Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Miami's Shannon winning off the field

July 28, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Despite the mounting pressure for him to win, there are certain things Miami coach Randy Shannon doesn't have to worry about entering his third season as head coach. He doesn't have to go into the locker room to make sure the players are keeping it neat. He doesn't have to be on campus making sure the players are in class. He trusts the players who are of drinking age know when to call it a night.

"That's easy for me now," Shannon said.

Not all of the positive changes at Miami during Shannon's short tenure have showed up in the win column. At the ACC Football Kickoff, I got a chance to ask him what he thought about his neighboring rivals being in the news so much for off-field incidents when Miami has had no reports of legal troubles. That's right, none. Florida State and Florida, however, could combine to field an entire team of players who have run into trouble with the law in the past year.

"I feel bad for other schools because we're all coaches and we're part of a coaching family and everybody goes through it," Shannon said. "When it hits you, you just have to weather the storm and get back in control of it. That's one thing we've done -- we went out and recruited the right type of players that are great athletes, great students, and the only thing they believe in is Miami. What I mean by that is they're going to represent the University of Miami, they love the University of Miami and the players on the team and that's the only thing they think about.

"Also we go into places that have winning programs," he said. "If you go look at what we've done in three years, you're going to see a lot of players from winning and state championship programs, and it's like anything -- if you're used to winning, it's going to come, and when it comes, it's going to be hard to stop."

It's only a matter of time before it starts.

Look for Colts TE to have a monster season

July 29, 2009

NC Sports clients lead Browns' special teams

Kick game more than numbers

Key is production, not time on the field

July 29, 2009

Tony Grossi

One of the common exaggerations in the NFL is that the kicking game is one-third of the total game. There's offense, defense and special teams, right? And each is weighted equally in the minds of coaches.

However, a review of the statistics would seem to dispel that myth.

Last season, the Browns ran 921 plays on offense and 1,004 on de fense. The total number of plays on special teams - in volving kickoffs and kickoff re turns, punts and punt returns, field goals tried and de fended, and extra points tried and defended - was 369.

That means that in 2008, the Browns spent 44 percent of their time on defense, 40 percent on offense and 16 percent on special teams.

This is not to devalue the importance of special teams. Surely, the Browns have won games - and lost them - primarily because of the play of special teams.

Phil Dawson's two windswept field goals in blizzard conditions against Buffalo in 2007 are an example of how important specialists are. Last year, also against Buffalo, Dawson accounted for 17 points - five field goals and two extra points - in the Browns' 29-27 win. Dawson's career-long 56-yard field goal with 1:39 left in the game provided the winning points. It was his 11th game-winning kick in 10 years with the Browns.

Special teams also account for the "hidden yardage" in games. For instance, when the Browns finished eighth in the NFL in scoring in 2007, their offense was boosted by the best kickoff return unit in the AFC, and second overall in the league. On the average, they took over possession at their 33-yard line after every kickoff - which means they reduced the field to 67 yards.

The new Browns special teams coordinator is Brad Seely, who has coached the kicking game for 20 years in the NFL, the last 10 with the New England Patriots.

Seely brings a solid reputation as one of the best special teams coaches in the league. He inherits a fairly solid nucleus of special teams players here.

“It’s been a team that I’ve played against before and felt like they gave you some real difficulties because of the players,” Seely said. “I think you can always improve that by maybe a change of the scheme, maybe a change of how you are going to get these guys motivated to play a little bit differently or a little harder, or somewhat come across with a different message of how we are going to be successful.”


• Phil Dawson: Made 84.8 percent of field goals last two years, including 16 of 22 from 40 yards or more.
• Parker Douglass: Indoor Football League Kicker was signed in May when Dawson skipped voluntary workeouts.
• Ryan Pontbriand: The AFC Pro Bowl long snapper each of the past two years.
• Dave Zastudil: Has developed into one of the league’s best cold weather punters.

2008 WNBA champ Katie Smith meets President Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama (C) is presented with a basketball by Detroit Shock forward and team captain Cheryl Ford (L) and a jersey by guard Katie Smith (R) during a South Portico event at the White House July 27, 2009 in Washington, DC. The President hosted the Detroit Shock in honor their 2008 WNBA championship season.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images North America)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Iowa Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz signs 7-year, $21 million contract

July 20, 2009 12:50 PM

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Iowa athletic director Gary Barta wasn't worried back in May, and evidently he had no reason to be.

Even though we live in the put-it-in-writing age, Barta knew head coach Kirk Ferentz would eventually sign on the dotted line before the season. Last week, Ferentz came through and signed his new contract, which had been agreed upon back in February.

The new deal takes Ferentz through the 2015 season. It doesn't include any changes to his salary or bonus structure, and he will continue to earn $3.02 million annually. Ferentz enters his 11th season at Iowa and is the Big Ten's second-longest tenured coach behind Penn State's Joe Paterno.

Monday's announcement revealed that Ferentz's new contract will give him access to a private plane for up to 35 hours of personal use each year. Costs for the plane could reach up to $85,000, all of which will come from contributions to Iowa's I-Club booster organizations.

"Kirk is well compensated," Barta said in a statement. "He's earned that opportunity, but he's also greatly appreciative. While we haven't given him a raise the past three years and there isn't one in the new agreement. Access to a plane provides a form of compensation that recognizes the extreme time demands placed on him throughout the year. It's a 24-7 job. This is one way to reduce some of the stress the position places on his personal and family life."

Wonder if can get me the same perk? Ah, to dream.

Anyway, Iowa has to be glad Ferentz is fully on board for the foreseeable future. Despite the program's off-field problems the last few years, things appear to be turning around between the lines. The Hawkeyes come off a victory in the Outback Bowl and likely will enter the fall ranked in the top 20.

The incessant NFL rumors regarding Ferentz don't figure to go away any time soon, but the new contract undoubtedly will aid him and his assistants on the recruiting trail.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Yanda posts fantastic POA

July 27, 2009 Issue

By KC Joyner

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Katie Smith Named to 2009 WNBA All-Star Team

July 20, 2009

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - The WNBA announced today that Detroit Shock guard and 2008 WNBA Finals MVP Katie Smith has been named a 2009 WNBA All-Star Eastern Conference reserve. The All-Star reserves were selected by coaches in their respective conferences. Coaches could not vote for players on their own team The All-Star Game, the ninth in league history, will be held on Saturday, July 25 at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn. and will be televised nationally on ABC at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Smith, who is in her 11th WNBA season, earns her seventh All-Star appearance, second as a member of the Shock, and is the sole representative of the defending champion Shock this year.

Through 13 games this season, Smith is averaging 14.7 points and 2.9 assists.
In her first All-Star appearance as a member of the Shock in 2006, Smith scored 14 points to help the East defeat the West for the first time in league history, 98-82. That made Smith, previously an All-Star for Minnesota (2000-2003, 2005) in the West, the first WNBA player to win the All-Star game as a member of both conferences.

Following are the reserves for the 2009 WNBA All-Star Game:

Eastern Conference Reserves: Western Conference Reserves Katie Smith (Detroit Shock) Guard Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) Guard Jia Perkins (Chicago Sky) Guard Cappie Pondexter (Phoenix Mercury) Guard/Forward Sancho Lyttle (Atlanta Dream) Forward/Center Nicky Anosike (Minnesota Lynx) Center Shameka Christon (New York Liberty) Forward Tina Thompson (Los Angeles Sparks) Forward Asjha Jones (Connecticut Sun) Forward Charde Houston (Minnesota Lynx) Forward Erika de Souza (Atlanta Dream) Forward/Center Sophia Young (San Antonio Silver Stars) Forward

Wilson key to Sooners' machine

Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson was honored with the Frank Broyles Award, given to college football's top assistant coach. Steve Sisney / The Oklahoman file

July 21, 2009

by: JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Writer

Kevin Wilson had an extraordinary year.

The Oklahoma Sooners' offensive coordinator put together the most prolific offense in NCAA history. The Sooners scored more points than any college football team since 1904. They scored 50 points nine times, the most by any team in the history of the game. That included 60 points or more in a record six consecutive games.

The 2008 edition set school records for points and total yards.

OU had the Heisman Trophy winner (Sam Bradford), became the first Big 12 Conference team with two 1,000-yard rushers (DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown) and four offensive first-team All-Americans (Bradford, Jermaine Gresham, Duke Robinson, Phil Loadholt).

Lastly, Wilson was honored with the Frank Broyles Award, given to college football's top assistant coach.

In June, Wilson was given a $100,000 raise, easily the highest on the Sooner staff. But head coach Bob Stoops said Wilson's raise wasn't necessarily a reflection of his 2008 success.

"I think it's a reflection of his success through the years," Stoops said. "It's built and built."

Wilson, 47, came to OU in 2002 as the offensive line coach after three seasons as offensive coordinator under the late Randy Walker at Northwestern. Wilson also was offensive coordinator at Miami (Ohio) from 1992-98.

At both schools, Wilson and Walker helped innovate the current trend of zone-read options for dual-threat quarterbacks, incorporating it into spread formations that Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez originally created on the NAIA level.

"He's one of the early innovators of all of that style of offense, no question," Stoops said.

College football coordinators now command salaries once reserved for head coaches. Oklahoma State's four primary coordinators average $312,500. Elsewhere in the Big 12, Texas' coordinators last year were paid $425,000 each; Texas A&M's averaged $365,000. OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables makes $395,000. Wilson's salary now stands at $385,000.

"You can just look at what's happening around the country," Stoops said. "That's what the market reflects."

Stoops remains impressed with Wilson's track record of adapting his system and play-calling to the Sooner roster, from Adrian Peterson and Jason White to Paul Thompson and Allen Patrick to Sam Bradford and DeMarco Murray/Chris Brown. Ultra-talented players come and go; replacements are either touted or not. But the OU offense continues to set records annually.

"Kevin has been so smart in how he's adapted to our personnel," Stoops said. "He has such an experience in so many different ways in moving an offense; he understands it. He's coached in a variety of spots and he understands, and he plays to our strengths.

"That's a compliment to him and our whole offensive staff. He understands what we're good at and what our personnel is good at."

Wilson's challenge this season: ensure that an almost entirely new offensive line can provide protection for Bradford and give Murray and Brown effective running space.

If four new offensive line starters can't cut it, the Sooner offense could take a significant step back from its 2008 productivity.

"In our world, we have to anticipate the worst and prevent the disaster," Wilson said in the spring. "So I'm anticipating the worst.

"It's no different than a kid taking a foreign language or an upper-level math, where they're learning. These guys are learning how to play hard, and they're learning how to go every day. That's kind of foreign to a lot of people. It's a foreign skill, bringing your best every day.

"It sounds common. But just look in the work force, at your own work environment, and you'll see guys that don't bring it every day. And that's what we're asking these young guys to do."

Monday, July 20, 2009

Where are they now: Gary Walker

By Nick Schenck

July 18, 2009

After a decorated 11-year NFL career with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans, defensive end Gary Walker now enjoys spending his days far away from the spotlight of pro sports.

The two-time Pro Bowler and former Auburn University standout finished playing in 2005, and he now splits his time between expansive ranches that he owns in Texas, Alabama and Georgia, where he grew up. Walker's laid-back lifestyle with his family suits him well, though he feels like he still can play in the NFL.

"When I say I feel like I still can play," Walker said, "that's one of those things where you talk to someone that's been retired from football for 20 years and in their mind they can still do it, but their bodies might say something else. I have plenty of aches and pains."

Known during his playing days as one of the best quotes in the locker room, Walker continues to speak his mind freely. Of retirement, he says that he "was just ready for a change," but admits that the transition isn't easy. Finding things to fill his days can be challenging, but he enjoys checking on his livestock, fishing with his children and doing other recreational activities on his properties.

"One thing you miss when you retire is you miss the locker room, you miss the guys, you miss playing," he said. "In football, every month you have got something going on. In the offseason, you have this month that you have to do workouts.

"That's why before I retired, I pretty much had my (life) set up to what I wanted to do… You can go through stages of retirement where you get out and try to buy happiness and try to fill that void of being in the locker room. Have something to do (when you retire)."

As for what he doesn't miss about playing in the NFL, Walker avoided the obvious choice. Many players despise the dog days of training camp and two-a-days in sweltering heat, but Walker said that losing is what he misses the least. In his four-year career with the Texans, the team's record was 18-46. In his final season, Houston went 2-14.

"It was hard being an expansion team when people expect you to win right then," Walker said. "You lose a game and go to a restaurant and you have everyone that wants to tell you how much you suck.

"That's why I'm glad to see these guys finally getting big contracts, because you get paid to put up with a lot of that. People wanted to basically provoke you. They say stuff to try to provoke you into hitting them or whatever."

The disappointment of the 2005 season led to a new era in Texans history with the arrival of coach Gary Kubiak and the No. 1 draft pick, defensive end Mario Williams.
Walker, who would like to be an NFL scout, has a lot to say about Williams.

"I think Mario Williams is doing way, way, way better than anybody ever expected, and I'm glad to see that more so than anybody because of the heat he took being the No. 1 pick overall in the draft," Walker said. "If you look at the guys (in that draft) who were picked second (Reggie Bush) and third (Vince Young), a lot of times you have to go with what's there and what you see and not necessarily what everybody wants, and I think it's panning out for (the Texans).

"They have a guy who's three years in the league and has been to the Pro Bowl and he'll go to the Pro Bowl from now on as long as they keep good stuff around him."

As for the Texans, Walker believes the team is in position to reach the postseason for the first time in franchise history this season. He finally sees the Texans having enough depth, which he says is difficult for expansion teams to develop.
The key, according to Walker, is continuity on the coaching staff.

"When (Houston) changed coaches from Dom Capers to Kubiak, you go from a 3-4 to a 4-3 (defense), you have to give a guy like (Kubiak) 5-6 years to get his philosophy and his depth on the team," Walker said. "Then, that's when he'll start winning."

Walker saved his boldest assessment of the Texans for the quarterback position. Maybe it's because he spent a career chasing passers in the backfield, but Walker continues to keep a close eye on signal-callers around the NFL. He liked what he saw from Dan Orlovsky last year, despite the Detroit Lions' winless record.

"I think the biggest offseason move (the Texans) made was getting the guy from Detroit, because I think he's the type of quarterback they need in that scheme," Walker said. "He's a big guy that can take a lot of hits. I think he's going to be the future quarterback for the Texans. That's my opinion."

When Walker reflects on his time with the Texans, he does so fondly. Perhaps his only regret is that he wasn't able to play more. He struggled through a myriad of injuries that forced him to miss 18 games in his final three seasons after playing all 16 games and going to the Pro Bowl after the 2002 campaign.

"That 3-4 defense took a lot out of me," Walker said. "That defense, you got hit from angles where you couldn't see people coming. I never did really start having injuries until I got in that defense. It took its toll.

"That defense there is just, I don't know, they can throw that stuff away. It's proven to win, but I tell you, people pay a price for it."

In the Texans' inaugural season, Walker finished with 37 tackles, 6.5 sacks, four pass deflections and a forced fumble, becoming one of the most disruptive defensive forces in the NFL. He counts his most memorable game as the team's 24-6 win at Pittsburgh on Dec. 8, 2002, when the Texans totaled only 47 net yards of offense. Houston scored on two interception returns by cornerback Aaron Glenn, a fumble return and a field goal.

Walker had 1.5 sacks in the game, where the Texans attempted only 10 passes compared to the Steelers' 58.

"One-hundred-and-two plays, that's what I remember about the game," Walker said. "One-hundred-and-two defensive plays."

As the Texans begin to turn the corner as a franchise, Walker says he doesn't take any personal satisfaction in the team's success. Instead, he believes that owner Bob McNair and the team's scouts should be the most gratified.

"When they start winning, I think those guys are the ones who are going to benefit from it the most," Walker said. "I think the owner is the one who deserves most of the credit, because he's the one having to go through most of the heat.

"You take an owner like Bob McNair who is committed to winning, he's going to spend money to get players in there to win."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Smith's jumper gives Shock 79-77 OT win over Sun

July 11, 2009

UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — Katie Smith made a jumper with 6.3 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Detroit Shock a 79-77 win over the Connecticut Sun on Saturday night.

Lindsay Whalen missed a game-tying jumper at the buzzer, sending Connecticut (5-6) to its second straight loss and third in four games.

Detroit (3-7) has beaten Connecticut in 10 of the past 13 matchups.

"Katie Smith makes tough shots," said Connecticut forward Asjha Jones, who was guarding Smith when she made the game winner.

"Asjha came out and I put the ball on the floor," Smith said. "Fortunately, I was able to knock it down."

Connecticut led 77-76 with 55.9 seconds left in overtime. Kara Braxton made a free throw to tie it.

Smith led the Shock with 25 points. Braxton had 14 points and 13 rebounds while Alexis Hornbuckle had 11 points and Cheryl Ford had nine points and 12 rebounds.

Jones led Connecticut with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Whalen had 20 and Kerri Gardin had 12.

Tan White made two free throws with two seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 67.

The Sun led 63-58 in the fourth period, but didn't make a field goal for the final 5:27. The Sun missed 10 straight shots.

"I don't have an answer for this one," Connecticut coach Mike Thibault said. "Right now, our offense is so scattered."

Detroit was whistled for four technical fouls, three in the fourth quarter.

"When you see the coaches care that much and you know they've got your back, you want to do your part," Smith said.

Detroit's bench outscored Connecticut's 36-9.

Connecticut played without forward Tamika Whitmore, who missed the game with a calf injury. It ended Whitmore's streak of 204 straight games played, the longest active streak in the WNBA. Detroit guard Deanna Nolan, its leading scorer, missed the game with a hamstring injury.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Spaeth learning a new language

July 9, 2009

By Teresa Varley

Tight end Matt Spaeth is a soft-spoken, quiet guy, but he his recent actions speak volumes about the type of person he is.

Spaeth has made several visits to the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, most recently learning sign language so that he can communicate with the hearing impaired.

“I have always had an interest in it,” said Spaeth. “I never took it as a class. In college I had teammates that took it as a second language. On away trips I had teammates that would teach me it on the plane.”

Spaeth is used to a lot of information coming at him fast and furious in offensive meetings when the game-plan is installed, but it was a whole different story when he got his first signing lesson.

“It’s amazing how fast they do it,” said Spaeth. “It’s new to me, but it seems like they are going a million miles an hour. One of the first things they taught me to sign was can you repeat it slower. They have to really go slow for me. For my first time I thought it went well. I picked it up fast.”

His first lesson included most of the basics, learning the alphabet, numbers and normal greetings such as what is your name and how are you doing. He also learned a few things that the kids in the class thought might benefit a football player.

“They taught me football stuff,” said Spaeth. “One of the things they taught me to sign was, ‘You’re blind ref.’ There were a few other things I shouldn’t say but are funny. They showed me how to say hi to them if the camera was on me.

“I was recently at a baseball game and I saw some people signing. I wish I knew more so I could have gone over there and tried talking to them. I didn’t remember enough.”

He is hoping that next time he sees someone signing he will be able to communicate with them. He plans on being a regular visitor to the school, learning as much as he can.

“It was a very enjoyable experience,” said Spaeth. “It was a small group I worked with. At first everyone was a little shy. But by the end of the time I was there we were having a good time. They were saying some funny things that had to be translated for me and it was fun.”

Friday, July 10, 2009

Former NFL Player to Help Build House

July 9, 2009
NEWARK -- Jeff Uhlenhake, a former NFL center, will help the Licking County chapter of Habitat for Humanity build a home at 106 Penney Ave. in Newark from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Uhlenhake, a Newark Catholic graduate, went on to star at Ohio State and was inducted into the Ohio State Varsity "O" Hall of Fame in 2008. He is a strength coach at Ohio State.

Licking County Habitat for Humanity and Habitat for Humanity International provide affordable housing to those who do not qualify for conventional mortgage financing.

To volunteer to help build houses with Habitat for Humanity or to apply for consideration for a house, call the local chapter at (740) 788-8778.

Shannon Johnson's arrival key to Storm's success

By Steve Kelley

July 10, 2009

After two disappointing, disappearing road losses in a row, the Seattle Storm needed to win this Tuesday matinee against San Antonio.

Needed to win, because the WNBA season, unlike the NBA's, is a sprint and the season already is about one-third gone.

The Storm needed this game because road losses at Los Angeles and Phoenix were 911 calls that had to be answered swiftly.

The Storm came into this game against San Antonio looking to find more offensive threats, looking for the nose-bloodying defense that abandoned it on the trip south.

It had to find more scoring punch. Every game can't be Lauren Jackson-Sue Bird-Swin Cash and little else.

The Storm came into The Key looking for a spark.

Shannon Johnson delivered it.

In the third quarter, with Jackson jammed up by the swarming Silver Stars' defense and the game teetering back and forth, backup point guard Johnson breathed fire into the afternoon.

A skittering, scatback of a guard, the 5-foot-7 Johnson made life uncomfortable for San Antonio's All-Star guard Becky Hammon and she helped the Storm find its offensive rhythm.

"Some of the plays she made in that third quarter really changed the game," said Jackson, who suffered through a 1-for-11 afternoon. "She can jump. She can rebound. She gives us some veteran leadership. And she takes the pressure off Sue at the point and allows Sue to score, because Sue's a natural scorer."

In the game-changing third quarter, Johnson sneaked into the lane, rebounded Jackson's air ball and scored. She drove hard to the basket, drew a foul on Sophia Young and converted both free throws. And, near the end of the quarter, she scored on a six-foot runner in the lane.

After trailing 35-33 early in the quarter, the Storm (7-4) led 49-41 after three, in a game it eventually won 66-53. In 22 minutes, Johnson had eight points, five rebounds, an assist, a steal and was a large part of the reason Hammon finished 3 for 9 from the field.

After the last home game against Los Angeles, Storm coach Brian Agler admitted he needed to get more players involved. He had to use his bench better and more often.
Enter the point guard they call Pee Wee.

"Shannon's just a veteran player in this league," Agler said. "She's got a wealth of experience. She understands the league and the game real well. And she's got some toughness to her."

Johnson, who was signed as a free agent during a rather quiet offseason for Seattle, is the biggest upgrade from last season.

Her ability at the point frees Bird to move to shooting guard for large chunks of the game. Unburdening Bird of some point-guard minutes keeps her fresh for these final two-plus months of the season.

"Pee Wee can score too, but she can run the team and allow me to become more of a scorer, said Bird, who scored 17 points. "Rather than me having to come down and set the offense up, she does that."

Johnson is the Storm's best backup since Tully Bevilaqua played behind Bird on the 2004 WNBA championship team.

"When you're at the two, it's a lot easier just to be a scorer," Bird said. "Somebody's telling you what play to run. You're not thinking about, 'Is everybody in the right setup?' You don't have to worry about those little things. You can just kind of score."

Johnson, who turns 35 next month, is perfect for the job. She is a four-time All-Star and the Storm is her sixth team in 11 years. In 2007, she won a WNBA championship as a backup point for the Detroit Shock. She won Olympic gold playing point guard for the U.S. in Athens in 2004.

And, after eight seasons playing against Bird, she knows Bird's game and knows how and when to get her the ball.

"I'm the point guard who can help Sue and give Sue a break. Let her come off of some screens and let her just put the ball in the hole," Johnson said. "When Sue has the ball, good things happen for us. As a point guard, you have to take care of the ball and get the ball to her when she's ready to take the shot."

One third of the way through the season, just in the nick of time, Agler has found Johnson, another answer to this riddle of a season.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Safety Michael Johnson's New York Giants summer questionnaire

July 2, 2009

By Mike Garafolo

William Perlman/The Star-LedgerSafety Michael Johnson had two interceptions last season, but he's hoping to grab more in 2009.

He came into the NFL two years ago as a seventh-round pick at the back end of a crowded draft class. Now, safety Michael Johnson is a second-year starter and a key member of the Giants' secondary. He's the latest installment of our Giants summer questionnaire series:

What are your plans for the break?
"I'll be working out back in Arizona with my strength coach from college. He's a real good trainer. All the exercises I've been introduced to here I'd already done them with him, so I was able to transition into the workouts at this level real well. Everything has been like second nature to me."

What are your individual goals for this upcoming season? "Last year, I was second on the team in tackles. This year, I want to push A.P. (Antonio Pierce) and everybody else and try to lead the team in tackles. Personally, I want to grab more interceptions. I want more than the two I had last year. Basically, I want to up all the stats this year."

Excluding yourself, who's going to be the breakout player on this team this year? "I think it's going to be (Aaron) Ross. His style of play is less by the book. Some breaks he makes or plays he makes, it's unorthodox the way he breaks sometimes. It might look funny, but he gets there. He's a playmaker, and that's what I say."

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Stoops brothers give back to area at Camp of Champions

By JOHN VARGO Tribune Chronicle

July 1, 2009

From left, brothers Ron and Bob Stoops talk with Cardinal Mooney athletic director Don Bucci on Monday at Cardinal Mooney's Camp of Champions.

YOUNGSTOWN - Bob Stoops' gait wasn't that fast Monday. He took the time to enjoy the sights and talk to a few friends.

As he approached the Cardinal Mooney High School football practice field, it reminded him that he's a long ways from Oklahoma University.

"I love being back in the Valley seeing family and friends," said the Sooners football coach, who is heading into his 11th season in Norman, Okla. "There's nothing like it - seeing young kids coming out playing football and around Cardinal Mooney."

Bob, Ron and Mark Stoops, all Cardinal Mooney graduates, were at the Cardinals' Camp of Champions, which ended Tuesday.

"It's one big happy family and we enjoy spending some time with each other," said Mark, the defensive coordinator for his brother, Mike, at the University of Arizona.

You could say it's a vacation for Bob and Mark to return back home, but there's a lot of people demanding their time. Ron said their families go to the beach to get away.

"Here, we get spread thin with everybody else," said Ron, a Cardinal Mooney assistant coach.

This week, it was about guiding those young campers.

"You can see the kids are eager and they want to learn," Mark said. "They took the time to come here to camp. So, you want them to take something away to improve a little bit or work a little harder and also have some fun."

Arizona went 8-5 last season and Mark said he's looking forward to the upcoming campaign.

"We feel we have a good team coming in and excited about another year," he said.

Bob's Oklahoma team advanced to the BCS title game but lost to Florida. It was a successful season for the Sooners, nonetheless. He feels Oklahoma football can bring plenty of excitement to those in Norman.

"It's exciting. You wish you could be one game better," Bob said. "That's how it goes though. I'm proud of our players. They played hard throughout the year. Even though the championship game, they had a few more plays than we did and that's how it goes sometimes.

"Still, I'm proud of our players and people in our program to have gotten to that point. Hopefully, we'll get over the top."

Ron, on the other hand, is happy that Bob, one of the nation's high-profile coaches, can find time to come back to the Camp of Champions each year.

"Bob has been fantastic, so helpful to us," Ron said. "I really can't put it into words. I can't say enough to what he's doing, the commitment to the school and the program. He's been extremely generous with his time and resources. He's been a great brother and a great friend. He's been a great supporter for this community."

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