Thursday, July 31, 2008

Versatile Yanda ready for any job

By Ryan Chell

July 31, 2008

Over the past several practices, both of the Baltimore Ravens’ starting offensive tackles, Jared Gaither and Adam Terry, have been sidelined with sprained ankles.

This development makes the Ravens really thankful they have starting right offensive guard like Marshal Yanda.

The second-year offensive lineman out of Iowa has been a godsend for the Ravens offense, due to the fact that he brings versatility and security to the offensive line.

“Marshal is great,” Ravens assistant offensive line coach Andy Moeller said. “To have that kind of versatility, it’s a great asset.”

Yanda can take the place of two or three roster spots and plays every position on the line, making the personnel department’s job that much easier. However, he is most known for his prowess at tackle, a position he started a dozen games as a rookie last season.

“It helps just in case I need to play tackle, I can,” Yanda said. “I can take some snaps at center too. I can play more positions so we don’t need as many guys.”

Who knows? With injuries to Gaither and Terry over the past several days, it could mean a return to the guard position for Yanda.

“That’s a decision Cam Cameron, John Matsko, the rest of our staff, will have to see about as we go along,” Moeller said. “That’s certainly a possibility.”

Ravens offensive line coach John Matsko may already be ready to pull the switch and make the change.

“He’s really adapting well to the right guard spot, and boy, you watch the tapes and he did a really good job at right tackle last year,” Matsko said. “Everything’s possible.”

Yanda started last year after being selected in the third round of the draft, and getting that experience has definitely helped ease the learning process for him going into his sophomore campaign.

“I wouldn’t say this was easier,” Yanda said. “But I know what to expect, how the game system works, what the practice tempo needs to be like, and just what I need to get done.”

During the offseason, despite Yanda’s excellence at tackle last season and his reputation as a sound tackle at Iowa, the Ravens coaching staff saw Yanda as a better fit at the guard position.

He was asked to gain a little more weight to fit into the position, something he felt was necessary to properly make the adjustment, while still being able to keep his quickness.

Many are applauding the switch, such as starting defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who lines up across from him in practice. Ngata praised Yanda’s performance.
Yanda has no complaints about the switch, either.

“There’s no position I prefer,” Yanda said. “I’m at guard now. I love it, and that’s where I want to be. If they want to move me back to tackle, that doesn’t matter. I’ll play anywhere.”

With the difficulty of learning several positions at once, the learning curve would appear to increase for Yanda, but so far he is handling it well.

“It can be difficult,” he acknowledged. “But as long as you keep an open mind when we’re in the meeting rooms and don’t just focus on guard, you get an idea of what everyone’s doing and it’s not as bad.”

Yanda has a calm demeanor off the field, and talked about not worrying about Cameron’s new system or who he is protecting at quarterback.

What makes him a better offensive lineman is how he can make that transformation so easily and use it to his advantage.

“For an offensive lineman, you have to be physical,” Yanda said. “You’ve got to want it, go out there, and get after somebody, and hit them in the mouth, that’s the way you got to be.”

Not only does he seem to be settling into a new position, he seems to be settling into the team.

Yanda remembers what Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, a former Ravens offensive line coach, told him when he was drafted by Baltimore.

“He told me you’re going to a good place, that you’re going to excel there, and you’ll like the people there,” Yanda said. “It’s a good program.”

Game slows down for speedy Dolphins receiver Ginn


July 30, 2008

DAVIE — Somewhere between the Nos. 1 and 9 on wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr.'s jersey is the bull's-eye.

It comes with the first-round draft pick money. It's what you get when you essentially disappear in your first season on a 1-15 team. It's what you live with during an all-too-long off-season when the man who picked you No. 9 overall is fired for a series of bad decisions.

It's makes you the target of criticism. And it gleams fluorescent aqua and orange when the new man in charge, Bill Parcells, and coach Tony Sparano revamp the roster, tossing dead weight and adding their type of players.

The only thing that will make it go away, Ginn knows, is taking every shot squarely in the chest and responding with the productive season he feels he can have.

"You have to come in and prove to everybody - not just your head coach, the whole coaching staff - that you want to be that guy," Ginn said. "You have to show them how you learn. You have to show them how your run. You have to show them everything that you bring to the table."

Ginn started off his rookie season slow, but by the end, had caught 34 passes for 420 yards and two touchdowns. More than that, as Sparano reviewed endless hours of tape, he saw how Ginn improved throughout the season, culminating in a seven-catch, 53-yard performance, when he caught his second touchdown against Cincinnati.

"He wasn't even the same player," Sparano said.

Former Dolphins coach Cam Cameron coveted Ginn's speed and quickness. But Ginn was mostly a kick returner still learning how to be a receiver in college.

The NFL didn't make his transition any easier. He struggled to run routes and showed that burst of speed only after the catch.

If anyone questioned Ginn's ability, he certainly did not.

He has become the star pupil of receivers coach Karl Dorrell, a former receiver himself at UCLA who has seen Ginn begin to tap into his talents.

Dorrell said since the first voluntary practice of the spring, Ginn has grown tremendously, running better routes, showing more quickness during his routes and making cuts that gets defensive backs on their heels.

"And that's usually the hardest thing to improve because he's moving so fast," Dorrell said. "But he's one of those guys that has really good balance."

Even after those long practices, Ginn took home film of himself and watched for flaws in his technique that were keeping him from exploiting his speed. And so the Dolphins are starting to see, even in their own first-team defense, the problems that Ginn can create. He is starting to spread the field and forcing defensive backs to give him room.

"Teddy is starting to play really fast and he's putting pressure on the defense, and I really like that," Sparano said. "You can see it. It's jumping off the film how fast he's playing."

Former Dolphins great Nat Moore, a favorite target of a young Dan Marino and Hall of Famer Bob Griese, has watched Ginn and sees the steady improvement. When he looks at Ginn, Moore is reminded of a young Mark Duper, in velocity if not in build. And he reminds anyone who will listen that Duper was playing with "a marquee quarterback."

Given enough time, Moore said, Ginn will tap into that elusive resource: "That speed. He's a speed guy who can be a game-breaker."

Already, Miami's quarterbacks are finding him more often in practice and that, Sparano said, is a sign Ginn is inching closer to fulfilling his promise. "All of a sudden, the ball's finding him," Sparano said. "That tells me the game's slowing down a little for Ted."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dawson Taking Nothing for Granted

Steve King

July 29, 2008

At year ago at this time, Phil Dawson was put on notice.

But by the end of the 2007, the Browns kicker had earned all sorts of notice -- in a positive way.

Such is the life of an NFL kicker, whose worth is measured every time he walks onto the field.

"I've always said that you're only as good as your last kick," Dawson said this week following a training camp practice.

For the first 7½ years of his career, Dawson was about as accurate as any kicker in the game's history, somehow finding a way to succeed against the tricky, windy, cold and sometimes icy conditions on the shores of Lake Erie.

He was cruising along midway through 2006, setting a franchise record with six field goals against the San Diego Chargers. Overall, he was at 85 percent, hitting 17-of-20.

Ho, hum, another season, another Dawson success story.

Then he experienced the first slump of his career, going just 4-of-9 the rest of the way to finish 21-of-29. His 72.4-percent success rate was the lowest since his rookie year.

How off was he? Consider that in 2005, he also had attempted 29 kicks but made 27 of them for a career-high 93.1 percentage.

"I was still hitting the ball well late in 2006, but they weren't going in," Dawson said.

Head coach Romeo Crennel knew that since his offense was struggling at the time to score touchdowns, the team needed an accurate Dawson to be able to score enough points to be competitive in games. He was right, for when Dawson was having his issues down the stretch in 2006, the Browns lost six of their last seven games. In four of those defeats, the club scored seven or fewer points.

You can't win like that. So Crennel told Dawson he needed to do better -- much better.

So the kicker spent the entire offseason busier than he had ever been, skipping the normal after-the-season respite he took to let his body -- and his leg -- recover from the long, grueling year. If he wasn't studying tape, he was working out or practicing his kicking. It was all football, all the time.

Dawson entered 2007 under the first real pressure he had faced since his rookie season of 1999, when he had no NFL resume and was trying to make an impression on head coach Chris Palmer.

His work paid off. All the things that had gone wrong in the last half of 2006 suddenly started going right.

"I was hitting the ball the same way last season as I had in 2006, but the bounces began to go my way," Dawson said.

Bounces? Yes, literally and figuratively.

His kick at the end of regulation in Baltimore hit the goal post support bar and then caromed back out on the field. Originally signaled as no good, the ruling was eventually changed to good following several minutes of discussion and after the Ravens had left the field, tying the score and forcing overtime. The game was won 33-30 by a Dawson kick that went cleanly through the uprights, sans any drama.

A month later in an 8-0 win over the Buffalo Bills, Dawson, in an effort that defied the laws of physics, somehow kicked two field goals, including a 49-yarder, during a virtual blizzard.

Browns special teams coach Ted Daisher, who has been in coaching for nearly 30 years, was impressed by both kicks but said the 49-yarder, which was aimed to the left, halfway between the left upright and the sideline, to compensate for a strong wind blowing left to right, was the greatest kick he has ever seen.

By the end of the year, Dawson had hit 26-of-30 field goals, a success rate of 86.7 percent, the third-best of his career, and scored 120 points, No. 2 in franchise history behind only Jim Brown (126 in 1965), and ahead of Lou Groza (115 in 1964).

Brown and Groza. You may have heard of those two.

"I'm almost embarrassed for my name to be used in the same sentence with Jim Brown," Dawson said. "He's the greatest football player of all-time."

And Groza?

"I have all the respect in the world for him, Don Cockroft, Matt Bahr and Matt Stover, the people who have preceded me here in Cleveland," he said. "I feel very honored to be mentioned in the lineage of great kickers this franchise has had."

Getting back on track last year, starting strong and staying strong throughout, also meant that Dawson moved back into the top five in the NFL in career field-goal percentage. He is fourth at 82.7.

So, what means more to him, his place in NFL kicking history, or in that of the Browns?

"The Browns," he said, "because I know how hard it is to kick in Cleveland."

But the best part to come out of last season for Dawson is the fact the Browns, after so many struggles since returning to the field in 1999, won a lot of games -- they went 10-6 and nearly made the playoffs following four straight losing years -- and he had a big hand in it.

"I took a great deal of satisfaction in that I was able to help this team win," he said. "At the end of the day, all that matters is if this team wins or not. I had gotten tired of all the losing over the years. I want to win. I'll trade all the personal accomplishments for a win anytime."

He didn't have to last season, and he won't have to this season if the Browns perform as well as most people predict they will.

Yes, things have certainly done an about-face for Dawson and the Browns from last year at this time.

"Did I deserve what Coach Crennel said about me last year?" he asked rhetorically. "Yes, certainly I did. Believe me, I wasn't happy with the way I kicked, either.

"But when you struggle, you can't just abandon everything you're doing. You have to fix only the things that are wrong and stay confident that the other things you're doing -- and all the stuff you've believed in over the years -- are solid. That's what I did."

And when Dawson followed that strategy, you couldn't help but notice the difference.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pierre Woods Steps Up

In third year, LB gains attention

By Rich Thompson

July 28, 2008

FOXBORO - The third season is a transitional moment in a player’s career where he either catches on or catches a bus.

Patriots outside linebacker Pierre Woods enjoyed an excellent opportunity to catch on during yesterday’s double sessions at training camp. With incumbent weakside linebacker Mike Vrabel on the physically unable to perform list, Woods received extensive reps as coach Bill Belichick began focusing on situational football.

“Pierre had another good offseason this year,” Belichick said. “I thought he did a good job in the spring, and sometimes it’s hard to tell when exactly that experience really transfers to confidence and aggressiveness and performance on the field.

“That’s where it looks like he’s headed this year in training camp. He’s playing with a lot of confidence, both in the running game and the passing game. We know he’s athletic from his play on special teams and he’s taking this opportunity to get a little more playing time in camp.”

Woods had four good years at Michigan but didn’t accomplish enough to warrant being drafted out of college. He signed with the Patriots on May, 8, 2006, and made the squad as a special teams player. In 16 regular-season games last year, he led the team with 22 special teams tackles.

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Woods is now fighting for a starting job at a position that experienced significant turnover in the offseason and gained strength with the selection of Jerod Mayo in the first round of this year’s draft.

“I’m into hard work and hard work is paying off,” Woods said. “I’m out there willing to learn and to work hard and be coachable.”

The Patriots have five rookie linebackers in camp alongside veterans Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi and Adalius Thomas, who have a combined 32 years of NFL experience. Even though he hasn’t had any significant playing time at outside linebacker, Woods is way ahead of the rookies in doing things the Belichick way.

“This whole offseason, I’ve worked on so many different things - like coverage and hand placements and all the drills you see us doing out here,” Woods said. “You have to work on everything that’s tangible with football.”

The 3-4 defense used by the Pats depends on linebackers that can get to the quarterback from the edge. Vrabel registered a career-high 12 sacks last season, and that skill has been instrumental to his staying power. Sacks are the glamour statistic of the front seven - and Woods hopes to get his share this season.

“That’s something I’m definitely working on and my confidence is growing,” Woods said. “It’s something I can see myself doing, but you have to stay in the film room studying and learning different formations, sets and what teams do.”

Woods’ third-year sense of urgency has not gone unnoticed.

“He’s still got a long way to go and a lot of things to add,” Belichick said. “But Pierre is one of the hardest workers and he tries to do everything right.”

Monday, July 28, 2008

Former Buckeye Katie Smith: On a Big Stage Again

Katie Smith will be competing in her third Olympics, beginning next week in Beijing. Her storied career includes stops at Ohio State, the American Basketball League and now the WNBA's Detroit Shock.

July 27, 2008

By Jim Massie

In an alternate universe without basketball, Katie Smith could have been the next Shirley Temple if a tap-dancing Shirley ever used an elbow to clear some room for a series of time steps.

"She was in dance in elementary school," Barb Smith, her mother, said recently. "She competed in tap. In fifth grade, we let her join the basketball team -- the Bobcats. Her little brother was on the team.

"By seventh grade, she was in AAU basketball. It just took off from there. Her father (John) and I never knew she was as goal oriented as she is. We didn't know she had this innate desire to be an Olympian."

Consider the sound of a metronome keeping time for the tiny dancer, let rhythm blend into the thump, thump, thump of a crossover dribble and you can watch the dream that began in Logan, Ohio, passed through Ohio State and two professional women's basketball leagues and reaches its zenith for a third time next month.

Katie Smith, 34, will be playing in her third Olympics next month as a guard for Team USA in Beijing. Smith already has two gold medals and the burning desire to add a third.

The fiery part doesn't surprise her mother at all.

"It's not hard to be that way in this family," Barb said. "Three children in 33 months, all healthy and physical and we lived on a farm. Everybody had chores to do and we'd see who could get them done first. I was a competitive swimmer. Her dad played football at Ohio University."

In Detroit, where she is a starting guard for the Shock of the WNBA, Katie Smith said that she first noticed the U.S. women's Olympic basketball team as a youngster.

"I remember watching the Olympics on television," she said. "I remember thinking, 'Man, how do you get to be a part of that group of 12?' Just watching them, it gets you interested in representing your country."

After her freshman season at Ohio State, she took her first step along the international road in 1993. She tried out for the senior world championship team and didn't make it. Instead, she became part of the junior world championship team under Jim Foster, then the coach at Vanderbilt and now at Ohio State.

"I was wide-eyed and willing to do whatever I had to do," Smith said. "You're trying out with 200 or 300 people. They put the cuts on the board and you run up to see if you made it. I was in the mix of players at the top of my age group. They don't hand you anything in USA Basketball. You earn the spot, earn the playing time and sacrifice time for it. It's all worth it at the end of the day."

Again, the steely focus rated as no surprise to her mother.

"She didn't just play basketball," Barb said. "She was good in volleyball and good in track. She was serious about her 4-H projects. She was the same way about her school work. She excelled. She is a lot like her dad. If she is going to do something, she is going to do it right."

Smith's work ethic became evident from her beginnings with USA Basketball.

"It was obvious even (in '93) that she had the potential to be an Olympian," Foster said. "She had the necessary passion. A lot of people verbalize what they want to be. Not as many people figure out how to be what they say they want to be. She would wake up in the morning and think about what she had to do to get better."

The reason was simple. Basketball moved her.

"I was all-state in volleyball, basketball and track," Smith said. "But basketball was something that I loved. I liked all aspects of it. Obviously when you're good at something it makes you want to do more. I like the physical part of basketball. It has cardio where you're running and jumping. There is a mental aspect to winning. You can outsmart your opponent. It has a little bit of everything."

She would grow in the USA program and learn under point guard Teresa Edwards, a five-time Olympian.

"That is one of the neatest things about USA Basketball. Katie grew up in a system learning under Teresa," said Nell Fortner, the 2000 Olympic coach. "I remember coaching the team that went to Brazil to qualify for world championships in '97. There were serious battles going on in practice between them. Over the years, I think it did Katie a world of good."

In Smith, Fortner also noticed a willingness to do whatever tasks the coaches asked.

"You have to be able to check your ego," Fortner said. "Everybody you're playing with is extraordinary. Katie accepted that right away. And she stands out for me because she is mean. She wants to win. She'll do whatever it takes."

Smith, of course, has excelled at every level in her basketball life. She left Ohio State as the leading scorer in Big Ten history. She led the Columbus Quest to two championships in the ABL and became the first women's professional layer to pass the 5,000-point plateau after joining the WNBA in 1999.

"I recruited Katie when she was in high school and I was at Old Dominion," said Anne Donovan, the current Olympic coach. "You could tell she was a disciplined athlete in high school. She also had this competitiveness. She still carries it today."

Smith, however, doesn't dunk like USA teammate Candace Parker and no longer worries about leading the team in scoring with shooters such as Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter around.

"I think Katie always has been a little underappreciated," Donovan said. "She goes to Detroit and (coach Bill Laimbeer) wants her to play the point. She sacrificed her scoring to do that. It's the same with the national team. She is selfless."

When asked, Smith will lock down a perimeter scorer.

"That is one of her strengths for us," Donovan said. "We have to play defense. If we don't play defense, we will not win the gold medal."

In Athens in 2004, Smith was part of a second gold medal-winning team. A knee injury made her a spectator and threatened her career.

"I hurt (the ligament) right before the Olympics, but it wasn't completely torn," Smith said. "Then I tore it in the Olympics. It was still great to be there. I just had to work on my cheerleading skills."

She never considered quitting.

"No, that wasn't the end," Smith said. "I still wanted to play. If my body hadn't responded, it was something I would have had to deal with. But it did."

Fifteen years after joining USA Basketball, Smith and four-time Olympian Lisa Leslie now are the primary role models for the younger players. She figures this will be her last Olympics, although she hopes to play professionally for a few more years. She still is dancing as fast as she can.

"I'm happy to be here," Smith said. "I've been able to play basketball and I've been playing it well for a long time. I've worked hard for it. It doesn't just happen. All of the players put in the work. It says a lot for us when we go out and perform."

Logan High School: 1988-92; 2,740 career points

USA basketball: 2000, 2004 Olympics; 1998, 2002 World Championships

Ohio State Basketball: 1992-96; 2,578 points; Two-time All-American; All-time leading scorer at OSU

Columbus Quest: 1996-98; Two ABL titles; 1,433 points

WNBA: Minnesota Lynx (1999-2005), Detroit Shock (2005-present): 4,972 points; 2001 scoring title; 2006 championship

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Whitner Shows Leadership Beyond his Years

Bills hope to back up Whitner's guarantee of playoff berth

Sal Maiorana

July 24, 2008

Ever since Donte Whitner came to Buffalo as the Bills' first-round draft choice in 2006, the strong safety from Ohio State has exuded leadership qualities not ordinarily found in players his age.

Now in his third NFL season, Whitner has become the heart and soul of the team. Lee Evans, Angelo Crowell and Chris Kelsay may be close, but the reality is that Whitner — all of 23 years old — is the guy at the front of the pack.

And even if you didn't think that was the case as recently as a month ago, you can't deny it now. Not after Whitner put himself on the line with a holy-cow-did-he-just-say-that comment to The Sporting News.

"Do I expect us to make the playoffs?" Whitner said, repeating a question that was asked of him. "I'm guaranteeing it."

You know the old saying: Don't write checks with your mouth that your body can't cash. In his youthful exuberance Whitner may have done that with his brash prediction because the Bills — while obviously improved — still have a difficult road ahead of them in the chase for an AFC playoff berth.

But you can't fault the guy for trying to light a fire under a team that has been flaming out for eight years.

"It's because of the chemistry we're building here," Whitner said, explaining why he believes the Bills are on the cusp of becoming a viable playoff participant at long last. "We're building it with good guys, good players."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Q & A with Packers' Mark Tauscher

Leadership Corner for July 23

July 23, 2008

Green Bay Packers tackle Mark Tauscher is finishing his first year as an alternate Player Representative. This is his ninth season in the NFL. The 31-year-old Wisconsin native talks about teaching school, playing tennis and how a golf pro messed up his swing.

ON GETTING TO KNOW THE UNION: Going to my first Player Representative meetings in Maui was helpful, because I learned so much to take back to the guys. It was also good to get to know different people on staff, like [General Counsel] Dick Berthelsen and [Staff Counsel] Tom DePaso and to pick their brains about the history and what’s happened in the past, which can help us figure out what’s going to happen moving forward.

ON HIS SECOND CAREER: I think I’ll work as a school teacher after I retire. I got my Masters in educational administration, and I’ve always enjoyed going to different schools and speaking to kids. I like working with younger kids, because you can influence them more.

ON THE TENNIS COURT: I play with both of my brothers. It’s tough on the joints, but it’s actually good for football. It’s a lot of starting and stopping, similar to an offensive play. I probably don’t look the most elegant out there, but I like doing it.

ON THE GOLF COURSE: Golf is what I like to do to relax. I play a lot. I like to play with [PGA Tour golfers] Jerry Kelly, Steve Stricker and Andy North. I’m a self-taught guy, but I took some advice from Jerry, a Madison [Wisconsin] guy. He actually screwed me up, probably set me back two or three years with my swing. He’s a little guy and has a whole different swing, so what he taught me really didn’t work.

ON COMPETITION: I’m just as competitive on the golf course or tennis court as on the football field. It’s just the nature of the beast. Whether it’s a game, conversation or debate, it all comes down to wanting to win. Athletes are competitive about everything. That’s what makes us us.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Wahle a Seahawks Standout


June 23, 2008

He isn’t exactly a fresh-faced up-and-comer, but LG Mike Wahle clearly has been the standout of the Seahawks’ offseason program. The former Panthers Pro Bowl pick is an upgrade from other players who have tried to fill the void created when Steve Hutchinson signed with the Vikings in 2006. Despite his age (31) and high mileage (10 seasons), Wahle took more snaps than any of the projected line starters in the final minicamp, showing good mobility and a mauler’s mentality on running plays.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Alvarez makes Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame

By Dave Heller

July 12, 2008

A while back we told you that Bo Ryan had been inducted into the Delaware County chapter of the Pennsylvania Hall of Fame.

Well, Barry Alvarez was already in the Washington-Greene chapter Hall of Fame. Now he'll be in the main Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, to be inducted with a host of other Pennsylvania chapter Hall of Famers.

Alvarez received the most votes of any of this year's inductees.

Some other members of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame include Jim Thorpe, Chuck Bednarik, Stan Musial and Arnold Palmer.

Kansas football coach Mark Mangino signs contract extension

By Dugan Arnett

July 15, 2008

Turns out, BCS does equal dollar signs for Kansas University football coach Mark Mangino.

Mangino, who led the Jayhawks to a 12-1 record and Orange Bowl victory in 2007, signed a contract extension Tuesday that will pay him $2.3 million a year through 2012 — an increase of $800,000 from his previous deal.

The seventh-year coach is slated to make $229,900 in base salary pay and an additional $1,770,100 per year for “educational, public relations and promotional duties.”

According to the deal, Mangino also could earn up to $675,000 in performance-based incentives in any given year, as well as a retention payment of $1,500,000 if he remains Kansas’ coach through Dec. 31, 2012. The funds used to cover the contract were raised by Kansas Athletics. No tuition dollars or state funds were used.

“I want to thank Chancellor (Robert) Hemenway and (athletic director) Lew (Perkins) for their strong and continued support,” Mangino said in a statement. “We all share the same vision for excellence in our football program. I appreciate their support of our mission to keep KU football a nationally ranked and respected program, both on the field and in the classroom.”

After going 2-10 in 2002, his first season with the Jayhawks, Mangino has led Kansas to bowl appearances in three of the past five years and, with a 37-36 career record, is the fourth winningest coach in school history.

Before the start of the 2006 season, Mangino signed a five-year contract that would have paid him $1.5 million a year, plus incentives, through 2010.

But 2007 changed all that.

The new deal comes on the heels of what many consider to be the most successful football season in school history. Kansas finished 12-1 (7-1 in the Big 12) and notched its first BCS bowl game victory after beating third-ranked Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. The Jayhawks finished the season ranked No. 7 overall — the highest finish ever by a KU football team in the Associated Press poll.

In the process, Mangino earned national coach of the year honors from multiple outlets, including Sporting News magazine and the AP.

“This is an appropriate reward for someone who has done a terrific job with the Kansas football program,” Perkins said. “Chancellor Hemenway and I think it's important that we not only reward Mark for the job he's done, but also give him the support and stability he needs to keep this football program a successful and nationally respected program.”

The Kansas football team opens its season Aug. 30 at home against Florida International.

Breaking It Down

Prior contract
Term: Jan. 1, 2006 - Dec. 31, 2010
Base salary: $229,900
Professional services: $1,280,000
Total: $1,509,000

National championship: $200,000
BCS Bowl: $100,000
New Year’s Day Bowl: $75,000
Any other bowl game: $50,000
Big 12 Championship game victory: $50,000
Big 12 Coach of the Year (Big 12 Coaches or AP): $25,000
AP Coach of the Year: $50,000
40,000 season tickets sold by Sept. 1: $100,000

New contract
Term: 5 years (January 1, 2008 - Dec. 31, 2012)
Base salary: $229,900
Professional services: $1,770,100
Retention payment: $300,000 per year (earned only if coach remains for five years)
Total: $2,300,000


National championship: $225,000
BCS Bowl: $125,000
New Year’s Day bowl: $100,000
Any other bowl game: $75,000
Big 12 Championship game victory: $75,000
Big 12 Coach of the Year (Big 12 Coaches or AP): $50,000
AP Coach of the Year: $75,000
40,000 season tickets sold by Sept. 1: $125,000

Monday, July 14, 2008

Robert Smith Reaching For The Stars

Drive to succeed puts stars in former NFL and OSU star Robert Smith's eyes

July 13, 2008

Bill Livingston

When it comes to science, a small child either looks backward or upward, to the dinosaurs or the stars.

Robert Smith looked up. Today, at the age of 36, he still sees stars, albeit with ever more powerful implements.

"I was a fan of astronomy as a little kid," said Smith, "but I didn't buy my first telescope until my rookie year in the NFL. I was out on a lake at night, fishing, and looking at the sky when it hit me. Shoot, I can afford a telescope now. So I went straight out and bought one."

Smith was one of the amateur astronomers profiled in last year's PBS special "Seeing in the Dark." The show was not about his football career. It was about intellectual curiosity.

The drive to reach the top level consumes most pro athletes and leaves little time for outside interests. Then there is Smith, his eye fixed to a 16-inch, computerized Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, showing the Andromeda galaxy to kids near his south Florida home. No wonder friends call him "Copernicus."

The rigor of scientific inquiry always appealed to him. In "Seeing in the Dark," he said, "When I think of science, I don't just think about discovering facts or observing. I think about it as more of a philosophy, and questioning everything, and examining everything. It takes diligence, not just accepting what you're being told, but carefully examining all angles of any issue. That's the great thing about science. It doesn't start with the conclusion and then try to fit the facts in. It takes the facts and you work toward a conclusion."

It is a splendid explanation of why a rebel is often just someone with more information.

Smith never fit the mold. In the NFL, he criticized what he saw as the religious zealotry of players like the late Reggie White.

At Euclid High School, he was a Steelers fan in Browns country. "Franco Harris, Terry Bradshaw, Jack Lambert," he said, when asked his favorite players.

Because of a difficult home life, he hardly watched college football and thus lacked an appreciation for the voracious, all-consuming monster Ohio State football can be.

Smith incurred the wrath of many Ohio State fans when he sat out the 1991 season, charging assistant coach Elliot Uzelac ordered him to miss two classes. To some, he was a symbol of principle, an unassimilated, independent thinker with his academic priorities in order.

Smith, who had intended to be a pre-med major in Columbus, returned for his sophomore year of eligibility, his third academic year, then left for the NFL. Critics invoked a popular television program of the era about a teenaged medical prodigy and called him "Doogie Howser." Such detractors noted that Smith did not get his OSU degree.

Smith said he has one class left to get a degree as a history major and is taking it at the University of Miami.

"I'm interested in theoretical physics and cosmology, things that intrigued me after I read Stephen Hawking's 'A Brief History of Time,' " said Smith.

Today, he regrets missing the season in Columbus. "If I had it to do over, I wouldn't sit it out," he said. "That meant I let a guy run me out of the program. You look like a whistle-blower if you say it outside the system, instead of staying and saying, 'I'm still here.' "

After undergoing four operations on his knee, he quit NFL football in 2000, following his best season when he was the league's second-leading rusher with 1,521 yards.

The New York Giants' Jason Sehorn called him "Eddie George with another gear," referring to the Buckeyes back who won the 1995 Heisman Trophy. Had Smith played another season, former coach John Cooper always thought he would have won college football's top award, too.

In the PBS film, Smith said he quit because he no longer found the running back position "intellectually stimulating." Some will say that is so Doogie.

"It wasn't like I was bored. But it wasn't as fascinating once the game slowed down for me," Smith said.

What captivates him now is the chance to see time through his telescope.

The speed of light is 186,000 miles per second. When a person on Earth looks at the sun, it's not the sun of that instant. It's the sun as it was eight minutes ago, the time it took for the light to travel 93 million miles to Earth.

The most energetic forms of light are gamma rays, which shoot frantically across the universe after star explosions. By satellite analysis of certain forms of the elements they contain, astronomers can date the stellar event that formed such light. One gamma ray burst in "Seeing in the Dark" was 11 billion years old. That light started its journey before the formation of Earth. Detecting it in the form of a blue dot in a sophisticated photograph was like seeing eternity.

Said Smith, "Suppose 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 light years away, someone had a telescope with the magnification to see down onto the surface of our planet. By the time they see me walking around, I'd be gone for thousands of years. That kind of stuff just blows my mind."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

OSU Hall of Fame Awards Uhlenhake Top Honor

OSU Hall of Fame: Uhlenhake, Hoying lead class of 2008

July 10, 2008

By Ken Gordon

Bob Hoying is under no illusion that his name will remain for long atop the Ohio State record books.

Already, 13 years after he last played quarterback for the Buckeyes, many of his marks have fallen.

"They'll be broken," he said of the rest. "They won't stand long."

Instead, what he's most proud of is how he and his teammates helped usher in a more modern brand of offensive football in the mid-1990s.

It's what helped Hoying be named yesterday to the Ohio State athletics hall of fame, one of 12 members of the class of 2008.

Also being honored were current baseball coach Bob Todd and athletes Drew Durbin (gymnastics, 1994-97), John Edwards (baseball, 1958), Jeff Uhlenhake (football, 1985-88), Fred Keller (lacrosse, 1956-58 and soccer, 1955-57), Carolina and Isabela Moraes (synchronized swimming, 1999-2002), Amy Langhals (golf, 1994-97), Krista Keir, a Westerville native (track and field, 2000-03), Megan Mirick (lacrosse, 1999-2002) and Maxi Meissner (rowing, 2000-03).

The group will be inducted at banquets Sept. 5 and recognized publicly during the Ohio State football game Sept. 6 against Ohio University.

Uhlenhake, an offensive lineman and Newark native, was a first-team All-American and team most valuable player in 1988. He went on to play 10 seasons in the NFL before moving into coaching. He is entering his second season as the Ohio State football team's coordinator of strength and conditioning.

He said he was "stunned and thrilled to death" to join an elite group.

"I got on the (hall of fame) Web site, I scrolled through there -- it's an amazing list," Uhlenhake said. "I'm very grateful to be on that list."

Hoying credits the skills of teammates like running back Eddie George, tight end Rickey Dudley and receiver Terry Glenn for helping him put up big numbers.

Hoying still holds six school records, including career marks for completions (498) and touchdown passes (57).

"I'm just very fortunate to have played with just a tremendous group of athletes," he said.

Information provided by Ohio State about the honorees:

2008 Ohio State Hall of Fame Inductees (Men)

Jeff Uhlenhake, Football 1985-88
A four-year letterwinner, Jeff Uhlenhake was a first-team All-American and team MVP in 1988, his senior season with the Buckeyes. He was also elected team captain as a senior. In 1986, Uhlenhake was first-team All-Big Ten and helped lead Ohio State to a share of the Big Ten championship. Uhlenhake played in two bowl games, including the Buckeyes’ upset of Texas A&M in the 1987 Cotton Bowl. Uhlenhake went on to play 10 seasons in the NFL.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Whitner's Leadership Extends Beyond the Playing Field

Bills rookie McKelvin feeling right at home

July 6, 2008

Clifton Brown

Rookies often have trouble adjusting to a new team, new city, new system and new coaches. Not Leodis McKelvin. He feels right at home with the Buffalo Bills, thanks to a teammate's welcoming gesture.

McKelvin is staying with Donte Whitner, the Bills' starting strong safety. The living arrangement is temporary, until the rookie cornerback finds his own place. But Whitner's decision to roll out the welcome mat speaks volumes about his role as a team leader and how seriously he takes it.

The Bills have made a huge investment in McKelvin, the No. 11 pick in the draft and the first cornerback selected. They expect him to play well right away and to be a cornerstone in their secondary for years. Whitner, in his third season, plans to help McKelvin realize those expectations with hands-on mentoring and motivation.

Call it a good sign for the Bills, that one of their young players is leading a rookie in a positive direction.

"To succeed in the NFL, it's not only about what you do on the field," says Whitner, who broke into the Bills' starting lineup as a rookie after being selected No. 8 overall in the 2006 draft. "It's the whole package. How much film do you study? How well do you take care of yourself? What choices do you make off the field? It's all part of how successful you become.

"That's why I reached out to Leodis after we drafted him. I'm there for him. He's my new teammate, part of the Bills family, and I want him to do well. The better he plays, the better we'll be. And I'm serious about winning."

When asked if he expects the Bills to make the playoffs, Whitner makes it clear how serious he is. "Do I expect us to make the playoffs?" he says. "I'm guaranteeing it." He has delivered that message to McKelvin, who was rated by many scouts as the best cornerback in the draft.

"He drives on the football; he has tremendous opportunity to play in the punt return game," says Mike Mayock, draft analyst for the NFL Network. "When you watch coaches tape, you can really see the quickness and the change of direction. The only thing he doesn't have is ball skills. He gets his hands on an awful lot of footballs without intercepting them. But I haven't seen him miss a tackle in the tapes I watched."

When McKelvin was drafted, he had no idea Whitner would take such a personal interest in him. Giving someone defensive keys is one thing. Giving someone the keys to your house is another.

"I was a little surprised when Donte said I could stay with him," says McKelvin, a native of Georgia who played at Troy. "But that shows you what kind of guy he is."

McKelvin and Whitner watch tapes together in the theater in Whitner's basement. Of course, not all of their time is spent focusing on work. They love to play Madden.

"Beat him all the time," says Whitner.

Maybe McKelvin is just being a gracious guest. But according to Whitner, they get along famously, listening to the same kind of music, enjoying many of the same television shows. Although McKelvin is the rookie, he is less than two months younger than Whitner.

"Leodis isn't a big talker--he's a doer," says Whitner. "We have the same kind of personality. It works."

Veterans who are team leaders have something to gain by taking an active role in helping rookies get acclimated to the NFL. The quicker the rookies figure it out, the better the team does. And how many stories do we read about players getting in trouble off the field? Whitner believes close bonds between teammates can help avoid that.

"I'm not saying that young guys will never get in trouble if they have vets looking after them," says Whitner. "But having a support system helps. Seeing older guys do the right thing has a tendency to rub off."

Shortly after the Bills open training camp in late July, they will elect team captains for next season. Here's a suggestion for the Bills: Elect Whitner as a captain. Obviously, he is already acting like one.

Clark's Contract a Market Exploding Package

May 8, 2008

What's more likely: Browns tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. getting a new contract that tops the recent TE deal signed by Dallas Clark of Indianapolis - or "Speed Racer" becoming the hit movie of 2008? Well, start humming the "Speed Racer" theme song. Clark's contract is such a sweet, market-exploding package that, years from now, students in Contract Negotiation 101 classes across America will be studying it. (Clark got a six-year, $41 million deal - even though he's never played in a Pro Bowl.) There's no way Winslow will get any new deal as juicy as that one.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Pierre Woods Ready for Breakout Year


Inside The AFC

July 7, 2008

NEW ENGLAND -- This might be the year LB Pierre Woods, who signed with the Pats as an undrafted free agent in 2006, breaks out. He already is one of the most valuable members on special teams and could get time as a backup outside- he’s long and rangy and has a good motor.

Glen Mason a Terrific Analyst

July 3, 2008

You had to see this coming, the placement of the Iowa-ISU football game on the Big Ten Network.

The BTN announced its early season schedule Tuesday. The Hawkeyes will play Maine and Florida International at 11 a.m. Week 3, the Hawkeyes will host Iowa State at 11 a.m. on the Big Ten Network.

Elizabeth Conlisk, VP of communications for the BTN, wouldn’t reveal where the Iowa-ISU game fit in the TV pecking order for week 3. ABC gets the top pick of Big Ten games. It globbed onto Oregon at Purdue, an attractive interdivisional matchup.

“We’re very happy with all the Iowa games that we’ll have on,” Conlisk said. The BTN has six Iowa games, including 11 a.m. games against Northwestern and at Michigan State and a 6 p.m. kickoff against Minnesota in the UM’s finale in the Metrodome.

ESPN or ESPN2 ended up with Florida Atlantic at Michigan State. Iowa-ISU and the rest (all D-minus scrimmage material) are on BTN.

I’m thinking Iowa-ISU was the second pick. Even with both teams coming off subpar seasons, it’s an interdivisional intrastate game that carries a bit more cache than FAU-Michigan State. (Although, FAU is coming off a Sunbelt Conference title.)

So, just as it sits at the table with Mediacom — Conlisk said the BTN and the ‘com are negotiating — the BTN plops down a gigantic stack of $100s. Mediacom serves about 75 percent of the state and 110 percent of the state is going to want the Iowa-ISU game. The two have been negotiating for more than a year with no success. Two weeks ago, the BTN and Comcast reached an agreement. Both sides made concessions. At the time, a Mediacom representative said it was a sign of hope. Time will tell.

The two sides are talking and the clock is ticking for the upcoming football season.

Meanwhile, the BTN will kick off some football preview programming with a 5 p.m. show Friday highlighting the conference’s newcomers. At 10 a.m. Saturday, a show on the BT’s running backs will debut. (The Iowa segment will probably be pretty short.) The quarterbacks preview will debut July 12 at 10 a.m.

Conlisk also said the BTN plans to broadcast from open practices in August, just as it did with spring games this March.

The BTN is a pretty good product, though I can’t really comment much beyond football. I think Glen Mason is a terrific analyst. Dave Revsine is an excellent studio host. Gerry DiNardo has been there and done that in coaching, so I respect his opinion. I’ll be interested in seeing what kind of tweaking it does in it second year.

Maybe you guys will get to form your own opinion this year.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Katie Smith Named WNBA Player of the Week

June 9, 2008

Katie Smith of the Detroit Shock and Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury were named the WNBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Monday, June 2 through Sunday, June 8.

Katie Smith collects her fourth-career Player of the Week award after a week in which she reached the 30-point plateau twice and averaged 27.0 points per game, 3.7 rebounds per game and 2.0 assists per game, while shooting 45.8 percent (27-59) from the field and 40.0 percent (12-30) from behind the arc. Powered by Smith’s consecutive 30-point outbursts, the Shock went 2-1 on the week.

Smith’s 33 points in the 77-67 Detroit win over Seattle on June 4 marked her best scoring output as a member of the Shock, tied the team high for 2008 (Deanna Nolan, May 23 at Atlanta) and ranked fifth in franchise history for a single game. With 2:10 remaining in the matchup, Seattle pulled within three points, until Smith countered with a 3-pointer to lengthen the lead and seal the victory.

On June 6 at Sacramento, the two-time Olympic gold medalist drained seven three pointers, one short of tying the WNBA single-game record (8, Taurasi, Aug. 10, 2006). Her seven threes on twelve attempts outscored the entire Monarchs team from long distance (2-13). Early in the contest, she tied the franchise record for points in a quarter (15, first quarter).

A six-time All-Star and two-time member of the All-WNBA First Team, Smith is averaging 16.8 points per game this season to go along with her 3.0 assists per game.

Dallas Clark raises $18k for disaster relief

June 30, 2008

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa - Indianapolis Colt tight end Dallas Clark has turned his autograph into money for disaster relief in Iowa.

The former University of Iowa football standout signed autographs Sunday at Jordan Creek Town Center in West Des Moines, asking people to donate $20 to help Iowans affected by flooding and tornadoes.

After signing autographs for more than four hours, Clark, a Livermore, Iowa native, raised more than $18,000.

Clark, who still lives in Livermore part of the year, says he wanted to do something to help Iowans affected by the floods and tornadoes.

Popular Posts