Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mel Kiper loves Dan LeFevour

About a month prior to the 2009 NFL Draft, ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper held an online chat where he talked about 2010 quarterback prospects. After mentioning Oklahoma's Sam Bradford as the top prospect, Kiper then mentioned Tim Tebow of Florida and then threw out Dan LeFevour as a 10-15 pick in the first round.

This past weekend, Kiper again referenced LeFevour and reiterated his feelings on LeFevour. He mentioned Dan a few times on national television and gave him some more love in a post-draft chat, referring to him again as a 10-15th pick prospect in the first round of next year's draft.

It should be noted that other draft analyst, Todd McShay of Scouts Inc., felt LeFevour was more of a day two selections (3rd-7th rounds).

In my opinion, and I like Dan a lot, he has a good head on his shoulders, but I find it hard to believe that any NFL is going to put their franchise in his hands. If Graham Harrell of Texas Tech goes undrafted because he didn't run a "pro-style" offense, then where does that put LeFevour. CMU's offense is as far from a pro-style offense as you can get.

Dan's strengths are his intelligence, his poise in the pocket, his accuracy on short passes, and his running ability. But, in the NFL, LeFevour's running ability isn't going to get him very far. It will help in avoiding sacks, but an NFL team is not going to go with a draw call with Dan.

Dan's ability to throw the long ball would be a question and his ability to take the snap from under center would also be an issue. I am sure those are things he can work on during the year, but again if Harrell's amazing throwing ability didn't cut it, why would LeFevour's?

Obviously how things pan out this season will impact Dan's draft prospects, but I would still be shocked to see him anywhere in the first round next year. I think Dan can do some good things in the Wild Cat formation, but as a full-time quarterback taking all the snaps, I just don't see it right now.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

CMU Basketball Departures

I had it confirmed on Wednesday and William Eddie III and Lawrence Bridges are no longer part of the CMU men's basketball program, by no fault of their own.

The two players and the coaching staff parted ways mutually. This was the reason for the recent string of signees, as CMU had signed three players to next year's team this week and already had a scholarship locked up in the fall.

With Chris Kellermann also getting an extra year of eligibility, a scholarship was needed for him as well, so it would appear that Marcus Van, Brandon Ford, Lawrence Bridges, Ryan Thomas (w-on), and William Eddie III will be gone from next season's team.

From what I understand, nothing has happened with assistant coach William Eddie II, and I am not to assume that something will.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spring Practive Observations Week 5

CMU held its final practice prior to the spring game on Thursday and the practice concluded with a speech to the team from former Lions offensive tackle Lomas Brown.

Brown talked to the team about the importance of spring and summer training and how attention to detail during those times were what helped him win a Super Bowl with Tampa Bay in the 2002 season.

Brown also talked about how few college football players make it to the next level and how important it was for each of the Chippewas to have something to fall back on with their education and also to be good role models for the community because those who don't make it tend to remain involved with the communities and cities where they played.

Brown spoke for at great length with the offensive lineman on the team and coach Don Mahoney, talking about specifics that helped him in his career and the struggles with the position that he overcame during his college days. Brown had mentioned to Butch how impressed he was with the practice and really though Jake Olson had great potential with his size for being just a redshirt freshman.

I will have a story with Brown in Friday's edition of the Morning Sun. He was a very nice and approachable guy and just seems like a great guy to be around. It was a real treat for me to interview someone I watched growing up and really was one of the first recognizable players I remember watching.

In terms of the practice, things went smoothly until the end, when Cornelius Gallon took a big hit and appeared to injur his leg, but the severity is unknown. I don't think it would be something that would keep him from being ready in the fall.

D.J. Scott and Taylor Bradley were recognized for their efforts in the weight room during the spring and Chaz West continues to really look strong and impressive since stepping on the field this spring. I really feel that the secondary for CMU can be greatly improved and really be a force to be reckoned with if it can stay healthy.

My last observation is that the run blocking for CMU has looked pretty good while the pass blocking is a little to be desired. Bryan Schroeder has really been exploding out of the holes in the line and running guys over as of late. It is hard to tell if CMU's O-line has been improving or if they are looking good against a depleted Chippewa defensive line right now, but time will tell.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Spring Practive Observations Week 4

The football team held an extended scrimmage today, similar to what you will see during the Spring Game next Saturday. Here are some highlights of what I saw:

-Chaz West returned to practice this week and he had an interception in the end zone and a fumble recovery during Friday.

-Neither Ryan Radcliff or Derek Rifenbury stood out, though most of the snaps went to the two. Radcliff had a nice touchdown pass to Jeremy Wilson and Rifenbury had a touchdown run, but again, neither were too spectacular.

-The running game looked good and the offensive line opened some nice holes. Paris Cotton looked solid and is the only fully healthy running back in practice right now.

-The offense was put in a 3rd and 1 situation and tight end David Blackburn caught a pass on the move and D.J. Scott made a great low tackle (giving up a lot of size in the process) and made the stop short of the first down. Scott read the play beautifully and made a great tackle, which CMU needs to see more of in the secondary this year.

-Some interesting notes at linebacker as Mike Petrucci and Landon (not Derek) Carter were getting snaps with the first team and Vince Agnew was being brought in at linebacker in third down situations.

-Walk on quarterback turned wide receiver Kent Viening made some nice catches. Wouldn't read too much into it, as Antonio Brown and Kito Poblah weren't used much in the scrimmage.

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Butch Jones salary situation

Just this week Kentucky named a new men’s basketball coach in John Calipari to a new record contract, making him the highest paid coach in college basketball.
Calipari’s predecessor, Billy Gillispie, was ousted after two years and his biggest highlight while with the Wildcats was his major delay in ever signing his contract with Kentucky, which hurt his pockets in the end.
That situation reminded me that it has been months since Central Michigan football coach Butch Jones signed his most recent contract extension, yet to this day, the financial terms of the extension haven’t been determined.
Clearly the university has had plenty to deal with as of late, most notably having its president, Michael Rao, depart for Virginia Commonwealth.
While it may not seem like a big issue to some, as Jones is under contract for a number of years at CMU, the financial agreement is a big deal in the sense of it gives us an idea of CMU’s commitment level to Jones and his staff.
With all of the coaching changes that took place in the last two seasons, Jones has quickly found himself as one of the lowest paid coaches in the Mid-American Conference in terms of guaranteed money.
Jones is third from the bottom at $290,000. Temple’s Al Golden was at the top of the list at $575,000 until the end of the 2008 season, when Buffalo gave Turner Gill a new contract, making him the highest paid coach in the MAC following his conference championship win.
Now $290,000 is certainly no small peanuts, especially in this economic state, but Jones’ status on the MAC coaching totem pole is a sign of what is ahead for CMU in one way or the other.
Just like when Jones first arrived at CMU and started with a higher base salary than Brian Kelly had as he departed, with each new hire, the salary bar is getting raised higher and higher in the MAC, and it is only fair to think that Jones and his staff want to be compensated with the averages of the conference, especially since they have a MAC championship under their belt.
Ball State University is a perfect example of being a victim of growing trends.
Just this past season the Cardinals rolled to a 12-0 regular season, garnered a national ranking, and won the MAC championship. Ball State’s coach, Brady Hoke, opted to leave Ball State after the season for San Diego State, which is a lateral move at best in terms of football talent.
But, Hoke was able to more than triple his base salary with the move and the Cardinals were left to make a new hire in offensive coordinator Stan Parrish, who in turn received a contract where his guaranteed money was larger than that of what Hoke made when he left.
With each new coaching hire also comes new commitments from the administration. Whether it be upgrades in facilities, more money to the program, scheduling control, or higher pay for assistants, each university is backed into the corner to play catch up with the rest of the conference if they want to hire a coach that can compete on a year-to-year basis.
This takes us back to Butch Jones.
While this financial agreement may not be a make-or-break situation for Jones and CMU right now, soon a crossroads will hit if Jones continues to be one of the lowest paid coaches, and the Chippewas will have to ask themselves:
Do we make a commitment to Jones and increase the pay for he and his staff and look to make upgrades to the program to stay on level with the rest of the conference, or do we fork over the money and the promises to a new and unproven coach?
I don’t think the MAC has to be the stop gap for college coaches like it has become. Schools like Temple, Buffalo, and Toledo have shown they are willing to do what it takes to keep their coaches around and well compensated. Many of the MAC schools are continually looking to upgrade facilities and provide new perks to their football programs.
I know the CMU athletics budget isn’t where many would like to see it and it has handcuffed many programs, but with the inevitable arrival of a new president, hopefully this issue is addressed so CMU athletic programs can continue to compete on the national level.
For right now, we will see how Jones’ contract plays out and if he will be one of the highest paid coaches in the MAC.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Spring Practice Observations Week 3

We are getting deep into spring practices now and the young guns seem to be impressing the coaches the most.

-The sophomore running backs in Brian Schroeder and Paris Cotton are really looking good thus far. Each is brining a nice explosive step to the running back position while also doing a great job of catching the ball in the passing game. I think Schroeder likely is your fall starter, but expect Cotton to get a lot more carries and snaps this season.

-I for one will be surprised if D.J. Scott is not getting a lot of playing time at corner next season. Scott seems to make numerous plays in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills in each practice. Just today he had pick six where he was in perfect position and looked like he was reading the quarterback from the start. He is small in height, but his vertical and his overall athleticism makes him a tremendous talent. Just like Nick Bellore flourished with his early enrollment, Scott appears to be doing the same.

-With Scott and Taylor Bradley doing great things, the CMU defensive secondary looks like it will be deep this season at cornerback. With Josh Gordy and LaVarus Williams recovering from injuries, Bradley, Scott, and Kirkston Edwards have gotten a lot of snaps and I think all five are capable of starting, which will hopefully pay off in the fall.

-Jake Olson is getting better each day and if he can get his weight to 300 pounds, I think he will do just fine at left tackle. He is doing a good job of sealing off the defensive line on plays that move out of the pocket. He is not going to bowl too many guys over in run blocking, but that is not really CMU's style to being with.

-Cornelius Gallon has also impressed the coaching staff this fall. The redshirt freshman has taken a lot of snaps in the slot and provides good depth along with Jahleel Addae. Both guys will play the slot opposite Antonio Brown on the other side. There is a handful of redshirt freshmen at the receiver position that should make a name for themselves in 2009.

-At this point in the backup quarterback race, neither Radcliff or Rifenbury is really running away with the competition. Each struggled today and haven't looked real sharp in the last few practices. Radcliff has been getting more snaps with the second team as of late, but he certainly has not won the spot yet. The spring game will be a big test for both.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

CMU Men's Basketball Wrap Up

I will have another spring practice update tomorrow, but as for now, I wanted to post a CMU men’s basketball season wrap up story that will be exclusive to the Sun Sports Blog. I recently talked with basketball coach Ernie Zeigler to get his thoughts on the 2008-09 season and the future of the program (Thanks to Ryan Evon for the photo of Marcus Van):

At first glance, on paper, the 2008-09 men’s basketball season may not look like a successful one for the Central Michigan men’s program.
A 12-19 record was the worst in the three season’s that coach Ernie Zeigler has been at CMU, while a 7-9 mark in the Mid-American Conference was one game behind the year before.
Yet, when everything came to a close, it was clear that the 2008-09 season was one of the most successful in recent years at CMU, and certainly the best in Zeigler’s coaching career.
While the win totals were not where Zeigler aspires to be, his Chippewas overcame numerous injuries and suspensions. CMU was left for dead by many in the MAC race, yet won a share of the MAC West Division title with a memorable 71-68 win over Western Michigan in Kalamazoo to close the regular season.
“We knew from the start as a coaching staff that this was going to be a year of transition for us as we looked to take the next step as a program,” Zeigler said. “Starting last spring we dealt with a lot of adversity and we knew this season would be challenging. But, even through all of the suspensions and adversity, we still took a step forward and we put ourselves in a position to be MAC West champions. It was a very satisfying season in terms of going through all we did and still accomplishing what we did. They key for us is to now continue to build on that right now. We can’t wait and enjoy our accomplishments too much, we need to start now in building for next season.”
The championship season was a validating feeling for CMU, and the Chippewas were led all season by senior Marcus Van, who was validating his spot on the team all season long after opening the year with a suspension.
“I think this season you really have to look at the progress and the growth of Marcus Van,” Zeigler said of his senior center, who averaged 13 points and eight rebounds per game. “Any coach that is worth his salt wants guys to get better as they move through the program, and when you look at Marcus, he started as an athletic rebounder and a shot blocker, and when he left, he was one of the top scoring post players in the entire conference. He really evolved as a player and that is a testament to his work ethic and how much he valued being a part of this basketball team.”
As CMU finished the season playing its best basketball, winning its last three games before getting edged by Ball State in overtime in the quarterfinals of the MAC Tournament, many fans had wondered how good CMU would have been this year with forwards Chris Kellermann and Marko Spica, who were lost for the season with injuries.
“It is an interesting question to ponder, but you would also have to wonder if Marcus would have emerged like he did if Marko was around,” Zeigler said. “The biggest asset we would have had was depth. Whenever you have depth, that immediately makes you a dangerous team. Instead of being a team that was seven-deep, we would have become a team that was nine or 10-deep, and that would have really been a strength to have. If you look at the Final Four teams, all of them have tremendous depth and are not identified by just one player.”
With or without Kellermann or Spica, CMU had very historic wins this season and very disappointing losses.
“The win that stands out most to me would have to be the win at Western Michigan because it was a signature win for our program,” Zeigler said. “We were down 14 points at a hostile environment and we battled back and that win made us MAC West champions.
In terms of the losses, I would say the two losses to Eastern Michigan stand out because I felt like in both games we played well enough to win, but we just weren’t able to close the game out. You could say the same about the loss at Buffalo too, where we were in great position to get a huge road win, only to come up short.”
With the 2008-09 season now in the books, Zeigler and his staff are clearly focused on next season and the new challenges that lie ahead.
The biggest step for next season is in establishing leaders, which Zeigler expects his senior tandem of Robbie Harman and Jordan Bitzer to take over.
“First and foremost, we need Robbie Harman and Jordan Bitzer to really emerge as the leaders of this team,” Zeigler said. “Bitzer will be our leading returning scorer and rebounder and I feel he really emerged at the end of this season as one of the top players in the MAC. Robbie Harman has always been a guy you can count on to do whatever he can for this team and we need him to really continue to push his teammates and continue to not be afraid of taking the big shots for us.”
Along with Harman and Bitzer, Zeigler is excited to see how his younger players will progress for next season.
“We need our guys to have a passion to get better and we need guys like Jacolby Hardiman, Antonio Weary, and Jeremy Allen to keep having a bounce in their step to build off of the momentum we had at the end of this season,” Zeigler said. “I am also anxious to see how Marko and Chris bounce back from their injuries and their rehab. It will have been a long time for both since they have played in a college game and sometimes it can take time for guys to get comfortable again.”
The Chippewas will go through their strength and conditioning program through the summer until individual workouts begin next fall in preparation for the 2009-10 season.

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