Are Paul George’s days in Indiana coming to an end?

Despite being down 3-0 in the series vs the Cleveland Cavaliers, Paul George has shown what an incredible talent he is. The Pacers came out firing in Game 3, but ultimately blew a 25-point lead which leaves them on the brink of elimination.

In a game that they had to win, Paul George came up big with 36 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists. For all the criticism he has received over his comments about his teammates, George has stepped up this playoff series. He’s averaging 32.3 PPG against the Cavaliers, even with LeBron James guarding him for the majority of the games.

The writing is on the wall for Indiana, as history tells us they will be eliminated by Cleveland. This season we heard some trade rumors for Paul George to teams such as the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers. It seems very possible that these talks might come up again due to George’s frustration with the team and management. Not to mention, there have been many rumors about his desire to play for his hometown team, the Los Angeles Lakers.

Image result for Paul george 13

Could we see Paul George team up with another star? (Joshua Dahl/USA TODAY Sports).

After spending multiple playoffs coming up short in the Eastern Conference, there is a very strong chance that “PG13” tries to team up with another star-caliber player.

His drive to win a championship was made clear before the start of the season, however those dreams will not come into fruition with the Pacers.

Although they are struggling out of the gate so far this postseason, the Boston Celtics would be an outstanding fit for the team and George.

Pairing him up with Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford can possibly make them a NBA Finals contender. It also helps that Boston has the assets to acquire him due to their abundance of draft picks and young players, such as Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart.

 

Image result for paul george isaiah thomas

Paul George needs help from another star, and Isaiah Thomas could be that star (Getty Images).

The NBA has evolved into a league driven by super-teams. The idea of having a “Big Three” has become a reality for several teams.

If Paul George has any chance of winning his first championship, he needs to move on to a team with other stars.

It would cost him to ditch his dream of playing for the Lakers. That also means he won’t be able to lead the team that drafted him to the promised land.

Regardless of what the media might think of George possibly wanting out of Indiana, he doesn’t owe the team anything. The management of the Pacers should be at fault.

 

They had several years to build a competent roster around their franchise player. Instead, the team provided him with mediocre players and fired a good coach in Frank Vogel. On Sunday, it might be Paul George’s last game as a member of the Pacers, however, expect him to show up like he’s been doing. After all, George has shown up for Indiana ever since the team drafted him in 2010. Unfortunately for him, the organization has failed him yet again.

 

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Fantasy Baseball 2017

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Weekly Update (April 9th – April 15th)

In week two of our fantasy baseball 2017 update, we will continue to notify owners about which players are hot, or cold, and whether they will continue to trend in that direction. The week one fantasy update can be found at thegamehaus.com.

 

Who’s Hot

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Marcell Ozuna is off to a red hot start in 2017. (Courtesy of Walsh Sports Analytics)

Marcell Ozuna, Center Fielder/Left Fielder, Miami Marlins

 

  • 7 for 22 with 4 runs scored, 4 home runs, and 11 RBI

 

Ozuna struggled through March and April in 2016, but rebounded to finish with a .307 batting average in the first half. He finished the 2016 season batting .266, after a .209 second half, which shows that he is a streaky hitter. So far in 2017, Ozuna is making the most of his opportunities. When batting while ahead in the count, the 26-year-old is hitting .500. The Marlins’ slugger is thriving in the sixth spot in the batting order this season, as he is the National League leader in RBI.

His hot start can be contributed to his inflated isolated power and walk rates, although there is no reason to say this cannot continue moving forward. He is currently top 15 in five major hitting categories, (BA, RBI, HR, SLG, OBP), and if you are lucky enough to have him on your roster, you will continue to reap the benefits.

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Ervin Santana goes nine strong, allowing only one hit and one walk. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

Ervin Santana, Starting Pitcher, Minnesota Twins

 

  • 2-0 allowing 0 earned runs, 3 hits, and 3 walks in 15 IP with 12 Ks

 

After being suspended in 2015 for violating MLB’s drug policy, Santana rebounded with a fairly successful 2016 campaign, resulting in a 7-11 record, 3.38 ERA, and 149 strikeouts in 181 1/3 innings pitched. The 13-year veteran is off to red hot start in 2017, currently being 3-0, with a minuscule 0.41 ERA, and 15 strikeouts in 22 innings pitched. The fastball, slider, change-up pitcher has found profound success, as he has managed to allow only 20% hard contact on batted balls this season, which is excellent for a starting pitcher.

The 34-year-old has found some of Johan Santana’s left over mojo in Minnesota, as he managed to pitch a complete game, one hitter, in his last outing. The fact that he has yet to struggle in any of his first three starts gives me confidence to trust him moving forward. Santana may see himself traded to a contender if the Twins begin to struggle, which could help Santana’s fantasy value rise even further.

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Eric Thames’ success in the KBO is translating quite smoothly to the MLB. (Courtesy of Madison.com)

Eric Thames, Left Field/First Base, Milwaukee Brewers

 

  • 8 for 18 with 7 runs scored, 4 home runs, and 7 RBI

 

Former KBO star Eric Thames is coming off of three consecutive 37 plus home runs and 120 RBI. Obviously, we can’t expect anything even close to this level of production out of the Brewer in 2017, although he is off to quite a start. The 30-year-old is currently batting .382, which is sure to fall, although he has mashed four home runs in his last four games. The KBO MVP may have found a home in Milwaukee, as he is playing nearly every day at first base, while also being comfortable occasionally moving to left field.

Thames will continue to see playing time, as Milwaukee is invested in him for the long term. Thames has issues striking out, although in today’s game, striking out is not a deal-breaker, especially when you match them with home runs.

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

James Paxton is anchoring down a struggling Seattle rotation. (Courtesy of Generated by IJG JPEG Library)

James Paxton, Starting Pitcher, Seattle Mariners

 

  • 2-0 allowing 0 earned runs, 6 hits, and 3 walks in 15 IP with 17 Ks

 

Paxton has yet to make 30 starts in a season, as he made a career high 20 last season, resulting in a 3.79 ERA with 117 strikeouts in 121 innings. The 26-year-old is having a breakout 2017 campaign, as he is currently 2-0 with 22 strikeouts, without letting up an earned run in 21 innings pitched. He has worked in his curveball at a 10% higher rate than in previous seasons, which has helped him increase his strikeout rate.

The Mariners’ offense is currently struggling, although with their stacked lineup, they are sure to turn things around. Paxton is sure to set career bests in wins and ERA this season. He has never logged more than 121 innings in a season, so struggles down the line are sure to occur, although he is off to the hottest start among lower profile pitchers this season.

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Aaron Judge looks to lead the way for rookie mashers. (Courtesy of NJ.com)

Aaron Judge, Right Fielder, New York Yankees

  • 6 for 18 with 5 runs scored, 3 home runs, and 6 RBI

 

The Yankees rookie had struggled when originally called up in 2016, as he batted a mere .179 in 27 games. His 2017 campaign has gotten off to solid start, as he has already hit three home runs in his first ten games. The 24-year-old is currently the league leader in highest exit velocity this season, with a ball going 116.5 MPH.

Judge is a great young talent, although he is not a great hitter for average and struggles with strikeouts, making me believe his success will be short lived this season. I would sell high on Judge in 2017.

 

Who’s Cold

Josh Bell looks to help the Pirates get back on track in 2017. (Courtesy of Rumbunter.com)

Josh Bell, First Baseman, Pittsburgh Pirates

 

  • 3 for 21 with 1 run scored, 0 home runs, and 1 RBI

 

Josh Bell’s best attributes are his approach and plate discipline, although he has begun the season batting a mere .156. In five minor league seasons, Bell has batted .303 with 44 home runs, showing he has the potential to be a very productive asset at the top half of the Pirates lineup.

The 24-year-old has similar upside to Brandon Belt, although, Bell will continue to lose playing time to counter-part John Jaso if his struggles continue. He is worth riding out in dynasty or keeper formats, although it may be time to go in another direction in traditional formats.

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Jose Quintana will bring a strong presence to team Colombia (Getty Images North America).

Jose Quintana, Starting Pitcher, Chicago White Sox

 

  • 0-2 allowing 7 earned runs, 14 hits, 6 walks in 12 IP with 12 Ks

 

Yet to record a victory, White Sox ace Quintana has had some severe struggles. The 28-year-old has allowed 13 earned runs in 17 1/3 innings pitched, while striking out 14. The White Sox are sure to struggle all year, although Quintana should find success within his next few starts.

He has a career 3.47 ERA and has struck out over 160 batters in his last four seasons. Quintana has quietly been one of the league’s most consistent pitchers since 2012, and should have no problem overcoming his early struggles in 2017.

 

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Dexter Fowler is the leadoff man the Cardinals were looking for, although his cold start is unnerving.(Courtesy of Viva El Birdos)

 

 

Dexter Fowler, Center Fielder, St. Louis Cardinals

 

  • 2 for 24 with 4 runs scored, 0 home runs, and 0 RBI

 

The veteran center fielder is off to an atrocious start in 2017, batting .137 with seven runs scored, zero RBI, zero home runs, and one steal. The Cardinals leadoff hitter has yet to make a real impact on the stat sheet, although success is sure to come soon for the 31-year-old.

He has a career .270 average, and will be a threat to score 100 runs a top a talented and hungry Cardinals lineup which missed the playoffs in 2016 for the first time since 2010. Fowler will be a solid producer in batting average, runs, and stolen bases as the season continues. The only caveat with Fowler is his inability to stay on the field, as he has only reached the 150-game mark once in his nine-year career. Besides his health problems, owners should be confident in Fowler turning it around sometime in the near future.

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Tyler Anderson is a young stud off to a rough start in 2017. (Courtesy of Purple Row)

Tyler Anderson, Starting Pitcher, Colorado Rockies

 

  • 0-2 allowing 9 earned runs, 10 hits, 5 walks in 9 IP with 4 Ks

 

Anderson has also struggled mightily in 2017, having an ERA of 8.59 in three starts. He has yet to log six or more innings in a game this season, which is due to his brutal WHIP of 1.64, as he cannot keep batters off of base.  He has made two of his three starts at Coors field, so it may be too early to ride off the 27-year-old.

Anderson has a career 2.38 ERA in 358 2/3 innings in the minor leagues. He is not a huge strikeout pitcher, as his career K/9 is just 7.5, but he has plenty of success at recording outs in the past. In 2016, Anderson recorded a 3.54 ERA at the major-league level, although he had an astounding 3.00 ERA at home, which is unheard of for a Rockies pitcher. All the signs point up for Anderson, who will have a long leash as the Rockies have a severe lack of starting pitching in 2017.

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Devon Travis may be feeling the lingering affects of his knee wurgery from 2016. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Devon Travis, Second Baseman, Toronto Blue Jays

 

  • 1 for 19 with 1 run scored, 0 home runs, and 0 RBI

 

Travis has been ice cold in first month of the 2017 season, which has been a common occurrence with many Blue Jays. He has only four hits in nine games, with zero going for extra bases. He has also struck out ten times, which puts him at a pace to set a career high.

Travis had missed 60 games in 2016 due to a knee injury, which may be contributing to his struggles this season. The 26-year-old was benched for his last two games, and had even been moved down to the nine spot in the batting order, taking away his at bats and scoring chances. Travis has shown flashes of great potential in the past, although 2017 does not seem like his year.

 

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Assist, Auston Matthews, Calder Trophy, Columbus Blue Jackets, Goals, Hockey, Matt Murray, NHL, NHL Awards, Patrik Laine, Pittsburgh Penguins, Points, Rookie of the Month, Rookie of the Year, Sports, Toronto Maple Leafs, Wins, Zach Werenski

Three Reasons Auston Matthews Won’t Win the Calder

The highly anticipated rookie campaign of American phenom Auston Matthews is now in full swing. The Toronto Maple Leafs’ star center racked up an incredible 46 points in 36 games with the Zurich SC last year and his entry into the NHL has been nothing less than stellar.

Photo credit: Adre Ringuette, NHLI via Getty Images

Photo credit: Adre Ringuette, NHLI via Getty Images

When he finally made it to the big show, Matthews converted all non-believers by setting a record and netting not one, not two, not three, but four goals in his NHL debut.

Yes, it was only one game. Yes, it was the very first game. But the clinic he put on that night rocketed him into first place in Calder contention. He was by far the front runner for Rookie of the Year even before his debut. That performance really solidified his chances, until we got to see what the rest of 2016-17’s rookie class had to offer. There are three other players that stand in the way of Matthews winning the Calder.

Three BIG Reasons why Auston Matthews won’t win the Calder Trophy 

  1. Zach Werenski

GP G A Pts PIM +/-
32 6 15 21 8 7

 

Photo credit: Kyle Robertson, Dispatch

Photo credit: Kyle Robertson, Dispatch

Columbus’ first round (eighth overall) pick of the 2015 NHL Draft is quickly becoming a Calder consideration. The NHL’s November Rookie of the Month has amassed an impressive 21 points in 30 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets this year. 11 of those points came on the power play, as Werenski has seemingly found his place on Columbus’ first power play unit.

Frankly, the guy is a beast.

It’s his first year in the league and not only is he producing points, he is also carrying a huge load for a team surging in the highly competitive Metropolitan Division. Werenski is averaging 22 minutes a game, on the first line, playing alongside Seth Jones – acquired last year from the Nashville Predators in a blockbuster trade for Ryan Johansen.

Zach Werenski is one big reason why the Blue Jackets have turned it around this year. Given his performance both offensively and defensively, Werenski deserves Calder consideration.

 

  1. Matt Murray

GP W GAA SV% SHO
18 13 2.14 0.928 2

To be eligible for the [Calder Trophy] award, a player cannot have played more than 25 games in any single preceding season nor in six or more games in each of any two preceding seasons in any major professional league. Beginning in 1990-91, to be eligible for this award a player must not have attained his twenty-sixth birthday by September 15th of the season in which he is eligible.

-NHL Rulebook

 

justin-k-aller-getty-images

Photo credit: Justin K. Aller, Getty Images

In 1971, Ken Dryden appeared in six regular season games for the Montreal Canadiens. Then amazingly he made 20 playoff appearances, backstopping Jean Beliveau and the Habs to their 17th Stanley Cup championship.

 

In 1973, Dryden would again take Montreal to the finals, winning them their 18th in franchise history. It was with two Stanley Cup championships under his belt that he won the Calder Trophy that year.

Matt Murray has a very similar opportunity in front of him. Having played less than 25 regular season games last year (he only played 21), Murray is still eligible to be nominated for the Calder Trophy.

Why shouldn’t Murray be considered? He has affectively taken the top spot in Pittsburgh. Outside of Thursday’s game against Columbus, his performance so far this year has been rock solid. It only adds fuel to the fire that the Pittsburgh Penguins are looking to trade their former number one Marc-Andre Fleury.

 

  1. Patrik Laine

GP G A Pts PIM +/-
36 19 11 30 12 6
jonathan-kozub-nhli-via-getty-images

Photo credit: Jonathan Kozub, NHLI via Getty Images

Drafted second overall in this year’s NHL Draft, Patrik Laine doesn’t get what all the fuss is about when it comes to Auston Matthews. Auston Matthews who?

With more goals, assists, and overall points than Matthews, Laine has been showing the league what he’s made of without wasting a second. Alongside the talented Nikolaj Ehlers and Mark Scheifele – both of whom are having breakout seasons of their own – Patrik Laine has become one of the league’s elite wingers.

Tied for second in the league in goals, Laine is not afraid to shoot the puck. Though the Winnipeg Jets are failing to put up the wins, Laine has not failed to put up points. Laine has managed two hat-tricks already in this young season. It’s no four goal debut, but it’s pretty close for sure.

If Laine keeps pace, he may very well finish the year as the highest scoring rookie of the 2016 class. For that, he ought to be considered for the Calder Trophy this year.

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My Journey Becoming An Opinionated Sports Writer

As with many sports writers, before I wrote about sports, I played them. Although the playing days may seem long gone, the memories you take away from sports help shape the person you are today. This article will explore my recent past as an athlete and how it lead me to become a sports journalist.

Despite nearly every article in my repertoire focused on football, baseball was actually my first love. I played for 10 years, excelling mostly at pitcher, first base, short stop and center fielder. I developed the role of a relief pitcher; strikes were my forte. Fielding grounders came with practice, whereas catching popups came more naturally to me.

As far as my time playing high school football is concerned, I didn’t put up extremely gaudy numbers.  In my four years playing, I saw action in 37 games, starting 17, and probably registered about 100 tackles. I also intercepted two passes for 13 yards, forced five fumbles, and recovered four fumbles, one of which I returned five yards. Maybe that ain’t too shabby for 17 starts, almost equivalent to a full season in the NFL. I also saw significant time on special teams – kickoffs, kick returns, punts and punt returns. All in all, I tackled, I ran, I forced a few turnovers, I blitzed, I blocked and I loved every minute of it.

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Well, except the injuries. I missed two games in 2009 due to lingering effects from a concussion and one game in 2010 from a sprained ankle. I also fractured my pinky and sprained my wrist somewhere along the way too. Thankfully, my knees were always in strong condition, and those are one of the most vital body parts for football.

Whether it was because my coaches viewed me as versatile or couldn’t figure out where I’d excel best, I ended up playing several positions all over the field.  Predominantly a defensive player, I earned playing time at free and strong safety, corner back, outside linebacker, middle linebacker and even stand up defensive end – all 175 pounds of me listed on the generous gameday booklet.

After maybe my sophomore season, I decided I wasn’t going to play college football. My reasoning was simple: the physical (and sometimes mental or emotional) pain caused me to lose interest in the game. I couldn’t play a sport that my heart wasn’t into.

I enjoyed my time playing at Bethesda – Chevy Chase and I’m still close with many of my fellow players/brothers.

With a renown passion for writing, I decided I wanted to make use of my football knowledge.  There are many things sports writers can write about. There are anecdotal pieces, articles that tell the story of a particular experience.  Then there are articles that convey a genuine sense of expertise – in statistics, team or league histories, or rules to the game – you name it. These articles are fun to write because they inform the audience of information that may go under the radar and unnoticed.  I enjoy writing about football terminology that is rarely defined, as well as offensive and defensive assignments that the average fan would want to know more about.

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

Lastly, there are highly opinionated articles. These pieces avoid relaying the same cliches over and over. Instead, these kinds of articles offer a unique perspective to sports, one that argues for or against something. Maybe there’s a controversial rule change, something that an athlete said in the media, or a bold prediction that bears a written narrative.

The special thing about opinionated articles is that they generate discussions like no other kind. Even right now, someone probably just read that and disagrees with it. That’s fine; that’s the beauty in diversity. But, back to my point. I want others to approach me. I encourage dissent and disagreement. Listening to someone agree with my thoughts on why we should eliminate kickoffs or why cover 2 is the best defensive coverage to employ would be boring. Bring the opinions. Bring the chatter. There is no right or wrong in the realm of sports.

 

 

You can ‘like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and eSports articles from other great TGH writers like Michael. “From our Haus to yours”

Applying Team Sports To The Real World

I’ve said it before: Sports are a metaphor for how the real world functions. More specifically, team sports. The amount of applicable lessons you take away from playing sports is extraordinary. Now, if players on a sports team can love each other and reach victorious fulfillment, why can’t the whole human race do the same?

You hear it a lot from teammates – no matter the sport – that they love each other as brothers. More often than not, this type of bond is essential for a team’s success. However, to understand the significance of love in sports, we must understand the root of love in sports. In other words, why does loving your teammates as brothers precipitate success?

Image result for sports brotherly love

Photo from www.thescore.com

I’ll take a stab at answering this. First off, there needs to be a mutual goal that all members are trying to achieve. In the context of team sports, the ultimate goal is usually to win as many games as possible, or something along those lines. You can’t just group together a bunch of people and expect that everyone is going to get along immediately; there needs to be something that everyone is working towards. This way, teammates become dependent on one another.

If teammates are dependent, they rely on each other and value the efforts of each other. This leads to trust, trust leads to team cohesion, and team cohesion leads to team success (aka wins). With all this beneficial time spent with each other, love for your teammates should come easily. A win/loss for one player is a win/loss for the entire team, and vise versa.

It’s almost as if the end goal is distracting us from all of our preconceived notions and judgmental tendencies. There’s no time to judge others when there’s a potential win in your sight.

We’re able to apply what we know about team sports to the much larger conflict in the real world.  I say “real world” to make the point that a sporting event is a stripped down version of the rest of our lives; there are laws (rules), punishments (penalties), and rewards (points). I say “conflict” because people don’t always get along – with our families, with our co-workers or with other countries.

Sports are also a terrific gateway to discipline, a trait that can rarely hurt an individual.

Team sports, by nature, call for us to empathize with each other. Learn from your teammates. What are their thoughts on how to defend the blitz, or how to hit a line drive, or shoot a penalty shot? An empathetic approach, as opposed to a judgmental, stubborn, or self-centered approach, is the only way to find out what others think.

Image result for sports empathy

Photo from www.dailymail.co.uk

One more final thought. A lot of people think that competition is what builds a team and molds players into the best they can be. While competition does cause you to strive to be the best player you can be, cooperation is equally, if not more so, important to a team’s success. If players are getting to the point where they are yelling at each other and getting into fights at practice, that negative energy can rub off into a team’s performance on game day. That is competition at it’s worst – destructive, not helpful.

Cooperation on the other hand tells us that working with each other is more constructive.

Human behaviorist, Alfie Kohn, explains that it is “not at all true that competition is more successful because it relies on the tendency to “look out for number one,” while cooperation assumes that we primarily want to help each other…(cooperation) sets things up so that by helping you I am helping myself at the same time.” Despite initial motives to compete, Kohn claims that after time, “our fates are now linked. We sink and swim together.”

Furthermore, psychological research has shown that cooperation is highly conducive to our health, not just in sports, but at work and other settings as well.

Sports have always demonstrated that our differences are irrelevant if we are to love one another. Your race, religion, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and other background groups are thrown out the window when you play on the same team. Maybe world leaders will realize this someday and try a new approach to conflict resolution, one that involves teamwork and communication like in sports. It might take something like global warming to unite the planet, since it affects everyone, but that’s for another article.

 

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SHS: Offensive Tackle, The Enforcer

This is the conclusion of the Sweat Hog Series, the three-part series on the three offensive line positions for the casual football fan learning the difference. We conclude with offensive tackle.

To springboard right into this, offensive tackles are typically larger than offensive guards but more athletic than centers. This is for many reasons, but I will delve into the two primary ones in this article.

In most offensive run plays, a tackle is performing one of two blocks. Either a down block, where the tackle takes on a defensive player to his inside and shoves him away from the hole; or a kick-out block, where the tackle pushes a defensive end outside.

Down blocks require someone explosive who can move a defender out of the way- overpower him, if you will. Here is a look at Iso, a play that sometimes requires this.

Diagram of Iso play, courtesy of xandolabs.com.

Diagram of Iso play, courtesy of xandolabs.com.

The left tackle in this play (second circle from the left), executes a down block on the defensive tackle. It is imperative to the play’s success that he not only prevent any penetration into the backfield by the defender, but also that he push the player as far down the line as possible to open a lane for the running back to go through.

Now here is a different Iso concept.

A different Iso concept, picture from trojanfootballanalysis.com.

A different Iso concept, picture from trojanfootballanalysis.com.

On this play, the left tackle now performs a kick-out block. He engages the defensive end (“E” on the left of the diagram) and pushes him out of the whole using the superior size and strength tackles must possess.

The second major reason for a tackle to be taller is pass protection. He is typically going to be blocking a defensive end, and a tackle needs those long arms to cushion himself against a speed rusher. Along those lines, he needs the quickness to kick slide back fast enough to stop the player.

This concludes the Sweat Hog Series.

SHS: Offensive Guard, the Hybrid

Welcome to the Sweat Hog Series, the series for the football fan just getting into the sport who does not yet know the difference between the three types of big men up front offensively.

This is the second installment of my three-installment series on offensive line positions. This position is my favorite of the three. Bias makes that the case, almost nothing else. I played the position for the entirety of my four-year high school career. So without further ado, here is what separates offensive guard from the other line positions.

The primary thing that makes guard different than center or tackle is the higher demand for athleticism. There are a number of run plays an offense may try to execute that involve a pull for a guard (a pull is when an offensive lineman leaves his position to run around or behind a fellow offensive lineman to open a hole or lead for a back). These pulls require great technique, explosiveness, agility, and in some cases, good ol’ fashioned speed.

Note that athleticism is still an important part of a tackle’s game, that will be covered in the next installment.

Here are two classic examples of plays with a pulling guard, the trap and the sweep.

Trap

Trap play diagram, courtesy of obnug.com.

Trap play diagram, courtesy of obnug.com.

On this diagram, the play-side defensive tackle (the “T” on the right) is left unblocked at the snap of the ball. The left offensive guard in this play (player left of the double circle in the middle) pulls to his right and needs to secure a block on the defender before the running back (circle at the bottom) arrives in the hole. To complete the block successfully, the player needs power off the snap to get a good initial pull, quickness to cover roughly three yards horizontally as fast as possible, explosiveness to drive into the defender, and agility to adjust to any movements the defensive tackle may make in open space.

Sweep

Sweep play diagram, courtesy of wingt-coach.com.

Sweep play diagram, courtesy of wingt-coach.com.

On this play, we see another pull from an offensive guard, this time the right one. The initial pull requires the same technique and quickness off the snap. But this time, more speed is required to get out in front and lead for the back going up-field.

A higher demand for athleticism means guards can come with slightly smaller frames than offensive tackles. According to this chart made by sprayberry football adapted from an issue of Pro Football Weekly, the typical offensive guard is two inches shorter than the typical tackle, running the fastest 40-yard dash time of the three line positions.

In pass protection, guards need strong, fast hands and quick feet with powerful legs. Typically they will be matched up on a defensive tackle, where leg strength plays a big factor in trying to slow a bull rush. Usually a guard is the first option to pick up a blitzing linebacker on the inside. Picking up a blitz is an art form that demands quick feet. Shifts have to be made to take over various assignments.

To conclude, in the title I called this position the hybrid of the line. An offensive guard has to be both powerful and fast. Whether that is getting outside to lead a sweep or picking up the blitz in pass protection.

New NCAA Social Media Rules, and the Impact

I’m quite the insomniac. So Sunday night I’m up late browsing on social media when I see several new tweets pop up. I click the chrome tab and select to view the new tweets. They are all from one person – Luke Fickell, Ohio State’s defensive coordinator and linebacker coach (I’m a die-hard Buckeye, for those of you who do not know). And all of the tweets have something in common – they are re-tweets. They are re-tweets of committed recruits. They are re-tweets of committed recruits from the class of 2017 and 2018. This has to violate the NCAA social media rules, right?

What? Isn’t that a violation of the NCAA recruiting rules? Are they going to drop the hammer down on us in their usual, overreacting, no you can’t pay for a kid’s meal when his dad just died, way?

Other coaches began doing it too. Tennessee Volunteer coach Butch Jones, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, even LSU’s Les Miles.

Is this the seventh sign of the apocalypse?

No, of course not. It is the new, and fairly comical, NCAA rule regarding social media.

You see, if you couldn’t tell from the beginning of the article, back in the good ol’ days no social media interaction between college football coaches and recruits was allowed until the recruit penned his John Hancock on one of those fancy letters of intent. But now the NCAA has made the rule more NCAA like. That is to say, made it more middle ground-ish, complex, and needlessly controversial.

To put it simply, a coach can share, re-tweet or like the post of a recruit so long as they don’t comment on it. The general motto is “click, but don’t type”. Clicking, the stuff you are now able to do on social media, includes:

  • Re-tweeting and sharing a post (unless the prospect in question is currently visiting your school)
  • Liking or “reacting” to a post

Typing, what you are still not allowed to do, includes:

  • Commenting on a post
  • Adding words or emoticons to a share or re-tweet
  • Tagging or mentioning a specific recruit in a post

There’s the rule broken down.

Now do I personally agree with the rule? I could go either way. While I think some people’s need for vindication on social media is something that describes the shallowness, selfishness, and sadness of my generation, I also think that there is really no harm in it so long as people are smart. What made this an issue originally is that some coaches worried they might not get a player because they didn’t re-tweet or favorite as much as another coach. If that is really an issue, then I am against the new by-laws allowing more interactions. Twitter should not be influential in a recruit’s decision, end of story.

The thing is, I don’t think — at least in most cases — that social media really does impact a recruit’s decision. Most players are smart enough to choose their college based on where they feel most comfortable, not which coach favorited their offer letter picture. But you can bet that most coaches will not take that risk when trying to land that five star that could change their program. Which brings me to the other negative of this situation, the hassle. Every team wants the edge on their opponents, and if re-tweeting is a way to get one, by golly they will re-tweet everything a recruit throws up in 140 characters or less.

To sum this whole situation up, I think it’s funny sometimes to look at this day and age we now live in where social media is considered a recruiting resource that needs to have its own by-laws. I’m active on social media and in the same generation as these recruits, so who am I to judge? To get a like or a re-tweet feels good, let alone a like or a re-tweet from Urban Meyer. That said, it should have no impact on where an athlete furthers his or her academic and athletic career. And I hope the folks out there are smart enough that it won’t.

SHS: Center, the Quarterback of the Line

People I talk to with only a small interest in football often don’t know the difference between offensive line positions. I tell them I played offensive guard in high school, in return I receive a look so perplexing my grandfather is confused. So then I say, “one of the guys on the front lines”, and they say “oh, so you’re a lineman? Why didn’t you just say that?”

“Because offensive guard is my position,” I say.

“Psh, offensive guard, offensive lineman, what’s the difference? You all just stand up there and block.”

After that my hand turns white, because I’m gripping my wrist to try and stop myself from facepalming.

Nothing against anyone who doesn’t know the difference, but the roles of the three different types of offensive linemen differ in a number of ways. So to educate those who may not know, my next three articles will be explaining the three subdivisions of linemen more in depth. I call it the “Sweat Hog Series” (SHS in the title).

Center

Three years ago when I was taking driver’s ed I talked football with a former coach of my father who also happened to be my instructor for the class. He told me a good center is “worth his weight in gold.”

I think that is the truth.

As far as body size goes centers are typically larger than guards but smaller than tackles, though a tremendous amount of quickness is required to throw a ball between your legs and then smash someone’s face in before they can cross the line. Which is the main way the position differs from the other two types of linemen, going back to the point of the article- you have to be able to multitask. You have to safely deliver the ball and then prevent the person carrying said ball from being tackled.

If you want an idea of what it’s like to be a center, paint a one foot by foot target three and a half feet off the ground on a wall. Then stand four yards in front of the target. Get into your best lineman stance with a football in one hand and a tennis ball in the other. Throw the tennis ball off the wall, while snapping the football between your legs into the target, and catch the tennis ball.

You see what I’m getting at? Tough. And as a guard, I didn’t have that skill set.

To round out this point about quickness and multi-tasking at the position here is a quote given to active.com from former Utah center Jesse Boone, who was a team captain for the Utes and was selected as first-team All-Midwestern Conference in 2005. The quote talks about his move from tight end to center and the difficulties.

“The proximity of the players–how everything is right on top of you. A lot of people struggle with snapping the ball. I had a good coach that went over that with me. But not having the time you have at other positions like guard and especially tackle. At center, the (nose tackle) is inches away from my head (before the snap). You don’t have any time.”

Centers also have to serve as the quarterback of the line.  They organize pass protections to keep the actual quarterback safe in the pocket.

Now this can get kind of complicated to explain, so here is a diagram, courtesy of slideshare.net:

*If you do not understand the positions in the diagram, refer to the footnotes at the bottom of the article.

center position football

The center has to know all the protections pictured above and determine who has who if something changes. For instance, in the picture on the bottom left, let’s assume the middle linebacker rushes the quarterback. If he were to show in between the center and left guard, the center would need to know that the linebacker is his. The running back also has the strong-side defensive end, and the center would communicate that to the rest of the line. If he were to walk in between the left guard and left tackle, the center makes a “fan” call. This is where he takes the weak-side defense end. The left guard takes the blitzing linebacker, and the left tackle would stay on the weak-side linebacker.

As a center, your football IQ has to be high enough to know the protection scheme and adjust your line accordingly when something happens. Above I didn’t even mention the chaos that can occur in pass pro (short for pass protection). It’s more complicated for a stunt on the D-line, but I’ll keep it simple for now.

I’ll conclude this post with a quote from Hall of Fame center Mike Webster, a quote in memory of a great football player and one of many players who struggled with permanent brain injury after his playing days. Quote found on startingstrength.com

“Everyone has to start at the same place you do, at the beginning, and learn from there. Just always remember there’s another guy out there right now, to either beat you or take your place, and you’d better outwork him.”

 

Diagram Positions

  1. The square with the X indicates the center.
  2. The circles to the left and right of the center are the offensive guards.
  3. The circles outside of the offensive guards are the offensive tackles.
  4. The circle behind the offensive line is the running back.
  5. Defensively (Strong-side is determined either right or left by where the offense has more receivers)

N – nose guard, T – strong-side defensive tackle, $ – strong-side defensive end, E – weak-side defensive end. W – weak-side linebacker, M – middle linebacker, S – strong-side linebacker, SS – strong safety

The College Football Playoff Should Expand to Six Teams

Overall, these two years of playoffs in college football have gone tremendously. Ratings have been through the roof, especially in the first year. The championship has never felt more undisputed, and the story-lines of “3rd-string quarterback” or “return to the throne” could not have been scripted with any more perfection.

But to be frank it’s a travesty to watch a playoff that is supposed to be all-decisive not include at least one team that was the winner of one of the best conferences. And when you have five conferences that are slated as the “best conferences” (that’s the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC, of course) at least one champion gets left out, which sucks when sometimes they only have one or two losses. I specifically reference a greatly talented one-loss Big 12 champion TCU or Baylor team in 2014.

Throw in your possible non-power five busters, potential deserving conference runner-ups, or Notre Dame, and we’re talking about two power five conference champions not in the hunt for what is supposed to be an all-determining playoff.

Is what we have way better than any two-team championship game system or poll determinant? Yes. But leaping over the hurdle of making a playoff isn’t good enough. Why not go all-in on making the champion truly undisputed? It’s as if a vegetarian came off a 144-year diet of not having the best that food has to offer, but then after doing the hard part and enjoying a Big Mac he says, “Oh no, I can’t get into that five-star quality sirloin.” Just cut into that perfect bit of delectable cow now that you finally will eat something from the four-legged milk producer, college football.

Three other big reasons why the College Football Playoff should be six teams:

  1. Seeding will matter. Did Alabama in 2014 honestly say “YES! We got Ohio State instead of Florida State!”? I highly doubt it. In a six-team playoff, seeds number one and two get first-round byes, adding a bit of intrigue to selection day.
  2. Everyone loves an underdog. Who wouldn’t love to see a team like Western Kentucky go on an undefeated run? Better yet, that team could go beat an Oklahoma or a Clemson. With six teams, those normally mid and lower-tier teams have more of a chance to get in.
  3. Mo’ money. Simple addition kids, two more games equals two more chances at high ratings. Everyone loves a payday. The schools, the NCAA, the TV networks, everyone.

The counterpoint is somewhat supporting evidence of reason three above: two more games equals two more times for players getting hurt, two more sets of travel costs for families and students, and two more times players can’t get their academics as up-to-date as they could. I honestly cannot deny these negatives, but I think the pros of expansion far outweigh the cons.

As far as going to eight teams opposed to the six I suggest, I think four extra games does cause enough con to outweigh pro. Why? Because plain and simple, I think there are plenty of years teams ranked five or six could make a case for being the number one team in the country. But there are very few years number seven or eight could make the same claim.

Look at the teams ranked number seven and eight in the final regular season AP poll over the past seven years. They average 1.6 losses at they end of the regular season, going a combined 7-7 in the following bowl games (polls and records from sports-reference.com). Eventual 2014 champion Ohio State trounced seventh ranked Michigan State during the season. Furthermore, number eight Mississippi State wouldn’t have stood much of a chance against OSU either. In 2013 I doubt Ohio State or South Carolina would have had a shot against Florida State. And in 2012 Kansas State or Stanford against Alabama? Forget about it.

So to me, six is the perfect number for a playoff in college football. No more, no less.

 

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