The Bruce Weber era begins at Kansas St

The Bruce Weber era begins at Kansas St

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) Just about everyone is back this season for Kansas State - except the coach.

Frank Martin is gone to South Carolina, and former Illinois coach Bruce Weber has taken over. Returning players will be the key as Weber tries to prove that a couple of lean years in Champaign were an aberration.

He's off to a good start so far, having successfully ``re-recruited'' 12 lettermen, including six who started 10 games or more for the Wildcats in 2011.

Seniors Rodney McGruder, Jordan Henriquez and Martavious Irving all have considerable experience, and other players have logged meaningful minutes. McGruder led the team in scoring and 10 other categories last season; he and Henriquez were named to the Big 12's all-defensive team.

``You feel good that you're not kind of starting over,'' Weber said. ``Even though it's a new coach and new system and new staff, you've got a group that's been together.''

Retaining that group was a crucial first step for Weber, and the players say they are buying into Weber's way.

McGruder pointed out that his new coach has developed players who went on to play professionally. McGruder hopes to be the next name on that list.

Angel Rodriguez got a phone call from former Illinois guard and NBA star Deron Williams, who was in a situation similar to Rodriguez's when Weber took over for Bill Self in 2004. Williams told Rodriguez he never regretted staying at Illinois and playing for Weber.

Players all liked what they heard about the coach, but his genuine demeanor and impressive resume were what sold them.

``His words were what I wanted to hear, but that could come from anybody,'' Rodriguez said. ``I guess I just looked at his basketball career as a coach, and I talked to my people, and I felt like it was the right decision to stay here.''

In addition to positive reviews and first impressions, Kansas State players found even more to like about their coach after seeing him in action during the team's summer tournament in Brazil.

Many consider Weber exceedingly mild-mannered in comparison to fiery Martin. When one of the overseas matchups began to get out of hand, Weber showed that he might have a little more fire in him than people realize.

In a game against Tijuca Club that included an astounding 78 free throws, Weber got ejected during the fourth quarter for protesting a foul that went against his team. This surprised everyone, and it worked in Weber's favor.

``He came in with an identity of a passive coach,'' Henriquez said. ``He proved to me right there that he's not as passive as he looks.''

With confidence in their coach, and with the bond between Weber, the staff and the players growing daily, the next issue on the docket is leadership.

While Weber sees leadership by example, vocal direction seems to be lacking.

``Somebody's got to grab it. Somebody's got to be a leader,'' Weber said. ``We've talked a lot about holding everybody accountable, whether it's going to class, getting to practice, playing the intensity level, listening to coaches, saying the right things in the locker room. All that stuff kind of adds up and can be very, very important.''

There are some obvious candidates. McGruder puts in as much time as anyone and plays hard nonstop. Rodriguez is the point guard, the floor general. Will Spradling understands the system perhaps better than anyone else. Weber could see any of these guys taking the reins.

For that to happen, though, someone has to speak up.

``Right now that's the main thing that we're working on,'' Spradling said. ``We don't really have anybody that's vocal enough. (McGruder)'s never really been that vocal type of person. That's something that he's working on too. It could pretty much be anybody.''

In the meantime, the seniors will continue to lead by example - and for now, that is OK.

``They're not as vocal as I'm sure they will be in the future, but they work hard,'' assistant coach Alvin Brooks said. ``If they work hard, nobody else has any choice but to work hard because they've been through it before, and they've won a lot of games for Kansas State, so that's going to do nothing but help us get better as a team.''

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Early returns show solid Redskins squad, with potential for more


Early returns show solid Redskins squad, with potential for more

More than 100 days remain before the Redskins take the field in meaningful NFL action.

Any and all excitement needs to be tempered, significantly, because what happens on a practice field in May without pads does not represent what will happen in September, October and beyond. 

Still, the Redskins group that took the field this week for OTAs showed promise. 

New quarterback Alex Smith looked crisp, connecting with a variety of wideouts and commanding the huddle. New wideout Paul Richardson made the best play of the session when he streaked down the field past rookie cornerback Greg Stroman and hauled in a deep pass from Smith. The play showed Smith's ability to identify open receivers downfield, as well as Richardson's ability to go up and grab a contested catch. Even Stroman, the seventh-round rookie, positioned himself well, he just fell victim to a perfect pass and tremendous athleticism.

That was only one play in a two-hour session. Again, don't take too much from May, when players don't wear pads or engage in any of the violence that the NFL is predicated upon. But the OTAs do serve a purpose, both for players and coaches, and there were nuggets to absorb and try to project for the fall. Here they are:

  • Jay Gruden made clear he's not concerned about the health of his offensive line. Trent Williams and Morgan Moses are recuperating from offseason surgery, but Gruden believes both are on track for when things start to matter. It's a good thing the coach isn't concerned because this was the 'Skins line in OTAs (left to right): Geron Christian, Shawn Lauvao, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, John Kling. Should that lineup take the field this fall, there will be trouble. 
  • The Redskins lost Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland this offseason, and the secondary depth will be something to watch throughout training camp. At OTAs, newly signed veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick lined up opposite Josh Norman in the team's base 3-4 defense. In nickel and dime coverage, Quinton Dunbar lined up opposite Norman and Scandrick moved to the slot. As things progress, it will be interesting to see if Dunbar surpasses Scandrick in base coverage, and what becomes of 2017 third-round pick Fabian Moreau. Stay tuned.  
  • Rookie running back Derrius Guice looked every part of the first-round talent many judged him to be before draft season rumors caused him to slide to the late second round. Guice cuts with authority and is able to see holes before they form and patiently wait to hit the open space. Guice also looked fine in pass-catching drills, one area that was a question coming out of LSU (but that says more about LSU's prehistoric offense). Watching the Redskins offense work, it seems clear Guice will be the heaviest used runner this fall.
  • That said, don't count out Robert Kelley. He looks leaner and plenty quick, showing a few impressive runs during the session. Byron Marshall also looked good, and Gruden pointed out his success in his post-OTA press conference. The running back group will have plenty of competition all the way through Richmond. 
  • Jonathan Allen has switched jersey numbers from 95 to 93. Rookie Daron Payne is now wearing 95. Payne and Allen both went to Alabama, both are huge, and both play defensive line. The number switch will take some getting used to. 
  • Zach Brown missed the OTA session as he was moving, and interestingly in his spot with the starting defense was Josh Harvey-Clemons. The second-year pro out of Louisville showed impressive speed in coverage, and remember he played safety in college and performed quite well. He has ball skills and great size to be a coverage linebacker. Some were surprised when the Redskins kept JHC last season at the cut to 53, but his development appears to be paying off for the organization. 
  • Another linebacker that made a play was Zach Vigil. He impressed for the Redskins late last season and was running the Washington second-team defensive huddle. At one point, Vigil broke through the line of scrimmage and blew up a run play. That prompted D.J. Swearinger to yell from the sideline, "OK Zach. OK ZACH!"
  • Speaking of Swearinger, the Redskins defensive captain seemed in midseason form when it comes to yelling encouragement on the field. Nobody hypes up the defense like Swearinger, particularly when the secondary makes a big play. On one pass Dunbar made a nice diving play to break up a pass, and Swearinger and Josh Norman got very fired up, shouting and jumping around. The entire defense responded. Little stuff like that helps disrupt the monotony of offseason work. 
  • Jamison Crowder looks jacked and quick. The end. 





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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!


Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

The Capitals are the Eastern Conference Champions!

After dispatching Tampa Bay in Game 7, the Caps claimed the conference crown for just the second time in franchise history. But they're not done yet. Now it's on to Vegas to face the Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break down the Caps' win over the Lightning and look ahead to the matchup with the Knights.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.