Posts Tagged ‘Phil Steele’

weber_mike_vsOklahoma_090917 (5) TOP UNITS

Ohio State running back Mike Weber

Each year Phil Steele releases his unit rankings in his College Football Preview and given that I write the Big Ten team previews, I thought what better time to share a little insight on the reason why the units are ranked where they are.

14. Illinois Fighting Illini – Mike Epstein was Illinois leading rusher when a leg injury ended his season after five games last year. Ra’Von Bonner is the power back, while Reggie Corbin is the slasher. Epstein is a combination of the two. All three must prove they can remain healthy in the physical Big Ten.

13. Iowa Hawkeyes – Iowa has to replace two 1,000 yard rushers this year and every tailback on the roster is an underclassmen. Toren Young started one game and has power at 220 pounds. Ivory Kelly-Martin saw action in all 13 games as a true freshman and is a good change-of-pace for Young. This is a vastly inexperienced unit.

12. Rutgers Scarlet Knights – Jon Hilliman was added as a grad transfer after starting 29 games for Boston College. Despite being 225 pounds, Hilliman has good speed. Raheem Blackshear averaged 6.1 yards per carry as a true freshman last year and is quick and explosive.

11. Indiana Hoosiers – Morgan Ellison broke his left leg as a Sophomore and his right leg as a Junior in high school, which hurt his recruitment. He led the Hoosiers as true freshman last year with 704 yards and is naturally strong. Cole Gest provides the change of pace with great burst and explosion, while Mike Majette is a combination of the two.

10. Northwestern Wildcats – Northwestern is replacing their all-time leading rusher in 2018. Jeremy Larkin averaged 6.0 yards per carry last year and John Moten averaged 6.0 yards per carry in 2016. Jesse Brown is similar in size to Larkin and provides track speed.

9. Purdue Boilermakers – Tario Fuller started the first three games in 2017 and averaged 6.1 yards per carry before an ankle injury ended his season. Markell Jones has rushed for over 500 yards in each of his three seasons and has excellent hands out of the backfield. DJ Knox returned from an ACL injury in 2016 to average 6.2 yards per carry in 2017.

8. Minnesota Golden Gophers – If this list only pertained to the starting running back, then Minnesota would be ranked higher. Rodney Smith followed up his 1,000 yard season in 2016 with 977 yards last year, battling thru a couple of concussions. With Shannon Brooks sitting this season out due to injury, Mohamed Ibrahim, Dominik London, and Jonathan Femi-Cole provide quality depth.

7. Nebraska Cornhuskers – Just how deep is the Nebraska running back unit? So deep that Devine Ozigbo, who has led the Huskers in rushing each of the last two seasons, will likely have three others in front of him for 2018! Greg Bell is the newcomer that was a two-time Juco All-American, Tre Bryant began last year as the starter before a knee injury ended his season after two games, and Mikale Wilbon is a multiple back that is also a receiving option.

6. Maryland Terrapins – After rushing for over 1,000 yards as a true freshman, Ty Johnson was the focal point for many defenses in 2017 as Maryland was devastated at the QB position. Lorenzo Harrison is elusive and powerful, while Anthony McFarland is fully healed from a high school injury that resulted in him taking a redshirt last year and has sprinter speed.

5. Michigan State Spartans – LJ Scott would’ve likely been an NFL draft pick in 2018, but opted to return to East Lansing for his Senior season. He’s a 230 pound bruiser. Connor Heyward is the son of the late “Iron Head” Heyward and has tremendous explosiveness and great hands. Weston Bridges brings a change of pace and has great vision, but can also run through would be tacklers.

4. Penn State Nittany Lions – Miles Sanders will have the difficult task of replacing Saquan Barkley as the feature running back, but is similarly built and is also a great receiving threat. True freshman Ricky Slade was ranked as the No. 3 running back in the 2018 recruiting class and has elite acceleration. Mark Allen is the veteran of the unit and will be the change of pace running back.

3. Michigan Wolverines – Michigan still ranks this high even after the recent news that Kareem Walker has decided to transfer to Juco. Karan Higdon earned Third Team Big Ten honors last year that can run inside or bounce outside. Chris Evans averaged over five yards per carry in 2017 and is the fastest of the running backs. O’Maury Samuels has great stop-start ability, and Berkely Edwards was added as a grad transfer that has excellent quickness.

2. Wisconsin Badgers – While Wisconsin just may have the Heisman Trophy winner for 2018 in Jonathan Taylor, this list is about the entire unit, not just the starter. Backup Bradrick Shaw is coming off an ACL injury, Taiwan Deal is coming off an ankle injury, and Chris James was limited to nine games last year and injured his ankle during spring practices.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes – No team in the Big Ten has more talent at running back than Ohio State. It can be argued that JK Dobbins and Mike Weber, who each has ran for over 1,000 yards in season, are the best combination in the nation. Add a pair of very highly touted true freshman to the mix along with Demario McCall, who will also play the H-Back position and it’s easy to see why this unit is ranked where it is.

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Photo Copyright: Matt Mitchell/MSU Athletic Communications

Michigan State QB Brian Lewerke

Each year Phil Steele releases his unit rankings in his College Football Preview and given that I write the Big Ten team previews, I thought what better time to share a little insight on the reason why the units are ranked where they are.

14. Minnesota Golden Gophers – Not so fun fact: Minnesota hasn’t had a QB selected in the NFL draft since 1972. Of the Gophers six quarterbacks on their roster, not a single one has ever thrown a pass at the FBS level. I’m not suggesting that the Gophers won’t get production out of the unit, however their inexperience gives me no other choice but to rank them here.

13. Rutgers Scarlet Knights – Not so fun fact: Rutgers has had NINE different offensive coordinators in NINE years! That’s no typo folks. The Knights will likely turn to Artur Sitkowski, a 6’5” true freshman with a cannon after Giovanni Rescigno and Johnathan Lewis combined to complete less than 50 percent of their passes last year.

12. Illinois Fighting Illini – Not so fun fact: Injuries and inconsistent play has resulted in Illinois using three QB’s each of their last two seasons. Cameron Thomas completed just 42 percent of his passes in four games late in the season as a true freshman last year, but showed promise and is a dual-threat. AJ Bush didn’t transfer from Virginia Tech for his final season to sit and will provide solid competition in fall camp.

11. Nebraska Cornhuskers – Fun fact: Tanner Lee was the first Nebraska QB to declare early for the NFL draft. Nebraska is shifting from a pro-style to an uptempo spread-option offense this season. While the quarterback room is inexperienced similar to Minnesota, the talent level is superior with true freshman Adrian Martinez, the No. 17 ranked QB in the 2018 class and redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia, the No. 9 ranked QB last year taking over.

10. Maryland Terrapins – Not so fun fact: In four of the last six seasons including three straight, injuries has forced Maryland to start three or more QB’s. Both Tyrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill showed playmaking ability in their brief stints last year before injuries ended their seasons. Veteran Max Bortenschlager showed improvement with each passing rep last year.

9. Indiana Hoosiers – Fun fact: Peyton Ramsey was the first Indiana freshman to throw for 300 or more yards since 2006. The aforementioned Ramsey showed he was more than capable to compete in the Big Ten last year. The Hoosiers also added Brandon Dawkins as a grad transfer from Arizona, who has 14 career starts with nearly 4,000 total yards (1582, 6.8 rush).

8. Purdue Boilermakers – Not so fun fact: Purdue has had a different QB start their opener for nine straight years. Not even a torn ACL could slow down Elijah Sindelar, who played thru the injury for final three and a half games last year. David Blough beat out Sindelar last year before an injury ended his season. He’s made 25 career starts.

7. Wisconsin Badgers – Fun fact: Wisconsin is the lone FBS school since 2000 with two QB’s that have completed 94 percent of their passes in a road game (Russell Wilson, Alex Hornibrook). Wisconsin QB’s are typically game managers. Alex Hornibrook is a perfect example of that and 2018 will be his third season as the starter. Jack Coan and Kare’ Lyles were both highly touted recruits.

6. Ohio State Buckeyes – Fun fact: JT Barrett was named the Big Ten’s QB of the year three times! It’s going to be weird watching Ohio State without JT Barrett under center, but Dwayne Haskins will allow the Buckeyes to throw the ball downfield more often with his rocket arm. Haskins proved more than adequate when he rallied Ohio State over arch rival Michigan in the Big House last year. Tate Martell was the No. 3 QB in the 2017 class and head coach Urban Meyer compares his running skills to Barrett.

5. Iowa Hawkeyes – Fun fact: Head coach Kirk Ferentz hired a full time QB coach for the first time in 2017. Nathan Stanley’s 26 touchdown passes last year were the most for an Iowa QB since 2002 and he joined Chuck Long as the only QB’s in school history with multiple five touchdown games. Peyton Mansell has shown steady improvement and true freshman Spencer Petras is 6’5”, 227 pounds and enrolled during the spring.

4. Northwestern Wildcats – Fun fact: Clayton Thorson increased his completion percentage from 50.8 percent in 2015 to 58.6 percent in 2016 and then again to 60.4 percent last year. Clayton Thorson flirted with declaring for the NFL draft before last years Music City Bowl before opting to return for his Senior season. He suffered a torn ACL in the bowl and was held out of spring, leading to more reps for Aidan Smith, Andrew Marty, and TJ Green.

3. Michigan State Spartans – Fun fact: Last year Brian Lewerke became just the third Big Ten QB in the last 20 years to throw for 400 or more yards in back-to-back games. Brian Lewerke is a dual threat and had the most total yards by a Sophomore in Michigan State history last season. Rocky Lombardi was said to be as far ahead mentally as any freshman QB in East Lansing and true freshman Theo Day was the No. 31 ranked QB in the 2018 class and enrolled during the spring.

2. Michigan Wolverines – Fun fact: Head coach Jim Harbaugh was the Big Ten Player of the year and finished third in the Heisman Trophy ballot in 1986. Shea Patterson was the No. 2 rated QB out of high school in 2016 and started 10 games in the SEC at Ole Miss the last two years. He was granted eligiblity this season and instantly makes the Wolverines a National Title contender. Backups Brandon Peters, Dylan McCaffery, and Joe Milton were all very highly touted recruits.

1. Penn State Nittany Lions – Fun fact: Trace McSorley has thrown a touchdown pass in 28 consecutive games. This should come to no surprise, given my previous article stating that Penn State has the best QB room in the nation. McSorley is a bonafide Heisman contender and backup Tommy Stevens would be a starter at roughly 75 percent of the FBS programs.

Stanley Morgan Jr.

First Team All-Big Ten wide receiver Stanley Morgan

The Nebraska Cornhuskers failed to make a Bowl game last year for the first time since 2007 and their four wins were the fewest in a season since 1961. Fortunately for Nebraska fans, they won’t have to wait long to see improvement.

After failing in their attempt to shift to a pass offense for a second time (first was from 2004-2007) Nebraska is moving to a spread option attack under new head coach Scott Frost, who led the ‘Huskers to their last National Championship as the quarterback in 1997. Frost was named the National Coach of the Year after leading the UCF Knights to the only undefeated season in the FBS in 2017.

The change in offensive philosophy perfectly suits quarterback Adrian Martinez, a 6’2” 205 pound true freshman from Fresno, Ca. Martinez threw for over 2,500 yards and ran for nearly 1,500 with 39 total touchdowns as a high school Junior, but missed his Senior season due to a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. Still, expert college football prognosticator Phil Steele rated Martinez as the No. 17 quarterback in the 2018 recruiting class. Martinez enrolled early and took part in spring practices, showing he’s recovered from the injury.

Helping Martinez transition to the college game will be an elite pair of wide receivers in Senior Stanley Morgan and Sophomore JD Spielman. Nebraska may be changing their offensive scheme, but that doesn’t mean they will be eliminating their passing attack altogether.

Frost’s UCF offense averaged 332 passing yards per game in 2017. Sure, having an All-American quarterback certainly allowed for more passing in the playcalling, but that also shows that Nebraska’s offense should be able to matchup against different defensive formations thrown its way.

Morgan set a ‘Husker record with 986 yards last year while earning First Team Big Ten honors. Spielman’s 830 yards was the most ever by Freshman in Lincoln.

Nebraska enters this season on a four game losing streak and after losing back-to-back non-conference games last year for the first time since 1957, should have little trouble starting 3-0 in 2018 before beginning Big Ten play.

While their conference schedule is brutal with road games at Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Ohio State, and Iowa (all bowl teams), Nebraska should be favored at home versus Purdue, Minnesota, and Illinois.

After being outscored by an average of 36-26 and outgained by an average of 51 yards per game in 2017, Steele projects Nebraska to get outscored by just three points per game and outgained by five yards per game in 201, despite the tougher schedule.

Nebraska should get back to a bowl game and while six wins certainly won’t appease most ‘Husker fans, it certainly beats staying home for the holidays. The record won’t show a drastic improvement, but the play on the field will and Nebraska is certainly trending in the right direction.

patterson

Michigan will have a new quarterback under center in 2018. Shea Patterson, a 6’3” 203 pound Junior, transferred from Ole Miss and has been granted eligibility for the upcoming season. Expectations are high, as noted college football guru Phil Steele placed Patterson on his All-Big Ten second team, despite not yet having thrown a pass in a Big Ten game.

Patterson earned high school All-American honors and Steele rated him the No. 2 overall high school quarterback in the 2016 recruiting class. Patterson graduated early and enrolled in Oxford in time for spring practices. In three games (all starts) he completed 55 percent of his throws for 880 yards with a 6-3 ratio as a true freshman. Patterson started the first seven games for Ole Miss last year and was leading the SEC in passing yards entering his final game of the season, versus LSU. Despite tearing his PCL in the first half vs the Tigers that would end his season, Patterson played nearly the entire game. For the season Patterson improved his completion percentage to 64 percent while throwing for 2,259 yards and a 17-9 ratio.

Patterson practiced with the Wolverines this spring after transferring over the winter. He has an extremely strong arm and while not a huge running threat, can extend plays with his feet. He has solid options to throw to in tight end Sean McKeon and wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones.

In 2015, head coach Jim Harbaugh’s first season at the helm in Ann Arbor, Jake Rudock threw for 3,017 yards, meaning the Wolverines can produce through the air when they have the proper signal caller.

If healthy Patterson will have a realistic shot at breaking John Navarre’s single season school record of 3,311 passing yards, set in 2003. At the very least Patterson should become just the third Wolverine quarterback to throw for at least 3,000 yards in a season.

barnes

The last running back that ran for over 1,000 yards for the Kansas State Wildcats was John Hubert in 2013, with 1,048.

Since then, the leading running back has had 540 yards in 2014, 692 yards in 2015, and 596 yards last year.

The leading returnee is 5’10” 198 pound Junior Justin Silmon, who had 464 yards and averaged 5.4 yards per carry in 2016.

The natural assumption would be that he would take over the lead role this year, but that honor will belong to Alex Barnes.

After rushing for 2,361 yards and 38 touchdowns as a high school Senior, Barnes picked up his second straight Conference Offensive Player of the Year award. College Football expert Phil Steele had Barnes rated as the No. 106 running back out of high school. He graduated early and arrived in Manhattan before the spring practices in 2015, but still red-shirt his initial year.

The 6’1” 221 Sophomore had just 56 carries as a red-shirt Freshman last year, but his 7.9 yards per carry average was the best ever under head coach Bill Snyder (now entering his 26th season) and led the Big 12 Conference.

Barnes was the first freshman in school history with back-to-back 100 yard games (versus Baylor and Kansas) and was never tackled behind the line of scrimmage. He missed the last two games due to injury, but was the healthiest since he arrived this spring.

He reads schemes well, sees daylight, and is aggressive. He’s also an extremely hard worker.

Quarterback Jessie Ertz ran for 1,012 yards last year, but will likely see his carries scaled back as he is coming off shoulder surgery. The Wildcats return four starters on their offensive line and Steele named Barnes pre-season fourth team Big 12 entering the 2017 campaign. There’s no reason to think he won’t earn that assuming he stays healthy.

 

Cobbs_AA WR Top Unit Page

When Simmie Cobbs signed to play at Indiana in 2014, he was their No. 17 overall rated recruit out of 26 signees. He was considered the third best receiver in the signing class behind top overall recruit Dominique Booth and J-Shun Harris.

All three played all 12 games as true freshman with Harris having the most production, starting six games and being named the teams “Offensive Newcomer Player of the Year.”

Cobbs was considered intriguing, started twice, and his 16.3 yards per catch average led the team. Former head coach Kevin Wilson said the then 6’4” 210 pounder was, “Physically more mature than the other receivers.”

Booth didn’t start any games and had just 70 yards.

Cobbs enhanced his stock over the off-season and was named the Hoosiers most improved player after the 2015 spring practice. He stepped up as a leader over the summer and took on additional pressure after both Harris and Booth were lost for the year during fall camp due to injuries.

While he had some troubling drops, Cobbs went on to earn Third Team Big Ten honors after leading Indiana in catches and yards. His 1,035 yards were third best in the conference, while his 60 catches ranked eighth.

Last year Booth was medically disqualified due to concussions, while Harris was again lost for the year due to an ACL injury.

Cobbs missed the opener, but started versus Ball State in game two. Unfortunately, he then suffered an ankle injury and was lost for the year, finishing with zero catches.

Cobbs and Harris are both expected to be 100 percent by the fall. Cobbs is now 220 pounds and earned the “Outstanding Special Teams” award after Spring practices. While not a burner, he has a big catch radius and attacks the ball.

So much is thought of of Cobbs, that college football expert Phil Steele made him a preseason First Team All-Big Ten selection.

New offensive coordinator Mike DeBord did a fine job at Tennessee the last two years and returns to the Big Ten, where he served as a Michigan assistant for 11 years.

Quarterback Richard Lagow returns to lead the offense and look for Cobbs to emerge as his favorite target.

 

Chris James

Wisconsin has produced a 1,000 yard running back 11 of last 12 years.  The Badgers head into 2017 having to replace their top two leading rushers from a year ago. Their leading returnee is sophomore Bradrick Shaw, who had 457 rushing yards. Junior Taiwan Deal has 667 career rushing yards, but underwent ankle surgery over the off season. While either would be a logical choice to take over as the feature back, there’s another player that will likely assume the role.

Chris James ran for 690 yards, averaging 4.8 yards per carry over 23 games for Pitt in 2014-’15. As part of head coach Paul Chryst’s last recruiting class with the Panthers, James played in every game as a true freshman, rushing for 437 yards, while averaging 5.0 yards per carry. He transferred to Wisconsin last year, playing on the practice squad during the season.

The 5’10” 216 pound junior has been compared to 2016 first team Big Ten running back Corey Clement. He has speed and quickness to make big plays in the open field, while also being sturdy enough to run between the tackles. He’s powerfully built and shifty. Despite just eight career receptions, he has the skill-set to accumulate more and is stout in picking up the blitz.

James should benefit from an offensive line that loses just 1 starter. College football expert Phil Steele said this was by far Wisconsin’s best offensive line since Chryst took over as head coach in 2015 and right guard Beau Benzschawel and center Michael Deiter each made Steele’s preseason All Big-Ten team.

It shouldn’t be a surprise if James rushes for the most yards in a season by a Badger under Chryst, provided he stays healthy. It also shouldn’t be a surprise if James is the Big Ten’s leading rusher at seasons end.

1. The Cleveland Cavaliers are in the NBA Finals for the second time in team history and I’ve got one piece of advice for everyone out there. Enjoy it! No matter the outcome. Enjoy it! Sure I want to see them bring a championship to my city, but in the process of doing so, I’m going to soak in the entire atmosphere that being in the Finals bring. Most of you aren’t going to pay the steep price for playoff tickets (myself included) so do what I’m going to do. Buy a $5 ticket and go watch one of the road games at the Q with 20,000 other fans. While you won’t actually ‘be’ at the game, it’ll create a memory that you won’t forget. And it’s much more affordable!

2. Speaking of the Cavaliers, you know it’s a good thing when President Lincoln is also #AllinCle

3. I shared a video about Cavalier’s center Timofey Mozgov in an earlier blog and now here is a video about JR Smith. Grab a cigar and some cognac.

 

4. The MLB All-Star game is six weeks away and there are two Cleveland Indian position players that are worthy of All-Star consideration.

Second Baseman Jason Kipnis is coming off one of the greatest months in not just team history, but also MLB history and his .340 batting average is second best in the entire American League. He is in the top 10 in the AL in the following categories: Hits (2nd), runs (4th), doubles (3rd), triples (2nd), total bases (4th), on base % (4th), slugging % (9th) and OPS (6th). When it comes to the All-Star voting, however, Kipnis ranks a distant 4th, over 1.5 million votes behind the leader, Jose Altuve, of the Houston Astros.

Left fielder Michael Brantley, who finished third in last years MVP voting, is hitting .302, fifth best among AL outfielders. He is in the top 10 among outfielders in the following categories: Hits (5th), doubles (1st), RBI (4th), walks (4th), on base % (4th), slugging % (7th), and OPS (5th). Brantley is currently 7th in the All-Star voting  among outfielders, over 1 million votes behind 3rd place Alex Gordon of the Royals.

Do what I did and vote for these two as they both deserve to be on the team.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/events/all_star/y2015/ballot.jsp?tcid=ASG15_mlb_leftrailpromo

5. Speaking of the Tribe, remember when I said that reigning Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber would be just fine? Over his last four starts, Kluber is 3-0 with 50 strikeouts and  miniscule 1.41 ERA. He’s looking every bit like the Cy Young winner that we saw last season.

6. I recently heard there is a remake of one of my all time favorite movies, ‘Point Break.’  No, I’m not joking. Patrick Swayze has to be turning in his grave over this one. Why redo a movie that was already a classic and featured an ex Ohio State quarterback turned FBI agent chasing a group of bank robbing surfers? Like the Red Hot Chili Peppers Anthony Kiedis says in this scene, “That would be a waste of time.”

 

7. The latest addition to my guilty pleasure.

breds

8. I’m still a beginning smoker but I’m really enjoying it. The latest thing I smoked was St. Louis style ribs. The difference between these and baby backs are the St Louis style has more fat, which provides more flavor. I used apple wood to smoke and they turned out pretty good. I went 5 hours at 250 degrees, which was just a little too long, so I’m going to shorten them up next time.

ribs

9. Okay, back to sports. The College football season is less than 100 days away and the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this season according to the Vegas odds is Ohio State Buckeye running back Ezekiel Elliot. He’s even got his own hype video. Check it out.

 

10. Speaking of college football, we recently wrapped up the 2015 Phil Steele College Football Preview magazine, AKA the college football bible. That also means we’ve released our pre-season All-American teams. Notre Dame led the way with three 1st team All-Americans. To see the entire four team list click the link below.

http://philsteele.com/All_Conference/2015/2015%20Preseason/All-American.html

11. Floyd Mayweather is expected to return to the ring in September and many are wondering who his next opponent or vitctim will be. There has been plenty of talk about England’s Amir Khan getting the next shot at the pound for pound king but after his lackluster performance last week against Chris Algieri, he’ll likely be removed from the discussion. Why not give Miguel Cotto, who fights this weekend on HBO, a rematch? He gave Mayweather a good fight when the two shared the ring in 2012. Here’s his greatest hits for those that aren’t aware of what he brings to the table.

 

12. I haven’t written since the NFL draft took place and heading into the draft I was worried about the incompetence that the Cleveland Browns were likely going to show. Well I was relieved during the first round as I turned to my cousin and brother-in-law, who were with me at the Cleveland Convention Center for the draft party, and told them that this draft proves the team is trying to win games and not sell jersey’s like last season. I think the Browns hit a home run with this draft and will start seeing immediate dividends on the field.

13. Speaking of the Browns, the odds in Vegas have the Browns over/under at 6 1/2 wins. The Browns will win more than six games this season. Those that know me know first hand that I am not a homer in any way, shape, or form so for me to come out and write this is a change in the way that I’ve thought about my hometown team for some time. They won seven games last season, have improved every position group on the roster, and competed with every team in their division last year. Yes, I know the schedule is tougher, but splitting with our division isn’t out of the question and the Browns should be able to beat teams qb’d by the Geno Smith (Jets) and Marcus Mariota/Zach Mettenberger (Titans) while also getting past the 49ers at home in December. That’s seven wins right there.

1. In last week’s column I wrote that the Cavaliers would bring the city Cleveland its first championship in 50 years. I should of prefaced that by adding, ‘barring injury.’ Now that Kevin Love is done for what appears to be the remainder of the season, the Cavs will more than likely get beaten by the Chicago Bulls in the next round (Yes, the Bulls will get by the Bucks). Fans and media alike have ‘loved’ to pile on Love this season unnecessarily, as those that truly understand the game of basketball were aware of his importance and what his role was with this team.  In his absence, the Cavaliers won’t be able to space the floor as they had been doing, and the open lanes that LeBron James and Kyrie Irving had been accustomed to will be gone. Tristan Thompson was valuable in his role coming off the bench, but his flaws will become much more glaring now that he will be forced to play more minutes. To use a phrase that my former colleague Kenny Roda coined long ago, OIC (only in Cleveland).

2. It’s truly a shame that Kevin Love was taken out by a dude that cannot even grow facial hair, instead opting for the peach fuzz look. In hockey there’s a term for mediocre players that are just put on the ice to get physical with the opposition. They’re called a goon. That’s exactly what Kelly Olynyk is. There’s a difference between setting a hard screen with a push like what Kendrick Perkins did to Jae Crowder and putting a guy in an arm bar and pulling his shoulder out of its socket. Truly a bush league play.

Cavaliers Celtics Basketball

3. For those that are worried about reigning American League Cy Young award winner, Corey Kluber, don’t be. Kluber AKA Klubot will be just fine. Here is a look at his numbers from last April compared to this April.

2014: 2 W, 3 L, 37 IP, 35 K, 10 BB, 2 HR allowed, 4.14 ERA, 1.51 WHIP

2015: 0 W, 3 L, 34 IP, 36 K, 7 BB, 2 HR allowed, 4.24 ERA, 1.26 WHIP

Nearly an identical start from last season, look for Kluber to start dominating hitters in the near future and hopefully the Tribe will start giving him some run support.

4. One player who could help the Indians with their hitting woes is their top prospect, Francisco Lindor. Current starting shortstop Jose Ramirez is hitting a paltry .186 and the Indians as a team are hitting just .234 which is third worst in the American League. Lindor recently went on a 10-16 stretch and appears to have come out of his own early season slump. He’s hit safely in 10 of his last 14 games. The time is right for Lindor to get promoted to the ‘Big Show.’

5. The NFL draft is here which means it’s the time of year that the Cleveland Browns usually waste their picks on garbage players. There’s a report that the Browns are attempting to move up in the draft to take Oregon quarterback Marcus Marriota. That would be a mistake. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner was a great college quarterback, but his talents favor that game, not of the NFL variety. Marriota ran an up-tempo, no huddle, spread option offense taking snaps from the shotgun in college. In the NFL he will be huddling every play, taking snaps from under center, and won’t be able to leave the pocket as frequently as he did at Oregon. He was also injury prone, and while he was never hurt in a major way, that’s sure to change when he’s hit game in and game out by NFL players. This guy has bust written all over him.

6. A lot of Browns fans want to take a wide receiver in the first round. This is another foolish option. The rules in the NFL so highly favor receivers now that an average receiver can be a good receiver while a good receiver can become a great receiver. This was proven just last year when two of the Browns undersized receivers (Andrew Hawkins & Taylor Gabriel) both had successful seasons and proved that they could make plays despite their physical appearance.  There are an abundance of receivers in the college game nowadays that enter the NFL much more ready than previously due to the spread offenses that are being run. The Browns shouldn’t take a receiver in the first or second round when they can still find value in that position later in the draft. It would be a waste of a pick to do so early. Besides, take a look at this years Super Bowl combatants. Neither the Patriots nor the Seahawks have what you would call a playmaking wide receiver. The fact is, you don’t need one to succeed in this day’s NFL. If the Browns are smart (a HUGE if there) and stay where they’re currently sloted to pick in the first round (numbers 12 and 19) they should get NT Danny Shelton, who should be there for them at twelve and if DE Shane Ray falls to them at 19, they should run to the podium and take him.

7. Speaking of Shane Ray, yeah I know he just got pulled over and the officer found weed on him. So what? Marijuana is now legal in over 30 states and will soon be legal in all 50. The majority of NFL players smoke it and it’s really not a big deal. Hell, I’m sure more than half the people reading this column are doing so while puffing on a joint right now. If Ray were a QB, that would be different. You don’t want your quarterback smoking out. But a defensive player that partakes is fine by me. There have been plenty of NFL players that were busted for weed that were among the games elite. Ray has the talent to be among the best DE’s in the league and if other GM’s are afraid to draft him, hopefully Browns GM Ray Farmer won’t be.

8. Another name being thrown out there for the Browns is running back Todd Gurley. That is an absolute joke. If the Browns would draft him, or any other RB in the first or second round, I would seriously consider jumping off the 480 bridge. The NFL is a passing league. The rules are set up for the quarterbacks and receivers to succeed. Running backs are a dime a dozen. There are no ‘featured’ backs anymore with the exception of maybe a few guys. Nearly every team has a RB by committee approach and the Browns should be no different. Why should the browns take a RB that may carry the ball 10-15 times a game in the first or second round? That makes absolutely no sense! And I didn’t even get into the fact that Gurley was hurt twice getting hit by pimple faced college kids. What’s going to happen when he gets hit by grown men? I’ll pass on that option. Besides, the Browns already have two young running backs that complement each other very well.

9. It’s fight week for one of the most anticipated boxing matches in years. Floyd Mayweather is taking on Manny Pacquiao in a fight that is five years in the making. Some people are discouraged that the fight took so long to take place but the fact of the matter is that the fight will be much more competitive and entertaining now then it would have been had they fought five years ago. Mayweather is a defensive wizard, and he’s spent the majority of his career as a ‘hit and not get hit’ defensive minded fighter. Many of his fights have been lackluster due to the fact that he has simply outboxed his foes with tremendous hand speed and perfect foot work to escape without taking any real damage. Mayweather would have taken Pacquiao to school five years ago. Now though, Mayweather isn’t as fleet a foot as he once was and has taken more and more punches in the ring over the last two years. Pacquiao still has that blazing hand speed and with his non stop aggression and constant punches coming from a variety of angles, has a chance to land some shots on Mayweather. I don’t anticipate an upset here (Mayweather is a heavy betting favorite in Vegas) but I do think these two will offer an entertaining fight that will give the fans their money’s worth ($99 on PPV).

10. My dude Casey Kulas has made it official. It’s the ‘Summer of Brisket!’

I’m up for the challenge. If you start to smell the smoke in South Lorain, just follow your nose to La Casa De Castro. I’ll probably have enough to share.

11. There are just 126 days until the college football season begins! Pre-order the Phil Steele College Football Preview aka the College football Bible here:

https://www.philsteele.com/store/

12. Shoe pick of the week. I don’t have these but word on the street is these are the shoes that Manny Pacquiao will be wearing during the Mayweather fight.

pac shoes

13. I know most of you reading this don’t like soccer but so what. This is my column and I do. The Columbus Crew are on fire as they’ve outscored their last two opponents by a 7-1 margin! That’s like 118-3 if you were watching football lol. Oh and Kei Kamara is tied for the lead with the most goals in the MLS this season!