Redskins

Former Kent State teammates Saban, Pinkel meet

Former Kent State teammates Saban, Pinkel meet

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Nick Saban will have a reunion of sorts from Kent State's 1972 Mid-American Conference championship team, since he couldn't make the first one.

The Alabama coach was a safety on that team 40 years ago, while Missouri's Gary Pinkel was the star tight end. They'll be opposing coaches for the first time Saturday in Columbia, Mo., instead of teammates and co-workers.

They share an alma mater, a mentor, Don James, and pretty impressive coaching track records. And James will be pulling only for a pristine game that shows the strong coaching he expects. Rooting for one ex-pupil would be too much like rooting against the other.

``It's like having two sons out there,'' James said.

Pinkel flew to Ohio for the real reunion before Kent State's Thursday night opener in August. Saban couldn't make it since that's when he hosts his weekly radio show and Alabama happened to have a big game against Michigan two days later in Texas.

Now, they're Southeastern Conference rivals since Missouri joined the league - much to the chagrin of James.

``I like them both and cheer for them both,'' said James, who might have to record this one to see Washington play. ``I wish that Gary hadn't gone into the Southeastern Conference.

``He can recruit and he can coach, so he'll be all right.''

Pinkel is getting a rough indoctrination to the league that Saban and the Tide (5-0, 2-0 SEC) have been presiding over with two national titles in the past three seasons and a shot at No. 3. The Tigers (3-3, 0-3) are still seeking their first SEC win.

The two coaches speak fondly of one another personally and professionally, but Pinkel said they didn't hang out during their college days.

Saban was a year ahead of Pinkel. They're the coaching hotshots from a team that also included Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Lambert. They both worked as graduate assistants under James, who went on to win a share of a national title with Washington in 1991.

``When we both became GAs, it was pretty evident to me that he could be a really, really good coach,'' Saban recalls. ``So it's no surprise to me that he has been an outstanding coach for a number of years. We were both fortunate to have been exposed to Don James as players and as young coaches. Gary spent more time with him than I did. It certainly helped our systematic approach to how we do every part of our program, whether it's personnel, academics, developing players, whatever that may be. It doesn't surprise me at all that he's turned out to be a fantastic coach.''

Pinkel said he remembers the two discussing going into coaching at the Kent State library.

``Obviously we're friends,'' Pinkel said. ``We just kind of grew apart, because he went to a different part of the country. I think Don James had a big influence on both of us. He came to a program that was down and out and built a championship team.''

That championship came more than two years after four Kent State students were killed and nine others wounded by Ohio National Guardsmen during an anti-war protest.

``Talk about a university that needed something tremendously positive to happen,'' Pinkel said. ``Back then, we called them hippies - nice folks, a little bit different from me. But you know what? They came to games, and were into it, excited ... It united us.''

Saban quickly climbed the coaching ranks and recommended Pinkel as his replacement when he left after one season at Toledo to become the Cleveland Browns' defensive coordinator in 1991.

Pinkel, who held that job until leaving for Missouri 10 years later, had been Washington's offensive coordinator under James.

``Nick, every time I needed a coach, he wasn't available,'' James said. ``I would have hired him in a heartbeat. He got head jobs earlier and went in the NFL. I was impressed with him because I'd see him at the convention once or twice a year and I was impressed with how far he had come in defensive knowledge.''

James spent a day with Saban and his team in California before the national title game in Pasadena after the 2009 season.

He also scored some tickets for his granddaughter to the title game against LSU two years later. Saban had to turn down his invitation to the Kent State reunion but he was still a topic of discussion.

``I think the whole team just kind of had the same feeling that I did: This was one of the guys that I played with and I know, and look what he's done with his life,'' James said. ``And he's making, what, $6 million or so. He's done well.''

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New pieces on offense lead to plenty of questions for Redskins at OTAs

New pieces on offense lead to plenty of questions for Redskins at OTAs

Alex Smith in, Kirk Cousins out.

That's certainly the headline, but there are plenty of other questions for the Redskins, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.

For the last two seasons, most of the questions going into OTAs for Washington came from the defensive side of the ball. After consecutive drafts with a first-round defensive lineman selection, the defense should be much improved. 

On offense, however, there are a lot of new parts. 

  1. The headliner - No position in sports is as important as NFL quarterback. This will be Alex Smith's first action in a Redskins uniform with media present. The 34-year-old veteran is coming off the best season of his career, and if he can continue that level of accuracy and play-making, the Redskins could be poised for an explosive year.
  2. The speedster - Washington's wideouts lacked separation in 2017. It was apparent through much of the year, and likely played a roll in some of Kirk Cousins' reluctance to make tough throws. Free agent addition Paul Richardson is supposed to help, immediately. He has elite deep speed and the 'Skins brass hopes he can bring a similar element to the offense that DeSean Jackson provided a few years back. Time to prove it Paul. 
  3. The injuries - There are big reasons for concern, namely two very large men in Jordan Reed and Trent Williams. Reed will not participate in OTAs, and has been dealing with a foot/toe injury for the better part of a year. Williams, who seems highly unlikely to attend OTAs, underwent knee surgery in January. Beyond Smith, Reed and Williams are probably the two most important offensive players on the Redskins. OTAs aren't important, Reed and Williams participating, or even attending, OTAs is not important. Both men being healthy and ready to go in September is quite important. 
  4. The Rookie - Has Derrius Guice become the most popular player on the Redskins? Maybe. The dynamic rookie running back, with an interesting draft weekend slide, has the charisma and ability to be a star. The "off-field concerns" that hurt his draft status seem like myths at this point, but there was some injury concern his junior season at LSU (see video above). Guice has an opportunity to be a huge part of the Redskins offense, and all eyes will be watching the rookie. 
  5. The leap? - In 2017, Josh Doctson showed flashes of the player that warranted a first-round pick in 2016. Will 2018 be the year he proves it, week after week, game after game? Getting off to a good start with Smith should help, and even more important would be an injury-free offseason. 

There are questions for the defense too, particularly at cornerback after Josh Norman, but this year, the offense has more new parts. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

The Eastern Conference Final is going the distance!

After losing three straight to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Capitals won Game 6 to force a Game 7 in Tampa Bay. Can the Caps beat the Lightning one more time and advance to the Stanley Cup Final?

JJ Regan, Tarik El-Bashir and special guest cameraman Mike D break it all down.

 

PLEASE NOTE: Due to schedule and time constraints, this podcast was recorded by phone and the audio quality is not up to our usual standards.

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