Tag Archive | "The Mobtown Sports Beat"

Former UConn RB and NFL-draft prospect Jordan Todman: “With Coach Edsall…he had a great opportunity to make me better”

Tags: , , , , , ,

Former UConn RB and NFL-draft prospect Jordan Todman: “With Coach Edsall…he had a great opportunity to make me better”

Posted on 01 April 2011 by Ryan Chell

Former University of Connecticut running back Jordan Todman’s dream is to play in the NFL. It has always been to play football for as long as he can.

And when he joined Thyrl Nelson of “The Mobtown Sports Beat” Thursday, he had a lot of thanks to throw around for the position he is in, and he has one guy new to the Baltimore area to thank for his success.

The projected third-or-fourth rounder in April’s draft had current Maryland and ex-UConn football coach Randy Edsall for helping him raise his playing level to that the NFL caught notice of while he was in college.

Jordan Todman

“With Coach Edsall, I feel like I connected with the coach as well,” Todman told Nelson. “We all had the same interests. We just bonded real quick and I knew that he knew what he was doing and that he had a great opportunity to make me better.”

And Todman was pretty good for Edsall.

Todman was named the 2010 Big East Offensive Player of the Year and proved to be another talented running back  following the departure of Donald Brown to the NFL.

Todman gave a lot of credit to his predecessor in building the bridge for him to make plays.

“Donald Brown as we all know is a great running back and did well at the college level and is now out there. He and I are friends and I had the opportunity to play under him and have my game be better so that when I go to the NFL, I can be as successful as him.”

His 1,695 yards rushing for the Huskies this year was second most in school history, and the 14 scores he had were good for fifth-best for the program.

He became the first UConn running back to rush for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons, and finished third on the team’s career rushing list with 3,179 yards and 31 TDs in his three seasons in Hartford.

It wasn’t until Edsall coached him up and told him that he could play at the next level that Todman put his priorities in order.

“When you’re committing to school to play college football to eventually the NFL, that’s naturally not in your mind at first thought. I went to UConn and had no regrets about it, and I was finally able to to play in some games as a freshman and start some as a sophomore. Then to be the feature back my junior year, all-in-all it was probably the best decision I made.”

And he’s using that same ethic that Coach Edsall passed on to him when it comes to his NFL preparation.

“I felt like I put in all the work for the combine and my pro-day, and those things are over now. So, the next big thing and the next big date with football is having some meetings with some teams and draft day. Football is my full-time job now and as we speak I’m in the gym right now. It’s more of an opportunity to get better in the game of football.”

WNST thanks Jordan Todman for joining Thyrl Nelson and WNST! Could he be the next backup for Ray Rice? WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

Comments Off

Another Week of Pro Timing Days as Draft Season Continues

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Another Week of Pro Timing Days as Draft Season Continues

Posted on 24 March 2011 by Glenn Clark

There’s still no labor peace in the NFL, but NFL Draft season continues on as we inch closer and closer to Radio City Music Hall in New York at the end of April.

This week featured another round of Pro Timing Days, including a controversial stop at Georgia’s Pro Timing Day in Athens, where league scouts were forced to watch WR AJ Green workout on TV screens due a strange rule surrounding the lockout.

Since Green will be off the board before the Ravens select at 26th, I won’t bore you with further details.

Before I continue, I remind you of the players we have already profiled during Draft season.

QB-Ricky Dobbs (Navy), Pat Devlin (Delaware), Colin Kaepernick (Nevada), Josh Portis (California-Pennsylvania), Taylor Potts (Texas Tech), Christian Ponder (Florida State), Tyrod Taylor (Virginia Tech), Jake Locker (Washington), Greg McElroy (Alabama), Andy Dalton (TCU)
FB
-Anthony Sherman (Connecticut), Owen Marecic (Stanford)
RB
-Evan Royster (Penn State), Da’Rel Scott (Maryland), DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma), Damien Berry (Miami), Kendall Hunter (Oklahoma State), Roy Helu Jr. (Nebraska), Alex Green (Hawaii), Shane Vereen (Cal), Jordan Todman (Connecticut), Dion Lewis (Pitt), Jacquizz Rodgers (Oregon State), Mark Ingram (Alabama)
WR
-Lester Jean (Florida Atlantic), Terrence Toliver (LSU), Leonard Hankerson (Miami), Austin Pettis (Boise State), Denarius Moore (Tennessee), Owen Spencer (North Carolina State), Jock Sanders (West Virginia), Titus Young (Boise State), Vincent Brown (San Diego State), Ryan Whalen (Stanford), Torrey Smith (Maryland), Randall Cobb (Kentucky), Jon Baldwin (Pittsburgh), Greg Salas (Hawaii), Cecil Shorts III (Mount Union), Jerrel Jernigan (Troy), Niles Paul (Nebraska)
TE-Will Yeatman (Maryland)
OT
-Matthew O’Donnell (Queens University Canada), Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin), Nate Solder (Colorado), Anthony Costanzo (Boston College), Joseph Barksdale (LSU), Derek Sherrod (Mississippi State)
G-Danny Watkins (Baylor)
C-Zane Taylor (Utah), Kris O’Dowd (Southern Cal), Rodney Hudson (Florida State)
DE
-Justin Trattou (Florida), Allen Bailey (Miami), Eddie Jones (Texas), Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue), Brooks Reed (Arizona), Cliff Matthews (South Carolina), JJ Watt (Wisconsin), Cameron Heyward (Ohio State), Dontay Moch (Nevada), D’Aundre Reed (Arizona)
LB
-Mark Herzlich (Boston College), Casey Matthews (Oregon), Adrian Moten (Maryland), Nate Irving (NC State), Colin McCarthy (Miami), Martez Wilson (Illinois), Kelvin Sheppard (Louisiana State), 
S
-Jermale Hines (Ohio State), Jaiquawn Jarrett (Temple), Maurice Rolle (Louisiana-Lafayette), Rahim Moore (UCLA), Ahmad Black (Florida)
CB-Anthony Gaitor (Florida International), Aaron Williams (Texas), Jalil Brown (Colorado), Jimmy Smith (Colorado), DeMarcus Van Dyke (Miami), Brandon Harris (Miami)

If you missed any of those profiles, you can check them out in the archives here at WNST.net.

Part 1-A look at players who participated in the East West Shrine Game in Orlando, Florida
Part 2-A look at players who participated in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama
Part 3-A look at players who participated in the NFLPA Game (former Texas vs. The Nation Game) in San Antonio, Texas
Parts 456-Previews of players ahead of the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis
Part 7-A look back at players who made in impact at the National Football League Scouting Combine at LucasOil Stadium
Part 8-A look at players who participated in the first week of Pro Timing Days

The Baltimore Ravens made no personnel changes this week, so my team needs remain the same…

1. Defensive End
2. Offensive Tackle
3. Wide Receiver
4. Cornerback
5. Fullback
6. Inside Linebacker
7. Safety
8. Center
9. Running Back
10. Quarterback

Here are ten more prospects whose schools have already held their Pro Timing Days.

Thanks to CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com, NFLDraftBible.com, WNST.net (The AP), ESPN.com, Wikipedia, YouTube and various official athletic websites for helping to put together the profiles.

DE Aldon Smith (Missouri)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBee49viSK8[/youtube]

There was a time when the former Mizzou pass rusher was believed to be available for the Ravens at 26.

As Draft season has continued, that can no longer be considered a certainty.

Smith is a 6’4″, 263 pound beast who combined for 17 sacks over the last two seasons for the Tigers despite missing three games last season with a broken leg.

Smith played just those two seasons in Columbia, opting to depart after his redshirt sophomore season for the Draft.

There’s plenty to like about Smith. He ran a 4.74 in the 40 yard dash while in Indy, and has shown his versatility in different defenses. His wingspan was measured at an astounding 84 inches.

He also told reporters at Pro Day he can do a standing backflip-but we haven’t seen that yet.

The Ravens have scheduled a workout with Smith and will find themselves in an interesting position should he be available at 26. He’s clearly a talent, but he’s probably still a bit of a project at this point.

The Ravens desperately need a pass rusher on the edge. The demise of Trevor Pryce has left them in a bad spot. If they think the presence of Smith can generate a better rush (along with LB Terrell Suggs), he’d almost certainly be on his way to Charm City.

C Brandon Fusco (Slippery Rock)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-oyDfPkV-A[/youtube]

Quick-does anyone know where Slippery Rock is located?

If you said Butler County, Pennsylvania you’re a big winner.

A four year starter for The Rock, Fusco has been a steady riser throughout his career and now into Draft season.

He’s a 6’4″, 316 pound solid player who has shown off his athleticism after moving from tackle to center. He even made a catch (for nine yards) during his senior season.

The Ravens will be looking for center depth in the Draft. Matt Birk has said he’ll come back this season, but they’ll have to work with the expectation that Birk could be entering his final season. Chris Chester is still in the mix (he’s expected to be back as a restricted free agent), but is likely better served at guard than moving back to center.

It’s not a very deep draft at the position, but Fusco could be an option in the later rounds. He put together a solid Pro Day (although it was held at Lehigh) and has likely guaranteed himself a Saturday selection.

CB Ras-I Dowling (Virginia)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwYM_5uJ0MY[/youtube]

In one sentence, I think Dowling would be labeled as “obvious talent with obvious injury issues.”

Dowling is an impressive 6’1″, 198 pound corner who posted eight interceptions, three forced fumbles and a sack over his first three seasons with the Cavaliers. He posted an impressive 4.40 40 at the Combine.

Unfortunately, Dowling played in just three games during his senior campaign in Charlottesville, as he battled a broken left ankle, right knee issues and a lingering hamstring problem.

After all of that, he pulled up with another hamstring issue during the Combine.

Yikes.

Dowling actually WASN’T able to participate in the Wahoos’ Pro Day due to his injuries, he’ll instead delay until April 3rd-when he’ll hold his own individual Pro Day.

Cornerback is an issue for the Ravens. Chris Carr, Josh Wilson and Fabian Washington are unrestricted free agents. Domonique Foxworth is coming off a torn ACL.

They’ll have to address the problem somehow, whether in the Draft or later.

Dowling will be intriguing. He was an arguable first round talent a year ago. He’s clearly no longer a first round guy. But how soon would a team like the Ravens be willing to consider snapping him up to join Chuck Pagano’s defense? That much we don’t know yet.

DT Muhammad Wilkerson (Temple)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Q8TQg6uoSg[/youtube]

It has been a bit puzzling to keep seeing Wilkerson’s name linked to the Ravens in mock drafts.

The reality is that the Ravens have an anchor in the middle of their defensive line (Haloti Ngata) and have plenty of depth behind him at the position (Terrence Cody, Brandon McKinney, Lamar Divens, Kelly Talavou, Arthur Jones).

This could really test General Manager Ozzie Newsome’s steadfast “best player available” policy in the Draft. National Football Post reported the team will work out the former Owls big man this week, and could face a serious decision should he be available at 26.

On paper, Wilkerson LOOKS like a Raven. He measured in at 6’4″, 315 pounds in Indianapolis and tallied 10 sacks from the interior in 2010.

He doesn’t appear to be the type of player who could move to the outside and become a natural rush end, but the Ravens could certainly benefit from having another player on the field who is capable of pressuring opposing quarterbacks.

Wilkerson stood on most of his Combine numbers, posting only a 29 inch vertical at his Pro Day in Philadelphia.

He’s a late first round/early second round type of player. The only question will be whether or not he’s a true fit for a Ravens team that doesn’t really have a need for him.

QB Jeremiah Masoli (Mississippi)

masoli

In draft season, he’s been known as Jeremiah “Red Flag” Masoli.

We all know the history of Masoli’s transgressions.

In 2005, Masoli was forced to spend time in juvenile hall for his participation in a robbery. After transferring from City College of San Francisco to Oregon in 2008, Masoli kept his nose clean for a short time. That came to a halt when plead guilty to second degree burglary in March 2010. After a later arrest for marijuana possession in 2010, Masoli was dismissed by Ducks coach Chip Kelly but managed to catch on at Ole Miss.

Beyond his transgressions, Masoli showed himself capable of being a solid player at times. In three years of playing time, Masoli put up 5,930 yards passing and threw for 42 TD’s. He also ran for 1,930 yards and 29 TD’s. At his Pro Day this week in Oxford he worked out as both a quarterback and as a running back, with the thought being that teams could choose to use him as a Wildcat option at the next level.

The Ravens have historically (mostly) stayed away from players like Masoli. But after cutting Troy Smith following the 2010 Training Camp, they were left without a mobile QB on the roster-and had to use position players in practice to replicate opposing mobile QB’s. It would be safe to assume they’d like to get a mobile QB on the roster somehow.

It’s also no guarantee that Masoli gets drafted at all. In fact, the chances are probably no greater than 50-50 at best. The likelihood of Head Coach John Harbaugh considering a player like Masoli would go up if the team could add him as an undrafted free agent instead of using a pick on him.

Of course, UFA’s can’t be signed this year until a new labor deal is in place-but let’s worry about that another day.

My guess is that Masoli doesn’t end up in Purple and Black…but he’s certainly an interesting player to discuss between now and the end of April.

DE Adrian Clayborn (Iowa)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbXmQTn_D7w[/youtube]

The Ravens had an obvious presence at the Hawkeyes’ Pro Day in Iowa City, giving additional evidence that the team is legitimately considering using an early pick on the Clayborn to bolster their D-Line.

Clayborn is an impressive 6’3″, 281 pound specimen who electrified the Big Ten with 63 tackles and 11 sacks in 2009. Those numbers dropped off in 2010, as the big man managed just 52 tackles and only four sacks. The drop-off was particularly alarming considering Clayborn did not miss any time due to injury.

Clayborn’s size and speed (4.78 40) as well as a solid week at the Senior Bowl have kept him in the conversation as a first round pick-perhaps a player who could go off the board even before the Ravens select at 26.

D-Line coach Clarence Brooks needs outside help. Clayborn certainly appears to be the type of player capable of creating pressure on his own. That might very well make him a perfect fit in Baltimore.

FB Shaun Chapas (Georgia)

chapas

AJ Green may have been the star of the Bulldogs’ Pro Day, but there were other players working out who were worth paying attention to as well.

Chapas could be intriguing to the Ravens whether or not FB Le’Ron McClain departs as an unrestricted free agent.

Chapas is a 6’2″, 247 pound bruiser who was clocked with a 4.87 40 time in Indianapolis. He’s not likely to be an explosive Chris Cooley-type of H-Back; but instead is expected to play a natural fullback role.

Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron appears to be in the market for that exact type of player right now.

Making the case more compelling for Chapas, he received the types of honors during his time in Athens that the Ravens would like to see.

From GeorgiaDogs.com:

“At team’s annual awards Gala, earned team’s Coaches Leadership Award for Special Teams, the Leon Farmer Award for dedication to the strength and conditioning program and the David Jacobs Award as the player who by example portrays courage, spirit, character and determination.”

Sounds like someone Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta and company would be interested in if you ask me. As the Draft goes deeper into Saturday, he would almost have to be a consideration.

LB Alex Wujciak (Maryland)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxpcfXl-guo[/youtube]

I will admit that I was quite surprised when the former Terrapins standout did not receive an invite to the Combine.

He certainly did everything necessary during his ACC career to earn an invite. He tallied 354 tackles over three seasons in College Park, mixing in three forced fumbles, four interceptions and two touchdowns.

Wujciak certainly doesn’t lack the size (6’3″, 250 pounds) to play an Inside backer position at the next level. Teams might want him to be a bit quicker (his 40 time was 4.79), but he’s never appeared slow in coverage.

Wujciak comes from an athletic family, as his father (Alan Wujciak) was an OL for Notre Dame while his younger bother (Connor Wujciak) plays for Boston College.

At this point most projections have Wujciak as a late round pick at best. The Ravens need inside backer help. Dannell Ellerbe, Tavares Gooden and Jameel McClain have been not quite good enough to lock down a position and Ray Lewis is getting no younger.

Alex Wujciak is no Ray Lewis.

But he’s certainly deserving of an opportunity to prove himself at the next level.

(Wujciak joined Thyrl Nelson and myself last Thursday on “The Mobtown Sports Beat” on AM1570 WNST-you can hear the conversation in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net.)

CB Richard Sherman (Stanford)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzm6HeFS2sE[/youtube]

Continuing the trend of “intriguing prospects”, there are few players in the Draft more intriguing than Sherman.

Fact: Sherman’s 6’3″, 195 pound frame and 4.54 (40) speed are solid if not ideal for a NFL CB prospect.

Other fact: Sherman has played corner for just two seasons in Palo Alto, and his skills (despite 6 interceptions in his Cardinal career) are still considered to be raw.

He’s going to be a later selection if he’s selected at all. The Ravens will have at least some familiarity with him as Harbaugh’s brother (Jim Harbaugh) coached him at Stanford before accepting the head coaching gig with the San Francisco 49ers.

He’s obviously not “the answer” for the Ravens secondary; but he could be a project worth taking a shot on as the Ravens will continue to face big receivers in the AFC North. The Cleveland Browns are expected to be in the market for the aforementioned Green, which would give the division one more matchup problem.

RB Ryan Williams (Virginia Tech)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGAQP1Rwsus[/youtube]

The Ravens are expected to part ways with RB Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain may be on the way out as well.

That would leave the team with just Ray Rice & Jalen Parmele (and Curtis Steele, Matt Lawrence and Jason McKie for what it’s worth) in their backfield.

They’re going to need to upgrade somehow.

Williams could very well be an option. His size is more similar to Rice (5’9″, 212 pounds) with pretty good speed (trimmed his 40 time down to 4.53 at his Pro Day in Blacksburg).

Williams had an explosive season in 2009 (1,655 yards rushing and 21 TD’s), but a hamstring injury cost him four games in 2010. His numbers were trimmed to 477 yards rushing and nine TD’s as he split time with fellow Hokies back Darren Evans.

The Ravens will have to pay extra close attention to the injury-but they’ll also have to determine if Williams would be a fit behind Rice. He’ll likely be a Friday night pick-and might end up coming off the board to early to be the choice in Baltimore.

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

Comments Off

On Eve of Brother Jon’s Biggest Fight, Ravens’ Jones Contemplating Own MMA Future

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

On Eve of Brother Jon’s Biggest Fight, Ravens’ Jones Contemplating Own MMA Future

Posted on 19 March 2011 by Glenn Clark

Jon “Bones” Jones is one of the brightest stars in the history of Mixed Martial Arts.

Just three years into his career as a professional fighter, Jones has posted a 12-1 record. His only loss (to Matt Hammill in December 2009) came via disqualification due to illegal elbow strikes.

Jones will compete in the biggest fight of his young career Saturday night, when he challenges Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) light heavyweight title holder Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in the main event of UFC 128 in Newark, New Jersey.

At just 23 years old, Jones has used a flashy style and an ability to catch opponents off guard to endear himself to MMA fans all over the world. He comes into his first title fight just weeks after an impressive submission victory of then undefeated Ryan Bader at UFC 126 in Las Vegas.

jonjones

Fans of the Baltimore Ravens may find themselves with a particular rooting interest in Jones Saturday night, as he is the younger brother of DT Arthur Jones, the team’s 2010 5th round pick out of Syracuse in the NFL Draft.

As his younger brother prepares for the biggest fight of his young career, the elder Jones has spent time working alongside him and famed MMA trainer Greg Jackson in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Between participation in a high profile camp, an amateur wrestling background, the fluid nature of the current National Football League lockout and the decision of Ravens teammate Tom Zbikowski to step into a boxing ring earlier this month, Jones has many reasons to consider a step into the MMA world himself.

“I’m really leaning towards taking a fight” the elder Jones told Thyrl Nelson and myself in an interview Thursday on “The Mobtown Sports Beat” on AM1570 WNST. “But we’ll see. Right now I’m doing it for cardio and getting my hands right. Getting my muscles flowing so I can be in the best shape I can come this year whenever I get called back to the farm to work.”

Jones’ situation is not exactly like Zbikowski’s. Zbikowski had 90 amateur fights and a professional victory already on his resume as a boxer before he was even selected by the Ravens out of Notre Dame in 2008. During his first three seasons in the National Football League, Zbikowski has established himself as a steady role player both behind future Hall of Fame S Ed Reed on the defensive side of the football and as a steady contributor to the team’s Special Teams unit. Zbikowski even made six defensive starts in 2010 while Reed began the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.

Jones made just two game appearances as a rookie in 2010. If and when the NFL finally begins the 2011 season, he will still be looking for his first career tackle. While he was an accomplished amateur wrestler at Union-Endicott High School in New York, he has never participated in a sanctioned MMA contest.

artjones

And while Zbikowski has stated multiple times that boxing was his first love, Jones is very aware that his most important work is done on football fields.

“The NFL pays well, better then MMA does as of right now. Your mind wanders from time to time but you just have to remember, ‘what’s my real job?’”

The elder Jones may be aware that football should be his priority, but his superstar brother said his interest in MMA has been evident as the two train together in New Mexico.

“He’s helped my training out so much” Jon said in an interview with Nelson Tuesday on AM1570 WNST. “I’m wrestling on a level that I was wrestling in at high school, and we’re getting into those scrambles that we used to. Just being around him, he’s a competitive guy and pushing me to a whole new level. I’m grateful to have him here for my training.”

While Zbikowski’s transition to boxing was particularly natural during the offseason, other NFL players have moved into arenas that have to be considered even more foreign than Jones’. Cincinnati Bengals WR Chad Johnson is scheduled to participate in a tryout for MLS team Sporting Kansas City next week, while New York Jets (and former Ravens) LB Bart Scott has been involved with Total Nonstop Action (TNA) wrestling.

Certainly a move into the Mixed Martial Arts arena by Jones would be met with greater respect and appreciation.

Jones’ playing weight (313 pounds) is nearly 50 pounds heavier than Mixed Martial Arts’ heavyweight cap (265). As Jones would not want to cut so much weight ahead of football season, he would have to find a promotion that would allow him to fight at the 265 pound+ “Super Heavyweight” level.

Should such an opportunity present itself, Jones is well aware of why he could have a significant MMA future.

“I was a strong wrestler in high school, I was a two time state champion. Once you wrestle, you don’t forget the moves. I was big in freestlye and grecko, I think I shocked the guys to be so big and move as fast as I do. I’m just having fun right now, the sport is growing, and it’s growing more and more on me. At first I thought it was barbaric, two grown men locked in a cage fighting, beating each other up. But it’s more like art, it’s about technique and more than just punching someone.”

Unlike Zbikowski (who is a restricted free agent yet to sign his tender offer), the road would be a bit more difficult for Jones to step into a ring. Jon Jones told Nelson his older brother would have to receive clearance from the league to take a fight. Given the nature of the relationship between the league and the NFLPA right now, there is no certainty that such clearance would be given.

But if it were, the younger Jones believes his older brother could make a significant impact in the world of combat sports.

“I could see Art competing within a year and a half of training. He throws me around like a rag doll, and I’m in the UFC. If Arthur were to dedicate more time to mixed martial arts, I could see him competing at the highest level within a year and a half’s time.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fXx0Rg37pk[/youtube]
Jones at WNST’s June 2010 “Ravens Rookie Show”

-G

Comments Off

With Combine in Rear View Mirror, Draft Season Heads to School

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

With Combine in Rear View Mirror, Draft Season Heads to School

Posted on 10 March 2011 by Glenn Clark

We’re over ten days removed from the National Football League’s annual Scouting Combine at LucasOil Stadium in Indianapolis.

I apologize for the delay in updates, a trip to Sarasota for Orioles Spring Training is to blame.

Now draft season heads back to campus, as schools host Pro Timing Days for their NFL Draft hopefuls.

The Baltimore Ravens brought a significant contingent of personnel folks to the premiere event during Draft season, including General Manager Ozzie Newsome, Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta, Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz and Head Coach John Harbaugh. The group was very active over the weekend with meetings and workouts.

Before I continue, I remind you of the players we have already profiled during Draft season.

QB-Ricky Dobbs (Navy), Pat Devlin (Delaware), Colin Kaepernick (Nevada), Josh Portis (California-Pennsylvania), Taylor Potts (Texas Tech), Christian Ponder (Florida State), Tyrod Taylor (Virginia Tech)
FB
-Anthony Sherman (Connecticut), Owen Marecic (Stanford)
RB
-Evan Royster (Penn State), Da’Rel Scott (Maryland), DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma), Damien Berry (Miami), Kendall Hunter (Oklahoma State), Roy Helu Jr. (Nebraska), Alex Green (Hawaii), Shane Vereen (Cal), Jordan Todman (UConn)
WR
-Lester Jean (Florida Atlantic), Terrence Toliver (LSU), Leonard Hankerson (Miami), Austin Pettis (Boise State), Denarius Moore (Tennessee), Owen Spencer (North Carolina State), Jock Sanders (West Virginia), Titus Young (Boise State), Vincent Brown (San Diego State), Ryan Whalen (Stanford), Torrey Smith (Maryland), Randall Cobb (Kentucky), Jon Baldwin (Pittsburgh), Greg Salas (Hawaii)
TE-Will Yeatman (Maryland)
OT
-Matthew O’Donnell (Queens University Canada), Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin), Nate Solder (Colorado), Anthony Costanzo (Boston College), Joseph Barksdale (LSU)
C-Zane Taylor (Utah), Kris O’Dowd (Southern Cal)
DE
-Justin Trattou (Florida), Allen Bailey (Miami), Eddie Jones (Texas), Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue), Brooks Reed (Arizona), Cliff Matthews (South Carolina), JJ Watt (Wisconsin)
LB
-Mark Herzlich (Boston College), Casey Matthews (Oregon), Adrian Moten (Maryland), Nate Irving (NC State)
S
-Jermale Hines (Ohio State), Jaiquawn Jarrett (Temple), Maurice Rolle (Louisiana-Lafayette), Rahim Moore (UCLA), Ahmad Black (Florida)
CB-Anthony Gaitor (Florida International), Aaron Williams (Texas), Jalil Brown (Colorado), Jimmy Smith (Colorado)

If you missed any of those profiles, you can check them out in the archives here at WNST.net.

Part 1-A look at players who participated in the East West Shrine Game in Orlando, Florida
Part 2-A look at players who participated in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama
Part 3-A look at players who participated in the NFLPA Game (former Texas vs. The Nation Game) in San Antonio, Texas
Parts 4, 5 & 6-Previews of players ahead of the Combine

The Baltimore Ravens made no personnel changes this week, so my team needs remain the same…

1. Defensive End
2. Offensive Tackle
3. Wide Receiver
4. Cornerback
5. Fullback
6. Inside Linebacker
7. Safety
8. Center
9. Running Back
10. Quarterback

Here are ten more prospects to keep an eye on as we move from the Combine to Pro Timing Days.

Thanks to CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com, NFLDraftBible.com, WNST.net (The AP), ESPN.com, Wikipedia, YouTube and various official athletic websites for helping to put together the profiles.

DE Cameron Heyward (Ohio State)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inKtdfodCak[/youtube]

Remember when former Buckeyes LB James Laurinaitis was headed towards the 2009 NFL Draft and his name couldn’t come up without a mention of his father Joe Laurinaitis (the former WWF star “Road Warrior Animal”)?

Be prepared for the same now with Cameron Heyward-the son of former New Orleans Saints RB Craig “Ironhead” Heyward.

Much like Lauriniatis, Heyward heads toward the Draft as a marquee prospect.

Heyward measured in at 6’5″, 294 pounds in Indy. The only disappointing part of his weekend was that an offseason elbow surgery prevented him from being able to lift, where he would have been expected to show off great upper body strength.

Heyward probably won’t be able to lift between now and the Draft, which could allow him to slip to late in the first round or completely out of the first round altogether. He did take time however to show reporters assembled in Indianapolis that he was fully capable of bending his arm at the elbow and had a full range of motion in his arm.

The most impressive part of Heyward’s trip to Indy was his session with the media. Heyward was very impressive in talking to reporters, thinking back on a life growing up around the NFL.

The question for the Ravens will be whether or not Heyward can consistently pressure quarterbacks. He tallied just four sacks during his senior year in Columbus, 15 sacks overall during four seasons at OSU.

The Ravens NEED a rush end, we all know that. But they need a rush end who they can count on to truly generate…well…a rush. There’s certainly a chance Heyward could be that player.

WR Cecil Shorts III (Mount Union)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfn3oxSbJ6A[/youtube]

Shorts just joined Thyrl Nelson Monday on “The Mobtown Sports Beat” on AM1570 WNST. If you missed it, I suggest you check it out in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net.

Shorts found immediate superstardom in Charm City over Combine weekend, as the Ravens didn’t hide from their interest in him. Shorts in fact confirmed to WNST.net that he had met with the team’s entire coaching staff and Newsome.

Shorts is smart to bring up the name Pierre Garcon every time he speaks, as the fellow former Purple Raiders receiver has found immediate success with the Colts.

For as much attention as was paid to Shorts during Combine weekend, his 40 time and measurements hurt. He was listed as 6’2″ during college, but measured in at 6’0″. For a speed receiver, his 4.53 time in the forty was disappointing.

Shorts finished his college career with 4,615 yards receiving, which is nothing to sneeze at. He of course posted those numbers at a Division III school, although Mt. Union was one of the premiere programs at the D3 level.

He’s not going to be a Thursday night pick…or a Friday night pick. And Shorts is certainly not “the answer” for the Ravens in terms of upgrading their WR corps. But he could become a solid complementary piece in Cam Cameron’s offense, and could certainly be an option in the team’s return game.

RB Dion Lewis (Pitt)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1wwCS_BBVI[/youtube]

Has there been a more confusing early NFL Draft entry in recent years than Lewis?

Lewis is not a prototypical every down back. He’s much closer to a Ray Rice type of undersized back who will have to be involved in the passing game to really make an impact at the next level.

Of course, that’s an overly fair comparison. No one in the NFL thinks Dion Lewis is the next Ray Rice right now, which is why he could still be an intriguing option late in the Draft.

Lewis (5’7″, 193 pounds) played for just two seasons with the Panthers before departing for the NFL. His (redshirt) freshman season was incredible, as his 1,799 rushing yards and 5.5 yards per carry average made fans in Western Pennsylvania forget about LeSean McCoy, who had been drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles.

But his production in his sophomore season didn’t quite reach the same level, as he ran for just 1,061 yards and his average fell to 4.8 yards per carry.

Certainly part of the reason McCoy left school is because of the way running backs are now used in the NFL. There is a common thought that teams are looking for backs with more “tread left on the tires”, as the average shelf life for a back is much shorter than it once was.

Lewis would NOT be a “replacement” for Willis McGahee should the Ravens cut tie with the veteran as expected. But the Ravens could be looking to add multiple pieces to their backfield. As the Draft gets later, Lewis could be an option.

CB DeMarcus Van Dyke (Miami)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHTTKwmI_Uk[/youtube]

You’re thinking to yourself…”I know that name!”

You do. Van Dyke became one of the more recognizable names of Draft season when he posted a blazing 4.28 forty yard dash at the Combine, making him the fastest man in Indianapolis.

On top of his speed, scouts clearly like Van Dyke’s size. The former Hurricanes DB measured in at 6’1″, 176 pounds in Indianapolis.

Unfortunately, speed and size alone do not make a player a legitimate NFL prospect. Van Dyke collected three interceptions during his career in Coral Gables, but struggled underneath and in zone situations, only really showing true ability in deep man coverages.

If he wasn’t 6’1″ and blazing fast, Van Dyke wouldn’t be a prospect AT ALL. Because of his size and speed, a team is going to be willing to take a late round chance on his as a developmental prospect.

The Ravens have questions in their secondary; as Chris Carr, Josh Wilson and Fabian Washington are all unrestricted free agents. On top of that, Cary Williams is an exclusive rights free agent and Domonique Foxworth is coming off an ACL injury.

Van Dyke is NOT a player the Ravens could take at the top of the Draft and plug in to play next season. But he could be allowed to progress behind veteran corners in Chuck Pagano’s defense.

DE Dontay Moch (Nevada)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PT3GoRCKY8[/youtube]

What we know is that Moch is FAST.

How fast?

He posted a 4.44 time in the forty at the Combine, easily the fastest amongst D-Linemen and Linebackers. What’s crazier is that Moch had previously recorded a 4.20 forty time at a Pro Timing Day in Reno as a junior.

The question for scouts now is whether or not Moch can match his speed with defensive skill.

Moch is a 6’1″, 248 pound end who many folks believe will have to be converted to an OLB at the next level. That would obviously limit his value to a team like the Ravens, who are in desperate need of D-End help.

Moch definitely showed an ability to get to the QB during his four seasons with the Wolf Pack, collecting 29 sacks during his career. He’s also intelligent, composing a NFL Draft diary during the process for the website SB Nation Arizona (he’s a Chandler, Arizona native).

If the Ravens feel he can team with LB Terrell Suggs and provide pressure from the edge, he could very well be a Friday night choice.

QB Jake Locker (Washington)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZchE4x7zlE[/youtube]

If there was any thought process that somehow Jake Locker could slip far enough in the Draft that he could end up being an option for the Ravens, it’s certainly gone now.

While there are still questions about his throwing accuracy, Locker’s 4.52 time in the 40 yard dash and overall Combine performance confirmed that he’ll be a 2nd round pick at worst. That’s far too early for the Ravens to consider a quarterback with an established starter in Joe Flacco.

Locker will not be the Top 10 pick we once thought he would be, but the former Huskies QB seems more and more likely to be picked 25th by his hometown Seattle Seahawks.

Wherever he ends up, he’ll bring 53 TD passes as a Pac 10 quarterback and a solid 6’3″, 231 pound frame.

But unless something were to happen to Flacco between now and the end of April, he won’t be bringing those attributes to Baltimore.

C Rodney Hudson (Florida State)

rodneyhudson

The bad news? Hudson was a guard (and actually played some tackle as well) in Tallahassee, and was a bit undersized even for a very talented ACC Offensive Lineman.

The good news? Hudson is expected to play center at the NFL level, reported to the Combine ten pounds heavier than when he played in the Senior Bowl and would have at least a season (fingers crossed for good health) to study under veteran Matt Birk.

Hudson checked in at 6’2″, 299 pounds in Indianapolis, and the only downside for the Ravens is that he’s continuously risen on Draft boards.

He won’t be taken before Mike Pouncey, but he might not last long enough for the Ravens to get him with the 59th pick in the draft.

Most scouts think Hudson could play immediately. If the Ravens can call his name in New York, they might have the benefit of not having to find out.

LB Colin McCarthy (Miami)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wB-pouJkVw[/youtube]

Looking to the Canes for defensive help wouldn’t be something new for the Ravens organization.

At times, their success has reached a historic level (see Ray Lewis & Ed Reed). At other times, the jury is still out (see Tavares Gooden).

Interesting to mention the names of Gooden and Lewis, as both play a role in why McCarthy might be a legitimate choice for the Ravens.

Gooden is part of a trio (Dannell Ellerbe and Jameel McClain are the others) who have failed to solidify the WILL backer spot next to Lewis in the team’s 3-4 scheme. And as Harbaugh pointed out in a town hall conference call with fans this week, the team is aware that they have to start considering a long term replacement for Lewis at the MIKE backer spot.

McCarthy could be an option for either role…or perhaps both.

McCarthy is a 6’1″, 238 pound linebacker with decent speed who was a tackle machine (120 in his senior season, 297 for his career) during his time playing for Randy Shannon at “The U.”

On top of being a solid football player, he’s also a smart kid. If you missed his interview with Drew Forrester Wednesday on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST, I would encourage you to check it out in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault at WNST.net.

He’s going to go somewhere between the second and fourth rounds of the Draft. It might very well end up that he finds his way to Baltimore.

QB Greg McElroy (Alabama)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQPVv4pafN8[/youtube]

Despite the fact it was a 43 he posted on the Wonderlic and not a 48, we know that McElroy is intelligent.

We also know that he’s a winner-which helped him win a BCS Championship as a junior with the Crimson Tide.

He also posted fairly impressive numbers in Tuscaloosa, throwing for 5,495 yards and 17 TD’s combined between his junior and senior seasons.

McElroy might not be a future franchise quarterback and will likely stay on the board well into Saturday. That’s exactly where the Ravens might be looking for a quarterback to play behind Flacco with Marc Bulger’s future in question.

He’s got pretty good size, measuring in at 6’2″, 220 pounds at the Combine. We know that Newsome LOVES to draft players from Alabama.

I don’t think it would be a surprise to anyone if McElroy ended up in purple and black.

LB Martez Wilson (Illinois)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_kX-cfzjjw[/youtube]

As we mentioned with McCarthy, the Ravens are definitely in the market for ILB help.

Wilson is considered by most scouts (including our own Brian Billick) to be the best inside backer available this year. He posted an impressive 4.49 time in the forty at the Combine, making him the fastest backer in the Draft.

Wilson measured in at 6’4″, 250 pounds in Indy; and had an impressive 111 tackles during his final season with the Illini.

The Ravens are going to need ILB help in this Draft. The question will be whether or not they will want to address it as early as will be necessary to walk away with Wilson. He’s going to have a chance to go as early as late in the first round (the Ravens pick 26th) or early in the second round.

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

Comments Off

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

If Zbikowski Helps Ravens Beat Steelers, I Won’t Fight His Desire To

Posted on 08 March 2011 by Glenn Clark

I think I’ve changed my mind about this about a hundred times since I first heard the news.

Baltimore Ravens Safety Tom Zbikowski will step into a boxing ring at the MGM Grand Saturday night in Las Vegas to face a largely unknown opponent named Richard Bryant. The fight will be part of the undercard for the Miguel Cotto-Ricardo Mayorga showdown, which will air on Showtime Pay-Per-View. It will be Zbikowski’s second professional fight, but first since a 2006 knockout of Robert Bell at Madison Square Garden in New York.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-8BYolVPVw[/youtube]

When I first heard the news, I immediately thought to myself, “There’s no way this is okay.”

I understood the concept. With National Football League Owners and the NFL Player’s Association (NFLPA) locked in a battle over a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), it appeared as though the league was quickly headed towards a lockout, which would allow players to do just about anything they wanted to away from football. New York Jets LB Bart Scott has been seen on Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling. Minnesota Vikings DE Ray Edwards (a free agent who many fans would like to see consider Charm City) has also decided to box in the offseason.

But I couldn’t help but wonder if Zbikowski’s decision was a good one. I couldn’t help but wonder if as a professional football player, Zbikowski might not be better off simply preparing for football. Whether or not the NFL was going to experience a work stoppage, there are few of that don’t believe in our hearts there will be a NFL season in 2011, and the Ravens will have an opportunity to claim a second Vince Lombardi Trophy in Indianapolis in 2012.

On “The Afternoon Drive” last week on AM1570 WNST, Drew Forrester and I discussed our thoughts on Zbikowski fighting. I said then I felt as though if I were a teammate of Zbikowski’s, I would probably want to get on the phone with him and say “I understand you’re a boxer. I understand you want to do this. But we want to win the Super Bowl this year. Why don’t you just get together with me in Arizona and let’s work on getting ready for the season.”

In fact, when Washington Redskins OL and former Raven Casey Rabach joined Forrester and I last Thursday on the show, I posed the question to him. “If one of your teammates were to (choose to box, fight Mixed Martial Arts, etc during the lockout), would you make that phone call to say ‘just bear in mind everything that’s going into this decision you’re making.’”

Rabach’s answer seemed perfectly logical to me.

“I’d be the first one on the phone I think to call that player and say ‘hey, remember where your bread is buttered’” said Rabach. “Just be careful, be smart. Definitely those are things that would kind of scare a guy (like) myself, if I hear a player doing that. It just doesn’t seem like anything great will come out of that.”

On Friday’s show, we received a call from Mike Paskoff-one of our regulars on “The Morning Reaction” and someone I worked with briefly during my time at CBS Radio. He reminded me that when it comes to the decisions of other players, teammates tend to be very supportive. Whether the situation is a holdout, an off-field issue or a locker room dispute, players often tend to respond with a simple “that’s his business.”

While Paskoff was right, Rabach’s comments justified the uneasiness I felt about Zbikowski’s decision.

Is this REALLY a good idea?

There was a detour on the road to an inevitable lockout last Friday, as the owners and NFLPA agreed to extend discussion another week. Zbikowski participated in a conference call coordinated by Top Rank Boxing (who is promoting Saturday’s card) to tell reporters he would be participating in the fight with or without a work stoppage in the NFL. As an Unrestricted Free Agent, Zbikowski couldn’t be stopped contractually.

When asked about the support of his teammates, Zbikowski pointed out that a number of teammates including DT Haloti Ngata intended to head to Vegas to support him in his fight.

This Ravens analyst and lifelong Baltimore sports fan remained skeptical.

On Monday, I joined Thyrl Nelson on “The Mobtown Sports Beat” on AM1570 WNST to chat with Zbikowski about his decision, and to get direct word from the safety about my own concerns.

Thinking back on Rabach’s comments, I asked Zbikowski if any teammates had reached out to him to question his decision.

“I haven’t gotten that yet” the former Notre Dame standout told us. “I think people know better than that, because I’m just that hard headed. If you tell me not to do something I’m going to do the opposite, if you tell me not to do it I’m not going to do it, so you’re better off letting it run its course (and) let me do my thing.”

While not overwhelmingly convincing, I understood the concept. I’m 27 years old myself, and I still tend to have the mentality of a 16 year boy when it comes to authority.

“Whatever you want me to do; I’m probably not going to do it-just to make you uncomfortable.”

I’m pretty hard-headed myself. Somewhere right the great Tom Clark (my father) is chuckling.

But Zbikowski followed up those comments with others that were more thought provoking.

“To be honest with you, all these football players are doing MMA, boxing things anyways in the offseason. The days of lifting, trying to get bigger were in high school and college, nobody cares how much you bench on the football field, player wise, nobody cares how much you bench or squat, it means nothing. It’s how athletic you are, it’s how you perform. It’s all those things.”

Zbikowski was completely on target with such thoughts. A number of NFL players have sought out Mixed Martial Arts training in the offseason. In fact, many of those players have done so under the guidance of FOX NFL Insider Jay Glazer. Ravens DT Kelly Gregg was scheduled to work with Glazer during the 2010 offseason, but backed out at the last minute. Incorporating fighting into months of preparation for football isn’t unique to Zbikowski. The only unique aspect is that Zbikowski would actually step into a professional ring against a combatant who desired to cause him physical harm.

It’s unique…and potentially much more dangerous.

Zbikowski had said in his conference call that he had hoped to fight multiple fights during the spring and summer. I asked him Monday if he would still do so even if the league avoided a work stoppage.

“I’m going to see how this goes” responded Zbikowski. “If it’s another 50 second one (like his 50 second knockout of Bell at MSG), I don’t know If I can keep up the six, seven weeks of training because anybody who’s ever done boxing knows what kind of shape you have to be in and what kind of training it takes. That was one of the toughest things. I sparred almost 100 rounds for 50 seconds last time and that’s bittersweet, because you can’t complain about your pro debut at Madison square garden being a 50 second knockout. We’ll see how it goes because I’m not really one who’s good with making plans. I kind of fly by the seat of my pants and see what’s what.”

While it’s certainly understandable that Zbikowski wouldn’t want to prepare for weeks for less than a minute of fighting, it’s also reasonable to think that without a lockout Zbikowski’s only focus should be helping the Ravens win the AFC North.

With that in mind, the front office of the Baltimore Ravens (particularly Owner Steve Bisciotti, General Manager Ozzie Newsome and Head Coach John Harbaugh) should have every right to ask Zbikowski to keep his focus on football if there is no work stoppage-even if he believes he will eventually become a full time boxer.

And if they do?

“I don’t know about this one because it’s already fight time, you know I would have a tough time saying no to it” responded Zbikowski. “I would just say ‘You guys have (Pro Bowl safety) Ed Reed, you don’t need me! Eight picks and he’s not even playing in six games! You don’t need me!”

It’s funny, but it’s not exactly reassuring. Zbikowski did go on to offer another thought that would reassure me a bit more.

“There’s not going to be anybody in better shape come Training Camp. I’ll guarantee you that.”

I’m still a bit uneasy. Zbikowski told me he’s well aware of the worst case scenario. There’s absolutely a chance (although I’d think the chances are slim) that he could step into the ring Saturday night and take the wrong shot to the head.

If that happens, the second guessing of his decision to fight will be the least of Zbikowski’s concerns.

But as Forrester has said on multiple occasions this offseason, there’s only one thing that should matter right now for the Baltimore Ravens.

Beating the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Zbikowski joked about how boxing could prepare him for the task.

“I’ll bring back a belt. When we play them, I’m going to stand at midfield. If they’ve got somebody they want to throw at me again like they did back when we had the home game, I’m gonna take somebody’s head off. Or you can just send me in (and) let me blitz. Haloti got a little piece of (Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger) on accident, imagine what would happen if I do it on purpose. I’ll take an ejection; I’ll take an ejection for the team.”

He gets the point. If he’s on the field and contributing if/when the Ravens face the Steelers this fall, I don’t care what he does in the offseason.

Of course, I’ll be pulling for him to never leave his feet Saturday night.

If you missed Monday’s interview with Zbikowski, visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net!

-G

(Headline photo courtesy of USA Today)

Comments Off

Indy Calling: Workouts Continue As Draft Season Moves Toward Combine

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Indy Calling: Workouts Continue As Draft Season Moves Toward Combine

Posted on 16 February 2011 by Glenn Clark

If the NFL Draft is the “Super Bowl” of NFL Draft season, I believe next week’s trip to Indianapolis, Indiana for the NFL Scouting Combine would qualify as the end of the regular season.

After next week, the Draft season “playoffs” begin as players hold Pro Timing Days on college campuses and private workouts at National Football League facilities.

Before I continue, I remind you of the East West Shrine Game players, the NFLPA Game players, the Senior Bowl prospects and the rest of the Draft prospects we have already profiled.

QB-Ricky Dobbs (Navy), Pat Devlin (Delaware), Colin Kaepernick (Nevada), Josh Portis (California-Pennsylvania), Taylor Potts (Texas Tech), Christian Ponder (Florida State)
FB
-Anthony Sherman (UConn)
RB
-Evan Royster (Penn State), Da’Rel Scott (Maryland), DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma), Damien Berry (Miami), Kendall Hunter (Oklahoma State), Roy Helu Jr. (Nebraska), Alex Green (Hawaii)
WR
-Lester Jean (Florida Atlantic), Terrence Toliver (LSU), Leonard Hankerson (Miami), Austin Pettis (Boise State), Denarius Moore (Tennessee), Owen Spencer (North Carolina State), Jock Sanders (West Virginia), Titus Young (Boise State), Vincent Brown (San Diego State), Ryan Whalen (Stanford)
TE-Will Yeatman (Maryland)
OT
-Matthew O’Donnell (Queens University Canada), Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin), Nate Solder (Colorado)
C-Zane Taylor (Utah)
DE
-Justin Trattou (Florida), Allen Bailey (Miami), Eddie Jones (Texas), Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue)
LB
-Mark Herzlich (Boston College), Casey Matthews (Oregon), Adrian Moten (Maryland)
S
-Jermale Hines (Ohio State), Jaiquawn Jarrett (Temple), Maurice Rolle (Louisiana-Lafayette)
CB-Anthony Gaitor (Florida International)

The Baltimore Ravens made some personnel changes this week, adding CB Marcus Paschal and WR Brandon Jones. Both of those players are little more than guys who are getting Training Camp tryouts.

The team placed the franchise tag on DT Haloti Ngata ensuring his return for at least the 2011 season (if there is one). They also worked out free agent DC Reynaldo Hill.

Despite all of that, my team needs remain the same…

1. Defensive End
2. Offensive Tackle
3. Wide Receiver
4. Cornerback
5. Fullback
6. Inside Linebacker
7. Safety
8. Center
9. Running Back
10. Quarterback

Here are ten more prospects to keep an eye on as we move towards the Combine.

Thanks to CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com, NFLDraftBible.com, WNST.net (The AP), ESPN.com, Wikipedia, YouTube and various official athletic websites for helping to put together the profiles.

CB Aaron Williams (Texas)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5oUaOLG-yE[/youtube]

Our buddy Scott Wright from DraftCountdown.com had the Ravens selecting the 6’1″ junior Longhorns DB at 26th a week ago. (He’s since switched to Colorado CB Jimmy Smith.)

I’m not sure I agreed with the mock, but I definitely wouldn’t be up in arms if Williams was the pick.

Williams has one unique advantage as a 6’1″ corner-the advantage of being two or three inches taller than any corner on the Ravens’ roster (not named Cary Williams).

Williams is best known for the sack that ended the career of then Oklahoma (and now St. Louis Rams) QB Sam Bradford. Unfortunately his senior season might have been most remembered for a TD he gave up to Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon. Blackmon burned a few folks during the 2010 season to be fair.

But Williams was very good for the better part of his three seasons in Austin. He finished his career with 89 tackles, five forced fumbles and four interceptions-including one he returned for a TD.

There’s a good chance he’s on the board at 26. He definitely won’t reach to the team’s pick in the second round. They could possibly trade back and get him-but with question marks surrounding CB’s Chris Carr, Josh Wilson and Fabian Washington in free agency-GM Ozzie Newsome and company might not be able to take that chance.

WR Torrey Smith (Maryland)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5A_6n_eoI2o[/youtube]

I know what you’re thinking.

“How could I possibly not know everything there is to know about Torrey Smith? I listen to him every Tuesday at 12:30 with Thyrl Nelson on “The Mobtown Sports Beat” on AM1570 WNST!”

While I INDEED suggest checking out the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault at WNST.net to hear more from the former Terrapins star, I figured I might pass along a little more information as well.

Smith may ultimately go down as a player who would have been better off sticking around for one more year to make himself a first round pick, but there’s also a chance he’ll be a player whose Draft season alone makes him a first round pick.

Smith will run one of the more important 40 yard dashes at LucasOil Stadium next week, where is expected to post a sub-4.40 time. The only thing working against him will be the fact that fellow former Terps WR Darrius Heyward-Bey lit the Combine on fire two years ago but has disappointed since being selected in the Top 10 by the Oakland Raiders.

Smith wouldn’t address a size need for the Ravens (he’s 6’1″), but he would certainly address a speed need-which Donte’ Stallworth was unable to do during his season in Charm City.

Smith saved his best for last in College Park, grabbing 67 catches for 1,055 yards and 12 TD’s. The only disappointment for Smith in 2010 was his return game, as he tallied just 585 return yards after combining for 2,498 yards and 3 return TD’s between his freshman and sophomore seasons.

While Lardarius Webb and David Reed each came on at the end of the season in their respective return roles, it’s safe to say neither have particularly locked their roles down.

Smith could offer a lot to the Ravens. 26th might be a stretch as of now, but as he rises in Draft season it could very well be the exact spot where he ends up. Before they pull the plug, they’ll probably want to encourage Smith to improve some of the company he keeps…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apWJYZNRyQA[/youtube]

OT Anthony Costanzo (Boston College)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqJrjwjf55c[/youtube]

At this point, it seems unlikely that the Eagles’ 6’7″, 308 pound monster will be around when the Ravens are on the clock at 26.

But with the Jared Gaither situation still very much up in the air and question marks surrounding Michael Oher’s long-term stability at LT; it might be a good decision for Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz and company to make a move for a player of Costanzo’s stature.

Costanzo had a remarkable career in Chestnut Hill, having been a starter for four seasons. He was the first true freshman to start on the O-Line for BC in ten years during the 2007 season-which we remember as the year Matt Ryan was a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate.

Costanzo had a big week in Mobile, showing off his quick feet and long arms. More impressive (according to Rob Rang of CBSSports.com) was his frame, as he displayed a muscular torso despite his mammoth size.

He’s not quite (Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl OT) Joe Thomas as a prospect-but he’s really good. There’s a chance he could become Joe Thomas at the next level.

DE Brooks Reed (Arizona)

brooksreed

There has been plenty of attention given during Draft season to Wildcats DE Ricky Elmore, but Reed is certainly deserving of note himself.

Reed boasts an impressive 6’3″, 262 pound frame and tallied 17 sacks during his career in Tucson. There has been discussion of whether or not he can be and end at the next level or if he’s going to end up being a stand-up guy.

With the Ravens very obviously needing End help, he would have much more potential value to Chuck Pagano’s defense as an end than an OLB. The question is whether or not he can provide a consistent rush from the end position, and we don’t quite know the answer to that.

Reed has plenty of athleticism, having played RB as well as DE in high school. It doesn’t guarantee he’ll be a great athlete at the NFL level, but it certainly speaks to his versatility.

WR Randall Cobb (Kentucky)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i09R28AWgFU[/youtube]

It is REALLY hard to figure out how valuable the former Wildcats star will be at the next level.

During three seasons in Lexington, Cobb played quarterback, running back, receiver and returner. Between the four positions, he was responsible for 42 total touchdowns over those three seasons.

As a more natural receiver in 2010, Cobb was very impressive. He grabbed 84 catches for 1,017 yards and seven TD’s. But it’s hard to figure out if Cobb can make a seamless transition to being a natural receiver at the NFL level.

With a 5’11″ frame, Cobb is going to have to be FAST to really be a dynamic threat in the NFL. At a Pro Timing Day last season, he ran just a 4.55 in the 40 yard dash. Scouts will need to see a time better than that in Indiana next week.

Cobb’s 40 time could be the difference in going as high as the first round or as low as the fourth round. It seems as though 26th would be a stretch for a team like the Ravens, as Cobb probably has to be viewed as a “project” for folks like Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta.

But if Cobb ends up slipping, a project might not be a bad addition to the team’s receiving corps; as long as they further address the need to compliment Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason with a true top target.

OT Joseph Barksdale (LSU)

barksdale

After moving from Right to Left Tackle between his junior and senior seasons, Barksdale has seen his draft stock continue to rise.

The 6’6″, 318 pound big man made the move to the left side for the 2010 season after Ciron Black graduated. The move appears to have paid off, as Barksdale is currently projected amongst the top 10 tackles available in the Draft. He’s not in the Thursday or Friday night conversation as of right now, but he could be moving in that direction as Draft season continues.

Barksdale claimed second team All-SEC honors during his senior campaign in Baton Rouge, helping the Tigers finish 4th in the conference in rushing. He tallied 49 knockdowns at the most important position on the line.

Head Coach John Harbaugh has said he wants OL Marshal Yanda to return to RG (if he returns to the team as a free agent). To do that, the team has to get a player to complement Oher and solidify the tackle position. As the Draft progresses to Friday night/Saturday, Barksdale will be a more attractive option for new O-Line coach Andy Moeller.

RB Shane Vereen (California)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNKfztfmFWE[/youtube]

The Ravens will be looking for a back to compliment Ray Rice should Willis McGahee (as many of us are expecting) be let go. Vereen might very well be a solid option.

Vereen isn’t a big back, but his 5’10″ (205 pound) frame was big enough to allow him to carry the ball 15 or more times in nine of the Golden Bears’ 12 games in 2010. Vereen finished the year with a 5.1 yard per carry average, adding 13 TD’s.

Vereen finished his three year career in Berkeley having rushed 556 times for 2,834 yards and 29 TD’s. He added 874 receiving yards and six receiving TD’s over the three seasons. His numbers (and build) are similar to fellow former Bears back Marshawn Lynch.

Vereen could play his way up the board during Draft season, but without having participated in a College All-Star Game as an early entry his only Draft season statement thus far was an appearance on ESPN2′s All-Star Football Challenge. He’s probably a late Friday night pick right now, which could be the perfect spot for the Ravens to plug him into Cam Cameron’s offense.

DE Cliff Matthews (South Carolina)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajnVMrltDc4[/youtube]

Much like Arizona’s Reed, the Ravens are going to have to determine if Matthews can be a true rush end at the NFL level.

He certainly did a solid job in the role during his four years in Columbia, tallying 13 sacks between his junior and senior seasons. Matthews finished his Gamecocks career with 142 total tackles from the edge.

The Ravens haven’t found a true rush end since the demise (and ultimate departure) of Trevor Pryce. They rotated Ngata, Paul Kruger and even Cory Redding on the edge last season, with none of them settling into the role.

Matthews would certainly bring an impressive frame (6’4″, 268 pounds) to anchor the line, as well as a fairly high motor (expected to run the 40 in the 4.7′s range). He often went against premiere O-Linemen in the SEC (including Barksdale above) and had success.

Early in Draft season, Matthews is a Saturday pick-probably in the 4th-5th round range. It would make sense for the team to draft an end earlier in the weekend, but Matthews could certainly end up being an additional insurance policy.

CB Jalil Brown (Colorado)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84WC_f_3Ip4[/youtube]

While more attention is given to his Buffaloes teammate Smith, Brown certainly has the tools to play at the next level.

Brown (6’0″) isn’t quite as tall as Smith (6’2″), but his size does separate him from other corners in the draft-as well as the corners on the Ravens’ roster. Only Cary Williams (6’1″) from last year’s roster is taller than Brown, although Paschal is also 6’0″. The Ravens’ top corners under contract (Domonique Foxworth and Lardarius Webb) are 5’11″ and 5’10″ respectively.

Brown had a solid career in Boulder, finishing with six interceptions over his final three seasons. His performance was good enough to pick up All-Big 12 Honorable Mention honors. There may be some concern for NFL scouts due to a shoulder surgery between his junior and senior seasons-but it did not appear to affect him during his senior campaign.

Brown’s 40 time in Indianapolis will go a long way in determining where he will be picked. If he stays in the range of 4.5, he’ll probably be an early Saturday pick. If he cuts under 4.5, he’ll have a chance to be picked Friday night. If he ends up posting a number over 4.5, he’ll be in danger of sliding to late Saturday.

The former Buffs corner has a unique connection to the Ravens. He set an Arizona High School record by once running for 412 yards in a game at South Mountain High School. The player who previously held the record? Ravens LB Terrell Suggs.

S Rahim Moore (UCLA)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Im2SZjMaO2A[/youtube]

With Ed Reed’s future almost always in jeopardy and Dawan Landry a free agent, the safety position will have to be addressed by the Ravens in the offseason.

Moore exploded on the Pac 10 scene in 2009, recording 10 interceptions for the Bruins. He tallied just one interception as a junior however before leaving Los Angeles early for the Draft.

While his interception numbers were down in 2010, his tackle numbers increased greatly. He tallied 77 tackles, up from 45 as a sophomore.

Moore has an impressive build (6’1″, 197 pounds) and can work his way up the Draft board by going under 4.5 when he runs the 40 yard dash at the Combine.

He looks like a Friday night pick as of right now. The Ravens could do well to pick him in the second round.

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

Comments Off

Hokies coach Seth Greenberg and Terps coach Gary Williams dissect Thursday matchup at Comcast Center, ACC struggles

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hokies coach Seth Greenberg and Terps coach Gary Williams dissect Thursday matchup at Comcast Center, ACC struggles

Posted on 20 January 2011 by Ryan Chell

Tonight’s game between the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Maryland Terrapins at the Comcast Center features two teams in very similar situations.

Both have struggled at times to start the season, but ultimately both teams can’t say that they haven’t put together a stack of opponents ready to either increase their tournament resume or say that they aren’t a play or two away from making a run.

Four of Maryland’s six losses this year have come to ranked teams( Villanova, Duke, Illinois, Pittsburgh) with all of the games on the road or on neutral sites.

The Hokies meanwhile have lost three games by a total of nine points.

Seth Greenberg

Hokies basketball coach Seth Greenberg and Maryland Terps coach Gary Williams joined Thyrl Nelson of “The Mobtown Sports Beat” this week to not only shoot down the rumors that the ACC-at time of circulation has only one team-Duke-in the AP Top 25-is having a down year in basketball, but to also size their respective opponent up in Thursday’s game at the Comcast Center.

“It’s easy to take shots at the ACC because the ACC has been on top for so long,”  Greenberg told Thyrl Nelson. “We’ve got good basketball teams in our league, and it has teams capable of winning night in and night out. I’m not buying what everyone else is selling.”

Williams agreed.

Gary Williams

“The way you build up your tournament resume is you play a bunch of good teams and win, and that’s what’s got to happen here and everywhere else. I get tired of hearing about the Big 12 for instance-they’re talking about Colorado and Nebraska being really good this year.”

“Well, put them in the ACC and see how they do,” Williams said. “Everybody gets happy on certain leagues, and the ACC out there has won five national championships in the last ten years. There’s no league out there-the Big East isn’t even close to that-the ACC has won more NCAA tournament games the last twenty years than any other conference.”

And Thursday will pit Maryland(11-6, 1-2 ACC) versus the Virginia Tech Hokies(11-5, 2-2 ACC) to see how they stack up.

Both teams are in the middle of the pack when it comes to the ACC standings, and both teams feel like they are in desperate need of a win to avoid falling into the cellar of the division here in mid January.

And Greenberg knows that desire to win on the part of Gary Williams is going to be in full force tonight down at College Park. And he is not ready to write off either his team or Maryland just yet.

“You look at the Maryland team, they’ve lost some very close games to some real elite teams, and again it’s a make or miss game,” Greenberg said. “There’s a very small margin between winning and losing.”

Coach Williams said it’s all about fixing one or two issues to get his team-in spite of its youth-playing almost perfect basketball.

“We’ve played four teams ranked in the Top 20, but haven’t beat them. Until you beat them, they’re better than you. Against Duke-then the #1 team in the country last Sunday-we went down there at Cameron where they havent lost in forever and had a chance to get them. We didnt get them. I don’t know if anyone will get them in Cameron this year.”

“I like the way our guys competed and then we had to get back down there to play Wake Forest on Wednesday, and we did okay there and got the win. And then with Villanova in Philly-the seventh ranked team in the country-they were a very experienced team and you get up by 12 in the second half, you would like to win that thing. We missed some shots and some free-throws, and didn’t get the win. It really hurts to not get those wins, but we’re tough. We know we can play with those teams we’ve faced. We’ve proven that.  Now what we have to prove is we can beat those teams.”

Virginia Tech could be that team that might be the bearer of Williams’ effort to turn things around and get things back on a good note the same way the Terps rebounded after the loss to Duke by punishing Wake, 74-55.

“I know how we felt after the game in terms of getting beat up a little bit,  …It’s very difficult to come out and play the next game, and that’s why I was proud of the team,” Williams noted. ” We went down to Wake Forest and got them on their home court because we were both physically and mentally hurting going into that  game. I’m really proud of this team, and hopefully people understand what we’re doing here and we’re looking forward to getting started this week.

Greenberg is hoping Williams doesn’t take out his frustrations from Saturday’s disappointing collapse against #7 Villanova against his Hokies squad.

Gary’s best wins come when his back is against the wall, let’s face it,” Greenberg added.  “I think he lives in a cause. We’ve lost three games by a total of nine points…When you play a home game in league, you’ve really got to defend your home court. Maryland is as efficient an offensive team as we’ve played against all year.”

Greenberg likes what he sees out of Maryland’s youth, of course led by Wooden Award finalist Jordan Williams.

“They pass and catch, they cut extremely hard, and obviously Jordan is playing at an extremely high level. The development of Gregory, the development of Bowie, with Tucker-the way he’s carrying himself-he’s kind of their X-factor the way he’s playing. And with the two freshman point guards-with them being surrounded by the veteran players, they are playing with such confidence. We expect Maryland to play at a very high level like they have all year,” Greenberg said.

Williams had just as much respect for what the Hokies throw out on the court, most notably led by two former Maryland-area prep stars in Jeff Allen and Malcolm Delaney(18.6ppg, 4.3apg, .433% 3-pt range)-also a finalist for ACC Player of the Year in 2009.

Malcolm Delaney

Malcolm Delaney’s a great player,” Gary Williams said. “One of the things he has is a great release on his shot and he can shoot way behind the three-point line. He’s very comfortable with the NBA line. He’s a guy that looked at the draft last year, and decided to come back just like Greivis Vasquez did.

“But he’s not the only guy they have-a guy like Jeff Allen is a proven player-a very quick 6’8”, 6’9” strong guy who shoots it good. He is a very tough guy inside for them. They don’t play a lot of guys, but they’re well balanced and a very good basketball team.”

Greenberg had to agree with Williams.

“Malcolm’s had just a tremendous career, and he’s been the face of our program,” Greenberg said. “He’s as complete a guard as there is in the country. He can make shots, he plays hard, he’s a model student athlete. He’s helped maintain a winning culture here.”

“He’s been a huge part of this program, and we hope he comes in and relaxes and enjoys the experience tonight and makes some buckets.”

Like every game in and out of the the ACC this year that the Terps and the Hokies expect this one to be just like the double-overtime thriller last year on February 26th in Blacksburg-a game in which Greivis Vasquez finished with 41 points.

“It’s unfortunate we’re going to beat each other up, but you just try and get on a run. It’s very hard to win any game on the road, and it’s hard to string a whole bunch of wins together because there is such a fine line between winning and losing. I’m not worried about people’s perception. I’m only worried about the friendly confines of the Comcast Center right now.”

WNST has you covered tonight at the Comcast Center! Luke Jones has you covered in the Turtle Power chat starting at 9! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

Comments Off

Maryland WR Torrey Smith on going pro: “Playing in the NFL was never really a goal of mine”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Maryland WR Torrey Smith on going pro: “Playing in the NFL was never really a goal of mine”

Posted on 06 January 2011 by Ryan Chell

Torrey Smith

University of Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith announced his decision to go pro following Maryland’s 51-20 victory over East Carolina in the Military Bowl, and wihile his decision to take his skills to the NFL was kind of pushed under the rug because of the coaching change at Maryland, Smith said it doesn’t bother him and he is ready to move on to the next challenge in his football career.

Plus, Smith left behind a pretty good resume playing football not just at Maryland but in the ACC as a whole.

Smith-a three-time first or second-team All-ACC selection-joined Thyrl Nelson of “The Mobtown Sports Beat” Wednesday to discuss his path to the NFL, leaving Maryland after this his junior year.

Smith-who initally in his Terp career solely made his impact as kick returner-put together two great seasons as wideout for Ralph Friedgen’s offense. He excelled this year in Maryland’s 8-4 season at receiver, grabbing 67 passes for 1,055 yards and a school-record 12 TDs.

He increased his production from his 2009 season, when he grabbed 61 balls for 824 yards and five scores. He also had 51 returns for 1,309 yards( a record that he not only set before but then broke) and two scores, and all together his all-purpose yards were  second in the conference only to Clemson’s C.J. Spiller.

Leading the Terps in catches and receiving yards, his total all-purpose yards had him sixth-best in the nation in that category in 2009.

He developed quite a rapport with  quarterback Danny O’Brien in 2010, and that was most notable in Maryland’s 38-31 victory over N.C. State, where he had 14 catches for 224 yards receiving and a school-record four TDs.

That game could be described as the game that put Smith on the map and had the NFL scouts salavating. Some opposing coaches and scouts have said that Smith could be better than his former teammate, Darrius Heyward-Bey, who was drafed seventh-overall by the Oakland Raiders in the 2009 NFL Draft.

He received enough support after the N.C. State victory and Maryland’s bowl game that his NFL Draft status was in good shape, so Smith jumped the gun and made the decision to go pro, signing with super agent Drew Rosenhaus.

“Anything could change,” Smith noted. “But if it was bad, trust me, I’d be back at College Park.”

Smith did say though that playing in the NFL was never a reasonable goal or expectation for him when he first suited up for the Terps. When he came to Maryland, he was there to get his education and football was to to be a supplement to he getting a degree.

“To be honest, playing in the NFL was never really a goal of mine,” he said to Nelson. “When I played as a young kid playing football and basketball in my front yard, you think about it, but it really wasn’t anything I was focused on.”

“And the scholarship to get my degree was the biggest thing, but it really wasn’t till this spring that Coach Friedgen said I had a great chance to play at the next level, and that gave me the confidence.”

It was at that point that his determination took over this season on the football field.

“I’m a person who likes to set goals and I like to reach them. And they told me I had a great shot if I worked hard.”

He also set records that will be hard for others to break down the road for future ACC and Maryland recruits.

He finished his Maryland career as their all-purpose yardage leader, surpassing the 4,960 yard mark set by running back LaMont Jordan. His four TDs in the NC State game were a school record, as were his 12 touchdowns this season. He is also only the second Maryland wide receiver to surpass the 1,000 yard mark in a season.

He also surpassed North Carolina wide receiver Brandon Tate as the conference’s all-time return yardage leader.

And he has had more support behind him than the current Maryland coaching staff.

Former Terps in the NFL right now-guys like Vernon Davis(49ers), Darrius Heyward-Bey(Raiders), and Shawne Merriman(Bills) have been mentoring Smith as well, and Smith said that was the great thing about the football program at College Park. It’s a community that stretches far beyond the Baltimore-Washington area.

“Everyone kind of sticks together around College Park,” Smith explained. “And it gets even better when you’re outside of it.”

So with his decision, many Maryland fans are wondering, especially with the chance that there may not be NFL football next year, when is the next time we’ll see Torrey Smith catching passes on the football field?

“Being that I’m a junior, the next time you guys will see me is at the Combine, because underclassmen can’t go to any of the all-star games,” Smith admitted. “So right now, I’m going to be down here in Miami preparing for the Combine.”

Sometimes leaving as an underclassmen to the NFL can sometimes be seen as selfish and in a negative light in some fans’ eyes, but Maryland fans should respect his decision ultimately based on the fact that he put together three good years at the varsity level for the Terps, he got his diploma, and he said he will still be around supporting Randy Edsall’s Maryland team.

“I’ve definitely been following what’s been going on with the program,” Smith replied. “Just because I’m gone, I’m still a Terp. And those boys look up to me. I love them to death, so definitely I like to know what’s going on.”

And he expects the same out of Randy Edsall as he did with his coach, Ralph Friedgen.

“Everyone’s supportive of the new coach. They all seem to like him. All I know is he inherited a good team and they should expect great things from the Terps next year.”

Tune into WNST and WNST.net as we continue to follow the Terps and all your Baltimore sports teams! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

Comments Off

Terps who used Ralph Friedgen’s guidance toward NFL career weigh in on former coach

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Terps who used Ralph Friedgen’s guidance toward NFL career weigh in on former coach

Posted on 31 December 2010 by Ryan Chell

Ralph Friedgen

Ralph Friedgen spent 10 years as coach of the Maryland Terrapins and saw numerous student-athletes, football players, and young men pass through his program and move on to become better, more driven individuals-and some who went on to make a career of playing football in the NFL.

He touched countless lives in College Park, returning to his alma mater in 2001 and starting his coaching career rebuilding a struggling program with an outright ACC Title, a 10-2 record, and an Orange Bowl appearance.

He earned ACC Coach of the Year his first year at Maryland.

His last season came this year in 2010 and despite an 8-4 record and his second ACC Coach of the Year award, Friedgen was shown the door by the new athletic department staff headed by AD Kevin Anderson, with his last game Wednesday in the Terps 51-20 victory over ECU in the Military Bowl.

Friedgen left Maryland on top in the fashion many of Terps nation wanted to see him leave, and several of his former players who used his teachings to move on to the NFL joined WNST Thursday and Friday as a send-off to Coach Friedgen and to wish him the best.

Nolan Carroll

“I am glad for the win,” Dolphins CB and KR Nolan Carroll said, who spent 2005-2009 in College Park. “What I heard was that ECU had a very good offense. You know, they had a very good team. For them to come out the way they did, and put up so many points, was phenomenal. It’s the best way for him to leave on such a good note.”

Moise Fokou

Another former Terp, Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Moise Fokou-who joined Rex Thursday on “The Afternoon Drive”-said that the win against the Pirates definitely caps off a great resume by Coach Friedgen at Maryland.

“I feel like before he got there, they definitely had talent but I felt with Friedgen coming in there and turning that program around…he showcased the talent that he had at that school and he did a great job recruiting and showing us off.”

“We’re just glad to be Terps and represent him in that fashion.”

Fokou was definitely confused as to why the new administration would relieve not only a former alumni who went 75-50 during his time in College Park, but a guy that brought stability to a program that had only one winning season and no bowl appearances in the ten years before he took the sidelines.

“Honestly, I don’t know really know what’s going on with their program. Why they are forcing him out…I just hope that they know what they’re doing because I’m telling you right now that they’re losing a great head coach,” Fokou said.

Several other players echoed Fokou’s thoughts, including former Terp running back Lance Ball, who currently is a Denver Bronco after spending 2003-2007 in a Terps uniform.

Lance Ball

Ball was coached by the “Fridge”  before  finding his way into the NFL bouncing around with the St. Louis Rams, Tennessee Titans, and Indianapolis Colts squads.

Ball believes it was Friedgen’s vast knowledge of the offensive side of the ball that garnered him attention at the NFL level-as well as guys like former first-round picks in Darius Heyward-Bey and tight end Vernon Davis.

“I think Coach Friedgen coming from a pro-style offense…he was able to give us insight on what teams look for and if we’re ready or not to leave.”

Fokou was also certain that while Friedgen may have been rudely shown the door, his former coach will not be a guy to hold a grudge and will not hold it against his former players and friends at the university.

“I’m so happy he went out with a bang,” Fokou said. “but I guarantee he will be back especially with the alumni coming out of the school.”

“I was one of the guys who he scouted and he gave me a full scholarship the following year. He’s done a tremendous job up there as soon as he stepped foot on campus. He turned that program around and it’s hard to see a guy like that go, but he will be missed.”

Friedgen said after the Military Bowl victory at RFK Stadium Wednesday that he will always have “three daughters and 120 sons.”

And his family is definitely bigger than those 123 people he touched this year having been coaching the Terps  for a decade.

“Ralph is a good guy,” Ball told Thyrl Nelson. “I know when we were I was there, we won a lot of games. We were quite successful; it’s just unfortunate that they went in another direction and he’s not the coach no more.”

“I haven’t contacted him yet cause there’s a lot of crazy stuff going on now, but within the next couple days I’ll give him a shout and see how’s he doing.”

All the former Terps WNST talked to said that their biggest and most fond memories of Friedgen is when he spent one-on-one time with them recruiting them, and those moments and time spent together made all the difference in the world.

“For me, it’s when he came to my house when he recruited me,” Carroll told Snider. “He looked my parents dead in the eye and he told them, ‘Hey look, your son’s education is going to come first’. That’s the first thing he preached about. He really didn’t go into athletics that much. He was strictly academics, and that’s what my folks liked a lot about him.”

“And he held true to his word. I got my education last fall and I ended up graduating in the Spring. And everything he said that he was gonna do for me, he ended up doing.”

Friedgen’s final press conference-which lasted twenty minutes Wednesday night-had the overall mood of a funeral at times as opposed to a glorious send-off.

But make no mistake. Just like former Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer told Friedgen recently, there is life after football and Ball in particular sees leaving the sport and the opportunity to mentor kids as too big an opportunity to pass up on.

“He may take a little break,” Ball said. “But I don’t see it. Ralph has grown up around football and been around football. So I’m sure at one point he will get back to it.”

Fokou agreed.

“I definitely think he has a couple more years of coaching left,” Fokou said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he went back in the NFL. He kind of has that coaching mentality…kind of get it done at any cost.”

‘But I do see him coaching again in the future whether it’s in the NFL or in the colleges leagues.”

Ball is sad to see his coach go the wayside, but he does hope the program finds a guy that can pick up right where Friedgen left off.

“I just hope the guy that comes in is very serious about Maryland and the tradition that it brings. I think being a head coach at Maryland, you have to take on a lot of responsibility cause it’s such a great school and it holds so much tradition.”

Ralph Friedgen

Tune into WNST and WNST.net as we continue to follow the Terps and Ralph Friedgen even though he leaves College Park behind!

Comments Off

Huevos! Maryland’s Vasquez Named WNST Local Sports Person of the Year

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Huevos! Maryland’s Vasquez Named WNST Local Sports Person of the Year

Posted on 23 December 2010 by Glenn Clark

Had it simply been based on accolades, Greivis Vasquez would have won WNST’s 2010 Local Sports Person of the Year award going away.

In 2010, the former Maryland Terrapins guard was named first-team All-ACC, second-team All-American, ACC Player of the Year, and the Bob Cousy Award winner — given to the nation’s top point guard. He also helped the Terps clinch a share of the ACC regular season title. When the Memphis Grizzlies selected him with the 28th pick of the NBA Draft in June, Vasquez became the first Terrapin selected in the first round of the NBA Draft since Chris Wilcox and Juan Dixon were picked in 2002.

In terms of on-field (on in this case on-court) accomplishments, no athlete in the state of Maryland reached the heights that the “Vivacious Venezuelan” did in 2010. As Jason Jubb (WNST.net contributor and former “Sunday Morning Blitz” co-host) said, Vasquez “took over this year.”

However, Vasquez’s selection was about more than just on-court ability. There was something about watching Vasquez play in 2010 that made fans in Baltimore and throughout the state heap adoration at a level not seen since Dixon’s graduation.

Sometimes a picture explains just about everything.

vasquez

It was the passion displayed by Vasquez when he stepped foot on a basketball court that made fans fall in love.

WNST’s Ryan Chell said Vasquez in 2010 was “hated by every other ACC fan and adored by the Terps nation. He put the team on his shoulders.”

Never was it more evident than in the game pictured above.

On March 3, Maryland defeated then No. 4 Duke, 79-72. It was Senior Night at Comcast Center, and Vasquez’s final game was one of the more passionate displays in recent college basketball history.

Vasquez led the way for Maryland with 20 points and 5 assists in the victory, but it was one particular shot that was a total display of “huevos” (a term first labeled by ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt) in the final seconds.

With Maryland clinging to a 71-69 advantage over the Blue Devils in the final minute, there was no question Vasquez would take the shot. And despite the shot being an off-balanced, running 12-footer that looked more like a heave than an actual basketball shot, there was really no question whether or not the shot would go in…even if it had to find every piece of the rim before it would fall.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dA_qoFMFITA[/youtube]

It wasn’t only the Duke game that stood out in 2010 for the young man from Caracas. In fact, Vasquez’s shining moment may well have occurred just one game earlier.

The Terrapins traveled to Blacksburg to face Virginia Tech February 27. The game was delayed more than three hours due to a water main break outside Cassell Coliseum. Maybe the anticipation built during the delay made the nature of the performance even greater.

Vasquez posted 41 points, seven rebounds, and six assists en route to 104-100 win over the Hokies in two overtimes.

The two wins would ultimately be the difference for the Terps in sharing the ACC crown.

Watching Vasquez play in 2010 was special.

It’s unlikely that Vasquez could have won a 1-on-1 contest with some of the great all-around players in recent Maryland history. Vasquez’s game wasn’t nearly as polished as someone like Dixon, Steve Francis or even John Gilchrist.

Yet in terms of fortitude, only Dixon could match Vasquez. Vasquez cared deeply about representing the students, the University and the entire state.

“Every time I put on the jersey I did my best and cared about them,” said Vasquez after learning he had won the award. “Those four years at Maryland were a big part in my life, and I eventually want to raise my family around Maryland because it meant very much to me.”

It was the type of passion that rubbed off on everyone around him, including his teammates.

“He was a great teammate,” Maryland guard Adrian Bowie told WNST. “His passion was evident on and off the court. He loved us and we loved him.”

Perhaps that passion was no more evident than in his final act as a Terrapin, a devastating 85-83 defeat to Michigan State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Trailing by 16 late in the second half and seemingly limping out on a disappointing note, Vasquez took his team on his back a final time, scoring nine of Maryland’s 11 points in the final two minutes. His final basket with six seconds left to give the Terps a one-point lead looked to be another brilliant moment before the Spartans’ Korie Lucious broke the hearts of Terrapin Nation with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, ending Vasquez’s collegiate career and leaving fans wishing for one more chance to watch him.

“It’s a memory all Maryland fans want to forget, but his final game left you wanting more and epitomized what he meant to this program,” said WNST’s Luke Jones. “We throw around words like courage and heart all the time in the sports world, but his passion, his determination was authentic. In those final minutes when he nearly willed the Terps to victory when it seemed all but impossible, it summed him up perfectly. As disappointing as it was for the team, knowing Vasquez would never wear that uniform again was sobering. You didn’t want it to end.”

Vasquez truly was loved by fans both on campus in College Park and throughout the mid-Atlantic region. His talent as a basketball player was appreciated, but his incredible passion made watching him play a joyous experience for Terps fans.

For as much joy as Maryland fans (and WNST contributors) took from watching Vasquez on the court, Maryland Head Coach Gary Williams told WNST he took equally as much joy from coaching him.

“If you pay a lot of money for a ticket, I think you want that guy that you paid the money to see to really work as hard as (in your mind) you would if you were a player,” said Williams after learning Vasquez had won the honor. “And that’s what Greivis gave all those people that bought the tickets. He gave them that player that played they way they would play if they got the chance.”

“I’ve always felt a big part of college basketball is the passion in the game,” added Williams. “I talk to pro players that have played here, played other places, and they really miss that passion that you get at college basketball in big games. Greivis was a part of that. He was nationally known as one of those guys.”

In a fitting twist, the brilliant performance of Vasquez in 2010 came after what would have to be considered the last “low” moment in what had previously been a roller-coaster career.

On Dec. 30, 2009, Vasquez pulled up but missed an important three point shot in transition in the second half of Maryland’s 83-77 loss to William & Mary at Comcast Center. Trailing by seven points, the miss turned into a five-point swing in favor of the Tribe as they would go on to upset the Terps.

The tone for Vasquez in 2010 was set that night. Not by the miss, but by the support shown by Williams despite the crucial miss (and poor decision). When asked about the shot after the game, Williams responded:

“Greivis has won a lot of games for us pulling up for threes. He didn’t make that one. Sure, he missed it, so I wish he would have driven the ball. But if he would have driven the ball and gotten his shot blocked, I’d wished he would have taken the three. It’s the way it works. I want Greivis to keep playing like he’s playing. He’s working hard, he’s trying to help us win. As long as he does that-I’ve had a lot of great players here that take shots once in a while that take shots that you might not like as a coach but that’s part of what makes them great. They have that aggressiveness, they have that no fear of being out there playing which you try to put into a lot of players, but not everybody has that.”

With that support, Vasquez never looked back in 2010.

“I can’t say enough about coach,” Vasquez told WNST. “I think he made a big impact not only in my game but in my life. He mean so much to me not only as my coach, but as a father and a friend, everything I needed. He’s more than a good friend, he’s a mentor. That’s why he’s successful and wins championships and went to the Final Four. I can’t say enough about coach Williams and he will be a special person to me for the rest of my life.”

Vasquez’s personality wasn’t left on the floor. He was as engaging on the campus in College Park and in the community as well.

“Greivis always had time for people,” Williams said. “Sometimes I’d have to get on him because he was trying to do too many things to please too many people. The time he read books in elementary school to kids in Spanish-in a lot of Spanish areas around here-nobody even knew about that stuff. He was just always willing to show up. If they had a shoot-a-thon to raise money for charity on campus, Greivis would come in and try to make one from half court. That’s just the way he was. He was just always willing to be like the other students, which they really appreciated.”

“Greivis had a passion for both basketball and for life that was infectious,” Maryland associate Athletic Director Doug Dull told WNST as well. “He had a confidence and a personality that was magical and unforgettable.”

Watching Greivis Vasquez play basketball in 2010 was a special feeling for Terrapins fans and even those who support other schools but live in the area and found themselves glued to Maryland games.

There were two voting qualifications for the Local Sports Person of the Year honor.

The first was that the person had to play for a professional, college or high school team in the state of Maryland OR represent the state of Maryland in an individual sport.

The second was that the honor was year-specific. The honoree had to be someone for whom 2010 stood out not only in comparison to other sports figures, but also to things they had accomplished themselves in other years.

D1scourse.com writer (and regular contributor to “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST in 2010) Patrick Stevens offered a very well thought out explanation as to why Vasquez best met both qualifications.

“Vasquez came to Maryland with maybe his biggest obstacle being the language barrier. That’s almost a bigger impediment for someone who sort of knows a second language and tries to fit in while learning on the fly than someone who just relies on a translator and stays in his comfort zone. The thing was, Vasquez was always supremely at ease on the court, where it was immensely easier for him to express himself than through his many, many words.”

Stevens added, “For as much as people latched onto Vasquez’s rhetoric throughout his college career, he was always better measured through his deeds. It didn’t matter if it was on the floor (a 41-point night at Virginia Tech or helping topple Duke in his last home game) or off (posing for picture after picture well after games ended or simple gestures like handing a pair of shoes to a security guard at the ACC Tournament). Vasquez was the most impactful University of Maryland athlete since Juan Dixon, and never more so than in 2010.”

Vasquez’s often hard-nosed head coach was emotional in summing up his feelings about his former star player.

“The person that he is…is really tremendous. I really miss him. Obviously, you miss his playing ability, but you miss him being around.”

He’s not the only one.

-G

(Vasquez joined Rex Snider, Luke Jones and Glenn Clark on “The Afternoon Drive” Thursday to accept the honor. That interview is available now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net.)

Final Voting For WNST Local Sports Person of the Year-

1-Greivis Vasquez (20 points)
2-Buck Showalter (19 points)
3-Ray Lewis (10 points)
4-Joe Flacco (7 points)
4-Danny O’Brien (7 points)
6-Anquan Boldin (5 points)
7-John Rallo (4 points)
8-Gary Williams (3 points)
8-Jay Davidson (3 points)
8-John Harbaugh (3 points)
8-Forest Boyce (3 points)
8-Caitlyn McFadden (3 points)
8-Pam Shriver (3 points)
8-Cal Ripken (3 points)
15-Bill Ripken (2 points)
15-Ben’s Cat (horse) (2 points)
17-Pete Caringi (1 point)
17-Kevin Plank (1 point)
17-Reggie Holmes (1 point)

Panel of AM1570 & WNST.net contributors eligible to vote included: Glenn Clark, Drew Forrester, Thyrl Nelson, Rex Snider, Nestor Aparicio, Luke Jones, Ryan Chell, Ashley Bishoff, Pete Kerzel (CSNBaltimore.com writer/regular contributor to “The Mobtown Sports Beat”), Jon Schmidt (WNST Sales), Paul Kopelke (WNST General Manager), Christine Cortezi (WNST sales), Jason Jubb, Mark Suchy, Patrick Stevens (D1scourse.com/regular contributor to “The Morning Reaction”), Sam Angell (WNST.net contributor), Allen McCallum (regular contributor to “The Afternoon Drive), Ed Frankovic, Gary Quill, Derek Arnold (BMoreBirdsNest.com/WNST.net contributor), BJ Appel (WNST.net contributor), Chris Pika, Lawson Lambert (WNST.net contributor), John Rallo (“Shogun Fights”/regular contributor to “The Mobtown Sports Beat”), Jay Trucker (Examiner.com writer/WNST.net contributor), Todd Helmick (NationalChamps.net writer/regular contributor to “The Mobtown Sports Beat”) and Brian Billick (WNST part-owner). Not all contributors eligible submitted ballots.

Comments Off