Monday, July 21, 2014

Where are all the Ferrum Fans?

Just in case you are not aware,, hosts discussion boards for every conference in every region in the country. The USA South page has had some quite lively discussions on it, but I am sad to report, there are very few people who post on behalf of Ferrum....for the most part it is just me. There have been a couple of others, but no real consistency.

If you would like to get in on the discussions, click on the link below, and set up your free account. Simple, and fun.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Tradition of Champions-

Before 1985, Ferrum's football program competed at the Junior College level. Between 1955, when the program started, and 1984 Ferrum won four Junior College National Championships. In 1977, Ferrum won its last of those four.

I enrolled at Ferrum in 1978, and many of the players from the '77 championship team were still there. I saw Ferrum have a great '78 season, but cannot report directly as to the '77 championship team, because I was not there. Rich Moscarello was the Equipment Manager at Ferrum at the time, and I as a Freshman, worked with Rich as a student equipment manager. This was my work study assignment. During the '77 season, Rich also wrote sports articles for the Iron Blade, the Ferrum College newspaper. Below is an article that Rich Moscarello wrote about the 1977 season. (This is printed with permission of Ferrum College, and Rich Moscarello.)

by Rich Moscarello
Team Equipment Manager

Ferrum had had three great National Championship teams in the past (1965, 1968 and 1974 ) but none had more character than the 1977 National Championship team.
In a year that for the first time in recent memory saw not a single team in the nation go undefeated, and saw the Number One ranking change hands eight times with eight different schools holding the coveted position and only two of them, (Navarro Texas and Golden Valley Lutheran from Minnesota) holding it as long as two consecutive weeks, the Panthers had character.
In an interesting bit of polling, Ferrum was ranked 10th in the NJCAA pre-season poll which was higher than any other Coastal Conference school, but was not considered the favorite to win the Coastal Conference Football Championship.
Each week found the Panthers getting stronger and stronger with opening victories over Newport News Apprentice, 21-0, and 53-0 over the same Nassau team that beat Ferrum 19-0 the year before. In their third game of the season the Panthers handed Wesley, a school which hadn't suffered a defeat since the waining games of the 1975 season, a 24-6 setback. Then came the straw that was to have broken the camel's back, but did it?
A fluke touchdown in the last minutes of the game gave Grand Rapids Junior College a 16-14 upset victory over Ferrum which seemingly shattered all hope the Panthers had of winning a National Championship, and more certainly shattered their quest for an undefeated season.
The Panthers, knowing only a major miracle would give them a chance at winning all the marbles for the national title, bounced back and showed their true character. Instead of cracking, which they could easily have done, they came back and carved out the Coastal Conference Championship for themselves by dumping high scoring and then undefeated Chowan 16-0. They then proceeded to topple Hudson Valley, Potomac State, Lees McRae, and Liberty Baptist by margins between 14 and 47 points.
As the Panthers opponents fell, so did the national powers of junior college football as they all tried their hand at being the undefeated Number One team in the nation. All were unceremoniously defeated the same week as their No. 1 rating.
By now the Panther machine was nearing the end of a season that would see them score six shutouts (one shy of of the NJCAA record held by the 1965 Ferrum National Championship team), allow only four touchdowns (again one shy of the record held by the '65 Panthers), yield only 36 points (second in school history to the 19 points yielded by the 1965 team), set a school record with 2751 yards rushing offense, and set new NJCAA and school records by allowing on defense an average of only 32 rushing yards a game and 95 yards of total offense. But the day of reckoning had come.
It was a cold snowy day that November 12th in Baltimore, and the Panthers were about to take on the undermanned but brave Baltimore Red Devil team that hadn't won a game all season.
The Panthers knew they had to win and win big to have any chance at the National Championship. They knew they had a bonifide shot at a national title since the Number One team of the past two weeks, Golden Valley Lutheran of Minneapolis Minnesota had to play an in state championship game against a team that wouldn't play dead for them. The team was Normandale from Bloomington.
So the Panthers played like champions, and had Baltimore down 33-0 at halftime. Everybody was experiencing a good feeling, despite the bitter cold.  Ferrum slacked off a little bit in the second half, scoring only 23 points, but came up with the big must victory in true style. Panthers 56  Baltimore 0.
On the bus coming back home, there was only one question that was going through everybody's mind a thousand times. "How did Golden Valley do?" It's hard to tell how many might have thought Golden Valley had won based on the fact that the Ferrum team bus ran out of gas 40 miles from home in the middle of what was then early Sunday morning, but as the song in the Goodyear tire commercial starts "Don't you know there's good news round the corner..."
The next morning we all found out that Normandale most certainly didn't play dead as they whipped Golden Valley Lutheran, 31-0, to win the Minnesota State Championship. We had to wait two more days for the official word from Hutchinson Kansas (NJCAA Headquarters), but when it arrived, there was two minuets of the most deafening hollering and shouting like the weight room at Swartz Gymnasium had never heard before.
Call it what you will. How about with a song, Englebert Humperdink's "I Believe In Miracles" or Barry Manilow's "It's a Miracle" or how about comparing it with the feat of the 1967 Boston Red Sox who were counted as being down and out from the beginning of the season, but when that day of reckoning came, that final day, they won and claimed the championship that would be called the "Impossible Dream."
Another important thing which will probably go unnoticed in history about this great Panther team is that eight of their ten games were played in inclement weather, either rain (like the monsoon experienced at the Liberty Baptist game), or extreme cold (like at Hudson Valley which turned the bubble gum the team chews into jaw breakers), or cold and snow (like at Baltimore). Now it wouldn't be correct to say that anybody could win the national title with ten perfect playing days weather wise, but when you consider that only two games were played in what could be called ideal conditions, that is another example of the Panthers' great character.
Who knows? Maybe it was the prayers of our fans and faculty. Maybe we can say what Paul Newman said in the Rocky Graziano movie he made "Somebody Up There Likes Me." What ever the case, it was the true character of our team that got us where we are, and hopefully it will keep us on top next season.

Ferrum Junior College
1965 National Champions

In looking over some of Ferrum's statistics, I was really blown away when I started reading about the 1965 National Junior College Champion Panthers. To put it simply, that team was unbelievable.Some things that stand out are:

The team record was 10-0.
They won Ferrum's first National Championship.
Offense averaged 26 points per game
7 of their 10 games were shut outs.
Their largest margin of victory was 48 points.
Average margin of victory was 24.1 ppg
Defense only allowed 19 points....THE ENTIRE SEASON!
(That is worth repeating)
Defense only allowed 19 points....THE ENTIRE SEASON!
Average points scored against Ferrum was 1.9 ppg

Here are the season's results:

vs. Shenandoah  46-6

vs. Newport News Apprentice  44-0

vs.  Wesley 27-7

vs.  Potomac 14-0

vs.  Chowan  37-0

vs.  Gardner-Webb 6-0

vs.   Montgomery 15-0

vs.  Lees McRae 7-6

vs.  Univ. of Richmond (Freshman) 48-0

vs.  McCook (Nebraska) National Championship Game 16-0

Not only did this team win Ferrum's first National Championship, they set the standard for a program that would become known for it's defensive ability. Ferrum over the next 12 years would win three more national championships, and all of those teams would use their defensive prowess as a significant part of their success.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

USA South Media Day Monday July 28th
My Predictions Come Out on the 27th.

Once again, I will post my predictions for the upcoming season just prior to the USA South media day, which is scheduled for July 28th. Hosted at Maryville College this year, there will be a live video feed through the website.
My predictions will come out sometime on Sunday the 27th. This year, will likely be the most difficult year for predictions, as it seems that most conference teams can legitimately contend for the title.

One of those teams is obviously CNU. Always competitive, the Captains will be looking to end their stint in the conference with one last championship. Along with CNU, Maryville, the defending conference champion, will look to win back to back titles. Methodist, who was co champion with Maryville, will again be in the mix, and a serious contender for the championship. Huntingdon, North Carolina Wesleyan, Ferrum, LaGrange, Averett, and Greensboro, will all have a shot to win the title, and all can affect the final standings.

As for Ferrum, This year, like last year, I see a lot of question marks. While last year, the question marks centered around the  defense, I see more of them centering around the offense this year, specifically the offensive line. Lots of holes to fill, but there is some experience returning. Size is one area that concerns me, and I am hopeful, they will be more comparable to their opponents D-line.

The good news for the offense is that I see Ferrum's offensive backfield being pretty darn quick. I look for them to have a good deal of speed, and a passing game that could cause problems for opponents. The success of any of the offensive attack however, starts with the effectiveness of the offensive line.

Do not think that this means the defense is appearing to me to be a solid, rebuilt unit, because that is just not the case. 5 members of the defensive unit have graduated, and while it looks like Ferrum has picked up some talented incoming freshmen, one of the
best acquisitions was the hiring of Phil Elmassian. Coach E, brings a wealth of experience, and I believe, over time, will turn the unit around. I have no idea what type of defense the Panthers will run, but there is nowhere to go but up. I do not expect miracles, but I do think there will be a marked improvement, and this will help to make Ferrum competitive.

Finally, I want to comment that Ferrum, I believe has had a very good recruiting effort. It appears that most all areas have been addressed, and what I would call some very high caliber athletes are coming to Franklin County to strap on the black hat. Ferrum will be a better team this year, but whether is shows in the won/loss column , only time will tell. While I am hopeful, I believe that there will be a cross conference improvement  Stay tuned, it could be a wild season.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Wins, Losses, Tackles, Touchdowns, and Two- Point Conversions Mean Nothing
The Perspective of What is Important

In the time that I have written this blog, I have covered many aspects of Ferrum football. Comparing teams, giving my predictions, comparing statistics, responding to comments, and offering my perspective as to what Ferrum needs to do to continuously improve.

Tonight I had the good fortune to speak to Head Coach Dave Harper, and while I always enjoy the chance to chat with Coach Harper, tonight's conversation took a turn that I was not expecting. After discussing some really impressive recruiting successes, Coach Harper told me of a recruit from Caroline County, Daronte Rollins. Rollins was a two sport star at Caroline County High School, excelling in both football and wrestling. Coach Harper indicated that Rollins was a talent, and was on his way to Ferrum, to sign his papers required for admission when the vehicle he was driving was involved in an accident, leaving the future Panther paralyzed. 

It is such a shock to hear of something as terrible as this. The Ferrum Black Hat golf outing was dedicated to assist Rollins and his family. All monies raised were donated to Daronte's assistance.

Rollins is now at the VCU Medical Center in Richmond. 

Please read the attached article from the Free Lance Star:

Free Lance Star Article

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Graduates Leave Holes to Fill for the USA South Teams

While final recruiting numbers are still unknown, the losses that rosters suffered from graduation, is much easier to predict. Here is a look at which teams have a lot of holes to fill, and which ones will bring back the most players from last year. These numbers are based on teams 2013 rosters.

Maryville- The USA South defending champion will have a good amount of work to do to replace the 14 Seniors who have moved on. Of those 14, 9 were on the offense. 4 of those are offensive linemen. I am expecting that the experience will be missed, but they will be a strong unit again this year.

Christopher Newport- Always powerful CNU will enter their final year in the USA South with 17 holes left from their 2013 roster. 9 of those are on the defensive side of the ball. 6 on offense, and 2 special teams members. Look for CNU to be solid, looking to close out their time in the conference with one final championship.

Averett - First year Head Coach Clieve Adams will have 14 holes to fill from the 2013 roster- 6 offensive players, 7 defensive players, and 1 special teams player. Coach Adams and company will be working hard to get the Cougars program back on track in 2014.

LaGrange - The Panthers have the fewest holes to fill of any team. With a roster that only loses 7 players, Look for this team to be in a strong position to contend for the conference title. 3 offense, 4 defense.

Methodist- A strong 2013 team will have 13 that will not be back. 6 offensive players, and 7 defensive players. Look for this team also to be a strong contender. Many positive strides were made by the 2013 Monarchs, and I look for this to continue.

Ferrum- The Panthers lose 14 from last year. 8 offensive players, 5 defensive, and 1 special teams player. While this is a lot to lose, I look for Ferrum to improve this season, and to continuously improve as the season goes on.

North Carolina Wesleyan- With only 2 wins in 2013, a casual onlooker may not give the Bishops much of a chance this year. I however think this team will be quite strong. They only lose 8 players from last years squad. 6 offense, and 2 defense. 2 wins and 8 losses is a deceptive record, and all opponents should approach the Bishops with caution.

Huntingdon- Having finished with a 7-3 record, Huntingdon will lose the most of any of the conference schools. 21 players will be gone from last years roster. 10 offensive and 10 defensive players departed, along with 1 special teams player. Huntingdon has a winning reputation, and will likely still be strong, but these roster vacancies will be a challenge to the coaches.

Greensboro- The Pride will only lose 8 players from last years 2-8 team. 6 offensive and 2 defensive players. I look for the returning experience to be quite a help, but it will likely be an uphill climb to contention.

These are not my predictions, and the teams are presented in a random order. Also, the numbers stated in regard to teams players that will not return, are gathered based on the 2013 rosters from each team, and presume any player listed as a Senior in 2013, will not be back this coming season.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

What Exactly are the Pieces of the Puzzle?

In the last article, I referred to pieces of the puzzle as they apply building a winning football program. The question has come up, just what are these pieces of the puzzle?
This list could vary from person to person. There is no set answer, but I will list what, in my mind would be very important elements in building a winning program.

In no particular order-

Quality Coaching Staff
Institutional Support
Community Support
Sports Marketing
Sports Medicine Staff
Strength Speed and Conditioning Dept.
Quality Recruiting Program
Alumni Interaction and Engagement

While these are what I see as very important aspects of what it takes to build a winner, there are other factors that can directly affect attracting the best recruits.

Affordability of Tuition
Off Campus Amenities
Academic Offerings
Academic Reputation
Campus Aesthetics and Amenities

I am not intending to give a grade here for each area listed. That is not necessary. I will say that huge strides have been made in many of the areas listed. Ferrum is moving in the right direction in many areas, and dividends are paying off. The overall success of athletics at Ferrum is very good. Baseball, Softball, Women's Basketball, Wrestling, Women's Lacrosse, and Men's Soccer all posted winning records. Look for this to continue, and I fully expect football will be on this list again soon.

Did I miss something? Tell me your pieces of the puzzle that may be different than mine. Use the comment link at the bottom of the article.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Not Sure What to Expect,
But I am Hopeful

"Putting last season behind us" should be the focus going into the 2014 season for the Panthers. 2013 was a rough season to say the least, and I am sure Coach Harper and company are anxious to right the ship. There are many areas that concern me when thinking of last season. Chief among them is defense. I would guess, and doubt that I would be too far off, that last years defensive stats were some of the worst in the schools history. To me, defense is the key to success, but there are many pieces to the puzzle of creating a winning team. As for the defense, the hiring of Phil Elmassian will go a long way toward the improving of this piece of the puzzle. There is nowhere to go but up for the defense, but the coach cannot do it all. Ferrum loses 5 defensive seniors from last years team, which should mean that they have six returning starters. I would expect that the experience factor will help with securing a starting job on the defense, but there are no promises with a new defensive coordinator. My guess is that there will be many changes on the defensive side of the ball, especially as the schemes go. For me, I would love to see a standard 4-3 defense, but Ferrum will have to base their defense on the best talent on the field, and I am sure Coach E will have the unit working hard and improving as the season goes on.

Recruiting is another big piece of the puzzle, and last year, Ferrum had good recruiting numbers. Quantity does not always equal quality however. I look for this puzzle piece to improve also. While I have no direct information from Coach Harper on this years incoming recruits, a search of the internet revealed an apparent incoming freshman from Asheboro High School, that may hold promise. Please see links below.

Ridley to play at Ferrum

Ridley Stats from max

A  couple of housekeeping notes....First, D3 football players do not get athletic scholarships. This is a Asheboro H.S. webpage, and has erroneously referred to Ridley as an athletic scholarship recipient. While there may be different facets of financial assistance, these would be available to any and all students, and as I understand it, cannot be based on any athletic criteria.

Secondly, a "signing" to play for a certain school, is not binding in D3 sports. Ridley is not bound to any commitment to play for Ferrum. The coaching staff will only know for sure that he, or any athlete is coming to Ferrum, when they pay any and all required fees and deposits, and then actually show up. D3 schools are powerless to enforce any type of "written commitment"

I personally hope Rudley follows through on his intended commitment. I think he would be a great prospect.

On offense, I look for Ferrum to be really solid at the skilled positions. The backfield will have very good speed, and the WR's should also be a strength. The question will be the offensive line. Tackles, Guards, and the Center will all be new as all were lost to graduation, so this group may be a work in progress. I look for them to gel better quickly, and overall the offense will be better. Size will be a question mark, for the O-line. I felt like there were many games, (Shenandoah, Maryville, Huntingdon, and CNU ) where the Panthers O-line just did not match up to those across from them. I really hope there has been lots of activity in the weight room during the off season.

Special Teams will also hold lots of questions. Gone is Wesley Franklin, from last years squad. Franklin who put up some really strong numbers last season, and who was the Big Green award winner, was 4-4 on field goals, and 23-23 on PAT's. Franklin was also the punter for the team, so this aspect of Special Teams will have someone brand new. For me , I was really disappointed that Ferrum did not have a TD from a punt or kickoff return the entire season. This phase of the game must improve, and I think it will.

Yes, there are question marks, but there are a lot of positives coming into this season. Look for the team to get better as the season goes along. I think there is potential for successful development for this team, and while I am not really ready to discuss where I think they will finish, I believe they will easily be under most opponents radar, when it comes to the tough games on their schedule. Stay tuned, Ferrum just may surprise some folks this year!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Panthers Fill Coaching Vacancies

With the recent departure of Coach Pete Shaw, and still having a vacancy from the departure of Chris Warren, Ferrum has announced the hiring of two new members of the football staff. Please see links below:

Coach Jeff Hanson

Coach Bill Nesselt

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!!!!!