NCF Nation: Jamel Hamler

Non-AQ underclassmen in NFL draft

January, 19, 2011
The NFL on Tuesday released its official list of underclassmen who have declared for the draft, and it is a doozy -- a record 56 players have decided to leave school early to turn pro.

There are always several head-scratchers every year. In 2010, for example, Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead went undrafted; SMU running back Shawnbrey McNeal went undrafted; and Central Michigan receiver Antonio Brown went in the sixth round to Pittsburgh (No. 331 overall).

This season is no different, especially among players in the non-AQ conferences. First: the official list of all the non-AQ players who have declared themselves for the NFL draft:
  • DeAndre Brown, WR, Southern Miss
  • Brandon Burton, CB, Utah
  • Jamel Hamler, WR, Fresno State
  • Sealver Siliga, DT, Utah
  • Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple

As I explained in a video last week, it seems Burton is the one most likely to go in the late first to second round. It also appears Siliga and Brown made questionable moves. Brown has had injury problems and character issues he is going to have to address, while Siliga was nowhere to be found on any pre-draft evaluation boards of top underclassmen. As for Hamler, his decision also raises some questions.

This past season he had 54 catches for 812 yards and six touchdowns. He does have good size at 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, but it is safe to say his decision is a stunner. He is not listed as one of the elite receivers in the country and has hardly been mentioned as someone with top draft potential.

With any of these players, all you can do is wish them luck and hope they made the right decisions for their future.

Fresno State QB Ryan Colburn steps up

September, 28, 2010
Before the season started, Fresno State coach Pat Hill thought quarterback Ryan Colburn was in for a pretty special senior season.

He has been right through the first three games. In fact, Colburn has been more important than ever to the Bulldogs' offense because injuries have taken a big toll at receiver and running back.

Colburn has been consistent throughout, throwing for nine touchdowns and just two interceptions. He is 65-of-89 for 786 yards and is completing 73 percent of his passes, a career high. If you compare the start to his senior season with some of the other great quarterbacks to come through Fresno State, Colburn is right there with them.

In fact, he is off to a better start than David Carr in 2001 and Billy Volek in 1991.

“He’s playing really well,” Hill said. “Ryan’s done an outstanding job as a leader for us and is playing very efficiently. I’m very happy with his performance.”

With the departure of Ryan Mathews, who led the NCAA in rushing last season, Fresno State knew it would have to rely more on Colburn. That became especially true when injuries hit the backfield. Running back Robbie Rouse, who went into the season as the starter, missed one game with shoulder and ankle injuries. He played last week against Ole Miss but was still hobbled with a bad ankle, rushing just seven times for 22 yards.

A.J. Ellis, who replaced Rouse in the starting lineup, has a sprained toe and is most likely out for Saturday’s game against Cal Poly. Hill said he was concerned with Ellis’ foot. The injuries have taken a toll on production. Fresno State, so good a year ago with Mathews, ranks No. 104 in the country in rushing averaging 103 yards a game.

The passing offense, meanwhile, ranks 30th in the country. Colburn ranks ninth in the country in passing efficiency and has a better completion percentage than Ryan Mallett, Andrew Luck and Kellen Moore.

Even more impressive: Colburn is putting up good numbers despite a depleted wide receiving corps. The injury bug has hit there, too, with Rashad Evans (hamstring) and Devon Wylie (foot surgery) missing time. Leading receiver Jamel Hamler hurt his shoulder against Ole Miss and his status is up in the air for Saturday.

Also, All-WAC offensive guard Andrew Jackson (ankle) has been hurt, too.

“It’s been a funny deal with injuries this year,” Hill said. “They haven’t been from big hits. It’s just the nature of the game.”

Fresno State lost to Ole Miss last week to drop to 2-1, but as long as Colburn stays healthy, the Bulldogs have a shot to be in every game.

What to watch in the WAC this spring

February, 25, 2010
Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program heading into the spring:

Boise State Broncos
Spring practice starts: March 8
Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

" All starters but Kyle Wilson return in 2010. Jerrell Gavins, who started at Wilson's outside cornerback position during the Fiesta Bowl (Wilson moved to safety) likely will slip into that starting slot.

" With so many players returning and few questions to answer, the Broncos can really start working on the 2010 season. This will also be a good time to sort out the offensive line (10 O-linemen had at least one start last year) and looking for some redshirted playmakers that could find their way into the lineup this season.

" Defensive line coach Pete Kwiatkowski steps in as the new defensive coordinator for Justin Wilcox, who went to Tennessee, but don’t expect any major changes to the defense. Kwiatkowski was Wilcox’s mentor and the two shared the same vision for the Broncos defense.

Fresno State Bulldogs
Spring practice starts: March 15
Spring game: April 16

What to watch:

" Fresno State lost three top backs in Ryan Mathews, Lonyae Miller and Anthony Harding and will spend the spring looking for a replacement. Robbie Rouse is the top returning back, but he’s a smaller back than the ones the Bulldogs lost. Look for Michael Harris to get a chance this spring.

" With Seyi Ajirotutu, Marlon Moore and Chastin West gone, the Bulldogs will be looking to fill their receiver depth to help starting quarterback Ryan Colburn. Coach Pat Hill noted on signing day that he wants to spread things out this year and he’s looking forward to some speed joining the team in the fall. In the meantime, sophomore Rashad Evans, redshirt freshman A.J. Johnson and sophomore J.J. Stallworth will work for playing time with Jamel Hamler and Devon Wylie.

" The defensive front, which struggled late against the running game (most notably Nevada and Wyoming), will be a focus this spring. The Bulldogs return nine starters from the bowl game, including All-WAC first team defensive end Chris Carter and linebacker Ben Jacobs.

Hawaii Warriors
Spring practice starts: April 1
Spring game: April 30

What to watch:

" The offensive line was a question heading into the 2009 season and will be again in 2010. The Warriors lose four senior starters, including center John Estes. Backups Kainoa LaCount, Matagisila Lefiti, Andrew Faaumu, Bronson Tiwanak, Clayton Laurel and Adrian Thomas will be among those competing for starting roles.

" Bryan Moniz finished the season as the starting quarterback and will go into spring ball as the leading candidate to start in 2010, but Shane Austin, who played some in 2009, will challenge for the starting role this spring. Moniz finished the season completing 57 percent of his passes for 2,396 yards, 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

" The Hawaii defense struggled some last year, but should be better if star linebacker Brashton Satele receives a sixth season. The Warriors will be looking for a new right tackle as well as a couple of starting linebackers, but the defense, which improved as the season progressed, should be a pleasant surprise in 2010.

Idaho Vandals
Spring practice starts: March 23
Spring game: April 23

What to watch:

" The top priority this spring will be reloading the offensive line. The Vandals lost four starters on the offensive line, including All-American guard Mike Iupati. The only returner is left tackle Matt Cleveland. Guy Reynolds Jr. was Iupati’s backup, and players such as Clell Hasenbank, Tevita HalaHolo and Tyron Novikoff will be competing for starting roles.

" The offense carried the team last year, especially the passing game, but starting quarterback Nathan Enderle will have to work out three new receivers this spring. The biggest loss is slot Max Komar, who made key catches all season, including in the Humanitarian Bowl win over Bowling Green.

" The Idaho defense was one of the worst in the country allowing 433.23 yards per game and 36.00 points per game. More often than not, the Vandals were trying to outscore their opponents instead of stopping them defensively. Eleven players with starting experience from last year’s bowl team return; the only loss is strong safety Jeromy Jones. But with the way the defense played last season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some of those positions open this spring.

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
Spring practice starts: March 17
Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

" The loss of running back Daniel Porter and tight end Dennis Morris takes out a lot of the offense and scoring the Bulldogs had in 2009. New head coach Sonny Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin will spend the spring looking for playmakers to fit their wide-open offensive style.

" Wide receiver will be a key competition this spring for Louisiana Tech’s new spread offense. Tennessee transfer Ahmad Paige and LSU transfer Tim Molton are both eligible and will join RP Stuart, Cruz Williams and Phillip Livas in the receiving corps.

" Louisiana Tech will be looking for some consistency in the punting game after Cade Glasgow struggled last year. Overall, the Bulldogs punting game averaged 32.91 yards per game, which ranked last in the WAC. The Bulldogs didn’t recruit a punter, so expect some potential walk-on help.

New Mexico State Aggies
Spring practice starts: April 5
Spring game: May 1

What to watch:

" Second-year coach DeWayne Walker was unhappy with the team's scoring, especially in the second half of the season, which prompted him to replace his offensive coordinator and running backs coach. His main priority this spring is finding some consistency at quarterback. Jeff Fleming and Trevor Walls return and redshirt freshman Tanner Rust and true freshman Andrew Manley will challenge, but junior college transfer Matt Christian is the favorite to be the starter.

" The running game was the one bright spot for the offense last season with Seth Smith rushing for 1,016 yards, but he had just one rushing touchdown. Redshirt freshman Marquese Dunn will get a look this spring and will challenge for playing time as Walker looks for playmakers.

" Shoring up a total defense that allowed 423.62 yards per game and 31.62 points per game will be Walker’s project this spring. The Aggies return some key players, but Walker said most of the help on the defensive line will come in the fall.

Nevada Wolf Pack
Spring practice starts: March 5
Spring game: April 3

What to watch:

" The running game is Nevada’s bread and butter and it should stay that way with quarterback Colin Kaepernick and star running back Vai Taua returning. However, the Wolf Pack need to spend this spring working on depth with players such as Lampford Mark, Mike Ball and Stefphon Jefferson.

" The offensive line needs to replace Kenneth Ackerman and Alonzo Durham this spring in order to keep the running game effective. Center Jeff Meads and tackle Jose Acuna are the primary backups for those two spots. The Wolf Pack also will look to build offensive line depth across the board.

" The Nevada defense will spend the spring learning a slightly altered 4-3 defensive scheme under new defensive coordinator Andy Buh. The defense has been the weak link of the Wolf Pack for the past few years, so shoring that up this spring will be a high priority.

San Jose State Spartans
Spring practice starts: March 12
Spring game: April 22

What to watch:

" For the second consecutive season, San Jose State had trouble producing offense mostly because of inconsistent play at quarterback. Jordan La Secla returns as the incumbent, but junior college transfer Matt Faulkner, who enrolled in January, will challenge this spring.

" For as much as the passing offense struggled, the rushing offense was worse. Lamon Muldrow, who led the team with 592 yards and three touchdowns last season will be counted on in the running game, but the Spartans signed three running backs for 2010, including Forrest Hightower, who will challenge in the fall.

" Most of spring practice will be spent learning the new coaching staff and the new offensive and defensive schemes. The Spartans are transitioning from a spread offense to a more traditional style that will incorporate an H-back and a tight end. The Spartans also will move toward an attacking style defense, but will stay in a 4-3 base that will feature both man-to-man and zone coverage.

Utah State Aggies
Spring practice starts: March 23
Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

" The primary concern this spring will be finding running back depth after star Robert Turbin suffered a torn ACL during winter workouts. All eyes will be on Michael Smith, Derrvin Speight and Kerrwynn Williams as they try to pick up the slack.

" Second-year head coach Gary Andersen is showing his commitment to defense after shuffling several players on that side of the ball. Nathan Royster is moving from defensive tackle to end, Junior Keiaho and Devin Johnson are moving from end to linebacker, wide receiver Cameron Sanders has moved to defensive back and the Aggies are hoping to get some defensive contribution out of Page Clifford, a transfer from Utah.

" There should be some good competition at wide receiver this spring with Matt Austin returning from injury and Travis Van Leeuewen coming off a redshirt season. Mid-year signees Xavier Martin and Dontel Watkins also will challenge for starting roles. Utah State had a good passing offense with 246.75 yards per game from starter Diondre Borel.
I feel sick for Juice Williams. And Arrelious Benn. And Ron Zook.

If there's a more heartbreaking way to lose a football game, please feel free to let me know. Illinois seemingly had a shootout victory in hand, up 52-45 in the closing seconds. But Fresno State reached the end zone on an incredible stretch by wide receiver Jamel Hamler on a 19-yard reception.

Hamler's touchdown set up The Craziest Play of the 2009 Season.

Fresno State head coach Pat Hill went for the 2-point conversion and the win, which didn't surprise me one bit. Illinois got the penetration it wanted and had quarterback Ryan Colburn in its grasp, forcing a desperation throw to Hamler. Illinois couldn't knock down the pass, and it caromed to Devan Cunningham, a 6-6, 350-pound offensive tackle, who rumbled into the end zone to put Fresno State up 53-52.

A replay review upheld the call, though it looked like the ball hit Hamler first, which would have prevented a teammate from advancing it. What a tough blow for Illinois.

The Illini offense really showed up today, especially sophomore running back Mikel Leshoure, who rushed for 184 yards and two touchdowns on only 11 carries. Williams passed for 211 yards and three scores, though he also had two interceptions. Still, Juice deserved to win this game.

Illinois' defense didn't show up when it mattered, and it likely will lead to changes on the staff. Williams is gone, and Benn could join him.

You can't fault the effort from the Illini today. But the results are still ugly: