Posts Tagged ‘University of Wisconsin Football’

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.

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 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.        




Freshman of Influence – Week 6

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Posted by Mark Branstad – Football Talent Advisors

The college season is half over and still there are new freshman making an impact each week.  This week I’m going to focus a little more on defensive positions. 

Before I get to the players…it is amazing the amount of impact freshman players with multi-sport backgrounds (particularly track and field).  The continued specialization of high school athletes doesn’t seem to apply to these players.  Being an athlete does translate to high level football more often than not. 


Freshman of Influence Week 6:


Jerel Worthy, DT – Michigan State

MSU certainly got themselves an active player in Worthy.  Through six games he’s managed 4.5 sacks, 6 tfls, 17 tackles and 2 pass breakups.  Listed at 6’03 290+ he’s a athlete…his junior year in high school he sprinted indoors for Huber Heights Wayne HS (Ohio) going 7.56/55 meter dash.  Not impressive for a sprinter but he was 6’02 270 plus pounds!  He also threw the shot put, around 42 feet. 

Mike Taylor, LB – Wisconsin

Taylor leads the Badgers in total tackles (43) through six games and combine that with 6.5 tfls, one sack and one forced fumble and that’s impressive for any freshman!  While he wasn’t a track athlete in high school he did manage to win the Wisconsin 215lb High School Wrestling Championship for Ashwaubenon HS in 2008.  That tells you right there he’s extremely tough and athletic.  

Demetrius Hartsfield, LB – Maryland

Hartsfield is currently Maryland’s second leading tackler (40) and throw in 3 sacks, 4.5 tfls and 1 pass breakup.  It is easy to categorize Hartsfield as a pure athlete…he played basketball for Southeast Raleigh HS (North Carolina) and threw the shot put (47’03) on the track team as well as ran the 200 and long jumped.  

Chance Casey, CB – Baylor

This player has made has presence known with 2 interceptions, one being returned for touchdown, and three passes defensed on the season.  Chance is an extraordinary hurdler in track and field.  His junior year at Crosby HS (Texas) he won the 110 high hurdle (13.87) and 300 intermediate hurdle (36.32)  Class 4A state championship.  He won the 300 hurdle championship again as a senior…add in a 6’08 high jump effort at the Region 3-4A Meet in 2008 and you’ve got quite an athlete!  As good a hurdler as Chance is he’s not even the best hurdler on the Baylor football team!  That title goes to Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin. 

James Johnson, WR – Washington

Johnson came up big against Notre Dame, despite the Huskies losing the game, and against USC in the program’s biggest win in years.  The true freshman has 22 catches for 289 yards and 2 touchdowns on the year.  He was also a high school hurdler at Valley Center HS (California) having best FAT times of (14.73) in the 110 hurdles and (39.58) in the 300 intermediates.  He also threw some discus too.

Bernard Pierce, RB – Temple

Pierce was recently named the MAC Conference Offensive Player of the Week.  I think that speaks to this freshman’s talent and ability.  His statistics are just as impressive through five games – 84 attempts for 489 yards and 5 touchdowns, having amassed at least 100 yards in the past three contests against MAC opponents. 

I should mention his bio says he ran as fast as 10.6 “fastest in the state”…while I couldn’t find that anywhere I did verify he ran for Glen Mills HS (Pennsylvania).  His best verified times appear to be 10.94 / 100 meters and as fast as 6.57 (hand-held) / 55 meter dash, 6.98 / 60 at PTFCA Indoor State and 4×100 relay (42.53) which qualified for the outdoor state meet in 2008.  At 6’0 and over 210 pounds this player has the size and speed to continue to impact the MAC for several years. 






Players Not Invited to Combine

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Posted by Mark Branstad                                                                                                                               Football Talent Advisors, Ltd.

Each year there are always a handful of players that get snubbed by the NFL Combine and still make NFL rosters.  It appears that there are several smaller / third-down type running backs and kick returners that could make an impact in the NFL, that didn’t receive a combine invitation.   Check out the list of non-invites on NFL page.   I believe the players below can make it based upon their individual athletic / track backgrounds. 

Running Backs / Kick Returners: Devin Moore / Wyoming – Here’s a player that went to high school in Indiana (Indianapolis Ritter) and held a workout in Indy, see link below, despite not be invited to combine.  He performed very well…not surprising he’s short 5’09″ 190 but has an array of football abilities.  In high school he was a state meet qualifier in the 100 meter dash (11.17) and 200 meter dash (22.38)  also ran the 55 meter dash (6.52) at the state indoor meet…perhaps the best indicator of his short speed ability.   No surprise here that he ran 4.41 at his pro workout. 

(Workout Results)

Aaron Brown / Texas Christian –  Another multi-skilled player that can run, catch, and return the ball.  He was also (10.59) in the 100 meter dash and (22.16) 200 meter dash in high school…throw in a (23-10) long jump and (44-07) triple jump…well you get the picture.  I believe he’s got the raw ability to be a spark in the NFL. 

Marcus Thigpen / Indiana – Productive at the college level in several ways and led the Big Ten Conference in kickoff return average during his career as well as led his team in rushing and touchdowns scored this past season.  Yup he’s small, just like the others, perhaps a shade under 5’09.  But he was a successful collegiate sprinter, running the 100 meter dash (10.65) and 200 meter dash (21.50) and 60 meter dash (6.77).  He was also a high school state champion, Michigan, in the 100 meter dash (10.82) ran as fast as 10.5 and ran the indoor 55 meter dash (6.43).  Terrific home-run short speed…and it translated to the field in many ways. 

A couple other players that fit the “profile” that weren’t invited to the NFL Combine:

Linebackers:  Robert Francois / Boston College – Ran (11.19) 100 meter dash and (22.45) 200 meter dash at the New England High School Championships in 2004.  Needless to say that this guy can run and was part of a solid BC defense in college.  I like his chances. 

Antonio Appleby / Virginia – There’s a lot of Virginia players, particularly linebackers, that make the NFL and I think this guy will too.  By the way, he threw shot put and discus in high school and qualified for state in both (52-08) in shot put and (154-03) discus throw. 

Jake Flaherty / Syracuse – I know…he played for a program that was for the most part terrible while he was there.  But this guy, despite not having NFL-type size, is an athlete.  He was a state champion high jumper (6-06) in Rhode Island and jumped as high as (6-08). 

Ashlee Palmer / Mississippi – Played on a super college defense this past season and had some huge defensive tackles upfront but his background is interest.  He’s another one of those linebackers with a high school track background in the hurdles.  That right there is a key indicator.  He was also a decent long jumper (over 20-00). 

Defensive Tackle:  Mike Newkirk / Wisconsin – This guy was an All-Big Ten player this past season.  He doesn’t get the credit he deserves, snubbed by the combine, and isn’t highly regarding by the NFL due to his size.  But he was a state champion heavyweight wrestler in high school and state champion shot putter (60-00) and state qualifier in the discus (165-04).  I mean this guy is an overachiever and has some athletic skills that just shouldn’t be overlooked.  At the very least should be picked up as a rookie free agent and should surprise. 

I also like for Wisconsin’s fullbacks Chris Pressley and Bill Rentmeester to make it on some NFL team’s practice squad or roster as a blocking fullback.  Each was a terrific shot putter in high school…Pressley throwing (59-07) winning a state title in New Jersey.