You Got Served - UConn FTW edition

Happy Tuesday, friends, and welcome to a Great day to be from Connecticut edition of You Got Served.  As you can imagine, I was tied up for most of Monday evening, so this is going to be shorter than usual, but since it didn’t really cost you anything, I was thinking you’d be happy enough with it anyway.  Armed with home-state pride, a minor snakebite buzz, and the knowledge that I’m unlikely to wind down enough to fall asleep until about 3 AM, we’re getting underway.  Ready…. BEGIN!!

1.  In case you hadn’t heard, not much of substance has been going on in the NFL lately, and a couple weeks ago, I swore off speculating on the CBA situation until something real happens.  I knew in a small way that I was handicapping my ability to find interesting football topics during the lockout, but I didn’t quite fully appreciate the gravity of the decision.

Of course, I’m a stubborn SOB, so I am sticking to my guns, so add that to the more obvious reasons I’m hoping for an injunction in the next couple weeks.  Your boy needs something to write about.

Something interesting beyond the glorious Connecticut victory happened today, actually.  I made a deal on a new place to live and decided to rent a townhouse in Westlake, which is one of the nicest suburbs of Cleveland.  A key feature of the new place is that I am able to get DirecTV and fire Time Warner Cable, which is the corporate personification of awfulness.

I didn’t exactly announce this during the OneManFootball era, but a key reason that I was less prolific as a writer in 2010 than I had been the previous two seasons was that I didn’t have access to nearly as many games.  I have a policy that I don’t comment on football that I haven’t seen with my own eyes, so I honestly had less to say.

That’s not going to be the case going forward.  We’re going to get back to something like the time when I saw about 150 games in 2009 thanks to the magic of DirecTV’s ShortCuts.  You’ll start hearing about YGS Favorites, which is sort of like an ST&NO Favorite from back in the day.  In honor of the excitement I feel about this, I decided to name a Draft class version of an All-YGS Favorites Team.  As usual, I try to avoid the obvious, unlike Jeff Legwold.

Offense

QB – Colin Kaepernick  Nevada –  I like the way Kaepernick runs and throws, and I think he has a lot of upside to become a good NFL QB.  The conventional wisdom would say that he can’t play right away, but I think if he were part of a team like Minnesota (which has a good running game and defense already in place), he could have a Roethlisberger-like rookie season - if he’s managed well.  He’s a very bright kid with a reported 37 on the Wonderlic, and I always liked his mental approach at Nevada.  The average commentator would have you think that there's no mental aspect to running a "gimmicky college offense" like Nevada's Pistol, but that's silly.

RB – DeMarco Murray  Oklahoma – I don’t tend to like Oklahoma players that much, but I think Murray is very underrated, because he wasn’t ever used to his full potential.  He has an outstanding feel for the passing game, including how to pick up a blitz and run downfield routes.  Even beyond that, though, he’s a tough runner between the tackles.  I think he’s a slightly less dynamic and more football-skilled version of Jamaal Charles.

RB – Jordan Todman  UConn – Todman runs with great pad level and quickness, and he’s going to be better on a per-play basis in the NFL than he was in college.  At UConn, he was a bit handicapped by the fact that UConn didn’t scare anybody in the passing game, so he saw a lot of 8- and 9-man fronts. 

WR – Terrence Toliver  LSU –  Toliver is big and physical, and he made a lot of tough catches for LSU.  He’s more fast and fluid than a lot of 6-foot-3 guys, and somebody is going to get a solid outside-the-numbers player buying low on him in the 4th or 5th round.  He’s a classic case of a WR who was hurt by lousy quarterbacking.

WR – Jerrel Jernigan  Troy  – I only saw one Troy game in 2010, and it was against Oklahoma State, in an unexpected 41-38 Cowboys shootout victory.  Jernigan really flashed to me in that game with 10 catches for 87 yards and a TD, along with a 100-yard kickoff return for a TD.  I think he’s going to be a good slot guy in the NFL and a quality return guy.  In other news, I’m the opposite of “in love” with the WR class of 2011, as evidenced by my selections of two guys who are likely to become functional role players.

TE – D.J. Williams  Arkansas – I liked what I saw from Williams the last two years, and I find it a little silly that measurables are dragging him down.  He’s a football player, and he’ll be a good one in the NFL too.  TE is a position where a guy knowing how to play can go a really long way when it comes to being a good receiver in the middle of the field.

OT – Derek Sherrod  Mississippi State  – Sherrod is going to be a steal for somebody at the end of the first round just like Rodger Saffold was for the Rams atop the second round last year.  Sherrod has the best skill-set of all of the LT prospects this year, and only the still-developing Tyron Smith is even close.

OT – Lee Ziemba  Auburn  –  I like offensive linemen who are four-year starters, because it’s such a mentally demanding position to play.  Ziemba will be a starting RT early in his career, and he’ll be good pretty quickly at it.

OG – Mike Pouncey  Florida –  Pouncey is pretty bad at snapping the ball, and he’s not quite the quick-twitch athlete that his brother is (Maurkice can snap the ball and still get out of his stance with power and explosion).  These two facts tell me that Mike is best as a Guard in the NFL.  He’ll be a Pro Bowl-caliber one before very long.

OG – James Carpenter  Alabama  –  Carpenter looks like a big masher, and you'd think that he would be, coming from Alabama; but he’s actually a lot better in pass protection than in the running game.  That’s what I like about him, because the NFL is a passing league.  I have a lot of love for Guards who can anchor playing backward, and Carpenter showed a consistent ability to do so against almost everybody he faced.

C – Stefen Wisniewski  Penn State –  Wisniewski is clearly not for everybody, but on a team that is doing a lot of zone-blocking, I think he can be a starting Center.  He’s the nephew of longtime (excellent, said as quietly as possible) Raiders Center Steve Wisniewski, and guys with good bloodlines tend to make it a lot.  ESPN has Stefen at 6-foot-3, and 313 pounds, but his lower half looks light to me, and he needs to be in the right scheme to be successful.

Defense

DE – Ryan Kerrigan  Purdue – If you like guys who play really hard, Kerrigan is your kind of player.  A lot of DEs like to go somewhat half-speed in the running game and then turn it on in the passing game, but Kerrigan plays the run with real enthusiasm, and he has huge success in that phase of the game.  For all the talk about how he can be a 3-4 OLB, I think he needs to be a Left DE in a Cover-2 scheme to be most successful.

DE – Steven Friday  Virginia Tech – I have certain schools whose players I always seem to like (Florida, USC, LSU, Alabama), and others who I always seem not to like (Ohio State, Texas, Penn State, Michigan).  It has to do with the kind of talent that the schools attract, but more than that, it relates to coaching.  Virginia Tech is kind of easily forgotten in the ACC (which is practically a mid-major football league unless Miami and Florida State are good), but the Hokies have been a strong program for a couple of decades now, and it is all about excellent coaching.  I trust their defensive players and the skills they’ve acquired, and I’ve been impressed with Friday in several games where I’ve seen him play.  I think he’ll be a solid rotational edge rusher and special teams guy, and with the 5th- or 6th-rounder that it will probably take to draft him, that’s good value.

DT – Nick Fairley  Auburn – With all the reporterthink nonsense that’s been out about Nick Fairley, I need to reiterate some things.  The guy was a dominant football player for the National Champions.  He also has the best combination of quick feet and skilled hands of any DT I’ve ever seen coming out of college.  He’s going to be a bigger, tougher-against-the-run version of John Randle, and if he really slips like the mockers are saying, somebody is going to get a steal.

DT – Marvin Austin  North Carolina – Austin has the talent of a Top 10 pick, but he somehow has been unable to convince the Draft commentariat of that.  I think he started last season around #3 on Mel Kiper’s Big Board, but he’s now suddenly this flawed guy.  Robert Quinn seems to have overcome the same treatment, but not Austin.  In any case, I’d be really happy to have Austin if he were to be available at the #36 pick, so hopefully, he stays undervalued.

ILB – Kelvin Sheppard  LSU – Sheppard was a key player in a couple of very strong LSU defenses, and I think his skill-set translates well to being a starting Mike LB in the NFL.  While he’s not really dynamic, he has very good size, pretty good speed, and good instincts.  I think he’s a lot like former Tiger Bradie James, and that he’s ultimately going to be scheme-indifferent as an inside player.

OLB – Mark Herzlich  Boston College – I think that Herzlich is the likeliest candidate in this Draft to be everybody’s favorite “try hard white guy” (hereafter in YGS, the THWG).  He has a pretty inspirational story of overcoming cancer, he is white, and he does try hard.  It’s a good story, and reporters love those, which is how so many of them talked themselves into picking Butler last night.  Anyhow, the story doesn’t matter on the field, and in terms of natural football talent and ability, Herzlich is on a really high level, comparable to Brian Cushing or Lance Briggs.  His 2010 film isn’t that impressive after his year away from football, and while I find that understandable, that’s what is making him a 4th- or 5th-rounder right now.  I would consider taking him in the 3rd round, counting on him getting fully back into shape and being outstanding.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

OLB – Scott Lutrus UConn – I promise, this is not a white-guy lovefest, especially after I just kind of made fun of the lovers of the THWG.  Lutrus was a little bit of a late bloomer at UConn, but he eventually played all three LB positions, graduated with honors, and had outstanding measurables at the Combine.  This is a guy who has a chance to be very useful in the NFL with good coaching and half an opportunity.

CB – Ras-I Dowling  Virginia – Dowling is a really good football player, and I really like his size and production in college.  I think he’s got the ability to instantly be a starter for a team like the Bears or Bucs, who use a lot of Cover-2.  He’ll always need help over the top against the fastest WRs, but his ability to re-route WRs, support the run, and cover in short areas are superior.

CB – DeMarcus Van Dyke  Miami (FL) – When you’re the fastest guy on the Miami roster, you’re really, really fast.  Van Dyke is a little bit thin, and not tremendously experienced as a football player, but after seeing the Packers strike gold with Sam Shields, Van Dyke is the kind of guy I’d take a chance with.

S – Ahmad Black  Florida – Everybody knows I like Black, but I have an update.  I saw somewhere the other day that teams are thinking of Black more as a CB than as a Safety, despite his slow 40 times.  That’s a little bit counterintuitive, off the top, but I think they’re seeing him as a short-area zone guy.  Whatever the position, Black is going to find the football and catch it when it comes to him.

S – Zac Etheridge   Auburn – Etheridge has the look of a backup safety and ace special teamer to me.  I like his activity level and propensity for being around the football.  He’ll make a football team and contribute as a late-round pick.

Specialists

K – Wes Byrum  Auburn – Byrum isn’t the biggest-legged guy ever, but he’s accurate and consistent.  I think the new kickoff rules will help him make a team.

P – Chas Henry  Florida – Henry is an outstanding punter who as a senior was forced to also play the role of placekicker due to an injury to Caleb Sturgis.  He had a really good 2010 punting the ball (47.3 yard average, won the Ray Guy Award), and a really tough one as a Kicker.  I think he’s a 15-year NFL punter, and worth a 5th-round pick.

2.  I wanted to write a few thoughts about last night’s national championship basketball game and the way it was covered by the media.  It gets to some themes that I somehow come across repeatedly, and you can consider it my take on some philosophical sports issues.

a.  Anybody who says that that was a poorly played game lacks much of a feel for basketball.  I’m obviously talking about a lot of people in the ESPNosphere, especially a-clown Rece Davis.  Defense is a legitimate way to win a basketball game, morons, and last night featured two outstanding defensive performances, with UConn’s just happening to be the greatest ever in a national championship game.

b.  You know what makes me crazy about reporters more than anything?  They always want to assign some hidden meaning to things where none is present.  One example is this nonsense about how the UConn women losing in the Final Four is good for women’s college basketball.  The teams that play the best winning the games is good for all sports, and on Sunday night, that was Notre Dame, so congratulations to them.  There’s no deeper meaning beyond the fact that the team who played better appropriately won.

Same deal with last night’s game.  Suddenly, the narrative is that Butler was somehow finally exposed as a pretender who didn’t belong because they had a historically bad shooting night, thanks mostly to the length, athleticism, skill, and effort of the UConn defense.  Tell that nonsense to Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Florida, and VCU.  Butler was a really efficient offensive team most of the season that got moderately outplayed in an overall sense last night by a team that happened to be a really tough matchup for them.  There’s no deeper meaning at hand.  Butler has no apologies to make to anybody for finishing as the runner-up for a second year in a row.

c.  All this media stink on UConn about this Nate Miles stuff revolves around a player who never played a single game for the Huskies.  I’m not saying that the UConn basketball program is necessarily clean, because it’s no more likely it is or isn’t than any other major program.  I am saying that this flippant speculation by the moron reporter corps (especially including idiot Broncos fan Pat Forde) that this Final Four or National Title may have to be vacated ala John Calipari’s first two visits with UMass and Memphis, is completely without current evidentiary basis. 

d.  This UConn team was a really young group that fully bought into the messaging of the coaching staff and visibly evolved from a talented team that lacked experience and poise into a really powerful basketball team by season’s end.  I always like to see that, because it gives me hope that any team in any sport, coming off a tough year, can reset itself with some youth, get back to basics, and change things up.

3.  Big up my niece Bella Grace Tyler of Norwich, Connecticut for drawing media attention in a couple of different venues for her exploits as a reader.  (This library trade publication got her last name wrong, but whatevs...  It's not like details matter, right?)  Bella, who is a 7-year-old second grader, is reading at a couple of grade levels above that, and has put down more than 850 books in the last nine months.  She’s looking good for making her goal of 1,050 books in a year, and her Uncle Ted is proud of her.

That’s all I have for this week, friends.  I’m off to Las Vegas on Thursday night and back Monday evening, so chances are that I’ll be radio-silent for awhile.  I’ll shoot for having something Tuesday or Wednesday-ish of next week.  Until then, I hope everybody has a fantastic next week or so.

1.  I’m not in the arguing business, I’m in the saying what I think business.
2.  I get my information from my eyes.

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