Bears

Who will be the 2013 Hall of Famers?

932383.png

Who will be the 2013 Hall of Famers?

The class of 2012 for the Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame and Museum in Pinckneyville was inducted last Saturday. The group of 25 included Johnny Kerr, Rich Falk, Sergio McClain, Natasha Pointer, Lloyd Batts, Joe Ruklick, Greg Starrick, Steve Kuberski, Bob Owens, Tom Cole and Rod Fletcher.

So who will fill out the class of 2013? Who will be the 10 representatives from the pre-1960s? Ten from the post-1960s? Five women?

Instead of getting easier, it gets more difficult for the selection committee. There are many worthy candidates--and all of them will eventually be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. But the committee bases its annual choices on quality and exclusiveness, not quantity and inclusiveness.

Players who almost-but-not-quite earned spots in the class of 2012 figure to be inducted in 2013.

The elite list includes Perry Barclift of Quincy, Champaign's Jesse Clements, Corey Maggette of Fenwick, Hiles Stout of Peoria Central, John Tidwell of Herrin, Walter (Junior) Kirk of Mount Vernon, Bob (Chick) Doster of Decatur, Sam Puckett of Hales Franciscan, Terry Cummings of Carver, Dwyane Wade of Richards, Billy Harris of Dunbar and Jay Lovelace of Carbondale.

Barclift is probably the least known of the many great players produced in Quincy over the decades. Probably because he was the first. He earned his stripes by leading the Blue Devils to the 1934 state championship by upsetting defending champion Thornton and Lou Boudreau 39-27.

Barclift scored 22 points in the state final, the most by any player up to that point and the most until Mount Vernon's Max Hooper scored 36 in 1950. Barclift also shared scoring honors in the four-game event and was the leading vote-getter on the all-tournament team, ahead of Boudreau.

Barclift scored 309 points as a senior and 486 in his career, Quincy's all-time record when he graduated. In two years, his teams went 49-6. He went on to play at Western Illinois and was the first person inducted into Quincy's Sports Hall of Fame in 1987.

Barclift's performance in the state title game caused University of Illinois coach Craig Ruby to tell reporters: 'Quincy is the greatest high school basketball team I have ever seen and that Perry Barclift is the headiest and best player. That boy is to high school basketball what (St. Louis Cardinals star) Pepper Martin was to baseball," said Quincy historian Tom Oakley.

Wade, a Richards graduate of 2000, was a late developer in high school. He grew four inches before his junior year and began to see more playing time. As a junior, he averaged 20.7 points and 7.6 rebounds. As a senior, he averaged 27 points and 11 rebounds while leading his team to a 24-5 record and the sectional final.

Maggette was one of the premier players in the class of 1998, which generally is compared to 1979 (Isiah Thomas, Terry Cummings) as the best class ever produced in Illinois.

Cummings was a two-time All-Stater at Carver. He averaged 16.4 points in 85 games at DePaul, was a first-round choice in the NBA draft in 1983, was Rookie of the Year and played in the NBA for 18 years.

Harris, a 6-foot-3 guard at Dunbar, was a playground legend in Chicago. He averaged 26 points per game as a junior and 33 as a senior. In a game against city power Du Sable in 1969, he converted 27 of 39 shots for 57 points, including 41 in the second half. Admirers still wonder how many points he would have scored in the three-point shooting era.

Puckett, a mercurial 5-foot-9 guard at Hales Franciscan, is sometimes lost to history because he played before the Chicago Catholic League joined the Illinois High School Association. He scored more than 2,600 points from 1967-70 to rank among the top 20 scorers in state history. He led Hales to three consecutive National Catholic Tournament championships. Isiah Thomas said Puckett was the best player he ever saw.

Stout was a three-sport All-Stater. He scored 1,546 points in his career, most in the Peoria area. He led Peoria Central to a 29-4 record and second place in the 1953 state tournament. A member of the Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame, he also was a standout quarterback in football and first baseball in baseball. He later played at Illinois.

Clements, Ted Beach and Rod Fletcher and Jim Cottrell notwithstanding, was perhaps the most outstanding player produced by Champaign coach Harry Combes during his sensational run in the 1940s. He was an All-Stater in 1944 and 1945, leading Champaign to third and second-place finishes in the state tournament. He also was a two-time all-tournament choice. His teams finished 31-6 and 34-2.

Kirk, an All-Stater at Mount Vernon in 1942, played in the shadow of Centralia legend Dike Eddleman. He went on to play at Illinois and with six professional teams from 1947 to 1952. In 1945, he led Illinois in scoring with 10.6 points per game, was team captain and earned All-America recognition.

Doster led Decatur to a 37-2 record and the 1945 state championship. The 6-foot-1 senior scored 18 points as Decatur defeated conference rival Champaign 62-54 for the title. He was the tournament's leading scorer with 96 points in four games. As a sophomore, he was a member of coach Gay Kintner's 28-7 team that reached Sweet Sixteen in the 1943 tournament.

Jay Lovelace was a first-team All-Stater at Carbondale in 1958. He held the all-time scoring record of 1,766 points for 36 years and remains second on the list behind Troy Hudson's 1,792. Lovelace still holds the single-game scoring record of 48 points. He earned a scholarship to Illinois.

Others who deserve consideration include Quincy's Larry Moore, Collinsville's Bogie Redmon and Rodger Bohnenstiehl, Rockford East's Skip Thoren, Madison's Don Freeman, Marshall's Rich Bradshaw, King's Rashard Griffith, Farragut's Ronnie Fields, Westinghouse's Eddie Johnson and Hersey. Hawkins, Campbell Hill's Dean Ehlers, Carver's Tim Hardaway, Du Sable's Maurice Cheeks, Hirsch's Rickey Green and Vocational's Juwan Howard.

Who are the five leading female candidates?

Tangela Smith, Robbyn Preacely. Nancy Kennelly, Michele Savage and Michelle Hasheider Burianek. What about Allison Curtin or Molly (Good Golly, Miss Molly) McDowell?

Burianek was named Ms. Basketball as a junior in 1994 when she led Okawville to a 32-2 record and the state championship. She is Okawville's all-time leading scorer with 2,660 points. In four years, she played on teams that won 118 of 130 games. In 2009, she was hired to succeed her coach Kathy Lanter as head coach at Okawville.

Smith attended Washington High School in Chicago where she was named a 1994 Kodak All-American. At Iowa, she was the Big Ten's Player of the Year in 1998. Selected as the 12th overall pick in the 1998 WNBA draft, she has had the longest career of any player in the WNBA. She currently is playing with the San Antonio Silver Stars.

Savage was the Chicago area's Player of the Year in 1987 after leading Immaculate Heart of Mary to the state championship. As a senior, she was considered one of the top 15 players in the nation. She scored 2,311 points in her career, including 727 as a senior. At Northwestern, she was a three-time All-Big Ten selection. In 2010, she was named head coach at Davidson after serving as an assistant coach at Tulane for nine years.

Kennelly was Ms. Basketball in 1988. A two-time All-Stater, she was the bests player ever produced by Maine West coach Derril Kipp, one of the winningest coaches in state history. She led Maine West to a 26-6 record and fourth place in the 1985 state tournament, to a 28-3 record and the Sweet Sixteen in 1986, to a 31-3 record and third place in 1987 and to a 35-0 record and the 1988 state championship. She was a two-time all-tournament selection.

Three questions for Bears pass rush: What is Leonard Floyd's ceiling?

Three questions for Bears pass rush: What is Leonard Floyd's ceiling?

 

Pre-camp depth chart

1. Leonard Floyd
2. Isaiah Irving
3. Kylie Fitts
4. Elijah Norris
5. Josh Woods

1. Sam Acho
2. Aaron Lynch
3. Kasim Edebali
4. Andrew Trumbetti

1. What is Leonard Floyd’s ceiling?

Floyd’s career to this point has been limited by injuries, but in the 22 games in which he’s played he’s only averaged one sack every 97 snaps. That’s essentially what Pernell McPhee provided last year (one sack ever 96 snaps), for comparison’s sake. The point being: Not only do we not know if Floyd can stay healthy for a full year, we might not know if he can live up to the expectations for a top-10-picked pass rusher.

Coaches and Floyd felt like they fixed the reason for Floyd’s concussion issues from his rookie year, which they believed was the product of poor tackling form. Floyd’s season-ending knee injury last year was a freak, unavoidable one, to be fair — but he’s still missed a total of 10 games in his two-year career.

The Bears haven’t lost confidence in Floyd’s potential, though — if that were the case, Ryan Pace likely would’ve added more to his team’s outside linebacking corps. In the short term, Floyd is a key player to watch in Bourbonnais — impactful practices are important for building up his mental confidence in his knee. In the long term, the Bears’ bet on Floyd needs to pay off, otherwise this pass rush may not be good enough in a quarterback-centric division.

2. Can Aaron Lynch be a diamond in the rough?

Lynch had a productive rookie year under Vic Fangio in 2014, recording six sacks and looking like a nice fifth-round find for the San Francisco 49ers. After Fangio was passed over for the 49ers’ head coaching job and left for the Bears, Lynch still notched 6 1/2 sacks in 2015.

But he only appeared in 14 games in 2016 and 2017 due to conditioning and injury issues, as well as a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on substances of abuse. When Lynch did play, he wasn’t effective, with only 2 1/2 sacks in those 14 games covering 379 snaps.

So that’s why Lynch signed for only one year and $4 million, with only $1.25 million of his salary guaranteed, according to Spotrac. The Bears hope a fresh start and reunion with Fangio will benefit Lynch, but the prove-it nature of his contract doesn’t guarantee him anything more than a chance.

“It’s exciting getting back with Vic, you know, he drafted me,” Lynch said. “I know his defense. So being it's something I'm used to and the fresh start like I mean, I've had my ups and downs in this league and it's just nice to come here to people with open arms that believe in me so now I've just got to come here and play football so it feels amazing.”

Getting six or so sacks out of Lynch would be huge for the Bears’ defense, but those efforts begin with the 25-year-old staying healthy. That Lynch suffered hamstring and ankle injuries during the offseason program was a little concerning, even if they weren’t characterized as anything but minor knocks.

3. What are fair expectations for Kylie Fitts?

The 6-foot-4, 265 pound Fitts is an intriguing prospect in that he tested well at the NFL Combine and, before injuries limited his junior and senior years, posted an eye-popping 2015 (seven TFLs, seven sacks, 10 pass break-ups, four forced fumbles). Fitts doesn’t believe the injuries he suffered at Utah (Lisfranc/foot, ankle sprain, shoulder sprain) will linger or pop back up in his pro career, though.

“I think I got all my injuries over with,” Fitts said. “I think it’s just a run of bad luck and it’s over now. I’m healthy, feeling good now, and I’m banking on remaining healthy and playing good.”

Still, every team in the NFL passed on Fitts until the Bears used the 181st pick to draft him in April. That doesn’t mean he won’t have success — Jordan Howard was the 150th pick in the 2016 draft, after all — but he’ll head to Bourbonnais with plenty of work to do to earn a role in Fangio’s defense. The Bears’ outside linebacking depth chart may not look strong, but that doesn’t mean Fitts will waltz into a prominent role. What he does in practices and preseason games will go a long way toward determining his outlook for 2018.

Bears' pass rush is one of NFL's worst, says PFF

Bears' pass rush is one of NFL's worst, says PFF

The Chicago Bears play in a division with Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford, so it's pretty obvious that a key to this season will be the defense's pass rush.

Unfortunately, getting after the quarterback doesn't appear to be a strength of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's unit. According to Pro Football Focus, the Bears have one of the worst group of pass rushers in the NFL.

Right now, expectations for what the Bears can expect off the edge pass-rush wise should be very low. Injuries have slowed Floyd’s development after he was drafted with the ninth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, leading to just 72 total pressures through three seasons. Starting opposite him will likely be Acho, with Lynch in on nickel pass-rushing packages. Lynch has averaged four sacks, and just over six hits and 21 hurries per season in his four-year career. The Bears top pass-rusher right now is Hicks on the defensive interior, and after producing 49 total pressures in 2017, he will likely need to be their top pass-rusher again in 2018.

If Sam Acho ends up starting opposite Leonard Floyd, then Aaron Lynch will go down as a free-agent bust. He was signed to start, not to be a rotational pass rusher. In fact, it's Acho who's better equipped to rotate into the lineup and provide a burst of energy when needed. 

Sixth-round pick Kylie Fitts is another candidate to bring pressure off the edge for the Bears, but he too is a great unknown. His college resume is littered with injuries and more potential than production. Chicago is high on him, however, and he could be another day-three steal to add to Ryan Pace's draft catalog.

Ultimately, the Bears' pass rush will come down to Floyd and whether he can become the elite sack artist he was drafted to be. In fact, he's entering something of a make-or-break year. If he doesn't prove he can stay healthy enough to register 10 or more sacks this season, Chicago may have to re-think its plan at edge rusher.