Archives for February 2008

Interviewing Kevin Coble, Big 10’s 2nd Leading Scorer

By Paul M. Banks

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Northwestern sophomore forward Kevin Coble has the two highest individual scoring games in the Big Ten this season. He’s the first Wildcat to have two 30 pt games in the same season since Evan Eschmeyer over a decade ago. He also has more total rebounds than anyone else on the team despite missing the first nine games. He missed the entire pre-conference schedule to return home and be with his mother in Phoenix while she underwent cancer treatments. The personal story of Coble and his mother has been covered by numerous media outlets including espn.com, USA Today, and Big Ten Network. Coble also led the Wildcats in scoring and rebounding last season, becoming the first freshman in school history to do so. I caught up to him after the Indiana game, where he set a new career high with 37 points on 12-16 shooting from the field, 5-6 from 3pt.

On having a lead late in the 2nd  half the past two games, only to see it result in defeat……

“When we were down in Iowa, we had our lead and then we lost it, and ended up losing the game. It’s hard; it’s added to our frustration that’s been our season so far. For us to rebound like we did against teams like Indiana was really a positive step for us.”

Commenting about when Coach Carmody pulled him aside and told him that he had not been playing up to his potential lately…….

“He and I talked at the shoot-around today, just kind of joking around with each other, and he pulled me aside……you know it’s been frustrating. It’s been a tough year, emotionally, physically for me. Obviously I haven’t been playing like I wanted to. Tonight was a nice step for me, I think. I was telling Coach it’s not that hard, just come up to me and talk. It was nice for us; hopefully that can carry over.”

On how Indiana’s D.J. White took over the game, what parts of his game NU was able to limit and the other parts of the game that couldn’t be contained…..

“Defense and rebounding. You can’t always control offense and what your shots are gonna do and how you’re gonna play in that sense. DJ took advantage of us when we were in Bloomington. It’s near impossible to contain him, but we did as good a job as we could.”

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On how much livelier and exciting the atmosphere was for the Indiana game…

“It’s great. I wish every game would be like that. It just gives a different sense to the play. We go to these other schools, and we have our great fans here. It’s just exciting. It’s more fun to play like that as opposed to an emptier gym. So it’s great that all our fans came out, the students. People give them such a hard time all the time — why they’re not coming out. That’s on us too, we have to play so they want to come and watch us. So hopefully we did a little bit of that tonight.”

On how Northwestern played their best game of the conference season against the conference leader and how it could carry over to the rest of the season…(what’s interesting about this is how the Wildcats finally got their first conference win in the next game at Michigan)

“Everybody hit a big shot. It wasn’t just necessarily me. It was a fun stretch of basketball there for the last ten minutes of the half…they would come down, hit a shot, we would come back and answer it, back and forth as opposed to some of those other games where we let them go on long runs, 12- 2, 14-4 runs. That did us in. We didn’t have that tonight; that was great for us. Everybody just raised their play tonight and we deserved to win this game. We’ll still do our same thing everyday, working, and finally, maybe it’s coming together a little bit.”

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And how the near upset of #13 Indiana was a game with a very different feel than the other losses during the Big Ten season…..

“There was a different feel. We still felt like we were in control. We were doing all right. They still were going to make their runs; they’re a very good team. To have them up 6 isn’t the end of the world for us. We maintained our composure. We had a couple different chances to win. It didn’t go our way.”

On whether or not basketball is a release from the stressful year he’s had off the court and how he can find a way to focus on the game without other distractions bothering him……

“There are  a lot of emotional and physical demands of playing basketball, of playing games like that every night. I try to make it a release, just not become focused on a lot of the external things. Tonight was one of those nights that I was able to block it out. That’s something I really need to examine: how to make sure that I keep the two separate.”

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NFL Mock Draft picks #21-32

By the TSB Staff

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The first round mock at a glance

http://www.thesportsbank.net/2008/02/22/2008-nfl-mock-draft/

Picks #11-20

http://www.thesportsbank.net/2008/02/27/tsb-nfl-mock-draft-picks-11-20/

Picks #1-10

http://www.thesportsbank.net/2008/02/26/2008-nfl-mock-draft-1-10/

21. Washington Redskins – Early Doucet, WR, LSU
Hopefully for Doucet, Skins owner Daniel Snyder will not go out and overpay again for a mediocre free agent receiver like he has in the past. Doucet was the championship team’s leading receiver, grabbing seven balls in the team’s biggest game. To say that Early will go early amongst the receivers chosen is a little too obvious. I agree with Krusty the Klown that “puns are lazy writing.” Just like during the entire season, Doucet showed in the BCS championship game why teams in need of wideouts will take him in the first round. Oh, and his measurables aren’t too shabby either.
–Paul M. Banks

22. Dallas Cowboys (from Cleveland) Felix Jones, RB, Arkansas
Felix Jones is a bit like the Matt Cassel of the draft.  Not because he will get drafted late and end up a backup, but he is a guy that has NFL intangibles, and you never saw much of him.  It’s tough to imagine what he would have been like had he been the premier guy on a team.  He’s fairly quick and has good size for the NFL.  Jones and McFadden will most likely turn out to be better than Cadillac and Brown out of Auburn.  Also, when I uploaded the rosters from NCAA Football ’08 to Madden ’08, Jones uploaded at 86 overall as a rookie…So that’s also a good sign! LOL!
–Bill Port
23. Pittsburgh Steelers – Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt
With Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca possibly leaving via free agency, an offensive lineman should be a focus for Pittsburgh in the off-season.  The Steelers did give free agent offensive tackle Max Starks the transition tag to keep him, but still a young o-lineman seems like the biggest necessity.  If the Steelers continue with their 3-4 scheme on defense, depth at linebacker could be an option with some aging players part of that core, even though Lawrence Simmons was taken in the first round last year.  Another possibility could be at running back since Willie Parker is coming off a season ending leg injury and there is not much depth behind him. Just like the first day of the Senior Bowl, Williams impressed on Day 1 in Indianapolis. He is a massive specimen at 6’6″ and 315 lbs. He ran a 5.07 and 5.18 times and looked nimble in the agility drills.
–Dave K.

24. Tennessee Titans – Malcom Kelly, WR, Oklahoma
Malcom Kelly is something of an enigma. There is no doubting his talent and skill set but there is quite a bit of doubt as to whether he can polish his game enough to succeed in the NFL. His biggest assets are his hands and his size but his lack of explosive speed, iffy footwork and questionable route-running techniques all have scouts overlooking possibly the best pass catcher in the draft. 

The Titans could get better all over the field; but if they want to put their young franchise quarterback in a position to succeed, the team had better start giving him more reliable targets to throw to. Kelly at this point of the first round would have to be considered a steal for the Titans. They aren’t a big play type offense so Kelly’s lack of “speed” is something that they can deal with. Kelly’s size (6’4” 217lbs.) and sure hands will be a great addition to Vince Young’s options and will definitely allow the Titans offense to move the chains more than they did in 2007.
–Peter Christian

25. Seattle Seahawks – Gosder Cherilus, OT, Boston College
Gosder Cherilus might have been the player to help himself the most at the Senior Bowl. Since his solid performance, his stock has risen from a Day One pick to a potential first round pick. He is extremely consistent and is above average at nearly every aspect of his position. He has been described as being extremely “disciplined and under control,” meaning he is very technically sound and would transition into the NFL very smoothly.

The Seahawks need help at the running game as Shaun Alexander’s health continues to deteriorate; but with all of the top tier backs off of the board, the next best option is to improve the blocking ahead of the running backs they do have.  Seattle could also use help at the defensive tackle position but would probably be better addressing that need in the next round, as it is more of a depth need than anything.
–Peter Christian

26. Jacksonville Jaguars – Limas Sweed WR, Texas
Limas Sweed isn’t the household name like some of the other wide receivers that will be taken above him, but this guy is probably the most NFL-ready. His wrist injury that has nagged him this past season will definitely cause a few teams to pass on him, but whatever team takes the risk will be rewarded with the best receiver in the draft. Sweed is big (6’4” 215lbs.), physical, and has great leaping ability. Best of all he knows how to use his skills to his advantage.

All season long the Jaguars were supposed to be the one team that could knock of the Patriots run to a perfect season. They had their chance but fell short. They didn’t lose because of their lack of consistency from their current squad of wide outs, but it sure didn’t help. It is no secret that the Jaguars need a solid receiver; it is also no secret that their record with drafting receivers hasn’t been all that great either. Sweed is the type of talent that could turn their group of second and third receivers into a great unit. He would immediately demand the best coverage from the opposing team and allow Reggie Williams and Matt Jones to get more favorable match-ups. If the Jags can be patient and still land Sweed, that would be ideal; but if it ever appears that all of the top tier receiver talent might be gone before they pick, the team might try to work the phones to stock pile picks in the lower rounds to address all of their needs.
–Peter Christian
27. San Diego Chargers – Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida
Derrick Harvey is a big speed rusher with good football instincts. He is very good against both the run and the pass. Compared to other players in this draft, he should probably be selected higher (possibly at #17 to the Vikings); but this year’s depth at Offensive Tackle and Wide Receiver appeals to more team needs. Harvey’s biggest issue in the NFL is going to be getting locked up by opposing team’s linemen. If he can utilize his speed to get to the ball, he will be fine; but currently he lacks the strength to fight off blocks once engaged.

The Chargers could go a myriad of different ways with this pick. Since they have had so much success in past year’s drafts, they are in a position to either be picking for depth or simply picking the best available athlete. Harvey would be a pick to satisfy both. He is definitely the best available athlete at this point in the draft, but he would also bolster the Chargers Defensive End depth which suffered a bit last season due to injuries.

–Peter Christian

28. Dallas Cowboys-Reggie Smith, CB, Oklahoma
Smith is a good guy for the Cowboys to get at this spot because he’s a guy that can deal with the physicality of the NFL.  He’s someone to put at the safety spot to go with the rest of the DBs if need be.  He kind of reminds me of Carlos Rodgers, now with Washington.  I think if he really wants to make a statement about how he would challenge the bigger receivers in the NFL, he needs to bulk up a bit more down the road.  He has skills that can make him a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball.
–Bill Port
 

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29. San Francisco 49ers (from Indianapolis) – James Hardy, WR, Indiana
James Hardy quietly established himself as one of the most reliable wide receivers in the Big Ten over the last two seasons. He isn’t super fast, but he can maintain a top speed with his long strides. Hardy has been able to make an impact with an uncanny ability to get open and get his hands on the ball using his big frame and great footwork. Some scouts doubt his ability to be a number 1 receiving option, but his ability to make catches in traffic and over the middle will translate well into the NFL.

The 49ers have decent players in place all over the field, but do not have any real superstars to dominate a game. The team spent a lot of money on free agents last year and gave up this year’s 1st round pick to acquire the Patriots pick last year (which they used to select Joe Staley). The biggest need for the 49ers is a consistent wide receiver to pair with Alex Smith, if only to simply find out if he can make it as an NFL quarterback. Hardy would give the 49ers a big physical receiver to go up and get the ball. A big body like Hardy would also force opponents to put two bodies on him in coverage, creating openings for Vernon Davis in the flats and down the seams.
–Peter Christian

30. Green Bay Packers – Antoine Cason, CB, Arizona
Packers General Manager Ted Thompson has always stuck to his guns in drafting the best available player, though that certainly backfired last year with the first round selection of DT Justin Harrell.  With Thompson likely staying with that philosophy, anything is possible here.  For the sake of need, Green Bay should take a cornerback.  Charles Woodson and Al Harris are two solid cover corners, but they are not getting any younger and Harris was torched a few times by the likes of T.O. and Plaxico Burress in the NFC Championship.  Plus, the nickel back position was a glaring weakness as opponents were often able to pick on whoever was inserted into that spot. 

If the Packers don’t go corner, Green Bay could use some consistent guard play; but with a plethora of young guys already on the roster, they would be more likely to address that need with a veteran free agent.  Tight End could also be another option to give Brett Favre another weapon since they cut ties with the aging Bubba Franks.  Thompson also seems to be in love with depth at the defensive line, but after Harrell’s selection last year, should address a bigger need.
–Dave K.

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31. New England Patriots – FORFEITED
As punishment for the “Spygate” scandal, the Patriots have been forced to forfeit their 2008 first round pick. Sometimes, I think Osama bin laden receives less scrutinization for his video taping than the New England Patriots do. Will the grey hoodie possibly be suspended for a year?…stay tuned!
–Paul M. Banks

32. New York Giants – – Devin Thomas, WR, Michigan State

I’ll admit this pick may seem like a wild card, but I would call it a “value pick.” This underclassman had a monster workout. He ran two low 4.3 times. He is an explosive receiver listed at almost 6-2 and 215 pounds. On top of that, he also has kickoff return skills. Andre Rison, Plaxico Burress, Mushin Muhammad, Derrick Mason, Charles Rogers (well, maybe scratch that last one) the Spartan wide receivers beat goes on.
–Paul M. Banks

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Indiana Interim Head Coach Dan Dakich Part 2

By Paul M. Banks

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Before the ousting of former coach Kelvin Sampson, Indiana interim head coach Dan Dakich was an assistant. Previously, he was a head coach at Bowling Green University for ten years. He certainly is a Hoosier through and through serving as team Captain his junior and senior seasons under Bob Knight and as an assistant coach under Knight for 12 seasons. What Dakich is most famous for however, is his stellar defensive effort on Michael Jordan in MJ’s last collegiate game. He did a fine job limiting the greatest player in history. Now I’ll be the first to admit that most press conferences can be far from exciting, but Dakich’s first post game presser as the head man was fascinating, exciting, and emotional. It accurately articulates the fallout and aftershocks of THE major national story in college basketball. Here Dakich opens up his heart and soul about a nationally powerful program in extreme turmoil and rough transition; a program he has devoted most of this professional life to.

On how comfortable he feels calling the shots and the national media coverage of how he came to power………..

“I’ve done it. I’m not here as a guy that’s been an assistant and never done it. On terms of on the court, during the game and  practice, in terms of – no, one thing I wasn’t comfortable with was the entire week’s articles and speculation that I talked to Coach about that earlier in the week. I wasn’t comfortable with that. I didn’t talk to anybody,   but in terms of the coaching part, ….these kids, the time I have been here, they’ve made me very comfortable as a coach. I have been working with the kids most of the year; the whole team has made me very comfortable.”

On how the scandal/coaching change has affected his team…..

“This is the first time with this team that I’ve ever seen, this is a loud team, a team that has real personality. This is the first time we’re on the plane today and everybody is sleeping. And I looked at Jeff, what is this? Truly I think that when the plane took off, the strain…..it’s been a tough week on these kids.”

On the emotional toll on his team……

“I knew how it was going to carry over quite frankly, anybody that’s been around knows. What Ray said at halftime, ‘We knew this wasn’t going to be easy.’ That was exactly right.”

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On how the program is dealing with it….

“ I don’t think it’s something you put behind truly in 24-48 hours….we’re talking about noon yesterday; this takes time. This is a resilient group. They played Kentucky without D.J., D.J. was out the other night against Michigan State.”

On the bittersweet chain of events that led to him getting his ultimate dream job…..

“It’s not the way you want to get a job. There is a responsibility with it that I accept on a multitude of levels, mostly the players, the fans. If they want me, I am going to do it with everything I have. I haven’t even given it thought simply because it’s a difficult situation.”

 Below is what some Purdue Boliermakers think of the Indiana situation….

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Indiana Interim Head Coach Dan Dakich Presser Part 1 of 2

By Paul M. Banks

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Before the ousting of former coach Kelvin Sampson, Indiana interim head coach Dan Dakich was an assistant. Previously, he was a head coach at Bowling Green University for ten years. He certainly is a Hoosier through and through serving as team Captain his junior and senior seasons under Bob Knight and as an assistant coach under Knight for 12 seasons. What Dakich is most famous for however, is his stellar defensive effort on Michael Jordan in MJ’s last collegiate game. He did a fine job limiting the greatest player in history. Now I’ll be the first to admit that most press conferences can be far from exciting, but Dakich’s first post game presser as the head man was fascinating, exciting, and emotional. It accurately articulates the fallout and aftershocks of THE major national story in college basketball. Here Dakich opens up his heart and soul about a nationally powerful program in extreme turmoil and rough transition, a program he has devoted most of this professional life to.

His opening statement…….. 

I thought this was a heck of a college basketball game. I thought going into the game that this would be an incredibly difficult game for a couple of reasons. One, our circumstances, you go through our last 24-48 hours, kids that you see playing basketball are 18-to-22 year old kids. They’re not robots. They have all kinds of emotions, as do I, as does Ray, as does Jeff. The second reason is I think that watching Northwestern, they’ve really improved. They played us really difficult and tough in Bloomington, and they’re much better. Going in, Ray made a great statement at half time. We were kind a walking in, I said, “What do you think?” He said, “This is how we knew it would be. We knew this would be tough. We knew this was going to be something that wasn’t going to be easy.”  So my hats off to how hard the Northwestern kids played. My hats off to the Indiana fans for coming out; they’re unbelievable. But most of all I am so proud of our players, the way they’ve been so resilient in the course of the year. It’s a testament to all things that I think are good about Indiana University and Indiana University basketball. I guess I’m not just talking about the players. I’m talking about the managers. We had our managers last night at our walk through. Got together and ran Northwestern’s so that we could go quickly to bring 5 guys in, playing 5 guys; they’re just unbelievable kids. It’s a big deal on our staff. A lot of it is a testament to why Indiana is a pretty neat place. We had the fans that were here, we got the win…We’ll go from here.

On whether he truly relishes his first victory as a head coach………

“Not right now. I have a lot of emotions about this, feelings for Coach Sampson and what I know he and his family are going through, feelings for our players and I know what they’re going through. I feel a lot better that this is my first win as opposed to that this is my first loss. I can tell you that. We are going to move on and hopefully, as this continues we’ll get better.”
On the internal reaction of his players to the announcement that Sampson was being dismissed from the program…….

“Well, my thoughts were it’s natural. It wasn’t like a boycott. They got told at 11:45, I think was the meeting. We went down there; I finished up the meeting with them at 12:30. To ask them to go practice – well some do and some don’t. These guys are 18-to-22 year old kids. I’m having a hard time with it, and I’ve been through some things. Kids started texting me about 6:00. I wasn’t calling them to come back; I knew they’d be back. If you’re around kids, you understand. Yesterday was far deeper than just we had a practice. Way deeper, this is the second time TJ has been through something like this. I’m sure everybody out here has an opinion about how this should have gone, but your opinion is not based on being age 18-to-22,  25-26 games into a season with a guy that you came to play for, with a guy that you have worked with continuously, with a guy that you love. I heard Erik talking about how Coach is a father figure, and now for whatever the reason, he’s no longer there. That’s a difficult thing; so there was no chance I was going to sit there and demand that they do it. I have respect for 18 to 22 year old people. I push them, I yell at them, but I respect their opinions because they’re bright people. It was a non issue. When they came back, I was being text ‘Coach, I’ll be there; we’ll be there.’ Kids needed the time and needed space and probably still do. It’s tough.”

On the emotional and effective game played by his senior leader and star D.J. White….

“It’s like Manny being Manny, D.J. being D.J.…he’s done that all year. He’s been the best player that I’ve seen all year. I have more respect for him as much as any kid I’ve ever coached. He blocked the shot. Hit a couple free throws and won the game. That’s DJ.”

On why he didn’t enter the arena for first game until there was just a couple minutes to tip-off…

Just because it’s emotional. There’s a lot of reasons. I’m hanging out. I got done talking to the kids, the kids went out. The one thing I’ve never liked as a coach is warm-ups, I hate it. I came out with a couple minutes to go. Usually I come out with 1 minute to go because I hate it. I didn’t expect that, I didn’t think about it. I’m thinking why are they cheering. Then I hear people yelling. It was nice.”

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Re-name Wrigley? Blasphemy

By David K.

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2/28/08
Vitamin Water Stadium?

Kentucky Fried Chicken Ballpark?

Tampax Field?

With word that the chief executive officer of the Tribune Company won’t hesitate to sell the naming rights to the legendary ballpark we now call Wrigley Field, outrage has emerged from Cubs fans and baseball communities.  Wrigley ranks among the likes of Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Lambeau Field, and Madison Square Garden as some of the most historical venues in all of sports.  Traditionalists of the game are in an up-roar at even the suggestion that the ballpark at 1060 West Addison be called anything other than Wrigley Field. 

So am I.

The Cubs are still one of the most profitable franchises in Major League Baseball. Regardless of where the north-siders may fall in the standings, hoards of people still fill the stands at Wrigley Field; some to support their beloved team, others to enjoy a sunny afternoon with friends (a.k.a. get hammered), others to take in the ivy walls and hand-operated scoreboard for their first time.  So why is there even the mention of ruining the tradition of one of the most hallowed ballparks in baseball history just to make a few extra bucks?  Remember when our rivals to the South sold out, re-naming Comiskey Park to U.S. Cellular Field, or when they switched the start times of all their night games to 7:11 because the lure of free Slurpees was too much?  Those moves were not highly regarded and received plenty of criticism.  Cub owners don’t need the money, so why make the move?

If Sam Zell does sell to the highest bidder, what’s next?  Auctioning off the naming rights to the Statue of Liberty or Mount Rushmore?  Letting a local corporation sponsor the singing of the National Anthem?  Just imagine, “Please rise for the singing of the National Anthem, brought to you tonight by Déjà vu, where when you buy one lap dance, you get the second one at half price.” 

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While I do consider myself “old school” in regards to the tradition and respect of our national pastime, I am well aware that corporations and sponsorships are becoming more and more a staple in all of professional sports.  And yes, I understand that “Wrigley” is just the name that hangs on the facade of the ballpark and changing it does not erase its importance or historic value, but certain characteristics should never be changed when it comes to the Cubs.  Ivy should always drape the walls of the outfield.  Somebody should always lead the singing of the seventh inning stretch from the press box.  Wrigley Field should always be where the Cubs play ball.

Before Wrigley becomes the Friendly Confines of Tampax Field, can we please think this over thoroughly and not jeopardize the image of the one winner in the past 100 years of Chicago Cubs history.  Unless it’s named Old Style Field, in which case, I will fully support that decision.

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You can see the building where “The Sports Bank is headquartered” in the background. HQ is somewhere in one of those high-rises 

Would Wrigleyville celebrations like this be the same if they occurred in Tampaxville?

THE ERIC GORDON INTERVIEW!

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By Paul M. Banks

Indiana freshman two guard Eric Gordon is the Big Ten’s leading scorer. (16th nationally) He’s a leading candidate for Big Ten freshman of the year and considered a top 5 NBA Draft pick by every expert across the board. (David K. currently has him 2nd overall in his mock draft) In the preseason, Lindy’s ranked him the nation’s third best freshman, Newcomer of the Year, Most Entertaining and Top NBA Prospect. He made the midseason watch list for both the Naismith and Wooden awards. You get the point: he’s truly “everybody’s All-American,” and will likely receive a very phat paycheck this June.

He’s currently considered public enemy #1 by fans and supporters of the Illinois Fighting Illini for originally giving a verbal commitment to Bruce Weber’s program before he eventually signed with the recently deposed Kelvin Sampson and Indiana. What most members of Illini Nation find particularly loathsome about his recruiting process: Gordon’s infamous “I’m still solid with Illinois” quote, made while he had decided to reopen his recruiting. As Gordon heads into what will likely be the final games of his college career, he plays for a program in crisis. In this interview, following his first game under a new coach, he discusses Kelvin Sampson and how he and his teammates are handling the adversity of transition amid scandal.

On how he and his teammates prepared mentally for the first game after the coaching change…..

Well, coach Dakich explained that we had to come out and play. We didn’t have a lot of preparation against Northwestern; they got better since the last time we played them. Just work hard and don’t worry about anything else.

On former coach Kelvin Sampson and where the program goes from here…….

Well he’s the one who got us all here in the first place. He wasn’t just like a coach. He was more like a father to us. We just miss him, but we just have to keep on playing, keep on playing with Coach Dakich.

On how he’s handling the loss of his coach and “father figure”……

I mean this has been tough. A decision has been made, and we couldn’t do nothing about it. We just got to keep on playing to finish up the season.

On the adjustment of playing for a new coach as March approaches….

A head coach is the biggest part of this program. He’s got to run it and each person is playing for him. It’s just really tough.

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2008 NFL Mock Draft 1-10

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For the full first round mock at a glance:

http://www.thesportsbank.net/2008/02/22/2008-nfl-mock-draft/

1. Miami Dolphins – Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU

Team Needs: where do you start? How much time do you have? From a needs standpoint, Glenn Dorsey would fill a huge hole at defensive tackle on a team that had a horrible time stopping the run in 2007. They gave up an NFL-worst 153.5 rushing yards per game, and that includes the natural disaster in Pittsburgh where the Steelers only managed 84 yards on the ground because they played in a field that resembled Yoda’s home planet.
Bill Parcells coming to the Dolphins as the Executive Vice President of Football Operations, major changes have already begun and this a crucial decision that he will have tremendous influence on. So begins the Parcells regime. 
In the BCS championship game, Dorsey became a household name with a sack, five tackles, and a forced fumble even though the Buckeye offensive line keyed on him all night. He got through many of the double teams, showing why his explosiveness will translate well on the next level. On a night with award winners and All-Americans everywhere, the Lombardi and Nagurski award winning Dorsey stood out the most.  Dorsey would be able to start immediately and have an instant impact in the middle. He is an elite player who overcame back and knee injuries, showing the moxie to remain on the field for LSU down the stretch.
–Paul M. Banks

2. St. Louis Rams — Chris Long, DE, Virginia

Chris Long is a DE that looks to be the “safe pick” at this spot.  His pass rush and run-stuffing skills are good enough to make him look as dependable as you can ask for.  With a defensive lineman/end, you could get a Franchise Player, or you could get someone that turns out to be like all of the Florida State defensive lineman drafted near the turn of the century (i.e. Jamal Reynolds) You need to be pretty good to put up big numbers as a young defensive end, and Long has this potential.  He is a guy that can change the game-plan of an opposing team, making everyone around him better.  But that is something that won’t show up in the stat sheets. The Rams need a lot of things, but having Long and Leonard Little on the line will make teams have to focus on the edges much more than they did in 2007.  Long will benefit playing with Little, so his numbers could be better than originally expected, which is saying a lot.  Unless you watch a lot of Rams games, you may not hear much about him right away, but I would expect him to be a huge part of the Rams’ future.
–Bill Port

3.  Atlanta Falcons – Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College

Michael Vick left the Falcons in an awful position last off-season.  The Joey Harrington, Byron Leftwich, Chris Redman trio was hardly the answer in the A-T-L.  This franchise needs a facelift and it should start at quarterback.  However, if Darren McFadden is available when Atlanta is on the clock, do not be surprised if the Falcons jump at the chance to take him.  He has the most potential to be a franchise-changing player.
–Dave K.

4. Oakland Raiders Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas

Let’s be honest, Darren McFadden is a straight stud. He was the best college running back in the nation over the last two seasons and it wasn’t by accident. His size and speed dominated his opponents on a regular basis, racking up 3400 rushing yards in 2006 & 2007 (in a great football conference mind you). The NFL took notice last season of what can happen when a big talented running back bursts onto the scene (see Adrian Peterson) and it isn’t out of line to think that McFadden could have the same effect in 2008. 

Oakland isn’t exactly addressing a need with this pick as they do have Justin Fargas (who is coming off a 1,000 yard season) and Lamont Jordan already in the backfield. However, as the Vikings proved last season you aren’t exactly hurting your team by drafting a solid running back. While the Raiders would prefer to select a big wide receiver prospect to pair with JaMarcus Russell or possibly an outside linebacker to solidify the boundary-to-boundary defense, a pick for either of those needs at this slot would be nothing but a reach. After six combined wins over the last two seasons, I’m sure the last thing Raider owner/GM Al Davis wants to do with the #3 pick is reach. I would imagine that the Raiders office would be flooded with phone calls to see if this pick is available, namely from the Jets.
–Peter Christian

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5. Kansas City Chiefs– Jake Long, OT, Michigan

The Chiefs offense was such a mess in 2007 that they fired four of their offensive assistants.  Kansas City ranked second to last in the NFL in total yards and points, last in the league in rushing yards and sacks allowed.  A season ending injury to Larry Johnson surely did not help the running game, but neither did a sieve of an offensive line.  It should start up front for KC on draft day, but if Long does not slip and the Chiefs decide another o-lineman (like Boise State’s Ryan Clady) is a reach, they could go after one of the top quarterbacks or a defensive end to possibly replace free agent Jared Allen.
–Dave K.

6. New York Jets  Vernon Gholston, DE-

Lots of teams must improve their pass rush, and he is just the blue chip prospect to do it. Often, personalities in the media will be described with the same exact word ALL THE TIME. With Barack Obama, you always hear the word “change.” For Gholston, you’ll hear “explosive.” He’s fast, quick, agile, and big. Gholston is a guy with the measurables you’d expect, upon seeing him in person. He also plays like you’d anticipate. He didn’t have the best night in the title game, but he is just as athletic and dominant as he physically appears. The combine will serve him well and the ‘Mangenius’ will drool over the chance to make this pick.
–Paul M. Banks

7. New England Patriots (from 49ers) Dan Connor, LB, Penn State

There are mixed opinions out there on Connor, and some might say his stock is falling. This would be the high end of the pick range to see Connor go. Now that Zach Thomas rejected the Pats offer to sign with Dallas, New England is more likely to look at the draft to help fill the ILB need that will linger this off-season. Corner is another consideration with Asante Samuel a lock to be gone via free agency, but I predict that the Pats will consider that in later rounds and/or free agency. Of course, with the whole Spygate controversy worsening by the day, the Patriots could find themselves with a whole new host of problems much worse than LB depth.
–Paul M. Banks

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8. Baltimore Ravens – Brian Brohm, QB, Louisville

With the Ravens having so much difficulty getting anything done on offense, a new coach coming in to replace Brian Billick, and Steve McNair way past his prime, a quarterback is the natural way to go here. When Egdar Allen Poe quoted the Raven “never more,” he was likely speaking about his thoughts of watching this offense perform again next season. (Well, ok not really) but…why Brohm instead of Woodson, Flacco, Henne etc.? Woodson was not helped by his recent workouts. Also, there seems to be a consensus that Brohm is the most NFL ready of all the QB prospects. That includes Matt Ryan if you talk to the right people. Brohm could have been a first rounder had he come out last year. Troy Smith is not a long term answer, but his presence could influence the development of whichever quarterbacks are brought into Baltimore.
–Paul M. Banks

9. Cincinnati Bengals – Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC

Ellis is what any team is looking for in a defensive lineman.  He has size and speed, and I think he has very good hands.  He can use the big paws to fight off blocks and get in the backfield.  He also has the legs to disrupt the passing game.  And it doesn’t hurt that he played against such tough PAC-10 competition as well.

–Bill Port

10. New Orleans Saints – Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas

There seems to be some major disparity as to who is the best cornerback available in the draft. Aqib Talib is in a dead heat with Mike Jenkins (South Florida) and Leodis McKelvin (Troy) but Talib has a slight edge due to his speed and hands. Prior to the 2007 season, Talib was one of the Jayhawks’ few known commodities after being named to the All-Big 12 First team following his sophomore season. His size (6’1” 205 lbs.) coupled with his ability has him already drawing comparisons to Charles Woodson. He will surely be looked to as a shutdown corner as soon as he steps onto the NFL field.
The Saints need defense. Period. No one expected the New Orleans defense to shut anybody down this year, but the defensive deficiencies were made more obvious by the fact that the offense couldn’t score points at will against better opponents and the defense couldn’t come up with a big stop against anyone. Sean Payton’s defense has holes at all three levels and will use the 10th pick to take the best available defender, no matter the position. A corner like Talib could definitely turn into a defensive cornerstone over the next few seasons.
— Peter Christian

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Indiana Overcomes Turmoil, Escapes Northwestern

By Paul M. Banks

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An exciting end to emotional week as conference heavyweight gets nearly knocked off

It wasn’t supposed to be like this for Indiana. The nation’s #15 ranked team wasn’t supposed to find themselves down to lowly Northwestern with just under three minutes to go. They never anticipated they would have a very realistic chance of losing in the final 13 seconds. The Hoosiers had just routed then #7 Michigan State and also handed Big 10 leader Purdue just its second conference loss. So how on Earth did they find themselves down by eight in the second half and trailing for about ¾ of the game…to a team with a RPI in the high 200s and a 7-17 (0-13 conference) record?  Where shall I begin? Like it was stated in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass,” “Begin at the beginning, continue on until you reach the end, then stop.”

Hoosier Cellular Provider?

Hiring a coach, Kelvin Sampson, with a checkered past is where the program’s current turmoil began. His almost megalomaniacal behavior and outrageously egregious disregard for the NCAA rules on cell phone calls and text messaging (“can you hear me now?” Indiana AD Rick Greenspan) landed him in hot water with college basketball’s governing bodies. This forced Indiana University to give him a $750,000 parachute and end his contract effective immediately. After Sampson’s “resignation,” (and I’m using the heaviest air quotes possible here) Six players threatened a boycott and skipped the first practice held by interim coach Dan Dakich. The “Indiana Six,” (not to be confused with Lost’s “Oceanic Six”) was led by senior captain D.J. White. It included guards Armon Bassett, Jordan Crawford and Jamarcus Ellis, and forwards DeAndre Thomas and Brandon McGee. They skipped Dakich’s first practice Friday afternoon, but returned for the Friday night walkthrough. This move was supposedly a protest against the decision to promote Dakich instead of assistant Ray McCallum, whom the players favored. This boycott forced Dakich to have his team managers run Northwestern’s offense in practice. The shorthanded practice session also limited him from effectively utilizing his game plan. It wasn’t until he switched his defense to a “Triangle and 2” that he was effectively able to turn the tide of the game. His practice sessions limited his ability to adequately prepare that strategy. Restating these chain-of-events makes it abundantly clear that this Indiana team was an emotionally irritated and distracted group from the get go.

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Best game I’ve ever covered. In any sport. Period.

Indiana’s 85-82 come from behind victory had everything you could ever ask for in a college game. It will always serve as my “Exhibit A” anytime someone dares to make a case favoring the NBA over college basketball. If sports journalism is a science than this game was my soil sample for scientific analysis, because all the organic properties that make it great were present in this “moral victory” for Northwestern. During this high scoring and exciting affair, anytime a Northwestern player uncorked a three, I braced myself for the sonic eruption set to occur. My reflexes acted like a tuning fork sensing the seismic vibrations of Welsh-Ryan arena. I have never heard a sell out crowd of 8,117 at Northwestern’s home gym be as loud and as animated as it was on this particular Saturday night. Jamarcus and Ellis and D.J. White raised the arms to the masses inciting them to make noise like a basketball version of Hulk Hogan. Although technically a road game for Indiana, it was essentially a neutral site contest. After the Hoosier faithful made themselves heard, the wildcats responded by talking a lead, promoting the northwestern supporters to make the exact same motions inciting the crowd to make noise for NU. It was like judgment time for an act on “Showtime at the Apollo.” As emotions spiked on both sides jawing and chest-bumping between the two squads occurred almost precipitating an on-court brawl. This game had near fights, a dynamite atmosphere, 9 ties, 8 lead changes, and also featured the best individual performance by any Big Ten player this season. Kevin Coble may have missed the entire first half of the season, but his 37 points on 12-16 from the field, 8-8 FT, 5-6 from distance is a season high for any Big Ten player.  The previous high also belonged to Coble when he had 34 against Michigan. Coble’s entrance into “the zone” prompted the Wild Side student section to chant “Kev-in Co-ble…clap-clap-clap-clap-clap.” (Earlier the chant was “Where is Kelvin?”)

By the way, to the ESPN Sportscenter anchor on Saturday who referred to him as “Kyle Coble,” Coble’s leave of absence is a story that has been told this season by ESPN.com, USA Today, Chicago Sun-Times, Big Ten Network, and many more media outlets. So please get with the program!  

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Cats Nipped

You’ve all seen, heard and read about the thrilling conclusion by now. About how a gusty freshman from the Chicago Public League named Michael “Juice” Thompson took a senior conference player of the year candidate in White (who is also nearly a foot taller than him) to the whole and came up just inches short. A play when the defense most likely expected him to kick it out to Coble for three. Juice also missed on a three when he had another chance to force overtime, but he had a solid game nonetheless. This was truly a “character building” game for the freshman who leads the Big Ten in minutes and ranks third in assists. For Indiana, reserve guard Jordan Crawford had a “just couldn’t miss” night going 6-7 from the field, 4-5 from behind the arc, 5-5 from the line. And the often overlooked point guard Armon Bassett filled the scoring void on a night when White and freshman phenom Eric Gordon weren’t at their very best. By the final minute, the concept of “no cheering in the press box” was no longer even considered within my area. Northwestern’s history as a program is such that any win over a ranked team is considered monumental. This potential victory would have occurred over a program with a fallout being documented by a national media blitz. That would have been Earth-shattering for NU. We all wanted the underdog. Especially a dog that is this much under their opponent. And who didn’t truly want to see a traditional national power go down in the wake of a cheating scandal?  In summation, it wasn’t a perfect night in Wildcat Alley, it was four points shy.
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Marquette: Peaking at the Right Time

By David K.

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2/25/08

In my last Ring Out Ahoya article, I correctly prophesized that maybe it was a good thing Marquette hit a rough stretch in the middle of the season.  After back to back losses to Louisville and at Notre Dame, the Golden Eagles seemed as if they were fading fast in the Big East.  But MU has responded in a big way, destroying their competition in their last four games by an average of more than twenty points per game, and seemingly peaking at the perfect time as March is right around the corner.

Yes, their wins at Seton Hall, vs. Pitt, at St. John’s, and vs. Rutgers were all games Marquette should have won.  However, what really makes these past two weeks impressive is the convincing fashion in which the Golden Eagles have been victorious.  Defense has been the catalyst in all four wins as Tom Crean’s crew turned up their ball pressure forcing 76 turnovers.  Everything seems to be clicking as the entire roster is making contributions and the starting five is living up to the lofty expectations set for them at the beginning of the season. That is vitally important with four games remaining in the regular season.  Big Monday puts Marquette on the national stage visiting a Villanova squad that has risen from the dead.  After dropping five straight and falling to 4-7 in conference, the Wildcats have been on a role as of late, winning four of their last five. Their only loss was a two-point defeat to Georgetown on late free throws coming after a questionable foul with less than a second left. 

Speaking of the Hoyas, after the Golden Eagles grapple with ‘Nova, they return home to host JT3’s boys.  This week will tell just how serious a contender Marquette may be come tourney time.  Running their win streak to six games with a pair of big victories against talented opponents would certainly help their seed come Selection Sunday and more immediately, inch them closer to a first-round bye in the Big East Tournament. 

No team ever wants to face an opponent who is playing their best ball heading into March.  If the Golden Eagles have anything to say about it in the next couple weeks, they very well could be that dreaded match-up nobody wants in the NCAA Tourney.

Stat Lines to Love

Dominic James vs. Pitt
2-11 FG, 4 points, 5 rebounds, 12 assists, 0 turnovers

James was absolutely phenomenal against the Panthers, putting his shooting struggles aside to get his teammates involved with “DVR rewind” worthy dishes.  James has amazing abilities to create on nights when his shot is off.  Now if he can just do this on a regular basis…

Jerel McNeal vs. Rutgers
7-10 FG, 14 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 steals, 3 blocks, 0 turnovers

That is about as complete a game as a college player can have.  We all know about McNeal’s abilities on the defensive end, but when he plays within himself on the offensive side, he is a force.  He plays much taller than his 6’3 stature. He’s a great rebounder and uses the glass on drives almost as well as Dwyane Wade used to.  Again, consistency is the issue.  If McNeal can limit the out of control with the ball tendencies and focus on his all-around game, the Golden Eagles are that much better.

Hey Sportscenter Anchors…
Jerel is NOT pronounced like Darrell with a “J.”  Figure it out!

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Base Wars: Episode II: 2nd Base Hopefuls

By The Soxman

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The success of the 2008 Chicago White Sox is going to hinge on quickly finding answers to a number of tough questions: ranging from the pitching rotation to numerous position battles.  Today, we take a look at the deepest position battle, second base.
 
The Contestants:
 
Danny Richar, .230, 6 HR, 15 RBI, 1 SB (187 Abs)
If there is any such thing as an incumbent at this position, it would be Richar who was essentially handed the starting job after Tadahito Iguchi was traded to the Phillies in late summer.  Richar made some spectacular defensive plays, showed good range, and showed some offensive pop, despite a sub-par batting average and a HORRIBE on-base percentage (.289).  Still, if given 500 Abs, he could produce 15 HRs and 50 RBI hitting in the number nine spot. Unfortunately, he has already fallen out of favor this spring after having visa issues and reporting late.
 
Juan Uribe, .234, 20 HR, 68 RBI, 1 SB (513 ABs)
With a career on-base percentage of .294, and a shortstop for most of his MLB career, Uribe signed a $5 million dollar contract early in the fall only to be “rewarded” by losing his starting shortstop job after the Sox added Orlando Cabrera in a trade with the Angels.  He’s said to have shown up at camp in better shape and with a positive attitude.  If he can win the starting job and adjust to second, his cannon arm could assist in turning a number of double plays.
 
Alexei Ramirez, .335, 20 HR (Cuba)
The total wild card of this race as he is a Cuban star without one MLB at bat.  Rarely does a Cuban exile position player make the jump immediately to the Major Leagues, but he appears to have Ozzie in his corner early.  Ozzie has been impressed by how he charges every ground ball hard and tries to finish every play.  How his power, batting average and speed will translate to the majors is anyone’s guess.
 
Pablo Ozuna, .244, 0 HR, 3 SB (78 ABs)
Ozuna has a career OBP of .323, and in 2006 had a career year with a .328 BA.  He has never had more then 200 Abs in any of his seven major league seasons.  Best suited as the utility player and “must start” vs. C.C. Sabathia, as he has owned him throughout his career.
 
“The Low Down”
Soxman believes that Uribe, an experienced veteran, will be given every chance to win the starting second base job if he is not traded to the Baltimore Orioles by opening day.  Otherwise, this battle truly is anyone’s to win.
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Minnesota Twins Spring Preview Part 3 of 3

By Peter Christian

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Another question going into the season is how this lineup is going to differ from the lineup of years past. One thing is certain; the Twins of 2008 are much more streamlined for one common purpose: Find pitches to hit, put them in play and run around the bases. Over the past two seasons the Twins tried to fool the league, their fans and themselves into thinking that they were a power team. In the middle of the lineup guys like Morneau and Hunter cranked out 30 HR seasons and we expected 20+ from Cuddyer and Mauer. That is not Twins baseball. The Twins will have much more success if they get back to the style of hitting that got them back into the winning ways in 2001 and 2002. Getting men on base and utilizing their speed and contact skills to move them around the diamond, occasionally putting the pressure on their opponent’s defense to make a play. Ladies might love the long ball, but enthusiasts love 5-6 hitter rallies. I’ve heard it said that the Twins outfielders (Cuddyer, Young, Monroe and Kubel) should combine for anywhere from 80-100 Home Runs this year. It is possible, but I’d much rather watch the four of them combine for 180 doubles and 360 RBI. Manager Ron Gardenhire knows that he cannot allow his team to get into a bunch of slug fests (especially within the division) and expect to win. First, that isn’t how the offense is built and second, the pitching staff wouldn’t be able to hold up.

The 2008 Twins resembles the Twins of 2002 that made it to the ALCS more than any of the recent teams that have been bounced in the Divisional Series. That being said, a play-off run will be even that more surprising out of this young team. The biggest difference between this team and that team is the fact that a lot of the young players on that team came up playing together whereas this group is a mixture of prospects and veterans that are both home grown and from other clubs. If this group can develop good clubhouse chemistry in Spring Training, watch out. They might not crush the cover off the ball, but they definitely have the potential to be entertaining on a regular basis.

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Trojan Fanfare:Analyzing another top 10 recruiting class

By Bill Port

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The Newest and Best Men of Troy:

Analyzing the nation’s 7th ranked recruiting class

You guys nabbed a verbal committ from QB Matt Barkley, the guy who is to ’09 what Terrelle Pryor is to ‘08 and Jimmy Clausen in ‘06. Tell me about him…..
 

What can I say about Matt Barkley.  He is a stud.  A standout coming from a high school that has produced quarterbacks like Matt Leinart and Colt Brennan, Barkley is THE GUY for 2009.  Thankfully, all of the talks of him going to UCLA turned out to be hogwash, it would have been sad to see such a great high school football player go to the rival college.  The best comparison I can make to Barkley is Carson Palmer.  He has good size at 6’3’’ 220 lbs. and has the arm to be the next great QB to come out of USC.  There aren’t many negatives with Barkley, and he still has a year of high school left.  The only problem I see with the situation is his playing time.  Depending on who starts in 2008, he will join Mark Sanchez (if he stays for his senior year), Mitch Mustain, and 2007 recruit Aaron Corp who won’t play as a freshman. Mustain will go the next year, meaning Barkley will battle for the job as a junior.  As long as he develops like USC QBs of the past have, he will get everyone’s attention…even if his only starts come as a senior.

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we’ve discovered the genealogy of Notre Dame QB and 2007 #1 recruit Jimmy Clausen
 

What’s going to happen at tailback next year? All those blue chip recruits at one position…enough carries to go around?

Yes, USC is full of running backs.  When I think of the Trojan’s backfield, I think of the team I control in NCAA Football 2008 for PS2.  By this I mean, after a while the team becomes so dominant, you can get so many good players and some studs don’t even play.  A fine example of this is the one and only Matt Cassel.  He took less that 50 snaps in college, and got moved to Tight End one year, but I digress.  I thought Emmanuel Moody would push Joe McKnight and Stafon Johnson to be the go-to tailback, but Moody transferred to Florida so that is out of the question.  So McKnight and Johnson should split the carries for the most part, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see McKnight get the majority of them.  Of the eight running backs on the depth chart last year, three graduated and one transferred, the decision on playing time should be slightly easier.
What did you like most about this year’s recruiting class? Who jumps out at you when it comes to helping fill needs?

When it comes to filling needs for USC, when a senior graduates, the guy behind him steps up and could be a star but you never previously knew about it.  Obviously, they need to fill in some spots at the defensive line.  One guy that stands out among the newcomers is Jurrell Casey.  He went to Poly HS, a powerhouse in California.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see this guy making a push for a job in the near future.  I also think the defensive back position is a little weak, so I am happy to see that the Trojans signed 3 guys that will enroll in the fall, and 1 that will come to the team in the spring.  Hopefully, the transfer, Shane Horton can make an impact.  Filling in for Sam Baker on the line will not be easy, But Daniel Campbell from Texas is a 330 pounder that could fill the void.

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The program loses talent to the NFL every season, and of course just re-loads, but who’s loss will hurt most this time?

USC always has a ton of talent stepping up, but one spot that will be hard to fill is defensive end where Lawrence Jackson played.  His back-up was also a senior.  The loss will hurt in the immediate future, but Pete Carroll has his ways of finding diamonds in the rough.  Everson Griffin could be the guy in 2008, but we’ll have to wait and see what the Trojans do with the ends on the d-line.

Are you surprised to see that Ray Maualuga stayed?

To be honest, I was a bit surprised.  He really boosted his stock with his performance against Illinois in the Rose Bowl, where he appeared to be everywhere, all over the field.  As long as there isn’t a big injury, he will be one of the best players to enter the 2009 draft.  I think he knows this as well, and that is why he stuck around.  Hopefully, he can take the momentum from the end of this past season into next season, and be the animal on the defensive side of the ball.
 All questions asked by Paul M. Banks
 
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