Quicker: Bears need work on late-game drills

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Quicker: Bears need work on late-game drills

The Bears' organized team activities pretty much have wound down. The next opportunity to get better will be the June 12-14 minicamp. I would guesstimate that roughly 80-85 percent of the schematic install is complete on both offense, defense and special teams. Installed material will be repeated once again during the next mini-camp along with new wrinkles and additions.

4 Minute

Its tough to cover every situation during OTAs like, for example, the four-minute drill (running out the clock situation). Players are not in pads, which makes it difficult to accurately reflect the pressure and intensity this situation commands. The four-minute situation will be hammered upon during training camp when it can be conducted live, in full pads, in a true game-like atmosphere to teach its significance upon a game. The Bears' coaches have a great teaching tool on tape from 2011 of how the four-minute situation can determine a win or loss. I dont think I need to remind Bears fans of the critical error by former running back, Marion Barber, who elected to run out of bounds versus the Denver Broncos, thus stopping the clock. Poor execution by Barber on this one play resulted in a Chicago loss to Denver.

2 Minute

The two-minute situation should receive some adequate attention this upcoming minicamp. Considering how many NFL games actually come down to the two-minute drill is why it is emphasized so heavily. It will easily get two days of actual work during the Bears' three-day minicamp. The two-minute drill can also be accurately simulated offensively and defensively as you can physically move the ball creating down and distance situations. Jay Cutler and the offense will be presented situations like:

First and 10 on your own 35-yard line, one timeout remaining, 1:10 left on the clock and Bears are down by four points. Obviously, the offense needs to score a touchdown to win.

Or...

First and 10 on your own 10-yard line, three timeouts remaining, 1:45 left on the clock, Bears down 21-20. Thus, the offense needs to, at minimum, position the team for a field goal to win.

There are numerous scenarios coaches could present during a two-minute situation. Its a terrific drill for both offense and defense because both sides have to play the situation presented. It also is extremely competitive as both sides are challenged to execute. Its competitive because there is a true winner and loser during this particular period during practice and players love that.

The two-minute drill most likely has already been introduced to players earlier in OTAs, but with so many situations for coaches to cover, the drill can never be practiced enough. Different plays from three-by-one sets (three wide receivers to one side and one lone wide receiver to the other) or two-by-two sets (two wide receivers on each side of the football) are covered and specifically game-planned when they should be called. It forces players to know their playbook and think quickly because time is of the essence.

Its why this column was titled Quicker. The Bears' final minicamp is quickly approaching, training camp will quickly be upon them, and then the season opener will quickly be here. The quicker the Bears address these situations, the better chance for success in 2012.

Penn State AD says James Franklin is not on the hot seat

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Penn State AD says James Franklin is not on the hot seat

Is James Franklin on the hot seat?

Perhaps fans and observers think the Penn State head coach should be, but the Nittany Lions' athletics director certainly doesn't.

Sandy Barbour told the Altoona Mirror that Franklin is not on the hot seat and gave a complete vote of confidence in the coach, who's coming off a blowout 49-10 loss against Michigan.

"He's not on the hot seat, and he's not going to be on the hot seat in December," Barbour told the Mirror's Cory Giger.

"James is going to be our football coach. I believe in where this football program is going under James Franklin, and I think he's going to be our football coach, period."

Franklin is in his third season at the helm in Happy Valley, and while he's had his fair share of recruiting successes, he hasn't experienced much success on the field. After last weekend's loss to Michigan, Franklin is now 0-7 against ranked opponents since arriving at Penn State ahead of the 2014 season.

"When Penn State is where we ought to be, where we should be, where we're all striving to be, we absolutely should go toe to toe with anyone in the country. Clearly we're not there," Barbour said. "We're not a finished product. I don't think anybody thought we would be a finished product four games into the season.

"Was Saturday disappointing? Of course it was. But no one's more disappointed than our coaching staff and our student-athletes in our football program. So I certainly understand where our fans are coming from and the disappointment."

Back-to-back 7-6 finishes could be seen as mild successes, perhaps, considering the program is still working out from the shadow of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. But Penn State's historic status as one of college football's power programs is certainly not applicable right now, and the Lions competing for any kind of championship seems completely unrealistic in the ultra-competitive Big Ten East Division.

All that has led plenty to believe that Franklin's job might be in jeopardy, but Barbour at least verbally put those notions to rest.

"I believe that James is the right guy, and yeah, he's going to be our football coach."

Notre Dame needs mistake-free play from receivers

Notre Dame needs mistake-free play from receivers

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Last year, Notre Dame receivers combined to fumble twice in 13 games. Through four weeks in 2016, Irish receivers already have fumbled three times, losing two of them.

Sophomore C.J. Sanders’ fumble against Michigan State sparked the Spartans’ 36-point run, and fellow sophomore Equanimeous St. Brown lost a fumble that stunted Notre Dame’s offense in a three-point loss to Duke. Freshman Kevin Stepherson also fumbled against the Blue Devils, but impressive hustled back to recover it. 

In 2015, only Torii Hunter Jr. and Chris Brown fumbled (Hunter’s came at the goal line against USC; Brown’s came in that rainstorm at Clemson). That was a veteran-heavy receiving corps, while Notre Dame’s 2016 group only has two upperclassmen in it: Hunter, a redshirt junior, and Corey Holmes, a redshirt sophomore (who doesn’t have much playing experience). 

“A lot of young guys out there, a lot of young guys,” coach Brian Kelly said. “It's unacceptable, but a lot of young guys out there.”

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Sanders’ fumble, Kelly said was more careless — he didn’t have three points of pressure on the ball when it was knocked out. St. Brown tried to make a play despite having a second defender converging on him and should’ve gone down before the ball was dislodged. 

Guys like Sanders and St. Brown, who are seeing the first real college action at receiver this year, were probably able to make plenty of defenders miss with ease while in high school. But that’s nowhere near as easy to do now. 

Notre Dame needs its offense to avoid these unforced (yet, technically, forced) errors while its defense remains an ineffective work in progress. There isn’t much room for error as Notre Dame aims to pull out of its 1-3 tailspin and reach a bowl game. 

“At this level everybody is bigger and faster,” Sanders said. “So you have to kind of have that notion in the back of your head, okay, you know if there's three guys in the area and I don't know where to go, get down. We made that mistake which we learned from it, so now we know.”