Daily Archives: April 1, 2014

For love of the game

Venric Mark, a Northwestern running back and former teammate of Kain Coulter, is a little ambiguous about that whole union thing.

Mark refused to disclose whether he signed a union card in January before Colter and CAPA unveiled their plan.

“Guys did sign cards supporting Kain and what he’s trying to do and his movement, but at the end of the day, as I stated, everything outside of our locker room is outside of our locker room,” Mark said. “And so some guys signed, some guys didn’t. I don’t know if people kind of knew what they were going to get into, if they thought it was going to turn out the way it did.

Fine, nobody’s holding a gun to his head.  Except he then lets loose with the Freudian slip of the day.

“But at the end of the day, now it’s time to get back to work. We have a job here, and we understand that. Kain’s no longer on this football team.”  [Emphasis added.]

Mark Emmert is confused.



Filed under Look For The Union Label

“Is this Florida?”

Give Andy Staples credit.  He is that rare bird – a Florida grad who acknowledges that life began before 1990.

… Thanks to a toxic combination of personnel, scheme and injuries, the Gators simply couldn’t move the football, and that failure contributed mightily to Florida’s first losing season since 1979. As the losses piled up, players who have never known a time when the program wasn’t great, or at least pretty good, couldn’t help but wonder.

“Is this Florida?” wide receiver Valdez Showers remembered asking himself.

It is, but a Florida remembered almost exclusively by people older than 45. There were decades when the Gators were college football’s version of the Chicago Cubs, bumbling along and occasionally coming tantalizingly close to an SEC title only to watch Georgia dash those dreams in Jacksonville.

Good times.


Filed under Gators, Gators...

The derp, it burns.

There are a few “never start a land war in Asia”-type rules I try to follow when surfing the Intertubes for grist for the GTP mill – don’t click on Bleacher Report slide shows, don’t look at the AJ-C comment threads, etc. – but at the top of my list is to avoid reading what Clay Travis writes.

I broke my rule today.

In my defense, I couldn’t help it.  I admit it; I got sucked in with this provocative header.

I really should have known better. Travis, after all, is the guy who thought NCAA amateurism made Cecil Newton blameless.  So it’s really no huge leap to go from that to arguing that Northwestern should just go ahead and pay its football players because all that will happen as a result is that the NCAA will be “upset”.  I’m not kidding.  “Sure, the NCAA would be upset, but what do you want Northwestern to do, not comply with federal law? The NCAA is a voluntary organization, its rules have no force of law.”

Perhaps SMU can tell Travis about what happens when the NCAA gets upset about players getting paid.  Jeebus.

It’s truly pathetic that a college kid like Kolton Houston has a better grasp on the relationship between schools, the NCAA and student-athletes than that.

My only hope for Travis is that this was a feeble attempt at a April Fools column.


Filed under General Idiocy

Mano a spreado

It’s unusual to see an article from a beat writer get so deeply into the strategery weeds – not because the beat guys are incapable of writing about that, but because it’s hard to imagine their audience would be that interested – but this piece about Dana Holgorsen’s offense (h/t Chris Brown) boldly goes there.  And it turns out there’s some really compelling information in there about how defenses combat packaged plays:

Holgorsen’s offense may be revered for its stars and its successes, but it’s like many others. It uses a lot of combination plays that can be a run or a pass depending on how a defense sets and reacts and how the quarterback reads it.

WVU likes to run a stick-draw play where the quarterback can wait and hand the ball to a running back on a draw or wait and sell the draw and throw a simple pass to an inside receiver for easy yardage. Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty has the authority to hand the ball off on an inside zone or flick a pass to a slot receiver running a slant. Kansas State and TCU both hurt WVU when the quarterback would run outside or sell that action and then throw a pass to a receiver on the move in space created by the threat of a quarterback run.

In all those instances, the offense is at a greater advantage when a defense plays zone. The offenses try to target linebackers, nickelbacks or the hybrid linebacker/defensive back types in the area they’re trying to cover. The offense’s options force that defensive player to make a decision and the offense acts off of that.

If the defender reads pass and covers someone in the zone, he leaves space for a run. If he reads run and goes for the ball, he’s left a receiver open in his area.

In man-to-man, the defender has a set assignment. There is no decision-making that can create possibilities for the offense, and the defense actually creates its own advantage.

Sound familiar?

“Quite a few teams use the zone read and that pop pass off the zone read,” WVU cornerbacks coach and former ECU defensive coordinator Brian Mitchell said. “You don’t want to put your defender in a run-pass conflict. He bites on the run and they throw a pass right behind him, or they run some kind of bubble screen off of it. When you go man, you take that out of the equation. He’s either a run defender or a pass defender, and you get an extra guy in the box with man coverage.

“That’s what a lot of teams did to us. If you look at our team, the most productive guy was Charles Sims. How do you take Charles Sims away? You put an extra guy in the box, and that’s what teams did. They played man and filled the box. I would do the same thing.”

In the new era of offense we’re in, could it be that the most valuable player on defense is the defensive back who can play man-to-man?


UPDATE:  Of course, let’s not forget that offenses adapt to defenses, too(h/t Chris Brown)


Filed under Strategery And Mechanics

Whatever blows your skirt up.

After looking at GTP‘s traffic numbers for the first quarter of this year, one thing’s obvious: changing defensive coordinators sure is good for business.  2013 was a record year for hits, but this year’s numbers are almost 400,000 ahead of last year at the same time.  It’s the offseason and traffic usually declines, so that’s a ridiculous bump.  It’s not like I’m doing anything differently (i.e., recruiting, which usually gets more attention than anything this time of year), either.

And it’s very similar to what I experienced in 2010, when Grantham was hired.  (From a percentage standpoint, the 2010 increase was bigger than 2014.)

I’ll give you guys credit for consistency.


Filed under Georgia Football, GTP Stuff

An agreement to agree

As the leaders of the free world college athletics’ power conferences work their way through their own private Yalta, it’s becoming clear that the easy part is the D-1 power grab itself.  What they’re going to do after they’ve achieved autonomy?  Well, therein lies the rub.  Right now, it looks like the commissioners don’t seem capable of much more than passing wish lists around to each other.

“I think what was reflected in that memo is a growing consensus,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said. “I think we’re going to get there.”

Among the topics addressed in what is labeled an “Attachment to Memorandum”:

— A lifetime opportunity fund that would allow former players to complete their education after leaving school. It would benefit players who depart early for the draft or who don’t graduate after their eligibility expires.

This point was mentioned specifically by Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany last summer.

— Provide full cost of attendance to players. This long-discussed topic seems to a certainty in the future. Players would be given a prescribed amount extra in living expenses based on the cost of living in the particular college town.

— Redefine rules governing agents. That’s a preference of SEC commissioner Mike Slive. While Slive hasn’t been specific about what those changes would be, assume that new rules would allow more contact with agents while players are in school.

Slive often uses the example of students in other majors having access to experts in that field. Why shouldn’t an athlete be given the same advantages of a concert pianist who consults with great composer?

— Meet the healthy, safety and nutritional needs of players.

Those first four bullet items had been previously mentioned among the commissioners.

You think that’s a little amorphous?  It’s rock solid granite compared with the rest of what’s in that memorandum.

New to the memorandum are these points the commissioners may want to change “if future circumstances warrant revision.” …

— Addressing scholarships that are reduced, cancelled or not renewed at the whim of a coach. Coaches have been criticized for promising a full-ride in recruiting then have the power to cancel scholarships on a year-to-year basis.

In 1973, the NCAA went from four-year scholarships to one-year renewable scholarships.

— Provide paid transportation for parents for official recruiting visits to championship events. (College Football Playoff, NCAA Tournament, bowls etc.)

— Rescinding rules that inhibit a player’s desire to pursue a non-athletic career. A Minnesota wrestler was declared ineligible last year because he posted music videos of himself online. NCAA rules prohibit a player from using his name or image for commercial use.

That rule seems to going away one way or another. Players’ rights to their image and likeness are at the heart of the O’Bannon lawsuit.

— Permit schools or players to get loans regarding “career-related” insurance.

— Policies regarding athletes’ time demands. Northwestern players were allowed to unionize, in part, because a National Labor Relations Board official concluded that players do devote at least 40 hours per week to their sport.

— More flexible transfer rules.

“if future circumstances warrant revision.” ?  Translation:  if we keep getting our asses kicked in court, here’s a potential Plan B to fall back on eventually if we can’t get Congress to intervene.  A profile in courage it ain’t exactly.

As for the items themselves, there’s little to object to there – unless you’re a head coach, of course – but I think I like where John Infante goes with his list a little better (there is some overlap), because it’s more tailored to keeping the academic part of the student-athlete in the equation.

I suppose they deserve credit for even acknowledging there are conditions that require change.  But not much, at least until there’s real action.  Maybe Nick Saban can reassure them.


Filed under College Football, The NCAA

Good technique = better health?

LSU is doing some work in practice with accelerometers to measure the force of collisions in trying to track any effect on player health.  One early finding may be of interest:

The numbers, at first, puzzled Marucci and his staff. While offensive linemen led all position groups, collisions ranged greatly from one lineman to the other.

They finally realized why.

“Some linemen have better technique than others,” Marucci said.

Offensive linemen are taught to use their hands more than anything, especially in pass-blocking. Collins, for instance, has one of the lowest collision rates of any linemen. He’s an experienced veteran whom many expect to be a first-round NFL draft pick next year.

“He uses his hands more,” Marucci said. “He has better technique.”

Boy, talk about motivation for self-improvement.

(h/t Rp)


Filed under The Body Is A Temple

First thing, let’s call all the lawyers.


Vanderbilt athletics has consulted with its lawyers about the dynamics of a union, what it might mean for the school and how to best serve students, AD David Williams told CBSSports.com.

In other words, time to prepare in case more schools are targeted.

“We’re in very close contact with (lawyers) to help us understand what all this means and what we should or shouldn’t be doing,” Williams said. “First thing we did.”


Stanford University sent a memorandum to its coaches and various staff members, asking them to use care in discussing union-related matters and to avoid making any public comments on the National Labor Relations Board ruling, including in social media.

“If you have been following the NLRB testimony you know that every seemingly innocent comment by university representatives takes on heightened importance in that environment, and is dissected and scrutinized,” said the note, which directed employees to send all media inquiries to Kurt Svoboda, a university spokesman.

In the memo, Stanford provided various suggestions to help its staff “avoid liability.” Here’s what it said:

“To avoid liability you must not:

  • Threaten actions against student-athletes if they join or vote for a union (e.g., threaten loss of playing time, being cut from team, loss of scholarship, extra conditioning, etc.).
  • Retaliate against student-athletes for actually supporting a union.
  • Promise benefits to student-athletes to discourage union support.
  • Monitor athlete’s union student-activities.
  • Question student-athletes about their union sympathies or activities.
  • State that Stanford will not deal with a union.”

Sounds like somebody needs to make sure David Shaw got the memo.

By the way, if you’re looking for new leadership who might be able to dig college athletics out of this mess, maybe Wolverton talked with some decent candidates.

Following the ruling last week that football players at Northwestern University could organize, I called a handful of private colleges to see how they were dealing with the prospect of a broader union movement.

Some athletic directors did not appear concerned, saying they were more worried about other legal challenges facing the NCAA.

Honestly, that almost sounds refreshing.


Filed under Look For The Union Label

Wrong holiday

I thought today was April Fools’ Day, not Groundhog Day.

Jenkins admits now that last spring — when the defense got the better of the offense in some scrimmages, including G-Day — led to some false confidence.

“After all those practices, we might have got a little too over ourselves, we thought a little too highly, then we slacked off a little bit,” Jenkins said. “Then when it came down to putting the work back in, we were a little bit off, a little behind.”

This spring, the focus is more on technique and fundamentals, as players and a new defensive staff get to know each other. The talk is less brash — at least for the most part.

“Our goals are way different from last year,” linebacker Ramik Wilson said. “We know what we’ve gotta do. No more talking, we’ve just gotta go out there and get better.”

Said Jenkins, “It’s a fresh start. But it feels like it’s a different vibe around here. Guys want to be holding everyone else accountable for something. We’re not letting guys get away with the small stuff, and the coaches certainly aren’t, either. They’re getting on us. I feel like we’re doing a lot of the small things now. We’re doing the technique work. … The coaches really just want to see us succeed. They’re always available for us. They’re just going the extra mile, compared to last year.”

You know how a stopped clock is still right twice a day?  Maybe it’s that time.


Filed under Georgia Football