Saturday, August 30, 2014

Less than Complete Disaster: Special Teams

Coach cited the kicking game as the only part of the team he was happy with Friday.

Quick review...this was not the problem, for sure.

First, it was the first game for punter Joseph Davidson.  He had an excellent game, with a 43 yard kick average and a 40 yard net, which means that the punts weren't being returned.  He had a 49 yarder and 1 inside the 20.  Excellent debut.

Tyler Tate missed a 27 yarder but also nailed a 52 yarder, so those net out pretty well.

Ryan Burbrink had a really nice PR which probably would have been a score except he tripped in the open field.  Just symptomatic of BG's night, really.

Anthony Farinella had 3 TBs in 6 KOs, which is also pretty good.

Kick returns were a non-factor pretty much on both sides.

Less than complete disaster: The Offense

So, we've covered the defense.  How did the new FalconFast offense do?


It certainly was not a great start.  Three of BG's first four drives were three and outs.  In the other, BG drove to the 11, had a 3rd and 1 and lost yards.  BG chose to pass up an easy FG and go for it (a "tone setting decision" as it turned out) and did not make the first down.

On the fifth possession, BG drove down to the 10 and again failed to move the ball in the red zone.  This time, Tate hit the upright on a 27-yard chip shot.  

So, five possessions, no points.  At this point, it was 21-0 and, as it turned out, the game was already over.  The only chance BG was ever going to have was to essentially score every time we had the ball.

The early possessions were really ugly.  The running game was getting stuffed, BG was dropping balls all over the place and then failing to convert in the red zone--a historic problem with spread offenses.  It was a very rough start.

BG did pick it up from there and I think fans got a glimpse of what this could be.  BG scored on 5 of its next 6 possessions, with 4 TDS and the longest drive being 2:37.  Receivers were open, Johnson was hitting them with the ball, they were actually catching the ball and the running game was going.  

Matt Johnson had a good game.  He was 25 of 36--add in about 5 drops and he was right on the money.  BG had 8.7 yards per attempt and 12.6 yards per catch, both very solid numbers.  Johnson was sacked 3 times, which is not going to get it done, but by and large he was very effective.

Greene got off to a slow start but finished with 91 yards on 18 carries, a 5.1 average and a good day in any book.  Fred Coppet was also very effective, with 65 yards on only 6 carries, including two big runs when BG really needed a spark.  He was injured last year, but appears to be fully recovered.

As expected, Lewis and Dieter were BG's leading receivers.  Heath Jackson also had 5 catches.  Ronnie Moore only had 2 catches, but one of them was an electrifying 41 yard TD catch/run.

BG was poor on 3rd down, at 4 of 10.  BG rarely had 3rd downs once they got rolling.

The offense clearly could have been better, but at least with the offense you could see what it could be.  Based on the defensive performance, they are going to need to fine tune their instrument.

Complete Disaster, Part II

Well, the sun did come up.  So there's that.

I listened last night to Coach Babers' post-game comments.  They don't do a briefing, so it was outdoors and apparently within about three feet of a ringing bell, so it is hard to hear.

I give Coach credit.  I was fearing I would hear a lot of stuff about "the process" and how good WKU was.  He did not do that.  His answers were short, he was clearly frustrated and did not try to minimize what happened.

He said he was "very disappointed."
He said we played very poorly and that when a team plays that poorly, the Head Coach has to have had something to do with it.
He said the defense played very poorly.
He cited a lack of ability to tackle in space as the main problem.
He said there were too many dropped balls on the offense.
When asked if there were any positives, he mentioned the kicking game.
He said it will be a rough week in practice.

So, there were no excuses.  He said that tackling in game 1 is every coach's nightmare because "you never get enough" live tackling in camp.  OK, that's fine.  I don't think teams do much live tackling during the season either.  The WKU game is over, but the problem has been revealed, so there's no place to hide now.  The good thing is that he clearly saw that.

The tackling was terrible.  The frustrating thing for BG supporters (including the coach) is that we know these guys know how to tackle.  You might have expected some problems tackling, but we went from good to awful with the same guys.

He didn't mention one other issue that is just as big of a concern, which was downfield coverage.  BG's secondary was constantly torched.  Doughty was playing pitch and catch with open receivers all night, especially across the middle.  In a sense, this is the more worrisome issue.  We have some new guys in our secondary and they were totally dominated last night.

It didn't help that Darrell Hunter was ejected for a punch to the face.

BG also only got one sack and most of the game Doughty was comfortable in the pocket with time to do what he needed.  When he was pressured, he was often able to get out of the pocket and make a play while running.

WKU ran 97 plays in the game.  That's just unbelievable.  I mean, you just don't see that.  They had 702 yards of total offense.  That's "only" 7 yards a play, but I doubt if there is a team that has run 97 plays in a regulation game and lost in recent memory.  Third down was a disaster for BG.  The Hilltoppers were 14 out of 18.  I doubt if too many teams have lost while doing that, either.

WKU had 40 first downs with 29 passing.  Incredible.

I would say that BG did a nice job on the inside running game.  In fact, WKU had only about 3 yards per rush.  Which means they had all those passing yards while essentially being one-dimensional.

So, from here, the defense has work to do.  As I said last night, they need a night and day improvement before they can even think about winning titles.  Yes, we are going to score points, but you aren't going to win a title going 45-42.  Ask Toledo.

This certainly wasn't how the coaching staff wanted to introduce themselves to the program.  One thing to keep in mind is that for all the talk about offense, Coach Babers is not someone who has had one-dimensional teams.  Granted, there's a short track record, but last year EIU was 26th out of 122 FCS teams in scoring defense.  So, they have done it, if only once and I think the players are there to have a decent MAC defense.  It just has to happen and there was very little in last night's performance that projects that way.

Also, in case you were wondering, it was not the worst loss of Coach's career.  In his first season at EIU he lost two games by more...one of them in the NCAA playoffs.

Finally, time will tell, but I don't believe you will see WKU turn into some kind of offensive juggernaut.  They are a decent or good team, but I don't believe BG forced them to do anything difficult last night and most of those yards are on our team.

Coach said that team's make their biggest improvement from Game 1 to Game 2.  Two things.  First, I doubt that will be true for WKU.  Second, BG has an easy game next week.  We then get very tough tests against two Big 10 teams and then UMass.  BG does not get a solid test on where they are until Buffalo in October.  Now, if BG plays good D and beats Indiana, that says something...but it will be a while before we start to get an idea what we really have.

More later on the offense.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Complete Disaster

Well, that was awful.  A complete embarrassment, with few redeeming features and none on the defensive side of the ball.

BG's defense was completely unprepared for this game.  They were awful at tackling, played soft in coverage and yet still had people wide open.  The defense made no adjustments.  No press coverage, no adjustment to cover the middle of the field that was wide open all night.  No pressure.  It was an easy night for WKU's offense and they totally made BG pay.  In fact, WKU had a couple of drops, too.

There is no other way to put it...WKU humiliated the Falcons tonight.

This wasn't Wisconsin or WVU or Michigan racking up those kinds of points, it was Western Kentucky.  No disrespect.  I think we indicated in the pre-game that this team was better than people might have thought, but they aren't this good.  They were not picked to win their division in C-USA.  And with the team BG returned, this simply should not have happened.  I could have seen losing.  A 28 point defeat?  More than 700 yards allowed?

You aren't going to get any sympathy here for the "adjusting to a new system" argument.  Changing to a new system was a choice, first made by our AD and then by our Coach.  NIU has stayed competitive through coaching changes by not changing systems--by keeping the same system.  A coach like that could have been hired and the coach could have coached that way.  If there are problems with an "adjustment" it is on them.

Obviously, this is a non-conference game and BG has 11 more to play and this could all be an unpleasant memory in December.  I would be thrilled for that to be the case.

However, this wasn't even close to being a winning effort on defense.  Not even within shouting distance...and we were using guys who know how to play--a senior dominated defense.  I didn't expect us to hold teams under 20... but teams in the MAC would also have torched this defense tonight. That's a 9 loss defense.

So, if it is going to be an unpleasant memory, things are going to have to significantly improve...like a night and day improvement over what was out there tonight.  It is going to take some work for this to be the outlier that apologists would like to think it is.

The offense did come around and I thought played pretty well once they got going.  Maybe we are going to need to win 45-38 every week.  The program has tried that approach before.

I remember how excited we were to beat Tulsa last year...and then they turned out to be a lot worse than we thought.  Let's hope we're not Tulsa.

The other worrisome thing is that this was our best chance in the first four games to see what we had.  VMI will tell us nothing (in fact, will probably be a kind of false positive), and if Indiana and Wisconsin score a million, that's not unexpected, either.

More tomorrow.  If you thought our program had progressed past this kind of thing, boom, it is 2010 again, except with a championship team that returned a bunch of starters.

Blogger Roundtable Up



The first Blogger Roundtable is up.  Check it out!

My Answers to Wave the Red Towel

Earlier this week, I ran answers from Fletcher of "Wave the Red Towel" to my questions about WKU.  He reciprocated with some questions which he ran yesterday.  Here are my answers.

1.) Games three and four of the Falcons' year are against Big 10 teams. Next week, BGSU faces VMI. How are fans, players and coaches viewing the opening game against WKU? Is there anything about the Tops that is striking fear in the Falcons?

BG certainly respects WKU and this opener has us nervous for a couple reasons. First, we don't know what to expect because you have so many new players in positions. Second, Coach is concerned about playing your opening game on the road. You have a strong QB and a number of high quality athletes. BG will be happy to head back to Bowling Green with a win Friday.

2.) BGSU is returning last year's QB, Matt Johnson, and last year's leading rusher, Travis Greene, but lost leading receiver Shaun Joplin. Like the Tops are seeing with the transition out of Antonio Andrews in the backfield, hows the leading-receiver transition going?

BG will almost certainly have much stronger receivers than last season. It will be needed as BG implements the Baylor spread attack. They are being led by SMU transfer Gehrig Dieter and Roger Lewis, a FR who has signed at Ohio State and was a highly rated recruit. Add to that Ronnie Moore, who was a True FR last year and was probably the hardest receiver for opponents to defend by the end of the year. Losing Chris Gallon to injury did hurt, but BG has Heath Jackson and Ryan Burbrink, both of whom have started in the past.

3.) What are the Falcons season long expectations this year after a 10-4 year, and a victory over a top 25 team?

We have very high expectations. A lot of talent returns from last year's team--especially on offense. The new coach has brought a tremendous amount of energy to the program. BG suffered through a number of average or worse years, and the Championship last season was beautiful. I think our expectations are to play for a championship again and to win 10 games again.

4.) How much of that defense that ranked 5th in the nation in points against (15.9 ppg) is left? And, probably most importantly, how in the world did they do it.

BG lost 5 starters from that defense, which was truly outstanding. That included two D-tackles, the MLB and Safety. They do have a lot of quality and seasoned players back, and while the defense may not be as good, it should still be very good. In addition, LB Gabe Martin was injured for the last third of the season and is back. He was one of the two best players we had on defense.

How did they do it? BG's defense last year was focused on preventing first downs and getting off the field. They didn't force a lot of turnovers, but were very difficult to move the ball on. This year, the Kim McCloud defense is purported to be interested in becoming more turnover oriented.

5.) You know, the higher ups at WKU considered moving to the MAC. How welcome would WKU have been to arguably the most recognized mid-major conference?

I think we'd love to have had WKU in the MAC--if you had brought all of your sports. We have been burned by football-only members like UCF, Temple and UMass, all of whom were just passing through. WKU would fit in the MAC in all ways, and we'd love to have had your basketball program and history, too.

6.) What are, lets say, three things WKU fans should watch on Friday from the BGSU side?

1. How BG transitions to the Baylor offense. This is the first game where it is being used, so it will be interesting how smoothly it runs.

2. BG 's QB Matt Johnson. Matt might be the best returning player in the MAC and is an excellent for BG's new scheme.

3. How BG defends the middle of the field. With new and untested players at DT and MLB, this is an area BG will need to protect.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

25 Questions from the Hilltop

I never saw what the big deal was
about Big Red.  This photo is
taken from mascotfriendfinder.com
 What is their body of work?

They have been coming around.  They have been bowl eligible the last two years, snubbed twice, including last year at 8-4.  They had a one year adventure with Bobby Petrino last year and now have Jeff Brohm coaching, who was OC last year.

How many seniors and juniors on the two-deep?

25, which is a typical number.  They have 6 JUCO transfers on the two-deep.

Who are their returning statistical leaders?

QB Brandon Doughty was #21 in the nation in completion % and #22 in completions.
CB Cam Thomas was #17 in passes defended and #20 in interceptions.

What was their turnover ratio?

WKU was 8-4 while being -10 on turnovers.  This is no small feat.

Offense:

 How is their QB play expected to be?

Brandon Doughty is returning to start his second season.  He had a big game against Kentucky to start the season last year, then threw 5-picks against Tennessee before settling into a decent year.  He completed a high percentage of his passes (65.8%) but with only 7 yards per attempt, so they were high percentage passes.  He had a 14/14 ratio, but the Tennessee game set him back.  Phil Steele has him ranked as the 5th best QB in C-USA.

Say what you like, this is really cute.

What was their scoring and yards per play?

They scored 31 points per game, which was 3rd in C-USA.  They averaged 6.3 yards per play.

Can they run the ball?

Well this is an open question.  Their All-American, Antonio Andrews is gone, as is a potential JUCO replacement.  Leon Allen is slated to start. He averaged about 7 carries a game at 5 yards a carry last year.  Before losing the JUCO guy, Steele had the RBs 7th in C-USA.

Did they pass the ball?

They did last year.  They were 4th in C-USA in passing efficiency.

How was their run/pass balance?

They ran the ball 50% with Andrews last year, so I'd expect a most pass-rich mix this year.

Did they convert on 3rd Down?

They did last year, with 46%, which is very good.

Did they score in the red zone?

They had 4.9 points per trip last year, which is pretty average.

The most famous export from
Bowling Green, KY
Did they protect the quarterback?

They had 27 sacks last year, with was 6.6% of passing attempts, which is mildly on the high side, especially for a team throwing low-risk routes.  Steele has them ranked as the 4th best O-line in C-USA.
Defense:

Topline: Scoring and yards per play.


They allowed 24.6 points per game, which was top in their conference.  However, they return only 4 starters from that unit and have some JUCO replacements.  Three players from last year's defense are in NFL camps.  This is a big question for the game.

Did they defend the run effectively?

They were very good (4.3 ypc) last year, but Steele has them with the #7 DL and the #10 LB.  Obviously, since the guys are relatively new this is an unknown area.

Could they be passed on?

Last year they were excellent on this measure.  Again, they had heavy losses are Steele has the DB ranked #11.  CB Cam Thomas is a stud.

Did they get off the field on 3rd down?

They allowed 45% last year, which is not good for such an effective defense.

Did they defend in the red zone?
Waving red towels is their thing.
Beats Cowbells.


Last year it was 5 points a trip, also not good.

Did they pressure the QB?

20 sacks for the year on 312 passing attempts, 6.4%.
Special Teams:

Punting?


Their main punter from last year graduated.  The current punter had 6 attempts for only 33 yards per attempt.

Punt Return?

Andrews also returned punts for them.  The current guy was Willie McNeal, a starting WR, who only had 4 attempts last year.  They did block one punt.

Placekicking?

Schwettman was pretty good last year.  He was 13 out of 16, with a long of only 44 and 11-13 inside 40.
If you date shows up wearing a pair
of these....R-U-N
Kickoff?

This is pretty open.  Their punter did this and had 11 TBs last year and they were pretty good.  The current punter kicked off
19 times with no TBs.

Kickoff Return?

Andrews returned kickoffs as well, so this is an open question.


Miscellaneous: Overall atmospherics and intangibles.

The biggest intangible is that WKU has really been drawing well at  home.  Last year, they filled 81% capacity at their home field, and that likely gives them a big advantage, especially in an opener.  WKU also has the advantage of working under essentially the same system as they did lat year, unlike the Falcons.  (Not to be negative...the Falcons have a contrasting advantage, which is a bunch of guys who are confident and used to playing with each other).

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

MAC Blogger Roundtable--Inaugural Edition


1.  The MAC Season kicks off this week with Ohio at Kent State. Who wins the first MAC Game of the year?

Nothing like a season opener/MAC opener to clench the coach's buttocks.  And then, you take a team with some title aspirations and send them on the road...Frank has got to be heavily squinting out there.  Anyway, I like Ohio in the game.  They are traditionally ready to go early and then fall off later.  They are going to miss Turdletton, but I think Vick will be OK and I think Kent might be turning back into Kent again.

2. - Is this the year Toledo finally gets over the hump? NIU is entering the post lynch era and they have been the biggest thing in the rockets way these past few years.

I have picked the Rockets to win the West, and I stand by it.  While they remain my mortal enemy, I believe Campbell is a good coach and is continuing to assemble the talent that will make them difficult to beat.  NIU's history of excellence is pretty rare in our conference, and I think the Rockets will catch them this year.

3 - What is your team's biggest game of the year? Either the "show me game"

BG has a few big games.  We close with Ball State, we have to play @OU in November, and we play @Akron.  All of these are tough games.  But, after the last four years, the biggest game for BG will take place at the Glass Bowl.  Not only does BG need the win for competitive reasons in the East, but BG needs to turn around the struggles against UT.  This could change--if, for example, the Ball State game is required to win the East--but for right now, in late August, it is the Rockets.

BlogSwap with Wave the Red Towel



One of the things we like to do--especially with non-conference opponents--is line ourselves up with a Q&A with a blog from our opponent.  This week, we are swapping with Fletcher from Wave the Red Towel, a blog that focuses on the WKU scene down in the other Bowling Green.  Here are his answers to my questions, and then mine will be up on his site later in the week.  Thanks much to Fletcher for helping to educate the BG fan base on WKU.

Oh, and below is the video he references in the first answer.  You owe it to yourself to see Brohm after the hit he took (pre-targeting rules...but it was the XFL) with his nose poking out the ear hole.  No good for those with a weak stomach.



1. Talk about the state of the program. You're just a few years into FBS, moved into a new conference and had a one-year dalliance with a famous coach. How has the WKU trip into the FBS gone?

WKU's brief history in FBS has seen in a few short years (the Tops' first FBS season was in 2009) what many programs see in decades in terms of problems and growth. 2009 and 2010 saw a combined record of 2-22, but since then, WKU has been bowl eligible in each of the least three seasons - including a highly talked about snub in 2011, a matchup vs. Central Michigan in the 2012 Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl, and another snub last year after an 8-4 season, the program's best ever record in FBS. Couple that with a fanbase falling in love with a coach (Willie Taggart, now at South Florida), an explainable run with Bobby Petrino (Which still, to this day, I can't believe happened) and now being headed by a guy who is famous (for lack of a better term) for a rant back in the days of the XFL. WKU, somehow, is becoming a football hot bed.

2. You've got a new coach...what have you seen from him so far and what kind of offensive and defensive style does he play?

Jeff Brohm was the offensive coordinator last year under Petrino, and was brought on to almost follow up Petrino when he inevitably left town (although, if the Louisville job hadn't opened up, I whole heartedly believe Bobby P. would still be on the WKU sidelines). Under Brohm last year, WKU averaged just under 460 yards a game (a lot of that was thanks to Antonio Andrews), and that was with a first year college quarterback in Brandon Doughty. Everything that I have heard and seen makes me believe that a majority of the defensive planning is still with defensive coordinator from last year, Nick Holt, and I believe he runs a basic 4-3. Brohm, a former QB, likes to get the most out of his quarterbacks, and with running back a question at this point, we might see a whole lot of air yards in week 1.

3. Obviously, you lost the awesome RB Antonio Andrews, who is now with the Titans and also lost a potential replacement in JUCO Travis Lock. How do the Hilltoppers look at RB?

The loss of Antonio Andrews hurts, no doubt. Travis Locke, on the other hand, didn't have enough time with the program to really make any sort of immediate impact or leave any impression, so his loss isn't as bad as if it could have been if he played for a year or so. I think history will repeat itself this year - after Bobby Rainey (now with the Bucs) graduated, it was anybody's guess as to who would fill the void, and come the Kentucky game in 2012, it was the A.A. show. This year, we have a better understanding of who is the sure fire #1 QB - Leon Allen - and it may take a game or two, but I think the big guy, who I've heard people saw was a better football player than Andrews, will become just the next in a continuous line of great RBs we have here at WKU.

4. You had big losses at LB last year. How are the new guys shaping up, especially JUCO Dejon Brown.

WKU lost Xavius Boyd (now with Buffalo), Andrew Jackson (Indianapolis) and Jonathan Dowling (Oakland) last year, and while the defense will certainly lack from the ball-hawk sensibility of the guys (especially Dowling), it wasn't the soundest of defenses - a lot of big plays, a lot of missed tackles and a lot of penalties. It's probably the area WKU comes into the season with the most question marks. I see you noted Dejon Brown, but I haven't heard anything out of practice about him, which is good and bad I suppose. Friday will be my first time seeing him as well, so I'll let you know how he'll impact the defense.

5. Speaking of JUCOs, you guys have worked that angle pretty hard. Beyond Brown, are there other JUCOs expected to contribute Friday?

It's something the basketball team (and, while most people might not realize it, baseball team too) does a lot as well, and I guess it's something that you have to do when you're 1.) third-fiddle in your state and 2.) a mid-major program. But, we've seen great results from doing it before, so don't fix what aint broken, I suppose. A good number of the JUCO guys - like Brown - are defensive players, and that'll hopefully bring some immediate answers to the biggest question mark on this team.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Coach Babers Weekly Presser #1: No Grind Edition

So, Coach Babers had his first presser today.  It was actually pretty interesting...in the newspaper business, they would say "he's good copy."  There were times where Clawson would go through the whole presser and say nothing interesting...which I think is impossible for Dino.

I listened so you don't have to...

He says that the thing that is keeping him up nights (and let's notice this, behind the Mr. Easygoing demeanor he woke up at 3:15 two days ago and 4:15 today) is that WKU can watch film from EIU and then kind of substitute in our guys and know what to expect.  Meanwhile, BG has less of an idea.  New coach and many, many new players.

WKU lost a bunch of guys from last year and replaced them with JUCO guys, so that's hard to call.

They are to be considered armed and extremely dangerous.

Also, he says playing game #1 at home is a huge advantage.

He says schematically they are "right" and they have a QB playing a second year in the system, as opposed to BG which has a QB in a new system (by choice, but it is true).

Here's an interesting one. Coach Clawson loved ball control and keeping our defense off the field.  Babers says that if the defense is the best part of your team "then get 'em on the field."  He concedes this is an unusual way to think.

Everyone for BG should be healthy.

He says we will know what we have on Saturday.  We like it, but we don't know until we play a game.  The quote is, in camp "we don't grind, we find."

He played up the idea that WKU DC Nick Holt was with Washington when they played Baylor in a bowl game and therefore has seen the system before.

Finally, the video for the bus ride has not been picked.  Repeat.  Not been picked.  But it is big!  Here is a list of movies set in Kentucky, if that helps.  

Falcons shoot 50% in NFL's Cuts

The good news is that Alex Bayer has survived the first cut with the Rams.  One more to go before the final 53 is lined up.  He seems to be in the flow of their offense, so perhaps there's a shot.  We are pulling for him.

The Chiefs let Jarius Campbell go.  He had a couple tackles during the pre-season games.  High five to Jarius.  He will always be a Champion in our hearts.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Falcon Preview...

And so we begin again.

When last we left our team, we had lost to Pittsburgh in the bowl game...but when we really last left our team, the one with the coaches intact and focused on business, we were in Ford Field celebrating an incredible championship.  At mid-season, BG looked like a good but not great team, but transformed themselves into something else after the UT game, outscoring opponents in the remainder of the regular season by 176-17 and beating the #14 ranked NIU Huskies by 20 to snatch the crown.

It was incredible.  After years of disappointment, this team delivered on its promise and gave us all a memory we will not forget.

Time marches on, however.  We will start it all again Friday.

Big changes since we last left our team.  Coach Clawson left--as I think we all suspected he would--and was replaced by a person that is his opposite in almost every way.  Coach Babers is flashy, outgoing, brash, and plays Baylor style FAST football from a radical spread formation.  Clawson was the opposite of all that.  Clawson also won a championship.

It is an exciting time at the Doyt.  BG was picked to win the East by the media and today the coaches picked BG to win as well.  Expectations are very high, and for all the FalconFast hype, I remind fans that we have been here before, with the flashy offensive system and didn't get any titles out of it.  Expectations are high, but the thing must still be done and everyone else is trying to win, too.

On the offensive side of the ball, it is difficult to imagine what difficulties might emerge.  You have Dieter, Roger Lewis and Ronnie Moore starting at WR, which is (to say the least) impressive.  You have Travis Greene out of the backfield and, of course, the top returning QB in the MAC, Matt Johnson, who is believed by some to be the best returning player in the conference.

Hard to believe that one year ago Schilz started for BG.  Hard to imagine winning that title without Johnson at the helm.

You have to search pretty hard to find worries on offense.  The o-line remains young, but two of the youngest guys started all of last year.  There's a new C.  So, I guess if you want to find things that might be worries, you'd start there.

The other would simply be changing to a new system.  BG had things pretty knocked down under last year's system, but this is a complete change and you worry how much adjustment there will be.  My guess is that our guys are going to shine in this approach pretty quickly, but I would say that's a concern.

Moving to defense.  BG's defense was simply dominant last season.  So much talent, so much depth.  When BG's defense failed to stop UT's final drive and then lost Gabe Martin to injury, they responded by giving up 17 points in 4 games and then stifling NIU's supposed offensive juggernaut.

Yes, there were graduation losses, but a lot of talent is back.  In fact, if there's a year you want to worry about graduation losses on defense, it is next year.

The biggest area of concern is in the middle of the front 7:  DT and MLB.  BG has had some significant attrition in the middle of the last few years, and it has shown up a little bit in the depth chart.  D-line play is all about rotation, and so I have a concern about the depth of our rotation in the middle.

The big benefit last year with Ouellette and Campbell in the middle was that kept blocks off our our LBs, and they had big years as a result.  The middle of the BG line has to at least do that.

Especially since the biggest potential issue at LB is also in the middle.  With Martin and Lynch on the edges, we look very good, but the middle the depth chart shows R-FR Nate Locke and JUCO Paul Senn, who played some last year, most on special teams.

The backfield is looking pretty good.  With Darrell Hunter back and then the guys who filled in for Martin returning to their normal positions, I think the backfield has the ability to be as good as it was last year, with maybe a small issue with depth in dime sets--true FR Nick Johnson is a backup at CB, for example.

Stylistically, last year's team played in a ball control format, which meant the offense was designed to take time off the clock and keep the defense off the field.  This year's offense is designed to do exactly the opposite, so that might provide an adjustment for our guys.  Also, last year's team was focused on forcing punts--in fact, turnovers was the biggest area in which they did not excel.  The current defensive philosophy is to go for turnovers, which is something the defense will have to adjust to.

In general, it is probably too much to expect the defense to produce what last year's defense did, but this defense has the ability to still be really, really good.  Best case, I don't think they are far off what we did last year--everyone has to stay healthy etc--and worst case I don't think the defense is ever a liability unless hit with heavy injuries.

And, of course, you'd expect to be racking up some points on the other side of the equation, taking some pressure off the defense.

On special teams, the PK position is solid for the first time in a long time with Tyler Tate finally providing BG some confidence on FGs.  The punter is new, but is a scholarship player (Joseph Davidson) so we will have to see how he does.  The return game should be fine.  We have enough good defensive players to defend kicks effectively.  I think special teams will be effective.

In conclusion, the high expectations for this year's team are warranted.  There's only one measure of success for this year's team, and I am sure they feel the same way.  This team has all the tools to be back at Ford Field again this December and anything less will be a disappointment.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Falcon Rookies in NFL Camps

Alex Bayer had a good night in Cleveland.  He was targeted four times, had 3 grabs for 36 yards.  He also had a tackle on special teams.  Even more importantly, his catches were earlier in the game than before...one each in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th.

A pass intended for him was intercepted and he was called for illegal motion.

Jarius Campbell is with the Chiefs as an in-camp signee.  He has made two tackles so far and he did play last night.  The NFL credits him with a "misc" tackle, but it came on a play where KC threw an INT and I am guessing the tackle really goes to a Fullback who is listed as J. Cambell.

Tuesday is cut down day, so we will see if these guys make the next level.


Showdown of Future MAC Quarterbacks Nixed for ESPN...

I don't suppose things like this happen in the Fox River Valley of Wisconsin very often.  There are two Division I quarterbacks playing their senior year and they would be set to take each other around Game 7.  The game would watch Ashwaubenon's James Morgan (Bowling Green) and and Bay Port's Alec Ingold (Northern Illinois).

ESPN was insisting the game be played on Sunday.  Everyone was ready to go, including having the schedule moved around, and it looked like a go...until the conference (WIAA) refused to waive a rule that prevents a team from playing twice in the same week...as in Sunday and then the following Friday.

And that was that.

Here's a quote from the conference:

"Had no problem with ESPN coming in on Saturday and doing it, or Friday or having them tape delay," WIAA communications director Todd Clark said. "They said, 'This is when you are going to play.' Unlike a lot of the conferences in professional sports, we just don't feel the need for ESPN to tell us or the schools (when to play).
I'll be darned.  Well, the good news for both of these young men is that with the MAC's new deal with ESPN, this is far from their last chance to play on the worldwide leader.