Monday, January 16, 2012

Coaches reflect on 'Cat All-American/All-Region Awards

2011 was another standout season for YOUR Linfield Wildcats as the 'Cats 10-1 season was recognized with four 'Cats received post-season accolades from All four of the Wildcats selected are not only great players but they are TEAM players first and foremost. Very little ego and that attitude was reflective throughout the program. As usual, Linfield Head Coach Joseph Smith puts it best when asked about these players: "As it typically the case, an All American Award is an individual award that is often dictated by the team’s overall success. So our entire program takes great pride when one of our own is selected, as it reflects on us all, not just the tip of the spear. This group is special in many ways, but one thing that jumps out at me is that they are all Oregon boys; now men. These guys put the goal of a National Championship right out in the open, daring for greatness. More importantly, they installed the mindset into this team that we would work so hard, that we would be able to stand toe to toe with the best in the country, anywhere, anytime. All are intense competitors and embody the spirit of this program. No short cuts. Shut up and lets work. And when its game time, run to the battle and leave it all out there." -Joseph Smith Linfield Head Coach

#4 Drew Fisher, Senior, Safety - 1st Team All-American 
(2x All-American)

76 Total Tackles (45 solo, 31 ast.), 10 Tackles For Loss, 2 Sacks, 5 Int's, 4 pass breakups, 1 Fumble Recover, 1 Forced Fumble, 1st Team All-Northwest Conference (3x 1st team All-NWC), rated top defensive back in NWC (x2 (2009))  NWC Defensive Player of the Year, 1st Team All-West Region (

Defensive Back Coach Neil Fendall: "I have talked a lot about Drew and to a lot of people over the last 4 years. We've spent many hours around practice and meetings and I've gotten to know him fairly well. The truth is, we knew he could play. There's no way to predict that a guy would have the amount of success he had however. He truly performed. It's common to recall guys like Drew and it sounds like they are perfect players. That is never the case. However, I don't think you could ask for a better teammate than Fish. Aside from all the recognition and accolades, he was a guy who showed up every day. I am pressed to recall Fish missing a practice over the last 4 years. The way we practice, that's hard to believe. He was pushed very hard both by myself and the demands of the position he plays. Recently I was talking with an alum who played the same position and he stated how impressive it was to see how Drew performs in games especially knowing how much is put on his plate mentally at his position.

The beauty of coaching is watching a guy develop year to year and become a young man. Drew worked through our system, dealt with differences in opinions with myself, and continued to lead others and accept the responsibilities that entails.

Fish will be remembered for clutch interceptions and some of the biggest hits one will witness watching this game. I will remember the character and poise he showed at some of the most crucial moments of his career. I will remember him helping the kids in our community and coaching little league. I will remember arguing with him when he didn't think things were the way they should be. All these things stand out in my mind about Drew. He's a good man and has made this place a better one for those around him. He has guts and courage. He looks you in the eye. I'd love to conclude with a sarcastic shot across the bow, but instead I will commend him and thank him for the last four years. Only a young man with his wit and humor understands how difficult that can be!

Lastly, I would be remiss to talk about him as an All-American without mention of the others in his class. Testa, Biege, Krieger, Skore, Hanna, Dixon and Parish played a large part in this award as well as all the linebackers and defensive linemen who played in front of him. I know he would say the same thing."

Coach Smith on Drew: "We have had very few defensive players voted by their teammates as the Team MVP. Drew is in a very special class of players to have received that honor. He not only dominated on the field, but he was a tremendous leader for us, a rare player that makes everyone else around him better. I am not sure we have recruited a player for as long or as hard as we did Drew, I even called him from on top of Mt. Bachelor while skiing with my family. We were that sure he would be an impact player here and that he had everything we desired: integrity, poise, vision and anticipation, hip strike, and consistency. However, Drew’s ability to rise to the occasion during games is what separates him from the rest. He is truly remarkable at making a big play when it is needed the most. In the time I have been here, we have had 3 All American Defensive backs wear #4 (Hughes, Rix, Fisher). All were defensive MVPs of the league, all were among the top to have ever played their position here at Linfield. Halvorsen in the 80’s, Bolin early 90’s, Capdeville late 90’s, Lions early 2000’s, Ort mid 2000’s, and Fisher the last 3 seasons. In my opinion, those are the best to have played the Deep Middle at Linfield for the past 30 years. Fish is in rare company."

#59 Tyler Steele, Junior, Defensive Tackle
3rd Team All-American

49 Total Tackles (28 solo, 21 asst.), 18 Tackles For Loss, 13 sacks, 2 pass breakups, 1 blocked kick, 1st Team All-NWC (2x 1st Team All-NWC),  rated top defensive NWC defensive lineman, 1st Team All-West Region

Defensive Coordinator and Defensive Line Coach Jackson Vaughan: "Tyler really had one of the most dominant seasons I have seen a Defensive Tackle have in my time at Linfield. Having started since the first game of his freshman year, Tyler has a tremendous amount of game experience and that really started to work to his benefit this season. In past seasons, Tyler was very good but was solely focused on doing his job, controlling his gap, and not getting tricked or fooled by anything. This season, with the added game experience Tyler had a great understanding of game situations and offensive tendencies which allowed him to take a lot more chances and make a lot more plays. For a defensive tackle to lead the team with double digit sacks and finish third in total tackles is certainly a very impressive feat and one that I don’t believe I have seen in my 18 years at Linfield.

The other factors that I feel have made Tyler successful on the field are his continual drive to get better every day at practice. He has established himself as the hardest working and toughest player on our defensive line and certainly leads by example every day. It is truly a lot of fun when you see someone that does it the right way have the kind of success Tyler had on the field this past season. This is especially amazing when you see his messed up feet and wonder how the guy can even run straight and then see you see him go out and dominate on the field!"

Coach Smith on Tyler: "Defensive Tackle is all about desire and toughness. If you can’t take a pounding constantly, and still keep coming with everything you have, you can’t play that position. Tyler has the true “motor” and desire that every defensive line coach covets, but few are blessed to coach a player with it. Tyler has everything you want as a DT. A great strike, great knee bend and flexibility, and able to learn and master the physical moves necessary to be great against the run and the pass. He is definitely one of the best DTs in the Country, and certainly one of the more dominant DTs to have played at Linfield. He was a wrecking ball this year versus every team we played. CLU and Wesley, two of the elite teams in the nation flat could not block him. Tyler is excellent in all that he does. He is a man of character, a true gentlemen, a complete team player, and a joy to coach."

#70 Jordan Barnes, Senior, Offensive Guard
Honorable Mention All-American

20 knockdowns, 5 pancakes, 1 sack allowed, 1st Team All-NWC (3x 1st team All-NWC),  rated top offensive lineman in NWC (x2 (2009)), 1st Team All-West Region

Offensive Line and Assistant Head Coach Doug Hire: "Impressive from the start, the first day I met him. He had a look in his eyes that perhaps only I could see and will never forget. A look that was somewhat serious, very confident, and yet humbling. I saw the potential future of an All American- without a doubt. Jordan lived to that expectation through his work ethic, commitment to excellence, and willingness to learn.  No question one of the most physical and confident players I have coached, a testament to the time and commitment in the weight room and training.

Offensive line coaches love physical and tough players up front, characteristics that will allow success in the trenches, every down, every game, and throughout the season. I believe toughness is not how much you dish out or give, it's how much you can take physically and mentally. Jordan is tough both mentally and physically and he played that way, persevered through adversity especially when he was hurt.

You hear of guys who are gamers, guys who get through practice during the week and show up on game day. Not Jordan, he practiced and prepared like a champion and expected perfection in everything he did- drills, team sessions, and one on one drills. He always came ready to practice although at time he was slow getting ready for practice (I gave him a hard time on this issue especially during his sophomore year) but once he finally got all his gear on he was ready to practice. Jordan was the guy who reminded me not to skip the tough drills, the drills that made the guys tougher and work harder (chutes, sled, yo-yo, and line drills).

Jordan will be missed and I can only hope for more Jordan Barnes in the future. "

Coach Smith on Jordan: "Jordan was someone we had very high hopes for, as his high school coaches thought he was of the finest offensive lineman to have played at Lake Oswego. He did not disappoint. Jordan was in the mix right away at Linfield, and has been amazingly versatile for us. He has performed at a steady high level his entire career here whether at Left Guard, or Right Guard, or Left Tackle, or Right Tackle. Jordan is at his best when the action starts for that is when his competitive nature is drawn out the most. No matter versus who or where, when the action started you knew Jordan would be ready and able."

#7 Josh Kay, Junior, Place Kicker 
2nd Team All-West Region

Field Goals: 16 out of 19 (84.2%), Long of 49 yards, 55 out of 56 on PAT's, 5 out of 5 FG attempts in playoffs, 61 yard average on kickoffs, 1st Team All-NWC, Fred Mitchell Award Finalist

Special Teams Coordinator Brandon Hazenberg: "As a team, we couldn't be prouder of Josh for the season he just had on so many different levels. Josh decided to fully commit to the team sometime this off-season and it showed in his performance this fall. After what we would both call a disappointing season in 2010 for him, Mr. Kay developed consistency in all aspects of his game. From start to finish Josh worked on not only his physical skills, but his mental game as well. His time as a golfer throughout his life has prepared him for the big moments of place kicking, which are the moments that actually happen during a game, not practice! The largest change for Josh was creating practice habits of taking each PAT/FG kick as seriously and individually as the next, preparing himself for pressure kicking situations. With this routine we developed, he really found a comfort zone with each situation, trusting his teammates and putting it "up and through."

In terms of his Kickoff game this season, we lengthened his approach about week 3 of the season which really allowed him to get some more athleticism into the kick. Josh is a very fast and explosive kicker, so giving him an opportunity to attack the football with speed paid some dividends. For him, letting the approach and his speed do some of the work for him was different, which forced him to again rely on changing things mentally. Just like a golf swing, just like a high jumper, or even a javelin thrower would know..... your approach coupled with an explosive and sound contact/plant/jump leg is the key to maximum exertion in any athletic movement, any sport, period. If he continues to challenge himself and his limits, he could be very good next season.

It was very fun to see the way Josh committed to the team this season and the way I think everyone else committed back. Josh is a funny dude sometimes, but our team trusted this guy and that is a big time compliment to any kicker in my opinion. Heck, the guy lives with our JHill & Domo, two First Teamers! If he can hang with them, that's a good deal.

As he already knows, our biggest challenge lies ahead in working to get better and trying to become the best possible kicker we can. It's going to take the same patience, the same routine and the same commitment it did this year and more. This season, while it was amazing and deserving, sets some high standards for Josh to strive for this off-season. Our staff trusts that Josh is going to work very hard this off-season and will come back next year ready to start over. It doesn't matter if you've done it a 1000 times already, each year, each game and every kick is new in it's own right. Josh knows you have to approach it that way, assess your surrounding, relax and rely on your routine.

My only problem with the guy is that he's getting too comfortable in his own skin. He is probably gonna drive us crazy this year with jokes, dances and weird kicker antics.... but for a guy like that......we wouldn't trade'em for anybody.

Congrats again on a great season to Josh Kay, MY 2011 NWC Special Teams POY!

(*Quick Sidenote---We have a great group of kickers/punters. Tons of competition going on in there, but these guys are awesome to work with! Big shout out to Repp, Kuni, and Walk.)

(Quick Sidenote #2---To Chopp, Biege and guys helped change the way we as a team view Special Teams play. Can't thank you guys enough. It will be a lasting impact. Best of luck fellas.)"

Coach Smith on Josh: "I am so very impressed with how Josh came out and won the kicking job this year. After having an inconsistent and unfocused year last year, he worked on some things and came out and really performed well. He had as good a season as we have had from a kicker. He was dominant in his kickoffs, and his accuracy in his field goals was exceptional. Josh was a big factor for us this year, and it was not accident. He was usually the first one out on the field, and you could find him mentally going through his approaches from various spots on the field. His mental focus and toughness was commendable this year, and combined with a lot of intentional work on the little things, he developed into a real weapon."

1 comment:

Chris said...

Awesome job Cats! Glad to see you get the recognition you deserve. Glad to see we get 2 of the guys back to make another run at it!