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Dobson, freedom of speech and fouling

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If you're seeking an intriguing story line in the upcoming NFL draft, follow the progress of Aaron Dobson.

While most attention within the Mountain State will be on former WVU standouts Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, ex-Marshall receiver Dobson is the one that's homegrown.

The South Charleston High grad made waves in the recent Senior Bowl practices. Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com said Dobson had "explosive athleticism and fluid ankles in his routes."

"He stands in a very good position," said Isaac Conner, Dobson's agent. "Obviously, he's an outstanding receiver. He's tall, big and fast. [NFL] teams really like his physical attributes and some of the things he did at Marshall."

Perhaps not everything. Dobson had a terrific overall career, finishing with 24 touchdowns, but he finished third among Herd receivers last season with 57 catches for 679 yards and but three scores. He averaged 67.9 yards a game.

"He had such a good junior year you knew defenses would start keying on him," Conner said. "Then he had a little injury and a season that wasn't what he hoped for. But I think everybody sees that. He missed a couple games and that messes with your stats."

Dobson tweaked his right knee on the first play of the Nov. 3 Memphis game and missed the subsequent loss to UAB.

"But at the Senior Bowl he showed he could hang with the country's elite guys," Conner said.

Dobson is now headed for the NFL combine, to be held Feb. 19-26 in Indianapolis.

"Right now he's projected as a second-round pick," Conner said. "He's going to the combine in hopes of getting into the first round."

Conner, by the way, works for the A3 agency out of Tennessee. He also represented former Marshall linebacker Mario Harvey, now of the Indianapolis Colts.

  • It's always been troubling to me when school authorities instruct or prohibit athletes from their freedom of speech.
  • Just this week it happened here in the Kanawha Valley. Riverside High's basketball coaches were suspended and, after the Warriors' game with Woodrow Wilson, no players were "made available to the press."

    Also - get this - RHS principal Valery Harper had the audacity to "instruct" media not to interview players or coaches or PARENTS prior to the game. A Gazette reporter "was escorted to the scorer's table by another administrator," according to writer Tommy Atkinson.

    Um, excuse me. Is this North Korea? Are we in Burma?

    This happens all the time - although not to the extent of PARENTS - in major-college athletics. Coaches or sports information directors arbitrarily decide whether, say, freshmen are allowed to speak with the press. A player in the midst of controversy might not be "made available." And it seems OK to most because those wielding power are "protecting" student athletes.

    But are they protecting the athletes or themselves?

    More often than not, reporters go along with such declarations, mostly because of time constraints. Raising a ruckus for a comment isn't worth subsequent waves. Athletes, understandably, don't wish to suffer consequences.

    What's sad is anyone would threaten consequences for speaking freely. This is America, folks, not Libya.

  • And finally . . .
  • Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News recently wrote about end-of-the-game strategy involving basketball.

    We've all seen games where Team A stands ahead by three points with just a few ticks left and tries to tip-toe into the locker room with a victory. Coaches leave open the door for a 3-point bucket instead of intentionally fouling.

    Well, a friend of DeCourcy's began charting such situations this season. And, at the publication date, there had been 279 total situations in which a team was ahead by three points with the other team in possession of the ball and seven seconds or less to play.

    According to the article, 259 times the team did not foul and relied on its defense. Forty-six of those teams allowed a game-tying 3-pointer that forced overtime. That's a 17.7 percent failure rate.

    Twenty times the team chose to foul on purpose to prevent the 3-pointer. Only once, by Kent State against Valparaiso, was the game tied by a team that rebounded a free-throw miss and converted a basket. (According to DeCourcy's friend, a lane violation should have been called on that.) The failure rate, including Kent's effort, was but 5 percent.

    Something to chew on this Sunday morning with your bacon.

    Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvingle@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.


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