Clay Henry is the publisher and executive editor of Hawgs Illustrated. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, voter for the Heisman Trophy and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Mortensen assembles all-star cast for passing academy
Alex Mortensen works with a youngster during the 2012 NWA Passing Academy in Springdale.
FAYETTEVILLE It can sometimes be amusing when someone starts a new event and wants to call it annual that first year. I like it a little better when it’s the second annual.
That’s where Alex Mortensen is with his baby, the Northwest Arkansas Passing Game Academy. The second annual is complete with a new twist, a Friday night football clinic with some wonderful headliners, along with NFL Hall of Famer Michael Irvin set to work the second day of the academy on Sunday.
Mortensen, former Razorback quarterback, is in his second season as Passing Game Coordinator at Division II New Mexico Highlands where quarterback Emmanuel Lewis finished second nationally in total offense (392 yards per game).
I want to be a fly on the wall at the clinic – just $50 – on Friday night in Rogers when Jim Chaney, Dowell Loggains, Hal Mumme and Rick Jones hold court on passing game schematics. It’s designed for coaches, but anyone can come. Chaney is the new offensive coordinator at Arkansas, with background in the NFL and at Purdue where Drew Brees set records. Chaney was OC at Tennessee the last four seasons.
Loggains, 32, is the youngest offensive coordinator in the NFL. The former Arkansas quarterback is with the Tennessee Titans.
Mumme was just hired as OC at SMU. His resume includes Kentucky where Tim Couch re-wrote the SEC record books. He’s also set records in high school football in south Texas, then in other college divisions as head coach at Iowa Wesleyan, Valdosta State, Southeastern Louisiana, New Mexico State and McMurry.
Jones is the reigning national high school coach of the year. He’s led Greenwood to six state titles, including a 6A championship this past fall for three straight.
There’s registration signup at Mortensen’s website, PlayNextLevel.com. The academy had 130 campers for last year’s first event. Registration on the morning of the event last year was so hectic that they decided to do it in advance for the second year. It’s $99.95 for Saturday, $199.95 for both days.
Along with Irvin, the camp will also feature Chris Mortensen, Alex’ dad. He conducted a seminar last year for camp parents. Obviously, Mort and Irvin are close from their days working together at ESPN.
The addition of Irvin this year reinforces Mortensen’s promise that the camp is not just for quarterbacks, although there are great QB instructors with Joe Ferguson, Casey Dick, Mortensen and Loggains on staff.
“That’s a misconception, that it’s just for quarterbacks,” Alex said. “It’s a passing game camp. We are going to teach quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs and tight ends.
“Michael Irvin will coach our receivers on Sunday. He’ll also speak to our group. He’s passionate and brings a high level of expertise.”
Really, it’s like that everywhere you look with this event. The coaches scheduled to speak Friday night all bring a little different touch, from the NFL to the high school ranks.
“I think what you should expect to get is schematic knowledge from four unique perspectives,” Alex said. “I think each will have a different spin. I think you will walk away with concepts that are different.
“Chaney has a great background, going back to his days with Brees in the spread at Purdue, then as a tight ends coach in the NFL. What they did the last four years as far the multiple personnel groups are highly interesting.”
Mumme is always a treat. His unorthodox style produced four different quarterbacks with career passing yardage over 10,000.
“What you are going to get from Coach Mumme is the three, four wideout look and throwing it a million times,” Alex said. “He’s done it at all levels, high school to Divison I and Division II.
“I’m excited about Dowell Loggains and Rick Jones. You don’t get to be the youngest coordinator in the NFL by accident. You have to impress some people before they are going to take a risk on someone that young. Rick Jones has won a lot of games, but more than that, he’s had some great passing offenses in the high school ranks.
“I’m excited about listening to all of these. We’ll rotate through the night. We’ll start out with Jim Chaney at 6 p.m. and he’s asked for 50 minutes to an hour. I know I’m going to leave with something I’m going to be able to use as a coach.”
Alex Mortensen said registration is open. It's for ages 7-18. He will keep an eye on numbers as it relates to camp staff.
"We will keep the ratio of coaches to campers low," he said. "We'll add coaches, but I also know that we took campers at the end and we are not going to do that this year. We'll cut it off.
"I want it to be fun. It's a game, so football should be fun. But we are also going to work hard and teach. It's not a baby sitting event. We will learn football. There will be chalk talk, then video work, then we will take it to the field and implement what we've learned with a progression."