Sports Fodder: Burton could carry the Wolf Pack
February 8, 2013
Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .
It is time coach David Carter pulls point guard Deonte Burton aside and tell him to take over the Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team. Carter, the ultimate pass-first point guard when he played for St. Mary’s in the late 1980s, still clings to the notion that the point guard has to make his teammates better and has to use them all. Well, that just doesn’t work on this team. Burton is the Pack’s best player by far. Let him show it. He’s the only Pack player with ice water in his veins that doesn’t wilt under the pressure of close games. Carter needs to simply turn Burton loose and let him play as if it is an summer AAU game down in Los Angeles. It’s the only way to salvage this season.
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The problem with this Pack team is that it is simply a collection of shooting guards and small forwards and post players who think they are shooting guards and small forwards. There is very little toughness, both mentally and physically. Everyone just wants to shoot jump shots except, of course, in the final minutes of the game when nobody wants to shoot. Hardly anyone wants to rebound or dive on the floor for loose balls. This is a roster filled with kids from Southern California and the knock against Los Angeles-area players has always been that they don’t play with any grit and toughness. They are all dunks and 3-point shots and You Tube highlight videos. It’s time this team proves that notion false.
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It would appear that Wolf Pack football coach Brian Polian has put together a poor man’s version of a BCS recruiting class. This is a guy who spent the last decade or so recruiting for BCS schools, chasing size and speed. Well, at Nevada you can only get one or the other. So Polian went for speed. It was a good choice. College football now is all about speed and playmakers, players that can get into the end zone on offense and those who can run down their mental mistakes on defense. The Pack didn’t have enough of either in 2011 or 2012 and the result was a pair of 7-6 seasons.
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The one big question mark in Polian’s first recruiting class is the lack of running backs. Stefphon Jefferson is leaving the Pack a year early for the NFL, leaving the team void of any real experience at the position. Polian only signed one running back on Wednesday and he really didn’t even do that since that back (ex-Sacramento prep star Don Jackson) signed last fall as a junior college transfer.
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If you had any doubt that the Chris Ault era was over at Nevada, you didn’t after Wednesday. Polian’s main objective with his first recruiting class was to balance the Pack scholarships on offense and defense. Ault always went wild for skill guys on offense and left the roster waited heavily on that side of the ball. Polian signed 21 players on Wednesday and just one was a quarterback, one was a running back and none were listed as a wide receiver.
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Every coach has his favorites, though, and Polian is no exception. Polian recruited this past month as if he was still the special teams coach he has been the last dozen years or so. He signed a lot of guys listed as “athletes,” and that is just a polite way of saying they don’t have a position. Ault overloaded his roster with running backs, wide receivers and quarterbacks. Polian overloaded on kick and punt returners and guys who can tackle kick and punt returners.
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It’s been almost a week and the San Francisco 49ers’ last four offensive plays in the Super Bowl still leave you scratching your head. The 49ers had quarterback Colin Kaepernick throw three consecutive passes from the 5-yard line to the same receiver (Michael Crabtree) in the same area of the field. You have one of the greatest running quarterbacks in NFL history, one of the best running backs in the NFL (Frank Gore), one of the top offensive lines in the NFL, you’re going up against a tired defense that is missing its best run stopper tackle (Haloti Ngata) because of an injury, and you throw three passes in a row?
Joe Santoro is a freelance writer for the Sierra Nevada Media Group.