All posts by Acey Roberts

Acey is from the Jackson, MS area with an engineering degree from Ole Miss (the oldest engineering program in “Our State”), but doesn’t let his day job prevent him from displaying his passion for Ole Miss and SEC sports. While waiting for the day Ole Miss Football returns to glory, he objectively comments on the current news of the day. Acey is one of the founders of MakeItRainSports, contributing articles at Bleacher Reports and Fansided as well as Co-Hosts the MakeItRainSports and The Season Ticket radio shows on the VsportoNetwork. Loves BBQ and female fitness instructors; Hates commas and LSU. Follow on twitter @Aceyrob
04152014

4.15.14 PODCAST

This week we sit down with former Bulldog Outfielder Brooks Brian, John Davis joins us as the new sports editor for the OxfordCitizen, a new weekly coming out in the Oxford and Lafayette County area affiliated with the DailyJournal and Brad Logan visits with us from MS Sports Magazine.

We rehash the “Spring Eggbowl” baseball series between State an Ole Miss and also wrap up Spring football around the SEC on MAKEITRAINSPORTS #turndownforwhat!?!

SHOW LINK –> http://t.co/NUgb0nVreR <–

BULLDOGSPORTSRADIOREBELSPORTSRADIO

Evan Engram - Getty Images

Ole Miss’ Tight Ends Evolve Under Coach Hugh Freeze

In just a matter of 10 years the tight end position has evolved from an offensive lineman with good hands to a wide receiver that can block.

There are multiple common threads between former Ole Miss tight end Doug Zeigler and current tight end Evan Engram.  For one, they were both born in the same town and lived a few houses apart in doug_zeigler1Wilmington, Ohio.  They are both 6-foot 3-inches tall, have great hands and they both found their way to the turf of Hollingsworth Field but that is the end of the similarities.

Doug Zeigler at his playing weight was 50-60 pounds heavier than Engram and I’m sure Doug wouldn’t mind admitting that Engram would have him beat in the 40 time and his elusiveness after the catch.

The question is how can a lighter, faster tight end be a benefit in the SEC, in a time when defenses are getting bigger and stronger.  Why would a guy like Evan Engram be the future of the position instead of a guy like Zeigler who can also catch the ball but also run block?

The answers begin with the advantages of the “spread” or read-option offenses.

First, there is no one type of spread offense.  A spread offense is at its base a way to spread players out across the line of scrimmage and get skill players in space facing a single defender.  This is the general idea of any offense in the passing game.  To give your offensive players a chance to get open, catch the ball and move the chains.  And if you can make a guy miss you can get a big play.

The advent of 4 and 5 wide receiver formations has been the answer to the ever increasing size of college defenses.  If a team is physically unable to run the ball in a game, the short passing game can be used as a long hand-off to move the ball up field.

As teams utilize the passing game more and develop their “spread” schemes the tight end is being used now as a check down passing option.

A tight end with wide receiver speed and hands is a huge mismatch for a bulky linebacker dropping back into pass coverage.

Evan Engram - AP

Evan Engram – AP

Of course any worthwhile coach must be balanced in his approach.  If defenses adjust and load up on defensive backs to handle the spread, a guy that is 6-3, 215 pounds will still be able to block down field.  And on occasion, bring in the multiple tight end sets and play smash mouth football.

This could be the answer for Ole Miss’ red zone woes this year.  Having multiple tight ends that can run block as well as provide multiple passing targets presents a difficult scenario for defensive coordinators.

Many fans question why Hugh Freeze is loading up on tight ends?  On the current roster there are 13 tight ends on the Ole Miss roster, including big guys Channing Ward and possibly QB/athlete Jeremy Liggins.

A clue might be taken from offensive whiz Chip Kelly.

The current Philadelphia Eagles coach loves having a fleet of tight ends.  According to this article in Philadelphia  Magazine, the former Oregon coach wants the ability to use a three tight end set.

“Yeah. You go like that (holds three fingers in the air) and three tight ends go in the game,” he said.  “We are going to go three tight ends in a game. Now, do they go three linebackers? We split them out and throw passes. If they go three DB’s, we smash you. So, pick your poison.  Simple game.  Isn’t hard.  You guys thought coaching was hard.  They bring little guys in, you run the ball.  They bring big guys in, you throw the ball.”

No matter the era, tight ends still have to be a composite player, a blocker, a receiver and a runner.  How the guys are used will be based on their specific skill set but the bottom line is a tight end used strictly as a sixth lineman is no longer the norm.

At OleHottyToddy.com, I did an interview with Doug Zeigler and we discussed how the position is changing and requiring a different type of player than even when he was at Ole Miss just 12 years ago.

“It is changing, in college and the NFL.  Guys are all flexed out.  The speed of the game is the biggest change i’ve seen.  Like in Freeze’s offense , the speed of the game and the tempo is so quick.”

Comparing offenses from 2002 to 2014, Zeigler says the tight end is utilized even more now than when Ole Miss had Eli Manning at the helm.

“Even though we had Eli Manning, it was still an “old school” pro-style offense.  (Now) they are throwing it 40 or 50 times a game so you would have a lot more catches and a little more time in the spotlight. I think every tight end loves to catch the ball and would love to play in an offense like that.  Offenses are changing non-stop.”

For Ole Miss entering the 2014 season, freshman phenom Evan Engram returns and looks to improve on where he left off in the LSU game last year.

Engram started off strong with a 65 yard touchdown in the Grove  bowl this spring but even Engram has weaknesses.  Engram was asked what he needs to work on this year and he responded with (Video):engram1

“I want to be more physical and become more of a complete tight end. I need to gain some weight and strength to get to that point,” he noted. “I have a physical mindset, but sometimes blocking 240-250-pound guys, it was hard to sustain blocks.”

There may not be a complete tight end on the Ole Miss roster that can stay on the field for every package and play called.  Engram is a bit too slight and has room to get stronger.  Other guys may be better blockers but not as explosive with the ball in their hands, but as a whole, the options at tight end will allow Hugh Freeze to throw a lot of curve balls for opposing defenses in the fall.

Photo by Nathan Latil, UM Brand Photography

OleHottyToddy: A look at Deterrian Shackelford’s Second Chucky Mullins Award

(This article originally posted at FanSided’s Ole Miss page – OleHottyToddy.com – Check them out for the full article)

Sixth year Senior Linebacker Deterrian Shackelford was awarded the 2014 Chucky Mullin’s Courage award 2013 FOOTBALL HEADSHOTS DAY 1for the second time in his career today, which is a first in the history of the award which has been given annually since 1990.

It’s a unique honor for a player to wear a “in-memoriam” number to represent a player that did not have the chance to finish out his career as an Ole Miss Rebel.

Chucky Mullins was injured during homecoming in 1989 and never returned to the field.  He was critically paralyzed, so he focused all his drive and determination on rehabilitation and in the process inspired generations of fans and players ever since.

In 2010, a young sophomore from Decatur Alabama was working equally as hard on the field and off, making his case for a starting role at defensive end and linebacker all while making the honor roll academically.

Deterrian Shackelford amassed 48 total tackles that year, includingshackelford1 9 tackles for loss, and 5 sacks in only 6 starts.  His stock was rising and looked to be a dominate pass rusher for the Rebels in 2011.

As was the case with Chucky, Deterrian’s career was seemingly derailed too soon, when at the end of spring practice in 2011, Shackelford tore his ACL putting his hopes and dreams on hold.

Only three days later, the 2011 Mullins award was given to Shackelford, (Youtube Video) not for what he could do on the field but for who he was as a person in the locker room and in the classroom.  Deterrian’s award speech was especially emotional, not only because of his recent injury but also because this would be the first time in 5 years the jersey would actually be worn by a player on the field. (It was retired in 2006 and a #38 patch was worn by the award recipient)

Also, 2011 was the first year underclassmen were considered for the award.  So, careful consideration was given to the maturity and leadership of the award winner that year.

Ole Miss was not left disappointed by the choice of award winners.

What was initially thought to be a six month rehab, turned out to be much more.  Deterrian was not making progress in rehab.  His knee just didn’t seem to be getting any better or any stronger.  His dream of getting back on the field late in the 2011 season would have to be forgotten and he would  focus on rallying his team and leading from the sideline wearing #38.

His six month rehab turned in to 12 months and then in Early 2012, it was discovered there was additional tears in the ACL ligament in his knee.  Deterrian had to face the fact that he would not be 100 percent if he tried to play the 2012 season.  The prudent thing to do would be to have an additional surgery and put everything he had into maybe playing in 2013.

Shackelford was quoted in ESPN as saying, “The hardest part is not being out there with my teammates.  Especially when you go through a season like we had last year (2011).”  His teammate Charles Sawyer commented, “He’s an amazing guy, a tremendous leader.  He’s always there.  Even if he’s not in pads, he’s there motivating guys and making everyone feel like they are important.”

Deterrian was resolute in getting back on the field.  He was determined to represent himself and #38 as best he could.  “I just want the opportunity again.  Sometimes we forget it’s a blessing to be out here playing.  We take it for granted.  I can promise you that I don’t take anything for granted.”

Denzel Nkemdiche came to Ole Miss in 2012 and only knew Deterrian as a passionate role model. “I just love DT, I came to Ole Miss when he was hurt but the passion he has is unbelievable.  His voice is always heard.  You’ve got to respect a guy like that.  I hope he gets another opportunity to do the thing he loves.”

Finally the 2013 season come around, and a determined wild eyed veteran Shackelford was ready to hit the field with 150% effort.  Deterrian endured a coaching change since he last played on the field and new coach Hugh Freeze felt like the role he could play was really up to him; “DT is such a leader on our team and people listen to him so he is very valuable in that.  The more he plays the better.  Hopefully with a summer camp (prior to the 2013 season) he can get rid of some of the rust he has but I can’t really answer how much he will play right now.”

Shackelford knew what he had to do and was willing to put his all into what could very well be his last opportunity to play the game of football (from Mississippi Press).  “It starts with the mind.  I’ve done enough rehab and worked enough in the weight room to know that I’ve done everything I can physically.  I feel like I am stable but it’s the mindset to know that I can make any cuts I need that won’t affect it.  I think I have a lot to offer with my experience.  I hope I can be an inspiration to young guys who get hurt, they can see me and say, ‘He was out for two years, but he didn’t give up and now he’s back.’ ”

shackelford3

His senior year in 2013, Shackelford played in every game, mostly playing defensive end.  He recorded 44 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 2 quarterback sacks, flashing the knack for getting to the quarterback that was so promising in 2010.  After a stellar bowl game in Nashville against Georgia Tech, he was named to ESPN’s All-Bowl team as he had 7 tackles and 1 sack in that game alone.

Looking at his options, Deterrian potitioned the NCAA to allow him to have a sixth year of eligibility which that can allow when a player misses a season or more due to injury.  Head Coach Hugh Freeze was quoted as saying (from Mississippi Press), “I’m excited that DT plans to return for another year.  He brings great energy and leadership to our defense and is exactly the type of student athlete we want in our program.  I’m grateful to have a senior like him to provide a good example for our young players.”

During his time off the field, Deterrian finished his undergraduate History degree in three years with a minor in English.  He is now pursuing a graduate degree in high education with hopes to be a principal after football.  He is a National Football Foundation scholar-athlete, a 4 time SEC academic honor roll, he was the group leader for the team’s 2013 spring break mission trip to Panama, a pre-college program counselor for Ole Miss Outreach, participated in relay for life, the Oxford food pantry program and volunteers on cancer research fundraisers.

There is no better player that could represent the 2014 Chucky Mullin’s award.

(Continue reading for expections for the 2014 season – at Ole Miss’ FanSided account – OleHottyToddy.com)

weird wild stuff1

Weird Wild Stuff – News and Notes

Arizona “Riot”

So, Arizona was your team, huh?   Maybe you go to school there?  Maybe it really hurt when Wisconsin took you out in the Elite Eight?  The appropriate response is not to go stand in the street, clogging traffic and taunting cops.  This guy was not aware of that.

arizona riots1

Maybe Arizona Fan is not familiar with what a “Come At Me Bro” moment is all about.

Come At Me Bro is a moment when you are feeling invincible.  A moment when ideally you or your team actually wins and you have a reason, (albeit a flimsy reason) to get drunk and invite cops to shoot you with beanbags.

You don’t burn your couch when you lose, or you would be buying a new couch once a week in college basketball.  Likewise, you don’t want to get hit with bean bags unless it’s a truly worthwhile experience.

Getting beat is not a “Come At Me Bro” moment.  And now this guy knows that.

arizona riots

Cubs Lose in all Facets of Opening Day

Ahh, opening day baseball.  One of the joys of spring.  The sun pops out over Chicago Land after a dreary long and cold winter, eliciting dreams of winning baseball and smiles all over the city.

That is until the game is played.  Not only did the Cubs lose their opening day game in Pittsburgh, major league baseball found something else for the Cubs to lose at.  Instant Replay.

In a tight, scoreless fifth inning, the Cubs bunted into an apparent double play, which Manager Rick Renteria did not agree with.

After rushing out and requesting the first instant replay review ever in major league baseball, the only difference in the call was the decision was delayed 90 minutes.

New rules, new year, same result.  Cubs didn’t even score and lost 1-zero.

Final Four

Want to know 11 pretty cool facts about the Final Four?  Did you know Florida is on the verge of making history with 30+ wins? There is no “state” school in the final four and how old is Billy Donovan exactly?  Check out this link from ForTheWin.

The Final Four games are being played in AT&T Stadium, aka Cowboys Stadium, aka Jerry’s world.  Couldn’t we have found a larger venue?  Like a meteor crater or the Grand Canyon maybe?

final four

RBs

2014 HEISMAN: EARLY FRONT RUNNERS – RUNNING BACKS

College football has changed.  Long gone are the days of Bo Jackson and Herschel Walker, when running backs dominated college football.

In fact, in the last 15 years only two running backs have won the Heisman trophy.  2005′s Reggie Bush (which has been technically vacated) and 2009′s Mark Ingram.

Today is the world of running back platoons, hybrid running backs, 5 foot-7 inch slot receiver/running backs; No one is getting the rock more than 10 times a game.

Hardly enough carries to get warmed up.

In order for a running back to win the Heisman in 2014, a couple of things have to happen first.

1) There cannot be a clear Heisman type QB in the playoffs.

Quarterbacks control too much of the offense these days, and if your pulling for a RB for the Heisman, you want the top teams field general to be a game manager, not a gun-slinger.

2) One of the running backs below must be used as the first option in the offense.   A Wisconsin, Nebraska or Georgia or Alabama must choose to ride their horse, and ride him all the way to the house.

One of these teams will have to put the ball in their running backs hands more than 20 times a game.

Looking over the stats from Bush and Ingram I made a “Heisman Average” for the running back positon:

AVERAGE HEISMAN STATS:   Attempts (235), Yards (1699), Yards per Attempt (7.4) and Touchdowns (16.5)

Using the same scientific method as my Quarterback article, we copy and paste the 2013 stats into excel, hit enter and we get the MakeItRainSports Heisman Trophy Front Runners – Running Back Edition.

No. 1:  Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin (Rated 2.33)

Melvin Gordon looks like a slam-dunk Heisman running back.  Not only did he finish with 1,609 yards last year, he is on a team that loves to run the ball.  Wisconsin ran the ball 557 times last year! Gordon had 206 attempts and had to split time with Senior James White, who had 221 carries.

2014 looks to be a big opportunity for Gordon and Wisconsin.  Can they avoid the early season loss and stay in the media spotlight all year?  Melvin Gordon is a name to remember.

No. 2:  TJ Yeldon, Alabama (Rated 3.67)

Yeldon has the superstar look.  Long and lean, fast but durable. Alabama just seems to have this guy on the team every year.

With Derrick Henry and other NFL stars-in-waiting right behind TJ, it is hard to imagine Saban really centering his offense around any one player.  But you have to expect that losing AJ McCarron to the NFL will force more handoffs.

If TJ can take control of this team early, show he can be a Reggie Bush type player, you may see a run-away Heisman trophy run in Title Town.

No. 3:  Ameer Adbullah, Nebraska (Rated 4.0)

Adbullah is a monster running back on a forgotten team.  Nebraska is somewhat stuck in neutral and will have a hard time being an elite team in 2014.  An unproven QB and road trips to Michigan State and Wisconsin will probably prevent Abdullah from seeing New York city but you have to admire his talent.

In 281 carries and 1,690 yards he is a ball running machine.  Husker fans are hoping for some magic to get this team to a championship and perhaps a Heisman for Ameer.

No. 4:  Karlos Williams, Florida State (Rated 4.67)

If the Seminoles make it to the playoffs this year, you can almost forget Karlos Williams getting the trophy, as all the talk will be about star quarterback Jameis Winston.  But don’t forget what Williams can do.

Finishing with 14 touchdowns in only 173 carries, is impressive.  I don’t expect him to get much more work in 2014, but he is a player worth keeping on your watch list.

No. 5 (tie):  Todd Gurley, Georgia (Rated 5.67)

The loss of QB Aaron Murray will certainly hurt Gurley’s chances of playing on a championship level team and thus missing out on the attention he deserves, because Gurley is arguably the best running back in America.

In 2014, expect Georgia to get back to their roots and run the ball much more.  Can Gurley carry this team to the first ever college football playoffs?  He will certainly get his chance.

Gurley finished 2013 with 989 yards  in only 165 carries.

I can’t wait to see what he does with 250 carries!

No. 5 (tie):  Mike Davis, South Carolina (Rated 5.67)

In todays college football, a Heisman winning running back must be literally all over the field.  2014′s Gamecock’s are expected to be more pass happy and if Dylan Thompson is the quarterback you can also expect less running plays by the QB position.

Davis could potentially be the featured back and should Spurrier pass the ball more this year, Davis should be able to get more receiving yards as well.