Nationals

Utah State promotes Wells to head coach

Utah State promotes Wells to head coach

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Utah State promoted offensive coordinator Matt Wells to head coach Thursday, replacing Wisconsin-bound Gary Andersen.

Andersen took the Wisconsin job Thursday, taking over for Bret Bielema. Bielema left to take the Arkansas job.

Utah State President Stan Albrecht and athletic director Scott Barnes said hiring the 39-year-old Wells allows the football program to continue to build on the tremendous progress made by Andersen over the last four years.

``We're not starting over,'' Albrecht said. ``This is not a step back. This is an amazingly wonderful step forward.''

The 48-year-old Andersen just completed his fourth and best season at Utah State. The Aggies went 11-2, won the Western Athletic Conference and defeated Toledo on Saturday in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. They are expected to finish in the Top 25 in the final AP rankings.

It has been a remarkable rise for a program that had been near the bottom of major college football for years, and stuck in distant third in its own state behind BYU and Utah. The Aggies won nine games in the previous four seasons before Andersen took over. The last football coach to finish his tenure in Logan with a winning record was Phil Krueger, who went 21-12 from 1973-75.

Andersen drew interest from California, Colorado and Kentucky last month, but decided to pass on those opportunities and received a contract extension from Utah State. He said recently that he would stay, but changed course to take the Wisconsin job.

Wells said Thursday that he owes a lot to Andersen, who hired him two years ago. Andersen lobbied for him to get the job, he said.

``He's the guy that showed me the blueprint,'' Wells said about Andersen. ``He's built this place with the help and support of the athletic department and administration.''

He thanked Aggies players for making plays and winning games, giving him his first head coaching opportunity.

``If we would have stunk, Gary would still be here and I would have never gotten this chance,'' said Wells, laughing.

Barnes said Wells was his first choice even though he had a list of other candidates. The athletic director said they have no doubt they have a coach who can maintain the success the school had with Andersen.

``This program is bigger than any one person,'' Barnes said.

Wells said he'll build off the foundation established by Andersen. He said the Aggies will continue to play up tempo, spread offense and that he will stay with the same general defensive philosophy. He said his teams will compete for conference championships yearly.

He said he'll focus on hiring a staff and recruiting immediately. He said the Aggies' recent success has generated a lot of interest from coaches around the country. But he said anyone he hires will have to believe in his philosophy of how to treat players.

``We are going to coach them hard, and we are going love them hard,'' Well said.

Wells played quarterback for the Aggies in the mid-1990s and graduated with a bachelor's in business marketing.

Prior to coming to Utah State, Wells coached at New Mexico, Louisville and Tulsa. He's from Sallisaw, Okla.

Wells becomes the 11th youngest head coach in the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision, according to the Utah State sports information department. He's only the second Utah State graduate to come back and become head football coach.

With 16 of 22 starters returning next year, Wells said the Aggies should be very good again next year.

``I am extremely excited to get these guys on the field in the spring,'' Wells said.

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Which Nationals would have been named All-Stars in a normal season?

Which Nationals would have been named All-Stars in a normal season?

July 14, 2020 was supposed to be a day for celebrating the best players in Major League Baseball. The 2020 MLB All-Star Game, set to take place that evening at Dodger Stadium, had the promise of putting some of the biggest names on display such as Mookie Betts in his new LA threads, Gerrit Cole still fresh off signing a $324 million deal last winter and Mike Trout from only a few miles down the road.

However, the coronavirus pandemic had other plans. MLB suspended spring training on March 12 and spent three months on hold before ultimately settling on a 60-game season that begins July 23. As a result, there will be no All-Star Game for the first time since 1945.

The Nationals, coming off their first World Series title in franchise history, have plenty of stars who would’ve merited consideration. Even with 2019 NL MVP candidate Anthony Rendon departing for the Los Angeles Angels in free agency, there’s no shortage of talent in D.C.

Here are the players that stood the best chance of representing the Nationals in this year’s All-Star Game.

The favorites

SP Max Scherzer

Name value alone could’ve gotten him in if fans could vote on pitchers, but even a 35-year-old Scherzer can’t be counted out of making another run at the NL Cy Young.

SP Stephen Strasburg,

The reigning World Series MVP is already a three-time All-Star and coming off an offseason in which he signed a seven-year, $245 million deal to return to Washington.

LF Juan Soto

Making his first All-Star team would seem like something of a formality for Soto, who has already established himself as one of the game’s best young stars.

RELATED: DANIEL HUDSON ISN’T SURE A 60-GAME MLB SEASON CAN DETERMINE THE BEST TEAM

Needed a career year

SP Patrick Corbin

Corbin was given the Warren Spahn Award for the best left-hander in baseball last season and is no stranger to the Midsummer Classic. If he could’ve avoided the infrequent implosion (five starts of 5+ runs allowed in 2019) on the mound, he stood a good chance of posting numbers worthy of a selection.

RP Sean Doolittle

With Will Harris and Daniel Hudson in the fold, Doolittle wouldn’t have been relied on as much as he was last season. By getting more rest and still handling closer duties for a contending team, Doolittle certainly would’ve been in the running.

SS Trea Turner

No broken finger holding him back, Turner had a chance to show he can help replace some of Rendon’s production in what would’ve been his age-27 season. Shortstop is a deep position in the NL (Trevor Story, Javier Báez, Fernando Tatís Jr., Corey Seager) but Turner has to make it one of these years, right?

2B Starlin Castro

Castro may not be the first player who comes to mind when you hear “four-time All-Star” but that’s what happens when a young, healthy infielder plays every day during a rebuild. However, coming off a 2019 second half in which he hit .302 with 16 home runs, Castro came to D.C. looking to show he’s developed into a different kind of player.

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If he made the leap

CF Victor Robles

Though it’s a bit of a long shot considering his struggles at the plate as a rookie, Robles has always displayed the tools that make coaches dream of what he can become. As he gains a few more pounds—Robles is one of the strongest players on the team—and improves his plate discipline, there’s no telling what his ceiling might be.

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Antonio Brown and other available receivers Washington could add after Kelvin Harmon's injury

Antonio Brown and other available receivers Washington could add after Kelvin Harmon's injury

Kelvin Harmon's torn ACL is tough news, as it will prevent him from taking the next step in his career in 2020. That injury also does significant damage to Washington's already limited group of receivers.

So, if Ron Rivera wants to replace Harmon with a free agent, who's out there?

Before getting to the list — which begins with one guy fans have been yearning for and will now yearn for even more — it is worth wondering how signing an outside free agent could be affected by COVID-19. How much more complicated is that process? 

As long as the virus doesn't make a move like that very strenuous, though, keep an eye on these options. The first name stands out, of course, but a few others make sense as well.

Antonio Brown

When asked about Brown last month, Ron Rivera basically shut down the thought of Washington acquiring him. Rivera explained to the media that he didn't want to "stunt the growth of somebody young" by introducing a vet to the mix.

Well, circumstances are obviously different, as the offense has one less young target to feature. Based on that logic, the possibility of going after Brown has to be at least a little higher. He has been working out plenty with Dwayne Haskins this offseason, by the way.

Yet the ex-Steeler, Raider and Patriot wouldn't just bring huge talent to the organization, and that's something else Rivera has to weigh. Is Brown, with his propensity for being involved in non-football drama, someone the coach will want to deal with during this rebuild?

That could be the real key in this matter. But with Harmon now sidelined, there's an even larger need for help on the outside. Maybe that'll sway Rivera. Maybe.

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Jarius Wright

Wright doesn't have nearly the same production that Brown has — few who have ever played the sport do, honestly — but he is a pro that Rivera knows well and Scott Turner knows really well.

The 30-year-old overlapped with Turner in Minnesota, and he spent the last two campaigns with both coaches in Carolina.

That kind of familiarity is always useful, but it would be particularly useful in this bizarre offseason. Wright should probably keep his phone nearby over the next handful of days.

Chris Hogan

Like Wright, Hogan is a recent former Panther. The 32-year-old joined the club for 2019, but a left knee injury marred most of his season and he finished with just eight receptions.

Before that, however, he did record five straight years with at least 34 catches, so he can be an effective role player. Let's see if Rivera gives him another chance to make an impact on his roster, this time in Washington.

Demaryius Thomas

By size, Thomas would be the most similar of these choices to Harmon. Harmon would've been a nice complement to the speedier Terry McLaurin and Steven Sims because of his height and physicality. Maybe Thomas could step into that void.

The accomplished five-time Pro Bowler has reportedly drawn interest from both the Jets and Giants this summer, so his services are still in some demand. He's no longer the dominant star he once was, but he could be a piece that Washington will now want, too. 

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