With Jackson and Vitters, the vision for the future comes into focus

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With Jackson and Vitters, the vision for the future comes into focus

LOS ANGELES Out in Hollywood, the vision finally came to life. The Cubs believe they will one day be starring in October baseball.

So much has to happen before that becomes a reality, but the Cubs took a step forward on Sunday by green-lighting Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters from Triple-A Iowa.

Ready or not, the two former first-round picks will get a chance to show they belong alongside their buddy Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, who at the age of 22 now seems like an old veteran on this team.

It was 83 degrees and sunny as Jackson looked all around Dodger Stadium.

I caught myself laughing a couple times: Youre kidding me right now? Jackson said after a 7-6 loss. (Its a) pretty indescribable feeling inspiring. I look forward to the days and hopefully years to come.

Jackson said it was hard to soak it all in. They were running on almost no sleep after getting the call from scoutingplayer development chief Jason McLeod late Saturday night and waking up for a 6 a.m. flight from Des Moines to Dallas, where they connected to Los Angeles.

In his big-league debut, Jackson went 2-for-4 with a walk, a run scored and a strikeout. That was all that seemed to be holding back the 24-year-outfielder from Cal-Berkeley, whose 158 strikeouts this season began to overshadow his 15 homers, 27 stolen bases and .817 OPS.

With the strikeouts, I wanted to be here and I knew how close I was and pushed myself a little too hard to be here, Jackson said. But Im here now and Im going to play my guts out and my heart out every day. Thats the type of player I am. Thats the type of player Ill always be.

Jackson rolled in with Vitters, who at 22 finally seems to be living up to the promise that was seen when he became the No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 draft. Vitters was hitting .304 with 17 homers and 68 RBI in his first year on the Triple-A level.

Its really amazing, Vitters said. It seems like half the guys here are guys that started out in Iowa (or) Ive known and played with (while) growing up a little bit.

I really just couldnt think of a better situation to be in right now.

The same way that Jackson has struggled with strikeouts, the Cubs need to see improved defensive play from Vitters at third base. But now 20 games under .500, the Cubs (43-63) will use these final two months to see what theyve got.

It will be a good experience for both these guys, general manager Jed Hoyer said. They can help us win for sure and they can also figure out what they need to do up here to have success. Either way: If they have success, wonderful. And if they struggle a little bit, hopefully theyll learn from those struggles and they can spend the whole offseason working on those things.

We had that with Rizzo in San Diego. He came up and struggled and spent the whole winter working on (those) things and its obviously really helped him this time around. So I dont really see a downside for either one of these guys as far as their development goes in coming up here and experiencing what the big leagues are about.

The Cubs believe Jackson will benefit from working directly with manager Dale Sveum and hitting coach James Rowson.

Its big-league pitching, Jackson said. It goes up a level. Im excited to be here and work with James and Dale and improve as a hitter so that I can beat big-league pitching and hopefully dominate.

Jackson said that last word quietly, matter-of-factly, and his breezy confidence could become part of this teams identity.

This is what its going to be hopefully from here on out, Rizzo said. We all need to stick together. Theres going to be bumps. Theres going to be valleys. But we just got (to) come together and play hard, have each others back.

Rizzo launched a game-tying homer in the top of the ninth inning, a high-arcing shot that just cleared the right-field wall before another bullpen meltdown had Hanley Ramirez and the Dodgers piling on each other celebrating a walk-off win.

Theres plenty of time to write an alternate ending.

I thought we were going to get a little magic for my first game, Jackson said, but well save that for a later date.

High School Lites preview: Week 1

High School Lites preview: Week 1

CSN Chicago will have cameras covering the biggest high school football games across Chicagoland on the season premiere of High School Lites, Friday at 11 p.m. Can the defending 7A state champion Glenbard West Hilltoppers take care of business on the road in Bolingbrook? Can defending 4A champs Phillips begin its road back to the state title game with a win against an experienced Fenwick squad? Who wins the heavyweight ground battle between Prairie Ridge and Cary-Grove? And who comes away with a win when Palatine travels to Lincolnshire to take on Stevenson?

Check out the Facebook Live video of CSN Preps contributors Joe Collins and "Edgy" Tim O'Hallaran and be sure to check Facebook at noon every Wednesday for a live preview.

Von Steuben vs. Amundsen at Winnemac Stadium, 4:15 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Von Steuben, led by head coach Alan Rood, will play its first varsity season in school history. The Panthers are looking to build off the foundation set last year, where they played a full JV schedule. Can the Panthers bring winning football to Chicago’s northwest side? As for Amundsen and head coach Nick Olsen, they will look to improve on a 1-7 record from last fall. 

EDGY's Pick: Von Steuben 20, Amundsen 18

(5) Lincoln-Way East at (South Bend) Adams, Ind., 6 p.m. CT

EDGY's Take: Lincoln-Way East will open the season against an opponent who already has a game under their belt. South Bend Adams (1-0) defeated Northridge 46-29 last Friday. Lincoln-Way East will look towards a steady running game diet via senior RB Nigel Muhammad and a strong offensive line anchored by senior Sam Diehl (Colgate). The Griffins defense features junior DE Devin O'Rourke (6-foot-6, 240 pounds) who already has a handful of BCS level offers. Can the Griffins shake off the rust against an opponent who already has game experience?

EDGY's Pick: Lincoln-Way East 27, Adams 12

(2) Glenbard West at (15) Bolingbrook, 7 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Glenbard West and head coach Chad Hetlet's defense has always been the Hilltoppers calling card, and expect that to be an early strength. Seven starters are back from last year’s 7A state champion squad. Keep an eye out for senior LB Jackson Goleach, senior DB Justice Bradley and senior FB/DE Dionte Moorehead. As for Bolingbrook, they have a ton of talent on the defensive side as well with senior DE Izayah Green-May (Wisconsin), senior DB/WR Kendall Smith (Illinois), senior S Zyon Bell and junior DT Deshaun Mallory. Watch out for the new-look Raiders offense, spearheaded by Bolingbrook’s new offensive coordinator Doug DiFusco. The Raiders offense remains a huge key to success this season.

EDGY's Pick: Glenbard West 24, Bolingbrook  20

 (11) Montini at (22) Maine South, 7 p.m.

EDGY's Take: The biggest question for both Maine South and Montini in this game could be the overall quarterback play. The visiting Broncos will rely on junior Brad Norgle while Maine South will counter with senior Nick Leongas. Both starting quarterbacks are being given the keys to two of the state's top offenses. Will the team who avoids the most turnovers/penalties/early season rust win it?  

EDGY's Pick: Montini Catholic 35, Maine South 24

 

(14) Prairie Ridge at (18) Cary-Grove, 7 p.m.

EDGY's Take: This opening night game in the Fox Valley will feel like a state playoff game atmosphere. Both Prairie Ridge and Cary-Grove want to run the football early and often. Both teams also feature great defenses. Prairie Ridge will let junior QB Samson Evans run the Wolves option game while Cary-Grove will give the football to three-time All-State FB/LB Ty Pennington early and often. Look for, possibly, a late turnover or penalty to potentially be a factor here, and I also wouldn't be shocked to see an overtime or two.

EDGY's Pick: Prairie Ridge 22, Cary-Grove 21 (OT)

Kaneland at Brooks (at Gately Stadium), 7:15 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Kaneland made it to the state playoffs a season ago, however the Knights graduated several starters from that squad. However, Knights head coach Tom Fedderly has a very strong underclassmen group led by second-year starting sophomore RB Jonathan Alstott, who is a cousin to former JCA/Purdue and NFL fullback Mike Alstott. Brooks and head coach Benjamin McCall is looking to bounce back after a 3-6 record in 2015. 

EDGY's Pick: Kaneland 34, Brooks 14

Simeon at (20) Oak Park-River Forest, 7:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Simeon and head coach Dante Culbreath might have one of Chicagoland's most dangerous offensive weapons this season in junior QB Jayshon Jackson (5-foot-11, 170 pounds). Jackson, who already is drawing major D1 recruiting looks and offers, moved from receiver to quarterback this fall, giving Simeon a dangerous run/pass option threat. OPRF and head coach John Horerster also welcomes back some key playmakers, including senior QB Jeremy Hunt plus three starters on the offensive line. Can Simeon's inexperienced offensive line come ready to play? Can the Huskies hang with the Wolverines overall team speed?

EDGY's Pick: OPRF 26, Simeon 20

(9) Phillips at Fenwick (at Triton College), 7:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Phillips and head coach Troy McAllister will look to defend its 4A state title. The Wildcats defense is an early strength, led by senior DT/FB Chris Elmore (Western Michigan) along with OLB Malcolm Fox and senior S Dexter Warren (NIU). The Friars, coached by Gene Nudo, welcome back 19 starters including the entire starting offense from a year ago, including QB Jacob Keller. Can the Phillips offense get going early here? Can Fenwick withstand Phillips quick-strike potential? 

EDGY's Pick: Phillips 27, Fenwick 14

Glenbrook South at (24) Barrington, 7:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Glenbrook South will take the field under first-year head coach David Schoenwetter, who takes over the Titans program from retired head coach Mike Noll. South will be inexperienced with just five returning starters, including WB Noah Acocella and senior WB Jake Smiley. Barrington and head coach Joe Sanchez seems to find a way to reload every year. Keep an eye out for senior WR Josh Babicz (North Dakota State) plus senior DE Jackson Perkins (Navy) and senior LB Blake Holley (Navy).

EDGY's Pick: Barrington 28, Glenbrook South 14

(7) Palatine at (12) Stevenson, 7:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Great season-opening non-conference game between two 8A powers. Palatine made a terrific run last season. Expect the Pirates to rely heavily on returning All-State QB Zach Oles and a strong core of offensive skills players back from a season ago. Stevenson and head coach Bill McNamara will bring back nine starters (four offense, five defense). The Patriots' key could be the development of first-year starting QB Aidan O'Connell (6-foot-4, 190 pounds). Can the Stevenson defense contain Zach Oles?

EDGY's Pick: Palatine 28, Stevenson 17

**VIEWERS’ CHOICE GAME OF THE WEEK**

Gary West Side at Valparaiso, 7 p.m.

This will be the first-ever High School Lites game featuring Northwest Indiana foes. The host Vikings, who lost 27-7 in their opener against last year’s Indiana 6A runner-up Penn, features eight returning starters on defense. QB Jake Leffew went 19-of-27 and a touchdown against Penn. They face a Gary West Side team looking for revenge after last year’s 56-0 loss against Valpo. One of the strengths of the Cougars is their secondary, featuring senior Mario Newell and juniors Darius Benton and Markell Outlaw.

"5 Minutes with Edgy Tim" is LIVE! Have a question about your favorite High School Football program? Ask now and Edgy will answer. Don't miss the High School Lites debut this Friday at 11 PM!

Posted by CSN Chicago on Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Tim Beckman steps down from volunteer assistant role at North Carolina

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Tim Beckman steps down from volunteer assistant role at North Carolina

Well that was fast.

About as quickly as the world found out Tim Beckman was working as a volunteer assistant at North Carolina, the former Illinois head coach stepped down from his post.

In a Thursday release, Beckman said he doesn't want to be a distraction to the team.

"I do not wish to be a further distraction to the team or university, and I will no longer serve as a volunteer at UNC," Beckman said in the announcement, published by the News & Observer.

North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora defended Beckman's presence Wednesday, showing a surprising lack of concern over the fact that Beckman was fired from his position as the head football coach at Illinois a year ago when an investigation found evidence supporting accusations of player mistreatment, with former players alleging on social media that Beckman forced players to play injured, demeaned injured players and threatened to take their scholarships away.

Beckman was said to only be working on scouting and film study, but pictures taken at North Carolina practice showed him working with players on the field.

"I don't believe everything I read, all right," Fedora told reporters Wednesday, his quotes tweeted by Andrew Carter of the News & Observer. "I know Tim. I know his side of the story, also. So I was comfortable with it. If I wouldn't have been, obviously I wouldn't have brought him. I wouldn't have allowed him to be in our program. But I was very comfortable with it. I don't have any issues with it at all."

Fedora acknowledged the controversy, saying, "I know it's going to happen, and then a couple of days from now it won't be news. I mean, I promise you, I didn't see anywhere where the NCAA said that he should be banished from the game of football. You know? I mean, the guy didn't win enough games. That's all it was."

North Carolina brass clearly wasn't as comfortably with Beckman's presence as Fedora was, with some strong words coming from the university chancellor.

"When I first learned yesterday that coach Larry Fedora had invited former Illinois head coach Tim Beckman to serve as a volunteer with the football program, I was surprised and disappointed," chancellor Carol Folt said in a statement, published by the News & Observer. "The decision for Mr. Beckman to withdraw from his volunteer position was the right thing to do, and moving forward I don’t expect this situation to recur."

The possibility existed for Beckman to show up in Champaign, as Illinois plays host to North Carolina in the second game of the season. But with Beckman no longer a part of the Tar Heels' staff, that possibility no longer exists.

Badgers name Bart Houston starting quarterback

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Badgers name Bart Houston starting quarterback

Wisconsin has a starting quarterback for its big season-opening game against LSU.

Head coach Paul Chryst named Bart Houston the team's starting quarterback Thursday, picking the senior over freshman Alex Hornibrook.

"One thing I was impressed with was the way Alex and Bart approached camp," Chryst said in a video interview posted by the team. "I thought they both got better, and one of our keys was to make sure that both were ready to play this season and not just play but be able to win with them playing. And I felt both did that. As a team, they're no different than the group, we've still got a ways to go.

"Coming out of it, felt like Bart did everything that he needed to do and earned the right to get the start and was also energized by what Alex did. Love the way that he grew during fall camp, and both need to continue to keep growing. Wanted to get it done as we begin our preparation for LSU and make sure that everyone knew where we were at with it internally, and I'm excited to go forward now."

Houston has appeared in 15 games in his career but got the majority of his playing time in Wisconsin's win over Illinois last season. In that game, he completed 22 of his 33 passing attempts for 232 yards and a pair of touchdowns, also throwing a pair of interceptions.

Houston has a tough test in his first game of the season, going up against the No. 5-ranked Tigers at Lambeau Field. And things don't get much easier from there, the Badgers' schedule an absolute gauntlet to begin Big Ten play a few weeks later with six consecutive games against Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, Nebraska and Northwestern, with four of those games coming on the road.