Monday, January 21, 2013

Falcon Football: The State of the Program

Just finishing up our wrap up of the football season...I've looked at offense, defense and special teams, and now I want to take a more global look.  How is the program doing?  Where are we?  What is strong and what is missing?

The first thing is to acknowledge that this program has come a long way in a short period of time.  The program was a dumpster fire when Coach Clawson came in, but he had a plan and stuck to it and made the team competitive and relevant again, and he did it in four seasons.  That's actually pretty good, and we should all stop and recognize that.

The next step, of course, is to win a championship.  BG has not won a title since 1992, during which time Ball State, CMU, UT, Marshall, Miami, Akron, Buffalo and NIU have all won the MAC.  BG has only played in MAC title game one time.

BG had some flashy teams in there, with Meyer and then the early Brandon years, but those teams only got over even won their division once.

Now that BG is relevant again, the question is, can the team turn that into a championship?

Certainly, as things stand at the end of 2012, that is possible though far from certain.

BG expects to return a lot of players from a good team.  Yes, they lose Chris Jones but they also get a couple injured guys back and they lose Dwayne Woods but LB is a pretty solid position as well.  The defense didn't just get more experienced between 2011 and 2012, they got a lot better, as I noted in our review.  I don't think you can expect that kind of jump again, but it is possible the defense will get a little bit better between this year and next.

The offense was a different matter, and the status of Anthon Samuel is now uncertain.  Our QB struggled for consistency and our WRs did not consistently win their battles either and that hampered the running game as teams could load up the box against us.  It is certainly possible that our WRs will get better over the course of the year just as our defense did, and that would help a lot.

A lot of fans are focused on Schilz.  Coach said after almost every game that he had to be more consistent and we learned after the season that he was injured during the second half of the season.  Having said that, do I expect him to make a significant improvement for next year?  No, I don't.

However, it isn't all about him.  With a good supporting cast, he can be more productive, but I don't think he's going to turn into one of the MAC's elite QBs.

At the same time, I don't see any changes being made.  His backup is Matt Johnson, (will be R-So) who played some garbage time and James Knapke (R-FR), who hasn't played at all.  I don't see them turning our senior dominated team over to an untested player.  If he's healthy, I think Schilz remains the starter.

Speaking of senior-dominated, there are a couple of tea leaves in our list of reported verbal commitments.  Most importantly, we have 24 commits.  Coach Clawson was in Columbus doing advance work for the Black Friday Bash and reportedly told a gathering that BG had 14 scholarships available.  That's an apparent gap...

Now, there's a few possibilities.

A)  He didn't say that
B)  I'm full of crap
C)  He thought the Mayans were right and therefore it did not matter what he said
D)  An alien abducted him for the day


We certainly didn't have very many players out there on senior day.  So, let me just offer a possibility...

E)  Our list of returning players might not be 100% what we thought when the team walked off the RFK turf.

Time will tell.

The other tea leave type thing is at RB.  That position was one of incredible depth for BG last year--we had Samuel, Martin, Pettigrew, Hopgood and Givens.  BG has gone nuts recruiting RBs this year, with 4 reported verbals and 3 of our highest ranked players at RB.  We know Samuel is uncertain, Pettigrew graduated, Martin is coming back from surgery and Hopgood was injured at the end of the season.  I would say that the RB recruiting we have done could indicate how the team feels about the status of our returning guys.

I know a lot of people don't like the Florida recruiting.  Of BG's 22 HS players, 9 are from Florida right now.  Personally, if we can keep players and graduate them, I don't care where they come from, but not everyone shares that view.

I think if BG does have a Championship season next year, (even a division championship), you will very likely see Coach Clawson move up to a better job.  He was in some conversations this year and I think he grows more likely with an even better season.  BG does have a strong defensive coordinator who might be a likely successor.

Beyond that, BG appears to have only lost one assistant from last year's staff,which would provide continuity into next year.

I think our recruiting has been good and there is talent coming up in the classes behind the seniors.  I also think our coaches do a good job developing players--making players better.

In all those ways, I think the program is in pretty solid shape and probably the best long-term shape it has been in a long time.

As for next year, I think we are far from a shoo-in.  OU has built the kind of program we want--they are good every year--and Archer is back and Kent could still be good.  I have noted some uncertain or unsettled areas in our program...which may change the narrative from "everyone's back, let's kick butt."

Even with that level of uncertainty, this is the best place we have been during an off-season since the early Brandon years.  We should appreciate it and appreciate the turn around effort, which has been very good.

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