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College Football Is Back

Aug 29, 2014 -- 11:28am

The college football season is back folks if you haven't been able to tell from the ESPN and SEC Network coverage.

College football fans across the nation are filled with excitement from calling into local sports talk radio shows to screaming national champions on fan forums in support of their perspective schools.

With the four-team playoff finally underway, this season could be one for the books.

You have Heisman winning quarterback Jameis Winston returning with a loaded Florida State roster, and Nick Saban leading his Alabama Crimson Tide who’s eager to show the nation they are better than the team that was embarrassed by Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.

Now off to the Pac-12, a conference ready to compete on a national level against the SEC with Oregon, UCLA and Stanford as the headliners of the conference.

Both Oregon and UCLA are in every major sports publications preseason top-10. Stanford will the team sitting either at 10th in some publications or right outside of the top-10. Though Oregon will be ranked in the top-five they can’t find a way to defeat Stanford, the Cardinal has ended the Ducks national championship dreams for the past two seasons. Both Oregon and UCLA have two of the toughest schedules in the country according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, we’ll see if they can overcome the odds.

What about that team in Ohio?

Despite losing Braxton Miller to a season-ending shoulder injury, Urban Meyer and his Buckeyes will be just fine. Ohio State is 24-2 over the past two seasons, that’s pretty impressive. Though the Buckeyes lost their last two games of the 2013 in the B1G 10 Championship Game and the BCS Discover Orange Bowl, Ohio State will be a popular pick to come out on top of the conference. The B1G should be interesting with Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State sitting atop the conference, each of the three will return their quarterbacks of last season, if you are unaware the three are awfully good.

Then you have Oklahoma and Baylor, one team is coming off an impressive victory in the Sugar Bowl, and the other is returning one of highest scoring offenses in college football history last season.

The Big 12 will be happy to have two teams in the national preseason polls, but won’t be too happy to hear that many feel like they will be the conference that doesn’t have a member in the four-team playoff. The national media does have a legitimate argument with not being sold on Oklahoma and knowing Baylor can score, but overall just not a top-four team in the nation. We’ll see what “Big Game” Bob Stoops and the Baylor Bears have to say about that in 2014.

It would be unfair to leave out the big bad wolf in the SEC, but they will more than likely only have one team in the four-team playoff.

With the consensus being South Carolina will come out of the East and Alabama coming out of the West, you never know what surprises the SEC will bring. Alabama is the favorite, but I’m sure Auburn and LSU will have something to say about that. South Carolina should come out on top in the East, but the Gamecocks always seem to slip up at least once. Georgia will have Heisman candidate Todd Gurley back, and Florida will be healthy for once. The SEC East should be interesting to say the least.

No need to mention the ACC, all you need to know is Florida State will run right through the conference hoisting the conference trophy in Charlotte after the ACC Championship Game.

In sports we know nothing is guaranteed to any team, with that being said, college football is back.

Just ask South Carolina about nothing being guaranteed, Texas A&M went into Williams-Brice Stadium last night and left with a victory of 52-28. Nobody pick the Aggies to win outside of their fan base.

 

Justin Tyree Thomas

ESPN 730 College Football Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  www.Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes 

Can Dylan Thompson pickup where Connor Shaw left off?

Aug 28, 2014 -- 9:53am

Whenever you have to be the replacement to a guy who went 27-5 as a starting quarterback and 17-0 at home, you have big shoes to fill.

The 6’3 218-pound fifth-year senior quarterback in Dylan Thompson will be responsible for picking up where Connor Shaw left off.

Tonight is the start of the college football season, and the lights will shine bright inside of Williams-Brice Stadium tonight.

“He’s our best player," Steve Spurrier told Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com. "I think he’s by far our best player right now.” 

When you have a 1,100-yard rusher in Mike Davis, and your head coach raves about the quarterback who’s only started three games as your best player, that should give you good feeling as a Gamecock fan.

As a starting quarterback Thompson is 3-0.

He’s no stranger when it comes to playing experience. He’s seen the playing field in some significant games over his tenure at South Carolina with his most memorable game coming when he led his Gamecocks to a win as a starter going 23-41 for 310 yards and three touchdowns against in-state rival Clemson as a sophomore in 2012.

Thompson went 52-89 for 783 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions, playing in 10 of the 13 games as a junior receiving one start against Missouri, getting the nod over an injured Shaw. His playing time wasn’t consistent, but one thing Spurrier did was keep his backup quarterback alert bringing him in at any given moment.

Though his playing time varied, he always was prepared to step in when his number was called.

There will be a difference in what South Carolina fans are accustom to seeing at the quarterback position. Thompson who has a bit of mobility is more of your prototype quarterback, rather than a dual-threat like Shaw.

Spurrier had this to say about his quarterback during SEC Media Days, "He's been there five years. He's a five-year guy who's got one year to make his mark in college football. He's got one year to do his thing. So he is really fired up about it, and he wants to take advantage. I'm going to try my best to give him every opportunity to lead our team and have as big of a year as possible."

If Thompson does not a successful season with the high hopes that Gamecock fans have for this season, he'll forever be known in the state of South Carolina as the quarterback who could not fill Connor Shaw's shoes.

I'll tell you one thing, Thompson better beat those Clemson Tigers if does nothing else, he can not afford to lose that game. 

One thing for the road South Carolina has won their last 14 season-openers, thats the longest streak of any SEC team.

 

Justin Tyree Thomas

ESPN 730 College Football Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  www.Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes 

Charlotte's Successful Summer

Jul 17, 2014 -- 1:51am

When the news broke that Josh McRoberts was going to become a member of the Miami Heat the city felt pain. The city continued to receive more bad news when the Utah Jazz announced that they were going to match Gordon Hayward’s offer sheet from Charlotte.

That next name that Michael Jordan talked about pairing with Al Jefferson went from promising to bleak.

Little did fans know that good news would be around the corner.

Despite conflicting reports on whether or not Lance Stephenson would be likely candidate for the Hornets, yet again Rich Cho rose to the occasion signing Stephenson to a three-year $27 million dollar deal with the third year being a team option.

Going into the draft the Hornets where looking to add length and size to the front court, and a perimeter scoring threat that can knock it down from long range. Both needs were addressed in forward Noah Vonleh of Indiana and guard PJ Hairston of North Carolina.

Neither of the two draftees are finished products but having Patrick Ewing on staff for Vonleh and Mark Price for Hairston, the young talents have the right tools surrounding them to evolve into quality basketball players.

Losing McRoberts to the Miami Heat was a curve ball that many didn’t expect to see coming, but instead of sulking Rich Cho went out and brought in stretch-four Marvin Williams of the Utah Jazz. Though Williams is a solid forward in this league, Charlotte will miss McRoberts’ four assist average.

Many expected Roman Sessions to return as the backup point guard including myself, but the Hornets took a different route rather Sessions, Brian Roberts of the New Orleans Pelicans was added to the roster. Roberts averaged nine points and three assists for the Pelicans last season.

There just wasn’t one homerun signing, quality pieces were also added that fit both style of play and team needs.

Charlotte now has a go to player in Jefferson, a solid point guard in Kemba Walker a defensive stopper in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and a legitimate shooting guard in Stephenson. The Hornets are ready to compete for a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference. Cho was vocal about achieving Charlotte’s next goal of having homecourt in the playoffs, he’s put together a product that’s capable of taking that next step.

For those who are curious about Kidd-Gilchrist’s shooting motion, he and assistant coach Mark Price have removed the “hitch” to a much smoother shooting stroke.

It would have been easy for the Hornets’ front office to accept just making the playoffs, but rather than becoming complacent, they became aggressive on the free-agent market. When McRoberts left they found a replacement, then after losing out on Hayward they turned to plan B.

All three team needs were addressed this offseason of signing a talented wing, adding length and depth to the frontcourt and finding a backup point guard.

Whether or not you’re a fan of the moves that have been made this offseason by Rich Cho you have to appreciate his efforts of improving this roster.

Charlotte may have lost some toughness in McRoberts, but gained some nasty in Stephenson.

 

Justin Tyree

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Insider and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  www.Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes

Home Is Hindering Hairston

Jul 07, 2014 -- 12:29pm

There's a reason PJ Hairston was taken in the latter part of the first round of the NBA Draft, it wasn't due to his performance on the court, but his actions off the court.

Hairston will be charged with assault and battery for an altercation at a Durham YMCA on Sunday. Hairston will not be arrested, but will appear in court in August.

Is anyone shocked?

Just last week Hairston was introduced to the Charlotte media after being traded to the Hornets from a deal done with the Miami Heat for Shabazz Napier.

Leading up to the draft Hairston’s name was a likely candidate being brought up due to his UNC ties, and the fact that he can shoot the basketball, something that is much needed in Charlotte.

As much as many UNC and Hornet fans wanted Hairston in Charlotte, they also knew of the baggage that he would come with stemming from his troubles at UNC.

As expected Hairston said all of the right things about how he changed his life around, and that’s he ready to move forward. I believe him about him being a changed man, but I also knew if anything would happen it would occur in the Greensboro/Durham area. When the news broke Sunday on the altercation, I wish I could say I was shocked, but I’m not. When he should have been in Charlotte, he was home.

What’s the kicker is that mini-camp begins this afternoon for the summer league. Today should be a day where Hornet fans should be excitement about Cody Zeller, Noah Vonleh and Hairston all taking the floor together, but that’s not the case. Hairston will be stuck answering questions about his fight in a YMCA rather how his first NBA practice went.

Many feared Charlotte taking Hairston due to the close proximity of Greensboro to Charlotte. Personally I don’t even know why he was in Greensboro over the weekend with mini-camp beginning this week, though I understand that's where he's from.

For Hairston to remain free of negativity off the court, he needs to stay away from home as much as possible. I understand he wants to remain loyal to his city, but loyalty is overrated when the cause that hinders you no longer benefits you.

 

Justin Tyree

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Insider and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  www.Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes

Charlotte's Very Important Summer

Jun 26, 2014 -- 8:37am

Many believe that timing is everything, there also are many that believe timing means nothing if you don’t take advantage of the opportunity.

The Charlotte Hornets took advantage of being in the situation of succeeding when it wasn’t expected, but now the expectations are there from the front office of Michael Jordan and Rich Cho to Steve Clifford and his players.

The Hornets won’t take the floor until late October early November, but the offseason is when you make your move.

Outside of Miami, Chicago Indiana and possibly Brooklyn the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference is up for grabs.

Two teams in the Eastern Conference are treading in the right direction, the Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets.

Making the playoffs as the seventh seed was a step in the positive direction, after winning 21 games in the 2012-13 season, but you must continue to press forward. You have the name back, the coach in place, and the support of not only the city of Charlotte, but also the Carolinas, its time you take that next step.

Charlotte needs a legitimate shooting guard, another big for depth in the frontcourt then secure a more than serviceable backup point guard.

With the ninth overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, there have been talks that the Hornets have their eye on both Doug McDermott and Nik Stauskas. If the two are available, my choice would be to take Stauskas rather McDermott. Both players can shoot the ball, which is one of Charlotte’s glaring needs, but what separates the two is that Stauskas has the ability to put the ball on the floor creating his own shot. I’m not so confident that McDermott can create his own shot against NBA defenders, but I could be wrong.

As for adding depth to the frontcourt, Adrien Payne of Michigan State would a solid pick at the 24 spot. I doubt Payne will be still be on the board at 24, but I’m sure either Mitch McGary or Johnny O’Bryant will be possibly be available at 24 if not 45. There’s no doubt in my mind that a deal will get done to re-sign Josh McRoberts, but the Hornets will need one more big. I wouldn’t be opposed to bringing back Jeff Adrien, he’s a high energy big that can come off the bench providing rest for either Al Jefferson, McRoberts or Cody Zeller.

Two names come to mind for the backup point guard position: Roman Sessions and Steve Blake. Sessions is the more likely of the two, but I wouldn’t be too quick to eliminate the talks of Blake as a candidate. Sessions played well while in Charlotte, providing a spark off the bench in combination with providing veteran leadership for Kemba Walker. With Sessions being open to returning, I’m sure Rich Cho will be giving his agent phone call.

Though the draft is where the Hornets will take some steps in upgrading their roster, free agency is also around the corner. Michael Jordan has been vocal as of late in adding a free agent in the same ballpark of Jefferson. Lance Stephenson did lose some money with his antics in the playoffs, but one thing you can’t forget is that the kid can ball, and he’s definitely an upgrade from Gerald Henderson. Gordon Hayward is a name to also keep in mind, he’s a restricted free-agent, meaning Utah has the opportunity to match any offer a team throws his way. Either of the two wings can come to Charlotte and easily push the Hornets into the conversation for one of the top-five teams in the Eastern Conference.

This summer including the draft, free agency and how the players improve during the off-season will be the determining factor on how the Hornets come out the gate. If Charlotte misses in both the draft and free agency, then the players on the current roster don’t continue to improve, that excitement that once was paramount can possibly go dormant.

The timing couldn’t be better for an organization that is moving in the right direction in a conference that if you take care of business you can consistently be a top four to five seed for years to come.

In three to five years from now will be talking about the Hornets consistently fighting for the seventh or eighth seed? Or home court advantage?

 

Justin Tyree

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Insider and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  www.Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes

Gary Harris or Nik Stauskas?

May 21, 2014 -- 11:54am

        Are you familiar with the names of Gary Harris or Nik Stauskas? If not familiarize yourself with the names. Harris and Stauskas are two viable options for the Hornets selecting ninth to address the need at the shooting guard position.

        Over the course of this offseason the team will need to address the need at shooting guard, adding another forward and signing a backup point guard. The shooting guard and forward can be taken care of through the draft with the three picks of ninth, 24th and 45th. The need at backup point guard can be secured through free-agency with Roman Sessions being interested in returning.

        As the ten year era of heartache in the form of the Bobcats came to an end, the second chapter can now begin with the Hornets officially being back in Charlotte.

        In the same day of welcoming the Hornets, the Basketball Gods were on Charlotte’s side with the Hornets moving up into the lottery with the ninth overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, thanks to the Detroit Pistons falling out of the top eight selections.

        Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker are a nice center/guard combination going forward, but the time is now that Charlotte addresses the shooting guard position or lack thereof despite the re-signing of Gerald Henderson last offseason. Henderson played well this past season, but pulled a disappearing act in the playoffs against Miami.

        One thing that Charlotte lacked this past season was a shooter than can provide floor spacing to make things easier for Jefferson and Walker. Gary Neal and Anthony Tolliver did what they could shooting 38 and 41 percent respectively, from behind the arch, but the two are role players not starters.

        If the Hornets are going to continue to make strides in the right direction, they’ll have to make the right pick at the nine.

        Harris out of Michigan State averaged 16.7 points on 43 percent shooting during his sophomore year playing under Tom Izzo. Harris is looked at as a guy who’s an above average penetrator with a high motor. Harris is projected to go in the top-10 falling to 14th at the lowest, he’s a good ball player, but I don’t know if he’s who Charlotte should take at nine. Henderson can get to the rim also, but can’t stretch the floor which is needed.

        A name that you’re going to hear pretty often is Stauskas of Michigan who’s dynamite from being the arch. In Stauskas’ two years at Michigan he shot the ball 44 percent from three, raising his scoring average for 11 points to 17.5. If you watched him in his two years at Michigan you know the guy is a big time competitor who can also put it on the floor having the ability to create his own shot. He’s not afraid of the big stage with his most recent performance of 24 points against Kentucky in the Elite 8 despite losing 75-72.  

        With the ninth pick in the 2014 NBA Draft the Charlotte Hornets select… Who will it be Harris or Stauskas?

 

Justin Tyree

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Insider and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  www.Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes 

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