Bulls

Bears begin unveiling Tice's new offense

760852.png

Bears begin unveiling Tice's new offense

LAKE FOREST, Ill. New Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice wants to see his team playing faster and with more explosiveness. He will have to wait a bit to see all the weapons at his disposal.

Tice and coach Lovie Smith got only an abbreviated look Friday at wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, one of their top draft picks. Jeffery, whose conditioning last season had been an issue at South Carolina, left his first practice on the first day of a rookie minicamp with leg cramps.

"You know, guys do a lot of working out on their own," Smith said after practice. "But it's not like when you come here and work out. I really like what Alshon did earlier in practice -- most of the practice, really. I didn't see him drop a ball. He's got big hands, a great target. I really like the way he came in. He's going to be a good football player for us."

Tice, who replaces Mike Martz, was no less complimentary of Jeffery. The Bears are hoping the rookie can team with Brandon Marshall to give the team and quarterback Jay Cutler two taller threats at wide receiver.

"I saw him make a few plays over there in the one-on-one (drills) and back in the old days we called that picking peanuts," said Tice, referring to catching passes over the top of defenders. "He was picking peanuts off some guys heads, it looked like to me. So I think he's going to have the ability for us to make plays."

While 55 rookie camp invitees will go through the revamped offense over the weekend, veterans have already run through Tice's entire offense twice, and will do so again at upcoming organized team activities and June camp. Installing an offense is new for Tice since he had been the head coach with the Minnesota Vikings or an offensive assistant at Jacksonville.

"I mean you're talking about managing people and putting people in position to do their jobs as best they can," he said. "I've been blessed to be a head coach in the league before, so I've had to manage people."

Tice called the new offense an attempt to let players show their skills better than last year, when the team finished 24th overall (314 yards per game) and 17th in scoring (22.1 points per game).

"We have some great athletes on offense," Tice said. "We want to be explosive, we want to be able to get the ball down the field, we want to be able to run the ball explosively, and we're going to do those things."

One area where few changes were made on offense is the line, but Tice said he's comfortable with virtually the same cast back that had a part in allowing Bears quarterbacks to be sacked 105 times the last two seasons.

The only new player is free agent guard Chilo Rachal. No offensive linemen were drafted. At the rookie minicamp, there are eight offensive linemen, but only two - undrafted James Brown of Troy and A.J. Greene of Auburn are under contract. The rest are here on a tryout basis.

"I think with the change in scheme, the change in personality if you will, and an offseason, and with getting some guys healthy, I think we'll make a big jump in the offensive line," Tice said.

Tice said he's counting on guard-tackle Chris Williams to be back for offseason practices after suffering a dislocated wrist midway through last season. He also expects tackle Gabe Carimi to practice at some point during organized team activities or mini-camp after knee surgery.

The camp, which features all six draft picks, 11 undrafted free agents, 34 tryout players, and four veterans, continues through Sunday.

Players vote Thaddeus Young, Otto Porter Jr. as Bulls captains

ottoporter.png
USA Today

Players vote Thaddeus Young, Otto Porter Jr. as Bulls captains

CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- The tribe has spoken. In a players' only vote administered by coach Jim Boylen, Thaddeus Young and Otto Porter Jr. will be captains for the Bulls.

"They’ve demonstrated an ability to put the team above themselves and the ability to communicate with their teammates in a positive way," Boylen said. "I haven’t felt they’re worried about getting liked. They’re worried about getting it right. Something we talk about here is leadership over likership. And I think they have a great feel of that."

Young, a 12-year veteran, long has commanded respect as the consummate teammate. Porter arrived from the Wizards last season and is in his seventh season.

"It means a lot," Porter said. "Just everything I’m doing is for the team, on and off the court. I gotta represent the team right. Make sure our guys are knowing they’re leaded in the right direction. I take that seriously."

Zach LaVine has voiced desire to assume more leadership and perhaps other players, particularly relatively new ones, earning the captain title over him will be instructional and motivational. In the meantime, look for LaVine to land on Boylen's leadership committee, which he established last season. The practice, which is used more in football than basketball, raised some eyebrows around the league for its unconventional usage.

"The leadership group has not disintegrated. It’ll be structured with the help of the captains. I felt the captains was the first step to that. Captains are very important to me in my career," Boylen said. "I’ve always thought it’s big to the leadership of your team. I’m thrilled with the two players that the team voted on having as our captains. We wanted training camp to go by. We wanted everybody to get a chance to be together and see how people operate. And so we voted on it."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

It's playoff week for several 4-4 teams

ihsa_footballs_close_up.jpg
NBC Sports Chicago

It's playoff week for several 4-4 teams

While the official start of the 2019 IHSA State Football Playoffs won't be announced until Saturday night, teams that are holding 4-4 records heading into Week 9 are already in state playoff mode.

Several familiar names are in search of big Week 9 wins just to get into the playoff field. 

Marist (4-4) has been a Class 8A regular yet the Redhawks and head coach Ron Dawczak will need to beat Loyola Academy (6-2) on Saturday in Wilmette just to find a place in the playoffs this year. So how difficult has the Redhawks road been so far in 2019? Marist four losses (Notre Dame/Brother Rice/Mount Carmel and Nazareth Academy) have a combined 28-4 record and beating Loyola on Saturday in Wilmette should count for more like two wins.

Naperville Central (4-4) entered the 2019 season ranked by everyone, yet after a 0-3 start the Redhawks have been able to settle down and win four of its last five games to get into position to land its fifth win Friday night in Naperville. The Redhawks can undoubtedly make a case for having one of the state toughest schedule. Its four losses (Hinsdale Central, Lincoln-Way East, Pickerington Central OH and Neuqua Valley) are a combined 29-3. So who's the Redhawks Week 9 cupcake? None other than the state's top ranked team in East St. Louis (8-0). And much like Marist a win over the Flyers this Friday should count for much more than one win. 

New Trier (4-4) and head coach Brian Doll has made the IHSA state playoff field for the past 16 seasons and 23 out of the last 24 years, yet the Trevians need to beat longtime rival Maine South (6-2) at home tomorrow night to keep it's state playoff streak alive. 

The DuKane Conference has been full of surprises in 2019 and both St. Charles North (4-4) and Wheaton North (4-4) are looking to seek wins on Friday to remain alive. St. Charles North was also highly ranked to begin the season but has dropped three straight games and will need to beat Wheaton South (5-3) at Red Grange Field to advance.  Wheaton North has won two straight games including a big 24-19 win last Friday over St. Charles East (6-2), but now a Friday night showdown against Batavia (6-2) in Batavia looms for the Falcons. 

The North Suburban conference has a ‘Win To Get In Bowl’ Friday night as Stevenson (4-4) travels to Lake Forest (4-4). Libertyville (4-4) needs a wn on Friday night against Zion-Benton (3-5) and the Wildcats will be keeping a close eye on the playoff pairings show since they are low (30) on playoff points. 

The Southwest Prairie East is, well, a mess. Plainfield South (4-4/3-1) and Plainfield East (4-4/3-1) are seeking a win to get in, yet even with wins both Plainfield schools could lose the conference title and automatic bid to Joliet West (3-5/3-1). Joliet West and head coach Bill Lech holds a tie breaker if all three teams win on Friday night and that looks more and more a possibility. Plainfield South will host Romeoville (1-7), Plainfield East travels to Joliet Central (1-7) and Joliet West will travel to Plainfield Central (1-7). 

Both East Aurora  (4-4) and Elgin (4-4) square off on Friday at Elgin's Memorial Stadium for a chance at getting into the state playoff field...and just let that statement sink in. East Aurora. Elgin. State Football Playoffs. Needless to say not too many outside of those programs expected to be playing a meaningful in Week 9 especially with so much on the line. A win for East Aurora would be the Tomcats first state playoff bid since 1982 and for Elgin it would be the Maroons second state playoff appearance since 2001.

Looking for more drama? The West Suburban Silver conference will feature Lyons Township (4-4) and first year head coach Dan Hartman in search of its fifth win on Friday night. All the Lions and Dan Hartman has to do is travel to Hinsdale Central (7-1) and beat Hartman's former team from  a season ago in Hinsdale. Also Oak Park-River Forest (4-4) has a tall task looking to get an upset win over Glenbard West (8-0) in Oak Park on Friday night. 

While several of these on the bubble teams have some tall task this week, never say never especially when teams are playing for their playoff lives and if the 2019 season has taught us anything, it's that anything can happen on any given Friday night/Saturday in IHSA football.