DePaul among seven Big East schools to leave conference

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DePaul among seven Big East schools to leave conference

DePaul, Marquette, Villanova, Georgetown, Seton Hall, St. John's and Providence all plan on leaving the Big East and creating their own conference.

The president of the seven non-Football Bowl Subdivision schools in the Big East released this statement about the decision on Saturday:

Earlier today we voted unanimously to pursue an orderly evolution to a foundation of basketball schools that honors the history and tradition on which the Big East was established.  Under the current context of conference realignment, we believe pursuing a new basketball framework that builds on this tradition of excellence and competition is the best way forward.

We are grateful to our Commissioner, Michael Aresco, for his exceptional leadership of the Big East Conference.  We have been honored to be associated with the outstanding group of institutions that have made up the Big East.  While we pursue this opportunity for our institutions, we believe the efforts of the past two years have established the foundation for an enduring national football conference.

We look forward to building this new foundation with an emphasis on elite competition and a commitment to the development of our students engaged in intercollegiate athletics.  That is where we will now spend our energy as we move forward.

Bears' Daniel Braverman approaching NFL with chip on shoulder

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Bears' Daniel Braverman approaching NFL with chip on shoulder

Daniel Braverman isn’t sure exactly what he needs to do to earn a little respect.

Maybe it’s his size, at 5-foot-10, 177 pounds. Whatever, Braverman was not even invited to the NFL Scouting Combine this February despite finishing second in the nation last year with 108 receptions (for 1,371 yards).

That followed an 86-catch 2014 season. Those two seasons came after he lost the 2013 season to a torn ACL suffered in a spring practice.

He admitted to playing with a chip on his shoulder to prove he belonged with the best – which he showed against two of the nation’s best.

His 2015 games included 10 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown vs. Ohio State. His career best came against Michigan State with 13 receptions for 109 yards.

That chip appears to still be securely in place. Despite his production, he was not invited to the Scouting Combine this February and it left him “frustrated,” he said, “because I felt like I was left out, that I belonged with all those receivers.”

With the success enjoyed by undersized wideouts like Troy Brown, Julien Edelman, Danny Amendola and Wes Welker, Braverman will do what he has to do, noting that he comes out of Florida football, so big games and competition are hardly intimidating.

If that’s inside, then I’ll play inside,” Braverman said. “If it’s outside, I’ll play outside. I think I have great route skills and I’m very shifty.”

Special teams, versatility key to selecting DeAndre Houston-Carson

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Special teams, versatility key to selecting DeAndre Houston-Carson

One emphasis of the Bears’ offseason efforts was an upgrade of special teams, which included signing returner Omar Bolden from Denver and re-signing leading tacklers like Sam Acho and Sherrick McManis.

In the sixth round of the draft the Bears went that direction again, selecting William & Mary defensive back DeAndre Houston-Carson, who has played both cornerback and safety but also blocked nine kicks in his four seasons.

“The main thing is just preparation and the film study,” Houston-Carson explained. “And then just my position coach putting us in position to make those plays.”

Houston-Carson was not given any indication whether he is ticketed for cornerback or safety job competitions. Like others in the Bears’ 2016 draft class (defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard, linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, offensive lineman Cody Whitehair), Houston-Carson started at different positions and finished his college career with 10 interceptions.

“I think I was comfortable at both positions,” Houston-Carson said. “[William & Mary] coaches asked me to make a position change due to depth chart issues at the beginning of the spring semester. I felt I’d be willing to do it, and I think it went well.

“We had a good season this year. We had a chance to get a conference championship, so I think it went well.”

Bears add power on RB depth chart with Indiana’s Jordan Howard in Round 5

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Bears add power on RB depth chart with Indiana’s Jordan Howard in Round 5

Running back, one of the foundation pillars of Chicago Bears football, was in some turmoil this offseason. First was the exit of Matt Forte. Then was the failed pursuit of Denver’s C.J. Anderson, a statement that while the Bears were pleased with the futures of Ka’Deem Carey and Jeremy Langford, those two were not necessarily the future of the offense, particularly in situations calling for raw power.

Accordingly, the Bears went big in the fifth round, using the 150th pick of the draft on Indiana running back Jordan Howard, a 230-pound force who averaged more than 123 yards from scrimmage in his combined 32 collegiate games at UAB and Indiana.

At 230 pounds, Howard eschews subtle.

“I feel like I’m a grinder,” Howard said. “I can get those tough yards and in the NFL. You don’t really see those long, explosive runs like you see in college. There are a few, but not many, so I feel my game suits the NFL more than it does college.”

It also appears to suit the Bears, who have struggled too often over the past several years in short-yardage and goal-line situations.

Howard, however, may need to tweak his game just a bit.

Big running backs like Earl Campbell, Larry Csonka and Christian Okoye have had success spikes but not always sustained at those peak levels. The reason: Big backs deliver big hits but they also take more of them, and hits take their toll. John Riggins (240 pounds) extended his Hall of Fame career using speed that away from tacklers rather than taking all of them on.

Howard has a smash-mouth mindset but NFL tacklers will be substantial tiers above what he ran into at Indiana. And he missed time last year with knee and ankle injuries that limited him to nine games, in addition to averaging 216 carries per season for his three college years.

Still, “I feel like my size will benefit me well because a lot of time guys they won’t want to tackle me a lot of times, especially after long games when we’ve just been pounding,” Howard said. “They then start diving and then I can avoid them. I think it works very well for me.”

(Hard to see Aaron Donald, Luke Kuechly, Julius Peppers and J.J. Watt “diving,” but you never know.)

Howard will not be doing a lot of diving himself. He carries a decided chip on his shoulder after getting just one scholarship offer (UAB) coming out of high school, then having UAB drop football while he was there.

"Yeah definitely some pride because coming out of high school I had one offer to play at UAB in Conference USA, so I definitely wanted to prove I could play on a bigger stage," he said. "And I was doing it for UAB because they shut the program down. I wore my heart on my sleeve for them."