Thursday, March 31, 2005

Scelfo The Traitor?

I like Coach Scelfo- but if that fink is lobbying behind the scenes after his performance here and new contract, I'd fire him tomorrow.

And maybe the new coach would convince Richard Irvin- my sweet, sweet pet- to come back.

Here is the key excerpt:

Chris Scelfo: The Tulane head coach and former Marshall offensive coordinator is lobbying for the job behind the scenes. On the surface, that seems odd. Scelfo recently was given a contract extension through 2009 and he is a native of New Iberia, La. His brother, Frank, is Tulane's offensive coordinator and his nephew, Anthony, is an incoming quarterback recruit.

So, why would Scelfo want to leave Tulane? One reason is Marshall is a better job. Another factor is reportedly there was a major controversy over the recruiting of Scelfo's nephew. Tulane's administration allegedly raised the nepotism issue and wasn't going to allow Anthony Scelfo to be awarded a grant-in-aid. His father, Frank, was so upset by the situation he reportedly came close to resigning his offensive coordinator job. Tulane relented and allowed the younger Scelfo to accept a scholarship, but the controversy has created a rift behind the scenes.

Baseball Trouble

I know it is early- and all games are important- but don’t you kind of get the sense this is an important weekend series at home against the Blazers?

Look, the Wave is obviously a good baseball team. I am not down on them exactly. They pitch and hit better than all but a handful of teams in America. But this season is not a success with a second place C-USA finish coupled with a Regional tournament appearance.

A few more languid displays of ennui like last weekend at Louisville- and look out. Is it just me- but I cannot imagine those LSU Tiger CWS-style teams swaggering into the ‘ville and then promptly reduced to trying to scratch out a win before the rains in the series finale?

UAB has a nice club, seemingly playing well. They had some winnable games lately- and to their credit- they’ve won them: eight of their last ten. But with USF and Louisville head-to-head this weekend, even one loss means the Wave trails one team and is even with the other. Yes, you can say it is early- but after this weekend, almost a third of the league schedule is complete, with no games left with Louisville and a three spot at USF.

Worse, Louisville controls their destiny over the Wave- and holds the tie-breaker- so that one-game lead is really two. If the Cardinals play again like they did last weekend, or the Wave drops a pair again, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Tulane would be two back on paper and three in reality. Could we get nervous then?

It is kind of a “must win two” weekend- that is why this series is kind of important. Play bored and lose two to UAB would be a predicament. History suggests someone is going to get through this conference slate with seven, eight losses. In fact, didn’t the Pirates lose only five last year? Four losses, with 21 to play, does not leave much room for error- particularly since today Tulane evidently cannot count on three quality starts in a single weekend.

That is the first rub really. Aside from winning at least a pair this weekend, how about Tulane starts pitching like a CWS-quality team three times in a row against these unranked clubs? If Tulane is healthy, the Wave will hit and score. But imagine, it is the second game of the C-USA tournament, winner’s bracket. Are you confident in any of these guys right now to take the ball and win that game?

The second rub is the Wave has to, has to, win either the regular season or tournament to host even a Regional. The tournament is fraught with risk no matter what. It would behoove the Wave to start putting the hammer down- get a sweep or two- and turn that upcoming trip to USF into a “nice to win two” rather than “must win two- or three”.

Monday, March 28, 2005

We Have A Problem

Is it too early to start asking some serious questions about the baseball team?

I think not. I am getting a little nervous.

Maybe the team is hitting a little bit of a wall. The early schedule was tough- they played admirably. Maybe the focus is starting to wander as the Wave settles down to play the conference slate in front of lackluster crowds totaling 400. They would not be the first college team to cruise a bit. But I cannot handle many more weekends like the last one.

My worry is that if the Wave doesn’t win the regular season, then they have to win the league tournament- or Tulane has no right to get all crazy if they aren’t picked to host a Super Regional. And they have a few series coming up, where if they play like they have the last two weekends, Tulane could quickly find themselves a few games back.

Right now, the starting pitching, in a word, is not consistent- particularly at the top of the rotation- and does not go deep in games. Tulane can get outs out the ‘pen. They’ve proven that. But nine outs a game- each game- over three days?- that is tough. Also, in a short series against a legit top-15 team- it is hard to imagine Tulane not conceding the pitching edge in the first game. That is a problem best-of-three.

I am also worried about the guts of the order. A lot of these guys Tulane counts on to put up RBI totals are dinged or struggling. At some point, these on-going dings get re-quantified as nagging. They ask Bogusevic to do so much- and they need him to do lot frankly. So when does he get to sit a spell and get better? It is obviously impossible- but maybe this is all we get from the kid this year. And just watch Owings swing the bat; he is clearly in some distress. Is he ever going to be right this year?

The point is I am increasingly finding it hard to believe that some of these key people are ever going to contribute at 100% this year- or that a pitcher will emerge as a legit top-of-the-rotation option. And I don’t believe you can be a Top 5 team if your key people are hurt or struggling- or you cannot dominate the first game in a tournament setting from the hill.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Feeling a Little Blue?

Feeling a little blue? The pointlessness of college baseball settling in a bit? Having trouble getting excited about another gut-busting ride to three, four I-A wins this fall?

Or just need a good laugh? Then check out:

No matter how bad we have it, there is always the Privateers, right?

The best part is the earnestness. Click on "Potential Privateer Football Helmets". They're very cute. No really. You wouldn't even suspect they made the designs themselves, in their basements, when their mothers thought they were asleep.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

An important item

Read this carefully.

Vermeil knows. Trotter listened.

There is no greater honor in today’s pro-football than to play in Philadelphia. There is no classier organization- top to bottom- that drives such determined effort as Philadelphia and asociated fans.

And that day that Vermeil comes back from Canton with his plaque, brings it to the Linc to show his cherished family, and embraces Reid and Buddy Ryan at the 50-yard line, Trotter will be there- and at a very affordable cap number.

I can see Coach Vermeil from my seat in Section 208, closely flanked by Jaws, wrapping up his remarks to the Linc. "I promise you," his voice heavy with emotion, "I will never disgrace my legacy. Like Joe Gibbs."

Friday, March 18, 2005

Darrel! Put the ball down and move to the side.

UAB touched the paystation last night, huh?

The Capital One Bowl was proof that you could be brainless and play defensive back at LSU.

Now that was opposed to last night's game versus UAB. That was proof that you have to be gutless to play basketball in Baton Rouge.

Darrel! Put the ball down and move to the side.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Winning Serves Only To Annoy Me

Did you see the write-up on Tulane's official website this morning about last night's 8-4 win over Texas Southern?:

Of the 10 free passes issued by Texas Southern, including a hit batsmen in the third, five came around to touch the paystation.

Touch the paystation? Sounds like my old GIs in Frankfurt on weekend pass again.

Good to see Dini participating in the offense again- drawing a key walk. We must see him play every single day. Every single day people.

Of course, Billy Mohl came in and got bunches of outs- it is what he does. He better have been darn hurt over last weekend- because, in case no one noticed, Tulane needed more outs bad.

Lastly, did you see the Rochestie quote in the T-P:
"I was really surprised, and I'm really upset," said Rochestie. "I'd heard rumors that (Finney) was being watched closely during the season, but I really didn't think it was going to happen. I think the potential for next year is very, very high."
Very, very high? It makes you wonder if he was actually paying attention last season- or merely retarded.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Some Call Outs

Just thinking out loud...

First, to quote an anonymous poster on my blog- I only mention this so folks don't think I am stealing- who do we have to kill around here to see Mohl pitch? Tulane was crying for outs out of the 'pen this weekend against the Titans- this guy has been near the best all year providing them- and now Tulane can't get him in the game/has some new secret role for him? He better start tonight against Texas Southern, have a broken arm or pitch six innings in relief.

Two, isn't about time we move past the never ending Micah honeymoon- and really objectively look at how this guy is used. Great power numbers. Then what? What part of the All-American transfer from the 'Ramblin' Wreck am I missing?

He's hitting like .230- and strikes out all the time. Is it my imagination or has he left like a thousand guys on base? I am not going to dump on him about his pitching- getting lit up by CSF is no shame- but isn't the club at the point where we need to look at how the Wave is using this guy? Cause something ain't working right.

First, until he stops striking out, let's move him down a spot or two in the line-up- or keep him seventh or something? Tulane gets enough guys on base in the bottom half of our line up that his obvious bolts of power won't be wasted. The .230 particularly hurts because Dini has been erratic with the bat too- two guys square in the middle of line-up who don't hit consistently. Also, is he playing too much? Be asked to do too many things around here? Again, maybe until he gets his stick back in gear- he might be better served watching a game or so a week?

One big reason we are leaving a ton of guys on base is Owens strikes out too much.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Get Him Out of Here

Gosh, people, don't be so surprised. Finney is hardly the first guy from Kentucky to see the bright lights of C-USA and blink. So we do what we always have- put them on plane and send'em home.

Well, I am big believer in Occam’s Razor- particularly when it portends to the Tulane athletic department. Finney’s departure is a perfect example. Faced with tales of secret contracts, the re-appearing ghost of Perry Clarke, Ricard playing the “four”, and parables of surreptitious ruthless cabals- I bravely focused- and merely centered myself on the Razor. I figured if it came down to clandestine blood tattoos or what I saw with my own eyes....

Look, Finney had to go. No one has any fundamental right to any six-figure job and then not perform at a high level. It is the real world. As Tulane alumni, we face that sort of pressure every day professionally- had we or Finney wanted security we would have gone to LSU and become All-State reps. I always thought people were getting to caught up in the minutia- and missing or ignoring the big picture: the team stinks, they normally cannot stay with fifteen points of conference foes, the building is as empty as Alex Box was after seven innings last week, and there is little to suggest it is getting better- and worse, no one cares. They could not find five league wins, and call me an optimist, but I think there is something to be gained from the C-USA season besides crushing beatings in front of sparse crowds.

But that is now over. I just wanted to repeat, be it picking the Wave against the spread (9-1 last year), or evaluating Forte and Ricard, it is wrong to question my trenchant analysis nine times out of ten.

All that being said- I was never down too much on the hoops program- as while Tulane athletics always faces a myriad of problems- the basketball program seems sort of fixable. For one thing, I think Tulane can be a little more aggressive, a little greedier, in their wish-lists. The Tulane football job stinks- but the basketball one is pretty good. Unlike the football team, a coach can recruit and consistently win here: the gym is fun when filled, New Orleans is a great place, Tulane is a neat school, we play in a decent league, etc. And you don’t need to pay $500K to get a name college coach. LaSalle almost hired Fran Dunphy- and the Explorers' situation is a disaster. Dougherty is talking to Tulsa. Bruiser Flint went to Drexel- what could they possibly be paying him? Phil Martelli does not make $250K/year at St. Joe’s. Pete Schirmer is available- but he’ll probably cost us. And so forth.

As I wrote before, to me, most of the problem is that the league grew up around Tulane real fast- and the Wave got caught sort of wrong-footed:

- again, the league got super good, elite-like, real quick.
- hiring the wrong guy- pretty clear at this point, right?
- being sort of behind in terms of arena, facilities, attendance, etc. as everyone else in C-USA exploded into this new level.

C-USA basketball has to be one of the great success stories in college sports over the past seven years, right? Tulane just kind of missed it. Not only did we not take a great leap forward- Tulane sort of fell back- and that made it look worse than it was.

Obviously, the league is coming back to them some- and the coach part has a good chance to be fixed- if just because they new guy cannot do much worse. That potentially fixes two of their big problems in one swoop.

Now, I must admit I look at these freshmen and don't get why they are so great- but I am hopeful a lot of my consternation is because it is hard to evaluate guys when everything is going so wrong. Just as you couldn't evaluate my pet Irvin off the Louisville game- because he never had a chance. And that might be true of some of these guys too.

But of all Tulane's problems, this basketball one seems most solvable. You can get good quick in college basketball- get one or two players from this group of freshman, one or two more next year, and they could win fourteen, and eight in our dumbed-down league, as soon as next year.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

The Lost Weekend?

You would hope- if you score 8 at home, you ought to win the game.

Bottom line: in two games, CSF has presented multiple pitchers who can get outs in bunches against excellent I-A hitting. Other than Morgan, Tulane has not yet demonstrated that.

Thank you sir, may I have another?

Well, it was a whipping- that is for sure. Real “yes sir, may I have another?” stuff.

Here are some trenchant observations. Not too much- as I gotta head over to football practice for this bizarre scrimmage Scelfo is apparently running today. I mean, heaven forbid the Wave have an actual Green-Blue game to drive a little interest. Oh- and let's also have our most "interesting" practice of the year on a day it is guaranteed to get no coverage- due to the goings-on over at Zephyr.

First, is "trenchant" really a word? The downside of attending Tulane is sometimes our superior vocabulary gets the better of us.

Second, the first six frames Bogusevic pitched pretty well. I don’t know enough about college ball to tell you about the quality of his stuff- and I admit you really have to be there to really gauge- but it looked like he was throwing easy and locating well. But CSF features a line-up that is "professional" in its approach: take a lot of pitches, work the count, spoil pitches, etc. He threw a lot of pitches to get his 19 outs. Maybe in April Bogusevic will be stretched out enough to take his stuff later in to the game- but the first few hitters in the seventh got really good swings at him.

Third, the game was still in reach- and had Tulane brought in one of their trusted, "quality arms"- like Mohl- Tulane might have lost by a respectable score. But I guess the Wave did not want to blow out its 'pen in a game where they were down a bunch late, against a pitcher they didn't seem close to figuring out- plus it was time to see Fairchild, a guy who has shown flashes after his surgery- in a spot that mattered.

But let's face it, had the Wave really needed those outs Friday night in a game that was still one-run/two run difference- I don't think Fairchild would ever see the ball in that spot.

Lastly, it is baseball, right? CSF throws a real dominant pitcher out there- a kid that appears ticketed to be drafted very high- and we cannot hit him. Tulane has a vulnerability here- as to this point- none of our starters has been lights out. I don’t know how the Wave wins a game- other than the pure vagaries of sport- where their guy is ticketed for the first or second round in the MLB draft? We don’t have that kind of pitching talent atop our rotation. And I would think, if Omaha is now the criteria for success this season, at some point we are going to have to beat a guy from Rice or Texas or wherever that is going to playing for the Phillies next year.

Vagaries- another Tulane word!

So the Wave, at some point, is going to face a guy who should not be here- a guy who ought to be playing in Atlanta rather than college ball. Of course, 99% of teams in Amercia would be trouble in such a spot- but maybe if you want to be number one you need to be able to counter in that spot?

That is why to me this series is all about pitching- so I am not too disappointed in this loss. Bugosevic showed he can keep a high quality offense in check for 18 outs- and by May hopefully that will be 21-24 outs. CSF shelled a guy that probably will never see the light of day in a big spot- or at least not see it for 2.2 innings- or if the first two guys he sees smoke rockets.

Of course, it would be expeditious to not go out there and get smoked today. I cannot believe CSF has two guys like Romero- and if they do, they ought to be number one, right? But as they, in baseball, you're only as good as your next start, so here is hoping Tulane gets one today.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Our Terrible Revenge

The big win at Alex Box removed any chance this big week for Tulane baseball could be a disaster. I listened to the LSU broadcast on the radio- talk about shock & awe. It was gratifying to hear the place was near empty by the eighth inning- as LSU fans headed early into the parking lot to puzzle over the location of their 1998 Ford Probes- complete with mis-folded free maps from Mobil tucked into the glove compartment. "The stadium emptied early tonight," one announcer intoned in the post-game- so at least, for one night, we did not have to hear blathering about the greatest fans in college baseball.

Yes, 1-3 would still be a disappointment, particularly after winning the first game at LSU- but I find it hard to believe Tulane isn’t going to get at least one this weekend at home, in front of a raucous mob. They definitely can get two against the Titans- and that will be enough to cement them atop the national rankings for a bit. Three feels greedy.

This series with Fullerton is important for reason- one last look at our complete starting pitching rotation in a big spot against a team with serious World Series aspirations. Our rotation probably has only one more weekend series left, with a team that would not knock you over with surprise, if they made it Omaha- so the impressions the pitchers leave this week will linger. I am convinced Tulane can hit. I think Tulane can get outs out of the bullpen consistently. These starters are the last link to real May success. It would be heartening to see strong back-to-back-to-back efforts. In some respects, as I would always rather see Tulane win, I would rather see Tulane lose a game 4-2, then win 16-12.

I don’t have much to say about the LSU game per se- you cannot take much from individual baseball games. Tulane pitched well, got more clutch hits than the Tigers and got quality relief pitching for like the umpteenth time. It is an easy game when you pitch well.

I was pleased to see Tulane take the game seriously enough to run a trusted arm out there Tuesday night. Particularly once conference play starts, or a heavy out-of-league opponent rolls in, these managers seem real reluctant to break the weekend rhythm: x on Friday, y on Sat and z on Sunday- and the Devil take the rest. It tends to be particularly true at Tulane/college in general- as the Wave frequently ask a lot of the rotation to play the field on days they do not pitch. But LSU is LSU- and wins in Baton Rouge will count huge when assigning the multiple southern regional locations. It was an important game to get- more important that the third game against Cal Fullerton.

Plus, Tulane doesn't need seven innings from our guy mid-week- because they have guys they trust to get twelve outs or so in the 'pen. You can blow the 'pen out a little at LSU Tuesday- and the Wave did to get some key late outs- but not Friday or Saturday. Particularly in college, it seems a big difference when you ask a kid only for 18 outs instead of 24.

Mind you, normally, I am against breaking up the rotation. These mid-week games, particularly emotional clashes with Louisiana schools, are great chances to find a fourth starter to take the ball in a big spot at some point. Might as well find out now, against an emotional Nicholls State that will be firing every bullet it has, which of your "least options" looks like he can get 15-18 outs in a big emotional spot in May.

But you know, Tulane can also never go wrong taking a strong shot at LSU. So it is half dozen of one, half dozen of the other. Sometimes it is okay to sort of achieve what you want, no matter what you do. You can play either Forte or Jovon, for instance, and always be mildly disappointed. Or Nick Cannon could hurt his shoulder or his elbow- regardless he cannot play quarterback in the spring. That sort of thing.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Spring Practice- Ricard

Tulane appears to be conducting Spring Practice under a sort of neo-Stalinist security. What is going on over there? Why is there literally zero coverage on even our own website? Spring practice is the one chance a football program has to cut through the noise and clutter of spring sports- particularly with the increasingly nice story about the baseball team moving center stage more and more. I plan to soon provide some light- on at least the spring game.

Last year, spring was dominated by one overwhelming story: which of these three quarterbacks was getting the nod to replace Losman? It is no secret now that Scelfo picked the wrong one- a decision that clearly cost them the sixth win needed for the New Orleans Bowl. The Wave might not have won the UAB game with Irvin- but they surely would not have lost all four of this slate: MSU, ECU, Houston and USM- games that screamed to be won with any sort of positive play from the quarterback position. Throw UAB back on that list- and yeah- Irvin would have gotten two.

That is kind of it in a nutshell. Ricard's three best games were against a triad- UAB, Navy and Army- that featured a friendly home atmosphere against teams that either were unwilling to or unable to pressure him.

Teams defending Ricard went thru two distinct stages last season. The first was up to and including the UAB game. The MSU game suggested that Ricard was not ready yet- that the only way he could hurt you was to go over the top enough times- and then get sort of lucky with our quality wide-outs and subsequently create a big play. So teams took that away. They rushed the guys up-front, sat the back-seven in vanilla sets, protected deep down the field, safe in the knowledge that Ricard was not only incapable of stringing together the five completions needed to produce a score but also prone to feed you a whole bunch of utterly crippling turnovers.

During the UAB game, Ricard made his first evolution. For the first time, he was able to exploit the lack of pressure, and had a monster day. UAB, stupidly, never did commit to coming after him- and Ricard taught them a bad lesson. Seriously, UAB was by far the worst opposing coaching job presented to Tulane last year.

Well, any fool watching that game moved on to step two: Get after Ricard- make him demonstrate that now- that rather than completing the requisite five balls a drive- let's make Ricard demonstrate five good reads under pressure and consequential throws to the right guy. Ricard never squared that circle- never showed signs of that second evolution. He got away with it twice- because Army can't pressure anyone with their horrible group and our offensive line played its best game all year versus Navy. Those were two games Ricard enjoyed superior protection- and he was great.

In the other games, teams committed to blitzing Ricard to get pressure- Tulane normally could protect against a base rush- and he could not handle it. Guys were open- if the TCU game and Irvin's brief appearance against Houston were any indication- but Ricard is not yet a "read it and throw it" quarterback. Frankly, he never will be. It simply is not his game.

He is in his fourth year now in I-A- the days of radical improvement are past. He is a first a pro-style passer, that needs protection. He does not throw well under duress or on the move. Tulane does not run a pro-offense- where, for example, you commit to protection, accordingly you routinely keep a TE/TB in to protect, normally send two/three guys in the pattern, and depend on a big arm to make it all go. Tulane's offense frankly is not one where they can line up and run the ball effectively enough so that Ricard is not asked to make 45 throws- but instead only 25- and a lot of them on first down, or 3rd and short, or off play-action fakes people respect.

Our offense does not put a premium on pass protection or quaterbacks taking seven-step drops, standing tall and throwing down the field. It is "get it, look and throw." And that is not Ricard. He is sort of shoe-horned in here. But he is not a dope, he has all the physical tools, and has guts- so at times, under the right situations he looks great. But a lot of the time, he looks awkward. He simply isn't "quarterback-ish".

I imagine he'll be much the same in 2005. He'll perform well against teams that lack the physical ability to rush him- where he has four seconds to make a decision, not 2.5 seconds- games where we probably don't need superior quarterback play to be effective. But against the USM-style teams, where they'll be in his face- like TCU was against Irvin, where Tulane needs quality quaterbacking to win, he'll struggle. Yes, Ricard still has upside, but not as much as coming into last year. I am not sure if this offense is perfect for him. He never is going to enjoy pristine protection here, with Scelfo's penchant to send five guys out every single time. Candidly, Tulane lacks the wide-outs to only send two/three guys out and expect people to get open consistently. Our offense compensates for our lack of talent and bulk by giving the quarterback more options that require minimal time to develop. But in turn, your qb has to be a "read it and throw it" guy- and Ricard is a lot of good things- big arm and guts- but that is never going to be his mojo.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Roydell and the Draft

I love Williams as a C-USA player. I praise him to the skies here as the team MVP:

He was perfectly designed for success in a C-USA style league. First, for wide outs in C-USA, and particularly at Tulane, with the league-wide emphasis on passing within a system, a "plus wide out" is a player who can both catch it and run the right routes within the context of the offense. In a league that tries to substitute complex execution to compensate for a lack of athleticism, a heady player has great value- as you have to run a lot of routes, with multiple options- routes probably featuring as many pass reads as the quarterback.

Conversely, C-USA does not require wide outs to be particularly fast or strong to be successful. With five people out on every pattern, each wide out need not get over every single play. League corners are weak and slow across the board. For instance, see Route. He cannot run with or knock anyone off a route. And a lot of people think he is a kind of "good player for C-USA."

We know Roydell is slow; he’s run twice- and the reported 4.6 ain’t going to do it. And he isn’t a glorious athletic specimen. He’s a guy who catches everything that is thrown at him and who operates well inside an offense that substitutes competence for athleticism. Unfortunately, the NFL requires both. Accordingly, when I think of a “first day selection” at wide out in C-USA, I think maybe Roddy White?

Look, he could consistently beat college corners- even good ones- and again, his hands and routes are outstanding. He is a somewhat sturdy physical player too- below average for the NFL but enough to survive. But where I am confident his routes and hands will follow him to the NFL- I am not sure he can run with or deal with the physical play NFL corners will pitch at him. Proof? Tell me, what is the “weakest part” of this guy’s game? It is clear- he isn’t a pure physical specimen. Clearly, he is slow and he isn’t explosive. That is a problem at the next level- where of the 64 starting wide outs, 50 or so are pure athletes who can catch and run.

I still think Roydell will be in an NFL camp- either as a free agent or maybe late-round pick. I don’t think he has upside per se- Roydell sort of is what he is- a possession style guy who might struggle to get off the line or open against NFL-quality corners. But he does catch it- the very first thing a possession style receiver has got to do. He has some capacity to make plays in the red zone too. Frankly, no one can get open in the NFL in the red zone- so the other skills- run good routes and catch it- move up. But of course, to survive as a fourth/fifth wideout in the NFL you gotta play special teams. So his capacity there is going to be key for him sticking somewhere.