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Bengals coach denies Steelers kicker Boswell’s claim

Published: Wednesday, December 06, 2017 @ 3:04 PM

            Cincinnati Bengals player Josh Shaw is offsides for Pittsburgh kicker Chris Boswell’s game-winning field goal attempt in Monday night’s 23-20 Steelers win. GREG LYNCH/STAFF PHOTO
Cincinnati Bengals player Josh Shaw is offsides for Pittsburgh kicker Chris Boswell’s game-winning field goal attempt in Monday night’s 23-20 Steelers win. GREG LYNCH/STAFF PHOTO

Cincinnati special teams coordinator vehemently denied Pittsburgh kicker Chris Boswell’s assertion that the Bengals’ Josh Shaw intentionally tried to run into him on the game-winning field goal attempt at the end of Monday night’s 23-20 Steelers win.

“He didn’t run into him on purpose,” Simmons said. “He’s trying to block the kick, and he jumped the snap. He would never try to hurt somebody. That’s ridiculous to say that.”

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Shaw was so far offsides that he was standing in front of holder Jordan Berry as Boswell attempted a game-winning 43-yard field goal.

After the officials blew the play dead, Boswell’s foot hit Shaw’s foot after kicking the ball. Boswell limped around for a bit before resetting and making a game-winning 38-yarder.

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“That’s not an accident all all,” Boswell told Pittsburgh reporters Wednesday. “You’re not jumping offsides that bad without just trying to run into the kicker.”

Visibly angry when told of Boswell’s comments, Simmons referenced the hit Terence Garvin put on Bengals punter Kevin Huber in 2013, breaking his jaw and ending his season.

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“We wouldn’t try to hurt somebody,” Simmons said. “We’re above that I think. At least we are. We’re above that. I have too much respect for what those guys try to do. We’ve been on the other side of that playing that team with Kevin (Huber).”

Mel Kiper Jr. thinks pair of Iowa State players could be selected in 2018 NFL Draft

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 12:53 PM

Iowa State football has not had a player selected in the NFL Draft since 2014. That drought could end in April.

ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said on Thursday that he could see Iowa State wide receiver Allen Lazard and quarterback-turned-linebacker Joel Lanning be drafted this spring.

Linebacker Jeremiah George was the most recent Iowa State player to be drafted into NFL. He was selected by the New York Jets as the No. 154 overall pick in 2014.

Kiper expected both Lazard and Lanning to be selected late in the draft, if at all. Kiper described Lazard as a “early to mid-Day 3 guy” while Lanning’s unique versatility could make him a high target for teams looking to add some insurance in the late rounds.

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Lazard finished his time at Iowa State as the the program’s all-time leader in receiving yards. He hauled in 3,360 yards in four seasons, capped off by a 941-yard 2017 season. He caught for a personal-best 1,018 yards as a junior in 2016.

Lanning was the starting quarterback for Iowa State during both the 2015 and 2016 seasons, but made the transition to linebacker for his senior season in 2017. He was a major factor in the Cyclones’ upset win over Oklahoma on Oct. 7 — a game in which he recorded eight tackles, a sack and a fumble recover en route to a 38-31 victory.

That didn’t keep him, however, from being featured on offense at times this past fall. He passed and rushed for a touchdown vs. Oklahoma State on Nov. 11, before rushing for a second touchdown vs. Memphis in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Dec. 30.

Lanning passed for just 47 yards in 2017, but finished his time as a Cyclone with 2,584 passing yards and 20 touchdown passes.

Iowa State’s 8-5 finish in 2017 was the team’s best since a 9-3 finish in 2000.

The NFL Draft will take place at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas from April 26-28. It will be the first time ever that the event has been hosted in a league stadium.


Report: Baylor interested in cousin of Robert Griffin III

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 12:37 PM

The next big Baylor recruit will have a last name that the entire nation will recognize.

According to Gabe Brooks of 247 Sports, Baylor is in contact with Khalan Griffin, the cousin of college football and Baylor legend Robert Griffin III.

The Bears have not offered yet, according to Brooks, but it’s hard to believe that the cousin of one of Waco’s favorite sons wouldn’t get an offer sooner rather than later.

Griffin III threw for 10,366 yards in four years at Baylor, and completed 67.1 percent of his passes. In his final season at Baylor, Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy, a first for a Baylor Bear. Griffin III also threw for 78 touchdown and just 17 interceptions.

Texas and Oklahoma State are also interested in the younger Griffin, and according to Brooks, he’s vocally interested in Texas. However, there’s no way that Baylor leaves the cousin of its all-time best player on the table.


Auburn recruiting question of the day: How does running back class stack up compared to other SEC schools?

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 12:30 PM

Much like Justin Ferguson does on the Auburn team side, recruiting reporter Benjamin Wolk  will answer the Recruiting Question of the Day every day of the week. You can ask him questions on Twitter or Facebook. Look for our  Question of the Day. Go  here  to to see our previous answers.

It’s tough to compare until you really see what these guys do on the field. But looking strictly on ranking, Auburn will be up there among the best running back classes in 2018.

Here are the contestants for Best Running Back Class in 2018. If there is a standout class I’m missing, feel free to correct me in the comments section or on Twitter (@benjaminwolk). These rankings use the overall 247Sports composite rankings for  all running backs, which includes those listed as all-purpose backs.

  • Auburn: No. 9 Harold Joiner, No. 12 Asa Martin, No. 22 Shaun Shivers
  • Georgia: No. 1 Zamir White, No. 5 James Cook
  • Miami: No. 2 Lorenzo Lingard, No. 11 Cam’Ron Davis
  • Ohio State: No. 3 Jaelen Gill, No. 6 Brian Snead, No. 15 Master Teague
  • Oklahoma: No. 7 T.J. Pledger, No. 23 Tavion Thomas

Georgia, Miami and Ohio State might make arguments they have more star power than Auburn. White and Lingard are two of the more special backs in recent recruiting classes, so that helps give Georgia and Miami an edge, especially when you add in other top-11 backs. Then again, Auburn’s group brings a depth and versatility unmatched by the other four programs.

And on the bright side for Auburn, only one other SEC school is in the group. In fact, only Florida running back signee Dameon Pierce is a top-20 running back committed to an SEC school.

Ultimately, it’s the on-field production that will be the judge of that. In the world of comparing, I always find it most flattering to be “among the best.” That’s exactly where the Tigers’ 2018 running back class stands among its national competition.

As for where it stacks up against prior Auburn recruiting class, let’s look at the other running back recruiting classes in the Gus Malzahn era.

  • Class of 2013*: No. 13 Jovon Robinson, No. 43 Peyton Barber, No. 55 Cameron Artis-Payne (Florida, Arkansas, Alabama, Ole Miss signed higher-rated prospect)
  • Class of 2014: No. 5 Roc Thomas, No. 33 Kamryn Pettway (LSU, Georgia signed higher-rated prospect)
  • Class of 2015**: No. 5 Kerryon Johnson, No. 6 Jovon Robinson (Alabama signed higher-rated prospect)
  • Class of 2016: No. 18 Kam Martin, No. 33 Malik Miller (Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Georgia, Ole Miss signed higher-rated prospect)
  • Class of 2017: No. 14 Devan Barrett (Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee signed higher-rated prospect)
  • Class of 2018: No. 9 Harold Joiner, No. 12 Asa Martin, No. 22 Shaun Shivers (Georgia signed higher-rated prospect)

* — In the 2013 class, Cameron Artis-Payne came to Auburn from junior college. I used his 247Sports composite score out of 100 and placed him where he would’ve been ranked compared to high schoolers in that class. Also, this list left off Auburn defensive back Rudy Ford to focus on the prospects who turned into running back. For the record, Ford was the No. 34 running back in the Class of 2013.

** —  In the Class of 2015, Johnson was listed as the No. 2 athlete and No. 43 overall prospect. Robinson was the No. 1 running back in junior college and No. 1 overall in junior college. I took their composite score out of 100 and placed them with the running backs in the 2015 class to find their corresponding ranking, just to try to add some continuity between classes. Also, Javaris Davis was in that class as a running back, but I decided to leave him out of this conversation.

Those numbers don’t necessarily tell a story, but they answer @AUTigerBloggin’s question about how Auburn has stacked up against SEC competition in running back recruiting. Sometimes the Tigers have found diamonds in the rough, such as Barber, Artis-Payne and Pettway. Other times, they’ve whiffed with prospects such as Thomas and Robinson.

So only time will tell what that means for the 2018 class.

As far as rankings go, the Tigers are on the verge of their best running back haul under Gus Malzahn.

To see all the answers to prior Auburn questions, click here.

Trumpmania: Book on wrestling career documents Trump’s first efforts to win over working class

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 5:32 PM

DETROIT - APRIL 1: WWE chairman Vince McMahon (C) has his head shaved by Donald Trump (L) and Bobby Lashley (R) while being held down by ''Stone Cold'' Steve Austin after losing a bet in the Battle of the Billionaires at the 2007 World Wrestling Entertainment's Wrestlemania at Ford Field on April 1, 2007 in Detroit, Michigan. Umaga was representing McMahon in the match when he lost to Bobby Lashley who was representing Trump. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Bill Pugliano
DETROIT - APRIL 1: WWE chairman Vince McMahon (C) has his head shaved by Donald Trump (L) and Bobby Lashley (R) while being held down by ''Stone Cold'' Steve Austin after losing a bet in the Battle of the Billionaires at the 2007 World Wrestling Entertainment's Wrestlemania at Ford Field on April 1, 2007 in Detroit, Michigan. Umaga was representing McMahon in the match when he lost to Bobby Lashley who was representing Trump. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)(Bill Pugliano)

When Atlantic City legalized gambling in the mid 1970s, a young Donald Trump wanted a piece of the action.

By 1984, he opened Harrah’s at Trump Plaza with the goal of driving high-stakes (i.e. rich) gamblers to his casino. After two years and lack of profits, he realized he needed middle-market and working class gamblers as well.

This was the birth of the Trump’s 30-year affiliation with World Wrestling Entertainment and pro wrestling. In his new book “TrumpMania,” writer Lavie Margolin, who wrote the history of the 45th president’s history in professional wrestling, his first engagement with the populist base that made him the most unexpected president ever elected.

At just over 200 pages, it’s a fast read, but more revealing of Trump the person than Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” the best-seller that resulted from Wolff’s 18 months embedded with the Trump campaign and administration and his documentation of the chaos.

The book gives an overview of the friendship between Trump and WWE owner Vince McMahon. McMahon’s wife Linda heads the Small Business Administration as part of Trump’s cabinet. The two remain close friends with similar personalities and business backgrounds. Both have appetites for headlines and the sensational. Both have been at a level of celebrity, both wanted more nothing more than to be accepted by the establishment.

Both have failed at the later. Donald Trump’s dream to own an NFL team was shot down numerous times by the league’s owners. McMahon started movie studios, a failed football league (he’s also piecing together another league this year), and other ventures to get mainstream acceptance. Linda had two crushing losses in U.S. Senate races. 

Trump brought WWE’s biggest show of the year Wrestlemania to his buildings twice in 1988 and 1989. The shows were part wrestling, part commercial for Trump’s various businesses and his most important brand - himself.

Not that it was all comfortable moments. Ivana Trump, Donald’s first wife, was seated front row with her husband for Wrestlemania IV, enjoying champagne and talking to people around her. This didn’t sit well with wrestler Jake “The Snake” Roberts, who was famous for bringing a bag with a large snake to the ring. Ivana wasn’t paying attention and doing so on camera, Roberts felt the wrestlers were being disrespected, so he gave her a scare with the snake. Ivana spilled champagne on herself, was escorted backstage by security, who she asked repeatedly why she hadn’t shot the snake.  

Trump was said to be amused about the incident, which didn’t appear on camera.

Robert LiButti, notorious in New York circles for his Mafia connections, was ringside with his daughter as Trump’s official guests. LiButti wasn’t happy with the constant camera attention, and at one point was glaring into the lens and at the camera man live on air. Trump denied knowing LiButti or being friends with him, but his Plaza Hotel was fined $650,000 due to its relationship with LiButti, who would was often given cars by the hotel, which he then sold. 

Trump’s facilities were one of the few to host the struggling UFC, Ultimate Fighting Championship, mixed-martial arts promotion in the late 90s and early 2000s. Banned in most states, Atlantic City was one of the few areas which still ran UFC live events, and Trump was always front and center for the full show in his first row seat, something White and McMahon were equally grateful. Dana White attributed much of the company’s early survival to Trump during a speech at the GOP Convention last August. Trump tried his own MMA promotion in the 2000s, but only lasted a couple shows.

TrumpMania is full of fun anecdotes, especially Trump’s time as a WWE character onscreen during the so-called “Battle of the Billionaires” feud in 2007, which put him against his friend Vince McMahon in a fictional battle for the rights to WWE’s top program Raw. The storyline was an effort to boost ratings for both Raw and Trump’s “The Apprentice.” The climatic ending at WrestleMania featured Trump and his handpicked representative Bobby Lashley shaving the head of McMahon in a “loser loses their hair” match, with referee Steve Austin participating. 

Margolin wrote Trump was a good sport, taking a wrestling move from Austin after the match, even as Trump’s security vehemently disagreed with him doing it. McMahon told him the fans would love it, so he did it.

The most memorable moment was Trump, tired of McMahon’s interference, running around the ring, tackling McMahon to the ground and pounding him in the face. WWE didn’t have time to train Trump how to throw a proper wrestling punch that would avoid hurting the opponent, so McMahon asked Trump to just punch him in the face to keep it as real as possible. McMahon got a black eye, as did a backstage worker who worked with Trump prior to the show, and took a few blows himself. The WWE locker room was surprised Trump was getting so physical given his age, and given he could break one of his hands throwing blows. 

While Trump showed an eagerness to participate and play well, Margolin details some of Trump’s hypocrisies in recent years when it comes to language, professionalism and behavior. 

Despite Trump’s own comments about grabbing women by their genitalia, he fired former Ms. California Carrie Prejean for scantily clad photos and for opposing same-sex marriage when asked the question during a pageant. He dismissed WWE wrestler Maria Kanelis during an episode of “Celebrity Apprentice” when she made “locker room” type remarks about a competitor using a nearby bathroom, marking her for unprofessoinal conduct and taking her off the show. 

Most hypocritical of all, Trump’s hiring of Linda McMahon as his SBA administrator. The McMahon family, through books, DVDs and other means, have rewritten the story of how they grew their company. The McMahon’s have always claimed to be small business at heart, but that wasn’t true. Vince bought the company from his father in the early 1980s for four payments, using company profits to pay for three. Margolin doesn’t mention the amount, which Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer said were $250,000 in four installments for a multi-million dollar company and one of the two biggest wrestling promotions in the world.

After McMahon’s father died, Vince would take the company national and began burying smaller wrestling promotions that didn’t share the big city payoffs the McMahon’s received in the heavily populated Northeast. At the time wrestling companies operated in their own regional markets, that didn’t stop Vince from using predatory business habits from taking them out of business. The last competitor standing, Jim Crockett Promotions, was bought by Turner in 1988 and was eventually out of business and bought by WWE in 2001. 

Linda said she and Vince took the company over when it had 13 employees, but that wasn’t counting independent contractors, which inclued, on-air talent and the wrestlers. When the McMahon’s give advice to small business, it comes from the perspective of putting them out of business.

Trump’s 2007 storyline in WWE was where he began carving his stump style, which he used to great affect in 2016, often throwing insults at campaign opponents and mocking nicknames, much like a pro wrestler would do during interviews. Like a pro wrestler, this gave Trump supporters an almost vicarious experience, watching him tear into various politicians and the media. He was entertaining, controversial, and the media made him the story of the election. In the end he won it.