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.
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):
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.
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.”
“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.”
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.”
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.
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.
Though commissioner Roger Goodell just led a collective-bargaining negotiation that resulted in NFL players being showered with money and benefits, according to Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison, Goodell is “a crook” and “the devil.”
That’s from his latest TMQ column and, uh, what? The rest of the lead-in to the column is an argument that the real reason the players don’t like Goodell is that the players simply resent that he has the audacity to enforce rules on safety. But setting that issue aside, Easterbrook’s intimation that the player’s should feel indebted to the Commissioner for having “led a collective-bargaining negotiation that resulted” in their “being showered with money and benefits” is just silly. The media had a difficult time sorting through the many moving parts in the lockout, but this kind of White Hat/Black Hat thinking was extremely defeating. The lockout was very simple: The old deal split revenues 50/50. The owners cancelled that deal because they said their expenses had gone up, and proposed a new deal that, among other things, split revenues closer to 60/40 owners versus players. The players balked, counter-proposed, dissolved their union, and sued, all in support of trying to keep the status quo regarding revenues. Many other issues were discussed, but once it became clear that the owners could potentially face anti-trust damages (though the players’ injunction was defeated), the two sides settled on a revenue split of roughly 53/47 owners/players (there is some wiggle in these numbers, as there was in the old CBA). (The veteran players were also able to get comfortable with less overall revenue for players by lowering the amounts payable to rookies and thus grossing up some of that difference with respect to veterans.) There were other bells and whistles, but that’s basically the story: cold hard capitalism; rough and tumble dealmaking, with high stakes (lots of money to divvy up); and plenty of complexity that reduces, like all big deals, to the bottom line.
Howard Schnellenberger is retiring. There is a lot to be said — and his persona was… unique — but the bottom line is that this is an important moment. Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno are more famous links to an older era, but they were also institutions at their own institutions; their reach was/is (in the case of Bowden and Paterno, respectively), limited largely to their specific schools. Schnellenberger’s reach across football is almost difficult to fathom from the vantage point of 2011:
He played for Bear Bryant at Kentucky.
He coached for Blanton Collier (who was Paul Brown’s right-hand man at the Browns before becoming head coach himself).
He was Bear Bryant’s offensive coordinator at Alabama (and won three National Championships while there).
He was Don Shula’s offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins, including for their undefeated 1972 season. He became head coach of the Baltimore Colts, before returning to coach for Shula at the Dolphins, and they returned to the Super Bowl in 1982.
He essentially invented, resuscitated and established the championship winning program at the University of Miami.
He essentially invented, resuscitated and established the respectable and bowl winning program at the University of Louisville. Howard defeated Alabama in the 1991 Fiesta Bowl 34-7; Louisville had almost discontinued the football program before he arrived.
He literally invented, resuscitated and established the bowl winning program at Florida Atlantic University. FAU had no program before Schnellenberger arrived; within two years they were playing football; within seven years they were a Division I program; and within nine years they had won the Sun Belt Conference Championship and won their first bowl game. They won their second bowl game the following year.
Howard has had his stumbles — he was fired from his job with the Baltimore Colts and there are few Oklahoma Sooners fans with fond memories of Howard — but in the big moments, when the big, grandiose plans are on the line like having an undefeated season, seeing UM become a national powerhouse, seeing Louisville in BCS conference, and seeing Florida Atlantic having a football team at all (let alone a pretty solid one), Howard came through. Indeed, Howard just has a knack for the big moments; there’s a reason why he never lost a bowl game.
2009 Houston cut-ups from when Holgorsen was offensive coordinator:
I actually expect West Virginia’s offense to resemble this a bit more than Dana’s offense at Oklahoma State. A lot of what they did at OSU was based off their great tailback and great outside wide receiver: last year, Dana ran a bit more than he had at Houston (and more straight ahead runs) and he used that to set up more one-on-one matchups on the outside with Justin Blackmon. As the clip below shows, with Blackmon and Weeden Holgorsen used more of an NFL route tree — go, post, comeback, etc. It all remains to be seen but the roster at WVU seems more like a variety of quick receivers, but not necessarily one go-to outside gamebreaker. But Dana’s good at adjusting to his talent.
- Sad.Arkansas runningback Knile Davis is out for the season with a broken ankle, before it even began. (For what it’s worth, this is exactly what I managed to do before my senior year of high school — broke my ankle four days before our first game. Mr. Davis’s is in a bit of an exalted position, but it’s not fun at all.) Arkansas has a deep backfield and a deep receiving corps, but if you forced Petrino to choose I think he’d rather lose a receiver than his featured back. And the person it probably affects the most is new quarterback Tyler Wilson. There is no better transition for a new quarterback than to step in with all of the firepower from the year before, and having a gamebreaker in the backfield is a huge help to a new quarterback. But Petrino will adjust, as he always does.
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