Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Talent Gap

I'm not certain how he does it, but Mount Union's Larry Kehres seems to recruit/transfer-in players that are above and (especially) beyond the quality of players seen on other D3 programs. And he's been doing it for just about 20 years now. I realize this is anything but new, but after watching their game against Mary Hardin Baylor (a team, thought by many, capable of realistically beat UMU), I was just in awe on how they dominated that game. I'm aware the score indicated it was a close, but that's only because Mount spotted them FIVE turnovers, and they still managed to win by two touchdowns!!! How many times does a team lose the turnover margin by that much, and still come out as double digit winners?? Answer: You can probably count the occurrences on one hand! Yes, MHB did cough it up late in the game making Mount's turnover margin -4 on the day, but the damage was already done and the game was over by then

MHB was a very good team this season with an outstanding offense and a solid defense. In fact, this was probably one of the best MHB teams they've ever fielded. However, Mount's quarterback (Burke) - only a sophomore - and a host of wide receivers (especially Jasper Collins) just tore apart MHB's secondary. The way Mount Union's receivers (with their speed and quickness) are able to get off the line and create separation isn't typically seen at this level. Collins (like Cecil Shorts before him, and Pierre Garcon before him) is about damn near uncoverable at this level of college football. Besides a special teams miscue that lead to a quick MHB touchdown, and a throwing mistake (pick six) by Burke, Mount's offense and defense just manhandled D3's second best team. Mount out gained MHB 457 total yards to just 275. And the Crusaders are a team that averages over 523 yards/game!!!! By scoring 34 points in the fourth quarter alone, Mount almost equalled MHB's point total for the entire game (35). Speaking of their defense, I think I counted three or four Purple Raiders in MHB's backfield following just about each snap in the fourth quarter. Their front six or seven were unblockable and just destroyed MHB's offensive line late in the game. Considering they did it against a Crusaders line that consisted of a 2013 Preseason First Team All-American, and a First Team All-Region player. Luckily for MHB, they have a very athletic QB in LiDarral Bailey. The senior did his best avoiding the onslaughting waves of purple attackers - which at times wasn't enough.

You will never hear me say that it is Mount Union's time to move up to D2. Or that Kehres has an unfair advantage...that's just ridiculous and in no-way true. He's just taking full advantage of not having a roster limit (just like 90% of all D3 football programs have), while allowing the best to emerge from the pack as nobody gets cut. It's just amazing to me the level of talent that Kehres is able to bring in year in and year out from all over the country. Just by watching one game, you can see that the Purple Raiders' athleticism far out weighs the athleticism of most other programs. Mount Union's recruiting tentacles extend far beyond Ohio and its neighboring states. They actually seem to have pipelines to various corners of the country. A little over half of their roster contains players from Ohio. That's really not that much considering most D3 programs get a vast majority its roster from in-state. Whereas almost a quarter of Kehres's roster contains players from outside Ohio and their neighboring states. Numerous athletes are plucked from: Florida, New York, Texas, Maryland, Virgina, California and even the Bahamas. Nine roster players alone are from Florida - which really needs a D3 football program already :). Between coaching and recruiting Kehres knows exactly what he's doing...and has been doing it well. Extremely well.

Because D3 football is so large (239 some-odd teams I believe), the talent gab between teams are equally as large. Looking at the All-American list each year I think the committee is being modest with the athletes in some of these big programs. In fact, I would take a handful of Mount Union players - that didn't make the list - over many non-Purple Raiders that did make the All-American team. Yes, some of those athletes from various programs put up All-American type numbers in their respected conferences, and do deserve the recognition. But in my opinion, (trying to avoid sounding like Roger Waters) some might be just another "brick in the wall" if they played for a big program (i.e. Mount Union, Whitewater, MHB, Linfield or St. Thomas). I guess what I'm trying to say is (in trying my hardest not to sound condescending), All-Americans at less prestigious D3 teams may not be at the same talent level as some athletes on these aforementioned schools....if that makes sense.

After that MHB game I was just awestruck by the speed and athleticism of Mount Union. And to do it for almost 20 years straight now is just mindblowing. It almost didn't seem like D3 football to me, but something you watch on a major network (ABC/ESPN/NBC) on Saturdays. No rebuilding required in Alliance, but rather just reload in spring time. After seven seasons (2005-2011) Whitewater seemed to be on their way to "Mount Union type greatness" but fell flat and failed to make the playoffs in 2012. Whitewater still has a bunch of question marks for next season. So it's tough to tell if the Warhawks will need some years to rebuild, or if 2012 was just a hiccup. UWW has probably been the closets team in D3 history to replicate UMU's success. However they are still years of successful seasons away from being where the Purple Raiders are today.

It wasn't my intention to write this to patronize lesser D3 schools where athletics may not be a top priority. Nor was it written to offer up misinterpreted back-handed complements to Mount Union. But rather, it's just a grouping of random thoughts following the Mount Union/MHB game, and just how much better some programs are compared to hundred(s) of others in D3.


  1. And yet for all that disparity, UW-W beat UMU three straight Staggs, hmm?

  2. Right, but Mount still had VERY good teams those years and every year for that matter. Good teams come in go in DIII: Rowan, St. John's, UW-La Crosse, Wittenberg, Augustana, Ithica. Time will tell if Whitewater will be added to that list. One thing has been constant since 1993 and that's UMU.

    I appreciate the feedback!