Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Defense Wins Championships...
But Coaching Mistakes Can Help

As the Super Bowl officially marked the end of the NFL season, I look again as to how important defense was in the big game on Sunday. A lot has been said about the Seahawks throwing the ball, when Marshawn Lynch had the ability to run it in. Lynch said it best after the game when asked if he was surprised that he was not given the ball, and he said "No, it's a team sport". A very classy answer for someone who's disappointment had to be at a fever pitch.
I am not sure if Pete Carroll's logic in throwing holds water, but that is who get's paid big bucks to make the tough decisions, and I am sure he will not forget the outcome anytime soon.
The late Woody Hayes said " There are only three things that can happen when you pass, and two of them are not good." The debate will likely go on in the media for a while, but in my opinion, if you have a 10 point lead going into the 4th quarter, and you have the best defense in the league, you should not be in the position that the Seahawks found themselves in.....but as they were in that position, they should have run the ball......I digress.....

As for Ferrum's 2015 football outlook, it is difficult to say how the Panthers will fare. There again are, from my perspective may unanswered questions going into this season. Let's start with quarterback.
It is expected that Harvey Taylor will step in to start this season, but in the last game of the season, of 2014, Taylor was injured, and required knee surgery. He will likely not be available for Spring Practice.
As Taylor played most of this past season at running back, his move to quarterback, will leave a big hole in the backfield. Although there are 14 listed on the roster as underclassmen running backs, it is too early to tell who will return. One thing is for sure, this is a position that needs to be ultra productive. The offensive line will have a lot to do with that.
On the O line, the Panthers are only slated to lose Cody Jones, and Brian Ruebush. This is a plus, but the overall effectiveness of the O line last year I thought was inconsistent to say the least. There is room for improvement in this part of the equation, and in my opinion, it has to start in the weight room. Bigger, Faster and Stronger, needs to be the offensive line mantra.
The defense will lose five players, and of those, there was much talent. 1 D lineman, 2 Defensive Backs, 1 Safety, and 1 Linebacker. There are plenty on the roster that can step up, and some good experience returning. Much will depend on the defensive coordinator, and that position remains open.

Looking back on last year, one of the best things to happen to the team was the infusion of about 7 freshmen into the starting lineup. This is something that should pay dividends down the road, and I am hopeful that this is a trend that continues. Freshmen need playing time, and this approach, plus a solid JV program will ensure this.

Facilities Update- Ferrum is looking to raise 1.2 million dollars so that a new field turf surface can be installed at W.B. Adams Stadium. Please see link below:

Field Turf Initiative

Please give to this worthy cause. This is one of the final pieces of the puzzle to the facilities upgrades at Ferrum, and It will mean a great deal to many sport teams.

Lastly, here is the schedule for 2015. Note 6 home games this year! A first ever visit from Hampden-Sydney, one of the best D3 programs in Virginia. Please make plans to support the Panthers!

9/5/2015  Emory & Henry CollegeEmory, VA1 pm
9/12/2015  Shenandoah University (Franklin County Appreciation Day)Ferrum, VA1 pm
9/19/2015  Hampden-Sydney CollegeFerrum, VA1 pm
10/3/2015 Conference GameGreensboro College (Homecoming / HOF / Family Weekend)Ferrum, VA2 pm
10/10/2015 Conference GameHuntingdon CollegeFerrum, VA1 pm
10/17/2015 Conference GameMaryville CollegeMaryville, TN1:30 pm
10/24/2015 Conference GameLaGrange CollegeFerrum, VA1 pm
10/31/2015 Conference GameMethodist UniversityFayetteville, NC1 pm
11/7/2015 Conference GameAverett University (Senior Day)Ferrum, VA1 pm
11/14/2015 Conference GameNorth Carolina Wesleyan CollegeRocky Mount, NC1 pm

With Christopher Newport out of the conference, look for the championship to be up for grabs. I will be back with more off season posts soon, looking especially to pass on recruiting news as I find it.

Go Panthers!

Friday, January 23, 2015

New Field Turf Initiative Underway
Please Support This Cause

Ferrum has officially begun a campaign to have new Field Turf  at W.B. Adams stadium. This is a 1.2 million dollar project that will benefit a variety of sports and activities, and will highlight the colleges commitment to the athletic program. Please consider a contribution to this worthwhile cause.

See the following link for more information:

Ferrum Field Turf Project

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ferrum Ends Season With Road Loss

The Ferrum Panthers ended their season with a loss on the road to the LaGrange Panthers 44-28. This marked the end to a remarkably frustrating season for Ferrum as they close with a 1-9 mark. Saturday's game started out positive for Ferrum as they took a 6-0 lead at the 4:27 mark in the first quarter on a 21 yard pass play from Harvey Taylor to Marzai Tarell. The extra point by Jacob Smoak put Ferrum up 7-0.

LaGrange kicker Will Jeffcoat added a 24 yard field goal with just .39 seconds left in the first quarter bringing LaGrange within 4. A second quarter touchdown gave LaGrange a 10-7 lead at halftime.

Ferrum was outscored in the second half 34-21 as the LaGrange quarterback threw 5 touchdown passes, and ended the day 23 of 38 with no interceptions and 437 yards.

I was not a great day, and in a way it was a microcosm of much of the season. There have been highlights, but they were few and far between. For me, one of the best games the Panthers played was against Christopher Newport. To keep that game close, and only fall by two points to the eventual conference champion showed a solid effort. While I still believe that this is a game Ferrum could have won, it sure beat some of the drubbings I have witnessed at the hands of the Captains. I am very glad that they will not be in the conference next year.

Who do we lose from this years team?

According to the roster, we will lose 10 Seniors. That is not all that many....it could be worse. Those graduating are:

Tim Reynolds- QB
Anthony Orton-DB
Tarrell Owens-S
Jatavious Adams-LB
Breon Washington-DB
DeVante Adams-DL
Cody Jones-OL
Brian Ruebush-OL
Matthew Kennell-WR
Brinnan Bradshaw-TE

Tim Reynolds- Starting QB for the last three seasons, Reynolds brought a strong arm and an natural ability to run the ball. Reynolds holds the record for the most touchdowns in a season (28...combined rushing and passing), most passing yards in a season,1683, most passing yards in a game, 292, most touchdown passes in a game,3, and the most pass completions in a season,115, He will be missed, and likely replaced by Harvey Taylor.

Anthony Orton- A solid performer for Ferrum will leave big shoes to fill. Orton had 28 tackles this season, and a fumble recovery.

Tarrell Owens- A major leader on the defensive side of the ball, Owens holds the record at Ferrum for most interceptions in a game with 3 against N.C. Wesleyan in 2012, and holds the record for the longest interception return in a game of 98 yards against Greensboro also in 2012.

Jatavious Adams- Finished this season second in tackles with 73. For his career, Adams had 150 tackles. He has played a huge roll in the success of the Ferrum defense.

Breon Washington- Started every game but one this year. Contributed 29 tackles for the season.

DaVante Adams- Had 11 tackles this season, and recovered a fumble. Ended his career with 42 tackles.

Cody Jones- Has been a strong performer for Ferrum over his career. Became a starter in the 2013 season, but had that season cut short with an off the field injury. Played every game in 2014.

Brian Ruebush- A dedicated offensive lineman, Ruebush saw somewhat limited action in his career, but played a valuable backup roll when needed.

Matthew Kennell- Became a regular starter as a Junior, and finished his career at Ferrum with 37 receptions, and 8 touchdowns. A very talented receiver.

Brinnan Bradshaw- In an offense that runs far more than it passes, the TE position is one that is mainly used for blocking. Ferrum found a strong blocker in Brinnan Bradshaw, and utilized him in that role.

In the grand scheme of things, Ferrum's largest loss will be Tim Reynolds, but in as he has been out for the last two games, There has been opportunity for Harvey Taylor (his air apparent) to get acclimated to the position. I look for Taylor to provide great leadership next year. He has a lot of ability, and will fit in nicely.

Statistically, Ferrum's offense will need to be far more productive. I am not sure what exactly is needed, but there seems to be plenty of room for improvement. Look for Ferrum to pick up offensive linemen, and another running back or two. Also, I would expect a quarterback will be on their shopping list. Lastly, look for them to try to pick up one or two wide receivers.

On the defensive side of the ball, it seems that LaGrange clearly pointed out much of the defensive weaknesses... primarily the secondary. This is likely to be a major recruiting focus. There could be a linebacker sought out as Jatavious Adams will graduate, but there are several on the bench. Devante Adams (DL) will leave another opening to be filled.

Overall, Ferrum had some really bright spots, but they have to quickly identify their weaknesses and come up with a plan to fix them.

Coaching will likely remain the same, unless there are changes that are voluntary. That is not out of the realm of possibilities, but time will tell. A quality defensive coordinator needs to fill the hole left by Elmassian. I think that this could be filled from within.

Ferrum needs to complete a strong review of everything involved in running a successful program. This includes recruiting, offensive, defensive, and special team strategies, off season conditioning, and player retention. There are many quality pieces in place, but these pieces need to be brought together.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Game Preview: Ferrum @ LaGrange

A long bus ride will bring to an end what has to have been a long season for Ferrum. At 1-8, Ferrum travels to Georgia to take on the 4-5 LaGrange Panthers. With Tim Reynolds out for the season, the responsibility will fall on Harvey Taylor to try to get the offense to turn things around. For the most part, the offense has lagged in productivity, and Taylor and company need to take advantage of every opportunity to try to keep this one close. On the defensive side of the ball. Ferrum will face the top rated quarterback in the conference today, and the defensive secondary will again be tested. Look for the LaGrange quarterback, Craig, who has already thrown for over 2500 yards to continue to put the ball in the air. I look for a LaGrange offense that will be very similar to that of Methodist. If the Defensive secondary can force turnovers, and the offense can convert those turnovers into points, we could have a game.
All in all, I worry that this season has been a big drain on Ferrum, and they will likely have a difficult time getting up for this game. Look for a long ride home for Ferrum.

LaGrange  35

Ferrum  20

As for the rest of the conference....

Christopher Newport is open today, and as they have already wrapped up the conference championship, the rest of the conference is playing for pride. Here is how I see it winding up.

Greensboro @ Averett
 Maryville @ Methodist
Huntingdon @ NCW
 Home teams will have the advantage today!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Some Interesting Facts

As we approach the end of the season, I did a little checking on how Ferrum has stacked up to some area competition this year. I started by selecting four private colleges, and one public college. Those chosen were Emory and Henry, Hampden-Sydney, Guilford, and Randolph-Macon College as the private institutions, and Christopher Newport University as the public school.

My first question was:

Coaches on staff:

Ferrum lists 7 coaches on their staff roster (counting DC which is currently open).
E&H  11
H-SC 10
Guilford 11
CNU 11

Yards rushing gained

Ferrum 2028
E&H  1701
H-SC  1275
GCQ  1479
RMC  2073
*CNU 1880

Passing Yards gained

Ferrum 1196
E&H 2633
H-SC 2690
GCQ  3106
RMC  1579
*CNU  1880

Rushing TD's

Ferrum  12
E&H 20
H-SC 20
GCQ  15
RMC  22
*CNU  23

Passing TD's

Ferrum 7
E&H  25
H-SC  28
GCQ  33
RMC  14
*CNU   23

* Christopher Newport has finished their regular season. Their stats above are based on 10 games, while all of the others are based on 9 games played with one game remaining.

What does this show? First it shows a specialization in coaching. It shows that position coaches are becoming a necessity to be successful. Likely there are few winning programs that have as few as 7 coaches.

It shows that while Ferrum ranked second among these schools in rushing yards, they ranked last in rushing TD's

It shows that Ferrum ranked last in passing yards among the six schools, and also ranked last in passing TD's.

The apparent trend today is to rely more on the passing offense, and not as much on the run. Ferrum, for most of the season has run the spread option, and this is a good and popular offense, but has not proven to be particularly successful for Ferrum.

I am not sure what to take from this, but at 1-8, and with the likelihood that Ferrum will finish the season at 1-9, I would say that in the reevaluation process at the end of the year, Ferrum will take a hard look at offensive productivity.

I will try to compile more stats in the future, but as some teams do not use sidearm, it is more time consuming to gather all of the info. I would like. For some reason defensive stats are much more difficult to compile in some of the stat programs being used.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Methodist Rips Ferrum 42-7

On a chilly Senior Day, Ferrum found the going tough as Methodist won in dominate fashion 42-7.  Ferrum came out with a new quarterback, and basically a different offensive look. Harvey Taylor was under center for Ferrum as they went back, much of the game to a traditional triple option look. There were moments where the Panthers looked better on offense, but when it was all said and done, Ferrum struggled on both sides of the ball. This was not a particularly great day for the defense as they gave up a total of 425 yards to the Monarchs.
Max Reber the Monarchs starting quarterback was 14 of 18 for 185 yards and 3 TD's. The longest one going for 83 yards. In the end, Methodist took Ferrum out to the woodshed, and it was not pretty.
Ferrum closes out the season next week as they travel to LaGrange GA. to take on the conference's other Panthers.

Game Preview: Methodist @ Ferrum

Today is Senior Day at Ferrum. For the class of 2015 football players, this will mark the final game at W.B. Adams Stadium. This, for them will be special as family friends and fans congratulate them on 4 great years on the Ferrum gridiron.
While today will be full of reflection for many, others should think of today's game as a look to the future. Senior Tim Reynolds was injured last week, and is out for the remainder of the season. Quarterback Harvey Taylor will start today, and will likely be the starter going into next year. Today Ferrum will have a new field general, and hopefully a renewed outlook going into their last two games. The Panthers do not have an easy test in Methodist, but they are playing very well on defense, and if the offense can step it up, Ferrum could surprise the Monarchs.
Methodist comes into the game at 5-3 overall, just losing last week to Averett, 31-21. Today is another game that I think Ferrum can win. There are a few things that have to happen for the Panthers to be victorious, and they are:

1. Eliminate turnovers- There were 5 against Greensboro, and there have been 14 on the season.
2. The defense must keep the pedal to the metal. There will be a lot of passes, and you must be ready for that. Keep pressure on the quarterback, and play tight on the receivers.
3. Special teams have to play lights out, and execute on all phases of their game. I would not be surprised to see a kickoff or punt return taken all the way back by Ferrum.

This is a game that the average onlooker would put in the loss column for Ferrum. I am not so sure. If Ferrum can turn it up on offense, they can win. The main key is to control the ball, and make the possessions count.

Having a feeling that this could be a good day in Franklin County....

Ferrum 30
Methodist 17

In the rest of the conference,

CNU @ Maryville
NCW @ Greensboro
Averett @ Huntingdon

Thursday, November 6, 2014

My 500th Post!

I have been writing this often enjoyed, and sometimes maligned blog since 2008. Today, I publish the 500th post. What will it be about? Obviously, it will be about Ferrum football, but not about the past. The past has been covered many times on the blog, and as one reader recently reminded me, the past is history. I could write about the present, and sort of recap the season so far, but I don't think any one's memory is so bad that it is necessary to do a recap just yet. So that leaves the future. What is the future of Ferrum football?

It is difficult for a fan to get excited about a program that is going through tough times. There are usually more criticisms than compliments, and those are sometimes difficult to deal with. One such criticism I hear is that the coaches need to go. I hear that we are running a tired offensive game plan, and that we need to change things up. I hear concerns about the fan base and that there is no one but parents and a few students at the games. I hear these and many other, sometimes far less flattering things, about the program.
Yes this has been a tough year, but I do think the future is bright. I am not saying that some changes do not need to be made, but I think there have been great strides. Look at the defensive resurgence this year. This will only improve. I expect that as we finish the season, you will see the offense start to get better. I do believe Ferrum will win one of their next two game, if not both. I think the future is bright for further facility enhancement as I expect that in the near future artificial field turf, and lights will be added.

I stand solidly behind Coach Harper and believe that the program will turn around. But what is good? What is good enough for the average Ferrum fan? Does it start by beating Emory and Henry? That would be nice, but I think more importantly, that Ferrum needs to come out of the gate a winner in their first game of the season, no matter who it is against. To be successful, does Ferrum need to post at least a 500 record? To be successful, do the Panthers need to win the conference? Do they need to win a playoff game? Do they need to win another national championship? What does it take for the average Ferrum fan to see the team as successful?
I 2005, I went to the CNU at Ferrum game, and the home stands were probably less than half full. Ferrum was 9-0 at the time. I wish the local residents would get behind the team in greater numbers. They say that winning will bring a crowd, but sometimes, the crowd can influence winning.

I do not have the answers, I am a fan, and I support the team the coaches, and the administration in their efforts to field a winning team. My feeling is that it will happen. It is really amazing just how close Ferrum is to being a .500 team. Could have beaten North Carolina Wesleyan, could have beaten CNU, could have beaten Greensboro, Could have beaten Maryville. That would give us 5 wins. The average margin of defeat of those four games is 4.5 points. Those games were winnable, and I do think that while there were some games that Ferrum was never in, those four were potential wins. I know, no matter how I spin it, they were losses, and some of you out there are only concerned about the losses.....note the improvement, and be patient, it will get better.

Thanks for reading the blog. I appreciate it. Here is to 500 more.posts!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Sad News for Ferrum Athletics

Please read following article:

Ferrum swim coach passes away unexpectedly

Monday, November 3, 2014

In Defense of Ferrum

On a defensive team that has anywhere from 5-7 freshmen on the field at the same time, Ferrum's defense has really turned things around this season. Currently, the Panthers D is rated as the # 2 team in the conference behind Maryville, and nationally, they rank 138th. This is up from a season low of 234th in the nation after week 3 (Shenandoah) After week 4 (NCW) they went to 224. After week 5 (CNU) they went to 213. Week 6 saw them climb to196 after the Maryville game. Week 7 they played Huntingdon, and they slipped to 203rd in the nation. In the two games since then, the defense has only given up a total of 33 points, and moved into 150th in week 8, and are currently 138th.
From 234th in the nation to 138th.....That does not sound all that impressive until you realize that there are only 242 d3 teams, and Ferrum was ranked 8th from the bottom a short while ago.
Excellent job defense! Keep up the good work.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Ferrum Drops Game at Greensboro19-17

In a game that I thought Ferrum would have won, the Panthers came up just short, falling to the Pride of Greensboro, 19-17. Overall, the Ferrum defense looked solid again as they held Greensboro to just 19 points and 140 yards rushing. Once again, it looked as if the Ferrum offense could move the ball at times, and then they seemed to falter. Harvey Taylor, started the game at quarterback. I had somewhat expected this as a disciplinary move after hearing rumor of an issue earlier in the week. Taylor was the leading ground gainer for the Panthers as he had 59 yards rushing. He left the game in the first half, apparently with an injury, and did not return.
In the overall big picture, you cannot turn the ball over 5 times, and expect to win. While field conditions seemed less than perfect, Greensboro had no turnovers. Reynolds who played most of the game at quarterback, threw three interceptions, and left the game late in the fourth quarter with an injury. It is not clear as to what the extent of the injury is, but the length of the injury time out gives me concern.
I have to give credit again to a great defensive effort. Freshman Raul Gonzalez led the Panthers D with 9 tackles. This unit, which over the last few years, had, in my opinion, not lived up to expectations, has really showed a lot of improvement this year. With 5 of the 11 defensive starters being freshmen, it paints a bright picture for Ferrum on the defensive side of the ball.
The question going forward is who will quarterback next week if Reynolds and Taylor cannot go? There are 4 other quarterbacks on the roster, and the most likely candidate would be Troy Helton. Helton took the final snap of the game, and ran the ball for 24 yards as time expired. This was the longest run of the night for Ferrum.
Ferrum hosts Methodist next week as this will be the final home game of the season. Methodist, I believed at the beginning of the season, had the potential to be in the mix for the championship, but things have not worked out for the Monarchs. They lost yesterday to Averett.
Next week will be Senior Day, and the last home game for Tim Reynolds, Anthony Orton, Tarrell Owens, Jatavious Adams, Breon Washington, DaVante Adams, Cody Jones, Brian Rubush, Matthew Kennell, and Brinnan Bradshaw. Ten players that have given a lot to this team, and I am hopeful they can close out their last home game with a win.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Game Preview: Ferrum @ Greensboro

For the second week in a row, Ferrum takes to the road, this time to face the Pride of Greensboro. After an impressive win over Averett, the Panthers look to make it two in a row over a struggling Greensboro team. The Pride 1-6 (1-4 conf.) are giving up 46.9 points per game, and are only averaging 20.7 points per game. Ferrum by contrast is giving up just 30.4 points per game, but the offense is only averaging 19.4 points per game. Look for Greensboro to throw the ball often. The remainder of the schedule, Ferrum will face three of the best quarterbacks in the conference. The secondary will definitely be tested.
Ferrum's defense showed great progress last week against Averett, only giving up 15 rushing yards on 30 carries. I would expect more of the same this week, but look for the "Alabama Wild man" Montel Lee to continue to put pressure on the quarterback. Freshman Rashad Johnson leads Ferrum's defense with 54 tackles, followed closely by Senior Jatavious Adams with 51.

A Word About Coach Elmassian

As it has been reported in the Roanoke Times, Phil Elmassian has left the Ferrum coaching staff. I have received a few comments about this, but just read the article today. I was sorry to hear this news, especially given that he left for health reasons. My hope is that his health soon improves. I believed that this was a really good hire for Ferrum. I looked at this as a real plus for Ferrum as he brought multitudes of experience. Often coaches come to Ferrum to gain experience and then leave. He did not need to take the job, it seemed that he wanted the job. Ferrum's rural location can sometimes make it difficult to not only recruit players, but also coaches....This is not a news flash that Ferrum, being between Waidsboro and Endicott is not a metropolis, and is lacking many of the amenities that an urban location would hold. Coaches who are considering Ferrum, have to take that aspect into consideration. This was not a factor for Coach Elmassian, as this was his third stint at Ferrum. Lastly, I doubt Ferrum could pay him anywhere near the salary that he would have received at a DI school, but this did not deter him. So you have a coach with phenomenal experience willing to bring his skill set to a school located far from a large city, and make very little money. To me this was indicative of a winning situation for Ferrum. I doubted that he would be there more than a couple of years, as he was near retirement age, but I am hopeful that his brief stay this time left some positive impressions on the players and the coaches.

So this week, I see Ferrum again in the win column. Looking at this as a game where hopefully the offense will step it up in the point production department. It will largely depend however on how effective the defense is against the pass. This could be a track meet, and that may not bode well for the Panthers. Ferrum needs to shut their offense down. If that happens, look for win #2.

Ferrum 28
Greensboro 20

As for the rest of the conference:

Averett @ Methodist
North Carolina Wesleyan @ Maryville
LaGrange @ Christopher Newport

I would expect that the North Carolina Wesleyan @ Maryville game to be a really good one. Look for the home teams to have the advantage this weekend.....except in Greensboro.