Friday, August 29, 2014

The Need for Speed

By Travis Stahl

When Jimmy Johnson broke in to the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys in 1988 he understood a concept that most masterminds in the league had never fully grasped.  Speed is the most important talent a player can have.  Jimmy took the fastest guys he could find and put them at every position on the field.  You can't coach speed and you can't compensate for it.  Jimmy's plan was simple, your players can't keep up with our players.  The plan worked as the Cowboys won three Super Bowl titles.  Not many people have noticed but we are in the age of another speed revolution in the NFL and the movement is starting where it you would expect it to, at the wide receiver position.

Defensive backs in the NFL are bigger and stronger than ever before.  And, starting this year, officials have been charged with the task of doing a better job of keeping those defensive backs off of wide receivers.  That means receivers are going to get a more clear release and be able to jet up the field one step faster than before.  This is a huge advantage for offenses and as a result speed is now much more important.  There were already some pretty fast receivers in the NFL.  DeSean Jackson is pretty fast.  Julio Jones has shown an ability to quickly get past defenses and Calvin Johnson is surprisingly fast for as big as he is.  In the last two seasons there has been a surge in fast receivers enter the league and we might see the results this year.

This year Brandin Cooks was drafted by New Orleans in the first round.  Cooks, believe it or not, looks to be even a touch faster than Jackson.  Philadelphia dealt with the loss of Jackson from their offense by drafting Jordan Matthews.  Matthews has been flying past defenses this preseason and had 155 yards receiving in a game already.  We haven't even been able to fully see what Buffalo rookie Sammy Watkins is capable of due to injuries and he is supposedly the best of the bunch.  Last year Minnesota drafted Cordarelle Patterson and we got a glimpse of what he was capable of with the ball in his hands.   Tennessee has a pair of young, fast receivers in Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter that are going to torment defenses.

With so much young speed at the receiver position I think we are going to see a surge in scoring this year.  Defensive backs can't make contact at all with receivers now so it is much easier to hit full speed.  As good as defensive backs are now they just aren't fast enough to cover some of these guys.  As long as the quarterback has time to get off a clean pass I would not be surprised if there are a large number of deep touchdown passes.  This will definitely be an exciting season of explosive offenses and so many teams around the league now have guys this fast.

You just can't coach speed or teach it.  Guys are either fast or they aren't and good offensive coordinators are able to design plays to get these speedsters in the open field.  Jimmy Johnson realized that very early and the rest of the league has caught on.  That is why you will see teams roll the dice on fast players even though they may not have a lot of other physical abilities.  Speed kills.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Things I Strongly Dislike

By Travis Stahl

As you are all well aware, I'm a list guy.  A list of items is concise, clean and informative.  You don't have to hunt through a bunch of writing to find what you are looking for.  I found myself thinking of lists again the other day when a Texas Longhorns fanned called me out for being an Oklahoma fan.  My first though was "man I hate Texas."  I then realized hate is a pretty ugly word so I decided to use "strongly dislike."  You never hear about a strongly-dislike crime.  It got me to thinking and before long I had a list of things in the sports world that I strongly dislike.

1. Notre Dame football - The most overrated program in the history of sports.  I still love the Rocket Ismail punt return that was wiped out by the clipping penalty against Colorado.
2. Texas Longhorns - The arch-rival of my Sooners has to be on the list.
3. The rest of the NFC East not named Dallas- The Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins and New York Giants.  Dislike them all strongly.
4. Auburn football - My grandpa lived in Mobile, Alabama.  If you root for Alabama you loath Auburn.  Those are the rules.
5. Tony Stewart - This has nothing to do with the accident, I didn't like the guy even before that.
6. The Chicago Cubs - This is another family issue that dates back to my great uncle Dale,  he was a Cardinals fan.  And I'm tired of hearing "wait til next year."
7. Alex Rodriguez - The biggest fraud in the history of sports.  I better never hear the words "hall" or "fame" even whispered in the same sentence as A-Rod.
8. Ohio State football - Ohio State fans are the worst.
9. Floyd Mayweather - I respect the fact Floyd is one of the greatest fighters ever.  I still want to see somebody beat the bejesus out of him.
10. The New York Knicks - The dumbest franchise in all of professional sports.

If your team is on this list, I'm not apologizing.  Every sports fan has this list in the back of their minds and that's OK.  We have to root against somebody.  Sports brings out emotional responses in us and they aren't always positive.  Sometimes you just have to hold a grudge and decide you strongly dislike a team or athlete.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

CC-Whitko Preview

By Travis Stahl

The Game: Columbia City travels to Whitko at 7 p.m.

Last Season: Columbia City defeated Whitko 34-14

Next Week: Columbia City hosts Bellmont at 7 p.m.

About the Game:  The Eel River Rivalry resumes in South Whitley.  Whitko has only won this cross-county rivalry one time in the last 13 meetings and that was in 1998.  The Wildcats enter the game after a big loss last week to Wawasee 34-12 while Columbia City enters with a win under its belt after beating Warsaw last week 33-21.  This game doesn't hold any weight in conference standings but it holds a significant amount of emotional meaning.  Neither team wants to lose to the other and then hear about it for the next year.  These are the kind of games in which there aren't a whole lot of motivational words need to be spoken.

Key Questions:  Can Columbia City's defense repeat it's smothering performance from last week?  The Eagles were everywhere last week and smacked anything that moved.  The scary part is that it was such a balanced attack and this unit is only going to get better.  Whitko will run some misdirection plays so it will be important for defensive ends to stay at home.  Can Whitko's defense slow down the Columbia City rushing attack?  In short, probably not.  The Eagles offensive line is mauling people right now and Columbia City has an assortmant of backs to throw at opponents including fullback Braden Myer who is like a bulldozer plowing through the line.  The Eagles offensive linemen Drew Cummings, Kohltin Hoeppner, Michael Simmons, Javier Perez and Turner Gawthrop easily handled the Warsaw defensive line last week.

The Outcome:  It will be a huge surprise if the Eagles don't hold on to the Eel River Rivalry Trophy.  This Columbia City team is too good defensively to allow Whitko to hang in the game for more than a quarter.  The Eagles should roll early in this one and allow some of the younger players to get some experience in at the end of the game.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Rams Aren't Doomed

By Travis Stahl

If there is one thing never lacking at the University of Oklahoma it's a top-notch quarterback.  Since Bob Stoops has been the Sooners head coach I've seen some pretty good signal-callers come through the program.  Jason White won a Heisman Trophy while he was at Oklahoma.  At no time while quarterback Sam Bradford was at Oklahoma did I ever think, "wow, this guy is a superstar in the making."  Which is why when Bradford tore up his knee last weekend playing for the St. Louis Rams I did not buy in to the doom and gloom surrounding the team.

I thought heading in to this season the Rams had a really good chance at making the playoffs in a pretty tough NFC West division.  The St. Louis defense is as good as any in the league, they have above average special teams with some great kick-off and punt returners and head coach Jeff Fisher knows how to win with a pretty basic offense.  Would St. Louis be a better team this season if Bradford was healthy?  Sure.  But I just don't feel like losing Bradford breaks the Rams' season.  It wasn't like Slinging Sam was going to put up 30 touchdown passes and throw this team to victory every week.

Obviously there is a drop-off from Bradford to back-up Shaun Hill.  There is a drop-off from every starting quarterback in the league to the back-up.  But I would be willing to bet the gap between Bradford and Hill is less than it is between any other starter-reserve combination in the league.  Fisher isn't going to ask Hill to throw the Rams to victory any more than he was Bradford.  This St. Louis team was built to pound the ball on offense with Zach Stacy and Tre Mason.  The passing game is predicated on short, safe passes to receivers who can do something with the ball on their own once they make the catch.  This offense was never about the quarterback.

Bradford in all likelihood is done playing in St. Louis.  There is no way after this injury the team would be willing to move forward with him as the quarterback of the future so it is time to move on either through the draft or in free agency.  This team still has a pretty significant window in which to make a run to the playoffs.  Nobody that plays significant time on either side of the ball has been in the league long so adding a young quarterback doesn't set the team back.  And, really all this team needs right now is a game manger anyway.  All the quarterback in St. Louis needs to do is hand the ball off 30 times a game, complete a high percentage of low-risk passes and let the defense smother people.  Sounds like the same plan the Seahawks just won a Super Bowl with.

I feel badly for Bradford, he is a nice kid.  But he has never been a take-charge leader who instills confidence in the rest of the team to rise up and follow him to victory.  That's not who he is.  The Rams were fooling themselves if they thought that is who he would become.  I still think with Hill at quarterback this team can make the playoffs and I don't think it will be any more difficult a task than it was already going to be.  Remember, Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Entire Eagles Team Deserves Credit

By Travis Stahl

Individual success is easy.  It's really
not that hard to find one person out there in a sport you are better than.  Team success is more difficult, it requires every member on the team playing as one cohesive unit.  That is how the Columbia City Eagles football team took the field last Friday against Warsaw, as one team.  The Eagles controlled every asset of the 33-21 victory and as a result T and T Athletic Supporters is naming the entire Columbia City team as Players of the Game.

New Columbia City head coach Brett Fox had the Eagles as ready as a team could be for the season opener.  Even when the Tigers came back and took the lead in the second quarter Fox and the coaching staff pulled Columbia City together at halftime and ran away with the second half.  The student-section came prepared to give the Eagles players an emotional boost as well.  The students were dressed in costumes and provided loud cheers with every Columbia City score.

Yes, there was individual successes for CC.  Braden Myer had 103 yards rushing and three touchdowns, quarterback Trevor Bolt had 100 yards rushing, 104 yards passing and a touchdown, Davin Lawrence had a team-high six tackles and Karsen Rider had an interception. It was the Eagles offensive line that deserves a lot of credit for the success of the backs.  Columbia City's line paved the way for 276 rushing yards on the ground and kept Bolt from ever being sacked by Warsaw.

The Defensive unit as a whole was just as good for Columbia City.  The Eagles held Warsaw to just 35 yards rushing on 22 carries.  The CC defense had five tackles for a loss and only allowed Warsaw to have the ball for 17 minutes.  Six Eagles had more than three tackles including Drew Cummings, Bronson Ball, Rider, Drew Lamle and Kolton Wood.

Columbia City takes it's 1-0 record into South Whitley Friday to face the Whitko Wildcats.  The winner receives the traveling trophy in the Eel River Rivalry.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Questions From the Readers

By Travis Stahl

We here at T and T Athletic Supporters recognize we would be nothing without the readers.  That is why, from time to time, we let the readers voice their concerns and ask us the tough questions.  It's like a little free therapy.  Readers get to submit the questions that are troubling their lives and we get to dole out some words of wisdom and guidance.  That's what we do, we help people.  Since we haven't answered reader questions for a while we decided to just go with some recent requests that have come in.

Dear T and T,
I play football for a profession sports team and was recently arrested for possession of marijuana.  Do you think I will be suspended?  L. Bell

Oooh, that's a tough one Mr. Bell.  If you had just beat up a woman I would have said you would be looking at a two-game suspension.  But marijuana is frowned upon by the NFL and paints a bad picture for the league.  I hope your team wasn't counting on you to be a big contributor this year.  If I had to guess I would think you will be missing four games this season.

Dear T and T,
I am the WWE Heavyweight Champion of the world.  Are there any worthy contenders for me to take on?  B. Lesner

Lesner, I told you before, if you write in here again you will meet your end.  You know what, I've had it, no more warnings.  You and I ... Texas Death Match ... in the cage.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

Dear T and T,
I'm a pretty decent Major League Baseball pitcher but I feel like I need to add something to my repertoire.  Any suggestions?  C. Kershaw

Well Mr. Kershaw, you must be pretty good if you are in the big-leagues.  Might I suggest the Jim Duff effis pitch.  You rear back like you are going to throw the ball as hard as you can.  Then upon release you take everything off the ball.  I mean everything, the ball comes at the batter slower than a change-up.  You'll spin guys right in to the dirt as they swing and miss.

Dear T and T,
Hey man, I drink a lot of Mountain Dew and energy drinks.  Love the stuff.  Pretty hopped up right now.  Problem is, I drive a race car so I have to go No. 1 a lot.  Any ideas?  D. Earnhardt

Pretty legitimate question.  As a coffee drinker I hear you loud and clear.  What you need is some sort of elaborate hose system.  You run it from inside your fire suit to the outside of the vehicle ala a motor home.  Should work just fine.

We answer these letters because it's all about helping people.  It's important to understand that some people in life need a push in the right direction and we are happy to give that push.  Life puts a lot of obstacles in the way and everyone needs a little help now and then.  It is our pleasure to help out or loyal readers and improve their quality of life.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

This is the Year IU Won't Finish Last

By Travis Stahl

On our family vacation a few weeks ago I gladly took the long way to our destination so we could stop in Bloomington.  I hadn't been in Bloomington for seven years and it seemed like it had been even longer since I had last been in town.  We ate lunch while we were there and stopped on Kirkwood to get some new T-shirts.  I proudly picked up a new Indiana football shirt with the greatest of optimism.  I think this is the year IU won't finish last in the Big Ten (12?).

Head Coach Kevin Wilson and the Hoosier players have talked all summer about setting a standard.  The team desperately wants to be better and the team has plenty of talented players from quarterback Nate Sudfeld to defensive-end Nick Magieri.  The coaching staff has provided a stability the program hasn't seen in years and several solid recruiting classes has IU fans feeling pretty optimistic.

Don't confuse my optimism for blind faith.  I know darn well the Hoosiers can't compete with Michigan, Michigan State or Ohio State.  But, Indiana could legitimately be looking at earning a bowl birth if everything goes well.  Indiana can probably beat Bowling Green and Maryland and if nobody gets hurt they can probably play Iowa and Penn State close.  If Indiana can pick up those four wins all the team would need is wins against Rutgers and Purdue at the end of the season to be bowl eligible.  That isn't out of the question.

Right now most experts are picking the Hoosiers to finish sixth in the Big-Ten East division just ahead of Rutgers.  It seems most writers feel IU will only win two games in conference play and finish only ahead of Rutgers, Purdue and Illinois.  I would call that a worst-case scenario.  And, every season there is one team in the Big Ten that surprises us all, it seems conceivable it could be Indiana this year.

I know ... we have all thought this before.  But one of the biggest keys to success in college football is having consistency in the coaching staff and IU has that going for it.  The Hoosiers are going to be faster than many teams or overpower any opponents.  Let's see if this team can stay healthy though and if they do good things should happen.  Big Ten title?  No.  Maybe at the end of the year though we can see IU playing against some team in the Las Vegas Bowl or Music City Bowl.