Tuesday, July 17, 2007

One man's Newport news

The news and notes from Tuesday's Big East Media Day in Newport will be in the Register. But here's a few other observations and impressions I took away the festivities:
  • The second annual Runway best dressed award was a close call, but the nod this year goes to UConn's own Dan Davis, looking dapper in a phenomenal black pinstripe suit. I congratulated Dan on his choice, and he said he'd been hearing compliments all morning. Runner-up goes to Rutgers Ray Rice, who wore a black suit similar to Davis'. But Rice lost points for the neon green pinstripes. A little much. Wish I took a picture.

  • All reports are that Tyler Lorenzen's knee is fine. Randy Edsall expects him to be ready to go come August 5. In other quarterback news, Edsall said Dennis Brown enunciated better in the huddle this spring. During his two starts back in 2005, Brown had trouble with his voice infliction. As then-offensive lineman Grant Preston reportedly said after returning to the sidelines that year, "Coach, no one knows what the (expletive) he's saying!" Not the case any more. "They're understanding that Florida twang a little better," Edsall said.

  • Edsall couldn't comment on Notre Dame transfer Zach Frazer, per NCAA rules, because he's not yet enrolled in classes. He'll be there by August 5.

  • Here's what Edsall had to say about James Nixon, "He didn't make it, went to prep school and still didn't make it. In a situation like that, we stood by him and everything else. In my opinion, I just didn't think, based on the whole story, and all the information we had, that it was going to be a productive situation for him or for us and it was better served for him to pursue other options." Edsall explained he's willing to take chances on borderline academic kids if he sees they display a work ethic and willingness to be successful in the classroom. In a scenario in which it appeared more and more likely Nixon would be an ongoing academic liability, Edsall felt it would be best to allow Nixon to pursue his career elsewhere. Nixon and his family, as reported earlier in the Register, said the feelings were mutual.

  • Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, who threw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium before a game with the Mets on June 15, said he's a lifelong Yankees fan who was in the upper deck nosebleeds the night Reggie Jackson belted three homers against the Dodgers in the 1977 World Series. Schiano was able to relay the story to Jackson, whom he met at the Stadium before the first pitch last month.

  • I needled West Virginia's Steve Slaton last year for sounding like he just woke up during a conference call with Connecticut media in October. Well, Slaton was a much better interview this time around. Outgoing, chatty, insightful. Only this time, Slaton looked like he just rolled out of bed with his new hairstyle. Think Don King without the gray. Hope he keeps his helmet on for TV interviews.

  • New Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe must have spent last night brushing up with his coachspeak dictionary. No cliche went unturned. I stood at his table for nearly 10 minutes, and wrote nothing. Oh, he did say that the plan is for Brian Brohm to start at quarterback while backup QB Hunter Cantwell would be on the sidelines next to him. Stop the presses.

  • Dan Davis and about 20 teammates are taking karate lessons this summer with a man known only as "Sensei". But I was disappointed to hear the guys aren't rocking the white karate suits at the dojo. Too bad. As was mentioned earlier in the press conference by Edsall, the captains will take some burden off Edsall by handling the disciplinary aspects of those late to meetings and workouts. How great would it be if they did this while walking around campus in custom-made karate suits like the Cobra Kai? It's not too late. I'm starting a collection. We need to make this happen.

  • Sorry to focus on Davis so much, but he was chock full of great information Tuesday. One thing he learned from "Sensei" is you can figure out everything about your opponent with one glance into their eyes. Davis was even so kind as to demonstrate on Neil Ostrout from the Connecticut Post with a quick, hard glance. Personally, I thought Neil displayed the eye of the Tiger. Davis thought otherwise. He said he could see Neil was already defeated and wouldn't have stood a chance. Hang in there, Neil.

  • Larry Taylor is playing mentor to Robert McClain and teaching him everything he knows about returning kicks. He thinks McClain will make a seamless transition when he inherits the job on a full-time basis in 2008.

  • Brian Brohm may wind up being the No. 1 pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, but I think West Virginia's Pat White will be the most valuable quarterback in the Big East again this season. White, incidentally, was a 27th-round pick of the L.A. Angels in the June baseball draft. He was a fourth-rounder out of high school.

  • You get a lot of time to think about ridiculous things when making a long drive (.... in case you didn't notice). Listening to an array of CDs on the way back from Newport, I decided that if I was a major league closer, my entrance song would be "Wicker Man" by Iron Maiden. Perfect tune for that situation. Worth an out just on intimidation alone, especially if cued up to the "Your time will come" chorus. Some in the bigs needs to adopt this tune, ASAP. They'll immediately become the best in the game.

  • The restaurants in Newport are overpriced and overrated. That's all there is to it. Been coming here for a few years now and still haven't had a decent meal. I gave up today and had lunch at Applebees, which, surpsrisingly, has an amazing new appetizer. The crispy onion rings, which come doused with a smattering of fresh grated Romano cheese, are simply delightful. I felt like I was re-enacting the final scene of the Sopranos by inhaling whole onion rings like communion wafers. In fact, there may have been a suspicious-looking dude in a Member's Only jacket nervously glancing over at me from the bar while "Don't Stop Believin'" was playing on the jukebox. All that was missing was a sudden fade to black. Or maybe I was delirious from devouring the whole plate in 60 seconds flat. I think that's it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Breaking news! Runway blog has confirmed: Mailbag on tap today

A few random thoughts and observations before some reader mail.

  • The recruiting websites have finally "confirmed" Sio Moore's commitment to UConn. Guess it's official now. I can't argue with the logic. After all, those direct quotes from Moore published in the New Haven Register and on the Runway saying he commited to Randy Edsall last week weren't quite concrete enough. We needed their stamp of approval, through third-party sources, mind you, not by speaking directly to Moore, to "confirm" he's headed to UConn. We can all rest a bit easier.

  • Anyone else catch "The Bronx is Burning" on ESPN last night? I didn't mind it. John Turturro really channeled Billy Martin. It was almost spooky. The guy playing Reggie Jackson does a fair job, too, aside from the ridiculous afro wig and fake moustache. I think Entourage's Vinny Chase used the same wardrobe man to become Pablo Escobar in "Medillin". Did they find Thurman Munson's twin brother to play the Yankee captain? That was really spooky. Liked that it was filmed in New Haven and Norwich, too, and they used a lot of local baseball players and coaches as extras and body doubles. East Hartford's Jimmy Gonzalez plays Chris Chambliss, Norwich's Roger LaFrancois is Bobby Cox, Milford's Jared Rohrig is Dave Kingman, etc. ... On the other hand, the director did a horrible job of making a real connection with the Son of Sam scenes, which didn't mesh well at all with the baseball story. But I'll watch it again.

Is this Thurman Munson, or the actor playing him on the Bronx is Burning?

  • How about Alex Rios in the Home Run Derby? I covered Rios during his remarkable 2003 season with the Double-A New Haven Ravens. Aside from Jose Reyes, he was the best player I saw in six or so years covering minor league baseball. He was a five-tool player who never got credit for his power despite the fact that he was probably the best power hitter in the Eastern League. He didn't hit a lot of homers back then (at age 21) because he was so good at keeping his hands back and driving frozen ropes into the gaps, the ball simply didn't get high enough off the ground to clear the fences. But if a pitcher left a fastball up and inside, he'd take it 500 feet. Get used to seeing him at the All-Star Game.
On to the mail bag.

Question: Hey Chip. How are you.....My name is Tito.I know you from Twilight baseball in West Haven a few years back. My question to you is....Is Uconn football heading in the right direction for the big time? I was under the assumption that that was the intention, but it doesn't seem that way. -- Tito Martinez

Answer: Hey Tito. I remember you from the Twilight League. You played a mean third base. I think the program has made the maneuvers to enter the big time. Rentschler Field and the new practice facilities are as good as any in the country, and certainly have them headed in the right direction. It's sort of a "If you build it, they will come" recruiting philosophy. Coach Edsall has said the quality of recruit will improve with first-rate facilities in place. Well, everything is complete now. The coaches aren't selling recruits on blue prints and construction sites anymore. The facilities are finally finished. Only time will tell if the quality of players increases. But landing types like Jerrell Miller and Zach Frazer, who come in highly touted, will help. Of course, hype only goes so far with recruits. They have to prove themselves on the field.

Q: Maybe i just missed it but why is there nothing by anybody at the Register about the Zach Frazier transfer. There is little to no news this time of year about football and you missed that? That is very sad. You know he was one the top 15 recruits in the nation according to some publications. Maybe i should write it for you. Stunning. -- Bill Shaw.

A: Yes, you missed it...them actually. But thanks for thinking of me. I assume you aren't a subscriber, so here's the standard schpiel. The Register doesn't publish every story from the print edition on our website. For example, the Frazer stories and Monday's Sio Moore story aren't available online. I guess they want to give the people who actually pay for their daily subscription a little bang for their buck. Seems reasonable. Yes, news is limited this time of year which is why I've kind of put the blog on hiatus the last few months. But when there's football news, it gets into the print edition. Leave your address or a fax number, and I'll send you all my Zach Frazer stories. You can put them in your scrap book.

Question: What else can you tell us about Sio Moore? Haven't seen much else about him. Will be be a linebacker or is UConn planning to use him elsewhere? Thanks. -- Jay.

A: UConn wants Sio as a linebacker, even though he hasn't played the position since he was a freshman in high school. He's big, strong and athletic, the perfect makeup for the position. He's obviously an under-the-radar type, but that's mainly because he spent last season as a fullback, blocking for a talented sophomore named Kevin Fogg, who rushed for 1,554 yards and 16 touchdowns. Moore had one game where he got carries, and went for 160 yards on 20 carries with a couple of TDs, and caught a 25-yard TD pass in another. But that was about it. UConn wasted no time with an offer after watching him at their camp, which says they must have been pretty impressed with where he is and what they think his potential might be.

Big East Media Day starts Monday in Newport, R.I. Got any questions? Send them to cmalafronte@nhregister.com.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Sio soon; Moore commits for 2008

UConn received an oral commitment from Snorsio Moore of West Haven. Moore, who goes by "Sio" (pronounced SEE-oh), is returning to West Haven after playing high school ball in North Carolina the past two seasons. Here's the story I wrote than ran in Monday's Register.

West Haven’s Snorsio "Sio" Moore can relax a bit after making two significant decisions this past week.

First, he gave an oral commitment to attend the University of Connecticut on a full football scholarship. A 6-foot-2, 215-pound linebacker, he is the sixth commitment for Huskies coach Randy Edsall for the class of 2008.

On Saturday, he decided to transfer back to West Haven after spending the last two years attending school at Apex (N.C.) High, where he played fullback.

“Me and my mom went up to UConn last Sunday, and we were both blown away,” Moore said. “We sat down with coach Edsall and the coaching staff and they made me feel at home. What impressed me the most is the way they went about their business with both football and academics. I shook his hand and said I’m ready to commit.”

Moore grew up in West Haven and attended West Haven High as a freshman before heading to North Carolina to live with his sister and attend high school. He wrestled with the decision to return to West Haven full time for his senior year, going back and forth several times before settling on a return home.

When Moore left for North Carolina, he was 5-11 and 175 pounds. He’s grown into a physical specimen though hours of hard work in the weight room. He says he currently squats 455 pounds, benches 330 and power cleans 315 while maintaining above average speed (his 40-yard dash time is 4.57) and a world-class vertical leap (39.5 inches).

East Carolina recruited him last season, but never offered a scholarship. It was only when Moore attended football camps at Temple and UConn this summer that he truly began to draw attention. Both schools offered him scholarships after seeing him work out.

“I didn’t really play any defense last year,” Moore said. “We needed some help on offense, so I played fullback. But I’ve always looked at myself as a defensive player. I played outside linebacker at West Haven, and some inside. But linebacker is where my heartbeats at.”

At West Haven, Moore will be a welcome addition to a team that went 9-2, qualifying for the CIAC Class L playoffs last fall. Among those Moore will be lining up with for the Blue Devils is his cousin, O’Brien Johnson, also a linebacker.

“Every summer for the last two years I came home to West Haven and looked up a lot of those guys,” Moore said. “I’m excited. West Haven is a great program, and there’s a lot of fire power there.”

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Follow-up with Nixon

I spent the last four days in Dallas at a friend's wedding, with most of Monday spent in transit trying to get home while working on a tip about James Nixon not qualifying for UConn. Not an easy thing to do when you don't have a lap top and are stuck waiting out weather delays at Dallas/Fort Worth airport thanks to the Old Testament-style rain/hail/thunder storms that have been rolling through Texas over the last few weeks. Here's the story, in case you missed it.

Most of the facts are the same, aside from one. In short, Nixon plans to attend a community college this fall to begin accumulating college credit and to work on his test scores. He plans to play football in college -- track is not his primary goal -- though UConn will not be part of his future. Several schools, including Rutgers, have been in contact with Nixon already, and once he gets a qualifying score on the SAT or ACT, he'll be at a Division I-A program. Check the story in Wednesday's Register for all the details.