Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Hoosiers Honored for Going Beyond the Fence for Indiana Farmers
February 27, 2012
By Gary Truitt
Indiana corn and soybean farmers recently honored a group of deserving Hoosiers for their outstanding support and promotion of Indiana agriculture with Beck’s Hybrids Beyond the Fence awards. The awards, which are sponsored by Beck’s Hybrids of Atlanta, Ind., in conjunction with the Indiana Soybean Alliance (ISA) and the Indiana Corn Growers Association (ICGA), were presented at the Indiana Livestock, Forage and Grain Forum on February 27 in Indianapolis. “For the second year in a row, we’ve had an outstanding group of nominees for the Beck’s Beyond the Fence Awards,” said Scott Beck, vice president of Beck’s Hybrids. “The four individuals selected are tremendous supporters of Indiana agriculture and are dedicated to educating about the importance agriculture has to the state, our country and world.”
The four award recipients honored for their outstanding contributions to Indiana agriculture are:
• Marshall Martin Marshall of West Lafayette, Ind. received the Friend of Indiana Agriculture award for outstanding contributions to agriculture by a non-farmer. Martin is a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University where he serves as the senior associate director of agricultural research programs and assistant dean for Purdue’s College of Agriculture.
• Dris Abraham of Battleground, Ind. received the Community Betterment award, which recognizes a farmer for outstanding contributions to the community through philanthropic, service, volunteerism, donations and/or leadership projects. He is the chief operating officer for Historic Prophetstown. Abraham also shares his knowledge with U.S. military personnel who are preparing for service in Afghanistan where they will help rebuild local farms.
• Jerry Goshert of New Paris, Ind. received the Ag Media award for excellence in reporting about Indiana agriculture. Goshert is the editor of The Farmer’s Exchange and covers stories ranging from hand corn husking to modern technology.
• Pat Redden of Cambridge City, Ind. received the Ag Education Outreach award for his outstanding contribution to Indiana agricultural education. Redden is the agricultural education instructor at Lincoln High School in Wayne County.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Dallas Clark accepted an honorary Friend of Indiana Agriculture award at the Indiana Livestock, Forage and Grain Forum for his work with Indiana corn and soybean farmers to promote the importance of agriculture to Indiana through the Hoosier Horsepower program over the last three years.
“We value the contributions of individuals like this year’s recipients of the Beyond the Fence awards. It’s because of people like this that Indiana agriculture remains a vital success story,” said Gary Lamie, ICGA president and Tippecanoe County farmer. “It’s an honor for us to recognize such quality individuals who work on and off the farm to share our success story.”
Mike Beard, chairman of ISA membership and policy committee agreed.
“With more and more consumers removed from the farm, there is less and less understanding about the agricultural industry,” said Beard. “Like our Hoosier corn and soybean farmers, Beck’s Hybrids understands the importance of sharing our story and recognizing those individuals who go above and beyond in sharing that story.”
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
February 25, 2012
Written by Tim Froberg
NEW LONDON — With no scholarship offers, Mark Tauscher decided to play Division III football at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
But a different sport altered his future and started a path that led Tauscher to more than a decade of playing for the Green Bay Packers.
Tauscher's Auburndale basketball team advanced to the 1995 WIAA state boys' basketball tournament in Madison. The Apaches lost to Oostburg, the eventual Division 3 state champion, but a recruiter who worked with the UW football team, Pat O'Conner, liked the fluid movements of the 6-foot-3, 280-pound Tauscher. He urged Badgers coach Barry Alvarez to give him a chance as a walk-on.
Tauscher was ready for the opportunity and ran with it.
Meeting opportunities, establishing self-confidence and developing a strong work ethic were among the messages the former Packers offensive tackle shared Thursday morning with the New London High School Future Farmers of America Club.
"I always try and tell kids that you never know when your opportunity is going to come, so do the right things to be ready for it," Tauscher said. "Had our high school basketball team not been good enough to make state, I probably wouldn't have been here today talking to these kids."
Tauscher retired from the NFL after the 2010 season. He spent 11 years with the Packers — 10 as a starter — and was a reliable, rock-solid player at right tackle, protecting franchise quarterbacks Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.
A no-frills, regular guy with a sharp mind and a quick wit, Tauscher keeps busy with speaking engagements, while overseeing his TRIFECTA (Tauscher's Reading Initiative for Every Child to Achieve) foundation and raising a family in the Madison area.
The 34-year-old said retirement from football has been an adjustment.
"This first year was a tough transition," he said. "You never want to stop playing, but time catches up to you. I have a lot of ideas and possibilities, but to be honest, I haven't quite figured out what I'm going to do next. Right now, I'm just enjoying the little things. I have a 15-month-old son (Max) and he's a riot."
Tauscher's presentation was part of National FFA Week, and he could relate to the high school students he spoke to. Tauscher grew up on a farm near Auburndale and was an FFA member.
"His presentation was great," said Erika Fleming, a New London senior and an FFA officer. "It's good to hear from someone who has been in FFA and who has achieved so much. Most kids don't appreciate or understand what FFA is like. They think it's kind of old-fashioned, but it really isn't. So, it's really cool to hear someone so modern talk to us."
Tauscher answered a variety of questions from the students and hung around afterwards to sign autographs.
Some of his best responses were:
On whom he most preferred blocking for, Favre or Rodgers:
"I always tell people, (the Badgers') Brooks Bollinger, because we ran the ball all the time. I don't know. Both were great. Aaron is probably the best quarterback in the game. And although Brett's time has passed, you haveto remember where this franchise was before he got here. You're talking about 20-some years of great quarterbacking for the Green Bay Packers, so I think we've all been spoiled a little."
On his toughest player to block:
"I'd say Michael Strahan. He was not only strong and talented, but he really understood the game. I really respected how he played."
On closing his career as part of the 2011 Super Bowl championship team:
"I can't tell you how exciting it was to reach the pinnacle like that. I think it would have been even sweeter had I been in the game, but to be out there celebrating with confetti raining down and your family there, I just can't tell you how fortunate I am."
On his welcome-to-the-NFL moment:
"It was my first year and Reggie White had come out of retirement to play for Carolina. I was a rookie who didn't know much about anything and there he was lining up across from me. I was doing a pretty good job of blocking him, but at one point my hands hit his face mask. I can't do his voice justice, but he says to me in this deep, gravelly voice: 'Son, get your hands out of my face.' I was like, 'Yes, sir.' ''
On his toughest loss with the Packers:
"There were three of them: the loss to the Giants in the 2007 NFC championship game, the fourth-and-26 loss to Philadelphia (in the 2003 playoffs) and losing to the Rams (45-17) in the 2001 playoffs. Brett (Favre) had six interceptions that day. It was a complete disaster. That was the worst beat-down I've been a part of."
On longtime Packers receiver Donald Driver:
"He's a great player and an even better person. I always felt I had in common with him because we both entered the NFL as seventh-round picks."
On team chemistry in the NFL:
"That's why they pay head coaches so much. You get 53 guys in a locker room and you've got 53 different personalities. If you have 53 hotheads, you're going to have a rough stretch."
On weight-training advice for high school students:
"Having a great bench press is good, but I'd say work more on your legs and your core. I'll take a kid who can squat a truck over someone with a huge bench press."
Thursday, February 23, 2012
By Scott Dochterman
February 23, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS — Karl Klug was a surprise and then some for the Tennessee Titans last year.
Klug, a fifth-round draft pick from Iowa, led the Titans in sacks with seven last year. At 270 pounds, he was considered for multiple positions entering the NFL draft, and the Titans pulled the trigger in the fifth round.
“We’ve limited him a little bit last year on passing downs,” Titans Coach Mike Munchak said today at the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. “We’ll probably work on his upper body this year, gain some weight, which will help him dramatically. He’s a great kid, great guy to have on your team.”
Klug, 23, had two sacks last year against New Orleans. Klug started only one game.
“He’s a special guy that a chance to make a difference in this league,” Munchak said. “A great pass rusher. He’s a natural pass rusher. If you turn the tape on, he’s guy that can beat someone one on one. A lot of D-linemen can’t do that consistently like he can. Great with his hands, great body control. That’s what we saw on the draft tape, and that’s what we’re seeing now.”
Friday, February 17, 2012
February 17, 2012
By Craig Lyndall
We ran the polls. You voted. Now the results are in.
Did you really think we'd run the quarterbacks right away? No way. We're saving that one. Plus, I thought it would be nice to end the week on a positive note. When you are talking about the history of the Browns since 1999 and "positive notes," special teams usually comes to the top of the list.
Let's start with the toughest race. Best Browns punter since 1999 was a race between Dave Zastudil and Chris Gardocki. Zastudil scored 1141 first place votes to Gardocki's 1123. Despite his one very good season, Reggie Hodges was a distant third. In the end, Zastudil edged out Gardocki for the win.
From the most hotly contested race, we go to the least. Phil Dawson. Do I need to say anything else, really?
Josh Cribbs also had little trouble winning both punt returner and kick returner. Cribbs there really isn't much to say about Cribbs either.
Dennis Northcutt probably should have been more competitive in that race for best punt returner, but nobody was even close from a kick return standpoint.
Stay tuned until next week when we start to unveil some of the defense and quarterback.
Friday, February 10, 2012
February 10, 2012
Welcome to a very special edition of Hamm’s Pigskins of the Week. This week, I’m awarding the Pigskins of the Year from a very special 2011 season (even if Kyle Williams did ruin it!). It was especially hard naming the Pigskins of the year with so many big time performers coming up big for the 49ers this season. It was a truly magical season, 14-4 and one of the most memorable playoff wins in history. I can still feel my hear race whenever I think of that final drive capped off by Alex Smith throwing a perfect dart to Vernon Davis for the game winning touchdown against the Saints. But enough with the introductions, It’s time to hand out Hamm’s Pigskins of the Year Awards!
Offensive Pigskin of the Year: Alex Smith QB: Many 49er fans including yours truly cringed when new head coach Jim Harbaugh annotated Smith his starter. I remember dreaming of Colin Kaepernick tearing it up in the preseason just so Smith could be benched before I had to go through Alex 7.0. But what Alex and Harbaugh did together was nothing short of a miracle. The 49ers offense seemed perfectly suited to Smith’s talents and Alex got better as the season went on. Gone was the turnover, bone headed play machine of the past. And born was a new, smart player who refused to turn the ball over and always kept his team in position to win. Alex proved to us he could lead the 49ers on a game winning drive against a good team. The throws he made to Delaine Walker in Detroit and to Vernon Davis against the Saints were the type of throws you expect the Manning’s, Brees’ and the Brady’s of the world to make. Alex, you made us proud this season, you became our QB, now come get your Pigskin, you earned it.
Defensive Pigskin of the Year: I always thought I could write this column anytime I want to and insert Patrick Willis into this award and be right every year. While Willis and fellow inside linebacker Navarro Bowman had great, all pro seasons. Justin Smith was not only the best defensive player, he was probably the teams MVP this season. Smith is as unrelenting a player as I’ve ever seen in any sport. Smith was voted a starter in the pro bowl and first team all pro over some very big names. He was one of the finalists for Defensive Player of the Year but fell short to the bigger named Terrell Suggs of the Ravens. With two game winning plays for Smith, a forced fumble in Philadelphia and a batted pass in the regular season match up with the Giants make Smith an easy pick.
Special Teams Pigskin of the Year: This one was tough, the 49ers have one of the best special teams units in football. Ted Ginn Jr was one of the best and most consistent kick returners in the league this season. While Blake Costanzo and CJ Spillman made huge impacts on the coverage units. The Pigskin goes to Ginn for two reasons. He was the sole reason for the win against Seattle week 1. And all you have to do is watch those two boneheaded fumbles by Kyle Williams in the NFC Championship game that costs the 49ers a Superbowl appearance (and probably a championship) to see how valuable Ginn Jr really is.
Wednesday, February 08, 2012
Phil Dawson has been the Browns kicker, other than when injured since the team's rebirth in the 1999 season. Dawson has been the model of consistency, not just in Cleveland, but throughout the league. A potential free agent, the Browns shouldn't take Dawson's production and efficiency for granted.
By Fred Greetham
February 8, 2012
It wasn’t too long ago the Browns special teams were considered the strength of the team. Phil Dawson was one of the most consistent kickers in the NFL, while Reggie Hodges had such a strong season in 2010 the Browns opted to let Dave Zastudil go during last season. Long snapper Ryan Pontbriand made the Pro Bowl after the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Besides those three positions, Josh Cribbs made the Pro Bowl as a special team performer.
After the 2010 season, Dawson was slated to become an unrestricted free agent. Dawson moved his family back to Texas and prepared to continue playing elsewhere. The Browns, in a mild surprise, used the franchise tag for the first time since 1999 and retained Dawson in 2011 as the team’s franchise player.
The Browns enter the 2012 league year in a similar situation as Dawson is once-again due to become a free agent unless the Browns sign him to a long-term contract or franchise him again. Dawson had another good season as he hit 24-of-29 field goals and all 20 of his extra point attempts for a team-leading 92 points. Dawson hit 7-of-8 attempts from 50 or more yards out to tie for the NFL lead in that category. Two of his misses were on bad snaps, including a potential game-winner against the Rams in the waning seconds.
Dawson has been the team’s MVP over the 13 seasons since the Browns returned in 1999. He has accomplished much in his career and stands as the second all-time leading scorer in team history with 1,155 points. He passed Don Cockroft during the 2011 season. Only Lou Groza has scored more points (1,349) than Dawson and Groza did so in 17 seasons. If Dawson were to return to the Browns, at his current pace, he could pass Groza in two or three more seasons.
After the Browns decided to let Zastudil go during the 2010 season, the Browns signed Hodges to a long-term contract. However, during one of the first practices of training camp, Hodges was lost for the season with a torn Achilles tendon. Hodges spoke after the season and said he was on schedule in his recovery and expects to be full go for the 2012 season. He feels he will be ready for the Browns off-season program which begins in April. Hodges averaged 43.9 yards per punt in 2010 with 29 punts inside the 20.
Brad Maynard came to the rescue after Reggie Hodges and Richmond McGee went down with injuries. Maynard punted 81 times for a 40.5 average. Maynard had 32 punts inside the 20 with a long of 63 yards. Maynard did a great job as a holder as he was able to take several bad snaps and get the ball down to give Dawson a chance to kick the ball. Maynard, who will turn 38 on Feb. 9, just finished his 15th NFL season.
McGee was signed after Hodges was injured and played in just one game. In the season opener, he punted eight times for a net average of just 31.6. He complained of a sore back and he was placed on injured reserve the following week.
At long snapper, Pontbriand was a steady performer for the Browns for nine seasons, but lost his touch during the 2011 season. He cost the Browns a win against the Rams when he bounced a snap back to Maynard as Dawson lined up for a chip shot field goal to win the game. Unfortunately, the long snapper is never noticed until he messes up and that’s what happened to Pontbriand this past year.
Christian Yount was signed to replace Pontbriand on Nov. 29 and played in the final five games with the Browns. Yount was the Buccaneer’s long snapper for the first seven games of the season. The biggest news with Yount playing for the Browns is that there were no costly bad snaps during that time.
Bottom Line: Dawson is one of the biggest questions facing the Browns, whether to extend him, franchise him or head in another direction. Dawson just turned 37, but said he was “just getting started”. Pat Shurmur called Dawson a “stud” during the season and his record-setting season with seven field goals from 50 plus yards out proved he’s still got the leg.
The Browns should sign Dawson to a multi-year contract so he can finish his career with the Browns and pass Groza as the all-time leading scorer. If not, one of the priorities would be to find a new kicker who can do so in the wind and cold of Northern Ohio.
Hodges appears to be ready to resume his career after missing the season. Yount appeared to do a good job snapping the ball in his time and will most likely return for those duties.
Tuesday, February 07, 2012
Honoring the top recruiters
February 7, 2012
Recruiting is a team effort. While one coach might be the lead recruiter and develop the best relationship with a player, in the end it takes the whole team to make a prospect feel comfortable.
Still, there are some who separate themselves from the pack each year and that's why we named a top recruiter for each conference. These coaches were the key in helping their programs land some of the nation's best players.
Of course, ask anyone on this list and they'd remind you it was a team effort. And that's probably part of what makes them successful to begin with.
Football Recruiters Of The Year
Odell Haggins, Florida State
The Seminoles' defensive line coach edged out his fellow staff member Dameyune Craig and Miami recruiting coordinator Brennan Carroll with the signing day signatures of ESPN 150 prospects Eddie Goldman(Washington, D.C./Friendship Collegiate), the nation's top DT, and Ronald Darby(Oxon Hill, Md./Potomac), a DB with world-class speed. In both cases FSU had to fend off major challenges from Auburn and the Goldman signing was primarily due to the five-star prospect's relationship with Haggins. The 19-year veteran assistant was also responsible for four-star linebacker Reggie Northrup's (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) flip from Miami to FSU.
Honorable mention: Brennan Carroll, Miami; Dameyune Craig, FSU; Shane Beamer, Virginia Tech; Jeff Scott, Clemson.
Clint Hurtt, Louisville
If the Cardinals are going to challenge for a Big East title in 2012 it will be behind much of the talent Hurtt has pulled from South Florida over the past two seasons. Hurtt was credited with eight commitments, seven of which are Miami-Dade county prospects. Four-star linebackers Keith Brown (Miami, Fla./Norland) and James Burgess Jr. (Homestead, Fla./Homestead) were both former Miami verbals he flipped to Louisville. Hurtt also fought off some tough competition for three-star defensive end Pedro Sibiea (Homestead, Fla./Homestead) and running back Brandon Radcliff (Miami, Fla./Columbus).
Honorable mention: Kyle Flood, Rutgers; Robert Gillespie, West Virginia; Phil McGeoghan, South Florida; Kerry Coombs, Cincinnati.
Mike Vrabel, Ohio State
Vrabel moved from linebackers coach to defensive line coach with the hire of Urban Meyer. And in the process the two-year assistant helped secure one of the nation's best defensive line classes. Five-star prospect Noah Spence (Harrisburg, Pa./Bishop McDevitt) was the biggest signing in the class, but four-star prospects Adolphus Washington (Cincinnati, Ohio/Taft), Se'Von Pittman(Canton, Ohio/McKinley) and Jamal Marcus (Durham, N.C./Hillside) give the Buckeyes four of the nation's top 16 players at the defensive end position. Vrabel deserves much of the credit for that.
Honorable mention: John Garrison, Nebraska; Randy Bates, Northwestern; Jeff Hecklinski, Michigan; Mark Staten, Michigan State.
Bo Davis, Texas
Bo Davis settled right in for the Longhorns and did very well in his first season as a recruiter for Mack Brown and Texas. His impact was immediate as ESPNU 150 defensive end Torshiro Davis (Shreveport, La./Woodlawn) signed with Texas on signing day instead of LSU, where he had been a longtime commit. These are battles LSU doesn't normally lose to Texas. Davis was also responsible for landing junior college standout Brandon Moore (Scooba, Miss./East Mississippi C.C.), who originally signed with Alabama out of high school two years ago. Davis also had a key hand in the Longhorns getting defensive end Caleb Bluiett (Beaumont, Texas/West Brook) and defensive tackle Paul Boyette Jr. (Humble, Texas/Humble) on signing day. Davis, who is from Louisiana, is a big reason Texas, which normally isn't very active late in the process, made some big, late moves.
Honorable mention: Stacy Searels, Texas; Joe Wickline, Oklahoma State; Terrell Williams, Texas A&M; David Yost, Missouri.
Steve Buckley, Southern Miss
The headliner of the Southern Miss recruiting class is ESPNU 150 athleteAnthony Alford (Petal, Miss./Petal) and Buckley helped Southern Miss beat several SEC schools and Nebraska for his signature. Anthony is a two-sport star who will more than likely be a high draft pick in June's Major League Baseball draft. Buckley, who didn't follow coach Larry Fedora to UNC, helped keep the Southern Miss class intact. Other key recruits for Buckley were linebacker Leland Ducksworth (Hattiesburg, Miss./North Forest), defensive end Anthony Wilson (Ellisville, Miss./Jones CC) and wide receiver D.J. Thompson (Pearl, Miss./Pearl).
Mike Elston, Notre Dame
Elston was essential in the Fighting Irish landing ESPNU 150 DTs Jarron Jones (Rochester, N.Y./Aquinas Institute) and Sheldon Day (Indianapolis, Ind./Warren Central). Jones and Day are both top 15 D tackles and will be a big keys in building the defensive line roster in South Bend. Elston also played a key role in the additions of four-star OT Mark Harrell (Charlotte, N.C./Catholic), wide receiver Chris Brown (Hanahan, S.C.) and defensive end Romeo Okwara(Charlotte, N.C./Audrey Kell).
Jason Candle, Toledo
Though former coach and savvy recruiter Tim Beckman left for Illinois, Toledo was still among the top teams in the MAC in the recruiting rankings. A key to that was naming Matt Campbell, arguably the Rockets' strongest recruiter to coach, and keeping Candle on staff. Candle recruited a number of the Rockets' top recruits, including the Pittsburgh trio ofJaylen Coleman (Pittsburgh, Pa./University Prep), Corey Jones (Pittsburgh, Pa./Penn Hills) andChaz Whittaker (Pittsburgh, Pa./Penn Hills). Coleman and Jones are the Rockets' top two prospects, and Candle helped secure them late. Coleman was a Cincinnati lean originally, and Jones and Whittaker were committed to Pitt and West Virginia, respectively, at one time. Candle also helped haul in Damion Jones-Moore (Pittsburgh, Pa./Central Catholic), Danny Larkins(Madison Heights, Mich./Madison Heights) and Armani Miller (Huber Heights, Ohio/Wayne).
Pete Kwiatkowski, Boise State
"Coach K" is one of final original staffers under Chris Petersen. Despite turnover in much of Boise's staff, Kwiatkowski continued to impress on the recruiting trail. When three-star offensive lineman Mario Yakoo (Spring Valley, Calif./Steele Canyon) split with UCLA, Kwiatkowski was able to convince him to join his best friend and teammate, three-star defensive back Chanceller James, on the blue turf. Kwiatkowski also secured commitments from three-star prospectsTravis Averill (Anaheim, Calif./Servite) and Donte Deayon (Fontana, Calif./Summit).
Mike Bloomgren, Stanford
It's a tough call in the Pac-12 because there are so many deserving coaches, but Bloomgren and Stanford closed big. Literally. Stanford landed ESPNU 150 offensive tackles Kyle Murphy (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente) and Andrus Peat (Scottsdale, Ariz./Corona Del Sol) on signing day to give the Cardinal the nation's top O-line class. A nod also goes to former Stanford coach Brian Polian (now with Texas A&M), who started the recruiting, but it was Bloomgren who closed the deal. He fought off USC and Nebraska for Peat, and the Trojans again for Murphy. Bloomgren is a recruiter on the rise out west.
Honorable mention: Adrian Klemm, UCLA; Tosh Lupoi, Washington; Demetrice Martin, UCLA; Ed Orgeron, USC.
Jeremy Pruitt, Alabama
Sure, it's easier when you are selling the University of Alabama, but you still have to beat out the rest of the SEC. Pruitt had a banner year, helping the Crimson Tide reel in ESPNU running back T.J. Yeldon(Daphne, Ala./Daphne), who was a longtime Auburn commitment before Pruitt flipped him to Alabama. He also landed Yeldon's teammate, ESPNU linebacker Ryan Anderson. Pruitt also turned Florida State commitment Alphonse Taylor (Mobile, Ala./Davidson) at the last minute. He also landed two of the very best prospects from the Sunshine State in five-star athlete Eddie Williams (Panama City, Fla./Arnold) and explosive ESPNU 150 wide receiver Chris Black (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast). Pruitt also spearheaded the recruitment of junior college star cornerback Travell Dickson (Thatcher, Ariz./Eastern Arizona College).
Honorable mention: D.J. Dirken, Florida; Todd Grantham, Georgia; Sean Spencer, Vanderbilt; Lorenzo Ward, South Carolina.
Raymond Woodie, Western Kentucky
This wasn't Western Kentucky's biggest class but it is a quality group helped greatly by Woodie's ties to the west coast of Florida. Woodie was instrumental in getting three-star linebacker DaQual Randall (Palmetto, Fla./Palmetto) to flip from Louisville and also secured the signatures of running back Leon Allen (Bradenton, Fla./Manatee) and wide receiver Austin Aikens (Tampa, Fla./Plant), both major contributors to state championship teams in 2011.
Pierre Ingram, Louisiana Tech
Ingram was responsible for three of the top 10 prospects to sign with WAC teams in three-star athlete Lloyd Grogan (Morgan City, La./Central Catholic), three-star wide receiver Jaydrick Declouet (Patterson, La./Patterson) and three-star running back Kenneth Dixon (Strong, Ark./Strong).
February, 4, 2012
By Mike Reiss
INDIANAPOLIS – Now in his fourth season with the Patriots, Brian Ferentz has been rising up the coaching ranks.
As many young coaches often do in New England, Ferentz got his start in scouting (2008). He joined the coaching staff the following year as an assistant. He took on more responsibility in 2010 before being named tight ends coach in 2011.
Ferentz’s work was praised by head coach Bill Belichick.
"Brian is very mature for his age, and he has a lot of football experience,” Belichick said of the 28-year-old Ferentz, who is the son of Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. “I think that the whole life experience of growing up in a coaching family, growing up with a coach and having football in your blood almost from the day you were born, you pick up some things by osmosis and being around it. Kirk is a great friend of mine and a tremendous coach. I have so much respect for Kirk for what he did for me in Cleveland in his coaching career, and Brian has learned from probably the best.
“I don't think that anyone does it any better than Kirk does, and Brian brings that overall awareness, instinctiveness and that aptitude for the game. I think the game comes easy to him in terms of techniques, Xs and Os and schemes because of his experience with it. He's done a great job in all of the responsibilities that he has, particularly in the development of our young tight ends. Even though he is young in age, he's much more experienced in terms of overall football knowledge."
During Super Bowl week, Ferentz shared his football journey with ESPNBoston.com:
When he first started playing football: “I was in fifth grade when I played my first organized football. We were living in Ohio at the time (1994).”
What positions he played: “I wanted to catch the football and didn’t want to put my hand on the ground, but I think that took like two days until I was playing on the offensive line. There was a weight limit and I had an ‘X’ on my helmet. I didn’t make weight to play the skill positions. “
Top memories of high school football: “I was very fortunate to be on some very good teams, in two different states. In Baltimore, I played for the Gilman School my freshman and sophomore year. My sophomore year we went undefeated. I remember my dad telling to me to cherish that because it was so rare. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Here is an NFL coach – he was with the Ravens at the time – telling me to cherish a high school season.’ He was right, which I found out 15 years later. It’s so rare, so hard to do things like that. Then I went to Iowa City High School and we had some good teams. We went to the semifinals of the state playoffs my second year, my senior year of high school. We didn’t win.”
Remembering his one catch: “In eighth grade, I played tight end and caught one ball for 4 yards on a checkdown. That was my only competitive catch ever. In high school, I played on the offensive line, I played linebacker and defensive line. I was a smaller player.”
Why he decided to attend University of Iowa: “No one else was recruiting me. I was a tweener, about 240 pounds my senior year of high school, 6-foot-2 1/2. I was not really big enough in most people’s eyes to play on the offensive line. I would have had to walk on at other schools and was fortunate to get a scholarship at Iowa. I was able to go in there and work with their strength and conditioning program, which in my opinion is one of the best in the country. Anything I ever accomplished as a player – and I accomplished a lot more than I ever thought I would – was because of the coaches I had there.”
Top memories at Iowa: “There are a lot of good ones. It was a great five years for me. What stands out most is the first time we won the Big 10 championship when I was there, which was 2002. We went up to Minnesota and beat them. I actually was not playing. I had torn my ACL and was rehabbing that. In 2003, my first start, that’s obviously a good memory for a kid who spent most of his younger years in Iowa. Wherever we moved, I always wanted to be a Hawkeye and play for the University of Iowa. To be able to start my first game there was a pretty special experience.”
What it was like playing for his dad at Iowa: “It was a lot of fun. When you grow up in a household where your dad’s in coaching, you don’t see your dad as much as if he worked a 9-to-5 job. Growing up, my father was very involved in my life, but were we close physically every day? Not always. So to be able to go play with him for five years was a great experience. You get to know your father as more than just a football coach. You get to know him as a man, as a professional, how he does things on a day to day basis. You see him do his job, it’s like take-your-son-to-work day.”
Entering the NFL as a free agent with the Falcons in 2006: “I basically had one of these [pointing to a cup of coffee on the table]. It was an experience I will cherish forever, and I say that with a little self-depreciation, only because I’m around the most elite football players in the world. That, in and of itself, is fun. I look at some of our guys and wonder how I was even close, to be honest with you. It was a great experience. It’s every kid’s dream to play in the NFL. I never got to play in a real NFL game. It was preseason, and the first game I ever played was against the New England Patriots.”
Describing the two seasons he hoped to make a roster: Coach Petrino and his staff came in and they started moving in a little different direction, especially up front. I was a smaller guy, more of a West Coast zone scheme type guy. They liked to man block and pull people. I didn’t fit that scheme very well. You don’t want guys like me spending a lot of time single-blocking Vince Wilfork. That will end very badly for your football team. That ends badly for good players, so imagine a very mediocre player. I bounced around a little bit, had some workouts and didn’t get picked up until  training camp with the Saints. I had a chance to compete for a roster spot and didn’t make their team. That was the last moment for me.
Transitioning to the scouting/coaching ranks with the Patriots in 2008: Scott Pioli called me. He’s a family friend and we always talked about perhaps ending up with the organization in some capacity. He called and offered – ‘Would you like to come up here?’ and it wasn’t as a player. I figured if a guy of that stature makes that call and evaluation was telling me it wasn’t going to work, I should probably get out of it. I ended up going into the organization in April, upstairs with Scott. Then at the end of that season, I moved on [to coaching full-time]. I was actually working with the defense at that time."
Life as a coach under Bill Belichick: “I think it’s a pretty good life. We’re so fortunate to work for a guy with his experience, knowledge, and expertise. His motivational skills. Go down the list of coaching attributes and here is a guy who has all of them. We get to come in, talk to him, and what more could you ask for? Is it difficult at times? Sure. But it’s hard to work anyways. When you work for Coach Belichick, you always have a chance to win. You can’t ever take that for granted in this business.”
Favorite teams and players growing up: “Wherever my dad coached. When we were in Iowa, I obviously loved the Hawkeyes. My NFL team would have been the Steelers, originally, only because my whole family is from Pittsburgh. My dad grew up In Pittsburgh, of the late 60s, early 70s, the beginning of the Chuck Noll era. When my father went to Cleveland, that changed pretty quickly and I developed a pretty healthy dislike for that team. Same thing when we went to Baltimore. When we went back to Iowa City, the NFL fell by the wayside for me, because I was too busy doing my own thing. The one team that will always be my favorite is the University of Iowa.”
Summing up his football journey: “It’s been fun at every turn. It’s the reason I’m still in it. I love this game, this business, everything this game is about. When it’s done the right way, I think it’s the best game we play in this country because it teaches you all the things you need to be successful in life. It’s different for us [in the NFL], it’s a business, it’s all about football, 24 hours a day, it’s all about winning. With college kids, it’s an educational experience, and I don’t know if you can get a better education than playing this game. It’s the greatest game in the world and that’s why I’m still in it.”
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
From Bob McGinn's "Packers' 2011 season by the numbers"
January 25, 2012
NOT FEELING THE PRESSURE
Counting playoffs, Clay Matthews led the team in sacks with six. Others players with two or more were Desmond Bishop (five), B.J. Raji (three), Erik Walden (three), Brad Jones (two) and Charles Woodson (two).
For the third straight year Matthews led the team in "pressures" with 53½. Besides the six sacks, he had 27 knockdowns and 20½ hurries. Matthews had 55 in 2010 and 45½ in '09. Since the Journal Sentinel began recording the statistic in 1998, the leader has been Aaron Kampman with 58½ in 2007. Kampman also had 55 in '06.
Following Matthews in pressures (defined as the total of sacks, knockdowns and hurries) were Walden (26½), Bishop (20), Raji (19½), A.J. Hawk (15½), Jarius Wynn (10), Woodson (seven), Jarrett Bush (five), Jones (4½), D.J. Smith (four), C.J. Wilson (3½), Vic So'oto (three), Frank Zombo (three), Morgan Burnett (two), Mike Neal (two), Charlie Peprah (two), Ryan Pickett (1½), Tramon Williams (one) and Howard Green (one-half).
As an entire unit, the D-line had a mere 37 pressures in 17 games. In two previous seasons under Dom Capers, the unit had 62½ in 17 games in 2009 and 101½ in 20 games in '10.
As a whole, the linebackers had 130 pressures in 17 games compared to 117 in 20 games last year. Meanwhile, the secondary had 17 pressures in 17 games compared to 21½ in 20 last year.
Wynn led the D-line in pressures per snap. Playing 467 snaps, he registered a pressure every 46.7 snaps. Last season, Cullen Jenkins led the unit with one every 16.1 snaps.
Following Wynn at the position were Raji, one every 47.49 snaps; Neal, one every 79; Wilson, one every 113.43; Pickett, one every 330; and Green, one every 460.
Capers blitzed five or more on 42.2% of drop-backs, an increase from 33% a year ago and 27% in '09. It was the highest five-man rate since the Journal Sentinel began tracking rush numbers in 1998.
Capers blitzed six or more on 6.7%, up from 3.7% in 2010 and 4.5% in '09.
In all, Capers blitzed inside linebackers 348 times, cornerbacks 154 times and safeties 28 times.
The most effective rusher among inside linebackers and defensive backs with 15 or more blitzes was Bishop for the second straight year. He had 20 pressures in 137 rushes, or one every 6.85 snaps. He was followed by Burnett, one every 8.5; Bush, one every 8.6; Hawk, one every 9.23; Smith, one every 11.25; Woodson, one every 12.86; and Rob Francois, who didn't have one in 23 attempts.
Clearly, Capers' blitzes from the secondary have dropped off in effectiveness. The unit had one pressure every 6.8 snaps in 2009 followed by one every 9.4 snaps in '10 and one every 10.7 this season.
Matthews led the club in batted-down passes with three, followed by four players with two (Hawk, Pickett, Raji, Woodson) and two players with one (Burnett, Walden). Among the players with none were Wynn, Wilson, Green, Neal and Bishop.
The Packers batted down 13 passes. DE Johnny Jolly batted down 11 of the team's 15 in 2009.
January 18, 2012
By Marty Gitlin
PK Phil Dawson: A-plus. The only reason this veteran never makes the Pro Bowl is the offense doesn’t allow him to score enough points. He missed just one FG this season that wasn’t blocked or the snap wasn’t botched. He also hit seven from 50-plus yards.
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