Friday, March 21, 2008

Two Different Paths

There are many things I am wrong about - just ask The Blonde. And I have missed on my share of football players, but I was one of the first people on the Branden Ore and Brandon Flowers' bandwagons. These two players just screamed NFL to me the first time I saw each play - Flowers returning a pick in his first game and then filling in for Jimmy Williams in the Gator Bowl against Louisville, while Ore had a huge day against Marshall as a redshirt freshman. And now it's interesting to see how two NFL talents have taken such divergent paths.

Branden Ore has just been dismissed from the football team and will miss his redshirt senior season. Meanwhile Brandon Flowers just had a fantastic workout at his NFL Pro Day and will be a likely 1st and definitely 2nd round pick. Why? It comes down to the intangible that prevents recruiting stars from meaning very much to me - does the player have a complete commitment to the football team? 

This means a lot more than playing hard on game day. It means taking care of business in the classroom. It means not showing up late to practice for the Orange Bowl game. It means getting up at 5:30 AM for early morning workouts in the spring and sweating through two-a-days in August. It means a drive to hit the weight room in June for voluntary workouts. It means all of those things and the ones that have NFL talent AND do those things can go on to a successful career in the NFL. 

Brandon Flowers not only did all of these things, but he also played very hard on game day and he studied religiously in the film room. And after all of his hard work he will be rewarded with a well-deserved opportunity to play at the NFL level. He is not the fastest cornerback Virginia Tech has ever had, but he's the best one. And in my opinion, he's the best cornerback in the draft. He is incredibly physical at the line of scrimmage and in run support and his technique and instincts are as good as I can remember seeing. 

Meanwhile Branden Ore has amazing vision. He has the best jump cut I've seen since Eric Metcalf. In 2005 and 2006 he ran so hard it was inspirational. My brother-in-law and I always used to comment on how the first man NEVER got Ore. He just never got him. Ore would make him miss or break the tackle and I mean you can watch the footage of '05 and '06 (Cincinnati '06 is a particularly good example) and you just won't see the first guy bring Ore down. Then in 2007, yes there were offensive line problems, but the first man got Ore regularly. It came out that he was hurt (and I blame Billy Hite for continuing to play Ore like that) and when the line got better and he got healthier there were glimpses of the past greatness, but it was never the same for a full game.

Meanwhile in the locker room and off-the-field Ore never demonstrated the level of commitment that the coaches were looking for. I thought when he went home in the spring of '06 and worked at the 7-11, it really turned him around. Perhaps his injuries frustrated him, but even before he got hurt, showing up at for summer practice in '07 out of shape was a bit of a warning sign. 

I won't pretend to second guess or judge Branden Ore because he is the one who gets to live his life with the choices he's made. But I'll admit that it is hard for me to grasp, because I am not as good at anything as Ore was at running a football and he had what is essentially a lottery ticket in his hand. Had 2008 been a big year for Ore (with the offensive line looking so strong, that seems to have been a good possibility) he would likely have been a 2nd/3rd round pick in the draft next year. Now he won't be. 

As far as the Hokies football team in 2008 is concerned, Brandon Flowers' departure leaves a hole behind. There will be a good competition for the corner spot opposite Macho Harris and the Hokies have some decent experience there with Rock Carmichael and Stephen Virgil along with a monster talent in redshirt freshman Cris Hill. But it's nothing like the enormous stable of talent at the running back position. It's silly to say a back like Ore won't be missed, because no Hokie RB is at his level right now. But between Josh Oglesby, Darren Evans, Jahre Cheeseman and Kenny Lewis, Jr. a very capable two-deep will emerge. The arrival of Ryan Williams adds even more potential for the future, but Williams either needs to be on special teams as a returner or take a redshirt year in 2008 as he will need time to get bigger and stronger to be able to do the other things a Hokies RB needs to be able to do in the blocking game and taking a beating over the course of a season. But the future at running back is VERY bright for Virginia Tech and the Hokies will be fine there.

So when watching the draft, take a minute to be happy for Brandon Flowers when his name gets called. And then take a minute and reflect on Brandon Ore and how, despite having the talent, he won't have a similar opportunity. There's a lesson in there and I think it is that we should make sure to give everything we have every day towards our own goals. As the all-time great RB Walter Payton once said - "Tomorrow is promised to no one."

Spring Football starts in less than a week, so



Hokie Guru said...

Rumor... I hear Brandon Ore is going to West Liberty State next year...,73018

Ryan Williams, I hear, has C.J. Spiller (Clemson stud RB) type speed... see Matt Hayes' Inside Dish at The Sporting News...

I know Ryan is too young now, but we NEED him on the field next year... he, in short, is a stud horse... we haven't had speed in the backfield like this since Kevin Jones!!

Hokie Guru said...

I am so damn excited about this Ryan Williams kid... I live in Alexandria, VA and Williams is from Manassas... once I heard we got this kid, I went out to watch him play... he's the real deal... I've heard the reason he came to Tech is because Beamer said the competition is wide open at the TB slot... still, it would be good to save him for a year... but only a year... I can't wait to see this kid on the field with Tyrod Taylor.

MadJay said...

I've heard that Williams was promised PT his freshman year. I fully expect him to earn a spot in the return game. Then he can work his way into the backfield his sophomore year. There are too many guys in front of him that have been year for two years or more and have had a chance to learn the offense and get Gentrified.

The thought of a Taylor and Evans/Williams (Thunder & Lightning) backfield is very exciting in '09. Or perhaps Williams/Oglesby if everything I've heard about Oglesby is true.