first_imgIntersecting this meet-you-halfway approach is an uptick in the athleticism of wide receivers, a product of the multiple-receiver sets now the norm all the way down to youth football.“I think in today’s day and age where these guys were starting 7-on-7, it’s almost like AAU basketball,” Packers GM Brian Gutekunst said. “The receivers are so much more advanced in terms of their fundamentals coming into college and the league than maybe they have been in the past. It’s really just the NFL offense that will take time. “So I think there’s some guys sitting here today that I think will have a chance to make a pretty immediate impact, and I’m excited about that.”Washington Redskins coach Ron Rivera said today’s prospects are primed for the pro game as never before. Share This StoryFacebookTwitteremailPrintLinkedinRedditThe upcoming NFL draft features a tantalizing class of wide receivers expected to make an immediate impact as rookies.It’s a tall task even for an exceptionally deep group that’s expected to produce up to a half dozen first-round picks Thursday night. Receivers face one of the hardest adjustments to the pros because they have to absorb a monster playbook, beat press coverage and elude D-backs who are quicker, stronger and savvier. Associated Press Sometimes the gamble pays off; sometimes it doesn’t.“One of the things that makes it tough to evaluate is that there’s so much difference playing at the National Football League level because of all the defenses we see and all the adjustments they have to make,” said long-time talent evaluation expert Gil Brandt, a Pro Football Hall of Famer.Quarterback is the only position with a steeper learning curve, Brandt suggested.“These guys have to do a lot more things in the NFL as far as adjustments — and do it quickly,” he said. “And the other thing is separation. There’s a lot of guys that can run fast but they can’t separate.”Mark Dominik, a SiriusXM NFL Radio host and former Buccaneers general manager, said receivers go from facing “18-, 19- and 20-year-old young men who aren’t as strong or as physical as they’re going to end up being” to “going up against a 29-year-old man and it’s a huge difference. “I think that’s why you see receivers bust, just because of the different player they’re going against.”That is starting to change, however.Teams are more willing than ever to bypass the old wait-and-watch standby for a plug-and-play approach with bigger, faster, quicker pass-catchers coming out. Calvin Ridley and D.J. Moore made big splashes in 2018, followed by Deebo Samuel, DK Metcalf, Marquise Brown, Terry McLaurin and A.J. Brown, who wasted no time establishing their credentials last season.“Last year was a good year in terms of a bunch of rookies coming in and having a lot of success, but if you look over the last several years, that second- and third-round receiver group has arguably been better than the first-round group,” said NFL draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah. Deep receiver class faces high hopes for immediate impactcenter_img Top-end receivers this year include Colorado’s Laviska Shenault, Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, LSU’s Justin Jefferson, Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk and Clemson’s Tee Higgins.“This receivers’ class is honestly unbelievable in my eyes,” Lamb said. “You can’t really go wrong with anybody you draft” in any round. “You’re going to get a great pick.”Whether in search of a crisp route-runner, a deep threat, a fearless player going over the middle or even taking the direct snap, there’s someone for everyone in this year’s draft.“I think this class is going to do great things,” Shenault said.Right from the start, no less. ___Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton___More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL,Tampa Bay Lightning advance to face Dallas Stars in Stanley Cup finals, beating New York Islanders 2-1 in OT in Game 6 “The challenge in scouting the position is it’s almost like two different games for college and the NFL in terms of what routes you’re asked to run, which are very limited at the college level,” Jeremiah said. “You watch a college game on Saturday you’re going to see a bunch of slants, hitches and go’s. It’s very limited in terms of what they ask them to do, very limited in terms of them having to read coverage and sight-adjust their routes. They don’t see very much press coverage.”Reading and reacting to coverage and keeping defenders from knocking them off their routes can prove difficult even for receivers who dominated college competition.“There’s just a lot of adjustment there, but I give the NFL credit,” Jeremiah said. “I think the last couple of years we’re seeing the NFL be a little smarter with the transition period for these guys and figuring out ways they can get them on fly sweeps or bubble screens and just get the ball in their hands and let them make plays, simplifying it a little bit while they’re young before they can grow and evolve into everything you want them to be.”Jeremiah said last season in particular provided “the blueprint to get these guys on the field and improve that track record at the position.” April 19, 2020last_img read more

first_imgBy Phil McNultyJACK Charlton, who has died aged 85, will always be remembered as one of the group of 11 England players who won the World Cup against West Germany in 1966.And yet there was so much more to the rounded, wonderful career of one of football’s legendary characters – as a player with Leeds United, manager at club and international level and also as one of the first generation of television pundits, going on to enjoy a long and distinguished career in broadcasting.Playing alongside younger brother Bobby, the Ashington-born centre-half was the late developer who went on to the greatest glory with his country.The man simply known as ‘Big Jack’, of great football stock as a cousin of Newcastle United legend ‘Wor Jackie’ Milburn, also won the game’s major club honours as part of Don Revie’s Leeds United side and was a fine manager with the likes of Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday and Newcastle before his wonderful spell in charge of the Republic of Ireland.Charlton’s spiky, outspoken nature was allied to a genuine, humorous, honest personality which ensured him iconic status not just as an Englishman but also as an honorary Irishman.The giant Charlton, nicknamed ‘the Giraffe’ because of his long neck and the stature that made him the scourge of forwards and goalkeepers alike – almost inventing the ploy of standing in front of keepers at corners – had a slow-burning playing career.And rather like his great Leeds central defensive partner Norman Hunter, who also sadly died recently, his no-nonsense approach often disguised the great ability he had as a footballer.Charlton’s career, if not exactly going nowhere, was lacking in direction until he fell under the guidance of Revie, who was able to harness the more maverick nature of his personality with his talent to make him an essential element of a wonderful side, going on to make a record 773 appearances for Leeds over a 23-year period as a player.He also scored 96 goals for the club, making him ninth on their list of all-time scorers.Revie brought together a group of young players and experienced hands such as Charlton alongside the likes of Hunter, Billy Bremner, Peter Lorimer and shrewd signings such as the veteran Bobby Collins and John Giles, signed from Manchester United for a paltry £33 000.After gaining promotion to the former First Division in 1964, Charlton helped Leeds reach the 1965 FA Cup final, where they lost to Liverpool, but success was just around the corner and after another losing final, the brutal two-game affair against Chelsea in 1970, they finally won the coveted trophy by beating Arsenal in 1972.The Holy Grail, the league title, was won in 1968-69, and there was silverware elsewhere such as the League Cup in 1968 and the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (the forerunner of the UEFA Cup and Europa League) in 1967-68 and 1970-71.Charlton was never bound by the usual conventions, making him an even more colourful presence in the game.He once courted trouble with the authorities by revealing he had “a little black book” of players he intended to, shall we say, meet again on the pitch, if they had ever crossed him – one of whom was believed to be former Everton hard man Johnny Morrissey, a tough Scouser who even his ruthless team-mate Giles suggested was an adversary best avoided.The great Leeds team, and this was a great team, was somewhat overshadowed by their reputation for a physical approach, and should have won more than the honours that came their way – but his presence ensured Charlton still became one of the most decorated players of his era.It was with England, however, that Charlton wrote his name indelibly into the history books. And, like his development at Leeds, his emergence as an international came later in his career.Charlton had turned 29 when he made his England debut in a 2-2 draw with Scotland at Wembley in April 1965.He was so surprised at his call-up he subsequently asked manager Sir Alf Ramsey why he had picked him. Charlton revealed Ramsey’s deadpan response was: “I pick the best team for my pattern of play, Jack – I don’t always pick the best players.”It was a team that became champions of the world on July 30 the following year, with one of the enduring images of England’s 4-2 win after extra time against West Germany a picture of Charlton sinking to his knees, overcome by emotion, before embracing his tearful brother Bobby.“People say to me ‘was that the most memorable day of your life?’ and I say ‘not really’ because unlike our kid (brother Bobby) and Bobby Moore, I hadn’t been with them for years and years aiming for this,” Charlton told Desert Island Discs in 1996. “I’d just come in, done it and gone. The most joy as a player was winning the league championship with Leeds at Liverpool.”Charlton, who won the Footballer-of-the-Year award in 1967, went on to win 35 caps for England, the last of which came in a 1-0 win over Czechoslovakia in a group game at the 1970 Mexico World Cup in June 1970, aged 35.Following his retirement from playing at Leeds, Charlton was appointed manager of Middlesbrough in May 1973, his character proving more suited to the job than his quieter and more reserved brother, who had an undistinguished spell in charge of Preston North End.Legend has it he declined to be interviewed, simply handing the Middlesbrough board a list of what his responsibilities would be and warning any interference on the playing side would not be tolerated.Charlton was an instant success, winning promotion to the First Division with a top-class Middlesbrough side boasting a host of very fine players such as Graeme Souness, Willie Maddren, David Armstrong and many others.He stayed at Middlesbrough for four years before moving on to Sheffield Wednesday, during which time he took the Owls from the bottom of the old Third Division to promotion, reaching the FA Cup semi-final in 1983, only for defeat to soon be followed by his departure.Charlton had a short spell back at Middlesbrough as caretaker before taking over at Newcastle in June 1984 but it was unproductive and he left in 1985 – before what many consider to be the crowning glory of his managerial career.He had applied for the England job when his old boss Revie resigned in 1976 but never received a reply – instead he was appointed manager of the Republic of Ireland in February 1986.What followed was a glorious thrill ride that provided a thousand tales of Charlton’s eccentric approach (although he was perhaps wily enough to use some of that to cover up an incredibly shrewd tactical mind and superb knowledge) and a period of success that still brings a warm glow to Ireland whenever it is recalled.Charlton made good use of eligibility rules to build a formidable side with players born outside the Republic of Ireland, such as central defender Mick McCarthy and forwards Tony Cascarino and John Aldridge among others.The first sign of things to come was delivered at the 1988 European Championship when, despite losing world-class players such as Mark Lawrenson after his retirement through injury, Charlton’s side beat Bobby Robson’s England 1-0 in a group game.Ireland just failed to make it out of the group but Charlton master-minded a run to the quarter-finals of the Italia 90 World Cup, qualifying from a group that included England and The Netherlands, both games drawn 1-1, before a win on penalties over Romania and then a narrow 1-0 defeat against hosts Italy in the last eight. (BBC Sport)last_img read more

first_imgNo. 1 UC Irvine upended the No. 2 USC men’s volleyball team in straight sets to win the NCAA championship Saturday with scores of 25-22, 34-32 and 26-24, marking the second national title in four years for the Anteaters. An announced crowd of 9,162 made its way to the Galen Center — the third-highest in NCAA championship match history.Nail biter · Though the Trojans lost in straight sets to No. 1 UC Irvine in the NCAA championship game, the match was a fierce back-and-forth contest from beginning to end. · Razan Al Marzouqi | Daily TrojanSaturday’s match was a rematch of the five-set loss to the Anteaters in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation semifinals little more than a week ago and of the 2009 national championship match. The Anteaters were the preseason favorites to win the title, and the Trojans were picked to finish fifth in the conference in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year.“People can see a three-game sweep as a blowout, but two deuce sets say otherwise,” USC senior outside hitter and co-captain Tony Ciarelli said. “We played them great. On paper we don’t match up with them — they’re the deepest team in the country and have several guys on the bench who could be ‘the guy’ anywhere else.”The match, which was decided by a combined seven points, was a fierce back-and-forth battle from start to finish, including a 34-32 second set where USC started ahead 14-7. But a 12-4 run by UC Irvine gave the Anteaters the lead for the first time in the set at 19-18. With a series of scramble plays — including a behind-the-head shot from Ciarelli and a huge kill off of a scramble play from redshirt sophomore opposite Tanner Jansen — the emotional roller coaster of dropping a seven-point lead and losing the set after an epic finish took the wind out of the Trojans’ sails.UC Irvine opposite and NCAA tournament Most Outstanding Player Carson Clark led all players with 22 kills earned at a phenomenal .465 hitting percentage. His strength at the service line kept the Trojan offense out of sync for most of the night, and his ability to score efficiently from all over the court proved to be too much for the Trojans.The Anteaters are known throughout college volleyball as relentless attackers of the middle of the court through the “bic” set, a quick tempo set designed to keep opposing middle blockers at bay while deciding whether to jump with the first middle attacker, the “bic” hitter or closing to either outside spot.“We attacked Penn State in the middle of the court relentlessly in the semifinals, and we figured USC wouldn’t let us do that tonight,” said UC Irvine coach John Speraw. “Tonight we had to be better at the pins with Clark, [Connor] Hughes and [Kevin] Tillie.”The Trojans quelled the charge from Tillie and the “bic” as well as the middle attack, but the Anteaters’ depth proved to be too much to handle. Hughes poured in 13 kills from the outside hitter spot along with Clark’s monster day to give the Anteaters the boost they needed.“Our goal was to stop [UC Irvine outside hitter Kevin] Tillie and we absolutely did,” Ciarelli said. “But Clark picked up his game — this was the first time he hit over .250 in probably my four years here because we’ve tried so hard to stop him in the past.”The Trojans were not able to control the Anteaters’ serving attack, finishing with an uncharacteristic six receiving errors. As a result, the Trojans could not keep the Anteater defense honest with the quick middle attack that was so efficient for them in the past. High sets to the outside hitters became the only option on many occasions, leaving the Trojan hitters with a fully set defense to beat on many occasions.Despite hitting into the full force of the UC Irvine defense all night long, Ciarelli, an NCAA All-Tournament selection, finished with a team-high 18 kills in a gutsy effort.“On a broader scale, the level of play and fan support were unbelievable,” USC coach Bill Ferguson said. “I hope everyone involved understands what this does for the sport of volleyball — there has never been an atmosphere like this at a national championship game before and took college volleyball to a new level.”last_img read more