Cleat Geeks

2018 NFL Draft Prospect; Kolton Donovan

Every year the NFL Draft makes college kids household names. Most of them are quarterbacks or running backs or receivers. Every once in a while someone who plays a specialty position or someone who is taken in the latter rounds becomes a household name as well. There are names in this year’s NFL Draft who we all know and we all have read and listened to at noseum. But, there are tons of college players who are immensely talented, will play every Sunday, and also have a story to tell. Today, you will get to meet one of those people, a long snapper who played his college for two different schools. And even that, has an interesting story. Kolton Donovan opened up and explained his story to Cleatgeeks. We are excited, and

humbled to share his story with all of you.

Cleatgeeks: When a kid decides he or she is going to play football, most of then dream of being a quarterback, or a running back, or a wide receiver. What made you say, “I want to be a long snapper?”

Kolton Donovan: Growing up I actually played more baseball and basketball since my parents both played D1 in those sports. So I grew up wanting to be an professional baseball pitcher like my dad was. It wasn’t until my freshman year of high school that I decided to play football and learned that my grandpa was an All-American center/snapper in his college years playing football. He would always tell me that he wanted me to be the next great Notre Dame quarterback in my childhood, but instead I picked up on snapping during my freshman year of high school and loved it. Eventually I had that opportunity to attend the University of Notre Dame, but turned it down and accepted my smallest offer from Southern Utah so I could serve an LDS Church Mission.


Kolton Donovan while playing for Southern Utah.

CG: You were raised in St George, Utah. What does a long snapper do for fun in St. George?

KD: There are a lot of things to do in St George, Utah. We have several state and national parks within an hour or two drive. There are always athletic tournaments going on since it is warm the majority of the year and several football fields to snap on. Also the Virgin River is a great place to go to cool down and go skim-boarding. But my favorite was hiking up to Dixie Rock that overlooks the city.

CG: St. George was named after George A. Smith, an apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Being raised in an environment where over 70% of the population are LDS, what role has religion played in your life?

KD: Religion has played a large role in my life. Even though I lived in St George during my high school years, I moved around a lot throughout my young years. I wasn’t always in or around highly populated LDS areas and in a way that was a blessing because I had to learn about religion for myself and stand up for what I believe in. I can take comfort in a lot of things because I know there’s a God who loves me and all of His children. I am the man I am today because of my religion and I’m very grateful for that.

CG: The St. George community has produced 4 NBA players, 3 MLB players and 4 NFL players including Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots running back Corey Dillon. What would it mean to you to be added to that list?

KD: It would be amazing to be added to that list. There has been some great talent and athletes to come out of St George so it would be an honor to be in that list with them. Pine View High School and my coach (Ray Hosner) have never had an athlete in the NFL so I hope I can be the first one to represent them with that honor.

Kolton, and his loving, supportive family.

CG: What 3 people have had the greatest impact on your life? Why?

KD: First and foremost it has to be my parents. They raised me to be who I am today. They taught me right and wrong, how to work hard, and to help those who need it. I wouldn’t have this opportunity without their own hard work and belief in me. – My grandpa Donovan because he has always been my role model and hero. He worked harder than anyone I know and has left an uplifting impression on everyone he met. He always believed in me. – Ray Hosner because he taught me there is so much more to football than just playing it. It is about the people around you and the lives you are able to impact that matters the most.

CG: You were a graduate transfer from Southern Utah. You were hurt in your first game wearing a Wyoming jersey. And without playing another snap you were allowed to dress for your final regular season game. Were there people who felt that you did not deserve to dress because you did not “earn” that right on the field? How did you handle that opposition?

KD: There probably were people who thought that I didn’t deserve to dress in the bowl game and that’s okay. I don’t let things that are out of my control concern me. I was blessed to have the opportunity to wear the Wyoming uniform one more time and I’m very grateful for that. I will always be thankful to Wyoming and Cowboy Nation for allowing me the opportunity to finish out my college career as a Cowboy.

CG: Where are you at in your rehabilitation? Are you 100%? Should an NFL team label you an injury risk? Why or why not?

KD: I am nearly done with my rehabilitation and feeling great! I will be ready to go for mini camp and training camp. The surgeon who operated on me is one of the best in the business. He has operated on several NFL, NBA, and even Olympic athletes. Many of which are still playing their sport today and performing at a very high level. With that being said, I wouldn’t say I am an injury risk at all.

An 18 year old Kolton on his LDS Mission trip.

CG: What is a graduate transfer?

KD: A graduate transfer gives an athlete, like myself, an opportunity to continue their education (by pursuing a masters degree after obtaining their bachelors degree) that wasn’t offered by their original institution.

CG: What was the biggest thing you learned under coach Craig Bohl at Wyoming?

KD: Coach Bohl is one of the great football minds I’ve been around. He is very knowledgeable about the game and will be a hall of fame coach someday because of everything he’s accomplished. He taught me to learn football from an outside the box perspective to I can understand the whole game instead of just special teams.

CG: Have you been able to talk to Jesse Hooper, who looks as though he is going to be the next Cowboy’s long snapper as of yet?

KD: Yes, I actually got to help with the recruiting of Jesse. I knew who Jesse Hooper was because I am from Utah like he is and not very many long snappers come out of Utah. He messaged me last year introducing himself and sent his film over too. He was really good and so I sent his film over to the recruiting office. He will do a great job at Wyoming and excited to see what he does there.

CG: While at Southern Utah you were able to do at a young age what most of us never get to do, go on a mission trip. How old were you? Where did you go? How did that experience effect your life today?

KD: I was 18 years old when I was called to serve in the San Antonio/Austin, Texas mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was a great experience for me even though it was really hard. I got to perform service projects for the poor and needy. I helped people find peace during hard times and trials. I got to meet a lot of amazing people and learn things I couldn’t have learned in other ways. I’m also still in contact with a lot of people I met on my mission. Those lessons I learned have helped me grow and mature into the man I am today.

CG: You mentioned that you helped in the recruitment of Jesse Hooper. You also seemed really touched by your coaches. Do you think coaching is something you may pursue down the road?

KD: I love football and I love coaching/helping young players. My grandpa was a Hall of Fame high school coach in Montana so I feel like it is something that would come naturally to me too. So coaching is definitely a possibility, but I would definitely like to keep playing football for a while before I have to make that decision.

CG: What is a quality that you have that can’t be measured on a test or in the gym that every NFL team should know about?

KD: My biggest quality is my heart and the love I have for the game. There are many things that can be measured but it is impossible to open up someones chest and see what kind of heart they have. I have loved this game for a long time and I love it even more today. I love training and working hard, I love being out at practice, and I love being playing in games, especially in pressure situations.

CG: Complete this sentence for me. I want to be drafted by an NFL team that…….

KD: Will give me a chance and let me compete.

CG: If there is a kid reading this who is considering being a long snapper. What advice would you give that child?

KD: It is all about reps and the desire. If you believe you can do it, then you can do it. Every day is going to be a battle and a struggle, but don’t focus on the hardships instead focus on what this will do for your in the future. Work hard and don’t take a single day for granted. Most importantly though, have fun and love it.

CG: Give me an example when you were forced to overcome an obstacle, and how that challenge has made you a better man today.

KD: I would say my ACL injury was a decent obstacle I had to overcome. It took a few days to let it sink in before I realized that I had a real opportunity with this. I focused my mindset more on the perspective of “this isn’t a setback, but rather a great opportunity to learn and grow in the game of football and life”. There were a lot of things I was able to do that I never really had the time to do before like watching more film, helping teammates, observing coaches and their coaching strategies, hit the gym hard, and start working towards the NFL Draft. I wanted to get better and learn more about this game and this gave me a great chance to do that. I can honestly say that it didn’t stop me or slow me down, but instead helped me learn and grow in ways I didn’t think were possible.

CG: Who is the best teammate you have ever played with that no one knows who they are.

KD: One teammate I will never forget is KC Rawlinson. He was a senior and my roommate at Southern Utah University during my freshman year. He was an older (mid-late 20’s) military guy who worked harder than anyone I knew in the program. He walked on to the team and only played special teams, but everyone admired. In fall camp we had a military lecture and we were all given dog tags that said “THUNDER’ on them. Which stood for “Train Hard, Utilize Nutrition, Do Extra, and Rest”. This all came from KC and everything he did for the program. He ended up winning the “Tip of the Spear” award at the end of the year for his fearlessness on special teams and most feared by opposing teams.

CG: When an NFL team drafts you. What are the top 5 characteristics they are going to get from you on day 1 and everyday thereafter?

KD: 1. A drive for excellence 2. Passion for the game 3. First guy in and last guy out mentality 4. High character on and off the field 5. Desire to always win

CG: After the draft, and you officially make an NFL roster, who are the first 3 people you are going to thank? Why?

KD: My parents will be the very first people I thank because they have sacrificed so much and have believed in me ever since I started to play football. I wouldn’t be here without them. – My high school coach Ray Hosner because he always fought for me and gave me the opportunity to continue playing football past high school. – My snapper coach Ben Bernard because he always believe I could become an NFL long snapper. He’s spent several hours working with him and helping me become the best I could be. He is why my snapping dream is possible today.

Image result for kolton donovan wyomingCG: On October 30th you tweeted out from your official Twitter account, “Small minded people will always be small minded, so always be the bigger person.” What did you mean by that?

KD: Throughout the journey of life (and sports even), there will always be people who tell you what you can and cannot do. People say that so they can get a reaction from you or try to prove they are right because they couldn’t do it themselves. But instead of listening or taking offense, be the bigger person. Don’t hate them for it, but instead show them that it is possible. Be the person who encourages others and tells them “Hey, anything is possible if you believe and work hard for it”. Lift people up and encourage them because there will be a lot of great things that come from it.

CG: Where will you be and who will be with you during the 2018 NFL Draft?

KD: I will be in Texas with my wife. I’ve already apologized to her several times because I’ll probably have my phone on and checking it all the time. She’s been super supportive of this whole process and I’m very grateful for her.

CG: Give me something that is not sports related, that is on your bucket list.

KD: I would love to go to Ireland someday. My family is Irish so I would love to go there to see where my family is from, what life was like, and learn from the people there. I have a lot of respect for my family history and would love to learn more about it.

Authors Note; if you would like to see Kolton and the other talented college athletes perform, Wyoming’s pro day will be broadcast on the NFL Network tomorrow at noon EST.

Lamar Jackson is Destined to be an NFL Caliber Quarterback

There are not many issues where you can believe both sides of an argument, it is either one side or the other. One of the biggest sports topics in this regard involves an NFL Draft prospect in former Heisman Trophy winning Quarterback Lamar Jackson. It isn’t so much about how efficient of an NFL Quarterback Lamar Jackson will be in the NFL, it is more in the conservation of whether Lamar should even play Quarterback in the NFL. Many analysts including ESPN’s Bill Polian suggest that Jackson’s elite athleticism would be better suited to the Wide Receiver position. There are many other analysts that believe Lamar Jackson is either the next Michael Vick or Deshaun Watson. After taking away the outstanding numbers that Lamar accounted for while at Louisville, the film will show that he is more than capable of being an NFL ready Quarterback.


Lamar Jackson is one of the best athletes in the 2018 NFL Draft class

Image result for lamar jackson heisman trophy winner

Photo by; USA Today

One of the biggest reasons that Penn State Running Back Saquon Barkley is the top-ranked player in this Draft is because of his outstanding athleticism and dominance in the run game. Outside of Barkley, Lamar Jackson is one of the most talented and athletic players in this 2018 Draft class. During the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine, an anonymous General Manager of an NFL team said that Lamar is “the best player on the field.” This has been common for him since he was a sophomore at college. In his Heisman Trophy-winning season at Louisville in 2016, Jackson accounted for 3,543 passing yards on 230 completions (out of 409 attempts), averaged 8.7 yards per attempt, 30 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, and a passer rating of 148.8. He also accounted for 1,571 rushing yards on 260 rushes (6 yards per rush) and 21 rushing touchdowns. Jackson progressed the next season in 2017 by passing for 3,660 yards on 254 attempts (out of 430 attempts), averaged 8.5 yards per attempt, 27 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a passer rating of 146.6. He also rushed for more yards (1,601 yards) this past season than in his Heisman Trophy season as well as averaged more yards (6.9 yards per rush).

Lamar Jackson worked under an offensive system where he had the maximum capability of passing the ball and running with the ball. In the spread-option system at Louisville, Jackson showed his dynamic athleticism where he also showed his durability throughout the games. Jackson not only presented speed and elusiveness as a runner but he also showed his good mechanics and strong passing arm. Throughout the 2016 & 2017 College Football season, Lamar Jackson was one of the most electrifying players on the statistics board. His Louisville Cardinals team were average to where even he could not win them a conference title and make them playoff contenders. What separated him from Baker Mayfield (the 2017 Heisman Trophy winning Quarterback from Oklahoma) is that Mayfield had more of a supporting cast.


Jackson has well-balanced qualities as a passer in the NFL

Image result for lamar jackson

Photo by; The Washington Post

There are many qualities that label Lamar Jackson as a great dynamic player including qualities as a passing Quarterback. There are certainly some qualities that NFL teams need to be cautious of when evaluating Jackson at the Quarterback position. Among some of the negatives attributes of Lamar Jackson are his inaccurate passes to Receivers outside the numbers, how his deep passes lose velocity, and how he possesses mechanical flaws in his footwork, especially at his lower base when he throws. While these are flaws that appear on some analysts and General Manager’s profile, they are not serious red flags. These are attributes that can be focused on and fixed when coached at an efficient level. When analysts were judging other prospects a particular red flag, for example, comes to Wyoming QB Josh Allen and his serious inaccuracy to Receivers crossing to the middle of the field. There are many teams that have more of a problem with the inaccuracy of Allen than the small struggles of Lamar Jackson. The red flags that also feature other elite Quarterbacks prospects include the arm strength, history of injuries, and attitude of UCLA QB Josh Rosen, the inconsistency and the bad decision making of USC QB Sam Darnold, and the height and attitude problems of Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield.

Rosen, Allen, Darnold, and Mayfield all possess qualities and attributes that might derail their NFL career because of their inability to overcome them. Outside of the high athleticism and the dynamic playmaking, Lamar Jackson does not present elite passing qualities that the other Quarterback prospects may present. Here is the difference, Lamar Jackson possesses more consistent and positive Quarterback attributes all-throughout the board. Jackson may not have the elite arm strength as Josh Allen does but he does have efficient enough strength to not only air the ball out but also to guide the ball to the Receivers’ intended path. Despite the thin frame that he presents, Jackson has the attitude to run towards the middle of the field and breakthrough for a long run. He has the outstanding durability to finish games which makes him a reliable Quarterback for clutch situations. Josh Rosen and Josh Allen both present excellent throwing mechanics while Jackson is not far behind in the progression of his throwing motions. Jackson has more high-quality throwing mechanics than other dual-threat Quarterbacks in past Drafts than players such as Johnny Manziel and Tim Tebow.


The comparisons to other Quarterbacks in the NFL is too good to ignore

Lamar Jackson presents great attributes that define him as a great playmaker in the NFL and qualities that still make him a good passer in the league. Jackson has been given comparisons to former Atlanta Falcons QB Michael Vick (1st overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft) and most recently to Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson (12th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft). Both Vick and Watson were evaluated with questions about their status as an efficient passer. Vick was questioned on his durability throughout the game, his focus on his decision making, and the mechanics in his throwing motion. Deshaun Watson was questioned about the passing qualities of his accuracy, ball placement to his Receivers, and his impatience to let the routes continue out. Vick and Watson were incredible dual-threat playmakers who were questioned in small significant areas but were still able to succeed as passers.

Image result for lamar jackson

Photo by; San Diego Union Tribune

On, Deshaun Watson was given a grade of 5.98 while Lamar Jackson has a grade 6.06, which in the category of “chance to become good NFL starter.” There is a report that one unnamed team has Lamar Jackson as the #2 rated Quarterback on their list. While some analysts believe that Lamar Jackson will not be an efficient enough passer in the league, there are many teams that ultimately are willing to take the risk based on his outstanding athleticism and the explosiveness he can bring. Last year in the Draft, the Houston Texas took a stretch to trade up and draft Deshaun Watson, who was a likely candidate of winning 2017-2018 NFL Offensive rookie of the year until he tore his ACL in a practice during midseason.

In a draft where there are many Quarterback desperate teams, there have been many experts that believe that 5 Quarterbacks including Jackson will be selected in the 1st round. Jackson might not fit into every team’s offensive systems. One team that is looking for a Quarterback and may have Jackson fit perfectly into their system are the Buffalo Bills. The Bills are looking to move on from QB Tyrod Taylor and shop for a Quarterback. They hired former Alabama Crimson Tide Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll after one season with the team. Daboll initiated a spread-option that was an NFL typed RPO (run-pass-option) system and will likely do the same with Buffalo. The Bills have the 21st and the 22nd picks in the 1st round of the 2018 NFL Draft and could likely pick Jackson if they do not move up. Jackson could be the potent franchise Quarterback for a team that ranked 29th in total yards per game (302.6 yards) and 31st in passing yards per game (177 yards) last season. Other teams that have rumored to possibly Draft Lamar Jackson are the Arizona Cardinals with the 15th pick and the New Orleans Saints with the 27th pick in the 1st round.


Sounds & Interviews From The 2018 Reese’s Senior Bowl

Throughout the entire Senior Bowl week, there were many opportunities for every prospect/participant to talk with members of NFL teams such as scouts and coaches and members of the media. The purpose of these interviews to gain information, analysis, and perspective on these prospects as they continue forward during the 2018 NFL Draft process. The following prospects are not only those who were available for interviews but were also standouts during the particular day they were interviewed on the field.


Troy Trojans QB Brandon Silvers

Tuesday practice – 1/23/18

After a solid career at Troy, you finish your career right here where you’ve played multiple times in high school and college. How does it feel coming back here?

“It feels great coming back here where we’ve played here in high school and I’ve played here against South and here in the last bowl game. Just coming here and hanging out in Mobile has been really fun.”


How do you feel now competing with some of these top Quarterbacks in this game?

“I feel great, you know I like to throw to anybody that’s here. Just coming out here and competing with those guys and just learning from them and obviously competing.

Do you have a favorite target here so far?

“Nah, they are all really good right now. We’ll figure that out later on this week.”


Indiana Hoosiers TE Ian Thomas

Tuesday practice –  1/23/18

You’ve had a great first day of practice through isolations and route running, so just tell me what your experience of performing like while adjusting to these NFL type coaches and offenses.

“It’s been great, just learning the new offense is kinda difficult to everyone on the first day. I guess just getting the down packet and just getting your routes right, getting the vertical yards and where to cut and all that. So as long as you go out there and not worry about that, you’ll be okay. So that’s what I’m worried about.”


Georgia Bulldogs G Isaiah Wynn

Tuesday practice – 1/23/18

Out there today, you look like one of the most out of the most stout Offensive Lineman. So tell me how important consistency and aggressiveness is in these kinds of practices.

“it’s definitely important, I mean you want to come out here on day 1 and show that you are capable of doing what they ask before they even do it.”


It looked like you were going up against Da’Shawn Hand a good bit, where I’m guessing you went up against him in the Championship game a good number of times. How does it feel going against him multiple times and then switching to different defenders?

“I mean, I kinda feels the same to me. All the D-Linemen are all physical and they all play with good leverage and they all don’t quit. So getting the feel for everybody is good.”


Do you feel more comfortable blocking in the run plays or do you feel comfortable sitting in the pocket during pass plays?

“I like running the ball. I really like the physicality of it.”


UCF Golden Knights DE/OLB Shaquem Griffin

Tuesday practice – 1/23/18

Just being here in the Senior Bowl, how does it feel being around these coaches and NFL scouts?

“I think it’s exciting being here, it allows me to showcase my talent and getting the opportunity to put my best forth efforts to show guys what I can do.”


It looked like you were playing multiple positions at Central Florida, but here it looks like you’re playing Bandit. Tell me the difference of playing the bandit at UCF and then here at the Senior Bowl.

“Meeting new friends/teammates and then having to rely on them for proper communication to get the plays working.”


Clemson Tigers ILB Dorian O’Daniel

Tuesday practice – 1/23/18

Today it looked like you were energetic and one of the most physical Linebackers out there. So how does it feel to translate that in front of these NFL coaches and scouts?

“That’s something I want to do. I’m in the box, and there was a lot of questions of whether I can play in the box. I feel like I did a good job of getting a start on it. I plan on doing that going forward.”


Pittsburgh Panthers OT Brian O’Neill

Tuesday practice – 1/23/18

Every year, there’s usually a large amount of Offensive Linemen that go early in the Draft but there’s not a lot that are projected so far this year. So what does this mean for you to elevate your status to become one of the top ones this year?

“It’s just a chance to continue to put on film and to give a chance to meet me, see me in person, see how I move. I think it will be beneficial to see me in person. I think it is a little wide open right now. Looking forward to what I can show the rest of the week, got to clean up a few things for tomorrow.”


Do you feel like you are one of the best or the best Tackles in this Draft?

“I feel like I am up there and I have a chance to compete with this week and in the next couple of months. I don’t know if I consider myself the best. I definitely respect the hell out of the other guys competing. I just want to have a chance to compete towards the top and we will see where it goes. I can’t really worry about that, I’ve got to worry about tomorrow really.”


Colorado State Rams WR Michael Gallup

Tuesday practice – 1/23/18

You’ve had like three 1,000 yard seasons in a row and you’re still around the middle rounds. What do you feel you need to do make yourself elevate higher in your Draft stock?

“I got to play better here and I’ve got to let them know that I’m having fun doing it. A lot of these folks are just like robots but you’ve got to let them know that you are having fun. You’ve got to also win the one-on-one battles.”


You’ve got two projected 1st round Quarterbacks throwing the ball to you, also with Luke Falk throwing very well also. How does it feel to have three legit Quarterbacks throwing you the ball and do you have a favorite?

“They are all funs to get throws from. They are all great Quarterbacks, I’m just blessed to be out here for that. You know when you have great Quarterbacks, it just makes your life a lot easier.”


The Citadel Bulldogs ILB Myles Pierce

Wednesday practice – 1/24/18

Being a local kid, playing around here in Mobile and definitely around Baldwin County in Daphne. How does it feel to come back home and to experience this moment?

“It’s definitely a great feeling to come back home and it’s a dream come true to think about ever since I started playing football. My dad playing in the Senior Bowl, coming out of Tulane. It’s definitely something I’ve been looking forward to for a lot of years.”


Any changes that you have seen that different with these coaching staffs from the NFL than in college?

“Not too much, the learning curve is a little more fast pace of learning but besides that, it’s not too big of a transition from playing in college than playing here at the Senior Bowl with these coaches.”


Washington State Cougars QB Luke Falk

Thursday practice – 1/25/18

You probably know that there is a huge difference, fan-wise, between you and Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen. What do you feel have done to step up and make a name for yourself?

“I definitely think I have shown that I can play under Center and play at a level under Center here. It’s my only third practice out here doing it, for the most part, I’ve got a pretty good feel of it and I think just getting into the right system. Just learning it and understand it and I’ll be just fine. I’ve had a really fun time, there are some great guys out here with a lot of talent. It’s been fun to go head-to-head.”


What attributes have you felt have touched up on the most and how your progression has gone through?

“I think one of the biggest things I’ve shown out here is my ball placement. Putting the ball to where only our guy can get it and getting some yards after catch with it. Another thing is being able to run the offense here, so I definitely think I’ve been able to show a sample size of what I’m able to do and I’m grateful for the Reese’s Senior Bowl, Phil Savage and all the guys who gave me a shot to come out here.”

Notre Dame Fighting Irish TE Durham Smythe

Thursday practice – 1/25/18

You’ve had great three days here, especially today with your great catches, moves, and route running. How do you feel that effort plus your talent and progressions happening enabled to consistently get those catches?

“I feel pretty good about, I feel really comfortable in the offense that we are running here so it’s allowing me to go out and play. Like you said today, I felt the most comfortable to go out there and make some plays.”


In this Draft, there’s a high number of talent but it seems like there’s a lacking in a Tight End slot. How do you feel you elevated your Draft stock based on this week alone?

“I think I try to come out here and show people that I can do a little bit of everything. In our offense at Notre Dame, I was asked to run block a good amount but I try to come here and show that I can make plays against D.B’s in the passing game, so I feel that I’ve come here and done what I feel that I need to do.” 


What attributes or characteristics do you feel progressed the most this week?

“Yeah, I think it’s probably my route running. That’s something I feel like I didn’t have as much volume in at college so coming out here and able to run against DB’s and break down leverage and accelerate out of brakes is something I’ve really focused on.”


South Carolina State Bulldogs ILB Darius Leonard

Saturday – game – 1/27/18

Do you feel like you’ve made more of an impact in the run game or the passing game during today’s game?

“Both, I feel like I was all over the field, My front did a great job of keeping the Offensive Linemen off me a lot, just giving me the opportunity to run around the field and having a good time but in the passing game, I was kinda free. Trying to give help in the passing game and then give up a touchdown on it, I got drawn up on the run route so that’s the only thing that kinda sticks out to me. Which I saw was similar to the pass before.”


This game has always been big in creating names for players from smaller schools, like Carson Wentz two years ago, do you feel like you elevated yourself to that level today?

“Yeah, that’s without a doubt, you see that I was all over the field and trying to make a play every time I can. I don’t know how tackles I made or turnovers I help but all I know is that I was all over the field, giving all I can just trying to show I belong on the big stage.” 


South Alabama Jaguars S Jeremy Reaves

Saturday – game – 1/27/18

You were a big contributor to the big play that resulted in the Turnover on Downs in the 2nd Quarter, what did you see on that play?

“They gave me an upside Tight End and there was only two things they were going to do out of that, one was to run the ball or they were trying to do some play-action. The Tight End was really heavy on his inside hand, so I knew he was trying to block down. Once he cracked the end down, I immediately got replaced and he ran right into my lap.”


What did you see on the interception from the North Squad Quarterback Tanner Lee?

“I was the middle field player and I was reading the Quarterback’s eyes and I saw him staring down cover two, I was coming across the field over him, I think he was running over or post. I saw it and I made a play on it and that was it.”


You are one of four Jaguars ever to play in the Senior Bowl, how does this feel for not only you but for the whole school to elevate itself as an elite sports program?

“Just to show everybody that the South Alabama will just send guys out here every year. You know, we produce talent. It’s not a school to be overlooked, we have great players coming through there that are going to even better than I was. Don’t sleep on the group of fives.”


What To Watch For In This Weeks 2018 Senior Bowl

The 2018 NFL Draft season has officially started with some of College Football’s best juniors and redshirt sophomores departing early for the Draft. Along with those players, there are many Seniors looking to take their talents to the NFL. Some of the NFL’s best colligate seniors will participate in the 2018 Reese’s Senior Bowl, where they will showcase their talent, skills, and attributes in front of NFL coaches and scouts. This is an event where analysts, coaches, and scouts have highlighted potential NFL Draft prospects and turn them into NFL standouts. The Houston Texans will be coaching the South Squad while the Denver Broncos will be coaching the North Squad in this year’s event. The Senior Bowl has been a huge significance in developing NFL talent and stars.Image result for 2018 senior bowl

One of the most recent and biggest stars from the 2016 Senior Bowl was former North Dakota State Bison QB Carson Wentz. In the three days of practice and the game on the official game on Saturday, Wentz presented his great passing tangibles and the attributes which later made him the 2nd overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. This past Senior Bowl, players like Tampa Bay TE O.J. Howard (Alabama), Arizona DE/LB Haason Reddick (Temple), Kansas City RB Kareem Hunt (Toledo), and others showcased their talent to elevate their NFL Draft stock. Last year, 81 players in the Senior Bowl ended up being drafted sometime in the 2017 NFL Draft.


Potential players 1st rounders in this 2018 Senior Bowl

This Senior Bowl has a wide variety of NFL worthy talent including some that are potential 1st round selections. Among some of the top players in this Senior Bowl that bring the most attention is Heisman Trophy winner in Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield, Wyoming Cowboys QB Josh Allen, UCF LB Shaquem Griffin, San Diego State RB Rashaad Penny, Oklahoma State WR James Washington, Alabama CB Levi Wallace, Clemson ILB Image result for 2018 senior bowlDorian O’Daniel, Penn State S Marcus Allen, and many more.

Among of the 2018 Senior Bowl roster, there are four players currently projected by ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. to be selected in the 1st round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Wyoming QB Josh Allen is projected to be selected 1st overall by the Cleveland Browns while Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield is projected to selected 13th overall by the Washington Redskins. UTSA DE Marcus Davenport is projected to be selected 14th overall to the Green Bay Packers. Pittsburgh Panthers OT Brian O’Neill is projected to be selected 16th overall by the Baltimore Ravens.

All four of these players have presented a huge statement for being selected in the 1st round of the upcoming Draft based on their college film and their physical attributes alone. This Senior Bowl will be the beginning for these Draft prospects by interacting with NFL scouts and coaches as well as further develop their talent and knowledge to build their Draft stock.


Wyoming QB Josh Allen vs. Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield

There are always storylines going into top events such as the Senior Bowl but there is one that may ultimately define the 2018 NFL Draft. With the Denver Broncos coaching the North Squad, they will be coaching both Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield. Both Mayfield and Allen will not only be competing for playing time in the scrimmages and eventually the game but as well as a potential Draft selection this April 26th. The Denver Broncos have the 5th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and their main area of position to acquire is a more reliable and high-velocity Quarterback. Currently, Mel Kiper Jr. has the Denver Broncos selecting USC QB Sam Darnold with the 5th overall pick.

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Both Allen and Mayfield have different attributes that define them both as two of the top-ranked players in the 2018 NFL Draft. Allen has the strong arm and tall height while Mayfield has the excellent accuracy and the mobility that defined him as a dual-threat Quarterback while at Oklahoma. Broncos GM John Elway will be looking at multiple Quarterback prospects throughout the 2018 NFL Draft process. Elway, Head Coach Vance Joseph, and other members of the Broncos staff will evaluate both Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield first hand on the field and determine if their values fit in with the Denver Broncos organization. Denver will be a great destination for a rookie Quarterback with Demaryius Thomas still playing at a high level and a great defense, led by DE Von Miller.


Potential breakout players

Every Senior Bowl, there are many players that create a bigger spotlight all throughout the NFL Draft process. Last year, along with O.J. Howard and Haason Reddick, former Eastern Washington Eagles WR Cooper Kupp created a name for himself in the Senior Bowl to where the Los Angeles Rams selected him in the 3rd round. There are multiple prospects in this Senior Bowl that will be looking to further boost their Draft stock that may be around the middle or even 2nd round range.

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Oklahoma State WR James Washington will be a Receiver to look for in this Senior Bowl after a great senior season where he accounted for 1,549 yards and 13 touchdowns on 74 receptions. Washington will be without his Quarterback in Mason Rudolph, who was originally supposed to be in the Senior Bowl as well but had to back out due to injury. UTSA DE Marcus Davenport is projected to be a 1st round selection in this Draft because of his freakish size at 6’7, 255 lbs. Davenport will be evaluated on his performance all week against more efficient blockers, who have played in Power 5 conferences. Alabama CB Levi Wallace is a former walk-on with the Crimson Tide and earned a starting spot based on his excellent play towards the ball and his ability to lock down opposing Receivers. Georgia Bulldogs G Isaiah Wynn was one of the Bulldogs’ premier Offensive Linemen that helped developed one of College Football’s best run games as well established a great passing game.

There will be plenty of more stories on the 2018 Senior Bowl that will be established as the week progresses, starting with the interviews and the practices on Tuesday.

Now Can We Say Saban Is The Best Current College Football Coach?

For the 5th time in 9 seasons, the Alabama Crimson Tide are the kings of the College Football world. The 4th ranked CFB Playoff team in the Alabama Crimson Tide overcame a lot of obstacles this season to get to this highly prestigious match-up against the 3rd ranked CFB playoff team in the Georgia Bulldogs. The Bulldogs started off in dominating fashion against the Tide as they went into halftime with a 13-0 score. Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban continues to build his legacy as he made the proper adjustments and motivation to account for 20 points in the 2nd half and held Georgia to 7 points in the 2nd half. Even when Alabama missed the chance to win the game in the final seconds in regulation, the Tide still took the 26-23 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs in overtime.Image result for andy pappanastos alabama

Despite the 1st half struggles from offense and defense, the position switch at Quarterback, and the two missed field goals from K Andy Pappanastos (including the kick that could’ve won the game in regulation), the Alabama Crimson Tide found a way to win in another classic in the National Championship game. A lot will be said about the Alabama Crimson Tide and who was the deciding factor. Head Coach Nick Saban suggests that this game was a complete performance from all his players on his team. There were multiple players that stood out to get the Tide to another championship but it impossible to give the glory to one player. Many factors went into this game to give the Crimson Tide their 17th overall National Championship as a program and 12th in poll era.


Nick Saban makes bold move to switch to true Freshman QB Tua Tagovailoa

Alabama knew they would have difficulty facing the 4th ranked scoring defense (13.2 points allowed per game) in the Georgia Bulldogs. In the beginning, Nick Saban and Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll would need QB Jalen Hurts to beat the Bulldogs defense with his legs. In the first half, the Tide offense did not find much success with Hurts as the playmaker as he only accounted for 3 completions (out of 8 attempts) for 21 yards as well as 47 rushing yards on 6 carries (longest run was 31 yards). Alabama only accounted for 94 total yards on offense in the 1st half against the Bulldogs defense. What made Jalen great was his ability to escape pressure and account for more yards with his legs, but this did not work well with the Georgia defense spreading out in pressure and blitzes.

There were rumblings of rumors that true Freshman Tua Tagovailoa that would be playing in much-needed games. When Alabama went into halftime with a 13-0 deficit with no production coming from the offense, Nick Saban made a big decision to put the strong-armed, left-handed true Freshman in Tua Tagovailoa in at Quarterback. Tua was escaping pressure and surveying the field in routes and coverages more quickly than Hurts. In the 2nd half, Tua led the Tide’s offense to longer and more efficient drives. Tua passed for 166 yards on 14 completions (out of 24 attempts) for 3 touchdowns and an interception. He accounted for a 149.4 passer rating.

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Tua was excellent in his passing to his Receivers and keeping the Defensive Backs away from the ball. His passes to WR Henry Ruggs III in the 3rd quarter and WR Calvin Ridley with 3:49 left in the game was thrown with great patience and excellent precision. Even when Tua made “freshman mistakes,” especially in the Tide’s 1st play in overtime by taking a 16-yard sack, he shook it off. What happened next will be remembered for a long-time in College Football. Tua looks right of the field for Ridley but quickly turns his head when Bulldogs CB Malkom Parish makes a mistake and lets Tide WR DeVonta Smith get inside where Tua throws a perfectly executed game-winning 41-yard touchdown to Smith. This resulted in the 26-23 Crimson Tide victory over the Georgia Bulldogs when the Tide’s offense was revived by a true freshman Quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa, his Receiver that stepped up and created more separation, and an injured-filled Offensive Line that stood their ground. Tua finished the game as the game offensive MVP.


Despite Georgia’s aggressive defense, Alabama overcomes flaws and succeeds

Much of the talk will be how Tua came in and lead an almost impossible comeback against the 4th ranked scoring defense of the Georgia Bulldogs. There were more obstacles for the Tide’s offense than an inefficient game from QB Jalen Hurts. The Offensive Line had problems with creating consistent running opportunities for the Running Backs. In the first half, the Tide only accounted for 94 total yards but only 19 yards came from Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough on 6 total carries. The Tide also accounted for 4 first downs. The Tide’s O-Line allowed 1 sack and 2 tackles for loss in the 1st half but the overall fact for the Tide’s offense was that they would not run over the Bulldogs defense led by LB Roquan Smith.

Even though the Tide’s O-Line allowed 3 sacks and 4 more tackles for loss, the Line held their ground with more solid blocking. Even when star OT Jonah Williams went down with an injury, freshman OT Alex Leatherwood came in and was solid. The first drive without Jonah, the Tide finally got on the board with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Tua to WR Henry Ruggs III.

The Tide’s run-game did pick up in the 2nd half due to the explosive playmaking of freshman RB Najee Harris. In the 1st half, the Tide accounted for 73 rushing yards and then finished with 184 rushing yards. RB Damien Harris finished with 64 rushing yards on 6 carries and more impact in the receiving game. Each of the Receivers in the passing game did a better job of creating separation in their routes to catch the ball against the opposing Georgia Defensive Backs. Overall, the Tide’s offense accounted for 371 total yards with 277 yards coming from the 2nd half and overtime. The Tide also accounted 16 first downs and finished with an average of 5.2 yards per play.


Alabama’s defense was stout once again

When talking about an Alabama defense, Nick Saban is usually at the helm of it. For the previous 4 National Championship title with Saban as the Head Coach of Alabama, Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart was his Defensive Coordinator. With Pruitt as the Defensive Coordinator, the Tide have inserted more Outside Linebackers to line up at the line of scrimmage for better blitz opportunities. Against the Georgia Bulldogs, the Tide was successful in creating pressure and accounting for sacks on Georgia QB Jake Fromm. Terrell Lewis, a Linebacker who had been injured all season since week 1, was a huge impact on the Tide defense on his pressures and blitzes.

Image result for da’ron payne alabamaThe Crimson Tide was also very successful in primarily shutting down the run game of Georgia, mostly at the line of scrimmage. Much like the Tide’s offense, their defense encountered some problems adjusting to the Bulldogs’ offense and allowed 13 points by allowing big plays in the passing game and not adjusting well to the wildcat formation. The Bulldogs offense accounted for 223 total yards of offense in the 1st half with QB Jake Fromm throwing for 126 yards, RB Sony Michel rushing for 61 yards (on 8 carries), and WR Riley Ridley accounting for 62 yards on 4 receptions.

Alabama in the 2nd half, however, held the Bulldogs offense to 365 total yards on offense with 142 yards coming from the 2nd half. Mack Wilson was the field general/star-playmaking Linebacker that the Tide needed to be for them to have match the intensity of the Bulldogs offense. Wilson was the Tide’s leading tackler with 12 total tackles, 7 solo tackles, and 2 tackles for loss. Weakside Linebacker Rashaan Evans accounted for 8 total tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. Strongside Linebacker Terrell Lewis accounted for 7 total tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 sack on Jake Fromm in overtime that set up only a field goal. NG Da’Ron Payne had the biggest responsibility for the Tide’s defense by clogging the holes at the line of scrimmage against the talented Georgia Running Backs of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Payne accounted for 6 total tackles and was voted the game defensive MVP. The Georgia offense accounted for 133 rushing yards and averaged 3 yards per rush against this aggressive Defensive Line and Linebacker corp.

Is Nick Saban The Best Current College Coach?

Once again, on the biggest stage in college football, Nick Saban was able to once again pull all the right strings at all the right times to overcome adversity and gain victory. Saban guided his team to yet another title, and just getting to that spot is difficult.

Some might say they did not deserve to be in the top 4 teams to start with. That says a lot for his scheduling. You may not like who they play, especially in non-conference, but for the 5th time in a 9 year the committee has seen them as one of the top teams in college football weather it was computer rankings or a group of people in a room.

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The Saban coaching tree has many roots and even more branches. We don’t have the space to list all the people who are still coaching that have ties to Saban. But, we do have room to say that he is the constant in Alabama and they have been consistently in the upper echelon of college football while he has been at the helm.

Lastly, he is not mired in controversy on or off the field, and for the most part, neither are many of his players. He is a leader and a winner. Doesn’t those two qualities alone make you the best? But if you are not convinced, he has a hand full of rings, and a mantel full of accolades.

1 NFL Team vs 1 College Football Team; Who Would You Pick?

We at cleatgeeks love sports. We love fantasy sports, the NFL, college football and bowl games. So as the editor of our site I thought, “Why not put all of those sports together and make a fun hypothetical question for our writers!” I came up with a great watercooler question that myself and my sports friends at work have pondered on more than one occasion. If we could make a bowl game between any college football team vs. an NFL team, which two teams would you choose and why?

Here are the answers we received from some of our writers, give us your answers below or in any of our social media platforms!

On January 10th 2018 we bring to the world the Bowl which pits 1 college team against 1 NFL team. What 2 teams would you choose to do battle, why?


If I could pit one college team against an NFL team, I would choose the University of Alabama vs. the Cleveland Browns. Since 2011, the Crimson Tide of Alabama are 76-8 for a winning percentage of 90.2%. Over that same time span, the Browns are  24-86 for a 21.8 winning percentage. If there was ever to be one college team to upset any NFL team it would have to be this match-up.

Jared McCawley is a duel sport contributor for cleatgeeks. He was born and raised in Arizona and covers the Diamondbacks and Cardinals. He has a great read on how the Arizona Cardinals should now start the player development part of the season and evaluate who they want to keep and what positions they need to upgrade.right here.

I would like to see the Alabama Crimson Tide vs. New England Patriots in the Bowl. Nick Saban was Bill Belichick’s defensive coordinator for four seasons with the Cleveland Browns and it would be interesting to see them together again. I would like to see the two teams play each other they are the most successful teams in their respective league.

Alexandria is also a dual sports contributor for cleatgeeks. She gives weekly updates on both the Kansas City Royals and the Chiefs. Here is her latest article that takes an in-depth look at the latest trade the Royals made this past week.

The two teams I would choose to face each other in the Bowl would be Alabama vs. the Atlanta Falcons. Would love to see the battle of Alabama against Atlanta who has a number of Alabama alum on it. 

Alex Patt during the baseball season is our resident Saber-metric man and he publishes his article Saber-metric Sunday. Here was his last article about what the Colorado Rockies are getting with there recent signing of Wade Davis.

I think the College entrant would have to be Ohio State. They have more NFL ready talent every year, (IE Zeke Elliott, Joey Bosa, Micheal Thomas, ect) They would play the Atlanta Falcons because I bet Mercedes Benz stadium is a fantastic place to play!

Dean Williams is our guy who loves his Titans. He provides us his weekly article bragging about his team that is going to make the play-offs. You can read his latest Titans article right here.

BaseballAllan is taking a little different approach with the two teams he chooses to face each other. The Michigan Wolverines vs the Ravens. It would be lopsided but it still would be fun to see the Harbaugh brothers face off. 

BaseballAllan is our cleatgeek Fantasy Baseball Writer. He will be bringing you great content after the New Year to prepare you for the baseball fantasy season.

I would love to see Alabama vs the Cleveland Browns. No offense Browns fans. I think it would actually be fun to watch a college team vs. an NFL team. Alabama has consistently been the best college football team since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa. No offense Ohio State Fans and Clemson fans, but I think it is a fair statement. The Browns have been the stomping ground, the embarrassment, and the laughing stock of the NFL. I mean this would actually be a fun game to watch, but who knows if the Browns would even get the call in on time to schedule it…too soon?

Anthony Beltrano is our Chicago Bears writer for cleatgeeks. He is currently working on an end of season article summing up the progress, or lack there-of and he is also working on an article about the newest Head Coach of the Bears Matt Nagy.

What Are College Football National Title Tickets Going For?

The most coveted ticket in sports, and thus the most expensive, is the Super Bowl. But, what if I told you that this years College Football National Title Game is only on average about $1,000 less than a Super Bowl ticket? According to information released from StubHub earlier in the week, the above statement is true.Image result for 2018 national championship

Georgia fans actually crashed StubHub’s site not long after the culmination of the Bulldogs’ double-overtime victory against Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. StubHub spokesperson Cameron Papp said the site went down for 20 minutes. Since then, it has been selling tickets at high levels, as a suite went for $94,000 and the highest single ticket went for $12,080. Face value for the tickets range between $375 and $875. The lowest price to get in the game on the secondary market is $1,250.

With Georgia playing for the national title for the first time in a generation,  plus the fact that the game will be taking place within driving distance of most Georgia fans, have made tickets to Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship in Atlanta the hottest and most expensive in college football history. The chance to see No. 3 Georgia play No. 4 Alabama at Mercedes-Benz Stadium has driven the ticket market to unprecedented levels for a College Football Championship Game.

According to data from StubHub, the average price of tickets sold is $2,454, the most for a Collegiate Championship since the site opened in 2000. Monday’s game is nearly $1,000 per ticket on average higher than the second-highest mark for a college football championship: Notre Dame’s title-game appearance against Alabama in January 2013.

And it’s obvious who is leading the charge. According to StubHub, more than 50 percent of the ticket sales have come from within the state of Georgia, compared to 4 percent from Alabama. According to TickPick, another ticket marketplace, the number is 66 percent in Georgia compared to 6 percent in Alabama. “Mama is giving up her shoes to go to this ballgame,” said Randy Cohen, the CEO of TicketCity.

Alabama Fans Are Actually Taking Advantage Of Georgia Fans

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Georgia fans have not played for a National Championship since 1982. Alabama, on the other hand, has been to six of the past nine National Title games. This is almost a “been there done that” scenerio for Alabama fans, therefore they are actually taking advantage of the hungry Georgia fans. How? By putting their tickets on secondard ticket sites and turning a profit on their tickets from these Georgia fans who see this as more of a “once in a lifetime” experience and then are going to still cheer on the tide either from home or their favorite sports bar.

While the secondary market sellers can’t specifically identify where the tickets are coming from, TickPick director of client relations Jack Slingland said there’s “a lot of rumblings within the industry” that Alabama fans are exploiting the demand. “There are Alabama fans out there receiving tickets from the school,” Slingland said. “They’re a little more willing to sell.” He added about Alabama’s championship fatigue: “It’s something that’s always going to creep in. That’s always a factor in these.”

Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity told Yahoo Sports that there doesn’t appear to be an imminent stadium takeover like Georgia did at Notre Dame this year. But the demand is obvious, as Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne joked, “I think right now if we put two Bryant-Denny Stadiums together, us and Georgia would have no problem filling it.”

The Most Difficult Ticket In The History Of Georgia Football?

Image result for 2018 national championshipBoth schools are given allotments of 20,000 tickets each to divide among their constituencies and season ticket-holders. Tim Cearley, Georgia’s associate athletic director for ticket operations, said season ticket-holders alone requested 40,000 tickets. It has gotten so bad that Cearley actually asked reporters to email him questions for articles and interviews because he has been so inundated with phone calls for tickets he was afraid the media would never get ahold of him.
Cearley said this could be considered the most difficult ticket in the history of Georgia football, although the SEC title game this year proved close. The fact that many Georgia fans wouldn’t require hotels or flights to attend the game has also driven demand. “Geography plays a huge part in demand,” he said. “Many fans have spent a mint on travel and tickets this year when you consider the Notre Dame game, SEC championship tickets and Rose Bowl travel and game tickets. Despite premium face value on [national championship] tickets, it’s manageable when fewer fans require flights and hotels.”

According to Chris Besanceney, Alabama’s associate athletic director for ticketing, Alabama fans have become more judicious in choosing their championship opportunities. In 2009, Alabama fans were mortgaging their houses to pay for flights and tickets to the Rose Bowl against Texas. He believes with the addition of a semifinal game and the dates of games conflicting with work schedules, as the games are now not all on the weekends,  have made it trickier for fans. “Even our fans have become a little bit more choosy in what they’re going to see and when,” he said. “We’ve heard from our fan base that the flight factor is significant and so is taking off work. These games are also coming after the holidays. Those are real factors.”

While the unprecedented demand is known, the lingering unknown is whether the market will dip or spike as the game gets closer. The introduction of electronic ticketing makes last-minute purchases more nimble. With the forecast in Atlanta on Monday showing cold and the potential for snow, there likely won’t be as brisk of a seller’s market outside the stadium.

What Will The Stadium Look Like?

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I don’t mean actually look like, I mean because of all the above information will it look, act, and more potentially feel like a home game for Georgia? I understand it is in their backyard, but the last thing Alabama wants is for the crowd to be so pro Georgia that they effect the play on the field. Crowds can do that, especially since the roof will be closed and the noise level will be contained.

Is this a negative of the continued success of the Alabama football team? Because the Alabama fans have already been to recent National Championship games are the Tide fans content to watch the game on free television at home or with friends and make a profit off the Georgia fans? Tonight’s game dynamic will be interesting, and the reasons may be just as interesting.

Alabama vs. Clemson Part III

For the 3rd season in a row, the #4 Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1) will face the #1 Clemson Tigers (12-1). This time, the match-up will not only decide who wins the 2018 Sugar Bowl but who will go to the National Championship title game. Alabama is the 2nd team in CFB playoff history to appear in the playoffs and not win their Conference Championship. Alabama is coming into this playoff series as an underdog by the media and fans on the outside. On the other hand, the Tide come into this game against the Clemson Tigers as a 3-point favor. Beyond that, the Alabama Crimson Tide come into this game seeking respect and revenge.

The Tide and the Tigers met in the 2016 National Championship where the Tide won the thrilling match-up with a 45-40 score. The Crimson Tide aren’t forgetting their 35-31 loss to the Clemson Tigers last year in the National Championship game. Throughout the whole off-season, the Tide have been focusing on improving their squad, especially on offense. They have shown their value as an offensive team throughout the season by being ranked 12th in scoring offense (39.1). This match-up will be completely different from the past two years in more ways than one. The winner of this new rivalry will likely be favorites against the winner of the Rose Bowl match-up between the #2 Oklahoma Sooners and the #3 Georgia Bulldogs.


The Tide’s Defense will face a more run-orientated Clemson Offense

Image result for kelly bryant clemsonOne of the biggest differences between the past two matchups is that the Tigers will be without their leader in QB Deshaun Watson. This season, the Tigers have been led by QB Kelly Bryant, who is the Tigers’ new leader after Watson departed for the NFL. This season, Kelly has accounted for 2,67 yards from 244 completions (out of 362 attempts), 13 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Bryant has accounted for 768 rushing yards and 8 rushing touchdowns. Bryant is a talented rushing Quarterback but is not as established as a passer as Watson. Their offense is primarily run through their two top Running Backs in Travis Etienne and Tavien Feaster. Etienne has rushed for 744 yards on 103 carries and 13 touchdowns while Feaster has rushed for 659 yards on 103 carries and 7 touchdowns. Clemson is ranked 32nd in rushing yards per game (204.1) and 21st in points per game (35.4).

For each of the past two match-ups against Clemson, Watson has accounted for over 400 passing yards and 4 total touchdowns. Alabama will be facing a Clemson Quarterbacks that is less versatile but still will be a dangerous and diverse running threat. Alabama’s defense ranks 13th in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game (94.1). They are 1st in defensive scoring (11.5 points allowed per game) and 2nd in total yards allowed per game (258). This is largely due to the superior talent all-across their defensive roster, specifically the Defensive Linemen and the Secondary. Led by 2017 Bronco Nagurski award winner and star Defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, the Tide have stopped many diverse offensive fronts this season. While there will be many times the Tigers will pass, they will be primarily running the ball with Bryant, Etienne, and Feaster


Tide’s Defensive potency will be questioned because of the health of their Linebackers

Image result for anfernee jennings alabamaThroughout the whole season, the Alabama Crimson Tide have been very limited at the Linebacker position because of injuries. In the first game against then #3 Florida State, LB Terrell Lewis and LB Christian Miller were injured and originally out for the year. The Tide needed to rely on inexperienced players to be utilized at Linebacker. With the lack of pass rush from Miller and Lewis, the Tide relied less on blitzes and focused more on zone coverages. The Tide took a major hit when ILB Shaun Dion Hamilton was out for the season on the same major knee injury from last season. The loss of Hamilton showed the weakness in the Linebacker corp. Mack Wilson and Fitzpatrick each also had some injuries. Wilson, Lewis, and Miller will all play and be more effective now they had time to heal since the Auburn loss.

The most recent losses of the Alabama Crimson Tide defense is Freshman Dylan Moses being out for the year. Moses was the impactful player that was assigned to replace Hamilton as the key Linebacker and Defensive play-caller position. Rashaan Evans has been consistent and elevating his game at the Outside Linebacker position but may need to provide more support at Middle with Mack Wilson. Either way, the Tide will need to account for more sacks and pressure in the backfield. This season, the Tide is tied for 30th in the nation with 31 sacks. The previous season, they were ranked 1st in the nation with 54 total sacks. The Tide’s top four playmakers in tackles for loss and sacks all departed for the NFL. Three of those top four playmakers from last year were Linebackers. LB Rashaan Evans has accounted for 10.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks. No other Linebacker, other than Hamilton and Moses, have more than 3 tackles for loss or more than 1 sack. The Tide will need Linebackers like Anfernee Jennings, Miller, and Lewis to step and create pressure against Clemson’s offense that has 3 ACC all-conference Offensive Linemen.


The Tide will need to utilize their offense and their playcalling correctly

Though Lane Kiffin has been chaos through 3 seasons with the Tide as the Offensive Coordinator, he has been very efficient through his play-calling and utilizing the offense correctly. Whenever Steve Sarkisian took over as Offensive Coordinator against Clemson last season, QB Jalen Hurts was asked to do too much. Although RB Bo Scarbrough was excellent running the ball, he broke his leg in the 4th quarter. RB Damien Harris only had 5 carries, whereas Bo had 16. This season, new Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll has done a tremendous job of utilizing the dual-threat Quarterback as well as the two star Running Backs. Damien Harris has accounted for 906 yards on 110 carries and 11 touchdowns through his incredible and agility. Bo Scarbrough has accounted for 649 yards on 108 carries and 8 touchdowns through his power, aggressive, and breakout speed.

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While Jalen Hurts’ numbers are down from the previous season, his impact as a leader and playmaker has remained. Hurts has accounted for 2,708 total yards (1,940 passing, 768 rushing) and 23 total touchdowns (15 passing, 8 rushing). Though Hurts currently has less passing yards than after 14 games last season, Hurts has accounted for a better QBR. Last season, Hurts finished with a 139.1 passer rating while this season he is currently at 155.6. Jalen only has two games where he has accounted for under 50% of a QBR including the 59-0 blowout win over Vanderbilt. He also only turned the ball over twice with an interception in the 41-9 blowout win against Arkansas and a fumble in the loss against Auburn.

Even though Jalen has improved as a playmaker, Coach Daboll and the Tide cannot put too much pressure on him. The Clemson Tigers defense is one of the best defenses in the nation in stopping an efficient one-dimensional offense. Clemson’s defense is ranked 2nd in scoring defense (12.8 points allowed per game), 8th in passing yards allowed per game (165.1), and 1st overall in defensive efficiency (91.9). They are also leading the FBS in total sacks (44) with arguably the most talented Defensive Line in the nation. Tide WR Calvin Ridley has been held to two underwhelming in the two matchups against Clemson. He will have a chance to be a star playmaker as the Tigers Defensive Backs have lost their main playmakers. The Tigers have 3 Defensive Linemen that were selected as 1st team All-conference with DE Clelin Ferrell, DT Christian Wilkins, and DT Dexter Lawrence. DE Austin Bryant and LB Dorian O’Daniel were the other Tigers selected as 2nd team all-conference. There are no Defensive Backs from Clemson that were recognized by the 1st or 2nd all-conference.


Final preview analysis

This match-up will not only decide which team will go to the National Championship, but it will also result which team has the edge in College Football’s newest and most thrilling rivalry. One team in Clemson will come in with the most momentum and a conference championship. While Alabama comes in as the underdog and coming off a bad 26-14 loss to their rival at Auburn. The Crimson Tide come into this game disrespected because of the backlash from multiple media outlets after Ohio State was left out despite having two losses. The Tide have healed up their players the most they can at the Linebacker position. They have also had time to fix up their mistakes from the sloppy Mississippi State win and the Auburn loss.

Alabama comes into this game with the top-ranked scoring defense, a better scoring offense, and Head Coach Nick Saban. The Tide will be looking to execute properly than the last game against the Auburn Tigers. The Tide will be more concerned with themselves as a team than looking to extract revenge from their title loss last year to the Clemson Tigers.



The Cactus Bowl Review; A Tale of 2 Halves & 1 Interview

The Cactus Bowl at Chase Field in Phoenix was between the 7-5 Kansas State Wildcats and the UCLA Bruins. The Bruins started the game in a two foot hole with an interim head coach in Jed Fish and their starting quarterback Josh Rosen did not clear concussion protocol and was not cleared to play. The Bruins turned to freshman Devon Modster at quarterback. In his 2nd ever start for the Bruins his stat line consisted of 2 touchdowns and 376 yards with a 66.7% completion rate with no interceptions. On the other side of the field Skylar Thompson who was third on the depth chart at the start of the year at quarterback gets the nod for Kansas State. He has only started 3 games, has 5 touchdowns with 3 interceptions, 515 yards and a 63% completion rate but he has also ruched for 158 yards and 2 touchdowns. And lastly Bill Snyder, head coach of the Cougars. Will this be his last game? Snyder is second in career wins amongst active head coaches with 209 trailing only the 221 of Alabama’s Nick Saban. Before his arrival at Kansas State they had been to 1 bowl game. Since he was named head coach Kansas State, including the 2017 Cactus Bowl, has made 19 bowl appearances.

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First Quarter

No automatic alt text available.UCLA wins the opening toss and decides to defer. Then they forced the Wildcats to go three and out. After a UCLA punt, Thompson throws an interception to Darnay Holmes at the 7:12 mark of the quarter on a 3rd and 11 play. J.J.Molson comes on toward the end of the first quarter to attempt a 42 yard field goal with exactly 1:00 left in the quarter to which he not only drills, but splits the uprights and seems to have plenty of distance if needed later in the game. In the Wildcats next series, Thompson played the first down and gained eight yards then on second and two the Wildcats brought in Alex Delton under center. He did not stay under center long as he scampered 68 yards and crossed the plane of the UCLA painted end zone. In fact the play happened so fast, I was looking up information on the new quarterback therefore, I was not ready to take a picture even though Delton crossed the goal line directly in front of where I was sitting. Thus, the first quarter ended with a Wildcat 7-3 lead.

Second Quarter

No automatic alt text available.A horse collar tackle penalty backed the Bruins up inside their own five yard line for their first series of the second quarter. But on a third and three from the UCLA 48 yard line Mossart throws a simple toss that was caught two yards behind the line of scrimmage and a good lead block and some poor tackling allowed Jordan Lasley to run 52 yards for the first Bruins touchdown of the game. At this point in the game Lasley had 4 catches for 90 yards and a touchdown with only 3:27 being played in the second quarter. UCLA’s quarterback Devon was starting to get into a rhythm as well as that was his seventh consecutive completion in a row where he was 7/10 overall for 116 yards. Skyler Thompson came in to run the next series, and went three and out not gaining one yard on the series. The passing magic of the UCLA Bruins continues as Theo Howard simply outruns the coverage and is rewarded with a touchdown for his troubles. That 70 yard pass play gives him 3 receptions for 86 yards and the extra point gives the Bruins a 17-7 advantage. It also increases Modster’s total yardage for the game with 9:25 to go in the first half to 187 yards with their second scoring drive that lead to a touchdown taking a whole 46 seconds. Modster started out the game 0/3 but since has gone 8/8. But the opposite was happening for Kansas State, Thompson came back in as the signal caller and they went three and out for the second time in a row and the third time in their first five drives. For the final drive of the first half Delton is back under center for the Wildcats with 4:56 left in the first half. The first half ends with Delton driving them down the field but the Wildcats seemed to be confused in the last thirty seconds and come away with no additional points.

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Third Quarter

UCLA got the ball first in the second half. They got a few first downs, but ultimately punted the ball. For the Wildcats first possession of the second half they get a spark from Isaiah Zuber gives them a spark on a second and two and that play gave the Wildcats 203 total running yards on the evening but only 231 total yards. A few plays later Kansas State gets themselves right back into the game on a forth and goal from the one Delton does the quarterback sneak to score the first points of the second half making the score 17 to 14 UCLA still with the lead. On the next play the ball is fumbled and #20 Goolsby recovers for Kansas bringing the turnovers to one each and the Wildcats to the UCLA 24 yard line in the process. It took the Wildcats 5 plays to score a second touchdown and take the lead in the Cactus Bowl. Dominique Heath was on the receiving end of a short pass from Delton, he broke one tackle then he broke the plane of the end zone. In 2:17 the Wildcats scored twice and stole the momentum of the game.

Later in the third, UCLA down by 4 21-17 decides to try a fake punt with 3:04 left in the game on 4th and 2 as they direct snapped the ball to the upback Jaylen Starks for the first down. The very next play UCLA continues the trickery by running a reverse to #17 Christian Pabico but he was cut down by #7 Eli Walker both from the same home town of Long Beach California. Eli is a junior at 6’3” 210 pounds and held the reverse for no gain with a great open field tackle. The third quarter ends with the score staying at 21-17 Wildcats.

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Forth Quarter

The forth quarter began with a first down call that when reviewed was overturned which meant the Wildcats had a 4th and less than a yard. The Wildcats decided to go for it despite only running 8 4th down plays the entire season. But, to make you wonder exactly what Kansas State was doing, even though they had run the ball very well all game, their leading full back Winston Dimel was injured in the final few minutes of the 3rd quarter and was not on the field. They line up with Alex Barnes the tailback and Delton for their 9th 4th down play of the season. The hand-off was to Barnes on the left side of the line. He needed 1 yard, but he decided to add 40 more yards and a touchdown to put Kansas State up by 10 and a successful extra point made the lead 11 at 28-17. That run gave Barnes 105 yards on 9 rushes or an impressive average of 11.7 yards per touch. From here on out the Bruins were in self destruct mode. An unsportsmanlike penalty, a facemask penalty and some poor tackling aided K State to cap off a drive that started on their own 2 yard line by another rushing touchdown by quarterback Alex Delton giving him 3 trips into pay-dirt along with 158 rushing yards. Alex also threw for 52 yard and a 4th touchdown, but he now holds the distinction of rushing for the most yards in a bowl game by any Kansas State player ever.

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The Summary

The wildcats won the second half 28 to 0 and Kansas State wins back to back bowl games for the first time since 2000 and Bill Synder gets win #210. The majority of the over 32,000 people in attendance were decked out in purple. I guess if I lived in Manhattan Kansas in December, I would jump at the chance to attend a bowl game in Arizona too. But, with that being said the UCLA team self destructed in the forth quarter, their fans did not travel near as well as I expected and their band was a joke. Their band never left the stands except maybe to get a hot dog or a drink. Pre-game…..nope, halftime……nope, in fact, the UCLA band was introduced as the pep band and not the marching band. It look and felt like UCLA thought the Cactus Bowl was beneath them and they were just going through the motions, and with no emotion, they were overcome by a team that dominated the second half a fan base that cheered on their team in droves and a fantastic marching band that dominated the moment they marched into Chase Field.

The InterviewImage result for eli walker kansas state

I watched as after all the trophy’s were passed out that Junior CB/S Eli Walker went into the stands a few sections from where myself and my family were seated celebrating with his family. He was so gracious with the fans who came down and shook his hand and posed for pictures while still trying to enjoy this experience with his family and friends. I waited for the fans and family to clear out, and I asked him if I could ask him a few questions. He never hesitated in saying yes, here is a summary of the short interview I conducted with him.

CleatGeeks: “I first have to ask you about the first thing I noticed when I got close to you, the two words tattooed on your forearms, Beautiful Struggles. What do those two words mean to you?”

Eli Walker: “It is basically like my life because I have been through a lot, especially as a young kid. But those struggles have made me stronger both mentally and physically. They have made me who I am today, and they are why I am here today.

CG: You just won the 29th annual Cactus Bowl. What does this win mean to you?

EW: “Excited, excited it is my mom’s birthday today.” And it was at this point that his Mom does what a great loving parent does. Eli points to her to give her the recignition. But, even though her face is beaming with joy for her son, she took one step forward and is so elated that her energy seemingly pushes her body on her tip toes, but she stays in the shadow of her son, and allows him to have his moment. “I am glad I able to give her this present today.”

CG: “So with this season over, what is next for Eli Walker?”

EW: “Another off-season of working hard and hopefully come back next year and be a starter.”

CG: “I don’t want to keep you from your family and friends to long so let me ask you one more question. You just won a big bowl game on the field with a bunch of other guys. How does it feel to have a winning season and top it all off with a Cactus Bowl win as a team?”

EW: “It means alot we worked hard, I feel like we work harder than anyone else in the nation but that is just my opinion. Nobody sees what we do behind closed doors, and it is rewarding to have all that hard work pay off. The whole experience is a good feeling for all of us.”

Appalachian State Dominate Rockets 34-0 in 2017 Dollar General Bowl

In the 19 years of the bowl history of the Dollar General Bowl, there have been a wide array of different types of games. Ranging from close games to blowouts, the existence of the Dollar General Bowl crucial of the College Football world. The 2017 Dollar General Bowl was one of three bowl games this season to feature a match-up of two Conference Championship teams between the Toledo Rockets (of the MAC) and the Appalachian State Mountaineers (of the Sun Belt).

In what was supposed to be a high-scoring, back-and-forth match-up ended in complete domination as Appalachian State (9-4) beat Toledo (11-3) with a 34-0 score. The Rockets came into this game as the 7.5-point favor but from the beginning of the game to the final seconds ending, the Rockets had absolutely no answer to the impressive offense and defense performance of Appalachian State. The Mountaineers had simply outcoached, outmanned, outmaneuvered, and outplayed the heavily favored Rockets. The last time the Toledo Rockets were shut out was on September 8th, 2009 against the #11 Ohio State Buckeyes with a 38-0 in the Cleveland Browns stadium.


Appalachian State Shut Down the Rockets and their High-Power Offense in all areas

Before the game, the Toledo Rockets were ranked 8th in the nation in total yards per game (510). At the end of the game, the Mountaineers had held the Rockets offense, led by 2018 NFL Draft hopeful QB Logan Woodside, to only 146 total yards. Mountaineers Head Coach Scott Satterfield and Defensive Coordinator Nate Woody knew they would have a tough task to stopping the high-power Rockets offense. Appalachian State’s defense had accounted for 4 sacks and 7 tackles for loss as they constantly pressured Rockets QB Logan Woodside the entire game. Woodside had played his worst game in years by passing for only 124 yards on 16 completions (out of 29 attempts) and throwing 3 interceptions. Before the game, Woodside had only thrown 8 interceptions through 13 games of this season.

Not only did the Mountaineers create consistent pressure from their Defensive Lineman and Linebackers from blitzes but the Defensive Backs stayed tight on their coverages. App State ILB Anthony Florey was the defensive MVP as he accounted for 8 total tackles, 1 QB hit, and an interception on the first play of Toledo’s 2nd drive of the game. When asked about how the interception set the tone for the game, Florey responded “I think it just gave us that momentum that we needed. Our coach always preaches about momentum and keeping the momentum. I feel like that was a good way to get the momentum to our side. I was really happy about that play, this is my first pick but it was a good feeling.”

There were 6 players on the defense that attributed, statically, to the defense’s sacks and tackles for loss. DE Caleb Fuller accounted for 4 total tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and a sack. After the game, Fuller said this about the overall defensive performance, “Just how fast we played, we played relentlessly and we didn’t let them get any momentum. When they drove down the field, we got stops. We didn’t let them get any feelings about themselves and let them come out strong offensively. I think we just played our best game of the year, the last time. I don’t even know how to describe it, we played our best game at the best time of the year against a team we were underdogs to and we made a statement.”

Setting the tempo and momentum was important for the Mountaineers defense, especially when facing the 8th best offense in the nation. Even Appalachian State was surprised how dominant they were and how underwhelming the Rockets were on offense. Knowing this, however, the Mountaineers drove off any fresh momentum they could and put forth multiple performances to disarray and dismantle a top scoring offense. The Mountaineers defense was more tenacious and aggressive than the Rockets offense throughout the entire game.


Appalachian State’s run orientated offense completely overpowered Toledo’s defense

Offensively, the Mountaineers were efficient in almost every play when creating and extending drives. Overall, Appalachian State accounted for 458 total yards on offense with 327 yards coming from the ground in the run game. The Mountaineers averaged 6.2 yards per rush on 53 rushing attempts through an offense that was heavily established through the triple-option. Appalachian State had a long set of the triple-option in their offensive playbook, but coach Satterfield concluded that it worked be primarily ran against Toledo. The 4-year starter in QB Taylor Lamb needed to not only be an efficient runner but sell himself as a threat to make his pitches and tosses to his Running Backs that would confuse the defense.

Appalachian State QB Taylor Lamb during pre-game. Photo by; Michael Hanich

Although Lamb had a great night of leading the Mountaineers offense, it was RB Jalin Moore that took home the Dollar General Bowl MVP award. Moore accounted for 125 rushing yards on 22 carries (an average of 5.7 yards per rush) and 3 touchdowns. Whenever the offense was efficiently moving the chains, Moore was gashing the Rockets defense by quickly going through holes created by the Offensive Line and then pushing for more yards after first contact.

After Flory’s interception early in the 1st quarter, Moore ran for a 15-yard run followed by another 10 yards and finally a touchdown from the right side of the field. Early in the 2nd quarter, Moore followed his blockers, especially from TE Levi Duffield in a Fullback setting, on a simple stretch run to the left and got in for an easy 7-yard touchdown. The Mountaineers accounted for 4 rushing touchdowns in the game with freshman WR Malik Williams scoring a 4-yard touchdown on a reverse run early in the 4th quarter.

RB Jalin Moore getting interviewed as he is told he is the Dollar General Bowl MVP. Photo by; Michael Hanich.

Utilizing the triple-option proved to be very efficient when going against a defense that before the game only had one player account for more than 2 sacks. The Mountaineers also protected the ball more and did not turn over as much as Toledo did. Appalachian State only gave up 1 turnover from a fumble and the Toledo Rockets turned the ball over 6 times. Overall, the Mountaineers averaged 6.2 yards per rush whereas Toledo averaged only 1 yard per rush. This comes from the many hours watching films and learning what plays and formations would work best against the Rockets defense.


The Appalachian State Mountaineers Won the Momentum Battle From the Start

Last season, the Appalachian State Mountaineers defeated the Toledo Rockets in the 2016 Camellia Bowl with a 31-28 score even with great performances by Woodside and RB Kareem Hunt (now with the Kansas City Chiefs). In the 2017 Dollar General Bowl, the Mountaineers not only defeated the Rockets, but they completely dismantled arguably a more diverse and talented offensive Rockets team. This was done with the tenacious ability to play every down and acquire and utilize the momentum. The Mountaineers learned the many weaknesses of the Rockets and took advantage of them every play.

Mountaineers Head Coach Scott Satterfield (middle) and ILB Eric Boggs (right – #45) with the Dollar General Bowl trophy. Photo by; Michael Hanich

Not only did Appalachian State make a statement with their bowl win but they make a huge statement for their potential going into next season. This next season, the Sun Belt Conference will have a conference championship game where there will be no more sharing of conference titles as they did with the Troy Trojans (11-2) this season. Even with senior QB Taylor Lamb leaving the program, the Mountaineers will have a long list of talent coming back including RB Jalin Moore and ILB Anthony Flory.


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