May 19, 2013
They Chose Who?! My NFL Draft Review

The draft process of the National Football League started last Thursday and wrapped up this past weekend. We saw a third-round offensive lineman picked in the first, when the top-rated quarterback didn’t. A 300-pounder from Central Michigan was drafted first overall and a Heisman runner-up was left out completely of the 254 total picks. You get the point; the NFL Draft is an unpredictable process that not even the “experts” can forecast. With that knowledge, though, there were still a few things that left me stunned after the conclusion of this year’s draft.

1) EJ Manuel – QB, Buffalo Bills

According to NFL.com and their writers, Manuel was rated at 68.7 (out of 100), which is good for seventh place among the quarterbacks in this year’s draft class. ESPN’s draft guru Todd McShay predicted that the Bills would draft former Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib at No. 8 considering that Buffalo’s head coach (Doug Marrone) just finished coaching the Orange and Nassib in 2012. At best, people expected Manuel to be drafted in the second or third round.

However, the Bills took Manuel at No. 16 (after trading down in the round) and made him the first quarterback taken in the 2013 NFL Draft. It’s not that the former Florida State QB is bad, it’s the fact that guys named Geno Smith, Matt Barkley, Nassib and Mike Glennon were all on the board when he was chosen. On the bright side, Manuel’s gotten comparisons to Panthers QB and former-Heisman winner Cam Newton.

2) Eric Fisher – OL, Kansas City Chiefs

Ever since the college football season ended, Texas A&M offensive lineman Luke Joeckel was predicted to go first overall in the draft to the Chiefs. His scouting combine performance further cemented this speculation. And then April 24th rolled around – the day before the draft began – and a rumor came out that Fisher would be selected first by Kansas City instead of Joeckel.

Now, let me introduce you to Eric Fisher. When he was a senior in high school, ESPN graded him as “not rated,” meaning that scouts viewed him as unimportant. Rivals.com gave Fisher two out of five stars as a recruit. Hailing from the state of Michigan, Fisher attended Central Michigan University after the big-deal football programs that dominate his state didn’t want him. Now, he’s the first non-BCS player to be taken first overall since Alex Smith of Utah in 2005. Good for him, but totally didn’t see this coming.

3) Ziggy Ansah – DE, Detroit Lions

This Ghanian-born athlete first came to America attempting to make it as a basketball player. He originally attended Brigham Young University to try out for their basketball team, but was cut in 2008 and 2009 from the team. He then tried track where he ran the 100 meters in 10.91 seconds until he was convinced to try out for BYU’s football team. This was 2010. Ansah had never put on football pads in his lifetime before this year. In his sophomore and junior seasons at BYU, he compiled a total of 10 tackles as a backup defensive end. During Ansah’s senior season, he saw more playing time only because the starting noseguard on the defensive line got injured.

The rest is history. Ziggy totaled 62 tackles and 4.5 sacks in nine games as a starter for the BYU defense. The Detroit Lions took the 6-foot-5-inch, 270-pound freak athlete with the fifth pick overall in the draft. Now, he will be playing alongside Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley on a dirty, mean D-line. For a foreign-born basketball player who was introduced to the sport just three years ago to be drafted to an NFL team behind just four other players? That’s astounding.

4) Heisman runners-up falling fast

Tyrann Mathieu finished fifth in the 2011 Heisman Trophy voting as a sophomore defensive back – finishing higher than notable names like Matt Barkley, LaMichael James and Russell Wilson. The Honey Badger also won the Chuck Bednarik Award, given to the defensive player of the year, in 2011. In 2013, he was drafted in the third round, 69th overall.

Manti Te’o finished second overall in the Heisman voting last year and was the closest defensive player to win the award since Charles Woodson in 1997. He led his Notre Dame team to an undefeated record during the regular season, only to lose to powerhouse Alabama in the national title game. Te’o also took home the Bednarik Award last season (along with the Lott, Maxwell, Camp, Nagurski, Butkus and Lombardi Awards – no, really). In 2013, he was drafted in the second round, 38th overall.

Collin Klein finished third in that same Heisman race in 2012, right behind Te’o, and would’ve been the best quarterback in college football if Johnny Football didn’t exist. He tied Ricky Williams for the most rushing TDs in a single season by a Big 12 player – that’s a QB matching a running back, FYI. Klein took home the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (best senior quarterback) and the Kellen Moore Award (quarterback of the year) this season as well. In 2013, he went undrafted and signed by the Texans.

I could go on and on, but do you see my point? These are top players at their respective positions who deserve to be, and should have been, drafted earlier than they did. Maybe this is why I’m in college and not in an NFL team’s “war room,” but I am shocked that these three players fell as low as they did, no matter what background history they have. It’s pure talent being left on the board.

5) Vikings get three first-rounders

Sometimes teams trade up or down using their late round picks to get more selections where they desire. The Vikings must have had a vision of the top-caliber players that they still wanted after they drafted Shariff Floyd 23rd overall. The Vikes ended up successfully acquiring two more first-round picks at No. 25 and 29, snagging cornerback Xavier Rhodes and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, respectively. Floyd was projected to go in the top five in some mock drafts, Rhodes was regarded as the second-best defensive back in this draft class, and Patterson is widely the best wide receiver coming out of college. That’s a pretty good draft if you ask me, and it was still the first of the three days. 

April 18, 2013
Best Moments of the NCAA Tournament

As everyone now knows, Louisville beat Michigan to win the 2013 NCAA Tournament on Monday night during a thrilling and back-and-forth game that resulted in an unfortunate loser. For those who won their bracket pool, congrats – you picked the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament to win…shocker! Well now that “March Madness” is over and we turn our attention to the MLB, NFL Draft and/or NBA playoffs, it’s time to look back at the entire month and highlight the best moments from the tournament. If there’s anything important you missed from the tournament, look below for your answer.

10. The committee got it wrong (again)

Every March when the seeds and official bracket are announced, sports journalists across the country point out what the tournament’s selection committee got wrong with their seeding process. As the tournament progresses, we get to see for real which teams were over- or under-seeded. We saw New Mexico (3-seed) lose to Harvard (14); Oregon (12) advance to the Sweet 16, Georgetown (2) lose in the first round, La Salle (13) go from a team in the First Four to the Sweet 16; and Wichita State (9) go all the way to the Final Four. In addition, they created a Midwest Region, nicknamed “The Region of Death,” that had its top three seeds being represented by Louisville, Duke and Michigan State – coached by a trio of minds that are considered some of the best in the land – Rick Pitino, Mike Krzyzewski, and Tom Izzo, respectively.

9. Gonzaga was overrated

But you can’t blame the committee for this. The Zags finished their season 31-2, with their only two losses coming against Illinois and Butler, both teams that were ranked in the Top 25 at the time. They went undefeated in conference play and were ranked #1 in the AP poll at the time of Selection Sunday. That deserves a one-seed, if you ask me. But the fact still remains that Gonzaga almost lost to Southern University – which would’ve been the first time EVER that a 16-seed beat a one. And then the Zags lost to Wichita State in their next game, becoming the first one-seed to bow out of the tournament. Granted, they lost to a team that ended up being Final Four-caliber. But still, they almost lost to Southern and this would be a totally different story.

8. Marshall Henderson is certifiably insane

If you don’t know who this guy is, just watch this video and then this one. The man has this motor in him that makes him want to get in everyone’s head – both the players and the opposing fans – while still playing at a high level for Ole Miss. In his two games during the tournament, Henderson put up 42 shots with 27 coming from three-point range. To put that in perspective, Kobe Bryant doesn’t even put up that many shots. If that’s not enough to convince you, here’s a quote from him after he was asked what his goal was for the NCAA tournament: “Make a name for myself so I can get this money,” and, “I’m trying to get paid here soon because I’m tired of doing all this stuff for free.” Man, he gets it.

7. Trey Burke Earns National POY Honors

So before the Final Four, it was announced that the Michigan point guard was the National Player of the Year. I’d like to believe that Burke’s performance in his team’s Sweet 16 game versus Kansas convinced the voters a little bit. He had 23 points and 10 assists en route to an upset of the one-seed in Michigan’s region. With 4.2 seconds to go in the game, he hit a three-pointer that was about five feet beyond the arc to virtually send the game into overtime – completing an 8-point comeback in 1:25 of play. The Wolverines would eventually win in overtime, but it was Burke’s shot that made it all possible. The sophomore also won every NPOY award possible, including the Wooden Award, the AP College Basketball POY, NABC POY, Naismith POY, Oscar Robertson Trophy and Sports Illustrated POY.

6. Spike Albrecht is a boss

During the regular season, Albrecht averaged only 1.5 points and 7.4 minutes per game coming off the bench for Michigan. But when Burke committed two fouls early in the first half of the National Championship game, the Wolverines looked to Spike to run their offense. And he did more than that. He hit four straight three-pointers in a row to give Michigan a big lead over Louisville. In a matter of minutes, Albrecht’s number of Twitter followers was increasing by the thousands. The day after the game, Spike took to Twitter to thank Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover model Kate Upton for coming to the game, and that he hopes to see her again (with a smiley face at the end). What a stud.

5. All of this stuff

A lot of funny and entertaining gifs and pictures emerged from CBS’s television coverage of the NCAA tournament. The link above compiles some of the best. My personal favorites include Miami’s Julian Gamble photo bombing his teammate Shane Larkin, Louisville coach Rick Pitino ducking for cover after fireworks go off, the UNC male fan crying after his team’s loss and Will Ferrell photo bombing former Michigan coach Steve Fisher.

4. Rick Pitino joins good company

Before the Final Four even started, the Louisville head coach was announced as part of the 2013 Hall of Fame class to be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. After winning the national championship game on Monday, Pitino became the first college basketball coach ever to win two titles with two different schools. Among active coaches, it’s only Coach K, Roy Williams and Billy Donovan who have also won two championships along with Pitino. Talk about elite.

3. Shockers Shock

Wichita State was a nine-seed. That’s 9. And they made the Final Four. I mean come one, that’s ridiculous. They busted brackets everywhere, not only beating the top-seeded Gonzaga but also the two-seed Ohio State to reach the Final Four. Then they came out and put up a competitive fight with Louisville to nearly reach the championship game. Shoot for using the pun, but the Wichita State Shockers shocked the world this March.

2. Dunk City

This website basically sums it up. Florida Gulf Coast surprised everyone by becoming one of the few 15-seeds to upset a two-seed in Georgetown. And then they made the Sweet 16 – becoming the first 15-seed to do so in history. But it wasn’t just the fact that they had some lucky games and won with fundamental play. No. They won big and had fun doing it – throwing alley-oops and dunking all over major conference teams. They weren’t scared of anyone and had the talent to play with that mentality. For what it’s worth, their coach, Andy Enfield, received the head coaching position at USC for what he showed the world this past month. I could write a whole article on this team and what they did.

1. Kevin Ware’s injury

You’ve all seen it, or heard of it. It was gruesome and horrific, to say the least. Personally, it was one of the worst, yet most polarizing, things to happen in a live sporting event in my lifetime. As soon as Kevin Ware went down with a broken leg (which is an understatement), players on the Louisville bench were reportedly vomiting as some of its starters on the floor laid down with their faces in their hands weeping openly. It was a scene never before seen in college basketball. Yet the Cardinals used the tragedy as motivation to come back and win the title for their injured warrior.

I love sports and I love March.

April 18, 2013
A Preview of the NBA Playoffs from a non-NBA Fan

I must disclose, before you read this, that I am a casual NBA fan – meaning I catch two or three quarters of each game as they’re broadcasted on the major networks, like TNT, ABC and ESPN. My knowledge of the league derives from anything that might be (re)tweeted by one of the non-NBA sports journalists I follow on Twitter, the hours and hours of college basketball I’ve watched this past year, or any other news that is highlighted by ESPN from day to day.

Instead, I religiously follow the MLB and NFL with a little hockey thrown in. But the only reason I watch professional basketball in America is because of the level of talent that exists in the league, which subsequently leads to exciting and athletic plays from guys like LeBron James and Chris Paul.

With all of this being said, I am a sports fan at heart and strive to predict the playoff outcomes in any sport as correctly as possible. I will be watching the NBA playoffs this spring and summer, simply because the best teams will be playing and that’s the only thing about the NBA that I find enjoyable. Well, here goes nothing.

(1) Miami Heat vs. (8) Milwaukee Bucks

I’m not going to spend too much time on this. LeBron, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh fully healthy versus a team who’s best player only scored 19 points a game this season. But don’t count out Monta Ellis; he can ball from what I’ve seen. Final word: Sweep.

(4) Brooklyn Nets vs. (5) Chicago Bulls

Normally, I wouldn’t hesitate to go with the Bulls here – except for the fact that Derrick Rose isn’t playing. So they’re basically screwed. Plus, the Nets have an old-school coach in P.J. Carlesimo leading some big stars like Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Reggie Evans. Judging from the Nets’ homepage, they’re having a blackout at their home games during the playoffs. It’s ovah!

(3) Indiana Pacers vs. (6) Atlanta Hawks

Arguably the best player on the Pacers, Danny Granger, is out for the season with an injury. On the other hand, the Hawks have quality All-Stars in Josh Smith, Al Horford and Jeff Teague. This is literally a toss-up for me, simply because I don’t know enough about each team. I’ll say Hawks just because I like Smith better than anyone on the Pacers.

(2) New York Knicks vs. (7) Boston Celtics

Rivalry time! New York-Boston is one of those classics (at least in baseball…). However this series is over already. The Knicks have the season’s leading scorer (Carmelo Anthony), one of the best big men (Tyson Chandler), and an NBA starter that comes off the bench (J.R. Smith). The Celtics are old and injured. Without Rajon Rondo, they have no chance.

(1) Oklahoma City vs. (8) Houston Rockets

We all wanted to see it: James Harden versus his old team in the playoffs. At least I did because it’ll be fun to watch. But, as I’ve seen this season in their head-to-head matchups, the Thunder will dominate the Rockets. The combination of Durant and Westbrook rivals LeBron and Wade as the best in the league.

(4) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (5) Memphis Grizzlies

I’m as surprised as you are to see the Clippers as only the fourth-best team in the Western Conference. I thought for sure that they were second only to the Thunder. I guess that shows how much I know about the NBA. Either way, Lob City will advance with ease. Did I mention they throw alley-oops all the time?

(3) Denver Nuggets vs. (6) Golden State Warriors

I will be blatantly honest – I know nothing about either of these teams’ talent levels. How’s that for analysis? On the flip side, here are some nuggets (pun not intended) to ponder: Andre Iguodala can dunk, Stephen Curry can shoot three’s and Kenneth Faried is an animal. Nuggets move on.

(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Los Angeles Lakers

Remember when the Lakers were one of the worst teams in the league? Remember when Kobe Bryant guaranteed a playoff berth? And then Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard all got hurt at some point? And then Kobe goes down for the season, except they still make the playoffs? But let’s be honest with each other; the Lakers aren’t the same without Kobe. Now to some this may make Howard better as a player, or the team is doomed against the Spurs. I’ll take the latter. There’s only so much the Lakers center can do – and the Spurs will stop him with Tim Duncan leading the way.

After the first round, my NBA Finals matchup is already clear-cut: Miami Heat in a rematch with the Oklahoma City Thunder. This was predicted back in June right after the Thunder lost the six-game series to the Heat, and I fully believe it now. For the Heat, the Knicks are the only threat – and it’s not a huge one. You know a small kitchen fire that started from the stove? Expect LeBron to just toss some water on the flames and put out Carmelo and Co.

In the West, though, it’s a little more up in the air. I could see the Spurs making a run for the sole fact that they are a very experienced team in the playoffs with a coach that knows what he’s doing. The Clippers could also do something similar, but because of different reasons. They’re young, athletic and talented with a coach that doesn’t know how what he’s doing.

All in all, no one is stopping the most athletic man on the planet, LeBron James and his noble steeds in D-Wade and Bosh. Make it two titles in a row for the King. Now he only needs six more to match his guarantee back in 2010.  

April 4, 2013
Punish Them All

The past week in collegiate athletics has been a busy one: from the Final Four to multiple reactions to the Kevin Ware injury to highlighting NFL draft prospects and the opinions surrounding Brittany Griner. But the issues surrounding the latest scandals to break in the last week have brought them to the forefront, masking the good and successful things about the NCAA.

Case I: Pac-12 officiating investigation

Before the Pac-12 tournament for men’s basketball in March, the conference’s coordinator of officials, Ed Rush, met with his employed refs scheduled to officiate the games and “jokingly” told them to target Arizona coach Sean Miller. I say “jokingly” because that’s what Rush claims. Tell that to Miller, who received his first technical foul of the 2012-13 season during Arizona’s loss in the tournament’s semifinal game for arguing a call that was wrong, according to video replay.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement that the both the officials in the meeting and Rush knew the comment was a joke, and took it as that. However the fact still remains that Miller received his only technical foul call for an argument that, according to Miller, included the sole words of, “He touched the ball,” referring to a defender stripping the ball from Arizona guard Mark Lyons’ possession – leading to a double dribble call.

Furthermore, in an interview on ESPN’s “SVP & Russillo” radio show, Scott claimed that Rush’s comments and actions were not fireable offenses. Thus Scott still has a job, albeit as the boss of the officials that ref the same games that Miller will coach in next season and years to come. In my opinion, this is a situation that shouldn’t exist if the NCAA wants a fair outcome in Arizona games in the Pac-12 in the future. The results of the games, and subsequent calls, will forever be in question as long as Rush has a job with the conference.

Verdict: Fire Ed Rush.

Case II: Rutgers coach abuses his players

Back in December, Rutgers men’s basketball coach Mike Rice was suspended for three games with an accompanying $50,000 fine for his actions involving his players at practice. This week, the videos of these inappropriate actions were obtained by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” and made public to the world. Rice can be seen hurling basketballs at his players’ feet, heads and legs; shoving and grabbing his players; kicking them; and screaming obscenities and homophobic slurs.

Now, to the Rutgers administrators’ credit, Rice was fired on Wednesday for the aforementioned actions. However, this wasn’t a new story. This was video from earlier in the season before Rice was suspended in December. It’s impossible for those Rutgers administrators not to have seen the video footage months ago before making their initial decision to keep him onboard as head coach. Yet, now that the video has been made public, Rice was fired for “new developments,” according to Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti.

This case relates directly to the past and ongoing investigations of Penn State and Jerry Sandusky’s actions. The Board of Trustees fired the head coach, athletic director and president of PSU after it was determined that Sandusky’s crimes were covered up by those aforementioned individuals. The current Rutgers case should be treated in the same manner. In December, the Rutgers administration dealt with Rice’s actions differently than now – after the video was made public and people called for the coach’s job.

Verdict: Fire Rutgers AD Pernetti and Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi

Case III: Auburn football’s National Championship is tarnished

In a report by Selena Roberts, a former New York Times and current Sports Illustrated writer, Auburn’s football program changed players’ grades to secure eligibility, offered money to potential NFL draft picks so they would return for their senior seasons, and violated NCAA recruiting rules under former head coach Gene Chizik.

Now, take all of that in, and ask yourself, “Doesn’t this sound familiar?” Well, yes it does. There’s the USC scandal that saw stars Reggie Bush (football) and O.J. Mayo (basketball) accepting various gifts from agents. The punishment? The football program was forced to vacate it’s 2004 national championship title and all of its wins in 2005, in addition to Bush voluntarily giving up his 2005 Heisman Trophy. Then there’s Ohio State football that saw numerous players accepting $14,000 in cash and tattoos for jerseys, rings and other Buckeyes memorabilia. Their punishment? A one-year bowl ban, among other suspensions, that just so happened to come the same year that the team goes undefeated.

According to our country’s judicial system, precedent takes priority in most cases. If this report is true about Auburn football during their national championship season in 2011, the punishment to the team and its players should be implemented in a similar fashion.

Verdict: Vacate all wins and 2011 BCS National Championship title, Strip Cam Newton of his 2011 Heisman Trophy

With all this being said, the chances anyone listens to me? Slim to none considering I’m a sophomore at a school with thousands of students in a mediated society where everyone’s opinion is considered uninformative and stupid. People look to the headliners of sports journalism to call for people’s jobs and for a crucial punishment. Yes, there are well-respected journalists doing just that, but the fact remains that my verdicts mentioned above haven’t happened yet. Call me overly critical and uneducated for my claims, or just call me right for referring to precedent and the obvious. 

March 28, 2013
Bracket Madness

The college basketball postseason tournament that we all have come to know as “March Madness” got underway last weekend. We saw our share of upsets (see Florida Gulf Coast, Harvard, and La Salle) and 40-point wins (see Syracuse and VCU). Brackets were busted left and right as people across the nation saw one of their Final Four teams lose in the early rounds of the tournament. But what if you filled out your bracket – as everyone does – based on criteria other than who has the best team or who is better at basketball? Well, I did just that.

I ventured into the unknown to find out which team would win this year’s NCAA tournament in four different categories: (1) Which team’s ‘mascot’ would win in a fight, (2) which team has the best uniform colors, (3) which school has the coolest single alum, and (4) which team has the best-sounding name on its actual roster. Each bracket will produce a winner solely based on each of these criteria – no matter how much basketball talent is on the actual Division I team.

It’s genius, I know. Try it yourself.

Mascot Bracket – Miami Hurricanes

Final Four: Michigan State Spartans, Iowa State Cyclones, Michigan Wolverines, and Miami Hurricanes

Snubs: Montana Grizzlies, Duke Blue Devils

It’s impossible not to pick a natural disaster as something that would win in a fight. I mean, a wolverine or even a Spartan couldn’t stop a hurricane. And to clarify, a hurricane beats a cyclone any day. It’s a bigger storm and results in a worse outcome than the latter. Last year when I did this, the Detroit Titans won it all – simply because they are immortal. I would have loved to see the Ole Miss Rebels make a run because no one stops bloodthirsty rebels, just ask the British. Miami so happens to be one of my teams in the basketball version of the National Championship so that’s cool I guess.

Best Name Bracket – California (Bak Bak)

Final Four: St. Louis (Grandy Glaze), UCLA (Shabazz Muhammad), Cal, and Wichita State (Fred Van Vleet)

Snubs: Villanova (Mouphtaou Yarou), Memphis (Hippolyte Tsafack)

As soon as I saw the words “Bak Bak” on the roster of Cal, the competition was over. And it’s really unfair for formidable competitors with equally cool-sounding names like Glaze and the crew. They are all fun to say – that’s the main criteria I was looking for in the “Best Name Bracket.” I have no idea if Bak Bak is good at basketball or not, but he has the best name of anyone in this tournament; and it’s not even close. First off, Bak sounds cool as either a first or last name – but he has it for BOTH!!

Alumni Bracket – Marquette (Chris Farley)

Final Four: Duke (Ken Jeong), Michigan (James Earl Jones), Marquette, and Pittsburgh (Fred Rogers)

Snubs: Temple (Bill Cosby), Minnesota (Bob Dylan)

Now this bracket may have come with some bias, but Chris Farley wins it for me – and he wins it in a way most others didn’t display. His most famous character, Tommy Boy, went to Marquette in the movie as well (just a little fun fact). Farley is the funniest comedian ever and one of my personal favorite. Jeong (that Asian dude from The Hangover) of Duke made a strong push for the title, as did Fred Rogers of Pitt. Did you know the man from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood has tattoos all up and down his arms from when he served in the Army during Vietnam War? I don’t know if that’s true, but c’mon, that’s why he’s there – not for his kids’ show.

Uniform Bracket – Marquette

Final Four: Oregon, Gonzaga, Marquette and Florida Gulf Coast

Snubs: North Carolina A&T, Indiana, Cincinnati

This bracket was tough to judge because (1) it’s based on a preference of the best combination of colors and (2) there were a lot of boring jerseys (i.e. Duke). However the ones that stood out are in my Final Four for a reason. Oregon and Marquette have some neon in there, with my winner coming because they use an impeccable flavor of light blue with their yellows and whites. FGCU uses the rare combination of blue and green, and Gonzaga usually just goes with “ZAGS” on the front of their jersey while proudly displaying the perfect blend of red and dark blue to give off that American feeling that we all wish we could rock.

So there are my brackets for this year. A little disclaimer: I spent way too much time on ranking the teams in four different categories – none having anything to do with on-court play. As for the actual March Madness tournament? I’ve got Ohio State beating Miami for the national championship. If one of them loses, my allegiances are all with the Eagles from Florida Gulf Coast University solely because of this website.

March 14, 2013
NFL Free Agency News and Notes

The free agency period for the 2013 NFL season began at 4 p.m. Tuesday and the news of big names switching teams was both impressive and surprising. Some moves even occurred before this period with a big trade between the two Super Bowl teams. Well, to narrow all of this down, I’ve chosen the biggest storylines of the past week and the impact some star (or not) players will make on their respective teams.

Mike Wallace Goes South

As the top free agent in the 2013 class, Wallace was the biggest commodity to a team looking for a No. 1 receiver. The Miami Dolphins needed just that. Second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who threw for over 3,000 yards last season, would be that much better with a deep-threat receiver in Wallace. Yeah, the Dolphins had Brian Hartline and Davone Bess as their top receivers last season, but they lost their top playmaker in Reggie Bush. Wallace more than makes up for that absence – although he does play a different position. In a weak AFC East division, expect the Dolphins to slide into second place (of course behind the Patriots).

Eagles Get Busy

Chip Kelly is bringing a new and different football philosophy to Philadelphia this season and this couldn’t have been more evident than in the offseason moves he’s making with his team. The Eagles released Nnamdi Asomugha and Cullen Jenkins, and didn’t resign Dominique-Rodgers Cromartie – three defensive players who made the “Dream Team” infamous a couple years ago. With that money, Kelly has handpicked players to fit both his offensive and defensive schemes. One of those key players if former Texans fullback/tight end James Casey who is expected to play a huge role in Kelly’s vaunted offense right away.

Ravens Lose Everyone

Here’s the annotated version: Baltimore will play next season as the reigning Super Bowl champs without their top two leading tacklers (Bernard Pollard and Dannell Ellerbe), their greatest player in franchise history (Ray Lewis), their best wide receiver (Anquan Boldin), their team-leader in sacks (Paul Kruger) or their All-Pro safety (Ed Reed). Okay so it wasn’t THAT annotated but you get my point. The Ravens paid Joe Flacco the most money of any player ever – and that expectantly results in not having enough money to pay the players that really matter. True story: I had a friend who is a Ravens fan tell, “I’d rather have all of those players returning than pay Flacco all that money.” Agreed.

49ers – Seahawks rivalry heats up

Both of the top teams in the NFC West acquired their own star receivers a few hours apart from each other on Tuesday. The Seahawks got one of the most versatile players in the league in speedy Percy Harvin. The former Viking will be fun to watch in Seattle alongside Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Sidney Rice. South of that, the reigning NFC-champion Niners traded for Boldin from the Ravens – a guy that tore them up in the Super Bowl. The San Fran offense was already dominant with Colin Kaepernick leading the way with the likes of Michael Crabtree, Frank Gore, LaMichael James, Vernon Davis and Mario Manningham. Again, this is going to be really fun to watch on Sundays. Just wait for the times these teams meet each other in 2013.

 

Welker chooses Manning over Brady

For reasons I cannot fathom, the Patriots couldn’t get a deal done with their top receiver (and league-leader in receptions for the last few years) in Wes Welker for next season. Instead, the Broncos and Peyton Manning snagged him up – and this is SCARY people! I can see this combination becoming one of the most dominant in the league. On the flip side, the Patriots signed former Ram receiver, Danny Amendola, to replace Welker. The two are similar (both speedy, white, possession, slot receivers) but Amendola is no Welker – no one is. This move singlehandedly reinforced my opinion of the Broncos as AFC favorites this season.

March 7, 2013
The “Best Team,” but not really…

The following was inspired by the 2012 Miami Marlins:

The team was stacked, and I mean STACKED, with talent yet ended up worse than expected by a large margin. Baseball writers and analysts across the nation hemmed and hawed at how good the Marlins were going to be last season – even before they took the field for their first spring training game.

It’s a sin that all humans are guilty of: judging a book by its cover. But when it comes to sports, fans couldn’t be more disappointed with the self-proclaimed “Super Teams” in respective leagues basically not living up to expectations (see 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers, 2011 Philadelphia Eagles or Michigan’s Fab Five). The new and improved Marlins team from last season was just that. One look at their lineup and you thought they at least had their division locked up.

So without further ado, I present this season’s best teams from the MLB – based purely on the names (and their respective past histories) on their lineups. If you are unclear about what I’m talking about, take a quick look at the Marlins’ 2012 roster and know it was team that finished 69-93.

1. Toronto Blue Jays

Starting Lineup: Jose Reyes, SS; Melky Cabrera, LF; Jose Bautista, RF; Edwin Encarnacion, DH; Colby Rasmus, CF; Brett Lawrie, 3B; Adam Lind, 1B; J.P. Arencibia, C; Emilio Bonifacio, 2B

Rotation: R.A. Dickey, SP; Brandon Morrow, SP; Mark Buehrle, SP; Josh Johnson, SP; Ricky Romero, SP

Bullpen: Casey Janssen, RP; Sergio Santos, RP; Kyle Drabek, SP; J.A. Happ, SP; Darren Oliver, RP

I won’t lie to you, the Jays are tops on this list because they have four stars from that Marlins team in their starting lineup (Reyes, Bonifacio, Johnson, Buehrle). Oh, and they also acquired Cy Young-winner Dickey and one of the best players for the first half of last season in Cabrera. Add to that one of the top home-run hitters in Bautista and you get a squad that baseball experts are picking to win the always-tough AL East division this year. Personally, I don’t see it happening.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

Lineup: Hanley Ramirez, SS; Carl Crawford, LF; Matt Kemp, CF; Adrian Gonzalez, 1B; Andre; Ethier, RF; Mark Ellis, 2B; Luis Cruz, 3B; A.J. Ellis, C

Rotation: Clayton Kershaw, SP; Zack Greinke, SP; Josh Beckett, SP; Aaron Harang, SP; Chad Billingsley, SP

Bullpen: Kenley Jansen, RP; Brandon League, RP; Ted Lilly, SP; J.P. Howell, RP

With basically same team as last season, the Dodgers are poised to contend for a title again. They barely missed the playoffs last season, however they added former Cy Young-winner Greinke to the top of their rotation this offseason. Kemp, Gonzalez and Hanley are all in the top 5 of their respective positions. Also, don’t forget about Kershaw who is one of the best young pitchers in the game.

3. New York Yankees

Lineup: Ichiro Suzuki, RF; Derek Jeter, SS; Robinson Cano, 2B; Mark Teixeira, 1B; Curtis Granderson, CF; Kevin Youkilis, 3B; Travis Hafner, DH; Juan Rivera, RF; Chris Stewart, C

Rotation: CC Sabathia, SP; Hiroki Kuroda, SP; Andy Pettitte, SP; Michael Pineda, SP; Phil Hughes, SP

Bullpen: Mariano Rivera, RP; Ivan Nova, SP; Joba Chamberlain, RP; David Robertson, RP

Let’s face it, the Yankees would make this list every year. They repeatedly attract big free agents every offseason and trade prospects during the regular season. Last season they acquired Ichiro and Youkilis halfway through – to add to All-Stars Teixeira, Granderson, Cano and Jeter. With the best reliever in the MLB (and possibly ever) in Rivera and a great rotation headed by Sabathia, the Bronx Bombers will look to prove to the world that their strategy of getting the best players in the league will pay off.

4. Boston Red Sox

Lineup: Jacoby Ellsbury, CF; Dustin Pedroia, 2B; David Ortiz, DH; Mike Napoli, 1B; Shane Victorino, LF; Will Middlebrooks, 3B; Stephen Drew, SS; Jonny Gomes, RF; Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C

Rotation: Jon Lester, SP; Clay Buchholz, SP; Ryan Dempster, SP; Felix Doubront, SP John Lackey, SP

Bullpen: Joel Hanrahan, RP; Koji Uehara, RP; Andrew Bailey, RP; Daniel Bard, RP; Alfredo Aceves, RP

The biggest additions to the Red Sox roster for this season come in the form of relief pitchers. Hanrahan, Uehara and Bailey will anchor a bullpen that has been lacking in talent of late. Still, though, the Red Sox showed last season that star power does not amount to wins.

5. Los Angeles Angels

Lineup: Mike Trout, CF; Erick Aybar, SS; Albert Pujols, 1B; Josh Hamilton, RF; Mark Trumbo, DH; Howie Kendrick, 2B; Alberto Callaspo, 3B; Chris Iannetta, C; Peter Bourjos, LF

Rotation: Jered Weaver, SP; C.J. Wilson, SP; Joe Blanton, SP; Jason Vargas, SP; Tommy Hanson, SP

Bullpen: Ryan Madson, RP; Ernesto Frieri, RP; Scott Downs, RP; Sean Burnett, RP

The Angels had one of the most stacked lineups last season after they signed Pujols – and that was before they added MVP Josh Hamilton to the mix. Trout, the best player in the league last season not named Miguel Cabrera, hitting in front of Pujols and Hamilton might be the scariest experience for pitchers ever in the MLB since the days of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in 1927.

No one knows how any of these teams will finish their regular season in 2013. But I can assure you on thing: they are all stacked this year. As clearly proven, each team has a dream team lineup that every franchise strives for. However, the World Series-winning Giants in 2012 only had one “great” player in its lineup and still came out on top.

Since I’m not in the business, I don’t know the true recipe for success and wins in the MLB. But the lineups listed above sure as heck should be a main i

March 7, 2013
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March 5, 2013
Jason Fry's Dorkery: On Writing for Free

jasonfry:

There’s a firestorm going on today over freelance journalism and writing for free. It started with Nate Thayer, who published an email exchange he had with an editor for the Atlantic. Basically, the editor wanted Thayer to repurpose a piece he’d written for NK News — 1,200 words by the end of…

February 27, 2013
A College Kid’s Take on the NFL Combine

The NFL Combine came to a close Tuesday after a four-day event that saw some surprising and impressive performances from quality NFL prospects. The draft is in early April for these college-age football players, and between the official Combine and their respective college’s Pro Days, now is the time to show everyone why they should be drafted early.  

First off, I would like to admit that this weekend I paid too much attention to the Combine, and the NFL Draft for that matter. It was precious time that could’ve been used to study for the three tests I had this week, or to watch more college basketball – either one. Nonetheless, I marvel at how entertained and attracted I am to guys my age running the 40-yard dash…and posting probably the same time as the guy before him did. Four days straight.

Without further ado, here are the impressions I got and takeaways from the Combine that your average NFL scout or NFL Network analyst couldn’t. Simply because I’m the same age as these scrutinized athletes.

 1. Honey Badger don’t give a crap

Tyrann Mathieu, aka the “Honey Badger” aka former LSU star cornerback, showed this weekend why he really doesn’t care what others think of him, in terms of what he can do on the football field. Although he previously was kicked off the team at LSU, Mathieu looked in prime shape on Tuesday during his workouts. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds to go along with excellent footwork and body control drills afterwards. Here’s where it gets interesting. After barely repping the 225-lb bench press four times, Mathieu told NFL Network’s Deion Sanders that he could stick with and cover Calvin Johnson – oh, only one of the best receivers in the NFL. “He’s going to catch his five balls, but I’m going to get my two turnovers, so we’ll be even.” He really doesn’t care what people think of him, and I love it. More on the Honey Badger in a little bit.

2. Manti Te’o continues to lie

After a mostly disappointing performance on Monday during his workouts, the Notre Dame star linebacker was asked about his not-so-great numbers. He adamantly claimed that his numbers, especially in the 40-yard dash, will be better come March 26, Notre Dame’s Pro Day. That means he has about a month to train his butt off to post a better performance. I see this going one of two ways. Either Te’o legitimately trains every day in order to get better results at the Pro Day, or (and most likely) he trains hard and puts up pretty much the same exact numbers as he did Monday. I’m taking the latter. But he promised, right? And we trust Te’o completely right? He doesn’t have a history about lying at all, so a 4.4 in the 40 is on the horizon.

3. There are 300-pound linemen that can run faster than me

So all the way back in 2008, as a high school sophomore, I ran the 40-yard dash for the first and only time as a pre-season test for the team. As a 180 lb wide receiver, I clocked in at 4.8. Keep that in mind. Now, Terron Armstead (306 lbs) ran a 4.71 and Lane Johnson (303 lbs) ran a 4.72 on Saturday. That’s faster than I ever was timed at (officially) and I can’t decide if I’m either embarrassed for myself or impressed by the offensive linemen. It makes me feel a little better that those are the only two O-linemen that clocked in at less than 4.8 seconds. So go me, right?

4. Shamarko Thomas is a beast

The Syracuse safety measures to be about 5’9” and 215 pounds. If you’re not familiar, he’s a stocky dude with all his weight coming in the form of muscles. Just look at this and this – BEAST. I see this guy coming into the NFL as a starting safety somewhere and becoming one of the next hard-hitting guys that make the position what it is, kind of like a Brian Dawkins-type player. During the combine, he ran a 4.42 in the 40, did 28 reps of the 225-bench press, and had a 40.5-inch vertical and a 133-inch broad jump. Those were some of the best numbers for defensive backs on Tuesday. Just watch his highlight tape from his senior season at Syracuse and tell me you don’t want this man on your team.

5. Manti and Mathieu should both go in the first-round

This I knew and believed before the combine even started. Here’s the facts: Manti Te’o recorded over 400 tackles in his four-year career as a linebacker at Notre Dame AND won the award for the best defensive player in the country last season AND was a Heisman finalist AND led his team to a near perfect record; Tyrann Mathieu won the same award for best defensive player two years ago AND was a Heisman finalist that year AND started on one of the best teams in the country as a freshman in 2010 AND is one of the best return men in the game. Both, obviously, have had their own personal setbacks. However on a purely football standpoint, they should both go in the first round. Te’o probably will, and Mathieu is projected to go in the second or third. All I have to say is that teams are missing out on them. You’ll see in two or three years when they are some of the best defensive players in the league.

That is all. 

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