Archive for June, 2013

2014 Texas Football Recruiting: Armanti & D’onta Foreman Commit

Posted by    |    June 28th, 2013 at 1:24 pm

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The 2014 Texas recruiting class may be done by August. As much as a result of Longhorn successes in landing their targets as by lack of interest by the state’s ultra-elite.

But they landed at least one of the state’s very best when they received an oral commitment from the Foreman brothers – Armanti and D’onta – bringing the Longhorn class to a nation-leading 21 commitments.

Armanti, a WR, and a former OU commit, is a four star recruit and the #128 overall prospect in the nation according to 24-7. His final decision was likely Aggies vs. Horns. He’s the sixth WR taken in a class seemingly designed to address past Longhorn recruiting misses at the position with sheer volume. I think we also have a clearer picture as to where some of our current roster attrition will be focused.

Armanti is a fantastic get – and one of the Top 5 players in the Longhorn class. Armanti (5-11, 175) is widely considered the second best WR take in the state of Texas. I love him. He’s extremely quick and very capable after the catch. He runs easy and has a natural gift for separation. He doesn’t fight the ball.

He looks a lot like a young Kendall Wright.

D’onta (…you call him a package deal), is a somewhat unheralded RB (24-7 has him as the #78 recruit in the state) who could project to a number of positions in college, is a 6-0, 215 pound (according to Texas camp weigh-in) running back with good measurables (claims a 4.48 40 at Longhorn camp). Though less coveted than his brother, he’s certainly a legit FBS recruit. The question is where he’s best used.

D’onta is a straight-up, straight-ahead runner with good natural power and leg drive. But you won’t confuse his cuts with Jonathan Gray. His primary highlights as a runner are either running through a tackler or a through a very large hole where he can gather momentum. He’s not going to create his own cutback opportunity at the college level and I his odds of being a feature back are slim.

His linebacker film, though spare, is intriguing and incredibly raw, mostly of the “see ball, attack” variety.

Most intriguing: D’onta is a gifted natural pass catcher and he operates well in the construct of a passing offense. If he’s a willing blocker, and continues on his growth curve to a 230-240 pound athlete, he can be an asset as a future H-back type. That’s probably his best projection if he doesn’t take a shot at LB.

Welcome aboard, Foremans.

Kansas Jayhawk Network: Coming to a Cable System Near You

Posted by    |    June 28th, 2013 at 9:50 am

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With very litle fanfare, the Kansas Jayhawks moved deeper into the digital age when they announced an agreement with IMG to sell their third tier rights to Time Warner and ESPN3.

The Jayhawks will get anywhere from $6 to $7 million a year through IMG for its third tier rights, but more importantly they will have regional and national outlets for their programming with none of the pain and suffering that has accompanied the Longhorn Network. Additionally they have positioned themselves to take advantage of the shifting methods of delivery as more and more viewers “cut the cord” of cable TV.

Time Warner will call it “The Jayhawk Network “ in Kansas, but it will not be a 24-hour channel. It will carry over 300 hours of original programming including at least one football and six men’s basketball games. Of course, it is basketball that is driving the deal, one that Dennis Dodds of CBSsports calls the most attractive entity left in college sports.

Time Warner will carry the “Kansas Jayhawk Network” on its basic cable tier in Kansas, including the attractive Kansas City market. Kansas fans will be able to access it throughout the Time-Warner system nationally as a part of Video On Demand.

That means unless things change soon, more Austin viewers will be able to tune in The Jayhawk Insider than Rewind with Mack Brown on the Longhorn Network.

The Time Warner agreement gives Kansas a regional stronghold for its programming, but the really forward thinking part of the arrangement is the contract with ESPN3. The digital network will be the national carrier for the 50 live events that Time Warner carries in Kansas.

ESPN3, which is available in over 85 million homes, will have an additional 20 live events to distribute as well.

The contract puts a good chunk of change in the pockets of the Jayhawks while giving them a national presence with very little risk.

From the start of this process, our goals were to saturate the Kansas City market, distribute Kansas programming throughout the state and make our live events available nationally,” Kansas Director of Athletics Sheahon Zenger said. “We are meeting these goals through agreements like these with ESPN and Time Warner Cable. Both are significant steps for Kansas Athletics and we are excited about the future for all Jayhawk fans – wherever they may be watching.”

The agreement also puts Kansas in a great position to take advantage of the industry movement away from distributing content through some method other than a cable cord.

With ESPN3, Kansas content will be available through any number of platforms – smartphones, tablets, WatchESPN or XBOX.

As both Google and Apple move towards ultra-high speed internet delivery, these venues will offer a high quality view and will take over more and more of the market.

This digital deal helps keep Kansas in the forefront of the movement since Kansas City is the first of two test markets to roll out the high-speed Google Fiber Internet Service.

The next market to get google fiber?

Austin.

Playing the Game – From the West Coast to Westeros

Posted by    |    June 27th, 2013 at 3:49 pm

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I loves me some Game of Thrones. I’m both a book guy and a show guy, and to my mind it’s one of the richest, most engrossing and most thought-provoking fictional worlds ever created. I can while away hours talking about it with anyone who’s interested, and while it engenders its own brand of emotional torment it’s nonetheless one of my purest enjoyments.

Despite that affinity, I’ve shied away from doing any ‘This sport/this league/these people as Game of Thrones characters’ pieces, although such pieces are as common as milkweed pollen across the Interwebs. They all start out with clear and clever Tyrion and Cersei analogs, but once they’ve devolved into figuring out who’s Hodor and who’s a Greyjoy they tend to get a tad ragged.

When things get suitably epochal, though, it’s hard to think of a work that provides more fertile ground for a big-picture analogy or two. So I’ll give it a shot.

The land of Westeros, where most of GOT’s story is set, is a world completely in flux. The ancient ways, old social orders and existing structures of power are all falling away. They may be replaced by something even older, or by something entirely new. But in the interim, all the power in the Land is up for grabs, and will be won by whoever can best play the Game. And the best players of the Game create their own rules, and are otherwise bound by none.

It’s a world where you can cling to honor and virtue if you choose. You can use them to define yourself, or allow yourself to be completely defined – and imprisoned – by them. But what you cannot do is look outside yourself and see any evidence that honor and virtue have any tangible weight, or meaning, or impact, besides that which you yourself ascribe to them. If there is a deity or a pantheon or a higher power who mandates the primacy of honor and virtue, who rewards adherence to them and punishes transgression from them, that power sits stark (ha!) and silent in Westeros. Honor and virtue may once have had their own innate power as centripetal forces that kept all the elements of society moving together in a defined path…but now that power is greatly diminished if not extinguished altogether.

It’s a world where the last defender of the Realm entire, the Nights’ Watch, has collapsed from its proud and honored status to a debased and corrupted shell full of theives and rapers and worse. As of the end of Season Three, its abortive attempt at an offensive has met with ruination at the Fist of the First Men and now the remainder of the Watch huddle at the Wall – maybe entirely incapable of checking the threats arrayed against them.

The world of big-time college football, where our story is set, is a world completely in flux. The alleged arbiters of ethics and legality in the sport have abdicated the throne in all but name. They may be replaced by something even older, or by something entirely new. But in the interim, many of the most talented players in the land will be won by whoever can best play the Game. And the best players of the Game create their own rules, and are otherwise bound by none.

It’s a world where you can cling to honor and virtue if you choose. You can use them to define yourself, or allow yourself to be completely defined – and imprisoned – by them. But what you cannot do is look outside yourself and see any evidence that honor and virtue have any tangible weight, or meaning, or impact, besides that which you yourself ascribe to them. There is no reward for virtue and no punishment for vice in this world. If you allow yourself to be held hostage by your own desire for a clean reputation, you should do so with the knowledge that you are the only one who cares about it. Doing things the ‘right way’ in recruiting is a construct – it’s a set of rules and mores with little true moral weight which only make things better when they are the law of the Land. When that construct can be cast aside at a whim, to great benefit and at no cost to some of the ‘premier’ programs in college football, it is worse than useless.

It’s a world where the alleged defender of college athletics entire, the NCAA, has been debased from its proud and honored status to a pitiful shell of corruption, incompetence and impotence. Its abortive attempt at an offensive has met with ruination in Coral Gables, and now the remainder of the Enforcement Division huddle in Indianapolis – blatantly and laughably incapable of checking the threats arrayed against them.

Auburn knows what Stannis Baratheon knew. Stannis offered himself to a priestess, and she delivered a powerful being who slew his hated sibling and gave him – for a short while – the keys to the Kingdom. He faced no justice from the gods or the People for his vile act – he was only thrown back when even more powerful and skilled players of the Game fell up on him. Auburn offered itself to a preacher, and he delivered a powerful being who slew the hated Tide and gave them – for a short while – the keys to the Kingdom. They faced no justice from the NCAA – they were only thrown back when even more powerful and skilled players of the Game – the rest of the SEC – overtook them the following season.

Oregon knows what Tywin Lannister knew. You can orchestrate an act, reap the benefits, and even though your handwriting was literally all over the letters, the merest shred of plausible deniability is all it takes to keep the consequences from your door.

It was a rogue coach.

It was a misguided ‘fixer’ for at-risk kids.

It was the Freys.

Sure, it was.

Most fans of the Longhorns – and most fans of the Stanfords and Michigans and Notre Dames and other programs who still respect the rules of recruiting – would like to be this:

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But under the current reality, that leads to this:

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We may not want to be this:

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But under the current system, that leads to this:

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Not a fan of that binary choice? Me either. I say we go with this:

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Ser Barristan Selmy was the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard – an exemplar of the old order with unimpeachable honor. When the Lannisters seized power and threw the realm into chaos, they also sought to cast him out of his position and replace him with someone more possessed of loyalty than incorruptibility. Rather than quietly slip into retirement and lament the passing of the old order, Ser Barristan took another approach. He crossed the narrow sea and pledged himself to the only player in the Game with a true sense of justice. He is currently bending his every effort to bring her back to Westeros, to return justice to the land and repay the destroyers of the old order with fire and blood.

I’d like to call on everyone with a stake in the future of Texas Football to do one of three things.

Embrace the chaos and play the game by the same rules as the malefactors, or

Bend your every effort to burning the NCAA to ashes and replacing it with a structure that has the structural capability, moral authority and competence to enforce the rule of law, or

Shut up and take the cheating with a smile.

The facts are clearly on the table. The NCAA no longer has the desire, ability or competence to fulfill its basic mission. If we, as one of the most powerful institutions in all of college athletics, are willing to simply accept this status quo but then still complain when rules are broken with impunity, then we’ve got no more balls than this:

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The Myck Kabongo Question

Posted by    |    June 26th, 2013 at 9:41 pm

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Myck Kabongo came back to school this year in order to shore up a few weaknesses in his game and move up in the first round. Things … didn’t exactly go according to plan. After a 23-game NCAA suspension and the implosion of the Texas basketball program around him, he’s back in the NBA draft.

A lost season won’t doom his chances of playing at the next level, but it’s taken away much of his margin for error. Instead of getting a long-term commitment from a team in the form of a guaranteed first-round contract, he’ll likely be a second-round pick who has to claw his way onto a roster.

What are his chances? In answering that question about any NBA prospect, I like to break down their game into five distinct categories.

1) Can they create their own shot?

Physical ability is the biggest thing Kabongo has going for him. He has NBA size (6’3 180 with a 6’6 wingspan) and NBA speed. When he has the ball in his hands, especially in the open court, it’s very hard to stay in front of him. Kabongo will be able to get into the lane at the next level, which is a huge plus.

The question will be whether he can finish consistently when he does. He averaged 15 points a game on 42% shooting this season, which is hardly ideal. His ability to draw fouls (7.0 attempts a game) is nice, but the key will be developing a floater, ala Tony Parker.

2) Can they shoot?

That was the big question about Kabongo last year, when he had shooting percentages of 39/31/68. This season, he was at 42/30/79. An improvement, but not nearly as much as he would have liked. This, however, is a category where the stats may not tell the whole story.

The improvement on the free-throw line, as well as the eyeball test, suggests his jumper got better this year. That may be hidden by the number of difficult shots he had to take as the only real threat on the Texas roster. If he was getting a diet of open looks, his percentages might be higher.

3) Can they make plays for others?

Kabongo has the passing ability and floor vision of an NBA PG. The drive-and-kick is probably the strength of his game. The big question, right now, is his overall decision-making. He had the tendency to get sped up and make unforced errors, which NBA coaches won’t accept from their PG.

His assist (5.5) to turnover (3.2) ratio didn’t improve at all from his freshman season, which is a huge red flag. However, once again, the situation at Texas might have obscured any improvement. There weren’t many guys he could set up and there wasn’t much structure to the offense.

4) What positions can they defend?

Where I differ from many is that I don’t really worry about the type of defense guys play in college. I just assume they’ll be terrible at it at the next level, at least initially. That’s where your coaching staff comes in. What coaches can’t teach is physical ability.

In that respect, Kabongo has the physical tools to be a pretty high-level defensive PG. Good size, speed and a long reach (6’6), which is absolutely crucial. He averaged 2 steals a game this season, so at the very least, he should be able to ball-hawk coming off the bench.

5) Can they rebound?

For the most part, this is a category where the stats rarely lie. Clearing the glass translates to any level of basketball. Kabongo grabbed 5 rebounds a game this season, which is great for a PG. It’s always nice when a ball-handler can start the break himself, especially when they are as deadly in transition as Kabongo.

Add it all up and you’ve got a PG with potential in all five aspects of the game, but with serious questions about his shooting, scoring and decision-making. Those were the questions Kabongo was supposed to be answering this year.

Here’s the $64,000 question though. How would he have fared in a more stable situation? I’m looking mainly at Marquis Teague at Kentucky and Kendall Marshall at UNC, who went in the first-round last year after college careers where they were surrounded by four other first-round picks.

One of the best ways to find value in the draft is to target players from underachieving teams, because they’re often blamed for more systemic failures. Kabongo was a talented freshman who had his ups and downs. As a sophomore, very few PG’s could have thrived given his circumstances.

I have him as the No. 8 PG this year, behind Trey Burke, Michael Carter-Williams, Dennis Schroeder, Erick Green, CJ McCollum, Shane Larkin and Lorenzo Brown. That says more about the strength of the PG crop this year, though. In terms of physical tools, you can put Kabongo up there with any of them.

Right behind him, though, there’s Pierre Jackson, Phil Pressey, Ray McCallum Jr. and Nate Wolters. I think all those guys can play in the NBA. At the very least, they’re all better than Mike James. The margin for error to make the league is really small as a PG. They aren’t C’s; people won’t give them a bunch of chances.

Kabongo reminds me a lot of Schroeder, a 19-year old from Germany who rose after a dominant performance at the Hoop Summit this year. In all likelihood, if Kabongo had been able to declare for the draft as a 19-year old coming out of Canada, he would have gone in the same 10-20 range where Schroeder is projected.

After missing so much playing time this season, Kabongo would benefit from playing 30-35+ minutes a night in the D-League next year. For a team in the late first-round/early second range with a NBDL franchise, he would be the perfect gamble.

I’d suggest the Spurs, but they’re already performing a reclamation project on Cory Joseph, the last Canadian PG who left Texas way too early. Personally, I was more impressed by Kabongo than Joseph in college, but I really wasn’t big on Joseph, so I’m curious how everyone else sees that comparison.

Here’s where Kabongo’s career in Austin has to leave a sour taste. Even if he does succeed in the NBA, it will be in spite of his time with the Longhorns. Hardly the kind of thing you can trumpet in recruiting.

Oregon Football Sanctions Indistinguishable From Mild Breeze

Posted by    |    June 26th, 2013 at 12:55 pm

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Today, the NCAA announced the punishment for Oregon Football’s infractions, mostly stemming from payments to Will Lyles and Baron Flenory (two street agent arbitrageurs we’ve written about extensively in the past) to influence recruits to Eugene.

Chip Kelly fled to the Philadelphia Eagles from Oregon in the face of those NCAA sanctions just as Pete Carroll fled USC to the Seattle Seahawks before him.

Sorry, I mean, they left for the unique challenge of the NFL.

It proved to be a smart move for Pete. He built Seattle into a Super Bowl contender as the Trojans lost 30 scholarships over three years and received a two year postseason bowl ban. Since then, and with the help of Kiffinness, the Trojans have managed a 25-13 record (17-10 in the conference). A program that was once the subject of weekly orgasmic frenzy from ESPN is now covered about as frequently as North Carolina State.

Since becoming head coach in 2009, Chip Kelly went 46-7 at Oregon (33-3 in conference) and played in four BCS games, including a last second loss in the 2010 National Championship to street agent mirror image Auburn. Was Kelly’s harried flight from the Ducks – which fooled a lot of experts – as auspiciously timed as Pete’s?

Nope. Chip might’ve just rode this one out.

The NCAA’s crippling penalties are:

• Public reprimand and censure.
• Three years of probation from June 26, 2013 through June 25, 2016.
• An 18-month show cause order for the former head coach.
• A one-year show-cause order for the former assistant director of operations.
A reduction of initial football scholarships by one from the maximum allowed (25) during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years (imposed by the university).
• A reduction of total football scholarships by one from the maximum allowed (85) during the 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 academic years (imposed by the university).
• A reduction of official paid football visits to from 56 to 37 for the 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years.
• A reduction of permissible football evaluation days from 42 to 36 in the fall of 2013, 2014 and 2015 and permissible football evaluation days from 168 to 144 in the spring of 2014, 2015 and 2016.
A ban on the subscription to recruiting services during the probation period.
• A disassociation of the recruiting service provider. (imposed by the university).

OH NO! PUBLIC REPRIMAND! And they have to get their Rivals account under the name of a Graduate Assistant and have him share his password. And they lose a scholarship, which most programs are shy of anyway during the season and award the extra to a walk-on. Incredible. Oregon is caught red-handed buying recruits through admitted street agents and the NCAA offers penalties that can be interpreted as nothing less than tacit approval.

This is comedy. If you’re an ambitious football program unconcerned about your reputation (a street agent’s leverage is precisely related to how much you care about your own reputation) and you’re not cheating right now, you’re missing out on a golden window of opportunity.