Insider Interview: Ballou Notes
A few minutes with Sporting News' radio host Rick Ballou
By Chris Timoney, Patriots Insider
So this much-anticipated NFL draft is just days away and everyone from Mel Kiper Jr. to Wolf Blitzer has an opinion on how things will unfold in New York City this weekend. I found my own college football guru in Sporting News Radio's Rick Ballou of the nationally popular Rick Ballou Show, heard weeknights (10 PM - 2 AM ET) on the Sporting News Radio Network. Rick's a HUGE college football fan and quite knowledgeable about it's players and coaches. The self-proclaimed recruiting geek was able to break away from his Illinois high school notes and lend his insight as to how the draft will unfold for the Patriots and the rest of the NFL.
were in Florida back in the 80's and 90's during some memorable time in the college
football, what was that like for a big college football fan such as yourself?
RB: It was unbelievable. I got to Florida State in '87, that's the year they lost to Miami by 1 point at home. It was before overtime, so instead of kicking the PAT to tie it they went for two and failed and ended up 11-1 that year. It was great being in Florida during that time.
CT: Your favorite coach
is Bobby Bowden, what was it like to be around his legendary status?
RB: That was in '87, my first year at FSU. Twelve consecutive years of 10 wins and top 5 finishes. It was mind boggling to see how he built that program and how consistent it got. All the great players that they put out year after year into the NFL draft. It began with college football recruiting. I'm a huge recruiting geek. I spend way to much time evaluating where 17 & 18 year old kids are going to go to college.
You see it (recruiting) pay off years down the road. For instance, Adrian McPhereson, who just met with the Patriots, he's the only Mr. Football and Mr. Basketball in the state of Florida. He was supposed to be the savior at QB before he got kicked off the team. It's things like that you see happen that are just incredible in regards to the ability to recruit.
How about these kids, college kids, what are they like long before the draft?
RB: I had a radio interview with these three. I had them all on at once when they were freshmen; Randy Moss, Peter Warrick and Laverneous Coles.
WOW. How did you get a word in edgewise?
RB: You know what, if you could see them then compared to what they are now, they all were very shy. Outstanding manners calling me Sir and Mister, it was unbelievable. Randy Moss, he was as polite as I've ever seen.
CT: O.K. Rick, into this years draft. Who
is the biggest impact player in the draft?
RB: Everyone's saying Braylon Edwards, that's too easy. I honestly think it's the other wide receiver. I think its Mike Williams. All you have to do is watch what he did at USC. As a college football guy in my office I've got seven satellites and eleven televisions and I watch every game either live or on Tivo. I never missed USC play. This kid is a legitimate 6'5". He doesn't have game breaking speed, but decent speed. Incredible hands, he's a great athlete. He's a big presence, he's not afraid to go over the middle, I absolutely love Mike Williams. I think he's a can't miss. Even if he grew and added another 20-25 pounds, which I don't think he'll do, you can put the guy at tight end.
CT: That would be getting David
RB: In my opinion he's going to be the guy that you'll see 2-3 years down the road I think be possibly the best player in this years draft class. He didn't even get offers from Miami & Florida St. And Florida recruited him as a tight end. It was a great find for Pete Carroll. The guy scored 30 touchdowns in 2 years. The guy was absolutely out of this world.
Do you see Lofa Tatupu being drafted?
RB: So many people have opinions on the draft. I form most of my opinions from people that I talk to. I think Tatupu will end up being a serviceable guy. A pretty good NFL pick, maybe a day one pick. I don't think he's going to be a superstar, but I think he'd fit in fine with what New England has proven that they do year in and year out with the draft.
CT: Speaking of the Pats, with the first
pick do you think they should lean towards offensive lineman or do you see them
going youthful at linebacker?
RB: New England has proven in the last couple of years through the draft as well as through free agency that they're able to plug in holes with that offensive line. I think that's one of the priorities but you have to look right now at your defense. You're so young along the line; you've got 6 or 7 guys 25 or younger so you're set there. I would look at linebacker and secondary. The beauty of this year's draft is cornerback is the deepest position defensively. They love Justin Miller out of Clemson and Marlon Jackson out of Michigan; I think that would be the pick at 32. If they don't totally love a player at 32 they can even make the move and trade out.
If you look at players 20-40 I don't think there's a huge difference in talent. I wouldn't be surprised if you see Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick try to stockpile another pick or so and move down into the second or third round with an extra selection.
CT: With Belichick and Pioli it's good for Pats fans such
as yourself to have the confidence that in the draft when 32 comes up it's not
going to be another Eugene Chung.
RB: Yeah, that's not going to happen anymore. I really think the pickup of David Terrell is going to be an outstanding pick.
CT: David Terrell didn't exactly have Tom Brady
or Peyton Manning throwing to him in Chicago.
RB: No. He had a lot of different QB's, he was under different systems. He made some good plays, but he dropped some balls and he did some things that frankly aren't allowed under Belichick. Terrell's coming in for the one-year minimum, he's got to understand that this might not be his last chance but this is such a great opportunity to go out and have a great year on a great team and turn around his career and put himself in position to get a very large contract next year.
talked to a lot of players over the years. Headed into the draft, are college
players more excited, nervous or flat-out confused?
RB: Excited is a good word. I think they're careful. When they go out and do these interviews for them, guided by their agent, every interview they do is an opportunity to be heard. You never know who's listening. Make sure you say the right things. It's amazing, you ask one of these kids a question now then get them when they've played 32 NFL games and their response is like night and day. Whether it's at the combine or individual workouts or talking to members of the media, they've been briefed by their agent that radio, television and writers have significant power with their opinion on someone. So therefore, make sure you say the right things or just elect not to do the interview.
CT: When you get down
to the nuts and bolts it's all just a big job interview.
RB: Yep, this is still a job interview. You know it's a little disappointing. I talk to these guys all throughout college, up to the draft and once they become pros and the money and the criticism comes in, a lot of them just stop talking. That's the way the system is, it's always been that way. Frankly, it's never going to change.
There's some nervousness also. Let's face it, four years ago they're picking where they want to go to school and now people are nitpicking them saying that "he's too slow, he doesn't run the crisp disciplined route, he doesn't break off the ball". It's all these crazy things that scouts say. Scouts can't wait to find something wrong with you.
CT: Draft Day 2005 is coming up quickly,
but who's looking good in 2006?
RB: Leinhart will be number 1 and Reggie Bush might be number 2. I don't think there's any question about that. Reggie Bush at USC is going to be out of this world. There's a couple of linebackers. Ernie Sims out of Florida State. A guy who could've come out this year, and didn't, and probably would have been a top 15 pick is Ahmed Brooks from Virginia. There's a guy right there that you can look at and say he's going to end up being an incredible prospect. Michigan has a combo-tweener guy like a Sean Merriman or a David Pollack, a guy by the name of LaMarr Woodley. The scouts have been raving about him. The other guy would be Chris Leak, the QB out of Florida. Last year at this time, did we think Alex Smith or Aaron Rodgers would be the first pick of the draft? They weren't even on the radar.
So there you have it from one of the premier college football minds on the airwaves. Insight to not only this weekends draft but next years as well. I guess I should have asked Rick who the top high school recruit in Wyoming is... I bet he'd have the answer.
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