Taylor leads Stanford to Pac-12 North title in win over UCLA

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Taylor leads Stanford to Pac-12 North title in win over UCLA

PASADENA, Calif. -- Stepfan Taylor rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns, Kevin Hogan passed for 160 yards and another score, and No. 11 Stanford beat No. 15 UCLA 35-17 Saturday to win the Pacific-12 Conference North title and a rematch with the Bruins in the conference championship game.The Cardinal (10-2, 8-1 Pac-12) found out about 10 minutes before the opening kickoff that No. 5 Oregon (11-1, 8-1) had beaten No. 16 Oregon State 48-24, meaning they had to win to qualify for another shot at UCLA - a game Stanford will host next Friday.The Cardinal, who have three straight 10-win seasons for the first time, handed Oregon a 17-14 overtime setback last weekend to put themselves in position to win the Pac-12 North title with a victory over the Pac-12 South champion Bruins (9-3, 6-3), who earned their berth in the title game by beating Southern California 38-28 last weekend.The win was the sixth straight for Stanford and their fourth in a row over UCLA, which had a five-game winning streak snapped - its longest in seven years.Taylor, a 5-foot-11, 215-pound senior who carried 20 times, didn't play in the fourth quarter. He raised his career rushing total to 4,134 yards and will need 36 yards in the rematch with UCLA to break the Stanford career rushing record of 4,169 yards set by Darrin Nelson in 1977-81.Hogan, a redshirt freshman making his third start at quarterback for Stanford, completed 15 of 22 passes without being intercepted and was sacked twice. He has guided the Cardinal to wins over three straight ranked opponents, something they had never accomplished before.Brett Hundley, UCLA's redshirt freshman quarterback, was 20-of-38 for 261 yards and a TD with one interception while being sacked seven times, and Johnathan Franklin, the Bruins' leading career rusher, was held to 65 yards on 21 carries. Stanford entered ranked second nationally in sacks and rushing defense.UCLA was held to 334 yards of total offense while Stanford gained 381 yards overall.Leading 21-10, the Cardinal broke the game open by scoring twice in a 13-second span midway through the third quarter. Taylor scored on a 1-yard run four plays after Jordan Richards intercepted Hundley's pass at the UCLA 42-yard line, and Alex Debniak forced a fumble by Kenneth Walker on the ensuing kickoff and Usua Amanam returned it 11 yards for another TD.Franklin's 11-yard TD late in the third quarter cut Stanford's lead to 18 points, and it appeared the Bruins got another shot early in the fourth quarter on Jordan Zumwalt's interception in Cardinal territory, but it was nullified by a defensive holding penalty.Stanford's Jordan Williamson hit the crossbar on a 45-yard field goal attempt with 9:46 remaining, but the Bruins lost the ball on downs after getting as far as the Stanford 38. UCLA reached the Cardinal 14 before turning the ball over on downs again with 2:30 left.Perhaps inspired by the knowledge that Oregon had won, Stanford moved 75 yards on 12 plays after receiving the opening kickoff for a 7-0 lead, scoring on an 11-yard pass from Hogan to Drew Terrell.The Bruins needed only two minutes to tie it, getting a 13-yard touchdown pass from Hundley to Joseph Fauria three plays after Hundley hooked up with Shaquelle Evans on a 71-yard pass play. The 6-foot-7 Fauria has 11 TD receptions this season.UCLA moved to the Cardinal 38 late in the first quarter before Hundley's pooch punt on fourth-and-3 was downed at the Stanford 1. The Bruins forced a punt, but couldn't take advantage of the good field position and had to punt as well.Stanford then moved 88 yards on 10 plays for a 14-7 lead, scoring on a 10-yard run by Anthony Wilkerson, and the Cardinal scored again less than two minutes later on a 49-yard run by Taylor.UCLA got a break late in the second quarter when Stanford punter Daniel Zychlinski couldn't handle a low snap from center and was hit before getting the kick off, setting up a career-best 48-yard field goal by freshman Ka'imi Fairbairn with 1:37 left before halftime, making it 21-10. UCLA didn't get a first down in the second period.The game, played before a crowd of 68,228 at the Rose Bowl, was the first between the schools in which both were ranked among the Top 25 since 2001, when No. 20 Stanford beat No. 24 UCLA 38-28.

Stanford star McCaffrey boosts NFL Draft stock with special teams skills

Stanford star McCaffrey boosts NFL Draft stock with special teams skills

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.

Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft

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Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft

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.