Extras: Young Braves, Gagne-Kovalchuk, The Big Ten and "Big Ern"

Extras: Young Braves, Gagne-Kovalchuk, The Big Ten and "Big Ern"

Tommy Hanson takes the mound for the Braves tonight as they kick off their first series versus the Phils. Hanson went 11-4 with a 2.89 ERA as a rookie last season, but he was 0-2 in two starts against the Fightins, while allowing seven earned in just five innings of work. The kid knows his team needs more from him. “I’m ready to get back out there,” Hanson said. “Any time you face the Phillies, it’s a big game." [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

More on the Braves, who have another rookie lighting the world on fire this year. Jason Heyward, ranked the fifth best prospect in '09, is off to an explosive start in his Major League career. The 20-year-old right fielder is batting .302 with three home runs and 15 RBI's through his first 12 games, and his teammates are all throughly impressed. Eric Hinske even says, "He's the one." I suspect Heyward will soon be able to jump inside the baseball and destroy its very existence. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

With the Flyers series against the Devils set to continue tonight, Phil Sheridan explains that while Simon Gagne and Ilya Kovalchuk have both been frustrated on the scoreboard thus far, it's for entirely different reasons. Gagne, the top goal scorer versus Martin Brodeur in team history, has been getting plenty of opportunities that haven't found the net. I believe he's due. Kovalchuk, on the other hand, has disappointed with his lack of production and dumb penalties. Flyer defenders have really made things tough on the Devils' star. [Inquirer]

The Big Ten is planning to expand sometime in the near future, and it's going to do so with or without Notre Dame, which is why it's time for an ultimatum. Either the Irish join the conference now and reap the benefits of doing so, or the Big Ten moves forward and finds universities who will. 12-team majors are becoming the norm in college football, with the possibility of growing to 14 or 16 teams, and ND could be left out in the cold some day if they refuse to act on such an offer. [The Columbus Dispatch]

Count Ray Didinger among those who are excited for the addition of Ernie Sims, calling him an "explosive tackler" who knocks ball-carriers backward. He's certainly in a position to improve the Eagles' run defense, and adding a sure-tackler into the mix probably can't hurt, but I'm always weary whether a linebacker can learn a new scheme. Sims has played his entire NFL career in the Cover-2 and drawn multiple comparisons to Derrick Brooks, a Cover-2 linebacker. Either way, it's a solid use of the 137th pick in the draft. [CSN]

Extra point: we should all be happy the Redskins are denying interest in Terrell Owens—for now at least. Owens is coming off a horrible season in Buffalo, and he's certainly lost a step, but he still has rare size and athleticism, and in the right situation he could thrive. That would certainly be Washington, catching passes from the quarterback with whom he had arguably the best season of his career. One wide receiver, particularly at 36-years-old, would not make them a Super Bowl contender, but they'd be much more dangerous than they are right this moment.

Matt Rhule's first Baylor hires include 4 Temple assistants

Matt Rhule's first Baylor hires include 4 Temple assistants

WACO, Texas -- New Baylor coach Matt Rhule has made some immediate Texas connections by hiring the president of the state's high school coaches who is a former Bears receiver.

Rhule announced his first five hires with the Bears on Friday, three days after being named Baylor's coach. They include four members from his staff at Temple and David Wetzel, the head coach and athletic director the past 13 seasons at Ronald Reagan High School in San Antonio.

Sean Padden will serve as Baylor's director of football operations, similar to his role at Temple the past four years.

Rhule didn't immediately announce the titles and job duties for Wetzel, Francis Brown, Mike Siravo and Evan Cooper. There was also no indication of when the rest of his staff would be completed.

Brown and Siravo were defensive assistants at Temple, and Cooper was director of player personnel for the Owls.

Wetzel, who has coached in the state high school ranks for 25 years, was serving as president of the Texas High School Football Coaches Association. He lettered at Baylor in 1990 and 1991 while playing for Grant Teaff, and also earned a master's degree from the school in 1994. Before Reagan, he was head coach at schools in Killeen and Austin.

Wetzel told the Waco Tribune-Herald that he expects to play a major role in recruiting, but didn't know yet if he'd be coaching offense or defense.

"Given the opportunity, it's really a unique deal," Wetzel told the newspaper. "I feel like it's God's timing for me to be in the right place at the right time."

When Rhule was introduced Wednesday in Waco, he said he had already received about 480 text messages, many from coaches. He also didn't rule out the possibility of some of the current Baylor assistants staying, but said he hadn't had a chance to meet with them. Those assistants were retained from former coach Art Briles' staff with Jim Grobe as acting head coach this season.

Note
Baylor announced Friday that Jalen Pitre, a defensive back from Stafford, Texas, signed a financial aid agreement that will allow him to enroll for the spring 2017 semester after graduating from high school early. Before Rhule was hired, Pitre was the only player verbally committed for Baylor's recruiting class in February. He had 83 tackles, six interceptions and four forced fumbles as a senior.

Dorial Green-Beckham fined by NFL for wearing Yeezy cleats

Dorial Green-Beckham fined by NFL for wearing Yeezy cleats

Dorial Green-Beckham didn't support any charity with his cleats last Sunday.

In reality, he was funding the NFL.

The Eagles' receiver was fined $6,076 by the NFL for wearing Yeezy cleats (Kanye West's shoes), which had no affiliation to a charitable organization or cause, CSNPhilly.com has confirmed. Players around the NFL last weekend wore decorative spikes supporting a charity or cause they felt passionately about as part of the league's My Cleats, My Cause promotion. Green-Beckham was fined because his cleats were unapproved by the league; earlier this season Houston receiver DeAndre Hopkins was fined for wearing Yeezy cleats. 

Green-Beckham told NJ.com’s Eliot Shorr-Parks he was supporting the "Yeezy Foundation." ESPN's Tim McManus first reported the fine on Friday. 

Bradham fined for tackle
Speaking of fines, Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham was hit with a $18,231 fine for his horse-collar tackle last Sunday on Bengals running back Jeremy Hill in the third quarter.

The first-year Eagle finished the game with five total tackles and a forced fumble.