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Archive : February 2010

February 28, 2010

WHAT'S GOING ON WITH FOOTBALL RIGHT NOW?

Let's compare the current world of football with a small body of free-standing water in the Amazon.

On the surface, things are calm and smooth. Not a whole lot going on.

Underneath, however, there's a world of life and activity that can satisfy the football appetite if you're patient enough to put on a protective wet suit and some goggles and go diving.

It's a little more difficult than watching the NFL Redzone channel during the season when you can put the remote down, open the bag of chips and let some technician in who-knows-where flip to all the different games for you.

Those days are over until September.

For now we have to actually do some work to find our football news.

To review:

The Cowboys are in good shape this off-season. Team officials have been quoted saying that the goal of the draft is to just pick the best player on the board when it's their turn. That's good news and usually leads to some pretty good drafts...something Jerry Jones has been pretty good at over the years.

Terrell Owens' contract will not be renewed by the Buffalo Bills. He's about to 37 years old. His stint with Dallas seems like ancient history.

A handful of college programs have already started spring practice.

Texas Tech will enter spring drills with a lot of the same players but a completely different look. Not since Mike Leach first came to town has their been such a buzz in Lubbock. The offense seems to be in pretty good shape with Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield to compete for the QB job. RB is a stable position. And you know they have big O-linemen and great WRs.

The question will be on defense where new DC James Willis will try and take a heavy defensive 2009 recruiting class and turn the Raiders into a defensive power.

There have been rumors about Texas joining the Big 10. You have to wonder why and how those rumors were started to begin with, but Texas has denied having any discussion with the floundering conference up north.

It would actually be a pretty entertaining move in my opinion. UT would join the conference as the immediate front-runner (in my opinion) and it would allow a TCU or Houston to join the Big 12 and position themselves a little better for a BCS appearance. Anyway, it's not going to happen, but I wouldn't be sad if it did.

On the football field at UT, it's all about the QB situation and replacing the NCAA's all-time winningest QB, Colt McCoy. Garrett Gilbert is the starter for sure, as of now. The true sophomore earned the trust of coaches, teammates and fans by his gutsy performance in Pasadena. Side note: Gilbert's dad, Gale, is the only player in NFL history to play in five straight Super Bowls...he lost ALL FIVE. Four with Buffalo and then with the Chargers the next year. Can you imagine? What are the chances? Brutal...

The big question is the No. 2 spot. Will Sherrod Harris, the senior, be able to outplay two incoming freshman in Case McCoy and Connor Wood?

Offensive Line will be the other big position for UT to worry about. They lose a lot of experience but have some ridiculously talented athletes waiting to take over. Apparently Mack Brown is intrigued with the two-back systems like Alabama runs so we could see a major move from a predominant spread offense Texas has run since VY was in town.

Tre Newton has the starting running back job, but there are several guys that could earn some meaningful minutes and really make an impact (i.e. sophomore Chris Waley, DJ Monroe, Cody Johnson and others).

Texas also has to replace one of the greatest WR in school history: Jordan Shipley.

Moving on...

The NFL combine started this week. I've been watching and recording as much as I can. I can't get enough.

I was very impressed with running backs Jahvid Best, CJ Spiller and Ben Tate (Cal, Clemson and Auburn respectively). Overall the RBs this year are all ridiculously fast and ridiculously huge. Really a great group.

Colt McCoy looked good running around, but he didn't throw (he wasn't medically cleared). Neither did Tim Tebow who continues to take huge criticism for his throwing motion, which he is apparently "tweaking" for his pro day in Gainesville in a few weeks.

Notre Dame WR Notre Dame was impressive, too. He broad jumped 10 feet. I watched it in slow motion. It looked fake.

I would love to have an "Everyman's Combine" where a bunch of average Joe's go out and time 40s, do vertical jumps, run cone drills, etc.

It would be hilarious to see how the Couch-coaches would do on all those measurables. I wonder if I could run a sub-5 second 40...doubt it. I do know my vertical is probably somewhere in the teens...embarrassing.

Some other things going on include the standard off-season arrests and court appearances by more than too many of our current student athletes.

Now that recruiting for 2010 is over, you'll start hearing more and more about junior days which will be pivotal for schools' 2011 recruiting classes.

OK, guess that's it for now...

This USA/Canada hockey game is can't-miss TV...incredible stuff.
  • mark rogers
  • February 28, 2010 4:29 PM

February 21, 2010

COWBOYS DRAFT NEEDS

As the NFL draft draws ever nearer (two months from tomorrow), I think it's time to look at the Cowboys' roster and determine what positions we need to key in on.

Let's look at the roster by position...and this is just my initial thought on everything. I'm not sure what Cowboys' front office folks are thinking in regards to trades and/or free agent moves - obviously.

QB - Good shape. We don't need to draft one. We don't need to sign one. Tony Romo had his best year statistically and has 4-5 prime years left. Jon Kitna is smart and capable if needed even though he didn't take one snap last year. Stephen McGee is fine as a third stringer and scout team QB.

RB - Good shape. Felix Jones, Marion Barber and Tashard Choice just might be the best running back stable in the NFL. They all get used and have different strengths and weaknesses. If we can continue utilizing this group to its potential, it could do even more damage against opposing defenses than it did in 2009. And all three of those guys are under contract for next year. Don't draft one. Don't sign one.

WR - Pretty good shape with Miles Austin, Patrick Crayton, Roy Williams, Sam Hurd and Kevin Ogletree. All five made significant contributions at times last year and all five have no more than six years of NFL experience. All are under contract for 2010 except Austin and Hurd who are restricted free agents. I don't think Dallas will let either go, especially Austin after he lead the team and was close to the league lead in receptions and touchdowns. All that being said, I wouldn't be shocked if the Cowboys drafted a WR on day three of the draft - rounds 4 through 7.

OL - Definitely need some help. This is a perplexing unit. Leonard Davis, Andre Gurode, Flozell Adams, Marc Colombo, Kyle Kosier and Doug Free are the main contributors. They can dominate up front. But only the Raiders have more false start penalties over the last few years than these guys. Adams has 12 years experience, Colombo has eight, Davis has nine so they're getting on up there in age. I think Dallas should go for a big time OL talent on day one or two of the draft - first, second or third round. All of the aforementioned linemen are signed up for 2010 by the way.

TE - In pretty good shape. Jason Witten is a future Hall of Famer and will enter his eighth season with Dallas. Martellus Bennett didn't live up to the hype he created for himself in a great pre-season last year, but he has the tools and could be a TD machine. John Phillips went from a purely blocking TE to a pretty good receiver during the later part of the season. It's a young group. Don't need any huge help in the draft.

S - Gerald Sensabaugh and Patrick Watkins are restricted free agents. Alan Ball is an exclusive rights free agent. Then there's Ken Hamlin and Michael Hamlin. No one really stands out to me here as an "untouchable". I wouldn't be surprised if any of these guys were traded or released (which isn't a likely option). I also wouldn't be surprised or disappointed if all five of these guys came back for 2010. This is a position that will likely be targeted in the early rounds of the draft depending on what happens with Sensabaugh, Watkins and Ball in free agency.

CB - This is a group that really emerged as a stand out unit late in the season. Mike Jenkins, Orlando Scandrick and Terrence Newman. All the guys are young and have much invested in them by way of finances and time. I'd be surprised if a CB was taken by the Cowboys before the fifth or sixth round.

LB - DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Keith Brooking and Bradie James are your starters. In my opinion one of the best LB units in the league. Notable backups are Victor Butler, Bobby Carpenter, Steve Octavien and Jason Williams. Everybody's under contract for next year except for Octavien who's an exclusive rights free agent. I like the group as it is but don't think it would hurt for the Cowboys to target LB in the draft for the sole fact that there are eight positions (including backups) to fill. 

DL - Jay Ratliff and Igor Olshansky are set to go for 2010. Marcus Spears is a restricted free agent along with Junior Siavii, Stephen Bowen and Jason Hatcher. It really depends on what happens after free agency opens to know how the draft will effect this position. I think it will be a target no matter what, though. Look for some D-lineman to have their names called by the Cowboys early in the draft.

OK, I think that about does it.

So my most important positions for the draft are OL, DL and LB. Then look for us to maybe go with some WR or S in the later rounds.

Football withdrawal is setting in. The Winter Olympics just aren't doing anything for me this year. Oh well...just six more months.
  • mark rogers
  • February 21, 2010 2:09 PM

February 15, 2010

SPRING FOOTBALL BEGINS TODAY!!!

We didn't have to wait long!

Just eight days after Super Bowl 44, Duke is starting spring practice.

I know. It's Duke. But at least it's something!!
  • mark rogers
  • February 15, 2010 10:38 AM

RECRUITING RULE CHANGE IMPACTS LONGHORNS

One month ago the NCAA approved a new recruiting rule that states any assistant coach "publicly designated" as the head coach in-waiting is bound by the same recruiting restrictions as the current head coach.

The head coach at an NCAA FBS school can only make one off-campus visit per year (and it can't be during the spring evaluation period - a critical time in recruiting). The assistants can make as many as they want.

In my opinion, the spirit of the rule is to try and level the playing field between some of the more aggressive head coaches and everybody else.

If all the coaches had to keep up with guys like Urban Meyer, Mack Brown, Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin, no FBS head coaches would have a life.

UT defensive coordinator Will Muschamp is the Longhorns' coach-in-waiting and can now only make one off-campus visit. This is bad for Texas because Muschamp is one of the most aggressive and ferocious recruiters in all of college football.

Texas has come out recently and said it feels singled out by the new rule since they and Maryland are the only schools with a publicly designated coach-in-waiting.

The rule makes me scratch my head a little bit.

I don't think schools announce a coach-in-waiting to try and boost recruiting or get an unfair advantage. I think they do it to limit coaching controversy distractions and give the coach-in-waiting a little job security. If Texas doesn't publicly designate Muschamp as the next UT head coach, then he'll get courted by a ton of good programs every off season.

It just sort of nips all those distractions and all that controversy in the bud.

But this issue brings up another point: high school football players choosing coaches instead of schools and programs.

It happens every year. It will continue happening every year until the end of time.

18-year-old kids (emphasis on the word "kids") get wooed by sweet-talking, charismatic, middle-aged men that promise them the world.

Come to our university and you'll be a starter on day 1. We'll get you a degree and send you to the NFL (have to throw the thing in about the degree for mom and dad).

The kid chooses to go play for Coach Suave. Signs all the papers. Commits the next four or five years of his life to this guy...then Coach Suave takes another job and leaves all those kids he promised the world to in the dust. It happens. That's life.

The rules state that if a player wants to transfer and go play at Coach Suave's new school, he has to sit out a year. The rule is to discourage kids from treating schools like professional franchises and keep the NCAA from free agency.

I love the rule.

Kids should not go play for a school or program solely because of who the coach is. They should factor in the place, the academics, the facilities, etc. They should go into it thinking that if Coach Suave ever leaves, they would want to continue playing for the program.

If I was a high school recruit, that's what I would do. Why? Because I'm almost 30 and know that in business, you should always plan for the worst case scenario when dealing with signed pieces of paper.

But most kids don't have that mentality and, unless they have some great guidance and mentors in their lives, will continue making life decisions based on feelings generated by some of the best salesmen the world has to offer...college football coaches.

Kind of got of track, but the point is, I think the new rule is a little silly. Head coaches-in-waiting are just that...waiting. They're still assistant coaches and need to fulfill the duties they signed up to fulfill.

Muschamp is the defensive coordinator and one of the best recruiters in the country. He should be able to perform the job he was hired to do.

Whether he's the coach-in-waiting or not.
  • mark rogers
  • February 15, 2010 10:06 AM

February 7, 2010

THANKS A LOT, COLTS...

...for making me eat some pretty distasteful words.

You'd think in a world where the Giants can beat the undefeated Patriots, where a 41-point  underdog Stanford team can beat USC, where the USA hockey team can beat the Soviets, where Buster Douglas can knock out Mike Tyson and where Villanova can beat Georgetown, that I'd be a little more careful with making a "can't-miss", "sure thing" prediction.

Yeah, you'd think that.

But I'll proudly stand up and say (just like Colts' head coach Jim Caldwell said after the game) that my head is bloody but unbowed.

Indianapolis was well on its way to making me look pretty smart. Not a genius because the Colts were the favorite and were expected to win, but at least smarter than the dummy I look like now.

The score was 10-0 after the first quarter. Pass me another brownie.

It was 10-6 at half and the Colts had just stopped New Orleans on 4th and Goal from the 2. Hand that guacamole dip over here. I'm feeling pretty good.

Then the nuclear explosion happened. The event that was ignited and made possible by the inspirational story line of a community and its football team rising up from the Hurricane Katrina "ashes" and taking a stand on top of the NFL which I so blatantly dismissed as no big deal.

The event that was the personification of millions of people rooting on the underdog Saints.

The millions of well-wishers and supporters of a team that had never even played in a Super Bowl willed the football into the hands of Jonathan Casillas at the end of that pivotal event...

...the onside kick.

What a call.

Sean Payton. The new Riverboat Gambler. A stud among studs. The only onside kick ever successfully executed before the fourth quarter in a Super Bowl. Quite possibly the most gutsy coaching call in Super Bowl history.

An onside kick to OPEN the second half?! Are you kidding me??! Wow...

I said in my prediction post that coaching or play-calling wouldn't be the difference. But it surely was tonight.

The Saints rode the wave of that momentum changing play all the way to the championship. If that play doesn't happen, the Colts could very well have taken that possession and scored a TD which would have made it 17-6, kept the wave of momentum from the goal line stand on the Colts' sideline and sent the Saints home to New Orleans quietly and as expected...as losers.

But those do-gooding, well-wishing onlookers made that ball end up with the Saints and made me look like a complete idiot...again.

Thanks a lot well-wishing, do-gooders. I shan't forget this.

And how's this for frustrating - the Cowboys have beaten two of the last three Super Bowl champions during the regular season...on the road.

We beat the Giants in 2007...twice. And we beat the Saints this year in New Orleans.

Oh well...at least we won a playoff game. But I still look like an idiot.

I should make a prediction on a can't-miss hockey game just for my confidence.

But games like tonight are the reason I'm in love with sports and competition. Because you just never know...no matter how much you think you know.
  • mark rogers
  • February 7, 2010 11:14 PM

SUPER BOWL PREDICTION

My last prediction was a little off...I predicted the Cowboys would beat the Vikings. Can't win 'em all.

So I'll try to redeem myself with this one.

The Colts will win Super Bowl 44 tonight...and it won't be close. Here's why:

With a win in the NFC Championship last week, the New Orleans Saints have done something no other New Orleans Saints team has ever done - they advanced to the Super Bowl.

The Saints and the whole city of New Orleans celebrated the NFC Championship win like they had just won the Super Bowl. If they lose tonight, the season will still be seen as a huge success. The team will still be celebrated and applauded around town. They will be seen as an inspiration no matter what.

I know. I was in New Orleans before they had even played a playoff game earlier this month and the city was already celebrating like they had already won the Super Bowl. Not a good sign.

On the other hand, the Colts and the city of Indianapolis could CARE LESS about winning the AFC Championship. Been there. Done that.

A loss tonight and they'll get booed back in Indy. The season will be seen as a huge, embarrassing failure. There will be talk of firings, trades and replacements. The season will be a complete, total and absolute loss.

That's a pretty big difference in mentality heading into the game.

Yeah, the Saints will have the inspiring story of the Hurricane Katrina disaster behind them. Drew Brees is great. They have a dynamic and aggressive defense. They are a great team and have some players that have big game and championship experience.

But it doesn't matter.

Tonight, you can throw records, match-ups, coaching advantages, statistics, rankings, strategy, execution and play-calling right out the window.

NONE of it matters.

The ONLY thing that matters tonight is that the Colts know what it's like to win a Super Bowl, and their season will be a complete waste if they lose.

And the Saints have never even been to this stage EVER in the history of the franchise and will probably still get a parade after they lose by three possessions tonight.

I'm not even going to give myself an out on this one. Not even a "Well I could be wrong, but..."

No.

The Colts are going to win. It will be at least a three possession game. And if I'm wrong?

I won't be wrong.

Colts - 38
Saints - 14
  • mark rogers
  • February 7, 2010 5:04 PM

February 1, 2010

BENNY WILEY HEADED TO TENNESSEE

#4 in my previous post needs to be amended.

Benny Wiley was initially retained by the new coaching staff at Texas Tech, but has agreed to join the new staff at Tennessee effective immediately.

Big move for the Wileys....just thought I'd update that error.

Signing day is two days away!!
  • mark rogers
  • February 1, 2010 2:23 PM