Thursday, July 29, 2010

Troy Smith made my day

July 28, 2010

By Jill Donahue

Today I want to talk about minimalism in a different way -- in the context of how little it can take to make someone's day.

Yesterday, we went out to the Baltimore Ravens' training camp in Westminster, Maryland. I'd never been before, but I live with three sub four-foot football fans -- one of whom is a die-hard Ravens-backer. It was a lovely day, the first below 90 degrees in recent memory, with the sun shining and a light breeze. We had fun watching the rookies and quarterbacks run through their various drills -- and spotted a surprising number of veterans, including Haloti Ngata, Ed Reed (yes, I know, but my boys still love him), Mark Clayton, and Jarrett Johnson.

It wasn't crowded, owing in large part to the fact that most of the veterans are not at camp yet and because autographs are given only after the morning practice. Or so we thought. At the end of the afternoon practice, 2006 Heisman Trophy winner and backup quarterback Troy Smith unexpectedly jogged over to the sidelines and began to sign autographs. It probably only took a quarter of an hour, if that, for him to work his way down the line of autograph seekers. It's not as if Smith had to go far out of his way -- he probably hit the showers about the same time as the rest of the Ravens. Maybe Smith did it because he suspects his days in Baltimore are numbered. Who knows? Who cares? His mere attention for those few minutes suggested a generosity of spirit that made a number of little kids' -- and thus their parents' -- day.

What's the (minimalist) point? That even the smallest kindness -- try a smile -- can make a big difference. Maybe not for a lifetime, but for one day, one hour, one moment. Yesterday, Troy Smith made my day.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Iowa Sports Hall of Fame:Barry Alvarez fueled football legacy in Mason City


JULY 25, 2010

The walls of apathy crumbled when Barry Alvarez arrived in Mason City.

It was 1976 — a time when bell-bottoms were more common than barbells – and the 29-year-old coach ushered in a new era of Mohawk football by renovating the high school’s training facilities.

“He and the assistant coaches went in there with a sledge hammer,” recalls Scott Raridon, a former offensive lineman. “They say in ‘77 he had the nicest weight room in the state … and it was built by hand.”

A state championship followed in ’78, establishing the blueprint for achievement that Alvarez would use while transforming Wisconsin into a Big Ten Conference powerhouse of the 1990s.

He now becomes the 203rd inductee to the Des Moines Sunday Register’s Iowa Sports Hall of Fame.

“I think his players just thought the world of him,” former Iowa coach Hayden Fry said. “And, of course, when they really like a coach, they’re going to listen to him.”

Alvarez was a member of Fry’s Hawkeye staff from 1979-86, then served as linebackers coach and later became the defensive coordinator for Lou Holtz at Notre Dame.

He also played linebacker for the iconic Bob Devaney at Nebraska from 1965-67. But his blunt, hands-on approach to the game was developed in the steel-mill town of Langeloth, Pa., where Alvarez’s family settled after his grandparents immigrated to the United States.

“I’m very proud of my heritage,” Alvarez said. “My family comes from Northern Spain. I still have uncles, aunts and cousins back there.”

The man who would guide Wisconsin to three Rose Bowl victories was a successful coach in Lexington, Neb., before being lured to Mason City.

He inherited a team in need of remodeling.

“The enthusiasm was just gone,” Raridon said. “They were getting 30 kids out for football and hadn’t won a game in so long. The program was just a disaster.”

The 6-foot-3 Raridon figured his athletic future would be in basketball.

Instead, with Alvarez providing a nudge, he would go on to earn all-America honors as an offensive tackle for Nebraska.

“If Barry Alvarez doesn’t go to Mason City,” Raridon says, “my whole entire life is different. No doubt about it.”

Alvarez secured the money for state-of-the-art workout equipment, then began forming a bond with his players.

Together, they made old Roosevelt Stadium, located on Pennsylvania Avenue, a Friday night hot spot.

“There are some who lead and coach by fear,” Raridon said. “And there are some who lead and coach by loyalty. Barry Alvarez is a loyalty guy. As a player, you just absolutely did not want to let him down.”

The Mohawks lost just once — a triple-overtime defeat to Fort Dodge — en route to the 1978 Class 4-A state championship. When they beat the Dodgers in a playoff semifinal, a pep rally was held at a disco hall known as “The Runway.”

Alvarez celebrated by having his head shaved and selling the hair as part of a fund-raiser.

“I thought it was a great town,” said Alvarez, who is now the Wisconsin athletic director. “I thought it was a very active town, people who got involved.

“It was a fun time.”

It also proved to be a turning point for Alvarez, who was hired by Fry a few months later.

“My theory was, to do a good job of recruiting Iowa, I needed to have a couple successful high school coaches from the state,” said Fry, who took over the Hawkeye program in ‘79. “When I had him come in for an interview, he was extremely impressive, fundamentally very sound in coaching communication.”

Alvarez joined a fraternity of assistants that included future Division I coaches Kirk Ferentz (Iowa), Bill Snyder (Kansas State) and Dan McCarney (Iowa State).

“Barry relates very well with people,” Ferentz said. “And the players responded to him in a very, very strong way.”

Alvarez spent three seasons at Notre Dame, helping the Fighting Irish post a 32-5 record and winning a national title in 1988.
Holtz eventually promoted him to assistant head coach.

“They both had different philosophies, yet they were both sound,” Alvarez said when asked to compare Fry and Holtz. “There is different ways to get the job done, which told me to build my own.”

He was given that opportunity at Wisconsin, which went 6-27 from 1987-89.

The Badgers were 1-10 in 1990, Alvarez’s first year.

“I remember being over at Northwestern, and getting pummeled pretty good,” former Iowa and Wisconsin assistant Bernie Wyatt said. He also remembers telling Alvarez, “Jeez, we’ve got a long way to go, Barry.”

Alvarez responded: “We’ll get there.”

“That’s the way his demeanor was,” Wyatt said. “You can’t go in with any negatives.”

Again, Alvarez sparked donors and upgraded the weight-lifting facilities.

The payoff was a share of the Big Ten crown in 1993, and a 21-16 triumph over UCLA in the Rose Bowl.

“It’s just phenomenal,” Ferentz said. “They had really fallen off … Things just kind of dropped off the table there for a little while. It was really amazing to see how they built the program back up, and the level of success that they experienced.”

Alvarez posted a 118-73-4 record before retiring after the 2005 season, making him the winningest coach in school history.

He also boasts a growing list of ex-assistants with notable careers, such as Bill Callahan, who led the Oakland Raiders to a Super Bowl, Brad Childress, the current coach of the Minnesota Vikings, and Bret Bielema, who succeeded Alvarez at Wisconsin.

The foundation, however, is still fortified by the relationship Alvarez maintains with his players.

“It’s just an aura about him, or something,” said Raridon, whose son, Scott Jr., played at Mason City and later Notre Dame. “You can tell he cares, and it reflects. I guarantee you he could call players from the 1970s, ’90s, 2000s, and if he needed it, they would all rally behind him. “No doubt about it.”

Experts: KSU case tough to make

School faces difficult argument in saying Krause lacked authority to make contract with Prince


July 24, 2010

Michael McCann has watched plenty of sports stars squirm.

As's sports law expert, McCann wrote about Roger Clemens on Capitol Hill and Barry Bonds in federal court. As a professor at Vermont Law School, he published an influential opinion on American Needle v. NFL, the recent Supreme Court case involving antitrust issues in professional football.

But no, he hasn't seen a case quite like this one.

"This is the first case of its kind that I'm aware of," McCann said, "in terms of an athletic director appearing to represent the university, executing a contract and the school trying to get out of it."

McCann was referring, of course, to Kansas State's lawsuit against former football coach Ron Prince. K-State is seeking to nullify Prince's $3.2 million buyout agreement, negotiated and allegedly concealed by former athletic director Bob Krause.

The case hinges on the validity of a two-page Memorandum of Understanding, signed by Krause and Prince, that calls for Prince to begin receiving a series of deferred payments in 2015. K-State contends the MOU is not a valid contract, a point that could be difficult to prove in court, McCann said.

"Under contract law, if it looks like a contract, it often is, particularly when there is something called consideration," McCann said. "If each party is giving up something, then normally the court will find that there is consideration between them. And if there's consideration, there's normally a contract.

"From what I can tell, coach Prince is saying, 'Look, in exchange for me giving up the pursuit of a different kind of contract, I'm agreeing to the memorandum, and you're getting financial stability. We're each giving something up.'"

The issue of consideration depends on the relationship between Prince's public employment contract and the MOU, said Washburn law professor Michael Hunter Schwartz.

"If both parties understood this was all part of one deal," Schwartz said, "that argument won't carry the day."

Krause's authority is another point of contention. K-State contends Krause was not authorized to negotiate on behalf of the university, though McCann considers that argument a tough sell.

"If it's absolutely clear that he didn't have authority, and everyone knew he didn't have authority, that's one thing," McCann said. "One would think that an athletic director has sufficient authority to represent the university in contractual negotiations for a coach."

When asked to document his authority during contract negotiations, Krause pointed to a provision in the by-laws of K-State's Intercollegiate Athletic Council authorizing him to "enter into any contract or execute and deliver any instrument in the name of and on the behalf of the Corporation" as CEO.

Even if Krause didn't have actual authority, Schwartz said, Prince's attorneys can claim he had apparent authority by virtue of his position.

"There are two ways a person can have authority," Schwartz said. "They can either have actual authority — someone said, 'You have power to do this' — or you can have apparent authority. Even if (Krause) wasn't actually given the authority to do it, his role at K-State made it look like he was in a position to make these kinds of decisions."

Still, McCann said, attacking Krause's authority could be K-State's best strategy.

"If K-State can somehow argue that coach Prince and his representatives knew with certainty that the athletic director had no authority to negotiate a contract, maybe their argument would have some weight," McCann said. "I think that would be their best play."

K-State has argued that Krause acted alone, though the former athletic director testified that he discussed the separate buyout agreement with aides Jim Epps and Bob Cavello. Epps and Cavello denied that claim in depositions.

Even if Krause was a rogue actor, McCann said, it doesn't absolve K-State of responsibility.

"Their argument might be, 'This was the renegade athletic director, and not only was he the renegade athletic director, but everyone knew that,'" McCann said. "That, of course, is kind of a weird argument. Why was there a renegade athletic director?"

Both sides have filed motions for partial summary judgment, essentially asking the court to rule in their favor without a trial. The case likely won't be resolved that easily, Schwartz said.

"Summary judgment is one of the least frequently granted motions in court," Schwartz said. "If there's even a question of credibility, you want a jury to decide that."

Friday, July 23, 2010

NFL Tight End Matchup Nightmares

#1 Dallas Clark, Colts

He can go inside, outside, short or long. Oh, yeah. The guy throwing him the ball isn't bad, either. Sure, Peyton Manning still has Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon, with Anthony Gonzalez returning, as targets. But that only makes matching up with Clark all the more difficult.

#2 Antonio Gates, Chargers

#3 Jason Witten, Cowboys

#4 Vernon Davis, 49ers

#5 Tony Gonzalez, Falcons

#6 Brent Celek, Eagles

#7 Visanthe Shiancoe, Vikings

#8 Kellen Winslow Jr., Bucs

#9 Owen Daniels, Texans

#10 Jermichael Finley, Packers

Diaco good fit as ND defensive coordinator

July 22, 2010

By Wes Morgan

All eyes are trained on first-year coach Brian Kelly as the Notre Dame football team tries to pull out of a three-season dive, but the peripheral focus is certainly on Bob Diaco this fall.

The defensive coordinator is the true wild card on staff with only two years of experience in that capacity prior to following Kelly to South Bend – which included sharing duties at Central Michigan in 2005.

The former all-Big Ten linebacker at Iowa inherits eight returning starters at Notre Dame, which was particularly ineffective in stopping the run in a 4-3 base defense in 2009. The Irish, 89th in the nation in rushing defense, gave up just over 170 yards per game.

What should be encouraging for Fighting Irish fans, who will see a return to a 3-4 look, is that Diaco has a proven track record of developing talent the same as his boss. Perhaps the best example of that ability is from his brief stop in Kalamazoo, Mich., in 2004.

In his only season at Western Michigan, Diaco, in charge of linebackers and special teams, converted redshirt freshman running back Amir Ismail into an unlikely star at linebacker. Ismail would serve as the Broncos’ backbone and his senior campaign netted 17 sacks, including six against Ball State that tied the NCAA single-game record.

“He’s a good teacher,” Ismail said of Diaco. “I wanted to give it a shot and it was a good opportunity to get on the field. He coached me up every week and put me in the right position. Everyone sees his intensity on the field and that passion rubs off. I think he's going to do a great job.”

Former Irish defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta – with a resume far more impressive than Diaco’s – wasn’t lacking passion working alongside Corwin Brown last season. What appeared to be missing, however, was the dexterity to inspire a unit that was sluggish and often falling short in terms of basic fundamentals.

Last year Diaco oversaw a Cincinnati defense that replaced 10 starters and accomplished more than statistics suggest. The Bearcats, with seven fresh faces up front, finished the year among the top 10 in sacks and tackles for a loss.

“Coach Kelly is a developmental coach,” Diaco said when he was hired. “He, like [former Iowa coach Hayden] Fry, has built his resume and success story on taking a young man from whatever level he's at to way beyond the same way: spiritually, community, academically, physically. He's a great manager of men and a great energizer of men. He can mobilize a group of coaches or administrators or alumni and just make everyone feel so great about what they are about to do and have everyone buy in 100 percent. He's a real craftsman in that way. Those are a lot of the principles I have picked up from coach Kelly.”

KSU attorney: Hasty changes made in Prince deal

Jacque Butler represented K-State in contract negotiations

By Austin Meek

July 22, 2010

Between the dentist's office and the ultrasound appointment, Jacque Butler had one more errand to run.

Butler, an attorney who represented Kansas State University in negotiations with former football coach Ron Prince, testified that she removed key safeguards from Prince's contract during a hurried lunch break without considering the potential ramifications.

"I was directed to make specific changes and I just didn't consider what those were," Butler said during a May 12 deposition obtained by The Topeka Capital-Journal.

Those changes allowed for the creation of Prince's $3.2 million memorandum of understanding, the agreement at the heart of K-State's legal battle against its former coach. Prince was fired in November 2008, months after he signed a new five-year contract and the controversial buyout addendum.

K-State has filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the separate buyout agreement, arguing that former athletic director Bob Krause acted outside his authority in contract negotiations.

Butler, Krause and other university officials provided depositions in April and May. Attorneys for both sides were scheduled to make oral arguments in Riley County District Court this week, but the hearing was postponed when District Judge Meryl Wilson recused himself from the case.

The case has been reassigned to District Judge David Stutzman, who issued the 2002 ruling that allowed 580 WIBW Radio to retain rights to K-State football broadcasts.

According to Butler's deposition, Krause directed her to remove several clauses from Prince's proposed contract in August 2008, days before Prince signed the contract and separate buyout agreement. Butler removed language that established Prince's public contract as the "entire agreement between the parties" and the "full settlement of any claim that coach might otherwise assert against the university."

Butler testified that she wasn't given a reason for the changes and didn't discuss the revisions with anyone at the time.

"I think I made them over a noon hour as I was going from one appointment to the other," she said.

In doing so, Butler admitted she functioned "more like a legal secretary" than an attorney representing K-State in contract negotiations. Butler also acknowledged that, by not considering the impact of the changes, she "probably did not" serve the university as well as she could have.

"I think had I considered it, I probably would have talked to someone about it, but I didn't," Butler said.

Butler, who is no longer employed by K-State, had no further comment when reached Thursday at the office of her current employer, the law firm Smith, Burnett and Larson in Larned.

K-State attorneys have argued that Neil Cornrich, Prince’s agent, was instructed by former athletic director Tim Weiser to deal only with Butler in contract negotiations. But Krause testified that he preferred to deal with the agent directly, and Butler acknowledged she was aware of conversations between Krause and Cornrich.

At Krause's request, Butler e-mailed drafts of Prince's employment agreement to Cornrich, Krause, university president John Wefald, deputy athletic director Jim Epps and associate athletic director Bob Cavello on July 31, 2008, a week before the contract was signed.

"These drafts reflect the changes that you have discussed with Mr. Bob Krause," Butler wrote to Cornrich, using language proposed by Krause. "Mr. Krause will be calling you to discuss these drafts and KSU looks forward to finalizing this matter in the near future."

Attorneys asked Butler if the e-mail represented implicit permission for Krause and Cornrich to speak directly.

"I don't know know that that was my thought process at the time," Butler said.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dallas Clark to Serve as Brickyard Grand Marshal

IMS release

July 21, 2010

Indianapolis Colts tight end Dallas Clark, selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time after the 2009 season, will serve as the grand marshal of the Brickyard 400 on Sunday, July 25 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Clark will wave the green flag to send the field of 43 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers at speed into Turn 1 at IMS. The race starts at 1 p.m. (ET).

“Being a NASCAR fan, it is an honor to be grand marshal for the Brickyard 400,” Clark said. “We were at training camp for so many years prior to this, so it will be my first opportunity to see a race at the Brickyard. I am really excited.”

Clark has spent his entire eight-year NFL career with the Colts and was an integral part of the team’s Super Bowl championship run in the 2006 season. He holds Colts’ career tight end marks for receptions and touchdowns and was the second tight end in NFL history to have at least 100 receptions in one season.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The 10 Greatest Ohio State Buckeye Running Backs

By David Thurman

July 19, 2010

The rich tradition of Ohio State football includes All-Americans at every position. Still, the signature position, at least in the minds of most fans, is tailback. For that reason, we have saved this spot for last, and conclude our series by looking at the 10 greatest halfbacks in Buckeye history.

10. Michael Wiley
He burst onto the scene in 1996, scoring three long touchdowns in his first game as a true freshman, and went on to rush for nearly 3,000 yards in his career, averaging close to six yards per carry. Dangerous as a receiver, too, Wiley was a home run hitter who was always a threat to take it to the house.

9. Raymont Harris
This big guy nicknamed himself "The Ultraback" because of his versatility, and though he played for John Cooper, there is no doubt Woody Hayes would have loved Raymont's power and durability. As a senior, he ran for 1,344 yards, and ranks 10th on the Buckeye career rushing list.

8. Antonio Pittman
Pittman had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, before bolting early for the NFL. All told, Antonio rushed for 2,945 yards in his career, but was often overshadowed by Troy Smith, Teddy Ginn, and company.

7. Robert Smith
When he arrived as a freshman in 1990, it was with lofty expectations, and Smith immediately delivered. Until Maurice Clarret came along, it could be argued that Smith was the most impressive first-year runner in OSU history. Although he only played two seasons, Robert excited fans with his speed, which Indiana coach Bill Mallory described as a "rocket in his butt."

6. Tim Spencer
Sometimes overlooked in discussions of best Buckeye tailbacks, Spencer was a force in the early '80s and still ranks third on the career rushing list with 3,553 yards.

5. Chris "Beanie" Wells
Blessed with an amazing combination of size and speed, Beanie rushed for 1,609 yards as a sophomore, including two 200-yard games. He might have been the front-runner for the Heisman his junior year if not for injuries, but still topped 1,000 yards before heading to the NFL early.

4. Howard "Hopalong" Cassady
The only one on this list I didn't get to see personally, Cassady was a shifty, speedy runner, who scored three touchdowns in his first game at OSU, led the team to a National Championship in 1954, and won the Heisman Trophy in '55.

3. Keith Byars
Big Keith was a massive running back who looked like he should have been on the defensive line, but had amazingly quick feet. He rushed for 1,764 yards and 24 touchdowns as a junior, including a five-touchdown game against Illinois, tying Pete Johnson's team record. Many in college football circles thought he deserved the Heisman that season, but Byars finished second to Doug Flutie. Unfortunately, a broken bone in his right foot kept him from competing for the Heisman as a senior.

2. Eddie George
Tall, strong, and fast, Eddie had a body that looked like it was chiseled out of stone. Although he was plagued by fumble problems early in his career, he went on to rush for 3,768 career yards. His senior season featured a 300-yard game against Illinois (the only in Buckeye history) and two 200-yard games. George finished that season with 1,927 yards, 47 catches, and 25 total touchdowns, which allowed him to bag a ton of hardware, including the Heisman.

1. Archie Griffin
A local legend from Columbus, Archie unexpectedly found himself carrying the ball in the second game of his freshman year, and ended that contest with 239 yards. The only player to lead Ohio State in rushing for four straight seasons, Archie is also the only player in college history to win the Heisman Trophy twice. Possessing quick feet, patience, and an uncanny ability to read blocks, he completed his career with a Buckeye-record 5,589 yards.

Players who were considered but missed the cut: Pepe Pearson, Cal Murray, Carlos Snow, Maurice Clarett, Jeff Logan, Ron Springs, and Jonathan Wells. Other excellent runners like Jim Otis, Bob Ferguson, and John Brockington were included in the list of best fullbacks.

Hope you enjoyed this series, which reminds all Buckeye fans how blessed we have been with great players wearing scarlet and gray through the years

10 Best Players Ever Taken in the NFL Supplemental Draft

By Jay Dee

July 17, 2010

In 1977 the NFL instituted the supplemental draft. They wanted to give players that were unable to enter the regular draft for whatever reason a chance to achieve their dream of playing professional football.

The league also wanted to give teams another opportunity to fill out their rosters in the offseason.

If you count this year's class of BYU running back Harvey Unga and Illinois nose tackle Josh Price-Brent, there have been 40 players taken in the supplemental draft over the years.

Most never had much of an impact, but some were world class steals for the team the took a chance on them.

Let's have a look at the 10 best supplemental draft players taken in the 33-year history of this "second-chance" draft.

5. Mike Wahle-OG-Navy

Mike Wahle played 11 season in the NFL. He's protected Brett Favre, Jake DelHomme, and Matt Hasslebeck in that time.

In 1998, the Green Bay Packers used a second round pick to get Wahle and he never disappointed.

Wahle reached the Pro Bowl in 2005 while playing for the Carolina Panthers.

I've said it before, if you come from the supplemental draft and stay 11 seasons and reach a Pro Bowl, you deserve some recognition.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Top 25 Buckeyes of the Decade: #13 Craig Krenzel

July 19, 2010

By Jim

The Buckeye Battle Cry will be counting down the Top 25 players of the past decade all spring/summer. Every Monday and Thursday, Jim will be announcing a new player. Our #1 player will be presented on Monday, August 30th. Three days later, the 2010 season officially begins.

Craig Krenzel (2002-2003)

Craig Krenzel is the quarterback that finally led Ohio State to the promised land, captaining the team to a national title in 2002 for the first time since 1968.

His unbelievable performances in the clutch made for some heart-attack inducing victories, but a win is a win, and Krenzel’s 24-3 record as a starter speaks for itself.

Krenzel was known as a “game manager,” meaning that he usually wasn’t going to win a game for you by himself, but he was always able to put the team in a position to win by moving the ball down the field when it mattered and avoiding costly turnovers.

Plays like “Holy Buckeye” and the 4th and 14 conversion in the first over time of the 2003 Fiesta Bowl show the when it was crunch time, Krenzel got the job done.

Despite Krenzel’s undeniable ability to perform in the clutch and the fact that his play was always gutsy, he was never flashy or exciting, which is almost certainly why he finds himself at #13 on this list rather than in the top 5.

Even though Krenzel’s reputation as a game manager will stick with him forever, his 4,493 career passing yards are the 9th most all-time at Ohio State and both of his seasons as a starter were top 15 for passing yards by a Buckeye. Throw in two Fiesta Bowl MVPs and if we re-did our voting for this countdown and I think I would bump Krenzel up a little bit higher on my list.

Krenzel was drafted in the 5th round of the 2004 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears. He went 3-2 as a starter as a rookie before sustaining a season ending ankle injury.

In 2005 he was signed by the Cincinnati Bengals and spent the year as the third string QB. An elbow injury that eventually required Tommy John surgery ended his football career in 2006.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Krenzel’s work in the classroom. He graduated with a degree in molecular genetics and was an Academic All-American in 2003.

Krenzel is still active in the Columbus sports scene and can be heard from time to time on 97.1 The Fan as a commentator, mostly during football season.

For representing Ohio State with the utmost class and character in the classroom and on the field as a player and to this day, for leading Ohio State to the promised land in 2002 with ice in his veins, for two Fiesta Bowl MVPs, for a 24-3 record as a starter, and for putting up surprisingly good stats over his career for a “game manager,” Craig Krenzel is #13 on our list of the top 25 Buckeyes of the last decade.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Manningham on a mission

Giants receiver eyes another big season


July 15, 2010

WARREN - Mario Manningham made the rest of the nation know what Warren G. Harding faithful and followers of the Michigan Wolvernines knew years prior.

Super Mario is a prime time, clutch receiver.`

The New York Giants 5-foot-11, 183-pound receiver finished the 2009 season with a career-high 822 yards on 57 receptions and five touchdowns.

He made his presence known early in 2009 against the Cowboys with 150 yards on 10 receptions and a TD - making him a must-have for most fantasy football owners.

Simply, the third-year pro wants more out of 2010.

"Get better than I was last year, get bigger, faster, stronger, know the game more," said Manningham, who played in the Warren G. Harding alumni basketball game Monday.

As for basketball, Manningham was a phenom in high school. WGH coach Steve Arnold tells of the football star being a standout on the hardwood.

"Some people don't realize how great of a basketball player he was," said Arnold, who added teams like Syracuse had a keen interest in Manningham playing basketball for the Orange.

"He had a triple-double against Akron St. Vincent in points, steals and assists. That's pretty special. Obviously him being a receiver, his hand-eye coordinator is really good."

Although basketball isn't intertwined into his life anymore, Manningham does remember when it was.

"I used to miss it, but I don't," he said. "I love football, so I don't miss it too much. When I first left to play college, I missed it - I missed it a lot."

The Giants training camp begins Aug. 1 at the University of Albany, where the team is trying to improve on their disappointing 8-8 record last season.

"(We need to) come out and ball and do what we've got to do to win - take every game at a time and come out and win," Manningham said. "That's all to it, to get better every day."

Monday, July 12, 2010

A look at league’s top assistants


July 11, 2010

This week’s Big 12 Summer Countdown moves away from the men in helmets to the ones wearing whistles around their necks: assistant coaches. More specifically, the following list is a compilation of the Big 12’s top position coaches, the assistants who do the best job at developing their specialized group into productive players on Saturdays. Coordinator duties and recruiting prowess were not taken into account.

Also, a premium was placed on recent results over dusty résumé headlines from a former era. An informal poll of Big 12 writers helped put together this list.

1. Greg Davis, Texas quarterbacks: Major Applewhite. Vince Young. Colt McCoy. Enough said?

Davis’ reputation as a play-caller goes hot and cold with Texas fans, but he has the golden touch with quarterbacks. Among the hardware his QBs have collected: Walter Camp Football Foundation Player of the Year (two); Maxwell Award (two); Davey O’Brien Award (two); Manning Award (two); Big 12 offensive player of the year (four); Big 12 freshman of the year (three); plus two Heisman Trophy second-place finishes.

2. Joe Wickline, Oklahoma State offensive line: With the luxury of just one elite NFL player the last five years, 2010 first-round pick Russell Okung, Wickline has constructed stout O-lines year after year since arriving in Stillwater from Florida. The Cowboys have led the Big 12 in rushing the last four seasons while giving up the fewest sacks, which helps explain Wickline’s six-year contract that pays him $325,000, a stunning figure and job security for a non-coordinator.

3. Cale Gundy, Oklahoma running backs: The former Sooners quarterback and younger brother of Oklahoma State Coach Mike Gundy helped develop two of the most prolific backs in OU history in Adrian Peterson and Quentin Griffin. More recently, this Gundy has successfully finessed a productive back-by-committee approach out of OU’s stable of playmakers. In 2008, Gundy’s tandem of Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray both rushed for 1,000 yards. Last season, the same pair became the first set of OU teammates to score 40 career touchdowns.

4. Andy Hill, Missouri receivers: About to enter his 15th season coaching pass-catchers at his alma mater, Hill has survived a head-coaching change and numerous offensive makeovers in Columbia. And through it all, he’s coached the most productive receivers to play for the Tigers: All-Americans Justin Gage, Jeremy Maclin and Danario Alexander. In 2009, he added MU’s tight ends to his coaching responsibilities.

5. Brent Venables, Oklahoma linebackers: Long considered one of the country’s best defensive coordinators, Venables earns his spot here by churning out scores of All-Big 12 linebackers, first at Kansas State with Jeff Kelly and Mark Simoneau. At OU, the list rewrites itself every year, with Travis Lewis the latest Venables standout.

6. Marvin Sanders, Nebraska secondary: The spotlight shines on Nebraska’s vaunted defensive line — a group coached by coordinator Carl Pelini — but when the Huskers play defense at their Blackshirt standard, Sanders’ defensive backs are a major factor. Last year, his corners and safeties intercepted 18 passes while allowing only seven touchdown passes. In two of the three seasons Sanders has tutored Husker D-backs, NU has led the country in pass efficiency defense, 2003 and 2009. Last year under Sanders’ watch, safety Larry Asante and cornerback Prince Amukamara emerged as first-team All-Big 12 picks. In his first go-around at NU, the Huskers set a school record with 47 takeaways in 2003.

7. Josh Heupel, Oklahoma quarterbacks: Just 10 years ago, Heupel was guiding the Sooners to the national championship. Now he’s one of the hottest young coaches in the country, perhaps the next branch to sprout from Bob Stoops’ coaching tree. In 2007, Heupel developed Sam Bradford into a record-smashing Heisman winner. Last year, when Bradford was lost for the year, Heupel helped salvage the Sooners’ season by preparing redshirt freshman Landry Jones for the job.

8. Duane Akina, Texas secondary: Akina is blessed with elite talent every year, but he continually makes the most of UT’s recruiting hauls. His list of pupils includes consecutive Thorpe Award winners, Michael Huff and Aaron Ross, as well as 2009 All-American Earl Thomas, plus another four Texas DBs currently playing in the NFL.

9. Brian Cabral, Colorado linebackers: The Buffs don’t stockpile athletes like they used to, but the longest tenured Buffs coach in school history — he’s entering his 20th season — is still revered nationally for coaching linebackers. Among his former players are 10 NFL draft picks, from Greg Biekert and Chad Brown to Jordan Dizon.

10. Chuck Long, Kansas quarterbacks: His once sterling reputation took a hit after a failed stint as San Diego State’s head coach, but Stoops’ former quarterbacks coach will try and duplicate his OU results as Turner Gill’s new QBs coach and coordinator in Lawrence.

11. Charlie Dickey, Kansas State offensive line: In his first season at K-State, Dickey built a line of blockers that helped produce Big 12 rushing leader Daniel Thomas. Before arriving in Manhattan, Dickey spent four years running the punishing O-line at Utah.

12. Wally Burnham, Iowa State linebackers: The Cyclones’ grizzled assistant gets the edge over Texas’ Will Muschamp for getting bang for the buck. Last season, Burnham’s unheralded linebacker crew helped hold three conference opponents to 10 points or less, a first at ISU since 1965. Led by former walk-on Jesse Smith, Burnham’s linebackers also contributed to the country’s No. 2 red zone defense.

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