Posts Tagged ‘University of Iowa 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 – the misses

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

Posted by Mark Branstad – Football Talent Advisors

I received some feedback about a few deserving freshman players that quite frankly we missed in our previous updates.  So here’s one last update to the Freshman of Influence series for this season.  I had several offensive linemen suggested to me…so I included a few.  I’m continually amazed at the athletic backgrounds of players at all positions but particularly the linemen.     

Freshman of Influence – the misses


Tre’ Newton, RB – Texas

Obviously this guy is deserving as the leading rusher of the second ranked team in the nation.  Newton gained 513 yards on 102 carries for six touchdowns and 12 receptions for 106 yards.  Being from Texas it should not surprise anyone that Newton was a high school track athlete at Southlake Carroll High.  Newton ran (10.87) 100 meters and (21’02) long jump at the 2005 District 5-5A Meet and was a member of 4×100 (42.45) and 4×200 (1:31.05) relay teams at 2007 District 5-5A Meet. 

Nik Embernate, OL – San Diego State

This freshman turned some heads with his play at right guard for the Aztecs.  At 6’04 and 290 pounds he’s got the frame to be a dominant player.  Embernate was a very solid high school shot putter at Yucaipa High School in California.  His best shot put effort was 54’06 at the CIF Southern Section Division 1 Preliminaries.

Riley Reiff, OL – Iowa

This redshirt freshman overcame a bumpy start to his career at Iowa and had a solid season at guard for the Hawkeyes.  At 6’06 he’s an imposing player that should continue to get better.  He was a three-time state champion wrestler in South Dakota while at Parkston High School.  He was twice state champion at the 215 pound class and once at 275 pound (heavyweight) class.  In addition, Reiff was the Class A state runner-up in the shot put (54’05) as a junior in 2007. 

Tanner Brock, LB – Texas Christian

This true freshman ‘backer has the Horned Frogs pointed in the right direction for the future and will be a major contributor to their top notch defense.  For the season he was credited with 31 tackles, one TFL and 1 forced fumble.  Brock also threw a little shot put in high school.  He attended Copperas Cove High School (Texas) and threw at his regional track meet.  His best throw was 49’07. 

Terry Hawthorne, CB – Illinois

One of Illinois’ few bright spots this season…this freshman corner made some exciting plays including and interception returned for a touchdown.  Hawthorne had 30 tackles and five PBUs in 12 games.  He also dabbled a bit in track and field while attending East St. Louis High School in Illinois.  He was a part of the school’s 1600 meter relay team that finished fourth at the state meet with a time of (3:17.86)….was a high school teammate of Wisconsin’s freshman wide receiver, Kraig Appleton. 

David DeCastro, OL – Stanford

DeCastro had an eye-opening season as a redshirt freshman starter on the O-line.  Listed at 6’05 and 310 pounds, DeCastro helped clear holes for Stanford’s Toby Gerhart.  His size and athleticism, evidenced by his state champion shot putter status,  make for the prototypical super lineman in the coming years.  He won the Class 3A shot put state championship while at Bellevue High School in Washington.  His winning throw was 58’09. 

Desmond Trufant, CB – Washington

Another true freshman defensive back that made an early impact with his team.  Trufant had two interceptions, 47 tackles, one fumble returned for touchdown, six PBUs and two TFLs.  Trufant was a super triple jumper in high school (Woodrow Wilson, Washington).  In fact, he was the Class 4A state runner-up in the triple jump (46’05) and was a member of state qualifying 400 relay (42.77) also long jumped with a best of (22’08). 

Devin Taylor, DE – South Carolina

This redshirt freshman displayed amazing athleticism winning South Carolina’s Class 4A triple jump title going 48’03” as a senior attending Beaufort High School.  His listed height 6’07 and weight of 232 pounds made him an almost can’t miss talent and he’s delivered.  Taylor’s made 26 tackles, 5.5 TFLs, two sacks, two blocked kicks and one forced fumble over 12 games.   For good measure he also high jumped  (6’04) and threw the shot put (48’05) and discus (146’10) in high school.      

Margus Hunt, DE – Southern Methodist

This is easily one of the most interesting freshman stories of the college season.  Hunt a 6’08, 22-year-old, Junior World Champion shot put and discus thrower is playing football for the first time .  He attended SMU with the hopes of resurrecting the track program and training under coach Dave Wollman.  But a few chance encounters with SMU football coaches and he decided to give football a try.  The results have been pretty amazing…12 games, seven tackles, 1.5 TFLs, 1.5 sacks, one PBU…AND SEVEN BLOCKED KICKS, led the nation in that category. He’s got a lot to learn but head coach June Jones believes Hunt might be a future NFL lineman.   

Here’s a good link getting Hunt’s insights on his transition to football.  

Freshman of Influence – Week 7

Monday, October 19th, 2009

Posted by Mark Branstad – Football Talent Advisors

Week seven now in the books and the path to determining the number one team in college football seems cloudier than ever.  From the looks of things Alabama appears to be the public favorite even though Florida is ranked one in the BCS poll.  But I’m not here to debate team rankings…I’m here to highlight a few more freshman of influence.  This week there were a few freshman that burst on the scene and others that have been making contributions all along.  Here goes…


Freshman of Influence Week 7: 


Marquise Goodwin, WR – Texas

I did a blog on this player yesterday so I’ll save you the track stuff.  But this true freshman came to Texas as a track scholarship athlete…the football staff was admittedly skeptical of Goodwin’s ability and desire to contribute as a football player.  Goodwin proved he can play against a top notch opponent catching four passes for 36 yards and a touchdown against Oklahoma on Saturday.  Prior to the Oklahoma game he had 10 catches for 91 yards and limited kick return duty.  

Demontre Hurst, CB – Oklahoma

Another true freshman that had a standout game versus Texas on Saturday.  Hurst had a sack and tfl against Texas and he’s listed at 5’10 170.  That’s impressive.  On the year Hurst has 9 tackles, one sack, one tfl and one pass breakup.  And he’s quite the accomplished track sprinter!  He ran for Lancaster HS (Texas) and was twice a member of a state champion 4×400 relay (3:12.45 best time) and bests around (49.0) 400 meters, (22.0) 200 meters, qualified for state meet in 4×100 (41.85) and ran leg on 4×200 (1:26.88 best time).  Needless to say his speed “translates” pretty well to the field. 

Dan Spitz, DT – Washington State

We all know this redshirt freshman plays on a poor team, all the more reason to give him some props. Listed at 6’07 260, this player is credited with 8 tackles, one tfl and 2 forced fumbles through 5 games.  Not great stats but with his size and athleticism we might hear more about him in the future.  Spitz was a thrower at Mead HS (Washington) with a best of 148’04 in the discus, not bad for being a tad over 6’06 in height. 

Olivier Vernon, DT / DE – Miami

Sticking with the D-line this January enrollee and true freshman is helping with the resurgence of the U.  Vernon is a bit undersized but very active for a freshman, credited with 12 tackles, 4 tfls and a half sack in 4 games.  He’s battled injuries so far this season and missed most of his senior year of high school due to an injury but like Spitz we’ll hear more from him in the future.  Olivier attended American HS (Miami, Florida) and graduated early he did throw the shot put and discus as a junior with bests of (46’08) in the shot and (124’11) in the discus.

Lavar Edwards, DT – Louisiana State

On a roll with the D-line and Edwards has been a surprise addition to a deep and talented LSU line.  Edwards is a redshirt freshman but has produced with 10 tackles, one tfl, one sack, and one forced fumble in 5 games.  He came out of small Desire Street Academy (Louisiana) and was a state champion Class A shot putter (50’03) and state qualifier in the discus (141’07, Region II-1A Meet). 

Ed Wesley, RB – Texas Christian (TCU)

Wesley a redshirt freshman is second on the 11th ranked TCU squad with 273 yards on 50 attempts and one touchdown.  He’s also managed 5 receptions for 115 yards and a score over 6 games.  Wesley ran was a sprinter at Irving MacArthur HS (Texas) with best of (10.71, probably hand-held) 100 meter dash at the District 7-5A Meet and member of a regional-qualifying 4×100 team (42.95).  Still has more than enough speed and skill to be one of TCU’s better backs in recent memory. 

Brandon Wegher, RB – Iowa

He isn’t even the best true freshman back on the team, at least statistically, that goes to Adam Robinson.  Wegher has however proven to be a fairly well rounded player with 81 rushing attempts for 291 yards and 3 touchdowns, 10 receptions for 67 yards and 5 kick returns for 139 yards.  Wegher has speed Iowa has exploited well indicated by his (6.99) 60 meter dash, (10.92) 100 meter dash at the 2008 Drake Relays.  He ran track at Bishop Heelan HS (Iowa) for four years and participated in several Iowa state track meets. 

Stable of Running Backs…Fast Running Backs Part II

We highlighted Alabama’s stable of running backs a while back, including new Heisman “favorite” Mark Ingram.  But looking at the success of Georgia Tech and Idaho it is clear that they have a ton of talent and speed at the running back position.  There’s a lot more to winning football games than having a couple of fast running backs BUT…Alabama, Georgia Tech and Idaho have a combined record of 19-2!

Georgia Tech has running backs Jonathan DwyerAnthony AllenEmbry Pebbles, Marcus Wright, and Josh Nesbitt (we’ll secretly count Nesbitt as a back).   All these players have high school track and field backgrounds and all but Allen were state track meet qualifiers in Georgia, Florida and Texas. 

Idaho’s top three rushers Princeton McCarty, Deonte Jackson, and DeMaundray Woolridge (a Washington State transfer) have helped lead the squad to a surprising 6-1 record.  Each of these players were track sprinters in high school with Jackson sprinting (6.70) 55 meters, McCarty qualifying for the state meet in California 100 meter dash (10.70) and Woolridge running as fast as (10.74) 100 meter dash in Texas.  Keep in mind Woolridge is now listed at 241 pounds!     


Local Shout

Gotta send a shout to the Bulldogs of Butler University (Indianapolis).  They’re 6-0 on the season and play in the Pioneer League (non-scholarship Division 1-AA…errr I mean D1 FCS).  I haven’t seen them have this kind of success since the days of record breaking running back Arnold Mickens.  Glad my alma mater isn’t just a basketball school anymore.