DeShone Kizer staying level headed through struggles

Published: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 10:03 AM

FILE - In this Sept. 10, 2017, file photo, Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson talks with quarterback DeShone Kizer
FILE - In this Sept. 10, 2017, file photo, Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson talks with quarterback DeShone Kizer(7)

Rookie DeShone Kizer, statistically and via the eye test, might be the worst quarterback in the league. He’s trying to stay optimistic while his team has slumped to a winless first month.

When you are 0-4 and statistically one of the worst quarterbacks out there right now, you have to figure out where you are headed,” Kizer said. “What is the path right now? What is the message? For me, it is about doing whatever I can to grow in whatever Coach [Hue Jackson] decides needs to be the right room for growth for that week.

“In the last couple weeks, we were talking about trying not to hold onto the ball and make sure that we are throwing the ball away and not taking sacks. We made progress in that. This week, it is about putting the ball in playmakers hands and trying to go score points so we can go win a game. Now, it is up to me to do whatever I can this week to grow in that. Obviously, this is going to be a process.”

Kizer is right in that he’s holding the ball too long. But an expensive Cleveland offensive line hasn’t come together either and Kizer’s weapons are anything but dangerous.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I am looking forward to attacking this consistently and taking on those small projects until it becomes something that we really want it to be,” he said.

Florida volleyball tops Stanford, will play for national championship

Published: Friday, December 15, 2017 @ 1:14 AM

The Florida volleyball team made it interesting on Thursday, but the Gators are now one step away from making program history.

The No. 2 seed Gators defeated third-seeded Stanford 3-2 in the NCAA Tournament semifinals in Kansas City, Mo., to punch their ticket to the finals on Saturday. Florida will face fifth-seeded Nebraska in the championship match with first serve set for 9 p.m. ET.

The Gators had command of the match from the early going, winning the first two sets 25-22 and 25-21 heading into the intermission. The Cardinal, however, would not back down. Stanford exposed Florida’s defensive weaknesses and worked around its blocking prowess to take Sets 3 and 4 and force a decisive fifth set.

Florida then returned to its strength. After exchanging points early in the winner-take-all set, Florida broke open with a 5-0 run to take a 4-9 lead that they never relinquished. The Gators clinched the set 15-10 on a kill by sophomore middle blocker Rachael Kramer.

Florida’s senior class once again carried the load in the win. Middle blocker Rhamat Alhassan recorded a team-high 17 kills along with 4 blocks and a service ace. Outside hitter Carli Snyder had 16 kills, 3 aces, 9 digs and a pair of blocks. Right-side Shainah Joseph recorded 11 kills, and libero Caroline “CK” Knop tallied 20 digs out of the back row.

And now, this Florida team is one win away from winning the program’s first national championship.

Colts TE Brandon Williams out of hospital after being carted off field with head injury

Published: Thursday, December 14, 2017 @ 9:33 PM

Update: Just after midnight Thursday night, the Indianapolis Colts announced via Twitter than Brandon Williams suffered a concussion but was out of the hospital and “doing well.”

Indianapolis Colts tight end Brandon Williams went down with injury against the Denver Broncos on Thursday Night Football, and it was a scary scene.

Williams, in the game on punt protection, took a shot to the head from a Broncos’ player who was rushing the punter. Williams began to fall flat on his back almost immediately. The Colts’ medical staff tended to Williams for quite some time, with television coverage going to multiple commercial breaks, and ultimately securing him onto a backboard and carting him off of the field.

During the time that the medical staff was attending to Williams on the field, NBC Sports’ Mike Tirico said on the broadcast that Williams once suffered from spinal stenosis. It is a condition in which the spaces in the spine get narrow, and that puts pressure on the nerves, per The Mayo Clinic.

According to a 2014 story by Jason Quick of the Oregonian, Williams was diagnosed with the condition his senior year at Oregon while playing for Chip Kelly, who did not allow him to play that year. In 2013, his girlfriend’s parents paid for his MRI exam which revealed that he was healthy enough to play football. He signed with the Carolina Panthers as an undrafted free agent that year.

This is the second time in three weeks in which a player has suffered a frightening upper body injury on the field. Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Ryan Shazier suffered a spinal injury in Week 13 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

He is still at a Pittsburgh hospital, and recovering following  spinal stabilization surgery.

Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas reached mark no other player has since Calvin Johnson

Published: Friday, December 15, 2017 @ 12:18 AM

Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas will probably hear from former Detroit Lions Calvin Johnson late Thursday night or early Friday morning.

Thomas and Johnson both played college football at Georgia Tech. During Johnson’s final season, 2006, Thomas was a redshirt freshman. Johnson is one of the greatest wide receivers in NFL history, and finished his career by reaching an impressive mark, six consecutive seasons with at least 70 receptions (2010-2015).

The younger former Georgia Tech star wide receiver again followed in Johnson’s footsteps. On Thursday night against the Indianapolis Colts he became the first player to reach that mark since Johnson. Thomas is also the first Broncos’ wide receiver to reach that mark since Rod Smith (1997-2005), via The Denver Post’s Nicki Jhabvala.

While that won’t make up for a tough 2017 season, it is a small victory that the Broncos can feel good about, along with a 25-13 victory against the Colts.

Losing is hard, and players such as wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and cornerback Chris Harris Jr. have been open about how unhappy they are with this season. However, a moment like Thursday night will be good for team moral as the season comes to a close.

Report: Arizona State offensive coordinator Billy Napier offered head coaching job at Louisiana-Lafayette

Published: Thursday, December 14, 2017 @ 11:59 PM

Herm Edwards was hired with the intention of retaining the remaining staff leftover from Todd Graham’s time at Arizona State.

That isn’t exactly going according to plan.

Just days after defensive coordinator Phil Bennett announced he’d be leaving ASU, 247Sports’ Chris Karpman reported Thursday that offensive coordinator/associate head coach Billy Napier has been offered the head coaching position at Louisiana-Lafayette.

ULL recently fired Mark Hudspeth, who compiled a 28-38 record (21-19 in Sun Belt Conference games) in 7 seasons at the helm of the Ragin’ Cajuns.

Napier was recently promoted to associate head coach and given a new, 2-year contract after Edwards’ hiring. Athletic director Ray Anderson indicated he hoped to keep the rising coordinator (and the since-departed Bennett) in Tempe for at least 2018 under Edwards, who has since turned to targeting Texas Tech’s David Gibbs for his defensive coordinator position. He might have to open his scope wider for the opposite side of the ball.

Napier coached wide receivers at Alabama for 5 years (with a 1-year stop at Colorado State in 2012 wedged between his Alabama stints) before joining Graham’s staff at Arizona State. His retention, along with the rest of the offensive staff, was seen as an important decision for program stabilization, a priority that includes the program’s desire to avoid forcing quarterback Manny Wilkins to play under 3 different offensive coordinators in 3 seasons. That could be unavoidable should Napier accept the offer.

A pay boost would be an obvious lure for Napier, as well as a return to the southeastern United States, where Napier has plenty of experience with the Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers. This, from Karpman, offers additional context:

Hudspeth was reportedly making $1,150,000 annually at the time of his dismissal. Louisiana-Lafayette has extended a five-year offer to Napier, per a source.

Napier reportedly made $550,000 in his first year with the Sun Devils, 12th highest among Pac-12 assistant coaches at public universities that disclose such information.

Napier stabilized an offense that finished 40th in the nation in scoring in 2016, bringing it to the same ranking with slightly less total points (400 to 383) in 2017. Anderson saw enough evidence of improvement in the Sun Devils’ 5-2 finish, though, to speak glowingly of Napier during the coaching change process.

He might soon be introducing a new assistant in what has become an unexpectedly tumultuous change in leadership.