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RECRUITING IS A SCIENCE By David McNabb Print E-mail
by Scott Bennett    Tue, Jan 31, 2006, 12:19 PM

As you hear some say, “you can’t tell about a recruiting class until five years,” just think of them as outdated or too lazy to get updated. The first Wednesday in February is the first day for high school athletes to sign a national letter of intent with a college.

The day itself is anticlimactic because only a handful wait until then to commit.

The quality of each class has been known for awhile. There are a few kids that could give some “oomph” though.

Texas coach Mack Brown was criticized for being Coach February for his highly rated signing days but no national titles. Well, Brown now has a championship and it’s easy to see why his classes have been rated so high. No one was surprised that Vince Young turned into a star.

Is it a coincidence that Oklahoma used to get highly rated classes but didn’t win under John Blake? Bob Stoops won a national title in his second year. I’d say, the Sooners’ previous recruiting classes were rated correctly but the coaching staffs might have been the problem.

At USC, the Trojans got highly rated classes every year. :Pete Carroll started winning national titles with the players Paul Hackett recruited. Notre Dame always gets high recruiting ratings but wasn’t getting performance. Now Charlie Weis is a genius using Bob Davie’s and Tyrone Willingham’s players.

The difference in recruiting evaluation over the last 10 years is more coaches and “recruiting analysts” have learned to project. Texas killed itself in the 1980s and early 1990s by signing the state’s best high school stars _ not the best prospects.

There are intangibles to considerable but there are consistent guidelines to follow as well.

Not every junior who was player of the year in his district is a great prospect. There are size, speed, growth potential and skill to consider.

If you look at players who don’t develop, it’s usually not because they didn’t have talent. Players don’t develop typically because of three factors:

  1. Grades
  2. Work ethic/attitude/off-field decisions
  3. Injuries

But if Texas coaches have done a good job evaluating character and academics, they have another highly talented class. It’s really not much of a reach to say Woodrow Wilson RB/LB Sergio Kindle is going to be a star. He’s 6-3, 220 pounds and runs a 10.5 in the 100. The difference in the past is that some may have criticized his teams for not doing anything in the playoffs and Woodrow didn’t play at a high level of competition. That knd of “evaluating “ is how Texas ended up with record setting high school star Anthony Byerly with its running back of the future in the 1980s.

Class of 2007

No. 1 player

The best player in the state _ and possibly the country _ for next year’s signing class will be Texarkana Texas High QB Ryan Mallett. He’s 6-5, 220 pounds, a Ben Roethlisberger with a little more mobility. Texas High hasn’t won a state title yet, but if you follow things, you know Highland Park’s Class 4A state title hinged on its 38-31 victory over Texas High in the first round.

Mallett may be leaning to sign with Michigan but it’s early. There will be lots of pressure from Texas, Arkansas and Texas A&M. He’s been on the radar since 8th grade. He threw the ball 80 yards as a sophomore and he’ll be an NFL quality punter if the QB gig is stopped by injury.

Remember Phil Pozderac?

The No. 1 recruit for the Dallas area could well be Nic Pozderac (6-7, 275) at Carrollton Newman Smith. He’s the son of former Cowboys lineman Phil Pozderac (6-9, 280, 1982-87). How strong are dad’s Notre Dame ties for Nic.

There’s a unbelievable cycle of gigantic lineman that lead the recruiting for next year.

An early look at the Dallas-area Top 10 juniors

1. Nic Pozderac, Carr. Newman Smith OL 6-7, 270

2. Kyle Hix, Aledo OL 6-6, 300

3. Richetti Jones, Lincoln LB 6-3, 215

4. Spencer Rogers, Hebron OL 6-3, 315

5. Justin Johnson, Richardson Berkner QB/ATH 6-1, 215

6. Kenny Greaves, Coppell QB 6-3, 190

7. Keenan Robinson, Plano East LB 6-3, 210

8. Tracy Allen, South Grand Prairie OL 6-4, 295

9. Stephen Thomas, North Mesquite DL 6-2, 275

10. G.J. Kinne, Canton QB 6-3, 205

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'OUR CENTER SUCKS' -- AN NBA MANTRA by Mike Fisher Print E-mail
by Mike Fisher    Tue, Jan 31, 2006, 09:50 AM

Will This Real NBA Center Please Stand Up?
According to the newspapers, this certain NBA center is "maddening. ... dumb as a bag of hair." And "the fans and the media have wanted more from him and the years have gone by. At this point in his career, it should be clear by now. (He) is what he is.'' Which is "another 7-footer with an attitude problem.'' Who makes you "sick to your stomach.'' Because "people wonder if he even likes basketball.'' He's "soft as pudding.'' And he's the basketball version of the human "appendix. It serves no purpose and you can live without it.'' Oh, and did I mention our Mystery Center is "dumb as a bag of hair''?
Have you guessed the identity of our Mystery Center? Have you picked the winning contestant on "What's My Line?''

The ''winning center'' here is. ... almost EVERY center.
The "dumb-as-a-bag-of-hair'' center is Utah's Greg Ostertag, according to the Deseret News, and that was before he was suspended last week from the team for the fifth time in five years. The "he-is-what-he-is'' center is Rasho Nesterovic, according to the San Antonio Express-News, and that was a perspective from March 2005 that has not changed. The "makes-you-sick-to-your-stomach'' center is Celtic-turned-T'Wolv Mark Blount, according to Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe, who is obviously glad to see him go in exchange for Michael Olowakandi. The "doesn't-even-like-basketball'' center is T'Wolv-turned-Celtic Olowakandi, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, which is obviously glad to see him go in exchange for Mark Blount. The "soft-as-pudding'' center is the Lakers' Chris Mihm, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Steven A. Smith.
The "appendix'' comparison, finally, is about Dallas' Erick Dampier, and comes from Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News.
All, really, the same analysis. All from six different mainstream sources. All about six ostensibly different people.
A lot of paragraphs written by a lot of scribes about a list of NBA centers that truly could go on and on and on, when really, one three-word sentence would suffice for a couple of dozen NBA teams:
"Our center sucks.''
Or maybe better, "The Center For (your team name here) Sucks.''

This is not meant as a defense of some 7-footer who lollygags through a career pocketing millions of dollars, stepping up to improve only when his accountant instructs him that it's time to pocket some more millions. I will say, though, that the fans and the media (and even coaches and teammates) find it easier to pinpoint a doggin'-it center than they do a doggin'-it shooting guard. Sometimes, a 6-4 guy really looks like he's hustling when in fact, his natural grace and athleticism allows him to move up and down the floor in cruise control. How many 7-footers possess "grace and athleticism''? And because they do not -- because their feet are slower and their skills are duller and their hands are frying-pan'ier -- how much easier is it to notice the shortcomings from Row ZZ when the offending player is gigantic?
You, me, Joe Sixpack, can easily identify him. Joe Sixpack cannot possibly identify WITH him.
I would offer, too, that the "doesn't-even-like-basketball'' accusation is one that could be somewhat accurately directed at any number of athletes (or folks in other jobs) who were born with something that pre-determined their occupational future. There are mathematical geniuses who wish they were rock stars, but their brains work in such a way that they were steered toward algebra. There are classical pianists who dream of being astronauts, but were too prodigal as kids to ever leave the keys. And there are undoubtedly 7-footers - lots of them -- who are playing the sport because it was the most socially acceptable direction for them to take as kids and because it is the most financial sensible job for them to hold now.
There is a book coming out that details how the Chinese government mapped out Yao Ming's basketball future, whether he liked it or not. In a sense, don't we Americans, once we've discovered a child prodigy, do much the same thing?
If you are predestined to be 5-11, you are not predestined to be an NBA player. So if you want The Life, you spend 30 years diving on floors until they kick you out of the gym. And if you are Dampier, Ostertag, Olowakandi, Nesterovic, Blount, Mihm and all the rest, you were going to make the high-school team no matter how many floor burns you accumulated. And as you can see by the dollars and opportunities handed big men, 7-footers are going to make NBA teams without floor burns, too.
Floor burns? If you are 7-feet tall, that floor is a looooong way down there.
Still, I say not only is a team correct to take chances on centers, correct to risk overpaying them, but that also a team should do that with a handful of 'em. To me, one of the keys of the recent excellence of the Spurs, Pistons and Heat is that they employ an army of 6-11 and 7-foot guys. Some were "pre-destined'' stars like Shaq and Duncan. Others were "lightning-in-a-bottle'' guys who became stars, like Ben Wallace. You think Alonzo Mourning's return to Miami didn't represent risk? You think it's only by happenstance that San Antonio's roster includes center/forwards Duncan and Rasho and Nazr and Robert Horry and Sean Marks? That Detroit hasn't given up on Darko? That it took this long for Miami to finally bump Wang Zhi Zhi off its roster? And that when Miami finally gave up on him, the Heat gave fresh new uniforms to 7-footers Michael Doleac and Earl Barron?
Some of those guys have, at some time, been an "appendix,'' too. But in basketball, you NEED your appendix. You need two or three or four appendixes -- as long as the appendix is 84 inches long. The Mavs don't keep DJ Mbenga and Pavel Podkolzin around for their good looks, you know.
Fans who lack this basic understanding scream for a trade of their team's big man. Trade our center? OK, as long as we get theirs. It's not an accident that when Minnesota decided to give up on Olowakandi, they made sure to get somebody else's give-up, Blount, in return.
The NBA keeps Musical Chairing these guys, hoping one of their butts can actually fill more than just a seat way down at that end of the bench. So Lorenzen Wright starts in Memphis and gives them 5.6/5.6. And Nenad Krstic starts in New Jersey and scores some but gives them only 5.6 rebounds, too. New York's Eddy Curry starts, scores 15 ppg, but gets only 6.7 boards. Kurt Thomas is considered a semi-success in Phoenix at 8.9/8.1. Chicago's Tyson Chandler starts and gives them 4.8/7.4. Adonal Foyle, the man Golden State kept instead of Dampier, is a 4.2/6.3 guy. Utah hovers around .500 in the tough West with the Ostertag/Collins tandem in the middle. The All-Star Game's leading vote-getter at the position is Houston's 7-6 Yao Ming, who can't manage to get double-figures in rebounds.
Are we sure we want to tar-and-feather Erick Dampier out of Dallas, just because his 5.7 points and his 7.8 rebounds make him an awful lot like everybody else?
When long-time Jazz fixture Ostertag departed Utah a year ago, the Deseret News wrote a scathing goodbye. "The (team) brain trust, famous for looking at a player's temperament as well as his talent, forgot the "basketball" part with Ostertag. The team got the personable attitude, without the game face. Time and again the coaches tried to light a fire under the big center. And he'd often ignite just long enough to make his lazy periods all the more maddening. ... He should have worked harder, played harder, tried harder.''
Good riddance, right?
Except now, Ostertag is back with the Jazz. And is a part-time starter. And is making $4.4 mil. And is averaging 3 points and 4 rebounds per game. And is getting suspended. And is being "as dumb as a bag of hair.''
But just like every other "lousy'' center in the NBA, it's acceptable to be "as dumb as a bag of hair'' -- as long as said hair is perched atop 7-feet of human.

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Super Bowl XL Means Extra Large Complaints Print E-mail
by Norm Hitzges    Mon, Jan 30, 2006, 11:09 AM

Today’s posting comes to you from Friedo. Friedo is already in Detroit for Super Bowl XL. He arrived Saturday. I will land in Detroit sometime around 10pm tonight. I will withhold judgment on this year’s host city until I have been there for a day or two. So here are some thoughts from Friedo.

It is finally here. Super Bowl week is a huge week for the NFL. A week full of hype. A week full of staged press conferences. A week of staged celebrity sightings. This is a week where just about everything is staged.

It’s also a week in which you will read and hear all sorts of media types complain about the host city. It has become a tradition to rip the host city. It doesn’t matter where they play the game, the host city will be torn to shreds.

This year the main complaint will be about the weather in Detroit. The jokes will be about the downsizing of the auto plants, the boarded up buildings and the general filth of the city.

Last year Jacksonville took the beating…Houston took it two years ago…And, the media even found reasons to complain about San Diego in 2003.

I have never understood this. First of all, every city has flaws. Secondly, the Super Bowl is a HUGE event with a lot of moving parts. The fact that any city can pull it off without disaster is pretty impressive.

But more importantly, there is absolutely no reason for anyone fortunate enough to take a trip to the Super Bowl to complain. It doesn’t matter who the host city is, the week of the Super Bowl is quite an experience.

Look at the people complaining. Look at all the perks they get this week. All the parties that they can attend, all the free food, all the free gear, all the access to celebrities and most of all, access to the game. They have absolutely nothing to complain about.

So, why do they complain? Well, I can’t really speak for sportswriters or TV guys but I’d be happy to share my thoughts on the radio side.

I think that some them have the twisted logic that forces them to think that their audience actually enjoys listening to the complaints. But, this logic has never made sense to me and I don’t think it ever will. As a radio producer or talk show host, you are talking to people that would give their left arm to attend the Super Bowl and the events that surround the game. Do you really think that they want to hear you complain about it? That’s just crazy. I just can’t buy that logic.

Even worse than that, though , are the media types that are seriously complaining. And, believe me these people do exist. It takes a very bitter personality to be upset that he has to go to the Super Bowl.

Another reason that the media complains about the Super Bowl is deception. Look at it this way as a media type covering the Super Bowl:

1) you getting a free trip to the largest sporting event in the nation,

2) most of the time the game is held in a great vacation spot (ie…Arizona, Miami)

3) you get access to some of the top celebrities

4) you get invitations to all the great parties

5) you get to go to the game

6) YOU GET PAID FOR ALL OF THIS

Do you really want your boss (or your wife) to think you are having this much fun? If they knew how great it was, eventually they’d stop paying you to do this.

And then there is the reason I complain. GUILT. That’s right, pure guilt plain and simple. I am very lucky to get to experience Super Bowl week every year. It’s something that I wish all sports fans could get to do at least once in their lives. There is nothing else like it. But, the last thing I want people to think is that I am actually enjoying this.

So get ready for a week full of media complaints…Get ready for the reports of how cold it is in Detroit…Or what a hassle transportation is…Or how the parking situation is awful…But, as you are reading the column, listening the talk show host or watching the TV reporter whine and moan about having to cover the Super Bowl, understand that after he’s through filing his list of grievances, he is probably headed to the next party.
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'WHOOOP!' OR 'WHOOOPS''? by Mike Fisher Print E-mail
by Mike Fisher    Sun, Jan 29, 2006, 06:39 PM

WHOOOOOOOP!!

There are some special and unique things about football at Texas A&M. There are "Yell Leaders'' and "post-score makeout sessions'' and "WHOOOOOP!' and "The 12th Man.'' ...

Or is "The 12th Man'' all that unique anymore?

Aggie Nation is making a fuss over the fact that the Seattle Seahawks, preparing for this Sunday's Super Bowl XL, have their own "12th Man'' campaign. The Aggies have legal trademarks on the phrase and have been 12th-Manning it since 1922. That's when the injury-depleted Aggies needed to pull a fan out of the stands to suit up for a game, and "WHOOOOOP!,'' a grand tradition of bonding between player and fan was born.

Steve Moore, A&M's chief marketing officer, expresses a bit of surprise that the Seahawks haven't stopped pushing their own 12th Man thing. "In the normal course of action, once someone becomes aware of it and they understand that you have a registered trademark, normally they cease," said Moore. "In this case, they have chosen not to, but we are still hopeful that they will, quite frankly."

The Buffalo Bills also have a 12th Man theme. So do the Chicago Bears. I believe one could find a number of high schools that have used the theme, too -- all probably following A&M's 1922 origin but possibly preceeding the Aggies' 1990 registration of the trademark.

Are the Seahawks being a bit weasely here?

I suppose so. One of their team executives claims that the No. 12 flag that flies at their stadium in fact represents the retired jersey number of ex-QB Jim Zorn, and that the fans have independently taken up the 12th Man campaign.

Is A&M being a bit petty here?

I suppose not. There is tradition to be upheld, and there is money to be made. If everybody is allowed to promote their own 12th Man theme, there is something less special and unique and profitable about the bumper sticks and T-shirts and pennants A&M can sell.

Still, we're approaching a slippery slope here. What if Pittsburgh combats the Seahawks in this Super Bowl by filling the sidelines with "Steelers Yell Leaders''? Who sues whom? What if every other team wants to wear maroon jerseys? What if fans everywhere decide that they, too, would like to smooch after scores? What if every fan of every team across America decides to commence to "WHOOOOOPing!''?

As someone who spends a great deal of time seated alongside 20,000-to-60,000 people in America's stadiums, fields and arenas, I:

1) Have no opinion either way on the "marooning'' of American sports;

2) Will handle the kissing issue on a case-by-case basis;

3) Would politely request, if you're sitting next to me, that you cut with the "WHOOOOP!''

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Football Fan or Not--The NFL is Getting Your Money Print E-mail
by Norm Hitzges    Sun, Jan 29, 2006, 12:08 AM

For years, “the experts” have been predicting that one day, the NFL will resort to pay per view broadcasts. Well, you may not realize it but the NFL has been a pay per view league for quite some time. They are just very savvy about the way they’ve gone about it. And, today the league has made an announcement that just takes their pay per view status to another level.

It’s official. The NFL has announced that it has sold the highly coveted 8 game, primetime Thursday and Saturday package. That’s not big news. The NFL has always had success in creating bidding wars for its product.

The big news is that:

-- the NFL did not sell this package to any of the major networks.

--they didn’t sell the package to ESPN or OLN as had been speculated

--they didn’t sell the package to a major internet company as also had been speculated.

The NFL sold this package to itself. That’s right. Beginning next season, the NFL Network will carry 8 primetime games…including a possible Thanksgiving Night matchup between the Cowboys and the Redskins.

In the span of 30 months, the NFL Network has grown much faster than anyone anticipated. But even with the rapid growth, only about 30 million homes nationwide receive the channel on their satellite or cable package. For this reason, these games will also be made available to local over the air stations in the markets of each team participating in these games.

This is just another example of how the NFL walks a fine line between evil empire and brilliant marketer. They are not looked upon as a pay per view league yet the revenue generated from their TV contracts continues to be astounding.

ESPN has paid plenty of money for the rights to carry NFL games. And, yes they attempt to recoup most of that money through advertising. But, the NFL has also given ESPN a valuable property that makes them more attractive to cable and satellite operators thus increasing the fees they can charge. Your bill reflects the increased fees and you are indirectly paying to watch the NFL.

This new NFL Network package will have the same effect. While the NFL Network is now offered on most cable and satellite services, it is considered a premium service. If you want to receive the NFL Network, you are going to pay above and beyond the fees for basic service. And now that the network has an attractive asset and those fees are sure to increase even more.

This is where the NFL is either very savvy or very tricky depending on the way you look at it. Most people do not look at the NFL as pay per view because they are not ordering individual games. It’s not like a $49.95 pay per view title fight that you have to purchase. But you are paying the price for the NFL every month when you get your cable or satellite bill.

Here’s where it gets tricky: whether you are a fan of the NFL or not, you are paying for the product. Let’s say that you are not a fan of the NFL and you have no intention of ever watching an NFL game on ESPN but you are a newshound and you want to have access to all the news channels (CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, etc…). In order to receive these channels you have to buy an “extended basic” subscription package that includes ESPN. By the way, for most cable companies the extended basic package is about $15-$20/month more than the basic package. Even though you have no interest in the NFL, you are now paying for the product. It just doesn’t seem fair, does it?

And, yes it does work both ways. Plenty of football fans who have upgraded their cable service so they can watch the NFL Network are also paying for channels that they have no intention of watching (ie…Oxygen, Lifetime, etc…). But, I think it is fairly safe to say that the NFL and ESPN drive more demand for premium cable subscriptions than any other cable network.

This gives ESPN (and now the NFL Network) even more ammunition when they negotiate their fees. They will tell you that without their products it would be much harder for the cable companies to sell their extended packages. And they are probably right. So cable companies are forced to pay the price to keep these networks.

As the NFL collects more and more revenue from these rights fees, you will continue to pay to watch (or in some cases not watch) the games. And as long as the NFL continues to offer it’s games in some way, shape or form on local, over the air, free TV, they will not ever be looked upon as a pay per view league.

What a genius plan. They get all the cash of a pay per view entity but none of the bad reputation.
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