Training Camp With the Portsmouth Destroyers

Think Hard Knocks of the United Kingdom:

Shot over 3 days in October 2010, this documentary gives an exclusive inside look at the University of Portsmouth Destroyers American Football Team. This insight into their pre-season camp aims to tell the story of what motivates a Championship caliber team and attempts to promote the game of American Football in the UK.

The film documents the physical toll demanded of American Football players and charts the highs and lows of being a student athlete.

For more information on University American football please visit buafl.net.

(Hat tip.)

Highlights from the championship game after the jump.

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Have any high profile quarterbacks significantly and noticeably improved their arm strength?

I listened to the Solid Verbal podcast this morning, and Ty and Dan discussed the plethora of “popgun armed quarterbacks” currently plaguing college football. Relatedly, a reader asked about why quarterbacks can’t seem to improve their arm strength once they reach a certain age. I can think of really only one example of a guy whose arm now seems significantly stronger than it did earlier in his career as a college player and rookie, and that’s Tom Brady. And, well, Tom Brady is Tom Brady. But it does seem like this is generally true, at least at the higher levels once a quarterback is physically mature: There are almost no examples of guys whose arms went from “popgun” to bazooka through discipline and training, not matter how tall they are or how many weights they lift.

This is not entirely surprising, given the unique nature of a throwing motion, but even golfers manage to add some power to their drives. (Maybe someone with more of a baseball background can tell me if any pitchers have added MPH to their fastballs after hitting college or the majors. Quarterbacks are not pitchers but there are similarities.) But I really can’t think of quarterbacks who have really improved the amount of power behind their throws. Of course, Dub Maddox and Darin Slack might have a thing to say about this, but I’m curious what the general reader thinks. Feel free to chime in.

Breaking down the Buffalo Bills’ game winner

It’s up over at the Grantland blog:

The route concept the Bills used on the play is an old West Coast offense staple: the “drive” concept. On the play, the outside receiver, usually in a short motion (just as Nelson was) comes in motion toward the line of scrimmage and runs a crossing route. An inside receiver will push straight upfield to 10 to 12 yards and break across (on this play, the Bills used a man-to-man technique where the receiver turned outside but pivoted back inside), while a third receiver, in this case the running back, ran to the flat.

Read the whole thing. I should have a longer feature up over there later this week.

Smart Links – 9/16/2011

Alligator Army on Tennessee’s passing game. I hope to break down UT’s offense at some point, but OC Jim Chaney has done a nice job evolving his old Purdue offense and combining it with NFL concepts and sets from his time in that league. Bray threw touchdown passes on the 3-step fade/out combo, double post, smash with a divide post route backside, and then just a busted coverage pass.

The 4-3 “Lightning” Cover Zero.

Runningback Balance Touch Drill.

Klosterman on small-school offensive wrinkles. I enjoyed this, but I have a hard time forgiving him for the use of Gregg Easterbrook’s inapt “Blur Offense” moniker for Oregon.

Why Noel Mazzone?

When will Ray Lewis slow down? Uh, maybe never, it seems like. I’m beginning to think he’s a Highlander.

Chase Stuart likes the Bills (to an extent) but isn’t so keen on the Chiefs. I tend to agree.

World’s worst analogies.

Breaking down Cam Newton’s first NFL touchdown pass

This piece is up over at Grantland as well, this time on The Triangle blog. Check it out:

Entering this season, the biggest questions surrounding Cam Newton were about his ability to stand in the pocket, identify the pass coverage, find the open receiver, and deliver the football under pressure. Newton showed a level of maturity against the Cardinals he had not shown in the preseason, aided in particular by go-to receiver Steve Smith. Newton’s first career NFL touchdown, a 77-yard bomb to Smith, showcased Newton’s poise in the pocket.

Read the whole thing (and check out the earlier in-depth piece on beating the blitz with Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers).

New Grantland article: Beating the Blitz with the Best

I will be contributing this fall to Bill Simmons’ Grantland, and the first piece is online now. Check out my first piece, about how the best (Rodgers, Brady, Manning) beat the NFL blitz:

Identifying, and developing a quarterback who can play under pressure is a true challenge. As one NFL personnel director told me, while there are 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL, there aren’t 32 players qualified for their jobs. Throwing motions and mechanics go out the window unless a guy can be accurate under pressure and make great decisions. No one cares how good a quarterback is against air. What matters is: Can he beat the blitz?

Smart Football is still home (and I’ll be sure to link to all the Grantland pieces from here), but I’m very excited to contribute to Grantland this Fall. Look for both NFL and college football centric articles and blog posts throughout the season.

Sentence of the day, “Isn’t that the job description?” Edition

Others have mentioned this already, but it’s too good to not to put up:

“They’ve got fullbacks that want to block your soul.”

That’s Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz speaking about upcoming UT opponent BYU.

Smart Notes – Hurricanes, Snakes, Stupid Sweep – 8/30/2011

That’s dedication. Despite the wrath of Hurricane Irene, football continued, even if in somewhat limited form as Virginia Union defeated St. Augustine 12-0:

What was billed as “The only game in town” became maybe the only game on the East Coast, which was hit Saturday by Hurricane Irene. Despite some of the worst conditions imaginable, the game went on, and Virginia Union defeated St. Augustine’s 12-0 at Hovey Field.

“We knew there’d be rain,” VUU coach Michael Bailey said. “But you don’t stop football for rain. You stop it for lightning and tornadoes. That wasn’t in the picture, so we felt like we could get it in. This wasn’t the first time we’ve played in rain.” . . . After the game, St. Augustine’s showered and changed in Barco-Stevens Hall, Union’s basketball arena. Ceiling tiles had collapsed, and puddles developed on the floor.

Virginia Union had to petition the NCAA to play this game, which filled a hole created in both teams’ schedules when Saint Paul’s cut its athletic program in May. Bailey said he didn’t want all that hard work to go to waste.

The wind was so bad, when Union punter Paul Jones attempted the first punt of the game, it went up, then stopped as if it had hit a wall and plunged straight down. The punt went minus-1 yard.

Jones had four punts for a total of 60 yards. When he had the wind at his back, he got one to go as far as 32 yards.

Though not all of the follies in the game were directly the result of the Hurricane (via DocSat):

Snakes on a… what? When coaches tell you to fight through the elements, I don’t think they had this in mind:

Darrick Strzelecki, a star running back for Gravette (Ark.) High, is used to close encounters with linebackers on the football field. He’s not so accustomed to run-ins with reptiles on the field … or at least he wasn’t until a practice on Tuesday. That’s when Strzelecki took off his helmet during a water break and found what he thought was a toy snake. As it turns out, it wasn’t a toy at all, though he only discovered that when the reptile slithered away.

“It looked like a rubber snake, and I thought someone had played a practical joke on me,” Strzelecki told the Associated Press. “When I grabbed it by the tail, that’s when it jerked, and I dropped the helmet.”
Luckily, a Gravette assistant coach was able to confirm that the snake which hid in Strzelecki’s helmet was non-venomous after killing it shortly after it slipped out of his head gear. A day later, school officials made a clean sweep of the school’s locker room and all of the equipment used by its teams.

Putting the defensive end in conflict, from Shakin the Southland.

Go forth: Bill C. shares data on receiver targets, catches and close games.

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Smart Links – Purdue QBs, Graham Harrell, Apple and Auburn – 8/25/2011

Purdue quarterbacks’ lifespan nasty, brutish and short, from Holly at her new home at SI (with some additions from myself). But despite 5,000 ACL injuries to current and former players, there may be some room for optimism: “What the Boilermakers do have on their side, sort of, is time: a home opener against Middle Tennessee State, a road trip to Rice, a visit from Southeast Missouri State and a bye week give more cushion than most teams could reasonably expect to enjoy between what remains of fall camp and the meat of the schedule. That meat, when it arrives, will be a tough cut: Notre Dame comes to town in Week 5, and subsequent conference games include Ohio State, Iowa, and road trips to Penn State and Wisconsin.”

Watch this on your iPad: Steve Jobs in 1984:

Relatedly, new Apple CEO Tim Cook is an Auburn grad:

“I have so much Auburn memorabilia, you might think it’s the Auburn outpost of J&M and Anders.”

Also: “When I was in high school, some teachers advised me to attend Auburn. Some teachers advised me to attend the University of Alabama,” Cook said in his address. “And, well, like I said, some decision are pretty obvious.”

Graham Harrell is making a run at it. Does anyone else see coaching in this guy’s future? Lots of interesting tidbits from the article:

So Harrell headed to the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders. He was on their injured list, the CFL’s weird way of keeping players, especially American players, on the payroll so they aren’t claimed elsewhere. But he was healthy and practiced all season and said the bigger field helped expand his range. “It forced you to make bigger throws,” said Harrell. “One of the knocks of Texas Tech quarterbacks – me or anyone out of there – is that we don’t make big throws, don’t want to go deep. You go to Canada with a 65-yard wide field, you have to make the big throw.”

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The Miami Scandal: Eleven

A few months back, Yahoo! Sports’ Charles Robinson said that they had a “10 out of 10″ scandal story, while the Tressel situation only garned a middle rating. Well, it’s here, and it’s an eleven:

In 100 hours of jailhouse interviews during Yahoo! Sports’ 11-month investigation, Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro described a sustained, eight-year run of rampant NCAA rule-breaking, some of it with the knowledge or direct participation of at least seven coaches from the Miami football and basketball programs. At a cost that Shapiro estimates in the millions of dollars, he said his benefits to athletes included but were not limited to cash, prostitutes, entertainment in his multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to high-end restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play (including bounties for injuring opposing players), travel and, on one occasion, an abortion.

The entire breakdown is unreal, as are the individualized player pages detailing the involvement of specific current and former players and recruits. Go and read it. (Though the Worldwide Leader seems a little slow on the take . . . .)

My questions are these: How do you stop this kind of thing, with some renegade booster running his own personal red light district? And for high school coaches, do you educate your players to try to avoid this kind of thing, both on recruiting trips and as players? Can you? (Note that the page for Orson Charles says it was his high school coach that took him to meet Nevin Shapiro.)

And, finally, with all the fear about paying stipends to player or criticisms of amateur athletics in general, stories like this make me wonder if it’s all beside the point: In time, amateur collegiate athletics may simply collapse under its own weight.