Bears

Frankie O: Just business as usual for BCS

Frankie O: Just business as usual for BCS

Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010
4:56 PM

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

It seems I cant pick up a paper or watch TV for more than five minutes these days and have to hear more about the Cam Newton saga.

Once again, NCAA football, and the BCS, are front and center in the sports conversation. As usual though, its for all of the wrong reasons. I could go on and on about my disdain about the BCS and my desire for a playoff for Division I football. (Football subdivisions? What does that mean? Is that taken from the old Rush song?)

I dont even rant about it from behind the bar anymore because everyone agrees. Everyone!

I have never met a fan of college football who thinks the current system is the best we could have. So every year, the media conversation gets ramped up about the inequities of the system and the plights of this years outsiders. (T.C.U. and Boise St.) Theres a great article in this weeks Sports Illustrated that describes the financials of the current bowl system and shows why those in charge dont want to give it up.

Thats because they are making a ton of cash. Really? Go figure! And thats the point. Football and basketball at big-time universities are big-time money makers. Have you seen the seating capacities of the football stadiums at the Big Ten schools that are filled to the rafters every Saturday? It would figure then, that the people who perform each Saturday would be very valuable commodities. And they are. But at this point, they are the ONLY ones not making a huge profit from the games being played.

And that takes us to Mr. Newton, or make that the two Mr. Newtons, since Cams father is also at the center of college footballs latest scandal. Ill take for granted that we all know the allegations that Newton Sr. was asking for cash for his son to play. Ill also take for granted that most know that Newton Jr. has had a checkered past, to say the least, from his time at the University of Florida.

What I wont take for granted is that the person behind the allegations against the Newtons has some issues of his own. Besides having once played for a school that Newton spurned, it seems that Kenny Rogers, who works for agent Ian Greengross, is the subject of 15 allegations of misconduct by the NFL Players Association. I guess big money just brings out the best in folks.

My feeling here, just like the Reggie Bush saga, which took FIVE YEARS to figure out: it is going to be a while, if ever, before we can figure out whos telling the truth. The point I cant let go of is how the system is set up for this to happen over and over again. Do you think that Newton is the only player in big-time college sports that has made a bad decision? Do you think we would be hearing about it now if Newtons Auburn Tiger squad did not have a chance to play in the BCS title game?

Big money is a ruthless business. It brings out the worst in everyone - when they arent getting a piece that is. There is so much that everyone wants some. And again, the only ones that arent getting any are the players themselves. So what would you expect the temptation level to be for a student athlete to take some, if it was being offered?

Student athletes, who almost every time have families with very little? Im just a bartender, but I would imagine the temptation is great, especially when you have con men from every side telling you how much is out there for everyone.

The answer? I dont know if there will ever be one that is foolproof as long as money is involved, but the thought of a scholarship being enough, or the only form of compensation for someone brought to a team, Im sorry, I mean an institution of higher learning, to help them generate more cash is so last century. (How much does a scholarship really cost anyway?) I know one thing for sure, its not as much as what the school says it is.

Another thought: NFL owners must be green with envy when they see 107,000 paying customers at Happy Valley and know that the number one NFL expense, the players, doesnt eat up all the profits at a college game.

Moving forward, there has to be a better way to compensate the upper tier of athletes that everyone knows are there for a reason. I think that any form of additional compensation should be tied to actual classroom performance, but thats me, Im a dreamer!

But even Mr. Dreamer realizes that the system now does not work and it is only going to get worse. But as always, as long as the schools are making big money off of their sports programs, change will be glacial and situations like the ones with Bush and Newton will just be part of the cost of doing business.

Enjoy your BCS!

The Bears are getting a different type of nickel cornerback in Buster Skrine

3-11busterskrine.jpg
USA Today

The Bears are getting a different type of nickel cornerback in Buster Skrine

When the Bears’ defense takes the field against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on Opening Night, they’ll be returning 9 of the 11 starters that were part of a 2018 squad that was one of the best in Bears’ history. 

One of the few new faces that figure to be among the starting 11 is cornerback Buster Skrine. Gone is Bryce Callahan, who left for Vic Fangio’s Denver team after spending the first four years of his career in Chicago. Though Bears’ scouts have had their eye on Skrine for a few seasons now, it was his more palatable three-year, $16.5 million contract -- compared to Callahan’s three-year, $21 million contract -- that finally got him in house. 

“Me and Buster came out the exact same year, and I’ve watched him,” Prince Amukamara said after OTAs on Wednesday afternoon. “He actually played with my best friend and he would always talk about how fast Buster is -- especially when Buster played gunner. 

“I’ve always watched him, and I feel like he’s very similar to Bryce [Callahan] by being quick and being active. I’m definitely happy with the pick up.” 

Once considered a spot to place the third-best, less-athletic cornerback, no position has seen it's value increase so dramatically over the last decade. Offenses are changing dramatically; no team saw more three receiver sets in 2018 than the Bears’ defense. Per Sharp Stats, opposing offenses lined up in 11 personnel against Chicago 78% of the time. The next closest was the Chiefs at 71%, and the NFL average is 65%. 

“I think nickel is a different ball game,” Amukamara added. “I would say it can be one of the hardest positions on the field, just because you’re on an island, but the receiver has so much room to work with. Plus, it’s a lot of mental gymnastics, so you’ve got to know when you’re blitzing, know when you’re running, and so we put a lot on our nickel.” 

Despite not being considered part of a what teams have traditionally considered base defense, the pass-happy nature of this era in the NFL has all but mandated that nickel corners are on the field for most of the defensive snaps. It’s no coincidence that before breaking his foot against the Rams in Week 12, Callahan was on pace to set a career-high in snap percentage. 

“Nowadays, you see a lot more sub packages,” Bears defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend said. “You’re probably playing 70% in sub during a game now… Otherwise, it hasn’t really changed - he just plays more. That’s the thing - he is technically a starter. He’s probably going to run on the field first in a lot of games, and by rule that’s a starter.

“One thing about the nickel position is that you’ve got to do a little bit of both. You can’t just go out on 3rd down and cover and run the option routes. Now they’re going to hand off the ball and find out where you’re at and you’re going to have to make a tackle. That’s the difference in the position now - it’s a first and second down type of guy that has to be able to do it all.”

While Skrine isn’t considered as good a cover corner as Callahan, Skrine’s pass rush and run defense looks pretty similar. Per Pro Football Focus, Skrine’s run defense graded out significantly higher (80.7) than Callahan’s (57.8). 

“With Buster, it’s about his playing experience,” Townsend added. “He’s a guy who will mix it up in the run. He can blitz, and he’s reliable. He’s tough.”

Cubs taking care to make sure Pedro Strop's hamstring issues are behind him

Cubs taking care to make sure Pedro Strop's hamstring issues are behind him

Pedro Strop said he feels "ready" in his return from a hamstring injury, but he and the Cubs aren't going to rush it.

The veteran reliever has missed most of May with the injury, but threw 25-pitch bullpens on both Monday and Wednesday and has reported zero issues. He said it's been more than a week since he last felt pain in the area.

But considering this is Strop's third hamstring injury in the last eight months, the Cubs want to be extra cautious to make sure this will not happen again.

Plus, there's no point in rushing him back right now, even with the bullpen struggling. The Cubs would certainly welcome Strop back to the active roster immediately, but he's going to be a huge key for them down the stretch and they need to ensure he's healthy for that.

"I think we're just being overly cautious because we don't want this to happen again," Joe Maddon said. 

But how can Cubs avoid another hamstring injury with the soon-to-be-34-year-old? 

"We're building strength, we're working hard to make it stronger instead of just, 'Oh, it's OK and pain-free, let's go out there and have the same thing happen again,'" Strop said. "We're just taking care."

He missed the final two weeks of the regular season last year and pitched through "severe pain" in the National League wild-card game after first hurting his hamstring in Washington D.C. He then missed time in spring training with an issue in the other leg.

The injuries are not all directly related, but hamstrings are tricky by nature.

"That's a hammy, man. When you mess up with those things, they keep reminding you that they're there," Maddon said. "He has to continue to be proactive with the work in between and our guys in the back there do a wonderful job rehabbing and strengthening. 

"I think some guys are just predetermined to do those kinds of things and it really stinks. But it happens. So our next best thing is to create that program that hopefully prevents it from happening again. 

"In the meantime, just really monitoring him and not pushing him too hard, etc. But hamstrings are hamstrings, man. They're just no fun. Once you pull them once, there's a chance to do it again."

Strop said he will throw another bullpen Saturday and doesn't believe he needs a rehab stint. Because this was a leg injury, he's been able to continue throwing throughout the recovery process and keep his arm strength up.

If Strop continues to report well and doesn't go on a rehab assignment, we could possibly see him back in the Cubs bullpen early next week, which would be a welcome sign for a unit that has suddenly run into some tough sledding of late.

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