Introducing Making an Athlete- a new YouTube Series from George Wrighster and Ralph Amsden at UnafraidShow.com, where we talk to parents, coaches, trainers, and athletes themselves about everything that goes into making an athlete. Here, you’ll find stories of overcoming adversities, roadmaps for success, and lessons from failures on the path toward raising up young athletes.
On the first episode, George Wrighster talks about growing up wanting to play QB, but not having the opportunity that is now afforded to his sons. We get into how race and privilege play a role in the potential for success in a modern athlete, and what his ultimate hopes are as he helps his kids on their athletic journey.
Have a take you’d like us to address?Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll read your take on a future Mailbag or Wrighster or Wrong podcast.
If you’re reading this, then it’s too late. There’s no turning back now. The biggest movie of the year is Spider-Man: No Way Home, and I’m ready to talk about it. Spoilers are on the way. You have been warned.
Seriously, turn around if you haven’t seen the film yet.
I’m running out of videos so this is your final warning.
Spider-Man: No Way Home Thoughts And Reactions
– Where do I even begin? Let’s start with the most obvious talking point. We got the meme.
I knew this moment was coming and it still surprised me. When Ned opened a portal and Spider-Man ran closer to it, you knew it was Andrew Garfield or Tobey Maguire. Once Garfield removed his mask, my theater exploded like it was a buzzer-beater in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. People were screaming with joy, jumping out of their seats with huge smiles on their faces. As Ned tried to open the second portal, the same murmur began as the entire theater waited for Tobey Maguire to enter. Tobey enters the screen, and the theater once again broke the sound barrier. These reactions are exactly why Sony and Marvel choose not to reveal these former heroes in the trailer.
– One of the first swerves of the film occurred when Doctor Strange agreed to cast the spell for Peter, which would make the entire world forget about his identity. However, Strange decided to stop the spell when Peter asked for multiple exceptions as to who would remember him.
Here’s my issue. Doctor Strange is supposed to be one of the smartest and most powerful sorcerers in the world. This is the same guy who went forward in time to view alternate futures to see all the possible outcomes of the battle with Thanos. I’m supposed to believe that Peter’s requests would distract Doctor Strange from completing the spell? Peter asked for MJ, Ned, Aunt May, and Happy to remember his identity as well as anyone else who previously knew his identity. It’s not like he named his entire high school by name. There’s no way Doctor Strange messes this spell up. I refuse to believe it.
– The best part of this trilogy is the relationship between Peter, MJ, and Ned. No Way Home went out of their way to emphasize this three-way friendship. From the college decisions to their final goodbye, you could argue that Ned is just as important to Peter as MJ. These three young stars have such good chemistry that I would love to explore these characters in another film. Perhaps they go to MIT and Peter tries to be Spider-Man in Boston.
– The villains. For me, superhero films are only as strong as their villains. The Dark Knight went from great to iconic because of Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker. In No Way Home. The film had five supervillains from previous iterations of Spider-Man including Electro, Lizard, and Sandman. But, the two that deserve the most praise are Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin and Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus. In my opinion, these two performances are on the Mount Rushmore of Supervillains in the 21st century. When highly-trained actors like Dafoe and Molina get to play in the comic book sandbox, great things will happen.
Dafoe’s over-the-top and downright evil performance as Green Goblin is so effective that it works as the main antagonist of the film. Another swerve I enjoyed involved Molina’s Doctor Octopus. The trailer sets up Doc Ock as a true villain, but once Peter cures the harness, he becomes an ally of the Spider-Men. (Can we call them the “Spider-Men?”)
– Everything about the Spider-Men team-up worked. The inside jokes, the speeches about grief, the interactions during the fight, etc. It was all executed to perfection. Jokes about Tobey’s back and Peter 1’s inclusion in the Avengers were crowdpleasers. I couldn’t stop smiling when the three Peters’ were onscreen.
– Garfield’s dive to save MJ as a callback to when Gwen died absolutely wrecked me.
– Speaking of Garfield, he probably channels the essence of Peter Parker the best out of the three actors. Peter is supposed to be this witty and charming persona and Garfield’s the best when it comes to these characteristics. Tobey had the tough job of going first while Holland played teenage Parker admirably, but Garfield is the best actor to play the role. He stole the show out of the three Spideys. I just wish he had better superhero movies to showcase his talents. As it turns out, he may get the chance!
– Tom Holland is a really good Spider-Man. I’m excited to see where he goes from here since he’s now an A-list actor.
– I liked the ending of this film. I’m a fan of conclusions, and this felt like the ending of a successful trilogy. However, it does leave the door open to see how Peter has moved on in a world post-spell. Did he make new friendships? Did he make new enemies? Can he win back MJ and Ned? I’d be interested in a fourth film.
Overall, No Way Home lived up to the hype. It’s a theater experience that I will never forget.
My official rankings:
What are your thoughts on No Way Home? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet me, @danny_giro.
On this episode of Wrighster or Wrong, George Wrighster interviews former president of HBO Sports, Ross Greenburg.
Next, George and Ralph Amsden discuss some of the more outlandish outfits that were worn to the Met Gala. In Cancel or Consequence, was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Wrighster or Wrong for wearing a “tax the rich” dress to the expensive event, and how mad should people be at Nikki Minaj for telling her 22 million followers that the Covid Vaccine made her cousin’s friend impotent? Also, George and Ralph go through the legitimacy of some of the names that have been floated for the open USC football job.
Click any of the following links to listen to Wrighster or Wrong on your preferred Podcast platform
Welcome to the UnafraidShow.com NCAA Football Top 25, from George Wrighster. Each week, Wrighster will update his Top 25 according to the results and his opinion, and I’ll provide analysis of where I think he went right and wrong.
Since this is the preseason top 25, I’ll wait until the results start to come in before criticizing the boss man (Although he does have Arizona State criminally low, and Iowa State over Notre Dame is certainly eyebrow raising).
On this week’s episode of the Pac-12 Apostles Podcast, George Wrighster and Ralph Amsden start out by derailing the entire show to have a 30-minute argument over whether or not Nirvana was a band on the level of Bon Jovi or Red Hot Chili Peppers. After that, they discuss the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 Alliance, and the Pac-12’s decision to not add any other teams at this time. George Wrighster interviews Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal, and the guys analyze the interview. George and Ralph go thorough the Las Vegas Pac-12 win totals for every team, and give their predictions, and then preview this weekend’s Pac-12 opener of UCLA hosting Hawaii. Finally, they give their thoughts on some of the Pac-12’s settled and unsettled QB battles.
Make sure you like and subscribe to the Pac-12 Apostles Podcast with George Wrighster and Ralph Amsden on any podcasting app.
Who are the Pac-12 Apostles?
The Pac-12 Apostles is a podcast for fans who love the Pac-12 conference. George Wrighster and Ralph Amsden are committed to the honest and fair conversation about the conference. Join us by becoming a Pac-12 Apostle. Subscribe and share the podcast.
Please leave a rating and review of our podcast on iTunes! We record a podcast once a week with emergency episodes when necessary. Our podcasts are always heavy on Pac-12 football. But we make it a point to also try and cover the other notable Men’s and Women’s Pac-12 sports. We cover recruiting and any other major storyline in the Pac-12 universe.
George Wrighster is a former Pac-12 and long-time NFL tight end. As a television/radio host, opinionist, and analyst, who is UNAFRAID to speak the truth. Contrary to industry norms he uses, facts, stats, and common sense to win an argument. He has covered college football, basketball, NFL, NBA, MLB since 2014. Through years of playing college football, covering bowl games, coaching changes, and scandals, he has a great pulse for the conference and national perspective.
Ralph Amsden is a Wyoming-born sportswriter and podcaster who spends his days tweeting through the misadventures that come with shuttling four kids around the Arizona desert. Ralph is the publisher of Rivals’ ArizonaVarsity.com, the founder of ArizonaSportsCast.com, and was previously the managing editor of the Arizona State Rivals affiliate, DevilsDigest.com. He is also a professional hater of all things pineapple. Whether you’re talking food, movies, music, parenting, politics, sports, television, religion, or zoological factoids, Ralph has questions for you. He might be sub-.500 in spousal disputes and schoolyard fights, but he’s always UNAFRAID to square up.
Hope Solo is no stranger to controversy, and neither is Megan Rapinoe. Both women have made it a point to use their platform to further the causes they care most about, and while it’s Megan Rapinoe’s social stances (or lack of stance, but we’ll get to that in a moment), the thing that seems to keep Hope Solo in the news is her choice of phrase.
This time, in the midst of attempting to make a nuanced point about the division that surrounds the activism of the US Women’s National Team, she used one of the biggest buzz words anyone can use- bully. And she used it in reference to her old friend and teammate…
“I’ve seen Megan Rapinoe almost bully players into kneeling because she really wants to stand up for something in her particular way. But it’s our right as Americans to do it whatever way we’re comfortable with and I think that’s really hard being on the main stage right now with so many political issues for athletes. There’s a lot of pressure and ultimately at the end of the day our number one focus should and has always been to win first.”
Hope Solo was in the middle of a reasonable thought about the way the country as a whole reacts to athletes protesting during the national anthem, saying “Right now what I’ve seen is there’s been so much debate about the kneeling, about the not kneeling. I know most people stand against discrimination, and I live in the south, I live in a very conservative area here in North Carolina in the south. Obviously I have friends on both sides of the aisle, but I think the kneeling thing can be very divisive.”
She’s not wrong. Kneeling during the anthem is factually, objectively, palpably divisive… and that’s sort of the point of it. But, as legions of people have pointed out on social media, Hope Solo wasn’t exactly around for the kneeling. She’d been suspended from competition for six months just days before Megan Rapinoe first publicly protested.
Her suspension came after calling the Swedish National Team “cowardly” for their style of play, and for raising the ire of the entire city of Rio for saying she was “begrudgingly” traveling to the Olympic games amidst Zika virus concerns. On both occasions, she was left to clarify seemingly reasonable intent due to less than stellar word choice. So here we are, yet again. Not only is bully a word that is sure to get everyone riled up, the timeline of the accusation is undoubtedly going to lead to a need for further explanation.
UnafraidShow.com founder George Wrighster gets into all that and more here:
Have a take you’d like us to read and address in a future article or on a future show? Email us at email@example.com and we’ll address your take.
The Pac-12 Apostles Podcast is back, but how much longer will the Pac-12 be the Pac-12? George Wrighster and Ralph Amsden discuss whether or not it’s wise to bring on any Big 12 teams. George interviews Stanford head coach David Shaw, and asks him some questions that he thought Shaw might not be prepared to answer- but as usual, Shaw has thoughtful opinions, rebuttals, and defenses for any and all of George’s inquiries. Last, George and Ralph discuss the Pac-12 preseason media poll and all-conference honors.
The 2021 Pac-12 Media Day took place in Hollywood, California on Tuesday, July 27th, and the comments of new commissioner George Kliavkoff, as well as all 12 head coaches were streamed on Pac-12.com.
With last year’s media day being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this was the first time many of the Pac-12’s players and coaches have been able to gather in one place since the 2019 offseason.
Here were my takeaways from an interesting day of interviews:
The Media Picks Oregon and USC (As Usual)
For the fourth time since the formation of the Pac-12, the media picked both Oregon to win the North Division, and USC to win the South Division. Here are the results of the media poll:
1. Oregon (38)
1. USC (27)
2. Washington (2)
2. Utah (6)
3. Arizona State (6)
4. UCLA (1)
5. Oregon State
6. Washington State
If history has taught us anything, it’s that the majority of any conference’s media members have a fairly decent handle on the team they cover… and not much else. So for the Pac-12 media to roll with last year’s Pac-12 Title Game representatives is no surprise. My personal Pac-12 picks look a little different than the media poll:
1. Arizona State
4. Washington State
6. Oregon State
I’m sure George Wrighster will hate this, but if I picked Oregon to go undefeated he’d probably find a way to criticize me for saying Oregon wouldn’t hold every opponent scoreless, so if he’s going to be mad anyway, I might as well pick his rival school to win the Pac-12 North. As far as the South, while I know Arizona State is embroiled in scandal, I’m always a huge believer in returning talent, and almost the entire Sun Devil roster returns, along with some transfer portal upgrades at tight end and on the offensive line.
Evaluating the Media’s All-Pac 12 Team
One advantage of covering high school football and recruiting is being able to make an educated guess on which players might be poised to have a breakout season rather than just relying on the previous year’s stats. Below are the Pac-12 media selections for the first and second teams headed into the 2021 season, and below that is my take:
First Team Offense
Second Team Offense
Kedon Slovis, USC
Jayden Daniels, Arizona State
Jarek Broussard, Colorado
CJ Verdell, Oregon
Max Borghi, Washington State
Rachaad White, Arizona State
Drake London, USC
Johnny Johnson III, Oregon
Kyle Philips, UCLA
Britain Covey, Utah
Cade Otton, Washington
Greg Dulcich, UCLA
Jaxson Kirkland, Washington
Nathan Eldridge, Oregon State
Abraham Lucas, Washington State
Sataoa Laumea, Utah
Dohnovan West, Arizona State
Michael Saffell, California*
Nick Ford, Utah
Kellen Diesch, Arizona State
Alex Forsyth, Oregon
Sean Rhyan, UCLA
First Team Defense
Second Team Defense
Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
Tyler Johnson, Arizona State
Mika Tafua, Utah
Nick Figueroa, USC
Thomas Booker, Stanford
Tuli Tuipulotu, USC
Jermayne Lole, Arizona State
Terrance Lang, Colorado
Devin Lloyd, Utah
Noah Sewell, Oregon
Drake Jackson, USC
Edefuan Ulofoshio, Washington
Nate Landman, Colorado
Avery Roberts, Oregon State
Mykael Wright, Oregon
Isaiah Pola-Mao, USC
Trent McDuffie, Washington
Mekhi Blackmon, Colorado
Chase Lucas, Arizona State
Evan Fields, Arizona State
Chris Steele, USC
Verone McKinley III, Oregon
First Team Specialists
Second Team Specialists
Jadon Redding, Utah
Lucas Havrisik, Arizona
Michael Turk, Arizona State
Ben Griffiths, USC
Thomas Booker, Stanford
D.J. Taylor, Arizona State
Britain Covey, Utah
D.J. Taylor, Arizona State
As far as the preseason offensive first team, the only guarantees I see (pending a healthy season for all involved) are Kedon Slovis and Drake Jackson. That is the premier QB-to-WR connection in the Pac-12, and I don’t see anyone stopping them this year. One receiver that belongs on the first team, and I believe hell prove it this year, is Washington State’s Travell Harris. As far as the running back position, it would be unwise to doubt Colorado’s Jarek Broussard, but I have Arizona State winning the Pac-12 South on the strength of their running game. Perhaps Broussard will share first team honors with Rachaad White.
On the defensive end, many of the picks the media made are fairly obvious. Nate Landman, depending on his health, could potentially lead the entire country in tackles, and Kayvon Thibodeaux has a genuine shot at an average of at least one sack per game. The only head scratcher for me here is Chris Steele. Yes, he has a great pedigree, and yes, he plays for the celebrated Trojans, but he struggled mightily last year. I’d shift Isaiah Pola Mao into a spot on the first team, and consider giving some love to a very talented (but not always well-coached) Christian Roland-Wallace at Arizona.
The Debut of the Pac-12’s Savior (?) George Kliavkoff
George Kliavkoff had a low bar to clear after years and years of Larry Scott’s annual Media Day speeches touting the exploits of badminton and windsurfing while failing to address the pressing questions about network negotiations and distribution.
In my opinion, Kliavkoff cleared that bar and then some. He acknowledged the conference’s inconsistent past while outlining its future, a future that might include adding teams that currently exist in the Central Time Zone, in the fertile recruiting ground of Texas (hint, hint).
He wasn’t perfect in his responses- at one point upholding the idea that paying players from the revenue they are largely responsible for bringing in would ruin college football, but he was good. Here are some of the highlights:
On Playoff expansion
“The Pac-12 is in favor of CFP expansion. We believe allowing more teams and athletes to compete for a national championship is a win for the Pac-12 and for our football players. We appreciate the work that was done to push forward the initial 12-team proposal. There’s much about the proposal that we like, but the Pac-12 and the other conferences that were not part of the two-year process to create the proposal will need some time to collect feedback from our stakeholders and identify any issues that need addressing. As we identify these issues, we will work collaboratively with our CFP partners to recommend an expansion plan that increases access, takes into account the best interest of our student-athletes and also preserves the rich traditions of college football.”
On setting up a football working group
“Consistent with my meeting with our ADs in Las Vegas, I can confirm that every decision the conference makes related to football is on the table for discussion. We will look at our conference schedules, including the number of conference games that we play and the start time of each game. We will look at our non-conference schedule. We will evaluate whether having divisions does or does not make sense, and work collectively to keep our very best recruits in our markets and to market our league to recruits everywhere. The football working group will begin meeting immediately and provide regular updates and recommendations to me and our board.”
On Pac-12 Networks distribution
“I wish distribution was better, but some of our current and existing distribution contracts make it very difficult to expand distribution under the current model. I think we have to look forward to 2024 and set our fans’ expectations that that’s when we’ll be able to reset the distribution. I wish more people could see the incredibly high quality, good content that our network produces. But just being honest, the distribution is not where I would like it to be.”
On Pac-12 priorities
“I want to be 100 percent clear that going forward the Pac-12 Conference will make all of our football-related decisions with the combined goals of optimizing CFP invitations and winning national championship. This is a decision fully supported by all 12 of our athletic directors.”
Thoughts on the North Division
Cal’s Justin Wilcox led the day off, and with the news of star DL Brett Johnson out for the year with a hip injury, and starting OL Michael Saffell retiring, I was looking for any hint of excitement for the upcoming season. I feel like Wilcox delivered that excitement when he reminded the media that Chase Garbers is a very good quarterback:
“I think Chase is primed for a great season, I really do. He’s played a ton of football, he’s got a lot of different experiences, his comfort level at practice and within the scheme, he’s operating and confident – I think that just comes with age and time. I think that for all of us, it’s just the consistency in our performance. He’s had some great moments in great games like the rest of the team has, now it’s finding that consistency.”
I was also impressed with Wilcox’s take on the Name, Image and Likeness era:
“We have put together a program called GOLDEN which is centered around NIL for all our student-athletes. It’s a resource and provides guidance for them. In terms of education, contracts, negotiations, tax implications. We’ve had a number of players that have entered into agreements within NIL. I think it’s going to be months, maybe even years, before it sorts itself out. I think it’s long overdue. I’m in full support of it. With our location being in the Bay Area, there’s going to be a number of opportunities for the players on our team.”
Next up was Washington State’s Nick Rolovich, and the media response was almost either baffled or scornful, if not both. Rolovich elected to not get vaccinated, which meant he couldn’t attend Pac-12 Media Day in person. His press conference was zoomed in while the Hollywood media tried to get around his pre-written statement about keeping his reasoning private.
What was interesting is that Rolovich still touted the state of Washington’s high vaccination rate as well as encouraged his players to get vaccinated if they felt it was right for them.
Look, it’s possible that Nick Rolovich’s doctor advised him that a medical condition or medication may have negative interactions with the Covid-19 vaccine, and it’s even possible that Rolovich values his privacy enough to create a secondary inconvenience of ridicule in order to keep his justification a secret.
It’s also possible that Rolovich is among the large subsection of the population that it afraid of a Bill Gates microchip implant.
Third up was Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith. The most painful part of having Pac-12 Media Day in Los Angeles is that there are only a few coaches the LA media show any interest in, and a couple that they outright ignore. Smith has been that guy for years, and it was Gary Andersen before him. Oregon State just doesn’t move the needle for those Hollywood-types (even though there’s over 30 California athletes on his team that that could certainly find time to ask about).
Smith says the Beavers have a four-way QB battle, and this is how he broke it down:
“(Tristan) should be healthy in August here to practice. I think he’s got a great skill set. Understands the scheme, good leader. He has won games for us.”
“We added Sam after spring ball and he’s a guy that’s has won games at quarterback in this league. Has a little bit different skill set, makes the game physical, moving his feet, big-time arm. We’re anxious to work with him coming in August.”
“Chance Nolan has started multiple games, we were really close the last couple of games with him as the starting quarterback. Counting on him making huge strides in his game from year one to year two.“
“Excited about Sam Vidlak. He had a great spring. He’s going to have an opportunity this August to go.“
David Shaw practically won the day by coming out and repeatedly saying he expects to compete for a conference championship. That attitude was certainly a surprise to many who have noted there’s been a slip in Stanford’s recruiting to go along with a difficulty in keeping their own non-NFL ready seniors around for graduate school.
But it was Shaw’s invocation of Nick Saban’s name in relation to his comments about Bryce Young and the NIL opportunities at Alabama that had the media talking:
The thing that David Shaw said that I appreciated most, however, was that early and late kickoffs don’t serve the student athletes:
Washington’s Jimmy Lake rocked the boat a bit when he announced that Dylan Morris is the presumed starter, but is also still competing for the QB job- other than that, Lake’s Pac-12 Media Day experience was more about being able to finally face the media as Washington’s head coach- something he didn’t get to do last year because of the pandemic.
I found his answer about recruiting outside the traditional Pac-12 footprint to be fascinating and worth considering for some of the teams in the conference that have put abundant amounts of energy into recruiting SEC and ACC country:
“I don’t think we need to do that. I think there’s always special cases where we can go outside of our footprint where there’s a connection. We’ve actually had players that are Washington football fans, their dream was to play at Washington. If there’s a special connection like that, for sure. But we feel there’s enough talent in the footprints that we currently recruit in to win the Pac-12 and be on that national stage, which we’ve been on. Now we just have to make sure we win those football games we’ve been in, those three New Year’s 6 games in a row that we went to for 2016 to 2018. We need to take that next step and win those football games. When we do that, there won’t be all this talk we need to go recruit way outside of our footprint, all those things. Again, I go back to the proof’s in the pudding of the best football in the world, the National Football League, loves our players. They love our players from our team. I go back to our recruiting department, our coaches selecting the right players and our strength and conditioning department making sure that they develop these players the right way. But there’s always going to be — what I never want to do is take my attention somewhere way far away and then miss out on the players that are right around us. We’ve been very, very successful with the players that are on our current footprint. But we never want to handcuff ourselves. If there is somebody that is outside our footprint and we have a special need, we will go get those guys, for sure.”
Last for the south, Oregon coach Mario Cristobal, who immediately sung the praises of Anthony Brown, last year’s backup to Tyler Shough who was seemingly given the reigns during last year’s Fiesta Bowl:
“Anthony will start with the ones. He has earned that. He’s done a very good job from a performance standpoint, leadership performance, taking on (offensive coordinator and quarterbacks) coach (Joe) Moorhead’s offensive scheme. At the same time the freshmen behind him have done an excellent job as well. It merits them getting an opportunity to compete for that position as well. We will make that happen. I think technically and fundamentally the quarterback position never ceases, right?” Cristobal said. “You’re always looking for the next best thing to help you from a technical and fundamental standpoint. I think now after having done, having experienced coach Moorhead’s coaching style, sitting in meetings with him, reviewing film, then experiencing spring ball in the off-season with our players, a lot of the stuff that he takes home with him, he can apply to those training sessions as well. He’s done that. There’s always carryover when you do that. I think our players sense it, our team senses it. I think he’s poised to have a really big season. We’re excited for him.”
Cristobal lapped praise on incoming freshman QB Ty Thompson, and talked about building versatility amongst his offensive linemen, but the most interesting thing he said was in response to whether continued success in the Pac-12 had put a target on their backs:
“I never and we will never see ourselves as a program with a bullseye on us, a target on us. It’s never been that way, never will be that way. When we wake up in the morning, our feet hit the ground, we wake up with a hunger, drive, determination to make sure we’re always a hunter in a humble way, driven way.”
Thoughts on the South Division
Herm Edwards, fresh off the paid administrative leave announcement of TE coach Adam Breneman, called the NCAA investigation into recruiting improprieties a “review” and said it wasn’t a distraction to the team. Edwards announced, as Merton Hanks had reiterated before him, that no one would be answering questions about this “review,” but I’m disappointed that the Pac-12 media put zero effort into finding practical ways around that.
Either way, Herm was as smooth as ever, and found a way to say a lot about his team without talking about the things that were on everyone’s mind.
Of course, I’m picking Arizona State to have the best record in the Pac-12, so the quote I gravitated toward most was about the experienced secondary:
“I think we’ve got some gifted players back there, some talented guys that can play sticky defense, that can play man-to-man, cover guys. I think they’re excited about that. Three or four of them have played together now for two or three years. They’re very comfortable. The communication is what I like the most. Have to change certain things because of different looks or formations, motions. The communication with the secondary is much cleaner than it’s been. That’s important. You have to communicate. You have so many different elements back there, you all have to be on the same page. Chase (Lucas) is a prime example. You can just tell the way he walks around, the way he talks. He’s the team captain. It’s fun to watch him develop from the years I’ve been here to where he’s at right now. I’m excited for those guys.”
The one thing Herm said that confused me was that Arizona State’s offense was going to need to average in the high-30’s to give the Sun Devils a chance. Statistically, scoring in the high 30’s has mostly resulted in mediocrity, with a couple of notable outliers:
Kyle Wittingham has had to guide Utah through an awful year, followed by an awful offseason after the loss of star RB Ty Jordan to an accidental shooting. He addressed the loss of Jordan in his remarks:
“It was tough to deal with the Ty Jordan situation, still is. Fortunately, our administration is committed. We have a full department that’s committed, that’s dedicated to mental health and counselors that our players can talk to and visit with,” the coach responded. “We try to make it a point of emphasis to our players that it’s not a sign of weakness to seek mental health assistance. That’s part of life. It’s the same as being physically ill. If you need to get help, see somebody, there’s no shame or no stigma attached to that. I think our coaches, our assistant coaches, have done a really good job of conveying that to our players. Our players seem to do a really good job of taking advantage of the resources that we do have.”
Sometimes I listed to Wittingham speak and wonder what he could do with the type of talent that comes from coaching in a city that recruits itself. Don’t get me wrong, I love Salt Lake City, but put this man in Seattle or LA and I’m not sure anyone else wins the conference for the next decade. He’s a good and wise man, and seems to have a knack for developing football players.
Chip Kelly brought his modest, calm, no-nonsense demeanor in full on Tuesday, but I respect it. Any time he didn’t have the answer to a question, he said “I don’t know,” and then went into detail about exactly why he didn’t know. It wasn’t all boring, however. I thought he had some really insightful things to say about both his multi-year starter QB Dorian Thompson Robinson, as well as the benefits of being part of Jordan Brand.
Chip Kelly on DTR
“I think the beauty is having Dorian for four years. He didn’t get an opportunity to play in high school until his senior year. Played wide receiver as a junior because they had another quarterback that was a pretty good player. He came in, just kind of jumped in both feet. Every day Dorian is always striving to get better. He’s just a joy to coach. You love kids like that, that are thirsty for knowledge, have that kind of growth mindset that we always talk about. We want our players to have that. That’s what he has. I’m really excited to see where he is right now. I know he’s in the best shape of his life. He’s worked extremely hard in the weight room, on the field, throwing with receivers, organizing everything that goes on in the summer program, because the coaches aren’t allowed to be around them till this Friday. We have great expectations of him. Our expectations of him are no bigger than his expectations of himself. It’s all borne out of his work ethic. He’s got a great work ethic.”
Chip Kelly on Jordan Brand
“It’s such an iconic brand and I think everybody wants to be associated with an iconic brand. But I’ve always been just a big fan of the product. I think sometimes that gets glossed over, what a good product it is. I had a chance to check things out with our equipment guy, seeing all the new stuff that came in and the prototype cleats that Jordan has, what that is going to provide with us, especially our big guys. We do have some really big guys on our team and the product itself will support those guys. Two-fold, I think it will help us in recruiting because everybody wants to be associated with it. But I think the product that we have is outstanding and I’m really excited to get these guys using it.”
I think it’s crazy how easy it is to forget that Karl Dorrell, to this day, has probably been around his team no more than a few dozen times. Colorado hired Dorrell last year, and Dorrell didn’t get to meet his team until the season was getting ready to kick off in the fall. This is basically his first offseason, and he’s got a lot of work ahead of him if he’s going to keep the Buffaloes on an upward trajectory. Offensively, he praised the potential of his wide receiver group:
“That group has skill. The receiver group has skill. We’re continually have to refine that skill where the talent is consistent. That’s the way I would say it. I’m a hard-ass receiver coach, though, right? I’ve done that most of my career. There’s definitely some really good talent in that group. It’s young, but it’s young. That’s the part that they have to grow and have a level of consistency that needs to be better than where it is.”
Dorrell also went into great detail to address the uncertainty at quarterback:
“It’s a two-man race between Brendon Lewis and J.T. Shrout. We think they’re both very qualified, capable players. If you remember what Brendon did in the bowl game, his first time playing college football end of the season in the bowl game, I would say he had a passing grade. He did really well. He did some positive things that I would say any first-year quarterback might have done poorly. He was able to do those things in a positive way. So that confidence from the bowl game has given him a great level of confidence going through the whole off-season, going through spring. He’s a completely different player now than where he was last fall. I would say with J.T. Shrout, being a kid that just transferred in, in a short period of time he digested our offense. He spent the overtime hours to do that to get himself a chance to compete. Both of those guys have great leadership qualities as well along with their physical talent. They have really good leadership qualities. All of our players offensively respond to both of them in a positive way. It’s not like they dislike one and like the other. Everybody on offense really thoroughly enjoy both of those guys under center. It’s a competition in that two-man race with those two. When will we make that determination? That will be somewhere in the middle of training camp, I would say. At least not until the first couple weeks. Trying to get all the information in. It’s going to be a day-by-day test, right? They’re going to be assessed on everything about how they run the offense, the mistakes they make, the plays that they do make, everything like that. We’re going to account for everything as we go through that process.”
Jedd Fisch pumped a shot of energy into the room just before the end of the day and it was a lot of fun to watch.
Only a couple of media members were able to get questions in, as it didn’t seem that there were many in the LA Media clamoring for content from the first year coach from Tucson. You’d figure he’d at least get a few UCLA-Rosen related questions from his last stint in the Pac-12 as an assistant, but no.
Fisch addressed a lot of what Arizona has done to rebuild pride in the program after the 70-7 loss to ASU that ended Kevin Sumlin’s tenure, but the most practical question has to do with the three-way QB battle to replace Grant Gunnell, and here’s what he had to say about that:
“The hardest position to evaluate without a football would be the quarterback position because you can’t ever see them throw. But we have had that two hours a week that we have the opportunity to meet with him. We’ve had two hours a week that we’ve been able to during that time also be able to do some drill work. We’ve been able to do some team runs and evaluate and watch how he is there. I love just to see how he interacts with his teammates. Jordan is doing good. We’ve got a nice 3-headed monster, Jordan, Gunner (Cruz) and Will (Plummer). We’d like to see one of them step up and be the guy. Right now we’ll go 33, 33, 33 for a 99-play practice. I would hope (McCloud is at a disadvantage by arriving after Plummer and Cruz had time with the playbook) because those other guys, if they didn’t get anything out of the coaching in the spring, we got major problems. I hope (Jordan McCloud) is at a major disadvantage, but unfortunately I feel like he’s just at a disadvantage. I’ll talk to Coach Dougherty about that later (laughs). I think he’s doing a great job of trying to catch up, trying to learn this thing quick from what I understand. But, yeah, I mean, it’s going to be hard because those guys took almost every single rep. Whoever moves the ball the best in every period we have- Who moves the football, who gets us down in the red zone, who scores touchdowns. We’ll have a lot of competitive practices. I believe we’re going to have a very good defense this year. Let’s see what we can do. See if we can move the ball. Whoever does that will be the starting quarterback.”
USC fans hate Clay Helton. They think he stands in the way of a return to greatness, and his Southern kindness in the face of their constant pressure makes the blood of Angelinos and Trojan faithful boil unlike anything I’ve ever seen. That’s why I had a good laugh when in response to a question about how they plan to have a good season since there have been “not that many over the last few years.”
Helton referenced the pressure to win as a privilege. It’s the exact type of thing that drives USC fans insane:
“I love USC because you know what the standard is? Championships. You can be at USC and win every game but one. If it’s the last one, it’s looked at as a bad season. That’s being at a special place. You can have an undefeated regular season and win a Pac-12 championship game and everybody is sad. That’s a special place to be. So when you’re at a place that’s won 11 national championships, you know the standard of excellence and you know what’s demanded. We welcome that. We welcome it as players, we welcome it as coaches. That’s why we all came to USC. Our job right now is to get back to that championship game and to win that game because we know when we win that game, it opens the doors to the Playoff and the national championship opportunities. That mentality I talked about earlier of going in to each and every game, trying to be 1-0, getting back to that championship game, winning that game, opening those doors, that’s what USC is about. Other programs may have other standards. It’s not what we’re about here. That’s the beauty of USC, is not only being in that championship game but winning it. That’s why we work so hard at what we do to be back there and to win it. Thanks for that question.”
The one thing I was most curious to hear about from Helton was the Name, Image and Likeness topic, being that USC is the most likely place those type of deals would occur in the Pac-12. Here’s what he had to say:
“Yeah, we’ve been living it, as you know. We’ve been living it for a while just being in the city of Los Angeles. You’re talking about the number one college media market in the country, the number two pro media market in the country. You’re talking about a city that is based on one-word names. I think of LeBron and Kobe, Snoop, JuJu. That’s part of being in Los Angeles, being in a championship city, a championship market. There’s an advantageous thing to that. I watched JuJu before name, image and likeness was even there, our university be proactive in helping him build his brand and build his platform that enabled him to walk into the NFL and have tremendous opportunities. I’m thankful for the resources USC has given because I think universities are going to have to do three things in this standpoint. We’ve lived it. We’ve been proactive as a university. I think one, you’re going to have to provide support, which our university has done with the merger of J1S, to be able to provide content, social media direction. I think you’re going to have to provide compliance of what’s right and wrong to do within it. Then I think you’re going to have to provide knowledge. In our merger with ALTIS, being able to say what’s a good decision or bad decision as you move forward. At the end of the day, like I tell our players, remember the most important thing, it’s great now in name, image and likeness that you have marketing teams that can do their job and be able to find you opportunities. But what’s your job as a student-athlete? Your job as a student-athlete is to get your degree, to be a master of your craft on and off the field when it comes to academics and athletics, and to put yourself in an extremely positive light of how you represent yourself, your family, your team, your university. If you focus on those three things, whether it’s your degree, mastering your craft on the field, how you present yourself on a day-to-day basis, I promise you opportunities are going to come out. I watched is with JuJu Smith-Schuster before there was name, image and likeness. I watched it with Michael Pittman, what he did at USC. If you concentrate on those three things, have the support, knowledge and compliance along with it like our university provides, you’re going to do great things. That’s why our kids come to USC.”
The only beef I had with Clay Helton today was that it didn’t feel as if they had a legitimate Heisman candidate in Kedon Slovis, but it’s possible that’s more of a critique of the energy of the Pac-12 Media as a whole…
Winners and Losers
Three winners from today’s event are unquestionably commissioner George Kliavkoff, David Shaw and Jedd Fisch.
Kliavkoff impressed the local and national media with his comprehension and candor, while managing to impress the athletic directors and coaches even more. Everyone spoke about being excited about the direction and possibilities moving forward.
David Shaw’s enthusiasm for his program and courage to attack tough subjects with well thought out and articulated opinions really helped him stand out amongst a group of coaches that all have fairly dynamic personalities (expect for Chip Kelly).
Jedd Fisch came in on a hot streak of having impressed the Wildcat alumni and fan base with almost every move he’s made since his hire was roundly mocked, and he brought the same energy into his appearance at Media Day. If personality can help win games, we all might regret picking the Wildcats last in the Pac-12 South.
Three losers? Well, beyond the fairly obvious inclusion of Nick Rolovich for reasons that may or may not be outside his control, I’d have to add Merton Hanks, and the Big-12 Conference.
Merton Hanks, the Pac-12’s Senior Associate Commissioner, decided to take a serious break from the candor displayed by commissioner George Kliavkoff to let everybody know that they’ve completely invented their longstanding gripes with the way that Pac-12 football games are officiated:
Last on the list of losers, the Big 12. It’s bad enough that it was confirmed that Oklahoma and Texas are abondoning their conference to chase glory in the SEC, but when George Kliavkoff repeatedly mentioned that the Pac-12 would consider their options in the Central time zone, the Big 12 conference had to feel a brand new level of desperation to find a way to stay together as an entity.