Thursday, March 31, 2005
DISCUSSION QUESTION OF THE WEEK - 2005 MINNESOTA TWINS PREDICTIONS
AMERICAN IDOL THOUGHTS
Good morning again! Yup, I'm still in Florida! :)
But today, our guest columnist is Cory Hepola. Those of you in the Helena, Montana, area know who he is. Cory is the Weekend Sports Anchor and Sports Reporter for KTVH-TV, an NBC affiliate in Helena. He already has established a very impressive resume of on-air work.
He is also a graduate from Perham High School, as I am. Interestingly, I coached Cory in Little League and through Babe Ruth baseball. I always give him a hard time. See, I was a player who was aggressive at the plate. As a coach, I told players that I would rather they swing at a ball on 3-0 than take a pitch down the middle. Cory was light years ahead of me when it came to the whole concept of on-base percentage being important. Cory walked a lot (and seemed to get hit a lot!). When he did swing, he also was a pretty good hitter. And, as a first baseman, he had an uncanny ability to scoop low throws. I think Cory would probably agree with me that he was a better basketball player than baseball player, but believe me when I say that that is a compliment to his basketball skills and in no way a knock on him as a baseball player.
Cory went on to Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, where he went into communications. Be sure to check out his website for proof!
Today, Cory is going to update us on what is going on with the Minnesota Vikings. It has been a very busy offseason, and like Cory it is making me optimistic about next season!
GUEST COLUMNIST: CORY HEPOLA
Hey, welcome to sethspeaks.net. I, of course, am not Seth… I am merely, Cory Hepola. But, since Seth is gone and living it up in Florida, he asked me to be a guest writer for a day. Please, don’t leave yet… give me a chance!
How do I know Seth? Well, he was my baseball coach when I was youngster in Perham. I’ve always wanted to say this on his site… and today I get that chance. All of the parents loved him. To this day, my Mom still talks about how personable Seth was, and what a good baseball coach he was. It’s too bad he doesn’t know anything about the sport!!!
As for me… I’m currently a sports anchor in Helena, Montana. If you would like to learn more about me, go ahead and check out my website at www.coryhepola.com. There is a bunch of information on me, plus you can see some clips of my work, along with my resume. Oh, and if any of you work for ESPN, please click the “Contact Cory,” link! I would love to hear from you… and work for you!
MINNESOTA VIKINGS – TRADING RANDY MOSS
Let’s talk some sports. I’m also a big Minnesota sports fan, like Seth. But, since I usually get all my Twins information from him… I’ll talk a little Vikings at you.
It’s been a wild off-season for the Vikings. It all started with the Randy Moss trade. Say what you will about the trade… but, Minnesota will be better this year and in the long run! Sometimes a team needs a drastic change to take positive steps in the right direction. Think about this… what have the Vikings won the past 7 years WITH Randy Moss? The answer is… absolutely nothing! Sure, Minnesota went to the NFC Championship Game in 2 of his first 3 years in the league, but since then, they’ve done nothing. Now, obviously, that isn’t Randy’s fault. He’s been nothing but spectacular and one of the greatest wide receivers to ever play the game. But, rumor has it that he was getting to be a little too much for some important Viking players to handle… and if that’s the case… then, a change will do you good! Hey, I love Randy. Behind Cris Carter, he is my favorite player of all-time. But, like I said, change is a good thing.
I still think Minnesota was short-changed in the Randy Moss deal. Cripes, he’s the most explosive player in the NFL! But, when you think that Terrell Owens was traded for a 2nd rounder… you start to think, well, what the Vikings got was ok.
In exchange for Moss – the Vikings got a 25 year old linebacker, Napoleon Harris. Harris kind of under-achieved with Oakland… but, he was playing out of position as a middle-linebacker. He’ll switch to strong-side linebacker with Minnesota – and should flourish because his talents will be used more effectively.
WHAT TO DO WITH THE #7 PICK
Minnesota also received the # 7 overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft. Teams just don’t give that high of a pick up anymore. The Vikings won’t be picking that high for a long time, hopefully, so, they’re going to try and get a playmaker – to help ease the memories of a lost one. Right now, the Vikings have their eyes set on a couple of wide-receivers… Mike Williams, out of USC, and Braylon Edwards, out of Michigan. They are also looking at Derrick Johnson – a play-making linebacker out of Texas. Recently, I’ve been hearing more and more about the Vikings taking a running back with that #7 pick. At first, I was a bit shocked – and none too happy. A lot of you might think – hey, the Vikings have 3 very capable backs. But, think about it.
Yeah, 3 years ago, Michael Bennett rushed for 1,296 yards. But, since then, he’s been hurt… meaning he doesn’t hold up to the beating of a 16 game season – and can’t carry the load 20-25 times a game.
Onterrio Smith is a fine back, but he hasn’t been getting the carries, either… which tells me he obviously isn’t impressing the coaching staff. Plus, Smith is just 1 drag away from missing the entire season because of drug abuse.
Mewelde Moore looked great when he played last season. Of course, it was against New Orleans and Houston. By the way, the Saints probably had the worst defense of all-time during the span when we played them! Wow, were they bad! But, with Moore – he can’t carry the load either… because he’s so small, 5’11”, 205 lbs. He was even nicked up last year. I really like Moore and hope he gets more of a chance this year, but I don’t know if he’ll ever be more than a 3rd down back.
That being said… there are 3 very good running backs in this year’s draft… Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams, out of Auburn… and Cedric Benson, out of Texas. Brown will go before the Vikings pick – because he is probably the best all-around back. But, both Cadillac and Benson could give Minnesota something it doesn’t have right now… and that’s a consistent runner, who can carry the load. I’m very high on Benson because he was a stud for 4 years at Texas… and he’s getting compared to Ricky Williams. Maybe that isn’t a good thing!!!
Anyway you look at it… the Vikings have options at #7, which is always a good thing.
MORE DEFENSIVE SIGNINGS
Let’s continue. After the Moss trade, the Vikings signed Pat Williams… a 340 pound nose tackle that will remind fans of a once popular, Jerry Ball! This was a great signing by Minnesota. They’ve lacked a pure nose tackle the past few years… someone who can take up blockers and collapse the running hole. Pat will take pressure off of Kevin Williams, who is quickly becoming one of the best defensive linemen in the game. The one question about Pat is he’ll be 33 in the fall, and some wonder if he’ll slow down a bit.
Then, the Vikings made probably the most surprising move of any team this offseason. Out of the blue, they signed free agent cornerback, Fred Smoot! This was a terrific move by Minnesota. Smoot was considered the 2nd best corner on the market, behind Samari Rolle. But, Smoot is a 25 year old corner – just entering his prime – and the Vikings inked him to a 6 year deal, worth about 34 million dollars. I wanted Smoot more than Rolle. This made me happy!
Minnesota then helped to shore up what’s been a questionable secondary the past, oh, let’s say decade… by signing former Green Bay Packer, free safety, Darren Sharper. Sharper will bring some consistency and experience to a Vikings secondary that has ranked near the bottom for a long time. Critics say Sharper has lost a step… but, he’s also played on a bad Packer defense the past couple of years. Anytime that happens – a player’s responsibility is increased… and his mistake’s are magnified. Any way you look at it – Sharper is better than Brian Russell – and will be a giant improvement.
MINNESOTA NEEDS OFFENSE?
Then, after adding all of that defensive help, Minnesota addressed the wide receiver situation by signing free agent, Travis Taylor. By no means will Taylor fill Moss’ shoes. Ha! I laugh to even think about it. But, Taylor does have some potential. He’s played in Baltimore his entire 5 year career… and we all know that the Ravens don’t like to throw the ball. Taylor didn’t put up good numbers at all… but, he was a top 10 pick… and will give the Vikings some depth. Right now, Minnesota has Nate Burleson (who is coming into his own – and could become a Pro Bowler) and Marcus Robinson (who is injury-prone). So, adding Taylor was a good thing. He was cheap – and he’ll battle Robinson for the number 2 wide receiver position. The Vikings still need to address this situation. There’s been talk about trading a low draft pick to Washington for WR, Rod Gardner. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing… but, I think Minnesota will wait to see what happens in the Draft. They could also take Mark Clayton, out of Oklahoma, or Troy Williamson, out of South Carolina with their pick at #18. I’m very high on Clayton… and not just because he played at Oklahoma. He’s a bit smaller – at 5’11”… but, it’s said that he runs the best routes in the draft – and can go over the middle!
The Vikings weren’t done helping out the defense. Minnesota shipped a 7th round draft pick to the New York Jets – in exchange for middle linebacker, Sam Cowart. Cowart is re-united with his old defensive coordinator, Ted Cottrell. I think this was a great trade for the Vikings because, first off, aside from Matt Birk, a 7th rounder is never going to make this team. Secondly, when healthy, Cowart has been very effective – and he brings Minnesota some leadership and experience to a linebacking core that is very young. Right now, Cowart is penciled in as the starting MLB, but that could change if EJ Henderson steps up and has a good camp. Any way you look at it – having Cowart on this team is a good thing because he gives us depth and competition. Oh yeah, and if Cowart gets hurt this year – the Jets have to send the Vikings a 7th rounder next year!
THE VIKINGS…. AS OF TODAY
So, as of today, the Vikings have severely upgraded their biggest weakness… the defense! It’s kind of cool; Minnesota may actually be able to stop somebody next season. That’s something Viking fans haven’t seen since the Tony Dungy era! Pat Williams, Napoleon Harris, Sam Cowart, Fred Smoot, and Darren Sharper are all better than the guys they will replace from last year’s defense. That’s exciting!
Minnesota still has to address some needs. They need to do something about the wide receiver issue… either through the draft or a trade. Minnesota also needs to address the running back situation – whether they’re going with Bennett, Smith, Moore, or Moe Williams… or are they going to draft a stud. That running back by committee thing can’t be done at the Pro level. Backs need to get in a groove. The Vikings could also use some depth on the offensive line. Today, Adam Goldberg is penciled in as the starting left guard – and he’s not the scariest man on the planet. As for the defense, they might look at another defensive end – a pure pass rusher. Then, Kenechi Udeze would move to the left side. They might also look at a weak side linebacker – if they are not convinced with the maturity of Dontarrious Thomas. The biggest glaring weakness might be the kicking game. Minnesota needs to get a kicker – and they might draft Mike Nugent, out of Ohio State early, to do it.
Well, that’s all I’ve got! I wanted to talk about the Timberwolves – and the possibility of courting Phil Jackson out of retirement, but, I figure, I already wrote a novel!
I also wanted to touch on some of my favorite TV shows… kind of like what Seth does… but, I don’t know if any of you are interested in old reruns of Full House and Family Matters! If you are… email me!
Thanks for reading. I hope I didn’t bore any of you with the Vikings update. It’s been a great off-season, and I, for one, can’t wait until the NFL Draft!
Well, I know that I haven't been updating you very well on the goings-on with the Vikings this offseason. Sure, I may comments here and there about a signing, but this is the best description of the Vikings that I have read. I almost hate to admit this, but I'm actually excited about the upcoming Vikings season... and it's only March! Thank you again very much to Cory Hepola!!
Tomorrow we'll be back with our final guest columnist. Stop by to see who it might be!
AMERICAN IDOL THOUGHTS
Again, we must thank The Baseball Savant for sharing his thoughts on last night's American Idol results show. Enjoy!
I'm pretty bummed at Jessica leaving the show as you've probably guessed. I did say that it wouldn't surprise me if she left, but disappointed nonetheless. In fact, I'm too bummed to write anything other than a lament to sweet Jessica:
Oh Jessica when you sang my heart did flutta You were so hot that on a roll they called you butta Simon said we didn't like you And I guess it was true After getting voted off of A.I. your career's in the gutta!
Never fear fans! I'm not on the Vonzell Solomon bandwagon! See how quickly I made the transition? I'm like liquid silver I tell ya!
Thanks again to Seth for letting me write! He got to go to Florida and all I got was this lousy chance to write for his blog!
DISCUSSION QUESTION OF THE WEEK - 2005 Twins Predictions
OK, I am going to get home next weekend and will be really busy getting caught up. So, on Monday, I will be posting my thoughts on the 2005 Minnesota Twins season. I need your help though. I want your thoughts on what the Twins will do in 2005. So, here are some questions to consider, and again, simply e-mail me your answers to the questions or anything else you would like to write about the Twins upcoming season. Use the questions as a starting point. Here were my thoughts going into last year.
How many Wins will the Twins record this year? Where will they place in the division?
Will Johan Santana duplicated his 2004 season?
Which other pitchers will step-it-up in 2005?
Who will disappoint?
Can Joe Mauer stay healthy and, if so, what will he do this year?
What are your predictions for Justin Morneau?
Which hitter will step up?
Who will disappoint?
Who will be the Twins leader in:
Which minor leaguer will have the most impact on the Twins in 2005?
What would you say that X-Factor is for the team?
What storylines are you hoping to read?
Again, I would appreciate your help with this question and Monday's article. Here's how it works. I will post these questions the rest of the week. Please think them over and then send me an e-mail with your answers/response. Then on Monday, your thoughts will be posted on this site. Thanks for your help!
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