As the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air song says, "Now this is a story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down..." I am here to tell you how my life changed in a few short days and restored my ability to dream big and believe in myself.
Quadree Ollison’s Message to His Brother’s Murderer
Last year after the NC State game Quadree Ollison found out that his brother Lerowne Harris was shot and killed in his home town at the age of 35. Quadree decided not to go home until the funeral and instead stay and prepare with his team because he knew that is what his brother would ultimately want. Quadree actually went to middle school with the killer at Gaskill, where they were classmates. Ollison and his family finally received some closure when the gunman was given the maximum sentence of 25 years for first degree manslaughter. The first day that Quadree reported to camp was the day of sentencing for his brother’s killer. Quadree said he went back and forth on whether or not he would write a statement to be read to the judge by his father at the sentencing. But ultimately decided that he had a message that needed to be delivered and wrote it the night before sentencing. The message was about forgiveness and choosing not to hate his brother’s killer. Here is an excerpt from his letter:
Ian Book Relationship with QB Coach Tommy Rees
When I asked Ian about who has played the biggest role in his development as the season has progressed he quickly responded “Coach Rees,he has improved my game, simplified the offense for me, and it is cool to learn from someone who did it like 7 years ago, I am really fortunate.” Tom Rees won his first 4 games as a 19 year old freshman starter for the Fighting Irish which included a win over rival USC and as a senior he was the team’s MVP becoming 1 of only 3 Notre Dame quarterbacks to pass for at least 3,000 yards. Tommy’s goal was always to come back and coach at his alma mater. He was a Graduate assistant at Northwestern in 2015 and Ian says Rees is more than a Coach he is also a mentor that knows exactly what he is going through on a daily basis so there is a unique level of trust and comfort that he feels with his QB coach. Rees was the 7th and final hire for Brian Kelly during a staff overhaul this off season and according to Ian Book it was a very impactful hire.
Ian Book Random Notes
• Says although he hated sitting out for a week, watching the game from the sideline helped him see a few things that you miss when you are playing in thegame
• He tried out football in the 3rd grade and hated it and said he would never go back! Ian was not interested in getting hit. His older brother and dad had to convince him to return to the field and he’s glad they did because clearly the game
• Ian says his older brother Nolan is the one who loved football first. Nolan is 18 months older and played linebacker at UC Davis until injuries forced him to stop. The brothers played together for 2 seasons in HS.
Drue Tranquill Evolving Leader
Brian Kelly says that although his senior’s status on the team has not changed it seems as though his impact has increased as a leader saying “His growth as a teammate from last year to this year has been amazing”. Kelly pointed to the fact that Drue sets the bar so high as a 4.0 student, great athlete, man of faith, that he can be hard to follow. Drue told me that he changed his leadership style this year and wanted to evolve into a relational leader. So he has spent a lot of time establishing deeper relationships with his teammates and letting them know that he really cares about them, “when you establish you care first, you open a space to speak tough love and encouragement” says Tranquill. Drue says that he has developed these relationships by doing small things like spending an extra 15 minutes at training table and making sure that he never eats alone. He also has teammates over to just watch Monday Night football or spend time together away from football. Since gettin his undergraduate degree Drue does have more time to spend with his teammates. He is only taking 3 classes and one is a directed reading course. Tranquill says during undergrad he would have class from 8am-1:45pm and then do problem sets after practice until11pm.
Random Drue Tranquill Facts
• He has already graduated with a degree in engineering, his dad is an engineer so growing up he always thought that is what he wanted todo
• He is now taking 3 graduate school courses
• He has now developed a passion for teaching not sure he wants to be an engineer, he spendstime working at a local school that has a large population of low-incomestudents
• One of his courses is a directed reading class which he uses to study one of his passions: The effects of poverty on upward mobility. He discussed some of the stories he has heard from teammates and their struggles at home. Drue wants to discover solutions for the causes of generational poverty.
Cameron Smith on Staying
Cameron Smith says that until halfway through the season last year he knew that he would be entering the NFL draft early. “I was done, over it, I wanted to move on and find myself in a new city”. But he says it was right around the Colorado game when he felt like he needed to humble himself and he took a step back to think about all that he could gain if he came back. Cameron says when he stopped being egotistical it was an easy decision to make and that ultimately “it was the best decision of my life”.
Cameron says that he has matured mentally and learned a lot through out the season despite the fact that it has not gone as planned. Over the offseason he lost 20 pounds by changing his entire lifestyle and now he says that he is moving much better.
JT Daniels Transition to College
JT says that the transition to college ball has had its ups and downs. “The toughest thing is no one is bad, everyone belongs on the field. A wide receiver may win the one on one battle but that doesn’t mean he will be wide open out there so my decision making has to be quicker and more precise”. Daniels says that playing at powerhouse Mater Dei High has helped prepare him. He believes his offensive coordinator Dave Money could be an OC anywhere. JT has worked with Dave since he was in 6th grade. The self proclaimed film geek says he is constantly watching tape. He says he probably gets on graduate assistant-Dane Stevens nerves because he is constantly asking him to watch film with him.
Amon-Ra St. Brown
Being the leading wide receiver during his freshman year of college is something that Amon-Ra has been training for his entire life. He says any success he may have is a culmination of his dad pushing him with specialized workouts, meal plans, and practicing with his brothers. He talks to his dad after every game and gets his feedback. He is also fluent in French and German and hopes to one day be an entrepreneur with an international business.
Mckenzie Milton Family
I spoke with McKenzie’s mom Teresa and she said that her son has always had an ultra competitive edge. Teresa said that by the time he was 4 he was going through his older brothers drawers and pulling out pieces of their jerseys and putting them on because he wanted to go out and play on teams just like his siblings. Teresa said by the time he was 11 months old he was crawling right out of his crib and getting downstairs by himself. He has always been a strong kid that just doesn’t flinch. The brothers are very close and talk everyday. And Mom says that they are season ticket holders because they needed to make sure they have enough tickets for all of the family that comes in town to see McKenzie play. There will be about 20 family members in the stadium tonight and they always have a Hawaiian flag with them in the stands. Mom lives in Orlando now because it was getting too expensive to fly back and forth for the games. She said she also noticed that her son was homesick because his teammates could go home during long weekends and breaks but McKenzie couldn’t so she decided to move to be closer to her son.
Cincinnati Losing LB Perry Young
Perry was the said as soon as he felt the pain in his knee who knew something was really wrong because he had never felt this type of pain in his life. He tore his ACL against Navy and this is his first major injury. He had surgery last Monday. Young was a leader on and off the field and he has been trying to continue being a leader. Young says that he is keeping his energy positive and is finding ways to still be with his team mentally. He spent the week preparing with his team in the film room and he says he peppers his teammates with personnel questions and has made himself available to the younger guys who may have questions about the game plan. Perry has had a very positive attitude throughout this process and says as soon as he can walk again he plans on being an assistant coach on the sidelines. Perry also says that he loves watching Jarell White step up in his absence. Young said that. “We have a similar style of play he is a competitor and being the weight and height we are is not the most ideal size backer but we make up for it with effort and attitude”.
RB Michael Warren II
Michael turned 20 on Monday and it was a few days after setting UC’s single season TD record. Michael said that although he did not know that he was breaking a record he does remember feeling like he had a very slow start to the game. Micahel says that he is always extremely dialed into the task at hand and that he has been like that from a young age. When he started playing football he said he went to his dad and expressed interest and his dad said well if you are going to play we are not starting you off with flag football or two hand touch football, you are starting with tackle football. And Michael says that mentality has made him fall in love with contact and playing through it. Micahel says the first pair of cleats he ever owned were Michael Vicks but that his favorite player growing up was Marion Barber because he loved what a strong and powerful runner he was.
The Luke Fickell Effect
Players have told me that the bond created during the offseason has changed everything for this group. During the offseason the weight lifting groups were made up of guys from different position groups.So it could be 6-8 guys featuring a QB, OLINEMAN, RB, LB, 2 WRs,Safety. QB Desmond Ridder said his group was full of guys that he probably wouldn’t talk to on a regular basis. And each lifting group was given points based on reps and effort so that caused everyone to learn how to encourage one another for a common goal. The lifting group also had lockers next to each other with the idea that guys from different position groups would now be communicating and holding each other accountable and spending more time together so the overall team bond would be stronger. There was also team bonding during fall camp. Cincinnati went to Camp Higher ground and had a day full of random competitions: starting a fire, go in the woods and find something that would best slice a watermelon. (Desmond said they found a piece of sheet metal). But the idea again being that they would have to work together with teammates they do not always get to spend a lot of time with. Desmond says that it has made the team much closer across offense and defense and all position groups.
QB Desmond Ridder
Desmond said that his redshirt season was extremely helpful to his game because he was challenged by the speed of the game. Going up against the first team defense all last year in practice has helped him gain more confidence when he takes the field for games. Ridder is also very honest about being the guy who plays with a chip on his shoulder. He was a kid who grew up a Louisville fan, but was only offered scholarships by Cincinatti and Eastern Kentucky and he is out to prove to everyone that he is a good player that is intent on improving in any way that he can. He watches a ton of game film, and tries to prepare the way Peyton Manning does (he has read up on and watched a lot of specials on Peyton). He says he knows he has a long way to go but one thing that he can control is the way he prepares. Desmond says that one of the coolest moments for him this season was having Charlie Strong come up to him after the USF game and acknowledge him. He said it was just great to have a Coach that he always looked up to at Louisville know who he was.
AMARI ROGERS AND FATHER TEE MARTIN
Amari jokes that he didn’t know that his Dad was a big deal in the college football world until he was probably in middle school and that at first he didn’t believe it was his dad throwing bombs to Peerless Price. During Clemson’s back week back in October Amari flew out to LA to visit his dad at USC. Amari said he was on the west coast for about a day and a half. But he was able to be there Friday and Saturday. Amari said that he and his father talk all the time. At the beginning of the week they check in and talk about the games that they have coming up. They check in with each other again mid-week, around Wednesday and see how the week of preparation is going and discuss specific match ups. On Friday and Saturday they are sending each other their final good lucks. Amari said that the best advice he has ever received from his Dad is to never “let it tear you up if something doesn’t go your way, and to never get to confident when something is going your way”. Amari said that his Dad is always working and that he never gets complacent and that is the same work ethic he tries to attack his game with.
AMARI HAND ROUTINE
Amari is very superstitious and always does the exact same workout before every game and before most practices. He feels like its the best way to get his hands ready. It starts with a weighted football (about 3lbs) because he said it helps strengthen his fingers. (We have video)
Dropping and catching 100x
Turn to the tip of ball and do it 100x
Then rotating hands dropping and catching it
Then he has someone toss him a ball to get his hands warm
And completes the warm up with 2 step dig routes and focuses on getting in and out of breaks.
WIDE RECEIVER THOUGHTS ON TREVOR
As the offense continues to roll Amari says a big part of it is Trevor Lawrence. Rogers said the true freshman is always hard on himself in practice he expects to perform just as well in practice as he does in games. Amari also says that Lawrence is a great communicator. His QB tells him exactly where he needs to be on his routes and that Lawrence’s ball placement is money. “He always throws it away from the DB so wide receivers can make plays,” says Rogers.
DEFENSE LINEMAN SCORING
Dexter said that after Christian scored his TD against Florida State, that he started complaining to coach. He told him he didn’t want to come in and block on offense he wanted to get a score too. So coach put a play in for Dexter and he got to score against Louisville. He did point out that he had a 2 yard score and that Christians was only one yard. He also said that they practice the play at least once a practice.
Dexter Lawrence said that they recognize they are rolling right now but they are also cautious because of the back slides have suffered the last two regular seasons. Every time they step on the field the goal is not only to defeat their opponent but also to have “flawless victories”. Dexter says it has been incredible “seeing us grow each week the focus and intensity it’s the best since I’ve been here and that is partially because we have a leader in every position group” Dexter also says that as a Dline they have a mindset it starts with us and that means it starts in practices and in meetings”.
BC FROM 3-9 to 7-2
When Wyatt Ray was a freshman the Eagles went 3-9 and he said their was a lot of selfish play on the field and selfish attitudes in the locker room but the culture has shifted and everyone has bought in. “It’s a mindset we all really really really love football. As a team we watch Thursday, and Friday games all of us really love football after practice we get together and actually talk about it and discuss ways we can be better next practice. We carry a different mindset into everything we do now”
AJ DILLON OFFSEASON
During the offseason AJ was hyper focused on making small improvements to his body and game because he remembers last seasons breakout game against Louisville. He said that he had 40 carries and was completely gassed towards the end game. He wanted to improve his stamina because he felt like there were times during that game that he wasn’t dependable. He managed to get his body fat down to 7%. Now he feels like he has an endless motor he just has to stay healthy.
AJ DILLON’S OBSESSION WITH FOURNETTE
AJ says that if you ask any of his teammates who his favorite running back is “they would tell you with disgust that its Leonard Fournette because I talk about him all the time” Dillon says that Fournette “does everything with a purpose he has something to prove he runs aggressive, and he runs angry” and Dillon says he can identify with that because he always feels like he has something to prove.
AJ DILLON’S SOMETHING TO PROVE
AJ says that talented people from his hometown don’t often make it out. He said that he has uncles that could have gone pro. AJ has been inspired to make something of himself and do it for his hometown. Dillon says that is why he chose to come to Boston College “I wanted to be someone that people from my town can see and know that their dreams are attainable if you chase them.” His mom had him when she was a junior in college and AJ says that they basically grew up together. “My mom worked 3 jobs to make sure I was taken care of and she still managed to take me to every practice. He plays for his family and his hometown. He writes his mom and sisters name on one wrist (Olivia and Jessica) and on the other wrist he writes NL Stand Up (New London, CT), when times get hard he looks at both wrists to remember who he plays for.
EAGLES ON FACING CLEMSON
AJ Dillon said “we are out to prove that we are not just the little engine that could, people think that we are just suppose to be happy to be here that we are just suppose to be happy that Gameday is here...these are the big game upsets you dream about”
NICK SCOTT ON PSU LEARNING LESSONS
Nick said that the two things the team has learned in their losses to Ohio State and Michigan State are finishing games strong and taking the opportunities that present themselves throughout the course of a game. He said the team is not dwelling on past mistakes but have certainly spent time dissecting how each individual can always make one more play, but Nick says the key is that no one doubts themselves simply because they have suffered two losses.
NICK SCOTT ON MICHIGAN’S OFFENSE
Nick is a senior safety and he says this Michigan offense is unlike any Wolverine offense he has seen in the past. Scott says the key variable is the way Shea Patterson extends plays. He says they have been focusing on the front half of the defense having great pursuit angles, and the back half has been working on locking on their receivers when Shea takes off and trying to create really tight windows that he will have to throw into.
MICAH PARSONS EFFECT
Nick Scott describes Micah as still being a kid that makes grown man plays. He says the best part about Micah is that he gets excited about big plays and generates a lot of energy on the sidelines and for the team. Scott says it has been fun to watch the game slow down for Parsons and that he gets better with every single snap.
KJ HAMLER RETURNING TO MICHIGAN
KJ is excited about playing in his home state for the first time in his career. He says that he will have a ton of family and friends at the Big House. He says that a lot of his friends that he grew up playing with and against play for the wolverines. Wolverine Olineman Cesar Ruiz was Hamler’s roommate at IMG and the two are best friends. He grew up playing against CB Lavert Hill and now they will likely match up against one another during the game. KJ says he can’t wait to go up against Hill.
ZACH GENTRY ON SHEA PATTERSON
Zach Gentry and Shea Patterson had an instant connection off the field that has translated onto the field. Zach says that he actually grew up playing AAU basketball with one of Shea’s cousins--Brady Patterson. So Zach says that although he didn’t meet Shea until he arrived on campus that he has always known about Shea and kept tabs on his career. Zach says that one of the greatest things that Shea has brought to this offense is an added level of confidence and communication. Gentry says that when different defensive looks are thrown at the offense Shea always does a good job communicating and making sure the offense is in a position to be successful.
ZACH GENTRY ON POSITION CHANGE
Zach says that if you would have told him his freshman year that he would be a starting tight end on a top 10 team he would have ignored you. He says transitioning from a quarterback to a tight end has been a day-to-day process. And Zach says he is still learning something new every game. He says the biggest learning curve was staying lower. He had to train his body to be low when blocking and firing out. He also says he has worked hard on understanding all of the intricacies of the run game, attacking the ball with his hands (and he says his background as a basketball player has certainly helped with his hand eye coordination). Zach says he also spends a lot of time watching great TE’s play to see what he can add to his game.
Zach Gentry’s Favorite TE’s to Watch
Gronk- loves the way he uses his body very physical TE
Kelce- watches his route running
Jake Butt- *before tearing his ACL at Denver* he is the guy who took Zach under his wing
when he first transition to TE and taught him the basics of being a great tight end and won
the John Mackey award his senior season 2016.
DEVIN BUSH AND DON BROWN RELATIONSHIP
Devin Bush says that he has an incredibly unique relationship with DC Don Brown. “We came in at the same time we were learning the ways of Michigan and have been through it all together and I love that man to death”. Devin says that he and Coach Brown are tied to the hip and that Coach empowers him to lead the team. Devin said when he has input and feedback Coach Brown listens and allows him to give it to his teammates. As the defensive leader Bush said it’s his responsibility to make sure that the defense dictates the outcome of the game.
DEVIN BUSH AND HIS DAD DEVIN BUSH SENIOR
Devin Bush says coming into the football facility everyday and looking to the left and seeing his dad there is special. “He really knows me and has been with me every step of the way... sometimes I see him and I am just like Wow”. During the Bye-week, they spent some extra time together away from the facility and watched football together. Devin says that growing up his dad would never tell him that he was doing a good job on the field. Even when Devin Sr was his high school coach. But after winning the state championship game as a senior he told his son he loved him and that he is proud of him. Devin says it was the first time he received praise from his father. Devin says that now before every game his Dad finds him and tells him that he loves him and he’s proud to be his father.
MICHIGAN FOOTBALL TEAM CONFIDENCE
Devin Bush said that he has seen it all since being at Michigan. But that right now the team’s “confidence is at its all time high and this is a team that believes that we have a chance at this going to the Big 10 championship and winning it all, we have a team that really believes it, we have veteran leaders that will hold teammates accountable, we know what needs to be done every time we take the field”
KARAN HIGDON MOST INTERESTING MAN IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL?
Karan says that he has always been interested in a wide array of subjects. He loves music and played the tuba throughout high school. He said he would practice at home after football practices. He has a pet bald python snake named Poncho. He is in a fraternity (Phi Beta Sigma), and claims that he and Jim Harbaugh are in the same secret society! Karan says that he has been focused all season on doing the little things better, whether that means hitting the hole harder, or staying after practice to do extra work on the jugs and work on his hands he wanted to make sure that this was his best season at Michigan.
RODARIUS WILIAMS AND GREEDY WILLIAMS
Rodarius is the older brother of LSU cornerback Greedy Williams. Rodarius said that he has been inspired by the performance of his younger brother to perform at a high level because he wants to prove that “talent runs in the blood line”. Rodarius says that he and his brother train together at home during the offseason and that they have always been best friends that support one another. The Williams Brothers stepdad, Lonnie Bryant, FaceTime’s both brothers after every game and goes through game film with them. And they always do a 3 way call after every game to discuss what they are seeing in each other’s game. They played high school football together for 3 years both starting at cornerback and they also played basketball. The Parents drive cross country so that every week they will be at one of their sons games and they take turns trying to make sure they spend equal time with both sons. This week Rodarius says he gets the whole family since LSU is on a bye.
ENOCH SMITH JR’S JOURNEY TO STILLWATER
Smith started his collegiate football career at Michigan State redshirting in 2014 and played in just three games in 2015. And 2 days before the 2016 season, Smith announced that he would be leaving the program. So Enoch spent the 16-17 season at Kennedy-King College. But the junior college in Chicago did not have a football team. He worked on academics while also working out with his father and he also worked part time at Dick’s Sporting Goods as a cashier and in the clothing department. Enoch told me when he showed up for the first day of work he thought to himself “I will do whatever it takes to return to Power 5 football”. He says getting another chance to play is at Oklahoma State is a dream come true. He says he has found a home, a role, and he has a daughter on the way.
Enoch also has very altruistic goals set for when he is finished playing football. He hopes to start a foundation to help the homeless because he saw poverty growing up on the South Side of Chicago. And he wants to help people with Autism because his younger brother Trey is autistic. He says Trey has been the biggest impact on his life and that he works hard on the field to put a smile on Trey’s face. His younger brother is always happy when Enoch performs well.
CADEN STERNS VS OKLAHOMA STATE
This is a game that Freshman Caden Sterns circled on the calendar before the season started. He said he has been looking forward to playing Oklahoma State because it is his older brother’s Alma Mater. Former first team All Big 12 Safety Jordan Sterns. Caden says that although he grew up a Texas fan, when his brother went to Oklahoma State the family became OSU supporters and that Stillwater became a home away from home. OSU did recruit him and he is very familiar with the coaching staff. His brother Jordan will be at the game in Texas gear. Caden says he has no choice because he wore Oklahoma State gear for him for 4 years. Caden says he and his brother are very close. Jordan always sends halftime adjustments which he never sees until the end of the game. But he loves having a brother that has a football mind that can help push him to be great.
CADEN STERNS INSTANT IMPACT
Caden says that as soon as he got on campus at Texas he went to coaches searching for game film and the playbook. He said he knew that there were a lot of talented DB’s on the roster and he wanted to be prepared to have an instant impact. He has always been a huge Longhorn fan growing up in Texas. Caden said he wants to bring back the days of 2005 Texas and get the Longhorns back to the top of the college football conversation for all of the right reasons. Caden did say that his brother has warned him to also find hobbies and interests away from football. He is a self proclaimed gym rat that loves being around the game but he is trying to do a better job at finding some balance.
COLLIN JOHNSON THE PRODUCER
Collin Johnson and his brother, Texas running back Kirk Collins, have a unique off field hobby. They both have an interest in video production and have their own YouTube channel. The brothers create their own graphics, shoot and edit their own video and post content on their Vlog (mostly during the offseason). Collin says that his channel is dedicated to inspiring younger student athletes. He says he tries to post things that he wishes he could have seen from college athletes while hews in high school. In one video he had a contest. He asked athletes to send him a video about their goals. He surprised high school kid who was trying to make his school’s team for the first time. He Also loves to share his workout routines which include gymnastics (he can backflip in sand), boxing (to help him get better at getting off of press coverage), and yoga (to help prevent injury, and recover)
DWAYNE HASKINS & DESHAUN WATKINS
Dwayne Haskins has a favorite college quarterback and his name is Deshaun Watson. Dwayne says that he has been training with Deshaun since his Sophomore year in high school. Both Dwayne and Deshaun work with quarterback coach Quincy Avery. Dwayne said that watching Deshaun “dominate college football inspires me, because I have been on the same field with him, throwing the same routes, and learning the same mechanics”. Dwayne said that Deshaun has a “cool and laid back demeanor”. Dwayne says that he too has a very laid back personality and that you will rarely see him yelling or emotional on the sidelines. Watson told Haskins that he doesn’t have to be anything that he is not. That he does not have to be JT, or anyone else. Watson told him that ultimately studying and putting the work in will earn the trust of the locker room. Here’s what Deshaun says he told Dwayne before the season started:
“I just told him, be who you are and don’t let anyone change that. Every time you step on that field.. you have that Kobe mentality. “Nobody will stop me!” And just play 1 play at a time. It’s a long and up/down season. Everything you do matters”
I have video of the two working out together this summer;
KJ Hill’s Improvements
KJ already has more receiving yards this season than he had all of last year. said that coming into the season he still felt like he had plenty to improve upon. He wanted to get in and out of his breaks faster, he’s been focused on not getting touched. He said that one of the reasons why he wanted to come to Ohio State was because Coach Meyer spends a lot of time with the wide receivers and Coach “likes perfection”. He said now when he goes back and watches tape of himself as a freshman he cringes and wonders why he would ever do some of the things he did and says he could never get away with that on the field now.
How KJ Hill Get’s His Legs ready for Gameday
KJ has a very interesting routine the night before games. It starts with acupuncture, and then 15 minutes in the NormaTec recovery boots, followed by a massage with a portable massage gun. He then drinks a peanut butter and chocolate ice cream shake with cheddar popcorn. He does this every night before games around 7-8pm. He says if he doesn’t do all of it (including the shake and popcorn) that he does not feel prepared for the game.
KJ Hill The Hunter
KJ is from Little Rock, Arkansas and he is quick to say that he is not country but that he is southern. His Dad, Keith Hill, taught him how to hunt and fish when he was young. He is an avid hunter and fisher that tries to make time for his outdoor hobby during his offseason. It is something that KJ says he does to relax and take his mind off of things. Here’s a picture from one of his hunting outings:
BLOUGH & SINDELAR QB RELATIONSHIP
Elijah describes the relationship he has with David as an unbreakable bond. They were roommates on the road the first 2 years of their careers together and have been best friends ever since. David is a year older and he says they have been through the ups and downs of each QB playing well and playing poorly, of winning 2 games in a season and winning 7. Elijah says the only thing they differ on is that David always wanted to watch football on the road and Elijah always wanted to watch How It’s Made(because of his Engineer mindset)
DAVID BLOUGH RESILIENCE
David said that it was a very good quarterback battle during camp and that when he didn’t get the starting job he knew he just had to prepare and be ready for the moment when his team needed him. David says the adversity that he has dealt with during his Purdue career allows him to play free now. “As a sophomore I led the country in interceptions (21), I dealt with failure and had to get up the next day and go to work”. Blough says I am not “defined by if I throw 5 TDs or 5 INTs” so he feels free to play relaxed. Blough also believes that the coaching staff has empowered him with aggressive play calling and Coach Brohm told him to “go out there and cut it loose” before the Missouri game and that’s what he is trying to do in every match up.
RONDALE MOORE MATURITY
David Blough says that he has been around many different types of players but that Rondale Moore is the most professional and mature player he has ever seen arrive on campus as a freshman. Blough says the story that best illustrates how Moore handles business occurred before a summer workout. David said he got a call at 11:30pm one night before a player led workout that the 5thyear quarterback was expected to run. It was RondaleMoore calling and he wanted his QB to draw up every play that was on the script for the team to run. David said be pulled out a marker and white board and drew up every play on Facetime and answered all of Rondale’squestions. David said he came to college attacking every practice and workout with the kind of dedication and effort that only a few players possess.
JACOB AND BRENNAN THIENEMAN
Senior safety Jacob Thieneman said that he and his younger brother sophomore Brennan Thieneman use to talk about playing college football together like it was a fantasy. The brothers are best friends although while they were growing up they were always in competition. Jake said even going up the stairs was a race. They have competed in everything together from basketball and football and they loved extreme sports like roller blading, dirt biking and skiing/snowboarding. But now that they are taking snaps together at Purdue, Jacob calls it surreal. Jake has gone from walk on to team captain. He has undergone 5 surgeries in 4 years (2 foot, 2 shoulder, 1 hand). He is now trying to use his experience at Purdue to help his brother through the process of earning a scholarship. He said “you have to know what you are getting into and come out every day looking to earn your spot”. Pictures of the Thieneman brothers growing up provided by mother, Shannon.
FAION HICKS GOING AGAINST HS TEAMMATES
Hicks played with Josh Metellus, Devin Gil, Devin Bush Jr, and Devin Bush Sr was one of his coaches when he won a state championship. Hicks said that they talk all the time and have been joking back and forth all week and since he has the bragging rights from the Wisconsin win last year he doesn’t want to lose them this season. Hicks said that he spoke to Michigan but was never offered a scholarship and has really enjoyed the opportunities to play early that he has had received at Wisconsin.
FAION HICKS THE CHESS PLAYER
Faion is an avid chess player. His dad taught him how to play when he was in third grade and he has not stopped playing since. During elementary school Hicks competed in chess tournaments and won a couple of trophies. And in High School there was not a chess team so Faiondecided he wanted to start one. Hicks spoke with the principal and got approval and worked with one of his teachers who supplied the chess boards and a classroom for the team. Faion recruited his chess teammates by tweeting out the new afterschool activity on Twitter. He said that there were about 15 athletes total and that they played after school for an hour before he would go to football practice. Faion says that chess has helped him process football better. He says in both football and chess you always have to consider what will be your next move. And as a corner you have to think about how you will counter a receiver’s move. He says he will always keep his football mind sharp by playing chess.
LACK OF DEPTH IN THE SECONDARY
Faion says that the secondary as a whole has discussed the challenge that stands before them because of the injuries and suspension plaguing their group. Hicks says that the one thing they have been harping on during this week of preparations is GREAT not just GOOD communication. The goal is to eliminate any pre-snap/alignment mistakes. Hicks also said that the secondary just has to focus on not panicking if something does not go right or Michigan makes one good play.
HICKS VS PEOPLES-JONES
Hicks says that he will probably line up against Donovan Peoples-Jones a fair share during the game. Hicks says he wants to be really physical with Peoples-Jones, press him and really challenge him. Faion says when he watched film that not people have tried to be physical with him because he is such a physical receiver.
JOHNATHAN TAYLOR STAYING HEALTHY
Taylor is averaging 25 attempts per game and when I spoke to him this week he says his body is feeling great despite the pounding. He takes his recovery habits very seriously because he understands that he can only be as good as he is healthy. The first 30 minutes after a game are the most important to him. He says he immediately gets into a cold tub, has treatment on anything that is aggravating him and has treatment and puts on recovery tights, socks, and shirts to contract his muscles.
JONATHAN TAYLOR ON IMPROVING
He said that he spent the offseason “looking into the nooks and crannies” to see where he could improve. He says that right now running backs Coach John Settle has been hounding him to go back to the basics and “trust the run and trust the plays”. They watched film together of JT and Coach Settles would show him when he was improvising and doing his own thing. Taylor calls it “going off on a tangent”. And then Coach Settle would show him times when he would take the 4 yards that the play was designed to get. Taylor realized that taking what the defense gives you when it is only 3 or 4 yards can be what sets you up for the big explosive play like the 75 yarder vs Nebraska.
JONATHAN TAYLOR AND RON DAYNE
If Jonathan Taylor kept pace with his rushing and stayedall 4 years at Wisconsin he could break former Badger Ron Dayne’s all time record. And as it turns out Dayne and Taylor have forged a close bond. Jonathan says that Ron is often around the facility and they talk on the phone sometimes when they want to check in with each other. Jonathan says Ron Dayne is a big help to the mental part of his game and always reminds him to “take the game with a smile, the good and the bad”.
WHAT WISCONSIN LEARNED FROM BYU
LB TJ Edward told me that the team learned that you cannot assume you are going to win any game just by walking out onto the field. Edwards said that the entire team was doing uncharacteristic things. Defensively they were not lining up right, missing tackles, not playing their gaps. And as a whole the team was not playing with a sense of urgency.
ALEX HORNIBROOK’S MUSICAL TALENT
Is a self-taught guitar player. He played for the first time in front of an audience at the Buckinghams in April, which is the student athlete banquet. He said his own Mom had never heard him play and he wouldn’t let her come up to see him in person so she had to watch online.
CHASE WINOVICH FAMILY
Chase is the youngest of 4. I spoke to his brother Peter who is 10 years older than him and he says that Chase has always been fighting to prove something. Peter says Chase would be the youngest playing pick up basketball or hanging with his friends but it caused him to mature faster and love competing. He told childhood stories of Chase being a rambunctious 3 year old that would scale a backyard fence. Or times when he would be left at a stadium where Peter was playing his HS game because he was off somewhere playing flag football. Peter says that Chase was born with a chip on his shoulder because he is the youngest. But he says that’s why he has able to work through playing 3 positions in 3 years before finding his home at defensive end.
Ryan Willis Taking Over
Ryan Willis’ birthday was last Friday and he also started and a game for the first time since 2016. Willis said that he had lost some of his love for the game at Kansas. He said being on a losing team means you are consistently being criticized and everyone thinks that you are not trying or working hard. But Ryan says that growing up in a competitive household has helped prepared him for this moment. Willis comes from a very athletic family. His Father Steve played football at Kansas State. His Mother Lois competed in track and field at Iowa State, his sister Lauren played basketball at Oklahoma and his other sister Abby played basketball at Saint Louis University. Here’s an example of the athleticism in action, Mom Lois competing at Iowa State:
Damon Hazelton and Ryan Willis Connection
Ryan Willis and Damon Hazelton are roommates and best friends. They came in as transfers together and all last season they ran the scout team offense together. They went back to Ryan’s home in Kansas City before the summer session began. “I threw it to him every time and that’s when we had a ton of NFL talent on the defense”. Willis is referencing S Terrell Edmunds (1stround Steelers Draft Pick). CB Greg Stroman (7thround Redskins draft pick) and DT Adonis Alexander. Willis says Hazelton is a security blanket but that he is also like a brother that he loves seeing have success.
Ian Book Taking Over
I spoke to Miles Boykin about the transition from Wimbush to Book at quarterback and he said that it has been very smooth. Boykin reiterated that everyone loves Brandon Wimbush and that he has always been a great teammate. The senior wide receiver describes his new starting quarterback as extremely poised and a guy who only yells when making a check at the line of scrimmage (and that he always makes the right decision). Boykin also says that he feels like the game has slowed down for the team with Book under center. Ian says that he has been “preparing his whole life for it” and wants to bring his style of ball to the team. Book recognizes his growth as a football player. He points to the fact that he gets the ball out earlier, he is not taking as many sacks, he knows when to run out of bounds, and situational awareness as areas where he has seen the most improvement.
Houshun Gaines losses His Mom
Houshun Gaines wrote his mothers initials under his eyes last week because Tardra Hilliard was in the hospital dealing with health issues. She passed away on Monday. Gaines returned to North Carolina to be with family and returned to practice on Wednesday. The coaching staff told Gaines that he could do whatever he wants to do and Houshun said he wants to play with his team. Notre Dame fans showed support for Gaines by lighting a candle for his mother at the grotto this week.
Gaines responded to the gesture on Twitter:
Miles Boykin Productive Senior Year
Miles Boykin already has more receptions this season than 2016 and 2017 combined. Boykin said that he always knew that he could perform at an elite level so he has always worked on not losing any confidence in his game. Before winning MVP honors in the Citrus Bowl last season he says he remembers Brian Kelly telling him that it was going to be his game and his moment and he took that to heart and never looked back. Boykin focused on route discipline, understanding defenses, and mastering all of the offenses concepts. He wants to see what quarterbacks see when they are watching film. Boykin says he can see the offseason work and extra film study paying off this season.
Jerry Tillery World Traveler
Jerry Tillery traveled a long way from Shreveport, Louisiana to South Bend, Indiana but he has been racking up miles ever since. Tillery’s freshman year at ND he applied to study abroad in South Africa where he studied institutionalized racism. It turns out being accepted into the program would change his life. He says that ever since that summer he has had the travel bug. Jerry has been to 17 countries. South Africa and Japan are two of his favorites. South Africa because it started his love affair with traveling and Japan because he actually understands Japanese. He has studied Japanese history, culture, and language at Notre Dame and that has grown his love for the Asian country. And traveling is only the tip of a fascinating iceberg of interests for the senior D-Lineman. He is an economics major that has interned at an Irish hedge fund in Dublin. And his Twitter Bio reads “Solo se vive una vez” which means “you only live once”.
KJ HAMLER PARENTS RAP
When KJ’s 18th birthday was coming up two years ago, his parents wanted to do something special for him because for the first time in his life his parents would not be able to be by his side. Thomas Hamler said that he wanted to call up his son and sing happy birthday. But his Mom, Latonya Gooding said she wanted to do something better than just sing. She wanted to rap. At first both Dad and Mom were suppose to spit a verse. But Latonya told me that it Dad’s verse wasn’t coming along very easily so it became a solo rap featuring an awesome hype man. KJ says that he literally started tearing up when he first watched the video and knew that he had to post it. The parental birthday rap went viral and KJ now jokes that he is trying to find his Mom a record deal because she is a great MC. It looks like the birthday rap is a tradition now. Here is the video from KJ’s 19th Birthday:
KJ RETURNING FROM INJURY
The last time KJ Hamler competed in a game before this season was his junior year in High School. He tore his left ACL during the first game of his senior season at IMG Academy. KJ said when he got to campus he really thought that he would be able to play his true freshman season but he was still healing and dealing with a lot of swelling. He took it really hard when he found out that he would be redshirting but now he says it was the best thing for him because it was humbling and gave him time to grow. KJ had to focus on getting healthy and preparing for this season as guys like his roommate played as a true freshman. KJ’s mother Latonya said that they came to every home game to let him know that they still supported their son and let him know the importance of a redshirt season. His parents stressed to him “Everyone has a season, and when yours comes, you will shine.”
JAN JOHNSON THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLER
Johnson is currently a walk-on middle linebacker for Penn State. But he has already won a national championship during his time in Happy Valley. During his first season at Penn State he was redshirting for the football team when wrestling coach Cael Sanderson reached out to James Franklin about borrowing Jan for the 2015-16 season. Coach Sanderson lost both of his heavy weight wrestlers to injury and Jan was a two time High School AAA State Champion. Coach Franklin didn’t have a problem with it so Jan Johnson joined the wrestling team in late October. Jan wrestled in 10 matches and was a fan favorite because he would escape guys that weighed 40 pounds more than him. Penn State wrestling went 16-0 in dual meets and went on to win the national championship in OKC. The following season Jan focused only on football but Coach Sanderson kept Johnson on the roster just in case he wanted to come back and spar with his old teammates.
MILES SANDERS ON WAITING HIS TURN
Miles says that it takes a lot of patience and maturity to wait your turn to play. Sanders said he focused on learning from Saquon when he was not on the field. He would watch how he handled 2 minute drills before the half and talking through what he saw on the field. Coming into the season Sanders said he was not going to try and be something that he is not. He is not trying to be extraordinary and fill Saquon’s shoes. He just wants to be himself. Sanders has also been working hard to expand his game by staying after practices and working with the wide receivers on the jugs and also getting extra work in catching with Trace McSorley.
SANDER’S FAVORITE RUNNING BACKS
Ezekial Elliott: for his ability to run very down hill takes what should be 2-3 yards and makes it 6-7 just from continuing to attack defenses.
Todd Gurley & Le’Veon Bell: for their versatility they can catch out back field or run stiff arm you and run right through you
SAQUON BARKLEY ON MILES SANDERS
Saquon Barkley said that there is no better back in college football right now than Miles Sanders. He said he has the work ethic, speed, and talent and that he was always supportive throughout his time in Happy Valley. Saquon said that words cannot even describe how happy it makes him to see a his friend and former teammate getting his chance. Barkley remembers last season when he was dealing with a back issues leading up to the Nebraska game and he jokingly said that he had to fight through it and play because if Miles took the field everyone would forget that there was a Saquon Barkley.
SAQUON ON HIS FORMER TEAM
Saquon says that he loves the way Coach Ricky Rahne is calling plays. And he has really enjoyed watching KJ Hamler step into the spotlight and become one of the most electrifying players in college football. Barkley said that Hamler was absolutely spectacular on scout team last year but that you never know how players will execute when they enter games so he has been very impressed. Barkley also mentioned that this season is all about proving that they are not the Penn State of old, the Nittany Lions with sanctions that are rebuilding for a future. He says the way you prove that is by reloading when you lose players and he feels like this is the season that Penn State will really showcase its depth and arrival at the top of college football. He also has a lot riding on this game. He and Giants teammate and former Buckeye Eli Apple have a bet, if Saquon loses he has to wear an Ohio State shirt.
Nick and Joey Bosa Relationship
Joey was a two time All-American at Ohio State and has 23 sacks in 28 games with the Los Angeles Chargers. Nick says that he talks to Joey every day they are always FaceTiming and texting. Lately Nick has been making sure Joey stays up as he rehabs from a bone bruise in his foot. Nick says growing up they were rough with each other. Nick says his older brother was constantly bullying him and picking on him. But when he got to his Freshman year of High School which was Joey’s senior year, the two brothers really started to bond. The two brothers enjoy talking through the little details of football like skill techniques. (ex: Joey asking Nick during camp about his side scissor move “do you throw your hands up or do you club with your outside hand first”). During their off season they still find time to be together and look for unique ways to relax. This summer they spent a week on the island of Exuma in the Bahamas. Nick sent me these pictures of him and his brother playing with the wild pigs who inhabit Big Major Cay in Exuma.
*** P.S. Get well soon Nick!
Without Urban Meyer
Nick Bosa said that he did not notice Urban Meyer was gone during camp because as a defense they usually spend most of their time with their position coach. Nick said that the one thing that stood out to him was on game day not having Coach Meyer in the locker room. “He is a great motivator and I miss that voice” but Bosa said Meyer has already set a culture of execution and expectations on the field that do not just crumble because he cannot travel. Bosa said that his team is taking every game seriously despite their off the field situation. Bosa brought up last season’s big win vs Penn State that was followed up by a loss to Iowa. He says that last season’s disappointments are keeping them focused through the distractions.
Dwayne Haskins and Deshaun Watson
Dwayne Haskins has a favorite college quarterback and his name is Deshaun Watson. Dwayne says that he has been training with Deshaun since his Sophomore year in high school. Both Dwayne and Deshaun work with quarterback coach Quincy Avery. Dwayne said that watching Deshaun “dominate college football inspires me, because I have been on the same field with him, throwing the same routes, and learning the same mechanics”. Dwayne said that Deshaun has a “cool and laid back demeanor”. Dwayne says that he too has a very laid back personality and that you will rarely see him yelling or emotional on the sidelines. Watson told Haskins that he doesn’t have to be anything that he is not. That he does not have to be JT, or anyone else. Watson told him that ultimately studying and putting the work in will earn the trust of the locker room.
Dwayne on Waiting His Turn
Dwayne Haskins has already been named a Big 10 Offensive Player of the week and he says that being able to sit and learn has helped him immensely going into his first season as a starter. He said he watched how JT Barrett “handled the media and adversity handled the good times and the bad times”. He said it is priceless to be able to watch someone like JT instead of just being thrown into the fire at a young age and having to learn as you burn. He said that being the starting quarterback at Ohio State has been everything and then some. He is trying to maintain his same schedule, one that factors in 2-3 additional hours of film study a day. Haskins says that having a coach like Ryan Day is really helpful because “coach day is so talented and puts in a lot of work” to get him ready. Dwayne says Coach Day has been putting the pressure on him to execute better in practice, stressing the fact that “if you get one look in the game, you may never get it again so you have to be ready to capitalize on the opportunity.”
Random fact. Dwayne loves dogs and he has 3. He told me that he is a fan of small dogs and enjoys the fact that they like to cuddle. Haskins has two Yorki Poo’s but his girlfriend Savhana made him get a Dobermann Pinscher (but he says its like having a big lap dog). Dog names: Princeton & Coco Chanel
Ben Banogou’s Story
Ben told me that coming out of High School no one was interested in recruiting him. He sent his tapes out to everyone in the state of Texas. The two star ended up at Louisiana Monroe. When he finally became a starter he actually registered his first sack in a game against Alabama’s Jake Coker. He said after a great season he started looking again for a Power 5 school. When he received interest from TCU he said “it was not about weighing my option, it was when do I need to be there”. Ben said that his journey through mid-majors has made him appreciate the opportunity that he has at TCU. Ben treated his redshirt year as the perfect opportunity to improve his body and football IQ. Last year, Ben was “grinding like a freshman that wanted to prove himself but operating with the maturity of a senior”. Banogu says he views TCU as one of the best places on earth he called it his “oasis” so when it was time to decide if he should come back for his senior season, Banogou said the answer was a no brainer.
#5 RB Traveyon Williams
Traveyon became the 4th Aggie to register multiple 200 yard rushing games in Week 1. He told me that it was a very emotional game for him because last year at this time his family was in serious danger in his hometown of Houston during Hurricane Harvey. His mother Joyce Davis told me that her family walked through waist deep water, were picked up by a boat, taken to a gas station, then rode in the back of a dump truck to a Wal-Mart parking lot, where they waited for a school bus to drive them 6 hours to a shelter, and once they were there they had to sleep outside. On Monday of week one a season ago the extended family of 10 made it to a hotel where they were forced to stay for 4 months. When they arrived, they FaceTimed Trayveon and told him that they were okay and that they wanted him to focus on the week of preparation. Trayveon says he still thinks about what his family went through every time he takes the field because the emotions still come rushing back. Here are pictures of his family making their way to safety and eventually FaceTiming Trayveon from their hotel room:
#11 Kellon Mond Adjusting to Pro Style Offense
Kellon Mond said when he heard that Jimbo Fisher was going to be his new head coach he called some of his former high school teammates that played for Jimbo at FSU. Seminole Tre McKitty told him that Fisher was going to coach him hard and have high expectations. This is Kellon’s first season ever taking snaps under center and he said he is treating learning this offense like taking a class and learning a new subject. He said the biggest change he has had to make doesn’t even come on the field. It comes in the film room. He said his new nightly routine involves 2-3 hours of film study he also always has his iPad with him. He said Coach Fisher has taught him how to break the game down to smallest detail. And Kellon said that he is much more confident this season because he really feels like his knowledge of the game has grown and that he will be able to rely on that when times get tough.
Kellon Mond and Deshaun Watson
Kellon said it will be surreal playing Clemson because Deshaun Watson has always been an idol of his and someone that he looks up too. They met once in Houston at a concert and he also met him in Clemson during his sophomore year of high school. Mond says he loves his accuracy and ability to make plays out of the pocket. But what Kellon wants to model his game after is the way Watson processes the game. Mond says he envies what an intelligent quarterback Watson is and the way nothing rattles him. “He seems confident 24/7”. Mond says that’s what he wants defenses and his team to see in his demeanor.
Team’s First Impression of Jimbo
Kellon Mond told me that when Jimbo first met with the whole team that it was the quietest he has ever heard the meeting room. He said “it is something we will all remember”. Coach explained to the players that it would take “blind trust”. Trayveon Williams said when he first found out that Sumlin was leaving he was mad. But now he thinks having Jimbo as a head coach “is the best thing that could have happened”. Williams said Coach has brought toughness, effort, and discipline. Williams said Coach Fisher told the team that he has won championships and he fully expects to win them in College Station and that the process starts now so everyone better buy in or get left behind.
#8 Justyn Ross and Clemson WR Legacy
Ross says the reason why he wanted to play for Clemson is because of the Wide Receiver tradition. He says that his favorite wide receiver and the guy who he believes he is the most similar to is Mike Williams. He said Williams is big strong and quick for his size. Ross has put on about 15 pounds since arriving on campus and he has already made some great one-handed catches in HS, and during the spring at Clemson. Justyn says he doesn’t practice the one-handed catch and that he honestly surprises himself sometimes.
His catch during Clemson’s camp got the attention of former WR Deandre Hopkins:
One of Justyn Ross’s catches in HS was an SC top 10 play:
Justyn Ross and Military Mom
Justyn’s mom Charay Franklin enlisted I the Navy in 2000. She has been on 4 tours of duty. One to Kuwait and 3 to Iraq for Operation Enduring Freedom. Justyn says that when his mother was on tour his grandmother Annetta Franklin would keep him. Charay is currently a Sergeant in the Army, serving as a reservist in the Alabama National Guard. Mom says that during the recruiting process she did not know how good her son was. She knew that a lot of programs were interested in him but that it did not all click until he signed his letter of intent.
Kelly Bryant on Sharing QB Snaps
Kelly said that coach sat them down and said that he would be the starter in game one and that Trevor would also play. Bryant said that he already knew that he would be sharing snaps with Lawrence because he knew that the true freshman had an amazing camp and you “can’t take anything away from him he has learned the whole offense”. Kelly says that he had the right mindset going into the first game. “When I am out there I am doing my job, when I am not I am being Trevor’s biggest supporter and talking about what we have seen, I will always be engaged.” I love the maturity he shows when answering questions about how his career has progressed at Clemson and what he would tell a younger player who may go through the same thing:
Substitute Teacher Christian Wilkins
During the Spring Christian Wilkins decided to become a substitute teacher. He has already graduated and all of his master’s classes are online so he had some extra time on his hand. One of his brothers is a full-time teacher and another brother is a sub and Christian thought it would be a great way to make extra money. He went through the interview process and actually subbed about 10-15 times. He has done elementary school and high school, but has filled in for Kindergarten and pre-k classes more than anything. Christian said he felt like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten cop because they would swarm him and want to play. Principal Ashley Robertson of James M. Brown Elementary said that the number one thing that stood out to her about wilkins was that he was very professional. She said when she walked him down to the room he was a little nervous before entering. She said it was adorable to see him sitting in tiny kindergarten chairs, or laying on the floor playing bingo games with the kinds. She said the one picture she wishes she could have taken was Christian walking with one student who was sick holding their hand and leading them down the hall. James M. Brown is a title 1 school with a high poverty level, 88% of the students are on free or reduced lunch, Robertson said having the kids around Wilkins was an invaluable experience for the students. Picture of Christian at James M. Brown Elementary.
Caleb Farley’s First Game
Caleb said he knew that he would not play quarterback at the collegiate level even though he played the position in high school. Caleb enrolled in January before his true freshman year and practiced at both DB and receiver throughout the spring. But then he tore his ACL just 2 days into camp last season. Caleb said it was his first major injury but what he learned throughout the process was that he was not in control. He returned to summer workouts about 7 months ago. Caleb said in high school he was a big FSU fan because they were winning everything. So he can’t believe that he will begin his collegiate career playing against the Noles. Caleb says he dreams about the big stage and he is ready for this moment.
Caleb Farley Losing His Mother
Caleb Farly lost his mother to cancer in January. Robin Farley was diagnosed with breast cancer when Caleb was in 8th grade. She beat the disease into remission by his sophomore year. But the following year the family found out that Robin’s cancer metastasized to her bones. Justin Fuente has praised Caleb’s outlook on life and ability to process the loss of his mother. And Caleb also gives a lot of credit to his Virginia Tech family for making sure that he stayed motivated and never got down. Caleb says he wants to take a kickoff return for a touchdown and then point to the stars for his mom.
QB Josh Jackson Falling In Love With the Process
After Virginia Tech’s spring game Justin Fuente said this about his starting QB “I think there’s another level of detail that he can reach in his preparation” Coach wants his quarterback to “fall in love with the process” of being the Hokies starter. Fuente says that there was another level of understanding that Jackson can get to. Protection checks, route adjustments, and understanding the other side of the ball. During the summer Josh said he made it a point to spend a lot more time at the football building. He used to like doing his film work in a recliner at home. He says being at the facility allows him to be extremely focused for hours on end and he has more access to coaches so he can ask questions or pull wide receivers in to watch film with him. He also said everyday after class during the spring and summer he would go straight to the facility watch at least an hour of film and then workout.
QB Josh Jackson & Father Fred Jackson Close Relationship
Fred Jackson coached football for over 40 years which included 23 seasons at the University of Michigan. He coached under Garry Moeller, Lloyd Carr, Rich Rod, and Brady Hoke. When Josh was younger he would spend all of his free time with his dad at Michigan’s football facility. Fred Jackson told me that when Josh was in the 3rdgrade (about 8 years old) he started to really show interest in being around him at work. Josh would sit in his dad’s film sessions with running backs and take notes like the players, and draw up plays, and ask for feedback from his dad. Fred says he has seen a lot of growth from his son off the field going into his 2ndseason. Dad says his son is studying a lot more film and digging deep into it. Dad has sent Josh an inspirational text every day except gameday since he was in high school. Fred says his final message to his son Sunday night was to be a leader because he is a captain now. And to “follow the rules of the play” let the game come to him.
This is also the first year Fred is not coaching football in over 4 decades. Last year, he would coach his high school team’s Friday night game. Sleep from 12-2am and then drive with his wife Teresa Jackson to Josh’s games. Josh joked saying it was time for his dad to retire because he is getting old. Josh wears the number 17 because that is what his dad wore as a QB at Jackson State.
RB Deshawn McClease Body Change
Since arriving on campus Deshawn has been working to put weight on his 5’8 frame. He has put on about 15 pounds this offseason. McClease said he has a fast metabolism so he had to increase his calorie intake a lot. During his lifts the strength staff would feed him peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and protein shakes throughout the workout. He says he doesn’t feel heavy at all with the additional weight and knows he can still be quick on his feet. Here is a picture of his body changes from the VT strength and conditioning staff:
Deondre Francois Return
Deondre Francois said that “he might cry” when he runs onto the field to take the first snap. He said just being on the field is a blessing because there was a time when he couldn’t even walk to the bathroom. After Deondre was injured he said he kind of isolated himself he did not know how to handle the injury because it was his first time ever suffering a major one. He said he would look at his teammates scars who tore their MCL or ACL and then he would look at his and see how much bigger his scar was and know that he was going to have a very difficult rehab and recovery process. But when he realized that he was a still a leader on this team he fully engaged even moving back on campus to be closer to his teammates.
Taggart Goal Implement Togetherness
Willie Taggart arrived on campus before the bowl game. In all of the other jobs mhe has taken the team was not playing in a bowl game. Coach says this allowed him “to see the guys practice, in meetings, how they take coaching and what they needed coming in”. Taggart says that when he got on campus there was a sense that the team was not close “a lot of guys didn’t like each other and it’s hard to win ball games if you don’t like each other”. He said that when he got to campus he made the guys eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner together. When players get into a fight during practice, they have to hold hands and walk around the field together. Taggart even made ensured that there was a closeness and chemistry on his staff by making sure that no coach went on the road to recruit by himself. Assistants were always recruiting with one another and it allowed the staff to bond and by the time they got back with the current players they saw a staff that enjoyed working together.
Taggart Brining Back FSU Legacy
“I think we lost the legacy somehow and we lost pride in Florida State University.” Taggart grew up an FSU fan and has always been amazed by its rich football history. Taggart wanted his players to understand the guys that came before them, the guys that made this program what it is. Coach said one of his players came up to him after the team watch the Bowden Dynasty Documentary and said “I didn’t know any of that, I was born in ‘97”. Coach said when he first got to FSU he brought in Deion Sanders and they walked through the halls together and he thought players would see Deion and be like “wow that’s primetime” but instead they were like “what’s up Coach T”. That situation made him realize that you can’t take for granted or believe that these players just know their legacy.
LB MACK WILSON GROWING ROLE/RELATIONSHIP WITH SABAN
Saban has said “We need Mack to really be the guy on defense this year for us when it comes to leadership and how he affects other people.” Wilson told me that the role of vocal leader is uncomfortable for him and that even his parents and Godfather have always said he’s not a vocal guy because he likes to lead by example. But something that has helped Wilson’s growth is his relationship with Nick Saban. Mack said that Saban often calls him in for one on one meetings out of the blue. Mack says their last meeting was right before fall camp ended. Saban’s message was simple: “it’s time for the defense to click”. Mack said he and Coach have a very honest and open relationship. He told coach that he was frustrated during camp with trying to get everyone on the same page, with the lack of experience, and Mack says getting ready for the season has been very challenging for the defense. But Wilson says his talks with Coach have really helped him talk through his concerns and become a better leader.
MACK WILSON LEARNING FROM RAY LEWIS AND ED REED
During the summer Wilson was invited to be a camp counselor at the Ray Lewis Academy at IMG. Mack says that he learned so much from the experience. Wilson says he watched film with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Wilson specifically remembers watching film of the Ravens playing the Panthers. He said you could see how Ed talked to the secondary and Ray communicated with the front line. He said it was fascinating to watch them run the whole defense on film and talk through what they were seeing while sitting right next to them in the room. Ed and Ray told Wilson that they used to watch film every night together when they first teamed up. Wilson says now he makes sure that all the linebackers watch film together at least 3x a week. And Ed Reed told me that Mack Wilson is clearly a young man that wants to learn and is very coachable. “He listens and applies that’s why he shows up on film”.
TREVON DIGGS FINDING A ROLE
He has played offense, defense and special teams. Last season he only had 6 total tackles and 3 pass break ups in 13 games. But coming into Game 1. Saban has said that Diggs has been one of his most consistent defenders. Trevon told me that he has spent a lot of time watching film of older guys like Minkah Fitzpatrick and Cyrus Jones. He is taking fundamental cues from the former players as small as their stance. He also stays in constant touch with his brother Stefon. The older Diggs’ message is simple “stay focused on what you can control and watch a lot of film”.
PUMA PASS UNIQUE THROWING MOTION
Pass has been working with a QB coach named Quincy Avery since he was a junior in high school. Over the summer he went and worked with Avery in LA. He was joined by QBs from across the country including Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, and Oklahoma State’s Drew Brown. Avery said whenever Puma goes to get vertical or throw hard you will see the incredible flexibility in his arm. It almost looks like he is going to pull his arm out of the socket. He says it is an asset for generating force, the ball jumps out of his handbut it also means sometimes he can try to generate all of his force through his arm instead of doing it from the ground up.
PUMA PASS IMPROVEMENT
Puma told me that his biggest focus during the offseason was consistency with his footwork. He says he’s completely comfortable in Bobby Petrino’s system. But he wants to be more consistent with the rhythm and cadence of his drops and throws. He also focused on never letting his feet get to wide or narrow. QB Coach Quincy Avery said he showed Pass film of Deshaun Watson because he wanted him to watch how he syncs his feet with the routes.
JAYLEN SMITH EMERGENCY APPENDECTOMY
Jaylen had a health scare to start fall camp. It all started on August 1st which is his Birthday. He went out to dinner at a steakhouse and he recalls trying to eat a $70 steak and celebrate but he just felt stomach pain that he had never felt before. He went to the training room the next day and after further evaluation he found out he needed emergency surgery on the same day that camp officially started to take his appendix out. Smith said that he could not lift or do anything for a week. Then he slowly worked his way back on to the treadmill and then on the elliptical. Two weeks after surgery he was back on the field running routes. Smith lost about 10lbs in 2-3 days because he just couldn’t eat. Jaylen says he feels good now but that he has not been tackled yet, just grabbed around the waist near his stiches.
Second Time Around The Rehab
This is the second time Elijah has torn his ACL. He tore the same ACL his senior year in HS (left). Elijah says the 2ndtime around has been much smoother than his first surgery. He says he felt aches and pains and he would be hesitant during rehab the first time around. But he learned that it was just scar tissue or stiffness. During his latest rehab process, the times when he felt certain aches and pains he knew it was normal and he was prepared to push through which allowed him to strengthen the muscles around his knee and to get back sooner.
Protecting His Throwing Motion
Sindelar was back throwing to WRs during the spring and doing daily drills. But as he learned from his first ACL tear it is important to keep a consistent throwing motion. He said he really had to focus on using his hips and not overcompensating with his healthy leg. The injured knee is his plant leg. He worked really hard not to create bad habits and when summer came he was full go during 7 on 7 and moving around the pocket.
Blough & Sindelar QB Relationship
Elijah describes the relationship he has with David as an unbreakable bond. They were roommates on the road the first 2 years of their careers together and have been best friends ever since. David is a year older and he says they have been through the ups and downs of each QB playing well and playing poorly, of winning 2 games in a season and winning 7. Elijah says the only thing they differ on is that David always wanted to watch football on the road and Elijah always wanted to watch How It’s Made.
Elijah Sindelar The Electrical Engineer
Elijah will graduate with a degree in Electrical engineering (his dad is an electrical engineer) he is taking 13 credit hours. Sindelar said the toughest year was his first year because he was learning a new playbook and the classes are really tough because the program is trying to weed students out early. He said this may be his easiest year of school because it’s the first time he has ever had the same playbook for 2 consecutive seasons so there will be one less thing to worry about on the football side. Might be cool to build a graphic on his course load:
- ECE 30800 Systems Simulation and Control Laboratory
- ECE 39595 Electromagnetics II
- ECE 43200 Elements of Power System Engineering
- ECE 50653 Fundamentals of Nanotechnology
- STAT 41600 Probability
He studies 3-4 hours a day and more on the weekends.
Coach Brohm Difference
Markus Bailey says that Coach Brohm fed a confidence to the team that they have been lacking in years past. Elijah Sindelar said he preached the one game season. And learning from wins and losses and moving on from both. He said Brohm’s approach “was good for the team it was not overwhelming and all he cared about was coming to work every day and giving great effort it wasn’t about wins and losses it was about effort. And now we can see that his philosophy has paid off we are 100% in.”
Clayton Thorson Returning
Clayton says throughout the process of recovering from his injury he has taken a lot of cues from individuals who have been in his shoes before. He says he learned from what Andrew Luck said: “I cannot skip steps…I think I pushed a little too hard on certain things” Clayton says that although he wants to get back to playing as soon as possible that he also needs to listen to his body he doesn’t want to skip steps. He also spoke to former Northwestern Quarterback Trevor Siemian whose Northwestern career ended with a torn ACL November 2014. He says he’s learned to turn dealing with an injury to a mental edge that is making him a better player and teammate.
Thorson got engaged last august. And looked at his summer schedule and found the one off-week that he had during the summer and that’s when they scheduled the wedding. He said he wanted to make sure he could dance at his wedding (which he did). They honey mooned in West Palm Beach. And he says now he lives with his wife Audrey in Evanston.
#24 CB Montre Hartage
Hartage said growing up his family did not have enough money to pay for official visits or camps so he had a limited level of exposure. Montre says that during the recruiting process he only had a couple of schools from the Sunbelt and Conference USA interested in him. But he was waiting on a Power 5 offer. In fact, 2 days before signing with Northwestern he was committed to Georgia Southern. He remembers it being Super Bowl Sunday and Northwestern calling to say that someone decommitted so there was an open spot. He took Northwestern up on the offer without visiting campus.
Paddy Fisher Losing his Father
Paddy’s father passed away in 2010 at the age of 46 from cancer (Steven Fisher). Paddy says what he still draws on from his father is being a fighter. He said his Dad worked from home on his computer until the day he passed away. He wants to keep in mind how much of a fighter his father was and be the same person and player.
RB Jeremy Larkin
He knows that he is the successor of one of Northwestern’s great backs. Jeremy says he has been preparing for this moment. Jeremy said the one thing that he learned from Justin Jackson was his attention to every detail of the game. “Jackson knew where everyone was supposed to be on every play, he could have been a quarterback”. Larkin ramped up his film study during the offseason and now spends more time learning defensive tendencies. He has also watched other Running backs to study certain attributes.
- Laveon Bell-Patience
- James White- ability to catch out of the backfield
- Adrian Peterson- aggressive running style
- Barry Sanders- balance, pad level-new running backs coach Louis Ayeni cut up highlights of Sanders for Larkin to watch
Paddy Fisher Notebook
Toward the end of Paddy’s first year in Evanston he bought a notebook and began recording notes from film sessions, writing personal goals and inspiring quotes. He said that he has now transferred most of his notes over to his phone so that it’s easier to keep up with and have handy at all times. He devotes time daily to reading/writing in his notes. He said doing this has helped him overcome one of his biggest battles which is between his ears and helped him remain positive through his successes and failures. Remember DC Mike Hankwitz said a part of Paddy’s development involves him becoming more confident and realizing that he is a great player. Here’s the page he sent: