Saturday, August 22, 2009

Kentucky Can Pass Out of The Wildcat

SEC East coverage
August 21, 2009 4:00 PM
Posted by staff

SEC corners the market on hybrid players
Everybody, it seems, has a player or two designated to run the Wildcat formation, which is a lot like the modern-day version of the single wing.

When you can legitimately pass out of that formation, though … that's when it really gives defenses fits. Kentucky coach Rich Brooks thinks Randall Cobb, a quarterback in high school, will provide that dimension for the Wildcats.

"That's where we're a little different. Our guy can throw it," Brooks said.

Deep Florida secondary has come a long way

How deep are the Gators going to be in the defensive backfield this season?

Put it this way: They might have two of the best four or five secondaries in the league.

As many as 10 players have made a push to play, and that's being conservative.

SEC coaching carousel goes round and round

Coaching football in the SEC is a lot like signing the guest register at the Hotel California.

The Eagles sang about it in their 1977 classic, which remains one of the best rock 'n' roll songs of all time.

You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.

Likewise, coaches come and go in the SEC all the time. Head coaches. Coordinators. Position coaches.

They go from one rival to the next. They go from the Eastern Division to the Western Division. They get fired, stay away for a few years and come back. They try their hand in the NFL and come back. They explore other conferences and come back.

The common denominator is that they always come back.

LSU Tinkers with Single-Wing

LSU veterans praise growth of young QB Jefferson

BATON ROUGE, La. — Jordan Jefferson thrives on simple logic.

The approach helps LSU’s sophomore quarterback exude a calm, confident air that belies his relative lack of experience.

"You shouldn’t be nervous if you know what you’re doing," Jefferson said after practice this week, when he was reminded that he hasn’t even made his first start in 92,400-seat Tiger Stadium yet.

The young signal-caller from the New Orleans suburb of Destrehan demonstrated an ability to learn quickly after being pressed into service as a true freshman in late 2008.

Jefferson got his first start in LSU’s final regular-season game, a wild 31-30 loss at Arkansas, in which he passed for a pair of touchdowns, was not intercepted and scrambled for 50 yards.

In his second start, his numbers weren’t spectacular, but he was ruthlessly efficient, leading LSU on six scoring drives in a 38-3 trouncing of Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta.

Jefferson completed 11 of his first 12 passes while staking the Tigers to a 35-3 halftime lead. The strong start helped Jefferson take home the bowl’s offensive MVP honors and led kick returner and running back Trindon Holliday to pronounce, "I think we found ourselves a quarterback."

Jefferson has only reinforced that notion since.

Working with the first team in April’s spring game, he demonstrated pocket poise and pinpoint accuracy while completing 8 of 10 passes during a pair of scoring drives. Since the Tigers reported for fall practice earlier this month, he’s continued to impress even veteran teammates such as offensive lineman Ciron Black, who was part of LSU’s 2007 national championship squad led by senior quarterback Matt Flynn.

"The kid does not know how good he is," Black said, going so far as to place Jefferson in the same conversation as two of the top signal callers in the Southeastern Conference, Florida’s Tim Tebow and Mississippi’s Jevan Snead.

"People talk about Tebow and people talk about Snead in our conference, but people are going to look at Jordan," Black predicted. "They’re going to know what type of quarterback he is before it’s all over, said and done."

At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, Jefferson has the height and the arm to be a prototypical, pocket passer. He’s also a quick and agile scrambler who is comfortable throwing on a rollout or running the option.

Yet his greatest asset, demonstrated in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, is his ability to distribute the ball to LSU’s wealth of other playmakers, quickly identifying matchups that allow players such as receiver Brandon LaFell or the small but speedy Holliday to exploit their strengths.

Jefferson also takes comfort in knowing that much of the time, all he’ll have to do is hand off to Charles Scott, a senior who rushed for 1,174 yards last season. Scott is only part of a running game that could also feature Keiland Williams, Richard Murphy, Holliday and even dynamic freshman Russell Shepard, a backup quarterback who is expected to line up in the single wing or as a running back.

There also appears to be formidable depth at receiver behind LaFell, including Terrance Toliver, Chris Mitchell, highly touted recruit Reuben Randle and tight end Richard Dickson.

Those options give Jefferson the confidence, with fewer than three starts to his name, to promise an offense that is going to "produce a lot of yards."

"We’ve got some skill players and some athletes who are going to be able to move the ball," he said.

Jefferson wasn’t supposed to be the starter this quickly, but began to move up the depth chart before his freshman season started. First, coach Les Miles dismissed talented quarterback Ryan Perrilloux, whose various troubles off the field had become a distraction.

That left Jefferson behind sophomore Andrew Hatch and redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee. After Hatch’s early season injury, Lee emerged as the starter but struggled with consistency and turnovers, then hurt his ankle in a late-season loss to Ole Miss.

Black described the Jefferson of last year as quiet and bug-eyed as the quarterback tried to absorb a lot of information in a short time.

"It was more of a learning experience, trying to listen to coaches. He wasn’t saying anything and it was so tense it was getting to him," Black recalled. "Now he’s comfortable. He’s sitting in the pocket, making his reads, making his checks. So we’re good, man. We’re going to be good."

-- Brett Martel
The Brownsville Herald
1135 E. Van Buren St.
Brownsville, TX 78520

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dolphins now look like a football team

Thursday, Jul. 30, 2009 - 2:20 p.m. ET

DAVIE, Fla. -- A year later, Tony Sparano can laugh about his first impression of the Miami Dolphins.

The team he took over in early 2008 was coming off a 1-15 season, the worst in franchise history. It showed when Sparano conducted offseason workouts.

"It sometimes didn't really look much like football out there," Sparano says with a smile. "A little bit of rugby, a little bit of other things going on, but not a whole lot like football all the time."

Then came a sudden transformation. The Dolphins went 11-6 in 2008, climbing from worst in the NFL to first in the AFC East. They ended a seven-year postseason drought and became the first team in league history to make the playoffs a year after winning only once.

Now the challenge is to continue the extraordinary progress of last season. As preparation for Year 2 of the Bill Parcells regime begins Sunday with the first training camp practice, coach Sparano isn't counting on much carry-over.

"What's in the past is in the past," Sparano says. "Nothing is owed to you. Nothing is guaranteed to you in this league. That's not the kind of business that we're in. ...

"That being said, there are some things you can take from 2008. There's a confidence."

Prospects are a lot rosier than at this time a year ago, when there was so much uncertainty following the biggest organizational shakeup in decades. The Dolphins had a rookie head coach, no starting quarterback and 45 new players.

The offense and defense have both been significantly upgraded since, and Sparano and his staff have won the respect of the players.

"A year later, they understand what it is that we're looking for as coaches," Sparano says. "They know the system better. There are fewer mental errors. Guys are able to react a lot faster. Without being arrogant, it's like night and day."

The steady roster turnover since Parcells took over continues. Only 21 players who were with the team in 2007 remain, and that includes Jason Taylor, back after a year in exile with the Washington Redskins.

The position most dramatically improved under the Parcells regime is quarterback, which now includes NFL Comeback Player of the Year Chad Pennington, highly regarded backup Chad Henne, and Pat White, a second-round draft pick in April who could thrive in the Wildcat package introduced last year.

The Dolphins didn't make much of a splash this offseason in free agency, where the most prominent additions were Taylor, center Jake Grove and defensive backs Gibril Wilson and Eric Green. Other noteworthy newcomers include cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Sean Smith and receiver Patrick Turner, all rookies.

"We're excited about what happened in the offseason with all the new faces that we have in free agency and with the draft," says Pennington, coming off the best season of his nine-year career. "That is why every year is different. What we did in 2008 has no bearing in 2009. We have a big challenge ahead of us: to learn each other and to build team chemistry and to work together."

Some of the new faces at practice will be on the sideline. Owner Stephen Ross completed his purchase of the team from Wayne Huizenga in January, and new minority owners Marc Anthony and Gloria and Emilio Estefan may stop by to check out their investment.

One goal in camp will be to find ways for Taylor to complement linebacker Joey Porter and upgrade the pass rush. The Dolphins are counting on rookies to shore up the two thinnest areas, the receiving corps and secondary. At least four starting jobs are up for grabs: receiver, right guard, cornerback and defensive end.

Miami hopes to carve out a role for White in the Wildcat, the variation of the single wing that rejuvenated the offense last season. White discovered in offseason workouts that the NFL is different from West Virginia, where he set a career NCAA record for yards rushing by a quarterback.

"Guys are definitely running around faster," White says. "They are lot smarter, they are bigger, faster and stronger. It's going to take some adjusting, but hopefully I will get there one day."

Like White, Sparano will find the competition stiffer this season. As a consolation prize for going 1-15, Miami benefited from a soft schedule in 2008, but this year the Dolphins face four defending division champions, including Super Bowl winner Pittsburgh to conclude the regular season.

The first of four exhibition games is Aug. 17 against Jacksonville.

As Sparano prepares to lead the first practice, he's confident his players are ready to follow - more so than at this time in 2008.

"I'm doing the same things right now that I was a year ago," he says. "The difference is they're paying attention a little bit more. Last year, every day you came out, you had to prove something to the players. Now I think these guys understand there is a method to my madness. They have bought in, and there is some history there."

Associated Press.


Look for Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb together on a field near you

by Nick Fierro
Monday August 17, 2009

We haven't seen it yet and probably won't in any of the practices the rest of the way, but we will see it in games. That much is as close to a certainty as the utter mindlessness of Tweeting.
Eagles quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick will be on the field at the same time.

Whether it's in the Wildcat formation or Vick lining up as a receiver or McNabb lining up as a tight end with Vick under center or a single-wing shotgun, it will happen.

McNabb as a tight end?

"I told you at the press conference (after the preseason game against New England Thursday night) I could play receiver," McNabb said. "I'll be a receiver. I might be a tight end, I might be running back. You never know where I'll be."

McNabb was joking, of course. But he appeared to be dead serious earlier, when he said he would have no problem with Vick getting on the field for a few snaps at quarterback each week, so long as it's helping the Eagles win.

"As you can see, it helped Miami last year, from winning one game to winning 11 or 12 games last year," McNabb said. "If that was the direction we were going in, I wouldn't have a problem with it at all."

If that means some exotic trickery designed to make use of Vick's legs, which are just as dangerous as his extraordinary left arm, then that's what the Eagles will do to make the shocking signing of perhaps the most controversial personality in their history worth it.

Either way, expect a handful, though probably no more, of plays for Vick every week, adding to the angst of opposing defenses that already would have had trouble matching up with the Eagles' skill players before Vick entered the picture.

Monday, in a spirited, smack-talking, overall testy practice at the NovaCare Center, Vick lined up only at quarterback and was limited to less than 10 repetitions. Vanilla stuff all the way.

The spice will be added behind closed doors and in the one practice a week that is closed to the media once the season begins. The dimension he'll add on Sundays is only in the speculative stage at this point but most people are thinking the same kinds of things.

Safety Quintin Mikell hinted how Vick lining up as a Wildcat quarterback could actually affect a change in some teams' defensive philosophies.

"More than likely you are always thinking, in my opinion, 'make them throw the ball (when you see the Wildcat),'" Mikell said. "I want to see you throw the ball before I let you run all over me, so we are going to stop the run first. If you can throw it, then you say, 'OK, he can throw it too,' and we'll go from there. Having Vick on our team, that obviously adds another threat because he can throw and he can run."

For his part, Vick is willing to do whatever is required to get on the field. The way things are going, they might have to plug him in at left tackle before long.

Seriously though, there is a twisted irony to the sudden issue of the breakdown in protection of McNabb's blind side that was thrust into the spotlight Thursday night. Vick, a left-handed thrower, would be better suited to spot it and better equipped to avoid it as well.

However, Vick knows best of all that he's not close to being able to start again in the NFL, that he could well remain in a backup role at best even if something happened to McNabb long-term.

"Kevin Kolb is the No. 2 quarterback, and that's where we're at right now," coach Andy Reid said Saturday. "It wasn't because he got the (knee) injury (that's kept him out of practice since last week) or anything. That's not why we did this. Kevin has proven to this football team that he's a good quarterback."

Hey, his words.

The Express-Times


Bill Belichick on the Single-Wing

Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here’s the Wildcat / Single-wing Q&A with Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick earlier today at Gillette Stadium.

Question: What are the challenges of defending the Wildcat offense?

Bill Belichick: I don’t know about … I guess what I would say is that if you have a running quarterback, offensively, you essentially have one more gap to attack the defensive with, or the defense has one more gap to defend. When you have a quarterback handing off to a running back — however many blockers you have — let’s say you have seven blockers in front of him, a tight end, six linemen and a running back, then, defensively, you can pretty easily get into an eight-man front that accounts for every gap and still have defenders for the perimeter receivers.

Once that quarterback becomes a runner, you really have another gap to defend now. Those seven blockers and eight gaps now really become nine gaps and now you really only have eight defenders. So that puts a stress somewhere on your defense, just like the Single-Wing offenses, just like the college Veer and Wishbone offenses, to some degree the Wing-T and to some degree, I guess, the Wildcat. The principles are all the same: that having another ball carrier, the defense has to defend another gap and you have to decide how you want to do that defensively.

Instead of the quarterback handing off, now you have a guy that can actually attack the defense and run the ball, which most quarterbacks aren’t a threat to do that. That changes some of your run defense principles. To me, that’s the foundation of a running quarterback, whether you do it in the Single Wing, or do it in the option game, it all really comes down to defensively having enough people to defend all the areas they can create.

excerpt from
SportsRadio Boston


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Spartans’ single-wing in midseason form

Footballs fly at Hunnicutt, Mitchell stadia

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — Football was in the air Saturday morning in Mercer County — and as a result, footballs were in the air.

Scrimmages were held simultaneously in Bluefield and Princeton and four area teams were in action. The Bluefield Beavers were going up against Christiansburg while the Princeton Tigers played host to Giles and Mount View.

The Beavers began their scrimmage promptly at 10 a.m. with the varsity teams taking one half of the field and the junior varsity squads occupying the other half. But an hour-and-a-half into the event, both coaches decided to put the varsity teams on the full field and play two simulated quarters.

In total, the scrimmage lasted nearly three hours.

“Both teams needed work and that’s what these scrimmages are all about,” said Bluefield head coach Fred Simon. “It got a little better for us when we went to the team part of the scrimmage. I thought we picked up the pace.”

New Bluefield quarterback Levi Beckett was one of the players that adjusted well to the change. Early on, he struggled with his passing. But as the day wore on, he began completing short balls to open receivers.

“I think he’ll come,” Simon said. “He played backup last year, but didn’t get a lot of reps. The more reps he gets, I think the better he’ll become and I think he played against a pretty good secondary as far as Christiansburg, too.”

The Beavers’ defense had a similar day to Beckett’s. Facing a team that builds offense by running out of the pro set, Bluefield began the day slowly, but adapted later and began making plays.

“I think they got a little better at it,” Simon said. “We had a few breakdowns that cost us some, but overall I think the effort was a lot better when we went to the first-and-10 situation.”

The one area that was consistent all morning and afternoon for the Beavers was their running game. The offensive line shoved defenders out of the way to create holes and Jake Lilly and Marcus Patterson exploited them.

“We’ve got a line that’s basically older than last year and they’ve done a nice job of working hard,” Simon said. “Hopefully we’ll continue to improve, but I thought we did OK ... and the backs hit up in there pretty good as we got going.”

After it was over, Simon was asked if the Beavers were where he wanted them to be at this point of the preseason.

“Only films will tell,” Simon said. “I definitely can tell you this. We’re not ahead of where I expected. I can promise you that. But I know there’s always room for improvement and that’s where we’ll study our films and see if we can’t help that out a little bit.”

While Bluefield was struggling to find rhythm against Christiansburg, Mount View was trying to put a dent in Giles at Hunnicutt Stadium. With only 26 players dressed for the scrimmage, it seemed like the Golden Knights might not have much to show.

But they surprised those in attendance by moving the ball in small increments down the field. The Golden Knights used the run to get handfuls of yardage and mixed in the occasional short pass to keep the Spartans off balance. Mount View showed they could make the little plays.

The problem was that Giles was making big plays. The Spartans’ single-wing looked in midseason form as the offensive line ripped open holes and the backs took advantage of them as well as well-timed fakes and misdirection to take 10 or 15 yards at a time.

Giles’ defense bent, but did not break, allowing the Golden Knights to get to the Spartans’ 40 from their own 20.

Before facing Mount View, Giles took on Princeton. Against the West Virginia Class AAA school, the Spartans were even better. The holes on offense were wider. The fakes were crisper. The gains were bigger. Their defense was stingier.

“I’m pleased,” Giles head coach Jeff Williams said after the Princeton scrimmage. “My big concern coming in was about how physical we’re going to be and our toughness. So far, the kids the kids have stepped it up and they’re showing some physical and mental toughness on both sides of the ball. So I’m real happy with that.”

Williams credited the performance to the returnees from last year that put in a gargantuan effort to get ready for this season.

“You’ve got to attribute that to the guys we had on the team last year that are back in there,” Williams said. “We’ve got several big kids in there that started for us last year and they’ve worked harder in the offseason to prepare themselves and they’re just better this year than last year as well.”

No part of the Princeton-Giles scrimmage sat well with Tigers head coach Ted Spadaro.

“They got off the ball real well on offense and defense and attacked and we stood there and watched,” Spadaro said after the Giles scrimmage. “We’ve got to regroup and come back and do a lot better than that.”

Spadaro was not the only person in the Princeton locker room disappointed with the team’s performance.

“I didn’t have to tell them anything,” Spadaro said. “I just went in and said, ‘All those that played good, raise your hand. All those that got your butt kicked, raise your hand.’ There were more hands that went up then. So that tells you something right there.”

The Princeton coach wants to see more fire from his club in the future.

“All we’ve got to do is come back and start playing like we’re supposed to and take it to them instead of them taking it to us,” Spadaro said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
928 Bluefield Avenue
Bluefield, West Virginia