Category Archives: NCAA

OFFSEASON HOOPS AND HOOPLA: Jason Garrett and Tony Romo spotted in Durham this weekend | Romo’s back rehab is on schedule (video)

OFFSEASON HOOPS AND HOOPLA - Jason Garrett and Tony Romo spotted in Durham this weekend - Romo’s back rehab is on schedule

Ah, yes! Lifestyles of the rich and famous.

Most college basketball fans would kill to see a Duke-North Carolina game.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and head coach Jason Garrett took in the classic college basketball rivalry last night. Here’s betting Romo and Garrett had pretty choice seats, too. And while most would be thrilled to be somewhere up in the nose-bleed seats.

So which team will a former Eastern Illinois quarterback (Romo) and a former Princeton quarterback (Garrett) root for in the Tobacco Road classic? Take a hint from the duo sporting Blue Devils gear in the photo above.

Romo and Garrett were actually on the court at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Friday, playing PIG with current Blue Devil Quinn Cook, former Devils great Jason Williams, and basketball operations assistant coach Casey Stevenson. Check out the short video HERE from Instagram.

Garrett, you may remember visited with Coach K a few years ago and tried to pick up some pointers.

Romo and Garrett were in Durham, N.C. to also work with Duke football coach David Cutcliffe.

Cutcliffe was instrumental in helping Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning rehab after his 2011 neck surgery. Cutcliffe, who worked with Manning on rebuilding his mechanics, is doing the same with Romo.

Tony Romo Jason Garrett shooting hoops at Duke North Carolina game - The Boys Are Back website 2014

IRVING, Texas — Updates about Tony Romo’s recovery from surgery have been few and far between this offseason, but those few have been positive.

Romo and Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett attended Duke’s 93-81 win against rival North Carolina on Saturday night in Durham, N.C. Following the game, Romo spoke on the set of ESPN Gameday about his rehab.

“It’s going good. We’re getting close now. Usually it takes three months, it’s just normal kind of roundabout date that they give you and we’re right on schedule — really, ahead in a lot of ways,” Romo said. “Just going to be ready to go here in about a month and rehab is going good, no setbacks of any kind. Mine was just a normal small version of it, so I should be good to go here shortly.”

That falls more or less in line with what Garrett and owner/general manager Jerry Jones have said at other points since the season ended. Both Garrett and Jones have expressed optimism that Romo would be ready to go for the Dallas Cowboys offseason program.

Romo underwent the surgery Dec. 27, two days before the Cowboys’ season-ending loss to Philadelphia. The week prior, against Washington, he came up limping after dodging a Redskins’ pass rusher. He was able to finish out the Cowboys’ 24-23 win, though that game was his last of the season.

With roughly two and a half months having passed since the operation, Davis asked Romo when he’d start to throw and “go full speed.”

“I mean you do little things. You progress, everything is a progression. You kinda, whatever it is, whether it’s running or lifting, everything just starts small and you progress up,” Romo said. “So we’ve already started a lot of that stuff going. Now it’s just going to the next step every week or two and just attacking. For me, it’s like anything else, just another thing to attack and improve and I’m always up for that.”

BREAKING OUT OF SHADOWS: Jimmy Garoppolo wants the opportunity to live up to Tony Romo comparisons

BREAKING OUT OF SHADOWS - Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo wants the opportunity to live up to Tony Romo comparisons - 2014 2015 NFL DRAFT 2014 2015

IRVING, Texas – The comparisons will follow Jimmy Garoppolo everywhere he goes.

They started at Eastern Illinois and will undeniably continue when he gets selected in the 2014 NFL Draft out of his specific college and at his specific position. But he’s not bothered when people link or associate him with Tony Romo.

“He set the standard,” Garoppolo said. “It’s up to us and the Eastern quarterbacks and all of the guys who go through there to live to that standard, really. That’s what I tried to do when I was there. There’s a benchmark set.”

Garoppolo doesn’t shy away from that challenge. He accepts, embraces and basks in it. He wants those expectations placed upon him and doesn’t find them unfair.

“I want to live up to that. I want to surpass that, really,” Garoppolo said. “Every quarterback should have that mindset. You want to be the best. You want to go win Super Bowls.”

He’s got to get drafted before he can do any of that, and he’s putting himself in the best position to do so by being as visible as he can to as many eyes as possible. Garoppolo played in the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 18, where he was named the Most Outstanding Offensive Player, going 9-for-14 with 100 yards and a touchdown in limited action before heading over to Mobile, Ala., for Senior Bowl practices the following week.

BREAKING OUT OF SHADOWS - Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo wants the opportunity to live up to Tony Romo comparisons

The most important part of that Senior Bowl week might have been the practice time, where he worked with NFL coaches (Watch short video) and fielded questions from most teams, scouts and media members. Inevitably, some involved Romo.

Garoppolo won the Walter Payton Award in 2013 after throwing for 5,050 yards and 53 touchdowns and left college with 13,156 passing yards and 118 passing touchdowns in his career. The only other player to win the esteemed award from Eastern Illinois? That would be Romo, who finished his career as the school and conference all-time leader with 85 touchdown passes.

But most of the previous school passing records, once held mostly by Romo and current Saints head coach Sean Payton, now belong to Garoppolo, who set a school record with seven touchdown passes in a win against Illinois State in 2013.

“The surprising thing is Coach Payton actually had more records than Tony Romo, so a lot of people don’t know that, but yeah, a little fun fact for you,” said Garoppolo, who still respects Romo and what the Cowboys’ quarterback’s done for the school tremendously.

He said he’s been asked about a million questions about Romo throughout his career, particularly toward the end when the NFL became more and more of a likelihood, and he continues to answer those questions similarly.

“At first it was pretty cool, now I just kind of expect it,” Garoppolo said. “It’s fun. It’s a great comparison. He’s a very successful NFL quarterback, and that’s what I’m trying to be, so it’s nice to have that kind of comparison.

“The quarterback tradition at Eastern is very well known. I’m just trying to keep it going really and take it to the next level.”

Garoppolo’s all for putting Eastern Illinois on the map, which his famous quarterback predecessors did before and he’s doing now.

“All the publicity Eastern can get – we’re in the middle of Illinois, not too much people live there – it’s nice to get that little extra publicity,” Garoppolo said. “Every little bit counts. It’s a good stepping stone for Eastern, really.”

Before Garoppolo can get anywhere near the level of a Payton or a Romo, though, he’s got a long road ahead to prove himself as an NFL quarterback. He said he’s got to get used to the NFL footwork – the three, five and seven step drops – considering his offense in college didn’t ask much of that from him. He said Eastern Illinois ran the Baylor offense with a focus on fast tempo.

Garoppolo’s open to starting immediately or waiting and getting tutored, depending on when he gets picked. Regardless of when he starts, he knows what he can provide for his future team.

“They’re getting a very passionate, hard-working quarterback – some guy who’s going to be the CEO of the company and lead by example,” Garoppolo said. “The quarterback’s always asked to set the example on and off the field, and I think I do a good job of that.”

He’s been all over the place since his record senior season ended, but he said it was an easy decision to go to the Senior Bowl and not pass that opportunity up. He wants to face the best players and get compared to the best players around him, just as he has with the star quarterbacks who previously attended his school.

Don’t expect a breather for Garoppolo any time soon as he prepares for the biggest year of his life.

“I don’t think I’m going to get one,” Garoppolo said. “After this, I’m going to go back to LA and start training again for the Combine and then the Combine comes and Pro Day comes. It’s a process, but I knew what I was getting into and I’m having fun with it.”

Keep up-to-date with the Dallas Cowboys Draft picks and NFL Draft Prospects right here, on The Boys Are Back website!

ROAD TO THE 2014 NFL DRAFT: NFL Senior Bowl 2014 recap | Ten players that shined in Mobile, AL

ROAD TO THE 2014 NFL DRAFT - Senior Bowl 2014 Calendar and Schedule

Bryan Broaddus, the official The Boys Are Back draft scout takes a look at 10 Players that Shined in the NFL Senior Bowl:

  • Aaron Donald/DT/Pitt

      Broaddus: Not many teams will like his lack of height but there is no questioning how he played this week. He was the most disruptive player for either squad. His film and work here gives him a nice platform into the Combine.

      Official The Boys Are Back ranking: #21 overall | Position rank #2 | Projected Round 1

      • Zach Martin/OT/Notre Dame

          Broaddus: Didn’t matter who he was facing, he was up to the task. Played left tackle but also took reps at guard where he was just as good. Plays with power and mobility.

          Official The Boys Are Back ranking: #12 overall | Position rank #4 | Projected Round 1

          • Josh Huff/WR/Oregon

              Broaddus: Love how this player physically looks. He carries himself well. Knows he is a good player and plays like it. Was always at the side of Falcons receivers coach Terry Robiskie after every play. Can tell this game matters to him.

              Official The Boys Are Back ranking: #108 overall | Position rank #16 | Projected Round 3-4

              • Derek Carr/QB/Fresno State

                  Broaddus: Physically is a good looking player. Was clearly better than any of the quarterbacks at this game. Has a command and presence while he is leading the team. Can make all the throws, quick with the ball and accurate.

                  Official The Boys Are Back ranking: #29 overall | Position rank #4 | Projected Round 1-2

                  • Jared Abbrederis/WR/Wisconsin

                      Broaddus: This guy catches everything thrown his way. Has deceptive speed and quickness with the ability to separate. Makes plays all over the field. Not afraid to catch the ball in traffic, love his toughness.

                      Official The Boys Are Back ranking: #96 overall | Position rank #14 | Projected Round 3

                      • Dee Ford/DE/Auburn

                          Broaddus: I really do like this player a great deal but I do worry about his lacks of bulk. He measured in weighing 243 pounds but he has those types of traits that these defensive coaches are looking for with his ability to go get the ball.

                          Official The Boys Are Back ranking: #18 overall | Position rank #3 | Projected Round 1

                          • Stanley Jean-Baptiste/CB/Nebraska

                              Broaddus: It was a game with nice sized corners and he was one of the biggest at near 6-3. Really thought he did a much better job when he could play press coverage than zone. Was able to move with and handle these receivers. Made plays on ball.

                              Official The Boys Are Back ranking: #86 overall | Position rank #11 | Projected Round 3

                              • Jordan Matthews/WR/Vanderbilt

                                  Broaddus: Doesn’t have the best speed or quickness off the ball but finds ways to get open. Very consistent in his route running and even better hands. Plays with some nastiness as a blocker. Is always going to be prepared as a player. Receivers coach told me that you can play him inside or out and it doesn’t matter.

                                  Official The Boys Are Back ranking: #49 overall | Position rank #8 | Projected Round 2

                                  • Jack Mewhort/OT/Ohio State

                                      Broaddus: There was a reason why that the rushers on the North squad didn’t have the most productive practices this week because of Zack Martin and Jack Mewhort. Showed nice balance and base. Plays with power. Can get movement. Not a slow footed blocker at all. Helped himself each day with work.

                                      Official The Boys Are Back ranking: #61 overall | Position rank #8 | Projected Round 2

                                      • Michael Sam/DE/Missouri

                                        • Broaddus: I honestly don’t know where you play him but you need to find a place for him. He is not a linebacker which they tried him at this week during these practices. He is a put his hand on the ground get after the passer. Not athletic enough to drop but when he rushes, he is hard to block. Might be the defense’s version on a 3rd down receiver. Relentless.

                                          Official The Boys Are Back ranking: #90 overall | Position rank #9 | Projected Round 3

                                          BUTTON - NFL Draft Prospects - The Boys Are Back website

                                          ROAD TO THE 2014 NFL DRAFT: Senior Bowl 2014 | NFL Draft Prospects showcased in today’s game on NFL Network

                                          ROAD TO THE 2014 NFL DRAFT - Senior Bowl 2014 Calendar and Schedule

                                          Future stars of the NFL will hit the field in Mobile, Ala. for the 2014 Reese’s Senior Bowl at 3:00 this afternoon. Check out the pro football talent scouted by the Cowboys and imagine how some of these young men might fit on the Dallas Cowboys 2014-2015 roster.

                                          Last year’s Senior Bowl class produced a whopping 10 first-rounders, three top-five selections and the No. 1 overall pick.

                                          1. Injuries forced many top prospects to pass on the Senior Bowl: Top talents like Michigan OT Taylor Lewan and UCLA LB Anthony Barr were among the 19 invited players that weren’t healthy enough to participate.

                                          2. Nine invited prospects made a “business” decision to stay at home: Alabama QB AJ McCarron made headlines prior to the week when he announced he would pass on the Senior Bowl opportunity on the advice of his agent. He wasn’t the only player to make that choice. Top prospects C.J. Mosley and Khalil Mack were among the other healthy prospects that elected to pass on the Senior Bowl experience.

                                          3. The upcoming draft will feature a record number of underclassmen: This Senior Bowl crop will be competing for draft positioning with one of the most talented underclassmen groups we’ve seen in a few years.

                                          Potential first-rounders

                                          While there likely won’t be any top-10 picks to emerge from this year’s game, don’t be surprised if six players hear their name called in the first round of the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft.

                                          Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin (70) - 2014 Senior Bowl - NFL Draft 2014

                                          1. Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame #70): He was outstanding all week long. He has enough athleticism to play tackle, but he has Pro Bowl potential as a guard.

                                          2. Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh: His combination of quickness and power was a matchup nightmare for opposing offensive lineman. He doesn’t have ideal size, but he held up well in the team and run periods.

                                          3. Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia: He has ideal size and quick feet. He’s not a great knee bender, but he held up well in 1-on-1 pass-rush drills. He creates a lot of space in the run game.

                                          4. Ra’Shede Hagemen, DT, Minnesota: He had an up-and-down week, but he flashed enough to keep his name in the first-round conversation. He’s a size/speed freak with a huge upside.

                                          5. Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State: He was the best quarterback in Mobile, and teams that met with him really like what they heard. He has a big arm and he was accurate throughout the week.

                                          6. Dee Ford, DE, Auburn: He was the most explosive edge rusher throughout the week. Most teams I’ve spoken with have him rated as a second-round prospect, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he snuck into the bottom of the first round because of his pass-rush skills.

                                          Odds and ends

                                          Best position group: Offensive line

                                          Worst position group: Running back

                                          Stock on the rise: Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State

                                          Stock on the decline: Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor

                                          Wildcard player: Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami

                                          Three to imagine in a Dallas Cowboys jersey

                                          The Reese’s Senior Bowl is regarded as the crown jewel of the college all-star season, with elite prospects dotting the rosters at every position. Given the importance scouts place on the performance of players in highly competitive matchups, the practice week and game tape provide the answers to many of the questions evaluators have about the top prospects in the 2014 class. With that in mind, here are three guys with a lot riding on their performance this weekend:

                                          Ra'Shede Hageman - DT - Minnesota - 2014 Senior Bowl 2014 - 2014 NFL Draft 2014

                                          Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, #99 Minnesota (photo above)

                                          It’s hard to find a talented interior defender blessed with Hageman’s size and athletic gifts. Measuring 6-foot-6, 311 pounds, Hageman glides across the field like a gazelle, yet flashes explosive strength and power at the point of attack. While scouts are certainly fascinated by his physical tools and unlimited potential, Hageman’s marginal production and inconsistent motor keep him from rating as an elite prospect at the point. Now, Hageman has changed the perception of his game by dominating the competition in practice this week, but scouts need to see him take it to another level when the lights come on to solidify his standing as a mid-to-late first-round selection.

                                          Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska

                                          The league is trending toward bigger corners on the perimeter after watching the Seattle Seahawks make their way to Super Bowl XLVIII behind a physically imposing secondary that features long, rangy athletes on the outside. Jean-Baptiste is a former wide receiver turned cornerback with impressive physical dimensions (6-3, 220) and ball skills. He has been the top cornerback in attendance, displaying a refined game that is ideally suited to play in a scheme that features press-man coverage extensively. Although Jean-Baptiste has made a strong case to be in the discussion as a borderline Day 1 selection, a spectacular performance in the game could send the Nebraska star flying up the charts.

                                          Dee Ford - DE - Auburn - 2014 Senior Bowl 2014 - 2014 NFL Draft 2014

                                          Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn (photo above)

                                          Scouts pay close attention to players who dominate the practice week at the Senior Bowl. Ford has not only thrashed opponents in drills, he has produced a number of disruptive plays that would qualify as game changers at the next level. Although he flashed that kind of potential occasionally at Auburn, no one expected him to destroy the competition with his speed, burst and athleticism off the edge. In doing so, Ford has convinced several scouts and coaches that his skills translate well to the NFL as a designated pass rusher. If Ford can continue to display the quickness, burst and rush skills in the game that he has shown throughout the week, Ford will be one of the fastest risers up the charts heading into the combine.

                                          Two quarterbacks to watch

                                          Derek Carr - QB - Fresno State - 2014 Senior Bowl 2014 - 2014 NFL Draft 2014

                                          Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State

                                          The NFL scouting community has been buzzing about Carr’s potential as a franchise quarterback since his emergence as a standout playmaker the past two seasons. He has lit up the Mountain West Conference for 9,086 yards and 87 touchdowns against only 15 interceptions. Most impressively, he has displayed a lively arm to match his superb athleticism and improvisational skills. Yet, some scouts still question his poise and composure within a muddied pocket. This was one of his biggest flaws discovered in his 2012 tape (junior season), and it reappeared in a disappointing showing against USC in the Las Vegas Bowl. With another opportunity to show his wares against a squad with NFL-caliber players at every turn, Carr needs to show scouts that he can deliver pinpoint throws with defenders in close proximity. In addition, he must show coaches that he has the poise to work through his progressions to find an open receiver with the pocket crumbling around him. If he can withstand the pressure, while making a few accurate throws downfield, Carr could leave the Senior Bowl rated as the top senior quarterback in the draft.

                                          Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech

                                          There are some scouts who believe Thomas is better suited to play tight end at the next level, but his combination of size and arm talent makes him too enticing to disregard as a quarterback. Thomas has enjoyed an up-and-down week of practice, but his flashes have been impressive enough to keep his name in the mix as a developmental quarterback prospect. With the NFL ushering in a new wave of athletic quarterbacks, Thomas’ performance in the game could significantly impact his chances of getting a legitimate shot to play his preferred position as a pro.

                                          ROAD TO THE 2014 NFL DRAFT: Senior Bowl 2014 | NFC Championship Game should help steer 2014 Dallas Cowboys draft

                                          ROAD TO THE 2014 NFL DRAFT - Senior Bowl 2014 - NFC Championship Game should help steer 2014 Dallas Cowboys draft

                                          Most of the Dallas Cowboys brass arrived in Mobile, Ala. for the 2014 Senior Bowl on Monday.

                                          We’d like to think Jerry Jones and the team’s front-office personnel was watching closely when the 49ers and Seahawks slugged it out for the NFC Championship the night before.

                                          During the game, it was pretty clear what needs to be done in the upcoming draft and even free agency.

                                          Actually, it has been clear to everyone just by watching the Dallas Cowboys 2013 regular season.

                                          This team needs Dee-fense. And plenty of it.

                                          It’s not just because they were the worst in the NFL and worst in team history. Those are reasons enough to go draft defense in the first three to four rounds. This team needs a defensive tackle, a pass-rusher, an outside linebacker and a safety. And a good cornerback wouldn’t hurt either – you can never have too many.

                                          After watching the 49ers and Seahawks it was very clear that the Cowboys have plenty of offense to win a Super Bowl. Sure, there are some natural improvements that need to be made, but that’s with any team.

                                          The direction the offensive line is going is very positive and the running game went from a liability early in the year, to average by the middle of the season to pretty much becoming a team-strength by seasons’ end.

                                          People love what the 49ers and Seahawks did to get young, athletic and cheap (for now) quarterbacks. But they can do that because they’ve got a defense and running game to lean on.

                                          Russell Wilson is a good, young quarterback, but he fell into the perfect situation for him. I don’t think he could go win the game if he was on the Bucs or the Browns or even the Cowboys. Russell Wilson had the No. 1 defense in the NFL on the other side. Imagine if he had the worst.

                                          Ask yourself if you’d rather have Wilson and the Cowboys’ team or Romo and the Seahawks’ team. Do the same with the 49ers and Colin Kaepernick. That one might actually be a little different because there are some fans who wouldn’t mind seeing Kaepernick in Dallas.

                                          Either way, the point is that if those teams can get to the Super Bowl – or really close – with that type of offense, the Dallas Cowboys can do that as well.

                                          Just give them some help on defense.

                                          Those defenses are nasty. The only thing nasty about the Dallas Cowboys defense is the stats and the yards it gives up.

                                          The front four of the 49ers or Seahawks, you’ll see brute strength that seems missing with other squads, particularly this one here in Dallas. You don’t see arms and triceps like you see with those teams and players.

                                          That was a very physical football game and we knew it would be. Jason Pierre-Paul said something about blood being shed in the Cowboys-Giants game back in late November. But that one had nothing on this past battle between the 49ers and Seahawks, which has arguably become the best rival in football right now.

                                          The Cowboys are going to keep all of their defensive assistants. That’s what’s coming out of Mobile this week at the 2014 Senior Bowl.

                                          Monte Kiffin is returning for his second year, at least give him some help. You can draft defense in the first three picks, if not four or five and you’d be OK.

                                          The only exception I could see to that is taking an offensive guard in the first round.  That would be the only position to consider with that 16th or 17th pick. Guards have good value there and you’ve seen the benefits of taking Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick early and really building something from the ground up.

                                          Dallas can get by with Ron Leary and Mackenzy Bernadeau, and maybe Brian Waters if he decides to come back. But you can’t get by with plucking guys off their couch and into the defensive-line rotation.

                                          If Sunday’s game in Seattle showed us anything, it’s that defense really does win championships – at least conference ones. But it also showed this offense is plenty good enough to win.

                                          ROAD TO THE 2014 NFL DRAFT: Senior Bowl 2014 | Checking out defensive linemen is the top priority

                                          ROAD TO THE 2014 NFL DRAFT - Senior Bowl 2014 - Checking out defensive linemen is the top priority

                                          MOBILE, AL — My plan was to follow three defensive linemen on the North squad to try and get a better feel for how they moved around live. The three players that I chose were: Aaron Donald, Ra’Shede Hegaman, and Rasheed Martin.

                                          After the team broke from stretching, I knew I was following the right group because Will McClay was doing the very same thing. My seat was in the press box, while McClay was within four feet of the drills that the Falcons coaches were putting the players through.

                                          It was interesting to see how these players went through the drills. Donald and Martin were the smoothest and moved the best. Hageman was better straight ahead and struggled a little more with the side to side stuff.

                                          When the group went to the one-on-one drills as they worked against the offensive line, all three did a nice job of playing with some power. Donald for his lack of height and bulk, played with outstanding leverage against Cyril Richardson, who can be a load to deal with. Donald didn’t give an inch against Richardson and that was impressive.

                                          Rasheed Martin measured well this morning at 272 pounds and despite his long build, he battled the massive tackle, Seantrel Henderson to a stalemate on several reps. I remember studying these two last week when Miami and North Carolina hooked up during the season, with Henderson getting the best of Martin plenty that day. It was a nice bounce back for Martin with a ton of eyes on him.

                                          There is no doubt that Ra’Shede Hageman looks the part. At 6-6 318 pounds, he is a full grown man. What I was worried about was his ability to get off the ball quick enough. His first few reps were not impressive than the defensive line coach, got on his rear and you saw a different player. He can be a very hard man to block and there were times when Richardson and Brandon Linder really struggled with him.

                                          Like Donald because of Mike Nolan’s scheme, they both saw action playing as the one and the three. Where Hageman did struggle is when he did get up the field and had problems finding the ball. He would make a great move, look to be in position, than the ball would go right by him. Thought he could have shown more awareness there. 

                                          When Mike Smith took his squad to the team period, this is where Donald really shined. His quickness and power were difficult to block. Centers Weston Richburg and Tyler Larsen had a handful to try and slow him down. He played the majority of the day on the offensive line side of the ball. It didn’t matter run or pass, he was in the middle of the action. I thought his technique was spot on the entire day, arm over, rip move, two hand bull, he was on.

                                          Of the three, Aaron Donald looked the most ready to play from the opening snap of practice and I am sure that Will McClay noticed that. His motor was running and he was on a mission. I did like some things that I did see from Ra’Shede Hagaman once the coach got in his face and his intensity picked up. Kareem Martin needs to do a better job of not rushing down the middle when getting after the quarterback, because then he has no shot. Martin is a better player when he can attack the edge and I sure they will point that out tonight in the film sessions.

                                          Overall it was a good start to the week for Ra’Shede Hegaman and Kareem Martin but a great one for Aaron Donald. It will be up to Donald to build on that and he could separate himself from the others because tomorrow morning, we get to all come back to the field and do it again.

                                          SEE FOR YOURSELF – VIDEO:

                                          ROAD TO THE 2014 NFL DRAFT - Senior Bowl 2014 - Checking out defensive linemen is the top priority - Video - Three to Watch

                                          Senior Bowl | Three To Watch | Defensive Line (Watch Video)

                                          Check out three of the top defensive lineman from the North roster during Monday’s Senior Bowl practice in Mobile, Alabama.

                                          ROAD TO THE 2014 NFL DRAFT: Senior Bowl 2014 | What to be looking out for this week

                                          ROAD TO THE 2014 NFL DRAFT - Senior Bowl 2014 Calendar and Schedule

                                          MOBILE, Ala. – With the Dallas Cowboys staff in Mobile for the Reese’s 2014 Senior Bowl, here are some things that us scouts (you) should be looking out for …

                                          Pro Coaches

                                          What I have always loved about the Senior Bowl from a scouting point of view, is how both squads are being coached this week by current NFL coaches. Part of having poor records during the season, Mike Smith from the Atlanta Falcons and Gus Bradley from the Jacksonville Jaguars staffs will lead the North and South squads this week. What is outstanding about this is that you get to observe these players out of their college element and functioning during the practices run by these coaches. 

                                          I was reminded this week from Monte Kiffin how when he was on Jon Gruden’s staff in Tampa and were coaching the game in 2005, when coaches on Bill Parcells staff in Dallas asked if Kiffin a 4-3 coach, could give DeMarcus Ware some reps during the practice at outside linebacker to see if Ware who was a 4-3 end at Troy could stand up and play on the outside. Kiffin had no problem with the request and the Cowboys were able to get a good look at Ware which helped them in their draft evaluation of him.

                                          Outstanding Competition

                                          Of all the college all-star games that are played after the season, the Senior Bowl does the best job of putting these rosters together. Phil Savage the director of that game is a former NFL general manager having worked in Baltimore and Cleveland. Savage and his staff have an outstanding eye for talent and when you go through these rosters, you will see a nice mix of players.

                                          What Savage has done is not only assemble talent from the major conferences around the country, but also he has players from schools like Lindenwood, Saginaw Valley, Eastern Illinois and North Dakota State. It was always interesting to see how the players from these schools work with these coaches and players from the major programs. Keep an eye on players like cornerback Pierre Desir, wide receiver Jeff Janis, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and offensive tackle Billy Turner. Garoppolo seems to be the player that most draft fans have interest in.

                                          There are always two or three players that might not be on your radar now but by the time this week is over, you will have a pretty clear understanding if these kids can play or not. Scouts will be tracking these players this week to see how they are responding to this experience.  

                                          Defensive Line On Review

                                          This will be a good week, for the scout’s around the league to get a good look at this current group of college defensive linemen. I remember very well this time last year, when defensive end Ziggy Ansah of BYU impressed all those that watched him practice and play in this game. Matter of fact, it was the Lions that were coaching in the game, that ended up drafting him in the 1st round.

                                          Looking at this current group, this is an important week for guys like Will Sutton, Ra’Shede Hageman, Aaron Donald, Marcus Smith, Kareem Martin, Trent Murphy, and DaQuan Jones. What I have learned from these Cowboys defensive coaches is that with the defensive line, it’s all about the quick twitch more so than the overall size. Kiffin told me that it was rare this season to have a guy like Jason Hatcher with his height to play as a one technique in this scheme.

                                          The player that has that Hatcher like size would be Hageman but on tape, I don’t believe that he has that quick twitch that Kiffin would be looking for, but we will see if that might have changed as he goes through this week. Aaron Donald will be measured Monday morning as will Will Sutton, who both would be perfect three techniques. What is interesting about Donald and Sutton is that they both are right at 6 foot tall and that is not a problem for Kiffin, as long as they both have that quick twitch that we have talked about.

                                          Two guys that I will be keeping my eye on in this group, is Marcus Smith and Kareem Martin. When I studied Smith this past week, he is a player that Will McClay (Head of the Dallas Cowboys Pro Scouting Department) and his group will be looking to project him to end from an outside linebacker. I believe that Smith can put his hand down in this scheme and rush the passer plus handle in the edge in the running game. He should get some reps this week rushing the passer in various drills and I am sure that this trait will show.

                                          Martin is a straight defensive end, that has the length and the range to be effective in this Kiffin scheme. He can chase the ball, he gets up the field and he can defeat blockers one-on-one. Trent Murphy is a guy that has a very similar skill set and I would expect people to be talking about his play as the week goes along. 

                                          There will be players in this game that other teams will not want because of their schemes but this Cowboys scouting staff and coaches will covet and how they view these players will be critical.

                                          Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Scout

                                          ROAD TO THE 2014 NFL DRAFT: Senior Bowl 2014 Calendar and Schedule

                                          ROAD TO THE 2014 NFL DRAFT - Senior Bowl week begins today - Senior Bowl 2014 Calendar and Schedule - Senior Bowl logo button

                                          IRVING, Texas – Members of the Dallas Cowboys hit the road Sunday for the 2014 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

                                          It’s time to check out some of the best and brightest players from college football’s senior class as they prepare for the 2014 NFL Draft.

                                          Expect detailed notes, features, and videos throughout the week including a wrap-up after each day of practice. We’ll attempt to keep everyone well-informed on players to look at.

                                          Last year, Dallas Cowboys NFL draft picks Terrance Williams, J.J. Wilcox, and B.W. Webb were all members of the South squad at the Senior Bowl. The annual event features a plethora of players who will undoubtedly be selected in the top few rounds of the upcoming draft. It’s where tackle Eric Fisher helped his draft stock, eventually going as the first pick in the draft last year.

                                          With needs across the defense and particularly on the defensive line, defensive tackles such as Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman, Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald, Arizona State’s Will Sutton, and Penn State’s DaQuan Jones will all be players Dallas Cowboys fans should take note of.

                                          Outside pass rushers such as Auburn’s Dee Ford, North Carolina’s Kareem Martin, and Arkansas’ Chris Smith will also garner a lot of attention, in addition to the quarterback class which features Fresno State’s Derek Carr, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, and San Jose State’s David Fales, among other notable players.

                                          There are sure to be more surprises in store and players that jump off the field and catch scouts eyes, as we cover the Senior Bowl action through Thursday.

                                          The full schedule for the week of the 2014 Senior Bowl, which culminates in the game Saturday, Jan. 25, can be found here and below. Players weigh-in is followed by the North and South team practices. The teams will practice through Monday – Thursday before getting ready for the game with a walkthrough Friday.

                                          2014 Senior Bowl calendar and schedule

                                          ROAD TO THE 2014 NFL DRAFT - Senior Bowl 2014 Calendar and Schedule

                                          Monday, January 20

                                          8:30am-10:00am Weigh-In Mobile Convention Center
                                          Exhibit Hall
                                          1:00pm-3:00pm South Team Practice Fairhope Stadium
                                          INTERVIEWS AFTER PRACTICE ON FIELD
                                          3:00pm-5:00pm North Team Practice Ladd-Peebles Stadium
                                          INTERVIEWS AFTER PRACTICE ON FIELD
                                          6:30pm-8:00pm Player/Media Night Battleship USS Alabama
                                          MEDIA EATS AT 6PM
                                          7:30pm-8:30pm FCA Coaches Fellowship Renaissance Riverview Plaza
                                          Mobile Bay II
                                          8:30pm-11:00pm NFL Club/Player Interviews Renaissance Riverview Plaza
                                          First floor meeting rooms

                                          Tuesday, January 21

                                          9:30am-11:30am North Team Practice Ladd-Peebles Stadium
                                          INTERVIEWS AFTER PRACTICE ON FIELD
                                          1:30pm- 3:30pm South Team Practice Ladd-Peebles Stadium
                                          INTERVIEWS AFTER PRACTICE ON FIELD
                                          5:00pm News Conference
                                          COACHES/SELECTED PLAYER
                                          Renaissance Riverview Plaza
                                          Mobile Bay II
                                          6:30pm-8:00pm AT&T Seafood Jubilee Mobile Convention Center
                                          MEDIA INVITED
                                          7:30pm-8:00pm FCA Coaches Fellowship Renaissance Riverview Plaza
                                          Mobile Bay II
                                          8:30pm-11:00pm NFL Club/Player Interviews Renaissance Riverview Plaza
                                          First floor meeting rooms

                                          Wednesday, January 22

                                          9:30am-11:30am North Team Practice Ladd-Peebles Stadium
                                          INTERVIEWS AFTER PRACTICE ON FIELD
                                          11:30am-1:30am PNC Bank Senior Boil Ladd-Peebles Stadium
                                          Corporate Tent Village
                                          1:30pm-3:30pm South Team Practice Ladd-Peebles Stadium
                                          INTERVIEWS AFTER PRACTICE ON FIELD
                                          5:00pm News Conference
                                          COACHES/SELECTED PLAYER
                                          Renaissance Riverview Plaza
                                          Mobile Bay II
                                          6:30pm-8:00pm FCA Rally
                                          Mobile Convention Center
                                          8:30pm-11:00pm NFL Club/Player Interviews Renaissance Riverview Plaza
                                          First floor meeting rooms

                                          Thursday, January 23

                                          9:00am-11:00am Community Service Project Selected Schools/Hospitals
                                          2:30pm-4:30pm North Team Practice Fairhope Stadium
                                          2:30pm-4:30pm South Team Practice Ladd-Peebles Stadium
                                          INTERVIEWS AFTER PRACTICE ON FIELD
                                          6:30pm-8:30pm Player Banquet BattleHouse Renaissance Hotel

                                          Friday, January 24

                                          10:30am- 11:30am North/South Team Walk Through Mobile Convention Center
                                          COACHES HAVE OPTION TO CLOSE/CHECK DURING WEEK
                                          3:00pm-7:00pm Coca-Cola Meet The Players Mobile Convention Center
                                          INTERVIEWS/TV LIVE SHOTS MAY BE CONDUCTED AS PLAYERS SIGN
                                          Reese’s Senior Bowl Experience
                                          Mobile Convention Center

                                          Saturday, January 25

                                          10:00am-1:00pm Baumhower’s Restaurant
                                          Tailgate Challenge
                                          Stadium Parking Lot
                                          11:00am-2:00pm Food For Less Tailgate Party
                                          MUST HAVE PASS TO ENTER
                                          East Parking Lot
                                          Ladd-Peebles Stadium
                                          1:00pm Stadium Gates Open Ladd-Peebles Stadium
                                            IBERIABANK Corporate Tent
                                          Village opens
                                            PRESS BOX OPENS  
                                          2:30pm Pre-Game Show Begins Ladd-Peebles Stadium
                                          3:00pm Kickoff Senior Bowl 2014 Ladd-Peebles Stadium
                                          Post Game Postgame interviews Under West stands near lobby entrance (approx. 50yd line)

                                          BUTTON - NFL Draft Prospects - The Boys Are Back website

                                          DALLAS COWBOYS COACHES ROSTER: Jerry Jones moving forward with both coordinators in 2014 | Jason Garrett focusing on filling empty coaching staff positions

                                          DALLAS COWBOYS COACHES ROSTER - Jerry Jones moving forward with both coordinators in 2014 - Monte Kiffin and Bill Callahan remaining as Dallas Cowboys coordinators

                                          MOBILE, Ala. – The Dallas Cowboys coaching staff roaming the sidelines at the Senior Bowl will look familiar.

                                          Team owner/general manager Jerry Jones said nothing has changed with his coordinators and “there’s nothing there at all” regarding potential changes. He added that he plans on all the coaches still under contract staying aboard.

                                          “The status of it is nothing,” Jones said. “The status is the contracts that are there, everybody’s here. That’s the way you ought to read it, not anticipate anything. I wouldn’t anticipate a thing.”

                                          Jones stuck by Jason Garrett throughout the 2013 season and even after the end of a third straight 8-8 season, but the Cowboys’ head coach is entering the final year of his contract and it doesn’t appear that deal will be extended hastily. Jones said he hasn’t had any thought about that at this point in the year.

                                          “I don’t pay any attention to lame duck status, what you call lame duck status,” Jones said. “I don’t have that term, because I don’t know that there’s such a thing. We’ve got huge, a lifetime, of work ahead of us over the next few weeks. To even consider that needs anything more than an agreement to do this year is not a big thing to me. It’s just too much takeaway from what we’re trying to do right now, which is just get cranked up for 2014.”

                                          Then again, that doesn’t mean he’s lost belief in his head coach or that the pay day won’t come. He said he wants to be there when it does happen.

                                          He gave, and has continued to give, Garrett multiple years to develop his system and get it in place. The same may be going for his coordinators with another year to make adjustments.

                                          “I had a guy tell me one time how to be successful, that no human can be right over 50 percent of the time on any decision, but it’s the ones that cut their bad ones off quick and let their good ones run long (that work out),” Jones said. “That’s hard to do. That’s hard to accept quickly to cut a bad decision off quick.

                                          “We all know the adage of the gold miner that walked away and the other one that took one more swing and hit the pick and found the gold stream. So, you don’t want to quit. It’s easier said than done to let your mistakes go short and your good decisions long.”

                                          It’s getting close to decision time with many veteran Cowboys players and staff members. Most of the focus this offseason has centered on defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan, who don’t appear to be going anywhere.

                                          Jones said he doesn’t have to convince people on staff that it’s a good decision to keep Kiffin. He only had to convince “the man in the mirror.”

                                          “Did we discuss and get input on a lot of things? Absolutely,” Jones said. “But what we did not do is have a big debate or management session regarding Monte Kiffin. We didn’t do that. That decision was made last year.

                                          “When you look at the fundamentals of a Monte Kiffin and you look at the fundamentals of his work and you look at what he is and you look at the fact that you decided scheme wise that you liked that competing in the NFL today, then that weighs you from cutting that short. The answer is I didn’t want to cut it short over on defense and some of the same principles are true with cutting it short on Jason, on going on when I talk about I want to be here for the pay day, and this is pay day time for Jason.”

                                          Everything appears to be status quo regarding the coaches still under contract in Dallas, from the head coach down to the assistants.

                                          At some point this offseason, the focus will begin to turn to the contracts of players. But Jones said the team isn’t working on any restructures yet and it’s too early at this point in the year to focus on that. 

                                          RELATED: Jason Garrett focusing on filling empty staff positions

                                          DALLAS COWBOYS COACHES ROSTER - Jerry Jones moving forward with both coordinators in 2014 - Jason Garrett focusing on filling empty coaching staff positions

                                          MOBILE, Ala. – The Dallas Cowboys coaching situation seems to be clearer.

                                          Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett spoke about the job security of Bill Callahan and Monte Kiffin today, just one day after team owner/general manager Jerry Jones affirmed that the offensive and defensive coordinator were still under contract for 2014.

                                          Garrett, who is beginning his fourth year as head coach, reiterated Jones’ stance from Monday afternoon, though he added that staff evaluations are still ongoing following the 2013 season.

                                          “Like he said, those guys are under contract. We’re always trying to figure out ways to do better, and that starts with us as a coaching staff,” Garrett said. “We’ll keep looking at what everyone’s roles are and how everything settles down.”

                                          Whether or not those roles would change going forward, though, Garrett declined to say. There has been some (media) speculation that Kiffin and Callahan’s positions could change despite remaining with the Cowboys, but Garrett did not add to it.

                                          “Those guys are under contract, and we feel good about that,” he said. “We’re always going to try to do things that are in the best interest of our football team, so we’ll keep looking at how we can be better as a staff and what roles everybody is in and what we’re asking them to do. But those guys are really good football coaches.”

                                          Instead, Garrett said the current focus was on filling the empty positions on his staff. The Cowboys lost tight ends coach Wes Phillips to the Redskins last week, and they parted ways with assistant special teams coach Chris Boniol after the season.

                                          “We do have some coaches who are out of contract, and we’re trying to get those things settled,” he said. “We’re just in the process of those conversations right now.”

                                          Reports indicated earlier in the week that the Cowboys would replace Boniol with Carlos Polk, who served as an intern under special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia last season. Polk, who also worked with Bisaccia on the Chargers’ coaching staff, confirmed Tuesday that looks to be the case – though his contract isn’t finalized.

                                          “It has not been finalized, but he’s someone who really was a good addition to our team this year. Bisaccia has some history with him in San Diego, and he really came in and played a very prominent role for us on that special teams unit,” Garrett said.

                                          Former Giants tight ends coach Mike Pope has also come up as a potential replacement for Phillips. Pope coached in New York for 23 seasons and was a member of all four of the team’s Super Bowl staffs before the Giants fired him last week.

                                          Pope was coaching in New York when Garrett was a quarterback with the Giants from 2000-03, providing a logical connection.

                                          “There are a number of guys that we’ve talked about in that situation. Mike is a good friend of mine and obviously a very good coach,” Garrett said.

                                          2014 NFL DRAFT NEWS: Record-breaking number of underclassmen to enter NFL Draft Class of 2014 | Revised

                                          2014 NFL Draft Weekend - Radio City Music Hall - The Boys Are Back blog

                                          A record 98 underclassmen, including Johnny Manziel and Jadeveon Clowney, have made themselves eligible for the NFL draft in May.

                                          The league released the list of early entrants Sunday and said the number has risen six straight seasons. The deadline for underclassmen to apply was Jan. 15.

                                          Last year, 73 underclassmen entered the draft. The year before it was 65 and in 2011 it was 56.

                                          Also, four players who recently graduated and still have eligibility left are joining the draft class but aren’t included in the number. Most notable among those is Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Southern California defensive back Dion Bailey, Arizona State linebacker Carl Bradford and Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard are also juniors who have informed the league they have graduated.

                                          Among the early entrants expected to be selected near the top of the draft are Manziel, the Texas A&M quarterback, Clowney, the defensive end from South Carolina, and Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins.

                                          The draft is May 8-10 in New York.

                                          LSU for the second straight season had the most players of any school to leave early. The Tigers had seven early entrants this season, including wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr., after 11 LSU players left early last year.

                                          Alabama and Southern California each had five leave early, along with California. Cal, which went 1-11, has six players listed among the early entrants, but that includes defensive end Chris McCain, who was dismissed from the team in September.

                                          National champion Florida State lost four players early, including All-America defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan and receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who caught the winning touchdown in the BCS championship game against Auburn. Notre Dame, Florida and South Carolina also had four early entrants.

                                          RELATED: List of underclassmen granted eligibility for 2014 NFL Draft

                                          The NFL announced today the names of 98 players who have been granted special eligibility for the 2014 NFL Draft on May 8-10 in New York.

                                          Each of the 98 players has met the league’s three-year eligibility rule and each has submitted a written application in which he renounced his remaining college football eligibility. The deadline for receiving applications was January 15.

                                          The NFL Draft will kick off in primetime for the fifth consecutive year. The first round will be held on Thursday, May 8. The second and third rounds are set for Friday, May 9. Rounds four through seven will be held on Saturday, May 10.

                                          The number of players granted special eligibility is a new record, up 25 from last year. The number has increased six years in a row.

                                          » Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
                                          » Nick Addison, DB, Bethune-Cookman
                                          » Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
                                          » George Atkinson, RB, Notre Dame
                                          » Dion Bailey, S, USC
                                          » Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
                                          » Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
                                          » Kapri Bibbs, RB, Colorado State
                                          » Brendan Bigelow, RB, California
                                          » Alfred Blue, RB, LSU
                                          » Russell Bodine, C, North Carolina
                                          » Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
                                          » Chris Boyd, WR, Vanderbilt
                                          » Carl Bradford, DE, Arizona State
                                          » Bashaud Breeland, DB, Clemson
                                          » Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
                                          » Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson
                                          » Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
                                          » Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, DB, Alabama
                                          » Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
                                          » Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers
                                          » Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
                                          » Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
                                          » Isaiah Crowell, RB, Alabama State
                                          » Jonathan Dowling, S, Western Kentucky
                                          » Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
                                          » Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
                                          » Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
                                          » Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina
                                          » Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
                                          » Ego Ferguson, DT, LSU
                                          » Cameron Fleming, OT, Stanford
                                          » Khairi Fortt, LB, California
                                          » Austin Franklin, WR, New Mexico State
                                          » Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State
                                          » Carlos Gray, DT, North Carolina State
                                          » Xavier Grimble, TE, USC
                                          » Terrance Hackney, T, Bethune-Cookman
                                          » Vic Hampton, CB, South Carolina
                                          » Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU
                                          » Adrian Hubbard, LB, Alabama
                                          » Kameron Jackson, CB, California
                                          » Nic Jacobs, TE, McNeese State
                                          » Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
                                          » Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU
                                          » Storm Johnson, RB, UCF
                                          » Henry Josey, RB, Missouri
                                          » Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
                                          » Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
                                          » Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
                                          » Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State
                                          » Marqise Lee, WR, USC
                                          » A.C. Leonard, TE, Tennessee State
                                          » Albert Louis-Jean, DB, Boston College
                                          » Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon
                                          » Aaron Lynch, DE, USF
                                          » Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
                                          » Marcus Martin, C, USC
                                          » Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
                                          » Chris McCain, DE, California
                                          » Terrance Mitchell, CB, Oregon
                                          » Viliami Moala, DT, California
                                          » Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss
                                          » Adam Muema, RB, San Diego State
                                          » Jake Murphy, TE, Utah
                                          » Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
                                          » Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
                                          » Jeoffrey Pagan, DL, Alabama
                                          » Ronald Powell, LB, Florida
                                          » Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
                                          » Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida
                                          » Kelcy Quarles, DL, South Carolina
                                          » Darrin Reaves, RB, UAB
                                          » Ed Reynolds, FS, Stanford
                                          » Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
                                          » Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado
                                          » Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida
                                          » Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
                                          » Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
                                          » Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
                                          » Richard Rodgers, TE California
                                          » Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
                                          » Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
                                          » Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
                                          » Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
                                          » Yawin Smallwood, LB, UConn
                                          » Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming
                                          » Jerome Smith, RB, Syracuse
                                          » Willie Snead, WR, Ball State
                                          » John Spooney, RB, Brown
                                          » Josh Stewart, WR, Oklahoma State
                                          » Xavier Su’a-Filo, OL, UCLA
                                          » Vinnie Sunseri, DB, Alabama
                                          » De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
                                          » Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
                                          » Trai Turner, OG, LSU
                                          » George Uko, DL, USC
                                          » Pierre Warren, FS, Jacksonville State
                                          » Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
                                          » Terrance West, RB, Towson
                                          » James Wilder Jr., RB, Florida State
                                          » David Yankey, OL, Stanford

                                          Stay up-to-date with NFL Draft Picks and NFL Draft Prospects right here … The Boys Are Back website has two pages dedicated to the Dallas Cowboys draft and draft prospects.

                                          TBAB Button - NFL Draft ProspectsBUTTON - NFL Draft Picks - The Boys Are Back blog

                                          THE LEGEND OF BEAR BRYANT: The Vince Lombardi of college football commemorates 100th birthday

                                          Bryant 100th Football

                                          Fred Thompson’s character Arthur Branch once said in an episode of Law and Order that “If it wasn’t for that sonuvabitch Bin Laden, we’d only remember September 11 as Bear Bryant’s birthday.” Today, many people throughout the world of college football—and especially in Alabama—will make Branch proud by not letting Bin Laden spoil the centennial celebration of Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant’s birthday.  

                                          While working on Mama Called, a new documentary of Bryant’s life, I found myself pondering a question which I had asked myself many times over the years: Was Bear Bryant the greatest college football coach of all time?

                                          Bear Bryant retired in 1982, after 25 years as Alabama's head coach. He died four weeks after coaching his last game for the Crimson Tide.

                                          In the time since his death in 1983, it has become more and more obvious that he was. Two other coaches of major college football teams passed him up in the all-time victories list—Joe Paterno (409) and Bobby Bowden (377) won more games in the major college ranks—but Bryant’s won-lost percentage is considerably higher (.780 to Paterno’s .749 and Bowden’s .740). Bryant won more national championships (six) than Paterno and Bowden combined (four). And for what it’s worth, Bryant was 4-0 in head-to-head matchups with Paterno.

                                          Bryant’s stature in college football is so great that there’s really only one other football coach since World War II whose reputation compares—Vince Lombardi, another man whose 100th birthday was commemorated this year. I once asked Bart Starr, who had known Bryant for years and who won five championships under Lombardi at Green Bay, if he thought Bryant was the Vince Lombardi of college football. Starr said, “At the least. Some people might call Coach Lombardi the Bear Bryant of pro football.” (More on that comparison later.)

                                          Vince Lombardi

                                          Paul Bryant coached at four universities and completely turned their football programs around for the better. Maryland was 1-7-1 in 1944, and then, in Bryant’s first and only season as head coach, went 6-2-1. Kentucky was 2-8-0 in 1945; in Bryant’s first year, 1946, the Wildcats were 7-3. In 1953, the Texas A&M Aggies were 4-5-1. When Bryant got there the next year, he gutted the entire squad and rebuilt it practically from scratch; the Aggies finished just 1-9 in 194, but Bryant’s labor bore fruit the next year, when they jumped to 7-2-1, and in 1956, they were the Southwest Conference Champions at 9-0-1. The Alabama Crimson Tide were 2-7-1 in 1957 to 5-4-1 in 1958 under Bryant, and, of course, the rest is history.

                                          Bryant is the only coach to have achieved greatness in both the era of limited substitution (when all players had to spend some time on both offense and defense) and the era of unlimited substitution, the modern era of football when players specialized at just one position.

                                          Bryant coached 133 games against 25 men who were eventually voted into the College Football Hall of Fame; in those games, Bryant was 85-42-6. He also coached against 11 of his former players and assistant coaches, with a record of 45-6. LSU’s longtime coach Charlie McClendon once ruefully exclaimed, “He taught me everything I know, but not everything he knows.”

                                          The vast majority of college football historians have also overlooked the fact that Bryant is the only coach to have achieved greatness in both the era of limited substitution (or one-platoon football, as it was called, when all players had to spend some time on both offense and defense) and the era of unlimited substitution, the modern era of football when players specialized at just one position.

                                          Bryant coached for 38 seasons, and his career breaks right down the middle between the eras of one-platoon and two-platoon ball.  The difference was probably best summed up in a comment Bryant once made to me during an interview: “In the old days, you spent more time coaching football. Nowadays [with expanded staffs and larger rosters] you spend more time coaching the coaches.”

                                          From 1945 t0 1963, his record was 141-49-13 for an excellent .727 win-loss percentage, while from 1964-1982 he was 182-36-4 for an awesome .829. No other football coach who had to make the adjustment from limited to unlimited substitution in the game even begins to compare.

                                          However, Benny Marshall a longtime columnist for the Birmingham News, tapped into one of the most important, fascinating sets of parallel stories in sports history when he drew the comparison (if an overblown, rather unflattering one) between Bryant and Vince Lombardi—going so far as to refer to Lombardi as “a poor man’s Bear Bryant.”

                                          Bear Bryant met and married his wife, Mary Harmon, while they were both students at Alabama

                                          Besides being born in the same year, Bryant’s and Lombardi’s lives shared an amazing number of similarities. Both men married young and stayed married to the same woman their entire lives. Both had two children, a son and a daughter, —and both sons were named after their fathers. Their football mentors—Jim Crowley at Fordham for Lombardi and Frank Thomas at Alabama for Bryant—learned the game under Knute Rockne at Notre Dame. Both won their first championship in 1961. They each developed close and lasting relationships with rebellious prodigies—Lombardi with Paul Hornung, Bryant with Joe Namath. And both, of course, were uncompromising taskmasters who stressed fundamentals and discipline.

                                          They nearly played against each other when Alabama met Fordham at the Polo Grounds in New York in 1933; Lombardi was ineligible for Fordham’s varsity squad but was in the stands that day.

                                          Bear Bryant appeared on the cover of Time Magazine

                                          Lombardi’s impact on pro football has faded; he has no protégés or disciples still in the game. But The Bear’s influence still pervades every level of the game, from small colleges to the pros. Joe Namath, his most famous recruit, helped bring out about the merger of the American and National Football League. Ozzie Newsome, one of Bryant’s first black All-Americans, is currently general manager of the Baltimore Ravens. John Mitchell, the first black player to start for the Crimson Tide and Bryant’s first black assistant coach, is now in his 20th season as defensive line coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers. And Sylvester Croom, who starred at center and later served as an assistant coach for Bryant, became the first black coach at a Southeastern Conference school, Mississippi State, in 2004, and is the new running backs coach for the Tennessee Titans.

                                          Bryant’s domain, I would argue, was larger than Lombardi’s or any other pro football coach’s. For nearly four decades Bryant was the dominant figure in what the great sportswriter Dan Jenkins called in his book, Saturday’s America, “the world of small towns and college communities that, from Labor Day through New Year’s, gives unqualified devotion to college football, displaying the kind of unbridled enthusiasm that can only be faked or imitated in pro football stadiums.”

                                          Courtesy: Allen Barra

                                          Allen Barra writes about sports for the Wall Street Journal and His next book is Mickey and Willie–The Parallel Lives of Baseball’s Golden Age.

                                          2013 NFL SUPPLEMENTAL DRAFT: Six players declared eligible this season

                                          WR DeWayne Peace, Houston - 2013 NFL Supplemental Draft - The Boys Are Back blog

                                          NFL teams were alerted over the holiday weekend of the six players eligible for Thursday’s supplemental draft.

                                          Alphabetically, they are:

                                          DE James Boyd, UNLV
                                          DT Nate Holloway, UNLV
                                          DE Toby Jackson, Central Florida
                                          WR DeWayne Peace, Houston
                                          WR O.J. Ross, Purdue
                                          DB Damond Smith, South Alabama

                                          The two most prominent players are the receivers Peace and Ross (pictured above), who combined for 110 passes for 1,057 yards and four touchdowns in 2012 and were being counted on by their collegiate teams to produce even more as seniors.

                                          Like most supplemental draft prospects — including several others from this year’s class — Peace and Ross requested special eligibility for inclusion into the NFL’s annual July draft because each ran into trouble at school.

                                          Peace caught 54 passes for 603 yards and two scores in 2012 for the Cougars. Ross caught 56 passes for 454 yards and two touchdowns in 2012 for the Boilermakers.

                                          Ross is the more dynamic athlete of the two.

                                          WR O.J. Ross, Purdue - 2013 NFL Supplemental Draft - The Boys Are Back blog

                                          The 5-11, 186-pounder possesses good quickness to make defenders miss and above average hands.He is more quick than fast, however, and may not possess the top-end speed teams are looking for in a mid-sized wideout. Ross was productive over his three seasons at Purdue after signing as a highly regarded prep out of Ormond Beach, Florida and leaves the school with 100 receptions for 959 yards and six scores. He saw time as a kick returner as a freshman, averaging 23.1 yards in 12 opportunities.

                                          He was placed on indefinite suspension from the team in February for a violation of team rules. He previously missed the 2011 Little Caesars Bowl due to academics.

                                          Peace was deemed academically ineligible and kicked off the team just last month. Like Ross, the 5-11, 190-pound Peace offers good lateral quickness but he does not possess the speed to run away from defenders.

                                          While the receivers are the most productive players in the 2013 supplemental class, scouts could be just as intrigued by the defenders eligible this summer, including a quick-footed cornerback who reportedly already caught the eye of one NFL team.

                                          Continue reading →

                                          VIOLENCE REDUCTION 2.0: President Obama unsure if he’d let son play football

                                          football violence political - The Boys Are Back blog

                                          President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, have two daughters. If they had a son, Obama isn’t sure that football would be an option for him.

                                          “I’m a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football,” he said in an interview with the New Republic. “And I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence.

                                          President Barack Obama throws a football at Soldier Field - The Boys Are Back blog

                                          “In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won’t have to examine our consciences quite as much.

                                          Obama isn’t asked what changes could be made, nor does he indicate if he’ll have a role in making changes happen. He believes a bigger concern for the sport comes from the college level, which acts as the NFL’s feeder system.

                                          Obama - Football needs to change to lessen concussions - The Boys Are Back blog

                                          “I tend to be more worried about college players than NFL players in the sense that the NFL players have a union, they’re grown men, they can make some of these decisions on their own, and most of them are well-compensated for the violence they do to their bodies,” he said. “You read some of these stories about college players who undergo some of these same problems with concussions and so forth and then have nothing to fall back on. That’s something that I’d like to see the NCAA think about.”

                                          President Obama jersey - The Boys Are Back blog

                                          The NFL has taken steps to improve player safety, and Obama touches on the fine line the league must walk on this issue. The NFL has the responsibility of protecting the long-term health of its players while continuing to produce an exciting and profitable product. In a game with inherent violence and injury risk, that’s no easy task

                                          Dan Hanzus | NFL Around the League Writer

                                          SENIOR BOWL: Former USC safety T.J. McDonald recalls Monte Kiffin’s energy, dedication

                                          MOBILE, Ala. – Former USC safety T.J. McDonald knows when Monte Kiffin’s around.

                                          The calling card Kiffin left around his office and the football facilities at Southern California gave him away. That calling card also symbolized the countless hours he dedicated to football during his three-year tenure with the Trojans.

                                          Former USC Safety Recalls Kiffin’s Energy, Dedication - The Boys Are Back blog

                                          “He’s got these coffee cups in Styrofoam cups,” McDonald said. “Anywhere you go in the building, you start seeing those Styrofoam cups, you know Monte’s not far. He’s somewhere close.”

                                          Those cups could be found all over the place at any and all times of the day. Football enveloped Kiffin’s mind, and McDonald could sense it. If Kiffin’s 13 seasons as a successful NFL defensive coordinator didn’t immediately earn a player’s respect, his passion for the game and energy he provided did the job.  

                                          Kiffin stayed across the street from the school, walking over to his office early in the morning and leaving late at night, according to McDonald. That allowed plenty of time for the safety to enter Kiffin’s office and pick his brain about plays or schemes.

                                          “Whatever the case may be, I could go up to that office, and he’s going to be there with the remote in his hand, sitting the same way,” McDonald said.

                                          More than anything, McDonald enjoyed being around his defensive coordinator, even if it was just to talk about the game in general. It was easy to love him as a coach, because he could see the passion and dedication Kiffin gave to football.

                                          Continue reading →

                                          DEFENSIVE SCHEMES: The 3-4 vs the 4-3 (Special Feature)

                                          4-3 defense

                                          Diagram: The 4-3 Base

                                          “A&M is running a 3-4 scheme on defense that Oklahoma State isn’t used to” was the explanation given by the broadcasters as to why the Cowboys went scoreless for almost the entire first half of the Thursday night’s Texas A&M vs Oklahoma State game (2010).  While the 3-4 Defense is not currently the norm in college football (schemes come and go), it is becoming more popular these days as seven teams made the switch in 2010, including Texas Tech, who the Cowboys faced two weeks later.  Luckily for Oklahoma State’s offense, they familiarized themselves rather quickly and made second half adjustments, which led to 21 unanswered points and ultimately a win.

                                          In addition to Texas A&M and Texas Tech, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Houston, Notre Dame and Stanford all made the switch to the 3-4 Defense in  2010.  Combining that with the already established 3-4 Defenses run by Alabama, Air Force, Army, Navy, BYU, California and SMU, there were a total of 14 FBS teams who used 3 down Linemen and 4 Linebackers in 2010.

                                          3-4 defense

                                          Diagram: The 3-4 Base

                                          But what is the 3-4 Defense and how does it compare to the more popular 4-3 Defense?  As its name implies, it is a defensive formation that puts three men on the defensive line and four men behind them as linebackers.  The defensive linemen are often referred to as down linemen, or the ones with their hands in the dirt, and they are directly at the line of scrimmage.   The linebackers stand behind them and have more options in terms of positioning as they can stay back or even move up to the line of scrimmage.

                                          Base 4-3 Defense - The Boys Are Back blog 

                                          Base 4-3 defense: In the most popular base 4-3 defense that NFL teams run, the defensive tackle lines up over the strongside guard, meaning all four defensive linemen are situated on offensive linemen who can get a good blocking angle on the pass rushers.

                                          “Big on big is always the preference for an offensive line, and blocking the 4-3 gives you the best chance,” said an offensive line coach. Offensive linemen want to block defensive linemen, hence the term “big on big.”

                                          Base 3-4 defense - The Boys Are Back blog

                                          Base 3-4 defense: But in the base alignment of a 3-4 defense, a defensive end is in position to prevent the offensive tackle from consistently stepping out and blocking an outside linebacker.

                                          The best pass blocker is usually the left tackle, but if he struggles to clear the defensive end in order to get to the outside linebacker, he’ll give up sacks. Porter, Ware, and Harrison all rush from outside and have a defensive end occupying the left tackle in the base look.

                                          The differences between the 3-4 and the 4-3 mostly concern the personnel and their responsibilities.  In the 4-3, the linemen are responsible for putting pressure on the quarterback and specifically the defensive ends will have the majority of sacks in this scheme. The linebackers stop the run and drop back into pass coverage (although they will also join in adding pressure on the quarterback in blitz plays).

                                          In the 3-4 the linebackers are responsible for pressuring the quarterback and specifically the outside linebackers are the primary pass rushers. Any of the four linebackers will rush the quarterback on a given play, but those not putting pressure on the quarterback will need to stop the run and be speedy enough to drop back into coverage, depending on what the play calls for.

                                          In the 4-3 the interior linemen (the defensive tackles) need to be big enough to take on multiple blockers, but because of their pass rushing duties they shouldn’t be so big that that they can’t fluidly move through the offensive linemen to the quarterback.

                                          In the 3-4 the nose tackle needs to be even bigger than the defensive tackles in the 4-3, because he is the only defensive tackle and he will always be taking on multiple blockers with one less player on the line to assist him.  Finding the right nose tackle is one of the most challenging aspects of this scheme.  Alabama’s defense was among the country’s best in 2008 and 2009 because nose tackle Terrence Cody was so hard to block (he is currently playing in the NFL).  Because their main responsibility is to take on blocks with 2-Gap assignments (defending the space on both sides of him), the linemen won’t produce the impressive stats they might get playing in a 4-3.  Their job is to free up the linebackers to make plays.

                                          The 3-4 gives you versatility, creates confusion and makes it harder for offenses to predict where the pressure is coming from.  This unpredictability is one of the biggest advantages of the 3-4 scheme as it hinders offenses who run the OPTION and who need to react quickly based on what they see from the defense in order to determine which option to use. Any of the four linebackers can blitz on a given play, or one of the outside linebackers can move to the line of scrimmage as a stand-up defensive end.

                                          According to Al Groh (former Virginia head coach hired as Georgia Tech’s Defensive Coordinator in 2010 to switch them from the 4-3 to the 3-4): “I  like the flexibility of the defense…It provides different options to play against all of the spread formations that we are dealing with. When you have four players [linebackers] standing up and able to make adjustments, it gives you more options than if you only had three linebackers standing up.

                                          Alabama head coach Nick Saban says “From a schematic standpoint, the 3-4 keeps quarterbacks, offensive linemen and offensive coordinators guessing before the snap. Any one of the four linebackers can rush the passer at any time.”

                                          The top three pass rushers this season are outside linebackers from 3-4 defenses. Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware (19), Miami’s Joey Porter (17.5) and Pittsburgh’s James Harrison (15) have 51.5 sacks between them. The top three pass rushers from 4-3 defenses — Atlanta’s John Abraham (15.5), Minnesota’s Jared Allen (14.5) and Carolina’s Julius Peppers (12.5) — all are defensive ends and have 42.5 sacks between them.

                                          The 3-4 defense offers flexibility in looks, features quicker athletes rushing from the outside and forces offensive adjustments that empty the backfield. Not many teams want to be in a 4-3 defense when the opponent has a 3-by-2 empty set with no one in the backfield except the quarterback. However, 3-4 teams are ready for that adjustment with a three-man rush while many four-man fronts have to pop out a lineman into coverage.

                                          The NFL’s top two defenses (Pittsburgh and Baltimore) are 3-4 teams. The top two defenses in sacks (Dallas and Pittsburgh) are 3-4 teams. Therefore, it might be time to consider the 3-4 a better package against modern offenses.

                                          CATS OUT OF THE BAG: Katherine Webb says her boyfriend, Alabama QB A.J. McCarron, ‘really wants to play for the Dallas Cowboys

                                          Katherine Webb, left, the girlfriend of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron celebrate after the BCS National Championship game - The Boys Are Back blog

                                          Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past few days, you’ve probably heard of Katherine Webb — the girlfriend of Alabama QB A.J. McCarron who has taken the Internet by storm.

                                          Webb, the reigning Miss Alabama USA who saw her Twitter following skyrocket from a couple hundred followers to nearly a quarter million after being mentioned (repeatedly) on air during the BCS National Championship Game, recently sat down with Esquire for a Q&A.

                                          Of interest to Cowboys fans — Webb says her boyfriend would love to be a member of the Dallas Cowboys.

                                          LM: Are you working with Donald Trump? He’s a Jets fan, right? Maybe A.J. to the Jets one day?

                                          KW: I actually spoke with him earlier today, and he was wanting to meet with both of us if we make it up to New York. I’m working with his publicist trying to handle all of this media madness right now. And A.J. really wants to play for the Dallas Cowboys, so we’ll see what happens.

                                          McCarron threw for 2,933 yards, 30 TDs and just 3 INTs this year for the Crimson Tide, including a 4 TD-0 INT showing against Notre Dame in Alabama’s 42-14 win in Monday’s BCS National Championship Game.

                                          Brent Musburger of ESPN commented about Katherine Webb, a former Miss Alabama and A J McCarron's girlfriend - The Boys Are Back blog

                                          Could A.J. and Katherine be the new Tony and Jessica? On a football-related note, would you want the two-time national championship-winning QB for Alabama to eventually be a Dallas Cowboy? You’ll have to wait one more year for that to potentially happen — McCarron has already said he’s returning for one more season with the Crimson Tide.

                                          2013 NFL DRAFT PRIMER: Three interior lineman prospects the Dallas Cowboys could target

                                          At times this season, the Cowboys’ pass protection has been suspect and the run-blocking has been subpar. Most point to the interior of the Cowboys’ offensive line as the source of the problems. The center position has been destabilized with starter Phil Costa suffering multiple injuries and backup Ryan Cook getting hurt as well. The guard spots, occupied by free-agent acquisitions Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau, are also viewed as weak areas.

                                          Will the Cowboys be on the lookout for interior line prospects in the upcoming draft? That seems to be a certainty.

                                          Here are three players they may target.

                                          Chance Warmack at Alabama - 65 - The Boys Are Back blog

                                          Chance Warmack, Alabama; Head coach Jason Garrett has close ties to Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban and the 6-3, 320-pound Warmack (jersey number 65 above photo) has distinguished himself on one of the country’s best offensive lines. This season, the left guard has been named SEC offensive lineman of the week twice. Alabama plays Western Carolina on Saturday at 11:21 a.m.

                                          Cyril Richardson - Baylor - The Boys Are Back blog

                                          Cyril Richardson; Baylor; In the preseason, the 6-5, 335-pound fourth-year junior from Fort Worth was named as one of the contenders for the Lombardi and Outland Trophies. Richardson, whom Kansas coach Charlie Weis described as “by far” Baylor’s best offensive lineman, has a bit of a nasty streak. The left guard got ejected from a game against Iowa State earlier this year. Baylor faces Kansas State at 7 p.m. on Saturday.


                                          Barrett Jones; Alabama; The 2011 Outland Trophy winner, the 6-5, 302-pound senior is about as accomplished a lineman as there is in the college game. He’s also extremely versatile. After playing right guard and left tackle he is now Alabama’s center. That Jones has shown the ability to play all of these positions  is not surprising. He graduated in August with an accounting degree and a 4.0 grade point average. Based on his track record, this is the kind of player head coach Jason Garrett covets. Alabama plays Western Carolina on Saturday at 11:21 a.m.

                                          BACK FOR HIS SENIOR SEASON: Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones

                                          OU quarterback QB Landry Jones returning for senior season - The Boys Are Back blog

                                          Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones is close friends with Cowboys tight end James Hanna. The former college teammates played three seasons together with the Sooners.

                                          When Jones got married in Fort Worth on July 6, Hanna, the Cowboys’ sixth round pick in April, was one of his groomsmen.

                                          So it only seems obvious that the two would joke around about the possibility of playing together on Sundays.

                                          “It’s a huge joke because I’ll never go to the Cowboys,” Jones said Monday during Big 12 media days at The Westin Galleria hotel. “That would be so fun to be able to go back and play with him. I wish him nothing but the best at the Cowboys, but I don’t know if there’s ever a chance that me and him will ever play together. They got a pretty good guy down there that’s going to be playing there for a long time.”

                                          Tony Romo is certainly a very good NFL quarterback, but he’s 32 and the Cowboys could always use a young, strong-armed passer to learn under a veteran quarterback.

                                          However, that would likely come from a draft pick in the later rounds. Most likely, Jones won’t be available at that time. The Oklahoma quarterback nearly entered the NFL Draft this year, filling out the paperwork that allows experts to project were a prospect would be chosen. Jones said he was informed that he would go in the first round.

                                          Even though there are no guarantees, it was enough to make Jones put serious thought into foregoing his senior season.

                                          “I remember the day, I was praying about it and then just kind of had a peace about staying,” Jones said. “I felt like that was what the Lord wanted me to do.”

                                          Coming back for a shot at a national championship also played a significant role. The Sooners lost three of their last seven games last season and Jones’ numbers dipped from an outstanding sophomore campaign that included 4,718 passing yards and 38 touchdown passes. Jones threw for 4,463 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2011.

                                          But Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops doesn’t blame that finish on his starting quarterback. Stoops said Monday that he didn’t ask Jones to improve on anything during the off-season. Instead, Stoops said he asked 10 other players on offense to improve.

                                          “Everybody (said), ‘Landry struggled,’” Stoops said. “No, he didn’t. The offense struggled. He had more dropped passes in the last three games, we couldn’t even keep track of how many. Didn’t run the football as effectively as we needed to at all.

                                          “All of that goes together. And so to me, it’s more of an issue of the offense and the offense around him than it is him.”

                                          Oklahoma vs Florida State football, OU won 47-17. Photos by Ty Russell

                                          If the Sooners are to reach the national title game for the first time since January 2009, Jones will likely have to be as effective as past Sooners quarterbacks Josh Heupel, Jason White and Sam Bradford. Stoops sees many similarities between Jones and those other three. Pretty good company considering Heupel won a national championship and White and Bradford each won a Heisman Trophy.

                                          A good work ethic, size, talent and toughness are some of the traits that Stoops says his current quarterback shares with the other standouts he’s coached at Oklahoma.

                                          According to Jones, the measurables, comparisons and statistics don’t matter this season. Getting the Sooners into the national title game like Heupel, White and Bradford did is what he cares about most.

                                          “I don’t want to be just somebody that has a lot of good stats,” Jones said. “I want to be somebody that gets to play in that national title game, and actually win one.”

                                          NCAA NEWS: College football playoff approved

                                          VIDEO - College Playoff System approved - The Boys Are Back blog

                                          Video: BCS committee speaks – Click on picture above or HERE to watch video


                                          WASHINGTON (AP) Playoffs and tournaments long have determined champions of every college sport from baseball to bowling.

                                          The exception was major college football.

                                          That ended Tuesday. Come 2014, the BCS is dead.

                                          A committee of university presidents approved a plan for a four-team playoff put forward by commissioners of the top football conferences.

                                          For years, the decision-makers had balked at any type of playoff because they said it would diminish the importance of the regular season. If only two teams had a chance to win a championship in the postseason, even one loss could be too many. That made for some very high stakes regular-season games. As recently as 2008, Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive proposed the type of plan adopted Tuesday, and it was quickly shot down.

                                          Four years later, minds changed. The 12 university presidents stood shoulder to shoulder on a stage at a news conference in a posh hotel in the nation’s capital and delivered the news.

                                          ”It’s a great day for college football,” BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock said. ”As soon as the commissioners realized they could do this and protect the regular season, the light went on for everybody.”

                                          The move completes a six-month process for the commissioners, who have been working on a new way to determine a major college football champion after years of griping from fans. The latest configuration is certain to make even more money for the schools than the old system — and not satisfy everyone.

                                          ”There were differences of views,” said Virginia Tech President Charles Steger, who headed the BCS presidential oversight committee. ”I think it would be a serious mistake to assume it was a rubber stamp.”

                                          Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman was the most notable holdout. He had said he preferred the status quo or a tweak of the Bowl Championship Series. Perlman said the playoff still wouldn’t be his first choice, but he was not going to stand in the way of progress.

                                          ”This is the package that was put forth and we will strongly support it,” he said.

                                          Instead of simply matching the nation’s No. 1 and No. 2 teams in a title game after the regular season, the way the BCS has done since 1998, the new format will create a pair of national semifinals.

                                          Many college football fans have been clamoring for a playoff for years, and the BCS has been a constant target for criticism. Lawmakers have railed against it. A political action committee was formed, dedicated to its destruction. The Justice Department looked into whether it broke antitrust laws. Even President Obama said he wanted a playoff.

                                          Now it’s a reality.

                                          No. 1 will play No. 4, and No. 2 will play No. 3 on Dec. 31 and/or Jan. 1. The sites of those games will rotate among the four current BCS bowls — Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar — and two more to be determined. One of the new sites will likely be wherever the newly formed bowl created by the SEC and Big 12 is played, Slive said.

                                          The Cotton Bowl, played at the $1.1 billion Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, has long wanted to be part of the BCS and is expected to make a strong push to be in the semifinal rotation.

                                          The winners of the semis will advance to the championship on the first Monday in January that is six or more days after the last semifinal. The first ”Championship Monday,” as it was called in the BCS release, is set for Jan. 12, 2015.

                                          The site of the title game will move around the way the Super Bowl does, with cities bidding for the right to host.

                                          The teams will be selected by a committee, similar to the way the NCAA basketball tournament field is set. The men’s tournament has 68 teams, and 37 at-large bids.

                                          The football committee will have a much tougher task, trying to whittle the field down to four. This season, 125 schools will play at the highest level of college football.

                                          Among the factors the committee will consider are won-loss record, strength of schedule, head-to-head results and whether a team is a conference champion. The selection committee will also play a part in creating matchups for the games at the four sites that do not hold a semifinal in a given year.

                                          ”I think it’s tremendous progress,” Washington State coach Mike Leach, a playoff proponent, said in a telephone interview. ”Five years ago there wasn’t even dialogue about a playoff. Instead of diving in the water, they dipped their toes in. I think it’s’ going to be ridiculously exciting and it’s going to generate a bunch of money. I wish they dived in.”

                                          The BCS had given automatic qualifying status to six conferences, the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference, Pac-12 and Big East. That allowed those leagues better access to the big, high-payout games than the other five conferences, such as the Mountain West and Conference USA.

                                          Automatically qualified status is gone and the commissioners believe the new system will create more interesting games beyond the ones that determine the national title.

                                          ”What the system now is, several semifinals, championship game and some access bowls. By creating a couple of access bowls, people will be able to play high-quality opponents in big venues with big brands,” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said.

                                          No one has put a hard number on it yet, but this new format figures to more than double the TV revenue of the current BCS and Rose Bowl contracts. Those pay out about $155 million annually.

                                          The commissioners want to lock in this format for 12 years with a television partner. The current four-year BCS deal with ESPN runs through the 2013 season. The new format will be presented to potential TV partners in the fall, starting with ESPN.

                                          ”I think we have found what we think is the right place and it stabilizes the postseason for a length of time that I think is healthy for the game,” said Slive, whose members have won the last six BCS championships.

                                          There are still some details to work out — such as who will be on the committee and what new bowls will be involved in the semifinal rotation — but all the decision-makers are on board.

                                          Lower divisions of college football already have a playoff, but the highest level has always used bowls and polls to determine its champion. Those days are coming to an end.

                                          ”We believe this new format will be good for student-athletes, for the alumni and for our institutions,” Steger said. ”It’s a best of both worlds result. It captures the excitement of the playoff while protecting the regular season.”

                                          NCAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP COMING: Playoff system long overdue for college football | BCS commissioners reach consensus

                                          BCS commissioners have reached consensus on a model four-team seeded playoff - The Boys Are Back blog

                                          We spend all day long talking about the NFL here, but word that the BCS commissioners have reached consensus on a model four-team seeded playoff is enough to pull us away for a moment. (See related article below)

                                          Football fans have been throwing pebbles at this darkened window for eons. Someone has finally woken up inside the house of college football.

                                          The NFL has grown to massive scale by listening to the millions of people who love the game.

                                          Football fans want one champion.

                                          You can have your Coaches Poll, your Harris Interactive Poll and your shimmering computer rankings. Fans of college football deserve to see a winner decided on the field.

                                          Look no further than the Super Bowl for proof. Mothers, toddlers, your vegan uncle — people who’ve never pondered the existence of the "Tuck Rule" — most of them have found themselves in a room watching the Super Bowl. It kills in ratings, it’s become a national holiday. College football has the chance to celebrate its champion with similar and appropriate fanfare. This would only grow the game.

                                          The bowl-game system has its merits, most based on schools making money. Try explaining the BCS system to a new friends at a dinner party. Watch their eyes glaze over. Watch them float away mentally. With a four-team playoff, those days are over.

                                          The playoff model will be presented to the university presidents next week for approval. This is their chance to show us they’ve learned something.

                                          Courtesy: Marc Sessler |

                                          RELATED: BCS commissioners reach consensus on playoff plan

                                          CHICAGO — The BCS commissioners are backing a playoff plan with the sites for the national semifinals rotating among the major bowl games and a selection committee picking the teams.

                                          The plan will be presented to university presidents next week for approval.

                                          Once the presidents sign off — and that seems likely — college football’s champion will be decided by a playoff starting in 2014.

                                          "We are excited to be on the threshold of creating a new postseason structure for college football that builds on the great popularity of our sport," Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said Wednesday.

                                          All 11 commissioners stood shoulder-to-shoulder behind Swarbrick, who read the BCS statement from a podium set up in a hotel conference room.

                                          All 11 commissioners stood shoulder-to-shoulder behind Swarbrick, who read the BCS statement from a podium set up in a hotel conference room - The Boys Are Back blog

                                          The commissioners have been working on reshaping college football’s postseason since January. The meeting Wednesday was the sixth formal get-together of the year. They met for four hours and emerged with a commitment to stand behind a plan.

                                          "I think we’re very unified," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said.

                                          The commissioners refrained from providing specifics of the plan in their announcement.

                                          Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott did say the two semifinals would be worked into the existing major bowls and the site of the national championship game will be bid out to any city that wants it, the way the NFL does with the Super Bowl.

                                          People with firsthand knowledge of the decision tell The Associated Press the semifinals of the proposed plan would rotate among the major bowls and not be tied to traditional conference relationships.

                                          There are still major details to be worked out, such as who exactly makes up the selection committee, but college football will take a page from college basketball, which uses a committee of athletic directors and commissioners to pick the teams for its championship tournament.

                                          Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

                                          ON THE CLOCK: Kirkpatrick, DeCastro, Dontari Poe among Cowboys pre-draft visits

                                          Dre Kirkpatrick - Alabama - Cornerback

                                          With less than a month to go before the 2012 NFL Draft, the Cowboys began hosting possible prospects for the 14th overall pick on Monday.

                                          The team will bring in roughly 30 national prospects starting Monday evening and running through Wednesday.

                                          On Thursday and Friday they will hold their annual Dallas Day workouts for prospects who went to high school or college in the Fort Worth-Dallas metro area.

                                          Among the national prospects expected to visit area three players who have been popular choices for the Cowboys at 14 on a number of mock drafts, including guard David DeCastro, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and defensive tackle Dontari Poe, according to a team source.

                                          The most intriguing name is Poe, considering owner Jerry Jones gushed about him last week at the NFL owners meeting in Palm Beach.

                                          “I’m impressed with him,” Jones said. “I’m real impressed. I’m particularly impressed cause he looks like a nose [tackle] and has the skill and has some pass rush about him at the five technique. I’m impressed with him.”

                                          One Sports Illustrated writer has gone so far as to say that Poe is the player the Cowboys are now targeting.

                                          Of course Jones also said they would likely not take an offensive lineman with the 14th pick because of the two guards they picked up on free agency. Yet they will have an up close and personal visit with DeCastro, considered to be the best guard in the draft.

                                          The Kirkpatrick visit is also in keeping with Jones’ words that the Cowboys would most likely choose a defensive player in the first round and the need for special player at corner is always so great that they could take one despite the signing of free agent Brandon Carr to a $50.1 million contract.

                                          Kirkpatrick, who has already had a private workout with the Cowboys, arrived in Dallas on Monday, his agent Brian Overstreet said.

                                          One player conspicuously not having an invitation to visit is LSU standout defensive lineman Michael Brockers. His agent Albert Elias said he has not been extended an invite by the Cowboys.

                                          Who visits is usually a good indicator of who the Cowboys might pick at 14.

                                          Every year since 2006, the top pick has been among the pre-draft visitors that year, in Bobby Carpenter, Anthony Spencer, Jason Williams, Felix Jones, Dez Bryant and Tyron Smith.

                                          Of course 2005, they drafted DeMarcus Ware first and he didn’t make a pre-draft visit. That seemed to turn out okay.

                                          Among the players set to come in for the Dallas Day visit are Texas linebackers Emmanual Acho and Keenan Robinson, Texas A&M wide receiver Jeff Fuller and TCU linebacker Tank Carder

                                          SPECIAL FEATURE: Barry Sanders Jr. chases father footsteps on his own terms

                                          Barry Sanders Jr

                                          (Photo by Tim Hipps)

                                          Barry Sanders Jr. sweeps left for a 10-yard touchdown run during the West team’s intrasquad scrimmage Tuesday in preparation for the 2012 U.S. All-American Bowl, set for Saturday at 12 noon CST at the Alamodome in San Antonio. The game is being televised live by NBC, right now.

                                          SAN ANTONIO – Barry Sanders Jr. says he feels no pressure to live up to standards established by his father.

                                          “People ask me the question all the time, if I’ll ever be as good as him, and I don’t think anybody will ever be as good as him – just by the numbers he put up,” Sanders said after Tuesday morning practice for the 2012 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. “So I just come out here and do what I can, and just work at it every day.”

                                          The younger Sanders will play for the West in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl for high school seniors Saturday at 12 p.m. CST at the Alamodome. The game will be televised live by NBC.

                                          With this event, the son of a man who became the third-leading rusher in NFL history in a short 10 years makes his debut on the national stage. The son knows the numbers his father generated: an NCAA single-season record 2,628 rushing yards en route to winning the 1988 Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma State and an NFL career-high 2,053 rushing yards in 1997, his next-to-last season with the Detroit Lions.

                                          Selected for the Pro Bowl in each of his 10 seasons, the senior Sanders’ career rushing yards per game average of 99.8 yards rank second in NFL history behind only Jim Brown’s 104.3 yards per game. He set dozens of records en route to 15,269 NFL career rushing yards, which trail only Emmitt Smith (18,355) and Walter Payton (16,726). Though he did not play the position until the middle of his last high school season, his is listed as the most elusive running back of all time by

                                          Sanders Jr., however, is not exactly sure about his own numbers, compiled during a career at Heritage Hall High in Oklahoma City.

                                          “Career-wise?” he asked. “I think I finished at 5,000 career yards. I can’t remember how many touchdowns. I looked at the yardage, but I didn’t calculate the carries. I averaged around nine yards a carry.”

                                          Along the way, he also lost track of career touchdowns.

                                          “Maybe 50-plus or 60, I don’t know,” Sanders Jr. said. “I would have to go back and look, but I haven’t looked at that stuff in a long time.”

                                          The Oklahoman reports that Sanders rushed for 1,343 yards and 20 touchdowns on 141 carries – an average of 9.52 yards per carry – during his senior season in 13 games for Class 3A Heritage Hall.

                                          Standing 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighing 180 to 185 pounds, Sanders plans to keep growing.

                                          “I hope so,” he said. “I’ll be 18 in April. I may have a couple more inches in me. My dad said he played best about 195. I don’t want to get too heavy.”

                                          The elder Sanders topped out at 5-8.

                                          Although the comparisons are inevitable, Sanders has enjoyed the challenge of being the son of a legendary running back.

                                          “It’s not hard at all,” he said. “It brings about great opportunity and it’s up to me to take advantage of it. And I think I’ve done a great job of it.”

                                          Just how good is this Barry Sanders?

                                          “I don’t know,” he said. “I guess we’ll find out on Saturday. I guess the playing will speak for itself.”

                                          Sanders is one of 99 players hoping to make a name in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

                                          “We’re all dedicated,” Sanders said. “We got here for a reason. It shows when we’re out here on the field. We’re all focused and want to get better. We’re looking forward to having good college careers.”

                                          Several players plan to announce their choice of colleges at the game. Sanders narrowed his field to Stanford, Florida State, Alabama and his father’s alma mater, Oklahoma State, not necessarily in that order.

                                          “I’ll decide at the game,” he said. “I just hope to go out and make as few errors as possible as far as having my technique down on pass blocking, make sure I get the right guy and stay in front of him and keep the quarterback safe. When I get the ball, make sure I hit the right hole, make the right moves, and just do the little things right.”

                                          During the West’s practice on Tuesday, Sanders received the biggest hit of the morning from Aziz Shittu, a 6-3, 275-pound defensive tackle from Buhach Colony High in Atwater, Calif.

                                          “I was looking for the cutback and he was right there and made a good, clean hit,” Sanders said. “Aziz is a good player. We’ve seen each other on a couple of visits. He’s one of the more goofy guys. When I found out it was him, I was like, ‘Aw, man, he’s going to give me crap about that afterward.’ But it was good. I was glad it was him and not somebody else because he is a good dude.

                                          “We’re all out here trying to do our thing and he did get me.”

                                          Sanders later dashed 10 yards around left end for a touchdown.

                                          “I guess that made up for it,” he said with a smile.

                                          The U.S. Army All-American Bowl is considered a steppingstone for players hoping reaching the next level. Here, one can no longer count on domination through sheer talent.

                                          “I’ve been thinking a lot before the snap to make sure I know exactly what I’m doing,” Sanders said. “I’m thinking probably more than I usually do. Everything doesn’t come as easy as it did playing with my high school team. Things are going fast. It’s definitely an adjustment. It’s going good, though. I’m having fun.”

                                          The players are keeping busy and having fun off the field during Army All-American Bowl week.

                                          “The guys from the West and East, we get along great,” Sanders said. “Last night, we went to the Hard Rock. We all joked, laughed and watched the OSU-Stanford game. We probably stayed up a little too late watching that because it ended late, but we’re all looking forward to competing Saturday, playing with the guys from the West and playing against the guys from the East.”

                                          On Wednesday, the players will be paired with Soldier-heroes for a challenging evening of food and games. On Thursday, they will have a barbeque inside the Alamodome. On Friday, they will visit the Army Strong Zone, a sea of U.S. Army exhibits outside the Alamodome, and attend an awards banquet.

                                          At some point, they must find time to rest for the main event.

                                          “We are looking forward to the time when we get to lay our heads down and just get a quick nap or at night when we’re able to go to sleep because we’re out here working hard and after we eat, we’re all sleepy,” Sanders said. “That’s most of our routine when we’re back at home: play football, eat and sleep – so those three things get put into action this week.”

                                          AS LUCK WOULD HAVE IT: Baylor QB Robert Griffin III wins 2011 Heisman Trophy

                                          Heisman 2011 winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor


                                          Robert Griffin III beat out preseason favorite Andrew Luck for the Heisman Trophy, dazzling voters with his ability to throw, run and lead Big 12 doormat Baylor into the national rankings.

                                          The junior quarterback known as RG3 became the first Heisman winner from Baylor on Saturday night by a comfortable cushion over the Stanford star.

                                          heisman 2011

                                          Griffin started the season on the fringe of the Heisman conversation, a talented and exciting player on a marginal team, while Luck was already being touted as a No. 1 NFL draft pick.

                                          Draft day might very well still belong to Luck, but Griffin diverted the Heisman to Waco, Texas, to a school that has never had a player finish better than fourth in the voting – and that was 48 years ago.

                                          Right before his name was called, Griffin took a deep breath. When it was announced he broke into a bright smile. Then it was hugs all around, for his coaches, his parents, his sister and his fiancé.

                                          He took a few long strides up to the stage and let out a laugh when he got there, making a joke about the Superman socks – complete with capes on the back – he was wearing before going into his acceptance speech.

                                          Continue reading →

                                          Sean Lee, former Penn State linebacker, wants justice for victims

                                          Clearly former Penn State linebacker Sean Lee has respect for his former college coach Joe Paterno and his alma mater.

                                          But in the wake of the child molestation charges against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky and Paterno’s announcement on Wednesday he will retire at the end of the season, Lee’s focus was on justice for the victims.

                                          “It’s obviously an extremely sad and shocking situation up there,” Lee said. “You just pray for all of those children. You pray for the victims. Obviously, you pray for the families and you hope that justice is done.

                                          “Then hopefully, once justice is done, Penn State can move on and be the great university is has been. There are a lot of great people up there, and I’m very proud to come from Penn State.”

                                          Lee was the Cowboys second round pick in 2010 after earning all-Big 10 honors as a senior at Penn State, where he played four years under Paterno. Asked about Paterno’s retirement announcement, Lee again turned the attention to the victims and his former teammates who are having to deal with the controversy while getting ready to play a game against the Nebraska on Saturday.

                                          “I’m not really going to speculate on that too much,” he said. “I don’t have too much of a comment on that. I just know it’s a tough situation up there right now. You feel for the victims.

                                          “Obviously, I talked to some of my teammates and they’re trying to rally that team and trying to get them on track through a tough situation.”


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