Redskins

Bielema ready for rugged SEC at Arkansas

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Bielema ready for rugged SEC at Arkansas

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long first met Bret Bielema while in Miami attending an end-of-season awards ceremony surrounding the 2005 national championship game.

Bielema was a 34-year-old up-and-coming assistant coach at Wisconsin, and Long was the athletic director at Pittsburgh, still a few years away from leaving to take over the Razorbacks program for the retiring Frank Broyles.

Always one to network and keep his emergency file of potential coaches ready, Long followed the career of that assistant he met on the beach. Little did he know that he would one day hire Bielema to coach Arkansas, helping end what had been a spiraling eight months for the Razorbacks following the scandal-ridden exit of Bobby Petrino.

The end of a secretive search came to an end Tuesday when the former Wisconsin coach agreed to take over the Razorbacks. The 43-year-old was introduced at a news conference the next day, giving Arkansas hope it can return to the upper echelon of the Southeastern Conference.

``I'm very relieved,'' Long said. ``You know, coaching searches are stressful searches. There's a lot depending on it. ... It's always good to have a search completed. But I really feel good about the coach we have to lead these student-athletes.''

Bielema, who left the Badgers after seven seasons, won't coach Wisconsin in the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl game against Stanford. Instead, he'll immediately step in the hyper-competitive world of recruiting in the SEC - home to the winners of the last six national championships.

The former Iowa and Kansas State assistant could have a difficult time initially selling an Arkansas program that was 4-8 this season and missed a bowl game for the first time since 2008. However, he won't have to go back far to remind recruits of success at the school, which was 21-5 in 2010-11 under Petrino and finished as high as No. 5 in the final rankings.

Given Bielema's background as a defensive coach, the rugged SEC seemed to him like the perfect fit. He said he had no apprehension about joining an SEC West already loaded with Alabama and LSU, among others.

``The thing I think probably intrigued me more than anything as I've watched over the years the SEC, there's a lot of coaches that have my type of background that have had success,'' Bielema said. ``I'm excited to work with the caliber of athlete the SEC can bring and what we can bring here to the University of Arkansas is very exciting.''

The Razorbacks had an equal amount of confidence in their new coach after meeting with him Wednesday afternoon, and they expressed little doubt Bielema could go toe-to-toe with the likes of Alabama's Nick Saban and LSU's Les Miles.

``I don't think, I know he can,'' Arkansas cornerback Tevin Mitchel said. ``You can see how confident he is. That's a good feeling for us as players.''

Bielema said he would interview each of the current members of the Razorbacks staff, though he'll he have to hire a new offensive coordinator since Paul Petrino left to become the head coach at Idaho. The Illinois native said he had six candidates in mind for the position, a critical selling point to recruits for a school that was among the country's best under Bobby Petrino.

Led by current Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, Wisconsin was sixth in the country in scoring in 2011. Bielema, who was 68-24 with the Badgers, preached a balanced attack and said he'll tailor the offense to fit the players. Wisconsin running back Montee Ball was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy last season, and he's second in the Big Ten this season with 1,730 yards rushing.

``I'm going to recruit a certain way and you'll get more and more specific what you want as the years go forward,'' Bielema said. ``But if you don't have the right dogs in the race, you're not going to win it.

``So whatever race we get into with our philosophy, we have to make sure we have the right people to run it.''

Bielema knew of Arkansas' fall from preseason top 10 this season, sending a letter of support to Long about how he handled Petrino's firing and the hiring of interim coach John L. Smith in April. He knows now that the challenge is to rebuild.

``I'm never going to lie,'' Bielema said. ``I'm never going to make something look better than it is. We're a 4-8 football team that a lot of people thought were going to be great in the beginning of the year and we weren't.

``... But right now we're going to embrace being the underdog. We're going to throw two arms around it. We're going to kiss it and make it feel good.''

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Zach Brown says Redskins defense will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor during joint practices

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USA TODAY Sports/@TerrellePryor

Zach Brown says Redskins defense will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor during joint practices

Terrelle Pryor made a number of highlight reel catches last year during training camp, and it appears the Redskins defense didn't like it. 

Washington's marquee free agent signing last season, Pryor came into Richmond with sky-high expectations. Throughout the training sessions last August, Pryor put on one-handed displays at the Jugs machine and often made big catches in team drills. It's also important to remember there was never any live tackling during these drills, leaving defenders at a distinct disadvantage. 

Zach Brown remembers the scene quite well, and thinks it will look very different this summer when Pryor comes to Richmond as a member of the New York Jets. 

"That’s going to be something right there. The boys are gonna have it out for him. We can put hands on him now," Brown said on Inside the Locker Room on the Team 980 (full audio here).

Brown explained that Redskins coach Jay Gruden would not allow the defense to hit Pryor last year, even when the wideout did some showboating. 

"Jay ain't here to protect you anymore," Brown said.

The Redskins linebacker explained that he tried to explain to Pryor that the one-handed catches from training camp would not translate in the NFC East, where players get hit hard. It doesn't seem like Pryor listened, as he finished the season with only 240 receiving yards on 20 catches in nine games. 

"The boys were already hot for what he was doing last year," Brown said. He added, "Try to one-hand something while you’re with the Jets, you’re gonna catch a forearm."

One incident that supports Brown's comments came when Bashaud Breeland got thrown off the practice field last training camp. Breeland got mad that he wasn't allowed to get physical with Pryor at the line of scrimmage, and the scene blew up. Breeland eventually got sent off the field after arguing with coaches. 

The Jets visit the Redskins for three days of practices beginning August 12th. The two teams then square off in the second preseason game on August 16th. 

Brown will get his chance at Pryor, assuming the wideout plays. Pryor finished the 2018 season on the injured reserve, but is expected to be fine once training camp begins in New York. 

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Fantasy Baseball Outlook: Week 12

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Fantasy Baseball Outlook: Week 12

We're just a couple of weeks away from the midway point of the 2018 Major League Baseball season, which means many casual fantasy baseball players have collectively turned their attention to the gridiron. This is good news for those of you still interested, because outside of the truly competitive leagues, it's about to get much easier to navigate the waiver wire and make winning trades.

That said, we'll still be here all season long, providing advice for anyone looking to gain a competitive edge in their fantasy leagues. There's a lot to digest in the upcoming week, as many teams (including the Washington Nationals) will play a full seven game slate. It's an especially great time for stars in baseball, as a whopping six players are on pace to record seasons with 8.7 Wins Above Replacement or higher, but there's still plenty of great options beyond the obvious guys.

NOTE: Don’t expect to see guys like Bryce Harper or Trea Turner mentioned too often. They are clear must-starts every week. Don’t overthink it.

Week 12 (6/18-6/24)

One Nationals pitcher to start: Max Scherzer

We won't often include a guy on the level of Mad Max in our recommendations, but consider this a statement against the other pitchers. With Stephen Strasburg on the DL, Gio Gonzalez is really the only other startable option in the rotation, and while he's a fine play against the Orioles, he's not a sure thing. Scherzer is the best pitcher in baseball, so when in doubt, it's easy to fall back on his name. For now, feel free to use Gonzalez if needed, but the only clear, recommendable one this week is Scherzer.

One Nationals position player to start: Adam Eaton, OF

Consider this your reminder to not get cute and just start Adam Eaton whenever he's healthy. When he can manage to avoid time on the disabled list, he's consistenly been one of the best players in Washington, and an absolute must-start in fantasy. Yes, he's hitting "just" .286 in five games since returning from the DL, but there's no reason to believe he won't bounce back to one of the top hitters in the National League once he gets back in the swing of things. As long as he's hitting at the top of the Washington lineup, he'll be one of the top run producers in baseball.

One Nationals pitcher to sit: Erick Fedde

We likely would have advised against starting Fedde regardless of matchup, given his relative struggles in his two starts with the Nats this season. He's got a nice 9:2 strikeout-to-walk rate, but the ERA sits at an unsightly 5.91. What makes matters worse is the matchup; Fedde is once again slated to face the vaunted New York Yankees lineup. In New York, he allowed two home runs in just five innings, and while Nats park isn't the hitter's haven that Yankee Stadium is, the sluggers in their lineup make for a daunting matchup in any city.

Fedde probably isn't owned in most leagues, and there's no reason for that to change, even with his spot in the rotation likely secure as long as Strasburg isn't throwing.. 

One Nationals player to sit: Daniel Murphy, 2B

Nats fans were understandably rejoicing when Daniel Murphy returned to the lineup last week. It's always fun when one of your stars is back on the field after missing so much time. Still, like most players who haven't face in-game pitching in several months, Murphy has been slow to re-adjust at the plate. He's recorded just two hits in 15 at-bats, has only walked once, and has yet to notch an extra-base hit of any kind. His OPS is below-.200, and while no one should expect that to last, there's no need to rush him back into your lineups either.

It would be pretty tempting to slot Murphy into your 2B or middle infield spot now that he's healthy, since you likely drafted him to be one of your studs, but given his lengthy absence, the nature of his original injury, and his slow start since returning, it's probably a good idea to leave him on your bench for a week or two. Once he starts driving the ball again, he can start to return value for you, but there's no reason to let him drag you down in the meantime.

Any 2-start pitchers for the Nationals this week?

Given that the rotation is currently in a state of flux, we can't confidently say any starter will get two starts. Fedde looks like the most likely candidate, but as we outlined above, he's still a pitcher you want to avoid for now.

Any 2-start pitchers worth streaming around MLB this week?

One of my favorite sleepers this week is Domingo German. One of the most surprising stats in all of baseball right now is that among starting pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched, German has the second best swinging strike rate, behind only Max Scherzer. Swinging strike rate is a great stat to use when projecting future strikeout potential, and German's 15.9% is mighty impressive. German has a start at home against the Mariners and on the road against the Rays, so while it's not a cakewalk week, it's not especially daunting either. As an added bonus for those in points leagues, German is RP-eligible, giving you some extra roster flexibility.

The walks are a little high (21 in 53.3 innings) which has let to an elevated WHIP and ERA, but it's a good rule of thumb to follow the strikeouts when identifiying quality fantasy pitchers, and considering most of the two-start guys this week are obvious studs who are certainly already owned in your league, German is the exact type of option you should be looking to stream.

One player you might not realize you should pick up: John Hicks, C/1B (Tigers) 

This is a sneaky move, the kind that could easily get overlooked in most fantasy leagues but could provide a great return on investment. With Miguel Cabrera's unfortunate season-ending biceps injury providing an opening in the everyday lineup in Detroit, Hicks (who is catcher elgibile) will be taking most of the team's at-bats at first base going forward. While he's probably not worth rostering as a first baseman in most leagues, catcher is a notorious black hole in fantasy baseball in recent years, and this season might be the wost yet.

Hicks will maintain catcher eligibility all season long, yet he'll play the far less demanding first base every day, giving him less wear and tear on his legs, less concern with running the pitching staff, and most importantly, regular at-bats in a surprisingly not-atrocious lineup. Hicks isn't the type of guy you'd refer to as a league-winner prior to Opening Day, but he could make a real impact on a championship roster in the second half of the season.

One player you might not realize you should drop: Jake Junis, SP (Royals) 

Junis isn't the type of pitcher that I'd classify as a must-drop, but you shouldn't hesitate to move on if there's a clear better option on the waiver wire. Junis started the season strong and looked like a legitimate breakout player, but he's allowed six earned runs in each of his last two starts. A poor two-start stretch isn't the end of the world, which is why I'm not suggest that everyone jump ship regardless of team context. That said, he doesn't have the pedigree of a top pitching prospect, and he plays for one of the five worst teams in baseball, meaning you can't expect many wins even when Junis is throwing well.

At the very least, you prbably should leave Junis on the bench for the time being, and again, if there's an option you've been eyeing on the waiver wire, now is the time to strike. Don't feel bad if that means leaving Junis behind to free up a roster spot for your team.

MORE NATS NEWS:

- Nice Threads: MLB reveals All-Star jerseys
- Rankings Update: Where did the Nats fall?
- On the Farm: Latest Nats prospect report