Thursday, February 26, 2009

Combine Breakdown: Quarterbacks

It is hard to measure quartberbacks based on their performance at the Combine. Unless you watched it live, you can't really put into statistics how well the quarterbacks did in throwing drills, etc. So, for the time being all we have to base our judgements on are the basic tests that everyone performs at the Combine (40 yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, etc.)

There were only two Big Ten quarterbacks at this years Combine. They were Michigan State's Brian Hoyer and Purdue's Curtis Painter. Neither of them did exceptionally well, or absolutely horrible. Painter clocked in at 4.92 on the 40 yard dash and had a 7.00 three cone drill. Both numbers were right about at the middle of the pack for the quarterbacks.

Hoyer ran a slightly slower 4.97 in the 40 yard dash and had the sixth highest (amongst QBs who participated) vertical jump, with a 32.0 inch leap.

Neither Big Ten quarterback, or any quarterback for that matter, improved their stock too much.
As far as the marquee names, Matthew Stafford ran a 4.84 40 and had a 30.5 inch vertical jump. Mark Sanchez turned in a 4.88 and 32.5. And finally, Josh Freeman ran a 4.97 and had the best broad jump at 9'11".

The real star of the Combine, amongst the quarterbacks, was West Virginia's Pat White. White ran a blazing 4.49 40 and had the highest vertical leap at 35 inches. White's 40 time was faster than 19 of the 23 running backs who ran during the Combine.

My Top Five QB Performers at the Combine:
1. Pat White
2. Matthew Stafford
3. Stephen McGee
4. Rhett Bomar
5. Mark Sanchez
Photo courtesy of scout.com

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Combine Breakdown: Wide Receivers

The story of the 2009 NFL Combine wasn’t who was participating, but rather, who wasn’t. Well, at least at the wide receiver position. Top prospects Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin both went down with injuries during the Combine.

ESPN.com’s John Clayton has since reported that Crabtree will delay his pending foot surgery until after his March 26th workout. Which means scouts will finally get to see how fast Crabtree really is.

Maclin and Crabtree were considered by most to be the top two prospects at the receiver position in the upcoming NFL Draft. Maclin was able to complete some drills and had a pretty impressive workout (4.45 – 40) before hyper-extending his knee. The injuries to Maclin and Crabtree shouldn’t hurt their draft status too much. They are still likely to be the top two receivers taken in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Darrius Heyward-Bey was one marquee receiver who was able to compete, and compete well. Heyward-Bey had the fastest 40 yard dash (4.30) and was also a top performer (top 10 at his position) in the bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, 3-cone drill, and 20 yard shuttle. Heyward-Bey has enough size (6’2”, 210) that scouts will now be drooling over his 4.30 40 yard dash time. He did nothing but help his draft status and should be contending with Percy Harvin to be the third WR taken.


The Combine was a great opportunity for two slightly undersize Penn State receivers to show that they are NFL material. One seized the opportunity while the other would like another chance. Former defensive back and walk-on Deon Butler was the one impressing scouts last weekend, and not the five star ‘do-everything’ athlete Derrick Williams. Butler proved that the Big Ten does have speed as he clocked in a 4.38 40 yard dash. On the other hand, Williams must have left his running shoes at home, running a disappointing 4.58.

My Top Five Wide Receiver Performers at the Combine:
1. Darrius Heyward-Bey, 4.30-40, 38.5 inch vertical jump
2. Mike Wallace, 4.33-40, 40.0 inch vertical jump
3. Mike Thomas, 4.40-40, 40.5 inch vertical jump
4. Deon Butler, 4.38-40, 37.0 inch vertical jump
5. Percy Harvin, 4.41-40, DNP in vertical jump
Photo from Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Combine Breakdown: Running Backs

The strength of the Big Ten conference in 2008 was at the running back position. That is why it was interesting to see how the Big Ten backs compared to the other running backs in the country during the 2009 NFL Combine.

Here are the top performers according to NFL.com:

40 Yard Dash:

Cederic Peerman – 4.45
Ian Johnson – 4.46
Kory Sheets – 4.47
Andre Brown - 4.49
Donald Brown – 4.51
Javarris Williams - 4.52
Mike Goodson - 4.54
Scott Bernard - 4.56
Glen Coffee - 4.58
Marlon Lucky - 4.59
Beanie Wells - 4.59


And the bench press:
Tony Fiammetta -30
Rashad Jennings -29
Brannan Southerland -28
Cedric Peerman -27
Ian Johnson -26
Cody Glenn -25
Javarris Williams -25
Beanie Wells -25
Knowshon Moreno -25
Andre Brown -24

As far as the Big Ten goes here are the unofficial results:
Kory Sheets 4.47 40 Yard Dash – 15 Bench Press Reps
Beanie Wells 4.59 25
Javon Ringer 4.60 23
Shonn Greene 4.63 19
Tyrell Sutton 4.66 (DNP in Bench Press)

But what does this all mean, Basil? Well, very little in my mind. There wasn’t one guy who really stood out and this years RB class measured considerably slower than years past. No one ripped off any Chris Johnson-esque 40 times (4.24 in 2008) and none of the marquee running backs turned any head on the bench press.

Naturally, there will be people moving up and down mock draft boards as people begin to breakdown the combine footage. So who gained ground and who lost value in their stock? I was surprised to see Shonn Greene only put up 19 reps on the bench press. No one was expecting Greene to go out and rip off a sub 4.5 40, so his 4.63 probably doesn’t hurt him too much, if at all. He certainly didn’t gain anything from his combine performance, but with the overall lack of eye-popping numbers from the running backs this year at the combine; he probably didn’t lose too much either.

As for RBs who gained some ground at the combine, I look no further than Donald Brown. Brown didn’t participate in the bench press but his 4.51 40 yard dash could be just enough for him to garner some attention. He was considered by many to be among the top five running backs coming off the board (Moreno, Wells, McCoy, Greene, and Brown). Brown may have jumped up a spot or two on that list and made himself some more money.

All in all, it was a less than stellar year at the combine for the 2009 RB class. Only four of them were able to run the 40 somewhere in the 4.4’s and not a single one ran under a 4.45. This means that scouts will have to rely on additional work outs (Pro Day, etc) and more game film to assess this RB class. This is good for the Big Ten backs as they put up some remarkable stats during the season (Greene, Ringer).

My Top 5 RB Performers at the Combine:
1. Cedric Peerman
2. Ian Johnson
3. Donald Brown
4. Andre Brown
5. Javarris Williams

Please note that this list differs vastly from my list of top 5 running backs heading into the NFL Draft (which I will unveil later).
All photos courtesy of Ben Liebenberg/NFL.com

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ferentz Gets Extension

Photo courtesy of Jim Slosiarek

Kirk Ferentz should someday be the Dean of Big Ten coaches. Ferentz has the second longest tenure in the Big Ten only behind the almighty JoPa. Earlier this month Ferentz was extended from his current contract that ran through 2012, and will now go until 2015.

This is nothing but good news for Hawkeye fans. Sure, Ferentz has had some down years at the beginning of his career, and more recently, the past couple seasons. But, the Hawks seem to be turning over a new leaf after finishing up a 9-4 season in 2008. They also finished the season on a four game winning streak and the forseeable future looks bright in Iowa City.

Ferentz is 70-53 in his 10 years at Iowa. Hopefully, Iowa is able to hold onto Kirk through the length of his contract (if not longer) as the NFL will continue to dangle the bait in front of him. But, with Scott Pioli was unsuccessful (assuming he wanted Ferentz) in getting Ferentz, I would assume that Kirk will retire a Hawkeye.

Photo courtesy of Jim Slosiarek

NFL Combine

It is that time of year again. The time of year when potential NFL prospects will sell their soul if it means shaving off tenths of a second on their 40 yard dash.

The NFL Combine opened this weekend in Indianapolis, Indiana. So far, the big news of the weekend has been the injured left foot of wide receiver Michael Crabtree. Usually, an injury during Combine week can be devastating to a player's NFL stock. However, I would suspect that this will have little to no effect on Crabtree's draft position. The injury is said to be not serious (stress fracture) and Crabtree is an elite WR in a draft class that really lacks depth at the receiver position.

Most people would argue that the NFL Combine and 40 yard dash numbers are extremely overrated. And, I don't completely disagree. The 40 yard dash is very overrated, as track speed doesn't necessarily always correlate into football speed. But, looking over recent years, you can't deny that the Combine has been a helpful tool in discovering talent.

You don't have to look any farther then last year's Combine for examples. I doubt Chris Johnson (East Carolina) would have been nearly as high of a draft pick had he not shocked everyone with a 4.24 40 yard dash. After the Combine, Johnson shot up the draft boards and was a first round pick. He also had a very productive rookie season for the Titans. I doubt Johnson would have gotten these same opportunities if it wasn't for the Combine, and he was drafted just based off of what he did at East Carolina.

The same can be said for Joe Flacco. Flacco went from division I-AA Delaware to leading the Baltimore Ravens to the AFC Championship.

Of course for every Joe Flacco or Chris Johnson there is a Combine bust who doesn't pan out. So, I ask you....is the Combine over or underrated?

AP Photo

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Threet to Transfer

Sophomore quarterback Steven Threet has decided to transfer from the University of Michigan. Threet led the Wolverines in passing this season (102-200, 1105 yds, 9 Tds - 7 Ints). Although Michigan will be without its leading passer heading into 2009, I don't think this news is going to break to many Michigan fans hearts.

Last season Rich Rodriguez was trying to fit square pegs into round holes, and well, the result was a 3-9 season. There is no question that the quarterback position was going to be open come spring practice, as Rodriguez brings in more players who fit his style of offense.

The quarterback position will now be an open competition between Nick Sheridan and true freshman Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson. It should be interesting to see who will get the most snaps under center in spring ball, and even more interesting to see who Rich-Rod decides to 'throw-to-the-wolves' come opening day.

Threet joins the list of Big Ten quarterbacks to transfer this offseason joining Pat Devlin and Jake Christensen.

Photo courtesy of the Associated Press

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Iowa Recruiting

The Hawkeyes 2009 class hasn’t gotten a lot of respect from the media, perhaps deservingly so. Their average rated recruit is 2.33 stars, which isn’t getting anyone excited. Iowa’s class is ranked last in the Big Ten by both Scout.com and ESPN.com. The Hawkeyes got only four recruits rated three stars or better. The other 14 recruits are all ranked below three stars. But, there is good news. I believe that at least two, perhaps three, of the future Hawks have potential to develop into something special.


All three of Hawkeyes top recruits were from the state of Iowa. The 2009 class was heavily focused on the offensive side of the ball.

Jordan Cotton (Mount Pleasant High School) may turn out to be the star of the 2009 class. Cotton, who played time at running back in high school, will make the switch to wide receiver when he steps foot on the Iowa campus. Cotton is athletically gifted and could be a great risk/reward player for coach Kirk Ferentz. I would imagine that Cotton will redshirt in 2009 and take the time to further learn the position and the intangibles of playing WR. This isn’t the first time Iowa has moved a high school running back to the wide out position. Remember that one guy, what was his name….oh yeah, Tim Dwight. If Cotton’s transition can go nearly as well as Dwights or any of their other position-switchers (Clinton Solomon and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos were both high school QBs) then the Hawkeyes are in luck.

Brandon Wegher has all but turned into an Internet sensation without ever playing a snap of college ball. The hype has gotten so out of hand he might as well be Chuck Norris’ long lost lovechild. Now don’t get me wrong the hype is well deserved. Wegher did everything you could ask for out of a high school running back competing against 3A talent in the state of Iowa. All 3A schools around Iowa will be happy to see number 32 move on from the high school ranks. His numbers, well they’re astonishing. From ESPN.com:


Finished high school career with 6,823 yards, third most in state history. 2008:
Rushed for state-record 3,238 yards and 54 touchdowns. 2007: Rushed for
2,334
yards and 34 touchdowns on 286 carries (8.2 average). Made 28 tackles,
intercepted one pass and broke up nine others



While Iowa, is surprisingly set at the running back position, (no one would have thought that following the 2007 season) I can’t imagine how you can keep a talent like Wegher off the field. I think he will make an impact in 2009 (barring a redshirt), either on special teams or as a third down change-of-pace back from the more powerful tandem of Jewel Hampton and Jeff Brinson. Wegher was rated the 16th best running back in the 2009 class by scout.com.

The star of the Hawkeyes class, however, is Keenan Davis. Davis, the more polished of the two WR prospects, figures to get every chance to step in and play from day one. Davis was an Under Armour High School All-American, and was placed on the ESPN 150 list (116). He is ranked as the 16th best WR prospect by ESPN.com. Davis has the size (6’3”, 195) and the speed (4.5 40) to have Hawkeye fans drooling about his potential after working with acclaimed WR coach Erik Campbell. Davis could be the spark that the Iowa passing game has been lacking in the recent past. I see Davis getting the opportunity and making an instant impact in 2009. Oh and he's pretty athletic too:



While Iowa's class wasn't received well by the media (78th overall), I think the top prospects pull the rest of the class up a little bit. The potential for two or maybe three real playmakers positioned the Hawkeyes 9th in my Big Ten rankings, above Northwestern (11th) and Indiana (10th).

All photos courtesty of scout.com

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Indiana Recruiting

Today we will take a look at the Indiana Hoosiers 2009 recruiting class.

When looking over Indiana’s 2009 recruiting class it is hard to find a marquee type player that will step in and make an instant impact. Well, at least on paper. Indiana was able to land six three star prospects but could only get their hands on one four star recruit. Additionally, none of Indiana’s signees cracked the ESPN 150 list. This is why I have the Hoosiers slotted in at number 10 in my recruiting rankings.

Indiana’s 2009 Recruiting Class

It is never a good sign when one of the stars of your class is a place kicker. That is exactly what happened with the Hoosiers. However, this could be one of the most valuable assets of their 2009 class. Indiana will be without their steady placekicker Austin Starr in 2009. Starr was placed on the 2008 Lou Groza watch list and will leave a huge void in the special teams department.

Therefore, it might not be a complete disaster that Indiana’s highest ranked recruit (79/100 on ESPN’s scale) was kicker Mitch Ewald. Ewald was ranked the fourth best kicker of the 2009 class and should get the opportunity to compete for a starting spot as soon as he steps on campus.


If there is one thing the Hoosiers were desperately missing in 2008 it was the threat of a big play receiver. Indiana’s top three receivers from 2008 (Andrew Means, Ray Fisher, and Demarlo Belcher) combined for only 1,160 yards and eight touchdowns. Needless to say, Indiana really felt the loss of 2007’s top wide out James Hardy (1,125 YDS, 16 TDs).

For these reasons it was huge that the Hoosiers one four star recruit was a wide receiver. Duwyce Wilson is the 38th ranked WR prospect of his class. He seems to have the size (6’2 ½”) and runs a 4.44 40 yard dash according to scout.com. Wilson won’t solve all of the Hoosiers passing problems, especially not right away, but a lanky wide out with some speed can go a long way in a spread attack.


Edward Wright-Baker might be a name that Big Ten fans become familiar with in the future. Because, if there is one thing Indiana knows how to do it is turning athletes into quarterbacks. If Wright-Baker can develop into another Kellen Lewis (with talent surrounding him) or, dare I say, Antwaan Randle El, then the Hoosiers are in luck. Wright-Baker is a quarterback prospect out of Jeffersonville, Indiana who was being recruited by most schools as an athlete. He seems to have the quickness (4.5 40) and the size (6’2”) to excel at the next level. But, according to scout.com he will need to work on his accuracy as he develops into a division one caliber quarterback. Wright-Baker was the 45th best QB in his class.

Those are the three players that I believe will have the most impact on the future of the Indiana football program. The Hoosiers class ranked 68th overall by collegefootballnews.com and 9th in the Big Ten. But, because they were only able to land one four star prospect and weren't able to land any really marquee names, they place 10th in my Big Ten rankings. However, they did fill some key positions, which is why they are ranked above Northwestern.

All photos courtesy of scout.com

Monday, February 9, 2009

Northwestern Recruiting

Today will start off the team-by-team breakdowns of the 2009 recruiting season.

I will be the first to admit that I am not an expert on recruiting. In these team breakdowns I will tell you who each school got and how they are projected by the experts. I will also give you my insight on who I think might make an instant impact, and how important each of the classes is to their school. I will start with the number 11th ranked team and work my way up to the top ranked Big Ten class.

The first team that I’ll be taking a look at is the Northwestern Wildcats.


When looking at the Wildcat’s class you can see why they were ranked at the bottom of the Big Ten. Northwestern wasn’t able to land a single ESPN 150 prospect and had zero recruits ranked 80 or higher.

There are three players that stand out in this Northwestern class. The first of which is quarterback Evan Watkins. Watkins has a body that appears to be college football ready. Watkins stands in at 6’6” and 230 pounds. Watkins went to Glenbard North High school in Illinois and committed to the Wildcats after his junior year, according to ESPN.com. Northwestern wasn’t the only Big Ten school interested in Watkins. Iowa also made Watkins an offer. Watkins graded out as a 78 out of 100 and the 26th ranked QB in his class according to ESPN’s rankings. According to Scout.com, Watkins is a three star prospect and the 63rd best quarterback in his class. Watkins probably won’t see the field immediately as 2008 back-up and part time starter Mike Kafka still has eligibility remaining but Watkins will definitely fixture into Northwestern’s plans sometime down the road.

The next prospect that deserves a closer look is the 6’5” 220 pound defensive end Davon Custis. Custis seems to have worlds of potential but is currently undersized in his 6’5” frame. According to Scout.com, Custis is great at initially getting off the ball but needs to work on his strength. When looking over Custis’ tape he seems to have all the athleticism you would want for a pass rushing defensive end but it is clear that he will need to fill out before being able to compete at the division one level. Custis, being a four star prospect, was Northwestern’s most prestigious recruit. He was also Scout.com’s 23rd ranked defensive end. Custis is a project that other big name schools were also willing to give a try as he gained offers and interest from such schools as: Boston College, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Wisconsin.

And finally, that recruit that might have the best shot at getting early playing time is running back Arby Fields. Fields is a three star recruit out of Rancho Cucamonga, California. When viewing his highlight reel it is easy to see that he is slightly undersized (5’8” 187 lbs) but can still run with power. Fields, most likely, won’t step right in and fill the void left by Tyrell Sutton. But, Fields does show some upside and could be a nice weapon if Northwestern decides to use him on special teams. Fields is a three star recruit and the 81st ranked running back in his class.


Overall, Northwestern's class was ranked 10th out of the 11 Big Ten teams by Collegefootballnews.com. But, because of the lack of size (18 commits) and zero ESPN 150 recruits I place them last in my Big Ten rankings.
All photos courtesy of scout.com

Friday, February 6, 2009

Lane Kiffin Puts Foot in Mouth

Associated Press Photo

Today we will stray away from the Big Ten temporarily to discuss a developing story in college football.

Dear Lane Kiffin, would you like any sauce with that size 12 foot you just put in your mouth? Kiffin was barely off the plane in Tennessee before he was making some serious allegations.

When I first heard this story I thought it was great. I thought it was a great move by Kiffin to call out Meyer. What better way to rally the troops and set a precedent for your tenure at a new program, than to call out the head honcho of the defending national champions? By calling out Meyer, Kiffin was telling the Tennessee faithful that he was here to win games and challenge for SEC titles.

Kiffin said during a Tennessee press conference that Urban Meyer had attempted to call one of his recruits during his official visit to Tennessee. So what, right? Well, according to Kiffin this was against NCAA recruiting policies and was a direct violation on Urban Meyer’s behalf. Kiffin went on to say that Meyer had to cheat and still couldn’t land his recruit (Nu’Keese Richardson who ended up committing to Tennessee).

Now, I am no fan of Urban Meyer and once again I thought it was a good move to try and rally the Tennessee faithful, but Kiffin was left with egg on his face when it turned out that such an action is in fact not an NCAA violation. The SEC has since come out and said that Kiffin broke the SEC’s code of ethics and Kiffin was called out by the Florida athletic director and asked to make a public apology. Kiffin has since issued such an apology, but the damage is done. The real losers in this story are Kiffin’s pride, reputation, and his team. Don’t think Urban Meyer will let Tim Tebow and company forget about this instance anytime in the near future.

Word to the wise, if you’re going to call someone out publicly at least make sure what your claiming is true. And as for Kiffin, he might want to coach at least one down of college football before he makes any more accusations.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Jenkins, Brown choose SEC over Big Ten

This isn’t the way the Big Ten wanted to start off the 2009 offseason. It goes without saying that national signing day is a huge day in college football. It’s usually the day when the rich get richer (Ohio State, Penn State) but it can also be a day when programs start to get their feet back on solid ground.

In my last post I mentioned how the Big Ten was in the running for two ESPN 150 recruits who had still yet to declare and were going to do so live on ESPNU’s national signing day broadcast. This was a case of the ‘rich getting richer’ but unfortunately for the Big Ten it wasn’t their schools who were benefitting from the wealth of extra talent.

Jelani Jenkins (#9 ranked talent) decided the best place to continue his education was at the University of Florida, where he’ll most likely be in the running to receive a national championship ring early in his career (even if it is as a redshirt freshman).

The many athletic skills of wide receiver Marlon Brown (#24 ranked) had many teams excited about Brown's talents. Ohio State was amongst the final schools on Brown's list but in the end Brown decided he wanted to become a Georgia Bulldog.

That wasn't the end of the bad news for the Big Ten. Ohio State dropped from number four in the recruiting rankings to number nine after signing day. Michigan jumped a few teams to crack the top ten at number ten and Penn State was the last team to make the top 25, according to ESPN's rankings (16).

Once again the SEC was the Big Ten's enemy, this time it was on the recruiting battlefield. However, all was not lost for the Big Ten as they did land two top ten clases (Ohio State, Michigan). After striking gold last year with the signing of high profile recruit Terrelle Pryor, this year's class may need more time to develop.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Recruiting 2009


Wednesday is the national signing day for high school athletes. Even though my last post commented on the fact that schools like Iowa don't necessarily need your prototypical five star athletes to excel, the fact still remains that elite recruiting can sure help a program. And, no one is ever going to complain about getting too many five and four star athletes (unless your USC and you just don't have the roster space).


Only two Big Ten schools are still in the running for ESPN 150 (a list of the top 150 recruits of 2009) players who are set to declare on ESPNU's signing day show. The names that Big Ten fans should keep a look out for are Jelani Jenkins and Marlon Brown.


Jenkins is ESPN's ninth ranked overall player and second best outside linebacker. Linebacker U (Penn State) is still in the running for Jenkins' services and will have to lure him away from Florida, Notre Dame, Southern California, and Stanford who are also on his radar. Jenkins' received an ESPN grade of 87 out of 100.

Marlon Brown is a wide receiver from Memphis, Tennessee who also excels on the basketball court. He is projected as the 24th ranked wide out and 111th ranked small forward. According to ESPN, Brown hopes to play both sports at the next level. Ohio State is amongst the two sport athletes' final list along with USC, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, and LSU.


The Big Ten could use a strong recruiting season as the conference tries to get back up on its feet, after several dismal years in a row. Another interesting angle to look for on Wednesday is the type of athletes Michigan is able to land, as they try to put together the puzzle of the spread offense.
Photo Courtesy of the Associated Press and videos from YouTube.