The Highlight Reel

The Biggest Plays, Videos and News in Sports

Daily Dunk March 31: Tyler Hansbrough

Okay, I guess this wouldn’t really qualify as a dunk, since it’s just an attempt, but it’s too amusing not to highlight. Tyler Hansbrough is one of the most tenacious players in the history of college basketball, certainly at North Carolina, but he isn’t exactly known for being too graceful…And here, I guess he assumes his arms are five feet long as he attempts a dunk from way too far away. If he didn’t really intend to dunk, he wouldn’t have hucked the ball at the rim like that. He slams it so hard it bounced all the way past half court. Well, with a 21-point lead I guess it’s worth a shot!

March 31, 2009 Posted by | basketball, ncaa | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blues’ Oshie Destroys Rick Nash…Twice

St. Louis Blues rookie center T.J. Oshie is having a pretty good first season in the NHL, and to some teams/players he is making his presence felt. These two incidents took place in a home-and-home series between the Blues and the Columbus Blue Jackets. Blue Jackets captain and franchise forward Rick Nash gets a bit of the business from Oshie, once in each game. The first one is a little tough to see, it happens at about 0:05 at the top-right of the screen.

Oshie wasn’t done there. The very next night, Nash tries to get back at him and Oshie just forearms him straight back to the ice. Either Nash is going to have to toughen up, or his teammates are going to have to learn to protect him better. Star wingers can’t be manhandled like this on consecutive nights.

March 31, 2009 Posted by | hockey | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Hit from Behind on Randy Jones! How Hilarious!

Bruins play-by-play announcer Jack Edwards, to those who live outside of New England, is known for being a bit of a homer when it comes to the Bruins. But it seems that with this video, he is being treated a little unfairly. Upon looking at just this clip without the proper context, the viewer may think Edwards is an ass for bellowing such a Skeletor laugh at the Philadelphia crowd’s displeasure over Milan Lucic’s hit on Randy Jones. Admittedly, he is about one thunder and lightning strike away from sounding like pure evil.

But in all seriousness, the real reason Edwards is laughing is because it was Jones who charged and hit Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron from behind back in October of 2007, ending his season and almost his career. Bergeron suffered a concussion and broken collarbone from the hit and has yet to really recover, and Jones got himself a 2-game suspension. That’s why Edwards says “How’s this for irony?” after the Lucic hit.

For those of you who don’t know about the Bergeron hit, watch it here (the first replay is about 52 seconds in):

March 31, 2009 Posted by | hockey | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daily Duel March 31: Steve Begin vs. Brandon Prust

Following a night that looked to be just about devoid of fighting, this is the lone video posted by HockeyFights.com today. Steve Begin and Brandon Prust go at it for mere seconds before rolling around on the ice and getting broken up. Begin looks like the default winner for getting the first takedown.

March 31, 2009 Posted by | hockey | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will King Felix Ascend to His Throne in 2009?

On Monday I predicted Roy Halladay to win the Cy Young Award this season, and declared his biggest competition to be C.C. Sabathia. But those two are safe bets to win or compete for the award. The most potentially profitable bet could be the man in the picture below, Felix Hernandez of Seattle.

Felix Hernandez dominated for Venezuela in the WBC, and could dominate MLB in 2009.

Felix Hernandez dominated for Venezuela in the WBC, and could dominate the major leagues in 2009.

The Mariners were just awful last season, finishing 61-101 and dead last in the American League. Their trade for Erik Bedard has so far been a disaster, but they did not panic by letting him loose when they could have. They have shipped away a lot of young talent in the process, but kept the man they call King Felix. He does still have plenty of room for improvement. But he will turn 23 on April 8, making him one of the best young pitchers in the game. It may not be long before he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball, period.

Some believe his big breakthrough could come as early as this season. While his walks took a jump in 2008, his ERA went down for the third consecutive season and he topped 200 innings for the first time in his career with no major injury issues. The only problem with Hernandez at this point is maximizing his command. He walked 3 or more batters in 17 of his 31 starts in 2008, and had his third straight season of a WHIP of at least 1.34. He was a bit of a victim of bad luck, as batters hit .323 on balls in play against him, well-above the major league average. If that settles closer to the league average- and if he cuts his walks in half- get ready for a huge step forward for Hernandez. The fact that he dominated for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic is a sign he may be poised to take that step.

The Mariners’ marketing department knows how good King Felix already is. They know that in this economy and with this team they’ll need to market him as best as they can to put asses in the seats. This amusing new commercial features him and some unfortunate Colorado Rockies.

March 31, 2009 Posted by | baseball | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stephen Strasburg: Boras’ $50 Million Man?

It should come as no surprise to anyone that not only did Scott Boras snap up likely No. 1 pick Stephen Strasburg as his latest client, but made it known that he intends to get him one of the two or three richest contracts ever awarded to a major league rookie.  The deal he is seeking from whatever team drafts Strasburg (almost certainly the Washington Nationals at no.1) is in the neighborhood of six years and $50 million.

That is right along the lines of the contract Daisuke Matsuzaka received from the Red Sox.  But the difference is, Dice-K was a proven success in Japan and the World Baseball Classic before reaching the majors.  Strasburg played for Team USA in the 2008 Olympics and is absolutely dominating college ball right now, but is he really ready to go straight to the major leagues?  According to many of his scouts, yes he is.  It’s likely he’ll get a call-up to whatever team takes him as soon as he’s eligible.

Washington Nationals GM Stan Kasten is not stupid. He knows that if he wants to secure a generational talent like Strasburg, he’ll need to award him the contract Boras believes he deserves. The Nationals especially cannot afford to alienate fans by letting Strasburg slip through their fingers. Once they draft him, though, it can almost be guaranteed he’ll be in a Nationals uniform sometime in 2009.

In case you’re still behind on Strasburg, check out Lee Jenkins’ feature story on him from Sports Illustrated.  Also, watch this video of him striking out 23 batters in one game back in 2007;  He’s since gotten stronger and gained more velocity.

March 31, 2009 Posted by | baseball | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ellis Goes Behind the Back

There is not enough room in the Western Conference playoffs for the Golden State Warriors, but there is plenty of room for them on the Highlight Reel!  Monta Ellis is know for his scoring more than anything, but watch this nifty behind-the-back pass to Ronny Turiaf for the jam.

March 31, 2009 Posted by | basketball | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Baseball Predictions: 2009 Awards

It’s always fun to prognosticate what one thinks will happen over the course of a season, in any sport. But baseball places more emphasis on awards than any other major sport, and no sports’ awards are given more credit and more weight when deciding a player’s Hall of Fame fate. It’s the only sport that takes a whole day to announce the news of who won each individual award, after the season is completely over. I will now give my official predictions for the MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards in each league.

American League MVP: Evan Longoria, Rays

The young budding star now has a full season in the middle of the Rays’ lineup.  In just 448 at-bats in 2008, Longoria hit 27 home runs and drove in 85 runs.  He should get closer to 600 this year, which means 30-35 home runs and over 100 RBI is highly likely.  He may never be a career .300 hitter due to his propensity for striking out (122 in 122 games last year), but the slugging potential is for real.  He is also already good enough to win a gold glove at 3B, with perhaps only Seattle’s Adrian Beltre standing in his way of doing just that this season.  But since gold gloves usually tend to gravitate toward better hitters, I say Longoria takes his first Gold Glove and MVP this season.  The only thing going against him is if teammates B.J. Upton and/or Carl Crawford also have outstanding seasons, in which case he could lose votes to splitting.  But this kid is a stud and should be for a very long time.

National League MVP: Hanley Ramirez, Marlins

The Marlins are my #1 pick for surprise teams this year, and by surprise I mean NL East champions.  Despite what the Mets have done to upgrade their bullpen, the Braves to upgrade their rotation and the looming presence of the defending-champion Phillies, the Marlins have the best collection of young, big-upside talent in the division and call it a hunch if you want, but I think this is the year most of that talent emerges.  Ramirez is still only 25 and just had his first 30-30 season in 2008.  With his move to third in the lineup, he could approach 40 home runs and he still has the talent for 20-30 steals.  The .297 batting average in 2008 was actually an anomaly; with fewer prolonged slumps this season he should easily hit well over .300 again.  If the Marlins win as many games as I believe they will, this will be Ramirez’ true coming-out party.  I am very much looking forward to seeing this kid perform in the postseason.

American League Rookie of the Year: Matt Wieters, Orioles

Say hello to the 2009 version of Evan Longoria. To push back his free agency clock, the Orioles are going to wait until June to bring this blue-chipper up to the big leagues, and he’s expected to make a big impact right away. David Price might have something to say about the rookie of the year award as well, but if Wieters hits over .300 and close to the 31 home runs he’s been projected for from PECOTA, he’ll win in a landslide. He’s a 6’5″ switch-hitting catcher who has drawn comparisons to Mark Teixeira. And he’s also projected to be an above-average catcher at major league level. The anticipation of seeing this kid step to the plate is killing me. He’s being described as a Hall of Fame talent before he even plays a single major league game! What else needs to be said?

National League Rookie of the Year: Tommy Hanson, Braves

This kid is another young stud just waiting to get his first taste of major-league action.  He boasts mid-90s heat a hard curve and an improving changeup to go with poise, command and a strong pitcher’s build. He may not be an ace this season, but he will certainly make his presence felt as soon as he is called up.  That call-up I speak of is likely not until June, but if the Braves struggle early do not be surprsed if they bring this kid up and immediately insert him into the rotation.  Some have predicted him as a future No. 2 starter but I think he’s being sold short.  The baseball world will know who he is come this summer.

American League Cy Young Winner: Roy Halladay, Toronto Blue Jays

This year, he probably won’t have Cliff Lee to worry about. Halladay understandably finished second in the Cy Young voting in 2008, but produced a new career high of 206 strikeouts and the best ERA (2.78) and WHIP (1.05) of any of his seasons over 30 starts. He also won 20 games for the first time since 2003, his first Cy Young season. And he did it while pitching in the AL East! His strikeouts are likely going to drop a bit, but he’ll induce plenty of groundballs for arguably the league’s best defense to gobble up. His biggest competition has to be new Yankee C.C. Sabathia, but Halladay at this point should be more reliable to pack on a huge innings load than the hulking Sabathia. Also, are Felix Hernandez or Jon Lester or Francisco Liriano ready to take their games to another level? Are Josh Beckett, Erik Bedard or Justin Verlander going to bounce back from sub-par seasons? This race is always loaded at the beginning of the season, but by the end it will be Halladay standing all 6’6″ tall above the rest.

National League Cy Young Winner: Cole Hamels, Phillies

While there is also some serious competition out in the National League, it’s time for Hamels to step his win total up to 20.  He already has a World Series ring and MVP award to go along with it, and he pitched like a true ace throughout the 2008 playoffs.  His spring training elbow flare-up was not serious, and he should be at full strength very soon.  Hamels is still only 25, which makes him such an intriguing pitcher to watch.  Considering his age, he ought to have room for improvement upon his 3.09 ERA and 1.09 WHIP from last season.  From his debut in 2006 through 2008, his ERA and WHIP have gone down, his walks have remained relatively the same and his strikeouts have gone up each season.  His spotty injury is a bit disconcerting, but assuming a reasonable level of health- say, 26-28 starts- he may have enough to win  at least 17-18 games.  The Phillies may not repeat as World Series or even division champions, but I see a league leader in wins and ERA in Hamels this season, and that translates to a Cy.  The competition is also very stiff, including 2008 winner Tim Lincecum, Jake Peavy, Brandon Webb and Dan Haren, and plenty of breakout candidates.

March 30, 2009 Posted by | baseball | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

NHL Daily Duels: March 30

There were too many slobber-knockers last night to only choose one, so today will be yet another multiple-fight edition of Daily Duel. Let’s start off with Sunday night’s Bruins – Flyers game, where agitator extraordinaire Daniel Carcillo (230 penalty minutes on the season) absolutely pummels the Bruins’ Steve Montador. One has to admire Montador for stepping up to the plate against Carcillo, but this was almost a guaranteed loss for him. Landslide victory for Carcillo and the Flyers here.

Steve Montador (BOS) vs. Daniel Carcillo (PHI)

And for our main event, we have Sunday’s Canucks – Blackhawks game, which Vancouver won 4-0 behind Roberto Luongo’s shutout. But things get really out of hand here in the third period, where a tag team match takes place. Kevin Bieksa and Ben Eager get really, really messy as their equipment flies everywhere and they wrestle each other to the ice. Meanwhile, Duncan Keith and Alex Burrows engage in an energetic brawl just across the ice. Shane O’Brien tried to get in a fight of his own, but was ejected with a game misconduct for making physical contact with the referee while trying to get to Eager. This was a serious barn-burner. I think the Blackhawks won the fights, but it didn’t save them from getting shut out.

Ben Eager & Duncan Keith (CHI) vs. Kevin Bieksa & Alex Burrows (VAN)

March 30, 2009 Posted by | hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mike Ribeiro Goes Between the Legs

The Stars’ Mike Ribeiro has two of the best hands in the league, and has proven to be no fluke with another solid season even without linemate Brenden Morrow for most of it. Here he scores probably his prettiest goal of the season by putting his stick between his legs and slapping the puck into the top corner. When your momentum is taking you behind the net and you’re out of angles, this is probably the best option. Ribeiro makes it look way too easy.

March 30, 2009 Posted by | hockey | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Baseball’s 2009 Breakout Team Candidates

I think I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who seriously predicted the Tampa Bay Rays to win the American League East in 2008. They shocked everyone by going from 66 wins and the majors’ worst record in 2007 to 97 last year, en route to making a World Series appearance in their first postseason. They are young and full of upside-laden talent, and that talent gelled into a championship contender almost overnight. But that begs the question: what teams have a chance to pull a Tampa Bay in 2009?  There are a handful of teams that are similar to the Rays going into 2008, in that they have plenty of young players with big upside.  The Detroit Tigers shocked the world in 2006 and the Colorado Rockies in 2007. So lets look at the teams that look like they could do it this year.

Kansas City Royals

Division: AL Central
2008 Record: 75-87

Don’t laugh. This team finally looks like it has the right amount of young talent to have a breakthrough campaign, and they made some shrewd moves in the off-season to guarantee at least slight improvement. Because the Royals have been so dreadful since the 1994 strike season, people my age don’t realize- and older generations forget- that the Royals used to be one of baseball’s best teams and biggest markets. Peter Gammons’ blog today got the idea for this article rolling, and he does a good job selling this team to us.

With a rotation led by young star Zack Greinke, they look to have a solid foundation of pitching. Gil Meche is good enough to be a #2, and Kyle Davies has some upside that he could reach as soon as this season. There are several candidates for the final two rotation spots, including the recently-signed Sidney Ponson. In a move that was probably to take some pressure off Greinke, Meche has been tabbed their opening-day starter. But Greinke should be the ace, and if he has a Cy Young-caliber season, this could be one of the toughest rotations in the league. The bullpen, meanwhile, lost Ramon Ramirez and Leo Nuñez to trades, but still has Joakim Soria who emerged as an elite closer in 2008 and could eventually be a top-of-the-rotation starter, which is what he really wants to be. They acquired Kyle Farnsworth via free agency for added depth.

The offense for Kansas City is by far their biggest candidate for improvement in 2009; after all, it’s pretty difficult to be worse than their 691 runs scored in 2008- an average of only 4.27 runs a game- and .269 team batting average. There are young, high-upside talents in the lineup, led by Alex Gordon, the second-overall pick in the 2005 draft. Gordon had a stellar college career but has yet to live up to his lofty expectations. But he is still only 25 and this year would make sense for him to break out. He’s been encouraged to take a more relaxed approach this spring, and that could translate to a big jump in his numbers. The lineup also includes Billy Butler, who also has yet to live up to his expectations but entered camp in better shape than last year. For now he’ll be splitting time with new acquisition Mike Jacobs, but could win the starting job if he has a good April. Another great new acquisition for them is Coco Crisp, who will provide a good leadoff bat, plenty of steals and much-improved center field defense.

The Royals aren’t without their flaws, but neither are any of the other AL Central teams. The Tigers or Indians might not have enough pitching. The White Sox are in transition and could have bullpen issues beyond Bobby Jenks. And the Twins’ lineup beyond Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau doesn’t exactly scare anyone. So this could be the year the Royals shock everyone by making a huge turn-around. I don’t think a 10-win improvement is out of the question, and a 90-win season would be overwhelmingly shocking to the masses but shouldn’t be. This team has some nice talent just waiting to break out.

(Video Courtesy of Protect the Plate)

Cincinnati Reds

Division: NL Central
2008 Record: 74-88

I wrote an article earlier this month about the Reds and their hopes to turn around what has been a miserable last few years. They have plenty of young talent, some that has already broken out and others that could as soon as this season.

Edinson Volquez
leads the rotation along with fellow flamethrower Johnny Cueto, and Volquez has already proven to be ace material. If he can keep up what he did in 2008, and Cueto takes another step forward, they could be the most formidable 1-2 punch in the division. Aaron Harang can only improve upon his abysmal 2008 in which he lost 17 games and saw his strikeout rate drop like an anvil, and looks to be heading in the right direction after his latest outing. Bronson Arroyo had an up-and-down 2008 but is still one of the most solid mid-rotation starters in the league. Homer Bailey is the wild card of the group, and could finally pitch up to the expectations to which he’s been held for a few years now. If he does, they could have one of the best rotations in the entire national league.

As much potential as their pitching staff has, the Reds’ lineup has even more. Jay Bruce has long been one of the top prospects in the game and at 21 is good enough to break out this season. Even if he doesn’t, it won’t be long before he becomes a five-tool superstar. He can hit for average and middle-of-the-lineup power, has above-average speed and a strong arm, and could be the next Jim Edmonds in center field. Yes, he’s that good. And he’s been really putting his game together this spring. Joey Votto is another young star on the Reds who had a mini-breakout in 2008, hitting .297 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI. Brandon Phillips already has a 30-30 season under his belt, and 2008 was considered an off year despite going 20-20. Edwin Encarnacion had a streaky 2008 but ended up with over 20 home runs anyway.

It will be very tough for the Reds to even sniff the division title in 2009 with the Cubs aiming to repeat, but it’s not too much of a stretch to predict this team to finish second or third. I think they’ll at least make it over .500, and a breakthrough season cannot be ruled out.

Florida Marlins

Division: NL East
2008 Record: 84-77

I know the Marlins weren’t that bad in 2008. In fact, they were pretty good. But I still see room for a big improvement. Like, 97 wins-big. Despite what some people may think, the Marlins are one of the most well-run organizations in baseball. They have a great team of scouts that contribute to them always drafting top-end prospects, while floundering for a few years to get top picks. Then when they have enough young talent, they compliment them with veteran presences that give them a World Series contender. Then once they win the championship, they have a firesale for younger prospects and the cycle starts all over again. It’s pretty brilliant, even if they are always in the basement of league attendance.

This year, they do not have too many veterans but this young group is getting better and could easily be this year’s version of the Rays. Ricky Nolasco has already had his coming-out party with 15 wins, a 3.52 ERA, 1.10 WHIP an 186 strikeouts in 212 innings, and he still may only be the third-best pitcher in the rotation. Josh Johnson and Andrew Miller are beasts who have yet to put it all together, but if they do this year could give the Marlins the best top-3 in the NL East. Their bullpen, despite losing Kevin Gregg to the Cubs, is also improved with the additions of Leo Nuñez, Kiko Calero and Scott Proctor. Matt Lindstrom played for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic and should be the closer to start the season.

As for offense, it does pretty much revolve around Hanley Ramirez. Not much needs to be said about him; he’s one of the two or three best all-around players in baseball. He will hit 3rd this season after batting leadoff to start his career, with new addition Emilio Bonifacio likely taking over leadoff duties. Cameron Maybin– one of their top prospects and one of the big prizes of the Miguel Cabrera deal along with Miller- is another candidate. Despite trading away power hitters Mike Jacobs and Josh Willingham for more speed, they still have power in the middle of the lineup with Ramirez, Jorge Cantu, Dan Uggla and Jeremy Hermida filling it out.

With their added speed and strong young pitching, this team is looking a lot like the 2003 team that won the World Series. Is Josh Johnson this year’s Josh Beckett? It’s about as probable as it was for Beckett in 2003, so take that for what it’s worth. But even in the loaded NL East, the Marlins look like a strong candidate to be the season’s biggest story.

In terms of likelihood, the Marlins look like the best bet to have a breakout season, since they’ve already proven they can play above-.500 ball. But after doing my research on these teams, none of them would really surprise me if they broke through. It’s tough to gauge how the AL and NL Central divisions are going to play out in 2009, so if the Royals and Reds break out they could even contend for the division. If the Marlins win the NL East, they will win the World Series. Call that a prediction.

March 29, 2009 Posted by | baseball | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Daily Duel(s): Lucic vs. Oreskovic, Montador vs. Schenn

Brian Burke recently spoke at MIT, and made it very clear that his teams will always lead the NHL in fighting majors. He encourages his players to throw their weight around, in order to provide as entertaining a brand of hockey as possible. He’s also well aware that it’s very hard to win even one Stanley Cup, especially in the new NHL. Since there are 30 teams he figures on average you’ll win the Cup once every 30 years; the problem is, the Maple Leafs haven’t won in over 40.

But for now, they can keep on fighting. They won’t make the playoffs this year, but they won’t lay down for anyone either. In Saturday night’s barn-burner against the Bruins, two notable bouts took place. Here’s the first one with resident tough guy Milan Lucic duking it out with Phil Oreskovic:

Later in the game, Steve Montador and Luke Schenn- “At it again Schenn” is my nickname for him, you read it here first!- go at it for a bit. Schenn took this one, but Lucic won the other fight. A draw for both teams in this department, but the Bruins won the game.

March 29, 2009 Posted by | hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kopitar Makes Turco Look Silly in Shootout

I must get one thing straight: I am NOT a fan of shootouts in the NHL. It was a rule implemented to draw more casual fans to the game and increase ratings, as well as excitement of the finish of a game. But the negatives far outweigh the positives three years into the shootout era. It may be a much more exciting end to a game than a tie, but it essentially decides 60 minutes of nail-bitingly close hockey on staged breakaways.

As a hockey purist and pre-lockout fan, I would have much rather they kept ties in hockey. It would have kept the season series between teams as interesting as they were before now, where teams within divisions play each other way too much and affect records and points standings through this novelty. Like inter-league play in baseball, the shootout should wear out its welcome in the NHL sooner rather than later.

Though it won’t make me any more of a fan of them, shootouts do still contain some nifty plays by the skaters. This one by Anze Kopitar- a particularly nice one that made it onto Youtube as its own video- essentially decided the 1-0 Kings-Stars game on Friday. As he jukes to the left to force Marty Turco to over-commit, he uses his reach to take the puck back around the sprawled Turco and slide it into the gaping net. I’ll still be more impressed when Kopitar pulls this off in a real game. But a nice play nonetheless, check it out:


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March 28, 2009 Posted by | hockey | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gillespie regrets not winning more games…Duh!

Was it even necessary for Billy Gillespie, who was fired as Kentucky Wildcats coach Friday, to mention that he regrets not winning more games? I’m pretty sure that’s the main reason most coaches are fired in the first place. Kansas went 40-27 in two seasons under Gillespie, who was hired to replace Tubby Smith and hopefully restore prominence to a program that hadn’t made the Final Four since 1998 when they won the National Championship.

Things obviously didn’t go according to plan, and Gillespie was cut loose. What caught reporters off guard was his unusually cheerful behavior at today’s press conference, in which he cracked jokes about his unemployment and exhibited no hard feelings toward the basketball program at Kentucky, one of the most storied in history. He seems to be understanding of the very high standards to which he was held by the Wildcats, and perhaps aware that his firing was imminent. He seems too understanding to not be hiding some disappointment.  But nonetheless, this is what Gillespie was quoted as saying today:

“I’m not a woe-is-me kind of person…I’ve always said this, show up every day, try to work hard, try to do your best with the right attitude and everything works out right. I’ve had a great time here at Kentucky.”

Here’s an amusing video (courtesy of Deadspin) circulating the web of Gillespie trying to escape a reporter who follows him for what seems like miles. It’s pretty obvious that he’s not really on the phone; not that the reporter would care anyway. It gets pretty comical at the end when they start running.


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March 28, 2009 Posted by | basketball, ncaa | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NFL Draft Preview: Darrius Heyward-Bey

Michael Crabtree is the class of the wide receiver position and the household name likely to go somewhere in the top 10, but flying a little under the radar is Maryland’s Darrius Heyward-Bey, who is falling somewhere between 20 and 32 in most scout’s rankings. Okay, “under the radar” may still be a bit of hyperbole for Heyward-Bey. But he’s still being ranked below four or five other receivers in most mocks. Under the right guidance, he can turn his physical tools into football skills which could make him an elite receiver some day.

About those physical tools I speak of: 6’1″ and 210 lb, giving him legitimate top-end size for a receiver and similar size to the other top receivers in the draft. He was also not just the fastest receiver, but the fastest player at the Draft Combine this year, running a 4.30 in the 40-yard dash. He has the instincts and toughness to compete for jump-balls and make tough catches in traffic.

The drawback for Heyward-Bey, which is inevitable for such a physical specimen to be ranked relatively low, is his lack of consistency in route running and catching. Obviously, these are two very important facets of being an NFL receiver, and he has a tendency to drop easy catches. This is a sign of either lack of focus, or focusing too hard. He’ll need to balance this out in order to become a top-level receiver in the NFL. He also has a tendency to be inconsistent with his route-running, as he can lose his way and drift around the field at times. These are problems that can be fixed with the right coaching and a lot of practice. You can’t coach his tremendous physical skills, which are his biggest assets.

As a deep play threat, Heyward-Bey is arguably the best in this year’s draft, and shouldn’t fall too far down in the first round, and would be a steal in the second. If the Bears pass on him at 18, the Eagles look like a nice destination as they search for a go-to-receiver for Donovan McNabb. The Eagles can also wait for pick 28 to take him if they are confident enough that the Ravens (the team to which he is marketing himself) would also pass on him, but that’s highly unlikely for a team in need of receivers to pass on the Maryland alum. Because of Philly’s position, they look like the most likely destination for Heyward-Bey, but if he’s the best player on the Patriots’ draft sheet when it gets to them, he’ll be headed to Foxboro. And if they both pass, he’ll be in Raven purple in 2009.

Watch this highlight video of Heyward-Bey at Maryland, including some spectacular plays. He makes an amazing one-handed catch at 1:20, a nice touchdown grab at 6:03, and an awesome falling catch to recover a bobble at 6:15.

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March 28, 2009 Posted by | football | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment