Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hindsight is 20/20

Here I will look back on my Preseason All-Big Ten team and compare it to the actual results.

Offense:
QB: Juice Williams - Illinois
Actual Result: Darryl Clark
This is easily my worst pick. I was really expecting the Illini to bounce back with a 2007ish year. The combination of 4 year starter and a weapon with the talent that Arrelious Benn possesses was just too intriguing. I must have overlooked the fact that this team is coached by the Zooker. Darryl Clark would have been my second choice, however.

RB: Evan Royster - Penn State
RB: John Clay - Wisconsin
Actual Result: Same
'Nuff said. This was a pretty easy projection, and was without a doubt going to be the end result after Jewel Hampton went down with a season ending injury.

OL: Bryan Bulaga - Iowa
OL: Justin Boren - Ohio State
OL: Stefen Wisniewski - Penn State
OL: Joel Foreman - Michigan State
OL: Kyle Calloway - Iowa
Actual Results: Bulaga, Dace Richardson, Wisniewski, Moffitt, and Landolt
I only correctly guessed two of the 5 positions. It was good to see Dace have a huge year after a career plagued with injuries for the Hawkeyes.

TE: Garrett Graham - Wisconsin
Actual Result: Tony Moeaki
Moeaki is easily the most talented TE in the Big Ten, and would have been my choice had you told me he would have an injury-free (for the most part) season.

WR: Arrelious Benn - Illinois
WR: Eric Decker - Minnesota
Decker, Blair White
Benn, like the rest of the Illini, was a major disappointment this year. Blair White had a great year for the Spartans and definitely deserved first team honors.


Defense:
DL: Corey Wooten - Northwestern
DL: Jared Odrick - Penn State
DL: Jammie Kirlew - Indiana
DL: Thaddeus Gibson - Ohio State
Actual: Clayborn, Odrick, Graham, Schofield
This was my second worst projection behind Juice Williams. I am embarassed to not have Adrian Clayborn or Brandon Graham on my preseason list.

LB: Navorro Bowman - Penn State
LB: Pat Angerer - Iowa
LB: Sean Lee - Penn State
Actual: Angerer, Jones, Bowman
I had Sean Lee instead of Greg Jones for MSU. Lee was named second team, while Jones edged him out for first team.

S: Tyler Sash - Iowa
S: Kurt Coleman - Ohio State
CB: Traye Simmons - Minnesota
CB: Amari Spievey - Iowa
Actual: Sash, Spievey, Coleman, Phillips
I got 3 of the 4 defensive backs correct, and I was one of the few who had Sash on his preseason list.

Specialists:
K: Brett Swenson - Michigan State
P: Zoltan Mesko - Michigan
Actual: Mesko, Swenson

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Iowa All-Decade Team

After picking up the latest copy of Lindy's preseason college football magazine I noticed an interesting feature they had on the Big Ten All-Decade team. So, I thought it would be a good blog topic to post my University of Iowa All-Decade team.

Notice: These picks do not reflect where a player was drafted or how well they did in the pros. This is strictly based on their college football productivity at the University of Iowa. Also the positions might not always go by strict formatting, for example the first team offensive line has three tackles, one guard, and one center. It just goes by who was the most productive on the line, regardless of interior position. Enjoy!

1st Team Offense:

QB: Brad Banks
This was really a coin flip between Banks and Drew Tate. You could make a good argument for either player. Although Banks was only the starting quarterback for one season you can't argue that he had one of the best seasons for any player in a Hawkeye uniform this decade. He led the supremely talented 2002 squad to an undefeated Big Ten season and championship while throwing for 2,573 yards and 26 touchdowns, not to mention his 423 rushing yards. Banks also garnered more national attention than any other Hawkeye this decade by winning the Davey O'Brien award, being name AP National Player of the Year, and being runner-up for the Heisman trophy. For those reasons he just barely gets the nod over Tate.

HB: Shonn Greene
HB: Fred Russell
The selection of Shonn Greene is an easy one, even though he only started one season this decade. Greene finished the 2008 years with 1,850 yards (second in the nation), 20 touchdowns, a consensus All-American, and won the Doak Walker award. Greene's 2008 statistics were all single season Iowa rushing records. The choice of Russell was a little harder as there have been many talented Iowa backs this decade. Others making viable claims for first team honors include Albert Young (led Big Ten in rushing in 05, 3rd all-time leading rusher) and LaDell Betts (2nd All-Time leading rusher, back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons). Russell barely edges these two out by also having back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons that were more successful than Betts (2002, 2003). Betts also is at a disadvantage having played two of his years in the 90s (1998, 1999).

WR: Maurice Brown
WR: Ed Hinkel
Mo Brown had the most productive season for any wide receiver in this decade by catching 48 balls for 966 yards and breaking the single season receiving touchdowns record in 2002. Hinkel is also a first team'er for his sure hands and solid consistency throughout his four year career.

TE:
Dallas Clark
This is another no-brainer selection. Clark is not only the best tight end for Iowa this decade but one of the best in the NCAA's during that time frame.

OL: Robert Gallery
OL: Eric Steinbach
OL: Bruce Nelson
OL: Marshal Yanda
OL: Bryan Bulaga
I feel like I could run for a thousand yards behind this offensive line. Gallery was all-world during his career at Iowa, having won the Outland trophy. And, Bulaga (with two years eligibility remaining) could be the second coming.

K: Nate Kaeding
Was there any doubt about this one? Nate Kaeding is one of the best kickers in college football history.

1st Team Defense:
DL: Matt Roth
DL: Mitch King
DL: Jonathan Babineaux
DL: Aaron Kampman
Now there is a defensive line that would have any quarterback fearing for his life. Mitch King and Matt Roth provided the intensity and were team leaders during their years in a Hawkeye uniform, while also being extremely productive on the field. Kampman is one of the best ever at Iowa at his position, and Babineaux had a monster senior year after converting from fullback earlier in his career.

LB: Chad Greenway
LB: Abdul Hodge
LB: Fred Barr
Greenway and Hodge are also two all-timers at Iowa. They dominated Big Ten offenses for three straight years as starters. Barr was a four year starter who, while not as spectacular as Hodge and Greenway, had a very productive career for the Hawks. Other contenders included Mike Humpal, Mike Klinkenborg, and Pat Angerer.

S: Bob Sanders
S: Sean Considine
Bob Sanders was an easy selection. Considine was a smart player who often times was the quarterback of the Iowa defense. He was also more productive than other safeties this decade (Marcus Paschal, Miguel Merrick, and Derek Pagal).

CB: Amari Spievey
CB: Jovon Johnson
While Spievey is still a current player he had a solid year in 2008 (66 tackles, 4 Ints) and still has two years of eligibility remaining, including one this decade. He is poised to break out in 2009, and also gets recognition after defensive coordinator Norm Parker said that he may be the most talented corner they've had during the Ferentz era. Jovon Johnson, on the other hand, was very productive during his four year starting career at Iowa, including 16 career interceptions.

P: David Bradley
Bradley barely gets the nod over current punter Ryan Donahue.


What picks do you agree with? Disagree with? Who was snubbed? Who was overrated? And, finally who was the best player for Iowa this decade? (Greene, Gallery, Banks, Sanders, Greenway, Hodge, or Kaeding?)

Monday, June 15, 2009

2009 Preseason All-Big Ten Team

After a month hiatus I'm back with my first Road to the Rose Bowl blog of the summer.

Today I give my preseason All-Big Ten first team. This will be interesting to look back on come December/January, when I can come back and see how accurate my picks were, or face the far more likely scenario of seeing just how 'full of you know what' I am.

Anywho, without further ado:

2009 Preseason All-Big Ten 1st Team

Offense:
QB: Juice Williams - Illinois
This was a hard choice, and a pick that could take some flack. It's either all or nothing for Illinois in 2009. Everyone knows the story on the Fighting Illini, they are loaded with talent on paper, but can't seem to translate that into on the field W's. I believe the 2009 Illini squad will more resemble the 07 squad (not quite that successful, however) than the freefall that was the 2008 team. Juice will be relieved of some of the pressure this year as he now has two experienced players in the backfield in Daniel Dufrene and Jason Ford. Juice also has the luxury of throwing to arguably one of the most talented returning wide receivers in the country in Arrelious Benn. I look for the Illini to return to having a winning record, and in the process Williams should put up lofty numbers in his senior year.

RB: Evan Royster - Penn State
RB: John Clay - Wisconsin
Running back was a major strength for the Big Ten in 2008 and although the conference loses the likes of Shonn Greene, Javon Ringer, Beanie Wells, and Tyrell Sutton----the cupboard is not bare. Amongst the aforementioned stars Evan Royster put up a quiet 1,236 yards and 12 touchdowns. Royster should put up similar or better numbers this year. Wisconsin's Clay had a strong first campaign in 2008 and will put up much better numbers in '09 as he becomes the feature back after RB P.J. Hill decided to forego a year of eligibility to enter the NFL Draft (reasons unknown).

OL: Bryan Bulaga - Iowa
OL: Justin Boren - Ohio State
OL: Stefen Wisniewski - Penn State
OL: Joel Foreman - Michigan State
OL: Kyle Calloway - Iowa
The Iowa offensive line should be one of the tops in the nation, anchored by Bulaga and Calloway. Wisniewski and Foreman should have solid years on the offensive front while former Michigan transfer Justin Boren should have an immediate impact for his new team the Ohio State Buckeyes.

TE: Garrett Graham - Wisconsin
Graham should have a good year if Wisconsin can find a reliable quarterback. But, watch out for the oft-injured Tony Moeaki who could finally have a breakout year---barring injury.

WR: Arrelious Benn - Illinois
WR: Eric Decker - Minnesota
These are really no brainer picks as Benn and Decker are not only the top two WRs in the Big Ten but also amongst the best in the country.

Defense:
DL: Corey Wooten - Northwestern
DL: Jared Odrick - Penn State
DL: Jammie Kirlew - Indiana
DL: Thaddeus Gibson - Ohio State
Gibson is the Buckeye's returning sack man having registered five in 2008. He should increase the number in 2009 as he begins to maximize his potential during his junior campaign. Kirlew and teammate Greg Middleton could be bright spots on an Indiana team that should see its fair share of gloomy moments this season.

LB: Navorro Bowman - Penn State
LB: Pat Angerer - Iowa
LB: Sean Lee - Penn State
It feels weird not seeing James Laurinaitis on this list, but after his seemingly decade long run of dominating Big Ten offenses, Laurinaitis is finally in the NFL. Which opens up preseason and postseason accolades for other Big Ten linebackers. It is hard to leave Michigan State's Greg Jones off this list but he just barely gets bumped to the second team. Angerer led the Big Ten in interceptions (5) as a middle linebacker last season. Bowman was the conferences best tackler and his teammate Lee missed all of 08 after getting injured in the spring. Lee, the most hyped of all, should have a monster year if he can return to pre-injury form.

S: Tyler Sash - Iowa
S: Kurt Coleman - Ohio State
CB: Traye Simmons - Minnesota
CB: Amari Spievey - Iowa
Iowa's defensive backfield should be solid with two first team all-Big Ten'ers in Spievey and Sash. Sash tied teammate Pat Angerer for the Big Ten's lead in intereceptions with five. While Spievey (second team all-Big Ten last season) is set to break onto the national scene in 2009 after having four interceptions and improving every game in 08. Simmons returns to the Gophers after being a second team selection last year. While Ohio State's Coleman need to play an even bigger role on the OSU defense that loses plenty of stars to the NFL, including cornerback Malcolm Jenkins.

Specialists:
K: Brett Swenson - Michigan State
P: Zoltan Mesko - Michigan
KR: David Gilreath - Wisconsin
PR: Ray Small - Ohio State

Monday, May 11, 2009

Final Project: Top 5 Iowa JUCO Transfers

The topic of my final project was University of Iowa football players transferring to Iowa Central Community College, and then back. So, that got me thinking, who are the best Ferentz-era junior college transfers to ever grace a Hawkeye jersey?

There have been many talented players to end up at Iowa via the JUCO route. Which is surprising since Ferentz rarely ever recruits from the JUCO rankings. So, without further ado, here are your top five Ferentz-era (1999-Present) transfers:

Honorable Mention:
Amari Spievey

I didn't include Spievey in the top five since he is a current player. Spievey has definitely shown flashes of greatness throughout his brief Iowa career and could, eventually, be near the top of this list. Spievey was a redshirt freshman for Iowa in 2006 before transferring to Iowa Central Community College in 2007. Spievey was a beast, as expected, in the JUCO ranks racking up seven interceptions including two for touchdowns. He also scored on two kickoff returns and blocked four punts. After returning to Iowa City, Spievey didn't slow down a bit. In 2008, he recorded 66 tackles and had four interceptions including an explosive 55 yard INT return against Minnesota.

5. Nathan Chandler

Chandler didn't do anything special. But, he also didn't do anything wrong. What he did do was win. With Chandler under center, as a senior, the Hawkeyes went 10-3. Chandler saved his best for last by going 13-25 with 170 yards and 1 TD and no interceptions in a 37-17 blowout against a Ron Zook coached Florida Gators team. This was Iowa's second of three straight ten win seasons. Chandler was a community college All-American before transferring to Iowa.

4. Clinton Solomon

Solomon faced academic problems following his freshman season at Iowa. During his freshman campaign he had only 14 receptions for 159 yards and one touchdown. Solomon would later transfer to Iowa Central Community College in order to get his grades back on track. At ICCC Solomon had 34 catches for 537 yards and five touchdowns.

“We are a heavily run-oriented team, so for him to put up those kind of numbers
in our offense just shows the athletic ability he had,” Iowa Central coach Kevin
Twait said. “He made some incredible plays for us. He was really a difference
maker.”

Twait still recalls a game against Ellsworth Community College,
no six years later, where Solomon had three receiving touchdowns and took the
game over.

“We would have not won that game without him,” Twait said.
“In fact, we probably would have dropped a couple more games that season without
him.”
Solomon only improved after returning to Iowa and turned into an all-time great Hawkeye receiver. He finished his Iowa career with 118 receptions for 1,864 yards and 14 touchdowns. This places him fourth in career touchdown receptions and seventh in career receiving yards.

3. Marshall Yanda

Marshal Yanda played two seasons at North Iowa Area Community College before joining the Hawkeyes in 2005. Yanda immediately made in impact and was one of the anchors of the Iowa offensive line. In fact, Yanda played so well he was drafted in the third round of the NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens. Yanda has since earned a starting spot and is one of the key elements of the Ravens offensive line heading into the 2009 NFL season.

However, the best thing about Marshal Yanda is that he knows how to hit. Yanda is the owner of one of my favorite blocks in Iowa football history. And yes it helps that the guy he hit was a Cyclone. He Rashawn Parker, welcome to the Iowa-Iowa State rivalry:













2. Shonn Greene

Greene just keeps showing up in this blog. There's not a whole lot more that needs to be said, as everyone knows the Shonn Greene story by now. He's everyone's favorite furniture mover turned Doak Walker award winner. Greene isn't a 'true' JUCO transfer, however, after facing academic troubles Greene transferred to Kirkwood Community College and only took classes. After a year out of the game he returned with a vengeance, rushing for 1,850 yards and 20TDs and won the Doak Walker as the nation's best running back. Since then, he was drafted by the New York Jets in the third round (1st pick).












1. Brad Banks

Brad Banks is a Hawkeye legend. Banks was one of the most athletically gifted quarterbacks in Iowa history. Although, he may not have been the pure passer that the Chuck's were (Long and Hartlieb), he made very few mistakes. Banks exploded onto the scene in 2002 after sitting a year behind Kyle McCann (I know, right?). As a senior, Banks was 17-294 with 2,573 yards, 26 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He was also the leader of the incredibly talented 2002 Iowa team. Banks helped lead the Hawkeyes to the 2003 Orange Bowl and a 10-2 overall record. He was rewarded for his season winning the Davey O'Brien award (nation's best QB) and was named the Associated Press Player of the Year. Banks was also runner-up for the 2002 Heisman trophy (Carson Palmer).

Before Iowa, Banks was enrolled at Central Florida University as a freshman. He later transferred to Hinds Junior College after his freshman season, and later the University of Iowa.













Photos from: Spievey: CR Gazette; Nathan Chandler: Getty Images ; Clinton Solomon: hawkeyesports.com ; Marshal Yanda: Quad City Times ; Shonn Greene: smu.edu/doakwalker ; Brad Banks: Getty Images

Thursday, April 30, 2009

3 Big Ten Players Named to College Football Hall of Fame

Three Big Ten players, including one Hawkeye, have been named to the 2009 Hall of Fame class.

The three Big Ten-ers named to the Hall include: (from ESPN.com):

Chris Spielman, Ohio State, linebacker (1984-87) --
Two-time first team All-America selection (1986-87) who was unanimous in 1987
and consensus in 1986. The recipient of the 1987 Lombardi Award, he was a
three-time first team all-conference selection and a member of two Big Ten title
teams.

Larry Station, Iowa, linebacker (1982-85) -- Two-time
first team All-America selection (1984-85) who was unanimous in 1985, consensus
in 1984. A three-time first team all-conference selection, he was named team
captain and MVP in 1985. Iowa's all-time leader in tackles with 492, Station
topped the team's tackles chart in all four seasons and recorded 10 or more
tackles 23 times.

Curt Warner, Penn State, running back (1979-82)
-- Named first team All-America in 1981 and led Penn State to 1982 national
championship. Most outstanding offensive player in 1980 and 1982 Fiesta Bowls.
Finished career with 11 season, 10 career, 14 bowl and 42 school records

Chris Spielman personifies intensity. Nevermind his playing career, I was ready to induct him into the Hall after his magnificent job calling the 2006 Outback Bowl. If you don't remember that game, it was, and I hate to blame things on officials, the worst referee'd game I've ever seen.

Flashback: With under two minutes left Iowa recovers an onside kick, to set-up a potentially game-tying drive. Wait...flag...Greenway was offsides. On second thought, no he wasn't. On third thought, Conference USA referee's should never officiate big time bowl games again. But, in relation to Spielman, he called the game and was barking at the refs the whole broadcast (this was only one amongst numerous bad calls). Oh, and he was a pretty damn good linebacker too.

Who tops Iowa's all-time leading tackles list? Abdul Hodge? Nope (3rd) Chad Greenway? Nope (5th) Sitting atop the list of all-time great Hawkeye linebackers is Larry Station. His 492 career tackles are 27 more than second place.

And, how did it take Kurt Warner this long to get in? He's a two time NFL MVP, has won a super bowl...and after many counted him out age-wise, he led the Arizona Cardinals to the 2009 Super Bowl. The man has done it all. Oh....wait, thats right he played for UNI. Different Curt Warner? Oh well, he was pretty good too.

Congrats to all the 2009 inductees, for a full list of the new entrants into the Hall click here.

Indiana's Lewis Kicked Off Team

ESPN's Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg reported yesterday that former quarterback and briefly turned wide receiver Kellen Lewis has been dismissed from the Indiana football team.

Things have turned from bad to worse for Lewis, who lost his starting quarterback gig to teammate Ben Chappell earlier this spring. I did a blog post earlier this year on Lewis' switch to wide receiver and seriously questioned Hoosier coach Bill Lynch's move.

Obviously there was something that the public wasn't seeing. Perhaps Lynch no longer trusted Lewis as the leader of his team, after such violations. Lynch wouldn't release any details on why Lewis was dismissed from the team besides that he violated 'team rules'. This is his second such offense after being suspended last spring for the same vague offense.


This is a huge blow to the Hoosier team. It was doubtful that Lewis was going to make same impact at wide receiver as he did at quarterback, but the fact remains that Kellen Lewis was a playmaker. In just 2007, he was a second-team all-Big Ten quarterback. He also led the Hoosiers to their first bowl game in 14 years.


Chalk this up to another wasted Big Ten talent due to off-the-field issues.
Photo from heraldtimesonline.com

Purdue Possible Destination for Former Miami Quarterback

As reported by ESPN's Joe Schad, Purdue is the preferred destination of former Miami quarterback Robert Marve. Amongst his other choices are Arizona State, South Florida, and Nebraska. Currently, Purdue is at the top of his list.

Marve would be a huge addition to the Boilermaker's roster. Of course, he would have to sit out the 2009 regular season, but beyond that, I see him being a three year starter in West Lafeyette.


Marve struggled through his freshman season at Miami and eventually lost his starting job to fellow freshman Jacory Harris. Marve's 2008 stats were: 116-213 1,293 yards 54.5% 9 TDs 13 Ints


Marve has decent size at 6'2" and 210 pounds and would fit in well at Purdue, should they continue Joe Tiller's pass-happy offense under new coach Danny Hope.

Although Marve didn't live up to all the expectations in his first year at Miami he still has tons of potential. He was a four star recruit coming out of high school and the tenth best quarterback prospect in the 2007 class.
Photo from Doug Benc/Getty Images North America

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Big Ten Draftees

Here is a list of all the Big Ten players drafted in the 2009 draft. The list of draftees comes from nfl.com:

Iowa:
Shonn Greene RB 5'11" 227 Pick 1, Round 3 (65) Jets
Bradley Fletcher DB 6'0" 196 Pick 2, Round 3 (66) Rams
Seth Olsen OG 6'5" 306 Pick 32, Round 4 (132) Broncos
Brandon Myers TE 6'4" 250 Pick 29, Round 6 (202) Raiders

Ohio State:
Malcolm Jenkins CB 6'0" 204 Ohio State Pick 14, Round 1 (14) Saints
Chris "Beanie" Wells RB 6'1" 235 Ohio State Pick 31, Round 1 (31) Cardinals
James Laurinaitis ILB 6'2" 244 Ohio State Pick 3, Round 2 (35) Rams
Brian Robiskie WR 6'3" 209 Ohio State Pick 4, Round 2 (36) Browns
Donald Washington CB 6'0" 197 Ohio State Pick 2, Round 4 (102) Chiefs
Brian Hartline WR 6'2" 195 Ohio State Pick 8, Round 4 (108) Dolphins
Marcus Freeman LB 6'0" 239 Ohio State Pick 18, Round 5 (154) Bears

Wiconsin:
Matt Shaughnessy DE 6'5" 266 Wisconsin Pick 7, Round 3 (71) Raiders
DeAndre Levy OLB 6'2" 236 Wisconsin Pick 12, Round 3 (76) Lions
Kraig Urbik OT 6'5" 328 Wisconsin Pick 15, Round 3 (79) Steelers
Travis Beckum TE 6'3" 243 Wisconsin Pick 36, Round 3 (100) Giants

Purdue:
Alex Magee DT 6'3" 298 Purdue Pick 3, Round 3 (67) Chiefs
Chris Painter QB 6'3" 225 Purdue Pick 28, Round 6 (201) Colts

Penn State:
Aaron Maybin DE 6'4" 249 Penn State Pick 11, Round 1 (11) Bills
Derrick Williams WR 6'0" 194 Penn State Pick 18, Round 3 (82) Lions
Deon Butler WR 5'10" 182 Penn State Pick 27, Round 3 (91) Seahawks
Rich Ohrnberger OG 6'2" 297 Penn State Pick 23, Round 4 (123) Patriots
A.Q. Shipley C 6'1" 304 Penn State Pick 17, Round 7 (226) Steelers

Michigan:
Terrance Taylor DT 6'0" 306 Michigan Pick 36, Round 4 (136) Colts
Morgan Trent CB 6'1" 193 Michigan Pick 6, Round 6 (179) Bengals

Michigan State:
Javon Ringer RB 5'9" 205 Michigan State Pick 37, Round 5 (173) Titans

Illinois:
Vontae Davis CB 5'11" 203 Illinois Pick 25, Round 1 (25) Dolphins
Xavier Fulton OT 6'4" 302 Illinois Pick 19, Round 5 (155) Buccaneers
Will Davis DE 6'2" 261 Illinois Pick 31, Round 6 (204) Cardinals



Breakdown:
Ohio State: 7 Draftees
Penn State: 5 Draftees
Iowa: 4 Draftees
Wisconsin: 4 Draftees
Illinois: 3 Draftees
Michigan: 2 Draftees
Purdue: 2 Draftees
Michigan State: 1 Draftee
Minnesota: 0 Draftees
Northwestern: 0 Draftees
Indiana: 0 Draftees

Pretty lackluster year for the Big Ten, only having four first round draft picks (Maybin, Jenkins, Davis, and Wells) and no one in the top ten.



Thursday, April 23, 2009

2009 NFL Draft Position Rankings

Here are my rankings for the top three players at each position. Including who I think will be the biggest disappointment and the biggest surprise. These rankings don't reflect where I think they will get drafted or where the 'experts' are projecting them, but rather, who I believe will have the best pro careers in the long run. Enjoy!

Quarterback:
1. Matthew Stafford - QB - Georgia
2. Mark Sanchez - QB - USC
3. Rhett Bomar - QB - Sam Houston State
Biggest Surprise: Pat White - QB - West Virginia
Biggest Disappointment: Josh Freeman - QB - Kansas State
Thoughts: I'm not very high on the 2009 quarterback class. I think Stafford should make a fine pro, but I'm not even sure if he is the answer in Detroit. I don't see Sanchez being your protypical franchise quarterback. I don't think Pat White will be a quarterback, at least starting, in the NFL, but since he played the position in college he fits in this category. I think White has too much talent to keep him off the field. I see him with, best case scenario, Antwaan Randle-El talent. And, if he stays at QB, he is Seneca Wallace-esque.


Running Back:
1. Knowshon Moreno - RB - Georgia
2. Beanie Wells - RB - Ohio State
3. Shonn Greene - RB - Iowa
Biggest Surprise: Shonn Greene - RB - Iowa
Biggest Disappointment: Donald Brown - RB - UCONN
Thoughts: A lot of people are selling Shonn Greene short. But, I think he has the potential to be one of the tops of this running back class. This is a weak class, as there is no one creating Adrian Peterson, or even Darren McFadden buzz entering the draft. If Wells can stay healthy he makes a nice power back in the NFL, and Moreno could be a franchise player given his versatility out of the backfield.


Wide Receiver:
1. Jeremy Maclin - WR - Mizzou
2. Michael Crabtree - WR - Texas Tech
3. Percy Harvin - WR - Florida
Biggest Surprise: Hakeem Nicks - WR - North Carolina
Biggest Disappointment: Michael Crabtree - WR - Texas Tech
Thoughts: Even though Crabtree's listed as my second best WR of this class, he still gets the nod as biggest disappointment. Talks are heating up that the Browns will grab Crabtree with the fifth overall pick and attempt to trade away Braylon Edwards. I don't see Crabtree having near the potential of Edwards. I like Maclin in the number one slot. He reminds me a lot of DeSean Jackson---as a WR and return man. Also, look out for Hakeem Nicks.

Tight End:
1. Brandon Pettigrew - TE - Oklahoma State
2. Jared Cook - TE - South Carolina
3. Chase Coffman - TE - Mizzou
Biggest Surprise: Travis Beckum - TE - Wisconsin
Biggest Disappointment: Cornelius Ingram - TE - Florida
Thoughts: I pretty much agree with the experts on the tight ends. I do think Beckum could be a steal if he falls to the third round. He is coming off a season ending injury, but does have loads of talent, when healthy. Missouri's Chase Coffman should find himself on an NFL roster for a long time, and have a productive career. But, not necessarily pro bowl material.

Offensive Line:
1. Jason Smith - OT - Baylor
2. Eugene Monroe - OT - Virginia
3. Michael Oher - OT - Ole Miss
Biggest Surprise: Duke Robinson - OG - Oklahoma
Biggest Disappointment: Andre Smith - OT - Alabama
Thoughts: I would caution any team willing to spend a top ten pick on Andre Smith.

Defensive Line:
1. Aaron Maybin - DE - Penn State
2. Brian Orakpo - DE - Texas
3. B.J. Raji - DT - Boston College
Biggest Surprise: Michael Johnson - DE - Georgia Tech
Biggest Disappointment: None
Thoughts: This is a pretty good year for the defensive line. Many DE are projected to go in the first round. Almost every mock has Orakpo going ahead of Maybin, but I like Maybin's potential.

Linebackers:
1. Rey Maualuga - ILB - USC
2. Aaron Curry - OLB - Wake Forest
3. Marcus Freeman - OLB - OSU
Biggest Surprise: Tyrone Mckenzie - OLB - South Florida
Biggest Disappointment: James Laurinaitis - ILB - OSU
Thoughts: Curry should have a solid career in the NFL, but I don't think he will be the potential HOF'er everyone is already proclaiming him to be. I like Maualuga's intensity, and I see his skill set transfering over well into the NFL. Of the Ohio State linebackers I look for Freeman to have a better career.

Defensive Backs:
1. Vontae Davis - CB - Illinois
2. Malcolm Jenkins - CB - OSU
3. Sean Smith - S - Utah
Biggest Surprise: Alphonso Smith - CB - Wake Forest
Biggest Disppointment: None
Thoughts: I don't see anyone who sticks out as a for sure bust amongst the defensive backs. There have been a lot of talks of Jenkins switching over to safety, ala Antrel Rolle, and I think that may suit him well. Davis seems to be the real deal, running a 4.4 40. Utah's Sean Smith has a huge frame as a 6'4" safety and could have a very successful pro career.

Which picks do you agree/disagree with? Who should be higher/lower?

Moreno photo from Reuters Pictures; All others from the Associated Press

2009 NFL Mock Draft Database

If you’re looking to get your last minute NFL Mock Draft fix, I highly recommend you check out the 2009 NFL Mock Draft Database. This is a site that links all the mock drafts on the internet. It's fast, convenient, and very helpful.

As you can see it looks like the general consensus is that Stafford will be the first picked, followed by offensive tackle Jason Smith.

In related news....is it Saturday yet?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Show Some Love: Top Five Underrated Players in the 2009 NFL Draft

I'm back today with my top five underrated players of the upcoming draft. Just for some clarification on yesterday's post, I don't think Curry and Crabtree will be complete busts, ala Ryan Leaf, I just don't think they can compare to the top talent at their positions of previous drafts. But, I do see Robiskie being a bust, and Andre Smith has Ryan Leaf written all over him...well maybe two Ryan Leaf's---given his size.


Anywho, without further ado, my top five players who should be getting more love from the 'experts'.


5. Lawrence Sidbury Jr.
Rice's Lawrence Sidbury Jr. really impressed scouts at the combine. He turned in the best time for a defensive end with a 4.64 40 yard dash. He also put up a respectable 28 reps on the bench press. Sidbury may still need to slightly bulk up his 6'3" 265 pound frame, but even now, his measurables are comparable to other top DL prospects like Aaron Maybin (6'4" 253) and Brian Orakpo (6'3" 263). Sidbury is projected by most to be a late second or early third round draft choice. Rice's Sidbury Jr. would be a real steal that late in the draft.


4. Rhett Bomar

Remember Rhett Bomar? If not he was Oklahoma's quarterback in 2005. He was later kicked off the team and went to Sam Houston State. Bomar is the second FCS (I-AA) prospect to crack my list. Bomar showed promise in 05 with Oklahoma throwing for over 2,000 yards and a 10 touchdown to 10 interception ratio, as a redshirt freshman. Bomar only increased his stats at SHS throwing for 3,405 yards and a 27-13 touchdown to interception ratio. Being a IAA prospect, I'm not declaring Bomar the next Joe Flacco, but he could be a great pick-up in the later rounds.


3. Marcus Freeman

If you read my rankings yesterday, you know that I put some stock in combine numbers, but I don't like putting too much stock into them. Being said, Freeman was very impressive at the combine. He put up a linebacker-high 30 repetitions on the bench press, and his 4.74 40 yard dash was seventh amongst all linebackers. Freeman also has the collegiate career to back up his numbers, being named second team all-Big Ten in 2008. Freeman may be being slightly looked over due to playing his whole career in the shadows of James Laurinaitis at OSU. I see most mocks projecting Freeman as a third round pick. Scouts may me a little hesitant of his size, at only 6'0" and 239 lbs, but I believe Freeman will have a long pro career ahead of him.


2. Hakeem Nicks

Hakeem Nicks isn't exactly being overlooked---being a projected second round pick. But, I think his talent is even greater than that. Nicks, even at 6'1", can go up and get any pass. And, if you watched North Carolina's bowl win against West Virginia you know Nicks catches anything that is thrown to him. He finished the game with eight receptions for 217 yards and three touchdowns, including a string of highlight reel worthy circus catches. Nicks had a very productive 2008 grabbing 68 passes for 1,222 yards and 12 touchdowns. I think any team should feel lucky to snatch Nicks up in the second round.


1. Shonn Greene

Okay fine, call me a homer, but you had to see this one coming. Shonn Greene's 1,850 yards were good enough for second in the nation. FACT: Shonn Greene was college football's best running back in 2008 (See Doak Walker results). But, the same knocks keep coming up against Greene. The experts will reiterate that Greene only had one full season of college football, and will talk about his age as if he's getting AARP discounts. The only discount here is the team that gets Greene in the late second or third round, that he's projected to go. Greene will turn 24 when the NFL season opens. But that is not necessarily a bad thing, considering he has only 376 career carries (including an entire year off) while Donald Brown (a RB projected ahead of him) has almost twice as many, 698 carries. While Greene's legs might be slightly older than the other top prospects they haven't seen nearly as much work. Therefore, Greene's NFL longevity may be just as long as any RB in this class.

Although Greene didn't have the best combine, he dramatically improved his numbers during Iowa's Pro Day. He turned in a 4.55 40 during Pro Day, which is very respectable for a RB of Greene's size. Now, I can somewhat understand Beanie Wells (injuries and all) and Knowshon Moreno being projected above Greene----but LeSean McCoy (all 198 pounds), Donald Brown, Andre Brown, and others ahead of him? C'mon



Photos: Lawrence Sidbury Jr.: Richmond Athletics Public Relations, Rhett Bomar & Hakeem Nicks: Getty Images, Shonn Greene: Washington Post

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ryan Leaf Syndrome - The Most Overrated Players in the 2009 NFL Draft

It's that time again. I look forward to this weekend every year. That's right, it's the 2009 NFL Draft. The draft once fell on the date of my senior prom, and let me just say, it was a harder decision than it should have been to miss the draft. Just like every year besides that year, I'll be glued to the television this Saturday and Sunday.

Today will start off my week long draft coverage, with my top five overrated players in this years draft class.


5. Aaron Curry
Curry was this year's combine baby. He shot up Kiper's and everyone elses draft boards after he ripped off a 4.56 40 yard dash. This was significantly faster than the other top linebacker prospects. With college standouts James Laurinaitis and Rey Maualuga running gruesomely slow times (4.88 and 4.91, respectively), Curry suddenly turned into the prize of the draft. Most mocks I've seen him have him as a certain top five pick. Before the combine, Curry was probably was just looking at the first half of the first round. I don't doubt that Curry will be a good NFL player, perhaps even great, but I think too much stock was put into his combine numbers. He will have a lot of pressure heading into his rookie campaign as a top three pick, potentially.

4. Michael Crabtree

After Crabtree's ridiculously good redshirt freshman campaign, I was still skeptical and brushed him off as a 'product of the system'. While his numbers were still greatly inflated due to the Texas Tech offense, he proved to me that he is a top college wide receiver in 2008. But, I don't think he has the ability to live up to the top 5 pick talent that is being placed on him. I don't see him as a franchise wide receiver. Leading up to draft day I have heard ESPN compare Crabtree to Larry Fitzgerald on numerous occasions. I guess I just don't see it. Crabtree measured in at 6'1" after being listed as 6'3" at Texas Tech. He lacks the true wide receiver speed that other members of this class have (Maclin, Heyward-Bey, and Harvin). I see Crabtree being a nice possession receiver in the NFL, but his talent, in my opinion, doesn't compare to other top wide receivers in previous classes (Calvin Johnson).

3. The 2009 Quarterback Class

I believe Matthew Stafford will make a fine NFL quarterback, of the Jay Cutler mold. But, beyond that I'm not so sure. Sanchez only has one full season of starting experience under his belt. I agree with Pete Carroll, in that he probably could have benefited from another year of college. And, the third highest ranked quarterback in this class is....Kansas State's Josh Freeman? I guess this class gets downplayed due to the fact that the best NFL quarterback prospect is still in college (Sam Bradford).

2. Brian Robiskie

Robiskie's numbers drastically fell in 2008 due to the breaking in of a true freshman quarterback. But, the fact remains that Robiskie only had one 100 yard receiving game in 2008. He proved to be a non-factor in 2008, only recording 42 receptions for 535 yards. These were drastically lower than his 935 yards in 07. But, since he clocked in a 4.51 40 and is only slightly under 6'3" his college production, or lack there of, is ignored and he is considered a second or third round pick. I see Robiskie being nothing more than being a team's third option at receiver, if that.

1. Andre Smith

This one was easy. Click here to read about Smith's draft free-fall. Nothing more really needs to be said, but even after all this I still see Smith being projected as a top ten pick on several mock drafts. If I were running an NFL team, I would be seriously hesitant about investing millions of dollars and a top ten pick in a guy with commitment and work ethic issues.

Stay tuned for my top underrated players in the 2009 NFL Draft!

Curry photo from Getty Images all others from the Associated Press

Saturday, April 18, 2009

That's why there are so many off the field issues...


From the 'barely related to college football' department, the University of Iowa was named Playboy's ninth best party school in America. Perhaps thats the reason for all the off the field issues Iowa faces, like we all already knew, Hawkeyes like to party.

Here's Playboy's top ten list:
1) University of Miami

2) University of Texas (Austin)

3) San Diego State University

4) University of Florida

5) University of Arizona

6) University of Wisconsin (Madison)

7) University of Georgia

8) Louisiana State University

9) University of Iowa

10) West Virginia University


Iowa gets the nod after ranking high in many of Playboy's criteria. Girl-to-guy ratio and sports, amongst other things, all played a role in the decision making process. And, to our credit, brainpower was part of the equation (seriously).


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Duke PG turned Michigan QB?

Duke point guard Greg Paulus is contemplating joining the Wolverines and competing for the starting quarterback position, as reported by Adam Rittenberg.

Paulus is a former high school quarterback standout who eventually chose basketball and the opportunity to play for Duke and coach Mike Krzyzewski over the chance to play college football. From Rittenberg's blog:

Paulus was a former Gatorade high school football player of the year at Christian Brothers Academy, where he was a four-time all-state player, set six state passing records and was a starter in the U.S. Army All-American game. Christian Brothers was 42-3 during Paulus' time there, and he had 11,763 career passing yards and 152 touchdown passes in 45 games.


Coach Rich Rodriguez says that Paulus would have a fair shot at competing for the starting spot. Which, Paulus says is a major factor in his decision.

Paulus' competition would be freshman quarterbacks Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson, along with junior Nick Sheridan who is coming off a broken leg.

I would say that right now Forcier has the upper hand, as he has been said to be performing well during spring ball. Sheridan does have the experience having started four games in 2008. But, Sheridan is coming off a broken leg, and really was a square peg trying to be fit in spread offenses round holes.

If Paulus can show he still has the talent, after a four year layoff from football, I would say he has as good of chance as anyone on the Michigan roster to be the starting quarterback in 2009.

For those of you wondering Paulus would be able to transfer to Michigan and play right away without sitting out a year. Since he played four years of basketball at Duke, without a redshirt season, and is earning his degree....he has one year of eligibility in another sport.

Paulus is still considering the transfer to Michigan. He has also garnered attention from Syracuse. Additionally, the possibility of working out for more NFL teams (seriously).


Photo from the AP

Monday, April 13, 2009

Top Five Wide Receivers in 2009

Like the quarterback position, the Big Ten should have some improved wide receivers in 2009. This crop of players, however, is very top heavy. Some younger receivers are going to be called on, and will be expected to provide some depth. The biggest loss will be to Penn State who lost receivers Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood, and Derrick Williams. These three Nittany Lions combined for 1,932 yards and 17 receiving touchdowns.

5. David Gilreath

2008 Stats: 31 Receptions 520 Yards 3 Touchdowns

Gilreath showed to have some spark in 2008. Defenses always had to keep one eye open for Gilreath who also returned punts, kickoffs, and was always an option for an end-around runnning play. Gilreath racked up 285 yards on the ground, doing just that. At only 5'11", Gilreath isn't going to 'go up and get' too many balls against talented corners but he does use his speed effectively.


4. Mark Dell

2008 Stats: 36 Receptions 679 Yards 3 Touchdowns

Dell seemed to be Michigan State's answer to the replacing Devin Thomas, after a nine catch 202 yard and one touchdown performance against Cal in the opener. He slowed down a bit from there, never again topping the 100 yard mark in a game. Bell, a junior-to-be, will need to play a big role in 2009 and will be instrumental in helping MSU break in a new quarterback.


3. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos

2008 Stats: 44 Receptions 639 Yards 3 Touchdowns

Johnson-Koulianos found himself on the outside looking in when the spring two deeps were announced earlier this month. But, I suspect DJK will be the starting, and premier, WR for the Hawkeyes once September rolls around. Johnson-Koulianos has shown steady improvement over his first two years at Iowa. In 2009, Johnson-Koulianos should show more of a knack for the endzone, after having 82 career receptions and 1,100 plus yards but only five career touchdowns. DJK was rolling at the end of 2008 regular season, coming off a career high 181 yard performance against Minnesota. He should take that momentum into 09. I expect the Iowa offense to mature under second year starter Ricky Stanzi, which should make for a break-out season for Johnson-Koulianos in 2009.

2. Arrelious Benn 2008 Stats: 67 Receptions 1,055 Yards 3 Touchdowns

Benn showed to be explosive with his 15.7 yards per reception average. He also proved that he can be effective against the leagues best defenses by garnering 65, 96, and 110 yards against Ohio State, Iowa, and Penn State repectively. With Benn and four year starting quarterback Juice Williams returning in 2009, the Illinois offense has the potential to be special in 2009. But, it also had this potential in 08, so we'll just have to wait and see. Regardless of the Fighting Illini's success this season, both Williams and Benn should put up lofty statistics.

1. Eric Decker
2008 Stats: 84 Receptions 1,074 Yards 7 Touchdowns

Decker was the Big Ten's leading receiver in 2008, and he should be right near the top again in 09. Decker, at 6'2" and 215, has shown to have impressive physical talents. The Minnesota offense will run through Decker this season, and the Weber-Decker connection will give defenses fits as Minnesota tries to build on their 7-6 season. In order for the Gophers to be successful, Decker, and Minnesota in general, will need to be dominate against both the cupcakes and the tougher opponents this season. Both Arrelious Benn and Decker could have claimed the top spot, but Decker gets the nod for his slightly better stats in 2008.


Gilreath photo from Getty Images, all others from the Associated Press

Friday, April 10, 2009

With the first pick in the 2009 NFL Draft the Detroit Lions select.....Jim Leavitt?

South Florida head coach Jim Leavitt knows how to keep things refreshing during spring practices. Brian Bennett reports that Leavitt made a promise to his team that he would run the 40 yard dash in under six seconds. His time? A not so laughable 5.72 seconds.

From ESPN:

But the 52-year-old South Florida coach made good on his promise to run the distance in under six seconds. He was clocked at 5.72 seconds while doing the sprint before practice on Thursday afternoon.

Leavitt's run was part of a promotion tied into South Florida's spring game on Saturday. Students will compete in a mock combine before the game, and those who beat Leavitt's time will get a T-shirt that says "I'm Faster Than Leavitt!" The fastest student will win a pair of tickets to the Bulls' game at Florida State in September.
Not bad for a 52 year old man, considering his time would have only put him .46 seconds slower than quarterback Hunter Cantwell's performance at the combine. But, if Leavitt really wanted to impress scouts he would have to be an offensive lineman. Leavitt's 5.72 was only one-tenth of a second slower than offensive lineman Ramon Foster's combine time.

So, that got me thinking....which college football coaches do you think would beat this? How many coaches 'still got it', years after their playing days?

Here's my unofficial top five:

5) USC's Pete Carroll
4) Florida's Urban Meyer
3) Buffalo's Turner Gill
2) Michigan's Rich Rodriguez
1) Tennesse's Lane Kiffin

And, on the flip-side, your not so speedy coaches:
5) Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer
4) Florida State's Bobby Bowden
3) Penn State's Joe Paterno
2) Notre Dame's Charlie Weis
1) Kansas' Mark Mangino

Photo from Getty Images

I'm sure I overlooked plenty of coaches, so, who makes your list of speedy coaches? Or lack-there-of.

CFN's Lott Trophy Watch List

Collegefootballnews recently released their Lott Trophy watch list. The Lott Trophy goes to the nations best defensive player. CFN ranks their top 42 defensive players to keep an eye on in '09.

The Big Ten didn't make an overwhelming presence but they did manage to get six names on the list.

It seems as though CFN might be overlooking several Big Ten defensive standouts including another Penn State linebacker in Navorro Brown and several other Iowa stars: AJ Edds and Amari Spievey amongst others. Here are the Big Ten defensive standouts that made their list:

CFN Ranking of the 2009 Lott Trophy Watch List
7. Sean Lee, LB, Penn State, Sr. 6-2, 236
10. Greg Jones, LB, Michigan State, Jr., 6-1, 222
32. Kurt Coleman, S, Ohio State, Sr., 5-11, 188
33. Pat Angerer, LB, Iowa, Sr., 6-1, 232
34. Brandon Graham, DE, Michigan, Sr., 6-2, 270
38. Corey Wootton, DE, Sr., Northwestern, 6-7, 270







Thursday, April 9, 2009

Top 5 Quarterbacks in 2009

The Big Ten loses a lot of talented running backs in 2009, but it does have a lot of returning talent at the quarterback position. Many of the QBs on this list were very young in 08, or took over the reigns under center at mid-season. Therefore, the quarterback position, in the Big Ten, should be much improved in '09.


5. Adam Weber

2008 Stats: 255-410 2,761 Yards 62.2% 15 TDs - 8 Ints 126.93 Rating

Weber was intrumental in leading the Gophers to their 7-1 start in 2008. Weber showed that he can look like an All-Big Ten QB against inferior competition, but on the same hand, he looked incredibly average down the stretch when the Gophers finished 0-5. Weber had a 4-4 touchdown to interception ratio in the Gophers last four games. Weber should steadily improve and will be greatly helped out by the return of all-Big Ten WR Erik Decker.


4. Ricky Stanzi
2008 Stats: 150-254 1,956 Yards 59.1% 14 TDs - 9 Ints 134.85 Rating

Stanzi was the exact opposite of Weber in 2008. When Ricky first took over the job, he was a turnover machine. At times he looked lost in the offense, as if the game was going too fast. However, he really started to show what he was capable of down the stretch. Stanzi came into his own during a last minute drive against Penn State at Kinnick Stadium. I look for Stanzi to have a big year, and expand the Hawkeye's offensive attack more as they won't have Shonn Greene to lean on. You could make an arguement that, given Stanzi's progressive growth, that any of the top four on this list could be number one by seasons end.

3. Terrelle Pryor
2008 Stats: 100-165 1,311 Yards 60.6 % 12 TDs - 4 Ints 146.50 Rating

As mentioned, Stanzi needs to show steady improvement to keep the Hawkeye offense in top shape. Terrelle Pryor faces similar circumstances. The Buckeyes will be without Beanie Wells and their two top receivers in Robiskie and Hartline. Pryor will need to use his legs and show improvement in his passing game in order for OSU to be successful. There is no doubt that Pryor has a whole world of potential, and if he can begin to tap into that, he like Stanzi could be number one by seasons end.

2. Daryll Clark
2008 Stats: 192-321 2,592 Yards 59.8% 19 TDs - 6 Ints 143.44 Rating

Clark had a breakout year in 2008. But, the question still remains of whether or not he can perform in the 'big game'. Penn State's game-winning drive against Ohio State was contrived by the now transferred Pat Devlin. In Penn State's only regular season loss, Clark had a horrible game against Iowa (9-23, 86 Yards, 0 TDs- 1 Int) and didn't do enough in their Rose Bowl loss to USC (2 TDs - 2 Ints). Not to mention Clark loses his top three receivers in Deion Butler, Derrick Williams, and Jordan Norwood. Penn State's defense should be solid, as always, in 2009. But, a lot will be dependent on how Clark can lead the Penn State offense with a new crop of receivers.

1. Juice Williams
2008 Stats: 219-381 3,173 Yards 57.5 % 22 TDs - 16 Ints 138.09 Rating

Juice gets the number one preseason slot strictly based off of experience having thrown for over 6,405 career yards and 48 TDs. Illinois faced a very disappointing season in 08 after a promising year in 2007. While the defense loses some stars, they should have a reliable running back in Jason Ford. And, more importantly, Arrelious Benn returns to the Fighting Illini. Benn is the most talented receiver in the Big Ten heading into 2009. And, with Juice's physical skills and experience as a senior, both should put up gaudy numbers. Now, whether that transfers into wins on the field is up to Ron Zook. (Don't hold your breath)


All photos from the Associated Press



I'll be back tommorow with my wide receiver rankings!

The Inevitable Strike of '94

Owner-player relations in Major League Baseball were bad far before they reached their boiling point in 1994. It was during the great strike of ’94 that baseball lost its World Series, and the trust of many fans, for the first time in ninety years.

The strike of 1994 was inevitable due to the rocky relations between the union and the ‘Lords’.

The players had been worked over by the owners on many occasions. The testy relationship can date back to the days of collusion. Under Commissioner Peter Ueberroth’s control, the MLB owners made a pact to not sign free agents without notifying one another. This effectively downsized the free agent contracts signed that year. This is just one example of the owners and players having an all but smooth relationship.

Relations amongst the owners even began to deteriorate as they fought over revenue-sharing. The ‘have-nots’, or small market teams, in baseball were fighting to get a piece of the television contracts owned by the large market teams. In general, baseball was in panic mode as the 1994 season began to wind down.

With the faxed-in signatures of 26 of the 28 MLB owners, baseball officially went on strike. The main reason being that the owners were pushing for a salary cap and the players, rightfully so, stood their ground.

The players didn’t want to be caught in the same predicament as NFL players. Due to the NFL’s salary cap veteran players were just a piece of property. Phil Simms was abruptly cut by the New York Giants after he was told his 2.5 million dollar salary wouldn’t fit under the team’s salary cap.

The players had seen their salaries and contracts tinkered with all the way back to the days of the reserve clause and collusion, they weren’t about sign on with the Lord’s salary cap idea.

The owners did attempt to keep the season going without a salary cap. They proposed the idea to the union of a luxury tax. This graduated luxury tax would tax those teams who were a certain percentage (20 percent and above) above the average payroll.

While this would have effectively avoided the salary cap, it could have very well had the same results to the players. The larger market teams would be hesitant to sign that big name free agent knowing that they would be taxed up to 75 percent for their spending.

This would have driven down player’s salaries once again as teams wouldn’t be as willing to outbid each other, in fear of getting taxed. This is why union leader Don Fehr shot down the idea.

The players even tried to compromise with the greedy owners. They offered a plan that would tax the sixteen richest clubs at 1.5 percent each. This would generate around 50 million dollars for the small-market teams. The Lord’s own plan derived 70 million dollars for the have-nots. The Lord’s shot it down.

This was the last straw for the union. “We made a good offer,” union lawyer Lauren Rich said in Lords of the Realm. “If you want something from us that gives you a substantial deterrent to signing players, you don’t get it.”

And with that, baseball gave up on the 1994 season, a season that had potential for record-breaking greatness. But, due to the Lord’s unwillingness to compromise, selfishness, and greed, baseball fans were left with a bitter taste in their mouth as a major blow was suffered to the national pastime.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Derrell Johnson-Koulianos Feature Story and Q&A


For most people a hyphen is just a simple punctuation mark. For Derrell Johnson-Koulianos it signifies much more than that: pride and honor.

Johnson-Koulianos, formerly just Derrell Johnson, was adopted at age nine by the Koulianoses after growing up in the projects near Youngstown, Ohio. The Koulianoses were always close with Derrell, having gone from friends to family after Derrell’s home life got worse.

Upon being taken into Tony and Lauren Koulianos’ home, Derrell has nothing but good things to say.

“I had the best life a kid could have. I had everything I could ever want. I was blessed really,” Johnson-Koulianos said.

Family is something that DJK, the nickname fans have adopted, cherishes. Derrell refers to his father, a gynecologist, as the most amazing man he’s ever known and his mother as an angel on Earth.

“My dad has always busted his ass and that is something that I admire,” Johnson-Koulianos said. “My mom raised my brothers and I and really taught us how to do everything right.”

The choice to officially add Koulianos to his name, and jersey, before entering college was an easy one for Derrell.

“I had to have it. Your last name represents who you are, and it’s something I’m proud of. It represents my entire family, my parents, my brothers, everyone,” Johnson-Koulianos said. “When I put that jersey on, that’s who I represent.”

Respect is nothing new to DJK. He learned the value early on and has lived his life by it.

“Derrell came from a great family,” childhood friend Rich Tisone said. “He is one of the most respectful kids I know, and he has always been that way. He’s a very unique guy.”

You don’t have to spend much time with Johnson-Koulianos to realize he’s cut from a different cloth. He has very eccentric tastes.

“A lot of people say if they didn’t know me they would never know I was a football player. I don’t carry the typical athlete demeanor outside the locker room or off the field,” Johnson-Koulianos said.

DJK’s interests include fashion, home interior design, music, and film.

“I feel like if you live well, you dress well, and that inspires me to do well,” Johnson-Koulianos said.

All of these interests play into his future plans. Johnson-Koulianos said he would like to break into the restaurant business or be an interior designer of hotels. But, Derrell’s first love remains football.

“I love the game. Some people are in it for different reasons, but me, I love football,” Johnson-Koulianos said. “I would play in the league (NFL) for free, that’s how much I love football.”

Johnson-Koulianos, a redshirt sophomore, will be the Iowa Hawkeye’s top returning receiver heading into his junior year in 2009. It’s apparent that DJK possesses the physical skills, at 6’2” and 205 pounds, but Johnson-Koulianos’ most valuable asset might be his mental game. He carries himself with a certain swagger. He knows what he’s capable of and when he’s on his game he believes no one can stop him.

“I feel like every time I break the huddle, and it’s a pass play, I can score. When I lineup against a defensive back, I’m not intimidated, because I know my abilities and what I’m capable of,” Johnson-Koulianos said. “If I stick to the fundamentals, no one can stop me. And, if I do drop a pass, I forget about it five seconds later.”

Johnson-Koulianos’ 1,121 career receiving yards already place him in the top 30 in Iowa history, with two years of eligibility remaining.






Additional Q & A With DJK

Dylan Nelson-Sease: What has been your proudest moment in life so far?

Derrell Johnson-Koulianos: Enrolling in college. When I was a young boy it was my dream to become a college football player, but I never thought I could accomplish that. But, I did it with the help of my mom, who pushed so hard. I was kind of behind in a lot of areas, but she kept reminding me ‘that’s your dream, that’s your dream’. And, now it’s just a matter of taking this opportunity and doing it big.

DNS: Why did you choose Iowa?

DJK: I paid a lot of attention to college football in high school and I was always a Big Ten guy, primarily an Ohio State guy. I watched guys like Michael Jenkins, Teddy Ginn, and Santonio Holmes. (However) Once it came time, throughout recruiting, I felt like coaches and the people at Iowa were right for me. It’s a long ways away, even now I still don’t believe I came this far. But, this place is a perfect fit for me for a lot of reasons. Everyday I find more reasons why it’s a perfect fit. Mostly, the sincerity of the coaches. The coaches thought I could make an impact early, and even though I redshirted, I have the chance to start four years in a row, and thats become a personal goal of mine.

DNS: How did you deal with the hype coming out of High School?

DJK: Yeah, it was wild. Before I even got here people knew so much about me. I had a nickname before I even jumped on campus. I hadn’t played a down, but people were treating me like I was all-Big Ten two years in a row already. Which gave me more motivation, I feel like it’s my responsibility to live up to it.

DNS: What was the transition like from high school quarterback to Big Ten wide receiver?

DJK: It was harder than I expected. I do feel there are some advantages. You get a feel for an offense as a quarterback, but there is a certain craft to being a wide receiver. There are small details to being a wide receiver that I was lacking at first, but now I’m at the point where I’ve embraced those details, and I’m at the point of my career where I’m not thinking about it, I’m just reacting. It’s time, my time is now. In 2009, I should be a premier guy, and I’m ready to step into a leadership role.

DNS: How has wide receiver coach Erik Campbell influenced or impacted your game?

DJK: (He has been a) major, major influence. I can’t even put it into words. He’s basically taken over my entire life as a football player, a student, a role model to others, and being a good citizen. He’s always preaching to me, if you live well and do well as a student, then you will play well. There are so many examples of that from this last year, and it all goes hand-in-hand with what he says. Not to mention the guy has proved it all the way across the board. He’s one person I can honestly say wants to see me do well. He’s one of the best things to ever happen to me. I’m just embracing the opportunity, and feel blessed to be able to work with him.

DNS: What was the highlight of your season in 2008?

DJK: Hands down, Penn State. Beating the number three team in the country, that was huge for us. It was a big momentum booster going into the later portion of the season and the bowl game. It was also a confidence booster. After that we felt like we could play with anyone. I feel like a played a huge role, I didn’t do anything spectacular but really just did whatever it took to help the team win.

DNS: What are your goals heading into next year?

DJK: Even the great players can get better, not necessarily saying I’m a great player yet. But, there’s never a point when you should feel like you’ve arrived. There are a couple things I need to do to take my game to the next level like high pointing balls and running after the catch. These are things that I see I can improve on after watching film on myself.

DNS: Do you still keep in touch with the Johnsons?

DJK: Yeah, they have recently tried to get in contact with me. I’m okay with it, it’s all good. I talk to them occasionally.




Photos courtesy of the Associated Press and Frank Oliver/Journal & Courier, respectively

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Top 5 Big Ten Running Backs in 2009

Today, will start my position-by-position breakdown of each position heading into 2009. These top five lists put into consideration past success and future potential. We'll start with the pride of last season's Big Ten conference: running backs.

Honorable Mention: Brandon Minor, Stephfon Green, Jason Ford

Top Five:
5. Boom Herron

2008 Stats: 89 Rushes - 439 Yards - 6 Touchdowns
Having a catchy nickname must be a requirement to play RB for Ohio State. Daniel 'Boom' Herron filled in adequatelyfor the oft-injured Chris 'Beanie' Wells in 2008. Boom's shining moment was the 2008 regular season finale against the rival Michigan Wolverines. Herron ran for 80 yards on only eight carries, and two touchdowns. I look for Herron to become the main option on the ground (besides Terrelle Pryor) for the Buckeyes in 2009. Boom was a four star recruit coming out of high school, and will only be a sophomore this season.

4. DeLeon Eskridge

2008 Stats: 184 Rushes - 678 Yards - 7 Touchdowns

DeLeon had an impressive freshman season for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. He will be instrumental in helping coach Tim Brewster continue to turn around the program. Eskridge showed some flash, twice going over the 100 yard mark in 2008. But, like the Gophers, he faded down the stretch only rushing for 63 yards in his last three games combined.


3. Jewel Hampton
2008 Stats: 91 Rushes - 463 Yards - 7 Touchdowns
Jewel showed that he has what it takes when he was given the opportunity. His best game of the season, against his home state Hoosiers, Hampton ripped off 114 yards and 3 touchdowns. While, most of his carries were against inferior competition, he did show some promise in the Outback bowl. He was given some early reps, when Greene needed a breather, and racked up 54 yards against a stout South Carolina defense.

2. John Clay

2008 Stats: 155 Rushes - 884 Yards - 9 Touchdowns
John Clay showed all the promise of being a big time bruser running back. Now, the question is whether he can sustain it, unlike P.J. Hill. Clay seems to be in better shape than Hill, and have slightly more breakaway speed. While splitting carries with both Hill and Zach Brown, Clay still managed to be the seventh leading rusher in the conference. With Hill out of the picture, I look for Clay to go well over the 1,000 yard mark.

1. Evan Royster

2008 Stats: 191 Rushes - 1,236 Yards - 12 Touchdowns
2008 was a banner year for Big Ten running backs. One name that might have gotten lost in the shuffle was Evan Royster. Royster didn't get all the attention that Javon Ringer, Shonn Greene, Beanie Wells, and Tyrell Sutton were getting. Royster actually had the highest yards-per-carry average (6.5) amongst the top ten rushers. He finished the year third in the conference in rushing. Royster and RB Stephfon Green should provide Penn State a powerful one-two punch in 09.



Photos: Jeff Gross/Getty Images, blackheartgoldpants.com, Bryan Faust, AP