Thursday, March 30, 2006

Turmoil in Durham

While the details are still being sorted out, and we await the arrival of DNA evidence, there are some facts that are becoming glaringly evident. Something happened inside that house, and whatever it was was not good or acceptable in any sense of the word.

The Duke Lacrosse team is sticking together strong, and normally that would be an admirable quality if this was not such a distgusting situation. I have not been able to determine for sure if there was a rape inside that house, but something went wrong. Some how the evening went from a bunch of guys having fun and drinking to doing something stupid.

Its obvious that at the very lest racial slurs were being thrown around inside the house both towards the strippers, and according to a 911 call towards people walking in the street. Hardly the behavoir one would expect from students of an academically outstanding school. That alone is serious enough that the players on the team need to be looked into. Racial cruelty is unacceptable from anyone.

Those slurs make the allegations of rape even more plausable for me; and even more disturbing. Im not sure if this was some sort of residual hatred left over in the players from God knows what, or if they were simply liquered up and just a bunch of jackasses. Either way they need to be punished.

Duke authorities are begining to make the right moves after being slow to the uptake. Playing any sport at an university is a luxory, not a right. Once a player does something to violate that luxory they cannot be allowed to continue to play.

I hope that justice will be served in Durham in the up coming weeks, and that the pull of big money, and politics does not gum up the wheels of justice.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Grogh Had a Plan all Along

For someone who follows Cavalier football as closely as I do, I should have seen the handwritting on the wall, but somehow I missed it this time. Coach Grogh got one by me, and by the time I realized what was going on it was too late.

I ignored the rumors that Grogh was going to dismiss Ahmad Brooks and others from the team for months now. Coach Grogh always put forth such a strong image standing behind his team and the players on it. Yet, in the background he knew what was really going on. He was planning for Tuesdays announcement the whole time.

Last week pamphlets for 2006 season ticket infomation came out to everyone on the ticket mailing list. The cover of these pamphlets and schedules always show images of UVA and the star players for the upcoming season. Most times the players and images on the those promotions are the same cover used for that season media guide. Why is that important? Ahmad Brooks was not on any of the literiture sent out.

Brooks is a former All-American, and a Butkus Award Finalist, he was the most reconized figure on the UVA football team. Why would he not be on the cover of all of Virginia's infomation? 2006 was his senior year, and more importantly his comeback season after suffering from injury throughout 2005. Despite all that potintial hype, Brooks was no where to be found.

This tells me that Al Grogh knew exactly what he was going to do months ago. It was not a new accurence that he suspended possibly the best defensive player since number 2 roamed the secondary for the Hoos. Grogh knew he was going to ship out 3 players before the start of the 06 season. That's why he was so calm and collected at the news conference on Tuesday.

Coach Grogh has already planned and made the needed adjustments to his lineup, and gameplan. He was right when he said not to worry, the defense will be fine next season, because he has been prepping for this moment for months.

Not bad Coach Grogh you learned more than I thought from Parcells and Belichick.

Monday, March 27, 2006

And the Dance Continues

Let me begin this by saying I am not jumping onto the ever growing George Mason Bandwagon, but I am damn impressed by what I have seen so far. George Mason is living the Cinderella dream after knocking off UConn and advancing to the Final 4.

At my age I am too young to remember the 1984 N.C. State upset of Phi Slama Jama Houston. I am not sure if GMU will win the NC2A title, but despite that they are in the midst of the most impressive run in college basketball history. It is always difficult for a Mid-Major to make a strong run in the Tourney, but GMU has taken it to the next level, not just because of where they have ended up, but because of whom they beat to get there.

George Mason defeated Michigan State, North Carolina, Wichita State, and UConn during their tournament run. That means they beat a Final 4 team, the defending national champion, and this years favorite to win the title, all within a two week span. Not bad for a school that most people from Virginia cannot find.

GMU’s run brings up a lot of questions about the quality of play among Mid-Major teams. Many felt there were too many Mid-Majors picked to the Big Dance, and I will still agree to that. Mason is the exception not the rule. The last time a Mid-Major made it to the Final 4 was 1979, and one of those teams were headed up by Mr. Legend Larry Bird. Mason also caught another major break by getting the regional final hosted in their back yard. The Verizon Center is 30 minutes from Campus, and it was rocking with GMU fans ready for an upset. Once again proving that a Mid-Major needs the cards to fall just right in order for them to catch fire, and make a run in the tournament.

Two weeks ago on this site, I wrote that GMU was out of the Tourney after suffering a second lost to Hofstra in a week, now they stand on the doorstep of immortality. Congratulation to them for proving they belong.

We wait all our lives to find that special Cinderella story, and GMU is giving us one to remember for the ages. Next up is Florida, there is no reason GMU cannot keep the mojo flowing right through championship Monday.

Friday, March 24, 2006

College's best players go home

Last night the world watched as J.J. Redick and Adam Morison laid eggs in what was their last games as college athletes. Redick goes 3-18, for 11 points in the Sweet 16? terrible. Adam Morison fails to score a point in the final 3 mins, and goes 0-3 in the last 1:30, horrible. These are the two guys who gunned it out for POY honors, and they looked like bumbs on the biggest stage either will play for a long time.

More importantly last nights performances gave fans a preview of what is to come for these players NBA career. LSU put a larger 6'5 athletic defender on Redick, and that combined with a shotblocker/space eater in the middle meant disaster for the Duke guard. In the NBA, every guard is 6'5 and athletic. The screens are harder to come by, and the defense is not scared to chase you down. If a player wants to be a pure shooter, they need to have a game that is similar to Rip, or Reggie Miller. These players were in constant motion, and their game appeared more like marathon, than a basketball game. The future for Mr. Redick becoming very bleak. He needs to continue to work on his ball handling, but more importantly his defense. A good shooter, with no defense, becomes a small time role player who bounces around the league, a good shooter with lock down D potential becomes Bruce Bowden.

Adam Morrison the player I thought to be the better of the two showcased his bitter NBA reality last night. Morrison showed the ability to create his own shot all season by using his size to go over defenders, and power his way to good position down low. Thursday night Morison used all of that and still went 0-3. He was able to get free for the shots, but could not hit them. What was even more disappointing, was Morrison's lack of an ability to create looks for his teammates. Great players make the players around them great... old saying and played out but true. Jordon found Kerr, Paxton, and Pip to hit the open jumper he was tripple teamed coming down the break. Morrison was unable to do that during the UCLA game, he forced shots when they were not there. That may be a sign of immaturity that most young players have, especially when they are the star of an average team; but nonetheless it is concerning. Morrison will need to work on his court vision to be succesful on the next level.

The overall lesson learned from last nights performances is simple, both Morrison and Redick are good college players, probably even great ones... but both their stars reached their peek about a week ago. From this time on they will begin the slow process of falling back to earth, and facing the reality of becoming another NBA journey with the same skill set as every other player in the league.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Farewell to a Legend

After 24 years as the head coach of Temple, John Chaney is saying farewell to his coaching career announcing his retirement on Monday afternoon. At the age of 74 Chaney’s resignation marks the end of what has been a Hall of Fame career. John Chaney has been the staple of Temple basketball for almost a total a quarter century. His fiery presence guided five teams to NCAA Regional finials, and totaled 17 trips to the NCAA tournament. Chaney racked up 741 years as a college coach, including a 516-252 wins at Temple. He also earned 6 A-10 titles during his tenure on the bench. Twice John Chaney received national coach of the year honors, and five times he was named A-10 coach of the year. John Chaney is stepping away from basketball, and leaving a legacy that will not be soon forgotten. Like most people, there was more than one side to John Chaney. Most recently it has been the controversial aspects of Chaney’s persona that have grabbed media attention. Coach Chaney made headlines last season, for sending a player into a game with the sole intention of committing hard fouls against ST. Joseph players he felt were setting illegal screens. The situation got out of hand when ST. Joseph forward John Bryant ended up with a broken and missed the rest of the season. John Chaney later apologized for the incident admitting he used his own players as a “goon” to set the hard fouls. It was actions like these and outburst against a GW coach in 1984, and again against then UMass head coach John Calipari, where he actually threatens to kill him.While outburst like those was well documented in the media, it was the other side of Chaney the fans of college basketball will remember. Coach Chaney was like a father to the players he coached. Forcing them to work hard, and give the best they could on the court, while playing 100% in the classroom as well while they worked toward earning their degrees. Chaney was known for his brutally early morning practices, where players could get their full workout in before going to their 8:30 classes that he made sure they never slept through. Chaney took in the players from bad neighborhoods, and broken homes, and made sure they found a home and a family that loved them at Temple. Due to many of his strict schedules, Chaney was never able to recruit the McDonalds All-Americans, but he found the right kids for his system. He was never scared to test his squads against the best in the nation, routinely traveling to Cameron indoor to play Duke, or any other top 25 team who wanted to play. Chaney was known for being a master of the zone defense. Rather it was a box-and-1, or the sloth zone, Chaney’s players bought into his game plan and it worked. Just this year his Owl’s held Duke’s J.J. Redick to only 10 points.The biggest disappointment in Chaney’s career was he never reached a Final 4, going 0-5 in Regional Championships. However, with all the lives John Chaney was able to touch during his time as a head coach, I’m sure the Finial Four will not bother him too much.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Fast WR is 06

We are back again and today we are looking at the class of receivers available in the 2006 draft. Maybe it was the new surface in Indianapolis, or maybe it was the Wheaties, but this years receivers have some blazing speeds, and many of them will be torching some of your favorite players in the secondary very soon. Narrowing this list down to five was not easy, but that’s what I’m here for, making the hard disc ions.

1) Santonio Holmes: Holmes torched everyone standing on the opposite side of the ball of him throughout the 2005 season. In his three years at OSU, his production continually improved, which is what you want from a young player. His 2005 campaign was capped off with a stellar performance in the Fiesta Bowl where he caught 5 balls fro 124 yards and 1 TD. At 5-11 190, he has enough size to keep up with the big DB’s in the league and punish the smaller ones. Holmes has a knack for playing well in the big game that is an intangible that coaches love to see.

2) Chad Jackson: Another Junior declaring for the draft early, Jackson took full advantage of the NFL Combine. He clocked the fastest time in Indianapolis with a 4.32 40-yard time. 6’2 205 pounds he has that new age pro-type body NFL teams are looking for in receivers. Jackson played under two different offensive schemes at Florida and showed the ability to adapt quickly to both schemes despite the fact they have nothing in common. At the Combine he showed exception hands, using his long arms to go out and pull balls from the air, rather than catching them with his body. Chad Jackson will make a NFL team very happy.

3) Sinorice Moss: Sinorice looks to follow in his big brothers footsteps; who had a breakout season for the Washington Redskins in 06. Sinorice Moss had a great season at Miami this year, averaging 16.6 yards a catch. Steve Smith and Santana Moss proved that smaller receivers can be number 1’s in the NFL and can carry a team’s offense. Sinorice has the ability to break a game open (4.38 40). At the senior bowl, his burst was amazing. The best DB’s in the country were unable to keep up with him as he burst onto the ball. He probably will not be a number 1 to begin his career in the NFL, but put into the right system, his speed and agility will allow him to be a great second receiver.

4) Jason Avant: Avant is an able bodied receiver, with amazing hands. At 6’1 209, he poses the physical attributes to be a star in the NFL. At the combines he showed great footwork, and the ability to adjust and adapt to the ball while in the air. His route running ability was also impressive, Avant was able to set DB’s up, especially when running double move routes. At Michigan Jason Avant was the picture of consistency. Since he does not have the explosive breakaway speed as other WR, he does have the hands to go over the middle and be a great possession receiver (and that’s not a knock on anyone). One concern about Avant is his durability. Injuries plagued him at Michigan, and may follow him into the NFL.

5) Greg Jennings: Jennings dominated the MAC during his career at Western Michigan. He had three seasons with over 1000 yards receiving. He is also one of the players I’ve had the pleasure of watching perform in person. His speed burst is amazing, running a sub 4.4 40 yard dash. At Western Michigan he was a go to receiver, and knows how to perform under pressure, and when teams are looking to double team him. Jennings has the skill and potential to move higher on this board, but two things are currently holding him back. Lack of experience performing against the top competition. Playing in the MAC Jennings never had the opportunity to play the elite DB’s in the nation. Also he has shown problems adapting to know schemes, and learning new programs. That may lead to trouble with the complex offenses in the NFL.

There are plenty of other receivers out there, who can make an impact on a NFL roster very soon. Some others who just missed this list include; Maruice Stovall of Notre Dame, Jeremy Bloom Colorado (fresh from the Olympics) and Marcus Hagans.

That’s it for now, keep checking back as next time we delve into the world of the glorified linemen, tight ends.

TE's in the Draft

After some brief time off, we are back and evaluating the best tight ends available in this years NFL draft. Despite all the labor disputes, there will be a draft taking place in April. This year there will be an abundance of TE’s available. The difference from other positions where there is tremendous dept (i.e. RB) the depth at the TE position does not automatically mean going high in the draft. TE is one of those positions that many teams feel they can hold off on drafting, unless the player is an exceptional star. This years draft will prove that philosophy wrong.

1) Vernon Davis: Davis is an absolute freak of nature, and there is nothing wrong with that. At 6’3, 254 pnds it appears there is nothing Vernon Davis cannot do. He ran a 2.38 second 40-yard dash on the bench press workout he did 33 reps of 225 pnds. He finishes in the top five in every agility drill he worked in. While at Maryland Davis showed great hands in traffic, and the ability to stretch the field and make fields down field. His strength makes him more than just a receiving TE, and he can stay at home and hold the line while blocking a D-Linemen. The biggest knock against Davis during the 2005 season was he often times took on too many tacklers rather than just going down, and teams were scared he may hurt himself. Not a bad problem to deal if you are a NFL coach.

2) Leonard Pope: Pope had an amazing career at Georgia, and is leaving early at the peak of his career. Over the past two seasons he averaged just shy of 500 yards receiver, a feat for a TE. At 6’7 he became a favorite target for Georgia QB D.J. Shockley. His size allowed him to go up for jump balls in the endzone. Also he was never scared to go across the middle and challenge a linebacker for the ball. Pope has great instincts as a receiver, and the ability to break off his routes, and make himself available for the QB.

3) Mercedes Lewis: The 6’6 256 pnd TE showed pure athletic ability at the combine, mixed with the best hands out of all the TE’s. He tested very well in the broad and vertical jump, along with the cone drill. His 40-yard dash was a bit slow 4.79. He ran routes like a receiver, and showed the hands of a receiver. That mixed with his massive frame will overshadow his slow times. Lewis has a good chance to go late in the first round, if the cards fall the right way, if not then early in the second round.

4) Dominique Byrd: Byrd is another member of the vaulted USC class coming out this season. Problem is, he is a TE and most no one knows a thing about him. That’s okay you will soon enough trust me. Over his four year career at USC Byrd averaged over 10 yards per catch. His numbers may not be as impressive as some of the other TE’s in the draft, but you must remember the system Byrd played in. Surrounded by 4 other first round draft picks TD’s were difficult to come by for Byrd. His big frame 6’3 260 pnds, helped him to be a tremendous blocker, and he still has soft hands for a big man. He will be a good pickup for a team looking for more of a traditional TE.

5) Joe Klopfenstein: Klopfenstein proved to be another TE with tremendous ability to catch the ball. His hands were amazing at the combine he showed a knack for using his hands to smoothly pluck the ball out of the air rather than bringing it into his body. Klopfenstein also proved he had the ability to catch the ball without seeing it completely into his hands, giving him the opportunity to break into his cut a second sooner. He also posses good speed running a 4.6 second 40-yard dash.

The TE position is chalked full of talent this year, and since most TE’s do not go off the board till the second or third round it is possible some of the players on this list to be leapfrogged by others in the wings. Those players include; Anthony Fasino of Notre Dame, Owen Daniels of Wisconsin, and Tim Day of Oregon. The role of the TE is changing in the NFL, no longer an extra lineman; teams are constantly looking for the next Antonia Gates, or Heath Miller. This year’s draft class will provide the opportunity for several teams to upgrade at the TE position. Next we look at the true linemen, the fat boys up front, and we will rank them all.

Top 5 RB's in 06 Draft

Continuing our look at the Post-Combine/Pre-Draft outlook, today we are going to delve into the world on Running backs. Much like the QB’s we looked at yesterday, the top three RB’s are obvious. Beyond them, players are scrambling to prove their worth to NFL scouts. Here is our top 5 RB’s available in this years NFL draft.

1) Reggie Bush: Yeah, this one is not a shock to anyone. Bush will not workout till pro-day at USC, but everyone knows what he is capable of. Game-breaking speed from anywhere on the field, he can line up in the slot and has great hands; Bush is the total package for a NFL RB. If there is any knock against him, it would be the question of his durability. Reggie Bush was not an every down back at USC and likely will not be on in the NFL. Even with that, he is a great draft pick and will put points on the board. Expect Houston to take him first.

2) DeAngelo Williams: This Memphis RB has put up crazy numbers throughout his career, and most of America has never seen him play. If not for Reggie Bush Williams would be a lock for the top RB of this class, despite that he still has the credentials to hold his own. During his college career he rushed for 6,026 yards making him fourth on the all time NCAA list. At the Senior Bowl Williams showcased his talents in drills and on the field by knifing through defenses. Good size, and great footwork and speed will make Williams a threat at the next level.

3) LenDale White: Despite being the third most recognizable player on his on offense last season, there was nothing unrecognizable about Whites performance last season. White rushed for over 1,000 yards last season, and holds the TD record at USC for a RB. That is not a mild accomplishment considering the talent that has been through USC’s backfield. During the Rose Bowl, it was White’s hard inside running that kept USC in it throughout the game, and had he been used on a fourth down play there may have been a different outcome to that came. LenDale White is a powerful between the tackle back with the ability to break it once in the secondary. It is possible when it’s all said and done that White has the best NFL career out of all his backfield mates from USC this year.

4) Laurence Maroney: This Minnesota RB had a phenomenal year with the Gophers. He was half of a Minnesota rushing attack that led the nation in yards per game. He attacks the hole with downhill speed, and has a tremendous burst through the secondary. His 40-yard times do not reflect his game speed. At 5’11 205 his size is a bit of a worry along with his catching ability out the backfield, but those can be improved over time. Maroney will be a late first round/early second round pick who can make an immediate impact.

5) Maruice Drew: At UCLA he showed explosive capabilities both in the backfield and a return man. Drew’s ability to do be a kick and a punt return man raise his draft value. AT the Combines in Indianapolis Drew ran a 4.39 40-yard dash. During agility drills Maruice Drew was at the top of his group. Drew also posse’s great hands and the ability to catch the ball out the backfield which makes him and more impressive prospect.

That’s the wrap for the top RB’s coming out in the 2006 Draft. This list while concrete in the top 3 may be very fluid for the last two positions. This is a deep class at RB; outsiders such as Virginia’s Wali Lundy showcased exceptional talent at the Combine. Keep an eye out for any potential changes to this list.

Top 5 QB's Available

The Combine is over the prospects are returning to their respective campuses and preparing for individual workouts with teams. Now it’s time for all us in the media to gather around and overanalyze the draft prospects. Here at Walker-Sports, we are no different, and that is why we will go through key positions, and rank our top 5 prospects for each of them.

Let’s begin with the position that is at the top of everyone’s list quarterback. The 2006 draft if full of QB’s who had great colligate careers, and hoping that will translate across to the NFL. Here are our top 5 QB’s, and yeah they are in order.

1) Jay Cutler: Cutler has been the darling of the media since finishing his career at Vanderbilt. While Vince Young and Matt Leinhart have been avoided showing their skills till they are ready, Cutler took every opportunity to showcase his skills. Each time he took the field he has impressed scouts. 4.77 40-yrd dash, peak speed 60 mph, and benched 225, 23 times. Jay Cutler has become the best QB in the Draft

2) Vince Young: Despite Wonderlic-gate, Vince Young is still an amazing talent as QB. He will test for scouts at a private workout in Texas closer to the actual draft. Young has shown the intangibles that a team wants from a QB. Leadership and the drive to win. His size, speed and arm strength are impressive. It will be interesting to see how he runs and throws the ball during his private workout.

3) Matt Leinhart: Leinhart has dropped this far simply because of his shoulder and elbow. He is a proven QB on the colligate level. Leinhart did not come out last year due to shoulder surgery. At time last season his arm seemed questionable. He will need to prove his arm strength at All Pro day if he wants to move up. Hard to believe a QB with Leinhart’s talent is only the third best QB in this draft, now that’s depth.

4) Charlie Whithurst: The Clemson QB has shown a great release, and touch on the ball. Recent arm surgery has hurt some of his strength, but his ability to play through it at the senior ball and at the combines has impressed scouts. The knock on Whithurst is he runs streaky at times. He can be a second day pick with a lot of potential.

5) Omar Jacobs: A lot of scouts have Browde Croyle of Alabama in this spot, but I feel he is a bigger building project than Jacobs. The Tides offense was less than impressive all season, while Jacobs put up crazy numbers throughout his career at BG. His stats were down a bit during his senior season, but he still has a lot of upside. In many ways Jacobs is a downgraded version of Vince Young. He will be a second day pick, and a steal if placed on the right team.

That does it for the top 5 QB’s in the 2006 draft. Check back with us tomorrow as we rank the top RB’s available,