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All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/mike-francesa-says-women-coaching-mens-teams-impossible-nba-professional-sports
Body:

Mike Francesa is blunt if nothing else. 

 

The radio personality completely goes in on a caller who talks about how his daughter loves sports and hopes to see a female head coach one day in a professional league. Francesa says it's "impossible" and went on to talk about legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt and how even she couldn't coach an NBA team (if she were alive).

 

It's hard to be shocked by Francesa these days.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, March 2, 2017 - 14:48
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/podcast-2017-big-12-college-football-primer
Body:

Braden Gall and Mitch Light breakdown the latest in college football. Don't forget to subscribe here and rate us if you like (or don't like) what you hear!

 

Today, we begin our 2017 spring primer series and it has nothing to do with spring practice. We start with the Big 12.

 

- How difficult a job does Matt Rhule face at Baylor? Are they an upper half team in '17?

 

- Kansas, Iowa State and Texas Tech fall into the bottom tier this fall but which team has the most upward mobility? And what will happen to Kliff Kingsbury?

 

- Oklahoma is the clear favorite but who are the top contenders to the Sooners?

 

- TCU and West Virginia have lots of interesting strengths and lots of large question marks. Is the difference coaching? QB play?

 

- Texas appears to be the surprise upset pick in the Big 12 already. Could Tom Herman actually get Texas to 10 wins in his first season in Austin?

 

- Does Oklahoma State have enough balance to win the Big 12 and does Kansas State make any sense at all? Ever?

 

 

 

Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall or @AthlonMitch or email [email protected]. The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com/podcastiTunesStitcher and our podcast RSS feed.

Teaser:
Podcast: 2017 Big 12 College Football Primer
Post date: Thursday, March 2, 2017 - 13:39
All taxonomy terms: MLB, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/2017-fantasy-baseball-shortstop-rankings
Body:

Shortstop has become a haven of young talent over the last four years, and this season is the definition of this as a look at the top of the fantasy rankings at the position will show. Consider that a player like Troy Tulowitzki, a guy that was an elite fantasy producer, is now on the downsides of his career and is no more than a borderline top-10 option.

 

Related: 2017 Fantasy Baseball Top 300 Rankings

 

Instead Tulo has passed the mantle on to the likes of Manny Machado, Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts and Francisco Lindor. This season these young bucks (and a few others) should continue to develop more and we may find out if Lindor’s surprising new power stroke is real or not in 2017.

 

Much like second base, there are players with more power who are shortstop-eligible while others offer more speed. The good news is that shortstop is no longer a position that boasts only three elite options followed by a cesspool of question marks. This season, the debate is how soon do you take one (and who), although chances are you can still end up with a decent option if you decide to wait a few rounds. It’s always a good thing to have options.

 

 

 

 

— Rankings by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including socalledfantasyexperts.com. Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.

Teaser:
Fantasy Baseball Cheat Sheet: Shortstop Rankings for 2017
Post date: Thursday, March 2, 2017 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, NFL
Path: /nfl/2017-nfl-draft-top-5-tight-ends-entering-scouting-combine
Body:

The 2017 NFL Draft will feature a number of talented tight ends. While two of them stand out among the rest, there will be a number of players teams could take a chance on in the later rounds that could become key contributors.

 

Here are the top five tight ends in the 2017 NFL Draft entering this week’s (Feb. 28-March 6) Scouting Combine in Indianapolis:

 

1. David Njoku, Miami

During his two seasons with the Hurricanes, Njoku flew under the radar party because Miami didn’t get a lot of national attention. But Njoku has not gone unnoticed by scouts and draft analysts, which is why he’s not only considered the best tight end prospect, but some view him as one of the best players in this draft period.

 

Last season, Njoku caught 43 passes for 698 yards and eight touchdowns. An excellent athlete, the Hurricanes used him not only as a tight end, but also as a slot receiver on the outside. A former New Jersey high school high jump champion, Njoku uses this athleticism to go up and get the football at its highest point.

 

Njoku has the size (6-4, 245) of an NFL tight end as well as the strength. Not only was he able to run away from defenders after making the catch, he also ran over his share. His hands are a little bit of a concern, as he struggled with drops. He also needs to improve in pass protection, but that’s nothing unusual when it comes to collegiate tight ends making the jump.

 

In the vast lineage of Miami tight ends, Njoku could be the next great from The U. He is still new to the position, but Njoku could turn into the next Greg Olson in the NFL.

 

2. O.J. Howard, Alabama

Howard is the most talented and gifted tight end in 2017. Many will point to his lack of production at Alabama as a negative, but that was more or less because of the type of offense that the Crimson Tide runs.

 

Last season, Howard caught 45 passes for 595 yards and three touchdowns in 14 games. In 2015, he had 38 receptions for 602 yards and two scores.

 

At 6-foot-6, 249 pounds, Howard is physically imposing and has the look of an NFL tight end. A large man, Howard still possesses good speed, which is something that should appeal to many teams.

 

A smooth pass catcher who is able to adjust after the ball has been thrown; Howard also is ahead of the curve as a blocker, which helps make him a well-rounded prospect.

 

Teams will probably ask Howard why he wasn’t more of a difference-maker while at Alabama, and he will need to get a little stronger and develop a more physical mind set at the line of scrimmage.

 

There’s no mistaking that Howards oozes potential and although he’s more polished than some of his peers, he’s not a finished product. With the right coaching, Howard can potentially become a Pro Bowl tight end for years to come.

 

3. Evan Engram, Ole Miss

Ole Miss’ disappointing 5-7 showing last season should not detract from the impact that Engram had on the field. One of the most athletic tight ends in the nation, Engram earned All-SEC and All-American honors after recording 65 receptions for 926 yards and eight touchdowns.

 

With Engram’s speed, he can run away from most linebackers, forcing teams to try and cover him with a nickel back instead. A matchup problem because of his combination of size (6-3, 236) and speed, Engram was a legitimate vertical threat for the Rebels.

 

He did have some issues with drops at time and wasn’t known for his blocking prowess. He may not have prototypical tight end size, but his athleticism and pass-catching abilities give him the potential to be a big-play threat in the right offensive system.

 

4. Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech

A towering presence (6-7, 245), Hodges looks more like a tall wide receiver rather than a tight end. Relatively new to the tight end position, Hodges was very productive in his three seasons with the Hokies.

 

Last season, Hodges caught 48 passes for 691 yards and seven touchdowns. With his height and athletic ability, Hodges has the ability to go get the football wherever it’s thrown. He also played quarterback in high school, which has helped Hodges understand and dissect coverages.

 

Hodges has played tight end only three seasons, so he still has a lot of room for improvement. His hands are less than ideal as he was prone to making catches against his body. He also doesn’t possess breakaway speed.

 

While still raw, Hodges could be a good value selection as early as the second or third round, as he has the tools to be a long-time starter in the league for years to come.

 

5. Jeremy Sprinkle, Arkansas

Sprinkle did not end his collegiate career on a positive note. Before the Belk Bowl, he was cited for shoplifting from a Belk store and was subsequently suspended for the game against Virginia Tech. Sprinkle will have to answer plenty of questions about this incident when teams sit down and talk to him in Indianapolis.

 

That aside, Sprinkle has good size (6-5, 256) as he caught 33 passes for 380 yards and four touchdowns last season for the Razorbacks.

 

Early indications are Sprinkle could be an every-down right end, as he is a sure blocker while also serving as a big target across the middle. He uses his size and length to his advantage to catch the ball over defenders.

 

His route running could use some work, but he should be able to contribute to an NFL team right away. Hopefully, the poor choice he made in late December won’t impact his NFL future too much.

 

Other tight ends to watch: Jake Butt, Michigan; Michael Roberts, Toledo; Jordan Leggett, Clemson, Jonnu Smith, FIU; Gerald Everett, South Alabama

Teaser:
2017 NFL Draft: Top 5 Tight Ends Entering the Scouting Combine
Post date: Thursday, March 2, 2017 - 11:00
Path: /nfl/10-sec-players-watch-during-nfl-scouting-combine-2017
Body:

Every year when the list of NFL Scouting Combine invitees is released, there’s always one conference atop the standings and it’s seemingly always the SEC. This year is no exception with a whopping 66 players from the league invited to the event. Pro factories at Alabama and LSU are sending 10 players a piece to Indianapolis, which combined is one more than an entire Power Five league (the Big 12).

 

Who’s under the most pressure this week (Feb. 28-March 6) and who’s destined to be a future star on Sundays? Here’s a look at 10 SEC players to keep an eye on when the Combine gets under way and what they can do to solidify their status. 

 

1. Myles Garrett, DL, Texas A&M

It’s hard to have anybody other than the potential No. 1 overall pick in the draft slotted in this spot. Garrett was a monster on the field for the Aggies and will give the Cleveland Browns plenty to think about with that first pick given his blend of size, speed and ability to track down the quarterback. It’s rare you’re able to find a complete package like Garrett at the top of the draft so it’ll be fun to watch him go through the ringer in Indy. Don’t discount how important the medical side will be for the prospect either given how banged up he was last year.

 

2. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

Pretty much since he was in high school, Fournette has been labeled the best running back since Adrian Peterson. While the numbers didn’t quite catch up to that hype in Baton Rouge, he was nevertheless a dominant runner at times in college and has just about everything teams are looking for in the first tailback off the board. How high he goes in the first round could be determined by how well he tests and if there are any red flags on the medical side of the Combine.

 

Related: Top 5 Running Backs Entering the NFL Scouting Combine

 

3. Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama

Allen stayed in school another season and that bet on himself has paid off in a big way as he could be a potential top-five selection this year. Perhaps the most technically sound player on defense in the draft, there’s very few things that he cannot do on the football field. Perhaps not the most explosive athlete available, he is still a top-tier pass rusher — to say nothing of his ability to stop the run. In terms of a safe pick, there’s nobody safer than Allen and he can solidify that in Indianapolis.

 

4. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

The race to be the first tight end taken in the draft should be a fascinating one and Howard might be the odds-on favorite in the first round. There are simply few better athletes than he is at the position and the Combine is a perfect place to showcase those skills. NFL evaluators have been anxious to get a shot at drafting this kind of player, who just about everybody believes could have a much, much more productive career at the next level compared to Alabama.

 

5. Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee

There’s been plenty of buzz about the Fournettes and Dalvin Cooks of the draft but Kamara could join those two in the first round if he continues to ascend up draft boards. He should burn up the turf with a fast 40 in the Combine and impress with his change of direction during drills. Key to a strong showing for scouts will be convincing them he’s perfectly suited to stay on the field for every down and checking out on the medical side.

 

6. Derek Barnett, DL, Tennessee

Vols fans have been pretty vocal on Barnett not getting the proper respect when it comes to the star pass rusher but the Combine should put those issues in proper perspective with a good effort. He probably won’t test the best out of the defensive ends but he has flashed plenty of Pro Bowl potential in the right system and his past production speaks for itself. If he can show added quickness during drills, expect Barnett’s name to come up even more than it does now.

 

7. Jamal Adams, DB, LSU

Go down the list and chances are high that Adams has a checkmark next to his name. Rangy safety? Check. Hard hitter? Check. Ball hawk? Check. There have been some terrific defensive backs to come out of LSU but in terms of being an all-around safety and quality leader, few come as highly recommended as Adams does. If he can run well and show fluid hips at the Combine, it wouldn’t be that surprising to see him go in the top 10.

 

8. Marlon Humphrey, DB, Alabama

Humphrey is no stranger to an event like the Combine considering his father was a former Pro Bowl running back. The testing phase should present plenty of opportunities for the track star to excel and his quickness will be on full display to wow scouts in just about every event. He could be yet another first-round selection for Alabama out of the secondary and getting a team to become enamored with his skills at the Combine is the first step in that.

 

9. Quincy Wilson, DB, Florida

The Gators have been churning out defensive talent and Wilson is the latest in a long line of stars to enter the league out of the secondary. Teammate Teez Tabor got a little more press in college but the Combine should offer a chance for Wilson to hog the spotlight as many in the NFL believe he’s one of the best players in the back end. A bigger question that he could answer when going through the paces at Lucas Oil Stadium is if he’s better suited to be a corner or a safety at the next level.

 

10. Carl Lawson, DL, Auburn

Lawson will be a fascinating case to follow to the draft and that starts at the Combine where he could put up some seriously impressive numbers in testing. He’s fast, looks the part and has displayed some impressive moves on tape. However, there are some questions about his actual size and whether he will be quick enough to be a starting edge player in the pro. Don’t discount how important the medical checks will be at the Combine for Lawson either given his injury history.

 

Don’t sleep on: Tre’Davious White (DB, LSU), Teez Tabor (DB, Florida), Tim Williams (LB, Alabama), Cam Robinson (OL, Alabama), Charles Harris (DL, Missouri), Avery Gennesy (OL, Texas A&M), Evan Engram (TE, Ole Miss), Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida), Montravius Adams (DL, Auburn), Kendell Beckwith (LB, LSU), Daeshon Hall (DL, Texas A&M), Malachi Dupre (WR, LSU), ArDarius Stewart (WR, Alabama), Speedy Noil (WR, Texas A&M), Josh Reynolds (WR, Texas A&M), Caleb Brantley (DL, Florida), Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt), Joshua Dobbs (QB, Tennessee)

 

— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.

Teaser:
10 SEC Players to Watch During the NFL Scouting Combine
Post date: Thursday, March 2, 2017 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, College Football, SEC
Path: /college-football/auburn-tigers-2017-spring-football-preview
Body:

Auburn capped off its 2016 football season with a Sugar Bowl berth, where it got handled by Oklahoma 35-19. While the Tigers didn't finish the season well (losing three of their final four games), there were plenty of bright spots along the way, including a 7-2 mark in early November.

 

Auburn showed flashes of greatness with a relatively young team, and it ended up having one of the SEC's better defenses. There is now plenty of hope as we look ahead to 2017. 

 

With 15 returning starters and plenty of depth entering spring practice, head coach Gus Malzahn's Tigers look like a potential contender in the SEC West. Running backs Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway are both back this season to tote the rock, and they'll be joined by plenty of talent at quarterback in what should be a healthy battle in the spring. There is a lot of positive momentum on the plains right now. It's now a matter of whether Auburn can build on that momentum in spring practice.

 

5 Storylines to Watch in Auburn's Spring Practice

 

1. Quarterback Battle
Talk about a luxury. The Tigers have a ton of talent at the quarterback position and now they just have to decide which one to start. OK, so maybe it's not that easy, but it's a better situation than that of most other teams headed into spring practice. A former five-star recruit and Baylor/McLennan (Texas) Community College transfer, newcomer Jarrett Stidham, is creating a lot of buzz around campus as many believe he is the future at the position for the Tigers. And there is good reason to think that, but he's not the only guy available.

 

Related: SEC's Top 35 Impact Junior College Transfers for 2017

 

Sean White returns this season but will miss team drills during spring practice. He battled with injuries late last season. White racked up most of Auburn's yards through the air, but while he was fairly efficient, there wasn't anything overly impressive about the passing game. John Franklin III played well in limited action and is a senior now, so he'll get a crack at the job. But there's a reason people are excited about Stidham. He has the potential to be elite in Auburn's system. Whether or not he ends up getting the job, Stidham should get plenty of reps in the spring.

 

2. Running Back Progression
With Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway both returning, the Auburn backfield is loaded. Both of these guys are only juniors and they’ve already proven themselves as two of the SEC's top running backs. Pettway rushed for more than 1,200 yards and seven touchdowns last season as he led the SEC with 122.4 rushing yards per game. Johnson was a fantastic complement, gaining nearly 900 yards on the ground and led the team with 11 touchdowns.

 

Auburn's running backs are in the perfect system under head coach Malzahn, as his offense almost always focuses on the run first. The Tigers have a strong offensive line to run behind and if these guys can remain healthy, Auburn's running game is going to be just fine this season. It will be interesting to see how Johnson and Pettway have improved coming into spring practice.

 

3. O-Line Overhaul
Yes, Auburn is still going to be OK on the offensive line. The Tigers have recruited well under Malzahn and they've got plenty of capable run blockers who have been patiently waiting their turn to get on the field. It's never easy losing an offensive guard the caliber of Alex Kozan. He was arguably the SEC's best pulling guard for two years straight. Tackle Robert Leff also departs. But again, not all is lost.

 

Auburn returns three starting offensive linemen in Darius James, Austin Golson and Braden Smith. The Tigers also welcome FCS All-American Casey Dunn, a graduate transfer from Jacksonville State. Price Michael Sammons, Mike Horton and Marquel Harrell could potentially fill in the rest of the holes. And don't forget, Herb Hand is regarded as one of the nation's best offensive line coaches. Spring practice should tell us a lot about how the rotation will look.

 

4. New Offensive Coordinator
With Rhett Lashlee taking over as the offensive coordinator at UConn, Auburn brings in Chip Lindsey to help run the offense. Lashlee was with Malzahn for a long time and usually just implemented what the head coach wanted without changing things up too much or ruffling too many feathers. It's not that Lashlee wasn't a good coach, but he wasn't going to stray from Malzahn's approach. They were too similar.

 

That's why Lindsey should be seen as an upgrade. He was at Arizona State last season and Southern Miss before that. He is a proponent of a similar no-huddle, fast-paced approach but he brings a special contribution in his ability to recruit and develop quarterbacks. Auburn's running game has never been an issue. Malzahn needed someone who could help evolve the passing game, and it appears Lindsey should be the man for the job. He is a guy whose background is running an Air Raid offense. We'll see if and how different Auburn’s offense looks in spring ball.

 

5. D-Line Development
Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson are gone on the defensive line. The duo is NFL-bound after combing for 13.5 sacks last season and wreaking havoc along and behind the line of scrimmage. Both were effective in stopping the run, particularly Adams. But as with most defensive linemen, it wasn't really the statistics that jumped off the page. It was the fact that you had to account for them, often with two offensive linemen. They brought a huge advantage to Auburn's front seven.

 

With Adams and Lawson off to the pros, Auburn may have a tough time replacing them. At the least, it's going to take some time to get guys to that level of play. Jeff Holland played linebacker last season, but he is making the switch to defensive end and should be able to handle the learning curve. Nick Coe also is a popular candidate to work his way into the rotation up front. Spring practice will be a good time for Auburn to sort out all of the options.

 

Pre-Spring Outlook for Auburn in the SEC

 

As mentioned above, there is plenty of excitement in Auburn. The Tigers have some work to do in the spring in replacing some key players, but they've also got a lot of important pieces of the puzzle coming back. Plus, there's at least a possibility that the Tigers have a star quarterback ready to emerge. As is the challenge for every team in the SEC West, Auburn has to deal with... the SEC West.

 

It won't be easy going up against college football's deepest division. But right now, at least on paper, Auburn may be the second-most talented squad behind Alabama. The Tigers also are one of the most experienced. With the exception of an early tilt with Clemson, the schedule doesn't get too tough until midseason, and that should give the Tigers time to adjust. If all goes well, Auburn could certainly challenge for second place in the SEC West.

 

— Written by Cody McClure, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a radio host on Sports Radio 1180 WVLZ in Knoxville, Tenn. Follow him on Twitter @CodyMcClureCFB.

Teaser:
Auburn Tigers 2017 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Thursday, March 2, 2017 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Florida Gators, SEC
Path: /college-football/florida-gators-2017-spring-football-preview
Body:

Jim McElwain’s second season as Florida’s head coach was very similar to his first. The Gators won the SEC East with an 9-4 record, but they again lost to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. However, unlike like last season’s 41-7 loss to Michigan in the Citrus Bowl, Florida finished on a high note, blasting Iowa 30-3 in the Outback Bowl.

 

Now Gator fans not only want to win the SEC title for the first time since 2008 but also compete for a national championship. Florida opens spring practice on Feb. 28 and there are a few key areas the Gators will need to address if they want to overtake Alabama in the SEC.

 

5 Storylines to Watch in Florida’s Spring Practice

 

1. Who will step up at quarterback?
If anyone has watched the Gators for the last few years, it has been painfully obvious that the team hasn’t had a quality quarterback for some time. Florida hopes one of its young players will step up and become the quarterback the team has been seeking since Tim Tebow left Gainesville.

 

Luke Del Rio won the starting job, but he was injured most of the season and ineffective when he played, throwing for just 1,358 yards, eight touchdowns and eight interceptions in six games. Del Rio will miss the entire spring as he is recovering from shoulder surgery, so Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask and Kadarius Toney will all have the opportunity to claim the top spot on the depth chart.

 

Franks, who was four-star recruit coming out of high school in 2016, redshirted during his first season on campus. Like Franks, Trask also is redshirt freshman while Toney is a true freshman who should see a lot of reps under center during the spring.

 

Related: 5 Newcomers for the Florida Gators to Watch in 2017

 

2. Can Florida get offensive line help?
No matter if it was Del Rio or backup quarterback Austin Appleby, the Gators’ offensive line didn’t give either much help regarding protection. Florida’s offensive line also didn’t perform well in the running game.

 

The Gators allowed 28 sacks in 2016, which was not good, to put it mildly. Their rushing attack also was among the FBS’ worst, finishing 113th in nation at 128.2 yards per game.

 

Four starters return up front, but left tackle David Sharpe passed on his senior year for the NFL Draft and will need to be replaced. Sophomore Martez Ivey, one of the top recruits from the 2016 class, is expected to take over at left tackle.

 

3. Receiver depth
Antonio Callaway was the Gators’ leading receiver last season with 54 receptions for 721 yards and three touchdowns. But Florida’s offense needs to find more playmakers.

 

Brandon Powell had 45 catches in 2016, but they went for just 387 yards. Tight end DeAndre Goolsby could play a bigger role after recording 38 receptions for 342 yards and three touchdowns. Both are rising seniors.

 

After these three, the production dropped off significantly. The hope is that younger players such as Tyrie Cleveland, C’yontai Lewis and Josh Hammond can emerge as reliable contributors this spring.

 

4. Can the Gators replace their defensive stars?
Florida has relied a lot on its defense the last few seasons because the offense has been dreadful at times. Now the Gators will have to replace some key stars on that side of the ball due to graduation and those who declared for the NFL Draft early.

 

Jalen Tabor, Quincy Wilson, Marcus Maye, Jarrad Davis, Caleb Brantley, Alex Anzalone and Joey Ivey are all gone. While there’s still a lot of talent on defense, a number of these players are unproven.

 

The secondary should remain a strength with the return of Nick Washington, Duke Dawson and Chauncey Gardner.

Jabari Zuniga, Cece Jefferson and Keivonnis Davis should be the leaders up front. David Reese and Kyla Johnson both got playing time last season at linebacker and will be first in line to fill the void left by Davis and Anzalone.

 

5. Could any of the early enrollees see a lot of snaps?
Five freshmen enrolled early in January. Toney, Kemore Gamble, Kadeem Telfort, Kyree Campbell and James Houston will have an early advantage to gain valuable snaps, but who could see the most playing time of the bunch?

 

Toney will get snaps at quarterback, but look for Franks and Trask to get most of the time under center. Florida is pretty set at tight end with Goolsby and Lewis, but Gamble was a four-star recruit from Miami Southridge High School.

 

With the Gators’ questionable offensive line, Telfort is probably the favorite to receive the most snaps out of the early enrollees. The 6-foot-7, 300-pound tackle from Miami prep powerhouse Booker T. Washington was considered one of the best linemen in the 2017 recruiting class and could help Florida right away.

 

Pre-Spring Outlook for Florida in the SEC

 

Florida has won two straight SEC East Division titles under Jim McElwain, but it could be tough to win a third. Georgia should be much improved in head coach Kirby Smart’s second season. South Carolina also appears pointed in the right direction now that head coach Will Muschamp has a quarterback in Jake Bentley.

 

Opening the season against Michigan at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, won’t be an easy task the Gators. After their season opener, they will have five of their next six games at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium before their bye week prior to the annual showdown with the Bulldogs.

 

Florida’s two toughest road games figure to be at Kentucky (Sept. 23) and at South Carolina (Nov.11). LSU, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Florida State all come to the Swamp, so the schedule is manageable in that respect. Florida fans are expecting to see results and another blowout loss in the SEC Championship Game or a second-place finish in the East could begin some grumblings in Gainesville.

 

— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.

Teaser:
Florida Gators 2017 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Thursday, March 2, 2017 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: MLB, Fantasy, Overtime
Path: /overtime/60-funny-clever-names-your-softball-team
Body:

It’s time to break out the old bat and glove, and perhaps most essentially, your favorite muscle ointment. That’s right, recreational slow-pitch (and fast-pitch) softball season is upon us! That being the case, you are obviously going to need a name for your team, right? Not to worry, we scoured the internet in search of some of the more clever, silly, funny and humorous team names that we could find to help you out. At the very least, you may be able to draw some inspiration from the following suggestions to come up with something even better on your own. We have divided the names into three sections. Each based on the particular type of league you might be playing in, Co-Ed, Men’s or Women’s.

 

Co-Ed Teams

Scared Hitless

 

Chickson Dix

 

The He-She’s

 

The Soft Serves

 

Weakened Warriors

 

Caught Looking

 

Yager Bombers

 

Multiple Scoregasms

 

Hit For Brains

 

One Hit Wonders

 

Swingers

 

Smokin’ Bases

 

Bat Attitudes

 

Alcoballics

 

The Beer View Mirrors

 

Slapnut Magoos

 

The Lazer Show

 

The Fighting Amish

 

Ice Cold Pitchers

 

Walk-Off Warriors

 

Men's Teams

Master Batters

 

Inglorious Batters

 

Blue Ballers

 

Sons of Pitches

 

Where My Pitches At?

 

Balls Deep

 

Big Test Icicles

 

Yank-Deez

 

Team No Glove, No Love

 

Quit Your Pitching

 

Balls Out

 

I’d Hit That

 

Saved By the Balls

 

Thunder Down Under

 

Nine Inch Males

 

Pitches Be Crazy

 

The Odd Sox

 

Brokebat Mountain

 

Balls to the Wall

 

Pitch Slaps

 

Women's Teams

Breaking Balls

 

Cleats and Cleavage

 

Victorious Secret

 

Blood Bath and Beyond

 

Base-ic Pitches

 

Leather and Lace

 

Trigger Happy Bunnies

 

Queen Bees

 

Voo Doo Dolls

 

Nice Snatch!

 

Happy Dugouts

 

Split Finger Hoochie Mamas

 

Dirty Divas

 

Farmer’s Daughters

 

Ball Busters

 

Pink Sox

 

Diamond Divas

 

Ponytail Express

 

She Devils

 

Beerly Legal

 

— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, March 2, 2017 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football
Path: /college-football/north-carolina-tar-heels-2017-spring-football-preview
Body:

Springtime in Chapel Hill usually means one thing: the hope of a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. With the Tar Heels entering this week in the top 10 of the national polls and having already secured no worse than a share of the ACC regular season title, this year is no different.

 

So quietly, football head coach Larry Fedora will be trying to rebuild his team after suffering some major personnel losses following an 8-5 campaign that ended with a loss to Stanford in the Sun Bowl. Here are five things to watch as North Carolina gets it going on the gridiron.

 

5 Storylines to Watch in North Carolina’s Spring Practice

 

1. Quarterback Battle
North Carolina will have a new starting quarterback... again. Mitch Trubisky’s one season as the leader of the Heels’ offense resulted in the Mentor, Ohio, product becoming a projected first-round NFL Draft pick. Fedora will now look at several options including Chaz Surratt, Nathan Elliott and Logan Byrd. Surratt, a redshirt freshman, may have the inside track.

 

2. Offensive Skill Positions
Trubisky was hardly the only offensive weapon that has left Chapel Hill. Running back Elijah Hood and T.J. Logan are moving on while receivers Ryan Switzer, Bug Howard and Mack Hollins need to be replaced as well. Austin Proehl and Thomas Jackson will be the leaders at wideout as they enter their senior year and will try to help develop the inexperienced members of the receiving corps. At running back, Fedora hopes that Jordon Brown can improve after seeing spot time as a freshman and keep an eye on early enrollee Michael Carter.

 

Related: 5 Newcomers to Watch for the North Carolina Tar Heels in 2017

 

3. Offensive Line
To add to North Carolina’s offensive to do list, the offensive line needs to be re-tooled as well. Guard Tommy Hatton got some starts at the end of his redshirt freshman season and will look to take the next step this spring. Bentley Spain will be the anchor at left tackle but North Carolina will need a replacement for Jon Heck on the other side.

 

4. Secondary
The Tar Heels lost cornerback Des Lawrence and safety Dominique Green from last year’s squad. But cornerrback M.J. Stewart decided to return for his senior season and will anchor the back end, and there are some exciting, younger options to keep an eye on. Myles Dorn was on the two-deep as a true freshman and is counted on as Green’s replacement at free safety. Another 2016 contributor, Patrice Rene, has an opportunity to grab the open cornerback spot. D.J. Ford, Greg Ross, K.J. Sails, and Myles Wolfolk are other members of the 2016 recruiting class that will compete for time in spring workouts.

 

5. New Defensive Coordinator
Defense has not been a strength for North Carolina but there was progress made over the past couple of seasons under Gene Chizik. Now that Chizik has left the program, John Papuchis has taken over the reins. Papuchis was the linebackers coach under Chizik and mentored Andre Smith and Cole Holcomb, two players that will be back for Carolina. How Papuchis tweaks the system and how the players respond will be something to keep an eye on as practice begins.

 

Pre-Spring Outlook for North Carolina in the ACC

 

There are personnel changes galore for North Carolina, especially on offense. Just about every major contributor – with the exception of left tackle Bentley Spain – has either seen his eligibility expire or chosen to jump to the NFL. Defensively, the Tar Heels need to replace only a few components and return two productive linebackers in Andre Smith and Cole Holcomb. But with John Papuchis taking over for Gene Chizik as defensive coordinator, there will be an adjustment period for that unit too. Head coach Larry Fedora has done a fine job in Chapel Hill but getting this team to challenge in the ACC Coastal Division in 2017 will be a monumental challenge.

 

— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.

Teaser:
North Carolina Tar Heels 2017 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Thursday, March 2, 2017 - 09:00
Path: /nfl/10-pac-12-players-watch-during-nfl-scouting-combine-2017
Body:

The Pac-12 has been a major player when the NFL Draft has rolled around and that should continue to be the case in 2017 with a solid 46 players from the conference heading to Indianapolis. Historical powerhouses like USC and Washington have plenty of potential first-rounders again this year but there’s a deep and intriguing group of prospects from around the league set to strut their stuff this week (Feb. 28-Marcah 6) for scouts and coaches.

 

Who’s under the most pressure and who’s destined to be a future star on Sundays? Here’s a look at 10 Pac-12 players to keep an eye on when the Combine gets under way and what they can do to solidify their status.

 

1. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder so it will be fascinating to see how McCaffrey is really received by NFL folks at the Combine. Is he an every-down back or more of a slot receiver at the next level who can return kicks? Teams are probably going to be split on their opinion of the uber-productive tailback but he could make a strong impression with big numbers at the Combine and a showcase during the skills portion.

 

2. Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford

While there may be more name recognition when it comes to his teammate on offense, Thomas figures to be the first Cardinal player drafted this year. He had an incredible performance in the team’s bowl game and has been one of the best college defensive linemen in the country during his time on the Farm. His size makes him a bit of a tweener when it comes to position though and seeing how he measures and runs at the Combine could play a role in terms of how high teams pick him.

 

3. Garett Bolles, OL, Utah

Bolles is no household name for those outside of the state of Utah but he certainly is on draft boards and in NFL personnel rooms. He might be the most athletic offensive lineman to go to the Combine since Lane Johnson a few years ago and he should run laps around a few of the players in his group. With just one year of FBS football though, he’ll be a bit of a projection for some teams who will use the event to really see if he’s a potential Pro Bowler or just another player who needs to be developed further.

 

4. Sidney Jones, DB, Washington

Defensive backs from the South get a ton of attention at the Combine but Jones should be right there with all of the other big names. A potential first-rounder, he should test well and go the earliest of any of the Huskies headed to the draft this year. His biggest knock is that he’s not as big as others so hitting certain marks when getting measured will be key for Jones, who will get compared a ton to ex-teammate Marcus Peters (on the field, at least).

 

5. Takkarist McKinley, DL, UCLA

It seems like every year the Bruins are sending an athletic freak to the league and this year it’s McKinley’s turn to carry the banner. UCLA’s terrible season overshadowed just how great a year that he had in the interior of the line and there’s even more room for him to grow as a pass rusher. He’ll test off the charts at the Combine and it will shock nobody if he emerges from Indianapolis with plenty of first-round buzz.

 

6. John Ross, WR, Washington

If you’re going to tune into the Combine for just one thing, it might be to see what kind of time Ross puts down in the 40-yard dash. One of the most electrifying college players to come out of the West Coast, few people in the sport have the kind of speed that the Huskies receiver does. His smaller size probably hamper his draft stock a bit but if he tests as well as everybody thinks (and his knees get the OK from doctors), there’s no question he could sneak into the first round.

 

7. Adoree’ Jackson, DB, USC

USC has had a ton of great players to come through the program the past few decades but former No. 2 overall pick Reggie Bush might be the only other Trojan who is in the same league as Jackson is as an athlete. He can do just about everything on the football field and the Combine will allow him to turn heads during testing and when going through drills. His size may mean he isn’t a first-round cornerback but his versatility could make him a very productive player at the next level.

 

8. Davis Webb, QB, Cal

The Pac-12 has produced an impressive number of quarterbacks over the years but the 2017 crop has questions all over. That makes the Combine a big stage for somebody like Webb to answer questions about transitioning to a pro-style offense. He has the arm talent and is one of the top seniors at the position in the draft but will need a strong spring to show scouts that he’s more than just an Air Raid signal-caller.

 

9. Eddie Vanderdoes, DL, UCLA

Vanderdoes figures to be a polarizing prospect given that he looked like a future first-rounder early on in Westwood but saw injuries limit him the past two years for the Bruins. He’s got great size and impressive quickness but the Combine will be a place for him to prove he’s fully healthy and that he’s more than what he flashed recently.

 

Related: 5 Players Who Could Impress During the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine

 

10. Budda Baker, DB, Washington

Baker was a star from the moment he arrived in Montlake and has been terrific as the defensive leader for the Huskies the past few seasons. He’s got plenty of speed and quickness for days but don’t sleep on his ability to run up and smack a ball carrier around. His smaller size will make him an interesting projection at the next level as some teams may view him as better suited to be a slot corner, but there’s little doubt that he’s one to watch given how productive he’s been.

 

Don’t sleep on: JuJu Smith-Shuster (WR, USC), Chidobe Awuzie (DB, Colorado), Chad Hansen (WR, Cal), Kevin King (DB, Washington), Gabe Marks (WR, Washington State), Zach Banner (OL, USC), Pharaoh Brown (TE, Oregon), Sefo Liufau (QB, Colorado), Elijah Qualls (DL, Washington), Stevie Tu’ikolovatu (DL, USC), J.J. Dielman (OL, Utah), Joe Williams (RB, Utah)

 

— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.

Teaser:
10 Pac-12 Players to Watch During the NFL Scouting Combine
Post date: Wednesday, March 1, 2017 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/2017-fantasy-baseball-second-base-rankings
Body:

Second base in fantasy baseball this season offers a little bit of everything. You want power? Brian Dozier, Rougned Odor can likely get you close to 30 home runs. You want speed? Jose Altuve, Dee Gordon and Trea Turner should be able to pad those categories.

 

Related: 2017 Fantasy Baseball Top 300 Rankings

 

And don’t forget that almost all of the top 10 second basemen should be able to provide a respectable batting average, while supplying some power and speed. I wouldn’t go so far as to say second base is an extremely deep position in 2017, but there’s nothing wrong with any of the first eight on the board.

 

If you are in a standard 12-team league you should be fine with any of those top eight guys or be able to survive with someone from the top 15. That is good news for fantasy owners.

 

Don’t’ forget, these and other rankings (both positional and overall) will change as we get closer to the start of the season. Be sure to check back often!

 

 

 

 

— Rankings by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including socalledfantasyexperts.com. Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.

Teaser:
Fantasy Baseball Cheat Sheet: Second Base Rankings for 2017
Post date: Wednesday, March 1, 2017 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: NBA, Overtime
Path: /overtime/former-nba-star-amare-stoudemire-knicks-heat-gay-teammate-avoid-israeli
Body:

Former NBA star Amar'e Stoudemire is making headlines in the United States, despite playing overseas.

 

Stoudemire currently plays for an Israeli professional team Hapoel Jerusalem and many different players said they wouldn't have a problem with a gay teammate. The ex-NBA star had a different take on the matter. 

 

"I'm going to shower across the street, make sure my change of clothes are around the corner," Stoudemire said. "And I'm going to drive — take a different route to the gym."

 

 

Although it seemed as if Stoudemire was just joking, his statements about there being some truth to it has everyone talking.

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, March 1, 2017 - 11:10
Path: /college-football/biggest-questions-big-12-teams-entering-spring-practice-2017
Body:

College football teams are stirring once again, as spring practice has begun in different parts of the country. Activity will only pick up as the calendar turns to March, especially in Big 12 country.

 

Iowa State (Feb. 28) is the first Big 12 team to return to the field with Oklahoma (March 21) and Kansas State (March 29) scheduled to round things out. Even though the Sooners are the defending conference champions, the start of spring practice signals a fresh start for everyone, as well as the opportunity to get a closer look at what the fall could hold.

 

With Big 12 teams set to get back to work, here is a look at the biggest question mark and possible solution for all 10 teams entering spring practice.

 

How much depth will new Baylor head coach Matt Rhule have in his first season?

Baylor’s 2016 recruiting class was much leaner than expected after several transfers and defections following the sexual assault scandal around the program. While Rhule and his staff closed strong in 2017 with 27 commitments, some of the new faces might find themselves on the two-deep immediately. That is especially true in the secondary where the Bears are looking to replace key contributors Orion Stewart, Ryan Reid and Patrick Levels. Look for redshirt freshman Raleigh Texada and Chris Miller to see a lot of action this spring.

 

Can Iowa State’s defense match its offense?

The Cyclones return an impressive group of skill players on offense with QB Jacob Park, WR Allen Lazard and RB David Montgomery. But the concerns for Iowa State lie on defense. The good news is that Matt Campbell has a pair of top-100 junior college recruits that should help immediately on the defensive line in Matt Leo and Ray Lima. These two will need to help solidify a defense that allowed 5.2 yards per carry, which was third worst in the Big 12 in 2016. If the Cyclones’ defense starts making strides this spring, watch out.

 

What does new Kansas offensive coordinator Doug Meacham have in store?

After spending the past three seasons helping revitalize TCU’s stagnant offense, Meacham has an even tougher job in Lawrence. Last season the Jayhawks were last in the Big 12 in scoring offense and total offense, and placed eighth in passing offense. Comparatively, TCU ranked third nationally in total offense and seventh in scoring in 2015.

 

First off, Meacham needs to figure out who is quarterback is going to be. Montell Cozart was the latest KU QB to transfer, but the favorite for the job was always going to be Washington State/Itawamba (Miss.) Community College transfer Peyton Bender. It’s hard to believe Meacham wouldn’t take this job if he didn’t think he was going to be upgrading at quarterback by going from the overrated Kenny Hill to Bender.

 

How healthy is Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder?

It was announced a couple of weeks ago that Snyder is undergoing treatment for throat cancer. He is not supposed to miss any of spring practice and his cancer has been called “very treatable.” But the reality is Snyder will be 78 years old this season. Folks in Manhattan have speculated for the last couple seasons about when Snyder might retire (again) and who could be his replacement. There’s no doubt that chatter will only begin to heat up and Snyder will face more questions than ever about his future.

 

Who will Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield be handing off to?

The Sooners just lost two of the best running backs to ever come through the program in Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, which is really saying something. Because of this, it’s very possible OU goes with a rotation in the backfield in 2017. Abdul Adams is the returning running back with the most experience. He played in seven games as a freshman last season and totaled 283 rushing yards. But keep an eye on true freshman Trey Sermon, who is enrolled early and ready to give Adams and Rodney Anderson, the only other returning scholarship running back, some serious competition this spring.

 

Can the Oklahoma State running attack keep pace with the passing game?

We know the explosiveness the QB Mason Rudolph and WR James Washington combination brings to the table, but the running game has struggled in recent seasons. In 2015, Oklahoma State ranked ninth in the Big 12 in rushing offense, but the Pokes were up to seventh last season. Freshman Justice Hill (1,187 rushing yards) came on strong for the Cowboys last season, along with an improved offensive line. But Chris Carson and Rennie Childs, who combined for more than 800 yards in 2016, both graduated. On top of that, the team’s running backs coach Marcus Arroyo recently left for Oregon. There isn’t a ton of depth at the position, but expect to see more of Jeff Carr, and some looks for La’Darren Brown this spring. One of Oklahoma State’s top recruits from the 2017 class was Canadian running back Chuba Hubbard, but he did not enroll early, so Cowboys fans won’t see him until the summer.

 

Can TCU QB Kenny Hill keep his job?

Hill threw 17 touchdowns compared to13 interceptions last season and his decision-making was often suspect. Last year Hill beat out Foster Sawyer for the starting job, but Sawyer left for FCS member Stephen F. Austin. There are other candidates who have been around the program (Grayson Muehlstein, Brennen Wooten), but true freshman Shawn Robinson is the quarterback everyone around TCU has pinned their hopes on. Robinson led DeSoto (Texas) High School to a state title last season and is already being compared to former TCU QB Trevone Boykin. Robinson enrolled in January, which means he may see a chance to get on the field ASAP in Fort Worth.

 

Who’s under center for new Texas head coach Tom Herman?

Considering last year’s Texas team was mediocre, Shane Buechele had a solid true freshman season, throwing for nearly 3,000 yards, with 21 touchdowns, only 11 interceptions, while completing more than 60 percent of his passes. But new head coach Tom Herman has made it clear he has no returning starters as he reevaluates the program. Newcomer Sam Ehlinger is a hometown product from nearby Westlake High School and he is expected to give Buechele all he can handle. Ehlinger has better wheels than Buechele and we know how much Herman likes a QB who can run from his time with Greg Ward Jr. at Houston. Unlike in recent seasons, Texas actually has a QB battle that’s worth watching.

 

Can Texas Tech coordinator David Gibbs finally turn around this defense?

Gibbs enters his third season as defensive coordinator and the Red Raiders have seen little, if any, improvement on this side of the ball. In 2016 Texas Tech was last in the Big 12 in total defense, rushing defense, and pass defense efficiency. Early enrollees who could turn some heads this spring include JUCO linebacker Tony Jones from Butler County (Kan.) Community College and his teammate, defensive back Octavius Morgan. Also keep an eye on defensive back Vaughnte Dorsey and defensive end Nelson Mbanasor. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury and Gibbs better hope these newcomers show serious promise this spring, or the 2017 recruiting class may be their last in Lubbock.

 

How will West Virginia rebuild its defense?

For the second straight season, defensive coordinator Tony Gibson will need to work his magic on defense. Last year, the Mountaineers replaced nine starters on defense, but did it with eight seniors and one junior. So once again, the turnover is real for the Mountaineers. Rasul Douglas, Noble Nwachukwu, Darrien Howard, Justin Arndt, and several other key pieces are gone.
 

In 2016, West Virginia was third in the Big 12 in total defense and second in pass efficiency defense. The Mountaineers do welcome back safety Dravon Askew-Henry from a season-ending knee injury suffered last August. Also, WVU lost one of its best recruits from the 2016 class, linebacker Brendan Ferns, to a knee injury last summer as well. These are two impact players coming back from serious injuries. With the holes on defense, their health this spring deserves a close eye.

 

— Article written by Pete Mundo, owner and operator of HeartlandCollegeSports.com, a site for Big 12 fans. Mundo also is a sports anchor at CBS Sports Radio and can found on Twitter @PeteMundo. Follow Heartland College Sports on Twitter @Heartland_CS.

Teaser:
Biggest Questions for Big 12 Teams Entering Spring Practice
Post date: Wednesday, March 1, 2017 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Ole Miss Rebels, SEC
Path: /college-football/ole-miss-rebels-2017-spring-football-preview
Body:

How quickly things have changed in Oxford. Two years after downing No. 2-ranked Alabama, topping rival Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl and capping the season with a Sugar Bowl win over Oklahoma State, Ole Miss finds itself facing uncertainty about the future of its football program after the NCAA added eight new charges to a Notice of Allegations sent to the school in February.

 

The future of head coach Hugh Freeze also is in jeopardy as the Rebels begin to open spring practice on the heels of a 5-7 season that included a 55-20 season-ending loss to archrival Mississippi State. With a self-imposed, one-year bowl ban in response to the NCAA’s latest allegations, it’s safe to say there have better days in Oxford.

 

With a boatload of distractions, Ole Miss will trudge along as it opens spring ball.

 

5 Storylines to Watch in Ole Miss’ Spring Practice

 

1. Will Freeze withstand the latest allegations?
After concerns were raised about Ole Miss’ top-10 ranked recruiting class in 2013, Freeze invited those with suspicions to email the school’s compliance office — in hindsight, probably not the brightest move. When the smoke cleared, the school ended with 21 allegations and was slapped with the dreaded lack of institutional control charge. Ole Miss, which has hired two law firms, has 90 days to respond to the NCAA.

 

Despite being well loved in Oxford and around the state, some wonder how Freeze will withstand the controversy. Ole Miss, in a show of good faith toward the NCAA, could preemptively let him go, signaling its opposition to the recklessness and washing its hands of the matter.

 

2. Shea Patterson’s development
Patterson appeared in Ole Miss’s last three games of the season after the Rebels lost star quarterback Chad Kelly to injury. The then-true freshman threw for 338 yards and a touchdown and interception while rushing for 64 yards in his first start at Texas A&M. In his second start, he had 222 passing yards and two touchdowns against Vanderbilt. Patterson finished the season by throwing for 320 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions while running for 73 yards in Ole Miss’ Egg Bowl loss.

 

Patterson finished the season with 880 passing yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions. He also added 169 yards on the ground. Patterson was the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the 2016 class after posting gaudy numbers in high school. He reaffirmed his commitment to the school after the latest round of NCAA allegations and is primed to have a stellar sophomore campaign.

 

3. What else will the NCAA investigations bring?
With all that’s going on in Oxford, it’s probably difficult for fans to remain upbeat about the upcoming season. But it could get worse. Yes, the school announced its self-imposed, one-year bowl ban, but the severity and number of allegations make it likely the NCAA will hand down a more severe punishment.

 

As past incidents have shown us, this could take the form of anything from an additional postseason ban to scholarship reductions, or a combination of the two. Only time will tell (and it could take a while to resolve), but it’s probably safe to say Ole Miss hasn’t seen the worst of the ordeal.

 

The impending verdict from the NCAA will loom large over Oxford.

 

4. How will new offensive coordinator Phil Longo adjust to the SEC?
The Rebels parted with co-offensive coordinator and QBs coach Dan Werner in December and replaced him with Longo, who previously was at FCS member Sam Houston State. In addition to sharing offensive coordinator duties with Matt Luke, Longo will coach quarterbacks.

 

Longo thrived at Sam Houston State, as the Bearkats averaged 547 yards per game last season. Throughout his three years at the school, his offenses ranked among the FCS’ best. In 2016, Sam Houston State was first in scoring offense (49.5 ppg), second in passing offense (368.3 ypg) and 37th in rushing offense (179.0 ypg), going 12-1 with the only loss coming in the quarterfinal round of the FCS playoffs against eventual national champion James Madison.

 

While Longo’s numbers are impressive, he’ll have to prove he can do the same against SEC defenses.

 

5. Wesley McGriff and the Ole Miss defense
Longo won’t be the only new assistant debuting in Oxford this fall. McGriff, who served as Ole Miss’ co-defensive coordinator in 2012 was hired after spending a season at Auburn in the same capacity. He also spent time as a defensive assistant with the New Orleans Saints.

 

After a shaky start to 2016, Auburn’s defense found its groove, and the unit ended the season in among the top five units in the SEC in total, scoring and rushing defense. Ole Miss in particular was abysmal against the run last year, finishing last in the conference and near the bottom of the FBS as a whole (120th out of 128 teams), surrendering 246.3 rushing yards per game. In contrast, Auburn gave up nearly half of that (132.8 ypg) to finish third in the SEC and 27th nationally. Tiger fans can take solace in knowing it can, and hopefully will, get better.

 

Pre-Spring Oulook for Ole Miss in the SEC


Despite all that has occurred this month, the Rebels now have to shift their focus to the field. Last season, Ole Miss suffered an insanely large number of injuries that began in the opener against Florida State and continued throughout a disappointing 5-7 campaign. It’s difficult to imagine Hugh Freeze’s team suffering the same misfortune two seasons in a row.

 

However, gone is record-setting quarterback Chad Kelly, along with All-American tight end Evan Engram. New co-offensive coordinator Phil Longo’s lack of FBS experience leaves questions about the offense, even with talented, dual-threat quarterback Shea Patterson, but the Rebels’ attack under Freeze has always been solid. Defensively, the addition of new defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff should net positive results for a unit that struggled mightily against the run in 2016.

 

Ole Miss should win more than six games in 2017, but unfortunately, no bowl trip will await it.

 

— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A sports reporter for The Meridian Star Newspaper, Hayes also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.

Teaser:
Ole Miss Rebels 2017 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Wednesday, March 1, 2017 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: Texas Rangers, MLB
Path: /mlb/texas-rangers-2017-preview-predictions-schedule
Body:

Texas Rangers logoThe good news for the Texas Rangers the past two seasons, of course, is that they won the American League West. Some might say they did so unexpectedly, even in 2016 as the defending division champs. Their playoff experience, though, has been a disappointment, with consecutive losses to the Toronto Blue Jays in the division series. In 2016, the Rangers were barely competitive in a three-game sweep.

 

Here the Rangers are again, being doubted. They no doubt have their flaws but are also a better team than they were a year ago.

 

ROTATION

Cole Hamels was a Cy Young contender in his first full season with the Rangers before a subpar September. The lefthander issued more walks and home runs than he deems acceptable but pitched well with runners in scoring position. Yu Darvish will be in his first full season after Tommy John surgery, and the Rangers expect the traditional jump that comes 18-plus months after the procedure. The righthander saw a jump in fastball velocity and again showed he could dominate with a wipeout slider. Lefty Martin Perez was inconsistent but durable, and he pitched well down the stretch. Andrew Cashner signed a one-year, $10 million contract in November after recording a 5.25 ERA in stops in San Diego and Miami in 2016. The Rangers believe he will blossom working with pitching coach Doug Brocail. They could add another starter before spring training but might have to look internally for the final piece to the rotation. A.J. Griffin would be a strong candidate after making 23 starts last season, albeit with a 5.07 ERA. Chi Chi Gonzalez and Nick Martinez have pitched in the majors, including so-so showings in 2016. Waiver claim Tyler Wagner and Rule 5 Draft pick Mike Hauschild, both righties, are also possibilities.

 

BULLPEN

Athlon Sports' 2017 baseball magazine delivers full MLB team previews, fantasy baseball insight, schedules, and predictions for every team. Click here to order your copy today or visit your local newsstand!
Sam Dyson will open as the Rangers’ fourth different closer in the past four seasons after taking over the spot in May. Dyson saved 38 games, using an upper-90s sinker and improved changeup as an effective two-pitch combo. If he struggles, Matt Bush could be next in line. Bush missed several seasons while in prison for a drunk-driving incident that nearly killed a motorcyclist. He has hit 100 mph, and his slider and curveball are also out pitches. Another bullpen bright spot was Tony Barnette, who became a steady middle-innings reliever. He was a closer in Japan, and it showed often as he was unfazed by high-leverage opportunities. Jeremy Jeffress is another potential closer-in-waiting after being acquired at the trade deadline. He was Milwaukee’s closer but assumed a prominent setup role after the deal. Lefty Jake Diekman and righty Keone Kela had down years after solidifying the bullpen in 2015. Both have fastballs that sit in the mid-90s with quality sliders. Diekman lost his command late in the season and then his spot in the bullpen pecking order. He’s also out until at least the All-Star break after undergoing surgery in January to remove his colon to alleviate the ulcerative colitis he has dealt with since he was a kid. Kela needed early-season surgery on his elbow and upon returning wasn’t as sharp as he was in 2015. Alex Claudio figures to assume a bigger role after a breakout season as a long reliever. 

 

MIDDLE INFIELD

Shortstop Elvis Andrus is coming off a career year, and fellow Venezuelan Rougned Odor had a season that put him in the upper echelon of offensive second basemen. Andrus finished with a team-best .302 average, the first .300 season of his career, and posted career highs in on-base percentage (.362), slugging percentage (.439), homers (eight) and RBIs (69) while stealing at least 20 bases (24) for the eighth time in his eight big-league seasons. His defense was improved, too. Odor has room to grow defensively. If he develops at the plate, the Rangers could be looking at a perennial All-Star. Odor, 23, launched a team-best 33 homers and batted .271 after flirting with .300 for much of the season.

 

CORNERS

Printable 2017 Texas Rangers ScheduleThird base is a sure thing, while the corner opposite from Adrian Beltre figures to be manned by a former All-Star teammate. Beltre enjoyed a rebound that saw him top 30 homers (32) for the first time since 2013 and 100 RBIs (104) for the first time since '12. He capped the year with his fifth career Gold Glove. Beltre, who will top 3,000 career hits this season, is well on his way to the Hall of Fame. Mike Napoli signed a one-year deal right before the start of spring training and figures to get most of the playing time at first since Gold Glove winner Mitch Moreland signed with Boston as a free agent. Napoli, who played for Texas from 2011-12 and towards the end of '15, bounced back in a big way last season, slugging 34 home runs and driving in 101 for AL champion Cleveland. An All-Star with the Rangers in 2012, Napoli has always enjoyed hitting in Arlington and his power bat should make Texas’ lineup even more dangerous.

 

OUTFIELD

When it came to addressing a need in center field, the Rangers went with affordability and defense in choosing to re-sign Carlos Gomez on a one-year, $11.5 million deal instead of Ian Desmond. Gomez was signed off the trash heap in August following his release from Houston, and he was arguably the Rangers’ best player down the stretch as their left fielder and leadoff hitter. Desmond had an All-Star season, and he cashed it into a five-year, $70 million deal with Colorado. The Rangers aren’t sure how the rest of the outfield will line up, though the best bet is Nomar Mazara at one of the corner spots after a standout rookie season with either Shin-Soo Choo, Jurickson Profar or Ryan Rua manning the other. Mazara’s average cooled to .266 after a hot start while replacing Choo during the first of four DL stints. Mazara popped 20 homers, but the left-handed hitter needs to be better against southpaws. If Choo is healthy, he can be a force from the leadoff spot.

 

CATCHING

Lucroy was acquired from Milwaukee at the trade deadline and became the Rangers’ best catcher since Ivan Rodriguez. No one outworks Lucroy in the video room as he formulates a scouting report for each game, and he knows how to manage pitchers. His framing skills are enviable and have been copied by many. His throwing can help shut down running games. Lucroy isn’t just defensive-minded. He swatted a career-high 24 homers, 11 in 47 games after the trade.

 

DH/BENCH

The Rangers are considering not having a full-time designated hitter but instead rotating several players at the spot, including Choo, Profar, Rua and maybe even Napoli. In theory, that would keep players healthy and allow Texas the opportunity to field a pretty deep lineup. A bench of catcher Robinson Chirinos, Delino DeShields as an extra outfielder and infielders Hanser Alberto and Drew Robinson offers speed and defensive flexibility. Joey Gallo, remains a question mark, as the youngster has plenty of power with just as many holes (76 SO in 133 AB in the majors) in his swing. He could make the team out of spring training as a reserve, but is likely headed back to Triple-A Round Rock.

 

MANAGEMENT

Jeff Banister returns for his third season along with the 2016 coaching staff, except for field coordinator Jayce Tingler, who took over as farm director. Tingler was replaced by Josh Bonifay. Tony Beasley is expected back full time as third-base coach after being declared cancer-free in December. GM Jon Daniels enters his 12th season and has shown no hesitancy in trying to upgrade the roster at the trade deadline.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS

A third-straight AL West title is within reach. The Rangers have two aces in the rotation, a top-flight bullpen and offensive firepower. That combination will help them stay in contention in the AL West, but the rest of the rotation needs to carry its weight. Choo and Beltre must stay healthy, Napoli needs to keep slugging, and DH must be productive to make a push for a three-peat.

 

2017 AL WEST PREDICTION: 2nd

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, March 1, 2017 - 10:25
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Derek Mason's Vanderbilt Commodores finally reached a bowl game in 2016 after getting hot at the end of the regular season. Vandy hammered Ole Miss 38-17 and knocked off rival Tennessee 45-34 in its last two games to reach the postseason. Although the Commodores got beaten badly by NC State in the Independence Bowl, last season in general felt like another positive step forward under Mason, whose teams have gotten better record-wise every year in his tenure.

 

Vanderbilt will try to build off last year's six wins and return roughly 17 starters, which is one of the highest totals among SEC teams. That includes all-time leading rusher Ralph Webb, as well as quarterback Kyle Shurmur. Defensively, the Commodores will bring back a key leader at linebacker in Oren Burks, as well as several experienced defensive backs. The outlook for 2017 could be bright, but there is plenty to work on in spring practice.

 

5 Storylines to Watch in Vanderbilt's Spring Practice

 

1. Kyle Shurmur’s Progression
News broke just this week that quarterback Wade Freebeck would not be returning for the Commodores this fall. Luckily Vanderbilt was able to find its full-time starter at the position last year in Shurmur, who enters his junior season. With plenty of quarterback issues in Mason’s first two years at the helm in Nashville, it will be nice to have some consistency for once headed into spring practice.

 

Shurmur threw for more than 2,400 yards and nine touchdowns in 2016. He was able to torch Tennessee’s defense for 416 passing yards in the final game of the regular season and approached 300 yards against Western Kentucky and Ole Miss. There’s plenty to be excited about with Shurmur, but he did throw 10 interceptions, which won’t cut it unless he increases his productivity in the other categories significantly. He’ll need to learn to make better decisions with the ball, and that  starts this spring.

 

2. Ralph Webb’s Explosiveness
Webb is one of those guys who it seems has been on campus for 10 years. Maybe it’s because he’s been the backbone of Vanderbilt’s offense for the last three years. Webb enters his senior season as the Commodores’ best player after three consecutive campaigns of improvement. As a freshman, he ran for 907 yards, improved to 1,152 as a sophomore and finished fourth in the SEC with 1,283 rushing yards last season.

 

Webb’s explosiveness has always been the best part about his skill set — that ability to take the ball to the end zone on any given play. It will be interesting to see just how much better he’s gotten in one offseason. If his continuous improvement coupled with last year’s 13 touchdowns (tied for third in SEC) are any indication, Webb probably has found a way to become even more lethal in 2017.

 

3. A Defense Without Zach Cunningham
Without a doubt, the biggest loss on defense for the Commodores is at inside linebacker. Cunningham racked up some of the most impressive accolades in the history of Vanderbilt football and would likely rank near the top of any Vandy “GOAT” list. Cunningham was the first Commodore player in team history to earn unanimous first-team All-America recognition.

 

Cunningham led the SEC with 125 total tackles, a number that also ranked in the top 10 nationally. Nobody in the SEC had a better nose for where the football was going, and that’s not an easy thing to replicate. Senior Oren Burks should be a solid fill-in for Cunningham at inside linebacker, having racked up 59 stops himself last season. But the level of expectation at the position has certainly been raised.

 

4. Know Your Deficiencies
One problem Vanderbilt has had in spring practice over the last three years is not being able to identify its biggest weaknesses, particularly on offense. The Commodores have rolled into the fall the past three seasons with a vague identity offensively. The fact that they were able to find it toward the end of last season bodes well for what could be on the horizon.

 

But Mason noted recently that his team needs to see its deficiencies in the spring so it can bridge the gaps during summer workouts headed into the fall. This is critical for Vanderbilt, because if the Commodores are able to actually start the season with a positive approach instead of scrambling to find production on offense, this could be a superb team by November.

 

5. Ending with a “Spring Showcase”
The Commodores will be the first SEC team to try a “Spring Showcase” as opposed to a spring game on March 25. Vanderbilt will scrimmage and work on game situations in the showcase, but it won’t actually be a game. However, there will be a player autograph session afterward. Mason said he wanted to move away from the spring game concept but noted that this wouldn’t be much different.

 

Mason added that he wants to maximize time with this group, and it doesn’t help that the numbers are down this year. Vanderbilt currently has just 75 players on its roster, which could be another reason for not playing an actual spring game. Vanderbilt’s showcase is the only final spring practice event among SEC teams that will not be televised.

 

Pre-Spring Outlook for Vanderbilt in the SEC

 

The SEC East is improving, but it’s still anybody’s ball game on a given Saturday. Georgia would probably be listed as the close favorite at this point, but two-time defending division champion Florida isn’t far behind. Tennessee could be a contender, as well, but the Volunteers may have missed their best chance to win the division last year. Kentucky has a lot of talent returning while South Carolina should only get better under Will Muschamp. Missouri probably won’t be very good.

 

Honestly, with 17 returning starters including arguably the SEC’s best running back, as well as one of the conference’s top defensive units, the Commodores shouldn’t be overlooked as a dark horse contender in the East. They’ve shown they can beat Georgia and Tennessee, and they’ve show constant improvement every year under head coach Derek Mason. Now that the Commodores have achieved a taste of the postseason, seven or eight wins and the ability to compete for the division should be the next step.

 

— Written by Cody McClure, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a radio host on Sports Radio 1180 WVLZ in Knoxville, Tenn. Follow him on Twitter @CodyMcClureCFB.

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Vanderbilt Commodores 2017 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Wednesday, March 1, 2017 - 10:00
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If it seems like Clemson football hasn't had a break, it would be because they really didn’t have a break. From winning the national championship on Jan. 9 through National Signing Day and the unveiling of the new football facility to preparing for the opening of spring practice on March 1, Dabo Swinney and his staff have had no let up.

 

But the Tigers will be ready to go on Wednesday and with a few very important departures, Clemson fans have plenty to watch in the coming weeks. Here are five things to keep an eye on, with number one being very obvious.

 

5 Storylines to Watch in Clemson’s Spring Practice

 

1. Who is the Next Quarterback?
Talking about replacing Deshaun Watson or filling his shoes is ridiculous and unfair to whoever wins the quarterback job. But somebody will be taking snaps when Kent State comes to Death Valley on Sept. 2 and this spring will be the first test for all of the candidates. Kelly Bryant will open at the top of the depth chart, but he will have several guys nipping at his heels in the coming weeks. Zerrick Cooper is a talented dual-threat option that could unseat Bryant sooner rather than later. Tucker Israel is another run-pass threat and early enrollee freshman Hunter Johnson was a five-star recruit, who apparently has a pretty good arm.

 

Related: 5 Newcomers for the Clemson Tigers to Watch in 2017

 

2. Development of Deon Cain
With Mike Williams off to the NFL, Clemson has to find a new No. 1 wide receiver. Hunter Renfrow is dangerous but doesn’t necessarily fill that role. Ray-Ray McCloud seems like he could thrive in Artavis Scott’s role as the possession receiver. That brings us to Cain. He primarily been a deep threat during his time at Clemson but has the ability to become much more and he will look to take the next step this spring.

 

3. Defensive Tackle Depth
Dexter Lawrence is a beast and it is scary to think how good he could become. Albert Huggins is in position to take over as the other interior starter. But one of the keys to Clemson’s success – and a necessity for a team that likes to up the tempo on offense – is to have depth along the defensive line, especially at tackle. With Carlos Watkins graduating and Scott Pagano transferring out for his fifth year, more bodies are needed at that position. Assuming that Christian Wilkins stays at end, it’s time for redshirt freshman Nyles Pinckney to make an impact.

 

4. Cornerback Battle
Clemson has a slew of skilled athletes in the defensive backfield, so the competition for Cordrea Tankersley’s vacant corner position will be fierce.  Mark Fields was in the mix to start last season but wound up as a back up to Ryan Carter. Fields has the experience, but Trayvon Mullen looks (6-2, 185) the part of a shutdown corner. And don’t forget about Marcus Edmond, the player that forced James Quick out of bounds to seal the victory against Louisville.

 

5. Attitude
This has rarely been a problem under Dabo Swinney. If you’re not all in, you’re not going to be part of the Clemson program for long. But things become a little different after a championship. The Tigers are now the big dog and while that is fine, the chip on their shoulders needs to remain. Plus, with players like Watson, Williams, Wayne Gallman, Ben Boulware, Watkins, Pagano, and others elsewhere, there is a huge leadership void that has to be filled. Which players emerge as the go-to guys has begun during conditioning workouts and will begin to unfold even more during spring drills.

 

Pre-Spring Outlook for Clemson in the ACC

 

After all that Clemson has accomplished over the past two years – and really going back four years to the Orange Bowl win over Ohio State – no one in the ACC will feel sorry about the Tigers’ personnel losses. And in reality, despite losing Deshaun Watson, Mike Williams, Artavis Scott, Ben Boulware and all the other stars that generated so much success, the only ACC team that is on Clemson’s level in the talent department is Florida State. So while there will most likely be a dip in 2017, the Tigers should still contend for league honors. Plus, with a gifted young roster and outstanding recruits waiting to wear the orange, more College Football Playoff appearances appear to be on the horizon.

 

— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.

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Clemson Tigers 2017 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Wednesday, March 1, 2017 - 09:30
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The Big Ten closed the gap with the SEC last year in the race to be college football’s No. 1 conference, and the league is in great shape as spring ball opens for 2017. Ohio State and Penn State should be among the nation’s frontrunners to win it all next year, while Michigan and Wisconsin will also rank in many preseason top 10 lists. There’s depth in the league with the improvement of Maryland under coach DJ Durkin, while Nebraska, Iowa and Northwestern form a solid group of teams behind Wisconsin in the West Division. New coaches at Minnesota (P.J. Fleck), Indiana (Tom Allen) and Purdue (Jeff Brohm) will be worth watching in 2017.

 

Spring practice is set to begin around the nation for all 130 teams over the next few weeks. While spring ball is just practice sessions and it’s hard to glean much information, it’s never too early to look at some of the biggest storylines facing teams this offseason.

 

Here’s a look at the biggest questions and a pre-spring ranking facing the 14 teams in the Big Ten this spring:

 

Big Ten 2017 Spring Preview and Power Rankings

 

East Division

 

1. Ohio State

Key Spring Goal: Who Steps Up at Receiver?

The addition of quarterbacks coach Ryan Day and new play-caller Kevin Wilson should help Ohio State’s offense get back on track in 2017. Quarterback J.T. Barrett also returns and will benefit from the coaching changes. But the Buckeyes are losing three key targets from last year’s receiving corps and uncertainty surrounds this group going into spring ball. This is a big offseason for young playmakers K.J. Hill, Terry McLaurin, Parris Campbell, Binjimen Victor and Austin Mack.

 

Related: Pre-Spring Top 50 Players Returning in 2017

 

2. Penn State

Key Spring Goal: Reloading at Defensive End

The Nittany Lions ranked second in the Big Ten with 40 sacks last year, but three out of the team’s top four statistical leaders in this area departed. Ends Evan Schwan and Garrett Sickels expired their eligibility after combining for 12 sacks in 2016, leaving a significant void off the edge. Who will fill that void in the spring? Torrence Brown, Shareef Miller and Ryan Buchholz are three promising options for coordinator Brent Pry, but reinforcements are also on the way from the 2016 signing class. Shane Simmons, Daniel Joseph and Shaka Toney are ready to push for snaps after a redshirt year.

 

3. Michigan

Key Spring Goal: New Faces in the Secondary

The Wolverines finished second nationally in pass efficiency defense last season, but coordinator Don Brown has a lot of work ahead this spring in rebuilding a secondary that loses standouts Jourdan Lewis and Delano Hill, along with Dymonte Thomas and Channing Stribling. There’s very little in the way of proven experience here, but this unit has promising options. Brandon Watson played in all 13 games last season and accumulated 12 tackles. He will be in the mix for snaps but will be pushed for time by a talented group of youngsters. Incoming freshmen Jaylen Kelly-Powell, Ambry Thomas, J’Marick Woods and Benjamin St-Juste enrolled in time to compete in spring practice, while David Long and Lavert Hill gained valuable reps as freshmen in 2016. Former four-star prospect Tyree Kinnel has played in 21 games over the last two seasons and should make an impact at safety this fall.

 

Related: Early Big Ten Predictions for 2017

 

4. Michigan State

Key Spring Goal: Find the Next Standouts on the Defensive Line

Quarterback play is also near the top of coach Mark Dantonio’s spring to-do list, but Brian Lewerke seems to have an inside track on the job. The defensive line took a step back in 2016, as this unit ranked ninth in the Big Ten in rush defense after ranking third or higher from 2011-15. The Spartans also generated only 11 sacks in 12 games. Standout lineman Malik McDowell and tackle Kevin Williams are the biggest losses, and a handful of names are vying for snaps in the spring. Raequan Williams and Mike Panasiuk gained valuable experience as freshmen last fall and will be a key part of the solution for 2017. End Demetrius Cooper returns after starting 11 games and notching 2.5 sacks in 2016. This will be a big spring for those three players, along with Josh King, Justice Alexander, Robert Bowers and Auston Robertson.

 

5. Indiana

Key Spring Goal: Who Replaces Devine Redding at Running Back?

An Indiana running back has reached 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. Will that streak continue in 2017? Devine Redding (1,122 yards) left early for the NFL, leaving Tyler Natee (237 yards), Mike Majette (180) and Devonte Williams (167) as the team’s top returning rushers. Cole Gest is also in the mix after sitting out most of 2016 due to injury. However, the team’s most intriguing option remains Camion Patrick. The Tennessee native suffered an ACL injury in spring practice last year and only received limited game action the remainder of the season. At 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, Patrick is a talented and intriguing option for new coordinator Mike DeBord to utilize this fall.

 

Related: Ranking College Football's New Head Coach Hires for 2017

 

6. Maryland

Key Spring Goal: Quarterback Battle and Offensive Line

The Terrapins showed marked improvement in coach DJ Durkin’s first year. With 12 starters back, another step forward and a bowl game is certainly within reach in 2017. Perry Hills departs at quarterback, and coordinator Walt Bell has a wide-open battle this offseason. Tyrrell Pigrome is the frontrunner based on experience, but he will be pushed by North Carolina transfer Caleb Henderson, sophomore Max Bortenschlager and true freshman Kasim Hill (arrives in the summer). Also on the priority list is improving an offensive line that allowed 49 sacks last season.

 

7. Rutgers

Key Spring Goal: Developing an Offense

After a 2-10 debut under coach Chris Ash, it’s no secret the Scarlet Knights have a lot of work ahead this spring. For the Scarlet Knights to be competitive in Big Ten play, the offense has to take a step forward. Last season, this unit averaged only 9.6 points in conference action and was shut out in four games. Hiring Jerry Kill as coordinator was a step in the right direction, and the Scarlet Knights regain the services of receiver Janarion Grant after missing most of 2016 due to injury. The backfield is in good shape with the return of Robert Martin, Josh Hicks and Miami transfer Gus Edwards. But question marks remain about the offensive line and at quarterback. Giovanni Rescigno (52.8%) will have to hold off sophomore Tylin Oden at quarterback this spring.

 

West Division

 

1. Wisconsin

Key Spring Goal: Replacing OT Ryan Ramczyk

Left tackle Ryan Ramczyk only had one year of on-field experience at Wisconsin, but the UW-Stevens Point transfer was one of the nation’s top linemen last fall. Replacing the standout left tackle won’t be easy, but the Badgers return five players with at least seven starts last year, including Beau Benzschawel (14) and Michael Deiter (14). Brett Connors worked as the backup left tackle in 2016, but David Edwards or Jacob Maxwell could transition from the right side. Cole Van Lanen – a four-star recruit in the 2016 signing class – is another name to watch.

 

Related: Ranking the Big Ten's Rosters for 2017

 

2. Nebraska

Key Spring Goal: Settle the Quarterback Battle

The transition to a 3-4 defense under new coordinator Bob Diaco is also worth monitoring this spring in Lincoln, but the Cornhuskers have an interesting quarterback battle set to unfold. Redshirt freshman Patrick O’Brien – the No. 204 recruit in the 2016 247Sports Composite – will compete with Tulane transfer Tanner Lee for the starting job. In two years with the Green Wave, Lee threw for 23 scores and 21 interceptions. After a redshirt year, Lee should be up-to-speed on Nebraska’s system and is his pro-style background is a good fit for the offense. True freshman Tristan Gebbia will also have a chance to make an impression this spring.

 

3. Northwestern

Key Spring Goal: Find a No. 1 Receiver

After catching just 23 passes from 2014-15, Austin Carr grabbed 90 receptions for 1,247 yards in 2016. With Carr out of eligibility, the Wildcats will be looking for a new go-to target this spring for quarterback Clayton Thorson. Flynn Nagel (40 receptions) is the top statistical option, and Oregon graduate transfer Jalen Brown was also a valuable addition. The Wildcats will be looking for some of the secondary weapons from 2016 – Solomon Vault, Macan Wilson and Garrett Dickerson – to take their performance up just a notch this spring. Redshirt freshmen Ramaud Bowman and Riley Lees are also expected to factor into the mix this spring.

 

4. Iowa

Key Spring Goal: Changes on Offense

Although the early spring rankings place Iowa at No. 4 in the West, there’s very little separation between the Hawkeyes and Northwestern or Nebraska. For Iowa to threaten Wisconsin for the Big Ten title, coach Kirk Ferentz’s team has to put all of the right pieces in place on offense. The staff received a needed overhaul on offense this spring, with Brian Ferentz assuming the play-calling duties, Ken O’Keefe handling quarterbacks, Kelton Copeland was hired to coach receivers, and Tim Polasek is the new offensive line coach. In addition to the coaching changes, Nathan Stanley will get the first opportunity at replacing C.J. Beathard at quarterback, and the receiving corps needs a few new faces to emerge to team with Matt VandeBerg on the outside.

 

Related: College Football's Top 15 Teams on the Rise for 2017

 

5. Minnesota

Key Spring Goal: Find a Quarterback

New coach P.J. Fleck inherits 13 starters from a team that went 9-4 last season, so there’s a solid foundation in place for the Golden Gophers to build around in spring ball. The biggest concern for Fleck is likely at quarterback, as Mitch Leidner expired his eligibility following the Holiday Bowl win against Washington State. Former walk-on Conor Rhoda started one game last season but will be pushed for snaps by sophomore Demry Croft, redshirt freshman Seth Green, true freshman Tanner Morgan and junior college recruit Neil McLaurin.

 

6. Purdue

Key Spring Goal: Rebuild the Receiving Corps

New coach Jeff Brohm was one of the offseason’s top hires, and his offenses at WKU averaged over 40 points a game for three consecutive seasons. Quarterback David Blough (25 TDs, 21 INTs) and running back Markell Jones provide a strong foundation for Brohm, but the receiving corps was decimated by departures. The Boilermakers must replace the top four statistical receivers from last year. Tight end Cole Herdman (35 grabs) is the top returning option. Who could step up here? Gregory Phillips, Malik Kimbrough and Anthony Mahoungou are three players with experience, while junior college recruits Isaac Zico and Terry Wright are worth watching when they arrive on campus. The offensive line is another area under pressure in spring ball.

 

Related: 15 JUCO Transfers to Watch in the Big Ten for 2017

 

7. Illinois

Key Spring Goal: Restock the Defensive Line

The quarterback battle between Chayce Crouch and Jeff George Jr. is another storyline to watch, but the Fighting Illini are losing five key contributors from last year’s defensive line. Adding to the concerns for coordinator Hardy Nickerson is this unit surrendered 219.2 rushing yards per game in 2016. At end, Carroll Phillips (nine sacks), Gimel President (12.5 TFL) and Dawuane Smoot (15 TFL) must be replaced, while tackles Chunky Clements and Rob Bain also leave big shoes to fill. Tackles Kenyon Jackson and Jamal Milan are promising, but significant question marks remain at defensive end. Incoming freshman Owen Carney is a name to watch.

Teaser:
Big Ten 2017 Spring Football Preview and Power Rankings
Post date: Wednesday, March 1, 2017 - 09:00
Path: /nfl/5-potential-landing-spots-adrian-peterson-2017
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On Tuesday afternoon, the Minnesota Vikings announced that they will not exercise the option on running back Adrian Peterson’s contract. Now the 10-year veteran, seven-time Pro Bowler, four-time first-team All-Pro, three-time league rushing champion and 2012 NFL MVP is set to become an unrestricted free agent on March 9, the first day of the new league year.

 

Minnesota wasn’t expected to pick up Peterson’s $18 million option as the running back is coming off a season where he only played in three games in which he rushed for a total of 37 yards because of a torn meniscus in his right knee. Peterson, who will turn 32 on March 21, has played in just 20 of the Vikings’ 48 regular season games over the past three years.

 

There’s still a chance that Peterson could return to the Vikings, as noted by their official statement announcing the move.

 

“Adrian is an important part of the Minnesota Vikings organization,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said in the statement. “We will continue to have conversations with his representatives and leave our future options open while determining what is best for both parties moving forward.”

 

Peterson has said on a number of occasions that he wants to end his career with the Vikings, but he has been keeping an eye on landing spots just in case things didn’t work out.

 

So besides Minnesota, who are the five teams that make the most sense for Peterson?

 

New England Patriots

The defending Super Bowl champions will have to make a decision on LeGarrette Blount, who also is set to become a free agent. Last season, Blount led the team with 1,161 rushing yards and led the NFL with 18 touchdowns, all of them coming on the ground.

 

New England doesn’t believe in paying big money for free agents, so Blount may not return if he gets a larger offer somewhere else. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has taken chances on older free agents in the past and could want Peterson to team up with James White and Dion Lewis if Blount does not return.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

With the uncertain future of Doug Martin after he was hit with a four-game suspension because of a failed drug test, the Buccaneers will likely be looking for some help at running back. The team could release Martin without any cap penalty and signing Peterson could make a lot of sense for a team that is trying to take the next step.

 

Last season, Tampa Bay ranked 24th in the NFL in rushing with just 101 yards per game. A healthy Peterson will only bolster an offense that already boasts Pro Bowl quarterback Jameis Winston and wide receiver Mike Evans, as well as tight end Cameron Brate.

 

Green Bay Packers

Viking fans wouldn’t want to see this, but Peterson could pull a reverse Brett Favre and head to the hated Packers. With Eddie Lacy’s lack of production in recent years and his impending free agency Green Bay has a fairly pressing need at the running back position.

 

Green Bay finished 20th in the league in rushing yards per game in 2016 with 106. 3 as the main ball carrier wound up being converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery. Similar to New England, the Packers typically don’t make big splashes in free agency, but they have taken chances on veterans, such as Charles Woodson and Julius Peppers.


Peterson doesn’t need to be the 1,600-yard back he was in 2015, but any semblance of a productive running game only helps quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Don’t forget Green Bay was just one more win away from playing the Super Bowl. Peterson could help the Packers get there, which is something he no doubt wants to do himself.

 

Oakland Raiders

With 2016 leading rusher Latavius Murray becoming a free agent next month, the Raiders will need to address the running back position one way or another. The only other running backs on the Raiders roster currently are DeAndre Washington, Jalen Richard and Taiwan Jones, and none of them profile as a workhorse type of ball carrier.

 

Peterson could continue to bring balance to an already potent offense. Oakland finished sixth in the NFL in rushing (120.1 ypg) last season. The Raiders also are coming off of a 12-win season that was deflated at the end by an injury to Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Carr. Oakland is a team trending upward and could give Peterson a chance to compete for a championship.

 

New York Giants

A few weeks ago following Rashad Jennings’ release, Peterson posted a cryptic tweet:

 

While New York still has 2016 fifth-round pick Paul Perkins, who emerged as the primary back by the end of the season, he’s going to need help.

 

Eli Manning, 36, isn’t getting any younger and the Giants already have a potent passing game. Peterson’s presence could add another dimension to an attack that finished near the bottom (29th) in rushing with just 88.3 yards per game. Peterson clearly has interest in the Giants and general manager Jerry Reese could make the move if the price is right.

 

— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.

Teaser:
5 Potential Landing Spots for Adrian Peterson in 2017
Post date: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 - 16:00
All taxonomy terms: Golf
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Trying to find your optimal DraftKings lineup for this week's (March 2-5) golf tournament: the World Golf Championships (WGC)-Mexico Championship at the Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City? Our fantasy golf experts are ready to help.
 
Here's what our optimal lineup looks like.

 

Henrik Stenson ($10,300)

Stenson hasn't played a ton in 2017, but he's riding a streak of six straight worldwide top 10s. His ultra-consistent ball striking will serve him well on an unfamiliar track.

 

Adam Scott ($9,200)

Scott has seven straight top-15 finishes. Extend the timeframe back to the 2016 Barclays, and Scott has been T-14 or better in 11 of his last 12 starts, with seven top 10s. In fantasy as in real life, the guy's money.

 

Tyrrell Hatton ($8,300)

We can't ignore this guy any longer. He's finished in the top 4 in three of his last four starts, including a T-4 at Honda. The Englishman could be a next-generation Lee Westwood, right down to the bad British teeth. 

 

Phil Mickelson ($7,600)

We're going to fantasy-stalk Lefty until he files a restraining order. He tends to excel on unfamiliar courses, and Club de Golf Chapultepec certainly qualifies. He's made his last eight cuts.

 

Louis Oosthuizen ($7,200)

Oostie's globetrotting ways have included plenty of rounds at elevation, which will serve him well at 7,000-plus feet above sea level. He hasn't missed a cut since July and had two top 5s in his last three starts.

 

Bill Haas ($7,000)

Quiet consistency is a nice fantasy trait, and Haas has that in spades. He's finished in the top 20 in his last six starts, including a T-4 at the last WGC event, the HSBC Champions in October.

 

DraftKings Lineup Picks for WGC Mexico Championship

 

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Post date: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 - 13:14
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Redshirt freshmen make an impact for every college football team during the course of a season, and it’s no surprise a handful of talented players are ready to push for time after sitting out the 2016 campaign. A variety of reasons could be pinpointed for the redshirt year, but the extra time could be beneficial to learn a scheme, develop physically in the weight room or help provide some space on the depth chart with a stacked group of upperclassmen departing the following year.

 

Which redshirt freshmen could make an impact in the Pac-12 in 2017? Here are 20 names to watch:

 

20 Redshirt Freshmen to Watch in the Pac-12 in 2017

 

Renard Bell/Grant Porter, WR, Washington State

The Cougars have a few holes to fill at receiver after standouts Gabe Marks and River Cracraft expired their eligibility. The receiving corps has a solid foundation in place with Tavares Martin, Isaiah Johnson-Mack and Robert Lewis returning, but Bell and Porter – both three-star recruits in the 2016 class – should have an opportunity to push for snaps.

 

Related: College Football's Pre-Spring Top 50 Players Returning for 2017

 

Ronnie Blackmon/Trey Udoffia, DB, Colorado

The Buffaloes finished 2016 with one of the nation’s best defensive backfields. Under former coordinator Jim Leavitt, Colorado ranked fifth nationally in pass efficiency defense. The secondary was anchored by three standout seniors last season – Chidobe Awuzie, Tedric Thompson and Ahkello Witherspoon – but that trio has finished their eligibility. Udoffia and Blackmon should help fill the voids left behind by Awuzie, Thompson and Witherspoon, after a redshirt year for the former three-star recruits. 

 

Brady Breeze, S, Oregon

New coach Willie Taggart made one of the offseason’s best assistant coach hires by luring defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt to Oregon from Colorado. While the Ducks certainly have room to improve on defense, this unit returns largely intact and some help is on the way from the last two signing classes. Breeze ranked as a four-star recruit in last year’s haul and was the No. 281 player by the 247Sports Composite. He could push for a starting spot at safety this offseason.

 

Devaughn Cooper, WR, Arizona

Arizona enters spring ball looking to revamp a receiving corps that lost three out of its top four statistical performers from 2016. Cooper is an intriguing prospect for coach Rich Rodriguez, as the Los Angeles native is expected to push for significant playing time after a redshirt year. Cooper received limited snaps in the first three games of 2016 but only caught one pass for 15 yards. He ranked as a three-star prospect by the 247Sports Composite.

 

Related: Early Pac-12 Predictions for 2017

 

K.J. Costello, QB, Stanford

With Keller Chryst rehabbing from a serious knee injury suffered in the Sun Bowl against North Carolina, Ryan Burns and Costello are expected to battle for the top spot in spring ball. Costello ranked as the No. 46 overall player in last year’s signing class and spent 2016 learning the offense under coach David Shaw.

 

Nygel Edmonds, CB, California

After coordinating one of the nation’s top defenses at Wisconsin last season, new coach Justin Wilcox inherits a California unit ranked 127th nationally in scoring and 100th in pass efficiency defense. Wilcox and coordinator Tim DeRuyter certainly have a lot of work ahead this spring, but six starters are back and the secondary returns a handful of cornerbacks with experience. Edmonds is another name to add to the mix in the secondary, as the three-star recruit and top defensive prospect in California’s 2016 class is ready to contribute.

 

Isaiah Gilchrist/Byron Murphy, CB, Washington

The Huskies were hit hard by departures in the secondary, as cornerback Sidney Jones and safety Budda Baker left early for the NFL, while cornerback Kevin King expired his eligibility. However, Murphy and Gilchrist should be part of the solution for coach Chris Petersen, as both players used a redshirt year to develop last fall. He ranked as a four-star prospect and the No. 98 overall player in the 2016 247Sports Composite. Gilchrist was also a four-star prospect and ranked No. 257 overall.

 

Related: Pre-Spring Top 25 for 2017

 

Max Gilliam, QB, California

Davis Webb’s one season at California was a successful one, but the Golden Bears enter spring with a wide-open battle under center. Gilliam is one of five candidates vying for the starting job after a redshirt year. The California native ranked as a three-star prospect in last season’s class and was the No. 361 overall recruit by the 247Sports Composite.

 

Mique Juarez, LB, UCLA

Juarez was one of the highest-ranked recruits in last year’s signing class to not see a snap of game action in 2016. After a neck injury forced him to miss time in spring ball, Juarez took a leave of absence from the team during the regular season. All signs point to Juarez returning in 2017, which is a huge boost for a UCLA defense losing Jayon Brown (119 tackles) and linemen Tak McKinley and Eddie Vanderdoes.

 

Chase Lucas, DB, Arizona State

Arizona State’s secondary has struggled over the last two seasons, but there’s optimism for 2017 with this group returning nearly intact. Lucas should be an impact addition for new coordinator Phil Bennett after taking a redshirt year in 2016. The Arizona native ranked as a four-star prospect and the No. 236 player in last season’s signing class and was a high school teammate of Arizona State freshman standout receiver N’Keal Harry.

 

Related: Ranking College Football's Rosters for 2017

 

Jacob Colacion/Kahi Neves, LB, Arizona

Arizona’s linebacking unit was hit hard by departures this offseason. Standout Paul Magloire and Michael Barton expired their eligibility, leaving a relatively inexperienced group battling for time this offseason. Senior DeAndre’ Miller is one answer for coordinator Marcel Yates, but who will step up at the other spots? Neves and Colacion – three-star recruits in last year’s class – could be a key contributors in 2017.

 

Kaden Smith, TE, Stanford

Tight ends are a key cog in Stanford’s passing attack, and Smith should team with Dalton Schultz to form a talented duo for coach David Shaw in 2017. Smith ranked as a four-star recruit and the No. 37 overall player in last year’s signing class.

 

Maxs Tupai, DL, Utah

Sack Lake City will be looking for new standouts in the trenches after the departure of Hunter Dimick, Pita Taumoepenu and Pasoni Tasini. The return of Kylie Fitts at end alleviates some of the rebuilding project, as well as Tupai’s development after a redshirt year. He ranked as Utah’s No. 1 high school prospect in last year’s signing class and was regarded as a four-star recruit by the 247Sports Composite.

 

Trevon Sidney/Tyler Vaughns, WR, USC

In order for USC quarterback Sam Darnold’s Heisman campaign to take off in 2017, the sophomore is going to need a few names to emerge at receiver. The Trojans open spring ball looking to replace JuJu Smith-Schuster and Darreus Rogers, while Deontay Burnett (56 catches) is likely entrenched as the early No. 1 option. Vaughns and Sidney are two names coach Clay Helton will be counting on to produce this year. Both players ranked as four-star recruits in last year’s class, with Vaughns ranking as the No. 34 prospect by the 247Sports Composite.

 

Christian Wallace, CB, Oregon State

Wallace was Oregon State’s top-ranked recruit by the 247Sports Composite last season, but the Texas native was forced to redshirt due to academic reasons. The four-star recruit is in good standing this spring and is participating in practice. With Xavier Crawford developing into a rising star at one cornerback spot, Wallace’s emergence could give the Beavers two promising young defensive backs to build around this fall.

Teaser:
20 Redshirt Freshmen to Watch in the Pac-12 in 2017
Post date: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: BYU Cougars, College Football, Independents
Path: /college-football/byu-cougars-2017-spring-football-preview
Body:

Ignore the calendar that still says February, it’s time for spring football. At least at BYU anyway. The Cougars open up their second year under head coach Kalani Sitake.

 

Sitake posted a solid a 9-4 record in year one capped off with a victory in the Poinsettia Bowl over Wyoming.

 

Related: Grading College Football's Head Coach Hires for 2017

 

Gone are a trio of stars in quarterback Taysom Hill, running back Jamaal Williams, and safety Kai Nacua. The Cougars will be looking to find the replacements to these and other key players starting with spring ball kicking off today.

 

Who will be the players that emerge to fill those spots left behind by those three players? Also, what are the other storylines to keep an eye on over the next month at Camp Cougar? Let’s dive into that.

 

5 Storylines to Watch in BYU’s Spring Practice

 

1. Replacing stars
As I mentioned, BYU has three players that it is trying to replace in 2017 who were a significant reason why the Cougars won nine games a year ago.

 

There’s no debate as to who will replace Tayson Hill at quarterback. Junior Tanner Mangum resumes his career as BYU’s top signal-caller. Mangum started in 12 games in 2015 and also was the starter in the bowl game two months ago after Hill suffered am injury.

 

Mangum is viewed by many at BYU as the next star quarterback in Provo. He was excellent in 2015 and there’s a lot to be excited about entering this season.

 

Mangum’s skill set is tailored for coordinator Ty Detmer’s pro-style offense that at times last season, went by the wayside to accommodate Hill’s excellent running abilities. Will BYU be putting up the video game numbers that the Cougars were accustomed to while Detmer was under center from 1988-91? No, don’t expect anything like that. But there’s no excuse for BYU to not be more consistent on offense in 2017.

 

At running back, it will be no small task to replace Jamaal Williams, BYU’s all-time leading rusher, but there are three players that people need to focus on. Junior Squally Canada was Williams’ primary backup last season and he is believed to have the inside track for the starting job entering spring. Sophomore Riley Burt and true freshman Ula Tolutau will be Canada’s biggest challenges on the depth chart.

 

Replacing Kai Nacua will be a difficult challenge but four-star true freshman Chaz Ah You is believed to be enrolled in school already and is going to be participating in spring football. If anything, this should give Ah You an excellent opportunity to compete for a starting role right away.

 

2. Competition at wide receiver
BYU also loses its top three receivers from a year ago, but then again the production from this group as a whole could be described as underwhelming, at best. No receiver posted a 100-yard game in 2016. With Mangum back at quarterback, there will be more trust in the ability to air it out. The question becomes who emerges as the Cougars’ go-to pass catchers?

 

Senior Jonah Trinnaman is a speedster junior college transfer who didn't have as smooth of a transition to the FBS level as many envisioned after signing out of Snow (Utah) College. He is expected to make a push to be BYU’s No. 1 receiver this spring. After that, look for Detmer to settle in on a lot of two-wide receiver sets this season. Sophomore Micah Simon is an intriguing prospect who was a star of spring ball last year before redshirting later in the fall. Also, JUCO transfer Beau Tanner could turn some heads during the spring.

 

3. Growth in year two
The first year is always a learning process for everyone involved when there’s a coaching change at a major college football program. Everything from technique to vocabulary to new practice structure are things that must be taught, learned and sometimes it takes time for everyone to get on the same page and acclimated to the new staff and culture. That was the case for BYU last year, as new head coach Kalani Sitake retained just one assistant from Bronco Mendenhall’s staff.

 

Now in year two, how far along are the players into the playbooks and knowledge of the systems they are running on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball? It shouldn’t take too long into the spring sessions to get a sense.

 

4. Trench play
Sitake has made an emphasis to improve the depth of his program. So far, one of the areas this is becoming noticeable is with the uptick in talent along the line of scrimmage.

 

BYU added four defensive linemen who enrolled in January to get a head start on the 2017 season by being able to participate in spring football, and pass-rushing specialist Sione Takitaki is rumored to be returning as well.

 

The offensive line has the potential to be the Cougars’ best since becoming an independent in 2011. The roster boasts 15 scholarship athletes along the offensive line, which is music to Sitake’s ears. Last year, BYU only had seven offensive linemen during the spring, which impacted not only what Sitake and his staff were able to do but also how they approached the spring game. Numbers shouldn’t be a problem this year.

 

5. Wealth of talent at cornerback
Since Sitake took over as BYU’s head coach, the Cougars have zeroed in on identifying under-the-radar defensive backs that have their best football ahead of them. Assistant head coach Ed Lamb has had a track record of developing defensive backs that go on to the NFL from his days as the head coach at FCS member Southern Utah. Cornerback has been an area of focus for the staff and it’s already paying off with a pair of talented sophomores returning in expected starters Troy Warner and Dayan Lake.

 

BYU’s staff feels the Cougars go about three-deep right now at cornerback and they’ll add two more talented freshmen from the San Diego area this fall.

 

Pre-Spring Outlook for BYU

 

One thing that head coach Kalani Sitake proved he could accomplish in year one was making BYU competitive in every game they played in. The Cougars were the cardiac kids of college football last season as nearly every game went down to the wire, including the bowl game.

 

BYU has a tough schedule yet again in 2017. The Cougars open a season with an FCS opponent for the first time since 2008, but then travel to Houston to take on LSU, who could be a preseason top-10 team. BYU then returns home for a pair of games against rival Utah, who has defeated the Cougars six straight times, and then the Cotton Bowl champion Wisconsin Badgers, who will be the first Big Ten team to ever play in Provo.

 

Quality depth will be necessary for BYU to come out of that four-game stretch with its head above water, but Cougar fans will be the first to tell you that there is no better man for the job than Sitake, who begins the process of putting together his 2017 roster.

 

— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is publisher of Rivals' BYU site, CougarNation.com and co-host of "The Cougar Center" podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.

Teaser:
BYU Cougars 2017 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 - 12:00
Path: /100-funny-fantasy-basketball-team-names-NBA-2016
Body:

The NBA season is well underway, which means it’s time for fantasy basketball, both season-long and daily. Your “fantasy” team may not have as many good players as the “real” Golden State Warriors, but you can still come up with a championship-caliber fantasy basketball team name. Topical pop-culture humor and dirty debatable jokes work well, as do obscure basketball references from your favorite team.

 

Here’s our list of suggestions for funny, clever, crazy, cool and best names for the 2016-17 NBA season:

 

Adams Family Jewels

 

Headbands Make Her Dance

 

Ninjas in Paris

 

808s and Fastbreaks

 

Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy Team

 

Pippen Ain’t Easy

 

Skyhookers

 

Sprichst Du Dirk?

 

Dirk Digglers

 

Grabbing Assets

 

Brittney Griner Tight

 

Lions, Tigers and Goberts

 

Deng Girl!

 

D-Rose Train Conductor

 

Boogie Nights

 

Get Ur Greek Freak On

 

Greek Freak Nasty

 

Scoring Like Wilt

 

Air Ballers

 

 

Stevie Wonder’s Courtside Seats

 

99 Problems, All of Them Beyonce

 

Charlotte HB2 All-Stars

 

Charlotte Stall Ball

 

PG-13 Pacers

 

Embiid Imbibes

 

Shirley Temple Sixers

 

0-and-76ers

 

Quincy Jones Fracture

 

Hinkie 4 Lyfe

 

Philadelphia Process

 

Philadelphia 76 Centers

 

Temporary Linsanity

 

Serenity Now, Linsanity Later

 

LeBrontourage

 

Brooklyn Nyet-Nyet

 

Joerger Bomb

 

Mike Conley’s Contract

 

Grindfather

 

Grindhouse in Graceland

 

 

Space Jam 2

 

Run DMC

 

Technically Fouled Out

 

Portlandia

 

Nothing But Actors

 

Crying Jordan

 

Crying Westbrook

 

Kevin Love Lockdown

 

Everybody Loves Raymone

 

Believeland

 

LeBron Land

 

Mark Cuban’s Internet Radio

 

Harrison Barnes’ Bland Brand

 

Shark Tankers

 

Free Dirk

 

O Canada Face

 

Toronto Drakes

 

Medicinal McGary

 

Son of Sabas

 

Yves Saint Westbrook

 

ThunderRuss

 

 

D’Angelo Russell’s Snapchat Story

 

Mozgov Money

 

Luuuuuuke… Bill is Your Father

 

Chairman Yi

 

3 & KD

 

Silicon Slim

 

Steph Curry with the Shot

 

73 Dub Salute

 

Splash Triplets

 

Forgot About Klay

 

Stop-motion Klaymation

 

Joe Lacob’s Lightyears

 

I Am Smarticus

 

Brad “Belichick” Stevens

 

Zen & Juice

 

Madison Square Rose Garden

 

Zingis Khan

 

Draymond Dick Pics & Kicks

 

Three Six Latvia

 

Young Bucks

 

Wiggins Out

 

 

LaVine Videos

 

MJ > LBJ

 

Adam Silver Linings Playbook

 

David Stern’s Mustache

 

Neon Boudeaux

 

Jesus Shuttlesworth

 

Real Recognize Beal

 

Dolla Dolla Beal

 

Shawn Kemp’s Kids

 

Pass the Rock to Lamar

 

Kardashian Double-Team

 

James Gives Me a Harden

 

Go Harden the Paint

 

Lala’s Honey Nut Cheerios

 

Mother of Dragics

 

Granny Shots

 

Better Call Gasol

 

Z-Bo Knows

 

Knockin’ Knickerbockers

 

White Men Can Jump

 

Game, Blouses

 

 

 

Teaser:
These funny fantasy basketball team names will make your league laugh.
Post date: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 - 11:40
All taxonomy terms: Big Board, Fantasy Baseball, rankings, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/2017-fantasy-baseball-big-board-rankings
Body:

Spring training is in full bloom in Florida and Arizona, the World Baseball Classic is just around the corner and if you look hard enough you can see the start of another fantasy baseball season on the horizon. In fact, some leagues have probably already started their drafts.

 

So which player should you spend your first-round pick on? While some of the candidates have to be obvious – starting with reigning AL and NL MVPs Mike Trout and Kris Bryant – once you get past the first six guys, the choices may not be as clear-cut. There’s still plenty of star power to be had at different positions, but which All-Star or rising superstar would be a better pick for your fantasy team?

 

That’s where Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Baseball Big Board comes into play. We have culled rankings from trusted and respected sites such as CBSSports.com (Scott White), ESPN.com (Eric Karabell), FoxSports.com (John Halpin), MLB.com, and Yahoo!, combined and averaged them to produce these consensus rankings.

 

Obviously these will change since the regular season is a month away, but when you are on the clock and can’t decide whether to go with a position player or pitcher, or maybe going back and forth between two outfielders, you can use these to get a sense of what the experts think. If anything, this will give you more time to think about what you are going to name your team.

 

Also, don’t forget about Athlon Sports’ 2017 Baseball Preview magazine, which contains plenty of fantasy content in addition to other great features, team previews, statistics and more.

 

2017 Fantasy Baseball Big Board

 

Note: Players that tied are listed in alphabetical order.

 

Rank Player Team POS CBS ESPN FOX MLB Y!
1 Mike Trout LAA OF 1 1 1 1 1
2 Mookie Betts BOS OF 2 2 3 2 2
3 Jose Altuve HOU 2B 3 3 2 3 7
4t Nolan Arenado  COL 3B 4 6 5 5 5
4t Kris Bryant CHC 1B/3B/OF 6 5 6 4 4
4t Paul Goldschmidt ARI 1B 5 4 4 6 6
7t Josh Donaldson TOR 3B 7 8 8 9 10
7t Clayton Kershaw LAD SP 11 14 7 7 3
7t Manny Machado BAL 3B/SS 8 7 9 10 8
10 Bryce Harper WAS OF 10 15 12 8 9
11 Anthony Rizzo CHC 1B 9 12 10 15 11
12 Charlie Blackmon COL OF 13 10 14 13 12
13 Miguel Cabrera DET 1B 14 9 11 18 13
14 Max Scherzer WAS SP 16 27 13 11 14
15 Corey Seager LAD SS 12 19 17 19 16
16 Trea Turner WAS 2B/OF 20 16 25 12 15
17 Madison Bumgarner SF SP 19 21 20 14 18
18 Carlos Correa  HOU SS 15 22 21 23 20
19 Joey Votto CIN 1B 17 13 28 26 19
20 Chris Sale BOS SP 22 28 23 16 23
21 Noah Syndergaard NYM SP 28 34 15 21 17
22 Robinson Cano SEA 2B 25 22 16 29 26
23 Corey Kluber CLE SP 23 25 24 20 29
24 Edwin Encarnacion  CLE 1B 18 23 18 43 28
25 Francisco Lindor CLE SS 32 18 35 24 25
26 Starling Marte PIT OF 66 17 19 17 21
27 Freddie Freeman ATL 1B 37 20 26 27 31
28 George Springer HOU OF 30 33 32 25 27
29 Xander Bogaerts BOS SS 31 30 30 35 22
30 Nelson Cruz SEA OF 41 26 27 33 30
31 Ryan Braun MIL OF 40 24 22 53 24
32 Brian Dozier MIN 2B 27 39 39 37 33
33 Jon Lester CHC SP 26 43 40 28 40
34 Daniel Murphy WAS 1B/2B 21 31 58 31 39
35 Justin Verlander DET SP 24 35 57 22 53
36 A.J. Pollock ARI OF 38 46 31 48 32
37 Jake Arrieta CHC SP 33 47 42 36 38
38 J.D. Martinez DET OF 43 40 33 45 37
39 Jonathan Villar MIL 2B/3B/SS 51 29 29 42 49
40 Johnny Cueto SF SP 36 48 45 40 46
41 Trevor Story COL SS 62 32 43 39 41
42 Yu Darvish TEX SP 39 62 46 41 34
43 David Price BOS SP 34 59 38 44 50
44 Carlos Gonzalez COL OF 69 36 34 65 35
45 Giancarlo Stanton MIA OF 45 54 37 73 36
46 Ian Desmond COL OF 71 38 47 47 44
47 Rougned Odor TEX 2B 52 74 49 30 43
48 Yoenis Cespedes NYM OF 65 53 50 32 51
49 Buster Posey SF C/1B 35 85 56 34 55
50 Kyle Seager SEA 3B 48 41 48 84 45
51 Jose Abreu CWS 1B 63 44 36 85 42
52 Stephen Strasburg WAS SP 44 84 51 49 48
53 Adrian Beltre TEX 3B 55 49 61 75 47
54 Chris Archer TB SP 49 60 66 50 64
55 Wil Myers SD 1B/OF 53 37 44 99 59
56 Christian Yelich MIA OF  95 45 52 52 52
57 Carlos Carrasco CLE SP 47 70 59 67 57
58 Andrew McCutchen PIT OF 57 58 64 74 58
59t Chris Davis BAL 1B 73 64 55 59 61
59t Jacob deGrom NYM SP 42 72 60 70 68
59t Gregory Polanco PIT OF 94 50 53 61 54
62 Jean Segura SEA 2B 46 55 72 58 85
63 Matt Carpenter STL 1B/2B/3B 29 63 76 77 77
64 Ian Kinsler DET 2B 76 51 69 71 69
65 Gary Sanchez NYY C 58 120 65 46 62
66 Kyle Hendricks CHC SP 60 86 85 57 66
67 Aroldis Chapman NYY RP 83 93 67 51 65
68 Todd Frazier CWS 1B/3B 97 57 92 54 67
69 Kenley Jansen LAD RP 79 91 83 38 78
70t Dee Gordon MIA 2B 107 78 62 55 71
70t Justin Upton DET OF 110 56 68 79 60
72 Jason Kipnis CLE 2B 90 61 75 68 83
73 Mark Trumbo BAL OF 74 75 63 83 88
74 Carlos Martinez STL SP 85 69 70 82 79
75 DJ LeMahieu COL 2B 88 65 77 78 90
76t Zach Britton  BAL RP 84 92 80 60 84
76t Hanley Ramirez BOS 1B 80 81 96 80 63
78 Jonathan Lucroy TEX C/1B 56 119 89 56 82
79 Evan Longoria TB 3B 98 52 71 108 76
80t Rick Porcello BOS SP 59 71 99 81 99
80t Masahiro Tanaka NYY SP 82 82 78 93 74
82t Alex Bregman HOU 3B 54 42 137 92 91
82t Adam Jones BAL OF 72 79 104 86 75
82t Anthony Rendon WAS 3B 105 80 54 96 81
85 Matt Kemp ATL OF 101 103 81 66 72
86 Cole Hamels TEX SP 50 118 84 94 89
87 Jose Bautista TOR OF 61 68 91 116 100
88 Billy Hamilton CIN OF 143 113 41 63 87
89 Jose Quintana CWS SP 75 83 87 110 93
90 Khris Davis OAK OF 103 73 98 106 73
91 Zack Greinke ARI SP 64 126 86 91 92
92 Jackie Bradley Jr. BOS OF 87 76 74 133 104
93 Eric Hosmer KC 1B 128 66 73 129 80
94 Carlos Santana CLE 1B 78 77 79 138 106
95 David Dahl COL OF 93 98 105 113 70
96 Seung Hwan Oh STL RP 125 94 106 62 97
97 Gerrit Cole PIT SP 91 104 90 115 86
98 Julio Teheran ATL SP 81 116 100 107 96
99 Craig Kimbrel BOS RP 123 96 95 87 108
100t Adam Eaton WAS OF 147 102 82 90 101
100t Roberto Osuna TOR RP 132 111 103 69 107
102t Edwin Diaz SEA RP 131 114 109 72 98
102t Mark Melancon SF RP 121 95 102 64 142
102t Stephen Piscotty STL OF 109 67 119 100 129
105 Danny Duffy KC SP/RP 68 156 112 102 105
106 Lorenzo Cain KC OF 122 88 124 105 111
107 Justin Turner LAD 3B 102 87 159 95 112
108 Albert Pujols LAA 1B 127 97 128 114 94
109 Dustin Pedroia BOS 2B 89 100 116 146 110
110 Rich Hill LAD SP 99 134 125 103 114
111 Wade Davis CHC RP 124 115 107 89 144
112 Ken Giles HOU RP 139 112 111 76 155
113 Kyle Schwarber CHC C/OF 113 124 110 194 56
114 Miguel Sano MIN 3B/OF 129 89 108 144 145
115 Danny Salazar CLE SP 120 169 94 119 116
116 Odubel Herrera PHI OF 207 108 88 121 102
117 Dallas Keuchel HOU SP 67 210 144 101 126
118 Adrian Gonzalez LAD 1B 175 99 97 185 95
119 Addison Russell CHC SS 111 105 132 174 130
120 Michael Fulmer DET SP 100 125 171 148 113
121t Willson Contreras CHC C/OF 114 135 147 150 115
121t Kenta Maeda LAD SP 151 165 117 125 103
123 Kelvin Herrera KC RP 138 145 120 97 177
124 Matt Harvey NYM SP 77 234 123 127 120
125 Maikel Franco PHI 3B 130 109 170 152 123
Teaser:
2017 Fantasy Baseball Big Board Rankings
Post date: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 - 11:30
Path: /nfl/10-big-12-players-watch-during-nfl-scouting-combine-2017
Body:

When the official list of invitees to the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine was released, the college football world was abuzz at what a shockingly low number of players were headed to Indianapolis from the Big 12. In total, just 19 alums from the conference are set to showcase their skills for NFL scouts at Lucas Oil Stadium this week (Feb. 28-March 6), and some of the more interesting prospects like ex-Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon will watching at home. Despite the limited numbers, there are plenty of big time names set to run, catch and throw for the football world.

 

Who’s under the most pressure and who’s destined to be a future star on Sunday’s? Here’s a look at 10 Big 12 players to keep an eye on when the Combine gets under way and what they can do to solidify their status.

 

1. Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma

Few players dominated the second half of the college football season quite like Westbrook did, using his big-play potential to run all the way to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist. Despite some incredible numbers and terrific tape, where Westbrook winds up in the draft is anybody’s guess. He’s shown off speed on the field but will need to run a good 40 and test well to back up what we saw this past year. There are numerous off-the-field questions about Westbrook too so the interviews with teams during the week will play a big part in his draft stock as well.

 

2. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech

Mahomes isn’t being mentioned among the top tier of quarterbacks but that doesn’t mean he can’t sneak his way into it after a good showing at the Combine. He certainly has the size and athleticism to make a move and the amount of ridiculous throws he made in Lubbock is off the charts. Still, he’s a raw prospect and it’s time for teams to figure out just how much seasoning he’ll need in transitioning into the league. Don’t be shocked if somebody starts to fall in love with his potential when all is said and done from the Combine.

 

Related: Top 5 Quarterbacks Entering the NFL Scouting Combine

 

3. KD Cannon, WR, Baylor

It should be worth tuning into the Combine to see Cannon run the 40-yard dash alone. Known by most Big 12 fans for his speed in stretching defenses, the wideout was made for an event like this. He’ll run fast, catch a lot of balls and should generally turn some heads. He’ll still have an uphill climb convincing some NFL scouts given his size and slender frame but the fact that former teammate Corey Coleman was a top-15 pick a year ago won’t scare folks away at all, especially with a good showing on the turf.

 

4. D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas

Foreman was one of the few bright spots for the Longhorns last year and jumped into the NFL after a 2,000-yard season that saw him carry the ball a ton. He’s a big back but has a surprising amount of athleticism, which he’ll be able to display during drills and testing at the Combine. Despite plenty of positives, he’s not in that top running back group and will need a top performance in Indy to help gain some draft momentum. One way is to show he can be a good pass catcher out of the backfield and that he’ll be a perfect third-down player for teams in dire need of such an option.

 

5. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma

It seems strange to say but Oklahoma’s all-time leading rusher and the NCAA record holder for most yards in a game never seemed to get the proper amount of respect in Norman as he was often overshadowed by much more controversial teammate Joe Mixon. The Combine offers an opportunity to change that and his all-around skill set is perfectly suited to the next level. If he runs quickly in the 40-yard dash, you could see his stock take off as he’s got a lot of attributes that teams will covet. Medical checks also will be important with that naggy ankle injury that was a problem at times with the Sooners.

 

6. Jordan Willis, DL, Kansas State

Kansas State fans and die-hard Big 12 followers know all about how disruptive Willis was at the college level so it will be interesting to see how much buzz there is about the conference’s 2016 defensive player of the year. He’s clearly well coached coming out of Bill Snyder’s program and has solid size coming off the edge. He benefits from being versatile enough to play in either base defensive scheme but will need a strong showing at the Combine to prove he can be a quality starter down the road. 

 

7. Seth Russell, QB, Baylor

Russell was trending toward being one of the best quarterbacks Baylor has produced the past few seasons but injuries derailed his time in Waco significantly. He has a good arm that can make all the throws though and displayed surprising athleticism for somebody his size with the Bears. The medical checks (and re-checks) will be huge for Russell however and might be the biggest factor in his trip to the Combine. If everything goes well though, you could start to see some interest build in him for later rounds.

 

8. Rasul Douglas, DB, West Virginia

The first-team All-Big 12 pick is entering the league at the right time given the emphasis being placed on larger defensive backs who can play the run as well as cover big receivers. He’s got all the size you’re looking for and was a ball-hawk last season for the Mountaineers to help with a good first impression when he meets with teams. If he runs a good 40-yard dash and looks smooth during drills, the NFL stock could take off quickly for Douglas.

 

9. Charles Walker, DL, Oklahoma

Walker is one of the more interesting cases at the Combine considering he left school before the season was up to start training for the NFL. That certainly didn’t sit well with a lot of college fans but it’s a little understandable when you factor in his concussion history that kept him off the field late in the year. As a result, he’ll need a big-time performance in Indy when it comes to drills, interviews and on the medical front in getting the thumbs up from the doctors.

 

10. Josh Carraway, DL, TCU

Carraway will be an interesting NFL prospect after leaving TCU as one of the most dependable performers on Gary Patterson’s defense. He’ll shine when it comes to drills and measurements given his off-the-charts athleticism but he’ll need to prove to scouts that he’s got what it takes to set the edge and be strong enough to handle big offensive tackles. He’ll probably be viewed by most as more of a special teams player early in his pro career but there’s so much potential that he’ll be one to watch in Indy.

 

— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.

Teaser:
10 Big 12 Players to Watch During the NFL Scouting Combine
Post date: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 - 11:00

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