Pocic changes his game plan

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Pocic changes his game plan

When Ethan Pocic thought he had prioritized his recruiting and was about to narrow his wish list to 10 finalists, Lemont's 6-foot-7, 290-pound offensive tackle received scholarship offers from Alabama, Auburn, Oklahoma, USC, Florida, Florida State, Oregon and USC.

At the same time, Michigan and Notre Dame, two schools that rated high on Pocic's list, filled their quotas for offensive linemen and no longer were interested in Pocic.

All of a sudden, as fast as Pocic could say "I can't pass up a chance to visit those schools," he revised his game plan--and his travel schedule.

"I've got to make more visits," he said. "I want to visit everywhere so when I make a decision, it will be the right one. I'm not sure of a timetable (to make a commitment), just whenever the time is right."

Over the Memorial Day weekend, Pocic plans to visit LSU and Auburn. During his spring break, he visited Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Auburn, Tennessee and Ohio State.

Pocic, who has 20 offers and is rated as the No. 2 prospect in the class of 2013 in Illinois by most recruiting analysts, said he still wants to visit Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio State.

USC? Oregon? Oklahoma? "I'm taking it one day at a time right now. I want to take it all in. When the time is right, you'll know," he said.

What is he looking for? "A winning program, good tradition. I want to be comfortable with the coaches and players. I want to have a good relationship with them. I'm a left offensive tackle. I'm looking for a school that can prepare me for the next level," he said.

He learned about the recruiting process from his older brother Graham, the starting center at Illinois. But Graham committed early and Ethan wants to be sure he weighs all of his options before making a decision.

What if he had committed before Alabama, Florida, USC, LSU and Auburn offered?

And what if he had committed to Michigan and Notre Dame, which already were stockpiling offensive linemen? Michigan has commitments from two Illinois products, Kyle Bosch of Wheaton St. Francis and Logan Tuley-Tillman of Peoria Manual. And Notre Dame has a commitment from Colin McGovern of Lincoln-Way West.

Now Pocic is considering Wisconsin, which has commitments from two big tackles from Barrington, senior Dan Voltz and junior Jack Keeler.

"This is a good problem to have," said Pocic, acknowledging that having 20 offers is better than no offers at all. "What I learned from watching my brother go through the process is to take all your visits, as many unofficial visits as you can."

While Pocic's brother was going through the process and Graham was considering Wisconsin, Ethan got a chance to meet All-America tackle Joe Thomas. Ever since, he has been following Thomas, who was the No. 3 pick in the 2007 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns and is a five-time Pro Bowl selection, the Anthony Munoz of his era.

"I watch a lot of football. I always check out the (offensive) linemen," Pocic said. "I like Joe Thomas. I've always watched him, even when he was I college. He is perfect on pass protection. He shows up every day. If you're a left offensive tackle, that's the kind of player you want to be."

He knows that left offensive tackle is the most important position in the offensive line, the guy who protects the quarterback's blind side. He recalls watching a "Top 10 Linemen Of All Time" segment on NFL Network. Anthony Munoz was No. 1, the best there ever was.

"I don't like to brag on myself," said Pocic, who is rated as the No. 2 prospect in the class of 2013 in Illinois behind Joliet Catholic running back Ty Isaac. "I just want to get better. I've been working on my agility, strength and footwork."

He is missing one thing--a ring, the symbol of a state championship. Lemont has been one of the most successful programs in the state in the last decade. Coach Eric Michaelsen's team has lost only five games in the last four years. Last year's 12-1 squad lost to Peoria Richwoods 34-31 in double overtime in the Class 6A semifinals.

This year? Pocic, 6-foot-2, 265-pound offensive guard Tim McAuliffe, linebacker Connor O'Brien and defensive back Jake Lemming are the most experienced returnees that Michaelsen figures to lean on as he tries to build another state championship contender. McAuliffe has offers from Toledo, Western Michigan, Western Kentucky and North Dakota.

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AP

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White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

The two fastballs that soared to the backstop on Wednesday night should give you a strong indication that Carlos Rodon was far from perfect.

But in making his first start of the 2017 season, the White Sox pitcher also offered his team plenty of signals that his health isn’t going to be an issue.

Rodon returned to the mound for the first time since last September and brought the goods that made him one of baseball’s top pitching prospects several years ago. Given he’d missed three months with bursitis in the left shoulder and the potential value he offers to a franchise only half a season into its first rebuild in 20 years, that was plenty for the White Sox to overlook the rust Rodon showed in a 12-3 White Sox loss to the New York Yankees at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“He started a little rough early obviously, got some high pitch counts,” manager Rick Renteria said. “And then he kind of settled down.

“Having him back in the rotation and getting him back out there on the big league field, coming out of there feeling good, healthy. I'm sure he will continue to get better as he continues to get out there and move forward.”

Renteria said he wasn’t surprised that Rodon struggled with his command as much as he did against the Yankees. The issues the pitcher displayed in uncorking a pair of wild pitches, walking six batters and throwing strikes on only 41 of 94 pitches were also present during Rodon’s four rehab starts in the minors.

But as long as the stuff was there, the White Sox would be OK with any issues that accompanied the performance. Rodon began to alleviate those concerns immediately when he earned a called strike on the game’s first pitch with a 93-mph fastball to Brett Gardner. Featuring a four-seamer with an absurd amount of movement and a nasty slider he struggled to control, Rodon checked all the boxes the White Sox hoped for from a pitcher they believe will be a frontline starter for years to come. Rodon also was pleased by how he felt before, during and after the contest.

“I was pretty excited,” Rodon said. “I was going a little fast in the first. But it was good to be out there. Next time out, it’ll hopefully be a little better. Arm feels good, body feels good, all you can ask for.”

Well, it’s not ALL you can ask for, but it’s pretty damn good out of the gate given how slow Rodon’s return took. His four-seam fastball averaged 94.9 mph according to BrooksBaseball.Net and touched 97 mph. His two-seamer averaged 94.4 mph and touched 95. And his slider, though he couldn’t control it, nor locate it for a strike, averaged 86 mph.

“You could see (Omar Narvaez) going over to try to catch some balls that were having tremendous run,” Renteria said. “That's (Rodon). He's got some tremendous life, he's just trying to harness it the best that he can and being able to execute where he wants to get as many strikes as possible.”

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The strikes were about the only thing Rodon didn’t bring with him. He walked Gardner to start the game and issued two more free passes after a Tim Anderson error allowed a run to score and extended the first inning. Rodon threw 37 pitches in the first, only 15 for strikes.

He also reached a full count to each of the batters he faced in the second inning. Rodon walked two more with two outs in the third inning after he’d retired six batters in a row.

And there were those pesky first-inning wild pitches that resembled something out of ‘Bull Durham.’

But all in all, Rodon and the White Sox ultimately saw enough in the first outing to be pleased.

“Great stuff, great life, but the goal is to put it in the zone and let them swing it to get guys out early,” Rodon said. “That’s not what happened. I’ll get back to that.”

“It’s a tough loss, but it’s better to be with the guys out on the field grinding than sitting on the couch and watching, for sure.”