Is this new helmet the answer to the NFL’s concussion concerns?

Published: Wednesday, September 13, 2017 @ 11:06 AM

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 25:  Quarterback Alex Smith #11 of the Kansas City Chiefs warms up prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on August 25, 2017 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 25: Quarterback Alex Smith #11 of the Kansas City Chiefs warms up prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on August 25, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)(Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

A segment about Alex Smith’s helmet during NBC’s broadcast of the NFL’s season-opener between the Kansas City Chiefs and the New England Patriots caught my eye last week, and The Washington Post had more on it this week

Turns out he wasn’t the only player wearing the new helmet from VICIS called the Zero1 that is designed to mitigate the impact of hits to the head. 

The Post reports Smith and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson were among about 70 players who donned the new lid, “the product of a Seattle start-up that might look like the traditional football helmet from afar but has a completely different design just beneath its exterior shell.” 

The helmet incorporates engineering principles more commonly seen in the automotive field. The outer shell is softer and more pliable, made from flexible thermoplastic. Beneath it is a layer of more than 500 small columns, each measuring an inch or so long, which absorb force and also twist and move laterally, lessening the impact of rotational acceleration, a major concussion culprit.

VICIS CEO Dave Marver compared the technology to modern bumpers on cars.

“Think of the current helmets like old cars, all made of steel,” said Dave Marver, the VICIS CEO. “They get in a collision, and they're rigid. The passenger continues to move forward. Today's cars, though, have bumpers that crumple, that slow acceleration before they reach the passenger compartment.” 

This is a very interesting concept, and I’m excited to see what kinds of results it produces.

Here’s a look at the inside of the helmet: 

 

Kansas has best chance of beating West Virginia of all teams remaining on schedule

Published: Wednesday, September 20, 2017 @ 12:56 AM

Wins in conference play haven’t been easy for Kansas football to come by in recent seasons. If the Jayhawks are to beat a Big 12 opponent in 2017, their Big 12 opener might just be their best chance of doing so.

According to SB Nation’s Bill Connelly, Kansas has a 24 percent chance of beating West Virginia when the Mountaineers pay a visit to the Jayhawks at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence on Sept. 23. As sobering as it may be for Kansas fans, it’s the highest chance of a win that the Jayhawks have in any game on the rest of their schedule.

Kansas most recently defeated West Virginia in 2013. The 31-19 home win over the Mountaineers was coincidentally the Jayhawks’ lone Big 12 victory that season.

The odds of a victory for Kansas only go down in the weeks immediately following West Virginia. Connelly listed the Jayhawks as having a 23 percent of beating Texas Tech, a 14 percent chance of beating Iowa State and a 5 percent chance of beating TCU. The odds go up slightly against Kansas State and Baylor, but plummet back below 10 percent for Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Of course, the game is played for a reason. The Jayhawks have played TCU to one score, despite being a heavy underdog, in each of their past three meetings, while upsetting Texas in the upset of all upsets in Lawrence one season ago. Containing the West Virginia quarterback-receiver connection of Will Grier and David Sills, however, will be no easy task.

The Kansas-West Virginia Game is scheduled for kickoff at 11 a.m. CT. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

 

USC preparing backups for bigger roles as injuries mount

Published: Wednesday, September 20, 2017 @ 12:46 AM

USC is the only team in the Pac-12 that does not have a bye week, unless you count that the Trojans don’t play during the final weekend of the regular season. That makes dealing with injuries even more difficult than normal, especially when the ailments start piling up.

Tuesday’s practice saw a whopping eight starters either sit out or participate in a limited manner, a list that included junior running back Ronald Jones, senior wide receiver Steven Mitchell, linebackers Porter Gustin, John Houston and Uchenna Nwosu, defensive lineman Rasheem Green and defensive back Ajene Harris.

Most of those players were held out as a precautionary reason and most are expected to play Saturday at California. But with the understanding that any or all of those players could be limited, coach Clay Helton has been making sure his backups and third-stringers are ready to go.

Our twos are stepping up,” Helton said, per Alicia de Artola of Fansided’s Reign of Troy blog. “Now if we had a couple more injuries in this game then I’m going to get worried, but I think we have adequate numbers and I have a lot of faith in the guys that have stepped up, especially in that last game.”

USC had 55 players play at least one snap in last week’s overtime win over Texas, with 20 different Trojans register a tackle. Those numbers could be even higher at Cal if the hobbled starters aren’t able to play as many snaps as normal.

DPS hires Taylor over Pullen as Dunbar boys hoop coach

Published: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 8:15 PM
Updated: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 11:41 PM

The DPS school board by a vote of 4-2 opted not to rehire Pete Pullen as the Dunbar boys basketball coach and instead awarded the job to Charles Taylor on Monday, Sept. 19, 2017. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

The Dayton Public Schools parted ways with one of its most successful coaches in the history of the multiple-school urban district on Tuesday by not rehiring Pete Pullen as the Dunbar High School boys basketball coach.

DPS instead voted 4-2 to approve newcomer Charles Taylor as the Wolverines new coach during Tuesday’s school board meeting.

“I have to live with that,” said Pullen, who guided the Wolverines the past 13 seasons and won four Division II state championships. “I teach my players how to lose graciously. This is a loss for me so I’m going to walk out with my head up high. I know there’s better things for me.”

Board president Robert Walker and Ron Lee both cited loyalty to a revised hiring process for DPS coaches in which Taylor scored higher than Pullen. They were joined by Sheila Taylor, the chair of athletic board control, and Robert McManus in favor of hiring Taylor.

“I hear that process being challenged,” Lee said prior to a special vote for the Dunbar position. “Because I advocated for the process and it was adopted by this board I have to go along with this change.”

»RELATED: Timeline of OHSAA’s decision to penalize DPS

»RELATED: Dunbar won’t fight forfeits

»RELATED: Dunbar coaches, we were told to lose

»RELATED: DPS reacts to OHSAA ruling

At least a half-dozen pro-Pullen supporters spoke prior to the vote on his behalf. They included former Dunbar teachers, players and an assistant coach. Taylor and Pullen were the only applicants.

“The process clearly gives the appearance that one candidate had inside information that coach Pullen would not be retained,” said board member Joe Lacy, who voted against hiring Taylor as did board vice president Hazel Rountree.

“There’s a serious problem with this process. To disregard 20 years of experience is not what this district should be about. This process is another example of a system that awards you for who you know and not what you know.”

Rountree took a more direct reason for voting not to hire Taylor. “I don’t feel in my soul this system was fair,” she said. “It doesn’t feel right. There’s something wrong with that and I won’t be a part of it.”

Board member Adil Baquirov abstained from voting.

Pullen, 63, oversaw Dunbar’s return to state prominence, winning four Division II state titles in 2012 and ’10 and consecutive titles in 2006-07. Dunbar also advanced to two more state final fours in that span.

Taylor has extensive AAU basketball coaching experience, but none at the high school level. He has coached Stivers boys middle school basketball. He was a senior starter on Roth’s 1981 Class AAA state title team and is the older brother of former Dunbar basketball standout Kirk Taylor, a standout on Dunbar’s 1987 Class AAA state title team.

The decision to not rehire Pullen as coach is the latest in a series of consequential events that stem from a Week 10 football game last season between Dunbar and Belmont at Welcome Stadium.

After a lengthy investigation that concluded last spring and citing “a lack of administrative responsibility and institutional control,” the Ohio High School Athletic Association placed all DPS athletic programs – all schools, girls and boys, seventh through 12th grades – on a three-year probation, fined the district $10,000 and athletics administrators were instructed to undergo additional training.

All coaching contracts for OHSAA member schools are annually renewable. Pullen said among the reasons he was told he likely wouldn’t retain the coaching position was his inquiry into the then-open Wayne boys basketball position and an accusation of improper financial handling of a summer basketball tournament Dunbar hosted the last 12 years.

Pullen retired from teaching in 2016, but returned to Dunbar this past school year as a classroom teacher at the request of administrators. In all, he was a teacher and coach for DPS teams the last 20 years, including a celebrated run as Dunbar’s girls basketball coach before taking over the boys program.

“I can tell you teams in the Southwest District will not play Dayton Public Schools if Pete Pullen is not reinstated,” former Dunbar assistant and former Ponitz head coach Shaun O’Connell said prior to the vote. “That reputation is bigger than Dunbar.

“I’m very upset. I sat in there and heard that this is about kids. I don’t know that we helped kids on (Monday) and I’m somebody who cares very deeply about the kids in Dayton Public Schools. It’s very sad it’s taken this turn.”

In all, 13 DPS winter coaching positions were approved. Besides Pullen, the only other change was Calvin Mitchell succeeding Chad Miller as Meadowdale’s girls basketball coach. Miller is currently the Lions’ AD. It was unclear if the absence of any Ponitz winter coaches on the agenda was an oversight or not.

The Dunbar boys basketball coaching staff reportedly is set and none of Pullen’s assistants have been retained.

Pullen is recovering from knee surgery and hasn’t participated in offseason workouts since the summer. He didn’t rule out a return to coaching.

“This is the way they wanted to go and I wish them the best,” he said. “I’ll give it a day or two to think about it and see what unfolds for me. I prayed on this and God must have a better plan for me. I wish everybody good luck and God bless Dunbar High School.”

»FACEBOOK: For more high school sports you should like Marc Pendleton

DPS WINTER SPORTS COACHES

Approved on Tuesday

Boys basketball

Belmont: Art Winston

Dunbar: Charles Taylor

Meadowdale: Dwayne Chastain

Stivers: Felix Turner

Thurgood Marshall: Shawn McCullough

Girls basketball

Belmont: Larry Williams

Dunbar: Jim Cole

Meadowdale: Calvin Mitchell

Stivers: Michael Powell

Thurgood Marshall: Khalil Franklin

Wrestling

Belmont: Joseph Wiehe

Meadowdale: Jackie Fails, Jr.

Thurgood Marshall: Armiya Muhammed

PETE PULLEN

Dunbar boys: 13 seasons, 289-54 record, 4 D-II state titles, 6 final fours.

Dunbar girls: 6 seasons, 109-29 record, 44-0 City League record.

Age: 63

Status: Retired teacher, former Dunbar AD.

Dunbar coach Pete Pullen. Trotwood-Madison defeated host Dunbar 81-72 in a boys high school basketball game on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

College Basketball: Dayton Flyers freshman declared ineligible by NCAA

Published: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 4:16 PM
Updated: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 4:50 PM

Jablonski: Flyers entering season short-handed

The Dayton Flyers basketball team lost another one of its taller players for the coming season when the NCAA Clearinghouse sidelined 6-foot-9 freshman Obadiah “Obi” Toppin for not meeting initial academic eligibility standards.

It’s the same scenario that played out for Flyer big man Steve McElvene three years ago and Kostas Anteokounmpo last year when they were grounded by the Clearinghouse until they improved their academic qualifications. Similarly, Toppin will remain a member of the UD team and will be able to practice, but he will not be permitted to play this season.

»RELATED: An updated look at UD’s 2017-18 roster

As an academic redshirt, he will have four years of eligibility remaining.

For more than a month Flyers coaches had known of the possibility that Toppin would be ruled ineligible, but they held out hope and awaited the final ruling.

»RELATED: A look at UD’s five-man recruiting class

“We knew this was a possible scenario for Obi early on in the recruiting process,” Dayton head coach Anthony Grant said. “And if it came to pass, we saw this as a chance for him to utilize this year acclimate as a student and enhance his strength and skill as an academic redshirt. This is a great opportunity for Obi to develop as a player and student over the next 12 months, and prepare himself for a very successful college career.”

The team already was shorthanded for the coming season with the loss of 6-foot-7 Ryan Mikesell, who is recovering from two hip surgeries in the offseason, and 6-foot-9 Sam Miller’s dismissal from the team after he was suspended from the university for a semester and his scholarship was revoked following a highly publicized incident at the Greene County Jail this summer following his arrest at a Beavercreek bar.

Initially charged with disorderly conduct by intoxication amd underage consumption, Miller was taken to the jail, where he got into a scuffle with a fellow inmate that was caught on video cameras and ended up a much-viewed clip on the internet. Charged with assault in that incident, he accepted a plea deal to disorderly conduct.

Toppin averaged 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists last season while playing at Mt. Zion Prep in Baltimore.

Prior to that, he played just one season of varsity basketball — his senior year at Ossing High School in New York — and averaged 20.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 3 steals. He was selected to the Lower Hudson High Schools Basketball Coaches Association Conference 1 All Section Team and was named all-league.

»RELATED: Where does Dayton rank on list of top 144 teams?

As for the impact of Toppin’s loss to the team, Grant recently said: “He’s one of just 11 (scholarship players). Nobody on the roster is expendable. We need everybody.”