Last Saturday in San Antonio, the San Jose State University football team captureda decisive 52-24 victory over UTSA while assuming the role of the favored teamand battling a large crowd at the Alamo Dome. This Saturday, the team will faceanother longhorn opponent in Texas State for the first timein school history and like a week ago, the Spartans are the favorite towin.I dont know if the kids knowif theyre favored or not, thats all done by bookies, head coach Mike MacIntyre said. All wecare about is what we do on the football field. We are excited about playing Texas State.Whether the team or coachesrealize the team is favored or not, the notion of being the better team on thefield is something the Spartans will have to recognize not only this weekendagainst the Bobcats but over the next three weeks with games against Idaho and New Mexico Stateto follow.I hope thats something theyrenot thinking about, MacIntyre said about the idea of the team resting on itslaurels while playing a somewhat inferior opponent. If they are, thats notwhere we want to be.Games like the one against UTSA,the 45-13 trampling of UC Davis or even the 40-20 win over Colorado Stateon Sept. 15 are giving the Spartans the opportunity to keep their feet on theiropponents throats while maintaining the large lead.Weve been very fortunate thisyear to have a couple games in hand and our kids have Put on more steam tomake sure we kept it in hand, he said. Thats something we try to talk about,try to work on, try to enforce because in the past we didnt always do that.This Saturday at Spartan Stadiumwill most likely shake out as another opportunity for SJSU to jump out to anearly lead and pin their opponents to the ground while continuing to amasspoints on the scoreboard. The Bobcats are an FCS team playing their first roadgame within the Western Athletic Conference theres no surprise SJSU is thefavorite to win.MacIntyre, though, gives creditto the Texas State offense that ranks fifth in theconference in yards per game, adding that the SJSU will need to be in good formto stop the Bobcats.Their option offense is veryformidable and can make a lot of things happen, he said. Our defense is goingto have to be very sharp and on top of its game to be able to slow them down.Offensively, Texas Stateis led by quarterback Shaun Rutherford, who ranks fifth in the conference andtwelfth nationally in pass efficiency with a rating of 161.7. SJSU, however,counters and one-ups the Bobcats with its own prolific quarter back in DavidFales, who leads the conference and is tenth in the nation in the samestatistical category with a 166.4 passer rating.MacIntyre had nothing but praisefor Fales, who was sacked 13 times in SJSUs 49-27 loss to Utah State,for not allowing the hits to get to his head even though he was not sacked oncelast week against UTSA.When asked if Fales mindsetbehind center changed after being sacked so many times two weeks ago, MacIntyreresponded: Not one bit.Its interesting because youdthink he might (change his mindset) but it didnt change him whatsoever,MacIntyre said. He never batted an eye in the game, not one time. Never showedany disgust or even think about it, he just went back into the game. I thinkthats a credit to his toughness and how humble a leader he is. Hes not an ego guyat all and he just wants to do whatever he can to win. The kids the reallyrespect him and I think that really helped the offensive line because he trustand believes in them.MacIntyre is concerned that Texas Statespass rush may be able to get to Fales on Saturday despite ranking last in theconference in sacks.Offensively, we have to containtheir pass rush, he said. They do a good job of getting to the quarterback.Along with its star quarterbackto counter Texas States,the Spartans have the best pass defense in the WAC to help stop Rutherford. SJSUs 40th-ranked pass defense in the nationis allowing just 211.1 passing yards per game.MacIntyre is confident that theSJSU passing game can once again take over the game if the running gamestruggles. SJSU averages 100 yards rushing per game, compared to Texas States162. The Spartans gained just 91 yards on 32 rush attempts and were outgained onthe ground by UTSA.Of course wed like to run theball better and hopefully we can but theyre good on defense so if they stopthe run well throw the football, he said.Expect the running backs to takea back seat to both teams passing attacks Saturday. The ball is sure to beaired out quite a bit and look for Fales to outperform his counterpart.
INDIANAPOLIS -- More and more college coaches are putting their starters and even their stars on special teams as they seek to pile up every possible point in an era of pedal-to-the-metal shootouts and never-safe leads.
Fading fast are the days when superstars would catch their breath on the sideline when the kicker or punter trotted onto the field with the scrubs.
NFL teams love it.
Watching how players handle themselves as a blocker, gunner or returner provides a glimpse into a prospect's range, selflessness and versatility. It also delivers a sneak peek into how coachable he'll be, says Phil Savage, the SiriusXM NFL Radio host who spent two decades as an NFL coach, scout and executive and now oversees the Senior Bowl.
"I think because of the landscape of college football where scoring is at a premium, you've got to figure out a way to put points on the board not only on offense but through your special teams and defensively, as well," Savage says. "These coaches want to get these young players on the field as soon as possible, and a way to do that is utilize them on special teams."
These tapes provide a bonus to pro scouts.
"Now you have a vision of what that player might forecast to in the NFL as a young player and, specifically, as a rookie," Savage said.
Offensive and defensive coaches have a better idea of the types of players they're integrating into their schemes, and special teams coaches no longer get blank stares and blank canvases from the rookie class.
"Not only do you like the fact that they come in and have experience doing it, but you love the mentality if you're a coach and a decision maker that this guy isn't a diva, he's got no ego about it, he understands the team and puts team before self," says ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay.
"And he comes in with the mindset of 'What can I do to help the team and how can I contribute?' Those are the guys that seem to make it and last longer in the league because they're just willing to do different things and whatever it takes."
The prime example in this year's draft class is Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey , a "dynamic player than can do it all," according to Broncos GM John Elway.
McCaffrey gained more than 5,000 yards from scrimmage in his college career and added almost 2,000 more as a returner.
"There's just a lot of big plays open in the return game," McCaffrey says. "You see special teams have such an impact on the game today. Any time I can have the ball in my hands, I feel like I can do something dangerous, and that's really why I love the return game."
Other highly touted draft prospects who polished their resumes on special teams include Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers, LSU safety Jamal Adams, Washington wide receiver John Ross, and USC cornerback Adroee' Jackson, all of whom are projected as high selections.
McShay says "we're seeing more and more programs put an emphasis on special teams and having their key players contribute in one or more areas on special teams."
He pointed to Ohio State, where Urban Myers coaches special teams himself.
"It's a major emphasis there, and so you'll see some more guys typically lined up and contributing that are starters and stars," McShay says. "It's an honor to be on special teams."
Not a burden.
"It is not uncommon now to see people that are going to be picked in the first round having 100-plus special teams plays," suggests NFL draft consultant and former Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt.
He pointed to the University of Florida, where Gators defensive backs cover kickoffs as well as they do receivers.
"Everyone's always trying to get their best guys on the field," Brandt says.
That's a change from years past when coaches feared exposing their star players to the extra hits.
The added value benefits the players, whose multiple talents allow NFL general managers to address many needs.
"We're seeing more emphasis on it in college, and I think NFL teams love to see it because if just means you're getting a bit more for your buck," McShay says.
Top talents who bolstered their value by playing special teams:
CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY , RB, STANFORD: He shined at the combine working out with the running backs and was as impressive running routes. Asked if there was anything he couldn't do, the son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey said then: "I can't sing."
JABRILL PEPPERS , S, MICHIGAN: He worked out with safeties and linebackers at the combine, where teams talked of him playing RB and WR in addition to returning kicks. "The bottom line is I'm a ballplayer and I'm a hell of a ballplayer," Peppers said.
JOHN ROSS , WR, WASHINGTON: He caught 81 passes with 17 TDs last season but actually posted more return yards (2,069) than scrimmage yards (1,924) in his college career.
ADOREE' JACKSON , CB, USC: One of the best special teams coverage players in the NCAA, Jackson also scored eight TDs on punt and kick returns in college. His punt return averages rose from 6.0 yards to 10.5 and 15.8.
JAMAL ADAMS , S, LSU: Another star in coverage, Adams' defensive mentality extends to special teams. "I love being on the field and just playing football," said Adams, whose father, George, was a first-round pick by the Giants in 1985.
ALVIN KAMARA , RB, TENNESSEE: In a deep running back group, Kamara separates himself with his special teams acumen. "A lot of teams have been bringing up special teams," Kamara said.
DESMOND KING , CB, IOWA: He had eight interceptions as a junior and three as a senior. "I had a really good special teams season," King said. "Not being targeted as much, I still went out there and competed the best I could and was still making plays."
CHRIS WORMLEY , DE, MICHIGAN: Wormley touts playing for Jim Harbaugh as one of his attributes. "Coach Harbaugh came in and ran our program like an NFL program, like he had with the 49ers," said Wormley, who blocked three kicks his senior season.
ZAY JONES , WR, EAST CAROLINA: Like McCaffrey, he has good NFL bloodlines (son of Robert Jones, brother of Cayleb Jones). He caught 158 passes as a senior, but spent his first two seasons in college also making his mark as a returner.
LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Josh Jackson declared for the NBA draft on Monday after one of the best freshman seasons in Kansas history, one marked by plenty of highlights on the floor and a few distractions off it.
The 6-foot-8 swingman, who is considered a certain lottery pick, was the Big 12 newcomer of the year after averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds. He helped the Jayhawks to a 31-5 record and its 13th straight regular season Big 12 title before losing to Oregon in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
Jackson signed with former NBA player B.J. Armstrong of Wasserman Media Group.
"After thoroughly consulting with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA draft and pursue my dream of playing professional basketball," Jackson said in a statement Monday.
"I am very thankful for all of the support I have received from my coaches and teammates at Kansas," he said, "and I look forward to starting my career in the NBA."
Jackson was the nation's No. 1 recruit when he signed with the Jayhawks out of Prolific Prep Academy in California. He immediately earned a spot in the starting lineup, teaming with national player of the year Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham to form one of the nation's top backcourts.
With natural athleticism and ability to slash to the basket - not to mention defensive chops that are rare among freshmen - Jackson quickly established himself as one of the nation's top draft prospects.
His importance was never more evident than in the Big 12 Tournament, when he was suspended by coach Bill Self following a series of off-the-court issues. The top-seeded Jayhawks stumbled in a quarterfinal loss to TCU, ending their run at the conference tournament before it really began.
He returned for the NCAA Tournament and played well in wins over UC Davis, Michigan State and Purdue, but was hamstrung by foul trouble and managed just 10 points in a season-ending loss to the Ducks.
Jackson's suspension came following an incident outside a Lawrence bar in December, when a member of the Kansas women's basketball team got into an altercation with Jackson's teammate, Lagerald Vick.
Jackson followed the woman to the parking lot and the woman said he kicked her car and caused hundreds of dollars in damage. He pleaded not guilty last week in Douglas County District Court to one misdemeanor count of criminal damage to property and a trial is scheduled for May 24.
His attorney, Hatem Chahine, said he was planning to file for diversion.
Jackson also was ticketed in February after he struck a parked car and fled the scene, and that drew Self's ire when he didn't tell his coach about the incident until several weeks later.
His decision to declare for the draft came a week after teammate Svi Mykhailiuk announced he would skip his senior season. But unlike Jackson, the 6-8 sharpshooter has not hired an agent and could withdraw his name by May 24 and return to the Jayhawks.