Redskins

Winston-Salem faces Valdosta State for D-2 title

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Winston-Salem faces Valdosta State for D-2 title

FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) No. 2 Winston-Salem State has already gone deeper into the playoffs than any other team from the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Now, the Rams are a win away from making history for black college football, too.

They face two-time national champion Valdosta State Saturday hoping to become the first HBCU team to win Division II's football national title.

``That's a huge deal. For our conference, the HBCUs , to have a chance to play for a national championship and be the first one to win one, is a steppingstone,'' Winston-Salem State coach Connell Maynor said. ``It's a great opportunity for us. We're happy to be here carrying the flag for the CIAA and HBCU. It'd be a great thing if we could pull it off Saturday.''

The only other HBCU team to make the championship game, Central State of Ohio, lost 41-21 to North Dakota State in 1983.

Winston-Salem (14-0) is also trying to become just the fifth team to go 15-0.

Standing in the way is a Valdosta State team seeking its first title since 2007, David Dean's debut season as head coach.

Winston-Salem is in its third season since aborting a Division I move for financial reasons. The program's former status is just one more reason for Valdosta State (11-2), which ended the regular season ranked 17th, to keep the underdog mentality that formed with a rough start.

``The fact that they haven't been Division II for very long and they've got a lot of Division I players, that automatically puts us as the underdog,'' Blazers quarterback Cayden Cochran said. ``That's something we welcomed since we were 2-2 and teams kind of wrote us off and fans of other teams kind of wrote us off.

``It kind of helps us, gives us a little extra push to know that there are people in the stands that don't think we can do it.''

Winston-Salem won its last eight regular season games by at least 19 points and had only one tight playoff game, a 21-17 win over Indiana, Pa., in the quarterfinals. Yet Smith, like his Valdosta State counterpart, feels his team does not get enough respect.

``Even though we've played as good as we have, some people still have doubted us,'' said Smith, who has passed for 3,043 yards with 42 touchdowns against nine interceptions. ``That makes us want to come out and play even harder just to prove people wrong.''

He's got several dangerous targets. Jahuann Butler has 1,167 receiving yards, Jameze Massey 1,156 and Jamal Williams757. All three have caught at least 12 touchdown passes.

Winston-Salem is ninth nationally in total offense and Valdosta State 10th.

Winston-Salem's defense and Valdosta State's offense have easily handled big challenges in the playoffs.

The Blazers racked up 525 yards against West Alabama and Division II's No. 5 defense and gained 498 against Minnesota State-Makato, which had the third-rated defense.

The Rams held West Texas A&M's Harlon Hill Trophy finalist Dustin Vaughan to 169 passing yards in a 41-18 semifinals victory.

Valdosta State's Cochran has passed for 2,506 yards with receivers Gerald Ford (1,018) and Seantavious Jones (916) hovering near 1,000 yards. Both have caught 13 touchdown passes.

Winston-Salem counters with a defense allowing just 89 rushing yards a game and ranking eighth in points allowed (16.1 per game).

``They're probably one of the fastest teams that we have faced all year long,'' Valdosta State's Dean said. ``They're tremendously athletic. Their defensive line has very good pass rushers, which can cause us problems as much as we throw the football.''

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Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Offense

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Various sources

Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Offense

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, June 18, 38 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Redskins 53-man roster projection—offense 

It may still be early to project the roster, but things are coming into focus after the round of practices in helmets and shorts. Here is my look at who I think will make it on offense; defense up tomorrow. 

Quarterbacks (2)
Alex Smith, Colt McCoy

I think that Kevin Hogan is very much on the bubble as the third quarterback. They got along with two QBs last year, and with Alex Smith having demonstrated great durability during his career, Hogan may well get bumped off. 

Running backs (4)
Derrius Guice, Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine, Rob Kelley

I’d say that this is 95 percent locked in. Maybe Kapri Bibbs or Byron Marshall can make a push for Kelley’s roster spot but his history with Jay Gruden will make it very hard for him to get knocked out. 

Wide receivers (6)
Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, Jamison Crowder, Maurice Harris, Robert Davis, Trey Quinn

The first time I did this back in April I didn’t have Quinn on the roster. That was before he was a man among boys at rookie camp and a player who looks like he belongs when the veterans showed up. I don’t know if he’ll have the impact that many fans think he will, but he’s certainly going to get his chance. Brian Quick could steal a roster spot from Harris or Davis.

Tight ends (3)
Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle

The Redskins did not draft a tight end or sign one in free agency so there seems to be faith that Reed will be healthy. We’ve heard that before and it seems somewhat risky to leave Davis, who has Father Time nipping at his heels, and the inexperienced Davis as the only two backups. They may try to make room for an undrafted rookie like Hudson Garrett.  

Offensive line (9)
Trent Williams, Shawn Lauvao, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses, Ty Nsekhe, Geron Christian, Tyler Catalina, Tony Bergstrom

I think that Gruden is probably happy with the starters here but the depth is shaky, especially in the interior. The key could be whether Christian is ready for prime time as the swing tackle. That could allow Nsekhe to fill in at guard. Bergstrom is fine as the backup center, although I wouldn’t want to have to count on him for more than a few games. 

Offensive players: 24
Rookies (3):
Guice, Christian, Quinn
New to the organization in 2018 (5): Rookies plus Smith, Richardson 
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster (11): Rookies plus new plus Harris (practice squad), R. Davis (practice squad) and Bergstrom (not on the team). 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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An Indiana state police officer tweeted that he pulled a driver over for going too slowly in the left lane. I believe this person is a national hero. 

Timeline  

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 38
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 52
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 75

The Redskins last played a game 167 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 83 days. 

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Zach Brown says Redskins defense will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor during joint practices

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USA TODAY Sports/@TerrellePryor

Zach Brown says Redskins defense will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor during joint practices

Terrelle Pryor made a number of highlight reel catches last year during training camp, and it appears the Redskins defense didn't like it. 

Washington's marquee free agent signing last season, Pryor came into Richmond with sky-high expectations. Throughout the training sessions last August, Pryor put on one-handed displays at the Jugs machine and often made big catches in team drills. It's also important to remember there was never any live tackling during these drills, leaving defenders at a distinct disadvantage. 

Zach Brown remembers the scene quite well, and thinks it will look very different this summer when Pryor comes to Richmond as a member of the New York Jets. 

"That’s going to be something right there. The boys are gonna have it out for him. We can put hands on him now," Brown said on Inside the Locker Room on the Team 980 (full audio here).

Brown explained that Redskins coach Jay Gruden would not allow the defense to hit Pryor last year, even when the wideout did some showboating. 

"Jay ain't here to protect you anymore," Brown said.

The Redskins linebacker explained that he tried to explain to Pryor that the one-handed catches from training camp would not translate in the NFC East, where players get hit hard. It doesn't seem like Pryor listened, as he finished the season with only 240 receiving yards on 20 catches in nine games. 

"The boys were already hot for what he was doing last year," Brown said. He added, "Try to one-hand something while you’re with the Jets, you’re gonna catch a forearm."

One incident that supports Brown's comments came when Bashaud Breeland got thrown off the practice field last training camp. Breeland got mad that he wasn't allowed to get physical with Pryor at the line of scrimmage, and the scene blew up. Breeland eventually got sent off the field after arguing with coaches. 

The Jets visit the Redskins for three days of practices beginning August 12th. The two teams then square off in the second preseason game on August 16th. 

Brown will get his chance at Pryor, assuming the wideout plays. Pryor finished the 2018 season on the injured reserve, but is expected to be fine once training camp begins in New York. 

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