Player list for ACC media days

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
2:24
PM ET
The 2014 college football season is inching ever so closer, with ACC media days set to take place in less than two weeks.

The league released its list of players who will be attending the July 20-21 event at The Grandover Resort in Greensboro, North Carolina. Here they are:

BOSTON COLLEGE
C Andy Gallik, R-Sr.
DB Dominique Williams, R-Sr.

CLEMSON
QB Cole Stoudt, Sr.
DE Vic Beasley, R-Sr.

DUKE
OG Laken Tomlinson, R-Sr.
LB Kelby Brown, R-Sr.

FLORIDA STATE
QB Jameis Winston, R-So.
CB P.J. Williams, Jr.

GEORGIA TECH
OG Shaquille Mason, Sr.
LB Quayshawn Nealy, R-Sr.

LOUISVILLE
WR DeVante Parker, Sr.
DE Lorenzo Mauldin, Sr.

MIAMI
RB Duke Johnson, Jr.
LB Denzel Perryman, Sr.

NORTH CAROLINA
QB Marquise Williams, Jr.
LB Norkeithus Otis, Sr.

NC STATE
RB Tony Creecy, R-Sr.
DE Art Norman, R-Sr.

PITT
WR Tyler Boyd, So.
DB Ray Vinopal, R-Sr.

SYRACUSE
OT Sean Hickey, Sr.
LB Cameron Lynch, Sr.

VIRGINIA
RB Kevin Parks, Sr.
SS Anthony Harris, Sr.

VIRGINIA TECH
WR Willie Byrn, R-Sr.
DT Luther Maddy, DT

WAKE FOREST
FB Jordan Garside, R-Sr.
CB Kevin Johnson, R-Sr.
Keith Heckendorf lives the college football grind, where days are eaten up in meeting rooms or on the practice field, in long car rides or on the phone. It is easy to become completely consumed, to lose track of time and perspective.

Whenever that happens, all he does is look at the light blue band on his wrist.

B. Strong.

B. Strong. For Bryce.

[+] EnlargeBryce Heckendorf
Courtesy of Heckendorf familyBryce Heckendorf is fighting a rare genetic disease that affects the nervous system. His uncle, Keith, is an assistant with the Tar Heels.
While Heckendorf works in Chapel Hill as a North Carolina assistant, his nephew lives nearly 1,000 miles away in Wisconsin fighting Krabbe disease, a rare genetic disorder that impacts the nervous system. Bryce Heckendorf, 14 months old, is slowly dying. He can no longer swallow. Or smile. Or roll over. Or move his arms and legs. Nobody will ever know the sound of his voice.

He spends most days sleeping, snuggled up with his mommy or daddy. Those snuggles are all that make him happy.

Doctors do not expect him to live past 2.

"How do you wrap your head around why is this happening to this little boy?" Keith Heckendorf said in a recent phone interview. "You look at him and he's the cutest, most precious little boy and if you didn't know any better, you wouldn't know anything was wrong with him. But he's at the point now where he should be talking, he should be crawling around and he can't do any of that stuff. It's just so hard."

The diagnosis was incomprehensible to the Heckendorf family. Bryce was born completely healthy, a beautiful boy with blonde hair and clear blue eyes. He hit all his milestones like any growing, healthy baby. Then around 5 1/2 months, he started regressing. He no longer used his arms and legs as actively. He could no longer hold himself up in a sitting position.

Doctors were initially puzzled, and referred the family to several hospitals in the area. Multiple tests were done, including MRIs, EEGs and a spinal tap. Blood was taken to determine whether Bryce was suffering from a genetic condition.

The family got the tragic news in November. Keith was in Pittsburgh the night before North Carolina played the Panthers when his brother, Kyle, called.

"You don't know what to say or what to do," Keith said. "We try to cherish every moment we can with him."

Both Kyle and Jenna are carriers for Krabbe disease, which affects about 1 in 100,000 births. Jim Kelly's son, Hunter, also had Krabbe disease and lived to the age of 8. When both parents are carriers, they have a 25 percent chance of delivering a baby with the disease.

[+] EnlargeBryce Heckendorf
Courtesy of Heckendorf familyThe Heckendorf family promotes making the screening for Krabbe disease a routine part of newborn tests.
Bryce was the first child born to Kyle and his wife, Jenna. Neither had any idea they were carriers for the disease until Bryce was diagnosed. Only 4 states test for Krabbe disease during routine newborn screenings, one reason why there remains so little awareness about the disease. While there is no cure, if the disease is detected at birth, bone marrow or cord blood transplants could be used as a treatment. Both the Kelly and the Heckendorf families are advocating for Krabbe disease to be included in routine newborn screenings.

Costs for treating Krabbe disease are also high even with insurance, given the various medications used, doctor visits and hospital trips. A golf tournament fundraiser and barbecue -- Birdies & Bogies for Bryce -- will be held this Saturday in Mosinee, Wisconsin. Keith and the entire family will be there. Kyle hopes Bryce is feeling well enough to attend a small portion.

In addition, Keith and his wife came up with the idea for the B. Strong bands to raise money and awareness. Several North Carolina players wore the bands in the Belk Bowl against Cincinnati. Keith coaches the quarterbacks. Each one wears the bracelet, too.

"I know for me, I wear the bracelet every day and it's a constant reminder to what's really important," Keith Heckendorf said. "We live and work in a profession that is 100 miles an hour every day of the week, every day of the year. This has been good for me to every once in a while step back and say as hard as we're working ... I'm pretty fortunate to be in the position I'm in and I'm blessed. You hate for something like that to do it for you, but this has probably brought our family so much closer."

Bryce has required 24-hour care for months. Kyle and Jenna had to leave their jobs as teachers, though Kyle plans on going back in the fall. Bryce is now fed through a button in his stomach. Feedings can take up to 2 hours because he has to eat slowly. If he eats too fast, he could vomit. Either Kyle or Jenna is always with him, mostly holding him because that stops his fussiness.

An occupational therapist, physical therapist and hospice nurse come once a week to help, along with a big support group of friends and family. But all the help in the world, all the love and support in the world, cannot change the inevitable.

Their baby is being taken from them every second of every day, and they are powerless to stop it. Just 15 months ago, Kyle and Jenna sat ready to give Bryce anything he wanted. They still do that today, only they can't give him what they want most.

So life takes on a newer, different meaning. Each day that passes becomes more important than the last. Because it means one more day with their baby.

"It's been extremely difficult knowing that day is going to come where we have to say goodbye," Kyle Heckendorf said. "But we're also thankful we are able to spend as much time with him as we possibly can. We can love him, snuggle him, give him kisses, rather than taking life for granted and something unexpected happening, where you don't have that opportunity to say goodbye.

"We're thankful for that."
Arizona has quickly developed a reputation for recruiting innovation -- and fun -- with a series of YouTube videos this offseason.

SportsNation

What is your favorite video the Arizona football program has produced this offseason?

  •  
    52%
  •  
    13%
  •  
    9%
  •  
    26%

Discuss (Total votes: 508)

It has produced four videos that have combined for more than 400,000 views on YouTube since the first one was released in March. While the videos are primarily to help the program's recruiting efforts, they have doubled as way to keep Arizona fans -- and those throughout college football -- entertained during the wait for the regular season.

Today, we're asking which #OnToTheNextOne production this offseason has been your favorite.

And the nominees are:

Arizona Fast #TheNewNormal

The newest installment, released this week, emphasizes that Arizona football does "everything fast."

.

Hard Edge

It's High Noon in Old Tucson, where you can meet the coaching staff in a trailer for the 2014 season.

.

Hard Edge II

Another 2014 trailer in Old Tucson that features some of the Wildcats' most high-profile players, including some that have departed for the NFL.

.

Arizona Speed

Coach Rich Rodriguez spoofs the movie "Speed," in a way to come out against the proposed 10-second rule.

.
Chris Conley’s recent cinematic adventure was quite an accomplishment.

Georgia’s senior receiver might make his name on the football field, but he grew up in a geek culture. His chiseled 6-foot-3, 206-pound frame is SEC, but his passions scream Comic-Con.

Months before Saturday’s highly anticipated debut of Conley’s no-so-amateur “Star Wars” short “Retribution,” Conley fidgeted in a rolling chair under the fuzzy lighting of a conference room inside Georgia’s football facility as he discussed the process of his project.

There was anxiety and excitement on his breath when he spoke about his film and how he dove headfirst into the project with football very much the center of his college life.

“I just kind of blindly picked up the phone and started recruiting people to be part of this team,” Conley said.

[+] EnlargeChris Conley
AP Photo/ Richard ShiroChris Conley has 81 catches, 12 for touchdowns, in three seasons at Georgia.
Conley’s mind has always been filled with comics, superheroes and science fiction. His real movie-making days began with a stop-motion animation film starring Legos he made with his brother Charles, whose middle name just happens to be Xavier, making him Charles Xavier for all you "X-Men" fans.

He and his brother both made comics that stretched from three to seven pages long, but Conley insists that Charles was the more artistic one.

And to tackle “Star Wars” seemed ideal. He was introduced to the series through the original three and he grew up with the most recent trilogy, causing him to embrace all six movies.

“To a kid, who doesn’t know any better, those [recent three movies] were amazing,” Conley said with a smile. “Everybody in my generation doesn’t understand what purists complain about because we’re like, ‘We love the whole thing.’”

Equipped with state-of-the-art computer graphics, slick choreography and a heart-pounding soundtrack, Conley brought to life an action-packed, 26-minute ride inside Georgia’s campus through a George Lucas-like lens.

“I like to be an avid learner, so it’s been a real learning process to learn how to do film and how to do it the right way, being someone who’s never gone to film school,” Conley said.

He started gathering his team in December. Writing, casting and choreography bled into February, when filming officially started. Conley, meanwhile, was entering spring practice as one of Georgia’s top returning receivers, doing morning mat drills with teammates.

“This was a unique experience,” Conley said. “I’ve worked on some small projects, but nothing ever this big. This is the first time that I’ve had about 60 people who are all looking at me for the answers, like when to be where and how we were going to go about things.”

Conley was learning the directing ropes. He was learning terminology, ordering shots, learning how to conduct himself on set, learning how to properly schedule shoots, figuring out framing, finding the right lighting, structuring blocking and studying how people react to what he said on set.

Interacting with people came naturally, but learning how to actually direct them was challenging, Conley said.

He also successfully juggled the sport he loved, academics and his ever-growing passion through discipline and cutting into one of his favorite activities.

“Planning a production takes a ridiculous amount of time,” Conley said. “The question when I told my coaches was where are you going to have time to do that, and I said, 'I don’t know.' So that time really came out of my sleep. I spent a ridiculous amount of hours up and planning this stuff because I couldn’t take anything out of my football obligations.”

The first weekend of shooting took 23 hours. The following Monday, Conley was up at daybreak for mat drills. He never let the movie become a distraction, which helped raise the respect his teammates had for him, Mason said.

“He’s a senior who’s been around a lot and he’s made plays, so guys kind of shut up and listen when he talks,” quarterback Hutson Mason said. “Guys know that he’s different. He’s not saying one thing and doing the other. Guys know that he’s genuine.

“Conley is the guy that you want modeling the name of Georgia and the name on the back of your jersey.”

Now we’ll find out how difficult it is to be a famed director and star SEC receiver. After catching 45 passes for 651 yards and four touchdowns last fall, Conley will be asked to do even more in 2014. With Malcolm Mitchell recovering from an ACL injury, Conley assumed the role as No. 1 receiver and dominated the spring.

Conley had time to direct and write a movie while playing a diabolical Sith lord. Returning to the gridiron shouldn’t be an issue.

“He represents his name and Georgia well, to a ‘T,’” Mason said. “Then, you take a guy who is a big, tall receiver, who just as far as the football field is another great weapon for us.

“He’s a guy that we feel if you leave one-on-one, it’s a mismatch. Conley’s just one of those guys that we feel if it’s in the red zone or in the middle of the field, we have to find ways to get him the ball.”
It's getting closer, folks. The 2014 season will be here before you know it, and Big Ten media days are less than three weeks away.

The league today released the list of players who will be on hand at the Hilton Chicago on July 28-29 for media days and the kickoff luncheon.

Here they are ...

EAST DIVISION

INDIANA

David Cooper, Sr., LB
Nate Sudfeld, Jr., QB
Shane Wynn, Sr., WR*

MARYLAND

C.J. Brown, Sr., QB
Stefon Diggs, Jr., WR*
Jeremiah Johnson, Sr., DB

MICHIGAN

Frank Clark, Sr., DE*
Devin Gardner, Sr., QB*
Jake Ryan, Sr., LB*

MICHIGAN STATE

Shilique Calhoun, Jr., DE*
Connor Cook, Jr., QB*
Kurtis Drummond, Sr., FS*

OHIO STATE

Michael Bennett, Sr., DL*
Jeff Heuerman, Sr., TE*
Braxton Miller, Sr., QB*

PENN STATE

Bill Belton, Sr., RB
Sam Ficken, Sr., PK*
Mike Hull, Sr., LB

RUTGERS

Michael Burton, Sr., FB
Darius Hamilton, Jr., DL
Lorenzo Waters, Sr., DB

WEST DIVISION

ILLINOIS

Simon Cvijanovic, Sr., OT
Jon Davis, Sr., TE
Austin Teitsma, Sr., DL

IOWA

Carl Davis, Sr., DT*
Brandon Scherff, Sr., OL*
Mark Weisman, Sr., RB

MINNESOTA

David Cobb, Sr., RB
Mitch Leidner, So., QB
Cedric Thompson, Sr., S

NEBRASKA

Ameer Abdullah, Sr., RB*
Kenny Bell, Sr., WR*
Corey Cooper, Sr., S*

NORTHWESTERN

Ibraheim Campbell, Sr., S*
Collin Ellis, Sr., LB
Trevor Siemian, Sr., QB

PURDUE

Raheem Mostert, Sr., RB
Sean Robinson, Sr., LB
Ryan Russell, Sr., DE

WISCONSIN

Melvin Gordon, Jr., RB*
Rob Havenstein, Sr., RT*
Warren Herring, Sr., DL

* indicates previous all-conference selection

I really like this list. The main reason: the number of non-seniors. Nothing against the graybeards, but too often Big Ten teams have brought only seniors to media days even if other players were better, more marketable, strong team leaders and more charismatic with reporters. Yes, I'm incredibly biased about this event: I want the best talkers.

While several Big Ten teams are taking the senior-only approach, others are bringing underclassmen who fill key roles. Minnesota will bring sophomore quarterback Mitch Leidner because he's now the leader of the offense. The same goes for Indiana with junior signal-caller Nate Sudfeld. Michigan State is bringing juniors Connor Cook and Shilique Calhoun because they both played huge roles in last year's championship run. Stefon Diggs is the most recognizable Maryland player, even though he's a junior. Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon isn't technically a senior, but barring injury this will be his last year as a Badger -- and his only chance to attend media days.

There's a decent contingent of quarterbacks -- seven in all -- that includes two-time Big Ten offensive player of the year Braxton Miller, Cook and Michigan's Devin Gardner. The only major omission is Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who could be one of the league's top players this season. The Lions throw us a bit of a curveball with kicker Sam Ficken. Interesting.

On behalf of all Big Ten media members, I'd like to thank Nebraska for bringing Bell. We are eternally grateful. And Kenny, I will make fun of you for being a Canucks fan.

Staying with the Huskers, senior running back Ameer Abdullah will speak on behalf of the players at the Big Ten kickoff luncheon on July 29. An excellent choice.
Several Big 12 players popped up on the watch lists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, awarded to college football's best defensive player, and the Outland Trophy, given to the best interior lineman.

Here are the Big 12 players that made each list:

Nagurski
Outland

Already this week, the Maxwell (player of the year), Bednarik (defensive player of the year), Hornung (most versatile player), Mackey (best tight end), Rimington (best center), Groza (best kicker) and Guy (best punter) watch lists have come.

Below is the rest of the preseason watch list schedule:

Friday, July 11
- Jim Thorpe Award, best defensive back

Monday, July 14
- Butkus Award, best linebacker
- Lombardi Award, best lineman

Tuesday, July 15
- Biletnikoff Award, best receiver

Wednesday, July 16
- Davey O’Brien Award, best quarterback.

Thursday, July 17
- Doak Walker Award, best running back

Friday, July 18
- Walter Camp Award, best player
David Cutcliffe placed the call while he was on the treadmill. DeVon Edwards tried to play it cool when Cutcliffe offered him a scholarship, asking whether he could talk with his mom first.

But the truth is, Edwards knew all along what he would say. Five minutes later, Edwards accepted the only scholarship offer that came his way.

[+] EnlargeDeVon Edwards
Peter Casey/USA TODAY SportsDuke return man DeVon Edwards joined the track team to help improve his speed for the 2014 season.
Incredible now to believe only one school believed in him. Edwards is going into his sophomore season at Duke as one of the top kick returners in the country.

So how did he get virtually no interest in high school?

Edwards played at a relatively new school in Covington, Georgia, that opened in 2006. Nobody from that school had ever received a football scholarship to an FBS program. So the school itself was off the map. And so was Edwards, after a broken collarbone sidelined him for his junior season.

His high school coaches sent out game tape from his sophomore season, but nobody seemed interested. With no interest and no offers, Edwards began to face reality. He turned his focus to basketball, where he played on AAU teams and was an all-region selection for his school.

If nobody wanted him as a football player, maybe they would as a basketball player.

"It was a tough feeling, not knowing if you were going to get to play at the next level and then your friends were getting scholarships," Edwards recalled recently. "I figured I was not doing something right, maybe I was too small or too short or something. I had a high GPA, so I knew I could get into college but playing football was something I like doing and I was just starting to cope with the fact that I might not get a scholarship."

Enter Cutcliffe. He saw something in Edwards in those old game tapes. He asked for senior year game tape. At this point, the football season was over. But Edwards was playing basketball. Cutcliffe took a trip to see him during practice.

He was sold, and offered Edwards in December -- just two months before signing day.

"I guess God just told me I need to play football," Edwards said.

Edwards came into Duke with little fanfare. He was the only player in the class of 2012 without any stars or ranking from ESPN Recruiting. Edwards redshirted his first season, then went into fall camp last year hoping for playing time at cornerback. But he was moved to safety and admitted frustration over his undetermined role.

With the help of former star Duke CB Ross Cockrell, Edwards tried to look ahead, waiting for his shot. It came on defense and special teams around the same time.

Cutcliffe had always promised Edwards a chance to return kicks. It happened after Johnell Barnes broke his hand in late September. Edwards started at kick returner in the sixth game of the season, against Navy, and held on to the role the rest of the season. He also started the final seven games of the season at safety.

Edwards started to make a name for himself soon enough. He ended up returning two kickoffs for touchdowns and two interceptions for touchdowns. Three of those scores came against NC State (two INT returns and a 100-yard kickoff return).

"It didn’t hit me how well we played until the next morning when I was watching 'SportsCenter' and people kept talking about it and I was like, 'Wow, that was a big deal,'" Edwards said.

He ended the season ranked No. 3 in the nation in kickoff return average (30.2 yards per return) and was one of seven players to return multiple kickoffs for touchdowns. Edwards has worked on his speed this offseason in order to get better, and joined the track team for the outdoor season with several other football players. Edwards says he is a much better runner now than he was when spring football ended.

That will only help him build off his impressive first season. After all, he's no longer an unknown.

"I’m going to keep playing how I was playing and keep on working hard. I knew who I was when nobody else knew who I was," Edwards said.

Potential 2014 SEC villains

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
10:00
AM ET
It’s over now, so you can admit it.

AJ McCarron and Johnny Manziel are gone, so it’s time to come clean.

Chances are you hated one or both. How much they won, how they won -- you hated it all. There might have been some respect for their play, but above all, most of you couldn’t stand them.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsSEC fans don't have Johnny Manziel to kick around anymore.
It’s OK. AJ and Johnny were the SEC’s necessary villains last season. And for that they will be sorely missed.

This year won’t be the same without them. Who will you boo? Who will you tune in to watch in hopes of seeing them fail?

It’s totally unreasonable, but it’s also unavoidable: SEC fans are haters.

Who will fill their unceremonious shoes in 2014? Who will be the ones SEC fans love to hate?

Note: Before we get to the candidates, let us apologize to them. We’re sorry, fellas. It’s not fun being disliked, but look at it this way: The more people boo you, the more you’re probably doing something right. So take this as a badge of honor. After all, villains make the SEC a more entertaining place.

Subjects are listed is in alphabetical order, as there is no scientifically known way to measure levels of dislike.

Jacob Coker, Alabama: He’s no McCarron. Let’s get that out of the way first. Unlike his predecessor, Coker is about as unassuming as a major talent can get. He started out as a humble three-star recruit, and his disposition has remained the same. But with the runaway hype machine that’s surrounded his landing at Alabama -- not to mention that he transferred to Alabama in the first place -- you’ve got the perfect recipe for blind dislike.

Jeff Driskel, Florida: Is anyone else tired of hearing about how Driskel is going to get better? Before you start, that was a rhetorical question. The answer, for everyone outside of Gainesville, is a resounding yes. You can hear the chants of “O-VER-RATED” now, can’t you? Because he’s Florida’s starting quarterback, Driskel has to be discussed. Because he has a cannon for an arm and good mobility, his potential is a constant source of discussion. And because he’s so discussed, he’s so disliked. If Driskel does progress into an All-SEC quarterback, he’ll have plenty of detractors. They’ll boo him because he plays for Florida and they’ll boo him because they’ll all want to know what took so long to get there.

[+] EnlargeLane Kiffin
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesNew Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has said some things that caused a stir in SEC country.
Lane Kiffin, Alabama: Coordinators are rarely the subject of such scorn, but the hate for Kiffin burns more intensely than for any head coach in the SEC. And the naysayers need only focus on his tumultuous time at Tennessee. There, he “turned in” Urban Meyer for a recruiting violation only to find that no violation was committed and that he, in fact, was the one violating an SEC rule by mentioning a recruit by name. He also made the Alshon Jeffery “pumping gas” comment, which didn’t exactly ingratiate himself to the rest of the league. Then, after one season, he left the Vols to return to USC. And now, after flunking out of Southern Cal, he’s back as offensive coordinator at Alabama.

Nick Marshall, Auburn: He’s as quiet as a church mouse, but Marshall has baggage. His unflattering dismissal from Georgia ruined whatever reputation he had long before he found his way to Auburn. Then he led the Tigers to the BCS title game and invoked the ghosts of Cam Newton. Marshall might not have invited the limelight a fraction of the way Newton did, but hate is unreasonable like that. They’ll obsess over his supposed shortcomings as a passer and neglect his utter effectiveness as a runner and orchestrator of Gus Malzahn’s offense. Marshall’s quiet nature ultimately will be mistaken for cockiness and fans will hate him just the same.

Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss: He’s been a rock star since he was 16 years old, and that alone is enough to do him in. It’s a matter of overexposure and jealousy. By simply choosing to commit to Ole Miss in the first place, he offended every other fan base that was actively pursuing him. In many ways, Nkemdiche is the face of Hugh Freeze’s out-of-the-blue 2013 signing class. Fans cried foul when the Rebels finished in the top five of the recruiting rankings that year, and Nkemdiche was the primary target. The fact he plays with so much fire will be wrongly taken as showboating, and if he dominates on the defensive line the way he should, he’ll accumulate haters quickly.
Maryland and Rutgers fans might have the wrong idea about their new Big Ten brethren.

For the most part, Midwesterners are excessively nice and hospitable. Coastal arrogance or aloofness has no place in the heartland, and the only frostiness in these parts is the weather. Big Ten fans might not have done backflips when they found out Rutgers and Maryland were joining the league, but now that the Scarlet Knights and Terrapins are part of the league, they will embrace their new, well-located friends.

But there are certain individuals that rankle even the most sensible Midwesterners. They are the folks you love to boo. Sadly, some of our favorite Big Ten villains -- Bret Bielema, Terrelle Pryor, Taylor Lewan -- are no longer here to kick around, but others remain.

Some of these folks have done absolutely nothing wrong. They have been too good on the field or on the sideline or as high school recruits. Others have said or done things to stir the pot.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
MCT via Getty ImagesPenn State coach James Franklin's exuberance has grown a little annoying for some around the Big Ten.
Today, we unmask these villains.

To those on this list, an important point: the only true villains in college football are good enough to be villains. No one cares what the last-place coach or quarterback thinks. So you have earned this distinction. Put it right next to your playing or coaching awards.

Another reminder: this is all in good fun.

Without further ado, the list in alphabetical (not villainous) order:

Jim Delany, commissioner, Big Ten: He is one of the most powerful figures in college sports and has built the Big Ten into a revenue superpower through initiatives like the Big Ten Network. The Big Ten will never have a commissioner who makes a greater impact for such a long period of time. But Delany is still known more for his pro-BCS stance, Legends and Leaders, and the eyebrow-raising additions of Rutgers and Maryland. He lacks Larry Scott's polish or Mike Slive's willingness to stump for his constituents no matter what. Delany is a true independent voice and, at times, it has hurt his image among Big Ten fans. He might not be truly appreciated until he's gone.

James Franklin, head coach, Penn State: Remember when Penn State's offseasons used to be quiet? Franklin has generated noise -- joyful noise for Nittany Nation, not so much for other fan bases -- since his opening news conference in January. He has made bold statements about dominating regional recruiting and backed it up so far, compiling a top-5 class for 2015. Franklin soaked up the spotlight during his May tour around the state and appears to be in front of every microphone and camera. Recruits and many fans love the guy, but some question his authenticity and get tired of the incessant hype.

Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State: He is about as subdued a superstar as we have seen in the Big Ten and a welcome departure from his predecessor, Pryor. But the introverted Miller has inflicted quite a bit of damage on Big Ten fan bases, leading Ohio State to a 16-0 mark in regular-season league games the past two seasons as the starter. Miller has been the king of comebacks during his Buckeyes career, leading six game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime, the most among any FBS player. Knock him if you'd like for lack of a Big Ten title, but his best could be still to come.

Pat Narduzzi, defensive coordinator, Michigan State: He is the overlord of the Big Ten's best defense and one of the nation's most dominant units. Michigan State and Alabama are the only FBS teams to rank among the top 11 nationally in the four major defensive categories in each of the past three seasons. Narduzzi's incessant blitzes punish quarterbacks and offensive linemen. Just ask Michigan. The Spartans have a good thing going and Narduzzi knows it, telling ESPN.com, "I don't think there's a team in the country that does what we do. ... We've been ahead of the curve for years."

Jabrill Peppers, DB, Michigan: How can Peppers be a Big Ten villain when he hasn't even played a Big Ten game? I'll answer that question with a question: How many recent Big Ten players have generated more headlines before they step on the field than Michigan's prized incoming recruit? It's not Peppers' fault, but 13 of the 14 Big Ten fan bases likely are tired of hearing about the next Charles Woodson, his connection to "Naughty by Nature" and Peppers being the potential savior for an underachieving Wolverines program. Peppers might be the most anticipated Big Ten recruit since Pryor in 2008. He has a lot to prove this fall, and quite a few folks hope he busts.

Villains on deck: Urban Meyer, Bo Pelini, Connor Cook, Julie Hermann, Christian Hackenberg
While the nation waits for LeBron James' next decision, Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, made its own pitch on Wednesday to the NBA superstar. The athletic department's Twitter account had some fun in the process:



James, who met in Las Vegas on Wednesday with the other Miami sports organization, is still weighing his options, sources told ESPN.com. Maybe the RedHawks can sneak into the picture.
The annual SEC media days begin Monday, which means we are in for another preseason circus in Hoover, Alabama.

It also means we are that much closer to the start of fall camp and the college football season. I wonder if any fan base will dwarf the Alabama fans who'll be lined up inside the lobby of the Wynfrey Hotel. Probably not. That's Tide turf, and everyone knows it.

Media days run from July 14-17. The SEC's official website, ESPN, ESPNU and WatchESPN will have continuous coverage of all the festivities.

MONDAY

Session I: 12–3:30 p.m. ET

Commissioner Mike Slive

Auburn
Session II: 3:40–6:40 p.m. ET

Florida
Vanderbilt
TUESDAY

Session I: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. ET

South Carolina
Mississippi State
Session II: 2–5 p.m. ET

Texas A&M
Tennessee
WEDNESDAY

Session I: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. ET

Steve Shaw (SEC coordinator of officials) / Justin Connolly (ESPN Senior Vice President of College Networks)

Missouri
Session II: 2–5 p.m. ET

LSU
Arkansas
THURSDAY

Session I: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. ET

Georgia
Ole Miss
Session II: 1–4 p.m. ET

Alabama
Kentucky
Dantonio/MeyerUSA TODAY SportsUrban Meyer and OSU might be the Big Ten favorite, but don't forget about Mark Dantonio and MSU.
Let's get this out of the way first. I don't begrudge anyone for listing Ohio State as the 2014 Big Ten favorite.

The Buckeyes are 16-0 in regular-season Big Ten games under coach Urban Meyer, and 24-0 in the regular season overall the past two seasons. Despite Wisconsin's surge in 2010 and 2011 and Penn State's in 2005 and 2008, Ohio State has carried the Big Ten banner since winning the league's last national title in 2002. Other than the 2011 season, when the program lost its coach and its quarterback late in the spring, Ohio State has been the team to beat in this league.

What bothers me is the tone about the Buckeyes and this season's Big Ten title race. I've been on several radio shows in recent weeks that have presented the conference as one where Ohio State is 50 yards ahead and everyone else is trying to catch up. Some playoff projections list Ohio State as the Big Ten's only candidate. Bovada's futures list Ohio State with 1/1 odds to win the Big Ten and 2/5 odds to win the East Division. That is an overwhelming endorsement for Meyer's crew.

I'm used to the Big Ten being framed in this way. In other seasons, it has made complete sense. It doesn't make sense entering the 2014 campaign.

The Big Ten conversation can start with Ohio State, but it also must include Michigan State, the team that outclassed Ohio State in the 2013 Big Ten championship game and went on to win the Rose Bowl against Stanford. The Spartans have earned a spot in the conversation.

Several other teams could catch, and possibly overtake, the Buckeyes and Spartans by early December, but right now, it's a two-team discussion.

So why are the Buckeyes dominating so much of the preseason chatter?

It takes a long time to change perception in college football, and the default perception in the Big Ten goes like this: Ohio State, canyon, everyone else. Michigan State last season was the Big Ten's most dominant team in recent memory -- the Spartans beat all nine of their league opponents by 10 points or more -- but the sense is MSU cannot sustain such excellence.

And why not? Well, the Spartans lost some key pieces from the league's top defense, including All-America cornerback Darqueze Dennard and linebacker Max Bullough.

But so did Ohio State. The Buckeyes actually lose more of their core: four starting offensive linemen, running back Carlos Hyde, linebacker Ryan Shazier, cornerback Bradley Roby.

Both teams say goodbye to quality offensive linemen but bring back proven quarterbacks in Braxton Miller (Ohio State) and Connor Cook (Michigan State). The Buckeyes likely have the single best position group between the teams -- and possibly in the entire Big Ten -- with their defensive line, but MSU's defense, with a multiyear stretch of elite performance, looks more complete. The Spartans, who lose only one key skill player on offense -- wide receiver Bennie Fowler -- seem to have fewer question marks on that side of the ball.

Both coaching staffs are excellent. Meyer added two quality defensive assistants this winter in Larry Johnson and Chris Ash. Michigan State retained arguably the nation's top defensive assistant in coordinator Pat Narduzzi.

Both teams should thrive on special teams with standout punters Mike Sadler (MSU) and Cameron Johnston (OSU).

I guess I'm trying to figure out where a significant gap exists between Ohio State and Michigan State. I understand the risk of basing too much on a previous season. MSU has to rise up again. But it's not like the Spartans are a one-year marvel. They have averaged 10.5 wins over the past four seasons.

Maybe the perceived gap is based on talent and recruiting. Ohio State has advantages in those areas and a roster that now includes several classes of Meyer recruits. But MSU also has made upgrades in the quality of players it brings in, and its ability to develop players can't be questioned at this point.

If you can make a case why Ohio State is well ahead of Michigan State and the rest of the Big Ten, be my guest. But don't base it on Ohio State being Ohio State and Michigan State being Michigan State. That type of lazy, it-is-how-it-is-because-it-always-has-been thinking enters too many college football conversations.

Ohio State could storm through the Big Ten en route to its first recognized league title since 2009. But the Buckeyes don't look like world-beaters on paper. They have significant questions (offensive line, linebacker, secondary, running back) and likely must get through East Lansing on Nov. 8 to return to Indianapolis.

They aren't entitled to the pedestal they have occupied in the past.

Go ahead and list the Buckeyes as your favorite. I might, too. But this year's Big Ten preseason buzz involves two teams, not one.
Clint ChelfAP Photo/Tim SharpClint Chelf threw for 2,169 yards and 17 touchdowns for Oklahoma State last season.
Last season, Clint Chelf joined Brandon Weeden as the second Oklahoma State quarterback ever to earn all-conference recognition.

After losing his starting job to J.W. Walsh after the second series of the season opener, Chelf came roaring back to reclaim the starting position and fuel the Cowboys to a seven-game winning streak.

Despite watching nearly half the season from the sideline, Chelf finished eighth nationally in Adjusted QBR.

Chelf, who is currently working out in his hometown of Enid, Oklahoma, still hoping to get a shot in the NFL, spoke with ESPN.com this week about Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State’s 2014 prospects and the time Boone Pickens danced in the locker room.

What did it mean to you to become the second quarterback in school history to earn All-Big 12 recognition?

Chelf: It’s really cool. That’s something I was honored to hear. At the same time, it doesn’t make me angry, but it makes me wonder what might have happened if I had gotten more snaps and gotten to play more games. But that’s something you go down in history for, and I’m honored by it.

You guys were literally seconds away from winning the Big 12 championship, and you would have been the hero having led the offense to the late go-ahead touchdown. What was going through your mind when Jalen Saunders caught that touchdown pass for Oklahoma at the end?

Chelf: Disappointment, I guess. I really felt like when we went down and scored, I thought, with the way our defense was playing all year, that we had won it. Unfortunately, they made some big plays. It was just overwhelming emotions after they scored. That’s something I’ll always remember, that was a tough loss for us, and for me especially. It was as opposite end of the spectrum as you can get in two minutes. We were ecstatic and thought we had just won the Big 12 to absolutely disappointed. It was really tough.

On the other side, what was your favorite moment from last season?

Chelf: My favorite moment would probably be catching a pass against Baylor. That whole Baylor game obviously was a lot of fun. As a quarterback, that’s something you don’t get a chance to do. That was really a fun atmosphere.

What was it like playing under Coach Gundy?

Chelf: It was really kind of surprising how it worked. My first year there, he was still involved in our offense. He was more hands on with us, so he got to be around us a lot. But the next couple of years we hired Dana (Holgorsen) and Coach (Todd) Monken, and (Gundy) was never around us. The two offensive coordinators were with us in meetings, on the field, and (Gundy) was kind of more on the defensive side. At the end of the Coach Monken era, Coach Gundy came back in the Heart of Dallas Bowl and he was around us again. He’s an offensive-minded football coach. He’s a good guy. He broke things down for us where all the guys in the room could understand. He relates to the guys well. Everyone knows about his dancing. It’s fun. Guys see we have a coach that will act goofy with us and isn’t afraid to be around us and let his hair down. That’s just how he is. Around us, behind closed doors, he’s a good guy, he’s not afraid to have fun. I think that helps him relate to the guys.

So was he more around the offense again this past season?

Chelf: Yeah, he was more around. Just with the dynamics of it, Dana and Coach Monken were older guys that had been around. Monken was from the NFL. Dana had been an offensive coordinator for a long time. Coach (Mike) Yurcich, it was his first time being at a big-time school in a big-time conference. So I think Coach Gundy, it’s not like it was him coaching, it was Coach Yurcich, but Coach Gundy was around more than he was with the other two guys.

There has been some speculation that maybe Gundy and (former Oklahoma State offensive line coach) Joe Wickline were calling plays at times last season instead of Yurcich. Any truth to that?

Chelf: I think as far as calling plays during the game, Coach Yurcich was calling plays. When we went in for adjustments, everybody would put in their ideas about what would work. Having guys like Coach Gundy, Coach Wickline, those are guys Coach Yurcich could look to and listen to when they had ideas. Those are people you listen to. They influenced (the offense), but they didn’t try to take anything away from Coach Yurcich. I think it was a group effort. I think (Yurcich) called the plays, but they all gave suggestions.

Do you have any good Boone Pickens stories?

Chelf: After we won the Big 12 championship in 2011, he came in and did a little Gundy impersonation, and showed us his moves. They were pretty cool for a 70-year-old billionaire. That was probably the funniest one that I can remember.

Who is the better dancer, Gundy or Boone?

Chelf: I’d have to say Boone, for being the older guy. I think he had a little bit more rhythm.

Moving to this season, what is the key to Walsh playing more efficiently the way he did two years ago?

Chelf: What’s going to help him is having those athletes around him. I think they’re going to be really deep at receiver this year. With J.W., everyone knows he can run and make plays with his legs. What helps him is if you can get him going early with quick passes and let him make some plays running to get his confidence up. I think that really helps him the whole entire game. Getting him going early is a big key for him.

The players all talk about Walsh’s leadership. What is it that makes him a good leader?

Chelf: He’s really relatable to all those guys. He hangs out with all them. He’s also a hard worker. I think that’s probably his biggest asset. Those guys see him in the weight room. When they’re running, he’s always out in front. Guys respect guys like that and he gives the younger guys someone to look up to.

With so much turnover from last year, what are your thoughts on the Cowboys this season?

Chelf: It’s going to be tough. I think that’s something everyone should be prepared for. Anytime you lose 28 seniors and guys that pretty much all played, that’s going to be hard to replace. At the same time, I think they have a lot of talent at the skill positions, and with J-Dub, I think they’re going to be fine. And then on defense, they’re going to be young and have growing pains. But at the same time, Coach (Glenn) Spencer is one of the best defensive coaches I’ve ever been around. He has his guys prepared and ready to go. I think that’s going to be huge for the defense, having him on their side. But it’s also going to be a hard season, I think.

Some people probably don’t know this, but you grew up in Enid with former Oklahoma linebacker Austin Box, who passed away suddenly in 2011. How tough was that and what do you remember about Austin?

Chelf: It was really tough. I remember the day. I was sitting in the exact same spot I’m sitting in right now. I was one of the first ones to find out in my family. My brother was home, I went in there and told him and my mother. They were shell-shocked. That was one of my brother’s best friends. They played everything together since they could walk. I was kind of the tagalong with them. It was a tough time. The one thing I remember about Austin, whenever he walked in the room, it didn’t matter if there were a hundred people or 10, you could always hear him. He was always loud and charismatic and funny. I’ll always remember that. He was a great guy, and someone I looked up to since I could walk. He’s one of the reasons I wanted to play quarterback. Watching him do some of the things he did at Enid was inspiring. It was a tough loss. But we always remember how Austin was growing up. Kind-hearted and a great guy.
Ricky WattersJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesRicky Watters is back on the Notre Dame campus, working to finish his degree in architecture.
Brad Malkovsky was launching icebreakers on the first day of his summer theology class when a chiseled student sitting in the front row caught the associate professor off guard with his introduction. The student said he had not been in a classroom in more than 20 years. He said he was in his 40s. He said he had a wife and two kids.

"I thought he was a 25-year-old," Malkovsky laughed. "I'm thinking to myself, 'If this guy's in his 40s and he's back at Notre Dame -- and he certainly looks like an athlete -- I'll bet I can Google it and find out what's going on.' And I Googled it and it turned out, ‘Oh, I used watched to watch this guy 20 years ago.'"

"This guy" was Ricky Watters, who played 11 seasons for three NFL teams, was named to five Pro Bowls, rushed for more than 10,000 yards and won a Super Bowl with the 49ers in 1994. Now he's back in class, more than two decades after a four-year career at Notre Dame, during which the school won its last national title in 1988 and finished the season ranked No. 2 the next year.

"We talk about reincarnation and some of those things that they believe in other religions and stuff," Watters said. "And [Malkovsky] is like, 'Man, did you reincarnate right in front of me? What's going on here?'"

Not quite, but Watters' second act at Notre Dame is proving to be, in his mind, as memorable as the first.

He uprooted his family from their Orlando, Florida, home for the summer, moving into an apartment complex right off campus. His two boys, 13 and 7, have enjoyed their father's old stomping grounds, getting round after round in on the nearby golf course and enjoying the premature college life.

Watters exhausted his eligibility during a four-year college career that saw him rush for 1,821 yards and 21 touchdowns. But he never obtained the architecture degree -- which often takes five years to complete -- that he started.

It’s an itch that hasn't really left since he was drafted in 1991.

[+] EnlargeRicky Watters
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonRicky Watters rushed for 10,643 yards in 10 seasons in the NFL.
Watters considers himself an artistic person, and his parents encouraged him to pursue something involving his childhood passion of drawing, so he sought schools that offered architecture degrees while coming out of Bishop McDevitt High in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

"The reality of it set in at a high football school like Notre Dame," Watters said. "It's obviously about academics, but it's also playing big-time football, and the demands that are placed on you doing that and the demands that are placed on you trying to do architecture, they just don't fit, not if you plan on getting any sleep or eating or surviving.

“So I think it was a noble thing to want to do, but if I had to do it all over I probably would've taken business or something like that. Once I realized that football is such a business even, it could've helped me."

With his football career over, though, Watters has reverted back to his original passion. He said he'll finish with a graphic design degree, because he was able to transfer over so many of his credits.

His final three classes, which run for six weeks through the end of July, are in liberal studies, theology and, perhaps toughest of all, ceramics, a four-night-a-week, 150-minute-a-session course. The other two, which meet two and three times per week, respectively, are hardly cakewalks, with the reading assignments for Watters' liberal studies class carving out a good chunk of the remaining time in his week.

"I remember so vividly times that people would announce me as a Notre Dame graduate; everyone even thinks that I'm a Notre Dame graduate," Watters said. "I know I'm not, and I have that feeling every time someone would say that. So I said, 'You know what, that's also a big part of it.'

"It's for your soul, just to feel complete and to feel like you finished it. You did what you set out to do. Both my parents, they've passed away now, and I know they're looking down on me, and when they see me get that degree it's going to be a happy time for them, too."

Of course, in Watters' return, he hasn't been completely negligent of the program where he began to make a national name for himself. Fighting Irish running backs coach Tony Alford invited Watters to speak to his position group, with Watters stressing to the players the importance of immersing themselves with the rest of the student body and recognizing the power of their platform. And Watters has familiar company in Malkovsky's theology class, with offensive lineman Steve Elmer among the handful of players he can call classmates.

"I'm now sitting up front, they're in the back," Watters laughed. "I remember being in the back."

Watters' renaissance in the classroom also comes at a time when increased benefits for college athletes is a hot topic amid the backdrop of several high-profile lawsuits. While the former NFL running back said the finances behind his return to Notre Dame are still being sorted out, he did allow that he believes more should be done to help current athletes obtain their degrees one way or another.

"I think definitely if someone wants to finish, let them have that right and that chance to finish, because it is important, No. 1, to the person," Watters said. "But it should be important to the university, and I love the fact that our university at Notre Dame, they care about that, they care about their guys graduating. Everyone graduates. Everyone has a chance to graduate if they want it, but you have to want it. You have to be willing to do what it takes. They're not going to just give it to you. It's definitely not a situation like that.

"I have to do the work, I had to come here, I had to bring my family -- any way you look at it, I'm paying something. I'm definitely going to have to pay just to come here, but that is part of the sacrifice that you make to finish what you started, and I'm just so close that I think it would be a shame not to finish, and I know there are other guys that are working right now trying to figure out how they can get back and finish, and I think that they should."
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Miami linebackers Alex Figueroa and JaWand Blue were dismissed from the team Tuesday following their arrest on sexual battery charges.

Both players are accused of having sex with a "physically helpless" 17-year-old girl. According to the police report, both admitted to performing sexual acts on the victim without her consent.

Here are the statements issued from Miami officials:

School president Donna E. Shalala:

“The safety and welfare of our students is fundamental to our mission as a university. We have zero tolerance for sexual assault and gender-based violence. There is no confusion about our responsibility as a university: We will fully and compassionately support the victim of sexual assault. I have spoken to her myself and reassured her of our full support. We have suspended the men involved, and they have been barred from campus. Our athletic director has taken firm action ending their involvement in the football program. We have notified the individuals involved that the university is beginning an investigation immediately, which we expect to conclude quickly and fairly. We will also continue to cooperate with the police in their ongoing criminal investigation.”

Athletic director Blake James:

"Earlier today, I permanently dismissed JaWand Blue and Alexander Figueroa from the UM football team. The University has also suspended the students from school and barred them from all campus facilities while the University conducts an internal investigation and continues to cooperate with local law enforcement. Any allegation of a sexual assault is extremely serious, and the University will not tolerate conduct that threatens the sanctity and safety of our students and our campus. We hold all of our students – especially student athletes – to the highest standards of moral conduct. The University is committed to maintaining a safe campus environment for all."

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