Huddle Up: The Year of the Lions? By Jason King

 The Detroit Lions haven’t been to the playoffs since 1999.  Since then all three of Detroit ’s other professional teams have won championships. We have seen two United States Presidents since the Lions last played into January.  The average price for a gallon of gas was $1.13 in 1999.  I don’t want to go as far as saying hell will freeze over before the Lions get to the playoffs again, but I’m sure it feels that way to Lions fans.The Lions won the NFL championship in 1957.  In the 54 years since then,  Detroit has been to the playoffs only nine times.  The Arizona Cardinals own the longest drought in the NFL, not winning a championship in 64 years.  Still, the Lions are one of only four teams never to appear in a Super Bowl.  The other three are: Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Cleveland Browns.

Few fans have suffered like Lions fans.

This could be the year their fortunes change.  The NFC is stacked.  Seven teams won 10 or more games and 14 of the 16 teams in the conference won at least six games last year. The Lions were 6-10 and won their last 4 games.  They gained a lot of momentum at the end of last season and seemed to buy into what Jim Schwartz was teaching.  It looks like the Lions could be ready to take that next step.

They looked razor sharp in their preseason rout of the Cincinnati Bengals 34-3.  Matthew Stafford looked healthy as he led the Lions to touchdowns on his only two series.  He was 6-7 with 71 yards and 2 TD passes.  The 26-yard TD pass to Calvin Johnson made Lions fans everywhere feel good.  Johnson ran an out route and Stafford threw a pin-point pass right at the pylon where only Johnson could catch it.  If they stay healthy this could be one of the most dynamic quarterback/wide receiver combinations in the NFL over the next 10 years.

The defense is a work in progress.  They looked good in the game against the Bengals, even intercepting rookie QB Andy Dalton on his first pass attempt.  Once again, they were playing the Bengals, nonetheless they looked impressive.

It’s only one preseason game but if the Lions can overcome some early injuries (DT Nick Fairley, RB Michael Leshoure, and LT Jeff Backus being the most prominent) and address their issues in the defensive secondary they could compete in a tough NFC.  One thing is for sure, the Lions are finally headed in the right direction.

Huddle Up

1. Cam Newton could make a big impact on the Carolina Panthers franchise:  The ovation Newton got when he came in the game was astounding for a preseason game.  Panthers fans are excited to see what Newton can do.  It will be interesting to see what effect he will have on that community.  He looked pretty good in the game.  He made some good throws and already looks like he has the respect of his teammates.

 2. The Bears don’t play by the same rules as everybody else.  They apparently didn’t get the memo that the new kickoff rules state that ALL kickoffs are at the 35.  They disregarded this and kicked their first two kickoffs from the 30.  Roger Godell please fine them heavily, especially since this was a premeditated act of disobedience.

3. Mario Williams needs time to adjust to his new role.  Slow up before calling him the next DeMarcus Ware.  Wade Phillips will have that defense a lot better than it was last year.  He got off to a good start, as they set a franchise preseason record with seven sacks in their preseason opener against the Jets. How quickly Williams finds his place could be a key to the Texans season.

4. The 49ers need a quarterback.  Jim Harbough must have been kicking himself watching the 49ers preseason opener on Friday night.  He probably thought “I should have stayed at Stanford because Andrew Luck is 10 times better than any quarterback I have on this roster.”  Seriously, Alex Smith looked horrible and Colin Kaepernick looked worse.  I expect Alex Smith to play better once he learns the system, but that could take a while.  There is hope, as 7 wins could win the NFC West again.

5. The Patriots put up 47 points in a preseason game which is a franchise record.  15 Patriot regulars sat out the game including Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Jerrod Mayo, Albert Haynesworth, and Chad Ochocinco.  Bill Bellichick really is a mad scientist.  He’ll run up the score in the preseason!!!

6. I get the feeling that a lot of teams will regret passing on Ryan Mallett in the April draft.  I don’t know if he will make his mark in New England , but we could look back at this draft 15 years from now and say Mallett was the best quarterback.

7.  Boy, the Colts need Peyton Manning to be healthy.  He is the most valuable player to his team PERIOD.  And nobody else is even close.  The Colts not having Manning would be just like the Cavaliers without LeBron James, from first to worst.  They would struggle to win 3 games.  It’s just another reason for Colts fans to be grateful for No. 18.

8.  First preseason games are meaningless.

9.  Greed is ruining college football.  These greedy bastards don’t give a damn about the integrity of student-athletes or collegiate athletics.  All they care about is money.  All we hear about are: scandals, recruiting violations, conference realignment, or adding more meaningless bowl games.  The play on the field is secondary.  Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin said, “We’ve made no decision about terminating our relationship with the Big 12.” “This is all about what is best for Texas A&M, along with … visibility for us and our athletes and financial resources. That’s what it’s all about. I think anybody in my shoes would have exactly the same kinds of concerns.”  Key words are “visibility for us…and financial resources.”  Now we hear about the scandal at the University of Miami .  The landscape in college sports has to change.

10.  Its only one game, but the new kickoff rule is going to change the NFL.  Yes it will prevent scary injuries seen in recent years on kickoffs, but it will also result in more touchbacks.  Who this helps and hurts most are still to be determined and I think judgments on this matter need to be reserved for a season or two at least.

 

Jason King is a contributing writer at Taking It to the House and can be reached at jdk2032@yahoo.com

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Bush to Reportedly Be Stripped of Heisman

Did really I take this picture of former Heisman Winner Reggie Bush or was it all mirage….apparently the Heisman Trust thinks so

In late 2005, I enjoyed a great evening in New York City as I attended the awarding of the Heisman Trophy.  That night, I was able to cover the award ceremony that I had loved watching as a youth.

To no one’s surprise that evening, former USC running back Reggie Bush won the award.  The player described as having video game type moves on the real gridiron was all smiles as he joined USC’s treasure chest of former winners.

But due to recent events, I have been left wondering if I really did make that trip to NYC five years ago.  After NCAA violations have been discovered against Southern Cal related to Bush, there have been rampant reports that Heisman Trophy Trust will soon be stripping the former college superstar of his award.  If this does indeed happen, Bush, would be the first player stripped of college football’s most prestigious honor in the 75-year history of the award.

Yahoo Sports is reporting that instead of Bush passing the trophy to the 2005 runner-up and former University of Texas quarterback Vince Young – who has stated he doesn’t want it – that the Heisman Trust will likely leave that season vacant.  I know that Reggie Bush did wrong by accepting improper gifts from agents while he was still in college, but the NCAA and the Heisman people will have gone too far on this one.

Anybody can see that this move is just being done to discourage any future college “hot shot” and/or unscrupulous agents from embarrassing the award…But give me a break.  USC has already been served with the NCAA’s harshest punishment since the SMU Death Sentence and Bush has been publicly humiliated by his alamater removing him from the school’s record book.  Enough is Enough as you cannot re-write history.

The Heisman Trust may think that they are doing the right thing by passing Bush off as a villain.  But trust me there are thousands of former big-time college athletes that have gotten payoff handshakes during their collegiate playing days.  Let’s face it…NCAA Football is just a glorified minor league for the NFL where everyone is fatting up huge dollars from Conferences to Schools to Cable Networks to Head Coaches to Athletic Departments.  But players are supposed to just sit quietly and wait for their turn to get paid in the pros…yeah right.

I have never been a big fan of college football and the main reason is the “Hypocrisy” of the entire system, especially their B.S Bowl Championship Series (BCS) that decides their National Championship team – something to argue about another time.  If anyone needs to be humiliated further it is not Bush, it should be the Conference heads and school presidents that keep trying to move college football back to the Knute Rockne era before college football is the billion-dollar business that it is today.

Now is the time for college football administrators to finally figure out a way of compensating players, because the current system is mockery.  Taking away Bush’s Heisman is a “face saving” move and is only window-dressing to the much larger problem of college football players getting the shaft.

Next thing you know former winners Jason White, Eric Crouch, and Rashaan Salaam will have to give back their awards, because they were “scrubs” in the pros.


Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Signing Day 2010

February 3rd was Signing Day around college football as highly touted prospects like Paul Jones –signed with Penn State — decided on their football futures

The first week of February has recently become a sports phenomenon as thousands of high school football stars announce their college selections on “Signing Day” (Wednesday February 3rd).  As someone who considers himself Old-school and a historian of the game, ‘Signing Day’ is a bit premature and overblown for my taste.  I find it hard to believe the amount of coverage — the ESPN family of channels devoted several hours of coverage — that is given to former high school stars who have not even stepped foot onto a college football practice field. 

I even heard some college football analysts absurdly handing out future National Championships and Heisman’s based solely on Signing Day. Sure it is a great experience for players and their families to be featured on national television, but you have to wonder if all of the white-hot ‘Signing Day’ attention and expectations placed on these young men does more harm than good.  Immediately you know these young players are feeling the outside pressure from hanger-on types that are looking at them as their meal ticket and in terms of football, coaches and teammates may want immediate results from a player who may not be ready to deliver for three years.  For all of the hysteria surrounding Signing Day, my advice to everyone patting these young men on the back is to “Relax”. The college football world needs to remember that it is only one calendar day and immediately after the 2010 Super Class is announced, everyone will already be getting ready to anoint the 2011 group. 

Unfortunately college football history is filled with high school hotshots who couldn’t live-up to their immense Letter of Intent expectations.  Remember the road from Friday Night Lights high school Big Man to Saturday afternoon college football playmaker is quite trepidous with many potential pitfalls including grades, competition, injuries, girls, partying and any other obstacle that can quickly dim any high school All-American’s bright future. 

Another trend that I believe is signaling the too quick end of blue-chip player’s youth is that many Signing Day prospects are graduating high school early — foregoing the final semester of their senior year — to enroll in college in January to get a head start on their competition by playing in college Spring Ball. 

We will have to see in the next 2 to 3 years how the Signing Day Class of 2010 progresses, but I caution college football fans to give these young players time to mature.  Of course the usual bullies of the BCS landscape – Florida, USC, Texas, LSU, Alabama, and Oklahoma – were listed as the winners of Signing Day.

Do you remember the names Dan Alexander, Anthony Martinez, Ron Powlus, and James Banks…probably not.  But on their respective Signing Days, these former blue-chippers were all considered “Can’t Miss” prospects.

Some of the players that I will have my eye on that signed their Letters of Intent on February 3rd are. 

NAME                        HOMETOWN            COLLEGE
Tarean Austin           Hillsborough, FL        New Mexico

Robert Bolden          Orchard Lake, MI      Penn State

Terrance Broadway Baton Rouge, LA       Houston

Dominique Brown   Cincinnati, OH           Louisville

Tymeer   Brown        Mc Keesport, PA       UCONN

Devin Burns              Columbus, GA           Maryland

Sam Carter                Alief, TX                      TCU

Kain Colter                Englewood, CO         Northwestern

James Franklin         Lake Dallas, TX         Missouri

Devin Gardner          Inkster, MI                Michigan

Jeffrey Godfrey         Miami, FL                   Central Florida

Javia Hall                    Dallas, TX                      UTEP

Kofi Hughes              Indianapolis, IN           Indiana

Jeremy Johnson        Silsbee, TX                  West Virginia

Rudy Johnson           Owings Mills, MD        Buffalo

Paul Jones                 Mc Kees Rocks, PA      Penn State

Conelius Jones         Spartanburg, SC           Michigan

Munchie Legaux       New Orleans, LA        Colorado

Randall Mackey         Bastrop, LA                 Mississippi

Cameron Newton      Atlanta, GA                Auburn (JC Transfer)

Jesse Scroggins         Lakewood, CA            USC

Jameil Showers        Killeen, TX                    Texas A&M

Oscar Simms            Chesapeake, VA           Alabama

Marcus Smith           Columbus, GA              Louisville

Jacoby Walker         Houston, TX                  Arkansas

Ricardo Young         Washington DC           Virginia Tech

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 HBCU All-American Team

Explosive Florida A&M kick returner Leroy Vann is one of several 2009 HBCU All-American team members that NFL scouts have their eyes on

This year the talent level at HBCU’s is exemplary and you can expect to hear some of the names listed on our 2009 HBCU All-American team called at the upcoming 2010 NFL Draft

OFFENSE

QB: Bryant Lee, Southern (6-3, 205, Sr., Boutte, LA) – A finalist for the Walter Payton Award, which is awarded to the top player in the FCS.  Lee was named the 2009 SWAC Offensive Player of the Year after posting passing numbers: 158-of-250 (63%), 2,039 yards passing, 19 passing touchdowns and  7 interceptions with 166 yards rushing and 5 TDs. Finished the 2009 season ranked 10th nationally in passing efficiency and 17th in total offense. Lee is the all-time passing leader at Southern with 7,654 yards.  Had probably his best game of the season in a 34-24 win over Alabama State, where he threw for a season-high 384 yards and four touchdowns. Threw at least two touchdown passes in seven-of-nine games this season.

RB: William Ford, South Carolina State (5-11, 185, Sr., Travelers Rest, S.C.)  — The MEAC’s and Bulldog’s 2009 leading rusher this season produced 1,010 rushing yards while averaging 5.3 yards per carry with 8 TDs.  Ford also is the MEAC’s all-time leading rusher with 4,650 career rushing yards, surpassing the mark of Hampton’s Alonzo Coleman (4,648) set in 2006.  Ford finished 8th in voting for the Walter Payton Award.

RB: LaMarcus Coker, Hampton (5-10, 195, Sr., Nashville, TN) — Began his college football career at the University of Tennessee where he contributed including a 42-yard touchdown run in the 2006 Outback Bowl against Penn State. The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s leading rusher totaled 1,027 rushing yards with six touchdowns. Participated in the East Coast Bowl, where he ran the 40 for scouts in 4.28. Also caught a 33-yard TD pass in the HBCU Bowl All-Star Game and finishing with a game-high 82 yards receiving on three catches.

OL: Robert Okeafor, Florida A&M, (6-4, 295, Sr., Jacksonville, Fl)

OL: Xavier Manuel, Alabama A&M (6-1, 307, Sr., Vineger Bend, Ala.)

OL: Steve Brazzle, Florida A&M (6-3, 332, Sr., Coatesville, PA)

OL: Michael Steven, Tuskegee (6-5, 380, Sr., Montgomery, Ala.)

OL: Ramon Harewood, Morehouse (6-6, 355, Sr., Barbados)

OL: Dennis Conley, Hampton (6-4, 303, Sr. Suffolk, Va.) 

TE:  Tony Cotton, Langston, (6-1, 210, Sr., Kellyville, Ok.)  — An emerging tight end, who has good field-stretching ability.  An All-CSFL for the second straight season, Cotton led all HBCU tight ends in receiving yards (601) via only 35 receptions for an incredible 17 yards per catch average.  The Langston versatile pass catcher also contributed 5 touchdowns.

WR: Juamorris Stewart, Southern (6-3, 195, Sr., Baton Rouge, La) Stewart led the SWAC with 81 catches for 1,028 yards and 11 touchdowns.  This big physical receiver, who was quarterback Bryant Lee’s favorite target, finished his distinguished career at Southern as the school’s all-time leader with 201 receptions for 2,668 career receiving yards and 25 touchdowns.  The FCS All-American has been chosen to play in the 4th annual Texas vs. the Nation all-star challenge football game. 

WR: Thomas Harris, Alabama A&M (5-11, 172, Sr., Alexander City, AL ) — A big-play receiver with solid speed (4.57), Harris along with Stewart look to be prime candidates to join a growing list of HBCU receivers making an impact in the NFL including Donald Driver (GB Packers/Alcorn State and Jacoby Jones (Houston Texans/Lane). Harris has great hands and is very good in open space after making the catch. Finished with 2009 receiving numbers: 56 catches for 808 yards, 14.4 ypc, and 7 touchdowns plus averaged over 26 yards per kickoff return.   Harris broke Arena Football legend Barry Wagner’s Alabama A&M school record for receptions.

DEFENSE

DL: Christian Anthony, Grambling State (6-4, 246, Sr., Birmingham, Ala.)  — An incredibly gifted defensive end that reminds some of former Alabama A&M and Indianapolis Colts star Robert Mathis.  Finished fourth in voting for the Buck Buchanan Award and was voted the 2009 SWAC Defensive Player of the Year.  The Birmingham, Alabama native led the SWAC in solo tackles (55) and finished with 76 tackles overall.  Anthony also contributed 8 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, 5 forced fumbles, 3 recoveries and five interceptions (returning 2 for touchdowns). 

DL: Junior Galette, Stillman (6-2, 255, Sr., Spring Valley, N.Y)    — A defensive end and NFL outside linebacker candidate, Galette transferred from Temple for his senior season at Stillman. A high-motor player, Galette led the SIAC with 9.5 sacks and also ranked 3rd in conference for tackles for losses (17.5 for minus 100 yards). In just 9 games, he recorded 56 tackles including 37 solo stops. Also had 12 quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles plus blocked a field goal.  Galette is clearly on the pros radar as he was recently timed at 4.63 in the forty and has been invited to the 2010 NFL Combine.

DL: Marcus Crump, St. Augustine’s, (6-6, 240, Sr., Pittsboro, N.C) – A lanky high energy pass rusher that reminds me of a young Jason Taylor.  Crump ended the 2009 season finishing 2nd in the CIAA in sacks (10) and 3rd in tackles for loss (15). The All-CIAA defensive end also ranked in the FCS in those respective categories – 7th in sacks and 25th in tackles for loss.

DL:  Jeremy Maddox, Alabama A&M, (6-0, 244, Sr., Grand Bay, Ala) – An explosive pass rusher with a good first step.  Reminds me of Kansas City Chiefs sack man Tamba Hali.  Maddox, a two-time All-SWAC selection and finalist for the Buchanan Award, finished second in the FCS with 12 sacks.

LB: George Howard, Morgan State (6-1, 245, Sr., Chesapeake, Va.) – A tough inside linebacker that has a nose for the ball.  Howard, an All MEAC first teamer, led the conference with 130 tackles (73 solo and 57 assisted) and also contributed 1 sack.

LB: Adrian Hardy, Alabama State (6-2, 197, Sr., Selma, Ala.)  — This outstanding senior linebacker finished with 104 tackles this season to lead the SWAC. Also led the league with 9.5 stops per game and ranked him 34th in the FCS. Posted five double-digit tackle performances this season including a career best 17 tackles against Tuskegee. The strong pro prospect also contributed 10.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and a team-best five interceptions in 2009.

LB: Marcus Jamison, Jackson State (6-1, 235, Sr., Brooksville, MS) – This All-SWAC pick finished with 56 tackles, six tackles for loss and a forced fumble.  Participated in the inaugural HBCU Bowl all-star game.

LB: Brandon Peguese, Hampton (6-1, 235, Jr., Greensboro, NC) – This high-energy junior outside linebacker and transfer from South Florida led the MEAC in sacks (7.5) and tackles for loss (16).

DB:  Anthony Beck, Prairie View A&M, (5-11, 175, Sr., Channelview, Tex.) — A four-year starter at safety, Beck capped off an impressive career at Prairie View by leading his team to their first ever league championship.  Produced 3 INTs and 48 tackles in 2009.  The Houston native holds the school record for interceptions returned for touchdowns (3) in addition to picking off 11 passes for his career.  Also was named All-SWAC for the 2nd straight season and participated in the inaugural HBCU Bowl all-star game.

DB: Quintez Smith, Shaw, (6-1, 195, Sr., Dublin, Ga.) – Was named as a NCAA Division II All-American after producing 9 INTs which led the football division and tied the all-time DII record – returned 4 INTs for touchdowns. Finished the season with 49 tackles and scored two other touchdowns on fumble returns. Also had a very good performance in the East Coast bowl.

DB: Jason House, Southern, (6-0, 190, R-Jr., Laurel, Miss) – Named as a 3rd team All-American and All-SWAC, this sticky fingered safety led the SWAC and NCAA (FCS) with 10 interceptions and 230 yards in returns in 2009.  This gifted track athlete and wide receiver turned defensive back also return one of his picks for a touchdown.

DB: T.J. McCord, Grambling (6-1, 195, Sr., Mobile, AL) – A tough free safety who is good in coverage and will also come-up to lay the lumber.  McCord produced numbers of 52 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 INTs (returned one for a touchdown), 8 pass break-ups, and 1 fumble recovery.

DB: Antwane Cox, Bethune-Cookman (6-0, 180, Sr., Miami, FL) – Transferred from South Florida a couple years ago and had an immediate impact.  An All-MEAC first teamer, Cox produced 50 tackles, 2 INTs, 11 pass break-ups, and 1 fumble recovery.   

DB: Terrell Whitehead, Norfolk State (6-2, 200, Sr., Virginia Beach, Va.) — Whitehead was named First Team All-MEAC for the third straight year.  Also was named as a First Team FCS All-American by the AP and Walter Camp Football Foundation.  Finished the 2009 season with 70 tackles, 5 INTs (led MEAC), four pass break-ups, three tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Ended his collegiate career as the FCS active leader in career interceptions with 18.

Special Teams

PK: Ari Johnson, Grambling State, (5-11, 180, Fr., Corona, Calif.) – Only a freshman, Johnson led the SWAC and all of HBCU football by scoring an amazing 90 points.  The GSU strong-legged kicker made 18 for 23 field goals attempted and converted 36 extra points plus had 46.0 yards per punt average.

P: Jahmal Blanchard, Hampton (6-3, 182, Sr., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) — A three-time All-MEAC selection, Blanchard ranked third in the nation in punting with an amazing average of 43.9 yards per punt. Selected 3rd Team FCS All-American by the AP

KR: LeRoy Vann, Florida A&M (5-9, 179, Sr., Tampa, Fl) — This hard-to-believe former walk-on was arguably the most explosive player in all of college football (FCS or BCS).  Vann, who was featured in Sports Illustrated and ESPN’s SportsCenter, finished his college career as the FCS record holder for career returns for scores (11 overall with 8 punts and 3 kickoffs).  The speedster, who many are comparing with Bears former Pro Bowl player Devin Hester, had 6 return touchdowns (3 punts and 3 kickoffs) this season.  And finished with eye-popping numbers: 28 punts for 462 yards (16.5-yard average) and 3 TDs plus 38 kickoffs for 1,121 yards (29.5-yard average) and 3 TDs.  Vann – 1st team All-American selection in FCS — finished his stellar college career as the fifth player in FCS history to record over 1,000 yards on both kickoff and punt returns.  He also impressed scouts by being named the MVP of the inaugural HBCU Bowl all-star game after returning a punt 81 yards for a touchdown. Vann recently said of his stellar play for a smaller player, “I wasn’t the average size they were looking for. But I think it’s more than size. You’ve got to have no fear. You’ve got to play with heart.”

HONORABLE MENTION

OFFENSE

QB – Curtis Pulley, Florida A&M (Transferred from Kentucky); Dennis Brown, Norfolk State; K.J. Black. Prairie View A&M; AJ McKenna, Albany State; Tim Buckley, Alcorn State

RB – Ulysses Banks, Alabama A&M; Quinn Porter, Stillman; Ramon McElrathbey, Howard; Donald Babers, Prairie View A&M; Demetric Johnson, Albany State; Devan James, Morgan State; Frank Warren, Grambling State

OL – Revay Smith, Grambling State; Joseph Ephrem, Albany State; Johnny Culbreath, South Carolina State; Ryan Cave, Hampton; Nick Royal, Hampton; Colin Cordell, Fort Valley State; Gabriel Manns, N.C. Central; Edawn Coughman, Shaw; Dylan Stivers, Elizabeth City State

WR – Oliver “Tre” Young, South Carolina State; Damon McDaniel, Hampton; Chris Bell, Norfolk State; Antoin Mitchell, Tuskegee; Robert Holland, Chowan; Thomas Harris, Alabama A&M

TE – Jonathan Hannah, Texas Southern; Warren Matthews, Southern; Lamont Bryant, Morgan State

Defense

DL – Justin Lawrence, Morgan State; Sam Washington, Jackson State; Rashad Hunt, Texas Southern; Brandon Fortune, Virginia State; Malcolm Jenkins, Elizabeth City State; Dexter Jackson, Bethune-Cookman; Tyrell Henderson, Kentucky State

LB – Brandon Jackson, North Carolina A&T; Julius Wilkerson, South Carolina State; David Erby, South Carolina State; Marcos Esquivel, Fayetteville State; Julio Sanchez, Hampton; Cliff Exama, Grambling State; Andrew Eggleton, West Virginia State

DB – Rechard Johnson, Alabama State; Michael Higgins, Mississippi Valley State; Kevin Thornton, Arkansas—Pine Bluff; Malcolm Palmer, Jackson State; Markee Hamlin, South Carolina State; Francis Adjei, Delaware State; Roderick Williams, Alcorn State; Phillip Adams, South Carolina St; Antwan Allen, Savannah State; Kerry Hoskins  Jackson State; Ryan Rich  Jackson State; Curtis Thomas  Texas Southern

PK –  Jeremy Licea, Alabama A&M; Justin Castellat , Norfolk State; Austin Turner, Fayetteville State; Blake Erickson, South Carolina State; Trevor Scott, Florida A&M;

P – Carlos Reyes, Arkansas-Pine Bluff; Chance Wilson, Alabama A&M

PR/KR – An’Thon Harris, Fort Valley State; Justin Wright, Alabama State; De’Markus Washington, Texas Southern; Charles Hawkins, Southern University 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

What Conference is the Best?

In 2009, the question above is easily the toughest one answer. Obviously I don’t think the SEC is the strongest. Experts will make their case for the Big Ten and mention teams like Ohio St., Penn St., Iowa, Wisconsin, and even Michigan. The first four are all ranked in the BCS standings, which means the Big Ten has more ranked teams than the SEC. Does that mean that the conference is better top to bottom than the SEC, because if it is, and the SEC is supposed to be the best in the nation, does this then mean that the Big Ten is the best? I know that was a long question but that sums up the parity of college football in 2009.

Although it may be a difficult task to name the best conference in 2009, it is not so hard to realize that the Big Ten is not it. Iowa, Ohio St., Penn St., and Wisconsin are all in the top 25, but with 2 games to play (for most Big Ten schools) is anyone a big believer in any of them? Does anyone think that any of them could match up athletically against the top 3 teams of the other conference? Even the Big East with Cincinnati, South Florida, and West Virginia has more speed than any of the Overrated 4 of the Big Ten. It’s like the conference is the new place where time forgot. Every other conference has gone to a more spread and open game where the Big Ten still is stuck in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. They are still tough, grind it out teams, but they are only built for that conference. Once they step out and play a top notch opponent they usually get waxed. These teams know that too, that’s why the out of conference schedules are ridiculously easy.

Ohio St. almost lost to Navy, lost to USC at home, and beat up on Toledo and New Mexico St. New Mexico St.?! Even Temple would be more daring. The Buckeyes slate is bad but nothing compared to Penn St. The Nittany Lions played Akron (2-7), Syracuse (3-6), Temple (7-2, like I said more daring), and I-AA Eastern Illinois (7-2). The combined record is a respectable 19-17, but when your toughest out of conference game is Temple at home, are you worthy of a BCS bowl? All of those contests were also in Happy Valley. Iowa does have a quality win beating Arizona in Iowa City, but Northern Iowa, Iowa St., and Arkansas St. leaves much to be desired for the rest of the schedule. Add to that they beat I-AA Northern Iowa and Arkansas St., both at home, by a combined 4 points, and it should be off no shock to anyone that they finally lost this past weekend. Honestly, it’s about time. The last one of the four, Wisconsin, has home dates with Northern Illinois, Fresno St., and I-AA Wofford on the slate with a season ending road trip to Hawaii. How do any of these teams deserve a BCS bid over some non-BCS teams? The rest of the league is a bunch of mediocre teams beating each other up. The award for the best conference does not go to the Big Ten.

When Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College joined the ACC it was supposed to make it a super conference. A conference in which the winner of the Florida St./ Miami game would be etched into the BCS title game. Unfortunately it hasn’t worked out that way for the ACC. Georgia Tech is the cream of the crop at the moment for the ACC with a 9-1 record and #7 overall ranking. Their only loss was to Miami, which combined with Virginia Tech, make up the only legitimate teams in the conference this season. Each team has played (or will play) solid out conference schedules. Although Tech’s first game was Jacksonville St., the other 3 were road games at SEC Mississippi St. and Vanderbilt, and their rival game with Georgia, another SEC team, to finish the regular season. Miami has 2 cupcakes (Florida A&M and Central Florida) sandwiched around 2 good match-ups (Oklahoma and at South Florida). Virginia Tech has the best slate with Alabama (9-0) to open the season in Atlanta, home games against Marshall (5-4) and Nebraska (6-3), and a road game at East Carolina (5-4). That’s a 25-11 combined record for the Hokies out of conference opponents.

All of this sounds great, until you look at the rest of the conference. Although being solid teams, North Carolina and Clemson just have been too up and down to think that either team is capable of winning big games. The rest of the ACC is really just a bunch of teams, like Boston College, Florida St., Wake Forest, N.C. St., Duke, Maryland, and Virginia, that have no business being in a bowl, especially with a 6-6 record. A .500 team in a paltry conference should be relegated to the New Orleans Bowl, or something comparable. The best win of any of the above teams was the Wolfpack’s win over Pitt. Florida St.’s drubbing of BYU in Provo is still mind boggling, but that’s about it. They also have lost to the likes of Middle Tennessee St. (Maryland, for the second season in a row), Navy (Wake Forest), I-AA Richmond (Duke), and Virginia has lost to I-AA William & Mary and Southern Miss. Apparently the little guys can play with the ACC. TCU has beaten both Clemson and Virginia on the road. The Horned Frogs would play for the ACC Championship at a minimum if they were a full member. So if the ACC isn’t the best, that means we only have 3 BCS conferences left to choose from.

Of all the BCS conferences the biggest disappointment has been the Big 12. Teams like Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri are not as good as we thought, and Kansas St., Colorado, Iowa St., Baylor, and Texas A&M have done nothing to pick up the slack. Oklahoma St. and Texas Tech have been solid but you can mark the Cowboys also as a disappointment. The Dez Bryant situation aside, OSU was thinking BCS title this year until a little team from C-USA, Houston, came into Stillwater and ruined their season. That same Houston Cougar team that also beat Texas Tech. Wow, you mean to tell me that a non-BCS team beat two of the top 3 teams from the Big 12? We’ve been told that can’t happen. Obviously Houston could have competed in the Big 12 in 2009, and most certainly is better than any team from the North Division. Texas, however, will not receive any argument from me that they are not an elite team. Of course even the Longhorns have only beaten one ranked team (Oklahoma St.), and an out of conference lineup of UL-Monroe, Wyoming, UTEP, and Central Florida is pretty pathetic. Those four teams have a combined record of 17-19, and none of them may even get to a bowl game. Just to remind you, Texas is ranked 3rd. To give them credit only 2 of their wins have been by less than 24 points. A 34-24 win over Texas Tech, and a 16-13 win in the Red River Rivalry over Oklahoma. Texas may not have a brutal schedule, but they are beating up on their opponents. I would be shocked if the Longhorns stumbled the rest of the way. However, one team does not make the best conference, and therefore the Big 12 is also not the best.

If the Big 12 has been the biggest disappointment as a conference, then the Big East is easily the biggest surprise. With no real marketable, and tradition rich school, the Big East has long been considered as the weakest in the BCS, and possibly not deserving of an automatic bid. That is not the case in 2009. Cincinnati has been lights out all season and headlines what looks like 4 legitimate teams for the conference. The Bearcats are ranked 5th in the current rankings and have played just as well as Florida, Alabama, and Texas. Even with their starting quarterback going down, the Bearcats have kept rolling. I wonder what would happen if Texas lost Colt McCoy or Florida lost Tim Tebow for a couple games. Would they keep rolling the same way as Cincinnati? With Alabama it doesn’t matter who the quarterback is, they can’t score at all, and if they lost RB Mark Ingram for an extended period of time Vanderbilt could shut them out. The Bearcats have beaten two ranked teams on the road (Oregon St. & South Florida), and have another good road win at 6-2 Rutgers. With West Virginia, a suddenly hot Illinois, and Pitt still on the schedule, it would be really hard to keep them out of the title game if they were to win out.

The conference is not done with Cincinnati. Pitt has been a surprise and has been dominant lately, posting an 8-1 record thus far and climbing to #12 in the latest rankings. The meat of the Panthers schedule looms with home games against Notre Dame and Cincinnati, and the Backyard Brawl will be in Morgantown this season. We’ll know soon whether they are elite or not. West Virginia and South Florida have been solid all year, but the Bulls have been better, not only beating the Mountaineers, but also with a solid win in Tallahassee against the Seminoles. South Florida’s game versus Miami in Tampa on Thanksgiving weekend will be interesting to watch. Are the Bulls just good for the Big East or can they knock off a much more legit team from the ACC, and their home state. How much would it help USF’s recruiting if they were to beat Florida St. and Miami in the same year? Some people may put Rutgers in the mix of top Big East teams, but the Scarlet Knights are going to have to start getting more aggressive in the out of conference for me to take them seriously. Playing 2 I-AA teams in Howard and Texas Southern, and having Florida International, Army, and Maryland fill out their schedule is a joke. Howard and Texas Southern aren’t even really good I-AA teams. Howard is 0-6 in the MEAC. Rutgers has no business playing them. Their out of conference opponents are a combined 13-31, so in my opinion Rutgers is a total fraud. The other 3 teams in the Big East (UConn, Louisville, and Syracuse) have a combined 1-12 conference record and have accumulated only 10 total wins between them. Although the Big East is better than most thought, it’s still not the best.

In 2009 the honor of best conference goes to the Pac-10. Now that’s really hard words to hear in the east and south, but it is true. Top to bottom the Pac-10 is on top for two reasons. First, they have the most quality teams of any conference in the country, and second, they actually schedule people out of conference. Oregon, USC, Arizona, and Oregon St. are all ranked, and Stanford should be. Cal is a very good 6th place team and 7th place Arizona St. would be a top tier team in a few conferences. The Pac-10 from top to bottom can compete and challenge anyone in the country sans Washington St. You will see this conference do very well come bowl season.

It is pretty obvious that I am very big on scheduling and challenging yourself to be considered a great, and a title worthy, team. Above all else this is why the Pac-10 is the best. If the Pac-10 scheduled like the SEC or Big Ten there would probably be 8 bowl teams. They like to challenge themselves however, so they may only get 6. I’m going to run down the out of conference slates for all teams, except Washington St., and you’ll clearly see the discrepancy between the aggressiveness of the Pac-10 and the timidness of the other conferences. Keep in mind that the Pac-10 is also the only conference that has 9 conference games so they only have 3 out of conference games. So they have 1 less game than most other schools, and 2 less than the Big East. Here are the schedules and whether they won or lost.

USC: San Jose St. (W)                                     

@ #11 Ohio St. (W)                                                        

@ Notre Dame (W)                                              

Oregon: @ #6 Boise St. (L)

          Purdue (W)

           #16 Utah (W)

Arizona: Central Michigan (W)                       

               Northern Arizona (W)                               

               @ #10 Iowa (L)

Cal: Maryland (W)

        E. Washington (W)

       @ Minnesota (W)

Oregon St.: Portland St. (W)                            

                   @ UNLV (W)                                                

                   #5 Cincinnati (L)                                             

Stanford: @ Wake Forest (L)

                   San Jose St. (W)

                   Notre Dame (11/28)

Washington: LSU (L)                                       

                     Idaho (W)

                     @ Notre Dame (L)                                                                                        

UCLA: San Diego St. (W)

                     @ Tennessee (L)

                     Kansas St. (W)

Arizona St.: Idaho St. (W)

                    UL-Monroe (W)

                    @ Georgia (L) 

I could go on and on and on with this, but I think it is clear the Pac-10 is the best conference in the country. They may not have won all of these games, but you have to give credit to some of these teams for putting these teams on their schedule instead of playing it safe to get to 6 or 7 wins, and a bowl game. These days in college football that type of scheduling is refreshing.

 

Kevin Hornung is the College Football Editor for Taking It to the House and a chief scout for Great Blue North Draft Report.  To talk college football with Kevin drop him an email at khornung9@verizon.net

The Many Problems with the BCS and Why the Little Guys Deserve a Chance by Kevin Hornung

The calendar has turned to November and as college football begins its last full month there are a lot of questions still left to be answered and a lot of them deal with the BCS system, as usual. With the voters and pundits still talking the same old and tired talk about the SEC being so superior, and that there is no way that the TCU’s and Boise’s of the college football world just can’t compete with the big boys, here at last, is a more common sensical approach to the 2009 football season. Get ready for some ranting because I have a lot on my mind. Continue reading

Cannot wait for Tebow to Come Play with the Big Boys

tim-tebow-statue

Can we just fast forward passed the 2009 college football season to see what kind of pro quarterback Tim Tebow will or will not be

It seems every time I bring up the subject of 2009 college football season, the subject of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow– “hallowed be thy name” —  is the first topic off people’s lips.  The only player to win the Heisman Trophy as a “true” sophomore is BCS football’s version of Super Man.  He says his prays every night, drinks his milk, doesn’t stay up late partying or with his girlfriend – often noted that he is a “virgin” – and usually wins on most Saturday afternoons. 

Tebow has been proclaimed by many in the press as being the “The Greatest College Football Player Ever” before the 2009 college football season has even started, thus fueling debates on his legacy everywhere.  BTW: Nebraska’s Tommie Frazier deserves the distinction as “Greatest”, in my opinion, as he played in three National Championships winning two and finished with a career record of 33-3 including destroying Florida 62-24 in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl while being named the MVP (199 rushing yards) despite missing significant time with blood clots.  Also Florida State head coach recently said to the Orlando Sentinel that his former Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward (1993) was better than Tebow. “People keep asking me about Tebow,” Bowden said. “You know, is he the best ever? I don’t know if he’s better than Charlie. I don’t think he runs better than Charlie. I don’t think he throws better than Charlie. And Charlie only played [quarterback] two years for us.”

Sure Tebow is everybody’s All-American boy as he boasts a treasure chest filled with accolades including a Heisman and two National Championship rings.  At 6-3, 240 pounds, and a record of 22-5 as a starter with abilities of leadership, instinct, and dual-threat athleticism (can beat teams passing and running), Tebow is on the cover of every college football magazine and truly is college football’s lovable bully.  Tim Terrific even was the recipient of a high profile coach’s man-crush as former NFL head coach Jon Gruden couldn’t say enough about him.  Some would say Gruden was Tebow’s biggest cheerleader after he gushed about him in a February 2009 interview

 “Tim Tebow is so interesting to me. He’s like Brandon Jacobs playing quarterback. He’s 250 pounds. He’s the strongest human being who’s ever played the position. Ever. He will kick the living [expletive] out of a defensive lineman. He’ll fight anybody. He is rare. Tebow is the kind of guy who could revolutionize the game”, Gruden said.  ESPN’s newest Monday Night Football analyst added, “(Tebow) can play quarterback in the NFL…This guy is totally different. He’s got Rich Gannon, Drew Brees, that kind of makeup as a team guy…That’s my favorite football player I’ve ever seen in my whole life.” Easy Gru-Dog before somebody says you having been stalking Tebow. 

Despite the endless amount of publicity that Tebow garners for his work on and off the field (missionary work) – has his own Sports Information staff at UF, for goodness sake. I still have one question, “Can (Tebow) play on Sundays?”  At this point, I definitely need to see more before anointing him the next Peyton Manning in the NFL.  Too often I have seen overhyped college football quarterbacks fizzle out in the NFL (see Alex Smith, David Klinger, Andre Ware, Rick Mirer, Ryan Leaf and others) due to a variety of reasons.  Mostly college football hotshot quarterbacks fail in the NFL due to their inability to perform without a great supporting cast of the nation’s best recruited talent around them, not facing a “homecoming” team every other week and defenses specifically schemed to stop them.  Let’s face it, the game speed and lack of sophistication of college defenses allows the Tim Tebow’s of the world to get away with mistakes on Saturdays that would be turnovers in the NFL.  The college game is much easier and allows for less preparation by quarterbacks.

I don’t want totally bury Tebow before he even steps foot on an NFL field.  And I do consider him a great leader as shown by him willing his team to the 2008 National Championship including his famous Rockne-esque speech after the Gators loss to Ole Miss.  The speech is will forever be part of Gator football lore as it now is display via a plaque outside the school’s football complex.  But give me a break in thinking that Tebow – passing numbers of 192- 298, 64%, 2746 yards, 30 TDs, and 4 INTs in ‘08 –will waltz through the 2009 college football season and right into the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft.  I am amazed how some pundits already have mapped out Tebow’s 2009 season before it has even started — wins his 2nd Heisman, wins his 3rd National Championship (2nd as a starter), NFL first round pick and dominates at the next level. 

I know 2008 was the year of the rookie quarterback in the NFL as both Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco led their teams to the playoffs.  But both Ryan and Flacco had a lot of pieces around them – strong running games and attacking defenses.  Plus both of them when they got drafted were light years ahead of Tebow in terms of reading defenses.  I believe that Tebow has a long way to go before the draft in April to prove that he is an NFL caliber quarterback.  For one thing, his throwing motion is a “push” / sidearm style, which lends me to believe he will get passes batted down at the line of scrimmage and his passes often wobble leading to questions of his arm strength.  Tebow also runs with a “fullback” mentality – you know I am running it and just try to stop me – which might work in college, but if he tries to run over a linebacker like Patrick Willis in the NFL, it may be his last run.  Lastly the 2007 Heisman winner locks in on receivers and often throws jump balls where great playmakers like Percy Harvin make him look good on Sportscenter. 

I am not the only person that believes Tebow is not an NFL caliber quarterback.  ESPN’s NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. also is skeptical of Tebow at the next level.  The man with the best hair this side of Jimmy Johnson believes that Tebow would be a better pro prospect as an H-back or tight end.  Kiper was so vocal about Tebow, that Super Timmy once called Kiper’s radio show to express his displeasure with his assessment.  In a memorable exchange, Tebow said to Kiper, “You tell me this, What do you think I need to do to be an NFL quarterback? You tell me that.”  Kiper responsed, “You’re just too good with the ball in your hands not to think, Could he be Frank Wycheck? Could he be Chris Cooley? That’s why. You’re too good, doing what you do, Tim, running with the football. You’re just too good with the ball in your hands.”

The Florida’s head coach Urban Meyer has also heard the naysayers and this season has altered his spread option attack to help fix Tebow’s NFL deficiencies. Meyer also brought in new quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler from the Detroit Lions.  Yes he was one of coaches from the NFL’s only 0-16 squad ever, but who keeps track of those sort of things anyway – hopefully Loeffler can teach Tebow not to run out the back of the endzone like former Lions quarterback Dan Orvlosky.  Tebow will be working hard with Loeffler to make him a better passer, which caused the NFL’s special draft advisory committee before the 2009 NFL Draft to say that he was likely to be taken somewhere between the second and 4th rounds.  That little bit of information caused Tebow to promptly go back to the “safe” confines of college football while allowing better quarterbacks Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, and Josh Freeman to graduate to the NFL. 

I am not saying that Tebow won’t get his chance in the NFL, but right now I cannot project him as an impact player as a quarterback in the NFL.  Without any more college eligibility after the 2009 season, Tebow will have no choice but to prove to NFL evaluators and his detractors that he is the “real deal”.  Maybe college football’s Super Man will prove me and others thinking that a position change is in order that we are wrong.  But Tebow will have to earn his way in the NFL and trust me it won’t be so easy playing with the big boys.  Many NFL veterans are tired of overhyped college stars getting big contracts and a coming into NFL lockerrooms with a “big man on campus” attitude. 

Only time will tell if Tebow has the goods to make it in the NFL.  But the first step for Tebow to prove his doubters wrong, of course after his “anticipated” magic carpet ride 2009 college season, is participating in the post college process.  I cannot wait to see him at the College All Star games (I recommend the Senior Bowl), the NFL Combine, and at Florida’s Pro Day.  And I am sure at all of these post college events, that Tebow receive the same “treatment” that other former decorated college quarterbacks, who were so-called “non-NFL quarterbacks” (Pat White, Vince Young, Brad Smith, Eric Crouch, and others) got from NFL evaluators.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)