Brady Hoke has experienced a good deal of success in his first two years with the Wolverines, but he’s not done yet. He has his eyes on a championship in 2013.
Hoke’s tenure at Michigan has been a welcomed turn-around for a team that flailed under Rich Rodriguez. A victory over Ohio State in 2011 and an 8-5 2012 season were signs of life. Michigan is a team on the rise.
The Wolverines secured the No. 5 recruiting class in the nation this offseason (per 247Sports), adding to a group of young players primed to take big strides in 2013. Even with a lot of youth on both sides of the ball, Michigan has a legitimate chance to make a run at the Big Ten title—and perhaps more than that.
Every team sets out with a championship in its sights, but reaching that goal is easier said than done. Let’s take a look at the biggest obstacles on Michigan’s schedule in its hunt for glory in 2013.
September 7: Notre Dame
With all due respect to Central Michigan, the road to the championship starts with the Fighting Irish.
Not many teams face off with an out-of-conference foe fresh off a title appearance to start the season, but that’s what the Wolverines will face in Week 2. Hoke and Brian Kelly have breathed new life into their programs, and this game should prove to be one of the best of the young season.
Michigan dropped a 13-6 contest to the Irish last season, and this year’s bout should prove to be another defensive affair. With two young offenses and a couple well-established defenses, don’t expect a lot of scoring.
A win for either team will go a long way toward a title campaign in 2013. For Michigan, taking on a 2012 national title contender will be the ultimate litmus test for the 2013 season.
November 9: Nebraska
Denard Robinson left last year’s game with an elbow injury and Michigan’s offense never recovered.
The Wolverines will once again be without Robinson, but this time it won’t be unexpected. With his departure for the NFL draft this offseason, Michigan will prepare to take the field with Devin Gardner at the helm.
Gardner did a respectable job in relief of Robinson last season, and he proved that he can be the signal-caller to lead the Wolverines to big things in 2013. If Michigan can traverse its way to the Nebraska contest unscathed, he’ll also have a chance to put away the Cornhuskers en route to a potential Big Ten title.
The key to victory for Michigan will once again be stopping Nebraska’s rushing attack. The Cornhuskers rushed for 160 yards on 6.9 yards per carry against Michigan last season, and a repeat performance will likely mean a loss for the Wolverines this year.
November 16: Northwestern
Northwestern was a pleasant surprise in the Big Ten last year. The Wildcats went 7-3 (5-1 in the Big Ten), but their lone loss came at the hands of the Wolverines.
Michigan eluded a 248-yard rushing performance from the Wildcats in their 38-31 overtime win last season. Like their Nebraska matchup, the Wolverines won’t have a chance if they allow big rushing totals like that this year.
The final four games of the season will be a tough stretch for Michigan. Nebraska, Northwestern, Iowa and Ohio State will all present challenging matchups, and finding a way to stay focused and prepared will be paramount in Michigan’s success.
November 30: Ohio State
There isn’t a bigger matchup on any schedule than that of Michigan and Ohio State.
Arguably the best rivalry in all of sports, the Wolverines and Buckeyes will square off in the final week of the regular season—perhaps with a Big Ten title on the line.
While the rest of the conference has taken a hit in recent years, Ohio State and Michigan have gotten stronger. Hoke and Urban Meyer understand the intense rivalry between their programs, and there’s a good chance this game is one of the best of the entire football season.
It’s too early to tell what will be in store for both teams when they face off, but pride is the ultimate motivational factor. Regardless of rankings and records, there isn’t a bigger game on the slate for Michigan this season.
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Just two years removed from a thrilling 22-19 victory in the BCS National Championship Game, the Auburn Tigers are looking to regroup, repair and build something special.
Gus Malzahn is back at Auburn after a three-year stint as the Tigers’ offensive coordinator from 2009-2011. This time, Malzahn takes the reins as the head coach of a program that went 3-9 last season, including a winless mark in the SEC.
Last year’s record means nothing, and Malzahn’s new role represents a fresh start for the program.
With the No. 12 recruiting class in the nation for 2013, one that included two 5-star defensive line prospects, the future of Auburn football is already looking a little brighter (per 247Sports). It may take some time for those incoming freshmen to develop, but the Tigers have some talent already in place for 2013.
Malzahn’s biggest quandary for Auburn’s offense will be finding a starting quarterback who can take the helm of his fast-paced offense. With a handful of candidates and no clear-cut favorite, it’s hard to predict who will be playing under center this season.
The Tigers lost running back Onterio McCalebb, wide receiver Emory Blake and tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen this offseason, and replacing those three offensive pieces will be key to Auburn’s success.
Let’s take a look at the most likely candidates to replace those three, highlighting the players who could be difference makers in 2013. We’ll also pick out a couple defensive players who have a chance to do special things this season.
Tre Mason: Running Back
Mason has a chance to be a special player for Auburn in 2013, especially with Malzahn running the show.
At 5’10” and 198 pounds, Mason has the size, speed and quickness to be a terrific starter going forward. The Tigers’ offense will feature its running backs in an up-tempo look that will be a perfect fit for the team’s leading rusher in 2012.
Mason finished last season with 1,002 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 171 carries (5.9 YPC). While he isn’t a prototypical home run threat at the position, he stands to see the biggest share of the work in 2013. If he can stay healthy, eclipsing 1,000 yards again should be in the cards.
While Mason stands to garner most of the carries in Malzahn’s offense, there will also be room for a change-of-pace back to step in and have an impact this season. Look for Corey Grant to be that guy. He has the size and speed to thrive in the coming seasons.
C.J. Uzomah: Tight End
Uzomah was originally recruited by Malzahn before he took the head coaching job at Arkansas State. With his coach back, it’s almost certain Uzomah will play a big role in Auburn’s offense this season.
The 6’4”, 250-pound tight end transitioned from wide receiver in 2012, and he showed a great deal of promise. Against Texas A&M, Uzomah caught three passes for 90 yards and a touchdown and showed in his limited opportunities that he has the potential to be a quality vertical threat as he continues his career with the Tigers.
With Lutzenkirchen entering the NFL draft, Malzahn has to find a player to fill his role. Uzomah has the size and hands to be that player. Look for him to be one of the team’s top receiving threats this year, regardless of who is getting him the ball.
Trovon Reed: Wide Receiver
The wide receiver will be a big question mark for the Tigers this season. Emory Blake was the team’s leading receiver in 2012, tallying 50 receptions for 789 yards and three scores. Apart from Blake, no one caught more than 18 passes all season.
Auburn isn’t without quality talent in its receiving corps, though.
Trovon Reed was expected to be a major contributor during his sophomore campaign, but he hasn’t lived up to the hype, due in large part to injuries and inconsistent quarterback play in 2012. If Reed can stay healthy, he has a chance to lead the Tigers in receiving this year.
The 6’0”, 190-pound wideout has terrific speed and the ability to stretch the field and get behind defenses. He hasn’t had a quarterback who can get him the ball, but that may change this season.
It’s unclear whether Kiehl Frazier, junior college transfer Nick Marshall, freshman Jeremy Johnson or Jonathan Wallace (who finished the 2012 season under center) will win the starting role for the Tigers this year. Whichever quarterback takes the reins in 2013 will have to be capable of finding Reed downfield.
Carl Lawson: Defensive End
Auburn’s defense was one of the worst in the SEC last season. The Tigers surrendered 28.3 points per game in 2012, and finished dead-last in the nation with just two interceptions. They also notched just 22 sacks as a team—No. 77 in the country in that category.
Luckily, Auburn’s incoming defensive class is impressive, and a couple players have a chance to shine in their freshman campaign.
Dee Ford will be back for his senior season. He led the Tigers in sacks (six), but Corey Lemonier departed for the NFL draft, and Auburn needs to find a way to make up for the loss of his 5.5 sacks and 12 quarterback hurries.
Defensive tackle Montravius Adams has an opportunity to earn immediate playing time for the Tigers this season. He’s still a little raw though, and it’s unlikely he can establish himself as a dominant interior rusher in his first season with the team. Auburn may find that pass-rushing presence in Carl Lawson.
Lawson has the size, speed and quickness to be an exceptional pass-rusher at the college level. At 6’3” and 245 pounds, he projects well as a weakside defensive end in Auburn’s 4-2-5 scheme.
Whether it’s Lawson, Adams or freshman defensive end Elijah Daniel, the Tigers will no doubt find a young player who can create a pass rush in 2013. My money is on Lawson.
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Notre Dame had a stellar year in college football throughout 2012, going 12-0 in the regular season before going down to Alabama in the BCS Championship Game.
With many of their 2012 stars turning to the fold this year, the Fighting Irish appear primed for success once more in 2013—even if it's not another near-perfect year.
Yet despite that, several key storylines and questions remain for Notre Dame to answer throughout the year, especially if they're planning on making another run at the title. What are those big questions remaining and how can the Irish answer them this year?
Read on and find out.
How can Everett Golson improve on 2012?
The first-year starter Golson showed plenty of promise under centre for the Fighting Irish, and will no doubt be even stronger than that in 2013.
The biggest question, though, is how is he going to improve, and what aspects of his game are truly going to become brilliant? He's already a dynamic dual-threat quarterback, but the biggest concern has to be about his ability to post big numbers when his team needs him most.
Just 12 passing touchdowns at less than 60 percent completion rate combined with less than 300 yards rushing do not show how good Golson was in 2012, but they do show his tentativeness to truly become an offensive weapon in 2013.
Confidence will no doubt help him improve on that this year, which he'll have more of with another year under his belt, but Golson once again appears the key for Notre Dame—especially with some big questions still remaining about their defense.
If the Irish are to succeed in 2013, it's going to be Golson that does it.
Who's going to fill the Manti Te'o-shaped void?
Linebacker Manti Te'o has been greatly talked about in the past few months—for both his on- and off-field reputation—but the truth is that the linebacker was huge for Notre Dame in 2012.
Te'o had 36 tackles, more than any other player did in 2012, and had seven of the team's 16 interceptions. His presence will no doubt be missed. Especially in terms of on-field leadership and direction, given that the linebacker used to call most of the pre-snap reads and the like.
Who will do that in 2013 still remains to be seen.
Jarrett Grace is touted as the man most likely to replace Te'o by Frank Schwab at Yahoo! Sports, but several big questions still remain about Grace's consistency.
Dan Fox will also be huge in terms of calling the pre-snap reads and continuing to develop into a dynamic pass-rusher who can fill up a gap inside.
Between those two guys in particular, Notre Dame will need to find enough skill and dominance to try and replace the Te'o-shaped hole in their team. The linebacker will no doubt be missed by the Irish in 2013; the question is just how much will they miss his presence?
Who will become the new starting running back?
Running backs Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick have both left Notre Dame to try their luck in the 2013 NFL Draft this year—meaning that the ground game from the Irish has suddenly disappeared. And given how successful and necessary it was in 2012 for them, getting new guys to step up and become the new starting running back is pertinent to their chances of success.
George Atkinson III has been impressive with limited carries for the Irish, whilst Cam McDaniel could offer some extra assistance coming out of the backfield.
The Irish also landed 5-star tailback Greg Bryant in the recruiting process this year, and while he won't become the instant starter at Notre Dame, he could end up showcasing his skills throughout the year at some point, given the right circumstances.
Whoever they choose to go with, Notre Dame must find the guys to complement the dynamic running game they had last year and keep their attack rolling.
It might just be the difference between boom or bust in 2013.
What do you think the biggest questions remaining for Notre Dame are?
Comment below or hit me up on Twitter: Follow @dantalintyre
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There’s no question that Devin Smith has the ability to be one of the premier receivers in the whole country. The knock on him, though, is that the consistency isn’t always there. 2013 is a new year and Devin will now be an upperclassmen, which means it’s time for him to step up and contribute in a big way on a veteran Buckeye offense.
Some of the catches Devin made last season were downright nasty: the one-handed grab against Miami University, and don't forget the snag in the end zone against Cal. Each showed what the future could look like for Devin Smith, but it’s the routine plays that he needs to improve upon.
More than once last season, Devin found himself with a ball that he couldn’t reel in. Was this a sign of his youth, or just showing his lack of consistency? If it was just youth, he should make strides in another offseason with this coaching staff. However, if consistency was the issue, that can be worked out on the practice field with Braxton Miller.
There were times when Miller would struggle throwing the ball last season, or would look to run without making all of his reads. This could have been a result of Braxton’s lack of confidence in his receivers. The better Devin Smith becomes, the more trust he will build with his quarterback and the passing game.
Going into spring ball (and even fall camp), Devin Smith has earned the right to be one of the starting receivers. With Urban Meyer as the head man in charge, nothing is a sure thing though. When the first team gets their reps, Smith needs to show his improvement because there are guys behind him who would love to move up in the pecking order.
Chris Fields, Evan Spencer, Michael Thomas, and Corey Smith will all be fighting for playing time, and Devin Smith needs to assert himself as the No. 1 option, and leader of the receiving corps.
With all that said, Devin is coming off of a sophomore season where he accumulated 618 yards receiving. Oh, and he was in the first year of a new coaching staff as well. There was a learning curve that every player needed to go through last offseason, but that's no longer a concern this year.
In 2013, it’s all business for the Buckeyes as they begin their quest for a national championship when spring practice opens on March 5th. It’ll be exciting to see how each player has progressed through winter conditioning and who bettered themselves on the field.
The Ohio State air attack would benefit greatly from a big year out of Devin Smith. We have all seen the acrobatic catches Devin can make, but in order to be a premier receiver on the national scale, the routine plays need to be made each and every time.
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With hybrid defenses becoming a bigger part of the NFL, so too are hybrid defenders.
Dion Jordan is not your typical linebacker, nor is he your usual defensive end prospect. The former tight end possesses a rare combination of length, natural athleticism and versatility.
In an increasingly pass-happy league it is a valuable luxury to have defenders who can both rush the passer and run with receivers in the slot. If used to their fullest potential, Jordan's unique set of skills will cost offensive coaches sleep.STRENGTHS WEAKNESSES + Tremendous size, 6'6", 248 pounds, and length - Must improve his leverage at the point of attack + Blessed with terrific raw athleticism, fluidity and speed - Durability may be a concern for some teams + Extremely versatile, played OLB at Oregon - Lacks functional strength, a questionable 4-3 DE fit + Has some untapped potential as a pass-rusher - Will have to play at a much higher weight in the NFL
One of this draft class’ physical specimens, Dion Jordan combines length with outstanding natural athleticism.
Jordan’s tools were on full display at the NFL Scouting Combine, where he weighed in at 6’6 ¼”, 248 pounds and ran an impressive 4.60 in the 40-yard dash. Both in drills and on tape, he demonstrated tremendous speed and fluidity in his movement. He changes direction extraordinarily well for his size and appears to be a natural in space.
While perhaps lacking the functional strength to hold up at defensive end in the NFL, Jordan uses his 33 7/8” arms to keep blockers away from his body.
It is worth noting that he played below 230 pounds in college and must still prove he can maintain this new weight. Ideally he will be playing between 245 and 255 pounds at the next level.
From watching interviews and reading the impressions of other observers, I have concluded that Jordan is a great locker room guy, who appears very capable of learning and improving his craft. He seems to be a very nice, humble individual and a great teammate.
One concern many share is Jordan’s durability. He battled shoulder injuries late in the season and must undergo surgery prior to April’s draft to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder.
Under head coach Chip Kelly, Oregon usually operated in a 3-4. The Ducks scheme had hybrid elements as well.
Jordan was used in a variety of roles, primarily serving as an outside linebacker after moving to the defensive side of the ball in 2011. When they did run a 4-3, Jordan often lined up at defensive end, typically in a Wide 9 alignment. It was not uncommon to see him lined up as a slot cornerback at times and, generally speaking, he held his own in coverage.
Do not let average college production fool you. Dion Jordan is a heck of pass-rushing prospect with raw ability and untapped potential. Because he was counted on to handle several other roles, Oregon did not exactly maximize his talents as a pass-rusher.
Raw athleticism and speed alone make Jordan a force to be reckoned with off the edge. Additionally, he utilizes long arms to keep blockers at bay as he collapses the pocket.
While he lacks a repertoire of moves, Jordan is not a completely one-dimensional speed-rusher. He shows the ability to beat blockers around the edge and with an inside move. Improving his leverage will make him a more effective bull-rusher, which would add a valuable weapon to his arsenal.
He is still limited in terms of countermoves but flashes a spin move on occasion and gives a solid effort.
Against the Run
Dion Jordan is a bit inconsistent against the run. While he has had games in which he has absolutely shined (see: Fresno State), there have also been instances in which he was exposed.
Jordan occasionally gets fooled and gives up contain on the edge. But he rarely, if ever, makes the same mistake twice in one game. Misdirection may cause him to over pursue at times, but he is ready for it the next time he faces that play.
Long arms help Jordan to keep blockers from getting to his body, but he has shown inconsistent leverage at the point of attack and lacks the ability to anchor when a blocker locks onto him.
That all said, his combination of length and speed helps him to make plays that many others cannot.
One problem with being an NFL linebacker at 6’6” is that height can hamper a player when it comes to breaking down and making tackles on much shorter ball-carriers.
Dion Jordan will occasionally fire through players when tackling, utilizing explosiveness in his lower half. As I will continue to emphasize, however, he must improve his leverage at the point of attack. If left uncorrected, this deficiency could lead to Jordan giving up yards after contact.
Still, his length allows him to make plays even when he's partially blocked. Jordan is a wrap-up tackler by nature and is not often guilty of simply going for the kill shot.
Use of Hands
The more I watched Dion Jordan, the more I became impressed with the way he is able to use his length to keep blockers at bay. Linemen rarely are able to get into his body to steer or drive him away and are often forced to try to use his momentum against him.
Jordan may not be consistently violent with his hands, but he flashes the ability to rip and shed blocks. Additionally his length can be a huge asset jamming receivers and altering the timing of their routes.
I have harped on Jordan’s leverage issues throughout this report. While he is certainly not poor in this regard, refining his technique will allow him to blossom into a far more effective pass-rusher and run-stopper.
Future Role/Scheme Versatility
Looking forward, Dion Jordan maybe this draft class’ most natural 3-4 outside linebacker due to his experience at the position in college. He will also appeal to 4-3 teams that utilize a lot Wide 9 fronts, which allow him to maximize his speed and length.
The sky is the limit in terms of potential. Jordan is already a very solid football player, but he has plenty of room to grow and improve his craft. He is a perfect fit for hybrid schemes that stress versatility and the right defensive coordinator could work wonders with his rare skill set.
Draft Projection: Top 10
Best Team Fits: Eagles, Browns, Jets, Bills
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With March Madness just around the corner and spring football just about to start up, now is a great time to appreciate the best of both the hardwood and the gridiron.
Many schools emphasize either football or basketball, but no one said that you can't have both. These special 10 teams have shown that it is possible to have top notch coaches roaming the sidelines in both basketball and football.
So, what are the best college football and basketball duos in the NCAA? Read on.
Coaches are often some of the most intense participants in any football game.
This list is all about the guys who are the most intense.
The 10 men on this list have two things in common, A) they are all coaches at the FBS level B) They are all scary when angry.
This list is not about the 10 angriest or craziest coaches, but the guys who we would least like to see angry.
For instance, Mike Gundy is on the list.
He does not have a reputation, nor is there much documentation, of incredibly childish temper tantrums when angry.
However, the one incident of his with which we are all familiar was enough to send him down in the annals as a guy who knows how to do angry right.
I wouldn't want one of those rants directed at me, and I'm guessing most of you wouldn't, either.
There are some guys on this list who are known for their rages, and have to make this list out of obligation.
But you might be surprised at some of the others that found their way here.
Read on to find out.
Recently, I had the pleasure to speak with Illinois center Graham Pocic and let us just say if you were to look up the phrase “gentle giant” there is probably a good chance that it would be a picture of Pocic.
Grahamis 6'7" and was the starting center of the Illinois offensive line the past several seasons. This is pretty amazing when you consider that most centers are listed around 6'2" to 6'4". With the re-emergence of the 3-4 defense, the ability to play center has never been more vital to a team than in the current state of the NFL. Graham is the type of player that can fill several spots on a football depth chart.
What is your official height and weight?
6'7" 315 pounds
What are you doing to prepare for the draft in April?
Mainly rehabbing and getting ready for my pro day. I am also watching lots of film and working out.
How did you settle on Illinois as you were recruited by Florida, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Michigan and Penn State?
Great connection with Coach Zook. It was close to home so my parents could watch my brother on Fridays and watch me on Saturdays.
You have extensive experience at center, but what other position on the offensive line have you played while in college?
Besides center, I have also played some right tackle and have experience at both guard spots. I haven’t done much at left tackle.
Who was the best player you faced while in college?
Wow that’s a tough question as I have faced some great players in games and practice. Two guys I have played against in games that come to mind are Phil Taylor from Baylor (former 1st round pick) and Kawann Short from Purdue. As for teammates, the battles with Corey Liuget (former 1st round pick) and Akeem Spence have certainly made me a better player.
Have any alumni or former teammates given you an idea of what to expect over the next four to six months?
Oh yeah, a lot of the guys have contacted me on what to expect, guys like Jeff Allen (2nd round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs), Jack Cornell (practice squad with the Baltimore Ravens) and Jon Asamoah from the Kansas Chiefs (3rd round pick) have all have given advice and shared stories with me.
If a scout asked what film of you is your best?
I would give them the film against Purdue this year. I played pretty well against them and especially my battles with Kawann Short.
Who was your favorite player growing up?
Big Green Bay fan and a big fan of Brett Favre.
Besides playing football what do you do to relax and unwind?
I love to fish, I am a huge fisherman. I can’t think of many things better than a day of fishing.
Where was your favorite place to play on the road?
I enjoyed the crowds and atmosphere at both Penn State and Ohio State.
What was your best memory from your college career?
Beating Northwestern at Wrigley Field.
What do you see yourself doing once your football career is complete?
Something related to football. I think I would enjoy high school or college coaching.
Are you on Twitter?
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