To suggest that anything could possibly be wrong with the sport seems like the most severe form of blasphemy there is. After all, most of us swear allegiance to a team (or in the case of some fans an entire conference) and will defend our program (again or conference) to the bitter end.
Yet, nothing is perfect. Not even in the realm of college football.
The fact that there are preseason rankings is one of the most bizarre aspects not just in college football, but in all of sports.
How do you rate teams that you have never seen play?
Sure you saw the team that was fielded last season and seasons before, but you have not seen this version of the team perform ever. Things change, coaches leave, players matriculate, former five star high school recruits fail to develop, while former two star recruits blossom into fixtures in the lineup so how can anybody accurately rank the top 25 out of the 125 FBS schools?
It is less of an issue now that there is a selection committee, but still come on, why should fans even pay these rankings attention for the first four or five weeks of the year?
Voters are doing their best to judge these teams, but they have no relevant information to go on and it shows by season’s end.
About half of the time the pollsters just vote last year’s champion No. 1 to start the year. In the 65 year history of the AP Poll the defending National Champion started the year off in the top spot 23 times to be exact. Only three times did said National Champion end the year at No. 1 (USC in 2004 and Oklahoma in 1975 and 1956).
The only things voters can use to gauge how good these teams are at the start of the year are rough predictions about recruits and last season’s results, not actual football games played this particular year.
Seriously ask yourself why does matter if in week 2 of the season Wossamatta U, led by Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle Moose, beat the Mud City Manglers who just so happen to be the No. 16 team in the AP Poll (shout out to all you Rocky and Bullwinkle fans out there)?
It honestly should not matter until the regular season ends and we get to compare wins and losses. If the Mud City Manglers go on to regroup and lose maybe one or two more games then that is a noteworthy win for Wossamatta U. However, if Mud City implodes on itself the rest of the season then that win losses some luster, but we will not know the implications until the later in the season.
There are several real life examples of preseason top 25 teams winning games over top 25 opponents. Texas A&M, UGA, and LSU all won their week one games against preseason top 25 teams.
The Gamecocks hardly looked like a Top 25 team against the Aggies, let alone a team that should start the year off at No. 9 in the AP Poll. Why were they even there, after all they lost Jadeveon Clowney, Connor Shaw, and a host of other key players?
South Carolina fell all the way to No. 21 after their opening night loss and if that does not show you how asinine preseason polls are nothing will. It might seem harsh, but since the only game we have seen South Carolina play this year was that debacle then they should not be ranked.
On the other hand, Texas A&M came in ranked No. 21 in the preseason AP Poll and after crushing South Carolina jumped all the way to No. 9. That is a 12 spot jump based off of one game against a team that appears to be severely overrated.
Nobody knows how good either team is yet, so pollsters should not waste time ranking them.
To truly see the damage preseason rankings cause take a look at the 2010 college football season. A season that saw Ohio State start off at No. 2, Wisconsin start the year at No. 12, and Michigan State start the year off unranked.
The Spartans avoided playing the Buckeyes but beat Wisconsin that year. All three teams finished the season with just one loss, tied for the Big Ten Championship, and ranked in the top 10 of the AP Poll.
However, because the Badgers and Buckeyes started off ranked in the preseason poll, they had a proverbial head start on the Spartans in the rankings. Michigan State did not have enough to jump either school despite being No. 9 in the nation and beating Wisconsin. Thus, Sparty missed out on a BCS game (they went on to get slaughtered by Alabama in the Capital One Bowl , but using Nick Saban logic the Spartans were just too disappointed to show up after being so close to the Rose Bowl).
There will always be teams that are overrated and others that are underrated, but pollsters should probably wait until actual games are played to start ranking them.
CJ Hurt covers college football for MemphiSport. Follow him @Conradicalness for live tweets from games.
Now in its fifth year, Red Bull King of the Rock has decided to make a return trip to Memphis in order to find the most elite hoopers in the nation. Instead of going to Alcatraz, this year’s winner will go across the Pacific Ocean to the prison exercise yards of Samasana Island in Taiwan.
The event will be held this Saturday at Halle Stadium (or the Precinct as it is affectionately called). Participants have to register at the event with registration starting at noon, and the tournament starting promptly at 1 pm.
Last year’s tournament had some great games, close calls, and thrilling victories so even if you do not think your game is good enough to compete with Hoop City’s best, you can still come out and watch some great street ball.
WHAT: Red Bull King of the Rock
WHEN: Saturday, August 9 at 1 pm.
WHERE: 2634 Mt. Moriah (aka “The Precinct”)
CJ Hurt is a regular contributor for MemphiSport. He will be at the Precinct this Saturday showcasing his one on one abilities. Follow him @conradicalness for commentary, pictures, and live tweets from the King of the Rock.
On Sunday afternoon, the Memphis Redbirds celebrated their annual Bark in the Ballpark game where fans are encouraged to bring their canine friends with them for an afternoon of baseball at AutoZone Park.
With help from Twitter and Instagram, we’ve compiled a collection of the Top 20 Dogs from the Redbirds’ Bark in the Ballpark 2014:
Indya Wooten has a favorite T-shirt that features a rather compelling catchphrase.
It reads: “IF YOU THINK YOUR SPORT IS HARD, TRY DOING IT HOLDING YOUR BREATH.”
For Wooten, an 11-year-old Memphian, she has learned the art of holding her breath as an avid swimmer for the Mid-South Swimming League, an organization sanctioned by the Davis YMCA in Southeast Memphis.
By and large, Wooten, a fifth grader at Horn Lake Intermediate School, has made great strides as an amateur swimmer, a trend that, to her credit, has inspired her to adopt lofty dreams of appearing on a Summer Olympic stage someday.
Introduced to swimming by her grandparents six years ago, Wooten has gone from participating in an organized class in which she was taught the basic swimming mechanics for approximately five weeks to having competed in a numbers of competitive meets throughout the Southern region.
“She just loves to swim and hopes to one day swim in the Olympics,” Barbara Thomas, Indya’s grandmother, said during a recent interview with MemphiSport.
Although she has been swimming competitively for such a brief time, Wooten’s display in the water has benefited her considerably on the amateur circuit. For starters, this young, vibrant athlete has gone to great lengths to upgrade her swim skills, most notably in the free style, butterfly, and backstroke events, in large part because of the one-on-one attention she has acquired from her coach, veteran swimmer Dominique Primer.
Primer said what she labels mostly intriguing about Indya is the competitive drive she brings to her team, let alone her keen ability to devise ways to improve.
“Indya is very dedicated to swimming and her dedication to her workouts shows as much,” Primer said in assessing Wooten’s rise as amateur. “Indya constantly ask for feedback and continues to find new ways to improve her stoke, speed, as well as her endurance. She had a spectacular season as a new swimmer. I look forward to working with her for many seasons to come.”
To her credit, it’s safe to assume that Wooten doesn’t plan to slow down anytime soon as it relates to her talents as a rising swim standout. Among the reasons is that even as an amateur, she devotes long hours to the sports, practicing as much as three hours a day, particularly when she is preparing for competition.
Her next meet takes places later this month when she puts her skills on display in the Mid-South Swimming Championships at the Henderson Aquatics Center in Tunica, Miss.
“If you ask Indya, she will tell you that Coach Doma (Primer) is hard especially on days that she has to practice for over three hours,” Thomas said. “However, she understands that being tough makes her better and most weeks she is in practice for five days and for several hours.”
As far as Wooten is concerned, she doesn’t shy from the notion that swimming is beneficial in that it can help greatly with regards to enhancing one’s confidence and self-esteem, especially during times in which kids her age face an assortment of peer pressure.
“This sport will inspire them to try it,” Wooten said. “The discipline you learn in swimming helps you throughout life because it teaches you patience and it teaches you have to trust yourself.”
Not only that, among the key attributes Wooten finds intriguing is the camaraderie she has established with other individuals who have embraced the sport much like she has.
“I have a great deal of respect for my teammates and other swimmers,” she said, adding that her father, Nicholas Wooten is her grandest cheerleader. “I’m in the pool practicing even when there is no practice.”
Spoken like a future Olympian.
A number of sports fanatics grew up watching the Dallas Cowboys.
A number of them also grew up watching the Pittsburgh Steelers.
As for Ka’Dedrick Richardson?
Well, he grew up watching the Whitehaven Tigers.
As the 15-year-old Richardson is quick to acknowledge, he grew up praising the Tigers’ tradition-rich football program.
“When I was little, I wanted to go to Whitehaven,” Richardson told MemphiSport during a recent interview. “I always liked Whitehaven.”
Much to the delight of Richardson, the feeling is mutual among the Tiger faithful.
That Richardson had emerged as one the area’s finest young wide receivers during a freshman season in which he enjoyed quality minutes for the Tigers, it’s safe to assume not only is he savoring his dream of playing for his childhood team, but he’s already drawing rave reviews from numerous college scouts in the process.
While Richardson did not start any games for a Whitehaven team that was destined to defend its Class 6A title, the true freshman demonstrated time and again why he was named to the Tennessee Future Stars All-Star Game in Knoxville last summer.
The 6-foot, 160-pound Richardson showed no signs of jitters for an unproven newcomer. Instead, he quickly became acclimated to the Tigers’ potent offense and flourished into a pivotal threat for a team squad that was already stacked at the wide receiver position.
Richardson, whom Whitehaven coach Rodney Saulsberry believes has arguably the best hands among his deep receiving corps, did a masterful job of complementing fellow wideouts Braylon Rochell and Kerrick Jones, a trio of fierce receivers who will likely provide fits for defensive coordinators over the next few seasons.
“Ironically, (Richardson) and Kerrick played at the same middle school (Bellevue),” Saulsberry said. “He’s a great kid academically and he shows that same competitive nature in the field. His hand coordination is extremely great for a kid his age.”
Not to mention his persona on and off the field.
According to Saulsberry, many have mistaken Richardson — who is almost certain to be considered one Shelby-Metro’s top players for the Class of 2017 — as someone who often appears cocky. But as his coach is quick to point out, it’s merely pure confident for the sport he’s come to embrace since his middle school days.
“He’s not arrogant at all,” Saulsberry said. “He’s just confident and knows he can get the job done. I like the fact that he’s like that, that he has as they say that swagger about him.”
What’s so scary, Saulsberry said, is that given Richardson is one of the Tigers’ most dangerous offensive threats, he has three years left to a high school career that is already shaping up to be a memorable one.
Especially for a team in which Richardson watched growing up, let along one for which he dreamt of playing.
“I always looked at (Whitehaven) like the big time program of Memphis as far as Memphis preps,” Richardson said. “Like when I go to White Station or Ridgeway games, it’s wasn’t as exciting to me.”
So exactly what makes Whitehaven’s football program stands out above the rest?
“It’s like the movie, Friday Night Lights,” Richardson said.
A real life movie, of sorts, in which he is currently playing a lead role.
Tiphonie Davison knew exactly what she was doing.
Following three seasons in which her son, Kerrick Jones, blossomed into a football standout at Bellevue Middle School, a number of individuals approached Davison to inquire about where Jones would play high school football.
As Davison tells it, she and her son were already sold on Whitehaven’s tradition-rich program, in large part because of its sustained success in recent years.
“(Whitehaven) Coach (Rodney) Saulsberry was like, ‘Yeah, you can get playing time if you work,’” Davison told MemphiSport.
However, long before Jones enrolled at Whitehaven, there were a slew of coaches who tried to convince Davison that Whitehaven wouldn’t be a suitable place for son, given the Tigers boast a lengthy depth chart at the wide receiver position. While she chose not to name coaches who contacted her about her son’s football future, she said among the things she deemed intriguing about Whitehaven is that Saulsberry and his staff never spoke against other programs throughout the Shelby-Metro area.
“Whitehaven was the only school that didn’t bash the other schools,” Davison said. “And that was the reason Whitehaven was my presence. And because (Jones) is starting is because he put in the work. Nobody gave him anything.”
Saulsberry said he is aware of how a number of coaches throughout the city tried to persuade Davison to allow her son to play for their program.
“We don’t have to talk down on anybody else to build us up,” Saulsberry said. “The name and product speaks for itself.”
To his credit, the 5-foot-9 1/2, 159-pound Jones picked up where he left off after a freshman campaign in which he quickly evolved into one of the area’s finest young receivers. As a true freshman for a Whitehaven team captured its first ever Class 6A championship, Jones was a good as advertised. Then after being installed as a full fledge starter, Jones didn’t disappoint, having amassed 600 yards on 35 receptions and five touchdowns for a Whitehaven team that finished the 2013 campaign with a 9-3 mark.
“I would say I progressed a lot in my tenth grade year,” Jones said in assessing his overall display. “And my teammates encouraged me a lot on and off the field. Each Tuesday and Thursday, we were required to go to study hall. And on the field, (the upper classmen) pushed me. Even though I was a sophomore they looked to me as a leader.”
Among the reasons it didn’t take long for Jones — who simultaneously is a member of Whitehaven’s track and field team while participating in spring football drills — to establish a camaraderie with his older and more experienced teammates is because of the rave reviews he generated during several 7-on-7 camps last summer. The Sardis, Miss. native demonstrated time and again why he assumed a considerable amount of reps with the Tigers’ first stringers, a trend that ultimately left a favorable impression with Saulsberry and his staff.
Following his first full varsity season in which he earned First-Team All District honors, Jones — an honor student who boasts a 3.8 grade point average — also had the luxury of appearing at a number of 7-on-7 camps and combines at several Mid-South area colleges, most notably at Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Arkansas State, and the University of Memphis. This offseason will be no different for a rising junior who is almost certain to fall more under the radar as college recruiters have already taken notice of his skills.
“Kerrick has become one of the top receivers in the area, and as a sophomore that’s big,” Saulsberry said. “Among the things I noticed about him is his competitive nature for kid his age. We’re excited because he had a great sophomore season and we’re excited greater things from him next year.”
Among the reasons if that mom knew exactly what she was doing all along.
When Olive Branch, Miss.-area entrepreneur Johnny Loper started his business seven years ago, a regular work day for him lasted nearly 16 hours.
He didn’t see a problem with that.
“I was actually enjoying life because I didn’t have kids,” Loper told MemphiSport. “It was just me and my wife. But when my little boy came along, it wasn’t about me anymore. I kind of had a sour taste in my mouth because my dad had to work all the time. He couldn’t make all of my sporting events.”
Now a father of two, Loper sensed immediate changes needed to take place once his wife, Weslynne, gave birth to their first child. Among those changes was to make certain he didn’t spend lengthy hours at Jaylo Fitness at 8325 Highway 178 in Olive Branch, the business he founded roughly four years after his minor league football career had ended.
For Loper, a Waynesboro, Miss. native who starred at wide receiver for South Carolina State from 1995-2000, he had lofty aspirations of making an NFL roster, in large part because he wanted to retire his mother from the factory job she had for years in his native hometown.
However, after being invited to try out for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers following a three-year stint with the now-defunct Memphis Xplorers of the arenafootball2 league, Loper’s dreams of embarking upon NFL riches ended abruptly when he failed to earn a spot on the teams’ 53-men rosters.
“That wasn’t my purpose,” the 37-year-old Loper said during a recent interview from his residence in Olive Branch. “It was good for a season to learn different things. But that wasn’t my ending point.”
To his credit, among the things Loper learned during his brief tenure as a professional athlete was the importance of staying in good health. More than 10 years removed from having earned an Arena Football League check that paid him about $300 a week, Loper has cashed in mightily because of his stern commitment to helping individuals establish a healthy lifestyle.
Since 2011, Jaylo Fitness has partnered with AdvoCare, a premier health and wellness company that offers world-class energy, weight-loss, nutrition, and sports performance products along with rewarding business opportunities. For the Lopers, they have reaped the benefits of having joined one of the world’s premiere wellness companies, whose endorsers include an array of professional athletes, most notable Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten and New Orleans Saints’ Super Bowl 44 MVP Drew Brees.
Last month, Loper helped produce a 24-minute DVD for AdvoCare with appearances by Whitten and Brees, as well as a host of NFL players.
As Loper recalls, if it weren’t for the long hours he invested to a fitness business that had already earned a favorable reputation among Mid-Southerners, it likely would have taken longer for him to realize why a career in the NFL wasn’t meant to happen.
While at his facility in 2005, Loper noticed a client leaving the building. In her bag, he saw some AdvoCare products. Once he inquired about the items, that’s when his life began to change.
“It took me at least five years until I started doing AdvoCare with our business,” Loper said. “I knew the products worked because we used it when I was in college. Everybody was coming to me to get me to do direct sales because everybody’s got juices and things of that nature. But what I loved about AdvoCare was that your money was 100 percent back guaranteed. When we began researching, we saw the credibility the company had being that Drew Brees was endorsing AdvoCare for free. It wasn’t a company that just started up.”
That Jaylo Fitness elected to partner with AdvoCare three years ago — he earned approximately $18,000 within his first month after joining — Loper has gained more freedom away from his gym and now savors a carefree lifestyle that has enabled him to spend more time with his family. A usual work week at his fitness facility is comprised of between five-to-eight hours in which he mostly spends that time teaching what he calls “Fitness Bootcamps” or conducting hour-long total body workouts before a class of about 50 participants.
In other words, a majority of Loper’s work is done from the comfortable confines of his home.
“Within a matter of a month, we had earned $18,000,” Loper said. “Tears just came to my eyes. “When (his client) explained to me what had happened, I had a golden opportunity that I really couldn’t let slip away. That changed my life completely.”
Not to mention the livelihood of his mother, Fannie Loper.
Loper not only was able to retire his mother from the factory job she held since he was a child, but she has lost about 50 pounds because of her commitment to using AdvoCare products.
“That was my whole reason of trying to get to the NFL,” Loper said. “I was trying to get my mom out of that trailer and to retire her from her job.”
He managed to do both within just three months.
Never mind his dreams of playing in the NFL are now a distant memory.
Douwante Thomas’ constant progress on the basketball court in recent years, to his credit, has given way to his coming under the radar by a number of college scouts.
Among the key attributes recruiters have noticed is that the First Assembly Christian School’s swingman’s relentless leaping ability, quickness, and his ability to penetrate to the basket have provided fits for opposing teams, both on the AAU circuit and high school games.
Thomas’ continuous improvement was among the key factors that prompted FACS coach D’Marius Wilkes to switch him to a two-way athlete for the Crusaders during what was an efficient season for his star player.
For starters, the 6-foot-5 Thomas — just as he’s done since he was installed as a starter his freshman year — proved to be the centerpiece of an FACS team that finished 12-8 this year and witnessed it season end in a loss to St. George’s Feb. 13. Thomas was the Crusaders’ leading scorer, averaging better than 15 points a game. In addition, he managed 8.3 rebounds, 3.4 blocks, three assists, and 1.4 steals.
And, because he spent a better part of this campaign playing above the rim, Thomas witnessed his field goal percentage soar to a remarkable 61.3 percent, while shooting 72.9 from the free throw line, all of which earned him All-District honors in TSSAA Division 2-A for a third consecutive year.
Still, following a year in which FACS didn’t make a lengthy postseason run, Thomas admittedly became his own worst critics, of sorts, saying among other things that he could have done more to help propel the Crusaders to a better overall showing.
“I would say I could have done a lot better than I did,” the 17-year-old Thomas told MemphiSport. “I played a little bit timid at times. I played as if I didn’t want to mess up. But I just kept playing through (mistakes) and my coach challenged me to play through them.”
Wilkes among those who relishes the fact that Thomas, his featured player, didn’t shy away from taking ownership of his weaknesses and occasional mishaps this season. However, he sensed that Thomas still made continuous strides and, most importantly, upgraded his mechanics in this, his final season as a high school basketball player.
“He has been the heart and soul for us offensively and defensively,” Wilkes said. “He is probably the best athlete in the city as far as running and jumping. His progress this year has been tremendous.”
Never mind that his progress unfolded in the private school sector.
Although Thomas didn’t garner as much exposure in recent years as his peers in the public school system, his presence as a member of Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway’s Team Penny 17-and-under AAU squad boosted his stock with college scouts.
Currently, Thomas has generated interests from Tennessee State, the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, Union University, and Southeast Missouri State. While neither school has made an official offer, Thomas — who is scheduled to make official visits to these schools in the coming weeks — is confident he’ll ultimately fulfill his dream of playing college basketball.
“I’m willing to do anything necessary to receive a scholarship,” Thomas said.
Even if it means doing the little things that will leave a favorable impressions on recruiters as he prepares to set foot on several college campuses soon.
“I know I’ve got to lift weights more, condition, and work on my ball-handling,” said the 178-pound Thomas, adding that he plans to improve his mid-range jumper and 3-point field goal efficiency. The scouts say I’m one of the most athletic people they’ve ever seen. I guess I get that a lot.”
Given his constant progress on the basketball court in recent years, chances are he will hear it a lot more this fall.
Only this time, he’ll hear it wearing a college basketball uniform.
During a recent interview, Maurio Betts is going on and on about his passion for band. As Betts tells it, becoming engaged in band five years ago is the best thing to happen for the 17 year-old East High School senior.
“It was something new for me,” Betts told MemphiSport of his desire to take up band. “When I first started band, I was just trying something new. I didn’t know I would grow to love it.”
Betts, in fact, has become so fond of music that not only does he spends countless hours at home watching video footage of college bands, but he often pretends as if he’s playing his trumpet even when his instrument isn’t in his possession.
“I go above and beyond,” Betts said of his aspirations of evolving into a fluent musician. “I’m very ambitions about it. I don’t know…I guess every day, I’m always practice because I know I have weaknesses. So every day, I’m learning to perfect my weaknesses.”
To get a clear understanding why Betts has developed a deep admiration for music, look no further than his days at Wooddale Middle School. When Betts’ mother, Kaye Davis, enrolled him at the school, it didn’t have a marching band, but had a concert choir for those who were interested in joining.
Consequently, Betts took a chance and joined the concert choir, considering it would help prepare him for the marching band that was currently in the works at the time. Within a matter of weeks, Betts came to enjoy what the choir had to offer and figured he’s take music more seriously. The very next year, Wooddale Middle’s marching band officially had been assembled and was comprised of about 40 members, one of which included Betts.
That’s when he first began to play the trumpet, an instrument in which he seemingly can’t live without today. In a nutshell, Betts without band, as his mother said, is like a pencil without an eraser.
To his credit, that Betts has steadfastly matured and flourished as an accomplished musician for East High’s band has gone virtually unnoticed by his peers, who unanimously voted him the band president this year. But according to Betts, the featured member of the Mustang marching band, his accolades and rise as a musician wouldn’t have come to fruition if not for Ollie Liddell, the former director of East’s band who is not overseeing the band at nearby Central High.
Liddell taught and mentored Betts his first two years as he became acclimated in the varsity band, teaching him everything from being dedicated to his craft as a musician to learning to simultaneously lending his ear to recognize other instruments besides his own.
“It wasn’t about him, wasn’t about one band,” Betts’ mother said of her son’s commitment to improving his musical mechanics. “If you’ve got one (musician) that’s good at what they do and everybody else is not on the same page, then the entire band is not on one accord. He’d come in there like, ‘It’s all about me.’ And he couldn’t do that. It’s one band and one sound. (Liddell) helped him a lot in that area because that was a struggle for us.”
Betts was among the East band members who voiced his displeasure when they learned Liddell would be leaving for Central after his sophomore year. Still, he said the life-changing lessons his longtime mentor taught him were priceless and will prove beneficial as he look ahead to college this fall.
Like Liddell, a former member of Jackson State University’s renowned Sonic Boom of the South, Betts has lofty aspirations of joining the school’s tradition-rich band that performs annually in the Southern Heritage Classic at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
Judging by how much he’s blossomed as a musician in recent years, Betts admittedly feels good about his chances of securing a spot in one of the most prominent college bands in the America.
“I know I have all the criteria to get accepted to the (JSU) band, probably an 85 percent chance,” said Betts, who plans to audition for the band in the coming weeks. “But that’s not what I’m focused on. I’m focused on scholarships from the band.”
That, too shouldn’t be a difficult task for Betts, considering the face of East High’s marching band boasts a cumulative grade point average of 3.5.