Preps Talk

Have the Bears built up back end of the roster?


Have the Bears built up back end of the roster?

I had the great opportunity this past week to host a few shows with former NFL scout, coach, and executive Pat Kirwin on SiriusXM NFL Radio. It was a fact finding mission identifying which NFL teams have done the best job building up their roster to survive injury during the season. The Bears made our list with criteria diagnosed with Pats years of experience and a template most NFL General Managers follow for success.

Keep in mind the 2011 Bears season spiraled out of control due to quarterback Jay Cutlers injury at the most critical position on the field. I encourage readers to check out Pat Kirwins article at Pat breaks down his favorite roster builders this season. I briefly summarized the criteria below with comments how the Bears have addressed each:

1. Have backup quarterback who can go 2-2 if they had to play a month of the season.

The Bears have done just that with the signing of Jason Campbell who comes with wins and quality starting experience.

2. Have a second running back who can be a 1,000 yard back or at minimum generate 75 yards a week as runner or receiver.

The signing of talented runner Michael Bush will pay huge dividends for the Bears in 2012. Phil Emerys work may not be done if Matt Forte elects not to report for training camp. If Bush or Khalil Bell were to go down in pre-season with an injury, it could have disastrous consequences. Emery, most likely, has done his homework on experienced free agent RBs if one needs to be signed before camp. It will be done quickly, only if Forte withholds his services.

3. Have third wide receiver who can play if a starter goes down, who must average 4-6 receptions a week as an X (weak side receiver) or Z (strong side receiver).

The Bears may be featuring their most talented group of receivers in quite some time. Brandon Marshall can play X or Z and so can Earl Bennett. If either goes down to injury, rookie Alshon Jeffery would become the X and either of the aforementioned, moves to Z. Devin Hester becomes the slot in this scenario, plus the Bears also signed Devin Thomas who is a Z if they elect to keep Bennett in the slot where he has thrived in three WR sets. Chicago now has incredible depth at wideout.

4. Have second TE whos a legitimate threat as a blocker and receiver.

Finally, the Bears will be utilizing the talent at this position. Kellen Davis is very athletic at 67, 267 lbs. Second year tight end Kyle Adams looks the part, but inexperienced. Rookie draft pick Evan Rodriguez is more of a FBH-back type of player, not a true tight end, but is definitely a threat to catch the football.

5. Have two experienced backup offensive linemen. A swing-tackle for either side or an experienced inside player for guard or center positions.

The Bears have it all on the offensive line. Chicago is very versatile up front. Just think of Chris Williams, if right tackle Gabe Carimi or left tackle J'Marcus Webb were to go down, Williams has started at both positions, along with experience playing at left guard. Chris Spencer can play guard or center along with Roberto Garza. The offseason signing of Chilo Richal brings even more playing experience on the offensive line to go with snaps logged last year at guard and tackle by Lance Louis. Chicago has tremendous flexibility up front.

6. Have third defensive tackle that could play a whole game if a starter went down.

Between Stephen Paea, Matt Toeaina, Israel Idonije, Henry Melton, and recently signed veterans like Chauncey Davis, and DeMario Pressley, there will be nice competition during camp. The depth is there.

7. Have a pass-rush specialist.

Julius Peppers is the guy, but a pass rusher opposite could reap the rewards of a ton of slide protection to Peppers side. The Bears believe first-round draft pick Shea McClellin is the guy. Also, Corey Wooten needs to come on strong because if both fail, Izzy will be kicking back up to defensive end.

8. Have a fourth cornerback if either starter at right, left, or nickel corner were to go down with an injury.

Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings and DJ Moore have all been solid. Free agent Kelvin Hayden comes with a ton of experience during his days as a Colt in the exact same defense as the Bears. If Hayden performs even remotely as good as Jennings has, the Bears hit pay dirt again.

9. Have a third safety.

This position has been the Achilles' heel for the Bears for quite some time. Next on stage is rookie Brandin Hardin if Major Wright or Chris Conte get injured or falter. Love Craig Steltzs heart, but he is limited. This group has to grow up quick.

10. Have four core special teams players be able to fill in if starter goes down on offense or defense during a game.

Thomas, Hayden, linebacker Geno Hayes and Rachal all fit the bill as does Davis.

The Bears have met all criteria, but need No. 4 and No. 9 to come around and finally develop. The defense just needs to be the typical Bears defense. The special teams need to be who they always have been. The offensive accountability Mike Tice is shaping needs to take hold during the end of training camp and the first three weeks of the season. If this happens, the Bears can sustain and remain consistent through injury.

New Trier's Duke Olges gives Northwestern verbal commitment

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New Trier's Duke Olges gives Northwestern verbal commitment

New Trier junior three-star ranked athlete Duke Olges (6-foot-5, 260 pounds) gave Northwestern his verbal commitment last Sunday yet waited until Friday morning to make his decision public via his Twitter page.

Olges, who was recruited by the Wildcats as a defensive tackle, felt pressure to make a decision since the Wildcats already had one defensive tackle verbal commitment in Clear Springs Texas Jason Gold while another defensive tackle with an offer was making an on campus visit later that day.

“I didn’t know if it was the right decision, to be honest. It was impulse more than anything,” Olges told's publisher Louis Vaccher. “But what comforted me is after having a couple days to think about it, I felt a sigh of relief. It would have hurt me too much to let that scholarship go. As much as I wanted to go and visit other schools, losing that scholarship would have hurt more than anything else.”

Olges is now the 10th known verbal commitment in the Wildcats Class of 2019  and the second in state pledge along with Bolingbrook junior DB Cameron Mitchell. 

Olges, who was holding 26 scholarship offers this spring, was planning to make summer visits to Iowa, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Virginia and Duke before giving the Wildcats his verbal commitment. 

Why coming to the Bears was the right opportunity for Harry Hiestand to leave Notre Dame


Why coming to the Bears was the right opportunity for Harry Hiestand to leave Notre Dame

There wasn’t a single game Harry Hiestand coached while at Notre Dame — 77 in total — in which he didn’t have a future top-20 pick starting at left tackle. 

Zack Martin (16th overall, 2014) was followed by Ronnie Stanley (6th overall, 2016), who gave way to Mike McGlinchey (9th overall, 2018). Hiestand also developed Quenton Nelson, who went on to be the highest interior offensive lineman drafted (6th overall, 2018) since 1986. Nelson and McGlinchey became the first pair of college offensive line teammates to be drafted in the first 10 picks since 1991, when Tennessee had tackles Charles McRae and Antone Davis go seventh and eighth. 

“It wasn’t surprising because the kind of guys they are, they absolutely did everything the right way, the way they took care of themselves, the way they trained, the teammates that they are and were,” Hiestand said. “They just did it all the way you wanted them to do it. So it was. It was a good moment.”

Hiestand said he had a sense of pride after seeing his two former players be drafted so high, even if he wasn't able to re-unite with either of them. The Bears, of course, didn’t have a chance to draft Nelson, and had conviction on using the eighth overall pick on linebacker Roquan Smith (as well as having tackles Charles Leno and Bobby Massie in place for the 2018 season). 

Anecdotally, one former Notre Dame player said (maybe half-jokingly) that Nelson and McGlinchey were fighting each other to see who could get drafted by the Bears to play with Hiestand again.

“There’s nobody that I’ve been around in this game that’s more passionate about what he does,” McGlinchey, now with the San Francisco 49ers, said of Hiestand at Notre Dame’s pro day in March. “There’s really only two things that are important to him, and that’s his family and then his offensive linemen. There’s a lot to be said for that. 

“In this game, everybody’s always trying to work an angle to up their own career — he doesn’t want to do anything but coach O-line, and that’s what really sticks out to us as players. He cares for us like we’re his own. Obviously he coaches extremely hard and is very demanding of his players, which I loved — he pushed me to be the player that I am.

“I’m standing in front of all you guys because of Harry Hiestand. But the amount of passion and care that he has not only for his job but his teaching abilities and his players is what sets him apart.”

Hiestand could’ve stayed as long as he wanted at Notre Dame, presumably, given how much success he had recruiting and developing players there. But six years at one spot is a long time for a position coach, especially at the college level, where the grind of recruiting is so vital to the success of a program. It’s also not like every one of the blue-chip prospects Hiestand recruited to South Bend panned out, either. 

So Hiestand knew he wanted to get back to the NFL after coaching with the Bears under Lovie Smith from 2005-2009. It’s a new challenge for him now, not only to develop second-round pick James Daniels but to continue the growth of Cody Whitehair and Leno while getting the most out of Kyle Long, Massie and the rest of the group (back during his first stint with the Bears, Hiestand had the luxury of coaching experienced, more ready-made offensive lines). 

As one of the more highly-regarded offensive line coaches in the country, though, Hiestand could’ve jumped back into the NFL whenever, and nearly wherever, he wanted. And for him, coming back to the Bears was the perfect fit. 

“That’s an awesome, awesome place, a great franchise,” Hiestand said. “It was something, I always wanted to go back, I didn’t know where I would get the opportunity. So I’m just very fortunate it just happened to be back at the same place that I was before. There are a lot of things that are different but there’s also a lot that’s the same. 

“But it’s one of the — it is the greatest organization. Historically, this is where it all began, and being part of it — and the other thing, and I told those guys when I got here, when we get it done here, you guys are going to see this city like you’ve never seen it. And I remember that. That’s what we’re after.”