Wednesday, December 10, 2008

3 'Cats land on All-Region Team but was Taylor Summers robbed?

The Division III football bible,, posted up their annual all-region teams yesterday and three Wildcats were honored in being named to the West Region team. It’s a great honor and something the players should be very proud of and the fans should recognize as well.

Senior Scott Birkhofer was named to the 1st team West Region as a place kicker. This is huge considering the kicker he beat out (Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Jeff Schebler) was the returning 1st team All-American and holds the division’s career record for most field goals converted. In the end, Scott’s tremendous distance in his kicks of 52, 54, and 56 yards on the year put him over the top. Scott also avg 63.6 yards in kickoffs with 9 touchbacks. No doubt the ‘Cats are going to miss Scott next season and is the best kicker in school history.

Senior Offensive Tackle, Jared Hinkle, was named to the regions 3rd team. Hinkle was a dominate force in the NWC for the past few seasons. I have to figure identifying offensive linemen is tough because there is no direct published stats attached to offensive linemen but coaches in the conference, coaches in the Wildcat program, and his fellow players all knew that #55 wasn’t giving up sacks and was constantly moving bodies off the line. Just a great talent that is as respected of a player that you will find.

Now here is where I had an initial gripe with the all-region teams. Taylor Summers being named to the 3rd team as a defensive end. At first I couldn’t believe my eyes. Summers had just as dominate of a season of Wildcat greats of recent memory (Lions, Rix, Ort, Olsen, etc). Teams feared him, sent extra bodies at him, and at times it seemed that #92 couldn’t be blocked on passing downs. Taylor was a force and I have to say that my initial reaction was that I was ticked.

However, instead of just bitching on, like so many posters who feel their player/coach, were robbed of an honor, I sat down and tried to look at this as objective as possible. In the west region alone there are seven conferences and 59 teams in the entire west region so it’s pretty much impossible for the people to see all of these teams play and really see just how a defensive end could impact the game plan of another team.

This is a very tough duty and I know the reputation of the conference and teams do carry weight, as well as the overall record of the teams in question. So when all things are equal I believe it gets down to the stat sheet and where you measure up. So, I took a look at the stats for the 4 defensive ends in front of Taylor and my initial anger was settled down….for the most part.

Taylor had a great stat line in 2008. In 9 games Summers had 36 tackles (20 solo), 16.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 8 quarterback hurries.

1st team Marcus Ball from UW-Stout had 68 total tackles (43 solo), 24.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, quarterback hurries were not listed. Ball did this in ten games. That’s a hell of a stat line and Ball did do this in the WIAC so I sure that carries some extra weight.

The other 1st teamer was Brock Arndt from Redlands and in 9 games put up 57 tackles (27 solo), 22.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 15 quarter back hurries. Again, that’s a really impressive stat line.

When you compare Taylor’s line with Ball and Arndt you can see why they were pick in front of Taylor. Even though Ball played in one more game the area that I think probably landed them their 1st team spots were solo and total tackles. I really don’t have room to argue this point and will concede that those two are very deserving of the 1st team honor.

However, I think where I might have more footing in my argument is the 2nd team selection of Aaron Mills from Bethel (MIAC). Mills had a great season but I don’t think his stat line is more impressive that Taylor’s. In 10 games Mills had 48 tackles (35 solo), 15 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, and 0 quarterback hurries.

The other 2nd team pick was Jacob Calderon from Cal Lutheran. Calderon’s line in 9 games is 67 tackles (39 solo), 19.0 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 quarterback hurries.

Calderon did have a significant number of solo tackles but Summers did have 6 more hurries that Calderon. On the surface, it appears that both Summers and Calderon had really similar season but both look like they had better lines that Aaron Mills, in my opinion. Yes, Mills did have more tackles that Summers but Summers played in one less game had had more TFL’s, sacks, forced fumbles, and crushes Mills in the hurry category. Shouldn’t sacks, TFL’s, hurries carry more weight that just tackles? Um…yes.

Ultimately, what I think held back Summers a bit beside the total tackles numbers is the fact the NWC coaches put the dreaded “CO-“ defensive player of the year tag on Taylor. I’ve stated this before but Summers was hands down the best defensive player in the conference and it wasn’t even close. However, the coaches traditionally like to give the conference winner the spoils and they split the award to Willamette linebacker Tommy Grove.

Well, was live and in-person at the UWW/Willamette game and needless to say the NWC Co-Defensive player of the year got ran on for 254 yards by the Hawks 2nd string RB who was starting his 1st game of his career. I can see how might have thought, “if this is the co-best defensive player of the year then I’m not sure if the other guys the coaches picked is on that 1st team level?” You think that line of thinking is crazy? Well, where is Tommy Grove on the all-region defense team? He’s not, but his teammate and the other linebacker "non co-defensive player of the year" Jack Bevins is. I rest my case on that line of thinking.

Regardless, I have great respect for and the way they pick their teams. They don’t put 15 running backs on the 1st team, no, they make the hard choice and say “here are the players who we deem the best” and go with it. Congratulations to all the players who made all-region. It’s a great honor and you all should be very proud of it.

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