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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Giving back the Wisconsin way






April 29, 2014

By Jonah Beleckis

Hands in his sweatshirt pocket, clutching his miniature football filled with signatures, seventh-grader Abe was getting a backstage view of what a Wisconsin football practice looks like.

Before the day was done, someone would make him center stage.

Chris Borland, who is preparing for May’s National Football League Draft, came into the dining facility, saw Abe passively observing, and took it upon himself to make his experience that much more special.

Borland joined Abe for dinner, engaged him with a multitude of questions, showed him the locker room and gave him all the attention instead of the other way around. These acts of kindness are bridging the gap between student-athletes and the Madison community they mean so much to.


Through Madison’s Big Brothers Big Sisters organization, Todd Berge became Abe’s big brother. After their day with the Badger football team, Berge was grateful for the generosity they encountered and said he will not soon forget any of it.

“I was lucky enough to be able to tag along,” Berge said. “[It was] a once in a lifetime experience.”

Community Relations Coordinator Kayla Gross said the Badgers Give Back program, started in 2012, makes these events so special because it increases athletes’ accessibility and brings a human element to the table.

For children especially, hearing the student-athletes they idolize ask them about their day, their interests, their struggles, can be quite the experience. However, some are fortunate enough to have more than one of these experiences.

Last May, Badgers Give Back gave Wisconsin fan and cancer patient Darien Moran, 14, a Badgers-themed bedroom makeover as part of Make-A-Wish Wisconsin, according to uwbadgers.com. But since then, he has formed a relationship with the football team and Borland in particular, whom he visits and talks to on a regular basis.

“[Moran’s] a big Badgers fan and was afflicted by cancer so it was with Make-A-Wish Foundation,” Borland said. “But it kind of blossomed into more than that.”

The program’s benefits go both ways. The student-athletes themselves marvel at the opportunities they get to give back and how they grow from them.

“[Moran] has become a friend, like a younger brother almost,” Borland said. “Nothing compares to my relationship with Darien ... That’s been special.”


The Badgers Give Back program increased the publicity of the student-athletes’ outreach efforts, according to Gross.

Before the stories were getting out there, Borland said the overall student-athlete outreach effort was missing an identity.

“The organization of it kind of gave it a face, which was good for the community, good for Wisconsin, but also good for our people within the program,” he said. “A lot of players from all different sports got involved because they, like any other fan, saw the face of it, saw Badgers Give Back and realized the opportunity.”

A favorite opportunity among the student-athletes are trips to the American Family Children’s Hospital, according to Gross. So much so, she has to turn requests away because so many people want to go.

“It’s hard to go over there and see these kids fighting for their lives sometimes, but to know they have a place that is so wonderful, for them to go to while they are sick, you leave with a smile,” Gross said.

According to Gross, the football team has been going to AFCH the Friday before every home game for about 20 years, a tradition that started during Barry Alvarez’s coaching tenure. The hockey team has also been making regular visits for about 15 years.

In October, UW Athletics and AFCH began a new collaboration involving Caleb’s Pitch, an organization that is, “dedicated to creating memorable experiences and enhancing the quality of life for children and families confronting serious childhood illnesses,” according to its website.

Combining sports and arts, a different UW-Madison team visits AFCH each month and participates in an atypical painting activity.

The team members put on protective goggles and hold up a canvas, allowing the patients to squirt them using paint-filled syringes.

After the student-athletes are covered with a collage of colors, the children leave with their signed canvas. According to Gross, this activity can help the children mentally associate the syringes with enjoyable experiences rather than pain.

The children keep their artwork, but also keep the memories. Being icons of the community, UW and its student-athletes giving these unforgettable moments is, at the end of the day, what Badgers Give Back is all about.

“It makes me feel better as an alum knowing that the university isn’t this untouchable thing, but it does reach out to the community,” Berge said. “The fact that the UW is willing to open their doors, and I guarantee not everybody does that, it makes me feel more proud to be a Badger.”

Badgers Give Back did not create a tradition of giving at UW-Madison. It simply illuminated and expanded on an existing culture that is changing lives, building friendships, making memories and giving alumni like Berge a university to be proud of.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Avery Williamson named Mr. Wildcat





April 28, 2014

LEXINGTON, Ky. - University of Kentucky Athletics presented 35 honors at the 12th annual CATSPY Awards, held Monday in Memorial Coliseum to recognize athletic and academic performances during the 2013-14 year. With co-winners in some categories, a total of six teams and 28 individuals were recognized.

Men's basketball and men's tennis, along with softball and women's track and field, were named Team of the Year for their achievements. The Kentucky men's basketball team finished the season on a magical postseason run that resulted in the program's 16th Final Four appearance and a spot in the national championship game.

Despite losing two all-Americans in singles and doubles from the year before, the UK men's tennis team still never left the top 15 of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) rankings. Kentucky finished the season ranked in the top 10 of the ITA team rankings for the third straight season and was one of only four teams in the last three years to do so. Additionally, they reached No. 4 in the ITA rankings on March 6, 2013, achieving the program's highest ranking since 2004.

The UK softball team tallied a school-record 41 wins, advancing to the second NCAA Super Regional in program history. The team earned a national seed and hosted an NCAA Regional for the first time ever, while finishing the season ranked inside the top 14 of both national rankings. UK softball also made its fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance, becoming one of just 23 schools nationally to claim that honor.

The UK women's track and field team enjoyed its best indoor season in generations in 2014, a feat all the more remarkable considering how far it's come in just a two-year span. The Wildcats finished fourth with 72 points at the Southeastern Conference Championships this season, after finishing dead-last (12th) at the 2012 SEC Championships, which were held at home. UK had the 200m national champion and two individual SEC champions.

The Mr. and Miss Wildcat Awards are given for all-around excellence in athletics, academics, character and service. Avery Williamson (football) won the Mr. Wildcat award, while Lauren Cumbess (softball), won the Miss Wildcat award.

The Female Athlete of the Year was awarded to track's Dezerea Bryant. Bryant enjoyed the best indoor season by a female sprinter in UK history. She became the first NCAA Indoor 200m champion in 2014, and was also the SEC 60m dash champion. She has broken six school records this year.

The Male Athlete of the Year was awarded to Matt Hillenbrand. Hillenbrand scored 20 points at the 2014 SEC Indoor Championships, the most by any individual at the nation's most competitive conference meet. He won both the 3,000 meters and defended his mile title. Hillenbrand also broke the 24-year-old school record with a time of 3:58.77, becoming just the third Wildcat ever to break four minutes.

The Academic Teams of the Year were men's and women's tennis. The Scholar-Athletes of the Year were Lindsay Hill (swimming) and Tyler Riggs (men's soccer).

A complete list of awards is below:

Community Service Award
Kastine Evans (Women's Basketball)
Max Godby (Football)

Wildcat Pride
Women's Swimming and Diving

Female Rookie of the Year
Kelsey Nunley (Softball)

Male Rookie of the Year
Julius Randle (Basketball)

Bill Keightley "Assist" Award
Justin "Pemo" McKinley (Equipment Manager)

Blue Heart Award
Josh Clemons (Football)
Ashley VanLandingham (Women's Soccer)

Female Scholar Athlete of the Year
Lindsay Hill (Swimming)

Male Scholar Athlete of the Year
Tyler Riggs (Soccer)

Female Academic Team of the Year
Tennis

Male Academic Team of the Year
Tennis

Impact
Mark Lane

Scratch Award
Micheal Thomas (Baseball)
Grace Trimble (Women's Tennis)

Supporting Role
Griffin Joiner (Softball)
Alex Poythress (Men's Basketball)

Heart of a Wildcat
Tom Jomby (Men's Tennis)

Female Performance of the Year
Dezerea Bryant (Track)
Kendra Harrison (Track)
Jennifer O'Neill (Basketball)

Male Performance of the Year
Connor Davis (Rifle)
Aaron Harrison (Basketball)
A.J. Reed (Baseball)

Female Athlete of the Year
Dezerea Bryant (Track)

Male Athlete of the Year
Matt Hillenbrand (Cross Country/Track)

Coach(es) of the Year
John Calipari (Men's Basketball)
Edrick Floreal (M/W Track and Field)
Rachel Lawson (Softball)

Female Teams of the Year
Softball
Track and Field

Male Teams of the Year
Basketball
Tennis

Miss Wildcat
Lauren Cumbess (Softball)

Mr. Wildcat
Avery Williamson (Football)

Add former Buckeyes safety Christian Bryant to the list of official 2013 Ohio State football captains




Christian Bryant is one of six players who will officially be recognized as an Ohio State captain for the 2013 football season.(Marvin Fong, The Plain Dealer)

By Ari Wasserman, Northeast Ohio Media Group

April 28, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Urban Meyer decided to elect eight captains before the start of the 2013 football season because he said there were too many candidates to further narrow the list.

Four months after Ohio State finished the season 12-2, Meyer officially announced five captains who would officially be recognized in the record books as a Buckeyes' captain for the 2013 season – offensive lineman Jack Mewhort, receiver Philly Brown, safety C.J. Barnett, offensive lineman Corey Linsley and backup quarterback Kenny Guiton.

The list should have been six, including safety Christian Bryant, who was inadvertently left off the first list.

The other two players who were captains but will not be officially listed in the record books are quarterback Braxton Miller and linebacker Ryan Shazier. Miller is expected to be a captain this year as a senior, but Shazier left Ohio State a year early to pursue a career in the NFL.

It was kind of a surprise when Bryant, a product of Glenville, was left off the initial list because Meyer often cited him as the defense's true leader even after he broke his ankle at the end of the Wisconsin game in the fifth week of the season.

Meyer slammed his fist on the podium in the postgame news conferencewhen delivering the news that Bryant's career would be over because of the injury, both because he was hurting for the senior and he knew the Buckeyes' defense took a big blow.


The six captains now will officially be listed in the record books and they'll all be invited back each year for a former captains dinner.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Chris Borland ranked in top 25 of Mel Kiper's Top 100 prospects





Top 100 NFL draft prospects

A familiar face at No. 1, with some big-name QBs rounding out the list

April 22, 2014

By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider

As many who have ordered my draft guide over the past 35 years know, I go well past the Big Board when it comes to lining up prospects. That's why, when the draft is over, I'll still have best available options scrolling across the bottom of the TV screen.

I still have more work to do deeper in my rankings, but in the meantime, I wanted to share an initial top 100 as the draft approaches. I'll have another update of this list shortly before the draft.

A few quick notes:

• I've limited the analysis on each guy so it's a little easier to consume.
• An asterisk denotes a junior at the time of draft entry; two asterisks denote a redshirt sophomore.

With that, here are the top 100 draft prospects:

1. *Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: Question his raw productivity stats, but the tape tells another story. Not a lock at No. 1, but I think he belongs there.
2. *Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: The more I watch him, the more I see a special difference-maker on Sundays.
3. Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo: Still wouldn't shock me if he went No. 1. His athleticism and versatility limit questions about his competition level.
4. **Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn: The top tackle prospect in a class that isn't short on them. If he continues to improve, he could be really special.
5. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan: Long and athletic, he's also a good run-blocker. Would he have gone No. 1 last year? It's possible.
6. **Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M: As dominating in the air and at the (high) catch point as any receiver we've seen in recent years.
7. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M: Over the past two seasons, he has mostly dominated at both left and right tackle. That's a high floor.
8. *Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina: Value is up in my opinion because this type of talent is so coveted, and he's clearly the best version in the draft.
9. C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama: Special in coverage with great instincts and range. Could dip a bit due to his injury history.
10. Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame: Lacks ideal length at left tackle, but his athleticism makes up for it.
11. Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh: Donald's ability to disrupt from the interior with quickness, power and violent hands is unmatched in this draft.
12. *Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State:Athletically, he's a mirror of Tavon Austin from last season, and he's a little bigger. Super productive.
13. *Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU: Explosive runner with short-area quickness and an ability to create space but also make plays in traffic.
14. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State: Superior athlete with good size. He can allow too much separation at times, but he's fast enough that it rarely matters.
15. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State: The most versatile cornerback in the draft, Dennard brings a physical edge.
16. *Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville: Just ahead of the other top quarterbacks because of his ability to anticipate and deliver with accuracy. Durability concerns are there, though.
17. *Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida: I certainly buy into his ceiling as a superior athlete with great pocket instincts, but will the ball accuracy improve?
18. **Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Electrifying playmaker who loves the game and competes. His game translates, but he'll need to protect himself better.
19. *Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama: A fluid mover with very good range, he can cover a lot of ground and should be the top safety taken.
20. *Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State: One of my favorite players in the draft, Shazier has superior instincts and is a perfect fit as a 4-3 WLB.
21. *Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville: A playmaker from the safety position, Pryor can cover but also come downhill with force and make the big hit.
22. Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA: Has dropped some because the instincts don't match the production, but hey, it's a lot of production.
23. *Marqise Lee, WR, USC: Hampered by a sore knee and inconsistency in catching the ball in 2013, but Lee is still a first-round talent.
24. Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU: Jumped up my board after I spent more time watching him on tape. Just looks like he's playing faster than everyone else.
25. Chris Borland, ILB, Wisconsin: He doesn't pass the eye test for some, but put a helmet on him and you see an immediate NFL starter.
26. Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State: A quick release and the ability to hit his targets quickly and accurately underneath and on intermediate throws stand out.
27. **Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State: Still more of a physical talent than a refined football player, but Benjamin is a wide receiver in a tight end's body and can cause matchup problems.
28. *Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame: Inconsistency was an issue in 2013, but so was a nagging injury that slowed him down. When healthy, he can thrive.
29. *Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana: I'm with the rest of the market on Latimer, as I didn't have him high enough based on what he showed in 2013.
30. Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State: I don't think this reflects his draft position, but early in Round 2 wouldn't offend me for the best running back in the draft.
31. **Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State: A bigger frame than some realize, Adams does a good job of snatching the ball away from his body, and he wins battles for the ball.
32. *Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama: Has the potential to be great if he can be consistent, and consistently healthy.
33. *Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State: I love Jernigan after he gets started, but he can be oddly slow off the snap. Very good and still developing.
34. Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State: Effective as both a run- and pass-blocker, and 52 starts offers plenty of certainty about what you're getting.
35. Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota: He can dominate and then disappear, but he's a high-end athlete at this size and can get better as a convert to defense.
36. *David Yankey, G, Stanford: Not a dominating guard but an effective one who moves well for his size and can pull effectively. Fit matters.
37. Jason Verrett, CB, TCU: An explosive mover who doesn't let a lack of length keep him from being consistently effective.
38. Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia: Has great length for the position and creates a long road around him, but only intermittently dominant.
39. *Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State: Explosive and feisty, Roby is a better athlete than he is a technician, but the potential is enticing.
40. Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech: Wouldn't surprise me at all if he goes in Round 1. A bigger player at a position seemingly every team needs.
41. *Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame: He's close to unique in this draft given his frame. Just hope he can put it all together consistently.
42. *Xavier Su'a-Filo, G, UCLA: Have seem him unfairly maligned as sluggish; he moves well and creates movement.
43. *Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri: Gains some value because of positional scarcity. Ealy has the frame to play 4-3 defensive end.
44. *Marcus Martin, C, USC: Have projected him as high as late Round 1, but likelier a Round 2 fit as the draft's top center on the board.
45. Dee Ford, OLB, Auburn: Explosive off the edge, Ford can turn the corner on some pretty good tackles. A first-round possibility.
46. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois: I'd be shocked if he's around past Round 2. Not a certain starter, but he could develop into one.
47. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt: More explosive than many believed, Matthews is a reliable hands-catcher who can hit another gear after the catch.
48. *Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington: A shifty runner who uses good vision to find small seams and keep his weight headed downhill. Good hands.
49. *Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State: One of the better pure pass-rushers in the class, but he's a tweener in terms of system fit.
50. Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois: I'm not sure there's a better cover safety in the draft in terms of instincts and breaking quickly on the ball path.
51. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama: Really accurate underneath with success in throwing the deep ball even if the big arm isn't there. Underrated mover outside the pocket too.
52. Ja'Wuan James, OT, Tennessee: His teammate got a lot of the press this season, but James was more consistent and was rarely beaten at right tackle.
53. Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech: He can really close when he gets a path to the passer. I see him as a second-round pick.
54. Lamarcus Joyner, CB, Florida State: A versatile defender, Joyner can handle the slot or drop to safety. What he lacks in size he makes up for with instincts.
55. *Tre Mason, RB, Auburn: Runs low, bounces off contact and has a good eye for the seam. Isn't afraid to protect his quarterback.
56. *Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina: Ellington isn't big at 5-foot-9, but he eats up space with his speed and will work through contact.
57. Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State: Could be the top center taken, as there's a split on him and Martin. Richburg also could be an effective guard. Moves very well.
58. Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford: Has the full repertoire as a pass-rusher; the question is ceiling for this experienced edge rusher.
59. Dri Archer, RB, Kent State: The fastest player in the draft, the pint-sized Archer will getDarren Sproles comps, as he'll be used all over.
60. *Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU: He doesn't bring the speed element, but Landry has fantastic hands, makes contested catches and will throw a mean block.
61. *Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee: Still more of a physical specimen than a refined talent, Richardson can be sloppy, but he could be a steal if he cleans it up.
62. Tom Savage, QB, Pittsburgh: The onetime Rutgers starter had his ups and downs behind some bad blocking in 2013, but he has a strong arm and starting upside.
63. *Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington: Huge at 6-5 and 260-plus pounds, he can make catches down the field but isn't explosive enough to separate consistently.
64. Jack Mewhort, OT, Ohio State: Could be a steal because he's a better player than he is an athlete at a position where measurables matter.
65. *Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson: Hidden somewhat behind the dominance of Watkins, Bryant has great length and has shined in workouts.
66. *Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame: Has the size to be an effective blocker, not merely a tight end who splits out and doesn't block much, but he needs work as a pass-catcher.
67. Joel Bitonio, G, Nevada: Moves up on versatility, as he can play pretty much anywhere you need, and has a mean streak as a run-blocker.
68. Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State: Has good instincts and will absolutely light up a ball carrier (legally). Not great in coverage, but doesn't get beat a lot.
69. **Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU: At 230-plus pounds, he can get up to speed quickly, bounce off contact and has a spin move to avoid tackles.
70. Keith McGill, CB, Utah: Could see a draft-day boost based on big size for a corner (6-3), but he needs work on the technique side.
71. Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia: A versatile performer, Sims may have the best hands in the draft coming out of the backfield. I'd put him in Round 3.
72. Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska: The onetime receiver has elite length at 6-3 but could use work in his ability to mirror and move with receivers.
73. *Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers: Height/weight/speed alert: Coleman is a full 6-6 and 225-plus pounds and can still run away from people.
74. *Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech: A good athlete for the position, he's best used split out because there's no real experience as a blocker. Good length at 6-5.
75. Josh Huff, WR, Oregon: Not as explosive as some others in this draft, but Huff fights through contact and will make contested catches.
76. *Donte Moncrief, WR, Mississippi: He had an inconsistent year, but Moncrief is a major physical talent with 4.40 speed at 220-plus pounds.
77. Billy Turner, OT, North Dakota State: Was dominant on his level but will need technical work. Still, he's a potential steal on Day 3.
78. Telvin Smith, OLB, Florida State: His tape should have him higher, but Smith played linebacker at less than 220 pounds. Not quite a Lavonte David, but it's a fair size comp.
79. Brandon Thomas, G, Clemson: A knee injury during workouts could keep him from contributing in 2014. Could be a great guard, though he has good tape at tackle.
80. Terrence Brooks, S, Florida State: Reads the game well and has both good instincts and a quick route to the ball; he just needs to wrap up more consistently.
81. *De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon: Elite explosiveness when the pads are on; it's just a matter of how many touches a team can give him.
82. Robert Herron, WR, Wyoming: Lost a bit in a deep wide receiver class, Herron has a second gear with the ball in his hands, but he lacks size.
83. *Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State: Not explosive, but capable of going up and making the tough catch through defenders.
84. Marcus Smith, DE, Louisville: A nice third-down pass-rush option, Smith creates disruption with his quickness off the edge. Had 14.5 sacks last season.
85. Lamin Barrow, OLB, LSU: Isn't a big linebacker, but he moves well through traffic and has a good sense of spacing when he's in zone.
86. Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma: He tore his ACL at the Senior Bowl but is already moving well and could be playing for someone late in 2014.
87. Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech: Has the physical traits of an elite tight end prospect, but despite a couple of so-so years at quarterback, he's worth a look there.
88. Kevin Norwood, WR, Alabama: Could be a sleeper. Has good length and above-average speed.
89. Brent Urban, DL, Virginia: Has great length at 6-5 with 34-inch arms; he can jolt defenders and both penetrate and disrupt passing lanes.
90. Jordan Tripp, OLB, Montana: Explodes to the ball when he sees the route as the play develops in front of him. Lacks ideal size.
91. Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood: A small-college sleeper now quite well-known to most, Desir has good length in a time when that's coveted at cornerback.
92. Andre Williams, RB, Boston College: Highly productive and offers good size at 230-plus pounds, but doesn't do much to make people miss.
93. *Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado: A playmaker who can eat up space with his acceleration, he is just lacking in bulk and could struggle with the NFL's brand of corner.
94. *Russell Bodine, C, North Carolina: Isn't a great mover, but he has exceptional strength to turn defenders and get to the linebackers.
95. DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State: A wide body who can hold up at the point and does a good job of flowing to the ball.
96. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia: Accuracy and intangibles are there, even if arm strength and ceiling questions exist. Wouldn't surprise me if he finds a way to a starting job at some point.
97. *Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor: An explosive athlete, he can spend too much time looking for the big play and needs to play more north and south.
98. *Dominique Easley, DT, Florida: Has the tape of a high first-round pick, but the injury history is too significant not to push him well down the board. He'll be tempting in Round 2 if you believe he can stay on the field. Special potential.
99. Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU: Doesn't move well, but has maybe the best arm strength in the draft and could succeed in a good system (with good blocking).
100. Terrance Mitchell, CB, Oregon: Has good quickness and a playmaker's instincts; dropped a little due to average top-end speed. Now a potential steal.

Big 12 coach rankings: Bob Stoops sets the bar others reach toward




April 21, 2014

By Matt Hayes

Bob Stoops did his part walking the walk. Maybe the rest of the Big 12 can join along this time around.

Stoops stoked the fire of the SEC last summer when he said maybe, just maybe, the SEC is overrated. Maybe the league isn’t as deep as many think it is.

His colleagues in the Big 12 then backed him up, each proclaiming the first-to-last strength of the Big 12. But there was one teeny-weeny problem: When the Big 12 had the chance to make it happen on the field, only Oklahoma responded.

The Sooners whipped Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
Baylor, the Big 12 champion, lost to UCF in the Fiesta Bowl. Oklahoma State lost to Missouri in the Cotton Bowl. Texas lost to Oregon in the Alamo Bowl.

The Big 12 this fall should be as deep as it has been in years, and that means another chance for the league’s coaches to move up in the annual Sporting News coach rankings.



Forget about all that Big Game Bob stuff. You want a catchy name? Bob The Builder. Few in the game have built and sustained a program like Stoops, who last year became the winningest coach in OU history. A season after former players had joined the fray of questioning the direction of the program, Stoops responded with a big season that included backing up his talk of an overrated SEC with a win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and an important setup for 2014.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Chris Borland selected University of Wisconsin Student Athlete of the Year





By Brian Lucas

April 16, 2014

Anyone who attends the Buckinghams, the "Student-Athlete Annual Showcase of Excellence," has come to expect the unexpected. Student-athletes who excel on the field will surprise you with varied talents, whether it's playing the piano, singing and opera or twirling a rifle. All of those things happened Monday night at the sixth annual event.

However, one moment stole the show and provided a great cap to an incredible evening. The final performer of the evening was Brett Hochstaetter, a redshirt sophomore on the wrestling team. He began his rendition of Brett Eldredge's 'Mean to Me' by saying, "This is for someone special in the crowd."

That drew a response from the 650 people in attendance at the Overture Center, but not quite as large as the one he elicited after he put his guitar down and addressed his girlfriend, Erica, on stage. "I'd like to, in front of my family, my brothers and coaches on the wrestling team and all my fellow Badgers," was how Hochstaetter started. He then dropped to one knee and proposed. As Erica nodded yes, the crowd erupted, collectively standing on its feet and applauding.

It's the kind of thing that you can only see at the Buckinghams. The night began with Vitto Brown, an accomplished singer on the men's basketball team, and three of his teammates performing 'La, La, Means I Love You' by the Delfonics. Other performances included a salsa/samba dance by Lavinia Jurkiewicz of women's cross country, a musical medley from quarterback Joel Stave and his brother, Bryan (with some help from Jake Keefer) and William Ottow from men's cross country performing 'Oh Is There Not One Maiden Breast' from Gilbert and Sullivan's 'Pirates of Penzance' (it's an opera, Google it).

In between the incredible performances, a number of Badgers were honored for their performance in the classroom and in the community. A complete list of award winners is below. Among the impressive accomplishments: 260 student-athletes were recognized as 3.5 GPA award winners with three of those, Nicholas Caldwell (men's swimming), Taylor Zimprich (women's cross country) and Kimberly Dinh (women's golf) holding down perfect 4.0 cumulative GPAs. The teams with the highest cume GPAs were women's cross country and men's tennis.

The women's rowing and football teams were honored as the "Badger Challenge" winners. Those awards went to the men's and women's teams that exemplify commitment to developing the whole student-athlete. "Badger Challenge" components include academic achievement, athletic achievement, personal enhancement, on-campus learning, community outreach and SAAC and SAESO participation. Between the women's rowing and football teams, those student-athletes combined for more than 3,200 community service hours.

Individually, linebacker Chris Borland and women's hockey goalie Alex Rigsby were named male and female Buckinghams Student-Athletes of the Year as voted on by their peers. Both were multiple-time All-Americans who also excelled away from athletics. Borland graduated last December while Rigsby, a two-time Academic All-WCHA selection, is on pace to graduate this December. Borland led all UW student-athletes with an astonishing 125 hours of community service and Rigsby's 23 placed her near the top.

The night was a celebration of the true student-athlete and showed off many talents. And for one couple, it was literally a life-changing event.

2012-13 Remington Scholars (Highest cume GPA who complete their eligibility, graduating letterwinner)
Megan Beers (Women's Cross Country/Track & Field)
Cody Rissman (Men's Rowing)

2014 Athletic Board Scholars (Highest cume GPA for previous year, above sophomore standing, letterwinner, non grad student)
Zachary Showalter (Men's Basketball)
Michael Brice (Men's Cross Country)
Michael Trotter (Football)
Robert Jacobsen (Men's Golf)
Adam Miller (Men's Hockey)
Kyle Anderson (Men's Rowing)
Adam Lauko (Men's Soccer)
Drew Teduits (Men's Swimming & Diving)
Oskar Wikberg (Men's Tennis)
Reed Connor (Men's Track & Field)
Connor Medbery (Wrestling)
AnnMarie Brown (Women's Basketball)
Dana Steffen (Women's Cross Country)
Kimberly Dinh (Women's Golf)
Kathryn Josephs (Women's Hockey)
Nicole Hettmann (Women's Rowing)
Alessandra Ruenger (Women's Lightweight Rowing)
Nicole La Petina (Women's Soccer)
Taylor Stewart (Softball)
Ivy Martin (Women's Swimming & Diving)
Lauren Chypyha (Women's Tennis)
Taylor Kirby (Women's Track & Field)
Crystal Graff (Volleyball)

Performance Awards (Nominated for their academic work and constant improvement)
Morgan Paige (Women's Basketball)
Madison Packer (Women's Hockey)
Kelly Jaminski (Women's Hockey)
Genevieve Richard (Women's Soccer)
Yolanda Hayes-Barnes (Women's Track & Field)
Deme Morales (Volleyball)
Evan Anderson (Men's Basketball)
Duje Dukan (Men's Basketball)
Michael Caputo (Football)
Kenzel Doe (Football)
Robert Jacobsen (Men's Golf)
Sean Little (Men's Hockey)
Tyler Graff (Wrestling)

President's Award (SAAC & SAESO Presidents honored for their leadership)
Abbie Weigel (Women's Track & Cross Country)
Kodee Williams (Women's Soccer)

Academic Momentum (To recognize student-athletes who have demonstrated significant academic improvement throughout their collegiate careers and celebrate them for having the ability to balance textbooks with playbooks)
Mohammed Ahmed (Men's Track & Cross Country)

4.0 Recognition Award
Nicholas Caldwell (Men's Swimming)
Taylor Zimprich (Women's Cross Country)
Kimberly Dinh (Women's Golf)

Impact Award (Highest number of community service hours per team)
Duje Dukan (Men's Basketball)
Drew Shields (Men's Cross Country)
Chris Borland (Football)
Thomas O'Bryan (Men's Golf)
Jake McCabe (Men's Hockey)
Beau Batty (Men's Rowing)
Nick Janus (Men's Soccer)
Alexander DeLakis (Men's Swimming & Diving)
John Zordani (Men's Tennis)
Sawyer Smith (Men's Track & Field)
Connor Medbery (Wrestling)
Michala Johnson (Women's Basketball)
Taylor Zimprich (Women's Cross Country)
Kimberly Dinh (Women's Golf)
Ilana Friedman (Women's Hockey)
Kelsey Kramer (Women's Rowing)
Kodee Williams (Women's Soccer)
Taylor Berry (Softball)
Katie Delaney (Women's Swimming & Diving)
Lauren Chypyha (Women's Tennis)
Erin Rosewicz (Women's Track & Field)
Julie Mikaelsen (Volleyball)

Unsung Hero Award Nominees (Displays hard work, positive attitude and determination in athletics, the classroom, as well as the community)
Josh Gasser (Men's Basketball)
Jacob Naylor (Men's Cross Country)
Michael Caputo (Football)
John Gullberg (Men's Golf)
Joe Faust (Men's Hockey)
Jonathan Smaglick (Men's Rowing)
Jameson Kronser (Men's Soccer)
Nick Caldwell (Men's Swimming & Diving)
Oskar Wikberg (Men's Tennis)
Tyler Woloszyk (Men's Track & Field)
Cole Tobin (Wrestling)
AnnMarie Brown (Women's Basketball)
Erin Cawley (Women's Cross Country)
Kris Yoo (Women's Golf)
Kelly Jaminski (Women's Hockey)
Charlotte Keleske (Women's Rowing)
Mackenzie Whiteside (Women's Lightweight Rowing)
Genevieve Richard (Women's Soccer)
Michelle Mueller (Softball)
Aja Van Hout (Women's Swimming & Diving)
Rebecca Bailey (Women's Tennis)
Brianna Bower (Women's Track & Field)
Dominique Thompson (Volleyball)

Unsung Hero Award Winners
Jonathan Smaglick (Men's Rowing)
Genevieve Richard (Women's Soccer)

Chi Alpha Sigma (National Student-Athlete Honor Society)
Beau Batty (Men's Rowing)
William Bleifuss (Men's Rowing)
Travis Breunig (Men's Rowing)
Charles Clapp IV (Men's Rowing)
Logan Hietpas (Men's Rowing)
Marcus Trotter (Football)
Dan Voltz (Football)
Jacob Brindle (Men's Soccer)
Michael Sinha (Men's Tennis)
Andrew Brekke (Men's Track & Field)
Reed Connor (Men's Track & Field)
William Ottow (Men's Track & Field)
Brett Hochstaetter (Wrestling)
Conor Medbery (Wrestling)
AnnMarie Brown (Women's Basketball)
Rachel Gendreau (Women's Rowing)
Nicole Hettmann (Women's Rowing)
Kristine Kammers (Women's Rowing)
Gretchen Miron (Women's Rowing)
Brianna Murphy (Women's Rowing)
Paige Resch (Women's Rowing)
Alessandra Ruenger (Women's Rowing)
Elizabeth Schoenfeldt (Women's Rowing)
Gabrielle Anzalone (Women's Cross Country)
Anne Gregory (Women's Cross Country)
Rachel McNally (Women's Cross Country)
Erin Rosewicz (Women's Cross Country)
Elizabeth Sequin (Women's Cross Country)
Dana Steffen (Women's Cross Country)
Rebecca Stoebe (Women's Cross Country)
Abby Busler (Women's Golf)
Kathryn Josephs (Women's Hockey)
Jaclyn Gellings (Women's Soccer)
Megan Tancill (Softball)
Maria Van Abel (Softball)
Ivy Martin (Women's Swimming & Diving)
Rebecka Palm (Women's Swimming & Diving)
Brianna Bower (Women's Track & Field)
Taylor Kirby (Women's Track & Field
Katelyn Malcore (Women's Track & Field)
Emmon Rogers (Women's Track & Field)
Marissa Savitch (Women's Track & Field)
Abbie Weigel (Women's Track & Field)

Team Impact Award (Greatest number of community service hours divided by the number of student-athletes on the roster)
Football
Women's Golf

Team Highest Cumulative GPA Award
Women's Cross Country
Men's Tennis

Badger Challenge winners (teams that exemplify commitment to developing the whole student-athlete)
Women's Rowing
Football

Buckinghams Student-Athlete of the Year Nominees (Nominees are all the SAAC student-athletes of the month winners)
Josh Gasser (Men's Basketball)
Michael Van Voorhis (Men's Cross Country)
Chris Borland (Football)
Rob Jacobsen (Men's Golf)
Michael Mersch (Men's Hockey)
Logan Hietpas (Men's Rowing)
Nick Janus (Men's Soccer)
Drew TeDuits (Men's Swimming & Diving)
Elliot Sprecher (Men's Tennis)
Michael Lihrman (Men's Track & Field)
Connor Medbury (Wrestling)
Morgan Paige (Women's Basketball)
Anne Gregory (Women's Cross Country)
Kimberly Dinh (Women's Golf)
Alex Rigsby (Women's Hockey)
Pam Schommer (Women's Rowing)
Briana Murphy (Women's Lightweight Rowing)
McKenna Meuer (Women's Soccer)
Maria Van Abel (Softball)
Ivy Martin (Women's Swimming & Diving)
Lauren Chypyha (Women's Tennis)
Deanna Latham (Women's Track & Field)
Crystal Graff (Volleyball)

Buckinghams Student-Athlete of the Year Winners
Chris Borland (Football)
Alex Rigsby (Women's Hockey)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Mike Vrabel Could Help Out Jadeveon Clowney





BY YONI POLLAK

April 11, 2014

Unless you’re name is John McClain, you probably think the Texans are going to take Jadeveon Clowney with the first overall pick. There are some questions about Clowney’s potential fit in Romeo Crennel’s defense but Willie McGinest, former linebacker on a Crennel-led defense, says Clowney will have the best help possible in Mike Vrabel. The Texans linebackers coach, Vrabel was in a similar position as Clowney during his days in Pittsburgh. McGinest believes Vrabel can be a great teacher that can take him through that process.

Monday, April 07, 2014

ESPN analyst high on Mike Vrabel's future





April 7, 2014

By Drew Dougherty

The Texans began their offseason workout program Monday morning. For the first time since head coach Bill O'Brien and his new staff took over, it was a chance to have the team together. The new regime's headlined by O'Brien, with defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience as well.

And linebackers coach Mike Vrabel is a well-known commodity, too.

Last week at South Carolina's Pro Timing Day, ESPN's Tedy Bruschi spoke about Vrabel. The duo helped form the cornerstone for a trio of Super Bowl wins with New England. Understandably, Bruschi thinks his former teammate will be a plus.

"He’ll bring the perspective of a former player, which you always need on staff," Bruschi said. "Not only a former player, but a former player that has done it on a championship level."

In a 14-year NFL career, Vrabel spent his first four years in Pittsburgh, followed by eight in New England with a two-year stint in Kansas City. He rang up 57 sacks in that span, started 140 games and helped win a Super Bowl ring in 2001, 2003 and 2004.
From 2011 to 2013, Vrabel coached the linebackers and defensive line at Ohio State.

The key attribute Vrabel will contribute, according to Bruschi, is his brain.

"I think he brings his intellect, first of all," Bruschi said. "His knowledge of the various schemes that we ran. His experience that he had at Ohio State."

During their time together with the Patriots, Bruschi said it was clear Vrabel would one day "be a coach". After all, in many ways, Vrabel served in that capacity on the field.

"He was always the one that was making adjutsments as a player, before they needed to be made," Bruschi said. "He was the intelligence of the operation. I was the middle linebacker, but a lotta times I was going ‘Vrabes: what do we got here?’ And he would give the answer. He’s going to bring that there."


Vrabel and Bruschi played together under Crennel, who served as New England's defensive coordinator from 2001 to 2004.

Currently on the roster, the Texans linebacker corps is led by captain and returning starter Brian Cushing inside. Whitney Mercilus and Brooks Reed started outside last year, at the weak and strong side spots respectively. Jeff Tarpinian, Mike Mohamed, Justin Tuggle and Ricky Sapp saw playing time in 2013 with the Texans, and Trevardo Williams was on the injured reserve last year. The team signed Paul Hazel this offseason.

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