BOZICH | Monday Muse: Brohm talks Purdue vs. Louisville, makes Derby picks; No NFL for Fields?
Purdue football coach Jeff Brohm discussed his team's opener with Louisville -- and made his Derby picks. What happened to Devonte Fields? NFL Draft and NBA tidbits in the Monday Muse.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky Derby predictions are coming. You have been warned. As well as several looks at the usual compelling characters on the Churchill Downs backstretch.
But as we wait for the horses to slowly advance to the starting gate, there is time to discuss college football, the NFL Draft, the NBA playoffs and college hoops.
Let’s get to the Monday Muse.
1. Jeff Brohm’s Kentucky Derby Picks
ESPN’s Football Power Index projects 2.6 victories from Jeff Brohm’s first Purdue University football team. The Boilermakers are ranked 99th, 19 slots behind the Western Kentucky program that Brohm coached the last three seasons before he earned the job at Drew Brees University in December.
Don’t be surprised if Purdue is a three-touchdown underdog in its season-opener against Louisville Sept. 2 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Brohm will fret about all that later – if he frets at all. Brohm’s game is more about encouragement than correction, about embracing the moment than fighting imaginary bogeymen.
That included making a trip to Churchill Downs Monday for a look at the Kentucky Derby 143 contenders and to make the local media rounds. Brohm learned from Howard Schnellenberger that there are benefits to having people talk about your program.
After a three-day trip to Phoenix for his first meeting with other Big Ten football coaches on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Brohm will return to Churchill Saturday to celebrate the Derby.
“I haven’t picked a winner in a long time, but McCraken will be my first choice and J Boys Echo will be my second choice,” Brohm said.
Is it strange to open your Purdue career against your alma mater as well as against a guy (U of L’s Bobby Petrino) who gave Brohm his start in coaching?
“It will be an intriguing game,” Brohm said. “The first game right off the bat, you work that much harder between now and game time because you don’t want to be embarrassed. You want to put a good product on the field.
“I have a great deal of respect for the program at Louisville and coach Petrino and the Heisman Trophy winner (quarterback Lamar Jackson). They’ve done extremely well the last few years. For us to play against a team of that caliber, it will tell right off the bat how far we have to come …
“Obviously for us it will be a challenge and it will be extremely tough. It will be the type of game you want to play in. … Without question the reception (at Purdue) has been great. The hunger around town to have a winning football team is definitely there. The excitement is very high right now. They understand there is some work to be done.”
Purdue needs players. Several recruiting classes of players. The Boilermakers won nine games over the last four seasons. The offensive line needs an overhaul. The numbers at receiver and running back are down. Purdue and Brohm need time.
“Spring went well,” Brohm said. “It was productive. Lot of work to do. Lot of improvement to make. But I think we’ve got guys who are hungry and want to be coached up. That’s what you want.
“We’re going to try as hard as we can to recruit the state of Indiana down into Kentucky. A lot of times when you’re familiar with the area, the coaches, the types of players that you get, at WKU we had a tremendous amount of success recruiting Kentucky players … We want to do our part and not overlook anybody from the area that we know of.”
And all that red in the Brohm wardrobe, worn by his father (Oscar) as well as brothers Greg and Brian, all former U of L players?
“Trust me I have heavy red wardrobe through the years,” Brohm said. “That’s been pushed to the back. There’s some new black and gold in the front. There’s still a whole lot of red in there.”
2. Whatever happened to Devonte Fields?
When the 2016 college football season kicked off, I had linebacker/defensive end Devonte Fields atop my list of University of Louisville football players for the 2017 NFL Draft.
Fields played his way into shape in 2016, creating turmoil across opposing backfields during the second half of the season. He looked like the guy once voted Big 12 defensive player of the year, before Fields was dismissed by TCU.
More than 250 players were drafted Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Fields was not one of them, even though long-snapper Colin Holba (sixth round, Steelers) and safety Josh Harvey-Clemons (seventh round, Redskins) were selected.
It was Fields, not Holba nor Harvey-Clemons, who earned the highest pre-draft grade from the NFL Draft website.
At least six former Cardinals who were not selected signed free-agent deals. Not Fields. A spokesman for U of L football said the school had no news on Fields’ future.
Hard to believe he won’t have an opportunity. But until that opportunity comes, the Dallas Morning News posted this story on Fields and his friendship with Myles Garrett, his former high school teammate who was the first pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
It’s a strange one.
3. Which Schools Rule the NFL Draft?
The Sporting News had this interesting post-draft tidbit. Five Power Five programs produced a remarkable 80 picks over the last two seasons.
The list of heavyweights includes names that you would suspect: Ohio State (19), Alabama (17), Clemson (15), Florida (15) and Michigan (14).
Yes, it includes the last three national champions. But Florida has hardly been spectacular while wobbling to SEC East titles the last two years, and Michigan has been to Rome but has not been to the College Football Playoff yet.
But The Haves are intent on remaining The Haves.
4. NFL Draft Power Five Shutout
Here is the flip side of schools that have churned out a strong string of NFL players. Eleven schools from Power Five leagues did not have one player drafted.
Kentucky was one of those schools. So was Syracuse. I wasn’t surprised to see Iowa State and Rutgers on the list, too.
P5 programs without a draft pick: Syracuse, UVA, Duke, Iowa State, Kansas, Maryland, Rutgers, Oregon, Arizona, Kentucky, South Carolina.— Paul Myerberg (@PaulMyerberg) April 29, 2017
The Ducks competed in the college football playoff in 2014. From 2010-2016, 25 Oregon players were drafted, five in the first round.
Now you understand why Mark Helfrich is gone and former WKU player/coach Willie Taggart was hired as Mr. Fix-It in Eugene.
5. Attention Colin Cowherd: John Wall Sighting
National radio host Colin Cowherd jumped on former Kentucky point guard less than 24 seconds after Wall came into the league in 2010 – and has been reluctant to back off.
Cowherd didn’t like the way Wall performed “The Dougie,” during his NBA introduction. Didn’t think he could become a leader on a winning team. Cowherd has been nearly as harsh on Wall as Skip Bayless has been on LeBron James.
Wall has improved nearly every season, developing into one of the NBA’s top eight guards. Teamed with former Florida star Bradley Beal, Wall led the Wizards to a first-round playoff victory over Atlanta. They’re matched with Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Wizards lost the opener but they’re certainly capable of advancing.
Wall has been terrific. He finished second in the league in assists at 10.7 per game while averaging more than 23 points. Sports Illustrated noticed, featuring Wall in a lengthy article in this week’s issue. I hope Cowherd notices, too.
6 Kentucky Recruit In No NBA Rush
As Eric Crawford and I discussed last week, John Calipari does not need our help to succeed at the University of Kentucky, but we’re always willing to help. Calipari has never been afraid to tweak his lineup or approach in February or March.
I believe he could also benefit from a tweak in his recruiting philosophy: Sign a few more guys ready to stay more than a single season in Lexington instead of rushing away to the NBA.
Calipari will never abandon his pursuit of the best of the best – the John Wall, Anthony Davis, Julius Randle, De’Aaron Fox kind of player. But they all don’t have to be the Next Wall or Davis.
Maybe guard Jemarl Baker will be a guy who stays several seasons. Originally committed to California, Baker changed his allegiance to Kentucky after the Bears made a coaching change. He’s a shooting guard who led Eastvale Roosevelt to the school’s first prep title in California.
The Los Angeles Times wrote this profile on Baker – and the kid does not mention the NBA one time.
7. College Coaches Scoring in the NBA Playoffs
You know the list of college coaches who made a move to the NBA and then U-Turned back to college basketball. There was Rick Pitino. There was Calipari. There was Tim Floyd, Lon Kruger, Leonard Hamilton, Mike Montgomery and others.
Call the roll of the eight coaches still pursuing the 2017 NBA title. Three are former college guys.
There is Dwane Casey. No, Casey did not run a college program. His college career was derailed when he worked for Eddie Sutton at Kentucky. But Casey quickly rebounded in the NBA. He’s become a fixture in Toronto and has the Raptors matched against Cleveland in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
There is Brad Stevens. Few are surprised by his success. He was good at Butler. He’s been good with Boston.
Here is the one everybody overlooks: Former Duke guard Quin Snyder.
Snyder did not achieve much in college basketball. He flopped at Missouri, resigning in the middle of his seventh season.
Snyder is not flopping now. Utah lacked homecourt advantage but the Jazz took down the veteran Clippers in the opening round, earning a spot against Golden State in the Western Conference semifinals.
Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers praised the work Snyder has done. Unlike the Warriors, Rockets or Spurs, the Jazz lack a superstar – unless you have elevated Gordon Hayward or Joe Johnson to that status.
Once when people talked about Snyder the first thing they mentioned was his hair. Now, it’s definitely his coaching.
8. The Kyle Wiltjer Report
Few predicted a successful NBA career for Kyle Wiltjer during his two seasons at the University of Kentucky. Quickness was an issue. His game was built around a three-point shot. Maybe he could earn a spot as a power forward capable of scoring from the perimeter, but don’t ask Wiltjer to do much around the rim.
He left UK after the 2013 NIT season, sat out one year at Gonzaga and then finished his college career by delivering two solid seasons with the Zags.
Wiltjer was not picked in the 2016 NBA Draft.
That does not mean he will not have an NBA career. In fact, the Houston Rockets believe that Wiltjer will have a career, even though Wiltjer performed in the NBA Developmental League most of the winter.
This season was heaven for Wiltjer. He averaged more than 10 three-point field goal attempts for the Rio Grande Vipers, the Rockets’ D-League affiliate. No wonder he drew the attention of the New York Times, who featured Wiltjer in this story.
9. Welcome Back, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf
I remember Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf when he was Chris Jackson. Played for Louisiana State. Teamed with Shaquille O’Neal and Stanley Roberts. Got beat in Rupp Arena by one of Rick Pitino’s Unforgettables’ teams. Was as quick as anybody I can remember releasing his jumper.
Abdul-Rauf had a good but not great nine-season run in the NBA mostly in Denver. Hadn’t heard much about him in at least 15 years.
Over the weekend, I heard something about Abdul-Rauf. And Allen Iverson. And Kwame Brown. And Larry Hughes. And a string of other guys you’ll remember from college and pro basketball.
They’re back in something called Big3 Basketball, a league created by Ice Cube that will feature 10 teams in three-on-three halfcourt competition that will tip at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn June 25.
I didn’t see any former U of L, UK, Indiana or WKU players on the rosters, which you can read at this link. But things can change.
10. Poll Results
Did Kentucky basketball benefit from having Hamidou Diallo on the team if Diallo keeps his name in the NBA Draft and exits the program without playing a minute?
Yes, 20.2 percent.
No, 79.8 percent.
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