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Fall camp is just around the corner for Ohio State, as the Buckeyes prepare to defend their national title. Head coach Urban Meyer and his staff have already welcomed the incoming freshmen to Columbus. Players have been issued jersey numbers, and are working diligently to make a positive impression upon the coaching staff when fall camp begins.

 

Related: Ohio State Buckeyes 2015 Preview and Prediction

 

A challenge for any freshman football player, no matter which program across the country, is to do enough to warrant more and more playing time. Considering Ohio State is coming off a national championship season, with only a handful of players having departed the program for possible NFL stardom, this challenge is even greater.

 

It would be easy to look at recruiting rankings and suggest this player or that player may be in line for playing time. If that was the case, incoming freshmen linebackers Jerome Baker or Justin Hilliard may be freshmen to keep an eye and ear open for (it is possible either of these players could wind up contributing on special teams from the onset of the season, by the way).

 

It would also be easy to look at players who redshirted last season, and are prepared to contribute. Defensive end Sam Hubbard is a prominent name who flashed potential in the 2015 Ohio State spring game, and was consistently lauded by Meyer all of last season as a player who possibly should not have redshirted.

 

Other freshmen enrolled and participated in spring practices. The most impressive of these early enrollees was linebacker Nick Conner, who also played a prominent role in the spring game.

 

My picks are going to be more of the sleeper variety - players who were somewhat under the radar of recruiting analysts and fans, yet may be able to get playing time in position groups where Ohio State has talent, but may not have tremendous depth.

 

Rashod Berry, TE

My first pick for a sleeper on the offensive side of the ball is incoming freshman tight end Rashod Berry. Berry was a later addition to the recruiting class, ranked a three-star recruit, and could possibly play at defensive end. Berry intrigues me for these reasons — Nick Vannett will return as the projected starter, with Marcus Baugh the likely backup at the position. Considering the frequency with which Ohio State employs two tight ends, it stands to reason that Berry may get opportunities at tight end, especially in the early portion of the season when Ohio State may be heavy favorites against its opposition.

 

Robert Landers, DL

My second pick for a sleeper on the defensive side of the ball is incoming freshman defensive lineman Robert Landers. Similar to Berry, Landers was a later addition to the recruiting class. Defensive line, especially along the interior, is usually not a position where freshmen can make an impact. My pick for Landers is based upon Landers' strong performance in the Ohio high school state playoffs last season (which helped to secure Landers his Ohio State offer), as well as the departure of Michael Bennett to the NFL. In 2016 Ohio State will lose Adolphus Washington; it may behoove the coaching staff to get Landers onto the field for needed game experience this season.

 

Sometimes the best freshmen players are the players who fell under the radar. It will be interesting to note if my sleeper picks contribute in 2015, as well as beyond.

 

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

Teaser:
Don’t Sleep on These Ohio State Football Recruits in 2015
Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/examining-overunder-2015-win-totals-big-ten-west-division
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The defending national champion may hail from the Big Ten's East Division, but that doesn't mean the West doesn't have its own intrigue. The top storylines to follow this season include new head coaches taking over at Nebraska (Mike Riley) and Wisconsin (Paul Chryst), as well as those (Illinois' Tim Beckman, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, Purdue's Darrell Hazell) that find themselves on the hot seat. Elsewhere Minnesota will look to build on its success under Jerry Kill, albeit without a couple of NFL Draft picks, while Larry Fitzgerald and Northwestern hope to turn things around after a couple of disappointing seasons.

 

Related: Examining the Over/Under 2015 Win Totals for the Big Ten's East Division

 

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

 

Note: Over/under odds courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbook

 

Big Ten West

 

Illinois Fighting Illini

(Over 3.5 wins -210...Under 3.5 wins +160)

 

Record Last Year: 6-7, 3-5

 

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

 

Offense: Wes Lunt gets another year under center after throwing just three interceptions in 2014. He's got Geronimo Allison and Justin Hardee to throw to while Josh Ferguson returns to the backfield. The offensive line could be a concern.

 

Defense: Jihad Ward gets one more year to wreck havoc on the Big Ten. This unit regularly was gashed, giving up 30 points or more 10 times last year. Plenty of players return and will be looking for improvement.

 

Schedule: Kent State, Western Illinois and Middle Tennessee all come to Champaign while the Illini travel to North Carolina for their non-conference slate. Wisconsin and Ohio State are both Big Ten home games for Illinois.

 

Selection: The over is the play. This is an important season for Tim Beckman whose seat has to be getting warm after going 12-25 the last three years.

 

Iowa Hawkeyes

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

 

Record Last Year: 7-6, 4-4

 

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

 

Offense: Iowa's returning starters on this side of the ball consist of three O-linemen and WR Tevaun Smith. C.J. Beathard and Tyler Wiegers will compete for the QB position. Jordan Canzeri tries to replace Mark Weisman, who was the Hawkeyes' leading rusher last season.

 

Defense: Drew Ott brings fierce pressure from the front line while Desmond King is one of the better CBs in the conference. Everyone else around them are question marks as this unit got roughed up to finish last season.

 

Schedule: Illinois State, Iowa State, Pittsburgh and North Texas make up Iowa's September. The Hawkeyes finish out the year with home tilts against Minnesota and Purdue and a road game at Nebraska as the final matchup.

 

Selection: The schedule lends itself to an over for Iowa even with the holes that need to be filled. The Hawkeyes shouldn't lose to rival Iowa State, but the home matchup with Pittsburgh will be tough.

 

Minnesota Golden Gophers

(Over 5.5 wins -210...Under 5.5 wins +160)

 

Record Last Year: 8-5, 5-3

 

Returning Starters: 11 (4 on offense, 7 on defense)

 

Offense: David Cobb and Maxx Williams are gone from an offense that struggled to move the ball through the air. Mitch Leidner had 11 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing TDs. He's going to have to get the ball to Drew Wolitarsky and KJ Maye.

 

Defense: It will be tough to move the ball through the air against Minnesota with four seniors back there. There's a lot of talent on this side of the ball. Senior punter Peter Mortell flipped the field often for the Golden Gophers.

 

Schedule: TCU, Kent State and Ohio all come to Minneapolis while a road game exists at Colorado State. In both October and November, the squad starts out with two straight road games before moving to two straight home games.

 

Selection: There is some value with the under. It's a tough schedule that Minnesota has to navigate. They could lose the first two games and who knows if it spirals a bit after that.

 

Nebraska Cornhuskers

(Over 8 wins -150...Under 8 wins +110)

 

Record Last Year: 9-4, 5-3

 

Returning Starters: 12 (6 on offense, 6 on defense)

 

Offense: There's a lot to like here as Tommy Armstrong Jr. continues to grow. The signal-caller had 28 touchdowns and gets WR Jordan Westerkamp back. The Huskers will have to find some help in the run game whether it's Terrell Newby or Imani Cross.

 

Defense: It's not quite the Blackshirts, but Nebraska's defense is getting better. Nate Gerry and Daniel Davie help out the secondary while Maliek Collins solidifies the front line.

 

Schedule: It's a home-friendly September with BYU, South Alabama and Southern Miss all coming to Lincoln, while there's a trip to Miami in the mix. Last year Nebraska beat the Canes 41-31 at home. The Cornhuskers alternate road and home games in conference.

 

Selection: No feel for this line. There's a lot of toss-up games for the Huskers. It also depends on Armstrong's continued development as a passer.

 

Northwestern Wildcats

(Over 6.5 wins +110...Under 6.5 wins -150)

 

Record Last Year: 5-7, 3-5

 

Returning Starters: 15 (5 on offense, 10 on defense)

 

Offense: Justin Jackson is a nice place to start, as he finished the year with six 100-yard rushing performances. Christian Jones will be a welcome sight out wide to whomever is under center. Dan Vitale (40 rec. in 2014) is an underrated pass catcher filling the Wildcats' super back role.

 

Defense: Continuity is nice on this side of the ball. There's a solid mix of youth and seniors here so there should be some improvement from a group that gave up 25.2 points per game last year.

 

Schedule: Northwestern gets a big shot early with Stanford at home. The rest of the non-conference slate consists of home games against Eastern Illinois and Ball State while making a visit to Duke. Northwestern hosts Penn State in early November.

 

Selection: Six wins seems about right here. There's a big question at quarterback and that's going to be a problem for a team that struggled in close games.

 

Purdue Boilermakers

(Over 4 wins -145...Under 4 wins +105)

 

Record Last Year: 3-9, 1-7

 

Returning Starters: 16 (9 on offense, 7 on defense)

 

Offense: Austin Appleby has to cut down the turnovers for this offense to work. He had 11 interceptions to just 10 touchdowns. The whole offensive line is back while Danny Anthrop and DeAngelo Yancey line up outside. Anthrop is coming off injury so who knows when he will be 100 percent.

 

Defense: The good news is that there's a lot returning, but the bad news is that this group was awful last year. This unit needs to find leaders, which shouldn't be too hard with so many juniors and seniors on the depth chart.

 

Schedule: A road matchup with Marshall starts things off before home tilts with Indiana State, Virginia Tech and Bowling Green. October could be rough with games against Michigan State, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

 

Selection: I like the over. The Boilermakers have a chance to improve on last year. If the defense figures things out, this team could approach six wins and be in the conversation for a bowl berth.

 

Wisconsin Badgers

(Over 10 wins +160...Under 10 wins -210)

 

Record Last Year: 11-3, 7-1

 

Returning Starters: 12 (5 on offense, 7 on defense)

 

Offense: Things will look different on this side of the ball without Melvin Gordon although the Badgers will be in good hands with Corey Clement and Taiwan Deal. Joel Stave is back under center and he needs to improve after completing just 53.4 percent of his passes.

 

Defense: Vince Biegel had 16.5 tackles for a loss last year to go with 7.5 sacks. He'll help again this year with the strength of the defense in the secondary. This should be a very solid defense.

 

Schedule: The season kicks off with another SEC opponent although this one is a bit tougher. The Badgers get Alabama in Arlington, Texas. After that it's Miami (Ohio), Troy and Hawaii. The first true road game isn't until Oct. 10 at Nebraska.

 

Selection: No feel for this one. It's a high number that you could make the case for in either direction. Once again, if you find that you like the over, then I endorse it at that price.

 

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

Teaser:
Examining the Over/Under 2015 Win Totals for the Big Ten's West Division
Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/contenders-keep-heisman-trophy-pac-12
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The Heisman Trophy came to Pac-12 Country in 2014, with Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota holding off Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon to win the award.

 

Mariota may be gone, but the Pac-12 can keep the Heisman under its collective umbrella for the first time since 2004 and '05 — or, for the first time as actually recognized by the Heisman Trust since 1967 and '68.

 

Bovada released updated odds for the 2015 Heisman Tuesday, with Big 12 representative Trevone Boykin of TCU, the Big Ten’s Ezekiel Elliott and Braxton Miller of Ohio State and SEC players Jeremy Johnson (Auburn) and Nick Chubb (Georgia) comprising the top five.

 

Of course, preseason odds matter little as the fall unfolds, and the Pac-12 has plenty of worthy contenders who could become the new favorite as the season progresses.

 

A quarterback has won the Heisman every year since 2010, and all but two seasons since 2000. It stands to reason, then, that the Pac-12’s foremost front-runner to keep the bronze statue out West plays behind center.

 

The campaign for USC quarterback Cody Kessler began in the 2014 season, when Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian touted Kessler’s lofty numbers following a decimation of rival Notre Dame.

 

“At some point, people are going to recognize him…These are ridiculous numbers he’s putting up right now,” Sarkisian said. Kessler finished the season with 39 touchdown passes to tie the USC record Matt Barkley set in 2011. He was intercepted just four times.

 

“This year was not easy for him,” Sarkisian added.

 

Indeed, Kessler had his struggles that kept him out of the Heisman conversation. Most notably, he threw just four touchdown passes and was intercepted three times against the best of the Pac-12 South.

 

But those bumps are what Kessler sees helping him in his pursuit of bigger things in 2015.

 

 “I’ve seen everything from good games, to average games, to bad games,” Kessler said. “And I think that’s really helped me prepare for the future.”

 

Playing quarterback certainly helps a Heisman candidacy, and especially playing quarterback at USC. The Trojans have produced two Heisman-winning quarterbacks since 2002, and USC quarterbacks were finalists for the award four times since 1988.

 

From the best positioned role to winning the Heisman to one of the worst, another Pac-12 candidate who gained national attention at season’s end last fall is Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright.

 

Wright swept the national defensive awards: Nagurski, Bednarik, Butkus. He also was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, a consensus All-American and finished ninth in the Heisman voting.

 

No defense-exclusive player has ever won the Heisman. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o was close, finishing second to Johnny Manziel in 2012. South Carolina end Jadeveon Clowney had the buildup before the 2013 season, but failed to deliver.

 

Wright could well have hype approaching that which followed Clowney into the 2013 campaign. Should he live up to the billing, and Arizona again find itself in the hunt for the Pac-12 championship, Wright could be a history-maker.

 

He’s not the Pac-12’s sole defensive player with a shot at the Heisman, though. Michigan’s Charles Woodson is the only primarily defensive Heisman winner, and that’s exactly who Sarkisian compared three-way threat Adoree’ Jackson to following December’s Holiday Bowl.

 

Jackson’s versatility made him equally effective as a returner and receiver as he is at cornerback, and the only question mark he presents USC coaches is just how to use him.

 

Oregon had to wait decades to win its first Heisman with a few near-misses along the way. Quarterback Joey Harrington was a finalist in 2001 but finished fourth in the voting. Running back LaMichael James came in third in 2010.

 

But now that Heisman No. 1 is finally in Eugene, the wait for No. 2 could be as short as 12 months.

 

Running back Royce Freeman was dynamite in his freshman campaign, complementing Mariota on the quarterback’s way to the Heisman with 1,365 yards and 18 touchdowns on 252 carries.

 

Freeman is just one running back among the conference’s embarrassment of riches at the position. Fellow 2014 newcomer Nick Wilson has Heisman potential at Arizona, while new Arizona State feature back Demario Richard is a potential dark horse to watch.  

 

Last year’s leading Pac-12 rusher at 1,575 yards, UCLA junior Paul Perkins, is another name to follow in the impending Heisman race.

 

Perkins is a dual threat who has proven equally effective catching passes out of the backfield as he is taking handoffs.

 

Like Perkins, Utah’s Devontae Booker was not originally meant to be his team’s No. 1 back. But after breaking off some impressive carries early in the season, Booker took over and never looked back.

 

His 1,512 yards were second in the Pac-12, giving the Utes a pillar on which to lean while quarterbacks Travis Wilson and Kendal Thompson dealt with injuries and inconsistencies.

 

Head coach Kyle Whittingham started beating the drum for Booker’s candidacy in the spring. Actually saying the H-word might be taboo for some; not Utah’s coach.  

 

“We expect him to have a big year. That’s something we’re counting on,” Whittingham said. “We think can have a better year than he had last year. He’s in the Heisman conversation if he does the things we hope he’s able to do.”

 

Ultimately, the success of the team plays a huge part in a player’s Heisman candidacy. As great as Mariota was throughout his Oregon career, it’s no coincidence his first invite to the Heisman ceremony came the same year the Ducks were national championship contenders.

 

Sarkisian said as much in his early campaigning for Kessler.

 

“That stuff [individual award recognition] comes with a team that performs consistently at a high level. And I know that’s what he wants,” he said. “But at some point, you can’t ignore [great individual play].”

 

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

Teaser:
Contenders to Keep the Heisman Trophy in the Pac-12
Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/lsu-center-ethan-pocic-named-rimington-trophy-watch-list
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The preseason Rimington Award watch list was released on Wednesday with the SEC placing eight players on the list of the top centers in college football. One of the eight is LSU junior offensive lineman Ethan Pocic.

 

Listing Pocic on the preseason Rimington Trophy watch list is more of a "just in case" type of recognition. Pocic, when playing center, is one of the bigger snappers in the nation listed at 6-foot-7, 301 pounds and certainly deserving of the potential honor.

 

Since coming on late during his true freshman season in 2013 when he played in six games while earning one start, he has been a mainstay on the Tigers’ offensive line. In 2014 he started and played in 12 of the Tigers’ 13 games, starting nine games at right guard and three at center. He finished the year third on the team with 72.5 pancake blocks.

 

After spring practice Pocic was moved from right guard to left guard and is penciled to start there when the 2015 season kicks off with freshman Will Clapp expected to earn the starting center spot with sophomore Andy Dodd backing him up.

 

The other SEC players named to the preseason Rimington Trophy Award watch list include:

 

Evan Boehm – senior – Missouri

Ryan Kelly – senior – Alabama

Alan Knott – sophomore – South Carolina

Mike Matthews – senior – Texas A&M

Spencer Pulley – senior – Vanderbilt

Mitch Smothers – senior – Arkansas

Jon Toth – junior – Kentucky

 

Of this group, Kelly is considered the leader and has a great chance of winning the Rimington Trophy.

 

In total 63 players were named to the Rimington Trophy preseason watch list. The honorees will be pared down over the course of the season with the finalists announced on Dec. 7.

 

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

Teaser:
LSU Center Ethan Pocic Named to Rimington Trophy Watch List
Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /nfl/nfc-north-rookies-watch-2015
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With NFL training camps set to open up in a few weeks, it will be the first real taste of being a professional football player for all the rookies who heard their names called in the draft not too long ago. And in some cases, teams may be counting on some of their first-year players to contribute sooner rather than later.

 

Here is one key rookie for each of the four NFC North teams to keep an eye on during training camp.

 

Kevin White, WR, Chicago Bears

The Bears didn’t disappoint the hometown crowd on the opening night of the draft this year when they selected West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White with the seventh overall pick. The Bears hope White can jump right into a starting role opposite Alshon Jeffery. Both White and Jeffery are listed as 6-foot-3 and around 215 pounds, which makes for nightmare matchups against opposing defensive backs. White could put up some huge numbers in a league where rookie wide receivers took over last season. The x-factor in this equation is how much does Jay Cutler look at White in the red zone given his more established chemistry with Jeffery and tight end Martellus Bennett, not to mention Matt Forté, whose 102 receptions last season were the most ever by a running back.

 

Related: Chicago Bears 2015 Team Preview and Prediction

 

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit Lions

The Lions ranked 28th in rushing last season, and Reggie Bush left via free agency to sign with San Francisco. Ameer Abdullah looks to continue the success he had with the Nebraska Cornhuskers and make a difference in Detroit. Abdullah will have to compete with Joique Bell and Theo Riddick for snaps. The bright side on being a running back with the Lions is that Matthew Stafford likes to throw the ball to them. Running backs were targeted on more than 28 percent of Detroit’s passing plays last season. If Abdullah can show he’s a reliable receiver out of the backfield, it will only help him carve out a role in this offense.

 

Related: Detroit Lions 2015 Team Preview and Prediction

 

Ty Montgomery, WR/KR, Green Bay Packers

When Packers general manager Ted Thompson takes a wide receiver in the early rounds of the draft, it’s best to pay a little attention to him. Ty Montgomery could come in and contribute from the first snap of the regular season. The Stanford product has an uphill climb to get snaps given the presence of Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams, but Montgomery could make his mark early on through special teams, especially as a kickoff returner. While at Stanford, Montgomery returned three kickoffs for touchdowns and averaged 27.4 yards per return over his four years.

 

Related: Green Bay Packers 2015 Team Preview and Prediction

 

Eric Kendricks, LB, Minnesota Vikings

The team from the land of 10,000 lakes looks to take the next step this upcoming season and challenge for a playoff spot in the NFC North. A big part of making this happen might be Eric Kendricks, Minnesota’s second-round pick from UCLA. Kendricks becomes the second linebacker drafted in two years by the Vikings, as they took fellow Bruin Anthony Barr in the first round last year. Kendricks got some first-team reps in OTAs and at minimum should get some early looks in the defense’s nickel packages. If Kendricks, who finished his UCLA career as the program’s all-time leading tackler, can adapt quickly to the pro game, then he and Barr could finally bring some much-needed stability to the Vikings’ linebacker corps.

 

Related: Minnesota Vikings 2015 Team Preview and Prediction

 

(Kevin White photo courtesy of www.chicagobears.com, Eric Kendricks photo courtesy of www.vikings.com)

 

— Written by Josh Koop, who is apart of the Athlon Contributor Network and Director of New Media with the Bemidji Axemen of the Indoor Football League. You can follow Josh on Twitter at @Koopsnet.

Teaser:
NFC North Rookies to Watch in 2015
Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-ten-stadiums-2015
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Last summer, Athlon Sports asked 12 Big Ten experts Gerry DiNardo, Eddie George, Tom Dienhart, David Jones and more to rank their favorite stadiums in the Big Ten.

 

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

 

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


 

1. Ohio Stadium, Ohio State

There is little doubt that the Horseshoe is the Big Ten’s best place to watch a game. The Buckeyes led the nation at 106,296 fans per game in 2014 and finished second in the Big Ten at 101.3 percent capacity. This while being the third-largest building in the conference behind Michigan and Penn State. Urban Meyer is 21-1 in three years at home with that one loss coming to Virginia Tech last fall.

 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
1922104,944 (3rd)106,296 (1st)101.3% (2nd)

108,362 ('14)


2. Memorial Stadium, Nebraska

This venue has been sold out since 1962. Seriously, 1962! The amazing streak allowed Nebraska to lead the Big Ten in capacity at 104.9 percent full every game. The Big Red finished 10th in the nation in attendance last fall with the fourth-biggest venue in the conference.
 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192387,000 (4th)91,249 (10th)104.9% (1st)91,471 ('13)

 

3. Camp Randall Stadium, Wisconsin

With the fifth-biggest building in the Big Ten, Wisconsin finished 18th nationally in attendance. Virtually every seat was filled a year ago with the fourth-largest average capacity at 99.0 percent. Only Ohio State, Nebraska and Michigan State could claim a more packed house than UW. 
 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
191780,321 (5th)79,520 (18th)99.0% (4th)83,184 ('05)

 

 

4. Beaver Stadium, Penn State

Normally, 5,000 empty seats would be a big problem but not at Penn State. Despite those empty seats, Penn State still finished fifth in the nation in attendance at 101,623, which actually represented a five percent increase over 2013. So while the 95.4 percent average capacity (8th in the Big Ten) doesn't look great when comparing it to the rest of the conference, the numbers are trending in the right direction for one of the best buildings in the country.
 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
1960106,572 (2nd)101,623 (5th)95.4% (8th)110,753 ('02)

 

5. Michigan Stadium, Michigan

Much like Penn State, the Wolverines had 5,000 empty seats at every game but still managed to draw over 100,000 fans per home date. The Maize and Blue finished third in the nation in attendance at nearly 105,000 per game. However, with Jim Harbaugh now in town, expect the six percent attendance drop from 2013-14 to be totally reversed this fall. Season tickets and suite sales are soaring for the Big Blue right now.
 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
1927109,901 (1st)104,909 (3rd)95.5% (7th)115,109 ('13)



 

6. Kinnick Stadium, Iowa

How many stadiums seat more than 70,000 people and are just the seventh-biggest building in its own conference? But that is what Iowa is dealing with in the Big Ten. The 67,512 average attendance was 22nd in the nation and up one percent from 2013. Kirk Ferentz is 10-11 at home over the last three years and has lost at least three times in Kinnick in three straight seasons.
 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192970,585 (7th)67,512 (22nd)95.6% (6th)70,585

 

7. Spartans Stadium, Michigan State

Michigan State finished in the top 20 nationally in attendance and was third in the Big Ten at 99.6 percent capacity. The Spartans also saw a three percent growth in sales from 2013l. Mark Dantonio and company are 13-1 at home over the last two seasons.
 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192575,005 (6th)74,681 (20th)99.6% (3rd)80,401 ('90)

 

8. TCF Bank Stadium, Minnesota

The newest building in the Big Ten also serves beer — making it a must-see stop. Until it expands, however, it will still be one of the smallest in the league (11th). Minnesota ranked 45th nationally in attendance last fall and ninth in the Big Ten in average capacity. Jerry Kill is starting to make it work for his team, however, going 11-3 at home over the last two seasons.
 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
200952,525 (11th)47,865 (45th)91.1% (9th)50,805

 

 

9. Memorial Stadium, Illinois

The Illini's home stadium keeps getting nicer but continues to shrink in size. At one time holding nearly 80,000 fans, Memorial Stadium averaged just 41,549 last fall (55th) and is now the eighth-biggest venue in the Big Ten. The five percent dip in attendance last season ranked Illinois ahead of only Purdue in terms of average capacity (68.5 percent). Tim Beckman is 10-13 at home in three years at Illinois (but did post his best season at 5-2 last year).
 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192360,670 (8th)41,549 (55th)68.5% (13th)78,297 ('84)

 

10. Byrd Stadium, Maryland

Surprisingly, Maryland's Byrd Stadium is only bigger than Northwestern's Ryan Field when it comes to capacity in the Big Ten. However, the move to the Big Ten created a 14 percent jump in attendance from 2013, a number only bested by Texas A&M (21 percent) nationally. The Terps finished 48th in total attendance and renovations could be coming soon.
 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
195051,108 (13th)46,981 (48th)90.7% (10th)58,973 ('75)

 

 

11. Ryan Field, Northwestern

The smallest building in the Big Ten finished just 59th in the nation in attendance last fall. Unfortunately, the Wildcats also had one of the worst average capacities as well, filling up just 81.9 percent of their venue on average — better than only Purdue, Illinois and Indiana. Northwestern has won just two of its last 11 home games.
 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192647,130 (14th)38,613 (59th)81.9% (11th)55,752 ('62)

 

12. High Point Solutions Stadium, Rutgers

Rutgers finished 43rd nationally in attendance last fall with the third-smallest building in the Big Ten. However, it was second in the Big Ten with a nine percent jump in attendance and was fifth in the Big Ten at 96.5 percent capacity.
 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
199452,454 (12th)50,632 (43rd)96.5 (5th)53,737 ('09)

 

 

13. Memorial Stadium, Indiana

It's tough to draw fans to Indiana football games, plain and simple. That said, nearly 42,000 fans on average saw the Hoosiers play in person last season. That number only ranks 54th nationally but is only a few thousand behind major winners like TCU (44,719) and Baylor (46,710). Maybe there is hope as Kevin Wilson continues to improve this team.
 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
196052,929 (10th)41,657 (54th)78.7% (12th)56,223 ('69)

 

14. Ross Ade Stadium, Purdue

There doesn't seem to be much hope at all in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers have the ninth-biggest stadium in the Big Ten but finished last in attendance and just 62nd nationally. Only Duke, Wake Forest, Washington State, Kansas, Vanderbilt and Boston College drew worse crowds last fall among Power 5 teams and the 61.6 percent average capacity was the lowest in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC combined.
 

OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192457,236 (9th)35,269 (62nd)61.6% (14th)71,629 ('80)

 

Teaser:
Ranking the Big Ten Stadiums for 2015
Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/accs-10-most-underrated-players-2015
Body:

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

 

Florida State hopes to win its fourth consecutive ACC title in 2015. However, the Seminoles are reloading – just like the rest of the conference. Clemson suffered heavy losses on defense, but the offense should be solid despite the departure of coordinator Chad Morris and the concerns up front. Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech are the frontrunners to win the ACC, but the personnel departures from each of those programs could open the door for a surprise team to emerge.

 

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

 

ACC's 10 Most Underrated Players for 2015

 

Sherman Alston, WR, Boston College

Alston quietly emerged as a promising all-purpose threat in 2014, and the New York native is only going to see his snap count increase in 2015. In 12 games, Alston rushed for 352 yards and two scores and caught 15 passes for 169 yards. Alston isn’t the biggest receiver (5-foot-6), but his speed and quickness will be an asset for taking handoffs in the spread or making plays in space as a receiver.

 

Related: ACC 2015 All-Conference Team

 

Artie Burns, CB, Miami

Burns is coming off his first full season as a starter for the Hurricanes and registered 40 tackles and six pass breakups. The Miami native was considered a four-star recruit coming out of Miami Northwestern and played in 11 games as a true freshman in 2013. Burns was a key cog in a secondary that limited ACC quarterbacks to just six touchdown passes in 2014. The junior is not only a breakout candidate, but he’s also one of the ACC’s underrated cover men.

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

David Dean, DT, Virginia

Run-stuffing defensive tackles are often overlooked because they won’t produce huge tackle or sack totals. Dean fits that mold, as the 295-pound senior recorded only 40 stops in 12 games last year. Eight of Dean’s tackles went for a loss, and he also recorded a forced fumble. The senior should be the anchor for Virginia’s front seven in 2015.

 

Related: College Football's 2015 All-Sophomore Team

 

DeVon Edwards, S, Duke

Duke’s secondary returns all five starters from a unit that held ACC opponents to 12 passing scores in 2014. Safety Jeremy Cash is the headliner for coach David Cutcliffe, but Edwards and cornerbacks Breon Borders and Bryon Fields are also under-the-radar performers. Edwards recorded 133 tackles (7.5 for a loss), 4.5 sacks and nine pass breakups last season. The junior is also a weapon for Duke on special teams, and his active all-around ability on defense is a huge asset.

 

Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson

Most of the offseason attention for Clemson’s offense has revolved around the health of quarterback Deshaun Watson and the new co-coordinator setup (Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott) to replace Chad Morris. While Watson and the Tigers’ receiving corps should have no trouble moving the ball in 2015, the rushing attack has been overlooked. Gallman finished 2014 with 769 yards and four touchdowns on 161 attempts, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. He also closed out the season playing at a high level, gashing South Carolina for 191 yards and Wake Forest for 106 yards.

 

Related: ACC Predictions for 2015

 

Keith Kelsey, LB, Louisville

The clear strength of Louisville’s defense will be its front seven in 2015. End Sheldon Rankins – a second-team All-ACC selection by Athlon Sports for 2015 – anchors the 3-4 line for coordinator Todd Grantham. And the Cardinals should have the best linebacker unit in the ACC this season, as Kelsey and James Burgess could both finish 2015 with first-team all-conference honors. Kelsey started all 13 games for the Cardinals last year and recorded with 87 tackles. 

 

Nile Lawrence-Stample, DT, Florida State

Lawrence-Stample was also mentioned in this list of key ACC players returning from injury. The Florida native was expected to be a key cog on the interior of Florida State’s defense last season, but a pectoral injury in September sidelined him until the Rose Bowl. The four-star recruit recorded six starts and played in 13 games in 2013, finishing the year with 15 tackles (1.5 for a loss). The Seminoles will miss Eddie Goldman’s presence on the interior, but Lawrence-Stample’s return should be a boost for coordinator Charles Kelly.

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Marquel Lee, LB, Wake Forest

Either Lee or fellow linebacker Brandon Chubb deserves a mention in this space. The Demon Deacons quietly have one of the ACC’s top linebacker groups, as Lee, Chubb and Hunter Williams are in the mix for all-conference honors in 2015. In 12 games last season, Lee recorded 101 stops (12 for a loss), four sacks and one forced fumble. The Maryland native was a third-team All-ACC selection for 2015 by Athlon Sports.

 

Jack Tocho, CB, NC State

Tocho has been a key defender in coach Dave Doeren’s rebuilding effort in Raleigh. The North Carolina native played in 12 games as a true freshman in 2013 and recorded 25 tackles and two interceptions. Tocho played even better as a sophomore, starting all 13 games for the Wolfpack and recording with 41 tackles and 11 pass breakups. The ACC has three potential All-Americans returning at cornerback with Clemson’s Mackensie Alexander, Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey and Virginia Tech’s Kendall Fuller. However, Tocho should not be overlooked when filling out preseason all-conference ballots.

 

Related: ACC Predictions for 2015

 

Chad Voytik, QB, Pittsburgh

The ACC has a solid group of quarterbacks returning, headlined by Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, Florida State’s Everett Golson, Miami’s Brad Kaaya and two passers from the state of North Carolina in Marquise Williams (UNC) and Jacoby Brissett (NC State). Could Voytik join that tier as one of the top quarterbacks in 2015? In 13 games last year, Voytik threw for 2,233 yards and 16 scores and added 466 rushing yards and three touchdowns. The Tennessee native closed 2014 by playing his best ball of the season, throwing only one interception over the last six games. New coordinator Jim Chaney is tasked with elevating Voytik’s performance, and the veteran play-caller should make a difference for Pittsburgh’s offense in 2015.

Teaser:
The ACC's 10 Most Underrated Players for 2015
Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/reviewing-most-important-college-football-news-summer-2015
Body:

The long offseason days are finally starting to get shorter. Conference media days start Monday, meaning preseason practice is not far behind.

 

The summer has been, thankfully, slower than most in recent years. Conference realignment or rumors thereof were minimal. No head coaches abruptly left their posts.

 

As with any summer, there was the usual allotment of injuries, suspensions and the like. If you’ve tuned out since spring practice or just wondered if you’ve missed anything major, this is Athlon’s service to you.

 

Here’s what you may have missed.

 

The Summer of Harbaugh

 

Jim Harbaugh’s first offseason as the head coach of Michigan has been eventful enough that he gets his own page in the summer news roundup. From needling the SEC to awkward interviews, Harbaugh was arguably the sport’s biggest figure during the offseason.

 

Greg Sankey becomes SEC head man

 

Ever since SEC commissioner Mike Slive announced his retirement in October, right hand man Greg Sankey has been the assumed successor. The move was made official on June 1. He’s already presided over an national championships in softball (Florida) and men’s golf (LSU) and a College World Series championship series appearance (Vanderbilt). He’s floated the idea of college football players being able to enter the draft and return to school, provided they don’t hire an agent, similar to college basketball. He supported the removal of the Confederate battle flag from athletic arenas.

 

Sankey is new in his role, but as the commissioner of the SEC, he’s already one of the most important figures in college athletics. His first address and meetings with the media at SEC Media Days on Monday will be worth monitoring as the new commish sets his agenda.

 

North Carolina receives notice of allegations

 

The academic fraud scandal at North Carolina seems to thought of as a basketball issue. That’s only natural given the stature of the Heels’ basketball program, but don’t forget that the paper classes were widespread among many athletes, football included. The NCAA enforcement staff charged UNC with five severe violations, including lack of institutional control. The cloud of uncertainty will hang over football — at least until Midnight Madness in October.

 

Everett Golson to Florida State

 

If Everett Golson’s move from Notre Dame to Florida State isn’t the most important transfer of the season, it’s certainly the most high profile. His departure all but ensures Malik Zaire will start for the Irish and makes Golson the probable starter at FSU, replacing a Heisman winner who lost one game as a starter. There’s still a major question if Golson, 17-5 as a starter with the Irish, can pick up Jimbo Fisher’s complex offense in less than one offseason. If not, Sean Maguire might be the starter on Sept. 5.

 

De’Andre Johnson dismissed from FSU

 

De’Andre Johnson likely wouldn’t have figured into Florida State’s quarterback plans this season, but his dismissal from the Seminoles is notable merely for the optics — another FSU quarterback involved in legal issues involving a woman. Johnson, a three-star recruit in the 2015 class, was charged with misdemeanor battery and was swiftly dismissed when the state attorney’s office released video of the incident.

 

OT Isaiah Battle leaves Clemson

 

In an offseason with its share of questions for Clemson, the Tigers added another one to the list. Already replacing offensive coordinator Chad Morris and rebuilding an elite defense from 2014, Clemson has renewed question marks on the offensive line after losing projected starting tackle Isaiah Battle. Selected in the first round of the NFL Supplemental Draft, Battle leaves Clemson with just one returning starter on the offensive line.

 

Ole Miss looks into Laremy Tunsil incident

 

It’s bad enough when a star left tackle is arrested after an altercation with his stepfather — an altercation in which Tunsil may have acted in defense of his mother. It’s worse when NCAA issues arise as a result. Tunsil’s stepfather, Lindsey Miller, told police that he warned Tunsil about contact with agents at the time of the incident. Miller later told NCAA enforcement that agents helped Tunsil with cash, clothes and help with car insurance, according to the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger. Ole Miss confirmed it is looking into the allegations surrounding its potential All-American tackle.

 

David Boren ignites realignment talk

 

Only five years ago, the Big 12 seemed to be the brink of destruction in conference realignment. Since then, the landscape has settled, including the Big 12’s 10-team membership. Things can’t stay quiet for too long in college football, and Oklahoma president David Boren made sure of it this offseason when he said the Big 12 should try to return to a 12-team lineup. Is the sport back to the moment of uncertainty it was in 2010? Not quite, but it’s at least a sign that not everyone is fully satisfied with the current alignments.

 

Steve Patterson making friends at Texas

 

There had been smoke that the hire of Steve Patterson as Texas AD might end up a controversial move, especially on the heels of long-timer DeLoss Dodds. By June we learned the full extent of Patterson’s methods, including raising ticket prices, setting up “Loyalty Points” for donors and nickel and diming expenses and budgets for individual sports.

 

Diddy v. UCLA strength coach

 

The most bizarre news item of the summer involved P. Diddy, a UCLA strength coach and a kettlebell. Assault charges were not filed against Sean “P. Diddy” Combs stemming from an incident in which the rap mogul was alleged to threaten UCLA strength coach Justin Combs with a kettlebell.

 

Tennessee and Michigan get swooshes

 

This summer was slow enough where Tennessee unveiling a new apparel contract with Nike for 2015 seemed to fill the news day. The Volunteers teased it for weeks leading up to the announcement and it ended up being … really nice uniforms. Michigan didn’t unveil uniforms — the Wolverines are still in adidas threads for 2015 — but UM did brag that its 10-year deal with Nike would be the largest contract in the nation.

 

Harold Brantley’s football future in doubt

 

Defensive tackle Harold Brantley, a starter on Missouri’s standout line, could see his season in jeopardy after a single-car accident in late June. Brantley, who was listed in serious condition, suffered ligament damage in his knee and a broken leg and ribs.

 

Georgia’s QB revolving door

 

Georgia made a bid to land Everett Golson before the Notre Dame QB landed at Florida State. Instead, the Bulldogs added Virginia graduate transfer Greyson Lambert to the mix. Lambert, who lost the quarterback competition to Matt Johns, will compete for a starting spot at Georgia among Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta. Just as Lambert landed at Georgia, redshirt freshman Jacob Park elected to transfer from Athens.

 

Connor Brewer transfers to Virginia

 

Quarterbacks transfer all the time, but few have changed zip codes quite like Connor Brewer. The former four-star recruit signed with Texas out of high school, transferred to Arizona and transferred again to Northern Arizona. He still hasn’t won a college starting job. Maybe No. 4 will be the charm.

 

Knee troubles end Kelby Brown’s career

 

Duke won’t get its best defensive player back in the lineup. Linebacker Kelby Brown, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, retired from football after re-tearing  ligaments in his left knee. The latest knee injury was his fourth torn ACL — twice in each knee — in his career.

 

Nebraska’s linebacker corps loses another

 

Nebraska’s linebacker position continued to lose numbers as David Santos, the most experienced returner, left the team under unknown circumstances on June 11. Santos had started 19 games in three seasons.

 

Washington QB Cyler Miles retires

 

Washington’s returning starting quarterback was going to have trouble hanging onto his job anyway this season, but Miles’ status was made official when he retired from football due to a chronic hip injury. Jeff Lindquist, K.J. Carta-Samuels and Jake Browning will compete for the job in fall.

 

Utah starting cornerback arrested brandishing a knife

 

Utah starting cornerback Dominique Hatfield may see his season in jeopardy after he was arrested July 1 on charges of aggravated robbery. Hatfield used an online ad for an Xbox to lure a man to a car wash when Hatfield threated him with a knife demanding money, according to police.

 

Miami thins an already-thin offensive line

 

Offensive line was already going to be Miami’s biggest trouble spot. Even so, the Hurricanes cut down the group by one by abruptly dismissing projected right tackle Taylor Gadbois from the team. Gadbois told the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post he was told he wasn’t “positive enough.”

 

Another ACC team, another offensive tackle to miss the season

 

If this is starting to sound familiar, it’s because Pittsburgh is the third ACC team to lose a potential starting offensive tackle this offseason. Projected starter Jaryd Jones-Smith will miss the season with a knee injury. And like Clemson and Miami, Pittsburgh is facing a season with a thin O-line now made thinner.

 

Navy joins the the American

 

The final major college football conference realignment move on the books became official when Navy joined the American Athletic Conference on June 1. The longtime independent will be the AAC’s 12th member, allowing the league to host a championship game in 2015.

 

UAB football is back

 

The demise of UAB football lasted all of six months. UAB announced on June 1 the football program would, indeed, return after the school found $17.2 million to resuscitate the program as early as 2016. The reasons why the program was shuttered in the first place remains dubious, and now UAB has even more barriers to fielding a competitive team. Transfers from the Blazers now litter the college football landscape, leaving UAB coach Bill Clark to essentially start from scratch after sitting out for 2015.

 

UCF names George O’Leary interim AD

 

There once was a time when veteran football coaches would spend the twilight years of their careers as an athletic director. That time still exists at UCF, which named football coach George O’Leary its interim AD. The move is curious for a number of reasons — one, he’s still the football coach, and, two, O’Leary testified as part of a wrongful death suit of a player in 2011.

Teaser:
Reviewing the Most Important College Football News of Summer 2015
Post date: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/james-franklin-setting-foundation-future-success-penn-state
Body:

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

 

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

 

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

 

Related: Big Ten 2015 Predictions

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Related: Penn State Needs Rebound Season from QB Christian Hackenberg

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

April 24: Harbaugh vs. the SEC

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

May 15: Harbaugh demonstrates proper inflation

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

June 5: Harbaugh goes shirtless

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

June 8: Paul Finebaum? Never Heard of Him

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

June 17: Jim Harbaugh’s America

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

June 20: Lil Wayne is a fan

 

 

 

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

 

July 1: An interview gone wrong

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Here’s Miller’s take from the article:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

Related: SEC Football 2015 Predictions

 

2015 SEC Football Media Days Attendees

 

Alabama

Head Coach Nick Saban

Reggie Ragland, Sr., LB

Kenyan Drake, Sr., RB

Ryan Kelly, Sr., OL

 

Arkansas

Head Coach Bret Bielema

Jonathan Williams, Sr., RB

Brandon Allen, Sr., QB

Keon Hatcher, Sr., WR

 

Auburn

Head Coach Gus Malzahn

Jeremy Johnson, Jr., QB

Jonathan Jones, Sr., DB

Kris Frost, Sr., LB

 

Florida

Head Coach Jim McElwain

Jonathan Bullard, Sr., DE

Brandon Powell, So., WR

Vernon Hargreaves III, Jr., DB

 

Georgia

Head Coach Mark Richt

Malcolm Mitchell, Sr., WR

John Theus, Sr., OT

Jordan Jenkins, Sr., OLB

 

Kentucky

Head Coach Mark Stoops

Melvin Lewis, Sr., NG

Jordan Swindle, Sr., OT

A.J. Stamps, Sr., S

 

LSU

Head Coach Les Miles

Leonard Fournette, So., RB

Vadal Alexander, Sr., OT

Kendell Beckwith, Jr., LB

 

Mississippi State

Head Coach Dan Mullen

Dak Prescott, Sr., QB

Taveze Calhoun, Sr., DB

Ryan Brown, Sr., DE

 

Missouri

Head Coach Gary Pinkel

Kenya Dennis, Sr., DB

Maty Mauk, Jr., QB

Evan Boehm, Sr., C

 

Ole Miss

Head Coach Hugh Freeze

Evan Engram, Jr., TE

Mike Hilton, Sr., DB

C.J. Johnson, Sr., LB

 

South Carolina

Head Coach Steve Spurrier

Elliott Fry, Jr., PK

Pharoh Cooper, Jr., WR

Skai Moore, Jr., LB

 

Tennessee

Head Coach Butch Jones

Joshua Dobbs, Jr., QB

Curt Maggitt, Sr., LB/DL

Cameron Sutton, Jr., DB

 

Texas A&M

Head Coach Kevin Sumlin

Mike Matthews, Sr., C

Germain Ifedi, Jr., OT

Julien Obioha, Sr., DL

 

Vanderbilt

Head Coach Derek Mason

Ralph Webb, So., RB

Nigel Bowden, So., LB

Spencer Pulley, Sr., C

 

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

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

Michael Jordan has been taking flight since high school.

 

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

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

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

 

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

Watch below as Williams wins the match:

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Cause for Concern in Baton Rouge

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

See ESPN's full statement below:
 

 

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

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

 

Related: Big Ten 2015 Football Predictions

 

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

 

Note: Over/under odds courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbook

 

Big Ten East

 

Indiana Hoosiers

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

 

Record Last Year: 4-8, 1-7

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Maryland Terrapins

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

 

Record Last Year: 7-6, 4-4

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Michigan Wolverines

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

 

Record Last Year: 5-7, 3-5

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Michigan State Spartans

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

 

Record Last Year: 11-2, 7-1

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Ohio State Buckeyes

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

 

Record Last Year: 14-1, 8-0

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Penn State Nittany Lions

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

 

Record Last Year: 7-6, 2-6

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

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

 

Record Last Year: 8-5, 3-5

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

ACC's Top Players Returning from Injury

 

Braxton Deaver, TE, Duke

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

 

Brandon Facyson, CB, Virginia Tech

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

 

Related: College Football's Top Cornerback Tandems for 2015

 

Terrel Hunt, QB, Syracuse

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

 

Related: ACC All-Conference Team for 2015

 

Nile Lawrence-Stample, DT, Florida State

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

 

Related: ACC Predictions for 2015

 

Luther Maddy, DT, Virginia Tech

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

 

Kc McDermott, OT, Miami

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

 

Related: College Football's Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Demetrious Nicholson, CB, Virginia

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

 

Ejuan Price, DE, Pittsburgh

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

 

Artie Rowell, C/G, Pittsburgh

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

 

Related: ACC Predictions for 2015

 

Broderick Snoddy, RB, Georgia Tech

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

 

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

 

Matthew Thomas, LB, Florida State

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

 

Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

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

 

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

 

Harris Williams, C, Boston College

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

 

Others to Watch

 

Travis Blanks, S, Clemson

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

 

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

 

Will Gardner, QB, Louisville

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

 

Rayshawn Jenkins, S, Miami

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

 

Shai McKenzie, RB, Virginia Tech

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

 

Marshawn Williams, RB, Virginia Tech

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

See Cuban's message to fans below:
 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Buy Athlon Sports' 2015 NFL Preview Magazine

 

OFFENSE

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

DEFENSE

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

SPECIALISTS

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

 

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

 

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

 

FINAL ANALYSIS

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: 3rd in NFC East

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New York Giants 2015 Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 11:00
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Chip Kelly’s short tenure as Philadelphia’s coach has been anything but dull. It’s too early to tell if the many changes Kelly has made will pay off in postseason success, but there can be no denying the interest the team has created. In a town starving for good news in the light of the horrible play of the Phillies, Sixers and Flyers, the Eagles’ offseason personnel binge was a welcome diversion from the carnage afflicting the city’s other professional teams.

 

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

 

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OFFENSE

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

DEFENSE

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

SPECIALISTS

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

 

FINAL ANALYSIS

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

 

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

 

Prediction: 2nd in NFC East

Teaser:
Philadelphia Eagles 2015 Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NFC East, Washington Redskins, NFL, News
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If 2014 showed the Washington Redskins in a state of anchorless drift — toggling between three quarterbacks, losing five games by 20 or more points and beset by the dysfunction and intrigue that have come to define the Daniel Snyder era — the 2015 version, at least in theory, will emphasize stability.

 

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

 

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

 

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OFFENSE

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

DEFENSE

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

SPECIALISTS

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

 

FINAL ANALYSIS

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: 4th in NFC East

Teaser:
Washington Redskins 2015 Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 11:00
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The MLB has just recently released the participants for the upcoming Home Run Derby, and it certainly showcases some of the veterans and up-and-coming players in the league. In order of seeding based on current home run totals, the players will be: Albert Pujols, Todd Frazier, Josh Donaldson, Joc Pederson, Manny Machado, Anthony Rizzo, Prince Fielder, and Kris Bryant.

 

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

 

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Post date: Thursday, July 9, 2015 - 10:56

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