White Sox

Football or Baseball for Getzelman?

602428.png

Football or Baseball for Getzelman?

Ever since he was 10 years old, since travel leagues became popular and he began to receive national exposure in his favorite sport, Prairie Ridge's Jordan Getzelman felt baseball was his future.

The budding center fielder who produced a .465 batting average last spring has been a presence since he earned all-tournament recognition in USSSA World Series events at age 11 and 15. A junior, he already has been focusing on college baseball. National powers LSU and Stanford have expressed interest. So have Michigan, Northwestern and Central Michigan.

Nobody seemed interested in Getzelman as a football player--not until now. Not until the 6-1, 215-pound running backreceiver emerged as one of the leaders in Prairie Ridge's drive to the Class 6A championship. He rushed 26 times for 175 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-14 victory over Peoria Richwoods to cap a 13-1 season.

"He had a phenomenal season," coach Chris Schremp said. "He did so much for our team. He snapped on punts and field goals, returned punts and kickoffs, was our leading rusher (1,394 yards, 28 touchdowns) and our leading receiver (20 catches, 429 yards). He did it all for us."

Now Getzelman admits, it might be a mistake to write off football with another year ahead of him. If he could improve his burst of speed, from 4.8 to 4.6 or 4.5, Schremp believes he could attract Division I recruiters. Getzelman already is entertaining the possibility.

"I have been playing at a higher level of baseball for a longer time than football," he said. "But football has taken off for me now. I used to have more love for baseball. But winning a state title in football has been something special."

"I'd still like to play baseball (in college and professionally) but if I could get faster and be an elite running back on a national level, I'd love to do it. My goal in the off-season is to get bigger, stronger and faster, to cut my speed to 4.6 or 4.5."

"This season has put some new thoughts in my mind. Maybe I'm better than I thought I was. My talent level has changed a bit. No one has talked to me about football, no colleges. But I'd have to keep an open mind if some big schools called. It is too early to stop considering all of my options."

Until he enrolled at Prairie Ridge, Getzelman wasn't known as a football player. Before high school, he played tight end and defensive line. Then he was moved to running back. As a sophomore, however, he missed the first eight games with an injury.

"It was a disappointing season for me," he said. "But what made me want to keep going was that I was brought up to the varsity for the state playoff. We got to the semifinals and I was a part of it."

Getzelman and his teammates had high expectations for 2011. Schremp said it was the best team he had coached in 10 years. "Under our breath, we talked about a state appearance. We knew we had talent to get back to the semifinals. But was a state title realistic?" Getzelman said.

"I was beyond expectations this year. I felt I could be good with Connor Greenwald at fullback. But I didn't expect to rush for nearly 1,400 yards and 28 touchdowns. We were better than I thought we would be. Now I have new goals. I have room to get better and stronger and faster. I look back on every game film and pick out things I did wrong, where I can get more yards, increase my speed and improve my reads."

Meanwhile, Schremp is basking in the glow of the Crystal Lake school's first state football championship.

"I was sitting on the bus coming home from Champaign and I had my phone out. I was on the phone for three hours. I want to answer all the e-mails. I have over 200 in the box now...old high school friends, college friends, coaches. I never dreamed of such a response," Schremp said.

"What was most overwhelming was at the pep rally on Sunday when the principal (Paul Humpa), superintendent (Jill Hawk) and athletic director (Patti Hie) spoke about me...nice things, what I taught the team, more than blocking and tackling. I broke down in tears. It was a nice pat on the back and a hug."

Schremp has come a long way. When Prairie Ridge opened, there was a UPS strike. So the football staff went to the loading docks to get blocking sleds and other equipment that couldn't be delivered. In their first season, the Wolves won only one game, played their first home game at Crystal Lake South and the home field didn't have a press box or concession stand. Most kids in the school district chose to attend Crystal Lake Central rather than Prairie Ridge.

"In 14 years, we've gone from there to a state title. I've seen it all," he said. "It is gratifying to get to this point, knowing I have been a big part of it. Every year we have taken steps. And this was my best team, the best overall group of kids, athletes and character-wise. I have received e-mails from referees who said they were so impressed with our kids. It tells me how well our kids have represented our program and the school."

Dave Whitson was the head coach for the first five years. Schremp took over in 2002. "When I took over, I was learning to be a head coach. I was 29 years old, not ready to be a head coach," Schremp said.

But he learned quickly. He hired two veteran coaches with histories of success, Bill Mack from Crystal Lake Central and Grant Blaney, who had directed Buffalo Grove to a state championship in 1986.

"I was surprised to be named head coach at 29," he said. "I don't think I was ready for it from an X's and O's standpoint. But I applied a lot of what (Mack and Blaney) did with their successful teams. I felt I could communicate with kids and parents. That was my strong point. Then I had to come up with a plan."

It all came together in the next few years. Eight years ago, in an effort to compete against conference rival Cary-Grove, he switched from a 6-1 to a 3-5 defense. And, with Mack's guidance, he installed an option offense because he had an abundance of 5-10, 180-pound linemen and not enough Division I linemen to overpower opponents.

"We could always find athletic kids to run the option offense and we didn't need big linemen or a passing quarterback," Schremp said. "I felt we could find the best athlete and have him run the offense and teach him to read the option."

But perhaps the biggest plus in Prairie Ridge's program is the off-season program. "It is called the Maroon Platoon. It is what sets us apart," Schremp said.

"We've stolen ideas from clinics and other coaches. We track our kids in the weight room, the 40-yard dash and agility tests. We award a point for every pound they lift in the weight room. We also award points for conduct and positive behavior in school. We e-mail teachers every week for feedback on players.

"It has changed the overall feeling of our program. It's a 24-hours-a-day thing. Kids are held to a higher standard being an athlete. They have to do well in school, too. The parents and kids and faculty have bought into it. It has made a difference in the program."

But what about next year? Only three offensive starters and three defensive starters will return. Getzelman and 6-4, 255-pound sophomore tackle Shane Evans will be the headliners. Evans projects to be one of the top prospects in the class of 2014 when he is a senior. But will they be enough?

"It will be a test of me and my staff to keep it going, getting the next group of guys ready to go," Schremp said. "We have a really good sophomore class that was 7-2. We won't change our game plan. We have to stay grounded. It took 14 years to get here. We can't think we have it all figured out. We got to the state title because we worked hard at it. We can't let it get to our head. We have a whole new set of guys playing next year and we'll have a target on our backs."

For the time being, however, he will just take time to enjoy the moment. He watched the game film after arriving home on Saturday night. It still seemed too surreal, seeing his team play on the turf of Illinois' Memorial Stadium. "I dreamed of it. I still don't know if it has sunk in," he said.

On Tuesday, he was sitting in his living room with a representative from Josten's, picking out championship rings. The company had e-mailed him after Saturday's game, almost before he had time to change his shirt.

"Some of the rings look like trophies on your finger. I'm still making a decision," he said. "Everything has been great. The ladies in the school cafeteria made me a big cookie. I haven't paid for lunch in a long time. My daughter broke her foot and on the way to her doctor's appointment, we got a free breakfast at the local diner, Caf Olympia. And I got a free turkey sandwich at Jimmy John's. I told the kids they have to keep winning."

Left, right, center: Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Micker Adolfo are dreaming of being the White Sox championship outfield of the future

0123_eloy_jimenez.jpg
USA TODAY

Left, right, center: Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Micker Adolfo are dreaming of being the White Sox championship outfield of the future

GLENDALE, Ariz. — All that was missing was a dinner bell.

From all over the White Sox spring training complex at Camelback Ranch they came, lined up in front of the third-base dugout and all around the cage to see a trio of future White Sox take batting practice.

This is all it was, batting practice. But everyone wanted to get a glimpse of Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Micker Adolfo swinging the bat. And those three outfield prospects delivered, putting on quite a show and displaying exactly what gets people so darn excited about the White Sox rebuild.

How to sum it up if you weren’t there? Just be happy you weren’t parked behind the left-field fence.

Jimenez and Robert are two of the biggest stars of the White Sox rebuilding effort, with Adolfo flying a bit more under the radar, but all three have big dreams of delivering on the mission general manager Rick Hahn and his front office have undertaken over the past year and change: to turn the South Siders into perennial championship contenders. The offensive capabilities of all three guys have fans and the team alike giddy for the time they hit the big leagues.

And those three guys can’t wait for that day, either.

“Actually, just a few minutes ago when we were taking BP, we were talking about it,” Jimenez said Tuesday. “Micker and Luis said, ‘Can you imagine if we had the opportunity one day to play together in the majors: right, left and center field? The three of us together and having the opportunity to bring a championship to this team?’ I think that’s a dream for us, and we’re trying to work hard for that.”

“We were just talking about how cool it would be to one day all three of us be part of the same outfield,” Adolfo told NBC Sports Chicago. “We were talking about hitting behind each other in the order and just envisioning ourselves winning championships and stuff like that. It’s awesome. I really envision myself in the outfield next to Eloy and Luis Robert.”

How those three would eventually line up in the outfield at Guaranteed Rate Field remains to be seen. Adolfo’s highly touted arm would make him an attractive option in right field. Robert’s speed and range makes him the logical fit in center field. Jimenez will play whichever position allows his big bat to stay in the lineup every day.

Here in Arizona, the focus isn’t necessarily on some far off future but on the present. As intriguing as all three guys are and as anticipated their mere batting practice sessions seem to be, they all potentially have a long way to go to crack the big league roster. Jimenez is the furthest along, but even he has only 73 plate appearances above the Class A level. Adolfo spent his first full season above rookie ball last year. Robert has yet to play a minor league game in the United States.

The group could very well make its way through the minor leagues together, which would obviously be beneficial come the time when the three arrive on the South Side.

“We were talking about (playing in the big leagues), but also we were talking about just to have the first stage of the three of us together in the minor leagues first and then go to the majors all three of us together,” Robert said. “To have the opportunity to play there should be pretty special for us. We were dreaming about that.”

For months now, and likely for months moving forward, the question has been and will be: when?

Whether it’s Jimenez or top pitching prospect Michael Kopech or any other of the large number of prospects who have become household names, fans and observers are dying to see the stars of this rebuilding project hit the major leagues. Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez made their respective jumps last season. Hahn, who has said repeatedly this offseason that the front office needs to practice patience as much as the fan base, has also mentioned that a good developmental season for these guys might involve no big league appearances at all.

And it’s worth remembering that could be the case considering the lack of experience at the upper levels of the minor leagues for all three of these guys.

“In my mind, I don’t try to set a date for when I'm going to be in the majors,” Jimenez said. “That is something I can’t control. I always talk with my dad and we share opinions, and he says, ‘You know what? Just control the things that you can control. Work hard and do the things that you need to do to get better.’ And that’s my key. That’s probably why I stay patient.”

But staying patient is sometimes easier said than done. The big crowd watching Jimenez, Robert and Adolfo send baseballs into a to-this-point-in-camp rare cloudless Arizona sky proved that.

Dreaming of the future has now become the official pastime of the South Side. And that applies to fans and players all the same.

“I’m very, very excited,” Jimenez said, “because I know from the time we have here, that when the moment comes, when we can all be in the majors, the ones that can finally reach that level, we’re going to be good, we’re going to be terrific. I know that.”

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

The first major move of Ryan Pace’s 2018 offseason hit on Tuesday, as NFL Network reported the Bears will not exercise Josh Sitton’s $8 million option for 2018. 

The move accomplishes two things for the Bears: 1) It frees up about $8 million in cap space and 2) Removes a veteran from the offensive line and creates a hole to fill, presumably by a younger free agent or draft pick. 

The 31-year-old Sitton signed a three-year deal with the Bears after Green Bay cut him just before the 2016 season, and was a Pro Bowler his first year in Chicago. Sitton played 26 of 32 games in two years with the Bears, but him being on the wrong side of 30 was likely the biggest factor here. If the Bears saw his skills eroding, releasing him now and netting the cap savings while going younger at the position does make sense. 

“Going younger” doesn’t guarantee the Bears will draft Notre Dame brawler Quenton Nelson, though that did become a greater possibility with Tuesday’s move. Nelson might be one of the two or three best offensive players in this year’s draft, and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand knows him well from the four years they spent together at Notre Dame. 

There’s a natural fit there, of course, but a few reasons to slow the Nelson-to-Chicago hype train: Would he even make it to No. 8? Or if he’s there, is taking a guard that high worth it when the Bears have needs at wide receiver, outside linebacker and cornerback? Still, the thought of Nelson — who absolutely dominated at Notre Dame — pairing with Hiestand again is tantalizing, and Nelson very well could step into any team’s starting lineup and be an immediate Pro Bowler as a rookie. 

If the Bears go younger in free agency, Matt Nagy knows 26-year-old guard Zach Fulton (No. 25 in Bleacher Report’s guard rankings) well from their time in Kansas City. Fulton — a Homewood-Flossmoor alum — has the flexibility to play both guard positions and center, which could open the door for Cody Whitehair to be moved to left guard, the position he was initially drafted to play (though the Bears do value him highly as a center, and keeping him at one position would benefit him as opposed to moving him around the line again). There are some other guys out there — like Tennessee’s Josh Kline or New York’s Justin Pugh — that could wind up costing more than Fulton in free agency. 

Or the Bears could look draft an offensive lineman after the first round, perhaps like Ohio State’s Billy Price, Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn or UTEP’s Will Hernandez. How the Bears evaluate guards at the NFL Combine next week will play an important role in how they go about replacing Sitton. 

The trickle-down effect of releasing Sitton will impact more than the offensive line, too. Freeing up his $8 million in cap space -- which wasn't a guarantee, unlike cutting Jerrell Freeman and, at some point, Mike Glennon -- could go toward paying Kyle Fuller, or another top cornerback, or a top wide receiver, or some combination of players at those positions (as well as outside linebacker). The Bears were already in a healthy place cap-wise; that just got healthier on Tuesday.