Monday, December 27, 2010
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
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
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
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
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
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).
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
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 piñata 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.
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.
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
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
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.
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."
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
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."
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