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Post Turning speed into football results

Monday May 7, 2007

Chip Towers had some nice off-season red meat a few days ago. Several of the players ran for some NFL scouts recently, and Coach Van Halanger shared some of the impressive results.

I should add that neither Towers nor Coach Van made any claims or predictions based on these speed trials. Still, it’s easy to get excited about guys running sub-4.4s. Can’t coach speed, right? Accuracy of the times aside though, that speed still has to translate somehow into results on the football field. Speed is only one attribute of a good football player. The most successful players usually aren’t the fastest. The pure speed track-star types often don’t do well. But speed is a good place to start.

Let me pick on two guys from Towers’ report, Mikey Henderson and A.J. Bryant. Bryant arrived several years ago rated #1 in the nation at the "athlete" position by Rivals.com. Henderson, a converted defensive back, finally got a chance to make an impact last year returning punts when Thomas Flowers was lost for the season. He came through with 367 punt return yards on 25 returns (219 of those yards coming on three returns). Bryant and Henderson were juniors in 2006, so they’ve paid their dues. Yet as receivers they had just 21 receptions between them in 2006. But they’re "athletes", so maybe we got them involved in the offense in other ways. Nope. Two carries total for a net of one yard.

Richt continues to talk up Henderson in particular this spring, and Mikey won "best all-around offensive player" honors for spring. Bryant himself isn’t a slouch. Still, I can’t help but be skeptical about their senior seasons. Will they be used more? Used differently? Are there deficiencies in their skills that keep them from more productivity? Is there a creativity problem in the playbook? Injuries have been a factor, but they haven’t been long-term obstacles. Will they as seniors get more than a reception each per game and the very rare carry?

Just a second, you say. We have other, more productive, receivers and a fleet – a many-headed monster, even – of tailbacks. We can’t get all of these guys 50 receptions and 1,000 yards a season. That’s true, but no one is getting 50 receptions a year lately or coming anywhere close to 1,000 yards. Having so many supposedly talented skill players jumbled up doesn’t mean that you’re blessed with an abundance of options. It more likely means that few have done much to separate themselves. A tight end has led Georgia in receiving yardage and receptions for two seasons now. Forgive me if I question how much we’re getting out of this speed.

On the other side of the ball, Towers said that cornerbacks Ramarcus Brown and Bryan Evans were neck-and-neck as the fastest guys in the time trials. Yet as last year went on, Evans won that other cornerback spot from Brown and looked to claim it as his own in the bowl game. That’s a player doing something positive to sort out a close positional battle. I doubt that Ramarcus will give up, and we’ll see him fighting to get on the field. I wonder if we’ll see more of that with Moreno at tailback this year (here I go buying into hype). Great players stand out even from other talented guys. Felix Jones is a tremendous tailback, but McFadden still shines through for Arkansas. Richt had no problem handing the ball to Musa Smith to the tune of 1,300+ yards.

Rashad Jones and Brandon Wood were two others that Chip mentioned. These two young guys have speed to burn. Jones showed his abilities at G-Day, and Coach Van raved over Wood’s combination of speed and strength. Does that automatically make them destined for success? Of course not. As freshmen, there’s still a lot to learn and work on fundamentally. They’ll be two to watch over the next couple of seasons to see how much the defense can get from them. It’s possible in 2008 to have Brown, Evans, and Jones as part of one fast-as-hell defensive backfield.

One Response to 'Turning speed into football results'

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  • Great points. Speed and strength are just good starting points. Neither does you much good if you can’t run a precise route, catch the ball when it’s thrown to you, follow your blocks, take a proper angle to the ball, make a tackle, or get around a block to get to the quarterback or runner. That’s where good coaching and field instincts come in handy. Let’s coach these young men up!