Jennings, Tillman could combine to make franchise history

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Jennings, Tillman could combine to make franchise history

Not to be outdone, cornerback Charles Tillman was named NFC defensive player of the month for October, following running mate Tim Jennings receiving that honor for September.

The back-to-back distinctions could have Jennings and Tillman on course to both be in the Pro Bowl, which would mark the first time in history that two cornerbacks from the same Bears team were selected for the all-star game.

In Bears history seven players have won player-of-the-month awards. All but one defensive end Trace Armstrong in 1990 were voted to the Pro Bowl. Armstrong had the misfortune of winning his months award in a year when Reggie White, Chris Doleman and Richard Dent had Pro Bowl seasons. All three are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Bears Pro Bowl CBs rare, period

The Bears have sent numerous safeties to Pro Bowls but rarely even one cornerback. Tillman did it last season for the first time, vastly improving his chances for a return on top of his month and season so far.

Nathan Vasher went after the 2005 season, one in which he led the NFC in interceptions with eight. Jennings leads the league with six through seven games.

(While not cornerbacks, safety Roosevelt Taylor led the NFL with nine interceptions in 1963 and went to the Pro Bowl, as did safety Mark Carrier in 1990 to earn a trip across the water.)

Donnell Woollford went after his 1993 season. And thats about it.

Vs. the best

Tillman sealed his award with the job done on Detroits Calvin Johnson in a Monday night game, national TV against one of the elite receivers in the NFL.

Jennings added luster to his September award by doing major work on Carolinas Steve Smith, including a turning-moment interception for a touchdown in the Bears win.

I grade myself pretty well just because Steve Smith is an All-Pro receiver and I felt like I made a couple plays on him, Jennings said. For him to be the type of receiver he is, I just want to put myself in position to make some plays and I think I was.

That sort of thing impresses Pro Bowl voters, too.

Competition

From last years Pro Bowl cornerbacks, Green Bays Charles Woodson broke a collarbone and is out, besides having played safety this season also.

Carlos Rodgers will benefit from playing on a very good San Francisco 49ers defense, and Patrick Peterson has three interceptions as well as a growing rep, which gets votes.

Brandon Browner from Seattle was an alternate and the Seahawks are a top-five yardage and scoring defense.

Others will get votes. Indeed, if voters are not inclined to pick two DBs from the same secondary, Jennings and Tillman could cancel out votes from each other.

Pro Bowl voting is open now on NFL.com.

Big Ten preview: Even after losing so much to NFL, Buckeyes don't rebuild, they reload

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Big Ten preview: Even after losing so much to NFL, Buckeyes don't rebuild, they reload

Ohio State lost an unbelievable amount of talent this offseason, sending 12 players — big-time, impact players — to the NFL Draft.

So there’s no way the Buckeyes can still be in contention for the Big Ten title, right?

Wrong.

“I would say going into this (season) this is as talented a group top to bottom as we've had,” Urban Meyer said during Big Ten Media Days.

Uh, what?

Here’s the list of the Buckeyes drafted to NFL teams earlier this year: Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, Eli Apply, Taylor Decker, Darron Lee, Michael Thomas, Vonn Bell, Adolphus Wahsington, Braxton Miller, Nick Vannett, Joshua Perry and Cardale Jones. That’s a college football All-Star team right there.

But what you’ve got to understand is that Meyer and the Buckeyes don’t rebuild, they reload. Meyer’s five recruiting classes since he took the reins of the Ohio State program have been ranked No. 4 (2012), No. 2 (2013), No. 3 (2014), No. 9 (2015) and No. 3 (2016) — and the Class of 2017 is already ranked No. 2, perhaps his best yet.

So, yes, there are tons of holes to fill, and this Buckeyes team is very young, especially compared to recent seasons with championship wins and championship expectations. But the way Meyer has recruited, it’s not a question of how good the next wave is, it’s a question of when it will be ready to compete for a conference title.

“This year I’m trying to help the younger guys get up to our standard of how we play here at Ohio State and make sure they understand that we don’t have rebuilding years,” quarterback J.T. Barrett said. “The expectations are not going to change because you all don’t have experience. We’re going to try to do our best to make sure you get that in camp and practice, and it’s your job to make sure you come to play.”

And Meyer agrees. He thinks this team has the ability to win, but he knows that he needs to get it ready to do that.

“I see that potential,” he said. “I see I think 2014 was the template that everybody wants. J.T. Barrett was buried in the depth chart, Darron Lee, Eli Apple, Zeke Elliott, Mike Thomas — those guys were no-names, and they became very good throughout the course of 2014. And another guy, Cardale Jones, was buried on the depth chart. A lot of pressure on our coaches, assistant coaches and myself, to get them game-ready. I would say going into this this is as talented a group top to bottom as we've had. Now how do we get them game-ready?”

Getting the team ready to do that is a different challenge than recruiting, however.

Ahead of training camp, back at the end of July, Meyer said he was looking at August as “the most critical coaching month” he’s ever had. That’s saying something for a guy who’s won a trio of national championships.

But as he pointed out, there are parallels to the 2014 team. Barrett was thrust into duty that season after an injury to Miller, Bosa was just a sophomore and nobody knew if Elliott could follow in the footsteps of Carlos Hyde. Similar questions — save the quarterback one — exist heading into 2016. So don’t be alarmed if the Buckeyes are again playing for a conference championship or more come the winter.

It is Meyer, after all.

“Where we are as a team in 2016, have to find a way to replace arguably one of the best group of players ever to come through college football,” Meyer said. “I've been answering a lot of questions about a young team. The issue would be if it was a non-talented young team. And that's not the case at all. So it's a very young team, but talented. Probably the most critical coaching month that I've ever been through. We have to get these guys ready. Forty-four of our players, which is over half of our scholarships, are kids that never played in a game. So we have to get them ready.”

Former four-star wideout Ahmir Mitchell announces he's leaving Michigan

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Former four-star wideout Ahmir Mitchell announces he's leaving Michigan

It appears that one of the top-rated players in Michigan's 2016 recruiting class will never suit up in maize and blue.

Ahmir Mitchell, rated as a four-star prospect and one of the top 30 wideouts in the country in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, announced via Twitter that he has reopened his recuitment, meaning he'll be transferring from Michigan.

There were high hopes for Mitchell, though he was revealed to be suspended after reporters asked head coach Jim Harbaugh about Mitchell's absence from the team picture, a line of questioning to which Harbaugh did not react well.

Mitchell was part of a hugely successful 2016 recruiting class for the Wolverines, one that ranked No. 4 in the country behind only Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State, per Rivals' rankings.

Mitchell, a New Jersey native ranked as the No. 139 recruit in the country, selected Michigan over offers from Alabama, Florida State, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, South Carolina, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin, among others.

According to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, Mitchell could still play at an FCS school this season by deciding to transfer at this point in the year.

Champions Classic extended three more years, coming back to Chicago in 2017

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Champions Classic extended three more years, coming back to Chicago in 2017

We're getting three more seasons of the Champions Classic.

The annual early season college hoops event will run through at least 2019, it was announced Wednesday, with Michigan State, Duke, Kansas and Kentucky signing on for three more epic showcases in Chicago, Indianapolis and New York.

The event has been held each November since 2011, twice at the United Center and one time each at Madison Square Garden in New York, Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indy and the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Madison Square Garden will host the pair of games for the second time this fall.

The new deal puts matchups at the United Center next year (Kansas vs. Kentucky, Michigan State vs. Duke), in Indy in 2018 (Michigan State vs. Kansas, Duke vs. Kentucky) and in New York in 2019 (Kansas vs. Duke, Michigan State vs. Kentucky).

The Spartans have fared well in the event, winning three of the five games its played, with the only two losses coming against Duke.

With all four teams so often receiving high preseason rankings, the event is a treat for college hoops fans, and it also does well to bolster those teams' strength of schedule for when tournament seeding comes in March.