Posts Tagged ‘ESPN

02
Apr
12

Meet the Next Lawrence Taylor

I hated the way ESPN overhyped USC running back Reggie Bush when he was in college. They actually did a segment comparing him to Chicago Bears great — and NFL Hall of Famer — Gale Sayers. Comparing a college kid to an NFL legend was ridiculous. College football and the pros are not the same game. Bush was taken second overall by the New Orleans Saints in 2006, and I think Bush is more famous for dating Kim Kardashian than for what he has done on the field.

But I’m about to jump on a bandwagon of my own making. You must see Daeshon Hall, a junior in high school from Lancaster, Texas, play football. This kid has some special ability. He’ll committed to Texas already, so you’ll see him in Longhorns burnt orange in 2013.

One of my free lance jobs is editing video for national Preps. I spent February watching a lot of high school football from the state of Texas. Young Mr. Hall just stood out. In Lancaster they play him as a defensive end, although I think he’ll project as an outside linebacker in college — and in the NFL. At 6-foot-6, 225 lbs. he has the build of a basketball player, and, in fact, he does play hoops. However, he has the body type of a small forward, unlike Julius Peppers who played basketball at North Carolina and played defensive end in college and the pros. Peppers has the build of a power forward; he’s bigger in the lower body. But Hall has some unbelievable physical ability — and he’s much stronger than you would think.

If Young Mr. Hall is a diligent student and makes wise choices off the field, the sky’s the limit for this fellow. My edited video of Hall runs just under three minutes, so check it out.

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16
Apr
10

Taking Note of Jimmy Clausen

One coach I grew up working with was Kevin Hartzell, then head coach of the St. Paul Vulcans and now back in the business coaching the Sioux Falls Stampede of the U.S. Hockey League, a Tier I Junior (16-19 year old players) League based across the Midwestern U.S. Hartz made it a point to notice how a player approached his work, feeling it was indicative of the sort of player he was. Did the kid pay attention to detail or was he sloppy? Was he early for practice or was he always a late arrival? “Little things” Hartz would call them.

That stuck in my head last night watching ESPN’s  Jon Gruden’s QB Camp, a film session Gruden does with the top four quarterback prospects — Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, TimTebow,and Jimmy Clausen — in this year’s NFL Draft. Claussen has gained a reputation for being arrogant. For what reasons, I don’t know. My friend Michael Floyd caught passes from him at Notre Dame for two years and liked Jimmy. That’s all the recommendation I need.

Photo by Vince Muzik

Clausen took some harsh, no-holes-barred criticism from Gruden, reputed to be an expert indeveloping young quarterbacks, as to what he could do to improve his play. Whether it was a just a product of the way ESPN edited the show, Clausen didn’t mind writing down the criticisms  Gruden had. This isn’t the sort of thing an arrogant person would do. It was reminiscent of what photo editors at Sports Illustrated have told me when critiquing my work; it’s not any fun. While taking notes won’t make you a great player, I would say that’s one of those “little things” that tells me how Clausen approaches his work: He’s a student.  Maybe the other guys have great memories; however, if they are human like the rest of us they are prone to forgetting things if they aren’t written down. Personally, if I were a young guy trying to make it in the NFL, I’d want to remember every important point a teacher like Gruden had to say to me. Even if it weren’t pleasant; it’s the only way to improve.

Personally, I think Nebraska’s defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is the best player in this draft hands down. Sam Bradford I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole after that shoulder surgery and Tim Tebow is a project not worth of a first rounder. Colt McCoy is worth a long look at the right price, but Clausen gets my vote. Of  course, whatever team he goes to will have give him good offensive line play or else he’ll get killed, but that’s another issue. For now I’ll go with Clausen.

05
Apr
10

ESPN’s 30 for 30: “The U”

ESPN must have a thing for running this particular documentary on holiday nights. The first time I watched “The U” by Billy Corben was back on Christmas night, then I caught it again last night (Easter).

This happens to be my favorite documentary so far in the “30 for 30” series,  a documentary series of 30 films commemorating ESPN’s thirtieth anniversary. It has some really good insights into how the University of Miami, a small school located in Coral Gables, Fla., with no history, no tradition and no facilities, became a national football power quickly, a “microwave dynasty” as former Hurricanes player Melvin Bratton put it. Between 1983-2001, the Hurriances won five national titles, four in a nine-year stretch (1983-1991) with three different head coaches (Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson).

After learning about college football recruiting from my time spent at Cretin-Derham Hall High School and watching Seantrel Henderson go through the process — and he saw at all! — a few things stood out about how Miami built their program.

When Howard Schnellenberger stood at the podium in 1979, he said it was his plan to win a national championship at the University of Miami within five years. I’m sure lots of people thought he was smoking something else besides tobacco in that pipe that became his trademark. In short, he was really a genius. Give some due credit to his wife, Beverly. According to the doc, she convinced him to give up his gig as the offensive line coach of the Miami Dolphins and take the job at the school. Schnellenberger knew that football is a way of life in South Florida. High school games routinely outdrew University of Miami games.There are a lot of kids who play, and a lot of good athletes.  Most of them are black. He decided to win “the state of Miami.” Some of that “state” is pretty tough. Even today there are parts of the city you wouldn’t want to get stuck in when the sun went down.  In the late ’70s inner city Miami had it’s share of problems, lots of crime related to drug trafficking. That didn’t stop Schnellenberger from going into “the hood” to recruit the best players he could find. Schnellenberger went there; he didn’t just send his assistants. That’s one key in the recruiting game: If the head coach shows up to recruit a kid, that means that school is INTERESTED. In other words, they are making a priority to get that player. As one player said in the doc, “They (Schnellenberger and his staff) went to places where others wouldn’t go.” And I’m sure word got around: The guys at Miami were sincere. They got to know all those players better than any other college team could because they were local and they used it to their advantage.

Coach Randy Shannon - Photo by Vince Muzik

I had a chance to meet current Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon, a former linebacker at “The U,” when he came through Minneapolis-St. Paul to recruit Seantrel. The list of great players that wore that definitive “U” logo on the Miami Hurricanes helmets is endless. Bernie Kosar, Vinny Testeverde, Michael Irvin, Steve Walsh, Warren Sapp, Eddie Brown, Alonso Highsmith, Ed Reed, Benny Blades — and on and on. They played with an attitude, and some of them in the film haven’t lost it even as they’ve hit middle age. Naturally, I wondered what the reaction was to it. Coach Shannon told me he received a lot of positive feedback from this film, even though he wasn’t in it.

If that’s so, here’s one parting thought: For Miami to get back on top Coach Shannon needs to use the amazing story told in “The U”  of the Miami Hurricanes emergence as a power to his advantage. As it stands now, Miami’s web site doesn’t even scratch the surface of the testimonies of those Hurricane alumni. In fact, their web site is really whitebread! As I learned from him, there’s a brotherhood of past Hurricanes. In the NFL off season, those guys come to Miami because of the loyalty to the program. In terms of digital marketing, they need to remind recruits of that. The Florida Gators have taken over college ball in that state. Miami’s brand is as definitive as their white helmets and orange jerseys. They even have music to go with it. Don’t lose that edge because… it’s a ‘Canes thing!