DT Muhammad Wilkerson Makes Temple History, Now a New York Jet

DT Muhammad Wilkerson Makes Temple History, Now a New York Jet

"With the thirtieth pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the New York Jets select Muhammad Wilkerson, Defensive Tackle, Temple University."
It's been twenty-four years since Temple University alumni could relish hearing their alma mater's name called in the first round. Not since Paul Palmer was shattering program rushing records and finishing runner-up to Vinny Testeverde in the 1987 Heisman voting has a "][" shown up so high in the draft.

Prior to the big day, Muhammad Wilkerson peaked as high as tenth on Mel Kiper's constantly fluctuating "Big Board." Once he was officially announced twenty spots beneath said position, Kiper would take the opportunity to label the 6'5, 305-pound defensive lineman "The Steal of the First Round."

Predicted by most draft prognosticators to go toward the end of the Thursday night's draft opener, one of the knocks against "Big Mo'" has been the MAC's national reputation as an admittedly weak conference. The suggestion that his 70 tackles and team-high 9.5 sacks in 2010 were accordingly inflated is therefore somewhat justified; but, only for those who haven't actually seen Muhammad in person. Those familiar with the now-former Owl will know that many of his strongest performances came against some Temple's toughest opponents. Amongst another examples, his sideline-to-sideline, fumble-forcing, offensive-line-obliterating effort against the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley this past season speaks to just such a sentiment. Whether under, over, or appropriately valued, Wilkerson is now more than likely unconcerned. A first round contract for millions of dollars with one of, if not the best defense in football should squash any lingering issues of the sort.

Assuming the players and owners can agree to a new CBA for 2011 and give football fans the benefit of enjoying the product they overwhelmingly finance, Wilkerson is set to bolster an already vaunted New York Jet defensive unit. Led by head coach and unabashed media whore Rex Ryan, the Jets finished the 2010 regular season third in total team defense, a quality follow up to a 2009 campaign in which they led the league in the same statistic. Digging a bit deeper, NYJ finished eighth in the NFL in 2010 with forty sacks, but only twenty-fifth in interceptions nabbed with twelve.

Adding Wilkerson to the D-line only figures to improve their already impressive secondary and potentially boost those INT totals by forcing opposing quarterbacks to think quick and act even quicker when throwing against pro-bowl defensive backs Darelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, an always dicey proposition. 

Although rooting for the Jets is somewhat of an unappealing prospect, the thought of a Temple grad standing over a grounded Tom Brady is more than enough to overlook the rest of the team's still unjustified pomposity. Moreover, should the Jets finally live up coach Ryan's overbearing self-promotion and actually win a Super Bowl, a certainly legitimate possibility, Wilkerson could very well join fellow Owl Raheem Brock as a Temple grad with a very big ring.

Rounds two and three of the NFL Draft kickoff at 6p.m. Friday evening. TU defensive back Jaiquawn Jarrett remains available and has been slotted to go anywhere from the second through fourth rounds. With a clear need for help in their own secondary, could we see the Eagles take a chance on a local kid? One thing is for sure, he would at least know his way around the Linc.

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

OKLAHOMA CITY -- James Harden scored 21 points, and the Houston Rockets overcame Russell Westbrook's seventh consecutive triple-double to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-99 on Friday night.

Harden also had 12 assists and nine rebounds to help the Rockets win their fifth straight. Houston withstood Harden's 6-for-23 shooting effort.

Westbrook finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He has the longest triple-double streak since Michael Jordan had seven straight in 1989. The most in a row is nine by Philadelphia's Wilt Chamberlain in March 1968.

It was Westbrook's 12th triple-double this season and the 49th of his career. He is the NBA's active leader in the category and ranks sixth all-time.

The Thunder had won the previous six games during Westbrook's triple-double binge (see full story).

James moves into 9th on scoring list as Cavs top Heat
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 27 points to move into ninth place on the NBA scoring list, and the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Miami Heat 114-84 on Friday night.

James passed Elvin Hayes on a driving layup with 6:58 remaining and has 27,315 career points. The four-time MVP was removed about a minute later and received a loud ovation from the Cleveland crowd.

Kevin Love, a game-time decision because of back spasms, scored a team-high 28 points and had 15 rebounds for the Cavaliers. He missed the morning shootaround but was in the lineup after warming up on the court about an hour before tip-off.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points for the Cavs, who have won three straight after losing three in a row.

Derrick Williams scored 17 points to lead the short-handed Heat, who have lost four straight (see full story). 

Schroder has career-high 33, Hawks rally past Bucks
MILWAUKEE -- Dennis Schroder scored a career-high 33 points and the Atlanta Hawks rallied from 20 down in the second half to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-110 on Friday night.

Paul Millsap had 23 points and 14 rebounds for Atlanta. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 18.

The Hawks, who ended a seven-game losing streak Wednesday with a win over Miami, trailed by 20 at halftime. A 40-point third quarter put them back in the game.

Jabari Parker scored 27 for Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo, in foul trouble throughout the game, had 14.

Atlanta pulled ahead 105-103 on Kyle Korver's jumper with 3:15 remaining, giving the Hawks their first lead since early in the game (see full story). 

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets top Red Wings to notch 5th straight win

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets top Red Wings to notch 5th straight win

DETROIT -- Brandon Dubinsky scored a tiebreaking goal in the second period and the surging Columbus Blue Jackets won their fifth straight game, 4-1 over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.

Lukas Sedlak got his first NHL goal for the Blue Jackets, who have earned at least a point in 12 of their last 13 games. Cam Atkinson contributed a short-handed goal in the first period for Columbus.

Dylan Larkin's power-play goal in the second was the only scoring of the night for the Red Wings. Sergei Bobrovsky had 32 saves for the Blue Jackets.

Sam Gagner scored into an empty net with 13.9 seconds remaining (see full story). 

Staal scores in 6th round of SO to lift Wild over Oilers
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Eric Staal scored in the sixth round of a shootout and the Minnesota Wild beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 on Friday night.

Matt Dumba and Jason Zucker scored in regulation for Minnesota, which has won three straight.

Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk made 25 saves. He entered with a league-best .946 save percentage and 1.65 goals-against average.

Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had goals for the Oilers, whose four-game losing streak began with a 2-1 home overtime loss to the Wild last Sunday.

Staal scored on a backhand deke before Nugent-Hopkins fired wide in the sixth round (see full story). 

Raanta, Rangers beat Blackhawks, 1-0, in overtime
CHICAGO -- Nick Holden scored 55 seconds into overtime, Antti Raanta made 26 saves against his former team and the New York Rangers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 1-0 on Friday night.

Derek Stepan passed from the boards to a streaking Holden in the middle of the ice, and he beat Scott Darling on the stick side for his fourth goal of the season.

Darling was going for his second straight shutout while subbing for injured starter Corey Crawford but had to settle for another solid performance.

Raanta, who made his NHL debut with Chicago in 2013 and played for the Blackhawks for two seasons before he was traded to New York, improved to 15-0-3 in 20 career appearances at the United Center.

The 27-year-old Raanta had 17 saves in Thursday's 2-1 victory at Winnipeg, and coach Alain Vigneault opted to give him a second straight start over Henrik Lundqvist because of his recent play and his success in Chicago (see full story).

Oshie, Johansson, Grubauer lift Caps over Sabres
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- T.J. Oshie and Marcus Johansson each scored a goal, Philipp Grubauer made 27 saves and the Washington Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 on Friday night for their third straight win.

Jakub Vrana and John Carlson also scored, helping Washington beat Buffalo for the third time in 15 days.

Kyle Okposo scored and Robin Lehner made 25 saves for Buffalo. The Sabres have lost three of their last four.

Oshie gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead 6:43 into the second period when he lifted a shot from the right edge of the crease past Lehner. Jay Beagle drew two defenders into the corner and sent the puck back to a wide open Oshie for his ninth goal of the season (see full story).