Thursday, January 25, 2007

First-Round Mock Draft

God I love the Draft! I love how in one weekend the future of the NFL is forever altered. I love the trades, I love the second-guessing, I love Chris Berman getting loopy as ESPN heads into the tenth hour of coverage, I love the last player in attendance sitting there praying to get picked soon so ESPN can stop shoving cameras in his face (two years ago Aaron Rogers put on a performance for the ages in this role), and mostly I love watching all the college football highlights four months after the season ended. Like I said earlier, for junkies like me the NFL Draft is a football oasis in the desert of April. By the way, my favorite draft site on the planet is NFL Draft Countdown - Scott Wright is a true draft freak and he does a tremendous job putting as much information as possible out there. I don't agree with all of his projections but I'll take him over Mel Kiper any day of the week. Anyway, here's my first mock draft of the season. Obviously a lot's going to change after the all-star games, NFL combine, free agency, and pro days are over but I think this is a pretty good starting point:

QB JaMarcus Russell, LSU
The Raiders offense in '06 was one of the most pathetic units on either side of the ball that I've seen in a long, long time. There are a ton of statistics and anectodes I could throw out to prove just how sucktacular Oakland was this year, but the one stat that sums it up the best is this: the Raiders were last in turnover differential at MINUS-TWENTY! Two-zero! That's incredible. You almost have to try to suck that bad and in fact if you watched Oakland play O last year it did appear that the quarterbacks were throwing to the wrong team on purpose at times (maybe they just liked the other team's DBs better than they liked Randy Moss). The situation under center simply has to change. Enter Jamarcus Russell, a giant for the position that's exactly the kind of big-armed QB Al Davis wants. Russell's still raw and he won't fix all the Raiders' problems right away but he's already better than anything they've got and if Moss could ever extract his head from his own ass he and Russell could form a lethal combo as good, if not better, than Daunte Culpepper and Moss formed back in Minnesota.

QB Brady Quinn, Notre Dame
Is there anyone in America who's worse at his job than Matt Millen? Okay, yes there's George W. is there anybody else? Despite being blessed with hands-0ff owners who remain free-spending even after losing $11 billion dollars, and an array of high draft picks to spand that money on Millen has managed to run this once-proud franchise into the ground with a series of fuck-ups too long to recount here. One of his biggest oversights was investing heavily in skill-position athletes without ever adequately addressing his offensive and defensive lines, so it's almost inevitable that on draft day when Joe Thomas - the best offensive tackle prospect to come along in at least five years - is sitting there for the taking you can bet the farm that Millen will grab the glory boy from Notre Dame. Don't get me wrong, I think Quinn can be an excellent quarterback and he's a huge upgrade over the Jon Kitna, who made more turnovers than Betty Crocker this season, but at some point the team from Motor City needs to invest in some Mack Trucks for the front lines. And here's a scary question foryou Detroit fans: since Charles Rogers and Mike Williams appear to be on their way out would Millen consider taking another first-round receiver in Calvin Johnson? And if so, would that necessarily be a bad thing? I mean, how far can you go with Mike Furrey as your #2? One thing's for sure, with Millen involved this promises to be one of the more entertaining picks in the top 10.

WR Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech
The Buccaneers have to get better play from their offensive line if they want to become competitive again, but after investing their first two picks last year on linemen I can't see them going that route again. They also need an infusion of youth on the defensive side of the ball, since that unit has apparently lost the ability to create turnovers or pressure the quarterback. But more than anything they need a gamebreaker who can make plays on offense and along comes Calvin Johnson, the best wide receiver prospect since Keyshawn Johnson went #1 overall to the Jets in '96. In many years Johnson would be the #1 pick as well, but due to team needs I think he'll fall into the Buccaneers lap and they'll be happy to have him. With his incredible combination of size, speed, and hands he should help the 'Bucs offense in a number of ways, from catching balls to drawing double-teams to blocking. Michael Clayton hasn't worked out as a lead receiver and Joey Galloway is getting up there in years so in my mind this is a total no-brainer for Tampa Bay.

OT Joe Thomas, Wisconsin
Here's another team that has neglected its front lines - the Browns have only taken one lineman on Day One of the draft in the last three years (DT Amon Gordon) - but Cleveland has a coach that understands the importance of offensive line play and if he's available I have no doubt the Browns will snatch up Thomas. They may be tempted to grab Calvin Johnson if he's still available, but after investing in Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards you've got to figure the Browns have higher priorities than picking up more receivers. Thomas may not be an exciting pick, but he's the right one for Cleveland.

DT Alan Branch, Michigan
Much like the Lions, the Cardinals find themselves with excellent players on the edges that are limited by the poor play of the lines. Arizona's offensive line play last year was flat-out awful and really that's the area they need to address the most. Unfortunately for them, outside of Joe Thomas there really isn't an offensive lineman worthy of a top 5 pick so I could see them trading up for Thomas or trading down if Calvin Johnson somehow falls to this spot. But, if they stay in the five-spot I think they'll address their other glaring weakness, the middle of their defense. They could reach for a safety but I think they'll take the best defensive tackle in the draft and that's Branch, a huge man with quickness and pass-rushing ability who was the centerpiece of Michigan's top-rated defense this year. By teaming Branch with Darnell Dockett and Gabe Watson the Cards could find themselves with a talented young tackle rotation that should help shore up the run defense. They could also use a pass rusher and I'm sure Gaines Adams will get some consideration here, but great defenses are built from the inside out so I think Branch is the right call.

DE Gaines Adams, Clemson
The Redskins find themselves in an awkward position; the offense really let them downthis year, yet that was the side of the ball they invested a ton of resources into. Do you blow it up all ready and start over, or do you give some love to the defense? I wouldn't be surprised to see them trade this pick for extra picks or for an established player, since they seem to prefer that route, but if they stay at #6 I think they'll take the oppotunity to address a terrible pass rush that was led by Andre Carter with only six sacks for '06. Gaines Adams is the top defensive end out there, and although there are some questions about whether or not Adams may be better suited as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense after watching the guy play for the past two years any FSU fan will tell you he can really get after the quarterback. This could be another really interesting pick in the top 10, though.

WR Dwayne Bowe, LSU
The Vikings were good at running the ball and stopping the run this year, but they didn't make the playoffs bacause they couldn't make plays in the passing game. At this point it's abundantly clear that Troy Williamson isn't a #1 receiver and I don't know who they can get to fill that role in free agency (actually, could Moss be an option? Hmmmmm). In my mind Dwayne Bowe was an unrecognized superstar in college football, and although this is higher than he's being rated right now I think that after the all-star games and the NFL combine are through he's going to skyrocket up draft boards. By taking Bowe - a big, physical receiver who is simply too much for most CBs to handle one-on-one - the Vikings can make Williamson more of a #2 receiver and deep threat specialist while picking up a big weapon for young quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. If Southern Cal's Dwayne Jarrett runs well in testing he could also be an option here but right now there are questions about his speed, so Bowe is the pick. The Vikings could also really use a pass-rusher and if Gaines Adams falls this far I think they'd have a hard time passing on him but I don't think that's likely at this point.

RB Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma
Passing on Reggie Bush and Vince Young clearly pissed off the football gods because they've been smiting the shit out of Houston ever since. Domanick Davis' right leg immediately exploded and to make matters infinitely worse it now appears that David Carr could be on thin ice. But the Texans earned some karma back by taking DeMeco Ryans, the Defensive Rookie of the Year, and soime building blocks for the offensive line. Now it's time to take the next step by adding a super-duper-star running back in Peterson, who may have been the #1 pick if he could have come out as a freshman. Behind an improving line AP could finally give Houston a consistent threat out of the backfield which would help Carr and Andre Johnson in the passing game. I really don't think the Texans have a choice if Peterson is there for the taking; if they pass on another star their fans might just burn down that fancy new stadium, and frankly who could blame them?

OT Levi Brown, Penn State
The Dolphins finished a disappointing 6-10 despite having the NFL’s 4th-ranked defense and an array of offensive weapons with great potential - four players caught more than 50 passes and Ronnie Brown had his first 1,000-yard rushing season - but disappointing productivity, finishing just 29th in scoring offense. Obviously the big hole is at quarterback but there are no available quarterbacks worthy of a pick this high. The offensive line could sure use some work though. Levi Brown may be a bit of a reach at this point but he's been a solid performer throughout his career at Penn State and has played well against top competition. And he has added value by allowing Venon Carey to move inside, fixing two holes with one pick. Why don't I have a job doing this for real?

FS LaRon Landry, LSU
Ahhhh, the Dirty Birds. Anyone who watched Atlanta this past season knows the receiving corps is still the unit that needs the most fixing, but after sinking a ton of draft picks and free agent dollars into the position there's just no way Atlanta can take another receiver here. So the Falcons move on to the next most-busted group, the safeties. Chris Crocker and Lawyer Milloy were brought in to replace Atlanta's previous group of ineffective deep men, and while they did improve the run support they're both useless in coverage. After picking up Jimmy Williams last year the Falcons are still trying to fix their secondary and the bast way to do that is to pick Landry, a playmaker who was productive throughout his college career and excels against both the run and the pass. The explosive Reggie Nelson could also be a possibility here but I think Landry fits the Falcons mold a bit better. Atlanta could also decide to build up depth at defensive end, an area that's been cursed with injuries lately, and reach for local boy Quentin Moses of Georgia but I think Landry is the safer and smarter pick.

CB Leon Hall, Michigan
This year the 49’rs started to see signs of improvement from their young offense but the defense still isn’t up to par. When a team is often behind, i.e. their opponent is more likely to run, and they’re still in the bottom ten in passing defense you know they’ve got coverage issues. Leon Hall grew into one of the anchors for Michigan’s defense and although he’s susceptible to the big play he’s also an impressive package of sped and size. The race to be the #1 corner taken is far from over and candidates like David Irons or Aaron Ross could climb up to this spot, but right now Hall seems the most likely candidate to step in and help right away, and San Francisco needs all the help they can get.

DT Amobi Okoye, Louisville
Buffalo addressed the secondary last year in the first round and the passing game finished 7th in the NFL. Now it’s time to fix the 28th ranked run defense. Sure, some of that rushing yardage was due to a lot of teams being ahead and trying to ram it down the Bills’ throat, but there were also holes in the defensive front. A 19-year-old college senior, Okoye is a tremendous prospect with a lot of room to grow as a player, and by all accounts he already plays with a maturity far beyond his age. The Bills aren’t afraid to take chances in the draft and this risk is one that's likely to pay off.

OLB Lawrence Timmons, Florida State
It seems like the Rams have been looking for outside linebackers forever and the best candidate to fix their problems at the position this year is Timmons, a versatile linebacker who was stout against the run and also handled coverage responsibilities well for the ‘Noles. Penn State’s Paul Posluszny could be another candidate here but the athleticism of Timmons is a better fit for St. Louis’ style know what, I really don't want to talk about it because I get a little emotional when I think about Timmons moving on. Give me a minute...

Let's just move on.

OT Justin Blalock, Texas
Like a lot of teams near the top of the draft the Panthers are in need of offensive line help and I think this is about where it makes sense to pull the trigger. This may be a bit high for Blalock but with a shortage of marquee lineman in this draft he'll get a boost in position thanks to his skills and his versatility in being able to play guard or tackle. The Panthers could also look at adding another weapon at wide receiver and there are some intriguing defensive line prospects out there, but if the Panthers are going to become contenders again they first need to fix their offensive front.

FS Reggie Nelson, Florida
If Nelson falls out of the top ten I have to think the Cowboys would start making inquiries with every team ahead of them about trading up. As much as I want Pat Watkins to grow into Dallas’ free safety of the future Nelson is a guy who can step in and change their defense right away. He would free up Roy Williams from a lot of his bothersome coverage responsibilities so he could just focus on hurtin’ people, and Nelson could help out in that aspect as well. The Steelers seem like the most likely candidate to trade down because they can pick up a linebacker or a quality offensive lineman later in first round.

RB Marshawn Lynch, California
This draft is fairly deep in running backs but I there’s only two guys in the top tier – Peterson and Lynch. The Packers need to continue overhauling their skill position players and the venerable Ahman Green is on the downside of his career, and while Vernand Morency and Noah Herron provide some depth neither is a long term solution. Lynch has a chance to be special and would give Green Bay an important weapon that could help ease the transition to whoever succeeds Favre at quarterback.

DE Jamaal Anderson, Arkansas
The Jaguars have spent most of their recent top draft picks on building up the offense, so now it's time to give the defense a boost. Jacksonville was stout on D in '06 but there's still room for improvement, especially at defensive end. Enter Anderson, an underrated player who thrived against top competition and would be a great building block for the future. I could also see Jacksonville grabbing one of the talented cornerbacks still out there, but Anderson is a potential top 10 talent and if he falls this far the Jags will be getting a gift that they can't pass up.

CB Aaron Ross, Texas
Ever since the Bengals surrendered 42 second-half points in a week 10 loss to the Chargers it was clear Cincinnati needed secondary help. Thorpe Award winner Ross would provide Cincinnati with a long-term complement to Jonathan Joseph and a talented group of young corners to succeed Deltha O’Neal and Tory James. The middle of the defense needs to be addressed as well, and in light of Odell Thurman's issues Patrick Willis would be a sound invetsment here, but Cincinnati has to stop getting torched deep. I think secondary help is a must here.

DE/DT Adam Carricker, Nebraska
Tennessee found some answers on the offensive side of the ball with QB Vince Young and RB Travis Henry, but on defense they have nothing but question marks. A versatile talent like Carricker could help them against the run, but more importantly he could boost the Titans' awful pass rush. Kyle Vanden Bosch led the Titans with 6.5 sacks this season, or the same amount as Shawne Merriman had just against Oakland and Seattle (and he missed the second Oakland game). Carricker has shown the ability to put heat on opposing QBs and he's a physical presence on the line that could even provide some insurance if Albert Haynesworth isn't brought back. I'm sure Tennessee would also like to get Pac-Man Jones some help in the secondary but Carricker brings too much to the table to pass up.

CB Darrelle Revis, Pittsburgh
There’s no way to single out one specific deficiency that led to the Giants late-season collapse since you could point in any number of directions and find a player or coach who deserves a share of the blame. But since Tom Coughlin is apparently staying and the expensive offensive stars aren’t likely to be moved yet I think the Giants will look to augment a pass defense that finished 28th in the NFL and struggled to force turnovers. Revis is a solid cover corner with good size that could help shore up New York’s porous secondary and provide a future replacement for their aging duo of RW McQuarters and Sam Madison.

CB David Irons, Auburn
Even before the untimely passing of Darrent Williams I’m sure the Broncos were thinking of getting some help for Champ Bailey in the Broncos’ secondary. Unfortunately, what was a luxury pick is now a necessity as Denver finds itself down a starting cornerback. Irons is a tough, scrappy corner who’s handled big, physical receivers in the SEC and could provide Denver with some immediate help in the secondary. There may be bigger names out there but I think Irons will impress during the pre-Draft activities and prove that he's a guy who can play right away, which is exactly what Denver needs.

LB Paul Posluszny, Penn State
Pittsburgh could look to further bolster their receiving corps after drafting Santonio Holmes last year, or they could look to add a cornerback help since tehre's no way Ike Taylor's coming back after his disastrous season. However, for years the main weapon in the Steelers 3-4 defense has been fast, versatile, aggressive linebackers. Not only does Posluszny possess all of those traits, he’s a Pennsylvania hero who brings the blue-collar attitude that defines the franchise. Poz could line up inside or outside for Pittsburgh and would provide long-term insurance for Clark Haggans and James Farrior. To me this would be a match made in football heaven.

WR Ted Ginn, Ohio State
For most of the decade the Chiefs managed to boast one of the league’s top passing games despite the lack of a #1 receiver. With the departure of Gunther Cunningham and instability at quarterback the streak of prolific passing attacks came to an end in 2006 and it’s time for Kansas City to finally pay some serious attention to its receiving corps. Now I happen to think that Ginn is somewhat overrated - I would take a guy like Tennessee's Robert Meachem over him in a second - and I doubt he’ll be a lead receiver in the NFL, but he has added value for Kansas City since he can provide a spark in the return game and eventually take over for the fading Dante Hall. Also, it should be noted that with the exception of the Browns the Chiefs may have been the worst-drafting team in the league over the past few years, and taking an overrated player twenty spots too high is pretty much par for the course with them so in that regard this pick makes total sense.

DE/LB Quentin Moses, Georgia
The Patriots linebacker corps started to show its age in 2006 and with Teddy Bruschi contemplating retirement it’s time to bring in some reinforcements. Bill Belichick likes SEC players and I think Moses' versatility plays right into what the Patriots want to do defensively. It will be interesting to see if he can handle pass coverage duties, but if he can make the transition to linebacker and the Patriots can iron out the inconsistency in his game they could be getting another big-time playermaker in their front seven.

CB Daymeion Hughes, California
The Jets could very well pick a workhorse back like Kenny Irons or Michael Bush here to pick up the load that Curtis Martin carried for so many years, or they could look to bolster the defensive front after beefing up the offensive line in the first round last year, but what they really need is a steady cover man to line up opposite Andre Dyson, and with the top cornerback talent rapidly slipping away at this point I think they’d pull the trigger on Hughes, a stand-out players for Cal for the past few years and an experienced corner who’s gone up against some great wide receivers in the Pac-10.

SS Aaron Rouse, Virginia Tech
For some reason I wound up watching a ton of Eagles games this season and every time I couldn’t help but notice what a huge liability Sean Considine was to their defense. He's perfected the move where a defender is totally burnt so he dives at the runner's heels, swinging his arm in a vain attempt to trip up the runner before he can complete his 60-yard jaunt to the endzone. Seriously, no one pulls off that move like Consididine. Plus he sucks against the run and the pass! Rouse, a huge safety that can play in the box but also has good coverage skills, would change all that. The Eagles have traditionally invested high draft pick on lineman and their secondary, and if they hold to that philosophy I think Rouse would be a great fit for them.

MLB Patrick Willis, Ole Miss
For years the Saints have been trying to build up their front seven, and while they finally appear set at defensive end and Hollis Thomas has helped out at defensive tackle they still need an upgrade at linebacker where Mark Simoneau and Scott Shanle are nothing special. Willis is the best inside linebacker in the draft and one of the best ‘backers available overall. A tackling machine, he would immediately help New Orleans’ 23rd-ranked run defense and with his speed he’d add some versatility to the position. I’m sure the Saints would also like to bring in a replacement for Fred Thomas, who was beaten more often than the Washington Generals over the past month, but the Saints have been trying to upgrade their linebackers forever and they can’t pass on a talent like Willis.

CB Marcus McCauley, Fresno State
For the past few years the Patriots have been getting by with castoffs and overachievers in the secondary, and while Asante Samuel turned in a great performance this season he seems likely to bolt in free agency. Regardless of whether he stays or goes, the Pats could use an infusion of youth and size at cornerback and McCauley has both. New England does a great job of stockpiling draft picks and just like with Vince Wilfork the Pats could have the luxury of picking up a long-term solution for their defense late in the first round thanks to shrewd maneuvering. They could also be tempted to take a receiver here but with the emergence of Jabar Gaffney in the playoffs and Chad Jackson still developing I think they'll focus on defense and take McCauley.

WR Dwayne Jarrett, Southern Cal
There was nothing wrong with the Ravens’ defense in ’06 but the offenses left a lot to be desired. I’m sure they’d like to bring in a long-term solution at quarterback but I don’t know that one is available at this point. With their preference for big, bruising runners Michael Bush could be an intriguing choice here, but I think they have to continue overhauling their receiver corps and Jarrett is a top prospect who’s a touchdown-scoring machine. If he runs well in testing he’ll go way earlier than this but right now there are rumors that he runs in the 4.6 range, and if that's the case the Mike Williams comparisons could cause him to fall in the first round. If that's the case the Ravens would be crazy not to swoop him up as a perfect long-term complement to Mark Clayton.

WR Robert Meachem, Tennessee
The Chargers are arguably the NFL’s most talented team and are pretty stacked at every position (except Head Coach, of course), but one area where they really lack difference-makers is at wide receiver. Eric Parker might get run out of town after his disastrous performance against New England, and while Vincent Jackson is an intriguing prospect he only caught 27 passes in 2006. Meachem is a big, physical receiver who could team with Jackson to present a match-up nightmare for opposing secondaries and in time he could give the Chargers a true lead receiver. Since the Chargers are reportedly (and inexplicably) rumored to be shopping Donnie Edwards and Shaun Phillips can’t stay out of trouble they could also look at a linebacker here but I think receiver is a more pressing need for them.

MLB Brandon Siler, Florida
The Colts run defense has been better in the playoffs but they were shredded like lettuce during the regular season and they have to address their interior defense, so this pick is either going to be a defensive tackle or an inside linebacker. The Colts aren’t afraid to take smaller, quicker defenders so Buster Davis could be a possibility here or they could grab Tank Tyler or Quinn Pitcock to clog up the running lanes, but I think Siler would be a great addition. He brings speed, size, and leadership to the position and is a beast against the run. He’ll probably run faster than Davis in testing and with his superior size and coverage skills I think he fits perfectly into Tony Dungy's defense.

OLB Rufus Alexander, Oklahoma
Last year the Bears surprised just about everyone by focusing on their defense even though it was already the strength of their team. A lot of observers felt they made a mistake, yet now Chicago's headed to the Super Bowl and rookies like Mark Anderson, Devin Hester, and Danieal Manning are a big reason why. Since the Bears biggest needs on offense are wide receiver and offensive line and the elite prospects at those positions are gone by now I think they’ll depart from conventional wisdom yet again and go with defense. Alexander is cut from the Bears mold; he’s a big, aggressive intimidator at linebacker who could step right into the void left when Lance Briggs bolts in free agency.

Okay, that's it. Look for an updated two-round mock draft after the NFL Combine and then I'm shooting for a full Day One, three-round mock draft right before Draft Day. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

BC Three at the Buzzer Beats 'Noles

First the shenanigans at the Black Out and now this. I'm starting to kind of dislike Boston College...

Where To Begin?

Wow, a lot has happened in the last two weeks. I mean a LOT! Obviously the biggest news is the hiring of Chuck Amato, completing the overhaul of the coaching staff, but that whole situation deserves it's own post so we'll have a Coaching Review up later. For now let's look the rest of the big stories in 'Nole Nation...

- Big shout-out to the basketball team for rebounding nicely from an 0-3 start in ACC play with wins over red-hot Virginia Tech and a blow-out of Miami. I attended the FSU/Georgia Tech game a couple weeks ago and noticed that Al Thornton looked like he was getting more and more frustrated as the 'Noles flailed around on offense. Well he took those frustrations out on the Hokies with 13 rebounds and 27 points -- IN THE SECOND HALF! What I saw in the GaTech game - and what was confirmed against VaTech - was that when Thornton decides to be selfish and own the game that he can be as dominant as any player in the country. It's a credit to him that he's bought into Coach Hamilton's philosophy of team-oriented play, but with an unbalanced team like FSU (too many swingmen, no true point or center) Thornton needs to put the team on his back against tougher competition.

Against the 'Canes Big Al was more than happy to share the load as Isaiah Swann, Uche Echefu, and Ralph Mims all made big contributions to the 'Noles 86-67 win. It was a beautiful win, but to be fair Miami was undermanned for the game and FSU was absolutely unconscious from three-point range. For the game FSU actually shot better from beyond the arc (a blistering 56.5%) than they did from two-point range. Still, it was a much-needed conference win and hopefully a huge morale boost for a team getting into the meat of its conference schedule.

Now comes a big test: tonight's game at Boston College is huge for the future of this team. With the dismissal of Sean Williams B.C. is a much better match-up for FSU and this becomes a "should win" game for the 'Noles. With FSU's recent struggles against top competition they can't afford to lose any games they "should" win, and they still need to pick up a few more quality wins to go with Florida and Virginia Tech. Plus FSU has been abysmal on the road this year and a win at Chestnut Hill would do wonders for the team's confidence. IF the 'Noles can get out of Boston with a 'W' they'll get to .500 in ACC play, and with Wake Forest and Maryland coming up FSU could have a chance to build up some momentum and establish themselves in the top half of the best conference in college basketball. I think this is the year we break the NCAA Tournament drought, but we've got to beat solid teams like BC if we're going to get there.

- HUGE news on the football front as it was recently announced that Clemson will replace Miami as FSU's Labor Day opponent. Personally I love the match-up: both teams are in serious need of a bounce-back year and a loss in Game One could have huge implications for the Atlantic Division race. I don't like opening on the road for the second straight year, but since early-season contests favor defense over offense and Clemson is losing Gaines Adams and CJ Gaddis I feel pretty good about the 'Noles' chances. And talk about sub-plots! Forget the tired "Bowden Bowl" angle, this game will mark the beginning of the Jimbo Fisher era at FSU and everyone in the Southeast will be interested to see if he can turn around FSU's offense. Tommy Bowden's hold on the Clemson Head Coaching position is tenuous at best and with a home loss the natives will get restless (okay, they're already pretty restless. Is "restlesser" a word?). The CJ Spiller soap opera has been pretty exciting already and there could be a few more plot turn between now and September, plus this game could feature new starting QBs for both teams. As if it wasn't hard enough waiting for football season, now 'Noles and Tigers fans will have added anticipation for the '07 kickoff. I'm giddy just thinking about it, and it's only January!

- Speaking of January, we're smack-dab in the middle of recruiting season and while I can't say I'm thrilled with FSU's recruiting class so far, it's not as bad as I feared. Granted, people on Warchant are doing back-flips because we signed a two-star offensive guard while Florida is racking up the five-star prospects, but I like the quality of the individuals we're bringing in. Anthony Grosso's 3.9 GPA doesn't look so hot next to Myron Rolle's 4.0, but it fits in nicely with Christian Ponder's 3.8. I know we don't bring these guys in just for their brains but it seems that in the wake of the Fred Rouse fiasco the coaches have made a concerted effort to bring in players of higher character, and I don't see how that can be a bad thing. But is the talent there? Outside of Kendall Smith, Dionte Allen, and Bernard Brinson there's not a lot to get too excited about yet, but there are still some big fish out there. Marvin Austin is apparently a very good possibility at DT and Joe McKnight is still out there. If only we could get some big-time OL to commit...oh wait, we did that with Chris Little and then new OL Coach Rick Trickett turned him away! Now, I've never coached an offensive line in my life and Coach Trickett has proven that he knows what he's doing, but the Little situation is extraordinary and bears watching over the next few year.

Look, there's not much I can share about recruiting - most of my info comes from Warchant and if you want the inside dirt pay the $9.95/month and sign up, just don't get too excited for this year. Five years from now we may look back on this as a stellar class, but from a recruiting RANKINGS standpoint it's going to be an off-year for FSU.

- After football season and recruiting season comes one of my favorite times of the year: NFL DRAFT SEASON! (Quick note: apparently Lorenzo Booker is tearing it up at Senior Bowl practices. I wish LoBo the best, but if he blows up ala Leon Washington in New york it will just make the last six years so much harder to bear). Unlike last year's first-round extravaganza it looks like the 'Noles will have a single first-round pick this year in Lawrence Timmons, but Buster Davis and Booker should both be first-day picks as well. But beyond FSU's prospects it's turning out to be a fascinating draft at the top with Oakland, Detroit, and Cleveland all in dire need of QBs and only two top-notch passers to go around. Personally, the NFL Draft is one of my favorite days of the year; it's this beautiful sparkling oasis of football in the desert wasteland of April sports. Look for the first of many mock drafts to go up shortly.

- As much as I hated to see Manning make it to the Super Bowl (not that I hate the guy, it's just fun to rag on him) at least we won't have to see fifty Rex Grossman/Reche Caldwell "did you know they were teammates at UF!?!" stories on SportsCenter. Ironically, we have Caldwell to thank for it...had he caught even one of the two wide-open passes he dropped against Indy the Pats would have scored and the Colts never could have come back. Gotta love those UF receivers in the pros! By the way, am I the only one who really enjoyed watching Bill Belichick squirm at the post-game press conference? He looked like a man who suddenly realized he was standing in a room full of people in a dirty sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off, looking like some guy who hangs out in front of a Gas-n-Go. To me that sweatshirt came to symbolize the arrogance that had seeped into the Patriots organization and eventually led to their loss in the AFC Championship. It was arrogance to let all their veteran free agents go, it was arrogance to go cheap on the wide receiver corps, and it was arrogance to sit on all their cap space at the trading deadline. That they made it as far as they did is a testament to Belichick's brilliance and Brady's clutchness (oh, and a metric fuck-ton of luck against San Diego), but Belichick was in dire need of some humble pie and I'm glad the Colts served it to him cold.

Hopefully FSU will take Indy's lead and whup some Boston ass tonight! GO NOLES!!!

Monday, January 22, 2007

It's Hard Out Here for a 'Nole

I can't escape it. Everywhere I turn I see it. And it's driving me MAD! That stupid Gator logo is everywhere, and when I say everywhere I mean EVERY-FUCKING -WHERE! As a college sports junkie the two sites I spend the most time on (other than Warchant) are and, and I defy you to spend more than 30 seconds on either site without stumbling across some article or another openly fellating the Crocs and Urban Meyer. Never mind that it took a staggering collection of lucky breaks and colossal upsets for UF to find itself in its current position as National Champ, never mind that Urban is being hailed as a genius despite the fact that UF won thanks to a defense he didn't coach manned by players he didn't recruit. Such trivialities as "facts" needn't cloud one's judgement when it's so much easier to revel in partisan hystrionics, as exemplied by this column from former Orlando Sentinal columnist Jemele Hill who apparently believes the 'Noles should just go ahead and shut down the football program now instead of continuing to offer token resistance against the Urban Empire (note to self: next time in Florida, hit Jemele Hill with car. Run.) Never mind that we nearly forced the omnipotent Gators to overtime despite feilding one of the youngest teams in the nation, never mind that with a competent OC we win four more games at least. It's over, the dream is dead, time for 'Ol Bobby to head out to pasture. The Age of Urban has begun.
Resistance is futile

And now the Croc-luv has extended beyond the collgiate level and invaded seemingly every other facet of the sports universe. All weekend I've had to watch analysts praise Rex Grossman (who had one decent throw against Seattle after killing his team for three-plus quarters) and Tom Brady's all-UF receiving corp (who have hamstrung the Pats offense all year with their lack of pace and inconsistent performance). Today there's an article in USA Today spotlighting David Lee just a couple of pages after the new college basketball poll is'll never guess who's #1 (hint: it's a team FSU beat just a few weeks ago).

Bottom line: Seminole fans everywhere are in a Best of Times/Worst of Times situation here. On the one hand there's more hope for the football team then there's been in years. The coaching situation is working out quite nicely (post once the changes are complete), and recruiting is going better than expected. At the same time it's physically impossible to escape constant reminders of the unprecedented run our enemies from the East are on right now. I can't change it, I can't make it better, all I can do is offer three pearls of wisdom for Seminoles everywhere:

1. It can't last forever. Seriously, for the last two years everything has gone against us and for them. But luck is a cyclical thing and eventually even the biggest rush comes to an end. At some point, probably sooner rather than later, they'll stop getting all the breaks and some semblance of order will return to the universe.

2. It can't get any worse. This is a mixed bag since right now UF is hotter than any athletic department has been in recent memory. And yet we hung right with them in football (and have I mentioned that we whupped the Crocs' and Joakim Noah's ugly ass in Basketball? I thought they were supposed to be good or something). The gap between the two athletic departments is already smaller than people believe, and the Crocs have to come back down to earth soon.

3. They're still Crocs and we're still 'Noles. Seriously, who would you rather root for: a whiny littly bitch like Urbie or a classy gentleman like Bobby Bowden? As someone once said, I'd rather root for an 0-12 FSU team than a 12-0 Gator team, and after this year I realized they were right.

Keep you chin up 'Nole fans, for better days are ahead for us (and the BS in Gainesville can't go on forever...can it?)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Is This the Beginning of the Googlenium?

Google messed up my Blogger so I had to re-post this column. Why am I telling you this? I have no idea.