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Thread: Mendenhall Ready To Respond

  1. #1
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    Mendenhall Ready To Respond

    Running back ready to respond to next challenge
    BOB LABRIOLA
    Editor

    Every major college football conference has them. Each summer, the conference brings together its head coaches, who then each pick a player or two, and the whole gang goes to a bigcity hotel to stand behind microphones for a couple of days to build some hype for the upcoming season.

    Last July 31, the Big Ten was at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago, and in between sound bites, Illinois coach Ron Zook spent some quality time with his 20-year-old tailback. “I told him at the beginning of the year, at the Big Ten meetings, ‘Rashard, I’m going to put some pressure on you. I really believe that we’re going to go as you go. If you have the kind of year we all think you can have, then we’re going to have a pretty good season.’ He took that challenge.”

    Understand that the challenge Zook put before Rashard Mendenhall was a whole lot
    different than anything Jim Tressel might have been issuing to Chris Wells over in the Ohio State corner of the ballroom. This was to be the third season Mendenhall would spend playing for Zook in Champaign, and the previous two had been spent looking up at the rest of the conference from the bottom of the standings. Last in the conference at 0-8 in 2005, the Illini improved to tied for last at 1-7 in 2006.

    Five full months later, the Illinois football team, after posting a 6-2 conference record that was highlighted by wins against Wisconsin, Penn State and at Ohio State, was set to play USC in the Rose Bowl, and one of the reasons was what Mendenhall had contributed to the Illini’s running attack.

    Illinois led the Big Ten in rushing, with a 5.6-yard average per play and a 256.8-yard average per game; Mendenhall personally took care of 1,681 of those yards, not to mention 17 of the 28 touchdowns. If numbers aren’t your thing, go to YouTube, type in “Rashard Mendenhall” and check out the highlights package from the 31-26 win over Wisconsin. Take special note of the number of third downs the Illini converted in the second half by handing the ball to Mendenhall.

    “He is very, very talented, as talented as any guy I’ve been around when you’re talking about God-given ability,” said Zook. “He’s got the work ethic. He’s very confident, and as soon as he realizes what that league is all about and what he has to do, he’ll be an awfully good player.”

    Playing a bowl game against USC is about as close to the NFL experience as one can get without getting fined for how you wear your socks, and Mendenhall got the maximum bang for his exposure on that stage.

    “Obviously, USC is a very, very good football team, and at that time I believe he was thinking there was a chance he might come out (for the NFL draft),” said Zook. “I told him, ‘If you’re thinking about coming out (for the draft), it’s going to be very, very important that you have the kind of game that you can have on this national stage.’ ”

    Illinois got crushed, 49-17, but Mendenhall proved he belonged. He rushed for 155 yards on 17 carries, including a 79-yard touchdown, and he caught five passes for 59 more yards.

    “When you talk about the stage and the quality of the team he did it against, a very, very good football team and a defense that runs very well, I think he showed not only does he have toughness but he also showed the speed to run away from people,” said Zook. “I think he showed a lot in that game.”

    If his performance against USC was the final shove Mendenhall needed to work himself into the first round of this NFL draft, Zook also knows more will be necessary to live up to the status the Steelers laid on him by making him a No. 1 pick. Zook knows this because he coached in the NFL, especially because he coached special teams under
    Bill Cowher here from 1996-98.

    “I tried to tell him, but he really has to experience it,” said Zook. “When you tell him it’s hard work, when you tell him it’s a different game because it’s so fast, they all believe they have the ability to adjust. Rashard does have the ability, but until he gets in there and does it, it’s hard to understand the level of football that it really is.

    “He’ll never be an issue off the field, and I believe all of his good football is in front of him. He’s just going to get better and better.”

  2. #2

    Re: Mendenhall Ready To Respond

    Let me say a few things about Mendenhall. First, I like that comment about how he produces on 3rd down. I will take that stat over just about any. He is a VERY talented back. But lets pause for a second before we annoint him the next LT. Things I'm personally concerned about....

    1) Wasn't able to break into the starting line up until his junior season.
    2) Big Run D's (ie OSU, Penn St/) shut him down pretty well. He had 76 and 88 yards in those two games, respectively. I will say though that he did shine against USC....but that was his ONLY big running game in his college career against a tough D.

    I say this to keep peoples expectations in check. He is a very talented back but he has alot to learn and to prove. Don't be shocked if Parker and Russell start the season as the 1/2 punch with Mendenhall occasionally sprinkled in. If this happens the Bustenhall comments will pour from the mouths of the ignorant. Give the guy a little time to get acclimated to the league and the speed of pro ball.

  3. #3

    Re: Mendenhall Ready To Respond

    What is nice is that he will have a few years till he will be relied upon to carry the load if you will and with that comes the pressure.

    I expect the coaching staff to use Mendenall at the best times to suit his abilities, barring any injuries to FWP. I see about 10 touches a game for him, maybe more if he earns the returner job. Although, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him as the short yardage running back, which could increase his touch total.
    He who forgets, will be destined to remember.

  4. #4

    Re: Mendenhall Ready To Respond

    Quote Originally Posted by ShawnMedGuy
    Let me say a few things about Mendenhall. First, I like that comment about how he produces on 3rd down. I will take that stat over just about any. He is a VERY talented back. But lets pause for a second before we annoint him the next LT. Things I'm personally concerned about....

    1) Wasn't able to break into the starting line up until his junior season.
    2) Big Run D's (ie OSU, Penn St/) shut him down pretty well. He had 76 and 88 yards in those two games, respectively. I will say though that he did shine against USC....but that was his ONLY big running game in his college career against a tough D.

    I say this to keep peoples expectations in check. He is a very talented back but he has alot to learn and to prove. Don't be shocked if Parker and Russell start the season as the 1/2 punch with Mendenhall occasionally sprinkled in. If this happens the Bustenhall comments will pour from the mouths of the ignorant. Give the guy a little time to get acclimated to the league and the speed of pro ball.
    Shawn, those same concerns you mentioned are troubling to me. I also worry about the style of offense he played in.

    BTW-- I would be very shocked to see Russell vault above Davenport, and Moore in the depth chart if Mendenhall remains unsigned or struggles to pick up the offense. I don't believe he was even active during any games till FWP got hurt.
    He who forgets, will be destined to remember.

  5. #5

    Re: Mendenhall Ready To Respond

    Quote Originally Posted by ShawnMedGuy
    Let me say a few things about Mendenhall. First, I like that comment about how he produces on 3rd down. I will take that stat over just about any. He is a VERY talented back. But lets pause for a second before we annoint him the next LT. Things I'm personally concerned about....

    1) Wasn't able to break into the starting line up until his junior season.
    2) Big Run D's (ie OSU, Penn St/) shut him down pretty well. He had 76 and 88 yards in those two games, respectively. I will say though that he did shine against USC....but that was his ONLY big running game in his college career against a tough D.

    I say this to keep peoples expectations in check. He is a very talented back but he has alot to learn and to prove. Don't be shocked if Parker and Russell start the season as the 1/2 punch with Mendenhall occasionally sprinkled in. If this happens the Bustenhall comments will pour from the mouths of the ignorant. Give the guy a little time to get acclimated to the league and the speed of pro ball.
    Insightful post SMG, the thing that impresses me with Mendy is that in most games when he didn't run the ball as well, he made up for it catching the ball out of the backfield.

    At OSU he only had only 4 yards receiving but against Pen St. he still had over 100 total yards and a td. IMO this guy has the ability to get his yards one way or the other.
    http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/player/pr ... rId=174861
    BnB Mock 2014
    1. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
    2. Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
    3. Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
    4. Phillip Gaines, CB, Rice
    5. Jordan Zumwalt, ILB, UCLA
    5. Jerick McKinnon, RB, Georgia Southern
    6. Prince Shembo, OLB, Notre Dame
    6. Beau Allen, NT, Wisconsin
    7. Shaquille Richardson, CB, Arizona (went to BnB's Los Alamitos High School)


    Another AS masterpiece.

  6. #6
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    Re: Mendenhall Ready To Respond

    Quote Originally Posted by BigLebowski
    Quote Originally Posted by ShawnMedGuy
    Let me say a few things about Mendenhall. First, I like that comment about how he produces on 3rd down. I will take that stat over just about any. He is a VERY talented back. But lets pause for a second before we annoint him the next LT. Things I'm personally concerned about....

    1) Wasn't able to break into the starting line up until his junior season.
    2) Big Run D's (ie OSU, Penn St/) shut him down pretty well. He had 76 and 88 yards in those two games, respectively. I will say though that he did shine against USC....but that was his ONLY big running game in his college career against a tough D.

    I say this to keep peoples expectations in check. He is a very talented back but he has alot to learn and to prove. Don't be shocked if Parker and Russell start the season as the 1/2 punch with Mendenhall occasionally sprinkled in. If this happens the Bustenhall comments will pour from the mouths of the ignorant. Give the guy a little time to get acclimated to the league and the speed of pro ball.
    Shawn, those same concerns you mentioned are troubling to me. I also worry about the style of offense he played in.

    BTW-- I would be very shocked to see Russell vault above Davenport, and Moore in the depth chart if Mendenhall remains unsigned or struggles to pick up the offense. I don't believe he was even active during any games till FWP got hurt.
    Russell wasn't active because he was an UDFA rookie who did not even play college ball the year before. Not only did he have to try to catch up to the speed of the NFL game, he also had to work his way back into true football shape after all that time without playing live ball. However, Russell shows much more promise than Najeh, who has had his shot with 2 teams in the league so far and has underwhelmed. I don't think he'll see more PT than Mendenhall like SMG is suggesting, but he should definitely be kept as a developmental back over Davenport. I foresee Dookie trying to compete with Davis for a FB spot instead (and failing to do so, unfortunately, because Davenport has the skills, but doesn't seem to have the desire to use his body the way someone his size should).

  7. #7

    Re: Mendenhall Ready To Respond

    The comments about Russell are money. Davenport will not make this team unless it's at FB.

  8. #8
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    Re: Mendenhall Ready To Respond

    Quote Originally Posted by ShawnMedGuy
    Let me say a few things about Mendenhall. First, I like that comment about how he produces on 3rd down. I will take that stat over just about any. He is a VERY talented back. But lets pause for a second before we annoint him the next LT. Things I'm personally concerned about....

    1) Wasn't able to break into the starting line up until his junior season.
    2) Big Run D's (ie OSU, Penn St/) shut him down pretty well. He had 76 and 88 yards in those two games, respectively. I will say though that he did shine against USC....but that was his ONLY big running game in his college career against a tough D.

    I say this to keep peoples expectations in check. He is a very talented back but he has alot to learn and to prove. Don't be shocked if Parker and Russell start the season as the 1/2 punch with Mendenhall occasionally sprinkled in. If this happens the Bustenhall comments will pour from the mouths of the ignorant. Give the guy a little time to get acclimated to the league and the speed of pro ball.
    76 and 88 against OSU and PSU where's the problem? Did the Illini win the game? yes What kind of days did other offensive players have? Was there a lot of focus on Mendenhall allowing others th have big days? And, Mendenhall still turned in good days.

    He's going to be everything the Steelers think and then some in this league. Just mt opinion.

    Pappy


    1.15) Ryan Shazier - ILB/OLB
    2.46) Stephon Tuitt - DE
    3.97) Dri Archer - RB
    4.118 ) Martavis Bryant - WR
    5.157) Shaquille Richardson - CB
    6.173) Wesley Johnson - OT
    6.192) Jordan Zumwalt - ILB
    7.215) Daniel McCullers - DT
    7.230) Rob Blanchflower - TE

    "Before you can win a game, you have to not lose it." -- Chuck Noll

  9. #9
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    Re: Mendenhall Ready To Respond

    I'm not crowning him as a great back till I see some production on a regular basis. Every back has good games/bad games, it's how they predominantly average out, IMO. I'm just looking forward to seeing what he can do...

    (BTW, I only posted this because I know that alot of the folks don't get the Digest, it's not a reflection of my opinion...)

  10. #10
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    Re: Mendenhall Ready To Respond

    the only chink in Mendenall's armor is the praise came from Ron Zook.........

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