Monday, May 31, 2010

Beaten to the Punch......

We were hard at work on a post about Tech's greatest player ever, #19, Clint Castleberry, when EDSBS beat us to it. A great player & by all accounts a better man. To this day the only number we've ever retired. Be sure to follow the link at the end of the piece for a great write-up on Castleberry by Wes Durham. A tip of the hat to Spenser & his gang at EDSBS for recognizing Castleberry. May he always be remembered for his sacrifice....


A little Duke on Memorial Day.......Enjoy....

Memorial Day Grab Bag......

Hope the grill has been fired up & the beer flowing for all this weekend. Thanks of course to all our Veterans for their service. On to football & a jumble of thoughts:
  • "Meh." That's my response to Phil Steele, who left us out of his top 25. Some, such as Senator Blutarsky, think this spells a down year for us. We'll be just fine. After all, it's where you end the season in the rankings that matters, not where you begin.....
  • We would of course be remiss if we did not point out that the Sporting News has also released its pre-season Top 100 for 2010. Tech comes in at #18. Thus, Sporting News > Phil Steele. It's a bit of a crap shoot to rank teams this early anyway so just sit back & let the hype machine roll. Of note is that the ACC's Coastal division has four teams (GT, VPISU, Miami, & UNC) in the Top 25. It won't be easy this year.
  • Miami has a really fast track team. But in my opinion, that doesn't mean shit when it comes to football. Too bad they don't play football games on the track......
  • Oh Thank Our Lucky Stars! Paul Johnson is not on the hot seat according to this handy thermometer/cheatsheet from CBS Sports. Glad to know he's got some job security. Mark Richt on the other hand is listed in the "you never know" category. I find all this talk about Richt & job security laughable. Fire Mark Richt? By all means! The guy's a really good coach who's done nothing but win up the road. We'd be more than happy to see Richt go away. I guess for some the grass is always greener.....
  • College Football News ranks the ACC QB's & Joshua Nesbitt is ranked 3rd. We can't really quibble, particularly with Christian Ponder ahead of Nesbitt. But Russell Wilson? I just don't see it. Yes, he's a good player. Yes, he has great counting stats (because he throws the ball 45 times a game as his team is down by 30). But the best QB in the ACC? Someone tell me what I'm missing. Please.....
  • Speaking of ACC QB's the early lines on next year's Heisman Trophy are up over at TomahawkNation. Nesbitt comes in at around 50-1. We'll settle for another ACC championship & leave the Heisman for other folks. A lot of unfounded love for Miami's Jacory Harris out in Vegas. Better hope there's no cold weather.......
  • More important than Heisman odds are odds to win the conference & we again get little respect. Seems this year's Jackets are flying under the radar & that's just fine with us.....
  • Matt Hayes is right, the ACC must prove itself in out-of-conference games. We can't begin to emphasize how important that first weekend is for the ACC this year. If UNC can beat LSU & VPISU can handle Boise State we'll force ourself onto the national scene. If not, it's curtains for the league in 2010.....
Enjoy the rest of the holiday & remember: kick it smooth like Rick Ross......

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The 4th Down Consultant Weighs in......

One of the finest blogs in all the vast blogosphere is Mgoblog, Brian Cook's homage to all things University of Michigan. It is as well written & comprehensive as any blog anywhere. Cook, even originated the college football "blogpoll", the alternative answer to the AP & coach's polls. Suffice it to say the Mgoblog is on the cutting edge. One of our favorite features over there is the Mathlete, who posts on math & sports & how the two intertwine. In last week's post, the Mathlete took a look at 4th down decisions & we were immediately intrigued, particularly as no team goes for it more often than Tech. Being that we at The Barrel have an actual 4th Down Consultant, we turned things over to him for a little analysis:

---


A couple of quick rules of thumb:



  1. Don’t punt on the opponent’s side of the field.

  2. Really consider going for it on 4th down after crossing your own 40.

  3. Field goals only make sense if there are more than 5 yards to go and you are between the 10 and 30 yard lines. If you’re in opponent territory and these two criteria aren’t true, you should be going for it.

The above statements may be attributed to The Mathlete, of the MGoblog, an all-things Michigan blog & one of the best in the blogosphere. He recently wrote a nice piece regarding when to go for it on 4th down. It really is a nice piece, and his model is sharp and elegant. But…


As my handle here at The Barrel is 4th Down Consultant, I feel obliged to respond. As always, I make the following disclaimer:


I believe that coaching staffs at all levels of football punt far too often, often out of fear. See mountains of evidence for the NFL in Gregg Easterbrook’s TMQ column for more detail. I believe this is number 16 out of 1,001 reasons why Chan Gailey sucks donkey balls.


However, I stop short of demanding that our teams go for it on some prescribed frequency; be it every time, most of the time, or 23.2% of the time when playing on a neutral field against a Cover 2 in the 3rd quarter if your yards per completion is averaging better than 6 at mid-field on the 4th play of drives starting outside the 20 when the temperature is between 66oF and 74oF.


I received the 4DC moniker after repeatedly questioning CPJ’s play calls regarding this subject in his inaugural season (undeservedly so, I think, but I wear it with pride). I still believe that he made a number of questionable calls in two games in particular (and I still think the onside kick to start the 3rd quarter against that Thursday night Miami game in 2008 was unnecessary), but I fully acknowledge that his methods and strategies over the long haul work, and its obvious that as our offense has gotten better, our ability to make 4th downs has improved. I also believe that CPJ’s style of football lends itself to 4th down plays, because while the plays we run are intricate, the play-calling is quite simple and the need for “tricks” is lacking.


That doesn’t mean that I still have to agree with each critical down decision. If I disagree with a 4th down call 10% of the time, then I’m still wondering “what the fuck” once per game when Tech plays. Nobody is above scrutiny in my book, not even the greatest college coach of our time. That doesn’t mean I think I can do it better than him. I most assuredly can’t. It doesn’t even mean I’m right. Nobody is right in “woulda coulda shouda” situations, because 20/20 hindsight is not a testable parameter.


But everybody agrees that 4th down decisions can’t be made out of emotions, be it confidence or fear. In critical situations, critical thinking is of the utmost importance. On this point, the Mathlete and I agree.


The question then becomes what kind of critical thinking? Statistical analysis is an important tool for almost everything, from medicine to football. But is there any room for qualitative analyses?


Baseball is game of numbers. Football is a game of inches. The reason is because baseball has very few working parts. Pitch, hit, run, catch and throw. Using nothing but those variables (and time, measured either in outs or innings) one may develop any number of beautiful statistics that generally describe a player’s or team’s performance. But even in a game as simple as baseball (and I’m not knocking baseball), you can’t always make reliable predictions based on those measurements.


How many working parts are there in football? Run Ball (infinite ways), Pass Ball (infinite ways), Pitch Ball (CPJ’s way), Block High, Block Low, Pull Block, Motion, Different Formations, Reads, Audibles, Mismatches, Broken plays, Play Fakes, Penalties etc... And that’s just on offense.


I am a helluva engineer, with an impressive mathematics resume; though it should be noted that in the “use it or lose it” domain, I am much closer to “lose it”. One of my biggest pet peeves in the world is the way people use statistics for the purposes of confirmation bias. I can think of three specific ways off the top of my head that statistics can be misleading. These are as follows:


1. Cherry Picking or Falsifying Data – Everybody has seen this, its pretty self explanatory. An example of this is how the anti-vaccination movement makes its bogus correlations between autism and vaccines.


2. Reporting Bias – The very way statistics are reported can show an incomplete picture. An example of this is the CDC study that shows if you are exposed to 2nd hand smoke, you are 25% more likely to develop lung cancer. However, another interpretation is that the fraction of the population (ahem…sample) that develops lung cancer goes from something like 10 out of 100,000 to 12.5 out of 100,000. Is that really statistically significant, or are we just justifying our indignation with smokers?


3. Incomplete Analysis – Another way that statistics can be bastardized is by lumping a bunch of numbers together and drawing unproven conclusions with certainty. My example here is that people who have guns in their house are supposedly…I don’t know…say… fifty-eleven times more likely to be involved in an accident than a self-defense situation. Does that account variables like age, education level, NRA membership, safety training, regular practice, mental health history, etc..? No. So that statistic is meaningless to an individual.


This third way of misreporting statistical results is the most insidious I believe, because the first two statistical fallacies are easily dismissible. Incomplete Analysis on the other hand doesn’t mean simplistic analysis. Numerology is quite sophisticated, after all.


Jabs aside, Mr. Mathlete certainly has developed some interesting and presumably accurate charts. For those of you who would like a translation of his work, my addition to his basic chart should help you.


The Mathlete’s Statistical Conclusion


From Mathlete



So, go for it every time on 4th and 5 if there is less than 55 yards to the endzone (except if, and only if, you are on the 24, 22, 17, 15, and 14 yard lines, in which case you kick it). Really? How many of you really believe that?


I’m picking on the Mathlete here a little, and I would be remiss to omit the fact that he says the areas around the edges are not precise. That said, ~100% doesn’t need to be too precise. And don’t get cute people, we of course are leaving out end-game scenarios and freak situations (injuries on a preceding play for example).


But this analysis doesn’t include every circumstance, or really any specific situation. Oh, I almost forgot. He anticipated three objections and offers explanations in his post for the following:



  1. Doesn’t account for quick change momentum

  2. Assumes all defenses (or offenses I suppose) are average

  3. Doesn’t account for game specific situations

The Mathlete then shows charts for expected points per drive compared to actual points per drive to address item #1. His variables are for drives started by turnovers, 4th down stops, time outs, and normal drives. For item #2 he shows a variation of the chart for the Florida offense and Ohio State defense.


What does this prove? In the most convoluted and confusing way possible, he demonstrates that the strongest indicator of obtaining points on any given drive is field position, not how the ball was obtained. We’re all in agreement here. Maybe that’s why there are situations more than 0% of the time when you might consider punting from the 50.


So what else should be considered to further figure out when to go for it? When would you want to punt in mid-field and mid-distance situations? You’ve got to consider risk vs. reward. I love how people in favor of eliminating the punter position always say that points are equally important at all times in a game (except in end-game scenarios). I’m not so sure. Points are more critical when you are behind. Yes, you want to score every possession. But that isn’t the end goal. The MOST critical thing in the game of football is that you score more points than the other team before the game ends. If you are up 35-0 at half time, scoring points is still very important. If you are down 14-10 at the half, points are everything. If you are down 70-0 at any time in a game, working on fundamentals becomes the most important thing. Points be damned.


Am I saying you should punt if you are up big? No. I’m saying that it is one possible factor that may be considered within the scope of the situation. If its 50-50, punting doesn’t seem like a good idea. If it’s 3-3 late in the third, I might be punting from my own 45.


Say you’ve got a weird score at the half. You’re down 18 to 20. Then in the 3rd your offense just isn’t clicking. The defense made adjustments. The things you are trying to do aren’t working out, and you need to talk to your offense. Perhaps your QB isn’t seeing something and he needs to be coached on something. No headsets for players in college. Better live to fight another drive. Kick the field goal and get the lead. It’s not the 4th quarter but, economically, the opportunity cost of letting those 4 points go isn’t as hard to swallow.


Also consider that you might not want to show everything in your hand in the first quarter. This isn’t as big of an issue with someone like CPJ, because he’s coming at you with the same stuff regardless of down or distance. That kinda frees him up to do whatever he wants. But the vast majority of teams have specific plays designed for critical situations and for specific opponents. And points later in the game are typically more meaningful than points early in the game.


If the Mathlete is saying that more teams should run spread option so that they don’t have to punt, then I agree. Otherwise, maybe you consider punting more than zero.


What is the confidence you have in making the 1st down? Most offenses are not Florida. Most Defenses are not Ohio State. How do you make that distinction? See Mathlete’s graph again with my possible estimate of how certain you might want to be to make the decision to go for it. Note this is just a guess based on how precise the circles drawn in MS Word can be, so don’t hold me to an extrapolation.


Example Confidence Intervals of 90%, 60%, and 10%


From Mathlete




Based on an infinite number of factors, the sizes of the 90%, 60%, and 10% confidence intervals will vary wildly. And when you weigh that confidence (risk) against the expected points (reward), you intuitively know whether or not to go for it. Even if the averages are with you, the specific situation may not be.


But this gets us beside the point. No, the Mathlete has not provided us with standard deviations, we don’t know z-factors, we have no weighting, and I’m not even sure where the data comes from. But this is a football blog, not a math class. We need to realize that statistics can only take you so far. Concepts of risk / reward, and game theory are every bit as critical, and really more so. This game is not played on a spreadsheet (or in the blogosphere for that matter).


And hey, why does the Mathlete tell us to kick a field goal on long yardage inside the 30 yard line 100% of the time? I think that is just as unreasonable as going for it each time? Beware anybody who gives you Always and Never as your only options. We’re admittedly being picky here as the Mathlete has authored a very fine post.


In the ACC Championship game last year, I’m pretty sure that either team kicking a field goal on 4th and 8 from the 12 would’ve signed their death warrant. Speaking of Clemson, was it a wrong decision to fake the field goal in the first Clemson game from even greater distance? Even I liked that one. Likewise, consider what the Patriots did against Indy last year. Either way you slice it, you can’t make decisions in football off of list of averages.


If you start to include lots of qualitative variables, you might start to see a number of situations where it makes sense to punt, even when coach-fear is eliminated.

So in summary, coaches should go for it on 4th down more often. But they should use their head, sound strategy, and cool demeanor - not canned data. I don’t need any charts or graphs to tell me that. Even Hash is on board with that sentiment.....

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Keep Yo' Pimp Hand Strong.....


we thought our response to Heather Dinich's little video on why we can't repeat as ACC Champs was pretty good. But Anthony Allen & Josh Nesbitt have taken things to a "whole 'nother level." A classic moment right there. You have been duly served, Ms. Dinich. How fucking huge is Josh Nesbitt? He dwarfs Allen, our fullback, whose not exactly a small man. I almost feel sorry for ACC linebackers. But not really.....Well done by #18 & #9 & a tip of the cap to loyal reader Matt who brought this to our attention.....(h/t: Enuratique @ Stingtalk for the title)

Have You Seen This Man......????



Are footballs randomly landing in your yard leaving craters only an 81mm mortar could make? Do you often see footballs disguised as low flying missiles over your house? Well, we need your help. Late last night the Fourth Down Consultant & I were discussing, well, 4th down, for a post that will appear later today & we had cause to reflect upon perhaps Tech's greatest punter, Rodney Williams. Yes, he of the cannon leg from Decatur and the longest punt in NFL history. And we got to wondering, where is Rodney Williams now? So help us out, peeps, & let's find Rodney Williams. A suitable prize to the person who locates Mr. Williams.......

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Dark Shadow of Oversigning.....

You're that close to gettin' run out of town.....

We all know the stakes have never been higher in college football than right now; just take a look at the ACC's new TV contract. We're now talking billions of dollars. That's a lot of chedda'. And when that much money is at stake you can be sure that competition becomes fierce; everyone is looking for a competitive edge. One way this competition has manifested itself is the oversigning of recruiting classes. Of course the programs that practice oversigning will deny that they engage in such activity; while it may be legal and within the letter of the law it is certainly outside the spirit of such laws and carries with it a moral ambiguity that is at best troubling. So what is oversigning?

Oversigning is essentially the practice of recruiting & then signing more players than you have room for & then somehow, someway, ridding yourself of lesser scholarship players so new recruits (with a potentially higher performance ceiling) can take their place. Graduation is of course the preferred way to open up scholarships but we'll see there's a not so savory side to opening up scholarships later on (forced transfers, the ever-popular "violation of team rules", medical hardships, just to name a few). Remember, NCAA scholarships are renewable YEARLY. They are very temporal & we'll find are often removed to make room for new players on a team.

Back to the basics. The NCAA allows each Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I) school 85 football scholarships. The number of the counting shall be 85. 85 shall be the number of the counting. Pretty simple so far. In 1992, the NCAA mandated that schools no longer sign more than 25 scholarship players per year & have them enroll during the Fall term. Warning: Loophole Alert!!!! What happens if players don't enroll in the Fall but in the Spring? Well, they don't count towards the 25 man limit & thus the game is afoot. If you manipulate enrollment properly, you can sign as many players as you want. In fact, just a couple years ago, incoming Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt signed a class of 39 players! That's a tunnel, not a loophole. While conferences like the SEC have moved to somewhat tighten this loophole (limiting the number of total incoming players to 28), there's still a big chasm between the rule on paper & in practice. So in reality the number that matters the most is 85, the number of scholarships, in total, a team is allowed to award. You must be at that 85 limit in the Fall before the season starts.

Why oversign? Well, the guys at Oversigning.com have a terrific website & have done yeoman's work in pointing out the current troubles with oversigning & how it skews the competitive balance of college football. I highly recommend you check out their work, as they even go back as far as Tech's departure from the SEC due to oversigning, something many Tech folks don't know about. So I grabbed this diagram from their website because it artfully depicts the advantages of oversigning:

(click above to enlarge)
As you can see, oversigning is simply a way of turning over a roster & ridding oneself of players who have been determined to be of little value to the team. It's the football version of culling the herd. A player comes in & for whatever reason doesn't live up to the hype? Find a way to force him out & through oversigning infuse new talent into the program. Now don't get me wrong, there will be natural attrition in any program. Some kids want to transfer, there are always academic issues, & unfortunately, kids get hurt. All of those naturally occur. But you're taking a big gamble when after signing day & graduation you have to lose 10 players and at this point in the season you have to lose 6 players before the fall.

So let's get to the ACC. Is anyone in our conference oversigning? A look at the numbers from Oversigning.com. As a conference, we do very well, having averaged signing 89.42 players from 2006-10. That's very respectable & makes perfect sense. After all, we said there will be some natural attrition & one player per year over four years is certainly reasonable. In fact, Tech's classes of 20,20,21,21 put us at 82, leaving three scholarships for walk-ons. Most of the conference appears to abide by both the letter & spirit of the law. The big exception? Butch Davis & UNC. At one point in 2009, UNC was short 17 scholarships. Not to worry, Davis balanced the equation. Seems like Butch's favorite tool is the medical hardship. Fourteen players from UNC have had career ending injuries since 2002, including 3 in 2009. That's an astounding rate that indicates UNC is engaging in 1) unsafe behavior on the field, or 2) using medical redshirts to clear players out. By my count, Tech has had two players receive medical hardships over that time frame, Antonio Wilson in 2009 (it is my understanding that Wilson & his family disagree with the diagnosis & litigation is pending) & Shane Bowen in 2008, both for neck injuries. Bowen is now a grad assistant at Tech while Wilson remains enrolled in school. Davis has a reputation as a great recruiter & now we know part of the reason why: through oversigning he's able to make more mistakes than everyone else. Sign 'em all & see who sticks.

We're not trying to be overly prude or moral here. But it seems only fair that when we expect 18 year-old kids to keep their word that the same standard apply to adult men making millions of dollars. The age old question: at what price victory? It seems a some are willing to do almost anything. On a related note, it looks as if some folks are getting wise to some of these shenanigans. Hopefully they take action. I'll at least wonder the next time the nebulous "violation of team rules" comes up when a player is dismissed.....

Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday Musings.....

Another week has come & gone & we're left that much closer to football season. The long & interminable wait continues. So after a weekend of roller derby (the wife, you know?) and a triumphal afternoon at Five Season's Brewings Sausage Fest 2010 where we drank far too much beer & won 2nd place for our liverwurst (all the while listening to a German "oompa loompa" band belt out Britney Spears "Toxic"), it's on to football. Yes, if you missed Sausage Fest 2010 you really missed out (and I never knew there were so many closet liverwurst fans out there.....). To the important news:
  • Senior All-ACC center (& rocket scientist) Sean Bedford has been named to the early watch list for the Rimington Trophy, recognizing college football's best center. Those folks over at the Rimington Foundation or whatever it is must have some mighty big eyes as they are doing a lot of watching: 37 players were named to the list including 6 ACC centers, the most of any conference. WOOHOOO!!!!! We have the best centers in the country! Suck on that, SEC......
  • Georgia Tech, in conjunction with the NFL, will be hosting a "career transition program" for former NFL players from June 7-10. It looks pretty cool, with a couple Tech professors participating, and we greatly approve other than the whole "Georgia Tech University" thing. It looks like it's about time the NFL stepped in to help it's former players if these numbers are even remotely close to accurate (78% of former NFL players are bankrupt within two years of retirement). I truly hope our recent NFL draftees are aware of that number......(h/t: Smart Football for the NFL numbers)
  • Speaking of Georgia Tech & the NFL, Calvin Johnson continues to impress, both on & off the field, announcing this week that his foundation is endowing six scholarships for Detroit high school football players headed to college. I just love his comment about walk-ons. There's no better ambassador for Tech than #81 in Honolulu blue........
  • ACC commish John Swofford is on a roll when it comes to TV; this time it's in the replay booth. We're goin' hi-def this year, folks. Nothing like great picture clarity when it comes to watching Ron Cherry screw up your whole season. Lest you need a refresher course on ACC refereeing:
  • On a not-so-positive note, what the hell is going on at N.C. State? We thought the Tom O'Brien hire to be a very good one but it really hasn't paid dividends, either on or off the field. First, a little botany experiment landed four players, including All-ACC tight end George Bryan, in trouble with the law. No big deal. Now starting boundary corner Jarvis Byrd has at very best exercised poor judgement ON VIDEO with these antics at a Wal-Mart. At best, it's thuggish, stupid behavior. At worst, it's criminal. And yes, that's former Tennessee Vol Nu'Keese Richardson, he of gas station robbing fame. Two words for Mr. Richardson: Dumb Ass. Now he'll whine when his probation is revoked. As for O'Brien & the Wolfpack, things aren't going as planned. I realize the arrests aren't really that big of a deal but they do surprise us. It's one thing to not live up to expectations on the field, it's another to have troubles off it. For a former Marine who came in with a "law & order" reputation, we're surprised how things have turned out for O'Brien. It's a two man race for hottest ACC coaching seat right now between O'Brien & Maryland's Ralph Friedgen.
  • The Baltimore Sun has released their predictions on the ACC's Atlantic & Coastal Divisions & they're pretty accurate. I continue to maintain that any of the top four teams in the Coastal could win the division but if I had to pick an order of finish the Sun's is a fair one (VPISU, GT, UNC, Miami). Florida State is easily the class of the Atlantic.
  • Finally, according to one English professor, Paul Johnson is partially at fault for the erosion of the United States Naval Academy. Other social factors be damned, it's football that's the problem. Myopic comes to mind. But hey, he's our problem now & we're quite content with that. So quit yer' whinin'......
Working on a post on Butch Davis & his interesting recruiting ways for tomorrow. Stay tuned...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sweet Heather Dinich.....

ESPN's golden girl is at it again. This time she she says that we can't defend our ACC title "in the best case scenario....". Worst case scenario: a seven win season. I had a chance to speak with Dinich about why we won't make the ACC Championship game & here's a bit of the conversation:


I tried......

Phil Steele Peed on our Rug.....



Yes, indeed. Phil Steele, he of football magazine greatness, urinated on our rug. An act of unchecked aggression? Do we need to draw a line in the sand? Joshua Nesbitt as the 4th team ACC QB? Now we know how the Dude felt about Lebowski & the Chinaman.......

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Recruiting Update: Defense


Venice, Florida's Clay Burton may be Tech's next commitment. He'll play OLB at Tech.....

So we established some baseline assumptions about our recruiting this season in Tuesday's post & covered the offensive side of the ball. Now on to the defense:
  • Nose Tackle: no position is more crucial in a 3-4 defense than nose tackle & we need players that can demand a double team and hold the point of attack. Tech has three offers out to potential nose tackles right now & three more targets who we are interested in pending commits and the resolution of some health issues. The three we have offered at this point are Joel Hale (6'4", 290, Center Grove HS, Greenwood, IN), Darian Cooper (6'3", 275, DeMatha, Hyattsville, MD) and Derrick Mitchell (6'5", 285, First Coast HS, Jacksonville, FL). Hale is a former teammate of Tech QB Jordan Luallen & the two remain close. While Luallen is pushing his friend to come to Tech, the Indiana prospect has blown up lately on the recruiting front, garnering offers from the likes of Florida, Ohio State, & Penn State this spring. We have an outside shot at Hale but it would surprise me if he attended Tech. Darian Cooper is a player that's been on Al Groh's radar for a long time & the Jackets are making a heavy push right now. Cooper is an elite level prospect with offers from almost every Big Integer school & several ACC schools like Tech, Clemson, & UVA. Don't expect a decision anytime soon but we're in the hunt. Jacksonville's Mitchell has committed to Florida State but many feel it's a soft verbal & that he will eventually open his recruitment back up. Tech coach's remain in contact with Mitchell for just such an eventuality. Right now the Jacket's are anxiously awaiting progress reports on two in-state players who are recovering from knee surgery. Jonathan Battle (6'1", 280, Sumter HS) of Americus suffered a major knee injury last season & has had some setbacks in his rehab. If/when Battle shows the knee has healed sufficiently this year expect a flood of major offers to roll in. If Battle's knee is healed, we have a good chance to land a stud. Also recovering from a knee injury that cost him his junior season is Wayne County's Tre Jackson. A mammoth 6'6" & 290 pounds, if Jackson shows his knee has healed at camps this summer he'll have a slew of offers to choose from. Tech appears to be in good shape with both Battle & Jackson. The other potential nose tackle of the Jacket's radar is Miami's Ruben Carter (6'1", 270, Jackson HS, Miami, FL). Carter is drawing interest from several programs & attended Tech's junior day this spring. He'll get a look at camp this summer.
#74 Stephon Tuitt is a key target at defensive end for the Jackets in 2011
  • Defensive End: with Tech's trasition to the 3-4 this season we'll need bigger & stronger defensive ends & that's what the staff has focused on for 2011. Number one on that list & my highest rated defensive recruit is Monroe Area's Stephon Tuitt (6'5", 260). Tuitt is a tireless rusher with great pursuit skills and a non-stop motor who will be an impact player at Tech. A heavy Tech lean, Georgia & Notre Dame are in hot pursuit but I expect he ends up on the Flats. One of our three key defensive recruits in 2011. Also on the board, albeit it long-shots, are Ray Drew (6'5", 245, Thomas County Central) and Jeoffrey Pagan (6'4", 250) of Asheville, North Carolina. Drew will most likely end up at Georgia while Pagan is a Florida commit. Don't be surprised if Pagan comes back into play as he has a very close relationship with Andy McCollum. Tech is also courting Chattahoochee's Barron Dixon (6'4", 255) and Joe Gore (6'6", 262) of Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina. Dixon, who will play LB this year in high school, projects as a defensive end in college & should get a Tech offer after camp this summer. I expect if will come down to Tech, UNC, & NC State for Gore who has great size for a 3-4 end.
Linebacker A.J. Johnson may be Tech's #1 target for 2011 & sports some dazzling braids even T-Pain would be proud of.....
  • Linebacker: Our first commitment this season was East Hall's Chaz Cheeks (6'3", 220), who will move from his high school position of defensive end to LB at Tech. It will be interesting to see which player ends up better, Cheeks or teammate & fellow defensive end Sterling Bailey who committed to UGA. After Cheeks, Tech is after several LB's this year with the transition to the 3-4 & none more than Gainesville's A.J. Johnson (6'3", 226). The one-time Tennessee commit (he decommitted when Kiffykins headed West) is one of the country's most highly sought after recruits with a trunk full of offers from almost every major program in America. It's a three team race right now between Tech, Clemson & Bama and we are very much in the thick of things for Johnson's services. Clay Burton is another stud LB & may be Tech's next commit. Life-long friends with 2010 signee Denzel McCoy, Burton projects as a rush LB on the Flats & a very good one. Signing both Johnson & Burton would be HUGE this year. Three other players with strong Tech interest are Norkethus Otis (6'3", 200, Gastonia NC), Tremayne McNair (6'2", 225, Jacksonville, NC), Cam Lynch (5'11", 220, Brookwood HS). Otis may be tough to lure out of state but we have a great shot with McNair & Lynch, two very good players. Lynch projects mainly as an inside backer in our scheme & reminds me of former UGA player & Brookwood alum Rennie Curran a bit. Finally, keep an eye out for Hillgrove's Jabari Hunt-Days (6'2", 226, brother of incoming QB Synjyn Days) and North Gwinnett's Brandon McGowan (6'3", 210) who both could land offers this summer.
  • Safety: with Isaiah Johnson & Fred Holton coming in this Fall I expect we'll only take one safety this year. That player is most likely Brian Randolph (6'0", 180, Kell HS). It's a two-team ace for Randoph between Tech & Tennessee & the Jackets have the lead. If we don't land Randolph we may pass on a safety all together this year unless an elite player like Erique Florence surprises us with a commitment (HIGHLY unlikely).
  • Cornerback: there are two main options in play right now, one, Doran Grant (5'10" 171, Akron, OH), who is a longshot & another Dominique Noble (6'2", 192, Mt. Ulla, NC), who lists Tech as his favorite. It would be great to get both but I highly doubt we land Grant. We have a great shot at Noble who possesses ideal size for a corner in our Cover 2.
It's crucial we land a solid defensive class to give us personnel more suited to the 3-4. The three key players for us to sign in this class are Tuitt, A.J. Johnson & Burton. We have a very good shot with all three. If we land those three & fill in with other solid players we'll be in great shape. We'll have more updates throughout the summer, particularly after summer camps. I expect a couple more commitments once camps roll around. As always, we'll do our best to answer questions......

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wednesday Grab Bag.....

We fully plan on finishing our little recruiting bonanza but before we do we have a few things to share:
We'll try & get the defensive recruiting post up today......

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Recruiting Update: Offense

Come on down & run some option, boys.....

With expansion talk stalled for the moment & the new TV deal having been announced, it really is the doldrums of no football. The good news is we're more than half way through our march through the barren desert of the off-season. The bad news is we still have to traverse June & July, the most desolate of football wastelands. So today & tomorrow we thought we'd give an update on how we're doing on the recruiting trail & who we expect to see at summer camps & eventually in White & Gold. Before we get to specifics some general recruiting notes:
  • We seem to have changed our recruiting strategy with the transition from Giff Smith to coach McCollum. Where under Gailey we generally targeted specific players (who we often knew we could get) and held scholarships for them until they were ready to make a decision, this year we've made a change & offered a far greater number of players, particularly elite guys, for the slots we have open. In essence, it's first come, first serve with scholarships now; we have a certain number of players we want at each position & when that number is filled we won't have any more space at that position. Better get on board or be left behind. Of course there are exceptions, particularly for elite prospects, but we have a definite plan in place that we're going to stick to. I've felt in the past we offered too many mid-level guys too early in the recruiting process, which essentially filled our class too early with non-elite prospects, i.e. kids we KNEW would accept an offer. We've held back on offering those types of players this year in lieu of focusing on higher level talent. As summer turns to fall & we get a better idea of where we stand with this class we will have a chance to get our fair share of those guys.
  • It seems we've broadened our geographic base as you might expect with the additions to our staff. Coach McCollum is recruiting North Carolina heavily as he is very familiar with that area having just left N.C. State. Coach Groh is focusing on his traditional areas of success in the Washington D.C. area & up into New Jersey. And we seem to be refocused on Florida, especially the Tampa area which has always been good to us. That's not to say that we're not continuing to focus on Georgia; we have & will always make our home state the focus of our recruiting efforts.
  • THE SKY IS NOT FALLING. THE APOCALYPSE IS NOT NIGH. I get so tired of reading Tech message boards bemoaning the state of our recruiting. "Georgia has eight commits we only have five". "We never get blue chip kids from Georgia". "We keep missing on all the best players in state". First off: bullshit. Secondly, stop reading Chip Towers & the AJC, he doesn't know jack shit & is a Dawg "homer". Georgia always recruits well, grow up & deal with it. We are just fine right now. We have five solid commits & lead for several other elite prospects. With CPJ's "no visit" policy for kids who have committed, it will naturally take kids longer to decide. As a point of reference,we had three commits in 2007 at this time, and those guys won an ACC title last year & five of them are now on NFL rosters.
  • As to class size, I expect we'll take any where from 20-23 players this year. On offense I expect 2 QB's, 1 B-back, 2 A-backs, 5 offensive linemen, & 2 WR's. On defense my guess is 1 or 2 nose tackles, depending on who we land, 2 DE's, 4 LB's, 2 DB's. Obviously those numbers will fluctuate depending on who we land & when we get them.
So there's some broad ideas, now on to specifics. Today we focus on the offensive side of the ball:
  • Quarterback: I expect we'll take two but we could take three guys if our top three all choose Tech. We currently have Airyn Willis (6'2", 175, High Point, N.C.) committed. Willis is a dynamic athlete who has played both RB & WR in high school. This year will be his first under center which gives him a pretty steep learning curve. Willis is clearly a special athlete and while the staff will give him a shot at QB I expect he'll end up at WR for the Jackets. The top two players on the Tech board are Nick Marshall (6'2", 185, Wilcox County, GA) and Vad Lee (6'2", 193, Durham Hillside, NC). Both players are fantastic athletes who could flourish in our spread option system. Marshall maybe the best athlete in Georgia this year as he stars in both football & basketball for Wilcox County. A prototype spread QB with good legs & a rifle arm, the biggest question on Marshall is what sport he wants to play in college or will he play both? His three leaders, UGA, Tech & FSU, have all said he will be able to play both sports which may hinder is eventual development, we'll have to wait & see. Rumor has it that Marshall prefers hoops to the gridiron & if so my guess is he picks UGA. If he decides to play both it's between Tech & FSU and will be a bitter battle to the end. A couple things working in our favor: 1) Marshall knows that if he chooses UGA in football he has to compete with uber-recruit Christian LeMay & he may end up at WR, & 2) FSU has signed QB Cody Trickett, son of offensive line coach Rick Trickett. Nepotism is a added battle we're not sure Marshall wants to fight. Lee is very similar to Marshall with better wheels & a lesser arm. Lee has been very vocal about his desire to play QB in college & it looks to be a two team race between Tech & UNC for his services. T.J. Yates & Bryn Renner, two mobile, spread offense QB's are already in the fold at UNC (bent over laughing.....). I Think Lee would be a much better fit at QB at Tech if that's indeed the position he wants to play. It may, however, be tough to lure him away from home. Landing either Marshall or Lee would be great for us as both possess the necessary tools to run our offense. My preference is Lee but there's not too much difference. One other name to keep an eye on is Timmy Byerly (6'1", 190, Chatahoochee H.S.) who may emerge over the summer.
  • B-Back: at the top of the Tech staff's wish list for 2011 sits Tampa Plant's James Wilder (6'2", 220), son of the former Buccaneer great of the same name. Wilder is a top-10 national prospect with a college ready frame who has five early favorites: Alabama, Florida, FSU, UGA, & Tech. What's interesting is that Wilder contacted the Tech staff personally to express his interest in Tech. It would be a huge coup for Tech to land a player of this stature & while the race appears wide open we have a better shot than some might think for one simple reason: Wilder wants to play RB & be the featured back at whatever school he attends (thus strike Florida who is recruiting him as a LB). With the graduation of Anthony Allen after this season the B-back spot is wide open & we can offer him a feature role in a dynamic run-based offense. While other schools may claim they can do so, none regularly get their feature back 200 touches per year as we do our B-back. Don't count Tech out. If we don't land Wilder we may not take a B-back but I hope we offer Blythewood, SC RB Brandon Wilds (6'1", 220). Wilds has good size & would be an excellent fit in this offense. Wilds badly wants a Tech offer & would likely commit if we do offer, thus the staff is holding off for the time being.
  • A-Back: we're likely to take two this class & already have one commit in Mt. Zion's Quartterrio Morgan (5'10", 180). Morgan has flown a bit under the radar & been overshadowed by the likes of Isaiah Crowell & Quan Bray but he may be the second or third best back in the state this year. A shifty runner with great acceleration, Morgan will be very solid at Tech. Our other top targets at A-back are Malcolm Crockett (5'11", 180, Friendship Collegiate, Washington, DC) and Charlton County's Chris Milton (6'0", 175). Crockett is a cousin of incoming freshman CB Louis Young while Milton is a cousin of UGA's Bailey clan (Champ, Boss, etc....). Both player have the speed & quickness to excel at A-back. While there are other players being recruited, those are our top three right now.
  • Wide Receiver: this is a bit of a guessing game right now. We've offered elite guys like Kasen Williams & JaJuan Story but the chances of landing those guys are very, very slim. Hakeem Flowers is also a long shot. Expect names like Zach Walker (6'1", 185, Johnson County, GA) & Ruben Gonzalez (6'3", 190, Robinson, Tampa, FL) to emerge along with some dark-horse candidates from our camps this summer.
  • Offensive Line: we've got two very good commitments thus far in Trey Braun (6'5", 275, Leon H.S. Tallahassee, FL) & Bryan Chamberlain (6'4", 280, Monroe H.S., Albany). Braun is a player whose film hadn't been widely circulated when he committed to us but word is out now that he is a very good prospect. Chamberlain has the frame to add 20-30 pounds & could play anywhere along the line. With the graduation of All-ACC center Sean Bedford in 2011 we'll need a strong replacement & the staff is focused on that position. The top two candidates are Mack Crowder (6'4", 270, Bristol, TN) and Ryan Norton (6'4", 275, Mauldin, SC). Both players have expressed interest in Tech & it should be a battle between Tech & VPISU for Crowder while Tech & Clemson battle it out for Norton. My gut says we have a better shot at Crowder. Also on the board right now are Quincy McKinney (6'4", 295, Carver, Columbus, GA), Kaleb Johnson (6'5", 280, Ed White HS, Jacksonville, FL) & Kyle Harris (6'3", 265, Pepperell HS, GA). We'll have several good offensive line targets who we have yet to offer at our camps this summer & I expect we will end up offering a few of those players.
Contrary to what some may say on certain Tech message boards, recruiting is off to a decent start this year. It's a long way to signing day & lots can happen between now & next February. There's a few names to keep a watchful eye on & many more will emerge as the summer continues. Tomorrow the defense......

Monday, May 17, 2010

R.I.P. Ronnie James Dio......



Another part of my youth stripped away. Maybe the greatest metal vocalist ever. Rock on......

"Get That Money......."


Ahh, the dulcet rhymes of Lil' Wayne. But it's official, the ACC did just that in agreeing to a $1.86 billion dollar, 12 year TV package with ESPN, according to the Triangle Business Journal. This is, quite frankly, a huge & very pleasant surprise. We expected something in the $1 billion dollar range over 12 years & got a huge boost with a contract of this size. Evidently we have Fox Sports to thank for the windfall as they bid aggressively for the deal. In the end, we're better off with ESPN as their multiple platforms (ESPN, ESPN2 & 3, ESPNU) give the conference more exposure. And we get Raycom along for the ride again. What would the ACC be without grainy 1970's picture feed & Mike Hogwood & Doc Walker rambling on about jack & shit? Wait, don't answer that.....

Doc Walker gives the ACC's new TV deal a thumbs up, especially since he can keep his gig with Raycom......

So what's this mean money wise for ACC members? Well, the deal works out to $155 million per year. Divide that by 13 (the 12 conference members plus the ACC office gets a share for administration, Swofford's massage parlor visits, etc....) and you get $11.92 million per year. Our previous contract paid the conference between $67-$75 million per annum (depending on who you believe) or about $5.76 million per year. In these tough economic times that's a huge boost to Tech & all ACC members. The impact of doubling our TV revenue will simply put be huge. To put the new contract in perspective, we now sit 3rd in TV revenue behind the Big Televen & SEC, whose member institutions pulled in around $22 million in TV revenue last year. We're not there yet, but we're certainly gaining. (The ESPN-SEC TV deal is $2.25 billion over 15 years or approximately $15 million per year. The SEC also has a deal with CBS that accounts for the rest of the income)

What specifically does the increased revenue mean for Tech? Well, it will greatly help an athletic department that has performed brilliantly on the field of late but has struggled financially (much of that attributable to past regimes). The renovation of Alexander Memorial Coliseum will break ground soon. And certain coaches with large roll-over contracts should take note......But most importantly, we will be fiscally solvent & able to pay down some of the debt incurred through stadium expansion, renovation, etc....

It's no secret we're not fans of ACC commish John Swofford. But we must give credit where credit is due......thanks Fox Sports! All jesting aside, Swofford did a fine job (with the help of IMG's Barry Frank) in negotiating a much better deal for the ACC this time around. Bundling football & basketball was a prudent decision as was creating some competition between ESPN & Fox. Remaining with the Worldwide Leader was a pretty easy decision because, well, they are the worldwide leader and offer the ACC the most exposure. While SEC fans will continue to spout their superiority that's fine; what we needed as a conference was an infusion of new money & that's just what we got. A good day for the ACC & a good day for Georgia Tech.....


Color Me Surprised......


Initial reports are beginning to surface that the ACC's new TV contract is worth somewhere in the $155 million dollar per year range. That's more than DOUBLE our last deal & means somewhere around $13 million a year for every member school. Color us VERY surprised & very happy. Evidently Fox wanted in on the action & drove up the price for ESPN. More when all the details become clear....

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Friday Five.....


So the ACC TV deal is supposedly done & it's ESPN. We were told by our usual source that we would be "pleasantly surprised" by the value of the deal and being that our source has yet to be wrong, we'll continue to believe his veracity (while leaving buckets of KFC around the house for him). The new deal should be announced early next week. Keep your fingers crossed that Raycom is still involved, after all, losing half of the Ron Cherry/Doc Walker duo to a new TV deal would render Saturday afternoon's a little less entertaining. "He's running like a caveman!!!!". On to other shiny objects that piqued our interest.
So expect to see this around the 3 minute mark of the 3rd quarter of next year's ACC Championship game. Well played, Mr. Swindle, well played.....
"the eyes of Texas are upon you, all the live long day......"

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Four More Years......


How much is my raise?

That's what Miami opted for in signing head coach Randy Shannon to a new deal today. The feeling around the ACC, at least from comments on ACC related blogs, is one of relief. That's certainly my feeling. Shannon is, by most accounts, a pretty good guy who has brought discipline & accountability to a once lawless program. And yes, it was Miami that was honored with Duke for their football APR (Academic Progress Rate) this week. So they've got that going for them. But while they may be in a position to win Quiz Bowls are they any closer to winning real bowl games?

I'll grant you Larry Coker did a hell of a job in eviscerating a once mighty program during the short time he ran the Canes' empire. And while Shannon has shown progress, it's been at best slow. His record overall at Miami is 21-17. He's managed to go 5-7, 7-6, 9-4 in his three seasons at the helm. Steady, but this is Miami, a team that served as basically a farm club for the NFL in the 1990's & early in the 00's (aughts, love that....). Shannon actually has a losing record, 11-13, in ACC play during his tenure. So will progress continue?

Maybe, but while Miami president Donna Shalala believes that Shannon "will get us back where we belong, competing for a national championship year after year", we just don't see it. Shannon is a caretaker coach, a program manager at best. Can he win? Yes, there's still fertile recruiting ground in South Florida & a heavy dose of tradition that benefits Miami. Can he compete for national championships every year & return the Miami program to its glory days? We're not buying. As we said earlier, Shannon is a caretaker coach & thus really only as good as his coordinators. Yes, he has two good ones right now in Mark Whipple & John Lovett.

John Lovitz is Miami's defensive coordinator? Who knew?

But how long will they stick around? It's no secret that Whipple wants to be a head coach & has already interviewed or been mentioned for other jobs (South Florida). And lest ye' forget, Shannon did famously hire away Patrick Nix from Tech, a move so baffling that even Steven Hawking couldn't figure it out. We do, however, thank him for ridding us of Mr. Nix.

So while Miami did the correct thing in extending Shannon, much as Tech did in extending Chan Gailey after his first deal, it may not be the best thing for the program. That's an apt parallel & one that will most likely hold true. Will they ever be bad? No, they'll win games & be above average, much like Tech was under Gailey. But will they rise to the once lofty heights the Miami program once occupied? Not under Shannon. So while the slumbering giant in South Florida may have stirred a bit, it's four more years of calm while Shannon's at the helm. And that, without a doubt, is good for Tech......

News About Town

In Atlanta centric college football news. Georgia State's new Athletic digs are under construction. The new facility will be just across the downtown connector from State's campus. It will feature 50 and 100 yard long practice fields and offices. The offices will be located in a converted warehouse designed in a "Contemporary "Loft" style. It will house GSU's Athletic Department's Administration, Cappuccino Bar, and DJ Ultra Lounge.

"Our play book will revolutionize play books. It doesn't run java."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

gman43duke

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