Sports Outside the Beltway

NFL Draft 2007 – Round 1 #1 – Oakland Raiders – QB JaMarcus Russell

Oakland Raiders Logo New NFL commissioner Roger Goddell officially launched the 2007 NFL Draft minutes ago. The Oakland Raiders, who have the first overall pick for the first time since 1962 (when they were part of the fledgling AFL) are on the clock.

They’re widely expected to take LSU quarterback DeMarcus Russell but are reportedly entertaining trade offers. They have 15 minutes to make a call…

They didn’t need all of it. JaMarcus Russell is indeed their man.

JaMarcus Russell Photo ESPN Draft Day Banner

What the Experts Say: Profile:

JaMarcus Russell Photo LSU Uniform STRENGTHS: Arm Strength


Analysis: A physical presence behind center, Russell possesses all the skills to lead a franchise at the next level. Showed consistent improvement over the past two seasons and offers a tremendous amount of upside. An early draft selection who favorably compares to former All-Pro Daunte Culpepper.

JaMarcus Russell Photo Street Clothes Biography: Two-year starter who also saw limited action with the first team as a redshirt freshman. All-Conference selection the past two seasons, throwing for 67.8%/3,129/28/8 as a junior after 2,443 passing yards and 15 touchdowns as a sophomore.

Pos: Big, powerful pocket passer with tremendous arm strength. Patient, buys time for receivers and does an outstanding job directing the offense. Stands strong in the pocket, taking a big hit or getting the throw off with defenders draped on him. Zips the outs with a flick of the wrist, easily drives the deep throw and loses nothing passing on the move. Senses pressure, makes good decisions under the rush and runs with the ball as a last resort. Identifies the open wide out on the field, leads receivers over the middle and powers the ball through the tight spots. Looks off the safety, goes through receiver progressions and takes the underneath outlet if nothing else is available.

Neg: Must improve his throwing fundamentals and pass placement, as targets are constantly adjusting to make the reception. More often than not he is high of the mark.

The Detroit Lions are on the clock…


Russell is the obvious pick for the Raiders because he fills a pressing need and has the most value at the position. Although he needs to continue to improve his decision making and work on his footwork, he has rare size and arm strength. He is accurate enough to hit receivers anywhere on the field and lead them when throwing underneath. He isn’t a great scrambler, but he can pick up yardage with his feet when nothing is available downfield.

Now the question is can he succeed at Oakland? There is no question the offensive line has underachieved so he is going to take some hits but he is big enough to absorb that kind of punishment and quick enough to buy him some time. An even greater concern may be surrounding him with quality character players. That could prove difficult considering the problems they had with their talented receivers last year and the fact that Lane Kiffin is a young, first-year head coach. If Kiffin can get Russell to buy into his system, the sky is the limit for Russell and the Raiders.

Gosselin, writing yesterday, called this choice a “no-brainer.”

When a franchise quarterback is on the draft board, you take him. That’s Football 101. He gives your team hope for the future – and a chance to be competitive in the present.

The Tennessee Titans were the youngest team in the NFL in 2006. They took Vince Young with the third overall pick of the draft and doubled their win total in the span of a season, improving from 4-12 without Young in 2005 to 8-8 with him. Young gives the Titans hope for a bright future. Just as Russell would give the Raiders hope. Quarterback is the one position that can transform a team into a Super Bowl contender.

Rich Gannon was the NFL MVP in 2002 when the Raiders won the AFC championship and appeared in their last Super Bowl. But a shoulder injury ended his 2003 season then a neck injury ended his career in 2004. The Raiders have started six quarterbacks since that Super Bowl and have won 15 of 64 games. Until Davis can stabilize his quarterback position, he cannot stabilize his franchise.

That’s why Davis must resist the temptation to draft Calvin Johnson and select Russell.


LSU Women’s Basketball Coach Resigns

LSU women’s basketball coach Pokey Chatman has resigned from her role prior to the NCAA Tournament citing she would be a distracting to the team from this point on.

A day after she announced she would resign after the NCAA tournament, Chatman said Thursday she was leaving the team immediately.

“There’s been 20 to 25 things that are just floating out there, and I think she thought if she just stepped away from it she could eliminate that from even multiplying,” Starkey said. “She has her reasons, and hopefully, soon she’ll address that herself.”

The Times-Picayune of New Orleans reported on its Web site Thursday that the resignation was prompted by the school’s discovery of alleged inappropriate conduct between the 37-year-old Chatman and one or more players. Later, reported LSU had found out about an alleged improper sexual relationship between Chatman and a former player.

Dan Patrick made an interesting point about the issue that if it had been a male coach and a men’s team would this be a bigger story. It would have been a bigger deal on a men’s team with a men’s coach. The stereotype especially of female softball and basketball players is that they are all lesbians anyways; as a result many people just stereotypically expect it in women’s sports. So when something like this happens the common response becomes “Well who didn’t see THAT coming.” With men’s sports one is far more apt to apply the stereotype that they are manly men and homosexual behavior between coach and player just isn’t supposed to happen because of it.

There should be more outrage over this, but not because it involves alleged homosexual activity. It should be because she is a coach and by default a mentor to these players, as a result many of these players look up to her, and she should not be developing a sexual relationships with any players. Regardless if it is any combination of player and coach sex, the coach is in the wrong and there should be outrage over the abuse of their position. She should be punished severely and never allowed to coach again.


Alabama Hires Major Applewhite

Nick Saban has added Rice offensive coordinator Major Applewhite to his staff at Alabama, according to numerous published reports. The Houston Chronicle says he will be the Tide’s quarterbacks coach but other sources, including the Thomas Murphy of the Mobile Register, say he is in line to be the offensive coordinator. (Update: An updated Chronicle report says, “Major Applewhite, will join the Alabama staff in the near future, serving as offensive coordinator or co-coordinator/quarterbacks coach.”)

Interestingly, LSU reportedly is interested in him for the coordinator job and there are even reports that he might be, at the age of 27, a leading candidate for the head coaching job at Rice with Todd Graham’s departure for Tulsa.

Murphy explains why Applewhite is such a hot prospect:

Rice offensive coordinator Applewhite, 28, helped lead the Owls to their first bowl berth in 45 years this season with an explosive offense. Rice averaged 27 points and 345 yards per game and produced a 1,000-yard quarterback, running back and receiver this season.

Applewhite was also 22-8 as the starting quarterback at Texas, and is the Longhorns’ all-time leader in passing yards (8,353), passing touchdowns (60), passing attempts (1,065) and total offense (8,059).

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SEC Too Good For Ohio State?

AP sportswriter Ben Walker penned this lede to his piece on last night’s BCS Championship game in which the Florida Gators whooped the Ohio State Buckeyes:

Turns out Florida was too good to be on the same field as Ohio State, and that Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith and the Buckeyes were the ones who weren’t worthy after all.

Coach Urban Meyer’s once-beaten Gators dominated the undefeated No. 1 Buckeyes and streaked to college football’s national championship, 41-14 on Monday night.

“Honestly, we’ve played a lot better teams than them,” Florida defensive end Jarvis Moss said. “I could name four or five teams in the SEC that could probably compete with them and play the same type of game we did against them.”

Honestly, I think that’s right. That’s why the simple counting of wins and losses is a silly way to pick national title contenders in Division I. The idea that Boise State, which played a schedule filled with teams that probably couldn’t beat Florida’s high school championship team, is better than teams with even three or four losses in the SEC or ACC, is a joke. LSU, Auburn, Georgia, Arkansas, and Tennessee probably all could have beaten Ohio State last night.

Of course, that’s why we need a playoff system rather than a beauty contest.


Jimbo Fisher FSU’s New Offensive Coordinator

Much-sought-after LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher has finally signed with Florida State.

Less than 48 hours after ending negotiations with Louisiana State offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, Florida State coach Bobby Bowden changed his mind Monday and, apparently, Fisher’s too.

Bowden named Fisher, 41, as his offensive coordinator at Florida State, which had suffered decreasing production on offense in recent years under the directions of Bowden’s youngest son, Jeff Bowden.

“His ability to put in an offense and adjust as the season goes along is second to none,” Bobby Bowden said about Fisher. “He brings the experience and attitude that I was looking for in a coordinator.”

ESPN’s Jim Donnan first reported the hiring earlier Monday.

A West Virginia native, Fisher spent the past seven seasons at LSU, where the offense set 13 school records under his direction. He will also take over as quarterback coach for Daryl Dickey, whose contract was not renewed.

“The opportunity to coach at Florida State and to grow as a coach under coach Bowden was one that I could not pass up,” said Fisher, who signed a three-year agreement with a starting base salary of $215,000.

However, on Saturday it appeared Florida State had given up on landing Fisher, a protege of Bowden’s son, Terry Bowden. “Florida State will move forward to pursue other options among a number of outstanding coaches who want to share in FSU’s traditions and values,” coach Bobby Bowden said, adding that Fisher would “be a benefit to whatever organization he ends up with.”

What’s interesting is that there are indeed going to be several head coach openings as the end-of-season NFL-college carousel continues to turn. While the presumption is that Fisher will ultimately succeed Bobby Bowden once he finally retires, you’d think he’d want to keep his options open.


Saban Continues Building Staff: Fisher Out, Applewhite In?

Nick Saban is working the phones to put together his staff, which will likely not include LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher.

Thomas Murphy of the Mobile Press-Register reports that “Saban has so far hired Kevin Steele, likely as defensive coordinator, Lance Thompson and Kirby Smart, who will probably handle defensive backs” as well as “Todd Alles, a former program assistant for Ohio State, to be the director of football operations, one source said. Randy Ross, a 17-year veteran on the UA staff, had previously held the post, though a school is not limited to one coach in such an off-the-field position.”

Offensive coordinator is, of course, the most pressing need and there appear to be multiple irons in the fire. “Saban has approached his former assistant at LSU, Jimbo Fisher, as well as Rice offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, Southern California offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and possibly others to gauge their interest in joining his first Crimson Tide staff.” Applewhite is especially intriguing, as he “is seen as one of the brightest young offensive minds in the game. The former Texas quarterback and Baton Rouge, La., native, helped lead Rice to its first bowl berth in 45 years this season.”

There is a growing consensus that Fisher won’t take the job. He’s hemmed and hawed around long enough that Florida State has withdrawn its offer. Ian Rapoport reports that the biggest obstacle is the desire by both Alabama and FSU to sign him to a contract with a buyout clause, whereas he wants to keep his options open in case the NFL carousel creates an opening at Georgia Tech, in addition to the already-open Louisville job.

Paul Gattis mentions some other candidates for staff openings: “Steve Marshall, who most recently coached the offensive line with the NFL’s Houston Texans. And Mississippi State assistant Shane Beamer, son of Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, has interviewed with Saban.”


Jimbo Fisher to Join Saban at Alabama?

Kevin Scarbinsky reports that Nick Saban will try to lure LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher to take the same position with Alabama, although Fisher seems to be leaning toward rejoining Bobby Bowden at Florida State.

There is a lot of speculation about other positions on the staff, too:

Joe Kines would be a popular choice among Alabama fans to remain as defensive coordinator. Another potential assistant who could be hired to run Saban’s defense is Florida State linebackers coach Kevin Steele, one of Bowden’s top assistants.

Saban met briefly with the current Alabama assistants Wednesday, one of them said, and they expect to meet with the new head coach individually in the next two days to discuss staying in Tuscaloosa and working for him. One Alabama source said the current assistants with the best chance to join Saban’s staff are Kines, running backs coach Sparky Woods and secondary coach Chris Ball.

Someone representing Saban began calling potential assistants to measure their interest in coming to Tuscaloosa even before he accepted the Alabama job.

Other coaches who might become part of Saban’s Alabama staff, according to sources in college and pro football, include:

Bobby Williams, the Miami Dolphins running backs coach. Williams worked for Saban at Michigan State and succeeded him as the head coach there when Saban left for LSU.

Stacy Searels, the LSU offensive line coach. Searels played at Auburn, and he worked for Saban at LSU in 2003 and 2004.

Tracy Rocker, the Arkansas defensive line coach. Rocker also played at Auburn, and he’s been a college assistant in this state at Troy and West Alabama.

Todd Stroud, the former North Carolina State defensive line coach under recently fired head coach Chuck Amato. Stroud is a former head coach at West Alabama.

Lance Thompson, the defensive coordinator at Central Florida. Thompson worked at Alabama as an assistant under Mike DuBose and spent two years on Saban’s LSU staff.

Rick Trickett, offensive line coach at West Virginia, was considered a possible Saban hire but joined Bowden’s staff at Florida State late Wednesday.

A source close to Saban said last weekend that if he took the Alabama job, he would have a staff in place in 24 to 48 hours.

It shouldn’t be too hard for Saban to assemble a staff. Until the debacle at the Independence Bowl, retaining Kines was indeed the logical move; I’m less sure now. Plus, since Saban’s background is on that side of the ball, I’m not sure how well the two will mesh scheme-wise.

A Fisher hire would indeed be interesting, not only because of his success, but because of the intrigue surrounding his non-hire for the UAB job. The conspiracy theorists would certainly come out of the woodwork if he got hired in Tuscaloosa.


Nick Saban Comes to Alabama

Our long national (championship) nightmare is over. The University of Alabama has hired Nick Saban as its new head coach, ending weeks of speculation.

My folks to Alabama in 1980, halfway through my freshman year in high school. I’ve been following the Crimson Tide almost as long and actively rooting for them since the late 1980s. I was in my first year of grad school at the Capstone in 1992, the year they won their last national championship.

Saban is the first big name coach hired by Bama since Gene Stallings was pushed out the door and, by all accounts, he’s as good a college football coach as any. Jim Mashek of McClatchy Newspapers dubs him “a diligent, dedicated football coach, with negligible people skills.” But his personality might be necessary for the gig: “Saban has the ego to handle the shadow of Bear Bryant in Tuscaloosa. He has a proven track record in the SEC, and with Mayflower, too. He would bring instant credibility to Alabama recruiting.” That’s good, because the stakes are high: “He’ll be expected to win national championships at Alabama (shoot, The Bear won a bunch of them), but first things first. He’ll be expected to beat Tuberville’s Auburn squad. Immediately if not sooner.”

The idea that any college team will compete for a national championship every year and never, ever have a losing season is a remnant of a long-ago era. With scholarships limited, academic standards raised, and the lure of the NFL ever-stronger, it’s just unreasonable to expect not to have any bumps in the road. What Peter Carrol has done at USC in recent years is remarkable indeed. Then again, it looked like Bob Stoops had discovered the secret to success, too, not so many years back.

Steven Taylor and I independently noted the irony of Alabama luring away a coach who had so publicly committed to a long term future with another team not too far removed from having the same thing happen to them with Dennis Franchione left for Texas A&M. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of the coaching business. Lying is quickly forgotten, especially if followed quickly by winning.

If Saban truly wants the small time life and has learned that the college campus, not the NFL, is where he wants to be, there’s no better place to live that life than Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The level of scrutiny and expectation is absurd, to be sure. But, if he beats Auburn more often than not and competes for a national championship with some regularity, he will be a legend in a way that was never possible in Baton Rouge or Miami. There is just nowhere else football is as important.


Did Alabama Sabotage UAB Hire of Jimbo Fisher?

Ben Cook of Lindy’s Sports writes about a far-fetched scenario in the Alabama head coaching search:

Everything came out in the open last week when the UAB Blazers of Conference USA were ready to hire LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher as their head coach. All that remained was ironing out the details. It was to be for $600,000 a year, most of which was going to be covered by some influential UAB supporters. But then the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama system (which includes the University of Alabama, UAB and UAH) stepped in and said that UAB could not hire Fisher. They claimed it was because of financial considerations, but that excuse doesn’t hold water since the bulk of Fisher’s salary was going to be covered by boosters.

Apparently, the Board of Trustees realized UAB was about to hire the most coveted assistant coach in the country. They realized It also could mean that UAB might wind up with a better coach than Alabama, and the idea panicked the Board of Trustees. They decided that couldn’t happen, so they stepped in and overstepped the boundaries of a Board. They took the hiring of UAB’s coach right out of UAB’s hands. Not only did they not allow UAB to hire Fisher, they then imposed their own handpicked candidate on UAB. They strongly suggested Neil Callaway, Georgia’s offensive coordinator, was the acceptable choice for UAB.

The Board will deny the Callaway link, but after the Fisher debacle there is no other explanation for UAB turning to Callaway, a former Alabama player with no head coaching experience that no other school on the planet was looking to hire. Fisher had no head coaching experience either, but he has been coveted by schools before and will be again; Callaway has not. Fisher is thought to be the next Bob Stoops waiting to happen; Callaway is not.There is one other possible explanation. The Alabama job is still open and there are plenty in Tuscaloosa who believe Nick Saban is going to leave the Miami Dolphins after Miami’s season ends. If Saban were to actually take the UA job, perhaps he would bring his old offensive coordinator from LSU with him, and that would be Jimbo Fisher. Then, in four of five years when Saban got the inevitable itch to move on, it would be an easy move to elevate Fisher to the head coaching job at Alabama, which could be what the UA Board of Trustees wants all along.That way they could achieve two goals–they could get one of the hottest coaches in the country at Alabama and simultaneously knock the pins out from under the UAB football program, making sure it continued to struggle along until perhaps just giving up the ghost and dropping football. That would delight the University of Alabama Board of Trustees.

It’s rather bizarre, to be sure, but Alabama football is a pretty strange phenomenon.


LSU’s Xavier Carter Wins NCAA 100 and 400 Meter Championships

Xavier Carter did something no one has done: Won the NCAA 100 and 400 meter championships.

Xavier Carter of LSU became the first person to win the 100 and 400 meters at an NCAA track and field championships on Saturday, running down the competition in races just 31 minutes apart. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound sophomore, who also plays football for the Tigers, had personal bests in both events — a school-record 10.09 seconds in the 100, followed by a 44.53 in the 400.

Carter had intended to run the 200 and 400, but changed his plans because of the crowded meet schedule. He had run only one 100 since high school before coming to the NCAA meet.

His exhausting final day was not done. He left the track to prepare for the meet’s final event, the 1,600 relay. On Friday, he ran the second leg of LSU’s winning 400-meter relay team.

Carter burst through over the final 30 meters to beat defending champion Walter Dix of Florida State in the 100. He broke out of the blocks slowly and was well behind Dix halfway through the race, but his late burst gave him the victory in 10.09 seconds. Dix, also a sophomore, was second. Demi Omole of Wisconsin was third in 10.21.

That’s quite impressive. The 400 meter is at the crossroads between sprints and endurance events whereas the 100 winner is “the world’s fastest man.” Putting those together, let alone in a single weekend, is stunning.


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