Besides my interest in the Heisman and college football, I have an unabashed love of track and field, an affinity that grew out of spending six seasons as the sport’s SID at USC.
Over the years, I’ve learned that football and track have an integral connection. When it comes to assessing the athleticism of a football player, track and field marks can prove invaluable to the overall evaluation.
Unfortunately, track and field is a dying sport that doesn’t have many adherents among recent generations. As a result, there are a bunch of young football coaches and scouts out there who have no clue as to the relationship between the two sports. I think that’s why there is so much confusion out there regarding 40 times (and why every player supposedly runs under 4.3 all of a sudden–don’t worry, they don’t really).
So it’s refreshing to see a site such as Football Talent Advisors, which keeps an eye on the football-track nexus. And it’s even better to see such mainstream writers as Bruce Feldman touting this point of view with his recent blog post on linemen who are throwers.
In my time following Ed Orgeron and his staff around in the recruiting process, I’d heard him talk a lot about trying to get verified track times and results for prospects. The subject about what truly is fast became an on-going, often comical debate amongst their staff at Ole Miss. Orgeron, a D-line coach who had competed in track in high school, loved to see how recruits competed in other sports, especially track and basketball. In regards to the throwers, he talked about trying to get a better gauge on how explosive a guy is. The data that Branstad has compiled at FTA supports that.
The legendary football scout and recruiter Lannie Julias once explained to me how the throws were important in gauging the larger football players:
“Being able to throw the hammer at a particular weight illustrates the overall torque and flexibility of a big man’s physique, as well as his balance. The discus illustrate quick feet and coordination, not to mention his ability to change direction. The shot shows core strength and explosiveness. Knowing these throws can tell you a lot about the overall athleticism of a lineman.”
It all makes sense. The more information you have regarding a prospect, the better. Seeing a 6-6, 330-pound lineman dominate against much smaller competition does not really tell you how he will do against quicker players his own size. You can’t gauge his balance by having him run a 40-yard dash. You can watch him play, but you can’t quantify his footwork compared to other linemen. It’s the toughest position to project to the next level. That’s where having knowledge of the throws can help.
As for Bruce’s post, I don’t think throwers necessarily make better linemen, per se. But they can for sure make for more athletic linemen (and aid in pinpointing such linemen in recruiting). And if you are an athletic lineman, you have a chance to be very good as long as you can master the other aspects of the game that are not reliant upon your untaught, physical abilities.