Archive for November, 2009

Freshman of Influence Weeks 11 & 12

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Posted by Mark Branstad – Football Talent Advisors

The college season has flown by and now rivalry week and the bowls to finish.  I have several more freshman to highlight before we wrap up this year’s series.  It was hard to find many freshman offensive lineman but perhaps I’ll place more emphasis there next year.  Next week I’ll compile a complete list of this year’s FTA “Freshman of Influence”.     


Freshman of Influence Weeks 11 & 12: 


Jesse Grandy, WR/KR – Mississippi

Grandy, a true freshman, is making a solid contribution to surging Ole Miss (huge victory over LSU)…he’s seemingly done a little of everything with 14 rushes for 91 yards and two scores, plus two receptions for 37 yards.  But his biggest contribution has come in the kick return game with 22 for 603 yards and two scores.  Interestingly he played some quarterback in high school at Dollarway in Arkansas, led them to a state title as a senior.  He dabbled in a little track and field qualifying for state in the 4×100 (44.52).  Is he another Dexter McCluster?  Just wait and see…maybe Grandy’s not quite THAT explosive.

Mike Ball, RB – Nevada

This freshman is probably an afterthought on a team with THREE 1,000 yard rushers!  However Ball, a 5’10 225 pound thumper, had a monster game against UNLV.  He totaled 184 yards against UNLV and had one run of 89 yards for a touchdown.  This indicates Ball’s big play potential and speed for a back his size.  He ran track at Desert Pines High School (Nevada) and participated in the 400 relay (43.81), 800 relay (1:33.14) and long jump. 

Kenny Okoro, CB – Wake Forest

Okoro has played 11 games this season and produced three interceptions, 34 tackles, eight PBUs and a  forced fumble.  Those are impressive tackle numbers for a freshman corner.  Listed at 6’00 and 190 it looks like Wake might have a mainstay in Okoro.  He attended Greensboro Dudley High School (North Carolina) and participated in track.  His track performances suggest some athletic versatility in that he hurdled, high jumped and long jumped.  Makes sense to me.

Al-terek McBurse, RB/KR – Purdue

This guy definitely has the coolest first name of any freshman so far.  But anyway, McBurse was an early enrollee at Purdue and the true freshman was supposed to be pushing for the starting tailback job.  The rise of sophomore Ralph Bolden diminished the need at running back this season but McBurse found a way to contribute via the return game.  He returned 19 kicks for 468 yards and none bigger than this past week against rival Indiana which went for an 87-yard touchdown.  He was even named ESPN’s BIG Ten Special Teams Player-of-the-Week.  McBurse attended Winter Springs High School (Florida) and was a successful long jumper (21’05) and ran the 100, 200, and 400 meters (50.99). 

Kanorris Davis, LB – Troy

Troy University’s recent history of developing NFL defensive talent – Demarcus Ware, Osi Umenyiora, Leodis McKelvin and Sherrod Martin come to mind – make this player all the more intriguing.  Davis is a powerfully built at 5’11 and 215 pounds.  He puts it to good use with 16 tackles, two TFLs, one sack and two forced fumbles in 10 games.  Davis attended Perry High School (Georgia) and was the Class 3A state runner-up in the 100 meters (10.94) with a best of (10.84) in 2008. He ran on a state qualifying 1600 relay team (3:23.28) in 2007. 

Paul Hazel, LB – Western Michigan

Here’s another very interesting freshman linebacker.  What makes Hazel so interesting is his frame, he’s listed at 6’06 and 200 pounds.  He’s got room to gain weight and at his height he might be a linebacker / end.  Beyond that however he’s been productive with 11 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, and three sacks.  Hazel was a standout basketball player at South Miami High School (Florida) and participated in track as well.  He long jumped 21’08, high jumped and ran the 100 meters (11.35) and 200 meters (23.16).  That 100 meter time is outstanding for an athlete his size.  I’d expect we’ll hear more about him in coming seasons.    

Matt Tucker, RB -TCU

There are a host of young skill athletes at TCU making an impact , we highlighted running back Ed Wesley in Week 7, but Tucker is also deserving.  Tucker is a 6’01-215 pound workhorse that will compliment guys like Wesley and perhaps he’ll be the feature back going forward.  He’s gained 605 yards on 93 carries for eight touchdowns in 11 games and while he isn’t TCU’s fastest back he has a great athletic background.  He gained 6,000 yards at Chapel Hill High School (Tyler, Texas) and participated on the track team…long jumping over 20-feet, triple jump 41’00, and ran on 400 relay (43.10) and 800 relay (1:32.95) qualifying for regionals in both.      

Greg Nwoko, FB – Arizona

Nwoko is a 6’02-220 pound “straight ahead” back or fullback (do those really exist anymore?) who’s given some production to Arizona’s running and passing game.  Nwoko has 60 carries for 245 (4.0 avg) and three touchdowns, he’s also shown the ability to catch with 12 receptions for 144 yards.  He appears to be a complete back and a great compliment to Arizona’s other running backs.  Nwoko also has a touch of speed and burst as evidenced by his high school athletic background.  He attended Pflugerville High School (Texas) and was reportedly 220 pounds back then too…ran 100 meters (11.8) and was an alternate for 400 and 800 relay teams.   






Freshman of Influence – Week 10

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Posted by Mark Branstad – Football Talent Advisors

We’re heading into week eleven and there’s still some great freshman performances to be mentioned.  One of the nation’s most impressive freshman, Vanderbilt’s Warren Norman, leads the SEC in all-purpose yardage. He has more all-purpose yards than any freshman in all of D1-FBS.  Praise is long overdue.   

Freshman of Influence Week 10:


Warren Norman, RB / KR – Vanderbilt

Norman is having an outstanding season despite his team’s struggles.  As mentioned above he leads the SEC in all-purpose yardage with 1,696 (169.6 avg. game) through 10 games and tops all freshman nationally in all-purpose yardage as well.  He has seven total touchdowns with three by kick return.  The best way to describe Norman is to say he’s ‘dynamic’.  Norman also participated in high school track at Chamblee HS (Georgia) qualifying for the state meet in the 400 meter relay with bests of 11.08 / 100 meters, 22.94 / 200 meters and (42.24) 400 meter relay. 

Montez Robinson, DE – Georgia

Had his breakout game last week against Tennessee Tech, credited with five tackles, 2.5 TFLs and two sacks.  Robinson’s playing time looks to be increased as Georgia’s been hit with some injuries and focuses on developing young players for next year.  Robinson attended Avon HS, in a suburb of Indianapolis, Indiana.  While at Avon he participated in track his junior year throwing the shot put 50’01 (indoors) and also throwing the discus and running sprints briefly.   

Rashard Hall, Safety – Clemson

Hall leads all freshman defensive players nationally with five interceptions through ten games, include 39 tackles and two TFLs and that’s a solid season.  Hall attended St. Augustine HS (Florida) and participated in track and field with bests of 41’11 in triple jump and 19’10 in the long  jump as a senior.  Take into account Hall’s size 6’02 /195lbs and there’s a bright future for him at safety. 

Brice Butler, WR – Southern Cal

Butler has managed to see the field for the Trojans at wide receiver and had some production.  Injuries at wide receiver have given the redshirt freshman opportunities and he’s performed with 10 catches for 166 yards and a touchdown in nine games.  At 6’03 / 200lbs he’ll see more time in the future and provide a great target for Barkley.  Butler attended Norcross HS (Georgia) and among other things participated in track and field.  As a sophomore he partcipated at the state meet in the 400 relay, finished seventh.  His bests that year were 22.75 / 200, 50.56 / 400, (42.54) 400 relay and (3:22.86) 4×400 relay at the Region 7-5A Meet. 

Josh Robinson, CB – Central Florida

Robinson is another exciting freshman defensive back.  He’s intercepted four passes (one touchdown), has 51 tackles, one TFL and six PBUs.  That’s what I call production from a freshman player. Robinson was a spectacular track athlete at Plantation HS (Florida) with bests of 10.77 / 100, 21.61 / 200 and 21’00 in the long jump.  His track performances have translated to production on the field this season.   





Freshman of Influence – Week 9

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Posted by Mark Branstad – Football Talent Advisors

Some more freshman making an impact even as we enter the last few weeks of the season, a few of these players are probably overdue to be recognized.  Overdue players like LSU’s Russell Shepard come to mind.  I’m not sure how to categorize his position he’s sort of part quarterback / receiver / runner…well the newest incarnation of “slash”.  Here’s the list. 

First though let me say is the best site out there for updated college football player and team statistical data.  They update constantly and have game split statistical categories, a great feature which I use for the “Freshman of Influence” series. 


Freshman of Influence Week 9  


Russell Shepard, QB – LSU

This freshman quarterback’s stats aren’t eye popping, yet.  In the past two games Shepard has 11 carries for 119 yards and two touchdowns.  For the season he has 28 carries for 225 yards (8.0 avg) and two scores.  He’s definitely brought a new dimension to LSU’s offense.  Shepard has a deep background in high school track at Cypress Ridge (Texas) with bests in the 100 meters (11.1 FAT), 4×100 (42.53), 4×200 (1:29.02) and over 22-feet in the long jump…although I’ve heard he’s gone well over 23-feet. 

Janzen Jackson, DB – Tennessee

Jackson, a true freshman safety, was just named SEC Freshman of the Week for his defensive performance against South Carolina.  He had seven tackles, one forced fumble (apparently earth shattering hit) and two PBUs.  For the season Jackson has 33 tackles, tied for sixth best on the team.  Not bad considering the talent on that side of the ball for Tennessee. 

Certainly his athletic background hasn’t hurt his ability to perform well at the SEC level…he qualified for the Louisiana High School State Track Meet on multiple occasions.  He ran track for both Carencro and Barbe HS, while at Carencro specialized in the hurdles and sprints with bests of (7.70) 55 meters high hurdles and (6.68) 55 meter dash.  He qualified for the state meet in the 110 hurdles in 2007 and 2008, and ran a leg on the third place 4×100 relay (42.10) for Barbe HS in 2008.   

Ronnell Lewis, LB – Oklahoma

Lewis is a backup linebacker on a very talented Sooner defense but he’s found ways to contribute.  Through eight games he has 11 tackles, two TFLs, one sack and a forced fumble.  He’s listed at 6’02, 235 pounds but perhaps it was his speed and athleticism that attracted Sooner coaches most.  Lewis attended Dewar HS (Oklahoma) and was a three-sport athlete, played eight-man football.  Apparently was surprised by the scholarship offer from Oklahoma but I’m sure the coaching staff is glad he’s a Sooner now.  Lewis, among his many high school achievements, qualified for the Oklahoma State 2A Track Meet and ran the 200 in (22.99).  Not bad for a 220 pound plus athlete. 

Chris Borland, LB – Wisconsin

Another Wisconsin freshman ‘backer Mike Taylor appeared on an earlier Freshman of Influence blog but Borland is deserving.  First, Borland is a true freshman.  Second, two weeks ago he had a monster game against then 8th ranked Iowa (10 tackles).  Third, he’s had 26 tackles, five TFLs, 2.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and a blocked kick on the season.  And fourth, Borland attended Archbishop Alter HS (Kettering, Ohio) and was a four-sport athlete participating in football, basketball, track and tennis…wow!  Perhaps his most impressive high school feat was throwing 61’00 in the shot put and winning state runner-up at the Division 2 Ohio State Track Meet this past spring. 

There’s that number 61 again in the shot put…first Nebraska’s Suh and Crick, now Borland.  Who’s next?!

Sterling Griffin, WR – South Florida

Another true freshman without great statistics but when he’s made plays they’ve counted.  Griffin only has nine catches on the season for 190 yards and two touchdowns.  But his two touchdowns came against FSU and last week at West Virginia.  His scores were huge factors in both winning efforts.  I mentioned several weeks ago that USF has recruited some serious speed in last year’s class and one of those recruits was Griffin: 

University of South Florida recruited several very fast players too this past year.  2009 Recruits: Lindsey Lamar, Kayvon Webster and Sterling Griffin all have top notch track speed.  Even their linebacker recruit, Sam Barrington, ran hurdles and threw some discus in high school.  Lamar is already producing some numbers for USF after three games.    

Griffin has an extensive high school track background out of Monsignor Pace in Miami, Florida.  He was twice the state runner-up in the 400 meters (best time of 48.21) in Class 2A; and ran on the state champion 4×100 relay (41.79) in 2008, with a blistering best time of (41.04) at the Region 4-2A Meet.  Griffen even qualified for the state meet in the 4×400 relay finishing seventh in (3:22.01).   

Local Shout

Butler Bulldogs are now 8-0 but face three tough Pioneer League games to close the season. 

John Goodman, Notre Dame wide receiver, is picking up some quality playing time for the Irish particularly in ‘wildcat’ formations.  Goodman was a Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger HS (Indiana) graduate and a multi-sport athlete guy.  In fact, qualified multiple years for state track meet in 100, 200, and 4×100 relay. 

“Touchdown Man” Chad Spann, Northern Illinois running back, is tied for fifth in the nation in scoring with 14 touchdowns through 8 games.  Spann, a graduate of Indianapolis North Central HS, was a terrific track athlete as well.  Long jump probably was his best event with a best approaching 23-feet, (22.42) 200 meter dash, (6.72) 55 meter dash and was a member of 4×100 relay team (42.15) that finished fourth at the state meet in 2006.  Pretty amazing he was originally a walk-on for NIU…appears he’s earned his scholarship.        




Nebraska’s D-Lineman Crick and Suh come up big

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Posted by Mark Branstad – Football Talent Advisors

Nebraska’s defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh and Jared Crick continue to come up big.  Nearly everyone knows about Suh, he’s been mentioned as a possible Heisman candidate.  But his teammate Crick might have matched or even surpassed his play on the field.  

Both of these players not only play big…they are big!  Crick is listed at 6’05, 285 pounds and Suh at 6’04, 300 pounds.  Even if those height numbers are bit inflated (football rosters tend to exaggerate heights and weights) these guys both fit the NFL mold.  

Despite their size it is their play that has attracted much of the attention.  Crick had FIVE sacks, 13 total tackles and seven TFLs on Saturday against Baylor!  That gives Crick 49 total tackles for the season tying him with Suh for the team lead.  Not often do defensive lineman lead their team in total tackles, but these guys do!  Additionally Suh has seven PBUs, 13 TFLs, five sacks and 14 QB hurries on the season. 

Another interesting tidbit about these two guys and perhaps not surprising, both were very good athletes in high school.  Suh credits his background in soccer for his “quick feet” but his sheer power and explosiveness were best displayed as a state champion shot putter.  Suh’s shot put exploits have been highlighted in a prior blog.  But Crick was no slouch either throwing the shot put at Cozad High School in Nebraska.  He was state runner-up at the Class B 2007 State Meet with a throw of 60’10 and had a best of 61’03 in 2007. 

I’ve done a blog or two highlighting several of today’s best college lineman and their high school backgrounds throwing the shot put and discus.  Maybe college recruiters and coaches should pay additional attention to line prospects with solid throwing backgrounds.  More often than not the physical skill DOES translate to the field. 

On a local note, Kris Harley, Warren Cental High School (Indianapolis) junior defesive lineman has the physical ability to dominate high school games, and often does.  I have a friend that coaches offensive line at Carmel High School (Indiana) and told me Harley is very active and very difficult to block.  Harley might not have the height of Nebraska’s Crick or Suh but he did finish third in the shot put at the Indiana State Track Meet last year as a sophomore.  His throw was 57’05…he’s on his way to 61’00 which would put him in line with the Nebraska guys.