2016 NFL Preview: Jaguars Edition

Written by Ryan Catoe 

The Jaguars were very good in the 90s. The Jaguars have not been very good since then. You stop through Everbank Field and you’ll still see lots of Fred Taylor and Tony Boselli jerseys. That is mainly due to the fact that there haven’t been many known names in Duval. That changed this year.

With everybody’s favorite bro, Blake Bortles at the helm the future finally looks bright for Jags fans all over! Despite the constant “Oh, I didn’t know there were actually Jags fans” jokes, the Bold City Brigade has expanded to 27 chapters including prospect groups.

You give Bortles a stable of talented weapons and what was a stagnant talent-less group morphs into a lethal TD scoring machine…remember Indy? Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson will be wrecking AFC South defenses for years. Add in a healthy Chris Ivory and TJ Yeldon and you’ve got quite the offensive threat.

But let’s get to the predictions.

1.) Dante Fowler Jr will reach 10 sacks. He is going to make up for lost time and be a huge impact on what will be an entirely new defense.

2.) The Jaguars will make the playoffs as a Wild Card. The Colts will take the South by a game, but the Jags still get a Wild Card berth in a much improved AFC South.

3.) The Jaguars will finish top 10 in both total offense and defense. This team could be dangerous. (OR heartbroken as usual)

4.) The Jaguars will sweep the Tennessee Titans. Enjoy Mariota…and 4th place in the South.

5.) Blake Bortles will benefit from a more balanced offense and throw single digit INTs this season.

6.) Tashaun Gipson, 2016 Defensive MVP, will finish with at least 5 interceptions. It may not seem like a lot, but more than we’ve had in recent years.

I see the Jaguars finishing up this season at 9-7. I t’s a tough draw getting the NFC North and AFC West. Those game will be a valuable test to see how serious this up and coming Jaguars team is. For the first time in a long time, the Teal faithful will have a team in the playoff hunt late into the season. Here’s to the unknown and hoping I don’t eat crow in January. Duval til we Die!

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Remember the name…Deebo Samuel

 

By Ryan Catoe

There have been some talented wideouts that have graced the field at Williams-Brice. Sterling Sharpe, Robert Brooks, Kenny McKinley, Sidney Rice and more recently Alshon Jeffery. All went on to have NFL careers, with McKinley’s career being tragically cut short. This list is not including other receivers who spent at least some time in the NFL on a practice squad or active roster. Bruce Ellington, Pharoh Cooper, Ace Sanders, KJ Brent, Damiere Byrd, and Tori Gurley just to name several. Many analysts are saying the team is light at the wideout position at Carolina this year. However, I see a group that could absolutely destroy any expectations the national analysts and even Gamecock nation could have for them.

The issue most people see with this group is the lack of experience. This is noted as the top 3 receivers on the depth chart post-spring ball is as follows: Deebo Samuel, Jamari Smith and Bryan Edwards. These three young players alone are enough to give the team some excitement and hope not just for the future but for this season and seasons to come. And don’t forget about the remaining guys: Terry Googer, Christian Owens, Matrick Belton

Jamari Smith has been with the club for several years but has selflessly bounced around from position to position to help fit the team’s needs. He came to Carolina as a running back from Jacksonville Beach’s Fletcher High School. I was fortunate enough to catch a couple of his high school games…let me tell you, the kid is special with the football in his hands. He will take over at the slot position. After selflessly changing from position to position to help fill the team’s needs, it seems he finally found one that could really allow him to showcase his talents. He could lead to some explosive plays out of the slot position to allow for more big plays from Deebo and Edwards on the outside.

Bryan Edwards is a standout 4-star freshman receiver from Conway, SC. With a larger frame of 6’3 and 208 pounds he will give us some physicality on the edge that we have been lacking since Alshon left. He does also have enough speed at his size, 4.53 40-yard dash, to create some vertical challenges to opposing defenses. Edwards is benefiting from a growing trend of athletes registering for spring courses and being able to participate in spring drills and camp. You can already see a chemistry brewing between him and fellow freshman quarterback Brandon McIlwain. It was very evident in the beautiful touchdown pass between the two in the 2016 Garnet and Black spring game.

The man of the hour, the beast that will be unleashed on the southeast this year, Deebo Samuel. The physical mismatch he gives is an instant benefit to the younger QB corps that will take the field this year. He is a solid 6’0 and 205 pounds and gives the offense a viable threat to fend off the physical press corners and making things happen when routes fail. He has the ability to be the go to guy on an offense that is desperately looking for a play maker. Samuel has shown flashes when he was able to get healthy. Go back and watch the tape of the 2015 Clemson game. He seemed to always get open, and when there was coverage he was still able to find a way to move the chains and make the tough catch. Keep in mind that was against a very strong and formidable defense of Clemson last year. Good things just seem to happen when he gets involved with the game plan. He has had the off-season to get healthy and another summer to get a better grasp on the position and offense. This should allow the raw talented player to play the game faster, and to pick up on defensive keys.

Gone are the 2000 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns that Pharoh Cooper provided over the last two years. Gone is the player that could turn a 5-yard slant into a 90-yard touchdown. But it also means is that an opportunity has arrived. An opportunity waiting for a Deebo, Edwards or Smith to add their name to the long list of Gamecocks receivers who have found success not just in the SEC, but in the NFL. The time is now, and the opportunity is theirs. Can Samuel live up to the #1 on his chest? I believe that not only he can, but that he will. Gamecock nation…get ready for what could be a season full of growing pains, but also flashes of future greatness. The Spurrier legacy has ended and we are now in the Coach Boom era.

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The Outlaw Has Returned!

By Ryan Catoe

The outlaw is back in Tampa! This has been a brutal season for the Tampa Bay Rays. The aces have not lived up to the hype and the offense has not been able to make up for the lack of dominant pitching. You throw in some key injuries and you have got all the ingredients for a miserable season. Nothing that the team has inserted has been able to make up for the key losses that the team has faced through free agency, trades and injuries. The one very bright spot in the organization however, is Kevin Kiermaier. What do you lose in a player like the Outlaw when he is out? You lose the player who lead the majors in Defensive Runs Saved. He set the highest recorded number of 42 runs saved; the highest total since the stat has been recorded. He has some good pop in his bat, but he is a much more formidable defensive player than he is an offensive threat.

Could the sudden drop off in pitching have anything to do with his absence? Kiermaier was also the reigning AL Gold Glove AND Platinum Glove as well. The man is a walking highlight film in the outfield. When he is playing back in center, it immediately elevates both of the corner outfielders. The range that he can cover is almost untouched. If you ever get a chance to watch him play, you will not be disappointed. He makes playing the outfield an art. Hitters have even been fooled thinking they’ll have a stand up double just to be left confused walking to the dugout after a diving flyout. Home runs have become long outs. What should be an easy pop fly becomes a second thought. The Outlaw is an error eraser and can be the difference between a 3 run blooper and an easy out.

If you want to catch a glimpse of one of the elite center fielders in the big leagues check out this link.

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SpursUp! Q&A with Perry Orth

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Last year was a trying season for our beloved Gamecocks. We had not had a season like that in a long time. I think in the back of our minds we all saw the HBC stepping down within the next couple of seasons, but nothing could have prepared us for the way he left. It had been a QB by committee, but once Shawn Elliott took over, the team just had a different feel. There was a fight to them. Sure there were a bunch of tough losses, but the team fought every step of the way. QB Perry Orth was a perfect embodiment of coach Elliott and his mentality. Perry was able to throw for almost 2000 yards despite only logging considerable game time in 8 games. I was fortunate enough to ask Perry a couple of questions regarding his time at Carolina. #ForeverToThee

See the highlight of his big run at Texas A&M here

1.) Growing up in Rural South Carolina, we had talent, but I never realized just how different the talent levels were in other areas. I realized that when I first moved to Jacksonville and caught a Fletcher game watching your teammate Jamari Smith. How did that prepare you for the level of competition you face at the collegiate level?

Perry: Playing against top level high school football talent in Jacksonville helped prepare me for the next level because each and every week we were playing against at least two or three Division I players and possibly more. 

2.) What was it that attracted you to the University of South Carolina?

Perry: South Carolina gave me an opportunity to walk on and potentially earn a scholarship. And when Coach Spurrier calls you and asks you to play quarterback for him, the answer is usually yes. Then everything that comes with South Carolina football: the atmosphere, 2001, Sandstorm, and the tradition that Coach Spurrier built.

3.) What are some must-go places for students and athletes alike at USC?

Perry: Places I really enjoyed to eat besides the stereo typical chain restaurants. For lunch you can’t beat Andy’s Deli in Five Points, and for dinner, Pawley’s Front Porch has incredible burgers. 

4.) We lost a truly iconic figure in the Old Ball Coach, what is one of the memories that really stands out to you with Coach Spurrier?

Perry: With Coach Spurrier there are so many moments that I could talk about but overall it was his personality which separated him from your normal football coach. His sarcasm and jokes were as funny as they come. What you see in his interviews, is the exact same as how he is in person.

5.) Coach Boom…I’ll admit I was a little hesitant at first but his energy is contagious from a distance, just how influential has that been having that renewed energy in the locker room?

Perry: Coach Muschamp has got us believing. That’s what has made him so great so far. He is tough on the field, but as soon as we are off the field, he is one of our friends. He laughs and jokes with all the players and that goes for our entire coaching staff as well. We have a great relationship with them.

6.) The defense has taken its share of lumps, but there are plenty of talented athletes donning the garnet and black on Saturdays on the defensive side of the ball. Who is a player that you fear or respect the most on that side of the ball in practice?

Perry: I’m expecting Marquavius Lewis to have a big year. He has put in the work in the weight room and in the film room. He has got all the talent he needs to be a big-time player for us this season.

7.) Coming into Carolina with two of the greatest QBs statistically in the history of the program, you paid your dues and waited for your time to shine. How good did it feel to finally lead the team out as the guy?

Perry: Being able to start at quarterback for a school like South Carolina is a dream come true. It was incredible to play in the places that I did and in front of our fans, but losing all those games left a sour taste in my mouth. Fortunately, it has kept me hungry through the off-season to get ready to turn this season around.

8.) I think we can all admit that we love Coach Shawn Elliott. His passion is evident on the sideline each game. How did that assist in the transition during the second half of the season?

Perry: Coach Elliott’s style of coaching is very similar to how Coach Muschamp handles things. Working hard, attention to the small details. And playing with a fire and passion that the game of football is supposed to be played with. It was unfortunate we couldn’t finish some of those games that we were in because Coach Elliott is a phenomenal coach and will be a head coach again one day.

9.) If you had to pick one memory that really stands out in your playing career at South Carolina what would it be? A certain game, play or series?

Perry: Right now I would say the Kentucky game. Because it was my first opportunity to play consistently throughout a game. Storming back in the second half and coming just short of which would have been a 17 point comeback victory was very exciting to be a part of.

10.) Is there anything you want to say to Gamecock nation?

Perry: Expect our team to be more disciplined and play with a lot of energy! We are all ready to get back out there and get our program back on the map. 

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Rays Up! Player Spotlight: Taylor Motter

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This has been another forgetful season for the Tampa Bay Rays. In a season full of mediocrity, there have been several games where you hopelessly will turn on the tv to hope they can turn it around. But with the departure of some of our better players and injuries to Keirmaier, it has been tough to get into this season. With players like David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Ben Zobrist and Wil Myers a distant memory, there are several young players that could potentially provide a spark. (Before probably being traded for more prospects.) This is the unfortunate situation about being a Rays fan. Being a small market team we just do not have the funds to compete in free agency with the other teams in our division. That is not even counting the rest of the league.

A player I’m going to do a spotlight on today is Taylor Motter. The Rays drafted Taylor in the 17th round of the 2011 draft. Motter’s Alma mater Coastal Carolina is fresh off its first ever College World Series. Motter has had a rough start offensively in some forced mop up duty due to injuries. He has had some flashes, but has failed to put anything together so far. He’s played in 34 games and had 80 at bats. His batting average is a low .188. Motter has knocked in 9 RBI’s with 2 home runs. While the offensive numbers are not inspiring, he has flashed on the defensive side of the ball. Motter has logged playing time at the following positions: First Base, Second Base, Short-Stop, Third Base, Left Field, Right Field and Pitcher. He did all of this with only two errors. He has shown some good range, with a fairly strong-arm. Will he be the answer? Maybe. Is he going to be the next Zobrist? No. He is a serviceable utility player, but I think he will be a good plug and play player who can come in to give some of our starters some rest and fill in during injuries.

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Spurs Up!

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I will never forget my first game at Williams-Brice. It was a hot day in Columbia back in 2000. The Georgia Bulldogs were in town and were bringing Heisman hopeful Quincy Carter with him. Carolina had just ended the nation’s longest losing streak (21 games) to end Brad Scott’s tenure and start Lou Holtz’s. Us fans were hopeful, but were not expecting the upset that day. My step-mom had gotten us tickets and I still remember the excitement I had until this very day. We were tucked away in one of the corners of the lower bowl with all of the Carolina faithful.

Now I had witnessed 2001 on TV many times before, but let me tell you that nothing prepares you for the real thing. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning who had gotten exactly what they had wanted. The drums, the smoke, the roar of the crowd, many heart breaks would be created from this moment. I had been a fan since birth, but now I was hooked. I wanted to eat, sleep and breathe garnet and black. I wanted to know everything there was to know about the program and the players, past and present.

The game could not have been written any better. Derek Watson would finish the game a little shy of 100 yards rushing, and Phil Petty did not exactly light up the scoreboard. But let’s talk about that defense. They would harass Quincy Carter all game long, forcing him into bad decision after bad decision. They would pick him off 5 times throughout the game. There were not very high expectations for the squad in garnet that year. But it was filled with future NFL talent. Corners Sheldon Brown and Andre Goodman would each pick him off. Dennis Quinn, a defensive lineman, would add two more himself. Nothing that Georgia could do, could have helped them that day.

Carolina, despite a relatively quiet day offensively, would go onto win the game 21-10 behind Derek Watson’s 3 rushing scores. As the final second ran off the clock, the fans rushed onto the field. The goal posts were coming down! The fans were celebrating, and cheering leaving the game. Something that had been absent for the past several years. The team would go on to finish the season at 8-4 capping the season off with a smack down of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Outback Bowl. It was part of the turnaround of a losing franchise that was so desperate for success. That game was the moment that would cause my closet and drawers to be filled with garnet and black. The reason for late nights and what ifs. If we’d only beat Navy, if Jared Cook had not dropped that wide open pass against Auburn. So from now until my dying day, I am Forever to Thee.

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