NCF Nation: Stevenson Sylvester

Video: Utah 2009 preview

August, 17, 2009
8/17/09
5:40
PM ET

Utah linebacker Stevenson Sylvester talks about 2008 and previews upcoming season.

Friday non-AQ mailblog

July, 24, 2009
7/24/09
11:00
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

Just a few more weeks until fall camp starts and we really get into this thing full time. I'm enjoying the last of my weekends and I hope you are too. Football season is right around the corner.

Dustin from Las Vegas writes: Graham, read your blog post today. I appreciate your coverage of the MWC media days, but I noticed something missing. What was Stevenson Sylvester's great quote?

Graham Watson: Well, he had many great quotes, but you'll have to wait until my story comes out in late August. I know, a long time to wait, but he was a great interview. I will say that he was probably the most honest player I have ever spoken with. And that he knows every word to the movie "Norbit," which he said he's watched more than 200 times. He even has it stored on his iPhone.


Aaron from Provo, Utah, writes: Hola, Graham. Craig Thompson's comments about adding a 10th team implied that the MWC would seek to continue it's round-robin conference schedule if it were to expand. Do you know anything more about that? Also, do you know if the conference would ever consider adding a school on a provisional basis, or maybe as a football only member at first?

Graham Watson: The way Thompson was talking, it seemed like he wanted to do a round-robin format and take out a nonconference game like the Pac-10 currently does. He admitted that it wasn't a great idea considering that's taking out an opportunity to strengthen the conference's BCS résumé, but you also don't want to get into a situation where a team goes undefeated but doesn't play one of the toughest teams in the conference during that given year. It would take some talking out to decide the best direction to proceed.


Andy from Kailua Hawaii, writes: Now we will have more teams that are mid majors...fighting even harder to get a fair shot at the BCS.... Ya a big blow to the WAC, but Fresno and Hawaii have both beat some well respected schools in their history both have been ranked top 25 multiple times... Hawaii has been to a BCS bowl.... How are these teams going to improve their conf by taking one of top teams out...They should have a playoff not destroy 8 teams in the WAC to better the chances of two others to get a championship run...Other teams WILL go undefeated and will have just as much a right to play at the top bowl games.. GO WARRIORS (who by the way will go undefeated again soon and WIN their Bowl).

Graham Watson: Essentially, we're talking about a power conference if Boise State moves to the Mountain West. It would strengthen the Mountain West's clout nationally and make the league stronger. But, if this happens while the Mountain West doesn't have an automatic bid, I think the other schools need to be weary of a cannibalistic approach. Teams such as TCU, BYU, Utah and Boise State will be beating up on each other, making it difficult to go undefeated.


Nerole from Dallas writes: The MWC is making a lot of noise about the BCS - but everyone should remember the original members were part of the 16-team WAC. This league included the huge Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston markets. The original MWC members met secretly behind the backs of their fellow WAC schools to form the MWC and never even gave their sister schools a courtesy call. Rice coach Ken Hatfield said at the time "What they did was wrong, R-O-N-G. With less than ethical conduct like this, I say forget about the MWC's crying and let real football teams play.

Graham Watson: The 16-team WAC was brought up at MWC media days. The difference here is that the MWC hasn't made it a secret that it's looking to improve its BCS résumé. And really, the Mountain West has looked upon Boise State's involvement in the fight for BCS equality favorably. I mean, you didn't see WAC commish Karl Benson testifying on Capitol Hill. And his conference has had as much success with the BCS as the Mountain West. I think everyone involved knows that things are in motion even if no one will come out and say it.


Brian R. from Dayton, Ohio, writes: Hey Ms. Watson, great job on the posts. If I had to cover as many teams across the country as you do, I'd be loopy. I was wondering if you had any information on how the new coach up at Toledo is working out? I don't live up in the swamp anymore, so I am curious to know what the odds are of the Rockets starting to climb their way back into prominence in the MAC. I don't expect them to be at the top this year or anything, but any info would be great. Thanks, and keep it up, I need my non-bcs news!

Graham Watson: I spoke to Tim Beckman a couple of weeks ago and he seemed excited about his team and the players he's inherited. There's a lot of senior leadership there and that's what Beckman hopes comes out this season. There is also a lot of talent that wasn't fully realized a year ago. I think you're right to keep your expectations guarded, but that side of the MAC is pretty wide open and with the talent on Toledo's roster, it can challenge with the right leadership.


John from Salt Lake City: You've stated that the Idaho Vandals should be better this year. So given their full complement of scholarships, easy non-conference schedule, and a team with some playing experience; do you think that they have a chance of making it to a bowl game this year?

Graham Watson: I do like Idaho, but I'm not sure it's ready to take the next step to a bowl game. I also don't think it has an easy nonconference schedule. Northern Illinois and Washington are going to be better this year. San Diego State could be a win, but Colorado State is iffy. The WAC as a whole will be a much better league than it was a year ago. Obviously, Boise State is going to be good. But teams such as Nevada, Hawaii, Louisiana Tech and Fresno State should also be pretty good. I think Idaho probably finishes in the top of the bottom third of the conference or perhaps sixth, which might not net them enough wins for bowl eligibility.


J Tully from Somonauk, Ill., writes: Love your reporting.... it seems you have a nice pulse on the non-BCS teams. I know this is a hard question but, financially, do you see any of the non-BCS teams withering in this tough fiscal environment and maybe being forced out? Keep reporting on the nonBCS.... We have fans too as you know... Thanks! Go NIU btw.

Graham Watson: When I was e-mailing all of the conferences, I didn't get a sense that any of the schools were hurting so much that they'd have to dump their athletic programs all together. That would take a lot of debt, and while schools in the MAC and Sun Belt are hurting, they also keep getting guarantee money from a lot of the BCS teams.


Shawn from TCU writes: Could you do a column on you're favorite MWC stadiums? I am curious as to where you rank TCU. Don't forget, TCU is upgrading its stadium.

Graham Watson: I might do this after this season only because I haven't been to enough stadiums to give an accurate account of which are the best. I'm pretty sure that I'm going to see a few more C-USA games this year, which will help diversify my picks.


David from Naples, Fla., writes: Dear Graham, I'm a big Boise State fan and soon to be a graduate from BSU. I was just wondering what you think the deciding factor is going to be when Oregon travels to Boise and faces the Broncos here on the smurf turf? Also what are Oregon's and Boise State's records when playing a Thursday Night game. We
always seem to hear about the curse of top ten teams and there is a slight possibility from what I read and hear that Oregon could be a Top 10 team when the polls are released?

Graham Watson: Since it's the first game of the season, it's hard to determine a deciding factor. But I think Boise State's home-field advantage is a big deal. No doubt about it. Oregon is 2-2 on Thursday night and 1-2 in Thursday night road games. Boise State didn't have the stat readily available. Sorry about that. Oregon will at least be in the top 15 when the polls are released, but so will Boise State.

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

LAS VEGAS -- As many teams across the country try to figure out how to craft an undefeated season, Utah has learned that the secret might lie about 80 feet in the air.

That's where a couple of Utah players have been seen dangling this summer during their leadership retreat in an effort to build relationships and generate teamwork.

The idea was developed by safeties coach Morgan Scalley three summers ago as an effort to create a safe environment where players could get anything off their chests and in turn become better teammates.

The retreat is held on two weekends with groups of 12 and nothing is out of bounds.

"You lay everything on the line and there's no holding back," offensive lineman Zane Beadles said. "It really gets things out there and it's just a great experience for everyone. It brings those guys closer together and kind of makes everyone accountable to each other because you lay everything on the line and really put yourself out there."

The players stay overnight in the football facility, and during the evening have several meetings, including one where they each have to say something -- good, bad or indifferent -- about each of the other players in the room. During the day, the players got to the university's R.O.P.E.S course for team building and trust exercises.

The players do three events on the R.O.P.E.S (Recreation, Observation, Problem solving, Experimental education, Self esteem) course. The first is a teamwork exercise where players of different shapes and sizes have to lock hands and try to keep their balance on a rope triangle that is about 3 feet off the ground.

There's another event where players are 80 feet in the air, trying to walk across a rope and getting support from their teammates.

In the final event, players have to climb a 30-foot pole to a wooden disk that rotates and wobbles. Players have to get to the disk and then jump off to a waiting trapeze.

"It's intense," Beadles said. "It's a really good experience and it brings everyone really close together. It's a big-time leadership thing and something that we kind of use throughout the season. We use little hints like, 'Hey R.O.P.E.S course.' And we just bring that back into everyone's mind. We try and take what we learn and incorporate it and bring everyone else who didn't have the opportunity to do the retreat kind of into the same thing and same mindset."

The unique thing about the retreat is that it's not just for starters or even seniors. The 24 players are chosen on the basis of current or potential leadership of the Utes. That includes players who have never stepped on the field.

"It doesn't even have to be football, it could be school or whatever," linebacker Stevenson Sylvester said. "It's just something that can help you. It's the criticism thing. You can always learn stuff from it that will make you a better person. I feel like that makes everybody better. Criticism is great. Whether it's positive or negative, how you take it is whether it's going to be beneficial or not.

"It worked a lot last year. We came together, had great team chemistry last year and I think it's going to do that this year."

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