Thursday, June 26, 2014
By JJ Stankevitz
June 25, 2014
Oklahoma’s regents did more than approve $370 million in upgrades to Gaylor Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Wednesday.
According to the Oklahoma’s Jason Kersey, coach Bob Stoops will make $39.9 million over the seven seasons remaining on his newly-reworked contract, including crossing the $6 million threshold in 2019 and 2020.
In the immediate future, Stoops will earn $5.25 million in 2014. According to USA Today’s coaching salary database, only three coaches made more than $5 million in 2013: Nick Saban, Mack Brown and Bret Bielema. Brown’s replacement, Charlie Strong, is slated to make $5 million in 2014 while Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin will earn $5 million this year as well.
The bump over $5 million puts Stoops in rarefied air, though he’s earned it over his 15-year tenure in Norman. Oklahoma has only won fewer than 10 games three times under Stoops, has nine top-10 finishes and won a BCS title in 2000. While the Sooners have a storied football history, they weren’t a player on the national scene for about a decade before Stoops arrived in 1999.
With quarterback Trevor Knight — you know, the guy who dismantled Alabama in the Sugar Bowl — Oklahoma’s a trendy early pick to contend for a spot in the first-ever College Football Playoff this fall.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
By Aaron Wilson The Baltimore Sun
June 24, 2014
A year ago, veteran guard Marshal Yanda was dealing with scar tissue and a grueling rehabilitation after undergoing rotator cuff surgery five days after the Ravens' Super Bowl XLVII victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
Now, the Ravens' three-time Pro Bowl blocker is healthy after starting every game last season. Unlike last year, Yanda had the entire offseason to lift weights and strengthen his shoulder heading into this season.
“Injuries are part of the NFL," Yanda said last week during the final day of the Ravens' mandatory minicamp. "They’re just a part of it. So, you take it one day at a time, and you definitely do as best you can that day.
"Last year at this time I wasn’t even lifting yet, and this year now I’ve been lifting for a long time and feeling good. You can’t change that, so you just take it one day at a time. You approach it as a pro and you get after it.”
Yanda, 28, is entering his eighth NFL season and has two years remaining on his five-year, $32 million contract with $5.5 million base salaries due this year and in 2015.
The gritty Iowa native was named to the NFL Network top 100 players list for the first time, ranked 55th overall in voting by NFL players.
Yanda's toughness is legendary.
Yanda grew up on a farm in Iowa, rising at dawn to perform back-breaking chores. He once won a cash bet as a rookie when he allowed cornerback Samari Rolle to repeatedly jolt him with a Taser.
Yanda started and finished a key AFC North game two seasons ago against the Cincinnati Bengals days after undergoing a painful leg surgery. The Ravens won the division title that day with Yanda in the lineup.
"Marshal is your typical Iowa lineman, a really tough kid with his technique down to a science," former Chicago Bears director of college scouting Greg Gabriel told The Baltimore Sun last year. "He's got that farm-boy strength, and you could run a clinic by watching his technique. He's considered an overachiever because he's undersized, but he's as good at what he does as anyone in the league."
Yanda is upbeat about the Ravens' opportunity to improve with the hiring of offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and the installation of his zone-blocking scheme. The Ravens finished 30th in total offense last season, 29th in rushing offense and allowed 48 sacks.
"I think it could be really good," Yanda said of the running game. "We’re all excited; we all like running the zone scheme and know that Gary [Kubiak] is going to do that, and we’re just excited. We all love running the ball.
"We understand that we’ve got to pass the ball as well, but as offensive linemen, you always love to run the ball, and we’re excited to do that. We understand we’re going to have to pass the ball a bunch as well to win, too, so it’s exciting.”
The Ravens have revamped their offensive line, adding a new starting center after trading for Jeremy Zuttah to replace Gino Gradkowski. Rick Wagner is running with the first-team offense at right tackle following Michael Oher's departure in free agency. Kelechi Osemele returns at left guard after undergoing season-ending back surgery last November. And the Ravens retained left tackle Eugene Monroe with a $37.5 million contract.
Yanda has been the constant presence for the past seven years with 88 starts in 99 career games.
Yanda said he'll judge the progress of the offensive line more when training camp starts in July. The first full-team practice is scheduled for July 24.
“Obviously the pads aren’t on [now], so it’s going to be a whole different element with the pads and just getting the timing down with the pads and stacking days at that point and building a football team," Yanda said. "It starts in the offseason, and it definitely starts come training camp on who we’re going to be and what we’re going to be about.”
Monday, June 23, 2014
June 21, 2014
By Dan Benton
When Linval Joseph left and signed with the Minnesota Vikings early on in free agency, the common belief was that 2013 second-round pick, Johnathan Hankins, would immediately step in and take over at defensive tackle for the New York Giants. And although he's had an impressive Spring, it's not a sure bet to pencil him in alongside Cullen Jenkins just yet.
Despite Hankins flashing more often than not, he's been met step-for-step this Spring by a forgotten man: 2012 seventh-round pick Markus Kuhn.
Kuhn, who tore his ACL in Week 10 of his rookie season and missed much of the 2013 season recovering, arrived for offseason workouts in tremendous shape and with a warrior's mentality. And his relentless work ethic, which has been soundly praised by Tom Coughlin since the defensive tackle arrived as a rookie, has helped draw the attention of the decision-makers.
"I’ve been extremely impressed with Johnathan Hankins. Markus Kuhn came back from the injury last year and played just a little bit last year. I’ve been extremely impressed with both of those guys," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. "They have, technique-wise, accomplished a lot in phase one, phase two and phase three of the offseason program and then just their knowledge of the game, I think they’ve done a really, really nice job."
With the exception of one day earlier this week when he had to leave the field due to a heat-related issue, Kuhn has been a persistent presence in the middle of the defensive line — and Perry Fewell wasn't the only one to take notice.
"He had an outstanding offseason, really outstanding practices. He and Hankins, they’ll definitely get more reps in training camp than Mike P and Cullen if everything goes as planned," defensive line coach Robert Nunn said. "He showed up every day. When we go out there and go in team situations Markus was, there wasn’t a day that went by that we didn’t call his name out in a positive manner."
Regardless of who wins the starting job, this sort of competition and improvement in their play can only serve to help the Giants moving forward. If they're able to activate four quality defensive tackles on gameday to go along with health at defensive end, that immediately gives Big Blue a tremendous advantage.
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Livermore native, TRV graduate ends NFL career
June 18, 2014
By The Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS - Dallas Clark never took his eyes off the screen as a video tribute played highlights from his time in Indianapolis.
The standout tight end retired from the NFL after 11 seasons Wednesday and when he stepped to the podium at the team's practice facility, he could hardly keep his composure.
"Obviously you should have showed the video afterward," Clark said after taking a long pause to gather himself. "My wife told me to keep it lighthearted. I just don't know how to do that because this place and these fans and everyone here mean so much to me."
Tight end Dallas Clark played 11 seasons in the NFL, including nine with the Indianapolis Colts.
The Livermore native and Twin River Valley graduate retired as a member of the Colts, the team that drafted him in the first round in 2003. It's the place where he won a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning in 2006 and spent the first nine years of his career.
The former Iowa Hawkeye All-American played for Baltimore last season and for Tampa Bay in 2012. He was released by the Colts in 2011 after the team finished 2-14 and missed the playoffs for the first time in 10 years.
Clark signed with Indy just long enough to announce his retirement, though Colts owner Jim Irsay wisecracked that there was no signing bonus this time.
DALLAS CLARK: THROUGH THE YEARS
1997: Graduated from Twin River Valley High School.
1998: Redshirted at the University of Iowa after joining team as a walk-on.
2000: Earned Hawkeye Coaches Appreciation Award for special teams.
2001: Honorable mention all-Big Ten by league coaches and media.
2002: Started all 13 games at tight end. First-team all-Big Ten pick. Unanimous All-American. Had a 95-yard touchdown reception against Purdue, the longest pass play in Kinnick Stadium history and the second longest pass play ever for Iowa. Winner of John Mackey Award as nation's best tight end. Walter Camp Foundation first-team All-American.
2003: Drafted 24th overall in the first round by the Indianapolis Colts. Had one catch for 18 yards in his NFL debut against the Cleveland Browns. Football Digest NFL all-rookie team.
2006: Caught 21 passes for 317 yards in three playoff games, helping the Colts to their first Super Bowl berth - a 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears - since moving to Indianapolis.
2007: Shattered John Mackey's Colts' tight end record for receptions (58) in a season.
2008: Broke the single-season franchise mark for yards receiving (848) by a tight end.
2009: Posted 100 catches for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns in leading Colts to another Super Bowl appearance. Pro Bowl selection.
Also: Clark ranks No. 1 in club history with 427 receptions and 46 touchdowns, and No. 2 with 4,887 yards and seven 100-yard games during the regular season.
Clark closed his career with 505 receptions, 5,665 yards and 53 touchdowns in 143 games. Just fifth tight end in NFL history with at least 500 receptions, 5,000 yards and 50 TDs, joining Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, Jason Witten and Shannon Sharpe.
Clark ranks No. 6 in league history in TD catches, tied for No. 8 in receptions and No. 15 in yards.
Clark amassed 64 receptions for 847 yards in 13 playoff games, both NFL records for a tight end.
"There's a lot more meaning behind it than numbers," he said. "It's really a great moment when you have a chance to have somebody come back to town."
Clark is Indy's all-time leader in tight end touchdown catches (46) and receptions (427). He finished second in yards receiving (4,887) and 100-yard games (seven). Clark set single season records with the Colts with 100 receptions and 1,106 yards in the 2009 season. In 2007, he had 11 TD catches.
The Colts won at least 12 games for seven consecutive seasons and made eight straight playoff appearances leading up to Clark's final season in Indy, before his release and the release of other veterans, including Manning.
"You can't write this, you can't make this up," Clark said as he thanked everyone from team doctors and equipment staff, to former Colts coach Tony Dungy and former team President Bill Polian, who drafted him with Indy's first-round pick in 2003.
"Nothing but love," he said to a crowd that included Reggie Wayne, Robert Mathis and Adam Vinatieri. "For us to go do what we do, there's so many people. I'm not going to stand here and think I did it myself because that would be a boldface lie."
Wayne was drafted by Indy in 2001 and played alongside Clark each year he was with the Colts.
"From day one, he came in with a mission and focused in on it and he locked in on it and within that first year, he came in and made some plays and I knew he was going to be major, major contributor to this offense," Wayne said. "He was that last piece of the puzzle and without Dallas, I don't think we win as many games as we did."
Clark got emotional when thanking the teammates he's had throughout his career.
"When you have 52 men in the locker room giving everything that they have for one goal, special things happen," he said. "For us, we won like it was like, that's what you do. Until I went to other places, it was like, not everyone gets it. Not everyone can do what we did. That's the reason why it was so special.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
June 17, 2014
By Mike Wells | ESPN.com
INDIANAPOLIS - Dallas Clark, the most-prolific tight end in Indianapolis Colts' history, will retire with the team Wednesday.
Clark, the 24th overall pick by the Colts in 2003, set franchise records for receptions (427) and receiving touchdowns (46) by a tight end. He had the highest-receiving yards of any tight end in postseason history when he had 317 yards in 2006 when the Colts won Super Bowl XLI.
Clark was a salary-cap casualty after the 2011 season.
Clark's retiring with 505 receptions for 5,665 yards and 53 touchdowns in 143 games in his 11-year career. Clark played for Tampa Bay and Baltimore after leaving the Colts.
Ravens tight end Dallas Clark stands on the sidelines against the Cleveland Browns last September. (Brad Mills, Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports / September 15, 2013)
By Aaron Wilson The Baltimore Sun
June 16, 2014
Veteran tight end Dallas Clark will officially retire as an Indianapolis Colt on Wednesday, the team announced.
The Colts are holding a Wednesday morning news conference at the Colts' training complex.
Clark, 35, played last season for the Ravens and caught 31 passes for 343 yards and three touchdowns.
Clark was signed to a one-year contract in August after tight end Dennis Pitta fractured and dislocated his hip during training camp, but his playing time ended when Pitta returned at the end of the season.
Clark was a Colts first-round draft in 2003 out of Iowa.
He set Colts franchise records for the most career receptions (427) as a tight end and receiving touchdowns (46) by a tight end. He finished second overall in receiving yards (4,887) for a tight end.
Clark set tight end single-season team records with 100 catches for 1,106 yards in 2009 and 11 touchdowns in 2007.
Clark had 64 receptions for 847 yards in the postseason, both of which are NFL records by a tight end, while his four touchdowns are tied for sixth.
During the Colts’ championship run to Super Bowl XLI, Clark posted the highest receiving-yardage total (317) by an NFL tight end in a single postseason since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. His 21 receptions ranked second.
In 11 NFL seasons, Clark finished with 505 catches for 5,665 yards and 53 touchdowns.
He's tied for sixth in NFL history among tight ends in receiving touchdowns and tied for eighth in receptions for a tight end and 15th in tight end receiving yards.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
By Cecil Lammey
June 8, 2014
It’s Ball’s time in 2014. Montee Ball was a second-round pick by the Denver Broncos in 2013 NFL draft. The idea was to groom him to be the eventual starter at the running back position. After a rookie season that saw him improve as the year went on, that time is now.
He began his rookie season splitting time as a backup behind starter Knowshon Moreno. Ball was losing touches to Ronnie Hillman and looked tentative as a runner.
Instead of hitting the hole hard, he was not patient as a runner and too often ran into the backs of his blockers as no hole had yet to develop.
Ball was raw in the passing game as well. As a receiver out of the backfield, he tried to do too much after the catch and did not play to his strengths of determination and efficiency.
He was also suspect in pass protection. He missed a few blocks that caused Peyton Manning to get hit in a way the team was not happy with. He also put the rock on the ground too many times.
However, as the year went on, Ball started to flourish as a runner, receiver and pass-blocker.
Over the final six weeks of 2013, only Jamaal Charles (6.6) averaged more yards per carry than Ball (6.5, 52-337). Ball also led the NFL in percentage of rushes for first downs (40.4 percent) and carries of 10 or more yards (21.2 percent) during the final six weeks of 2013.
This statistical output was a sign of things to come. He is on the league’s most high-powered units, and he could be a key cog in the machine that is the Broncos offense.
Here’s a look back—and a look forward—regarding Denver's starting back.
2013 in Review
Some rookies take time to get up to speed in the NFL, and Ball was no different. He began the year excited to prove himself, but he made more mistakes than quality plays. Ball had to hit a low point before he came back with a vengeance.
Weeks 1 through 6
The first six weeks of the season saw Ball struggle to make much of an impact. Broncos fans did not see him much, and the plays they did see lacked a “wow” factor.
He only played 90 snaps in the first six weeks of the season. That was out of a possible 460 snaps for the Broncos offense. He was just not that involved with the offense, because the team couldn’t trust him.
Through six weeks he ran the ball 43 times for 139 rushing yards. That was good for an average of 3.2 yards per carry.
Ball lost two fumbles over the first six weeks of the season. Those limited his playing time with the Broncos. In Week 5 against the Dallas Cowboys and Week 6 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, he played in 13 snaps combined.
He was targeted four times in six games, hauling in two of those passes for 27 yards. The other two passes were bad drops in Week 6 against the Jaguars.
He scored an NCAA-record 77 career rushing touchdowns in college at Wisconsin, but through the first six weeks of the season, Ball hadn’t scored a single touchdown for the Broncos.
He wasn’t living up to the hype, but the Broncos had patience with their young back. Eventually, that patience would pay off.
Week 7 Playing Special Teams
The game against the Indianapolis Colts was a low point on the season for Ball. He did not receive a single carry or get a single target as a receiver out of the backfield.
Instead, he played special teams. He did not complain about the demotion but worked to prove that he would do whatever the team asked of him. He ended up recording one tackle as a special teams player that week.
A fumble near the goal line by Ronnie Hillman would open the door for Ball to prove that he could be counted on as a runner.
The Broncos lost the game against the Colts, 39-33. It was their first loss of the season and occurred only two weeks from their bye. The Broncos came home to play Washington the next week, and Ball had a new role.
At a time when team confidence seemed low in the rookie, he began to come through for his team. The turnaround began in Week 8 at home against Washington.
His stat line won’t blow you away (11 carries, 37 yards rushing), but he was able to score the first rushing touchdown of his pro career. Touchdowns were such a big part of his game, so it seemed like scoring helped surge his life’s blood.
In Week 11 versus the Kansas City Chiefs, Ball continued to show off his ability to break the plane. He scored two touchdowns in that home game.
His most rushing yards in a single game would come on the road against the Chiefs in Week 13. He carried the ball 13 times for 117 yards. He had the same number of 100-yard games (one) in 2013 as starter Knowshon Moreno did.
In addition to getting more carries for the team, Ball was also targeted 18 times over the last six games of the season. He ended up catching 15 of those targets for 102 yards to finish off the regular season.
What Has Improved
After a slow start, Ball really took off over the last month of the regular season in 2013. He has improved his all-around game during his time with the Broncos.
As a runner, he is now more patient. He will wait for his blocks to fully develop in front of him before bursting upfield through the hole. He “presses the hole” by watching and anticipating where linebackers are going to be in pursuit at the second level. While pressing the hole, he is also aware when cutback lanes are opening up.
As a receiver, he has improved his hands. He is taking the place of Moreno, one of the better receiving backs in the league. Moreno caught 60 passes last year, and Ball may have the opportunity to catch at least 40 passes in 2014.
Perhaps most importantly, Ball has improved as a pass-blocker. Protecting Manning is priority No. 1 in Denver. With his better understanding of technique, Ball is capable of being a quality pass-protector.
What Still Needs Work
Ball has made several improvements as a pro, but he still has work to do to play up to his potential.
Ball security has to be the top issue he needs to fix. His fumbles last year caused him to get off to a slow start. He needs to hang onto the rock this year to avoid getting in the doghouse again.
What Is Ball Saying?
Ball is excited about his opportunity this season, but he’s not approaching the offseason as if he’s wrapped up the starting job.
“You can’t, you can’t go in assuming that you’re going to be No. 1, because it’s such a fast game, and in practices and on the field, they can flip the depth chart in a second. I really took that to heart,” Ball said.
“So I really told myself I have to prepare like I’m fighting for the No. 1 spot, which will make the offense better, which will make the team better, and make the running backs behind me better.”
He appreciates running with the first-team offense during minicamp. “It’s great. The more support, the better. You can never have too much support. So it feels great.
But for me, I tend to just focus on what I can control, which is don’t let people down. Don’t let people down and do what I can.”
Ball certainly notices the differences from last season to this season.
“Complete turnaround—confidence, speed of the game. Instead of being a little nervous in the backfield with [QB] Peyton [Manning], now I’m completely calm. I can anticipate some of the calls he’s going to make, which like I said, allows me to play faster.”
Ball is larger than he was as a rookie, mostly in the upper body. He says he put on the added weight in anticipation of a larger role. Currently at 220 pounds, he is working on other assets to help his game.
“My focus is to really, really harp on the flexibility, which will prevent injuries and will allow for me to play faster, run faster. And upper body strength, for protection.”
What Are the Coaches Saying?
Both head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase have praised Ball this offseason.
Fox talked about what he’s looking for from Ball and other second-year players on the roster.
“You’re looking for improvement. You’re looking for improvement from season to season, meeting to meeting, practice to practice. I think you don’t stay the same in this league—you’re either getting better or you’re getting worse,” Fox said.
“You don’t stay the same. So that’s what you look for and it’s all part of the process when you pick your final 53 for the 2014 roster this year.”
Gase commented on Ball’s improvement as a rookie. “[Ball made] big strides. I’d say he’d probably be the one guy [who] made the most improvement. And to see him make the next jump in his second year, we’re looking forward to that.”
The second-year coordinator also expressed confidence when asked about Ball making plays as a receiver like Moreno did in 2013.
“I think the whole group of running backs, I feel real confident in the way they catch the ball. Montee has proven to me, over last year and so far this year, that his hands have gotten much better than what they were—at least [from] what we thought coming out of college. So, I think that whole group, we feel very confident as far as receiving in the passing game.”
Gase also talked about what it takes for Ball to have better ball security in his second season as a pro.
“Patience is a good point to bring up as far as the ball security. Guys really hurry themselves, then all of a sudden they get a little lackadaisical with the ball. We have to do a better job as a group with that. That was a big downfall for us early, where the ball was on the ground way too much. It’s almost two seasons in a row and we have to address that right away,” Gase said. “We’ve got to be so much better as far as holding onto the ball as a group.”
Things are looking good for Ball in his second season as a pro. The Broncos have been talking about having more offensive balance this year. They want to use the ground game a little bit more, and that means more carries for Ball.
Last year Moreno had 241 carries. This year, Ball could go beyond 250 carries on the year. With his toughness between the tackles, he should rush for more yards per carry than Moreno did last year (4.3).
In 2013 Moreno ran against six (or fewer) defenders in the box on 79.7 percent of his carries. Ball should be able to take better advantage of those types of defensive fronts.
A projection of 260 carries, 1,275 yards, 10 rushing touchdowns, 40 receptions, 350 yards and two receiving touchdowns sounds about right for the second-year pro.
Running back is a specialized position now in the NFL. Many teams look to multiple backs in order to fit in the offense. Running back by committee has just become a way of life in today’s game.
Ball is one of the few players in the league who can be a full-time running back.
He has the size to hold up between the tackles and gets stronger as the game goes on. Running against defensive fronts featuring six or fewer defenders in the box could help him become a real force for the Broncos on the ground. This offensive balance could put defenses on their toes even more when playing against the Broncos.
Ball has improved his hands and concentration as a receiver. While he may not catch 60 passes like Moreno did last year, he could easily catch 40 passes in 2014. This means the team can rely on him to move the chains in more ways than one.
The Broncos should use him as their featured runner, and his workload could put him near the top of the leaderboard in terms of all-purpose yardage. Ball may not lead the league in rushing, but counting on him for 1,200 yards or more sounds about right.
He could be the best back the Broncos have had since the days of Terrell Davis. We’ll see if Ball can become a star with the Broncos in 2014.