Friday, July 29, 2016

Bob Stoops moved by honor that 'means more to me, maybe, than anything'

Stoops' loyalty, character noticed by other coaches

By Guerin Emig

July 28, 2016

NORMAN — Something momentous happened to Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops last week, something a little more personal than winning a championship, producing an NFL draft pick or capturing some coach of the year award.

“It means more to me, maybe, than anything,” he said Thursday.

ESPN asked Big 12 and Southeastern Conference coaches going through their cycle of interviews on the Bristol campus: “If you had a son who was an elite football prospect and could play for any coach in America other than yourself, who would be your first choice?”

Stoops won
the anonymous poll with five votes, two more than Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio and Stanford’s David Shaw. They could have picked anyone, and they chose him.

It was the second such honor for Stoops,
who tied then-Georgia coach Mark Richt in a similar ESPN poll of 98 FBS coaches in 2014.

I brought it up with Stoops on Thursday, worried he might brush it off like it was a preseason AP vote. I learned immediately I was wrong.

“That my peers, coaches, feel I treat kids the right way,” he said, “I don’t know, hopefully a good role model and mentor to them and coach, as well. It means a great deal to me.”

I should have known better.

I’ve covered Stoops every year at Oklahoma but his first. Ask me to describe him, the first thing that comes to mind is “loyal.” That goes for his players, his staff, his family, his hometown and his buddies. That goes for his profession. Stoops is a coach to the bone.

I’ve lost count of the number of coaches he has referred to as “a friend.” He has vacationed with some, gone on golf trips with others. He has hosted entire staffs, college and high school. He has spoken at clinics. He takes pleasure in the perks of his job, but also the minutiae. So long as it involves coaching, or fellow coaches.

It’s an unbroken rule for Stoops to open postgame news conferences by crediting the opponent and the opponent’s coach. It’s an unbroken rule for Stoops to lament another coach’s firing, to not just say it but mean it. It infuriates him when his players are criticized by media or the general public, and just as much when other coaches are, as well.

“I appreciate and know what they do, and what we all go through,” he said. “We all deal with a lot of the same issues. But we also experience all the positives, too.”

The winning is nice. The money is very nice. The relationships with/influence on kids might be more rewarding than the money. I tend to think men and women decide to coach thinking they can hit all three jackpots.

The best keep at it, winning the most, earning the most and having the most influence along the way. If you are fortunate enough to do all of that at the rate Stoops has, and at a place as relentlessly demanding as OU, it is likely you will eventually be singled out. You will become an example for your industry.

The results of the poll did not surprise Stoops’ staff, or those who know him best.

“Bob stands for all the right things,” said Mike Stoops, the younger brother and longtime defensive lieutenant. “I think he’s humble. His integrity, his development of players, his character … I think it speaks to his character probably as much as anything. He’s very consistent in his approach.”

Joe Castiglione, entering his 18th year as both OU athletic director and Stoops’ boss, introduced his football coach to a room full of boosters Thursday by saying: “Look around at all the incredible things that have happened here. There’s a person that will never take the credit. I know he will always deflect it, but he deserves a heck of a lot of credit. He’s won nine Big 12 championships. … The winningest coach in Oklahoma history. And the person just yesterday, we learned, that most coaches would love to have their son play for.”

It’s a wonderful homage for a man who coaches on behalf of his program and his profession. Maybe the nicest of all.

“I have such respect for all the coaches out there at all levels,” Stoops said. “So yeah, there’s no doubt that that’s very flattering. I’m honored they feel that way.”

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Marshal Yanda is the highest rated guard in Madden 17

By Michael Kaskey-Blomain
July 25, 2016

Marshal Yanda placed favorably in the recently released offensive linemen rankings for EA Sports' Madden 17.

Yanda is the third-ranked OL player behind Joe Thomas and Tyron Smith, but he is the highest overall rated guard in the game. From EA Sports:

"Yanda is the highest OVR rated guard in Madden NFL 17. His 93 strength, 98 run blocking and 96 pass blocking will make him a key to the Ravens' offensive success this season."

Yanda will play a central role in the Ravens success on the virtual gridiron and the real one this season.

Oklahoma Football 2016 Countdown From A to Z

By Chip Rouse
July 26, 2016

Big 12 Media Days, which every year serves as the unofficial start of the college football season for Big 12 teams and fans, has come and gone. What’s left now is the opening of preseason training camp for Oklahoma football and the nine other Big 12 squads in a couple of weeks and getting down to business for 2016.

The Sooners are a consensus favorite to win the Big 12 for the 10th time in the 19 football seasons the conference has been in existence. No other conference team comes close to that domination in the high-stakes, high-revenue sport of college football.

We’ve broken down the 2016 edition of Oklahoma football for you from A to Z:

A – Attendance at Oklahoma football games has been sold out (82,000-plus) for every game in the Bob Stoops coaching era, which commenced in September 1999. That adds up to 104 consecutive sellouts at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. The Sooners are 96-8 at home under Stoops.

B – With junior Samaje Perine and sophomore Joe Mixon minding the store in the Oklahoma backfield, Oklahoma features one of the most lethal running back tandems in college football. The prolific pair ran for more than 2,000 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2015.

C – Oklahoma owns seven national championships in football, the most of any Big 12 school. That ranks third best among all FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) teams, tied with USC, since 1936 (80 years ago), the year of the first Associated Press college football poll. The closest Big 12 team to the Sooners with national titles in football is Texas with four.

D – OU was the top defensive team in the Big 12 last season. Oklahoma led the conference a year ago in scoring defense (22 points per game), pass defense (203 yards per game) and total defense (365 yards per game). The Sooners return six starters on defense from last year’s Big 12 championship team.

E – The ESPN “College GameDay” crew has made 27 appearances in Norman, Okla., for football games. My guess is that No. 28 will be on Sept. 17 for the OU-Ohio State showdown.

F – Oklahoma has been picked to finish first four times in the preseason media poll in the six seasons since the Big 12 championship game was discontinued in 2010, including the preseason poll for the 2016 season.

G – Except for four seasons in the mid-to-late 1990s, Cale Gundy’s entire coaching career has been at Oklahoma. He has been on Bob Stoops’ staff all 17 seasons Stoops has been at OU. The former Sooner starting quarterback (1990-93) coached the OU running backs for 16 seasons, before switching to wide-receivers coach last season. He also serves as the team’s recruiting coordinator, a position he has held for 11 seasons.

H – The Sooners waste little time in 2016 playing in big games. The top-five-ranked Sooners open the season with a road game against the University of Houston, which went 13-1 in 2015, defeated 2013 national champion Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and finished No. 8 in the final AP poll.

I – Oklahoma owns a 73-5-2 record all-time vs. the Iowa State Cyclones. Since the Big 12 came into existence in the 1996 season, the Sooners have a perfect 12-0 mark against the Cyclones. The two teams will meet this season in a Thursday night game on Nov. 3 at Iowa State.

J – With five defensive starters gone from last year’s Big 12 champions, a couple of guys named Jordan are being counted on to play major roles for the Sooners on the defensive side in 2016. Senior linebacker Jordan Evans was Oklahoma’s second-leading tackler last season. Jordan Thomas was a formidable force on the back end of the defense at cornerback, an All-Big 12 First Team selection. Thomas’ status is unclear, however, after being arrested this summer for public intoxication, police interference and alleged assault. He was suspended twice last season for undisclosed violations of team rules. Bob Stoops has not said anything publicly about the latest incident involving their All-Big 12 cornerback.

K – Caleb Kelly, rated as a five-star prospect out of Fresno, Calif., is a first-year Sooner player in the right spot at the right time. With Oklahoma losing three starters at the linebacker position, Kelly could easily earn a starting slot as a true freshman this season. Kelly was rated as the third best player at outside linebacker coming out of the high school ranks.

L – Oklahoma is 34-3 under Bob Stoops coming off a loss. Only three times since Stoops became head coach have the Sooners lost back-to-back games in the same season (1999, 2003 and 2014).

M – The Sooners are led at quarterback by Baker Mayfield, who helped direct Oklahoma to an 11-2 record, a Big 12 championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff last season, his first active season in a Sooner uniform. The former Texas Tech transfer finished fourth in the 2015 Heisman Trophy voting and was granted another year of eligibility this offseason, which means he can play for Oklahoma again in 2017 if he chooses to do so.

N – The Sooners have been near-perfect 17 times in 121 years playing college football. Seventeen times Oklahoma has lost just once in a season. On the other hand, the Sooners have gone undefeated in a season 12 times in their history.

O – In 2016, Oklahoma and Ohio State play the first of a two-game, home-and-home series in successive seasons. The Buckeyes come to Norman on Sept. 17 this season, and the scene shifts to Columbus, Ohio, the following year.

P – Samaje Perine is 1,058 yards shy of becoming the all-time rushing leader at Oklahoma, a school that has featured a number of All-American running backs. Perine has 3,062 rushing yards in his first two seasons at Oklahoma. The great Billy Sims is the OU career rushing leader currently with 4,118 yards. Perine’s presently stands 10th on the all-time list of Sooner career rushing leaders. Joe Washington, Adrian Peterson, Steve Owens and Quentin Griffin rank two through five behind Sims.

Q – Oklahoma outscored its opponents 304-150 in the first two quarters last season. The Sooners really unloaded in the second quarter, owning a 172-95 scoring edge.

R – Sooner offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley enters his second season at Oklahoma. The 32-year-old assistant is considered one of the brightest young offensive minds in college football.

S – Head coach Bob Stoops recorded his 11th season of 11 or more wins last season. His 179 career wins at Oklahoma is the most of any Sooner head football coach. Barry Switzer is second in that category with 157 wins in 16 seasons as the OU head coach.

T – Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley’s Air Raid offense produced 308 passing yards per game and 530 yards of total offense a year ago. That ranked fourth in the Big 12, but the Sooners were seventh in the country in total offense. Sophomore tight end Mark Andrews was a big part of Oklahoma experiencing a rise in passing yardage per game over almost 100 yards from 2014 to 2015. The 6-foot, 6-inch tight end averaged 16.7 yards per catch last season and was on the receiving end of seven touchdown passes. An even greater contribution is expected from the big tight end in the coming season.

U – Only two times in Bob Stoops’ 17 seasons at Oklahoma have the Sooners finished the season unranked (outside of the top 25) in the national college football polls. Oklahoma has ended the season unranked only 22 times since the Associated Press poll, the first national college poll, was established in 1936.

V – After defeating hated rival Texas by over four touchdowns four seasons ago, the Sooners have lost two of the last three Red River Showdowns, and by all rights should have dropped all three. OU posted a 31-26 victory in 2014 but was outgained by more than 230 yards of total offense, most of it through the air, which is not really the Longhorns’ game. That brings us to 2016, with the Sooners certainly seeking some vindication when these two longtime rivals meet for the 111th time at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on Oct. 8.

W – With Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal, the Sooners’ top two receivers a year ago now departed, senior Dede Westbrook will be counted on to step up in their absence. Westbrook caught 46 passes for 743 yards and four touchdowns last season and was voted Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year. Westbrook will be a prime target for QB Baker Mayfield this coming season.

X – Placekickers are considered an X-factor in close games, which is something that was never an issue for Oklahoma in the 2015 season. Austin Seibert, who was a freshman a year ago and the top kicker in the country coming out of high school, converted 18 of 23 field-goal attempts (78 percent) and 70 of 72 extra points. He is definitely a key weapon for the Sooners in close games. Oklahoma outscored its opponents 566 to 286 in the 2015 season, averaging 21 points more a game than its opponents.

Y – The longest tenured of Oklahoma’s 21 football coaches all time was Bennie Owen, who spent 22 years on the job from 1905 to 1928. Bob Stoops is entering his 18th season at OU, just five behind Owen.

Z –’s Football Power Index gives Oklahoma a 16.9 percent chance of running the table this season and ending the year with zero losses in the regular season. That is the highest percentage this season of any team from a Power Five conference.

Coach Graham’s Success Versus The Pac-12 South

July 26, 2016

The measure of any football coach can start with a comparison against his peers, specifically against his own division. So, here’s a quick look at ASU football Coach Todd Graham and how he has fared against his coaching rivals over three and four year periods in the extremely tough Pac-12 Conference South Division.

Here’s a look at ASU’s record versus the Pac-12 South teams over the past three seasons:

2013-2015 (Last Three Years)
ASU vs. Arizona (2-1)
ASU vs. USC (2-1)
ASU vs UCLA (2-1)
ASU vs. Utah (2-1)
ASU vs. Colorado (3-0)

Now for a look at the record versus the Pac-12 South for the last four years (during Coach Graham’s tenure).

2012-2015 (Coach Graham’s Tenure)
ASU vs. Arizona (3-1)
ASU vs. USC (2-2)
ASU vs. UCLA (2-2)
ASU vs. Utah (3-1)
ASU vs. Colorado (4-0)

Some takeaways from this…

* Coach Graham is the ONLY coach in the Pac-12 South with a winning record against every opponent in the South within the past three years.

* If you combine the won-loss records versus the Pac-12 South for the past three years, ASU enjoys an 11-4 (.733) mark.

* Additionally, ASU has won two of the last three against USC, UCLA, Arizona and Utah.

* ASU is undefeated against Colorado.

* If you combine the won-loss records versus the Pac-12 South for the past four years, ASU enjoys a 14-6 (.700) mark.

* ASU does not own a losing record against any Pac-12 South team in that span. Only ASU and UCLA can make that claim.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

49ers: Taking a Look at the Career of Kicker Phil Dawson

Now heading into his 18th season in the NFL, and fourth with the 49ers, we take a look at the career of veteran San Francisco 49ers field goal kicker Phil Dawson out of The University of Texas.

By Sequoia Sims

July 25, 2016

Veteran kicker Phil Dawson attended the University of Texas at Austin during his young collegiate years (1994 to 1997). Dawson achieved first-team All-America honors his junior and senior years, while continuously making All-Big 12.

Amazingly, and to no chagrin, he went undrafted in 1998 and was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Oakland Raiders. Soon after that, he was waived. Dawson was then later signed to the practice squad by the New England Patriots, with no game appearances under his belt while being part of their organization.

With Dawson’s perseverance and patience, a window of opportunity would open up with the Cleveland Browns in 1999. During Dawson’s career with the Cleveland Browns (1999–2012), he holds the record for most consecutive field goals made with 29 and most in a game with six.

He was a two-time second-team All-Pro in 2007 and 2012, respectively, and Pro-Bowler in 2012 as well. Also, he’s tied with Lou Groza for the Browns’ career field-goal record with 234.

Dawson ranks ninth on the all-time list for most total field goals made in NFL history with 386, and he ranks 14th overall with 84.464 field goal percentage, as seen below.

Career Stats at a Glance
• Field goals made — 386
• Field-goal attempts — 457
• Field-goal percentage — 84.5
• Long field goal — 56
• Touchbacks — 175

In Dawson’s first year with the 49ers, he made 27 consecutive field goals — a streak that was snapped by a 24-yard miss against Arizona Cardinals in Week 17 of 2013. His first year in a 49ers uniform, he had the second most points ever (140) in team history.

Since joining the 49ers, in the last three years, Dawson has averaged at least an 85 percent field-goal rate, while maintaining extra point percentage of 98-plus. From long distance of over 50 yards, last year Dawson was a perfect three of three. Out of 48 games played for the 49ers, he’s only had three field goals blocked.

A huge tribute and a testament to his leadership and preparation, he’s also like a coach of the field.

Important to note: Dawson re-signed with the team this offseason on a one-year deal, reportedly worth $3.134 million, and was the team's 2015, MVP winner voted by his teammates, per

Closing Thoughts
Dawson’s durability and longevity speaks volumes as he makes his case for a Hall of Fame place in Canton, Ohio one day. Consider this, out of the last 17 years, Dawson has played in 263 games out of the 272 available. Dawson drew honors twice by being named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week (Week 14 and 17 in 2013) for the 49ers.

If there’s a Hall of Fame for a class act, team player and ultimate professional, Dawson would be a unanimous selection.

Karl Klug Visits Local Police Youth Camp

Defensive lineman Karl Klug visits police camp for underprivileged children.

By Megan Kuharich
July 25, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans defensive lineman Karl Klug made a special appearance at the Andrew Jackson Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police local youth camp on Saturday, encouraging underprivileged children to surround themselves with the right people, and work hard to create opportunities to be successful.

“It’s awesome to have a role model like Karl come out here and interact with the kids,” Camp Director Allen Herald said. “It is great to see him take time out of his day to come sign autographs and give words of encouragement.”

The Andrew Jackson Police Youth Camp hosts 300 adolescents, ranging from ages eight to 12, in weeklong camp sessions at a facility in Mt. Juliet for six weeks during the summer. The camp is funded strictly on donations, and administered by volunteer police officers, active and retired alike, where they interact with campers in a fun, upbeat environment.

“Our children are referred to our youth camp by the police officers who work in their neighborhoods and know the children to be deserving, but financially unable to otherwise attend summer camp,” Herald added.

The schedule for campers included activities such as canoeing, fishing, swimming, kickball, a boat ride on the lake and more.

“My favorite part was swimming and the hayride,” 8-year-old camper Joshua Poindexter said.

During his visit, Klug also expressed his gratitude to the metropolitan police force, reiterating to the children that police officers are always there to help.

“I appreciate the police force’s service,” Klug added. “Please keep doing what you’re doing, and good luck the rest of the way, because I know it's not easy right now being a cop.”

Each camper received a bag full of Titans gear, an autographed item, and a high five from Klug.

“It was awesome having a Titans player come out today, because I’ve never seen an actual NFL player,” 11-year-old Nathan Kirsch said.

Klug hopes to return to the camp again next summer.

To learn more about the Andrew Jackson Police Youth Camp or to donate, click here.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Hy-Vee Partners with Former NFL Pro-Bowler Dallas Clark to Support the Lymphoma Research Foundation

By PR Rocket

July 20, 2016

Spirit Lake, Iowa Set to Host Wine and Spirits Fundraiser to Support Blood Cancer Research

New York, NY (PRWEB) July 20, 2016

The Lymphoma Research Foundation (LRF) – the nation’s largest non-profit organization devoted exclusively to funding innovative lymphoma research and serving the lymphoma community through a comprehensive series of education programs, outreach initiatives and patient services – today announced a joint partnership between Hy-Vee, one of the nation’s largest retail grocers, and Train Wreck Winery, during a special fundraiser in Spirit Lake, Iowa on July 22, 2016.

Super Bowl Champion and Iowa-native Dallas Clark, will present a selection of wines from his Train Wreck Winery at the Hy-Vee in Spirit Lake, Iowa from 5:00 – 7:00 pm. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Lymphoma Research Foundation through a generous contribution made possible by Hy-Vee and Train Wreck.

“As an employee-owned business, I know that Hy-Vee has always taken great pride in its ability to stand with our community in support of members of the Hy-Vee family,” said Andrea Smook, lymphoma survivor and daughter of Tim Smook, Wine & Spirits Manager for Hy-Vee. “It’s no secret that Hawkeyes look out for one another, and to show that support for my fellow members of the lymphoma community is truly touching.”

Nearly 7,000 Iowans are currently living with, or are in remission from, some form of lymphoma, including Smook’s daughter, Andrea. With over 80,000 Americans newly diagnosed each year, lymphoma represents the most common form of blood cancer.

“We at the University of Iowa have been extraordinarily proud of the work that we’ve been able to do in conjunction with the Lymphoma Research Foundation,” said LRF Scientific Advisory Board member Brian K. Link, MD. “I’d like to thank my fellow Iowans for participating in this special day in support of the innovative research that the LRF makes possible thereby offering better care for Andrea and all patients with lymphoma.”

“As a native-Iowan, I am truly touched to see the support that the Iowa lymphoma community continues to show for the Lymphoma Research Foundation and our critically important mission to eradicate this disease,” said Meghan Gutierrez, LRF Chief Executive Officer. “We are proud to partner with Hy-Vee and Train Wreck Winery as we continue to support our Hawkeye neighbors by helping to bring about a future without lymphoma.”

After Stellar Rookie Season, No More Questions About Brandon Scherff, Only Expectations

By JP Finlay

June 19, 2016

Redskins GM Scot McCloughan never blinked when the criticism mounted about 2015 first round pick Brandon Scherff. Drafted No. 5 overall, many questioned if Scherff could play tackle in the NFL, and if not, that was too high of a pick to justify taking a guard. So said conventional wisdom anyway.

If McCloughan does anything for certain, it’s not be confined by conventional wisdom. The GM didn’t waiver in his support of Scherff, and when the experiment at right tackle didn’t work, the rookie moved in to play right guard, and the results were great.

"The thing that’s encouraging about Brandon is when you look at what he was able to accomplish last year, first time transitioning inside to playing guard, and I thought he showed continuous improvement throughout the course of the year," Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay said. "He’s a conscientious guy – really tough. I think he competes well in both phases – excellent athleticism."

Tough is usually a word used to describe Scherff, and it showed as a rookie as he played almost every snap for Washington last season.
Literally, he played every snap but one, almost unheard of consistency for a rookie offensive lineman in the NFL. And he didn’t just get by, Scherff showed he has the goods to become a Pro Bowl caliber guard,
and cemented the right side of the Redskins offensive line along with tackle Morgan Moses.

“I always tell Brandon, I feel like he’s going to be an All Pro guard,” Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams said of Scherff. “He has the talent to do so, and he’s definitely putting in the work to do so.”

This offseason, the praise surrounding Scherff has grown considerably. Williams clearly expects the now second-year player out of Iowa to be a force this fall, as does coach Jay Gruden.

“The more times you see the same play over and over again against different defenses,” Gruden said, “the better you’re going to be.”

It can be tough to judge the quality of play among offensive lineman; there aren’t many stats to track and generally linemen don’t want to hear their names called. Consistency and protecting the quarterback are what’s most important, and Kirk Cousins believes in the right side of his O-line.

“I think that’s where a lot of the excitement comes from. When you look at certain players who played at a high level last year with limited experience, and you can go on beyond just those two, but certainly those two,” Cousins said of Scherff and Moses.

“There’s a lot of excitement there. You see them every day, pre- and post-practice working with Coach Callahan and you just keep stacking days on top of each other and if you do that, good things are in store. So very, very excited to have those two guys and our entire offensive line.”

Monday, July 18, 2016

James Morris wins Solon Beef Days hay bale toss

Former Iowa Hawkeye football player James Morris takes a turn during the hay bale toss at Solon Beef Days in downtown Solon on Friday, July 15, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

July 15, 2016

SOLON — James Morris just earned some major bragging rights.

The former Iowa linebacker and Solon alumnus took home top honors at the popular Solon Beef Days hay bale toss Friday night, defeating competition that included Hawkeye linemen with a throw that cleared 13 feet.

Another former Spartan claimed the women’s award. Shelby Gunnells, a two-time Class 3A shot put state champion who now competes for North Dakota State, defended her title.

Here's James Morris winning the Solon Beef Days hay bale toss at 13-feet.
11:11 PM - 15 Jul 2016

Trai Turner: Every guard should watch film on Marshal Yanda

July 15, 2016
Interview by Brooke Cersosimo

NFL Media's Oklahoma Drill series presents exclusive, quick-hitting one-on-one interviews with players and coaches from around the league. No nonsense -- just football experiences directly from the source.

Trai Turner

Guard, Carolina Panthers

Born: June 14, 1993

Experience: Two NFL seasons

My biggest focus is, I guess, refocusing. We had a long season so it's easy to get lazy, for lack of a better word. Continuing to better myself as an overall football player, like my IQ, technique and things of that nature.

[Losing the Super Bowl] makes regrouping a bit tougher. It's like not finishing a mission. We had an incomplete mission. We have another opportunity. I mean, it's a game. We go out there and we're going to fight and strive to win. We're just taking it one day at a time and not necessarily worried about the Super Bowl.

First and foremost, Marshal Yanda. I think if you are a guard and don't [watch film] on Marshal Yanda, you are crazy. He is one of the best in the game. But, I like to look at the guys in my class like Gabe Jackson or Zack Martin, or even a guy like Richie Incognito. Those are great players. It keeps me fresher about what's going on or what's new. Just trying to up my game.

I'm trying to find the best word because [Cam Newton] is so many different things. He's incredible as a football player and as a leader for our team. He's somebody who I'd go to war with daily 'cause I know if I fight for him, he's going to fight for me. He's an incredible leader. That's the first thing that jumps out to me and it's on and off the field. Somebody that's there for you, period.

I'm going to say we're the best [O-line unit], of course. I mean, if you lack confidence, it's an issue. I think we're the best offensive line and that's something you have to go out and prove weekly. It's not just a one-time job, like, OK, we had a good game, so we're the best offensive line. It's who is the best offensive line this week? So I figure if we win the title of "best offensive line" each week, then we're in a good position.

I don't think people understand that I'm in a fight every play. Like I get into a fight every play. Sometimes a little extra or a little less on different plays, but yeah. I don't think people see that. It's hard.

My favorite tattoo is probably this one of my grandfather. He passed when I was probably 15. It's my favorite because it means the most to me. I have my arm covered, my left leg to my upper knee, my right leg to my knee, my stomach and my chest. So however many that is.

Dontari Poe or Marcell Dareus. I played them in preseason and stuff, so a few snaps here and there, but I've never really had a chance to really play against them. I think they are pretty good, so I want to face them.

[Ron Rivera] is a great guy, great coach. He's a great motivator. He's there to give you advice, tell you right and wrong. Listen to you or take advice from you. He's just an overall great person and that's what makes him just an overall great head coach because you feel like he relates to you. He feels me. He understands where I'm coming from. He's been in my position before, you know? The road he's traveled I'm traveling now, so you can kind of look at him in regards to everything and have a better appreciation of his words to you.

Right now, it's the first game. I try not to get too ahead of myself or too excited about things to come. Just gotta take it in stride and enjoy this as I'm going through it.

Our biggest competition this year?The entire NFC South. After that, the entire NFC. And everybody else. There's no friends in this league, especially once that competition starts. We'll be gunning for everybody like they be gunning for us.

For breakfast, I like eggs, toast, bacon. That's usually my go-to breakfast. Lunch is something like salmon and asparagus. But after practice, I'm eating some fried chicken or something.

It's me enjoying the process. I don't look at [the play where I took down J.J. Watt] and say, "Oh, I'm so surprised," or "Oh man, I couldn't do that." It's like me walking with boards in my hand. Every step I take, I lay a board down and take another step. That was just another stepping stone for me to keep going. It went from Jacksonville, then the J.J. Watt play. It's just building up.

I want to be a perennial Pro Bowler, perennial All-Pro. I want to establish myself as one of the best in the game. I think that's something that's growing for me is I want people to sit back and look at me and say, "Man, he was a great dude or great teammate or great player." The way people think about me and the way I leave my legacy is even becoming bigger to me now that I'm in it. That's something I'm prideful about, how people perceive just Trai.

I'm just excited for [training camp and the season]. It's going to be a good one.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Class Sleepers – AFC South

July 1, 2016
By Danny Shimon

With most NFL draft’s it’s usually the first round picks who receive much of the attention and attract most of the spotlight. Yet over the years when you go back and review successful draft classes it’s typically the “sleepers” or day three selections that make a good class turn into a great class.

With that in mind we reviewed each NFL teams draft class, per division, and attempted to point out who potentially could turn out to be that groups “sleeper”

AFC South

Houston Texans – KJ Dillion, S West Virginia 5th rd. 22nd pick (#159 overall)

Houston added speed, athleticism, and length to their defensive secondary with the selection of KJ Dillon. Although his Mountaineer teammate, and Raiders first-round pick, Karl Joseph received most of the attention at West Virginia, Dillon proved that he too was a safety to keep an eye on.

Dillon possesses good cover skills for a safety and should be able to cover tight ends downfield. He is scheme versatile and can play in either a zone or man-to-man base system.

He displays awareness and good closing speed in zone coverage, and is able to quickly close in on anything thrown in front of him.

Dillion came on strong in his final two seasons in Morgantown combining for 111 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, four interceptions, and 14 passes defensed. Improving in his anticipation and ability to make a play on the ball.

Dillon will need to get stronger in order to be better equipped to compete at the point-of-contact, when defending the run, and will also need to shore up his tackling ability if he wants to see regular snaps on defense for the Texans.

However, with his coverage skills and athleticism, Dillon is an intriguing prospect who has a chance to develop into a quality starter for Houston down the road.

Indianapolis Colts – Austin Blythe, C Iowa 7th rd. 27th pick (#248 overall)

The Colts made it clear to their players and their fans that they were not happy with the amount of punishment quarterback Andrew Luck had been receiving in the last couple of seasons. So they set out to rebuild their offensive line using the draft to help replenish the talent level, and drafted four offensive linemen which is something they had never done before in team history.

Blythe is another in the long line of well-coached, intelligent Kirk Ferentz offensive lineman. A four-year starter, and former wrestler who won three state titles Blythe was a team captain for the Hawkeyes, and has started multiple games at each interior offensive line position. Besides being smart, and versatile Blythe was also a durable performer for Iowa as he finished out his collegiate career making 45 straight starts.

Blythe has terrific feet and initial quickness at the snap of the ball. He is able to set up quickly in pass protection and will plant his hands inside the chest of the defensive lineman. What I love most about Blythe is that he plays the game hard and with some nastiness as he is always looking to finish off his blocks.

At the recent Colts rookie minicamp Blythe saw extensive action lined up at guard next to first-round pick Ryan Kelly.

Initially, look for Blythe to make the team as a backup interior lineman, but if given the opportunity to start he will make it very difficult for the coaches to put him back on the bench.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Tyrone Holmes, DE, Montana 6th rd. 6th pick (#181 overall)

Looking to improve on their 29th ranked pass defense and increase the overall team sack numbers (36) from last season General Manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley loaded up on pass rushers and defensive playmakers in the 2016 draft.

With Tyrone Holmes they have an undersized college defensive end who they will convert to outside linebacker. Holmes, who was the FCS Defensive Player of the Year in 2015, put together a sensational final season at Montana finishing with 21.5 tackles for loss, 18 sacks, and three forced fumbles.

Holmes can supply speed off the edge with a quick-twitched first step, and long strides. He displays good lateral agility and can chase plays down the line of scrimmage. At Montana’s pro day he ran a 4.58 forty, with a 1.65 10-yard split, and demonstrated some lower body explosiveness with a 37.5 vertical jump.

At only 6’2” and 253 pounds Holmes is not stout at the point-of-contact which is why Jacksonville will convert him to outside linebacker, and has him learning the LEO position which is a hybrid defensive end/linebacker position. The Jaguars will initially look to use Holmes as a situational pass rusher off the edge in hopes of taking advantage of his speed and quickness to help generate more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Tennessee Titans – Tajae Sharpe, WR Massachusetts 5th rd. 1st pick (#140 overall)

The Titans are continuing to add playmakers to their offensive unit in order to help surround Marcus Mariotta with enough weapons to be successful.

With Sharpe they added a smooth athlete who was a four-year starter at UMass. Sharpe led the nation in receptions last season, with 111, playing in Mark Whipple’s pro-style system.

Sharpe was a first team All-MAC selection in 2015 and finished his collegiate career 277 receptions, 3,386 yards, and 16 touchdowns.

Sharpe is a good route runner who can get in and out of his cuts quickly. He has soft hands and is able to hold on to the ball through contact. While not a speed demon Sharpe is quick enough to get by defenders and has decent build-up speed to get open downfield.

Sharpe, who has impressed the Titans coaching staff so far this offseason, was running with the first team offense in the recently completed Titans minicamp.

Look for Sharpe to compete with fellow receivers Justin Hunter and Tre McBride for a spot on Tennessee’s 53-man roster.

Reality series will follow Rams move back to Los Angeles

Lance Kendricks (right, with Todd Gurley) is one of the former St. Louis, now Los Angeles Rams who will be featured in the E! Entertainment Television reality series "Hollywood & Football," due in the fall. (Nick Wass/AP)

By Gail Pennington

July 6, 2016

With the (formerly) St. Louis Rams loading up their trucks and moving to Beverly (Hills, that is, or rather Inglewood), cable's E! Entertainment Television is turning the move into a reality show.

(Go on: picture Stan Kroenke up top in Granny's rocker. We'll wait.)

The six-episode “Hollywood & Football” will arrive this fall along with the new NFL season.

“We are excited to take viewers inside the exclusive lifestyles of these top athletes and their families as they navigate a new city, new friendships, new schools and the inevitable Hollywood gossip,” Jeff Olde, executive vice president of programming and development, said in a statement.

“E! has a track record of success with pop culture programming centered in the world of sports, and this series will capture the off the field perspective of one of football’s most anticipated and high profile events as the Rams return to LA.”

Players participating along with their families include Rodger Saffold, Chase Reynolds, Lance Kendricks, Bradley Marquez and Cory Harkey.

HBO’s “Hard Knocks” will also feature the Los Angeles Rams in training camp in its new season, beginning Aug. 9.

Most Consistently Productive NFL Players Over The Last Five Seasons


JULY 9, 2016

The NFL is obsessed with present performance, but the truly great players couple production with longevity. Taking the field every week is not easy in a sport as physical as football. The most consistent players are able to play through the pain barrier, and are also lucky enough to avoid major injuries. Consistency also requires a minimum standard of performance. The best players can be counted on for at least a solid outing every week.

With these qualifiers in mind, here is a list of the most consistently-productive players over the last five years.

1. Joe Thomas, LT, Browns
Joe Thomas’ cumulative +312.4 grade over the past nine years may never be matched by another tackle. He has missed just one snap in that span. Thomas is the best pass-protecting tackle currently plying his trade in the NFL, ranking in the top 10 in pass-blocking efficiency in each of his nine pro seasons. He has not ranked outside the top five in that metric since 2008. In the past five seasons, he has only graded negatively in pass protection on seven occasions, finishing with 22 perfect games out of 80. Thomas has never been the most dominant run-blocker, but he is still mightily effective, currently holding a +113.9 cumulative career grade. Team success has eluded the league’s best tackle, but that shouldn’t diminish his personal accolades.

2. J.J. Watt, DE, Texans
Watt’s dominance has been well-documented, but his career to this point deserves some context. Despite playing on the interior, Watt’s numbers leave him streets ahead of the NFL’s best pass-rushers over the past five years. In total, he has 85 sacks, 151 hits, and 195 pressures to go with 44 batted passes. Watt has disrupted one out of every seven passing snaps he has been on the field for to this point in his career; discount his rookie season, and that jumps to once in every five passing snaps. Since 2012, Watt has recorded only six negatively-graded games.

3. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals
Larry Fitzgerald is one of the NFL’s iron-men, playing at least 90 percent of snaps in each season since 2007. Only in 2012 did Fitzgerald’s performance leave a little to be desired. Overall, though, in a five-year span, he has caught 34 touchdowns from 420 receptions for 5,400 yards, dropped just 15 passes, and broken 53 tackles. He graded negatively in only two games last season, helping Arizona to the NFC Championship game.

4. Marshal Yanda, G, Ravens
Another NFL entrant in 2007, Marshal Yanda has quietly dominated the pro game for the past nine seasons. Yanda’s cumulative +300.2 career grade makes him our most-consistent guard. Although never blessed with outstanding athleticism, he forged an All-Pro career through hard work and physicality. He has been a top-five run-blocking guard in every season aside from 2012 (when he finished 15th), bullying defensive lineman in the Ravens’ zone scheme. Although not his strength, Yanda can hold his own in pass protection. He has given up only nine sacks, 15 hits, and 60 hurries over the past two seasons. Kelechi Osemele recently got the big payday from Oakland, but Baltimore was wise to invest in their right guard instead.

5. Drew Brees, QB, Saints
A shoulder injury looked like it might prematurely end Brees’ career at one point. The Chargers moved on from him in favor of Philip Rivers, forcing him to take his talents elsewhere. The Saints have been rewarded for their gamble, however, with one of the best quarterbacks of the current generation. Brees’ has a +329.4 cumulative grade since joining New Orleans, including an incredible +75.9 grade in 2011. Over the past nine years, he has thrown for 46,772 yards, completed 67.8 percent of his passes, and notched 341 touchdowns. He has a QB rating of 99.5 in that span. Brees has not graded outside the top 10 at his position since PFF began grading games (2007). At 37 years old, the legend is showing no signs of decline.

6. DeMarcus Ware, OLB, Broncos
Despite often appearing hurt, Ware rarely allows injuries to keep him off the field. He remains a dominant pass-rusher, complementing Von Miller perfectly on the Broncos’ Super Bowl-winning defense. Ware has an astonishing 243 knockdowns (sacks and hits) in nine seasons, proving his longevity over the past decade. Over the past half-decade, he has 62 sacks, 58 hits, and 180 hurries. That stat line is a good career for most players. Consistency has eluded Ware against the run, but that negative pales in comparison to the terror he’s inflicted upon opposing quarterbacks.

7. Richard Sherman, CB, Seahawks
Sherman will likely go down as one of the biggest draft steals in NFL history. The fifth-round pick adjusted to the NFL immediately, recording the 10th-highest coverage grade amongst corners as a rookie. He has only improved from there, recording a +90.9 cumulative grade in his five NFL seasons. Sherman has allowed a career NFL passer rating of only 46.5, a completion percentage of only 47.0, picked off 28 passes, and added a further 50 pass deflections. He has only recorded a negative grade in 13 outings since his rookie year, finishing with nine straight positive game grades to end 2015. At just 28, Sherman has plenty of good seasons left in him.

8. Eric Weddle, S, Ravens
Weddle enjoyed an outstanding career in San Diego before signing with the Ravens this offseason. There are some indications that he might be on the decline after recording his lowest season grade since 2008, but a new environment could lead to a resurgence. Aside from 2015, where he ranked a perfectly-respectable 12th among NFL safeties in terms of overall grade, Weddle has not finished outside our top five at the position. Regardless of a potential decline, he has been the league’s most consistent safety over the past five seasons. In that span, Weddle has allowed only five touchdowns, picked off 13 passes, and deflected another 17. Weddle has given up an average QB rating of only 70.0 since 2011. Reliability is essential at the safety position—where mistakes can be crippling—making his consistency all the more impressive. We’re not convinced one of the NFL’s best safeties is finished quite yet.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Colts scouts open up about Austin Blythe

By Michael Kaskey-Blomain
June 30, 2016

The Colts selected Austin Blythe in the seventh round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Blythe was a four-year starter at Iowa, and impressed scouts enough throughout his collegiate career to make it to the professional level.

Earlier this off-season, some Colts scouts expressed what they saw in Blythe to

T.J. McCreight (Director of College Scouting): “The leverage that takes to be a wrestler shows up on tape. The toughness, the tenacity, another player that we really liked. We picked four offensive linemen and we didn’t feel like we wanted to fix that position half way. We wanted to fix it all the way. After picking four linemen and picking four guys that have character, have position flexibility, you feel really good after we left on Saturday night that we picked four offensive linemen. With Austin, he can play guard, he can play center. He just has versatility and is smart. And he comes from a program where they really learn how to play offensive line.”

Todd Vasvari (Assistant Director of College Scouting): “Super smart. Super tough. Athletic. The wrestling background really helps. I think he had 188 wins in high school. I think he had 134 pins out of those 188 wins. He’s a three-time state champ. His freshman year, he finished runner-up. I asked him what happened the other 50 or so matches where he didn’t pin somebody. He said, ‘I either messed around with the guy or it was forfeit.’ Again, I think the leverage, the balance and his intelligence really help him and I think he’s going to be a good player. If you asked him before the draft, he would have said he was the best center in the draft. He really believes that.”

Matt Terpening (National Scout): “We saw him live against Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship game. Michigan State has some really good front seven players and this guy held his own in a really big game.”

At ‘Quarterback U,’ Bernie Kosar was the finest the ‘Canes ever had

June 29, 2016

Once, it was Quarterback U.

Perhaps, it will be again.

With senior Brad Kaaya at the controls, and with coach Mark Richt in charge, the University of Miami could harken back to the days of Bernie Kosar, Vinny Testaverde and Gino Torretta.

In those days, it was the quarterback who held things together as UM won its national titles. Testaverde and Torretta won Heismans.

Lately, it hasn’t been the same for the team of the position. But as Kaaya enters the season, you can only wonder how high on the list he might get.

Here, in Quarterback Week at the St. PetersBlog, we rank the top 10 Miami has had to offer:

1. Bernie Kosar (1983-1984): The true run of excellence of the Miami Hurricanes started in 1983, and with Kosar. Kosar led the team to its most memorable win, a 31-30 upset of Nebraska, for the national title. Kosar would finish fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting before leaving for the NFL, as the No. 1 overall choice in the NFL draft.

2. Vinny Testarverde (1982-1986): It would be unfair to remember Testaverde for his NFL career. Testaverde won the Heisman in 1986 and led his team to the No. 2 ranking. Testaverde threw five interceptions in the national title loss to Penn State.

3. Gino Torretta (1989-1993): Torretta was a member of two national title game, and won the Heisman in 1992.

4. Steve Walsh (1985-1988): Walsh was 23-1 as a starter while at Miami, including a championship in 1987. He finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting and was a No. 1 draft pick in the NFL Supplemental draft.

5. Jim Kelly (1979-1982): In the days before titles, Kelly – an NFL Hall of Famer – was the quarterback for the Hurricanes. Kelly threw 33 touchdown passes, setting himself up to be a No. 1 draft pick by the Buffalo Bills.

6. Ken Dorsey (1998-2002): Dorsey was 38-2 with the Hurricanes, winning a national championship and finishing second another year. He finished third and fifth in the Heisman race. In his career, he threw 86 touchdown passes.

7. Craig Erickson (1987-1990): Erickson was good enough to finish eighth in the Heisman Trophy. He started for two seasons. He was drafted twice by the NFL, in the fifth round by the Eagles in 1991 and the fourth round by the Bucs in 1992.

8. George Mira (1961-1963): Mira was an early star with Miami, finishing fifth and 10th in the Heisman Trophy race. His son, George Jr., later played linebacker for the Hurricanes. He was drafted in the second round by San Francisco and played eight seasons in the NFL.

9. Brad Kaaya (2014-present): Kaaya, still going with the Hurricanes, has received some light buzz for this year’s Heisman. If he can finally get his team past FSU, it has a puncher’s chance to contend in the ACC.

10. Brock Berlin (2003-2004): Berlin transferred in from the University of Florida and had two solid years for the ‘Canes. He was 19-5 and finished second for Player of the Year. He led Miami to a 38-33 comeback win over Florida (UM trailed 33-10 in the third period)

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