• Foot locker

    With all the focus on new schemes on both sides of the ball, player development and coaching changes, things can begin to get a bit repetitive during media days. That’s why I took the time out to ask a few players about something other than football.

    During our lunch break, I noticed an exceptionally clean pair of Air Force Ones on a Baylor player, and knew I needed to delve deeper.

    Those ultra-white Nikes belonged to Bears wide receiver Kendall Wright, and to say this man is a lover of shoes would be a gross understatement. When I asked his favorite shoe brand, his answer was simple.

    “I love Jordans,” he said. “Especially the No. 11s, 12s and 13s.”

    Wright was not the only player that shared an affection towards sneakers. Texas A&M defensive end Tony Jerod-Eddie is also a self-proclaimed “sneakerhead.” Jerod-Eddie was sporting a pair of Cool Grey Jordan 11s that looked like they had just been lifted out of the box. He almost ran out of breath naming recent shoes he had picked up.

    “Oh man, I’ve got the Space Jams, these [Cool Greys] and I’m getting a white and black pair that comes out in December,” he said. “But my favorites are the 12s.”

    Aficionados like Wright and Jerod-Eddie know a thing or two when it comes to shoes. In contrast, Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon confessed his lack of knowledge about the shoe game.

    “I don’t know about Jordans that much,” said Blackmon, who was sporting a pair of black Jordan 3s. “These are my dress shoes.”

  • Taking an early look at Texas’ golf team

    If you have never been out to Steiner Ranch to see the Longhorns play a round of golf, next year may be the perfect time to catch what is sure to be a talented team on the links. In fact, it may prove to be one of the best teams Texas has ever fielded. Here’s a look at the projected starters for next year’s men’s golf team.

    Dylan Frittelli (Pretoria, South Africa) — One of five seniors, Frittelli has shown over the years that he is the real deal. Has two tournament victories in his collegiate career, was named the 2010 Big 12 Player of the Year and is the top-ranked South African amateur. Expect Frittelli to lead this team with his strong play and experience.

    Julio Vegas (Maturin, Venezuela) — The junior came on the scene with a bang late last year, proving he deserves a spot among the starters. After redshirting his first year, Vegas also sat out his second year with the team. A powerful player at 24 years old, he also brings experience to the table. He owns two Venezuelan National Junior Championships and is also the younger brother of Jhonattan Vegas, a former Longhorn and current PGA Tour golfer. He isn’t the most consistent player, but Vegas should turn things around in a big way. The talent is undoubtedly there, so it’s more of an issue of harnessing it properly.

    Toni Hakula (Espoo, Finland) — The third of the Longhorns’ international players, this sophomore is ready for his chance at the spotlight. The 2011 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year has already played in several professional events as an amateur and even finished as runner-up twice in two events in Denmark. He plays beyond his years in terms of skill and overall confidence on the course, and was integral in Texas’ success a year ago after being used as a starter more often near the end of the season. Look for Hakula to establish himself among the nation’s best young golfers.

    Cody Gribble (Highland Park, Texas) — Gribble, a junior, enjoyed a rather fruitful amateur career before he came to Texas, but has yet to display his full ability as a Longhorn. As a freshman he showed flashes of brilliance with second- and third-place finishes to his name, but as a sophomore failed to finish better than 20th in any event. After a number of victories and accolades in high school, Gribble obviously has the talent to be successful. He just needs to find his stroke again.

    Jordan Spieth (Dallas, Texas) — The newly crowned top amateur nationwide, Spieth will bring a highly refined golf game to Austin. The freshman has already played with the big boys on the PGA Tour, finishing as high as 16th place in the 2010 HP Byron Nelson Championship. It’s not likely a player of his caliber would redshirt, as head coach John Fields doesn’t have much to teach this guy. If you like watching exceptional players on the course, Spieth is a sight to see. He is skilled in every aspect of the game, and could be the missing piece to the puzzle for a Longhorn golf championship.

    Frittelli, Vegas and Hakula are just about locks to start in every tournament for the Longhorns. Having spent most of last season in the starting rotation, they should do the same in the upcoming campaign. Gribble has a fair shot at starting, but the team’s other four seniors could find their way into starting roles as well. Seniors Alex Moon, Steffan Schmieding, Brett Spencer and Adam Wennerstrom have all filled in sparingly in their time as Longhorns, and are capable of carding low rounds with consistency. Junior Johnathan Schnitzer may also vie for a starting spot, as his game began to improve late last season.

    Along with the arrival of Spieth, two more freshman will be welcomed to the team in the fall. Kramer Hickok of Plano and Lake Travis’ Tayler Termeer round out an impressive freshman class for the Longhorns. Don’t expect much out of Hickok and Termeer just yet, as talent runs deep with this team.

    Whoever the Longhorns plan to use in a given event, rest assured they will be the best-suited player to do so. There is an immense amount of talent and experience on the team, and it should prove to be an exciting and possibly very successful season.

  • Clemens gets lucky

    Roger Clemens, who has won 350 some-odd ballgames, just got the biggest ‘W’ of his life.

    With the prosecution’s balk last week — the federal judge said the mistake was one a first year law student wouldn’t make — Clemens gets to walk, scotch free.

    This isn’t to say the former Longhorn pitcher would have been found guilty if the federal prosecutors didn’t show the jury inadmissible evidence, the grounds for the mistrial. But look at the guy, and look at the evidence. He probably would have. In any proper trial, without foolish prosecution mistakes, Clemens is probably guilty. This also doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s innocent, either, because this looked like a case that would bring the Rocket back to earth — the needles that had Clemens’ DNA and anabolic steroids and the testimonies of ex-trainer Brian McNamee and former teammate Andy Pettitte.

    He might be forever classified as one of the most unpopular players ever, one who had countless problems with opposing players as well as teammates, received more negative press than good, and had will-he-or-won’t-he retire sagas in the mold of Brett Favre. He has been linked to multiple other women while married, including one woman who claimed to have a 10-year adulterous relationship with Clemens when she was 15. He arrogantly put a little bit of himself into each of his kids, giving each one of them a name that begins with K, for the strikeouts he was known for. He even said this about Japanese and Korean fans at the 2006 Baseball World Classic:

    “None of the dry cleaners were open, they were all at the game, Japan and Korea.”

    Nobody really liked Clemens before the steroid allegations began bubbling up around 2007 or so. And now most people hate him.

    Why should he care? It’s not like he’s ever been totally image-conscience. Clemens’ goal, like most other ballplayers, is to end up in the Hall of Fame. Without any absolute charges, he has every right to now make it. This will outrage those who cry foul, that he used an unfair advantage to get an upper hand. But they won’t have the law backing them up.

    For those who may care about this school’s athletic legacy, the mistrial was a good thing. Clemens will become the school’s first member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. The column I wrote a couple of weeks ago saying that Clemens had lost his shot at the title of Texas’ “best ever” because of steroids is now obsolete. Climb back up the pantheon, Rog.

    In 2013, Clemens will become eligible for the Hall of Fame, as will Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa — should be a fun voting process. If voters allow themselves to look past the “possibility” that Clemens used steroids and that there is no court decision that said he actually did, then he’ll make it in. You can imagine how many will be fully against it, who will stand up and cry, “You can’t be in the Hall, you juiced!”

    And then you can picture Clemens, smug grin and all, retorting:

    “Prove it.”
     

  • Quarterback situation too much of a good thing

    Garrett Gilbert has two seasons left as Texas’ starting quarterback, but then what?
    Garrett Gilbert has two seasons left as Texas’ starting quarterback, but then what?

    Schools like Texas deserve the best recruits in the nation, and the Longhorns like to take as many as they can get.

    Three talented receivers? Sure. Five huge offensive linemen? Can’t ever have too many of those. A couple of linebackers? Why not.

    Taking multiple prospects at the same positions works out fine, because they can all play at the same time. Offenses sometimes run empty sets with five wideouts, four defensive backs need to be on the field, defensive tackles rotate around all the time and most teams like to have a fresh running back in relief.

    But there just don’t need to be this many quarterbacks.

    Taking two of ‘em in 2010 was one thing. Taking David Ash last year was another, as is bringing in Connor Brewer in 2012. By the time Garrett Gilbert is a senior, there will be five quarterbacks on scholarship (assuming none of them transfer ... and in that case there will be four.) 

    There’s bound to be a quarterback controversy brewing soon, and it might be a bad one. Gilbert might lose all confidence in himself as fans clamor for somebody else. Connor Wood’s talent might get thrown out with the garbage — or taken to Tulsa. The coaches might piss off Colt McCoy if they don’t give his youngest brother Case any looks. David Ash is in danger of being swept under the rug if the more extroverted Brewer arrives on campus next summer and becomes the most popular man on the team.

    And that’s not quite it — Wood, McCoy, Ash and Brewer might all be playing second fiddle to Whitewright High School quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, who is widely considered the best 2013 player in the state and looks like the second coming of Vince Young.

    Yes, it is sensible for the coaching staff to plan ahead in case of injury, attrition or disappointment, and load the quarterback cupboard accordingly. But this is too much. Waaaayyy too much. Good quarterbacks need at least two years as the starter to develop to their fullest potential — unless you’re Cam Newton — and that won’t ever happen here.

    Let’s say it plays out like this:

    2011: Gilbert starts (Jr.), Wood transfers and Ash redshirts
    2012: Gilbert starts (Sr.), Brewer redshirts
    2013: McCoy starts (Sr.)
    2014: Ash (Jr.) or Brewer (So.) enters the year as the starter

    That doesn’t look good. McCoy gets just one year to show what he can do, Texas loses Wood and then Ash and Brewer (assuming they redshirt — if they don’t, this is even more complicated) are stuck behind each other for two years. Where does that leave the door for somebody like Swoopes or anybody else to come in? Who wants to sit for three seasons?

    The two most successful Texas quarterbacks since James Street were Vince Young and Colt McCoy. They both redshirted their first year, and then started or received significant playing time in their redshirt-freshman season (Colt started, Vince initially shared snaps with Chance Mock). This isn’t any coincidence.

    Blue-chip quarterbacks expect to start for more than just a few seasons in college, because they’ve never spent much time on the bench in high school. And most of them are welcome to competition, which is probably what Texas is trying to foster through all of this — natural selection, if you will.

    “Those quarterbacks there did not do anything to affect me coming to Texas,” Brewer said earlier this week. “There’s going to be competition everywhere.’

    But not quite like this.

    It’s almost as though Mack Brown is figuring out ways to ensure his team is quarterbacked by a top arm, while simultaneously ensuring that rival teams don’t get these guys on campus (wait, no, that’s exactly what he’s doing).

    That helps Texas, sure. They would much rather have Connor Wood playing for Tulsa than Oklahoma (the Sooners went hard for him) and they would rather have McCoy play at Houston than Texas A&M. Just hope the Longhorns are ready for a messy public relations crisis, as well as a few burnt bridges — especially with the McCoy family.

    Making all of this worse is the fact that the Longhorns keep missing out on strong state-bred talent. Andrew Luck tore it up at Houston Stratford. Robert Griffin is from Copperas Cove. Nick Foles played 10 minutes away at Westlake High. All three of them will be professional athletes in a year or so, no doubt about it.

    You can’t say that so confidently about any quarterback on Texas’ roster. But surely if the Longhorns keep recruiting even more of them — five or six, perhaps nine — they’re bound to eventually find one they like. 

    Read more about Connor Brewer here.

  • Fans unimpressed by watered-down All-Star game.

    American League's Alexi Ogando of the Texas Rangers pitches at the MLB All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 12, 2011, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
    American League's Alexi Ogando of the Texas Rangers pitches at the MLB All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 12, 2011, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    The National League beat the American League 5-1 in the 2011 MLB All-Star game, and that is about as much as some are willing to remember.

    “What a waste of two hours and some odd minutes of my life,” said broadcast journalism senior Derek Lewis.

    Like many sports fanatics, Lewis decided to watch the All-Star game on Tuesday, but was disappointed by the lack pomp and circumstance. Some of these fans said that this year’s watered-down cast of All-Stars and boring broadcast was not appealing.

    “It had three big plays,” Lewis said. “The rest was all fairly boring, undominating pitching that was just good enough to get outs for the National League and some poor defensive efforts that made the game into Keystone Cops at certain points. Plus, several big American League pitchers were out. Several big name players overall were out. Not a good showing from baseball.”

    In the American League two players chosen to by the fans — Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez — and four pitchers selected by the players (including three more Yankees), skipped for medical reasons. Jeter, who recently recorded his 3,000th career hit, cited mental and physical exhaustion as the reason for his absence. Rodriguez is currently in on the DL.

    In the National League, only one voted starter — Jose Reyes — didn’t suit up Tuesday in Phoenix, but Shane Victorino, who won the final vote over Washington Nationals first baseman Michael Morse, was also out injured.

    Though this year’s numbers have not been released, the MLB All-Star game’s ratings have declined consistently over the past decade, with last year’s mid-summer classic boasting the worst ratings ever. Fans who watched but didn’t enjoy this year’s game said the MLB isn’t doing enough to keep the very people that drive the game interested — the fans.

    “It was like any other baseball game, which is sad because it’s the All-star game,” said baseball fan Sarang Patel. “A lot of it may be Fox's fault. There was no "fun" appeal. The highlight was Justin Timberlake with his beer near a pool with girls. The NBA All-Star game has all these in-game microphones, celebrity interviews, jokesters, etc. The MLB and Fox couldn't even utilize Brian Wilson correctly.”

    Other fans echoed Patel’s sentiment that the MLB has gotten lazy in keeping fans interested, and say other sports offer more exciting draws in the summer sports lull.

    “They [MLB] really aren't trying to fight Soccer for this summer market while the NBA and NFL take vacations,” Lewis said.

    Brian Wilson is the San Francisco Giants reliever known for his post-game celebrations and hilarious antics.

    It may not be fair to compare the two sports’ All-star games, but in terms of ratings, the NBA knows what it’s doing. It puts the game on a weekend and spends an entire week building the event up with funny promotions; Usher crooning about it, and with players who actually want to play in the game. The 2011 NBA All-Star game boasted its highest ratings since 2003, bringing in over 12 million viewers.

    Some regular sports fans didn’t even realize the All-Star game was even scheduled for Tuesday night.

    “I didn’t even know it happened,” said business senior Saagar Grover, adding that he didn’t mind missing it.

    Obviously these dissenting voices don’t represent the voice of every sport and baseball fan. The fact of the matter is that baseball is slowly losing younger viewers to the glitz and glamour of the NBA and NFL. Both those leagues are able to draw viewers to games in which a fan may not even have a vested interested beyond the desire to be entertained. One would have thought that with the other leagues wrapped up in lockouts, baseball would do everything it could to retain and even gain viewers who have nothing else to follow right now. If I were Bud Selig, I would have put in a call into Usher, or maybe Ke$ha.

    Not every baseball fan had a bad time. History junior Eli Perez said he preferred the low-key nature of the game, as well as getting the opportunity to see some fresh talent.

    “It was exciting to see the next crop of super stars like Starlin Castro and Rickie Weeks come up and playing in the game, but it was really disappointing to not see Derek Jeter out there," Perez said. “Overall it was a fun game to just sit back and relax to. Not every game is going to have hundreds of runs scored. Sometimes they are just a grind which can be equally as enjoyable to watch.”

    He may be right. That type of game does appeal to some people, and I certainly tuned in for 90 percent of it. But it wasn’t exciting enough to keep me from flipping back and forth between Fuse’s 100 Sexiest Videos of All-time, and ESPN U’s rerun of last year’s Texas vs. Nebraska football game.

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