Posted by: petemangurian | June 20, 2012

Columbia Football: All In

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

Our Team was at work again this past Saturday. Columbia Football Junior Day 2012 was a great success. Prospects and parents got a first hand look at who we are, and how we do things. As in any endeavor, vision, preparation and a commitment to a common goal were the precursors to this success, but that wasn’t even the best part.

The single most powerful statement made last Saturday was that the Faculty, the University Administration and the Football program are a team in the development of this program. The collective knowledge, efforts and actions of these three groups are our most powerful tool in our evolution. Any message that infers a division or a disconnect between the three branches of this program is absolutely false, as evident by the action of all those involved Saturday. Leave all those excuses and stories in the Hall, we have moved on.

Our first objective was to put together a group of prospects that allowed us to spend time with each young man and his family. We avoided the issues of some of our competitors who boast of huge numbers, but spend little or no time with these families individually. Our most important commodities at Columbia are the people involved and committed to the entire development of each young man in our program. I have said numerous times, recruiting is a process – we evaluate the recruits and they evaluate us. “Us” is Columbia University, not just Columbia Football.

The efforts and commitment of Faculty like Dean of Columbia College Jim Valentini, Chair of the Faculty Athletics Committee, Patricia Grieve, Dean of Academic Affairs, Kathryn Yatrakis, Assistant Dean Megan Rigney and Professor Susan Elmes, all come with expectations that we will support and hold accountable each and every player on our team as it relates to their academic responsibilities. We take that responsibility very seriously. Our efforts in the development of each player only begin with his arrival on campus.

Director of Admissions Peter Johnson, and Assistant Director of Financial Aid, Pam Mason addressed the “realities” of recruiting. Peter and Pam play their most important roles completely separate from one another, but their decisions are based on accurate, open evaluation of the facts concerning each prospect. Peter expects us to do our due diligence on each young man we present for his evaluation. Peter evaluates and decides on an applicant’s ability to not only succeed, but also thrive and contribute at Columbia. Pam Mason believes that she has the “best job in the world.” She gets to make it possible for each student to receive an education and experience a University that will change their lives.

Our Enrichment Services team lead by Senior Associate Athletic Director Jackie Blackett, along with Jessica DePalo and Jesse Hendrix, addressed our academic support and career development programs. We are committed to creating a four-year opportunity for every athlete in our program. We are committed to creating the opportunity for each of our players to develop the confidence, the contacts and the abilities to integrate into whatever field or career they choose. We are committed to the opportunity, but it is up to each individual to take advantage of these opportunities. We are confident that by maximizing the four years of opportunity that we present, we have provided a road map for success for the next forty.

There are more people who played their part in this event, our athletic trainers, doctors and nutritionist. Our current players and athletes from other teams helped us throughout the day. Our sports information department, our facilities team, our equipment staff and our coaches all played their parts. Our Athletic Director Dianne Murphy provided support and resources every step of the way. When it’s all said and done, this was a team effort, and that’s the best part.

There are those who will say that all of this has nothing to do with winning and losing. That all that matters is what happens on the ten Saturdays in the fall. Wins are the goal, what we are working on here are the methods, building a program. We are creating long-term strategies that will be refined and adjusted as the situation dictates. There are still a few strategic moves that we will make before August 18th; there is still some foundation work to be done. The product will be a testament to the combined efforts of the team, and the commitment of so many that see the value in what we are creating.

Posted by: petemangurian | June 11, 2012

First shot, no flinching!

By now, you may have heard that we have not been selected to play on TV as part of the new Ivy League deal with the NBC Sports Network this season. Is anyone really surprised? I’m not.

The underlying, fallback position from those involved in this decision was our won-loss record last season. Regardless of what we think, they can always justify their decision with our record. Now what?

We will not be defined by our past.

When I said that at my press conference in December, I was talking about how we defined ourselves. How other people define us is of no consequence. We must remain committed to change from within. Now we are faced with what is perceived by some as a “slap in the face” or a “lack of respect,” or, my own personal favorite, that “it’s not fair.” How we respond to this situation will speak volumes about who we are or how far we have come.

We are what our record says we are. We were a 1 and 9 team last season. There is no curve, no “should have” or “could have.” You either win or lose. We have one chance each week to get it right. It comes down to one play, when you “got to have it,” do you nail it or not. As soon as we leave this reality, we start down the road to the past, all the reasons it won’t work here, all the excuses that have mired us in the past.

Do I think this is all NBC Sports? No – I believe there is more to it, but that’s just my opinion. For those of us who have been around this league enough, these things rarely happen in a vacuum. The bottom line is that this will have nothing to do with our winning or losing this year. This does not hurt our team, it just hurts our feelings.

Our alumni are mad. I can’t blame them. The people who support our program are mad, and that’s O.K. In fact, it’s a good thing. What is our answer to this insult? Are we going to pull together and push back as a group, or are we going to point fingers and complain?

We all have a job to do to make this program what we believe it can be. I can’t do yours, and no matter how badly some of you want to, you can’t do mine. Fill the stands, support our players and coaches and be a part of something special. Meet the buses when we come off a road win, come watch practice during training camp, help us build a program that is different from our competition. We need our fans to come to all of our games – TV networks don’t like broadcasting from empty stadiums.

The people who touch this program everyday are doing everything they can. I’m not saying that it’s easy; it’s not. Changing a culture is difficult, but we have recruited the right players. The players that are here have the toughest job, and they have accepted the challenge. Most importantly, the young men out there that we are currently recruiting are already seeing what we can offer and want to be part of it. Columbia has so much to offer, we will continue to get better from within.

It’s easy to blame everyone else for our challenges, but it won’t work. If there is something wrong from within – trust me, I will identify, challenge and fix it. You have heard me talk about goals and methods, our goal are clear: be the absolute best we can be in all areas.

How can you help? The methods are for each of us to do what is best for the team, no matter what that is. Be accountable, be part of the solution, not part of the problem. We say we are committed to winning; we need to be committed to change. Recreating the past, good or bad, will never work. Every year, every team, every challenge must be looked at and acted upon within the current context. I’ll tell you what I’ve told the current players: leave all your baggage in the hall when you show up in August, we are moving on.

If we want things to change, each of us has to change. Put the team first.

Someone outside the family has rejected us, taken a shot at us, is trying to keep us were we have been, keep us in our place. We can focus on them, or stay focused on us. Our energies are better spent focused on us, don’t be distracted. The first shot has been fired, there will be more.

No flinching.

Posted by: petemangurian | June 1, 2012

Opportunity, Environment and “One Heartbeat”

All we are guaranteed is an opportunity; an opportunity to create something new, to sustain excellence, to create an environment. It’s easy to try and short-cut the process; to get something for just being there – reward by association. I’ve never felt completely comfortable when I have found myself in those situations. I have always felt like I really had to work harder than the people around me so I could contribute. The reality of working and living in a great organization is that the people that are already there got there because they understand what it takes. They are hard to outwork. The challenge for successful organizations is to sustain that success, and not be consumed by all the things that success can bring.

I believe that what our program really offers is opportunity. I think these opportunities have always been here – the quality of faculty, the success of our alumni in every field, and maybe our most unique quality, New York City. I don’t think anyone can argue with the fact that proximity can affect opportunity. What we are creating is an environment that is conducive to each player being able to take advantage of the opportunities that are available. That said, it’s not just the reward at the end of the journey, but it’s the journey itself. We can never assume that everyone is aware or even capable of recognizing the opportunities that are available. Professors create an environment for learning, but each student has to take advantage. They have to do the work and take the test. As coaches we create an environment for physical development, but each player has to lift the weights, practice with a purpose, and play the game.

We are looking for the guy who understands that the “process” of becoming good at anything is what has the most value. Once you figure out how to become really good at something, once you get it, you have created a roadmap for future success. This is the basis on which we recruit: What has this young man done in his life that leads us to believe he gets it? Is he really good at something – or just a participant?

Of course we look at football skills, performance, grades and test scores, but there is more. We want guys with the self-awareness and confidence to be accountable and never satisfied. We want guys who are committed to making their teammates better, and being part of something bigger than just themselves. We want players who, when they get to know us, realize that their opportunities will be increased because the people they will live with, and play next to, are here for the same reasons they are. Coach Bryant used to say “be able to recognize winners, they come in all forms”, there is way more to this than height, weight and speed.

I came to Columbia to win, but I learned something from Dan Reeves years ago, “goals are no good without methods.” I have an outstanding staff. Our challenge is to create an environment that facilitates the growth of our players as students, players and people. We have the play books, we have the buildings, weight rooms, classrooms, libraries and playing fields. Our most valuable assets are the people who use those facilities with the intention of being the best they can be. Give me the guy who recognizes the opportunity, and understands that the journey is as important as the destination. Give me the guy who understands how important the environment is to his development, and is motivated by his obligation to be a part of something bigger than himself.

Posted by: petemangurian | May 21, 2012

Building our Team, our way.

Let’s start with all the politically correct disclaimers. There are a lot of ways to evaluate players, and every one of them has worked for a long time, at every level. Personnel evaluation has become a sport in itself. With scouting services and “star” ratings for prospects, the NFL draft has gone prime time, and people watch the combine closer than a lot of coaches, because it’s all on video and the statistics are all compiled for you.

When I first went to “Indy” we went to the weigh-in sessions “hours” early so we could get a close up look at each guy, in order to evaluate his body composition and potential for growth. Evaluating was a skill, and somewhat of a gift. I sat next to Al Miller, the current strength coach of the Oakland Raiders. Al was our strength coach with The Broncos, The Giants and The Falcons; he is the best I’ve ever been around. Some guys had to really work at it, and some just went by the numbers. Al Davis sat in the same seat every year, right at the starting line of the 40-yard dash. Mr. Davis wanted to see them close up, and he was so close, he could feel how explosive they were. No one ever sat in his seat. It was just understood – it was his. That is another story for another time, but suffice it to say everyone evaluates differently.

That brings us to “recruiting.” How much of it is evaluation and how much is marketing? Is it all about collecting players or about building a team? Do you just go after the best athletes, or the players that fit your program? How big a part is “player development” after you get them on campus? What is involved with “player development”? Do you walk away from talent because ” he just doesn’t fit in”? Do you take the marginal athlete because his intangibles “are off the chart”?

There is a lot of marketing from both sides. Every prospect has a highlight film on the Internet, complete with statistical graphics and music. These clips show only the best of the prospect, all the things he can do, and although that’s what we look for when evaluating tape, it’s not enough. They (the prospects) know a lot more about us than we know about them. The Internet has changed everything. Social media is a huge part of most of these young men’s lives. Coaches may get “one call” during May, but websites and email are working overtime. Before we get caught up in the frenzy, there are some steps that we are going to take to make sure we are using our time wisely.

It all starts when you evaluate your own players – the ones you deal with everyday. When your staff is new, you constantly evaluate your own players. During those meetings you learn to speak the same language and see through one set of eyes. We define words and phrases like, “short area quickness”, “explosive”, “and powerful”. “What does “instinctive” mean, and more importantly, what does it look like on film?” “What do you see on tape that makes you believe this guy can play?” What do “good hands” look like? Quickness, agility, body control and balance – are those strong points or weak points? Are the weaknesses you see a result of lack of ability, strength or development? Are the strengths you see due to outstanding ability, the result of a great system, or a poor level of competition? One of the biggest differences between player evaluation in professional football and college is that every coach in college is involved in evaluating players that don’t play his position. This dynamic is why it is so important to sit together and communicate, coach to coach, explain what each of us is looking for. Believe me, I give my opinion, and break all ties, but I have tremendous confidence in our staff. I know what it is supposed to look like. My work is to pass my experience on to each of them.

 

We have a profile for each position that includes height, weight and speed minimums (although getting an accurate time is difficult, this is where summer camps become so important). These numbers start with your own team. What does six-foot-four-inches really look like? What do the best players at their position on our team and on the competitions team look like? What do we have to look like to match up with the people we play? Every year you reevaluate what you need to win.
Here again, I know what it is supposed to look like, but if you ever start believing you’ve got it all figured out, you don’t. Three different people are going to evaluate each prospect. At the end of that evaluation, I’ll give him a final grade, and that’s his position on ” the board”. I sat for thirteen years and watched Dan Reaves put the whole draft board together, and read, watch and grade each player. I’m grateful for the experience. Back then the draft was longer and we would rank two to three hundred players. Makes setting up a recruiting board seem easy.

 

As easy as it would be to make it all about the numbers, it’s not. It’s much more about the people, reasoning, flexibility, determination, drive and capacity. You have to talk with the people who have first hand experience with the prospect. The more we talk the better. Idle friendly conversation is great, but there is always something to learn. We have to find out about them and they have to find out about us. The intent is to inform and educate. We are not interested in having to de-recruit players once they get here. It’s not good for them or for us. This is where the Ivy League gets tricky. We are going to talk about our program, the strengths that Columbia has to offer to the specific recruit. We believe that we are a good match for any young man that we actively recruit. If it is not a good fit, we move on. The same as recruits will choose not to visit if they do not feel we are a good fit for them.

 

I made mention of the Ivy League being tricky, believe me it is. It is very easy to see how some schools have developed their recruiting techniques. Parents and players can be deceptive at times; there is a lot a stake. Gaining admission to any of these schools is difficult. Being supported by the football program opens the door for many of these young men. The opportunity that is afforded to these prospects may escape the player himself but seldom escapes the parents. Our intent is to be ourselves, be honest and find out as much as we can, while letting the prospect find out what he needs to know to make the best decision for him. Full disclosure, no hidden agendas, no talking between the lines. If our message resonates with a prospect, and he “gets it”, then he is our kind of guy. If our message doesn’t resonate, then he should probably go somewhere else. We feel it’s important that he find that out for himself. We aren’t going to call him while he’s on someone else’s campus. We aren’t gong to threaten him with loosing our support if he visits another school. These players need to see it all and make a decision, one that they feel good about and live up to. Different schools recruit different ways. It would be easy to say let’s do business as business is being done; we are not going to do it.

 

We have spent the last four weeks identifying potential prospects. It wasn’t as much recruiting, but more evaluating. In the near future we will have a Junior Day, and hold four one-day camps at the end of June. The more we can be around these players the better it is for both of us. While the recruiting gets started, the evaluation process continues with video, film reports and information gathering. We will spend more time and energy on the evaluation component than the recruiting piece. Recruiting is just like everything else – the harder you work the better you do. Telling the truth, and being yourself doesn’t require a lot of effort. Preparation is the key; preparation and a clear picture of what you want to be. We’re on our way. We will find who is right for us. We have a plan, we have a system, and we have plenty to offer.

 

Posted by: petemangurian | May 14, 2012

Two Teams

Now it begins. The next phase is the stuff that doesn’t show, but is incredibly important. The era of good will is over, the honeymoon, so to speak. The players are gone. We wait to see their grades – did they do better? We evaluate our roster – what does it look like after the emotion of the moment passes? What does it look like when we just look at it for what it is, and not for what we hoped it would be?

What will our players do when no one is watching? Will the novelty of a new voice and a new system fade? Will we choose to do what we have been asked, or fall back into the world of “good enough” and “better than before”?

My own approach will still remain the same. We will continue to find the players we need to get better. We have one more week of spring recruiting left, and three more days to continue to build our team and our identity with high school coaches all over the country. The coaches in schools we have been in before have heard about what we are doing, the energy around our program, and the way our players have responded. Even more exciting is the response we have gotten from those schools we have never been in, the ones off the well worn paths. There are young men all over this country who have the talent, drive and capacity to excel at Columbia, and to contribute and thrive in this environment. Student-athletes and their families who will not be blinded by the hype, will listen to our message, and understand what a unique opportunity Columbia presents.

Everyday I am re-energized by the attitudes of the people around our program. I am energized by our efforts to create programs that are unique and give us an advantage. We are behind right now, but we will close the gap quicker than most might think. Don’t think for a minute that the other guys aren’t watching, they are. Don’t think for a minute they “believe” we can’t do it – they know we can.
We will take our hits, but it won’t last forever. We have too many advantages, too much to offer and all the resources we need for now. Right now I’m sure they are just keeping an eye on us. They are not foolish enough to ignore us.

Wednesday the seniors graduate. Quite an accomplishment. It’s hard to appreciate how hard they have worked to compete in the classroom and on the field unless you have seen it, or more importantly done it. I look forward to each class’s graduation. I know they will be in a better position when they go, than when they got here. There is tremendous promise in what we are doing, I don’t know how you ever grow tired of creating something every year. We will never try to recreate history – each year is different. Each team is different and dealing with the changes is the challenge. We will always have to change, evolve and adjust. We will always have to face our doubts. The only way is to be honest about where you are, know where you want to go, and not get distracted along the way.

When we went on he road three weeks ago, the new year began. Right now we are faced with the challenge of getting better without the players. Friday, I met with a representative from every department that touches our football program in any way. These people are our management team. I felt it was important for everyone to hear what each of them do. When we all sat down I was stunned by the collective quality of the group. We didn’t cover all I had hoped, but what we did do, was communicate and share ideas, open, free discussion, collective wisdom. I’ve be fortunate to be a part of great organizations, the Giants, Patriots and the Broncos, all of them were great “teams” on and off the field. I refuse to believe we cannot win. There is always a way. We have the right people, we have a common goal, the enemy within is the only one who can stop us.

My job is to coach this team, and create an environment conducive to learning and maturing, in mind, body and character. I will protect my team, my staff and myself from distractions. My door is always open, but the team comes first. I will do what is best for my players. Every decision will be based on what is best for our team, individually and collectively. That is my top concern.

We will spend the month of June on opponent evaluation. We will be putting the collective wisdom of the group to work, as it relates to football and everything that effects us. I like both our teams.

Posted by: petemangurian | May 3, 2012

Spring Game, Special teams

In the grand scheme of things, we spent a considerable amount of time on Special Teams. We may be the type of team that will need to manufacture points in the kicking game, but that remains to be seen. “Teams” are where careers are started and toughness can be developed. In our case, young players will get their chance and “program guys” can have a role. On every team there are those players who are a step slow, don’t have the prototypical size or lack the ball skills needed to be a full-time starter. In a lot of cases these are the overachievers who can make you better from the bottom up. We all search for those five to six “core” special teams players – the unselfish guys you trust and the tough guys who just want to play.

As I have said several times throughout this process, our number one objective was to identify those players who would fit into our system and philosophy. We worked three separate periods a day on special team fundamentals. We spent only a couple of days on the actual schemes. We felt we could teach the skills, and evaluate the players, without adding the assignment component. As we would expect, doing it in a drill and doing it on the field are very different. But we have enough to teach off of, and more importantly, we know who can count on.

During the scrimmage we mirrored six to eight situations with both the Ones and the Twos. We had some late substitutions, that I was not happy with. Those errors provided another lesson to learn, and another chance to coach it. Just getting eleven players on the field should not be that tough, “bad football”.

Kick off coverage sets the tempo. You either have scored and are trying to keep momentum, or you are starting a game or a half, and are trying to get momentum. The first day I ever met with the team I told them, we are going to find our ten toughest, fastest, most physical players and they are going to cover kick offs. Our timing with the kickers was acceptable. There is a new rule this year that cover guys can be no further than five yards from the ball. This limits a running start to five yards, and it used to be ten. I was not pleased with the coverage away from the location of the ball. Some of it was technique, some was awareness, either way it needs to improve. The actual kicks were acceptable, good location and hang time. We did have a kickoff go out of bounds, again, “bad football.” As for returns, Fisher, Grant , Deveau and Braddock, all had a chance to handle the ball. We may have some competition here from the incoming freshmen. I was pleased with the initial fits on the Kickoff return units, although we set up to close to the returner at times.

We have implemented a new punt protection system. Matt Thurin, our special teams coach, believes in it and I’m becoming an advocate the more I watch and understand it. The concepts are simple, consistent and clear. In short we can teach it, and the players can execute it. The punting was good – good distance, hang time and with one exception, good direction. We lacked proper spacing at times around the returner, but there were numerous examples of what we have worked on, executed correctly. Our hold up on the returns was a strong point. The drills we did during practice were evident and our effort was what we expect. There are a lot of little things that we missed, but overall I was pleased with the punting phase.

As pleased as I was with punting, I was equally disappointed in the place kicking. Poor kicking, poor protection, and overall poor execution. Our rush was effective, due to poor protection, not outstanding rush attempts. WE have a long way to go in this area, and it will be an emphasis during training camp.

In review, we played everyone to see what they would do. We will be much more deliberate in our personnel moves and decisions come August. In a perfect world you play a limited number of full-time starters on teams. I don’t know if we will have that luxury. I feel we have identified the people who can be core special team players for us. I think we have identified the players who really don’t have the skill set or make-up to be special team players. As with every other phase of our development , I believe the freshmen will have an impact on this area, as blockers, cover players, rushers and most importantly as returners.

As a side note, I have spent the last four days, meeting with each player individually.

Posted by: petemangurian | April 24, 2012

The Spring Game, defense

Smart, physical and relentless TEAM defense.   That’s what we want to be known for. Defense by its very nature has an attitude.  The best players have an attitude. If you are going to stand there and take the best shots an offense can give you, you better have an attitude, but you better play together and be relentless. There is nothing more intimidating than 11 players who are going to challenge you every play, together.

From a technical standpoint, we want to stop the run, tackle well and not give up big plays. These ideas are not novel by any means, but understanding the opponent, recognizing the keys to each play and adjusting, make it all happen. Right now we are intent on finding out who is tough enough, smart enough and disciplined enough to count on. We have a pretty good idea who our guys are, now we have to train them. One thing you can’t train is that attitude we were talking about. You either have it or you don’t.

Overall we showed very little Friday night as far as scheme is concerned. We played our base fronts and coverages. On the other side of the ball we were also pretty vanilla – no one was really trying to fool anyone. Right now we have more important things to find out. We did sit some players after only a few plays.  We were not going to find out anything we didn’t already know, so why take the risk? The few plays that Murphy, Martin, Olinger and Adebayo played, did confirm our beliefs..

We have some talent and some depth on the defensive front. I was especially pleased with Greg Lee, we had seen flashes, but this was a consistent performance. Will Patterson has performed this spring and has done the little things to get better, it shows. The battle for the 5th defensive end spot will be a good one, during training camp. Washington has improved throughout the spring, but he needs to keep getting stronger.  He has potential to contribute and step up next year. Childress and Melka have also improved and they factored on Friday. Childress would be the most improved defensive lineman this spring, but the proof will be told next fall. I think we all got tired as the night went on.  Our pads got high and we didn’t hold the point consistently. Our pass rush was spotty, but I did like the “speed to power” transition that we showed on numerous plays. There is plenty for us to improve on, but overall I think we can be competitive.

At linebacker, we are pleased with the group overall. Friday we played downhill and physical versus the run. At times we were put in some tough coverage match ups and played well. As a staff we will be very aware of these match ups and make sure we don’t put our guys in a situation that is not advantageous for us. Murphy and Waller are both seniors.  We are fortunate to have players like Luster and East behind them who will be able to step in when needed. Olinger held down the mike position, and has performed well all spring. Zach made a play early in the evening on which I felt his celebration was a little more about “him” and not “with” his teammates, but Zach is a consummate team player, that’s not like him. All our linebackers are on all of our special teams and each has a role to play. They played Friday as they have practiced – tough and consistent. We are not there yet, but I trust these guys.

Our incoming class in the secondary is very strong, I would be surprised if they do not figure prominently in the fall. That being said we do have some players we feel good about, and some that have earned a longer look. DeVeau has performed well most of the spring at corner. There was a dip in his performance in the middle weeks, but he has maintained his spot at this point. Our corners are asked to be tacklers and cover guys, so physically aggressive play is required. On occasion we were too aggressive on Friday. People will take advantage of our aggressiveness if we are not disciplined. Carter and DiTommaso were limited by injuries, but showed enough to warrant a longer look. Their summer work will tell us a lot about how much we can trust them. We moved Braddock and Cummins from wide receiver to safety and both improved. Cummins is a senior and the game moves a little slower for him, which is a good thing.  He is smart and tough. Braddock plays on the edge of “out of control” and needs to pick his spots, but it’s a lot easier to pull back than to get guys who want to hit you. Skalitsky factored the other night.  He refuses to go away and has gotten our attention, in a good way, by chasing the big pass play and with some PBU’s.

It is natural for the defense to progress faster than the offense does. We clearly have more experience and depth on defense, but we will be tested in all phases, with tough physical running attacks and wide open explosive passing games. Our ability to adjust from series to series, stay physical, and create turnovers and field position will determine our success. Let’s be honest, we will face more explosive offenses than the one we faced Friday night, so let’s not get to excited yet. I like our attitude and work ethic. As a coach you want your players to play on the edge, do business as business is being done. We will play the game the way it needs to be played to win. Our ability to adjust will be the key.

Nothing can replace game experience. Bigger and tougher tests await, but I like what we are seeing to this point. It’s only a start.  We have begun a process that could help us be a competitive team. How we progress from here will validate what we have done to this point. It’s a start, nothing more.  It’s up to our payers to make it meaningful. I am confident of one thing – training camp will be physical and competitive.

Posted by: petemangurian | April 24, 2012

The “Spring Game” offense

Coaches have an old saying, “it’s never as good as you think and never as bad as you think”, after watching the film several times, I would agree. The one thing to keep in mind as you read my comments are, as a head coach it’s never great, when one side does well it means the other side did something poorly. The last point that needs to be made is that our goals as a staff, may not be what yours are as a fan. There are seemingly successful plays that are a series of bad technique and execution. This game has so many moving parts that once in a while, ” a blind squirrel does find an acorn”, as fans we cheer, as coaches we realize it’s not good enough for sustained success.

OFFENSE
I will begin with what we must have for us to be the best we can be, effective QB play. I would say overall we were inconsistent. I used to tell Michael Vick, “just make the plays that were there to be made, the great ones will happen.” Friday we did not always make the plays that were there to be made, two wide open receivers for touchdowns, wide open backs in the flat, too much scrambling with our eyes NOT down the field. The ball must be thrown on anticipation, we can’t wait until a receiver is open to let the ball go.We had some passes completed to backs who ran the wrong route. Fridays scrimmage was all about situations and clock management, we will learn, we don’t have forever. On a positive note, I think the 2 minute drill before the half was well run. We made some good decisions, elementary but good. We expect a lot, our standards are high.

I have been disappointed with our line play throughout he spring. That being said, I thought we played better Friday. The 2 minute drill at the end of the game was dismal. There were 2 false starts, both backed up, although the penalty is minimal, it shows a lack of concentration, lack of awareness of the moment and mental toughness. We can not and will not play that kind of football, it will destroy us. During the 4 minute and backed up periods we did execute our running game and were effective overall. Our pass protection was good more often than not, I thought we worked together well and used our help (our backs helped when they were supposed to.) I thought our center play was better, Ryan Thomas has improved, this is a pivotal position for us. I have an affection for these guys, but I expect more and am probably harder on them than anyone else. Our incoming freshmen will create competition at this position, that is exactly what we need.

When you evaluate running backs, ball security is at the top of he list, the ball was on the ground way to much ( once is to much). The situations we worked on were not conducive to big runs, it was more about tough,hard running and good decisions. Our vision is not good enough, it’s hard to tell sometimes if it’s “can’t” or “won’t”, but either way it needs to improve. We are not confident enough to be aware of the situation and still let our instincts play a role in our decisions. Our fullback played a huge role in our run game the other night, we have work to do, but I trust him to do his job. Protection was effective most of the night. Our decisions on routes out of he backfield were OK, but our awareness was poor at times. I thought Marcorus Garrett showed up, will he do it every week?

I am most concerned about the tight end position. At the moment we just don’t have enough of them on campus. Hamilton, Demuth and McKown all must improve over the summer, both as blockers and receivers. We had a false start and a drop on a contested ball, that’s not good enough.

The wide receiver position will be the most effected by this incoming class. We did not win the battle for contested balls the other night. To be fair, the throws were not always where they we’re supposed to be, but we have to catch the ball. We have improved at his position over he spring, we are better. There is a physical and a creative side to this position. This is not the NFL, you can get hit past 5 yards. We need to be more physical in our route running, more aggressive for the ball, and more courageous over the middle. Our blocking was better (when the QB moved us to get in position), speed and physicality are on the way, let’s see what competition will do.

Wednesday, I will address the defenses performance, and on Thursday, the special teams.

We are on schedule, do I wish we were further along? Absolutely. As coaches we have a good idea who has bought it in, we will work with those guys, everyone will earn their reps in training camp. There will be no free passes, you will get what you work for. None of us should be comfortable, there is a lot more road to travel. Friday night was just another marker on the road to the 2012 season.

Posted by: petemangurian | April 21, 2012

A word about tonight.

There is 1 more new lion to be introduced, and then we are done. He was at the game tonight. Getting his deposit paid this weekend , then I’ll announce. 14 incoming players and parents attended tonight. Great players and people, from great families, our guys.

We had some players step up tonight. It’s always like that, in a bigger moment, people will separate themselves from the crowd. Still to many mistakes, covered a lot of situations, 4 minute, backed up, red zone and 2 minute. We worked all the kicking game, didn’t kick well over all, but executed all returns and coverage.

What we do between now and August 18 will go a long way in deciding how much we can improve. Tonight was just a marker on our path to the 2012 season, nothing more, nothing less.

Posted by: petemangurian | April 12, 2012

“Good but not enough”, New LIONS!

Wednesday April 11th was the best practice of the spring , so far. Now that we have taken a step, the challenge will be to see if we can continue to grow and be consistent. As will always be the case, “good, but not enough”.

New Lions in the club:Mathew Cahal CB, Eric Kuklinski OL, Trevor Bell WR-KR, Marshall Markham OL, “Toba” Akileye DE, Austin Stock OL, Chris Conners WR, Michael Zunica FB,Brandon Blackshear CB, Keith Ramljak OL, Isaiah Gross WR, Max Keefe LB, Andrew Dobitsch WR, Daren Napier DT, Mike Gerst RB, JD Hurt DL, Billy Lawrence OL, Travis Reim CB. Eighteen new Lions, our guys, who know exactly what they are getting into ,and what is expected. Veterans, leave your baggage outside the door on August 18th, we are moving on.

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