Bulls

Irish D not fazed by Alabama's stout offensive line

963259.png

Irish D not fazed by Alabama's stout offensive line

Listen to the hyperbole, and one would think Alabamas offensive line is more like a steel-plated door that leads into a vault containing some of the world's most valuable diamonds. In other words, breaking through it would require some sort of Oceans 11 heist.

After Alabama lost to Texas A&M, plenty of many irate callers into the Paul Finebaum show lamented why the Tide decided to pass when facing a game-deciding series inside the Aggies red zone. You got the best offensive line in the history of college football, one caller shouted, so run the damn football!

Make no mistake, Alabamas offensive line is among the best in the country, if not sitting at the top of the heap. Barrett Jones is the nations best center and stands at 6-foot-5 and weighing over 300 lbs. -- so all Manti Teo could do was marvel at the senior when the pair were in Houston for the Lombardi Award ceremony last week.

Thats a big dude, Teo exclaimed.

But Notre Dames front seven wont look like a group of punters and kickers running into a group of five behemoths on Jan. 7. Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt are both products of SEC country, with the latter garnering plenty of support as an All-American defensive end alongside the often-unblockable Jadeveon Clowney. And Nix is a guy to whom some observers will throw a bit of credit for Teos outstanding season -- in fact, on Notre Dames third-and-inches stop of Stepfan Taylor on Oct. 13, Teo said Nix did most of the work, and all he had to do was give Taylor a little shove to keep him out of the end zone.

What I see is a big, physical Alabama offensive line, Nix said. Traditional, hard-nosed, hit-you-in-the-mouth, and thats what we expected, thats what we wanted because win or lose, itll better the team, itll be better me, itll better Tuitt, itll better everyone because a hard, physical game is what we need.

Kapron Lewis-Moore, Prince Shembo, Dan Fox, Carlo Calabrese, Danny Spond -- these arent guys who are going to be easily stonewalled, either. Shembo in particular has shown an explosive ability to get to the quarterback at times, and its worth noting Alabamas offensive line has allowed 23 sacks -- a mediocre national total.

Going back to that point about Teos success in relation to his defensive tackle, Nixs matchup with Jones could be key in South Florida. Its one for which he began preparing while watching the SEC Championship at the beginning of the month.

Hes just a smart center. He knows how to play the game, obviously, because he played three positions on the O-line, Nix noted. It takes a real good guy to know how to play all three positions, so hes a real smart guy, real athletic, very strong at the point of attack. I just have to be ready for him.

Saying the BCS Championship will be won in the trenches isnt exactly exclusive, expert analysis. If Notre Dame can win the battle on the line of scrimmage, both while on offense and defense, theyll be in excellent shape on Jan. 7.

To be the best, you have to beat the best -- and thats the defending champs, who hail from a conference thats won the last six BCS titles. That team also happens to have an offensive line thatll present a major challenge to Notre Dame, but one the team is looking forward to.

Theyre considered the best O-line in the country, Nix said, so thats who we want to play.

On the other side...

Alabama got some good news Friday morning, as the SEC announced defensive tackle Quinton Dial will not be suspended for this hit on Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray during the SEC Championship Dec. 1. The conference admitted a flag shouldve been thrown on the play, but commissioner Mike Slive decided against suspending Dial for the BCS Championship.

Dial, a 6-foot-6, 304-pound senior, totaled 20 tackles with 4 12 for a loss, 1 12 sacks and four QB hurries in 11 games this season.

Jimmy Butler may have gotten uninvited to the Wade's BBQ again

jimmy_butler_dwyane_wade_usa_today.jpg
USA TODAY

Jimmy Butler may have gotten uninvited to the Wade's BBQ again

Jimmy Butler is in hot water with the Wades ... again.

Maybe not really, but the two former Bulls teammates exchanged pleasantries on Instagram after Butler commented on a photo Dwyane Wade's wife Gabrielle Union posted poolside, saying: "WELL DAMN!!"

Wade, a three-time all-defensive second team, came to his wife's defense when Butler posted a video the next day with the caption: "The good, the bad, and the ugly...", prompting Wade to respond: "Put well damn in caps on my wife photo again and you're gonna see what the good, the bad and the ugly is like."

*Mic drop*

It appears this won't affect Butler getting an invite to the next get together. Or so he hopes...

"Well that escalated quickly," Butler responded to Wade. "Point noted.. I'm still coming to the bbq tho 😂😂😂"

John Franklin III may be a longshot to make the Bears, but the former ‘Last Chance U’ star isn’t giving up on his dream

8-17johnfrankliniii.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

John Franklin III may be a longshot to make the Bears, but the former ‘Last Chance U’ star isn’t giving up on his dream

Down in Bourbonnais, one of the handful of players who stuck around the longest to sign autographs for fans after training camp practices was the starting quarterback and hopeful savior of a franchise that’s been mired at the bottom of its division for years. 

Another was a fourth-string cornerback who had never played that position before May and has an extremely difficult path to make it in the NFL. 

“Most of the time I’m out here with Mitch (Trubisky), like the last person,” John Franklin III said. “I’d rather have people know me than people not know me. So that’s a good thing.”

You might know Franklin as the super-talented Florida State quarterback transfer in Season One of “Last Chance U” on Netflix. A low point of Franklin’s life played out in living rooms across the world as he played sporadically behind Wyatt Roberts at East Mississippi Community College, but the south Florida native turned that strife into a lesson in persistence. 

From East Mississippi Community College, Franklin transferred to Auburn, where he stayed as a quarterback but didn’t see the field much. He graduated from Auburn and transferred to play his final year of college ball at Florida Atlantic, where Lane Kiffin gave him a shot at playing wide receiver. He didn’t put up the kind of production as either a quarterback or a receiver to get drafted, but his excellent speed is a trait that got him into rookie minicamp. 

After failing to secure a gig with the Seattle Seahawks at their rookie minicamp, the Bears brought Franklin to Halas Hall as a defensive back for a tryout a week later. He signed shortly after, and here he is, trying to figure out how to make it in the NFL at a position he’s never played on a side of the ball he was completely unfamiliar with until May. 

“People are so quick to quit when it doesn’t work the first time,” Franklin said. “It’s like, if you really give up and it didn’t work, then you really didn’t want it. If you keep pushing, it’s going to happen. Life’s not going to be peaches and cream, but you get what you get.”

Defensive backs coach Ed Donatell couldn’t recall ever seeing a player make the switch from offense to cornerback without any prior defensive experience before, let alone for a rookie battling to make a roster. 

“It doesn’t come up that much and usually they have some kind of training in there,” Donatell said. “Nothing comes to mind. 

“But why not us? Why can’t we?”

This isn’t a story about a player who is likely to important to the Bears’ success in 2018, like Trubisky or Allen Robinson or Leonard Floyd or Kyle Fuller. The odds are massively stacked against Franklin, especially after he was picked on by Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Auden Tate in last week’s preseason game (he did, too, have a nice break-up of a pass intended for Ka’Raun White). The stuff Franklin is learning right now are second nature to most NFL cornerbacks who’ve played the position — or at least, played on defense — their entire football lives. 

“I definitely feel like I was in good position most of the night, I just gotta — I know one thing I’m focusing on is getting my head around,” Franklin said. “That’s one thing that I still haven’t felt 100 percent comfortable with and that’s one of the things a lot of the vets are working with me on is to make sure I get my head around because most of the time I’m in a good position. Just finding the ball is still very new to me.” 

Training camp and preseason practices, then, present a difficult dichotomy for Franklin. On one hand, he knows he has to be patient as he learns an entirely new job that he likened to “trying to write with your non-dominant hand.” On the other hand, he has to show considerable progress to even be considered for a spot on a practice squad, let alone a 53-man roster. 

While Franklin has seen himself make significant progress on tape over the last few months and weeks, he knows he’s not where he needs to be or where he thinks he can be. It’s sort of a race against time for him, because rookies who don’t make a roster or practice squad usually don’t get a second chance in the league. 

“He’s such a willing soul,” Donatell said. “He came in here, he’s taking everything in, the veterans are helping him. But he has a skillset that you can see him doing things on the other side of the football that we want to translate to defense. … It’s a race for us right now and a race through this month, and he’s willing. We see progress every day. Time will tell how much.”

What Franklin puts on tape in these final three preseason games — Saturday against the Denver Broncos, Aug. 25 against the Kansas City Chiefs and Aug. 30 against the Buffalo Bills — will be critically important to his chances of sticking in some capacity in the NFL when the regular season starts.

Taking a step back, the task seems almost impossible. This is a guy who played quarterback his whole life, then moonlighted as a receiver for a year, and now is trying to make it in the NFL playing cornerback. It would be a remarkable feat if Franklin were to make a practice squad and allow himself more weeks and months to develop. 

But there’s no doubting Franklin’s desire to make it work. He wants to make it work to live out his dream of playing in the NFL, one he’s had since he was four. He wants to make it work to repay his parents for all they did for him. He wants to make it work to be an inspiration to others to never give up on their goals. 

Will it work? We’ll see. But it’s not in Franklin’s nature to give up, no matter how much of a longshot he may be. 

“I’m accepting the challenge,” Franklin said. “Doing something different at the highest level of football ain’t easy by any means.

“But it’s also doable and possible.”