Month: August 2021
Art McNally named Contributor Finalist for Hall of Fame 2022 class
Art McNally, often referred to as “The Father of Modern Officiating,” was selected as the Contributor Finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2022 on Tuesday.
The 96-year-old McNally would be the first official honored in the Hall of Fame if he were to be inducted next year.
McNally became an official in 1959, served as referee from 1960-67 and was supervisor of officials from 1968-1991. He oversaw the implementation of instant replay in 1986.
“Officiating is critical every day for those who work in the game, and the most important part of officiating is integrity,” said Hall of Famer Bill Polian, one of nine members of the Contributor Committee that selected McNally over 10 others.
“Art McNally first and foremost is a man of utmost integrity. … He set up a system of scouting, training and evaluating officials that is the gold standard for every officiating group in every other sport.”
After his initial retirement, McNally stayed involved and returned to the NFL as assistant supervisor of officials from 1995-2007. He worked as an observer through the 2015 season.
In 2002, then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue created the Art McNally Award, which honors a game official each season who exhibits “exemplary professionalism, leadership and commitment to sportsmanship” on and off the field.
To be elected to the Hall of Fame, McNally must each receive 80 percent of the vote by the full 49-member Selection Committee when it meets in early 2022.
Last week, former wide receiver Cliff Branch was selected the Senior Finalist and Dick Vermeil was tabbed the Coach Finalist.
–Field Level Media
Former NFL RB, college star Junior Coffey dies at 79
Former Atlanta Falcons running back and college star Junior Coffey has died. He was 79.
Coffey later became a horse trainer after his football career. The Thoroughbred Daily News reported he died Monday of congestive heart failure.
Coffey was an honorable mention All-American at Washington in the collegiate ranks and was one of the stars of the 1963 team that reached the Rose Bowl before losing to Dick Butkus-led Illinois. Coffey missed the Rose Bowl with a broken foot.
The Texas native initially wanted to play for a Southwest Conference school but the league wasn’t integrated, so he selected Washington. He led the Huskies in rushing in 1962 (581 yards) and 1964 (638) and finished with 1,604 in three seasons.
He later rushed for 2,037 yards and 10 touchdowns with three NFL teams between 1965-71. He also caught 64 passes for 487 yards and five scores.
Coffey was a seventh-round draft pick by the Green Bay Packers in 1965 and played sparingly.
The Falcons selected him in the expansion draft prior to the 1966 season and he rushed for exactly 722 yards and four touchdowns in each of the next two seasons. He caught a combined 45 passes.
He missed the 1968 season with a knee injury and totaled 511 rushing yards in 1969 while splitting the season between the Falcons and New York Giants.
He finished his career in 1971 with the Giants.
Coffey became a horse trainer in the state of Washington. According to the Thoroughbred Daily News, he won 174 races at Emerald Downs south of Seattle, including eight stakes races.
“Junior Coffey was one of a kind in so many ways,” Emerald Downs founder Ron Crockett told the publication. “He was an accomplished athlete, a talented horse trainer, a philosopher, a friend to many and most of all kind hearted. He was a trailblazer.”
Coffey’s final race as a trainer was a winning effort in September 2018.
–Field Level Media
Reports: Rams trade P Corey Bojorquez to Packers
The Los Angeles Rams solved their punter competition by trading Corey Bojorquez to the Green Bay Packers, multiple outlets reported Tuesday.
Four-time All-Pro Johnny Hekker will remain the Rams’ punter.
The Rams also send a 2023 seventh-round pick to Green Bay and get a 2023 sixth-round pick in return, per the reports.
Rams brass had maintained until Tuesday that they hadn’t decided on the Hekker-Bojorquez duel. Hekker has spent the past two weeks on the reserve/COVID-19 list but was in attendance Tuesday. Bojorquez was not.
Bojorquez was the third-highest rated punter in the preseason, according to Pro Football Focus. He averaged 51.9 net yards, including booting a 70-yarder. He put four inside the 20-yard line.
The Packers are expected to cut JK Scott.
Hekker has spent his nine-year career kicking for the Rams. He averaged a career-low 45.6 yards per punt last season. He made the Pro Bowl and was named All-Pro three years in a row from 2015-17.
–Field Level Media
Reports: Ohio St. QB Quinn Ewers lands $1.4 million NIL deal
Before ever seeing the field in a college game, new Ohio State quarterback Quinn Ewers is earning more than $1 million for his name, image and likeness.
GT Sports Marketing, a company that deals in athlete autographs, signed a multi-year deal with Ewers, multiple reports said Tuesday.
Ewers was the No. 1-rated quarterback in the Class of 2022 before he reclassified to 2021. He headed to Columbus early because in his home state of Texas, there were not yet laws in place for him to capitalize on NIL rights as a high schooler.
Action Network was the first to report the news. ESPN reported that the deal was worth $1.4 million overall and marks Ewers’ third NIL deal to date.
It’s unknown just when Ewers will begin to see the field for Ohio State. Redshirt freshman C.J. Stroud was named the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback for their season opener Thursday at conference opponent Minnesota.
–Field Level Media
Bills submit paperwork for new stadium by 2027
The stadium proposal to give the Buffalo Bills a new home in Orchard Park, N.Y., calls for completion by 2027, according to multiple reports on Tuesday.
Bills ownership, headed by Terry and Kim Pegula, have submitted plans for a $1.4 billion, 60,000-seat stadium to state and Erie County.
The number of seats is about 12,000 fewer than Highmark Stadium, the stadium in Orchard Park that has been home to the Bills since 1973.
According to reports, Pegula Sports and Entertainment is seeking public money to cover the majority of costs.
The Bills’ lease at Highmark Stadium expires in July of 2023. The Pegula group has expressed that it won’t negotiate a lease extension on Highmark Stadium until a new stadium deal is in place.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell recently said the Bills need a new stadium funded by a public/private partnership.
“You’ve got to think long-term here,” Goodell told the media at Bills legend Jim Kelly’s celebrity golf tournament on Aug. 23 in Buffalo. “This has been going on for decades, and it’s time to get a new stadium done that we can make sure the Bills are here and successful for many, many decades going forward.”
The proposed site for a new stadium in Orchard Park is close to Highmark Stadium, which has gone by a variety of names over the years, including Rich Stadium, Ralph Wilson Stadium and New Era Field.
The Bills, behind star quarterback Josh Allen, open the upcoming season at home on Sept. 12 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
–Field Level Media
Mississippi State seeking another strong start vs. Louisiana Tech
Mississippi State sent the first shockwaves through 2020’s strange season and is looking for more of those good moments starting this weekend.
Coming off a 4-7 campaign — 3-7 in SEC play, which tied Arkansas for the worst mark in the West Division — the Bulldogs will host Louisiana Tech on Saturday to start head coach Mike Leach’s second season in Starkville, Miss.
His tenure certainly opened with a high-flying assault.
Transfer K.J. Costello and the Bulldogs passed their way to a 44-34 road victory over defending national champion LSU on Sept. 26 as the former Stanford quarterback set an SEC passing record with 623 yards to go along with five touchdowns in the stunner.
MSU soon was grounded, though, dropping seven of 10 contests before wrapping it up with a 28-26 win over Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl, which was marred by a post-game brawl.
On Saturday, Leach will likely go with quarterback Will Rogers, who took over the job when Costello committed a number of turnovers and was also injured against Alabama on Oct. 31.
South Alabama transfer Chance Lovertich also is in the QB mix, but Leach gave an indication last week that he was leaning toward Rogers, a native of Brandon, Miss., two hours south of Starkville.
“If we were to play today, it would be Will,” Leach told the Clarion-Ledger. “It’s hard to tell. Difficult to say. We’ll see.”
A starter for six games, Rogers passed for 1,976 yards and 11 touchdowns with seven interceptions and became the first MSU quarterback to produce at least 30 completions in three consecutive games.
In Louisiana Tech — a Conference USA member also nicknamed the Bulldogs — Mississippi State will encounter a team coming off a 5-5 season and a 4-2 conference mark in 2020.
Head coach Skip Holtz’s squad returns 18 starters — 10 on defense, five on offense and three specialists — from last year.
On defense, linebacker Tyler Grubbs — the team’s leading tackler — started all 10 games and recorded at least nine tackles in eight of them, earning him four freshman All-American team selections.
“We don’t have the opportunity to have a rolling start with starting on the road against Mississippi State,” said Holtz, who holds a 61-41 record entering his ninth season with his Bulldogs. “We’ve got be playing at a high level early.”
–Field Level Media
Report: Jets trade TE Chris Herndon to Vikings
The New York Jets are trading tight end Chris Herndon to the Minnesota Vikings, NFL Network reported Tuesday.
The Jets are expected to receive multiple draft picks in exchange.
Herndon can step right in to replace Vikings starter Irv Smith Jr., who is having meniscus surgery on his knee this week and will miss the start of the season.
Herndon, 25, caught 31 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns in 16 games (13 starts) last season. He has 71 receptions for 796 yards and seven scores in 33 games (25 starts) since the Jets drafted him in the fourth round out of Miami in 2018.
After Smith’s injury in the preseason finale, coach Mike Zimmer acknowledged that Minnesota’s tight end depth was “not very good,” with Tyler Conklin, Brandon Dillon, 2021 fifth-round pick Zach Davidson and the undrafted Shane Zylstra on the roster.
–Field Level Media
Tulane’s challenges continue with tall order at No. 2 Oklahoma
Tulane coach Willie Fritz is trying to keep things in perspective as his Green Wave prepare to open the season with an unexpected trip to No. 2 Oklahoma on Saturday.
“We got a curveball,” Fritz said. “We’ve just got to adjust to it. Our players are really champing at the bit to play a high-caliber team like Oklahoma.”
The game was supposed to be played at Tulane’s Yulman Stadium, but Hurricane Ida forced it to be moved to Norman instead, although Tulane will remain the designated home team, for whatever that is worth.
The Green Wave left New Orleans on Saturday night, about 24 hours before the hurricane made landfall, and moved to Birmingham, Ala., to continue preparing for the game.
Saturday’s game might not be the only contest on Tulane’s schedule affected by the storm.
The Green Wave have another home game scheduled for Sept. 11 against Morgan State and then against Alabama-Birmingham on Sept. 25. Tulane’s campus is currently closed through Sept. 12, and in-person classes at the school aren’t scheduled to resume until at least Oct. 7.
For now, though, the Tulane football team’s focus is on the Sooners, a squad with sky-high expectations, especially after winning eight consecutive games to end last season.
“I feel like we’re ready to play,” Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said. “We’re ready to go play somebody else, ready to see what this young team is going to look like early in the season, how young guys are going to come along, the chemistry, adapting to all that’s new.
“We’ll get a good litmus test Saturday about where we’re at.”
The Sooners haven’t lost a nonconference game on their home field since falling to Ohio State in 2016 and haven’t lost to an unranked nonconference opponent anywhere since 2005.
Among the biggest reasons for optimism are the development of Spencer Rattler at quarterback and the improvement of the defense a year ago in the second season under defensive coordinator Alex Grinch.
Rattler enters the season among the favorites for the Heisman Trophy after coming on strong over the second half of last season, his first as a starter.
“Something I feel like I’ve gotten better at is just my decision making,” Rattler said. “Being more consistent. Not turning the ball over.”
After preaching the importance of takeaways since his arrival, Grinch’s defense finally forced turnovers in bunches late last season, getting 14 in the final six games after recording just 16 in the first 19 games of his tenure.
“A few years back, I would say it was just like, ‘Coach Grinch is just saying all these things,’ and we’re just like, ‘OK, we got to do this,’” Sooners linebacker Nik Bonitto said. “I feel like it really didn’t start clicking until those things actually started happening. Like once people started running to the ball, like, we’ve seen it can work. Once you start getting takeaways, we see it equals victory.
“A lot of those things that he preaches — once we started doing it, it all started coming into fruition and we started believing it and trusting in what he’s saying.”
–Field Level Media
West Virginia searching for road success at Maryland
If West Virginia is to open the 2021 season on a positive note, it must find a way to win on the road, something the Mountaineers could not do in 2020.
And they will have to stop a potentially potent Maryland offense in the process.
The Mountaineers look to avoid a fifth consecutive true road defeat on Saturday against the Terrapins at College Park, Md.
West Virginia went 6-4 last season, falling on the road every time. The Mountaineers outscored their opponents 182-65 while going 5-0 at home, but owned a 120-59 scoring disadvantage during those four away contests — all inside the Big 12 and against three ranked opponents.
Still, the Mountaineers have reason to feel confident with 17 starters back from last season. That includes quarterback Jarret Doege (7,446 career passing yards, 60 touchdowns, 22 interceptions in 33 games), running back Leddie Brown (1,010 rushing yards, nine touchdowns in 2020) and defensive tackle Dante Stills (13 career sacks).
“I like our team,” West Virginia coach Neal Brown said. “We’ve got to continue to get better. We’ve got a lot of things to clean up.
“I don’t know of any coach who has ever said they were pleased with where they are at.”
The Mountaineers yielded 20.5 points per game last season. They face a Maryland offense that returns 85 percent of its contributors from a group that showed offensive promise at times — combining for 80 points versus Penn State and Minnesota — during its condensed 2-3 2020 season.
Alabama transfer Taulia Tagovailoa is once again the focal point for the Terps after throwing for 1,011 yards with seven touchdowns, but also seven interceptions, in his first season at Maryland. Meanwhile, receivers Dontay Demus and Rakim Jarrett could make for a potentially explosive pair after combining for 41 receptions, 617 yards and six touchdowns in 2020.
Defensively, Maryland safety Nick Cross has recorded 68 career tackles and three interceptions in two seasons.
“It’s time for us to take the next step as a program,” said Maryland coach Mike Locksley, aiming for the program’s first bowl appearance since 2016.
“It’s time for us to stop talking about potential and actually go out and do it.”
West Virginia has won nine of the last 10 meetings versus Maryland, although they last met in 2015.
–Field Level Media