SEC

College Football's 10 Most Explosive Running Backs Returning for 2016

Who are the top big-play runners returning for 2016?
College Football's 10 Most Explosive Running Backs Returning for 2016

Having a running back who has the ability to turn on the jets after getting to the second level of the defense and also make something out of nothing is a must for a great ground game. These running backs have the unique ability to turn ordinary plays into pay dirt and six points for the offense. They come in different shapes and sizes, but there are a few qualities each big-play back seems to possess—speed, acceleration and great vision.

College Football Podcast: Big 12 Championship Game, Vegas Odds and Jeffery Simmons

Did the Big 12 get it right by adding a title game?
College Football Podcast: Big 12 Championship Game, Vegas Odds and Jeffery Simmons

Braden Gall, David Fox and Mitch Light are back in the booth talking the latest in college football.

 

- Did the Big 12 get it right by adding a conference championship game? What are the benefits and drawbacks of a 13th data point? How should the new divisions be divided?

 

- How good of a job is Baylor? Where does it rank nationally and within the Big 12? Where did it rank before Art Briles?

 

- Will Art Briles ever work again in college football? The guys disagree on this one.

 

SEC Football 2016 Predictions

Complete preview of the SEC for 2016.
SEC Football 2016 Predictions

After a two-year drought, the SEC is back on top. Sort of. The SEC really never left its spot as college football’s No. 1 league, but Florida State (2013) and Ohio State (2014) gained control of the national title and prevented the SEC from extending its dominance after winning seven straight titles from 2006-12.

 

Ranking the Toughest Games on LSU’s College Football Schedule in 2016

Les Miles and the Tigers host Alabama and face Arkansas and Texas A&M both on the road in November
Ranking the Toughest Games on LSU’s College Football Schedule in 2016

Year 11 with the Tigers was almost a curtain call for LSU head coach Les Miles in Baton Rouge.

5 Teams That Could Surprise in Power 5 Conference Title Races in 2016

These teams aren't the favorites, but each has what it takes to win their conferences and possible qualify for the College Football Playoff
5 Teams That Could Surprise in Power 5 Conference Title Races in 2016

Athlon Sports has unveiled its projected Top 25 for the 2016 college football season.

College Football's 10 Most Explosive Receivers Returning for 2016

Who are the top big-play threats returning for 2016?
College Football's 10 Most Explosive Receivers Returning for 2016

Having a wide receiver who has the ability to stretch the field and take the top off the defense is a must for passing attacks. These receivers have the unique ability to turn ordinary plays into paydirt and six points for the offense. They come in different shapes and sizes, but there are a few qualities each big-play receiver seems to possess - speed, acceleration and great hands.

College Football Podcast: Baylor, Ole Miss and the Countdown to Kickoff

The guys tackle some tough topics following a news-filled Memorial Day weekend.
College Football Podcast: Baylor, Ole Miss and the Countdown to Kickoff

Braden Gall, David Fox and Mitch Light are back in the booth talking the latest in college football.

 

- Mitch's 14-year old daughter explains satellite camps in one sentence.

 

- What were our reactions when we found out Baylor fired Art Briles? What (or who) could be next for the Bears? Has Baylor done enough to keep the NCAA at bay and should the NCAA be involved at all? How does Jim Grobe fit in and how have our preseason projections changed on Baylor? How is this situation different than Tennessee?

 

Athlon Sports College Football 2016 Team Rankings 1-128

Athlon ranks every team for the 2016 season.
College Football 2016 Team Rankings 1-128

The 2016 college football season is less than 100 days away, but the countdown to kickoff is officially underway. Athlon Sports’ 2016 College Football Preview annuals are already on newsstands across the county and available for order in the online store, hosted by Amazon. Each year, Athlon Sports produces regional preview magazines for the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC, as well as a national edition with previews for all 128 teams.

 

COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2016 PRESEASON TOP 25

#56 Kentucky Wildcats

NATIONAL FORECAST

#56

SEC East PREDICTION

#4

HEAD COACH: Mark Stoops, 12-24 (3 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Eddie Gran, Darrin Hinshaw | DEF. COORDINATOR: D.J. Eliot

After another hot start under Stoops, Kentucky finished 5-7 and missed out on a bowl appearance. The Wildcats hope to take the next step for the program in 2016 as quarterback Drew Barker must lead the charge. The offense won’t miss a beat this year with returning the most starters in the SEC on that side of the ball. The defense on the other hand must make strides under coordinator D.J. Eliot to keep the momentum going for a full season.

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Previewing Kentucky’s Offense
 

Kentucky will play with its third different offensive coordinator in three seasons this fall, but the arrival of new co-offensive coordinators Eddie Gran and Darin Hinshaw from Cincinnati has led to renewed optimism about the direction of the offense after one season of struggles with Shannon Dawson at the helm. The new UK assistants inherit a strong nucleus of young talent with nine of the 11 starters from the 2015 season finale back on campus. Former quarterback Patrick Towles, who transferred to Boston College after losing the starting job to Drew Barker, was the only player who recorded a carry or catch last season not to return this spring.

Barker is the odds-on favorite to start at quarterback this fall after completing 35-of-70 passes for 364 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in five games, including two starts, in his debut season. He is joined by a three-headed rushing attack featuring junior All-SEC contender Boom Williams, senior Jojo Kemp and sophomore Mikel Horton. Tight end C.J. Conrad figures to take on a larger role after earning SEC All-Freshman honors in 2015.

Senior center Jon Toth anchors an offensive line that returns four of five starters but needs to improve in obvious passing situations after ranking 85th nationally in sacks allowed (30) last season.

Previewing Kentucky’s Defense
 

Kentucky’s defense boasts little of the returning experience the offense will lean on this fall.

The Wildcats return just one full-time starter in the front seven, and the returning defensive linemen and linebackers accounted for just 2.5 sacks last season. Following the offseason dismissal of senior outside linebacker Jason Hatcher, sophomores Denzil Ware and Josh Allen will need to take on much of the pass-rushing burden.

A pair of FBS transfers — middle linebacker Courtney Love from Nebraska and outside linebacker De’Niro Laster from Minnesota — could be key in replacing some of the lost production from 2015. Love has been hailed as the defense’s new leader and will be particularly important in leading the way for an inside linebacker group that has almost no returning experience. But Love totaled just six tackles in 12 games as a redshirt freshman at Nebraska in 2014.

The strength of the defense is the secondary, where the Wildcats return almost the entire two-deep, led by SEC All-Freshman corner Chris Westry. Seniors Blake McClain, Marcus McWilson and J.D. Harmon should add a veteran presence to support what could be four sophomore starters.

Previewing Kentucky’s Specialists
 

Kicking was a significant problem for Kentucky in 2015, with former All-SEC place kicker Austin MacGinnis battling a nagging groin injury and senior punter Landon Foster posting the worst season of his career. Foster, who was otherwise steady in four years as the No. 1 punter, graduated, but MacGinnis returns and reported being back to 100 percent this spring. Freshman punter Grant McKinniss, who was rated as a four-star recruit by Scout, will need to make an immediate impact. UK’s return game has added little excitement in the Stoops era, but Sihiem King showed potential on kickoffs.

Final Analysis
 

Gran’s Cincinnati offense posted video-game numbers, ranking sixth nationally in passing yards (359.9) and total yards (537.8) per game. Kentucky may need its offense to find similar success to make up for massive turnover on defense. After back-to-back 5–7 seasons that featured second-half collapses, the Wildcats have all eyes set on reaching their first bowl game since 2010. The schedule is never easy in the SEC, but home games against South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State combined with the returning talent on offense offer hope Stoops can reach his first bowl game this fall.




COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2016 PRESEASON TOP 25

#57 Vanderbilt Commodores

NATIONAL FORECAST

#57

SEC East PREDICTION

#5

HEAD COACH: Derek Mason, 7-17 (2 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Andy Ludwig | DEF. COORDINATOR: Derek Mason

Progress was noticeable for the Commodores under coach Derek Mason last season. And with 12 starters back, Vanderbilt could build on last year's record and have a shot at a bowl game in 2016. Star running back Ralph Webb will carry the load offensively and expect him to push for all-conference honors. Linebacker Zach Cunningham is one of the nation's best at his position and anchors a defense that will be among the best in the SEC.

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Previewing Vanderbilt’s Offense
 

Kyle Shurmur started five of the last six games at quarterback as a true freshman and showed enough promise to earn the unofficial title of presumptive 2016 starter. Shurmur, however, will receive a challenge from junior Wade Freebeck, a four-game starter as a true freshman in 2014 who slipped down the QB food chain last fall and played in only one game. He’s back in the mix after a strong spring.

Ralph Webb has been a consistent producer on an inconsistent offense. He followed a 907-yard freshman season with 1,152 yards as a sophomore — the second-highest single-season total in school history.

As recently as 2013, Vanderbilt’s starting lineup featured two future NFL wide receivers — Jordan Matthews and Jonathan Krause. The last two years, however, have seen a huge struggle at the position. There is hope for significant improvement in 2016 as the Commodores welcome back three key players who missed most or all of last season with injuries — wide receiver C.J. Duncan (441 yards receiving in 2014) and tight ends DeAndre Woods and Jared Pinkney.

The Commodores’ offensive line was hit hard by a rash of injuries last fall — none more damaging than the torn ACL that sidelined Andrew Jelks, a two-year starter at left tackle. Jelks could return to tackle or take over at center, where the Dores must replace the dependable Spencer Pulley. Vanderbilt welcomes back five other linemen who started at least two games in 2015. The coaches believe sophomore tackle Justin Skule has All-SEC potential.

Previewing Vanderbilt’s Defense
 

Whether it was due to Derek Mason taking on a larger role or simply being in the second season in the new 3–4 alignment, Vanderbilt’s defense showed drastic improvement in 2015. Mason tweaked his defense in the spring and introduced the Star, a hybrid defensive back/linebacker that will allow the Commodores to handle spread offenses out of their base defense. The position is tailor-made for junior Oren Burks, a two-year starter at free safety.

Inside linebacker Zach Cunningham was perhaps the most surprising player in the SEC last season, emerging as a first-team all-conference pick despite not starting until Week 3. A gifted athlete, the 6'4", 230-pound Cunningham led the team with 103 tackles and made countless big plays in short-yardage situations.

Mason says he likes to have at least five cornerbacks ready to play. Good thing the Commodores have quality depth at the position. Torren McGaster, a physical 6'1", 200-pound senior, headlines the group.

Previewing Vanderbilt’s Specialists
 

Vanderbilt struggled on special teams last season — not something you want to see out of a team with a talent deficit. Mason responded by firing special teams coach Charles Bankins (who also coached running backs) and hiring Jeff Genyk, a former head coach at Eastern Michigan and assistant at Wisconsin and Northwestern (among other schools).

Final Analysis
 

Progress. That’s all Vanderbilt fans were looking for in 2015 after a disappointing — and that is putting kindly — first season under Mason. Mission (mostly) accomplished. Vanderbilt improved its record from 3–9 overall and 0–8 in the SEC to 4–8 and 2–6. In 2014, the Commodores were outscored by an average of 22.6 points per game in SEC play; last fall, that number dropped to 9.7 per game.

To take the next step — return to a bowl game for the first time since 2013 — Vanderbilt will need to improve significantly on offense. Despite the aforementioned “progress,” the Commodores still struggled to move the ball with any consistency. They ranked 117th in the nation in total offense (326.5 ypg), 124th in scoring offense (15.2 ppg) and topped 400 yards in only one SEC game (411 vs. Tennessee).




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