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The Recruiting Report

Yeah, I keep forgetting to update. Winter is usually a slow time of the year (news-wise) for me anyway.

On to the infamous Cordova’s Ball State Report.

If you’re not a college football fan, you may want to skip this one.

I am pleased to see that second year head coach Pete Lembo has put together a better defensive class than his predecessor, and that he got some help for those red zone situations in 6′ 5″ WR Efe Scott-Emuakpor. Granted, the kid’s going to need to gain about 30 pounds before he’s truly effective (he currently weighs in at 180; I think my cat can tackle him), but there is a definite red zone threat right there. Nobody should beat him on a jump ball.

Down side of this year’s class? No speed. With the exception of the aforementioned Scott-Emuakpor, there is only two others on the 2012 recruiting class list who seem capable of  running a 4.5 40 yard dash or faster. One of them is a DB which, while nice, means that he’s going to get burned by those guys who can pull a 4.4 or better. Think that’s stupid? First opponent of the year for Ball State is Clemson.

Their WRs are going to run circles around the DBs unless it rains.

Like, hurricane rain. Maybe even an earthquake or three might help.

Now, I do like the size on the OL. There are some solid blockers up there with good wingspans to stop that outside pass rush. You see a lineman standing at 6’7″, you think “Feed him. Then teach him to kill the DE and anyone else who tries to come through the gap.”

Overall, I’d give this class a better ranking than anyone else. On a scale of 1-10, I’d give it a 5.2. That’s not bad, but it could have been a lot better. Coach Lembo is making some improvements, and this is definitely a better recruiting class than the one from 2010 (2011 is a push, because Lembo didn’t have a full year to recruit).

One other good thing about recruiting who they do? The egos are a lot smaller. None of these guys played reality TV with the recruiting process (nor turned down an offer because there wasn’t a Chick-fil-A around), which means they will buy into the “team first” mentality needed to win.

Fear the chirp!

(Damn it, we still need a better slogan…)

More Thought on Ball St Football

I must admit, last year I was a sad little guy after watching my beloved Cardinals get thrashed by just about everyone in the MAC. I talked about how upset I was with former coach Stan Parrish’s recruiting efforts and was not really looking forward to 2011.

An hour later he was caned (stupid typos, though that one was amusing) canned and a new coach was hired. Am I that powerful? Probably not, but it doesn’t hurt the ego to think otherwise once in a while.

This year Ball State went a respectable 6-6, which is enough to go to a bowl game. Keith Wenning (which, incidentally, is one consonant change away from being Keith “Winning”) had a tremendous year, showing why Coach Lembo had enough faith to bench 2010 started Kelly Page in favor of the redshirt freshman. The running game was decent, with enough big plays to keep other teams off balanced an a defense that showed flashes of what it could be.

Think of it this way. Indiana did not beat a single FBS team this season — which included a 27-20 loss to Ball State.

The defense, as always, needs work, but unless you’re defense is LSU or Alabama you’re always going to be wishing for a better defense. A few playmakers can make all the difference for this team, and I think Lembo is a good enough recruiter to go out there and get them, especially when you look at the state of Indiana as a football whole.

(Hey coach, if Ohio State gets put on probation, you could probably poach a few four and five star recruits from them… just saying, y’know?)

So here’s to the GoDaddy.com Bowl (or wherever the hell we’re going to this year).

Fear the Chirp!

(Dear PR Department… we need a catchier slogan. Our opponents fear the chirp as much as Nina Hartley fears a DP… sincerely, Alum)

Fantasy Football Update

If this was my RB, I'd have won the league in week 1...

Many of you already know that I am a huge football fan. Pop Warner, high school, college, NFL… doesn’t matter, I like it all. This may seem strange, coming from a SF/F author, but I really, really dig sports. I think because, unlike many of my fellow writers out there, I excelled at sports throughout high school and college.

For some reason, athletes don’t tend to turn into writers. Who knew, right?

Well, I haven’t had much writing news lately, and this website needs updating, so I figured I’d share my weekly fantasy football updates with you guys. Hey, it’s not like I’m competing against sports journalists (wish I was, though… laugh at me for picking Aaron Rodgers with my first pick). But I’m in two leagues this year. One is a Yahoo! public league, the other run by my friend Gary Poole (Chattanooga, TN radio personality and all around great guy).

In the Yahoo! public league, I’m in a tie for second after knocking off the first place team this week. For the longest time I thought Cowboyhater was going to run the table undefeated, since his closest scoring game was 25 points before last week. However, after losing last week in a tight one and getting blown out this week by yours truly, Cowboyhater is only 1 game ahead of me with three weeks to play in the regular season. Meanwhile, I’ve won 5 in a row and look well positioned for a solid finish. First place seeding going into the playoffs is in sight, although I really don’t like my schedule with Aaron Rodgers at the helm. Still though, my team looks a little thin overall, but it’s gotten me this far.

In the Scenic City league, I took only my second loss of the season, losing a close one to The Wingnuts (same team, I’ll add, that I had problems with last year and was oh-so-grateful to not meet him in the playoffs), 96-89. I started the wrong TE this week (Gregg Olsen over Antonio Gates…. oops) and paid the price. Of course, having a WR score zero points for me also hurt, but I’m thin at WR this year. Still, I’m 9-2 and already have a playoff spot locked. Plus, with Brainert Bombz losing, I secured the top seed in my division, and the #2 seed overall no matter what. Good spot to be in, going into the playoffs, especially since I don’t like the matchups I’d have if I were the #3 seed.

Yeah, fantasy football is D&D for jocks, but since I play both, it doesn’t hurt anybody, right?



I worked 50+ hours this past weekend, so not much has been done around any writing projects. I knew working this much was going to take a toll, but dang has it been rough. I didn’t think I would make it around Saturday evening, but somehow I did.

Wish I could say I found some inner strength but, as usual, I’m just too stubborn and stupid to know when to quit.

Even with all my work, I did take note that Boise State and Stanford are both no longer undefeated and Oklahoma State (Oklahoma-freaking State!) is sitting pretty in the BCS picture. That was… somewhat surprising, but just one more undefeated losing (and should it be an SEC team) and everything is thrown into chaos. That would be fun.

Really. For me, at least.

The Hunger Games official movie trailer is out and already I am hearing about how crappy the movie is going to be. Considering I graded the book as very good, you just know that they can’t capture every single detail of Katniss’ life and thoughts on camera. There’s a subtlety that very few actors can manage, making their thoughts known without seeming to be comical in their approach. So… I have doubts about it being good, but hey… I’m still going to go and watch.

Looking at release dates for both The Green Jewel and The Midnight Crew right now. I’m thinking after Christmas but before The Hunger Games movie premier. I simply don’t have the funds for a splashy huge release notice, instead relying on word of mouth and dedicated fan base for the series. That’s going to take a lot of work, yes, but not wads of cash. Talked to a few agents a few years back about the stories and they all were in agreement: the story is fine, but it’s missing something that is hard to put a finger on.

I found it. But now I’m being selfish and not sure I want an agent.

An agent used to be the best and easiest way to get into publishing. CreateSpace has made it even easier (albeit with more work). I’ve gone over the benefits of an agent before (and have a very good friend who is a literary agent), so I’m going to avoid rehashing that.

Instead I’ll just… ponder.

BCS Buster

So… who thinks that there’s going to be an SEC vs SEC BCS title game this year?

If you think that, let me break it down for you as two why that won’t happen.

Four words: PAC-12 Commissioner Larry Scott.

This man, who took the PAC-10 from near irrelevance (remember when it was USC and the PAC-9?) to possibly the second ranked conference in the nation, will not allow an unbeaten Stanford team to miss out on the BCS title game. He holds a lot of sway and, barring some Rose Bowl snafu (Stanford will probably be the PAC-12 champion, then it’ll probably be Oregon in the Rose Bowl… except that they will not have that automatic BCS berth because Boise State will, more than likely, be undefeated), there is little doubt that an undefeated Stanford will settle for a Rose Bowl berth this year. Hell, the TV execs are already drooling at an Auburn or LSU defense against the Luck-led Stanford smash mouth offense. And bowl games are all about the money. Screw tradition.

Next, you think that a one loss LSU or Alabama playing what would essentially be a rematch wouldn’t cause more people to doubt the credibility of the BCS? Think of the legal ramifications of screwing over an undefeated Oklahoma State, Boise State or Stanford would cause. These are big money games for these schools and while the other BCS games are worth millions as well, there’s a difference between 10 and 20 million dollars. A big difference.

I can see the anti-trust suit and RICO lawsuits coming a mile away. The BCS would collapse. You think politicians have anything better to do? Think about what Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) threatened to do if Kentucky congressman Mitch McConnell (R-KY) went ahead and tried to use congressional clout to block West Virginia University from bailing on the Big East to join the Big 12. Now think about just how much uglier it would become if one of the aforementioned universities are unbeaten and get passed over for a one loss team from the SEC.

I would love to be in the room full of BCS officials when the FBI kicks their door in and serves them with search warrants… well, maybe a fly on the wall. Not in the room. That would be bad for me.

Yes, I know that I’ve been writing less about… writing this week and more about what’s going on in the world. I just wanted to show you that I don’t have my head in the sand and pay attention to what’s going on around me.

…Justin Bieber cut his hair? No sh*t? Huh… oh, nope, wait. He just changed his part.

Peyton Manning for MVP

Photo Copyright Associated Press 2011, All Rights Reserved

I’m starting this now, and I will be mocked. Ruthlessly. And many people who are Tom Brady fans will want to eviscerate me in public. With a spoon.

Peyton Manning for 2011 NFL MVP.

Hear me out before you bring out your soup spoons.

In the history of the NFL, we’ve heard the term “most valuable player” so many times that we’ve been immunized against the true meaning of the word. We believe (rightly or wrongly) that the best player on the best team should win the award, despite the fact that the best team means just that — the best team. Now, a guy like Brady has an amazing talent and is a great player, but he plays with the benefit of having the best coach in the league, as well as one of the best offensive lines out there. I remember when the Patriots lost him for the season. Do you remember?

September 2008. Fantasy football teams owners remember that as well as World War Two vets remember Pearl Harbor. Depending on who you played for, it was either great news or horribly gut wrenching.

But what happened? The Patriots just shrugged, let an unknown backup start the rest of the season and the Patriots went 11-5 behind Matt Cassel. They missed out on the playoffs that year (the cutoff was 12-4, which was an absurd year to be a wild card) and Brady came back the next year and led them to 16-0 regular season (yes, the Giants beat them… shut up already, I watched it).  A respectable win improvement but, excepting the 16-0 record, not all together impossible feat. Look at the Lions, the Buccaneers, etc. Brady is an important piece to the Patriot puzzle, but still just a piece.

Peyton Manning is the entire box.

Never have I ever seen a team melt down with the loss of their leader and best player as the Colts have after Manning had neck surgery this year. For years I’ve watched as Manning single-handedly carried the Colts to 11-5, 12-4 and such records without the benefit of a defense or running game. He always made it look so easy that now, as you watch the Colts offense struggle to break out of the huddle, you have to wonder just how great Manning truly is. I knew he was good, but the Colts ineptitude without him leading them shows just how great he is.

He is the Most Valuable Player for his team and, as one watches everyone else play across the league, the most valuable in the league as well.

Baseball has a stat called Wins Above Replacement. It’s a mathemetical statistic that breaks down just how many more wins a player is worth than the average player. The great players are about a 5.2 WAR rating.

I’d say Manning’s WAR is at about 8.

As evidenced from past records, Brady’s WAR is about 5. That’s very, very good, but not nearly as impressive as Manning’s.

So here it is, my conviction that Peyton Manning is the 2011 Most Valuable Player, despite never playing a down (more than likely) this season.

Let the hate mail begin.


College Football Thoughts

Well, the majority of the 2010 college football season is over (barring a few more games), and as always I’m astounded by the beat down given to the Big Ten conference. I have a lot of thoughts about this after watching the TCUWisconsin game yesterday (don’t you dare call it an upset, the Horned Frogs were 2 point favorites), as well as some ideological rumblings about this whole “non-AQ” thing.

First off, I’ll break down just who did what over the past few weeks. Remember, these aren’t final since there are a few more games to be played.

  • ACC: 4-3
  • Big 12: 3-3
  • Big East: 4-2
  • Big Ten: 2-5
  • C-USA: 1-4
  • MAC: 1-2
  • MWC: 4-1
  • Pac 10: 1-1
  • SEC: 3-3
  • Sun Belt: 2-0
  • WAC: 1-2
  • Independents: 2-1

So first off, let’s get one thing straight. That SEC dominance? You can’t be a dominant division if your teams can’t beat middling teams from other conferences. The SEC picked on the Big Ten (more on them in a moment) and exploited the lack of speed in the conference, which gave them the three victories (so far). But the SEC looked a little lost in losing to an undermanned North Carolina (Tennessee) and a rebuilding Florida State (South Carolina). Plus, having Georgia lose to a bad Big East team (Central Florida) is absolutely abhorrent. Yes, the best two or three teams in the SEC can beat anybody. But it’s time that they realize that the same could be said for everyone else, including…

…the Mountain West came into the bowl season with heavy doubters and high expectations from within the football community, and they delivered in a big way. Air Force dominated Georgia Tech in a very boring, triple-option oriented game which featured more offense from the runaway mascot than from anyone else. But a win is a win. Plus, look at what San Diego State did to Navy. Of course, none of these victories means more to the conference than TCU‘s victory over Wisconsin. The Horned Frogs got punched in the mouth repeatedly but frowned, spit out some blood and punched back. TCU won while withstanding the best offensive punch from arguably the best team in the Big Ten. All smiles in the Mountain West, which cannot be said for…

…the Big Ten, once more, looked like a league lost in time as they went 0-5 in New Year’s Day bowls. Northwestern losing to Texas Tech wasn’t a huge shocker, and outside of the “wow” factor Wisconsin‘s loss wasn’t as surprising either. Iowa beat Missouri, which was a good thing too, and Illinois beat Baylor, confirming that the Big 12 ain’t so big yet. But the Big Ten- you know, I’m tired of calling them then “Big Ten” and they’re always anything but. From now on, I’m calling them the “Big Tin”, because the only thin that gets crushed easier than tin is aluminum. Anyways, the Big Tin went out and got manhandled by the SEC. Michigan State, who was upset they didn’t get the at-large bid for the BCS, got taken back to the woodshed by Alabama. Penn State got roughed up by Florida in what should have been a bigger win by the Gators, and Rich Rodriguez-led Michigan got punked by Mississippi State. Yeah, you read that right. By the team that finished 5th… in the SEC West. The Big Tin hopes against hope that they can pull out some kind of redeeming victory in their final SEC-Big Tin matchup with Ohio State (don’t get me started on the word “overrated” here) and Arkansas. History (and smart money) is going to be on the Razorbacks, however, unlike…

…the Pac 10, who looked really good once again in their bowl games. While the ArizonaOklahoma State lovefest was atypical Cowboy football, the same couldn’t be said about the most unwanted rematch in the history of college football. Washington shouldn’t have had a chance against a Nebraska team that had already beat them in the regular season, but someone forgot to tell the Cornhuskers that they were supposed to play. Washington took it to Nebraska early and made the most of a distracted Nebraska team. Of course, with Oregon looking to upend Auburn in the national championship game and Stanford taking on an unusual Virginia Tech team, the Pac 10 might have finally gotten over that “USC plus others” moniker. Naturally, right when things are looking up for some, others…

…continue a weird and confusing trend. For the life of me, I cannot figure out the ACC. Georgia Tech lost to an Air Force team that had the same offensive moxy and Clemson lost to a South Florida team that had fallen off everyone’s radar. And without fired coach Randy Shannon, Miami got beat up by Notre Dame. But then the ACC goes and has North Carolina State beat West Virginia, a depleted North Carolina beating Tennessee in overtime and Florida State beating South Carolina. Until I see how Virginia Tech handles Stanford, the jury’s out on the ACC. The jury is…

…in on the Sun Belt conference, though. Florida International and Troy both beat their MAC foes, showing that the mid-majors can beat other mid-majors in meaningless bowls as well. I know that those bowls aren’t meaningless to the participants, but when a college loses money while going to a bowl game (which was supposed to generate more money) then it’s a loss no matter what the score was, which wasn’t that impressive. Unlike…

…the Big East, who made the best impression on me this weekend. Connecticut couldn’t hang with Oklahoma, and there’s no shame in that, considering that the Sooners were in the national title picture early in the season. West Virginia may have lost, but the rest of the Big East went down to other people’s backyards and delivered a message. I already talked about South Florida‘s victory over Clemson and Central Florida over Georgia, but lost in the shuffle was Syracuse‘s victory over Kansas State. A lot of people (including me) give the Big East crap, but they win when they need to. Nobody wants to win the conference though, which is always surprising, as is…

Notre Dame beating Miami. A lot of people had been talking about how Miami “has its swagger back”. Well, unless Miami figures out a way to have the swaggerback replace the quarterback, they will continue to have problems no matter how much swagger they have. Jacory Harris is a joke at QB, and (sorry U fans) he’ll never be Terrelle Pryor. Miami fans can argue that Harris only threw three incompletions… the problem is that all three were intercepted, and he only threw seven passes total. Notre Dame outran, outplayed and outcoached “the U”. Brian Kelly has done a pretty good job thus far in a year at the golden dome. Now let’s see how well he can do with his own recruits. A victory over Miami is a good start.

Those were my thoughts on the bowl season… anything to add?

Ball State Football Thoughts

Non-writing stuff right now. Feel free to ignore if you don’t like college football.

For the record, my alma mater will not “go bowling” again this year. I must firmly accept that 2008 was an aberration and will (more than likely) never happen again, at least not while I’m still alive.

So what happened? Well, a multitude of things can be said, but the primary one was that we lost a great coach and a great quarterback at the same time. Brady Hoke bolted for San Diego State (it must have been the beaches and not the division, because SDSU…? Really?) and probably our best QB in Nate Davis following the 2008 season. Davis is now on the practice squad with the San Francisco 49ers.

Ball State’s new coach is Stan Parrish, who was an excellent QB coach prior to becoming the Offensive Coordinator, then Head Coach. He’s good, but he doesn’t seem to be as good of a recruiter as Hoke was. It’s shown this year in particular, as the team had a lot of youth and very little in the way of results. It’s very disheartening to see just how quickly we fell down the hole after a miraculous season, which at one point had us ranked as high as #15. But that was 2008, and we just finished the 2010 with our annual rivalry game with Northern Illinois.  For the record, they crushed us. It was 35-7 at the half and I just gave up and started drinking.

Two things an alumni looks at when judging coaches is how well that coach can recruit and put butts in the seats at Scheumann Stadium. Parrish has a rep for being a top-notch QB coach. He tutored Tom Brady and Brian Griese while at Michigan, and he’s a proven sort of guy. However, that being said, I’ve been disappointed with his offensive schemes this season. It seemed that most defensive coordinators knew our offense better than the skill position players, and as a result most of our plays were sniffed out at the line. But that has nothing to do with the recruiting ability of the coach, and that’s what I wanted to focus on first.

I understand that Ball State doesn’t have a rich tradition in, well, any sort really. Our basketball team gave the NCAA a scare a few years back after blowing through two of the Top 5 schools in the nation during the Maui Invitational, but since then… nothing. But regardless, with very little recruitment disadvantages in-state (outside of Notre Dame), Ball State has no reason not to be able to recruit well. Purdue, Indiana? Yeah, I don’t see them going to a bowl this year. Notre Dame? They’re so academically strict they’re strangling their own football team, plus they don’t have any conference affiliation.

The MAC is not a bad conference. It has a tradition of turning out great QB’s, possibly better than most of the “Big Six” conferences. And as the only MAC school in Indiana, they should have a stranglehold on quite a few 3 star recruits.

So where are these recruits? This is a question Coach Parrish must answer this off-season, as Parish has not had a winning season as a head coach since 1985, his final year at Marshall. The pressure is on, and given Hoke’s immediate success at SDSU (his Aztecs are 7-4 and bowl eligible), Parrish can’t afford another losing season. While it is unfair to place all the blame on Parrish, in the end the head coach is responsible for the direction of his team. And with a lackluster defense and nothing special coming in on that side of the ball, the Cardinal’s 2011 football team had better be prepared to put up a lot of points to take some of the pressure off of the defense.

Side note: Parrish, FYI… a WR who runs a 5.0 40 yard dash is NOT going to get open often. Just letting you know…

So what should Ball State do?

Well, one thought I had was to instill Bud Foster’s 4-2-5 defense which is so successful at Virginia Tech. For years Tech had to deal with losing the top recruits to both the SEC and Big East schools and still managed to throw in a top 20 defense year in and year out. The basic idea of a 4-2-5 is that the 5th safety can float up or down the field, creating confusion in route coverage for the offense. This rids the problem of having an LB on a WR or RB when they move out in motion. The 5th safety is not a true safety, though, but more of a hybrid LB/S. You know, the safety who wasn’t fast enough to be a corner or the LB who wasn’t big enough to play LB? That guy can be invaluable as the 5th coverage player. Also, having a decent front four who can pressure the QB and stop the run helps big time. So how do you anchor a 4-2-5? You go out and get the nastiest NT (nose tackle) you can find. He doesn’t have to be the biggest guy, but he sure as hell needs to be the meanest. He’s going to be your enforcer, that guy who pummels the OL who dares try to block him. He’s the guy who isn’t afraid of slapping the crap out of the OL’s helmet as he muscles past them. His job is to draw 2 to 3 man coverage on the line, forcing the LT and RT to slide out and try to pick up the DE’s solo. Then that leaves the other DT, the smart and quick guy, to watch for the screens and generally have a clear shot at blocking the middle. Any time you can make the RB change directions and go sideline to sideline gives your defense a better shot at stopping the play cold.

Why am I not coaching football, you may ask. Well, I used to be the defensive coordinator at an unnamed school out west, where I had a top 5 defense while being the defensive coordinator. It was a high school, not a college, so I understand that it’s “different” there. I also have no desire to coach again, having to deal with an egocentric head coach who couldn’t find his ass if someone handed it to him (which opposing defenses routinely did). It stopped being fun watching those kids be demoralized, especially after losing 7-3 and 7-6 on a weekly basis. So after I stopped teaching, I stopped coaching as well.

So in the end, I sincerely hope that Mr. Collins (Athletic Director at Ball State) will give Coach Parrish at least two more years, which would make it four years total as head coach. If his recruits cannot turn around Cardinal football in that time, it would be unfortunate but Coach Parrish would have to go.

Update: less than forty minutes after I wrote this, Coach Parrish was canned. The search is now on for a new coach at Ball State. Oops.