Thursday, January 27, 2011

Semi-Pilfered Senior Bowl Observations: Day 3.

As promised, I did indeed check out the Senior Bowl practices yesterday live and on television in hopes of bringing you some more TCU-centric opinions on the matter. The final results? Well, for one, watching Senior Bowl practices, no matter how much we all love TCU and Dalton, is only slightly more exciting than watching the TCU Basketball team try and run a half court set. Well, that's probably not a good analogy because the latter part of that sentence is fun to watch in a horrifyingly catastrophic way, much like open mic night at the Cellar. No, on the excitement spectrum I'd rank watching senior bowl practices somewhere between watching a non-major golf tournament on TV and folding clothes. Which is to say, they aren't very exciting. So if this review sounds a little forced and half assed, it's because it is. There's just not a whole lot you can say about watching Dalton hand the ball off to a running back 3/4 of the time.

Anyway, to try and make these opinions entirely my own, after the first few minutes of watching I muted the TV and just zipped through to when Dalton, Kirkpatrick or Kerley were involved in the play. In those first few minutes, however, I listened to what the announcers were saying and, wouldn't you know, it looks like Andy Dalton is this year's Tim Tebow as far as the Senior Bowl announcers are concerned. They LOVE him. Ok, so clearly they don't give him the unwavering pole slobbing that they gave Tebow, but they were throwing out so many purely arbitrary and intangible reasons for an NFL team to love Dalton it was actually kind of off putting. In fact, all the AD love coming from somehow other than me may have caused me to black out for a second. It was, "This kid is just a GREAT kid" this and "Andy Dalton is a coaches DREAM" that and pretty much anything unrelated to what he was doing on the field which, to be completely honest, probably wasn't turning the heads of any disinterested by-standers.

This wasn't necessarily Andy's fault, but watching him run the plays set out by an NFL head coach - in his case, Chan Gailey, who may not be the best mentor - definitely demonstrated the differences between what we run at TCU and what he should expect at the next level. For instance, he's got some work to do when taking the snap under center, dropping back and hitting a receiver deep, mostly because we lined up in the shotgun a good majority of the time and probably never ran a 20 yard post route. It's a hard play to make, for sure, and Dalton has the arm for it, but as with most of these slap dash All-Star type games, it's hard to get everything completely perfect, which is a shame because there are so many NFL types in attendance. There were also some serious timing and communication issues between Dalton and his receivers, which can clearly be worked out in an NFL camp, but are hard to pin down in three days of practice. Being a Dalton homer, I'm more apt to blame the receivers more than anything because when Dalton did miss a receiver, it was always like he was throwing where the receiver was SUPPOSED to be rather than simply winging it over his head.

That said, there was more good than bad about Dalton's third day of practice, but most of it related directly to what he was used to doing in Fort Worth. He was extremely solid on short completions out of the shotgun and, for what it's worth, never fumbled a snap or missed a hand off. In fact, he would've been perfect on these short passes had he not had a bunch of iron fisted receivers to work with because my goodness some of those guys can't catch. Kerley's also checked out practice and probably has better insight into the matter than I do, but those guys were not impressive whatsoever and if Dalton gets a bad rap coming out of the weekend, then he should sue all of them for lost wages. Hammer? Buffalo?

But really, I don't know how those scouts judge these practices because it's not necessarily fair to use an all-star game situation as a parting shot to a successful career. For instance, after watching I understand how Todd McShay can love Dalton and Draftinsiders can hate him, because they're putting greater emphasis on two different aspects. If I woke up today and decided I wanted to rip Dalton, I would've talked about how his long range accuracy is going to have to be completely fine tuned before he has a chance of playing a meaningful down in the NFL because it's very, very rusty. But on the other hand, if I wanted to fawn over him, I would've talked about his short range accuracy and poise in the pocket and rave about how he'll be a stud in the right - read: West Coast - offense.

So I guess my daily assessment is a little bit of both - Dalton has a ways to go before he can be considered a complete NFL QB, but he's going to make some coach extremely happy to grab him in the 2nd or 3rd round.

So what did the "experts" have to say about him? Well, draftinsider was less than impressed:

Slightly better today but still not sold he’s anything more than a clip board holder at the next level. Threw a few solid passes downfield but really has to put a lot of effort to get any speed on throws. Threw a few bad passes into coverage and had in one instance had Hankerson open down the flanks and poorly under threw him.

You see? I saw some of what he's saying - he did force one into coverage that should've been picked, but it was a very quick, short route that was jumped - but do not recall the under throw on Hankerson and didn't really think he threw any true floaters. Regardless, it appears Dalton is going to be running the first team offense Saturday afternoon if I'm judging the rotations correctly.

As for Kerley and Kirkpatrick, I'll be completely honest - I didn't see much of them. Ok, that's not true - I saw a LOT of Kirkpatrick because he worked almost exclusively with Dalton - but I'm definitely not a judge of offensive line talent. The knock on him has been that he's getting out of his stance too high and that he'll simply get blown to bits by an NFL defensive tackle, so I think it's no coincidence that yesterday he seemed to be using his bulk a little more effectively, firing off a little lower than he presumably did in his first two days. As far as "footwork," he could probably use a little change in technique in run blocking because he was mostly just leaning on opposing linemen, using his weight to move them rather than blocking through them, but like I said, what the heck do I know?

And Kerley? I saw him catch probably two passes, but he did catch them, so that has to be viewed as a positive and puts him ahead of the rest of the class in that respect. And both routes were to the sideline, which I have to assume is a more difficult route to run effectively.

Here's Draftinsider's take on each:

Better performance as Kirkpatrick continued to battle throughout the practice. He still presented some of the issue described earlier in the week, but they were not as readily apparent today.

Did not stand out as much as yesterday but far and away the best route runner from the South.

So, at least we're mostly in agreement there.

A few more rumblings from the interweb

I can say the same things about Dalton. He has been a 4-year starter at TCU, been very durable and his most amazing stat is he has lost only 3 games in the last three seasons. He has a little more of a transition to make because he played in more of a spread style offense. In the practices here, he has looked good playing from under center. He can set up quickly, find the open receiver and get the ball out of his hand. He throws a nice tight ball with more than adequate arm strength. Like Stanzi and McElroy, he has shown very good poise.

The quarterbacks still failed to stand out. Christian Ponder holds on to the ball way too long, Greg McElroy seems to be the most consistent of the group and I just don’t see the hype for Andy Dalton. Dalton hasn’t shown a strong arm and his accuracy has been spotty. Dalton is afraid to go deep — possibly because he doesn’t have the arm to do so. I have heard reports of people being very high on Dalton, but they just must be watching something other than what I’ve seen.

Under the "Holding Steady" section of their risers and fallers -

QB Andrew Dalton, T.C.U.: Dalton was known for average arm strength, and his mechanics reveal that he needs to put everything into every throw just for his passes to be of average strength. He was a project entering this game and he did little to demonstrate anything to dispel that notion.

Unfortunately, that's the extent of the free analysis from Day 3. ESPN apparently changed all of their extensive coverage to insider material, and SI doesn't seem to even be aware that this thing called the "Senior Bowl" is taking place right under their noses.

Schedule Update

Well it seems that the TCU/BYU showdown is picking up some steam. According to this article from ESPN Dallas, the two schools are still working out the logistics to set the matchup, which could potentially be played on Friday of Thanksgiving weekend. This is the first mention of the matchup that I've seen other than on this site. And remember, broke the news to you before ESPN did, which I find very amusing.

Pretty cool Rose Bowl video

Remember that time TCU won the Rose Bowl? That was awesome. Great job by Sam Ryan to put this together.

***UPDATE: Looks like Sam Ryan has disabled the embedding feature on the video. But you can still watch it by clicking HERE...unless he disables that, in which case you'll know he doesn't want you to watch it.

Morning Dump

Carder adds to All-American honors

Kerley impressive so far

Texas quarterback trio feel it has something to prove at Senior Bowl
Press Register

Wednesday Senior Bowl notes
Yahoo! Sports

Lamar football in talks for 2011 game with TCU
Beaumont Enterprise

Edna grad helps TCU smell the roses
Victoria Advocate

TCU pioneer sees a world of difference

New Mexico routs TCU 71-46

Coach 'disgusted' by effort as TCU women lose at home

Interview: TCU baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle
The 109

Baseball America tabs TCU No. 3 in preseason poll

Athletic Department:
Notes on a scorecard

Q&A with Chris Del Conte part 2
Daily Skiff

Meet the Future Frogs: Quincy Aldridge

The Frogs ended the year on a high note both on the field and off- finishing the regular season 12-0 and receiving a bid to the Rose Bowl, and landing LaDarius Brown as their last commitment of 2010. They obviously continued in both regards as the calendars turned to 2011- winning said Rose Bowl and landing the first commitment of 2011 (and the 21st of this class) in Whitehouse safety Quincy Aldridge.

Aldridge, who's listed at 6'2" 195lbs, was most likely headed to whatever big state school he wanted after being named 3rd Team All-State by Dave Campbell's Texas Football as a sophomore in 2008. But he missed much of his junior season- generally the most important year for high school players to impress recruiters- with an MCL sprain. That left him with some ground to make up as a senior this fall, but he didn't disappoint- picking off four passes and being named 1st Team All-District and 1st Team All-East Texas by the Tyler Morning Telegraph.

He is certainly not the first Frog to come from Whitehouse under Patterson's watch- the winning touchdown in the Rose Bowl that came just eight days before Aldridge's commitment was scored by Whitehouse alum Luke Shivers. He may not be the last, either- his younger brother Jonathan as also 1st Team All-East Texas at wide receiver as a junior this year. Before you start looking ahead to the Aldridges sitting alongside the Schobels and Brocks as a TCU football dynasty, check out the one brother who is already committed to the purple & white:

Has Christian Lost the Team?

With just under 15 minutes remaining in last night's MWC Apocalypse match between ninth ranked BYU and fourth ranked San Diego State, the score was tied at 44 and BYU was slowly turning the tables in their favor in what was a back and forth game to that point. Naturally for the Cougars, Jimmer Fredette had 29 of those points. Only two other BYU players had scored the entire game. And one of those players had 2 points. For the majority of the second half, Jimmer was outscoring the entire SDSU team's second half output by himself. BYU ended up pulling the upset by a score of 71-58, led by Fredette's eventual 43 points on a GAUDY 24 attempts - the rest of the team had 32 by comparison - and now sit alone at the top of the MWC standings. I would still argue that the Aztecs are the best team in the conference - they were clearly gassed from the altitude and went on an 8 plus minute field goalless streak in the second half which allowed the Cougars to pull away - and I have a feeling the tables will turn next month when the two teams meet up in the Whale's Vagina. But while watching Fredette ply his trade and continue his one man rampage in Provo, I could really only think of one thing:

How the hell did Ronnie Moss hold this guy to 21 points?

Cut to the Frogs game where, ironically, Moss was nowhere to be seen, having not traveled with the team due to "undisclosed personal reasons." Now, I'm no clairvoyant, but whenever a player doesn't even travel with the team due to an "undisclosed personal reason," either he's the topic of the classic Ween cut, "You Fucked Up," or he has "creative differences" with the direction the team is going and chooses not to be involved at all. Given what I witnessed last night, it looks like he made the correct call.

Let me just say this, I went to and, briefly, played for a high school team that never had a winning year in any year that I was there. And as high school teams are notorious for having players just trying to "get theirs," you can imagine what extreme that was taken to when we were losing all of our games and our coach had no control over what was going on on the floor. And when I watched the Frogs game last night, it was pretty much like watching my high school team all over again, but with more tattoos.

To paraphrase Rhett Butler and say that frankly we just didn't give a damn in last night's 71-46 "effort" isn't even scratching the surface. In the second half, I'm not even sure we ran one offensive set as I saw three straight trips down the court where we simply dribbled inside the arc, half assedly set up a pick, and launched an off balance, leaning 20 footer that had no PRAYER of going in unless Hank Thorns was involved. Speaking of Thorns, I think he pretty much has Stockholm Syndrome at this point because that's the only explanation I can think of why a good basketball player would still be around, even taking into consideration he's already transferred once. I'm not sure what the coaching staff sold him two years ago when he transferred from Virginia Tech, but oh my god what are you doing here, guy??? And he wasn't even THAT good last night! 11 points on SEVENTEEN shots is pretty doggone awful, but he was still the leading scorer, and the leading assister with 9. And that line easily qualifies him as the player of the game for the Frogs if there even is such a thing, especially considering we only had 12 assists total on the night. That number should tell you all you need to know about how much we were playing together last night. You could play NBA Live on easy mode solely as LeBron against the Memphis Grizzlies and dish out more assists than that.

For the game, the Frogs shot 33%, 22% from the outside, and FIFTY SEVEN PERCENT from the free throw line. As a benchmark comparison, Shaquille O'Neal, the worst free throw shooter in the history of the league or thereabouts, has a career mark of 52.7%. Let that sink in. TCU has never been a good free throw shooting team for reasons that are beyond me, so I'm not penning that solely on Christian because it was true during the Dark Ages of Daughterty. And making all of our free throws last night would not have even dented the final score. But you know what would have? Not shooting 33% from the floor and 22% from three! That's just terrible and doesn't happen if you have a well executed game plan. And you can't execute a game plan without your best player.

Given what happened last night, I have no doubt that we still would've lost the game even had Moss played. Maybe we would've kept it within 20-15 points, but to suggest that we would've beaten New Mexico is absolutely ludicrous. They aren't that good, but a "not that good" MWC team is still leaps and bounds better than what we're running out each night. And I honestly have no idea why Moss didn't travel; I'm completely jumping to conclusions due to the "undisclosed" part of the reasoning because, if there was a death in the family or an illness or something along those lines, that kind of information is typically disclosed, even for a college athlete. But if he's going the way of Sammy Yeager - and I honestly have no reason to think that he is - that speaks volumes about what's going on in Fort Worth right now when you consider he was the first recruit Christian brought to campus.

Christian really does give a good effort out there. He's fiery, he's passionate and he clearly wants to win. But, as one of our commenters pointed out in another post this week, he's never had to rebuild a program. He did wonders at Kent State, but he inherited his position at what was already a strong program under Stan Heath. But, maybe TCU should've seen the writing on the wall based on Heath's body of work at the University of Arkansas, the job he took over which catapulted Christian into the drivers seat at Kent? I understand the caveats of attracting prime candidates to Fort Worth, of which there are many. And I realize that, after the "hot shot assistant" route failed miserably with Daugherty, the up and coming mid-tier coach was the next best option, and Christian seemed like a home run hire at the time. He said all the right things and was a breath of fresh air coming on the heels of Daugherty, who was one of the most jaded and naive coaches to ever taint the profession. But in hindsight? Christian's expectations and proclamations were the same and just as unrealistic - to win and to win immediately. He just said it with passion and enthusiasm, rather than whining and not accepting that he wasn't in Kansas anymore. But the sad truth is, the program is just as dormant as it was under Neil, and to be honest, perhaps even more so. Daugherty was terrible, but he at least had winning records, and Christian is looking hard at his third straight as head man. I understand he needs proper time to rebuild, and I have no expectations of TCU ever becoming a true basketball powerhouse, but if in three years we're not even challenging the middle of a top heavy basketball conference, how much time should we be willing to give him?

You always hate to turn your back on a person who genuinely wants what is best for the program and who you know wants to win more than anything. But judging from the selfishness of the players last night, and from their glassy eyed, entirely morose expressions in the huddle, it might be time.

To recycle some old material - I might be wrong, but I doubt it.