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Archive for June 20th, 2007

wtamuleaf.jpgYou see how I did that? I resisted the urge. The urge to put the word coach in quotes or italics. The urge to follow it with exclamation points or question marks. And I’ll tell you why.

Because I think it’s cheap to do a hatchet job on Ryan Leaf.

Was he a jerk at Washington State, and a blowhard in the NFL? Yes. But that was a long time ago. He never shot up a strip club, raped anyone, or got arrested as far as I can remember. So his biggest crime was being immature, which quite a few of us can cop to being in our early 20’s, if we’re honest. And most of you grew out of it. The rest of us became bloggers.

So I was happy to read that Ryan Leaf has a job as a coach at West Texas A&M University. He is currently the Quarterbacks coach for the Division 2 Buffaloes, located in Canyon, TX, near Amarillo. He even runs his own passing camp. He took the job after returning to WSU and earning his degree in 2005. These are all good things, and speak well of the human capacity for redemption.

So I’m above making fun of Ryan Leaf. I really am. But I am not above having a little bit of fun with his school in the middle of nowhere (really, not all that different from Washington State in that regard), under the guise of a fascinating small-school profile.

Things you might not have known about West Texas A&M University:

  • The Buffs are ranked #19 in Lindy’s preseason rankings, below national powerhouses like Newberry, North Dakota, and Bemidji State.
  • WTAMU offers one doctoral program in…. wait for it…. Agriculture.
  • Leaf is also the head coach of the Golf team, where he may be grooming the next John Daly.
  • A family of four can go to a WT soccer game (men’s or women’s) for the family pass price of $40. Wait… they charge for Division II soccer?
  • wtamugasdisplay.jpgWTAMU hosts the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, where tourists can gaze upon interactive exhibits like the Shamrock Gas sign pictured at right.
  • The University is a part of the Texas A&M system, and yet at sporting events, students are encouraged to form a pair of “buffalo horns” by folding down their middle three fingers and extending the thumb and pinky. But isn’t that kind of like what they do at…. (gulp).
  • With a student body numbering over 7,000, the University is more than 50% of the population of Canyon, which is listed at roughly 13,000.

OK, enough hilarity. I am certainly in favor of higher education in all of its forms, and will be rooting hard for the Buffaloes if I ever think about them again in my lifetime.

Go, Buffs! Hook ’em! Yee-HAW!

If any WTAMU alumni are reading this and want to set me straight, please visit my college traditions website College Rule Notebook, and fill out a survey or write up a feature article about your school. I’ll be happy to eat my words.

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croyle.jpgIf you have read Peter King’s SI.com column ranking the NFL’s starting quarterbacks from 1-32, you know that it was bookended by former SEC lynchpins. At the top is the reigning Super Bowl champion and former Tennessee Volunteer Peyton Manning. At the bottom is projected Chiefs starter Brodie Croyle out of Alabama, who served as Kansas City’s #3 man behind Trent Green and Damon Huard last season.

We’ll hear a lot about why Croyle will fail with the Chiefs, so I’m going to take the homer’s stance and look at this cloud’s silver lining. My favorite all-time Chief was Derrick Thomas, who also came to KC from the Crimson Tide, so I’m pulling for Brodie to make a good go of it with the boys in red, too.

I asked a couple of friends to give me reasons, both historical and current, why Brodie Croyle can succeed with the Chiefs.

First, Alabama fan Newspaper Hack from Journalism is for Rock Stars had this to say about #12:

croylesack.jpgOh, man. How about his first start ever, an ass-kicking of later SEC West champs Arkansas in ’02 (Bama was banned because of probation)? Or how he spent all of ’03 with a separated shoulder? While he needed Prothro to make that catch in ’05 against Southern Miss and D.J. Hall to make a big catch the same year against Tennessee, you can’t discount how important those tosses were to keep Bama in the game. Plus, he took the team on his shoulders and helped mount the drive that put the Tide in field goal range to beat Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl. All Brodie needs is good receivers, and he’ll be great. And he’s a dead-ringer for a young Joe Namath, down to the bad knees.

And, we can only assume, in his overwhelming desire to wear panty hose and Kiss Suzy Kolber.

Todd from Roll Bama Roll threw in these two suggestions from a piece on Arrowhead Pride, as well:

The o-line HAS to protect him. If he has time to set and make his reads, he’s a killer. The kid has all the talent in the world and an arm to back it up, but unfortunately for him (and us) he had to make a lot of passes on the run here because our o-line sucked big time.

lj.jpgA strong ground game. He was able to rely on the run a lot early on at Alabama and that gave him plenty of time to focus on the high percentage plays and get into the rhythm of game speed and to develop chemistry with his receivers without having to win the game all by himself. By the end of his career though, he was able to take the whole team on his shoulders and make plays on his own. If he can do the same in the pros, he’ll step up his game and develop nicely.

So I checked in with Arrowhead Pride‘s creator to see what the Chiefs are adding to the pot to support the new kid, and he gave me this:

Herm Edwards is behind him and is known to play young QBs (Pennington)
bowe.jpg
Dwayne Bowe, while not a powerhouse just yet, will hopefully be able to be Croyle’s no. 1 guy. We haven’t had a reciever like Bowe in a long time.

As always, its nice to have Tony Gonzalez if you’re a QB.

One more player that will help: Larry Johnson.

Bottom line is that Croyle has the arm, has the smarts and will get the reps to succeed.

So let’s put that all together, and see where Brodie Croyle stands if he takes the field on opening day of 2007:

Toughness – His physical toughness was proven by his ability to play through injury in a power conference. His mental toughness was tested early when he played hard through coaching turmoil, probation, and a lack of quality offensive line play.

Coaching Support – Herm Edwards is putting his tacit support behind the young guy. Some might question this, as Huard had some success with the Chiefs’ offense after Green’s injury in ’06, but KC fans are hungry for the hope of something more than game management.

A Running Game – Nobody can argue that Larry Johnson is the perfect running back for a young QB. He will carry the rock effectively, and defenses will have to stack against him, giving Croyle some open targets. If he’s worked on his blitz pick-ups, he’ll be Croyle’s greatest asset.

gonzalez.jpgA Great Reciever – And I would lay this one on Tony Gonzalez still. Don’t let his up-and-down numbers fool you, Tony G. still has the skills. He has been called on to block more than he had to early in his career, but he’s still a threat in the open field, which Croyle should be able to exploit with the defense keying on Johnson. Add in big, fast first-round pick Dwayne Bowe out of LSU, and that means #12 has options.

Offensive Line – Here’s where it gets shaky. Turley, Bober, Weigmann, Waters, and left tackle Damion McIntosh are all that stand between Croyle and a severe weekly beatdown. Added to that, Kris Wilson is listed as lead fullback despite being drafted out of Pitt as a pass-catching tight end in 2004. If these guys can’t create holes for Larry Johnson to run through, the whole house of cards comes tumbling down on Brodie’s head.

Experience – Three completions for 23 yards in ’06. So, in essence, none. We can assume he’ll get a lot of reps in practice and in the preseason, but next season is obviously going to be a sore trial on the young QB’s aforementioned mental toughness. But if there’s one thing we know about the NFL, it’s that you can’t predict quarterback play. There are Ryan Leafs and Rick Mirers at the top of the draft, and there are Tom Bradys and Joe Montanas who slide until later.

One thing the kid does know gives me hope:

Get the ball to the guys that make the Pro Bowl every year. You’ve got the best tight end that has probably ever played. You’ve got one of the best running backs in the league and you’ve got a very good group of receivers. It’s just a matter of knowing where to go with the ball and what coverage and what holes to hit. If you do that than you’ll be successful.

So if old Herm can somehow put together a capable offensive line, and Croyle can exploit the space in defenses made to stop LJ, Kansas City just might not have the worst starting QB around. Most likely, the proof will be in the pudding two years down the road. For this year, let’s just buckle up and hold on tight, and cut the kid some slack, already.

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As most of you probably already know, the Sacramento Kings will unveil William ‘Bill’ Fuller as their new head coach in a news conference this morning. Fuller is the former head coach of the Deering Tornadoes, a high school team in Indiana. He left that position after three seasons to become the head coach of the University of South Florida. Coach Fuller is a players coach to say the least. His in game strategies often times take a back seat to his players learning life lessons along the way. It should be interesting to see how Ron Artest responds to this type of mentor. While some pundits remarked that it seemed a huge jump for Fuller to make going from head coach of a high school team in Indiana to the head coach of a Big East team, others might feel that the jump is nothing compared to transitioning from a sub-par NBC saturday morning sitcom star to coach of the NBA Sacramento Kings.

I personally enjoy all of Coach Fuller’s work dating back to his playing days when he was still known as Reggie Theus. With the exception of Reggie Miller, Theus was probably the greatest Reggie in NBA history. Then again, I’ll have to check with ESPN’s ‘Win Probability’ CWS scale on that one…



Shorty is creator and lead writer of Milk Was a Bad Choice

(editor’s note: We love Coach Fuller around here, and we talked about him during college basketball season, too.)

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hep_rock.jpgThroughout the reports of health difficulties for Indiana football coach Terry Hoeppner, and the attendant media attention jostling around the football program he was building, the only place I looked for meaningful thoughts was The Cobra Brigade. I know the men of the Cobra Brigade are IU alums, and that this story goes deeper for them than just “what will our record be this year?” and “who will coach the team?”.  They have always viewed Terry Hoeppner as a man, rather than a story.

Cobra Brigade correspondent Bruce Paine is close enough to the subject for it to really hurt, so when he sets that temporarily aside to put thoughts on a screen for all of us to read, I pay attention. Now that Coach Hoeppner has passed away, I urge you to read his piece, titled Hoeppner More Than Just A Coach. It is packed with facts and radiates admiration for a man who personified strength through adversity for all who witnessed his life and his death.

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