year of the Cincinnati Post was one of the toughest years of my life.
how hard I tried, I couldn't stop thinking about what jobs I would have to work
to make ends meet. You know, since my journalism career was about to come to an
end. The garbage truck would rumble by the house at 7 a.m., and I thought to
myself, "Well, I guess I could be a garbage man." The restaurant server would refill
our water glasses, and I thought to myself, "Well, I guess I could be a waiter
who gets your coffee, I could do that. The guy who paints lines on the streets,
I could do that. The guy who cleans the roadkill off those freshly-lined roads,
I could do that.
paranoia and insecurity got to be ridiculous. I remember taking a trip to New York City to cover a
Xavier-Fordham basketball game, and as former Enquirer reporter Dustin Dow and
I walked back to the hotel at 1 a.m., I thought about my new career path and
how sad I was that my sports writing career could be cut short after just six
years. Meanwhile, I pointed out all my new potential occupations (pan-handling
seemed like a decent jumping-off point).
But I got
lucky on two different occasions. First, a few days after the Post officially
closed on Dec. 31, 2007, Todd "T-Bone" Cunningham, formerly of Bearcat Lair,
e-mailed and asked me to work with him. I did. Then, after Todd and I parted
ways, UC associate AD Mike Waddell and John Mason - the VP and GM of Cincinnati's
IMG outfit - set up a meeting and told me their plans to remake gobearcats.com.
into a place where UC fans, wanting the latest news and features and
interviews, could click and feel satisfied afterward. I accepted their offer,
and two years later, I feel like we've begun to accomplish those goals. Surely,
there have been some missteps along the way, and the web site isn't exactly the
finished product we all hope it can be. But it's got the potential. It's got
people behind the scenes who really care about making gobearcats.com your
one-stop shop for all things UC. It could and will happen.
I won't be along for the ride as they continue the journey. Today, on June 14,
I'm starting work for CBSSports.com as an NFL blogger. Then, in late August,
I'll be moving to Atlanta
with my wife and twin babies so she can begin a fellowship in forensic psychiatry.
We'll be there for a year, and then, most probably, we'll move on somewhere
gobearcats.com will get a fresh new voice to cover football and men's
basketball. I know who it is, but I'll let UC make that announcement. I will
say, though, that my successor will do a fantastic job. That should be exciting
for gobearcats.com readers - of which I will remain.
lived in Cincinnati
for six years, and the city has really grown on me since moving here from the
south. I've ingested it into my soul, and there it will stay for the rest of my
life. This was the first city in which I actually lived with my wife. Where I
bought a home. Where I learned so many lessons of life - good and bad. Where I
wrote a book. Where I fathered two amazing little babies. Where I've made some
of the best friends ever.
we're extremely sad to leave.
night, my wife went out to dinner with some colleagues, and she got to talking
with one of her preceptors, a big UC fan. He talked to her about how much he
loved Bearcats Rising and how often he checked the blog. My wife - as Bill Koch
might say - is rarely impressed by anything Josh Katzowitz-related, and it
always knocks her off her game just a bit when somebody recognizes me out in
the real world.
home from the dinner, though, and she was beaming. She thought, for just a
minute, that I was pretty cool. Either that, or Bearcats fans who follow me on
Twitter should be doing something more important with their lives. I'd like to
think it was the former.
said, those are the kind of fans - those who like what I write and how I write
it, and those who aren't nearly as impressed - who have made it a pleasure to
cover UC these past few years. From Jamual Warren fantasizing about walking off
a bridge to Mardy Gilyard describing his car-as-a-home arrangement; from Ron
Allen hitting that 3-pointer on Senior Night to Tony Pike's reaction after he
found out the Bearcats would play Florida in the Sugar Bowl, I've got to
experience - and write about - some of the highest highs and some of the lowest
a list of people to thank for allowing me to do that.
For T-Bone, I'll always be grateful for keeping me from having to
fill out the garbage man application. For Waddell and Mason, I appreciate the
chance to contribute to the start of something that could - and will - be
really cool. For Jeremy Martin, Mike Harris, Ryan Koslen, Lara Thornton and
John Berry of the SID department, I appreciate all the help and support you've
given to all the media folks in this town and the friendships we've formed
(over sporcle.com, no less). But most of all, I thank the fans of my blogs past
and present - the Post blog, the BCL blog and the Katz on the Cats blog.
You guys have been great and encouraging, and I appreciate all the
positive (and negative) feedback you've given me during the past three years. I
thank you for supporting Bearcats Rising. I thank you for stopping me at
football games or tracking me down at basketball games just to make small talk.
Most of all, I thank you for reading. It is, after all, what a
writer needs most, and I thank you for giving me that special gift. I thank you
for allowing me to stay in my chosen profession. As former UC SID Kelby Siler
used to answer when you'd ask him how he was, I've been living the dream. I
thank you for making that possible.
about a Lance Stephenson update. It seems as though Stephenson's NBA Draft
stock has risen lately, just like Mick Cronin predicted would happen when he
began working out in front of potential employers.
like the Sporting News' Mike Decourcy, has written he's hearing buzz that
Stephenson might edge his way into the first round - the promised land of
guaranteed contracts and plenty of riches. Others, like NBAdraft.net, think
Stephenson is still a second-round selection (this web site's most recent mock
draft has him going at No. 34 overall to GoldenState).
seems pretty clear that Stephenson is in a better position now than he was when
he declared that he would leave UC and enter the NBA Draft. According to an
article written by Adam Zagoria of SNY.com,
Stephenson's trainer, a guy named Andrew Moore, said Stephenson is improving
been a pleasure," Moore
told Zagoria. "He comes in every day and works hard. He's supremely
focused. We looked at his body and leaned him out. He's lost some of his body
fat. He's more defined and in turn, he's more explosive. He's really benefited
from losing a little bit of weight and he's gained lean muscle mass."
What Moore is trying to
accomplish is to improve Stephenson's deficiencies. Although Stephenson,
especially later in the Bearcats season, could be mighty impressive in taking
over a game, he struggled from the 3-point line (shooting 21.9 percent) and he
was mediocre from the foul line (66.4 percent). His assist-to-turnover ratio
also was unimpressive (84 assists to 81 turnovers).
there's no denying Stephenson's talent, and though I think he'll still fall to
the second round, it wouldn't be shocking to see him taken in the first.
like being the underdog," he told hoopsworld.com
http://www.hoopsworld.com/Story.asp?story_id=16268. "Having everybody
doubting me and saying, 'Oh, he's not ready," I just want to show everybody
you didn't hear - and I'm sure you probably didn't - a couple of former
Bearcats football players were selected in the UFL draft Wednesday night.
Antonio Chapman - who was on the Bengals roster last year - was taken by Sacramento in the sixth round, and Curtis Young, who had a
tryout with the Bengals during rookie minicamp, was taken in the 10th
round by Sacramento.
those guys. I have admiration for former college standouts who don't give up on
their dreams, no matter how minor league their current situation is. I admire
Ben Mauk and Terrill Byrd and Dominick Goodman for playing in that indoor
football league. I'll admire Young if he takes that spot in Sacramento. I admired Dominic Ross when I met
up with him a few years ago after he had played an AF2 game.
is minimal, but the exposure can lead to dreams that come true. Ask Kurt Warner
impressive the way Butch Jones (or somebody playing the role of Butch Jones)
has taken to Twitter. It's the wave of the present, and it's something that can
be used to great effect. A coach has to want to do it, though, for it to be
effective. The best local one I've seen lately is Xavier basketball coach Chris
Mack's feed. But Jones isn't too far behind.
The Bearcats basketball team will face Oklahoma
Dec. 18 in Oklahoma City
in the All-College Basketball Classic, the world's oldest basketball tournament
(it began in 1936). That's what UC announced today. But what does it mean?
Well, it means the goal of getting as much national publicity
as possible continues for the Bearcats. The game will be preceded by Oklahoma
State-Alabama and it will be broadcast on an ESPN network. So, that's good for
Also it will help UC's RPI, and although this game won't
be included in next year's season ticket package because, you know, it's not a
home game, playing another BCS school, assuming the Bearcats win, will help pad
their resume for the NCAA tournament.
The coaches spoke in statements released by the school:
always, we're honored to be a part of the All-College Classic," said Oklahoma head coach Jeff
Capel. "This being the 75th year of the event makes it even more special, and
we're proud and excited to once again play in Oklahoma City. Playing a team like Cincinnati provides a
very, very tough challenge. Coming from the BIG EAST, they're a team that plays
really hard, is very well coached and will return a lot of players from last
great respect for Jeff Capel and the Oklahoma
program," said Cincinnati
coach Mick Cronin. "We are excited to play a team from the Big 12 and we thank
ESPN for their help in making this series a reality."
This is probably not what the UC administration wants to
think about, but what happens if the Big East's nightmare comes true, and the
Big Ten pilfers three of its teams? Say, the Big Ten takes Syracuse,
Pitt and Rutgers and leaves the Big East with
exactly five football-playing schools? What then?
Can UC football survive and keep playing at the highest
levels? It's a fair question, especially as conference realignment continues to
get major play in national newspapers, magazines and web sites.
Here's the latest offering from SI.com's Andy Staples: To
go or not to go? That's the question for expansion candidates.
Some of Staples' points from the column (and some of mine
-Rutgers could go, and
it'd be a marriage that benefits both parties. Rutgers
would enter one of the best football conferences in the land, and the Big Ten
could infiltrate the Metro New York market, which would mean more potential
cable subscribers for the Big Ten Network. (YetRutgers
has been so unimpressive through most of the last century, this wouldn't make
the Big Ten football brand any better. Plus, how many Rutgers
fans live in the metro NYC area? That area just doesn't strike me a college
-In order to grab Notre Dame - which I'm sure Big East
adminstrators and fans would prefer, because that likely would be enough to
satiate the Big Ten hunger for expansion - the Big Ten still would need to blow
up the Big East to force Notre Dame's hand and give the Golden Dome no other
option but to join. (I just don't see Notre Dame letting go of its
independence. Yes, it'd make more money by joining the Big Ten for football,
but I'm not sure its hubris is worth an additional $10 million.)
-Every Big East team would take the Big Ten's invitation
and leave the Big East and join the Big Ten. (I believe this is true. And you
couldn't really blame whichever Big East team the Big Ten approaches).
So, what now. Well, one reader, Gary, has some ideas and
some complaints. For one, he doesn't understand why the Big East isn't being
proactive by trying to expand itself. Gary
would like to see a 16-team, two-division conference that plays a championship
game every year at Yankee Stadium. Some of the teams he would bring into the
field: Central Florida, Temple, Army and some
old Conference USA
foes. As Gary
writes, "If the BE Conf. waits to see what is going to happen we are going to
get picked apart or end up a basketball only conference. This may not be
the perfect scenario, but we need to do something to survive as a football
(You have to ask
yourself this: is it better to add mid-level teams from a mid-major conference
to your conference, or is it better just to pack up the Big East tent and let
everybody fend for themselves? Probably the former, but I'm not sure a team
filled with mostly C-USA teams would have a BCS affiliation anyway. Of course,
as Gary points
out, it's not necessarily about the quality of the teams. It's about the TV
Another idea: if the Big Ten expands by picking up three
Big East teams, the five schools that are left (probably UC, West
Virginia, Louisville, South Florida, and Pitt or UConn) should approach the Big
12 for membership. At least, this way, UC could remain in a BCS conference.
(Joining another conference would be paramount for UC. If
the Big 12 loses some teams to the Big Ten - say, Missouri
and Nebraska - or if Colorado leaves for the Pac-10, this could
be a reality. Or, if the ACC wants to expand and improve its conference, it
could approach West Virginia, UC, South
Florida and Louisville.
But what happens if Texas
bolts for the SEC? How much less attractive would the Big 12 look at that
sent an e-mail to Big East commissioner John Marinatto that suggests merging
the Big East with the rest of the ACC and making it a 16-team super conference.
This assumes the ACC loses Clemson and/or Georgia Tech to the SEC. This way, Gary writes, the Big East
still could remain a legit conference, albeit as a basketball-only league.
(I wonder if, logistically, this would be impossible to
do. But I do know this. If the Big Ten follows through and pilfers a huge chunk
of the Big East, Marinatto had better have some answers. If not, the Big East
will collapse. And then all bets are off for UC.)
much talk lately about conference realignment and the Big Ten poaching schools
from either the Big East or the Big 12, let's get a little discussion going
here. What happens to UC if the Big Ten takes a few Big East squads, say
Rutgers, Pittsburgh and Syracuse? Do the Bearcats take a huge step
backward? Will they continue to play for the BCS title?
athletic director Mike Thomas told the Enquirer earlier this month he expects
the program to remain in the Big East. But what will be of the Big East? Yes,
commissioner John Marinatto hired former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue to
serve as a consultant - most likely, his main role will be to figure out how to
keep the league intact if the Big Ten plucks some of the conference's best
fruit - but in reality, there's not much else the Big East can do until the Big
Ten makes its move.
story in the Newark Star Ledger that details Rutgers'
upcoming crossroads decision.
solution for the Big East? Start its own TV network.
East and the Big 12 aren't the only conferences that are worried about Big Ten
realignment. Marshall and Conference USAare concerned as well.
think Notre Dame will join a conference - unless its hand is absolutely forced,
as athletic director Jack Swarbrick has said - but here's one argument about
why the Fighting Irish should.
do you think? Shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org,
and let me know what you believe UC should do if the Big Ten should demolish a
major portion of the Big East. I've already heard from some of you - ahem, Gary
- and I'll post those ideas later in the week. But be Big East commissioner for
a day, and tell me what you would do to 1) prevent this from occurring (if it's
preventable) and 2) what your response would be.
been hurt during that week of practice, and by his own account, he wasn't
prepared to absorb the gameplan. Thus, though UC's offense had little problems
defense, his absence was noticeable as he gained minus-five yards on four
get a good feeling for him today," Brian Kelly said afterward. "I'm on the
sideline bringing guys in and out. I just didn't get that connection today. It
wasn't his kind of game. It didn't materialize that way."
seemed like Isaiah Pead - even though he finished with a team-high 806 rushing
yards and nine touchdowns on 121 carries last season as a sophomore - still had
to mature before he could become the kind of running back he knows he can be.
practice that much that week because of a hamstring problem," Pead said. "The
install that week, I wasn't all the way locked in because I wasn't taking reps
at practice. I could only take so many mental reps because I was taking
therapy. It was like sitting out for a week basically."
playing that week - and perhaps some of Kelly's comments afterward - made an
impact on Pead, though.
really hit me," Pead said. "There are no superstars out here. You can't just
sit out for a week and expect to play in a game."
year, Pead, Darrin Williams and John Goebel had Jacob Ramsey on which they
could rely. Ramsey was the senior leader, and the trio of underclassmen could
share the running back responsibilities with him. No more, though. Now it's up
to Pead - who likely will enter fall camp at the top of the depth chart.
result, Pead - as he's set to enter his junior year despite the knee injury he
suffered during the spring game - said he's changed his mentality.
been the last six months," Pead said. "Now it's time to be a leader - after
sitting in the shadows and coming out here and there, scoring a few touchdowns
and getting my feet wet behind Ramsey and John Goebel and taking mental reps.
It's the determination of the person who's sitting on the bench and watching.
It's transferring from taking the mental reps and to actually doing it now."
to be that top running back, though, Pead still has to work on becoming a
complete running back. Which means, obviously, running the ball, but it also
means Pead has had to work on other aspects of his game.
going to expect him to pass protect," coach Butch Jones said. "He's not going
to be extended out in the formation. We always talk to our running backs about
being complete running backs. It's easy to find a runner or pass-catcher. But a
running back has to do all the fine details - they have to pass-protect and
they have to run-block, they have to have great run-fakes, they have to
understand the run system and the tempo of the run plays and be able to catch
the ball. That's what we've been stressing."
surprise to Pead the biggest improvement he has to make is in his blocking.
undersized back who has yet to touch 200 pounds," Pead said. "If you want to
cut and be quick with it and stay up, you have to be physical. You have to be
relentless, and you have to have heart. You're a smaller back and (opposing
defensive ends) are making it tough on you. They're trying to bull-rush the
quarterback, like you're not even there.
no Jacob Ramsey. He was great at it, and he weighed 220 pounds. There's me,
who's 195, and Goebel - who has size but needs to get his technique down - and
Darrin, who's 5-6."
believes Pead will get it, though. It's because Jones says he can see Pead's
hunger. The hunger to be the first UC running back since Richard Hall in 2004
to gain 1,000 yards in a season. The hunger to be the best running back on the
"I like Isaiah's
mentality," Jones said. "He's an extremely competitive young man. There isn't
anybody who wants to do better than Isaiah Pead."
Jones began spring practice talking about building up the depth of his defense.
He ended it discussing the same subject. Yes, some strides were made during
UC's 15 practices, but the defensive depth chart still will be something to work
on as the Bearcats begin their summer workout regime in preparation for next
season's fall camp.
Sugar Bowl starting lineup, the Bearcats said goodbye to Ricardo Matthews, Alex
Daniels, Curtis Young, Andre Revels, Brad Jones and Aaron Webster. They also
lost Craig Carey and Marcus Waugh. All of them were important, solid members of
the UC squad
leaves Derek Wolfe, J.K. Schaffer, Walter Stewart, Drew Frey and Dominique
Battle as the underclassmen starters to return. John Hughes and Dan Giordano -
both of whom made a good impression last year - also will look to make an
impact. It's a good base to be sure.
obviously, UC needs more defensive talent. That's what Jones wanted to see
throughout the spring. He didn't exactly get what he wanted.
ongoing process," Butch Jones said. "It continues to be a work in progress.
This summer will be big for a lot of individuals, especially with some people
on the defensive line - to get in shape and to get bigger, faster and stronger.
Our captains and leaders of the team will run our practice this summer. They
have to learn the system more. There were times (during the spring game) where we
struggled getting lined up right. That can't happen."
the spring game, some unfamiliar names popped out at you if you perused the
final defensive statistics. Alex Delisi (he's a junior linebacker) led the team
with eight tackles and a sack. Ricardo Thompson (junior linebacker) had six
tackles, as did Will Saddler (redshirt freshman defensive back). Maalik Bomar
(sophomore linebacker) had five tackles, while relatively unheard of players
such as Steve Hancock, DeMarkus Bracy and Aaron Roberson each contributed a
Jones wasn't too happy with his second-team defense's performance in Bearcat Bowl
wasn't pleased with the tackling," Jones said. "A lot of our mistakes occurred
with the second defense. You have to get that corrected, because as you know,
you're one step away. We'll go back and we'll look at this again. To have a chance
to be really successful and have a great defense, we have to get off the field.
You get off the field by being a great tackling team."
bright spot was the interception by Sean McClellan, a redshirt freshman
defensive lineman from Moeller who picked off Chazz Anderson and made a nice
runback. He's one potential depth builder.
know if I am right now," McClellan said. "The only thing I have to worry about
is getting better."
the rest of the defense to build that much-needed depth.
"Our No. 1s
are doing a great job, but the 2s and 3s will continue to have to step up,"
McClellan said. "We'll just have to work real hard in strength and
conditioning. There's still a lot of work to do."
into the Bengals locker room today, and who did I see toweling off just a few
feet away from punter Kevin Huber's space? His old running buddy, long snapper
Mike Windt - who signed a free agent deal with the Bengals last week and is attending
the rookie camp this weekend.
Windt, it's been a rough couple of months. It usually is for college long
snappers looking to find their place in the NFL fraternity. The Bengals hadn't
needed one for many years, but last year, Brad St. Louis broke down and Clark
Harris took over his duties when St.
Louis got released. Harris was fine last year, but
that doesn't mean Windt doesn't have a chance to take that job playing for the
Windt, it's a two-man race to win the long snapper job. Why not him?
"It was a
long process; it was a long couple months of not knowing where you're going to
be," Windt said today after the Bengals morning practice. "I had a funny
feeling that I'd end up here. I have a good relationship with (special teams
coach Darrin) Simmons. He's taught me a lot already. I've only been here a day
and a half and he's already taught me so much. Out of all the special teams
coaches that talked to me, I just feel really comfortable with him. It's going
to be a competition, but I feel comfortable with where I'm at. I just need to
finish up on some detail things that Darrin will help me with."
all, Windt feels pretty lucky. He finished his eligibility at UC in time for
the NFL's uncapped year. Which means, in some areas - like, say, long snapping
- teams might be looking for a less expensive option. Windt could be that
want to get younger and cheaper," Windt said. "There are long snappers out
there making over $1 million a year. If a team thinks they can bring in
somebody and pay them less, that's the big thing with the process. It is a good
time to come out. I was a little bit lucky. It's better to come out this year
than during the lockout (presumably this could happen before the 2011 season),
like Jake Rogers. I don't know what's going to happen with that, but I'm happy
for the opportunity I've got right now."
plays a position most people don't notice, and most of the time, that's exactly
what he wants. Before today, I don't think I ever interviewed him, because I
never needed to ask him about what went wrong during a game. He was that good.
But he also finds himself in a different spot than most of the other rookies
coming out of college.
don't get the exposure everybody else gets," Windt said. "You have to be
perfect. If you have anything wrong with you, you're not going to go anywhere.
My whole concept when I started college was to be perfectly consistent. If you
can shoot a ball back there in 0.5 (seconds), it doesn't matter if you're not
consistent. If you're not accurate, you can't do anything with that. If it's
off by a little bit, it's going to throw off the entire process."
two factors working in Windt's favor this summer. He's back to working with his
old punter, Huber, and he's finally getting some on-hands coaching.
Simmons is with us every second of the practice," Huber said. "It just feels a
lot better. It's better having the individual contact. I'm happy with that situation.
It just makes you feel more comfortable when you're doing it. He teaches you
the correct way to do it as compared to teaching yourself in college.
Huber), there's trustworthiness. Through all the years, I know where Kevin
wants the ball, and he trusts me that I'm going to get it there. I have for
years. Chemistry between a punter and long snapper has to be positive. If you
don't, it's like a center and quarterback not getting along.
"But if I
can prove to them I'm perfectly consistent, I'll feel really good about myself.
I had a good practice today, I'll watch film with coach, evaluate it and have
another four good ones."
--Other sightings: Jacob Ramsey (who is still taking 18 credit hours of class) and Curtis Young have tryouts this weekend. Also, Kerry Coombs attended morning practice as well.
(UPDATED: 5:44 p.m.): Marvin Lewis' thoughts on Mike Windt:
got a lot of latent. We've signed him already to a free agent contract. He has
a great ability to snap the football - to long snap and short snap. He's been accomplished
doing it there at UC. From watching him out there today, he has a lot of ability.
He has great accuracy with it, great velocity with it and a great feel for it. He's
going to get a good opportunity to prove if he can do it for us here."
so many other receivers to count, so many other guys who will bring the hype
and the eyebrow-raising catches. These are the Bearcats featured on billboards,
the ones that catch the imagination of UC fans.
Hazelton is the transfer from USC who will be eligible this year and who many
expect to top this receiving corps. Armon Binns is the junior who had a
breakout year last season, making amazing touchdown catches (11 scores last
season) and using his 6-foot-4 frame to full advantage. Marcus Barnett is the
senior hungering for his final chance, three years after the best freshman
receiving performance in school history.
Woods is not in that group. Woods is a possession receiver who catches the
screens and intakes the passes on the five-yard routes. He's not flashy. He was
not a freshman All-American like Barnett, and he's not featured on billboards
like Binns. Your imagination doesn't soar with the possibilities of his
production like it might with Hazleton.
is just a solid receiver, a guy who racks up receiving yards when you're not
paying attention. But somehow, Woods, as a sophomore, kept his starting job
last season and recorded 51 catches for 640 yards and four scores (all ranked
No. 3 on the team). He likely will enter his junior year at the top of the
depth chart as well.
because he's consistent. And coach Butch Jones likes - no, make that loves -consistent
receivers. Woods showed up again during the spring game, catching six passes
for 88 yards and a touchdown while throwing a 60-yard pass of his own that
nearly netted another score.
played exceptionally well," Jones said. "He came up to me after the game and
said, 'Well coach, how did I play?' You know what? D.J. has been a model of
consistency all spring. I thought he had a good performance, and I thought we
blocked good on the perimeter for him as well."
really impressed me about Woods last Saturday was his ability to earn yards
after the catch. He caught a few bubble screens, and he made a couple
short-route receptions. The fact he averaged 14.7 yards on mostly short balls
is a testament to how valuable he could be for the Bearcats next year.
"He did a
great job of advancing the ball," Jones said. "We talk about that all the time."
Woods, it's a matter of practicing his craft every chance he gets.
bubble (screens) every single day," Woods said. "We have a period when they do
field goals, and we do nothing but bubbles. I feel comfortable in my technique
and looking upfield trying to find receivers making blocks, because I'm making
cuts off them."
technique, Woods said, is an important part of his game that he's continued to
thing I need to work on is blocking downfield. If I do that, my technique and
my game will be up to par," he said. "I'm never satisfied. I'll come out to
work every day, because somebody is going to try to take my spot."
somebody is Barnett - who switched between offense and defense last year, in
part because of the stranglehold Woods had on the position. Now that Barnett is
focusing strictly on offense, he'll look to take Woods' spot for himself. Woods
doesn't want that to happen.
the spots are solid; it's only spring time," Woods said. "I just need to work
on my technique and my willpower. I have Bones (Barnett) right now, and Bones
was a first-team freshman All American. He's always in my shadow, always
pushing me. But I'm always pushing him at the same time. I just need to have
the mentality that it's my spot."
Bengals had a chance to take him in the third round, but instead, they opted
for Jordan Shipley. The Titans and the Panthers could have had him, as well.
The Steelers passed, and so did the Broncos and Chargers.
Gilyard spent the first two days of the NFL Draft this past weekend waiting.
Waiting to receive a phone call from the team who would make him its next pick.
Waiting to begin his pro career. Waiting for the next step of his life.
first round passed, and predictably, he heard nothing. Friday went by - the
second and third rounds - and he heard nothing. On Saturday, though, he didn't
have to wait long.
first pick of the fourth round - the first pick of the day - the St. Louis Rams
drafted Gilyard. And to celebrate, the St.
Louis scribes asked him, what was he going to do?
about to go crabbing," he said.
sure. Wait, what?
"Crabbing is an old school way of catching
crabs," he explained. "I'm from the backwoods and we're country folk back
here, so we'll be in the backlands or the backwoods here in Florida not too far from where my parents
stay at. It's just old school - chicken necks, string and netting - just
kind of catching crabs. Go for what you know."
"We're actually throwing a big party for me
here in a couple hours, so I've got to be the man to bring back some
crabs. We actually (had a party) the last two days because nobody knew
where I was going to end up going."
thought a team would take him earlier in the Draft. And why not? He had a
stellar career at UC. He holds school records. He showcased memorial catches
and kickoff returns. He showed speed and great hands and a willingness to
connect with young fans.
had to wait a while during the Draft.
the 6-foot-3 guy," Rams GM Billy Devaney told reporters after making the pick
Saturday. "He's 5-11 and change. He's not a 4.4 guy. He's got real competitive
speed - especially in the returns, you see him running away from people - but
he doesn't have the elite 40 (yard dash) speed. And like we said earlier, it's
really deep at receiver. I think as much as anything, (the depth at the
position) probably hurt him some."
positive in Gilyard's favor, though, is his ability to excel on special teams.
one of the attractive things," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "Scouts and
coaches talked a lot about that. (Special teams coordinator) Tom McMahon is
doing back-flips upstairs. Any way you can change field position, it helps both
the defense and the offense. It's a weapon. I want to say (Gilyard had) 93
returns for almost 3,000 yards or something. That's a lot of production."
he'll get a chance to show off his skills in the NFL with the top pick in the
draft, QB Sam Bradford, and a young, almost unknown receiver corps. He'll have
his chance to make an impact.
going to try to come in and compete my hardest and let the rest of it sort
itself out," Gilyard said. "It was shocking to hear my name (called). They
called me before 10:00 a.m. and said, 'Hey we're going to take you. We're
not going to fool around or beat around the bush.' I was just stoked,
because now I can finally get ready to go to work. I've been waiting to go
to work for forever."