Quantcast
Home
      

Weather in the Classic City

Thursday Night
Rain Showers
83 61
Tomorrow
Chance Thunderstorms
74 50
Saturday
Sunny
79 51
Sunday
Thunderstorms Likely
78 58
Monday
Thunderstorms Likely
72 57
Tuesday
Slight Chance Thunderstorms
77 55
Wednesday
Chance Thunderstorms
78 

Join the Discussion
Join for Free

Your information is kept private

Volunteer Staff - Few Ads

 

Latest Posts @ Dawgs.com

    • yankeedawg1's Avatar
    • From Athens - Friday Thoughts
    • Good Morning All, The more things change……the more they seem to be the same…. I want you to...
    • 12 minutes ago
    • Buc's Avatar
    • From Athens - Friday Thoughts
    • stevedawg, I am listening and watching closely to what is being said by our head coach. Little...
    • 4 hours 54 minutes ago
    • stevedawg's Avatar
    • From Athens - Friday Thoughts
    • Good post Buc. I too am feeling a confidence level I have not experienced in many years. Everything...
    • 8 hours 21 minutes ago
    • Buc's Avatar
    • From Athens - Friday Thoughts
    • Spent a lot of my day looking at the 2017 recruits and the coaches that recruited them. Kirby has...
    • 2 days 3 hours ago
    • Buc's Avatar
    • From Athens - Friday Thoughts
    • Spent the past four days in South Florida. Isaiah McKenzie’s sister and my family had a chance to...
    • 3 days 1 hour ago
    • yankeedawg1's Avatar
    • From Athens - Friday Thoughts
    • Good Morning All. Except for the crazy weather it’s been a drama free week in the Classic...
    • 1 week 51 minutes ago
    • yankeedawg1's Avatar
    • From Athens - Friday Thoughts
    • See opportunity for several players to move from Me to We thinking.......starting with # 7... Go...
    • 1 week 1 day ago

ESPN College

  • Fresh faces provide for intriguing SEC quarterback competitions - SEC Blog
    9:33 AM ET On the surface, it appears that most SEC teams have their starting quarterback positions set. Alabama has Jalen Hurts[1] and South Carolina has Jake Bentley[2]. Sure, Florida and Tennessee are still trying to figure out things under center, but for the most…
    Written on Thursday, 30 March 2017 10:00
  • Yes, Pittsburgh needs a starting QB, but it needs depth, too - ACC Blog
    9:00 AM ET Pittsburgh has a two-fold objective at quarterback this spring: work on identifying a starter while also building depth. In that regard, coach Pat Narduzzi feels his team is in a much better place than at any point since his arrival in late…
    Written on Thursday, 30 March 2017 10:00
  • Is the next Myles Garrett at Kansas? - Big 12 Blog
    9:48 AM ET LAWRENCE, Kan. -- You might never know where the next Jadeveon Clowney or Myles Garrett[1] lurks in college. But let’s say you had a good idea of the right place to look. It wouldn’t be Kansas. David Beaty would like a word,…
    Written on Thursday, 30 March 2017 10:00
  • Former Carson-Newman football coach Ken Sparks dies at 73
    Mar 29, 2017 JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. -- Ken Sparks, a football coach who won 338 games for Division II Carson-Newman to rank fifth on the NCAA's all-time list, has died. He was 73. Carson-Newman athletic department spokesman Adam Cavalier said Sparks' wife, Carol, informed the…
    Written on Wednesday, 29 March 2017 16:46
  • Michigan State staffer Curtis Blackwell gets 1-month contract extension during investigation
    Mar 29, 2017 Michigan State football staffer Curtis Blackwell recently received a one-month contract extension and remains on an indefinite paid suspension while the school investigates several serious allegations regarding his conduct. Blackwell, who leads the football program's recruiting efforts, was suspended on Feb. 9,…
    Written on Wednesday, 29 March 2017 16:45
  • What is Penn State's Trace McSorley working on during spring practice? - Big Ten Blog
    10:00 AM ET College football fans were introduced to Penn State[1] quarterback Trace McSorley's[2] knack for making plays during a thrilling and unexpected performance off the bench in the TaxSlayer Bowl two seasons ago. When McSorley was named as the starting quarterback to replace Christian…
    Written on Wednesday, 29 March 2017 11:00
Dawgs.com Presents ESPN College
ESPN

ESPN (5998)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- An Arkansas House committee advanced a measure Tuesday to exempt college sporting events from a state law allowing guns after the Southeastern Conference appealed for guns to be banned from facilities such as football stadiums.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed the new state law last week allowing concealed handguns at colleges, government buildings, some bars and even the State Capitol.

The House Judiciary Committee advanced the exemption measure after it was amended. Under the amended exemption, college stadiums such as the University of Arkansas' Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium and the university's Medical Sciences department would be able to designate sensitive areas in which they wouldn't want people to carry concealed handguns. To prohibit concealed carry in those sensitive areas, they would have to put together a security plan for those areas and submit it to Arkansas State Police for approval.

Republican Rep. Bob Ballinger told the panel that the changes to the proposed exemption measure were made to address concerns people had with the original bill.

"We took 10 steps forward, and a lot of people weren't quite ready to go that far forward. So now we're taking one step backward," Ballinger said.

Ballinger said that if college sporting events and the medical facilities were going to prohibit concealed carry, then they must demonstrate that they will provide the necessary security.

The National Rifle Association, which supported the expanded concealed handguns law, opposes the exemption measure in its current and previous form.

"There is no language in [the bill] that could be classified as an SEC exemption," NRA spokesman Lars Dalseide said in an email. "Instead we have a bill that eliminates a considerable amount of fundamental freedoms recognized by the governor just last week."

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said the measure signed into law last week by the governor creates concerns for the conference and its member institutions. The University of Arkansas is an SEC school, and Razorback Stadium holds 72,000 people.

"Given the intense atmosphere surrounding athletic events, adding weapons increases safety concerns and could negatively impact the intercollegiate athletics program at the University of Arkansas in several ways, including scheduling, officiating, recruiting and attendance," Sankey said in a statement.

The law takes effect Sept. 1, but Arkansas residents likely won't be allowed to carry concealed weapons into the expanded locations until early next year. The law gives Arkansas State Police until January to design the additional training that will be required. More than 220,000 people have concealed handgun licenses in the state.

The law that Hutchinson signed last week was originally intended to allow only faculty and staff to carry concealed handguns at college campuses, but the bill expanded as it hit roadblocks in the Legislature.

Arkansas law currently allows faculty and staff at colleges and universities to carry concealed handguns on campus if schools allow it. None has opted to do so since that law was enacted in 2013.

Michigan State football staffer Curtis Blackwell recently received a one-month contract extension and remains on an indefinite paid suspension while the school investigates several serious allegations regarding his conduct.

Blackwell, who leads the football program's recruiting efforts, was suspended on Feb. 9, according to a letter he received from athletic director Mark Hollis. The university announced that it suspended three unnamed football players and one member of the football staff on that same day due to an ongoing police investigation into sexual assault allegations.

A school spokesman and head coach Mark Dantonio both declined to confirm this week that Blackwell's suspension was related to the sexual assault investigation. The spokesman did say that Blackwell is the only member of the football staff that is currently suspended.

Blackwell's contract was scheduled to expire at the end of this week, according to a copy obtained through a Freedom of Information request earlier this month. When a university employee's contract expires in the middle of a suspension, the spokesman said the school determines whether to extend the deal or let it expire on a case-by-case basis.

Like most football employees, Blackwell was on a year-to-year contract.

The university has decided not to name any of the players or staff members involved in the ongoing criminal sexual assault investigation until the county prosecutor decides whether or not to press charges. Police requested four arrest warrants in connection with their investigation on Feb. 16. Three of the warrants were for sexual crimes and a fourth was for a non-sexual crime connected with the investigation.

Dantonio spoke to reporters Tuesday morning for the first time since the suspensions were announced. He said he would not answer any questions about the ongoing investigation or about any potential previous disciplinary issues involving Blackwell.

Blackwell is the program's director of college advancement and performance, a role that makes him a key piece of the Spartans' recruiting operations. His profile on the athletic department's website says, "one of Blackwell's primary duties is to mentor current student-athletes, with a focus on leadership, graduation and career objectives."

Blackwell also worked as the co-director of the Sound Mind Sound Body football camps for aspiring college athletes. He previously worked as a coach at two Detroit-area high schools. His current contract expires at the end of April.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017 16:46

Former Carson-Newman football coach Ken Sparks dies at 73

Written by

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. -- Ken Sparks, a football coach who won 338 games for Division II Carson-Newman to rank fifth on the NCAA's all-time list, has died. He was 73.

Carson-Newman athletic department spokesman Adam Cavalier said Sparks' wife, Carol, informed the school that the coach had died Wednesday at their home.

Sparks spent his entire 37-year college head-coaching career at Carson-Newman and went 338-99-2 before retiring in November. The only coaches with more career wins than Sparks are John Gagliardi (489), Joe Paterno (409), Eddie Robinson (408) and Bobby Bowden (377).

"It's been an unbelievable journey," Sparks said during his Nov. 14 retirement announcement.

Sparks announced in 2012 that he had prostate cancer but continued coaching five more seasons. Sparks said his health issues played a role in his decision to step down.

"My goal was to die on the practice field and they roll me over in the kudzu and Carol wouldn't have to worry about funeral arrangements and all that," Sparks said during his retirement announcement. "We're going to see what the Lord has for us."

Before Carson-Newman entered the NCAA ranks in 1993, Sparks led the Eagles to five NAIA national championships -- in 1983, 1984, 1986, 1988 and 1989. Carson-Newman was an NAIA runner-up in 1987 and lost in the NCAA Division II championship game in 1996, 1998 and 1999. Carson-Newman reached the Division II semifinals in 2009.

Sparks' teams won 21 South Atlantic Conference championships and earned 25 NCAA or NAIA playoff appearances.

He was inducted into the inaugural NCAA Division II Hall of Fame coaches class in 2010 along with Northwest Missouri State's Mel Tjeerdsma and West Alabama's Bobby Wallace. Sparks also is in the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and the NAIA Hall of Fame.

Sparks received lifetime achievement awards from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the All-American Football Foundation.

Pittsburgh has a two-fold objective at quarterback this spring: work on identifying a starter while also building depth.

In that regard, coach Pat Narduzzi feels his team is in a much better place than at any point since his arrival in late 2014. During a recent phone conversation, he recalled his first spring practice as Pitt head coach in 2015. The Panthers had only two scholarship quarterbacks: returning starter Chad Voytik[1] and 2014 signee Adam Bertke.

Once Nathan Peterman[2] and Ben DiNucci[3] arrived on campus later that year, the numbers went back up. But they had fluctuated over the last two years, after Voytik and Bertke both transferred. Now this spring, Pitt has four scholarship quarterbacks taking snaps: transfer Max Browne[4], along with DiNucci, Thomas MacVittie[5] and early enrollee Kenny Pickett[6].

It’s one thing to be on scholarship, of course. It’s another to have the experience to be able to play. And that’s what Pittsburgh found out in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl to end last season. Peterman took every single meaningful snap in 2016, mostly because Pitt was involved in so many close games.

When he got hurt in the bowl game, DiNucci came in. He threw two interceptions and finished 3-of-9 for 16 yards in the 31-24 loss to Northwestern. Peterman threw every other pass that season.

“We’ve got more quarterbacks that can actually get in a game and maybe do something. Last year, we were just too young,” Narduzzi said. “What happened to us in the bowl game, we didn’t have another guy to put in there once Nathan went down. Our backup comes in and throws two picks, so it’s a problem where you can’t play a backup all year, and he gets thrown in a big bowl game and doesn’t get it done.”

One more plus to the four scholarships sharing the reps during spring practice: they are evenly spaced out, class-wise. Browne is a senior; DiNucci is a redshirt sophomore; MacVittie is a redshirt freshman and Pickett is a true freshman.

That is the type of set-up that is ideal for any position, most especially quarterback. While it is true Pitt has relied heavily on transfers to fill the void over the last several seasons, the hope is that coaching stability will now lead to more recruiting successes and players being developed in the program.

Part of the reason Pitt was so devoid of quarterbacks when Narduzzi arrived was because of the revolving door at quarterback.

Remember, Voytik was recruited by an entirely different coach when he came to Pitt, then played for two others. Peterman was brought on board as a transfer to create competition and depth. He took the starting job from Voytik a few games into 2015, but depth was hampered again when Voytik decided to transfer at the end of that season.

Headed into 2016, there was an abundance of quarterbacks in the meeting room (including transfers Manny Stocker[7] and Bo Schneider[8]). But MacVittie was redshirting and DiNucci was coming off a redshirt season himself. It became clear during practice that Peterman was the only quarterback reliable enough to take snaps in a game, especially considering Pitt played in seven games decided by a score or less. Even before the bowl game, Pitt went after Browne to help solidify the position with a player that had some game and starting experience.

Even if Browne wins the starting job, he will only be at Pitt for a year and the Panthers need to solidify their future at a position that has lacked stability and depth. Peterman and Tom Savage before him ended up being NFL-caliber players. Moving forward, it would be ideal for Pitt not to have to rely so much on the transfer route for the quality it desires at the position.

On the surface, it appears that most SEC teams have their starting quarterback positions set. Alabama has Jalen Hurts[1] and South Carolina has Jake Bentley[2].

Sure, Florida and Tennessee are still trying to figure out things under center, but for the most part, this league should see a renewed sense of confidence in starting quarterbacks this fall.

But there is some intriguing stuff going on with a handful of teams at quarterback. Hurts just took Alabama to the national championship game, but should he be looking over his shoulder at this new hotshot freshman? Does Jacob Eason[3] really have to worry about that other Jake slipping past him on the depth chart in Athens, Georgia?

Honestly, we tend to lean toward no on both of those, but when it comes to the most important position on the field, you can't take anything for granted. And here are seven intriguing quarterback situations facing SEC teams:

Alabama

Yes, this is Hurts' job to lose. He wowed us for most of the 2016 season with 3,734 total yards of offense and 36 touchdowns. However, he was inconsistent on deeper throws, and in the last three games of the season, he threw for 326 total yards and two touchdowns while completing less than 50 percent of his passes.

Enter 2017 No. 1 dual-threat QB Tua Tagovailoa[4]. There are some around Alabama's camp who think he could really push Hurts this spring and beyond. Taking the starting job? Maybe not, but coach Nick Saban and new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll will make sure he's on Hurts' heels for as long as possible.

Auburn

As colleague Greg Ostendorf wrote earlier this week[5], it's more comical to think that Jarrett Stidham[6] isn't the overwhelming leader on the Plains. The former Baylor backup has the perfect mix of passing and running ability that coach Gus Malzahn thirsts over. Sean White[7], who has started 16 games over the past two seasons, is recovering from a broken arm, and freshmen Woody Barrett[8] and Malik Willis[9] have zero experience.

Stidham is taking the first-team reps, and that shouldn't stop once White is healthy.

Florida

Freshmen Feleipe Franks[10] and Kyle Trask[11] are essentially neck and neck in Gainesville. Franks might have pulled ahead slightly, but this thing is far from over. Both can sling it, but both have had control issues. Franks has been more vocal, but Trask has been smoother on some of the tougher throws at times.

Luke Del Rio[12], who began last season as the starter but went down a few times with injuries, will return to the competition this fall. Freshman Jake Allen[13] also will be added to the mix, but this is a two-headed race right now.

Georgia

No way Jacob Eason could lose his starting spot, right? The kid is a prodigy with All-American dreams. But after starting almost every game last season, he's getting pushed a ton[14] by early enrollee Jake Fromm[15]. It's great for Eason because he needs to be pushed and motivated more. Eason has all the arm talent, but his leadership has to improve and this is the kind of fire he needs lit under him.

But don't think this is just for motivational means. No, coach Kirby Smart loves Fromm and there's a feeling around the league that Fromm is good enough and dedicated enough to take this competition into the season ... and maybe win it.

LSU

This is Danny Etling[16]'s job, but the coaches like early enrollee Lowell Narcisse[17]. He has a cannon for an arm and is way more mobile than Etling. Redshirt sophomore Justin McMillan[18] is in the mix as well, but Narcisse is much closer to challenging Etling.

But that could all change once ESPN 300 member Myles Brennan[19] arrives. Things could get more interesting for Etling this fall.

Tennessee

After what seemed like 35 years, Joshua Dobbs[20] is no longer Tennessee's starting quarterback. And from the looks of things, redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano[21] and junior Quinten Dormady[22] are the leaders of the pack. Sheriron Jones[23] and Will McBride[24] are competing, but the former seem to have separated themselves.

Dormady has played in 10 games for the Vols and has 357 yards with a touchdown. Guarantano has all the hype and fanfare. The former ESPN 300 member can sling it and is pretty mobile. He's the presumed favorite to replace Dobbs.

Texas A&M

It's a three-headed race in College Station. Veteran Jake Hubenak[25], redshirt freshman Nick Starkel[26] and true freshman Kellen Mond[27] are all jockeying to replace Trevor Knight[28]. Hubenak is the most experienced and was up for the job last year, but he's limited compared to the other two. Starkel has the arm talent the coaches like, but he doesn't have a ton of mobility. Mond is the most talented of the bunch.

Mond has the best speed of the three, and coach Kevin Sumlin's offenses have had the most success with a mobile quarterback who can execute the zone-read. On paper, Mond is the best suited to do that.

Thursday, 30 March 2017 10:00

Is the next Myles Garrett at Kansas? - Big 12 Blog

Written by

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- You might never know where the next Jadeveon Clowney or Myles Garrett[1] lurks in college.

But let’s say you had a good idea of the right place to look. It wouldn’t be Kansas.

David Beaty would like a word, please, about Dorance Armstrong Jr[2]. The Jayhawks’ rising junior defensive end led the Big 12 in tackles for loss last season, with 20, and registered 10 sacks, the most at Kansas since 2008, despite a knee injury that limited him in September.

“Dorance is a stud. The fact that he didn’t make All-American last year was shocking to me,” said Beaty, the third-year KU coach. “He got robbed. [He] is unbelievable. He’s a freak. He is Myles Garrett, and Myles is a freak. This guy’s a beast.”

Beatty isn’t being hyperbolic. He recruited Garrett, likely the first pick in the upcoming NFL draft, to Texas A&M in 2014. When Garrett played as a true freshman, the Aggies, according to Beaty, studied tape of Clowney, the No. 1 draft pick from a few months prior, in his first season at South Carolina and used it as a model for Garrett’s development.

Clowney and Garrett played limited roles as freshmen pass-rush specialists. Kansas did the same with Armstrong in 2015.

“We don’t get hung up on it,” Beatty said of the comparisons, “but he’s that type of player.”

Yes, KU could have used him more in a winless fall two seasons ago, but the Jayhawks' restraint contributed in a big way to Armstrong’s breakout, All-Big 12 sophomore season, Beaty and KU defensive coordinator Clint Bowen believe.

Beaty said he expects Armstrong to land in the first round next year -- if he chooses to leave school early.

Armstrong came to Kansas out of Houston’s North Shore High School at 6-foot-4 and about 215 pounds. He was offered scholarships by the likes of Michigan State, Cal, Houston and Northwestern, but Armstrong visited only Kansas in January 2015 because other trips didn’t fit into his high school basketball schedule.

“I just thought [playing] basketball was the end of the world,” Armstrong said. “That’s why I’m here. I had one weekend around signing day. I came up and fell in love with the place.”

This spring, the Jayhawks are looking to build on a 2016 effort that ranked their defense as perhaps the Big 12’s most improved unit. Armstrong, who gained 10 to 15 pounds in the fall of his freshman year and is now at 250, was key to the improvement.

“Most people can’t understand that it’s hard to eat and gain weight,” Bowen said. “But for kids like him, it’s a different ballgame. It becomes almost a job. He took it very serious.

“Then when he did go in the game, we asked him to do something that he was very good at. He didn’t have to face the defeat. As we did start to use him more, he had developed that mentality that he belonged. He had confidence going into his second year that he could win in pass-rush situations. And he proved it.”

Armstrong passes all of Beaty’s tests.

“It’s really refreshing when you have a player who is that good who’s also squared away,” Beaty said. “He’s never on a list. I’ve never seen his name [for] missing a class. I don’t have to worry about Dorance in that regard. To me, he is the epitome of what we have to do at KU: Bring in guys who have the frame who can get to a certain size, and utilize their speed.”

Bowen said he encourages his defenders to pay notice to their accolades and statistics. It’s a team game, sure, but individual achievements serve to better the Jayhawks.

Armstrong said he views any recognition as a positive factor in helping him reach the NFL. This spring, he’s taking note of his coaches’ advice to lead.

“All my life, leadership has been forced on me,” Armstrong said. “Every coach I’ve been with has wanted me to be a vocal leader. But that was never me. As I grew up, I realized that had to change. Where I am now, I feel like I have to be a leader for this team.”

Surely, he has the appearance of one of the best Power 5 players nationally, who is largely unknown outside of his conference.

“You know,” Beaty said, “that just gives us something else out there to dangle in front of him.”

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The head start for Ohio State[1] linebacker Baron Browning[2] has been cut short.

After enrolling early for the Buckeyes to help try to build depth -- and potentially compete for a role with a unit that lost Raekwon McMillan[3] to the NFL draft -- Browning instead is scheduled for shoulder surgery on Tuesday and will miss the rest of spring practice.

The ESPN 300 selection, a prominent member of an Ohio State signing class that ranked No. 2 in the nation, is expected to be cleared in time for some summer workouts and training camp in August.

"He reinjured his shoulder," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. "I guess he hurt it a little bit in high school. ... He'll be out for a couple months and be full speed for the fall."

Ohio State still appears to be in good shape with a starting group that includes returning starters Chris Worley[4] and Jerome Baker[5]. And with Dante Booker[6] now healthy after missing virtually all of last year following his injury in the season opener, the Buckeyes have veteran experience as they move forward without McMillan.

Browning should be able to return in time to jump back into the competition; he had already received positive reviews that suggested he could potentially make an impact right away as a true freshman. That might still happen by the time the season kicks off Aug. 31 at Indiana, but at least for now Browning's early work will be put on hold.

"I don't want to get into too much detail, because I'm not exactly sure until they get it figured out," Meyer said. "They're saying he'll be 100 percent by June. As of now, he'll play this fall -- because of the way he's been doing [in practice], too."

West Virginia running back Justin Crawford[1] rushed for 331 yards in a loss to Oklahoma in November. He led the Big 12 in yards per attempt in his first season out of junior college. The league's offensive newcomer of the year, he announced in January that he would return as a senior.

None of it, though, readied Crawford for his planned future quite like the four-hour shifts that ended at 7 a.m. as a UPS package handler or the midnight-to-2 a.m. workouts at Planet Fitness in the offseason before his second year at Northwest Mississippi Community College.

You see, the hard times, with no one cheering, toughened his skin. Crawford, the 22-year-old married father of two and sometimes surrogate dad to four younger siblings whose father died in 2009, leans more on his resolve to thrive amid struggle than his milestones achieved in moving toward his "ultimate goal" of playing in the NFL.

The unrivaled leader of the Mountaineers' loaded offensive backfield, Crawford provides key experience for a Big 12 contender in its bid to improve on a 10-win, third-place league finish.

He learned his work ethic from a group of mentors and friends twice his age. Away from football, Crawford said, he rarely spends time with young people -- other than his wife, Chakeya, of course, sons Jay'Dense, 2, and 10-month-old Justin Jr.

"When everybody else is sitting at home, relaxing, you can be getting ahead," Crawford told ESPN.com on Tuesday in his first session of interviews since arriving at West Virginia last summer. "I want to do things or push myself in a certain way, so I can approach somebody else when they're not doing something right."

A graduate of Hardaway High School in Columbus, Georgia, Crawford rushed for 1,184 yards in 2016. With a family to support and after he worked briefly at Taco Bell[2] in Morgantown before last season, Crawford surprised some observers with his decision to play a second season[3] in the Big 12.

In fact, he said, "there was no decision." He was long determined to earn a degree. His family enjoys life in West Virginia, despite Crawford's commitments to academics and athletics that eat 90 percent of his time.

He said he feels additional responsibility to his three younger sisters and one brother who live in Georgia.

"It gets tough at times," he said. "You'll have everybody calling you for your opinion or advice."

The future, no matter its potential upgrades in lifestyle, will continue to present challenges, especially with time management. Of that, Crawford is entirely aware.

So for now, he's content to leave his mark on the Mountaineers, for whom talented rising sophomore running backs Kennedy McKoy[4] and Martell Pettaway[5] also return.

"It appears to me that he's trying to learn at every opportunity he has to learn," said West Virginia running backs coach Tony Dews, hired in February from Arizona. "When we go out on the practice field, he does a good job of setting the tone and being a leader.

"The other kids, obviously, respect him a great deal and follow his lead."

From the start this spring, Dews said he saw in Crawford a running back with good ball skills, vision and burst. The coach asked him to improve his pass protection.

"He's embracing it," Dews said. "He wants to do it. And that's a big thing. He's not a guy who thinks he has all the answers."

Crawford drew notice from his coaches last summer, even before preseason camp, for his brash leadership methods. Soon, they saw that he created no problems among teammates, who were instead drawn to him.

The style comes naturally to Crawford. Much like when lifted weights overnight in Mississippi, then lapped others in the weight room once structured workouts began, Crawford said if he invests the time at West Virginia, he'll reap benefits on the field.

Away from the field, he's pushing constantly to stay ahead of the curve. His motivation to succeed starts every day at home.

"I commend him on that part of it," Dews said, "because there's a lot of guys his age -- and a lot of men even older -- that are out there and may not be as responsible as he is right now."

College football fans were introduced to Penn State[1] quarterback Trace McSorley's[2] knack for making plays during a thrilling and unexpected performance off the bench in the TaxSlayer Bowl two seasons ago. When McSorley was named as the starting quarterback to replace Christian Hackenberg in 2016, anticipation was understandably high.

All McSorley did as a sophomore was exceed even the most ambitious of expectations. He broke Penn State's single-season record for passing yards, passing touchdowns and total offense while leading the Nittany Lions to a magical Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl appearance.

Now, McSorley returns for his junior season with a ton of offensive firepower by his side. The question is: How much better can McSorley be in 2017? In our ongoing series examining the to-do list for the Big Ten's top individual returners, let's take a look at what McSorley should work on this spring to become even more of a threat.

Making fewer mistakes: McSorley was tremendous in so many areas last season, but every quarterback can stand to gain consistency throughout the course of a long season. He threw interceptions in three of Penn State's first four games before the Nittany Lions found their groove. And in the Rose Bowl against USC[3], McSorley threw three interceptions, including a backbreaking pick that helped lead to the Trojans' game-winning field goal as time expired. According to Pro Football Focus, McSorley actually performed better in the Rose Bowl on plays in which he was under pressure compared to plays in which he faced no pressure. On 12 dropbacks under pressure, McSorley completed 7 of 10 passes for two touchdown passes and no interceptions. On 19 dropbacks with no pressure, he completed 10 of 18 passes (55.6 percent) with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Every game is a learning opportunity, and McSorley will have plenty of experience to draw on as his junior season approaches.

Finding a new No. 1 receiver: Chris Godwin[4] was Penn State's top wide receiver in each of the last two seasons, but he left school a year early to declare for the NFL draft. Last year, Godwin led the team with 59 catches for 982 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was particularly amazing in the Rose Bowl, when he caught nine passes for 187 yards with two touchdowns. The good news for McSorley is he has a loaded group ready to step in and fill the void. DaeSean Hamilton[5] could be that big-time threat after two years in which he took a back seat to Godwin. Don't forget that Hamilton caught 82 passes for 899 yards as a freshman in 2014. DeAndre Thompkins[6] (27 catches, 440 yards) and Saeed Blacknall[7] (15 catches, 347 yards) also will have major offensive responsibilities, while Irvin Charles[8] and Juwan Johnson[9] have the talent to see an increased role. And that doesn't include tight end Mike Gesicki[10] and tailback Saquon Barkley[11], who combined to catch 76 passes for 1,081 yards and nine touchdowns.

Increasing completion percentage: McSorley led the Big Ten in passing efficiency and ranked 13th nationally in that category a year ago. At the same time, McSorley's completion percentage (57.9) ranked just 76th in the country among qualified FBS quarterbacks. There's no question McSorley caught fire down the stretch last season, as he completed 68.7 percent of his passes in the last three games. Before those games, however, McSorley had completed 167 of 304 passes (54.9 percent), which is not the type of accuracy rate most would expect from an elite-level quarterback. In games against Minnesota[12] and Ohio State[13], McSorley failed to complete half his passes. This doesn't take away from the fact McSorley produced an incredible sophomore year. But it shows he has plenty of room to improve in his quest to guide Penn State to back-to-back Big Ten titles.

When Larry Scott got the call, he was walking through the Charlotte airport, hurrying to get back home after a recruiting swing through Florida. It was mid-January, and although Tennessee’s then-tight ends coach was only a few hours away from touching down in Knoxville in time for a busy weekend of official visits, this couldn’t wait. Coach Butch Jones wanted Scott to know the news first: He would be promoted to offensive coordinator.

Scott wasn’t the splashy hire many Tennessee fans were looking for, clamoring over coaching hot boards that included the likes of former Oregon coach Mark Helfrich and current USC coordinator Tee Martin. As is often the case with in-house hirings, the promotion of Scott, a 40-year-old fixture of South Florida football, was met with some level of skepticism. While he’d served briefly as Miami’s interim head coach when Al Golden was fired midway through the 2015 season, he hadn’t been a full-fledged coordinator since his days at Freedom High School in Orlando in 2001.

But what Scott lacked in credentials, he made up for in familiarity, acing what Jones referred to as a "year-round interview" during his time on staff working under former offensive coordinator Mike DeBord. Jones saw the way Scott commanded the practice field, built relationships and paid close attention to details as a position coach, making promoting him "pretty much a no-brainer," he said.

“Coach was going to do his due diligence,” Scott told ESPN. “I didn’t focus on that. I focused on the job I had. We were in a busy time recruiting and I had a pretty heavy area in the state of Florida. So we were knee-deep in it and I never really concerned myself with what other names were out there.”

With signing day around the corner, there wasn’t much time to celebrate his new title. Of the Vols’ 27 total signees, seven were from Florida.

But when recruiting wound down, the real work as coordinator began. Scott called it a “fact-finding” period of time in which everything was evaluated from top to bottom.

And that’s when it had to hit Scott what he’d signed up to do. This was a Tennessee program suddenly without its longtime starter at quarterback. Its top rushers from each of the previous two seasons were gone as well. And on top of all that, its leading receiver unexpectedly decided to turn pro as a junior.

“That’s an awful lot of production to replace,” Scott said. “But as a coach, you look at it also as an exciting time.”

No, this wasn’t some kind of fever dream Scott was having. This wasn’t spin. This was a coach who, like many in his business, relishes the idea of building something from the ground up.

“It’s an invigorating time because the energy is different,” Scott said. “You have young players in the program that are talented or they wouldn’t be playing at the University of Tennessee. ‘Here’s my chance. Here’s my opportunity to show what I bring to the table.’ So you had a newfound energy among young, talented kids that are in the weight room busting their tails.”

A determined Scott added: “Those guys will show up. Guys will step in those shoes and that production will be found.”

Jarrett Guarantano[1] and Quinten Dormady[2] are the leading candidates to replace Josh Dobbs at quarterback. While it’s still early at spring practice, Scott likes what he’s seen from the group and said what he’s seeking most is consistency, whether that’s understanding of the offense, execution or leading others.

From his new office overlooking Tennessee’s indoor practice facility and nearby weight room, Scott could see which quarterbacks were working hardest during the offseason.

While the NCAA limits contact, Scott said coyly that “things are noticed and taken note of.”

Across the board, spots are open, Scott said.

Other than Jauan Jennings[3], the team’s second-leading receiver last season, nothing is settled among the wideouts. John Kelly[4] has the look of a starter at running back, but depth is a concern at the position. And while there’s a lot of returning experience on the offensive line, a lack of production from that group means competition is a necessity.

One player fans are eager to see on the field is offensive lineman and former No. 1 overall recruit Trey Smith[5]. It’s early, but the freshman from Jackson, Tennessee, already has SEC size at 6-foot-6 and 313 pounds, and he appears to have the right mindset to play early as well.

“For a young kid, as young as he is, the transition has been seamless,” said Scott, who praised Smith’s overall demeanor. “Been very, very pleased with him and where he’s at. And really looking forward to him continuing to build each and every day to get better and better and put himself into position to be a big piece of what we’re going to do here moving forward.”

Tennessee’s Orange & White Spring Game is three weeks away, and the season opener against Georgia Tech in Atlanta is roughly five months away.

What the Vols’ offense will look like on Sept. 4 is unclear. Scott said he wants to use the spring to determine the strengths of the roster, and build a philosophy around that.

Scott might not have been the candidate for change when DeBord left, but with new leadership and a new cast of characters on offense, change is coming to Tennessee.

Page 1 of 429