• Hot and cold in first week of the NHL season

    In the immortal words of Katy Perry, “cause you're hot then you're cold, you're yes then you're no, you're in then you're out, you're up then you're down.” Her words, while she may not have intended them to, perfectly encapsulate the NHL on a week-to-week basis. Teams fluctuate and no one goes undefeated.
     
    Hot: Montreal Canadiens, Minnesota Wild
     
    In the Eastern Conference, the Montreal Canadiens have started the season strong. They've played three games, winning all three and two in a shootout. Their most impressive win occurred on Saturday versus the Philadephia Flyers in Philadelphia. The Canadiens were three goals down in the third period, but goals from Andrei Markov, Tomas Plekanec and Alex Galchenyuk tied the game and led to a shootout win. In just three games this season, the Canadiens have demonstrated the ability to win late in the game with timely goals and strong goal-tending from Carey Price. If they can continue their late-game magic, they have the potential to challenge the Boston Bruins for the top-seed in the East.
    What is there to say about the Minnesota Wild? After two absolutely dominating games, the Wild sit atop the Western Conference with two wins and zero losses. They've easily been the most impressive team in the league due to explosive offensive performances from left wing Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter as well as perfect goaltending from Darcy Kuemper. Yes, you read that right. Kuemper has been outstanding through two games, facing 46 shots and not giving up a single goal. In an 82 game season, two games is virtually nothing, but a good start for the Wild can make a big difference in a loaded Western Conference.
     
    Cold: Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Avalanche
     
    Poor Toronto Maple Leafs. Again, a few games in an 82 game season is almost nothing. But, the Maple Leafs have endured disappointing season after disappointing season, so the entire city, the team and its fans are hyper-sensitive to a bad start. This season's start has featured two losses through two games. That shouldn't be that big of deal, but goaltender Jonathan Bernier has struggled. His stats, 4.54 GAA and .877 save percentage, look just as bad as he has. During Wednesday's game against the Canadiens, the puck managed to trickle through the legs of Bernier off of Max Pacioretty's stick. The Maple Leafs are hoping that soft goals like that are no indicative of Bernier's future as their goaltender this season.
    Last Season, the Colorado Avalanche came out flying, flush with young stars and a new head coach. This season? Not so much. In the two game they have played, the Avalanche have yet to score a single goal. At even strength, they have been out-shot 58-33 through two games and if you aren't getting good opportunities, you can't score. However, their third line, which is made up of center Danny Briere and wingers Jamie McGinn and Max Talbot, has played poorly with and without the puck. Currently, their combined plus/minus is -11 which perfectly illustrates their ongoing struggles. Of the teams that have had a tough time getting going, I think the Avalanche will be able to put it together and have a strong season despite their bad start.

     

  • Kyle Fuller, the next NFL defensive star

    When the Chicago Bears selected cornerback Kyle Fuller out of Virginia Tech with the 14th overall pick in the NFL Draft, most people were stunned. 

    The Bears passed on star safety prospects Haha Clinton-Dix out of Alabama and Calvin Pryor out of Louisville to draft a cornerback when the Bears already had two capable corners, Charles “Peanut” Tillman and Tim Jennings. It seemed Fuller was destined to be a backup, at least for his rookie season.

    After Tillman went down in week two with a triceps injury, it was Fuller’s time and his impact was immediate. 

    Fuller subbed in for the injured Tillman against the 49ers and intercepted quarterback Colin Kaepernick twice in the fourth quarter, keying the Bears’ victory. The next week, Fuller recorded another interception and forced two fumbles as the Bears beat the New York Jets 27-19.

    Kyle Fuller’s impressive performance this season has put him on top of the NFL’s stats sheets as he currently leads the NFL with five turnovers and is tied for first with three interceptions. His performance through the first four games of the season earned him the honor of NFC defensive rookie for the month of September. Fuller however isn’t satisfied.

    ‘‘That’s a good honor,’’ Fuller said, ‘‘but still, I’m just trying to get better every week.’’ 

    Fuller’s performance in October has been just as impressive. Two weeks ago against Carolina, Fuller faced off against the offensive rookie of the month, receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Fuller handled Benjamin with ease, allowing only three receptions for 38 yards on 11 targets. 

    On Sunday against the Falcons, Fuller was at it again. He limited Julio Jones, a top-five wide receiver, to only four receptions for 68 receiving yards on 12 total targets. Fuller also forced a fumble on Jones but it was later recovered by the Falcons. 

    Now mentored by Tillman, Fuller has adopted the injured Tillman’s aggressive style of play on both coverage assignments and forced fumbles. This includes the “Peanut Punch”, in which Tillman and now Fuller literally punch out footballs out of receiver’s hands at every possible opportunity, leading to a high number of forced fumbles.

    Coming from a football family, Kyle Fuller knows what it takes to be a football player in the NFL. Kyle’s oldest brother, Vincent, is a retired safety and his older brother, Corey, is a wide receiver for the Detroit Lions. The youngest Fuller brother, Kendall, is presently playing cornerback for the Virginia Tech Hokies. 

    Fuller doesn’t have the outspoken personality like star cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Patrick Peterson but has proven to have the same tendency for making big plays. Fuller doesn’t want the lime light that Sherman and Peterson receive. He just wants to play football. 

    ‘‘I’m just being myself,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m just low key, doing what I’ve got to do and staying out of trouble.’’ 

    Kyle Fuller, the soft-spoken cornerback, is taking the NFL by storm and is quietly becoming one of the best defensive players in the league.

  • State tournament location change could hurt women’s basketball

     I’ve gone to the UIL Girl’s State Basketball Tournament, held at the Frank Erwin Center, every year since I was in the fourth grade. I’ve seen some great basketball there, from the former Stanford standout twins, Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike, to 6’7” Brittany Griner becoming the first- and only- girl to dunk in the state tournament.
     
    I’ve also seen many future Longhorns play in the state tournament. Last year I watched Ariel Atkins, Preseason Big 12 Freshman of the Year, lead Duncanville to the championship game along with current Texas teammate Tasia Foreman. In the same game, I watched 2015 Longhorn commit Jordan Hosey lead Manvel to a thrilling victory over the Pantherettes.
     
    Out of the twelve players on Texas’ roster that are from Texas, six of them played in at least one state tournament—Atkins and Foreman played in three. That’s six girls who got to take a free visit to The University of Texas, and use the same facilities and equipment that they could be using every day in college. That’s six girls that either had former coach Gail Goestenkors or current head coach Karen Aston watching and evaluating prospective players without having to worry about travel time or convenience. No other school in the state has that luxury, and few in the country do either.
     
    This recruiting luxury Texas has had for so long might not ever be a reality again. Over the summer, UIL officials voted to move the State Tournament to San Antonio’s Alamo Dome for the 2014-2015 season, ending a streak of 93 years that Austin hosted the boy’s or girl’s tournament. The plan is to continue to bounce the tournament around, with cities like Houston, Dallas and Lubbock as potential hosting sites. The UIL faced pressure from other colleges to wrestle the tournament away from Austin, as well as fans who found it increasingly difficult to find hotels while SXSW was going on.
     
    The State Tournament being held at the Erwin Center was a definite recruiting advantage for the Longhorns. It’s hard for high school basketball players to take visits during the season because there are so many weekday games, so they don’t get many chances to experience the Erwin Center on game days. It’s a unique opportunity to experience that feeling as a player while still in high school while the coach that wants you is cheering you on from courtside seats. Moving this tournament to other cities in Texas will make the Longhorns more balanced to other Texas schools when it comes to recruiting, which is exactly what our in-state rivals were wanting. Granted, it’s an easy drive down to San Antonio to watch the tournament, but there is nothing like having your top recruits playing right in your backyard. Aston and her staff will have to figure out how to make up this lost opportunity this spring to continue signing high quality recruiting classes.