Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Kampman earns NFC award

December 27, 2006

Playing in front of a national audience on Thursday night, Kampman helped the Packers stay alive in the NFC playoff hunt as Green Bay defeated the Minnesota Vikings 9-7. Kampman had a team-best seven tackles, tied his career-high with 3.0 sacks and added a game-high four quarterback hurries. The Packers defense held Minnesota to three first downs and 104 total net yards, including just 27 net passing yards. The five-year veteran had 2.0 sacks in the first half, both on third-down plays that forced the Vikings to punt. Kampman's third sack came on Minnesota's final drive of the game with 1:28 remaining and the Packers holding on to a two-point lead. For the year, Kampman ties for the NFL lead with a career-best 15½ sacks, the third-highest single-season total in franchise history.

In his fifth year from Iowa, this is Kampman's second career Player of the Week Award and second this season (Week 8). Kampman joins Pro Football Hall of Famer Reggie White (1998) as the only Packers to win defensive honors twice in the same season.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Driver, Kampman say aloha to Pro Bowl

December 20, 2006


GREEN BAY — Given where they came from, it’s apropos that defensive end Aaron Kampman and wide receiver Donald Driver will be traveling to Hawaii together. After all, the Green Bay Packers’ two Pro Bowl selections followed similar paths to their berths in the NFL’s all-star game Feb. 10.

Neither Driver, a seventh-round pick from Alcorn State in 1999, nor Kampman, a fifth-round pick from Iowa in 2002, was invited to the NFL scouting combine before the draft. Both used remarkable work ethics to go from being second-day selections as rookies to starters not long after. And each of them responded to receiving his biggest financial payday this offseason by being even more productive.

“I guess it says that hard work does pay off,” Kampman said.

Both players were voted in for the first time, although Driver will be making his second appearance, having gone in 2002 as an alternate. Cornerback Al Harris, linebacker Nick Barnett and quarterback Brett Favre were the Packers’ only alternates.

Driver, who enters Thursday night’s game against Minnesota at Lambeau Field tied for third in the NFC with 80 catches and leading the NFC in receiving yards with 1,173, said the selection validates his status as one of the league’s premier wideouts after he was passed over in favor of then-teammate Javon Walker in 2004, when Driver caught 84 passes for 1,208 yards and nine touchdowns, and he wasn’t even an alternate last year, when he set career highs in receptions (86) and yards (1,221).

“The last two years I felt like I should have gone,” said Driver, who joins fellow backup Anquan Boldin of Arizona and starters Torry Holt of St. Louis and Steve Smith of Carolina as the wide receivers on the NFC squad. “I think (in terms of) national attention, I haven’t earned it yet. I still have a ways to go. And I think that’s why I play with a grudge on my shoulder.”

What’s most impressive is Driver, who signed a four-year, $17 million extension in May, and Kampman, who signed a four-year, $21 million deal in March, elevated their games after getting paid. Driver is on pace for 91 catches for 1,340 yards this year, while Kampman’s NFC-leading 12½ sacks have already shattered his previous best of 6½, set last year.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Pro Bowl votes overlook some deserving candidates

December 19, 2006

Don Banks

Mike Vrabel, New England, linebacker -- For my money, Vrabel is the glue that holds the Patriots defense together, and perennially one of the most underrated playmakers in the league. He is one of the few linebackers who can handle both the inside and outside position, as he has proven once again in taking over for the injured Junior Seau at inside linebacker.

Vrabel has three interceptions, 3½ sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery, but that doesn't measuring his full value to the Patriots, who rely on him to handle so many responsibilities in their 3-4 scheme. Watch Vrabel compared to the more celebrated Tedy Bruschi at this point in their careers, and it's easy to see who's the more consistent performer.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Tide Moves Forward with Coaching Search

December 9, 2006

Christopher Walsh

TUSCALOOSA | While no one would have blamed Mal Moore had he decided to get an early start on the weekend after Rich Rodriguez turned down an offer to become the next football coach at the University of Alabama, the athletics director was back working in his office Friday afternoon.

Moore was expected to consult with headhunter Chuck Neinas and reconnect with potential candidates to measure interest.

As for where the search may go from here, only Moore knows for sure, and other than issuing a release Friday, reiterating that there’s no set timetable for filling the position, he maintained his silence.

However, all options are now open to consideration, even though some of the external circumstances have changed.

For example, the closer the search gets to the end of the NFL season (Dec. 31), the higher the likelihood a serious candidate could emerge from the pros.

One person Alabama has looked into is Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who had previous stints in Houston (2002-04) and Indianapolis (1999-01). He was also Nick Saban’s assistant head coach (1998) and defensive line coach (1996-98) at Michigan State, and spent six years as an assistant at his alma mater, Virginia Tech.

Otherwise, expect many of the same names that have been circulating over the past 12 days, including Cal’s Jeff Tedford and Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, who said no to Miami last week, to resurface in the rumor mills.

While Alabama was wooing South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban of the Miami Dolphins and Rodriguez, other schools were doing everything they could to make sure their coaches wouldn’t be lured away.

For example, Navy coach Paul Johnson, who was a candidate this week to take over at North Carolina State before the school settled on Boston College coach Tom O’Brien, is reportedly close to getting a sizable raise that would bump his incentive-laden salary to nearly $1.8 million.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Johnson’s six-year contract, which includes an annual, incentive-based rollover clause that will kick in Jan. 1, currently is worth about $1.3 million per year.

“Contract tenure and competitive compensation for Paul and his staff are never taken for granted," Navy athletics director Chet Gladchuk said in a statement. “It is readdressed every year to be certain we are appropriately expressing our appreciation for a job well done. A rollover of his contract continues to be an annual event and with it comes a number of commitments and conditions that provide Paul and his family the opportunity to remain at the Academy for the rest of his career and I have no reason to believe that will not be the case."

“With all the Internet and media rumors, I felt like it was important to formally address my continued commitment to the Naval Academy," Johnson said. “Despite media reports to the contrary, I never talked to officials at any school and I want to reiterate that my family and I are very happy at the Naval Academy and we are looking forward to continued success here at Navy."

Jim Grobe of Wake Forest is in the fourth year of a 10-year contract that nets him approximately $1 million a season. Athletics director Ron Wellman has said the school was “discussing" ways to enhance Grobe’s contract, and the coach has denied being a candidate anywhere else.

“I’m perfectly happy at Wake Forest," he said last week. “I think some people like having their names floated all over the place. I’ve been around long enough that it has no appeal for me. I couldn’t be happier. I’m not only happy with this football team and the staff and our families are happy, but I’m happy with where we’re headed."

The two biggest wild cards in the search are, of course, Neinas and the agents of various coaches.

Although one of the main reasons for hiring a consultant is to avoid what happened Friday -- being publicly turned down by a coach -- earlier this week Neinas helped both Miami and North Carolina State wrap up their coaching searches, and he was given an award for his contributions to the National College Football Awards Association.

As for the agents, Alabama’s first two targets, Spurrier and Saban, are represented by Jimmy Sexton of Athletic Resource Management in Memphis, who also has Auburn’s Tommy Tuberville, Tennessee’s Phillip Fulmer and Arkansas’ Houston Nutt as clients, along with former Miami coach Larry Coker, Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech and Bill Parcells of the Dallas Cowboys.

Another prominent agent for coaches is Neil Cornrich of NC Sports, based in Cleveland, Ohio, who incidentally represents the new coaches at Miami and North Carolina State – Randy Shannon and Tom O’Brien.

Two of Cornrich’s top prospects are Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema and LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini.

Last year, Bielema signed a five-year, $4 million contract that pays $750,000 a season. It has no out clause, but Bielema would have to pay $1 million to terminate the contract before Jan. 31, and $500,000 the following year.

Grantham and Pelini were top candidates for the recent Michigan State opening, and Pelini’s name is being mentioned with Arizona State.

Houston Texans assistant coach Mike Sherman is interested in both Alabama and Boston College.

According to a source close to Bob Stoops, he’s not looking to leave Oklahoma. Stoops makes more than $3 million a year and will receive a $3 million bonus if he remains the Sooners’ coach through the 2008 season.

However, the same source indicated his brother Mike, who helped turn Arizona around faster than expected, might have an interest.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

USA Today: Boston College's O'Brien close to deal with North Carolina State

Updated 12/7/2006 6:06 PM ET

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina State didn't need to go far to find a new football coach. In fact, the school didn't even have to leave its own division in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

N.C. State is set to hire Boston College's Tom O'Brien and is working out final details of a contract, a university official said Thursday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because a contract has not been approved by the school's board of trustees, whose personnel committee has scheduled a teleconference for Friday.

Once a deal is complete and O'Brien changes addresses, it will add spice to a division rivalry that began when Boston College became the ACC's 12th member before the 2005 season. This year, N.C. State beat Boston College when first-time starter Daniel Evans threw the winning touchdown pass with 8.5 seconds left in a 17-15 victory.

O'Brien's move to Raleigh would mark only the second time in league history that a football coach left one ACC school to lead another in the next season, the league said. The other time came when Jim Tatum moved from Maryland to North Carolina in 1956.

The SEC went through such an unusual move when football coach Tommy Tuberville left Mississippi to take over at Auburn after the 1998 season.

"I think (the fans) were upset because whatever school you're a fan of, you think that's the greatest one in the world and cannot imagine anyone leaving to go to another school," Ole Miss athletics director Pete Boone said. "And so when they do, it's kind of like getting a divorce — and them taking the children."

The Southeastern, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences don't have policies in place regarding the movement of coaches from one school in the conference to another, the leagues said Thursday. A spokesman from the Big East Conference said there have been no in-league football coaching moves in its history.

In the Big Ten, Purdue women's basketball coach Sharon Versyp moved from the same job at Indiana after one season. Conference spokesman Scott Chipman noted that there had been rumors that Steve Alford would leave Iowa to return to his alma mater at Indiana, but the switch never occurred.

But Boone said some schools, including Ole Miss, include contract provisions that make a coach's buyout higher if they leave for a conference competitor.

"The reason for that is the recruiting angle that can be leveraged against you," Boone said.

Whether N.C. State is dealing with such a provision is unknown. Wolfpack athletics director Lee Fowler did not returns calls to his office Thursday, while Neil Cornrich — O'Brien's attorney of more than a decade — declined to comment on the reports when reached at his office Thursday in Beachwood, Ohio.

Boston College officials did not return multiple calls seeking comment, although a spokesman issued a statement Thursday acknowledging the reports.

"As you are no doubt aware, reports surfaced out of North Carolina yesterday afternoon and evening that N.C. State had (or would) offer Tom O'Brien its vacant head football coaching position," spokesman Chris Cameron said in an e-mail.

"If and when N.C. State makes an announcement involving coach O'Brien, Boston College will respond accordingly. Meanwhile, Boston College has no comment on the situation."

Several broadcasters and websites, citing unidentified sources, reported Wednesday night that N.C. State had hired O'Brien to replace the fired Chuck Amato. San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers — a four-year starter who left N.C. State as the school's career passing leader — told the North County (Calif.) Times on Wednesday that O'Brien was the choice.

O'Brien led the Eagles to a 9-3 record and an appearance in the Meineke Bowl against Navy later this month. He dismissed rumors linking him to other coaching openings in a statement this week and told the Boston Globe, when reached at home Wednesday night, that he had received no official offer.

"Any announcement has to come out of North Carolina," he said.

N.C. State fired Amato — a former Wolfpack linebacker — the day after his team closed the season with seven straight losses to finish 3-9. Amato was 49-37 and led the Wolfpack to five bowl games in seven seasons, but he went 25-31 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and never finished higher than fourth.

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