Tuesday, August 1, 2017

2017 USA South Predictions

Its that time for my pre -season predictions, and while it is easy to automatically anoint Huntingdon as likely conference champion, I am inclined to channel my inner Lee Corso and say "Not So Fast"
There are many teams that will be in serious contention this year, and Huntingdon will definitely be one, but I think things could be so close, that it could end up being one of four or five teams that could end up on top. There may be more parity in the conference this year, and this has been a trend of recent years, but to have 4-5 teams that could legitimately take the title is parity on a higher plane.

Some interesting information about the USA South. It has been the practice that the conference office has posted information about the media day event for football. This event is hosted by one of the member schools each year, and all head coaches, usually someone from the athletic directors office, or possibly the SID office, and each institutions local media would likely be in attendance. Although I had been looking, I had not seen anything about this years media day. Knowing that this is usually held in late July, I decided to contact the USA South office directly to find out when the media day would be. I spoke to assistant commissioner Mike Christie, and learned that the conference office would have a meeting with all of the coaches, but the format apparently would not include media coverage. He did assure me that there would be a  coaches poll, and this would happen in very early August.
As of now, I have not seen any coaches poll, and I always try to publish my predictions before the coaches poll comes out. With this in mind, below is where I think the USA South teams will finish.

9)  Methodist

8)   Greensboro

7)   LaGrange

6)   Brevard

5)   Averett

4)    N.C. Wesleyan

3)   Ferrum

2)  Huntingdon

1)  Maryville

This is very difficult. First, very little is known about Brevard. They are a former DII school, in their first year of DIII. They will have scholarship athletes, and could do better than projected. They had 1 win last year.

I do believe that any of the top five teams can win the conference. To put Averett at 5th seems like they are under rated. I think they can beat any team on their schedule......Its going to be fun to keep up with the Cougars.

I am picking Maryville to beat Huntingdon, and Ferrum to beat North Carolina Wesleyan.

For Ferrum to do better than this, they need to go into Homecoming preferably unbeaten. If they start 3-0, look out!

ts going to be a fun season. Stay tuned for a more in depth article of the season soon.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Expect The Unexpected
Ferrum In A Strong Position To Contend

As we draw closer to kickoff of the 2017 season, I think back to the successes of 2016, and what is being built here. The turn around of last season signaled a beginning of what I feel like is the development of a winning program, but I have felt like that this may be a process to get to the conference title.....a process that may take about 5 seasons.

Over the last few days, I have been reviewing the rosters of the teams in the USA South. Like last year, Ferrum will have many obstacles along the road that leads to the conference title, but it seems to me that the road may not be quite as steep this year. In fact I think you can look legitimately at Ferrum as a serious contender for the title.
First of all, Ferrum has a strong contingent of returning players. Among those are Brian Mann, Montel Lee, Johnny White, and Jordan Patti just to name a few. While there are areas of concern, I like what I see coming back for Ferrum, and believe that with a good fall camp, Ferrum will be ready to answer all challengers this season.

Ferrum's number one priority will be replacing Harvey Taylor. Fortunately, this job can be handled by several capable players on the roster. Look for Tyler English to get the starting nod, but he will likely be in stiff competition from incoming Freshman Tyrez Welch. Welch could also be utilized as a Wide Receiver, should he be needed. So while Harvey Taylor's graduation left a big hole, I see Ferrum as stacked in the quarterback position.....and this will likely be a manageable transition.

Another area that concerns me is the defensive secondary. While Ferrum only lost one person in the secondary (LaDonald Byrd), the stats from 2016 were not all that great to say the least. This will, to me be the number one defensive priority for the Panthers.  Look for incoming Freshman Shemar Butts (Menchville H.S.) to get in on the action this year, along with Kendall Bell from Woodside H.S. in Newport News. This part of the Defensive Unit has to improve substantially for Ferrum to seriously contend. Recently, Elijah Anderson from Warwick H.S. has committed to Ferrum. Anderson has played on both sides of the ball, but may be used as a defensive back.

The next priority for Ferrum is to sure up the linebacker corps. Graduation took  Tony Konieczka, Jabber Coward, and Lance Moore, but the good news is that there are 7 potential returners from last year's roster. In addition to the talent on the bench, you may see the aforementioned Kendall Bell in a roll as linebacker if needed.

Along the line of scrimmage, Ferrum's losses were not all that bad. I look for both the O & D lines to be solid, and deep with talent. Look for Cullen King to assume the duties of Punter after the graduation of Tyler Morgan.

So, all in all, I think Ferrum is in very good shape this year. It will not be easy, but the Panthers have a lot to build on from 2016. Look for them to be in contention throughout the season, and who knows, closing out their run in the USA South with a championship may be real possibility.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Ferrum To The ODAC
What Does It All Mean

Yesterday, the largest Ferrum athletics story in recent memory, broke with the announcement that Ferrum will become the next and newest full member of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference.
The enormity of this cannot be overstated. Take these facts into consideration:

Every Institution with the exception of Guilford College is from Virginia.

This means far less travel time for Ferrum teams.
Far less travel expenses for Ferrum Athletics.
More away games in Virginia means more fans in the stands at these games.
Membership in this prestigious conference will enhance recruiting efforts.
Will likely positively affect the retention rate for Ferrum athletes, and students in general.

While I am sure I have not listed all of the benefits, It is also important to remember that Ferrum will be stepping into what is considered a more powerful conference. All in all, it is very comparable with the USA South, but most people would see the ODAC as a stronger conference, and they would be right. Overall, I am sure the numbers would bear this out, but don't forget, Ferrum had three non conference football games last year, and all were against ODAC teams.....Ferrum went 2-1. Ferrum will be a better team because of this move. You improve as your competition improves.

Stay tuned......Can't wait for the season to start!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Ferrum Accepts Invitation To Join The ODAC

Story will be written soon....Please see link below:

Ferrum Newest ODAC Member

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Glimpse Back, And A Long Look Ahead

Well it has been a while since I have posted, but I'm back as we start to get ready for the upcoming year. Graduation has passed at Ferrum, and while it seems like a long time from now, Kickoff will be here before you know it. Before I start looking ahead to this coming season, I want to take a quick look back at the 2016 season.

With the arrival of new coach Rob Grande on campus, hopes were high that Ferrum would have a successful season. It became apparent right away that Ferrum football had a different feel about it as it started the season with a win in the first installment of the Crooked Road Classic against Emory and Henry. This was an excellent game as Ferrum showed they had a flair for the dramatic as they trailed by 16 in the fourth quarter before tying the game 31-31 with 1:17 left. The Wasps ran the ensuing kickoff all the way back with a minute to go, but Ferrum was not done. Harvey Taylor hit receiver Johnny White for a touchdown, then Taylor took the ball in for the two point conversion......the third consecutive two point conversion of the game by Ferrum.

In that game Freshman running back Brian Mann made his college debut finishing the day with 168 yards, and two touchdowns. Mann's efforts over the year were some of the many bright spots during the season. The Freshman running back set the single season rushing record for the Panthers, rushing for 1453 yards, eclipsing a record that was set by Chris Warren, and had stood for 28 years.

Ferrum finished the season 6-4, and while a win against N.C. Wesleyan to end the season would have been nice, they were just too strong, and Ferrum was not able to slow their passing attack. All in all, this was quite a positive season, and if nothing else, they have left me excited for this season approaching.

Looking ahead, I think the main question is who will replace Harvey Taylor? While Tyler English saw a fair amount of action last year, its difficult to judge how prepared he is to take the reins......Here are his numbers from last season:

English appeared in 7 games, and rushed for 109 yards on 21 carries. He scored two rushing touchdowns, and his longest run was for 41 yards. In the passing department, English was 16 of 34 for 215 yards and one touchdown. English did not throw an interception.

In the receiving department, Ferrum has to fill the void left by graduating Senior Chris Guy. This leaves a hole in a receiving corps that seems low in numbers. Look for Johnny White and Nick Pearce to get quite a bit of playing time, along with Ne'Shaun Gill. The O-line loses two key players, and will need to fill those holes with some size and strength. Fortunately, there is good depth in this part of the roster.

Ferrum Continues To Build With Many Strong Recruiting Moves

When I look at those players that graduated, and the positions that are left vacant, and I also look at the previous seasons statistics, trying to determine where the weaknesses are.

There are a couple of things that jump off the paper right away. As I mentioned earlier, Ferrum's 2016 quarterback Harvey Taylor graduated, and who will replace him is not certain, but I do believe Tyler English has the inside track. Recruiting efforts have brought a couple of prospects to the roster this fall....more on that later.

I think Ferrum seems a little undermanned in the WR department, but a recruit out of Rustburg will likely help that situation.

On the defensive side of the ball, Ferrum needs to show huge improvement in the defensive secondary. Ferrum gave up an average of 253 yards per game through the air last season. This ranked them 7th in the conference.
Four interceptions last season ranked them 6th out of eight teams. Look for a recruit out of Menchville H.S. to help out in this area.

Linebackers may be hurting the worst after graduation. The team lost three linebackers, including Jabber Coward, and Tony Konieczka. There are still 7 scheduled to return this season. With an incoming freshman from Woodside H.S., and a recruit from Staunton River H.S. look for this unit to be young, but solid.

Getting back to the incoming quarterback recruits, Ferrum currently has 7 potential players listed as quarterbacks that could return. In addition to that, Ferrum is picking up Jacob Gravett out of South Paulding H.S. in Georgia, and Tyrez Welch out of Mayodan N.C. (McMichael H.S.) Both of these players have strong numbers, and will be a huge help for Ferrum. Please click the link below to read about Welch.

Tyrez Welch Commits to Ferrum

Welch signs to play at Ferrum.

While I was glad to see the numbers that Welch put up in his Senior year, I almost choked on my Cheerios when I saw this picture above.......Nice to see the future Panther have so much support around him.......but did you see that helmet? It looks black and gold and white......Even though it is a sharp looking helmet, surely, Ferrum did not change their helmet.....did they?
I wondered about this for a couple of days, until I thought the only way to know for sure was to call Coach Grande to try to get the scoop about the picture. We had a nice conversation about the upcoming season, but he assured me that the Ferrum helmet has not changed at all. Whew.....scared me for a second.

Below is a list of some of the incoming recruits for Ferrum:

James Turpin  OL Douglas Freeman H.S.  6' 2" 285 lbs.

Shemar Butts Defensive Back Menchville H.S. 5'10" 160 lbs.

Kendall Bell   LB/Safety Woodside High School 5'9" 180 lbs.

Isaiah Dixon  CB/WR Rustburg H.S. 5'9" 160 lbs.

Davon Jones DT  Rustburg H.S. 6'2" 245 lbs.

Thomas Sheets LB Staunton River H.S. 6' 235 lbs.

Jordan Thompson  LB Staunton River H.S. 6' 210 lbs.

Jacob Gravett QB South Paulding H.S. 6'2" 170 lbs

Dashawn Robertson DT Dan River H.S. 5'10" 265 lbs.

Tyrez Welch QB McMichael H.S. 6'3" 200 lbs.

Most of these future Panthers have highlight films on MaxPreps.com, or Hudl. There is a lot to look forward to based on what I have seen and read.

This should be another exciting season. The impression I get is that Ferrum is building something special. They have taken great steps to address their deficiencies from last year, and I believe that with some time to mature and learn the system, and their roles and responsibilities, these incoming Freshmen will be part of something very special in the not too distant future. Be patient Black Hat fans, the roar is getting louder!

Friday, November 11, 2016

North Carolina Wesleyan @ Ferrum

Ferrum will host its final game of the 2016 season as the North Carolina Wesleyan Battling Bishops come to town. This will mark the end of what has turned out to be quite a remarkable season for the Panthers. A win tomorrow will cement Ferrum as the third place team in the USA South. An outcome that very few, including myself saw as likely back in August. This will be an important game on many fronts. Besides the potential third place finish, running back Brian Mann has a legitimate chance to set the record for most rushing yards in a season. Mann needs 42 yards to break the record held by Chris Warren. A record that has stood for 28 years. This game also holds special meaning as it is Senior Day, and the 10 graduating Seniors will be honored in a pre-game ceremony.

So what can we expect?

North Carolina Wesleyan is no slouch team to say the least. They sit at 4-4, but had one game on the schedule cancelled due to effects of an early season hurricane. One of their four losses came at the hands of defending national champion Mount Union. They are averaging 418 offensive yards per game, and almost 32 points a game. 230 yards per game, come via the pass.
If they have a weakness, it may be their defense. Opponents are averaging 202 yards per game through the air, and 239 yards on the ground. 
This bodes fairly well for Ferrum, especially as the game is at home. Ferrum needs to play a tight defensive passing scheme, and shut down the combination of quarterback Nathan Gardner and receiver Malik Adams. If this duo can be stopped, or at least slowed, and Ferrum can control time of possession, they can close the season with third place in their pocket.

This will be a really good game, and while I would have not thought so early in the season, I see this as a hard fought win for Ferrum, and an excellent end to a very strong season.

Ferrum 28

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Defense Shines as Ferrum Picks Up 6th Win

For Ferrum, this was a night where the defense shined, and the offense did enough. For Averett, it was a night of almosts, and sheer frustration. I had a difficult time getting the broadcast to come through in the beginning, so when I finally got connected, Ferrum had just scored a safety, and led
2-0. The first half was a defensive battle as Averett definitely had their sights set on Brian Mann. Ferrum kicked off to Averett to open the game, and after each team had exchanged possessions, Ferrum punted to the Averett 2 yard line, and on the first play of this series, Ferrum;s defense collected it;s first safety of the season!
Averett kicked off to Ferrum, and Brian Mann returned it 23 yards to the Ferrum 47. After 6 plays Chase Deaton attempted a 26 yard field goal but it sailed wide left. Similar drives would continue throughout the first half, and Ferrum took a 2-0 lead into halftime.
At this point, Mann had just 48 yards on the ground, and while it seemed that Ferrum was doing OK, the offense had very little spark. The defense however was hitting on all eight cylinders. Averett offensively in the first half was stymied to say the least. They had 29 yards on the ground at the half.
In the second half, both defenses continued to dominate, but it was the Panthers that stole the show. Averett picked up 15 more yards in the second half on the ground. To be fair, Averett, passed much of the second half, and while Ferrum gave up 227 yards through the air, they did not give up a touchdown, and collected another interception. Chase Deaton accounted for 6 of Ferrum's 14 points, and Brian Mann collected his 14th touchdown of the season.
It was not the flashiest win of the year, but it was a win, against a much improved Averett team. Remember, Averett beat North Carolina Wesleyan on the road this year, 38-34. Ferrum plays that same North Carolina Wesleyan team this coming Saturday, at W.B. Adams Stadium. It is Senior Day, this game will decide the third place team, and it will be a very good game. Come out and support the Panthers!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Ferrum @ Averett

Ferrum takes it final and shortest road trip of the season today as they travel to Danville to take on the Averett Cougars. Averett and Ferrum have, to me, turned out to be the surprise teams of the conference. Averett currently sits in third place in the conference, and Ferrum is just behind them in fourth.
Averett is coming off of a big win over N.C. Wesleyan, where they had 276 yards passing, and over 200 yards on the ground. This is a balanced team, and they have had a consistent approach in all phases of the game.
Notable games for the Cougars include:

A five point loss to Maryville.
A two point loss to Guilford

Averett is allowing 197 yards on the ground by opponents, and are allowing 217 yards through the air per game. Their offense is averaging 189 yards on the ground, and 241 through the air. Look for the Cougars to pass, and pass often. They will likely have more success against the Ferrum secondary, rather than on the ground.
Look for Ferrum to work to control the time of possession, and work Brian Mann with plenty of carries. Also look for Harvey Taylor to figure prominently into the running game.
If Ferrum can control the time of possession, limit turnovers, and especially minimize penalties, they can win.Look for this to be a nail biter, and it could be an over time game. It will be a tough game for Ferrum, but they can win it.

Go Panthers!

Averett  31

Ferrum 28

Brian Mann:
Re-Writing the Record Books

Brian Mann

When you look at the roster, Brian Mann's size does not jump off of the page and grab your attention. 5' 10" 175 lbs. when you see him on the field, it's a whole different thing. Since arriving at Ferrum, Mann has developed quite a resume' Below are some highlights from the Ferrum athletics department:

USA South Offensive Rookie of the Week, 9/5/16
USA South Offensive Rookie of the Week, 9/12/16
USA South Offensive Rookie of the Week, 9/19/16
USA South Offensive Rookie of the Week, 10/3/16
USA South Offensive Rookie of the Week, 10/10/16
Set school record for single game rushing yards with 254 vs. LaGrange, 10/22/16
USA South Offensive Rookie of the Week, 10/24/16

D3football Team of the Week, 10/25/16
Set new school record for single game all-purpose yards (344) vs. Methodist, 10/29/16 (205 rush, 139 KR)
Named WDBJ-7 Anchor All-Star, 10/29/16 

In addition to these accomplishments, going into this week, Mann is the third leading rusher in all of Division III football.....nationwide. This is quite impressive, and while he may continue to climb nationally, there are some more local records that you should be aware of.

Chris Warren

If you are a Ferrum fan, then you should be well aware of Chris Warren. He is arguably one of the greatest running backs to don the black hat. He had an excellent pro career, mostly with the Seattle Seahawks, but also played with the Dallas Cowboys, and ended his pro career as a Philadelphia Eagle.

At Ferrum, Warren was a beast. In his two years in the black and gold, Warren rushed for 2,708 yards, and 32 touchdowns. He holds several records at Ferrum including:

Most points in a season-138 
Most rushing touchdowns in a season-17
Most rushing yards in a Season-1443
Most all purpose yards in a season-2366
Most all purpose yards in a career-4583

There are other records that he has  held, but have since been broken. The most recent one was broken last Saturday against Methodist by Brian Mann. Warren (and Mike Vann) held the record for the most all purpose yards in a game at 327, but Brian Mann set the new mark at 344 yards.
Next in Mann's sights is most rushing yards in a season. Mann needs 160 yards over the final two games to break the Chris Warren record that has stood for 28 years. 

Good Luck Brian!

Image result for photo chris warren Ferrum College

Brian Mann and Chris Warren, recently at Ferrum

Ferrum Survives Early Scare
Finishes Strong For The Win

In a first half that took me from very confident to disgusted, and a good portion of the second half that took me from disgusted to down right confounded to put it mildly, Ferrum had to scratch and claw its way out of a 17 point deficit to secure a hard fought 35-30 win over the Methodist Monarchs.
Methodist had only won one game this season before arriving at W.B. Adams stadium, and looking at their stats, I was thinking that this would not be close....boy was I wrong.
Methodist began their first drive, moving the ball down field using short passes to get into Ferrum territory. Ultimately this drive failed as the Panther defense held. Ferrum took over on downs.
It was the constant, consistent play by Methodist quarterback Xavier Adams, and that passing game that at halftime gave the Monarchs a 16-13 lead.
With Ferrum receiving the second half kickoff, I had a good feeling. That feeling subsided very quickly as the Methodist lead expanded to 30-13. I was in complete disbelief. After what would be their last score of the game, Methodist kicked off to Ferrum. Brian Mann received the kickoff, and returned it 71 yards to the Methodist 23 yard line. Three plays later, Ferrum had closed the gap to 30-21.
After the Ferrum kickoff, Methodist set up on their own 46, and went back to a pass play that had worked most of the day. It was a simple pattern that saw the Monarch receiver get behind the Ferrum defender, and all he had to do was catch what was usually a perfectly thrown ball by Xavier Adams. On this play however, DB Rod Smith came up with another momentum shifting play as he came down with an interception. Ferrum was unable to convert as Brian Mann fumbled as he endured a helmet to his forearm area. Although he would return to the lineup, he did miss the next offensive series.
After Methodist put together six plays that covered just 14 yards, they set up for what would have been a 41 yard field goal......it was wide left, and Ferrum would take over. With Mann on the bench, freshman running back Kahri Chase came in and did quite a nice job. He had 3 carries, the last one culminating in a 52 yard carry for a touchdown. With a Chase Deaton PAT good, the Panthers had drawn within 2 points, 30-28, with 0:18 left in the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Ferrum's defense put it in fourth gear, and shut down Methodist, and with their effort, combined with what was one of the prettiest touchdown runs I have seen in a while, Ferrum secured the win, 35-30. The run I am speaking of was a 37 yard scamper by Brian Mann that left a large part of the Methodist defense looking for their jock straps, and scratching their heads. It was amazing, and as a fan, sitting in the homecoming stands, I was elated. I went through many emotions, but Ferrum did what they are becoming know for......bending, but not breaking, and in the end, they were on the right side of the score. It was a beautiful day, with reunions with former classmates and friends, and it was a great day for Panther football. With this win, Ferrum assured themselves of at least a 5-5 season. I could not be happier.......unless of course with one more win, they will be guaranteed of a winning season!

Go Panthers!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Methodist @ Ferrum

To look at this game as a given victory, would be easy for the Panthers, but it would be a mistake. Yes Methodist has had it's problems, but they are a capable team. While they do not show all that well statistically, It has only been a year since Ferrum came back from a 28-7 deficit to ultimately win on a Hunter Furgueson field goal with :06 seconds remaining in the game.
Methodist comes into the game having missed two games due to hurricane Matthew, and while they only have one win, they must not be taken lightly. Methodist will come in looking to be the homecoming party spoiler, and try to salvage something out of what has thus far been a lackluster season.

That being said, I don't think Ferrum will have a let down. I credit coach Grande and company's preparation for much of this season's success, and I don't look for Saturday to be any different. Ferrum will go into this game, coming off of a big road win, and looking to secure what many would not have seen as very likely.....a .500 season.

So if you are at Adams stadium Saturday, expect the following:

Beautiful weather
Re connecting with many friends
Great tailgating opportunities
and a Ferrum win

Go Panthers!

Ferrum 51
Methodist 17

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Closer Look at Yesterday's Win & The Season

First, I want to draw some more attention to the game that Brian Mann had. To set the Ferrum record for the most yards gained in a game is a big,big deal. A record that had stood for 10 years was eclipsed, and the crazy part is that it could be broken again this coming week. Mann when the NCAA stats come out later today will have jumped from the 10th leading rusher in the nation, to number 5....if my math is correct. And by the way, he didn't wait for homecoming...... yesterday's performance put him over the 1000 yard mark, giving him 1079 yards so far with three games to play. Congratulations Brian! Great Job!

With three games left, and two of them at home, Ferrum is looking solid for a .500 season, and could possibly end with a winning record......although that will be more difficult. I was asked yesterday what is the difference this year? My answer boiled down to two things:

Recruiting, and Game Preparation. Ferrum had a good nucleus of returning players, but through a solid recruiting effort, the coaches have filled needs with a strong field of freshman......and many of those are starting. I do not have any privileged information, but the approach to the games thus far, to me, suggest a systematic process of preparing the team, solidly for that opponent.

I went back and looked at my preseason predictions, and I had the Panthers with a 4-6 record. So who did I pick them to beat? I had them going 1-2 against non conference opponents, with the lone win coming against Shenandoah......turns out they lost to the Hornets, but beat Emory and Henry, and Hampden-Sydney.....I was 0-3 in non conference games for Ferrum. In the regular season, I picked them to beat Greensboro, Methodist, and Averett. One down, two to go. Did not pick them to beat LaGrange, but felt it was not impossible........guess it was more possible than I realized.

While there have been many bright spots, Ferrum is not there yet. For me, they have already accomplished what I expected them to, but as I have said many times before, this is a process, and this season, no matter how it finishes, is just the first step in the process. The future is bright for Ferrum football, just be patient.

Go Panthers!