Stanford's Luck among four Heisman finalists

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Stanford's Luck among four Heisman finalists

Dec. 6, 2010STANFORD PAGEPOLLS PAGE

(AP) -- Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and Oregon running back LaMichael James, two of the nation's most dynamic players, will meet in the national championship game next month.First, a stop in New York.Newton and James were named finalists for the Heisman Trophy on Monday, and will be joined by Stanford's Andrew Luck and Kellen Moore of Boise State for Saturday's announcement in Times Square.Newton overcame a pay-to-play scandal with a superb season on the field, piling up nearly 4,000 combined yards and 49 touchdowns in leading the top-ranked Tigers into the Jan. 10 national championship game.James and the Ducks will be there waiting for them in the desert after he piled up more yards and touchdowns than anyone else in FBS, helping the second-ranked Ducks into their first national title game."Since I was a young boy, playing the game of football has been a pure joy and this season has been a very special one for my teammates and for me," Newton said in a statement. "I know as a team we're excited to get back on the field on January 10 against a great Oregon team."Newton is the front-runner, but the big question is whether voters will look past the scandal involving his father.Newton was unparalleled on the field.He threw for 2,589 yards and 28 touchdowns while running for 1,409 yards and 20 more scores - adding another on a reception - to join Florida quarterback and former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow as the only FBS players to have 20 touchdowns rushing and passing in a season.In his final regular-season game, he threw four TD passes and scored two more on the ground in Auburn's 56-17 rout of 18th-ranked South Carolina that earned Auburn the SEC championship and a shot at its first national title since 1957.The knock against Newton is the shenanigans by his father, Cecil.The elder Newton was accused of working with the owner of a scouting service to get up to 180,000 for his son to play for at Mississippi State while the quarterback was being recruited out of junior college last year.The NCAA cleared Cam, saying neither he nor Auburn knew anything about it, but Heisman voters might be leery of another Reggie Bush-type situation. The 2005 Heisman winner from USC gave back his trophy earlier this year and his school was hit with heavy sanctions after a four-year NCAA investigation determined he was ineligible that season for receiving improper benefits.If Newton does win it, he'll join Bo Jackson (1985) and Pat Sullivan (1971) as Heisman Trophy winners at Auburn."I'm very honored and blessed to be named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy with some other outstanding players," said Newton, who was playing at a Texas junior college just a year ago. "Like I've said, this is not an individual honor, but a team honor. I wouldn't be in this position without my great teammates, coaches and the Auburn family."If voters steer away from Newton, James could swoop in and become the first Oregon player to win college football's most prestigious individual award.James was the main cog in Oregon's nearly point-a-minute offense, forcing teams to key on him while the rest of his talented teammates ran all over the field. Oregon led the nation in scoring at nearly 50 points per game and was second in total yards, just a few tenths behind Oklahoma State at 537 yards per game.Even with the extra attention, James led the nation with 1,682 yards and 21 touchdowns, and his 152 yards per game was nearly 10 more than Connecticut's Jordan Todman in second. He closed out the regular season by gaining 134 yards in Oregon's 37-20 win over rival Oregon State on Saturday that clinched the school's first trip to the national title game.Luck was second fiddle to Washington's Heisman hopeful Jake Locker to open the season, but quickly established himself as the Pac-10's best quarterback.The 6-foot-4 junior won a lopsided battle over Locker and his Huskies early in the season and guided the fifth-ranked Cardinal to one of the best seasons in school history. A projected top NFL pick, Luck threw for over 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns with just seven interceptions while completing 70 percent of his passes for an 11-1 team that earned an Orange Bowl berth.
RELATED: Orange Bowl tab No. 5 Stanford, No. 12 VaTech
Moore wasn't much of a Heisman hopeful early in the season, but quickly played his way into the picture while leading the Broncos to the cusp of a BCS bowl berth.The junior was second in the nation in passer efficiency, throwing for over 3,500 yards with 33 TDs and five interceptions, but his chances took a hit with a loss to Nevada that knocked Boise State out of BCS contention.Alabama's Mark Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner, wasn't much of a factor in his bid to repeat.The bruising running back missed the first two games after offseason knee surgery and wasn't nearly as dynamic as a year ago, rushing for 816 yards, half his total from a year ago. His team also had its repeat national title hopes fizzle with an early-season loss to South Carolina and later losses to LSU and Newton's Tigers.

A's spring training update Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

A's spring training update Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

MESA, Ariz. — Khris Davis enjoyed quite an offseason travel itinerary, checking out Toronto, taking in the beaches of Hawaii and dining on lobster in Belize.

However, it was the time spent in his adopted hometown of Oakland that most struck a chord with the A’s left fielder. After finishing his first season with the A’s, Davis followed through on his plan to make his offseason home in Oakland, and he was glad he did.

“I got to just feel the heart of the city,” he said upon arriving at camp Sunday. “That was basically the purpose of why I was there. … I wanted to feel Oakland. I love it, honestly. I love the city.”

He trained at Dogtown Athletic, a gym in West Oakland. He took part in the A’s holiday party for kids at the Oakland Zoo, joined by A’s Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, who grew up in the city.

“Just to feel these kids’ happiness,” Davis said. “They didn’t look at me as a baseball player. They just looked at me as a role model kind of.”

It should be music to the ears of A’s fans that the team’s most dangerous hitter has a love affair with the city he plays in. If the A’s ever entertained the idea of trying to sign Davis to a multi-year extension, and that’s purely hypothetical here, it would help that Davis feels comfortable in his surroundings.

Even when he described Oakland in edgy terms, such as when he said it “has its dark side,” he seemed to find it endearing.

In return, Davis felt the love from the fan base in 2016, hitting a career-high 42 homers with a team-best 102 RBI. That was despite the awful start he got off to, hitting .143 and mustering just one RBI over his first 12 games.

Obviously, any chances the A’s have of improving last year’s American League-worst offense rely on the 29-year-old Davis having another big year. But over-analysis is one thing he tries to avoid.

“I don’t want to get caught up in last year — the slow start and the strong finish, whatever,” he said. “However it was, I’m just ready to do this year.”

Davis decided to back out of his plan to play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, saying his main priority was preparing for his A’s season.

“My main focus is to perform for the organization,” he said. “I feel like I want to get off on the right foot this year.”

NOTEWORTHY: Heavy showers continued to pelt Mesa on Sunday, spoiling the A’s first full-squad workout. The hitters were relegated to swinging in the cages and playing catch, while pitchers were scheduled for a day off from throwing on the mound anyway.

“If ever there was a day, at least for the pitchers, that you don’t need to (work out), it’s today,” manager Bob Melvin said. “But when you have everybody there on the first day, you wanna get out on the field and do everything. Hopefully we can incorporate everything tomorrow.”

The A’s have a whopping 70 players in camp, more than in any other spring Melvin can remember as a big league manager. He addressed the full team in a meeting Sunday morning.

His message?

“We’re gonna have to outwork, out-hustle everybody like we have in the past,” he said, “and get back to playing the game with the same tenacity that we did a couple years ago.”

FAMILIAR FACE: Longtime A’s second baseman Mark Ellis is back for the second year in a row as a spring infield instructor. The plan is for Ellis to spend a week with the team now, then another week later in camp.

“I’ll take Mark Ellis as many days as I can have him,” Melvin said.

LIGHTER SIDE: Nursing his broken right foot, starting pitcher Daniel Mengden has been making his way through the clubhouse on a knee scooter in order to keep pressure off his foot.

Apparently, it looks more fun than it really is.

“I contribute to society Friday, when I can start walking again,” Mengden quipped.

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On one of the many nights last season when his bullpen imploded, Bruce Bochy nearly put a catcher on the mound. Trevor Brown ended up playing an inning of third base on June 28 as the Giants gave up eight runs over the final two innings in a brutal loss to the A’s, and he said this week that he was told he was the next man up on the mound. 

That night was an odd one, as a tired bullpen was waiting for Sergio Romo to get activated off a rehab assignment and trying to get by without long reliever Chris Stratton, who had thrown 57 pitches out of the ‘pen the night before. The bench was also short because Joe Panik was about to be put on the concussion DL.

Bochy hopes he doesn’t have to deal with such a situation this season, and not just because the bullpen should be much improved. The disabled list lasts 10 days now, not 15, and Bochy is thrilled with the new rule.

“The DL thing, I really like it,” he said. “You get caught in that gray area so often.” 

Bochy met with league officials on Saturday to go over some of the rule changes. DL stints can now be made retroactive just three days, but it’s still a vast improvement overall. 

“With (position) players and pitchers it’s going to make it easier to DL guys,” Bochy said. “If you’re looking at (starting) pitchers, they could miss just one start.”

The Giants have often played a man or more short, trying to get by day-by-day to give a position player or starter time to heal. Around camp, this could be called the Angel Pagan Rule, as the former Giants outfielder often missed a week or so before officially going on the DL. At times, Bochy has been patient with players like Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, knowing that even if they missed a week, keeping them off the DL could still earn the Giants seven or eight games with a big bat back in the lineup. If a future diagnosis is that a player will miss a week, it’ll be much easier to swallow putting him on the 10-day DL than it was for the 15-day. Likewise, the Giants will take advantage of the change if a pitcher will have to miss a start. 

Bochy has said often that he would like every reliever to go on the DL during the season to freshen up. That’ll make more sense now, and it should keep the Giants from having to play as many games where the bullpen is gassed and a backup catcher is preparing to pitch. For guys like Stratton — a versatile pitcher on the 40-man roster — it should also lead to increased trips up to the big leagues to fill gaps. 

INJURY UPDATE: Pence (side muscle) took 25 swings during a live BP session in the cage and Bochy said he’s doing much better. That was about the only significant activity Sunday. Once again, the workout was rained out. Bochy said the Giants have enough time to get guys ready for the Cactus League opener on Feb. 24, but they’ll likely hold some big-name pitchers out of the early games. Brandon Crawford and Posey will get plenty of early starts to prepare for the WBC. 

PROSPECT WATCH: If the early games are turned over to prospects, Dan Slania will be an interesting guy to watch. Slania is listed at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, so he always had the look of an imposing reliever. But his greatest success last season came after a surprise move to the rotation. 

Slania, a 2013 fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame, got a call on his 24th birthday telling him to prepare to start because of an injury in Richmond’s rotation. He had not started a game since high school, but his four-pitch mix worked. He had a 5.32 ERA out of the bullpen but it dropped to 1.48 in 10 starts for the Flying Squirrels. In two Triple-A starts, he struck out 14 over 13 innings while allowing just eight hits and two runs. The Giants put him on their 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. 

“He had a great year last year,” Bochy said. “He’s in camp for a reason. He’s got great stuff and a good makeup.”

RULE CHANGE: One more thing that came out of that rules meeting: Managers who are out of challenges now have to wait until the eighth inning to ask an umpire to look at a play.

QUOTABLE: “We know he’s better off taking some days. We talked about it (with him). He agrees that it’ll help him.” Bochy on Pence’s workload. The right fielder is coming off two injury-marred seasons, and the Giants have no intention of even trying to get him back to his Iron Man days.