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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

G.T.'s '10 (individuals) for Tuesday'

By Greg Taylor          Send a link to a friend

[October 16, 2007]  This week, we feature individuals who have grabbed our attention -- either for outstanding performances on the field and court, or for questionable decisions or statements made about the teams they are affiliated with. As always, we welcome your feedback:

1. Devin Hester: Last season, Hester exploded upon the NFL scene with ridiculous results -- six return touchdowns and a kickoff return touchdown to start the Super Bowl. The second-round pick from Miami proved many, including myself, dead wrong -- he probably should have gone in the first round! Yesterday, it was the Devin Hester show in the Bears' loss at home to a bad Minnesota team. Hester returned a punt for a T.D., giving the Bears their first points of the game. And then, with the game on the line, Hester received a pass in stride and went 81 yards for the first receiving score of his NFL career. Even with this Superman-like effort, the Bears still found a way to lose. But this much I know -- Hester needs to get more and more touches each week. He might be the best weapon in the NFL!

2. Adrian Peterson: The rookie running back from Oklahoma carried the Vikings to victory with a 224-yard, three-touchdown effort -- the greatest effort ever against a Chicago Bears team. But his biggest play of the game was his kickoff return of 60 yards following the Hester touchdown reception to snatch momentum from the Bears and put the Vikings in a position to kick a game-winning field goal. Peterson was passed up by several other NFL teams in last year's draft and might be the best running back in all of the NFL -- right now!

3. Tom Brady: I don't know if you have paid much attention to the debate over who is the best quarterback in the NFL (it's taking place all over the Internet and on the Eastern Sports Priority Network), but Brady stepped up against the only undefeated team left in the NFC and said, "I'll take the tag!" How about a career-high six touchdown passes? How about shredding a Dallas Cowboy defense (sorry, Scott Siltman and Mike Seitz) that looked pretty good for the first five weeks of the season? There is nothing like backing up what the experts are saying about you with a career-best effort -- and while I love Peyton and admire the Mississippi wonder (Favre) -- I must agree, right now, Brady is the man!

4. Clint Hurdle: Some of you are saying, "Who is Clint Hurdle?" And don't worry, many casual sports fans know little or nothing about the Colorado Rockies manager. But right now, he is leading a team that looked absolutely dead and buried with 13 games to go in the regular season. All Colorado has done since that time is win 12 of their final 13 games to tie for the wild card. Then they beat San Diego for the wild card. Following a three-game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies, they quickly won four straight against an Arizona team with the best record in the league to secure a spot in the World Series. I'm no math major (although I'm married to one), but by my math, that is 21 wins in 22 games. Not bad for a guy many wanted to see fired back in late summer.

5. George Steinbrenner: Let me get this straight -- the owner of the New York Yankees, aka "The Boss," is going to fire the best manager in baseball (Joe Torre) over the past decade because the Yankees didn't beat Cleveland in the first round of the playoffs? Sound like a smart move to you? I didn't think so, and it leads to my next question for "The Boss": Who exactly are you planning on hiring in his place? Dusty Baker? Oh, wait -- he just signed on with the Cincinnati Reds. Joe Girardi? I love him, but he has just one year of managerial experience under his belt. Tony La Russa? He can't decide if he is staying or going in St. Louis. I don't know about most of you, but I think I'd keep Torre for as long as he wants to stay.

6. Jerrance Howard: Let me give you a news flash. Illinois basketball recruiting has been one of the most talked about and whined about subjects in all of central Illinois. The Illini have failed to secure so-called big-name recruits despite some serious success on the court during the Bruce Weber era. And three weeks ago, when assistant coach Tracy Webster left for Kentucky and was replaced by former Illini reserve Jerrance Howard, the haters came out of the woodwork. Weber was castigated by many fans, and predictions of continued recruiting failures in the future were all but guaranteed. However, on Thursday everything changed in a huge way in what might be the single biggest recruiting day in Illinois basketball history. Not one, not two, but three stud guards from the class of 2009 committed to play for Illinois, and we can't help but throw a lot of the credit in Howard's direction. Who are these players? How about D.J. Richardson, a 6-3 combo guard from Peoria Central. How about Brandon Paul, a 6-4 guard from Gurnee Warren who exploded on the scene this summer. And how about 6-5 wing Joseph Bertrand from Sterling, who many feel is the best prospect in Illinois in the class of 2009. All three will be top 100 recruits, and Bertrand could well land in the top 25. Not bad for a day's work, eh? Congrats to Weber, Howard and Illinois hoops.

(Postscript, late Monday evening: Yet another high school star from Illinois, 6-9 Chicago Simeon center Stan Simpson, class of 2008, committed to play for Illinois.)

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7. Kelvin Sampson: Go ahead and take a seat -- stunning news just around the corner. The coach at Indiana, Sampson, has been accused and has acknowledged illegal behavior in recruiting. Again. The guy who made over 500 illegal phone calls at Oklahoma is up to his old tricks again! And while the colors of Crimson and Creme make me nauseous -- especially when it comes to college basketball -- one thing Indiana has always stood for is doing it the right way. Like him or hate him, Bob Knight always did things by the book when it came to recruiting. Even though he was a disaster on the court, Mike Davis seemed to be a by-the-book kind of guy. And I can't think of a greater contrast to Knight than Sampson. I must admit that many of the Hoosier fans I interact with want no part of Sampson and are ready to see him go cheat somewhere else. The question is, What will the NCAA do? And don't forget who the president of the NCAA is at this time -- Miles Brand. And his former position? That's right -- president of Indiana University.

8. Ron Zook: From coach of the decade, as many were calling for last week, to bum who knows nothing about the game, the rise and fall of the Zooker illustrates how fickle and unfair fan bases can be. But coach Zook did seem to struggle under the pressure in the Illinois game at Iowa -- a stunning 10-6 loss that stopped a five-game win streak. Twice Zook accepted penalties on Iowa, thus giving Iowa a chance to continue their drives, instead of forcing field goal or punting situations. And both times the Illinois defense was burnt -- once for a game-changing touchdown pass. Throw in a sloppy formation penalty that negated an 82-yard touchdown pass that would have given Illinois the lead late in the game, and Saturday was far from Zook's finest at Illinois. However, all is not lost. Hopefully, the coach will have the team's undivided attention as they prepare for a prime time date with Michigan on Saturday in Champaign. Wouldn't it be great to see Illinois beat Michigan at Memorial Stadium for just the second time since 1958?

9. Juice Williams: The Illinois quarterback continues to keep his starting job despite the worst passer ratings in the conference. With Eddie McGee right on his heels, it's time for Juice to step up. Iowa showed the entire conference how to stop Illinois -- stack the defense to stop the run, and force Illinois to pass. Juice couldn't get it done Saturday, and many more days like that might lead to a change in starters. A groundswell of support is already present for McGee. It's time for Juice to hit open receivers and make the plays needed for Illinois to win games.

10. Dr. Jerry Buss: The Lakers owner is actually considering trading Kobe Bryant to another NBA team. Word on the street is the Bulls are seriously considering the Lakers' offer. While I'd love to see the best player in the NBA come to Chicago, how do you allow this to happen if you are Dr. Buss? Since letting the Shaq go, the Lakers have struggled to get out of the first round of the playoffs. Now you want to let Kobe go? Can you can the lottery?

10a. Ed Bacon and Mike Mallick: These guys are men of the cloth by day but marathon machines after work (which starts at about noon every day for these two -- J). Seriously speaking, these guys ran the Chicago Marathon in absolutely brutal conditions and finished nonetheless. And Bacon didn't get enough -- he's running the Indianapolis Marathon this Saturday as an encore.

Have a great week, everyone. By next Tuesday, we will know who will be playing in the World Series, and we'll be gearing up for the first weekend of high school football playoffs.

[Greg Taylor]

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