Monday Morning Quarterback: with @YeahFlanny

NCAA Football: Florida State at Pittsburgh

Much like what my colleague Joshua does with the NFL on Tuesday’s, I will be bringing you a complete overview of the news and notes in college football from the previous weekend. This piece will run every Monday from now until a National Champion is crowned in January. For those of you that know me, and/or follow me on twitter, it’s no secret that I prefer college football to the NFL. While the product on NFL field’s is superior to that of college football, the campus environment, the pageantry, (the co-eds), the passion, I just can’t get enough. Whether it’s Wednesday night MAC-tion or Saturday night in prime-time, if there’s college football on a television, you can bet that’s where my unwavering attention will be. Without further ado, let’s recap week 4 of the college football season.

– Jameis Winston IS the real deal. As you may or may not know, both Professor Corria and I are die hard FSU fans, so I figured I’d address the elephant in the room. Winston could honestly put up better numbers as a redshirt freshman than Johnny Hancock did at A&M last year. Watch out for the Noles!

– Alabama isn’t quite “Alabama”. This Crimson Tide team is not the team we’ve become accustomed to over the last few years. They struggled for nearly a half against a lowly Colorado State team. It’s early, and this team will only get better, but they’re a far cry from last year’s powerhouse.

– Oregon has not missed a beat without Chip Kelly. The Ducks have come out flying so far this season, scoring points at a record pace. QB Marcus Mariotta has to be the early Heisman favorite, but I do believe the loss of Kelly will come into play later on in the season.

– How good is Stanford? After a great first half against a solid Arizona State team, they got a little lackadaisical and nearly let ASU pull the upset. While Stanford will surely compete for a PAC-12 title, I don’t know if I’m ready to include them in the (wide open) national championship race.

– Do the Buckeyes have a QB controversy? In one word, no. Kenny Guiton has stepped in a played beautifully for the banged up Braxton Miller (expected back next week) throwing a school record 6 TD passes last Saturday against FAMU, but Miller is the QB in Columbus, and the only one who can get them to Pasadena.

– Panic time in Gainesville? In one word, absolutely! Starting QB Jeff Driskel went down broken fibulla against Tennessee, and is out for the season. While he’s grossly underachieved, he gave them the best opportunity to win this season. Backup QB Tyler Murphy was mediocre stepping in for Driskel and eked out a win against a horrid Vols team. Florida went from an SEC title contender, to a potential 4 loss team.

– Miami hung 70 on the scoreboard against the little sister’s of the poor, excuse me, I mean Savannah State, a school record for the Canes. Don’t get to far ahead of yourselves Miami fans, they aren’t THAT good. Miami has yet to face a good offense that can feast of the lack of size they have on the defensive side, and QB Stephan Morris hasn’t proved he can be consistent enough to make the Canes a threat in the ACC. Don’t let the #15 ranking fool you.

– Teddy Bridgewater continued his hot start with a dominating win at home against FIU. It was so bad that both teams agreed to a running clock in the 4th quarter. While Louisville’s schedule is set up for them to run the table, the Cards virtually have no shot at the National Championship as their schedule just won’t cut it. Even if they go undefeated, they’d likely be jumped by a 1 loss team from any of the major conferences.

– Boy is the PAC 12 going to be fun to watch this season. Typically we get one or two teams from the PAC 12 with a legit shot to win it all. Lately it’s been Oregon and USC before that. This year we have Stanford, and Oregon at the top, with teams like UCLA, Arizona State, Washington, and Cal all looking to make some noise this season. Plus, we get Gus Johnson on the call, I’m all in on the PAC 12!

– Saturday night, Utah traveled to Provo to play BYU, in what was the 100th game between the two universities. Utah snuck away with the win, in one of Saturday’s best games. Unfortunately, these two rivals won’t face off again until 2016. It was fitting that the game would come down to the last play. Hats off to both programs.

There you have it folks, week four in college football. We have some great games on the slate next weekend including Oklahoma at Notre Dame, LSU at Georgia, Cal at Oregon, Ole Miss at Bama, and Wisconsin at Ohio State. Be sure to stay tuned to The Triangle Offense as we ramp up the football coverage, and be sure to follow myself on Twitter (@YeahFlanny)

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Should Clowney Shut It Down?

About a week ago the internet began to buzz, over whether or not South Carolina Sophomore defensive end Jadeveon Clowney should sit out his junior season in Columbia, in order to not risk a major injury that could derail his certain NFL future. Everyone who is anyone took a stance on this issue, (or rather a side) and voiced their opinion on why he should indeed sit out next fall, or strap on the pads and hit the field. Valid points can be made for each side of the argument, and in this case no one is definitively wrong.

At 6’6″ 260lbs, Clowney is an absolute genetic freak, and arguably the best college football player in the nation. Clowney was the consensus #1 overall player in the country for the class of 2011, and arrived at South Carolina with a reputation that rivaled LeBron James’ coming out of high school. As a true freshman, playing in all 13 games in the nations best conference, the SEC, Clowney recorded 36 tackles, 12 of which were for a loss, and 8 sacks, which was 8th best in the conference. He also forced 5 fumbles, which was 8th best in the entire country. These numbers helped Clowney secure numerous accolades including, SEC Freshman of the Year, All-SEC second team, and a consensus Freshman All-American nod.

Clowney followed up his stellar freshman season with an even better, and more consistent sophomore campaign. In 11 appearances for the Gamecocks Clowney recorded 50 total tackles, 21 tackles for loss, and 13 sacks, which was tied for 3rd in the nation. Clowney recorded 4.5 sacks en route to a win against arch rival Clemson in the regular season finale. In the Outback Bowl against Michigan, Clowney recorded 5 tackles, 1 for loss. I have a good feeling you all may remember that one for loss, as it was just crowned ESPN’s “best of the best” champion for 21st straight time. With eight minutes left in the 4th quarter, after a turnover swung the momentum in Wolverines favor, Clowney ripped through the Michigan o-line and met running back Vincent Smith in the backfield, dislodging both the football and Smith’s helmet. He then plucked up the football with one hand as if it was his young. This tremendous play swung all the momentum back to South Carolina, who went on to win, 33-28. Clowney again racked up the off-season honors as he was named a consensus first team All-American, the Hendricks award recipient as the nations best defensive end, and was a finalist for the Heisman trophy.

With his remarkable sophomore season, Clowney shot to the top of the 2014 draft boards. It is well documented that football players must be 3 years out of high school before they can declare for the NFL Draft. The rule is this way because it’s hard to believe that any 17 or 18 year old could go from senior prom to battling in the trenches against the biggest, strongest, fastest athletes in the world, and in fact need multiple years in a college program to be ready. If there was ever an exception to this rule, Jadeveon Clowney would be it. There is no doubt in my mind, and in the mind of many that if he was eligible this year, Clowney would be the #1 overall pick. Clowney has already dominated the nations best offensive lineman in the SEC, yet he is years away from reaching his ceiling as a football player. He is still extremely raw, and relies solely on his size and speed to beat opponents. Once he develops an array of moves and understands the game better, he is sure to continue his domination against NFL offensive lineman. This begs the question, should that on field development take place on a college campus in 2013, or on an NFL field in 2014?

Last season, Jadeveon Clowney seen his teammate Marcus Lattimore go down with a dislocation, and several torn ligaments in his right knee. Now, I seen this happen live, and it was easily the most gruesome thing I have ever saw on a football field. Upon watching the reply (why? I still don’t know), I was overcome by sickness and literally felt tingling in my right knee. Lattimore laid on the field in excruciating pain and in utter shock, as this was his second torn ACL in as many years. Lattimore, who before the injury(s) was considered a sure fire early round NFL draft pick is now rehabbing, in hopes of making his NFL dreams come true. Needless to say, what he’s endured will make his journey a whole lot harder, if not impossible to complete.

 

Unfortunately, this past Tuesday I witnessed a sight that I had hoped to never see again. It was that same excruciating pain, and utter shock that I seen on the face of Marcus Lattimore, only this time it was Kentucky’s super freshman  center, Nerlens Noel. The projected #1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft suffered a torn ACL, and will be sidelined for the next 8 to 10 months. Barring any setbacks with his rehab, Noel will still be a lottery pick, likely in the top 5, but along with losing millions of dollars, there is no certainty that Noel will ever turn out to be an NBA star, which seemed like just a formality only four short days ago. I hope the absolute best for Noel, as I do for Lattimore, or any athlete that suffers such a devastating injury, but unfortunately the odds aren’t in their favor. 79% of NFL players who suffer ACL injuries, (the most common career threatening injury), never return to the league. Meaning that for every Adrian Peterson or Tom Brady, their are four professional athletes that will never return to the game they love, drastically affecting their livelihoods.

Now, I have always considered myself a “college guy” when it comes to sports. The pageantry, the atmosphere, the competition, it’s just so compelling and genuine, and easily my preference. For that reason, I want nothing more than to see the nations premiere football player, Jadeveon Clowney suit up on Saturdays and put on a show. After all, that is why he is at the University of South Carolina, isn’t it? While Clowney is receiving a great education on someone else’s dime, I highly doubt he chose South Carolina for the size of their library, or for the amount of Rhode Scholars they’ve produced, but instead for an array of reasons pertaining to his future in professional football. Clowney chose to play college football and he knew full and well that he would be a college kid for at least three years; he literally signed up for it. He made a commitment to the university, his coaches, and his teammates to give them his absolute all for at least three years, and playing this upcoming season would surely be the “right” thing to do, as he would be following through on all the commitments he made back when he signed that national letter of intent in February 2011.

So what should Clowney do? It seems to be the million dollar question at the moment. As I’ve already stated, I’m able to look at this from two different ends of the spectrum. What would I do if I was Jadeveon Clowney? Shut it down! Why go out there and put my future on the line, take the risk ending my career and crushing my hopes and dreams over a degree, that quite frankly I’ll probably never complete. The universities make million upon millions from these kid’s athletic prowess, and outside of an education (which I understand is great) these kids see nothing. Zero, zlich, nada. If I was Mr. Clowney or someone in his circle my advice would be to shut it down, and turn my attention to the next level, the place where my hard work could literally pay off, the NFL.

Now, contrary to every point that I just made, I do not see Clowney sitting out his junior season. Not only would it be unprecedented for him to do so, but Clowney nor his family has stated that this is even an option, and have in fact gone on record saying that he will be playing for the Gamecocks this upcoming season. Clowney understands the commitment he made and isn’t letting the injuries of Lattimore or Noel affect his decision making. As a fan of college football, I love this decision and I look forward to see Clowney wreak havoc on the field this fall. He will be a legitimate contender to become the first predominately defensive player to win a Heisman since Michigan’s Charles Woodson, on his way towards being the likely #1 overall pick in 2014.

As I stated above, it is unprecedented for a collegiate athlete to stay away from the field for a period of time, in order to lower the chances of suffering a career threatening injury. Sooner or later though it will happen, likely forcing the hand of the NCAA and the NFL. I love the college game and everything it incorporates, but unfortunately these days it’s looked upon by many as nothing more than a necessary stepping stone to the professional ranks. It’s the name of the game; everyone and every entity involved need to adjust accordingly. So, should Jadeveon Clowney sit out this upcoming season? Absolutely. Will he? Absolutely not. Either way, I can’t lose; only Jadeveon can.

My Day at the “HoopHall” By @YeahFlanny

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In recent years we have seen the rise of high school athletics to the forefront of mainstream sports coverage. High school athletes are becoming folk heroes amongst fan bases, mainly because of the exposure of networks like ESPN and the accessibility through social media outlets such as  Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. This has since shined the light on many tournaments and invitational’s that showcase the best talent across the nation, including Springfield’s (MA) HoopHall Classic.

2013 marked the 12th annual Spalding’s HoopHall Classic, held at Springfield College (MA) the self proclaimed “birthplace of  basketball”. The event is held over 5 days, culminating on MLK day with the nations elite talent displaying their skills on the ESPN family of networks. I last attended this event in 2010, when I saw Kyrie Irving put on a show in the second half, before falling just short of upsetting the nations #1 team, Findlay Prep led by current NBA players Tristan Thompson and Corey Joseph.

I was only able to take in Monday’s games in Springfield, and by days end I was sure I picked the right slate of games to attend. The first game I saw showcased the #3 ranked team in the country Lone Peak (UT) taking on Archbishop Mitty (CA) led by the nations #6 overall player PF Aaron Gordon. The game was nothing short of a blowout, win Lone Peak coasting to a 35 point victory. Led by BYU signee Nick Emery, Lone Peak was simply to much for Mitty to contend with, even after a tremendous performance from Gordon.

Gordon stole the show, drawing the biggest reaction from the crowd after terrorizing the rim on many occasions. Gordon, who finished with 27 and 12 impressed me more with what he did away from the rim. The young man, even at power forward is a true extension of his coach on the floor. He talks on every possession, often telling his teammates where to be and what to do. He has very nice handle for a big man, great court vision, and hustles on each and every play. Gordon will excel around elite talent like himself, and I believe Kentucky or Arizona will be getting a star at the next level.

Next up was the Simeon Wolverines and the Oak Hill Warriors. Simeon was led by Duke verbal and the nations #2 player SF Jabari Parker, while Oak Hill was missing their PG and future Tar Heel Nate Britt. Both teams were evenly matched, featuring numerous D1 verbals and signees’ and the game was close throughout with Simeon pulling out a close victory. Oak Hill was led by South Carolina signee Sindarius Thornwell who picked up the slack for the missing Britt, but the game was dominated by Parker.

The future Blue Devil poured in 28 points and grabbed 5 rebounds, scoring his team’s first 11 points, with those 11 coming three different ways (dunk, 3 pointer, jump shot). Parker, who played all 32 minutes looks to be back healthy after a foot injury that hampered him early in the season, but I don’t believe he’s 100% yet, and that’s scary. Parker had his way against Oak Hill and displayed his many skills such as, passing nicely out of the double team, asserting himself on the defensive end, his smooth jump shot and his overall basketball IQ, which is unmatched by any other high school baller. Parker isn’t quite as explosive as the nations #1 player SF Andrew Wiggins (WV) but I believe he is the better basketball player at this point, and possesses an array of moves on the court, that will have him fit in nicely next year in Durham.

And now for the main event, #1 vs #2, Montverde (FL) vs Findlay Prep (NV). This was the highlight of the weekend and the game that showcased the most high major talent at the classic. Montverde features Florida signee and the nations #8 and #12 overall prospects PG Kasey Hill, and Kentucky verbal PF Dakari Johnson, respectively. The Pilots of Findlay Prep feature future Washington Huskies, PG Nigel Williams-Goss and future UCLA Bruin SG Allerik Freeman.

After a slow start, a very slow start, Montverde took control of the game as Hill facilitated and Johnson controlled the boards. Freeman was in some foul trouble and seemed out of sync, and Williams-Goss simply didn’t seem to be asserting himself enough. Freeman never bounced back from the foul trouble and Hill found the foul trouble, eventually fouling out of the game in the 4th. It was at that point where Williams-Goss put the team on his back and took over. Johnson was somewhat neutralized in the post and Williams-Goss was penetrating at will and finding his was to the line. He got Findlay back in the game, and the ball was in his hands with ten seconds left and a tie ball game.

As the crowd rose to our feet, Williams-Goss pulled up for a three with 2.5 seconds remaining. The crowd went silent, and as the ball went through the hoop, the crowd went nuts. Findlay had once again upset the top ranked Eagles of Montverde. Johnson was the top performer for the Eagles, using his 6’11” frame to control the boards and create second chance points for Montverde, but Williams-Goss dominated this one, delivering on the biggest stage. He finished with 26 points, 18 of them coming in the 4th quarter. He was able to get to the rim at will, either finishing himself or dropping it off to a teammate for an easy lay up, ultimately showing off his range with the game winner. While Williams-Goss isn’t as highly regarded as some of the other recruits who participated in the HoopHall Classic he is a gamer, who was blessed with the clutch gene, and he’ll surely turn some heads while at Washington.

The HoopHall Classic is just one of the many high school invitational tournaments that gives these young men a stage to showcase their skills and get a taste of the attention that they will garner at the next level. It’s somewhat of an audition for the college game. They face off against other elite talent nationwide and are under the microscope of large crowds and the national media. This is beneficial for these young men and makes the transition to college, smoother and easier for many of them.