Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Lane Kiffin’s return to USC was not a well-received move in 2010. There were literally two factions of people; those that felt the Kiffin received too much too soon and was not worthy of leading the USC Football program and those that felt that it was great to bring a former Trojan back into the fold.
The above-mentioned factions quickly turned into people in two categories fans or detractors. Kiffin won eight games in year one, but lost to Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Washington and Notre Dame. NCAA sanctions, Injuries and youth are all factors, but the fact remains that BCS football is a results based business. Kiffin is in a win now situation.
The Notre Dame game was a ‘move-the-needle’ game for Lane Kiffin. Imagine a meter if you will, USC fans and alumni moving the needle in said meter one-way or the other. The interesting question before the Notre Dame game was if USC fans and Alumni felt that Lane Kiffin was the right person for the job now and for the future of the program.
Many people responded 'no' to the above-mentioned question. USC has a tough Pac 12 conference schedule to deal with every year. However, the fact remains that as a Trojan, you attend USC to beat Notre Dame and UCLA.
Several of Kiffin’s detractors felt that Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly was the better coach in the match up. More detractors felt that Notre Dame with a more senior-laden team would beat USC because of their experience. Many will judge Lane Kiffin’s success or failure against the success of his predecessor Pete Carroll. The same guy that several of Lane Kiffin’s detractors thought was the wrong choice at thttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifhe time.
USC won 30 – 17 on the road as a 9.5 point underdog in South Bend in front of national audience, a signature win for Lane Kiffin. Head Coach Lane Kiffin and staff had USC poised and ready to beat the Irish. QB Matt Barkley WR's Robert Woods and Marquise Lee were solid in the passing attack. Woods has produced an amazing 72 catches for 902 yards and 8 TD's on the season. Surprisingly, the running back tandem of Marc Tyler and Curtis McNeal produced 175 yards and balance for the offense. Kiffin was able to get WR/RB George Farmer the number one recruit in the nation innvolved to show his potential.
In the 83rd edition and first night game of a rivalry that dates back to 1926 it was USC that turned out the lights. USC is 6-1 on the season; more importantly, Kiffin’s record is 14-6. Several big games remain on the 2011 schedule, but the fact of the matter is that Lane Kiffin is the right person for the job.
The next challenge on the schedule for the Trojans the #6 ranked 7-0 Stanford Cardinal at the Coliseum as a 7.5-point underdog. The headline match up, Andrew Luck vs. Matt Barkley, the better team and QB will win this game. The Cardinal is one of the most dominant teams in college football. Stanford has the second best offense in the country, scoring-wise. The Cardinal uses a trio of versatile Tight Ends on offense capable of making plays in the passing game and as in-line blockers, but controls the clock and the game with their dominant running game. The Trojans have won one of their last four games against Stanford after going 5-0 from 2002-2006.
The hits keep coming, after the nationally televised match up against Stanford; the Trojans face some huge challenges. Against the Washington Huskies at the Coliseum on November 12 (thanks to two field goals former USC offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian is 2-0 against his former team). On the road in front of 54,000 at Autzen Stadium against the Oregon Ducks on November 19 (Oregon has outscored USC 100-52 in the last two years) and closing the season against the UCLA Bruins at the Coliseum. Lane Kiffin and the young USC Trojans still have a lot to prove and continue to work at the task at hand taking it one game at a time.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
When NFL business begins for the 2011 season, the Oakland Raiders have holes to fill. The Raiders could lose Nnamdi Asomugha, Robert Gallery, Michael Huff, Langston Walker and Khalif Barnes to free agency.
There is still a slight possibility that Asomugha could return upon the start of league business. The offensive line needs improvement. The Raiders are without a first round pick, but are still able to add two of the top-100 players to their roster.
Round 2: Cornerback Ras-I-Dowling-6’1” 199 pounds
Dowling was a team captain that has displayed great character, an experienced corner rarely caught out of position, even against double-moves mainly because of top instincts and vision. At his pro day, Dowling answered questions about his health and pure speed. Dowling is a tall, athletic, confident corner that boasts fluidity, quick feet, body control, excellent tackling ability and ball skills.
The choice should be between QB Colin Kaepernick, CB Jimmy Smith, CB Davon House, WR Titus Young, S Rahim Moore, C Stefan Wisniewski, Guard Ben Ijalana, OT James Carpenter and TE Kyle Rudolph. Five of the nine might not fall to the 48th pick.
My reasoning for the selection is simple, acquire a player that can provide the most immediate impact at a need position. I would have no problem with Oakland selecting QB Colin Kaepernick. However, since 2005, 47-percent of the cornerbacks on NFL two-deep rosters are first and second round selections.
Round 3: Guard Marcus Cannon-6’5” 358 pounds
Cannon is massive, with broad shoulders, long arms and top-15 type talent. It could be an expensive cab ride for defenders to get around him at right tackle. Strong anchor, almost never bull-rushed, has quick feet and is nimble for his size. Cannon has elite size, strength and enough athleticism to drive defenders back and dominate in the running game.
Cannon has great balance, and carries his weight well. The best attribute about Cannon is that he is never on the ground.
The choice should be between NT Kendrick Ellis, OG Clint Boling, OT James Brewer, C Brandon Fusco, OLB Dontay Moch, CB Curtis Marsh, OT Orlando Franklin and WR Edmund Gates. My reasoning for selecting Cannon was his versatility (ability to play Guard or Tackle) and immediate impact on the offensive line.
Round 4: Guard John Moffitt-6’4” 314 pounds
Moffitt is an elite run blocker in terms of his mobility and hand placement. This former Badger started 42 out of a possible 45 games at three positions. Moffitt’s phone-booth quickness, mobility and footwork show the makings of a longtime NFL starter.
Moffitt has the ability to be stout at the point of attack, reach linebackers, safeties on the second level and eliminate them. The former Badger anchors well against even against the strongest nose tackles when man-up in pass protection.
The choice should be between ILB Kelvin Sheppard, NT Kendrick Ellis, WR Jeremy Kerley, WR Vincent Brown, WR Greg Little, S DeAndre McDaniel, S Quinton Carter, CB Kendric Burney and.
Moffitt is the choice, due to his value, versatility and immediate impact on the offensive line. Moffitt could be a Pro Bowl steal as a mid-round pick. If Moffitt were off the board, I would consider Kelvin Sheppard, but select Kendrick Ellis.
Round 5: Free Safety Deunta Williams-6’1” 215 pounds
Williams has good size, length and instincts for the free safety position. Suffering a broken leg in his teams bowl game this year will cause him to drop on some draft boards allowing the Raiders to acquire a steal if he checks out medically. As a former top-ranked wide receiver recruit he understands offensive concepts. Williams is a solid tackler. Williams’ benefited from a dominant pass rush early in his career. This former Tar Heel’s size and athleticism make him an intriguing prospect.
The choice should be between FS Jerrard Tarrant, S Eric Hagg, S Tyler Sash and OLB Ross Homan. If Williams were off the board, I would select NT Kendrick Ellis.
Round 6: Quarterback Ricki Stanzi-6’4” 221 pounds
Stanzi is a pro-style passer with a good frame for the position. This former Hawkeye is smart with outstanding size and toughness. He stands tall in the pocket and has a compact, over-the-top delivery. Stanzi has fluid footwork in 3-, 5-, 7-step drops.
This three-year starter in the Big 10 has adequate arm strength, but it able to put some zip on short and intermediate throws when he steps into it. The former senior from Iowa will have to do a better job of reading defenses and making better decisions before starting. Stanzi possesses the requisite leadership traits and toughness to develop into a solid NFL starter.
The choice should be between DT Ian Williams, FB Henry Hynoski, G/RT Mike Person and QB Pat Devlin
Round 7: Wide Receiver Lester Jean -6’3” 211 pounds
Jean has prototypical size and speed for the position. Will go over the middle make the catch and take the hit. Jean uses his body to shield defenders on slants and in-routes. Jean tracks throws over either shoulder or over his head. Jean worked hard to improve his game and FAU’s offensive MVP earned a trip to the East-West Shrine game and the Scouting Combine.
The choice should be between TE Andre Smith, Guard Bryant Browning, and C Ryan Bartholomew
Round 7: Outside Linebacker Jabara Williams-6’1” 230 pounds
Williams was the Conference Defensive Player of the year had three straight 100-tackle seasons. Williams is very fluid, athletic with good speed, acceleration and instincts. Williams is quick to diagnose plays and solid in coverage.
The choice should be between DT David Carter, SS Shiloh Keo, C J.C. Brignone, and RB Allen Bradford.
The list of un-drafted free agents the Raiders could acquire to fill other roster needs. WR Kris Adams, TE Andre Smith – Virginia Tech, TE Evan Frosch – TCU and TE Richard Gordon – Miami. CB Korey Lindsey – Southern Illinois, OG Bryant Browning – Ohio State, LT Willie Smith – UCF and OLB Bruce Miller – UCF. FS Tejay Johnson – TCU, FS Mark LeGree – Appalachian State and WR Ricardo Lockette – Fort Valley State.
This mock draft addresses the major holes on the Raiders at the Cornerback, Guard, Tackle, Safety and Quarterback. The un-drafted free agents provide competition at other need positions.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
The labor dispute has changed several things. The dispute has added the term ‘courtroom football’ to the football vernacular and added April 6, 2011 as an important date on the NFL’s off-season calendar. The labor dispute should come as no surprise and a lockout in 2011 was imminent prior to the start of the 2010 season.
‘Brady v. NFL’ has started, all we know at this point is that U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson wants the case to remain in her court and has urged both sides to return the bargaining table.
However, it will be weeks before we all hear Nelson’s ruling. Two things are for certain—the draft will start and finish before said ruling and that the process could easily drag on for a while.
In the NFL there are normally three ways to improve your football team 1) veteran free agency 2) the Draft 3) signing un-drafted free agents. The lockout has effectively cut those options down to two.
The league granted a record 56 underclassmen special eligibility for the 2011 draft, exceeding last years record-tying 53. This has added depth to a draft class that does not have a true no.1 talent. That ship sailed the moment Stanford QB Andrew Luck made the decision to remain a Cardinal.
The lockout presents an interesting conundrum. The lockout has caused teams to view members of a weak quarterback class in a different light. Seven of the teams with a top-10 pick in the 2011 draft have a big need at quarterback.
The question is what team is going to reach for a QB?
There are six teams with new head coaches. A new head coach has to find his guy at the QB position. The two are, in a sense, married to each other—although the coach and general manager need to be on the same page as well. Some teams have to replace veterans with drafted players.
When you remove the option of adding a veteran quarterback via trade before the draft, the task of a QB needy team is simple, you must land one in the draft. A team could 'trade up' using draft picks. The fact of the matter is, due to the lockout, it is imperative that every team focus more on NEED in every round.
A team with a top-ten selection in the draft has a difficult task ahead of them. This is the drafts most expensive neighborhood. There are only five positions a team should draft with a top-ten pick; 1) A franchise Quarterback 2) A franchise Left Tackle 3) An elite Pass Rusher 4) A Shutdown Cornerback 5) A top-five Running Back.
We have seen teams swing and miss at the top of the first round year in and year out. It is impossible to think that this year will be different. A mistake with a high selection and it could set the franchise back for years.
Imagine, if in 2005, then head coach Mike Nolan and the 49ers brass pulled the trigger on local kid QB Aaron Rodgers instead of QB Alex Smith. The 49ers are just one of at least 13 other teams that had a need at QB in 2005. Mike Nolan is no longer a head coach and Alex Smith will be playing in a different city when league business begins.
In 2006, the Tennessee Titans were in need of a quarterback. Everyone in the organization wanted to draft Matt Leinart except for owner Bud Adams. Adams is from Houston, Texas and he wanted Vince Young.
At that time, Norm Chow was the Titans offensive coordinator. Chow was the offensive coordinator at the University of Southern California from 2001-2004. If the Titans pulled the trigger on the USC quarterback, Leinart would have hit the ground running playing in the same offense in college and as a professional.
After 16+ seasons, Jeff Fisher is no longer coaching the Titans. As soon as league business begins, Vince Young will no longer be a Titan. How ironic is it that Leinart is a back up QB in Houston?
If Vince Young can clean up his act and display more maturity, he will have to continue to develop in another city.
Friday, April 8, 2011
These college players were the guys’ once known as ‘tweeners’. These NFL prospects primarily played Defensive End in college, but did not have to size to play the position in the NFL. These prospects possess the athleticism to play the Outside Linebacker position and make an impact as a pass rusher.
To play Defensive End in the NFL the optimum size is 6’ 5” 285 lbs. 3 - 4 scheme calls for run-stopping power ends with more size than speed, quickness, and short area explosion.
The players that do not possess the above-mentioned size are in for a position change at the next level.
The optimum size for a Rush Linebacker in a 3-4 is 6’ 3” 255 lbs. The Rush Linebackers are a team’s primary pass rushers, but they must be big enough to hold up at the line of scrimmage. Outside linebackers must have the strength to shed blocks, the speed to make plays from sideline to sideline and the athletic ability to play in zone or man coverage. A Rush Linebacker has to be able to come off the ball low to the ground and bend.
The 3-4 or “30” front, popular in the NFL, has started sprouting around the college landscape. Former NFL coaches leading college football programs have been good for the league. NFL teams employing the 3-4 had difficulty projecting college defensive ends to the Rush Linebacker position because few colleges ran the scheme.
In general, pro-style college programs have produced the most NFL-ready prospects. Defensively schools like Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State, USC, and Miami come to mind. This is where the SEC has shined.
The NFL scouting community took notice when Nick Saban took over at the University of Alabama. The more coaches like Saban teach the scheme and develop talent the better job evaluators can do projecting college players to the NFL.
Almost every year, these are the guys that grab lots of headlines going into the draft and have phenomenal showing at the NFL combine and on their schools pro day.
Fifteen teams in the NFL employ the 3-4 scheme. Since 2001, six of the 10 Super Bowl winners ran a 3-4 scheme as their base defense. The most desirable traits NFL teams seek in OLB prospects…
Instincts: The ability to find the ball, read play-action and mis-direction, and quickly recognize whether to play the run or drop into coverage.
Range: Outside linebackers operate in space and must be able to get depth in their drops and cover backs-sometimes even receivers-in the slot. They must have enough speed, range to flow to the ball, and chase down backs from sideline to sideline.
Athletic Ability: A rush linebacker has to be a more accomplished pass rusher. A rush linebacker has to come off the ball low to the ground and bend. Ideally, he has to have rare athletic ability.
Hall of famer Lawrence Taylor made this position famous, but today’s prototypes are James Harrison, Clay Matthews Jr., Lamar Woodley, Terrell Suggs, Shawn Phillips, DeMarcus Ware and Brian Orapko.
In this draft, here are the top Rush Linebackers who are rare, physical specimens who have demonstrated the ability to cause havoc:
1) Von Miller - OLB Texas A&M 6’ 2” 240 lbs.
2) Robert Quinn – North Carolina OLB/DE 6’ 5” 270 lbs.
3) Akeem Ayers – OLB UCLA 6’ 3” 255 lbs.
4) Aldon Smith – Missouri OLB/DE 6’ 5” 255 lbs.
5) Justin Houston – OLB Georgia 6’ 3” 258 lbs.
6) Ryan Kerrigan – Purdue 6’ 4” 263 lbs.
7) Jabaal Sheard – Pittsburgh 6’ 3” 255 lbs.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
The moment that the conference championship games were set, there was a chance that that at least one team that ran a 3-4 defense as their base defense would once again compete for a championship. The first championship game between teams that used, the 3-4 as their base defense, was Super Bowl XV when the Oakland Raiders beat the Philadelphia Eagles 27-10 in 1980.
Fifteen teams in the league use the 3-4 as their base defense. The Houston Texans will raise that number to 16 in 2011. There are rumors that the Oakland Raiders will increase the league total to 17. The Bears and Vikings are the only teams in the league to never use the 3-4 as their base defense.
Bud Wilkinson is widely recognized as the father of the 3-4 defensive front. Wilkinson devised the scheme at the University of Oklahoma in the 1940s. However, Chuck Fairbanks is the person credited with importing the scheme to the NFL. Fairbanks’ schemes greatly influenced winning teams long after he retired such as the N.Y Giants, New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers have used the 3-4 as their base defense since 1982, ironically one year after Hall of Fame defensive tackle Joe Greene and defensive end L.C. Greenwood retired. Pittsburgh, among others, have also used 2-4-5 & 1-5-5 alignments both variants of the 3-4 scheme.
Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau was the defensive backfield coach while Dom Capers was the defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh. Dom Capers was the defensive coordinator from 1992-1994 before leaving to become the head coach of the Carolina Panthers. Once Dom Capers departed for the Panthers Dick LeBeau, became the defensive coordinator.
These two old friends will be the featured bout of the evening. Defense wins championships and it is what will decide Super Bowl 45. Super Bowl 45 will be a closer game than people realize. The fact that the coordinators know each other and the scheme both teams will run Super Bowl 45 could easily come to what defense executes better.
The Packers defense has been awesome since switching to the 3-4. The Steelers happen to be the best 3-4 defense in the league. Pittsburgh has instinctive playmakers at every level of their defense. The Packers have several playmakers on their defense as well.
Both offenses can move the football and a led by outstanding quarterbacks. The Steelers are fundamentally sound, excellent tacklers, will not be fooled and simply do an excellent job of figuring out what an offense is trying to do to them and stopping them.
The championship will have a noticeable Steeler feel to it. Former Steeler players Kevin Greene and Darren Perry are position coaches for the Packers. The Steelers and Packers possess the two best defenses in the league.
The scheme is the same for both teams. You can say that both teams are working off the same script. The Steelers and Packers rank first and second in points and sacks, second and fifth in total yards.
The Steelers are first in the league in run defense; which means that Pittsburgh shouldn’t have any problem shutting down the Green Bay running game making the Packers one dimensional.
However, that one dimension the Green Bay passing game is one of the leagues best. An excellent way to attack a 3-4 defense is to place the four linebackers in coverage as oppose to having them playing downhill and rushing the quarterback. The Packers can put four talented receivers on the field and spread the defense out.
These two teams had a 73-point shootout in 2009 won by the Steelers. This game will not be a shootout. The team that executes better on defense, is balanced on offense and wins the turnover battle will win this game.
As a football fan, I am saddened that this will be the last game of the season. Before you settle in to watch the spectacle that is Super Bowl 45 at a sports bar, Super Bowl party at a friend’s home or at your home don’t forget to thank Eugene Polley & Robert Adler.
These guys invented the remote control and made it possible to comfortably raise the volume on your TV from your favorite chair. The remote has become a close friend most guys are accused of having a death-grip on. While controlling your remote control this Sunday prepare to enjoy a low scoring defensive battle to end the year.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
The NFL released the finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2011 on January 10 2011. The 44-member selection committee will meet on February 5, 2011 in North Texas. Tim Brown must receive a minimum positive vote of 80 percent.
Tim Brown won the Heisman trophy and Walter Camp award in 1987. Brown was the first wide receiver to win the Heisman. The Notre Dame Graduate drafted sixth overall by the Los Angeles Raiders in 1988. Brown was the first wide receiver off the board.
The multi talented wide receiver/returner came into the league and made an immediate impact. Brown led the league in kickoff returns, return yards, average yards per return in addition to making 43 catches for 725 yards and scoring five touchdowns.
The Dallas, Texas native was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection. Brown played in 255 games finished his career with 1,094 receptions, 14, 934 receiving yards and 100 touchdowns.
It is a known fact that Tim Brown was one of the best wide receivers in College Football and NFL history. Brown was a member of the NFL 1990's All-Decade team. Brown posted an NFL record 75 receptions in 10 straight seasons. There are currently three members of the 12-round 1988 draft in the Hall of Fame; Tim Brown is attempting to take his rightful place as the fourth.
Although denied in year one Brown became eligible for enshrinement in 2010. Understandable when you consider the traffic jam of accomplished receiver candidates awaiting entry such as Jerry Rice, Andre Reed and Chris Carter.
The College Football Hall of Fame inducted “Touchdown Timmy” in 2010. This is the second year of eligibility for Tim Brown, the man known simply as, Mr. Raider. Brown spent 15 of his 16 years in the NFL proudly wearing silver and black in Los Angeles and Oakland.
Friday, January 7, 2011
The Oakland Raiders went into the season with lofty expectations of winning the division and making the playoffs. For the first time since the merger in 1970, the Raiders are the first team to go undefeated in their division and not make the playoffs.
However, if you win every game in your division, emphatically beat down and provide the eventual division winner with a 'never forget who we are' moment at home, you should be crowned as the true champions of the AFC West.
While Oakland convincingly won the last game of the season, the Raiders still came up short in reaching their season-long goals. But 2010 was a year of resurgence for the Silver and Black.
Despite not achieving their desired goals, the Silver and Black took Raider Nation on a memorable ride back to respectability. Going into the season, it was felt that Tom Cable received a reprieve to turn the Raiders around. It was a collective effort, but that is exactly what he did.
Despite the players wanting to play hard for him, it was well known that he was thin ice. A playoff run was the only thing that was going to ensure a 2011 return. Like it or not, it was the right decision. The timing was curious, but the writing was on the wall.
Hue Jackson was hired as the offensive coordinator and tasked with turning the offense into a productive unit. Mission accomplished as the Raiders improved from the 31st-ranked offense in 2009 to 10th overall in 2010.
The road to respectability is filled with several potholes. As with any season, 2010 was filled with the good, the bad and the ugly.
Oakland snapped a seven-year streak of losing 11-plus games a season, while going 6-0 in the division. Jackson proved to be a leader of men and a solid offensive mind. Under his watch, the offense improved dramatically. The running game, fueled by the dynamic tandem of Darren McFadden and Michael Bush, became the strength of the team.
The improvement on offense wouldn’t have been possible without the offensive line, who stepped their game up in run blocking.
The 2010 draft class was one of the best in recent memory by making an immediate impact which bodes well for the future. The defense improved as both the defensive line and linebacker group became strengths of the team. Moving Richard Seymour to defensive tackle was huge. Tommy Kelly had his best season.
John Henderson and Desmond Bryant were solid in the defensive tackle rotation. The versatile Lamar Houston had a great rookie campaign and made an immediate impact. Matt Shaughnessy was solid, providing the Raiders with two tremendous young talents at the two defensive end positions for the foreseeable future.
The linebacker group, the team's deepest in years, was huge. Rookie Rolando McClain solidified the middle, while Kamerion Wimbley and Trevor Scott made their presence felt on the strong side and weak side positions. Nnamdi Asomugha had another stellar season at right cornerback.
The Raiders were great in the division, but 2-8 against everyone else. This team needs to improve and shut teams down, make the opponent one-dimensional and get off the field on third down.
Penalties! Drive-killing or game-altering, he Raiders shot themselves in the foot so many times, it was a wonder that they were able to walk off the field.
Defensively stopping the run continues to be a major issue and cause for concern. The safeties were exploited on more than one occasion, the second half of the Jacksonville game comes to mind. Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch made a lot and missed a lot of tackles. There were too many breakdowns in coverage, Branch surrendered eight touchdown passes.
There is always room for improvement at various positions, but there aren’t any glaring needs heading into 2011. The improvements can be made via the draft, veteran free agency and with undrafted rookie free agents. This team needs more disciplined play and consistency.
The Raiders are in need of continuity that can only be had if Hue Jackson is promoted to head coach. Despite the fact Oakland will begin 2011 with their ninth head coach in 17 seasons since returning to the East Bay, they’re losers no more and should be considered a team on the rise.