Archive for January, 2007

Toby Wright Brings the Wood

January 31, 2007


They were having a discussion on the Huskers Illustrated boards today about the hardest hit folks had ever seen. This hit by former Husker Toby Wright on Bert Emmanuel gets my vote. If memory serves Emmanuel suffered a broken jaw and Toby was fined a few thousand bucks.

Bill Walsh on Interviewing Coaching Candidates

January 30, 2007

Sitting down with an individual for a limited length of time and determining whether a candidate has the requisite capabilities is one of the most ambiguous, subjective and challenging tasks that a head coach or administrator will face. The individual interviewing the candidate must know what he is looking for and how it will be determined whether he finds it.

Of this process Walsh states:

“Even the most seasoned, veteran head coach can have a tough time determining if an individual has the abilities he is looking for in a position coach or has exemplary communication skills and gives good interviews. This dilemma is why head coaches often hire people with whom they have worked before or individuals who have been recommended by someone in whom they have a great deal of trust.

When developing a systematic plan for conducting interviews to hire staff members, the head coach should consider the following factors:

· At some point, a single individual will have to make the choice of whom to hire (like most sound decisions).

· The more people who are included in the hiring process, the greater the likelihood that either a superfluous number of criteria will be added to the approach employed by the organization for decision making or the effectiveness of the undertaking will be diluted. This situation is particularly true when colleges look to hire a head coach. (Maybe Steve Pederson isn’t so crazy after all).

· The process of interviewing and hiring an assistant coach will be relatively easy if the individual conducting the interview (and making the hiring decision) has a history or a working relationship with a candidate who is well-suited for the position.

· If the situation, however, involves a candidate with whom the organization has little or no familiarity, it is imperative that a specific plan be established regarding whether a candidate has those attributes, and how the organization can make the process equitable for all the interviewees so that the procedures are not unknowingly biased toward one candidate.

· A precise set of criteria detailing what the position calls for must be established. If such criteria are not identified, the head coach (or whoever is conducting the process) may become distracted by the different skills and capabilities of the individuals who are being interviewed and may lose sight of the specific position he is trying to fill.

· The basic qualifications of each candidate must be assessed. This step can be accomplished in several ways. For example, his background should be closely scrutinized to determine the level of success he has enjoyed as a coach, the caliber of competition the teams which he has coached have faced, the level and type of responsibility he has performed as a coach, etc.

· An organization must make every effort to ensure that the different candidates are evaluated on an even field. For example, the unique qualities of a particularly talented candidate may be overlooked simply because the individual has been working for a team that has an inferior win-loss record compared to those of other candidates.”

Filling the Remaining Spot on the Coaching Staff

January 29, 2007

So with Shawn Watson officially being promoted to offensive coordinator and QB coach, and Sean Callahan of Huskers Illustrated reporting that Ted Gilmore is expected to be named recruiting coordinator, Nebraska’s coaching staff lacks just a TE coach. I thought that this news would give me a chance to look into the process of putting a coaching staff together. This also gives me another opportunity to turn to my man-crush Bill Walsh and to his book, which I’m currently reading – Finding the Winning Edge. This book is like the Holy Grail when it comes to coaching football. It covers every, and I mean every detail of the life of a coach, from organizing a staff to working with the media. Although the book is out of print I managed to pick up a used copy that once belonged to the Jamaica, Queens Public Library.

First like any CEO, a head coach must be able to project the future staffing needs of the organization. This is crucial as over time, openings for assistant coaches will occur for any number of reasons (e.g., individuals take a position with another team, some retires, a coach is fired, the size of your staff increases, etc.). Walsh notes that:

“Each time an opening exists and is filled, a certain level of transition among the previous staff members typically transpires. If this transition is not handled properly, the situation can be very divisive and disruptive when the individuals are passed over for a particular position they wanted or reassigned from a job they preferred”.

Next it might be useful to define the role of the TE coach, according to Walsh:

“This person oversees the establishment, development and implementation of the game plan as it pertains to the tight ends. He works in association with the offensive line coach and the receivers coach. His primary responsibility is to work with the tight ends on their blocking techniques and skills.”

Once these basic responsibilities have been established a coach needs to identify the desired qualifications of staff members. This can be a difficult proposition. One the one hand, the staff must have the technical knowledge of the game that is necessary to ensure that every player performs up to the best of his natural attributes. On the other hand, the staff must possess the personal attributes that enable them to collectively focus their energies on a common goal. In addition, it is helpful to consider the diversity of your staff so that each person offers a somewhat different combination of traits, capabilities and experiences. Walsh highlights five major qualities of prospective assistant coaches:

1. A fundamental knowledge of the mechanics of his position. An assistant coach must be technically competent. His competence level must be such that he can work with each player on an individual basis as needed.

2. Ability to communicate. An assistant coach must be able to communicate with the players in a relaxed, yet authoritative manner. Such a quality is the fundamental basis of an assistant’s ability to effectively teach and interact with his players – perhaps the two key responsibilities of every assistant coach.

3. Ability to evaluate and project talent. Assistant coaches must evaluate the abilities and the performance potential of those players with whom they are working.

4. A relatively high level of energy. Assistant coaches must exhibit an appropriate level of energy that enables them to be upbeat, motivated and animated while in the presence of the players and their fellow employees. It is not unusual for a group of players to collectively take on the personality of their position coach.

5. Loyalty. Assistant coaches must exhibit loyalty at all times, both to the head coach and to their fellow assistant coaches. While a head coach always expects his assistants to display unconditional loyalty to him, their sense of loyalty should also extend to the other staff members.

That should hopefully shed some light on part of the process facing Coach Callahan as he looks to fill the final spot on the staff. I’m planning on writing a bit more on putting together a staff including the interview process and a few other details as the week progresses.

Norvell to UCLA

January 26, 2007


Offensive Coordinator and QB coach Jay Norvell has accepted the Offensive Coordinator job at UCLA. Interestingly, the spot was vacated by the firing of another coach with Nebraska (Wesleyan) ties Jim Svoboda.

Normally losing a coach this close to Signing Day would be troublesome. In this case, however, I don’t expect it to have much impact. Norvell was a solid recruiter, but not spectacular and has not been the contact for many of our big-name recruits over the past couple of years.

My sense is that Shawn Watson will become the Offensive Coordinator, but much like in Norvell’s case the position will mainly be a title. Callahan will likely remain in charge of game planning and playcalling.

First name I’ll throw out there to fill the vacancy on the staff is Dave Roberts. His name has come up time and time again, and he is a very respected recruiter. I’ll give some thought to some other candidates and update this over the weekend.

*Update – Another name to consider is Eric Roark. Roark is currently the recruiting coordinator at SMU and also coaches DEs. He has fantastic connections in Texas and would be a big help recruiting that state. Roark also played for Jimmy Johnson at Oklahoma State.

Greatest. Headline. Ever

January 26, 2007

Leave it to the Onion to bust out Bears Lead Rex Grossman To Super Bowl

“All season long, the Bears have shown that they can win, even in the presence of Rex Grossman.”

Well played.

Oh, and go check out this post from Saurian Sagacity on the geographic distribution of talent in college football. It is a pretty decent piece of analysis and certainly explains some of the barriers impacting the Nebraska coaching staff.

And don’t miss Mr. Irrelevant’s look at the year that was the hotness of Erin Andrews. How on earth did I miss the pic of the Iowa kid groping her?

The Twenty Percent Failure Factor

January 26, 2007

Ok, I’m back…sort of. Darren at Big Red Network has a great piece on recruting in the age of attrition. He makes a lot of sense of a somewhat difficult topic. His work also got me thinking about something I had read from Bill Walsh.

In Finding the Winning Edge, Walsh discusses the twenty percent failure factor that impacts NFL teams with regard to their acquisitions. Walsh states:

“If a personnel department is doing an outstanding job of evaluating and acquiring talent through the draft and free agency, its failure rate (i.e., the number of players who don’t ‘pan out’ for whatever reason) can be expected to be around twenty percent. In other words, regardless of how capable and efficient your scouts and coaches are in identifying, researching and projecting the potential value of a particular player, a fall out of approximately twenty percent wil occur.”

I thought this notion was noteworthy as a the latest group of Nebraska players prepares for the NFL draft by participating in all-star games and getting in shape for the combine. Clearly every team in the NFL has experienced some degree of disappointment in its acquisitions. Top draft choices turn out to be busts (including players from Nebraska) or expensive free agent signings fail to live up to expectations.

Walsh claims:

“The point to be emphasized is that no matter how much time and effort a team puts into the acquisition process (i.e., no matter how thoroughly a team ‘studies’ a given athlete) some miscalculations will happen. The process simply involves too many variables to be able to accurately account for every factor.”

Walsh argues that this twenty percent failure rate is about all a franchise can absorb and continue to be competitive and that capable and experienced management will firmly grasp this reality.

The failure factor is also interesting when one considers college football recruiting. Obviously the failure rate for college athletes should be somewhat higher given that college teams do not utilize a full-time scouting staff and also find themselves dealing with a much larger pool of eligibles. From CFB conventional wisdom (whatever that is) I’ve always gathered that a recruiting class in which 40-50% of the players become meaningful contributors should be considered a success. In light of the continued exodus from our 2005 class, and news that others considered leaving, however, Walsh offers another piece of insight.

“If the percentage of failures among a team’s acquisitions climbs above the expected failure rate, then shortcomings exist in the team’s system of evaluating and acquiring players. If disappointment after disappointment occurs, they can’t all be related to ‘bad luck’.”

Players have always failed to pan out, and unhappy players have always left for the hope of a better situation. My hunch, however, is that this dynamic is going to continue to evolve. I see a future in which more player movement (from team to team) will occur. The spontaneous changes in personnel will negatively impact teams’ development of depth. It may also eventually force coaches to play more first-year players, either to make up for this lack of depth or to placate the egos of highly regarded recruits. As more young players are then relied upon to contribute the degree to which a team will be able to expand its offensive or defensive system will be limited by the level of the squad’s development. Player character will then become increasingly important, especially at the lower end of the roster. Although players in this situation may join the team under a lower set of expectations and might not be on scholarship, they may become important contributors and thus must sustain their intensity and their efforts. Finally coaching staffs will be forced to develop patience and to exhibit flexibility when dealing with the shocking loss of front-line players.

That sounds like a whole different ball game to me.

Roger Craig and Doug DuBose Rap

January 24, 2007

Obviously this is from their 49er days. I don’t know how this never worked its way to the top of the charts. It is clear though that DuBose’s rage-filled flow had a heavy influence on West Coast gangsta rap.

I’m not going to lie, these are tough times in the life of a college football blogger. Signing day isn’t quite here and we are a few months from the beginning of spring practices. I have a lot of stuff in mind to fill the time, but the duties of a new semester are currently taking primacy.

He is I and I was Him

January 24, 2007

Once again letting YouTube do my dirty work, but this is too good not to post, especially for those that really know me. This kid and I are obviously basement-hoop slam-dunking soulmates. I am forever grateful that my family did not own a video camera. HT – Deadspin.

Nebraska ESPNU Commercial

January 23, 2007

I don’t know if this is a regional commercial or what, but I’ve somehow never actually seen it on ESPN. So in case some other out-of-state readers have yet to come across it, here you go. I’ll throw in a free T-shirt to the first person to rock a DXP-inspired vanity plate.

Need Help on the Gossip Front

January 23, 2007

I like to think that I’m up to date on my college sports gossip, but this one has me stumped. I’m getting a surprising amount of traffic from the search terms:

Brynn Cameron + Rudy Carpenter.

You might remember Brynn as the lovely USC basketball player who just happens to be carrying the spawn of Matt Leinart. Rudy Carpenter should also be a familiar name to Husker fans given that it was his ascension to ASU’s starting QB slot that led to Sam Keller’s transfer.

So am I missing something? Are these two now an item? How on earth would they be connected? Someone please enlighten me before my head explodes.