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PJ Fleck strikes back... #Chillin4Charity

When Matt Dudek challenged him, I think we all knew that PJ Fleck is not the kind of man to back down from any sort of water based challenge. 

Well, he is down at Disney world with the family; but word does travel quickly these days...and what do you know, PJ answers with authority!

Oh, yeah, PJ calls out Dave Clawson, Pat Fitzgerald and Ron Turner. Viral, folks, viral.

Great idea by whoever was the brains (which I believe was Arizona women's basketball coach Niya Butts) behind creating this #Chillin4Charity idea...which is raising funds for the Kay Yow Foundation for breast cancer prevention research

Here's another creative way to stay in recruits' minds

Universities, their players, their coaches, and their people land recruits. To get to that point, though, you have to be in the conversation. The more creatively you can get into that conversation, the better.

Which brings us to the recruiting app Rutgers sent us this spring. We've written about it previously but, for those unaware, it's an augmented reality app that the Scarlet Knights' recruiting staff can update with interactive content whenever they choose.

Here is what it looks like in the iTunes store:

Rutgers can unlock features within the app - videos, interactive uniform featuers, etc. - through emails, mailers, or even t-shirts. The Scarlet Knights tweeted us today the latest update, which interacts with their camp t-shirt that allows campers to "explore interactive content." Just what that content is exactly, well, you'll have to get a t-shirt to find out. That's kind of the point. 

Battle Ready Rutgers

Again, no one is going to commit based on the fact that they can unlock an app feature through their t-shirt. But that was never the goal in the first place. Recruiting, in many ways, is about getting recruits to talk about you, and this seems to do just that.

'If you polled DI ADs, 50% would want to ban social media, other 50% say you can't'

It may seem hard to believe, but social media has been around for about a decade now. Facebook was founded back in 2004, and Twitter came two short years after that in 2006. For athletic directors and coaches who see questionable posts from players, social media can be a bit of a pain in the butt, but it's not going anywhere.

Some major college head coaches, like Jimbo Fisher, have instituted Twitter bans for their players to make sure that their focus is where it's supposed to be, while others (I'd say the majority of coaches) take the route of bringing in social media specialists to educate their players. Twitter has also been a great resource for assistant coaches, as nearly every assistant scrolls through a prospect's Twitter account to get a better feel for their character before putting on the full court press in recruiting.

However, once that student steps foot on campus, they now represent your university and football program. Instead of "Jimmy Smith send a questionable tweet after the game last night" it has evolved into, "University X quarterback Jimmy Smith sent a questionable tweet after the loss last night". So that presents a unique problem for administrators. They now have to ask; how do we police social media without violating the first amendment rights of our student athletes?

That's the issue that The Saratogian addressed with numerous athletic directors all the way down to Division III, asking them how their views on social media, and how they've both embraced, and policed it with their student athletes, and staff. Albany athletic director Dr. Lee McElroy shared some interesting insight on the issue.

“I was just talking to one of my colleagues at the NCAA about this topic and we were saying if you took a poll, a straw poll, among the 350 Division I athletic programs across the country, I think it would be 50-50,” Dr. Lee McElroy told The Saratogian. “Fifty percent would say we should prohibit social media and fifty percent would say we can’t prohibit social media because it’s part of the student-athlete and a coach’s first amendment rights. “

Really? A 50/50 split? I would have never guessed that it would be that high, even among administrators. I imagine that's because if something negative gets out that sheds anything but a positive light on the program or athletic department, it's mainly the job of administration to clean up the mess and repair any damage caused in the public image, so why not just get rid of social media altogether?

Really though, it's a rather interesting dilemma, and one that there really isn't a clear cut answer to solve. However, as adults tasked with preparing kids to go out into the world as productive members of society, completely eliminating social media cannot be a logical answer to the problem. I (and I know I'm not in the minority here) firmly believe that the solution lies in education.

Ask your administrators to spend 15 minutes, or an hour, as each sports season begins and gather all the teams to talk about the pros and cons of social media. Use examples of each one, and if you feel the need, encourage players to provide coaches or administration with their Twitter or Instagram handle. That seems much more logical than not allowing players on it at all. Go ahead and pitch the idea that you want a social media free athletic department to a 17 year old recruit during a visit and watch him/her laugh in your face.

Complete transparency and monitoring of every account is likely impossible, but social media is part of our culture now. It allows athletes and athletic departments to connect with the community like never before. It may require a bit more work, but there's no doubt that the benefits outweigh the damage it could cause. Embrace it.

Gesture of the month: Michigan makes a fan's dream come true

Stephen Loszewski sat at a table. Hats representing Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Notre Dame rested in front of him. If you knew anything about what happened earlier that day, you would know which hat he picked up.

A native of Grain Valley, Mo., Loszewski had to give up his high school football career after being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) three and a half years ago. Though his days on the field were done, Loszewski never dropped his dream of being recruited his beloved Michigan Wolverines. 

After years of beating his disease into remission, Loszewski submitted his wish to the Make-A-Wish Foundation: to be a Michigan football recruit for a day. Unbeknownst to him, Make-A-Wish, Michigan and ESPN began working behind the scenes to make it happen.

It started with former Wolverine and current St. Louis Ram Jake Long driving across the state to hand deliver recruiting letters from the Michigan coaching staff. "When Jake Long came to my house, I basically left myself open to just about anything that could happen," Loszewski told MLive.com.

Earlier this week, the entire Loszewski family flew to Ann Arbor and the proverbial maize and blue carpet was rolled out. They toured the facilities. They watched film with coaches. They had separate one-on-one meetings with head coach Brady Hoke and athletics director Dave Brandon. They had lunch with quarterback Devin Gardner and linebacker Jake Ryan.

Then, Loszewski got to do what he and so many others dream of, but very few actually get to do. He donned a No. 57 jersey and a winged helmet, ran down the tunnel and slapped that famous "Go Blue" midfield banner you've certainly seen a thousand times before. 

"The greatest moment for me, to see him strap a helmet on again, when I thought he never would … was very, very special and it's a moment I'll never forget," said his father, Greg.

After addressing the team, Loszewski turned around and saw Desmond Howard standing there, waiting to meet Michigan's prized recruit. (ESPN will air a segment of the day later this summer.)

Then Loszewski headed to the Crisler Center, where those four hats waited for him.

"I want to say," Loszewski said, "this decision could not have been less difficult."

Read the full story here.

How defensive coordinators are innovating on their side of the ball

Offensive innovation is sexy and fun to watch, but innovative defensive coaches often don't get the love they deserve (and granted, most of them are fine with things that way). 

That's partly why this piece from ESPN is worth pointing out, well that and it has some excellent coaching points in it from some of the best defensive minds in the game. The article is a great read on how defensive coaches have had to innovate on the heels of some of the most explosive offenses college football has ever seen over the past few seasons.

You really need to read the full article from Adam Rittenberg, but I've plucked out a few things of interest to the coaching community.

- Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop on what's important to defensive coordinators now: "It's not so much being a dominant defense any more. It's about being good on third down, it's about being good at takeaways, it's about being a good red-zone defense and forcing teams to kick field goals. Those are the things defensive coordinators across the country are talking about."

"It's all about possessions. How do you steal possessions?" Shoop added.

- Finding ways to communicate calls quick is key: Defensive coordinator calls have slimmed down to one word, (Jeremy Pruitt), even one syllable (Bob Shoop), Jim Knowles' defensive calls at Duke consist of one word that means something different to each position group.

- Disguising fronts and coverages isn't all that important: Derek Mason recalls advice he received from longtime defensive assistant Willie Shaw, the father of Stanford head coach David Shaw: "Half the time, they know what you're in anyway. They've still got to execute, so don't put your guys in a position where they're going to fool themselves." Mason recalled. "Hey, I'd like to be able to roll coverage and show disguises all the time, but there's something to be said about being lined up in the right place at the right time."

- Jeremy Pruitt's first question about a potential defensive recruit: "What position is he going to play on third down?" Pruitt asks. "If he doesn't have one, we don't need to be recruiting him."

This article is full of great coaching content for both side of the ball, but especially defensive guys. Read it all here.

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