Sunday, September 30, 2012

Watch Haloti Ngata destroy kids as an 18-year-old rugby player

By ArtieFufkin

During tonight’s Ravens-Browns game, NFL Network treated us to some tremendous footage of Baltimore DT Haloti Ngata beasting on kids as a high school rugby player for Highland Rugby Club in Utah back in 2002.

We’ve known Ngata is an athletic freak for a while now, but the speed and quickness he displays for a man of his size is downright frightening. And we can only pity those poor suckers tasked with tackling Ngata – without pads, mind you – once he gets up a head of steam.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Haloti Ngata Off To MVP-Type Start

Posted Sep 25, 2012

Garrett Downing Staff Writer
All Garrett Downing Articles
The Ravens defensive tackle is living up to big expectations in the early part of the season.

Haloti Ngata knew that more pressure would fall on him this season.

He was entering the second year of a $61 million contract. Terrell Suggs was hurt. Jarret Johnson and Cory Redding were both gone.

Even Owner Steve Bisciotti said before the season that "Maybe it’s Haloti’s time this year” to be the fourth Ravens player to win Defensive Player of the Year.

Ngata hasn’t disappointed in the early part of the 2012 season.

Through the first three games, Ngata has notched 16 tackles and 2.5 sacks and is gaining recognition as an early candidate in the defensive MVP talk.

"He’s a guy that we expect to play at the highest level; he’s a guy that we need to play at the highest level, and Haloti’s doing that,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said.

The three-time Pro Bowler isn’t getting caught up in the chatter about personal accolades this early in the year.

"It’s definitely an honor that people are considering me, but if it doesn’t help us win games then it doesn’t mean anything,” Ngata said. "That’s all I’m really focused on is trying to help the team win.”

As he’s done the last few seasons, Ngata anchors the Ravens’ defensive front. He’s gobbling up blockers and still putting up big numbers. If Ngata keeps up his current pace for 16 games, which would amount to 85 tackles and 13 sacks, then he would be in store for the biggest season of his seven-year career.

"I definitely want to get better stats than I had last year, but whatever I can do to make the team win is more important,” Ngata said.

Ngata also jumped out to a strong start last season, but faded a little down the stretch and admitted that the season took a toll on his body. To avoid that problem this year, Ngata bulked up, adding about 10 pounds.

He’s already noticing the difference.

"I feel the power, I definitely feel the power,” Ngata said. "I’m pushing back the linemen more and able to get knockbacks.”

The added weight hasn’t appeared to slow him down. Ngata showed off his speed and versatility in Sunday’s win over the Patriots, as he chased down wide receiver Wes Welker in the secondary on one play and also fought through two blockers to bring down quarterback Tom Brady for a sack.

Getting double-teamed is routine for Ngata, but he acknowledged that he’s seeing some differences in how teams are defending him this year without Suggs lined up next to him.

"A little bit,” Ngata said when asked if teams are playing him different. "I think it’s because we don’t have the guys like Terrell Suggs, Jarret Johnson and those guys, so it’s been a little different. Our guys have been stepping up. Upshaw is doing a great job, Paul Kruger, Pernell McPhee. It opens up more chances for them to make plays so it’s good that way.

"I’ve just always been double teamed,” he said. "I’m not seeing more, I’ve just always had it. If I’m getting double teamed hopefully someone else makes a play.”

The soft spoken Ngata is quick to brush off the attention he’s getting for his start to the season, and says that the next step for his career isn’t necessarily bringing home an MVP trophy, but becoming more of a vocal leader for the young players in the Ravens locker room.

"I think my game is what it is, I don’t know if I can change much,” Ngata said. "I’m always trying to improve, but I think I can improve more on just trying to be more of that vocal leader."
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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Manti Te’o, Sports Illustrated Coverboy

Notre Dame senior linebacker and recent recipient of the Lott Impact and Chuck Bednarik Player of the Week Awards, Manti Te’o, added another accolade to a growing list of honors for this season – his first Sports Illustrated cover.

Manti Te'o - Sports Illustrated Cover 10/1/12

Te’o is having a special season already. The kind of season that we all envisioned Te’o would have when he committed to Notre Dame 4 years ago in a move that surprised the recruiting world. Four years later, Te’o has developed into the most dominant Notre Dame linebacker in the last 20 years highlighted by back to back performances that will go down in Irish lore for years to come.

By now everyone knows the story of Te’o losing both his grandmother and girlfriend suddenly less than 24 hours apart just two weeks ago. Since then, Te’o has channeled his emotions into two of the best performances of his career while leading Notre Dame to its first 4-0 start to a season in a decade.

The only downside to Te’o gracing this week’s cover is the dreaded “Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx”. Hopefully Notre Dame resting on a bye this weekend will help mitigate any jinx that comes with being on the cover. Notre Dame fans remember all too well the “Return to Glory” cover featuring Maurice Stovall during the 2002 season – the last time Notre Dame started a season 4-0.

The last time something Notre Dame football related found itself on the cover of SI was 2006 when Brady Quinn, Tom Zbikowski, and Travis Thomas were one of the 2006 season preview covers.

For Notre Dame fans looking to purchase the cover, the Te’o cover is a regional one and might not be available in all areas.

Manti Te’o helps get Notre Dame back on the cover of Sports Illustrated

By Frank Schwab | Dr. Saturday – 3 hours ago

(Sports Illustrated via
Surprising as it may sound, Notre Dame's last appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated was in 2006. Thanks to linebacker Manti Te'o and a 4-0 start, that drought is over.

Te'o is on the cover this week, at least regionally. The Chicago Tribune said the cover will be on magazines mostly in Midwest states.

That's still a good deal for the Irish football program, whose last appearance featured Brady Quinn, Tom Zbikowski and Travis Thomas on the Aug. 22, 2006 season preview edition (Notre Dame did get on the basketball preview in 2008).

Notre Dame was a darling of Sports Illustrated for years, especially in the Lou Holtz era, getting a whopping eight covers from 1986-90, then coming back for two more in 1993. But as Notre Dame slipped from the annual national title conversation (insert "Notre Dame is irrelevant!" discussion here), SI had mostly left the Irish off the cover.

Te'o is a perfect player for that national recognition. He has played through the deaths of his girlfriend and grandmother, was hailed as perhaps "the perfect Notre Dame player" by athletic director Jack Swarbrick for the way he handles himself on and off the field, and has played exceptionally. He has 38 tackles and three interceptions through four games, and is making a case as the best defensive player in college football.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Te'o discovers why Notre Dame was the right choice

September 22, 2012, 11:27 pm SHARE THIS POST


SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Growing up an avid USC fan, Manti Te'o had dreamed of one day playing for the Trojans. But when it came down to making a final decision, the linebacker out of Laie, Hawaii chose Notre Dame for reasons he could never quite put his finger on. He just knew that this team and this school felt right.

But he felt Notre Dame's 13-6 win over No. 18 Michigan Saturday was a fitting example why.

It's been nearly three weeks since Te'o lost his grandmother to a long illness and his girlfriend to an ongoing battle with leukemia. But despite the tragic loss, the senior linebacker hasn't missed a beat, displaying his strength, passion and commitment to his his team and the place he's called home.

"Four years ago when I decided to come here, I didn't know why. It's starting to unveil itself why, why I felt that I was told to come here. I can't thank my team enough. I can't thank the students and just the fan base around the world, Notre Dame and non-Notre Dame fans. They've been really great," an emotional Te'o said.

Fans wore Hawaiian leis around their necks and broke out into a booming cheer for Te'o after the game, creating a moment on the field that exuded the support and compassion the Notre Dame faithful have for him.

"You know, it's just very humbling for me and my family," Te'o added. "And I appreciate all the love and support that my family and my girlfriend's family has been getting."

Te'o played a key role in Notre Dame's first victory over Michigan since 2008, recording eight tackles, intercepting two passes and putting constant pressure on Denard Robinson, who threw four picks and fumbled once.

But when it comes to coach Brian Kelly's level of respect for him, it isn't just about the numbers.

"He's the guy in there. I mean, it all revolves around him, his personality, his strength. He's a special guy. Take advantage of him while you've got him now, because I've never been around a kid like that."

Haloti Ngata Gameday Program Feature

Posted Sep 22, 2012
Learn more about the three-time Pro Bowler and his thoughts on TEAM.

When John Harbaugh was hired as head coach of the Baltimore Ravens in 2008, he immediately implemented a philosophy that has served as the team’s core principle over the past several seasons.

“At the heart of football are three foundations. First is the TEAM, second is the TEAM, and TEAM is the team. We’ll stick with that from beginning to end.”

Haloti Ngata, now in his seventh season, is one of the most dominant defenders in the NFL. The three-time Pro Bowler, who was selected by NFL players as the league’s ninth-best player in the 2011 Top 100 Poll (NFL Network), is a major contributor to Baltimore’s stellar defense. Since his rookie year (2006), the Ravens have allowed 44 rushing touchdowns (second fewest in NFL - Pit.) and the league’s third-fewest rushing yards per game (86.9).

What makes the 2012 Ravens TEAM special?

“We’re a complete team. Our offense, from the first game, is showing that they’re doing a lot of good things on the field, driving the ball. And our defense is going to be a good defense, like we’ve always been out there doing, and hopefully, we can just keep getting better and better as a unit. I think this is the most complete team I’ve been around since I’ve been here.”

As the leader on the D-Line, what’s your best piece of advice for your younger TEAMmates?

“Technique. One of the reasons I’m able to play the way I do is technique. Even though I might be stronger and faster than some guys, I think the reason I can do the things I do is because of technique. I learned that a lot from [former Ravens defensive tackle] Kelly Gregg. So hopefully those guys can look up to me and see that I’m using more technique than athletic ability.”

What do your D-Line TEAMmates do off the field to help build camaraderie?

“We do a lot of things together – we just went to a crab shack together. We like to eat, so we’re going to go eat, that’s what we’re going to do. We’ll go out and eat, but then we’ll also just chill at somebody’s house, play games ... We just try to be together and get to know each other well. We start to learn about each other’s families and start to actually care about each other. We’ll do anything for each other.”

What have your life lessons taught you about the importance of being a good TEAMmate?

“When you see a player going through something, and he’s kind of keeping it to himself … That’s what I did when both of my parents passed away. I never really leaned on anybody, until when I actually did, I saw that it helped me, mentally, and I was able to move on from it. Now when I see a player going through something, I go over and confront him and try to talk to him. I think it’s great that I’m able to recognize it and try to help him, push him along.”

As a family man, what will you teach your young sons about the word TEAM?

“I think you have to start with trust, really. I am trying to teach my boys about trust and being able to trust their abilities. At a young age, it’s kind of hard to teach it, but as they get older and older, I think trust is probably going to be one of the biggest things I’ll teach them about.”

What is your favorite part about playing on a John Harbaugh-led TEAM?

“John Harbaugh is relentless. He’s not going to back down from anybody, and he’s going to go hard for our team. That’s what’s great about John. He’s going to be relentless with everything he does in coaching us.”

Who has been the most influential TEAMmate you’ve ever had?

“There have been a lot. But, probably Terrell Suggs. With the great player that he is, he’s been through so much, even in the NFL. I’ve seen him overcome some obstacles in his life here. It just shows what kind of person he is. He’s just a great leader, even though he doesn’t show it as much as Ray [Lewis] and Ed [Reed], he’s a guy that I’ve grown to love and trust. We’re locker mates too, and we’ve grown a bond with each other. He’s taught me a lot of things.”

What is the best TEAM you have ever been on?

“Probably the 2006 Ravens – my rookie year. We had a lot of talent on that team. We only lost three games that year. I felt like we were going to go to the Super Bowl that year. We lost to the Colts, but that was one of the most talented teams I’ve ever been on.”

Defensive Line Coach Clarence Brooks

What makes Haloti such a special player?

“Right off the bat, it’s his obvious physical gifts, but he’s also mentally, very much into the game. Always prepared, always works hard at it off the field and carries his off-the-field work on the field. That’s one of the things he does as well as anybody.”

What’s one of his most memorable plays?

“A heck of a play that he made a few years ago – we were down in Houston. He’s had a lot, but this was a very, very athletic play where he – they were in the shadow of their own goal-line – and he kind of tipped the ball and tapped it around, [then] intercepted it. For a guy, as big as he is, he was very nimble. All in one movement, he saw the pass coming, tipped the ball to himself, intercepted it, all in one movement.”

What does he bring to the D-Line meeting room?

“He’s got a great sense of humor. There’s a lot of respect for him in that room, by the younger guys. They realize what they have and who he is. But, they also don’t spare him if they have to make him the butt of their joke. He’s kind of a calming … He doesn’t say much, so when he talks, people listen, and they respect him for [that kind of leadership].”

Off the field, what is your favorite Haloti story?

“I love seeing him with his son, Sam. You’ve got great big Haloti, and then you’ve got little Sam. And Sam walks like him. When you see them walking down the hall together … As much as anything, as great a player he is, he’s probably a better husband and father and friend. Haloti has a way of being, whoever it is on this team – the last practice squad guy or Ray [Lewis], ‘Sizzle’ [Terrell Suggs] and Ed [Reed], or Joe [Flacco], everybody knows him, everybody likes him. He’s a friend to everybody – he really is. He can get along with any group of players on the team. It’s a great attribute he has.”

Three words to describe Haloti:

“Focused, competitive and caring.”

Guard Bobbie Williams

You’ve been on the other side of the ball vs. Haloti, what makes him one of the NFL’s best D-linemen?

“His strength, his speed – that combination right there – and his ability to get to the ball. When you know what you have, and you know how to put it together and use it, it’s a hard combination to try to block and manage in the game for a consistent number of reps. And he wears down the opponent. So, not only is it a physical matchup that you have to prepare for, but you have to prepare for the mental part of it.”

What are the issues he poses for offensive linemen?

“A guy like Haloti, if you don’t have a stud guy at guard, then he definitely commands two people on your offensive line, which takes away from your ability to block the rest of the defense. It kind of leaves you at a handicap. You’re in a hole right there. Just knowing that … How many times can you do that throughout the game and be successful? Tying up two guys on one guy, that tells you about what he’s able to do … the havoc [he creates].”

Three words to describe Haloti:

“Powerful, force, and grace – he’s got a tad bit of that, too.”

Defensive End Pernell Mcphee

What makes Haloti a great TEAMmate?

“The way he handles every situation. He always stays composed, under control. He’s always lifting guys up, no matter what the situation we’re in – if it’s on the field or off the field. He comes in every day with a great attitude, ready to go to work.”

What have you learned from him, both on and off the field?

“He’s a humble guy. He stays humble. He’s been humble since I met him, and he goes out and competes every day.”

What is one of the most memorable plays he’s made?

“The first one that comes to mind is the one against Pittsburgh, where he busted through the line and tackled him [RB Rashard Mendenhall]. But I’ll say on [the] Monday night [season opener]. We had just talked, and I said ‘you’re going to come scot-free,’ and he came scot-free and made the play in the backfield.”

Three words to describe Haloti:

“Healthy, hungry and humble.”

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Notre Dame Shows It Cares for Manti Te’o

By Chris Mahr

Ideally, the relationship between a college football player and his school is mutually beneficial.

In exchange for leaving his heart out on the field every fall weekend, a player should receive the support of his program — whether it’s help with academics, preparation for a pro career (when necessary) or just lending emotional support in times of need.

Alas, the “meat market” nature of the sport renders this an ideal more often than it does a reality. There are nearly 100 players in a major program at any given time. Being there for every one of them just doesn’t happen.

So it is truly heartwarming to see Notre Dame return the love that star linebacker Manti Te’o recently showed for his team and school.

By now, most college football fans have read about how the senior from Hawai’i was a star in the Irish’s 20–3 upset at Michigan State on Saturday while playing through personal grief that would rock any person to their core.

Te’o’s maternal grandmother passed away last Tuesday. Less than 24 hours later, he lost his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, after her long fight with leukemia. No one would have blamed him for bypassing the MSU game and flying back to Hawai’i to mourn. But he stayed in and played.

“He wants to be with his teammates,” coach Brian Kelly told reporters before the game. “He wants to be with his people that care about him.”

“People,” as it turns out, extends far beyond Te’o’s football teammates and deep into the Notre Dame community.

On Wednesday morning, I received an email from a Notre Dame senior named Tyler Moorehead. He included the link for a story he had written for College Spun on Tuesday detailing how, during Saturday’s clash with Michigan at Notre Dame Stadium, all of Irish Nation would get to say “Thank you” to Te’o.

“All Notre Dame fans are encouraged to buy and wear leis, which represent Te’o’s upbringing in Hawai’i,” Moorehead wrote. “In addition, when Manti comes out on the field for the coin toss, the stadium is expected to raise up five fingers to support #Raise5for5, recognizing Te’o’s jersey number.”

The first embedded link in the aforementioned quote is for a Facebook event, “Wear a Lei for Manti.” As of 9 AM ET on Wednesday, more than 4,300 users had RSVP’d “Yes.” (7,500 of the Hawaiian flower necklaces will also be handed out at a Friday pep rally. There is also a Twitter account, @leis4manti). The Twitter hashtag is something Irish fans are rallying around before Saturday’s game.

Not even Rudy Ruettiger got this kind of love from Notre Dame fans. Indeed, the whole story — how Te’o fought through his personal grief to lead the Irish to victory, how his school rallied around him in his time of need — sounds like the screenplay for Disney’s next tug-on-your-heartstrings sports movie.

A cynic could make the argument that if Te’o were a third-string kicker instead of the star that he is, he wouldn’t be receiving the outpouring of support (or attention) that he’s gotten. But is that really the point?

And what’s to say that it was a guarantee that people would rally behind him just because he’s a star? Plenty of BMOC-type players have dealt with their share of trials before, but not all of them had entire teams and universities lift them up in their hour of need.

A similar situation with former Ohio State star Maurice Clarett ended badly in 2002 when he missed his friend’s funeral back home in Ohio because Ohio State wasn’t allowed to buy him a plane ticket (the team was preparing for the 2003 Fiesta Bowl in Arizona). Clarett’s response: “I guess football’s more important than a person’s life to them.”

Although the criticism was off-base – OSU was only following NCAA rules – the whole thing left a bad taste in the mouths of college football fans.

This situation has been the complete opposite.

Manti Te’o has spent nearly four years flying around the field for Notre Dame like a man possessed, playing his heart out and professing nothing but love for his team and school. The buildup to the game with Michigan on Saturday demonstrates that that relationship has been a two-way street.

Chargers retire Junior Seau’s number in emotional ceremony

Posted by Darin Gantt on September 17, 2012, 9:32 AM EDT
Getty Images

It was the kind of day Junior Seau would have loved.

The Chargers, in front of a sold-out stadium, hammered the Titans 38-10. They also retired the late linebacker’s number 55 in an emotional ceremony, with fans chanting his name as team president Dean Spanos presented his family with a framed jersey.

The team wore 55 stickers on the back of their helmets to remember him, and defensive tackle Antonio Garay even had a picture of Seau shaved into the back of his head.

“I thought it was quite an atmosphere today,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said, via Tom Krasovic of U-T San Diego. “It was awesome. And obviously putting that sticker on your helmet means something.

“I’m sure he’d have loved to be a part of this one.”

It’s only the third number retired by the Chargers, along with Lance Alworth’s 19 and Dan Fouts’ 14.

Fouts spoke at the pregame ceremony before, hailing Seau’s leadership.

“He had it – all of the ‘it’ qualities that make up a great leader,” Fouts said. “He was the ultimate leader on the field for the Chargers for 13 great years and an equally great leader in our San Diego community. . . .

“There is no one more deserving than our friend Junior.”

Chargers coach Norv Turner was emotional as he talked about Seau, who died in May of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. But the circumstances of his death didn’t cloud the respect shown for him, as many talked about his spirit and the way he approached the game.

“Our guys have so much respect for Junior,” Turner said. “Just a remarkable individual. If you’re going to say, here’s a football player, I don’t know if you could build one that’s better than Junior Seau. He was an inspirational guy to be around — not Sundays, I’m talking about a day to day basis, six in the morning, last one to leave in the evening, flying around in practice like it was a game, and it was contagious for everybody.”

Those are the things they’ll remember, and the reason no Charger should wear 55 again.

Tragedy Drives Te’o in Emotional Victory

Sep 19th, 2012 at 12:48 pm by Greg Maddox3-4 Inside Linebacker
Home » 3-4 Inside Linebacker » Tragedy Drives Te’o in Emotional Victory

When evaluating prospects we look at the measurables, the tape, the performance, etc. However sometimes you find out about things that don’t show up in these records.

On Saturday Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o showed a kind of mental fortitude and football toughness that we don’t get to see when watching film.

Te’o tragically lost his grandmother and girlfriend last Tuesday and Wednesday. After losing two important people in his life in such a short time, many had to wonder if Te’o would need a week off, or just time to mourn. Te’o has been a starter on the Irish’s defense since his freshman year, anyone would understand if he needed a break for something as tragic as this week.

Men like Manti Te’o don’t take time off.

Te’o played like a man possessed in Notre Dame’s dominating victory of Michigan State. He is the leader of a defense that shut down the potent Spartan running game.

Te’o finished the game with 12 tackles, a tackle-for-loss, and a couple of pass breakups. To even play after such a difficult week is impressive, but for him to dominate like he did is truly amazing.

As a prospect, Te’o is a big, physical, inside linebacker with impressive athleticism. He has the size to play in a 4-3 or 3-4 as a Mike linebacker. He has the size to play the Ted spot in a 3-4, but he is much better when utilized from sideline to sideline, not taking on blockers.

If Te’o keeps up this impressive season, he should surely hear his name called in the first round. Compared to Luke Kuechly from last year’s draft, Te’o is bigger and more physical, but is also not a sure-tackler like Kuechly. He plays very aggressively and often goes for the big hit instead of wrapping up. He also plays on a more talented defense than Kuechly, hence having less-inflated tackling numbers.

Te’o may not go as high in this draft (Kuechly was taken with the ninth pick) because of a lot more defensive talent, but he has the potential to be drafted in the top 15.

Te’o showed he has the where-with-all to be an emotional leader for a defense, and he has already shown he has the talent to be a physical leader as well.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chow faces recruiting hurdles in Hawaii

September 5, 2012

Rob Cassidy
Recruiting Analyst
Norm Chow is a realist. He knows recruiting to Hawaii is a brawl against a steel-constructed cyborg. He says he intends to "fight like heck," but isn't sure how much impact his punches will have.

Poachers are using weapons such as tradition and exposure to raid the talent on his island. The invasion isn't new, either. A Tennessee commitment here, a Clemson-bound defensive end there; in a state already thin on talent, it adds up quickly.

Norm Chow was considered the mastermind of USC's offense.

"More people are recruiting here now," said Chow, a Hawaii native. "We want to fight them off, but the program hasn't had much success doing that in the past."

This year, the state is home to five prospects of three-star stature and above. Zero of them are committed to Hawaii. The Warriors have not locked down a single one of the state's top two players since began its rankings a decade ago. In fact, in 2006 it was so bad that the Warriors failed to add any of the top 19 homegrown prospects.

Thirteen four- and five-stars have played high school football on island soil over the course of the last seven years. Hawaii has secured a commitment from exactly zero of them. It's a batting average that would qualify as embarrassing even in coach-pitch leagues.

In the end, it boils down to an indisputable fact: Palm trees, beaches and breathtaking views are nice. But full stadiums and nationally televised games are nicer. And even though Hawaii made a recent BCS bowl run - a Sugar Bowl appearance following a perfect regular season in 2007 - it has never been able to sustain success despite its exotic location.

"Hawaii is paradise, but Hawaii isn't a school a lot of people want to go to for football," said Scott Pagano, a four-star defensive lineman who will leave the island to play college football at Clemson next season.

Guarding the program's resources is as difficult as guarding the border. An official visit to Hawaii? Hey, why not? Chow, in just his first year as the team's coach, says players looking for a free vacation have already burned him on several occasions.

"That's a huge problem," he said. "They get wined and dined for a weekend. It's a pretty good deal for them. It's hard to tell if kids are really interested. We already learned our lesson on that. We're working on it, but how do you do that? How do you tell?"

Fact is, you can't. That makes it hard to blame Chow for deciding to allocate recruiting funds elsewhere. As high-prestige colleges push into Hawaii, the Warriors will look toward other continents.

"Australia is a fertile place," Chow said. "They don't play a lot of our kind of football over there. They play a lot of Australia football. One of our current Australian players is an ex-professional Australian football player. He helps us in a number of ways. So, yes, we intend to increase our presence there."

The current Hawaii roster includes four international players. Another 19 are junior college transfers. Ten arrived in Honolulu from other Division I programs. The team's depth chart is a necessary hodgepodge of unfulfilled talent and undiscovered potential.

Hawaii believes in second chances, if only because it's forced to. A year ago, the program acted as a soft landing for Mike Edwards after the defensive back was dismissed from Tennessee following an arrest for attempted aggravated robbery (he later pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment as part of a plea agreement). Colt Brennan became a Heisman Trophy finalist there after being convicted of criminal trespass and burglary as a player at Colorado in 2004.

Those are only the two most notable cases. This is Fresh Start U, and the new head coach plans on embracing everything that goes with the name.

"We need to take bounce-back stories or kids that grew up a little bit after high school and want another shot," Chow said. "We're not like a normal school that can just go into the mainland and take a player."

Praise for Chow's outside-the-box thinking has never been in short supply. He was hailed as an innovator during his time as USC's offensive coordinator. Trojan players called him a "genius" and the "architect" of the team's mid-2000s success.

The real test of his creativity comes now, though. And the exam is set to take place on the recruiting trail, not a football field.

Familiar territory for Ravens' Kemoeatu

Nose guard gets start ahead of Terrence Cody
By Aaron Wilson
The Baltimore Sun

3:44 p.m. EDT, September 11, 2012

Behind the strength of a solid preseason and dropping roughly 80 pounds from several months ago when he was tipping the scales at 415 pounds, Ma'ake Kemoeatu has reclaimed his old job on the Ravens' defense as a starting nose guard.

Kemoeatu started the Ravens' season-opening 44-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night at M&T Bank Stadium, recording one tackle.

Kemoeatu was out of football last year due to injury and weight issues.

Now, Kemoeatu is back where he was during the 2005 season, when he had a career-high 70 tackles before signing with the Carolina Panthers.
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"It feels great, especially to be back with the level of defense that Baltimore is," Kemoeatu said. "It's good to be in there with Haloti Ngata and back with Ed Reed and Ray Lewis and those guys. It didn't feel like nothing changed."

Kemoeatu won a competition over former second-round draft pick Terrence Cody during the preseason. Cody started every game last season, but has been dealing with a slight hip injury that hampered him during the preseason.

Cody spelled Kemoeatu and had one tackle against Cincinnati.

The Bengals had success running against Baltimore as BenJarvus Green-Ellis gained 91 yards on 18 carries as Cincinnati finished with 129 yards on 28 carries.

"With Terrence, we have a good rotation going," Kemoeatu sad. "I need a break, he goes in. He needs a break, I go back in. It's like a one-two punch."

In short-yardage or goal-line situations, Kemoeatu, Cody and Ngata are all in the game at the same time.

"Yep, when we think they're going to run for sure, we're both in there," Kemoeatu said. "It's real tough to stop."

Kiona Drayton Segerstrom High School - Santa Ana, CA

Kiona Drayton

All-CIF selection Kiona Drayton will anchor a defense that has a total of 10 returners from last season.
Senior Kiona Drayton (pictured center) earned All-CIF honors by recorded 46 tackles and 10 sacks last season.

6' 1"
235 lbs


Jersey - Football
Position - Football

Wyoming senior defensive tackle Kurt Taufa’asau

Wyoming senior defensive tackle Kurt Taufa’asau talks about championships, which is the theme of WyoSport’s UW football section that comes out later this month.
98 Kurt Taufa'asau

Pago Pago, American Samoa
High School:
Last College:
New Mexico Military
Height / Weight:
6-2 / 284
Defensive Tackle
tou-FOU-sou (Each syllable rhymes with the words Out or Ouch)

UW This Season: After a solid season in 2011, Kurt Taufa'asau enters fall 2012 as the projected starter at the right defensive tackle spot. He'll be counted on to provide toughness in the trenches and disrupt opposing offenses.

2011: Taufa'asau was one of just eight Cowboy defenders with a sack this year, and he was part of a defense that totaled 22 sacks on the season. He saw time in 12 games and started three. He had his best day versus San Diego State. Against the Aztecs, Taufa'asau had four tackles and one sack for six yards, helping Wyoming's defense to shut out SDSU in the fourth quarter to preserve the win. He had two or more tackles in six games, and on the season, tallied 2.5 tackles for loss to go with 27 tackles. He also recovered a fumble versus UNLV. He earned his first letter for the Pokes.

2010: Redshirted.

Junior College: Taufa'asau earned First Team All-Western States Football League (WSFL) as a defensive lineman in 2009. New Mexico Military posted a 7-4 record in `09 and earned an appearance in the inaugural Central Bank Salt City Bowl where they lost 22-14 to Hutchinson Community College of Kansas. In the bowl game, Taufa'asau was credited with four tackles. New Mexico Military concluded the 2009 season ranked No. 20 in the final NJCAA National Poll. The New Mexico Military defense ranked No. 42 in the nation in total defense, allowing opponents 362 yards of total offense per game, and No. 20 in pass defense, giving up only 153.3 passing yards per game. He played for head coach Jeff Lynn at New Mexico Military. Taufa'asau played his high school football at Samoana High School in Pago Pago, American Samoa.

Personal: Born Sept. 18, 1990, he is the son of Tuilua'ai and Vincent Taufa'asau. He was also recruited by Troy University, Utah State and Western Kentucky. He is majoring in sociology.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Oregon Ducks: Marcus Mariota Perfect QB to Represent Oregon's National Brand

In Marcus Mariota, Chip Kelly and the Oregon Ducks have found a match made in heaven for the driver's seat who will steer their emerging popularity.

With the Oregon Ducks now one of the most prevalent teams in college football, it had become increasingly necessary for the quarterback to keep a level head when he was to be tested in front of the thunderous crowd at Autzen Stadium.

Fortunately enough, Marcus Mariota's calm nature has helped propel him into brilliant success.

It was one thing to perform well in the unimportant spring game. But fans would hardly recognize Marcus Mariota until the home opener, coming off of a year in which the Oregon Ducks rebounded from a surprising 0-1 start after a disappointing loss to LSU at Cowboys Stadium.

Thankfully, Oregon fans had nothing to worry about. In his first six minutes of collegiate play, Mariota showed pinpoint accuracy and was 8-for-9 over 102 yards and 1 TD. By the end of the night, Mariota was 18-for-22 and recorded 200 yards with 3 TDs.

“Upon further review: Marcus Mariota, 8MM, was 18-22 in his debut, and 3 of the 4 incompletions were drops. Cool, poised and precise,” wrote Dale Newton on Twitter earlier this week.

The Era of Mariota, a rare college freshman at the quarterback position for the Oregon Ducks, had begun, and the deliverance unto celebrity had evolved into the rawest form. In his first game as an Oregon Duck, the successes of Marcus Mariota were to be seen across the world from Autzen Stadium in Eugene.

Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty Images

The location in Eugene, OR hardly has the same national weight from a football perspective that a city like Los Angeles or Seattle would. The institution is missing the academic pedigree of a Stanford or a Berkeley. Even the football team lacks the history that many in the SEC carry with them.

But with the help of big-time booster Phil Knight and a forward thinking Athletic Department, the Oregon Ducks' savvy marketing team has helped the football team take on the name of a national brand, with presence and meaning stretching diligently across the globe.

"Oregon's widespread innovations have made an impact on schools and programs all over the map," wrote Brandon P. Oliver. "The financial backing of powerful boosters and general community support have helped the program grow into a national brand that has everyone's attention."

Accordingly, the Oregon Ducks market their team as if they were a professional football team. With the absence of an NFL team but sports-media interest across the state, the Athletic Department at the University of Oregon has done a noble job to step up and fill the need.

“We want to be ‘the’ national brand in college athletics and certainly having the following in the nation’s largest city will help us achieve that goal,” said Athletics Director Craig Pintens.

Such is the reason why “Arkansas State Red Wolves at Oregon Ducks” was a prime-time game on ESPN amidst the opening Saturday night of college football.

Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty Images

Each and every year, the Oregon Ducks have become a more marketable team, with rooting interest spreading across the country.

As more fans in remote places develop an interest in the Oregon Ducks, so too do the number of high-school recruits that find themselves picturing a home in Eugene. Mariota, who attended the same high school as former Oregon Ducks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, once represented one of those recruits.

So where does Marcus Mariota fit into all of this?

The Oregon Ducks have been ranked in 46 consecutive Top 25 polls in the Associated Press. Every time a new Nike uniform combination of the Ducks takes the field, a television market expresses inevitable interest.

Even while the Oregon Ducks were up 50-3 with an entire half of football to play, watching their high-tech and eye-catching uniforms conduct a hurry-up offense and dance into a blur on the screen created a more compelling television interest than many others in the Pac-12.

People want to watch Marcus play football when he wears the Nike greens and yellows of the Oregon Ducks.

With that kind of exposure and inherent pressure, one indicative trait of a successful quarterback is tested composure.
Mariota speaks in a postgame interview after Arkansas State.

With that in mind, then the obvious question arises: Is there a single better fit for the offensive-leadership position than someone as calm, cool and collected as Marcus Mariota?

Besides the obvious locational symmetry (Mariota’s island home is approximately five hours by air) that serves to be more revealing to the national brand than the Oregon Ducks now manifest, his tropical hometown is known for many of the same laid-back characteristics that affectionately create the collective zeitgeist of Eugene.

“He’s really calm,” Ducks linebacker Michael Clay told the Oregon Daily Emerald. “He’s very calm and collected. Whatever he does . . . he’s really calm, and he just has things under wraps and he’s not really frenetic or anything like that.”

At times, his demeanor can be misinterpreted for a lack of interest. But that’s hardly what Mariota, a diligent student of the game, feels about football.

“He was kind of too laid back,” high school coach Darnell Arceneaux explained to The Emerald. “And at first it kind of struck me like, "Maybe this kid doesn’t want it.’”

This, of course, is something that one would never expect to hear out of the Oregon Ducks' coach Chip Kelly. Undeniably, Mariota has proven that he is an individual hungry for success—a staple of the Oregon Ducks.

“He’s the perfect fit for what we do offensively,” Kelly said on signing day a year ago.

The offense simply seems to work better under Mariota. Perhaps, however, his most impressive trait is his undying interest in readying himself for the next challenge and opportunity that he will be given while serving as the quarterback for the Oregon Ducks.
Where do you EXPECT Marcus Mariota to take the Oregon Ducks this season?
National Title Champion (beats USC for Pac-12, plus a team from SEC for the title)
Rose Bowl Champion (beats a team such as Michigan or Wisconsin in Rose Bowl, could lose to USC)
Pac-12 Champion (beats USC, but loses in their Bowl Game)
Pac-12 North Champion (beats UW, Oregon State, Stanford, etc. but does not beat USC in Pac-12 championship)
Civil War Champion (beats Oregon State, but does not win Pac-12 North)
Submit Vote vote to see results

“In my interview with Mariota yesterday,” wrote Rob Moseley of The Register-Guard, “he said one of the things he took from watching Darron Thomas over the last year was not to force anything, in order to avoid mistakes but also to put together series of plays that allow the Ducks to exploit their tempo on offense.”

Amidst a quarterback controversy with Bryan Bennett heading into the season, there was significant media focus on who would get the first snap (and subsequent majority of the snaps) of the season for the Ducks.

Amidst the general preseason narrative about the usual judgment of the iconic quarterback (e.g. arm strength, accuracy, speed, etc.) was a focus on the ability to stay calm and enjoy the game in front of him. When he plays for the Oregon Ducks, Mariota does exactly that.

"It was surreal," Mariota said in a postgame interview. "For me, I just had a lot of fun.”

The more fun that Mariota has on the field, the more convinced I am that the mature Hawaiian is indeed the perfect player for Chip Kelly to have put in command and run the blur offense of the Oregon Ducks. There's still many tests for Mariota to pass before fans have a full idea what talent level he is at. But with the newly ranked No. 4 ranked team in the nation entering the limelight week after week, get ready to hear a lot about Mariota in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Browns LB Maiava finally gets chance to make a difference

AP Photo / Mark Duncan

Cleveland linebacker Kaluka Maiava has had to fill in for injured starters before, but never when the Browns still were playing meaningful games.

The little big man has done this drill before.

It is so much more important this time for Kaluka Maiava to do it well.

In 2009, when Maiava was a rookie Round 4 draft pick, the Browns’ linebacking corps was rocked by a season-ending injury to D’Qwell Jackson. At that point, coordinator Rob Ryan shuffled Maiava into a starting role, but what did it matter? The season was gone. The team was 1-5, on its way to 5-11.

After a knee injury wrecked Maiava’s 2010 season, he had to fight to make the team in 2011. He impressed a new head coach and a new coordinator enough to do so. As in his rookie season, he got the call when a No. 1 linebacker got hurt.

He replaced Scott Fujita for the last five games. But again, what did it matter? The Browns were 4-7 when Fujita went down. There was nothing for anyone to save.

Now it is 2012. Maiava again is starting because a No. 1 went down. But there is a huge difference this time. He is starting at the start.

He is starting with an entire season full of possibilities out there for the Browns.

It might matter this time if the little big man steps up.

Not that anyone expects him to. He’s simply too little. He’s not Clay Matthews, he’s not Brian Cushing, he’s not Rey Maualuga — even though he was every bit as much a starting linebacker at USC as they were in 2008, when the Trojans were monsters, at one point routing Ohio State 35-3.

Maiava was greatly appreciated at USC, but not so much outside the inner circle. When he first came to the Browns, in the public eye, he was a cute story ... a kid from Maui who used to hunt wild boars with his bare hands.

That story went away, and as time went on, he was just a little backup linebacker on teams that went nowhere.

“Last year, I kind of filled in when Fujita went down,” Maiava says. “I’ve always been in the backup role.

“I’m always ready when the coaches call my number.

“Obviously, I want to play more than just a backup role. I’m ready for the responsibility.”

A certain AFC North rival was suspicious as to how ready Maiava was when he was an injury-replacement starter last year.

“They ran like 40,000 leads at me,” Maiava said. “I’m sure they saw me as a backup guy, a smaller guy they were going to test.

“We lost, but it definitely proved myself to my teammates ... showed my toughness.”

At 5-foot-11, 230 pounds, Maiava is playing on the outside in a 4-3 front. He must prove he is stout enough to stand up against power running games and cagey enough to cover fast tight ends half a foot taller than him. He’s fast. He has that going for him.

“Everybody brings up my size,” Maiava said. “I’ve been 5-11 since high school. That’s not going to change. I’m not going to get a five-inch growth spurt anytime soon.”

Perhaps a knowledge spurt will help. Last year, he had to impress new defensive coordinator Dick Jauron on the fly, since the offseason got swallowed by a lockout.

“I have a better understanding of the playbook now,” he said. “Having been around the guys a lot this year really helps.

“I’m as healthy as I’ve been. I feel good.”

Given Maiava’s longevity with the team — only five Browns have stuck around longer — Ohio is starting to feel like home. Just as he never will be 6-foot-5, though, Cleveland never will be Maui.

“I went home to Maui after last season,” he said. “I was training the whole time. Beach runs. Early in the morning.

“I definitely enjoyed myself in my off time, but I also got some work done.

“I lost some weight. I feel lighter. I feel quicker. I feel a lot better. This is the best I felt since coming out of college.”

It’s a perfect time than. He’s starting in the opener against the Eagles.

Is he glad for that? Dumb question.

“Who comes in the league wanting to be a backup?” he said.

Minnesota Vikings: Matt Asiata could see field time during season opener

By Bruce Brothers
Posted: 09/03/2012 12:01:00 AM CDT

Matt Asiata had no guarantee a week ago he would even be a member of the Minnesota Vikings during the first week of the regular season.

Now the 234-pound Asiata is not only a member of the Vikings' 53-man squad, he might get to carry the ball a few times when the Vikings open the season against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, Sept. 9, at the Metrodome.

It all depends, of course, on the availability of running back Adrian Peterson, who is returning from offseason knee surgery.

Peterson will be a game-time decision, coach Leslie Frazier said, but Frazier said the Vikings' offense will look the same whether Peterson or Toby Gerhart starts at running back.

And Asiata, 25, will be ready to jump in.

"That's one of the reasons why we kept him on the roster," Frazier said. "We feel like if he had to play, he can step in and do a good job."

Asiata spent limited time on the Vikings' practice squad last season, but came to training camp this summer showing better confidence, Frazier said, "and then when he got in the ballgames, he showed why he deserved that third running back spot."

As a fringe player, Asiata hit all his answers down the middle after practice on Monday, Sept. 3, talking about earning the trust of his teammates and showing that he will play hard.

He earned a roster spot, he said, because he tried to have fun with his job.

"I just had to be myself and come out and just show the team what I can do on the field," he added.


smiled at the prospect of carrying the ball against the Jaguars.

"We'll see how that goes," he said. "We'll just take it week to week. I'm ready to go if they call my number."

Bears NT Stephen Paea (ankle) returned to practice Monday and says he's "ready to roll" for Week 1.

Paea missed a large chunk of training camp with the injury, but the goal all along was to get him ready for Opening Day. He's ready, and figures to start over Matt Toeaina at nose tackle. Henry Melton is the three-technique tackle. Sep. 3 - 4:44 pm et
Source: Mike C. Wright on Twitter

49ers' Will Tukuafu Opening Eyes at Fullback

by Peter Woodburn

Read More: Bruce Miller (FB - SFX)

Bruce Miller will be the starting fullback when the San Francisco 49ers face off against the Green Bay Packers to open the 2012 season, but the fullback opening eyes is Will Tukuafu.

Niners Nation pointed out that coach Jim Harbaugh likes his big backs to throw some bone-crushing blocks when they're in the backfield. Last year, Isaac Sopoaga answered that call for the 49ers most often.

But in the last preseason game, it was second-year, 6'4, 293-pound Will Tukuafu who showed why he got a lot of preseason playing time with a couple of huge blocks against the San Diego Chargers.

Tukuafu may be playing himself into the fullback conversation, which is great for the youngster, who hasn't seen a lot of minutes at defense. It would also allow Harbaugh to potentially use Sopoaga in a different fashion -- and having too many big bodies on a team can never be a bad thing in the NFL.

For more on the San Francisco 49ers, head over to Niners Nation and join the conversation

Sunday, September 2, 2012

KU defensive lineman Jordan Tavai proud of heritage

Kansas defensive lineman Jordan Tavai works against a practice dummy during defensive drills at the Fan Appreciation Day open practice Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012, at Memorial Stadium.
Jordan Tavai works out with defensive linemen Wednesday

Kansas junior Jordan Tavai (No. 9) works out with the defensive linemen at practice on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012. Enlarge video

Since arriving in Kansas on Aug. 10 for his first day of practices, Jordan Tavai has been busy telling teammates about his heritage.

“It’s kind of big to be Samoan, because most of the time when you’re Samoan, everyone thinks you’re a football player,” the defensive lineman said. “You’re supposed to be a big player. You’re supposed to be a playmaker and all. So I’m trying to be a playmaker.”

Tavai’s maternal grandmother came to the United States along with her siblings when she was 19 in hopes of getting a better education.

The Samoan part of Tavai’s family history has helped shape his football career.

“When you’re Samoan and you get to the field, you’re supposed to be aggressive. Your attitude is supposed to be different,” Tavai said. “You’re supposed to be known for being a good player on the defense. ... That’s what I do live up to.”

It hasn’t taken long for the 6-foot-3, 290-pounder to get noticed during KU practices.

After just a few times going against Tavai, KU offensive lineman Aslam Sterling already knows that the junior’s strength is being able to use his hands well.

“He moves them around a lot,” Sterling said. “For an offensive lineman, a guy that moves his hands a lot, they try to trick you.”

Slapping hands down also can result in getting offensive linemen off-balance.

“My hands are faster than the offensive lineman’s,” Tavai said, “so I can knock them down faster, and I can get around them faster.”

For now, the challenge for Tavai is getting caught up after arriving at camp late following the delayed completion of his final junior-college class.

Not only is Tavai behind physically, he also is still learning KU’s defensive play calls.

The biggest issue now is getting the play call from the sideline, then getting into the right place in time. He attends extra meetings with KU defensive-line coach Buddy Wyatt to try to learn all the formations.

“I’m lining up kind of slowly, but I’m getting used to that,” Tavai said last week. “That’s where the mental part gets in. The faster I line up, the faster I react to seeing the offense.”

Tavai played defensive end and defensive tackle at El Camino (Calif.) Community College, and KU coach Charlie Weis has said that Tavai is flexible enough to play both positions.

“I think Tavai is a fast-twitch guy,” KU defensive coordinator Dave Campo said. “I think he’s a guy that, especially inside ... some guys that aren’t great pass-rushers outside all of a sudden are really good inside, because you’re playing against more bulk but not quite as good of athletes in there.”

KU’s coaches have continued to move him around during practices.

Tavai, who also considered Texas Tech, Cal and Hawaii, received calls on the night before February signing day from schools trying to get him to change his commitment.

He stuck with KU because of Weis.

“He told me I was a little piece of this big puzzle,” Tavai said, “that could come together to fit to help turn this program around.”

Tavai’s goal is to be ready — both mentally and physically —for the team’s first game Sept. 1 against South Dakota State.

“I know his expectations are pretty high,” KU linebacker Schyler Miles said. “He’s depending on coming here and helping right away.”

Oregon Ducks Defeats Arkansas State, 57-34: Marcus Mariota Shines In College Football Debut

By ANNE M. PETERSON 09/02/12 02:30 AM ET

EUGENE, Ore. -- Marcus Mariota didn't show any signs of stage fright in his debut for the Ducks.

The redshirt freshman quarterback made his first start in a real game on Saturday night, passing for 200 yards and three touchdowns in No. 5 Oregon's 57-34 season-opening victory over Arkansas State.

De'Anthony Thomas caught two touchdowns and ran for another while collecting 119 yards in total offense as the Ducks built a 50-10 lead by halftime.

Kenjon Barner, taking over as starter after the departure of running back LaMichael James, ran for 66 yards and two scores.

The Ducks sat most of their starters after the break.

The loss spoiled coach Gus Malzahn's first game as coach of the Red Wolves, who went 10-3 last season and won the Sun Belt Conference title.

Arkansas State senior quarterback Ryan Aplin threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns, including a 72-yard scoring pass to Julian Jones just before the half.

Mariota replaced Darron Thomas, who decided to leave Oregon with a year of eligibility left. Thomas passed for 2,761 yards and a school-record 33 touchdowns last season when the Ducks went 10-2 and beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

Mariota was on the practice squad last season and was something of a mystery because Oregon closes practices, but he beat out Bryan Bennett for the starter's job in fall camp.

The native Hawaiian had shown promise in the Ducks' spring game with a touchdown pass and two scoring runs – including one TD rush of 82 yards.

Mariota is the first freshman to start in an opener for Oregon since Danny O'Neil in 1991. He completed 18 of 22 passes.

The Ducks scored on their first drive of the game with Barner's 4-yard dash, then added the 2-point conversion to make it 8-0.

Barner, a senior, was James' backup for the past two seasons. James, the school's career leading rusher, left Oregon early for the NFL draft and was a second-round pick by the San Francisco 49ers.

Mariota connected with De'Anthony Thomas with a 12-yard pass to make it 15-0.

Thomas made a splash last season when he set an Oregon freshman record with 18 touchdowns, rushing for seven, nine on receptions and two on kickoff returns.

Before the first quarter was over, John Huff pulled down a 4-yard touchdown pass from Mariota and Barner added a 17-yard scoring run to make it 29-0.

Brian Davis kicked a 43-yard field goal for the Red Wolves early in the second quarter.

Thomas scored twice, once on a 12-yard pass from Mariota and then on a 33-yard run to make it 43-3, and there was still 10:45 left in the half. True freshman Byron Marshall added a 3-yard TD run for the Ducks.

Aplin passed to Jones, who ran down the right side to close the gap a bit with 3:20 left in the half, before Davis opened the third quarter with a 29-yard field goal.

Aplin added a 6-yard touchdown pass to Josh Jarboe before the end of the quarter to make it 50-20.

Bennett, who came in for Oregon in the second half, found Rahsaan Vaughn with a 7-yard scoring pass, before Aplin's two final touchdowns, a 38-yard pass to Carlos McCants and a 1-yard keeper with 4:30 left.

Arkansas State and Oregon had never played each other. Indeed, the Red Wolves had never faced a Pac-12 foe.

The Ducks were familiar with Malzahn because he was the offensive coordinator for Auburn two seasons ago when Oregon faced the Tigers in the BCS championship game.

Malzahn, an Arkansas native, had already hit some snags before his first game as the Red Wolves' head coach. He brought in transfer Michael Dyer from Auburn but had to dismiss him in July after he was pulled over for speeding and a gun and marijuana were found in the car.

Dyer rushed for 143 yards for the Tigers in the national championship game against the Ducks.

Also, Malzahn dismissed wide receiver Earl Lucas and suspended WR Tres Houston for violating team rules.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Maika Polamalu: What Troy Polamalu's Cousin Must Do to Make an Impact for Navy

 By Scott Carasik (Featured Columnist) on September 1, 2012
Maika Polamalu has the ability to be one of the best stories in college football based on his lineage and his school. However, he isn't making an impact for Navy's football program this season. As an offensive player, he is buried on the depth chart and is just seeing time on special teams.

He needs to change something to become the player that he was recruited to be, when he was a two-star prospect according to ESPN. However, the question is what change he needs to make in order to be successful off the field.

Is it his inability to balance the military aspect of his college experience with football? Is he having trouble living up to the legendary bloodlines? Or could he just be completely out of position and need to switch to defense?

Military College teaches lessons that can't be found on the field.

While this may seem unrelated to on-the-field, it's a huge aspect in the personal development off-the-field that would lead to his eventually becoming a starter. It instills hard work, discipline and toughness into the gentlemen (and women) who go through the training.

Teams like Navy, the Air Force Academy, the Citadel and Army tend to be more disciplined on-the-field than other teams because of their off-the-field training. Polamalu using the discipline and hard work that he learns as a Midshipman and taking it to the field will only help him start eventually.

However, the main issue could be balancing the different aspects of military college life. The balance of football, classes and essentially a full-time job in the military aspect of the academy create a unique situation that few people are able to balance completely.

Legendary bloodlines aren't always a guarantee to a starting spot.

Despite being the cousin of Troy Polamalu, son of Aoatoa Polamalu, and nephew of Kennedy Pola, he hasn't earned the starting spot at fullback yet as one would expect him to be able to. Though, he has a ton of talent and has already been contributing on special teams as a gunner.

His issue though is that he isn't even in the top three on the fullback depth chart according to's Navy football depth chart. It will tough for the young Polamalu to earn a starting spot when he is behind multiple underclassmen.

Could a position change be for the best?

At 6'0", 218 pounds, he has the size to be a top notch linebacker. He also has a frame that could add another 20 pounds to it while maintaining his already good speed. Once he realizes that he should try to play a different position, linebacker should fit well as it's a similar position to fullback.

It's also the position that would make sense based on his family lineage. His dad played at defensive tackle and his cousin as a safety, so linebacker is a logical progression for his size. Who knows, maybe he could end up in the starting role as a weakside linebacker and eventually in the NFL?

Marcus Mariota gives coach Chip Kelly more run options and defenses another worry

Quarterbacks: Return of the X factor

By Bob Clark

The Register-Guard

Published: August 30, 2012 12:00AM, Midnight, Aug. 30

True or false: With Marcus Mariota as the starter for Oregon, it means more rushing plays for the quarterback.

Answer: It remains to be seen.

While Mariota has certainly shown flashes of his ability as a runner, and is apparently more able as a runner than last season’s starter Darron Thomas, the deciding factor in how much the Oregon quarterback carries the football won’t be the intent of the Ducks but a reaction to the opponent.

Coach Chip Kelly said the Ducks want to “see how people are going to defend us. If they’re going to let us do this, we’ll continue to do that.

“We never go into a game and have X amount of times (the quarterback) has to have (the football) in his hands. We go by how the defense defends us.”

In starting 12 of Oregon’s 13 games last season, Thomas finished with 56 rushing plays, though that bare statistic doesn’t show how many were designed runs, and how many were plays that might have started with the intent of throwing a pass but turned into an attempt to gain yardage by running.

By whatever means, the 56 total rushing plays was down from the 93 rushes that Thomas had the previous season, in 13 games, and less than half the average number of rushes by a UO quarterback in the first three seasons with Kelly’s offense in place at Oregon, two with him as coordinator and then his first year as the head coach.

But was it Thomas? Or, again, the opponents?

“People didn’t make Darron run the ball,” explained UO offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, adding that as long as defenses played the Ducks in a way that seemed to invite more runs by LaMichael James and his backups, “we’re good with that.”

Still, there is reason to think that this season, the quarterback on the run is likely to be a more viable part of the offense.

With Thomas last season, there was concern about his health as a knee injury took him out of two games and caused him to miss another. The Ducks begin this season with Mariota and backup Bryan Bennett both apparently healthy, and both have shown, if in brief instances, that they are definite threats as runners.

“Bryan and Marcus are different types of athletes than Darron, but it’s still a decision-making process and they’re both good decision makers,” Helfrich said. “All of that stuff will play itself out depending how people defend us.”

Well, they better defend the quarterbacks as potential runners, it would seem.

Kenjon Barner, Oregon’s starting running back, said both quarterbacks are “absolutely” good runners.

“No question about it,” Barner added. “They both have tremendous speed. … They’re two of the faster guys on the team.”

Remember the 82-yard sprint to the end zone by Mariota in the spring game? As a high school senior who led his team to the state title in Hawaii, Mariota averaged 7.6 yards per rush.

“It’s a part of my game,” Mariota said. “If the offense asks for me to carry the ball a little bit, I will.

“It just depends on the game plan that week and how it fits into the strategy of the game.”

In Bennett’s one start last season, he rushed six times for 69 yards, with a long gain of 43 yards. That came a week after Bennett, in a relief role, had rushed five times for 65 yards against Arizona State, with a long run of 36 yards.

That both have that ability as runners, and very similar skill sets overall, means the offensive plan can be the same with either in the game. And with the competition as reportedly as close as it was, it lessens any concern that an injury to the starter means a falloff to the reserve.

“They’re very similar guys,” Helfrich said.

Whether that all translates into more running by Oregon quarterbacks in games remains to be seen, but at least one Duck would welcome that option being utilized. And it’s the primary runner for the Ducks, Barner.

Why would he want someone else running the football?

Simply put, “you can no longer focus on the running back,” Barner said. “You have to worry about the quarterback running.”

“It’s still a decision-making process. ... All of that stuff will play itself out depending how people defend us.”

— Mark Helfrich, Oregon offensive coordinator

The tao of Manti Te’o

Published: August 26, 2012 3:00 a.m.
College preview: Notre Dame

Senior linebacker reflects upon new leadership style
Tony Krausz | The Journal Gazette

SOUTH BEND – Manti Te’o knows this year is his last chance to directly affect Notre Dame’s success.

The 6-foot-2, 255-pound senior decided to return to school in December instead of entering the NFL draft with one goal in mind: help the Irish win.

“Since it’s my senior year, I want to do this. I want to win. I want to make sure Notre Dame is back up there,” Te’o said. “This is my only time to actually have control over that.

“Once I leave here, I don’t have control over that. I can say to the younger guys, call them up every week, and say, ‘What’s going on?’ While I’m here, while I’m in that locker room and on that field, I have good control of what is going on.”

Te’o has taken control of the team, expanding his leadership role as the Irish prepare to open the season against Navy on Saturday in Dublin, Ireland.

The stoic native of Laie, Hawaii, has stopped holding back when he sees a teammate not doing everything he is supposed to do to help the team.

“I would say without question it’s now at a point where he is imposing his own set of standards on others,” coach Brian Kelly said. “He was always a leader by example in the way he handled himself, both on and off the field, but now if somebody else is not doing it the right way, it’s not good enough, because it affects the way he sees his role.

“And that obviously is a very positive dynamic to have on your football team. He understands pure accountability, and he holds his teammates to a high level, too.”

Linebacker Dan Fox, who plays next to Te’o in the middle of the defense, said he has seen good results from Te’o imposing his will.

“It is different when it comes from a player and not a coach. It kind of motivates you more,” Fox said. “He is like that on himself too. It is not just dishing out, ‘You did this, you did that.’ He takes accountability for everything he does as well.”

It wasn’t easy for Te’o to find a leadership style that suited him. He said he stopped being who he was last year in trying to be a leader, especially leading into Notre Dame’s home loss to USC on Oct. 22.

Te’o said LeBron James’ comments of being true to himself and not playing the villain after the Miami Heat won the NBA title this season helped him form his leadership style.

“Obviously, I wasn’t a villain, but I was trying to be this ‘rah-rah’ guy, just running and yelling at people, being in the center of the huddle, hitting people in the helmet; it is not me,” Te’o said. “I’m the guy who is just calm. When I need to speak, I will speak. I think the strength of that is that when I speak, my teammates know it is important.

“I’m just humbled to know they understand that. I won’t be in their ear the whole time, but when I do have something to say, it is important. It is to help them, to help the team.”

Te’o has done plenty to help the team since he arrived in 2009 when he played in 12 games and had 63 tackles as a freshman. Te’o had 133 tackles, with 9 1/2 for a loss, and a sack while starting all 13 games in 2010.

And last season he led the Irish in tackles (128) and tackles for loss (13 1/2 ) and had a career-high five sacks.

Te’o enters the season as the No. 8 tackler in school history with 324, and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said the linebacker has the potential to be regarded as one of the best to ever play the game.

“He’s got a spectacular skill set and the intangible blue-collar mentality. It is a unique combination,” Diaco said. “Not only is he going to be one of the very best linebackers to have played here, if not the best, one of the very best linebackers to ever play college football.”