Football

National Signing Day

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The most stressful day in recruiting is clearly National Signing Day. Decisions made by 18 year old “men” can determine a program’s future. There can only be one team that is happy with a decision. That means three or four schools have their heart ripped out and thrown away. National Signing Day is a war. Coaches have been on the recruiting trail for years building relationships with these recruits and their families. This year is filled on the defensive side of the ball with players like Robert Nkemdiche, Vernon Hargreaves, Chris Jones, and Jaylon Smith. This year is exceptionally filled with NFL caliber cornerbacks. This select group is led by Florida commit Vernon Hargreaves and Tre’Davious White. According to Rivals.com this class features four 5-star corners.

There are always winners and losers from NSD and it is clear that the biggest winner is Ole Miss. While the commitment from Nkemdiche was expected, closing and executing was crucial for    Hugh Freeze and the rest of his staff. Along with getting Nkemdiche to sign his name on the dotted line, they were able to sign three more 5-star recruits according to 247sports.com. The most important player besides the 6’4” 285 beast on DE was signing a playmaker with the athleticism as Laquon Treadwell. The Ole Miss offense will rely on Treadwell immediately for explosiveness just as Clemson did with Sammy Watkins his freshman year. Also on the offensive side of the ball is OT Laremy Tunsil.

The ultimate recruiter. Picture from Washington Post
The ultimate recruiter. Picture from Washington Post

The best overall class is hands down Alabama. No surprise here. Nick Saban and his staff were able to continue the momentum from the beating the laid upon Notre Dame. Bama was able to build upon another great defense with 5-star defensive end Jonathan Allen and linebacker Reuben Foster. Foster will follow in the footsteps that have been laid forth by Dont’a Hightower and C.J. Mosley. The one thing these three linebackers all have in common is the ability to follow the ball and attack at the point of contact. Foster recorded 80 tackles and 6 sacks in his senior year. The 6’2” 242 linebacker looks to be in the rotation for the 2013 season.

The team that underperformer for the 2013 class would be Stanford. While they were limited in their number of scholarships, I still expected a team that has had so much success in recent years to build a better class. The bright spot of their 2013 class is the quarterback out of Virginia Ryan Burns. Burns stands in at 6’5”218 pounds so size is a major plus when analysts have graded him. 247sports.com graded Burns all the way to a 92/100. The major let down for Stanford and David Shaw is only signing two players in the trench for offense. Center Thomas Oser and OT Tyler Bright both earned three stars. Shaw has instilled bullying the Pac 10 as a trademark.It will be hard in the future to dominate the line of scrimmage with only 2 lineman signed. This was a major whole in the class that brought their rankings into the 60’s.

A couple of teams that also came up short this year according to the rankings would be Oklahoma and Oregon. While Oregon can slightly blame this on Coach Kelly jetting to the NFL so late in the recruiting process, Oklahoma just whiffed on there top recruits. Oklahoma, usually a dominating team on the recruiting pitch was unable to sign a single 5-star according to rivals.com. This is astounding because of the dominance they have had on the Midwest stars. One team that made a huge jump in the rankings is Kansas. Usually it is rival Kansas State that runs the Junior College crew but Coach Weis was able to snag 20 JUCO players DT Marquel Combs. Combs comes in as a 4-star and the highest rated JUCO player for this years class.

Gator Chomp! Picture by Gamedayr.com
Gator Chomp! Picture by Gamedayr.com

Did you really think I would go this far and not tell you about the most important teams recruiting class? That’s right the Gators had one of the best classes because of how they filled their class. Will Muschamp has a liking to sign one quarterback a class and he achieved that with the record setting Max Staver. Hargreaves should lineup as a starter next year at cornerback and early enrollee Kelvin Taylor should split carries with sophomore Matt Jones. The most impressive feature of this dominant class is having signed 12 lineman. Muschamp has been extremely successful with signing highly regarded linemen such as D.J. Humphries from the 2012 class. Also, Florida’s staff was able to sway Alex Anzalone from Notre Dame and get him to early enrollee.
My final thought is that the NCAA needs to move back the National Signing Day around 2 months so coaches have more time to get to evaluate recruits. Also, this should be able to cut so many early commitments. While yes this would cut down on some of the recruitment circuses we have this year. Players will be able to take more visits and evaluate his options with a more informed belief.

Spencer Montgomery

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A Ravenous Victory

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And they lived happily ever after. The fairy tale story came true for Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens last night in Super Bowl XLVII, with a 34-31 win over the San Francisco 49ers. The Ravens entered the playoffs coming off a losing streak, three of their last four games, and barely made postseason play. Then, just four days before their opening playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts, Ray Lewis announced his retirement. The fans were shocked, the coaches sad to see a premier player leave the game, but it all came down to the players. They wanted to make Ray’s last season special. After a convincing 24-9 win against the Colts, the Ravens plowed through playoff competition to reach the Super Bowl, with a drive to win that all rested on making it the greatest of all going away parties.

The Ravens wasted no time, scoring on their first possession of the game, a 13 yard throw and catch from Joe Flacco to Anquan Boldin. The first half was dominated by the Ravens, scoring twice more after that, both on passes from Joe Flacco to Dennis Pitta and Jacoby Jones, respectively. The 49ers couldn’t get their offense started, only putting up six points in the first half. Rookie sensation Colin Kaepernick looked uncomfortable in the pocket to say the least, with shaky accuracy and an overthrown ball that was picked off by Ed Reed.

The second half looked to be the same, with Jacoby Jones returning the opening second half kickoff 109 yards for a touchdown. But then the electricity was sucked out of the building. Literally. A power issue in the Superdome cause the entire stadium to go dark, lit up only by auxiliary and emergency lights. This proved to hurt more than just the television views, in which watchers endured a gruelling 34 minutes of darkness until the lights began popping back on.

“It really hurt us. We had lot of momentum,” fullback Vonta Leach of the Ravens told CBS. “We were rolling. That 35- or 40-minute wait, whatever it was, hurt our momentum as far as what we were trying to do.”  The 49ers came back from the break with a vengeance, and the next three scores of the game, on a thirty-one yard touchdown pass from Kaepernick to Michael Crabtree, a six yard touchdown run by Frank Gore, and thirty-four yard field goal from David Akers. And just like that at the end of the third quarter the score stood, still in favor of the Ravens, at 28-23.

After a fourth quarter field goal from Ravens’ kicker Justin Tucker, the 49ers found themselves going for two, and the tie, after a fifteen yard touchdown run by Kaepernick. The two point conversion was halted by someone who could barely be seen running through the line of scrimmage to disrupt Kaepernick’s timing on the throw. Ravens’ safety Ed Reed blitzed on the play, and nearly sacked Kaepernick, but still forced an errant throw.

From that point on the Ravens’ took control and cruised to their second Super Bowl win.

USA Today
USA Today

It was the perfect ending to the perfect story, an unlikely playoff run to the Super Bowl, a beatdown in the first half, and still the calm, collectedness to hold off the rising 49ers attack late in the game.

Congratulations to the Baltimore Ravens on their Super Bowl win, and a warm parting from Ray Lewis, one of the best linebackers in NFL history.

Mike Mayer

Chiefs New OC

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Andy Reid is taking the Chiefs by storm. The overhaul of personnel being brought in from his previous team, the Philadelphia Eagles, was capped yesterday by Doug Pederson being named as the new offensive coordinator.

Pederson has an impressive track record, playing twelve years in the NFL as a quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, and the Philadelphia Eagles. In Philadelphia he played under none other than Andy Reid, who coached him to his best season, throwing for 1,276 yards and seven touchdowns.

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Picture from – https://www.facebook.com/KansasCityChiefs

After retiring, Pederson spent two seasons as the Eagles’ offensive quality control coach, and was named quarterbacks coach in 2011.

What Chiefs fans should really be excited about though, is the success that has followed Pederson.  As offensive coordinator, Pederson hopes to truly display his offensive abilities in Kansas City.  Over the last two seasons, the Chiefs’ offensive ranking has been 24th and 27th.

In 2010, he played a role in the Eagles’ record-setting year. They scored 439 points, which was third best in the NFL, and gained 6,230 net yards, which was second in the NFL. Both of these were also franchise records. Compared to the Chiefs’ glaring 2-14 record, and league-worst 211 points this season, Pederson seems like the perfect fit to jumpstart the offense.

Chiefs fans may still have cause for doubt, with the quarterback woes that have befallen them since the retiring of Hall of Fame player Len Dawson back in 1975. Since then, only one Chiefs-drafted franchise quarterback, Todd Blackledge, has won a game.  Although the quarterback situation seems non fixable in Kansas City, Pederson has shown that he can come through with a winner.

In 2011, with the questionable return of Michael Vick, Pederson showed that he can turn an uncertain offensive factor into a work of genius. That year, Vick threw for 3,303 yards, ran for over 500, and completed nearly half of his passes.

While the clouds are hanging low over Kansas City and the Chiefs, Pederson brings a ray of hope, one that Chiefs fans are in desperate need of.

Mike Mayer

“Tebow Time” Comes to an End

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“Tebow Time” is officially over in my mind.  I have finally given up on the man I once thought could do anything.  It is as if I was 6 years old and found out Santa Claus was not real.  Rex Ryan  decided Tim Tebow’s fate in the NFL when Ryan decided to start Greg McElroy over Tim Tebow in the final two games.  Even with speculation of Tebow going to the Jaguars next year and competing for a starting job, he will never be a true NFL quarterback.  In Jacksonville, Tebow will be used as a huge promotion.  It will work because Jacksonville is his hometown and those who live there are sure to buy his jersey no matter what.  Heck I will probably buy his jersey.

I still believe Tebow can be a good quarterback in the NFL, but he will not get a fair shot to prove it.  He will never be a good quarterback in the ways that Tom Brady or even Cam Newton are, but he will be as Joe Flacco is.  Flacco has been criticized for his statistics but still remains a good quarterback because of the wins he has.  Tebow can do the same for a specific team in a specific style.  The Wildcat is not the answer, nor is the typical drop back passing style Tim Tebow is used to.  The style that will fit for Tim is a mix between Denver’s option run type style and at Florida where they trusted Tebow’s decision making more.  The one reason I think the Jets would have been better off playing Tebow over Sanchez is because of Tebow’s decision making.  Tebow would never turn the ball over 25 times in 14 games like Sanchez was able to.
Tebow Time
Call me crazy but I believe that the Kansas City Chiefs would be an ideal fit for Tim Tebow. While this will most likely never happen, I think it could work.  With the Chiefs, he would be able to rely on a strong defense and amazing running game.  The option run with Charles could work even better than it did with Broncos and Willis McGahee.  In short yardage, defenses would have to worry about Peyton Hillis and Tebow.  One thing the Chiefs have that the Broncos and the Jets did not is Dwayne Bowe.  At Florida, Tim had Percy Harvin as his go-to receiver.  When Tebow has a dominant receiver, he has success.  Tebow was never comfortable with the receivers for the Jets or the Broncos for good reasons.  With Bowe on the outside and an athletic Tony Moeaki at tight end, teams would not be able to stack eight or even nine players in the box.  Moeaki would finally be able to use his skill set with Tebow.  The Chiefs would use Moeaki as Aaron Hernandez was used at Florida with the option pass in which Moeaki runs behind the line along with Tebow and Charles to create three options for Tebow. While yes, he can’t throw a spiral to save his life but after watching him since his Freshman year at Florida, he gets the job done. He will complete the passes in crunch time to keep drives going as he proved in the overtime victory against the Steelers in the playoff last year.

The only true chance of Tebow going to the Chiefs is on Madden with me as the controller.  This is still something the Chiefs should at least look at because of how cheap Tebow will be at the end of the season.  All I want for Christmas is Tebow to get a fair shot in the NFL to prove that he can win for some team.  Since there is not an elite quarterback in this years draft, the Chiefs could get Tebow and be the next destination for “Tebow Time”.

Spencer Montgomery

Freshman for Heisman?

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The 2012 College Football Finalists for the coveted Heisman Trophy were officially announced with the top three candidates being Texas A&M’s star freshman quarterback, Johnny Manziel followed by Notre Dame’s senior powerhouse linebacker, Manti Te’o, and lastly, Kansas State’s standout senior quarterback, Collin Klein. Currently, Manziel surpasses any other finalist in total votes with 69, Te’o holds 57, and Klein holds 42. The three have had undoubtedly impressive seasons but I feel that the Freshman out of Texas A&M will be crowned the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner.

Johnny Manziel or commonly known as “Johnny Football”, Freshman, has been nothing but fun to watch this year. He has broken records and received many accomplishments that earn him the right to be known as the so called, “best player in college football”. He’s a dual threat quarterback on the field with his passing arm and his ability to quickly dash out of a collapsing pocket to gain a first down. This season ‘Johnny Football’ has a total of 3419 passing yards and 1181 rushing yards. He’s racked in a total of 43 touchdowns this season with 24 being in the air and 19 on foot, and in addition, he’s only had 8 interceptions. His completion percentage is 68.3% and on foot he averages 6.8 yards-per-carry. His stats are unarguable and prove him to be one of, if not, the top Quarterback in all of College Football this year.

This season he’s also had an array of record-breaking games and has earned many different accomplishments this season. In his second game in his college football career against Southern Methodist University, he broke Texas A&M’s Freshman passing record, and he did not stop there. The next week against South Carolina State he earned the SEC Freshman of the Week award, and the following week against Arkansas, he broke Texas A&M’s passing record, was awarded SEC Offensive player and Freshman of the week and he also broke Archie Manning’s 43 year-old total offense record. This game is what really got Maziel’s name on the nations radar and even with so much attention, he kept on chugging along to do

manziel-1more great feats. In week seven against Louisiana Tech, he broke the SEC total offense record, was awarded SEC Offensive and Freshman player of the Week, AT&T All-America Player of the Week, The Walter Camp Honor, and was the first player in SEC history with two 500+ yard games of total offense in a single season. In week eight against Auburn, he was awarded SEC Freshman Player of the week, and received the same award following week nine. Week ten was his biggest game of the season, as he lead Texas A&M into Tuscaloosa, Alabama to take on the #1 ranked Crimson Tide, and came out with a shocking victory, snapping Alabama’s school record 29-game regular season win streak and stunning nearly all of the college football world. That week he was SEC offensive player of the week and Freshman of the week, AT&T All-America Player of the Week, and the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week. In week eleven, against Sam Houston State he was awarded SEC Freshman of the Week and AT&T All-America Player of the Week. To close off the season in week twelve against Missouri he was awarded SEC Freshman of the Week. 

Johnny “Football” Manziel is a college player with outstanding talent and abilities in the game of Football. He is a two-time Walter Camp Player of the Week, three-time AT&T All-American Player of the Week, the first player since Florida’s Tim Tebow to rush for two touchdowns and to throw for two touchdowns five times in one season, and also, seven-time SEC Freshman Player of the week. His stats are unarguably outstanding and watching him play is exhilarating. He’s a Freshman out of Kerrville, Texas who has made his name in college football. I’m more than excited to see what he will do next year at Texas A&M and his stats prove that he will win the 2012 Heisman Trophy.

Sam Holland

Tradition Has Graduated

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There are many things people love about sports.  The commitment, the competition and the excitement it brings are just a few that come to mind. Perhaps one of the greatest aspects of sports is tradition. Tradition fuels rivalries and provides for some of the greatest matchups in the history of sports.  Yankees-Red Sox, Lakers-Celtics, Packers-Vikings, and North Carolina-Duke are some of the rivalries we have remaining today. Some of the most historic rivalries, though, may never occur again in the modern sports era.

Midwesterners have had to suffer through the recent dismantling of the Big XII as some of the most historic rivalries have died through conference realignment. The departure of Nebraska and Missouri to the Big 10 and SEC, respectively, have ended some of the longest standing rivalries in American sports. Kansas and Nebraska, two of the oldest programs in college football first played in 1892.  It was the longest uninterrupted rivalry in collegiate athletics. They played annually from 1906 to 2010, making it the 2nd most played college football series ever, surpassed only by Wisconsin and Minnesota. Kansas also held the 3rd longest series with bitter rival Missouri, first playing in 1891, and every season since the inaugural Border Showdown. The rivalry held roots dating back to the Civil War when the free state Kansas “Jayhawkers” and pro-slavery “Bushwhackers” from Missouri actually fought during the Civil War. The rivalry carried over to the hardwood, providing one of the most entertaining and bitter rivalries in college basketball.

The East Coast has also been rocked by the recent realignment, with the Big East seeing storied programs Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Rutgers leaving for presumably greener pastures, with UConn and Louisville appearing primed to leave next. This could mark the end of the excitement of Big East basketball, which has been arguably the best conference for basketball over the past decade.   The glory days of the Big East tournament are coming to a close, which is perhaps the saddest part of it all.

Recent events in collegiate athletics are beginning to ruin college athletics. It’s naïve to think that money wouldn’t be the driving force in collegiate athletics, but the sad truth is that is.  The lifeblood of collegiate athletics has been these storied rivalries, but the driving force is the strength of the conference’s TV deals and the depths of their pockets. We may never see another 6 overtime thriller between two power-house Big East rivals like we did in the 2009 Big East quarterfinals between UConn and Syracuse. We will likely never see another Border Showdown between Mizzou and Kansas where National Title hopes are on the line, like we did in 2007. And with the future of the ACC uncertain with the departure of Maryland, who knows what will happen to rivalries like UNC-Duke.

It may be difficult for fans in certain parts of the country to understand the plight of fans in the Big XII and Big East alike. Just imagine if Michigan-Ohio State no longer played each other, or if any of the storied SEC rivalries like Auburn-Alabama or  Florida-Georgia were no more. Collegiate athletics has started down a slippery slop and it is beginning to seem like fans should be prepared for anything at this point, as tradition and proximity have been thrown completely out the window. And if you, the reader, still do not have a problem with all of this conference shift shenanigans, just ask yourself this one question: would a sensible person put San Diego State in the Big East?

Tommy Randolph

Edited By: Drew Agnello

NFL Mid-Season Updates

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IM BACK. Sports are on and I’m settled in at college. Quick thing to gnaw on during your day, if the Royals were in the playoffs, Jeremy Guthrie would be pitching game one. Other teams in the playoffs would be throwing out there pitchers such as Justin Verlander or C.C. Sabathia. On another note, The Chiefs have created no story lines except for “what are they doing?” The NFL has many story lines like usual. One that stands out is who is dominant. Which team is the favorite for the Super Bowl? It’s not the Patriots or Packers like it has been in recent years. Many thought it may be the Ravens but with recent injuries to Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb, their hopes are in question. Most people view the Ray Lewis injury as more detrimental. They are wrong. Lardarius Webb was playing at such a high level that he climbed into the top five rankings for cornerbacks.

There are two teams that are currently on top of the NFL. While they may not remain there, they are the best so far. I once thought the Jets would be a sleeper team because of their defense but injuries and some guy named Mark Sanchez has destroyed their season. My other sleeper was the depressing Chiefs. The Chiefs were coming off an injury-plagued season. Jamaal Charles is now healthy and running the football effectively, but the same problem that plagued the Jets are plaguing the Chiefs; quarterback play. Quarterback play is becoming more important in the NFL than it ever has been. Yet the two best teams in the NFL have quarterbacks that are not relied on heavily. These two teams use all the weapons they have to be successful.

1.     Atlanta Falcons 6-0

 

The Falcons, led by Matt “Ice” Ryan, are currently the only undefeated team in the NFL at 6-0. The offense has been the best phase of the game for the Falcons. While they are undefeated, they still struggle in numerous categories, mainly rush defense. They currently rank 27 in the NFL for rush defense. The Falcons also struggle on the ground offensively where they stand at 25. They have played an extremely easy schedule so far in which the 3-3 Denver Broncos have been the most difficult opponent. The schedule will increase in difficulty immensely over the next few weeks when they play the Eagles, Cowboys, and Saints.

2.     Houston Texans 6-1

As of right now, I personally think the Texans are the best team in the NFL. They have a strong defense in spite the fact that they lost their leader, Brian Cushing. Also, the offense is a balanced attack with weapons such as Arian Foster and Andre Johnson. The offensive line is the most dominant, shown by their rushing numbers. The defense ranks 7th in rushing and 8th in pass defense. The biggest impact player this season has been J.J. Watt. Watt swats everything. If he is not sacking the quarterback (9.5, leading the NFL) then he is swatting the pass down (10). He has been a nightmare for opposing offensive lines because of how he rushes the quarterback. He is not an outside speed rusher like most players who, in the past, have led the NFL in sacks. He comes from the middle and wreaks havoc on nearly every play.

Spencer Montgomery