Redskins

UNC TB Bernard entering NFL draft as sophomore

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UNC TB Bernard entering NFL draft as sophomore

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) North Carolina tailback Gio Bernard is eager to make his early jump to the NFL.

The sophomore announced Friday he would enter next spring's draft after a big year in which he ranked among the nation's top rushers and punt returners to earn All-America honors.

``I didn't want to base my projections or where I was (in mock drafts),'' Bernard said during a news conference. ``I think it was moreso that I wanted to move on to the next step in life and fulfill a dream.''

The 5-foot-10, 205-pound tailback led the Atlantic Coast Conference in rushing, scoring, all-purpose yards and punt-return average. He was a first-team all-ACC selection the past two years, and was a third-team All-American by The Associated Press earlier this week.

A native of Boca Raton, Fla., Bernard is draft-eligible because he has been out of high school for three seasons. He missed the 2010 season with a knee injury and also missed almost three full games this year with another knee injury, but said fear of another injury wasn't a major factor in his decision.

``It didn't really weigh that much,'' Bernard said. ``As a football player, you take risks. Playing the game is a risk in itself. Those things happen. You don't really have control of those things. ... Those are things that you can't really think about it. You just have to go into it with an open mind and just play the game.''

Bernard said he planned to come back to earn his degree in spring 2014.

Bernard entered the season with questions about how he would fit in new coach Larry Fedora's spread offense. But he ran for 1,228 yards and 12 touchdowns, ranked 11th nationally by averaging 122.8 yards per game and led the country by averaging 16.4 yards per punt return.

He scored a league-best 19 touchdowns, including two on punt returns. That included a 74-yard return for the go-ahead touchdown with 13 seconds left to beat North Carolina State 43-35 in October, snapping a five-year losing streak in the rivalry.

``We've always prided ourselves on being balanced,'' Fedora said. ``I just knew that I was excited about the opportunity of having a player of his caliber. At the time, I really didn't know how good Gio was because I hadn't seen him on film.

``I don't like to make decisions on guys when they're in shorts. But in the first two days of spring ball, we were in shorts and I knew right then how special he was and what he was going to be in the offense.''

Bernard tore his right anterior cruciate ligament on his third day of preseason practice in 2010, but returned a year later to run for a UNC freshman record 1,253 yards while becoming the first Tar Heel to run for more than 1,000 yards since 1997.

Bernard leaves UNC with 2,481 yards rushing in two seasons, good for 10th in the school record book.

``I don't want to say it's not about money because it's a business and he's going to be making a living and that plays a part in it,'' Fedora said. ``But I think for him, it's more about fulfilling a dream. ... I dreamed about it as a kid. I didn't go very far, but he has this opportunity and I'm ready to live through him in this opportunity.''

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The Kerrigans are having a baby and, WOW, this is all so very exciting

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@kerrigan91

The Kerrigans are having a baby and, WOW, this is all so very exciting

The Kerrigan family is about to make a big-time addition to its roster.

Ryan and his wife, Jessica, already have two very, VERY, very, very cute bulldogs in their household. 

But on Tuesday, the two announced in separate Instagram posts that Jessica is 18 weeks pregnant and that a third human Kerrigan will arrive in 2019.

"Can I eat dis sign aftur da picturr iz over?" George the bulldog said when reached for comment on the news.

"How did dey gett such a smawl jerzey for da baby alreddy?" Franklin the other bulldog added.

This is all very wonderful.

Come next March, the world is about to get a little precious-er.

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The Caps are a bad faceoff team, here’s what they’re doing about it

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USA Today Sports

The Caps are a bad faceoff team, here’s what they’re doing about it

Tuesday’s practice was a lot like every other for the Caps until the end. After working on the power play, the team gathered at one end of the ice and began working on faceoffs. It was not just the centers, but wingers and defensemen alike got into the action with every win celebrated by loud cheers from teammates.

It should could as no surprise to see faceoffs as a point of emphasis for Washington considering just how much the team has struggled with them in the early season. The Caps rank 30th in the league in faceoff win percentage at only 43.8-percent.

“Yeah, there's little details that can help our game,” Lars Eller told reporters after practice. “The more you have the puck, easier the game is gonna be for you. We have a little more time in between games than usual during the season here, so we have the time to work on something like that, which can be little things that makes the difference.”

The team as a whole watched video on faceoffs prior to practice and then worked as a five-man unit during the drill. The main point of emphasis head coach Todd Reirden wanted to drill into his players was that faceoffs are not simply the responsibility of the centers alone.

“The days of it just being center vs. center and a clean draw being won back are a rarity now so it's important to have all five guys helping, something we watched video on earlier today,” Reirden said.

“You ask any centerman if they have a good group of wingers that can help them out on draws, that makes a huge difference,” Nic Dowd said. “I've been lucky, I have [Devante Smith-Pelly] on my right and I'm a righty so I win all my draws my backhand side so a lot of pucks go his way and he wins a lot of draws for me. That's huge. You have a guy that's sitting over there that's sleeping, you could go easily from five wins to five losses and then that's your night. It makes a big difference.”

Faceoffs were always going to be more of a struggle for the Caps this season with the departure of Jay Beagle who was, by far, the team’s best faceoff man for several years. Whenever the team needed a big draw, Beagle was the player relied upon to win it. With him gone, it is no surprise to see the team struggle.

But the Caps don’t like the idea of keeping possession off a draw just 43.8-percent of the time.

“It's essentially like the ref is creating a 50-50 puck and you snap it back, you get possession, now you're forechecking and it makes a huge difference,” Dowd said. “You play against those top lines, they want to be in the O-zone. Well, if you lose the draw, now you're playing D-zone, you win the draw now you're playing O-zone. So effectively, you've shut down their shift.”

There is a school of thought suggesting that perhaps the importance of winning faceoffs is overrated and a team’s faceoff win percentage is not overly important. Eller himself admitted as much to reporters.

What no one can argue, however, is that while some faceoffs may not matter all that much, there are some that are hugely important in a game. The Caps recognize that. For them, being a strong faceoff team is not necessarily about improving the team’s win percentage, but more about being able to win those critical draws.

“It's something that for the most part the players understand and a neutral zone faceoff with 14 minutes to go in the first period is not nearly as important as one that's 5-on-6 at the end of the game,” Reirden said. “We all know that. It's important to put the right people on those situations and give them the best chance to have success.”

“A center ice draw, I could see where guys could make the argument, well you lose it you still will play hockey and stuff could still happen,” Dowd said. “But I think the game is such a possession game now that any opportunity you can win a 50-50 puck whether that's a faceoff or a board battle, it makes a huge difference.”

 

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