Why Was Kiper Only Guy On Balmer Bandwagon?

Current Seahawks defensive lineman Kentwan Balmer is a former first round pick (29th overall) taken by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2008 NFL Draft. During his first two seasons with the Niners, Balmer not only didn’t record a single sack, but failed to start a game.

Mel Kiper John Blake Kentwan Balmer

(Balmer in two NFL years: No sacks, no starts)

He also failed to show up for training camp this season, forcing the 49ers to trade him to the Seattle Seahawks in August for a sixth-round pick in order to realize any value for what might’ve been the worst first round pick of the 2008 draft.

Yesterday George Dohrmann of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED had the sordid, first-person story of Josh Luchs, a former longtime NFL agent who admitted to Dohrmann that he paid current college players while recruiting them as clients.

In his commentary to Dohrmann about his unsavory deeds, Luchs cited NFL Agent Gary Wichard as having what some might consider undue influence over ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper as it pertained to the agent’s clients:

Gary also used his contacts in the media to help him recruit. In 2000, before a meeting with Stanford defensive lineman Willie Howard, Gary arranged for ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper to call. Gary and I were talking to Willie in Gary’s office when Gary’s phone rang, and he put it on speakerphone.

“Viper, how are you?” Gary said. That’s what he called Mel, Viper or Vipe. “Viper, I’m sitting here with the best defensive lineman in college football. Do you know who that is?”

“You must be with Willie Howard,” Mel said.

Gary used Mel like that all the time. In the agent business, people know Gary and Mel are close, and some people suspect that Mel ranks players more favorably if they are Gary’s clients.

Kiper has sinced denied showing Wichard clients any favoritism in his NFL Draft analysis over the years.

With that in mind, I thought I’d examine Kiper’s treatment of current Wichard client Balmer, who has been in the news recently not only because of his trade to Seattle, but thanks to alleged impropriety of his former position coach at North Carolina, John Blake.

Former UNC Assistant Blake was recently accused of being a “runner” for Wichard by recruiting current college players for the L.A.-area based NFL agent. Despite having resigned as a coach for the Tarheels, Blake’s bio remains on the official North Carolina football website.

Here’s an excerpt from that bio:

In three seasons at UNC, Blake has sent five defensive linemen to the NFL, including 2008 first-round draft pick Kentwan Balmer. Blake earned rave reviews from NFL Draft analysts for his ability to develop Balmer into a first-round selection in just one year of coaching.

“Kentwan had a great senior year under the tutelage of John Blake, who I think is one of the best defensive line coaches at any level,” said ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.

Before the Niners took former UNC Tarheel Balmer in the 2008 NFL Draft, Tom Margeneau of the DAILY OKLAHOMAN wrote of Blake in a “Cheers and Jeers” column:

Cheers: To John Blake, who is drawing rave reviews from NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. for Blake’s work with defensive linemen, first Nebraska’s Adam Carriker, who went 13th overall to the Rams in the 2007 draft, and now North Carolina’s Kentwan Balmer, who has shot into first-round projections.

If you pore over Kiper’s mock drafts leading up to the NFL Draft in 2008, he ranked Balmer’s draft status well above where Balmer was projected by many other distinguished draft experts - including Mike Mayock of NFL Network, Todd McShay of ESPN and Scouts, Inc., Rick Gosselin of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS and Don Banks of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.

Before the 2008 Senior Bowl and NFL combine, in his Jan. 22, 2008, mock draft, Kiper projected Balmer as a tenth overall selection going to the New Orleans Saints. On Feb. 20, the first day of the 2008 combine, Balmer was Kiper’s 12th selection in his first round projections. Read more…

Saban Snaps At Inconvenient Truth: ‘Did I stutter?’

Sunday Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports reported that former Univ. of North Carolina assistant football coach John Blake had previously attempted to recruit Alabama football player Marcell Dareus for NFL agent Gary Wichard while Blake was still coaching the Tarheels.

Nick Saban Pimps Out Players To NFL

(Saban uses lure of NFL to recruit in ‘Bama media guide)

In an ironic twist, the coach of Dareus at Alabama, Nick Saban, compared NFL agents to “pimps back in July in supposed frustration over their unsavory and oft-improper methods of recruiting current college football players.

In a not-so-ironic twist, Saban did not appreciate reporters yesterday pressing him on if he would also now qualify one of his most-decorated coaching colleagues, well-traveled assistant and former head coach of Oklahoma Blake, as a pimp.

Don Kausler, Jr., of the BIRMINGHAM NEWS recorded Saban’s comments in response to questions about Blake. Read more…

Butch in 1999: “I want to win, but not at all costs”

Here’s a quote about embattled Univ. of North Carolina football coach Butch Davis from one of his coaching colleagues:

John Blake and Butch Davis

“That program is direly in need of discipline. But that’s not Butch’s forte. Butch is so strong in so many areas, but that’s not his strength. He’s going to need help there. He’s never had to discipline.”

Former Dallas Cowboys assistant Joe Brodsky said that to the Miami Herald - in 1995.

Days earlier Davis had been hired by then-Univ. of Miami Athletic Director Paul Dee to clean up the Hurricanes football program after it’d been struck with NCAA sanctions following years of flouting NCAA rules. (Dee most recently headed the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions and oversaw the dismantling of the USC football program.)

While coach of the Hurricanes, Davis said in 1999 of his program, “I want to win, but not at all costs. I want to win with class and integrity.

Then there’s this ironic quip from Davis in 2000 as he discussed to the NEW YORK TIMES how he hired his own agent:

“I wanted someone whose integrity and honesty were above reproach. I wanted to make sure that we talked about facilities, that we talked about the assistant coaches’ salaries, that we talked about our academic support system.”

Less than a decade after resurrecting college football’s most notorious program, Davis is currently overseeing a team that may have committed the most egregious NCAA violations since SMU was given the death penalty in 1987.

Those violations, involving now-departed UNC assistant coach John Blake, were recently and meticulously detailed by Yahoo reporter Charles Robinson. The same Robinson who, along with reporter Jason Cole, broke the news of Reggie Bush’s astonishingly brazen impropriety while a football player at USC. Robinson’s reporting proved accurate and extensive enough for the NCAA to drop the hammer of the Trojan football program.

Now UNC’s Davis is staring down Robinson’s barrel, and from his comments in response to this week’s Yahoo revelations, he isn’t handling it well. Or worse. Read more…

Are Cowboys’ Woes Due To Poor Conditioning?

Did you know the Dallas Cowboys haven’t won a playoff game since 1996? That’s pretty spectacular for haters of America’s Team, which includes, oh, most of America. But according to one ESPN analyst, don’t blame the players, or coaches, or even Jerry Jones. Blame the trainer.

Terrell Owens and Joe Juraszek

Marcellus Wiley believes he’s identified the culprit for Dallas’ late-season collapses: strength and conditioning coach Joe Juraszek, who maybe-not-so-coincidentally joined the club in 1997. Wiley, a former defensive end who played one season for the Cowboys, thinks the team is never in shape to handle the grind of a 16-game season. And Cowboy fans, eager to find a scapegoat, quickly rounded up the posse. (Wiley’s words, and the ensuing fan lynch mob, after the jump.)

Read more…