Education

  • Press release
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The first meeting of the Polk Retired Educators Association (PREA) was kicked off by the new President, Andrea Sorrells, who discussed the plans for the new season.

This was supposed to be the year Drew Lock mastered Josh Heupel’s offense, but the third-year starter is completing just 50 percent of his passes and leads the SEC with five interceptions. He’s guided the Tigers to just one touchdown on their last 25 possessions and gone 22 straight series without visiting the end zone. The last two weeks, Barry Odom’s staff expected more from Lock, who’s 7-16 as a starter. “We expect him to play at a really high level and be able to efficiently move the team down the field and protect the football,” Odom said. “I think he can be a lot better.”

This was supposed to be the year Drew Lock mastered Josh Heupel’s offense, but the third-year starter is completing just 50 percent of his passes and leads the SEC with five interceptions. He’s guided the Tigers to just one touchdown on their last 25 possessions and gone 22 straight series without visiting the end zone. The last two weeks, Barry Odom’s staff expected more from Lock, who’s 7-16 as a starter. “We expect him to play at a really high level and be able to efficiently move the team down the field and protect the football,” Odom said. “I think he can be a lot better.”

  • By Jason Turner sports writer
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Utah State’s football team has lost 11 straight road games, dating back to a 56-14 shellacking of Fresno State on Oct. 10, 2015.

  • ZACH LENTZ T&D Correspondent
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The No. 2 Clemson Tigers (3-0, 1-0 ACC) will look to continue their perfect season and march back to the playoffs this week as they play host to Boston College Eagles (1-2, 0-1 ACC) at 3:30 p.m. (ESPN 2).

CHICAGO – If the Chicago Bears team that faced the Atlanta Falcons in the season opener shows up to play Pittsburgh on Sunday, it can upset the Steelers.

If it’s the team we saw in Tampa last week, spend the day on your “honey do” list because the football could get ugly.

There is some good news for the Bears going in, as it appears guard Kyle Long, wide receiver Markus Wheaton and cornerback Prince Amukamara will all be making their season debuts.

Unfortunately, Nick Kwiatkoski definitely won’t go at inside linebacker, and guards Josh Sitton and Tom Compton will be doubtful and questionable, respectively.

If Sitton and Compton are ready, this will be the best version of the Bears we’ve seen yet.

The Bears' problems will start with the Steelers' big three – quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown – who are among the best in the league at their positions, and will be exacerbated by one of the best offensive lines in football, featuring All Pros Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro at center and guard, Pro Bowler Ramon Foster at the other guard and one of the biggest players in the league, 6-foot-9, 320-pound Alejandro Villanueva, at left tackle.

Like the Bears, the Steelers have a few injury concerns. One break the Bears will catch is Pro Bowl right tackle Marcus Gilbert will be unable to go, and there is a noticeable drop-off to backups Chris Hubbard and Jerald Hawkins.

Bell is off to a slow start after sitting out the preseason in a contract dispute and reporting Sept. 1.

He did, however, get 27 carries and four receptions Sunday vs. Minnesota, and you have to hope this isn’t the week he breaks out.

Roethlisberger has been known to struggle on the road, and he is for the most part a stationary target in the pocket who can have trouble with big pass rushes.

If the Bears' front seven can bring consistent pressure with a potential soft spot at right tackle to attack, there could be an advantage.

If the Bears can’t create pressure, they’re in big trouble because as good as Brown is, 6-4, 211-pound Martavis Bryant is back on the other side and can be even scarier. The Steelers have great depth at receiver, too, with Eli Rogers, Justin Hunter, rookie Juju Schuster-Smith and Darius Heyward-Bey.

It’s a good day for the Bears to have Amukamara, Kyle Fuller and Marcus Cooper all available, and it will be interesting to see how they are used, as Fuller has played well enough in relief of Amukamara to stay in the starting lineup.

As good as Pittburgh's offense can be, the Steelers are 29th running the ball and 32nd in average gain per rush through two weeks, but they are 11th passing and 10th in average gain per pass.

On defense, five technique Cameron Heyward (son of former Bears fullback Greg “Ironhead” Heyward), linebackers Ryan Shazier and Bud DuPree and safety Sean Davis are the players the Bears have to focus on taking away.

First-round pick and younger brother of J.J., T.J. Watt, who was the star of the Steelers' Week 1 victory at Cleveland, will be out with a groin problem.

The Steelers have been rebuilding this group for several seasons, and at 2-0 they are eighth against the run, fourth against the pass, second in QB sack percentage and third in points allowed playing the shaky offenses of Cleveland and the Vikings without Sam Bradford.

Pittsburgh has only two takeaways in two games but has turned the ball over only once.

There is no question the Steelers are the better team here and worthy of being a touchdown favorite, but if quarterback Mike Glennon takes care of the football and the Bears' front seven can win the battle at the line of scrimmage, the Bears will have a chance to surprise.

• Hub Arkush is executive editor of Pro Football Weekly. Write to him at harkush@profootballweekly.com, and follow him on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.

  • Randy Reinhardt rreinhardt@pantagraph.com
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Those tuned in to the Sept. 2 football game in Columbia, Mo., witnessed Missouri State forge ahead of big brother Missouri, 35-34, late in the second quarter.

Join Arthur Arkush in cracking the second of his two Week 3 six-packs, with items on Cam Newton and the Panthers; the Vikings without Sam Bradford; the Falcons' and Lions' running backs; and two clubs dealing with early adversity, Dallas and Arizona, meeting Monday night.

Sunday, when the Saints visit Carolina, marks Cam Newton’s 101st real NFL game, but his first without All-Pro TE Greg Olsen.

Nearly 22 percent of Newton’s career 23,643 passing yards and 1,854 completions come with Olsen, who’ll miss extended time with a broken foot, on the receiving end.

And Newton wasn’t playing well with Olsen on the field. The 2015 MVP has just 399 passing yards and two touchdowns to one interception, though Carolina is to 2-0.

Newton, recall, missed the offseason and most of camp while recovering from shoulder surgery following a horrible 2016 regression. It was invaluable time to gel with “point guards” Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel, who were brought into create more easy “layups” for Newton.

Newton missed a layup Sunday vs. Buffalo that would’ve resulted in McCaffrey’s first NFL touchdown, but the quarterback’s still-pedestrian completion percentage (59.6) is up more than a point from his career average (58.4) and barely off his MVP accuracy rate.

Far more important to his fantasy owners is Newton’s running, and as expected, it’s already way down from his MVP season and even slightly below the rate amid his 2016 struggles.

Newton averaged 8-39-.63 rushing in 2015 and 6-23-33 last season, and he’s at 5-15 so far in 2017. Only in ’14, when he missed Week 1 due to injury, did Newton start slower as a runner.

But will Newton owners get the rushing boost they’ll likely require for him to return to the QB1 ranks? He’ll again be without five-time Pro Bowl C Ryan Kalil, whose absence Sunday coincided with Newton being sacked six times by Buffalo after the Niners failed to get to him.

Fortunately for Newton and the Panthers, the Saints have proven through two weeks that their defense cures more offensive ills than penicillin. McCaffrey, already on pace for 72-576 receiving on 96 targets, gets a fantasy boost with Olsen down. So too does Kelvin Benjamin, who dropped his first would-be touchdown a week ago and hasn’t yet picked up where he left off in a dominant preseason.

About the only thing we can say for sure regarding which version of Newton shows up on Sunday is it’ll be without his most important lifeline.

2. Sam Bradford has already been ruled out at home in Week 3 vs. the Buccaneers. His career night 11 days ago feels like 11 years ago.

The excitement centered not just on Bradford but especially Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen coming out of the deconstruction of New Orleans quickly fizzled with Case Keenum at the helm in Week 2 vs. Pittsburgh.

So are Diggs and Thielen — WR1 and WR5 overall respectively in Week 1 — salvageable fantasy assets without Bradford, who’ll reportedly seek a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews on his bum knee?  

Based on Keenum’s Vikings debut, the answer is no. He needed a miraculous one-handed grab from Kyle Rudolph on his longest completion (27 yards) and a couple impressive plays from Diggs and Thielen to reach 167 yards on 37 attempts. And Laquon Treadwell, for reasons unbeknownst to us, attracted the same number of targets (6) as Diggs and Thielen.

The one safe play in this matchup is Dalvin Cook. He again got stronger as the game wore on, amassing 61 of his 64 rushing yards after intermission with Minnesota mostly trailing by two touchdowns. He had what looked like his first NFL touchdown, from 25 yards out, overturned on replay to prevent him from his second consecutive top-15 fantasy finish among backs.

3. We included the Falcons RB tandem that was held to 96 scrimmage yards and a score on 26 touches by Chicago in our Friday six-pack a week ago; getting Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman to take flight was a key to a more successful second outing for Atlanta’s offense under Steve Sarkisian.

Well, after Freeman and Coleman exploded for 145 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns on 29 touches in Atlanta’s thrashing of Green Bay, they’re back in this space again. Why? Detroit’s first-round linebacker acquired for exactly this type of matchup — Jarrad Davis — is out with a concussion. Tahir Whitehead and Paul Worrilow getting exposed by Eli Manning in coverage on backs and tight ends Monday night was about the only hiccup on the Lions’ excellent defensive showing. And the Lions have depth in their secondary that’s unmatched up front.

4. Freeman and Coleman aren’t the only interesting backs in this potential shootout with the week’s second-highest point total (50½). That’s right — there’s actual intrigue in a Lions backfield that’s gone 56 games since unleashing its last 100-yard rusher.

Ameer Abdullah flashed the speed and elusiveness Monday night vs. a stout Giants front that we’ve only seen rare glimpses of during his first two NFL seasons — the latter sabotaged after one week by a lisfranc injury. On a career-high 17 carries and 86 rushing yards, he looked fresh and shifty, not unlike the Tarik Cohen-Jordan Howard pairing that torched the Falcons ‘D’ in Week 1.

Ironically, despite their sensational speed along the second level, the Falcons continue to struggle defending receiving backs: their 19 receptions allowed is tied for the most in the NFL, and only three clubs have permitted more yards to opposing backs than Atlanta’s 143.

Skilled passing down back Theo Riddick (12 touches and 37 yards in Week 2 after 6-27-1 receiving in Week 1) may always cap Abdullah’s upside. Or we may see Jim Bob Cooter’s Week 2 run commitment behind an improving offensive line mimicked frequently this season. Either way, we like all four backs in this one.

5. It seems many have already completely soured on Arizona’s 2017 fantasy outlook, what with David Johnson’s injury and slow starts for Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald. I’m not ready to ditch my Cardinals stock altogether just yet, though.

Arizona hasn’t capitalized for owners on what looked like a soft early slate, but Palmer improved in Week 2 by pushing the ball downfield (9.2 yards per attempt) to Jaron Brown and J.J. Nelson more effectively than he did in the opener (5.2 YPA). The Cowboys’ personnel is almost entirely different, but Palmer tossed three touchdowns in 2014 against Rod Marinelli’s unit in a 28-17 Cardinals victory.

Thanks to Cardinals Wire for pointing us in the direction of Larry Fitzgerald’s Week 1 Next Gen speed — he was the sixth-fastest wideout in the league, at 19.74 MPH, barely behind his track star teammate, Nelson. Speed isn’t Fitzgerald’s game but it’s not a bad counter to those suggesting he’s washed because he’s had a few uncharacteristic drops and secured just nine of 19 targets for 95 yards without a touchdown.

Palmer improved versus a bad Colts secondary after failing against a Lions pass ‘D’ that might be a tad underrated. Dallas likely will be under-equipped at corner with No. 1 Nolan Carroll and rookie Chidobe Awuzie missing practice this week. Let’s see what the Cardinals do in primetime before penning their fantasy obituaries prior to October, cool?

6. There may not be a more scrutinized Week 3 performance ahead than the Cowboys’. That’s what happens when All-Pro RB Ezekiel Elliott not only gets shut down for the first time in the NFL but also becomes the distraction on the field he’s off of it. It’s the result of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten dropping Dak Prescott passes, of Prescott throwing two interceptions in a game for the first time and the NFL’s biggest bully of an offensive line getting punched in the mouth repeatedly by a Denver run ‘D’ that was subpar last season.

Of course, it’s also simply the nature of being the Cowboys. That their follow-up performance after getting blown out on the road comes in primetime against another talented team just two years removed from being one of the NFL’s best fuels the fascination of how they handled the week’s adversity.

There’s a chance this could be the last time we see Elliott for six games. It’s the first time in nearly three years we get to see Bryant vs. Patrick Peterson, and Prescott makes his debut against the Cardinals’ pressure ‘D.’

The Kansas City Chiefs have a 2-0 record with two quality victories that have vaulted them into the NFL's upper class early in the season. Perhaps the biggest pleasant surprise for Andy Reid's team has been the play on the offensive side of the ball.

Big plays in the run game with rookie Kareem Hunt and in an Alex Smith-led vertical passing game have been terrific developments. They suddenly look like one of the more offensively dynamic teams in football right now.

But there's some firepower defensively, too, and there's one cog on that side of the ball that maybe is just now starting to get the national attention he deserves.

"Can we talk about 95 please?" one pro scout texted us this week.

That would be the uniform number for Chiefs DE Chris Jones, who was a one-man wrecking crew in Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Jones logged three sacks, two forced fumbles and an athletic interception in the win and was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his work. Perhaps he's becoming more of a household name as we write this.

But it's also the way Jones has done it. The Chiefs still are managing his worload a bit, as he was on the field for only 32 of the 72 defensive snaps. That's 44 percent of the game he played, and Jones racked up more stats in that game than many 310-pound defensive linemen collect in an entire season. Jones was on the field for 48-of-81 snaps in the opener against the Patriots, bringing his two-week workload percentage to just over 52.

One reason why they're keeping him on a snap count is that Jones is coming off knee surgery that forced him to miss a big chunk of training camp as he worked his way back to health. It's possible that he starts logging 60 percent or more of the snaps in time, perhaps after the team's Week 10 bye. The Chiefs face a gauntlet of excellent offensive lines in the games leading up to that.

"Imagine what he does [later in the season]," the scout continued. "He's a scheme wrecker. He's going to be a problem."

It doesn't hurt that the Chiefs' next three opponents — the Los Angeles Chargers, Washington Redskins and Houston Texans — have had their share of offensive line concerns this season.

"Play him over the center, play him at the 5 [technique], it doesn't matter," the scout noted. "They have the depth to move him around a little and make him dangerous at any spot. Big guy who moves so well [and] plays with a lot of power."

Justin Houston is also off to a phenomenal start this season, and he has a chance to be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate if he keeps it up. But if Jones keeps trending upward as he has, he too should get that same consideration. The Chiefs also expect to get Tamba Hali back at some point as well, so the front seven is looking like a potential powerhouse of a unit.

We hear that Jones has developed from his first to his second year in a number of ways, but so far the team has been very pleased at his snap-to-snap consistency and effort. There were times last season, as much as he flashed, that Jones still appeared to either wear down or take plays off.

Jones also was said to come out of college with some immaturity issues, which might have caused him to fall just out of Round 1. But he's now starting to realize, after just turning 23 in July, that he can be a dominant force — even with less than a full game's worth of snaps.

  • By Sam McKewon / World-Herald staff writer
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As a reporter who talked to Eichorst over the last two years as often — perhaps more — than any reporter did, it struck me as ironic. Fired Thursday as athletic director, Eichorst was a hard guy to know.

  • Tyler Kraft
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Beisel is known for his brash comments and gladiator-like appearance. But the middle linebacker is much more than a loudmouthed jock beneath the surface.

  • Steve Batterson sbatterson@qctimes.com
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Four things the football teams from Iowa and Penn State can do to put themselves in a position to win Saturday night at Kinnick Stadium: