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3-game losing streak at stake for TCU, No. 23 WVU

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3-game losing streak at stake for TCU, No. 23 WVU

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) Their debut seasons in the Big 12 haven't exactly gone the way West Virginia and TCU had hoped.

The No. 23 Mountaineers (5-2, 2-2) and Horned Frogs (5-3, 2-3) are coming off a lousy October and are in need of solid finishes to improve their positions for a bowl.

First, they've got to become bowl eligible. The team that doesn't on Saturday will be saddled with its first three-game losing streak under their current coaches.

It hasn't happened at TCU since the Horned Frogs lost four straight in 1998 under Dennis Franchione. West Virginia lost three straight to finish the 2004 season with Rich Rodriguez at the helm.

West Virginia and TCU are accustomed to being on top of their conferences and have played in a combined four BCS bowls over the last five seasons.

TCU had only three losses total in the previous three seasons combined, including going undefeated in the Mountain West. The Mountaineers shared the Big East championship the past two seasons.

This year is much different. West Virginia is sixth and TCU eighth in the Big 12 standings.

``We understand we've got to win more than we lose,'' said TCU coach Gary Patterson. ``We're trying to get to that sixth win like everybody else. We've got four games left to do that.''

West Virginia rose to No. 5 in the rankings before going on a free fall with blowout losses to No. 20 Texas Tech and No. 3 Kansas State. Like TCU, the Mountaineers have been forced to play a lot of first-year players, especially on defense.

``We've got a strange combination of a bunch of older kids that want to finish the year strong, that want to keep winning, that want to show improvement, that want to get to a good bowl game and win games,'' said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. ``Then there's a bunch of young kids that don't understand any of this. It's our jobs as coaches to mix the two and keep the attitude good.''

TCU was ranked as high as No. 15 a month ago but is 1-3 since suspending starting QB Casey Pachall after he was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. Pachall left school for the rest of the semester to enter an inpatient rehabilitation facility.

Pachall's replacement, redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin, has thrown for five touchdowns and three interceptions in his last two games. He hurt a knee late in a loss to Oklahoma State last week and Patterson is confident he'll play Saturday.

``Trevone did not play very well last week on the road,'' Patterson said. ``We need him to play a little bit better.''

Boykin could get better in a hurry against a West Virginia defense that has allowed an average of 53 points over its last four games.

West Virginia is making a lot of quarterbacks look great. Five opponents have thrown for 300 yards or more against the Mountaineers. Kansas State's Collin Klein was simply dazzling in the Wildcats' 55-14 win in Morgantown on Oct. 20, throwing for a career-high 323 yards and three TDs while running for four more scores.

The Mountaineers used a bye week to try to soften the glaring errors on defense that include blown coverages and poor tackling.

The defense is allowing 496 yards a game this season. West Virginia would be in much worse shape in the standings if its offense behind Geno Smith wasn't averaging 501.

Smith is coming off two lackluster performances by his standards. He's thrown for 26 touchdowns this season, but he's had a total of two in back-to-back losses and threw his first two interceptions of the season against Kansas State.

``I've continued to work hard. I've continued to stay confident,'' Smith said. ``I've continued to believe in my guys and believe in this coaching staff and just trust what's around me.''

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jaxson Hayes

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jaxson Hayes

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Jaxson Hayes

School: Texas
Position: Center
Age: 19
Height: 7-0
Weight: 219
Wingspan: 7-4
Max vertical: 34.5 in.

2018/19 stats: 10.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.6 spg, 2.2 bpg, 72.8 FG% (3.8/5.3), 00.0 3PT% (0.0/0.0), 74.0 FT%

Player comparison: Jarrett Allen, John Henson

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 10th, NBADraft.net 9th, Bleacher Report 10th, Sports Illustrated 9th, Ringer 10th

5 things to know:

*Hayes is considered the best center prospect in this year's class. He is athletic, plays with energy and measured in at the combine at about 7-feet in shoes with a 7-foot-4 wingspan. He can run the floor and play above the rim.

*The skill that stands out most for Hayes is rim protection. He averaged 2.2 blocks in only 23.3 minutes per game. That extrapulates to 5.7 blocks over 100 possessions. He has long arms and appears to have good instincts tracking the ball in the lane. He is following in the footsteps of fellow Texas shot-blockers before him like Myles Turner and Jarrett Allen. The latter may be the best player comparison for Hayes in today's NBA.

*Hayes is not considered a very good rebounder. He averaged 5.0 per game and only once reached double figures. It could be that he just needs to add some weight, an issue that is correctable but would hurt him even more at the NBA level initially. The worst-case concern is that he is soft and won't do the necessary dirty work.

*At this point, Hayes offers nothing in the way of an outside shot. He didn't attempt a single three-pointer in college and didn't do much on offense outside of dunks and putbacks. In order to justify being taken with a high draft pick, he will either need to develop a post game, an outside shot or be extremely good on defense. His lack of an all-round game will certainly give some teams pause in evaluating him.

*Hayes comes from a family of impressive athletes. His father played 12 seasons in the NFL and recently served as the tight ends coach for the Cincinnati Bengals. His mother played basketball at Drake University and later coached in college, including a stint as an assistant at Oklahoma. Hayes followed his father's footsteps by playing wide receiver in high school before a growth spurt made it clear basketball was the path to go.

Fit with Wizards: Hayes is one of the best fits for the Wizards among the players who could be available with the ninth pick. He does what they arguably lack the most, which is play defense and more specifically protect the rim.

The Wizards allowed the most field goals within five feet of any team this past season and the third-highest field goal percentage in that range. They desperately need someone who can block and alter shots.

Hayes would likely be the Wizards' best shot-blocker Day 1. But whether he can help them in other ways is a question at this point.

Hayes would represent a bit of a project for the Wizards and may not have All-Star potential because of his offensive limitations. Still, he remains one of their best options in the first round. Long-term, he could transform their defense and form a strong pick-and-roll partner for John Wall.

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Watching Dwayne Haskins and Case Keenum, one quarterback definitely stands out

Watching Dwayne Haskins and Case Keenum, one quarterback definitely stands out

The Redskins might be just in the beginning of a quarterback battle, but at Monday's OTA session, it seemed pretty clear which player would eventually win. 

Dwayne Haskins made a number of impressive throws while he was on the field, and while Case Keenum had his share of good passes too, the rookie shined. Even on the surface: Haskins looks the part of a franchise quarterback, standing 6-foot-3 and 230 lbs. Keenum is listed at 6-foot-1 and 215 lbs, but that seems fairly generous. 

When Haskins throws the ball, it zips through the air. He can go deep and has touch on his underneath routes. Keenum gets the ball where it needs to be, but there's a difference in velocity. 

Let's be crystal clear, however, that one OTA session in May will not determine the starting quarterback job. While Keenum and Haskins are both learning the Redskins offense, Keenum has proved he can stand in the pocket of an NFL game and make plays. Haskins has never seen the size or speed of NFL defensive linemen. 

"It’s a long process and I think they both handled it well today," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "Hopefully we’ll do better tomorrow and the next day and so on and so forth and I’m sure it will be a good, lengthy competition with some great players going at it."

A few, unexpected things stood out with Haskins.

Though he has a long windup on his throws, the ball gets out plenty fast. He also seemed quicker in the pocket than some of his NFL Scouting Combine numbers would suggest. Haskins certainly isn't fast, but he's not a plodder either. That said, Keenum does seem to have the advantage in squirting through the line of scrimmage and keeping plays alive. That's something Gruden really likes in his passers.

Both of the QBs seemed comfortable with their role in the competition. 

"It’s normal. I compete every day whether I’m playing football, playing ping pong, playing golf, I’m competing. I’m competing against myself. I’m competing against the defense. In the quarterback room, we’re always competing," Keenum said. "Competition makes you better and that’s what the spring is about."

Haskins sounded very tactful in his responses; respectful of the veterans already on the team in Keenum and Colt McCoy, yet also eager to get more work.

"I want to be with the best, be around the best, and compete with the best. All season I’ll be around working out with the best quarterbacks on my team," the rookie said. 

Planned or not, Haskins also seemed modest in his goals for the OTA session. 

"I didn’t have any expectations for today, I just wanted to execute. The biggest thing for me was going to play right in the huddle."

That stands out in stark contrast to the Redskins last first-round rookie passer, Robert Griffin III. Expectations for RG3 were out of control, almost immediately, and while parts of his rookie season actually lived up to the hype, that situation was not healthy or sustainable. It's smart for Haskins to set reasonable goals at this stage of his career. Calling plays correctly in the huddle will get him on the field more, and that will give him more chances to make big plays.

It's a learning process, and at OTAs, Haskins showed a willingness to start on the ground floor. In a world of egos and branding, that's a sage move. 

While McCoy was not present on the field at OTAs, he is in Ashburn. He will be a part of this competition, but he needs to get healthy soon. Gruden didn't provide much of an update when asked about McCoy, though the coach did say the quarterback should be back on the field for training camp.

McCoy knows the Redskins offense backward and forward, but without him on the field, Keenum and Haskins are learning the Redskins plays at the same time. And that means while Gruden is looking at a rookie and a veteran, neither player has much of a leg up on his playbook. 

"I think we have to grade them based on production out here every day. Every day is a new grade, every day you see how they’re developing, see how they’re getting better, see if they’re making the same mistakes over and over. But it’s a process, this is the first time Dwyane has had a chance to call plays in a live huddle and go after a live defense and this is the first time Case has had a chance to do that with the Redskins terminology. So, we don’t expect perfection on the day one, but we do expect the guys to know what they’re doing when we go out to the practice field, execute and then continue to get better each and every day."

Get better each day. Compete. That's the cornerstone of success in the NFL, and for the Redskins, how QB1 will find his spot.

"Somebody is going to rise I would think," the coach said. "The cream always rises to the top and we’re hoping that’s the case.”

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