POSTED ON MARCH 23, 2011:
Are the young and hungry Tulsa Talons sharp enough to seize the Arizona Rattlers?
Hank Williams Jr. or Faith Hall? Choose wisely. Perhaps you have a better nominee to represent the masses? These days both names are synonymous with one entity. Monday Night Football. Are you ready for it?
Jerry Jones and the puppeteers are doing the two-step with the pretentious players. Thus we turn to the Arena Football League for our pigskin fix.
This coming Monday night, March 28, the Tulsa Talons kickoff their home schedule inside the BOK Center. Hopefully the Jayhawk and Longhorn fans left our place in good standing.
The Talons need some home cooking. They are off to a rough start going 0-2 to open their season. This marks their second campaign in the AFL. We can all agree the level of play is up significantly from the af2.
"The athletes were faster, bigger, and much more physical," said Head Coach Mitch Allner about last year's inaugural season.
The Talons flew into the playoffs. They captured the division title and earned a first-round bye. They battled the Tampa Bay squad in round two but came out on the short end of the stick.
"We did have a lot of turnover on our team this year," Allner said. "The majority of it was something we talked about needing to do when the season was done. Some of the teams we faced were bigger than us. They were more physical and a little faster than us. We knew this offseason we were going to have to change our team."
He admits not all the losses were by design. The league expanded and several big city organizations poached players from our team.
A couple of high profile players jumped ship. Longtime quarterback and wide receiver combo Justin Algood and Donovan Morgan departed to join the Philedelphia Soul.
The bad news is they were a deadly force we could count on. The good news is this illustrates once again that Tulsa knows talent. The rest of the country is watching.
The better news? No one inside the Talons organization is taking this lying down.
"With our roster, and being a smaller market in this league, teams don't expect a lot from us," Allner said. "To be honest, they did not expect a lot from us last year. A lot of these big name teams came back and we were just Tulsa from the af2 and had a lot of what they considered af2 players. We had a very successful season. We won our division."
The organization is embracing the challenge. Hey Ron Jaworski and Lynn Swann, bring it!
"With the turnover on our roster and these bigger named teams coming in, everybody is looking past us and not expecting a whole lot," he said. "I like it. We have some young, hungry guys who want to learn the game and win football games. They've got a big chip on their shoulder. I hope teams keep overlooking us throughout the season because by the end of the year, they won't be."
The league is all about offense. You want to win; you have to score. Who is going to tote the rock into the end zone this season? Better yet, who is going to distribute the ball?
Oklahoma State Cowboys fans may recall a signal caller by the name of Bobby Reid. Actually, most of America remembers Reid if they think long and hard. We will not go there, but here's hoping he has what it takes to guide our Talons to the promise land.
"Bobby is actually a lot different than most quarterbacks who play this game," Allner said, referring to Reid's athletic prowess.
Much like the outdoor game, pocket passers rule indoors. Progressions and reads are keys to success.
Here is where Reid can take the offense to the next level. When the patterns breakdown and the pockets collapse, he can either extend the play or take off.
He is new to the indoor game. There will be a learning curve. Only so much coaching can be done in practice. The live bullets must start flying to see where a player and team stand.
Reid continues to improve. "The ball was on-time and he had good footwork," Allner said after his first game of the season. "The one thing a lot of teams don't have is a quarterback that can do that in the passing game, but also beat you with his legs. That is something he is proving that he can do especially early on in his arena football career."
He'll grow and progress with a new set of receivers at his disposal. Trent Shelton has become Reid's go to guy so far.
Shelton played for Baylor and was a member of the Washington Redskins training camp last season. He has picked up on the arena league route nuances extremely well.
He's flanked by Brian Paysinger and Brandon Copeland. Paysinger played for the Oregon Ducks. He is a big receiver with solid hands. Copeland was a late edition and could be a hidden gem.
The defense is solidified by perennial playmaker Jamar Ransom. He has been the heart and soul of the defense for several years. He is also a crowd favorite.
"One thing about Jamar is you never need to worry about him slowing down," coach said. "He's got a motor that goes from the time we start 'til the time we're done."
The Talons welcome the Arizona Rattlers on Monday. They are a veteran team, which is a big contrast from the young and hungry group suiting up for the Talons.
Grab a ticket or check out the schedule at tulsatalons.com.
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