SportsBlog | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

SportsBlog

Subscribe

August 24, 2016

Rebels Have Rare Luxury This Season

By bryanflynn

The University of Mississippi is one of a few SEC football teams in a unique position going into this season. The Rebels have a proven starter at quarterback while most of the conference is looking for answers in that position.

Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly and University of Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs are the only returning starters who were ranked in the top five in passing yards. The rest of the top five, Dak Prescott, Brandon Allen and Jake Coker, are all in the NFL now.

Former Texas A&M University quarterback Kyle Allen, who was sixth in passing yards, is now at the University of Houston. Louisiana State University quarterback Brandon Harris, seventh in passing, might be the starter for the Tigers, but his performance was up and down at best last season.

Patrick Towles, eighth in passing, transferred from the University of Kentucky to Boston College after Drew Parker replaced him as the starter. University of Georgia quarterback Greyson Lambert, ninth in passing, and University of South Carolina quarterback Perry Orth, 10th in passing, are locked in a battle for the starting job at their respective programs.

Auburn University is trying to find a starter out of a trio of quarterbacks, including two who earned playing time last season and a junior-college transfer. The University of Alabama is also working with three quarterbacks, trying to find out who will separate himself from the others.

The University of Florida has named Luke Del Rio as its new starter since both starters from last season have left the school to play elsewhere. The University of Arkansas has named Austin Allen as the player to replace Brandon Allen under center.

Texas A&M will start transfer Trevor Knight at quarterback after Kyle Allen left for Houston. The University of Missouri will have quarterback Drew Lock, who won four games in four starts last season.

Vanderbilt University will go with Kyle Shurmur at quarterback after limited playing time last season. Shurmer joins Austin Allen at Arkansas, Del Rio at Florida, and Lock at Missouri on the list of quarterbacks who have little or no starts for their respective programs.

Mississippi State University might go into the season looking for a starter between Nick Fitzgerald, Damian Williams and Nick Tiano. Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen has gone with multiple quarterbacks before, as with Chris Leak and Tim Tebow at Florida and Tyler Russell and Prescott at MSU.

Kelly and Dobbs will have a chance to lead their teams to division titles as the rest of the conference works to figure out who will take the reins at quarterback. The rare exceptions are Alabama and LSU, who both have strong defenses and powerful running games, and just need quarterbacks who won’t lose them games.

The rest of the SEC could see their bowl hopes go down in flames if they can’t find the right player under center. MSU is one of those teams ...

August 24, 2016

Prescott is Head and Shoulders Ahead of Other Rookie Quarterbacks

By bryanflynn

Nearly everyone this preseason has gone gaga over Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott’s performance this NFL preseason by. Well, unless you’re Fox Sports radio personality Colin Cowherd.

Unless you’re Cowherd or thinks like he does, it is hard not to be impressed with the way Prescott has played in two games. It is the preseason, after all, but with each throw and each play, the budding legend of Dak grows.

In his first start in his first game, Prescott went 10 of 12 passing for 139 yards with two touchdown passes. The two incompletions were drops from a backup tight end against the Los Angeles Rams.

The Internet went wild, and rightly so. Prescott’s performance was great for a guy who was picked in the fourth round and expected to sit behind Kellen Moore as the third-string guy. Instead, Moore broke his leg, and Prescott was thrust into the backup spot.

It seemed right to slow down the hype train with just one game under his belt. But Prescott went on to put on a show in his second preseason game.

When Dallas played the Miami Dolphins this past weekend, Prescott got to work with both the starters and No. 2 players on the depth chart. It might have been a new week, but it was the same performance, if not better, than week one.

Prescott went 12 for 15 passing for 199 yards and two touchdown passes and ran two more in for touchdowns. In his second game, Prescott had a four-touchdown game, has yet to throw an interception and has taken just one sack.

Cowherd wasn’t impressed, but the rest of the Internet was going bonkers for Prescott. In the preseason, Prescott has gone 22 of 27 passing for 338 yards with four touchdowns passing and two touchdowns rushing.

He has an 81.5 completion percentage and a 158.3 passer rating. The former Mississippi State University star leads all rookie quarterbacks in nearly every passing stat.

Cowherd might not be impressed yet, but maybe he can be convinced if he sees the stats.

So far in the preseason, 22 quarterbacks, including Prescott, have seen some sort of playing time. Those 22 quarterbacks include the 15 that were drafted and the rest who were signed as undrafted free agents.

During the draft, seven quarterbacks were drafted ahead of Prescott, and one was drafted just four spots behind him. One of the quarterbacks, Christian Hackenberg, who the New York Jets drafted out of Pennsylvania State University, has yet to even take one snap in the preseason.

For our purposes, only quarterbacks who have attempted 20 or more attempted passes will get a full rundown. That means Cleveland Browns quarterback Cody Kessler, drafted out of the University of Southern California in the third round, doesn’t make the list with his five pass attempts.

The first ...

August 22, 2016

Women Are Why USA Led the Medal Count

By bryanflynn

The 2016 Olympic games are done, and the USA nearly lapped the field in the medal count. It wasn’t even close for first place in medals, but second and third place was a race.

When the Olympics ended with the closing ceremony, the U.S. had won 121 total medals. That out-did the previous best of 110 from Beijing in 2008.

The U.S. finished 51 medals ahead of China, which had 70 total medals and finished in second place. Great Britain finished in third with 67 total medals.

Team USA was comprised of 554 athletes, and 213 of those took home a medal. In the 27 sports that the U.S. had athletes competing, they brought home a medal in 20 of those sports.

Swimming and track and field are where the U.S. pulled away from the rest of the world. In those two sports, the U.S. won 65 medals, which would have been good for fourth place in total medals if the sports were their own country.

The reason the U.S. was able to dominate the Olympics was because of its women. Of the 121 medals the U.S. won, women received 61, the men received 55, and five medals were in mixed events such as equestrian and mixed-doubles tennis.

The U.S. women won 27 of the team’s 46 gold medals, and if the women were their own country, that would tie them with Great Britain second most gold medals. The 61 medals the women won would have landed them fourth on the medal count if they were their own nation.

This is the second Olympics where the women have brought home more medals than the men. In London, the women won 58 medals to 45 medals for the men, and those Olympics games were the first where the women had ever won more medals than the men.

The U.S. women won three more medals in Rio than they did in London, but the U.S. men tried to catch up by winning 10 more medals in Rio.

This has been a climb for the U.S. women since the 1970s. In 1972, congress passed Title IX, which barred sex discrimination in education programs that receive federal funding. At the 1972 Olympic games in Munich, the U.S. women won 23 medals, and the men won 71 medals.

Title IX led to high-school and college sports for women growing at a faster rate and eventually led to the U.S. women becoming a powerhouse on the global sports stage.

The Olympics has added more women’s sports to the games over the years such as women’s boxing. That has led to more medal opportunities for women at the games than in the past.

Like in London, the U.S. women outnumbered the men on team USA in Rio. The women made up 291 members of the 554-member team, with the U.S. men making up the other 263 members.

August 19, 2016

Prescott Gets Second Chance to Shine

By bryanflynn

Tony Romo takes back the role of starting quarterback job the Dallas Cowboys tonight, Aug. 19, at 7 p.m. against the Miami Dolphins. This will be the first game action in the preseason for Romo, who is recovering from an injury-plagued 2015 campaign.

It seems like a good bet that Romo will only play two to three series in this game. It would be shocking to see him play past the first quarter. However, when Romo’s night is done, there is still plenty of reasons to stay around and watch this game on the NFL Network.

Former Mississippi State University star Dak Prescott is one reason to watch until his night is done. Last week against the Los Angeles Rams, Prescott had perhaps one of the best NFL debuts in Cowboys history.

Sure, it was a preseason game, and the Rams didn’t play every starter or even have a game plan. But Prescott started the game in front of nearly 90,000 fans, and Los Angeles wasn’t playing the game with a defense full of guys who are going to be out on the street next week.

In that preseason game, the Rams played both starters and backups who will play a big part of the team’s success or failure this season. Prescott had a great night even for the preseason, and he could lock up the backup job in the next three games.

Prescott was as sharp as any quarterback in the league. Even in the preseason, quarterbacks still have to read the defense and make throws. It wasn’t like Prescott was throwing against air.

He completed 10 out of 12 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns, and his only two incompletions were drops. He threw some nice passes that included a couple of back-shoulder throws and some pinpoint passes into tight windows.

Now it will be interesting to see how Prescott follows his big game from last week. He will have even more pressure on him to show the same level of play, but he will have to work with mostly backups this time.

Can he get in good plays for the Cowboys working with the second- and third-string offense? Can he overcome the inevitable false starts or holding penalties that tend to happen with backup linemen in a game?

These are things to watch, along with how he controls the huddle and how he manages the offense in down and distance situations. He will be throwing to receivers who might be the Cowboys’ third or fourth wide receivers if they make the team instead of Dez Bryant and the starters.

How does he handle it when players make mistakes and run the wrong routes? There is a difference between starting a preseason game and coming in after the starters have left the game.

Prescott has a chance to show that last week wasn’t some fluke or great luck. He has a chance to ...

August 17, 2016

Saints Lose First Round Pick to Broken Leg

By bryanflynn

The New Orleans Saints are trying to fix a defense that was terrible last season. It was one of the worst in the history of the NFL, but this preseason was a chance to improve the unit.

The defense wasn’t completely horrible in the first preseason game against the New England Patriots, but four turnovers by the offense put it in bad spots. In all, the defense gave up 18 of the Patriots’ 34 points, but New England’s two touchdown drives needed just seven plays total.

Big plays hurt the defense, including a 44-yard run and a 56-yard pass in the loss. New Orleans failed to force a turnover and only had two sacks that night.

As New Orleans tries to rebuild the defense, some bad luck hit the unit on Monday, Aug. 15. During goal-line drills, first-round pick and 12th pick overall Sheldon Rankins went down with a broken fibula.

The injury will cause the potential star defensive tackle to miss six to eight weeks. Rankins had surgery to repair the injury on Tuesday, Aug. 16, and could return before the midpoint of the regular season.

Drafted out of the University of Louisville, Rankins had already shown the athleticism that made him a top-15 pick. He even intercepted Tom Brady during joint practices with the Patriots.

He was working with the first-team defense and had shown the normal growth of a rookie with good days and plays and bad days and plays during the early portion of training camp. Rankins was expected to play a big part in the rebirth of the Saints defense this season.

Now, New Orleans will need to get even better play from free agent pickup Nick Fairley. So far in camp, Fairley has been a bright spot and was expected to rotate behind Rankins.

The defensive tackle isn’t the only injury to the Saints defense this preseason. Second-year pass rusher Hau’oli Kikaha suffered a knee injury earlier this summer that could keep him off the field all season.

Linebacker Stephone Anthony injured his leg last week but is expected to return for week one of the regular season. The secondary has banged up players such as Keenan Lewis, who has a hip injury.

The worst part of Rankins’ injury is that he will miss valuable practice time to develop as a rookie. He can watch film and practice, but there is nothing like learning during practice, drills and preseason games.

New Orleans isn’t the only club to have its first-round pick lose time this preseason. So far, 10 of the 32 first-round picks have missed time dealing with some sort of injury.

Four of the top five picks have been hit with the injury bug at some point, and so has former University of Mississippi defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche.

Injuries are a part of football, and everyone else on the Saints defense will have to step up ...

August 16, 2016

Rebels Will Face Redshirt Freshman FSU Quarterback

By bryanflynn

Labor Day just got a little more interesting.

It was already going to be an interesting evening with the University of Mississippi facing Florida State University as the last college-football game of new season’s first week.

Both teams meet for a neutral-site game in Orlando, Fla., in the 2016 Camping World Kickoff. This game is one of the most anticipated during the opening weekend of the 2016 college-football season.

There are questions surrounding both of these teams, but then again, there are questions surrounding every team this time of year. One question for the Seminoles has been answered.

FSU knows who will be starting the season opener at quarterback. The decision was made for the Seminoles when quarterback Sean Maguire broke a bone in his foot, which will require surgery and force him to miss at least four weeks.

The fifth-year senior went 4-2 last season after taking over for Everett Golson when the University of Notre Dame transfer struggled. Maguire appeared in eight games last season and threw for 1,520 yards with 11 touchdowns and six interceptions.

One of the two losses from games in which Maguire started was against Clemson University, who went on to play the University of Alabama for the national championship. The other loss was to the University of Houston in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, which he played with a broken ankle.

The Seminoles must now turn to redshirt freshman Deondre Francois at quarterback. For Francois, this game is a homecoming after he left Olympia High School in Orlando to spend his senior season in Bradenton, Fla., at IMG Academy, a renowned boarding school and sports-training facility.

While Maguire was a known commodity, the Rebels will now face an unknown, at least at the college level, at quarterback. FSU is hoping to capture lightning in a bottle twice and hoping that Francois will be the second coming of Jameis Winston, the last redshirt freshman to start at quarterback for the Seminoles.

Francois will have one of the best friends a new starting quarterback can ask for, and that is a strong running game. FSU boasts running back Dalvin Cook, a Heisman Trophy contender and a threat to take any handoff he receives to the house.

Stopping Cook is the best way for the Rebels to win this game. If FSU can’t run, then it would force Francois to beat them, and UM can unleash its pass rush.

As always, it is easier said than done, and few teams have been able to stop Cook when he is fully healthy. The running back was a one-man wrecking crew even when he was banged up last season.

The Seminoles hope to have one of the best defenses in the country, and that unit will have to be good to keep Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly under wraps. Kelly will try not to get outshined by the guy making his first college-football start.

August 15, 2016

USA Dominates the Medal Race Going into Final Week in Rio

By bryanflynn

The Rio Olympics enters its final week of competition, and as the games begin to wind down, it is good to look at the medal race, and it’s starting to become a rout.

While it was close the opening week, the U.S. is beginning to run away from the other nations. As of Monday afternoon, Aug. 15, the U.S. has 72 total medals, which is 26 ahead of second-place China.

Second place is where the real race is shaping up, with China’s 46 total medals just six ahead of the 40 medals Great Britain won. Russia, with 32 total medals, isn’t far from Britain, but with several athletes banned from the games, it will be hard for the country to move up.

The U.S. has the most gold medals (26), silver medals (22) and bronze medals (24). No other country besides the U.S. has reached 20 medals in single place yet. The U.S. has done so in all three.

Swimming is where the U.S. has built its lead with 33 total medals. Gymnastics is second with eight medals, and track and field, which started late last week, is third with six medals.

So far, the U.S. has earned at least one medal in 15 sports. The country has won four medals in fencing and three medals in shooting and tennis.

In the 2012 London games, the U.S. won 104 total medals, besting second-place China, which won 88 total medals. China narrowly held off Russia, which finished third with 82 total medals. The host nation was fourth with 65 total medals.

In London, the U.S. finished with 46 gold medals, 29 silver medals and 32 bronze medals. The U.S. finished first in gold and bronze medals, and China and Russia finished first and second in silver medals, with the U.S. in third.

As the U.S. dominates the medal stand in Rio, Japan is looking to move up from its current 27 total medals and fifth place. Italy, France and Australia are tied for sixth with 22 total medals.

Germany is ninth with 19 total medals, and South Korea rounds out the top 10 with 14 total medals. Our neighbor to the north, Canada, is in 11th place with 13 total medals.

Hungary and the Netherlands are the only other countries to have reached double-digits in medals. The Hungarians have a total of 12 medals, and the Dutch have a total of 11 medals.

The host nation only has seven total medals. Brazil won 17 medals in London, so it will have to make a push this final week to get the normal medal bump of being the host nation.

So far in Rio, 68 nations and athletes competing under the Olympic flag have won medals. Four years ago, 85 countries won medals before the closing ceremonies.

The Rio Olympics continue until Sunday, Aug. 21, before Tokyo accepts the Olympic flag for the 2020 ...

August 11, 2016

U.S. Women Win Back-to-Back Gold in Team Gymnastics *Updated All-Around Final*

By bryanflynn

Breaking: Simone Biles wins the gold medal in the women’s all-around final and teammate Aly Raisman wins the silver medal. The event was held today and will be seen in primetime on NBC as coverage starts at 7 p.m.

The members of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team call themselves “The Final Five,” and now, they can call themselves “The Golden Girls” after their gold medal in the team final. They crushed their opponents in a sport where the winners are normally separated by 10ths of points.

Instead, the U.S. women had a score of 184.897 points, winning by 8.209 points over second-place Russia, which had a score of 176.688. China took the bronze with 176.003 points, Japan finished fourth with 174.371, and Great Britain finished fifth with 174.362.

The scores above show just how dominant the U.S. women’s gymnastics team has been in Rio. Just .685 points separated second place and third places, and fourth and fifth place were separated by .009 points.

This is the largest margin of victory in the gymnastics team final since the current points system was put in place in 2006 and replaced the “Perfect 10” scoring system. The U.S. women also broke their own record when the “Fierce Five” won by 5.066 points in the London games four years ago.

By winning in Rio, this is the first time the U.S. women have won back-to-back gold medals in the team finals and the third Olympic gold medal in the event overall. The U.S. has medaled in this event from every Olympics since the 1992 games. Over that period of time, the U.S. has three gold medals (1996, 2012, 2016), two silver medals (2004, 2008) and two bronze medals (1992, 2000).

U.S. women’s gymnastics is working on taking over the sport with back-to-back Olympic gold medals and world championships in 2011, 2014 and 2015. This current team might be the best the U.S. has ever sent to the Olympics.

London holdovers Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman and perhaps the best gymnast in the world, Simone Biles, lead the team. First-time Olympians Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian might not get the headlines of the top-three U.S. gymnasts but are great in their events.

In Rio, the Americans had the highest team score in each event.

On the uneven bars, the U.S. women only held a .333 advantage over the second-best team, but Kocian has the best score of her career, and Douglas matched her best score of the year. Biles finished with the highest score on the balance beam, Hernandez finished third, and the U.S. finished .935 points over the second-place team.

Biles and Raisman both executed an Amanar, which is one of the most difficult vaults, as Biles finished with the top score. The U.S. women were able to start with a lead of 1.133 over the second-best team. The vault was the first event for the U.S. women in the team ...

August 11, 2016

Saints Begin Preseason Tonight Against Patriots

By bryanflynn

The NFL preseason will officially kickoff tonight with six games on the schedule. That is good news for the league after the Hall of Fame game was cancelled on Sunday.

Tonight is the first preseason game for the New Orleans Saints after a season last year that ended with a 7-9 record and the team missing the playoffs. New Orleans had to watch division rival, Carolina Panthers, reach the Super Bowl.

New Orleans will start the preseason on the road against the New England Patriots. Both teams have spent some time this week holding joint practices before tonight’s game.

While waiting for the game to kickoff tonight, here are five things to watch when both teams take the field.

The Saints backup quarterback job:

New Orleans starting quarterback Drew Brees more than likely won’t play more than four series. It wouldn’t be surprising if he is done after just one series, with this being the first preseason game.

That means the bulk of the work will go to backups Luke McCown and Garrett Grayson. McCown was the man behind Brees’ last season and wasn’t terrible in the spot work he got when the quarterback was out with an injury.

While McCown wasn’t horrible last season, he wasn’t nearly the player Brees is when he is healthy. He looks to have the backup job locked down, but it would be nice if he had a good showing this preseason.

Grayson, on the other hand, is entering his second year after the Saints drafted him in the third round of the 2015 draft with the 75th overall pick. He showed some nice things last preseason, but was nowhere near ready to be backup or looked to be the heir apparent to Brees.

Grayson’s growth will be one of the major things to watch this preseason. He should start to push McCown for the backup job before this season ends.

If he doesn’t show growth as a quarterback as the preseason progresses, then the Saints might have to use another draft pick this spring. It would work out best for New Orleans if Grayson developed to be the next quarterback after Brees’ time with the Saints is done.

The Patriots look to start Jimmy Garoppolo over Tom Brady:

Since Brady is suspended for the first four games of the season, it makes a ton of sense for the Patriots to start the third-year quarterback. Garoppolo was drafted to be the next quarterback after Brady retires.

As he enters his third season in the NFL, it is time for Garoppolo to show he can play. He also might be auditioning for a new job elsewhere.

This game loses some luster, as only one of the two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks will see the field tonight, and limited action as well.

Will the defense improve over 2015?

The New Orleans defense was terrible last season. If this year’s team ...

August 9, 2016

Dutch Gymnast Thrown out of Rio for Night of Drinking

By bryanflynn

Charles Barkley once made headlines for declaring in a Nike ad in 1993 that he wasn’t a role model. Good thing for Sir Charles that he didn’t have to play for the Dutch gymnastics association and the Dutch Olympic Committee.

The Netherlands tossed Dutch gymnast Yuri van Gelder out from Rio after he spent a night out drinking. Van Gelder left the athletes’ village on Saturday, Aug. 6, after reaching the finals of the men’s rings. He didn’t return to the village until Sunday morning.

When he did return, the gymnast admitted to drinking, which goes against the Netherlands’ team rules, and his Olympic dream was over. In a joint statement, KNGU, the Dutch gymnast association, and Dutch Olympic Committee pointed out that Van Gelder violated team rules, and they had no choice but to put him on the first plane home.

“It's terrible for Yuri, but this behavior is unacceptable,” chef de mission Maurits Hendriks said in the statement.

This isn’t the first brush with trouble for Van Gelder, known as the bad boy of gymnastics. He failed a drug test in 2009 when he tested positive for cocaine.

That failed drug test cost the gymnast a spot on the Netherlands team for the 2012 London Olympics, ended his career in the Dutch army and led to a one-year suspension. Van Gelder spent 11 weeks in a rehab clinic in Edinburgh, Scotland, but relapsed just four days before the 2010 world championships.

Van Gelder is extremely talented on the rings and has won multiple European championships and one world championship in the event. His skill at the rings earned him the nickname “Lord of the Rings.”

The 33-year-old gymnast was named Dutch Sportsman of the Year in 2005 after winning his world championship in the rings. He qualified for the final in the rings in eighth place.

Dutch media outlets are reporting that Van Gelder went out to meet his Brazilian girlfriend on his final night in Rio. Now, the gymnast won’t be able to get a chance at a medal in what was his first, and at his age, likely last, Olympic competition.

There was a good deal of support for the gymnast on social media and a belief that the Dutch Olympic Committee was being too harsh on him. Van Gelder’s wild night out earned him a new nickname as “Lord of the Drinks.”

Van Gelder isn’t the only athlete to be replaced in the event, either. France’s Samir Ait Said had to be replaced after a gruesome leg injury forced him to withdraw from the games. No Americans qualified for the finals in the rings.

August 9, 2016

NFL and Saints Camp News

By bryanflynn

Unless you live without Internet, by now, you probably know that the first NFL Preseason game between the Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers was cancelled due to poor field conditions. While it does hurt the NFL to have its first game of the year cancelled, it isn’t the end of the world.

This is not the first preseason game to be cancelled, but it is the first Hall of Fame game to be called off.

In 1995, a preseason game between the Houston Texans and the San Diego Chargers was cancelled due to turf problems with the Astrodome. This is the first game in NFL history to be cancelled due to field conditions.

The Colts and Packers weren’t even the second preseason game to be cancelled. That honor goes to the Philadelphia Eagles and Baltimore Ravens in 2001. This game was also cancelled due to field conditions because the same field was used for both baseball and football.

The Hall of Fame game is played on essentially a high school and Division II football field. Ideally, that is not the type of field you want to play a professional football game.

It didn’t help that the field was used for events all during the Hall of Fame weekend. When using an overworked field, it’s just a matter of time before problems start happening.

If the field couldn’t be safe for play during the one weekend the NFL needs it, maybe the game should have been moved to Cleveland, Ohio, which is an hour away from Canton, Ohio, where the Hall of Fame game is played each year.

The field is adjacent to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is named Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium after New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson. In 2014, Benson donated $11 million to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with $10 million going to a new field.

Speaking of the Saints, Drew Brees is having one of the roughest camps of his career. The future Hall of Fame quarterback has thrown seven interceptions during team drills through the first nine days of camp.

Last year, the Saints and Brees were deep into training camp before he threw his first pick. Hopefully, he is getting all his interceptions out of the way now, so he throws just a few during the season.

The only reason this story about Brees throwing picks in practice is a story because it is a future Hall of Famer throwing interceptions. The Saints have a young receiving unit, so all the interceptions are not Brees’ fault.

This story doesn’t mean much unless he keeps throwing interceptions during preseason games. It will really gain legs if he begins throwing picks in bunches during the regular season.

Speaking of the Saints receivers, youth won out over experience when New Orleans cut wide receiver Hakeem Nicks on Aug. 8. The former New York Giants receiver hoped that New Orleans ...

August 5, 2016

No Pelé to Light the Cauldron, NBC Delays Opening Ceremony

By bryanflynn

The most recognizable Brazilian athletic star, Pelé, won’t be on hand during the opening ceremony tonight at the Rio Olympics. It would be an understatement to say that he is Brazil's biggest and best-known athlete.

Even though he hasn’t competed in nearly 40 years, he is the standard all soccer players are judged against.

The 75-year-old soccer star’s health has been in decline over the last few years. Pelé recently had hip surgery and walks with the help of a cane. Due to his poor health, he said he wouldn’t be at tonight’s ceremony.

The soccer star was rumored to be the person organizers had asked to light the cauldron, but that hasn’t been confirmed.

Now, the honor falls to someone else. Who will light the cauldron is a mystery. That will add a bit drama tonight as the opening ceremony is broadcast around the world.

The broadcast in the U.S. begins on NBC at 6:30 p.m. central time. The opening ceremony will be at Maracana Stadium, and coverage goes until 11 p.m., so you can pace yourself as you watch.

It might be best to stay off Twitter and other social media because NBC is tape-delaying the opening ceremony by an hour. People could give things away, as the company wants to have time to “curate” coverage to provide proper context to what viewers are seeing.

Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira and Hoda Kotb will serve as the hosts during the broadcast. NBC’s primetime Olympics host, Bob Costas, will open the telecast.

Michele Tafoya and Ros Gold-Onwude will also provide reports from the stadium. NBC correspondent David Feherty will discuss the return of golf to the Olympic games after a 112-year absence.

Part of Feherty’s interview with Pres. Barack Obama will be broadcasted during the opening ceremony. Viewers can see the rest of the interview on the Golf Channel's “Morning Drive” on Saturday or stream it on NBCOlympics.com or GolfChannel.com.

During the open ceremony, nearly all the athletes from every nation will enter the stadium carrying their nation’s flag; however, some athletes such as soccer players might not be in attendance. The most decorated Olympic athlete in history, Michael Phelps, who has 22 medals, will enter the stadium as flag bearer for the U.S.

Phelps’ teammates voted for him to carry the flag. Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad was reportedly second in the vote to be the flag bearer. Muhammad is the first American to wear a hijab in Olympic competition.

If you are not near your TV, you can stream the opening ceremony on the NBC Sports app or on NBCOlympics.com.

The biggest complaint against NBC will be when everyone finds out the opening ceremony was taped-delayed. At some point, things will get ruined on social media for those who don’t know about the delay.

August 4, 2016

Injury Moves Dak Prescott to Cowboys’ No. 2 Quarterback

By bryanflynn

Everything changed for the Dallas Cowboys at the position of quarterback on a single play. Kellen Moore was scheduled to become the No. 2 quarterback behind Tony Romo.

That all changed on Tuesday, Aug. 2, when an offensive lineman rolled up Moore, breaking the quarterback’s fibula or ankle depending on the report. Currently, there is no timetable for Moore’s return, but recovery time after surgery is three to four months.

The injury moved former Mississippi State University quarterback Dak Prescott from the No. 3 to the No.2 quarterback on the depth chart. That means if Romo is injured, Prescott would be the starting quarterback for the Cowboys.

Going into training camp, that wasn’t the plan for Prescott. The rookie fourth-round pick was supposed to sit behind and learn from Romo and Moore. Playing time for Prescott looked like it would come in the preseason, with no chance of seeing the field in the regular season.

Now, Romo is the starter, and Prescott moves up from taking snaps with the third-string offense. Prescott was splitting time with Jameill Showers, who spent last season on the practice squad playing other positions besides quarterback.

Romo, now 36 years old, missed most of last season with a broken collarbone. That left Dallas with Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel and Moore playing quarterback, and the Cowboys went 4-12.

The Cowboys have to moved up the timetable on the development of Prescott. Coming from a spread offense at MSU, Prescott has to learn a pro-style offense and learn how to take snaps from under center.

Prescott, who turned 23-years old last Friday, July 29, has embraced the No. 2 role and is ready to step up to the challenge, he told DallasCowboys.com.

“I’ve just got to come in each and every day and get better—that’s all I’m worried about,” he said. “My main focus is just to come in and make sure these guys hold me accountable. I’ll hold them accountable, and I’ll just be my best each and every practice.”

The Cowboys are going to look for an experienced backup quarterback, as well. The early thought was that former Los Angeles Rams quarterback Nick Foles would be the target for Dallas.

Then, Foles signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Cowboys turned their attention to Cleveland Browns’ quarterback Josh McCown. The Browns have asked for more than Dallas is willing to part with at this point in terms of trade value. Cleveland wants a high draft pick, and the Cowboys don’t want to give up their future for a backup quarterback.

With training camps just opening, Dallas will keep looking for another quarterback and can still wait until the team finds one at a price that it likes. In fact, the Cowboys could wait until rosters are cut down to 53 players before having to make a move if all their quarterbacks stay healthy during the preseason.

The Cowboys had ...

August 4, 2016

Former Rebel Moncrief Pledges to Support Daughter of Former Teammate Who Died

By bryanflynn

Former Indianapolis Colts running back Zurlon Tipton and current wide receiver Donte Moncrief were more than just teammates. The two players were good friends who spent time off the field bowling and playing pool together.

Both players joined the Colts before the 2014 season. Moncrief was drafted in the third round with the 90th overall pick, and Tipton was an undrafted rookie free agent.

Moncrief was born in Raleigh, Miss. and was a star at Raleigh High School in football and track. He went on to play college football for the University of Mississippi and left after his junior season to play in the NFL.

Tipton played football at Central Michigan University and was a Detroit native. His best college-football season came in 2012 when he rushed for nearly 1,500 yards and 19 touchdown as junior. Injuries limited his ability to play during his senior season in 2013.

The two players dressed close to each other in the Colts locker room, which led to their friendship. Tipton also sat in front of Moncrief during team meetings.

Moncrief has appeared in 32 games for the Colts with 12 starts. He doubled production in his second year over his rookie performance. In two seasons, he has posted 96 catches for 1,177 yards and nine touchdowns.

Tipton played in 16 games for the Colts over two seasons and gained 38 career yards on 15 carries. He was released by Indianapolis on Dec. 21, 2015.

In a recent interview with ESPN, Moncrief discussed the death of his friend and his plans to take care of his daughter.

Moncrief was shocked to find out that his friend had died at the end of June from an accidental gun shot. Tipton was removing a duffle bag from his car at a dealership when one of the two guns in the bag discharged, hitting him in the stomach.

The wide receiver learned about the death Tipton’s former girlfriend. Moncrief, in his ESPN interview credited is Mississippi upbringing made him think about Tipton’s daughter Zoe, even while still grieving the loss of his friend from the fatal accident.

Moncrief has pledged to support Zoe as if she was his own daughter. The former Rebel doesn’t matter if it is clothes, money or anything else—he will be there for his friend’s daughter.

The 22-year-old wide receiver had talked with Tipton just two days before the accident. Moncrief and Tipton had plans to get together at his place in Indianapolis when he returned from Mississippi.

Moncrief was with his own daughter when he learned of the death of his friend. Tipton was one of the jokesters in the locker room helping keep everyone relaxed.

Zoe will be with the Colts when they open their season against the Detroit Lions at Lucas Oil Stadium. Moncrief told ESPN he still sees his friend every time he looks at Zoe or up at the sky.

August 2, 2016

Clinton’s Akers is Highly Sought After

By bryanflynn

Monday, Aug. 1, was the first day that public schools could hold practice for the upcoming season, though private schools were able to begin practice last week.

That means the top players in the state are preparing for this season after a summer of visits with schools or showing off their skills at camps. It also means that the class of 2017 is just six months away from making their college choice official by signing their National Letter of Intent.

In Clinton, it means that its the last few months to woo the No. 4 player in the country. Running back Cam Akers is the No. 2 back in the country and is uncommitted.

If you are at a Clinton Arrows game this season, there is a good chance you might catch a glimpse of some of the top coaches in the nation. Every big name football program and every other program in between is seeking Akers.

The five-foot, 11-inch, 212-pound back has limited his options down to 10 universities. He once committed to the University of Alabama but decommitted, although the Crimson Tide are still in the mix.

The other nine schools are the University of Mississippi, the University of Tennessee, Ohio State University, Auburn University, University of Georgia, Louisiana State University, Florida State University, University of Michigan and University of California, Berkeley.

This summer he took unofficial trips to Tennessee, Georgia, Auburn, FSU and Mississippi. He chatted with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh when the Wolverines coach held a camp in Pearl, Miss.

It is easy to see what attracts these college programs to Akers. He has good size, and he ran 4.41 seconds in the 40-yard dash at this year’s Nike’s The Opening.

Over the next couple of months, Akers is expected to cut his list down to six or seven schools. He also plans to enroll early in his new school once he makes his decision this December.

The University of Mississippi is thought to be an early favorite with all the frequent visits he has taken to the school. The Rebels would love to land the running back, since he could step on the field and play right away.

Akers is also a complete back in the eyes of scouts. He not only can carry the load in the ground game, but he also has a great pair of hands.

During The Opening, he lined up in the slot and at wide out and caught passes at each position. His pass-catching ability will help him get on the field as a freshman running back by giving teams away to scheme the ball into his hands.

He also has the size and speed to run the ball inside or outside the tackles. While he doesn’t have elite speed, Akers is fast and explosive enough to outrun defenders and get into the end zone.

Akers could be the crown jewel in some school’s 2017 signing ...

August 2, 2016

Events That the U.S. Struggles in at the Olympics

By bryanflynn

No country in the history of the Olympics has been more successful than the United States of America. The U.S. has won 2,404 total medals since the modern games began in 1896.

In second place is the dissolved Soviet Union, which only had 1,123 total medals. No other country has broken the 1,000-medal mark.

While the U.S. dominates several sports in the summer games, there are sports in which we struggle. There are six sports in which America has never won a gold medal.

The U.S. has a bronze medal in men’s and women’s field hockey. The men earned their medal in 1932 when they finished third out of three teams, and the women took home the bronze in 1984.

In the triathlon, the U.S. women earned a bronze medal in 2004. Men’s soccer won a silver medal in 1904 but hasn’t been as successful as the women. The U.S. has no gold medals in the modern pentathlon but does have a handful of silver and bronze medals.

Strangely, the U.S. has never won a gold medal in BMX, either. The country’s best finishes were the men’s silver in 2008 and the women’s bronze in 2012.

Mountain biking is another sport in which the U.S. has failed to strike gold. The women scored a bronze medal in 2012, but the men have never landed on the medal podium.

While the U.S. has earned medals in the events above, there are also five events in which America has never even won a bronze medal. These events are among the weakest showings from Team USA.

Handball might be the weakest event for the U.S. This year will mark the fifth Olympics that the USA won’t send a men’s or women’s handball team to the Olympics. The last time the U.S. had a handball team in the Olympics, it was the host country and didn’t have to qualify.

Forest Gump might have been able to take on China in ping-pong, but the real-life American teams have been no match. China dominates table tennis so soundly that the rules had to be changed so that countries could only send two players rather than three, just to keep China from sweeping the medals.

Badminton is another event that Asian countries have dominated over the years. China, Indonesia and South Korea are the top three medal winners, but the U.S. has never gotten on the podium.

While the U.S. nearly always sends a strong gymnastics team, it struggles in two of the disciplines that the International Olympic Committee lumps together.

Russia owns the first, rhythmic gymnastics, with 13 medals, and Belarus and Ukraine come in second and third, respectively. European countries dominate the sport, with Canada and China winning just one medal.

Trampoline is the other event in gymnastics in which the U.S. struggles to catch the top countries. China has won the most medals with eight, and Canada comes ...

July 29, 2016

MVSU Picked Second, JSU Picked Fourth in Preseason Women’s Soccer

By bryanflynn

While college football is just around the corner, let’s not forget that women’s soccer will begin this fall. The SWAC head coaches and sports information directors made their preseason predictions for the upcoming soccer season.

The team to beat and big winner of the awards is affiliate member Howard University, which was picked to win the conference with 170 points. Howard also swept all three preseason awards for Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Goalkeeper of the Year. The Bison also had eight players placed on either the first-team or second-team All-SWAC.

Mississippi Valley State University was picked to finish second in the conference with 146 points, closely followed by third-place pick Alabama State University with 145 points.

Jackson State University was picked to finish fourth with 126 points, with Prairie View A&M University in fifth place at 112 points. Arkansas-Pine Bluff University was picked to end up sixth with 102 points, and another close vote had Texas Southern University in seventh with 101 points.

Alabama A&M University ended up in eighth place with 74 points, and Southern University was picked to finish ninth with 58 points. Rounding out the bottom of the conference is Grambling State University, picked to finish 10th with 46 points and Alcorn State University picked to finish last with 42 points.

Jackson State placed three players on first-team All-SWAC in midfielder Jalana Ellis, defender Kyleigh Lo and goalie Faith Toennies. The Tigers placed two players on the second-team All-SWAC in midfielders Kalen Roberts and Sie’Yara Wells. The five players JSU placed on the preseason teams were second in the conference.

Mississippi Valley State finished 2015 as regular season champions and placed one player on the first-team All-SWAC in midfielder Laadi Issaka. The Delta Devils placed two players on the second-team: All-SWAC forward Heather Craddock and midfielder Marina Balboa.

Alcorn State didn’t place any players on either first or second teams. Alabama State was third in players selected to the preseason teams, with four players. Prairie View A&M and Texas Southern each placed one player on the preseason teams.

Last season, MVSU finished 8-1-1 in SWAC play and 13-7-2 overall. JSU finished with the same 8-1-1 record as the Delta Devils in conference play and the Tigers finished 11-7-2 overall. Alcorn State finished 0-10 in SWAC play and 0-13 overall.

July 29, 2016

Lions Reward Former MSU Corner Slay with a Contract Extension

By bryanflynn

Former Itawamba Community College and Mississippi State University cornerback Darius Slay believed he was a top-seven corner in the NFL. The Detroit Lions brass must have agreed with him after signing him to a new four-year extension.

Detroit needed to lock up Slay, who is just 25 years old, to an extension after losing high-profile players the last two seasons. The Lions lost defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in free agency after the 2014 season, and wide receiver Calvin Johnson suddenly retired after last season

The new deal is worth $48 million with $23.1 million in guaranteed money, and he will make a total of $50.2 million over the next five years. The former Bulldog was entering the final year of his rookie deal. The guaranteed money is good for seventh amongst cornerbacks.

Slay is one of the few cornerbacks to be overshadowed most of this career. At MSU, Johnthan Banks grabbed more headlines than Slay did.

Slay ended up drafted ahead of the 2012 Thorpe Award, winner Banks in the 2013 NFL Draft. The Lions selected Slay with the 36th overall pick in the second round, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Banks with the 43rd overall pick in the same round.

In the NFL, Slay has quietly become one of the best cornerbacks in the league. He slowly began his pro career with four starts and played in just 13 games as a rookie in 2013. He finished his first year with 34 total tackles and 27 solo tackles with five passes defended.

Slay started all 16 games for the Lions in his second year and made 61 total tackles and 48 solo tackles. He had 17 passes defended and two interceptions.

Last season, Slay again started all 16 games for Detroit. He had 59 total tackles and 48 solo tackles. The cornerback added two more interceptions and 13 passes defended in 2015.

Pro Football Focus rated Slay as the No. 2 overall cornerback and had him ranked No. 8 in pass coverage. He has a passer rating of 90.1 when targeted in coverage, and he only allows a completion percentage of 63.2. NFL Media research says he was targeted 68 times last season.

Slay is counted on to cover the opponent's top receiver on most plays. He will also have to be a leader in the second for Detroit, with 2014 fourth-round pick cornerback Nevin Lawson slated to start opposite of him.

The six-foot, 190-pound corner might not be under the radar much longer after signing his new extension. If Detroit could win more games after finishing 7-9 last season, Slay might become a household name with NFL fans.

July 28, 2016

After New Year’s Eve Ratings Disaster, CFP Semifinals are Moving

By bryanflynn

The idea of building a new tradition on New Year’s Eve happened just one year before college football playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock changed course. Now, the schedule has been changed in the four years that the semifinals were to be played on Dec. 31.

Hancock believed that the semifinals on New Year's Eve would create a new tradition of college football fans staying home to watch playoff football. Instead, the rating for the first game was 45 percent lower than 2015, and the second game’s rating was 34.4 percent lower than the previous year.

The ratings might have been lost due to the fact that the games in the 2016 playoffs weren’t very competitive. Clemson University bounced the University of Oklahoma 37-17 in a game that saw the Tigers pull away in the second half.

In the second game, the University of Alabama destroyed Michigan State University 38-0. Either way, both games gave football fans reason to leave the TV and ring in the New Year elsewhere.

In the 2015 playoffs, the University of Oregon pulled away from Florida State University in the second half, and Ohio State slipped past Alabama 42-35. The first year of the playoffs saw games with a little more sizzle.

Oregon featured 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, and FSU was the defending champion and featured 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. College football blue bloods Alabama and OSU were going to draw eyes from nearly all college-football fans.

While Oklahoma and Alabama are traditional college-football powers, Michigan State and Clemson have just recently become year-in and year-out conference-title contenders, meaning, to the average fan, the matchups weren’t as sexy as the year before.

Fans of the teams playing in the semifinals might want to stay home and watch, but fans of other teams more than likely wanted to celebrate the coming New Year. College football fans had been trained to watch the biggest games on New Year’s Day, not New Year’s Eve.

It was a tradition the college football playoff tried to break, but it failed. Fans still wanted their New Year’s Day games but didn’t want to stay at home or at least watch football at home on New Year’s Eve.

The schedule has been shifted in the four years (2018-2019, 2019-2020, 2024-2025, and 2025-2026) playoff games were scheduled to fall on New Year’s Eve. The games were moved to the preceding Saturday.

The 2016-2017 semifinals, which will be played after this season, were not changed. The 2021-2022 semifinals will still be played on New Year’s Eve, which is on a Friday, but it will be the federal New Year’s Day holiday.

ESPN is paying $7.3 billion over 12 years to broadcast the playoffs and wanted the semifinals moved off New Year’s Eve after the ratings drop. Hancock stood firm earlier this year before beginning to soften his stance.

Now, with a little over ...

July 27, 2016

Deanna Favre to Present Brett Favre for Hall of Fame

By bryanflynn

In the history of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, only once before now has a wife presented a husband entering the shrine. Kim Singletary presented her husband, Chicago Bear great linebacker Mike Singletary, in 1998.

That will change on Saturday, Aug. 6, when Deanna Favre becomes the second woman to present her husband, former Green Bay Packer and living legend Brett Favre, at the Hall of Fame. The pair met and began dating in high school before being married in 1996.

Brett said his first choice would have been his father Irvin Favre, who passed away from a heart attack on Dec. 21, 2003, at the age of 58. The Packers star went on to have one of the greatest games in his career the next night on Monday Night Football.

In that Monday night contest, Brett threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns, as the Packers blew out the Oakland Raiders 41-7. The quarterback returned to Kiln, Miss. after the game to lay his father to rest.

It only makes sense for Brett to pass the honor to his wife, Deanna. She was the one who called him and told him his father had passed.

She stood by Brett through his retirements and un-retirements, his admitting that he had an addiction to painkillers, his scandal of allegedly sending racy text messages to a New York Jets game day host and two massage therapists and other bumps in his stellar career.

“Deanna is the best teammate I’ve ever had,” Brett said in a statement. “She has been by my side throughout this journey and I’m so excited that she gets to play such an important role for me.”

“Serving as Brett’s presenter is a great honor. I am thrilled to be able share this special moment in time with him,” Deanna said in the statement.

The other members of the 2016 Hall of Fame Class are Edward J. DeBartolo Jr., who will be inducted by daughter Lisa DeBartolo; Tony Dungy, who will be inducted by former teammate Donnie Shell; Kevin Green, who will be inducted by former Carolina Panthers head coach and current Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers; Marvin Harrison, who will be inducted by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay; Orlando Pace, who will be inducted by son Justin Pace; Ken Stabler, who will be inducted by Hall of Fame coach John Madden; and Dick Stanfel, who will be inducted by Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy.

The newest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame will be inducted in Canton, Ohio, on Saturday, Aug. 6. On Sunday, Aug. 7, the Colts and Packers will face each other in the Hall of Fame Game, and the newest members of the hall will be honored on the field.

The game will be seen on ESPN and will kickoff at 6 p.m.

Prev

Archive by year

2012 2013 2014 2015 2016