(No Longer) La Salle's Aaric Murray Announces Intent to Transfer UPDATED

(No Longer) La Salle's Aaric Murray Announces Intent to Transfer UPDATED

In the kind of story that may motivate us to create a new "in a
completely unsurprising turn of events" tag, former La Salle University
center Aaric Murray has announced his intent to leave Coach John
Giannini's Explorers following the completion of his sophomore year.
Widely recruited as a high school senior out of Glen Mills by a number
of top programs, Murray ultimately chose La Salle after developing what
he deemed a special bond with Dr. G during the process. As a matter of
related fact, Murray and Giannini even filmed a piece for this
season's Comcast Sportsnet City 6 College Basketball Preview special, a
segment meant to highlight the strength of their relationship. Methinks
the duo doth pretend too much.

Strains in the continued viability of such a pairing were easily
visible all year. Each wild shouting fit from the coach was met with, at
least what appeared to be, a continually greater level of disinterest
from the player. Following the Explorer's ouster in the second round of
this year's Atlantic 10 conference tournament, a fellow attendee of G's
post-game presser leaned over to me and whispered, "Do you find it at
all strange that he refuses to mention Murray's name in discussing his
plans for next year?" Now, just two weeks later, it does indeed appear
as though the writing was on the wall.  Comments from John Giannini and more on the future of Aaric Murray after the jump...

In a piece from the Inquirer's Ray Parrillo:

was a very difficult decision for me, and I wish Aaric the very best
for his future," head coach Dr. John Giannini said. "I know Aaric always
tried to do his best for La Salle, and we did all that we could to help
him as a person and as a basketball player. We will continue to support
Aaric in this process of finding another university."

said Thursday night Murray was given his release at this time so he
could maximize his options as he begins the search for another school.
He said Murray plans to complete the spring semester at La Salle.

Parrillo goes onto to aptly remind us that regardless of Murray's
next point of harbor, he will be by rule required to sit out a full
season due to NCAA transfer regulations. Such a scenario can only be
circumvented due to a change in a program's coaching staff or as
a result of health issues incurred by a student-athlete. Murray
qualifies for neither exception. 

So, where's next for the 6'10 center with averages of 15.2 points and
7.7 rebounds per game in the 2010-11 season? West Virginia, Florida,
Kansas, Oklahoma State and Auburn are all rumored to be interested, and
are all a massive upgrades from his former digs on Olney Ave (no
offense, guys). Rumblings are also beginning to grow louder that Murray
is expected to send an application to another area school, one located
on North Broad St. If you need a hint, head south on Broad from Olney,
and you'll start to see a whole bunch of "][" logos as you're getting

Now, do I believe Aaric Murray might actually wind up in a Temple
uniform come opening night 2012? No. With the NBA more than likely
headed for lockout, the opportunity to head for the draft is as an
unsure as it it unlikely. As such, I do anticipate Murray returning to
school. But, because he'll have lost a year of attention as a result of
his mandatory sit out, he'll want to maximize his own on visibility upon
return. Though Temple has consistently cracked the Top 25 the last
three seasons, the Atlantic 10 lacks the media coverage of a "power six"
conference, a fact Murray, by now, knows well. If he hopes to quickly
become re-relevant in draft circles when he does return to play, the
6'10 center's best bet is at a big name program. Moreover, there is no
guarantee that Temple head coach Fran Dunphy would even want Murray as
an addition. Either way, though it's possible Murray could submit an
application, I wouldn't get too worked up about it.

Update: We were able to get some clarification on Murray's
eligibility and transfer options. Though unlikely to begin with, due to
Atlantic 10 transfer rules, Murray would have sit out two seasons if
he intended to transfer within the conference. Word regarding spikes in
eligibility still seems to vary between losing one year and losing
none, while a move outside the conference would allow him two retain his
full two years. This link,
from the Pac-10 complicance web page, states that Murray would not lose
any eligibility in the event of an intraconference transfer.

As for the direction of La Salle Explorers moving forward, John
Giannini's hot seat has to be getting hotter. With a record of 98-115
over seven seasons, the doctor has posted only two winning seasons. And,
despite his (details undisclosed) contract extension last Spring, it's
not totally out of the realm of possibility for the University to begin
to consider other options. That said, the cost of a potential buy-out
might also be more than than administration is willing to swallow.

Any La Salle grads/students/fans out there to chime in on their program's future?

Josh Huff's acrobatic kick return touchdown sparks Eagles to win

Josh Huff's acrobatic kick return touchdown sparks Eagles to win

For the first 40 yards of Josh Huff’s kick return touchdown on Sunday, he went untouched.

When he got to the Eagles’ 42-yard line, Vikings kicker Blair Walsh was the only guy left in his way.

Huff ran through him.

“Yeah, I can’t let a kicker tackle me,” Huff said. “If he would have tackled me, I really would have been pissed at myself.”

The 170-pound Walsh couldn’t make the tackle and was sent spinning as Huff ran through. Fifty-six yards later, Huff took off from the 2-yard line, flipping into the end zone to give the Eagles their first lead in an eventual 21-10 win over the Vikings (see Instant Replay).

Huff said he knew he was scoring as soon as he saw that he had just the kicker to beat.

With the Eagles’ down 3-0 and with their offense sputtering through the first quarter and change, Huff’s play was a game-changer (see 10 Observations).

“Josh did a great job on the return,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “[Special teams coordinator] Dave Fipp really has those guys ready every single week. You need those things. You need special teams scores.”

After Wendell Smallwood’s kick return touchdown last week, this is the first time in franchise history the Eagles have had kick return touchdowns in back-to-back games. They also have the NFL’s only two kick return touchdowns of the season (see Standout Plays).

“It’s super cool,” Smallwood said. “Now teams have to pick their poison. They can’t go away from one. They can’t say they’re not going to kick to Smallwood, then they kick to Huff and he takes it. I think we’re going to get a lot of teams’ attention.”

Huff also had a role in the Eagles’ offense against the Vikings. He caught four passes for 39 yards, including two that picked up first downs. His 14-yarder in the third helped set up the touchdown that sealed the win for the Eagles.

This season hasn’t been great offensively for Huff. He is clearly the Eagles’ fourth wideout and came into Sunday with just eight catches for 24 yards.

“Obviously, I want to play good on offense, but we have three great guys in front of me,” Huff said. “I’m doing what I can to stay ready and I’m at my best when those guys do need me. At the end of the day, as long as I’m doing my job and as long as I stay ready, today was evident. Whenever they call my number, I’m going to make the most of my opportunities.”

Huff finished off his 98-yard kick return touchdown the same way he finished off his 41-yard receiving touchdown in New England last year: With a flip.

Huff took off from the 2-yard line and did a front flip, landing in the middle in the black end zone on his backside.

“It’s just something that happens,” Huff said. “Everybody says I should have stuck the landing, but I’m not a gymnast.”

Eagles' defense outplays Vikings' top-ranked unit

Eagles' defense outplays Vikings' top-ranked unit

The Eagles’ defense had two challenges on its mind Sunday. First, there was the challenge of outplaying Sam Bradford and the Vikings’ offense. Just as important was the challenge of outplaying the Vikings’ top-ranked defense.

“We wanted to be the better defense out there,” Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said. “We wanted to match their intensity. That was the whole thing. That’s all we talked about — let’s be the best defense out there today. We wanted to make sure we were the most dominating defense in the game.

“We wanted to get more sacks, get more turnovers … that was our whole goal.”

In a clash of two of the NFL’s top defensive units, the Eagles beat the previously undefeated Vikings 21-10 Sunday at the Linc (see Instant Replay).

The Vikings defense was very good. It held the Eagles to 14 offensive points and forced four turnovers, but also had no sacks.

The Eagles’ defense was better. It held the Vikings to 10 offensive points, forced four turnovers and recorded six sacks.

If you watched this game and had to guess which defense is No. 1 in the NFL, you’d guess Eagles.

They were that dominating.

They outplayed the best defense in the game.

“We think we’re the best defense, but they’ve been playing great, and they were the best defense coming in,” Eagles safety Rodney McLeod said. “We knew it would come down to whichever defense played the best.

“You could see that the first quarter. We’d make a play, they’d make a play. But you’ve just got to keep on chopping. After the last two games, we wanted to get back to playing Eagles defense, and I feel like we did that.”

McLeod, linebacker Jordan Hicks, Connor Barwin and Graham led a ferocious defensive effort that saw the Eagles batter former teammate Sam Bradford, who absorbed his first loss as a Viking (see 10 Observations).

The Eagles sacked Bradford six times, intercepted him twice and mauled him snap after snap after snap. By the time the Vikings got in the end zone, with half a minute left, it was already a three-possession game.

Neither team had an offensive play longer than 29 yards.

“We think we’re the No. 1 defense in the league,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “We think we can be that and should be that if we go out and play the way we’re supposed to.

“We have to do that every week. But we think we can hang with any defenses out there. And we have a lot of respect for that defense across the field, and we knew we would have to show up for us to even have a chance to be in this game. Because that defense is ranked No. 1 coming into this thing.

“But we also feel we’re the best defense in the league, even though we haven’t played like it. But this is the opportunity you want. On the main stage, you’re coming into our home, and this was our opportunity to face the best defense in the league, and I think we showed our worth.”

The Eagles, who looked nothing like a top defense the last two weeks in losses in Detroit and Washington, improved to 4-2 and dropped the Vikings to 5-1.

Six games in, the Eagles’ defense is allowing just 13.5 points per game. That’s No. 2 in the league, behind only … who else … the Vikings at 12.8 per game.

“For us, it’s a battle of the defenses,” Hicks said. “And we always want to be the best defense on the field and put our team in a position to win.”

Bradford has been sacked more only once in his career, back in 2011 with the Rams, when the Redskins got him seven times.

And after opening the season with no interceptions in four games, the Eagles picked him off twice.

Whatever it takes to get motivated. If it works, it works. And this Eagles' defense was clearly motivated by that No. 1 ranking the Vikings brought to town.

“It motivated everybody,” Fletcher Cox said. “We knew in order to win this game we had to be good up front, and the last two weeks we weren’t very good up front. But we got back to basics and went out and played a physical football game.”

Hicks had 11 tackles, a sack, three tackles for loss and two pass knockdowns in his finest game of the year. McLeod became the first Eagle since Quintin Mikell in 2007 with a sack, forced fumble and interception in the same game and added seven tackles. And Graham picked up his fourth sack to go with five quarterback hurries and a forced fumble (see Standout Plays).

The Eagles got back to the way they played defense the first three games of the season. They’ve now held their opponents to 14 or fewer points in four of six games and won them all. In their two losses, they’ve allowed 24 and 27.

“Pride … call it what you want, we knew we had to play well today,” Hicks said. “This defense has a certain standard, and it doesn’t matter what anybody else does, it matters what we do, and ultimately if we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing, we’re going to be a top, top, top defense.

“For me, it’s not about them. It’s about us and what we do.”