Friday, April 30, 2021

Rockies' Sam Hilliard, afflicted by strikeouts, delivered to minors; Matt Adams contacted

This is an interesting piece by Patrick Saunders from The Denver Post discussing some important points for the week. Patrick Saunders recently published this and I thought it was worth sharing on this website.

Sam Hilliard’s power potential still intrigues the Rockies, but until the outfielder cuts down on his strikeouts, he’s not helping the team, or himself.

The Rockies, therefore, optioned Hilliard, 27, to their alternative training site in Scottsdale, Ariz. Thursday to begin the season with Triple-A Albuquerque when it opens play on May 6. In 19 games, Hilliard hit .108 with 19 strikeouts in 39 plate appearances for an alarming 48.7% strikeout rate.

Taking Hilliard’s place on the 26-man roster is veteran first baseman Matt Adams, 32, who joined the Rockies in Phoenix in time for Thursday night’s game against the Diamondbacks.

The Rockies were hopeful that Hilliard would blossom this season, providing some depth and consistent offense. Right now, however, Hilliard is lost at the plate.

“We got together with Sam, and with the hitting coaches, and felt as though he needed more time in the minor leagues to make the mechanical adjustments that he has to make,” manager Bud Black said. “It’s really tough to try to go through those mechanical changes in the big leagues against big-league pitchers (like) Trevor Bauer, (Jacob) deGrom, Marcus Stroman.”

Black added that Hilliard also was being sent down so he could regroup and regain some confidence.

“When you get into a situation like Sam is in, it can get overwhelmingly mental,” Black said. “You starting doubting yourself, the confidence lags and you get into a really tough spot.”

Adams has been linked to the Rockies for a few years but a deal was never made. So why now?

“We’re looking for some offense, and Matt, hopefully, will provide that,” Black said, adding that Adams outperformed both Greg Bird and Connor Joe during games at the alternative site, thus earning the promotion.

The Rockies’ offense needs a lot of help. The Rockies were hitting .235 entering Thursday night’s game. Worse, the Rockies were hitting just .196 on the road and scoring just 2.3 runs per game. Plus, Colorado’s .291 on-base percentage is the worst in the NL.

The Rockies hope Adams can help their lineup.

“I got just under 45 (at-bats) at the alternate-site games, so my timing and everything feels great,” Adams said. “The swing flow is good, my body feels healthy and strong. Feel good mentally. I’m ready to go.”

Adams, who showed a lot of potential early in his career with St. Louis, slashed .184/.216/.347 over 51 plate appearances in 16 games with Atlanta in 2020 before he was released in early September.

Adams said he had a good offseason, and even though few teams were interested in signing him, even to a minor league deal, he believes he can help the Rockies.

Black is hopeful.

“Matt will bring an element of danger, off the bench, each and every night against a bullpen,” Black said. “He’ll bring left-handed power, when he starts a game. He’ll be able to pick up (C.J) Cron at first, at times.”

Black also said Adams might get a start or two in left field.

Footnotes. To make room for Adams on the 40-man roster, the club designated right-handed reliever Ashton Goudeau for assignment.

Related Articles

Matt Adams promoted to Rockies roster as Sam Hilliard is optioned to alternative site Rockies podcast: Breaking down Charlie Blackmon’s poor offensive start to 2021 Rockies’ road woes continue with walked-filled loss to Giants Rockies bullpen has cut down on walks, but relievers “still trying to find their footing” Rockies Insider: Sam Hilliard, last in NL with 47.4% K rate, is striking out at an alarming pace

Also, struggling right-handed reliever Yency Almonte was placed on the 10-day injured list with a bruised right hand. He suffered the injury Wednesday night in San Francisco while trying to field a comebacker to the mound with his bare hand.

Right-hander Justin Lawrence, 26, who’s been on the Rockies’ taxi squad, replaced Almonte in the bullpen. Lawrence has yet to pitch in the majors.…Second baseman Brendan Rodgers, who’s been on the injured list since straining his hamstring during a stolen base attempt in a Cactus League game on March 13, began running again on Thursday. Rodgers has slowly been increasing his baseball activities.


CU Buffs Spring season Exhibit sneak peek

This is an interesting piece by Brian Howell from The Denver Post discussing several important news items this week. Brian Howell recently published the article and I decided it was well worth sharing on this website.

Although the Colorado football team doesn’t have enough healthy players to conduct a complete scrimmage on Friday, it will still be somewhat of a milestone for the program.

The Buffaloes will hold their Spring Showcase on Friday at 9 a.m. at Folsom Field (TV: Pac-12 Networks). It will conclude the first set of spring practices under head coach Karl Dorrell, who was hired on Feb. 23, 2020, but had spring workouts canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Getting through the 15 spring practices is one sign that some sense of normalcy is returning – even as the pandemic continues. It’s also a big step for a program hoping to build off a trip to the Valero Alamo Bowl last fall and find a way to experience sustained success for the first time in a while.

Several veteran players are out, but Dorrell will wrap up his first spring feeling good about the youth of the program.

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“I want to come out of spring practice feeling that our young players and our players that have got a ton of reps this spring, that they feel like they’re very comfortable and confident that they can perform their role on offense and defense and special teams,” Dorrell said.

“There’s been a lot of really positive things with a lot of our young players that have been doing really well.”

Friday’s showcase won’t provide much of a preview of the 2021 Buffaloes, considering the number of players sidelined. Many young players will be in the spotlight, and Dorrell said the Buffs are so thin in some spots that they don’t have a full two-deep on either side of the ball.

While it won’t be a true Black vs. Gold type of scrimmage, there will be plenty to see for the 1,000 fans in attendance and those watching on TV. During the CU-produced spring showcase virtual event on Wednesday, Dorrell told Mark Johnson the Buffs will do some situational scrimmaging, as they’ve done on previous Fridays.

“We want to get some two-minute in, we want to get some red zone play in, we want to do some situational play in, but full speed and tackling,” Dorrell said.

Dorrell added that he would have mic on so he can narrate during the Pac-12 Networks broadcast and let viewers know what is going on with each period. CU hopes to get through 60-70 plays.

A preview of what to watch for during the showcase:

BOULDER, Colo. – April 7, 2021: Colorado quarterbacks JT Shrout, left, and Brendon Lewis during the Buffaloes’ spring football practice on Wednesday in Boulder. (University of Colorado Athletics)

Positions to watch

1. Quarterback: Incumbent starter Sam Noyer is out with a shoulder injury, but returning freshman Brendon Lewis and sophomore JT Shrout, a transfer from Tennessee, have been competing throughout the spring. Both will hope to finish spring on a high note. There will also be a chance to get a first look at true freshman Drew Carter.

2. Running back: It’s unclear if Jarek Broussard, the Pac-12 offensive player of the year in 2020, will play because he’s been hobbled by an ankle injury. However, the Buffs are as talented here as they’ve been in a while. Junior Alex Fontenot and freshman Ashaad Clayton have both had a good spring, while Joe Davis and Jayle Stacks have had good moments, as well.

3. Inside linebacker: Another top player, Nate Landman, is out, but the competition has been solid here, as well. Junior Jonathan Van Diest has stepped into a leadership role and had a good spring. Oklahoma transfer Robert Barnes has been playing here, as well. He’s got a good chance to make an impact this season.

4. Defensive line: This group is missing Terrance Lang this spring, but has been solid in stopping the run. Janaz Jordan, Na’im Rodman and Jalen Sami have led the group, while  Justin Jackson and Austin Williams and Lloyd Murray Jr. continue to improve.

5. Receiver: There is a lot of talent in this group, with La’Vontae Shenault and Dimitri Stanley as leaders. This spring, Daniel Arias and Montana Lemonious-Craig have stepped up, as well, while Keith Miller III is a big target who has improved.

Players to watch

BOULDER, CO – April 9, 2021: CU QB, JT Shrout, gets away from the pressure of Na’im Rodman who is being blocked by Jared Poplawski, and Joshka Gustav (33), during University of Colorado football practice on April 9, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

1. QB Brendon Lewis: After a stellar debut at the Alamo Bowl in December, he’ll look to put on a show for the fans Friday.

2. RB Ashaad Clayton: The star of CU’s 2020 recruiting class, he didn’t get a lot of playing time last season, but by all accounts has taken his game up a couple of notches this spring.

3. DL Na’im Rodman: Few players have been praised this spring as much as Rodman, who has taken advantage of the extra reps and put himself in a position to play a key role in the fall.

4. OLB Joshka Gustav: A pleasant surprise to coaches last season, he’s continued to improve and has had a good spring, as he looks to become a complement to star Carson Wells.

5. TE Caleb Fauria: Still a true freshman, it’s unclear how big of a role he will have in the fall, but he has been healthy and flashed his skills and strength this spring.

Others to keep an eye on: WR Daniel Arias; ILB Robert Barnes; CB Nigel Bethel Jr.; OT Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan; CB Christian Gonzalez; WR Montana Lemonious-Craig; S Mark Perry; QB JT Shrout; RB Jayle Stacks; ILB Jonathan Van Diest.

Unwavering relationship along with CU Buffs staff made easy selection for hoops hire KJ Simpson

Take a look at this piece by Pat Rooney from The Denver Post discussing some important news items this week. Pat Rooney recently posted the article and I thought it was worth sharing here.

It never is the easiest part of the recruiting process, calling the coaches a prospect has gotten to know in order to tell them the basketball journey is taking him elsewhere.

Bryan Cantwell, the head coach at Chaminade Prep in West Hills, Calif., remembers last year when KJ Simpson made that call to Colorado’s Tad Boyle, informing the veteran coach he instead was planning to spend his collegiate career at Pac-12 rival Arizona.

According to Cantwell, Boyle’s reaction is a big reason why Simpson is the latest addition to a CU recruiting class ranked in the top 10 in the nation.

On Wednesday, Simpson made it official with the Buffs, the program that was a close second for Simpson during his initial recruitment. When Simpson was released from his letter of intent at Arizona following the firing of coach Sean Miller, the relationships Simpson previously established with Boyle and assistant Bill Grier made the Buffs the lead option from the start.

“They were really close. Like 1-A and 1-B,” Cantwell said of Simpson’s original decision between Arizona and CU. “But, when he called coach Boyle to say thank you for the whole process, coach Boyle immediately said, ‘KJ, we love you. We love your family. If anything happens in the near future, in the long term years from now, just know we are always here for you. We want you to be part of this Colorado family.’

“Other coaches were like, ‘OK, bye.’ Or ‘Good luck with that’ or whatever. The way that Bill Grier and Tad Boyle handled it, you knew that was the right 1-A and 1-B. I made sure to have (Simpson) do a Zoom call first with Colorado just to get all that back. And it was done. He had a call with Oregon but it didn’t matter. He was going to Colorado.”

The 6-foot-2 Simpson is listed as the 87th overall prospect in the 2021 class by and the sixth-ranked combo guard. Simpson’s addition to an already-impressive recruiting class for Boyle and the Buffs moved CU’s 2021 recruiting class to No. 9 in the nation.

Simpson once was an AAU teammate of CU freshman Jabari Walker and also is friends with forward Evan Battey. Simpson already is the all-time leading scorer at Chaminade, which is in the midst of a delayed 2020-21 season, and he goes into his game on Friday needing only three points to become the school’s first 2,000-point scorer.

For Cantwell, what set Simpson apart at a young age was his defensive ability, which Boyle also lauded.

“We don’t just move guys up, but after the first practice (as a freshman) it was like all right, he’s going to varsity,” Cantwell said. “We moved him up and we were like, we’ll put you right back down again if you don’t do what you do every day. He goes, ‘Coach, you know I’m going to.’ I said I don’t know it so let’s see it. And it was non-stop from the get-go. We had a senior guard saying coach, you can’t take this guy out of the game. That’s how he’s always been. He just gets it defensively, which then allows him to go fast on offense in transition, because he pushes it really fast up the court.”

Simpson graduates in late May and said he is planning to be in Boulder by June 1. When he re-opened his recruitment, Simpson said the tone of the messages he received from Grier and Boyle hadn’t wavered since the conversations they shared prior to his commitment to Arizona.

“It was kind of crazy. When I first got my release from Arizona a lot of schools were calling me but Colorado was the first school that actually called my coach,” Simpson said. “One thing that stood out with them is they always have felt the same way about me. Nothing ever changed. It wasn’t every anything different. It was always constant with them. Showing how much I meant to them, and what I could do for them and the program, that really helped.”

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Selection Time: Broncos can start over at quarterback or even take impact defender with first-round choice

This is an interesting post by Ryan O’Halloran from The Denver Post discussing several important happenings for the week. Ryan O’Halloran recently published this and I decided it was worth syndicating on this website.

Intriguing quarterbacks who have 22 and 17 college starts, respectively.

The no-doubt best defensive player who spent the last three years covering the SEC’s top receivers.

Or the coverage linebacker who coach Vic Fangio has coveted since being hired by the Broncos two years ago.

The Broncos have the ninth pick in Thursday’s NFL draft and, of course, have myriad options, but let’s cut it down to four players.

Broncos Selections

RoundPicks192403714114515261917237, 239, 253*Time to make picks: 10 minutes (round 1), seven minutes (round 2), five minutes (rounds 3-6) and four minutes (round 7 and all compensatory picks).

Select Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields or North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance and (another) new era of Broncos football will be christened.

Add Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II or Penn State inside linebacker Micah Parsons and an already-formidable-on-paper defense becomes even more threatening.

“We feel the ninth pick is fertile ground,” general manager George Paton said. “There is going to be a really good, impact player there.”

Or at No. 7 if Paton swings for the fences to move up for Fields. Or at No. 14 if he moves down and Parsons is still on the board.

Does Wednesday’s trade for Carolina quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (for a sixth-round pick) complicate things? No. In fact, it may crystallize the Broncos’ strategy — find a way to get Fields or Lance, allow them to learn from Bridgewater and take over when the coaching staff deems them ready. If you’re coach Vic Fangio, adding a first-round quarterback instead of a highly-rated defensive player won’t sting as much because Bridgewater is in the fold.

Paton joined the Broncos with a six-year contract Jan. 13 so the pressure to “hit” on his first draft pick is self-administered. But to get this franchise untracked, his first choice must be impactful, either immediately (Surtain/Parsons), at some point of this year (Fields) or maybe the start of 2022 (Lance).

Here is a look at each player:

Justin Fields

Mike Ehrmann, Getty ImagesJustin Fields of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks on during the third quarter of the College Football Playoff National Championship game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Hard Rock Stadium on Jan. 11, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Position: Quarterback.

School: Ohio State.

Age: 22.

Height/weight: 6-3/227.

About Fields: Played one year at Georgia (12 games as backup) before transferring to Ohio State. … In two years for Buckeyes, had 63 touchdown passes, nine interceptions and 15 rushing touchdowns. … Went 20-2 as starter for Ohio State. … Completed an impressive 70.2% of passes last year. … Ran 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds at first Pro Day. … Paton and Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur attended his first and second throwing sessions, respectively.

Why he makes sense: The Broncos try again to stop their quarterback tumult. Fields’ showcase game was the College Football Playoff semifinal against Clemson. He was 22-of-28 passing for 385 yards and six touchdowns, showing downfield accuracy (56-yard touchdown) and a willingness to work the middle of the field. The Broncos could use Fields’ athleticism to move him out of the pocket and let him run for explosive plays. He should be drafted with the idea he will start at some point this year.

Quote: “I think the good thing about (Fields) is he can work out of the shotgun, he can work under center and if you’re a team that really has an ability to control the line of scrimmage and run the football and want to work out off play-action like Baker Mayfield is doing a lot in Cleveland, Justin Fields can do that.” — ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit.

Trey Lance

Sam Hodde, Associated Press fileIn this Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020 file photo, North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance (5) winds up to throw during the first half of the FCS championship NCAA college football game against James Madison in Frisco, Texas.

Position: Quarterback.

School: North Dakota State.

Age: 20 (turns 21 on May 9).

Height/weight: 6-4/224.

About Lance: Will be third consecutive NDSU quarterback to be drafted, preceded by Carson Wentz (No. 2 overall to Philadelphia in 2016) and Easton Stick (fifth round to Chargers in ’19). … Redshirted in ’18 (two games played) and went 16-0 to win FCS championship in ’19 (28 touchdowns/14 rushing touchdowns), setting NCAA record for most pass attempts in a season without interception (287) . … Career starting record of 17-0. … Played one game in ’20 because FCS season was moved to spring.

Why he makes sense: The Broncos would take a long view by drafting Lance — the consensus is he needs to fine tune his game before he can win against NFL defenses. But, wow, his athleticism and arm strength jump off the video of his FCS championship game against James Madison. He scrambled to convert a third-and-11. His first two deep shots drew pass interference penalties. And in the red zone, he looked left and right before working back to the middle for a 13-yard dart. Paton played his first quarterback card by acquiring Bridgewater, a veteran of 49 starts who could serve as place-holder/mentor for Lance.

Quote: “I like his size, his athleticism, his intelligence, his character. I think he has it all. I don’t think he’s missing anything.” — former NFL general manager Mike Tannenbaum.

Patrick Surtain II

Kevin C. Cox, Getty ImagesPatrick Surtain II of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts after intercepting a pass intended for Austin Shaw #13 of the New Mexico State Aggies at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Sept. 7, 2019 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Position: Cornerback.

School: Alabama.

Age: 21.

Height/weight: 6-2/208.

About Surtain: Son of former NFL cornerback Patrick Surtain, who was son’s high school coach. … Top-ranked cornerback nationally out of high school who started 38 of his 41 games for Crimson Tide. … Statistics — 117 tackles, four forced fumbles, 31 pass break-ups, four interceptions. … First-team All-America last year for national champions. … Ran 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds at Pro Day. … Expected to be fourth top-10 Alabama defensive back since 1980.

Why he makes sense: If Fields is unavailable and Carolina passes on Surtain at No. 8, the Broncos would go the “Best Player Available” route. Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan are free agents after the year so Surtain would start in 2022, but for this year, his talent would allow the Broncos to create ways to get him on the field. What stood out from his 2019 tape was how he worked inside and outside, showing good ball skills (high-pointed an interception), physicality (tackling tight ends and bigger receivers) and make-up speed (was looking back at the safety at the snap, but still broke up a pass downfield).

Quote: “Most (college) teams still run man (coverage). It may be zone, but within the zone so you can see enough of their stops and starts, the ability to mirror in and out of cuts, the ball skills, the playing with their back to the ball. They throw the ball a lot in college and you can see them play the ball or not play the ball.” — Paton on college cornerbacks.

Micah Parsons

Scott Taetsch, Getty ImagesMicah Parsons of the Penn State Nittany Lions reacts after recording a sack against the Purdue Boilermakers during the second half at Beaver Stadium on Oct. 5, 2019 in State College, Pa.

Position: Inside linebacker.

School: Penn State.

Age: 21 (turns 22 on May 26).

Height/weight: 6-3/246.

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Broncos 2021 NFL mock draft tracker 10.0: What the national experts predict Denver will do Kiszla: Could best game of Drew Lock’s pro career mess up Broncos’ master plan for NFL draft? Final first-round NFL mock draft: Broncos make big move to add Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields Broncos acquire Teddy Bridgewater: How the Twitter world reacted What trade for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater means for Broncos on eve of NFL draft

About Parsons: Top-five recruit nationally and No. 1 in Pennsylvania out of high school. … Started one of 13 games as true freshman but led team in tackles (83). … Started 12 of 13 games as sophomore in ’19 and had 109 tackles (14 for lost yardage), five sacks, four forced fumbles and five pass break-ups. Consensus All-America. … Seven double-digit tackle games as sophomore. … Opted out of 2020 season. … Ran the 40-yard dash in a posted 4.36 seconds at Pro Day.

Why he makes sense: Parsons would provide Fangio with an immediate coverage linebacker who would challenge for every-down duty from the start of training camp. In his last college game (vs. Memphis in the Cotton Bowl), Parsons showed his eye-popping athleticism playing off the ball, covering a lot of ground in a short amount of time. And he would immediately become one of the league’s best blitzing linebackers.

Quote: “I think with Parsons, (his strength) is the ability to do everything. Off the ball, you can rush him a little bit. As impressive as his range and instincts are against the run, to me, it’s what he does in coverage (that stands out).” — NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah.

Broncos 2021 NFL simulated receipt tracker 10.0: What the national professionals predict Denver will certainly do

Interesting article by Joe Nguyen from The Denver Post discussing some important happenings this week. Joe Nguyen recently published this and I decided it was worth sharing here.

It’s draft day.

After months of speculation, the Broncos will decide what to do with the No. 9 overall pick tonight in Cleveland.

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Denver Post correspondent Phillip Heilman has Denver trading down and selecting Georgia edge rusher Azeez Ojulari in his seven-round Broncos mock draft. Beat writer Ryan O’Halloran has the Broncos dropping down twice and selecting someone who’s “regarded as one of the draft’s best pass rushers.” Meanwhile, here’s a look at who should and who will be drafted by Denver in the first round.

And if you need a cheat sheet for this weekend, here’s a look at the top 10 players at every position and two prediction for each.

Here’s a look at who national draftniks are thinking will land in Denver. | Rhett Lewis | Updated April 26

Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

Mike Ehrmann, Getty ImagesJustin Fields of the Ohio State Buckeyes reacts against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the second quarter of the College Football Playoff National Championship game at Hard Rock Stadium on Jan. 11, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Fla.

“This works out quite nicely for the Broncos, who can stage a real QB competition between Fields and incumbent starter Drew Lock — which is precisely the scenario George Paton expressed to NFL Network’s James Palmer last week. If Fields isn’t the Broncos’ guy at QB, then the Cowboys could be out of luck with my next projection, as I could see the Broncos snagging the top corner in this class despite signing Kyle Fuller this offseason.” See the full mock draft. | Chad Reuter | Updated April 23

Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

Mike Ehrmann, Getty ImagesJustin Fields of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks on during the third quarter of the College Football Playoff National Championship game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Hard Rock Stadium on Jan. 11, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Trade: Broncos send No. 9 overall pick (Penn State LB Micah Parsons) and more to Lions for No. 7 overall pick.

“General Manager George Paton wants his guy at quarterback and will be willing to give up a third-round pick this year and a second-round selection in 2022 to prevent other teams from leapfrogging him to land Fields. The former Bulldog and Buckeye will be a strong leader for the Broncos and create plays from the pocket and on the move that drive defenses crazy.” See the full mock draft.

Reuter’s other Broncos picks:

Second round, 40th overall pick: Jamin Davis, LB, KentuckyThird round, 71st overall pick: Kendrick Green, G, IllinoisFourth round, 114th overall pick: Ta’Quon Graham, DT, TexasFifth round, 152nd overall pick: Tommy Doyle, OT, Miami (Ohio)Sixth round, 191st overall pick: Jaret Patterson, RB, BuffaloSeventh round, 237th overall pick: Dax Milne, WR, BYUSeventh round, 239th overall pick: Alani Pututau, Edge, Adams StateSeventh round, 253rd overall pick: Lawrence Woods, CB, Truman State

Sporting News | Vinnie Iyer | Updated April 28

Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

Mike Ehrmann, Getty ImagesJustin Fields of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks to pass during the fourth quarter of the College Football Playoff National Championship game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Hard Rock Stadium on Jan. 11, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Fla.

“The Broncos and Fields seem meant for each other based on what else is going on with the QB match game, and it remains to be seen whether Denver will need to trade up to protect its own most coveted asset in working to upgrade over Drew Lock. Fields is a good fit in terms of scheme, structure and supporting personnel under Pat Shurmur.” See the full mock draft.

Iyer’s other Broncos picks:

Second round, 40th overall pick: Dylan Moses, LB, AlabamaThird round, 71st overall pick: Elijah Molden, CB, Washington | Bucky Brooks | Updated April 27

Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

Joe Robbins, Getty ImagesJaycee Horn of the South Carolina Gamecocks reacts after an interception against the Auburn Tigers in the second quarter of the game at Williams-Brice Stadium on Oct. 17, 2020 in Columbia, S.C.

“Vic Fangio knows the Broncos need a talented secondary to contain the high-powered offenses within the division. Horn is the best pure man-to-man cover corner in the draft.” See the full mock draft. | Charles Davis | Updated April 28

Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

Bruce Newman, Associated Press fileMississippi wide receiver Elijah Moore is tackled by South Carolina defensive back Jaycee Horn (1) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020.

“Horn believes he’s the best corner in the draft, and he very well could be correct.” See the full mock draft.

CBS Sports | Will Brinson | Updated April 28

Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

“Again, another good spot for a QB or to trade out. I would get either move. But the Broncos aren’t brimming with young, elite, physical, press coverage corners right now and Horn has major upside, especially under Vic Fangio’s tutelage. I would be willing to bet that Denver acquires Teddy Bridgewater before the draft is over. You can get Broncos taking a CB for like +600 as well, by the by, should you be so inclined.” See the full mock draft.

CBS Sports | Patrik Walker | Updated April 26

Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

Sam Hodde, The Associated PressNorth Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance (5) celebrates after his team scores a touchdown during the first half of the FCS championship NCAA college football game against James Madison, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Frisco, Texas.

“If you’re John Elway, you want to believe Drew Lock is the future, but you can’t chance it at this point. This is especially true if Lance is available, and while you need to add to your defensive unit, that’s overshadowed by what Lance might become at the NFL level.” See the full mock draft.

ESPN | Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay | Updated April 20

Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

Andy Clayton-King, The Associated PressNorth Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance before the school’s football NFL Pro Day Friday, March, 12, 2021, in Fargo, North Dakota.

“Remember: This mock draft is what I would do, and I don’t think Drew Lock is the long-term answer in Denver,” Kiper writes. “Lance is only 20, and he’ll need some time, but he has a high ceiling.” See the full mock draft (subscription).

Other Broncos picks:

Second round, 40th overall pick: Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida StateThird round, 71st overall pick: Joseph Ossai, OLB, Texas

ESPN | Staff | Updated April 28

Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

Sam Hodde, Associated Press fileIn this Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020 file photo, North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance (5) winds up to throw during the first half of the FCS championship NCAA college football game against James Madison in Frisco, Texas.

“The Broncos will listen to any and all offers they get to move out of this pick. In this scenario they would give a long look to players such as Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons or Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II. But general manager George Paton has said the team will add a quarterback either in the draft or in “the trade market.” Lance gives them the flexibility of the developmental prospect with the opportunity to see what Drew Lock will become in 2021. Lance won’t turn 21 until May and will need some time to get his NFL footing after one full season as a starter (2019) and one game played in the 2020 season,” Jeff Legwold writes. See the full mock draft.

NBC Sports | Peter King | Updated April 26

Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

Bruce Kluckhohn, The Associated PressNorth Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance scrambles against Central Arkansas in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota State won 39-28.

“So many people are in love with Lance the prospect and it’s easy to see why. Excellent arm, good mobility, precocious player and leader. The one thing to keep in mind with Denver: Paton’s not going to go nuts for a quarterback; he’s okay with giving Lock first dibs here. However, Paton also understands he may not be in a power position to get the next quarterback like the one he would have if this scenario plays out.” See the full mock draft.

Pro Football Focus | Staff | Updated April 28

Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

Bruce Kluckhohn, The Associated PressNorth Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance rushes against Central Arkansas in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota State won 39-28.

Trade: Broncos send Nos. 9 (Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle) and 71 and a 2022 first-round pick to the Dolphins for Nos. 6 and 156.

“The Broncos have a tough decision with three quarterbacks already off the board, but they shoot up for North Dakota State’s Trey Lance. The roster is too good to waste on another year of Drew Lock. Lance needs to figure out his accuracy but has every trait required to play quarterback at the highest level.” See the full mock draft.

Other Broncos picks:

Second round, 40th overall pick: Jamin Davis, LB, KentuckyFourth round, 114th overall pick: Tyler Shelvin, DT, LSUFifth round, 152nd overall pick: Trey Sermon, RB, Ohio StateFifth round, 156th overall pick: Malcolm Koonce, Edge, BuffaloSixth round, 191st overall pick: Aashari Crosswell, S, Arizona StateSeventh round, 237th overall pick: Whop Philyor, WR, IndianaSeventh round, 239th overall pick: Richard LeCounte, S, Georgia

Sports Illustrated | Albert Breer | Updated April 28

Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State


“Denver will need to have a plan for Lance, but I’ve had a bunch of scouts rubber-stamp the Josh Allen comp for me—with Lance being a raw, uber-talented passer with the intangibles to develop potential into production. Thing is, Allen had an ideal environment to grow within, so if they take Lance, it’ll be on Broncos coach Vic Fangio (who I’ve heard likes Parsons, if this pick isn’t a quarterback) and new GM George Paton to create one, like Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane have for Allen in Buffalo.” See the full mock draft.

USA Today | Staff | Updated April 26

Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

“Denver has taken so many swings at the quarterback position and missed since the retirement of Peyton Manning, and as a result, the Broncos can’t pass up a chance to get in on a potentially historic class, even if they haven’t entirely given up on Drew Lock yet,” writes Indianapolis Star reporter Joel Erickson. See the full mock draft.

NBC Sports | Chris Simms | Updated April 28

Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

Barry Reeger, The Associated PressPenn State linebacker Micah Parsons (11) pressures Idaho quarterback Colton Richardson (19) in the first half of an NCAA college football game in State College, Pa., on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019.

“The Broncos are a team that’s not far off. … If they pick a quarterback at nine, it’s totally the GM and it’s also going to be telling you he doesn’t really want Vic Fangio as his coach and he’s looking to hire somebody else next year. … When I look at their team, there is not a bigger spot with a bigger need (than inside linebacker).” See the full mock draft.

USA Today | Nate Davis | Updated April 28

Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

Scott Taetsch, Getty ImagesMicah Parsons (11) of the Penn State Nittany Lions reacts after making a tackle Kevin Marks (5) of the Buffalo Bulls during the second half at Beaver Stadium on Sept. 7, 2019 in State College, Pa.

“Vic Fangio’s defense relies on OLBs Bradley Chubb and Von Miller creating pressure off the edge … which means you need a pair of capable off-ball backers patrolling behind the line. Exceptionally rangy Parsons fits the mold for a team that addressed its issues at corner during free agency. Quarterback was a consideration here, but new GM George Paton opted for a more conservative approach Wednesday – acquiring Teddy Bridgewater from the Panthers to push incumbent Drew Lock – before taking his first major whack at the perennial problem spot.” See the full mock draft.

Former Boston University quarterback devotes to CSU football

Check out this piece by gqlshare from The Denver Post discussing several important news items for the week. gqlshare recently published this and I thought it was worth posting here.

Increasing the competition within a youthful quarterback room, former Boston College gunslinger Matt Valecce declared intentions of transferring to Colorado State on Monday afternoon.

Valecce, who becomes the third signal-caller on CSU’s roster owning in-game experience at the FBS level, completed 3-of-7 passes for 27 yards in six appearances as a redshirt freshman in 2019. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound quarterback then failed to crack the Eagles’ depth chart over the 2020 campaign despite maintaining QB3 duties over the prior season.

Cannot wait for this next chapter. Thank you to @CoachAddazio and @CoachBudmayr for the tremendous opportunity. Let’s ride.

— Matt Valecce (@mvalech4) April 26, 2021

The once highly touted prospect, who Steve Addazio recruited to BC in 2018, constitutes the fifth Eagle to join the Rams since CSU’s head coach arrived in Fort Collins –– alongside defensive lineman Mike Ciaffoni the offensive linemen trio of Cam Reddy, Adam Korutz and Elijah Johnson.

Categorized as a three-star arm and the No. 44 pro-style gunslinger in the nation by, the New York native selected Addazio’s former squad over nine additional offers –– including Pittsburgh, Rutgers and three Ivy League programs.

Amounting to notable recruiting praise, Rivals and ESPN also pegged Valecce as New York’s top quarterback in the 2018 class.

While leading Fordham Preparatory School to the Class AA state championship, Valecce completed 41 touchdown passes and accumulated a state-most 3,333 passing yards as a senior in high school. In total, Valecce wrapped up his prep career with more than 10,000 career passing yards (top three in state history) as well as 112 touchdowns through the air.

Under new offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jon Budmayr’s direction at CSU, Valecce will look to emerge as a primary reserve behind expected season-opening starter Todd Centeio.

Centeio totaled 299 all-purpose yards (207 passing) in three games with the Rams last season after arriving from Temple. Beyond the dual-threat signal-caller, CSU’s fellow quarterbacks include redshirt junior Justice Mccoy, Eastern Illinois transfer Jonah O’Brien, true freshman Luke McAllister and true freshman Chance Harris.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Rockies Mailbag: Enthusiasts like to know what's upcoming with Bridich gone

Interesting article by Patrick Saunders from The Denver Post talking about some important events for the week. Patrick Saunders recently posted the article and I decided it was worth publishing on this website.

Denver Post sports writer Patrick Saunders with the latest installment of his Rockies Mailbag.

Pose a Rockies — or MLB — related question for the Rockies Mailbag.

Hi Patrick, April 26 will be a date to remember in Rockies history. With Jeff Bridich finally gone, hope is on the horizon. I do have a few questions after reading the Rockies’ official statement. First, the Rockies did not name who was going to be interim general manager. Who do you think will fill the role? Second, will the interim GM have the ability to make roster moves this year to try to compete or is this year pretty much done and the Rockies set for the year until next year? — Victor, Alameda, Calif.

Victor, those are key questions, though I’m not sure I can answer all of them at this time. But I’ll give it my best shot.

I expect that the Rockies will announce the interim GM on Wednesday or Thursday. It will be someone who is already in the front office. The top candidates are scouting director Bill Schmidt, assistant GM Jon Weil (in charge of player personnel) and assistant GM Zack Rosenthal (he handles contracts and the business side of baseball). Perhaps, for the short term, it’ll be a team effort.

Given that the Rockies have some big personal decisions on the horizon – trading shortstop Trevor Story and right-hander Jon Gray top the list – I’m thinking that Weil and Schmidt are the favorites. They need someone who has a solid feel for other teams’ prospects.

The interim GM will have the ability to make roster moves, but I expect that the moves will be made with an eye toward the future, not this season. To me, Bridich’s departure is another clear indication that the team is in rebuilding mode.

With Jeff Bridich gone, does that change the equation on Trevor Story? In other words, does the likelihood of his leaving increase/decrease/stay the same? If there are negotiations on a deal, do you think owner Dick Montfort would handle that or leave it to the interim GM and president/CEO Greg Feasel? Lastly, do you think there was one triggering incident that led to Bridich’s departure or an accumulation of things? — Dave G., Fort Collins

Dave, your question about Story is a good one. In fact, just today I was talking with somebody about Story’s future.

I’ve been puzzled as to why the Rockies have not traded Story yet. My buddy pointed out that with no minor league season last year, and the minor league season not beginning this year until May 4, the Rockies have not had an opportunity to properly scout the prospects they might be interested in. That makes sense.

I do think the Rockies will attempt to trade Story before the end of July, but they need to make sure they get a decent return. I would say his trade status is about the same. I don’t see him re-signing with Colorado.

The interim GM will have a central role in any deals and will spearhead the search for trade partners. Monfort, I’m sure, will continue to have the final say. At this point, I don’t know how involved Feasel will be in personnel decisions. Hopefully, we’ll be able to interview him in the coming days to get a better sense of his duties.

Patrick, who are the top candidates to take over as general manager now that Jeff Bridich is gone? It doesn’t make sense to promote from within (like they did with Bridich) given that his track record was pretty miserable. I’d love to see a rising assistant GM from a potent small market team like Tampa Bay get a shot here. — Miles, Parker

Miles, it’s difficult to speculate right now about who will be the new GM of the future. I do think the Rockies need to go outside their own building and get a fresh perspective. I believe they will do that.

One person who’s already being talked about is Minnesota Twins GM Thad Levine. In fact, USA Today national baseball writer Bob Nightengale went so far as to call Levine “the leading candidate.”

Wrote Nightengale: “Levine spent six years with the Rockies before leaving for the Texas Rangers in 2005, and is widely respected by Monfort and the rest of the organization. He was one of the top candidates for the Philadelphia Phillies’ president of baseball operations vacancy but pulled himself out of the running before it was filled by Dave Dombrowski.”

Some other names the Rockies watchers have suggested include: • Dan Evans, the former Dodgers GM (2001-04) who lives in Boulder and had has some expertise in analytics. • Michael Hill, who was the Rockies’ player development director from 2000-02 before he joined Miami’s front office and was part of the 2003 World Series championship team. Hill was the Marlins’ GM from 2008-13 and was president of baseball operations from 2014-20. • Randy Flores, who’s the Cardinals director of scouting. Prior to joining the Cardinals front office, Flores founded OnDeck Digital LLC, a tech startup that assists in the instruction and evaluation of amateur players via customized in-game video streaming and data integration.

While Dick Monfort and Jeff Bridich will forever remain on my naughty list, I’m having more fun pulling for this scrappy group of Rockies players than I thought I would. I’ve got two questions:

The Rockies have lost what, 10 games so far by two runs or fewer? Are the Rockies just Nolan Arenado (and preferably an experienced lefty reliever as well) away from being 13-8 instead of 8-13?

And assuming they don’t repeat the plotline of “Major League” and continue to have one of the worst records in the National League, when can we expect the youth movement this year? I know their lineup is already young, but I’m excited to see higher ceiling prospects like Colton Welker play over guys who look more likely to turn into solid bench bats, like Josh Fuentes. — Issac Bowen, Wellington

Issac, to your first point, I don’t necessarily agree that losing close games in baseball signifies that a team is “close” to being a good team. Others might disagree, but for me, losing close games illustrates a team’s weaknesses, i.e. lack of clutch hits, a suspect bullpen, not making the key plays.

I don’t think having Arenado would have made much of a difference — so far — this season. As I write this, he’s hitting just .244 with four homers, 12 RBIs and an OPS of .731. His average with runners in scoring position is .250. I think Arenado will be more productive, but he’s not been great for a Cardinals team that is just 11-11.

Colorado’s Ryan McMahon, by comparison, is hitting .274 with seven homer, 13 RBIs, an OPS of .870 and a .250 average with runners in scoring position.

As for the younger players, I’m also excited to see what they can do. I expect Welker will get a call-up in mid-summer, and I’m eager to see Brendan Rodgers when he returns from his hamstring injury. He looked really good in spring training.

Hey Patrick, the game I grew up loving seems to be long gone. I miss the days of pitchers going deep into games, hard slides at second and long for extra-inning baseball without American Legion rules. Analytics have destroyed the game and it’s sad players and managers refuse to adjust to situations. If teams are going to shift, lay a free bunt down. It’s just as good as a walk and will put pressure on the defense. It is hard to hit a three-run homer with no one on, but I see guys try it all the time.

With all the destruction Ron Manfred has done to America’s Pastime, what is it you miss most from the good ol’ days? — JB, Englewood JB, I agree with part of what you say, but I understand the need for change. Baseball has always evolved and will continue to do so: Dead-ball era vs. the live-ball era; adjustments to the height of the mound and the strike zone; allowing African American, Latin and Asian ballplayers to play, and thrive in the majors; steroids and then banning steroids. I could go on and on.

But the things I miss are stolen bases, offensive speed and starting pitchers going deep into games. I love watching the best hitters face the best pitchers three or four times in a game. Home runs are fine, but give me a 4-3 ballgame with one or two homers, a key steal, great defense and solid pitching.

Denver Post sports writer Patrick Saunders with the latest installment of his Rockies Mailbag.

Pose a Rockies — or MLB — related question for the Rockies Mailbag.

Broncos podcast: That should Denver select with No. 9 total choice in NFL draft?

Take a look at this article by Kyle Newman, Ryan O’Halloran from The Denver Post discussing some important happenings for the week. Kyle Newman, Ryan O’Halloran recently published this and I decided it was worth syndicating on this website.

In this edition of the First-and-Orange podcast, Denver Post sportswriters Kyle Newman and Ryan O’Halloran break down options for Denver’s No. 9 overall pick. Who should the Broncos take in the first round, and who will they take?

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Colorado spring high school soccer playoffs guide: Preferences, challengers as well as underdogs

Take a look at this post by Kyle Fredrickson from The Denver Post talking about several important news items for the week. Kyle Fredrickson recently published this and I thought it was well worth sharing on this website.

A total of 54 high school football programs in Colorado opted out of a fall season to play during the spring instead. Now, the time is almost here to crown a second round of champions.

The playoff football brackets for Season C football have been released by CHSAA with games starting on Friday. Here’s what you need to know.

Class 5A

No. 1 Denver South (6-0) vs. No. 8 Denver East (2-4), 7 p.m. Friday at All-City Stadium

No. 4 Boulder (4-0) vs. No. 5 Fort Collins (4-1), 6 p.m. Friday at Recht Field

No. 3 Vista PEAK Prep (4-2) vs. No. 6 Rangeview (3-2), 1 p.m. Saturday at APS Stadium

No. 2 Far Northeast (3-2) vs. No. 7 Westminster (3-2), 7 p.m. Friday at Evie Ennis Stadium

Favorite: Denver South — The Ravens, playing in honor of fallen teammate Davarie Armstrong, rely heavily on star power at wide receiver. Over five games, senior Jayshawn Leyba and sophomore Rashad Caldwell have combined for 51 catches, 673 yards and 10 touchdowns. Their defense is no joke, either, with 10 sacks and eight interceptions.

Challenger: Vista Peak Prep — On paper, the Bison might be the most talented team playing this spring with a pair of highly recruited seniors in running back Ja’Derris Carr (Princeton) and offensive tackle Braylen Nelson (Fresno State). Their ground attack averages more than 240 yards per game. Vista Peak enters the playoffs with consecutive losses after starting the year ranked No. 1 in Class 5A.

Darkhorse: Boulder — Yes, the Panthers played only four times this season due to COVID-19, but a four-seed appears low for a team with zero losses. Boulder is built on defense with a stunning 30 sacks in addition to holding opponents to just 21 total points scored. The Panthers easily beat Northglenn (31-0) and Adams City (41-0) to close out the regular season.

Class 4A

No. 1 Thomas Jefferson (6-0) vs. No. 8 Aurora Central (3-4), AC forfeit due to COVID-19

No. 4 Falcon (4-2) vs. No. 5 Kennedy (4-2), 7 p.m. Friday at FHS

No. 3 George Washington (5-0) vs. No. 6 Gateway (3-3), 1 p.m. Saturday at GWHS

No. 2 Harrison (6-0) vs. Centaurus (3-3), 1 p.m. Saturday at HHS

Favorite: Thomas Jefferson — Head coach Mike Griebel, who led Heritage to a 2009 state title, is building a similar championship culture at TJ. The Spartans have scored at least 40 points in half of their games this season. Their defense hasn’t given up more than 14 points since Week 1. TJ already advanced to the second round with Aurora Central dropping out due to COVID-19 issues.

Challenger: Harrison — The Panthers won a thriller in double-overtime against Falcon, 40-32, in the final week of the regular season to keep their perfect record intact. Harrison averages more than 200 yards rushing. The Panthers’ defense also held their first three opponents to single-digit scoring efforts.

Darkhorse: George Washington — The third undefeated team from 4A sat out one game against Thomas Jefferson due to COVID-19 issues. But the Patriots might be the most talented of the unbeaten. Senior Daniel Ameyaw is a big reason why with 100 yards rushing per game and five touchdowns.

Class 3A

No. 1 Glenwood Springs (6-0) vs. Northfield (3-3), 3 p.m. Saturday at Stubler Memorial Field

No. 4 Rifle (4-2) vs. No. 5 The Academy (5-1), 1 p.m. Saturday at Bear Stadium

No. 3 Basalt (5-1) vs. No. 6 Sand Creek (5-1), 1 p.m. Saturday at BHS

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No. 2 The Classical Academy (4-0) vs. Aspen (3-3), 1 p.m. Saturday at TCA Titan Stadium

Favorite: Glenwood Springs — The Demons’ recipe for success this season was simple. Just give the football to Blake Nieslanik. The junior running back averaged 128 yards rushing with 12 total touchdowns. Glenwood Springs also dominated Salida, 49-0, in their last game before the playoffs.

Challenger: The Classical Academy — The Titans might have played only four games this season, but the outcomes were never in doubt. The Classical Academy beat its opponents by a combined score of 194-19 — including two shutouts and 40-plus points scored in each game. Junior running back Cade Palmer has 535 yards rushing on the year.

Darkhorse: Sand Creek — The sixth-seeded Scorpions have just one defeat this year (30-28 vs. The Academy) and finished the regular season with three consecutive 40-point shutouts against Denver West, Littleton and Kent Denver. Sand Creek’s defense is especially stout with 17 sacks and 10 interceptions.

Josh Watts relaxed in 2nd year along with CU Buffs

This is an interesting article by Brian Howell from The Denver Post talking about some important news items for the week. Brian Howell recently posted the article and I decided it was worth sharing on this website.
BOULDER, CO – December 12, 2020: CU punter, Josh Watts, in Utah game. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes played at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Just as the Colorado football team was wrapping up the 2020 season, punter Josh Watts started to feel a bit more comfortable in his role.

New to the game last season, Watts said he felt more confident by the time the Buffaloes played in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29. Although the season ended at that point, the junior has carried that momentum into the spring.

“Towards the back end of the year I started to feel more comfortable, but I feel like I definitely still haven’t punted my best in games and I’m looking to do it this year for sure,” said Watts, who has two more seasons of eligibility at CU.

A native of Hobart, Tasmania, an island state of Australia, Watts, 25, played in the Australian Football League before joining the Buffs in December of 2019. He learned to punt at ProKick Australia Academy – which has sent numerous punters and kickers to United States colleges – but had never played American football until last year.

“I had only seen a couple of games,” he said. “To be honest, I wasn’t that nervous (last season) because I didn’t know what to expect.”

Watts did need some time to adjust, however.

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Arriving in Boulder about three months before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down sports for a while, Watts hasn’t been home since. During his first year in Boulder, however, he leaned on former CU kicker James Stefanou, an Australian native who played four years with the Buffs before retiring from the game last November.

Stefanou and his wife often had Watts and his girlfriend over for dinner, as they bonded through their experiences.

“Having James here was huge for me, obviously,” Watts said. “Just someone that I could always lean on, I guess, who has gone through the exact same thing – traveling halfway across the world to come to play football over here.”

Watts has also been helped by former CU punter Tom Rouen, a 1989 first-team All-American who played 16 years in the NFL and won two Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos.

“Tom has worked with (former CU punter) Alex Kinney and also James Stefanou in the past,” Watts said. “He’s sort of always been around, always been there to talk to the specialists at Colorado.”

The primary focus, Watts said, has been fine-tuning the details of the craft of punting.

“The difference between a good ball and a bad ball is so minor a lot of the time, it’s just ironing out the little things,” Watts said. “That’s all it is at the moment; just getting those little things right, getting used to punting with different types of winds. He played 15 years in the NFL, so it’s just awesome I get the opportunity to work with him.”

Watts handled all off of CU’s punting duties during the shortened 2020 season, averaging 41.3 yards on 35 kicks. He had a long of 60 yards and placed 11 punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.

In the first three games, Watts averaged 38.5 yards. He boosted that average to 44.0 in the last three and had his three longest punts – 51, 53 and 60 yards – in that stretch.

“I feel like I’m a lot more comfortable now, especially punting with a rush and off a snap and things that I just didn’t get used to in Australia before I came here,” he said.

“It was tough (early in the season) because I was put in some tough situations; those first couple of games where I was backed up or I was punting with a couple minutes left. … It was sort of a baptism of fire. Especially in the Stanford game, I had a couple punts late where they had 10 rushers and they didn’t even have a returner, where I just had to catch it and kick it. Going through those things I think helped me.”

Although Stefanou has retired from the game and moved back to Australia with his family, Watts is one of several dozen Australian punters and kickers in the U.S., including a few in the NFL. That group continues to help each other.

“We speak all the time, actually,” Watts said. “We all keep in touch and we all lean on each other, and then just talk about how we go about things. There’s definitely a good support network there between all of us.”

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Non-urban university areas, disheartened through CHSAA, weigh starting their own athletic affiliation

Interesting post by Kyle Newman from The Denver Post talking about several important events this week. Kyle Newman recently published this and I decided it was worth sharing on this website.

Rural school districts, frustrated their voice isn’t heard, are considering a split with Colorado’s statewide high school sports association to create their own.

About 50 rural districts want the Colorado High School Activities Association to address what they see as inequities within the association, starting with the contingent’s belief CHSAA isn’t fulfilling its mission in serving rural districts.

The group’s leaders say they aren’t adequately represented and hold little influence over decision-making. In addition, they have issues with CHSAA’s communication, financial transparency and grievance procedures, and want more say in how state events impact rural schools.

The feeling of disenfranchisement has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic — and now has them contemplating a break with CHSAA.

“We’re trying to work within the system and do what’s best for our kids, and make sure rural schools aren’t overlooked, left out or a second thought,” Brush superintendent Bill Wilson said. “I don’t think there’s intent from CHSAA leadership to do that, but there’s definitely been that type of feeling boiling over the last 20 years.

“So our mindset is, let’s find the option to work together, and if we can’t, we don’t need to have a big to-do about it. To use a playground term, at that point you pick up your ball and go play someplace else.”

One of the most recent disputes arose when CHSAA made the decision last fall to move all of the state title football games to one site without consulting the schools — rural or urban.

Julesburg school district superintendent Shawn Ehnes said the rural schools were upset because of the effect the decision had on their community-driven teams. Even though the decision gave small schools an opportunity to play on the same stage as larger ones, for the lower classifications that normally play title games at home fields, it had a direct impact on attendance. Just 75 fans per team were permitted at the ThunderBowl in Pueblo due to local COVID restrictions. Had the games been played at home fields, more fans likely would’ve been allowed.

There have been other slights too, rural leaders say.

They want to know more specifics about the cost of state championship venues, with breakdowns on the revenue stream and expenditures. They were also upset at the lack of advance notice regarding mandatory COVID testing at the state wrestling tournament. And, without offering specifics, they say CHSAA’s power structure needs an overhaul.

“We’re seeing CHSAA as an organization circle wagons around committees and select groups of people (they know), and not really making any attempt to reach out to our small districts when they’re changing protocol, procedure and practices,” Ehnes said.

CHSAA commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green declined comment when contacted by The Denver Post.

Rural superintendents met with CHSAA’s board of directors on April 5 to express concerns that a significant portion of Colorado’s rural membership lacks confidence in the association.

At its core, the grievances boil down to rural-versus-urban issues, encapsulated within high school athletics.

Ehnes emphasized the effort “isn’t a rogue group of superintendents acting as individuals. This is a large movement by communities that are tired of the way things are going with (CHSAA).”

The rural schools’ preliminary plan calls for hiring a commissioner from a small school who would oversee Class 1A and 2A, as well as forming a separate rural Board of Directors and a rural superintendents’ CHSAA Advisory Council. Using a survey as a temperature check earlier this year, Wilson said there were about 15 to 20 rural districts who were content with CHSAA and did not want to pursue substantial change. But the majority did.

The group has been brainstorming for about a year but lately became more serious about planning. That included studying what bylaws would look like, hiring legal representation and getting liability quotes from insurance contractors. The foundational pieces for an alternative, rural association are largely in place, as is the backing: Wilson said more than 100 of the state’s 146 rural school districts have been involved in recent discussions.

Alex McIntyre, Greeley TribuneSpectators watch from the Eaton stands during the Eaton Reds game against the Lamar Savages in the CHSAA Class 2A State Football Championship at Neta and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl at Colorado State University-Pueblo in Pueblo Dec. 4, 2020. Eaton defeated Lamar 28-21 to claim the 2A state title.

“Rural school boards are behind this because they hear (criticism) constantly from parents, student-athletes, the community,” Ehnes said. “They are frustrated, and we’re all looking for CHSAA to be more connected to (rural communities).”

Rural schools comprise about 40% of the state’s 363 member schools, but the overall student population in those schools makes up a significantly smaller percentage. While half of the current 16-member CHSAA Board of Directors has ties to rural/small schools, Wilson’s contingent claim their voice is largely ignored.

“We do think the Rural Alliance ought to be represented (on the Board),” Wilson said. “How does an organization serve the needs of a 5A school in Denver and a remote, small 1A school at the same time? Those needs are very different. There’s this (sentiment) that’s developed over time that says, ‘We are CHSAA, we are one, we are Colorado,’ that kind of attitude.

“Which, said another way is, ‘One size fits all.’ We want to have this conversation because we think there are ways CHSAA can better represent the needs of all of its members.”

CHSAA originally had little interest in hearing out the rural leadership.

Wiggins superintendent Trent Kerr emailed Blandford-Green and Board of Directors president Troy Baker on Feb. 24, requesting a meeting with the rural group. Blandford-Green responded later that afternoon, saying the group would have a five-minute window to address the Board, citing an unnamed bylaw and past precedent.

Kerr took that response back to the group, who “felt like it was a slap in the face.” So Kerr reached out again to Blanford-Green, this time directly by phone, and she reversed course to set the April 5 meeting.

“Being in the room, I think the Board of Directors really did take some onus and understand where we were coming from,” Kerr said. “They understand some of the communication breakdowns that we’ve seen over the years and were able to see the disparity in what’s happening (in comparing rural versus urban treatment) and the lack of communication from the association.”

Following that meeting, Blanford-Green sent out a detailed letter to the rural schools outlining immediate steps that CHSAA planned on taking to address the group’s concerns.

Andy Cross, The Denver PostCHSAA commissioner, Rhonda Blanford-Green at the 2021 Colorado State gymnastics meet, 5A individual events championships at Thornton High School April 24, 2021.

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In the letter, the commissioner said the association is “committed to rebuilding relationships, (addressing) perceived or real (concerns) with some groups that have felt disenfranchised for many years but even more so during this pandemic year.” But she balked at putting any support behind a “rural/small school subset” of CHSAA, saying “supporting those direct demands… would lead to an increase of one faction of the association.”

Instead, Blanford-Green offered other changes Ehnes said “is a start, but it’s a long way from what (rural schools) need to be satisfied.”

Those changes included a year-end membership survey Blanford-Green argued allows for “membership to be included in strategic planning.” Additionally, the commissioner said she will work with the Colorado Association of School Executives to establish rural/small school representation at all CHSAA sport/committee meetings; she will attend two or three Zoom meetings each year with the Rural School Alliance; and the association overall will do a better job of sharing the “why” behind its decisions.

Blanford-Green wrote CHSAA “would hate to see any school, especially a faction of our rural or small schools, depart the association.”

“All problems perceived and real can’t be addressed in a week, month, or even a year but I think both groups are committed to two-way improvements and opening more transparent lines of communication in (the) best interest of the association,” Blanford-Green wrote.

But what does that mean for the issue’s immediate future?

The rural group is meeting again Wednesday to discuss feedback from the state’s rural superintendents on Blanford-Green’s initial suggestions. From there, they plan to set up another “think tank” conversation with CHSAA.

Rural leaders hope that path starts to lead to tangible change. If it doesn’t, they’re prepared with their own plan.

“It’s about getting CHSAA to go back to their original roots of being membership-driven, communicating and getting feedback from all schools on important changes or decisions,” Ehnes said. “If CHSAA is not capable, willing or interested in doing that, then we’re prepared to look at an alternative high school athletic association that will be solely focused on making sure that for Classes 1A and 2A especially, we create an association that is driven by our committees.”

Broncos Mailbag: Is any sort of quarterback worth drafting ahead of Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons?

Interesting article by Ryan O’Halloran from The Denver Post talking about several important events this week. Ryan O’Halloran recently published this and I decided it was worth sharing on this website.

Denver Post Broncos writer Ryan O’Halloran posts his Broncos Mailbag periodically during the offseason. Submit questions to Ryan here.

What about Brett Rypien? Why don’t the Broncos give him a chance at being the starting quarterback? Do they think he is only good enough to be a backup?

— Donny Archuletta, Pueblo

Rypien had a chance to start last year and threw two touchdowns and three interceptions in a road win over the New York Jets. He should be in the Broncos’ plans as a backup who can carve out a long career, but he’s behind Drew Lock and a quarterback-to-be-named later.

Everyone wants a new quarterback with most analysts projecting Trey Lance. Analysts also say he needs to mature and sit behind a veteran for a year or two as the Broncos did with Paxton Lynch and several other young quarterbacks over the years. Will you and the other pundits be yelling for him to go into the starting position in October saying he can’t learn anything from the sidelines?

— Gary Read, Wichita, Kan.

Not sure about most analysts mocking Lance to the Broncos, but I digress.

I have always been — and always will be — in the camp of, “Play the Kid Quarterback.” That’s the only way to get better in this league, by facing pressure, by handling adversity, by learning on the job. Rare is the situation like Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City in 2017) and Jordan Love (Green Bay in 2020) stepped into — their team good enough to allow them to watch.

If the Broncos take a rookie quarterback, they should not make any proclamations about him sitting to begin the year. If they are better than Lock or whoever in camp, they should get the Week 1 assignment.

And yes, if Lance is sitting in early October and the Broncos are off to a third consecutive poor start, I will be chanting for him to play.

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What should I read into Brittany Bowlen’s promotion? Is this another step toward taking over as owner? Or just an indication she’s done well at her previous position? Could we finally be coming to a conclusion on the ownership saga?

— Matt, East Colfax

The part you should read into: Broncos president/CEO Joe Ellis feels Bowlen did well handling her initial duties, which began in December 2019, and merited a promotion that will have her overseeing more people and reporting only to Ellis.

Don’t view this as a proactive step by the Broncos to eventually hand Bowlen the keys to the franchise as the next controlling owner.

The trial pitting the trustees vs. Beth Bowlen Wallace and Amie Klemmer remains scheduled for July 12. Until there is closure on that, there will be no clarity about the future of the franchise.

The Broncos seem focused on getting a quarterback in the first round. But let’s say five get taken in the first eight picks. Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Mac Jones all gone after some aggressive trading. What do the Broncos do? I’d want to see them trade down and get some more picks. It definitely opens up who they want to get early, too, like Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons or Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II. And are there any quarterbacks in the later rounds who are worthwhile to get?

— Marshall, Parker

Operating under Marshall’s idea of five quarterbacks going in the first eight picks …

Theory 1: Paton should stay put and guarantee he gets the best or second-best defensive player, be it Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain, South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn or Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons.

Theory 2: If Paton and coach Vic Fangio believe there is a cluster of defensive players that have the same value, the Broncos should then trade down to a team who wants Alabama receivers DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle.

I see plenty of talk about getting a quarterback in the draft, but the Broncos still have an issue at inside linebacker. Are any of these quarterbacks worth taking over Micah Parsons, who could be a staple in the middle for years?

— Dennis, Fort Collins

I’m in the Justin Fields Camp — if the Broncos have the opportunity to take him by moving up or staying at No. 9, they should act.

But if Fields isn’t available, that’s when Paton must make a decision. Is Parsons good enough to take at No. 9? Can they move down four or five spots and still get Parsons? Is cornerback or pass rusher a bigger need?

Parsons jumps out on video with his blitzing ability and sideline-to-sideline range.

Ryan, any word if the NFL is going to change the one-helmet rule? I’d love to see the Broncos in the vintage big “D” logo at some point again.

— Mike Smith, Denver

Last year, the NFL floated the idea that it would change the one-helmet rule, which would allow for throw-back models like the Broncos’ “D” when the helmet is a different color. Currently, teams like the Packers wear throw-back uniforms but have the same helmets (sans emblems).

A quick search returned a Pro Football Talk story from earlier this month citing a league spokesperson’s comment that there hasn’t been a resolution to the possibility.

Whatever happened to Kyle Sloter? I was a fan of his during his UNC days and have always rooted for him to make the NFL.

— Shawn, Greeley

Sloter, who signed with the Broncos as an undrafted free agent in 2017, is currently without a team. He has bounced from the Broncos to Minnesota, Arizona, Detroit, Chicago and Las Vegas. He signed a contract with the Raiders on Jan. 15, but was released on April 15.

Denver Post Broncos writer Ryan O’Halloran posts his Broncos Mailbag periodically during the offseason. Submit questions to Ryan here.

Document: Floyd Mayweather And Logan Paul's Show Fight Is actually Establish For June 5 On PPV

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Celebrity exhibition boxing has become the new trend, chiefly fights featuring the Paul brothers. The controversial YouTube stars have gone all-in on boxing, most recently with Jake Paul knocking out Ben Askren mere seconds into their much publicized fight — which caused some questions about the legitimacy of it all.

The next bout featuring a Paul brother will take place this summer, when Logan Paul steps into the ring against, by far, the most formidable opponent either has faced in Floyd Mayweather. That bout was initially supposed to happen in February but has been pushed to June, one would assume to provide the opportunity for more fans to be in attendance. According to Mike Coppinger of The Athletic, the bout is scheduled for June 5 on Showtime PPV, meaning it will go head-to-head against the undisputed light heavyweight title fight between Teofimo Lopez and George Kambosos on Triller.

Sources: Floyd Mayweather-Logan Paul exhibition will be carried by Showtime PPV and is planned for June 5. Mayweather can’t weigh more than 160 pounds; Paul 190. Will compete with Teofimo Lopez-George Kambosos undisputed lightweight title tilt on Triller

— Mike Coppinger (@MikeCoppinger) April 22, 2021

As Coppinger reports, the stipulations of the contract insist that Mayweather weigh in at no more than 160 pounds, while Paul can’t weigh more than 190 pounds. In case that 30 pound difference seems absurd to you, you’re not alone. That’s a massive difference in weight and while it still won’t be a fair fight, it’s going to be a hilarious size difference to behold when the step toe-to-toe in the ring. Of the two Paul brothers, Logan has had the least success in the ring, losing his lone bout so far to fellow YouTuber KSI, which one would think doesn’t bode particularly well for him going up against one of the greatest fighters of all time (and arguably THE greatest defensive fighter ever), even with a 30-pound advantage. Jake’s success has been much more significant, as he’s now 3-0 with three knockouts, most notably over Askren and Nate Robinson.

Mayweather putting this fight up against what should be a massive night for Lopez and the 140-pound division is sure to frustrated boxing fans, as well. There has already been tension within the boxing community over these exhibitions, which draw massive audiences but spark arguments over the future of the sport.

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Kickin' It with Kiz: Should Drew Lock stay or go as Broncos quarterback? Them's fighting words.

This is an interesting article by Mark Kiszla from The Denver Post discussing some important happenings this week. Mark Kiszla recently posted this and I thought it was a great post for syndicating here.

Broncos quarterback Drew Lock has had his moments, but ultimately he isn’t “the guy.” He’s not Justin Herbert or Patrick Mahomes. After five years without a playoff appearance, it’s time to spend that premium draft pick on a quarterback so we don’t waste Noah Fant, Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy on their rookie deals. Give the fans some hope!

J.M., Denver

Kiz: Lock doesn’t blink under the spotlight, which is a good trait for a quarterback in our football-crazy town. But Lock also thinks he can stare down a cornerback and force a pass doomed to become an interception. He has the swagger to be an elite QB, but not the skills. And I think general manager George Paton knows it.

The Broncos should trade up and draft Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. Let Fields and Lock compete for the starting job. Fields wins out and Denver becomes a Super Bowl contender by 2022.

Josh, Omaha

Kiz: Your favorite ice cream might be cookies and cream, while mine is butter pecan. You like Fields; I prefer Trey Lance of North Dakota State. Different strokes for different folks. But we agree: The Broncos need to find a different quarterback.

It’s obvious to anyone with the smallest accumulation of football acumen that Lock is and should be the starting quarterback, as there’s about a .01% chance of the Broncos being able to bring in anyone that would be able to beat him out for starter through draft or trade.

Gary, vibing in the Rockies

Kiz: If the staff here at Kickin’ It Headquarters hears one more comparison of Lock to the third-year development of Buffalo’s Josh Allen, we’re going to fall down laughing. After regaining our composure, we’ll ask: Why didn’t John Elway draft Allen when he had the chance?

Lock stinks. Brett Rypien stinks. Jeff Driskel stinks. In Broncos Country, the homerism about these bums is stunning. Lock is a sport-talk radio punchline as the league’s worst quarterback in every market outside Denver.

U.S., independent thinker

Kiz: That’s precisely why Denver needed to hire a general manager from outside the organization to evaluate Lock with fresh eyes.

I get the frustration of wanting a franchise QB, but it’s the hardest thing to find in football. It takes time and trial and error sometimes. Just ask Cleveland (haha). Don’t force yourself into a bad situation due to lack of patience.

Austin, Pueblo

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Kiz: Fair point. But you can’t stop looking for a quarterback until you find a great one. In the NFL, is there really any other choice?

And today’s parting shot is a tip of the cap for bringing attention to a Denver athlete who doesn’t play for the Broncos.

Kiz, thanks for the column about U.S. Olympic wrestler Adeline Gray.  It was refreshing and uplifting, not to mention really well written, giving us the urge to hear you tell the next chapter of her story. There is so much negative about our pro teams in Denver. I know there is some positive, but I have basically stopped reading the sports section. These kind of stories lure me back in.

Walt, staying positive

Monday, April 26, 2021

Broncos basic manager George Paton prepared to use "out-of-the-box" approach to initial draft in huge chair

Check out this piece by Ryan O’Halloran from The Denver Post talking about some important events for the week. Ryan O’Halloran recently posted the article and I decided it was worth posting on this website.

For nearly 15 years, George Paton’s draft weekend seat was in the same location: Shotgun to Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman.

Paton handled the bulk of the trade talks and presented player information, but Spielman made the final call.

Beginning with Thursday night’s first round, Paton will have a new seat. The main seat. The big seat. The hot seat. And the final call will be his.

Hired as the Broncos’ general manager in January, Paton will apply his 24 years of NFL personnel experience to his new team’s draft effort.

“Just being right next to Rick in the decision-making process … it’s been really helpful,” he said in an interview with The Denver Post.

What will be really helpful for Paton is hitting on this year’s first-round pick in general and his first draft in particular.

The Broncos are in the midst of a five-year postseason drought and have been plagued by bad offense. That would suggest selecting a quarterback early. But the practical view could be to add further to the defense and lean on coach Vic Fangio’s play-calling to climb back into playoff contention.

Paton’s draft philosophy — besides his previously expressed desire to add more picks — will crystallize by Saturday night.

“George will try to implement a lot of things and a lot of the out-of-the-box thinking that we were able to do and create (in Minnesota),” Spielman said earlier this year.

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Unique situation

Paton enters his first Draft Week as a general manager in an abnormal situation. He inherited the coach (Fangio) … and all three coordinators. He inherited the college and pro scouting staffs … and has made no additions. And he did so while coming from outside the organization.

A canvas of the league showed five general managers who were hired after the coach: Brandon Beane (Buffalo), Scott Fitterer (Carolina), Andrew Berry (Cleveland), Mike Mayock (Las Vegas) and Martin Mayhew (Washington).

But …

Beane was connected to Bills coach Sean McDermott from Carolina and joined forces in Buffalo well ahead of their first training camp. Berry returned to the Browns two weeks after they hired coach Kevin Stefanski. And Fitterer, Mayock and Mayhew work for coach-centric teams (Matt Rhule, Jon Gruden and Ron Rivera, respectively).

Armed with a six-year contract, Paton has final say.

The only notable parallel is Dave Gettleman with Carolina in 2013. Gettleman left the Giants’ front office and inherited Rivera as the Panthers’ coach and did not make any personnel department additions before the draft.

“I don’t see any major holes here,” Gettleman said before his first draft.

Carolina went 12-4 in Year 1, 15-1 in Year 3 (lost to the Broncos in the Super Bowl) and 40-23-1 in five years before owner Jerry Richardson’s mid-summer firing of Gettleman.

The Broncos’ roster Paton inherited in January did — and does — have major holes. One is acutely visible: inconsistent quarterback play. Others less so: team-wide depth issues that, if not addressed, will be magnified with injuries and/or under-performance.

But in the name of efficiency, Paton did what most new general managers do: He kept the Broncos’ processes in place for his first draft.

“We kept the grading scale they had here,” he said. “I didn’t want to change 30 people. It’s easier for me to change. Now, we’ve made a lot of adjustments within that scale in the way we run our meetings and some of the philosophies. We did make a number of changes in the meetings and structures.”

Said former New York Jets general manager and Miami Dolphins executive Mike Tannenbaum: “I know George well (from the scouting circles) and he’s a very thoughtful, methodical guy and I’m sure he’ll be very observant of how they’ve done things and he’ll implement some things he and Rick Spielman did for so many years at a high level in Minnesota.”

Only after the draft will Paton make any departmental changes and introduce his grading scale and scouting manuals. In January, he said he intended to hire a right-hand man like he was to Spielman and Matt Russell was to John Elway.

Now and in the future, though, it appears Paton subscribes to the Every Voice Must Be Heard approach. He calls it an “all-hands-on-deck approach.” The area scout weighs in. Same with the regional and pro scouts. Ditto for the coaching staff. Paton takes in all of the opinions, expresses his and may break any ties.

“Let’s disagree — that’s actually fun,” Tannenbaum said of running the Jets’ draft efforts. “And then let’s go to the tape and make great decisions for us. Let’s not have the loudest voice in the room win.”

In the Jets’ draft room, Tannenbaum said he hung up a phrase he got from the Cleveland Indians: “In God, we trust. For everybody else, we need data.”


“I just wanted to make sure we were process-driven and let’s have great debate,” he said.

Debate time is wrapping up for Paton and the Broncos. Next up is making the right process-producing decisions.

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Prepare for unexpected

When Tannenbaum was promoted to general manager in early 2006, Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells called to offer advice.

“Coach Parcells said, ‘You’re the head coach when you walk in there. You have to be prepared. You have to be calm. You have to prepare for the unexpected,’” Tannenbaum recalled in a phone interview. “The night before the draft, there it was on the bottom of the ESPN screen — ‘Houston Texans agree to terms with Mario Williams.’ Everybody thought Reggie Bush was going to the Texans. I remember thinking, ‘Coach was right. The draft hasn’t even started and we have an unexpected development.’”

The Jets did fine. They drafted left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold in the first round — they combined to start 324 games for the franchise.

Tannenbaum’s point for Paton is prepare for any player not named Trevor Lawrence or Zach Wilson to slide. Prepare to have an offer ready if he wants to move up two spots. Prepare if the phone rings and it’s a team in the teens looking to move up. Prepare … for … everything.

In reality, Paton has been preparing for this moment since joining the Chicago Bears as a pro scout in 1998. He is ready.

“I think we filled enough needs in the free agency where we don’t have to reach for a player,” he said. “We have the flexibility to move up. We can move back. We have nine picks — three picks in the first 75 — so we’re really excited.”

Avalanche, Nuggets nearing postseason along with Comcast-Altitude blackout still unresolved

Take a look at this piece by Kyle Fredrickson from The Denver Post talking about several important news items for the week. Kyle Fredrickson recently posted the article and I thought it was a great post for syndicating on this website.

The Nuggets and Avalanche have combined to play in more than 200 games over two seasons since Altitude TV went dark for Comcast subscribers in Colorado.

The long-running carriage dispute, dating back to September 2019, remains unsolved with no clear timetable for when games will return to the state’s largest cable provider. (The network remains off the air on Dish Network as well.)

Soon, local fans will rejoice as playoff hockey and basketball are picked up on national broadcast networks. But it is possible that Altitude’s blackout on Comcast will continue into the 2022 seasons for the Avs and Nuggets.

A resolution likely hinges on the outcome of an antitrust lawsuit filed by Altitude against Comcast. It claims the cable giant negotiated with illegal business tactics after their contract expired that “make no economic sense” in an effort to eventually buy or replace the Kroenke-owned independent regional sports network. Comcast argues that Altitude is confusing a “routine commercial disagreement” with a violation of antitrust laws.

In November, a federal judge partially dismissed several of Altitude’s claims but allowed the case against Comcast to move forward. The Denver Post contacted both sides this week for an opportunity to address Colorado sports fans’ clamoring for an agreement.

Altitude: “Since 2019, Altitude has been the only regional sports network off the air on Comcast,” said William Isaacson, Altitude’s litigation counsel. “That isn’t because Altitude asked for more money than market terms would command. Altitude only asked for a market-based deal, and Comcast instead offered below-market terms that would drive any independent RSN out of business. A decision for Altitude will get Altitude back on the air and prevent Comcast from taking unfair advantage of Denver sports fans.”

Comcast: “It’s unfortunate Altitude prefers to continue pursuing meritless legal claims instead of negotiating a reasonable and mutually workable deal that would allow fans to have even more viewing options,” said Leslie O’Neal, Comcast’s director of external communications. “The Court dismissed most of Altitude’s frivolous claims in November, and the Court expressed skepticism about the one remaining claim it did not reject outright. We look forward to getting the rest of this case dismissed.”

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The lawsuit is currently in discovery (the sharing of evidence) as thousands of documents are submitted for review and expert witness testimony is collected. The process is time-consuming, according to online court records, with the deadline to submit final discovery Dec. 17, 2021 — well into the next NBA and NHL seasons.

Should the case reach a jury trial, while unlikely, the final pre-trial conference is not set until April 4, 2022. That would equal yet another season lost to the dispute. However, it is also possible the case might be settled much sooner.

Public scrutiny of Comcast’s business practices — threatening additional lawsuits or significant financial loss — could lead it to reconsider contract terms agreed upon by Altitude. Comcast is also expected to request a summary judgment that allows a judge to reconsider the merits of Altitude’s case based on the available evidence.

Either outcome, in theory, might expedite the return of locally broadcast Avalanche and Nuggets games. Although a lack of productive negotiations between Comcast and Altitude since the lawsuit was filed in November, and the billion-dollar backing of both entities, suggests the stalemate will continue well into the future.

Mike Griebel coaches undefeated Thomas Jefferson along with boy, Mitch, on Spartans staff

Take a look at this article by Kyle Fredrickson from The Denver Post discussing some important news items for the week. Kyle Fredrickson recently published the article and I thought it was a great post for publishing here.

Mike Griebel coached Heritage to a 2009 football state championship with his son, Mitch, as the starting quarterback.

“It felt like I was in a movie when it was happening,” Mitch said.

Here’s a surprise. The sequel is even better.

Fast forward 11 years later and the Griebels are still chasing prep football glory. Mike — in his second season at Thomas Jefferson — has coached the Spartans to an undefeated record (5-0) in CHSAA’s spring season. Mitch, after starring at wide receiver for Montana State, serves as TJ’s passing-game coordinator.

“It’s a blast,” Mike said.

The Spartans’ sudden rise to Class 4A football royalty is the latest evolution of a proud Colorado prep coaching family. Mitch says “it’s in my blood.”

His grandfather, Don, has the weight room named after him at Cherry Creek as one of the first coaches in the 1960s to introduce a high school strength and conditioning programs. Mike continued his father’s legacy in building Heritage football into a championship program.

However, after 19 seasons (1995-2013) and 128 wins, Mike was abruptly let go from Heritage in 2014. A painful and unexpected separation. But his love for coaching didn’t fade.

Mike joined the Columbine football staff as an assistant where his younger son Mikey was the team’s starting quarterback. In 2019, Mike interviewed for the head coaching job at TJ — in the same Denver neighborhood where he grew up — with a total commitment to the Spartans.

“I told the administration, when they offered the job to me, that this would be my last stop. This is where I’ll finish my career,” Mike said. “That’s fun to know that I finished where I started, back when I was a little kid. … There is a sign up in our house that I see posted on our wall. It says: ‘Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can come together.’ ”

Daniel Brenner, Special to the Denver PostThomas Jefferson High School assistant coach Mitch Griebel speaks to players at halftime of the game against Denver North Friday, April 23, 2021 at All-City Stadium. Thomas Jefferson lead at halftime 32-0.

The better things in Mike’s life now include coaching alongside his son on the same sideline. On Friday, TJ defeated Denver North, 46-12, at All-City Stadium to cap a perfect regular season.

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“We kind of just exchange looks,” Mitch said. “We’ll call a good play or we’ll have a good drive, and he’ll just throw me a wink. It’s usually me yelling at the referees and him telling me to calm down, to be honest.”

TJ is led by a stingy defense and the dual-threat capabilities of starting junior quarterback Austin Lindegren. The Spartan culture being established feels familiar to Mitch, who passes down the same football lessons he once learned from dad at Heritage.

The Griebels’ football story is nearing full circle. All that’s left is once again hoisting that championship trophy.

“Just to be back together is a lot of fun for both of us,” Mike said.