Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Scherff Earns UI Honors

Hawkeye seniors recognized at annual academic and athletic achievement banquet

April 27, 2015

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa seniors Kevin Lewis (men's cross country, men's track & field) Samantha Logic (women's basketball) and Brandon Scherff (football) earned top honors at Monday night's University of Iowa annual academic and athletic achievement banquet. Lewis and Logic were named Iowa's Big Ten Medal of Honor winners, while Logic and Scherff were named Iowa's Male and Female Athletes of the Year for 2014-15.

Lewis was a second team All-American in the 5,000 meters during the 2015 indoor track and field season, and is a two-time All-Region honoree in cross country, A native of Ottumwa, Iowa, Lewis holds the indoor school records in the 3,000 (7:57.06) and 5,000 meters (13:43.70). He also ranks in the all-time top 10 performances in six other track and cross country events. He earned first team All-Big Ten honors during the 2014 cross country season, and was Iowa's top finisher in every race he competed in the past two seasons. Lewis is a four-time academic All-Big Ten honoree.

Logic, a native of Racine, Wisconsin, started all 135 games during her four-year career with the Hawkeyes, scoring 1,546 points (10th in school history), grabbing 922 rebounds (second), and handing out 898 assists (first by 322). The fourth consensus All-American in Iowa women's basketball school history, Logic is the only player in NCAA history to accumulate at least 1,500 career points, 800 rebounds, 800 assists, and 200 steals. She was drafted by the Atlanta Dream in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) Draft earlier this month. She was the 2015 Senior CLASS Award winner, a Capital One Academic All-American, and a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree.

Scherff was a unanimous consensus All-American and won the Outland Trophy, which is annually awarded to the nation's top interior offensive lineman, following the 2014 season. The 2014 Rimington-Pace Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year, Scherff started all 26 games over his final two seasons with the Hawkeyes at left tackle. The Denison, Iowa, native was a two-time first team All-Big Ten selection and two-time Iowa Most Valuable Player on offense.

The Big Ten Medal of Honor is the conference's most exclusive award, and the first of its kind in intercollegiate athletics to recognize academic and athletic excellence. The Big Ten Medal of Honor was first awarded in 1915 to one student-athlete from the graduating class of each university who had "attained the greatest proficiency in athletics and scholastic work." Big Ten schools currently feature more than 8,200 student-athletes, but only 28 earn this prestigious award on an annual basis. In the 100 years of the Medal of Honor, over 1,300 student-athletes have earned this distinction.

Logic and Scherff will be Iowa's nominees for the 2015 Big Ten Conference Athletes of the Year awards. Winners will be announced in late June, following a vote by a panel of Big Ten media voters.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Why some teams (including the Giants) look at Brandon Scherff as a tackle, not strictly a guard

Iowa offensive lineman Brandon Scherff's athleticism is sometimes overlooked. (Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

By Jordan Raanan | NJ Advance Media for

April 21, 2015

Iowa's Brandon Scherff received fair warning. He knew this type of scrutiny was coming during the NFL draft buildup.

Scherff's offensive line coach, Brian Ferentz, warned him when they made the trip to Orlando for the Outland Trophy, given to the best lineman in college football. Everything, fair or not, would be overanalyzed in the coming months as the Outland winner prepared to be a first-round pick.

"You put yourself in a position where you are going to be scrutinized, you're going to be picked apart and people are going to be looking for flaws," Ferentz told Scherff. "It's a very public process."

Ferentz's forewarning was legitimate. The nitpicking has been relentless. Are Scherff's arms long enough? Is his technique solid? Does he possess enough athleticism? And, mostly, can he play offensive tackle at the next level?

It has been a popular topic to debate. Does Scherff, a left tackle at Iowa, project as a guard or tackle in the NFL?

Some don't think there is any doubt. He's "100 percent" a guard, former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah said recently. Others have chimed in as well.

Not everyone agrees, including some of the teams that actually will be making the selections in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft on April 30.

"He's real good. He can play left tackle and be good. He can play right tackle and be great," an NFL scout told NJ Advance Media's Mark Eckel.

Others think Scherff can be a good right tackle and a great guard.

Draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki quoted a scout in his NFL Draft 2015 Preview:

"Scherff is one of the best run blockers I have seen in a long time. He gouges and finishes. I don't know if he has the frame you want for a left tackle. I graded him as an immediate starter as an offensive guard. He just doesn't have a lot of length. He can climb to the second and even third level and moves fine. I'd feel more comfortable with him at right tackle than left. Plug him in at guard and you might have something special."

The Giants are believed to be in the camp that considers Scherff a right tackle or guard. They held a private workout for Scherff several weeks back in Iowa that was attended by offensive line coach Pat Flaherty. There they saw the unique physical ability that likely has many teams believing his game can translate as a tackle playing in space.

"The beauty of a guy like Brandon, and why I think he can play tackle, is that athletically he can pass protect in the National Football League," said Ferentz, who coached Scherff and the Iowa offensive linemen the past three years after four seasons with the New England Patriots. "He may not be as long as some of the guys that they point at and say, 'Hey, this guy is a really good pass protector because he's long.'

"OK, length is important. Brandon has fairly long arms. He's 6-4½, he's certainly not a tiny guy. And he has very good athletic ability. He's very explosive. He can cover a lot of ground."

Scherff's athleticism really isn't an issue. He ran the 40-yard dash in 5.05 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine, the fourth-best time among all offensive linemen. He played some quarterback in high school and was a four-year letterman in baseball. His ability to reach the second level and block linebackers is considered a strength.

In fact, Scherff's athleticism appears underrated by the public. He is right up there with any of this and last year's draft prospects.

"He's a better athlete than both those guys [Zack Martin and Jake Matthews from last year]. A much better athlete," said Ross Tucker, former NFL lineman and current host of The Ross Tucker Football Podcast. "Scherff is up there with [last year's No. 2 pick] Greg Robinson in terms of being an athlete. He's clearly, to me, the best athlete of the guys this year. He just moves so well, so fluid. Looks like a guy who played quarterback or whatever in high school. He gets to the second level and linebackers and it's really, really impressive because it's rare."

Those who think Scherff is strictly a guard point to his 2014 game tape. There were some games where he struggled handling speed off the edge.

Part of that can likely be attributed to a knee injury suffered early in the season. It limited Scherff, but not to the point where he still isn't very highly regarded.

"If you expected him to perform at the level he was performing at when he was 100 percent healthy, probably not," Ferentz said. "Probably not realistic. In my estimation, he didn't perform to the level he's capable of performing at when 100 percent.

"But it was still excellent."

That's why Scherff is still expected to be a high draft pick, and likely the first offensive lineman off the board come draft day.

But more than anything, what Scherff seems to be fighting here is a perception. The reputation is that Iowa offensive linemen coached by Kirk and Brian Ferentz enter the NFL so refined that they're already nearing their ceiling, and their success at the next level is therefore limited.

The Iowa tackles are also perceived as non-premium athletes (not the case with Scherff) who must be shifted inside to guard, like Marshal Yanda and Robert Gallery. It's something that the Ferentzes admittedly battle in recruiting.

But sometimes, perception can become reality. In this case, that is true because Brian Ferentz has heard it from individuals involved in the draft process. It's out there with Scherff, the latest Iowa lineman who has a high floor but relatively low ceiling.

Just because it's out there doesn't necessarily mean it's true.

"In my opinion, that is baloney," Brian Ferentz said. "The one thing I know, and I've been fortunate throughout my career to be around some very gifted players, the best players I've been around all wanted to be coached. And they've all wanted to be better.

"We've gotten a reputation for producing good offensive linemen. That is flattering. When you look at most of our guys, certainly there are outliers, but one thing they have done despite the reputation is most guys have gone to the National Football League and overachieved in their career. They've played above where they were drafted."

Some of the more notable Iowa linemen under Kirk Ferentz include Gallery, Marshal Yanda, Bryan Bulaga and Eric Steinbach. All had lengthy NFL careers.

Scherff simply appears to be next in line, whether it be at tackle or guard.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

9 Most Overpaid Coaches in College Football Today

By Greg Wallace, Featured Columnist

April 15, 2015

It’s no secret that there’s plenty of money to go around in college football. The new College Football Playoff, along with lucrative television contracts, have pumped a large infusion of cash into FBS athletic departments, and head coaches have benefited.

This week, Ohio State announced that coach Urban Meyer had received a new contract which will pay him $6.5 million annually, second nationally behind Alabama’s Nick Saban (who made $7.1 million in 2014, per a USA Today salary database). In the SEC, the coaches of both Mississippi schools, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen and Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze, received contract extensions which pushed their pay over $4 million annually.

In December, Michigan signed Jim Harbaugh to a deal that will pay him $5 million annually, continuing college football's arms race, as Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post noted.

“It’s simple, really,” agent Neil Cornrich, who represents Bob Stoops, Kirk Ferentz and other top coaches, told Kilgore. "As long as the revenues from college football continue to grow, all the numbers will follow.”

Last fall, 27 coaches were listed by USA Today with salaries of $3 million or more, a figure sure to jump this year.

With all that cash floating around, there are some programs which aren’t getting the biggest bang for their buck and athletic directors that regret handing out contracts. Here’s a look at the nine most overpaid coaches in college football. Unless otherwise noted, all salary figures came from the USA Today database.

Carolina Panthers: What Ginn brings to the table

Ted Ginn Jr. was one of the first of the Carolina Panther’s free-agent signings this offseason. The eight-year veteran signed a two-year contract worth $4.2 million that sees him return to the team where he had his most prolific season in the NFL.

By Sean McGarrity

April 14, 2015

Ginn will add depth to Carolina’s receiving core, and with the signing of Jarrett Boykin, there looks to be a healthy competition brewing for the no. 3 wide-out role. Special teams, specifically punt returning is where Ginn is likely to have his biggest impact however. He’s finished as one of the top five punt returners in the NFC in the past five seasons, something he will look to continue in 2015.

“To be able to come back here is amazing,” Ginn said. “It’s a blessing to have a family like this that is willing to give me another opportunity to be on their ball club.”

It came as no surprise that the 30-year old found his way back to Charlotte after a year-long hiatus in Arizona. The 2013 season was the last time Ginn wore the black and blue of Carolina, and it was also the most productive season he’s had in the league since 2008. The wide-out flourished under Panthers’ receiving coach Ricky Proehl. He finished the season with 36 receptions for 556 yards and five touchdowns, averaging a career-high 15.4 yards a catch.

“When I got here two years ago, Ricky welcomed me with open arms,” Ginn said. “He didn’t take my talent for granted. He enhanced it. That’s where family and coming back means a lot.”

2013 also saw Ginn set a Panthers’ season record with a 12.2-yard punt return average. It is in this facet of the game that Ginn will look to make the biggest impact. Both Brenton Bersin and Philly Brown struggled with return duties in 2014, particularly holding on to the ball with five fumbles between them. Kickoff returns were even worse. Last season the Panthers finished ranked 24th in yards per return with 21.8.
Ginn’s addition should make for a vast improvement in both these categories.

“We are very pleased to have Ted back,” General Manager Dave Gettleman said. “He gives us big-play ability as a punt returner and a wide receiver. He still has his speed. He can still fly.”

Gettleman and head coach Ron Rivera will be hopeful Ginn can rediscover his form from 2013. Brought in primarily to fill the role of punt and kick returner, any kind of success Ginn can have at receiver will be an added bonus. If Ginn can produce anywhere near the kind of numbers he did in 2013 expect him to play a major part of Carolina’s offense.

“Everybody didn’t say what the Panthers said. Other teams were like, ‘We might need you to do this. Or we could have you do this,'” Ginn said. “I’m not saying that it’s etched in stone what I’m going to do here. But the weight of what they said is greater here than other teams. But I know I have to come in and work.”

Ginn’s familiarity with the players and coaching staff was an added incentive in his return to Carolina. The Panthers’ family like atmosphere coupled with Ginn’s dedication and work ethic has brought out the best in the no. 19 in the past. Panthers’ fans will be anxious to see if that hard work pays off. With any luck plays like this could become a regular Sunday occurrence at the Bank of American Stadium in 2015.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Weisman's long road will go full circle

By Bill Huber

April 9, 2015

Mark Weisman, who will be moving back to fullback after becoming a star running back at Iowa, boasts eye-popping athleticism and a John Kuhn-like collegiate resume. (Reese Strickland/USA TODAY)

Mark Weisman is a lot of things.

An egomaniac is not among them.

Weisman wasn’t invited to the Scouting Combine, so he took full advantage of Iowa’s March 23 pro day. With scouts from all 32 teams in attendance, the Hawkeyes’ rushing leader ran his 40-yard dash in 4.61 seconds. Of the 31 running backs who ran the 40 at the Combine, only 12 were faster than Weisman. Moreover ...

— Of the 25 backs to run the three-cone drill at the Combine, only four were faster than Weisman’s 6.88.
— Of the 32 backs who did the broad jump, only four jumped further than Weisman’s 10 feet, 3 inches.
— Of the 26 backs who performed the short shuttle, only nine were faster than Weisman’s 4.17.
— Of the 29 backs who did the vertical jump, only eight jumped higher than Weisman’s 36 inches.

All of that from a 6-foot, 242-pound prospect who will line up at fullback in the NFL.

“I hit my standards for pretty much every drill,” Weisman said in understated fashion.

“I just tried to show my athleticism, that I’m capable of being on special teams, like a kickoff team or a punt team.”

After an all-state senior season at Stevenson High School near his hometown of Buffalo Grove, Ill., Weisman accepted his only offer, to Air Force, which is one of the few college programs in the nation that make extensive use of a fullback.

“I wasn’t going to be a pilot,” Weisman noted.

One humorous anecdote from his time at Air Force was how he passed the rigorous bed inspections.

“They have certain expectations that they have that you know the day before the inspection,” Weisman said. “I’d make the bed perfectly and I’d sleep on the floor that night so I wouldn’t have to remake the bed in the morning.”

Weisman didn’t play at Air Force and, after one semester there, transferred to Iowa, where he redshirted in 2011 as a walk-on. Iowa City was closer to home, a brother attended the school and coach Kirk Ferentz also liked to use a fullback. It seemed like a good fit.

And it was.

Weisman started the first three games of the 2012 season at fullback. But in the third game of the season, fate intervened. Injuries obliterated the tailback position, so Ferentz turned to Weisman, who averaged merely 10.8 yards per rush in his final season at Stevenson.

Weisman took the opportunity and literally ran with it. He became the sixth running back in school history to lead the team in rushing three consecutive seasons and the third to rush for 800-plus yards three consecutive times. He finished his Iowa career with 599 carries for 2,602 yards and 32 rushing touchdowns, figures that rank fourth, sixth and third, respectively, in school history. As a senior, he rushed for 16 touchdowns — third-best in school history.

“I thought about it a little bit after the regular season. It was still kind of surreal at that point,” Weisman said of what had transpired in his career. “It was a great ride. Iowa, Iowa City, the Hawkeye community supported myself and the team tremendously.”

He was pretty good off the field, too. He was a second-team Academic All-American, one of three finalists for the Burlsworth Trophy (best senior to start his career as a walk-on) and was nominated for the prestigious Allstate Good Works Team.

His intelligence should continue to serve him well, especially at a position in which his blocking assignment oftentimes doesn’t play out like it does with the markerboard X’s and O’s.

“You have to be a smart guy, especially at fullback, because everything happens faster because you’re right behind the quarterback,” Weisman said. “You have to make your reads quickly. There are a lot of things at fullback that aren’t perfectly clear. Sometimes, a guy will flash through and you have to block the guy that got through the offensive linemen. You have to be able to think on the fly.”

It’s an easy comparison to see a bit of John Kuhn in Weisman. At Shippensburg, Kuhn rushed for 4,685 yards and 53 touchdowns and was a two-time Academic All-American. Kuhn, of course, moved to fullback in the NFL, and that’s what would Weisman would do, as well.

For Weisman, he’ll have to show he can block — something he hasn’t been asked to do since early in 2012.

“I’ve had questions about it but I played a true fullback before I was moved to running back,” Weisman said. “Yeah, it’s something that teams want to see that I wasn’t able to do later in my career because it wasn’t part of what the coaches wanted me to do at Iowa. In the NFL, I definitely know that’s what I’m going to be doing if I’m lucky enough to make it.”

Weisman will certainly get his shot. If a team is looking for a versatile player in the mold of Pro Bowler Kuhn, Weisman might be No. 1 on their fullback board. Reaching the NFL will cap a remarkable story and bring his winding road full circle — from walk-on fullback to star running back to late-round or undrafted fullback.

“I try not to think about it,” Weisman said. “I just try to live day by day. When that day finally comes, yeah, it’s going to be exciting. Whether it’s being drafted or a free-agent call, it’s exciting just to be given the opportunity to make a team and go to camp and see where everything goes.”

Friday, April 03, 2015

Why I think Mike Vrabel should go into the Patriots Hall of Fame

April 2, 2015

By Fred Kirsch

The Patriots Hall of Fame Selection Committee met today and for the first time in my recollection, and opinion, there was no slam dunk nominee. There were arguments made for 10 players and one coach. Mine was for Mike Vrabel.

I focused on the more recent players eligible. While there was much support for players like Raymond Clayborn and Leon Gray, I’m not qualified to judge them. When they were playing I wasn’t paying attention to the Patriots with the critical eye I do now. I just can’t compare them to the more recent players. That left me with four possible candidates: Willie McGinest, Lawyer Milloy, Rodney Harrison and Vrabel.

My knee jerk pick was McGinest. He had longevity, popularity and yes, production. To be fair to the process, though, I decided to not stop there. I dug up the stats on each player’s Patriots career and did my best to put those numbers in context. To my mild surprise, the clear choice wound up being Vrabel. Durability, reliability, versatility and the type of playmaking production that directly contributed to the Patriots winning three Super Bowls. His numbers would have been even more impressive had he not had the versatility to move to inside linebacker when the need arose. Check out Vrabel’s stats for yourself and you’ll be reminded of the impact he had on the team. Oh, and don’t forget to check the column under TDs … he had eight.

Vrabel may not have been the most popular player during his tenure but I can’t think of an eligible player for the Hall who was a better football player during that time. Harrison and McGinest will get their day, I’m sure, but Vrabel should go first.

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