Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Lot on the Line(s) for Ferrum Football

Looking at this years pending schedule, Ferrum has to get down to business right away to make this a successful season. While it may appear that the biggest change will be a two game non conference schedule instead of three, and the order in which Ferrum faces their opponents, the fact is that the USA South is a conference with much improved teams. The competition has improved significantly and last year, Ferrum was struggling to keep up to say the least.

Teams that really surprised me were North Carolina Wesleyan, and Methodist.  I felt that these two teams made significant strides and proved to be solid competitors in the USA South. Maryville, and CNU were expected to do well, but it has gotten to the point that the USA South has reached a high level of parity.
Huntingdon and LaGrange were both solid this past season, and were in the mix throughout the season. NCW, who ended the season with just two of them over Ferrum, was far better than their record indicates. Look for them to be more competitive this year.

As for Ferrum, and the 2014 season, I believe that first and foremost, the defense has to get better by leaps and bounds. Offensively, there is reason for guarded optimism as Ferrum should be strong at many of the "skilled positions" Tim Reynolds returns for his senior season, and must re capture the consistency of his sophomore year to be a driving force for the offense. I look for both Tae Gilbert, and Dominique Leseine to be in the backfield, and with the speed of Reynolds, the backfield will be strong.  I am expecting Wide Receivers, Matthew Kennell and B.J. Jennings to be very valuable to the offensive scheme. On offense, it is the line that concerns me. Ferrum will have all new faces from tackle to tackle, and the limited experience could be an issue. Time will tell.

On defense, I think it is any one's guess as to how Ferrum performs. Six defensive Seniors are slated to graduate. The most notable losses are Lynwood Pickett, and DeRon Dillard, along with Chris Ham. I look for the defensive scheme to be more solid as time goes on, but there may be a learning curve for the players as they acclimate to the new DC.

The success of Ferrum will also be affected by the loss of K/P Wesley Franklin. A true talent, Franklin provided a strong, consistent performance during his time at Ferrum, and his departure will have the coaching staff hunting for a quality replacement.

From my perspective, I look at the 2014 season to again have question marks, but many can be answered by high quality play of the offensive and defensive lines. There is a lot on the lines for this season, but look for Ferrum to show consistent improvement as time goes on.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Hiring of Phil Elmassian
The Remedy for an Ailing Defense

If you look at the statistics from this past season, Ferrum's defense last year was sadly lacking to say the least. Opponents scored an average of 39.4 points per game, and there was much damage done whether on the ground, or through the air.
Below are some graphs that will show the defensive struggles for 2013. Please click on any graph to enlarge it.

(Click on Graph to Enlarge)


I have always been a proponent that defense wins championships. I thinks this past Super Bowl was a great example of this philosophy. For the Ferrum Panthers, these graphs illustrate that there is a lot of work to do on the defensive side of the ball. Fortunately, I think Ferrum should now be considered very strong where defensive coaching is concerned. In a recent conversation with Coach Dave Harper, he indicated how pleased he was to have coach Elmassian join the staff. Coach Harper commented that "while you may not always be able to have the best athletes, its important to have strong coaches"

In my opinion, Ferrum's defense will get markedly better, and I think the results will show up soon.
This does not mean that Coach Elmassian will perform a miracle in his first season, but his knowledge base is solid, and I think any athlete who has a chance to play under him will benefit from the experience. Given the chance to have input into the recruiting process, and given time to teach his defensive philosophy to the players, Ferrum will, in time, become much more consistently effective on defense.

This is a huge shot in the arm to Ferrum's program, and I for one, am very excited.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

In Baseball Terms, Ferrum Hit a Grand Slam!

When Ferrum found themselves with a need for a defensive coordinator, I was concerned that Ferrum may serve as an opportunity for the candidate to gain experience, but that prospective coach likely would not have a lot. Ferrum posted its position on February 5th, and last night they sent out a text stating that a press conference would be held on Wednesday to introduce the new defensive coordinator.
In 12 days, Ferrum had the position filled and they did not just get anyone.....they get one of the best, and oh does he have great experience! Please read the attached article.

Ferrum Announces New DC

This is far better news than I would have ever expected. Everyone involved in this hire is to be commended. GO PANTHERS!!!!!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Adams Headed to Averett University

Ferrum's longtime defensive coordinator Cleive Adams has accepted the head coaching job at Averett University. The announcement was made today at a press conference in Danville. Adams brings a wealth of experience to the job, and in the press conference, pledged his commitment to the university and the community in an effort to bring success to the football program.

This development, while positive for Adams, leaves a vacancy in the coaching staff at Ferrum. I am sure coach Harper will have mixed emotions about his former defensive coordinator, but this should be looked at a an opportunity for the Ferrum program. New blood can be a great thing, and a search for Adams replacement should begin immediately. I hope that an announcement is posted soon. The hiring process should be expedited, as this is a critical position.

Congratulations Coach Adams, and good luck!!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Those Championship Years-
The Standard To Shoot For

It is truly comparing apples to oranges to try to equate some of Hank Norton's championship teams to Ferrum teams of today. These are two different eras of Ferrum football. While the teams of the sixties and seventies were far different from teams of today, many of the basic approaches to success could and should be the same. If you were to look at Ferrum's last championship team, the 1977 team, the main thrust seems to be the defense. Over that championship year, Ferrum finished the season 9-1, only losing to Grand Rapids Junior College, 16-14. That loss played in a heavy downpour, saw Ferrum fumble eight times, and lost six of those. The Grand Rapids team scored the game winning touchdown on a 38 yard pass with less than two minuets remaining.

Overall that season, Ferrum gave up 36 points. That, at the time was the second fewest points given up by a team, and six of their ten games were shutouts....Incidentally, the fewest given up was by the '65 championship Panthers, who only allowed 19 points on the season. In short, defense was always the bedrock of Ferrum success.
This year, Ferrum gave up 394 points, with 23 touchdowns of opponents coming through the air. On the ground, Ferrum gave up 2109 yards, and 29 rushing touchdowns. While there are many differences between the athletes of those championship teams, and the ones of today, the focus on defense must be primary, and no options should be taken off of the table to make Ferrum's defense formidable again.
If there is going to be a re-evaluation, and review of the season, defense would be where I would start, and while it may not be realistic to think that Ferrum will break any records of the '65 team, It really, can only get better, and it must.

If the defense is going to be the first need addressed, then offense should not follow too far behind. This season, Ferrum's offense scored 223 points. This was down from last years total of 322. A 99 point decrease on offense, and a change in points surrendered by the defense from 231 in 2012, to 394 this season. Not a recipe for success. The 1977 championship team scored a total of 314 points. Not as strong as the offense last year.

Ferrum is looking good in some areas...I was fortunate for the first time to visit the Hank Norton Center Saturday. This is nothing short of a masterpiece. This facility is one of the nicest I have seen, and is something Ferrum should be very proud of. The entire Adams stadium is looking very much first class, and I was just as impressed with the new press box, and the new restrooms. Changes that will all make a difference.

So exactly, what will it take for Ferrum to get back to prominence? I am not sure, but there are things that I think are impressive about the program, and there are things that need work. I do believe that next year will have a much better ending.

Go Panthers!

Panthers Long Season Ends on a Sour Note

While I was able to get to the game Saturday, the game itself seemed like a microcosm of the entire season. Relying more of a sense of hope, rather than  facts gathered over the season, I predicted a Ferrum win.....Unfortunately, the Panthers ended the game on the wrong end of a lopsided score. The Panthers fell hard to the CNU Captains, 58-12.
There is not a lot to say about the game. Too many turnovers early gave the Captains a lead that they would not relinquish, and all the Ferrum fans could do was to bear the misery until the clock read all zeros.

For Ferrum, the ending of this season marked the end of what started out as a season that had a lot of question marks. A lot new faces this year meant a young team, and more often than not, young teams struggle. While I still thought there would be more success, it just did not materialize. So the question begs, what should we expect next year? In short, Ferrum fans, I have no idea. I do know this, Ferrum must do a careful review of all aspects of their season to make gains next year.

Ferrum will lose 14 players to graduation. Hardest hit will be the interior offensive line which will be a total turnover. (5) Other positions to fill will include 3 defensive linemen, 1linebacker, 3 running backs, 1 safety, and the punter/kicker. However it shakes out, I look for next season to be a better season, but to get there Ferrum has to begin the process of improvement right away. I doubt it will be an idle off season.

Friday, November 15, 2013

GAME PREVIEW: Christopher Newport @ Ferrum

With both teams playing for nothing more than pride, the Captains make the long trek to Franklin County to take on the home standing Panthers. Ferrum has struggled, only winning two games, while CNU has only lost two. Those two losses were both conference games, and these losses, in a rare instance, have left the Captains out of the playoff picture. So this is a game for respect. Ferrum has not beaten CNU in their last 9 meetings, and would like put the brakes on this slide. Most will think this is a formality, and CNU will romp.....and they may, But Ferrum  can win this, and I think with the help of Senior Wesley Franklin, they will

Ferrum 17

CNU 14

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Looking Ahead

While there are many that believe that Ferrum's season is a wash, I do not count myself among those. Ferrum has a chance to do something this weekend that has not been done since November 15th, 2003....defeat Christopher Newport. Why do I think it is even remotely possible that Ferrum can win? Because no one else does....especially Christopher Newport. Ferrum has lost for nine consecutive seasons to the Captains, and while there have been blow outs, there have also been games that were close. The average margin of victory has been 16.7 points for the Captains, with that including games as close as three points, and blowouts by 48. This year, for the first time in a while, neither team is in playoff contention. The conference playoff spot has already been wrapped up by Maryville. This game next week is all about pride...and for Ferrum, ending a skid that has gone on too long.

Yesterdays game against LaGrange showed me a team that played an inspired brand of football. They did not give up and were in the game until the end. While CNU is no slouch, they are not having the year that everyone thought they would have. Granted they started off strong, defeating Hampden-Sydney, and Salisbury, and gaining a national ranking early in the season, but they are not the winning machine that it looked like they might be early in the season.

For Ferrum to win they must first believe that they can win. There are plenty out there who don't give them much of a chance at all. It will not be easy, but another effort like yesterday may just give the Ferrum fans something to scream about, and the Seniors a memory that will last a lifetime.

Go Panthers!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Ferrum Posts Strong Effort
Falls to LaGrange 10-3

In a rare defensive struggle, Ferrum found itself in a heck of a ballgame today but was unable to pull out a win as they fell to LaGrange 10-3. Going into the 4th quarter, Ferrum and LaGrange remained in a 3-3 tie. LaGrange had an opportunity to break the tie, but missed a field goal. Later LaGrange was driving inside the Ferrum 10 when they fumbled, and Ferrum recovered,  but both times were unable to capitalize.

Again Ferrum gave ground on defense, and LaGrange had the ball deep in FC territory. A well thrown pass to the corner was caught by the LaGrange receiver for the game winning touchdown. Ferrum would have another chance to get to the end zone, but it was not to be as Ferrum had a Hail Mary intercepted to end the game.

The home standing Panthers should be very proud of their effort. The defense played very well. The pass defense was the best it has been all season. Holding this team to 10 points was a huge accomplishment. The main difference, as I saw it was the mismatch between the Ferrum O-line, and the LaGrange D-line. Reynolds had pressure for much of the day, and while there were moments that the Ferrum offense moved the ball, it was inconsistent. This was as a result of the LaGrange defense rather than the Ferrum offense. Just not big enough horses up front.

Ferrum will close the season out next week at home against CNU. This game today gives me hope for the final game of the season. CNU only defeated LaGrange 13-10. Keep your heads up boys...a win next week would go a long way toward easing the pain of this season.

LaGrange @ Ferrum

Today it's Panthers vs. Panthers as LaGrange visits Ferrum. LaGrange comes into the contest off of a close game with Christopher Newport, losing 13-10. Ferrum comes off of their loss with North Carolina Wesleyan, looking to close out the last couple of games of the season the season on an upswing. As I have watched the season progress, I am skeptical that Ferrum will have much success in the final two games. There have been bright spots, but all in all, Ferrum is just not where they need or wanted to be. This has been a disappointing year for Ferrum, While they do have talent, Ferrum just has not gotten the job done . I don't see many things changing today.

LaGrange   44

Ferrum       20

As for the rest of the conference, Maryville should capture the conference crown today. A win against Greensboro will send them to the playoffs. Here is how I see the rest of the day going for USA South teams.

Greensboro @ Maryville

Methodist @ Huntingdon

Averett @ Christopher Newport

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ferrum Falls to North Carolina Wesleyan
Difficult Season Continues

At the beginning of the season, I predicted that Ferrum would finish fourth, and would have a record of 7-3. Better not quit my day job! ( I also predicted that NCW would go 0-10...ugh) After the defeat at the hands of NCW, Ferrum is assured of a less than .500 season, and will have a difficult time putting another notch in the win column this season. The Bishops soundly defeated the Panthers yesterday 33-16, but were leading at one time 33-0.
The train seems to have left the track for Ferrum, and with LaGrange and CNU left to close out the season, It is hard to imagine that things will get much better this year. As for yesterday, its appears that the offense and the defense both struggled. I again was not in a position to watch the game, but it seems that North Carolina Wesleyan was well prepared for the game, and Ferrum was just not effective.

I am disappointed that overall, Ferrum is not the contender I hoped they would be. I am hoping for a good turnout at the game the next two Saturdays. I would mean a lot to get a win, and a good crowd can help this.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ferrum @ North Carolina Wesleyan

For the last time this season, Ferrum will board the bus as their schedule takes them to Rocky Mount North Carolina to play the 1-8 Battling Bishops of North Carolina Wesleyan.
Both teams are coming off losses, and for the Bishops, they are playing their last game at home. On the surface, this is a winnable game for Ferrum, but it is also one that is in no way a sure thing. NCW has an offense that can move the ball, and put points on the board. They are averaging 22ppg, and 148 rushing yards per game. They are also averaging 216 yards through the air. This could be one of the closest games of the season, and literally could go either way. I look for a lot of points to be put up, but believe Ferrum's defense will prevail in slowing their ground game, and that the Ferrum offense will have just a little more talent. It is a tough game to call, but I give Ferrum the edge....may be a last minute field goal.

Ferrum 38

NCW 36

In the other games, I see it this way.

Huntingdon @ Averett

Methodist @ Greensboro

Christopher Newport @ LaGrange

Go Panthers!