SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Friday, September 30, 2016

Nick Saban is Just Wrong about Blake Barnett

Fact:  Top program in country recruits elite players. 

Speculation:  To program in country perhaps recruits too many of them.

Fact:  Only one quarterback can play that position at a time.

Speculation:  Top programs recruit many elite quarterbacks, realizing that not all can handle college, the pressure, their system and that not all improve after high school.

Fact:  Quarterbacks transfer.  Blake Barnett, a five-star recruit out of California, just pulled the plug on his stay at Alabama, will transfer to a junior college and then be eligible to play for an FBS program this time next year should he have the grades and credits.  Read more about his story and Saban's reaction here.

Analysis:  Barnett did not quit in the sense that Saban says he did.  Saban gets the analysis partially right -- the kids do get all sorts of ideas in their heads about how good they are and how much they should be playing.  Heck, the top programs help foster a system that creates a star system among recruits and pumps them up with all sorts of ideas as to what they can achieve at a big-name program.  It's a circular system, in that that's how the big-time programs get these kids -- by pumping them up or underscoring the hype.  Atop that, it used to be the case that the programs had all of the power and that a commitment meant an unbreakable bond between school and kid, even if it turned out that the kid will sit for most of his career because, well, he isn't all that good.  But it also was the case that programs tried to and succeeded to run kids off the team, precisely because they weren't all that good.  Today it's the case that programs cannot offer an unlimited amount of scholarships (they are limited to 85) and that scholarships are one-year renewable, which means that if a kid has a bad year, the team can "non-renew" him and cut him loose without any commitment to his education.  So if a program can do that, what's wrong with Blake Barnett's departure?  Perhaps the timing -- he isn't sticking out the year and he has no promise of a smooth path to a starting job elsewhere -- but that's about it. 

So why is Nick Saban wrong?  Because everyone simply doesn't have to do as he says.  Is it frustrating that a coach "never knows" who will stay and go and therefore a coach is frequently on edge about what his depth chart at QB can be?  Maybe.  But the coach can alleviate that pressure through building solid relationships with his QBs and engaging in meaningful conversations.  That's not to say that Saban didn't try that or do that in his mind, but that's not always the case.  It's hard to think of the term "poor Alabama" in this situation.  The Crimson Tide will get over this setback.  I do feel for the QB, because, well, he's a kid, and kids go through a wide range of thoughts and emotions about major decisions.  It may be that he's not as good as advertised, and it may be that Alabama just isn't a great fit or that he fears he'll sit behind the current starter for way too long.  That's his right, and it's his right to leave.  Besides, why would Saban want him in the locker room if he is this unhappy?  Isn't the goal to provide for the kid's happiness first?

Sorry, Nick, but the kids have very little power as it is.  College football and coaches like you have made it so.  Just remember that in the absence of a greater balance of power, you create a situation where kids can feel too pressured and sometimes squeezed.  Change the system and you might not get a precipitous departure.  Maybe.  At the end of the day, you might have gotten it right -- these are elite prospects who have a lot of people whispering into their ears and who have come to a program like Alabama on a wave of hype, whether it's justified or not.  That's the world you chose, so occasionally you have to realize and come to grips with the fact that it will disappoint you.

Monday, September 19, 2016

On Sam Bradford

Great game last night.

Showed that he can begin to quarterback a good team.

Makes Vikings' management look good so far for making the trade.

Key things:

1.  Can he continue to play at this level?
2.  Can he stay healthy?

The further the Vikings go, the better the trade will look for them.

The better Carson Wentz does, the better the trade will look for the Eagles.

Neither QB, of course, should be judged on a single data point. 

But the Vikings must have liked what they saw last night.

As for the Eagles' brass, well, every time Bradford goes out and has a good game, a piece of them dies.

Friday, September 16, 2016

On Carson Wentz

I had planned a longer post, but figured I'd write just a few basic points on the topic:

  • Wonderful first game.
  • It was an NFL game.
  • It was against the Browns, one of the worst teams in the NFL.
  • He played in a pro system at North Dakota State and it shows why.
  • Funny how more low star recruits do better in college and have pro potential than higher star recruits.
  • He made some nice throws for touchdowns.
  • It was his first game, a very good start.
  • He is a rookie.
  • There will be film on him going forward.
  • He will get to watch film and study defenses too.
  • He will make mistakes.  There will be times where he gets sacked when he should have gotten rid of the ball or when he throws an interception when he should have thrown it into the ground or out of bounds.
  • His line is okay for now but will not be as good if Lane Johnson gets suspended.
  • The Eagles will need to sustain a running game to help enable the passing game and vice versa.
  • He is a rookie.
  • He will make mistakes.
  • Patience should be the operative word for all in the Philadelphia region.