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Two-Deep and Recruiting Class Evaluation: Oregon Ducks

Continuing my summer homework, here’s the next deep dive into a two deep and recruiting class, this time  Oregon’s. You can see Alabama’s, LSU’s and Texas A&M’s evals here, here and here.

Again, let’s get a few things in order before you read these evals. It’s very important to read this if you want to understand where I’m coming from.

1. Rather than rank someone with a nebulous star rating or a happy face, I am applying an NFL draft grade to them since this is a metric that many of us understand. To be clear, when I write that someone is a first-round talent, I am not predicting that they will be selected in the first round of the draft (though some certainly will). What I am saying is that this player has physical ability commensurate with players who are typically drafted in the first round. The same standard applies with other denominations by round.

2. The two deeps, heights and weights are taken from either the school’s web site or from Rivals.com. If you quibble with who I have on the depth chart, I have no answer for you. Just go with the eval provided. Some of the recruit lists might not include late signees or it might include guys who won’t qualify or will grayshirt. Just take the evals for what they are in that case.

3. The purpose of these evals are to give myself and the HP audience an insight into the raw talent levels of the schools in question. Coaching and scheme are not taken into account.

4. I did not look at anyone else’s evals when doing my own evals. I did not look at stats. I did not read what coaches had to say. I did not peek to see how many or which schools offered a given recruit. In other words, I avoided outside influences as much as possible and basically just looked at as much tape as was available and made my call.

5. I know evaluations of this nature are controversial. Some of you are going to vehemently disagree with some of them. Some of you will wonder what my qualifications are for making them. All I ask is that you put my evaluations to the test in the coming seasons and we’ll see how accurate I was. In the meantime, I welcome any insights or helpful comments on these players.

6. In some cases, for speed’s sake, my evals are very brief, especially with players who I don’t need to evaluate further. A guy like Johnny Manziel? We all know about him. I don’t waste much words adding to what we already know. In other cases, I have limited or bad tape on a player and have to make a snap eval based on what I am able to see.

7. When I have all my evaluations, I will rank the teams and players according to talent level and also overall.

And here we go: Continue Reading →

Comments { 15 }

Two-Deep and Recruiting Class Evaluation: LSU Tigers

Continuing my summer homework, here’s the next deep dive into a two deep and recruiting class, this time  LSU’s. You can see Alabama’s and Texas A&M’s evals here and here.

Again, let’s get a few things in order before you read these evals. It’s very important to read this if you want to understand where I’m coming from.

1. Rather than rank someone with a nebulous star rating or a happy face, I am applying an NFL draft grade to them since this is a metric that many of us understand. To be clear, when I write that someone is a first-round talent, I am not predicting that they will be selected in the first round of the draft (though some certainly will). What I am saying is that this player has physical ability commensurate with players who are typically drafted in the first round. The same standard applies with other denominations by round.

2. The two deeps, heights and weights are taken from either the school’s web site or from Rivals.com. If you quibble with who I have on the depth chart, I have no answer for you. Some of the recruit lists might not include late signees or it might include guys who won’t qualify or will grayshirt. Just take the evals for what they are in that case.

3. The purpose of these evals are to give myself and the HP audience an insight into the raw talent levels of the schools in question. Coaching and scheme are not taken into account.

4. I did not look at anyone else’s evals when doing my own evals. I did not look at stats. I did not read what coaches had to say. I did not peek to see how many or which schools offered a given recruit. In other words, I avoided outside influences as much as possible and basically just looked at as much tape as was available and made my call.

5. I know evaluations of this nature are controversial. Some of you are going to vehemently disagree with some of them. Some of you will wonder what my qualifications are for making them. All I ask is that you put my evaluations to the test in the coming seasons and we’ll see how accurate I was. In the meantime, I welcome any insights or helpful comments on these players.

6. In some cases, for speed’s sake, my evals are very brief, especially with players who I don’t need to evaluate further. A guy like Johnny Manziel? We all know about him. I don’t waste much words adding to what we already know. In other cases, I have limited or bad tape on a player and have to make a snap eval based on what I am able to see.

7. When I have all my evaluations, I will rank the teams and players according to talent level and also overall.

And here we go: Continue Reading →

Comments { 3 }

Two-deep and recruiting class evaluation: Texas A&M Aggies

Continuing my summer homework, here’s the next deep dive into a two deep and recruiting class, this time Texas A&M’s. Since the Aggies and Alabama play each other early, this eval pairs well with that of the Crimson Tide’s down below.

Again, let’s get a few things in order before you read these evals. It’s very important to read this if you want to understand where I’m coming from.

1. Rather than rank someone with a nebulous star rating or a happy face, I am applying an NFL draft grade to them since this is a metric that many of us understand. To be clear, when I write that someone is a first-round talent, I am not predicting that they will be selected in the first round of the draft (though some certainly will). What I am saying is that this player has physical ability commensurate with players who are typically drafted in the first round. The same standard applies with other denominations by round.

2. The two deeps, heights and weights are taken from either the school’s web site or from Rivals.com. If you quibble with who I have on the depth chart, I have no answer for you. Some of the recruit lists might not include late signees or it might include guys who won’t qualify or will grayshirt. Just take the evals for what they are in that case.

3. The purpose of these evals are to give myself and the HP audience an insight into the raw talent levels of the schools in question. Coaching and scheme are not taken into account.

4. I did not look at anyone else’s evals when doing my own evals. I did not look at stats. I did not read what coaches had to say. I did not peek to see how many or which schools offered a given recruit. In other words, I avoided outside influences as much as possible and basically just looked at as much tape as was available and made my call.

5. I know evaluations of this nature are controversial. Some of you are going to vehemently disagree with some of them. Some of you will wonder what my qualifications are for making them. All I ask is that you put my evaluations to the test in the coming seasons and we’ll see how accurate I was. In the meantime, I welcome any insights or helpful comments on these players.

6. In some cases, for speed’s sake, my evals are very brief, especially with players who I don’t need to evaluate further. Johnny Manziel? We all know about him. I don’t waste much words adding to what we already know. In other cases, I have limited or bad tape on a player and have to make a snap eval based on what I am able to see.

7. When I have all my evaluations, I will rank the teams and players according to talent level and also overall.

And here we go: Continue Reading →

Comments { 19 }

Two-deep and recruiting class evaluation: Alabama Crimson Tide

As part of my summer homework, I’ve decided to take a deep dive into the two deeps and recruiting classes of as many teams as possible.

It is a time consuming process, requiring a lot of film study, but I hope to have most of the BCS conferences fully evaluated by the season’s start.

The upside is that I should have a deep familiarity with the talent levels of most of the teams and that should serve me well here. I will probably create a separate page where people can access it as a resource. Hey, feel free to use the info for NFL betting down the road.

As a tease, I’m including here my eval of the entire Alabama two-deep and recruiting class. Will these evals turn out to be accurate? We’ll see. I am happy to put them to the test.

Let’s get a few things in order before you read these evals. It’s very important to read this if you want to understand where I’m coming from.

1. Rather than rank someone with a nebulous star rating or a happy face, I am applying an NFL draft grade to them since this is a metric that many of us understand. To be clear, when I write that someone is a first-round talent, I am not predicting that they will be selected in the first round of the draft (though some certainly will). What I am saying is that this player has physical ability commensurate with players who are typically drafted in the first round. The same standard applies with other denominations by round.

2. The two deeps, heights and weights are taken from either the school’s web site or from Rivals.com. If you quibble with who I have on the depth chart, I have no answer for you. Some of the recruit lists might not include late signees or it might include guys who won’t qualify or will grayshirt. Just take the evals for what they are in that case.

3. The purpose of these evals are to give myself and the HP audience an insight into the raw talent levels of the schools in question. Coaching and scheme are not taken into account.

4. I did not look at anyone else’s evals when doing my own evals. I did not look at stats. I did not read what coaches had to say. I did not peek to see how many or which schools offered a given recruit. In other words, I avoided outside influences as much as possible and basically just looked at as much tape as was available and made my call.

5. I know evaluations of this nature are controversial. Some of you are going to vehemently disagree with some of them. Some of you will wonder what my qualifications are for making them. All I ask is that you put my evaluations to the test in the coming seasons and we’ll see how accurate I was. In the meantime, I welcome any insights or helpful comments on these players.

6. In some cases, for speed’s sake, my evals are very brief, especially with players who I don’t need to evaluate further. Johnny Manziel? We all know about him. I don’t waste much words adding to what we already know. In other cases, I have limited or bad tape on a player and have to make a snap eval based on what I am able to see.

7. When I have all my evaluations, I will rank the teams and players according to talent level and also overall.

And here we go: Continue Reading →

Comments { 8 }

The fastest players in college football, 2013

whitfield

It’s time for Heismanpundit’s annual Fastest Players in College Football List.

There are few subjects in sports more debated — and more misunderstood — than speed. While almost every major sport puts a premium on it, they seem to be unable to settle on a standard by which to accurately measure it.

Football programs at all levels and the media that cover them rely mostly on the 40-yard dash to quantify who is, and who is not, fast. In and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with the idea that speed over 40 yards is a valuable asset. The problem is that it is not measured with any semblance of accuracy.

You know the old saying: “To err is human?” That definitely applies to the timing of the 40-yard dash. Almost every 40-yard dash time you’ve heard attributed to a player was timed by hand, meaning a human digit had a significant influence on its outcome. Even so-called electronically-timed 40-yard dashes require a human to start the clock once the runner begins the race on his own accord.

Studies have shown that such hand-based methods are prone to error and wipe away, on average, at least .24 seconds off the real time of a race. So that “official” 4.35 you think your favorite player ran at the combine? Yeah, it was probably more like a 4.69.

What’s more, 40-yard dashes are run under widely disparate conditions. For instance, wind gauges are not used. Some 40s are run on a track, others on grass and still others on artificial turf. Some runners use spikes, while others run in sneakers. This extra bit of unrecorded variation adds even more unreliability to 40 times. Nonetheless, this is rarely taken into account when 40 times are discussed.

Luckily, we have an accurate standard by which to measure speed. It’s called Fully Automatic Time, or FAT. This electronic timing method has been required in track for record purposes since 1977. No track time is officially counted as a record — whether on a personal or world level — that is not recorded with FAT. Furthermore, the governing bodies of track and field require wind readings and standardized running surfaces at sanctioned track events. The goal is to create uniform conditions so that times all over the world can be compared and contrasted with confidence.

So why doesn’t football use FAT for the 40-yard dash? As Rob Rang reported last year, the NFL tried it at the 2012 scouting combine. But the results were kept secret and the FAT timing was dumped in 2013 in favor of a combination of hand and electronic times. Clearly, marketing and hype takes precedent over accuracy at the NFL combine. No one wants to rave about a running back who just ran a 4.7, right?

Forget the NFL. We still have the ability to reliably quantify the fastest players in college football because scores of football players also ran track in high school and continue to do so in college, giving us quality data with which we can rank their speed.

And so we get to the 2013 edition of college football’s fastest players, which we first started back in 2005. To make this list, I weighed a variety of track marks, including the indoor 55 and 60-meter dashes, the outdoor 100, 200 and 400-meter dashes, the 110-meter and 400-meter hurdles and the long jump (for those wondering, it usually requires a good bit of foot speed — or turnover, as it’s called — to jump a certain distance). I also take into account when the races were run, whether a player has been injured and how often they competed. Wind-legal marks took precedent over windy ones and such factors as times run in cold-weather states were considered. When push came to shove, the 100 meters served as the most leaned-upon standard. The sources for these marks were TrackandField News.comDyestat.com and the US Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, which puts out its own annual list of top football/track participants.

So this is really a list of the players in college football who are quantifiably the fastest. Could there be players not on this list who are faster in reality? Sure, but without valid track marks you won’t be able to make that case, save with anecdotal evidence.

Before we get to the players, keep in mind that this list does not measure football ability, but merely one vital facet of athleticism. It’s no different than measuring height or wingspan on a basketball player. The players who make this list are really, really fast — the cream of the crop in this category — but that doesn’t mean players who didn’t aren’t fast, too.

Finally, let’s dispense with the notion that there is ‘football’ speed and ‘track’ speed. The ability to start and stop and change direction are attributes unto themselves and not elements of being fast. Nor is the unique ability to maintain one’s speed in full football regalia. Face it, what most people see as speed on the track not translating to football is really just a matter of a player not being very good.

On to the 2013 list which, as usual, is filled with fresh legged freshmen:

1. Levonte Whitfield, WR, Freshman, Florida State – 6.32 (55m), 6.64 (60m), 10.28 (100m), 20.96 (200m)

This year’s fastest man in college football is the cousin of former Noles wide receiverMarvin Bracy, who took last year’s speed crown. His 10.28 100-meter personal best was second nationally in the prep ranks this year while his 6.64 60 was third. The four-star recruit says he probably won’t run track at FSU.

2. Thurgood Dennis, CB, Junior, Wisconsin Eau-Claire — 6.52 (55m) 6.76 (60m), 10.30 (100m), 20.86 (200m), 47.10 (400m)

The Allouez, Wisc., native had 58 tackles and three pass breakups last year while playing cornerback for Division III Wisconsin Eau-Claire. He’s the fastest returning football player from 2012 and, at 6-foot-0, 175-pounds, he has the kind of speed/size combination that usually gets looks from the NFL. .

3. Khalfani Muhammad, RB, Freshman, California – 6.86 (60m), 10.33 (100m), 20.74 (200m)

The California state 100- and 200-meter champion is a three-star all-purpose backcoming out of Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks, Calif. He’s headed to Berkeley to play football and run track. Though diminutive at 5-foot-8, he did rush for 1,420 yards and 18 touchdowns his senior season.

4. Jeryl Brazil, CB, Freshman, LSU — 6.22 (55m), 6.70 (60m), 10.36 (100m)

The four-star athlete out of Loranger, La., will play cornerback for LSU. He ran just one 100-meter race as a senior, which means makes his 10.36 run as a junior all the more impressive. There’s certainly a chance that, given his trajectory, he’d prove to be as fast as anyone on this list if he had run more races his senior season.

5. Kyle Fulks, CB/WR, Freshman, Baylor – 6.84 (60m), 10.38 (100m), 20.86 (200m)

The three-star recruit out of Katy (Texas) High will suit up for Baylor this fall. He ran his best 100 meter race as a junior, which points to a lot of untapped speed potential. Although most think he’ll be a cornerback, he might be the kind of guy Art Briles wants to get into space with the ball in his hands.

6. Dallas Burroughs, WR, Junior, Boise State – 10.34 (100m), 21.06 (200m)

I put Burroughs behind Fulks and Brazil despite his slightly-faster 100-meter time simply because it’s been three years since he ran that fast and the physical nature of football tends to wear players down a bit. Also, they ran their fastest times as high school juniors. Nonetheless, Burroughs is about as fast as they come. He caught four passes for 100 yards for the Broncos last season and also added 61 yards on two kick returns.

7. Sheroid Evans, CB, Junior, Texas – 10.39 (100m), 20.82 (200m), 50.55 (400m IH)

Evans has emerged as a potential starter at cornerback for the Longhorns thanks to his blistering speed. He also showed his versatility on the track by running 50.55 in the 400 hurdles as a senior in high school. The 6-foot-0, 185-pound Evans had five tackles for the Longhorns in 2012. With his size and speed, he should emerge as an NFL prospect once his production catches up a bit to his physical talents.

8. Miles Shuler, WR, Junior, Rutgers – 6.34 (55m), 6.85 (60m), 10.39 (100m), 21.31 (200m)

Shuler caught five passes for 71 yards and had one carry for 25 yards for the Scarlet Knights in 2012, but the lightning-quick junior could get more opportunities this fall.

9. Ronald Darby, DB, Sophomore, Florida State – 6.28 (55m), 6.77 (60m), 10.41 (100m), 21.05 (200m)

The second Seminole on this list was also the ACC’s Defensive Rookie of the Year last season. He had 18 tackles, broke up eight passes and forced a fumble while playing in all 14 games. His track marks are even more impressive because they were run mostly as a junior in high school.

10. Damiere Byrd, WR, Junior, South Carolina – 6.24 (55m), 6.66 (60m), 10.41 (100m), 21.21 (200m)

Byrd emerged as a bit of a playmaker for the Gamecocks in 2012, catching 14 passes for 366 yards (26.14 per catch) and three touchdowns. He’s run a bit of track in college, too, and his 6.66 in the 60 meters shows he’s got one of the best bursts around.

Just missed the cut …

De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Junior, Oregon – 10.31w (100m), 21.17 (200m)

His often-cited 100 mark was barely wind-aided, so his best legal mark of 10.57 holds him back a bit on this list.

Reggie Davis, WR, Freshman, Georgia – 10.43 (100m), 21.23 (200m)

Davis will inject some much-needed speed into the Bulldogs receiving corps.

Devon Allen, WR, Freshman, Oregon — 10.49 (100m) 20.98 (200m), 13.48 (110m HH)

The trackster from Arizona competes at a high level in several events and he’s also a four-star receiver.

Thomas Tyner, RB, Freshman, Oregon — 10.43 (100m), 21.41 (200m)

The nation’s top running back recruit ran his marks as a sophomore.

Artie Burns, DB, Freshman, Miami — 13.35 (110m HH)

For comparison’s sake, Robert Griffin III ran a 13.46 as a senior in high school.

Dior Mathis, CB, Junior, Oregon — 10.49 (100m)

Mathis is the fourth Duck on this list, which means Oregon might have the fastest team in college football.

George Atkinson, RB, Junior, Notre Dame — 10.36w (100m)

His 100 mark was wind-aided, but to run that fast at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds is pretty impressive.

Robbie Rhodes, WR, Freshman, Baylor — 21.06 (200m)

The soon-to-be freshman phenom ran his 21.06 as a junior … against the wind.

Did I miss anyone? Probably. So feel free to make your case for another player who deserves to be on this list. Remember: Verified track marks only, please.

Comments { 4 }

Get ready to rock ‘n roll

The 2013 season is getting so close, I can almost smell it.

Okay, so maybe the season itself isn’t close. But the preseason is getting close.

Coming up this week and next, I’m going to start to delve into all the teams, players and coaches for the coming year.

It’ll all begin with the always entertaining, never non-controversial Fastest Players in College Football for 2013 list.

In the meantime, be sure to check various online sports betting sites to get yourself ready. I don’t have a best sportsbook list, but this isn’t a bad place to start, either.

 

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Dennis Dodd’s open letter to the Heisman Trust

Long-time Heisman voter and colleague Dennis Dodd is giving up his Heisman vote due to the trust’s short-sighted policy of punishing voters who reveal their choices before the ceremony.

Dodd wrote a powerful letter to those in charge of the trophy:

To: William Dockery
President, Heisman Trust
17 Battery Place, Suite 1226
New York, NY 10004

Bill:

I respectfully resign my Heisman vote effective immediately.

This is my way of getting out on my own terms before the Heisman Trustees can throw me out. Monday is the deadline in your organization’s ham-handed attempt (in my opinion) to make secret a process that has been a joyful, celebrated American sports tradition for decades.

As you know, in August voters were notified if they didn’t agree to hide their Heisman ballots, voting privileges would be up for review. A heretofore unenforced “non-disclosure requirement” was mentioned.

Last month about 50 of the 928 voters from 2012 were admonished for revealing their ballots. I was one of them. Your letter arrived with the names “Johnny Manziel,” “Manti Teo” and “Collin Klein” highlighted from my column with a yellow marker like I had cheated in class.

We had until April 8 to atone for our sins — aka promise “in writing” we would hide our ballots from public consumption after the voting deadline (early December). Even then, you stated regional and state representatives “will take your explanation into consideration when determining the 2013 electorate.”

So this is what Heisman double-secret probation feels like. It’s not worth it. Not like this: Bill, it seems that you didn’t send letters to all the “violators.” I know that. I’ve received at least one call from a media member who did the same thing as me — wrote about his ballot for an annual column. So now we have a case of a previously unenforced non-disclosure agreement being applied arbitrarily.

But let’s forget that for a second. Having voted for at least 15 years, I/we at least deserved an explanation for this sudden change of protocol. I contacted all nine Heisman trustees, including you. They are captains of law, finance and industry. Eight did not return my phone messages and/or emails.

Richard Kalikow of Manchester Real Estate and Construction in New York was kind enough to spend a few minutes on the phone. Mr. Kalikow explained that while he remembers the trustees making such a decision he didn’t remember when, or many details.

“We want to keep it [voting] under wraps like the Oscars or another announcement,” Mr. Kalikow said. “We don’t want any announcements going out before the television announcement.”

That raised an important question. Did ESPN pressure the trustees to make this decision? The Heisman show has drawn record ratings lately and would seemingly be unaffected by 50 voters revealing their ballots less than a week before the announcement. I was told by Mr. Kalikow and a Heisman spokesman there was no interference from ESPN.

Good.

As for the Oscar analogy, we are talking statuettes and stiff arms, Bill. Two different things. If you mean that careers are sometimes made and lost on who wins an Oscar and a Heisman, then yes, they are the same.

If you mean the voting processes are similar, then no. According to this website, Oscar nominees are decided the same way the Cambridge, Mass. City Council is elected, the same way the Australian Senate and parliament of Ireland are elected.

The same way we elect a president. It’s called a proportional voting system and I have little idea what it means. I do know that when I voted for the Heisman, Deliotte and Touche handled the ballots and that was pretty much good enough for everyone. Now with all the ballots in one big secret pot, we’ll just have to — like the Oscars — take the accountants’ word for it.

It’s called transparency, Bill, and there is precious little of it these days in college athletics. I am resigning my vote because I cannot in good conscience participate in a process where there is more secrecy, not less. You may have noticed, there’s a huge need to keep things on the up and up in college athletics these days. The world has become a very skeptical place because of the implied words from the NCAA: “Trust us.”

There’s something wrong with O.J. Simpson still having a vote (as a former winner) and a bunch of slappy sportswriters in danger of losing theirs. A Heisman vote is not a right. I get that. But someone must still explain to me why, after 70-plus years of not invoking the non-disclosure clause, the Heisman Trust is using it as some sort of threat against loyal voters.

A threat that has become selective and unfair, considering all the voters who “violated” policy were not contacted.

“Then maybe that was an oversight on our part that we didn’t know all the people who revealed their ballots,” Kalikow said. “Everybody should have gotten a letter, probably.”

We both know, Bill, there are Heisman voters who have a hard time telling the difference between a first down and a spatula. Perhaps that’s unfair too, to those of us who care — care enough to make a special trip to the Downtown Athletic Club to survey the damage post-9/11.

This was in 2002 or 2003. The DAC was close to Ground Zero. The resulting devastation eventually reached all the way to Heisman finances. That day I crossed yellow police tape, alone, to enter the lobby of a building that held so much history.

Thankfully, the Heisman recovered to attract new sponsors and post those record TV ratings. A sophomore won the award for the first time, then a freshman. All that with us freely writing and talking about the Heisman. All of it publicizing your award, Bill.

That’s why I do know that secret ballots or not, we’re going to know the Heisman winner in advance nine times out of 10. It’s America. It’s the Heisman. It’s unique. We the people actually love that process.

Hiding things will never change the fact that voters can still anonymously divulge their ballots. I suggest you check out stiffarmtrophy.com which has predicted the Heisman winner for 11 consecutive years. There was even a way for me to keep my vote. I simply could have agreed to hide it, and write after the deadline, “I have filed my ballot and agreed to keep it secret. But if I were to divulge it, I’d be strongly leaning toward …”

Not worth it for me. Either everything is out in the open or nothing is. Lack of transparency is what has NCAA critics howling. But forget about me. Any Heisman process that doesn’t have CBSSports.com’s Tony Barnhart as a part of it, isn’t worth participating in. Mr. CFB has given up his vote too.

So, what’s the point? Heisman speculation is a cottage industry. It’s not going away. Neither are those record ratings on ESPN.

Bill, please don’t do this. The Heisman is about to lose some of its luster. The Reggie Bush debacle was bad enough. This just brings unneeded negative attention to an American tradition that ranks right up there with Chevrolet and apple pie.

Hope to speak to you about this further. You should have my number. I know you have my address.

There’s nothing more that I can add to this eloquent letter. All I can do is co-sign.

Comments { 4 }