throwing for 2,436 yards and 16 scores in 2014. Shane Morris is expected to push Rudock for the starting job in fall camp.


8. Mitch Leidner, Minnesota


Minnesota’s strengths are no secret. Coach Jerry Kill plans to lean on the rushing attack and defense to contend in the Big Ten’s West Division. But if the Golden Gophers want to take the next step, improving the passing attack is a must. Leidner threw for 1,798 yards and 11 scores last season and added 452 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. Minnesota doesn’t need 300 passing yards a game, but Leidner has to improve in 2015.


Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015


9. C.J. Beathard, Iowa


The Iowa coaching staff handed the keys to the offense to Beathard after the TaxSlayer Bowl loss against Tennessee. As a result of Beathard promoted into the starting role, Jake Rudock transferred to Michigan. The Hawkeyes hope Beathard adds more big-play ability to the offense, and the junior has played well in limited action, completing 52 of 92 throws for 645 yards and five scores in 2014.


10. Joel Stave, Wisconsin


Stave might be the biggest beneficiary of Paul Chryst’s return to Madison. Chryst is regarded for his work as an offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, and the Badgers hope the new coaching staff helps to spark a passing attack that averaged only 148.7 yards per game in 2014. Stave doesn’t have to be overly prolific with Wisconsin’s defense and rushing attack in place, but the senior has room to improve after completing only 53.4 percent of his passes and tossing 10 picks in 2014.


11. Caleb Rowe, Maryland


Rowe suffered a torn ACL last season but is on track to return at full strength by the opener. The junior has 12 touchdown passes over the last three years and completed 63 percent of his throws (34 of 54) in 2014. He will be pushed for time by Oklahoma State graduate transfer Daxx Garman and junior Perry Hills.


12. Zack Oliver/Clayton Thorson/Matt Alviti, Northwestern


The Wildcats have a three-way battle for the starting job entering fall camp. Oliver has the most experience (61 career pass attempts), but the upside in this battle rests with Alviti and Thorson. Will Northwestern finish the fall with a clear starter? Or will this battle continue into the year? The guess here is Alviti or Thorson takes the first snap of 2015.


Related: College Football 2015 All-America Team


13. Austin Appleby, Purdue


Some clarity to Purdue’s quarterback battle was provided after Danny Etling transferred to LSU at the end of spring ball. With Etling out of the picture, the Boilermakers are down to Appleby, redshirt freshman David Blough and true freshman Elijah Sindelar. Appleby is the favorite to start after completing 144 of 272 passes for 1,449 yards and 10 scores last season. However, if Appleby struggles, Blough is an intriguing option for coach Darrell Hazell.


14. Chris Laviano, Rutgers


Laviano isn’t guaranteed to start, as LSU transfer Hayden Rettig will push for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart in the fall. Laviano worked as Gary Nova’s backup last season and completed 11 of 28 passes for 107 yards and one interception. The sophomore finished spring with a slight edge over Rettig, and both quarterbacks have to adjust to a new play-caller in Ben McDaniels.

Big Ten 2015 Fall Quarterback Rankings
Post date: Monday, August 3, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/acc-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2015

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


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

Related: ACC Predictions for 2015


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


ACC Coaches Anonymously Scout Conference Foes


Atlantic Division


Boston College


“They’re one of those teams that are real hard to read because on film, it’s like they have a bunch of slow, unathletic guys running around but those guys are smart kids.”


“They don’t do anything to get themselves beat.”


“The coaching staff there has done a real good job, and they’ve gotten better every year, so I imagine they’ll continue to get better.”


“They’re mostly a zone team. Before Steve Addazio they were 100 percent zone, but they’ve started to play a little more man. Their defensive coordinator loves pressure, and from a preparation standpoint they’re probably the funkiest team we play because of how many looks they’ll give you. It takes a lot of time and practice just to get ready for the different blitzes and stuff you see on film that you’ve got to get right.”


“Personnel-wise, nobody really jumps off the page from the front seven and they’re nothing special in the secondary, but they do a real good job against the run and that will keep them in almost every game.”


“They’re starting over on the offensive line. They’re still going to try to run the ball and be physical up front because that’s Addazio’s personality, but they were a pretty mature team last season.” 


Podcast: Complete 2015 ACC Preview and Predictions

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Related: ACC All-Conference Team for 2015




“If Deshaun Watson comes back 100 percent, I think they’ll get back to being an explosive team offensively.”


“They spread you out and based on your numbers in the box, they’ll run it or throw it and try to isolate you in space with their playmakers and get you playing at their pace. They weren’t as successful at it last year because they struggled at quarterback when Watson was hurt and their running game was average, but I think they’ll be improved across the board.”


“It’s really tough to measure up to guys like Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant, but No. 7 (Mike Williams) was probably their best player and No. 3 (Artavis Scott) created a lot of big plays on the fly sweep and they’re both back. If (Charone) Peake is healthy, they’ll be as deep at receiver as they were a couple years ago.”


“They’ve never been great on the offensive line, but they’ve recruited some more talented players that should start to pay off for them.”


“They’re going to be talented on defense — I just don’t know how quickly they’re going to figure it out because of how much experience they lost.”


“Defensive line is probably the biggest question mark for them.”


Related: ACC Predictions for 2015


Florida State


“Obviously they’ve lost some guys across the board, but they’ve got talented kids coming back and the way they recruit they’re still going to be one of the better teams in the country.”


“That’s going to be a heck of a battle for them at quarterback. You know what you’re getting with (Sean) Maguire. I wouldn’t be surprised if they looked at (Deondre) Francois coming in as a freshman. He’s a real raw kid, but he’s got the ‘it’ factor. I don’t know if either of those guys is going to be as good as Famous Jameis, but they’re gonna be fine down the road.”


“It may be a little scary for them up front because they lost almost everybody but they’ve got one of the best offensive line coaches in the country. I’ve got a lot of respect for what (Rick Trickett) does with those guys.”


“I know they lose (defensive end) Mario Edwards, but I don’t think they’ll have much of a drop-off; I really don’t. They’ve always got defensive linemen. They may have a bigger drop-off in the secondary.”


“The biggest thing we’ve seen scheme-wise is I don’t think they’re as aggressive with Charles Kelly as they were with Jeremy Pruitt two years ago.”


Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015




“They’re probably the best defense we played last year, no question about that, and I think everyone in the league would tell you the same thing. From a personnel standpoint as well as an athleticism standpoint, they were outstanding. They lost a couple guys up front and the safety who had an unbelievable year (Gerod Holliman), and we knew (Lorenzo Mauldin) was a cat daddy, so it’s good to see he’s gone.”


“Will they be as good as they were? That’s tough to tell, but I don’t see a huge drop-off because they recruit pretty well and they’ve got some transfers they can plug in.”


“The safety from Georgia (Josh Harvey-Clemons) is going to help them big time.”


“There’s no question their secondary was probably the most physical we played, and top to bottom they gave us fits protection-wise. They really get after you.”


“The receiver (DeVante Parker) was as good as anyone we saw on film and was even better in person. They’ll miss him a great deal because he was the one guy who really jumped off the screen offensively. I think they’ll be OK at the skill positions.” 


“My question is how good they’ll be up front because they do lose three starters and it’s a different style blocking scheme.”


NC State


“Their quarterback (Jacoby Brissett) didn’t play great against us compared to what we saw on film, but he is a really good player. He can make a couple special plays a game just taking off and running with it if things break down, and he’s better than advertised throwing the ball. He wasn’t real consistent at times, but he’s one of the more dynamic players in the league. Now that they’ve seen him, I imagine they’ll do stuff schematically that will help him a little bit more and play more to his strengths.”


“They were probably the most improved team in the league last year, and I think they’re only going to get more talented because that staff is doing a good job recruiting.”


“I don’t know if they’re going to put it all together this year, but they’re definitely a team you have to play well against to beat. Even when they’re bad that’s always a tough place to play.”


“They don’t have anyone on defense that we said, ‘Uh oh, we’ve got to account for that guy,’ but they’ve significantly improved on defense. Their front seven was pretty good, fairly physical, but they did have a lot of seniors so that may be a little bit of a problem. They were decent in the secondary and they’ve got most of those guys back.”


Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015




“They’re one of the most unique teams we play because defensively, it’s like they’re always just coming after you.”


“They play a lot of zone and blitz a lot but whatever the book says, they’ll do the opposite. If it says you’re supposed to sit back and play coverage, they’re coming. As a play-caller, you’re trying to get in a rhythm and build one thing into the next, but they’re coming from everywhere.”


“I don’t want to say they’re unsound, but they’re just always turning guys loose and if you can get the ball out you have a chance to hit them in the mouth, and if they have a busted protection you’re going to hit them.”


“They struggled offensively before the quarterback (Terrel Hunt) got hurt and struggled even more after he got hurt.”


“Watching them on film, it seemed like they were trying to do way too much to compensate for the fact that they didn’t have enough playmakers. The probably outsmarted themselves a little bit.”


“What’s their bread and butter? If they can figure that out they may have a chance because their defense will keep them in some games but they’re probably not going to beat you throwing the ball.”


Wake Forest


“They’re just OK. We got after them pretty good on defense, but a lot of people did last year as much as they struggled to run the ball.”


“They really had problems all over the place, but they just weren’t very physical up front and everything kind of spiraled from there. They were in 2nd-and-long and 3rd-and-long almost every drive with a freshman quarterback.”


“Under the circumstances, I don’t think the quarterback (John Wolford) was bad by any means. They’ve got to get better around him but that’s a tall order.”


“Their skill against ours, I’d take ours and I’m not sure we’re that good. I think they recruited pretty well last year and a lot of those guys are probably going to play.”


“The two players that come to my mind that were really good were the two senior corners. Every scout that came to our place asked us about them. There’s probably going to be a drop-off there because they were pretty good on the outside.”


“Under Jim Grobe they were a 3-4 and now they’re a 4-3, more multiple-look-type of defense which probably helps them a little bit, because if you’re playing a three-man front you better have linebackers who can move, and their backers are big, but they can’t really move that well.”


Coastal Division




“I think they do a great job of coaching.”


“They have some pretty good players that always play hard and they make the right plays. They don’t give up a lot of explosive plays and don’t have blown coverages defensively. They’re just very sound in what they do.”


“They’re probably starting over a little bit on offense losing the quarterback (Anthony Boone) and the receiver (Jamison Crowder), who was probably one of the more underrated players out there.”


“Probably the best thing they do defensively is their third-down and red-zone attack. That kept their scoring defense numbers pretty good. You get in the red zone and they’ll mix up their pressure — they’ll all-out blitz and play straight cover-zero at times. There’s good variations in the timing of how they do that. To hurt them, you’ve got to do it early in the count and get some explosive plays on first and second down. When they got to third down or play on a small field, that’s when they were able to create some negatives for offenses.”


“Personnel-wise I don’t recall a lot of standouts, I just know they do a really good job in their third-down packages defensively and that can really have a big impact on the game.”


Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015


Georgia Tech


“The quarterback is their engine and the guy they’ve got now (Justin Thomas) is probably as good in the triple-option as Paul (Johnson) has had since he’s been there. By the end of the year, nobody was stopping him. He doesn’t necessarily scare you throwing the ball, but they can pick their spots with him.”


“They’re not going to do anything defensively that jumps out at you, but they’re opportunistic and their offense helps them out. They played a lot of zone, which is pretty much the same thing they’ve done for awhile.”


“I thought some of their guys in the secondary were decent. The nose tackle (Adam Gotsis) is a guy you have to account for and make sure you know where he is.”


“It’s one of those offenses where if it’s clicking that day and you’re a little bit off, it’s going to be a long day because they’re capable of scoring just about every time.”


“If you’re an offense that makes a living on the fast-paced stuff, playing them can be brutal because your mindset as a play-caller is you want to go, go, go and hit the big play, and if you don’t do it against those guys you’ve got to go to the sideline. And then it’s in your head a little bit because you’re not getting the ball back for 10 or 12 minutes and you can’t get into a rhythm.”


Related: ACC Predictions for 2015




“They’re really, really talented. I’m not exaggerating: Every play they run could be a house call because they’ve got so many explosive skill players.”


“You do look at it sometimes and wonder how that bunch didn’t dominate the Coastal last year.”


“They did lose a lot of big-time players; obviously Duke (Johnson) is one of them, but Clive Walford gave us all kinds of problems and (Phillip) Dorsett was dangerous on the outside. But one thing you know about Miami is they’re going to have athletes all over the place.”


“Schematically, they’re going to do things to protect the quarterback and keep him back there and isolate their skill on yours and hope to get the right matchup.”


“Brad Kaaya is a guy I think they limited what they were doing with him in the passing game, maybe a little too much. He can really spin it. Their approach was pretty much run the ball to set up their play action and take a deep shot every now and then. I think that’s who they want to be: a team that plays with a tight end or two and can run the ball when they want to run it. They had enough skill last year to be a spread-it-out type of team, but that’s just not really who they are.”


Related: 5 Areas of Concern for Miami in 2015


North Carolina


“Obviously they were not good defensively, but I thought personnel-wise they had really good athletes; I just think the scholarship losses caught up to them.”


“They had no depth defensively, and I think it really showed up in the front seven with how much they struggled to stop the run.”


“They really should be better because I think they’re close to full strength from a numbers standpoint and obviously they’ve got a new (defensive) coordinator who’s won national championships in Gene Chizik. The unknown is how the kids are going to adapt because they’re going from a defense that was a little more unconventional to the 4-3 he’s going to want to put in there.”


“They’re going to be prolific offensively with everybody coming back. They have great skilled athletes all over the field, and the offensive system they run fits their personnel.


“They go as fast as Clemson, if not faster, and they’ve probably got the deepest group of receivers in the league. They’ve got four or five guys who could go for 100 yards on a given day.”


“The quarterback is a little bit hot and cold, but when he gets hot he’s really, really good. You can’t let him get into a rhythm.”


Related: The ACC's Top 15 Heisman Contenders for 2015




“I imagine with the new staff it’s going to be similar offensively with a physical style of ball, ball-control offense and try to hit you in the play-action game.”


“James Conner is a load, but they gave him a ton of carries early in the season and he might have worn down a little bit. I don’t blame them because they weren’t real consistent at quarterback, but they weren’t as effective running the ball from mid-October on.”


“Tyler Boyd is a home-run hitter and if you add safeties to the box, it’s tough to double him. He finds a way to get open and he sort of looks effortless in how he can go up and get it, which is how the really good ones do it.”


“I think last year was a learning experience for their quarterback (Chad Voytik). They tried to make it simple and straightforward, and he did a good job staying away from turnovers, made some plays here and there. He played better at the end of the year.”


“We’ll look at what Pat Narduzzi did defensively at Michigan State because I don’t think they’ll be anywhere close to the same team from a scheme standpoint. He’s a guy who likes to aggressively pressure you, and the last staff had a completely different philosophy.”


Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015




“We thought they were pretty talented, especially on defense.”


“They’ve recruited extremely well.”


“Instability at quarterback has been their No. 1 issue, no question. Very little continuity from year to year. If you can’t settle on one guy and get him to perform, it’s hard to get over the hump. Both of their young guys got experience last year, but they were nothing special. I think they’re really just hoping one of them improves enough to grab a hold of that thing because they were still very limited offensively.”


“Their pass rush last year was phenomenal, which is what you expect from Jon Tenuta. He’s going to bring guys from everywhere and mix up his blitzes and make it tough for your offensive line to block everybody. It’s tough to prepare for.”


“I know a couple guys turned pro early, but they’ve recruited some long, talented guys on defense. They’re probably one of the most athletic defenses we faced all year.”


“We tried to recruit Quin Blanding a little bit early on, and he’s everything we thought he could be watching him in high school. You can put him in the box or drop him. He takes great angles, he’s a good tackler, very cerebral player.”


Related: The ACC's Top Players Returning From Injury in 2015


Virginia Tech


“You know, I think they were more talented than their record.”


“They’re just probably looking to put it all together because they haven’t really had an identity offensively and that’s hard to overcome. They’ll have a chance because they know who the quarterback is, they’ve got stability with the coaching staff and the system, and they bring all their skill guys back. But it’s still all about execution.”


“We watched the Ohio State game on tape and (Michael) Brewer was rolling. He can make all the throws, extend plays with his feet. We thought he was good. But obviously in other games he was pretty inconsistent with his decision-making and he took a lot of sacks. It’s one of those deals — you just hope to play him when he’s not playing well.”


“It’s tough to prepare for their defense because where they’ve got guys playing is just a little different. They’re going to play that robber coverage, which is something Bud Foster has been doing for 30 years.”


“They’re deep in the secondary, and they recruit that way to fit their scheme, but they’ve also got elite guys in the secondary. They almost always do, but when (Brandon) Facyson and Kendall Fuller are healthy that’s maybe as good a pair of cornerbacks as they’ve had.”


Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015


ACC Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2015
Post date: Monday, August 3, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/yasiel-puig-sportscenter-espn-stan-verrett-neil-everett-dodger

What would your walk-up song be? It's a question everyone has thought about from time to time.


Yasiel Puig stars in the newest SportsCenter ad with Neil Everett and Stan Verrett demonstrating what the right (or wrong) song can do to your image.

Post date: Monday, August 3, 2015 - 09:47
Path: /college-football/coaches-talk-anonymously-about-notre-dame-2015

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 throughout the offseason or regular season.


In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2015, Athlon asked coaches around the nation 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.


Coaches Anonymously Scout Notre Dame for 2015


“The big thing is just finding consistency on the offensive side because they’re going to have some weapons. Their receivers and their backs are really good, and I think their O-line and tight end group is one of the best in the country.”…


“They’ll probably get back to being one of the top teams if they can get consistency in quarterback play.”…


“Everett Golson wasn’t a real big guy and he can turn it over. He put the ball in jeopardy quite a bit. They went back and forth in the bowl game (with Golson and Malik Zaire) trying to find some consistency…” …


“They were trying to adjust to a new system last year. I like what Brian VanGorder does. He attacks. He’s blitz-heavy and tries to bring a lot of different pressures and different looks coverage wise.”…


“They struggled a lot against tempo offenses trying to get adjusted to some of the calls and those things, but I think they’ll be pretty good because they’re big up front and they’ve got linebackers that can really run.”…


“I think they were kind of young in the secondary and those guys will get better. Their pressure packages are pretty extensive.”…

Coaches Talk Anonymously About Notre Dame for 2015
Post date: Monday, August 3, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/michael-jordan-takes-jimmy-butler-chicago-bulls

Michael Jordan will still be putting up shots when he's 100. 


The Bulls legend took on a member of the current squad, Jimmy Butler. At a camp, Jordan showed that his age hasn't slowed him down one bit.

Age ain't nothing but a number to Jordan.

Post date: Sunday, August 2, 2015 - 13:18
All taxonomy terms: Arizona Wildcats, College Football, Pac-12
Path: /college-football/sour-2014-ending-motivates-arizona-wildcats-2015

BURBANK, California — The question was certain to come up, much to Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez’s chagrin.


“I was in a good mood, now you made me mad,” he joked at Friday’s session of Pac-12 media days at Warner Bros. Studios.


Related: Arizona Coach Rich Rodriguez Tells Hilarious Story About Mike Leach at Pac-12 Media Days


Rodriguez tried to analogize his mindset to a scene from “The Lion King,” in which Rafiki the baboon hits Simba the lion over the head with a stick. When asked why, Rafiki quips: “It doesn’t matter. It’s in the past,” Rodriguez explained. Still, he admitted that he spent some of the offseason “pissed off.”


The 2014 season was among the best in Arizona football history. The regular season culminated in a win over rival Arizona State, giving the Wildcats the Territorial Cup for the first time since 2011, 10 wins for the first time since ‘98 and a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game.


What could have — maybe should have — been regarded as a testament to Arizona’s arrival as a player in the Pac-12 was overshadowed by the disappointing conclusion to the otherwise dream campaign.


The Wildcats were blown out by Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game, then dug a deep hole against Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl. Their rally effort came just short, as freshman quarterback Anu Solomon failed to get out of bounds in the Boise State red zone, taking a sack that closed a 38-30 loss.


Despite returning Solomon — Arizona’s first two-year starting quarterback since Nick Foles in 2010 and ‘11 — one of the nation’s deepest wide receiving corps and standout running back Nick Wilson, as well as Heisman Trophy top 10 vote getter linebacker Scooby Wright, the Wildcats are picked to finish fourth in the deep Pac-12 South.


Related: The Pac-12's Top 10 Heisman Candidates for 2015


The lukewarm reception to the 2015 Wildcats doesn’t mean much, said Rodriguez and Arizona’s media day representatives, safety Will Parks and wide receiver David Richards. But the two, season-ending losses carry a lot more weight — literally.


Parks said the ending gave Arizona “a whole lot of motivation… to get the team right.”


For Parks individually, he rededicated himself to the weight room to such a point that strength and conditioning staff kicked him out at times for being there after hours.


“It’s a keycode to get in,” he explained. “I walked out of the weight room one night around 11 [p.m.] and the green light turned red. I was like, ‘Ohhh.’


“Somebody was like, ‘I told you to stop coming in!’” he said.


Parks’ efforts are the proverbial chaser for a bad taste that’s lingered for seven months.


Rodriguez said he adheres to a “24-hour rule,” allowing just one day of reflection on a loss before refocusing on the next week. But when the Wildcats lost on Dec. 31, “next week” wasn’t coming for more than eight months.


UTSA is the bearer of Arizona’s winter, spring and summer of frustration, as the first opponent of 2015. The Roadrunners visit Arizona Stadium on Sept. 3 in the return engagement of one of the Wildcats’ eight single-digit decisions of the 2014 season.


Arizona’s start should help improve his mood, but closing 2015 stronger than his team did last season is the only way to ensure Rodriguez a happier offseason next year.


— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.

Sour 2014 Ending Motivates Arizona Wildcats in 2015
Post date: Saturday, August 1, 2015 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/big-tens-future-scheduling-mandate-not-best-interest-non-power-five-programs

For the moment college football has forgotten about college football in a mad dash forward to appease a small group of the viewing public and more importantly to make television advertisers happy. Due to some unnecessary upcoming changes in scheduling, for years to come we will have the Big Ten to thank in part for a new evolution of the game.


Since the BCS era has transitioned into the College Football Playoff era a ground swell from the media has pushed forward putting a greater emphasis on a given team’s strength of schedule, as it should, when disseminating which of the top teams deserve to be in the postseason tournament. The trouble going forward with college football is an element of the game is now quickly being pushed aside, that element is the role the underdog plays in sports.


The underdog role has come to label the soul of the American working class giving hope to the Midwest farmers, the Kentucky coal miners, and the blue-collar workers from sea to shining sea that each will have their day in the spotlight or moment of triumph and success. Be it "Rocky," "The Bad News Bears," or Crash Davis in "Bull Durham," we all cheer for the underdog to take down Goliath or overcome some obstacle to achieve greatness. Honestly, even after 22 years who doesn’t get a little misty-eyed when Rudy gets the sack against Georgia Tech? We all want it, we all know it’s coming, and each one of us is thrilled when it happens.


As of Friday, a big step towards cutting out the underdog role in college football was taken when the Big Ten announced conference members would no longer play FCS opponents.


Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany bared his chest a little more when announcing all conference teams are now required to play one Power 5 non-conference game each year, becoming the first conference to adopt the new scheduling policy coupled with nine conference games; the SEC has already mandated one Power 5 game scheduled each season.


The slap in the face to programs like Boise State, Northern Illinois, Cincinnati, Marshall, Air Force, UCF, South Florida, Arkansas State, East Carolina, Houston, San Diego State, UConn, Troy, Fresno State, and Louisiana Tech among others was loud and unnecessary. Somehow through all of this BYU and Notre Dame come out unscathed even though neither is in a conference, neither will play a conference championship game anytime soon, and both can schedule games at will, tough or easy.


Delany explained the new mandate during the Big Ten’s Media Days stating, “If you really look at - I'm not sure people have paid as much attention to the guidelines for the selection of teams. There are about eight paragraphs that deal with the issue of when resumes look similar. Similar record, similar resumes. Conference champions are going to get the first tiebreaker consideration and strength of schedule is going to get the second.”


Based off of Delany’s explanation, if a Big Ten team is ranked No. 5 in the nation and a Big 12 team is ranked No. 4, the Playoff selection committee will automatically give the Big Ten squad the nod over the Big 12 because the latter does not have a championship game, case in point Ohio State over TCU and/or Baylor last season.


Going the extra mile to exclude playing Mountain West, Sun Belt, American Athletic, Conference USA, or Mid-American teams are not needed. Furthermore, chances are only one team in a given year will emerge from the Big Ten as a legitimate Playoff contender, meaning the other 13 teams that purposely left off a non-Power 5 team on the schedule went a step too far.


Forgotten in the new mandate is the role of the mighty underdog in college football, even those teams below the non-Power 5 conferences. Some of the more exciting college football games ever played included a FCS program knocking off a FBS titan. Who could forget James Madison beating No. 13 Virginia Tech in 2010? How about Georgia Southern embarrassing Florida 26-20 in Gainesville? Perhaps the granddaddy of them all took place when Appalachian State upset Michigan 34-32 in the Big House in 2007.


When the 2013 football season kicked off, the opening weekend saw seven FCS programs upset FBS teams:
Eastern Washington 49, No. 25 Oregon State 45
North Dakota State 24, Kansas State 21
McNeese State 53, South Florida 21
Eastern Illinois 40, San Diego State 19
Northern Iowa 28, Iowa State 20
Towson 33, UConn 18

Southern Utah 22, South Alabama 21


Maybe FCS programs have a little something more to offer the fans and FBS teams when they step on the field?


True the thought of Ohio State playing McNeese State is not a game circled as a “can’t miss game” but that might be beside the point. Playing undermanned squads does a lot for FBS teams, more times than not, by allowing underclassmen game experience preparing for conference games without greater jeopardy of losing a big game. With the expanded college football schedule, that one less game against a top program, in theory, is also one less punishing game on the bodies of the players as well.


The trickle-down effect plays a significant role in college football as a whole. When FCS programs line up to play their bigger FBS brothers this is a big payday for the smaller schools. This financial model also works for the non-Power 5 programs. In some instances the games against the big boys provide the bulk of revenue that will be generated over the entire season for a given program. When the seven FCS programs upended the seven FBS teams in 2013, those teams combined to make $2.375 million dollars with payouts as low as $225,000 and up to $450,000.


What will be the long-term effect of FCS programs no longer receiving monies from FBS games? Will non-FBS programs start dropping football because they can no longer afford the cost?


The other opportunity that cannot be bypassed is allowing FCS players the chance to play at the Swamp, in Death Valley, in the Big House, in Neyland Stadium, at the Rose Bowl, or at any FBS stadium in front of thousands of fans. Easy to assume all the players lining FCS rosters had FBS ambitions at one time or another. Maybe some were not as talented as others or were late bloomers missing out on that dream, but why take away a chance for those young men to get the honor of a lifetime by playing in a historic venue against a big-time program?


An idea to circumnavigate the non-FCS/Power 5 scheduling problem and to still give life to these programs would be to allow each FBS program one game every two years to be stricken off that season’s record, or not count against their strength of schedule. This would apply to wins only, not a loss. A similar plan has been in place for years, allowing FBS programs to use a win against a FCS school to count towards the needed six games to become bowl eligible.


Why not allow scheduling to stay somewhat status quo and just change how the Playoff selection committee interprets who gets in and who gets out?


The same thought about only one Big Ten team getting into the final four for the Playoff each year applies for all conferences. If all Power 5 conferences adapt the Big Ten’s scheduling philosophy, 13 ACC, 9 Big 12, 13 Big Ten, 11 Pac-12, and 13 SEC teams have eliminated playing a FCS or non-Power 5 team for no reason assuming the top programs from each conference are in the running for the Playoff. Put in another way, 59 Power 5 conference teams have cut off financial aid to non-Power 5 or FCS programs in a given year for no reason.


A “forgiven game” every two years, or even if expanded to every three or four years, could keep college football as is without cutting the non-Power 5 schools from the game.


While Delany’s heart and thoughts are for the betterment of the conference he serves, the mandate is not for the betterment of the game top to bottom. Hopefully other conferences will realize the overall peril the new mandate seemingly places on college football as whole and will in turn look for a better way to be all inclusive while maintaining an importance on scheduling tough games.


— 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.

Big Ten's Future Scheduling Mandate Not in Best Interests of Non-Power 5 Programs
Post date: Saturday, August 1, 2015 - 11:00