Dayton Flyers freshman making big strides in practice

Published: Friday, March 17, 2017 @ 10:30 AM

Dayton's Kostas Antetokounmpo, center, watches a game against Vanderbilt on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016, at UD Arena.
Dayton's Kostas Antetokounmpo, center, watches a game against Vanderbilt on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016, at UD Arena.

One member of the Dayton Flyers was not with the team Thursday in Indianapolis as it prepared for a 7:10 p.m. Friday game against Wichita State in the NCAA tournament. Freshman Kostas Antetokounmpo can’t travel with the team because of NCAA rules regarding partial qualifiers.

The 6-foot-10 Antetokounmpo started practicing at the start of the second semester. Coaches and players have had time to get a good look at him and are excited by what they’ve seen. He’ll make his debut on the court next season.

“One thing is Kostas has done a great job in the weight room since the break when he got fully incorporated into our team,” assistant coach Tom Ostrom said. “He’s gained close to 15 pounds of muscle. He’s lifting in a different program than anyone else on the team since he’s not playing. He’s lifting five days a week with Pat (O’Neal). He’s done a really good job getting bigger and stronger in practice.”

Trying to get better every day 😈💪🏾💪🏾🏀 @alex_ante34 @thanasis_ante43 @giannis_an34 #antetokounmpo #work #letgo

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It took Antetokounmpo a little bit of time to get used to the pace of practice, Ostrom said, but he’s adapted well.

“He’s really picked up the offense,” Ostrom said. “He has great instincts on defense. He can really move his feet. He has a knack for blocking shots. Guys will go up for layups and have their man beat, and Kostas will come out of the blue from the weak side to block the shot into the wall. All the coaches look at each other: ‘Where did he come from?’ He’s working really hard on his jump shot. He’s got to get his base strong, his legs stronger for the physicality of the game.”

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Antetokounmpo is the brother of Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks star who started in the NBA All-Star Game in February. Kostas attended the game with his other two brothers, Thanasis and Alex. All the brothers were born in Greece and moved to Milwaukee after Giannis was drafted by the Bucks.

Family @giannis_an34 @alex_ante34 @thanasis_ante43 ❤️❤️

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Sophomore point guard John Crosby said Kostas and Giannis look identical on the floor. Trey Landers, the only other freshman on the team, said Kostas wants to write his own legacy at Dayton, even though comparisons to his brother are inevitable.

“Obviously, his brother is in the league and he has a lot of popularity because of his brother, but he wants popularity of his own,” Landers said. “I just think next year when he’s able to unleash what he’s got built in right now, it’s going to be crazy.”

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Landers described Antetokounmpo as a different breed.

“He’s a 6-10, 6-11 guard,” Landers said. “It’s hard to find those. He’ll have a lot of fire with him next year, and you guys are going to see a great player.”

“He’s going to be great for our team,” Crosby said. “He’s got a lot of length. He’s somebody who can protect the rim. He can do a lot of different things. He can do probably whatever coach asks him. He’s going to be physically able to do it.”

Ohio State QB Joe Burrow cleared to practice, competing with Dwayne Haskins for backup job

Published: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 2:20 PM

Joe Burrow is back at Ohio State practice after breaking his hand in preseason and is competing with Dwayne Haskins for the backup quarterback job.

Urban Meyer told the media Tuesday afternoon that Burrow started practicing before last weekend’s win over Army and a decision could be made soon on how to use him going forward.

“Joe has been cleared and he’s practicing,” Meyer said per Land of 10’s Austin Ward. “He started practicing last week, but we weren’t comfortable with him. We’ll make that decision as the week progresses, but [the backup battle] is still very close. I think both quarterbacks can give us an opportunity to move the ball.”

Haskins went 4-for-4 for 46 yards on Saturday, solidifying himself as a decent backup option at quarterback for the Buckeyes, but we’ll see if Burrow is able to make up any ground. Burrow himself went a solid 22-for-28 for 226 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions in mop-up duty last year.

Meyer also provided an update on junior wide receiver Johnnie Dixon, who is dealing with a hamstring injury.

“He has a hamstring, so we’ll know more today and tomorrow,” Meyer said. “He tried to go in warmups, and it just wasn’t [right]. He tugged it earlier in the week. He worked so hard these last couple years because of injuries and then this happened. But I don’t think it’s long-term. I think we caught it. The word hamstring around here is like you’re stepping on hot coals, you hear it and everybody overreacts because you have to — those can be long-term injuries.”

Nebraska QB Tanner Lee has bounced back from physical beatdowns before — but what about a psychological one?

Published: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 2:20 PM

Physically, he’s had worseAs a pup quarterback at Tulane in 2014 and 2015, Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee and his fellow Green Wave signal callers were sacked 51 times.  By Thanksgiving, No. 13 started to resemble that poor sap from the Operation board game with a light bulb for a nose. A bum ring finger. A broken index finger. A concussion. A separated shoulder. Bread basket. Funny bone.

“He always had something,” offered Eric Price, Lee’s old offensive coordinator with the Green Wave. Then he chuckled morbidly. “We didn’t protect him well, to say the least.”

The pounding continues, only these days, the Cornhuskers junior quarterback, after having thrown 7 interceptions combined in losses at Oregon and at home to Northern Illinois, is getting the snot kicked out of him on postgame shows. And message boards. And blogs. And especially social media:

For those who know No. 13 best, the days after Lee’s 3-pick tilt against the Huskies feel a bit like déjà vu. Only amplified and blasted on a national stage.

“He has been through some things where something bad happened, everyone’s looking at him, and they’re blaming him, the media and the fans,” said Price, now an offensive analyst with the Jacksonville Jaguars. “He had a lot of pressure on him and he was playing hurt a lot of the time and he was beat up. I remember thinking, ‘I don’t think he’s gonna go,’ and he’s going. He didn’t say anything about it — he just showed up. And he’s awesome in that way. And that experience was very valuable to him, especially early in his career.”

After one road contest, Price recalled, the Wave landed in New Orleans and he and brother Aaron, then Tulane’s quarterbacks coach, and Lee’s father Phillip waited at a hospital until 3 in the morning for the signal caller to be treated and cleared.

‘He understands what type of quarterback he is, and I think he’s learned throughout his experience at Tulane [that] he’s not going to run, he’s not going to scramble out of trouble.’

— Former Tulane offensive coordinator Eric Price on Nebraska QB Tanner Lee

“You know, the resiliency of a quarterback makes a great quarterback,” Aaron Price said. “Those are the guys that stick with it, and those are the guys that end up coming out and being some of the greats … when things don’t go their way, or they don’t perform the way they want to, they step up and take even more of an important role, as opposed to feeling defeated.

“He’s had plenty [of bumps], unfortunately. He has. We put him in this situation at an early age and we moved up into the American Athletic Conference and we hadn’t recruited for that. We had recruited kids to compete and do well in the Conference USA, and then that bump up a conference, that was too much for us at Tulane, where we threw him into the fire and we threw him into the field early.”

Lee’s a tough cookie, and both Prices see him coming through a rough first month as Nebraska’s No. 1 signal-caller. But he’s going to need help. According to Pro Football Focus’ film reviews, Lee has been under pressure on 52 of 129 drop-backs (40.3 percent) in 2017, and his QB rating while pressured is an unsightly 30.6 — 16 completions on 43 attempts, 2 scores, 4 interceptions and 8 sacks. (QB rating on snaps without pressure: 78.7, with 3 touchdowns and 3 picks.) His PFF adjusted completion percentage — taking away drops, throwaways, spikes, and the like — is 60.7, the lowest mark in the Big Ten so far.

“His average time to throw is 2.51 [seconds], which is a little low but I don’t think it’s necessarily a reflection on the line, maybe just the offense,” PFF Big Ten analyst Josh Liskiewitz noted.

“If there’s a younger quarterback on the roster that may have a chance of leading this team in the future, I think it’s time to pull the trigger. Because Tanner Lee isn’t showing any improvements over what we saw of him from 2014 and 2015. He is what he is, at this point. He is what he is.”

In 19 games with the Wave, Lee completed 328 of 612 throws (53.6 percent) with 23 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. If we project his first three tilts with the Big Red out over 19 contests, he’s on a pace to complete 398 passes on 756 attempts (52.5 percent) with 32 touchdowns and 44 picks.

Passing efficiency then: 108.6

Passing efficiency now: 109.8.

“Everything doesn’t go perfect,” Eric Price continued. “He understands what type of quarterback he is, and I think he’s learned throughout his experience at Tulane [that] he’s not going to run, he’s not going to scramble out of trouble.

“He’s got to rely on his quick release and getting the ball out quick and keeping it within his abilities. So I think that’ll help him [in tough times].

“He’s always going to be positive. He’s a really coachable kid. He’ll buy into whatever you tell him. In that sense, he’s going to at least buy into what the coaches are going to do. That’s comforting for a coach, when you trust a kid to do it the right way.”

But when the misfires pile up and the Twitter mobs start pounding on the gates, trust has its limits. PFF’s charted Lee with completing just 5 of 17 throws that are 10 or more yards downfield. And the scouting site says the Huskers’ signal-caller sports a 49.9 QB rating when he’s not under pressure from the opposing pass rush.

“It is worth pointing out that his QB rating when throwing in 2.5 seconds or less is 80.2, but when he throws later, it plummets to 30.3,” Liskiewitz said. “A 39.6 is the standard rating for an incomplete pass. So the key to watching his games, as a fan, is to take a stopwatch, and once you get to 2.5 seconds on a pass play, close your eyes.”

Or cover them. Your call.

Ohio State QB Joe Burrow cleared to practice, competing with Dwayne Haskins for backup job

Published: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 2:20 PM

Joe Burrow is back at Ohio State practice after breaking his hand in preseason and is competing with Dwayne Haskins for the backup quarterback job.

Urban Meyer told the media Tuesday afternoon that Burrow started practicing before last weekend’s win over Army and a decision could be made soon on how to use him going forward.

“Joe has been cleared and he’s practicing,” Meyer said per Land of 10’s Austin Ward. “He started practicing last week, but we weren’t comfortable with him. We’ll make that decision as the week progresses, but [the backup battle] is still very close. I think both quarterbacks can give us an opportunity to move the ball.”

Haskins went 4-for-4 for 46 yards on Saturday, solidifying himself as a decent backup option at quarterback for the Buckeyes, but we’ll see if Burrow is able to make up any ground. Burrow himself went a solid 22-for-28 for 226 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions in mop-up duty last year.

Meyer also provided an update on junior wide receiver Johnnie Dixon, who is dealing with a hamstring injury.

“He has a hamstring, so we’ll know more today and tomorrow,” Meyer said. “He tried to go in warmups, and it just wasn’t [right]. He tugged it earlier in the week. He worked so hard these last couple years because of injuries and then this happened. But I don’t think it’s long-term. I think we caught it. The word hamstring around here is like you’re stepping on hot coals, you hear it and everybody overreacts because you have to — those can be long-term injuries.”

Breaking down Auburn’s quarterback situation from a recruiting perspective

Published: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 2:15 PM

Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Auburn Tigers  football recruiting notebook with Auburn recruiting beat writer Benjamin Wolk. It’s Tuesday, and SEC Country broke down the Auburn quarterback recruiting situation. Also, a Tigers’ commit is still taking visits.


Ranking the likelihood of Auburn’s QB recruiting options

With Sean White’s suspension Monday, a very harsh reality hit the Auburn quarterback room: There are only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster.

On March 21, the day Tyler Queen decided to transfer, Auburn’s quarterback roster included Queen, Woody Barrett, Sean White, Jarrett Stidham and Malik Willis. You can even throw in John Franklin III, even though he was already a wide receiver at that point.

Auburn QB commit Joey Gatewood is the only quarterback in the class so far. (Benjamin Wolk/SEC Country)

Fast forward to Monday, after White’s dismissal, and it was down to two — Stidham and Willis.

SEC Country team reporters Justin Ferguson and Lauren Shute aced the team-side coverage Monday when the news broke.

But there were a lot of questions from the recruiting perspective, as well. Does this help Auburn with Justin Fields? Will the Tigers take the JUCO route to find another quarterback? How much has Joey Gatewood’s progression affected the overall plan?

Based on talking with sources — and my own personal analysis of Auburn’s quarterback position and recruiting — the Tigers have a few directions to take. By my estimation, there are four directions Auburn can go.

Below are my rankings of the possible options, in terms of how likely I think they are.

  • 4. Take a second quarterback, but from a junior college. With the successes of Cam Newton, Nick Marshall and Stidham, it’s natural for Auburn to look toward junior college for a talented quarterback. The only issue? There isn’t really anyone of that caliber in this class. In the 247Sports composite rankings, there aren’t any quarterbacks inside the top 50. The most likely option may be Mississippi Gulf Coast quarterback Torrance Gibson, formerly of Ohio State. He visited Auburn over the weekend with defensive line commit Daquan Newkirk, but for the time being he isn’t considered a true recruiting target. For now, the JUCO route just doesn’t seem feasible.
  • 3. Take a second high school quarterback: Justin Fields. This probably is the option every Auburn fan wants. Fields attended Georgia’s game last Saturday, and he’s expected to be in Athens this weekend when Georgia plays Mississippi State on a huge recruiting weekend. My Crystal Ball pick has been and continues to be on Georgia. Auburn’s best bet is to get Fields on an official visit and convince him the depth chart is open with only two scholarship quarterbacks. The problem: Georgia will have only two scholarship quarterbacks after this season, as well.
  • 2. Only take Joey Gatewood. In April, Auburn started to make a move for a second quarterback. I had a source cite depth concerns as the primary reason to take two. But the other part of the equation is that they’ve offered only one quarterback since making that decision, and it was Fields. It’s not that Auburn necessarily wanted a second quarterback. They wanted  the quarterback. If the Tigers miss on Fields, which I’m projecting right now, don’t be surprised if they ride with Gatewood only. He’s been exceptional in the early stages of the 2017 season, arguably as productive as Fields against superior competition, all while splitting reps. Auburn will see Gatewood on Oct. 27 in Gainesville, Fla., and if Chip Lindsey is impressed, the Tigers might just stick with the guy who has been committed since December 2015.
  • 1. Take a second HS quarterback (not Justin Fields). Now that the quarterback room has been depleted even further, I think Auburn will feel obligated to take two in this class. Auburn will pick up the pressure on Fields, I’m sure, which makes No. 3 on this list the most likely to rise. But if the Tigers miss, they’d much rather go into 2018 with four scholarship quarterbacks instead of three. Who will that “Not Justin Fields” be? That’s the million-dollar question, and I don’t have a good answer right now. Think about last year. Auburn didn’t offer Malik Willis until Dec. 29 after having recruited him as a defensive back for most of the cycle. There are plenty of guys like that out there who Gus Malzahn and Lindsey will have to evaluate closely.

And there you have it. I’d like to issue one disclaimer, which somewhat coincides with No. 2. Auburn is the front-runner to land 2019 quarterback Bo Nix, who will end up as a top-tier 4-star prospect. His father, Patrick Nix, played for the Tigers at a high level. If Auburn rolls into 2018 with only three quarterback, the Tigers’ chances with Nix skyrocket.

Just something to think about.

4-star LB commit Michael Harris is the only true linebacker committed so far.
(Benjamin Wolk/SEC Country)

Michael Harris taking visits elsewhere?

Auburn’s only linebacker commit in the 2018 class was back on the Plains last weekend. Michael Harris watched the Mercer game and made it an overnight outing in Auburn with several other commits in the class.

But Harris has taken visits elsewhere.

Just last week, Harris was in Athens visiting Georgia, a school he considered along with Auburn after Ohio State ran out of linebacker spots. For now, I don’t think this is anything to worry about for the Tigers. Harris said when he committed — and when I was at his season opener — that he was keeping options open and remaining cordial with a few coaching staffs, something he said Travis Williams gave him the OK to do.

On top of that, Georgia is in the mix for several top linebackers in the 2018 class, so it’s likely the Bulldogs are just trying to keep Harris in the rotation on the off chance things go completely awry. Even if the Bulldogs were to push, I still think Ohio State is the only program that would have the ability to pull Harris away from Auburn at this time.