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Browns bench Kizer for Kessler mid-game

Published: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 3:00 PM

FILE - In this Oct. 8, 2017, file photo, Cleveland Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer
FILE - In this Oct. 8, 2017, file photo, Cleveland Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer(7)

Here we go again.

Hue Jackson, with his team down 6-3, chose to switch quarterbacks in the third quarter of the Browns-Titans game.

Kevin Hogan, DeShone Kizer and Cody Kessler have all played for the Browns in the last six quarters.

Jackson’s decision is likely in reaction to Kizer’s brutal red zone pick.

George Kittle’s journey from Iowa to 49ers includes historic rookie season

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 5:00 AM

IOWA CITY, Iowa — It didn’t take long for former Iowa tight end George Kittle to become acclimated to a moderate weather in Northern California.

Coming back to Eastern Iowa last week after his rookie year with the San Francisco 49ers, it wasn’t quite as easy.

“It’s kind of a little bit of a culture shock when it comes to the weather,” Kittle said. “I was just so used to waking up and putting shorts and a T-shirt on every day and going to football. Now if I’m not dressed in boots and two pairs of sweatpants and two jackets, I’m freezing. It’s a lot different.”

It won’t take long for Kittle to adjust, just like it took little time for Kittle to become a key contributor with the 49ers. Kittle was a fifth-round pick last April and was the ninth tight end drafted. He finished second among NFL rookie tight ends with 43 catches and 515 receiving yards. That ranks 18th among all NFL tight ends this year, which showed Kittle could compete at this level.

But as a late-round draft pick, Kittle has few peers historically. No tight end drafted after the fourth round has posted more catches or receiving yards in their rookie season, according to Niner Noise. Meanwhile, Kittle’s 100-yard receiving day in Week 17 against the Los Angeles Rams was the first by a 49ers rookie tight end since 1960,  according to the Sacramento Bee.

“I’m incredibly happy with the way the season played out for me,” Kittle said. “I have high expectations for myself, just like my coaches do. That just sets the bar for next year. Overall, I loved the fact I was able to catch 43 passes. That was awesome. I had 48 [in four years] at Iowa, having 43 my rookie year was kind of cool. But I have high expectations for myself, so the fact that I could get to there and then I know I can get more than that, I’m looking forward to that.”

After an injury-plagued senior season at Iowa, Kittle wowed plenty of scouts at the NFL combine last year. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.52 seconds, which ranked third among tight ends at the combine and tied for 13th-best all time at the position. He finished third in the broad jump at 11 feet and was sixth in the vertical jump at 35 inches. He also was 11th in the bench press with 18 repetitions of 225 pounds.

Still, he watched tight ends tick off the board at the NFL draft until the 49ers called him. He and his family were ecstatic and bought nearly every piece of 49ers clothing from the Scheels in Coralville, Iowa. The 49ers also selected Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard, which allowed for them to enter their rookie season with a built-in comfort level.

Kittle impressed the 49ers so much in the preseason that he moved into a starting role on opening day. He caught 5 passes for 27 yards in a loss to Carolina. From his production to his opponent, everything that day left Kittle speechless.

“It was pretty incredible,” Kittle said. “I got to come out of the tunnel, too, because they announced the offensive starters. It was wild. Just being able to fulfill the dream that I’ve had ever since I was a little kid, running out on the field and being in the NFL and actually play. It was awesome. My head was spinning for a lot of it. Things were flying by pretty fast, but I got used to it.

“It was so much fun to go out there and the third down I was in a pass protection and I had to block Julius Peppers. I was like, I used to play with this guy on Madden like 10 years ago. So that was the biggest wow moment for me. ‘Hey, I’m in the NFL lining up across from Julius Peppers.'”

Kittle scored his first career touchdown in an overtime loss to Indianapolis. With his first cousin and former Iowa teammate, Henry Krieger-Coble, suiting up at tight end for the Colts and dozens of their family members in attendance, Kittle became the 49ers’ focal point late in the game.

The 49ers trailed by a touchdown with 5:29 left in the game at their own 11. Quarterback Brian Hoyer connected with Kittle on passes of 27, 19, 19 and 3 yards before setting up fourth and goal at the Colts’ 5.

“It was fun for me, especially in that two-minute drill,” Kittle said. “We had to score or lose. It was pretty fun. When the play first came in, it was called wrong. The route was meant for someone else. It was the same play but the formation was different. We burned the timeout to switch it up so I would run the route. I thought it was pretty awesome that coach [Kyle] Shanahan said, ‘You’ve got to win this route because it’s fourth down, and we’ve got to score.’ It’s pretty cool just the fact that he believed in me that I could do it.

“Honestly I don’t remember much of the celebration because I get so excited I black out a little bit. But it happens to me occasionally because it’s so much fun being in the end zone scoring. You can’t pay for memories like that so I’m just happy that it happened the way it did. I wish we would have won, it would have made it better.”

Kittle caught 7 passes for 83 yards that day, including 5 for 73 on the final drive of regulation.

The 49ers started 0-9, and Beathard opened five games, including the team’s first win this year. After Beathard was injured, Jimmy Garoppolo took over as the starter. San Francisco won its last five games and finished 6-10 overall. The 49ers beat playoff teams Tennessee, Jacksonville and the L.A. Rams in succession to end the season.

“One thing Coach Shanahan and [general manager] John Lynch kept telling us was through adversity you see what a person is really like,” Kittle said. “I think 0-9 was a lot of adversity, so being able to bounce back from that to 6-1 in the last seven games is pretty incredible. It shows both Mr. Lynch and Coach Shanahan their faith in us and our faith in them.”

Kittle plans to rest for the next few weeks before relocating to Nashville, Tenn. There he will join Beathard and fellow 49ers teammate Trent Taylor for offseason workouts and catching passes. Then it’s off to the Bay Area for organized team activities in April.

The resting part is essential.

“Everyone always says the rookie year is the longest year because you go straight from a 13-game season in college to straight into combine training and then OTAs and preseason,” Kittle said. “You have no time to recover. So I’m definitely looking forward to 2-3 months to recover and build.

“Everyone has told me their second year is so much easier because you have so much time to yourself. I’m looking forward to that.”

Nebraska recruiting: Cam Jones, Corbin Frederick enjoy visit to Nebraska with each other

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 5:00 AM

No one likes airport delays.

Having someone there with you, though, can alleviate some of the stress that comes with hours of waiting in a terminal. Luckily for Corbin Frederick and Cam’ron Jones, the two friends had each other in the airport Sunday awaiting their flight back to Texas after their visit to Nebraska.

For nearly six years, the bond between Jones and Frederick has led them to a pivotal decision in their likes: selecting a college to play football at.

The best part about that choice for some defenses is that there’s a chance whichever school lands one will also land the other. That may not be welcomed much by opposing offenses, but that doesn’t matter to Frederick and Jones.

“That was originally one of my first friends when I moved down to this area,” Jones told Land of 10 from the airport with Frederick next to him.

Jones is the uncommitted 4-star safety in the package. The former UCLA commit released a top five Tuesday night with Nebraska in it, and it’s likely the Huskers currently lead for him. Frederick is the 5-foot-10 overlooked prospect Jones has been sure to tell his potential future coaches about. Some have listened, with Nebraska and Ole Miss extending walk-on offers.

“He’s up there with all those dudes who [have big offers],” Jones said about his friend. “I think he was overshadowed because of where he played at.”

Teammates for four years at Mansfield (Texas) High School, Jones has had a front-row view of the development of his fellow safety.

“Talent-wise, he’s like anybody else that gets the big-time offers and everything,” Jones said. “He might be a little undersized. He’s just a flat-out dog.”

“Also, he’s just like my brother. So if that’s a place I’m really highly considering, I feel like he should get a chance too. I feel like all he needs is a chance.”

Jones met with the Huskers coaches during his official visit in December. What they saw in Jones was exactly what they would see in Frederick, Jones thought to himself.

The same qualities they see in me, they’ll be able to see in him. 

“If Nebraska lands Corbin, I think he’d be the best walk-on they’ve had in a long time,” Jones said. “He could potentially play.”

Of course, Jones does not want to hog the limelight from his buddy.

“I’m not even going out there to steal some shine,” Jones said of his recent visit. “I kind of hate that I’m taking away some attention from Corbin, because it’s his visit. I’m just tagging along. I’m not really going to be in the spotlight.”

That visit, by the way, went great, according to both parties. Apparently, Jones took on the role of tour guide.

“We had fun,” Frederick said. “He was pretty much doing the tour, showing us around. We had a good time.”

“It still amazed me,” Jones said, describing the facilities and the coaching staff.

Jones said he spent time with some early enrollees, mostly quarterback Adrian Martinez. He also explored Lincoln.

“It’s just a nice little town,” Jones said. “It’s real nice. There’s not a lot to do but it also means there’s not a lot of stuff to get yourself into trouble with.”

Frederick spent the week leading up to his visit on YouTube trying to get a picture of what to expect.

“It was as good as I imagined, maybe even better,” Frederick said. “It was crazy. The facilities are amazing.”

Sitting down and talking with the coaches, particularly Scott Frost and defensive coordinator Erik Chinander, was the highlight of the trip for him. They discussed the opportunity he has to walk on and compete for playing time. Frost and Frederick also talked about the importance of restoring the walk-on program.

“Hopefully I could be exactly what [Frost] wants it to be,” Frederick said.

During his visit, Frederick hung out with 3-star defensive end target Daniel Carson. It was the best visit Frederick has had so far — “No doubt about it,” he said — but there’s more visits to be done. Navy will host him for an official visit next weekend. Corbin believes Sam Houston State will offer him. If the school does, he will take that visit too. He expects a decision in the next couple of weeks.

“The best part about it is that even if I choose to go to another school, he still has his offer,” Jones said. “Man, it doesn’t get any better than that.”

Perhaps playing alongside Frederick again would beat that.

Ohio State football podcast: 2-QB system could be coming next year

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 5:00 AM

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Get insight and reaction to Ohio State sports on the Inside the Shoe podcast, brought to you by Land of 10. On the latest edition, Kyle Lamb and Ryan Ginn discuss the upcoming quarterback competition for the Buckeyes in 2018 and wonder if Dwayne Haskins and Tate Martell may wind up sharing reps. They also wonder aloud if Joe Burrow is being dismissed too quickly as a possible starter.

Just down the street from the football facilities, Ohio State’s basketball team is 15-4 with an unblemished 6-0 record in the Big Ten. Kyle and Ryan look ahead to the Buckeyes’ next few weeks and ponder just how many wins Ohio State can accrue.

You can listen to the entire show in the embedded SoundCloud player below. You can subscribe to Inside the Shoe  on iTunes and  Google Play. It is available for direct  download here.

Every episode of Inside the Shoe can  be found here.

Topics discussed on Inside the Shoe Tuesday include:

  • Ohio State’s good fortune with the return of four underclassmen and how it might be the first time under Urban Meyer the Buckeyes have seen every coin-flip decision go their way in a player determining to stay or go to the NFL.
  • Whether this is Ohio State’s most talented offense on paper, even ahead of the 2014 team.
  • The talents of Tate Martell and glowing reports from practice suggesting Martell’s playmaking ability is forcing the coaching staff to find ways to get him on the field.
  • Whether Martell and Haskins are unique enough to compliment each other in a platoon at quarterback in 2018.
  • The basketball Buckeyes’ latest road victory against Rutgers and upcoming games against Northwestern and Minnesota this week.
  • Ohio State being expected favorites in the next six contests and if it’s realistic to think they could run the table, leading up to a huge Feb. 7 showdown against Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind.

Later, Austin Ward will join Kyle to talk more football, while Kyle will preview Ohio State-Northwestern basketball on the Wednesday show.

If you enjoy the show, please rate, review and subscribe on iTunes.


ESPN: 6-6 record a ‘realistic expectation’ for Nebraska in Scott Frost’s first season

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 4:58 AM

ESPN released a list of 10 bold predictions for the 2018 college football season this week, and Nebraska was featured in one of them.

Writer Mark Schlabach had “Scott Frost (and Nebraska) won’t finish unbeaten” on his list. OK, so that’s not really a bold prediction. But Schlabach did elaborate about the expectations for Frost during his first season in Lincoln as the head coach.

A realistic 2018 for the Huskers? Getting bowl eligible. Here’s what Schlabach wrote:

Should Nebraska fans expect more of the same after the Cornhuskers went 4-8 under Mike Riley in 2017? The turnaround might not happen immediately, but Frost will build a Big Ten title contender sooner rather than later.

…The Cornhuskers play road games at Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Ohio State and Iowa in 2018, along with home contests against Colorado and Michigan State. Ouch. A 6-6 record and return to the postseason might be a more realistic expectation for Frost in Year 1.

Frost has not lost a game as a head coach since Dec. 17, 2016 when Central Florida fell to Arkansas State in the Cure Bowl. Nobody is expecting a perfect season from the Huskers in 2018, but if Frost can show signs of improvement and get the program back to a bowl game, it will be a promising step forward.