Countdown to College Football: South Carolina Gamecocks – Coach Spurrier Gets Defensive #gamecocknation

For nearly a decade Coach Steve Spurrier has built his hall of fame career on his one of a kind charisma and potent high scoring FUN ‘N’ GUN offenses which won him 2 national championships, 7 SEC conference titles, and a 72% winning record after twenty-two years of coaching.

After an unsuccessful head coaching stint in the NFL with the Washington Redskins, Coach Spurrier returned to a new SEC conference, no longer was his once potent offense enough to compete with the new dominant teams who have represented the SEC in the BCS: Alabama, LSU, UGA, and Arkansas. After two seasons of stubbornness and mediocrity the Ol’ Ball Coach began to revise his offensive philosophy and began to place a huge emphasis on a dominant defense and a dominant run game.

Although his change in philosophy did not yield immediate dividends  it helped Spurrier attract the attention of top in state recruits who at one time chose UGA or Tennessee of the home-state Gamecocks. Before injuries to starting running back Lattimore and the dismissal of starting quarterback Garcia the Gamecocks were the favorite to win the SEC East and offer a sizeable challenge to Alabama or LSU in the title game. Although the Gamecocks still have yet to win a SEC title they appear poised to make some noise and potentially garner a BCS invite for the first time in the program’s history

On offense the Gamecocks will lean heavily on Marcus Lattimore who was a Heisman front-runner before tearing his ACL against Mississippi State last year. Lattimore was a workhorse who averaged nearly 30-carries per game. In order to make life easier for Lattimore this year it will be vital for starting quarterback Connor Shaw to capitalize on the single coverage he will get when defenses put nine in the box to stop the run.

Although Alshon Jeffrey is now playing for the Chicago Bears the cupboard at wide receiver and tight end is far from bare. Conner Shaw will lean heavily on might mite, Ace Sanders to beat man coverage, also expect incoming freshman Shaq Rolland at wideout and Mike Davis at running back to log some key minutes this season.

The Gamecocks will rely heavily on their dominant defense to offset an inconsistent offense. Despite losing key cogs Melvin Ingram and Steven Gilmore to the NFL little drop off is expected from a defense that ranked third in total defense in the NCAA. Preseason All-American defensive ends Jadaveon Clowney and Devin Taylor will terrorize the offensive back fields of their opponents and make quarterbacks and opposing offensive coordinators lose sleep at night.

These future NFL bookends will attempt to cover for a secondary with gaping holes. The outcomes of many games this year will be determined by the focus and discipline of the talented but inexperienced defensive secondary. With their former defensive coordinator leaving for  head coaching gig, how quickly the defense is able to pick up the new schemes and sets of new their new DC will determine a lot.

It has taken eight years for the Ol’ Ball Coach to bring the Gamecocks out of the cell of mediocrity and with each year expectations continue to grow. No longer are the Gamecocks remembered for the nation’s longest losing streak, but how they are remembered this year will rest on the reconstructed knee of Marcus Lattimore and play of their defensive secondary.

Will Marcus Lattimore’s knee be 100% healthy? Will play-makers arise on defense and at wide out? Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark (follow me on twitter@eatdrnkslpsprtz

2012 London Olympic Games: My Fav Five Female Olympic Winners #london2012

(By: Jonquil R Flowers aka no1swimmerj)

I am still on cloud 9 after watching the 2012 Summer Olympic Games that were just recently held in London!  It was two weeks packed with great athletic competition.  Not only did we see the best athletes in the world compete, we were given insight to many of their personal life stories.  As I reflect on the excitement of the 2012 Olympic Games, I have come up with my fave five females; five female Olympians whose athletic performance inspired me.

#5 Lia Neal – Swimming 

Although 17 year old Lia Neal did not qualify for the Olympic team in the 100 meter Olympic Trials she played a key role as a member of the US women’s 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay team with Missy Franklin, Allison Schmitt, & Jessica Hardy.  They came in third place behind Australia and the Netherlands with a time of 3:34.24, which set an American record. Neal, a Brooklyn native, had an amazing swim in London and will be a force to be reckoned with in Rio.

#4 Claressa Shields – Boxing

For the first time in the London Olympic Games women were able to challenge for gold in boxing. Clarissa Shields, a 17 year old from Flint, Michigan, became the first woman boxer to represent the US in the Olympics.  On top of that, she is the first woman boxer to win gold!

#3 Destinee Hooker – Volleyball

Destinee Hooker at 6ft 4 in tall won four consecutive NCAA Championships in the high jump at the University of Texas while also earning All-American honors in indoor volleyball. In 2008, she joined the US women’s national volleyball team. Destinee is an opposite attacker and is often seen serving, blocking, and spiking the ball.  After watching several Olympic volleyball matches, I would move out of the way if Destinee ever sent a ball over my way. She was the second overall scorer in the Olympic tournament where she, along with her teammates, won the silver medal for the United States.

#2 Allyson Felix – Track & Field

Fast!  That’s the first word that comes to mind when I think of Allyson Felix.  But, not only is she fast; she is also graceful.  She makes sprints look so easy when many other runners look so tense.  Allyson is from southern California, where her love for track began.  After high school, she went pro and also got her degree in Elementary Education from USC. She competed in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, where it seemed the gold medal eluded her in her best event, the 200 meter sprint. However,  2012 was truly Allyson Felix’s year winning  3 gold medals in London.  She finally won gold in the 200 meter race with a time of 21.88 sec.  She also ran the 4 x 400 meter and the 4 x 100 meter relay which was arguably one of the most exciting races of all of track and field events.  She, along with Tianna Madison, Bianca Knight, and Carmelita Jeter, set a new world record as they upset the Jamaican relay team in their quest for gold.  This was Allyson third Olympic games.  I have never heard of such longevity for sprinters, but she says we can expect to see her in Rio.

Gabrielle Douglas – Gymnastics

Yep!  You guessed it!  My absolute favorite female athlete of the 2012 Summer Olympics was Gabby Douglas.  This young lady has such a heart filled story. This 16 year old had every bit of focus and poise needed to be successful in London. She was able to slip under the radar of super high expectations and earn a spot to on the US gymnastics national team. She helped the US Women’s Team win gold in the team competition, which had not been done since the “Magnificent Seven” at the 1996 games. Then, she shocked the world and won gold in the Individual All-Around.  Wow!  While some were commenting on how her hair looked during the competition, she was taking care of business.  She is an awesome athlete and beautiful young lady.

These were my fave five!  But, I have to give a shout out to Carmelita Jeter (track & field), Sonya Richards-Ross (track & field), Serena Williams (tennis), Candace Parker (basketball), and the list goes on…  These women were great in London!  It’s a long four years away, but I can’t wait to see what Rio will bring!   “Stay tuned… I know I will!” – J. Flowers

Countdown to College Football: FSU Seminoles – Elite Talent. Weak Conference. Weak Schedule. Why No Title? #warchant

For nearly a decade the Florida State Seminoles reigned as the King of the college football landscape. Led by one of the winningest coaches of all time the Seminoles won conference titles, national championships, Heismans, and served as a direct pipeline sending their college stars to the NFL. However those glory days are no more and the “Nick Saban disciple” Jimbo Fisher has successfully brought in a cupboard full of five-star thoroughbreds who have the talent to dominate the ACC and end the SEC’s stranglehold on the BCS title.

The Seminole faithful have stood behind their program and continue to believe that each year will be THE year that their team will again to being one of the nation’s elite college football programs. Dedicated Seminole loyalist had this to say:

“I believe the Noles will be favored in 11 of 12 games. They should win all of those games, but until this team proves they have the killer instinct and focus to do so, it’s hard to predict anything beyond 9-3 or 8-4. I expect better, and I’ll be disappointed with anything less than 10 wins, but I can’t bring myself to say this is the team that brings FSU back to glory. We’ve been there every year since 2001 only to be sorely disappointed. With that said, I can’t wait for them to prove me wrong!” – Jared Ross (@FSUNOLE21)

On offense the Seminoles are led by quarterback EJ Manuel who passed on the NFL to improve his draft stock and to fulfill his promise.  Manuel has battled injuries and struggled with consistency often showing glimpses of dominance and great mobility in the pocket. Manuel will have a number of playmakers at his disposal in promising wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and running backs James Wilder III and Devonta Freeman who both appear poised for breakout seasons. There are several questions along the offensive line and their play will dictate the direction of the offense as well as the success of the team overall.

The Seminole defense will be downright scary led by future first round picks and preseason Americans Lamarcus Joyner at cornerback and Brandon Jenkins at defensive end. FSU has an embarrassment of riches with defensive linemen who run like linebackers and linebackers who are as fast as gazelles. Although the secondary suffered a major loss with the dismissal of starting cornerback Greg Reid there will be little talent drop off due to the depth and talent of unproven underclassmen biting at the bit to prove themselves. The defensive line will dominate the line of scrimmage and their depth along the d-line will keep the players fresh making life for opposing quarterbacks causing nightmares for opposing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators.

Despite clear advantages in talent the Seminoles have been unable to dominate their lesser talented ACC opposition. Year in and year out the Seminoles out recruit traditional powers like Alabama and USC, but the success on the recruiting trail has yet to translate into ACC titles and BCS bowl game appearances.

Wins over crosstown rivals Florida and Miami used to be enough to satisfy the masses, if the Seminoles fail to meet expectations and finish another season unranked changes will definitely be in order because mediocrity to Seminole fans is not acceptable. Will the Seminoles win the ACC? Will James Wilder III allude trouble like he alludes tacklers? Will the 15 year streak of not having a 1,000 yard rusher continue? Stay tuned…I Know I will. – A. Denmark (follow me on twitter @eatdrnkslpsprtz)


Countdown to College Football: Oregon Ducks – Offense Sells Tickets, Defense Wins Titles. In Aliotti We Trust

In only four short years Chip Kelly has lead the Oregon Ducks to three straight Pac 10 Titles, 3 consecutive BCS Bowl Appearances, and 1 National Championship appearance. The excitement and the momentum caused by the endless uniform combinations and a potent scoring offense has made the Ducks an elite program that has attracted fans and recruits from all over the country.

Although the Ducks lose two starters in their backfield in Darron Thomas at quarterback and NCAA leading rusher LeMichael James the firepower that they return on offense and the ever improving defense led by longtime Defensive Coordinator Nick Alotti has many fans in Eugene dreaming of playing for a BCS National Championship in Miami, Florida on January 7th.

The offense is loaded with undersized mighty mites who make up for their lack of size with blazing speed and motors that frequently outwork and out-hussle their bigger and stronger NFL-bound opposition. Despite having to replace their entire backfield the cupboard is far from bare with a stable of running backs and quarterbacks anxious to be featured and lead this exciting offense.

Although the starter at quarterback has yet to be announced many expect red-shirt freshman Marcus Mariota to lead the Ducks due to impressive performance in the spring which conjured memories of former Heisman finalist and star quarterback Dennis Dixon. Whoever Chip Kelly chooses to lead will have a bevy of thoroughbreds like senior running back Kenjon Barner and rb/wr DeAnthony “Black Mamba” Thomas to rely on for big plays and touchdowns. Lost in the bevy of excitement about the stars who will garner post season honors is the major concerns that exist along their offensive line. Lineman rarely make the highlight reels but their play this season will dictate the direction of the Duck offense.

On defense longtime Defensive Coordinator Nick Alotti has been blessed with a number of toys to work with. For years the Duck defenders were undersized and were often a step too slow. However the success of the team has attracted the attention of premiere recruits on the defensive side of the ball which has made wreaking havoc that much easier. The defense is led by Kiki Alonso and Dion Jordan at linebacker who both had breakout performances in last years Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin. The secondary is paced by Terrance Mitchell at cornerback and likely All-American candidate Josh Boyett at safety. Although the defense still remains thin along the defensive line the experience in the defensive backfield will make quarterbacks think twice before airing it out.

Expectation in Oregon cannot get any higher and many pundits believe it is only a matter of time before the Sears National Championship Trophy finds a home in Eugene,Oregon. There was a time when Oregon was only known for their uniforms and its most prominent booster NIKE founder Phil Knight. However, those time are no more and dreams of dominance on the football field have become their new reality. Will the Ducks live up to preseason expectations? Will the Ducks mascot top 3,000 push-ups this season? Stay tuned… I know I will – (follow me on twitter @eatdrnkslpsprtz)

Countdown to College Football: OU Sooners – Coach Stoops, Aging Coach. Declining Program. #boomersooner

In 1999 Coach Bob Stoops assumed the challenge of returning the Oklahoma Sooners football program to one of the nation’s elite. During his tenure at Oklahoma he has won a national championship, coached a Heisman winner and countless All-Americans, won 4 Big XII Championships, and boosted the national exposure of the football program which has attracted five-star recruits from all over the country.

In spite of the accolades and an impressive 139-34 winning record, the shine from the BCS title that Stoops won 13 years ago has faded and seasons of unfulfilled expectations and poor showings in big games remain fresh in the minds of pundits and fans alike. This upcoming season the Bob Stoops era is on the line and if he is unable to maximize the impressive array of talent on his roster, it may be time for #soonernation to find themselves a new coach.

The Sooners will be led by quarterback Landry Jones who turned down millions from the NFL to return for his senior year in Norman. Considered a first round lock by most draft analyst little drop off is expected from a potent offense that returns play-makers at wide receiver in Kenny Stills and spring break out star Trey Moyer. Dominique Whaley returns from a broken ankle and leads a deep stable of running backs but there are huge holes along the offensive line due to two expected starters being lost for the season because of injuries. Although the Sooners lost a lot of senior leadership from last year’s team the firepower that they possess on offense will certainly put up a lot of points and set a few Big XII records.

Mike Stoops returns to Norman to salvage a defense that has played very poorly and has failed to live up to  expectations, despite the collection of five-star recruits on the defensive side of the ball. Their secondary has at times looked lost and have been consistently susceptible to big plays. In order counteract the spread offenses in the Big XII the defensive coordinator has installed a new defensive scheme which include a “2 linebacker 3 cornerback sets”. Along the defensive line the Sooners have a wealth of big bodies who have yet to fulfill the expectations everyone had of them as five-star recruits. Future first rounders Tony Jefferson at safety and Corey Nelson at linebacker will set the tone for the defense and may be up for postseason honors if they continue to play at an All-American level.

Thirteen years ago the Sooners won a BCS title and since then they have failed to meet the lofty expectations time and time again. Winning records used to be enough to keep your job, but losses to inferior teams and poor showing in BCS Bowl Games is no longer acceptable.

The time has come for Bob Stoops to make Norman, Oklahoma the Mecca of College Football once again, its been long overdue. Will the offensive line protect Landry Jones? Will the defense return to the days of dominance. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark (@eatdrnkslpsprtz)

College Football Countdown: Alabama Crimson Tide – High Hopes. Low Tide. No Title. #rolltide

In 2007 Nick Saban inherited a mess when he took on the arduous task of returning the once proud Alabama Crimson Tide football program to national relevance. Six years and two national championships later embarrassing losses to teams like Louisiana Monroe have been forgotten; overshadowed by three consecutive #1 recruiting classes in the country.

The talent at Alabama is so deep that a number of their third stringers would probably start for most of the teams in the country, even the elite teams like USC, Ohio State, and Texas. Last year the reigning champions were led by current Cleveland Brown running back Trent Richardson and by a dominant defense viewed my many as one of the BEST DEFENSES ALL TIME which also produced 7 NFL draft picks.

The Crimson Tide begin their title defense against the Michigan Wolverines and despite their loses on defense and offense expectations can not be any higher. On offense the Tide are led by AJ McCarrons who played remarkably in the championship game against LSU. They have two All-Americans and likely first round draft choices along their offensive line in massive DJ Fluker and the violinist/Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones. Little drop off is expected at running back due to the Tide’s impressive stable of backs including Eddie ‘Circle Button’ Lacey and spring freshman breakout star TJ Yeldon.

Although their current team possesses a number of future NFL talent several pundits are mistakenly overlooking the lack of proven playmakers at wide receiver and tight end. Although Marquis Maze and Brad Smelley did not even make the All-SEC team they each played a critical role in the Tide’s title run. Marquis Maze kept defenses honest often requiring safety help and Brad Smelley was a wonderful first down outlet and a great run/pass blocker. Who will fill these roles? There is talent at wide receiver and tight end but who steps up is anyone’s guess.

On defense the Tide truly have an embarrassment of riches with former five-star recruits anxiously awaiting their turn to shine in the crimson limelight. Talented underclassmen are biting at the bit to step in for last year’s stars (Courtney Upshaw, Dre Kirkpatrick, Mark Barron, and Donta Hightower)  who each shook Commissioner Goodell’s hand after being selected in first round of the NFL Draft. CJ Mosely at linebacker will certainly garner All-American honors this season and players like Adrian Hubbard and Jesse Williams will again help the Crimson Tide lead the nation in total defense for another season.

However, the Tide’s chances of defending their title will be determined by the play of their secondary which only returns one starter. The offenses that the Tide will face in the SEC will be led by future NFL caliber quarterbacks (Wilson of Arkansas, Bray of UT, and Murray of UGA). Unlike in years past there will be an aerial onslaught and it may take a few games before Nick Saban is able to whip his secondary into shape.

Although the talent is there to contend for a title the inexperience at several key positions may make hoisting the National Championship Trophy with an unblemished record highly unlikely. After winning their first title in 2009 the Tide lost three games the following season. How will the 2012 Crimson Tide team respond? Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark (follow me on twitter @eatdrnkslpsprtz)

Countdown to College Football: Preseason # 1 USC Trojans? Offense Win Games Not Championships

The college football season is less than five weeks away and the money that I traditionally waste on preseason college football magazines have already began to collect dust in my office and has gotten lost amongst the pile of more recent sports material that I have accumulated in my bathroom.

Before you laugh or roll your eyes I am sure that I am not alone in this traditional wasteful accumulation of sport magazines that were once a must have for avid sports fans who were in need of a fix to make it before college football finally arrives.

Each summer so-called experts boldly tout Heisman locks and their pre-season favorites to hoist the crystal ball at season’s end. But each year so many of their predictions are wrong and their alleged locks for gridiron dominance end the season unranked and playing in third-tier bowls. As the countdown to the college football season begins stay tuned as I inform you why several pre-season favorites will NOT hold up the Sears National Championship Trophy at the end of the season.

LSU was discussed last week ( Next up, Preaseason Favorite #2, USC Trojans:

There was a time not too long ago that USC was THE premiere program in college football loaded with a bevy of future NFL prospects up and down their depth chart. USC had such an embarrassment of riches that second stringer Matt Cassell was drafted by the New England Patriots despite never taking one college snap in four years.

However, due to NCAA sanctions the glory of back to back championships and multiple Heisman winners are all but distant memories. But with the Trojans now eligible for postseason play the expectations for the USC Trojans lead by Heisman favorite Matt Barkley could not be higher.

The Trojans will have no problem on offense returning two 1,000 yard wide receivers in Robert Woods and Marqise Lee; two 1,000 running backs in Curtis McNeal and recent Penn State Transfer, Silas Redd. The firepower on the offensive side of the ball will certainly give defensive coordinators nightmares.

 Despite this impressive offensive firepower booking reservations to the 2013 BCS National Championship in Pasadena California would be a tad bit premature. Last year the Trojans defense ranked 54th in total defense. Although the defense possessed the talent to be dominant, they were very inconsistent at times last season.

The Trojan defense are led by their All-Americans safety TJ McDonald and feisty undersized cornerback Nickell Robey. But when your best players on defense are in the defensive secondary there are reasons to be deeply concerned. These concerns on defense are magnified when there is very little depth along the defensive line and in the linebacker corp. Last year the Trojan defense was littered with injuries which forced a number of inexperienced players into action.

In the game of football, injuries are an unavoidable element that all championship caliber programs must overcome to hoist the crystal ball at the end of the season. How the Trojans respond when the inevitable injury bug strikes will ultimately determine how the Trojans finish the season.

The Trojans have a championship caliber offense that will operate like a thing of beauty, but it will be the defense which will ultimately determine what the Trojans will be playing for at season’s end. Will the defense sputter? Will Matt Barkley end the SEC’s BCS Championship streak? Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark (@eatdrnkslpsprtz)