Bubba And The 'Brothers'

Four out of five of NC’s “major college” football programs won this past Saturday.  The 5th one – East Carolina – fell 24-6 to one of those other four — Carolina in sun-drenched Kenan Stadium.
It was a good solid W for the Tar Heels coming off two consecutive near-miss Ls and it was an important sort-of-rivalry W.   “Sort-of” in that the in-state series with the Pirates from Greenville does not qualify in the minds of all Tar Heels…. but it is VERY IMPORTANT regardless.
Next week it’s a not-Boise State school from Idaho coming to Kenan.  Then we get into serious ACC competition.  The ideal football weather of October is just around the corner.  A welcome relief from two home games where fans on Kenan’s North Side deserve some sort of “loyalty in the face of a blazing sun” award.  I mean, really!
A signature event occurred at halftime Saturday that would go completely unnoticed by all but a 100 or so Tar Heels if I don’t tell you right here and now.
For the first time in recorded history a sitting UNC Director of Athletics visited the Charlie Justice Football Lettermen’s Lounge on the South Concourse.   “The Choo Choo Lounge” is that room you see in front of you if you enter thru the South Gate.   It is a meeting place and halftime hospitality area for all former Carolina football players at every UNC Home game.
Yes….. “Bubba The AD” took a few minutes from his game day duties to drop by to meet former Tar Heel gridders from seven decades.   Bubba Cunningham’s surprise visit pleasantly stunned the several 100 living legacies in attendance.    It was a first-class gesture by a first-class guy.
“Wow, a UNC AD who cares enough to drop by to meet us and thank us for our contributions to UNC !!….” was an oft-repeated phrase as the fellas were told “who’s the guy wearing the blue-white striped tie”.
Tar Heels fans can easily name the stars of teams over the past 70-some years.  The names that ring the stadium and fill up the record books; but 90% of men who have donned that “blue bonnet” over those years did so in relative obscurity known only to family and teammates. 
The Band of Brothers that endured two-a-days, spring practices and countless hours on Navy Field knocking heads with one another as goggle-eyed assistant coaches “aggressively persuaded” them to stretch the limits of their physical and psychological capabilities….. with the only tangible rewards being the Saturday cheers in Kenan Stadium and other less beautiful greenswards.
It is a simple reality in football that fans follow the ball so the players that handle the ball get the recogntion – QBs, RBs, WRs – and, on defense the blitzing LBs and ball hawking DBs.  They make up about 40% of the players on the field.  What about the other guys?  Their teammates know them….. their proud families look for their numbers….. and their coaches know them.
And of the players who “get their uniforms dirty on Saturday” there are another 40-50 who toil in total obscurity making those players better in practice and waiting their turn to block, tackle, run, pass or kick before a packed Kenan Stadium.
“Just call me Bubba” met a roomful of those guys on Saturday.  Yes, there were some “names” on-hand that you would immediately recognize….. guys whose larger-than-life action pictures are on the pillars of Kenan Stadium….. but in The Choo Choo Lounge they are all just “teammates” hugging old friends and recounting “slightly” exaggerated stories of by-gone days playing football for The University of North Carolina.
It MEANT A LOT to those guys that Bubba The AD dropped by to say thank you for their contributions to Tar Heel athletics.       
If you’re ever walking by The Choo Choo Lounge at halftime, stop for a few minutes and say hi.  Ask for an autograph or a picture pose.  Trust me…. they won’t mind at all.  ….. not at all.
Enjoy BobLee’s commentaries at www.bobleesays.com


Close Encounters At Wake Forest

UNC should be pleased with the game against Elon. A convincing win must feel good to the Carolina community amid all the press about academic scandal. However, I’m sure everyone in the Kenan Center realizes the schedule gets tougher.
Wake Forest’s BB&T Stadium is a tough place to play for a couple of reasons. The locker rooms are unusually small. The fans are extremely close to the bench area, which is tiny, too. In 2007, I coached the offense from the field at Wake Forest. I found sideline and halftime adjustments to be more difficult because of the limited space. And Wake is the type of defense that will necessitate adjustments.
Last year, UNC played Wake at home and as we prepared I remember marveling at the volume of their defense. The Deacs are one of those teams that give coordinators headaches with a blitzing 3-4 defense that schematically looks a lot like Dick LeBeau’s Pittsburgh Steelers.
Because of the variety of looks, we went into the game with a small but tight game plan. The primary ingredient in last year’s plan was to give the ball to Gio Bernard. If Gio gets 30 touches in this game, UNC will be tough to beat. Behind a massive and experienced offensive line, UNC should be able to keep the ball from the Deacons.
Wake’s offense goes through Michael Campanaro who caught nine of quarterback Tanner Price’s 16 completions. When so much of an offense goes through one person, it clearly indicates who you have to stop and makes game planning a lot easier. In comparison, UNC’s 20 completions versus Elon went to 14 different people. If UNC stops Campanaro, Wake will struggle running behind a green offensive line.
Duke v. Stanford
Duke’s win last week over FIU was impressive. I thought Duke would do well, but the convincing fashion of the win served notice to teams in the ACC that Duke is going to be tough to beat. 

Kurt Roper called the game fearlessly. Heck, the second play of the game was a halfback pass. Duke was creative on offense, and the Blue Devils stressed FIU’s defense with tough conflicts of assignment using mis-directions and play action passes. They seemed to increase their confidence in one another as the game went on and they got really hot in the second quarter.
Duke will need that confidence against Stanford in Palo Alto. One advantage Duke has is the staff’s relationship with Mike MacIntyre, the Head Coach of San Jose State, Stanford’s previous opponent. Mike was Duke’s Defensive Coordinator prior to going out west. It always helped me prepare for a team when a friend recently had success against a common opponent. Colleagues can confirm feelings you have, enhance your confidence in the plan, or re-direct your thoughts, especially regarding personnel, for a better assessment of the opponent.
Although Stanford lost Andrew Luck to the NFL, preparing for the schemes David Shaw throws at a defense is tough. Stanford will use lots of motions and shifts to try to create mismatches with teams playing man to man. Duke uses more of a zone defense. A lot of their defenses are called to the field or boundary as opposed to formations or personnel. Therefore, many of the pre-snap bells and whistles Stanford uses will be useless.
Josh Nunes, the QB replacing Luck, is a good athlete. About the only thing Duke struggled with last week was pass defense against a scrambler. I bet Coach Knowles covered that this week, and Duke will cover on movements by the QB.
I think it is easier to travel west for a game than it is east. Unfortunately, they won’t kick off until what seems like Sunday morning, which could have more of an effect on the following week’s game. I’m sure Duke is confident and excited to make this trip. I think I will stay up through Sunday morning and catch it.
NC State v. UConn
UConn and NC State both have remarkably experienced staffs. George DeLeone, UConn’s OC, is well respected and Don Brown, the DC, may blitz every single down.
Last week, UConn’s defense allowed only 59 yards in the 37-0 win over UMass. Often stats can be misleading. I know coaches who blitz the heck out of a team in the fourth quarter, when way ahead, so the lost yardage goes into the negative rushing column. This manipulation of stats is really just whipping up on an inferior opponent.
UConn had only 2 sacks for -16 yards, so they weren’t just trying to cushion stats. They had a remarkable 10 TFL’s (thrown for losses) for -46 yards on run plays. When you couple a punishing defense with an offense that held the ball for over 36 minutes, NC State is going to have to make each series count. The Pack may have fewer of them if  UConn is able to hold the ball as much as last week.
State is going to have to use the quick game and run the ball effectively on first and second downs. UConn has a strong blitz package which becomes exotic on third down. Rentscheler Field, where UConn plays, is surprisingly loud and makes it even tougher to use cadences to smoke out disguises. Sometimes the best third down game plan is to convert on first or second down. That’s how I feel when going against guys like Don Brown.
State will recover from the disappointing loss to Tennessee. UConn’s offense won’t be nearly as explosive as Tennessee’s was, but State will have to fit in a myriad of runs and cause a turnover or two giving their offense an extra possession.


Top 5 Fantasy Football Duds From 2011

After extensive research, countless interviews, and hours of data comparison and analysis, I am proud to present the 5 most disappointing players from the 2011 Fantasy football season.  To keep up the academic integrity of my last piece, allow me to qualify the criteria upon which this list was determined.  

Since the conclusion of the Fantasy season, I have surveyed every Fanager I have encountered to get a firsthand look into their 2011 Fantasy experience with individual players.  I wanted to learn things that only someone who has been closely monitoring the players for a full season would know (not to mention, it alleviates some of my workload…).  Factored into this equation are preseason projections as compared to an individual’s actual performance throughout the season.

Another important consideration for judging a player’s Fantasy effectiveness is by examining the way he was acquired to see if he exceeded the value of his roster spot.  In other words, if you were given the chance to rebuild your 2011 roster knowing what you know now, would you do it all the same?  Who would you reconsider drafting/trading/adding/starting when you did?  

It is important to point out how I considered injuries in this decision because injuries typically make (or more often break) a Fanager’s season, and with the consolidated prep time due to the lock out, this year was no exception.  This is one of the issues that makes this questionnaire-style approach to Fantasy analysis so critical because the Fanager’s subjective opinion of the individual is the tool for measuring a player’s success, or lack thereof in this case.  I wanted to know, in your personal experience, which players left you feeling like they just didn’t bring their “A-game?”  Who dropped the ball when it was all on the line (besides Wes Welker…that’s right – me and Giselle said it)?  If you had to blame someone for your team’s misfortunes, who would the bulk of responsibility fall on?

Consistent with the Top Surprises, I relied on you as Fanagers to weigh both the tangible and intangible aspects to decide, and the Top 5 Fantasy Football Duds From 2011 are:

5. Rashard Mendenhall (Pittsburgh Steelers – Running Back) You hate to see this guy on here because you know it wasn’t for lack of trying, but unfortunately, being the 12th player picked overall warrants it.  Make no mistake, Mendenhall’s 9 touchdowns and just under 1,000 yards are nothing to scoff at, but you need more than 9.3 average points from your number 1 Running Back.  What’s worse is that we may not get to see Mendenhall, who underwent ACL surgery and is not expected to play in 2012, redeem himself anytime soon.

4. Peyton Hillis (Cleveland Browns – Running Back) I didn’t like him from the get-go this year, but others were surprised to see the ‘Madden Curse’ strike again this year, as the cover boy of its most recent edition churned out an abysmal season following the video game’s release.  Hillis averaged the 25th pick of the Fantasy draft and the 13th Running Back chosen.  Hillis owners were flying high in Week 2 when he posted 94 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns and 21 Fantasy points against the Colts, but the touchdown well would run dry all the way until Week 15 when Hillis scored his third and final touchdown of the season against the Cardinals. This guy was another player whose owners felt like personal contract negotiations or otherwise conscious personal decisions negatively impacted their performance on the field.  Not to mention, he gave Fanagers a fit setting their postseason starting rosters and brought down those who fell to the temptation of putting him in.
3. Michael Vick (Philidelphia Eagles – Quarterback) Which of the following names doesn’t belong: Aaron Rodgers, Michael Vick, Drew Brees, or Tom Brady?  Clearly, Vick was the odd man out of the elite Quarterback bracket this season, and, unfortunately for his owners, he came at a high price.  Vick averaged the 7th overall pick in the draft, which is 2nd among Quarterbacks, going behind Rodgers, but before Brees and Brady.  It was a hard fall from grace for Vick (and consequently for the Eagles and Fanagers), who led all players in Fantasy points scored in the 2010 season.  Depending on when and how you acquired Vick, this season can vary in degrees of devastation.  I had him in one of my leagues as my Keeper and last round pick, so the backlash was less than if I had drafted him in the first round; however, I did also have to draft a back up in Eli Manning in later rounds.  While Eli came at a great value, the combined worth of the 2 roster spots allocated the Quarterbacks was a huge hurdle I could not overcome in a league this deep.  I will say there is an upside – it’s called next season where Vick will still be my Keeper making it rain all over the last round (hopefully).

2. Chris Johnson (Tennessee Titans – Running Back) This guy has got some nerve and is a large part of the reason why I made special allowances for injury consideration (although I do respect his North Carolina ties as he is a product of ECU).  This guy holds out for a gigantic contract worth $56 million over six years which he ultimately gets only to be hampered by obvious conditioning issues he caused himself during the contract holdout.  Come on, man!  Not only that, but he cost his owners the 2nd overall pick in the draft only to come up a little short of the NFL record 2,509 scrimmage yards he set in the 2009 season.  To add insult to injury, literally, this guy wouldn’t stop making noise everywhere except on the field all season and would be just productive enough to leave Fanagers in turmoil trying to predict whether the next week would be a blow out or a blow up, usually ending unfavorably for those who owned him.  The icing on the cake was his marginal performance during the Fantasy postseason, especially considering his prior acknowledgment of his role in Fantasy football (although specifically more flattering performances).  CJ2K posted an unimpressive 147 Fantasy points, averaging just 9.8 points per game. Not what you want to see from the 2nd overall pick.

1. Indianapolis Colts – All Positions That’s right – every single one of them (well, in terms of Fantasy relevancy, anyway).  This ghastly joke of an attempt at an NFL season by everyone other than the rehabilitating (or not, depending on who you ask) Peyton Manning sunk countless Fantasy ships this season.  There were few scenarios over the course of the entire season in which starting a Colt would prove beneficial.  I think it is fair to say that many expected the Colts to be average minus Peyton Manning, but the fallout was much more than anyone anticipated, both in real life and in Fantasy leagues.  

First let’s address the obvious – if you don’t play Fantasy, you might be thinking, “Why would anyone have drafted Peyton knowing at the start he would probably miss a significant portion of the season?,” and there are a few answers.  One explanation is that the Fanager was using an outdated draft kit or other source of information that did not take into account the severity of the developing questions concerning Peyton Manning’s health at the time.  Another reason some people drafted him was because they thought he was worth the gamble, either to use him as a backup later on or possibly a starter late in the season if he came back for the Playoffs as the Colts had hoped.  Some seriously prepared Fanagers even drafted him in the later rounds of this year’s draft to use him as their Keeper for next year’s draft.

Whatever the reason behind it, Peyton Manning averaged the 80th overall pick of the draft, this year’s Fantasy draft.  On average, Peyton was picked ahead of guys like Joe Flacco, Matt Stafford, Jay Cutler, Cam Newton, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and, oh yeah…Eli.  Peyton, who didn’t even come close to taking a snap the entire season, averaged the 11th pick out of all Quarterbacks in the 2011 Fantasy draft, finishing just in front of his brother Eli, the reigning Super Bowl MVP who averaged the 12th pick of all Quarterbacks.  If this Colt who didn’t even play can have that big on an impact on Fantasy squads, imagine the collective toll of the damage done by the following names, all of which were among the top 200 players to be drafted on average in 2011:

Reggie Wayne – Wide Receiver: 47th average overall pick, 7.1 average Fantasy points scored per game

Dallas Clark – Tight End: 63rd average overall pick, 2.6 average Fantasy points scored per game

Joseph Addai – Running Back: 89th average overall pick, 2.9 average Fantasy points scored per game

Austin Collie – Wide Receiver: 97th average overall pick, 3.2 average Fantasy points scored per game

Pierre Garcon – Wide Receiver: 114th average overall pick, 7.6 average Fantasy points scored per game

Adam Vinatieri – Kicker: 141st average overall pick, 6.3 average Fantasy points scored per game

That’s hurt all over your roster, no matter how you swing it, but that’s just the way the right knee crumbles.