Growing up, Caleb Sturgis knew exactly where he wanted to go to college, and when the time to decide came, he was overjoyed that his dream became a reality.
"I grew up a huge Gators fan," Sturgis said on the Eagles Insider Podcast. "My mom went to the University of Florida, and I always knew if they offered me, that's where I was going. That's where I wanted to go. That's what all my college gear was, all Florida growing up. It was a dream come true when they offered me (a scholarship) and I got a chance to play there."
Sturgis was a freshman in 2008 and experienced the joys of being part of a BCS National Championship team. He handled the kickoff duties throughout the season.
The Gators went 13-1 that year, suffering their only loss to Ole Miss in Week 4. After that, the entire experience for the kicker almost seemed unreal. That season culminated in a 24-14 win over Oklahoma for the crown.
"It was pretty crazy," Sturgis reflected. "Went there and we won a national championship the first year. We started 12-0 the next year and it just kind of felt like we weren't ever going to lose, like we were going to keeping winning SEC championships, keep wining national championships. We lost to Alabama, which kind of started their run and you kind of see how hard it is as a program to continue that dominance."
That would be Sturgis' only championship with his college team, but the kicker has still found success on the field in his NFL career, a feat he credits to his older brother Nathan, a professional soccer player for the Houston Dynamo in Major League Soccer.
"He led the way somewhat of my career path and all," Sturgis said. "I'm one of six and my oldest sister went on and played (soccer) at William & Mary. Then my oldest brother played soccer at Flagler and then Nathan played on the Under-17 National team, Clemson and went pro at 18.
"It was really neat to see him, see how he handled himself. I don't know if I could go pro at 18. I feel like I needed the five years at college to really learn. He just handled himself so well, finished his degree in college and has just really set himself up. I've learned a lot from him."
Also on the Eagles Insider Podcast:
Three And Out from 5:55-11:15
Enemy Intel from 21:50-28:10
Game Time from 28:20-39:20
Mailing It In from 39:35-50:21
Each week, Fran Duffy and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell take an in-depth look at the All-22 tape from the week prior, breaking down what worked, what didn't and what lies ahead for the Eagles. In this week's Eagle Eye in the Sky Podcast, the two focused on Philadelphia's huge 33-27 overtime win in Dallas and looked ahead to Sunday's meeting with the Miami Dolphins.
One of the big storylines heading into Sunday's game against the Cowboys was the Eagles' offensive line. Jason Peters missed the game due to a back injury and Philadelphia was forced to reshuffle its front five. Right tackle Lane Johnson was moved to the Peters' usual spot on the left side, Dennis Kelly started at right tackle, and Matt Tobin got the nod at right guard. The largely untested unit did its job, allowing the Eagles to gain 459 yards of total offense, including 172 yards on the ground in the victory.
"I thought they played well," said Cosell. "I thought Lane Johnson did a nice job at left tackle, I thought Dennis Kelly certainly held his own at right tackle, and I thought overall it was a solid performance. ... What was also interesting was they also went back to using an unbalanced line, where they had three offensive linemen up to the side of Jason Kelce, usually on the left side."
On the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles made things difficult for quarterback Matt Cassel, sacking him four times and picking him off once. Rookie standout Jordan Hicks was injured in the game and will miss the remainder of the season due to a torn pectoral, but Cosell and Duffy believe that the Eagles' depth at the position will allow them to weather the loss of Hicks, who leads the team in tackles through eight games.
"You talk about that front seven, and I think overall they're really starting to come together," Duffy said. "I think now that you have Mychal Kendricks back, you have Kiko Alonso on his way to being 100 percent healthy, hopefully you have DeMeco Ryans coming back, you see this starting to come together."
Against the Dolphins, the Eagles will be faced with the challenge of facing a mobile quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, who played wide receiver for two years at Texas A&M before moving behind center for his junior and senior seasons. He's completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 2,237 yards this season, with 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions. In a 44-26 win over the Texans in Week 7, he became the 64th player ever to finish with a perfect passer rating (158.3), completing 18 of his 19 passes for 282 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
"A lot of the big pass plays have come on scrambling plays, where Tannehill's able break the pocket to buy time for his receivers uncover," said Duffy. "They do a good job of working themselves open, so it'll be interesting to see how the Eagles' defensive line does of containing him with their rush, not allowing him to escape outside the pocket and making him deliver the ball from there."
At the 24:50 mark of the show, cornerback E.J. Biggers joined the show to talk about playing outside corner in a Cover-3 defense. To close things out, Fran Duffy was joined by Joe Rexrode, who covers the Michigan State Spartans for the Detroit Free Press, to talk about the Spartans' potential 2016 NFL Draft prospects. That begins at the 30:00 mark of the podcast.
On a new episode of the Journey To The Draft Podcast, Chris McPherson and Fran Duffy talked about the week that was in college football and highlighted six players who could help play the role of spoiler when it comes to the postseason in the Pick Six segment. After talking about general draft buzz for the first 28:30 minutes of the podcast, the two talked at length about the following six players:
1. QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Senior quarterback Dak Prescott is having a monster season for the Bulldogs, throwing for 2,351 yards with a 66.7 percent completion rate through nine games with 18 touchdowns to just one interception. At 6-2, 233 pounds, he has an NFL body and is a good athlete for his position. In a quarterback class without a bonafide top pick, he's seen as a likely mid-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft.
2. QB Connor Cook, Michigan State
After topping 250 passing yards just once through his first five games, senior signal-caller Connor Cook has thrown for 300-plus in each of the Spartans' last four outings. More of a game manager than a gunslinger, the 6-4 senior could go as high as the first round.
3. WR Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma
Shepard is a player who has made an impact in every season since his freshman campaign for the Sooners. As a freshman, he caught 45 balls for 621 yards and three touchdowns, as a sophomore he hauled in 51 catches for 603 yards and seven scores, as a junior it was again 51 catches, this time for 970 yards and five touchdowns. Through nine games this year, he's notched 47 catches for 826 yards, getting into the end zone seven times. He's projected as a mid-round pick.
4. DT Maliek Collins, Nebraska
In Nebraska's 4-3 front, Maliek Collins is asked to be a one-gap penetrator, but at 6-2, 300 pounds with a frame that looks like it has room for more bulk, the junior is projected more as a run-stuffing nose tackle in the NFL. On the season, he's notched 27 tackles (five for loss) and 1.5 sacks after finishing with 45 tackles (13 for loss) and 4.5 sacks last year. He's expected to be a first-round pick should he forgo his senior season at Nebraska.
5. DT Kenny Clark, UCLA
Listed 6-3, 310 pounds, Bruins defensive tackle Kenny Clark has NFL size. Through nine games, the junior has already logged 47 tackles (4.5 for loss) to go along with 1.5 sacks and three batted balls. If he declares, he could hear his name called in the first or second round of the draft.
6. WR Ryan Switzer, UNC
As a freshman, Ryan Switzer returned a remarkable five punts for touchdowns, but ever since teams have largely been able to shut him down, as he's seen his average yards per return drop from 20.9 in 2013 to 7.0 in the two seasons since. But as a pass-catcher, he's become a bigger part of North Carolina's offense. Last year, he caught 61 passes for 757 yards and four touchdowns, and through nine games this year he's grabbed 35 for 535 yards and four scores. He's likely to return for his senior season and enter the draft in 2017.