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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

5 Names to Remember in 2011: Big Ten

1)    Illinois: Sophomore Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase
Luckily for Ron Zook there wasn’t much of a drop-off at the QB position after Juice Williams’ departure at the end of the ’10 season. In fact, there was no drop-off at all. Statistically, Scheelhaase performed better in his first season as a starter, than Williams did in his final season at Illinois. It seemed as if Scheelhaase was prepared to handle the duties as soon as he stepped onto campus. Illinois exceeded a lot of people’s expectations in ‘10 and I believe Scheelhaase’s confidence level coupled with U of I’s potent running attack contributed to Illinois’ seven wins last season. I’m interested to see how Scheelhaase matures this season though, without workhouse Mikel LeShoure lined up behind him.

2)    Iowa: Senior Wide Receiver Marvin McNutt
Iowa’s offense has almost been like a revolving door lately, especially at the running back position. However, WR Marvin McNutt has been a constant for this team for the last three seasons. I believe McNutt can help this Hawkeye squad put up some big numbers in ’11. McNutt is a big-play receiver who’s known for scoring touchdowns. He put 6 points on the board in each of the last six conference games of 2010.  And his receiving totals improved from the previous two seasons combined. Even with a new quarterback under center for the Hawkeyes next season, McNutt should be the go-to playmaker. He only needs 6 more touchdowns to become Iowa’s career receiving touchdown leader.

3)    Michigan State: The Backfield
This team has some holes to fill on its roster, but I still expect for this squad to be competitive in 2011 due in large part to the three-headed monster lining up a running back. A team is dangerous with one legitimate threat at RB, but when you have two other backs capable of putting up big numbers each time out, then that team becomes DEADLY. And that’s exactly what Michigan State aims to be this season. Junior Edwin Baker is the main guy and he’s also the leading returning rusher in the Big Ten (among RBs—Michigan’s D. Robinson put up an astounding 1700 yards!) with 1201 yards. Bruiser Le’Veon Bell also returns after posting 605 yards on the ground as a freshman! He played a key part in MSU’s thrilling OT victory over Notre Dame. He led all rushers in that contest with 114 yards. But don’t forget about Larry Caper, he saw his reps drop last season but he’s fully capable of carrying the rock. In 2009, he led the team in rushing and I think having another RB in your backfield with that type of big-game experience will only benefit the team in the long run.  

4)    Northwestern: Senior Wide Receiver Jeremy Ebert
The Wildcats return a veteran offense in 2011 and the player I’m interested in watching is All-Big Ten WR Jeremy Ebert. The 6-1 receiver has only gotten better after each of his three seasons in Evanston. Last year he just missed cracking 1000 total receiving yards (953) but Ebert still managed to snag in 8 touchdowns from QB Dan Persa. I’d be surprised if Ebert’s numbers drop this season.

5)    Penn State: Junior Quarterback Matt McGloin
It’s definitely a blow losing the school’s all-time leading rusher Evan Royster, but I believe Penn State can still be productive. However first, old JoePa is going to have to name a starting quarterback for his Nittany Lions squad. I believe Matt McGloin is the man to lead Penn State to the promised lands in 2011. McGloin ended up inheriting the starting role after freshman Rob Bolden suffered a concussion in the Minnesota game last season. When called to duty, McGloin guided the Nittany Lions to 4 victories but also gave up 5 INTs to the Gators in the Outback Bowl. Rob Bolden may be the favorite, but I truly believe it’s McGloin’s job to lose. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

5 Names to Remember in 2011: ACC

1)    Boston College: Junior Running back Montel Harris
He’s a durable back who can pound the ball between the tackles or bust it outside and take it the distance. Last season, Harris amassed 1243 yards and broke the century mark in each of BC’s last six games (he almost broke 200 yards in two of those games)! There were only 4 games in which Harris didn’t score for the Golden Eagles, and each one those resulted in a loss. BC has to keep giving this guy the rock. Harris will be a key contributor towards BC’s success in 2011. The BC running back needs only 1006 more yards before he can claim the ACC career rushing record.   

2)    Clemson: Sophomore Quarterback Tajh Boyd
QB Kyle Parker is gone, so now it’s time for Tajh Boyd to step up and produce. In scrub time last season, Boyd completed only 52.4% of his passes while also tossing in 4 TDs. Repetition will be the key, but Boyd should benefit from having 8 returning starters around him on offense. Look for Boyd to go to his big targets, DeAndre Hopkins and Jaron Brown.

3)    Miami: Senior Quarterback Jacory Harris
Jacory Harris is out to prove his doubters wrong in 2011. Statistically his completion percentages have been on a downward trend ever since becoming a starter at Miami. However Harris hopes to improve on those numbers under Al Golden’s new system. He’s been the leader of this team for a while now but last season he stumbled under all that pressure. A lot of the mistakes and INTs he made in ’10 weren’t from lack of skill, instead it was a result of him trying to do too much.

4)    Virginia: The Defense
Despite this team surrendering close to 400 yards of total offense in ’10, I believe this group will be a much-improved squad.  Senior DTs Matt Conrath and Nick Jenkins are not only big imposing forces, but they’re also experienced at their positions. The secondary is also deep and features ALL-ACC CB Chase Minnifield. The dude is a ball hawk; he pulled in 6 INTs last season.

5)    Virginia Tech: Junior Running back David Wilson
I’m interested to see how tailback David Wilson handles the running back duties since Darren Evans decided to leave early for the NFL. Virginia Tech is widely known for its quarterbacks, but believe it or not VT has been home to some of the best rushers in college football for the past decade or so. Names such as: Lee Suggs, Kevin Jones, Mike Imoh, and Ryan Williams come to mind. Virtually the entire o-line returns this season and Wilson will definitely benefit from that. I believe Wilson is an effective enough runner to take the pressure off of new QB Logan Thomas. Look for Wilson to crack 1000 yards in 2011.   

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Terrelle Pryor Apology

Video of Terrelle's Apology to Ohio State and to his former coach, Jim Tressel

Video Courtesy of the Associated Press

Monday, June 13, 2011

Wilson to Wisconsin: The Perfect Fit?

Former NC State quarterback Russell Wilson is on the hunt for a new suitor and it’s come down to two schools: Auburn and Wisconsin. There’s speculation that NC State Head Coach Tom O’Brien did not like Wilson splitting his time between football and baseball so the university granted Wilson early release in the spring. Wilson has one year of eligibility remaining but since he’s already graduated, the athlete will have the opportunity to start immediately at any school he chooses. Currently, the star quarterback doubles as a second-basemen with the Asheville Tourists in the Colorado Rockies’ farm system. Wilson was drafted by the Rockies in the 4th round of last year’s MLB draft.

Now despite having a future destined for professional baseball some suspect Wilson wants to give the NFL a shot. Now, at 5’10” Wilson is a tad bit undersized to play QB at the next level but he’s already shown that he has all the intangibles to be an effective passer, which was evident during his 3 seasons at NC State. Last season, Wilson threw for over 3500 yards with 28 TDs. Wilson rarely makes mistakes but what makes him special is his ability to extend plays. During his career at NC State, Wilson was notorious for keeping offensive drives alive with his playmaking ability. He’s an athletic quarterback who can kill you thru the air or on the ground, but Wilson only chooses to run if he absolutely needs to. Ultimately, what I’m trying to say is that Russell Wilson is a winner.

In 2010 he led NC State to a 9-4 record with key victories over Georgia Tech, Boston College, Florida State, and UNC.  NC State will head into the fall season with unproven junior quarterback Mike Glennon. And I’m sure fans down in Raleigh are shaking their heads at O’Brien’s decision to let his star quarterback virtually walk away. And although NC State had some holes to fill on its roster this season, many people including myself believed that the Wolfpack would be a top team in the ACC Atlantic with Wilson returning. Now that he’s gone, I’m beginning to have serious doubts...

So If Wilson’s decision really boils down to these two schools, I think he’d be better off by taking his talents to Madtown. The Badgers posted 11 wins in 2010 and represented the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl. And despite only returning 4 starters on offense, this Badgers team should still be explosive running the ball with a deep backfield featuring James White and Montee Ball (who returns from injury). Quaterback Scott Tolzien is gone but my thoughts are that Wilson could come into camp this summer and steal the starting job away from sophomore Jon Budmayr. Budmayr has only played in 3 games, going a combined 8-10 for 134 yards and a TD. Wilson described his visit to Madison last week as a “Grand Slam” and if he decides to take his services to Wisconsin, I believe the Badgers become a legitimate contender in the Big Ten. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Young & Reckless

Man, the drama surrounding Ohio State is starting to play out like a plot from The Young & the Restless. 

It truly is sad to see the legacy at Ohio State become tarnished by a few individuals. Since December, we watched the NCAA suspend the “Tat Five” for the first 5 games of next season; Jim Tressel came under intense scrutiny and eventually resigned, and now OSU’s star quarterback Terrelle Pryor has apparently decided to forgo his senior season down in Columbus. Rumors are circulating around that former players, dating all the way back to 2002 (during OSU’s BCS Championship season), were also involved with selling memorabilia for tattoos. However at this moment all of that is just hearsay; though what we do know is that Terrelle Pryor is a guilty party and he’s come under a lot of heat recently; especially considering the fact that his poor off-the-field decision-making ultimately led to Coach Tressel’s resignation. 

And if you weren’t already aware, Football in the state of Ohio is KING and Ohio State University is like a football MECCA to Ohioans. There’s a lot of history and tradition in Columbus. Some of the greatest athletes to ever play the game wore an OSU jersey at one point in time. It’s the same place where Woody Hayes became an iconic figure... 

Even before all this mess hit the fan, Jim Tressel was regarded as one of the elite coaches in college football. Tressel was a respected leader who seemed to do everything by the books. Hell, I doubt if the man has ever cursed in his life. Anyway, I guess the point I’m trying to make is that Pryor and his knucklehead teammates messed up big-time and I’m sure he lost some support from OSU fans as a result. 

Can you imagine if OSU had headed into the offseason with a Sugar Bowl loss? I’m sure people would blame the “Tat Five” situation for the defeat. I just think it would be an even bigger distraction heading into next season. But again, I completely understand why Pryor decided not to come back next season, and I actually think it was one of the most selfless things he could have ever done. It definitely would have been a huge distraction, not only for him, but also for his teammates if he decided to play out his senior season. Assuming he’d be named the starter after his suspension was served, Pryor would be under extreme pressure from the fans. I’m also sure the media would over-analyze his every move and put him under intense microscope. I just can’t see any college athlete succeeding in that sort of environment, even if he considered himself a “PRO.”  

Now while I think it’s a good idea for him to leave (for his team’s sake), I don’t know how successful he’ll be at the next level. At about 6’6” and 240 pounds, Pryor is a strong, athletic quarterback. He seemed to improve after each season at Ohio State and completed 65% of his passes in 2010. However, doubts still remain about his ability to be effective at the next level. Many analysts feel Pryor will have to change positions in order to make an NFL roster (that is, if we ever have an NFL again). But I’m not so quick to rule out Pryor as a QB however his journey certainly won’t be an easy one. Again, I applaud Pryor for doing the right thing and leaving Columbus but at the end of the day I just wonder if receiving those free tattoos was truly worth it?

Monday, June 6, 2011

USC loses it's 2004 National Title

Earlier today, the BCS officially stripped USC of its 2004 National Title. I find decisions such as this one to be laughable. I understand the politics behind the act of stripping a title away but what exactly does it accomplish? In my mind, USC still won the 2004 National Championship over the Oklahoma Sooners. And when I say won, I mean straight up embarrassed OU in a 55-19 beating. QB Matt Leinart went H.A.M. throwing for 5 touchdowns, 3 of which went to WR Steve Smith. I can even recall the moment when Ashlee Simpson was booed by 70,000 fans for a sub-par halftime show performance…

You just simply can’t erase details like that that from my memory. The same goes for when Reggie Bush decided to return his Heisman. Even if he were receiving improper benefits, nothing can take away the fact that he was a superstar down in SoCal. I mean does anybody else remember that game back in 2004 against Fresno State where Mr. Bush amassed for 513 total yards? Remember when he was running down the sideline and juked that Fresno State defender out of his shoelaces? I do. His moves looked like something out of a videogame...

Now I’m not saying that improprieties such as the ones USC & Reggie Bush committed are acceptable, quite frankly it IS wrong. But to go back and “take away” what’s already written in history, years after the fact, doesn’t really do anything. I think all it does is bring more attention to the fact that USC won the championship in 2004. Before this news broke I wonder how many people could have quickly recalled the 2004 winner? I bet not many… I think the BCS could have penalized USC by making the school return all the money it earned for winning the 2004 Orange Bowl. Maybe all that revenue could be donated to a charity or something? What do you think the appropriate punishment should be? Or do you already think the NCAA made the right call by vacating the 14 wins Bush was ineligible for? Do you think the BCS made the right call in stripping the 2004 BSC title away from USC? 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Character Counts

I’m not sure there’s anything left to say about the Jim Tressel situation that you haven’t already heard…Back in an earlier post of mine I explained why I never trusted the former Ohio State football coach. It really had nothing to do with something he did, rather my distrust originated from what he didn’t do. Tressel didn’t appear to truly have Maurice Clarrett’s back when the star running back was in a time of crisis. Although it was just one instance, it certainly left a lasting impression on me about the type of person I think Tressel is. 

Never mind the fact that Tressel does a lot of good for the community through his public speaking, or the fact that he was a tremendously successful coach at Ohio State. All it takes is one negative event to make you stop and rethink your entire perspective on someone. And unfortunately, the events surrounding Tressel’s resignation are only strengthening my previous opinions of the man. I guess the sad thing is, the “Tat Five” problem came to his front doorstep. He didn’t ask for any of this to be brought upon him, but Tressel failed as a coach and a leader when he had the opportunity to do something about it and chose to do nothing. If he had just spoken up to the NCAA Officials when he first learned of his players’ wrongdoings then I’m sure he’d still have his job and I wouldn’t be writing this entry today. Tressel said the reason he didn’t initially come forward with the information was because he was trying to protect his players. Tressel claims to be a man of high integrity and character but I guess he decided to go against his conscience when deciding not to tell school officials about the “Tat Five.” 

Possessing good character means that you always do the right thing no matter what. Sure, it sounds pretty elementary but very few people posses the trait. I think a lot of us try to live our lives with integrity and honesty but we’re using it as if it’s an “on-off” switch. We flip it on when it’s most convenient for us. It’s hard to always keep it turned on, but Tressel was paid millions at OSU to ensure that his did…

It’s yet to be seen whether or not the NCAA decides to hand down any more serious sanctions to OSU but no doubt has this event been a black eye for both the school and the Big Ten.  I’m really interested to see in which direction the program and its former coach, Jim Tressel, go from here...