Cubs

"Gut feeling" led Ekakitie to Iowa

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"Gut feeling" led Ekakitie to Iowa

It is a good thing that Faith Ekakitie chose to chronicle his recruiting journey on his own website. This is the son of Nigerian immigrants who left his home in Canada two years ago to enroll at Lake Forest Academy in suburban Chicago. He wanted to be a basketball player. But on Wednesday night he announced he has committed to play football at Iowa.

The 6'3, 275-pound defensive tackle is one of the last uncommitted standouts in the class of 2012. He was rated as one of the top five seniors in Illinois. He chose Iowa over Boston College, Oregon, Northwestern and Georgia Tech.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz now has 13 commitments and looks to close strong on national signing day in February, particularly in Illinois. The Hawkeyes already have Ekakitie, offensive lineman Ryan Ward of Providence, defensive lineman Jaleel Johnson of Montini and defensive back Maurice Fleming of Curie.

Ferentz has a shot at offensive lineman Jordan Diamond of Simeon, who beings his final visits this weekend with a trip to Ohio State, and there are reports that Glenbard West defensive lineman Tommy Schutt, who originally committed to Penn State, might be reconsidering his decision.

Ekakitie took his time, weighing over 30 scholarship offers. And he was brutally honest and candid while assessing his recruiting experience on his website, Faithflex.com. It was a refreshing look into the world of recruiting from an elite athlete who refused to be pressured into making an early decision.

In the end, he dropped Georgia Tech because of his mother's concerns over living in Atlanta. He fell short (by .2 of a grade point) of meeting Northwestern's admittance standard. And Oregon pulled his scholarship offer because he didn't commit soon enough.

That left Iowa and Boston College. His family pushed for BC because of its Jesuit values. But Ekakitie was turned off by what was described as "the divisive nature of BC's locker room after a loss to Florida State." Iowa boasted the largest teaching college in the nation for kinesiology, an area of study that interested Ekakitie.

"At this point, you can see where this decision would become extremely difficult for me to make," he said. "Here we have two schools that both have tremendous things to offer me. What would be the deciding factor between BC and Iowa? A gut feeling. That's all. Not the coaches, players, degrees or even football. It all really came down to where I truly felt at home. And I'm proud and extremely happy to announce that the gut feeling has led me to continue my career at the University of Iowa."

Joe Maddon on MLB's absurd home run rate: 'The wind’s being broken here. It’s really weird'

Joe Maddon on MLB's absurd home run rate: 'The wind’s being broken here. It’s really weird'

Cubs manager Joe Maddon usually isn’t one for conspiracy theories, but even he’s wondering what’s going on. MLB teams are hitting home runs at an absurd rate, including the Cubs, who are hitting them at a historic rate for the franchise’s standards.

Entering Saturday, here’s where MLB teams stand in average home run rate and total home runs in 2019 compared to recent seasons:

2017: 1.26/game, 6,105 total
2018: 1.15/game, 5,585 total
2019: 1.33/game, 2,009 total

While the MLB season is just over 30 percent finished, teams are on pace to hit a combined 6,483 long balls in 2019. This would absolutely obliterate the 2017 total, which, like the 1.33 home runs per game figure, would be an MLB record.

The Cubs are no exception to this home run wave. Including Saturday (game No. 50 of the season), the team has hit 80 home runs (and counting) in 2019. Only the 2000 Cubs (83) hit more home runs in their first 50 games in franchise history.

“We’re having home runs hit here into some firm breezes, which has not happened before,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said to reporters before Saturday’s game against the Reds. “That’s the thing that stands out to me. It’s been crazy.

“Even [Kyle] Schwarber’s home run, I know that was hit well, but dang, that wind was blowing pretty firmly across at that point.”

Schwarber absolutely crushed his home run yesterday, a 449-foot blast that needed little help getting into the bleachers. However, Maddon has a valid point regarding home runs being hit despite the wind. Entering Saturday, 54 total home runs have been hit at Wrigley Field this season, 29 of which have come with the wind blowing in.

By the eighth inning of Saturday’s game, the Cubs and Reds had hit a combined six home runs, one of which appeared to be a routine fly ball hit by Jason Heyward that wound up in the left field basket thanks to the wind. At the same time, Yasiel Puig hit one 416 feet onto Waveland Ave. that had a 109 mph exit velocity. The wind blowing out at Wrigley Field helps, but it isn’t everything.

MLB players have questioned time and time again if baseballs are “juiced,” including Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester. And while Maddon didn’t flat out say that he thinks the baseballs are juiced, he notices a difference in how they're flying off the bat.

“I don’t know, I’m normally not into the subplot component of all of this and the conspiracy theorists, but I’m telling you right now, it’s jumping,” he said. “It’s absolutely jumping.

“Nobody is ever going to admit to it. The wind’s being broken here. It’s really weird.”

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97 Days to Kickoff: Elmwood Park

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

97 Days to Kickoff: Elmwood Park

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 5, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 30.

School: Elmwood Park

Head coach: Dylan Mack

Assistant coaches: Gabe Ostrander, Mario Fiorito, Chad Nardi, Tony Sylvester, Eric Lewis and Dwayne French

How they fared in 2018: 8-3 (4-1 Metro Suburban Red). Elmwood Park made the Class 4A state playoff field and beat Back of the Yards. In the second round, they lost to Evergreen Park.

2019 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 30 vs St. Joseph

Sept. 6 vs Lisle

Sept. 13 @ Ridgewood

Sept. 20 vs St. Edward

Sept. 27 vs Westmont

Oct. 4 @ Christ the King

Oct. 11 vs Guerin Prep

Oct. 18 @ Chicago Christian

Oct. 25 @ Bishop McNamara

Biggest storyline: Last year, the Tigers had their best season on the gridiron since 1985’s 12-1 state semifinal team. What will this team do for an encore? Can they go deeper into the state playoffs?

Names to watch this season: Senior quarterback Mike Stranski and wide receiver Keon Grimes

Biggest holes to fill: The Tigers will need to find some new faces to bolster the defensive line and at the linebacker positions.

EDGY's Early Take: It was a banner year in 2018, as Elmwood Park advanced to the their playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in school history. Coach Dylan Mack’s program has some momentum will have a very good chance to make it three state playoff appearances in a row later this fall.