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Sports Today: The NFL gets dumber by the day

Published: Wednesday, December 06, 2017 @ 9:34 AM

Bengals blow 17-point lead

Everyone involved in making the rules and handing out punishments in the NFL needs to be fired.

These folks obviously don’t know what they don’t know. 

Suspending George Iloka and JuJu Smith-Schuster for hits already penalized during Monday night’s Steelers win in Cincinnati is excessive and ridiculous. 

It is clearly a public relations move by a league that doesn’t know what it doesn’t know about PR either because if anything it just makes the NFL look worse than if it did nothing. 

Much like Jabrill Peppers of the Browns a week before, Iloka and Smith-Schuster were caught doing football things.

Iloka was trying to knock the ball loose to prevent a touchdown while Smith-Schuster was making a block on an active defender who reasonably still had a chance to make a tackle. 

Both acts used to be legal but aren’t anymore because the NFL thinks it can convince the public the game isn’t really that dangerous if it just throws enough flags for stuff that looks bad regardless of intent. 

(Or more likely they’re just trying to provide themselves legal cover when accused of not taking care of the players who don’t want to be taken care of in that way.) 

Could both of them have done it less violently? Probably. 

But violence is part of football. 

Were they both trying to send a message with their hits? Probably — especially Smith-Schuster given his reaction and the recipient of the blow. 

I am for limiting unnecessary roughness in the most extreme forms (intentionally hitting someone in the head, from behind, trying to take out knees, late hits, etc.), but I don’t think deciding to fire off punishment at everything in the gray area of the rules is productive at all. 

Meanwhile, Rob Gronkowski gets the same punishment for something that happened after a play and was far more dangerous and out of line. 

Regardless of how he might try to explain himself, what Gronkowski did was not a football play at all. He shouldn’t play again this season. There is no excuse for his action. 

He saw someone who was literally defenseless (not the NFL’s moronic interpretation of that word) and with time to think about it did something that can only be interpreted as intended to hurt his opponent. 

And beyond that, everyone seems to have already forgotten about the hit from Monday night that actually put a player in the hospital.  

Unfortunately, Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier has a history of hitting people with the crown of his helmet. When he grabbed his back immediately, I thought he injured his spine and feared he had cracked vertebrae. 

I didn’t need to be a doctor to know that was possible — I just had to remember a decades old video called, “See What You Hit” that explained how the physics of how that works. 

The bones in the neck and back line up when a tackler goes in face down. That exposes the spine and can lead to everything getting dangerously compressed. Lots of things can go wrong then because that’s not how the body is designed to function. 

And yet for all of the obviously warranted concern about Shazier now, those are hits that are never talked about even though they are the most dangerous of all. 

I don’t bring that up to try to shame Shazier but because it’s an example of a larger problem: The NFL doesn’t seem to understand football anymore. 

It’s quite possible that Arkansas basketball is — gasp — bad

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 1:00 AM

Arkansas football rules the world of Razorbacks sports. So, with your bacon, have some Hogs for Breakfast and get caught up. It’s SEC Country’s weekday column and roundup on all things Arkansas … especially Arkansas football. Opinion, numbers, inane babble and more! And now with ironic exclamation points! There is no place like it on the web.

It’s very possible this Arkansas basketball is, dare I say it … bad.

Might even be likely.

The Razorbacks fell to 2-4 in SEC play Wednesday night. Florida dominated 30 of the 40 minutes in Gainesville, Fla., en route to an 88-73 Arkansas loss.

The defeat, in and of itself, isn’t that big a thing. Arkansas hasn’t beaten Florida at the O’Connell Center since 1995. Almost no one expected that to change Wednesday. What is a big thing, however, is the continued poor play.

Losing to Florida is one thing. Looking bad doing it is another. It was just the latest such subpar showing. Even Arkansas’ wins, against Tennessee and Missouri, have not been confidence-inspiring. Those two victories came by two points apiece. Arkansas’ four losses have come by a total of 50 points.


Point differential isn’t the end-all, be-all of team stats, but it’s a window into quality. Quality Arkansas simply does not have right now.

If there is a measure of good news for the Razorbacks, it’s the schedule lightens up soon. Ole Miss visits Saturday and then in two weeks, Arkansas hits the easiest portion of its SEC schedule overall. And that will last for about two weeks, too.

The time for piddling around, though, is finished. A loss to Ole Miss will sink this ship.

Arkansas icon on College Football Playoff Committee

Move over Jeff Long. Watch out Condoleezza Rice. Ken Hatfield has arrived.

The former Arkansas coach was named to the College Football Playoff Committee on Wednesday. Hatfield coached the Razorbacks for six seasons (1984-89), accumulating a 55-17-1 record. He led the Hogs to back-to-back Southwest Conference titles in ’88 and ’89, which is still their most recent conference championship. The Razorbacks played in a bowl game all six of his seasons.

Hatfield was one of six named to the committee, which is still chaired by Bill Hancock.

Daryl Macon was starting again Wednesday — unwise

Arkansas coach Mike Anderson put Daryl Macon, his second-leading scorer, back in the starting lineup against Florida. The immediate reaction among most would be that’s a smart move. One of the best players deserves to start.

Not in this case, though.

Arkansas lacks depth at guard. Big time, actually. On top of that, the Hogs lack scoring off the bench. Reserves were outscored 27-12 against Florida. Pulling Macon for freshman forward Darious Hall, which is what Anderson did when Arkansas beat Missouri on Saturday, is a better decision.

When Macon starts, Arkansas has a three-guard lineup on the court. That leaves just C.J. Jones as the only scholarship guard off the bench. Anton Beard, a senior starter in the backcourt, was injured Wednesday against the Gators, too. It’s unclear how much time he’ll miss, but losing him would leave Anderson with just three scholarship guards total.

That might change the Macon-to-the-bench thinking. It definitely shows just how quickly things could go further south for the Hogs, either way.

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Tweets and the like

• Former Arkansas golfer Stacy Lewis was honored Wednesday.

• Gotta be honest, this Jackson Hannah attending Arkansas would kind of cool. He would give the Razorbacks two players on the roster named Jackson Hannah. Not exactly a common name.

• If you’re fed up with basketball but still love your Hogs, I recommend …

South Carolina WR Bryan Edwards wants to set records; Steve Spurrier praises former Gamecocks QB

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 1:00 AM

Welcome to SEC Country’s Chicken & Waffles, your daily dish for all things South Carolina Gamecocks football, basketball and more. Miss a previous edition? Find every edition of SEC Country’s South Carolina Gamecocks Chicken & Waffles right here.

New standard

No one expects more from South Carolina Gamecocks wide receiver Bryan Edwards than he expects of himself.

“I want to make plays. I want to break records. I want to set a standard,” Edwards said. “Guys like Alshon Jeffery, Sidney Rice. I want to leave my mark up there with those guys, those legends.”

Edwards had 64 catches for 793 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2017.

The rising junior currently sits at No. 13 all time in receptions at South Carolina with 108. With 10 more catches, he’ll climb into the top 10.

High hopes

Former South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier sees big things for former Gamecocks quarterback Connor Shaw in his coaching career.

“He was destined to be a coach,” Spurrier told The State’s Josh Kendall . “I think he’ll have a chance certainly to be a head coach pretty soon.”

Shaw played under Spurrier from 2010-13, during which he became South Carolina’s all-time winningest quarterback.

The Flowery Branch, Ga., native was recently named tight ends coach at Furman.

Checking in

Four-star defensive tackle Rick Sandidge met with South Carolina defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson , defensive line coach Lance Thompson and running backs coach Bobby Bentley on Monday, according to SportsTalk’s Phil Kornblut .

Sandidge spent last weekend in Athens, Ga., on an official visit to Georgia.

The Concord, N.C., native is rated as the No. 131 overall prospect in the Class of 2018, according to the 247Sports composite.

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Upperclassmen stand tall

South Carolina men’s basketball coach Frank Martin was proud of the Gamecocks’ leadership in their 76-68 comeback win over the No. 18 Kentucky Wildcats on Tuesday night at Colonial Life Arena.

“Obviously, anytime you’re down in the second half and figure out a way to come back, it’s good. The thing I’m proudest [of] — we’ve had moments like this in previous games, pretty much not here, [but] away from home, at Alabama, Temple up at the Garden, at Clemson — we did not have, when I tell you we’re looking for leadership — when things are not going your way, somebody to give everybody the courage,” Martin told reporters after the game

“And first time I’ve seen it all year, three guys, Chris Silva, Wes Myers and Frank Booker. Those three guys — we were trying to let it go, we were trying to hang our head again, but those three guys [said], not uh, not tonight. Credit to them for doing that.”

With the win, South Carolina improved to 12-6 overall and 3-3 in the SEC. Next up, the Gamecocks host the No. 21-ranked Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday.

‘They never stopped playing’

On the other side of the court, Kentucky coach John Calipari was equally impressed with the Gamecocks .

“I’m really disappointed, but you know what? You’ve got to give South Carolina credit,” Calipari said. “They played like Frank [Martin] coaches. They’re down and it looks like they’re going to get smacked and they never stopped playing and then they got the momentum.”

With a 4-2 conference record, the Wildcats are currently tied for No. 3 in the SEC.

Front and center

Before upsetting the Wildcats, Martin visited Eau Claire High School in Columbia on Monday to check out 2019 3-star center Malcolm Wilson .

“I like that they’re close,” Wilson said of the Gamecocks. “I like the basketball program and they have some good academic programs. Engineering is something I’m interested in and I know they’ve got some good programs.”

The 6-foot-11, 205-pound prospect already boasts offers from South Carolina, Clemson and Virginia Commonwealth. He’s rated as the No. 152 overall prospect for 2019, per the 247Sports composite.

‘All gas, no brakes’

The first South Carolina football offseason hype video arrived on Wednesday by way of the Gamecocks’ official Twitter account.

The “All Gas, No Brakes” mantra originated with coach Will Muschamp’s comments to the team following the Gamecocks’ 26-19 win over the Michigan Wolverines in the 2018 Outback Bowl.

With the win against Michigan, South Carolina posted just its seventh 9-win season in program history.

Muschamp is 26-15 through his first two seasons in Columbia.

Craving more Chicken & Waffles? Get your fix with previous versions here.

Penn State reportedly sets Pro Day date; a look at Nittany Lions cornerbacks

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 1:00 AM

Penn State football is the No. 1 topic in We are… Awake every day — but we cover news, notes and analysis from across Nittany Lions sports. Join us each morning to get caught up on everything you missed in the world of Penn State football, recruiting, basketball and more. 

On display

Penn State’s Pro Day is reportedly set.

According to ESPN’s Field Yates, the Nittany Lions looking to make an impact in the NFL will perform for scouts on March 20th.

But as Andrew Callahan from Lions 247 writes, Penn State has yet to confirm the date. In the past, Penn State closed off its Pro Day to the media but former coach Bill O’Brien changed that policy. This year is sure to draw plenty of attention with running back Saquon Barkley, receiver DaeSean Hamilton, tight end Mike Gesicki and defensive backs Marcus Allen and Grant Haley potentially on display.

Any player receiving an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine will be announced in early February.

Manning the corner

Two guys who will patrol the secondary next season are Tariq Castro-Fields and Lamont Wade.

Greg Pickel of caught up with both and offered a brief glimpse into their plans for the 2018 season. Both figure to see plenty of time in spring ball with Haley and Christian Campbell gone from the depth chart.

Writes Pickel:

Castro-Fields also pointed to the playbook when asked where he’d see the biggest gains this year, saying: “Just attacking every day and getting stronger, getting faster, getting in the playbook more, and learning it more in-depth.”

Pickel also offers other recruiting notes, including an update on wide receiver Solomon Enis in the post.

2 weeks to remember

HBO’s project “Paterno,” to be released later this spring, will not go the distance looking back at former coach Joe Paterno’s entire career.

Rather, as Candy Woodall from Pennlive writes, it will be condensed down to the two-week period in which Paterno won his final game as coach, becoming the winningest coach in college football in the process, former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is arrested, Paterno offers his retirement and is ultimately fired.

What it won’t do, according to director Barry Levinson, is tell you one way or another whether Paterno knew anything beyond what he said prior to his death in 2012.

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No time for fun

The latest setback for the Penn State men’s basketball team, a 95-84 overtime loss on Monday to up and down Minnesota, showed that the Nittany Lions, despite one stellar recruiting class, still have a long way to go.

David Jones of Pennlive writes that it’s clear this team is not having any fun right now.

And why should they be having fun at this point?  The loss to the Golden Gophers, coupled with a horrible home loss to Rider just prior to Christmas, has the Nittany Lions at 13-7 overall and just 3-4 in the Big Ten.

KenPom has the Nittany Lions 56th in his latest rankings.

A long way to go.

Nittany Lions on ice

Penn State’s hockey team has an important weekend series with Big Ten rival Michigan on Friday and Saturday, and when he they hit the road for Ann Arbor, they could have an important piece back in their rotations.

Ben Jones of writes that defenseman Kevin Kerr could return to the lineup.

Jones writes:

Kerr, is arguably one of Penn State’s most skilled players in every area on the ice. The  top defenseman coming back this this weekend will mark his first action since Dec. 2. Kerr missed six games with a broken wrist and had missed 12 games earlier this season with a different injury.

Penn State is currently in third place in the Big Ten, but just two points ahead of Michigan. The weekend series is critical for seeding in the upcoming Big  Ten tournament.

Miss previous editions of the Wakeup Call? They can be found here.



Michigan’s Dan Enos faced with revamping WRs; lawyer says Shea Patterson’s paperwork not yet filed

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 1:00 AM

Michigan footb all is always the main topic in Breakfast of Victors, Land of 10’s daily Wolverines notebook — but we cover news, notes and analysis across Wolverines sports. Join us each morning to get caught up on everything you missed in the world of Michigan football, recruiting, basketball and more .  

Michigan’s Dan Enos faced with revamping WRs

Land of 10’s Rachel Lenzi writes about new Michigan wide receiver coach Dan Enos, detailing what he was like as a player and how he got his start in coaching. The good news for Wolverines fans: Enos has a history of creating potent passing offenses.

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Lawyer says Shea Patterson’s paperwork not yet filed

Wolverines quarterback Shea Patterson’s lawyer, Thomas A. Mars, told Land of 10 in an email Wednesday that Michigan has not yet submitted Patterson’s request for a waiver that would grant him eligibility in 2018. Mars explained that Michigan is required to fill out and submit numerous documents and wrote that he anticipated the NCAA’s decision on Patterson’s eligibility in late February.

Defensive line dominant in 2017

Nick Baumgardner of the Detroit Free Press breaks down how Michigan’s defensive line performed last season and reveals why he expects the defensive line to be as good as ever in 2018.

Don’t forget about QB Dylan McCaffrey

Aaron McMann of MLive argues that fans shouldn’t forget about 5-star quarterback Dylan McCaffrey, who redshirted as a freshman in 2017. McCaffrey was named scout team player of the year at Michigan’s post-season awards banquet.

Rounding out the 2018 recruiting class

Land of 10’s Kevin Goheen gives his assessment of the Wolverines’ 2018 recruiting class so far, and explains who Michigan coaches are targeting for the 2019 class.

Michigan track and field’s Erin Finn earns Big Ten Athlete of the Week

Miss a previous edition of Breakfast of Victors? Get caught up here