When I look back at this past season, I have to say there were two main things that really were disappointing. The first was the slow start that Ferrum got off to. Going 0-4 puts you in a deep hole to dig out of. Secondly,was the loss to eventual conference champion Christopher Newport. This game, was a clear reminder of what the Panthers have, and what they need.
First let me say that Ferrum was a strong competitor. They had a chance to win the conference, but in order to be considered formidable, the way you start the season and the signal that sends to future opponents can directly influence how you end the season.
Instead of starting 0-4, Ferrum could have easily been 2-2. This was not the way that the Panthers wanted to start, but it seems to be difficult to get in the win column in those first three games.
Right now, Christopher Newport, and North Carolina Wesleyan seem to have the most consistent programs in the conference. As I was at both of these games, I see a couple of similarities that were major factors in the loss. While Ferrum was bigger on both sides of the ball than CNU (according to their respective rosters) Ferrum did not possess the strength and speed of CNU. This was especially evident at the line of scrimmage. Let's review some statistics from these games:
In the 2010 season, Ferrum averaged 188.0 yards per game rushing, and gave up 22 sacks, or 2.2 per game.
In the CNU game, Ferrum had 115 yards rushing, and gave up one sack, for an 8 yard loss.
Against NC Wesleyan, Ferrum had 50 yards rushing, and gave up 8 sacks for a loss of 56 yards.
On the flipside, Ferrum gave up 231 rushing yards against NCW, while they gave up 223 to the Captains.
In those two games, Ferrum only recorded one sack in each.
There are definite positives to the Ferrum football program, and while I could go on and on about the quality play of this player or that player, this is not an individual sport. It is however, a sport made up of individuals that form a team. From this stand point, one could consider each player a an individual resource that brings a unique, individual quality to the team.
Bigger, Faster, Stronger
The players that will be returning for the 2011 season will have a definite advantage over the incoming freshmen. However if these new players want to make their presence known, especially on the line of scrimmage, then they have to be strong, and fast. The old saying goes that you cant teach speed, and to a certain degree that is correct, but strength and technique is something that can be developed. Ferrum needs to, in my opinion, start their renaissance with the development of the offensive and defensive lines. You have to control the line of scrimmage to win, and while it may be tough to recruit the biggest fastest and strongest players...(those will usually go to a scholarship program) You need to have a plan, personnel, and facilities to develop the resources you have. You also, most importantly have to have the desire of the player to improve. They cannot be forced to lift weights and workout, it has to be something that the player dedicates himself to for the betterment of himself and the team.
A lot is always said about the unfair advantage that Christopher Newport has because it is a State supported school. In many many ways I agree with that. The fact is however is that as long as Ferrum and CNU are in the same conference, that will not change. They will always be a State funded school, and consequently have a source of revenue that Ferrum will never have...tax dollars. In the great scheme of things, CNU was not all that better of a football team than Ferrum this year, but was, in my opinion a stronger and faster team on the line. Weight training has to be a strong emphasis of the Panther football program. It needs to be coordinated, and overseen, but mainly, Ferrum players have to show the commitment to this part of football. They have to want to get better, even in the off season. I would propose a full time strength, speed and conditioning coach be added to the staff. This person would be available to the football players and would not have recruiting duties. They would however have coaching responsibilities during the season. In this regard, CNU has an entire department for strength, and conditioning, and there are three staff members in this department. Of course they cater to all student athletes, and I know, they are State funded, but Ferrum has to start somewhere in this initiative, and it has to be a priority. The construction of the Hank Norton Athletic Center will be a huge step in the right direction. This state of the art facility will give Ferrum one of the nicest facilities in the conference, and will play a major role in successful recruiting.
In order to be the best, Ferrum has to be able to beat the best. A solid strength and conditioning program will serve as one of the pieces to achieving that goal.
Lou Holtz: In the successful organization, no detail is too small to escape close attention.