Archive for October, 2010

Does high school track and field prepare linemen for big time football?

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

Margus Hunt (92) kick block - Photo credit: Alan H. Rose / The Daily Mustang

Last year I wrote a blog about the possible connection between offensive and defensive line play and throwing the shot put and discus.  Many of last year’s highly touted collegiate linemen had throwing backgrounds dating back to their high school days.  With so many high profile linemen throwing the shot and discus I thought ESPN college analsyt and blogger, Bruce Feldman, might be interested.  Fortunately he was and this topic received greater exposure and interest.   Over the past year I’ve received some feedback about the blog and questions about linemen and throwing so I’ve decided to give it a follow-up.          

What struck me this time is the revelation that high school participation in throwing is not regional.  Division I linemen from all over the country have backgrounds in throwing.  The percentages of high school linemen from Texas (seen as a track and field haven) may be a bit higher overall but throwing is nearly as popular in Midwestern high schools.  Even with high school spring football so prominent and popular down south a lot of current SEC linemen participated in high school throwing.  You’d think with so many top notch linemen possessing track backgrounds that it wouldn’t be overlooked or deemed irrelevant by college recruiters.  However most college coaches I’ve encountered don’t seem to know much about track or care to learn.  As you’ll see below it might have paid some recruiters big dividends to learn.                 

The bigger question, in my mind, is…does ability to throw the shot and discus have any correlation to playing line?  I say yes, in a pure physical sense.  Of course player size is the key correlating factor along with development of football skills but the ability to throw indicates a wide range of physical skills related directly to line play.  It is probably a stretch to claim that track participation alone can improve football skills.  However throwing does provide athletes a competitive outlet to improve footwork, functional strength and explosive ability.  Those are all physical attributes essential to excel at line play.  Again having a large frame is nearly essential for success at any line position but possessing and enhancing the physical abilities necessary to throw certainly don’t hurt either.            

Nearly every defensive and offensive linemen I included in last year’s blog were three-sport and four-sport athletes in high school.  A good argument could probably be made regarding a connection between multi-sport participation and line play.  But if  that were true why not say that linemen playing baseball or golf is just as good a physical measuring stick as throwing the shot or discus?  Not an easy answer as participation in any additional sport is a great way for football players to keep or improve their competitive edge. Unfortunately not every sport or activity is measurable or quantifiable in a pure physical sense.  Throwing performance is measurable, quantifiable, comparable and fairly objective unlike some other sports performances which are not measurable or objective.          

It is my belief and experience most high school linemen go out for track simply for something to do or because their friends are doing it BUT there’s something that goes on during all the practices and throwing movements that probably contributes to the physical development of linemen.  Of course this is an area of much debate and isn’t a scientific demonstration but I’ll supply quite a few player anecdotes below.  Amazingly several linemen mentioned weren’t just throwers but successful track sprinters.     

Current standout Division I Defensive Linemen that participated in high school track & field 


Margus Hunt international discus throw – Photo credit:

Billy Winn – Boise State:  A three-star athlete coming out of Las Vegas HS, Nevada.  Winn was state runner-up in the discus with a best of (171’11) and qualified for state track meet in shot put with best of (53’01).  He is known as one of the leaders of Boise State’s defense and is second on the team with 5.5 TFLs.   

Brandon Bair – Oregon:  Great story, South Fremont HS grad in Idaho, in 2002.  He’s six-foot-seven and leads the Ducks with 12 TFLs…also won Idaho state championship throwing discus (168’00) and threw shot put and ran 400 meters.  

Cameron Jordan – California:  The senior defensive lineman has quietly registered three sacks and 4.5 TFLs this season.  Jordan had 20.5 TFLs the past two seasons and perhaps extra attention and double teams have impacted his numbers.  However no argument can be made about this guy’s explosive ability and as one might expect he was a state champion discus thrower (175’07) at Chandler HS (AZ).  He also qualified for state in the shot put.   

Cliff Matthews – South Carolina:  The Gamecocks have some really freaky athletic guys along the defensive line, might have to blog about later, but Matthews has been very consistent the past few seasons while playing in the SEC with 10 sacks and 15.5 TFLs.  While he only has one sack and 3.5 TFLs this season he’s been a steady player.  He also had an impressive athletic career at Cheraw HS, in South Carolina, winning the state shot put title (54’00) and qualifying for state twice in the discus with throws over (134’00) and even high jumped (6’04).      

Christian Ballard – Iowa:  Has great size and is listed on Mel Kiper’s list of top seniors at defensive tackle.  He has the speed to match…attended Lawrence Free State HS in Kansas.  Qualified for state track meet in the 400 relay (42.82) and 200 meters (22.97).  Perhaps most impressive he ran indoor (6.80) 55 meters dash in high school.   

Da’Quan Bowers – Clemson:  Attended Bamberg-Erhardt HS in South Carolina, leads NCAA with 14.5 TFLs and 7.5 sacks.  Qualified for state meet in shot put (46’00) and ran a reported 11.5 in the 100 meters…impressive for a six-foot-four and 250lb high school athlete.   

 Dontay Moch – Nevada:  Known primarily for his great speed, attended Hamilton HS, in Nevada and was a state champion in the 100 meters (10.78), 400 relay (41.78) and 200 meters (21.84) as a junior.  Only rated two-star by Rivals but listed at 220 pounds as a high school senior his track times were incredible.  Currently tied for second nationally with 14 TFLs, may project as LB in pros.       

Drake Nevis – LSU:  Has really come on this season and leads team in sacks with five, 11.5 TFLs and third with 38 total tackles.  Threw shot put (50’09) qualifying for state meet and threw discus (147’04) at John Ehret HS in Louisiana.  

Ethan Johnson – Notre Dame:  Johnson has steadily improved the past few years with 10.5 TFLs and seven sacks.  This season he’s tied for the team lead with 3.5 sacks and helped improve the team’s defense – okay they haven’t improved a whole lot – this year.  He attended Lincoln HS, in Portland, Oregon, and threw the shot put and javelin.  Finished fourth at the state meet in shot put with a best of (54’09) and threw the javelin (176’03).   

Guy Miller – Colorado State:  Set school and Mountain West Conference records with 4.5 sacks against UNLV.  Miller graduated from Scott City HS, in Kansas, and was a successful high school thrower qualifying for the state meet in the shot put (46’01) as a junior.   

Jabaal Sheard – Pittsburgh:  Really stepped up for Pitt after the injury to Greg Romeus by leading the team this year with 8 TFLs and is tied for team lead with five sacks.  Sheard went to Hollywood Hills HS (FL) and finished fourth at state meet in the shot put (53’00) and also threw the discus.     

Ja’Gared Davis – Southern Methodist:  Sort of cheating here as Davis is a linebacker and a bit undersized at that.  However Davis ranks second in Conference-USA in sacks with six and 11 TFLs.   He attended Crockett HS, in Texas, and qualified for the Texas State Meet (not easy to do) in the 300 hurdles (38.74)  and ran the 110 high hurdles (14.75), triple jumped (46’02), high jumped (5’10) and ran a leg on the regional qualifying 400 relay (43.37).  Not bad for a linebacker…his teammate defensive end, Margus Hunt, has been mentioned on this blog before could also appear on this list – he’s pictured above – as he’s blocked NINE kicks in 20 career games!   

Jared Crick – Nebraska:  Last year was Suh’s sidekick but certainly has his own identity now and was listed on virtually every preseason all-whatever teams this year.  He’s lived up to the hype and pressure by tying for team lead in TFLs with 4.5 and tackles by defensive lineman.  Crick has been mentioned on several FTA blogs for his background as a high school thrower at Cozad HS, in Nebraska, where he was state runner-up in the shot put and threw (61’03) at B5 district meet.  Yeah he was probably an easy one to find on the recruiting trail…  

Jarvis Jenkins – Clemson:  Another massive tackle that has accumulated some serious TFL numbers in the past few years.  He currently has five TFLs this season and while he’s not a sack master and has battled some injury issues he has been productive.  Jenkins attended D.W. Daniel HS (SC) was a very successful basketball player and a regional qualifier in the shot put (46’06) and discus.   

 Jeremy Beal – Oklahoma:  One of nation leaders in TFLs with 8.5 and six sacks.  According to Mel Kiper he’s one of the five best senior defensive ends in the eyes of NFL brass.  Probably not too much surprise Beal threw the discus at Carrollton Creekview HS (TX) and was quite successful throwing (163’02) at the District 10-5A Meet in 2006.     

J.J. Watt – Wisconsin:  Just off a completely dominant performance against Ohio State with two sacks and three TFLs…and his story how he got to Wisconsin is just awesome.  Clearly part of his success stems from his high school athletic career as a four-sport athlete.  Pewaukee HS (WI) grad and state champion shot putter (59’11) as a senior…he intially attended Central Michigan as a tight end and walked-on at Wisconsin.     

Kheeston Randall – Texas:  Instrumental in Texas defeating Nebraska last week and holding Taylor Martinez to just 21 yards on 13 carries.  Currently leads stingy Texas defense with nine TFLs…attended Monsignor Kelly HS (TX) and finished third at the TAPPS 6A State Meet in the shot put (46’04) with a best of  (48’07) in 2008.   

Marcel Dareus – Alabama:  One of this most highly regarded defensive linemen in college football and MVP of last year’s BCS game was suspended for several games but hasn’t missed a beat.    Dareus attended Hayes, East Lake and Huffman HS (AL).  He played basketball while in high school and threw the shot put (41’09) and discus as a senior.   

Markus White – Florida State:  Prepared for a breakout season this year…had 10.5 TFLs last year but like the entire defense last year looked lost at times.  This year he’s second with 3.5 sacks on a team that leads the nation with 30!  White a junior college transfer attended John Leonard HS (FL) and was a regional qualifier in the shot put (46’08) and threw the discus too.       

Mike Martin – Michigan:  This guy is built like Juggernaut from X-Men…but seriously he’s the backbone of Michigan’s d-line.  Martin is second on the team with 5.5 TFLs and 2.5 sacks but more important than his stats is the ability to anchor.  He put his tremendous strength and build to good use while at Detroit Central Catholic HS, in Michigan, by winning the state heavyweight wrestling title, twice, and winning the state shot put two straight years. His best of (63’09) in the shot was just short the state record.  

Mike Daniels – Iowa:  Perhaps a lesser known name but no less productive as Daniels actually leads the Hawkeyes in TFLs with eight and sacks with three.  He’s even outshined his better known teammates like Adrian Clayborn and Karl Klug in the stats department thus far.  So he deserves to be named here.  Daniels graduated Highland Regional HS (NJ) was a three-year letterwinner in wrestling and state qualifier in the discus (143’06) and threw the shot put (58’09) at the New Jersey Meet of Champions.   

Sam Acho – Texas:  Senior defensive end is among the leaders for the Longhorns with 7.5 TFLs and 3.5 sacks and an additional four quaterback hurries.  Acho and his brother, Emmanuel (Longhorn’s starting linebacker), attended St. Mark’s HS (TX).  Sam was TAPPS state champion in the shot put (57’09) and discus (163’05).   

Stephen Paea – Oregon State:  He’s been mentioned before as Paea has been a very good linemen for several years.  His three sacks and 3.5 TFLs might not be as impressive this year but his ability to anchor the line is very impressive.  Paea’s strength is well documented (think bench press) and was a thrower at Timpview HS, in Utah.  He was state runner-up in the shot put (52’08) and state qualifier in the discus with a best of (153’03).   

Tyrone Crawford – Boise State:  For the most part Boise State’s offense has received most of the hype and credit for their team’s success but players like Crawford and Billy Winn, mentioned above, deserve some for what they do on defense.  Crawford leads the team with 6.5 TFLs and has 2.5 sacks and 19 total tackles which is saying a bunch on a defense that leads the nation against the run.  He went to high school at Central Catholic in Windsor, Ontario and was a three-sport athlete.  He was a national-caliber shot put thrower leading the country in the junior nationals category and qualified for nationals in the discus.  His best in the shot put exceeded 56-feet and over 140-feet in the discus.     

Von Miller – Texas A&M:  Speed rush defensive end set the world on fire last year  with 21.5 TFLs and 16.5 sacks but has been a bit dinged up this year and maybe not quite as effective.  At least his numbers, 4.5 TFLs, 20 tackles and two sacks, aren’t nearly what they were the first half of last season.  Perhaps the schedule is tougher this season and no dobut Miller has faced constant double teams and schemes to stop him.  Certainly can’t argue with his athleticism and speed.  Miller was a very successful hurdler in high school (Desoto, TX) running a sub-14.5 in 110 hurdles and even triple jumping and throwing the javelin at the junior olympic meet in 2005.   


Okay enough of that…offensive linemen next time.     




Get Wake Forest’s Josh Harris a uniform!

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

Wake Forest’s redshirt freshman Josh Harris explodes against Virginia Tech for 241 yards and two touchdowns!  A couple things jump out at me here.  First, Harris hadn’t gained more than 74 yards in a single game and that was against…Presbyterian.  He gains three times that amount on only 20 carries against Va Tech.  Two, usually Va Tech’s defense is more stingy against the run…particularly against struggling teams like Wake starting a freshman back.  Three, Harris outgained Tech’s highly talented backs Darren Evans and David Wilson, a fantastic track athlete too, combined (on fewer carries).  Four, Harris is just plain FAST! 

Harris ran track at Duncanville High School in Texas and had a few of the fastest high school 100 meter times in the state for 2009.  I read in a few spots he supposedly ran 10.09 (obviously that’s wind-aided and hand-held) which I find difficult to believe.  However he did run a documented 10.34 / 100 meters and 21.24 / 200 meters. If we assume those were hand-held that still puts him sub-10.6 and sub-21.5.  He reminds me a bit of UTEP’s back, Donald Buckram.  Buckram was also a Texas high school running back and track athlete with bests of 10.25 (hand-held) in the 100 meters.  Buckram didn’t have success until later in his career and not against a team the caliber of Virginia Tech.  It would seem Harris is pretty talented and kudos to the Wake offensive line.

Multi-sport linemen, think Wisconsin’s J.J. Watt

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

If you watched last night’s Wisconsin v. Ohio State game it must have been not to notice the dominant performance by Wisconsin’s defensive end J.J. Watt.  Watt consistently beat and outhustled Ohio State’s less athletic offensive line.  In fact, he had led the game with two sacks and three TFLs against what had been considered a fairly solid Ohio State line. 

The most interesting part about all this was Watt’s struggle to get to Wisconsin.  He was lightly recruited out of high school and actually played tight end for Central Michigan as a true freshman and later walked-on at Wisconsin.  Another interesting nugget…Watt participated and excelled in five sports at Pewaukee High School in Wisconsin.  And, no shock here, he was a state champion shot putter as a senior, throwing 59’11.  College coaches and football recruiters would do well to pay attention to well-rounded high school athletes.

Looking for track stats on a few football greats

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Okay, I’ve reached the point where finding high school track data on certain football greats has become increasingly difficult.  I’ve got to resort to begging for help and track data online.  FTA’s proprietary track / football database currently has over 12,000 D1 and NFL players and growing.  The website says 7,500…I need to update.  Eventually I plan on releasing the entire database on the website for open access.   But I need some help.

Anyway I’ll share a few collegiate and NFL greats each week, perhaps some or all of these track facts are common knowledge but I find them interesting. 

Tedy Bruschi – Arizona Wildcat linebacker and New England Patriot attended Roseville High School in California and was the San Joaquin Section (SAC) Champion in the shot put (58’10) and discus (175’11) in 1991. 

Eric Swann – Did not attend a Division I college but was a first round draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals (1991) and was a two-time NFL Pro Bowler at defensive tackle.   Swann was state runner-up in shot put (54’02) and discus ( 152’06) North Carolina while attending W. Harnett High School.   

Lynn Swann – University of Southern California wide receiver and NFL Hall-of-Fame Pittsburgh Steeler attended Serra High School in California and was a two-time state champion long jumper (1969-1970) with best of 24’10 and best of 9.8 in the 100 yard dash. 

Julius Peppers – University of North Carolina defensive end and current Chicago Bear attended Southern Nash High School in North Carolina and was state runner-up in the triple jump (46’10) and state champion 1600 relay member (3:23.10).  Rumor has it Peppers high jumped in the neighborhood of 6’08.  Yes, Peppers is known more for his skills on the basketball court than his track exploits but he was a terrific high school athlete. 

Now I need some help with high school track data on the following players…any legitimate data would be appreciated but please include the meet, year and specific event.  Relay events are welcome data too.

Any high school track data on the following playersPlease let me know! 

Michael Irvin:  St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Florida – University of Miami-FL and Dallas Cowboy wide receiver 

Marshall Faulk:  G.W. Carver High School, Louisiana – San Diego State University and St. Louis Ram running back

Mike Rozier: Woodrow Wilson High School, New Jersey – University of Nebraska (Heisman Trophy) and Houston Oiler running back

Andy Katzenmoyer: Westerfield South High School, Ohio – (The) Ohio State University and New England Patriot linebacker

Please contact me if you have an legit data and want to contribute – [email protected]

Get Him a Uniform!

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Thinking of a new way to give shout outs to young college players while adding a little knowledge to the fan base. I couldn’t help but think about a scene in the movie “Major League” when Indians manager, Lou Brown, watches Willie Mays Hayes (Wesley Snipes) run the 60 yard dash in panjamas dusting several teammates in the process.  Afterwards Brown exclaimed, “Get him a uniform!”  Thats the perfect slogan for FTA to shout out to college football’s top performing newcomers. 

Btw…I read online somewhere Snipes character could run 9-flat 100 yard dash! Don’t know where they got that one…I wonder if Hayes could catch a football? 

On to more serious things:

I’ve seen a few young players this season that could run like Hayes, jump like Mayes AND play some football…in other words get them a uniform

Marquess Wilson is the leading freshman receiver in the nation not bad for playing on a struggling Washington State team…in fairness they have shown some signs of improvement recently.  In fact, the feeling up in Washington is this kid might be a phenom.  By the way it might be no surprise Wilson ran track at Tulare Union High School and qualified for California’s State Meet in the long jump (22’01) and had bests in the high jump of 6’08 and 46’01 in the triple jump.  Clearly he’s got some ups and coordination…add to that 11.24 / 100 meter speed and size, he’s six-foot three.  

There’s been some hype about the resurgence of the San Diego State program in no small part due to the efforts of back Ronnie Hillman and a solid offensive line.  Hillman has drawn comparisons to Reggie Bush.  No he’s not quite that fast…but Hillman was a track athlete in high school and put up respectable stats that clearly “translate” to the field and then some.  Hillman was a sprinter at La Habra High School in California and ran the 100 meters (11.04), 200 meters (22.4) and long jump (best I recall was 21’09).  Regardless he’s an exciting player for a team on the rise.  Coach Hoke is doing a great rebuilding job in San Diego…just like he did at Ball State. 

Yeah,  Southern Cal is having a tough go right now.  But freshman Robert Woods is nothing short of spectacular…at least he was last weekend against a good Stanford team.  224 yards and 3 touchdowns!?  Insane.  To top it off Woods was certainly a high school (Serra) track star to say the least.  He had bests of 46.17 in the 400 meters and was California state runner-up this past spring, 21.04 in the 200 meters (good for third at state) and state champion in the 1600 meter relay in the ridiculous time of 3:08.72.  For good measure he also ran a leg on the 400 relay (41.52)…point this guy in the right direction and he’s going to make plays.      

Arizona State’s Deantre Lewis is having a solid freshman season averaging 7.37 yards on 54 carries and currently leading the team in rushing.  Lewis, out of Norco High School in California, competed in track and ran the 100 meters (11.24) and 400 relay (43.12).  Another player with a lot of football savy and just enough speed to be dangerous.   

Well I’m just about out of uniforms for this week…

Jump Ball Receiver

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Tennessee has one of last year’s best high school track athletes in true freshman wide receiver Justin Hunter.  Apparently the Vols coaching staff is going to see to it that Hunter is a larger part of the offense going forward.  Well certainly they won’t find a player with better hops and athleticism.  Hunter had bests of 25’08 in the long jump, 50’08 in the triple jump and 7’03 in the high jump last year for Ocean Lakes High School, even long jumped 25’10 at the USATF Junior Championships in June (wow!).  Throw in a 21.62 / 200 meters for speed, at six-foot five, Hunter has got to be a considered a serious red-zone threat and potentially a real problem for SEC defenses in the future.  To me it looks like they’ve got a bigger / faster version of Carl Pickens (minus the ‘tude).  Now all the Vols have to do is develop and get him the ball…time will tell. 

Yup, the SEC already has two outstanding supersized wideouts in Julio Jones and A.J. Green.  Hunter appears to have the same athletic ability, perhaps even more than Jones or Green, and might even be a touch bigger especially with a year or two of college weight training under his belt.