In my work as managing editor of The Student Section, I normally man the TSS Twitter account on gamedays. (Yes, we’ll live-tweet the College Football Playoff semifinals and the New Year’s Six.)
One of the great pleasures of Twitter is the interactive nature of the site. More specifically, I get to exchange ideas with a lot of bright and talented thinker-writers at other outlets. They don’t (seem to) get the publicity their skills deserve, which is unfortunate.
I should state that a number of the writers who work for me at The Student Section also don’t get the Twitter follows their talents deserve, but if we touted only “our people” and no one else, that would all seem a little insular and self-serving. It’s good practice to recognize those outside one’s own company or publication who put forth good material. With that point in mind, here are 10 excellent and under-publicized college sports tweeps with no affiliation to TSS or The Comeback:
Ordinarily, having a million different opinions on everything leads to a First Take-y, junk-food level of discourse. The special quality of Jake Nazar is that he has a million different opinions on everything (pro sports as well as college), but always manages to say something thoughtful on a subject.
Verily, all 10 people on this list are distinguished by their ability to provide crisp, salient insights on subjects. I’ve never run into a sophomoric debate with any of these gentlemen. Jake Nazar stands out from the crowd in that his scope of knowledge goes far beyond meat-and-potatoes college football and basketball. Many commentators have knowledge bases that are a mile wide and an inch deep. With Nazar, it’s 1.5 miles wide and six feet deep. It’s impressive to see him carry on so many different conversations with equal measures of intellectual agility.
Outlet: Metronews Sportsline Radio Show — Morgantown, WV
Being a radio host easily invites the tendency to make incendiary comments. Gyorko (disclosure: a former colleague at College Football News) is practiced in the art of sitting back and not feeling the need to make a first comment in a conversation. He will listen to your point and either add context to it or offer a sharp and reasoned rebuttal. Gyorko is an incisive commentator who does not feel the need to fill airspace simply for the sake of it. He makes his words count, which is not an everyday quality for most radio voices. He’s special when he talks about West Virginia sports… and everything else under the sun as well.
Outlet: Basketball Predictions (independent website)
Jeff doesn’t want his last name to be known, but his analytical skill should be known.
Jeff might be more visible than most of the other commentators on this list, if only because he carves out a particularly central place on college basketball Twitter. Jeff isn’t afraid of anything, chiefly the prospect of mixing it up with every leading college basketball columnist in the country. Jeff’s knowledge of all things college basketball — enhanced by a firm grasp of analytics — gives him a presence which is impossible to ignore.
One important lesson Jeff teaches in and through his interactions is that strong disagreement — sometimes with a little bit of vinegar — should not be perceived as rude or off-putting behavior. Strong disagreement in discussions is simply… strong disagreement in discussions.
It’s so easy to think that people who see the world 180 degrees differently are part of the problem. In reality, they’re the people we most frequently need to talk to, in order to expose ourselves to ideas we haven’t embraced or considered. Jeff has stretched my mind and forced me to become a better writer and thinker. He will do the same for you if you stay in the arena with him and don’t take comments personally. (This goes for all of us, but Jeff focuses this tension point more than others on college sports Twitter.)
Jeff is interested in the truth just as much as you are. If he has a different way of arriving at the truth and what he sees as the heart of an issue, that’s a feature of what he brings to Twitter, not a bug.
Josh Webb is one of college sports Twitter’s best public intellectuals.
He’s in this business to make it better. That seems like a grandly romantic notion, to the point that you might not take it seriously, but it’s true. Josh puts his mind and energy in service of greater ideas. He is skilled in conveying the experience of both the college athlete and the college student, all in the larger attempt to articulate a fairer and more just vision of how collegiate athletics should be structured.
Webb is a solid reporter who has broken stories on Fresno State’s coaching staff over the past season. He distinguishes himself in that regard. Yet, he supplements his work ethic with a supple mind which is constantly trying to put together the bigger picture. Webb offers a marvelous example of what a college sportswriter should be. He will be a bigger star in this business if a higher-end outlet gives him a shot.
Outlet: Team Speed Kills (SB Nation’s SEC site)
David Wunderlich owns a capacity which any top-shelf sports commentator ought to demonstrate: He is conspicuously skilled in the art of placing present-tense events in a wider and fuller historical context. Wunderlich integrates the here and now with the broad sweep of past decades. He is particularly effective in translating information into epiphanies about the ways in which college sports work. He does this for the action between the painted white lines on gamedays, and he does this for off-field, off-court trends as well. You’ll always get a fully-formed insight from him, not something hastily slapped together.
Outlet: Bleacher Report
Bleacher Report owns a stable full of very talented college football writers. The ones I follow on Twitter acquire various degrees of visibility across video, audio and written platforms. Kercheval doesn’t seem to be the retweet magnet other B/R personalities have become… but he should be.
Kercheval is just as witty as other college football personalities you’ll find, but (this is a common thread running through many of the people on this list) he’s a bit more understated and prudent in his commentary. When Kercheval tweets and writes, it is evident that he has sized up and measured an issue instead of racing to be first in line. There’s a careful craftsmanship to Kercheval’s work product — it might not lead to an avalanche of publicity, but it earns a lot of respect among colleagues in the profession.
One of the younger members of this list, Alex Cook has earned his way here with a lot of elbow grease. The Michigan-focused blogger analyzes basketball particularly well, but he’s superb when covering football and any other sport he chooses to study.
Cook is able to take complicated information and — with a feel for analytics — present it in easy-to-read charts and graphs. He is a relentless student of sports, and that knowledge comes across in his tweets and articles.
Matthew Smith is very much like Jeff W., only with more of an emphasis on football and a decidedly different set of opinions on the business of college sports. Stylistically and in the arena of argumentation, the two are very similar. You will often disagree with Matt, just as you’ll often disagree with Jeff, but they will both challenge you and make you a better thinker.
Smith’s particular contribution to college sports Twitter is that he has devoted a lot of time over the years to the ever-evolving craft of trying to understand why college football games are won and lost. Smith introduced to me the term “fumble luck” on a more conceptual level. He is always prepared — he is never without an opinion on a football team, but that’s because he’s done his homework on that team, not because he’s spitballing.
Outlet: Blogging The Bracket (SB Nation)
Chris Dobbertean is quite possibly the best neighbor anyone on college sports Twitter could possibly have.
Need information on an early-season holiday tournament? Chris has it. Need updated college basketball scheduling information? Chris has it. Need bracket projections and explanations of the process, all without a single trace of abrasiveness? Chris has those, too.
State Farm isn’t as good a neighbor as Chris is, and Chris (like a number of other bracketologists) is better at his job than Joe Lunardi.
Outlets: CFB Huddle is his personal blogsite. Kyle also writes for Athlon Sports and Sports On Earth.
Kyle’s knowledge base is substantial, but he separates himself from many other college sports bloggers in that he sets aside time for the FCS and the Pac-12. Kyle is a resource for college sports tweeps in the South, Midwest and Northeast — artful in conveying the challenges that accompany Pac-12 programs, but well-versed in knowing the whole of the national college sports landscape. Kyle’s coverage of college football and basketball possesses a more integrated and textured quality than most. Like everyone else here, he’s a hidden gem of college sports Twitter.