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Monday, December 27, 2010

Ted Ginn Jr. named Special Teams Player of the Week




December 27, 2010

Special Teams Player of the Week

Ted Ginn, PR, San Francisco.

The 49ers were their usual stumblebum selves midway through the second quarter at St. Louis: down 9-0, already having had Troy Smith trapped for a safety, five total passing yards. Ginn took a punt and weaved through traffic for 78 yards and a touchdown. That was all but eight points of the feeble 49ers offense for the day.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

D3football.com Names Jones to All-America Team




Dominic Jones breaks a tackle on his way for an 81-yard kickoff return for a touchdown at Baldwin-Wallace Oct. 9.

By Ed Syguda

December 20, 2010

WESTERVILLE, OHIO— Defensive back Dominic Jones, a junior from Columbus (Brookhaven High School), was named to the D3football.com All-America first team as a defensive back and also as a return specialist.

“D.J. had a great year for us,” said Otterbein head football coach Joe Loth. “His leadership skills on and off the field are off the chart.”

Jones led Otterbein University in tackles for a loss with 13, including four pass sacks, this season. He finished second among teammates with 66 tackles. The junior also made two interceptions and broke up six passes.

In addition to his defensive prowess, Jones led the OAC in kick returns, averaging 31.1 yards, and ranked second in punt returns, averaging 8.4 yards a return. He finished second in NCAA Division III for kick returns.


"I think about all the trials and tribulations I have been through in my life and to bounce back after sitting out of football for three years and have the season I had is truly a blessing,” Jones said. "First and foremost I got to thank the man up above because without him none of this would be possible. I want to thank my family, Otterbein University, the coaching staff, and, most of all, my teammates.

"I'm humbled and excited about being named to the All-America team, but I'm not satisfied,” Jones continued. “I still believe I have room to improve and I look forward to an intense off- season training. I have gained a tremendous amount of respect for Division 3 football. It has been an overwhelming experience thus far and the passion that I've gained for the game is incredible."

The first D3football.com All-America team was awarded in 1999 and is, along with the American Football Coaches Association All-America team, the only ones recognized in the NCAA record book. Players are nominated by schools in November and December for the D3football.com All-Region team, and are then considered for the All-America teams.

The D3football.com All-America team honors 11 on offense and 11 on defense per team, plus three special-teamers, with four teams named, one of them honorable mention.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Coach Graham still at Tulsa, but it might not last for long




By Fred Lewis

December 21, 2010

It is little surprise that the University of Tulsa football team is 9-3, on the verge of a national ranking and playing in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Friday.

That the Golden Hurricane's head coach, Todd Graham, is still with them at this point is, however, quite remarkable.

History tells us that the 46-year-old Graham should be saying "aloha" -- as in good-bye -- to Tulsa about now. Tradition suggests that he should be doing it from a podium at Pittsburgh or some other Bowl Championship Series member school.

As much as the folks at TU like to be known as the Golden Hurricane, in coaching circles the place has long been known as Steppingstone U. It is a launching pad for upwardly mobile coaches, a trampoline to bigger bucks.

Four of the five head coaches before Graham who won seven or more games in a season eventually found their way to greener pastures. Average stay at TU was less than five seasons.

Tiny Tulsa was a springboard to Louisville for Steve Kragthorpe, Wisconsin for Don Morton, Arizona State and Ohio State for John Cooper and Texas Christian for F.A. Dry. Only Dave Rader, one of TU's own, stuck around to be a fixture at the Rib Crib.

It is a situation hardly confined to football at the school, either. At one time -- a brief moment, usually -- Nolan Richardson, Tubby Smith, Steve Robinson, Bill Self and Buzz Peterson all were head basketball coaches at TU before moving on to Arkansas, Georgia (and Kentucky), Florida State, Illinois (and Kansas), and Tennessee, respectively, among other stops.

If you can win at Tulsa -- which has the smallest Football Bowl Subdivision enrollment (3,084 undergraduates) and is hardly an owner of a big bankroll or eye-popping facilities -- experience suggests you can win at a number of places.

So it was hardly unexpected when, in the wake of TU's success this season -- and recent years -- that Graham's name became linked with any number of openings. Not overlooked was that he had fled Rice after one season to come to Tulsa.

At 35-17 in four seasons at Tulsa, including a victory at Notre Dame this year, Graham merited a look. Leading the nation in total offense twice made for a good, long look.

At an annual salary of $769,264, according to USA Today, that puts him midrange in Conference USA, how could Graham afford not to think about it, if asked?

Minnesota and Pittsburgh have since filled their pukas, but not before Tulsa fans had some all-too-familiar fears of here we go again.

Through it all, Graham has said all the right things. He's made a point of saying any consideration of him is a validation of TU's success and how he is concentrating on the job at hand.

The University of Hawaii and its much-coveted No. 24 ranking might well have his full attention this week.

But for how much longer the Golden Hurricane keep him is anybody's guess. And, as history reminds us, the odds are not in TU's favor.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dawson might be Cleveland’s weather beater





December 10, 2010

By MIKE McLAIN

You don't always need The Weather Channel when Phil Dawson is around.

The Browns kicker begins tracking the weather in the city in which he's scheduled to play early in the week. His forecast for Sunday in Buffalo, where the Browns and Bills will meet, isn't pretty.

"The temperature is going to be dropping all day," Dawson said. "We're going to have some rain, some ice and some snow. It's going to be one of those games."

It's hard to believe the weather could be worse than the conditions the teams dealt with in Cleveland in 2007. The field was covered with a deep snow and the wind blowing off Lake Erie was treacherous.

Somehow, Dawson managed to kick field goals of 35 and 49 yards to lead the Browns to an 8-0 win in what remains the highlight of his 12-year career.


Like all kickers, Dawson would prefer perfect conditions each week, but that rarely happens in outdoor stadiums in cold-weather cities. He relishes the challenge of defeating the elements.

"I enjoy them. I love to compete," Dawson said. "I was an undersized offensive tackle in high school. I learned to embrace the mismatch and enjoy kind of being the underdog.

"When I go into a game, the cards are stacked against you in terms of the conditions. It's an opportunity to rise to the challenge and see what you've got."

Dawson has often said that kicking in bad weather at Cleveland Browns Stadium is about as difficult a challenge as there is for a kicker. While Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo can be brutal at this time of the year, it's has an advantage over Cleveland in Dawson's thinking.

"This (Buffalo) is one of the toughest places to kick," Dawson said. "I'm glad it's field turf instead of grass. It would be even worse. If I have good footing, I can overcome a lot of things. I'll have that because of the field turf. When you have the bad field on top of all that other stuff is when it's ridiculous."

There's something about the sight of Buffalo's uniforms that brings out the best in Dawson. His remarkable showing in the 2007 game was followed a year later when he made five-of five attempts, including a career-long 57-yard field goal on the final play to give the Browns a 29-27 win on a Monday Night Football game.

"That was sweet because that's a big stage," Dawson said. "To get an opportunity to make a long one on Monday Night Football to win the game was pretty fun."

Dawson's performance in the '07 game, however, remains at the top of the list.

"I'll probably never play in a game like that, just weather-wise" he said. "And then to have an opportunity to make two kicks was pretty special and to see the team win. We were making a playoff push at the time and trying to make things interesting coming in."

Dawson had a game-winning field goal last Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, increasing his career total to 13. Earlier this season Dawson, who has 247 career field goals, surpassed the legendary Lou Groza for the franchise record. Groza made 234 field goals.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Broncos sign free-agent K Steven Hauschka





December 13, 2010

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos on Saturday signed free-agent kicker Steven Hauschka and waived offensive lineman Stanley Daniels, it was announced.

Hauschka (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) is a third-year player who played 17 games with Baltimore in his first two seasons after signing with Minnesota as a college free agent out of North Carolina State in 2008. He has spent time with Minnesota, Baltimore, Atlanta and Detroit during his first three NFL seasons. His last name is pronounced HOWSH-kuh.

After graduating from Middlebury College where he was a two-time New England Small College Athletic Conference selection as both a kicker and punter, Hauschka enrolled in graduate school at North Carolina State and converted 16-of-18 field goals during his one season with the Wolfpack.

A soccer player at Needham (Mass.) High School, Hauschka didn’t play football until his sophomore year of college. He was born on June 29, 1985.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Kevin Wilson named Indiana's new head coach




By Indiana Athletic Department Release

December 7, 2010

BLOOMINGTON-- BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana University Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Fred Glass today introduced Kevin Wilson as the new head football coach at Indiana University. Last night, Glass and Wilson agreed to terms on a seven-year deal that will pay Wilson $1.2 million per year.

"I am thrilled that Kevin Wilson will lead our football program," Glass said. "He is committed to compliance, academics, character and winning. He has helped lead successful programs at Miami (Ohio), Northwestern and Oklahoma. I believe his leadership, vision, confidence, teaching, commitment, discipline and toughness herald a terrific new era for Indiana football."

"I'm extremely pleased that Kevin Wilson, who has been one of the nation's top assistant coaches for several years, has agreed to come to IU to lead our football program," Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie said. "He has proven to be a great innovator, motivator and teacher, while coaching some of the most prolific offenses in NCAA history and numerous All-American athletes. He clearly has the talent and experience we were hoping to obtain as we embark on what we fully anticipate to be an exciting new era of IU football. I look forward to welcoming him to IU."

Wilson just completed his ninth successful regular season at Oklahoma University, helping Coach Bob Stoops lead the Sooners to victory over Nebraska in the Big 12 title game. Oklahoma played in a major bowl game in each of the nine seasons during Wilson's tenure.

He led three of the most productive offenses in college football history in 2003, 2007 and 2008. The 2008 offense set NCAA records by scoring 60 or more points in five straight games and 716 for the season.

Some of Wilson's prominent pupils include St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, Cincinnati Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham, Indianapolis Colts tight end Brody Eldridge, Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive lineman Davin Jospeh and Washington Redskins offensive lineman Jammal Brown.

In charge of the offensive line at Oklahoma for four years and tight ends and fullbacks for the last five, Wilson served as position coach for three All-Americans, an Outland Trophy Winner (Brown), a Mackey Award Finalist (Gresham) and a two-time Rimington Trophy Finalist (Vince Carter). In 2007, three of Wilson's tight ends, Gresham, Eldridge and Joe Jon Finley, earned All-Big 12 honors.

In 2010, two of his offensive lineman became first round picks in the NFL Draft (Davin Joseph and Brown), as did tight end Gresham. In his nine years at Oklahoma, 22 players on the offensive side of the ball went on to get drafted into the NFL, including seven first-round selections, with three going among the first 10 picks and two in the top five.


Wilson won the Frank Broyles Award for the nation's top assistant coach in 2008, the second time he had been named a finalist for the prestigious award. In 2007, the National Football Foundation of Oklahoma gave Wilson the Merv Johnson Award for coaching with integrity.

Prior to Oklahoma, Wilson was the offensive coordinator for Randy Walker at Northwestern for three years (1999-01), also serving as assistant head coach in his last year there. Northwestern won the Big Ten Conference title in Wilson and Walker's second year.

Prior to Northwestern, Wilson also coached with Walker as an assistant coach at Miami of Ohio for nine years (1990-98). For seven of his years at Miami, Wilson was offensive coordinator alongside former Indiana Coach Terry Hoeppner, who served as defensive coordinator.

Interestingly and importantly, Randy Walker had been coached by former Indiana Head Coach Bill Mallory when Mallory was at Miami. In turn, Wilson was coached by Walker at the University of North Carolina, where Wilson walked on as an offensive lineman and earned a scholarship while playing on several outstanding teams. Wilson earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees from UNC.

A native of Maiden, N.C., Wilson was a three-sport star at Maiden High School and Valedictorian of his senior class.

"I am excited by the opportunity to be the head football coach at Indiana University," Wilson said. "I am confident we can win here and win in the right way."

Glass noted the tremendous support provided by Indiana University President Michael McRobbie throughout the search. "We would not be here today with this outstanding new coach if President McRobbie's commitment to excellence did not extend to the athletic department and its football program," said Glass. "We were in daily contact, often multiple times a day, to ensure that we got the right coach for Indiana University."

Kevin has been married to his wife Angie for 15 years and they have five beautiful children: daughters Elaina (14), Makenzie (12), and Marlee (10) and sons Trey (11) and Toby (7).

Shannon reaches out to players with handwritten notes




By Steve Gorten

December 6th, 2010

CORAL GABLES – Miami Hurricanes players found a surprise in their lockers Monday when they arrived for a team workout.

It was a postcard from former coach Randy Shannon. One side had “U” printed on it. On the other side, there was a handwritten note from Shannon personalized for each player.

Some of the players got their postcard from Shannon, who was fired hours after the final regular season game Nov. 27, on Friday.

“It was the nicest thing he ever said to me since I’ve been here,” senior LT Orlando Franklin said. “He was just telling me to keep my head up and don’t get sidetracked.”

Franklin added, “I’m going to re-wrap it and put it under my Christmas tree so I can open it on Christmas morning.”


CB Ryan Hill, a fifth-year senior, said he was surprised to find his postcard.

“It just shows not only his compassion, but his character,” Hill said. “He took time to do that and I really appreciate it.”

“It was great to know that’s what he thought of me,” junior C Tyler Horn said.


Hill said he had already spoken to Shannon on the phone and planned to call him again later Monday.

“I’m going to ask him why he did it because I don’t need this sad stuff anymore,” Hill said with a smile.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Bob Stoops at his best this season



By R.J. Young/The Daily

December 7, 2010


OU coach Bob Stoops, center, celebrates winning his seventh Big 12 Championship with junior linebacker Travis Lewis (28) and OU players after the Sooners’ 23-20 win over Nebraska on Dec. 4, 2010. (Merrill Jones/The Daily)

Dominance in college football could be defined as winning 50 percent of the conference titles.

Since the beginning of the Bob Stoops Era, the Sooners have won seven Big 12 championships, including four of the last five. Stoops is 84-17 in the Big 12 and 7-1 all-time in the Big 12 conference championship game.

The 15-year history of the Big 12 has brought many gorgeous statistics, prime-time players and Hall of Fame coaches, but Stoops’ staggering number of conference titles has to be the most stunning.

Bob Stoops gave the rest of the Big 12’s football coaches a three-year head start to rack up Big 12 championships.

By 2000, Stoops already had won a Big 12 title and a BCS national championship.

What coaches Bill Snyder, Mack Brown and John Blake couldn’t do in the years prior to Stoops’ arrival in Norman, Stoops did in only his second year as the head coach at OU.

That’s not my opinion, just a fact — the man can coach some pigskin.

A case can be made that this was Stoops’ best coaching performance of his 12-year reign as OU’s football czar.


After Sooner great Sam Bradford’s shoulder exploded like a TNT-charged piƱata during an early season showdown with BYU 2009, sophomore quarterback Landry Jones was forced into the role.

I use the word “force” deliberately because that is exactly how Jones looked throughout the rest of that season — ridged, tight, stiff; a square peg being hammered into a round hole.

Stoops had some work to do.

Though Jones showed flashes of brilliance in the latter half of the 2009 season, no one would have predicted he would grow into the precision passer he has.

Jones looked, at times, unflappable when he was sporting the crimson and cream at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. And true to that form, he is undefeated in every home game he has started as the Sooner’s quarterback.

But on the road ¬— where the crowds are hostile and TV lights seem brightest — Jones struggled for much of the year.

Leave it to Stoops not to lose faith in his quarterback; to keep coaching him up and whispering words of courage, bravery and valor into the ear of the one player he knew he would need in OU’s last two games of the 2010 season.

In the Bedlam game, when the Sooners could only muster 2.7 yards per carry on the ground, Jones exemplified the attributes of the great OU field generals who have come before him.

He passed for a 468 yards and four touchdowns against a team yours truly thought would demolish the Sooners at T. Boone Pickens Stadium.

Mea culpa.

Bedlam turned out to be a dress rehearsal, though. The last Big 12 Conference Championship game — for what we can only guess will be a very long time — pitted OU against the only team in the North that Sooner fans love to hate: Nebraska.

As fate would have it, the contest between the Cornhuskers and Sooners would be the last great installment in the 98-year history of this rivalry.

Not since Tom Osborne and Barry Switzer were coaching on either side of this rivalry were the stakes so high.

Yes, the Sooners stumbled out of the blocks in the first half. Yes, their actions on the field caused some OU fans to wonder aloud, “Have they forgotten how to play football?”

But Stoops knew what he had. He knew what his team was capable of , and — most importantly — the kind of leader and passer his quarterback has grown to become.

The Sooners beat a better, more talented Nebraska football team on Saturday.

Maybe they beat Nebraska because they wanted it more. Maybe it was because Mr. Momentum suddenly became a Sooner fan.

But I believe it was because of one man — Bob Stoops — who outdid himself this season to get his team this far.

And don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Celebrating the legacy of Barry Alvarez




By ANDY BAGGOT

December 7, 2010

His induction tonight into the College Football Hall of Fame couldn't come at a better time.

Barry Alvarez has always had a remarkable sense of timing and today is a perfect example of that.

His two careers — his two legacies — have conveniently merged under the same bright spotlight for all to appreciate.

Alvarez is in New York City to be inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame. It's the ultimate reward for the extraordinary work he did as University of Wisconsin coach for 16 years.

You should know the script by heart: Alvarez took over a decrepit UW program and built it into one that claimed three Big Ten Conferences titles and prevailed in three Rose Bowls. Along the way he won a school-record 118 games, including eight bowls, and became the first coach in league history to win back-to-back Rose Bowls (1998, '99).


That resume explains why so many family members, friends, colleagues and former Badgers players will be decked out in tuxedos and gowns at the famed Waldorf-Astoria in New York City tonight sharing the moment with Alvarez.

In terms of worthiness, Alvarez is certainly the equal of the eight other UW inductees: Pat Richter (1996), Pat Harder ('93), Marty Below ('88), Alan Ameche ('75), Elroy Hirsch ('74), Robert Butler ('72), Pat O'Dea ('62) and Dave Schreiner ('55).

What has to be fun for Alvarez is that while his past life is the focus of this event, his present-day role as UW athletic director is sure to be a prime topic of conversation as well.

Before Alvarez stepped down as Badgers coach, he hired his replacement and showed him the ropes. That wedding of instincts and methodology is being celebrated five years later now that UW has won a share of the Big Ten title and is headed for the Rose Bowl under Bret Bielema.

At the very same moment, Alvarez's abilities as a coach and as a CEO are being validated in positive, prominent ways. That's pretty remarkable when you consider how different those journeys were.

When Alvarez began his coaching tenure at UW in 1990, he had a specific, well-crafted plan: Build a championship program from scratch and sustain it. He did so, setting the stage for a massive athletic renaissance that continues today at 1440 Monroe St.

When Alvarez began his tenure as AD in 2004, his agenda wasn't so well defined. Outside of fulfilling his career-day goal of following in the footsteps of his college mentor, Bob Devaney — who famously transitioned from being Nebraska football coach to its athletic director — Alvarez struggled in those early days to articulate his vision.

One thing he knew for certain was that the football program, the one he nursed out of the ICU to robust health, had to stay strong. Alvarez worked two jobs for two years during which time he found Bielema and began grooming him as his replacement.

Many questioned Bielema's abilities early on, especially after the Badgers regressed from 12-1 overall to 7-6 during his first three years, but this season is a convincing argument that Alvarez made an astute hire.

With his coaching legend intact and his biggest personnel decision as CEO a certified hit, Alvarez has a greater sense of his future as AD. He wants to someday leave UW Athletics in better shape than he found it — no mean feat — which means continued fiscal awareness and getting the Athletic Performance Center and hockey practice facilities built.

Alvarez will resume working on the future, but first up, another look tonight at his honorable past.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Mario Manningham starring as Giants' top receiver





December 4, 2010

By TOM CANAVAN

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - Mario Manningham put on his sweat pants after practice and quickly pawed through the clothes on the floor in front of his locker looking for a T-shirt.

The longer it took the New York Giants' receiver to find the shirt _ and it was only seconds _ the more concerned he was.

Eli Manning was waiting and Manningham wasn't about to make the Giants quarterback wait long. It's all part of his new role, being the No. 1 receiver in the wake of injuries to Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks.

He needs Manning. Manning needs him for Sunday's game against the Washington Redskins (5-6).

"I got a meeting with Eli. I got a meeting with Eli," Manningham said. "I'll be right back."

The third-year pro never returned, which isn't surprising. Manningham has a lot on his plate as the only experienced receiver who has been with the team all season.

Friday's meeting with Manning might be Manningham's most important. It's Manning's meeting. The quarterback sits down with his receivers and tells them what he sees when he watches videotape of the upcoming opponent. If Manning notices a safety cheating on a certain route or a cornerback playing soft, he clues in his receivers.

"It's Eli's input," Nicks said. "I'd be there, if I were playing."

When Manning looks around the room these days, Manningham is the only one who he's used to.

Veteran Derek Hagan was cut in training camp and re-signed three weeks ago, after Smith went down with a partial tear of his pectoral muscle on Nov. 11. Second-year receiver Ramses Barden broke an ankle against Dallas three days later.

Also in the room are Michael Clayton and Devin Thomas, who were signed last week after Nicks suffered a leg injury that required an emergency surgical procedure on his right leg on Nov. 22. Returnman Darius Reynaud is also there.

"It's part of the game we are in," Manningham said. "Injuries come everyday."

Manningham had his first taste of being the No. 1 receiver last week vs. Jacksonville. So far, so good. The former Michigan product caught three passes for 61 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that helped the Giants rally from an 11-point second-half deficit.

And while the Jaguars didn't double team Manningham in the Giants' 24-20 win, they used their safety to provide the cornerback with help.

"I didn't notice anything different," he said.

On his touchdown, Manning found Manningham in a seam between the cornerback and the safety rolling his coverage.

"He is as explosive or dynamic of a guy as we have," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. "They key is we're constantly working on consistency with him and that is the area that we are always looking to get better at. But in terms of a guy that you put the ball in his hands and he can do a terrific job running after the catch, he's exceptional."

The Giants have used Manningham a lot on flanker screens and short passes, hoping he will break a tackle.

"I think his explosiveness is one of the important reasons why we're so high up in big plays as an offense," Gilbride said. "And then I think guys feed off the energy, off the personality, as well as off the big plays that he makes."

Smith, who set a franchise record with 107 catches last season, and Nicks, who had team-highs of 62 catches and nine touchdowns before the injury, said any of the wideouts would relish being No. 1.

"I think it is more of a mentality," Nicks said. "If you get the opportunity, you have to want to do it and take advantage of it. In our receiver group, if any of us get the privilege to step up and be a No. 1 receiver, all of us want to do it."

For now, the job belongs to Manningham.

"That's what you want," Smith said. "That's what you are here for."

Nicks hopes to start running next week. Smith said doctors told him his injury features a six-week recovery period. He has been out for three and is doubtful for Sunday.

Friday, December 03, 2010

UW football: 22 players named to Academic All-Big Ten team



By Tom Mulhern

December 2, 2010


The University of Wisconsin football team had 22 players named to the Academic All-Big team, it was announced on Thursday.

The group includes left tackle Gabe Carimi, who earlier in the week was named the conference's Offensive Lineman of the Year, while also earning All-Big Ten first-team honors for the second straight year.

UW coach Bret Bielema said earlier in the week he expected a record number of Academic All-Big Ten selections, but there was no indication on the release whether or not this represented a record number.

Here's the list of the 22 football players, with their positions, majors and hometowns:

LB Ethan Armstrong, So., Undeclared, Ottawa, Ill.

OT Gabe Carimi, Gr., Civil Engineering, Cottage Grove, Wis.

FB Bradie Ewing, Jr., Sociology, Richland Center, Wis.

CB Antonio Fenelus, Jr., Family, Consumer & Community Education, Boca Raton, Fla.

DT Ethan Hemer, So., Undeclared , Medford, Wis.

FS Aaron Henry, Sr., Consumer Affairs, Immokalee, Fla.

S Shelton Johnson, Jr., Zoology, Carrollton, Texas

DT Jordan Kohout, So., Sociology, Waupun, Wis.

C Peter Konz, Jr., Communication Arts, Neenah, Wis.

TE Rob Korslin, Sr., Civil Engineering, Brookfield, Wis.

CB Andrew Lukasko, Sr., Kinesiology, Edgar, Wis.

Zach Matthias, So., Undeclared, Hemlock, Mich.

DE Pat Muldoon, So., Undeclared, Mason, Ohio

P Brad Nortman, Jr., Accounting, Brookfield, Wis.

LB Conor O'Neill, So., Undeclared, Delray Beach, Fla.

CB Devin Smith, Jr., Consumer Affairs, Coppell, Texas

LB Blake Sorensen, Sr., Consumer Affairs, Eden Prairie, Minn.

LB Culmer St. Jean, Gr., Consumer Affairs, Naples, Fla.

QB Scott Tolzien, Gr., Consumer Affairs, Rolling Meadows, Ill.

DE J.J. Watt, Sr., Life Sciences Communications, Pewaukee, Wis.

P Ryan Wickesberg, Sr., Finance, Investment and Banking, Saukville, Wis.

OG Kevin Zeitler, Jr., Kinesiology, Waukesha, Wis.

Seminole Defense Is Dramatically Improved




FLORIDA STATE DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MARK STOOPS has turned one of the worst defenses in the country into one of the best in his first year.

By BOB FERRANTE

December 2, 2010

TALLAHASSEE | Few college football teams in the past decade have achieved the kind of statistical improvement that the Florida State defense has enjoyed in 2010.

The Seminoles were among the nation's worst defenses last year: 94th in scoring defense (allowing 30 points per game) and 108th in rush defense (204 yards per game).

The numbers in 2010 show a stunning reversal: the Seminoles are 11th in scoring defense (17.8 points per game) and 23rd in rush defense (123 yards per game).

"I definitely have an appreciation for what we've done," FSU senior linebacker Kendall Smith said. "Our defense is one of the top defenses in the nation. I'm glad to be a part of it. I feel all of the hard work pays off.

"We have a lot of hard workers on defense, and we have a lot of young guys that stepped up and play like seniors. I'm happy with the progress that we made."

Progress may be an understatement. After the defense suffered through its worst season in decades, Mickey Andrews retired and new coordinator Mark Stoops has re-energized the Seminoles.


Gone are the mostly man-to-man principles that were a staple of Andrews' defenses. The Seminoles struggled in recent years to match up against spread offenses, and Stoops' schemes - which include man and zone coverages - have played to the strengths of players, who have been able to use their speed, athleticism and desire to deliver hard hits.

Stoops isn't allowed to speak with the media, but FSU players all say they love his schemes -- which often put players in position to make plays. And, of course, they relish the opportunity to deliver a ferocious hit, something that wasn't as likely in man-to-man coverage in the Andrews Era.

FSU (9-3) couldn't prevent the big plays last year, but in 2010 the Seminoles have shaved 12 points off their per-game average going in to Saturday's ACC championship game against Virginia Tech (10-2). And FSU is getting contributions from nearly every player -- many of them returning starters.

Linebackers Nigel Bradham and Kendall Smith are nearing career highs in tackles, while Mister Alexander is healthy and enjoying a career season (48 tackles).

Defensive end Brandon Jenkins played sparingly as a reserve last season but now has 12 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss (tied for third at FSU all-time). Fellow end Markus White has 52 tackles -- and could double his total from his last two seasons. He also has 7.5 sacks.

Cornerback Xavier Rhodes was converted from wide receiver and is the ACC's defensive rookie of the year, while sophomores Greg Reid and Nick Moody have improved dramatically. Junior-college transfer Mike Harris has excelled in nickel situations.

But the season hasn't been all rosy. FSU was thoroughly dominated on both sides of the ball by Oklahoma, losing to the Sooners 47-17 on Sept. 11.

The next day, players feared the reaction. But coaches didn't yell. Practices stayed the same, and coaches didn't waver on their game plan.

"There were a lot of guys second-guessing themselves, but you come back this next week and you tell yourselves that you're going to get better," White said. "That was about as low as you can go. We were motivated to go up."

The defense steadily improved each week. FSU's confidence grew with a 45-17 rout of Miami on Oct. 9, which was part of a five-game winning streak. And while the defense struggled in losses to North Carolina and N.C. State, FSU rebounded to allow just one offensive touchdown in each of the past three games.

FSU has allowed teams to drive, but the Seminoles have been especially tough in the red zone. Clemson, Maryland and Florida were inside FSU's 20 a total of 12 times and came away with just two touchdowns and five field goals.

"Once you're in the red zone, inside the 20, everybody on the defense knows it's time to man up," Reid said. "We have to make plays."

Mom pushed Giants' Manningham all the way to NFL




December 3, 2010

By Kevin Kernan

Mario Manningham is only in his third season, but right now he is the last experienced wide receiver standing for the Giants.

He showed this past Sunday that he was up to the challenge, catching a 26-yard touchdown pass, his fourth touchdown over the last six games.

With Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith sidelined, he's told the veterans, "I'll hold down the fort until you get back."

Manningham is looking for another big game against the Redskins this Sunday at the New Meadowlands Stadium. Don't expect him to ever play scared.

Explained fellow wide receiver Devin Thomas, who starred at Michigan State and has known Manningham since he was a star at Michigan, "Mario never panics."

"That's something my mom taught me," Manningham told The Post after yesterday's practice.

"I grew up in the projects in Warren, Ohio. I saw everything you could ever see. My mom was a single mom. She raised me right, she always told me, 'Never panic. Take it day by day.'

"So I never really got frustrated by anything. I owe it all to her. She gave me the whoopin's I needed. She put me in my room, made me read and do my homework."

"My son had to be in before the street lights came on to eat dinner," Marion said in a telephone interview. "Even though we lived in the projects, I had rules."

Mario also got something else from his mom.

"She's real fast, that's where I get my speed from," Manningham said with a smile.

"I ran track all through my high school years," Marion said. "And I named him after me."

She shortened it by one letter to make it a boy's name.

"From the moment I had him, I knew he was a special kid, I could see it in his eyes," she said.

Mario was creative, too.

"When he was 3 or 4 years old," his mom said, "we couldn't afford a basketball hoop, so Mario made one out of hangers and hung it on the door.

"And," she added with a laugh, "I wondered why we could never find any socks. He would ball them all up to make his own basketball."

Marion made a point to tell young Mario to never come home crying. One day, when he was about 6 years old, Manningham came home crying.

"A big dude, he tried to beat me up," Mario told his mom.

What did Marion do? She walked her son outside, found the 10-year-old bully and told him, "You want to fight my son? You fight him right now while I'm here."

This time young Mario took care of business.

"I had to, my mom was there," Manningham recalled with a laugh. "I couldn't take three whoopin's in a day."

All that made him stronger.

"With my mom on my side," he said proudly, "I don't care about nothing. She's always looking out for me."

Marion makes the drive from Ohio to New Jersey with family members for nearly every home game. She is quick to credit her parents as well for all the help they gave her, helping raise Mario and his younger brother and sister, who are both good athletes, too.

After last Sunday's win, as soon as she saw Mario, she gave him a high-five.

Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride raves about Manningham's explosiveness, and said that because of the injuries to Nicks and Smith: "We don't have to share it among three now. More of those chances will come his way."

Manningham is ready.

"I'm just trying to make plays so my team wins on Sunday," he said. "God put me in this position, and I'm just going to cherish it."

His mom knows this is just the beginning.

"He's always been the step-up guy," she explained. "He's worked very hard. He's given me so many great smiles, so many great tears. There's more to the story, stay tuned. I've told him, 'You're just starting to break through. Don't stop.' "

Until you get in the end zone.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Stoops has made a big impact on FSU's defense





Florida State's first ACC title game appearance in five years can be directly attributed to its dramatic defensive improvement, which can in turn be traced to the offseason hiring of former Arizona coordinator Mark Stoops to replace longtime coordinator Mickey Andrews.

While Andrews was the architect of some great defenses at FSU, his units had been sub par of late. Last year, the Seminoles ranked 94th in points allowed (30) and 108th in yards allowed (434.5). This year, under Stoops, Florida State ranks ninth in points (17.8) and 39th in yards (341.3).

And after recording just 26 sacks last season, the 'Noles already have 43 - the second-most in the country.

"I know this: They can get after a passer," said Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, whose team will be trying to attack FSU's revamped defense Saturday. "Every time we've ever played Florida State, they had good defensive players, and they got after you. I think that's exactly what they're doing there now."

Sophomore defensive end Brandon Jenkins is third in the country with 12 sacks. He presents yet another challenge for a Hokies offensive line that is on track to give up its lowest sack total in five years.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who was injured while trying to elude the rush on his first play the last time Tech played Florida State in 2008, would appreciate some help.

"We've just got to protect Tyrod," guard Jaymes Brooks said. "The stuff that he does for us, I don't think many quarterbacks can do. ... He's a vital piece of our offense and we have to protect him."

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bob Stoops voted best coach in Big 12 history




November 26th, 2010

By Shawn S. Lealos, Oklahoma Sooners Examiner

The Associated Press released its list of the best football players in Big 12 history and the Oklahoma Sooners finished with seven players on the list.

The players were chosen by 20 voters from newspapers in the seven Big 12 states. Oklahoma voters included Bill Haisten of the Tulsa World, John Shinn of the Norman Transcript and Jake Trotter of The Oklahoman.

Additionally, Oklahoma Sooners head coach Bob Stoops was nearly the unanimous choice as the best coach in Big 12 history. Stoops finished with 18 votes, compared to one each for Mack Brown and Bill Snyder.

Oklahoma offensive players include running back Adrian Peterson and offensive lineman Jammal Brown.

Peterson, currently playing for the Minnesota Vikings, finished his career at Oklahoma with 4,045 yards in three seasons. He was the runner up to the Heisman trophy in his freshman year and Minnesota drafted him with the seventh pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

Offensive tackle Jammal Brown played for Oklahoma from 2001-2004. Brown was a two-time All-American (2003, 2004) and was the fifth Oklahoma Sooners player to win the Outland Trophy, awarded to the best interior lineman.

Defensive players chosen include Tommie Harris, Rocky Calmus, Teddy Lehman, Roy Williams and Derrick Strait.

Defensive tackle Tommie Harris finished his Oklahoma career with 96 tackles and nine sacks. He was the third Oklahoma Sooners player to win the Lombardi Award in 2003.

Linebacker Rocky Calmus was one of the anchors of the 2000 National Championship team. As a senior, he won the Dick Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker. By graduation, Calmus was the Oklahoma Sooners’ All-Time leader in tackles for a loss by a linebacker.

Linebacker Teddy Lehman had a lot to live up to following Calmus at the position but it all paid off as Lehman won the Butkus Award in 2003. He finished his four-year career at Oklahoma with 329 tackles and five interceptions.

Safety Roy Williams was responsible for one of the most memorable plays in Oklahoma Sooners history when he leapt through the air and swatted the ball out of Texas quarterback Chris Sims hands to give Oklahoma the win in 2001. He won the Nagurski Award as the nation’s best defender in 2001 and finished seventh in the Heisman voting.

Cornerback Derrick Strait played for Oklahoma for four years, including the national championship year of 2000. He won the Jim Thorpe award in 2003 for the best defensive back in the country. Strait finished his career at Oklahoma with 270 tackles and 14 interceptions.

Other Oklahoma Sooners who received votes include Jon Cooper (1), Duke Robinson (3), Trent Williams (2), Phil Loadholt (1), Mark Clayton (3), Ryan Broyles (1), Jermaine Gresham (3), Sam Bradford (1), Gerald McCoy (4), Jeremy Beal (1), Dan Cody (1), Rufus Alexander (2) and Curtis Lofton (1).

Dawson drills another big kick for victory




Terry Pluto's postgame scribbles as the Browns look for a few more wins this season

November 29, 2010

By Terry Pluto, The Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Some postgame scribbles after Sunday's nervous finish to a game the Browns should have won easily:

There is no one in the NFL -- no one -- who I'd rather see kicking in the wind and cold of Browns Stadium with a game on the line than Phil Dawson, who drilled that 41-yarder for the victory. Dawson has missed only one attempt under 50 yards this season. Meanwhile, Carolina's usually reliable John Kasay missed from 46 and 42 yards in the second half -- proving these kicks are much harder than Dawson makes them look.

Dawson boots another game winner




By Brian Dulik

November 29th, 2010

CLEVELAND — The Browns have shown no inclination to extend Phil Dawson’s contract, which expires at the end of the season.

Perhaps it’s time to rethink that position.

Dawson made his 13th career game-winning field goal — splitting the uprights from 41 yards out with 2:42 left in regulation — to give Cleveland a 24-23 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

“Phil is the best kicker in the league, plain and simple, and the best I’ve ever played with,” said punter Reggie Hodges, who also serves as Dawson’s holder.

“I spent a year in New York, where the winds are kind of tricky, but this is the toughest spot in the NFL to kick. It’s just amazing how well he knows the conditions here and how to respond to them.”



Dawson, who joined the Browns as a rookie free agent in 1999, is 9-of-10 (90 percent) on home field goal attempts this season. The six visiting teams at Cleveland Browns Stadium are just 12-of-19 (63 percent).

The latter figure includes a 3-of-5 performance by Panthers kicker John Kasay, whose 42-yard try as time expired clanged off the left upright — and allowed Cleveland to escape with the one-point triumph.

“(Kasay) is a good kicker, but not every kicker can be Phil Dawson,” Browns wide receiver Joshua Cribbs said. “Phil is like Old Faithful. We know he’s going to get the job done.”

Ironically, Dawson said he wasn’t sure he was going convert his game-winning attempt. He had missed two field goals in Jacksonville one week earlier and had only been called upon to try three extra points against Carolina.

“I was certainly uncomfortable because I hadn’t touched the ball in the second half (on a kickoff, extra point or field goal),” said Dawson, whose .831 career field goal percentage ranks ninth in NFL history. “The field also was an issue today with the lack of footing, and the ball was just kind of dying in the air.”

Making the try even more tenuous, Ryan Pontbriand’s snap to Hodges was high, but he fielded it cleanly and placed it down in time for Dawson to keep his normal rhythm.

“That’s when you’ve got to trust your preparation and ignore your emotions,” Dawson said. “Reggie did a great job on the hold and I was fortunate to get it in.”

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Badgers' Bielema finalist for Eddie Robinson award




November 23, 2010

MADISON — Holding a 10-1 record and sitting one win away from at least a share of the Big Ten title, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema has been named one of eight finalists for the 2010 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award, the Football Writers Association of America announced on Tuesday.

Bielema, who was named the 2006 Big Ten Coach of the Year, has led Wisconsin to 10 regular-season wins for just the third time in school history. The team has won 10 games in a season just seven times in school history and Bielema has been on staff for four of those seasons (three as head coach, one as defensive coordinator).

With one regular season game still left to play in 2010, the Wisconsin offense has already broken school records for rushing touchdowns in a season (41) and points in a season (450). In addition, the team is on pace to break the mark for average yards per carry, points per game and completion percentage.

In his career, Bielema holds a 48-15 (.762) in five seasons at Wisconsin. That’s the fifth-best winning percentage among active FBS head coaches with at least four seasons of experience. In addition, those 48 wins already put Bielema fourth all-time at Wisconsin in career victories.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mason would like to get back on sideline





With the coaching carousel about to heat up, Glen Mason would like to hop on and get a job.

"But I am kind of a realist," he said. "When I got let go after 2006, people told me I did a great job at Minnesota and would get another chance to coach. You think someone would offer up a chance to coach, and more often than not it doesn't happen.

"I wasn't overly optimistic after 2006. And now I am more of a realist and I don't think it's going to happen."

Glen Mason was fired despite a 64-57 record and seven bowl bids at Minnesota.

Minnesota's decision to fire Mason after the Gophers blew a 38-7 lead in the 2006 Insight Bowl and lost 44-41 in overtime to Texas Tech led to the hiring of Tim Brewster. Brewster was fired in October after going 15-30 overall and 6-21 in the Big Ten.

"I think I was a 'surprise fire,' " Mason said. "We won our last three Big Ten games to get bowl-eligible [that year] and then lose to a good Texas Tech team. Then, they hire Tim Brewster. And three and a half years later, he's out. You can't keep making those type of decisions and accomplish what you want to accomplish."

Mason, 60, a former Ohio State player and assistant, was one of the most successful coaches in Minnesota history. From 1997-2006, he forged a 64-57 record and went to seven bowls. He led the Golden Gophers to 10 wins in 2003, notched victories at Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan and beat Arkansas, Oregon and Alabama in bowls. But school officials thought the program had gone stale and needed a new vision as it made a push toward the opening of an on-campus stadium.

Before taking the Minnesota job, Mason had success at Kent State and Kansas.

"A coaches' won-loss record can be misleading because it's harder to win at some places than others," said Mason, who is 123-121-1 in 21 seasons as a coach. "I won at three places that were perennial losers. When I left, they were consistent winners. And I did it the right way. I didn't break any rules and I had the respect of my colleagues."


Since leaving, Mason has worked for a financial company in the Twin Cities and as an analyst for the Big Ten Network. But he'd like to get back on the sideline.

"I have had a couple of inquires," Mason said. "But I have a pretty good thing going now. All of my kids live in Minnesota, so I wasn't just willing to go anywhere. After 21 years as a head coach, I'm not willing to go just any place to be a head coach."

Who does Mason think Minnesota should hire?

"There are a couple ways to look at it," he said. "I used to tell our coaches that there are two different kind of coaches: fundamentalists and schemers. I said we are going to be fundamentalists. We are going to coach football and take the best players we can get and improve them. It didn't matter how well we recruited at Minnesota, we weren't going to out-recruit Ohio State, Michigan or Penn State. They have a lot of built-in advantages. But we could recruit ... good, hard-nosed, hard-working kids who may have been a step slow or an inch short ... and we were going to develop them. That's what we did.

"That's what I believe Minnesota needs. You need someone who can go out and sell the school and get the best talent you can. But then you better have a guy who can really develop them."


Minnesota often is viewed as a difficult job. Indeed, the school has the longest Rose Bowl drought of any Big Ten school, last playing in Pasadena after the 1961 season. Getting to the Rose Bowl will be more difficult starting in 2011 with Nebraska joining the Big Ten.

"It's a lot better now because they have a stadium, which I never had," Mason said. "I always thought the biggest drawback we had was we played in the [Metro]dome. It wasn't on campus, it wasn't a collegiate atmosphere, we didn't control it. We had to compete for time with the Twins and Vikings.

"When we brought kids in for recruiting, it seldom was set up as a football field. It was set up for tractor pulls, snowmobile contests, they had a mum festival every year. We had to take prospects in there in that atmosphere. It was horrible. ... As far as I am concerned, it's a lot better situation now than when I was there."
Can Minnesota ever win the Big Ten title?

"Sure," Mason said. "I came close. We were positioned a couple times and we only have ourselves to blame. You just had to hang in there and believe. They need to make a thoughtful and educated decision on what needs to take place. Find that individual, and have everyone hang in there and go for it."

Troy Smith's "heroic effort" leads to impressive win over Rams



Monday, November 22, 2010

Dominic Jones wins Lee Tressel Award, earns All-OAC honors




Nine Earn All-OAC Honors in Football

By Ed Syguda

November 22, 2010

WESTERVILLE, OHIO— Defensive back Dominic Jones, running back Colton Coy, place-kicker David Brewer, and defensive lineman Chaz Horsley, headlined a list of nine Otterbein University football players to earn All-Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) honors this season, the OAC released Friday.

All four were selected to the first team.

Jones, a junior from Columbus (Brookhaven High School), also received the Lee Tressel Award, presented to the most outstanding defensive back in the league. Jones led the squad in tackles for a loss with 13, including four pass sacks, this season. He finished second among teammates with 66 tackles. The junior also made two interceptions and broke up six passes.

In addition to his defensive prowess, Jones led the OAC in kick returns, averaging 31.1 yards. He ranked second in NCAA Division III at the conclusion of regular-season play.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Glenville High Coach Ted Ginn Sr. Helps Players Go From Boys to Men





By Justice B. Hill

November 18, 2010

CLEVELAND -- The teenager, a manila folder in his hand, walks reed straight into the principal's office at Ginn Academy. He is in a crisp, bleach-white shirt and black slacks with a black leather belt, and he wears a red tie with black stripes.

Stopping at the front desk, the teenager asks the receptionist a question. She tells him she can't answer it. She escorts the teen into an anteroom to wait for one of the academy's administrators.

Other teens soon follow.

All are polite and cheerful, all nattily dressed in the academy's uniform and colors: black, white and red.

No blue jeans sagging off a boy's butt.

No faded T-shirts with Gucci Mane's image on it.

There are appropriate settings for such urban attire, but Ginn Academy, the only all-male public school in Ohio, is not one of them.

Ted Ginn Sr., the man whose name is stretched across the school's brick facade, wouldn't allow it. To Ginn, educating teenagers is serious business, so he brooks no foolishness. He knows he has a task that some people think he isn't equipped to handle.

In a sense, their criticism is fair. Ginn has no formal credentials as an educator. His calling card, really, has been his ability to create from rocky terrain a football dynasty at Glenville High School, his alma mater, and turn it into fertile ground for recruiters from Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, North Carolina Central, West Virginia, the University of Miami, Ball State and colleges elsewhere.

Yet his critics ignore the intersection of coaching teens and teaching teens, a fact not lost on Ginn. He points out one trait his critics disregard: he can relate to kids.

Few men and women do so any better.

Yes, he isn't the classic educator. He lacks the college degrees and an office wall crowded with teaching awards. He concedes as much.

Ginn, however, blunts such criticism with what too many educators, their credentials and high-minded titles notwithstanding, don't grasp. He deals in "hope," one thing a teenager needs in abundance.

"Kids come here because they want a chance," Ginn said. "I have expressed to them that they got hope."

The 290 teenagers who attend the three-year-old Ginn Academy, a recycled middle school on the city's East Side, do have a chance. He reminds each of them they can be a father and a husband; they can be a doctor and a lawyer.

But they must first be a good man.

Boys to Men



Nothing defines Ted Ginn Sr. and his mission in life any better than this: he wants to help boys become men.

His effort to churn out men began in a public way in 1997 when he took over the football program at Glenville. He got the job because nobody else wanted it. Not that the program was sorry. As inner-city programs go, Ginn landed a decent one -- a program with potential.

He never doubted he could squeeze all the potential out of it. The talent has always been there; it was there when Ginn wore the Black and Red back in the 1970s, he says. What was not there were locker rooms, a weight room, a decent practice facility, dedicated coaches, discipline and the unshakable resolve that leads to success.

Through force of his personality, Ginn instilled discipline. He raised money to add a weight room; he hired coaches who shared his passion; he won games -- lots of 'em.

Ginn, 55, has never lost a regular-season game in the eight-team Senate League. His Tarblooders have become the 2010 version of Massillon, Canton McKinley, Steubenville, Bishop Moeller and other historic powers in Ohio high school football.

"He understands what it means to be a Tarblooder -- to wear that 'G' on the side of their helmets," said Pierre Woods, a former NFL player and a Michigan grad who played for Ginn a decade ago. "It's a pride thing, and that's what it's about: being proud."

Woods and his teammates didn't just represent a high school; they represented a community and its spirit. They weren't playing just for themselves; they were playing for their parents, their siblings and their friends.

Ginn taught players like Troy Smith, Donte Whitner, Rob Rose, Ted Ginn Jr. and Woods to believe in themselves and to own up to their weaknesses and shore them up. Ginn Sr. talked about more than success on the football field; he talked about success in life.

"Like he always told me -- and I'm sure he told other guys -- at the end of the day, it's up to you," Woods said. "The only person that can make you fail is yourself."

Failure?

The word is anathema to Ginn. He espouses a gospel of success, and the program he runs reflects it. Glenville, a success for more than a decade, was one of the top-rated programs in Ohio this season. In various national polls, his Tarblooders had been ranked as high as No. 4.

His roster boasted some of the premier talent in the country, including quarterback Cardale Jones and wide receiver Shane Wynn.

Success, well, no one uses the same yardstick to measure it as Ginn does. If all he wanted for his program was a lot of wins, he feels he would be cheating the teenagers who have come out for his football team.

Ginn does stress winning. All coaches do, right? But he also preaches passion and commitment and personal responsibility. Playing for Ginn has never been about football alone; mostly, it has been about life itself.

He told his players not to settle for success. He didn't see that as a grand enough purpose.

"You have to talk about being 'great,'" Ginn said.

What Price for Greatness?

Greatness doesn't come gift-wrapped. While athletic skills are wonderful to have, athleticism guarantees a man little in this hi-tech world. Nor does athleticism last forever.

What then?

To Ginn, education is the answer. Commit to education, he tells his football players, and if they do, they will always have skills that play well in the workplace.

Ensuring that his players and the students at Ginn Academy, which has no varsity athletics, have a strong educational foundation is Ginn's mission. He has sent close to 300 of his athletes to college.

Inside the school he started, Ginn sits in a conference room. His thoughts are a long way from football this afternoon. He's been wearing his educator's hat. He's spent most of the morning talking with the academy's principal and a principal from a high school in Columbus, Ohio.

His cell phone rings often. His administrative assistant interrupts now and again as Ginn juggles his business, which is saving young souls.

"If I don't do something everyday to make a difference in somebody's life, then I had a bad day," he said, leaning back in his chair.

That's the reason Ginn pushed hard for the academy -- pounding on doors and cashing in IOUs to make it happen. He wanted to provide black teenagers in Cleveland more than what they might have found elsewhere. He wanted a place where teenagers in his buttoned-down academy could learn, a place where they could thrive and a place where they could be shielded, if only for a few hours, from the hard realities of the 'hood: gangs, drugs and senseless crimes.

So he takes pride in what the academy has become. His plans are to build a second academy. Not just a second, actually, but a third and a fourth -- urban schools that push academics hard.

Not everybody at the academy or Glenville will end up with the NFL careers like Woods, Whitner, Ginn Jr. and Smith. The rest will need to carve out a life in business or politics or in a service industry.

That's where they'll find their success -- or their greatness. Ginn intends to help them however he can. His focus is on giving them hope and to saving their souls.

"What's killing me is I can't save more, that I can't get myself in an environment where we can mass produce saving, because I still have someone at the end of the assembly line blocking it -- holding it up," he said.

For now, he finds solace in the fact he's helping a lot of black teenagers find their bearings. He's giving them hope and a chance, which is what all educators ought to be doing.

And Ginn is -- 24/7.

"There's no finish line," he said with a sigh. "Finish what? You have a new group tomorrow."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

More than a stopgap, Yanda turning into a force at right tackle





By Dan Kolko

November 17, 2010

As you get settled in this morning, I'd like you to take a second and think about where the Ravens would be without Marshal Yanda.

Go ahead, I'll wait.

OK, you good?

Here's my take on that topic: It wouldn't be pretty.

When Jared Gaither came down with a back injury in training camp which essentially ended his season before it began, the Ravens had a huge issue on their hands. How would they fill the right tackle spot?

The coaches turned to Yanda, deciding to move him from right guard to the vacant tackle position. Not only has Yanda gotten the job done, he's been the Ravens' saving grace.

The fourth-year offensive lineman's impact can't just be measured by statistics; it's measured by what he has allowed the Ravens to do offensively.


With Yanda locking down the edge, quarterback Joe Flacco has had time to survey his receiving options and look to stretch the field. Tight end Todd Heap and running back Ray Rice haven't been needed to stay in and block as much as some expected, allowing those two to run more routes and get involved in the passing game.

Plus, and probably most importantly, thanks to Yanda's play, Flacco hasn't been forced to peel himself up off the turf after big hits too frequently this season, which he and the coaches certainly appreciate.

Those in the Ravens' organization, notably offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, know that the job that Yanda has done adjusting to his new role as Baltimore's starting right tackle simply can't be overstated.

"I've said it before - Marshal Yanda is a Pro Bowl right guard. And now, he's playing, and it shouldn't have surprised me because he played tackle in college, but he's playing like a Pro Bowl right tackle." Cameron told me recently. "So what does that mean? To me, he's a heck of a football player. He's a Pro Bowl player, no matter where we play him."

Yanda played right tackle the majority of his college career at Iowa, and he saw action at the position during his rookie year in 2007 and then on a handful of occasions last season when Gaither was hurt and the Ravens needed to make adjustments to their starting lineup.

But since the start of the 2008 season, the Ravens viewed Yanda as their solution at right guard. He was tough, agile for a guy of his size, and had a hard-nosed nature which fit well at the guard spot.

Yanda had a fantastic 2009 season, and the Ravens envisioned him locking down the position for years to come. But when Gaither came down with a lingering back injury in training camp, the Ravens needed to make a decision.

Instead of tossing an inexperienced guy like Oniel Cousins into the fire and expecting him to carry the weight of Gaither's absence, the Ravens turned to Yanda for help at right tackle yet again, and slid Chris Chester into Yanda's right guard spot.

The move from guard to tackle is by no means an easy transition, but Yanda made it seamlessly. As a result, right tackle has gone from a position of concern to a position of complete stability.

"I think for some guys, [moving from guard to tackle] is really hard," Cameron said. "But the Ravens' culture here is guys playing multiple positions. We start training guys for multiple positions from day one. Marshal was a tackle when he got here, we moved him down inside and he played at a high level. Now he's put on 10, 15 pounds and he's back out at tackle and he's doing well."

Here's another example of how versatile Yanda is: He's also the Ravens' third center behind Matt Birk and Chris Chester despite never playing the position in college.

So what makes Yanda so good? What has allowed him to move from position to position and perform at such a high level wherever he lines up?

"Toughness," Cameron says. "Mental and physical toughness. There's no substitute for that. In the National Football League, without those two things, good luck. And he's got it."

Yanda's been so solid, in fact, that he's seemingly eclipsed Michael Oher as the Ravens' most effective tackle.
While Oher has struggled at times at his new left tackle position, Yanda has been a consistent force on the right side.

It's unclear at this point exactly how the Ravens will choose to utilize Yanda in the future. He can play both guard and tackle at such a high level that he gives the team flexibility with how they attack the free agent market and the draft this offseason.

Do they bring in a quality right tackle and move Yanda back to guard? Do they keep Yanda at tackle and stick with Chester or someone else at the guard spot?

Cameron isn't worried about next season just yet, but he says that for the time being, the Ravens are thrilled with how Yanda has helped stabilize the right side of their offensive line.

"He's our right tackle," Cameron said. "Chris Chester is playing at a high level at right guard, so that helps. We don't really need to predict the future right now, but right now, there's not a scenario that puts [Yanda] back at guard for this season that I can think of. Whereas before, with the possibility of Gaither coming back, there was a possibility that if something happened to Chester, he'd go back to guard.

"But right now, I don't think there any scenario where he would go back to guard. He's playing extremely well."

49ers’ game-changer: Troy Smith does what Alex Smith never did




BY TIM KAWAKAMI

NOVEMBER 14, 2010

* Straight from tomorrow morning’s paper (UNEDITED VERSION)…

I’ll add something in a bit, gotta head out of the pressbox right now.
—9:45 p.m. UPDATE: Quick adds…

* -My read is that Mike Singletary’s non-committal stance on the starting QB isn’t a big deal. It’s only to make sure he doesn’t get out too far ahead on the Troy Smith-is-better-than-Alex 49ers theme.

Even though it’s true and almost certainly what Singletary has thought for weeks.

I think Singletary felt a little burned when he made those comments praising Troy Smith’s leadership at the time of the Denver game–even if Singletary really meant them as a comparison to Alex Smith’s more muted style, he didn’t want them interpreted quite so brazenly.

So Singletary will sit and wait a bit on naming Troy Smith the starter for the rest of the season, just for appearance’s sake. He also has the cover of Alex Smith’s left shoulder–Singletary can just say, hey, Alex is not healthy, no public decision necessary until he’s OK to play.

(Smith was on the sidelines, noticeably non-demonstrative throughout the game, as he was when he hurt his right shoulder in 2007, then while he sat out 2008. Probably a lot going through his mind. As there was in 2007-2008.)

But I also believe that Singletary’s determination not to praise Troy Smith too much today is a semi-reverse-sign:.

He likes Troy Smith so much that Singletary wants to stay on him now to make sure Troy keeps working and develops into the QB Singletary wants him to be.

You coach and cajole the guys you think can save your butt. The ones who can’t, you basically ignore.

Alex Smith will never be the savior, though that’s what the 49ers kept hoping.

It showed when Singletary was gentle, gentle, gentle with him (David Carr as a non-threatening back-up?), and it didn’t get the 49ers or Singletary anything.

And gentle-gentle, I think Singletary now realizes, was the wrong approach.

That all pretty much ended when Singletary started shouting at Alex Smith in the Eagles game. He needed a way out of Alex, and he just happened onto Troy Smith.

Troy Smith might not be great. He might not be the QB of the future. But he’s a legitimate QB of the now, which is better than the 49ers have had in many years.

Troy Smith did everything the 49ers hoped, wished and imagined Alex Smith could do at quarterback, for more than five years now.

And Alex Smith never quite pulled it off, not once, definitely not like this.

Not even for one game, not even by accident.

That might not be the most polite way to describe the typically touchy 49ers QB situation. But it’s the deepest truth about Troy Smith’s electrifying, captivating, mood-changing performance Sunday.

“You saw what I saw: He made plays,” coach Mike Singletary said of Troy Smith after he led the 49ers to a key 23-20 overtime victory over St. Louis at Candlestick.

“And made plays in crucial times. That’s what you want. That’s exciting to see.”


Singletary also was careful to say Troy Smith was far from perfect against the Rams and Singletary stayed away from giving Troy Smith the job permanently, with Alex Smith’s shoulder still an issue.

But the conclusion is beyond obvious: The 49ers have their QB for the rest of the season or the rest of Singletary’s career, whichever lasts longer.

It’s Troy Smith (free-agent cast-off), no matter the politics or the health status of Alex Smith (former No. 1 overall draft pick).

Troy Smith fits the offense, fits Singletary’s vision, and it he turned this game into his own when a loss would’ve basically shut down the 49ers’ season.

If Alex Smith played this game, the 49ers probably would have lost it, as they have lost so many others.

But Troy Smith played it and won his second consecutive start, and the 49ers are now 3-6, two games behind Seattle in the NFC West.

“He’s a playmaker–that’s what I’ll describe Troy as,” Vernon Davis said. “He’s not afraid to let the ball go. He wants to make plays and he’ll do whatever he has to do to make it happen.”

By itself, Troy Smith’s statistical line was one the 49ers’ best since the days of Steve Young–17 for 28 for 356 yards, a touchdown, no interceptions, for a 116.7 passer rating.

Alex Smith has never thrown for that many yards, or come close to averaging the 12.71 yards per attempt that Troy Smith accomplished in his second start for the 49ers.

But the real significance of the performance was in the details and the derring-do:

* Smith’s throw to Delanie Walker in overtime, with a passrusher on his back, that drew the pivotal pass-interference call and set up Joe Nedney’s game-winning field goal;

* The back-to-back completions to Frank Gore to convert a third-and-32/fourth-and-18 situation with the 49ers trailing in the final minutes of regulation.

* The sidestepping of countless Rams pass rushers, who were blasting through a banged-up 49ers offensive line, to make play after play;

* The determination to throw the ball deep and give his receivers the chance to battle for the ball.

“I love it,” Gore said of Troy Smith’s deep-ball inclination. “I know the receivers are happy to get the opportunity to go down field and make plays.”

It started with the first play from scrimmage, a 32-yard pass to Vernon Davis, and continued throughout the game.

49ers fans had to be scratching their heads: There’s a 49ers QB who loves to throw it deep? All of the time?

In all, Smith had eight completions that went for 23 yards or more, spread to four different receivers.

“That’s you throwing it to your guy away from their guy,” Troy Smith said of his style. “That’s you putting yourself into a position, as player, as a man–however big or small those guys out there, they deserve a chance to make a play.

“Whether a guy is draped all over him or he’s wide open, this is the NFL.”

Of course, Troy Smith wasn’t always brilliant, and the offense had some fits and starts.

But when the 49ers had to, they moved the ball, sometimes at an incredibly rapid pace. And when Troy Smith could’ve come up small, he always came up big.

Afterwards, did Singletary praise Troy Smith in the locker room?

“I don’t know if you’d call it praise,” Troy Smith said with a smile. “It was his little scowl—I know you probably get the scowl a lot.

“He told me, ‘Good job, and we definitely got to go back to the drawing board.’”

That’s different than what Singletary has said or felt about most of Alex Smith’s performances, no doubt.

But the main point is that the 49ers don’t have to keep hoping and praying for Alex Smith any more.

Troy Smith is their QB now. That’s simple to say and it was simple to see Sunday.

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