Inside this Week’s SI College Football Preview: 28 Pages of Scouting Reports on SI’s Top 25 and Six Regional Covers

34COValav14_PollSPORTS ILLUSTRATED’s 2013 College Football Preview—on newsstands now—breaks down SI’s Top 25 with 28 pages of scouting reports that include profiles of key players and breakout stars, Q&As with coaches and other vital analysis. The top six teams in SI’s Top 25 are represented on regional covers:  The top six teams in SI’s top 25 are represented on regional covers of this week’s issue: No. 1 Alabama (T.J. Yelton, So., RB), No. 2 Stanford (Shayne Skov, Sr., LB), No. 3 Texas A&M (Johnny Manziel, So., QB), No. 4 Ohio State (Braxton Miller, Jr., QB), No. 5 Oregon (Marcus Mariota, So., QB) and No. 6 South Carolina (Jadeveon Clowney, Jr., DE). View all six regional covers here.

Here is SI’s preseason top 10:

1.    Alabama
2.    Stanford
3.    Texas A&M
4.    Ohio State
5.    Oregon
6.    South Carolina
7.    Louisville
8.    Notre Dame
9.    Florida
10.    Clemson

Find the entire SI Top 25, expanded scouting reports, video breakdowns, conference analyses, a media roundtable and SI’s All-America team at SI.com/cfb

SI Top 25 Notes: *If Johnny Manziel is ruled ineligible before the season, SI moves the Aggies to No. 15; Alabama tops the SI preseason Top 25 for the fourth consecutive season; Stanford’s No. 2 ranking is the highest SI preseason ranking for the Cardinal.

Also inside SI: Heisman Trophy dark horses (see below); a look at No. 2 Stanford’s Shayne Skov and other “nerds” at good academic schools (No. 22 Northwestern, No. 23 Vanderbilt and Duke) who will make a difference on the field this year (click here); the influx of hurry-up offenses and why it still isn’t for everyone (click here); and how the 1942 Rose Bowl between Oregon State and Duke rallied a nation (click here).

HEISMAN WATCH

Before last season started, few  outside of College Station knew about the soon-to-be Heisman winner Johnny Manziel. So while everyone knows the Heisman favorites, SI’s Zac Ellis looks at some players (with odds) who could match Manziel’s epic rise and make an out-of-nowhere run at the trophy in 2013 (PAGE 59):

•    Jameis Winston, Florida State, QB, Freshman (25 to 1)
•    Chuckie Keeton, Utah State, QB, Junior (100 to 1)
•    Duke Johnson, Miami, RB, Sophomore (50 to 1)
•    Derek Carr, Fresno State, QB, Senior (100 to 1)
•    Dri Archer, Kent State, RB, Senior (75 to 1)
•    Stefon Diggs, Maryland, WR, Sophomore (75 to 1)
•    Kyle Van Noy, BYU, LB, Senior, (150 to 1)


Where Are They Now? – Maurice Clarett

ClarettMaurice Clarett, who as a freshman running back led Ohio State to a 14-0 season and scored the game-winning touchdown in the 2002 BCS title game, was one of the most promising teenage athletes in the country – until he left school early, struggled in the NFL, and wound up in prison. In SI’s Where Are They Now? issue, contributing writer Michael Mcknight (@McKnight_Mike) finds that after some serious recalibration, Clarett hopes to reclaim his promise on a whole new field – the rugby pitch.

Toledo Correctional, where Clarett served 43 months for aggravated robbery and weapons charges, is where Clarett began his maturation process. He passed his time mainly by reading and writing blog posts, which he turned into a book earlier this year. In his posts, Clarett would write motivational excerpts, like the one he wrote in April 2009: If I get out of here and become successful people will say that making these posts [was] one of the greatest things I ever did… They will want to take pictures and tell me how they always believed in me, even when I was at my lowest… On the flip side of the coin, if I get out and become a failure (NOT LIKELY TO HAPPEN)… they will use this as an example of [a] great con… The shallow people of the world will celebrate my demise. They’ll tell me that they threw my jersey away and they can’t watch the 2002 National Championship game because I am in it.” (PAGE 72)

Since his release in April 2010, Clarett has been working on the transition to real life. McKnight says that Clarett’s own relationship with his father and time in jail did very little to prepare Clarett to be a good father to his daughter Jayden. But since then, “he has become a wonderful dad,” says Ashley Evans, Clarett’s girlfriend and the mother of Jayden. (PAGE 73)

In January 2009, Clarett wrote, If I ever get the chance to step on that field again, I will come back to make my family and friends smile. I have a gift and I am extremely talented. I might not get the money that I expected in the past but I guarantee that someone will smile again when they see me play. I am a beast on that field.” (PAGE 68) Clarett, who will turn 30 in October, has slightly altered his dream and is now pursuing Rugby. McKnight says the sport is “perfectly suited for his body type and skill set, a brief escape from the angst at home, and an outlet for his competitive fire.” (PAGE 73) Sevens rugby, which is played with seven men per team instead of the traditional 15, is ideal for Clarett, who has the speed and agility to make tacklers miss. He dreams of playing on the national sevens team when rugby debuts as an Olympic sport in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Clarett also travels around for speaking engagements, something he does to pay the bills. He wants people to know his story and wants people to learn from him, a quality that wasn’t important to him in the past. “There was a time when he thought the world revolved around him,” says Jim Tressel, his former coach at Ohio State. “Clearly, today he knows he’s just a part of the world and that his job is to help the world. And that’s a huge change. It’s maturity.” (PAGE 78)

Clarett, too, knows he’s come a long way since his pre-prison days. “I was [getting home] at four in the morning instead of getting up at four in the morning. Whatever came to mind, whatever I felt like doing, I just did it. No planning, no organization, no looking toward the future, no accountability, no responsibility. Just recklessness.” (PAGE 74)

Some of Clarett’s newer friends have proposed that he try something else, something much different than he would have ever anticipated. They suggest he get his felonies dropped so that he can run for the soon-to-be-vacant state representative’s seat that serves Youngstown, Ohio. U.S. congressman Tim Ryan believes the city needs someone like Clarett. “After all, he has experienced everything his home state has to offer, from absorbing the cheers of 100,000 at the Horseshoe to lying spent and burnt in the back of a paddy wagon,” says McKnight. (PAGE 78)

***SI Video: Clarett talks to SI about his journey from rock bottom, the importance of appreciating the little things and his hopes to reclaim success in his newest endeavor, rugby. View video here.


O, The Places They’ll Go (Just Not This Year)

Pete Thamel Details How Ohio State’s Football Team Will Lead the Revival of the Big Ten Conference

Powering the Buckeyes’ turnaround from undisciplined to unbeaten is first-year Ohio State coach Urban Meyer’s concept of juice: Who’s bringing the juice today? Who’s got the juice? Meyer uses juice to represent the relationship between hard work and production. Senior writer Pete Thamel looks at how Urban Meyer challenges his team, which cannot compete in the postseason because of NCAA sanctions, to not only maintain its surprising success, but also act as a catalyst for the Big Ten’s revival.

Read the rest of this entry »


This Week’s SI: Final Four Teams & Coaches Have Been Here Before

The 2012 NCAA Final Four features a quartet of storied programs, led by coaches who have all been on this stage. Of the four teams, Ohio State has suffered the longest title drought. The Buckeyes point guard Aaron Craft, who hopes to lead his school to its first national championship since 1960, appears on the national cover of the April 2, 2012, issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands now.

At the beginning of the season, many predicted that Ohio State, Kentucky and Kansas would reach the Final Four, but not many saw Louisville getting this far. The Cardinals hadn’t been ranked in the top 10 since December, ended the regular season 2–4 and had been hit with a raft of injuries. But after overcoming an 11–point deficit to beat Florida, they have reached the pinnacle of college basketball (page 34).

Louisville coach Rick Pitino told Sports Illustrated senior writer Kelli Anderson, “I never wanted a Final Four more than for these guys. They give me every single thing they have in their bodies. They are just the most incredible team to coach.”

Louisville will be facing stiff competition in New Orleans in Kentucky, Ohio State and Kansas.

  • Kentucky: Anthony Davis wasn’t the only Wildcat to receive national honors, fellow freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist took home one of his own when he was named the Southern Regional’s Most Outstanding Player.
  • Ohio State: While Kentucky is led by freshmen, the Buckeyes are led by their sophomores. Point guard Aaron Craft sets the tone with his dogged defense and competitive approach.
  • Kansas: Kansas center Jeff Withey has gone from bench warmer to the anchor of the Jayhawks’ basketball team, and he proved his worth mightily by outplaying North Carolina’s dominant duo of Tyler Zeller and John Henson in Kansas’s win in the regional final. 

On the Tablet: Seth Davis breaks down the Final Four.

 -SI-


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