Saturday, August 21, 2010

If Balmer hasn't spoken to the NCAA, the investigation is too slow

NFL and former UNC player Kentwan Balmer, who is said to have paid for a trip for UNC players, says he hasn't spoken to NCAA investigators.

If that's the case, the investigation is moving too slowly. A lot of players, coaches and fans that had nothing to do with getting perks from sports agents are being held hostage to the investigation.

The much-anticipated season, which starts with a neutral site season kickoff against LSU, has now been dampened with no apparent resolution in sight. Carolina is using second-team players as starters in practice for fear that Marvin Austin and Greg Little won't be able to play. Whether they are or not, the Heels are at a disadvantage. A victory over LSU would certainly tell a lot about the character of the team.

The NCAA just needs to do whatever it's going to do and the Tar Heels will move on. Some guidance should be given prior to the start of the season. Unfortunately, because Cam Thomas, who played last year for the Heels, is involved, there has been speculation that wins could be taken away from Carolina from last season as well.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ten area high school football openers to consider attending, with predictions

Here are 10 opening football games that are within driving distance in the Triangle area tonight. In bold is the predicted winner. Games are at 7:30 p.m. except Cary at Broughton which is at 7 p.m.

Cary at Broughton

Harnett Central at Apex

Holly Springs at Southeast Raleigh

Northern Durham at Middle Creek

Wake Forest-Rolesville at Durham Riverside

Leesville Road at Panther Creek

Greenville Rose at Southern Durham

Fuquay-Varina at Knightdale

Millbrook at Garner

Sanderson at Athens Drive

Check the scores in our Sports Roundup on the left navigation bar.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Willis leaves Carolina to be closer to his father? I'm not buying it

North Carolina freshman defensive end Brandon Willis, who enrolled in January and has been practicing with the team, has decided to transfer to UCLA, his father says, in order to be closer to him.

I hope that Willis doesn't suspect that Carolina will be penalized harshly from the NCAA in regard to the recent investigation. But, regardless, I'm not buying the explanation.

I understand that Willis' mother died in 2009 and I understand that Willis' father lost his job and found one in California and I understand that family is important and that they want to be close.

But the fact is Willis decided to go to Carolina after his mother died. The fact is that Willis' father was working in Brunswick, Ga. when Willis decided to go to Carolina. So, the fact is that his father was a six and a half hour drive away from Chapel Hill when he decided to go to Carolina. Los Angeles is a six and a half hour flight away from RDU Airport.

Furthermore, a flight from Brunswick to RDU necessitates a connection in Atlanta and takes four and a half hours. Plus, it costs only about 100 bucks less than a flight from Los Angeles.

Gary Willis said he couldn't have accepted the job on the West Coast with his son in Chapel Hill. So what changed from the time he was four and a half hours away by air and six and a half hours away by car?

He says it's nothing against Carolina and that very well may be true but something doesn't seem right. Maybe they all decided that Brunswick was too far anyway and they all wanted to be closer. Maybe he wanted to play his high school position of defensive end, where he will play at UCLA, instead of defensive tackle, where he was playing for the Tar Heels.

Whatever the reason, I'm not buying the official explanation.

Earlier today, UNC head coach Butch Davis said, "His father has been looking for employment and was informed yesterday that he was able to find a job. The unfortunate thing is he found a job in Southern California and he is really adamant about trying to keep his family together. He’s asked both of his sons to join him in moving out there. That’s all that we really know at this time. We’re happy that his father was able to find a job in this economy. Brandon is a good kid and we wish him the best."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Thomson's first shot was heard 'round North Carolina

Bobby Thomson, the man whose shot was heard ‘round the world in 1951, died Monday at the age of 86. But few know, or remember, that Thomson played minor league baseball in North Carolina.

Thomson, a Staten Island, NY native, played 29 games at third base for the Rocky Mount Rocks in 1942 at the age of 18. He batted just .241 but he had three key homers and 18 RBI.

When he was signed by the Rocks, the Rocky Mount Telegram newspaper, where I was sports editor years later, ran a story titled “This Bat Is Rocks’ Insurance.” Thomson’s first professional home run came in his first at bat at Rocky Mount’s Municipal Stadium. Not only was it his first home at bat, but it was the first pitch thrown to him.

Plus, he had his first big-time home run in Rocky Mount. Playing the rival Wilson Tobs in a seven-game playoff, the Rocks were down three games to none but managed to pull even at three games a piece. With the deciding seventh game in Rocky Mount, Thomson blasted a six-inning home run over the left field wall to open up a close game and give the Rocks the victory.

It was believed to be only the second time in pro baseball history that a team came from three games down to win a series. After the game, appreciative and ecstatic fans passed a hat and gave Thomson 11 bucks, which he probably needed at the time.

At the end of the season, he enlisted at the height of World War II. He served in the Air Corps from 1943 through 1945.

After the war, he continued his career and became a regular for the New York Giants in 1947. He was a star for years but he’s most remembered for the Oct. 3, 1951 home run in game three of a three-game playoff against the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Thomson came to bat in the ninth inning with one out, two on and his Giants down 4-2. On an 0-1 count, Thompson banged “the shot heard ‘round the world” as he homered off Ralph Branca for a three-run, game-and-series winner.

The Giants’ announcer Russ Hodges shouted the famous call, “The Giants win the pennant, the Giants win the pennant, the Giants win the pennant.” It was perhaps the biggest home run in major league history… but his first home run came in North Carolina.

Carolina Predicted To Claim 2010 ACC Field Hockey Title

ACC NEWS RELEASE - Defending National Champion North Carolina received four first place votes and was selected by the league's head coaches to win the 2010 ACC Field Hockey Championship, as announced today by Commissioner John Swofford.

The Tar Heels collected 24 of the possible 25 points. First place votes were awarded five points, second place received four, etc., and coaches were not allowed to include their own teams in their predicted order of finish.

Maryland, the 2009 ACC Champion and national runner-up, came in second, picking up 21 points and one first place vote. Virginia took third place with 18 points, followed by Wake Forest (12) in fourth, Boston College (9) in fifth and Duke (6) in sixth. The Cavaliers received the final first place vote.

All six teams were represented on the preseason All-ACC squad, with North Carolina tallying a league-leading three honorees. Duke, Maryland and Virginia each had two representatives, while Boston College and Wake Forest each had one.

Eight of the 11 preseason All-ACC selections earned All-America honors from the National Field Hockey Coaches Association in 2009, including: Emily Kozniuk of Boston College; Rhian Jones of Duke; Katie O'Donnell of Maryland; Katelyn Falgowski, Jackie Kintzer and Kelsey Kolojejchick of North Carolina; and Paige Selenski and Michelle Vittese of Virginia.

O'Donnell, Falgowski, Kintzer, Kolojejchick, Selenski and Vittese were also named to the All-ACC team in 2009.

North Carolina comes off a 2009 campaign in which it went 20-2 overall and 4-1 in league play. The Tar Heels defeated Maryland 3-2 in the NCAA Championship game, earning the program's sixth national title.

UNC's Karen Shelton, the reigning NFHCA Coach of the Year, returns seven starters and 15 letterwinners, including Kolojejchick, who was named National Rookie of the Year by womensfieldhockey.com. UNC seeks its 17th conference championship and its first since 2007.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Baseball America says Carolina comes up a loser at signing deadline

With players having to decide by mid-August if they are going pro or going on to college, Durham-based Baseball America did a piece on the winners and losers in college baseball as players decided to go pro.

Winners included Georgia Tech while North Carolina and Florida State were judged among the losers.

Aaron Fitt wrote about Carolina: "UNC is actually quite pleased with its haul, which includes a solid core in catcher Matt Roberts, lefthander Kent Emanuel and righty Jake Cole, plus good depth. But still, the Tar Heels entered Monday hoping to land one of their three remaining elite recruits—Stetson Allie, Sean Coyle and Ty Linton—and came up empty. Coyle, in particular, would have been a cornerstone player in the UNC infield, but the third-round pick signed with Boston for $1.3 million. The Tar Heels still wound up with a sure-fire top 25 recruiting class—and maybe a top 15 class—but heading into the day it had a chance to be an elite class, and it wound up falling short of that distinction."

To read the entire piece, please click here.

Ty Linton was also a high school all-state linebacker in football and had been practicing with the Tar Heels.

Before coming to UNC, Linton said, "It’s always been a dream of mine to play at Carolina. And I’m going to be at Carolina unless life-changing money comes my way."

Selected in the 14th round by Arizona, evidently he got that life-changing money as the Diamondbacks gave him a $1.25 million signing bonus.

UNC football coach Butch Davis said the football program is disappointed to lose Linton to the Diamondbacks.

"We are always going to recruit talented student-athletes and Ty was a very good two-sport prospect in football and baseball. He had an opportunity at Carolina to pursue his education while playing both sports," Davis said.

"He was making significant progress in training camp and I believe he had a bright football future. After meeting with Arizona over the last few days, Ty and his family felt it was in his best interest to pursue a professional baseball career. We wish him the best of luck.”

Favre on a plane headed to Minnesota, or the story that never ends

The neverending drama surrounding quarterback Brett Favre took another turn minutes ago when he boarded a plane for Minnesota.

Reportedly, he has told a few fellow Minnesota Viking teammates that he is coming back for one more season - at least.

UNC's Boyd running with first team, well aware of opportunity

Jheranie Boyd is well aware of the uncertain status of North Carolina receiver Greg Little as the football season approaches. The preseason depth chart lists Little as the starting receiver and Boyd as No. 2, but in practice again Tuesday, Boyd ran with the first team

That’s a major switch from preseason camp in 2009, when Boyd was a true freshman piling up missed assignments and fumbling his way through the playbook.

UNC receivers coach Charlie Williams charts missed assignments – “MA’s” in the team lexicon – and Boyd had his share last year each week in practice.

“Last year I had at least five to seven missed assignments a week,” Boyd said Tuesday. He also struggled to grasp a UNC playbook that he said runs around 500 pages. Other parts of college football were new and different as well. For example, Boyd didn’t realize the team flew home after road games.

“I thought we’d spend the night,” he said.

Nope – college teams head for the bus and then the airport soon after the game ends.

But that just part of the learning as Boyd and two other true freshmen, Erik Highsmith and Joshua Adams, were thrust onto the field last season. UNC team that had three receivers - Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Tate and Brooks Foster – selected in the 2009 NFL Draft and entered last year with a stunning need at that position.

There were some spectacular moments for the freshmen, such as when Highsmith had six catches for 113 yards and Boyd had one for 59 in the 31-17 win over East Carolina. And Boyd had two long catches, both for scores, in the loss to N.C. State.

But overall, Carolina’s offense was marred by inconsistent efforts in 2010. Injuries to the offensive line and inexperience at receiver contributed to an uneven effort by quarterback T.J. Yates. Yates threw 14 touchdown passes but also 15 interceptions. In the ACC, only Jacory Harris of Miami had more, with 17. Carolina ranked 11th in the ACC in total offense (307.8 yards per game) and 10th in passing offense (174.9).

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fast start for UNC in college football recruiting

Romar Morris
Romar Morris.
College football recruiting rankings shouldn’t be taken too seriously – after all, Russell Wilson earned a mere two stars out of Richmond, Va. – but even so, North Carolina is off to a fast start this year when it comes to landing football talent.

Committing to UNC Monday was running back Romar Morris of Salisbury, who is listed at 5 feet 10 and 170 pounds. Both The N&O and InsideCarolina are reporting the commitment. Morris ran for 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior and also ran the 100-meter dash in 10.54 seconds in the state 2-A championship meet.

The Tar Heels already have 17 commitments before high school football season starts. That’s a huge number, considering that a school can’t sign more than 25 players in a given year and most recruiting classes are around 20-22 prospects.

UNC has commitments from one five-star recruit (offensive lineman Kiaro Holts out of Indianapolis), four four-star recruits and 11 three-star players, according to Scout.com.

The Heels have a whopping 10 players out of North Carolina.

N.C. State, by comparison, has five commitments total. Three are two-star commitments and the other two are not rated.

Keep in mind that players can not sign binding letters of intent until February.

Balmer dealt, but questions remain

Whether the deterioration of Kentwan Balmer’s situation with San Franciso was related to the NCAA investigation of UNC is hard to tell.

Balmer didn’t show up for practice last Monday or Tuesday. Tuesday was the day former UNC player Cam Thomas told The News & Observer’s Joe Giglio that Balmer had paid for the trip Thomas and Marvin Austin took to California in 2009.

Naturally, reporters were eager to ask Balmer what was going on. But by Wednesday, Balmer was a permanent no-show at the 49ers camp. The view from here seem to connect the NCAA investigation and Balmer’s reticence, but that might not have been the driving factor. Balmer, a No. 1 pick in 2008, couldn’t crack the 49ers starting rotation and apparently was unhappy with his status. San Francisco coach Mike Singletary said it was a “personal matter” and didn’t go further.

San Francisco traded Balmer to Seattle Monday for what the Sacramento Bee reported was a mere 6th-round pick. That’s awfully cheap for a decent defensive lineman and former first-rounder.

“We have strong connections to the 49ers and it is our understanding that Kentwan is ready to play football and in need of a fresh start,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said.

Sounds like he does. But if he thinks he’ll just move on to Seattle and dodge questions, he’s in for a surprise.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

UNC player who had scrap at N.C. State finds new maturity

CHAPEL HILL - Donte Paige-Moss has added nearly 40 pounds of muscle from a year ago. But his new strength is only one change for the Northside product as he enters his second football season at the University of North Carolina.

Paige-Moss said some setbacks last season led to a more mature attitude as he expands his role with the Carolina defense.

Paige-Moss, a sophomore, started his UNC career poorly by getting into a dorm-room fight last July. His true freshman season ended when he battled an N.C State player Nov. 28 and was suspended for the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

It was then, Paige-Moss said, that coach Butch Davis called him into his office to review what happened in Raleigh. “Coach Davis told me straight up that if I kept doing those things I wouldn’t be here in any more,” Paige-Moss said Thursday.

From then on, he said, “I changed my attitude on the field and off the field.”
Paige-Moss, sitting Thursday in the swank UNC football offices that overlook Kenan Stadium, knew what was at stake. He would have to harness the fighting instincts he had honed growing up in the Jones County town of Maysville, where he lived before transferring to Jacksonville as a high school junior.

“In that area, it was a lot of negative things,” he said. “Everybody didn’t make it out like I did.”

Many people he knew as a youth, he said, “are either locked up or dead.”

He found an outlet in football, and had a dominant career at Northside High. Scout.com ranked him the No. 1 defensive end prospect in the country, and SuperPrep and Parade picked him to their All-America teams.

“He’s a classic example of a guy who had phenomenal credentials.” Davis said recently. “Guys like him could literally dominate a high school game. He probably never played against somebody on the offensive line who was good enough to block him. But at this level, it’s not enough to rely on God-given ability.”