49ers college scout Ethan Waugh has been busy the last few weeks. Catch up with him in this latest Eye on the Midwest blog. **
After spending last Tuesday at the University of Kentucky, I made the long drive to Richmond, Virginia, in anticipation of the East Coast Bowl, an All-Star game that featured 70 of the top FCS, Division II, III and NAIA players from around the nation.
I spent most of Wednesday interviewing players and corralling them to fill out our questionnaires. In most cases, this was the first opportunity I had to actually speak with the players and it was interesting to see their true personalities come through. Also, because this is the first all-star game of the year and many of the players had just finished their season, they had many questions for me as well. I did my best to put them at ease and guide them through the entire NFL scouting process, from the first game of their senior year all the way through the first mini-camp following the draft. Once they gained a greater understanding of what scouts are looking for, they really opened up.
On Wednesday evening, the game's directors held a detailed informational meeting with the players and introduced them to their respective coaches. Following the informational meeting, the scouts present held a weigh-in very similar to that of the Combine in Indianapolis. Each player had his height, weight, arm length and hand span measured. It takes great teamwork among the scouts to make sure this process goes smoothly and this group of scouts did a truly remarkable job.
Thanksgiving morning started off at a sports performance center in Richmond that offered an indoor field turf surface – ideal for holding a mini combine. We timed each of the players in the 40 yard dash, three cone drill, short shuttle, and vertical and broad jumps. All players with the exception of linemen were timed in the long shuttle as well. Because the season had just finished, many players did not have the opportunity to train as much as they would have liked for the tests, but they competed and did an admirable job – as a scout, we can still get a great feel for their flexibility, athleticism, and explosion even if they are not in peak "testing" shape.
When the testing ended early in the afternoon, the players were provided a great Thanksgiving meal by the game's organizers. As for the scouts, it was difficult to find an open restaurant. A group of us settled on Sheetz – a gas station with a small, a la carte restaurant inside. It certainly was not as good as my wife's traditional turkey dinner, but the ham sandwich and giant pretzel really hit the spot.
That evening, the players had extensive meetings with their coaches to install the schemes for the game. While the concepts are simple when compared to NFL playbooks, the coaches and players both want to win the game, and a number of gadget plays were installed on both sides.
Friday was the only day of practice prior to the game. We drove about 20 miles to a practice site in Petersburg where the teams practiced simultaneously on two fields. The scouts stood in between the fields and alternated watching the North and South squads.
The first practice ended at noon and after a quick box lunch, the players dressed in their game uniforms and posed for team pictures. Right after pictures, they returned to the practice field for a second practice.
Because it was the day prior to the game, the two sessions were not particularly physical, but it was a good opportunity to see the players move around in a football setting. Each coaching staff ensured that all of the prospects received ample repetitions in one on one drills – this is particularly helpful when evaluating the skill positions. The linemen did not do a great deal of banging around due to the risk of injury, so much of their evaluation took place during the game.
Saturday's game was held at Cameron Field in Petersburg. It is a small, historic stadium that dates back to the 1930s. I arrived early and was amazed at the number of people setting up for game. People continued to stream in and by kickoff, a great crowd had assembled. The game was free to members of the military and a number of soldiers from nearby Fort Lee showed up and created a great atmosphere. Space was limited in the press box, so the scouts sat in the top row of the bleachers surrounded by friends and families of the players.
The South team won the game 27-0, behind a dominant defensive performance that included seven turnovers. Greg Toler, a defensive back from nearby St. Paul's, garnered two interceptions and Willie Williams, a linebacker from Union College in Kentucky had a number of big hits.
Although the North squad came up short, several of their players really stood out. Jeff Franklin, a safety from Central State had two interceptions and Jon Davis, a receiver from Azusa Pacific, electrified the crowd with an incredible one handed catch.
Following the game, I returned to the hotel to catch up on some reports. The next morning I packed up the car and made the long return trip to Ohio – a trip that was made even longer by the holiday traffic and constant downpour. I finally made it to Cincinnati late that evening.
On Monday morning I visited the University of Cincinnati one last time. There is a great deal of energy surrounding the program – In just his second season; head coach Brian Kelly has the Bearcats in a BCS game. The Cincinnati senior class is extremely deep, particularly in the secondary. DeAngelo Smith and Brandon Underwood are extremely versatile, having spent time at both safety and corner. Additionally, although he is currently banged up, corner Mike Mickens has great length and solid production.
After Cincinnati, I have just a few more stops before I turn in my final reports and take a short break. It will be great to head home for a few days with the family!
Here are all of the Eye on the Midwest blogs from this past season:
Eye on the Midwest: Big Ten Country
Eye on the Midwest: Power of Bagels
Eye on the Midwest: Out in Michigan
Eye on the Midwest: The Back Roads
Eye on the Midwest: Power Outage
Eye on the Midwest: College Season Begins
Eye on the Midwest: First Visits
Eye on the Midwest: Ready for the Road