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Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Tucker’s showing value to Chargers
Linebacker stands out in minicamp

FRIDAY, MAY 28, 2010 AT 12:02 A.M.


Jyles Tucker flushes Tampa Bay's Jeff Garcia from the pocket in a December 2008 game.

Jyles Tucker did a sort of double-clutch, tracking the ball, then went airborne and stopped the pass.

His body dropped back to earth along with the ball, his hands quick enough and his instincts sharp enough for him to make the interception even as he fell to a crouch.

With an agility no coach can teach, balance bestowed at birth, Tucker not only did not topple but got up before being tackled and took off running the other direction.

That was one of two balls Tucker batted down at the line during Wednesday’s second minicamp practice, and it is an example of why the Chargers gave him a five-year, $14 million contract two summers ago and why there is optimism he is on the verge of achieving the potential that made them so high on him.

“There’s a reason he came on the scene the way he did the second half of his rookie season,” head coach Norv Turner said. “… I think he’s really ready to come on and be a part of what we do.”

These are interesting times with the Chargers outside linebackers. They right now are short one very important member of the corps, but they may yet have an abundance at the position.

With Shawne Merriman staying away from Chargers Park in protest of his contract status, Larry English, Antwan Applewhite and Tucker have gotten more repetitions in practice. The Chargers believe there is tremendous upside for Applewhite, who came on strong in 2008 before missing almost all of ’09 with a hamstring injury.

“It’s time to shine – with everything that’s going on,” Tucker said.

Yes, it is.

Tucker’s contract was not monstrous, but it was sizable enough to perhaps be unprecedented for an undrafted free agent going into his second season and having played in just six games.

Tucker had almost as many sacks before signing the deal (3½) as he has in 20 games since (5½).

He missed three-plus games with a hamstring injury in 2008, was slowed by a staph infection at training camp last summer and spent the second half of the ’09 season on injured reserve after spraining his ankle against the New York Giants.

“I’ve been thinking about it since November,” Tucker said. “It’s a big year. I feel like I did when I first came in. I’ve got something to prove.… This is my fourth year in the league. I feel like I’m a veteran. I know what’s going on. It’s time for me to produce. No one needs to tell me that.”

Linebackers coach John Pagano is among several in the organization who has recently praised Tucker’s increased maturity.

“He’s learning how to be a pro,” Pagano said.

Tucker is working harder, understanding more, seemingly focused on maximizing his ability and expanding his expertise.

He is about the same weight (262) but leaner, which is already showing up in how he moves and how he feels. It should also translate into less fatigue and a sustained level of play. In addition to being able to defend the run and drop in coverage, it is durability and consistency that separates a starting outside linebacker from a pass rush specialist.

The assumption, and it would be a correct one, is that English is the heir to Merriman. But the money Tucker got in ’08 is comparable — less guaranteed but more in potential money over the life of the five-year contracts — to what English got as the 16th overall pick in 2009.

Tucker, always deferential but never shy, feels like he can be a starter in the NFL.

“I believe that,” he said. “That’s what I’m working toward. It’s an important year. I’m trying to show I can play in this league on a consistent basis.”

Thursday, May 6, 2010
NT Paul Soliai knows it’s now-or-never time to make his mark with the Dolphins
by Ben Volin
NT Paul Soliai (96) entered this offseason knowing he has to stand out above the rest of his teammates to earn his opportunity. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

Dolphins fourth-year defensive tackle Paul Soliai is no dummy.

“Paul knows the challenges that are ahead of him. He reads the newspaper like everybody else,” said his new agent, David Canter of Miramar.

Soliai, the 2007 fourth-round pick out of Utah, knows it’s now-or-never time to earn his way onto the field in Miami. He sees his team draft Penn State defensive lineman Jared Odrick in the first round and switch Randy Starks to defensive tackle this offseason, and Soliai knows he better step up his production if he wants to be in the Dolphins’ long-term plans.

“That’s putting pressure on Paul,” Canter said, “and I think he’s responding tremendously thus far.”

Soliai, one of two remaining players from the 2007 draft (the other is punter Brandon Fields), has started just five games in three seasons and has yet to record a sack. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 355 pounds, Soliai has also battled weight issues during his time in Miami, earning two separate one-game suspensions in 2008 for not making weight.

But he finally worked his way into the rotation last year, finishing the season with 25 tackles (including six against the Jets), a forced fumble and a pass defensed. The Dolphins hope Soliai, 26, will help fill the void created by nose tackle Jason Ferguson and his 8-game suspension.

But Soliai must also prove he is worthy of the extra playing time. Canter said Soliai feels refreshed this offseason and is getting his “second-chance opportunity.”

“He’s ready to go,” Canter said. “He works out at the facility in the offseason program, from 7 in the morning ‘til 10 at night, doing their thing.”

Soliai, an American Somoan who played at Utah and hired a Colorado-based agent out of college, is trying to become more of a “South Florida” guy, and that started by switching to Canter this offseason.

“Making a change sometimes can be the greatest thing ever for a player,” Canter said. “Hiring an agent that’s local, someone that’s going to be on top of him on a regular basis, someone that’s going to motivate him, having the confidence of his wife behind him in the decision, in all honesty I think it’s kind of a refreshing.”

Thursday, April 22, 2010
United Way Stuff the Bus

Friday, April 9, 2010
Paul Soliai hires local agent David Canter
Dolphins nose tackle Paul Soliai on Wednesday evening signed a new representation agreement with South Florida based agent David Canter.

Soliai, 26, recently fired former agent Leo Goeas over a financial disagreement. Soliai's is signed through 2010 when he is scheduled to make $550,000.

"Paul knows he's now got a local team of people that are behind him 100 percent and will do everything we can to help him with every aspect of career," Canter said, "And that could translate directly to better performance on the football field."

Canter said he and his new client are aware the Dolphins will be looking for a nose tackle in the coming NFL draft. But that isn't their concern or focus.

"The focus is getting Paul playing like the dominant player he's shown he can be at times," Canter said. " ... Everything after that will take care of itself."

Canter also represents cornerback Sean Smith and believes the second-year corner is taking the necessary steps for a good second season.

"He's so focused right now he turned down some off-field [offers] that would have taken literally five minutes of his time," Canter said.

Monday, April 5, 2010
Kragthorpe: Whittingham places his faith in Johnson
 Jordan Wynn looked around, making sure Brian Johnson was close enough to hear every word before launching into a mock tirade about the horrors of working with Utah's new quarterback coach.

His joking approach to answering the question illustrated that even as a sophomore-to-be, Wynn is feeling comfortable as an established QB. And Wynn having a 23-year-old position coach is creating a new dynamic in a critical relationship.

I'm having trouble picturing Wynn publicly kidding Dave Schramm, in other words.

Johnson becoming the Football Bowl Subdivision's youngest full-time coach is a major statement for coach Kyle Whittingham. As the Utes practice in Whittingham's sixth spring, he recognizes that quarterback is as important as cornerback. That's saying something. In Utah's high-pressure, man-to-man defensive scheme, the corners are the key to the whole operation.

When offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig left after the 2008 season, Whittingham filled the vacancy by hiring J.D. Williams to coach the corners. Yet when Williams moved to UNLV in December, Whittingham made offense a priority by hiring Johnson. Jay Hill's versatility enabled him to move from offense back to defense, coaching the corners again.

Whittingham believes in Johnson, saying he approached him about coaching immediately after graduation. Johnson, who finished his college career in '08 with a school-record 26 victories as a starting QB, initially chose to pursue pro

While hiring a quarterback coach with no experience seems like accepting fan-forum advice, it has worked for BYU with Brandon Doman and likely will do the same for Utah.

Whittingham also gave former Ute safety Morgan Scalley a job soon after his playing career ended. So Whittingham laughed when I reminded him that everybody should have to spend six years coaching at a place like Idaho State, as he did, before landing a prime position in a Top 25 program. Johnson, who enrolled in the school at 17, "has always been ahead of the curve," Whittingham said.

Somebody's responsibilities had to change as a result of Johnson's hiring. After one season in his dream job of coaching quarterbacks (and seven games of calling the plays) at this level, Schramm is now working with tight ends, and receivers coach Aaron Roderick, promoted to co-offensive coordinator with Schramm, will remain the play-caller.

"It's tough to be a coordinator and give the quarterback the attention that he needs," Whittingham said. "This year, I think the configuration is better for that."

Amid the staff issues and the switch from Terrance Cain to Wynn at halftime of the eighth game, the Utes still ranked third in the Mountain West Conference in total offense at 393 yards a game. If a rebuilt receiving corps comes along and Wynn keeps developing under Johnson's guidance, Utah should be more effective.

"He's a young guy with a lot of excitement, and he's doing all he can to make me great," Wynn said.

That process begins at the end of games, when Johnson excelled. The Utes won four one-score games in Johnson's unbeaten senior season, highlighted by three winning drives in the final minutes.

In his five starts, Wynn faced critical sequences only once. "The BYU game comes to mind," said Johnson, who wants to help him become "a master of situational football."

In moving from player to coach, Johnson is glad to have a one-year buffer, with receiver Jereme Brooks and tailback Matt Asiata the only remaining players among '08 offensive regulars. Aside from Wynn's progress, Johnson's biggest success this spring may be the way Cain keeps competing as a deposed starter, earning praise from Whittingham. Griff Robles is the No. 3 quarterback.

"I'm responsible for the production of that position," Johnson said. "It's something I take great pride in, and I have a great relationship with all three of those guys."

Friday, March 12, 2010
Safety Busing's Drive Goes Back to the Driveway
Author: Jim McCurdy, Red Line Editorial Posted: 3/10/2010
The days in the driveway have not been forgotten. For John Busing, a restricted free-agent safety who played last season for the Houston Texans, they helped pave the way for his success as an athlete later in life.
Brotherhood battles with his twin, Ryan, were part of his daily routine.
“It was everything from one-on-one (basketball) in the driveway to throwing the ball with each other—anything,” Busing said. “Everything we did was competitive. It could’ve been a game of checkers … you name it.
“Having that growing up was really special. And I definitely think that it put those competitive juices in me early. Being able to do that with my brother has kind of gone with me the rest of my life.”
A .500 winning percentage in the family ledger always inspired the two to play “just one more game.”John Busing
“For the most part, he’d win one, I’d win one,” Busing said. “We’d go back and forth all the time. That’s why we’d be playing best out of 50 games because we’d keep wanting to go one more, one more to see who could get that win. It was definitely very competitive.”
Those early household battles began in Johns Creek, Ga., where the Busing twins stood out at Chattahoochee High School. John played seven positions on the high school football team. Eventually they ventured off together to Miami (Ohio) to continue their college football careers.
Busing said, “Miami of Ohio was the only place that offered us both scholarships. One thing we wanted to do was continue to play together, so we went up there. I still had to go against him every day in practice. He was on the offensive side; I was on the defensive side.”
Busing was a linebacker for the Red Hawks, and his brother played wide receiver after beginning as a quarterback. Then, a player named Ben Roethlisberger changed the plan. With John earning first-team All-Mid-American Conference honors as a senior, leading the RedHawks with 97 tackles, he reinforced the success of his sophomore year, when he led all Division I linebackers with five interceptions.
After college, Ryan entered the corporate world in Atlanta and John began the grind as an undrafted NFL player. After spending three seasons with Cincinnati, he registered 32 tackles and an interception for the Texans in 2009. Busing gradually earned the coaches’ respect with his steady play at free safety and on special teams.
“I knew, coming in, that I’d be battling for a roster spot,” Busing said. “So I just worked through OTAs (Organized Team Activities) and training camp, trying to make myself valuable on special teams and on defense and make enough plays to stick around.
“It’s always been a fight. That’s the way it is for a lot of guys in this league. You get very few guys who are guaranteed spots,” he continued.
In the 2009 season opener against the New York Jets, Busing’s interception led to the Texans’ only score in a 24-7 loss. It was the first pick of his career. Two games later, he earned his first start as a Texans in a 31-24 loss to the Jaguars.
“He’s like a ball magnet,” Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said. “He’s really sharp in the game. Everybody in the secondary trusts him.”
Busing made a career-high five tackles in his first start with the Texans. They say the NFL is all about seizing opportunities, and Busing has made the most of his in Houston.
“It was good knowing the coaches had the faith in me to give me a start, so I went out there with the mindset of putting in a lot of work,” he said. “If you’re not starting on defense, you’re gonna be expected to contribute on special teams, if not some smaller capacity on defense. So anytime I get a chance to go out there and play, whether it [is] on special teams, goal line, if we have any three-safety packages, you go out there and try to make the most of it.”
Busing has made his mark on special teams during his career. But given the chance, he also has shown a knack for getting to the ball on defense. He said he tries to hang his hat on being a sure tackler.
“We all trust him back there,” said unrestricted free-agent cornerback Dunta Robinson, Busing’s teammate in Houston last season.
Since he entered the league, Busing has had to earn his teammates’ trust. Talking to him, it sounds like he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s a grind,” he said. “It’s a challenge. That’s why it’s hard to make a long career out of this sport. But having that challenge presented to you every day, and knowing you’ve got to go out there and make plays and prove yourself, keeps you sharp. I feel like it keeps you young, keeps you passionate about the game. That’s the part I enjoy the most.”

Friday, March 5, 2010
Interview with agent David Canter DEC Sports Management