Campus Connection: Weekend Notebook

  • By John Antonik
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  • April 20, 2014 11:21 AM
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With a long home stand on the horizon, Coach Randy Mazey's Mountaineer baseball team has a chance to improve its postseason credentials.
All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks Photo
West Virginia’s series victory at Oklahoma this weekend has given the Mountaineers a big RPI boost, according to Boyd’s World.
WVU is now 33rd after Saturday’s come-from-behind, 9-5 victory over the Sooners in Norman with a long home stand on the horizon against some quality opponents.
On Tuesday, the Mountaineers will face 24-13 Maryland, which has already claimed the first two games of a three-game series against Georgia Tech and will go for the series sweep today in College Park. The Terps currently have an RPI of 17, according to Boyd’s World.
After facing Marshall in Morgantown on Wednesday, West Virginia will battle Kansas State in a three-game Big 12 weekend series at Hawley Field. The Wildcats currently have an RPI of 59, according to Boyd’s World, but sit at the bottom of the league standings with a 4-8 recording that includes a 1-5 mark in league road games.
Then, a midweek trip to Charleston to face Marshall will precede a big three-game series against Texas, May 2-4 in Morgantown. The Longhorns were swept last weekend by TCU, but still boast a 30-11 record and an RPI of nine heading into this week’s action.
Seven of the nine teams in the Big 12 currently have an RPI of 59 or higher, and all but two – West Virginia and Baylor – have already reached the 20-victory mark so far this season.
Incidentally, West Virginia has the second-highest RPI in the country without 20 wins. Stanford, which is two games under .500 at 15-17, has an RPI of 27.
That’s a testament to the strong schedule coach Randy Mazey has put together for his team – particularly his willingness to play quality teams on the road.
- There was an erroneous report in the Tennessean and picked up the NBC Sports blogging site CollegeBasketballTalk yesterday afternoon stating that West Virginia associate head coach Larry Harrison would be named the new men's basketball coach at Tennessee State.
However, Harrison sent a text message to the Morgantown Dominion Post on Saturday saying that he was remaining on Bob Huggins’ Mountaineer staff. Harrison was one of six finalists for the Redbirds job, which is set to go to Illinois State associate head coach Dana Ford when he is formally introduced on Monday.
- I saw where West Virginia’s JaJuan Seider was recently ranked third among college football assistant coaches in a recent online power ranking of the top recruiters. Ahead of Seider on this list was Texas A&M’s B.J. Anderson and Alabama’s Kirby Smart.
- Last week, former Mountaineer standout shortstop Jedd Gyorko inked a five-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres with a club option for a sixth year.
The deal is worth $35 million with the Padres buying out at least a year of free agency and potentially two. According to ESPN.com, Gyorko’s $35 million in guaranteed money is the third-largest in baseball for a player with just one year of major league service, trailing Atlanta’s Andrelton Simmons and Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun.
Gyorko hit a team-best 23 home runs in 125 games last season at second base. So far this year Gyorko is off to a slow start, hitting just .155 with one home run and eight RBI in 17 games.
- There is some quarterback swapping going on around the country right now, especially in the Big 12, where TCU bid goodbye to backup Tyler Matthews and will welcome Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckel.
Joeckel is expected to battle Trevone Boykin for the starting job this year.
Also, down in Lubbock, Michael Brewer left Texas Tech for Virginia Tech and the Red Raiders have also seen walk-on backups Tanner Tausch and Mike Richardson depart the program, leaving them with just one quarterback on the roster right now in sophomore Davis Webb.
Four newcomers are on the way, though, led by touted QB signee Patrick Mahomes, a three-star prospect from Whitehouse, Texas.
Elsewhere, Jalen Whitlow has announced that he is leaving Kentucky and Chad Kelly was dismissed at Clemson. More QB movement is probably on the way once spring practices around the country are completed.
Speaking of Big 12 quarterbacks, here is one person’s best guess on the other nine starting quarterbacks around the league in 2014, with 2013 stats in parenthesis:
Baylor – Bryce Petty (250-403, 4,200 yards, 32 TD, 3 INT)
Iowa State – Grant Rohach (110-191, 1,208, 8 TD, 7 INT)
Kansas – Montell Cozart (23-63, 227, 0 TD, 2 INT)
Kansas State – Jake Waters (159-260, 2,469 yards, 18 TD, 9 INT)
Oklahoma – Trevor Knight (79-134, 819, 9 TD, 5 INT)
Oklahoma State – J.W. Walsh (113-190, 1,333 yards, 9 TD, 5 INT)
TCU – Trevone Boykin (105-176, 1,198 yards, 7 TD, 7 INT)
Texas – David Ash (53-87, 760 yards, 7 TD, 2 INT)
Texas Tech – Davis Webb (226-361, 2,718 yards, 20 TD, 9 INT)
- This year’s list of Big 12 early entrants for the 2014 NBA draft includes Kansas duo Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid and Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart. All three are expected to go in the first round.
The auto-eligible list of Big 12 players for this year’s draft include Baylor’s Cory Jefferson, Oklahoma State’s Markel Brown, Iowa State’s DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim, Oklahoma’s Cameron Clark, Kansas’ Tarik Black, Texas Tech’s Jaye Crockett and Kansas State’s Shane Southwell.
Oklahoma State junior forward LeBryan Nash and Baylor center Isaiah Austin are still undecided.
Among the draft-eligible players returning are West Virginia’s Juwan Staten and Kansas’ Wayne Selden.
- I spent a half hour talking to Scott Hallenbeck, executive director of USA Football, last Wednesday afternoon before he gave a presentation to the community as part of the Don Nehlen Lecture Series.
While going through my notes, I noticed this concerning the trending participation levels in youth football … "In 2007 and there were 3 million kids playing tackle football, ages 6 to 14. It tracked along there pretty flat and plateaued until 2012 when it dropped six percent to about 2.84 (million). In 2013, it dropped to about 2.54 (million),” said Hallenbeck. “That’s almost half a million in two years and that’s pretty dramatic.”
He continued.
“We started tracking flag football participation and that dropped 15 percent in one year. That shocked me,” he said. “I was under the impression that if kids were going to leave football they were going to go to flag or start in flag as a good entry point into the game, and we haven’t seen that.”
Hallenbeck then countered those sobering statistics with the success USA Football has had with Heads Up Football, which has close to 3,000 youth football organizations signed up out of approximately 10,000 across the country.
“What that screams is people love the game and they are desperate for a tangible, action-based solution,” he said. “We don’t suggest that we have all the answers. We’re evolving. We’re providing a meaningful program that we’re tracking and testing and evaluating and refining as we go forward. That kind of response is significant.”
In addition to on-field safety and a coaching certification program, one of the other services USA Football provides through its Heads Up Program are background checks for its youth coaches.
“It’s expensive and it’s not easy,” Hallenbeck said. “But it’s incredibly important. One of the things we want to do is to educate the parents.”
One of the biggest issues Hallenbeck sees on the high school level is the growing trend of summer “7-on-7 leagues” that are going on unregulated in some of the nation’s top talent-producing states.
“It’s a major concern,” he said. “The states that don’t allow their high school coaches, or at least their designees, to work with their student-athletes and manage the team I just think is a really significant issue. Third parties are the biggest problem because they become recruiting services.”
What happens is third parties, likely working with one of the prominent shoe manufacturers, are developing relationships with some of the best players in the country and are steering them to certain schools, oftentimes without the parents’ knowledge, according to Hallenbeck.
“This is not in the best interest of the student-athlete,” he said. “If you are a state association, at least control what you can control. You can control the high school coaches or their designees, but you can’t control a third party if they have no idea who they are.”
That certainly makes a lot of sense to me.
Have a great Easter!