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Hoping for some critiquing of one of my first sports features

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by djsquid06, Feb 13, 2009.

  1. djsquid06

    djsquid06 New Member

    Sports Editor here at my school's newspaper at UB. Hoping to receive some advice and comments on one of my first feature articles.

    Recruits swayed by coaching staff

    National Signing Day was never a day of celebration on the Buffalo campus. There was no need to rejoice the addition of new players with the program in such disarray.

    But a Mid-American Conference Championship has gotten fans excited for the future of Buffalo football, making National Signing Day a highly anticipated celebration.

    When head coach Turner Gill announces his recruiting class to fans on Wednesday at Alumni Arena at 6:30 p.m., he will be introducing what is arguably Buffalo's best recruiting class ever.

    Numerous athletes with scholarship offers from bigger and more prestigious schools are joining the Bulls on their conquest for another MAC Championship.

    This has instilled curiosity in the minds of Buffalo fans. They want to know how Gill is convincing kids to attend a school that lacks the winning tradition and athletic facilities other programs possess.

    For Jake Reeder, a tight end from State College, Penn., the coaching staff's philosophy grabbed his interest. ESPN.com ranked Reeder as the 119th best tight end recruit in the nation. He chose Buffalo over North Carolina State, Army and several MAC schools.

    "Going to a lot of these schools, I thought the coaches would have a lot of the stuff they preached prepared. The coaches at UB were very genuine and from the heart. They didn't just feed you lines," he said. "Whenever you watch a Buffalo game on TV, the announcers repeat the same stuff as the coaches said. They are committed to building character."

    Reeder emphasized that Gill wasn't the only exceptional coach at Buffalo. He liked the matching philosophies of all members of the Bulls' coaching staff.

    "When it came down to everything, they're the only team that had a unified coaching staff with the same beliefs." Reeder said.

    The football players were not the only ones persuaded by the coaches. The coaches' dedication to education was what pleased Larry and Adrienne Neutz. Their son, Alex, is a wide receiver from Grand Island High School that committed to Buffalo in November 2008.

    The Neutzes put the most importance in coaching and academics when considering schools. Buffalo's commitment to providing athletes help in the classroom opened their eyes.

    "We were impressed that the athletes have mandatory study halls, tutors available to them, and other resource people in place to insure their success," Adrienne said. "Most of the schools we visited also have similar policies, but as we have all seen a couple of the MAC schools fail to follow through and have lost several scholarships and coaches lost their jobs."

    Reeder's mother, Kathy, agreed that the academics made Buffalo a front-runner in her eyes. She didn't know much about the university before they contacted her son, but after visiting the school and learning about Buffalo's academic prowess, it made them the favorite.

    On the football side of things, the recent rise of Buffalo's football program was important to Kathy Reeder.

    "One of the major advantages Buffalo offers is the chance to contribute to an exciting new program on the rise," she said. "Although institutions that have an established fan base, a long tradition of winning and elaborate facilities are attractive, there is also mystique and drama in helping to build something wonderful based on the 'UBelieve philosophy'."

    The coaching staff and program was impressive enough to convince kids to leave the warmth of the south for Buffalo. Matt Hornbuckle, a defensive tackle from Colleyville, Texas, chose Buffalo over offers from Utah State, Air Force and Army. Hornbuckle is ranked as the 74th best defensive tackle in the nation, according to www.espn.com.

    Hornbuckle's official visit to Buffalo in December was a jaw-dropping experience. He did not know much about Buffalo beforehand, so the large campus stood out in his mind.

    "I was amazed. I wasn't expecting it to be as nice or big as it was," he said. "I was pretty much blown away. I never heard of the school before they offered me, so it was a nice surprise."

    For Matt's mother, Renee, the atmosphere of Buffalo was surprising. The distance between Texas and New York made Buffalo seem like a separate universe to her. Once she traveled north for her son's official visit, Renee saw that Buffalo would be a comfortable setting for her son.

    "Overall, Buffalo itself is like Texas. It has a small-town environment. They made Matt feel very comfortable on his visit," she said. "There was something unique about Gill and the coaching staff. He had such integrity about him. His commitment to developing young men impressed me."

    Renee began to re-evaluate her son's options when Gill's name was mentioned for other coaching jobs. Buffalo possessed many advantages over the other schools that recruited Matt, but she thought the program would lose energy if Gill left.

    "We would have still considered Buffalo, but we would have looked at other schools harder," she said. "Most recruits are looking at the coaching staff as the most important factor. Gill really gave this program momentum. The fact that he's staying continues that momentum. Who knows what would have happened if he left."

    Unlike Renee, Jake was relatively set on Buffalo. He instilled his trust in Athletic Director Warde Manuel and knew Manuel would pick an appropriate coach to replace Gill.

    "I would have considered other options, but I don't know if I would have de-committed," Jake said. "Gill's future was up in the air at the time I committed, but I felt safe with the program and Warde. I knew he'd make a good choice for the next coach."
  2. pseudo

    pseudo Well-Known Member

    There's room to tweak it a little (as with almost any story), but it reads well. A couple of minor quibbles:

    • I live in Pennsylvania, so this stood out: Pa., not Penn., is the standard abbreviation.

    • "Their son, Alex, is a wide receiver from Grand Island High School that who committed to Buffalo in November 2008. " That is for inanimate objects. People are who.

    • "Numerous athletes with scholarship offers from bigger and more prestigious schools are joining the Bulls on their conquest for another MAC Championship." -- Did you mean quest? I don't know, conquest seems a little ... premature. Maybe that's just me.

    And a couple of random thoughts:

    • Nothing from the coaching staff? I know they're not allowed to comment on recruits before the LOIs are signed, but it might have been interesting to hear Gill take a crack at explaining what makes UB different, and how he can convince someone from Texas to move to Buffalo for four years. (Think they also signed some kids from Florida, didn't they?)

    • The reference to Jake in the second-to-last graf made me scroll back up to see who you were talking about, because you'd referred to him by surname alone earlier in the story. Tough to do in a piece with so many parent/son combos, but make sure your second (and subsequent) references are clear.

    • And the final graf doesn't really match the headline, does it?
  3. spud

    spud Member

    I've always thought that lengthy quotes like those are sure signs that the text itself isn't doing enough explaining. I'm a firm proponent of the idea that quotes are there to highlight, not explain (in 9 out of every 10 cases). I'd take every one of those quotes, paraphrase each one and decide which ones you can flesh out in words and which ones to keep in quotations.
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