Cubs

Garrett: Best in Class of 2014?

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Garrett: Best in Class of 2014?

August 24. That date is indelibly etched in Clifton Garrett's mind. No, it isn't his birthday. Or his girlfriend's. Or the anniversary of the day that Ohio State assistant coach Mike Vrabel called to offer a scholarship.

"It's the day we play Bolingbrook, our season opener," Garrett said. "I'm excited about that game. I want to play against (Illinois-bound quarterback) Aaron Bailey. I'm looking forward to the challenge. It will show how I match up against a big-time prospect."

Garrett is a big-time prospect, too. Plainfield South's 6-foot-2, 225-pound linebacker is one of the leading recruits in the class of 2014, with Marist tight end Nic Weishar, Prairie Ridge tackle Shane Evans, Bolingbrook defensive back Parker Westphal and Providence tackle Logan Plantz.

"I've seen him on film and he is one of the three top prospects in the sophomore class in Illinois," said recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network. "He has size and speed and a great upside.

"With the talent in the class of 2014, the Chicago area could be going back to where it was in the 1980s, when it ruled the roost with California as the leading producers of high school football talent in the country."

Garrett has seen Bailey before. In last year's season opener, Bailey and Bolingbrook crushed Plainfield South 40-16. Bolingbrook went on to win the Class 8A championship while Plainfield South finished 5-5.

"I watched the state final," Garrett said. "Bailey is big and fast and he can run. He's an overall good athlete. I hate losing. I love winning. I'm a big competitor. I'm looking forward to getting another chance to play against him."

In the meantime, Garrett is traveling the recruiting trail and preparing for his junior season. He has come a long way in a short time. He started playing football with the Plainfield Junior Cats as a seventh grader. But his missed his freshman year with a torn meniscus, which he injured while playing basketball. As a sophomore starter on the varsity, he led the team in tackles with 79, despite missing one game with a concussion.

College coaches have seen enough to rate him among the leading prospects in the class of 2014. Illinois offered on May 3, then Indiana. Ohio State offered on May 16, then Michigan State. He has interest from Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Kansas State, Iowa State and Northern Illinois. It's only the beginning.

"My dream school is Ohio State," he said. "I've been watching their games since I was young. I like the way they play defense. I'm impressed by the Horseshoe (Ohio Stadium), the fans, coaching staff and new coach Urban Meyer. I've read a lot about him.

"But I'm going to take my time. I'm surprised by what has happened. I didn't think it would happen so fast. Now I see that all my hard work is paying off. I was very excited when coach Vrabel offered me over the phone. It says to me that I'm doing what I need to do, that they like me and I like them."

Don't be in too big a hurry to put Garrett in a scarlet and gray uniform, however. He will attend Illinois' camp on June 8, Michigan State's camp on June 16 and Ohio State's camp on June 21. He hopes to visit the Notre Dame and Michigan State campuses later this summer. He said he doesn't plan to commit until after his junior year.

"Everybody tells me to make sure I make the right choice, not because of the staff or school colors or reputation." Garrett said. "I want to choose the right fit for me. It is very important to go to a school that will prepare me for the next level. The NFL has been a goal since I started to play football. I know the odds are small. But I try to make the odds bigger for myself. I try to be above average in everything I do."

"As a sophomore, he has a great upside," Plainfield South coach Ken Bublitz said. "He is still growing and still learning the game. He will be even better in college.

"There are two things about him that drew the attention of college coaches: the way in which he finishes plays, the way he tackles. He is a hard hitter. When he tackles people, they go backwards. Also his ability to run sideline to sideline with his size and speed."

Garrett hopes college coaches have seen the BolingbrookLincoln-Way East game film, especially the clip when Garrett sacks Lincoln-Way East quarterback Blake Winkler for a loss and forces a fumble. "It showed my explosiveness, my tackling ability and closing speed," he said.

When he played youth football, Garrett wore jersey number 76 because he was a lineman. He would have worn number 25 as a freshman had he been able to play. But he switched to number 40 as a sophomore because his favorite player is linebacker Vaughn Miller, the former Texas A&M All-American who was the Denver Broncos' first draft choice.

"Miller is a big linebacker with great speed and versatility. I relate to him a lot. I think I'm a mixture of him and (San Francisco 49ers linebacker) Patrick Willis. I look up to both of them a lot. My game matches up to them," Garrett said. "I like Dick Butkus, too, but I'm not into old-school players as much. I also like Lawrence Taylor and Ray Lewis."

Whether Garrett will someday measure up to any of them is still to be determined, of course, but he knows he can get a lot better and he is eager to create a tradition at a high school that is only 10 years old.

"I want to break some records...tackles, fumble recoveries, interceptions, tackles for loss...and leave my mark at the school," he said. "The school doesn't have much of a tradition. But I have two more seasons to go. Every team's goal is to go to state. We have time to establish a tradition of our own."

Matt Carpenter giving the Cubs Daniel Murphy PTSD

Matt Carpenter giving the Cubs Daniel Murphy PTSD

Say the name Daniel Murphy around Cubs fans (who have been around since before they won the 2016 World Series) and expect a dirty look or shade of some sort.

What Murphy did to the Cubs in the 2015 National League Championship Series still haunts the fanbase, even if they did end the championship drought the following fall.

Now, the Cubs are seeing it again and their PTSD is in overdrive.

St. Louis infielder Matt Carpenter has been on an unreal tear of late, setting Cardinals franchise records in the process.

Throughout this five-game series at Wrigley Field, Carpenter is 9-for-15 with 6 homers, 10 RBI, 8 runs scored, 3 walks, a pair of doubles and a bunt single to lead off Sunday's game against the Cubs' shift.

"We're seeing this guy probably at his best moment in his life as a baseball player," Joe Maddon said. "My god. We saw it a couple years ago in the playoffs. We're seeing it all over again.

"Similar kind of a swing, not missing anything. It's pretty impressive."

In that 2015 NLCS, Murphy — then with the New York Mets — homered in all 4 games while hitting .529 with a 1.850 OPS, driving in 6 and scoring 6. 

To put that in perspective: The Cubs scored only 8 runs as a team in the 4 games.

Maddon and the Cubs don't know what to do to get Carpenter out right now, so they've resorted to walking him whenever possible, like in the second inning Sunday when they just dealt out a free pass to the Cardinals infielder with runners on second and third and two outs.

All the Cubs can do is hope time eventually wears Carpenter down. After all, nobody can stay this hot forever.

Even though Carpenter and the Cardinals are leaving town after Sunday's game, these two team square off against each other again next weekend for the final series in St. Louis.

"For them, it's a blast to watch," Maddon said. "Give the guy credit. What he's working right now is unique. The last time I saw it was Daniel Murphy. 

"Before that, I think, was Barry Bonds in the World Series in 2002. Playoffs with Murphy a couple years ago, where the guy — every pitch that is thrown — he's on time, he's on balance with a forceful swing that looks like the ball can go out of the ballpark every time. Bonds, Murphy and now him."

That's some serious company to be in.

So what's led to this insane stretch from Carpenter?

Maybe it's the salsa.

When told about that theory, Maddon laughed and said:

"Listen, that makes total sense to me. Can he send a jar over here, please?"

Training Camp Daily: Defense still “picking” on Bears QB’s in rainy practices

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USA TODAY

Training Camp Daily: Defense still “picking” on Bears QB’s in rainy practices

Training Camp Daily: The Bears put the pads on for Sunday's practice on another wet day in Bourbonnais. Bears insider John 'Moon' Mullin & producer Paul Aspan discuss Mitchell Trubisky's accuracy, which continues to be a work in progress. Plus Anthony Miller & Kevin White turn heads, while Aaron Lynch suffers yet another injury setback when the Bears are already thin at pass rusher. 

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: