Joe Smith

67 Days to Kickoff: Kaneland

67 Days to Kickoff: Kaneland

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: Kaneland

Head coach: Pat Ryan

Assistant coaches: Ryan Gierke, Mike Thorgesen, Drew Sterkel, John Pavlak, Matt Smith, Ryan Noel, Zach Martinelli, Isaiah Baerenklau, Alec Aurelio, Trevor McKeown and Mike Lotz

How they fared in 2018: 7-4 (3-1 Northern Illinois Big 12 East Conference). Kaneland made the Class 6A state playoff field, defeated Von Steuben then lost to Cary-Grove in second round action. 

2019 regular season schedule:

Aug. 30 vs Hinsdale South
Sept. 6 @ Geneva
Sept. 13 vs Sycamore
Sept. 20 @ Sandwich
Sept. 27 @ Rochelle
Oct. 4 @ Plano
Oct. 11 vs Ottawa
Oct. 18 @ Morris
Oct. 25 vs La Salle-Peru

[MORE: 96 Days to Kickoff - Morris]

Biggest storyline: A drive on Interstate Eight. Can the Knights keep rolling in their new conference?

Names to watch this season: QB Joe Smith (Sr.), WR/KR Max Gagne (Sr.), OL/DL Sam Pryor (Sr.)

Biggest holes to fill: The Knights welcome back several returning starters but the loss of RB Jonathon Alstott (graduation) will need to be accounted for this fall. 

EDGY's Early Take: The Knights will look to make the IHSA playoffs for the 22nd time in the past 25 seasons, but the big storyline this year is the Interstate Eight Conference. Kaneland had a very successful run in the now-defunct Northern Illinois Big 12 East. Will the momentum continue? The Knights will welcome back 13 returning starters (eight offense, four defense). The offense may need to help out a less-experienced defense, especially early on this season. Kaneland is about as battle-tested as anyone coming from the Northern Illinois Big 12 East. Look for the the Knights to challenge for a conference title in 2019. 

Joe Smith appreciates the opportunity ahead with Cubs

Joe Smith appreciates the opportunity ahead with Cubs

A deal that made so much sense from a Cubs perspective also worked out for Joe Smith, who left a Los Angeles Angels team that had been 14.5 games out of first place in the American League West and closed almost 2,000 miles of distance between him and his family in the Cincinnati area.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon says he wants the funk, and Smith gives this bullpen a different look as a veteran right-handed specialist with the sidearm action to throw sinkers and sliders and generate groundballs.  

Beyond joining the team with the best record in baseball, Smith also appreciates the opportunity to be closer to his mother, Lee, who suffers from Huntington’s disease, a fatal genetic disorder that gradually destroys brain cells. That made Monday’s trade – the only move the Cubs made in the final hours leading up to the non-waiver deadline – such a win-win situation for Smith from a personal and professional standpoint.

 [SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

“It’s going to be a fun ride,” Smith said. “I can’t wait.”

Swarmed by reporters at his new locker inside the Wrigley Field clubhouse before Tuesday night’s game against the Miami Marlins, Smith was asked if he had thought about what it would be like to become part of the team that wins the franchise’s first World Series since 1908.   

“I haven’t gotten that deep,” Smith said. “But growing up in Cincinnati, I know before I went to practice at 7 p.m., it was always the Cubs on WGN, so I was always laying on my couch watching those guys: Mark Grace, Gary Gaetti, Glenallen Hill and Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. It’s pretty cool to be close to home and close to some family, playing on a really good team in one of the best cities in the world.”

Cubs add ‘funk’ to bullpen with Joe Smith but otherwise stay quiet at trade deadline

Cubs add ‘funk’ to bullpen with Joe Smith but otherwise stay quiet at trade deadline

The Cubs didn’t engineer another blockbuster deal before Monday afternoon’s non-waiver trade deadline, adding right-handed reliever Joe Smith from the Los Angeles Angels and sticking to their belief that this is a team already built to win the World Series.

The Cubs didn’t feel a sense of desperation after acquiring 105-mph closer Aroldis Chapman from the New York Yankees in last week’s 4-for-1 deal, giving them a game-changing presence for October.

Smith – another rental player who put up a 3.82 ERA in 38 appearances for the Angels this season – only cost the Cubs a Class-A pitcher (Jesus Castillo) and will give manager Joe Maddon a change-of-pace option to go with setup guys Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon.

“Love funk,” Maddon said before a 5-0 win over the Miami Marlins at Wrigley Field. “Funk in the bullpen is always a good thing. No hitter likes to see funk come out of the bullpen.”

Smith, 32, has a sub-3.00 ERA and a groundball rate close to 57 percent across a 10-year career that’s primarily been spent in the American League – and on the outside looking in at the playoffs (three scoreless appearances in the postseason).

Smith can shut down right-handed hitters (.661 opponent OPS this season/.214 career batting average against) and pitch in high-leverage situations (26 saves and 56 holds since the start of the 2014 season).

“He gives us a different look,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “He’s a sidearm/groundball guy. We don’t have that look or that ability right now in our bullpen. It’s great to have hard-throwing guys with great breaking balls, but it’s nice to add a different look to your bullpen. He’s also a guy Joe can use to get a big double play in the right spot."

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

The Cubs already added a different left-handed dimension to their bullpen by acquiring Mike Montgomery from the Seattle Mariners on July 20, addressing what had been their most obvious weakness/opportunity to upgrade with a series of deals that also included signing former All-Star closer Joe Nathan.

The Cubs also saved up trade chips for this winter, when they will again be in pursuit of a young starting pitcher to anchor the 2018 rotation and hedge against Jake Arrieta’s possible free agency, John Lackey’s eventual retirement and Jon Lester’s inevitable decline phase.

“After getting Chapman, that looks like it puts us in a really good spot,” Arrieta said. “The move for Joe helps us address a need (for) a guy that can come in and be effective against a big right-handed bat during a crucial time in any game. I don’t know if it’s considered a huge move, but it’s a move that definitely helps us.

“We’re definitely better after the trades we’ve made. But at the same time, as a rotation, we need to keep doing what we’re doing, pitching deep into games and get it to the point where hopefully we’ve got a lot of leads in the seventh and eighth inning to let those guys end up doing their thing and finishing it out for us.”