Nashville SC: The Night of 4

Image via NashvilleSC.com

Nashville SC (11W-5D-5L) entered last night’s match sitting at #4 in the Eastern Conference with the possibility of sliding into the third spot with a convincing outcome against the Hartford Athletic (4W-4D-15L). Even though Nashville SC has been away from home for a while (46 days to be exact), the team has been on a tear riding a 3 game win streak with three 2-0 wins against the Swope Park Rangers, Indy Eleven, and Memphis 901. To overtake Indy Eleven for the #3 spot in the Eastern Conference, Nashville SC would need to put a complete game together.

https://twitter.com/NashTTSM/status/1159279784213590017

 

That’s exactly what they did. Nashville SC made it the Night of Four in Music City by moving up from the #4 spot in the rankings, by scoring 4 goals which also gives the team a share at #4 in the league in terms of attacking with 41 points, moving from 4 to 5 wins at home this season, Ropapa Mensah getting his 4th goal of the season, and continuing the win streak to 4 games. Also, Daniel Rios once again shares the lead with Solomon Asante of Phoenix Rising FC at the top of the league in scoring with 15 goals this season. While the offense was BOOMING, we can not forget about the lock down defense and stellar goalkeeping by Matt Pickens. Pickens has helped Nashville just set the franchise record this season for longest amount of time without conceding a goal by not allowing a score in over 300+ minutes! This brings Nashville SC to #2 in total number of clean sheets this season with a total of 10. Absolutely incredible.

Prayers up for Nashville SC Captain Michael Reed as he suffered an absolutely devastating and gruesome leg injury in the 4′ minute on a foul by Mads Jorgensen (Hartford Athletic). As Manager Gary Smith alluded to in the post-game press conference, injuries of this severity are obsolete and tough to overcome mentally as a player on the pitch. Major props to Reed for showing nothing but class, despite being in obvious pain.

 

After the injury Jorgensen was awarded a Red Card and Hartford had to play the remained of the game a man down with only 10 players. Hartford kept the same 4-4-2 formation, but removed the striker position making it a 4-4-1. This made it difficult for the team to produce any kind of beneficial offense, and when you combine that with the roll Nashville SC’s defense has been on, it was a nightmare in the making for Hartford Athletic.

Goals were scored by Tribbett (51′), Rios (56′) , Winn (64′), and Mensah (69′), all leading coach Smith’s 100th win. to In the post game press conference, Tribbett alluded that his play and goal was all for Michael Reed and that the team played soley for him following the injury. The Man of the Match voted by the fans was Michael Reed.

One improvement Nashville SC will need to make as they go into Saturday’s game (8/10/19) against Bethlehem Steel FC is to increase the speed of play. The majority of this game against Hartford Athletic was played at a relatively slow place, and it didn’t appear that the team seemed to be pressing as hard as usual. This is an easy fix as Tribbett stated in the post-game press conference that this team is not complacent and hope to win every game by 4 goals.

https://twitter.com/TTalkSports/status/1158381677682614274

 

It’s an exciting time to be a Nashville SC fan as the team tries to continue to roll on their 4 game win streak, and prep themselves for the final push here going into the end of the season. Come out Saturday at 7 to catch the game!

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Deep Analysis of the Importance of the Tennessee Titans O-Line Going Forward

By Beau Johnson
(Photo Via: Tennessee Titans Twitter)

If you were presented the following lists of the top five teams in a particular statistic:

  • Los Angeles Rams
  • New Orleans Saints
  • New England Patriots
  • Indianapolis Colts
  • Los Angeles Chargers

OR:

  • New England Patriots
  • Indianapolis Colts
  • New Orleans Saints
  • Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Kansas City Chiefs

You would probably imagine the statistic was something like passing yards, rushing yards, touchdowns, or some other statistic describing how prolific the offense was. In a league captivated by high scoring, passing driven offenses, you would probably be surprised to learn that the above rankings are for run blocking and pass blocking, respectively. When you consider that each of the teams on the above lists is in the top-15 (top half) of the league in BOTH run and pass rankings, one can begin to paint a very different picture of the type of offense that drives success in the league. We see all of the highlight reel plays and long touchdown passes, and lose sight of the fact that the offenses that most often produce these highlights rarely allow their quarterbacks to be sacked and often average near 5 yards per carry on the ground.

 

One could then make the argument that if the offensive line is so important, the Titans should have been much better than slightly above average over the last 3 years. After all, we’ve heard for a while now that the Titans have one of the best offensive lines in the league. Let’s take a deeper dive and discover why that hasn’t necessarily been the case, and why I believe a renewed emphasis on the offensive line will be the key to the Titans getting over the hump this season.

Let’s go way back to 2016. The Titans were coming off a 3-13 season, but Marcus Mariota had shown signs of transcendence, Demarco Murray had been acquired for pennies, and the team shocked many by drafting the one-man wrecking ball Derrick Henry in the second round. Exotic Smashmouth had come to town and was ready to take the league by storm. After a slow start, the team put together a respectable season, Marcus had the best year of his career, Demarco Murray led the AFC in rushing, Taylor Lewan made the Pro Bowl, Jack Conklin was All-Pro,and despite a tough ending to the season, the Titans had ascended from mediocrity and become a team competing for a playoff spot.

The Titans offensive line statistics seem to reflect the offenses of those listed above. The line ranked 5th in rushing, and 15th in pass blocking. The Titans had found their franchise tackles to bookend one of the best lines in the league. However, one glaring statistic is indicative of the struggles the Titans would face over the next 2 seasons. The Titans rushing attack was ranked 11th around the left end, 1st at left tackle, 2nd at right tackle, 2nd around the right end, but 21st up the middle (which also includes at left and right guard).

2017 came around, and the Titans found success in the win column, despite a pretty significant statistical regression on offense. It seemed teams had cracked the code of Exotic Smashmouth, and the Titans run blocking rank dropped to 23rd in the league (though they were still 1st around the left end). There are many conceivable reasons for the decline, but Titans fans (and management) seemed to agree that the issue was not the players, but the scheme. Running into stacked boxes and the throwing on third and long wasn’t sexy or effective, but a healthy Marcus Mariota and Corey Davis and the arrival of Matt LaFleur were going to bring a high-flying 21st-century offense to the Titans.

Unfortunately, 2018 revealed a glaring weakness in the Titans highly-touted line. Though the Titans run blocking finished the year ranked 17th, considering over half of Derrick Henry’s yards came in the last 4 games of the season, and he was only averaging 3.7 YPC before that, even that ranking seems a little high. This was coupled with a pass blocking ranking of 29th. Many of you are probably familiar with the narrative surrounding the New York Giants that Eli manning was playing behind an awful line and was constantly running for his life. Eli provides an interesting comparison point to emphasize the rate at which Marcus Mariota was sacked last season. The Giants and Titans gave up the same number of sacks in 2018 (47), but Blaine Gabbert was sacked 5 times, so Eli was sacked 5 times more than Marcus. However, Eli dropped back to pass 250 times more than Marcus. If you dive a little deeper into comparisons, Marcus was the most sacked (by percentage of drop-backs ending in a sack) of all teams’ primary starting quarterbacks. When you consider this it should come as no surprise that Marcus was suffering with injuries for basically the entire season.

https://twitter.com/SInow/status/907656471596367873

 

An even more interesting comparison for Marcus is Steve McNair (who was also known to play through injury). McNair’s career sack percentage was 5.3%. Last season, Marcus was sacked at twice the rate McNair was. McNair’s most sacked year he was sacked at a rate of 7.9% and no other year was he above 7%. McNair did run the ball a bit more than Mariota (about 10-20 times per year), but you can see that we shouldn’t be surprised that Marcus has been so injury plagued, and one could argue he should be lauded as McNair was for playing through injury (he’s only missed 8 games in 4 years).

 

One could argue that the transition to a more modern offense revealed a glaring issue with what had once been regarded as one of the best lines in football. Indeed, one need only watch a few games to identify where the holes were. The interior of the offensive line struggled to establish the run and struggled mightily to hold up in pass protection. There was rarely and semblance of a pocket for Marcus to step into (which resulted in a number of sacks for edge rushers despite decent blocking by the tackles). Jack Conklin also struggled to return to form after his ACL injury. Perhaps all the max protect passes that Titans’ fans had grown tired of during the Exotic Smashmouth days hid the poor play of the interior line. Whatever the reason, there is no escaping the fact that the Titans offensive line play was pretty poor last season. However, there is hope, and I believe that the teams focus on the line in the offseason will be instrumental in its success to come.

The Titans have cut ties with 2/3 of their interior offensive line, and went out and made a splash in free agency signing Rodger Saffold (who ranks in the top 10 in both run and pass blocking). The team likely plans to address the other guard spot in the draft (though its possible we could see some shuffling of the right side of the line due to the play of Dennis Kelly). I firmly believe we will see a resurgence in Jack Conklin’s play (its not uncommon for players to have a down year coming off of an ACL injury), and Derrick Henry seems to have figured something out. As we learned earlier, offensive line play (and the running game) is an integral part of the best offenses in the league. Critics of the Titans moves seem to think the Titans are living in the past. Ignore them. An emphasis on the offensive line and the running game will lead to a successful year for the Titans (despite being in a division that now looks like arguably one of the toughest in the league).

It all starts in the trenches, and though there may be some different names this year, Taylor Lewan and the boys will dictate the success of the Titans this season.

Nashville SC vs. Saint Louis FC Recap

Saturday, March 16th,  Nashville Soccer Club took on Saint Louis FC on a beautiful night at First Tennessee Park hosting a great crowd of 6,070 fans. This particular game featured both of the 8 seeds from last year’s 2018 USL Cup Playoff, with both Nashville SC and Saint Louis FC looking to move onto 2-0-0 this 2019 season. The game finished 0-1 (84′ Caleb Calvert), with the visiting Saint Louis Club taking home the victory. Here are my big take away’s from the game.

Missed Opportunities: 

NSC dominated every phase of this game except for the part that matters, the scoreboard. Nashville controlled the outside attack with stellar play from the 6’0″ (I’ll give you that extra inch per the NSC roster page…) Forward from VCU, Kharlton Belmar. Belmar completed 84.8 % of his passes, and also won 11 duels showing the crowd his exceptional ball control with every touch. NSC fans.. do not be surprised if this man finds himself on the MLS Roster come 2020! Outside of Belmar, the midfielders seemed to struggle getting the ball to the feet of their play-makers Rios, and Lancaster in space.


Stats Via: USL Championship

NSC failed to convert on 12 corner kicks. It was just one of those games… Being early in the season, NSC still has time to develop chemistry and establish better positioning inside the 18 that will consequently increase the team’s “Coca-Cola” corner kick conversion rate. As it always seems to go, SLFC converted 1 of the teams mere 3 corner kicks for the winning match goal..

Movement Without the Ball

Being only the 2nd game of the season, this one is an easy fix. The squad seemed stagnate at times which forced the ball carrier to default to passing back to the defenders for a reset. I’d expect to see Coach Gary Smith having his squad looking much more active checking to the ball, making runs, and better planning out their attacks. The exhibit below shows the starting positions vs. the average position from the entirety of the match (via USLchampionship.com). The name that keeps making an appearance is Kharlton Belmar (#11 on the Exhibit). Belmar actively inserted himself into the attack by consistently seeking out the ball, and pressing up. His presence on the field kept the SLFC defenders on their heels having to check him at all times. Going forward, I believe it will help LaGrassa (#20), Akinyode (#30), and Moloto (#10) find our stars feet if both Rios (#14) and Lancaster (#9) put more pressure on the defenders by playing in the gaps and extending the defense. Rios and Lancaster are too good of talents to be bottled up in the middle where it is harder to turn and rip off shots from deep. Once again, being this early in the season NSC fans should be optimistic to see the squad with such a dominating performance throughout this game.

 


Exhibits Via USLchampionship.com

Matt Pickens

Pickens won the fan vote Man of the Match, and is a fan favorite for a reason. Matt seems to embrace the ‘Roadies’ by applauding the relentless fans after they cheered him on for crucial saves. You can enjoy one of Matt’s great saves below!

Moving Forward

NSC takes to the road playing their next 2 games in New York on the 24th, and in Ottawa April 6th before returning home on April 13th to take on Memphis. A good measuring tape game will be against the New York Red Bulls II who made it to the Semi-Finals in last year’s 2018 USL Playoffs. With NSC moving into the MLS next season, they will be the team with the target on their backs, and get every other squad’s best effort night-in and night-out. My predictions for the upcoming match-up is a 2-1  NSC victory over the Red Bulls II. Let’s GET IT BOYS!

 

Can Nashville SC Replicate the Las Vegas Golden Knights of the NHL?

Photo via: The Tennessean 

There is nothing more exciting in sports than when a league decides to add expansion franchises. History has shown us that across all sports it is a common theme that new expansion teams are plagued with unwanted free agents, rookies, and/or 3rd tier talent. It generally takes years upon years for the new franchise to develop a culture within their city, to win, and to gain a consistent following. Take for example when the NBA expanded to add the Dallas Mavericks back in the 1980-1981 season. The Mavs finished the first 3 seasons (15-67), (28-54), and (38-44), respectively. It’s apparent the franchise struggled to compete for its adolescent years, and this is a trend that can be generalized to all expansion teams throughout history… but we do have exceptions! With Nashville being the latest city to receive an expansion team, let’s dig into how and why Nashville SC can replicate the success of a recent expansion team in the NHL.

Las Vegas introduced the Golden Knights into the NHL in 2017, and this city/franchise tossed the ‘New Expansion Team Handbook’ of the past right out the window. The Golden Knights finished the 2017-2018 season with a record of 51-24-7 earning them the top spot in the NHL Pacific Division. Even More remarkable, Vegas fought their way into the Stanley Cup Final! Although the Golden Knights ended up falling to the Washington Capitals in 5 games, the fact that the team reached the Stanley Cup in just its first season is unprecedented. So, how did Vegas do it? The franchise did it with hungry (underrated) players, coaching, and the full support of the city. Now let’s use this same logic and reasoning and apply it to how Nashville SC is positioned to take the same approach as the Golden Knights.

NashVegas Right?

Nashville is currently one of the fastest growing cities in America with a population reaching near 700,000 people. Primarily known for its country music, Nashville is also known for a night on the town, outdoor tourist attractions, hot chicken, and an influx of immigrants moving into the area. According to worldpopulationreview.com, Nashville’s foreign-born population has tripled between 1990-2000. The locals may not love densely populating the city,  but builders/investors do, which is one major reason the MLS perceived Nashville as a city capable of supporting an MLS franchise.

Soccer is already rich in Tennessee with clubs such as Tennessee Soccer Club (TSC) in Nashville, FC Alliance in Knoxville, and the Lobos in Memphis producing quality players year in and year out. One of the players includes TSC standout, and now Clemson Tiger Johnny Heckman, who is a Nashville native. On the women’s side, former TSC talent Wrenne French is now playing for the Tennessee Volunteers where she racked up 11 starts at wingback. Heckman and French are just 2 of the 300 former players that TSC  has produced to the collegiate level. Soccer is a beautiful game and as more and more kids are exposed to it at a young age, the appreciation by the community as a whole will only continue to grow. Example: Every soccer dad who blamed only football back in his day!

 

Nashville is hungry for a successful sports franchise. The Tennessee Titans and Nashville Predators have shown spurts of promising potential, only to lead to disappointing fans. Watching the locals cling to the Preds in their Stanley Cup run in 2017 shows just what I am talking about. Some may call it ‘fairweather or bandwagon’ fans (and they may be right..) but Nashville is absolutely ready to support a true contending franchise. Along with the fans, the Stars living in the Nashville area are as well. Nashville SC would be able to mimic the Preds by having BIG name stars singing the National Anthem and halftime shows.

Coaching

Las Vegas’s had Gerald Gallant as their head coach in their inaugural season. Gallant was by no means the most qualified for the job, and his track record isn’t exactly impressive. What Gallant had going for him was he was a “players coach.” General Manager George McPhee described Gallant with a statement that reads, “In the eight months of vetting, we never heard a negative word about Gerald Gallant, the person.” In the organization’s first year, Gallant brought maturity, knowledge of the game, and something bigger than sports… someone the players could count on. Gallant was more concerned with the positive mindset of his players, and their well-being than his own personal win-loss record. Unselfish coaches like this are hard pressed to find in this day and age of sports. This is the exact candidate Nashville SC needs at the wheel to take them through their inaugural season, and they have just the man. His name is Gary Smith.

 

 

Gary Smith is currently the head coach of Nashville SC as they are still a year away from the MLS, playing in the USL. Nashville SC CEO stated the following in regards to the hire, “We need someone who understands the nuances of the U.S. game, someone that has experience of working with domestic and international players, someone with a history of developing young talent, someone who believed in our vision for the club and most importantly someone who is a winner. Gary fits that bill perfectly. Alongside those key attributes, the value of the continuity of having Gary already at Nashville SC and working with our team for the 2019 USL season make for a fantastic outcome.” The key sentence in that lengthy quote is where he addressed the means to find someone who believed in the vision of the club. Coach Smith will bring consistency, insights, tactics, and a calmness that most expansion teams are not fortunate enough to have.

Players that Create a Culture

Nashville SC has honestly had it as good as it gets in terms of preparing for their opening MLS season. The Club took a similar route that Orlando City SC who started signing players before their opening season. Nashville SC signed Daniel Rios on November 20, 2018, and Cameron Lancaster on December 20, 2018. Rios and Lancaster were the first MLS players that the club signed going into the 2020 season. Both of these players bring experience and leadership to a young club that will look to them as their leaders. The challenge for Rios and Lancaster is going to be to instill a culture and style of play that the rest of the team will embody. Hopefully, Nashville SC will be a place opposing players will HATE playing against, but want to play for! One big challenge will be competing for aging European players with bigger markets such as Los Angeles and New York that will really put Nashville on the map.

All in all, Nashville SC has seemed to have taken extreme caution when it comes to planning out the teams’ route into the MLS in 2020. I would look for the franchise to surprise people around the league in their inaugural season, and for the Nashville SC fans to be recognized as one of the best fan bases in the country!

Photo via: Celero Commerce

 

Where was the ‘Memorial Magic’ for Bryce Drew and his Commodores?

Vandy fans….Do you remember the days of Shane Foster, John Jenkins, Festus Ezeli, or even Will Perdue? If so, then you are probably reminiscing something fierce due to this years  9-22 (0-18 SEC) performance by the Men’s Basketball team lead by Bryce Drew. Let’s break down why Vandy just experienced the program’s first winless season at home during SEC play.

1) Recruiting

There was a substantial amount of hype surrounding this team entering the 2018-2019 season due to recruits such as Darius Garland, and Simisola Shittu choosing to play in Nashville. Garland was/is one of the highest profiled players in the country expected to enter the 2019-2020 NBA draft. When on the floor, Garland averaged 16.2 PPG  on 53% shooting which placed him high on Draft Boards everywhere. The hype was real surrounding Garland until he suffered a season-ending injury in November of 2018 against Kent State. Even with the injury of Garland, the Commodores should have still been competitive in the SEC right? Well, not exactly… Bryce Drew recruited this years team entirely too thin. Essentially, all of Drew’s eggs were in one basket (Garland).

https://twitter.com/npasports1/status/952196497336086529

Typically, teams NOT named Duke or Kentucky have a team balanced with veteran leadership and promising youth, but for some reason, the Commodores are quite the opposite. Bryce Drew currently has a team full of youth but lacks the veteran leadership. At the beginning of the 2018-2019 season, the roster consisted of 4 Freshman, 5 Sophomores, 3 Juniors, and 1 Senior. It’s obvious that this team is loaded with young players, but at the same time…. Drew’s ‘Dores should have won at least 1 SEC game.

2) Bryce Drew

Bryce Drew Took over the Vanderbilt Commodores in 2016 and is now in his 3rd season. In his first 2 seasons, Drew finished 19-16, 12-20, and this year 9-22. The trend is not looking so good for the young coach. Kevin Stallings left Bryce Drew a balanced team with all the ingredients to win, and sustain success. In his first season, Drew had players such as (JR) Matthew Fisher-Davis, (SR) Luke Kornet, (JR) Jeff Roberson, (JR) Riley LaChance, and (SO) Joe Toye. This roster was loaded with Veteran leadership, but also had talented young prospects who should have developed into solid SEC caliber players. The only piece missing was the 5-Star caliber player to really elevate the prominence of the Vanderbilt basketball program…. Insert Bryce Drew and Darius Garland! The entire reason Drew was hired to replace Stallings was to help Vandy take that leap of becoming not just a consistent NCAA Tournament team, to being a competitor in the later rounds of the Big Dance, but he has failed to do so. Outside of Darius Garland and Simisola Shittu, Drew has recruited very poorly and has not equipped his roster with the necessary tools to win. One single injury should never have the ramifications to the extent that this Vandy team has experienced. Take the Kyrie Irving Injury half a decade ago at Duke… I’m not saying Vanderbilt is anywhere near the recruiting levels of Duke, but when Irving went down Coach K’s team still competed at a high level in the best conference at that time.

 

3) Sharing the Rock

The Vanderbilt Commodores ranked 14th (dead last) in the SEC in terms of total assists, and 288th in the entire NCAA…. I don’t feel that I need to elaborate on this!

4) Not Being Locked in EVERY Play and EVERY Game

The ‘Dores have shown spurts of being a quality team this year. Take for instance when they almost repeated history by taking down the Tennessee Volunteers who were ranked #1 at the time. They were legit one VERY questionable call away from winning that game. The next game, Vandy got drilled by 31 to a rather underwhelming Oklahoma Sooners team. This inconsistency is rooted by the ‘Dores not valuing every possession. Not being locked into every play caused Vandy to finish 13th in the SEC in total Turnovers, and 282nd in the entire NCAA which is the bottom of the barrel.

What’s Next?

Vandy Basketball fans should be as optimistic as Tennessee Football fans, because there is nowhere to go but up from here. Losing Darius Garland to the Draft will open up a scholarship position to hopefully land another high caliber recruit. Austin Crowley (6′-4” 155 lbs.) and Scotty Pippen Jr. (6’1″ 185 lbs.) are upcoming recruits that will immediately help the Commodores back-court which lacked depth and court vision. What the ‘Dores need is someone to play alongside Simisola Shittu, and can carry some of the burden on the glass. Shittu was a projected 1st round draft pick along with Garland, but due to a lackluster season, he is likely to return for his sophomore season. I’d expect him to make huge improvements to his passing, and body control as he elevates into jump-shots. If Shittu develops himself back into an NBA Draft prospect I’d expect Vandy to AT LEAST win a single SEC game this upcoming 2019-2020 season. Although many Vandy fans would like to see the program release coach Bryce Drew, I would expect him to be given one more year. With his job on the line Drew should have the hardest summer training program in the country to try and turn this program around ASAP.

 

Athlete Spotlight: Caleb “Sweet Hands” Plant!

Photo: Boxing News

“And the NEW!” 

Caleb “Sweet Hands” Plant is the epitome of the type of athlete that parents hope their kids look up to. The 26 year-old boxer from Ashland City, TN is the current IBF Super Middleweight Champion of the World, but the path to this point in his career was far from seamless. Born and raised in Ashland City, I, too, have seen first hand, the struggle that most families in this town of 4,600 people (as of 2017) have had in their lives. It’s no secret that Cheatham County, specially Ashland City, is stereotyped consisting of the “blue-collar”, country, uneducated, drug infested, and the list goes on of degrading adjectives by surrounding counties in middle Tennessee. Caleb has embraced that. He has let this negative energy fuel him to want something better for himself, all while still being publicly proud of the town he grew up in. What are the chances of a kid from the “backwoods” that has one of the highest poverty rates, and also one of the highest total drug overdoses per capita in Tennessee, making it out not only to just be successful, but to be the Champion of the Boxing World? I would say very little…

Life tends to test the best of us, and Caleb has received more than his fair share. In January of 2015, Caleb had to do what no father should ever have to do, bury his baby daughter Alia who suffered from more medical complications in her cut-too-short life than most people do in a lifetime. I can’t express the raw emotion and love Caleb had for his daughter in words with the detail it deserves, so the video below is Caleb Plant himself describing just how much she still means to the Champ.

 

 

Caleb plant is the most well-spoken person in the sport of boxing today. He’s humble, but confident. He demands success, but understands the grind. He has worked harder for his accomplishments than anyone else in the sport. Caleb makes no excuses, handles adversity with dignity, respect, class, and always perseveres. I’m not here to knock the leadership and heroism of other super athletes, but how is Caleb Plant not who you want your son’s and your daughter’s to look up to?  There’s nothing worse for an opponent than getting out worked before the main event mentally and physically, and then stepping in the ring only to be dominated in a humiliating fashion. Caleb Plant absolutely knows he’s the best, and he is here to let the world know it.

 

 

Currently, the 6’1″ 168 lbs. Champion is 18-0-0 winning over 50% of his fights by knock-out. Plant is traditionally an orthodox fighter, but has the speed and hand quickness to knock you out upside down, on his head, and blind-folded if he so pleased. His most recent victory was in the Title fight that also featured Jose Uzcategui on January 13th, 2019 which is a day that I’m sure neither Plant or Ashland City will ever forget. Caleb has proved the right to his moniker of “Sweet Hands” by landing 31% of punches thrown in his Title Fight against Jose, according to CampuBox statistics. Caleb “Sweet Hands” Plant will soon be tested to defend his newly acquired belt, but with his determination, drive, heart, and Angel Alia looking over him you best believe he will be ready!

Why BASKETBALL will be the World’s most Loved Sport in the Near Future

Photo: (Yahoo!)

For the history of humanity, soccer (futbol) has been hands down the world’s most popular sport and it really has not even been close, that is until now. Basketball is quickly growing into a sport that is positioned to challenge soccer for the throne. You may be thinking this is because of reasons such as the Colin Kaepernick in the NFL, or the rather boring nature of an MLB game, but neither are the true reason behind surge of basketball fever… It’s China! It may not seem obvious, but its strictly a factor of population. China accounts for 1.37 of the 7.7 billion human beings on Earth which is nearly 20% of the entire population.

 

 

Personally, I always assumed that if you did not live in the U.S., then you were mainly a fan of soccer, but this couldn’t be any further from the truth. This summer I was fortunate enough to travel to various cities in China including Shanghai, and Beijing. What I found out was that the people of China have a tremendous love for basketball, specifically the NBA. I remember walking past the blacktop courts one hot summer day where the temperatures were reaching near 100°F, and there was ALWAYS someone out there getting buckets. By 5 O’Clock the courts were absolutely filled to the brim with hundreds of people playing pickup. Me being me, I thought I would go out there and absolutely dominate and they would see me as the equivalent of Kobe or Jordan… But boyyyy let me tell you the Chinese can straight ball. There is no lack of skill, and no lack of heart when it comes to the blacktop courts in Shanghai!

I asked my fried Liu (native to Beijing) why the people of China had such admiration and love for the game of basketball, and he answered so brilliantly that now it is clear as day. Liu said because the population density in China is so high, the governemnt has to find ways to encourage an active lifestyle, but do so in a cost/space efficient way. Liu asked me how large a soccer, or football field was and then proceeded to ask if I thought either field would fit anywhere in downtown Shanghai.. my answer was obviously no, and then Liu finished by stating that basketball courts are EVERYWHERE in Shanghai because you can fit 6 courts on the same amount of land that you can fit 1 soccer field. so instead of 22 people playing 11v11 soccer, they have 20 people playing half-court pickup totaling 120 people all at once. This was an eye opening revelation to me. There was even a basketball court in the sacred Forbidden City in Beijing!

Photo: (Flickr)

As populations grow (especially in Asia), and social media slowly gets less regulated by Chinese governments expect to see the NBA become the world’s most watched sports organization. The players will follow the money (which China is more than willing to pay a washed up NBA player), and the fans will follow the players. Basketball is an international sport that connects all kinds of races, ethnicity, cultures, and minds with each other, and will continue in a positive and growing way!

 

Twerkin’ Season in Tennessee!

Photo: Sports Illustrated 

 

Going into the 2017-2018 NFL season there was a lot of hope, and speculation that the Tennessee Titans were the team to beat in the AFC South. Sadly, the team finished just 3rd in the South behind the Indianapolis Colts and the Houston Texans with a record of 9-7-0. All season the problem was the offense, as the defense gave up only 18.9 PPG, which was 3rd best in the NFL. So, what’s the problem? Was the problem our O-line being over-rated and all talk… is it Marcus…. or is it something else? The answer is plain and simple. It all comes down to talent. The Tennessee Titans have an offense full of guys who are actually really good football players, but not one that scratches the surface of being great outside of an aging Delanie Walker. For some reason, management feels the need to sign the richest O-Line contract in history by signing Taylor Lewan to a $16 million deal, but they are reluctant to go get a proven difference maker. If the Titans want to win in a division that is only getting stronger, they are going to have to make a big-time move this off-season. What the Titans truly need is to bring the best WR/touchdown celebrator in Antonio Brown, and make it Twerkin’ Season in Tennessee!

 

 

 

With Brown and the Pittsburgh Steelers expected to part ways, this presents a prime opportunity for The Tennessee Titans to get a proven play-maker at the WR position that can tremendously help Marcus Mariota. Last season, Brown raked in 1,297 receiving yards, which is 406 more yards than the leading Titans receiver Corey Davis compiled. Brown had a total of 15 TD’s which is 1 shy of the Titans entire team combined who only had a miserable 16 receiving touchdowns all season. Davis and Brown could be a deadly duo if used correctly. Corey Davis is a 6’3″ 209 lbs. strong outside receiver, while brown can play literally every other spot on the field. Seriously, the dude is so versatile. Brown could line up outside, inside, or even in the wildcat. The Titans need to find a way to balance their offense, so they don’t have to ride the tank Derrick Henry every game, and Antonio Brown would do just that. Can you imagine the highlight reel Derrick Henry would have if defenses had to account from Antonio Brown at all times and could not just stack the box on every play?

 

 

 

 

The Titans GM Jon Robinson, from good ole’ Obion County Tennessee, has shown he can bring in big names like DeMarco Murray in 2016 to help this franchise win. With the defense developing young talent like FS Kevin Byard from MTSU, and CB Adoree’ Jackson out of USC, this team will be very one-sided if it is not careful. If Marcus Mariota had a receiver like Brown to go along with Davis, then he would not be tasked with doing so much, and would hopefully avoid the injury bug for a season or two. As of now, Marcus has to evade pass rushers on just about every play due to an under-performing offensive line. This is why the fit between the Titans and Antonio Brown is so perfect. Brown is arguably the best wide-receiver in the entire NFL at improvising which the Titans so desperately need.

 

 

Antonio Brown still has plenty left in the tank to show that “Business is STILL Booming” in Nashville which is one of the biggest booming cities in America. Upon arrival, he would not only be WR1, but he would also be one of the most beloved athletes in a city that is dying for sports success. In 2018, the Tennessee Titans experienced the 2nd lowest average attendance in the past decade, which is troubling for the franchise. Fans familiar with the city understand how the locals have taken to, and embraced the Nashville Predators due to recent success.. and the fans would do the exact same for the Titans if they were to take the next step and make some noise in the NFL Playoffs. The Tennessee Titans need Antonio Brown, and Antonio Brown needs a fresh start somewhere he would not have to take a backseat to anyone. Come on Titans, make this happen!

 

 

 

It’s All About Pride In the North!

Watch out America, because the spotlight in this years 2018-2019 Playoffs is going to be on our neighbors up North…The Toronto Raptors! Canadians may be known for being the nicest people on the planet, and would likely apologize even if YOU bumped into them on the street, but there is nothing “nice” about this years Raptors team lead by Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors of past have continuously came up short in the playoffs, but this team is just built differently. Let’s break down why there’s a good possibility you will be seeing Superstar Drake on the sidelines in the 6 facing off against the Warriors in this years NBA Finals.

The GM of the Raptors, Masai Ujiri, has guts and is not afraid to make BIG-TIME moves. We’ve seen Ujiri bring in huge names like Kawhi Leonard, Marc Gasol, Danny Green, and even Linsanity (Jeremy Lin) all for a chance to win the LeBron’less NBA East. Even if all of these players are just temporary rentals, Ujiri is trying to bring the deserving city of Toronto a Conference Championship this year, and give them the experience of playing in the NBA Finals. Ujiri could have pursed bigger named candidates in his job search after firing the well-respected coach in Dwane Casey, but he stuck to his gut and hired long-time assistant Nick Nurse.

The Raptors, in my opinion, have the BEST home court advantage in the NBA. These fans are loyal beyond belief, loud, and you can almost cook a plate of Canadian Bacon in the arena it gets so hot and tense in there! With LeBron out of the East, teams like the Bucks, Celtics, and Sixers are all gonna have a fair shot at the Finals, but the difference maker just might be the fans in Toronto. Scotiabank Arena holds 19,800 seats and you best believe every one of the will be filled come playoff time. Niagara Falls, the CN Tower, Drake, T-Mac, and Vince Carter…. Toronto has the heritage, has the celebrities, and has the attractions to be the “Main Attraction” in this years Playoffs. You can feel the intensity of the arena in this video….

Lastly, I can finally prove the myth that Kawhi Leonard is a robot! With the infamous laughing video, his quite personality, and dominate play Leonard has moved himself back into a Top 3 player in the world discussion. I don’t just think he is a robot, I believe he is a human super-calculator on the floor. I say this because if you watch Kawhi play you will see he is far from flashy, he’s not Usain Bolt on the court, he’s not Shaq in the paint…. but instead he almost methodically some how bobs-and-weaves himself to the exact spot he pre-planned to take a shot. Take in point his GAME WINNER last night against the Portland TrailblazersLeonardLowry, ***SIAKAM***, Gasol, Green, and Ibaka….. This franchise has a roster built for no other time than NOW. The Toronto Raptors are here ladies and gentleman and Kawhi is ready to feed the NBA East to the HUNGRY Raptors fans in Toronto!