published Monday, February 24th, 2014

5-at-10: Dale Jr and NASCAR win the weekend; Cuonzo does not

It makes perfect sense that 10 days ago there was 8 inches of snow on the ground and the weekend was that nice. Perfect sense. In Haiti.

All of us in the Chatta-Vegas were winners this weekend because of the weather. But not everyone lives in Chatta-Vegas — poor them.

From the "Talks too much" studios, somewhere Dale Sr. is smiling. And drinking a beer.

NASCAR wins big

  • photo
    Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88) races during the NASCAR Daytona 500 Sprint Cup series auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The No. 3 started on the pole. An Earnhardt was in victory lane. With the possible exception of the six-hour rain delay, NASCAR could not have scripted a better opening weekend.

Dale Jr., long the sports most popular driver, looked the part of the kid that was supposed to be the next great driver by winning the Daytona 500 late into the night Sunday. It was a victory that was hard not to enjoy, the kid looking older than we remember and the driver looking better than ever.

Maybe it's time. Maybe it was a flash in the pan.

Either way, it was a big Sunday for a sport that needed a big debut in the worst way.

————

Draft combine

The ultimate winners and losers from this weekend's draft combine won't truly be known until the first week in May.

But the running and lifting and jumping and (limited) throwing that has happened in Indy and that will continue today and Tuesday is shaping the draft class and the perceptions of those in it. And in no other place in sports is perception as close to truth and truth as valid as perception as in the draft.

It's part of its charm and at the heart of its enigmatic core.

We love the draft. You know this.

Here are our takeaways from the combine (and the answer is absolutely, we watched more of this than just about any other sporting event this weekend):

  • photo
    Jadeveon Clowney
    Photo by C. B. Schmelter.
    enlarge photo

• There was a punter who benched 225 more times than Jadeveon Clowney. That seems less than good. Miami punter Pat O'Donnell benched 225 23 times; Clowney did it 21.

• Former Auburn tackle Greg Robinson, the highly regarded 320-pound tackle, ran faster than Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron.

• Mike Evans, the former Texas A& wide receiver, made himself some money on Sunday by running a sub-4.6 40 at 6-5, 235ish. He also looked effortless catching the ball. Dude looks like a surefire No. 1 receiver.

• There was a lot of talent at wide receiver. A lot. Evans looked great, as did former Clemson star Mr. Sammy Watkins and Kelvin Benjamin. Also, Brandin Cooks was legit fast and Odell Beckham may have jumped into round 1. Know this, as more and more high school teams convert to spreads and passing games become more and prevalent, the old-school, pro-style quarterbacks are going to be more rare. The reverse of that is there will be more and more polished and explosive wide receivers. Add that fact to the knowledge that the overall value — and career span — of running backs is dwindling every year, more and more talented and athletic guys who would have been tailbacks a decade ago are lining up wide. This — starting with Megatron an AJ and Julio and Co. — could be the golden age of wide receiver.

• Best line from a lineman: Louis Nix on dropping 20-plus pounds to get to a svelte 331 at 6-2, "I just feel sexier." Here's his exchange according to CBSsports.com: A quick sampling:

On why he lost 23 pounds:

"I enjoy my weight. But people wanted me down, so I lost it ... My stomach doesn't stick out as much. That's nice. I just feel sexier."

On if he'll stay slimmed down after he's drafted:

"If they want me to stay, I'll stay. If they want me to get sexy, I've got it."

When a reporter asked how his knee, the source of some concern, is feeling:

"How's the knee? It's fantastic. How's your knee?"

There are a lot of the numbers and drills that mean very little when it comes to making plays on Sundays in the (cue Ron Jaworski...) THE NATIONAL Football League. Offensive linemen rarely need to run 40 yards to go make a play. Doing a slew of bench reps would be more helpful in the National Pushup League than the NFL. But, here's the kicker about these drills: Every player knows they are coming and whether they are prepared to do their best at them speaks volumes about the player. It even speaks more than the results in most of the drills

———

College hoops questions

We have three questions from the final February weekend of college basketball. Do you have answers? (OK, that was not one of the questions, but we still have three, so don't hold that one against us)

Giddy-up.

1) Which is real: UTC of January or UTC of February? The answer may be somewhere in the middle, too. It's a clear and important discussion that we can have as the days dwindle. But March will be short if the latter of the options is closer to valid.

2) Why did Jim Boeheim get a pass for costing his team a chance at beating Duke and for completely losing it? If that had been a player would we have shrugged and giggled in his press conference as he reviewed his storming of the court? If he had been an assistant and said he would never regret his actions, how would his boss take that? Please. He acted the fool and laughed it off. If one of his players had done the same — and remember, he's paid seven figures, is in the Hall of Fame, and is supposed to be setting an example — Boeheim likely would have suspedned him. Double standard indeed.

3) Did Cuonzo Martin and the Vols play themselves out of the tournament? Wow, how painful was that loss. Also, if Martin's Vols are left without a Dance card, is there any way we can reasonably expect The Conz to be back next season?

OK, that may be more than three questions, but still. Discuss.

———

This and that

— Want to know the four fastest words to make us change the channel of an NBA game? "LeBron will not play" are an automatic clicker caller.

— Congrats to the Canada hockeyers for winning the gold. Molsons and Egg McMuffins for everyone. And thank goodness the Olympics have come and gone.

— Jason Day survived a brutal match play final with some French fellow getting up and down from the parking lot late Sunday to win the Accenture Match Play. It was fun, although the delays in match play can make it tough to get through at times.

— We talked last week about the job Frank Wren is doing for the Braves. Now consider the Yankees signed Brett Gardner for what Wren paid the best closer in the game. Well-played indeed.

———

Today's questions

Knock yourself silly on any of the college basketball items above?

Have it.

Or go nuts on an old-school Monday free for all.

Go.

about Jay Greeson...

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 ...

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
MocTastic said...

With all the Danica Patrick Richard Petty public bickering the last week, anybody notice what car hit Danica forcing her to the wall and out of the race? Number 43, made famous by Richard Petty and owned by Richard Petty Enterprises. Don't mess with the King!

The Mocs are capable of playing good or bad, it has been that way all season. They are like an engine from a MG or Triump British sports car. Everything has to be working perfect or it will sputter and leak oil. There have been good days and bad days. There will much more good than bad days in the future. Get your sunglasses ready for upcoming seasons.

The small number of Clowney reps on the bench press may say more about his heart, or lack thereof, than his pectoral and arm muscles.

I think many of us duffers can relate to Victor Dubission yesterday, we are used to playing out of the junk and rocks. I was hoping for a different final paring, but that was a fun watch yesterday.

February 24, 2014 at 10:15 a.m.
chas9 said...

Does it snow in Haiti? Does anything make sense in Haiti? Would Jay lose 23 lbs. to get sexier?

Hot. Cool. Yours. That is all.

UK is happier with its close win than UT is with its close loss, but there's no way a 7-7 LS&U should take the Wildcats to OT at Rupp. Even with Randle and Willie, Kentucky can't handle skilled big men like O'Bryant, and even with all-everything twin guards, they can't handle quick little guards who can shoot.

So The Cats' likely ceiling for The Dance is elite eight. But it's all about the match-ups.

Weeds covered The Vols' story well. He leaves the door open a crack for Cuonzo's cagers, but Jerry Palm's brackets have Mizzou in, with Arkansas among the first four out, meaning they could be the league's fourth team, not UT. Frankly, I think that's nuts. The Hogs will not dance.

Wild stat: After Florida, Kentucky and Gawga, there are 7 SEC teams bunched at 7-7. Can't stir 'em with a stick.

With those assets, why isn't Auburn's Robinson playing defense? Or going both ways? Think how many times he could've sacked AJ in the Iron Bowl.

February 24, 2014 at 10:35 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Jay,

Big D weather was paradise yesterday. Seventies for both Saturday and Sunday. Nothing of major. Got to go running, some B-B-Q-ing but nothing sexy. Did take a nice drive out to Richardson for some Cabo beer-battered fish tacos at Taco Ocho. It's a big deal because the drive from Irving to Richardson from 635 is longer then Middle Valley to Gunbarrel.

But they're THAT good!

Moving on..

XY Mocs in February is more realistic. Simply because they still have the long stretch to master. While XX Mocs have the conference title on paper, they still hav to win the tournament in order to get the at-large bid. And even after the brackets are decided, will this be the actual year they break into the Sweet 16?

February 24, 2014 at 10:49 a.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent —

So I pretty much no longer believe in Tennessee. That being said, Lunardi STILL has Tennessee as one of his Last Four In in this morning's update. So much for having to go 12-6 in SEC play to get into the NCAA Tournament.

I'm beginning to wonder if 10-8 would be enough. I'm also beginning to wonder if the Vols will get to 10-8.

February 24, 2014 at 10:51 a.m.
chas9 said...

Stuckey--I suspect Lunardi is all alone on that island, and there's a typhoon coming. Also suspect The Vols will have lost faith in themselves and won't hit 10-8. But they are nothing if not unpredictable.

But Davy Crockett's home state will be represented by Belmont, MTSU and Memphis, it appears. Remember the Alamo!

And Tennessee may not have raw milk, but you can easily cross state lines and smuggle it back.

February 24, 2014 at 11:32 a.m.
patrickd said...

With the first pick of the draft, Al Davis from the grave picks Dri Archer.

February 24, 2014 at 11:34 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

Georgia Southern QB Jerick McKinnon also outrepped Clowney at the combine and turned in a sub 4.5 time in the 40. Some team is going to get itself a mid-round steal with McKinnon. Great athlete. Great kid, too.

5, as for the Olympics, I'll miss most of it. Though not Johnny Weir. When it comes to the U.S. men's hockey team, all I can think is "Do you believe in epic fail? Yes!" Shutout in back to back games after rolling through the prelims. No goals. No medal. As Gorilla Monsoon once said to Bobby Heenan, "You, sir, are without gold. Again."

Think the 88 hauler was rocking last night?

February 24, 2014 at 11:36 a.m.
MocTastic said...

Re: Johnny Weir. Gay athletes, and gay people in general, ask us to consider them as just normal people. I try to do that. Then comes along Johnny Weir and honestly, he reinforces the stereotypes we are told to ignore. They can't have it both ways.

If this is too political JG, just delete.

Bispy, McKinnon's position in pro football?

February 24, 2014 at 11:52 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

MTastic, I couldn't care less what Johnny does away from my TV set. But I know strippers with less makeup and glitter.

McKinnon likely will be a running back. I see him being a Darren Sproles-type. Don't forget he played quarterback, slotback, B back and when the team was out of defensive backs, he played cornerback in the playoffs and had two picks in one game.

I watched Dubuisson win the Turkish Open a little while back and came away impressed with his game and his mental makeup. That was a loaded field he shot past to win. We probably will only get to see him a few times a year on American TV, probably at the majors, a couple of other events and the Ryder Cup. For now, at least.

February 24, 2014 at 12:31 p.m.
chas9 said...

MocT--My gay friends are plain vanilla, and they would have no problem with you rolling your eyes at Johnny Weir. There are truths to stereotypes, but the key is don't assume stereotypes about any single person. Get to know them. And TV loves spectacles of any kind.

February 24, 2014 at 12:39 p.m.
jgreeson said...

MT —

The biggest takeaway we have with the combine is are you prepared. This is a monster job interview for seven-figure salaries. Did you give yourself a chance to succeed? If you are not prepared for this, you can't be counted on to be prepared for Sundays.

And yes, the Mocs' future is bright.

Nice tidbit about the Patrick-Petty ongoing feud.

9er —

The mercurial nature of your Cats is puzzling. They are the second biggest bracket-buster in this tournament. Could lose in the first weekend, could make it to Dallas.

JMC —

Weather was awesome here too. And Foster's XX Mocs could be a double-digit Sweet 16 participant for sure.

Stuck —

Welcome to the party.

PDavi —

Where you been? And Al would draft Logan Thomas (fastest QB time), Archer and Brandin Cooks with his first three picks.

Speed kills... (like what happened to the Raiders' playoff chances).

Spy —

Yes, your Flyin' Eagle was quite impressive in the drills. He'll be one of those 8-10 year guys that makes plays on special teams and third down. Helps when they are good kids too. Where'd he grow up?

MT (part II) —

No need to delete. Sure they can have it both ways. Everyone has it both ways — Rodman doing Rodman things; Sheen; Prince; Lady Gaga; Elton John; Ali being Ali. There are tons of famous people who are eccentric regardless of whom they see or whom they are attracted to.

But yes, Johnny Weir made Liberace look like Mike Tyson.

And yes, Spy knows some strippers.

February 24, 2014 at 12:44 p.m.
fechancellor said...

MocTastic, I read in this here newspaper Saturday that King Richard, when asked if he would race Danica one on one, responded he would need some time in a car. Well, maybe in a Hendricks prepared machine, King Richard. This has a Bobby Riggs v. Billy Jean King feel.

10 Ring, I wonder if you've ever done one of your Rushmores on the so titled kings of sports? This is only an example, King Jerry Lawler.

A final word or two, I done said Conz is gonz after the Mizzo debacle.

February 24, 2014 at 1 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

5, a few. Maybe a couple. OK, maybe more than that.

Young Mr. McKinnon is a proud graduate of Sprayberry High School, making him a product of the Cobb County School System.

February 24, 2014 at 1:09 p.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

Concur.

FE to the C —

Absolutely it has a Riggs-King feel.

As for a King Rushmore: Richard "The King" Petty, Apollo "The King of Sting" Creed, Jerry The King Lawler and Dave "King Kong" Kingman will be our rough draft.

Spy —

Thought that young buck was a former local product.

And with a Cobb County Schools System background, if the NFL doesn't work, he can fall back to a job at NASA.

February 24, 2014 at 1:33 p.m.
Stewwie said...

The b-ball Mocs had a more favorable schedule during their conference-opening winning streak. The past few games, however, have been against the tougher opponents and the 50/50 games on the road. The one bad game the Mocs have had in this stretch is the letdown against GSU at home last week. These next 2 games are all but must-win if the Mocs are to finish in the top 3 and on the opposite side of Davidson in the tourney. The guys know what's at stake...I think they'll step up and take care of BID-ness.

Agreed that McKinnon will be a nice pickup for someone in the draft.

February 24, 2014 at 1:54 p.m.
dawg747 said...

Ten Cup: If the Cobb County Education does not get Mr. McKinnon into NASA he could always be a Sports Editor/Radio Personality!

Glad Junior finally got off the non-winning bandwagon. Maybe he can start to live up to his hype.

February 24, 2014 at 2:02 p.m.
Buschleague said...

5- About that combine on Saturday..

-Do you have a 'Crash' Greeson -Lee 'Nuke' Greeson -'Greeson Lightening' -Hammerin Lee'

Less desirable.. 'Ned'..?

-'Ned'

February 24, 2014 at 2:42 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

RIP, Harold Ramis.

February 24, 2014 at 5:41 p.m.
Maximus said...

I got it, unionization of college sports especially college football will make everything......fair. An example, the union will ask a guvment agency to create a national clearing house of high school football talent that would evaluate all the high school players in the country and the evenly and fairly distribute the talent to all NCAA teams. This would prevent mean old guys like Nick Saban from flying around all over the country to "unfairly" sign top level recruits.

Yes it is gonna be great because everyone knows you can rely on the guvment to do the right thing and unions, love, love, what they did to Detroit! Lol!

February 24, 2014 at 7:58 p.m.
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