Thursday, April 19, 2018

Fighting Irish have plenty of position battles with the spring game around the corner

Photo Credit: Matt Stamey- USA TODAY Sports

By: Jon Opiela
Twitter: @jonopiela24

Snow in the middle of April can only mean one thing, right?  Spring football time in the Midwest.  Notre Dame will be hosting its 89th annual Blue-Gold Game, presented by Boling Vision Center on Saturday, April 21, 2018 with kickoff at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Coming into the game, the most notable position battle sits under center between quarterbacks Brandon Wimbush and Ian Book.  Wimbush led the Irish offense for the majority of the 2017 campaign, starting all but one contest and finished with a scoring efficiency of 93 percent in the red zone, but often struggled with his accuracy throwing the ball.  Book showed last year that he looked comfortable passing the ball, but does not have the mobility that makes Wimbush a dual-threat quarterback.

With running back Josh Adams heading to the NFL Draft, the Irish will also need to find a new running back.  Dexter Williams seems to be the favorite to this point, but Tony Jones Jr. also seems like he’s making a case to split carries with Williams. 

Losing All-Americans Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson will be an astronomical loss for the Irish.  Projected starters from left to right are Liam Eichenberg, Alex Bars, Sam Mustipher, Tommy Kraemer, and Robert Hainsey.

Talent is aplenty at the skilled positions.  The Irish return Nic Weisher and Alize Mack as tight ends and Chase Claypool, Miles Boykin, Chris Finke highlight the receiving core. 

The transfer of Jay Hayes to the University of Oklahoma could be a disappointment for Irish fans, but the defensive front seems to have plenty of stability.  The return of Daelin Hayes, Jerry Tillery, Jonathan Bonner, and Khalid Kareem brings plenty of experience to the table.

Te’Von Coney and Drue Tranquill will bring plenty of senior leadership to the linebacker position.  Julian Love also returns to the secondary following his monster year last season.  If Love can continue at the pace that he finished last season, he will find his name on an All-American list following the season.Troy Pride Jr. and Shaun Crawford look to maintain their starting positions at cornerback and nickel, respectively.

Spring games are a great opportunity for fans to get a glimpse of the future and return their focus to the gridiron following another abysmal Indiana winter.  When the Blue-Gold Game concludes spring practices for the Irish, we will most likely be left with some question marks regarding the depth chart heading into week one.

Monday, April 16, 2018

HBO’s ‘Paterno’ casts light on the dark Penn State scandal

Photo Credit: Matthew O'Haren- USA TODAY Sports

By: Jeff Hauser
Twitter: @radiohauser

Joe Paterno was once revered for his accomplishment in life beyond the football field. Known to many as a leader, mentor, and father during his 61-year tenure at Penn State, JoePa left behind a polarizing legacy due to the child sexual abuse by former assistant Jerry Sandusky. HBO films’ ‘Paterno’ captures the emotions of college football’s winningest coach through his record-breaking game and the scandal that rocked Happy Valley a week later.

A story directed by Barry Levinson opens with Paterno undergoing an MRI before a transition to the events that occurred prior to his career coming to an end. Academy Award-winning actor Al Pacino masters the part of the 84-year-old Paterno, who fails to make sense of Sandusky’s actions, along with not losing focus of his responsibilities on the field. A sobering look at Paterno’s final weeks starts at Beaver Stadium in the 2011 Penn State-Illinois game as the rattled coach is calling plays from the booth after suffering a fractured hip in practice.

Penn State’s elation of Paterno’s 409th career victory would be short lived with the storm that was brewing. Levinson tries to answer the question of when Paterno knew about the abuse Sandusky was inflicting upon his victims. Paterno told school administrators in 2002 of the Sandusky’s wrongdoing with a boy in the showers at Penn State’s athletic complex, but might have known about another instance nearly 30 years prior and wasn’t concerned enough to take the claims further.

Administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz did not go forward with the information to Penn State president Graham Spanier or the authorities, placing an emphasis on a powerhouse’s winning program over the victims need for protection. A reminder that Paterno “had a job to do” with Nebraska being the next opponent on the schedule and less focused on the lives that were ruined potentially under the watch of him and others. Pacino channeled Paterno’s need for keeping it “about football” several times throughout the film, even at one point taking criticism from his family while seeming unobligated to even know what has happened out of his residence.

The victims’ prospective is told through Sara Ganim, played by Riley Keough, who broke the story for The Patriot-News and won a Pulitzer Prize for her work on the events. A struggle of daily life for Aaron Fisher one of Sandusky’s victims is a sticking point for the truth with Ganim pressing on despite being stonewalled by Penn State officials time and time again. She starts to see more victims coming forward after telling Fisher’s account and during the last scene of the film takes an anonymous phone call from a victim. He tells Ganim that he talked to Paterno about being abused in the summer of 1976 and was told, “Jerry was a good man and shouldn’t talk that way about a good man.”

A differing account was touched on by Joe’s wife, Sue Paterno, played by Kathy Baker, who walks Joe back through a couple past instances and draw the conclusion that Joe could not have known about Jerry’s involvement with boys, otherwise their own sons (Scott and Jay) wouldn’t have been playing in the pool around Sandusky.

What’s hard to fathom is the length at which these crimes continued to happen over the course of decades. And how Sandusky was able to draft his own retirement terms when many university representatives including Paterno were aware of the abuse and aided in the cover up—another point shown throughout the film’s entirety. 

Sandusky was found guilty on 45 counts of child sexual abuse in 2012. He was sentenced to 60 years in jail, the maximum allowed under Pennsylvania’s guidelines. Curley and Schultz pled guilty to child endangerment and Spanier was tried and found guilty of the same charge. All three were sentenced to prison time along with a combined $60 million fine. 

Paterno died of cancer on Jan. 22, 2012, two and a half months after being fired from Penn State. At the time of his demise he said, “This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”

Saturday, April 14, 2018

'All or Nothing: Michigan Wolverines' Episode 2 recap

Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to my recap of the second episode of 'All or Nothing: Michigan Wolverines', which can be streamed on Amazon Prime Video.

The second episode began with Michigan’s second half comeback powered by an intense speech from defensive coordinator Don Brown at halftime of the Florida game.

Assistant coach Pep Hamilton made his way onto the field as time expired to give Speight credit for not packing it in after back-to-back interceptions in the first half and to rally the offense to a win.

Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh added that Florida hopefully learned its lesson by saying it is easier said than done to back up the trash talk.

We transition to Harbaugh’s home, where him and his wife, Sarah attempt to feed the kids breakfast. While having breakfast, Katie Harbaugh, daughter of Jim and Sarah appeared to have an ear infection from a prior piercing and is in a bit of discomfort. They go to the Michigan athletic facility as the trainers looked at Sarah’s ear and everything turned out to be okay.

Harbaugh met with the team and gave Chase Winovich the defensive player of the week award for his effort against Florida as the first day of classes began on campus. Winovich walked around between classes as some of the students greeted him.

Freshmen wide receivers Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black are shown horsing around on the elevator on the way to their dorm room. Both talked about their similar playing styles and how they view themselves as brothers.

Winovich and Black decide to go to the hair salon and barber shop, respectively. Winovich’s trip stood out as he bleached his hair blonde and when he arrived on campus, the coaches and players ribbed him saying he looked like Hannah Montana and a 1970’s wrestler.

Michigan’s home opener against Cincinnati became the focus as the families of Winovich, Black and Peoples-Jones are highlighted as they sent their respective players off on the team bus to Michigan Stadium.

Despite struggling against Florida with a pair of interceptions which led to touchdowns, Speight remained the starter going into the Cincinnati game.

Harbaugh told the team prior to kickoff that the game should be treated like our Super Bowl and to let the nerves go away. The pressure stayed with Peoples-Jones as he delivered a pair of questionable punt returns, which frustrated Harbaugh. Despite the lack of awareness from the freshman, Michigan cruised to a 36-14 win over Cincinnati to move to 2-0 on the season.

The next scene follows Speight as he watches his girlfriend, Michigan women’s soccer player Ani Sarkisian in action. Speight talks with his family in the stands about the Cincinnati game and what the freshmen receivers can work on going forward.

In the most powerful part of the episode, Rashan Gary and his mother, Jennifer Coney-Shepherd go to Red Lobster for dinner and talk about whether the college experience has changed him. Gary responded by saying he is being himself every day and does not take any time to look at things from an outside perspective. Coney-Shepherd said that Gary has to take time out for himself. To Coney-Shepherd, Gary is just a kid at 19 years old. She mentioned working and going to school full-time, but made time for herself despite being exhausted. Coney-Shepherd emphasized time management as a sticking point. Gary is then asked by his mother whether or not he has spoken to his father. Gary said lack of communication has kept them from talking and talked about how his father would rarely go to his games. Coney-Shepherd said as long as we have one another, that is all that matters as tears were shed on both ends.

Quick takeaway:

Despite football being the centered focus in the series, Coney-Shepherd proved to be highlight as the rock behind Gary’s success on the field and in the classroom.