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The Buckeyes finish the countdown where they ended last season at No. 1, but they’re also Athlon’s preseason No. 1 for the fourth time since our first rankings in 1976. Only three teams have been Athlon’s preseason No. 1 more than Ohio State — Florida State (eight times), USC (six) and Oklahoma (five).
Selecting a preseason No. 1 is no easy task. After all, no one spends a ton of time thinking about the preseason No. 2 or No. 3. The top spot has a special place. The preseason No. 1 is as much a prediction for the future — a national championship — as it is a starting point.
Does the preseason No. 1 always win the national championship? No. Far from it. Six of our preseason No. 1 teams have won the national title, but many more have come close, falling short by one game or one play. Half of our preseason No. 1 teams have finished in the top five. Only one, Lane Kiffin’s 2012 USC team, fooled everybody by earning preseason No. 1 honors and finishing unranked in the AP poll with a 7-6 record and a loss in the Sun Bowl.
You can’t win them all. Just don’t tell Ohio State.
|Year||Athlon Preseason No. 1||AP Finish, record, bowl result|
|2014||No. 5, 13-1, lost Rose Bowl|
|2013||No. 7, 11-2, lost Sugar Bowl|
|2012||NR, 7-6, lost Sun Bowl|
|2011||No. 1, 12-1, won BCS Championship Game|
|2010||No. 10, 10-3, won Capital One Bowl|
|2009||No. 3, 13-1, won Sugar Bowl|
|2008||No. 1, 13-1, won BCS Championship Game|
|2007||No. 3, 11-2, won Rose Bowl|
|2006||No. 11, 11-3, lost Fiesta Bowl|
|2005||No. 2, 12-1, lost Rose Bowl|
|2004||No. 1, 13-0, won Orange Bowl|
|2003||No. 3, 12-2, lost Sugar Bowl|
|2002||No. 21, 9-5, lost Sugar Bowl|
|2001||No. 3, 10-2, won Orange Bowl|
|2000||No. 5, 11-2, lost Orange Bowl|
|1999||No. 1, 12-0, won Sugar Bowl|
|1998||No. 2, 11-1, won Sugar Bowl|
|1997||No. 18, 8-4, won Aloha Bowl|
|1996||No. 9, 10-2, won Citrus Bowl|
|1995||No. 4, 10-2, won Orange Bowl|
|1994||No. 6, 10-2, lost Orange Bowl|
|1993||No. 1, 12-1, won Orange Bowl|
|1992||No. 4, 10-1-1, won Cotton Bowl|
|1991||No. 6, 10-2, lost Rose Bowl|
|1990||No. 4, 10-2, won Blockbuster Bowl|
|1989||No. 8, 9-2-1, won Rose Bowl|
|1988||No. 3, 11-1, won Sugar Bowl|
|1987||No. 3, 11-1, lost Orange Bowl|
|1986||No. 13, 9-3, lost Cotton Bowl|
|1985||No. 1, 11-1, won Orange Bowl|
|1984||No. 14, 9-4, won Liberty Bowl|
|1983||No. 2, 12-1, lost Orange Bowl|
|1982||No. 10, 9-3, lost Cotton Bowl|
|1981||No. 12, 9-3, won Bluebonnet Bowl|
|1980||No. 15, 9-3, lost Fiesta Bowl|
|1979||No. 2, 11-0-1, won Rose Bowl|
|1978||No. 9, 9-3, won Sugar Bowl|
|1977||No. 7, 10-2, lost Orange Bowl|
|1976||No. 6, 9-2-1, won Orange Bowl|
Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman was one of the most feared linebackers of his day, winning the 1987 Lombardi Award and earning consensus All-America honors in 1986-87. The decorated recruit made an immediate impression as a freshman in 1984, with a style described as “brutality” after his debut against Oregon State.
Athlon Sports spoke with Spielman before his sophomore season in this piece from our archives — two seasons before he was an All-American.
Originally published in Athlon’s Big Ten 1985 Annual
By Dick Fenlon
It bothers Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman to be called a sadist. But not enough to change his mind about football.
“At this level, it’s a game of survival,” says Spielman. “You hit your hardest, or you take a chance of getting hurt. I hit to put somebody out of the game, and I would expect the same thing from him. It’s clean, but when you hit somebody you try to knock him so he doesn’t get up. I don’t care what anybody says, it’s part of the game.”
Speaking to reporters in the locker room after the first game of his college career, Spielman put it even more bluntly. “When I hit somebody,” he told them, “and I see him hurting, just grimacing, it sends something through me that’s hard to explain. A bolt. A charge. You play to hurt somebody.”
Thoughts like those — frank, unfettered, uncensored — can get a guy in trouble. Talk about putting somebody out of the game, of hurting him, and a lot of minds turn immediately to players who have been put out of the game permanently. Chris Spielman says that’s not at all what he means, but when he volunteered his football philosophy after Ohio State’s opener with Oregon State last season, a general columnist in a Columbus newspaper concluded that there was something decidedly wrong with his approach to the game.
“Is This Youth Or Brutality?” the headline on Mike Harden’s column in The Columbus Dispatch asked. “It may be folly to seek reason and compassion from a game which is comprised, as Roy Blount once said, of grown men flying through the air in plastic hats,” wrote Harden. “That fact notwithstanding, Spielman’s words still had a distinctly ruthless, if not sadistic, ring to them.”
“It bothered me a little bit because I think I am a religious person,” says Spielman. “But that’s his opinion. Freedom of the press, I guess.”
And how, you may wonder, did Spielman come by his football philosophy. “I grew up with it,” he says. “I never had any kids my own age to play football with. They were all my brother’s age. When we played ball, I used to get the heck beat out of me. After a while, I didn’t like it. But if I wanted to keep on playing with older kids, I knew I had to be as tough as they were. So I just kept hitting as hard as could, and I wouldn’t back down for nothing. I’ve always been that way. It’s something you’re born with and grow up with.”
Spielman is the son of a football coach who is now a junior high school principal. He’s the younger brother of Rick Spielman, a junior linebacker at Southern Illinois. Chris grew up in Canton, Ohio, and played high school football in Massillon, where the sport itself takes on overtones of a quasi-religious nature.
When Spielman arrived at Ohio State, he was accompanied by a reputation uncommon even for Massillon blue chippers. Coach Earle Bruce said he was the best high school player he had ever seen. And everybody knew he was tough as iron.
Spielman had started every game at Massillon High and played both ways — as fullback and linebacker. Parade magazine named him the top high school linebacker in the country in 1983. Selected as the All-American Boy football player and pictured on the side of a zillion boxes of Wheaties, he stared at America from the shelves of every supermarket across the land.
When Spielman turned 17 on Oct. 11, 1983, he received more than 400 birthday cards from coaches and schools. That astounded even the football-hip Spielman. “Guys who didn’t know me from Adam were saying, ‘How are you doing?’” he says.
He visited five schools — Penn State, UCLA, Miami of Florida, Michigan and Ohio State. It came down to the last two. Some schools said he might be able to make it as a fullback, if that’s what he wanted, but he had no delusions about that.
“I think I was just an average back,” Spielman says. “If we needed a couple of yards, I’d say, ‘Give me the ball,’ and I’d put my head down and go.” But he know that average wouldn’t be good enough in college. “And I’d rather be the hitter than the hittee. It’s less painful.”
Naturally, Bruce was ecstatic when Spielman signed on. Then, in the Ohio High School North-South All-Star game after graduation, he suffered the first injury he could remember, an inversion sprain of his left ankle. He reinjured it in preseason practice. When Ohio State trainer Billy Hill handed Spielman the yellow slip-on that players not sound enough to take part in full practice wear and insisted he wear it for the day, he literally threw it back at him. Only grudgingly did he finally tuck it into his waist.
Even with no particular connotation, yellow is hardly Spielman’s favorite hue. “I’m glad to see you back,” Bruce wisecracked the next day. “I thought we changed our colors.”
By this time, Spielman had gained something of a reputation among older teammates. He wasn’t just the freshman linebacker with the big reputation and his mug on a cereal box. He was the gung-ho, flaky kid who just wouldn’t ease up, even in practice.
“They think I’m a little weird,” admitted Spielman at the time. “When I’m on the field, I’m weird. When I’m not, I’m just a normal 18-year-old freshman.”
When the Oregon State opener arrived, Spielman was beside himself. Not starting the first game of his life was bad enough. Getting in for only two plays in the first half was worse.
Finally, with Ohio State trailing, Spielman was inserted to blitz Oregon State quarterback Ricky Greene. In less than a half, Spielman had five tackles, five assists, two tackles for a loss, one sack, one forced fumble — and one victory put on ice. He was voted Ohio State’s Defensive Player of the Game. His career was on fast-start.
It didn’t stay in that gear for long. Spielman started the next two games, against Washington State and Iowa, but in the first quarter of a 45-26 rout of Iowa, he tore ligaments in his right ankle.
“It was a nightmare,” says Spielman. “I thought I had the strongest ankles in the world, and I never even taped them in high school. I was crushed. I didn’t know what to do. I sat out three weeks, and I told myself that if I had to crawl, I was going to play the next game against Michigan State.”
One of the student managers taped his ankles. Tight. If the tape had been around his neck it would have strangled him. Spielman figured that if the tape was tight enough, it would numb the pain, but by the time the game started, he could hardly walk. “Like a dumb, silly kid, I didn’t tell anybody.” he says. “I told them I was feeling great. Pretty dumb, huh?”
Pretty dumb. Three plays into the game, a Michigan State tackle landed on the sore ankle and he was out again. When the regular season ended a month later, Spielman was a part-time player, and with 12 tackles and 18 assists, ranked no better than 13th on the Ohio State hit list.
When the Rose Bowl game against Southern California began, he was still a substitute, but by this time, both of his ankles had had time to heal. He was also mentally ready.
“I wanted to play so bad, and I was determined to play the best game of my life,” Spielman says. “I don’t know if I did, and I hated losing, but my consolation was that I was satisfied with my performance.”
He had 12 unassisted tackles and three assists, and the 103,000 fans in the Pasadena gulch and a nationwide TV audience got an eyeful of just how good he can be when healthy.
Offensively for Ohio State this season, all eyes will be on senior tailback Keith Byars as he goes for the Heisman Trophy. Many of them will be on the 6-2, 225-pound linebacker Chris Spielman in his sophomore season.
“I set my goals high, both for me and the team,” he says. “For the team, I want to go back to the Rose Bowl and win, go 12-0 and be No. 1. For me, I’d like to be All-Big Ten.”
What about shooting for All-American?
Obviously Spielman is a first-things-first kind of guy. “In my junior year,” says Spielman. “I’d like to be an All-American. I think with a lot of hard work and experience I can be.”
The Bears released Ray McDonald, and not too many people are upset to see him go.
Chicago decided to part ways with McDonald because he didn't meet the standards of what it takes to be a part of the organization.
GM Ryan Pace: "We believe in 2nd chances, but when we signed Ray we were very clear what our expectations were if he was to remain a Bear...— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) May 25, 2015
Pace cont: "He was not able to meet the standard and the decision was made to release him."— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) May 25, 2015
Moments after, lineman Kyle Long tweeted this.
Good riddance— KL (@Ky1eLong) May 25, 2015
Sometimes it's easier to say good-bye than one would think.
After the 1995 season, Ohio State tackle Orlando Pace had only scratched the surface of his potential — and at that point he was already a Lombardi Award winner and blocker for a Heisman Trophy recipient. Pace would finish his career as a two-time unanimous All-American, a Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, a top-four finisher for the Heisman Trophy and a likely Pro Football Hall of Famer.
Athlon Sports featured Pace prior to his 1996 season when he first grew into his reputation as “The Pancake Man.”
Originally published in Athlon’s 1996 Big Ten Annual
By Dick Fenlon
When asked to imagine himself on the other side of the ball, as a defensive lineman looking into the eyes of the renowned Pancake Man, Ohio State offensive tackle Orlando Pace wonders what ploy, what diversion, what marvelous feat of athleticism would be needed to avoid being flattened by the best interior offensive lineman in the country.
“If I’m across from me,” he says, “I’m thinking, do I want to bull rush? Or maybe I’ll fake him? It’s hard to analyze. Lining up against me? That would be a challenge, definitely.”
Pace, a 6-6, 330-pounder who looks as big without shoulder pads as he does with them (maybe they came with the body, installed at the factory, right off the assembly line), speaks so softly you have to lean close to hear him.
“Off the field I am calm,” the very large man whispers. “On the field, I have a little different demeanor. When I go out and play, I try and kill them (opposing defenders). It’s the aggression you have to take with you when you play big-time football.”
Pace plays football so well that the selectors for the Lombardi Award (presented to the outstanding college lineman) passed over worthy upperclassmen to give the award to an offensive tackle just two years off the high school field in Sandusky, Ohio. That move surprised the first sophomore to win the Lombardi in its 26-year history that he had to revise his own tentative awards schedule.
“Just before they awarded the Lombardi, they announced Outland (outstanding interior lineman),” says Pace, “and I didn’t win that one (it went to UCLA senior offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden). So I’m sitting at the awards banquet real relaxed. And I’m thinking, ‘Well, if (Ogden wins the Lombardi, too) I can win it next year, and the year after that.’ When they called my name, it really shocked me. It means a lot to me. It shows me where I stand among linemen. It tells me I did something in history.”
So maybe there’ll be a repeat, or even a three-peat, although, one certainly wouldn’t want to bet on that, not with the scouts from the NFL lusting after him the way a pack of dogs might hunger for 330 pounds of fresh liver.
Or maybe he’ll make a run at the Heisman Trophy, which no interior offensive lineman, being perforce faceless, has ever won.
OK, so the odds on that off the board. So what? As Pace says, “I can say I’ve got a piece of Eddie George’s.”
Believe it. Because without Pace’s pancaking, there would have been no Heisman for Ohio State’s senior tailback last season. George ran past the opposition, both on and off the field and in the balloting, but he wasn’t alone. Much of the time, it was Pace opening the way. or setting the pace. In a 41-3 win over Illinois, George rushed for a school-record 314 yards. Not coincidentally, in that game Pace had 10 pancake blocks.
But ask Joe Hollis, Ohio State’s offensive coordinator, if he can come up with the definitive Pace play or series or game, and he can’t do it. He doesn't point to anything that happened in the Illinois game or any other game in Pace’s two seasons as a starter. Instead, he shakes his head.
“If you ask me about Orlando Pace, I wouldn’t say, for instance, let’s have a look at the Notre Dame game. I’d tell you to go in and pick out a game. You wouldn’t be in there very long. The other day, the coaches from Eastern Kentucky came to visit, and we were looking at the Iowa film. There’s (backup tailback) Pepe Pearson going 50 or 60 yards to the 2. But what catches your eye when you see this 5-11, 195 pound tailback going up the hash is this huge tackle matching him stride for stride.”
What did the visiting coaches have to say about that? “They were amazed,” according to Hollis.
Ohio State’s staff has been amazed ever since watching its first film of Pace as a high school junior. That season (1992), 6-5, 315-pound Korey Stringer was making his own mark as a Buckeye offensive tackle, starting in six straight games and earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors. The next two years, Stringer was an All-American. After his junior season, he opted for the NFL and was a first-round selection, 24th overall, by the Minnesota Vikings. The chances of finding another talent like him seemed impossible.
And yet, says Hollis, “I thought immediately that he looks like another Korey Stringer. By the time Stringer was a high school senior, there was a unanimous thought among the OSU staff: ‘If we can get him to come to Ohio State, we project him as a starter in his first year.’”
Pace, athletic enough despite his girth to start and average 18 points for a Sandusky High basketball team that went to the regional semifinals before losing in Ohio’s high school final, played the usual games in keeping football recruiters out of his hair.
“I’d answer the phone and tell them I wasn’t home,” he says. “It was difficult. I’d be talking to one coach and I’d have a call waiting, and I’d have to make a choice right there.”
But the most important choice was fairly easy.
“I had it narrowed down to Ohio State or Michigan pretty early,” he says, “and one reason I came to Ohio State was Korey. I came in the summer and he kind of took me under his wing. What better thing for a young player to do but play under a great player the first year? I learned a lot from him. It was a great thing for me.”
But Pace didn’t play under him, he played on the same starting unit with him. He became the first freshman to start an entire season for Ohio State, 13 games and 322 minutes, third-highest among offensive players.
“We started with Fresno State (in the Kickoff Classic),” says Pace, “and once I got myself relaxed, it was just like an ordinary game, except that the guys were bigger and stronger. What you’ve got to do, I found, is uplift your level to their level.”
It’s been a totally uplifting experience. Pace followed in Stringer’s footsteps in 1994, becoming the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year, and again last year he was named a unanimous All-American.
Another Buckeye offensive tackle blazed an even greater trail in 1973. That year, John Hicks won both the Lombardi and Outland trophies and finished second to Penn State’s John Cappelletti in the run for the Heisman.
As far as Pace is concerned, as the old saying goes, here’s a man who was big when was still little. By the time he was in junior high school, Pace stood 6-4 and weight 275 pounds. Back then, he though he’d grow up to be a basketball player. But by the time he was starting on the line for Sandusky as a high school sophomore, he knew that football would be his route to fame. And while some might equate working in the trenches with hard labor, he has a refreshing outlook.
“Football is fun,” he says. “Right now it’s to a point that it’s extremely fun. During camp you might say to yourself, ‘Boy, I hate football.’ But once the game starts and you’re out in front of 90,000-plus people doing something you like, it’s one of the greatest feelings in the world.”
Maybe it’s that exuberance, his passing for what he does, that distinguishes this potentially biggest of all big Buckeyes.
“All of the things keep falling in place for Orlando,” says Hollis. “It’s just like a flower that grows and grows and grows. It’s hard for anybody to handle him because he plays so much on the edge of formations and it’s difficult to put people in front of him. He is a dominating player. More than that, he’s a recognized dominating player. It’s easy to go to a game and recognize that in a tailback. But to have gained that much respect and recognition in just two seasons playing where he does, that’s just phenomenal.”
Let's not judge. It has to be hard playing tic-tac-toe in front of thousands of people.
The rules of the game are the same, but somehow the two contestants got confused on where to place their markers. The crowd groaning probably didn't help much either. In the end, the host was forced to choose a winner from two guys who clearly lost.
Ohio State’s return to year-in and year-out dominance in the early 2000s was led by the most unlikely of quarterbacks. After a brief audition in 2001, Craig Krenzel became the starting quarterback in 2002. Despite modest numbers, Krenzel led Ohio State to a BCS championship and Fiesta Bowl MVP honors for the Buckeyes’ first national championship in more than 30 years.
After earning instant hero status in Columbus, Krenzel was still the humble Academic All-American when he returned for his senior season in 2003.
Originally published in Athlon Sports’ 2003 Big Ten Preview
By Jeff Rapp
The morning after Ohio State’s stunning victory in the Fiesta Bowl, Ohio State coach Jim Tressel admitted one player got left behind in the excitement. The story would have been funny enough if it were a third-string lineman — “Hey, man, you’re missing the party” — but was downright ironic considering it was Craig Krenzel. After all, the Buckcyes never would have been in position to play for a national title without his heroics.
“We had to send a police car back to get him,” Tressel said of his starting quarterback. “I hope it wasn’t a violation.”
It turns out Tressel either embellished the story or wasn’t aware that Krenzel was able to get a lift back to the team hotel without help from Arizona’s finest.
“I don’t know where he hard that but I got a ride back with my parents,” Krenzel says. “It was a long walk back to the car.”
Apparently nothing makes you more late for the bus than being the centerpiece on a national championship team. Krenzel was part of the on-field celebration, granting interviews and hugging coaches and teammates. He then addressed the media and was ambushed by a well-wisher who lied to a security guard and said he was in the Krenzel family. That fan was none other than Rex Kern, the beloved quarterback of the 1968 Buckeyes, the last Ohio State team to win the title.
As Kern embraced and beamed at Krenzel, the two looked like father and son. It was a moment that harkened back to the glory days. After all, Krenzel had done it the same way as Kern — with poise beyond his years, toughness, smarts and the uncanny ability to make the big play when absolutely necessary.
After the very symbolic passing of the torch with Kern, Krenzel did a national radio show and changed in an empty locker room.
Outside, the Sun Devil Stadium parking lot was still mostly full. That’s because the 60,000 or so Ohio State fans in attendance din’t know what to do after a four-hour double-overtime thriller other than head directly to Mill Avenue for a desert-sized celebration.
The title game compliments of more outstanding defense, clutch play and the gritty performance of No. 16, who outgained teammate Maurice Clarett and the Hurricanes’ Willis McGahee as the game’s leading rusher.
Krenzel was named the game’s Offensive MVP, despite completing just 7-of-21 passes and throwing a pair of interceptions. That’s because he took hit after hit en route to 81 rushing yards and two crucial touchdowns, including the tying score in overtime. Earlier in that session he converted a fourth-and-14 — make that fourth and championship — with a sideline strike to Mike Jenkins. Moments later he threw the infamous pass to Chris Gamble in the end zone on another fourth down that was flagged as defensive interference. Many writers and critics said that the late penalty stole the game from Miami and ruined a great contest.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Krenzel says. “We ended up with a victory and a national championship. And people around the country that are saying we shouldn’t have won the game because of that call, that’s probably the same people that were saying before the game that we had no chance.”
Krenzel was a main reason there were so many doubters. How in the world could Ohio State beat a superpower like Miami if it couldn’t throw the ball? Krenzel was among the most efficient quarterbacks in the country, but his season stats were rather ordinary. Starting all 14 games in 2002, he completed just 148 passes and managed a little more than 2,000 yards passing. Yet as the wins kept mounting, no one doubted he was the man for the job.
Krenzel had paid his dues to be the starting quarterback, and he wasn’t about to risk losing that privilege by demanding more throws. He had seen firsthand how the kamikaze style of his predecessor and roommate Steve Bellisari had turned Bellisari into a feast-or-famine quarterback that often received the blame during the lean years of 1999-2001.
While Krenzel liked his friend Bellisari, he endured a few sleepless nights wondering if he was ever going to get the chance to try to lead the team. Certainly he didn’t come from Sterling Heights, Mich., and turn down offers from other major programs to be a career backup.
Craig’s brother Brian, who played safety at Duke, says the two spent “many, many nights on the phone” early in Craig’s career. Brian, who won fewer games (13) in four years with the Blue Devils than Craig did last season, often repeated the same advice to his baby brother: Keep your mouth shut, keep working, and believe it will all work out.
“It’s just a motto that my parents instilled in us: Good things happen to good people, but maybe not on the timetable that you want them to happen,” says Brian, a Louisville medical school graduate who is embarking on a career as an orthopedic surgeon.
As a backup to Bellisari, Krenzel played sparingly in seven games in 2000 for head coach John Cooper and spent the 2001 season signaling in plays for Tressel until Bellisari was suspended from the team late in the year. Krenzel played well enough in a home loss to Illinois to earn the start at Michigan, then endeared himself to the Buckeye Nation by calmly directing OSU to its first win in Ann Arbor in 14 years.
Last year, Krenzel clearly earned the job over classmate Scott McMullen and freshman phenoms Justin Zwick and Troy Smith. Then the magic began. Eleven straight completions vs. Kent State. A game-winning, twisting touchdown run at Cincinnati. A pair of backbreaking touchdown passes at Wisconsin. A perfectly tossed, season-saving 37-yard touchdown lob to Jenkins on fourth down in the final minutes at Purdue. A had-to-have scoring march in the final minutes against Michigan.
Things went so well for Krenzel that he told his brother shortly after the Fiesta Bowl: “I think I’m just going to retire. How do you top this?”
Now that very question will gnaw at Krenzel this fall as he tries to lead the Buckeyes back to the promised land in his senior season. If he can pull it off, he will be in very elite company. In fact, since 1980, only one quarterback has led his team to back-to-back national championships — Nebraska’s Tommie Frazier. Many before him have tried and come up short, most recently Miami’s Ken Dorsey.
Yet everywhere Krenzel went during his whirlwind offseason of magazine covers and impromptu autograph sessions, he was asked, “Can you repeat?” The question even came up in Detroit, of all places, as Krenzel was feted in his home state in March as the winner of the Socrates Award for the most outstanding college football player on and off the field. A molecular genetics major with a 3.71 GPA, Krenzel showed up to spring practice a little weary after trying to keep up with his studies and his newfound fame.
“It kind of went fast,” he says of the three-month break. “It seemed like just yesterday that we played. For those of us who have been here for a while, it seems like we’re getting old.”
Krenzel’s roommate, OSU center and fellow senior Alex Stepanovich, said the two talk about their aspirations for 2003. That is when Craig is actually in their apartment. “He’s not around very much. You guys usually have him doing some things or he’s picking up awards and stuff like that,” Stepanovich says. “But we’ve talked about being in more of a leadership role than we were last year at this point. A lot of times the younger guys don’t understand what it takes to do what we did.”
But that doesn’t mean Krenzel plans to boss around his underlings like a Hollywood star. In fact, his teammates see absolutely no change in him.
“He’ll be the same old guy — cool, calm and collected,” Jenkins says. “That’s just the way he is.”
“Craig is a great guy,” adds Stepanovich. “People talk about how smart he is, but I think the great thing about him is that maybe things around him have changed by he stayed the same guy. He stayed Craig and he stayed with what made Craig who he is. He’s the same guy he was before anyone knew he could do what he did.”
Krenzel is getting more respect than ever for his on-the-field exploits, but don’t expect to see a different quarterback on the field in 2003. It should be more of the same, even if it is a little boring.
“If I proved anything, it’s what it takes to win football games,” says Krenzel, who completed 59.4 percent of his passes and was intercepted just seven times last season. “You don’t need the big, flashy numbers. You have to take care of the football, make good decisions and get the team into the right play.
“Personally I just want to get more consistent, more fluid in my mechanics, and just relax a bit and be more comfortable. I also want to improve my decision-making and my reads. We’d like to have more balance this season. It’s going to be fun. There are some guys that can go out and make big plays for us. It’s going to be up to myself to distribute the ball to them and put it where it needs to be.”
Krenzel wore a visor on his helmet in the spring as precaution after having Lasik surgery on his right eye, which is naturally weaker than the left. He hopes the procedure helps him dial in on receivers better this season.
But whether he is asked to run the option like Kern or carve up defenses like Joe Germaine, he always expects one result — victory. A 15-1 record as a starter will do that for you.
“He’s a confident kid,” OSU quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels says. “He had no question he could lead this team. But now he has proven it. That’s the difference for him.”
Tressel adds: “I think he’s obviously carrying himself with more confidence. I think he always believed in himself, but he also felt like he needed to establish that over a period of time. As he looks at things now, he can say, ‘I’ve seen that before.’ When you watch film, I think you see a much more mature, more experienced guy.
“I’ve been really pleased with the way he’s paid special attention to the little things — his footwork and ball placement. A completion isn’t satisfactory to him. He wants the ball put in the right spot.”
Krenzel admits he likes proving detractors wrong as much as anyone else, but that’s not his driving force.
“I don’t think there’s anyone who is a bigger critic of me than myself,” he says. “I’ll go through and watch film and I’m extremely critical of myself in what I do technique-wise, decision-making-wise, just knowing that there are a lot of little things I need to do to get better.
“I guess in that respect I am driven by criticism but it’s more stuff I put on myself.”
Krenzel watches so much film of himself and his upcoming opponent that the OSU video staff makes sure he is the first to receive tapes each week.
“The video people know he’ll probably spend more time than the coaches on it,” Tressel said.
“He’s just an extraordinary kid that’s competitive and wants the ball in his hands. I can’t say enough about Craig Krenzel. He’s a winner.”
He’s also fearless. At 6-4, 225, Krenzel is a big target for oncoming linebackers when he takes off with the ball. Yet he always pops up no matter how vicious the hit, including what looked like a near decapitation by Miami hit man Jonathan Vilma in the Fiesta Bowl.
“He’s tough,” Stepanovich says. “He’s run for a lot of first downs for us and sometimes he stands back there and takes a shot. It’s great to play with a guy like that.”
Krenzel intends to take medical school entrance exams in August. He is as serious about his future as he is about winning games. Off the field and away from the cameras, however, he’s not as serious as you’d think.
“He’s pretty much a clown,” says Ben Hartsock, OSU’s starting tight end and Krenzel’s best friend. “I know you guys don’t see much of that but trust me, he has his silly moments. I’ve seen some interesting dives into the whirlpool.”
Hartsock and Krenzel thought it would be fun to run out and imprint the snow on the White House lawn moments after the team was honored by President Bush. Fun, that is, until a Secret Service man cut them off at the pass by showing them his gun.
Oh well, no harm in trying.
“That’s always been Craig’s personality,” his brother says. “He has a way of not taking things too seriously and putting them in the proper perspective. Studies are important, but your test score doesn’t necessarily dictate how well you now the material. A performance on the field statistically doesn’t necessarily dictate how well you performed in game management or something like that.
“He keeps all that in view and has an incredible perspective for someone his age.”
Long before we get to those bitter border and in-state conference wars that have come to define college football, we deal with a slate of non-conference games that, in many years, leave something to be desired.
In 2015, however, there are some pretty interesting matchups during the first month of the season that hardcore college football fans should definitely consider must-see TV.
Here are the 10 most intriguing non-conference matchups of the 2015 college football season.
Thursday, Sept. 3
Michigan at Utah – The Jim Harbaugh era gets underway on the first night of the season. His Wolverines will be underdogs against Kyle Whittingham’s Utes in what should be an electric atmosphere in Salt Lake City.
TCU at Minnesota – The Horned Frogs are expected to be a serious College Football Playoff contender, while some are looking at the Gophers as a dark horse to win the Big Ten West. Both teams will be looking to make a statement to the nation in this one, with the Gophers thinking revenge for the beating they took a season ago.
Friday, Sept. 4
Washington at Boise State – Chris Petersen returns to Boise to take on the program that he turned into the model mid-major program and a national power. After losing plenty of star power to the NFL draft and graduation, Petersen will step onto the blue turf as an underdog for the first time.
Saturday, Sept. 5
Texas at Notre Dame – These two storied programs will meet for just the 11th time, with Texas making its first trip to South Bend in 20 years. A win by the Longhorns could be the catalyst Charlie Strong needs to get the Texas program back to relevancy.
Arizona State at Texas A&M – This early season battle of what should be top 20 teams is going to carry a lot of weight as the rest of the season progresses. The winner will get a boost in the court of public opinion, adding extra flare to their respective conference schedule. It’ll also be the first time in history that these two programs meet.
BYU at Nebraska – Nebraska’s record 29-game winning streak in home openers could be in serious jeopardy when Bronco Mendenhall’s Cougars visit Lincoln. The Huskers lost their best offensive and defensive players from a season ago and also went through a coaching change. On the other side of the ball, BYU quarterback Taysom Hill looks to pick up where he left off in 2014, as he was mentioned in most Heisman discussions before going down in early October with a broken leg.
Wisconsin vs. Alabama (Arlington, TX) – The last time we saw these teams, Alabama was losing to Ohio State and Wisconsin defeated Auburn. The Tide will be favored in this game, but don’t underestimate the number of impact players that Alabama lost. Wisconsin lost Heisman Trophy runner-up Melvin Gordon and not much else. This also will be head coach Paul Chryst’s first game at the helm of his alma mater.
Monday, Sept. 7
Ohio State at Virginia Tech – The Buckeyes will have revenge on their minds for the upset that took place in Columbus last season. That said, anyone who has seen a night game at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg – on TV or in person – knows what kind of atmosphere Urban Meyer’s bunch is walking into. The Hokies are ready to be more than just a speed bump on Ohio State’s road to a repeat.
Saturday, Sept. 12
Oklahoma at Tennessee – Bob Stoops finds himself in the unfamiliar position of leading Oklahoma into a season and not being one of the favorites to win the Big 12. Meanwhile in Knoxville, there is a lot of chatter about “being back,” largely due to the talent the Vols return and the way they ended the 2014 season, winning three of their last four.
Oregon at Michigan State – This is a bit of a flip-flop game compared to a season ago. Oregon will be the road team coming off of a successful year, facing a high-profile quarterback in hostile territory. Both the Spartans and Ducks have questions all over the field. This game will not only set the tone for both teams, it could end up having Playoff ramifications before all is said and done.
30-year-old LeBron James is in his twelfth NBA season. This winter, he sat for multiple weeks of action, resting his increasingly human body; James missed 13 games in 2014-15, the most of his career. He hasn’t been a consistently fearsome defender for years, and has developed a very noticeable on/off switch in general.
None of that matters at this time of year. LeBron is still the best in the game, and he is proving it as loudly as anybody can in his latest run at an NBA title with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Without Kevin Love or a healthy Kyrie Irving, James has simply ratcheted his own game up to a level so high that everyone around him can’t help but take his lead and thrive.
Role players like Tristan Thompson, Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova are all perfecting their bit pieces around LeBron. That’s probably not a coincidence: From Mario Chalmers to Donyell Marshall, there’s a long lineage of secondary characters who have been emboldened to do surprising things next to the King.
For all the guffawing about James’ bickering and passive-aggressive power plays with David Blatt, he and the Cavs’ head coach clearly have a relationship that functions well enough to produce wins. Cleveland hasn’t missed a beat despite tough health breaks to two of their best players, embodying a next-man-up ethos unwincingly. Blatt deserves a lot of credit for that, but James is who the roster truly takes their cues from.
Building something new is exactly what James came back home to do. Few doubted he could do it — especially with Irving and Love set to be next to him — but probably even fewer thought he could bring Cleveland back to prominence so swiftly, and through this much bad injury luck. The throne appears to be on lockdown this spring.
— John Wilmes
Seahawks fans really want to keep Russell Wilson in Seattle.
One fan has even gone as far as to create a GoFundMe account to raise $5 million in order to pay for an LLC to sponsor Wilson. The craziest part about this is that people are actually donating to it. It's like let's help the rich get richer. The account has raised $1,311 in 13 days, which isn't bad.
If it turns out that Wilson doesn't take the money, it will be donated to the Seattle Children's Hospital.
Either way it's going to a good cause as far as Seahawks fans are concerned.
Some of the world's greatest athletes weren't just one-sport players; instead, they excelled in two (and sometimes in several). Of course, some athletes probably should have stuck with their main sport. Here's a look at the top 30 two-sport athletes of all time, ranked in order of their second best sport.
1. Jim Thorpe, track (Best sport: football)
One the all-time great athletes, Thorpe is a member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, and has been immortalized via the Jim Thorpe Award — given annually to the top defensive back in college football. But Thorpe was also a gold medalist in both the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics.
2. Jim Brown, lacrosse (Best sport: football)
Arguably the greatest running back in history, Brown is a member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. The 6’2”, 230-pounder is a member of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame and is considered by many to be the best athlete to ever play the sport.
3. Bob Hayes, football (Best sport: track)
“Bullet Bob” Hayes won the fastest man in the world, winning gold medals in the 100 meters and 4x100 meters at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Hayes then strapped on a helmet for the Dallas Cowboys, winning Super Bowl VI and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
4. Bo Jackson, baseball (Best sport: football)
Only Bo knows what might have been. The 1985 Heisman Trophy winner was a Pro Bowl running back for the L.A. Raiders and an All-Star outfielder for the Kansas City Royals — hitting 32 HRs and 105 RBIs in just 135 games in 1989 — before a hip injury derailed the out-of-this-world athlete.
5. Charlie Ward, football (Best sport: basketball)
Sure, Ward played 11 seasons in the NBA — starting at point guard for the New York Knicks’ Eastern Conference champs in 1999. But most know him as a Heisman Trophy winner and national champion quarterback at Florida State in 1993.
6. Babe Didrikson Zaharias, track (Best sport: golf)
A 10-time LPGA major champion and member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Mildred Ella — better known as “Babe” — won gold medals in the 80-meter hurdles and javelin throw as well as a silver medal in the high jump at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.
7. Duke Kahanamoku, surfing (Best sport: swimming)
The Big Kahuna won three Olympic medals in the 100-meter freestyle — taking gold at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics and 1920 Antwerp Olympics, and silver at the 1924 Paris Olympics — as well as a gold (1920) and silver (1912) in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay. But Mr. Hawaii was also the “Father of Surfing,” popularizing the longboard en route to becoming a member of the Surfing, Swimming and U.S. Olympic Halls of Fame.
8. Deion Sanders, baseball (Best sport: football)
A member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, Prime Time is considered the greatest cornerback in NFL history. A two-time Super Bowl champion, Sanders also played with the Atlanta Braves in the 1992 World Series and played parts of nine lightning-fast seasons in MLB.
9. Gene Conley, basketball (Best sport: baseball)
A four-time MLB All-Star and 1957 World Series champion with the Milwaukee Braves, the 6’8”, 225-pound Conley also won three NBA championships with the Boston Celtics — becoming the only athlete in history to win world titles in two of the big four pro leagues.
10. Danny Ainge, baseball (Best sport: basketball)
The Wooden Award winner at BYU, Ainge won two NBA championships with the Celtics and was an All-Star in 1988. He also had a cup of coffee with the Toronto Blue Jays, playing three seasons from 1979-81.
11. Brian Jordan, football (Best sport: baseball)
A one-time MLB All-Star who played in the bigs for 15 years, Jordan played three seasons (1989-91) as a safety in the NFL before making his debut in The Show in 1992.
12. Jackie Robinson, track (Best sport: baseball)
The 1949 NL MVP and 1955 World Series champ is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame and a civil rights pioneer. But he was also the 1940 NCAA Men’s Outdoor Long Jump champion at UCLA.
13. Jonathan Ogden, shot put (Best sport: football)
The 6’9”, 345-pound Ogden was the 1996 NCAA Men’s Indoor Shot Put champion at UCLA, before becoming an 11-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl XXXV champion left tackle with the Baltimore Ravens.
14. Jeff Samardzija, football (Best sport: baseball)
The Shark was an All-American and Biletnikoff Award finalist, finishing his Notre Dame football career as the Irish’s all-time leading receiver prior to becoming a right-handed pitcher for the Chicago Cubs.
15. Darin Erstad, football (Best sport: baseball)
The 1995 Golden Spikes Award winner was also the starting punter on Nebraska’s 1994 national championship football team before going on to play 14 seasons in MLB.
16. Joe Mauer, football (Best sport: baseball)
Before Mauer was the 2009 AL MVP and three-time batting champion for the Minnesota Twins, the 6’5” athlete with a cannon for a right arm was USA Today’s High School Player of the Year as a quarterback.
17. Dave Winfield, basketball (Best sport: baseball)
A 22-year MLB veteran and member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Winfield played college basketball at the University of Minnesota — where he helped lead the Golden Gophers to the 1972 Big Ten title.
18. Kenny Lofton, basketball (Best sport: baseball)
A six-time All-Star, five-time stolen base champ and four-time Gold Glove center fielder, Lofton’s first love was basketball. He played point guard for the University of Arizona, making the Final Four in 1988.
19. Tony Gwynn, basketball (Best sport: baseball)
A first-ballot member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Gwynn was a 15-time All-Star and eight-time batting champ with a career .338 batting average and 3,141 hits. But Gwynn was also a solid point guard, setting San Diego State records for assists in a season and career.
20. Marion Jones, basketball (Best sport: track)
Once a golden girl, Jones’ reputation has since been tarnished by PED use and jail time. Before the fall, Jones won three gold and two bronze medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics after a standout hoops career at the University of North Carolina — where she was a member of the 1994 NCAA champion Tar Heels.
21. Antonio Gates, basketball (Best sport: football)
Led Kent State to its first MAC championship and a trip to the Elite Eight in the 2002 NCAA Tournament before becoming an eight-time Pro Bowl tight end for the San Diego Chargers.
22. Jimmy Graham, basketball (Best sport: football)
Played four years of basketball at the University of Miami but just one season of football at The U. No big deal, the 6’6”, 260-pound power forward has evolved into one of the NFL’s best tight ends.
23. Tony Gonzalez, basketball (Best sport: football)
Gonzalez round-balled at Cal-Berkeley before becoming a 14-time Pro Bowl tight end with 1,325 catches, 15,127 yards and 111 TDs for the Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons.
24. Julius Peppers, basketball (Best sport: football)
The pass-rusher was a glass-crasher at University of North Carolina, where he came off the bench for the Tar Heels’ 2000 Final Four squad.
25. Walter Ray Williams Jr., horseshoes (Best sport: bowling)
The seven-time PBA Player of the Year also owns six Men’s World Horseshoe Pitching titles.
26. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, football (Best sport: wrestling)
The WWF wrestler was a member of the University of Miami’s 1991 national championship team, where he played with future NFL stars like Warren Sapp.
27. Ed “Too Tall” Jones, boxing (Best sport: football)
A three-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman and Super Bowl XII champion, the 6’9” Jones had a scary 88-inch reach as a boxer — going 6–0 with five KOs in 1979.
28. Herschel Walker, mixed martial arts / bobsled (Best sport: football)
Known for always being in peak condition, Walker started his MMA career as a 48-year-old. The fifth-degree Taekwondo black belt is 2–0 with two TKOs on punches. Years before that he participated in the two-man bobsled competition at the 1992 Winter Olympics, finishing seventh. Oh yeah, Walker, who played several years in the NFL, also won the 1982 Heisman Trophy at Georgia and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
29. Scott Burrell, baseball (Best sport: basketball)
The only athlete selected in the first round of two of the big four sports’ drafts — Burrell went No. 20 overall to the Charlotte Hornets in the 1993 NBA Draft and No. 26 overall to the Seattle Mariners in the 1989 MLB Draft.
30. Michael Jordan, baseball (Best sport: basketball)
His Airness is undeniably the greatest basketball player of all-time and arguably the greatest athlete ever. However, in 127 games playing for the Chicago White Sox’s Double-A affiliate Birmingham Barons, Air Jordan hit just .202 with three HRs, 51 RBIs and 30 stolen bases.
What is it with nicknames and baseball? In high school I played with Doggie, Bird, Soup, Clone, Rooster, T and White Legs. Nicknames and baseball players just seem to go together like bat and ball. For as long as young boys and men have been batting baseballs around, they have given each other descriptive nicknames for facial features, deformed body parts, the way they played the game, hair color and, the most popular, shortening their surnames. In fact, some players with nicknames were given nicknames for their nicknames.
Here are the 50 best—and often very politically incorrect—nicknames in baseball history.
50. Don Mossi
Ears (also The Sphinx)
Perhaps you had to see Mossi to really appreciate the name. In Ball Four, Jim Bouton said Mossi “looked like a cab going down the street with its doors open.”
49. Ernie Lombardi
Not to allow Mossi and his ears steal all the thunder, the catcher who was also known as the world’s slowest human had a beak of monumental proportions. But the catcher hit his way into the Hall of Fame.
48. Nick Cullop
Cullop spent 23 years in the minors, hit 420 home runs and had 2,670 hits, both minor league records when he retired.
47. Mordecai Peter Centennial Brown
Known more commonly as Three Finger Brown than by Mordecai, Brown capitalized on losing most of his index finger in a childhood farming accident. Apparently that helped him throw a devastating curveball described by Ty Cobb as the toughest in baseball.
46. Don Zimmer
Despite the success for the Red Sox in the late 1970s, Zim is blamed for the team’s collapse in 1978, ultimately losing a playoff game at Fenway Park (commonly known as the Bucky Dent game). Because of this, lefthander Bill Lee, with whom Zimmer often sparred, gave him the name Gerbil.
45. Bill Lee
And speaking of Lee, it wasn’t as though he was a mental giant himself. The lefthander’s outrageous, often irreverent personality and his fearless rhetoric earned him the name Spaceman, allegedly, from John Kennedy (the Red Sox utility infielder, not the former President). Just being left-handed in Boston was probably enough.
44. Jim Grant
Grant, who became one of the most successful African-American pitchers in the 1960s, credits Leeroy Irby for the nickname. Seems Irby thought Grant was from Mississippi and others were happy to make the name stick.
43. Jim Hunter
Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finely often seemed more interested in flashy P.R. than winning baseball games. Evidently, this nickname was a product of the PR-conscious Finley more than any angling the Hall of Fame pitcher might have done in his home state of North Carolina.
42. Randy Johnson
Okay, get your mind out of the gutter. Former Expos teammate — yes, Johnson was originally a member of the Expos — Tim Raines once collided with him during batting practice, looked up at the 6’10” hurler and proclaimed, “You’re a big unit.”
41. Mark Fidrych
The affable righthander enjoyed talking to the baseball while on the mound and manicuring the mound on his hands and knees between innings. But it was because of his resemblance to Big Bird of Sesame Street fame that Fidrych was given his name.
40. Marc Rzepczynski
Some surnames scream for nicknames, like Yastrzemski with Yaz, and Mazeroski with Maz. But there are few names that could earn more points in the famous word game than this lefthander’s.
39. Doug Gwosdz
Ancestors of the former catcher of the San Diego Padres must have misspelled this name somewhere down the line. But as astute teammates surmised, his jersey resembled those charts hanging on walls in optometrists’ offices.
38. Johnny Dickshot
First of all, that is his real name. And secondly, he referred to himself as the “ugliest man in baseball.” So, we have no qualms about Dickshot making the list.
37. Luke Appling
Old Aches and Pains
Dubbed by teammates, it’s unclear whether the name was given in jest. But it is clear that Appling didn’t mind complaining about the physical demands of the job all the way to the Hall of Fame.
36. Roger Bresnahan
The Duke of Tralee
Nothing really unusual about this name; after all many players were named in honor of their hometowns. Earl Averill was the Duke of Snohomish after his hometown in Washington. But, Bresnahan was from Toledo. For some reason he enjoyed telling folks he was born in Tralee, Ireland.
35. Bob Feller
Taking the American League by storm as a teenager led to this nickname as well as The Heater from Van Meter (Iowa).
34. Edward Charles Ford
The Chairman of the Board
Well known as Whitey because of hair color, the lefty dominated the American League for 16 seasons as a member of the Yankees. As a tribute to his calm, cool demeanor in tough situations, he became known as the Chairman of the Board.
33. Leon Allen Goslin
Several sources agree on how Goslin acquired his name. Evidently, he waved his arms as he chased fly balls, had a long neck, and was not the most graceful player.
32. Willie Mays
Say Hey Kid
There is no definitive agreement on how Mays acquired this classic name.
31. Mickey Mantle
The Commerce Comet
Mantle, a star athlete from Commerce, Oklahoma, was offered a football scholarship by the University of Oklahoma, but wisely chose baseball.
30. Joe Medwick
Ducky-Wucky (also Muscles)
According to Baseball-Reference.com, fans called Medwick Ducky-Wucky more than merely Ducky, presumably because of his gait, or perhaps the way he swam. Teammates, seemingly out of self-preservation, never called him Ducky-Wucky, but chose instead the name, Muscles.
29. Brooks Robinson
If you ever saw Brooksie do his work around the hot corner, you would quickly understand the moniker. Teammate Lee May once quipped, “Very nice (play)...where do they plug Mr. Hoover in?”
28. Aloysius Harry Simmons
With an exaggerated stride toward third base. Bucketfoot Al bashed major league pitching at a .334 clip on his way to the Hall of Fame.
27. Lynn Nolan Ryan
No one readily admits giving him the name, but any hitter who stood in the box against Ryan is keenly aware of what the name means.
26. Darrell Evans
One look at the famous puppet and a glance at the power-hitting lefty, and you’ll know why.
25. Dennis Boyd
Born in Mississippi (where beer may be referred to as oil), the colorful righthander carried the nickname on to the major leagues.
24. Johnny Lee Odom
Reportedly, a classmate in grade school thought Odom’s face looked like the moon. Really?
23. Frank Thomas
Given to Thomas by White Sox broadcaster Ken Harrelson. Thomas put the big hurt on American League pitching for 19 years.
22. Garry Maddox
Minister of Defense
If you watched Maddox patrol center field for the Phillies in the 1970s, you immediately get the name.
21. Mike Hargrove
Human Rain Delay
And you think Nomar Garciaparra invented the step-out-of-the-box-and-adjust-your-batting-gloves routine. Nope. Seasons changed between pitches when he was at bat.
20. Daniel Joseph Staub
Le Grand Orange
Known as Rusty by the Texans while with the Colt .45s, he became Le Grand Orange in Montreal as a member of the original Expos.
19. Jimmy Wynn
His small stature and powerful bat led to this moniker.
18. Steve Balboni
Presumably, Balboni was given the name because of his propensity to hit home runs. It may also be noted that a double meaning could be bye-bye, as in “He gone” back to the dugout because of his propensity to strike out.
17. Joakim Soria
A two-time All-Star when he was the Royals' closer, Soria has since undergone Tommy John surgery and returned to ninth-inning duties with the Rangers. Besides switching uniforms, Soria also would appreciate not being known by his nickname, as its association with the violence in his native country hits a little too close to home.
16. Frank Howard
The Capital Punisher
While playing in the nation’s capital, Howard punished AL pitching for 237 home runs in seven seasons, twice leading the league with 44, and finishing second in 1969 with 48.
15. Carl Pavano
After signing a four-year, $38 million deal with the Yankees prior to the 2005 season, Pavano made just nine starts in four seasons, going 3-3 with a 5.00 ERA.
14. Lawrence Peter Berra
Evidently when Berra sat with arms and legs crossed a friend suggested he looked like a Hindu yogi. Now the term Yogi is associated with malaprops more than Hindu.
13. Mariano Rivera
Good night batters.
12. Rickey Henderson
Man of Steal
One look at his stats and you understand this one: 1,406 career steals and a record 130 in 1982.
11. Shane Victorino
The Flyin’ Hawaiian
Victorino plays the game with endless energy and spunk, but his heritage rules the day.
10. Vince Coleman
Vincent Van Go
A true artist of the stolen base.
9. Ken Reitz
Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon marveled at how the St. Louis third baseman could pick up everything.
8. Pablo Sandoval
Kung Fu Panda
The loveable Giant Panda.
7. Fred McGriff
One of ESPN sportscaster Chris Berman’s nicknames that actually stuck. Thanks McGruff, the cartoon Crime Dog.
6. Kenny Rogers
“Every hand’s a winner, and every hand’s a loser. The best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.”
5. Jose Bautista
Bautista was terrific as Joey Bats in “The Hitman” on YouTube. He’s been even better as himself for the Blue Jays.
4. Harry Davis
Poor Davis lost his job as Detroit first baseman to some kid name Hank Greenberg in 1933.
3. Ron Cey
Playing for Tommy Lasorda in the minor leagues must have had its pros and cons. Having your manager dub you Penguin because of your awkward running style would probably fall on the con side.
2. William Ellsworth Hoy
As if anyone needed reminding, here’s a clear indicator of just how far political correctness has come in 100 years. William Ellsworth Hoy lost his hearing and ability to speak as a result of childhood meningitis. At only 5’4”, he was difficult to strike out and was the first player to hit a grand slam in the American League. He died in 1961, just five months shy of his 100th birthday.
1. George Herman Ruth
Babe (also the Bambino, Sultan of Swat, The King of Sting, The Colossus of Clout)
Babe was the only major leaguer large enough for five larger than life nicknames.
LeBron James is a many of many talents.
The Cavaliers star talked with Rachel Nichols and we got to know more about him than we ever could've imagined. Maybe James has a future as a actor.
"I always wanted to be the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," James said. "And then when I got older, the Bad Boys movies, I was like, 'I would love to do an action movie.' Either be, like, a cop or something, or be, like, Batman. Hopefully I can do some more things. Maybe, we'll see."
LeBron James talks basketball, Batman and Bed Bath & Beyond as he and the Cleveland Cavaliers face the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA's Eastern Conference Finals.Posted by Rachel Nichols on Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Recruiting is the backbone of any college football program. Every coaching staff spends hours evaluating tape and discussing programs, but recruiting is still an inexact science.
And thanks to Miami, we have a pretty good look at what goes on inside the war room at programs while discussing the top prospects.
In this video released by the school, the coaching staff is discussing whether or not to offer a prospect that plays safety.
There’s some interesting discussion about what it takes to play the position, whether or not elite speed is needed and some of the ins and outs about what Miami looks for in terms of talent.
Check out this awesome video going inside the Canes recruiting war room:
Everyone is "all in" for Cleveland.
The Cavaliers won Game 1 on the road against the Hawks and Urban Meyer defintely took notice. The Ohio State coach took to Twitter to show off his custom made Cavs-Buckeyes jersey.
The Buckeyes also installed a huge video monitor in their practice facility and look what is on the screen. LeBron James hugging Cardale Jones after Ohio State won the big game. The championship game is on repeat, but what a coincidence that it would be James' image when the photo was snapped.
Added a big screen video board in the indoor facility. Doing it up big - Buckeye style! pic.twitter.com/rtRKcr2Lxq— Mark Pantoni (@markpantoni) May 22, 2015
Will the Buckeyes-Meyer luck rub off on the Cavaliers?
Belief is a tricky thing. You want to take someone's word for something, but there's a nagging feeling they could be wrong. We've all been there.
According to Boston Herald writer Ron Borges, Bill Belichick never believed Tom Brady's Deflategate story. If that's true, he's certainly not alone.
"Belichick never believed his story, from what I was told," Borges said. "Because they all know. Why do you think all those retired quarterbacks, the Troy Aikmans of the world — Troy Aikman is about as nice a guy as I've ever met in football — nobody's backed [Brady]. Nobody, not a single guy. Why do you think that is? Because they hate Brady? No. Because they're not stupid. They know nothing's done with those balls that the quarterback doesn't want done."
Former Packers quarterback Brett Favre actually did come to the aid of Brady, saying what he did wasn't cheating. Having your own coach not believe your story is different. The relationship between a quarterback and head coach needs to be the smoothest of perhaps any other on the team.
Only time will tell if this story plays a part in the already tangled web of Deflategate.
The Big Ten is known for possessing some of the nation’s top defenses, but this conference isn’t short on offensive talent for 2015. The Big Ten has three potential first-round picks at quarterback in next year’s draft. Cardale Jones is expected to start over Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett at Ohio State, while Michigan State’s Connor Cook is back for his third year under center, and Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg should improve under second-year coach James Franklin. Additionally, Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott is a Heisman frontrunner, and Corey Clement should be a capable replacement for Melvin Gordon at running back.
To help pick the top offensive triplets in each of the Power 5 leagues, we devised a simple formula. We ranked the quarterbacks, running backs and receivers and assigned a 14 to the No. 1 player, with the point total decreasing to just one point to the No. 14 ranked player at each position. Only one player from each team was ranked per position.
Ranking the Big Ten’s Offensive Triplets for 2015
1. Ohio State
Total Points: 40
QB: Cardale Jones (1)
RB: Ezekiel Elliott (1)
WR: Michael Thomas (3)
Regardless of who starts under center for coach Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes have one of the nation’s best trios. Jones is penciled in as the starter at quarterback after guiding Ohio State to a 3-0 record and a national championship in his short tenure under center. Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 696 yards over the final three games of last year, and Thomas led all Ohio State receivers with 54 catches in 2014.
Related: Urban Meyer Ranks No. 1 Among Big Ten Coaches for 2015
2. Penn State
Total Points: 35
QB: Christian Hackenberg (3)
RB: Akeel Lynch (5)
WR: DaeSean Hamilton (2)
Ranking Penn State at No. 2 in Big Ten triplets largely depends on how far the offensive line develops during the offseason. The Nittany Lions struggled up front in 2014 and prevented the offense from taking off in coach James Franklin’s first year. Improvement is expected up front, which should allow quarterback Christian Hackenberg to rebound after an up and down 2014 campaign. Akeel Lynch rushed for at least 75 yards in three out of his last four outings, while Hamilton – only a sophomore – is among the Big Ten’s top receivers.
Related: QB Christian Hackenberg Ranks No. 3 in the Big Ten QB Ranks for 2015
Total Points: 29
QB: Tommy Armstrong (5)
RB: Terrell Newby (7)
WR: De’Mornay Pierson-El (4)
Adapting to new coach Mike Riley’s pro-style offense will be the biggest challenge for the Cornhuskers in 2015. However, the pieces are in place for Nebraska to rank among the Big Ten’s best offenses. Armstrong threw for 2,695 yards and 22 scores last season and has one of the top receiving corps in the Big Ten with Jordan Westerkamp and all-around threat De’Mornay Pierson-El. Terrell Newby and Imani Cross will replace Ameer Abdullah’s production at running back.
Related: Where Does Mike Riley Rank Among Big Ten Coaches?
Total Points: 29
QB: Joel Stave (9)
RB: Corey Clement (2)
WR: Alex Erickson (5)
Don’t expect much in the way of change for Wisconsin’s offense under new coach Paul Chryst. The former offensive coordinator for the Badgers is back in Madison after a three-year stint as Pittsburgh’s coach. Corey Clement should be a capable replacement for running back Melvin Gordon. However, question marks remain about quarterback Joel Stave and the options at receiver beyond Alex Erickson.
Related: Wisconsin's Corey Clement Ranks as the No. 2 Big Ten RB for 2015
Total Points: 28
QB: Wes Lunt (4)
RB: Josh Ferguson (6)
WR: Geronimo Allison (7)
The Fighting Illini have plenty of offensive firepower in place, and this trio could rank higher if receiver Mike Dudek wasn’t lost for an indefinite period of time with a torn ACL. Lunt was off to a good start last season before a leg injury limited him to just eight games. Ferguson has rushed for 700 yards in back-to-back years and has 100 receptions in that span.
Total Points: 23
QB: Connor Cook (2)
RB: Madre London (12)
WR: Aaron Burbridge (8)
If the Spartans had proven No. 1 starters at running back and receiver, they would rank much higher on this list. Madre London is listed at running back here, but Delton Williams, LJ Scott and Gerald Holmes will be in the mix for carries. Connor Cook is one of the nation’s top quarterbacks, and the senior needs Aaron Burbridge and DeAnthony Arnett to step up in 2015.
Total Points: 22
QB: Nate Sudfeld (6)
RB: Jordan Howard (4)
WR: J-Shun Harris (13)
Kevin Wilson’s specialty is offense, and the Hoosiers should take a step forward on the stat sheet after quarterback Nate Sudfeld missed a chunk of 2014 due to a shoulder injury. Sudfeld was ready to join the ranks of the Big Ten’s best at quarterback in 2013, throwing for 2,523 yards and 21 scores. Howard rushed for 1,587 yards at UAB last year and is expected to be the top replacement for Tevin Coleman. Harris is the team’s top returning receiver from 2014 – 18 catches for 168 yards.
Total Points: 22
QB: Chris Laviano (13)
RB: Paul James (9)
WR: Leonte Carroo (1)
The Scarlet Knights have some intriguing offensive weapons in place for the 2015 season. But can new coordinator Ben McDaniels settle on a quarterback? Chris Laviano exited spring with a slight edge on Hayden Rettig for the No. 1 spot. James gets the nod at running back, but sophomores Josh Martin and Robert Hicks are two names to remember. Carroo averaged 19.2 yards per catch in Big Ten games last year.
Total Points: 21
QB: Jake Rudock (7)
RB: Ty Isaac (8)
WR: Amara Darboh (9)
There’s little doubt Jim Harbaugh will generate some improvement out of Michigan’s offense in 2015. And if the pieces fall into place, the Wolverines should climb this list during the year. Jake Rudock is eligible immediately after transferring from Iowa and is expected to start over Shane Morris. Ty Isaac and Derrick Green are expected to share carries in the backfield. Amara Darboh will replace Devin Funchess as the No. 1 target in the passing attack.
Related: Jim Harbaugh is the No. 1 Coaching Hire for 2015
Total Points: 19
QB: C.J. Beathard (10)
RB: Jordan Canzeri (10)
WR: Tevaun Smith (6)
C.J. Beathard has replaced Jake Rudock as Iowa’s starting quarterback, and the Hawkeyes hope the Tennessee native helps the offense stretch the field more in 2015. Jordan Canzeri headlines a solid stable of running backs, while Tevaun Smith averaged a healthy 13.9 yards per reception in 2014.
Total Points: 19
QB: Matt Alviti (12)
RB: Justin Jackson (3)
WR: Christian Jones (11)
Justin Jackson had a breakout year for the Wildcats in 2014, leading the team with 1,187 yards and 10 rushing scores. Jackson remains the top back for Northwestern and will be among the Big Ten’s best in 2015. The Wildcats will spend fall practice sorting out their quarterback situation, as three candidates – Clayton Thorson, Matt Alviti and Zack Oliver – are vying for the No. 1 spot. Christian Jones is coming off a torn ACL and missed all of 2014.
Total Points: 12
QB: Mitch Leidner (8)
RB: Rodrick Williams (11)
WR: K.J. Maye (14)
Minnesota’s formula for success won’t change with a power rushing attack on offense. David Cobb will be missed, but Rodrick Williams and Rodney Smith should provide plenty of production. The bigger question mark on the Golden Gopher offense is a passing attack that managed only 147.3 yards in Big Ten games last year.
Related: Minnesota's Jerry Kill Ranks No. 5 Among Big Ten Coaches for 2015
Total Points: 9
QB: Caleb Rowe (11)
RB: Brandon Ross (13)
WR: Juwann Winfree (12)
There’s a lot of uncertainty for Maryland on both sides of the ball in 2015. A new defensive scheme is the team’s biggest concern, but the Terrapins have to replace quarterback C.J. Brown and dynamic receiver Stefon Diggs. Rowe is recovering from a torn ACL and is expected to return at full strength by this fall. More production is needed from the running backs, while Winfree headlines a receiving corps that lost four out of its top five targets from 2014.
Total Points: 7
QB: Austin Appleby (14)
RB: Keyante Green (14)
WR: Danny Anthrop (10)
Finding the right quarterback in coach Darrell Hazell’s biggest priority this offseason. Is Appleby the starter? Or should redshirt freshman David Blough or Danny Etling take the first snap? The concerns on offense extend to the running back spot, but there’s promise with Green and Markell Jones in 2015. Anthrop averaged 16.2 yards per catch last season and could be among the Big Ten’s top receivers. However, he’s also recovering from a torn ACL.
Without further ado, here are the players that achieved top honors for the 2014-15 season:
All-NBA, first team
Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
James Harden, Houston Rockets
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
All-NBA, second team
Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers
Pau Gasol, Chicago Bulls
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
All-NBA, third team
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers
The most notable snubs here are Kawhi Leonard and John Wall.
This list of 15 also has one major mystery. Pau Gasol had a terrific season in terms of comebacks, but to say he was one of the five best bigs in the game? That’s a bit generous.
The biggest surprise here is Cousins’ inclusion—not that he doesn’t belong. An elite, singular talent, he’s been overdue for this kind of recognition for a while. It just comes as unexpected that the media, long his enemy, gave it to him with the votes needed.
Here’s the defensive version of things:
All-Defense, first team
Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies
Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers
All-Defense, second team
John Wall, Washington Wizards
Jimmy Butler, Chicago Buls
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
Andrew Bogut, Golden State Warriors
Tony Allen’s “First team, All-Defense” chant proved, of course, to be prophetic here. It’s hard to pick too many bones with this collection, though; 10 is a small number for how many great defenders there are in this league, and there will always be a bushel of them left out of the party.
— John Wilmes
Julian Edelman isn't taking it easy after winning the Super Bowl.
The Patriots receiver uploaded a training video, with a soundtrack by Childish Gambino, and shows fans he's only going to get better from here. Weight-lifting, cardio, and catching passes in the sand are all a part of the routine it takes to be great.
Edelman clearly doesn't have time to hear about Deflategate. He's too busy preparing for next year.
Don’t buy it.
Don’t buy what Bill Hancock is selling. Don’t buy what the conference commissioners are selling.
Certainly, don’t buy what Nick Saban is selling.
The Alabama Crimson Tide head coach has built up more than enough equity during his amazing career to have intelligent and respected opinions about his game.
But his latest comments about the College Football Playoff ruining the bowl system — what he claims he “fears the most” — couldn’t be further from reality.
What he “fears the most?” Really?
Not Gus Malzahn, not Ezekiel Elliott, not spread offenses, not his glaring weakness at quarterback.
But the BBVA Compass Bowl?
According to Saban, attention being removed from the Taxslayer Bowl is what keeps him up at night.
First, that’s more than difficult to believe. Second, it’s blatantly false.
Arkansas athletic director and chairman of the College Football Playoff Jeff Long couldn’t agree more.
"Well, I think sometimes coaches, particularly those at the highest level, I'm not sure how aware they are of what's really going on out there in the real world,” Long told Arkansas radio show Sports Talk with Bo.
The “real world” Long is referring to is television ratings and bowl expansion.
More people are watching bowl games than ever before. Remove the record-smashing playoff bowls from the equation — which lured roughly 90 million combined viewers for three games — and the average viewership for the remaining 36 bowls sits at over four million viewers per game (4,001,016 to be exact).
The lowest viewership in the 2013-14 bowl season — the last of the BCS Era — was the Heart of Dallas Bowl, which drew a paltry 332,000 viewers for the UNLV-North Texas showdown.
The lowest rated bowl game during the first Playoff season was the Camellia Bowl between South Alabama and Bowling Green, which drew more than three times the number of viewers at 1,110,000 sets of eyeballs.
Needless to say, fans are flocking to their televisions to watch the bowls like never before.
And how could the health of the bowl system be in question when the number of games continues to rise?
There were a record 39 bowls last year and not only is the system not suffering, but there is a chance that three more games will be added this fall.
That means 82 teams will play in a postseason game this season. It sounds like the bowl system is healthier than it’s ever been. Hell, bowl games are even being played outside of the country now.
Additionally, the College Football Playoff has increased the entire college football pie. With surging interest in the regular season and subsequent postseason tournament, the Playoff is elevating the entire sport to a new level of interest. Money is pouring into the sport from every angle at unprecedented rates.
Which, in turn, elevates interest and support for all 10 conferences, all 128 teams and all 42 bowl games.
Attendance numbers at bowl games are a concern but that isn’t anything that the entire sports world isn’t dealing with as well. Overall attendance numbers for big time college football were at record lows in 2014 and attendance at sporting events as a whole are reaching concerning benchmarks.
The in-home experience is more enjoyable and significantly more affordable than taking a family of four to the game — much less flying them to El Paso for a neutral field exhibition game.
That isn’t a bowl game problem, that’s a sports industry problem.
Generally speaking, head football coaches say things for a reason. What was Saban’s motivation behind these patently untrue and unfounded comments?
Maybe he’s just upset the entire world destroyed his team for losing to Ohio State on the biggest stage and no one cared nearly as much that Auburn lost to Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl.
6. Patrick Beverley, Houston Rockets
Had you told any close NBA follower that the Rockets got past the Los Angeles Clippers in the playoffs, without Beverley, a month ago… they wouldn’t have believed you. The 37-year-old Jason Terry did a shockingly good job slowing Chris Paul down during Houston’s historical comeback series win, and the Rockets are now in the Western Conference finals. Without Beverley’s maniacal defensive pressure to apply to MVP Steph Curry, though, things could end quickly for Houston. Terry is bound to show his age soon, and when the Rockets have to switch wingmen onto Steph, it should open up the offense for his passing genius.
5. John Wall, Washington Wizards
John Wall is one of the best players in the NBA, and he missed three games of a playoff series. After he fell on his hand in Game 1 (a dominant, 18-point, 13-assist performance from him, in which he led the Wizards to a 104-98 victory) he then missed the next three contests with a wrist injury. Paul Pierce’s heroics were enough to propel the Wiz to one more win—and nearly to two—but Wall’s absence was ultimately the weakness that Atlanta capitalized on. Wall came back in Game 6 and played another great game, but the Hawks had already taken control while he was gone.
4. Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers
Love’s separated shoulder hasn’t had a terrible impact on the Cavaliers—not yet, anyway. They’ve been lucky enough with one big, generous baseline reality: They play in the Eastern Conference. Even without Love, LeBron James and Co. have had enough to get within three games of the Finals. An emboldened Tristan Thompson, conveniently enough, has filled in for Love and done a lot of tough tasks that Cleveland arguably needs more than their missing All-Star’s shooting and playmaking. Thompson has been a voracious rebounder and a relentless defender, looking like just about the best custodian James has ever had. The smart money, however, is on Cleveland missing Love’s modern versatility dearly if they land in the Finals.
3. Wes Matthews, Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers were in rare air for much of the season. Their offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency were both consistently in the league’s top ten, putting them in company with only two other squads who could claim that status: the Warriors and the Hawks. That had a ton to do with Matthews, their best defender and the NBA’s overall leader in made three-pointers at the time of his injury. Without Wes against the Memphis Grizzlies, point guard Damian Lillard struggled as Mike Conley, Courtney Lee and Tony Allen took turns wearing him out. And without Matthews playing defense, Portland’s perimeter stronghold was downright porous.
2. Thabo Sefolosha and DeMarre Carroll, Atlanta Hawks
The severity of Carroll’s injury is yet unknown. His MRI concluded that no structural damage has been done to the knee he landed awkwardly on in Game 1 against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but we don’t know how effective he can be on a quick turnaround. The thing is, he needs to be extremely effective, as he has the hardest job on the Hawks’ roster for this matchup—and potentially the hardest job in the entire sport—in guarding LeBron. Without Sefolosha either, who’s out for the year with a broken fibula, Atlanta is suddenly looking almost optionless in the face of the King’s warpath toward a fifth straight Finals appearance.
1. Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder
The most important injuries in the playoffs are to men who didn’t play a minute in them. In fact, they don't even work for an organization that made the field. But the Thunder’s absence from this bracket has to be the biggest, most bothersome “what’s missing” feeling that’s making this spring feel somehow incomplete. When healthy, this is probably the most talented squad in the league. Now the franchise is undergoing a bit of change, with Billy Donovan hired as their new head coach in place of the outgoing Scott Brooks. Perhaps Donovan can manage the roster’s bodies well enough to help us avoid this sad lacking, a year from now.
— John Wilmes
Don't bite the hand that feeds you but once that hand stops, it's a different story.
Former Patriots corner is speaking out about Deflategate and it isn't pretty. Revis, now with the Jets, told New York Daily News his truth about Tom Brady and the issues surrounding the Patriots.
"Everybody's blowing it up because it is Tom Brady," Revis said. "But if (the NFL) feels he did the crime or he did something and they want to penalize them, then that's that. (The Patriots) have a history of doing stuff. You can't hide that ... Tom was there when they did that stuff in the past."
Revis continued saying that he comment on whether or not Brady is a cheater, but his background shouldn't have an effect on his punishment. The Patriots quarterback shouldn't receive an appeal just because of his image.
"If Tom gets caught with a DUI it's a DUI," Revis said. "If they are saying that he did what he's done, then the suspension is the suspension."
Revis also mentions that this isn't the first go-round with the Patriots and discipline.
"New England's been doing stuff in the past and getting in trouble," Revis said. "When stuff repeatedly happens, then that's it. I don't know what else to tell you. Stuff repeatedly happened through the years. You got SpyGate, you got this and that and everything else."
The Jets vs. Patriots games will be one to mark down on your calendars.
The fourth Super Bowl victory was supposed to be the one that put the controversies behind the New England Patriots. For eight long years since the tide turned against them after 2007's Spygate, the Patriots and their fans were subjected to the incredibly simplified "they haven't won anything since Spygate," which summed up a popular general feeling that New England could no longer win the big one without the cheating.
Yes, the Patriots won more games, division and conference titles than anyone else in the time, and came within two miracle plays by the Giants of having two more Super Bowl wins, but apparently not winning a Super Bowl since Week 1 of 2007 was hard proof that the Patriots were no longer good because they couldn't videotape opponent's defensive signals from a disallowed area.
With a fourth ring, it was hoped that things would finally come full circle for the Pats. That the haters would realize that, despite the overblown controversies and cheating accusations, the Patriots' place in history was cemented and perhaps, could be respected.
But as if on cue, Deflategate dropped just hours after the AFC Championship Game, and once again the pundits are out to discredit everything the Pats have accomplished, throwing around asterisks and cheater accusations, only fueled further by false media leaks from the NFL and a far-from-convincing investigation.
After a few months to bask in the glory of their fourth Super Bowl title, the release of the Wells Report, and its corresponding punishments from the NFL, have set the Patriots right back to where they were after Spygate — a lightning rod for criticism and "hot takes."
So what will the long-term effects of Deflategate be on the Patriots as Tom Brady enters the final three years of his current contract? There's little question that Brady and Bill Belichick are in their final act together, one way or another.
Will Deflategate prove to be the impetus for another scorched earth campaign, reminiscent of what the 2007 Patriots did after Spygate? Or will it be the straw that breaks New England's back?
The difference with Spygate was that it happened in-season, with the accomplishments of many of the dynasty veterans still on the roster being called into question. There was little doubt how players like Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison and others would react in the weeks immediately following, as the "us against the world" card was never easier to play for a team that was already fueled on proving doubters wrong, even when it was clearly one of the best teams in the NFL.
But what about now? Yes, Deflategate is all anyone can talk about on all forms of NFL media right now, in the dead of the offseason. Will that still be the case four months from now? Will the Patriots' hate fire still burn as hot then?
And how much will new players like Jabaal Sheard and Scott Chandler, or rookies like Malcom Brown, really feel they need to prove the haters and doubters wrong? There are certainly enough Patriot veterans, led by Brady, to play with an extra chip on their shoulder. But can we really expect it to be a rallying call for the team months from now?
The Patriots' new and unproven secondary should be focused on what it is doing rather than trying to send messages to anyone.
Perhaps Deflategate will be the true beginning of the end for this Patriots dynasty. There are already rumors of dissension among owner Robert Kraft, Belichick and Brady, and with Kraft abandoning his appeal of the NFL's punishment, what kind of message does that send to Brady as he prepares his own appeal?
Brady's suspension could be reduced, but it's still very likely that Jimmy Garoppolo, a promising second-year quarterback will get at least a start or two. No one needs to tell Brady what can happen when a veteran quarterback has to miss a couple games. He's seen firsthand that getting your starting job back is never a guarantee, especially under Belichick.
In the past, New England has been able to put aside all the outside "noise" and focus on playing football. That might be their greatest strength under Belichick, as there always seems to be some kind of distraction coming from outside the walls of Gillette Stadium, whether it was the unexpected release of a veteran player or an unexpected loss in the early part of the season.
It comes back to Brady and Belichick, as it always has the past 15 years. Never before has Brady's integrity been called into question, and if he needed some added motivation to wreak havoc even after securing his fourth Super Bowl ring, he certainly has it. But in football there are no guarantees.
The Patriots' dynasty has been an unprecedented ride of wins and controversies, and responding to this final black mark just might be the biggest test yet. But if there's one thing we know about Belichick and Brady, they'll go down swinging and it will be front page news one way or another.
Trends take time to develop and there is no arguing that over the last 20 years schools such as Miami, Ohio State, and Florida State have rightfully earned the moniker Wide Receiver University. But trends change over time and it looks as though recent history is showing there is a new player vying for the title, West Virginia University.
Over the last three NFL drafts (2013-15) West Virginia is the only school to have four wide receivers drafted. The Mountaineers are also the only team to have at least two wide receivers go in the first round, Kevin White in 2015 and Tavon Austin in '13.
Since 2013 there are three schools who have had three wide receivers taken in the past three drafts — USC, Oklahoma, and LSU. Of these four schools with at least three wideouts drafted since 2013 only WVU and USC have three players that went in the first three rounds. USC had Nelson Agholor drafted in the first round in 2015, Marqise Lee in the second round in 2014, and Robert Woods in the second round in 2013. Along with White and Austin, WVU had Stedman Bailey hear his named called in the third round of the 2013 draft.
Many will try to make the correlation between successful wide receivers and quarterbacks. However, in recent history that is simply not the case. Of the four schools listed above each have had only one quarterback drafted since 2013. The only school to have multiple wide receivers and multiple quarterbacks drafted in that time frame is Florida State with two each — Jameis Winston and EJ Manuel at quarterback and Kelvin Benjamin and Rashad Greene at wide receiver. Whether or not Clint Trickett would have been drafted had he remained healthy is up for debate, but his early-season stats in 2014 were leading him to receive a shot somewhere at the next level. Whether that would have been being drafted or signed as a free agent unfortunately will never be known.
It is no secret that Dana Holgorsen has a history of developing wide receivers for the NFL. However the string of wide receivers that have come out of WVU in the last three years show a new growing trend in Morgantown, one that has never been seen. The Mountaineers have had a total of 10 wide receivers taken in the NFL draft since 1990, two of those were quarterbacks at WVU — Darren Studstill and Rasheed Marshall. Of the remaining eight wide receivers drafted, four have come in the last three years.
While WVU is a long way from catching the likes of Miami, Ohio State, and Florida State, schools that boast dozens of drafted wide receivers since 1990, there is no doubt that this continued trend will eventually garner a changing of the guard and a new school vying for the title WR U.
— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of BlueGoldSports.com, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow BlueGoldSports.com on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.