Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tulane Means Football!

The 2007 Tulane University Football Schedule is out:

Sept. 8 Mississippi State
Sept. 15 Houston
Sept. 22 Southeastern Louisiana
Sept. 29 LSU (ESPN)
Oct. 6 at Army
Oct. 13 at UAB
Oct. 20 at SMU
Oct. 27 Memphis
Nov. 3 Tulsa
Nov. 10 UTEP
Nov. 17 at Rice
Nov. 24 at East Carolina

Certainly an easier mix than last year: Southeastern, Memphis and East Carolina replacing Auburn, Southern Mississippi and UCF. Tulane had no chance in two of those three last year, probably wouldn’t this year either. Replacing two sure losses and a toss up with two toss-ups and probable win is helpful.

It is really hard, with a new coach, new quarterback and defense that ought to remain prone for the most part, to see them getting any of that opening four game homestand other than Southeastern. Mississippi State is certainly an upset candidate- but that is just that- it would be a surprise. And Houston is what passes for the class of C-USA.

That makes the Army game an important one- a true salvage the season game. Seven conference games follow. I dunno. It is unfortunate two of their three home games are Tulsa and UTEP; I doubt they can beat either- and some of those road games become a lot more do-able on our fast track: Rice, SMU and East Carolina. Frankly though, Tulane hasn’t played .500 in the League since Bowden left- and I am not real encouraged they will do so this year.

Today, I can’t see more than three wins out of the last eight conference games plus Army. That is four or so overall. But C-USA is a pretty bad League, so the number could change when we’ve seen the quarterbacks- close eyes, sigh- this spring.


Friday, February 23, 2007

Taco Bell Betrays Me

Way to go NBC!

While I love Taco Bell more than life itself, this story approaches FoxNews quality. You know heads are rolling at Fox New York this morning. Get Tiki Barber down there already!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Daytona 500!

The Daytona 500 was an outstanding event. It showcased NASCAR at its best: a competitive race down to the final yards, the stars running well, giant wrecks, someone finishing in the Top 20 upside down and on fire.

Of course, not that the drivers- a crew who as a collective is increasingly removed from their sports reality- get it. Michael Waltrip, Greg Biffle and Ken Schraeder all went on NASCAR Weekly yesterday to whine about NASCAR refusing to throw the caution as the field wrecked behind Mark Martin and Kevin Harvick.

Look, no one is anti-safety. But NASCAR has a hockey helmet problem. The NHL mandated helmets to protect players’ heads- and stick fouls to the head sky-rocketed. Putting the helmet on players’ heads removed the collective responsibility to police your stick to keep your peers from getting hurt.

NASCAR’s never ending emphasis on safety has achieved a similar effect. Face it, everything racing is sacrificed to the safety mandates: the endless cautions for debris, the prolonged cautions for clean up, etc. And for what? These guys simply don’t race with that respect generated from fear anymore. Daytona isn’t marred by endless crashes because of the plates or competition- but by the fact these guys don’t think they can get hurt. You wouldn’t see half the craziness, the running with wounded, ill-handling cars- if these guys thought they could get burned alive or crushed.

Now sure, it is fun to bash NASCAR for "inconsistency" on the caution flag. You get to sound like a knowledgeable race fan talking about the vague conspiracies that are “rife” in NASCAR.

But one place these France people are VERY consistent, is their desire to have a green flag finish. If Mark Martin didn't know this (which I seriously doubt)- than shame on him. Why do you think they have this green-white-checker rule in the first place? Why did they throw the red flag and have us sit for an interminable delay? Because the people who watch and FOX want race to the flag finishes.

Between the Cup, Busch, and the trucks last year there were races featuring a last lap incident, not directly involving the leaders, where the leaders were allowed to finish- and only then the caution thrown. Don't say this scenario was unexpected or inconsistent; it happens.

You might not like it- but don't say it is wildly inconsistent. I sense what limited distress exists over this is more a desire to see Mark Martin finally win one of these- than any real fault with NASCAR.

Labels: ,

Friday, February 16, 2007

Can't Win With Swedes

You can move right past Rich Hofmann’s moronic piece today in the Philadelphia Daily News (Yes, Rich, we fans want to know if there is cheating in the sports we watch. Nice Floyd Landis joke. Jeez.) and move right to the Peter Forsberg trade.

I never for a minute believed the Flyers weren’t going to trade Forsberg the minute he picked up his game enough to get someone to hand them a bunch of prospects and future considerations. One thing was for sure- they weren’t getting any established talent for a guy who is hurt all the time featuring no contract going forward. In a way, that is sort of proof that Forsberg represents risk- and the Flyers need less roster risk more than anything right else right now. Getting three potential building blocks for 2009 and a current NHL “project” is a square deal.

Look, the Flyers have numerous problems. But the overriding issue is a lack of quantity- they don’t lack pieces as much as a wholesale 24-28 guys who actually belong in the NHL. They need a general infusion of talent- they don’t need a top defenseman as much as they need say, five quality defensemen.

Consequently, I am more encouraged by the prospect of obtaining a potential quantity of NHL players who belong than getting that same “A” defensemen. Or keeping an “A” forward (i.e. Forsberg). A play-off team fills holes. But the Flyers simply could not risk one of their key assets either not returning, or returning at this level of "never ending ennui", if they could add potential solid bodies to the roster over the next three years.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Considine Will Be Back!

I’ve been meaning to get back and to finish fixing the Eagles. We did the “easy” part already- a minimal retooling of a Top 5 offense is a little easier than wrapping your hands around the defense. The Eagles' defense was a pretty maligned unit last year. They weren't bad exactly- you could move the ball on them between the 20s- but teams couldn't throw it at all in the red zone, which allowed the Eagles to stack the box against the run in tight, thus stop teams and keep "points against" in the top half of the League. Remove the Colts road disaster, and the numbers look even better.

On defense, a lot of decisions are sort of made for them- as opposed to having others decide for them on offense. For example, after the 2005 debacle, the Eagles knew they had immediate problems at linebacker and defensive tackle- and drafted accordingly. It is now showtime for those first day draft picks Broderick Bunkley and Chris Gocong. They still have trouble with the established players at those two positions, those two guys interniships are over, and they are the fixes. On paper, they have appropriate pedigrees- and they are the solutions that’ll be presented.

The Eagles ask only steady, unremarkable play from their linebackers- and boy, do they get unremarkable play in bunches from this group: they get no lift from the linebacker play, no big plays, no sacks, no turnovers. Dhani Jones is gone, no one in Philadelphia can deal with him anymore, he is just oh so tiring.

Unfortuately, there are problems elsewhere on defense with higher priority- so I think they are going to be content to try and survive with Gocong, Trotter and Gaither. That is one mystery player, one declining player and one young player who probably will be okay- not exactly a promising situation. It is the one position on the field where they might shock us all- and draft their terrific need here- get someone they think can start. I suppose it almost has to improve with the departure of Dhani Jones, the worst starter on the team by far. I dunno- it is the most vexing position they have, the one with the least good options.

Sheppard, Brown and Dawkins are mortal locks to return, Lewis and Hood gone. Oddly, the departure of Hood hurts more. Hood was a great nickel back, provided “starter level” play when called on to play a lot, at a very friendly cap number. They’ll miss him, which means a first day draft pick is gonna be spent at corner- as they need a cheap guy who can play today here. I like William James/Joselio Hanson fighting for the dime spot- the perfect veteran depth versus improving young player conundrum.

I railed about young Considine all year- but my attitude toward the young man has softened a little. He isn’t the first rookie to struggle when asked to play a whole lot of safety in big spots in the NFL. And when you struggle at safety, you can look real bad. But he wasn’t all that terrible, I am more than a little confident he might be a whole lot better with a whole year under his belt. He’s cheap, young, durable- things you love in a every down roster spot. I think they’ll be more than okay here. There was some talk about drafting a safety to replace Dawkins in a year or two- but Quintin Mikell quited down that talk with a superior, big hitting last month or so of the season.

The defensive line also presents some intractable problems: overpaid vets underperforming their contracts (Kearse and Howard), inconsistent veterans who might not deserve rotation time (Rayburn and Walker), mixing "nicely" with younger unproven players. Mike Patterson is the only sure thing going upfront. Part of the hard part here is that all these veterans have played well for stretches, then disappeared. I’m sure they are going to go with mostly a mixture of young players (Cole, Thomas, Patterson, Bunkley) they groomed this year- and hope they blossom- a strategy with merit. Add the vets they are sort of stuck with (Howard, Walker and Kearse)- and hope they stay healthy.

Bottom line, there were a ton of fixes identified after 2005- safety, outside inebacker, defensive line- and every position on that list has a young player assigned to it that was groomed in 2006 (Considine, Gocong, Gaither, Bunkley, etc.) that frankly needs to continue to evolve and to play better. There are no more immediate reinforcements.

They suffered some playing these guys, found some who couldn’t play (Matt McCoy). So if the offensive story is what decisions other teams make concerning our free agents, then the defensive story is the disaster of 2005 identified positions of need, the Eagles have auditioned and seasoned players in these roles, now they need to be young core veterans to stop being rookies and contribute for sixteen weeks.

Labels: ,

Friday, February 09, 2007

A Step Slow?- Welcome to Tulane!

Some thoughts on a recruiting class- despite having never seen a single guy play a snap:

Overall, I mean, it is what you expect around here. There is some quality in quantity, and there is a serviceable quarterback prospect in Kemp (a must in any decent C-USA class)- which is probably why the class moved out of some services’ bottom quartile. Way, way too many guys who second choice was Southern Illinois or Southeastern Louisiana.

I like the hedge the T-P puts in Joe Kemp’s biography: “Picked Green Wave instead of Houston, Kansas and Miami, said Richland Coach Gene Wier.” Miami?! I sense that disclaimer is very, very, very sensible journalism.

Doesn’t Jordan Stephany feel like the curious recruit C-USA can produce? Obviously a tweener/hard to find his perfect position- bouncing from TE to full back to TB- that odd body type (6’ 2” 245). Probably a step slow to be a I-A TB (4.6 speed probably means 4.7 in real life), twelve catches is not good for an I-A receiver- but at the same time it seems like he can play. Those people at UConn are very good at finding “two-star” players who can play. My vote for prospect I’m most curious to see.

Andrew Higgins- any OT that got a sniff from USM is okay with me.

The only player I “know” anything about is Joey Ray- and that is second hand from a friend who covers college football in Texas for the AP. The kid apparently has project written all over him and can’t stay healthy- BUT he has that frame. You can’t teach 6’4”; you just can’t. He said he’ll never play outside, but had he been a good bit faster and healthy, he’d have been at a major BCS program. I think in C-USA, if you are a power guard, no one cares about your footspeed. You just dominate our League small fronts. Think about what even semi-decent interior linemen do to our defensive fronts? I’d love to give Rice and SMU some of that medicine for three years.

Darren DeRochemont can make’em from 50 yards already. Wow. I can’t wait to see that. I’ve often thought our continual kick-off coverage woes come from our poor kick-offs- particularly in the Dome. Apparently he can punt too. You can see why he apparently garnered interest from real programs.

I dunno- that is what leapt out at me. Here is the class- via the Times-Picayune:

QB Joe Kemp, Richland, North Richland Hills, Texas, 6-4, 220: Played in a district with eight teams that combined for 23 Division I signees in 2006. As a senior, he completed 144 of 231 passes (62.3 percent) for 1,666 yards and 15 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. Picked Green Wave instead of Houston, Kansas and Miami, said Richland Coach Gene Wier. Rushed for 318 yards on 100 carries at the Class 5A school. Has 4.7 speed. Academically qualified.

RB Andre Agers, Bishop Lynch, Dallas, 5-10, 185: Rushed for 2,382 yards as a senior on 296 carries, averaging 8.0 yards per carry and 24.7 carries per game. Scored 36 touchdowns for a Class 6A team that was 8-4. As a junior, he gained 1,646 yards on 283 carries and had 19 scores. Rushed 40 times in a game twice. Also returned punts and kickoffs. Visited Villanova and Missouri and cancelled visits to Southern Illinois and Western Michigan. Also considered Miami-Ohio. Has 4.48 speed and a 3.2 GPA.

RB J.T. McDonald, Flower Mound, Dallas, 5-9, 210: Gained 1,352 yards on 234 carries, averaging 5.8 yards per carry, with 17 touchdowns as a senior. Was the 14th rusher in Texas. Has been timed at 4.45 for 40 yards. Two-year starter. Unanimous All-District selection. Runs track, with a best of 10.8 seconds for 100 meters. Rushed for 1,089 yards as a junior. Considered Colorado State, Oklahoma State, Tulsa and VMI. Has a 3.5 GPA.

RB Jordan Stephany, Hahnville, 6-2, 245: Class 5A All-State selection at tight end as a junior. As a senior, he played fullback and tailback. Rushed for 921 yards on 144 carries and scored 11 touchdowns, an average of 6.3 yards per carry. Gained 349 yards on 39 carries and scored four touchdowns against Assumption, and he rushed for 198 yards on 31 carries against Destrehan. Caught 12 passes for 136 yards in 10 games. Also considered Southern Illinois and Connecticut. Has a 3.2 GPA and 4.6 speed.

FB Cody Blackwelder, Cedar Creek, Ruston, 6-2, 220: Played fullback and linebacker at the Class 1A school. Two-time All-District selection at linebacker. As a senior, he gained 880 yards rushing on 101 carries, averaging 8.7 yards per carry, with 11 touchdowns and four two-point conversions. On defense, he had 74 tackles, 10 tackles for losses and two sacks. Second-team All-State on coaches' team. Honor student with a 3.92 GPA.

FB Antoine Duplessis, Holy Cross, 6-2, 260: Was All-District as a defensive end as a junior and All-District at tight end as a senior. Had three receptions for 21 yards. Considered Southern Illinois and Southeastern Louisiana. Could be a fullback or tight end in college. Has 4.7 speed. Fully qualified.

WR Chandler Davis, Gulf Shores, Ala., 6-3, 175: Caught 19 passes for 339 yards and five touchdowns. Had 25 tackles and three interceptions for the Class 5A school. Initial offer was made by former coach Chris Scelfo, and it was re-affirmed by new Coach Bob Toledo. Tulane was the lone visit. Has 4.68 speed and carries a 3.9 GPA. Plans to major in pre-med.

WR Taylor Echols, Clear Creek, League City, Texas, 6-3, 180: Early summer commitment. Had 31 receptions for 410 yards and five touchdowns as a senior for the Class 5A school. Also runs track. Three-year starter. Has 4.47 speed and a 3.63 GPA.

TE Tyler Helm, Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy, 6-5, 230: Played at St. Paul's prior to attending the Virginia prep school for one year. Played just one year of varsity football at St. Paul's. Has 4.8 speed and has already enrolled at Tulane for the spring semester. At Fork Union, he played tight end, defensive end and offensive tackle. Had 12 receptions for 220 yards. Academically qualified.

OT Andrew Higgins, Duluth, Ga., 6-3, 275: Born in Metairie but moved to Duluth in the fifth grade. Also considered Alabama-Birmingham, Southern Miss, Stanford and Navy. Has 5.3 speed and a 3.7 GPA.

OT J.D. Jeanes, Royal, Brookshire, Texas, 6-7, 270: Two-year starter at the Class 3A school west of Houston. All-State third team. All-District twice and was a unanimous selection as a senior. Has 5.1 speed. Tulane was his lone visit. Has a 3.5 GPA.

G Andrew Nierman, Curtis, 6-0, 300: Could play guard or center. All-Metro and Class 2A All-State selection. Started and lettered for four years at Curtis, which is a rare feat. Visited Dartmouth and Louisiana-Monroe. Cancelled trips to Memphis, VMI and Southern Illinois. Has 5.0 speed. Honor student who is academically qualified.

G Joey Ray, St. Thomas, Houston, 6-4, 315: Two-time All-State and three-time All-District selection at the Class 6A school. Picked Tulane instead of Army and he also considered TCU, Northwestern, Stanford, Iowa and Oklahoma State. Missed half of his senior season with a foot injury. Has 5.0 speed. Academically qualified with a 3.5 GPA.

G Dhamiri Thomas, Galena Park, Texas, 6-2, 290: Three-year starter and unanimous All-District selection as a senior at the Class 4A school that was 8-3. Has exceptional leg strength. Has played basketball for four years. His father, Roy, is the head track coach. Picked Green Wave instead of Utah, Houston and Louisiana-Lafayette. Has 5.2 speed. Academically qualified.

DE Justin Adams, Thurgood Marshall, Missouri City, Texas, 5-11, 250: Was selected as the Touchdown Club Houston-area Player of the Year, which is the highest award in that area. He was All-State in Class 5A and district MVP. As a senior he had 106 tackles, 30 tackles for losses, 21 sacks and five forced fumbles. Very quick off the ball. Visited Murray State and Tulsa and considered Jackson State. Two-year starter with 4.5 speed. Has a 3.2 GPA.

DE Brooks Cunningham, Norcross, Ga., 6-2, 230: Had a school-record of 18 sacks as a senior, along with 22 tackles for losses and 99 tackles. Could be an end or outside linebacker. Picked Green Wave instead of Alabama-Birmingham, Southern Miss, Army and Navy. Norcross was the No. 1-rated team in Class 5A and finished 12-1. Norcross might have 10 signees, including three in Division I. Defense allowed 10 points per game. Two-year starter. All-county and all-region. Has 4.8 speed and a 3.7 GPA.

DE Josh Smith, Upson-Lee, Thomaston, Ga., 6-3, 245: Played end and outside linebacker. A three-year starter with 4.7 speed. Visited Vanderbilt, Memphis, Central Florida and Furman. Could be a linebacker, defensive end, fullback, tight end or offensive lineman. Very strong. As a senior, he had 56 tackles, four tackles for losses and two sacks, in addition to three receptions for 36 yards and one touchdown. An A-student who is fully qualified.

DE Cedric Wilson, Clements, Sugar Land, Texas, 6-2, 245: Played defensive end, defensive tackle and tight end. Was All-District selection at tackle and tight end. As a senior, he had 41 tackles, 29 assists and seven sacks; he caught 17 passes for 252 yards and three touchdowns for a Class 5A team that was 8-3. Picked Tulane instead of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin. Has 4.6 speed and a 4.0 GPA.

LB Lamont Simmons, O.P. Walker, 6-2, 210: Lone visit was to Tulane. Has 4.6 speed. Had 71 tackles, eight tackles for losses and five sacks for the Class 4A Chargers. Fully qualified with a 25 on his ACT.

CB Phillip Davis, Peachtree, Suwanee, Ga., 5-9, 160: Was an early commitment to Navy. Also considered Furman. Played for a team that won a share of the Class 5A state championship, finishing the season with a 14-14 tie against Roswell. Team was 11-3-1. Had 39 tackles and seven interceptions as a senior. Averaged 10 yards per punt return; caught nine passes for 87 yard and one score. Intercepted four passes as a junior. A four-year starter. Had 4.43 speed. Academically qualified.

DB Devin Holland, Istrouma, 6-0, 195: A three-year starter who had 95 tackles, 18 tackles for losses and two interceptions, returning one for a score, as a senior. Was Class 4A All-State and All-Metro in Baton Rouge. Has exceptional 4.4 speed. Also played linebacker. Visited McNeese State and also considered Louisiana Tech. Has a 3.0 GPA.

PK Darren DeRochemont, Armwood, Seffner, Fla., 5-10, 185: Hit on all 48 extra-point attempts as a senior. Longest field goal was 49 yards as a junior and 43 yards as a senior. Also punted for a 44-yard average at the Class 4A school that was 11-2 in 2006 and won state titles in 2003 and 2004. Does not use a tee to place-kick. Picked Green Wave instead of Mississippi State and Central Florida. Also considered LSU. Has a 3.1 GPA.

Ath. Dominique Dade, Neville, Monroe, 5-9, 175: Played quarterback for two years and started at cornerback as a sophomore. Completed 69 of 128 passes for 1,187 yards and 14 touchdowns with four interceptions as a senior; rushed for 625 yards and five touchdowns on 75 carries. Has 4.42 speed. Could be a cornerback or kick returner. Team was 10-3 this past season. Had committed to Southeastern Louisiana. Also considered McNeese State. Has a 3.1 GPA and is fully qualified.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007


The 76ers have looked only semi-somnolent lately (the Flyers are in a coma)- winning six of ten, despite only being favored in a pair. It is evidence that they have not packed it in. Sure, Philadelphia is still a long way from good, but they might be closer to .500 than we think- particularly with three first round draft picks on tap, which ought to address their crippling lack of depth if nothing else. In fact, with a healthy club, playing a lot of home games here on out, that seems engaged, I bet they play within a couple games of .500 from January 19 forward.

Here on “Frank Helps You Think It Out” is one scribe who loves Andre Miller. It is amazing how far a competent NBA point guard goes toward making the coach a genius. A month ago Mo Cheeks had a team that couldn’t run a set play, control tempo, get a decent possession under time pressure or develop young players. Now they are probably a plus at all four things. In a month.

I can’t say how much it matters that Andre Miller decided to come in here with a good attitude. Boy, did that trade Miller for more future pieces talk come to an abrupt halt on what? This is the NBA- where competent players in ball distribution roles with team first attitudes are darned hard to find.

It is amazing how Igoudala and Dalembert have progressed offensively now that someone gives them ball consistently where they can do something with it- that caters to their game, gives them shots- rather than having to hustle for odd looks at inconsistent times. It seems to have paid off on Dalembert’s defense as well. Frankly, he looks more confident, more engaged- almost hopeful.

The fact that Kyle Korver lags his companions is continuing proof that he is just not a good NBA player. I don’t care how many articles the Sixers ply about his improving defense- he can’t defend a legit scorer at all, he is not out there to defend so who cares if he improves marginally, the Sixers can’t hide him from scorers on the wings fast enough and bottom line: he is here to make jump shots. He hasn’t been doing that lately, and he’s not improving. One of those three picks this summer better be a shooter- because the Sixers don’t have an NBA one.

Labels: ,

Friday, February 02, 2007

Sir Barton- Triple Crown Winner

I was never really seized by the Barbaro phenomenon. The casual race fan was swept away by the drama of victory and disaster. Maybe we veterans of the Philadelphia Park front stretch, weaned on puzzling out $8000 claimers non-winners of two lifetime, know that horses break down- and that sort of tragedy is part and parcel of the turf.

Let’s dispense with the easy stuff. Barbaro was a fine thoroughbred- worthy winner of America’s greatest turf prize: the Kentucky Derby. He entered and exited the 2006 Derby undefeated- and romped home with charisma and style. His accident at the Preakness deprived the sport of a good horse and better story.

But Barbaro's next best win was the Florida Derby (good win), after that the Laurel (now we’re rapidly moving into Saturday afternoon feature class wins).

It is okay. He is not the first athlete to move ahead more on charisma and drama- maybe just a little weirder in a horse. But I can do without this sort of thing- renaming the Sir Barton Stakes after Barbaro. Barbaro might have turned out to be a better horse- but as their resumes read right now, Barbaro ain’t in Sir Barton’s league. After all, Sir Barton heads the list of one of America's great rosters: Triple Crown Winners. And Sir Barton was in the Army too.

Take a moment to read about Sir Barton here.