Duch­ene at fore­front as camps open

Dayton Daily News - - SPORTS - NHL

Three yards and a cloud of dust? Not good enough, not this year for the Big Ten.

In a con­fer­ence that has long re­lied on the ground game, the Big Ten cur­rently av­er­ages 4.66 yards per rush. That’s only fourth-best among the Power Five con­fer­ences, but the Big Ten also has seven run­ning backs aver- ag­ing more than 100 yards a game — tops among 10 Bowl Sub­di­vi­sion leagues. At the mo­ment, seven of the top 25 rush­ers in FBS are from the Big Ten; at the end of last sea­son, there were only two.

The yards might be harder to come by once con­fer­ence play be­gins in earnest, but in an age when many col­lege teams seek vic­tory through the air, the Big Ten has so far found the surest route to be on the ground.

“Teams want to run the ball,” Ne­braska coach Mike Ri­ley said. “You might win the game if you throw for 350 yards, but if you’ve run for 350, you prob­a­bly won the game.”

Wis­con­sin true fresh­man Jonathan Tay­lor leads the con­fer­ence with 310 yards in two games and is aver- ag­ing 8.9 yards per carry.

“Cer­tainly Jonathan has done some good things in his first two games, and we’re re­ally glad we got him,” said Bad­gers coach Paul Chryst, who re­cruited Tay­lor out of New Jersey.

An­other true fresh­man, J.K. Dob­bins of Ohio State, is av­er­ag­ing 126.5 yards per game and had 181 in the opener against In­di­ana, a school record for a fresh­man.

Even the quar­ter­backs are get­ting into the swing of things.

Brian Lew­erke has thrown for 411 yards and four scores, but he’s also Michi­gan State’s lead­ing rusher with 150 yards.

Penn State run­ning back Saquon Barkley is av­er­ag­ing 9.3 yards per at­tempt and stands third in the Big Ten with 260 yards rush­ing, be­hind only Tay­lor and Tre Bryant of Ne­braska (299 yards).

Penn St a te’s run-pass op­tion at­tack pro­vides just enough bal­ance to keep op­pos­ing de­fenses guess­ing what might come next. The Nit­tany Li­ons have gone nine straight games with at least 30 points, and Barkley is a big rea­son why.

“We ’re not just go i ng to hand the ball to him 35 times,” Penn State coach Jim Franklin said of Barkley. “When he runs the ball, he’s go­ing to be run­ning into a good look. Then he’s got to have the abil­ity to make that one free de­fender miss. Over his ca­reer, he’s been able to do that.”

Rookie quarCLEVELAND — ter­back DeShone Kizer didn’t have to wait long to fig­ure out what the AFC North is all about. He andthe Browns lost 21-18 to the Steel­ers in the opener last week and will play the Ravens and their bruis­ing de­fense in Bal­ti­more on Sun­day.

“Wel­come to the NFL,” Kizer said. “Wel­come to the AFC North. This is what we signed up for when Cleve­land de­cided to bring me in here. I’ve been do­ing a lot of prepa­ra­tion up to th­ese games to try and learn as much as I can about this divi- sion and schemat­i­cally what teams like to do. Now, go­ing against Bal­ti­more and Pitts­burgh, I will learn quickly what it takes to win in this con­fer­ence.”

Browns coach Hue Jack- son, who was Ravens QB Joe Flacco’s po­si­tion coach in his rookie year in 2008 and again in 2009, knows what Kizer is about to ex­pe­ri­ence at M&T Bank Sta­dium, where the Ravens are 54-18 in John Har­baugh’s nine sea­sons. The Ravens are also com­ing off a mon­ster de­fen­sive per­for­mance in a 20-0 vic­tory over the Ben­gals in which they picked off Andy Dal- ton four times and sacked him five times.

“They’re com­ing,” said Jack­son. “That’s the big- gest thing I can say to him. This young man is go­ing into un­charted ter­ri­tory for him. Go­ing into Bal­ti­more, the sta­dium where it will be loud, a good de­fen­sive foot­ball team, on the road, di­vi­sion game. There are a lot of sub­plots here, but the big­gest one for him is pre­par­ing and be­ing ready for what­ever comes at him.”

Jack­son, who also spent

Even with two years left on his con­tract with the Colorado Avalanche, Matt Duch­ene’s sit­u­a­tion is any­thing but sim­ple.

With his name in trade talks at the dead­line and then again at the draft, Duch­ene went about his busi­ness play­ing for the NHL’s worst team. But after an­other off­sea­son of gen­eral man­ager Joe Sa­kic not mak­ing a move, Duch­ene is un­happy in limbo and now train­ing camp has ar­rived.

Un­like the NFL, where four sea­sons with the Ben­gals, knows how to set the ta­ble for Kizer in the AFC North.

“My job is to cre­ate the en­vi­ron­ment for him along with (quar­ter­back coach David Lee) and the rest of our of­fen­sive coaches. ... Then he has to go do the work. If he’s what I think he is, then he’ll rise up to the chal­lenge and play the way I know he can play.”

Har­baugh knows how well Jack­son will pre­pare Kizer. When Flacco was a rookie, Jack­son coached him to a 13-6 record and a berth in the AFC Cham­pi­onship Game, where they lost to Pitts­burgh.

“We have a lot of re­spect for Hue Jack­son,” said Har­baugh. “No­body has more knowl­edge or has had more suc­cess with de­vel­op­ing rookie quar­ter­backs than Hue Jack­son. ... (Kizer is a) su­per tal­ented, su­per smart, you can tell, a poised passer, big-arm guy, true pro-style quar­ter­back. We are just pre- hold­outs are com­mon­place, it’s un­prece­dented in the NHL’s salary-cap era for a player un­der con­tract not to re­port to camp, and Sa­kic has said he ex­pects Duch­ene to be there. But it’s prob­a­bly the strong­est lever­age the $6 mil­lion cen­ter has to ef­fect change as in­ter­est swirls from teams like the Hur­ri­canes, Preda­tors, Blue Jack­ets and two-time Stan­ley Cup cham­pion Pen­guins.

“I’m not the GM, so who­ever Joe and the staff de­cide to put on the team, I know it’s go­ing to be for the best and it’s go­ing to make us bet­ter,” Avalanche for­ward Nathan MacKin­non said. “With Duchy, I’m not sure what the sit­u­a­tion is ex­actly. par­ing for that. That’s what we ex­pect from DeShone Kizer.”

Flacco said Jack­son knew how to pre­pare him as a rookie.

“He was a very emo­tional guy and gets you ready to play in a very con­fi­dent way,” said Flacco. “He al­lows you to go out there and play fast, and free, and wants you to go out there and play with emo­tion and let it all go. His coach­ing style and his of­fen- sive phi­los­o­phy al­lows the quar­ter­back to do that.”

Jack­son ac­knowl­edged that he can ap­ply some of those lessons to Kizer.

“We played Pitts­burgh three times that first year ... but there were lessons in there that I’m sure (Flacco) used later on to get to where he is today,” said Jack­son. “DeShone is go­ing through that now. He played Pitts­burgh last week. Here we go again on the road against Bal­ti­more. That is not an easy task.

“The sched­ul­ing sure I know there’s trade ru­mors and things like that, but he’s not traded as of today and he’s my team­mate, so (we’re) get­ting ready for him to be on the team this sea­son.”

Duch­ene be­ing in Colorado’s open­ing night lineup Oct. 5 at the Rangers is far from a cer­tainty. The Avalanche are in re­build­ing mode after their 48 points were 21 fewer than the next-low­est team, and at age 26 Duch­ene is their best trade chip in the hopes of land­ing a young de­fense­man.

Here are more things to watch as NHL camps open:

If the Is­lan­ders don’t sign cap­tain John Tavares by July 1, he can be an un­re­stricted

Tavares watch:

isn’t nice to us, but that’s OK be­cause the growth that he’ll get out of th­ese two games and grow­ing as a foot­ball player, as a quar­ter­back, as the leader of this foot- ball team, as a guy in the locker room and as a guy who is the face of this orga- niza­tion, this is what it’s all about. This is how you build a quar­ter­back.”

You also build a quar­ter­back by mak­ing him come to work at 5 a.m. Kizer re­vealed that he’s a “crack of dawn guy” and that he’s in bed by 9 p.m.

“I can’t let him beat me in the build­ing,” said Jack- son. “I guar­an­tee he wasn’t acrack-of-dawn guy be­fore, but that’s changed. He is a stay-late-at-night guy, too. ... This is go­ing to be­come who DeShone Kizer is, and he un­der­stands that. That’s the com­mit­ment you have to make to this foot­ball team and this or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

It’s also what he needs to do to pre­pare for the Ravens. Sacked seven time s and picked off once last week, he faces ar­guably a bet­ter unit this week.

“It’s o ne of the best de­fenses we’ll play all year,” said Jack­son. “Their front seven is as good as any­body. (Line­backer C.J.) Mosley is play­ing as good as I’ve seen him play. Ter­rell Suggs looks like he’s found the foun­tain of youth all over again. The two in­side tack­les are as good as there is in foot­ball.

“We’re look­ing for­ward to go­ing down and ac­compa- ny­ing the chal­lenge that is go­ing to be laid be­fore us.”

When Kizer gets back home, he’ll have a pretty good idea what AFC North foot­ball feels like, bruises and all. free agent. His sit­u­a­tion will be a never-end­ing story line made com­pli­cated by the Is­lan­ders’ un­set­tled ar­range­ment at Bar­clays Cen­ter in Brook­lyn. The smart money ison Tavares try­ing to shove con­tract dis­trac­tions aside in camp but wait to sign an eight-year con­tract later.

Un­signed, un­sealed, un­de­liv­ered:

Six re­stricted free agents re­main un­signed: Bos­ton’s David Pas­tr­nak, Colum­bus’ Josh An­der­son, Colorado’s Nikita Zadorov, Detroit’s An­dreas Athana­siou, Min­nesota’s Mar­cus Foligno and St. Louis’ Pet­teri Lind­bohm. Also, Jaromir Jagr and Jarome Iginla are tal­ented, un­signed gray­beards still wait­ing for a call.

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