USA vs Muu Maailma
Suomalaisvärejä edustaneen Benjamin Jensenin matkaraportti USA vs Muu Maailma otteluun valmistautumisesta ja ottelusta tammikuussa 2010 Floridassa
On my arrival I met my roommate who was the WR graduate assistant from Bahamas named Chris Kemp. He had just finished his senior year of football at a small NAIA school in Indiana. Chris was a great guy to room with and helped to have someone to chat with during our small amount of free time.
The first meeting of the evening was an intro with the coaches. I met the defensive staff. It became clear to me after that meeting that I was no longer just a graduate assistant since the DB coach from Japan could not really communicate in English. When we broke up into offensive and defensive staffs it was interesting since around the offensive table they had close to 10 coaches, and the defensive table only had 5. Our D coordinator was Warren Craney who runs the defense for Concordia University in Canada. His knowledge of the game was amazing and he had spent time learning from coaching staffs as a guest coach at the University of Michigan, USC, University Florida (2), and the University of Nebraska (3). It was a great opportunity to work with him since he had learned from so many respected D coordinators (Pete Carroll, Charlie Strong, Bo Pelini). The other members of the D staff were Soloman (D line coach) from Mexico who spent a year with the Baltimore Ravens as a D linemen, Martel from France who was also a GA working with the D Line. The DB coach from Japan we called Shee was a great guy and his coaching credentials were impressive but the language barrier really limited what he could do with the team. It was for me a real blessing in disguise for me because I quickly became heavily involved in the defense, starting from the first practice in which I was in charge of the DB´s during individuals. I was very fortunate in my situation that I was able to be so involved with the secondary. Throughout the week I ran the DB individuals, when we went to inside drill I took care of the DB´s in 1 vs. 1. Coach Craney ran the linebackers, so during skelly and team I was able to focus solely on the secondary’s performance. I also held a few film sessions with the secondary going over what we did right and wrong from the days earlier practices. I learned the value of filming practice sessions, with such limited time to get the guys prepared we had to do a lot of coaching on the run quickly between plays and rely heavily on the film sessions to correct what we needed.
As soon as I received the playbook we had a 3 hour defensive coaches meeting where Coach Craney explained how things were done. After the meeting I went straight to my room and spent a lot of time with the playbook. Itwas quite a challenge for me since I only got the playbook a day before the players did and they had lots of questions from the first moment. I am a cover 3 guy, and we were running a base cover 2 (3-4) so I had to learn a lot in a short period of time in order to be able to work with the DB´s and have them prepped for the game.
The players were selected by Head Coach Jenmert and Strength Coach Carlson solely based upon strength and size, which ended up being a really wise selection process. They stuck with the pretty basic concept that strength=speed. The offensive line averaged close to 6´4 and 300 lbs (193 cm, 140 kg) and they were not fat boys by any means. All the skill positions on both offense and defense were very talented players. The team truly went 2-3 deep at almost every position. During practice when the second team came on the field both sides did not miss a beat. Naturally I got to know the defensive side of the ball the best.
DL-The defensive line was also massive, led by Jesse Williams from Australia who had just finished his first season at Western Arizona University and was a beast at 6´4 325 (148 kg, 193 cm) who just killed everyone in 1 vs. 1 lineman drills. The DL also had a tough Samoan player whose brother plays in the NFL and also gave the team a pre-game speech (Jonathan Fanene). Also helping the D line was Björn Werner from Germany who had played a few seasons of high school ball in the states.
LB-The linebackers were probably the most impressive athletes, all being very agile and quick and at the same time having great size (all close to 6 feet (180 cm) and around 220 lbs (100kg). We had a couple of Samoan linebackers who both were amazing athletes, and had relatives in the NFL. One of them named Beck Coulter was really intimidating, had the same long hair as his cousin (Troy Polamalu) and had finished his first season of college football at Trinity College in Texas. The Canadian linebackers were really solid, and did a great job of adjusting to the American style of play.
DB-The DB´s I worked with all had great speed, and were quick learners. I had seven total, six from Canada and one from Japan. Unfortunately again with the Japanese player communication was a major problem, he had the skill to play but missed some coverage audibles in practice that led to big plays during 7 vs. 7 and team drills. Looking at it from a coaching standpoint it was an awesome situation to walk into since the player’s skills were already so well tuned we never had to spend time on basic stuff and went straight to what we needed to learn for the defensive scheme. The Canadians had a hard time adjusting to the cover 2, and 3 concepts since they were used to playing with 12 guys on the field and also a much larger field, but after a few practices they had it figured out.
The event was really well organized, transportation to and from the practice fields was usually on schedule. Since the NFL sponsored the event we were well taken care of. Coaches were given 6 shirts, hat, visor, kahki shorts, 2 sport shorts and Reebok shoes. They players received a lot of things also, practice and game jerseys to keep, cleats and Reebok shoes, 2 pairs of cutter gloves, wristbands and many shirts and shorts. The food was really good at the hotel, and they always had bottles of Gatorade, protein shakes and protein bars throughout the day.
We attended both the AFC and NFC practices which were held at St. Aquinas High School which is a private catholic school with amazing facilities. It was strange such a nice and prestigious school located smack in the middle of the ghetto. It really was a run down neighborhood that reminded me of the movie Friday. The practices were quite boring to be honest, I did not know who half the players were since I don’t watch the NFL but I did see Mcnabb, Ray Lewis, Vince Wolfork, Ngata, and Ochocinco. The coach of the Jets Rex Ryan was hanging out on the sidelines, looked like he was about 8 months pregnant with twins! They had the most laid back/lazy practice ever but that is what the Pro Bowl is about I guess.
Team USA/World game was held after the final AFC/NFC practices and as we were waiting to come on the field all the Pro Bowl players walked past us on the way to their busses. We were in the restricted area so nobody else was around us fighting to get close to the players as they passed. Ray Lewis, Ochocinco, Ngata all walked past me less than 2 meters away. Ray Lewis is one big dude. Worlfork and another DL were in such bad shape you could tell they had done nothing but sit around and eat since their seasons ended.
The game started out really well and the offense had a good long drive but came up empty. The defense played really well in the first half, we went aggressive cover 0 late in the half and they beat us with a bomb down to the 1 yard line and scored on the next play to end the half 7-0. We were without our massive Australian DT due to injury and they exploited that in the second half on their opening drive and ran up our gut for a TD. They converted on a 4thand 7 with a corner route that was perfectly thrown. We had a great corner blitz from the blind side that ended up being a sack that was a big momentum builder for us. The offense moved the ball well at times in the second half but was unable to convert in the red zone and we also lost 2 fumbles and had 2 interceptions. In the end we lost 17-0 but our guys played extremely well against a team who all were going to sign with division I schools. All the big name universities had players on the Team USA roster (Alabama, Miami, Florida, Penn State, LSU, UCLA, Oregon, etc...).
After the game 2 players from our D line signed with DI schools, Fanene went to University of Arizona, and the German D lineman Björn Werner signed with Florida State. I would not be surprised to see many more of the players finding themselves in college football programs. During the live telecast of the game on NFL Network, Deion Sanders called my strong safety Christian Walcott the ”Sean Taylor of Canada” after making quite a few solid tackles. He could be playing DI ball soon along with my cornerback Mike Dubuisson who has great height and reach and had 2 pass break ups during the game. Also should keep an eye out for the running back from Sweden Hampus Hellermark, who I’m sure will be getting a lot of interest after winning team MVP of the game.
In the end it was a truly once and a lifetime coaching experience for me working with such highly qualified staff and skilled players. The methods used as far as strength and conditioning/game preparation from a physiological point of view were truly cutting edge. Everything that we did had a legitimate reason behind it. Practice intensities, sleeping/relaxing time, timing of meals, recovery supplements, pre practice warm up were all taken care of in a very professional manner by our Strength and Conditioning Coach Niclas Carlson from Sweden. I was able to spend a lot of time with Niclas and learned a lot about his philosophies. I have a lot of respect for him since he always had research and physiological explanations for the way things were done. The opportunity I had to work with Team World was by far the best coaching experience of my lifetime.