Quiet off-season for Reds so far, but winter meetings loom

Published: Tuesday, December 05, 2017 @ 1:11 PM
Updated: Tuesday, December 05, 2017 @ 4:32 PM

Reds starter Homer Bailey pitches against the Nationals on Sunday, July 16, 2017, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff
Reds starter Homer Bailey pitches against the Nationals on Sunday, July 16, 2017, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

Maybe it was the uncertainty surrounding the status of Miami slugger and National League Most Valuable Player Giancarlo Stanton.

Maybe it was the pursuit of Japanese do-it-all superstar Shohei Ohtani.

»RELATED: Could Nick Senzel reach Cincinnati as a shortstop?

Whatever the reason, the Major League Baseball off-season has been quiet with the annual winter meetings scheduled to start in Orlando on Monday. Dick Williams, the Reds’ general manager, is and isn’t surprised.

“I’ve given up on trying to predict the pace of off-season activity,” Williams said Friday during Redsfest. “It’s been quieter than the last few offseasons so far. I guess it’s due to Ohtani and Stanton, but it always seems like there are big guys out there. I don’t know why it would have such an effect this year.

»RELATED: Former Dragons among Reds organizational leaders

“I can just say, for us, it’s been quieter.”

That doesn’t mean Williams and his staff have been idle since the end of the regular season. The Reds were maneuvering to get into position to pursue Ohtani, but they also were exercising due diligence in other areas while preparing for the four-day winter meetings.

»RELATED: Team awards handed out at Redsfest

“We’re open for business,” he said. “We kind of divide and conquer. We’ve got some people spending a lot of time making sure we’re on top of the process with (Ohtani). It has not affected our ability to react to other stuff. We’ve been engaged in free-agent discussions. We’re starting conversations with our own guys about arbitration and extensions — normal business.”

The Reds didn’t make any major deals before the 2017 season until January, when they traded right-handed pitcher Dan Straily to the Miami Marlins for three players, including right-hander Austin Brice, and signed starting pitcher Scott Feldman and reliever Drew Storen to one-year contracts as free agents.

»HAL MCCOY: Why former Red Aaron Boone will succeed as Yankes manager

Williams wasn’t sure the Reds needed to make any major moves to show improvement over the last two seasons, both of which ended with 68-94 records. He believes the team would have taken a step forward in 2017 if not for the loss of starting pitchers Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani and Brandon Finnegan with injuries for all or most of the season.

The injuries allowed young starters such as Luis Castillo, Sal Romano, Robert Stephenson and Tyler Mahle to get plenty of big league starts. They responded well, especially at the end of the season. Getting Bailey, DeSclafani and Finnegan back for full seasons would be like adding players through trades or free agency.

“I’m very optimistic that we’re going to see improvement this year,” Williams said. “Last year, if not for those three injuries, we would have seen steps forward with the record. This year, we’ll be in an even better position to have some stability and show some improvement.”

Williams believes the fans have the same sense.

“I think I’m getting some pretty good feedback,” he said. “Now with social media, I feel like I get a feel for the pulse. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on our drafts, the signings on the international market, the trades we did, the waivers claims. A lot of those moves have paid off.

“We feel like we’re seeing positive momentum. The second half of the year, the performance of the pitchers gave us a boost.

“We had the youngest roster in baseball Opening Day last year,” he added. We’ll be even younger this year, depending on the off-season activity, but right now pro forma, we’d be a pretty young team. We like that. We have a lot of guys with options. We have a lot of guys looking to make an impact in the big leagues. Joey (Votto) and Homer are our only two 30-and-over veterans.”

Williams joked that the Reds would schedule another Redsfest if they succeeded in signing Ohtani, but that didn’t seem likely after reports surfaced Monday that Cincinnati wasn’t on the player’s list of favored North America landing spots.

National Signing Day 2018: 4- and 5-star uncommitted, unsigned recruits still in play

Published: Sunday, January 21, 2018 @ 1:51 PM

National Signing Day 2018 is 17 days away, and 98 4- and 5-star recruits remain in play. It’s a far cry from previous years, as the early signing period took much of the drama out of the end of the 2018 recruiting cycle.

Of those 98 4- and 5-star recruits remaining, 63 are uncommitted and 35 are unsigned. The most recent commitment came from 4-star WR Justin Watkins, who committed to Florida on Saturday, Jan. 20.

Here’s every 4- and 5-star recruit still in play as we approaching National Signing Day 2018.

Uncommitted 4- and 5-star recruits (as of 1/21/2018)

Jan. 21 update: Moved 4-star WR Justin Watkins from “uncommitted” to “unsigned” after verbal commitment to Florida.

Jan. 20 update: Removed WR Jordan Young from “unsigned” list, as his 247Sports Composite ranking is 3-stars.

Jan. 19 update: Moved DT Tyler Friday from “uncommitted” to “unsigned” table after his Ohio State commitment.

Jan. 19 update: Moved WR Jordan Young from “uncommitted” to “unsigned” table after his Tennessee commitment.

Name Position National Star State Top schools
Patrick Surtain, Jr. CB 5 5 FL LSU, Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Ohio State
Nicholas Petit-Frere OT 18 5 FL Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State
Tyson Campbell CB 25 5 FL Alabama, Georgia, Miami, Ohio State
Devon Williams WR 27 5 CA Oregon, USC
Olaijah Griffin CB 28 4 CA USC, Tennessee, UCLA
Isaac Taylor-Stuart CB 30 5 CA USC, Texas A&M, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia
Tanner McKee QB 35 4 CA Stanford, Alabama
Justyn Ross WR 44 4 AL Clemson, Alabama, Auburn
William Barnes OT 45 4 FL Florida, North Carolina
Penei Sewell OG 47 4 UT Oregon, Alabama, USC
Jaylen Waddle WR 51 4 TX Texas A&M, Alabama, FSU, Texas
Michael Thompson DT 59 4 MO Missouri, Oklahoma, USC, Alabama, LSU
Rasheed Walker OT 60 4 MD Penn State, Ohio State
Jacob Copeland WR 65 4 FL Alabama, Florida, Florida State
JaMarr Chase WR 79 4 LA LSU, TCU, Florida, Auburn, Michigan
Leon O’Neal Jr. S 81 4 TX Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Clemson, Georgia
Joshua Moore WR 87 4 TX Texas A&M, Texas, Oregon, Nebraska, FSU
Solomon Tuliaupupu ILB 92 4 CA USC, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, UCLA
Jalen Hall WR 100 4 CA Oregon, USC, Florida State
Mario Goodrich ATH 113 4 MO LSU, Georgia, Ole Miss
Aashari Crosswell S 116 4 CA Arizona State, Nebraska, USC
Dylan Wonnum OT 132 4 GA South Carolina, Auburn, Tennessee, LSU
Rick Sandidge DT 133 4 NC South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina
Dax Hollifield ILB 142 4 NC Stanford, Virginia Tech, North Carolina
Julius Irvin S 145 4 CA USC, Notre Dame, Washington, Penn State
Warren Thompson WR 154 4 FL FSU, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, UF
Tre’Shaun Harrison ATH 156 4 WA Florida State, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah
Merlin Robertson OLB 160 4 CA Arizona State, Illinois, Oklahoma
Isaah Crocker WR 177 4 CA Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, Nebraska
Joseph Ossai WDE 186 4 TX Texas, Texas A&M
Tommy Bush WR 196 4 TX Georgia, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Baylor
Andrew Chatfield WDE 212 4 FL Miami, Florida, Florida State, OU, LSU
Mychale Salahuddin APB 213 4 DC North Carolina, Pitt, Syracuse
Isheem Young S 227 4 PA JUCO
Solomon Enis WR 230 4 AZ Penn State, Utah, Arizona, Arizona State
Jairus Brents CB 233 4 KY Pitt, Wisconsin, Lousiville, Duke, Michigan State
Jeremiah Martin WDE 247 4 CA Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Oregon, Utah, Washington
Jashaun Corbin APB 248 4 FL Florida State, Nebraska, TCU
Tank Jenkins OG 250 4 AL Oklahoma, Louisville, Ole Miss, Auburn
Michael Ezeike TE 251 4 Canada Ole Miss, Oregon
Leonard Taylor TE 252 4 OH Cincinnati, Kentucky, Louisville
Lawrence Keys III WR 259 4 LA Notre Dame
Malcolm Lamar SDE 266 4 FL FSU, Florida
Taiyon Palmer CB 277 4 GA Clemson, NC State, Nebraska, Vanderbilt
James Foster QB 287 4 AL LSU, Alabama, FSU, Texas A&M
Elijah Wade WDE 297 4 NV Cal, Nebraska, UCLA, Vanderbilt, USC
Ken Montgomery Jr. CB 298 4 FL Louisville, Maryland, Nebraska
Joseph Scates WR 307 4 OH Iowa State, Michigan State, Alabama
Cam’ron Jones S 311 4 TX Nebraska, Oklahoma, Baylor
Javontae Jean-Baptiste OLB 314 4 NJ Nebraska, Ohio State, Virginia Tech
Chris Olave WR 319 4 CA Ohio State, UCLA, Utah, Michigan, Nebraska
Dennis Briggs DT 320 4 FL Miami, Florida State, South Carolina, Louisville
Christopher Oats OLB 321 4 OH Kentucky, Michigan State, Ohio State
Tyler Manoa DT 324 4 CA UCLA, Oregon, Utah
Caleb Tannor WDE 326 4 GA Florida, Nebraska, Auburn, Ole Miss, Tennessee
Miles Battle WR 327 4 TX Arkansas, Ole Miss, Oregon
Marquez Ezzard ATH 330 4 GA Miami, Ole Miss, Oregon, Florida
Tennessee Pututau OLB 335 4 UT Utah, Michigan State
Dorian Hardy SDE 343 4 NJ Baylor, Pitt, Penn State
Tyrone Sampson Jr. OC 346 4 MI Nebraska, Western Michigan
Eric Fuller WR 347 4 CA N/A
Marcus Johnson CB 351 4 CA USC, Arizona
Jarrett Patterson OT 366 4 CA UCLA, Michigan, Arizona State

 

Unsigned 4- and 5-star recruits (as of 1/21/2018)

Name Position National Star State School
Amon-Ra St. Brown WR 10 5 California USC
JT Daniels* QB 14 5 California USC
Dorian Thompson-Robinson QB 36 4 Nevada UCLA
Kelvin Joseph S 38 4 Louisiana LSU
JJ Peterson OLB 48 4 Georgia Tennessee
Quay Walker OLB 55 4 Georgia Alabama
Otis Reese OLB 77 4 Georgia Michigan
Tyler Friday DT 86 4 NJ Ohio State
Richard Gouriage OT 88 4 Florida Florida
Jalen Preston WR 90 4 Texas Texas A&M
Matthew Hill WR 105 4 Georgia Auburn
Tuli Letuligasenoa DT 106 4 California USC
Nesta Silvera DT 110 4 Florida Miami
Justin Watkins WR 115 4 FL Florida
Keondre Coburn DT 118 4 Texas Texas
Coynis Miller DT 141 4 Alabama Auburn
Harold Joiner RB 143 4 Alabama Auburn
Anthony Schwartz WR 153 4 Florida Auburn
Keaontay Ingram RB 157 4 Texas Texas
Bobby Brown DT 172 4 Texas Texas
Xavier Peters OLB 204 4 Ohio Kentucky
Trevor Trout DT 223 4 Missouri USC
DaShaun White OLB 232 4 Texas Oklahoma
Chris Murray OG 254 4 California UCLA
Christian Meadows OG 262 4 Georgia Florida State
Rondale Moore WR 268 4 Kentucky Purdue
Manuel Allen WR 273 4 California Louisville
Camren McDonald TE 290 4 California Florida State
Richard Jibunor ATH 294 4 Georgia Auburn
C.J. Smith S 308 4 Florida Nebraska
Gabriel Douglas WR 331 4 Texas Texas Tech
Spencer Webb TE 349 4 California Oregon
Noah Boykin CB 352 4 Washington D.C. Maryland
Vernon Jackson ATH 356 4 Texas Alabama
Eli’Jah Winston ILB 363 4 Oregon Oregon

Report: Landing spot for Matt Canada emerges at Maryland

Published: Sunday, January 21, 2018 @ 1:47 PM

After one season at LSU, Matt Canada was out of a job. But it appears he may have found his next spot.

Canada has emerged as a “strong candidate” for the opening at Maryland to be the offensive coordinator and play caller, according to Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports.

Canada arrived with much hype after coming over from Pittsburgh. but the offense struggled early, especially in a loss to Troy. After the Troy game, Ed Orgeron held numerous meetings with the higher ups and Canada. After that game LSU was able to stabilize it’s season, including a home win over Auburn. The Tigers finished 9-3 in the regular season and all seemed well.

But rumors began swirling about Canada’s job security in the run up to the Citrus Bowl. And after the Tigers loss to Notre Dame, LSU and Canada parted ways. Orgeron ended up hiring Steve Ensminger to replace Canada. Maryland is coached by DJ Durkin, a former Jim Harbaugh and Will Muschamp assistant.

The Maryland job became open after Walt Bell left to take the job at Florida State. LSU opens its 2018 season against Miami on Sept. 1. The offense will have to replace starting quarterback Danny Etling and running back Derrius Guice.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Sunflower State shines as Kansas, K-State have perfect weeks

Published: Sunday, January 21, 2018 @ 1:41 PM

Basketball fans in the Sunflower State are raving after both Kansas and Kansas State went 2-0 this week.

The Jayhawks, with wins over West Virginia and Baylor, took sole possession of first place in the Big 12. As for K-State, the Wildcats upended a pair of ranked teams at home — No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 24 TCU — to move themselves squarely into contender status in the league.

Let’s checkout the latest Big 12 power rankings heading into a new week that will feature the Big 12/SEC Showdown matchups on Saturday:

1. Kansas

Record: 16-3, 6-1 Big 12

Last Week: def. West Virginia 71-66, def. Baylor 70-67

This Week: @ Oklahoma (Tuesday, 6 p.m. CT), vs. Texas A&M (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. CT)

Just a week removed from a 4-team logjam atop the Big 12 standings, Kansas is now all alone atop the league in its pursuit for a 14th-straight conference title.

It didn’t come easy for the Jayhawks though, as they overcame a 16-point deficit at WVU before coming back from 6 points down in the final minutes against Baylor at home.

All of Kansas’ Big 12 wins have come by single digits, and they welcome in an Oklahoma team on Tuesday that’s hungry after losing back-to-back games.

2. West Virginia

Record: 16-3, 5-2 Big 12

Last Week: loss to Kansas 71-66, def. Texas 86-51

This Week: @ TCU (Monday, 8 p.m. CT), vs. Kentucky (Saturday, 6 p.m. CT)

After seeing a 16-point home lead evaporate to the hands of Kansas on Monday — which resulted in the Mountaineers’ second-straight loss — West Virginia rebounded in a big way on Saturday with a 35-point thumping of Texas.

West Virginia was firing on all cylinders against the Longhorns, forcing 15 turnovers and shooting 52 percent from 3-point range.

The Mountaineers get a chance to build its resume as a possible No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament with a trip to Fort Worth on Monday before hosting Kentucky on Saturday.

3. Texas Tech

Record: 15-4, 4-3 Big 12

Last Week: loss to Texas 67-58, loss to Iowa State 70-52

This Week: vs. Oklahoma State (Tuesday, 6 p.m. CT), @ South Carolina (Saturday, 11 a.m. CT)

A week ago, the Red Raiders were euphoric after their 1-point win over West Virginia.

But proving how tough the Big 12 is, Texas Tech went 0-2 this week with losses to Texas and Iowa State. The loss to the Cylcones was particularly eye-popping though as it was an 18-point beatdown in Ames.

The Red Raiders still have 2 of the best wins in the Big 12 this year — at Kansas and against WVU — so they had capital to burn. Texas Tech returns home on Tuesday, but then has to travel to South Carolina on Saturday to face a Frank Martin-coached team that made the Final Four a season ago.

4. Kansas State

Record: 14-5, 4-3 Big 12

Last Week: def. Oklahoma 87-69, def. TCU 73-68

This Week: @ Baylor (Monday, 8 p.m.), vs. Georgia (Saturday, 1 p.m.)

Kansas State affirmed itself as a legitimate contender in the league with a pair of home wins over ranked teams.

It started with solving No. 4 Oklahoma and Trae Young, who the Wildcats held to 20 points on 21 shots while forcing the superstar freshman into 12 turnovers. The week ended with a gutty win over No. 24 TCU in which Dean Wade scored 20 points while Barry Brown added 15.

Bruce Weber also won his 16th game against a ranked opponent as head coach of the Wildcats, the most in program history for any head coach.

A Monday road trip to Waco to face Baylor will be a true test of Bruce Weber’s team’s mettle, but K-State has an opportunity to go 2-0 for the second consecutive time this week.

5. Oklahoma

Record: 14-4, 4-3 Big 12

Last Week: loss to Kansas State 87-69, loss to Oklahoma State 83-81 (OT)

This Week: vs. Kansas (Tuesday, 6 p.m. CT), @ Alabama (Saturday, 1:15 p.m. CT)

Have the Sooners been solved?

On Tuesday, Oklahoma was routed in Manhattan by Kansas State. That was followed up by a Bedlam loss to Oklahoma State.

Both games were on the road, so there’s some leeway earned there. But Trae Young had a very inconsistent week.

Against the Wildcats, he committed 12 turnovers while scoring 20 points on 21 shots. Then against the Cowboys, he did drop 48 points but needed 39 shots to get there.

Young is 22-of-60 (60 shots!) over those two games, including 10-of-30 from 3-point range. He also has 19 turnovers in Oklahoma’s last two games. His usage rate is starting to see diminishing returns, and that’s a problem for the Sooners — a problem that needs to be solved quickly as they host Kansas before travelling to Alabama, where Collin Sexton is waiting for Young.

6. Oklahoma State

Record: 13-6, 3-4 Big 12

Last Week: loss to Baylor 76-60, def. Oklahoma 83-81

This Week: @ Texas Tech (Tuesday, 6 p.m. CT), @ Arkansas (Saturday, 5 p.m.)

It was certainly an up-and-down week for the Cowboys.

A 16-point loss to Baylor had Oklahoma State fearing a downhill slide, but those fears were quelled for the time being on Saturday as they upset in-state rival Oklahoma at home.

Oklahoma State has proven it can hang with anybody in the Big 12 — let’s see if that holds up on Tuesday’s trip to Lubbock before a reprieve on the road at Arkansas.

7. TCU

Record: 14-5, 2-5 Big 12

Last Week: def. Iowa State 96-73, loss to Kansas State 73-68

This Week: vs. West Virginia (Monday, 8 p.m. CT), @ Vanderbilt (Saturday, 3 p.m. CT)

TCU appeared to get back on track with a 23-point win over Iowa State.

That confidence was derailed though with a road loss to a hot Kansas State team — a game that saw Jamie Dixon get ejected.

The loss of Jaylen Fisher, who is out for the season with a torn meniscus, is brutal for a Horned Frogs team that’s lost 5 Big 12 games by a total of 16 points.

It doesn’t get easier for Dixon and Co., though, as West Virginia storms into Fort Worth on Big Monday then TCU hits the road to Vanderbilt on Saturday.

8. Iowa State

Record: 11-7, 2-5 Big 12

Last Week: loss to TCU 96-73, def. Texas Tech 70-52

This Week: @ Texas (Monday, 6 p.m. CT), vs. Tennessee (Saturday, 3 p.m. CT)

After an 0-4 start to the Big 12 season, the Cyclones have gone 2-1 in league play since.

A 23-point loss to TCU was surprising because of the margin, but so was Iowa State’s 18-point beatdown of Texas Tech in Ames.

The Cyclones are starting to play the role of spoiler in the Big 12 while clinging to any hopes of an NCAA tournament berth. A trip to Austin then a home matchup against a ranked Tennessee team could do wonders for that resume.

9. Texas

Record: 12-7, 3-4 Big 12

Last Week: def. Texas Tech 67-58, loss to West Virginia 86-51

This Week: vs. Iowa State (Monday, 6 p.m. CT), vs. Ole Miss (Saturday, 1 p.m. CT)

The Longhorns scored an upset of Texas Tech at home, but turned around and were embarrassed by 35 points to West Virginia.

Texas has shown an ability to compete in the league with wins over TCU and Texas Tech, but losses to Oklahoma State and Baylor haven’t shown consistency. Perhaps the Longhorns can find stability with a homestand against Iowa State and Ole Miss.

10. Baylor

Record: 12-7, 2-5 Big 12

Last Week: def. Oklahoma State 76-60, loss to Kansas 70-67

This Week: vs. Kansas State (Monday, 8 p.m. CT), @ Florida (Saturday, 11 a.m. CT)

A 16-point win over Oklahoma State, then a strong showing at Allen Fieldhouse seems like a decent week for Baylor — and it was.

But the Bears are still at the bottom of the Big 12 standings as they’ve struggled to find any sort of consistency with losses to the likes of Iowa State and Oklahoma State.

Baylor hosts Kansas State, which beat two ranked teams last week in Manhattan, before traveling to face Florida. Both games are a chance for the Bears to add some marquee wins to their postseason resume.

Leonard Fournette gets emotional on the field after tough playoff loss

Published: Sunday, January 21, 2018 @ 1:27 PM

You can tell that Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots meant a lot to former LSU running back Leonard Fournette.

After the game, while hugging former LSU Tiger Ricky Jean Francois, Fournette was in tears on the sideline.

Fournette still had a wonderful rookie season, as he rushed for over 1,000 yards and had a wonderful set of playoff games. Fournette tied the rookie record for rushing touchdowns in the playoffs with 4. Fournette certainly lived up to the hype as the No. 4 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

The former Tiger had 76 rushing yards and a touchdown and had a great job in pass protection. With a number of young great players, led by Fournette, this most certainly won’t be Fournette’s last AFC Championship game. And Sunday showed this Jacksonville team isn’t too far away from a potential Super Bowl.

The 2018 Super Bowl will be played on Feb. 4.