Bulls

Te'o wins two honors, named Heisman finalist as awards tour begins

923971.png

Te'o wins two honors, named Heisman finalist as awards tour begins

Manti Te'o can finally add New York to his travel itinerary.

Notre Dame's senior linebacker will extend his awards tour through Saturday, when he'll attend the Heisman Trophy presentation ceremony in Times Square. Te'o will be joined by Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein.

Most figure Manziel will win the honor, which a defensive player hasn't won since 1997. But having a defensive player who didn't have an impact on be named a finalist for the award is extremely rare -- Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh finished fourth in 2009 -- and Te'o will finish no lower than third in this year's balloting.

Te'o is Notre Dame's first Heisman Trophy finalist since Brady Quinn, who finished third in 2006 and fourth in 2005. Reggie Brooks finished fifth in 1992, Rocket Ismail was second in 1990 and Tony Rice was fourth in 1989, among recent Irish finalists. Tim Brown was the last Notre Dame player to win the Heisman, with that honor coming in 1987. The school's other winners are John Huarte (1964), Paul Hornung (1956), John Lattner (1953), Leon Hart (1949), John Lujack (1947) and Angelo Bertelli (1943).

While Te'o will find out his Heisman fate Saturday night, the linebacker took home two prestigious honors Monday, winning the Butkus Award (nation's best linebacker) and Nagurski Trophy (top defensive player).

"It's definitely a great accomplishment for me," Te'o said of winning the Nagurski Trophy. "I've ways wanted to be the best. For this to happen helps me to know I'm heading in the right direction. The formula is the same: Hard work leads to success as long as I keep doing it."

All season, though, Te'o hasn't been concerned with personal awards, at least compared to his goal of reaching a national championship that certainly seemed lofty three months ago. But with success comes accolades, especially for a player identified by most as the heart and soul of Notre Dame's resurgence.

Te'o's voyage on the awards circuit took him to Charlotte on Monday, and he'll be in Houston and New York later in the week as well. That means Te'o won't be with his teammates when they begin practicing Friday for the BCS Championship.

"I said listen, this week you gotta write it off. It's not going to be a football week for you," coach Brian Kelly said. "When you have an undefeated football team and a great player, awards generally follow you and this week he's going to do the best he can to work out in the hotels and focus on these postseason awards."

Kelly added Te'o is "burnt out" by the attention of the awards circuit that'll zip him across the country over the next week. His biggest concern, though, has been conditioning and staying in shape, as he relayed last week.

"I asked coach Kelly to make sure that there's a gym in whatever place we stay so when I come back I'm not D-lineman," Te'o said. "That's definitely something that I'll do myself to make sure I stay in shape."

The Butkus Award is also given to a high school player, and Irish commit Jaylon Smith (Ft. Wayne, Ind.) garnered the honor.

Smith, rated as the nation's top linebacker and third-best prep player by Rivals.com, is the jewel of Notre Dame's 2013 recruiting class. And not to lop pressure on Smith, but the last high school recipient of the Butkus Award was Te'o.

In other awards news, Braxston Cave was named a finalist for the Rimington Award (nation's top center) and Kelly was named a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award (nation's top coach).

Does Rodney Hood make sense for the Bulls?

rodney_hood.jpg
USA TODAY

Does Rodney Hood make sense for the Bulls?

New York Times veteran NBA writer Marc Stein tweeted late Friday that multiple teams were interested in fourth-year swingman Rodney Hood.

We know that the Jazz are one of the rumored teams interested in embattled forward Niko Mirotic and while it wouldn’t seem to make sense on the surface, Rodney Hood could be a good fit for the Bulls.

Hood will be a restricted free agent this summer and the Bulls would retain the rights to match any offer if they felt like the former Duke Blue Devil was the right piece to join the new core of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, and Kris Dunn.

There is one complication in a potential Mirotic for Hood deal; the salaries don’t quite match. Utah would need to send another player like Alec Burks to Chicago in the deal. The Bulls would have to be OK taking on Burks’ $11.5 million salary for the 2018-19 season and his cap hit in free agency. Good news though, the free agent class this summer is very thin at small forward, the main position the Bulls have a need for.

Another road block, the Bulls are set to max out LaVine this July, and they may be wary on tying up a good part of their cap space for the next four years on two players.

Acquiring Hood hurts the ‘tank’ but you’d have a three-month audition of a 25-year old shooter that on paper would seem to work with the current rotation. If the Bulls felt like Hood wasn’t a good fit, let him walk in free agency. They would then keep their cap space intact for the 2019 super free agent class.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks return to action against Islanders

1-20_islanders_matchup_nhl_chi_blank.jpg

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks return to action against Islanders

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the New York Islanders tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Erik Gustafsson's season debut.

The Blackhawks recalled one of their top defensive prospects on Jan. 9 but haven't been able to get him some game action yet. All signs point to that changing tonight.

He skated on a pairing with Brent Seabrook during Friday's practice, and was even placed on the second power play unit during special teams drills. Joel Quenneville was excited about the possibility of finally getting Gustafsson into the lineup.

"Good option, good opportunity," Quenneville said. "We’re not for sure but certainly he’s been around, he’s eager to go. I look forward to seeing what he can do."

2. Anthony Duclair's promotion.

He hasn't been in Chicago for very long but Duclair is quickly working his way up the lineup. The newly-acquired Blackhawk registered an assist in his team debut last Friday in a 2-1 victory over Winnipeg, and was put on a power play unit as well.

On Friday, Duclair was promoted to the top line with Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews and continued getting reps on the second power-play unit. Let's see if the 22-year-old can take advantage of that opportunity in a top-six role.

3. Mathew Barzal.

Three rookies will be named finalists for the Calder Trophy at the end of the season. Barzal is a lock to be one of them.

He not only leads all rookies with 48 points, but he ranks 15th in the entire league in the scoring race and is the only first-year player averaging at least a point per game. 

The 20-year-old center has been sensational and he already has two five-point games in his young professional career. To put that into perspective, Patrick Kane recorded his first NHL five-point effort two weeks ago against the Ottawa Senators.