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#pounditFriday, January 28, 2022

Stories by Dan Benton:

Missouri coach showed up in dump truck to impress recruits

Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz begins 2022 recruiting in a drump truck

Recruiting season is officially upon us, so it’s time for college coaches to pull out the big guns. Or in the case of Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz, the big trucks.

On the very first day of recruiting, Drinkwitz and his offensive line coach, Marcus Johnson, showed up at Lee’s Summit North high school in a massive 18-wheeler dump truck. You literally couldn’t miss it.

The grand entrance does not upstage that of Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, who kicked off recruiting by showing up in a helicopter. But it did garner the sort of attention Drinkwitz intended.

As Fowler notes, Drinkwitz and Johnson were on hand to recruit four-star offensive lineman Cayden Green, who is widely considered a top 70 prospect in the 2022 class. Whether or not it works remains to be seen, but Green will certainly remember it either way.

Jim Caldwell reportedly expecting to be interviewed for Bears job

Jim Caldwell in Lions gear

Following the termination of head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace, the Chicago Bears have been thrust into a search for replacements. To date, nine different head coaching candidates have either interviewed or been requested for an interview. But one name missing from that list is Jim Caldwell.

That is poised to change, however.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports that Caldwell fully expects to interview for the Bears’ vacant head coaching job, and several around the league share similar expectations.

Caldwell, who served as head coach of both the Indianapolis Colts (2009-2011) and Detroit Lions (2014-2017), last appeared on an NFL sideline in 2019. At the time, he served as assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach of the Miami Dolphins.

However, Caldwell has drawn recent interest. He reportedly interviewed for the Jacksonville Jaguars’ head coaching vacancy after the team fired Urban Meyer.

The 66-year-old Caldwell has compiled a 62-50 record over seven seasons as an NFL head coach. During that time, he’s finished sub-.500 just twice. He’s also gone to the playoffs four times (2-4) and reached the Super Bowl once (2009).

Image: A Healthier Michigan/Flickr via CC BY-SA 2.0

Browns coach responds to reports of tension with Baker Mayfield

Baker Mayfield on the sidelines

During the final month of the regular season, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield twice took aim at Kevin Stefanski’s play calling. That, coupled with the team’s 8-9 finish, led to rampant speculation that trouble was brewing between the two.

However, the exit meeting between Stefanski and Mayfield reportedly went swimmingly. So much so that general manager Andrew Berry appeared to commit to Mayfield in 2022 and potentially beyond.

On Thursday morning, Stefanski took things a step further and attempted to shut down any notion that he has issues with Mayfield.

“It’s good. We talked. He’s going to get surgery, which is huge for him, and he can start the rehab process here and get ready to jump back into it,” Stefanski told Andy Baskin and Jeff Phelps on 92.3 The Fan. “But Baker and I, I think we work well together.

“I respect him. He respects me. I push him. He understands how we operate. We’ve had two years together, and I think as a team we’ve certainly just had our ups and downs. But I do think that we push each other, and there’s definitely a level of respect there.”

That’s a stronger take than Stefanski had offered on January 7 when he told the team’s beat that his relationship with Mayfield was “no different” than it was in 2020.

Mayfield, meanwhile, has not held a public interview or press conference since January 3. And with surgery currently on tap, it’s unlikely that we’ll hear from him for quite some time.

Image: Aug 29, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) is shown on the sideline during their game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Ja’Marr Chase eager to tease Justin Jefferson over record

Ja'Marr Chase dances in the end zone

During a 34-31 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase tallied an impressive 266 yards receiving. That was good enough to set the NFL’s all-time rookie record for receiving yards in a single game.

Furthermore, those 266 yards gave Chase 1,429 receiving yards on the season. That, too, is an all-time rookie record.

But the record is a little extra sweet for Chase. Not only did it wipe out any memory of his preseason struggles, it also surpassed his former college teammate and close friend, Justin Jefferson, who had previously held the rookie record with 1,400 yards.

“It meant a lot,” Chase said during an appearance on The Herd. “It was a goal of mine. I had written it down and stuck it on my mirror … in college. It’s been with me ever since. Now, I get to go back and call Justin and rub it in his face a little bit.”

It’s all in good fun, though.

“That’s my guy. This is something we always talked about. It’s just a blessing to have the opportunity to be in this position,” Chase added.

Chase may have broken Jefferson’s all-time rookie record but the Minnesota Vikings wide receiver still has one up on his former LSU teammate. With one game remaining, Jefferson has 1,509 yards to Chase’s 1,429 yards.

Browns coach explains why Nick Chubb saw little action in first half

Nick Chubb

Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb saw very little action in a 26-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night, and that left many scratching their head.

Chubb amassed just four first half carries and 12 overall. He averaged an impressive 4.8 yards per carry, so why didn’t Cleveland hitch their wagon to Chubb and ride things out? That’s a fair question.

“He got a little banged up with a rib injury,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said after the game, via “He was able to play through it, but he needed some rest.”

Curiously, Stefanski had a different take as the team entered the locker-room at halftime. He told ESPN that Chubb was fine physically, which certainly raised some eyebrows. Things became more confusing with Stefanski’s later claim that Chubb had been injured.

So, was it injury or was it performance and play-calling?

“Yeah, it was a factor in some of those things [the play-calling],” Stefanski said. “I don’t want to overstate that either, though. We just couldn’t sustain drives, staying on the field, those type of things.”

Whatever the case, Chubb was underutilized on Monday night and it cost the Browns in a big way. With the loss, they drop to 7-9 on the season and are now guaranteed to finish the season with a sub-.500 record.

Photo: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Reporter shares just how crazy talented Georgia defense is

Georgia DL Jordan Davis

Georgia is headed to Indianapolis where they’ll take on Alabama in the National Championship Game on January 10. No matter how that contest plays out, the Bulldogs will still be the big story come April.

Kirby Smart’s defense excelled on a historic level in 2021. Leading up to the SEC Championship Game in December, they were allowing less than a touchdown per contest. Even after the Crimson Tide erupted for 41 points, Georgia’s opponents averaged just 9.5 points per game.

Much of that success came on the shoulders of the Bulldogs’ front seven. They were allowing just 2.61 yards per rushing attempt entering Saturday’s CFP semifinal against Michigan. And opponents punched the ball into the end zone just three times against that defense this past season.

In total, Georgia will likely see 11 players selected in the 2022 NFL draft. Seven of those may even turn out to be top 100 picks.

Outside of Jalen Carter, other top Georgia prospects include linebacker Nakobe Dean, defensive lineman Jordan Davis, edge rusher Travon Walker and safety Lewis Cine. All four could have their names called in Round 1.

Defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt, linebacker Channing Tindall and cornerback Derion Kendrick are other names to watch.

Image: Nov 6, 2021; Athens, Georgia, USA; Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman Jordan Davis (99) reacts with defensive lineman Travon Walker (44) after a tackle against the Missouri Tigers during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Dan Reeves, former NFL coach and player, dead at 77

Former NFL head coach Dan Reeves

Former long-time NFL head coach Dan Reeves has died at the age of 77.

Reeve’s family confirmed his passing in a statement to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.

“Legendary NFL player and coach Dan Reeves passed away early this morning, peacefully and surrounded by his loving family at his home in Atlanta, GA. He passed away at age 77 due to complications from a long illness. His legacy will continue through his many friends, players and fans as well as the rest of the NFL community. Arrangements are still to be determined,” the statement read.

Reeves participated in nine Super Bowl during his legendary career. Two came as a running back for the Dallas Cowboys, where he played from 1965-1972.

After his playing career ended, Reeves broke into coaching with the Cowboys as an assistant in 1972 and then from 1973-1980. In 1981, he became the NFL’s youngest head coach when hired by the Denver Broncos, where he’d remain through the 1992 season.

The Broncos fired Reeves following the ’92 season but he quickly landed on his feet, joining the New York Giants as their next head coach. He posted an 11-5 record in his first season, which still stands as the best record by a first-year coach in franchise history. It also earned him the first of two AP Coach of the Year honors.

In 1997, Reeves was hired as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. A year later, he won his second AP Coach of the Year Award.

Reeves left the game of football in 2003 but returned in 2007 to help the Georgia State University’s football program get off its feet. He then reunited with the Cowboys as a consultant in 2009.

Reeves posted an overall head coaching record of 190-165-2. He was also 11-9 in the playoffs.

In 2010, Reeves was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the Broncos’ Ring of Fame in 2014.

Image: Unknown date; Denver, CO, USA; FILE PHOTO; Denver Broncos head coach Dan Reeves on the sideline at Mile High Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Jim Harbaugh not dismayed despite Michigan beatdown

Jim Harbaugh in sunglasses

Jim Harbaugh came up small in a big spot once again on Saturday night.

Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines were completely dismantled by the Georgia Bulldogs, who punched their ticket to the National Championship Game with a 34-10 victory.

After the latest loss, Harbaugh did not sound dismayed.

“It was a great season. To me it’s one of the best seasons in Michigan football history. We were trying to make it greater. We were trying to make it greater tonight. But it was still a great season,” Harbaugh told reporters after the game.

Harbaugh ultimately chalked the blowout up to happenstance. He felt Georgia played their very best game of the season, while Michigan’s players did not. There were no emotions beyond that.

It’s also a time to look forward, Harbaugh said. He believes this is only just the beginning of a Wolverines resurgence.

“It’s still a beginning for this team,” Harbaugh added. “It’ll begin anew this year. Start of a new year.

“Proud of (the team), the way they kept fighting. I could say they were — there’s never any quit in these guys. It’s a very resilient — ton of resolve with this football team, and as I said, to me it feels like a start. Feels like a beginning.”

Sometimes it seems too easy for Harbaugh to brush off failure but perhaps that all comes with a wealth of experience.

Image: Nov 16, 2019; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh reacts during the second half against the Michigan State Spartans at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports