Tuesday, October 30, 2012

QB Recruit Most Likely to Play as a Freshman

Dallas Jackson

QUARTERBACK RANKINGS: Pro-style | Dual-threat

Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

If the Rivals.com recruiting rankings hold form, the high school quarterback crop for the Class of 2013 might have the biggest yield since the rankings began.

With 31 players rated as four-star prospects or higher, it is perceived to be the most talented combination of pro-style and dual-threat QBs since the Class of 2002, when 29 players received a four-star evaluation or higher. That is well above the average class evaluation of 20 players ranked at that level.

The class is headlined by five-stars Max Browne of Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline and Warren (Mich.) De La Salle signal-caller Shane Morris, as well as fast-rising Christian Hackenberg from Fork Union (Va.) Military. And all three could see regular playing time as soon as next season.

But the player who might make the quickest impact is below that stratosphere, if not below the radar: Four-star quarterback Anu Solomon, who will head to Arizona upon graduation from Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman. He'll be thrust into a competition to take over for senior quarterback Matt Scott.

Anu Solomon could be walking into the perfect situation at Arizona.

"The coaches have told me that they want me to come in and compete for the starting job," Solomon said. "It is something that I want to do, and they want me to do it."

The 6-foot-1, 200-plus-pound Solomon is ranked as the No. 10 dual-threat quarterback and just outside of the Rivals250. The four-year starter at Bishop Gorman has led the team to three consecutive state titles and is favored to do it again.

Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said that Solomon has the tools to transition quickly to the next level.

"There are two major things to consider for guys playing as true freshmen," Farrell said. "You have to be athletically mature enough to do it, and you have to be a good enough decision-maker and to do what is asked of you.

"The quickest way to lose a quarterback battle is to be turnover-prone, and Solomon doesn't turn the ball over."

But what makes Solomon the best bet for immediate playing time is the situation at Arizona when compared to those Browne, Hackenberg and Morris will face.

Browne, the top-ranked quarterback in the entire class, has drawn comparisons to Peyton Manning and may be the most college ready player of the group. But he is headed to USC from a spread offense in high school and will have to learn a pro-style offense. In a battle to replace Matt Barkley, he will be behind two quarterbacks who were four-star prospects and all-Americans during their time in high school, Cody Kessler and Max Wittek.

USCFootball.com recruiting analyst Gerard Martinez said Browne could challenge for time, but believes the odds are low.

"It's a possibility," he said. "I would say it is not likely, but with Browne coming in for spring football, it is not out of the question."

Penn State coach Bill O'Brien has been heralded for his tutelage of quarterbacks, and while Matt McGloin is leaving, that does not mean PSU will rush Hackeberg.

Most indications are that Hackenberg and his family would prefer to redshirt and learn the system. Penn State is heavily recruiting JUCO quarterback Jake Waters from Iowa Western, who could be an excellent stopgap.

While Max Browne, Shane Morris, Christian Hackenberg and Anu Solomon may be the most obvious choices to make an early impact as freshmen, they are far from the only possibilities. Here are five additional prospects who could battle for early playing time as true freshmen:
Aaron Bailey, Bolingbrook (Ill.) High
Rank: No. 147 in the Rivals250; committed to Illinois
Buzz: Bailey just went down with a minor knee injury last week but figures to be ready for a playoff push. He also figures to be an exciting addition to an Illinois roster that will include senior Nathan Scheelhaase. There are some other talented players hoping to step up, but Bailey appears to be the most athletically gifted.

Jeremy Johnson, Montgomery (Ala.) Carver
Rank: No. 191 in theRivals250; committed to Auburn
Buzz: Johnson is a freak of an athlete who is also a four-star basketball prospect, but he has seen his stock skyrocket on the football field and could quickly climb the depth chart at Auburn. The play of current quarterback Khiel Frazier has been spotty at best, and the rest of the depth chart looks lackluster to say the least. Johnson's ability to throw the deep pass and solid footwork could impress coaches quickly.

Johnathon McCrary, Ellenwood (Ga.) Cedar Grove
Rank: No. 123 in the Rivals250; committed to Vanderbilt
Buzz: McCrary has all of the physical tools that the Commodores currently lack at the position, and there will be a battle for the position this offseason for sure. Senior Austyn Carta-Samuels or redshirt freshman Patton Robinette may have a built-in advantage because of the familiarity with the system, but eliminating McCrary and his type of talent early in the competition doesn't sound like a solid plan for a program that wants to attract top talent and has playing time to offer.

Brogan Roback, Toledo (Ohio) St. John's
Rank: No. 15 pro-style quarterback; committed to Eastern Michigan
Buzz: Sticking out like a sore thumb is the four-star Roback's commitment to Eastern Michigan. What may stick out for Broback is that the team has used two quarterbacks so far this season, and neither has a completion percentage above 48 percent. The level of talent that Roback could bring to the Ypsilanti campus may be tapped into early.

Asiantii Woulard, Winter Park (Fla.) High
Rank: No. 87 in the Rivals100; committed to USF
Buzz: The exit of B.J. Daniels will leave the Bulls with senior Bobby Eveld and sophomores Tommy Eveld, Matt Floyd, and Trenton Miller as the quarterbacks on the roster; none come in with the skills of Woulward. The Bulls have had a tough start to this season and could be in need of an electric, semi-local product to bring some energy back into the program. Woulward could also prove to be the most talented player at the position, and this school has historically had no problem with using freshman quarterbacks.
Farrell thinks Penn State could take that path to improve its situation.

"If Penn State had come out this year and been terrible, I don't know what they would have had to do next year," Farrell said. "As it stands now, they could buy some time to right the ship and not force a young player into a firestorm."

Morris does not have the same obstacles to overcome at Michigan. The QB position will be quickly clearing with Denard Robinson set to graduate along with seniors Jack Kennedy and Steve Wilson. That leaves sophomores-to-be Russell Bellomy and Alex Swieca and senior-to-be Devin Gardner ahead of him.

What Morris will be battling is his own health as well as his own limitations. He was diagnosed with mononucleosis early into his senior season and will likely miss the remainder of it.

The No. 17 overall player in the Rivals100 has also completed barely 50 percent of his passes, leading Farrell to question his potential for immediate impact.

"Morris has to improve on his accuracy and decision-making without question," Farrell said. "But honestly, this kid is like Tim Tebow to the Michigan fanbase, and I am not sure I have ever seen a more popular prospect. The pressure to get him on the field may force the hand of Brady Hoke, and really, is Michigan going to put Gardner back in there?"

Solomon, on the other hand, has the history of current Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez playing young quarterbacks on his side.

During his time at West Virginia, Rodriguez used Pat White as a four-year starter, easing him into the role after a battle with Adam Bednarik. White was named the starter at midseason. White would go on to lead the Mountaineers to four bowl wins, including a Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia during his freshman season, and eventually was picked in the second round of the NFL Draft.

More recently, in his brief time at Michigan, Rodriguez played Robinson as a true freshman, easing him in before the QB blossomed as a sophomore.

GoAzCats.com senior editor Tracy McDannald said that Rodriguez has the support of the Arizona athletic department and will be given time to make the program better. That includes the decision to start a freshman if he deems that the best way to proceed.

"Unlike his stint at Michigan, Rodriguez will have the time and confidence from athletic director Greg Byrne," McDannald said. "He sees Rodriguez more as a long-term hire than a quick fix, and he has been pleased with what Arizona has done thus far. A freshman quarterback will not change that commitment to Rodriguez."

The quarterback situation at Arizona is more similar to Michigan than any other as Matt Scott is leaving and it appears there is not a good solution behind him. The roster next year will feature junior college transfer B.J. Denker and Louisiana Tech transfer Nick Isham as well as sophomores-to-be Javelle Allen, Josh Kern and Jack Nykaza. There will also quarterback-turned-receiver options Richard Morrison and Alex Cappellini.

Bishop Gorman head coach Tony Sanchez said that Solomon will be ready to step into the role as a starting quarterback if it is asked of him. He also said that Solomon does not have the wear and tear of other high school QBs, since he had a talented cast around him.

"Size, arm strength, intelligence will not be an issue for him," Sanchez said. "He also has always had a Division I running back by his side with us, and he has never been asked to carry the ball 20 times a game and win games with his legs. He can do it if he needs to, but we have been very good about keeping him fresh."

Sanchez has also been smartly scheduling national caliber opponents to ready his players for the action at the college level.

Solomon has started games against Anaheim (Calif.) Servite, Olney (Md.) Good Counsel, Seffner (Fla.) Armwood, Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle, Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral, Phoenix (Ariz.) Brophy, Loomis (Calif.) Del Oro, and Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton.

Farrell believes that exposure is invaluable to the development of a quarterback.

"If this were a quarterback who had just seen Nevada competition for four years, he would be vastly underprepared," Farrell said. "The defenses at Armwood and Good Counsel are loaded with Division I kids, so seeing the speed of the players who will be at the next level gives him a major advantage."

McDannald thinks getting on campus and competing might be enough to make this an easy decision.

"Anybody else would be a complete shock," he said. "But it ultimately comes down to how quickly Solomon impresses the staff and whether they want to throw him into the fire immediately. It should not be difficult for him to quickly move up the depth chart."

Solomon definitely doesn't lack for confidence.

"I haven't been a backup since Pop Warner," he said. "If I can get in and compete, I believe I can be successful early."

Marvin Lewis Says Bengals Won't Bench LB Rey Maualuga

Filed Under: afc, afcnorth, bengals, nfl, rumor
Posted By: SteveRobWhatever 1 Week Ago #1

The Bengals will consider making personnel changes during their bye week but a move at middle linebacker won’t be on the table.

Head coach Marvin Lewis said as much during his Monday news conference before defending Rey Maualuga’s performance at the position.

“To the layman who’s sitting there watching, or whoever is being critical of Rey, they’re probably being overly critical,” Lewis said. “Nobody’s going to tell me more about playing linebacker than what I know. There’s a lot of good things he’s doing. Do we want him to play better and be the best linebacker in the National Football League. And we’ll keep coaching him to be that.”

Maualuga was in for all 73 plays on defense in Sunday’s loss against the Steelers and was credited with eight tackles and one quarterback hit. Lewis said Maualuga has played better in recent weeks than he did Sunday and noted others around the linebacker need to play with more consistency.

“Some of it, it looks like he’s not playing as well because other people aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing and he’s actually doing what he is (supposed to be) doing most of the time,” Lewis said. “Unfortunately, the last run of the game he decides he’s going to be Superman and get out of his responsibility.”

Polamalu on being 'popular' and 'overrated'

October, 27, 2012
Oct 27
By Lynn Hoppes | ESPN.com

Courtesy of Troy Polamalu
On Friday in Pittsburgh, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu held a luau to benefit a couple of charities.
Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu is getting a little restless, missing his fifth game of the season, this Sunday against the Washington Redskins, because of a nagging calf injury.

To keep busy, Polamalu has been spending time with his various charitable ventures. On Friday night, Polamalu held a Polynesian luau to benefit the Harry Panos Fund of the Pittsburgh Foundation and the Troy Polamalu Football Camp.

"To be honest, this is the first fundraising charity event I've ever hosted," said Polamalu, working with Head & Shoulders as title sponsor. "I've been to quite a few, and most times it's just players signing autographs. This is more to showcase the Polynesian culture and help some worthy causes."

Also, during the luau, Polamalu unveiled one of his online courses -- Art Appreciation -- from his School of Deeper Learning.

"This was a chance for everyone to have a good time and learn something," Polamalu said.

Playbook had a few minutes with Polamalu to talk about the event and some "news" that came out this past week.

You're going to miss Sunday's game with the calf injury. What's it like on the sideline for someone as energetic as you?

"I definitely want to be out there. I spend my time in the coach's ear telling him to run this play or that play. In fact, they may want me more on the field because I'm so annoying on the sideline. I try to stay mentally engaged, seeing how the opponent is trying to expose our defense and how we can counter that strategy."

This past week, you were voted the most liked player in the NFL. What is your reaction to that?
"To be honest, my first reaction is that I don't even like myself! Seriously, it's always nice to feel really appreciated. The message I tell to young players is that you represent more than yourself when you're on the field. You represent your family that raised you, your friends, your community that you come from and your culture. That's all I try to do is live my life. I was raised with the fundamental values of my culture, and I'm really conscious of that."

On the other side of the coin, SI.com had a story that you were No. 17 Most Overrated.

"For me, in that poll, they are probably right! I should have been ranked higher! In one sense, they have figured out what I've known all along."

But, outside the injury, it's all good, right?

"I'm blessed, for sure. The one thing that football has given me is an appreciation for a lot of the experiences I have. Even the little things like adversities such as injuries. You now can take a step back and look on your life. I'll be back to playing football soon."

Alameda Ta'amu re-instated by Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL.com Wire Reports
Published: Oct. 29, 2012 at 05:41 p.m.

The Pittsburgh Steelers re-instated rookie nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu on Monday after suspending him without pay two weeks ago following an Oct. 14 incident that led to his arrest.

Ta'amu faces more than a dozen charges, including three felony counts for fleeing police, aggravated assault and aggravated assault by vehicle.
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Ta'amu allegedly led Pittsburgh police on a wild car chase through the city's South Side neighborhood. According to the criminal complaint, police said he hit multiple parked cars, drove on the wrong side of the road and drove his car at officers when they attempted to pull him over. The complaint said police considered shooting, but did not because of the large number of pedestrians and motorists around.

According to The Associated Press, Ta'amu fled on foot once his vehicle became disabled. He then allegedly resisted officers when they tried to arrest him.

Ta'amu took a blood alcohol test and registered .196, twice the legal limit.

Koa Misi could face suspension for taking a plea deal

October 22, 2012|By Omar Kelly, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

DAVIE — Miami Dolphins linebacker Koa Misi pled no contest to felony battery charges and agreed to pay $42,000 to a Santa Barbara County resident he allegedly punched in the face.

 The NFL wouldn't comment on Misi's legal case but a spokesman acknowledged it falls under the NFL's personal conduct policy, and therefore gets evaluated by the commissioner.

Misi could be suspended for a game and/or fined, but that decision hasn't been made.

Defensive lineman Tony McDaniel was suspended one game without pay for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy after pleading guilty to domestic violence charges in 2010.

Prosecutors say a man on an Isla Vista apartment balcony made nasty comments to Misi and his friends as they walked down the street in April 2011. Misi allegedly broke down the apartment door and struck 19-year-old Casey Scott Fisher.

As part of a plea deal, Misi pleaded no contest last Thursday to battery causing serious bodily injury.

The Santa Barbara News-Press reports that Misi paid Fisher for medical expenses and agreed to 400 hours of community service.

The judge is expected to reduce the count to a misdemeanor during sentencing in February.

Misi, who has contributed 33 tackles, 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble in six games, declined to comment on his legal case.

If he's suspended Misi would have to sit out a week of practice too. He attended Monday's practice but the week officially begins for NFL players on Wednesday. McDaniel's suspension occurred a week after his legal issue was resolved.

Notre Dame's Manti Te'o for Heisman? We'll know Sooner than later

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o celebrates a 41-3 victory with teammates and fans earlier this month. (Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press / October 6, 2012)

By Mike Hiserman

October 27, 2012, 10:47 a.m.

Could Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o actually win the Heisman Trophy?

What happens Saturday evening when the Fighting Irish play Oklahoma in Norman could make the senior from Hawaii a legitimate candidate -- maybe even a favorite.

Or it could push him into the background. (Say, whatever happened to Geno Smith's runaway?)

Te'o has a lot of things going for him. First, he's been a model of consistency for a Notre Dame defense that is the biggest reason the Fighting Irish are undefeated and ranked No. 5 headed into the Oklahoma game. He leads Notre Dame with 69 tackles and four interceptions.

He's also known to be humble. And, of course, he has the Notre Dame brand -- and a powerful personal story -- that has helped nudge him into the national consciousness.

Te'o's girlfriend and grandmother passed away within days of each other in September, and Irish fans wore leis and roared their encouragement to him at an emotional rally about a week later that had him fighting back tears.

Brian Bosworth, who in 1986 became one of only two linebackers in recent history to be a Heisman finalist -- Marvin Jones of Florida State in 1992 was the other -- said he thought the personal losses Te'o experienced this season could help fuel his performance.

“They can use a football field for the aggressiveness, turn the volume up to a degree you didn't know you had because you reach into a well that is volcanic," Bosworth told the Chicago Tribune. "Now he's using what has happened in his past, along with what he already knows, to focus that energy.”

Charles Woodson, who won the Heisman in 1997, is the only modern-day winner who played mostly defense.

That defensive players are usually not even considered hurts the award's credibility, Bosworth said, "because it now looks like a stat or highlight award."

Oklahoma, which is ranked No. 8, has an offense that has been providing plenty of highlights, led by quarterback Landry Jones, himself a strong preseason Heisman candidate.

Since losing their third game of the season to Kansas State, the Sooners have put 156 points on the scoreboard in their last three games -- wins over Texas Tech, Texas and Kansas.

If Te'o and the Irish can slow the Sooners and stay undefeated, Notre Dame's national championship hopes become that much more real -- and so do Te'o's chances of beating the Heisman bias.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Oregon Football: Why Marcus Mariota Is a Top Heisman Contender

By Shawn Brubaker (Featured Columnist) on October 20, 2012
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Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Lost in all the hullabaloo over Geno Smith is the fact that Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is having a Heisman-caliber season in his own right.

That Oregon would be getting elite production out of the quarterback position seems to be taken for granted by now, but Mariota is among the best in a long line of success at Oregon.

As a redshirt freshman, Mariota has 16 passing touchdowns to just five interceptions, while completing over 60 percent of his passes in all but one game this season.

What makes Mariota special, of course, is his ability as a dual-threat quarterback. His 86-yard touchdown against Arizona State on Thursday night was the first of what should be many long touchdown gallops in Mariota's career.

Week in and week out, Mariota puts the Ducks in position to not just win, but dominate.

During one three-week stretch, Mariota threw the ball 95 times in a pass heavy attack. He threw the ball 28 times against Tennessee Tech, 35 against Arizona and 32 against Washington State in three blowout victories. When the game rests on his arm, he dominates.

Even when Mariota's passing is not the focal point of the offense, he is capable of taking over a game, as he proved Thursday. Mariota only threw the ball 12 times, but his running helped the Ducks take complete control. They lead 43-7 midway through the second quarter, allowing them to coast to an easy win.

Likewise, Mariota only threw for 166 yards in a matchup against Fresno State, but he also ran for 67 yards, sparking the Ducks' dominant offense to a 42-25 victory.

Whether on the ground or through the air, Mariota has delivered all season long. Oregon has not scored fewer than 42 points in a game this season, and the brilliant play of Mariota has been the catalyst.

He not only racks up stats himself, but Mariota also makes his teammates better as well. Seven Ducks have managed at least 10 catches this season, as Mariota spreads the ball around better than almost anybody in the country.

His ability to read defenses has also been a major boon for the Ducks, as it has allowed Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas to dominate opposing defenses. The two of them have combined for 1,272 yards on their own, and the team as a whole has 2,220 rushing yards at six yards per carry.

A lesser quarterback would not have this offense operating so effectively, but Mariota is the real deal.

He might not have the flashy stats that Geno Smith has, but Mariota has been every bit as important to Oregon's season. He definitely deserves at least an invite to the Heisman ceremony.

Scott Crichton added to Bednarik Award Watch List

By Lindsay Schnell, The Oregonian
on October 24, 2012 at 4:00 PM, updated October 25, 2012 at 9:42 AM Email | Print

Scott Crichton already has eight sacks on the year for the Oregon State defense.
AP photo
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- Oregon State sophomore defensive end Scott Crichton was among four players added to the 18th annual Chuck Bednarik Award Watch List as announced by the Maxwell Football Club Wednesday. The award annually recognizes the most outstanding defensive player in college football.

Crichton, a native of Tacoma, Wash., has been a force at defensive end since earning a starting job at defensive end as a redshirt freshman in 2011. Crichton, who registered six sacks and 14.5 tackles-for-loss as a freshman, has already has surpassed last year's production with eight sacks during the first half of 2012. His 14 career sacks already ranks tied for ninth in the Oregon State record books. A Freshman All-American in 2011, Crichton set the OSU single season record for forced fumbles as a freshman.

The watch list candidates have been chosen by the Maxwell Football Club's Selection Committee and the Maxwell Club reserves the right to make additions and subtractions to these lists as the 2012 season unfolds. All members of the Maxwell Football Club, NCAA Sports Information Directors, Head Coaches and selected national media are eligible to vote for this award.

Semifinalists for the Bednarik Award will be announced on October 29th and three finalists will be announced November 19th. The winner of the Bednarik Award will be announced as part of the Home Depot College Football Awards Show which will be held on December 6th. The formal presentation of the award will be made at the Maxwell Football Club Awards Gala hosted by Harrah's Entertainment Atlantic City on March 1, 2013.

Troy Polamalu, Drew Brees, Charles Woodson, Peyton Manning Among NFL’s Most Liked Players

By Alex Groberman, Wed, October 24, 2012

Everyone knows who the most disliked players in the NFL are. You don’t really need a poll to determine that. It is the guys who are constantly in the news for underachieving, having bad attitudes, or being dirty. Without any hints whatsoever, most legitimate football fans could probably name three of the five most disliked players with relative ease.

Figuring out who the most liked players are, however, is a little tougher. Recently, Nielson came together with E-Poll Market Research and conducted a poll amongst fans trying to determine which NFL players most appealing to fans.

Here were the top five (via Forbes):

1. Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers

2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

3. Charles Woodson, Green Bay Packers

4. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

5. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Three big-name, high-profile quarterbacks being on the list isn’t surprising. This is a pass-first league dominated by guys who know how to command an offense. Rodgers may not have been in as many commercials to date as Manning and Brees, but he has been a fan favorite ever since he first arrived on scene. (Or at least ever since Brett Favre started getting on everyone's nerves.)

Two defensive players being on the list, though, is very intriguing. No one is saying that Polamalu and Woodson aren’t good, likeable guys. It’s just surprising that so many people know how good and likable they are.

More likely than not, if you analyzed the polling data closely, you would probably find that Green Bay and Pittsburgh fans were well represented in the poll. That’s the only legitimate explanation as to why Polamalu and Woodson are at Nos. 1 and 3, respectively.

A Heisman Voter Breaks Down Whether Notre Dame's Manti Te'o Can Win

 By Lisa Horne (Featured Columnist) on October 24, 2012

This is the time of year when a Heisman voter starts narrowing down his or her watch list to the front-runners and the sleepers. In other words, there should be a good feeling about which players have really impressed you and which ones need to do more to move up the list.

As a Heisman voter, the next four to six weeks will be all about my watching every game in which my watch-listers play. Thank goodness for DVR!

I want to make sure that my vote is cast knowing I evaluated every player on my list and paid attention to not only what he did on the field, but also the level of competition he was playing against and how his performances impacted the team.

The Heisman Trophy, according to its mission statement, is awarded to "the most outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity."

This year all of my watch-listers have integrity, and that is important to me. One of my front-runners is Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o.

This young man impresses for so many reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is his character. His commitment to excellence and his perseverance despite personal tragedy is beyond reproach. September 11 is always a day for deep reflection and, for many families, a time of grieving, but Te'o suffered along with the families and friends of the four Americans killed this last September 11 in the Benghazi, Libya terrorist attack.

Te'o's grandmother and girlfriend both died that day, but he still played football the following Saturday four days later. He's committed to the school.

Manti Te'o, up close and personal

Manti Te'o could have declared early for the 2012 NFL draft but instead, he announced at the Lott Trophy Presentation ceremony last December that he would be coming back to Notre Dame.

That resonates with me because he represents the University of Notre Dame so well—the school has always had one of the highest graduation rates among its student athletes. Te'o is also the reason why Notre Dame is 7-0 thus far; its total defense is ranked No. 6 among FBS schools.

The last time a defensive player won the Heisman was in 1997; Michigan's Charles Woodson is the only (primarily) defensive player to have won the Heisman. Will Te'o be the second?

The deck is stacked against Te'o for one—and only one—reason: He doesn't touch the ball enough.

Touches matter because whoever is touching the ball has all attention on him. This explains why quarterbacks and running backs usually win the Heisman and why receivers or defensive players don't.

The human eye follows the ball. The camera follows the ball. The game announcers follow the ball. Rarely do you have all of the attention focused on a linebacker on every play, and that hurts Te'o, unfortunately.

For a defensive player to a Heisman vote, he's got to be in on the action on almost every play. Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh was one of those special players. Suh was named as one of the five Heisman finalists in 2009 but finished in fourth place.

He also won the Bednarik, Lombardi, Nagurski and Outland trophies, and was named the Associated Press College Player of the Year—the only defensive player to have ever won the award.

Should college football award two Heisman trophies? One for an offensive player and one for a defensive player?
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Again, no stiff arm means a defensive player has the tougher path and has to be the most noticeable player in every game in which he plays. He has to touch the ball whether it be via interception or fumble, and he has to make that monster sack on the quarterback at a critical juncture of the game.

Te'o will have a big trophy haul this year, no doubt, but he will have to exceed the bar that Suh set to win the 2012 Heisman.

Is it possible? Yes, of course it is. But Notre Dame going 12-0 would help. Sacking or intercepting Landry Jones this Saturday would help more. Getting a game-winning pick six against USC's Matt Barkley would really get voters' attention.

But no interceptions, sacks or forced fumbles from Te'o means limited touches.

Personally, I would love to see a defensive player win the Heisman because his contributions are just as important as that of a quarterback. Or that of a running back.

Te'o has the integrity and outstanding pursuit of excellence checked off. He's an incredible athlete and an incredible person.

But he needs to show me his Heisman moment—I'll be waiting for it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

College Football Recruiting Week 9 Visits That Could Lead to Decommitment

Isaac Savaiinaea to Stanford

This is an interesting visit that Stanford needs to go well, because Savaiinaea is committed to Stanford. He's one of their prized commitments for this class, but is looking around a bit.

If this visit doesn't go perfectly for Stanford, they could see Savaiinaea opt to sign with Texas A&M, Notre Dame or Florida.

Oregon’s rookie quarterback is on the fast track to success QB Marcus Mariota will likely set multiple freshman records

UO Football

By Bob Clark

The Register-Guard

Published: October 24, 2012 12:00AM, Today

In attendance at Autzen Stadium on Saturday will be high school teammates of Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, the guys who helped the UO freshman win a Hawaii state title for Saint Louis School.

“I haven’t seen them in a while,” Mariota said. “I’m really looking forward to it.

“I want to put on a good show for them.”

Well, that certainly won’t be anything unusual.

Mariota’s freshman season has been nothing but a success. He’s quarterbacked the second-ranked Ducks to seven victories entering Saturday’s game against Colorado, and his individual numbers are headed for the record books as well.

If he throws three touchdown passes against the Buffaloes, he’ll match the conference record of 19 touchdown passes by a freshman. Mariota is within 115 yards of the total offense record (rushing and passing yards) for a UO freshman. His completion percentage of .683 currently exceeds the UO record for a season.

What hasn’t he done already? His 86-yard touchdown run against Arizona State was the longest ever by a UO quarterback. That run also helped him become the first UO player since Joey Harrington in 2000 to run for a score, throw for a touchdown and have a touchdown reception in the same game.

Wait, he’s a receiver, too?

“I wasn’t totally expecting that,” Mariota said of the flip in his direction from Bryan Bennett, in the lineup along with Mariota for one of Oregon’s two-quarterback alignments. “I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”

Which could aptly describe his situation with the Ducks. Could a player better fit physically into what Oregon wants from a quarterback — strong arm, fleet feet — than the 6-foot-4, 211-pound Mariota?

And that doesn’t fully describe his abilities as a quarterback.

“He’s just been a guy who kind of got it,” UO offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said. “We haven’t had to limit anything (offensively) because of him.

“It doesn’t make sense to do something your quarterback can’t do or doesn’t have confidence in, but you can advance your unit if that guy can handle a few more things.”

Handle it? Mariota usually excels at it.

In the Pac-12, he ranks third in passing efficiency (155.0) which puts him 20th in the nation, and tops among freshmen. That’s a statistic that combines factors such as yards per attempt and touchdowns (16) compared to interceptions (five) to determine the overall rating of a quarterback, rather than simply raw yards, and it’s usually a category dominated by veteran quarterbacks.

Well, and a player with the ability of Mariota.

Nationally, only two freshmen really compare statistically to Mariota. Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M — who was once committed to Oregon, and attended a camp in Eugene with Mariota — and UCLA’s Brett Hundley both best Mariota in total yards and passing yards. But they’ve both attempted more passes, neither has as good of a completion percentage and each has two fewer touchdown passes than Mariota.

It’s likely Mariota’s numbers are never going to set records on a national basis anyway, simply because of the balance of Oregon’s offense. Think of some of those marks: Sam Bradford of Oklahoma holds the NCAA record for touchdown passes by a freshman with 36, but the Sooners threw the football considerably more often than Oregon. In his freshman season at Missouri, Brad Smith ran for 1,029 yards (a record for a freshman quarterback) and passed for 2,333 yards, but he was virtually the entire offense for his team.

Perhaps a more valid comparison for Mariota’s freshman season would be what Andrew Luck of Stanford accomplished in his first college season. With an offense built around the running of Toby Gerhart, Luck still set a Stanford freshman record with 2,575 passing yards while throwing for 13 touchdowns to lead the Pac-12 in passing efficiency. Luck’s total offense average as a freshman of 244.1 yards is virtually the same as Mariota’s current average of 243.3.

And that’s after a game at Arizona State in which Mariota only passed for 48 yards, as the Ducks emphasized their running game, including Mariota’s 135 rushing yards.

“It depends on the game plan,” Mariota said of his role. “Whatever the coaches ask me to do, I’ll do it. If I have to (keep the football) more like last game, I will. It’s a lot of fun for me to run the ball.”

Again, the beauty of Mariota is his ability to handle anything thrown his way, including adversity. After an interception, he’ll analyze why it happened, and then move on, Helfrich said. After a fumble on Oregon’s second offensive play at ASU set up a touchdown for the Sun Devils and put the crowd into a frenzy, Mariota moved the Ducks up and down the field to a 43-7 halftime lead before he departed.

So even when he’s not his usual unstoppable self, he remains unflappable.

“That’s what he is, it’s one of the great qualities he has,” UO coach Chip Kelly said. “One thing we have been aware of since he got here is he has a way of not worrying about the last snap, whether it was positive or negative, and just put it behind him.

“He is an even-keel guy and has a great approach to the game. What people see on a weekly basis is what we see every day out of him.”

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Steelers' handling of Alameda Ta'amu DUI case hypocritical and insulting

By Pat O'Mahony on Oct 18, 7:52a
Jared Wickerham

The Steelers abandoned their once revered principles in the handling of the Alameda Ta'amu DUI case. But was there even a "Steeler Way" to begin with, or is it just a myth?
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We have heard about the "Steelers Way" for years. Fans have this myth ingrained into their minds that the Steelers are somehow different than all those other heathen NFL franchises. The Pittsburgh Steelers supposedly have some manifest culture that makes the organization better than every other NFL team. The Steelers aren't the Bengals. They aren't the Ravens. The Rooneys and the Men of Steel are a different breed. They handle things differently in Pittsburgh, right?

In the words of Joe Biden, that's a bunch of malarkey.

I hate to break it to you, Steelers Nation, but your franchise is not different. It never has been. The only difference is that the Steelers produce winners. That should be the real meaning of the "Steelers Way." The proverbial slap on the wrist given to rookie defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu only strengthens the argument that the Steelers are no different. If the organization practiced what they preached and what the fans believe, if the Steelers truly placed honor and dignity above all else, Alameda Ta'amu would be searching for a job right now. However, sometimes the whole honor thing doesn't work out. Ask Penn State. I'm fine with it actually, but just don't pretend you're somehow doing things differently than the 31 other teams.

The laundry list of incidents probably isn't necessary, but for emphasis, let's take a trip down memories (we'd like to forget) lane: Jeff Reed, Najeh Davenport, James Harrison, Santonio Holmes, Barrett Brooks, Cedric Wilson, Hines Ward, and the Ben Roethlisberger saga.

In Ta'amu's case, what more could he have done, short of killing a person, to warrant a pink slip? I mean honestly, what Ta'amu allegedly put police and innocent bystanders through early Sunday morning is not only wrong, but something you would likely see in a movie. He could have easily killed someone. He could have easily been killed, either by his reckless driving, or by the police who drew their guns on him but decided not to fire. And this isn't even his first DUI. The Steelers knew he had a history. They picked him anyway knowing his previous issues. He drove drunk again and the team responded with a two-game suspension, a stern talking-to, and a slap on the wrist. So much for honor. So much for being different.

I wish my workplace ran things the "Steelers Way."

Preseason Big East Player of the Year: the gift and the curse?

Raphielle Johnson Oct 18, 2012, 2:43 PM EDT

At Big East media day on Wednesday it was announced that the coaches selected Louisville senior point guard Peyton Siva as their preseason Player of the Year.

That’s quite the honor for Siva, who is coming off of a season in which he struggled with health early but once at full strength helped lead the Cardinals to a Big East tournament title and the Final Four.

Siva averaged 9.1 points and 5.6 assists per game in 2011-12, and he performed better in postseason play to the tune of 11.3 points and 6.0 assists in Louisville’s nine games (Big East and NCAA tournaments).

With the preseason honor Siva will now look to do something that hasn’t been done in the Big East in nearly a decade.

Not since the 2003-04 season has the preseason choice for Big East Player of the Year gone on to win the honor at the end of the season (UConn’s Emeka Okafor).

In fact, as Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard reported, league coaches have shown themselves to be pretty good at completely missing on the honor.

In each of the last five seasons there’s been an example of a Big East Player of the Year winner not receiving any kind of honor in the preseason.

Last year, the coaches tab Pittsburgh’s Ashton Gibbs as the preseason Player of the Year. However, the post-season award went to Marquette’s Jae Crowder, who in the preseason wasn’t on the coaches’ first or second all-conference teams.

The same happened in 2010-11. Georgetown’s Austin Freeman was the preseason pick, meanwhile the year’s eventual winner; Notre Dame’s Ben Hansbrough, was left of the coaches’ preseason all-league teams.

Ditto in 2009-10. Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody was the preseason player of the year pick. Syracuse’s Wes Johnson would end up with the post-season hardware despite the fact that he wasn’t on either the first or second all-conference teams in the preseason.

In 2008, the coaches chose Georgetown’s Roy Hibbert for preseason player of the year. Harangody, just a sophomore, won the post-season award. Harangody had not been on the coaches’ preseason all-league teams.

In 2009 UConn’s Hasheem Thabeet, who was honored in the preseason, shared Big East Player of the Year with a player in Pittsburgh’s DeJuan Blair who was not.

The question for this season: if it isn’t Siva then which of the other players not named to the Big East’s first and second teams is most capable of rising to the challenge?

One player to keep an eye on: Notre Dame guard Eric Atkins. While Jack Cooley (first team) and Jerian Grant (honorable mention) had their names called on Wednesday Atkins did not.

The junior from Columbia, Maryland averaged 12.1 points and 4.1 assists per game last season, and while he was second on the team in assists (Grant) playing on a talented team that can win the conference could help Atkins’ case.

There’s also Michael Carter-Williams, C.J. Fair and James Southerland at Syracuse to take into consideration, and Cincinnati’s Cashmere Wright wasn’t named to a preseason All-Big East team either.

Siva’s a worthy choice for preseason Big East Player of the Year, but a look at the recent history of the honors shows that it may be someone not on the preseason radar who takes the trophy home in March.

Miami Dolphins linebacker Koa Misi has pleaded no contest to felony battery and paid $42,000

NFL player pleads no contest to felony battery
The Associated Press
Posted: 10/19/2012 08:43:59 AM PDT
Updated: 10/19/2012 08:43:59 AM PDT

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.—Miami Dolphins linebacker Koa Misi has pleaded no contest to felony battery and paid $42,000 to a Santa Barbara County resident he punched in the face.

Prosecutors say a man on an Isla Vista apartment balcony made nasty comments to Misi and his friends as they walked down the street in April 2011.

Misi broke down the apartment door and struck 19-year-old Casey Scott Fisher.

As part of a plea deal, the 6-foot-3, 251-pound football player pleaded no contest Thursday to battery causing serious bodily injury.

The Santa Barbara News-Press ( http://bit.ly/TBTfOG) says Misi paid Fisher for medical expenses and agreed to 400 hours of community service.

The judge is expected to reduce the count to a misdemeanor during sentencing in February.

Defense lawyer Adam Braun declined to comment.

BYU vs. Notre Dame: Manti Te'o's Heisman Stock Continues to Soar

By John Rozum (Featured Columnist) on October 20, 2012
4,490 reads 10
Manti Te'o and the Heisman Trophy get more real each week.

And with Notre Dame remaining perfect through seven games, the star Fighting Irish linebacker is a rightful Heisman candidate in 2012.

Versus BYU on Saturday, Te'o and the defense held the Cougars scoreless in the second half and he recorded a fourth interception on the year. Entering the contest Te'o had recorded 59 tackles and six defended passes.

In recording 10 tackles against the Cougars, Te'o's leadership and impact paid extreme dividends for Brian Kelly's defense. BYU had minimal success in the intermediate passing game because of Te'o's middle presence, which ultimately allowed the pass rush to apply more pressure (four sacks).

In addition, the Cougar's blocking schemes were geared toward him and that freed up other front seven defenders to make plays. In turn, BYU managed only 66 rushing yards on 25 attempts.

The flip side of that coin is continually getting Theo Riddick and the offense possessions and mostly with solid field position. BYU recorded just six first downs in the second half.

All that said, let's check out why Te'o is a legit Heisman hopeful and what must happen for him to win it.

Standout Defender is a Rare Competitive Advantage

Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

Whenever a defensive player is considered a Heisman candidate, he must be a consistently reliable playmaker.

This entails tackles, creating/forcing turnovers and not allowing the opposing offense to win the field position battle. As a linebacker, Te'o has the luxury of accumulating interceptions/defending passes and making tackles all over the field.

On any defense, the leading tacklers are mostly inside linebackers and opportunities to record picks come around quite often. We also see inside linebackers play everywhere across the field. You don't get that kind of playmaking width from any other position since Te'o's directly in the midst of everything.

One final area where Te'o has an edge playing defense is the game's evolution. We're seeing so many pass-heavy offenses and few defenses capable of slowing that explosiveness down. Also, because of that pass-heavy philosophy offenses normally see fewer defenders in the box against the run.

Well, Notre Dame is impressively well-versed against the pass and run. So it's no surprise Te'o stands out, because the Irish field one of the nation's top defenses in all aspects.

Collegiate Consistency Has Impacted 2012 Exposure

For a defensive player to also become a Heisman candidate, a strong resume must be built from years prior. This is mainly due to offensive players garnering even more recognition in the offense-oriented movement, and the Heisman Trophy going to all offensive players except for Charles Woodson.

Charles Woodson while at Michigan
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Fortunately, Te'o's consistency has been done emphatically well by recording 63 tackles as a freshman, 133 as a sophomore and 128 last year. His ability to defend the pass continues to improve as evidence of the four picks, and entering 2012 Te'o had 28.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks.

What that tells us is Te'o not sitting back and waiting to make tackles five or six yards downfield. He's either stuffing the run at the line, refusing to allow hardly any yards after the catch and using his football IQ to disrupt screens, draws and checkdowns.

Throughout his career at Notre Dame Te'o has simply dominated all over the field and that has led to increased exposure and expectations in 2012. And thus far he has gone above the hype.

Importance of the Schedule and Perfection

A tough schedule and a perfect record play right into the hands of any Heisman Trophy candidate.

Considering that the Irish are 7-0 and have wins over solid teams such as Michigan (5-2) and Stanford (5-2) the remainder is set up nicely. After all, the Wolverines only other loss is to Alabama and the Cardinal was ranked No. 17 when playing at South Bend.

Great challengers ahead are the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman and then the USC Trojans at the Coliseum. Entering this weekend the Sooners ranked No. 9 in the BCS and USC was No. 10. However, with No. 7 South Carolina losing both schools can be expected to move up.

And provided the Irish get a victory over Oklahoma and USC remains perfect as well, that final matchup could potentially feature two Top 5 BCS teams. In short, if the Irish remain perfect Te'o will be a Heisman finalist on a national title contending team.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Notre Dame's Manti Te'o: College football's best defensive player

By Bucky Brooks
Analyst, NFL.com and NFL Network
Published: Oct. 15, 2012 at 03:52 p.m.

Linebacker Manti Te'o played an integral role in Notre Dame's thrilling overtime defeat of Stanford on Saturday.

Manti Te'o is the best defensive player in college football, and it's not even close.

While fans of Georgia's Jarvis Jones, South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney and several others might take umbrage with that statement, I will not back down from my assessment after watching the Notre Dame star dominate another game from his linebacker position.
Every Monday, NFL.com college football expert Bucky Brooks looks back on the weekend action and evaluates which prospects are rising and which are sliding.

Te'o finished with 11 tackles and a ton of teeth-rattling hits, helping Notre Dame notch a 20-13 overtime win against Stanford on Saturday. While he didn't come up with a game-changing turnover or force Stanford to lose any yards, Te'o was an integral part of a defense that controlled the line of scrimmage against a Cardinal squad that routinely overwhelms opponents with its physical running game.

Closely watching Te'o throughout the game, I came away impressed with his athleticism, aggressiveness and instincts. He flowed quickly to the ball and delivered punishing shots on runners in the hole. Most importantly, Te'o was the pivotal player on the game-clinching goal-line stand that kept Stanford's Stepfan Taylor from reaching the end zone on four consecutive plays inside the Irish 5-yard line. I broke down that four-play sequence; Te'o was in the middle of the action throughout. He repeatedly finished off Taylor before he could get the ball across the plane. Te'o's willingness to lay big hits on the runner kept the Cardinal star from reaching paydirt with the game on the line.

Te'o's standout production against Stanford can be added to an impressive senior résumé that includes superb performances against Navy (eight tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception), Michigan (eight tackles and two interceptions) and Michigan State (12 tackles). It's hard to find many issues or concerns about Te'o's ability to develop into a difference maker at the next level.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Steelers: NT Alameda Ta'amu faces preliminary hearing, charges

By Chuck Finder | CBSSports.com
October 14, 2012 10:16 am ET
Steelers rookie reserve nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu was charged with DUI, fleeing and aggravated assault on Sunday morning in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh police said Sunday morning that Ta'amu was arrested in the city's bar-filled South Side, adding he was charged with driving the wrong way down Carson Street -- the main thoroughfare of that popular nighttime district.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Sunday that a traffic stop in South Side resulted in several vehicles being damaged by a fleeing vehicle.

Ta'amu, scheduled for an Oct. 23 hearing, was charged with felony counts of fleeing and aggravated assault (four counts). He also was charged with misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest, escape, damage to vehicle, and DUI (two counts). He also was cited with five other summary traffic offenses.

The Steelers don't play Sunday, as they lost to the Titans on Thursday.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sun Devils score the Latu twins

October, 6, 2012
Oct 6
By RecruitingNation | ESPN.com
Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) High School twin linebackers Viliami Latu and A.J. Latu have joined Arizona State's Class of 2013, according to multiple reports.

Viliami, 6-foot-2, 224-pounds, is considered the country's 27th best inside linebacker and a high three-star talent. A.J. is a 6-foot-2, 207-pound three-star prospect ranked as the nation's No. 124 outside linebacker.

Programs including Arizona, Boise State, Colorado, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Houston, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Oregon State and Washington State also pursued the pair.

The Latu's are the first linebackers to select Arizona State during this recruiting cycle. The Sun Devils now have 15 total verbals.

AIGA Foundation Sports Combines And Athletic Camps


We want to extend an invitation to recommend (high school/senior) student-athletes to the 2013 Polynesian All American Football game coming January 17-19 in Los Angeles. This year we will choose 60 players from across the United States and South Pacific region to showcase their skills and fellowship with one another during our 3-day Bowl weekend. The criteria is that you must be on track to graduate and have the neccessary classes and grades to potentially receive a scholarship if offered as a result of the game. If your grades do not refelct a potential prospect you will not be considered for the game. You must also post a video on hudl or youtube with 15 of your top plays. In your video please post your contact information and player profile information in the beginning of the video.

Go to www.PolynesianAllAmerican.com to register potential candidates.

Listed below are the coaches and early commitments to this year's game.

Thanks in advance for your time and consideration.

2013 Head Coaches & NFL Legends

Jesse Sapolu (Team Black)

Vai Sikahema (Team White)

Dan Saleaumua (Team, Coaches, and Practice Director)

Class of 2013 Bowl Game Commitments:

1) Sua Cravens, Vista Murrieta HS (Temecula, CA), Safety- (USC)

2) Anu Solomon, Bishop Gorman HS (Las Vegas), QB- (Arizona)

3) Matthew Ilalio, Service HS (Anchorage, AK), WR/SS

4) Niko Kapeli, Liberty HS (Las Vegas), RB- (UNLV)

5) Nate Tago, Tesoro HS (Las Flores, CA), RB

6) Kai Nacua, Liberty HS (Las Vegas), QB/S- (BYU)

7)Toshaun Poumele, Cathedral Catholic HS (San Diego), MLB

8) Jeremy Tabuyo, St Louis HS (Honolulu), WR/KR/PR- (Texas A&M)

9) Kennedy Tulimasealii, Waianae (Hawaii), DL

10) Uaea Masina, Brighton (Utah), OLB- (Utah)

11) Karris Johnson, California HS (San Ramon, CA), RB

12) Peter Tuipulotu, Serra HS (San Mateo, CA), LB

13) Joe "Jojo" Mathis, Upland HS (Upland, CA), DE

14) Keanu "Nunu" Hill, Serra HS (Gardena, CA), WR/DB

15) David Maka, Tustin HS (Tustin, CA), DL/OL

16) Amu Milo, Helix HS (San Diego, CA), DL/OL

17) Myron Aiava, Westminster HS (Westminster, CA), DE/TE (Utah)

18) Vita Vea, Milpitas HS (Milpitas, CA), DE

Visit AIGA Foundation Sports Combines And Athletic Camps at: http://www.aigafoundation.com/?xg_source=msg_mes_network

Sunday, October 7, 2012

My, how Marcus Mariota has grown Freshman Marcus Mariota puts on a clinic in another Oregon blowout of Washington

By Rob Moseley

The Register-Guard

Published: October 7, 2012 12:00AM, Today

On a night when his parents and younger brother were in attendance together for the first time in Autzen Stadium, young Marcus Mariota showed just how much he’s grown up over the first half of the Oregon football season.

In No. 2 Oregon’s 52-21 victory over No. 23 Washington on Saturday night, Mariota was unaffected by a rivalry game, unrattled by pressure that forced him out of the pocket, undeterred by a mandate to avoid excessive contact on the run. The redshirt freshman put together a game that might not have been his best statistically, but showed off the maturity the No. 2 Ducks will need as they continue their chase for a national championship.

Overcoming an early interception and also a sack, Mariota time and again used his legs to buy time and allow receivers to get open, throwing for four touchdowns as the Ducks made Swiss cheese of the Washington defense coordinated by Justin Wilcox, the former UO cornerback who helped the Huskies frustrate Stanford to such effect a week earlier. Mariota also ran seven times for 40 yards while avoiding contact at the end of such plays, something he said he needed to work on after Oregon’s victory over Washington State one week prior.

Forced throws and big hits put the football at risk, and Mariota did very little of that Saturday.

“That was probably one of the biggest things I was trying to work on during the week,” Mariota said. “Making sure I took better care of the ball.”

Oregon’s run of seven touchdowns in seven possessions to open the season against Arkansas State remains the high-water mark for the UO offense this season. But the Ducks were pretty darn good against the Huskies. Kenjon Barner added 122 rushing yards, moving into sixth all-time in Oregon history, and the UO defense put together another command performance, highlighted by Avery Patterson’s pick-six interception, his second in two games and the fourth in three games for the Ducks overall.

What there wasn’t, in the wake of the game, was much talk of the UO-UW rivalry. There was some buzz early on about Washington’s pregame huddle at midfield, which for some harkened back to the “dancing on the O” drama from 2002. But, ultimately, Oregon won for the ninth straight time in the series — the Ducks’ longest win streak against any conference opponent, ever — all by at least 17 points.

With the Huskies once again unable to insinuate themselves into the storyline, the focus remains on Oregon, on a night when three other top-five teams were upset. The Ducks were never at risk of such a stumble Saturday, in part because their young quarterback continues to carry himself beyond his years.

After De’Anthony Thomas put two quiet games behind him with a brilliant touchdown run early on, undressing three UW defenders with his cat-quick feet, Mariota threw his first touchdown pass, to Keanon Lowe. Patterson added his interception in the first quarter, and the game was never in doubt.

Mariota stole the spotlight in the second quarter. At one point, Dwayne Stanford was streaking across the back of the end zone, but a defender was close on his heels, so Mariota checked down to his third option, and hit Colt Lyerla for a 10-yard touchdown. Later in the period, Mariota rolled out to keep a play alive, checked down again to his third option — maybe even fourth, Mariota said afterward — and found Josh Huff for a pass that Huff turned into a 34-yard touchdown.

“He’s learning every day out there, and it’s fun to watch him learn from mistakes and improve,” UO coach Chip Kelly said of Mariota. “That’s one thing that’s awesome about him. I think he played really well tonight, and if he can play at that level we can be pretty good.”

Mariota also deviated at least briefly from his typically cool demeanor. Taken down after crossing the UW sideline at the end of a run, he jumped up to run back on to the field, then turned back not once but twice to bark at the Washington sideline. A couple of Huskies had stood over him woofing, Mariota said.

“If you disrespect me or disrespect my teammates, I’m not going to let that go,” Mariota said. “There’s situations where you can keep your head and there’s situations where you need to say something. I felt at that point in time they were getting a little chippy. I felt I needed to say a little something. That’s usually not in my character; it just kind of happened.”

It wasn’t a perfect night for Mariota. His early interception was thrown into tight coverage, tipped into the air and intercepted. It was one of the first plays he brought up after the game in assessing his performance.

“Those are things that are fun to be around,” UO offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said. “The groupthink of excellence, the groupthink of, hey, we can do things better. That’s invaluable.”

The Ducks hit the halfway mark of the regular season Saturday, and are bowl eligible with the win, a trivial matter for a team with the biggest of goals. More important is that they continue to play top-notch defense and have an offense that shows tangible gains week to week, with Mariota setting the tone.

After a bye, Oregon’s schedule gets serious, with a road trip to Arizona State, and then, two weeks later, another to play at USC. When it’s national titles you’re playing for, the margin of error is small. The Ducks know that.

“I’m really excited about the way we’re playing,” UO defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said. “But we’re just 6-0.”

Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o is a Legitimate Heisman Trophy Contender Justin Burnette | October 7, 2012 |

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish dominated the Miami Hurricanes in a win 41-3 win with the help of All-American linebacker Manti Te’o (6-2 255).

The recent performance by Te’o on the field and the personal difficulties that he has suffered off the field has vaulted him into the discussion as a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender. According to Sports Illustrated, he is named after a warrior in The Book of Mormon. He has been nothing less than a valid warrior for the Fighting Irish in every way.

Two close individuals to Te’o died just hours apart three days before the Michigan State game; he lost his grandmother to natural causes and his girlfriend to leukemia. Despite the tragic news, Te’o did not miss any games as a result. He kept playing on as his loved ones who passed away would have wanted him to do.

The senior linebacker has evolved into a well rounded defender. He had three interceptions, two fumble recoveries, and 38 tackles in four games coming into the Miami match up. The Irish held the Hurricanes to a total of 285 yards on offense. For the season, Te’o and the Notre Dame defense are allowing just 7.8 points per game.

Te’o was fourth in the Heisman Trophy race before the week began, according to the latest Heismanpundit/CBSSports.com Straw Poll. If Notre Dame keeps dominating and Te’o maintains his output, voters won’t be able to keep him out of New York in December.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Notre Dame Football: Manti Te'o Emerges As Heisman Trophy Candidate Despite Tragedy

AP | By TOM COYNE Posted: 10/03/2012 4:26 pm EDT Updated: 10/06/2012 2:30 pm EDT
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — The profile page on the Twitter account of Manti Te'o doesn't say he's a Notre Dame linebacker, that he's being mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate or that he's a Sports Illustrated cover boy.

Instead, it features a quote from "The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas: "Life is a storm. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes."

Te'o has been through a storm.

His maternal grandmother, Annette Santiago, died in Hawaii after a long illness on Sept. 11 and his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, died in California of leukemia several hours later. Te'o didn't miss a practice that week, choosing to be with his teammates as the Irish prepared for their game at then-No. 10 Michigan State, even though coach Brian Kelly told him he didn't need to be there.

Te'o calls it the hardest thing he's ever had to do.

"To be able to operate, and to be able to try to continue with my daily routine, but knowing that I just lost a woman that I truly loved, that was the hardest thing," he said.

The task was made even harder knowing he couldn't attend her funeral in Carson City, Calif.. He said Lennay had made him promise he wouldn't miss a game, instead asking him to honor her with his play.

Te'o did that. He had 12 tackles, one for a loss, and broke up two passes in the win against Michigan State. A week later, he had two interceptions, leading to a touchdown and a field goal, in a 13-6 win over Michigan in which he had eight tackles. The Irish defense didn't give up a touchdown in the two games.

The performances caught the attention of his teammates, his classmates and college football fans across the country.

"At that time he may have been a little weak inside, but he never showed it out," defensive end Stephon Tuitt said. "He stayed strong. Watching him kept us going strong."

Te'o has been the driving force behind the best Notre Dame defense in at least a decade, leading the Irish to their 4-0 start and their No. 9 ranking. He has played a role in seven of the 13 turnovers forced by the Irish, intercepting three passes, recovering two fumbles and hurrying the quarterback twice on passes that were intercepted.

Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco believes the 6-foot-2, 255-pound Te'o is the finest football player in college, saying he can power his way through blocks, but moves like a much smaller player.

"He's a unique blend of being able to be kind and good and courteous and warm and friendly when he's not inside the gates or inside the stripes, and then when he's in there he's an absolute warrior," Diaco said.

Te'o's father, Brian, believes part of that is it's a Polynesian trait, citing Junior Seau and Troy Polamalu as examples. He also believes it's partially related to Te'o's Mormon upbringing.

"He understands that his actions have a direct impact on those who are watching him, and also the fact that his actions and decision-making does have a direct reflection on the family, on both my wife and I," he said. "We both remind him constantly."

His father said Te'o also works hard at his craft because he knows another talented athlete is working just as hard.

"He knows when he meets that person he's going to have to be at the top of his game in order to compete with him," he said.

Te'o has 362 career tackles and is on pace to finish third on Notre Dame's all-time list behind Bob Crable (1978-81), who had 521, and Bob Golic (1975-78), who finished with 479.

Crable calls Te'o one of the best players he's seen at Notre Dame.

"He has great speed. He knows where the football is," he said. "Unfortunately for him, as far as the tackling record goes, the game has changed so much. I don't know how anyone can get the tackles some of us old guys got just because they don't run the ball as much."

Kelly said what separates Te'o from other stars is he knows the names of every player on the team, even the walkons.

"He doesn't call them, 'Hey, 42, or 57.' He knows each of those guys. ... That's pretty unique," he said.

Student body President Brett Rocheleau said classmates love Te'o because he's one of them. He takes part in campus events, he's seen walking around carrying his backpack and talking with other students.

"Every story you hear about Manti is that he is genuinely nice guy. He's one that is easy to talk to. He goes out of his way to carry on conversations," he said.

The students showed their love for Te'o by chanting his name and wearing leis at the Michigan game and pep rally. Te'o jumped up in the crowd to celebrate the victory with them.

"I felt a sense of peace knowing that so many people cared about Manti instead of No. 5," he said.

He was able to get home for his grandmother's funeral during the bye week and said he feels rejuvenated as the Irish prepare to play Miami (4-1) Saturday in Chicago.

"I've never felt so strong; spiritually strong," he said. "I could never thank the student body and the fans around the world for their all love and all their prayers and support. I truly felt all of that, and it's helped me to get past, help me get through these past three weeks and I'm truly grateful and I'm truly humbled."

Manti Te'o: Overcoming Tragedy

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o went out and played the best two games of his career the same week that he lost his grandmother and his girlfriend. Gene Wojciechowski sits down with Te'o to talk about overcoming such personal tragedies.

Pitoitua, towering 6 feet 8 and 315 pounds, fills two roles for Chiefs

Published: October 5, 2012

By RANDY COVITZ — The Kansas City Star

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Two names are tattooed in script on the chest of Chiefs defensive end Ropati Pitoitua, right below his collarbone.

Lila Lane.

A tattoo of the flag of American Samoa adorns his left shoulder.

"Lila Lane is the street back home where I grew up," Pitoitua said of Lakewood, Wash., a suburb of Tacoma. "It has a lot of significance. This is where I started football. I feel it was like the second chapter in my life."

The first chapter of Pitoitua's life is represented by the American Samoa flag. He was born in Samoa and lived there until his family moved to Washington when he was 10 years old.

And now Pitoitua - his names are pronounced ROE-pot-ee, Puh-TOE-uh-two-ah - has gone from Lila Lane to One Arrowhead Drive, where he is establishing himself as one of the Chiefs' most dependable defensive linemen.

Although he missed two days of practice this week because of a hyperextended elbow, Pitoitua has been outfitted with a protective brace and is expected to make his second straight start at right end on Sunday against Baltimore. He's taking the place of Glenn Dorsey, who has not practiced this week because of a calf injury.

In last week's loss to San Diego, Pitoitua made the first start of his four-year career and came up with two sacks. That matched the number of sacks left end Tyson Jackson has had in four seasons and is half as many as Dorsey's four sacks in five years.

"I felt pretty good, but as a team, we didn't come up with a win, so that (cancels) it out," said Pitoitua, who joined the Chiefs this season after three years as a backup with the New York Jets.

Pitoitua, a towering 6 feet 8 and 315 pounds, fills two roles with the Chiefs. Not only has he been Dorsey's backup at right end in the base defense, but he's also a down lineman in the nickel defense. So if he were unable to play, coach Romeo Crennel would have to find two players to replace Pitoitua.

"He's got himself to a point where he can do several things," Crennel said. "We always tell them the more you can do, the more we ask you to do. He is somewhat valuable, so it will be good if he can do something for this game."

Football wasn't always Pitoitua's first love. His boyhood heroes were the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics, and he didn't begin playing football until his junior year in high school.

"My high school coach, Jim Goode, was a new coach at the time, and saw me in the hallway," Pitoitua said, "and he told me I should come out for football. He bugged me the whole time and never left me alone."

Pitoitua played well enough in high school to earn a scholarship to Washington State, but injuries derailed his first three years. As a freshman, a sprained ankle cost him three games; as a sophomore, a broken leg in fall camp caused him to miss the first five games; and as a junior, he missed three games because of a knee sprain.

Even though Pitoitua stayed healthy as a senior, he went undrafted but was signed as a rookie free agent by the Jets and appeared in 22 games during 2008-11. But he couldn't escape injuries there either, and his season-ending Achilles' tendon injury during 2010 training camp made for a tear-jerking story line on HBO's "Hard Knocks" series.

Jets teammate Kris Jenkins lifted Pitoitua off the bench, put him over his shoulder and carried him to the cart that was waiting to take him inside the locker room to be examined.

"It was crazy with all the cameras all over the place," Pitoitua said. "I was just myself."

Pitoitua recovered and played in 14 games last year for the Jets, establishing career highs with 19 tackles, three tackles for losses and a sack, but he was released last May 2 after New York took Quinton Coples with their first-round draft pick.

The Chiefs, who have struggled to find impact players on the defensive front, remembered Pitoitua from playing the Jets last season and signed him six days after he was cut.

"He's like a tree," Chiefs guard Jon Asamoah said. "And he's strong. He's like hitting a wall. He's got so much strength, he'll get after you if you're not on your game."

It would seem in a game where low man wins the battle on the line of scrimmage, Pitoitua's height would work against him. Only four other players in the NFL are taller - San Diego's Jared Gaither, Philadelphia's King Dunlap, Tampa Bay's Demar Dotson and Cincinnati's Dennis Roland are all listed at 6-9 - and all four play offensive tackle.

"He has to bend his knees," Crennel said. "If you bend your knees and your hips, you can get the leverage that you need."

Pitoitua, who gets his height from his father, said he never considered playing anything but defensive line.

"It's more fun," he said.

Matt Asiata A special calling for Vikings' special teamers

Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune Updated: October 5, 2012 - 11:08 PM

The Vikings are fielding "high-character kids" who accept and embrace their roles on punts and kickoffs

Matt Asiata's motivation is simple. There is a reason Asiata, the Vikings' third running back -- a fellow on the back end of the team's roster -- has no problem going braids to the wall every time he takes part in that weekly mayhem known as NFL special teams. ¶ He's wearing purple now. But a year ago he was in blue, as in blue collar. Asiata has a wife and two kids back home in Salt Lake City, and after the undrafted free agent was cut by the Vikings on the final roster move last year, he put food on his table by working in a warehouse -- picking items up, dropping items off, training on the side. You don't forget that. ¶ "I have a wife and kids to support," Asiata said. "They stick in my head every day. Every Sunday I am playing for them and for the team."

This is the kind of guy Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer wants. Guys who look at special teams as an NFL meal ticket rather than the scraps that go to those who aren't atop the offensive or defensive depth chart.

Guys like Asiata, determined to make the most of a second chance. Or Rhett Ellison, a backup tight end who was so surprised to be taken in April's draft that he cried. Or linebacker Larry Dean, the only undrafted free agent to make the Vikings roster last year, going from NCAA Division II Valdosta State to the NFL on the strength of special teams play.

"You have to accept your role, know your role and embrace that role," Dean said.

If enough people do that, good things can happen.

"It starts with high-character kids," Priefer said. "We're bringing in the right people, in my opinion. Last year when we brought in some guys late, because of injuries, they didn't buy in. But the guys we drafted who are here this year? They know it keeps them on an NFL roster."

Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata proves a little weight gain doesn't have to slow him down

Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata had mapped out an ambitious plan, albeit one not readily apparent when he lumbered onto the practice field for a June minicamp.

Considerably heftier than usual after spending his offseason intentionally bulking up, Ngata didn't display his trademark explosiveness.

The extra bulk around Ngata's midsection and torso raised eyebrows about whether the three-time Pro Bowl selection had gone too far in his quest to become stronger and more durable and maintain his speed after wearing down toward the end of last season due to a deep thigh bruise.

"Armor of fat?" Ngata said with a laugh. "Yeah, people were definitely surprised at how big I looked. It's a totally different workout that I did. I definitely felt good last year, but I think I wasn't that strong because I didn't have as much weight.

"So, I decided to put the weight back on and I feel much better. They can say whatever they want. When the time comes, the film talks the loudest."

Four months later, the 6-foot-4, 350-pounder has delivered a powerful rebuttal to those wondering how his game would be affected by gaining roughly 20 pounds since last season.

Anchoring a defense bereft of injured NFL Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs, Ngata has terrorized offensive linemen with his rare blend of girth and mobility.

"Haloti is a dominant force in this game," linebacker Jameel McClain said. "One person blocking him is a mismatch. He's so freakishly strong and athletic. How do you account for it? I see an even more dominant player than last year and the year before."

Ngata has been unblockable at times, manhandling accomplished linemen like Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack.

During a victory over the Browns last week, Ngata grabbed the back of Mack's shoulder pads and pulled him forward with such a crisp swim move that the Pro Bowl lineman barely grazed him.

Overpowering Mack, Ngata penetrated the backfield so quickly that it allowed outside linebacker Paul Kruger to sack rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden.

Ngata dished out similarly rough treatment to Cincinnati Bengals center Jeff Faine, beating him for a couple of sacks in the season-opener.

"Haloti is the best defensive tackle in the game," Kruger said. "He's an incredible athlete. To be that fast at his size, there aren't that many people like that in the world. I know he looks big, but he looks just as fast to me on the tape. He knew what he was doing by getting bigger."

Although the bull-rush, a straightforward charge where he pushes linemen backward as if they're on roller skates, is one of his primary moves, Ngata is also utilizing some finesse and nimble feet to get the job done.

When Ngata notices offensive linemen have all of their weight down on their hand in their stance, he'll use a swim move or jab step to run past them rather than just exercise brute force.

"I'm trying to get guys off balance," Ngata said. "I actually think Mack is the best center in our division, the strongest and he moves well. He's usually a balanced guy, so getting him off balance and making a play means something."

Heading into Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Ngata already has 20 tackles and two sacks with one pass deflection.

In a win over the New England Patriots, Ngata registered a season-high nine tackles and a half-sack.

"Every game, Haloti makes plays that make you say, 'Wow, this guy will go down as one of the greats,'" defensive end Pernell McPhee said. "In my opinion, he's the most dominant defensive player in the NFL."

It's unlikely that the Chiefs, who are breaking in a new center in converted guard Ryan Lilja with Rodney Hudson out for the season with a broken leg, will only assign one blocker to try to occupy Ngata.

"He has tremendous strength, size and mobility for a man his size," Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said. "You might have to put two on him. Some people will try putting three on him. He has movement skills for a big man. I think he has determination."

That last attribute is evident in Ngata's willingness to hustle to make tackles several yards away from the line of scrimmage. Lazy isn't in his vocabulary.

"That's huge because they don't expect big guys to run down a guy," Ngata said. "Hopefully, I can still do a little more, contribute and keep on improving and making more plays."

One of Ngata's most noteworthy plays this season was chasing down Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker in pursuit downfield to get a piece of a tackle.

"He is amazing that way," defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. "I saw him run down some people or see a screen, and he is out there hitting the guy and landing on him. I'm going, 'Man, there is no way I'd come back inside on that guy. Just stay outside.' A lot of that is not only physical talent, that's 'want to.' That's an attitude."

Pees already regards this season as the best he's seen Ngata play after he totaled 130 tackles and 10.5 sacks during the previous two seasons.

With Suggs on the physically unable to perform list, Ngata hardly ever leaves the field because the defense needs his pass-rushing skills.

"We keep him out there even on third down, which wasn't always the case before, because he has such a presence in the inside," Pees said. "He usually creates a situation where you’re going to take two to block him. He’s been great this year. He’s playing very disciplined. He’s very smart. Again, the more you play, the more you know, the better player you are.

"We’ve always known he has talent, he’s strong, he’s all of that, but I think he also just understands football and defensive schemes and all of that stuff so much better, and I think it’s really helped him. He’s helped us a lot up inside, even on third down where most people would say, ‘He’s a big guy. That’s not necessarily the prototypical pass-rush guy.’ But in the scheme of what we are trying to do, he’s very, very effective.”

When Rex Ryan was the Ravens' defensive coordinator years ago, Ngata once lined up at safety before crashing into the line on a blitz with a full head of steam.

Ngata has three career interceptions and is capable of quickly creating depth in pass coverage, but he acknowledges he's much better moving forward than playing in reverse.
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"I've seen Haloti drop back with perfect hips in coverage," McClain said. "I don't even see it as crazy. That's just Haloti."

Ngata honed his athleticism while growing up in Utah as an oversized rugby player. He would fake out much smaller players, or carry them on his back when they attempted to tackle him.

"Rugby was huge for me with my open-field tackling and conditioning," Ngata said. "It helped my peripheral vision, seeing the whole field. It teaches you so many things."

Although quiet in the locker room and not a trash talker on the field, Ngata's mentality toward the game is built on aggression.

"I want to dominant, overcome and conquer," Ngata said. "I want to impose my will on offensive linemen and do whatever I want to."