Are Germany’s Saarland Hurricanes looking at a breakout year in 2017?
After four years in the lower echelons of the German Football League and then playoff berths in the past two years, the Hurricanes seem poised to surprise.
Saarland has quietly become one of the most improved programs in the GFL since first moving up in 2011. After recording just 10 wins in 30 games in 2011, 2012 and 2013, under the guidance of head coach Thomas Smythe and management of club president Tobias Bagusche, CEO Torsten Reif , manager Paul Motzki and sports director Felix Motzki, the club has gone 22-21 in the past three seasons and advanced to the playoffs for the past two.
It is the kind of improvement that speaks of commitment and solid coaching. And an ability to gradually attract more and better talent. This year’s crop seems better than ever. The on-field success of Hurricanes has been built up gradually. The club has a very clear vision. Combine experienced coaching with the development of key players, and adding players from the local region who have been trained and are committed to the team and sign American imports where needed. It is a simple recipe and it seems this year it will lead to success.
Thomas Smythe who is entering his fourth year as head coach of the Hurricanes:
“We have a veteran squad now but we are still young in spots. We have more good athletes than in the first 3 seasons. Our QB is in his fourth year and is still only 22 years old. He should have a breakout season. Our defense is undersized but athletic, aggressive and tough. We still need better depth on the offensive line. Our goal is to win a playoff game or two after losing in the first round for two straight years.”
The key is the wealth of local talent. Paul Motzki:
“The core (80%) of Hurricanes’ roster is players who have moved up from our youth teams and our Prospect Team (Canes II). This year alone, seven players from the youth and the Prospects were called up. Forty players from our 2016 playoff team have returned for 2017. Previously, 30 were boys from the youth teams. That alone already makes our work special. We get the desired results in the game and get those of our guys.”
With a strong base of local players, some of the imports – Lenny Greene and Lamar Hall – are also part of the long term strategy of the Hurricanes. Both are in their third year. Of the 15 new signings for this season, only one is a new import, ex-Green Bay Packers Charles Clay. The others come from our region, working or studying here and intend to remain with the team in the coming years. The 15 new arrivals all have excellent backgrounds in football, whether from college, national or first league teams.
Long term coaches important
The coaching staff of the Saarland Hurricanes is the heart of the club’s success. The club has succeeded in keeping top coaches who have constantly developed and built the team . Smythe has done an excellent job over the past three years and is perfectly complemented by the other coaches. Overall, the Hurricanes have 12 coaches, all from national or first league teams or who were previously successful in US high school and/or college teams.
Americans: Brandon Kohn, Aaron Blackmon, Charles Clay
Germans: Tom Feldhäuser, Stefan Mertsching Darius Marmol, Salif Jaiteh, Marko Vidović, Nico Schneider, Lukas Schröder, Jonas Gruschka, Peter Geimer, Nico Kneis
French: Jordan Horne Beck and Lionel Toucet
” Our offensive coaches are very experienced and our defensive coordinator worked under two of my best friends. He learned from the best.”
The team’s expectations for 2017 are high. Torsten Reif:
“We have a core of players who have grown and become in four years under Tom Smythe. Complemented by strong new additions and combined with experienced coaches we have a better team and hope that will be reflected in the results of this season.”