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Sports

Colts might have struck gold with drafting of Bolingbrook's Morrison in Round 4

Of this and that, beginning with the NFL Draft:

Various assessments that have been made regarding the Indianapolis Colts’ draft, and there is a suggestion out there the selection of Bolingbrook graduate Antonio Morrison, a Florida inside linebacker, in Round 4 might turn to gold.

Morrison, the Herald-News Defensive Player of the Year his senior year at Bolingbrook, had some off-the-field issues early in his collegiate career, then played a season in 2014 with more than 100 tackles. However, he suffered a severe knee injury in the Birmingham Bowl game in early January 2015 that cast doubt about him returning the next fall.

Through hard work, he got to the point where he not only played all season, but also posted another 100-plus tackle year. He is productive. Look for him to make the Colts’ roster and be an immediate contributor in some manner.

• If Morrison gets high marks for being productive, the same applies to Illinois safety Clayton Fejedelmen (Lemont), a tackling machine drafted in Round 7 by the Cincinnati Bengals. I’m eager to see whether he makes the roster and to what degree he contributes.

• In addition to drafting Morrison, Indianapolis has signed Illinois running back Josh Ferguson (Joliet Catholic) as an undrafted free agent. Ferguson generally was rated among the best running back prospects who were not drafted and rates a legitimate shot at sticking with the Colts.

• Another area player signed as an undrafted free agent was Northern Illinois defensive end Perez Ford (Romeoville) with Oakland. The Raiders signed him as an outside linebacker.

COLLEGE COMMITMENTS

Bolingbrook continues to be a school that attracts Division I recruiters.

Raiders junior receiver Kendall Smith joined Brother Rice junior Ricky Smalling as the first two commitments of the Lovie Smith era at Illinois. Smith, rated a 3-star recruit by Rivals.com, had other Division I interest but always liked Illinois.

It’s early in Lovie’s regime, of course, but Illini fans are keeping their fingers crossed that he is able to recruit top talent consistently from within the state. That would go a long way toward bringing the Illinois program back to respectability.

• Shortly before Smith committed, Bolingbrook junior defensive end Izayah Green-May made his commitment to Wisconsin.

PRO BASEBALL

Wilmington graduate Tanner Roark continues to show how much he belongs in the Washington Nationals’ starting rotation under manager Dusty Baker.

The right-hander followed up his spectacular game against the Minnesota Twins – 15 strikeouts and two hits in seven shutout innings – with an outing Thursday against Philadelphia that was just about as impressive. He pitched seven shutout innings, this time striking out six while allowing two hits, but did not get a decision. The Phillies broke a scoreless tie with three runs in the ninth to win, 3-0.

Entering Tuesday night’s start at Kansas City, Roark is 2-2 with a 2.03 ERA in 31 innings. For his major league career, all with Washington, he is 28-20 with a 3.04 ERA in 3941/3 innings.

• Mike Foltynewicz (Minooka), the former first-round draft pick of the Houston Astros, is back with the Atlanta Braves and was scheduled to start Monday night’s game against the New York Mets.

Foltynewicz is replacing Bud Norris in the rotation. Norris has an 8.74 ERA in five starts. Foltynewicz had a 5.71 ERA in 18 appearances (15 starts) last season with Atlanta before he was sidelined with a blood clot in his arm. The right-hander made four starts this season with Triple-A Gwinnett and went 1-2 with a 2.05 ERA.

COLLEGE BASEBALL

Former Minooka and Joliet Junior College slugger TJ Condon has been swinging a hot bat at Faulkner University, an NAIA school in Montgomery, Alabama. Faulkner entered this week 42-12 and will host an NAIA Opening Round Tournament in a couple of weeks for the fourth straight spring.

All Condon has done is hit .400 (44 for 110) with 12 doubles, one triple, six home runs and 34 RBIs. He has a .511 on-base percentage and .691 slugging percentage for an eye-catching 1.202 OPS.

• When I attempted a couple of weeks ago to catch up on area products who are playing NCAA Division I baseball, some that I missed were Xavier freshman infielder Rylan Bannon (JCA) and two SIU-Edwardsville teammates, sophomore pitcher Brendan Miller (Plainfield North) and freshman pitcher Danny Ehrsam (JCA).

Bannon is playing regularly and hitting .248 (35 for 141) with eight doubles, three home runs and 14 RBIs for Xavier (19-26).

Miller is 3-2 with a 5.28 ERA for SIUE (9-30). In 46 innings, he has allowed 46 hits and 21 walks while striking out 28.

Ehrsam has pitched two innings in two games and has a 4.50 ERA.

• Dick Goss can be reached at dgoss@shawmedia.com.

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