6 "Killer" questions with ESPN Houston's new midday show

ESPN Houston's new lineup starts this Monday. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

It's a whole new ballgame on ESPN 97.5 and 92.5 starting Monday as the simulcast sports talk stations introduce two new shows with high-energy personalities in the afternoon while keeping popular and reinvigorated veterans in the morning. The new lineup will light a fuse on local talk radio, leading the charge into the future of Houston sports conversation.

Here's the new schedule and players: John Granato and Lance Zierlein from 7-10 a.m., followed by Charlie Pallilo from 10 to noon. Holdover Joel Blank and new addition Jeremy Branham will host the Killer B's (get it, their last names start with B?) from noon to 3 p.m., with The Wheelhouse, hosted by three debuting voices, Brad Kellner, Cody Stoots and Jake Asman, wrapping up things from 3-7 p.m.

Fred Faour, former host of The Blitz in afternoon drive, will make regular appearances on all four shows as the stations' roving "Sports Betting Analyst."

Owner David Gow said, "We are really excited about what we've put together, a combination of proven successful hosts and some new fresh faces." While the stations are "committed to local shows and local programming," he intends to take greater advantage of the ESPN network connection.

"One of the great things about the ESPN brand is that we can bring high-profile national voices and perspectives on our airwaves to talk about our local teams. We look forward to voicing our own local opinions, but we also want to include those national voices in local conversations when sports news warrants it," Gow said.

Today we will introduce the new Killer B's show, tomorrow The Wheelhouse.

Gow said that Blank has been an important cog of ESPN 97.5 and 92.5 programming for several years. Adding Branham puts the stations in position to win middays. "Jeremy Branham is a real pro. He is very savvy about topic selection and understands how to run a show. We think pairing him with Joel will help us create a very strong show from noon to 3, one that will be a favorite with Houston listeners."

Blank is the veteran voice of the Killer B's, having worked two decades as the director of broadcasting and radio announcer for the Houston Rockets. Before that he was part of the Portland Trail Blazers broadcast division. He joined ESPN 97.5 and 92.5 in 2016.

SportsMap : How valuable is your experience from both sides of sports, having worked on the inside as a Rockets executive, now a radio talk host commenting on our teams?

Joel Blank: I think it's extremely valuable because you understand what the teams would like you to focus on and talk about while knowing that you owe it to your audience to be honest, and unfiltered when calling it as you see it. The teams would like it to be all positive all the time while promoting their brand their way. The fans make you appointment radio when they realize you aren't about the spin or company line. On this station, we don't owe the teams anything and can speak openly and honestly.

SportsMap: Talk to me about developing a partnership with your new co-host Jeremy Branham.

Joel Blank: "The first step is getting to know the person, their personality, style, background, and preferences. On the air, you work on knowing "hot buttons" on topics and issues that bring out passion, and you grow and learn from each passing day and show. Jeremy knows me from the Rockets and I know him from U of H, but to truly get to know each other and build chemistry and a relationship, it takes effort, focus, repetition, and the desire to build a relationship that enhances the show on a daily basis.

SportsMap: What is your strategy for the Killer B's to take command of the noon-3 p.m. slot in Houston?

Joel Blank: I think it all starts with being true to ourselves, honest in our analysis, and dedicated to consistency in the way we execute the game plan on a daily basis. We should never try to be someone we are not, or say something we don't believe in 100-percent. The listeners are smart. They can read through the BS and tell when you are faking a take. Having some fun mixed in always helps the situation as well.

Branham has been the radio voice for University of Houston basketball (Final Four in 2021) and baseball since 2005. He's also done play-by-play for the Houston Dynamo and worked for the Legacy Sports Network. He is a UH grad.

SportsMap: You're best known as the play-by-play voice of UH sports. Traditionally that role requires a straight narrative, just the facts m'am. Hosting a talk show is all about opinions, fun and personality. How will you keep your two voices separate?

Jeremy Branham: It won't be hard keeping my roles straight. Play-by-play is a unique way of communication, you respond to what you see and try to describe it the best you can. I don't communicate that way in any other aspect of my life, so hosting a talk show is much more like I would talk to my family or my friends, a much more normal conversation."

SportsMap: Tell me your vision for the Killer B's.

Jeremy Branham: The vision for me is to talk about what the city is talking about. Living in Houston my whole life, I feel I have a good pulse of what is buzzing around town. I want to give listeners a place to go where they can hear what they'd be talking to their friends about.

SportsMap: What makes Houston sports so special to you?

Jeremy Branham: I was born in Houston, raised in Humble and went to the University of Houston. That's what makes Houston sports so appealing to me – mostly the agony of heartbreaking defeat, but also the joy of championships.

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The Houston Texans have just a couple of practices before their preseason debut. Here are 11 observations from Tuesday’s workout.

1.The offense stunk on Tuesday. It was inconsistent and resembled more of last year’s disappointing performances than any other practices in this training camp.

2. Davis Mills and his receivers had a few miscommunications on Tuesday. Mills sailed a pass to nobody when he and Brandin Cooks weren’t on the same page. There were some other throws to nowhere in the day. It was something that hadn’t been present at all in training camp to this point.

3. There were a few “good coverage” notes on Tuesday. Not to say there was one specific player, but a handful of team-level efforts that led to the note.

4. It wasn’t all wrong from the offense. After a pass to nowhere Davis Mills and the offense bounced back. It was a second down during a team drill and Mills fired a pass to Chris Moore for six yards. Rex Burkhead would pick up a first down on a rush a play later. A non-positive play last year on first down doomed this team. That hopefully won’t be the case for this year’s team.

5. Chad Beebe is going into his fifth season in the NFL, his first with the Texans. The former Vikings pass catcher has flashed a few times in training camp. He has an uphill battle being new to the team but is trying to make himself a factor.

6. Phillip Dorsett had a big catch over the middle. Davis Mills stood back and delivered as the offensive line held up and Dorsett reeled it in for a huge gain. No defenders were around him. It is between Dorsett and Chris Moore for the chance to be the slot wideout opening day. With Dorsett’s return to practice, it is becoming a fun camp battle.

7.Speaking of returns to practice, Tytus Howard was back. Howard has his reps managed and after practice, offensive line coach George Warhop Howard was “getting his wind” back. When Howard was having his reps managed rookie tackle Austin Deculus played at right tackle. Deculus looks much more consistent than minicamp and OTAs.

8. Kenyon Green is still out with an injury. It is getting to a critical time where the time missed might prevent the first-rounder from starting week one. Max Scharping hasn’t looked bad in his chances with the first team. Offensive line coach George Warhop said they believe in Green and his ability and he has been in meetings to stay up to date.

9. Ka’imi Fairbairn was perfect in one of the special team periods. He drilled all five kicks, each further than the last, and was crushing the football.

10. Derek Stingley was very sticky in some early reps on Nico Collins. The third overall pick is so smooth when he is working. Later his coverage forced a throw from the offense that had no chance of being completed.

11. The play of the day was made by Derek Stingley. The offense was about five or six yards out of the end zone needing a touchdown to win. With six seconds left on the clock, any completed pass that wasn’t a touchdown was game over. Davis Mills dropped back a step and fired to Nico Collins who Stingley covered. The rookie kept the second-year player out of the end zone to earn the defense a win. This was one of the better Stingley days and he did a lot of work. At one point, it looked as though he and Rex Burkhead had some words and almost led to an offense and defense scuffle, but it stayed to just some shouting. The rookie shined today.

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