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The Gilmer Free Press

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Wilkins, Cunningham Claim MEC Honors

West Virginia Wesleyan’s Ali Cunningham and UVa-Wise’s Shaquon Wilkins have earned Mountain East Conference Runner of the Week honors.

Cunningham, a sophomore from Ripley, WV, took eighth overall at the Lock Haven Invitational with a time of 22:39. She was the top finisher for the Bobcats who won the 14-team invitational with 78 points.

Wilkins, a sophomore from Fredericksburg, Va., won the individual title at the Golden Eagle Invitational covering the 6-kilometer course in 19:34, nearly 30 seconds faster than second place. The Cavs won the team title 31 points, edging out host Charleston with 37 points.

Other Top Performances

Amanda Richards (Charleston) won the Golden Eagle Invitational with a tim of 25:43 ... Jordan Weitzel (Concord) had a personal best time of 26:47 and took third at the Greensboro XC Invitational ... Nathan Whitacre (West Virginia Wesleyan) was sixth at the Lock Haven Invitational with a time of 25:43 on the 8k course.

2014 Mountain East Conference Runners Of The Week
Week Men’s Women’s
September 16 Jordan Weitzel (Concord) Zoey Vilasuso (WVWC)
September 23 Keith Charette (Charleston) Kourtney Willey (Charleston)
September 30 Shaquon Wilkins (UVa-Wise) Ali Cunningham (WVWC)

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Holgorsen: Kansas Unlikely to Retool Scheme after Weis’ firing

The Week 4 firing of Kansas coach Charlie Weis abruptly shuffled the staff in Lawrence but won’t necessarily create a retooled scheme when the Jayhawks visit West Virginia on Saturday.

Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen said “it’s a little trickier actually trying to change things in the middle of the season,” and he doubts the Kansas game plan suddenly will undergo some radical transformation.

“We’ve got the film. We know who their players are. We know their personnel,” Holgorsen said Monday. “Basically the coordinators are intact and will be continuing to do the same things.”

Athletics director Sheahon Zenger dismissed Weis on Sunday morning during the aftermath of the Jayhawks (2-2, 0-1) losing to Texas 23-0.

The season’s final eight games now become the purview of interim coach/defensive coordinator Clint Bowen, a former Kansas player who also held interim duties in December 2009 following Mark Mangino’s forced resignation. When Turner Gill did not retain Bowen, he spent the 2010 season as defensive coordinator at Western Kentucky and served in the same role at North Texas during 2011.

Bowen, who returned to Kansas in 2012 as part of Weis’ new staff, hinted at only subtle changes as the Jayhawks try to salvage something from this tumultuous season.

“Our immediate plan for this week … is to operate this thing day-to-day and hour-to-hour and minute-to-minute and roll through it,” he said.

Bowen coached the linebackers last season when the Jayhawks defeated West Virginia 31-19, giving Kansas its lone win in the past 31 Big 12 games. The Mountaineers scored two touchdowns in the last five minutes to make the final score respectable.

“This West Virginia team has changed—they are an explosive offensive team,” Bowen said. “They have some playmakers and they’re a dangerous bunch.”

West Virginia (2-2, 0-1) was listed as a 25-point favorite Monday and possesses the Big 12′s leading passer and receiver. Clint Trickett averages 400 yards per game with more than 158 of those going to Kevin White.

Though the Mountaineers are tied with Kansas in the current Big 12 standings, the teams’ first four games bear scant resemblance. Jeff Sagarin’s USA Today ratings peg WVU with having played the nation’s toughest schedule to date, while Kansas’ schedule strength ranks only 93rd.

Kansas a ‘destination’ job: Though he is considered a long shot to win the job permanently, the 42-year-old Bowen clearly has dreamed for decades about running the program. He told his future wife about that specific ambition on their first dates 20 years ago at a Lawrence ice cream shop.

Bowen bristles at the notion Kansas is one of the least attractive jobs in the power 5 conferences.

“Anyone that would consider this a stepping stone job is an idiot,” he said. “This is a destination job. I’ve heard people say that before and I always defend it. Anyone that knows anything about Kansas, talking to coaches in this business, people understand that this is a sleeping giant of a program.

“You have an unbelievable community, you have an unbelievable university, you’ve got all the resources available to have a successful football program and all the support from the administration. People that know football, they know that this is an unbelievable job.”

No official Worley update: Holgorsen declined to clarify the status of cornerback Daryl Worley, who was suspended two weeks ago after a nightclub altercation with a woman led to a misdemeanor battery charge.

With university administrators evaluating Worley’s actions and motives, some media outlets reported the sophomore could be reinstated on Monday.

Charlie on Charlie: The latest Big 12 coach hired, Charlie Strong, was asked Monday about Weis, the latest coach fired.

“You develop a relationship with the coaches and they become your friends,” Strong said. “You hate to see that happen to anyone. Kansas had to make a decision that they made, but we’re in this business and we understand that it could be pitfalls.”

Criticism for Kingsbury: The father of former Texas Tech walk-on quarterback Baker Mayfield isn’t happy about his son being denied a transfer waiver to play at Oklahoma this season. Texas Tech’s administration and coach Kliff Kingsbury have fought the transfer from the outset, and barring a last-minute appeal, Baker will lose this season of eligibility and be unable to redshirt.

“The driver and the scoundrel behind all this is Kliff,” James Mayfield told The Oklahoman on Monday. “He is so focused or hellbent on punishing Baker.”

Mayfield earned Big 12 freshman of the year honors last season but said he decided to leave Texas Tech last spring when he wasn’t promised a scholarship.  ~~  Alan Taylor ~~

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Herd Has Nothing but Respect for Monarchs

To listen to Marshall players talk about the upcoming opponent this week you’d think the Herd was preparing to face Ole Miss, not Old Dominion. While the Monarch’s football program is only in its sixth year of existence, Marshall players have nothing but respect for the up and coming team.

“Some teams get ahead of themselves and look down on teams,” said linebacker Evan McKelvey. “If you look down on a team and don’t think much of them, that’s the team that will beat you. It’s always the team you don’t of that will beat you.”

ODU head coach Bobby Wilder’s goal when he was hired to jumpstart the university’s football program, which had been defunct since 1941 when the NCAA implemented a rule no longer allowing freshmen to play. The Monarchs went 9-2 in 2009 and by 2011 reached the FCS playoffs with a 10-3 record.

In 2012, ODU led FCS in scoring offense, total offense, and passing. The Monarchs won the Colonial Athletic Association Championship and earned a four-seed in the FCS playoffs.

ODU went 8-4 last year as it began the transition to FBS and was unbeaten at home. The Monarchs are 49-15 in the six seasons since the football program was restarted.

Wilder has accomplished all of this by mostly finding and developing homegrown talent. The Monarchs feature 40 players from Virginia and Washington, D.C. It’s no surprise to Virginia native Eric Frohnapfel who has seen the talent available in the Commonwealth firsthand.

“That Virginia tidewater area is underrated in some ways. There’s a lot of talent out there,” said Marshall tight end Eric Frohnpfel who grew up in Stafford, Va. “We played some teams in high school that had a lot of speed and athletic kids. They’ve been able to pinpoint that area and get 15 to 20 guys to come play for their team. There are a lot of good guys who can play out there.”

Marshall is once again an overwhelming favorite headed into Saturday’s game but that is of no concern to Herd players. They understand the minute they allow outside influences to distract their focus is when they could see a game slip away.

“We’ve never been in a position to look past teams. We can’t forget what got us here,” reiterated McKelvey. “We want to continue to do the same thing we’ve done every game, so we’re not going to change anything up.”

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Raiders Fire Allen, Name Sparano Interim Coach

The Oakland Raiders made it official on Tuesday and announced the firing of head coach Dennis Allen.

Former Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano has been selected as the interim coach.

Numerous reports of Allen’s dismissal came Monday night, a day after the Raiders fell to 0-4 for the season. General manager Reggie McKenzie released a statement Tuesday to confirm the decision.

“After thorough evaluation, we have determined to move in another direction,“ said McKenzie. “We appreciate Dennis Allen’s dedication to the organization and wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future.“

Allen was in his third season as Raiders’ coach. He led the team to a pair of 4-12 records before this year’s disastrous start.

The Raiders have lost 10 straight games dating back to last year, and this year’s squad has yet to score more than 14 points in any of its four games.

Oakland has a bye this week after its 38-14 loss to Miami on Sunday in London.

Sparano will be an NFL head coach for the second time, previously guiding the Dolphins to a record of 29-32 in nearly four full seasons. He took over in 2008 after the Dolphins were 1-15 in 2007 and led Miami to a mark of 11-5 with a surprising AFC East title.

However, a pair of 7-9 campaigns followed and he was fired in December 2011 after a 4-9 start that included losses in the first seven games.

Sparano served as the offensive coordinator for the New York Jets in 2012 before joining the Raiders as the assistant head coach and offensive line coach last year.

“Tony Sparano has a strong presence in this organization,“ said McKenzie. “His experience and leadership qualities will serve the team well in helping reach the goal of everyone here, which is to win football games.“

Sparano, a head coach for five years at Division II New Haven, was also an assistant with the Cleveland Browns from 1999-2000, the Washington Redskins in 2001 and Jacksonville Jaguars in 2002. He then joined the Dallas Cowboys in 2003 and spent five seasons in various roles before becoming the Dolphins’ head coach.

His first game in charge of the Raiders will come Oct. 12 at home against San Diego.

►  Colts Give Mathis 1-Year Extension

The Indianapolis Colts extended the contract of Robert Mathis for an additional season, the team announced Tuesday.

Mathis, 33, is now under contract through 2016.

The star linebacker was suspended for the first four games after violating the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy, then suffered a season-ending torn Achilles tendon while working out on his own.

Mathis led the NFL last season with 19 1/2 sacks.

The Colts also signed cornerback Jalil Brown to the active roster and added wide receiver Chandler Jones and linebacker Rob Ruggiero to the practice squad.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Nothin’ but Net: Coaching Hot Seat Already Burning

With NBA Media Day barely behind us, it’s perfect fair and reasonable to already speculate as to which coaches will be fired soonest.

We live in a world of immediacy. Blame it on the Internet and MTV.

Obviously, no coach is in immediate danger before we reach Halloween. Some skippers are more in need a big start than others. When it comes time to analyze those coaches likeliest to be shown the door, expectations play a large role.

For example, Jason Kidd is probably not worrying about his job security at the moment. The Milwaukee Bucks don’t figure to be too formidable. Same goes for the Utah Jazz, Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings, Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers.

Although, some of their lead men should be a little cautious. Bad teams generally changes coaches as frequently as most change underwear. The blame always shifts to the coach instead of the roster, or the man in charge of putting the roster together.

Mike Malone of the Kings should be a tad bit concerned. Sacramento went 28-54 in Malone’s only campaign and at times, Malone threw his players under the bus so frequently I thought he was the U.S. Ryder Cup captain.

Also going against Malone is the fact the Kings did not improve a little bit in the offseason. They regressed. Isaiah Thomas is gone to be the third point guard in Phoenix, while Darren Collison was brought in as a replacement. That’s a massive downgrade. That’s like Shemp joining the Three Stooges.

Sometimes, there’s a limit to ineptitude. The Sixers could be worse than last season, when they planned on being the worst franchise in professional sports since the Cleveland Indians in “Major League.“

Brett Brown knew the deal when he signed. It’s why he got four years on his contract. General manager Sam Hinkie seems happy with Brown, and truthfully, John Wooden couldn’t win more than 15 games with this roster. Brown is probably safe, but when Hinkie sees the futility the Sixers will display, he might think.

Jacque Vaughn in Orlando is an interesting case. He’s 43-121 in two seasons at the helm in the Magic Kingdom and Orlando is not headed toward the postseason in June of 2015.

Vaughn is a great young coach, record notwithstanding. He’s bright, professional and has a plan. He learned from the best in Gregg Popovich. Vaughn is worth the wait, but it’s getting harder and harder to keep a guy who rarely wins. Two-plus seasons isn’t a lot of time in the grand scheme. But in the world of the NBA, it might be long enough.

Of course, expectations, much like beauty, come in all shapes and sizes.

No coach on the hot seat has loftier expectations than Kevin McHale of the Houston Rockets. Some speculated he might have lost his job this past offseason. In two seasons, McHale has never gotten out of the first round of the playoffs and it’s troubling considering his Rockets had home-court advantage against the Portland Trail Blazers.

McHale never got the credit he deserved for being an all-time defensive great who coached a group that owned a collective indifference to stopping the opposition. He looked at the makeup of his roster when James Harden arrived and decided to run and gun.

Things didn’t get better with Dwight Howard, at least defensively.

Then, this past offseason was a disaster for the Rockets. General manager Daryl Morey swung deep this summer, trying to pry Chris Bosh from the Miami Heat. Swing and a miss.

Houston endured perhaps the worst offseason of any team. Not only did Bosh jilt them, the rival Dallas Mavericks swooped in and signed Chandler Parsons to a huge offer sheet. The Rockets passed on matching and now the third weapon is gone.

Also, the Rockets traded anyone they possibly could (Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin) in order to free up cash to sign Bosh. So, to sum up, the Rockets lost a starter, who happened to be their third-leading scorer, their two biggest bench players and failed to improve in any way.

That means McHale is in trouble. The Rockets are a perfect example of sacrificing the coach instead of confronting the real issue, which is the makeup of this roster. Houston is all about stars and has yet to prove this strategy is a prudent one.

When expectation meets timing, we see Monty Williams of the New Orleans Pelicans.

This is his fifth season in the Big Easy and he is a robust 128-184, making the playoffs just once, his first season in charge.

That’s a long time to be the man without any successful results. Most coaches don’t get three straight seasons under .500, but Williams is still guiding the Pelicans.

Over the last two seasons, New Orleans has taken a more aggressive approach to making the playoffs. They mortgaged some future in order to make the postseason in the crowded Western Conference. Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans were brought in with the hopes of advancing.

In one season, everyone in New Orleans except the cast of “True Blood” got hurt. The Pelicans were 14 games under .500 and now Williams will get one more shot with a healthy roster.

Problem is, the Pelicans still may not be good enough to make the playoffs even if Holiday, Evans, Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and, of course, Anthony Davis, avoid the injured list. It’s impossible in my mind to see Williams staying if New Orleans misses the postseason.

The only other potential candidate in jeopardy would be Indiana’s Frank Vogel. He probably will get a pass considering his best player, Paul George, is done for the season because his leg nearly became detached from his body.

Despite team president Larry Bird never wavering in his support of his man, there were whispers that Vogel might have been in trouble this offseason. Never happened and probably won’t. Vogel’s name just deserves a quick mention.

The truth is that all of these gentlemen face intense pressure heading into this season. Any early season slippage and these guys could be shown the door. It’s unfair to bring this to light so early, but life in the NBA is unfair.

Blame goes to the Internet and MTV.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  American League Wild Card Game Result

Final Score: Kansas City 9, Oakland 8 (12 innings)

Fans of the Kansas City Royals, starved from postseason baseball for 29 years, were deservedly rewarded with an epic comeback in a wildly entertaining AL wild card showdown on Tuesday. The Royals scored three runs in the eighth inning, another in the ninth to force extras and added two more in the 12th to steal a 9-8 victory over the stunned Oakland Athletics. Alberto Callaspo had given the A’s an 8-7 lead with an RBI single in the 12th, but run-scoring hits from Christian Colon and Salvador Perez in the bottom half capped an instant classic that lasted 4 hours, 45 minutes. Kansas City advanced to take on the Angels in the ALDS, which begins Thursday in Anaheim. The win-or-go-home matchup was billed as a pitching duel between James Shields and Jon Lester—two aces built for this type of situation—and neither delivered a quality start. Instead, it was the Royals’ small-ball heroics that was the difference, as they swiped seven bases and came through with timely two-out hits. Brandon Moss smacked two homers and drove in five runs for the A’s, whose collapse mirrored their entire second half, as they backed into the playoffs despite a dreadful .433 winning percentage after the All-Star break.

►  Harper, Morneau and Altuve Added to Japan Tour Roster

Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper and batting champions Justin Morneau of the Colorado Rockies and Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros were announced as additions to the roster for baseball’s tour of Japan this November.

The trio will be part of a squad that already includes Seattle’s Robinson Cano, Baltimore’s Adam Jones, the Angels’ Albert Pujols and the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig.

Boston’s John Farrell will be the manager for the team, replacing Ron Washington, who had initially been selected as the skipper in August before resigning as manager of the Texas Rangers in September.

The MLB team will play a five-game series against a squad of Japanese League All-Stars.

It will mark the 11th All-Star series and the 36th time overall that a team of Major League Baseball players will tour Japan for games. The current five-game format was adopted in 2006, the last time a group of MLB stars squared off against a team of Japan All-Stars. The MLB team went 5-0 eight years ago.

The opening game will take place in Osaka on Nov. 12 before heading to Tokyo for three games on the weekend of Nov. 14-16. The final game of the series will be in Sapporo on Nov. 18.

Two exhibition games will bookend the series—the first on Nov. 11 and the last on Nov. 20.

►  Yanks’ Beltran Undergoes Elbow Surgery

The New York Yankees announced on Tuesday that outfielder Carlos Beltran underwent surgery to remove loose pieces and a bone spur from his right elbow.

Beltran is expected to begin throwing and hitting in six weeks and should gain clearance to play in 12 weeks.

The 37-year-old played in just three games after Sept. 09 because of the issue. He concluded his first season with the Yankees batting a disappointing .233 with 15 homers and 49 RBI over 109 games.

►  Astros P McHugh Named AL Rookie of the Month

Houston Astros starter Collin McHugh was tabbed the American League Rookie of the Month for September.

McHugh capped his first full season in the majors by going 4-0 with a 1.59 earned run average over 28 1/3 innings pitched in four starts. He limited batters to a .150 average and ranked sixth in strikeouts-per-nine-innings (7.94).

The 27-year-old Chicagoland native and right-hander ended up 11-9 with a 2.73 ERA over 25 starts for the Astros, who snapped a franchise-worst streak of three consecutive 100-loss seasons in 2014.

McHugh joins Roy Oswalt (August 2001), Kirk Saarloos (July 2002) and Hunter Pence (May 2007) as the only Astros players to snag a monthly honor as a first-year player.

Others considered for the season’s final month were Red Sox infielder Xander Bogaerts, Twins outfielder Danny Santana and Kansas City starter Yordano Ventura.

►  Tigers 1B Cabrera Named AL Player of the Month

For the second straight month, a Detroit Tigers player has earned Player of the Month honors in the junior circuit. This time, it’s first baseman Miguel Cabrera, named on Tuesday.

Victor Martinez had been rewarded for August.

Cabrera capped his 2014 campaign and helped his team to a fourth straight AL Central crown by exploding for a .379 average along with eight home runs, 10 doubles, 18 RBI and 19 runs scored over 26 contests.

The 31-year-old Venezuelan, nine-time All-Star and two-time reigning AL MVP also finished atop the league in slugging percentage (.709), extra-base hits (12) and total bases (73), ranked second in total hits and ninth with an on- base pct. of .409.

Cabrera was previously honored as the junior circuit’s top player for July of 2008, August 2012 and July ‘13.

Others considered for mention were AL batting champ and Astros infielder Jose Altuve, Cleveland outfielder Michael Brantley and Angels infielder Howie Kendrick.

►  Dodgers OF Kemp is NL Player of the Month

Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp was named the National League Player of the Month for September on Tuesday.

Kemp completed the season’s final month with seven multi-hit performances, and reached the 20-homer plateau for the fifth time in his career. A two-time All- Star, Kemp led the majors with nine home runs and tied teammate Adrian Gonzalez with 25 RBI, while also hitting .322 and posting a .700 slugging percentage.

His finest stretch occurred at Wrigley Field from Sept. 18-21, when he finished 7-for-17 with two homers and eight RBI over the four-game set.

Kemp had previously taken home monthly honors in April of 2012.

►  Wainwright Named Top NL Pitcher for September

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright was named the National League Pitcher of the Month on Tuesday.

Wainwright went 5-0 over five starts in September, pitching 39 innings and posting a 1.38 earned run average during that span.

He also tossed two complete games, including a seven-hit shutout of Milwaukee on Sept. 17. His last start of the season against the Cubs on Sept. 22 saw him win his 20th game of the season to match a career-high.

The 33-year-old went 20-9 with a 2.38 ERA over 32 starts this season.

This was his second monthly award, also winning it in June, 2013.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NFL Fantasy Player of the Week - Week 4

In what is quickly turning into the “Year of the Pass,“ 13 quarterbacks scored at least 20 fantasy points in Week 4 led by New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning.

And with all the rules changes designed to make the passing game succeed, it shouldn’t be a surprise to fantasy owners that 13 quarterbacks are currently on pace to throw for 4,000 yards this season. Compare that to the average number of 4,000-yards passers since 2000 which is 5.9 per season.

Quarterbacks -

Eli Manning, New York Giants - Manning and the Giants were first out of the gate Thursday night and he posted a number for all to see and try to beat. They couldn’t. Behind three first-half touchdown passes to tight end Larry Donnell (see below) Manning finished the night with five touchdowns (four passing, one rushing), 300 yards and a position-leading 34 fantasy points.

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis - Luck threw for four touchdowns for the second consecutive weekend and hit the 370-yard passing mark for the third time in four games as he led the Colts to an easy victory over Tennessee. With 13 touchdown passes and 1,305 yards through the air he leads all fantasy players in points.

Running backs -

DeMarco Murray, Dallas - Murray has taken up permanent residence in this corner of the fantasy piece. He leads the league in rushing after his fourth consecutive game with at least 100 yards rushing and a touchdown. Sunday night he abused a Saints run defense for 149 yards and two scores.

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City - Fantasy owners welcomed back Charles after he missed the last game with an ankle injury and the Chiefs running back showed no signs of the injury lingering. Against New England as he totaled 108 yards from scrimmage and scored three times. Of course, it was such a dominating performance by Kansas City that Charles’ backup, Knile Davis, rushed for 107 yards too.

Wide Receivers -

Steve Smith Sr., Baltimore - Smith was already one of the biggest surprises of the fantasy season, but facing his old team for the first time in Week 4 he was obviously ready to show the Panthers the mistake in their strategy to let him go after last season. He caught seven of 10 targets for 139 yards and two scores worth almost 34 fantasy points.

Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh - In 2014 Brown has added the one element which kept him from being a fantasy superstar last season - scoring touchdowns. Sunday he scored twice to bring his season total to five along with 131 yards receiving. He also completed a pass and continues to return punts. He’s the complete package and is currently the top fantasy wideout. This is not a fluke.

Tight Ends -

Larry Donnell, New York Giants - If you said “Who?“ after Donnell scored the first of his three touchdowns Thursday night you haven’t been paying attention. He’s been one of Manning’s favorite targets all season, averaging almost eight targets per game. Thursday he caught seven of eight targets for 54 yards and three touchdowns worth 26 fantasy points. Likely a free agent pickup in your fantasy league, he’s currently ranked fourth at his position ahead of names like Greg Olsen, Antonio Gates and Rob Gronkowski. By the way, he’s owned in less than 60 percent of all Yahoo leagues. What are you waiting for?

Kickers -

Phil Dawson, San Francisco 49ers - Dawson was perfect on the day, going 4- for-4 in field goals attempts, including a 51-yarder, to lead the position with 17 points.

Defense/Special Teams

Philadelphia Eagles - The Eagles defense and special teams did everything they could to help the team and fantasy owners who took a chance on them. The Eagles blocked a punt for a touchdown, returned a punt for a touchdown and took an interception 53 yards for a third score. Unfortunately, they were only started in about 10 percent of all leagues. That’s probably a higher number than you would expect considering their past defensive performance ... or lack of it. You can thank the start of the bye weeks.

And the winner of the TSN Fantasy Player of the Week is ... Giants quarterback Eli Manning. It’s been a long time since the younger Manning found his way onto the FPOW pages, primarily due to his propensity to throw interceptions and his coach’s preference for a balanced offense. Thursday night’s production reminded us of his zenith as a fantasy quarterback - in 2011 when he threw for 4,933 yards and 29 touchdowns.

►  Week 5 Waiver Wire Gold

After passing the quarter mark of the NFL season, players posting solid fantasy numbers are no longer flukes but trends. Finding those patterns is the key to building a championship team.

Unless owners have Jimmy Graham or Julius Thomas, tight end is typically a position which can always be upgraded. Martellus Bennett and Delanie Walker owners are very pleased through four weeks as well.

For other owners, Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce must be on your waiver wire radar. Most owners have picked up on him already, as Kelce is owned in 69 percent of Yahoo leagues, but it is still worth checking out. He caught eight of his nine targets for 93 yards and a touchdown against the Patriots on Monday, and all signs point toward him continuing this production.

Kelce is 6-foot-5, 260 pounds and is a mismatch for any linebacker. The Patriots defense looked atrocious, so one should be careful not to go too far in praising the Chiefs tight end, but he looked like he has the potential to really dominate at times.

In his other three games against an “actual” defense, Kelce had caught 10 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown. With each game, his targets and receiving yards have gone up with the exception of Week 3 against the Dolphins. That game, however, Kelce caught his first touchdown pass of the year.

In standard leagues, his fantasy totals have trended up all four weeks. He started with 4.9 points in Week 1, posted 8.1 in Week 2, 9.6 in Week 3 and finally 15.3 on Monday.

Although those signs are all positive, the biggest reason Kelce has upside the rest of 2014 is the Chiefs offense. Of course, it will always be a rushing attack with Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis, who has emerged to be a great fantasy play the last few weeks.

Charles and Davis will also take away passing opportunities from the receiving corps. Each tailback has eight catches to start the year.

Kelce, however, leads the team with receptions (18), targets (24), receiving yards (259) and is tied for team honors with two touchdown catches. Outside of throwing short to the running backs, Alex Smith is throwing to his big tight end in the flat.

Coach Andy Reid called Kelce’s number on wide receiver bubble screens against the Patriots, indicating he has confidence giving Kelce the ball in open space. Smith also feels comfortable throwing to him down the field as Kelce is fifth among tight ends with a 14.4 yards per catch average. That is higher than both Graham and Thomas.

Kelce will not compete with the numbers Graham and Thomas post on a week-to- week basis, but the Kansas City tight end is a player who, at the very least, can provide depth to any fantasy roster.

The Gilmer Free Press


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