Redskins

No. 3 Florida has shot to clinch SEC East

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No. 3 Florida has shot to clinch SEC East

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Getting to Atlanta for the Southeastern Conference championship game is the goal for every team in the Southeastern Conference.

Florida has accomplished it more often than anyone else.

Maybe that's why the third-ranked Gators are taking such a ho-hum approach to Saturday's all-important game against No. 12 Georgia. A more likely scenario, though, is that it's early, and players and coaches are saving all the hype and hoopla for the weekend.

``Nothing's changed for us,'' coach Will Muschamp said Monday. ``We're not working any longer, harder. Practice, it's all the same. We don't approach things differently based on the situation because next week's important, too.''

Not quite like this one, though.

The Gators (7-0, 6-0 SEC) can clinch a spot in the conference title game with a victory against rival Georgia (7-1, 5-1). The Bulldogs, meanwhile, need to beat Florida and probably win remaining games against Mississippi and Auburn to get to Atlanta.

``It's good for us,'' Gators linebacker Jon Bostic said. ``That's one of our goals from the beginning of the year. We certainly want to get to Atlanta, but we've got to take it one game at a time. It's another SEC game we want to win.''

Florida has represented the Eastern Division 10 times since the inception of the title game in 1992. The Gators also have more wins (7) than anyone else.

But few outsiders expected Muschamp's team to contend for the division in his second season. Not after last year's 7-6 record that included the coach calling his players soft. Not with a sophomore quarterback. Not with a new offensive coordinator.

The Gators, though, have surprised just about everyone.

They came from behind to win at Texas A&M and Tennessee. They were more physical than LSU and South Carolina. They have been most impressive with halftime adjustments, second-half stamina and special teams play.

Now, all that stands in the way of another trip to Atlanta is Georgia.

``It's another big game,'' quarterback Jeff Driskel said. ``It's an SEC East game, and it's the Florida-Georgia game. You couldn't really ask for more. You come to Florida to play in games like this. We're excited to start preparing and we're ready for another big week. ... We know what's at stake, but we're going to prepare like we have been all year and just be ready when it comes Saturday.''

The Gators have plenty of motivation, too.

Not only is the SEC East at stake, but Florida lost to Georgia last year. And those late-season losses seem to be propelling the Gators this season.

They admitted as much after beating LSU on Oct. 6 and drubbing South Carolina on Saturday, saying they wanted to avenge setbacks from last year's disappointing season.

``We just get another chance,'' Driskel said. ``Like coach said, you don't get too many second chances in life and we have yet another one this week. We're going to make this one (count). I don't want to say revenge. We're just going to go out there and play hard and practice hard, you know, work hard this week.''

Muschamp spoke to his team last week about possible distractions stemming from the program's lofty ranking and a No. 2 spot the first Bowl Championship Series standings. Might he do it again this week, with the SEC East on the line?

``When there are obvious possible distractions for your football team, you can stick your head in the sand and pretend everything's OK or you can address it with them,'' Muschamp said. ``And that's what I choose to do. So I address things and say, `All right, if we need to talk about it, let's talk about it.' And we'll all agree that we don't need to.''

Just another ho-hum week in Gainesville, right?

Not quite.

``There are some games where there will be a little more adrenaline flowing, certainly,'' Muschamp said. ``And there will be in this one. But as a competitor, you prepare yourself the right way each week, regardless of the opponent or the situation. And certainly, when there's a little bit more at stake, you may get a little bit more excited.''

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5 questions facing the Redskins as the Case Keenum/Dwayne Haskins QB battle begins

5 questions facing the Redskins as the Case Keenum/Dwayne Haskins QB battle begins

The Redskins have a quarterback battle. Repeat, the Redskins have a quarterback battle. This is not a drill. It is an open competition. 

When the team gathers in Ashburn on Monday for offseason training activities, it will be the first time that veteran passer Case Keenum and first-round rookie Dwayne Haskins will be on the field at the same time. Incumbent backup QB Colt McCoy should be present as well, but not active as he works back from multiple leg surgeries this offseason. 

The team has plenty of questions for the 2019 season, and the answers will start coming as early as this week. No question is bigger than the signal caller though.

  1. QB Battle - Every major factor in the Redskins organization has been clear that Haskins will get a chance to compete for the starting job. That means every throw between Keenum, the presumed starter after the 'Skins traded for him in February, and the Ohio State rookie will be over analyzed. If McCoy was healthy, he would have a jump start in the competition because he knows head coach Jay Gruden's offense. McCoy isn't healthy though, and that means more reps and work for Keenum and Haskins. This battle will be ongoing throughout the summer, but on Monday with the media present, it will be very interesting to see what player gets more work with the first-team offense.
  2. Who's still hurt - Speaking of the first-team offense, a number of players will be working back from offseason surgery. Will Paul Richardson be out there? Trent Williams? How healthy is Jordan Reed, and what about Derrius Guice? Brandon Scherff? There are a lot  of questions, and some of them will be answered simply by seeing guys run around. Second-year wideouts Cam Sims and Trey Quinn both finished the 2018 season on the injured reserve; will they be ready to go? There are a lot of people to watch out for. 
  3. STARTING DEFENSE (LATIMER VOICE*) - Landon Collins was the prize of free agency, and Monday he will be on the field barking directions at teammates. How will he fit in with Josh Norman, and how does Quinton Dunbar look? When Dunbar went down with a leg nerve injury last season, the Washington defense fell apart. If he is all the way back would be big news for Greg Manusky's defense. There's also Reuben Foster. This will be the first time for the media to see Foster on the field in a Redskins uniform after his controversial acquisition last November. Presumably Foster will answer questions after the OTA session, stay tuned for that.
  4. Camp is over for the rookies - Beyond Haskins, the Redskins have nine other draft picks taking part in OTAs. The rookies went through their own private minicamp last week, but this will be quite different. Rookie minicamp is about letting the new players get acclimated to the new facility and team; OTAs are about real work. Will Montez Sweat take the field with the Redskins first-team defense? What about the two rookie receivers in Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon? There will be hiccups for the rookies, that's inevitable, but now is the time to prove they belong. With all the injuries on the offensive line, Wes Martin has the inside track on a starting job. 
  5. Absent, but not hurt - Never forget that OTAs are voluntary for players, and usually a handful of guys don't show up. That will likely happen tomorrow and some fans might react negatively. Don't be one of them. 

* If you don't get that reference, go watch The Program. 

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Potential coaching staff changes rocket into discussion for Wizards

Potential coaching staff changes rocket into discussion for Wizards

We can begin free agent watch with the Washington Wizards way before July 1.

This isn’t about players. Coaching changes can happen whenever.

News broke Saturday out of Houston that the Rockets would not retain associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik. Considered one of the league’s top defensive minds, Bzdelik’s relationship with Scott Brooks along with comments made by the Wizards head coach at the NBA Combine makes this transaction interesting.

Bzdelik, 66, gave Brooks his first NBA coaching job when the then Denver Nuggets head coach hired the former player in 2003.

"I'm thankful for coach Bzdelik," Brooks told the Houston Chronicle in 2016.  "He gave me my first NBA coaching start. One of the best coaches I've ever been around. He has great understanding of the game, both ends of the floor.”

Fast forward to Thursday inside Chicago’s Quest Multisport facility. Amid 5-on-5 games involving 2019 draft prospects, players holding court with media members and the general convention vibe that comes with the NBA Combine, Brooks spent a few minutes chatting with reporters.

Among the non-draft or general manager search topics, whether any changes to the coaching staff were forthcoming.

"I’ve talked to Ted. I definitely talked Ted,” Brooks began his reply, referencing Wizards owner Ted Leonsis. “I have a lot of respect for our organization. I have to get better, first and foremost…Will the staff remain the same? Every year, staffs change. Every year staffs change. We're probably going to make some changes. I don't know if it's for sure. Everything is still up in the air.”

Brooks also noted change could come from members of his staff seeking opportunities elsewhere. Tony Brown, Brooks’ lead assistant during his three seasons with the Wizards, became a coaching free agent following Washington’s 32-50 season, according to NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller.

Two days after Brooks’ comments came news of Bzdelik’s exit in Houston.

Bzdelik, a former Bullets assistant from 1988-94 and three-time college head coach, retired following the 2017-18 season. He returned to the Rockets in November following Houston’s slow start. The associate head coach is credited with guiding the team’s defensive improvement as the Rockets rose up the Western Conference standings.

The Houston Chronicle reported Bzdelik, whose contract expired after this season, remained uncommitted to returning. The Rockets announced Saturday they would not renew his deal.

The Wizards do not want a repeat of their defensive struggles. Only the Atlanta Hawks allowed more points per game than the 116.9 Washington surrendered last season. The Wizards ranked 28th in opponent field goal percentage (48.0) and 27th in 3-point shooting percentage (37.0).

It’s unclear how the Wizards fix those defensive concerns based solely on personnel. The current roster with five healthy players does not include any forwards or mobile big men. Point guard John Wall is expected to miss the majority of the upcoming season following February’s surgery for a ruptured Achilles. Wall, an erratic defensive presence in recent seasons, was previously selected to the NBA’s all-defensive team in 2015.

Coaching strategies could become the primary driver of change on the defensive end. The man who brought Brooks into the coaching fraternity would make for an obvious addition if both sides are interested.

"The accountability that [Jeff] taught me with the coaching staff and the players is second to none,” Brooks told the Chronicle in 2016. “I learned about work. I learned how to transfer my playing career into a coaching career with his help."

News of the next front office leader likely comes before coaching staff tweaks.

Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly was offered the same position with the Wizards Saturday after Denver granted Washington permission to meet. In the interim, the Wizards sent a contingent of scouting personnel along with Brooks to Chicago as the team conducted player interviews and watched scrimmages.

“Ted is going to make a decision and I trust that I going to be the best for the program moving forward,” Brooks said Thursday. “As of right now, (interim GM Tommy Sheppard) is doing a great job leading the group. We all feel comfortable with what’s going on. Hopefully, things work out and we move forward as an organization. We all have to get better, myself included.”

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