Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Gray and Fuller Conundrum

The Tannehill extravaganza has been settled! He and Mike Sherman have been reunited in South Beach.  We wish him the best of luck, but what about some of the other Aggies hoping to hear their name called...

Scott: Wow, we used over 1,600 words to fully dissect the Ryan Tannehill extravaganza... and I loved every bit of it.  And while he will steal the early spotlight in regards to Texas A&M Aggies entering the NFL, we have two other intriguing names to explore: Cyrus Gray and Jeff Fuller.

I honestly, couldn't think of two Aggie football players that are farther apart in my mind.  For all my normal anti-running back sentiments, I absolutely love Cyrus Gray. His vision, how hard he runs, how much he cared about the team, the glowing reviews from his coaches... everything pointed to him being the penultimate leader for Texas A&M.  And guess what, he has got the skills to have a worthwhile NFL career!  Will he be a game changer like Adrian Peterson?  Most likely not.  Can he become Rashard Mendenhall in the right situation?  Absolutely.  Running back is a revolving door in the NFL, and Cyrus definitely has the talent to keep one foot in that door for the next 7-8 years.  My hope is that when the situation arises, he pulls himself through that door and finds some of the lime light.  I honestly don't know where he will be drafted, but I have followed the NFL draft rather intently for the last decade and I would be VERY pleased if my team (Yes, the Cowboys... or any other team for that matter) snagged him in the fourth round.

Moving on to the next Martellus Bennett... the ever so polarizing Jeff Fuller.  I actually think the Fuller will follow the same NFL path as Marty B.  He will be touted as a top-notch athlete with legitimate skills, but will forever struggle to put in the time and effort to be great.  He will have a distinct love-hate relationship with his fanbase (wherever he may land), building excitement every training camp as reports flood in that Fuller is in great shape and primed for a breakout year... then the season will roll around and disappoint will ensue.  I have seen this story.  Now, with all of that being said, if the Cowboys (the easiest situation for me to relate to) were to draft him in say the 5th or 6th round... well I could buy into that.  Take a late round flyer on an underachieving athlete.  I could be wooed by such things.

I have same love and passion for Cyrus as I do Tannehill.  I believe they lived up to majority of their talent and left it all out on the field.  Fuller?  I definitely can't say the same for... maybe an NFL coach will whip him into shape... or maybe an NFL paycheck will further aide his slide into the oblivion.

What do you think Ben?  Do you feel like touching on any of the other draft prospects?  Coryell Judie?  Terrence Fredrick?  GO RANDY BULLOCK!

Ben: You may have just poked this bear with the stick, Scott. Few things get me as fired up as the demise of Jeff Fuller (a tribute to that demise), which is why I wrote about it a few weeks ago.

I admittedly don't pay much attention to pre-draft coverage, so I haven't seen where the "draft experts" (which is hilarious in and of itself) project Gray or Fuller to be selected. I am confident they will get drafted, and if you had a gun to my head I would probably say 5th round for Fuller and 6th round for Gray. Now that I say that, Gray will probably get drafted in the 2nd round and Fuller the 7th.

Who knows.

What I do know is I admire Cyrus Gray for being a stud from Day 1 at Texas A&M, and as for Jeff Fuller... yeah.

If the cards fall right, Fuller could wind up being a good third receiver who has a decent career. Gray will probably be a very solid backup. It all depends on the team that drafts them and the situation they come into.

The focus this weekend will be on Ryan Tannehill, and deservedly so. But I think it's pretty damn cool that Texas A&M has begun to establish itself as a school that can produce NFL talent. You only need to look at Von Miller for proof of that. And I have to face it, and give credit where credit is due: Mike Sherman did a fine job of developing talent at Texas A&M.

To end, I have one question for ya Scott. When do the games start?

Gig 'em.

Scott: When do the games start?  The NFL draft is way better than the actual games! Uninhibited optimism, limitless potential, fresh starts... it's a beautiful time.

By the way, following my Cyrus Gray - 4th round claim, I take a gander at Todd McShay's full seven round mock draft and it has Gray in the 6th and Fuller not being drafted.  Now this is by no means the most accurate prediction you will ever find, but hey, McShay dissects the NFL draft for a living, I do it as a hobby (although I do claim to have an impressive gut feeling around this time of year).

So with that said, I am feeling rather chipper at the moment, and I would love for the Cowboys (or insert your favorite team here) to draft Cyrus in 5th round to be the number 2 running back, snag some 10 ish carries a game and be an over all solid player.  Give me Jeff Fuller, in the 6th round (its a crapshoot by then), and I will roll the dice with a truly talented player who could learn the ropes from say, Dez Bryant... wait... that doesn't sound right, I don't Fuller getting arrested in shopping malls.  Ugh, my Cowboys pipe dream is hanging by a thread.

Go Morris Claiborne!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Ryan Tannehill Extravaganza

With the NFL Draft rapidly approaching, Ben and Scott couldn't resist the urge to exchange some emails on the insanity involving Ryan Tannehill being a potential top 5 pick and the "future" of an NFL franchise... Enjoy!

Scott:  Wow, how the trends change!  Everyone got bored with the Andrew Luck party and decided that RG III was more fun to over-hype.  Now RG III's future looks to be set and stone so the NFL-loving world needs a new fad to over-analyze (because bounty talk is boring), which leads us to the ever-so-exciting (especially for Aggies) Ryan Tannehill draft extravaganza!

There is so much to dissect, so much to root for, so much to worry about... I don't even know where to begin.  Now, many people tend to forget that a Texas A&M Aggie was drafted second overall last year, but honestly, I feel like that is perfectly fine, it respresents a completely different scenario (mainly because of the media). Von Miller is a defensive star, everyone predicted he would be, and from the looks of his rookie season, he has many pro bowls in his future.  But he wasn't a polarizing media figure, he was established, understood, and appreciated.  Ryan Tannehill is a quarterback (huge difference, QB's are the face of the league and the most important player on the field), he is not truly established (only one year as a full-time starter), he is not fully understood (every single analyst has a different opinion of where he should be drafted), and he has just recently become appreciated by the masses.

I am nervous, excited, and fearful.  Jim Irsay (Colts owner) says if you want Tannehill you better trade intothe number 3 slot.  THE NUMBER 3 SLOT!!! A QB drafted that high is ALWAYS subject to insane expectations.  Do I think Tannehill should be drafted there?  I have no idea... I will say I always had confidence that he could do the job on the football field, and his athleticism and speed gave him an extra weapon to use... but that was on Saturday afternoon... Sunday afternoon is a whole different game.

Ben! Give me your thoughts, provide me some clarity... I LOVE THE TANNEHILL EXTRAVAGANZA!!!!

Ben:  When I have watched ESPN Sportscenter this week, my head has inevitably started spinning for two reasons: a) the quality of Sportscenter has decreased exponentially over the past few years (which is a conversation for another day) and b) I am seeing highlights involving Ryan Tannehill, and they don't involve him throwing an interception to OU or LSU.

At NO POINT in the last two years did I think I was watching a bona fide NFL starter-caliber quarterback at Texas A&M. Honestly, I still believe Tannehill has more value to an NFL team as a wide receiver rather than quarterback.

Tannehill is a wonderful athlete. He is smart. He says the right things. He seems to get it. Don't get me wrong, those are all great qualities to have, and every team wants their starting QB to possess these traits.

The red flag that I can't believe is being overlooked right now is the fact that A&M's complete bust in 2011 was directly related to Ryan Tannehill. He did not perform at a high enough level to win games in 2011. The ability to win games is the quality that I want most in a QB if I am an NFL General Manager, and I flat out do not believe Ryan Tannehill has the ability to win games.

I know people let him off the hook because of "inexperience" or "lack of playing time at QB" etc. But I don't buy that. Cam Newton (I will admit this is a stretch because Newton is a generational talent) had never started a game before leading the Auburn Tigers to an undefeated national championship season IN THE SEC WEST. By the same token, Tim Tebow won the Heisman Trophy as a true sophomore and also led his Florida Gators to a national title. So don't give me this BS about Tannehill not having enough experience to win games and perform at a high level. The Big 12 was ripe for the taking in 2011, and Tannehill (and the offense) faltered nearly every game after halftime, when the opposing defense began to make adjustments. Tannehill basically failed to adapt, and which is absolutely CRITICAL in the NFL.

I understand the NFL is a quarterback-driven league these days, which is why we see spares like Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, and whoever the heck the Vikings drafted last year get taken in the first round. Tannehill will get taken early next weekend, which is unfortunate. I don't think the hype and pressure is fair to him. If the draft was all about taking the best player available, regardless of position, I doubt Tannehill gets taken in the first two rounds.

I really hope this works out for Tannehill. Call me a doubter, hater, whatever, but I have yet to convinced he will be a successful starting QB in the NFL.

Convince me Scott. Convince me hard.

Scott:  Wow, I honestly did not expect you to be so anti-Tannehill during this extravaganza.  As far as contradicting your intense opinion... well I don't believe I will have the ammunition to do such things.  

You bring very legitimate concerns to the table.  Some could be countered with the idea that, a willing, cerebral, hard-working (pretty much everything JaMarcus Russell didn't have) QB with Tannehill's physical skill sets can be molded into a winning QB by an NFL coaching staff.  But as we find out every year, NFL coaching doesn't always work miracles, players still fall on their faces when surrounded by the right resources.

Let's go in a different direction.  Now assume Tannehill is as mediocre as you say he is... then why in the world do NFL scouts think he may go number three in the draft.  NUMBER THREE IN THE DRAFT!!!! Do the scouts (and every other source) know something we do not?  I mean we have truly watched Tannehill every step of the way.  I rooted for Jerrod's benching, watched Tannehill lead us to some improbable, exciting victories, and then endured the insane roller coaster that was last year.

We can't fully understand the extravaganza without acknowledging the overall importance of QB #1 (in a general sense) to any football team.  They are the field general and unless you plan on trotting out the Doomsday Defense, you better have yourself a pretty solid one.  Quarterbacks drafted in the top 5 are put under a microscope like nothing else. Offensive tackle Matt Kalil (a sure-fire top 5 pick this year), will be plugged into a team and likely perform at an All-Pro level for the next decade, but the common fan won't ever hear about him again.  The NFL is the most popular sport in America and therefore the quarterback is the most popular position in all of sports.  That is exactly what makes this so exciting!

I like Tannehill (unlike our previous QB's), I always have, and you can bet I will be rooting for him like no Aggie before him.

Go ahead and be negative Mr. Berryman

Ben:  Upon further review, my initial response may have been a little harsh.

Great point on the talent evaluators. They are the ones that get paid the big bucks to do this, so I trust they are better at scouting than me (although Dallas Cowboys fans may disagree - kill me). Surely, surely they know something the fans don't.

Tannehill IS talented. I'm not saying he isn't. I thoroughly enjoyed watching him bust big run after big run, efficiently get Ryan Swope the ball, and throw an occasional long jump ball to Fuller. I liked watching him play, I just never thought he was a first rounder much less top 5.

What I find hilarious in this whole process is the fact that Tannehill had a largely underwhelming career relative to UT's Colt McCoy, yet Tannehill will be a top draft pick and McCoy got taken in the third round, by Cleveland. How delicious would it be if the Browns replace McCoy with Tannehill???

Scott:  I hadn't even thought about the Tannehill replacing Colt McCoy story line. I actually thought Colt was going to have a relatively solid NFL career.  He was a winner and I thought that would carry over (see Timothy Richard Tebow, but with a better arm and less girth).  Don't feel like the world would take notice of that story line though (except for a bunch of people on Texags).

My biggest hope is that Tannehill gets in a good situation.  I want him to succeed.  Big time.  He is undoubtedly a project for whatever NFL team that drafts him and maybe that is a good thing.  While you did call into question his ability to adapt on the field (a fair question), it seems like everyone vouches for his intelligence and work ethic.  Being a QB at the NFL is just as much mental as it is physical.  Do you know the playbook inside and out, can you adapt on the field, does your coach trust you, do your teammates trust, do you inspire your teammates?  These are all important questions when determining the ultimate effectiveness of a QB.

This extravaganza is also huge for Texas A&M.  Von Miller helps our reputation, but the current media obsession with Tannehill will only give A&M some good publicity.  The common fan will see what happened early in the draft and say to themselves, "wow, I didn't know A&M had such a good QB."  Those are the subtle things that a make a big difference for a school.

Do you hope he gets picked by the Browns?  I am honestly leaning towards the Dolphins (less immediate pressure), that way he can reunite with Sherman.  So many possibilities...

Ben:  I hope Miami gets him. That would be a great situation for him (as long as he liked Sherman).

Speaking of the Draft, I am thinking about going to the Thursday night event. Should I wear Cowboys gear? Aggie gear? Maybe a little bit of both?

Will Tannehill get booed when someone in the top 10 picks him?

So many questions, and so few answers. We will know next week. I can't wait.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Adios, Bill Byrne

Here we go again.

Texas A&M dropped a bomb (albeit an expected one) on the fan base this weekend when President Loftin revealed that a "transition plan" has been put in place to effectively begin Bill Byrne's days of playing golf full time at Miramont Country Club. While Byrne's contract, which runs through 2013, will be honored, he will not be the Athletic Director once Texas A&M begins playing in the SEC.

To be frank, I'm not sure what took so long.

In December, Byrne was made to look the fool by the administration when he publicly backed former coach Mike Sherman up to the day Sherman was fired. Loftin (cough, the Board, cough) destroyed whatever authority Byrne had as AD, making this "transition" was just a matter of time.

I could talk about Byrne's success in other sports, and lack of success in football, but you already know that.

I could go on a rant here about the absurd power structure of the Texas A&M Athletic Department (and to a greater extent, the University), but we have already done that.

The fact of the matter is any potential Athletic Director at Texas A&M is kidding himself if he thinks he will have the authority to make any real decisions.

That is not how successful athletic programs are built.

Friday, April 13, 2012

That School in Waco

Trey Bahney (with a hint from Scott and Ben) stops by to take one more stab at the recent Baylor news... we couldn't resist...

Here’s the issue with this Baylor scandal: IT REEKS OF INTENTIONALITY! Look, Baylor was in a real low spot six years ago. Their football team had spent decades being irrelevant, their athletic budget was treading water way below the big dogs, and their men’s basketball team had recently come off of history’s worst college athletics cover-up ever. So they made a very calculated play. Let’s cheat now (not a big a cheat, but merely a little cheat), reap some success, and then beg for forgiveness later. Building some semblance of a sports history is DEFINITELY worth the meager sanctions they are now putting themselves on. Minor sanctions are quickly forgotten, but national championships (albeit woman's basketball) and Heisman trophy winners are not. Do I remember that USC's football wins were vacated and Reggie Bush's Heisman was taken away? Sure I do, but you know what I remember more? Bush's breathtaking runs and the overall dominance of those USC professional ("paid") football teams (see what I did there?).

With that mentality, maybe Baylor deserves a little back-handed credit (oh wait, no... they are Baylor, and they knowingly broke the rules). Robert Griffin III will never be stripped of his Heisman. The rules broken during his recruiting were purposely picked to be non-athlete specific. They made extra phone calls, lied to him over texts, gushed about self-righteousness to him (while very much bending the rules), yet all of this was likely known, understood, and calculated. Once they were eventually discovered, Griffin would be far from ineligible or reprimanded.
That’s the trick (and maybe the soon to be trend). Break some rules, but don’t give up any wins. Take some recruiting trips but don’t give up Championships. What a noble sacrifice Baylor. Kim Mulkey illegally sat next to Britney Griner’s parents at numerous AAU basketball games, chatting it up about how great it would be to coach their daughter. Hold on… wait, this is woman’s basketball… I just got bored mid-sentence.

So the Baylor Compliance Department hands out a flier on how to "bend the rules" and the coaches (Scott Drew... don't think we have forgotten that you have pulled in top 10 talent at a school that should have no business doing so... the world is watching now) went off and made it count.

What can the NCAA even do about this? The rules are the rules, and breaking certain rules result in certain consistent punishments. Baylor read the rule book, considered potential punishments, learned the system, and took advantage.

Even now, none of the players illegally recruited will be ineligible. The success they are enjoying this year (and will enjoy the next 3 years) far outweighs the sanctions they will take. Their recruiting could not have gotten worse six years ago, so they were playing with house money, they had nothing to lose. Worst case scenario, they still get the bottom of the barrel talent and remain doormats. But guess what they got the best case scenario; a return to relevancy. Success across the board like never before seen in school history followed by a very blatant “oh we were breaking the rules? Here don’t worry; we’ll gently slap our own wrists”. In Baylor’s eyes, it’s better to take a whipping from the NCAA than its usual whipping on the field.

Who can blame them?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Running Backs and Unpopular Opinions

Potentially unpopular opinion alert! I think running backs are the most expendable position on a football team. (Excluding peripheral positions like full back or tight end)

Now let me defend my opinion. In order for a running back to be deemed successful he needs to average roughly 4.0+ yards per carry. I personally think any D-1 level running back can achieve that benchmark behind a good-to-great offensive line. Assemble an elite offensive line; find a creative coach, and boom! You just made that running back a Heisman contender (assuming the W’s follow that elite offensive line and creative coach).

A few disclaimers… an elite college running back can swing a college football team, the talent gap across the nation is far greater than it is in the NFL (which is where I originally developed my unpopular opinion; 1,000 yard rushers grow on trees in the right system). It just bothers me when the Heisman race is ALWAYS between the best quarterbacks (the most crucial position on field) and the running backs with the best statistics. It’s the offensive lineman who deserve that trophy, they are the ones who open up the first hole and get those backs to the glorious green grass. Stick an elite running back behind a subpar offensive line, good luck cranking out 100-yard games.

With that being said… thank goodness the Aggies have a near elite level offensive line developing (that of which we will break down next week). The SEC will demand us to perform in the trenches, and I think our O-line (and the backs runnin’ behind them), has the right mixture of power and finesse to thrive.

Now please do excuse me for a quick 180 degree turn to praise one of my favorite Aggies to come along in quite some time, Cyrus Gray. That guy was an all-american teammate and all-american performer. His leadership, his toughness, and his attitude will be missed. Thank you Cyrus.

Christine Michael-Senior

Upon his arrival to Texas A&M as the Aggies' first 5-star recruit since Martellus Bennett, Michael was lauded as the dynamic game-changer at running back. With a marvelous blend of speed, agility, and power, Christine Michael certainly possesses the tools to terrify opposing defenses. In fact, Michael has been stellar during his time at Texas A&M - when he's healthy. Gruesome leg injuries have robbed Michael of potentially great sophomore and junior seasons. In both cases, Michael was on pace to break the 1,000 yard mark at the time of injury. Although Cyrus Gray picked up the slack, the Aggies have missed Christine Michael. His experience in the backfield can't be understated as A&M moves into the SEC. No one can question his talent and production when he is healthy, but one question that remains unanswered is how Michael will fit into Kevin Sumlin's offense. We will know more as spring practice progresses.

Ben Malena-Junior

In his first meaningful action as an Aggie, Ben Malena picked up 160 yards on 48 carries in the final two games in 2011. Malena got the chance to prove himself last season when both Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray went down with injuries. I had no idea what to expect from him, but I was pleasantly surprised with Malena's production against Texas (one of the nation's best defenses) and Northwestern. Malena certainly isn't going to win a Doak Walker, but I feel comfortable with him getting some playing time. If he can find a way to contribute by catching passes out of the backfield, Malena could find himself being the Aggies' change-of-pace running back until Trey Williams is ready. Which reminds me...

Trey Williams-Freshman

Wow. If you haven't watched Williams' high school highlight reels on YouTube, do it now. Stop reading this, and watch the videos. Williams arrives to A&M as the program's most highly decorated recruit in years. More than 8,000 yards rushing and 86 TD over the span of a high school career in Texas will do that for a guy. Williams has the kind of natural ability that makes football fans drool, including me. I'll say this: Coach Sumlin must find a way to get the ball to Trey Williams.