Top Gun Combine benefits local prospects

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Top Gun Combine benefits local prospects

High school football players who aspire to compete at the next level attend combines to get exposure to college recruiters. But there is a risk. For example, if an athlete is timed in 4.8 seconds for 40 yards instead of 4.4 or 4.5, his chances of landing a scholarship offer are slim to none.

Scott Hoffman claims his Top Gun Combine is different. He admits some combines are in business for the sole purpose of making money but he insists his one-day event, which will be conducted on Sunday, Dec. 16, at Players U, 412 Business Center Drive, in Mount Prospect, is designed "to train athletes to better themselves to get an opportunity to play in college."

"I wouldn't disagree with the idea that some combines can create negative exposure for someone who has positive exposure," Hoffman said. "But a kid who has had no exposure has a chance to get on the radar of colleges, if he has had limited or no contact with college recruiters.

"But Top Gun is 100 percent different. It isn't a traditional combine. Our combine is designed for specific position training, not just to run the 40-yard dash or participate in 5-10-5 drills or the long jump, which are typical combine tests. More importantly, we will put kids through football drills...defending receivers, running routes, 1-on-1 drills. We see playing ability on the field. We are evaluating football talent, not just track talent."

Hoffman knows the pluses and minuses of combines. A former All-State quarterback at Elgin, he was recruited by Florida, played at Purdue and played professionally in Germany for a year. His father was an All-State running back at Weber, played at Illinois and coached at St. Rita, Weber and Elgin.

After he blew out his knee and retired from football, he founded his own financial services company. He expanded his company to the United Kingdom and reconnected with American football as a volunteer coach and offensive coordinator. When he returned to the United States in 2005, he got the bug to return to coaching football.

He coached at St. Edward in Elgin and at Harper College in Palatine and privately tutored quarterbacks. In January, 2010, he purchased Top Gun. At the time, it was a quarterback competition company. But Hoffman expanded to a full-time, year-round football position training company with a staff of seven coaches to train all positions.

"We want to increase the ability of players in Illinois to compete with athletes in the elite conferences, like the SEC," Hoffman said. "They have to do more than their high schools ask of them if they want to play at the next level. If you don't, you fall behind when you are compared with elite conferences that workout year-round."

In case you haven't noticed, the nation's elite programs -- from USC to Oklahoma to Texas to LSU to Alabama to Florida to Georgia -- are recruiting in the Chicago area. Some didn't recruit locally until a few years ago. Some are scouring the city and suburbs for the first time.

"The world has gotten smaller through technology," Hoffman said. "Recruiters are able to sit in their office and see highlight tape on kids from Illinois. If they see something they like, they come into the state to meet him face-to-face."

Hoffman's camp on Dec. 16 has attracted 94 players from 48 high schools. One of the top-rated prospects is junior quarterback Bret Mooney of Jacobs, a 6-foot-4, 210-pounder whom Hoffman said is "as good as I have seen as a 16-year-old." Veteran coach Bill Mitz of Jacobs, who formerly coached at Stevenson, predicts Mooney is a future star.

How can Hoffman's staff improve Mooney's skills in one day?

"Most importantly, at the end of the day, is a quarterback's accuracy in the pocket and on the move," he said. "What can we do to help them in a short time? We help them review fundamentals and get their eyes to the target area as quickly as possible. We can't increase their arm strength in one day but we can improve their accuracy and quickness."

At the end of the day, Hoffman's staff selects the best players to compete on an elite 7-on-7 team that participates in regional and national tournaments in the spring and summer. It gives the youngsters an opportunity to gain a lot of exposure and a chance to compete and train with other elite athletes.

A year ago, Waubonsie Valley running back Austin Guido and Grayslake North quarterback A.J. Fish were the headliners on Top Gun's elite 7-on-7 squad.

Hoffman insists Fish had the ability to play football in the Big Ten but he opted to sign with Virginia to play lacrosse. Fish is one of the leading lacrosse players in the nation and Virginia is the top-ranked college program. So it was a good fit, what Fish wanted.

"But he could have played in the Big Ten. He was that good. He was cat-quick laterally, as good as I have ever seen. I don't know if he had a Top 25 arm but he could have played in the Big Ten because of his vision and lateral movement. Colleges made a mistake by not offering him," Hoffman said.

The Top Gun event is open to all skill-position players in the classes of 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 -- quarterback, running back, tight end, wide receiver, linebacker, defensive back -- who want to prepare for the 2013 season and have aspirations to play in college.

For information, call Hoffman at (847) 346-5635 or email Scott@TopGunQB.com.

How Cubs are setting the expectations for winter meetings

How Cubs are setting the expectations for winter meetings

The billionaire owners and millionaire athletes wisely decided to not stop all that momentum after a World Series that beat the NFL’s “Sunday Night Football” in head-to-head TV ratings, attracted more than 40 million viewers for Game 7 and turned the 2016 Cubs into legends.

The owners and the players’ union avoided a foolish labor war, crafting a new five-year collective bargaining agreement that should unleash teams that had been waiting to see the rules of engagement, spur the free-agent market, accelerate trade talks and ignite Major League Baseball’s signature offseason event.

The Cubs can go viral seemingly anywhere now – “Saturday Night Live,” Disney World, “The Tonight Show,” the Latin Grammys, an Indiana-North Carolina basketball game, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” – but don’t expect them to own the winter meetings this time.

As a $10 billion industry begins to descend upon National Harbor in Maryland on Sunday, Cubs officials won’t feel any of the urgency that fueled the spending spree that nearly totaled $290 million and helped end the 108-year drought.

“We said at the time that we did two offseasons worth of shopping in one offseason last year,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “We really liked the talent available to us last offseason. It was a very good free-agent market. We felt like building upon a 97-win team that got to the NLCS but was swept. We wanted to improve some of the deficiencies on that club and really push forward.

“We were really aggressive with what we did last offseason. We told everyone at the time that we felt like we were kind of shopping for two offseasons.

“So with that in mind, I don’t expect nearly the activity we had a year ago.”

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Sensing the pitching market might erupt at that point, the Cubs pushed to close John Lackey’s two-year, $32 million deal in early December, before the winter meetings in Nashville, Tennessee, and Zack Greinke’s anticipated decision between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. Hours after the Lackey news broke, the Arizona Diamondbacks shocked the baseball world when word leaked out that Greinke had agreed to a six-year, $206 million megadeal.

The perfect storm brought Ben Zobrist to Chicago, once the Cubs finally engineered a Starlin Castro trade at the winter meetings, with the New York Yankees being the only team willing to absorb $38 million, give up a useful pitcher (Adam Warren) and take a chance on the former All-Star shortstop. Zobrist turned down $60 million guaranteed from the Giants and New York Mets, taking a four-year, $56 million deal and delivering a World Series MVP performance.

The opt-out clauses within Jason Heyward’s eight-year, $184 million contract don’t seem so inviting anymore – and he said those weren’t important to him anyway – but he provided Gold Glove defense in right field, called that pivotal team meeting during the Game 7 rain delay in Cleveland and should rebound after the worst offensive season of his career.

The Cubs have no expectations that Dexter Fowler’s market will again crater to the point that he will accept a $13 million guarantee in spring training, moving on with a center-field timeshare between Jon Jay and Albert Almora Jr.

“The bulk of our heavy lifting is done,” Hoyer said. “But I think that was done 12 months ago. It will be a quieter winter than last offseason.

“We’re always listening. If good ideas come to us – or we come up with good ideas – we’ll share them with other teams. But fans shouldn’t expect a flurry of things, because they got that 12 months ago.” 

Fans also won’t be getting crash courses on labor relations and lockout implications. A game that can be slow, boring and stuck in its ways can’t waste the energy and excitement that created crossover moments like LeBron James showing up at the United Center in a Cubs uniform.

“There’s no doubt that it was an amazing postseason all around,” Hoyer said. “Baseball really showed itself in the best possible light, ending with a Game 7 that we happened to win. But win or lose, that was one of the greatest games ever played. Baseball is certainly going to be on a high going into spring training.

“Baseball is definitely in a great place right now.”  

Rough second period sinks Blackhawks in loss to Flyers

Rough second period sinks Blackhawks in loss to Flyers

PHILADELPHIA — Rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov scored two goals and prevented another to help the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 on Saturday.

Provorov, 19, scored 31 seconds apart early in the second period to give the Flyers their fourth straight win. Brayden Schenn also scored and Steve Mason stopped 26 shots.

Artemi Panarin scored his ninth of the season for the Blackhawks, who lost in regulation for the first time in five games, snapping a 3-0-1 streak.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The Flyers' biggest save of the night might have come from Provorov, who swatted a bouncing puck out of the goal crease with 3:22 remaining in the second period to preserve a two-goal lead.

Chicago backup goalie Scott Darling, pressed into action after projected starter Corey Crawford underwent an emergency appendectomy, finished with 27 saves.