Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hula Bowl and more accolades

So, the Hula Bowl wasn't it was all cracked up to be. Apparently, it was very disorganized. They didn't even pay the promised daily per-diem to the players.
The first day was a wake-up call for Steve. It was scout day, and it was pretty much a meat market. Many scouts don't have a clue, and they're just sent by their teams to go find some prospects. Obviously, they're going to look for the most visually gifted players. And so it went. Each player just took off their shirts, and the scouts just did measurements on height, weight, neck, bicepts, etc. Steve said he was the smallest one around. It was a humbling experience, seeing all of the 6'5", 250 lb guys around him.
But, the next day was practice, and apparently that's the bigger deal. The scouts leave after the main practice scrimmage, because apparently the game isn't helpful to watch at all. In the game, they don't blitz, they don't stunt. They rotate too much. It's hard to assess any talent. But the practice is an easier judge for talent. Fortunately, Steve played great. He had a pick on the QB from New Hampshire, who was getting a lot of attention.

He had two interviews with some scouts, and he shines in the interviews. Some of these players are young and immature. Steve has a kid, he's lived abroad, and sees the bigger picture. When they told him that he'd have to play special teams, if he were to play, he responded that he realized that, and loves special teams and can't wait for the opportunity to play special teams. So, the Miami scout and Tennessee scout were very impressed with him.

Here are a few newsworthy pieces:

The Utes finished the season with the #1 passing D in the NCAA. That's huge, as Steve was the leader on the entire D, and especially in the secondary.

Then, here's another one by Lindy's, ranking the all-american non-BCS teams. Steve's the starting SS:


And finally, here's a link to an NFL mock draft website. These guys know their stuff, and the project Steve Tate as a 5th round draft pick to the Steelers. My best friend is a Steeler's fan, and he was pretty giddy about this one:


Sunday, January 6, 2008

Steve signs with agent

So, Steve ended his college career after the Poinsettia Bowl officially by signing with an agent. He's going with David Canter (you can see his profile here: Steve's Agent). We sat with David for a while, and he seems like a great guy and very well connected. He single-handedly pulled the strings to get Steve into the Hula Bowl.

I'm pretty optimistic about Steve's chances of making it in the NFL. His career has shown that he can make plays. He's had consecutive years of being the top tackler for the Utes, with each of those years being able to get more than 100 tackles. He has a nose for the ball. He's deceptively very quick (see the TCU game and BYU games where he went man to man against their best players, and didn't let any plays get made: Aaron Brown for TCU and Austin Collie and Dennis Pita for BYU). And pound for pound, he's much stronger than likely any other safety coming out. Not to mention, Weddle has likely helped his cause by having such a great year in his first year with the Chargers. Not to mention, he's played with the best of the best (he's been teammates with Kevin Curtis, Chris Cooley, Adi Jimoh, Alex Smith, John Madsen, as well as Weddle), and against the best (beginning his freshman year, he's played against Rohan Davies, Dominick Davis, LeBrandon Toefield, Josh Reid, Luke Staley, Brandon Doman, David Carr, Joey Harrington, Sammy Parker, Onterio Smith, PJ Daniels, Calvin Johnson, Hank Baskett, Brian Brohm, John Beck, Chris Henry, Mike Bell, and many other great players), and that's why he'll be confident enough to show well in any camp or try-out that he gets invited to. That's also why I think he'll likely end up in the league.

At this point, it's a waiting game. But Steve has the work ethic and the ambition to work his tail off, and he's competitive enough that he's not going to let anybody beat him out if he thinks he's better than him.

Post Bowl Game

So, I've got to say that the Poinsettia Bowl was probably my favorite bowl game that Utah has been to.
Now, everybody I say this to always comes back with "Better than the Fiesta Bowl?" Well, I think it was better than the Fiesta Bowl. Here's why:

1. The Fiesta Bowl is one of the all-time best Utah Football memories. But it was the journey, not the event, that made it so great. The Fiesta Bowl itself wasn't that great.

2. The organization of the Poinsettia Bowl was much better. With the Fiesta Bowl, the line for the tickets for families was incredibly unorganized (Alex Smith's family couldn't get in until after kick-off because they were only had one person working the lists, and they couldn't find most tickets. It took us three hours).

3. The concessions sucked(only small hot dogs and stale popcorn), and the facilities sucked (the seats were hard benches and the bathrooms were dirty urinal troughs).

4. The crowd atmosphere wasn't as good. Don't get me wrong. Seeing 55,000 Utah fans in the same place gave me great pride. But you can't deny that there were too many Utah bandwagoners, and hardly any Pitt fans in attendance. Navy, on the other hand, brought great fans - most of whom were very classy. Navy had great tradition, and it was fun to take part in that. Pitt was a bad team, and they didn't care to be there. And the Utah fans in San Diego were the die-hards - all 12,000 of them.

Now, what I didn't like about the game: How freaking close it was. Utah manhandled Pitt, as expected. The BCS wasn't ready for a non-BCS school to take on one of their money-makers, but I have no doubt that Utah could have played USC or Auburn that year. That they happened to run the table when three other schools did was horrible luck. And Pitt never had a chance.
Navy, on the other hand, shouldn't have played Utah as close as they did. They had the worst passing D in the NCAA, and Utah had the athletes at WR to exploit that. But they chose not to. That first half was the most frustrating half of football that I've seen in a long time. Utah played completely conservatively - trying to milk the clock. They passed fewer attempts than Navy in the first half (6 vs. 7) and fewer yards. Johnson looked so tentative, and the Utes D played well - though they looked pretty pissed off at the coaching strategy as they head into the locker room.
Whit pulled his head out at half-time, and after six minutes, the Utes offense came out passing. But why did it take that long? Some Whittingham apologists claim that it was a good strategy. If it was a good strategy, then why was he apologizing after the game? Why was the team, including Johnson and his wide receivers, so obviously mad at the play-calling in that first half? It was a mistake, and the reason that they moved the ball in the second half wasn't due to a sudden ability to execute. It was because the playcalling was more conservative.

After watching that game, I have no doubt that Utah could have beat BYU had they played to win, rather than to not lose. This coaching staff is their own worst enemy, at times. Another example of this was when Utah went into prevent after their 10 point lead with 1:30 left vs. Navy. Why would you go into prevent against Navy? They don't throw the ball. Going man to man worked great all game. Why change? Well, they threw a TD pass and recovered an onsides recovery, and had Navy decided to run, rather than pass (stupidly), then they could have taken that game into overtime and snatched another loss from the jaws of victory.

I hope Whittingham is honest with himself in this off-season, and reviews the mental hiccups that took place during the year. The game plan lost the game vs. Air Force (no running game, no scheme adaptibility for Grady), UNLV (only 12 carries for Mack?), and BYU. The OSU game was lost due to the unfortunate injuries - but the other three games were lost more on coaching, and if they don't face this and address these common mental hiccups, then Utah will never be better than a second or third place team year after year - despite the great talent in this program.