Tessitore, Blackledge Talk 2016 College Football Season In Media Conference Call

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN Sunday College Football Broadcast Team: L – R: Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe, Joe Tessitore. Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN’s Joe Tessitore and analyst Todd Blackledge sat down with members of the media this week to talk about the 2016 college football season and all things college football.  The pair talked with the media about their thoughts on the season’s major Heisman candidates, coaches’ QB choices, and what they think are some of the season’s most anticipated matchups.  The in-depth conversation is noted in full below.  Tessitore and Blackledge will join fellow reporter Holly Rowe this  Sunday, September 4th as Texas and Notre Dame face off live on ABC.  Coverage of the game is expected to begin at 7:30pm ET.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everyone, for joining today’s call, and welcome to the start of the college football season. As mentioned, today we have Joe Tessitore and Todd Blackledge and John Moline, who will be working together this season. Holly Rowe will join them throughout the season as their reporter. Joe and Todd will be in Austin on Sunday night for Notre Dame and Texas on ABC. As a heads up, we will have a transcript of today’s call so we will be sending that out this afternoon. We’ll get things started by tossing it over to Todd who will give some opening thoughts on the season. Joe will do the same and then we’ll get right into questions. Todd, why don’t you take it away.

TODD BLACKLEDGE: All right, well, it’s good to be with everybody here this morning, and obviously looking forward to the start of another great college football season. I think the thing that I’m most excited about, and I think everybody at ESPN is, just the magnitude of the opening weekend, the games that are making up the opening weekend spanning over a couple days is it pretty impressive and worth getting excited about, and I just can’t think of any better way to kick off college football than to have this type of a presentation right out of the gate.

I think the College Football Playoffs and the excitement around that and the importance of strength of schedule has had an impact, and certainly this first weekend of games, we’re going to find out a lot about teams.

I think it’s great as a team to play a high-caliber opponent early. I think it motivates you and it adds energy and juice to your preseason practice and your training camp, and a loss in a game this early against a high-quality opponent does not remove you from the championship picture. So I think it’s a win-win for everybody, particularly the fans, and for Joe and Holly and I, we’re thrilled to be in Austin on Sunday to call the Notre Dame-Texas game. A lot of intrigue around that game and probably as much as any one particular spot at the quarterback position on both sides of the field.

You know, we’re probably going to see four guys in the game. I don’t know how much we’ll see of each guy or what the rotations are going to be, but I think both head coaches have talked about playing two guys, and in the case of Texas, I wouldn’t be shocked if we don’t see a third guy in there in a wildcat type situation in special situations.

First games there’s a lot of intrigue, a lot of mystery, a lot of wondering how guys are going to respond on a big stage, and we’re excited and thrilled to be there to cover it.

THE MODERATOR: Joe, why don’t you give your thoughts on the opening of the season.

JOE TESSITORE: Good morning, everybody. This is Joe Tessitore. Thanks for your time. I think Todd brings up a great point in talking about the opening weekend and the influence of the College Football Playoff now that we’re a couple years in and realizing what it’s done scheduling-wise. I think everybody realizes it’s the best opening weekend the sport’s ever had. But when I look through, and Derek, you asked for season overall thoughts here, I look at the schedule even beyond opening weekend, and I feel like everywhere you turn, you see these potential College Football Playoff eliminators or games that will help us decide some things. I think the season is filled with them, it’s just that we have this overflow in week one that makes it so exciting, but whether it’s Bama-LSU, Clemson-Florida State, Michigan-Ohio State, I feel like we have that everywhere you turn.

I also think the sport is really blessed and it continues to be this way, and we know some of the ways college basketball is panned, but the returning established stars, when you have Fournette, McCaffrey and Deshaun Watson and Baker Mayfield and Dalvin Cook, I was just doing a Heisman special the other day, and I started putting this list together and everywhere you look, you have these established stars and these known qualities, and I think that’s good for the sport and really good for the fans.

I can’t get away from what Nick Saban and Jim Harbaugh have been up to this off-season, and the fact that we have these two huge names in coaching with all the other big names, but with Saban, does the legacy and the dynasty grow even bigger would be one of the big headlines I’m looking forward to this season, does Harbaugh deliver on the hype.

As for the hype for our game, on a personal note, I’m absolutely honored and thrilled to work with Todd and Holly, and I think I speak for Todd in saying that with what Holly has been through this year and this off-season and the fight and the courage and what she’s shown, and I know her battle has been a little public, to see Holly on Sunday night in primetime on ABC, a game like this, Todd, I know we’re all going to be just so thrilled to have that group together, and she’s the absolute best in the business, as is Todd, at what he does. I’m thrilled to be a part of this team now.

I think the Notre Dame-Texas game personally, more could be revealed in this game than perhaps any other opening weekend game out there because I think Notre Dame, of course, top-10 team but very much perceived as a team with enough new talent to reload in spots where they need it and a team capable of putting it all together for a run to the playoff, but yet there’s still a lot that has to be decided.

Todd talked about the quarterback battle. I want to see who emerges at wide receiver and fills some of that void at tight end, who steps up on the defensive line where they do have some players that are back again and others need to step up.

And for Texas, you feel this buzz this off-season as this is the point of the breakthrough and the true freshman quarterback, but yet Swoopes is still there and the big dominating tandem in the backfield. But there are still the issues from last year that you want to see resolved, the run defense. Yeah, they’re a year older. Yeah, there’s a new offense, an exciting young new offensive coordinator, but is it too big of a leap to go from where they were to now what’s expected, and I think very early on on Sunday, we may start to get some of those answers, and if we do in a positive direction, this is going to be a thriller on Sunday night.

I’m very excited, and with that, Derek, I guess we can open it up for some questions.

Q. Question for Todd: Coach Strong is still not really releasing who he’s going to start as a quarterback in the game on Sunday, and Coach Kelly said he’s going to play both guys. What’s kind of the strategy behind do you think coaches trying to keep some of that stuff mum until the last possible second?

TODD BLACKLEDGE: Well, you know, I mean, I guess if you can do that, what you can do in college football a little differently than you can in the NFL, (inaudible) preparation. Now, the positives of Notre Dame is they’ve had all off-season. It’s not like it’s (inaudible) week where they’ve only had four or five days to do preparation work for two quarterbacks or two different styles of quarterbacks. So they’ve had extra time. I think just as (inaudible) quarterback is going to be is I would imagine Notre Dame’s defensive staff led by Brian VanGorder has probably spend as much time studying and dissecting film from a year ago to get familiar with the offensive plan and system that they might see from Sterlin Gilbert’s offense in the ballgame. More so than which guy is taking the snaps, I think they’ll spend more time being concerned about the style of offense and maybe the tempo of the offense that they’re going to face.

Q. Todd or Joe, when is the last time that you actually saw a two-quarterback system be effective and actually work, keeping both guys happy?

TODD BLACKLEDGE: Well, I mean, I think you have to look at what Ohio State was able to do. I mean, last year was not great (inaudible).

THE MODERATOR: Todd, your phone is breaking up a little bit here. Why don’t we go to Joe.

JOE TESSITORE: It’s funny, Todd and I got on a conference call last week, and one of the things we started discussing was Brian Kelly’s success at Cincinnati, and we really started focusing in on that, where Coach was very comfortable in having two talented guys and guys that in the circumstances created that, but still, they did have success at times when they were using a two-quarterback system. It can be done. The reason why it’s being done may not be the same, but obviously they’re blessed with the talent that’s there.

But I don’t know, I think one of the great curiosities of this game and opening weekend is to see how this will play out. But there have been spots of success, and Brian is a coach who has been one of those guys in recent years of college football who’s actually done it.

THE MODERATOR: Todd, let’s try to go back to you and see if we can hear you a little bit better.

TODD BLACKLEDGE: Yeah, I mean, I’m not — as a former quarterback, obviously I’m not a huge fan of playing two quarterbacks. But by the same token, I’m not necessarily all in with the idea that if you — the adage if you have two quarterbacks then you really have no quarterbacks, because again, in today’s world of college football, I think you have to have at least two guys ready to take first-team reps and ready to play at a high level because of the effectiveness of quarterback run game in offenses today.

You know, the offenses that are really prolific, you either have an NFL-type quarterback who can make every throw, or you have an element of quarterback run, and when you do that, you put the guy at risk. So again, I live in Ohio, and watching what Ohio State did on their way to a National Championship, you know, they ended up going through three quarterbacks because of injury, but the key was that each one of them was ready to step up and play at a high level when their number was called.

So early in the season you start out by saying, okay, look, we’re going to play two guys. But eventually I think they’ll work into one guy as a starter, but you want to make sure that other guy is not only happy but ready to play at a high level when his number is called, because you are one play away from being a starting quarterback if you’re a backup.

Q. I kind of want to go along those same lines but take it a step further with the SEC specifically. It seems like the conference kind of has a rep of we’ve got talent coming out of the ears at every position, developing players except for quarterback. Is that kind of a fair analogy, and if you think it’s true, why do you think it’s true?

TODD BLACKLEDGE: Well, I don’t know if it’s a fair analogy or not. Certainly maybe other positions have developed quicker or they’ve put more guys in the league that are playing at a high level, but I think quarterback play is kind of cyclical. I think there are times when it may be down in a league like the SEC, but there’s other times when it’s pretty good. I just think that that league, one of the things that’s different is the defenses are very good in that league, and the type of defensive talent that you face week in and week out is a little bit different for a quarterback than playing in some other leagues across the country.

I think that has something to do with it, but I just think overall it’s cyclical. I don’t think they do a bad job of developing quarterbacks. I just think it might be a little bit more difficult to play week in and week out at that position, as well.

JOE TESSITORE: I think Todd is right when he points to the defense as being part of the explanation. I also think that every conference takes on a certain offensive identity as to what’s the norm, and we know what that’s been in the Big 12 in recent years, and you’ve seen certain coaches who were holding out on that now give way and conform. Gary Patterson finding great success with what he did at changing offensive coordinators in recent years, Texas now going down that same road. Some of those same things aren’t asked of quarterbacks in the SEC. It’s not the same conforming culture of offenses in the SEC.

Yes, for some quarterbacks you’ll see those stats, be it with what you see out of Chad Kelly or perhaps even Trevor Knight at Texas A&M this year, knowing what they are going to ask of him in that offense, but with others managing the game, playing two back play action with the emphasis on power run, you’re not going to see some of the same stuff. But undoubtedly what Todd said with the level of defense and the front sevens that they’re facing every week, it’s a different beast.

Q. Todd, if you don’t mind momentarily skipping ahead to week two, Pitt-Penn State, first time in 16 years, renewal of a rivalry, two things: Number one, do you think this game should be played every year? Number two, can you share some of your memories from whether this likely or definitely may be the best Penn State (inaudible) in the history of the series in 1981?

TODD BLACKLEDGE: Yeah, in answering your first question, I wish they would play every year. I know logistically they may not be feasible, but to me one of the greatest things about college football and the thing that sets it apart from the NFL is rivalries. When I was at Penn State, the Pitt-Penn State game was as good a rivalry game as there was in college football, and it had its own niche, that Friday after Thanksgiving, the battle of route 322, a lot of the in-state competition, even though I was an Ohio guy, I found out pretty quickly how important that game was.

Also, when I was at Penn State at that time in the early ’80s, the talent on both of those teams, the NFL caliber talent was unbelievable. It was a great rivalry to be a part of. I wish that they played every year.

The memories I have of the ’81 game, and I’ve done a few interviews about it already this year, this summer, I have very distinct and fond memories of that game. It was a bizarre game. They were ranked No. 1. We came in with two losses, but we were a really, really good football team, and we were ranked No. 1 earlier in the year and got beat by Miami and then lost again to Alabama. But we knew we were capable of playing with Pitt even though they had a great team. And yet it didn’t look like that early on. We were down 14-0 at the end of the first quarter, and I think I’m correct in saying we had minus one yard of total offense in the first quarter and just showed no signs of being able to stay on the field.

And Pitt was driving again early in the second quarter, and we got an interception on a beautiful play by our safety Mark Robinson down by the goal line, and that just kind of stopped the avalanche for a minute, and we were able to tie it up before halftime 14-14 and then it was a completely different game in the second half.

Our defense forced turnovers and our offense came up with big plays in the passing game, and we ended up scoring 48 unanswered points to win 48-14.

It was a crazy game, a great game for Penn State. Yeah, I have great memories of that because we also — we didn’t have to go back to school right away because it was Thanksgiving break, and I remember going with my family and Kurt Warner and some other guys to Klein’s Restaurant downtown Pittsburgh, and just an incredible weekend capped off by that game.

Q. Rightfully Clemson and Florida State get most of the media attention that comes out of the ACC but I’d like to get North Carolina’s week one matchup with Georgia and the effect that that game will have on the Tar Heels’ season.

JOE TESSITORE: I broadcast last year’s opener for North Carolina, which I think we look back and shake our head at now, but this is actually a team that I like a lot, and I think obviously with what they’re facing week one, that would be a signature win non-conference-wise that could really propel them to something special. But I just look at their offense, and there is so much talent on that side of the ball, and I think Trubisky could be even better for them than what we’ve seen in recent years. I think Hood is one of the most underrated running backs in the country, and Hollins on the outside is a big-bodied receiver. Switzer is as dangerous in the slot in the return game as anybody is in the country. Any time he touches the ball, he could really go. They’ve got returning guys on the offensive line, so they’re going to be very consistent and dangerous offensively.

Defensively, need to step up. Need to keep developing. Didn’t see much defense last year, but you’ve got to hope that year two under Chizik, guys having more experience, they’re just better. But I think North Carolina is sneaky good and very capable week one against the Dawgs, especially if the Dawgs are finding their identity offensively a little bit, depending on what we see at quarterback.

I think nobody should be fooled thinking that Georgia is lacking talent. That roster and that recruiting has never turned itself off.

But I actually think, and we were talking about this, as good as this opening week is, if you were to tell me what games do you feel like are undoubtedly final-possession games, that’s very high on the list. I think that’s going to be a highly competitive game that is played to the wire on Saturday.

Todd and I having a Sunday game, God, I feel like this is a great luxury for us. On Saturday we get to watch football and enjoy this thing. That’s definitely the game I’m going to be locked in on Saturday afternoon. I’m looking forward to it.

TODD BLACKLEDGE: Yeah, I would just echo that I think that that’s a great opportunity game for North Carolina. They finished with a lot of confidence. They had a really solid season last year, and they’re going against a team that a lot of people are going to go in and well, think, Georgia is more talent, SEC, blah blah blah, but Georgia has a lot of answers — they have a lot of questions to figure out on both sides of the ball. If anybody has been around Alabama at Nick Saban’s defense and Kirby Smart’s defense, it’s not a simple system, and it doesn’t happen right away, and so it’s — I think it’s going to take them a little bit of time to get real comfortable in some of the things he wants done defensively. They’ve got questions an offense, and as Joe mentioned, a lot of talent, but I see North Carolina going into that game as a very confident football team and looking at that game as a chance to really kick this season off in a positive way.

Q. You guys were talking a little bit about big name quarterbacks. Obviously with the Auburn-Clemson matchup, Deshaun Watson is a player that everybody is going to be watching. What are you looking to see out of players whose names are already in the Heisman conversation?

TODD BLACKLEDGE: Well, my biggest thing, when I think of a guy coming off the kind of year that Watson had last year, and he was fun to watch. I had him in the semifinal game and he was spectacular, he was great in the final. You know, the biggest thing is, okay, how does he take the next step in his development, and really the thing that’s really impressive about him beyond his skill set is his poise. His poise for a young player was pretty impressive, very unshakeable. And so the biggest thing now is, okay, how does he progress, how does he take the next step in decision making, in how quickly he sees and recognizes things on the field, taking a little bit more command of things.

And the only thing I would worry about with a guy like that is that he doesn’t try to do too much, that he doesn’t try to get outside of himself and do too much and try to make every play, but that doesn’t really fit his personality. I wouldn’t expect that to be a problem for him. But can he get better? Yeah, he can get better, and that’s pretty scary for people that are going to play him.

I just like everything about him. I like his skill. I like his athleticism, and I really like his poise and his demeanor playing that position.

JOE TESSITORE: Was your question specifically Watson in terms of expectations with the Heisman hype, or did you want me to go beyond Watson?

Q. Watson, but also beyond Watson.

JOE TESSITORE: Todd is going to give you a far better breakdown on the field and he just did and what to look for from him personally, but just as somebody who tracks the Heisman voting through the years and Heisman campaigns through the years, the thing with Deshaun is he comes into the season in a very unique position because we always have the candidates who in advance of the season come in with a certain level of status, where if they do what’s expected of them, if their teams and the individual have similar seasons to what they just had, undoubtedly they’ll be in the front row in New York.

This year it’s Watson with two running backs. It’s Watson, Fournette and McCaffrey who carry that status going into the season. Deliver on what you’re supposed to do and what you’ve already done, and you’ll be in the front row in New York.

What we’ve been noticing when we track the Heisman in recent years is with the internet voting and everybody voting online after the championship games, he who moves last moves best. You don’t want to be out in front of the Heisman race early. You want to make your move in November and surge. His biggest Heisman defining moment will come on October 29th at Florida State against another Heisman candidate just a notch below him in terms of perception in tears, against Dalvin Cook. And then in the month of November, up until he plays in the ACC Championship game, Deshaun is going to have a lot of games where he’s expected to win easily, to put up stats, but nothing that’s going to grab everybody’s attention. It’s Syracuse and Pitt and Wake Forest and South Carolina. So come the week after that, it’s Leonard Fournette and the question of can he finally get over the Alabama mountaintop on November 5th in a game that’s very similar in my eyes to the Florida State-Clemson game in sort of a de facto in-conference playoff eliminator.

So I think Deshaun is going to be just fine, but October 29th will define whether he’s in that lead seat heading into November of the Heisman race, but then Leonard Fournette is going to have an opportunity, as he did a year ago but then was overtaken by Derrick Henry, to then take the next step back and surge ahead.

But he’s in phenomenal shape, and he’s a young man that I had the chance to broadcast last year, and I can remember broadcasting the Orange Bowl a few years ago with Clemson and Ohio State, and the coaching staff, because he was an early enrollee, being able to talk about him, and sitting there telling all of us, oh, no, the best guy is coming in in a week. Well, we get the best guy in about a week and a half, and boy, he’s delivered on every bit of that. I’m just excited to see him play.

It’s another game Saturday night we’ll be dialing up late when we’re down there prepping this Texas-Notre Dame game that comes out of the chute at Auburn. But I look through the person of how the Heisman can be won, and that’s the way I see it for Deshaun.

Q. I want to go back to the Notre Dame-Texas game. What stands out to you about both Kizer and Zaire, and secondly, we’ve talked a lot about the offensive side of the ball, but defensively, who are a couple guys on both teams that you’re looking at to kind of keep your eye on for the game?

TODD BLACKLEDGE: Well, I’ll talk about the quarterbacks a little bit. I went out and watched Notre Dame practice last week, and they’re both impressive guys. I think that — I don’t think Brian Kelly is trying to play any games by saying, you know, what he said about the quarterbacks and playing two guys. Both guys are competitors, and they want to be the guy, but they’re two of Brian’s best playmakers. And not only best playmakers but most experienced playmakers. He’s got a lot of youth at wide receiver, and so those two guys have proven that they can play winning football for Notre Dame.

The idea of playing one and keeping the other one on the bench for 60 minutes, that’s not the best thing for that team. They’re both talented. It’s unique to me that one is right-handed and one is left-handed. If I had to distinguish between the two, I think Zaire is going to impact a game and affect a game more with his feet, and Kizer is going to affect a game and impact a game maybe more with his recognition of what the defense is, staying in the pocket, seeing over the rush and making throws down the field. Not that he’s not a good runner or a capable runner because he proved that, but I think he’s more comfortable staying in there and seeing the field and beating you that way.

They’re both very talented. They’re both bright. They both have proven themselves, and the question is now how do they break up the playing time between them on Sunday night, and at what point in the game do they decide or will they decide, hey, one of them gives us the best chance of going ahead and winning this football game. That will be the real interesting thing to see how they manage.

JOE TESSITORE: Defensively, I’m looking forward to getting your thoughts on the guys I’m going to mention when we go to practice down in Austin later this week, but I know Jefferson is going to get a lot of attention for Texas, but just even this weekend in doing some of my prep, I look at the five defensive backs that can be on the field for Texas, and I see size and athleticism, and I think Devante Davis is a guy as a corner with his size and his range and his physicality who NFL scouts are going to be drooling over in the coming years, but I look at Hall and Haines and all that talent in the defensive backfield, but then I ask myself, is the front seven, and really the guys up front, are they going to be capable of stopping the run against Notre Dame and putting the defensive backfield in position to have a big impact on this game, or is Notre Dame going to have their way in running the ball against Texas.

If I’m a Texas fan, whether it’s Poona Ford or somebody, Nelson or Boyette, I need to hear one of their names a lot on Sunday night. I need somebody there to just be flat-out better than they were. I know what that defensive backfield is going to give me with Texas, but I’m not quite sure what the big guys up front are going to deliver.

And then for Notre Dame, obviously there’s talent to replace both with the situation off the field at safety but also at linebacker with the talent that departed. But I think having Jones 94 and Rochell 90 up front, those could be some special players for them this year.

But the question marks for me would be defensively, the defensive line for Texas, and are they capable and can they step up in a spot like this.

Q. On the candidates for Heisman, are there any dark horse candidates you guys would consider? I know Fournette, McCaffrey, Watson, a lot of those guys are getting a lot of the main attention. Are there any dark horse candidates for Heisman that you guys might suggest?


TODD BLACKLEDGE: I’m going to let Joe talk about this, because I’ve told Joe before and I tell people, I personally — I don’t like talking about the Heisman until we get to the month of November. Just like I don’t like talking about who’s the top five or two whatever until we get to the month of October. But obviously I know that’s part of it, and people want to hear about it, and Joe specializes in it, so I’m going to let him throw out some names for you.

JOE TESSITORE: To Todd’s point, Todd obviously has more college football in his pinky than all of us combined on this call and years and years of seeing it, and he knows very well that you don’t win the Heisman in September or October, you only win it in November, and all you can do in September is really get into the starting gate of the Heisman, to then have the race be won.

But if you’re looking for names out there of guys that could potentially at least get into the starting gate that aren’t the obvious choices, and I would consider the obvious choices in the guys who are going to have those post positions already set for them to be Watson, Fournette, McCaffrey, and then J.T. Barrett and Baker Mayfield and Chad Kelly and Dalvin Cook and potentially Josh Rosen and Nick Chubb, depending on what happens opening weekend with both playing two very difficult non-conference games, UCLA and Georgia.

The longshot guys I would throw in there are the fact that the Baylor quarterback is going to be the Baylor quarterback, and there’s a certain status that comes along with that. So Seth Russell is back healthy. Luke Falk at Washington State should put up ridiculous stats. Royce Freeman at Oregon is one of these guys that’s grossly underrated and outstanding and talented. Barkley at Penn State is going to put up great stats at running back and out of the backfield and potentially could get a good upset win. If Tennessee is an SEC Championship contender, Josh Dobbs is going to get consideration depending on what they look like offensively. The two intriguing ones, quarterbacks for me, would be Greg Ward at Houston and Lamar Jackson at Louisville, the reason being is they’re both dynamic dual-threat guys who have the opportunity in Houston to have signature non-conference wins right out of the gate against Oklahoma, and for Louisville, the chance to either upset Florida State or Clemson and have really gaudy stats.

There’s always going to be a Alabama playmaker. There’s been a recent voting trend in the Heisman of a default vote of best player on best team. Somebody from Alabama, whether it’s the quarterback, the featured running back, Calvin Ridley or even a defensive star will get consideration to at least get votes to get to New York.

And then real, real extreme longshots, I would tell you Trubisky at North Carolina; Brad Kaaya if Miami has a good year and makes it to the ACC title game. Patrick Mahomes at Texas Tech may be the most purely talented stat gatherer in the country; JuJu Smith-Schuster at USC, but they would have to find team success; Mike Weber at Ohio State now getting the ball and taking the reins from Zeke Elliott if they have great team success. And the outlier candidate that could make it to New York would be a guy like Jabrill Peppers at Michigan if they are national title contenders and he’s the showcase of what they do defensively.

But that would be the list that I put together preseason for some of our ESPN work that we’ve already done for the Heisman.

New On-Air Teams Announced For ESPN’s Thursday, Friday Night College Football Coverage

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN has announced the on-air roster for this season’s coverage of college football on Thursday and Friday nights..

Thursday night broadcasts will be led by Dave Flemming and college football analyst Jesse Palmer.  Laura Rutledge will join the duo as a sideline reporter for the network’s Thursday night games.  This is in addition to her previously announced duties with The SEC Network’s SEC Nation broadcasts.  Friday night coverage will be led by Adam Amin.  He will be joined in the booth by analyst Mack Brown.  Molly McGrath will be on the sidelines for each game with all of the latest in-game news and interviews.

As an additional note, David Pollack has signed a new extension with ESPN that will see him appear on ESPN’s College GameDay each week for the foreseeable future.  The terms of his new deal also include a more prominent role on College Football Live and will also see him contributing more to the network’s studio shows this season.  Pollack originally joined ESPN in 2009 as a studio analyst before joining the College GameDay on-air crew in 2011.

Before moving to Thursday nights, Flemming handled play-by-play duties on ESPN’s Friday night college football games.  Amin previously worked the Saturday college football games for ESPN/ABC.  Rutledge most recently served as a sideline reporter for the SEC Network’s college football broadcasts.  Pollack most recently served as a game analyst on ESPN’s Thursday night college football broadcasts last season alongside play-by-play man Joe Tessitore and analyst Jesse Palmer.

Lee Fitting, Senior Coordinating Producer, was entirely supportive of the new appointments in discussing them and the related importance of ESPN’s college football coverage.  “The new opportunities for Dave, Adam and Laura prove, once again, the quality of our on-air lineup and the growth opportunities that exist at ESPN, while Molly’s addition adds another high-caliber reporter and host to our roster as we enter a new season,” Fitting said.  “Thursday and Friday night telecasts are an integral part of our college football coverage and we look forward to these two new commentating teams working these primetime games each week.”  Fitting also shared his thoughts on Pollack’s experience in relation to his new deal noting, “David’s analysis, insights and, most importantly, his opinions have elevated him to a top college football analyst.  Having him on our studio programming, nearly on a daily basis throughout the season, maximizes his strengths and makes ESPN’s college football coverage better.”

This week’s new appointments are just the latest on-air moves made by ESPN for its upcoming college football broadcasts.  The network also recently announced moves involving Brian Griese, Steve Levy, Greg McElroy, Samantha Ponder, and Allison Williams for its college football broadcasts.  New contracts were also announced for Dave Pasch and Bob Wischusen.

More information on ESPN’s new college football broadcast teams is available online now along with all of the latest college football headlines at:

 

 

 

Website: http://espn.go.com/college-football

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CFBonESPN

Twitter: http://twitter.com/espncfb

 

 

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

ESPN Networks’ College Football Media Days Schedule Announced

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

It’s almost that time again.  College football season is almost upon us once again.  In anticipation of its impending return ESPN has announced its plans for the sport’s annual Media Days.

ESPN and the ESPN networks will launch their coverage of college football’s conference media days beginning next Monday, July 11th.  In all 14 Conference Media Days will be covered across ESPN’s family of networks and will continue into August.  It all begins on College Football Live.  ESPN’s daily college football news and information show returns next Monday, July 11th.  It will continue daily throughout the season airing regularly from 1:30 – 2pm ET on ESPN.  Joe Tessitore will anchor the show’s broadcast in its first week back.  He will be joined by college football analysts Joey Galloway and Paul Finebaum.  Greg McElroy, Booger McFarland, and Marcus Spears will each make appearances from Hoover, Alabama, the site of the SEC Media Days.

ESPNU will have 30 hours of Media Days coverage.  That includes 10 three-hour College Football Media Days specials over 15 days beginning with the SEC (July 11th – 14th).  The Pac-12 is next on July 14th, followed by the Big 12 July 18th – 19th.  From July 21st – 22nd ESPNU will cover the ACC’s Media Days.  Coverage of the Big Ten conference’s Media Days rounds out ESPNU’s Media Days coverage from July 25th – 26th.  Brendan Fitzgerald, Matt Schick, and Anish Shroff will share time anchoring ESPNU’s Media Days broadcasts.  They will be joined primarily by analyst Tom Luginbill for additional commentary.  Kevin Carter (July 14th) and Charles Arbuckle (July 25th) will also make appearances during the network’s coverage of Media Days.  Anish Shroff will be live onsite in Charlotte, North Carolina for coverage of the ACC’s Media Days.  ESPNU’s coverage schedule is noted below.

 

DATE TIME (ET) CONFERENCE
Mon., July 11th 3pm SEC
Tue., July 12th 1pm SEC
Wed., July 13th 1pm SEC
Thu, July 14th 1pm SEC/Pac-12
Mon., July 18th 1pm Big 12
Tue., July 19th 1pm Big 12
Thu., July 21st 1pm ACC
Fri., July 22nd 1pm ACC
Mon., July 25th 1pm Big Ten
Tue., July 26th 1pm Big Ten

 

Anchor Matt Barrie and reporter Marty Smith, who will be on site in Alabama for the SEC’s Media Days, will carry coverage on ESPN’s SportsCenter.  ESPN3, ESPN.com, and the SEC Network will each carry their own additional Media Days coverage.  That information is provided below.

 

ESPN3

DATE TIME (ET) CONFERENCE
Monday, July 25th 2pm Sun Belt
Mon., July 25th
Tues., July 26th
3pm
10am
Conference  USA

 

Tues., July 26th
Wed., July 27th
TBD Mountain West
Thu., July 28th 12pm Mid-American
Tue., Aug. 2nd 9am American

 

Along with its  major conference coverage, ESPN3 will also carry coverage of four FCS schools’ Media Days.

DATE TIME (ET) CONFERENCE
July 21st 11am NEC
July 26th 10am CAA
July 26th 1:30pm Big South
July 27th 8pm Southland

 

ESPN.com will have reporters on site from a number of Media Days locations providing daily news, analysis and more.  The  reporters and their assigned sites are noted below.

Conference

              Reporters

SEC

  • Edward Aschoff

 

  • Greg Ostendorf

 

  • Alex Scarborough

 

  • Mark  Schlabach
Pac 12
  • Kyle Bonagura

 

  • Kevin Gemmell

 

  • Chantel Jennings

 

  • David Lombardi

 

  • Chris Low

 

  • Ted Miller
Big 12
  • Max Olson

 

  • Mitch Sherman

 

  • Jake  Trotter
ACC
  • Andrea Adelson

 

  • Matt Fortuna

 

  • David Hale

 

  • Jared Shanker
Big 10
  • Brian Bennett

 

  • Josh Moyer

 

  • Dan Murphy

 

  • Adam Rittenberg

 

  • Jesse Temple

 

  • Austin Ward
American
  • Ivan  Maisel

 

More information on the ESPN networks’ Media Days coverage is available online now along with all of the latest college football headlines at:

 

 

 

Website: http://espn.go.com/collge-football

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CFBonESPN

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ESPNCFB

 

 

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always  keep up with the  latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

ESPN Offering Extensive Coverage Of College Football Playoff Championship

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

Next Monday night the 2015 – 2016 college football season finally comes to an end.

A season of hits and hard work finally comes down to just one game next Monday night when Alabama (SEC) and Clemson (ACC) face off for this year’s college football championship.  And ESPN will have full coverage of this year’s championship game.  Kickoff is set for 8:30pm ET on ESPN.  Chris Fowler will have the call for Monday night’s game, presented by AT&T.  He will be joined in the booth by Kirk Herbstreit.  Heather Cox and Tom Rinaldi will also be on hand on the sidelines for additional commentary and reports throughout the game.

Those that won’t be near a TV Monday night can still catch the game as it will be simulcast on ESPN Radio and online via ESPNRadio.com, the ESPN app, SiriusXM, Apple iTunes Radio, Slacker Radio, and TuneIn.  Mike Tirico will have the call for the game’s broadcast on ESPN Radio.  He will be joined in the booth by analyst Todd Blackledge.  Holly Rowe, Joe Schad, and Bill Lemonnier will all be on hand on the sidelines for additional commentary and reports for ESPN Radio throughout the game.  Additional information for Monday night’s broadcast of the College Football Championship will be announced as the week progresses.

As the days tick by and anticipation builds for this year’s College Football Championship, ESPN and the ESPN networks will have plenty of in-depth coverage ahead of the big game.  College Football Live will come live from the campus of both Alabama and Clemson.  It will also have a live broadcast from the University of Phoenix Stadium, the site of this year’s championship game.  Joe Tessitore will be live at Alabama’s campus.  He will be joined by analysts Mark May and Booger McFarland, and reporter Tom Rinaldi.  Chris Cotter will be live from Clemson alongside Danny Kanell and analyst Joey Galloway.  Reporters Samantha Ponder and Marty Smith will also be on hand for additional commentary and news.  On Friday, Chris Cotter will anchor College Football Live on site at the University of Phoenix Stadium.  He will be joined live by analysts Joey Galloway, Jesse Palmer, Mack Brown and Todd McShay, and contributor George Whitfield.  That broadcast will air Friday at 1:30pm ET on ESPN.

Along with broadcasts of College Football Live ESPN will also offer college football fans live editions of SportsCenter in the days leading up to the College Football Championship.  David Lloyd will host SportsCenter  Thursday at 1pm ET.  Lindsay Czarniak will host the 6pm edition of SportsCenter Thursday and Friday evening.  Thursday’s broadcast will air live from Alabama and Friday’s from Phoenix.  Saturday morning, SportsCenter will air live from College Football Playoff Media Day from 8am ET – 12:30pm ET.  Matt Barrie, Joe Tessitore will be on hand for the early edition of SportsCenter while John Anderson and John Buccigross will be on hand for the late edition of SportsCenter.  On Monday, SportsCenter will be live from 9am ET to 2:30 pm ET on-site from the University of Phoenix Stadium.  There will also be a follow-up edition of SportsCenter following the game.  Lindsay Czarniak will wrap SportsCenter’s coverage of the College Football Championship Tuesday night at 6pm ET.

The ESPN networks’ extensive coverage of the 2015 – 2016 College Football Championship includes not only coverage from its flagship news broadcast and one of its college football broadcast but also on Face To Face with Hannah Storm.  Monday afternoon at 2:30pm ET, Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney will sit down with ESPN’s Hannah Storm for a special interview.  The coaches will discuss their respective teams’ seasons, the championship game, and much more in a special half-hour edition of the program.

Over on the radio side, Mike and Mike will broadcast on-site on Monday and Tuesday live from the University of Phoenix Stadium as will Rusillo and KanellMike and Mike will be simulcast both days from 6am ET to 10am ET on ESPN2. Rusillo & Kanell will air both days at 1pm ET live from Phoenix. As an additional bonus for fans NFL great Steve Smith, Jr. will join Golic and Greenie Friday morning on Mike and Mike. His appearance comes on the heels of his announcement that he will be returning to the Ravens in 2016 instead of retiring as he had previously announced. Smith will be live from 7:30am – 10am ET.

More information on the ESPN networks’ extensive coverage of the upcoming College Football Playoff Championship is available online now along with all of the latest college football headlines at:

 

 

Website: http://espn.go.com/college-football

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CFBonESPN

 

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Tim Tebow Returns To The SEC Network, SEC Nation This Weekend

Photo Credit: Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images

Photo Credit: Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images

There’s good news for all the Tim Tebow fans out there. He might have been cut from the Eagles roster. But Philly’s loss is The SEC Network’s gain.

Tim Tebow will return to The SEC Network broadcast team this weekend on the network’s travelling two-hour college football pre-game show SEC Nation. Tebow will return to his post as one of the show’s analysts when it broadcasts the matchup of the Commodores and Bulldogs this Saturday, September 12th live from Nashville. Saturday’s broadcast will come live from the campus of Vanderbilt University beginning at 10am ET (9am CT) prior to kickoff.

John Wildhack, ESPN Executive VP discussed Tebow’s return to The SEC Network with the media noting that there was never a second thought about the door being open for Tebow should he want to return. “Tim quickly developed into an excellent analyst last year, and we were not shy about acknowledging his home at ESPN should he be available to return,” he said of Tebow. The former college football standout previously worked as part of the SEC Network’s broadcast team before being given the opportunity this season to follow his NFL dream.

SEC Nation debuted its sophomore season last Saturday, September 5th at Arkansas. Joe Tessitore anchored the broadcast. He was joined by analyst Greg McElroy. Tebow’s return to SEC Nation gives the broadcast three National Championship-winning analysts with a total of five SEC Championships among them.

More information on The SEC Network’s daily broadcast schedule is available online along with all of the latest SEC headlines at:

Website: http://www.secnetwork.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SECNetwork

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

ESPN Announces Early Details For PBC Debut Broadcast

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN’s long-running weekly boxing program Friday Night Fights may be done. But boxing is anything but gone from the worldwide leader in sports. Officials with ESPN announced the details for the premiere episode of its new boxing series Premiere Boxing Champions ahead of last Friday’s series-ending broadcast of FNF.

Premiere Boxing Champions will air its premiere episode on Saturday, July 11th at 9pm ET on ESPN live from a yet-to-be-named venue in Tampa, Florida. The debut episode of the network’s new boxing program will be a big one. The evening’s main event will be a twelve-round welterweight matchup between currently undefeated Keith “One Time” Thurman (25 – 0, 21 KOs) and Luis Callazo (36 – 6, 19 KOs). The evening’s opening bout will be aten-round junior middleweight fight between undefeated Tony Harrison (21 – 0, 18 KOs) and Willie Nelson (23 – 2 – 1, 13 KOs). And for those with access to ESPN3, ESPN3 will carry the evening’s preliminary bouts. The details on those fights will be announced at a later date. Thurman is considered by many to be the heir apparent in the division to Floyd Mayweather once Mayweather retires. He comes into the premiere episode of PBC on ESPN on the heels of a unanimous decision win over welterweight contender Robert Guerro in his most recent match. Collazo also will look to make a splash in the debut episode of PBC on ESPN by adding yet another notch to his “W” column, as he defeated Christopher Degollado courtesy of a 2nd-round TKO in his most recent match. In the night’s other bout, Harrison will be looking to keep his winning ways going, as he comes in to the night’s fight on the heels of a 3rd-round TKO win over Pablo Munguia in his most recent fight. Nelson on the other hand will look to get back into the “W” column having suffered a tough unanimous decision loss to Vanes Matrirosyan in his last fight.

The upcoming boxing series was created for television by Haymon Boxing and will feature top-tier fights between some of boxing’s biggest names each week. Each season’s broadcast schedule will include twelve two-hour shows annually on ESPN and ABC. ESPN Deportes will also carry each week’s broadcast on its Noche de Combates series. On an even larger scale, ESPN International will carry coverage of PBC on ESPN in Latin America, Brazil, the Caribbean, and Pacific Rim. Fans that won’t be near a television during each fight’s broadcast can always see PBC on ESPN online via WatchESPN on computers, smartphones, tablets, Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox 360 and Xbox One via an affiliated video provider.

The long-time FNF broadcast team of Joe Tessitore and Teddy Atlas will have the call for each broadcast of PBC on ESPN.

More information on PBC on ESPN is available online now at:

Website: http://www.premierboxingchampions.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/premierboxingchampions

Twitter: https://twitter.com/premierboxing

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

ESPN’s FNF Ends Its 17-Year Run This Friday With Boxcino 2015 Finals

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

This Friday marks the end of an era for ESPN.

This Friday night, ESPN’s Friday Night Fights will come to an end after seventeen years on the air. The long-running weekly boxing series will come to a close with the highly anticipated finals of the “Boxcino 2015” Tournament. The tournament kicked off this past February. It is a single-elimination tournament made up of sixteen fighters in two weight classes—heavyweight and junior heavyweight. Friday night’s tournament and series finale will come live from the Omega Products Center in Corona, California at 10pm ET/7pm PT on ESPNs and ESPN Deportes. Those not near a television can also catch Friday night’s broadcast online via WatchESPN.  Friday’s card is presented by Banner Promotions.

Joe Tessitore and Teddy Atlas will be ringside for ESPN2. Studio host Todd Grisham will be on-site for the broadcast, too with all of the latest boxing news and information. Pablo Viruega and Delvin Rodriguez will have the call for ESPN Deportes. Leopoldo Gonzalez and Clauda Trejos will be live in studio for the network. Bernardo Osuna will have live interviews and reports for both networks. Along with the featured fights, Friday’s broadcast will also feature a special video essay looking back on the series run. Tessitore narrates the essay in which he discusses what the show has come to mean for boxing fans and what the brand has meant to the boxing community over the course of its seventeen years on the air.

Andrey Fetosov (27 – 3, 22 KOs) will take on Donovan Dennis (14 – 2, 11 KOs) in a ten-round fight in the final round of the Heavyweight Division of the Boxcino tournament. Fedosov took down Nate Heaven with a round one TKO in the tournament’s opening round. He took down Lenroy Thomas in only the third round of the pair’s semifinal bout. On the other side of the ring, Dennis opened the tournament with a fourth-round TKO victory over the previously undefeated Steve Vukosa. Dennis followed up that win with an incredible one-punch KO win over Razvan Cojanu in the tournament’s semi-finals.

Brandon “The Cannon” Adams (17 – 1, 12 KOs) will go 10 rounds against John “Apollo Kid” Thompson (16 – 1, 5 KOs) in the final round of the Junior Middleweight division. Adams was a finalist in the 2014 Boxcino tournament. He moved on to this week’s final round after defeating Vita Gasparayan in seven rounds in the tournament’s semifinals. He made his way to the semifinal round thanks to a fifth-round TKO win over Alex Perez in the quarterfinal round. Thompson opened his performance in this year’s tournament with a six-round unanimous decision win over Ricardo Pinell. He followed that up with an eight-round split decision win over Stanislav Skorokhod in the semifinals.

Boxing fans can score the fights themselves from the comfort of their homes thanks to the “Live Friday Night Fights Facebook Voting App. It can be obtained via the Friday Night Fights Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/espn.fnf. Fans can also get all of the latest news on this week’s matchups online via Twitter at http://twitter.com/ESPNFNF and http://twitter.com/espnboxing. FNF’s Spanish-speaking audiences can also get all of the latest news via Twitter at http://twitter.com/espnboxeo. Fans can also get all of the latest boxing news on ESPN’s newly re-designed boxing website http://espn.go.com/boxing.

While ESPN’s Friday Night Fights presented by Corona Extra is coming to an end this weekend, their end doesn’t mark the end of boxing programming on the worldwide leader in sports. Beginning Saturday, July 11th at 9pm ET, ESPN will debut is new boxing program Premiere Boxing Champions on ESPN. ESPN Deportes will carry all broadcasts of Premiere Boxing Champions on ESPN as part of its Noche de Combates series.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.