Archive for July, 2009

2009’s Fastest College Linebacking Group

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Posted by Mark Branstad – Football Talent Advisors

There’s a great deal of player speed in D1 football and no shortage at the linebacker position for 2009.  According to, UNC’s starting linebackers might be the fastest collectively in the country.  Of course using the 40 yard dash as the only metric for speed is highly questionable.  But I can’t argue about UNC Linebacker Zach Brown’s pure speed.  He’s no doubt one of the fastest in the nation!

If we take into account that UNC players ran on mondo, which is a fast surface, and were hand-timed…Brown ran 4.50-4.55 electronic (this is just an estimate).  That’s very fast for a linebacker and his 100 meter time from high school correlates to his projected electronic 40 of 4.5-4.6.  A legit 10.70 / 100 meters correlates roughly to electronic 4.5-4.6 range.  Brown ran 10.67 and 21.52 in high school.  (Data below from and The Washington Post)

Class 3A Boys

Top teams: 1, Westlake 78; 2, Wilde Lake 52; 3, Bethesda-Chevy Chase 47; 4, Long Reach 45; 5, Mervo 42.

Individual Winners

100 – Zach Brown, Wilde Lake, 10.67

70 21.52 Zach Brown — Wilde Lake HS , MD 3A State Finals , MD

Southern Cal’s Linebackers:

I think I’d have to look at Southern Cal’s projected starting linebackers before UNC’s in terms of fastest as a group.  Southern Cal’s linebackers include Michael Morgan, Malcolm Smith, and Chris Galippo.  This group would have included speedy incoming freshman linebacker Frankie Telfort, but he unfortunately was forced to give up the game due to a heart condition.  Telfort ran a 10.89 / 100 meters at his Florida high school district meet this spring. 

Michael Morgan ran a 21.59 /200 and (41.98) 4×100 relay time as a senior at the District 9-5A Meet in Dallas, TX 2006.  Malcolm Smith ran 11.06 / 100 and 22.59 / 200 at the Los Angeles Section Meet in 2005 and 2006 respectively.  Chris Galippo threw 54’05 in the shot put as a senior at the Trinity League Meet in 2007.  Now that’s not sprinting but as a middle linebacker that gives a great indication of his explosiveness in close quarters…I’d imagine he can “close” on the football.  Maybe I’m wrong but I’d give the nod to USC’s LB crew over UNC’s based on this data…forget 40’s. 

Purdue’s Linebackers: (My darkhorse group)

Now I know I might take some heat on this one…but Purdue’s projected linebackers CAN really run. This group includes Jason Werner, Joe Holland, Chris Carlino, top reserves DeVarro Greaves and Tyler Haston.  These guys collectively might not be as big physically as other programs but again they can move. 

Werner (has had major back surgeries) might not be as fast as he once was but he ran 10.85 / 100, 21.88 / 200 and (42.34) 4×100 during the state tournament series in 2004 & 2005.  Joe Holland ran 11.13 / 100, 22.62 / 200, including (42.45) 4×100 and (3:19.57) 4×400 in the 2005 Indiana state track meet.  Chris Carlino threw the discus 125’05 at his county track meet as a junior and was a standout basketball player.  DeVarro Graves qualified for the Georgia state track meet in multiple events including the 300 hurdles and 4×400 relay.  Tyler Haston was 6’07 high jumper and qualified for the Indiana state meet in the 4×100 relay (42.98)…not bad for a linebacker and he played quarterback in high school too.

What about the Nole Linebackers? 

Well they stack up pretty well but I still place USC and Purdue slightly above.  I could use the forty times quoted here by The Chopping Block / Orlando Sentinel, but I don’t like to do that, the times are just too inflated.  Regardless Dekoda Watson is fast and Kendall Smith was an explosive thrower in high school…backups Recardo Wright and Mister Alexander displayed some natural speed and explosiveness too.  If we take 40 times at face value it seems that ALL FSU linebackers are faster than most programs skill players by comparison. 

Dekoda Watson ran 11.07 /100 and (42.59) 4×100 relay and 42’09 triple jump at the Region 4-4A Meet in South Carolina 2006.  Kendall Smith finished fourth at the state meet at 52’05 in the shot put, South Carolina 2007.  Recardo Wright posted an 11.29 /100 dash at the District 4-4A Meet, Florida 2006.  Mister Alexander leaped 44’05 in the triple jump at Dave Bethany Relays in 2006…add in a 20’08 long jump during the 2006 season too.

BYU Coach on Recruiting Sites and Star Rankings

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Posted by Mark Branstad – Football Talent Advisors

In sort of a follow-up to a previous FTA post about the gimmicky nature of recruiting sites “star” ranking here’s BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall’s take. He obviously doesn’t take much stock in the “star” ranking system, and yet another example of his lack of recruiting site faith. 

However another blogger brought a few interesting insights to my attention.  1) Mendenhall might not benefit from slamming the recruiting sites as much as he might gain by embracing them, BYU geographically is not generally in a recruiting hot spot. 2) Mendenhall’s claim that BYU recruits players that are the “right fit”…but what program doesn’t claim that? So that doesn’t really set them apart from other programs.  3) There’s got to be some system to rank high school players and currently there’s nothing better out there so go with what’s available.   

I’ve stated before I’d like to see both major recruiting sites, Rivals and Scout, be more transparent how their star ranking systems work., if you visit the site, is the better of the two explaining what the stars mean and what the player projection score means.  Scout appears to be more proprietary.  No doubt many of these analysts work hard and cover a lot of players nationally, but the questions about what metrics these companies use to rank all these players and determine “stars” remains pretty clouded.

Dennis Dodd on the track and football connection

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Posted by Mark Branstad – Football Talent Advisors

About three years ago I commented on an article written by Dennis Dodd of  I remember vaguely the article had something to do with Jamal Charles running track at UT and Dennis feeling the need to slam track a bit and he generally failed to understand why a RUNNING back would want to run collegiate track. Anyway here’s the article link.  

Well I posted a comment on the article (keep in mind this was early in my research and FTA did not exist yet) basically telling Dennis there’s some real statistical evidence that suggests pure track athleticism does transfer to football performance and track participation isn’t really a distraction to football players and teams.  I went on to say that I had a lot of information on the subject and quite a bit of track data etc…   

Dennis shot back that track was boring and basically said I was a boring loser for wasting his time.  Actually here’s the direct quote, Dodd responded to my posted comment as follows:

“Boring Is As Boring Does:

For God’s sake, noooooo! Keep it to yourself”.

Remember that Dennis?  Perhaps track is boring to most football enthusiasts but the track data doesn’t lie. 

Fast forward – May of 2008 and lo and behold I find not one but two articles written by Dennis about track and field’s apparent connection to college football?!  Now I don’t know if Dennis was forced from higher-ups to write these but what a turn of events!  I admit these articles are from last year and I just stumbled on them recently…but he must have lost a bet or something.  In the past he clearly disliked track.  I’m not going to call Dennis hypocritical but this was sort of vindicating for me.    

I respect Dennis, he’s been around for quite a while writing about college football.  Despite the fact he’s pissed off a ton of people particularly those that played in high school and college band, he’s alright in my book.  By the way…Dennis, I took your snub and started this whole FTA thing.  Thanks for the motivation.  When’s the next track / football article on CBSSports?

Combine Warriors that Succeeded in the NFL

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Posted by Mark Branstad – Football Talent Advisors

I’ve been unhappy lately with the amount of internet and published press attention given to players that perform well at the NFL combine / campus workouts and then “bust” in the league.  Heck it would almost seem, if one believed everything published out there, that doing well at the combine is almost a negative.  Makes me wonder sometimes…have any workout wonders gone on to successful NFL careers? 

Actually if more journalists, writers and bloggers would do some research they’d discover the majority of players that perform well during individual workouts and combines do okay in the NFL.  I mean football IS an athletic activity so possessing quantifiable athletic ability IS a positive…though some experts seem to believe the contrary. 

Charlie Bernstein ( posted an article spotlighting 10 recent combine success stories.  Some of these players have only been in the league for one season but were immediately successful.  Here they are in order listed in the article – and yup most of them have extensive high school track and field / multi-sport backgrounds. 

1) Mario Williams (DE – Texans) Threw shot put, was state runner-up 52’05

2) Chris Johnson (RB – Titans) State runner-up 10.66 / 100 and 21.30 / 200 , state champion 4×100 41.11

3) Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (CB – Cardinals) Triple-Jumped over 46’00, 22’08 long jump, 10.85 / 100 – also long jumped over 25’00 in college. 

4) Antonio Cromartie (CB – Chargers) Triple-Jumped 46’01, 22.05 / 200, 38.50 / 300 hurdles, 14.43 / 110 hurdles, ran 46.39 / 400 meter dash in college. 

5) Greg Jennings (WR – Packers) 22’07 long jump, state champion 4×100 42.20, 4×200 relay 1:28.50

6) Maurice Jones-Drew (RB – Jaguars) 10.80 / 100, 4×100 42.20 state meet qualifier, 22.19 / 200

7) Ronnie Brown (RB – Dolphins) Baseball player in HS, drafted by MLB out of HS

8) Nick Collins (S – Packers) Track & Field, Baskeball and Baseball letterman at Dixie Hollins HS, FL.

9) Joseph Addai (RB – Colts) 22.1 / 200, 10.7 / 100 (hand-held high school times)

10) Shawne Merriman (LB – Chargers) Three-year Basketball letterman

Notice in the first paragraph of his article Bernstein runs through a brief list of NFL players that went bust after great combine workouts.  Now he’ll get no argument from me with the list except mentioning Mike Mamula.  First, Mike Mamula was NOT a bust (mentioned in a previous blog).  He had an injury shortened NFL career but still managed 31 sacks in 5 seasons, additionally he had 29 sacks his last two years of college play.  He was a very solid player that just happened to workout well.  Second, Akili Smith was not as solid a college player as Mamula.  Tony Mandarich and Matt Jones both had drug-related issues during their careers…Mamula never had any that I know of while playing. 

Bernstein forgot to show the offensive lineman much love in his article…so I’m going to take the liberty.  My two offensive lineman picks would be Ryan Clady (Denver Broncos) and Michael Roos (Tennessee Titans).  Clady was a first round pick (# 12) and barring injury will be a cornerstone for Denver for a decade or more.  Clady, by the way, threw 52’00 in the shot put and 152’00 in the discus as a 6’06 high schooler.  Roos, was a three-year basketball letterman and was a javelin thrower (over 180’00) as a 6’07 high schooler.  These two guys certainly fit the profile of big-time NFL offensive tackles from an early age.

Recruiting Service Gimmick

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

Posted by Mark Branstad – Football Talent Advisors

Recruiting service gimmick?  Well perhaps, according to this article, from  It serves as a short narrative about the arbitrary nature of star rankings from the major college football recruiting services.  We posted a previous blog about this topic and I expressed my displeasure with the ranking standards the “stars” represent. 

Sure college recruiting is not a perfect science.  In fact, most claim successful recruiting is primarily an art and superior “gut instincts” on the part of coaches that separate the best recruiters from the average.  But why can’t more of these recruiting services apply a little more science or standardized metrics to their ranking systems? 

The recruiting rankings essentially are based on following the herd mentality…how many offers does a recruit have and what programs have offered?  Stars (ranking) increase as offers increase…isn’t that a bit backwards?  Shouldn’t these services set the standard instead of reshuffling the rankings based on offer totals and prestige?  Shouldn’t the reshuffling occur because of what the players actually did or didn’t do on the field?  Ultimately these ranking are all about projection and why would projection change based almost entirely upon what college offered a scholarship? 

Unfortunately the combine “camps” and so forth play too large a role and if recruits aren’t seen there then their rankings suffer.  Again, not very objective or scientific.  I get it that recruits sometimes perform extraordinarly well at combines and camps.  Where are the evaluation standards behind the performances at these things?  I mean one analyst claims a kid ran a great 40 another claims it was just an okay 40.  One kid has “great feet” according to an analyst and the other analyst says the kid’s feet are not D1 caliber.   

But those are the rankings for you in the world of the recruiting services…gimmick?  Maybe that’s a little strong.  Is it all about hype?  Pretty much.

Frank Mir – Star MMA Fighter AND High School Discus Thrower

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Posted by Mark Branstad – Football Talent Advisors

This is a tidbit I find appropriate given UFC’s 100 Fight Card this Saturday.  Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir is set to fight current UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar.  According to most sites and experts Lesnar is predicted to win, and win quickly, despite losing their first fight (knee bar 1st round). 

Supposedly other than the size difference, Lesnar weighing about 15 pounds more and 1-2 inches taller, is Mir’s perceived lack of athleticism.  Mir was a state champion wrestler at Bonanza High in Nevada AND he threw the discus 177’10, still a Southern Regional Meet Record.  Lesnar was also a high school champion wrestler and NCAA Champion.  Who knows what Lesnar could have done if he threw the shot and discus…my guess?  He would have been awesome. 

I don’t know who will win this fight, I’m not an MMA expert by a long shot, but Frank Mir IS plenty athletic.  He may not be a monster-sized athlete like Lesnar, but who is?

Both fighters played high school football and apparently were quite good.  It is well documented that Lesnar made a brief attempt at playing in the NFL with Minnesota Vikings.  Both Mir and Lesnar could have been solid collegiate football players, no doubt, but their current career paths have been spectacular.

NFL Combine Vertical Jump…Does It Matter? Is It Predictable?

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Posted by Mark Branstad – Football Talent Advisors

The FootballOutsiders indicate 40 yard dash times matter to NFL performance by running backs (it isn’t of course a perfect measure).  Their work indicates the vertical jump is not as correlated to football performance…as for the other combine drills?  Well, for running backs anyway, they’re not very useful for predictive purposes. 

‘Vertical jump is a slightly less useful predictor: While backs aren’t often asked to leap players, the vertical jump is apparently the best indicator of a player’s athletic ability outside of 40 times. It has a .29 correlation with DPAR, and a .28 correlation with yards and carries. Jerry Azumah (a halfback in college) holds the combine record for running backs in the vertical jump with a 43½-inch leap, while players like LaDainian Tomlinson and Buckhalter also have shown off impressive hops.’  – Football Outsiders –

The vertical apparently isn’t as strong a correlation as the 40-to-size (weight) ratio.  However, the vert has it’s place as a measurable. 

What I want to focus on are the best verticals recorded at the NFL combine and the players that performed them.  Guess what?  Most had track backgrounds, indicating to me the vertical might be predictable.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure the long jump, triple jump and high jump would translate to vertical…but I seldom hear the guru analysts talking about it.  Most of them seem to chatter about basketball backgrounds (those are prevalent too on the lists) but they don’t offer any statistical data.   

So lets look at the best vertical jumps at the NFL Combine.  Combine data compiled by Frank Cooney and 

Highest Vertical Jump (NFL Combine 2001-2008)
* Track and Field data compiled and organized by Football Talent Advisors
46 – Gerald Sensabaugh, (FS), North Carolina, 2005 – 46’11 Triple Jump (state champ) & 23’08 Long Jump
45 1/2 – Derek Wake, (OLB), Penn State, 2005 – N / A
45 – Chris McKenzie, (CB), Arizona State, 2005 – N / A
45 – Chris Chambers, (WR), Wisconsin, 2001 – 47.19 / 400 (state champ) & 21.40 / 200
43 1/2 – Dustin Fox, (FS), Ohio State, 2005 – 22-02 Long Jump & 10.83 / 100 & 41.86 / 400 Relay
43 1/2 – Kevin Kasper, (WR), Iowa, 2001 – N / A
43 – Scott Starks, (CB), Wisconsin, 2005 – 21.81 / 200 & 48.34 / 400 (state champ)
43 – Cedric James, (WR), TCU, 2001 – N / A
42 1/2 – Nate Burleson, (WR), Nevada, 2003 – 38.70 / 300 hurdles (state champ)
42 1/2 – Jonathan Carter, (WR), Troy, 2001 – 10.48, 21.29, 6.31 (college)
42 1/2 – Brock Williams, (CB), Notre Dame, 2001 – 10.9 / 100 (hand-held)
42 – Boss Bailey, (OLB), Georgia, 2003 – 14.28 / 110 hurdles (state champ)
42 – Kerry Rhodes, (FS), Louisville, 2005 – N / A
42 – Ellis Hobbs, (CB), Iowa State, 2005 – 10.62 / 100 & 41.06 / 400 Relay
42 – *William Green, (RB), Boston College, 2002 – N / A
42 – Santana Moss, (WR), Miami, 2001 – 48’06 / Triple Jump (state champ)
42 – Rashad Holman, (CB), Louisville, 2001 – N / A
42 – Scott Fujita, (OLB), California, 2002 – N / A
42 – Raonall Smith, (OLB), Washington State, 2002 – N / A
42 – *Vernon Davis, (TE), Maryland, 2006 – 10.92 / 100 & 6.66 / 55 & 6’02 High Jump
42 – Mark Anderson, (DE), Alabama, 2006 – N / A
41 1/2 – Karl Paymah, (CB), Washington State, 2005 – 10.77 / 100 & 21.97 /200
41 1/2 – Reche* Caldwell, (WR), Florida, 2002 – N / A
41 1/2 – Bob Sanders, (SS), Iowa, 2004 – 21’03 Long Jump & 42.83 / 400 Relay
41 1/2 – Tony Fisher, (RB), Notre Dame, 2002 – 22’04 Long Jump
2009 NFL Combine 40’ Vert Club:
45 – Donald Washington, (CB), Ohio State –  23’04 Long Jump (state champ) & 6’04 High Jump
43 – Darius Butler, (CB), Connecticut – 21’06 Long Jump & 22.98 / 200
42.5 – Jarrett Dillard, (WR), Rice –  21’02 Long Jump & 42’11 Triple Jump & 39.68 / 300 hurdles & 42.93 / 400 Relay
41.5 – Donald Brown, (RB), Connecticut – 22’10 Long Jump
41.5 – Tiquan Underwood, (WR), Rutgers – 23’10 Long Jump & 49’04 Triple Jump (state champ) & 14.46 / 110 hurdles
41.5 – David Bruton, (FS), Notre Dame – 48.48 / 400 & 22.12 /200 & 21’11 Long Jump
41.5 – C.J. Spillman, (FS), Marshall –  11.10 / 100
40.5 – Mike Thomas, (WR), Arizona – 10.61 / 100 & 41.20 / 400 Relay & 1:25.66 / 800 Relay (state champ)
40.5 – Connor Barwin, (DE), Cinncinnati – N / A (Basketball)
40 – Mike Wallace, (WR), Mississippi – 41.81 / 400 Relay (state champ)
40 – Cedric Peerman, (RB), Virginia Tech – 10.67 / 100 (state champ) & 22.03 / 200 (state champ) & 22’07 Long Jump / 43’09 Triple Jump

As one can see there’s a track connection here too.  Now the next question does the vertical jump translate to football performance? It is a mixed bag.  See what ESPN had to say.  There’s a few solid names above, Bob Sanders, Ellis Hobbs, Santana Moss and Chris Chambers.  But there’s even more names that made little impact in the NFL.   

Please…please put the Mike Mamula “draft bust” pick to rest.  Mike Mamula WAS a solid NFL player!  Injuries robbed him of a lengthy career, 31.5 sacks in 5 seasons isn’t BAD.