Posts Tagged ‘Northwestern University Football’

Bowl Parity and the Big Ten’s big step foward

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Posted by Mark Branstad

Happy New Year!  And with that we bring an end to the bowl season which was surprisingly unpredictable.  The Big Ten rebounded (sort of) and the Pac-10 struggled.  Of the “AQ” conferences the Big East had a best 4-2 record while the Mountain West went 4-1 to pace the “Non-AQ” conferences.  No conference went winless but the MAC would have without Central Michigan’s exciting overtime win. 

What struck me most about the Big Ten’s performance was how the public’s perception of the conference, as slow and less athletic than the other big conferences, didn’t really prove true this year.  More to the point I had a few individuals contact me asking whether the Big Ten really WAS slower than the other conferences?  So I decided to do a player study across all the Division I FBS conferences…more on that in a bit.

It is worth noting that the Big Ten had quite a few offensive players (NOT voted to the coaches’ all-conference teams) with outstanding bowl game performances.  To name a few…Northwestern’s Andrew Brewer, Drake Dunsmore and Sidney Stewart had great stats in a losing effort against Auburn.  Ohio State’s Terrelle (I didn’t really run 4.33 in the forty but maybe 4.45) Pryor, Brandon Saine and Devier Posey really made Oregon feel that Big Ten “speed and athleticism”!!  Wisconsin’s Lance Kendricks torched a speedy Miami secondary for over 120 yards.  Derek Moye of Penn State had three receptions and a touchdown catch in a victory over LSU.  Brandon Wegher put on a rushing clinic against Georgia Tech and Michigan State’s Edwin Baker and Keshawn Martin each had huge games against Texas Tech which was touted as being much faster team.  Again none of these players were voted all-conference by the coaches but each did a great job showcasing the conference’s depth in speed and overall athleticism.               

It should come as no surprise that all of the players named above had successful high school track and field careers (Pryor only ran briefly as a freshman).  Nearly all of them were state or national caliber track athletes. 

Okay getting back to the all-conference player study…I took it to task and researched every 2009 FBS all-conference first and second team (as voted by the coaches).  I specifically documented high school track participation and specific track statistical performances of each player per conference.  In my opinion this is one way to gauge the overall speed and athleticism of each conference, at least in terms of elite level players. 

What I discovered probably wasn’t too shocking but the AQ conferences had higher levels of players with track and field backgrounds and, at least in a statistical sense, superior speed and athleticism.  Yes, at the all-conference end of the player spectrum the Big Ten lacked in the speed and athleticism department in comparison to the Pac-10, Big 12 and SEC.  However from top to bottom and roster-to-roster the Big Ten compares pretty favorably with the other big conferences.

The study totals were as follows:  11 conferences, 545 players, 313 participated in high school track and field (57.4%).  Only eight freshman, true and redshirt, from all 11 conferences received either first or second team recognition.  Apparently freshman aren’t named all-conference at a very high clip. 

Here’s the study breakdown please take it for what you want.  The data outcomes do not appear to be a good indication of how each conference did in terms of bowl wins and losses.  That said several relatively young and or unknown Big Ten players had huge impacts on the bowls.  Again, nearly all of those players were outstanding high school track and field athletes.  

FBS All-Conference Study Totals

AQ All-Conference Player Data

Non-AQ All-Conference Player Data

Freshman of Influence – Week 8

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Posted by Mark Branstad – Football Talent Advisors

We’re two-thirds of the way through the season and things are starting to heat up.  Perhaps no player, freshman player that is, is hotter than Mississippi State defensive back, Johnthan Banks.  Check out why below. 


Freshman of Influence Week 8: 


Johnthan Banks, DB – Mississippi State

This true freshman from East Webster HS (Mississippi) did something no college player has ever done and perhaps never will again…he not only intercepted Florida’s Tim Tebow twice but took both back for touchdowns! That gives Banks four interceptions on the year to go with 16 tackles on the year.  Banks was not a track athlete in high school but played high school basketball and led the baseball team to two state titles.  Another multi-sport guy making a huge impact. 

Conner Vernon, WR – Duke

Duke’s team is much improved under coach David Cutcliffe and Vernon has been been one of several standout players this season.  In six games he has 31 receptions for 459 and two touchdowns.  He also returns kicks, with 10 returns for 246 yards (24.6 average).  Certainly some of his success can also be attributed to the great play of Thaddeus Lewis, Duke’s senior quarterback.  Vernon attended Gulliver Prep HS in Miami (Fl) where he also long jumped and lettered in track. 

LaAdrian Waddle, OT – Texas Tech

I was made aware of this player recently via Bruce Feldman’s blog…in fact Feldman said this about Waddle, “a shockingly agile 6-foot-6, 360-pound offensive tackle“.  Waddle recently got his first start and although Texas Tech was beaten he will probably presumably be a fixture on the Tech o-line for a while.  It is fitting, despite his size, Waddle was twice the Texas Class 3A state runner-up in the discus.  His best discus throw was over 170’…that’s impressive, certainly showcasing his agility.  Waddle also played basketball for Columbus HS, probably contributed to some of that agility too.

Steve Means, DE – Buffalo

Means, a redshirt freshman has 4 sacks, 4.5 tfls and 13 total tackles through 8 games.  The Grover Cleveland HS (NY) grad had praise heaped on him by a sports journalist from the Buffalo News, “Steve Means might be the best raw athlete I’ve covered“.  Means lettered in basketball and track, competing in the high jump and 110 hurdles. 

David Wilson, RB – Virginia Tech

Wilson, a true freshman, has been a back-up to fellow freshman (redshirt) running back Ryan Williams. I highlighted Williams in and earlier blog.  But that doesn’t diminish what Wilson’s done with his limited carries (33) for 208 yards a 6.3 per carry average and two touchdowns.  Wilson also has 8 returns for 132 yards.  Clearly Wilson has explosive potential indicated by his 51’05 triple jump at the Nike Indoor Nationals Meet this past spring in Boston.  Wilson attended George Washington HS (VA) and was an outstanding track athlete.  He had bests of 23’02 in the long jump, 6.41 / 55 meter dash (Virginia Class 3A Indoor Meet), 10.89 / 100 meter dash, and was a part of the 4×100 relay (42.71) which finished sixth at the 3A State Meet in 2008. 

Arrayvious “Ray Ray” Armstrong, DB – Miami (FL)

Armstrong a former quarterback at Sanford Seminole HS (FL) led his team to a Class 6A championship his senior year.  He’s transitioned into a “big” defensive back for Miami…he’s listed at 6’04 220.  Maybe we’ll see him eventually at linebacker, who knows?  But he’s already making his presence known with 17 tackles and 1 PBU in 7 games.  Despite being the leader of his high school football team he found time to throw the shot put and triple jump his junior year.  His bests were 40’04 in the triple jump and 43’01 in the shot put. 


Interesting track / football connection

Interesting article here about Lance Dunbar, North Texas running back.  He’s also one of the leading sophomore rushers in the nation so far this year. 

Rod Owens, Florida State wide receiver, athletic ability has finally started to transfer into on-field results for the Noles.  Owens tied a Florida State record for longest play from scrimmage last Thursday night against the UNC with a 98 yard touchdown reception.  He hauled in 9 receptions for 199 yards and a score for the game. 

A feel good story out of Northwestern about former walk-on (he’s scholarship now) wide receiver Zeke Markshausen.  Currently he’s second in the Big Ten with 58 receptions and fifth with 553 yards.  In the article Markshausen mentions he’s not as physically gifted as many of his teammates.  Well, what the article fails to mention is he was a four sport athlete in high school at North Boone (IL) and qualified for the Illinois State Track Meet in the 100, 200 AND discus.  That’s not something usually accomplished by someone lacking in physical ability.  He’s not the biggest or fastest receiver in the Big Ten but clearly he’s a solid athlete with tremendous dedication.