Three College QB Transfers To Watch In 2017

The college quarterback transfer market is ripe for the picking, as signal callers across the country routinely pack their belongings if they’re bypassed for the starting job one too many times.

This season, a trio of transfers have the chance to make a major impact with their new teams.

Max Browne: USC to Pitt

Browne, a former five-star passer from Sammamish, Wash., waited patiently behind Cody Kessler for his turn in Los Angeles. After being named the Trojans’ starter for 2016, Browne appeared finally ready for the spotlight, but a lackluster 1-2 start to the season (2 TDs, 2 INTs) prompted head coach Clay Helton to shake things up.

The emergence of Sam Darnold, who would lead USC to a spectacular 52-49 win over Penn State in the Rose Bowl, meant Browne was on the move. Having already completed his degree, Browne became a coveted transfer for many programs in search of a quarterback, but Pitt stood out from the pack. He’ll have to compete with Ben DiNucci and Thomas MacVittie for the job, but Browne’s experience should put him over the top.

Jarrett Stidham: Baylor to Auburn

Stidham made an immediate impact in Waco during his true freshman season. Despite playing second fiddle to starter Seth Russell for much of 2015, the Stephenville, Tex., native jumped on his opportunity when Russell went down with an injury midway through the year.

He showed extreme efficiency from the pocket, completing nearly 69 percent of his passes for 12 touchdowns and only two interceptions. But Stidham decided Baylor wasn’t the right fit and he transferred to Auburn, where he sat out last season per NCAA rules. Now, he’s a shoe-in to grab the starting job over incumbent Sean White, and the early reviews peg Stidham as one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC for 2017.

Blake Barnett: Alabama to Arizona State

Barnett, who hails from Corona, Calif., was just as highly touted of a recruit as Browne upon his arrival in Tuscaloosa. But if there’s anything we know about Nick Saban’s football factory, it’s the fact that starting jobs are never guaranteed. Despite winning a close battle heading into 2016, Barnett was quickly ousted for true freshman stud Jalen Hurts when his on-field results weren’t up to par.

Rather than wait out the rest of the season before picking a new destination, Barnett jumped ship right away. While some, including Saban, criticized him for the move, Barnett’s decision made a lot of sense. The NCAA says transfers must wait a full calendar year before they’re eligible to play for their new school, so Barnett will be available in late September. There’s a host of talented options in Tempe, as the Sun Devils currently boast six quarterbacks on their roster, but there are plenty of reasons to believe Barnett is the man for the job. His 6-foot-5 frame, with mobility and arm strength to boot, confirms as much.

Clemson and Alabama’s quarterback battles will tip balance of power

Clemson-Alabama is college football’s Cleveland-Golden State. But if we’re going to see a third straight national title showdown between these storied programs, it will hinge on the quarterback position.

The Crimson Tide entered each of the last three seasons with questions under center, but like clockwork — a quarterback would eventually take the reins.

In 2014, Blake Sims surprised many with his big-play ability. The following year, Jake Coker played the role of steady veteran, but this time the Florida State transfer would lead Alabama to its fourth national championship in seven seasons. Last September, true freshman Jalen Hurts was a revelation for Nick Saban, as the Channelview, Texas, native wowed the legendary coach with his maturity and leadership.

Under most circumstances, Hurts would be the obvious pick to start the first game of the season Sept. 2 against the Seminoles, but Saban’s recruiting wizardry netted the Tide another gritty gunslinger.

Tua Tagovailoa was quickly deemed the next Marcus Mariota coming out of Honolulu’s St. Louis High School, and for good reason. The U.S. Army All-American southpaw floored scouts with his arm talent and intangibles during the recruiting process, earning Elite 11 MVP at Nike’s The Opening last summer. He’s one of an unprecedented 16 early enrollees currently going through spring practice in Tuscaloosa.

If he turns in a strong performance at Alabama’s spring game this Saturday at 3 p.m. on ESPN, Tagovailoa could absolutely keep his name in the competition with Hurts heading into training camp.

Clemson, on the other hand, is retooling its offense without Deshaun Watson, who leaves Death Valley for the NFL Draft after a sterling three-year career. Watson’s last game as a Tiger couldn’t have been more special, as he delivered an emphatic 35-31 win over Alabama in the national championship.

Now, Dabo Swinney has three quarterbacks vying for the starting job, with each bringing a different skill set and experience level to the position.

Junior Kelly Bryant, Watson’s backup the past two seasons, is the early front runner through the team’s spring game last weekend. Redshirt freshman Zerrick Cooper boasts the best arm on the roster, though, so he could certainly impress Swinney enough to take control. Then there’s touted freshman Hunter Johnson. The Indianapolis standout enrolled for the spring semester, and the multi-talented athlete has been slowly adjusting to the offense.

There’s plenty of time left in Clemson’s race to name a starting signal caller. If someone doesn’t take charge by mid-August, we could see Bryant and Cooper splitting reps against Kent State in the season opener. Or maybe Swinney stakes the team’s future on Johnson.

Either way, the quarterback battles at Clemson and Alabama will have long-reaching effects on the college football landscape.

Sergio García Basks in Masters Glory

Sergio García willed two decades of major championship anguish into total jubilation Sunday at Augusta National.

The 37-year-old Spaniard finally crossed the sacred milestone off his list with a spectacular win over Justin Rose on the first playoff hole of the Masters.

García rolled a left-to-right curler out of sight his second trip up No. 18 in front of an vast sea of gleeful patrons. On what would be two-time green jacket winner Seve Ballesteros’ 60th birthday, García made his beloved countryman proud by slipping on his own. He joins José María Olazábal, another two-time Masters champ, as only the third Spanish golfer to accomplish the feat.

“José sent me a text on Wednesday night, telling me how much he believed in me and what I needed to do,” García said in Butler Cabin afterward.

With the tournament on the line and his good friend Rose sitting safe just off the 15th green in two, García channeled the spirit of his mentors, kissing the pin from 192 yards out to set up the first final-round eagle on the hole since Olazabal in 1994. García’s first eagle in 425 holes at the Masters couldn’t have come at a better time.

“I probably hit one of the best eight irons I’ve ever hit,” García said of the shot.

“When I came here in ’99 as an amateur, I felt like like this course was probably gonna give me at least one major. I’m not gonna lie, that thought kinda changed a little bit through the years because I started feeling uncomfortable on the course, but I kinda became at peace with it…I accepted what Augusta gives and takes, and I think because of that I’m able to stand here today.”

García got out to a fast start Sunday afternoon with two birdies in the first three holes. He rode a 5-under performance during that stretch this week to an eventual 9-under 279. 

The 13th hole also treated García well, as his second shot barely stayed dry on the bank of Rae’s Creek. He rallied for a clutch up-and-down from the hazard to make a birdie. On Sunday, García scrambled once more, this time from the trees, to save par and his tournament hopes. “Today, I felt the calmest I’ve ever felt on a major Sunday,” he added.

In his 74th career major start, García earned Masters glory after experiencing frustration his first 17 starts in Augusta and a playoff loss to Padraig Harrington at the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie.

García once famously proclaimed, “I don’t have it, I don’t have the thing I need to have” at the 2012 Masters, lamenting whether he would ever add a major to his trophy case. Sunday, it was different. Sunday, Sergio seized his slice of golfing greatness.

Here’s hoping paella makes an appearance on the menu García crafts for next year’s Champions Dinner.

Three Big Storylines For Masters Week

The brightest weekend of every golfer’s spring is finally upon us. It’s Masters week at Augusta National, where a field of the world’s top players will duke it out for the right to don the green jacket Sunday evening.

Here are three major storylines to follow as practice rounds get underway:

Will Jason Day play in the year’s first major?

The world No. 3 withdrew midway through his first round at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play two weeks ago and has yet to confirm if he’ll participate. His mother, Dening, just underwent successful surgery for lung cancer, but things are looking up for him to give it a go.

The Australian has performed well under pressure at Augusta before, finishing tied for second in 2011 and solo third in 2013. If he gives it a go, Day would be a favorite to join his countryman Adam Scott as only the second Aussie to win The Masters.

Can Dustin Johnson keep up this ridiculous streak?

The world No. 1 couldn’t ask for a better scenario to possibly capture his second career major championship. He’s won each of his last three tournament starts on the PGA Tour, adding two more WGC titles to his trophy case, and has the firepower to torch the Par 5s at Augusta National.

Johnson is a natural at making the golf ball do spectacular things, whether it’s his enormous, arcing drives or the much-improved confidence in his putting stroke. The 6-foot-4 Johnson can dunk a basketball in socks, giving him more than enough athleticism to bomb the towering draws that Augusta requires of its right-handed players.

Who will emerge from a crowded pack of  contenders?

Whether it’s Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama, last week’s Shell Houston Open winner Russell Henley, or rookie Jon Rahm, a large contingency of young guns are in great position to win their first major. If any of these five are going to follow in the footsteps of Jordan Spieth, who earned his first green jacket in 2015 at just 21, they’d be well suited to stick to what they do best and stay within themselves.

Though the young Texan saw how easily that confidence can slip away on Masters Sunday, dunking back-to-back balls in the water on the notorious par 3 12th to lose the lead last year, he does as good a job as anybody of trusting what works in his game. While Spieth could certainly redeem himself this weekend, I think Johnson continues his stellar form and brings home a fourth victory in a row.

 

Chloe Kim, Hailey Langland Usher In New Era For Women’s Snowboarding

Chloe Kim and Hailey Langland may have had their driver’s licenses for less than a year, but the pair of 16-year-olds from California are already veterans on the pro snowboarding circuit.

Both Kim and Langland have X Games gold medals, finishing atop the podium in three superpipe competitions and one big air, respectively. Despite not being old enough to compete in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, this duo is all but assured to represent Team USA in PyeongChang, South Korea, next winter.

Kim, who hails from La Palma, Calif., became the youngest to capture X Games gold at just 14 before slopestyle skier Kelly Sildaru broke her record as a 13-year-old in 2016. Langland, a San Clemente, Calif., native made some history of her own this past January at Aspen’s Buttermilk Mountain. She stomped a double cork 1080 as time expired in the jam format of the big air final — the first time the trick had been landed in a women’s competition.

Kim has 1080s in her bag of tricks, too. She threw down back-to-back 10s at X Games Oslo in 2016 to earn the first-ever perfect score of 100. It’s still so early in their careers that Kim and Langland, each with their own effortless style, has nowhere to go but up. While their peers are bogged down by homework in their high school classes, these two are working just as hard perfecting their crafts at the world’s finest mountain resorts.

There isn’t much Kim and Langland can’t do from a pure talent perspective while strapped into their Burton snowboards. Though the men’s side of the sport — at least competition riding — is so bent on whipping around quadruple corks, Kim and Langland are blending old-fashioned style with progression.

This is just the beginning for them. There will be plenty more X Games, U.S. Opens, Dew Tours, and video parts to film over the next few decades. Strap in for one heck of a ride.

How To Make The Most Of Your Snowboard Lesson

With five seasons of teaching snowboard lessons under my belt, I’ve interacted with countless “never evers” who are experiencing the sport for the first time. Here are five tips for how to enjoy your first day on snow, so you end up wanting to come back for more.

1. Arrive to the mountain early

This may seem like an obvious suggestion, but you’d be surprised how often customers neglect to account for the rental shop lines, especially on holidays and weekends. The earlier you arrive, the more time you’ll have to book your lesson at the ticket office or snowsports school and get your equipment squared away. You may even get lucky and land a private lesson for the group rate if more spots are open.

2. Dress for the conditions

One of the main reasons people give up on snowboarding after their first day is due to being unprepared for the weather. Far too often, folks will show up in jeans or sweatpants, or even worse, forget to bring their gloves. It’s a lot harder to pay attention when it’s freezing cold and all you’re thinking about is your numb fingers or wet pants. You can always shed your extra layers if it starts to warm up.

3. Let your parents relax in the lodge

If you’re still too young to get your license and your parents are driving you up to the mountain, encourage them to grab a coffee or hot chocolate inside while you take your lesson. It isn’t helpful for instructors to be checking over their shoulder every few minutes for helicopter parents telling them what to do.

While that isn’t typically the case, both parties certainly benefit from more of a hands-off approach. Your instructor has been trained to teach all sorts of skill levels and work toward the customer’s goals. I think you’ll find it easier to have a good time if you’re not worried about mom or dad watching your every move.

4. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself

Even the world’s best snowboarders competing at the X Games had to start somewhere. Everyone falls their first day on snow. There’s no avoiding it. While safety is always the top priority, it’s okay to have fun with it when you catch your first edge and bail.

My first time going down the top at my home resort, Tussey Mountain, it probably took me 45 minutes and 45 spills to get to the bottom. Of course it was frustrating, but I had my friends there to keep my spirits up and playfully rib me with jokes. After all, snowboarding is just like riding a bike — once it clicks, your muscles will always remember what they’re doing. Then, you’ll be amazed how quickly you pick things up.

5. Be sure to wear a helmet

This one is by far the most important to me. While instructors and clients aren’t required to wear a helmet on the mountain, the way I see it, there’s no good reason not to. Sometimes all it takes is an awkward crash (even at low speeds) for you to smack your head in the wrong way. If smart professionals do it every time, why would a beginner feel “too cool” to wear one also?

Wearing a helmet saved pro snowboarder Kevin Pearce’s life in 2009 when he was training for the Olympics in superpipe and sustained a traumatic brain injury. Plus, it’s warmer for your ears than a hat anyway. Here’s a link to his site called Love Your Brain, which supports the TBI community and promotes brain-healthy activities like yoga and meditation.

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I hope these tips were helpful for those who are interested in taking their first snowboard lesson. This sport is a great way to stay in shape and enjoy the outdoors. Who knows? Maybe it’ll become a lifelong passion for you, too.

 

Danny Davis Leads Snowboarding Back To Its Roots

The iconic Winter X Games just celebrated its 21st anniversary in style, where we saw a handful of firsts get stomped at Aspen’s Buttermilk Mountain.

There were the first-ever quadruple corks thrown in competition by Canada’s Max Parrot and Norway’s Marcus Kleveland, who took home gold and silver, respectively, in the Big Air.

Then there was 16-year-old Hailey Langland putting down the first double cork in women’s snowboarding history as time expired in the same event.

But somewhat lost in the shuffle of this arms race to land the next big trick is the root of what makes snowboarding great. Pros like Danny Davis are doing something about it.

Davis is one of the sport’s most creative and diverse riders. Though he’s won back-to-back X Games gold in superpipe, Davis is just as happy slashing pow turns in Japan with his buddies from the Frends Crew.

Perhaps nobody loves snowboarding more than Davis, who spends hours building natural features around his Truckee, Calif., home when he’s not on the road.

He severely cut his right hand while chopping wood a few weeks before this year’s X Games, but didn’t let that deter him from throwing down a pair of fluid runs in the superpipe — grabbing his board with only his left hand.

Davis is also the face of Burton and Mountain Dew’s collaborative brainchild known as Peace Park, where riders from all walks of the profession come together every spring for the most unique event in the industry.

Throughout the year, Davis works closely with Snow Park Technologies, the global leader in special park builds that continue to redefine what’s possible. From its inception, the event has brought together snowboarding’s most talented riders — all with diverse backgrounds and specialties.

Peace Park isn’t a competition like X Games or the U.S. Open. Instead, it’s one big jam session where the pros take laps all day long, inspiring each other to try new lines or even invent new tricks.

When the competition side of the sport is so focused on progression in terms of squeezing as many rotations and flips into one takeoff, it’s refreshing to see Davis and a big group of his fellow pros push back.

It’s inspiring to see your favorite snowboarders tweak a boosted method over a huge hip because amateur riders know that trick is also attainable for them. When you watch someone throw a triple, or most recently, quad cork, it of course causes you to drop your jaw. But only a select few across the world can conjure those types of aerials up in their mind and execute, run after run.

It’s awesome to see Davis and guys like Christian Haller and Ben Ferguson dominating the creative side of riding.

Carving is cool again. There are whole productions set aside to highlight the most unique turn shapes you’ll ever see. Ferguson even pioneered his own new trick at Peace Park — the “gator roll” — where he carves up a left wall and butters into a backside 360.

Davis is simultaneously pushing the sport further while also bringing it back to its 1980s and 90s roots, where style was king and cranked methods ended video parts.

The Beginner’s Guide To Buying Snowboard Gear

Here are five quick tips for getting started on your life-long love affair with snowboarding. Odds are, once you’ve caught the bug, you’ll want to invest in your own gear.

First, focus on board size/flex.

It’s essential that you pick a board that fits your height-to-weight ratio. All too often, young riders who are just taking up the sport tend to use an older sibling’s board that’s simply too long for them to progress and have fun.

Snowboards, like skis, are measured in centimeters. You wanna pick one that roughly falls between your clavicle and nose in length. When in doubt, err on the shorter side. Here’s why: The longer the board, the faster you’ll go. It’s much easier to control your board as a beginner if it’s a bit shorter. You won’t have to work as hard to complete your turns.

Manufacturers rate their snowboards on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the stiffest and one being the softest. A stiffer board will allow riders to pick up more speed, while a softer board makes turning easier to control.

Second, find a pair of bindings that fits your needs.

When I bought my very first setup in eighth grade, I went with a pair of Burton Freestyles for my bindings. Since then, I’ve realized I prefer Union Binding Company based on overall feel and style. Beginners will almost certainly want a pair that’s lightweight and flexible, allowing them to take more laps throughout the day than an old, heavy setup.

In my opinion, you’ll want to stay away from “step-in” bindings, like those manufactured by Flow. While they’re easy to use, no doubt, you can’t sit down and strap in with that style of binding on your board. Pretty much universally, you’ll see riders opt for the traditional two-strap system.

Another thing to keep in mind when purchasing and setting up your new board is that you’ll want a bit of a duck-like stance. Some boards come preset as directional, meaning the back foot is straight ahead rather than splayed out. As you get better, you’ll want to start riding switch and it will be extremely difficult if your bindings are unbalanced. Shoot for 10-15 degrees open on both sides.

The final aspect to consider when purchasing a new setup is your boots.

Just like when looking at board flex, you’ll want to pick a boot that’s a bit softer for your first pair. Really stiff boots are excellent for advanced riders who routinely comb the backcountry for steeps and cliffs. Beginners will get worn down and discouraged with a stiff pair, but give them a softer makeup and they’ll have a blast.

It’s much easier to learn the intricacies of turn shape and control with a softer mold. The rating system is also the same as boards, ranging from 1-10.

There are three main kinds of boots to consider when browsing for your first pair: Traditional laces, speed laces, and the boa system.

Your traditional pair will feature long, thick laces that tie up comparable to hockey skates. It allows for more variation in fit, but on average will take you longer to get used to at first. Speed laces, the system I have in my boots, allow the rider to tighten via three pull cords on the tongue and two sides. Boas, on the other hand, work via a circular crank system that tightens down to a specific feel. They’re the hardest to fix if they break, but are usually pretty durable.

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There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored. I hope this guide was helpful for those who are interested in taking up snowboarding as their new passion.