Posts tagged with Football
Seated in a comfortable chair in the chancellor’s lounge of the Anderson Family Football Complex, Ben Heeney flipped open the iPhone wallet case in his hand and reviewed his call history Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s only 12:57,” Heeney started. “I’ve gotten a text from the Saints, a call from the Jaguars, a call from the Seahawks. Who else have I gotten a call from? The Browns. I’ve gotten like five calls and one text just today from teams verifying information.”
He wasn’t complaining. Quite the contrary. He’s enjoying the inside look at how NFL teams peel back the layers of the onion that is a draft prospect.
“I mean, that’s just today,” Heeney said. “I’ve probably, in the past week, I’ve probably been in contact with close to every, if not every, team.”
At this point, what more do they want to know about Heeney, former star running back at Hutchinson High and two-time All-Big 12 player, second-team as a junior, first-team as a senior?
Heeney rattled off the typical questions: “Is this the best number to reach you on draft day? Can you give us a secondary number? Is your agent still the same? Any injuries since your pro day? Have you been in any trouble since the last time we saw you?”
Heeney said he interviewed with every NFL team either at the East-West Shrine Game, the NFL combine or pro day on campus. Two teams, the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, came to KU to work him out and the Buccaneers flew him to Tampa for a visit.
He said most of those interviews followed a similar pattern: “Have you ever been in trouble? What’s your family life like? Do you have a girlfriend? Do you have any kids? Are your parents still together? How many siblings do you have? Then all the football questions.”
Heeney said he answered all the questions honestly, including volunteering that he was charged with DUI and racing on a highway in the summer leading up to his freshman season and was granted a diversion.
“That’s not on my record anymore,” he said. “But this day and age everybody is going to know everything about you, so why lie about anything? I’m just straight-up with everybody. I learned from my mistakes and here we are.”
Heeney’s performance for Kansas, plus lobbying from former KU coach Charlie Weis, landed the 6-foot, 232-pound middle linebacker an invitation to the NFL combine. His test results there helped his case. Heeney’s 4.59 time in the 40-yard dash ranked fourth among 35 linebackers. His 11.06-second mark in the 60-yard shuttle was No. 1 and he also had the best times in the three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle.
Anybody who remembers watching Heeney as a gunner on special teams as a freshman for Kansas was not surprised that his speed stood out at the combine. Somewhere rests a stack of T-shirts that could have gone to teammates. Heeney remembered Aaron Stamn, tight ends and special teams coach at Kansas under Turner Gill, speaking after a game, offering a free T-shirt to anyone who could beat Heeney down the field on a coverage team when he was a freshman restricted to special teams.
“It never happened,” said Heeney, a three-year starter for Kansas. “No one ever beat me down on kickoff the whole year.”
That’s because he’s really fast. That’s listed as one of his strengths on the endless thumbnail sketches of NFL draft prospects from various media outlets. Heeney reads as many as he can get his hands on and disputes some of the listed weaknesses.
“There are people who really like me and there are people who think I’m just a terrible player,” Heeney said. “The one that I think is the least accurate is that I’m undersized to play in the NFL.”
He shared an anecdote from his visit to the Buccaneers complex to demonstrate that he’s not the only one who views it that way.
“When I went down to Tampa Bay and I visited with Lovie Smith, who is the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the first thing he asked me when I walked in his office was, ‘Now ,do you think you need to gain or lose weight?’ I said, ‘I think I’m good where I’m at. I don’t need to gain or lose.’ He said that’s a perfect answer,” Heeney said. “They think that anything from 225 to 230 is perfect for their system.”
Heeney cited and disputed one more criticism he has read.
“Another one I think is a bogus stat is that I’m the leader in missed tackles in college football,” Heeney said. “I mean, they don’t have Joe Johnson going through every single game of every single team of every single player counting every single player’s missed tackles. So I think it’s a BS stat to me.”
“That’s a good question. I think someone just stated it one time and it caught on like wildfire,” he said. “It’s not even a stat that’s kepty by anyone. The Big 12 doesn’t keep that as a stat. The NCAA doesn’t keep that as a stat. There is no way to determine what a missed tackle is.”
Heeney shared his view of what a missed tackle is not.
“There were numerous times on the field where there was no way I was going to be even close to getting a tackle and I would just lay out and dive and kind of sweep at someobdy’s feet and try to grab them by their shoestrings and don’t even touch them,” he said. “I would just lay out and sacrifice my body. Does that count as a missed tackle?”
Heeney said he has “no idea,” what team or at what stage in the draft he would be selected. He guessed he would hear his name somewhere in the “third to fifth or sixth range.”
The first round of the NFL draft, carried by ESPN and the NFL Network, starts at 7 p.m. today. Rounds 2 and 3 are at 6 p.m. Friday. Rounds 4 through 7 start Saturday at 11 a.m.
Heeney will watch coverage at his parents Overland Park home with friends and family.
“Hopefully, I can get drafted so it’s not a waste of a party,” he said.
It would be a shocker if seven rounds passed without Heeney’s name being called, but getting drafted is just a step toward an NFL career and guarantees nothing.
“There’s a lot of money to be made in the sport of football,” Heeney said. “Hopefully, I can get a little slice of the cake.”
Staying healthy and making a team’s roster would be the next steps to earning a living playing football, so Heeney hasn’t shopped for luxury automobiles and bling just yet.
“I’m going to try to invest my money, man, just keep stacking it and hopefully in a couple of years I’ll be a lot more wealthy than I am right now,” Heeney said. “Only time will tell. Who knows?”
At this point, nobody knows. The NFL draft is cloaked in secrecy, one of many qualities that make it so compelling.
Guessing which junior-college signees will contribute the most to the program is too inexact to call it a science, but searching for little clues along the way can help make guesses more accurate than putting the names in a hat and drawing them randomly.
A guess at ranking the value of the eight mid-season, junior-college signees who will join the Kansas University football program for the second semester and participate in new head coach Dave Beaty's first spring footballcamp:
1 - M.J. Mathis, 6-2, 205: A former Kentucky commitment, Mathis was recruited by Dave Campo and re-recruited by David Beaty and staff. He has strong coverage skills, hits like a linebacker and is built like an NFL defensive back.
2 - Brandon Stewart, 5-11, 175: The fact he committed to California and then changed his mind bodes well for his chances at KU in two areas. First, he must be a pretty good football player if Cal wanted him. Second, he must have his academic house in order or Cal wouldn’t have looked twice at him.
3 - Ke’aun Kinner, 5-9, 185: What can I say, I’m a sucker for running back highlight videos set to music. As a senior in high school at Little Elm, a 4A school just north of Dallas, he had single-game rushing yardage totals of 432, 345, 343, 339 and 332.
4 - Bazie Bates IV, 6-1, 195: Hard-hitting cornerback/safety looks on video like a guy who really enjoys playing football, which can’t be a bad thing.
5 - Will Smith, 6-4, 315, OL: Fromer Shawnee Mission Northwest behemoth looks to have a shot at winning a starting job with a strong spring.
6 - Jacky Dezir, 6-3, 305: His highlights show a player who never quits on a play and is rewarded by making plays on the opposite side of the field. Then again, that’s why they’re called highlights.
7 - De’Andre Banks, 6-3, 325: One of three players from Trinity Valley CC in Athens, Texas, to enroll at mid-year, joining Stewart and Bates.
8 - Jayson Rhodes, 6-4, 310: A last-minute addition when another lineman backed out of his commitment, Rhodes received just one other offer, from UT-San Antonio.
Understandably, the college football playoff selection committee didn't have the guts to omit undefeated Florida State from its four-team playoff and because of that, no Big 12 team will have a shot at the national title.
TCU dropped from third to sixth after a 55-3 victory against Iowa State. Baylor moved from sixth to fifth, after defeating Kansas State.
"They were really 3 a,b,c and d," selection committee chairman Jeff Long told ESPN. "They were really that close."
It was not difficult to predict correctly in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep the order the committee would seed the teams: 1. Alabama, 2. Oregon, 3. Florida State, 4. Ohio State.
But that's not how I would have voted. I would have had Baylor in there instead of Florida State.
Some will call for the Big 12 to apply for an exception that would allow a 10-team conference to have a playoff game or for the conference to expand to 12 teams. Instead, encouraging conference members to beef up their non-conference schedules is the way to go.
Florida State beat every team it played and nobody else can say that.
Under normal circumstances, that ought to be enough to keep playing for a national title. But with a six-team logjam with only four national-playoff spots available, it’s time for the selection committee members to toss out all conventional thinking and vote based on one parameter.
Each member needs to ask herself or himself: Which four teams are the best in the nation?
Based on that, here’s how I would vote:
1. Ohio State: Nobody had a more impressive victory this season than the Buckeyes’ 59-0 domination of a good Wisconsin team that features the nation’s best running back, Melvin Gordon. And the Buckeyes did it with their third-string quarterback.
Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller lost his entire season to injury. J.T. Barrett played his way into Heisman contention before going down with an injury. Cardale Jones led the Buckeyes to the Saturday night romp of the Badgers.
2. Oregon: Leading Heisman candidate Marcus Mariota (38 touchdown passes, two interceptions) passed for 300-plus yards for the seventh time in Friday’s 51-13 blasting of No. 7 Arizona. Nobody has more speed than the Ducks.
3. Alabama: The Crimson Tide defense is second to none.
4. Baylor: The Bears defeated TCU, always the best tie-breaker.
Florida State didn’t lose a game but probably would have lost a couple if it played in the SEC or Big 12.
Those are my four best teams in the nation and that’s how I would vote. That’s not how I think the committee will vote. The six teams are so close, so let the screaming about the need to expand the field to eight begin.
Best guess on how the committee will seed the first playoff: 1. Alabama, 2. Oregon, 3. Florida State, 4. Ohio State. Nick Saban and Urban Meyer coaching in one semifinal, last season’s Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston going against Mariota, this season’s Heisman favorite in the other semi.
No matter what the committee decides, two schools will be furious and will have plenty to back up their feelings. If this were an eight-team playoff, two schools would feel fortunate to join the six college football teams that stand at the front of the class. This season's outrage will make the eight-team format arrive sooner even than no doubt secretly planned, which is why I'm happy two schools' fan bases will be furious starting today and ending maybe never.
Many across the country might have asked, “Who is David Beaty?” upon learning that Kansas has identified him as its first choice to become next football coach at a school coming off its worst five-year record in history.
High school football coaches in talent-rich Texas need not ask the same. That is the No. 1 reason why KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger chose the Texas A&M recruiting coordinator/wide receivers coach to lead the program.
Zenger is gambling that Beaty, who has just one year of college experience as offensive coordinator, can woo Texas talent to Lawrence better than any KU coach ever has.
Beaty, 44, is a 1994 graduate of Lindenwood College in St. Charles, Mo., where he led the team in receptions for three consecutive seasons.
He played football and soccer at Garland (Texas) High, so maybe he can finally recruit a placekicker he can trust in games.
He first became a head coach at North Dallas High in 2001, where he finished with a 6-4 record. From there, he went to MacArthur High (2002-05), where he went 33-11 in four seasons as head coach.
Next up was the first of two stints at Rice, where he was wide receivers coach in 2006 and 2007.
Beaty joined Mark Mangino’s staff at Kansas for the 2008 and 2009 seasons as wide receivers coach. Turner Gill did not retain him, but brought him back to KU a year later, after Gill’s first wide receivers coach left for Texas.
Beaty wasn’t out of work for long and was brought back to Rice as OC in 2010, when the Owls finished 52nd in the nation with 28.7 points per game, 64th in total offense with 374 yards per game and 64th with 215.9 passing yards per game. He left for Texas A&M after one season.
Beaty has a reputation for being good with generous boosters and fans in general. He and wife, Raynee, have two daughters, Averie and Alexa.
Minnesota coach Jerry Kill has a strong record for turning around losing programs. He is a native Kansan, from Cheney to be exact. He played college football in Kansas (Southwestern). He coached college football in Kansas at Pittsburg State and Emporia State. Plus, he has a colorful personality.
In short, if Kansas decides it would rather have an experienced head coach than interim head coach Clint Bowen, Kill would be the perfect choice to tackle the challenge of reviving a football program that just finished its worst five-year stretch in history.
Kill, 53, is in his fourth season at Minnesota and has the Golden Gophers (8-4) headed to a bowl game for the third season in a row.
Everywhere Kill has coached, he steadily produces better records from year-to-year.
Saginaw Valley State: 6-4, 7-3, 7-3, 9-2, 9-2.
Emporia State: 5-6, 6-5.
Southern Illinois: 1-10, 4-8, 10-2, 10-2, 9-4, 9-4, 12-2.
Northern Illinois: 6-7, 7-6, 10-3.
Minnesota: 3-9, 6-7, 8-5, 8-4.
Now that he has Minnesota moving in the right direction, why would he want to take on an even bigger challenge in trying to get Kansas back into bowl games when playing a schedule that features facing every Big 12 team every season?
Excellent question. But if he is interested in the job, don’t look for him to coach the Gophers in a bowl game before moving. He left Northern Illinois without coaching in a bowl game and took most of his staff with him when he headed to Minnesota, including defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys, who made a strong impression when he took over as acting head coach when Kill took a leave of absence as he recovered from seizures. Kill four times suffered from seizures on game days, but has not had any such issues this season.
Claeys, from Claeys Center, also is a strong candidate for a head coaching job.
If Sheahon Zenger decides that Clint Bowen is not the best man to reverse the fortunes of a football program in the midst of its worst five-year record and saddled by a 2015 roster woefully thin in quantity and quality, look for the following in the background of the coach to whom Zenger turns:
1 - A leader with a background working on offense.
2 - A coach who knows the Big 12’s most fertile recruiting areas of Texas and Oklahoma and would have concrete ideas on how to assemble a staff that has well-placed contacts.
3 - A man with experience leading a turn-around program.
4 - Inside knowledge of what works and what doesn’t in the KU football program.
Third-year Memphis coach Justin Fuente never worked for the KU football program, but he meets all the other criteria.
Fuente, 38, inherited a program that had a 5-31 record in the previous three seasons and, according to the Associated Press, had 51 scholarship players upon his arrival, a figure similar to what KU will have this spring.
Typically, it takes at least three years to show positive signs when starting in such a deep hole. The Tigers (8-3 overall, 6-1 in the American Athletic Conference) are riding a five-game winning streak. Unless upset by UConn on Saturday, the Tigers will win the conference and have their first-game winning streak since 1969. Fuente went 4-8 and 3-9 in his first two seasons at Memphis.
His three losses this season: At UCLA, 42-35, at Ole Miss, 24-3, at home vs. Houston, 28-24.
A native of Tulsa, Fuente played quarterback at Union High and then at Oklahoma. He won the job and lost it a couple of times with the Sooners and then transferred to Murray State, where he excelled.
Fuente was hired by Illinois State as quarterbacks coach in 2001. By the time Zenger was hired as ISU’s AD, Fuente was the offensive coordinator. He left there for TCU.
He doesn’t have the Kansas ties that Clint Bowen, Ed Warinner and David Beaty bring to the job interview, but Utah State head coach Matt Wells does have similar passion, a trait the past two KU football bosses lacked, and he has experience as a head coach.
Wells has been at the school four seasons, worked as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach in 2011, and was recruiting coordinator/quarterbacks coach in 2012. He is 18-8 as a head coach, not including his five seasons spent as Navy’s head coach of the junior varsity squad (1997-2001), a secondary job to working as an offensive assistant.
A native of Sallisaw, Oklahoma, Wells, 41, played quarterback for Utah State, from which he graduated in 1996. After Navy, he spent five seasons at Tulsa (2002-2006), where his duties included recruiting coordinator. Two seasons at New Mexico, a year at Louisville, back to New Mexico for one season and then off to his alma mater to coach for Gary Andersen. During his time as Andersen’s OC, Utah State amassed impressive passing numbers.
Does the geography make sense? The off-the-cuff answer would be no. A deeper probe suggests Wells did a nice job of either maintaining or rekindling the Texas recruiting ties he established during his time at Tulsa. Nine players on the Aggies roster are from Texas.
Consider for comparison purposes that Chad Morris, the highest-paid assistant coach in the nation who came to college football after 16 years as an extremely successful high school football coach in Texas. He works for Clemson, which does not have a single player from the Lone Star state on the roster. Morris and Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman are considered the leading candidates at SMU, but Herman might be in play at Florida as well.
Wells has gained a reputation as an outstanding recruiter and has handled the transition from assistant coach to head coach well.
Ohio State lost four starting offensive linemen, including three NFL rookies, from last season’s team. It showed in a 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech in the season opener for both teams.
That seemed like a distant memory when the Buckeyes went into East Lansing and buried then-No. 8 Michigan State, 49-37, nine weeks later.
Clearly, Ohio State offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner knows how to develop linemen. He knows offense, period. As he showed in three years at Kansas with Todd Reesing at quarterback, he also knows how to coordinator a pass-happy offense.
Everywhere else he has been, the lines he has coached produced big rushing numbers. The Buckeyes rank 14th in the nation with 263.1 rushing yards per game.
Warinner coached on offenses that led the nation in rushing at Army (three times) and at Air Force. He worked twice for Mark Mangino, first as offensive line coach and then after returning from Illinois he was offensive coordinator. With Reesing standing short and playing tall and Warinner coordinating the spread offense and calling the plays, KU had its three best offenses in history in terms of yards per game and passing yards per game.
He spent two years at Notre Dame and has been at Ohio State the past three seasons.
Warinner has worked under head coaches Brian Kelley and Urban Meyer, considered two of the best in the business. At Michigan State, he worked as a graduate assistant for defensive coordinator Nick Saban, who stands at the top of his profession.
Starting with 2007 at Kansas, the teams for which Warinner has worked the past eight seasons have posted a .740 winning percentage.
Can he recruit? Rivals.com thinks so and named Warinner a 2014 Rivals Top 25 recruiter.
Warinner’s daughters, Madisyn and Merideth, worked at the KU football complex.
Warinner has proven all can as an assistant coach and is primed for his first head-coaching job. His chances would be better of that happening at KU if not for Bowen making such a good impression thus far. Sometimes, possession is nine-tenths of the law.
Finally, Charlie Weis’ strategy of recruiting transfers from four-year schools has significantly upgraded one unit of the Kansas University football program.
Receivers Nick Harwell (Miami of Ohio) and Nigel King (Maryland) have had a chance to show their talent since Michael Cummings took over at quarterback, halfway into Clint Bowen’s first game as interim head coach, at West Virginia.
Sophomore Montell Cozart played the first four games and half the fifth game, so he and Cummings both have started four-and-a-half halves.
Cummings faced tougher competition (West Virginia, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Baylor, Iowa State) than Cozart (Southeast Missouri State, Duke, Central Michigan, Texas, West Virginia). The remaining three games (TCU, at Oklahoma, at Kansas State) give Kansas the toughest remaining schedule in the nation, according to computer rankings.
A look the quarterbacks’ numbers:
Cozart...... 64-128-701-50.0%-5.48-5................ 61-128
Cummings 94-158-1,160-59.5%-7.34-5............ 103-142
Now a look at the top three receivers, including senior tight end Jimmay Mundine:
Harwell In halves started by Cozart: 16-121-2
Harwell in halves started by Cummings: 21-280-2
Mundine in halves started by Cozart: 10-119-0
Mundine in halves started by Cummings: 23-281-2
King in halves started by Cozart: 6-92-0
King in halves started by Cummings: 17-276-0
Since Cummings took over at quarterback, Mundine (281), Harwell (280) and King (276) are within a five-yard span in reception yardage totals, an indication of how well Cummings has spread the wealth.
Before Harwell and King came to KU, the Jayhawks didn’t get much production out of transfers Dayne Crist and Anthony McDonald of Notre Dame, Jake Heaps of Brigham Young and Josh Williams of Nebraska. UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard remains third on the quarterback depth chart.
A pair of players who took advantage of the rule that enables graduated players to transfer without sitting out a year have done well after leaving Kansas. Defensive back Tyler Patmon played well for the Oklahoma State Cowboys and recently had a pick-six for the Dallas Cowboys.
Andrew Turzilli, who clocked the second-fastest 40 time on the team, ranking behind only Tony Pierson last spring, has used his speed to make big plays for Rutgers. He has just eight catches for the Scarlet Knights, but three of them have gone for touchdowns and he’s averaging an eye-popping 38.1 yards per catch. Four of his receptions have gone for 36 yards or more and he had a 93-yard TD catch vs. Tulane and an 80-yard catch against Michigan.
Turzilli’s a big target and deep threat, but the way Harwell and King are playing for KU, he would have had difficulty finding playing time.