Pair of Philly products looking to shine at combine


Pair of Philly products looking to shine at combine

Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Posted: 1:35 p.m.

By Reuben Frank

INDIANAPOLIS The last Villanova player the Eagles drafted was Brian Westbrook, and that went pretty well. The last Temple kid the Eagles drafted was Raheem Brock, and that went pretty well, too just not for the Eagles.

Two of the sleepers in this 2011 draft who will be trying to improve their draft standing at the NFL scouting combine, which begins here Thursday, are Villanova offensive tackle Ben Ijalana and Temple defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson.

Ijalana, who attended Rancocas Valley High School in Mount Holly the same school as first-round picks Franco Harris, Irving Fryar and Alonzo Spellman and Wilkerson, who played scholastic football in North Jersey at Linden High, are both projected as second-round picks and are both the kind of player who could help the Eagles.

Ijalana, who played tackle at Villanova, is seen by many scouts as a guard in the NFL, and its no secret the Eagles need to improve their offensive line after allowing 49 sacks during the 2010 regular season. Wilkerson, at 6-foot-5, 305 pounds, projects as either a defensive tackle or defensive end.

Its been 61 years since the Eagles drafted a Philly college player in the first two rounds. You might remember Chuck Bednarik, the first pick in the 1939 draft out of Penn and a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1967. The only other city players the Eagles have taken in the first three rounds are Westbrook, a third-round pick in 2002, and Fran Murray, a second-round pick and No. 11 overall back in 1937.

But Ijalana and Wilkerson both offer what the Eagles need to help rebuild their disappointing lines.

The Eagles struggles on the right side of the offensive line have been well-documented. The Eagles went through a disastrous succession from Stacy Andrews to Reggie Wells to Max Jean-Gilles to Nick Cole at right guard last year, and that position is unsettled as the team heads into the offseason. Mike McGlynn is in the mix, assuming a now-healthy Jamaal Jackson works back to his old center spot.

And Winston Justice seemed to regress from 2009 to 2010. He was benched by the end of the playoff loss to the Packers and just had his sore knee scoped earlier this week, so hes certainly no lock to return to the starting lineup.

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said Ijalana can play either tackle spot or guard. Of course, with a left-handed quarterback, right tackle becomes the blind-spot spot, the more challenging spot.

The kid in Villanova to me is a really good football player with a lot of upside, Mayock said. Hes a left tackle that was invited to the Senior Bowl and missed it because of double hernia surgery. He played the last five-six games with a double hernia, which shows how tough a kid he is.

Hes got great feet, long arms. Hes not as tall as theyd like hes barely 6-4, but I think he might kick inside. But I think hes got the arm length and the feet to stay outside.

Wilkerson is part of what Mayock calls the deepest defensive line class hes ever seen. He could go anywhere from late in the first round to late in the second, and Mayock said whoever drafts the former Temple Owl will get a very good player.

Wikerson recorded 17 sacks in three years at Temple, including 10 this past season. He may turn out to be more of a 3-4 pass rusher than a 4-3 lineman because of his size and speed, but he also has the skills to be an every-down 4-3 tackle who can stop the run or generate pass pressure from the inside.

Ive got eight or nine defensive ends with first round grades, Mayock said. Typically four defensive ends go in the first round. And I start looking at kids like Muhammad Wilkerson ... he could be a defensive tackle or a defensive end. He could go from 25 to 40, and the kid is a heck of a football player.

I think he would have fit into the first round a year ago easily, and he might get pushed into the second round with the quality and depth of this defensive line group.

Another local kid very local when it comes to Eagles training camp is Lehigh guard Will Rackley, a 6-foot-4, 310-pounder who practiced on the same fields as the Eagles the last few years.

Mayock said that for a kid like Ijalana or Rackley who both played on the Football Championship Subdivision level (formerly Division 1-AA) the Combine is more important than for major-college guys.

As far as the small school kids, it's critical they take advantage of every opportunity they get, Mayock said. Whether it's the All-Star Bowl game, the Senior Bowl, the East-West, Texas versus the nation, whatever the opportunity is, they need to be bigger, better and faster than the BCS kids. The BCS kids get the benefit of every doubt.

I really think the small school kids are penalized at least a round, a full round by being where they come from. They've got to make that up either in the All-Star Games, the pro days or the Combine.

If youre the Villanova tackle or the Lehigh tackle, you better make sure you put your best foot forward every chance you can.

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Baylor to fire football coach Briles, re-assign president

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Baylor to fire football coach Briles, re-assign president

WACO, Texas -- Baylor University's board of regents said Thursday that it will fire football coach Art Briles and re-assign university President Kenneth Starr amid questions over the school's handling of sexual assault complaints against players.

The nation's largest Baptist university said in a statement Thursday that it had suspended Briles "with intent to terminate." Starr will leave the position of president on May 31, but the school says he will serve as chancellor.

The university also placed athletic director Ian McCaw on probation.

Baylor asked a law firm last year to conduct a review of its handling of sexual assault cases following allegations that the football program mishandled several cases of players attacking women.

The university's statement said the review revealed "a fundamental failure."

Baylor has faced increasing criticism in recent months for its handling of reports of rape and other violent incidents involving football players and students. One victim has sued the university, saying it was deliberately indifferent to her allegations against a former player who was eventually convicted of sexually assaulting her.

Starr ordered an investigation last year but has been mostly silent amid mounting criticism over the school's handling of the complaints, which erupted under his leadership. He took over as the university's president in 2010, about a decade after the former prosecutor investigated former President Clinton's sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewisnky.

The football team, whose players were at the center of the upheaval, enjoyed unprecedented success under Briles' tenure, including two Big 12 championships in the last three years. That success brought a financial windfall, and in 2014, Baylor opened a new, $250-million on-campus football stadium. But Briles' program has also been criticized for recruiting or accepting transfer players without regard to the harm they might cause fellow students.

Starr rode the waves of the program's success, and often ran on the football field with Baylor students in pregame ceremonies. But as investigations began into the school's handling of sexual assault allegations against players, Starr provided only brief comments, even as criticism of the school mounted.

In a February statement issued by university, Starr said "our hearts break for those whose lives are impacted by execrable acts of sexual violence." And at a prayer breakfast last month, Starr told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "I am in favor of transparency. Stand up, take your medicine if you made a mistake."

Baylor's Board of Regents was recently briefed by a law firm hired to investigate how the school responded to assault incidents, and the school on Thursday released a summary of its findings. Starr initiated the review in 2015, after former football player Sam Ukwuachu was convicted of sexually assaulting a female soccer player.

Ukwuachu, who was convicted in 2015, transferred to Baylor after he was dismissed from Boise State. Ukwuachu's former girlfriend testified during his rape trial in Texas that he had struck and choked her when he attended Boise State.

Ukwuachu's former coach, Chris Peterson, now the coach at Washington, said he "thoroughly apprised" Briles about the circumstances of Ukuwachu's dismissal. Briles disputed that account, saying he talked with Peterson and there was no mention of the incident.

The school is also facing a federal lawsuit from a former student claiming the school was "deliberately indifferent" to rape allegations levied at a former football player Tevin Elliott, who was convicted in 2014 of sexually assaulting the woman.

The uproar following Ukwuachu's conviction caused Baylor to initiate the review by the Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton, and to announce a $5 million effort to improve efforts on how it responds to sexual assault, including adding another investigator and more staff.

But the Ukwuachu case was just the start of months of revelations of football players being involved in violent incidents with little or no repercussions. At least seven other woman have publicly come forward to say the school ignored their sexual assault allegations.

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Josh Hart discusses NBA draft process, returning to Villanova


Josh Hart discusses NBA draft process, returning to Villanova

Josh Hart said the decision wasn’t easy.

But he’s happy with it.

After withdrawing his name from the NBA draft to return to school (see story), Hart is excited to focus on Villanova, graduation and then the NBA dream.

“I love the school, I love the teachers, the student body, the support, my teammates that we have coming back,” the 6-foot-5 guard said Wednesday on Comcast SportsNet’s Philly Sports Talk. “So it was a tough one and I just thought at the end of the day, I think going back for my senior year would be in the best interest of my parents and myself.”

As a junior, Hart helped Villanova win its second national championship in program history by leading the Wildcats in scoring with 15.5 points per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the field.

Hart received plenty of feedback from NBA teams. He said shooting and ball handling are what he hopes to improve.

As far as his draft stock …

“There were teams interested maybe in the first [round], and then there were teams that said they would take me in the second,” Hart said. “But there’s a whole month before the draft, a lot of teams didn’t know exactly what they were doing with their picks — whether they were trying to trade up for a pick, trying to trade down, trying to trade a pick for a player. Several teams said that they would take me.”

For more from Hart on the draft and Villanova, watch the video above.

Delaware hires Martin Ingelsby as new head basketball coach

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Delaware hires Martin Ingelsby as new head basketball coach

Delaware has its new head basketball coach in Martin Ingelsby.

Ingelsby, a native of Berwyn, Pennsylvania, comes from Notre Dame, where he played from 1997-2001 and coached for 13 seasons, seven as an assistant.

Ingelsby played his high school ball at Archbishop Carroll and is the son of Tom Ingelsby, who played for Villanova from 1970-73.

Delaware is coming off a 7-23 season and 2-16 mark in CAA play, which led to the firing of head coach Monte Ross.

The Blue Hens, who announced the hire Tuesday, will formally introduce Ingelsby in a press conference Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Bob Carpenter Center Auditorium.