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Cowboy Hill Jersey Retro

The Cowboys rebounded from a crushing loss in week 10 with a nice road win in week 11. Dak Prescott, again, balled out and carried the offense to another stellar offensive day, throwing for 444 yards and three touchdowns en route to putting up 35 points on the scoreboard. Prescott has performed like an MVP candidate this season, ranking at or near the top of nearly every single quarterback statistic available.

There is no denying that the passing game has been the biggest factor for the Cowboys this season — and the reason why the Cowboys rank first in the NFL in total offense. That said, Ezekiel Elliott reached the end zone twice: once on the ground and another on a screen pass. Zeke was held to just 2.8 yards per carry on 16 rushes though, as well as losing a fumble on the second offensive play of the game.

The Cowboys have given more opportunities to the only rookie that is making any kind of real impact this season: fourth-round rookie running back Tony Pollard. The Memphis Tigers product has shown flashes of being a factor as both a receiver and as a runner. Sunday was no different.

With Kellen Moore and Co. putting more on his plate, the rookie responded in a major way. Pollard only carried the rock twice for a total of 12 yards, but the Cowboys utilized the back through the passing game: four catches for 44 yards and one touchdown.

Blogging The Boys

@BloggingTheBoys
RT if you’ve been screaming for the Cowboys to use Tony Pollard like this all season

(via @dallascowboys)

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The Cowboys lined Pollard out wide as a receiver on a third-and-5 play early in the second quarter. Dak Prescott was able to find Pollard wide open on a crossing route over the middle, and the rookie did the rest as he hit paydirt and put the Cowboys in the lead.

Pollard’s usage in the game plan has been inconsistent from week-to-week, but it is clear that he has been a factor in Cowboys wins. As Jeff Cavanaugh tweeted out on Monday, the Cowboys are a perfect 6-0 when Pollard sees the field for at least 13 snaps. On the flip side, Dallas is 0-4 when Pollard plays less than that:

Jeff Cavanaugh

@JC1053
When Tony Pollard had snap counts of 22, 16, 23, 19, 13, 13 Cowboys win.

When Tony Pollard had snap counts of 2, 5, 7, 3 Cowboys lose.#math

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Pollard has seen his role change from being a runner (13 carries, 103 yards, one touchdowns versus the Miami Dolphins) to being a receiver out of the backfield (like his performance versus the Lions this past week). It is easy to see that Pollard offers versatility and adds another dimension to this offense.

Furthermore, the Cowboys go on the road to play the New England Patriots this week. It is no secret just how good the Patriots’ defense is, but there are some areas of weakness to attack — such as using two running back sets against their linebackers. Zeke should see the field a lot on Sunday, but there also needs to be a role for Pollard.

Sigmund Bloom
@SigmundBloom
ATTN Garrett and Moore: https://twitter.com/Marcus_Mosher/status/1196287340370694145 …

View image on Twitter
Marcus Mosher

@Marcus_Mosher
Please give me more Tony Pollard touches.

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The others:
The fact of the matter is that the Cowboys 2019 draft class has been very underwhelming, especially when looking at the members outside of Pollard. For that reason, we are grouping the rest of the rookie class together.
Cowboy Hill Jersey Retro

Trysten Hill: The second-round selection has been a healthy scratch for the majority of his rookie campaign. That did not change versus Detroit.
Connor McGovern: The third-round offensive lineman was shut down for injury prior to the regular season.
Joe Jackson: The fifth-rounder out of Miami has made the active roster this season, but he was inactive on Sunday.
Donovan Wilson: The rookie safety out of Texas A&M saw some action versus the Lions with Jeff Heath sidelined with an injury. Wilson impressed during the preseason, but only saw the field for one defensive play versus the Lions. Detroit scored on that play.

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BATON ROUGE – LSU passing game coordinator and wide receiver coach Joe Brady has been named the winner of the Broyles Award, which is presented to the top assistant coach in college football, the Frank and Barbara Broyles Foundation announced Tuesday in Little Rock, Ark.

Brady becomes LSU’s second winner of the Broyles Award, joining John Chavis who won the award as the Tiger defensive coordinator in 2011. Brady is also the first Broyles Award winner with a title other than offensive or defensive coordinator.

Brady, in his first year with the Tigers after spending two seasons on the New Orleans Saints staff, and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger have transformed the LSU offense into the most explosive unit in college football. The Tigers are averaging a school-record 47.8 points per game. The Tigers led the nation in total offense (554.3 yards per game) and rank No. 1 in the SEC and No. 2 nationally in passing offense (386.8).

“This award should say Joe Brady/Steve Ensminger,” Brady said on Tuesday in Little Rock. “I’m only at LSU because of Steve Ensminger. I’ll never forget that … There is not a greater person to work for than Steve Ensminger and there is not a greater person that cares more about LSU and the success of this program. He doesn’t want to take credit for anything. I’m so grateful for Steve, and I hope to be him one day.”

Overall, LSU’s offense racked up a school-record 621 points, scoring 50 or more points six times and going over the 40-point mark a record 10 times. Only one time all year was LSU held below 30 points.

In 13 games, the LSU offense cracked the 500-yard mark 10 times, which included 714 yards in a win over Ole Miss, the most yards ever recorded by a team in a game against another SEC opponent.

The Tigers also set school marks for passing yards in a season (5,029), passing touchdowns (49), and total offense (7,206).

Individually, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow – one of four finalists for the Heisman Trophy – has re-written the school record books as he’s the first quarterback in SEC history to throw for 4,000 yards and 40 TDs in a season. Burrow broke the SEC record for passing yards in a season with 4,715 and touchdowns with 48. He currently leads the nation in passing TDs and ranks No. 2 in the country in passing yards.

Burrow was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Year on Monday by the Associated Press becoming the first Tiger to claim the honor since wide receiver Wendell Davis won the honor in 1987.
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Burrow, along with running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson, represent the first group of players from the same team to have a 4,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers in the same season in SEC history.

Chase is one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award (Nation’s Best Receiver). Chase tied the SEC record for touchdown receptions this year with 18. He currently leads the nation in TD receptions, receiving yards (1,498) and yards per game (124.8).

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BALTIMORE — New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold won’t have his top red zone threat for the remainder of the season, as tight end Ryan Griffin was placed on injured reserve Thursday before their game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Griffin already had been ruled out after suffering an ankle injury last Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. His roster spot was filled by backup offensive lineman Brent Qvale, who was activated from IR.

The Jets (5-8), who have 15 players on IR, needed another body to dress for the game because they had only 45 healthy players.

Griffin was one of the pleasant surprises this season and was rewarded recently with a three-year, $9.6 million contract extension.

Signed on the eve of training camp, Griffin leads the team with five touchdown catches, including four in the red zone. He finishes the season with 34 catches for 320 yards.
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The Jets are down to two tight ends, Daniel Brown and rookie Trevon Wesco. They also will be without wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (knee) and running back Bilal Powell (ankle) on offense, with safety Jamal Adams (ankle) and defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (neck) likely to sit out on defense.

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Louisville football is looking to solidify what has been an extremely productive period of recruitment for its first class under Scott Satterfield. Here are the three biggest fish for the Cardinals with a week remaining.
National Signing Day early signing period is on December 18th, and Louisville football is rounding out a class that should consist of some marquee instant-impact type of players.

Still, Louisville has quite a few positions of need and they are looking to add 3-4 more players before things are said and done.

Though the “regular period” begins on February 5th, Louisville, like most other power five schools, is going to look to get the bulk of its class to sign early in order to begin planning out the season to come.

Let’s take a look at three players Louisville fans should want to land most.

Marcus Dumervil – OT
6’6,” 305 | St. Thomas Aquinas, Fort Lauderdale, FL

We start with the biggest long shot for the Cards in stud offensive tackle Marcus Dumervil.

In college football, if you want to keep up with the Joneses you have to start by building up your play in the trenches. That’s seriously the only way to keep up.

Look at Louisville’s losses this year: Notre Dame, Florida State, Clemson, Miami, Kentucky. Those are the five teams that the Cards faced with the most talent on the offensive and defensive line. And in each of those games, Louisville was exposed on both sides of the football.

You can coach technique, discipline, etc., but you can’t teach big, strong, and fast. When Louisville could hold its own upfront, they blew the doors off of some teams this year, but when they faced the big-name squads, things got ugly fast.

The Cards need a few big-time linemen and they would land perhaps their best player ever in the legacy recruit Dumervil.

His uncle, Elvis, was an absolute terror in the early 2000s at Louisville and ranks No. 2 among our All-time Louisville football player rankings. His older brother, Dejmi Dumervil-Jean redshirted this year in an effort to get into better playing shape for the 2020 season.

Dumervil would be a massive get, but the Cards have stiff competition for his services. Ohio State, Alabama, Florida, LSU, Clemson, Oklahoma, and Auburn are among the 60 + schools to offer him, and according to 247Sports experts, he is a lean towards LSU.

Still, you know offensive coordinator Dwayne Ledford and recruiting mastermind Cort Dennison are going to be in on him until the end.

The opportunity to play with his brother and get immediate playing time are likely to be enticing.

Greedy Vance- CB
5′ 10,” 160 | Edna Karr, New Orleans, LA

While Dumervil feels like a longshot for the Cards, they are certainly the favorites to land the services of talented New Orleans cornerback Jamie Greedy Vance.

Vance has offers from the likes of Auburn, Arizona State, and Houston, but he has been trending towards the Cards for a while.

Here’s what 247Sports recruiting analyst Gabe Brooks had to say about Vance, who he projects as a soon-to-be power five starter with a high upside:

Athletic cover corner who compensates for lack of size with impressive on-field athleticism. Owns adequate height, but has a lean, thin frame and must add some bulk in college. Plays with awareness. Has played plenty of snaps in press coverage, off-man coverage, and zone. Looks most natural lining up on top of the receiver at the LOS. Shows a smooth, upright effortlessness about his gait. Willing to hand fight with receivers and mixes it up pretty well relative to size. Willingness to defend the run and screen game are encouraging, particularly relative to size. Competitive, fiery player. Plays for consistently talent-laden program and faces strong competition in practices and games. Play speed is good, but 40 time has not been verified in a combine testing environment. Could be targeted in the red zone against taller, go-get-it wideouts. Flashes some surprising pop behind his pads, but needs to clean up occasional glancing blows. Size concerns are there, but instincts, on-field athleticism, and motor suggest a quality Power Five starter at the next level.
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A 5’10” corner with a slender frame, excellent instincts, and great motor? Sounds like another corner that panned out just fine at Louisville in second-year Packer Jaire Alexander.

Not that Vance would become a first-round pick by any means, but he is the kind of talent that could wind up having an extremely successful career as a Cardinal. His size and speed fit perfectly with what Louisville is trying to do on defense.

Francis Peay Jersey Retro

When the Illinois Fighting Illini football and the Northwestern Wildcats get together, typically the better team wins. We really haven’t seen many upsets in this series lately, as the LOL HAT (Land of Lincoln Hat Trophy) rivalry often goes chalk. Illinois is seeking their first win in this series since 2014, the famous match-up of 5-6 teams that would see one team go on to the post-season, the other home for the holidays.

As it’s Thanksgiving and LOL HAT week, let’s break it all down.

Saturday, Nov. 30

Illinois vs. Northwestern (11 am CT//Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Illinois//FS1, FS1 App)

illini football nate hobbs

The Illini are favored in this game for the first time in a long while, and it’s actually a double digit spread. If you’re making free expert college football picks, you can find the Illini priced most typically at -10 1/2 points. If you want tickets to this game, they are readily available through the box office for as low as $20. In the secondary market, they are dirt cheap. Regardless of the teams’ records, or venue, this game is always poorly attended. As it’s always held on Thanksgiving weekend, people typically have better things to do

TV Segment Preview, yours truly with Jarret Payton on CLTV Sports Feed:

Thanks @PaulMBanks for talking college football and Chicago Fire FC soccer with @paytonsun on Tuesday’s @CLTVSportsFeed: https://t.co/bezkBquMpe

— Larry Hawley (@HawleySports) November 27, 2019

Illini Football Preview

Illinois is playing for their first winning conference season since 2007, and a chance to bring the four game slide against Northwestern to an end. They took a very unorthodox and circuitous route to six wins/bowl eligibility, with a chance at a seventh right there for the taking.

Losing to Eastern Michigan, beating Wisconsin, winning at Michigan State- who saw that as the path to six? Illini football coach Lovie Smith could be sweating on the fitness of cornerback Tony Adams and starting quarterback Brandon Peters. The latter has been as key as anybody to this season’s massive turnaround.

illini lovie smith podcast illini

Peters can be maddening sometimes with all the turnovers he tosses sometimes, but his gunslinger mentality is huge. Like any good outside shooter in basketball, he has a short memory on his mistakes and he just keeps making plays. Peters, plus the new added depth at the skill positions this season has gotten the offense to finally click in both facets.

What makes Illini football what it is in 2019 though is the turnover margin. No other defense in the nation can consistently get the ball back like this Illini football team can. It’s why Illinois revenue sports can finally have nice things again, with a bid to the Red Box or Pinstripe Bowl upcoming.

For the Illini football bowl summary and history, go to this link.

Northwestern Wildcats Preview

As the Illini are rising, NU is falling. The Wildcats are already set for their worst season since 2002, and a loss here gives them a bottom that you would have to go all the way back to the Francis Peay era, 1989, in order to be matched.

Northwestern has by some measures the worst offense in the nation, or at least among the worst. In the passing game, they are absolute bottom, and stuck in the basement by a very significant margin. It’s fair to say that this might be the final game for Quarterbacks Coach and Offensive Coordinator Mick McCall.

What a terrible message it would send to kids, if he stays: “you can be the worst in the entire nation, at what you are highly paid to,” and still keep your job. At this points it’s about principles and ideals https://t.co/T1jxmCL5sJ

— Paul M. Banks??? (@PaulMBanks) November 24, 2019

Or at least it should be. If McCall survives this season, then you can best be sure his job could survive a nuclear winter. NU has plenty of stellar defensive playmakers, like all-time sack leader Joe Gaziano and Baby Fitz middle linebacker Paddy Fisher.

Unfortunately, the offensive side of the ball has kept them from being all that they can be. Nevertheless, the Illini will have plenty of NU defensive playmakers to account for and game plan around.
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Prediction: Illini Football 27, Northwestern 10

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation.

Keith Taylor Jersey Retro

Keith Taylor, the local chef who honed his craft under legendary chef Dieter Krug at the highly credentialed former l’Auberge restaurant in Kettering and went on to launch Savona Restaurant and Wine Bar in Centerville, will serve as executive chef for a new Italian eatery coming to the north Miami Valley.

Tavolo Modern Italian is under construction at 101 S. Ohio Ave. in downtown Sidney and is projected to open next spring.

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The new restaurant is the brainchild of Rocco Catanzarite, who also owns Murphy’s Craftbar + Kitchen in downtown Sidney.

“Keith and I are good friends,” Catanzarite told this news outlet Monday night. “We worked together on the menu for Murphy’s. I believe he is the best chef in this part of Ohio.”

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Taylor, a Dayton native and Northridge High School graduate, worked at l’Auberge under Krug until the former co-owner retired in 1999, then served under Krug’s successor as l’Auberge executive chef, Dominique Fortin, who would go on to found C’est Tout (later Dominique’s) in Oakwood.

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Taylor would go on to serve as executive chef at what was then Pacchia in the Oregon District, and at Country Club of the North in Beavercreek.

In 2007, he founded Savona Restaurant and Wine Bar in Centerville, which later morphed into Twisted Root and Root 48 before shutting down in 2014.

>> New ‘Rusty Taco’ near the Dayton Mall now open

The new venture, Tavolo Modern Italian, will seat about 150, including 32 on a patio, and will employ about 40, Catanzarite said.
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The new restaurant’s menu will include pasta dishes prepared from “all-fresh pasta that we will make in-house,” Tavolo’s founder said. Craft cocktails, a large wine menu and a selection of craft beers also will be available.

To keep up with the new restaurant’s progress toward opening, check out the Tavolo Modern Italian Facebook page.

George Burnside Jersey Retro

NEW LONDON — Local scholastic football cynics might be amused to hear that members of the Westerly and Stonington high school football teams played in a summer 7-on-7 passing league Tuesday at Cannemela Field.

Stonington, the double-wing flag carriers locally, opened up its offense a bit last year with Drew Champagne at quarterback. But nobody would mistake the Bears for a team that stretches the field with downfield passing strikes.

Westerly, with a strong crew of linemen and a stable of backs, led by thoroughbred Tristan Turano, an 1,800-plus-yard rusher in each of the last two seasons, passed fewer than 75 times total during the last two playoff seasons.

But the two rivals produced an entertaining and, at times, physical and feisty contest. Westerly came out on top, 36-14, in the Coach Beams league playoff meeting as junior Xavier Ledbetter’s aerial game gave hints that the Bulldogs might look downfield a little more this season.

The Bulldogs and Bears were part of a one-day playoff tournament Tuesday for all 16 teams in the Coach Beams league. Each contest was 20 minutes in length.

Westerly, a 6-8 team during the passing league regular season, lost to eventual champ NFA in the semifinals. Stonington which finished second to last in the passing league regular season with a 2-14 mark, stunned second-seeded Griswold in the opening round.

“Personnel dictates what kind of style I play,” Westerly coach Duane Maranda said.

“I have to do whatever is called upon for us to succeed. When I was at New London, we spread things out and threw 90 percent of the time. We were small up front, had good receivers and my son Danny at quarterback, who threw 50 TDs in two years. At Westerly, we’ve had big linemen and running backs.”

Ledbetter looked comfortable throwing deep. Against Stonington, he hit Rocco Cillino, Anthony Durante and Jared Keszyinki, who plays guard in the fall, for long scoring strikes. Cillino and Derek Mason had interceptions for the Bulldogs.

Stonington was coached by former player Liam Wallace, who plays at Endicott College, and Baylor University student Elizabeth Burnside, niece of assistant George Burnside. CIAC rules prohibit regular coaches from calling plays in passing leagues. The RIIL allows coaches to participate in such leagues.

Despite losing to Westerly, Stonington left the passing league on a positive note. Champagne’s late touchdown pass to Christian Hudson helped the Bears surprise Griswold, which was 14-2 in the summer league regular season.

“We’ve had some kids at lacrosse camps and they’ve missed these games,” said George Burnside, who watched the game from the stands. “We have a solid group of freshmen, who helped the eighth-grade team win the [Southern New England Youth League] championship. They’ve come together as well.”

Champagne and Brandt Ogden looked good at quarterback. Hudson, Josh Curtin, Marco Tedeschi and Lucas Morrison caught TD passes Tuesday.
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After the game, despite the contested “touch” game that saw some players shouldering receivers to the turf, both teams shook hands in a show of sportsmanship. But not before players on each team reminded one another, “See you in November.”

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It was the late 1950s. Young Bob Claussen had been out of high school for a short time, when he started taking videos of the Bennett County High School football games with his 8 millimeter movie camera. According to Bob, “The film never did turn out and you couldn’t see anything. Shortly after that I started on the chain gang. I think it was about 1961.”

Thus began the career of one of two legends on the Bennett County High School football team’s chain gang. According to Bob, he only missed three games in his entire career. I had the privilege of visiting with Bob and Dick Bair at Bob’s dining room table this weekend.

Thinking back that far is sometimes a challenge to determine an exact date, but the September 8, 1961, edition of the Booster showed Bennett County’s first home game with a 27-0 victory over Todd County.

At that time Coach Pat Novacek’s squad included returning lettermen: Vernon Brown, Gary Livermont, Jerry Livermont, Larry Long, Ronnie Kocourek, Billy Mansfield, John Knecht, and Bobby Miller.

Other returning lettermen listed were: Edwin Case, Dave Weinmaster, Robert Running Bear, Mike King, Skip Stanec, Butch Fanning, Danny Petrik, Ray Mansfield, Melvin Fetter, George Page, John Vickrey, Bob Vickrey, Dean Young, Mike Miles, Bob Soderlin, Danny Elwood, Virgil Jelly, and Joe Jacquot.

At this time, Bob worked the chains along with his brother Lloyd. When Lloyd retired from the sidelines, Bob looked to his friend, Dick Bair, to step up to the job, in about 1968 or ‘69.

The Beginning of an Era

The two friends and neighbors spent the next fifty plus years tracking the movement and growth of the Bennett County Warriors’ football team from the viewpoint of the chain gang.

We may not have the exact dates, but according to the September 18, 1969, edition of the Booster, in the second game of season their season, Coach Dale Brooks had the home field advantage as the Warriors faced the Cheyenne-Eagle Butte Braves, winning 20-6.

Players mentioned in this edition of the Booster included Floyd Kamerzell, Jerry Donovan, Bill Donovan, Randy Groth, Lonnie Allard, Carl Byrum, and Mike Harris.
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Bob Claussen grew up in Martin, and played all the sports available to him. He and his future wife, Shirley Jackson, were Homecoming King and Queen in 1954. During the Homecoming football game, Bob was injured with a broken neck. “I lost quite a bit of time,” he remembered.

(See p. 6, 9-4-2019 edition for full text)

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Part of the Fox College Football’s team’s build up to the season was a discussion Tuesday night of the best atmospheres in the sport. For new Fox national analyst Urban Meyer, his choice for the best atmosphere in college football came with some home cooking.

“Steve Spurrier, when they built the Swamp in the 90s, it’s very hot,” Meyer said. “Gainesville is obviously right in the center of the state. Not a whole lot of air circulates in the center of the state of Florida, especially early in the season. It is so hot. Only Gators get out alive, is what Steve Spurrier said. The fans, the student body is incredible. The fans are out of their damn minds. When we had that thing going, a night game in the Swamp was second to none.”

Meyer famously coached at Florida from 2005-10 with two SEC titles, two national titles and the rise of iconic quarterback Tim Tebow.

As Meyer moves into (possibly) his post-coaching career in the studio for Fox, excitement is high again in the Swamp thanks to what Dan Mullen accomplished in his first season. Florida opens the year at No. 8 in the Associated Press Top 25.

Offensively, Florida needs new stars on its offensive line to emerge but has a proven quarterback coming off a breakout season.

“I think he’s already improved more during the offseason than he did throughout last season on the field,” Mullen said of Feleipe Franks. “I think when you look at guys that get into their next year, they understand it. Again, it’s a very quarterback-friendly, quarterback-based offense. As those guys get more confident in how to use the offense, they can have bigger years.

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COMMENTS
“We’ve always seemed to do that with guys because they’re just more confident in the quarterback position in Year 2 because they’ve been through it, they’ve played. They know the checks, they know the reads, they know when I want to get to plays. They’re able to have a lot more freedom within the offense to just check to a play. ‘Hey, we love this play against this look’ and we might not have seen it for six weeks but all the sudden that defense shows up and they’re able to get to it on their own.”
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Unlike most college programs, Florida is only three days away from kickoff. The Gators face Miami, first-year coach Manny Diaz and new starting quarterback Jarren Williams. The two programs are set to meet for the first time since 2013 when they kick off the 150th year of college football in Orlando this weekend. That game will be played at the Camping World Stadium, a neutral-site venue with kick off set for 7:00 pm ET. The game will broadcast on ESPN. They meet again in 2024 and 2025 in an announced home-and-home.

Kenyan Drake Jersey Retro

TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake is about to play the three most important games of his career.

And this is the player who scored the touchdown in last season’s Miracle in Miami.

His rookie contract is approaching its completion, and Drake will enter free agency looking for a big second contract. There’s reason for optimism with the recent history of running backs cashing in, but also reason for concern.

All he has to do is look two lockers away, where David Johnson sits. In September 2018, Johnson signed a three-year extension worth up to $39 million. But Johnson has never returned to his 2016 form and is an example of the risk teams take by paying big money to a running back in his second contract.

Drake’s value could be affected by deals such as Johnson’s, as well as those of Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell. All three signed running back megadeals averaging $13 million or more per year. The next-highest annual average behind Johnson’s $13 million is Devonta Freeman at $8.25 million.

None of those backs has played up to his contract this season.

“I see the things that people sign,” Drake said. “But at the end of the day, you get paid solely based off your performance, so that’s what I’m trying to do is go out here, make plays for this team, do whatever I can.”

Johnson has rushed for 336 yards on 89 carries in 2019. He was benched in favor of Drake in the fourth quarter of the Cardinals’ loss at Tampa Bay on Nov. 10 and in the second of half of their loss to the San Francisco 49ers a week later. Freeman has 501 yards on 141 carries, Bell has 589 yards on 183 carries and Gurley has 721 yards on 177 carries.

Eight running backs have rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season. Seven of those eight, including the top four, are on rookie deals (the only exception is the Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott).

Drake, 25, was traded to the Cardinals by the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 28, a Monday. Three days later, on Thursday Night Football, he ran for 110 yards against the 49ers. He followed that with games of 35, 67, 31 and 37 rushing yards, but he has taken the starting job from Johnson on a team that’s 3-9-1.

2020 NFL draft coverage

What you need to know:
• The Kiper & McShay 2020 draft primer »
• Kiper’s Big Board: Top 25 prospects »
• McShay’s updated Top 32 rankings »
• NFL execs predict the No. 1 pick »
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• Full draft rankings from Scouts Inc. »
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“He’s a great football player,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said of Drake. “He’s a guy who shows up, does it to the best of his ability every day, whether it’s catching it, running it, blocking it. [He's] hard on himself, conscientious in his preparation.”

In five games in Arizona, Drake has run for 280 yards on 65 carries, giving him 454 yards on 112 carries when you account for his six games in Miami. Like many of the running backs mentioned, his skill as a receiver is also important to note; he has 43 catches for 295 yards.

“I’m gonna be the same me,” Drake said. “I’m gonna work out, work hard and try to help my team win games.”

Outside linebacker Chandler Jones, who signed a five-year deal worth $82.5 million in 2017, handled his option year in 2016 by taking it a game at a time. Jones’ older brother Art, who played seven years in the NFL and whose second contract was for $33 million over five years, told him to “just play football and everything else is going to come.”

One thing Jones’ agent told him during the process was he had to be OK with other players getting more money, even some who didn’t seem to deserve it.

“That’s just how it works,” Jones said. “I’m never the person to look around and say, ‘Oh, he’s getting that.’ At the end of the day, this is what we wanted. This is what we came to agree upon and this is what it is.”

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Left guard Justin Pugh, a former first-round pick who signed with the Cardinals in 2018 after spending five seasons with the New York Giants, said the magnitude of the second deal is always lingering.

“I mean, it’s a life-altering deal,” Pugh said. “It’s something that can change your life, your family’s life, your kids’, your kids’ kids’ life. It’s there.”

And if that wasn’t enough, Pugh said he heard about it every week during his last season in New York.
Kenyan Drake Jersey Retro

“You think about it all time,” he added. “There’s no way you can avoid it. I mean, once you’re on the field you’re not thinking about it; you’re just going out and playing your game. But weekly, people are always reminding you, ‘contract year.’ Coaches are always reminding you.

“It’s everywhere.”