Happy Thursday Cougs! Hope you are well as you grind towards another weekend. Just thought it would be a good idea to touch on a few things out there today, so here we go.
So, how ’bout those PACKERS?!? I know, not everyone is a fan of the green and gold. I admit that I have been a fan since childhood, as a distant relative of my family was a player on the Lombardi era champions in the 60’s, so I’m partial to little ‘ol Green Bay. But it’s a really interesting thing that they just accomplished, when you consider the following:
1) They really won six straight games in a row that were win-or-go-home time. A lot of people don’t realize it, but they had to win their last two regular season games just to get into the playoffs as the 6th seed. Then they had to go on the road to the top three seeds in the NFC – Philly, Atlanta and Chicago – and win all those, just to get to the big game. THEN they had to vanquish the Steelers on a neutral field, never an easy thing to do! Really quite a run for a team to go on when they barely squeaked into the playoffs.
2) Out of all 20 of their NFL games this year, including the playoffs and Super Bowl, did you know they never trailed by more than 7 points!? At ANY time, in any game!? I know it’s an era of parity and all that, and talent is spread out more than ever in the NFL. And they were the 10th different NFC team in a row to make the Super Bowl, once again showing you how wide open things are on a yearly basis. But to have a 6-seed in the playoffs, never once getting even close to blown out? Even the top seed in the AFC, New England, got blown out at Cleveland. And that in their six losses in 2010, they lost by a combined 20 points? That’s remarkable.
3) Did you know that even with their success, and some salty vets like Donald Driver and Charles Woodson, they were the second-youngest team in the NFL in 2010? Teams this young don’t usually win Super Bowls (duh!), instead they go 4-12 and look towards draft day right about now. They averaged just 27 years of age amongst all their starters in the Super Bowl. And like it or not, they are set up for success for possibly several more years to come. Aaron Rodgers is just 27, Clay Matthews and BJ Raji are just 24, Greg Jennings is 27, Jermichael Finley is 23, etc. Oh yeah, they also had 15 players placed on injured reserve in 2010, the most of any team in the NFL! And as of today, they have 69 players under contract for next year and beyond. With the unpredictible offseason in front of us, you have no idea what is going to happen in regards to free agency, etc, could there be an organization better built for the long run right about now than Green Bay?
Alright, enough of the slurping. Moving on…..
Star ratings are all the rage in recruiting, and for good reason. They help validate programs this time of year, and everything looks great on paper and in the highlight films of the high school talent coming to a stadium near you. But this is also the time of year where the “haves” will roll out the stars and say how great it is, that everything is going to be fantastic in the future, and the “have nots” counter with the lower-rated players who were nobodies on signing day, but became something big down the line.
Take the starting QB’s in the Super Bowl, for example. You know how many scholarship offers Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers had, combined, when they came out of high school? ONE. And that wasn’t even to a BCS school, as Roethlisberger went to MAC-powerhouse Miami of Ohio. We all know Rodgers ended up at Cal, but in high school he wasn’t anything close to the product we ended up seeing in Berkeley, or obviously what we see today. So, Rodgers went the JC route, then transferred in to Cal.
Is the star system flawed? Of course. There are lists and lists of highly-touted signees who never amounted to anything in college, let alone the NFL. And there are lists and lists of players who were looked at as merely practice squad fodder on signing day, only to become all-conference type players. But how about specifics? How about the Pac-10, and the star ratings of those who were on the All-Conference team in 2010?? Ted Miller rounded it all up for you, and it’s pretty interesting to take a look today and see who’s who, and what people thought of these guys when they signed their letters of intent! For example:
- Nine of 22 earned grades of three stars or above. Four players were four-star players. None were five stars.
- The highest ranked players were: Andrew Luck (82), Tyron Smith (81), LeMichael James (80) and Jurrell Casey (80).
- Seven players were unranked. Seven players were ranked 85th or worse at their position.
What’s the point? Never get too high – or too low – based on signing day grades. And further, each school is going to use the “star” system to their liking anyway, spinning it their own way. The USC’s and Oregon’s of the world will tout the star system, helping to somehow validate their top-10 ranking in their current class for the year. Meanwhile the WSU’s of the world will pull out the list of players who were not highly touted coming in, but ended up turning out to be pretty special when it was all said and done. Just remember, it’s all about selling the image and marketing and everything else on signing day. It’s all about the way they SPIN it, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon!
I guess the thing to take from recruiting isn’t how highly touted/ranked your recruits actually are on signing day. What you should take is to look at the talent coming in, and see how they are going to fit your system. LeMichael James was rated the 24th ranked running back in the country, yet there he was as a Heisman finalist for 2010. Now would James work in a power I formation offense as a 25-carry per game guy? Who knows. But what we do know is that in the spread, high octane offense of Oregon, one cannot imagine a BETTER fit than LeMichael James and Chip Kelly’s program! So in the end, it’s all about how the recruits fit your system and how they mesh with your coaches. That’s all that really matters.
Meanwhile, so there is a lot of talk these days about new uniforms for WSU. If you haven’t heard, on or around April 11th of this year, WSU will unveil some new uni’s, as Bill Moos has been working with Nike to help makeover the WSU branding for 2011 and beyond. The talk is that it will be something new in that the logo will be prominent (as it should be), but they will be new and exciting! Hooray new uni’s.
Look, I know some of you roll your eyes when it comes to uniforms. And some of you are absolutely conservative beyond belief, and will shudder to think about what MIGHT be coming in a couple of months. But just know that, well, you don’t really matter in the big picture of uniform design. It hurts, I know….but the uniforms, they aren’t for you! They are for the student athletes, and they care about stuff like this. And new, cool uni’s, they are all part of what Bill Moos is trying to do in Pullman. They are part of the process of making WSU more attractive to the student athletes, all part of what goes in to landing recruits. It goes right along with his vision of the new football facility that will be built into Martin Stadium, all that dedicated space for the football program. It’s the Oregon model, where you take care of the athletes first and everything else will fall into place. He was part of building that thing into the monster that it is today, and you better believe he has a plan and will stick to that plan all the way.
So, that said, what can we expect in the uniform department? There are a lot of rumors floating around that like it or not, we may see BLACK come into the picture in some form or another! That’s right, a black alternate uniform just might make it’s way into the mix. Whether that’s a black helmet, black jerseys, or a “grey out” all the way around, that’s some of the talk out there.
The thing is, and I’ve heard from someone very close to the UW program on this, but one of the biggest recurring themes in recruiting in the last year? All the recruits want to wear black! Why do you think UW went with their “black out” at the end of 2010? Was it just to try something different and unify the team somehow? Maybe. But you better believe recruiting had a ton to do with it.
And look around the new Pac-12 North division, and think about the schools that now have at least a black alternate combo:
UW – black alternate
Oregon – pretty much everything under the sun, including black
Stanford – black alternate
Oregon State – primary home jersey
The only ones who don’t wear black – at least today – are WSU and Cal.
Here’s a video from King 5, where Moos talked to Paul Silvi. Look at the video with about 2:50 left, and hear what Moos says about the number of helmets….
Hmmm…..at LEAST two helmets is all he could confirm?? Would anyone be surprised to see something like this in the near future?
This is at least one “mock” created by a Cougfan poster. But there are also some photoshopped uniform ideas floating around, including:
At least this gives you an idea of what it could look like?
We’ll find out soon enough, but the point is this is all about brand awareness. Get all the colors and fonts and everything uniform across all the programs. Proudly display one of the best logos in the NCAA and be recognizable across the country. And in the end, attract young people to your program! That’s what it’s all about.
Moving on, Bud Withers today wrote an article about the problem with NCAA hoops. And it’s not that it’s a bad product on the court or anything, but quite frankly, it’s the lack of recognizable names and faces that are having a hard time moving the needle for the general masses. I have said this to my good friend Sutra for a few years now, but I have to admit that I have had an extremely difficult time with NCAA hoops over the last few years. I haven’t been able to connect with the sport, because I simply don’t know the players anymore! I know there are diehards out there who can to this day rattle off 10-man rotations across the Pac-10 landscape. I used to be able to do that, but not anymore.
Withers brought up the UNC-Duke game from last night as a prime example. 10-15 years ago, I could tell you everything about both teams, who their 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th men off the bench were in a heartbeat. And UNC-Duke was get your popcorn ready and pull up a chair, absolutely can’t-miss-theater. But last night, you know how many UNC players I can name? Just one, and it’s because his name has been in the news lately for deciding to transfer, Larry Drew II! Otherwise I couldn’t name a single player on UNC’s roster. This from a guy who absolutely loved Dean Smith, and beginning with Michael Jordan and James Worthy all the way to Stackhouse-Wallace and Vince Carter-Antawn Jamison.
I think the problem for me, personally, is there just isn’t time to “fall in love” with a player or a program. The super talents move on too quickly. Yeah, there’s a Klay Thompson here and there, of course, and they are fun to watch and appreciate. But it just all feels too fleeting. I don’t blame kids for going pro as soon as they can, because there is no guarantee of what the future may hold. John Wall went after a productive frosh year, but you felt like he was only scratching the surface for what he could have been in college. But if you are a potential first round draft pick, you should take the leap no matter how old you are.
Maybe that’s why I love college football so much, because of the early entry rule of at least three years of college before you can go to the next level. At least in football we feel like we get a chance to watch the kids grow and develop before our eyes. We get to watch Jeff Tuel and Marquess Wilson and Deone Bucannon all play in Pullman for multiple seasons, and that is really exciting! At least with NCAA football, I feel like I can still root for the names on the back of the jerseys as well as the front. I just don’t feel that as strongly when it comes to hoops.
But I do feel fortunate that we have been able to enjoy Junior years from Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto. And part of the reason I loved the Sweet 16 team from a couple of years ago was being able to watch Derrick Low, Kyle Weaver and Robbie Cowgill become Seniors in WSU uniforms, and even Taylor Rochestie and Aron Baynes after them. So while I am not an NCAA hoops junkie, and basically I pay attention beginning with the conference tournaments and through the month of March, I WILL appreciate the possible final chapter for Klay and DeAngelo!
Finally, some tough news with one of our own. Kathi Goertzen, long time KOMO news anchor and a proud member of Coug Nation, has been battling brain tumors for years. She just underwent 10+ hours of brain surgery last week, and had a setback on Tuesday that sent her back to the hospital.
Over 60,000 people have decided to like her Facebook page, and the outpouring of love has been amazing to see. We are all pulling for Kathi and hope she keeps fighting the good fight with all her Coug heart!
All for now. Enjoy your Thursday, and as always, GO COUGS!