Fire preps for Combine, SuperDraft

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Fire preps for Combine, SuperDraft

This is the first big week of 2013 for the Fire. The club will announce its full regular season schedule on Wednesday, and coach Frank Klopas and his staff will begin scouting over 50 collegiate stars at the Major League Soccer Combine, which begins a four-day run on Friday at Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill, Fla.
The Combine leads into the Jan. 17 MLS SuperDraft in Indianapolis, and that figures to bring the Fire a player who can help immediately. At least the last two SuperDrafts did. The Fires first picks in 2011 and 2012 were defenders Jalil Anibaba and Austin Berry. Neither needed much time to establish themselves as starters, and Berry the ninth overall pick of 2012 out of the University of Louisville wound up the MLS Rookie-of-the-Year.
MLS has already signed five players who will participate in the Combine, and two are Notre Dame products forward Ryan Finley and midfielder Dillon Powers. The other three poised to take roster spots on MLS clubs are Connecticut midfielder Carlos Alvarez, Boston College midfielder Kyle Becker and Maryland midfielder John Stertzer.
A day after the SuperDraft, Fire players gather at Toyota Park for two days of medical exams. Then theyre off to Florida for a 10-day camp at Ave Maria University near Naples. During that stretch the Fire will play two matches Jan. 27 vs. Florida Gulf Coasts college team at Ave Maria and Jan. 30 vs. the Columbus Crew at IMG Academy in Bradenton.
Once again the Fire wont have starting goalkeeper Sean Johnson for the first phase of preseason training. He was called up to the U.S. national team for a Jan. 7-27 camp that culminates with a Jan. 29 international friendly against Canada in Houston.
Johnson, a frequent callup by U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, has earned his two national team caps in January matches. His first came Jan. 22, 2011, vs. Chile in Los Angeles and his second was Jan. 25, 2012, vs. Panama in Panama City.
The offseason has again been a busy one for Johnson. He spent last month training with England clubs. He was with Stoke City from Dec. 5-9 and Everton from Dec. 10-23.
Johnsons time with the Fire could also be limited in February, assuming hes called up for training for the first U.S. match in the next stage of World Cup qualifying at Honduras on Feb. 6.
After its Florida session the Fire returns home for a few days, then heads to Ventura, Calif., for the second phase of training. The third and final one is the four-team Carolina Cup competition in Charleston, S.C. It leads into the March 3 regular season opener, a road match against the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Photo: Thad Matta dons Ohio State basketball uniform

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Photo: Thad Matta dons Ohio State basketball uniform

Baseball is unique among the sports in requiring managers and coaches to suit up in the same uniforms the players wear.

Could you imagine football coaches having to wear pads and jerseys? Or basketball coaches ditching their suits for the sleeveless-and-shorts look?

Well, for better or for worse, you don't have to imagine any longer.

Before Ohio State players arrived Thursday for photos in the team's new uniforms, head coach Thad Matta decided to give the new duds a test run himself.

What resulted was one of the better pictures in recent Twitter memory.

I think Matta is starting a trend here. Time to bust out the petition to get all college hoops coaches to wear their teams' uniforms on the sideline.

Looking good, coach, though I doubt they'll let you wear that watch while you play.

Penn State AD says James Franklin is not on the hot seat

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Penn State AD says James Franklin is not on the hot seat

Is James Franklin on the hot seat?

Perhaps fans and observers think the Penn State head coach should be, but the Nittany Lions' athletics director certainly doesn't.

Sandy Barbour told the Altoona Mirror that Franklin is not on the hot seat and gave a complete vote of confidence in the coach, who's coming off a blowout 49-10 loss against Michigan.

"He's not on the hot seat, and he's not going to be on the hot seat in December," Barbour told the Mirror's Cory Giger.

"James is going to be our football coach. I believe in where this football program is going under James Franklin, and I think he's going to be our football coach, period."

Franklin is in his third season at the helm in Happy Valley, and while he's had his fair share of recruiting successes, he hasn't experienced much success on the field. After last weekend's loss to Michigan, Franklin is now 0-7 against ranked opponents since arriving at Penn State ahead of the 2014 season.

"When Penn State is where we ought to be, where we should be, where we're all striving to be, we absolutely should go toe to toe with anyone in the country. Clearly we're not there," Barbour said. "We're not a finished product. I don't think anybody thought we would be a finished product four games into the season.

"Was Saturday disappointing? Of course it was. But no one's more disappointed than our coaching staff and our student-athletes in our football program. So I certainly understand where our fans are coming from and the disappointment."

Back-to-back 7-6 finishes could be seen as mild successes, perhaps, considering the program is still working out from the shadow of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. But Penn State's historic status as one of college football's power programs is certainly not applicable right now, and the Lions competing for any kind of championship seems completely unrealistic in the ultra-competitive Big Ten East Division.

All that has led plenty to believe that Franklin's job might be in jeopardy, but Barbour at least verbally put those notions to rest.

"I believe that James is the right guy, and yeah, he's going to be our football coach."