Articles By All
The Dallas’ Mavericks midseason trade for Rajon Rondo was a gamble, and their roll of the dice seems to have emptied their pockets this April.
The Mavericks ruled Rondo out indefinitely after their 111-99 loss to the Houston Rockets Tuesday night, which put them down 0-2 in the first round playoff series between the two Texas teams. Rondo played less than a minute in the second half of the contest, and his coach Rick Carlisle later suggested it was because of a back issue that was exacerbated by his falling, after attempting to draw an offensive foul on James Harden.
Carlisle, when asked if he expects Rondo to play in a Dallas uniform next season, said “No, I don’t.”
It would seem that there’s far more below the surface than an achy back. Rondo and Carlisle—like Rondo and all of his coaches—have had visible difficulty getting along for months, and the point guard’s performance on Tuesday left a lot to be desired in the effort department. His turnover for committing an eight-second violation (an almost never seen occurrence in the NBA) after dribbling the ball up court with little-to-no urgency was an especially telling moment.
Many NBA insiders have been projecting Rondo as a future teammate of Kobe Bryant’s, with the Los Angeles Lakers, for some time now. Given Rajon’s lack of cooperation as a Maverick and the unchecked megalomania of Bryant’s L.A. swan song, the prospect of seeing the two together makes one salivate in anticipation of the hubris-laden folly the pair would commit.
Carlisle is a disciplinarian, and strict at what he does. But most players fall quickly in line, because he maximizes their talents and rehabilitates all kinds of careers—but Rondo was too headstrong for his program. If he joins Kobe in Los Angeles, however, he won’t have the problem of needing to negotiate with anyone on the bench; Byron Scott holds much less power within the Lakers organization than his superstars do.
— John Wilmes
The first offseason for Bret Bielema was dramatically different than his second in Fayetteville.
Arkansas got back to a bowl game after a winless SEC campaign and fans and prognosticators alike are excited about the Hogs' potential in 2015. The roster is in great shape and the Razorbacks' identity makes them tough to face every weekend.
There are still question marks at key positions but the schedule in the SEC West might be the biggest obstacle to Bielema leading Arkansas back to the SEC Championship Game for the first time in nearly a decade.
2015 Arkansas Schedule
Bye: Week 7
|1.||Sept. 5||Fayetteville, AR|
|Two previous meetings between UTEP and Arkansas led to two very lop-sided wins (by 32 points in 1989, 39 in 2010) for the Hogs. Expect a similar outcome in the season opener.|
|2.||Sept. 12||Little Rock, AR|
|Toledo is a feisty MAC program but won't be able to compete in the trenches with a team as big and physical as Arkansas. Look for a second-straight blowout for the Hogs to start the season in the first-ever meeting between the Rockets and Razorbacks.|
|3.||Sept. 19||Fayetteville, AR|
|These old-school rivals got things renewed a year ago and it was all Hogs. Arkansas' 49-28 win in Lubbock featured 68 rushing attempts, 438 yards and seven scores in the first meeting between the two programs since 1991. The Hogs have owned the all-time series 29-7.|
|4.||Sept. 26||Arlington, TX|
|Rivalry Restored One of the great aspects to TAMU landing in the SEC West is the renewed rivalry with Arkansas. This was a thriller last season, as Kenny Hill led a wild comeback in overtime. The Hogs lead all-time 41-27-3, but have lost three straight to the Ags. This is a huge early-season pecking order game in the West.|
|5.||Oct. 3||Knoxville, TN|
|A sneaky awesome early October matchup could feature two surging unbeaten programs. It will be the third physical matchup for Tennessee's defense in the first five weeks. The Vols are 13-4 all-time against the Hogs and haven't lost at home in the series since 1992 (the 1998 matchup needs no explanation). Arkansas won 49-7 in Fayetteville in 2011 in the last meeting.|
|6.||Oct. 10||Tuscaloosa, AL|
|Alabama has won eight straight in this series but last year's 14-13 win in Fayetteville is one neither side will ever forget. In fact, before the streak started, Arkansas owned an 8-7 series edge in SEC games. The last time these two met in Tuscaloosa, however, was a 52-0 beatdown. The Hogs should be able to keep it much closer this time around.|
|8.||Oct. 24||Fayetteville, AR|
|Upset Alert Regardless of how the coaches diffuse the rivalry, Gus Malzahn vs. Bret Bielema is a great coaching dynamic. And travelling to Fayetteville is always hard — especially, when it will be easy for Auburn to look ahead to Ole Miss. How Arkansas fares against both Alabama schools in back-to-back games (with an off-weekend between) will likely determine if it is a contender or not. Strangely enough, Hogs fans have to wait until Week 8 for the home SEC opener.|
|8.||Oct. 31||Fayetteville, AR|
|A Halloween tilt with lowly UT-Martin could be gruesome for the Skyhawks. Look for the backups to get plenty of reps as Arkansas prepares for one of the toughest Novembers in college football.|
|9.||Nov. 7||Oxford, MS|
|Houston Nutt Bowl This time the revenge factor plays in Ole Miss' favor after getting crushed by Arkansas a year ago. This has been an extremely even series over the years despite the 30-0 score from last fall. The Hogs lead the series 32-28-1 and the two have split the last six meetings in Oxford.|
|10.||Nov. 14||Baton Rouge, LA|
|The Golden Boot One of the more underrated and always heated rivalries in the SEC West could be a big revenge spot for LSU. The Hogs thrashed the Tigers 17-0 in Fayetteville last season. LSU leads the series 37-21-2 all-time.|
|12.||Nov. 21||Fayetteville, AR|
|Arkansas owns a 15-9-1 series lead over the Bulldogs but Dan Mullen has reversed that trend of late. Mississippi State has won the past three matchups. The last two meetings have been physical, low-scoring brawls that were decided by one score each. Look for another huge late-season showdown between these two on Nov. 21.|
|13.||Nov. 28||Fayetteville, AR|
|This was a fantastic late-season showdown a year ago, no matter which rooting side you were on. The 21-14 win sent Mizzou to Atlanta with an East championship. These two have met only six times and the Tigers have won four of them. The last win for the Hogs over Mizzou came in the 2003 Independence Bowl.|
Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 SEC Preview
Athlon Sports turned loose the Ourlads.com scouting department on two superstar signal callers. Who should go No. 1 in the 2015 NFL Draft: Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston?
From Athlon Sports 2015 NFL Draft preview magazine:
It’s common knowledge that you win games by avoiding losing them. To help avoid losses, a quarterback must be a student of the game — have football intelligence and exercise split-second judgment. Both Winston and Mariota score highly in this area.
Winston and Mariota were asked to complete multiple on-the-field tasks in their respective and very different offensive schemes. They both read defenses, read coverages and reacted to blitzes, etc. Winston played in an NFL-friendly system, so in his evaluation a scout is basically comparing apples to apples. What we saw on Saturday has some carryover to Sunday.
Mariota played in a wide-open, fast-tempo offense that had multiple options on every play. He also processed information quickly by counting defensive numbers and then deciding to give the ball to a back, run it himself or throw to a perimeter receiver at the last second. Mariota excelled in the zone-read option but showed the capability to carry over his cerebral intuitiveness to the NFL.
Winston is an accurate passer in the pocket or when he rolls out, always ready to throw. He has a quick release and delivery. He carries the ball high with no wasted motion and can throw accurately with a defender in his face. He has down-the-field vertical accuracy. He sees the field and understands what he is seeing. He has good anticipation.
Mariota has a high completion percentage of hitting his receivers in stride with few adjustments. He has a natural feel in the passing game to read the play as it develops, instinctively and quickly. He uses his eyes to move the coverage. He spreads the ball around to a variety of receivers, backs and tight ends. Mariota demonstrated his ability to step up in the pocket and drive the ball down the field. He’s accurate on skinny post routes and throws the ball on a line when needed or lofts with touch over linebackers.
Arm strength is somewhat overrated in the NFL, but ball placement is not. Winston and Mariota both have the arm strength to make all the key NFL throws. Both can attack the defense vertically.
Winston has a fastball that touched 95-97 mph as a reliever for the Seminoles’ baseball team, and he’s an MLB prospect as an outfielder. The big righthander has a rocket to throw deep and the ability to throw out routes from the opposite hash mark. He uses his body to throw the NFL’s toughest pass — the deep outside comeback.
Mariota has good arm talent to throw and complete the deep post on a line, go vertical down the middle or gun the outside routes. He gets the ball out quickly with good velocity and has the physical tools to play the position. He can laser the ball between the hashes.
When Winston runs, he is strong and not easy to tackle. He has the ability to get positive yards when he pulls the ball down. He can elude a pass rusher and can throw off balance. He has vision, feel and natural running ability. When he escapes, he can make something happen by extending the play.
Mariota is athletic enough to be a free safety or a wide receiver. He also tops Winston as an extemporaneous runner when a play breaks down. Mariota has explosive movement skills, feet and the ability to avoid and escape a rush. He can make plays on the move to his right or left. He is sudden and quick in his movement. He can beat defenders one-on-one in the open field. He creates plays when out of the pocket with his elusiveness. Mariota is as good as it gets when improvising and extending a play.
Related: 2015 NFL Mock Draft
Poise in the Pocket
Winston’s game is to win from the pocket. His eyes are down the field. He doesn’t see the rush; he feels it. He can laser a ball in a tight window with a defender blitzing the “A” gap up the middle. He shakes defenders off in the pocket and shows good poise when he’s under duress. He has his feet under him with a good base, steps and throws. He played with a veteran offensive line for two years but lost his center for most of 2014, and that was problematic. Winston felt the pressure, stood in the pocket and made the throw while he smelled the blitzer’s breath.
Mariota bested Winston analytically in a study by Pro Football Focus, but he threw close to half the passes Winston threw. Winston had center problems last fall, but Mariota had to deal with eight different offensive line combinations in 2014. Mariota is deadly accurate when he has time to set his feet and read his progressions. He knows where to go with the ball, steps up and throws with timing and surgical accuracy. He slides laterally well in the pocket. Mariota is cool under pressure; he doesn’t get too high or too low and shows patience. He appears to run early at times if his receiver is covered.
Winston is a natural-born leader who can be brash. He has swagger and bravado. He is a Pied Piper whom the team will follow. He is mentally tough and responds well to adversity. He has the ability to manage the team and inspire victory from the start of a game to the finish. Even when he makes mistakes, the team never feels they’re out of the game.
Mariota is cerebral and focused on the job at hand. He takes charge by example and inspires his teammates by his total dedication to football. He had a great command of a high-tempo spread offense and understands defensive tactics and strategy. He works at developing great feel and timing with his individual receivers. He is cool when under the gun and can carry a team on his back.
Clutch Third-Down Player
Winston is a big-game quarterback who consistently delivered in the clutch. He went 7–0 in games decided by seven or fewer points. During his Heisman Trophy-winning season of 2013, he completed 64.0 percent of his third-down attempts, and FSU converted a first down on 44 of his 75 third-down passes.
Mariota had a career 36–5 record and threw at least one touchdown pass in every game he started. For his career, the Hawaii native threw 105 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions.
After doing my due diligence and feeling comfortable with my background research on Winston, I would draft him first because the No. 1 ability is availability. Winston is a bigger-framed player with more muscle mass than Mariota and is more durable. Additionally, Winston played college ball in an NFL-schemed offense. He knows how to climb the pocket while keeping his eyes down the field. He reads full-field route progressions. Winston is a pocket passer first, and that’s where you win in the NFL — in the pocket, not on the perimeter. All indications are that he wants to be great and is willing to pay the price for that greatness.
Winner: Jameis Winston
-by Dan Shonka, Ourlads Scouting Services
Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado was all over the field against the San Diego Padres. He made a couple of amazing defensive plays, including one in the seventh to save two runs:
At the plate, Arenado added two hits, a run and an RBI. But something happened while the ball was not in play that got people laughing. Arenado's belt broke in the bottom of the ninth while on the base path. Arenado walked to the dugout where head athletic trainer Keith Dugger kindly handed over his belt.
When your belt breaks in the bottom of the 9th, get a new one from your trainer. Sharing is caring! pic.twitter.com/zAYxbQrOj8— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) April 23, 2015
The Rockies went on to win 5-4 after rookie Daniel Descalso delivered the pinch-hit walk-off.
The NBA’s postseason may be front and center right now, but for many teams, a momentous offseason has also already begun.
Wednesday afternoon offered a telling reminder of that, when Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported that the Oklahoma City Thunder fired head coach Scott Brooks after seven years of service.
In his time leading Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Co., Brooks compiled a very impressive resume. As OKC’s only coach since the franchise immigrated from Seattle (where they were, of course, the SuperSonics), he had a .620 winning percentage in the regular season, and went to the NBA Finals in 2012, where the Thunder lost to LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
He also led his team to two Western Conference Finals appearances in which they came up short, including a loss to the San Antonio Spurs last year — the team who went on to win the title.
Serge Ibaka missed the first two games of that series, and Durant missed more than half of this season. Westbrook missed most of the playoffs in 2013. Injuries, in short, have done a number to this squad that looked like a safe bet to win a championship, or even a few, not too long ago.
According to Wojnarowski, Brooks’ firing was not the result of missing the playoffs this season — the first time the Thunder missed that benchmark since 2009 — but was a decision made more with a long-term view for the team in mind.
As for Brooks? He’s expected to land on his feet soon, as the Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets are said to be interested in him as the man for their respective openings.
— John Wilmes
The old saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” couldn’t be more true when it comes to ranking college towns.
Do you prefer larger metropolitan areas? Do you enjoy the isolated peace and quiet of a quaint small town? Cost of living, nightlife, food, culture, weather, surrounding geography and more go into evaluating a city.
Every college campus is unique and each one brings something different to the table.
When evaluating a bigger city like Fort Worth or Austin against small towns like Lubbock or Stillwater, personal opinions will vary greatly. So we had some fun asking 12 Big 12 experts to rank their favorite Big 12 locations and here is what we learned:
The Voting Panel:
David Ubben, Fox Sports
Chip Brown, HornsDigest.com
Pat Forde, Yahoo!
Dennis Dodd, CBSSports
Stewart Mandel, Fox Sports
Blair Kerkhoff, KC Star
George Schroeder, USA Today
Chris Level, RedRaiderSports.com
Bryan Fischer, NFL.com
Allen Kenney, BlatantHomerism.com
Tim Fitzgerald, GoPowerCat.com
Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM
Voting: A first-place vote was worth one point and a last-place vote was worth 10 points.
|Austin, Texas There are few places in the world as cool as Austin — and they will tell you about it too. Great food, crazy awesome music and the only part of Texas that isn't table-top flat. The rolling hill country, boating and golf only add to the long list of stuff to do in the Lone Star State capital. There is a reason Austin got all but two first-place votes. Sixth Street is a must for a first-time visitor.|
|Fort Worth, Texas The massive metroplex in North Texas got one first-place vote and if big cities are your thing, there aren't too many options in the Big 12. The attractions in DFW are endless and well known — professional sports, Texas State Fair, bars, beers and honky tonks. If small town living is your thing, then Fort Worth won't suit you. TCU's hometown got six second-place votes and two third-place votes along with that one first-place selection.|
|Lawrence, Kan. It won't be confused with any of the other towns on fall Saturdays, but this town is extremely underrated nationally and got one vote as the Big 12's best town. The gorgeous campus is soaked in rich sports tradition (mostly basketball) and is just down the road from Kansas City. The personality is a bit eclectic and that makes hanging out in Lawrence a fun experience. The music scene here is excellent and the BBQ ain't bad either.|
|Norman, Okla. Sort of a mini-Oklahoma City, Norman got three third-place votes, but also was picked as low as ninth. The downtown area has plenty of charm and the small town streets are welcoming. Certainly, game days take this town to a different level unlike places like Lawrence. Campus Corner comes highly recommended.|
|Morgantown, W.V. The mountains are gorgeous. The campus is awesome on game day. The parties and nightlife are fantastic (insane is perhaps a more fitting descriptor). But it's not easy to get to for any long-distance travelers, which also is the case with many Big 12 outposts. However, outside of the university and the mountains, there isn't a whole lot else going on — which is why Morgantown was voted as high as second and as low as tenth.|
|Manhattan, Kan. The true outposts in the Big 12 will fill the bottom half of this league, beginning with The Little Apple. Some love the small town (it got a second-place vote) and others do not (two last-place votes). There are some killer breweries (at plenty of bars in Aggieville) and plenty of food spots but that's about it.|
|Lubbock, Texas It's 350 miles to Fort Worth or Waco, 340 miles to Norman and 370 miles to Austin or Stillwater — Lubbock's nearest Big 12 counterparts. It redefines middle of nowhere. It's got country music, dust and Texas Tech football. And it's much larger than outsiders would probably guess at nearly 250,000 residents.|
|Stillwater, Okla. One of the smallest college towns in big-time college football at less than 50,000 people, Stillwater is a great party town but has little else to offer. To quote one expert on this panel, "Eskimo Joe's has been a Big 12 landmark" for more than two decades. So there's that.|
|Ames, Iowa A true college town, this might be the most bizarre ranking on this list. Ames is routinely ranked as one of the better places to live in the Midwest, complete with great small town living and some decent nightlife. It got two 10th-place votes and five ninth-place votes. For the record, I voted Ames fifth.|
|Waco, Texas The new facilities have changed the look and feel of this town but not enough to get it out of the Big 12 basement. Waco got four 10th-place votes and three ninth-place votes. Unless you are Chip or Joanna Gaines (or maybe John McClain), I'd suggest continuing up or down I-35 to Austin or DWF.|
Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Big 12 Preview
One of football’s up-and-coming defensive coordinators got his start in the one of the most unlikely places — playing fullback for a school that was ground zero of the modern spread offense.
Kalani Sitake has been a defensive assistant in major college football for merely a decade, but he’s already one of the most intriguing names in the coaching ranks.
When the time came for the BYU fullback to enter the workforce in 2001, Sitake knew what he wanted to do, just not all the details.
“I just wanted to coach ball,” Sitake said. “I didn’t care where it was or what position.”
His first job was as a secondary and special teams coach at a junior college, not exactly the most logical landing spot for a guy who played offense under LaVell Edwards.
The gig lasted a year before he returned to BYU as a graduate assistant working with linebackers. During the first four years of his career at three stops, Sitake had coached defensive backs, linebackers, running backs, offensive line and tight ends.
That meant a ton of film study and a ton of phone calls to figure out the intricacies of each position.
“I’m kind of a football nerd where I try to watch as much film as I can on different schemes and different philosophies,” Sitake said. “I take a huge interest in learning as much as I can.
“When all your friends are football coaches, you just talk ball. Let’s say you’ve got a new position, it wouldn’t be hard to find a half a dozen guys who are willing to open up and share ideas.”
One of those would be Gary Andersen, who hired Sitake as running backs coach when Andersen was head coach at Southern Utah.
When head coach Kyle Whittingham and coordinator Andersen filled out their defensive staff at Utah following the departure of Urban Meyer to Florida in 2005, Andersen added Sitake as linebackers coach.
As Andersen left for his own head coaching job, Sitake had become one of the key figures in Utah’s transition from a Mountain West power to a solid Pac-12 program. Despite the step up in week-to-week competition, Utah had an above-average defense all four seasons in the Pac-12 under Sitake.
The Utes led the Pac-12 in fewest yards per play in 2011, their first year in the league. They’ve led the league in sacks per game each of the last two seasons. They’ve ranked in the top three in the Pac-12 in fewest yards per carry in each of the last four seasons. Moreover, Sitake was the leader of many of Utah’s critical recruiting efforts.
He’d done enough to enjoy job security at Utah or eventually take a more high-profile coordinator position.
Instead, Sitake rejoined Andersen at Oregon State as defense coordinator. A lateral move was puzzling, particularly since Sitake left an $800,000 per year contract (including bonuses) on the table with Utah. Utes defensive line coach Ilaisa Tuiaki also left for Oregon State.
The move was considered to be indicative of a rift between Whittingham and his athletic director.
Sitake bristles at the episode and the attention he’s received, in part, because of the move to Oregon State.
“Coaching isn’t rocket science,” Sitake said. “There are people that try to sit there and try to blow up their contribution to it. I’m nothing. I’m really nothing. I’ve been lucky to have great people around me and really good players.”
But there’s also good reason why Andersen hired Sitake — for a third time, mind you.
Andersen has called him “a great technician,” and his defenses have been praised for the fundamentals — rarely being out of position and tackling soundly.
This may make sense given his background, but Sitake often takes his defensive cues from effective offense.
Sitake refers to “identity” for his defense the same way he speaks of identity for Edwards’ offense at BYU.
Today’s up-tempo offenses aren’t as complex as traditional pro-style offenses. Sitake wants his defense to be just as focused on execution, not complexity.
“It’s simple but it has a few variables where it could be perceived as difficult,” Sitake said. “There’s a saying that if you keep it simple, it will be clean football. You look at all this fast-tempo offense, there’s not a lot to it. It’s just simple but executed really well.”
At the same time, Sitake spends time teaching offensive concepts to his defensive players.
Maybe it’s old habit for the former fullback, but it’s also part of the grand plan.
“We spend a lot of time on defense teaching what the offense is trying to do,” Sitake said. “I really believe that if you teach them the other side of the ball, you’re not memorizing, you’re understanding.”
Photo courtesy of Karl Maasdam.
Athlon Sports looks at the NBA’s most impressive stars to miss this year’s playoffs—usually for reasons beyond their control.
5. Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns
The Suns’ dynamic point guard was the last man standing after the team underwent a dramatic shift at the trade deadline. A trio of big-time ballhandlers—Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, and Isaiah Thomas—was more than just a folly in the name of novelty; the unusual arrangement actually worked for a while, and had Phoenix improbably in the Western Conference playoff hunt for much of the season. But Dragic’s dissatisfaction with how often he was seeing the ball crescendoed to the point that he demanded a trade in February, and was sent to the Miami Heat. Thomas, too, was shipped off—to the Boston Celtics. Bledsoe remained with Brandon Knight, who Phoenix acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks, but the change in his roster was too significant to acclimate to, and the Suns slowly faded from contention.
4. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Drummond, like Bledsoe, was a victim of major change of context throughout the 2014-15 season. He had a historically impressive year on the offensive glass, seeming on certain nights as if his dominance as a second-chance creator was built into his team’s playbook. But the Pistons kept reshuffling their roster all season, so Andre’s brilliance was only augmented by a proper system during the more promising streaks of a very inconsistent year. Pistons coach and executive Stan Van Gundy should know by now, though, which player to build around as he moves forward.
3. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
“The Stifle Tower,” as they call him, was the NBA’s breakout player this winter. If the 22-year-old Frenchman isn’t already the best rim-protector in basketball, he’s certainly near the top of the race for that honor, going into next season. His Jazz took a few months to put him into the starting lineup in his second season—it took a trade of Enes Kanter, to the Oklahoma City Thunder, to truly pave the way for his spot. But once he paired with Derrick Favors in the front court, first-year coach Quin Snyder was able to position him as the anchor to a defense that was arguably the best in the league after the All-Star break. Don’t be surprised if you see Utah’s coming-out party rise to the level of playoff contention in 2015-16, with Gobert’s dominance down low as the glue to their success.
2. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
Big Boogie is perhaps the most disheartening player in the NBA. An amazing talent who’s also a touchy personality, his situation in Sacramento has been rocky for every season he’s been there. DeMarcus has never been anything less than one of the most tantalizing, powerful forces around, as a center who can either steamroll you or beguile you with footwork and shooting range. But he’s had as many coaches as he has seasons with the Kings—and even more starting point guards—so his game hasn’t been able to blossom at the core of a winner. Culture matters in this league, and Cousins will continue to falter without a better basketball family around him. Is new coach George Karl the answer he’s been waiting for? Next year will tell.
1. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Westbrook’s Waterloo will be spoken of in nonplussed tones for years. Russell’s insane season, highlighted by eleven triple-doubles, is only made more legendary by his team missing the playoffs. His ceaseless blitzes down the court were the must-see event in the game for two months or more, and the twinge of dissatisfaction we feel in his postseason absence is fitting for what’s going on with the dramatic, ever-changing Thunder. Once a promising title contender, OKC has turned into a rabbit hole of what-if scenarios after momentous trades and injuries, and increasingly intriguing battles with the media. Westbrook snarling that his 2015 scoring title “doesn’t mean [s—-]“ will go down as the iconic quote from an unforgettable season.
— John Wilmes
Come autumn at USC, all eyes will be on redshirt senior quarterback Cody Kessler and his pursuit of the Heisman Trophy. The spring, however, belonged to Kessler’s backup, redshirt sophomore Max Browne.
“Today was Max’s game,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said following the Trojans’ annual spring game on April 11.
The appetizer to USC’s 2015 season ostensibly became a preview of the ‘16 campaign, with Browne taking the majority of snaps. He threw 37 passes to Kessler’s 10, completing 24 of them for 251 yards and two touchdowns.
“Max Browne did what he’s been doing all spring long,” Sarkisian said. “He just comes in and he’s been making plays.”
The nation’s most coveted quarterback prospect in 2013, Browne has had plenty of time to get acclimated to being a college player. He was an early enrollee prior to his freshman season, making this past spring his third in the program.
“As far as the third spring goes, [2015 was] definitely the most successful one,” Browne said.
Indeed, the Max Browne of April 2015 is well ahead of the Max Browne of a year ago. Even in the last few months, since the completion of USC’s 2014 campaign, Browne has improved his accuracy, harnessing his arm strength to put a softer touch on his passes, while reading the field more confidently in the pocket.
He even showed off the ever-so-slightest ability to run zone-read in the spring game, tucking a play-action fake before rolling out and finding JuJu Smith on the move for a touchdown.
Browne’s impressive spring game is just one step toward the bigger picture goals he said in December he was setting for his offseason.
“Just get more comfortable with the system, and as I get more comfortable, all the throws become second nature,” Browne said in the lead-up to USC’s Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska.
Preparation for the postseason afforded Browne and his Trojans teammates 15 additional practices, which effectively served as a jumpstart to the reserve quarterback’s 2015 workouts.
“Getting all the second-team reps is huge. I try not to waste any,” he said. “These past few weeks have been huge getting reps, and the coaches have really focused on getting the young guys up to speed.”
Fast forward four months, and he appears to be on track.
“Being in the system a second year is huge and will pay dividends come fall,” he said.
If all goes according to plan this season, Browne will get live-game snaps in mop-up duty against some of the lesser competition on USC’s schedule. Then, in September 2016, he’ll make his first career start at AT&T Stadium against Alabama.
That’s a long wait between starts: Browne’s last was Dec. 1, 2012, for Skyline High School in Sammamish, Wash.
Not all 5-star quarterbacks would go almost four years from the end of their prep playing days until their first collegiate start, but Browne’s patience should pay off.
USC has a deep and young wide receiving corps looking to break out starting this season.
Smith is the top returner and most likely candidate to replace All-Pac-12 performer Nelson Agholor as the Trojans’ top option. Smith and promising slot receiver Ajene Harris are true sophomores. Speedster Steven Mitchell, a star of USC’s spring workouts and potential deep-ball threat, is a redshirt sophomore.
Add newcomers Isaac Whitney and 5-star prospect Iman Marshall – a possible two-way player in the same vein as Adoree’ Jackson – and Browne could transition into the starting role with one of the nation’s most experienced and deepest group of receivers.
“Those guys are out there with me every day and so, I’m definitely getting chemistry with them,” Browne said.
While the 2015 season is all about Kessler leading the Trojans in their pursuit of a Pac-12 championship, Max Browne will continue to develop in the background, readying for a smooth transition into 2016.
USC comes into a season in a familiar situation — the frontrunner to win its division.
Fans will add to that Pac-12 championship and College Football Playoff aspirations as well.
And with good reason. The Trojans have by far the best collection of players in the Pac-12.
But depth may still be an issue and navigating a schedule that could feature upwards of eight ranked opponents makes winning a league title incredibly difficult.
2015 USC Trojans Schedule
Bye: Week 4, * - Thurs., ** - Fri.
|1.||Sept. 5||Los Angeles, CA|
|USC will begin its season as easily as any team in the nation with two cupcakes. Arkansas State isn't a terrible mid-major program, but shouldn't challenge the Trojans in any way. It's the first-ever meeting between the two teams.|
|2.||Sept. 12||Los Angeles, CA|
|Idaho will be even less competitive than the Red Wolves in Week 2. USC has won all eight meetings with ease over the Vandals. Considering what USC will face over the next two weeks, the Men of Troy deserve to ease their way into the season.|
|3.||Sept. 19||Los Angeles, CA|
|Pac-12 Title Preview I This hard-hitting physical contest has been one of the best rivalries in the Pac-12 for years. USC won the last two meetings on game-ending plays in the final minutes but Stanford had won four straight in the series prior. The last five meetings have been one-score games and it could easily be a preview of the Pac-12 title game.|
|4.||Sept. 26||Tempe, AZ|
|Instant Drama Wild things have happened lately when these two get together. Arizona State won on a historic Hail Mary on the game's final play last year and Lane Kiffin lost his job after losing to ASU the year before. The Sun Devils have won three of the last four but USC had won 11 straight prior. This game could decide the Pac-12 South Division race.|
|6.||Oct. 8*||Los Angeles, CA|
|Primetime Showdown The Huskies and Trojans get the national spotlight to themselves on a Thursday night. USC owns a 51-28-4 all-time record against UW and has won nine of the last 11 meetings. These teams haven't met since 2012.|
|7.||Oct. 17||South Bend, IN|
|Historic Rivalry As good a rivalry as there is in college football, Notre Dame leads the all-time series 45-35-5. USC smoked the Irish 49-14 in Coach Sark's first shot at the Irish but the Trojans had lost three of the previous four meetings with Brian Kelly. The 2015 meeting could feature two top-10 teams vying for a Playoff spot. Sounds good to me.|
|8.||Oct. 24||Los Angeles, CA|
|USC is 9-4 all-time against Utah and had won the first three meetings since the Utes entered the Pac-12. However, late-game heroics from Utah in last year's 24-21 victory resulted in just the second win in the series for the Utes since 1916. Only once has Utah won in L.A. — also in 1916.|
|9.||Oct. 31||Berkeley, CA|
|Upset Alert The Men of Troy have owned their northern rivals, maintaining a 67-29-5 all-time advantage. USC has won 11 straight in the series with the last loss coming in 2003 in Berkeley (when some guy named Aaron Rodgers was the QB for Cal). The Bears are improving and proved that last year with just an eight-point loss to the Trojans. USC needs to be on upset alert.|
|10.||Nov. 7||Los Angeles, CA|
|One of the best games of 2014 out West was USC's 28-26 win, as Zona missed a game-winning field goal to end the game. USC has won two straight, four of the last five and 11 of the last 13. So while it sounds like USC has owned the series, these games have been incredibly competitive. Eight straight games have been decided by one score or less.|
|11.||Nov. 13**||Boulder, CO|
|In four Pac-12 meetings, Colorado has allowed 195 points to the Trojans in four losses. But CU's struggles against the Trojans extend beyond their brief history as divisional foes. In fact, the Trojans are 9-0 all-time against the Buffaloes and 2015 probably won't change this trend.|
|12.||Nov. 21||Eugene, OR|
|Pac-12 Title Preview II USC and Oregon could enter this game undefeated with both division titles, a Pac-12 title and potential Playoff berth hanging in the balance. Oregon should be playing its best football and will be looking for revenge for what took place the last time the Trojans paid a visit to Autzen Stadium - a thrilling 38-35 USC victory in 2011. Otherwise, Oregon has won three of four meetings with the most recent one occurring in 2012.|
|13.||Nov. 28||Los Angeles, CA|
|City of Lights Rivalry The longtime intra-city rivalry has been a game of streaks. UCLA won eight straight from 1991-98 before USC won seven straight from 1999-05 and then five straight from 2007-11. Yet, UCLA has won the last three by double-digits. The season finale could also be a South Division championship game.|
Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Pac-12 Preview
The NFL Draft interview process is going to be interesting for Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, who is a contender for the No. 1 spot.
Among other off-field concerns Winston will need to address is the incident when he was cited for the theft of crab legs from a Tallahassee, Fla., Publix.
In a conversation with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch aired on ESPN’s Draft Academy, Winston attempted to explain his side.
This may not have helped.
Harbaugh, the former coach of the San Francisco 49ers, advised Winston to keep his response short and sweet — “I did something wrong, I’m sorry, and I learned.”
Winston, though, wanted to explain that the crab legs weren’t stolen; they were a hook up.
Here’s the video, the transcript and some editorial notes.
Fisch: I know there’s a story with the snow crabs or stone crabs or whatever it might have been, but you left it out when Coach asked you if you had any issues. I wouldn’t leave it out.
(ed. note: Stone crab is a Miami Beach fine dining staple and essentially localized to the famous Joe’s Stone Crab. Fisch did some good eating while offensive coordinator at Miami.)
Winston: Oh. Oh, man. Yeah.
Harbaugh: Stone crabs? (ed. note: Is this the first time Harbaugh has heard of this? That reaction says yes.)
Fisch: Whatever the whole theft thing was at Publix or whatever it might have been. I don’t know the whole — I just know it happened. That’s the elephant on the room for you. Everyone’s going to want to know what happened.
(ed. note: The crab legs are not the elephant in the room.)
Fisch: Don’t by accident just talk about the BB gun and your high school coach crying and forget about the fact that everyone on SportsCenter read about that incident because then it looks like you’re covering it up or you're hiding it.
(ed. note: Fisch mimics the ESPN crawl.)
Harbaugh: If you don’t want to go into it — “I screwed up. I f---ed up. Learned from it.” Be as serious as a heart attack.
Winston: How am I supposed to handle, like, if I just got them for free. Just say I messed up?
Harbaugh: If someone gave them to you for free? So what happened. Explain that to me. You got them for free? Explain that to me.
(ed. note: Harbaugh leans in as if he's the coach of the team potentially drafting Winston.)
Winston: A week before was my buddy’s birthday, and we got a cake and we met a dude inside Publix and he said anytime you come in here I got you. That day we just walked out. He hooked us up with that. When I got crab legs, I did the same thing. He just gave them to me and I walked out. Someone for inside the store had told the security that I didn’t pay for them, and that’s how the whole thing started.
Harbaugh: OK. Then, put that in a nice... Keep that in a tidy box. “I got some crab legs and people at the store reported that I didn’t pay for them. And they were right. I didn’t pay for them, and I f---ed up. I shouldn’t have been taking anything for free. I’ve learned.”
The old saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” couldn’t be more true when it comes to ranking college towns.
Do you prefer larger metropolitan areas? Do you enjoy the isolated peace and quiet of a quaint, small town? Cost of living, night life, food, culture, weather, surrounding geography and more go into evaluating a city.
Every college campus is unique and each one brings something different to the table. And the ACC's collection of towns is extremely unique.
When evaluating big cities like Atlanta, Miami, Pittsburgh or Boston against a small town like Blacksburg, personal opinions will vary greatly. So we had some fun asking ACC experts to rank their favorite ACC locations. Here is what we learned:
The Voting Panel:
Wes Durham, FOX Sports/ACC Network
Mark Packer, SiriusXM College Sports Nation
Tony Barnhart, AJC/SEC Network
Julius Hodge, ACC Digital Net
Bud Elliott, TomahawkNation.com
Jon Meterparel, IMG Sports-Boston College
Mark Ennis, ESPN 680-Louisville
David Hood, Tigernet.com
Amanda Busick, College Sports Reporter
Jerry DiPaola, Pitt Trib Review
Lachlan McLean, Sports Talk 840-Louisville
Nate Mink, Syracuse.com
Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM
Voting: A first-place vote was worth one point and a last-place vote was worth 14 points.
|Charlottesville, Va. It's got historic tradition and beauty. It's got a great party scene. It's located in a beautiful part of the country. The campus is gorgeous, the downtown mall is a blast, the vineyards are excellent and the presidential tradition is everywhere. It's hard not to get caught up in the rich vibe when visiting Virginia's campus. Be sure to check out Edgar Allen Poe's Room. Charlottesville got six first-place votes, by far the most of any ACC locale.|
|Chapel Hill, N.C. There is just a lot going on in Chapel Hill. The architecture is awesome, the weather is great and the natural scenery and outdoor activities are fantastic. The food is among the nation's best for a small town and the bar/music/art night scene is as good as any in the Southeast (check out Franklin Street). Chapel Hill barely missed out being voted the No. 1 town in the ACC with eight votes in the top three.|
|Clemson, S.C. How many towns are named after the university? Formerly known as Calhoun, the town voted to change its name to Clemson in 1943. This represents all that is a small college town. The passion is what gives Clemson the best stadium in the league, the best gameday atmosphere and the most interwoven city. It's got great food joints and Lake Hartwell is always a good time. It's also a quick drive to three different states. Clemson got more first-place votes than any town not named Charlottesville.|
|Tallahassee, Fla. Considered one of the better "college towns for grownups," Tallahassee tends to keep people around. It's much larger than the average college town at over 300,000 residents, but has that medium-sized charm. Geography allows for plenty of beach life to shine through and there are endless festivals, dining and night attractions for visitors. The Florida state capital is the top city in the second tier according to the voting.|
|Raleigh, N.C. The most underrated stadium and gameday experience in the ACC is probably in Raleigh. The town loves its Wolfpack and it loves to party — which is probably why it got one first-place vote (and why people keep telling me to try Cook Out). It also was voted 10th or worse in the ACC by four different panelists. Check out Glenwood Ave. and Fayetteville Street. A trip to Raleigh for a sporting event is surely a good time. It's also one of three ACC towns that can claim a Stanley Cup, if that counts for anything?|
|Louisville, Ky. Of all of the big cities in the ACC, Louisville has the most charm. Wrapped by the Ohio River, there is tons to do, no matter what your fancy. Churchill Downs is a must-see while a developing area south of town known as Bardstown Road is as vibrant as any city south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Breweries, boating, golf, a growing music scene (SEE: Forecastle) and more make Louisville the best big city in the ACC.|
|Blacksburg, Va. If you want a truly small town located in the middle of the mountains, Blacksburg is your place. Few towns embody the vibe and feel of the campus like the architecture of Virginia Tech. The stone buildings are gorgeous and the mountains offer plenty to do outdoors. If you prefer city life, this isn't your cup of tea, which is why the Hokies' hometown was ranked as high as second by one panelist while four others voted it outside of the top 10.|
|Atlanta, Ga. The capital of Georgia is a polarizing city for sure. The traffic is downright miserable, the city itself goes on forever in every direction and the fans generally haven't supported many sports teams. Yet, the urban lifestyle is a big draw for many and the food scene is among the best in the nation. Short trips to beaches and mountains offer plenty of easy access to outdoor activities. It's not for everyone but there is a reason the metro areas boasts over five million residents.|
|Miami, Fla. Coral Gables itself is small village located just south of the sprawling metroplex that is Miami. The night life and allure of beach living in Miami is a huge draw for some (it got one first-place vote) but there is very little that is unique about campus life at The U. Which is why it was ranked last by two voters. For the record, this is the only town in the Power 5 with a first-place AND last-place vote.|
|Durham, N.C. The third-ranked city within the triangle was voted as highly as fourth by two voters and was voted last by another — which seems to be a theme among all ACC towns. At 250,000 residents, Duke's hometown is right in the middle in terms of size in the ACC as well. It's not as big as Raleigh and it's not as cool as Chapel Hill.|
|Pittsburgh, Pa. It's a big city and it has all of the advantages of traditional big cities. Huge infrastructure, technology growth as well as professional sports teams can overwhelm the university and its role within the community. Let's face it, the Panthers will always be the second-most important football team in the Steel City.|
|Chestnut Hill, Mass. If this were strictly based on Boston, it would be hard to imagine it falling this far down the list. Boston is a fantastic city with vibrant energy and steeped in American history. However, eight miles down the road is Chestnut Hill. While gorgeous, the campus is sort of an after-thought within the city (sort of like the sports teams). Still, it's hard to believe living on the outskirts of such an extraordinary city could rank as the 12th-best place in the ACC. It got four last-place votes.|
|Winston-Salem, N.C. The fourth-most desirable location of the North Carolina ACC schools is Winston-Salem. While the other three form the triangle of education and basketball, W-S is located just west of Greensboro, far from both the Smoky Mountains and the Outer Banks. It got three last-place votes, but also was voted as high as fifth.|
|Syracuse, N.Y. There is a reason that Syracuse's population has been dropping every decade since the 1950s. The weather is brutal for most of the year and its located in the middle of upstate New York — which is sort of close to Lake Erie, right? To quote one Athlon employee from New York, "It's a poor man's Rochester."|
Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 ACC Preview
Are you ready for some football? Well, NFL fans still have to wait four and a half months until kickoff, but at least we know the games we have to look forward to. The 256-game regular season schedule has been laid out, and there is certainly no lack of intriguing matchups. While the “must see” label often comes down to a matter of personal preference, here are 10 games that caught this football fan’s eye along with five other matchups that shouldn’t disappoint.
1. Seattle at Green Bay (Week 2)
No disrespect to the reigning Super Bowl champions (who are well represented on this list), but it’s the NFC Championship Game rematch that has my full attention. The Seahawks and Packers actually played each other twice last season, both times in Seattle, but it’s the final five minutes of January’s memorable playoff game that no one, especially Green Bay, will ever forget. While some faces (Hello Jimmy Graham!) have changed, the principals remain in place for this early-season treat.
2. New England at Denver (Week 12)
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are certainly no strangers to each other, as this will be their 17th head-to-head meeting. Brady holds an 11-5 edge in their rivalry, so you know Manning and company would like nothing more than to knock off the reigning champions in front of their home fans. Besides being a matchup of two of the AFC’s best teams, it’s also possible this could be the last pairing of two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game.
3. Dallas at Green Bay (Week 14)
Dez Bryant and the Cowboys return to the scene of the catch, I mean, no catch. Rules interpretations aside, Dallas won’t have DeMarco Murray to run the ball against the Packers and keep Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense on the sidelines. While not as important as a playoff game, the outcome of this contest could have a huge hand in determining the eventual NFC playoff picture.
4. Denver at Indianapolis (Week 9)
Peyton Manning took care of his Indianapolis homecoming last season, but could this be his final game in the place where his Hall of Fame career started? And there’s also the small matter of the Colts having beaten the Broncos at home in the playoffs last season.
5. Seattle at Dallas (Week 8)
The Cowboys went into CenturyLink Field last season and used their running game to control the clock and beat the Seahawks on their own turf. Seattle will get the chance to return the favor at AT&T Stadium and won’t have to worry about DeMarco Murray putting up 115 yards rushing again. However, Dallas’ stellar offensive line is still around, as are Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. The Seahawks will have their own new wrinkle, All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham. Should make for an entertaining Sunday afternoon in Jerry Jones’ house, no?
6. Philadelphia at Dallas (Week 9)
The Eagles and Cowboys will first get together in Week 2, but it’s the second act of this NFC East rivalry that will feature the aforementioned Murray’s much-anticipated AT&T Stadium debut as a visitor. OK, while Cowboys fans probably aren’t looking forward to seeing No. 29 in an Eagles uniform (especially if Darren McFadden struggles), you know Murray has this game circled on his calendar.
7. New England at Indianapolis (Week 6)
The Patriots beat the Colts twice last season by a combined score of 87-27. In fact, in four career matchups, Andrew Luck has lost by at least three touchdowns to Bill Belichick’s team. So why should this game be any different? Well, Luck and the Colts will get the reigning champions on their turf, and this is not the same New England team that thumped them 45-7 in the AFC Championship Game. And it probably goes without saying that the officials at Lucas Oil Stadium will do whatever it takes to ensure that all the footballs are not only properly inflated, but also remain that way.
8. New England at Dallas (Week 5)
Potential Super Bowl 50 preview? Perhaps, but regardless of whether either or both teams end up playing in San Francisco in February; this is one of the more intriguing AFC vs. NFC matchups on the ’15 slate. And are there any more hated teams in the NFL than the Patriots and Cowboys?
9. Pittsburgh at New England (Week 1, Thursday)
The reigning champions kick off defense of their title (as well as the 2015 season) at home against a team with Super Bowl aspirations of their own. Unfortunately, while the Ben Roethlisberger vs. Tom Brady dynamic will be intact, there will be no backfield battle between Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount, as both are presently suspended for the opener. Don’t get me wrong, this should still be a quality, entertaining game, but DeAngelo Williams vs. James White/Travaris Cadet/pick a Patriot just doesn’t have the same juice as Bell vs. Blount.
10. Philadelphia at New England (Week 13)
Offensive mastermind (same would say mad scientist) Chip Kelly vs. defensive genius (and future Hall of Famer) Bill Belichick. What’s not to like about this coaching chess match in early December? And who knows, there may even be another Tim Tebow sighting at Gillette Stadium. Maybe.
Five Other Intriguing Matchups
New York Jets at New England (Week 7)
Darrelle Revis got his Super Bowl ring with the Patriots last season, and promptly went back to the Jets for $70 million over five years. Will Tom Brady challenge the solitude of Revis Island?
Green Bay at Denver (Week 8)
It may seem hard to believe, but Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning have never faced each other, even though the two have combined for 359 career starts. As long as both stay healthy, that will change come the night of Nov. 1.
Buffalo at New York Jets (Week 10, Thursday)
Rex Ryan comes back to the Big Apple. Enough said, unless you’re looking forward to a potential Matt Cassel vs. Ryan Fitzpatrick QB duel.
Denver at Chicago (Week 11)
New Bears head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase host their former employer, which also happens to be the same team that drafted Jay Cutler 11th overall in the 2006 draft. Oh and Peyton Manning also beat Chicago in Super Bowl XLI for his only ring. How’s that for payback-driven storylines?
Buffalo at Philadelphia (Week 14)
LeSean McCoy back in the City of Brotherly Love. Forget the reception from Eagles fans, how will McCoy and Chip Kelly greet one another?
According to the numbers, the Pittsburgh Steelers will face the toughest schedule in the NFL in 2015.
Their opponents' winning percentage was .579 a year ago (147-107-2) — tops in the NFL entering this season.
The Bengals (.563), 49ers (.561), Seahawks (.559) and Cardinals (.559) round out the top five.
However, normally there is one major issue with using the previous year’s outcomes to determine the next year’s strength of schedule:
No one gets to play last year’s teams.
Typically, using last year’s opponent’s winning percentage is a surface-level way to address scheduling difficulties and it rarely paints an accurate picture. It’s short-sighted and lacks the depth needed to analyze roster churn, home-road splits, bye weeks and aging talent.
However, this one time it might be right.
The Steelers really do have the toughest path to the playoffs.
Notice anything special about those top five schedules listed above? The teams hail from two divisions, the NFC West and AFC North.
Both are considered the toughest divisions in their respective conferences and both divisions will have to face each other this fall.
It doesn’t end there for Pittsburgh, however.
If six games with the AFC North and four with the NFC West — including road trips to Seattle and St. Louis — weren’t tough enough, Pittsburgh also must face the projected champions of the AFC East (New England) and AFC South (Indianapolis), as well as the entire AFC West. That's as hard a schedule as any AFC team could possibly have.
Meanwhile, division rival Baltimore gets the Jaguars and the Dolphins in swing games, while the Bengals get the Texans and the Bills and Cleveland faces the Titans and Jets.
The list of quarterbacks the Steelers will face this season includes Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Joe Flacco (twice), Philip Rivers (perhaps), Andy Dalton (twice), Colin Kaepernick and Alex Smith.
That doesn’t include games against rising second-year starter Derek Carr as well as the Arizona Cardinals and a Jeff Fisher team on the road.
Basically, this team gets no breaks. In the first five weeks, Mike Tomlin faces two of the last three defending Super Bowl champs, the 49ers and the Chargers and Rams on the road. Then to wrap things up from Week 12-16, Pittsburgh faces a ridiculous five-game stretch that goes as follows: at Seattle, Indianapolis, at Cincinnati, Denver and at Baltimore.
Using last year’s win totals is normally a foolish way to determine what lies ahead for a team. But this slate really does appear to be the toughest in the NFL.
This is a big year for Steve Spurrier. Not only does the Head Ball Coach turn 70, he’ll also see his 100th player picked in the NFL Draft.
During his time as a head coach at South Carolina, Florida and Duke, Spurrier has coached 99 players who were selected in the following NFL Draft, the most among active coaches.
Many outlets will count how many NFL Draft picks a particular school or conference can call their own, but we haven’t seen the tally yet for head coaches.
This, hopefully, will remedy that. Using Pro Football Reference as a resource, we charted every draft pick for active coaches in FBS.
The data wasn’t totally surprising — coaches who have been around for a while have churned out the most draft picks. Frank Beamer has coached long enough to watch multiple players of his drafted in the 12th round.
A few disclaimers:
• This exercise is looking merely at head coaches, mainly because it’s the most interesting and most easily quantifiable look. Coordinators and position coaches play as much of a role for these future pros as head coaches, if not more. At the same time, some of these guys would be drafted if they were coached by Vince Lombardi or Vince Gill.
• This is an inexact science. We assigned players to their most recent coach before the draft. For example, Urban Meyer coached Ohio State’s draft classes since 2013 and Florida’s NFL draft classes from 2006 to 2011 (he coached at Florida from 2005-10). In other words, a draftee may have played his first three seasons for Coach A and his senior season for Coach B. In that case, the tally goes to Coach B.
And on to the charts:
Total NFL Draft Picks, By Coach
|Coach||Total Picks||Picks at Current School|
|1.||Steve Spurrier, South Carolina||99||31|
|2.||Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech||92||90|
|3.||Nick Saban, Alabama||82||41|
|4.||Mark Richt, Georgia||74||74|
|5.||Bob Stoops, Oklahoma||70||70|
|6.||Les Miles, LSU||67||60|
|7.||Kirk Ferentz, Iowa||55||55|
|8.||Bill Snyder, Kansas State||50||7*|
|9.||Larry Coker, UTSA||47||0|
|10.||Urban Meyer, Ohio State||44||9|
|11.||Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati||40||0|
|T12.||Brian Kelly, Notre Dame||36||19|
|T12.||Frank Solich, Ohio||36||6|
|14.||Gary Patterson, TCU||34||34|
|T15.||Mike Riley, Nebraska||32||0|
|T15.||Dennis Franchione, Texas State||32||0*|
|17.||Gary Pinkel, Missouri||31||27|
|T18.||George O'Leary, UCF||29||14|
|T18.||Bret Bielema, Arkansas||29||4|
|20.||Dabo Swinney, Clemson||28||28|
*in his current stint with this team
Total First-Round Picks, By Coach
|Coach||Total Picks||Picks at Current School|
|1.||Nick Saban, Alabama||21||16|
|2.||Larry Coker, UTSA||20||0|
|3.||Steve Spurrier, South Carolina||17||4|
|4.||Les Miles, LSU||15||13|
|5.||Bob Stoops, Oklahoma||13||13|
|T6.||Mark Richt, Georgia||11||11|
|T6.||Urban Meyer, Ohio State||11||2|
|8.||Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech||8||8|
|T9.||Gary Pinkel, Missouri||7||6|
|T9.||Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati||7||0|
Draft Picks for Recently Retired/Inactive Coaches
%still active as a position coach in college
DeMarco Murray isn't in Dallas any longer but Jerry Jones is clearly thinking Super Bowl still. He's assembled a roster that appears poised to make a deep postseason run and finish what it couldn't a year ago.
The Cowboys have franchised Dez Bryant, signed Greg Hardy, brought in Darren McFadden and resigned a bunch of quality role players from last year's team.
But can Tony Romo lead this team to a second consecutive NFC East title for the first time since 1995-96? Here is a game-by-game breakdown of the Cowboys' 2015 schedule:
2015 Dallas Schedule
|1.||Sept. 13||Arlington, TX|
|Dallas has swept the Giants in each of the last two seasons but are just 2-4 in their last six at home against the G-Men. All four wins over the last two seasons have been by 10 points or less. Jason Garrett is 2-2 in season openers.|
|2.||Sept. 20||Philadelphia, PA|
|Back-to-back divisional games to start the year make the first two weeks extremely important for Dallas. Especially, considering who will be running the ball for the Eagles. The Boys have won three straight in Phily but have split with the Eagles in each of the last two years.|
|3.||Sept. 27||Arlington, TX|
|Atlanta is the third of four games in a row against NFC playoff contenders. Garrett has only faced the Falcons once, a 19-13 win in Atlanta in 2012.|
|4.||Oct. 4||New Orleans, LA|
|Sean Payton and Garrett are extremely familiar, having faced each other in three straight seasons. Dallas won easily last season 38-17 at home but lost the two previous meetings. In fact, the Saints have won eight of the last 10 against Dallas dating back to 1998.|
|5.||Oct. 11||Arlington, TX|
The defending champs come to town capping a brutal first month for the Boys. Garrett has only faced the Patriots once, a 20-16 loss in Foxboro in 2011. This could be the highest-rated game of the regular season.
Related: 10 Must-See NFL Games in 2015 Season
|The off weekend comes at a great time after five tough tests to start the year — and with three big NFC games coming up.|
|7.||Oct. 25||East Rutherford, NJ|
|Dallas better not look ahead to Seattle in Week 8 or a trip to New Jersey could be costly. Dallas has won three straight on the road against the Giants and Garrett is 3-1 in his career in East Rutherford.|
|8.||Nov. 1||Arlington, TX|
|The Cowboys shocked the NFL world by going into Seattle and winning 30-23 a year ago. Since 2008, Dallas has won four out of five against the Hawks and Garrett is 2-1 in those games. This is a potential NFC Championship Game preview.|
|9.||Nov. 8||Arlington, TX|
|DeMarco Murray's homecoming will be must-see TV regardless of what happens in the Week 2 meeting. Garrett is 1-3 against the Birds at home.|
|10.||Nov. 15||Tampa, FL|
|Dallas has dominated the all-time series with Tampa 13-3 and has won five straight over the Bucs dating back to 2006. Could this game feature Tony Romo vs. Jameis Winston?|
|11.||Nov. 22||Miami, FL|
|These two teams have only faced each other 13 times in history and haven't played since the last rotation in 2011. Dallas won 20-19 in Miami and this could be a major upset alert moment with huge NFC tilts coming up over the next three weeks.|
|12.||Nov. 26||Arlington, TX|
|Facing a physical Carolina team on just four days rest on a Thursday night could create some problems. Dallas is 9-3 all-time against Carolina and hasn't lost to the Panthers since 2004 (5-0). Garrett is 1-0 against the Panthers.|
|13.||Dec. 7||Landover, MD|
|Garrett is 5-3 against the Redskins and 3-1 in Landover, including a 44-17 drubbing a year ago. This will be the first of two meetings with the Skins in the final five weeks.|
|14.||Dec. 13||Green Bay, WI|
|This game would be phenomenal even if it wasn't a rematch of a memorable NFC Divisional playoff game. Dallas has lost four straight to the Packers, three of which have come at Lambeau Field — like this one. Garrett is 0-2 against Green Bay.|
|15.||Dec. 19||Arlington, TX|
|Todd Bowles will be nearing the end of his first season as the Jets head coach after two seasons as the Cardinals defensive coordinator. Strangely enough, these two have met 10 times total but only three times in Dallas. The Boys won the last meeting in Big D 34-3 in 2007.|
|16.||Dec. 27||Orchard Park, NY|
|Dallas has won three straight against the Bills, as Buffalo hasn't topped the Boys since 1996. Garrett crushed Buffalo 44-7 in his only meeting back in '11.|
|17.||Jan. 3||Arlington, TX|
|The season finale could be the easiest division game of the year for the Boys. Garrett is just 2-2 against Washington at home. This will be the 112th meeting between the two historic rivals.|
Bristol’s race this weekend was aptly titled the Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes and Stand Up To Cancer. It was a chance for the NASCAR community to give back, lending its support to one of its most respected broadcasters.
It was also a special chance for so many to say goodbye. Byrnes passed away Tuesday morning after a nearly two-year, hard-fought battle with head and neck cancer. He was 56 and leaves behind wife Karen, 12-year-old son Bryson, two nephews and countless other family and friends who supported him in his battle. Byrnes, the play-by-play announcer for NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series had been involved with the sport for decades, from its days moonlighting on TNN to reaching the big stage of FOX Sports beginning in 2001.
I’m not going to sit here and say I knew Byrnes well; we sat in the same production meetings together during my time doing TV on the circuit but our conversations were limited. What I can tell you for certain, though is what he brought to the table was a level of professionalism and respect acknowledged by most everyone involved in the sport. When you do your job in that fashion, treating everyone the way you’d like to be treated it’s no surprise he was held in such high regard. Whether it’s the crew chief of a small, independent team, a powerhouse owner like Rick Hendrick or a TV production staffer, they’ll all be paying tribute to the man in much the same way. No one, no matter their position has a bad thing to say about him, a hard road to pave in an industry where one off-kilter report can color someone’s opinion for life.
Byrnes’ passing at such a young age reminds us all to live life to the fullest, every single day as tomorrow is not promised to any of us. Byrnes packed a lot into his 30-year career, traveling across the country to connect millions of fans to the beauty of stock car racing. He did it while balancing family life, close to son Bryson and keeping his priorities in order. In the midst of senseless tragedy, it’s refreshing to know Byrnes lived his life without regret, making his time here memorable enough that he leaves it connected to millions. At the end of the day, your biggest impact in this world is not the number of hours you work or the number of dollars you collect, but the way in which you treat and connect with other people. In that department, Byrnes was an A+, and it’s only fitting the Bristol event named after him was the sport’s best of the season. It’s only fair.
“Whether you had the privilege of knowing him or if you watched him on television for the past three decades,” said NASCAR CEO Brian France, “Steve’s work ethic and authenticity made him a beloved individual inside and outside the garage.”
France continued, “His level of professionalism was matched only by the warmth he showed everyone he met. He battled cancer with tenacity and was a true inspiration to everyone in the NASCAR family.”
Godspeed, Steve. You’ll be missed.
Let’s take a deep breath and look at the big NASCAR news items on the front burner after Bristol…
FIRST GEAR: Matt Kenseth finally gets over the hump
Kenseth’s first year at Joe Gibbs Racing was magical, a seven-win season that landed just short of a Sprint Cup championship. But 2014 was a different story. The veteran, now 43, was shut out of Victory Lane, scored just two runner-up finishes and never quite showed the speed that could make him a serious title contender in the new Chase. Just one year behind the retiring Jeff Gordon, a long list of prospects in Nationwide and Trucks (including phenom Erik Jones) made some wonder if Kenseth would start thinking retirement, too.
Not a chance. After a solid start this season, Kenseth took advantage at his best track, winning from the pole while surviving several challenges on late-race restarts in Thunder Valley. The victory locks him into NASCAR’s postseason early while finally putting to bed a winless streak that had clearly started to bother him.
“It wears on you a little bit,” he admitted. “Last year, there were some races we had chances to win and things just wouldn’t line up for us. [Sunday] was exactly the opposite.”
The victory gives JGR as an organization two wins through eight races, putting Kenseth and Denny Hamlin in the Chase. While most of their muscle has been flexed on the short tracks, that’s still light years ahead of the two wins in 36 races they accumulated all last year. Kenseth, who is one of the sport’s most consistent drivers can’t be counted out in the postseason, and while not known as a short track racer has shown considerable strength the last few years at Bristol and Martinsville. Expect him to win more this season.
SECOND GEAR: Close, but no cigar for so many
While Kenseth won the race, he wasn’t the fastest car. Many others saw their chance at victory go up through self-induced mistakes. Teammate Carl Edwards appeared to be a match for Kenseth, but he fell behind a bit on pit road and never got the preferred line during the final series of restarts. Fighting for second late, he slipped up while running side-by-side, slapped the outside wall and collected a surging Kurt Busch in a melee that left him out of contention.
“I made a mistake,” he said afterwards after dropping to 24th. “100 percent my fault. I was racing really aggressively there at the end and I drove into turn one and that was the first time I lifted off throttle. I just pitched sideways -- I drove it way too deep.”
As for Busch, he probably had the best car of all on Sunday but a decision to go down pit road during a late caution trapped him back in the field. While fresh tires helped, the loss of track position left him fighting through traffic with too few laps (19) to make up the distance. You wonder if the team would have made the same decision if regular head wrench Tony Gibson was on top of the pit box; kidney stones forced him to the sidelines and left him out of commission at the race’s crucial stage. It’s the third time in a month Busch has potentially had a winning car only to have circumstances out of his control cost him that chance at victory.
THIRD GEAR: Wrecked by the rain?
NASCAR suffered through several rain delays at Bristol but was determined all day to get the race in. While most celebrated their dedication, keeping the race from being run on a Monday, Team Penske wondered if they jumpstarted things too fast. An early wreck where Brad Keselowski lost control collected teammate Joey Logano and left them skeptical as to whether the track was race-ready after hours of track drying before the initial green flag.
“It’s been raining since we started the race,” Keselowski said afterwards. “It was just a really light sprinkle and the track was just barely dry. I don’t know. The rain was coming in and out and the car just took off on me. I would like to blame the rain, but I honestly don’t know. Usually when a car gets that far sideways and it’s kind of out of nowhere there’s a reason behind it. I just really hate that I tore up my teammate in the process. I hate racing in the rain, but I understand the position that NASCAR is in. They want to get the race going and this is one of those days where it’s gonna just keep raining off and on and we’re trying to get as many laps in at a time as we can to give the fans the best race possible, but we’re racing in the rain to do it and that’s what happens.”
Both drivers are already postseason eligible, so that reduced the sting a bit. But if that wreck had been worse, collecting 10 or 12 more cars, it would be a really hot-button issue within the garage this week.
FOURTH GEAR: The beauty of surviving Bristol
In some cases, the best way to get a good finish at Bristol’s fast-paced, 15 seconds-a-lap oval is refreshingly simple: survive. It’s not a matter of dodging the carnage but fighting through it, making sure your car makes it to the finish line intact that can make the difference between ninth and 39th.
Justin Allgaier and Danica Patrick were too such examples. Both had good cars but were caught up in several wrecks. Both could have had one bad hit leave them sitting behind the wall. But their teams did amazing work on pit road, patching up each car and allowing both drivers to stay either on the lead lap or within striking distance. When the smoke cleared at the end of the race, both had top-10 finishes and for Patrick, it was a performance that put her on the right side of the Chase cutoff.
Meanwhile, boss Tony Stewart, while cranky on the radio, had a crucial top-10 performance of his own. A sixth-place effort, his best of the season now puts the No. 14 car on the right side of the top 30 in points. That means a single victory could change things around for the program, landing them inside the Chase and ending whispers Stewart has lost a step during the past few years riddled with both injury and tragedy.
Other shoutouts go to Kyle Larson (seventh) and Brett Moffitt (17th) who each had one of their better 2015 performances.
Richard Childress Racing has issued a final appeal of their penalties for doctoring tires. It’s a risk, as their initial appeal dropped the points lost by Ryan Newman from 75 to 50, a crucial 25-point difference that currently has him inside NASCAR’s Chase cutoff. Final Appeals Officer Bryan Moss will hear the case and issue an official ruling… Kevin Harvick’s involvement in a mid-race wreck ended his streak of seven top-10 finishes to start the NASCAR season. The good news for him? Martin Truex, Jr. and Logano had troubles of their own, meaning no Sprint Cup driver has been able to start the season 8-for-8. Harvick’s lead in the standings remains a healthy 30 points… Jeff Gordon, third at Bristol now has five straight top-10 finishes to counterbalance an awful start to the season. Now ninth in the standings, he’s put himself in position to win the last few weeks and looks like he’ll easily qualify for the Chase in his final season… Denny Hamlin had back spasms during one of the rain delays, causing him to be replaced by young Erik Jones. Jones held his own in his Sprint Cup debut and strengthened his case to be in the No. 18 Toyota before Kyle Busch returns… It’s the second straight year the Bristol spring race has been delayed by rain.
Steve Byrnes photo courtesy of NASCAR / Getty Images, other photos by Action Sports, Inc.
All things NBA come to a head in the spring, with playoff basketball coming as award season begins as well. This week, the league handed out the first two of its major trophies.
Lou Williams of the Toronto Raptors was designated Sixth Man of the Year after a renaissance season, during which he averaged 15.5 points, the most of his career, and was often the No. 1 offensive option in crunch time for the four-seeded dinosaurs.
The heartening part of Williams’ victory is that it means he’s made more than a full recovery from a torn ACL suffered in January 2013. Lou struggled to find a larger role with the Atlanta Hawks after that malady, but has a found a new home in Canada.
Williams garnered 78 out of 130 first-place votes, edging Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics and Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers—last year’s winner of the award.
The mystery of why this honor has been typecast goes, on though: It almost always goes to a score-first guard:
Being a shooting/scoring guard is helpful in Sixth Man voting. pic.twitter.com/NArcNZlJa0— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) April 20, 2015
Taj Gibson of the Chicago Bulls was arguably a more deserving winner last season, and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ rebounding hound Tristan Thompson somehow couldn’t crack the top three in 2015. Big men remain largely cursed in this category.
This morning, the league continued its prize-giving by naming the Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer the Coach of the Year recipient. The race had clearly been between him and the Golden State Warriors’ Steve Kerr for months, with Budenholzer edging him out with 67 first-place ballots.
Coach Bud’s Hawks were the best team in the Eastern Conference all season, and their sudden turnaround seemed to have a lot to do with his wisdom and discipline. Their 20-game winning streak in the winter was a blaze of glory that’s not soon to be forgotten, and their leader on the bench is getting his due props for it.
— John Wilmes
Oregon enters a season after losing in the national title game for the second time in six years.
This time, Mark Helfrich has to rebuild without the best player in school history. While finding a replacement for Marcus Mariota is critical, it's just one of many challenges the Ducks must overcome if they expect to repeat as Pac-12 champs in 2015.
Oregon has one of the best rosters in the league but must face a schedule befitting a defending national runner-up.
2015 Oregon Ducks Schedule
Bye: Week 8, * - Thurs., ** - Fri.
|1.||Sept. 5||Eugene, OR|
|Adams Bowl Should former Eastern Washington star quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. win the starting QB job for Oregon (as expected), he will have to face his former team in Week 1. From a storyline standpoint, it doesn't get any better than this. That EWU is an extremely good FCS program only adds more intrigue.|
|2.||Sept. 12||East Lansing, MI|
|Playoff Primer These two national powers played a thrilling, high-scoring bout a year ago before the Ducks pulled away in the final few minutes (46-27). This will mark the sixth-ever meeting — Oregon leads 3-2 — but this time around Michigan State is the team at home and with the star quarterback (Connor Cook).|
|3.||Sept. 19||Eugene, OR|
|The first meeting between these two programs could be ugly. State has only been playing high-level college football for a few years and the Panthers their last 11 games in 2014. Helfrich will get to see a lot of his young players in this one.|
|4.||Sept. 26||Eugene, OR|
|Utah was sneaky good last year and will be sneaky good again this year. But the Ducks handled the Utes with ease, 51-27, giving Oregon its third straight win over Utah in three Pac-12 meetings. The only win for Utah in the series since 1994 came in 2003 in Salt Lake.|
|5.||Oct. 3||Boulder, CO|
|The all-time series appears close (11-8, Oregon) but the Buffs haven't been competitive since the late 1990s. Oregon has won five straight in the series and has averaged 50.8 points per game in the process. Colorado has scored 11.6 points per game over that span. Any crossover schedule that includes the Buffaloes is a lucky break.|
|6.||Oct. 10||Eugene, OR|
|The Ducks have won eight straight games against the Cougars and have scored at least 43 points in seven of those games — and at least 50 in five. That said, last year's 38-31 decision was the closest the Cougs have played the Ducks since the '06 upset win in Pullman.|
|7.||Oct. 17||Seattle, WA|
|Upset Alert Despite dominating the series with 11 straight victories, the rebuilt Ducks will need to be on high alert in Seattle midway through October. The Huskies will get extra time to prep for arguably the biggest game in the Pac-12 North while the Ducks could be looking ahead to their bye the following week and the daunting slate that awaits them.|
|9.||Oct. 29*||Tempe, AZ|
|Pac-12 Title Game Preview? Arizona State could be one of the top picks to win the South Division and the long trip to the desert could be the toughest road trip for the Ducks all season. Oregon has a narrow edge in the all-time series 17-16 but only because ASU has lost eight straight. These two haven't met since 2012 and the Ducks have won four straight in Tempe. The bye week comes at a great time, giving Oregon two weeks to prepare.|
|10.||Nov. 7||Eugene, OR|
|Cal leads the all-time series 40-35-2 and that includes six straight losses to the Ducks. Oregon has scored at least 55 points in each of the last three meetings and only once over the last six have the Bears even topped 17 points.|
|11.||Nov. 14||Palo Alto, CA|
|North Division Championship Many are buying major improvement from an already solid Stanford squad in '15. And this physical rivalry has gone the way of the Cardinal in both 2012 and '13, giving Stanford the division and eventual Pac-12 title. The winner of this game has won the last five Pac-12 championships.|
|12.||Nov. 21||Eugene, OR|
|Pac-12 Title Game Preview II USC and Oregon could enter this game undefeated with both division titles, a Pac-12 title and potential Playoff berth hanging in the balance. Oregon should be playing its best football and will be looking for revenge for what took place the last time the Trojans paid a visit to Autzen Stadium - a thrilling 38-35 USC victory in 2011. Otherwise, Oregon has won three of four meetings with the most recent one occurring in 2012.|
|13.||Nov. 27**||Eugene, OR|
|The Civil War The 119th meeting between the two in-state rivals has gone the way of the Ducks seven consecutive years. Only two of those, 2013's overtime classic and a six-point game in '09, have even been close. This could be a coronation for Oregon once again.|
Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Pac-12 Preview
The old saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” couldn’t be more true when it comes to ranking college towns.
Do you prefer larger metropolitan areas? Do you enjoy the isolated peace and quiet of a quaint small town? Cost of living, night life, food, culture, weather, surrounding geography and more go into evaluating a city.
Every college campus is unique and each one brings something different to the table.
When evaluating a bigger city like Nashville against a small town like Starkville or the culture of Gainesville with the Midwest tempo of Columbia, Mo., personal opinions will vary greatly. So we had some fun asking 12 SEC experts to rank their favorite SEC locations and here is what we learned:
The Voting Panel:
Tim Brando, FOX Sports
Dari Nowkhah, SEC Network
Tony Barnhart, AJC/SEC Net
Zac Ellis, Sports Illustrated
Chris Low, ESPN
Wes Rucker, 247Sports
Laura Rutledge, SEC Network
Chad Withrow, 104.5 The Zone-Nashville
Kayce Smith, ESPN/SEC Net
Seth Emerson, Macon Telegraph
Josh Ward, WNML-Knoxville
Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM
Voting: A first-place vote was worth one point and a last-place vote was worth 14 points.
|Nashville, Tenn. There may not be a hotter city in the nation than the 615. An exploding food and rock music scene have only added to the historic charm and excitement of Music City, USA. Vandy is located just outside of downtown and doesn't add too much to the city but West End (where the campus is located), like every surrounding borough, has grown exponentially over the last decade. A cultural hub of the Southeast, there is literally something for everyone in this exploding it-city. Nashville was voted first or second in the SEC by eight of the 12 experts.|
|Athens, Ga. Great food, great bars, great music — try R.E.M., Widespread Panic, Danger Mouse and the B-52s — and the gorgeous natural beauty of the East Georgia mountains make Athens a contender for best college town in America every year. There are few places in the country where catching a college football game is more enjoyable than Athens, Ga. The Dawgs' home town got five first-place votes and two second-place votes.|
|Oxford, Miss. It's a very small town but is rich on tradition and culture. Some of America's greatest writers call it home (William Faulkner, John Grisham) and The Grove might be the best place to tailgate anywhere in the world. It's extremely charming and has an excellent night life on Courthouse Square. Square Books, Library, The Blind Pig and countless other shops, bars and eateries belong on your must-do list. Oxford got the other two first-place votes.|
|Knoxville, Tenn. Larger than most towns in the SEC, Knoxville offers some unique attributes others in the league cannot. First, the greatest whitewater rafting in the world and Smoky Mountain National Park are just south of town. But a developing food and night life scene downtown have made Knoxville a much more attractive place to be in recent years. Check out Market Square for shopping, drinking and eating. The same can be said for the Old City as well.|
|Baton Rouge, La. If food is your thing, then few places in college football can match LSU's home town. The most creative, eclectic and delicious menu of any tailgate can be found in Baton Rouge. And it's all amazing. The weather can border on desert-like when it comes to heat, but being a capital city gives it a ton of modern growth and technology. And being just up the road from New Orleans has its perks.|
|Tuscaloosa, Ala. Houndstooth Sports Bar and Dreamland BBQ are famous for a reason. They are must-do stops if ever in T-Town. Most of the city revolves around the extremely passionate fandom of Alabama sports. But the town is bigger than outsiders traditionally think, giving it more things to do than one might assume. Tuscaloosa is probably the nicest of the true SEC small towns. Which is why Tuscaloosa was voted as high as fourth and as low as 13th in this poll.|
|Auburn, Ala. It's one of the smallest college towns in the nation and there is literally nothing else in the area but the university so it's not for everyone. However, the charm is unending and the food scene is getting better and better. The Hound is awesome for brunch and BBQ. Acre is incredible fine dining and Hamilton's is right off Toomer's Corner (also, a must-see locale). I've eaten at all three and I'd go back to all of them. The developments and upgrades to the gorgeous brick campus only continue to improve the area.|
|Columbia, Mo. Possibly the most underrated town in the SEC, Columbia is one of the most forward-thinking locations in the league. The arts, journalism and social conscious attitudes are fostered by the university. The night scene is extremely underrated (and filled with crazy good pizza). This town has the most Midwestern vibe of any SEC town.|
|Lexington, Ky. The horse capital of the world is one of the bigger places to live in the SEC at over 300,000 residents. There is a distinct identity with this town that is undeniable. The surrounding horse land has been preserved and the world's largest basketball-specific arena is located in downtown. Bluegrass and hoops, that's what Lexington does!|
|College Station, Texas If you think Auburn is small and in the middle of nowhere, then you won't like College Station much either. It's flat and non-descript with little else going on but the campus. The food is excellent (duh, it's Texas) and there are a few solid bars with good music. So if you love golf, BBQ and Texas A&M sports, you will enjoy this place.|
|Gainesville, Fla. Unless you are an undergrad at the university, there isn't a whole lot to the city of Gainesville. It's really, really hot and humid most of the year and isn't a beach city like many outside of the region believe. There is some good music and plenty of places to party. But from a standard of living perspective for adults, there isn't a whole lot to sell about this town.|
|Fayetteville, Ark. Not much separates Fayetteville from Tuscaloosa. Arkansas' home base is more charming than outsiders believe and the beautiful Ozark Mountains offer plenty to do outside of town. There is also much more development in the area due to massive corporate growth from Walmart and Tyson. However, Fayetteville is difficult to get to for most travelers. For what it's worth, I had Fayetteville at eighth on my ballot.|
|Columbia, S.C. Another capital city mixing with a college campus. There is a ton of promise in this town but it has yet to catch its stride and develop like a Nashville for example. The school and campus are the best part of being in Columbia. Four of the 12 voters placed this town as one of the worst two in the SEC.|
|Starkville, Miss. There isn't a whole lot to write about here. The atmosphere surrounding the various sporting events (namely, football and baseball) add plenty of charm but there is nothing to do here and it's smack dab in the middle of nowhere. It got nine of the 12 last-place votes.|
Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 SEC Preview
A new rivalry might be brewing in the NBA’s midwest.
The Chicago Bulls went up 2-0 in their first round playoff series Monday night, defeating the young, underdog Milwaukee Bucks 91-82. Jimmy Butler led the way for Chicago, scoring 31 points, including a 12-point explosion in the fourth quarter. He also displayed his confidence with this moment:
The game got a bit chippy, too. Bucks big man Zaza Pachulia was ejected from the game late in the fourth quarter, after wrestling with Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic and then elbowing him in the head. Mirotic then sat out the rest of the contest with a strained quad, and possibly a concussion.
The skirmish between Pachulia and Mirotic was a culmination of multiple scrums throughout. The Bucks are outmatched by veteran Chicago, but they’re hungry, lengthy at every position, and coached well enough by Jason Kidd to give the Bulls some serious problems. Butler, Derrick Rose and Co. struggled for much of the game through Milwaukee’s forest of strategic limbs, scoring a measly 11 points in the opening quarter.
The Bucks may have stumbled into the postseason on a string of bad growing pains, but they’re showing against the Bulls that they are — at the very least — a nuisance to be taken seriously. Their competitive fire against a team that could be Finals-bound is a surely refreshing sight to fans of the rebuilding franchise, and their ability to at least get under Chicago’s skin a little is an omen of greater things to come.
Game 3 between the sides moves to Milwaukee, on Thursday night. The Bucks’ home court is typically invaded by fans from nearby Chicago when the Bulls visit, but an exciting new squad may start reversing that trend soon.
— John Wilmes
Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price secured a spot among great managerial rants in baseball history with an expletive-filled tirade with reporters after Monday’s 6-1 win over the Brewers.
Responding to a question from C. Trent Rosencrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer on the status of All-Star catcher Devin Mesoraco, Price lit into accurate reports about roster moves concerning his team.
The final tally was 77 “F” words and 11 “S” words. Quite impressive for a rant after game No. 13 of a 162-game season.
North Carolina’s uniform is one of the best in the ACC, and the Tar Heels will open 2015 with a revamped design to the helmet, jersey and pants.
By no means is this a drastic redesign for North Carolina. However, the uniform features argyle on the uniform and helmet.
Here are more photos of North Carolina’s football uniforms for 2015:
6. D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State
Russell surprised many with his freshman year performance at Ohio State and has emerged only in recent months as a potential lottery selection. Just as Elfrid Payton rose in last year’s draft on the strength of intangible traits, Russell's standing seems to be quickly rising due to qualities that you can’t exactly put your hands on. D’Angelo is confident and creative and has instincts that seem tailor-made for a bold step up into the next level. We might look back and see him as a steal.
5. Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia
The Latvian big man has enjoyed some rising buzz in recent days. Like Dirk Nowizki before him, Porzingis is a lengthy European with a tantalizing skill set. A seven-footer with unusual mobility and shooting range, his upside has scouts drooling. Kristaps can leap like a man much smaller than him, and frequently gets out ahead of the pack on the break, for alley-oop finishes. Players this tall, who run the floor this well, simply don’t come around very often. His wiry frame is a source of concern — can Porzingis beef up enough to avoid the abuse of NBA bullies, and can he keep his unique body healthy while doing so? These are seemingly valid questions, but they may be asked in vain if Porzingis is what he looks like: a singular player.
4. Jahlil Okafor, Duke
Okafor is still regarded as the top man in the upcoming draft by many analysts. But while the dominance he displayed as a post scorer in college does look largely translatable to the professional level, it’s not clear the Chicago-born big man can do much else that will carry over. An average defender, at best, under Krzyzewski, Jahlil’s strong suit of scoring down low is of debatable relevance in the contemporary NBA. Today, professional centers — more than ever — are expected to squash easy attempts at the rim from the opposition. Skeptics believe Okafor might give up, on the other end, as much he gives as a scorer.
3. Justise Winslow, Duke
Winslow appreciators came out in droves during the NCAA tournament, in which Justise became an indispensable piece of a title run, and arguably a more important one than Jahlil Okafor, Duke’s center who’d enjoyed much of the team’s glory throughout the regular season. Winslow’s versatility, mobility, and poise under pressure make him an appealing option at the small forward position, which has been one of the NBA’s weakest for years. And, of course, it never hurts to have gone through a year of the Mike Krzyzewski thresher.
2. Emmanuel Mudiay, China
Mudiay is the best 2015 point prospect for a league that’s increasingly guard-driven. A bit off the radar for his decision to play in China for $1.2 million (as opposed to zero dollars, in the NCAA), Emmanuel is along a path previously only forged by Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Jennings. The same questions that plagued Jennings (a No. 10 overall selection by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2009) and his draft status are likely to threaten Mudiay’s stock. The choice to go abroad will help his wallet in the short term, but it leaves many scouts wondering if his development wouldn’t have been better served domestically. Mudiay is big for a point guard, though, without sacrificing any elite athleticism for his frame, and the right organization could easily turn him into a franchise player over time.
1. Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky
The role of big men in the NBA has changed quite bit over the last decade, and Kentucky’s Towns is perhaps better suited to fit into the demands of contemporary league centers than any draft prospect we’ve seen this decade. As a freshman, he showed an all-around knack that bodes well for his future as a pro. He’s not just a post scorer, or a defensive bully — though he’s capable of being both — but is also comfortable operating near the elbow, playing a pass-first style, or chasing stretch bigs out to the perimeter. If his outside shooting can improve, he has the chance to be something like a very bulky wing man. Towns is not only massive — he’s also incredibly skilled.
— John Wilmes
Tim Tebow will receive at least one more shot at an NFL career after signing a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday.
The 2007 Heisman winner and two-time national champion at Florida participated in an offseason workout for Philadelphia on Monday.
The signing of Tebow, who hasn’t played in an NFL game since 2012, is the latest in a number of high-profile unorthodox moves by Eagles coach Chip Kelly.
Tebow was a first-round NFL draft pick of the Denver Broncos in 2010 and went 7-4 as a starter in 2011, leading the Broncos to a playoff win in overtime against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Broncos traded Tebow to the New York Jets in 2012 where he played sparingly. He signed with the Patriots in 2013 but did not make the regular season roster.
Tebow is 8-6 as a starter in his career and has completed 47.9 percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions, all with Denver.
Since he was cut by the Patriots, Tebow had been an analyst for the SEC Network.