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VOL. 128 | NO. 184 | Friday, September 20, 2013
Don Wade

Don Wade

‘Wading in’ on Manziel, Carpenter, Tiger Football

By DON WADE

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Wading in and wondering why all the attention on Bo Pelini’s hissy fit? Lee Elia could have done better on his worst day … or worse on his best day. Point is, you’re way more entitled to a tirade when managing the Cubs than when coaching Nebraska football ... .

So quarterback Johnny Manziel is definitely NFL material now. That seemed to be the consensus from NFL scouts, quoted anonymously, in a recent article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. One scout told reporter Charean Williams that he doesn’t understand the skepticism around last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, even if he is only 6 feet tall and slight of build.

“I keep hearing about why this kid can’t succeed (in the NFL),” the scout is quoted as saying. “I want to ask: `What are you judging these guys on?’ Are you telling me he’s not better than (recent first-round picks) Christian Ponder, than Blaine Gabbert, than Jake Locker? Just look at his stats.”

Or just consider that after Texas A&M’s 49-42 loss to No. 1 Alabama – and Manziel was beyond spectacular at times in that game – Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban had nothing but praise for Manziel’s abilities.

Think he knows a football player when he sees one?

The St. Louis Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter should be National League MVP but probably won’t be. Carpenter has only been more clutch since Allen Craig left the lineup because of a foot injury. And the Cardinals’ off-and-on offense might never flip the switch without Carpenter hitting leadoff.

His stats are very good, although that’s just a part of the equation. Through Tuesday, Sept. 17, he was hitting .323, fourth in the league, and led the NL in runs scored (119), doubles (51) and hits (188). He has played two positions this season – second base and third base – and is hitting an insane .415 with runners in scoring position. Plus, he has 75 runs batted in from the leadoff spot – or only four fewer RBI than Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who may be the odds-on favorite if the Pirates win the NL Central.

Carpenter also has the ability to get hits off borderline pitches, an underrated attribute that was present with Albert Pujols during his best years with the Cardinals. Catcher Yadier Molina is a worthy MVP candidate, too, and Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt, who has the better HR and RBI numbers, will get votes.

But with third baseman David Freese having an off year and second baseman Kolten Wong not hitting since his promotion to St. Louis, and very little offense coming from the shortstop position, it’s difficult to imagine the Cards are even in playoff contention without Carpenter’s sensational season.

Memphis football coach Justin Fuente knows as well as anyone that his team easily could be 1-1, or maybe even 2-0, instead of 0-2. But don’t bring up the F-word (no, not that one).

“I’m careful with the word frustrated,” Fuente said. “I’m not frustrated with anything. I’m not frustrated with our kids. I’m proud of them.”

Why say that?

I’m not inside his mind, obviously, but I think it breaks down like this: Give into the notion of frustration publicly, even if it’s warranted, and risk losing support of fans, confidence of players, and maybe even risk losing your own will to keep pushing that huge blue and gray rock up the mountain.

Fuente simply can’t go there, no matter how obvious the concept of frustration seems to all of us. Although a third straight loss – Arkansas State comes to Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium this Saturday – might tempt even him.

Don Wade’s column appears weekly in The Daily News and The Memphis News. Listen to Wade on “Middays with Greg & Eli” every Tuesday at noon on Sports 56 AM and 87.7 FM.

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