Nathan Marcus decides Vanderbilt best fit

573412.png

Nathan Marcus decides Vanderbilt best fit

Glenbard West tight end Nathan Marcus didn't choose Vanderbilt because he likes Nashville, the capitol of country music, or because he wants to compete in the SEC, the toughest football conference in the nation, or because it's only an hour-long plane flight from Chicago or because he wants to major in aerospace at an academic-minded institution.

No, Marcus chose Vanderbilt because he had a "gut feeling" about his decision and because his mother, who did extensive research on the recruiting process, apparently arrived at a positive feeling about the school even before her son did.

"I didn't have to think about it too much," said the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder. "It sounds like a clich but I felt it in my gut. You really have a gut feeling at what you want. I won't change my mind. If Vanderbilt recruits three tight ends who are better than me, I feel I can outwork them. I don't feel I will have any regrets."

Marcus' mother made sure her son didn't make a hasty decision, that he wouldn't regret not waiting for more scholarship offers that would be sure to come as the 2012 season goes along. He had six offers--Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Indiana, Duke, Boston College and Toledo.

"I'm glad to get it over with before it got crazy," he said. "I'm glad to get my mind made up before I get stressed out and maybe not make the right choice. In a clear head, there is no question in my mind that I made the right choice.

"I went to a lot of schools early and got a feel for other schools. When I went back to Vanderbilt a second time, I compared them all. Vanderbilt has great academics, as good as it gets for a Division I school. I know the SEC is the best conference for football but that didn't play a big factor in my decision.

"My family and coaches reminded me that I could wait for more offers. They wondered if I was holding out for a particular school. My mother made me think about it. She wanted to be sure that I wasn't making a snap decision. I think Vanderbilt was her decision for a long time. She liked the coaches, who were very honest to her, and the good education. In the end, I couldn't name another school I was interested in."

Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet said Marcus was the earliest commitment he has had. But he didn't question the youngster's decision. "It is a good fit for him, the best of all worlds. He loves the academic end of it and I think he is excited to play in the SEC. Vanderbilt recruited him as good as anyone, if not better. He had no pressure to commit," Hetlet said.

Marcus is Vanderbilt's sixth commitment. The Commodores play in the SEC's East Division with South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky. Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss, members of the SEC's West Division, also are on their schedule.

Growing up, he preferred basketball to football. His father persuaded him to concentrate on football. He enjoyed basketball because he was taller than other kids and able to dominate them. Then they began to grow and Marcus began to have more passion for football.

As a freshman, he was a wide receiver on a 70-man squad. On a team that was run-oriented, he mostly blocked and caught only seven passes. Then sophomore coach John Sigmund, looking for a tight end, pulled Marcus aside and suggested that he was big enough and would be a good fit at the position. As a starter, even as a blocker, he had fun.

As a sophomore on the varsity, he caught four passes in a game against York. A light bulb went on. "All of a sudden, people were talking about me and I began to think I could be going somewhere as a football player, that I was getting better," he said.

Last year, as college recruiters from coast to coast came to the Glen Ellyn school to evaluate defensive end Tommy Schutt (who went to Ohio State), Marcus began to get some attention. He hoped they took note of the film when he made two blocks against Wheaton Warrenville South in a nationally televised game on ESPN and put the defenders on their backs.

"I started to get pulled out of class to meet with coaches," he said. "I realized they were interested in me as a recruit. I met coaches from Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan State. I said to myself: 'OK, if I keep working hard and performing, I can play in college. My name will get to the colleges and recruiting will take care of itself.' I was surprised but really happy about what was happening.

"Now the pressure is off me. I miss getting pulled out of class and meeting with college coaches. But it feels great to know my future is settled. I have what I want."

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson heard some of the rumors, but not to a large degree. The former Blackhawks defenseman wasn’t spending a lot of time on the internet reading up on his potential fate. He figured he’d still stay put in Chicago.

“But when my agent called me about the 10-team list, I understood it was serious. Stan [Bowman] wouldn’t ask for that unless they made up their mind already,” Hjalmarsson said via conference call on Saturday. “That’s when it hit me that I’m probably not going to put the Hawks jersey on anymore.”

Indeed, Hjalmarsson’s next jersey will be that of the Arizona Coyotes, who acquired him in exchange for defenseman Connor Murphy on Friday. Hjalmarsson’s departure marks the end of the line for another Blackhawks core player, and this one is jarring in how it will change the team’s defense.

Speaking of change, Hjalmarsson faces a lot of it himself now. Sure, there’s the obvious change for a guy who’s played his entire career in one place. It’s new surroundings and a new team, on which he knows former Blackhawks teammate Antti Raanta and fellow countryman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

But the Coyotes have dealt with a lot of upheaval lately. Goaltender Mike Smith is gone. So is veteran Shane Doan. On Thursday, head coach Dave Tippett and the Coyotes parted ways.

“They’re on a rebuild, a lot of new faces, lot of changes,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’s tough to know what to expect but I think they’re a hungry organization that wants to win like other teams. I’m looking forward to try to contribute with playing my game, just try to get the organization back in the playoffs.”

Hjalmarsson should find chemistry with Ekman-Larsson – the two were teammates in the Winter Olympics in Sochi – and Hjalmarsson will likely play a bigger role with the Coyotes. Arizona will probably look to Hjalmarsson a lot during its rebuild, given his Cup-winning history.

The first 24 hours were full of mixed emotions of Hjalmarsson. With his limited no-move clause, he was always a likely candidate to be moved from a Blackhawks team laden will full no-move clauses. He’s turning a page, but he won’t forget his time in Chicago anytime soon.

“I’m trying to always be a positive guy,” Hjalmarsson said. “I spent my whole 20s in Chicago, 10 unbelievable years. I didn’t think I’d win three Cups. Hopefully I can get one more before my career is over. I had the best time in Chicago, enjoyed every single year, playing in front of the best fans in the league. I’ve been spoiled. Now it’s time for me and my family to move on and seize the opportunity in Arizona and create some new fond memories.”

'It's possible, absolutely' that Carlos Rodon's next start could be with White Sox

'It's possible, absolutely' that Carlos Rodon's next start could be with White Sox

Help may be on the horizon for the White Sox starting rotation. 

Carlos Rodon, who threw 4 1/3 innings for the Charlotte Knights on Friday night, could make his next start for the big league club.

Before the Mark Buehrle Day ceremony on Saturday, Rick Renteria discussed whether the 24-year-old would need another start in Triple-A Charlotte as he rehabs from bursitis in his left shoulder. 

"I don't," Renteria said. "I think our plans are probably to get him back with us." 

Despite being tagged for seven earned runs Friday, Renteria was encouraged by Rodon's sharp off-speed pitches. He also extended for 91 pitches, but the Knights' defense struggled, stretching innings with two throwing errors.

"Actually, in talking to everybody, he threw pretty well," Renteria said. "Had a couple miscues in the field that were probably limited his outing. He felt good, pain-free, we’re very happy with that. According to the reports, the slider was working very well. He’s on track to come on back.”

His return could boost a rotation that has labored over the past month. In the last 30 games, the starters' ERA is a combined 5.63 with just six quality starts. They also set a franchise record for consecutive games without a quality start, tallying up 13 in a row. 

Renteria didn't level any specific expectations for Rodon, but stretching him out in Charlotte eases the transition. 

“I have to monitor everything he’s doing," Renteria said. "It’d be foolish for me to say I’m not going to be mindful of what he’s gone through. Obviously, we’re very happy that he’s healthy. He’s gotten up to I think 91 pitches yesterday, so we’re not concerned about his pitch count.”

In Triple-A Charlotte rehab starts, Rodon is 0-3 with a 9.22 ERA. He did whiff seven batters Friday, though, for a season high. 

As for Miguel Gonzalez, his timetable for a return is still up in the air, but he will throw a bullpen session Sunday or Monday, according to Renteria.

In the bullpen, Nate Jones got clearance to start throwing on Saturday. Infielder Tyler Saladino was also cleared, but Renteria said the team will "progress slowly" with him.