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Can Iowa live up to lofty expectations in 2016?

In many ways the 2015 season was one of the, if not the, greatest season in Iowa Hawkeye football history. 2015 was the first time in the Hawks’ storied history that a team had finished the regular season undefeated. They were a 9 minute Michigan State drive away from crashing the college football playoff party. The Hawks return 14 starters in 2016 including cornerstones in Desmond King on the defensive side and C.J. “sunshine” Beathard at quarterback. The question Hawkeye fans everywhere are asking, can Iowa repeat its success from 2015?

Many early pre season polls have the Hawks ranked anywhere between 15-20 but I don’t pay to much attention to that. If you take a look at the 2016 schedule for the Hawks all of their toughest games are at Kinnick stadium. Those games include: Wisconsin, Michigan, and the fighting Harbaugh’s of Michigan. Home field advantage should pay dividends in these games. However, the Hawks still need to show up ready to play in these crucial games because their opposition will be ready to pounce on the Hawks if they are not. A prime example of that would be the rose bowl, from the very beginning I thought Iowa came out flat and the Stanford Cardinal and standout running back Christian Mccaffrey made the Hawks pay from the get go.

Mccaffrey running through Iowa would be tacklers in the Rose Bowl

One home game that I’m going to put Iowa on upset alert will be the Iowa state game. Upset alert is a game that the Hawks should win but could lose. Iowa State’s new coach Matt Campbell will be looking to make a statement early in his career and nothing would do that more than a road win at their arch rival Iowa Hawkeyes. If Iowa simply plays up to their potential there is only one game that I can see the Hawks losing, and that would be to Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines. This November night game will be a classic hard hitting Big Ten brawl. The Michigan Wolverines have more talent than just about anyone in the Big Ten and in the country. Jim Haurbaugh’s arrival has resurrected the program from mediocrity. Almost the same as “New Kirk” has for Iowa.

I have the Hawks winning the Big Ten West once again this year and going back to the Big Ten Championship where they will meet back up against Michigan and avenge their only blemish on the season. From there, it’s a toss up. With that resume at 12-1 and Big Ten Champs I would think that the College Football Playoff Committee would have no reasons to keep Iowa out of the four team party.

The answer to the question I asked before is yes. The Hawks will live up to the hype in 2016 and it is something many players are embracing. Desmond King’s decision to forgo the NFL draft and come back for his senior season will prove to be huge for this bunch. King is the first EVER Jim Thorpe award winner to come back to school, all other winners of this award have either graduated or chosen to declare for the NFL draft. This Iowa team knows that the target will be on it’s back this year, I believe it is something that they will embrace. They can’t play the underdog role as they did last year but they don’t need to. 2015 proved to the players and fans that the Hawks have what it takes to succeed. The confidence built last season will boil over into this year, while these Hawks will still be hungry and strive to better themselves after the way the 2015 season ended.

Iowa’s complete 2016 schedule

Recruiting 2: High school coaches – Its about the Relationships

Honestly speaking my assumption when I started this research project was that the role of a high school coach was diminished.  All of the communication methods that allow direct contact with the athlete made them irrelevant.   Essentially, the gap between schools and players was closing with technology and the high school coach is the odd man out.  To the contrary,  what I found is the job has become more complex,  enhanced and more about relationships than ever.

I talked to Tarig Holman, head football coach at Randolph High School in New Jersey.  This guy has been exceptional his whole life and it shotarig holman addresses the teamws in his coaching.  Tarig’s approach to his high school team is what he terms “College Bound”.  “I want our student athletes to understand that we are a college bound program” said Holman.  This sparked my interest because it was a different focus than most high school programs that I have come across.  At Randolph coach Holman has made it clear that he wants his players looking to further their education regardless of the level of football they play or if they play football at all.  The focus is more academic.  The reason for this is the numbers says Holman, who is realistic with his players.  A D1 safety at Iowa in his time, he understands that D1 talent doesn’t just happen every day.  “You have to build a relationship with the athletes so they believe you have their best interests in mind when you make suggestions” he said.  Sometimes the reality that you are not a D1 athlete is hard to take but then seeing where your academics make you attractive at other levels opens up doors for you.  Holman said, that the only way you can be real in that conversation is with a relationship.

tarig holman iowa number2Our conversation quickly moved from talent to relationship.  It’s all about the relationship for a coach today because there are many people lining up to be that support for a price.  Holman has relationships with players, other high school coaches and of course college coaches that he can keep in touch with when the dust settles from the previous season’s college football coaches carousel.  A unique relationship building activity that I learned of was kind of an introduction night for athletes and schools.  The event incorporates athletes from several area high schools,  High School coaches and College coaches, or recruiting coordinators.  When Tarig explained that they did this activity for sophomores to seniors I remembered other conversations about recruiting starting at a younger age.  He said that it was all part of his goals to remind his players that the program is a “College Bound” program.

What do you make of all of the technology out there, I asked to see if he was up on the latest communication methods.  Tarig was not even phased by the question.  He has seen it all as it becomes popular then falls off.  “Today people can reach you or find a way to reach you without you ever meeting them” he exclaimed.  That difference has him also working as a sort of media / social media guide for his players as well.  “We try and remind the guys that what you put out there is available for everyone to see”.  With so much air time and broadcast yourself out there athletes quickly forget that it is a dangerous world out there where people are looking for anything to make a story of.

Although the role has some new wrinkles in it I like what Coach Holman had to say which reminded me greatly of the men that guided me and probably most of us back in the non-social era.  It is still about a personal relationship that can impact the lives of young people.  “If  a coach is doing his job his players know his heart for them.  I love my job”, Holman said.

Stuff to take away from this story

  1. Be open to a relationship with your coaches that would allow them to guide you and even share their knowledge and contacts with you.
  2. Find out about the things that your school does to help students find a college.
  3. Your success in playing at the next level helps the program as a whole.

Recruiting 1: Small World Big Competition In The Social Age

Tyler Schamel #14 of Norwalk HS applying a stiff arm to a defender
Tyler Schamel #14 of Norwalk HS applying a stiff arm to a defender.

A long long time ago I was recruited to the university of Iowa to play fullback for the Iowa Hawkeye football team from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  I had no clue who the coaches were, where the school was, what Iowa was famous for, and the list goes on baby.  Even with all of that going for me, I decided to play for coach Hayden Fry who had a legendary 20 year run as Iowa’s Head Hawk.  When I say this happened back in 1994 most peoples jaws drop through the floor.  They don’t understand how a kid from Canada could be recruited without tweets, grams, vines or hudls.  Even then, resourceful coaches were working in the background collecting information from sources all across the world to find the next “Diaper Dandy” as Dick Vitale endearingly referred to great freshmen players.

Today, for Tyler Schamel a 5’10” wide receiver at 3A state runner up Norwalk high school in Norwalk, IA who has a profile on the web showing his picture, 4.65. 40 time and brainy GPA, the world is even smaller and the competition for the attention of coaches is even bigger.  Think about the changes in just finding out about a school.  In 94 there were no websites listing the coaching staff.  There were no email addresses and the fastest way to send a message across the wire that was not a phone call was this old dusty technology called a FAX.  In my chat with Tyler, he shared that he is smarter than your average high school kid.  Why, because Tyler uses the same type of email marketing tools that big companies use to analyze the effectiveness of a message to buyers to assess the interest of a coaching staff.  “I can see if they open the message and if I get a response”.  He excitedly noted that it was not challenging to find the email of a coach by using the recruiting service.  He said the recruiting services have really helped him reach out to coaches.  So what role does that leave for your friendly neighbor hood high school coach.

When I asked if all of the services and film have diminished the role of the high school coach.  Tyler laid it out there, “our coach is amazing and even more important today than ever!” He shared that, his coaching staff have supported his goal to continue playing football after high school.  Tyler is primarily a D2 to D3 prospect so it’s not like he does not have to compete for the interest of coaches.  His high school coaches help him and his teammates with visits, collecting assignments,  and coaching him on how to connect with perspective schools.  He couldn’t say enough about the support he has received from the staff.  The big difference today, is that the film, if you want to watch it is online and available with a simple search for Tyler Schamel.

  • http://www.hudl.com/athlete/2468017/tyler-schamel
  • http://www.ncsasports.org/football-recruiting/ia/norwalk/norwalk-community-high-school/tyler-schamel
  • http://www.maxpreps.com/athlete/tyler-schamel/29U9zxTiEeOZ5AAmVebBJg/videos.htm

There is something to be said for having a strong team that believes and achieves.  Norwalk is that school and Tyler is one of the keys to their success.  There is nothing like winning to make people listen and Tyler found that out right away.  “Before getting to the state championship game you have a few coaches that will talk to you.  When we hit the championship game there were many other coaches contacting me and asking about my film”.  The Warriors, like other teams to finish in the state finals, has a few kids that are being watched and offered by Power 5 conferences.  What coaches know is that the talent on the team does just stop at those players.  With any team to get to the finals they need horses in the stables that can catch 5 touchdowns.  Coaches are always on the lookout for that kid that might have not had the biggest stats or all of the data from testing combines but show up on the big day in a big way.

Intangibles are factors like speed, strength, agility, height that although measurable beat out most other factors when looking to recruit a player.  Talking to a recruiter from the Green Bay Packers last year made that absolutely clear.  The intangibles for a player are the first things looked at.  You can’t beat those with training.  You can’t train 7 feet tall,  stamina that doesn’t quit, leadership, or a fastball that is effortless.  Whatever those traits are, the recruit must highlight their intangibles before anything else even your team or individual record.

At the end of the day some how years ago with no technology this world was huge and coaches still found me in the frozen tundra of Edmonton, Alberta.  Today with some smarts and tools that are out there it is easier to communicate who you are to coaches, and recruiting coordinators.  Tyler’s advice to all the juniors and sophomores out there that are getting started in their quest to continue playing the game that they love is “Get to camps where people can see you live, it makes a big difference”.  Just remember that the opportunity you have is available to kids all around the world.  The communication is easier now but the competition is a whole lot harder.  Someone is working, don’t guess as to who it is, KNOW it is you.

Best of luck to 14 Tyler Schamel and thank you for taking the time to enlighten us.

Next in the series, I talk to several high school coaches about how their role has been adjusted in this ultra connected world.  After that an interview with a good friend of mine who’s daughter just finished her senior season of volley ball and son is a top high school football prospect.

Hot Feet Make Plays so keep em hot and be a play maker.

 

Spring into agility

Spring is here and time to get those feet blazing.  Our Spring into agility camps are designed to work a young athletes ability to explode off the mark coming from a complete stop, or a slow down to change of direction.  Most camps focus on starting maintaining speed.  At Hot Feet we understand that if you can’t stop effectively you are way to far behind for your start to matter.  Start, Stop, Start again, Hot Feet Make Plays!!!!!!

Great Plays

Great plays are made when anticipation, meets reaction, mixed with preparation, and topped with experience.  Great players make great plays because they are in the right place.  You can’t get to the right place without the feet.

Hot Feet Make Plays!!!!!!