Remember Friday's mailbag and to get in your NASCAR picks for the contest.
From the "Talks to much" studios, let's picture Rock City and click our heels and say, "There's no place like Gnomes. There's no place like Gnomes."
NFL combine issues
We covered potential combine headturners on Tuesday. We covered the quarterbacks on Wednesday.
Today, let's pretend the 5-at-10 is a chief talent evaluator. Here's a look at five cats who we would be taking a long look at or have a long chat with because we believe they have a bright NFL future. Plus, you have to scale these guys — it'd be easy to say, well, we want to scout Luke Joeckel, Jarvis Jones, Barkevious Mingo and Cordarrelle Patterson because we know those guys are good.
No, these are some of the guys that will be available after day 1 who could be longtime NFL contributors.
• David Ricky Rogers, Tennessee Tech: Yep, the man you Johnny Vols Fans know better as Da'Rick will be at the combine and has the physical tools to be a No. 1 receiver for most NFL teams. It's pretty easy to say that Rogers needs to convince clubs he's ready to be a professional as opposed to acting the fool. It's also pretty important.
• Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina: We'd make a special point to check his rehab and his progress. The leg injuries he suffered against Tennessee last October could mean you could get first-round value in the third-round if he returns healthy.
• Sean Renfree, Duke: The Cutcliffe-trained quarterback is going to pass the mental tests with flying colors. That said, before we would spend a pick on him, he's going to have to show he can move the ball across the field and into tight spaces at least on an average level. It's great to understand all of the stuff going on during any given pass play, but if you can't do most of the stuff required, well, those guys make great coaches. Ask Steve Spurrier. (Side note: Get ready for a lot of Andy Dalton comparisons with Renfree.)
• Phillip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn: A guy who contributed what ever was asked and who missed a big chunk of the season with injuries, Lutz has the make up of a longtime NFL tight end.
• Robert Lester, Alabama: Not sure how he'll test in the running drills, but we know this: If you played DB under Nick Saban and Kirby Smart, we believe you have an NFL pedigree.
We were thinking about the start of the new spring season starting on Friday and were about to type, "The new phone books are here, the new phone books are here." It's a line from "The Jerk" which we believe to be one the Rushmore of underrated comedies ever. It gets some love, but it's rarely mentioned among the best ever and it should be. It's that good and it's the movie manifesto of Steve Martin, who is surely a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Where were we? Oh yeah, underrated things and spring training games. Amazingly, there is nothing more overrated that spring training stats. Nothing. Guys hitting .450 against pitchers who are wearing Nos. in the 70s and who may be spending the summer in Chattanooga, Rome or Jackson. No thanks.
Here are three under-the-radar things to watch for this spring for your Atlanta Braves, who start spring training exhibition games Friday (when the new phones books arrive):
• The relationship between catcher-and-pitcher. Brian McCann will be sidelined most of the spring and his return for Opening Day is at best a 50-50 proposition. So with David Ross gone, meet Gerald Laird, the Braves' answer behind the plate for the start of the season.
• How many times the Braves regulars strike out. We like the additions of the Upton family — and if Atlanta could find a way to insert Kate Upton in the lineup, attendance would really skyrocket — and think the Braves potentially have one of the three best lineups in the National League. It's also an order that could set a new mark in strikeouts. Putting the ball in play and getting on base — even against the weaken pitching of February — will be a nice start.
• Who steps into the everyday leadership role. This just in — Chipper Jones retired last year. Tim Hudson is the elder statesman of the bunch, but it takes a special cat to be a leader as a starting pitcher who works every fifth day. We want to see if Freddie Freeman steps into the leadership role (we think he can and will), and if he does will he become just Fred Freeman?
Average John's Gym
Kentucky coach John Calipari channeled his inner-White Goodman and had the Wildcats playing a little Dodgeball on Tuesday to relieve a little stress before Wednesday's key win over Vandy.
Nice move by a guy that has always been regarded as an elite recruiter but has always been a little underrated as a coach.
The results were a more relaxed team — was that a Ryan Harrow sighting? — and a big win for a UK team that is trying to re-establish its NCAA resume in the wake of losing Nerlens Noel. We believe the Wildcats to be on the bubble with an inside track to the Dance.
We believe the same about UNC.
We're looking forward to StuckinKent sharing his bubble-watch teams some time today. With that in mind, here are three games this weekend that are of huge, Huge, HUGE import for the teams involved. We're committed to looking at bubble games each Thursday from now through Selection Sunday. Deal? Deal.
• Tennessee going to Texas A&M — The Vols have to keep rolling and any road win is a good win in February. The Aggies' chances are fading and would be snuffed with a home loss.
• Marquette at Villanova — This likely is an elimination game for Villanova.
• Missouri at Kentucky — Kind of a Mad Max Thunderdome kind of game: "Two teams enter, one team leaves" feeling good about their NCAA chances. Side note: Coach Cal is going to get his team ready for the road test with a game of Whiffle Ball.
This and that
— Mike Tyson is suing Live Nation for $5 million on the grounds the financial services firm embezzled from the former heavyweight champ. We think Tyson should win this ruling on sheer principal; what's the over-under on how much money Tyson has had taken from him by agents, hangers-on, et al.? We'll stat the bidding at $50 million.
— The Lakers honored longtime owner Jerry Buss, who died earlier this week, with a nice win over Boston on Wednesday night. That's all we have because ESPN has the market cornered on Lakers' updates... Wait, we think Dwight Howard may be grumpy this morning; let's get a reaction to how Kobe's going to deal with it and whether Mike D'Antoni is handling that exchange properly. Yes, that was typed in a sarcastic font.
— Of more NBA import was the 46 points Beard Harden dropped on OKC. Hey, the Thunder are going to be in the thick of this thing until the end, but there will come a key moment some time in late spring that the absence of James Harden will leave the Thunder cloudy.
— Nice win for Kansas, prevailing at Oklahoma State in double overtime. Each of those teams will be top-four seeds; neither would finish in the top four of the Big Ten.
— Today's the NBA trade deadline. Just passing that along.
— Remember the Hit and Miss Daytona 500 contest. Send us who you think will win and where Danica finishes. You could win stuff.
We were asked for the mailbag, "What's your Oscar-style list of sports movies — best picture, best actor, best actress, supporting actor, supporting actress?"
We'll share our answer tomorrow, but we thought everyone would like to share their views on this one.
Enjoy, and discuss.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...