Friday Mailbag 

April, 10, 2009
This week's Top 10 list generated a ton of comments, most came due to the inclusion of Notre Dame, I'll address those in a bit, but I wanted to start with something I wrote in there that also got some folks fired up:

From Dave in Tulsa: Tim Tebow as the greatest college football player of all time??? Have you forgotten a young man by the name of BARRY SANDERS?

Feldman: I didn't say Tebow IS the greatest college player of all time. What I said was he may leave Gainesville as the greatest ever. And I think if he and his team go out and win another national title (they will be a consensus preseason No. 1), then he'd have as strong as argument as anyone. And, I don't wanna hear about what some anonymous pro scouts say about his slow delivery or that he often throws sidearm. His career TD-INT ratio is 67-11. That's spectacular especially for a guy who runs as much as he does. Some skeptics wrote in saying how UF was mediocre in 2007, the year he won the Heisman. It should be noted UF was playing with almost an entirely new defense and Tebow was superb. There have been a lot of guys, Sanders included, who had great seasons for teams that didn't win titles. But Tebow is doing both. He's had record seasons and he's been the driving force behind national title teams.

Sanders was a superstar and he had what I'd call the greatest single season (1988) any college football player has ever had, but his other two seasons at Oklahoma State he backed up Thurman Thomas. You could say, well Tebow backed up Chris Leak in one of his seasons, and that'd be fair, but since he's staying for Year 4, at least he's got a chance to do something unparalleled as a winner and as a leader.

From Brooks in Alabama: How can you make a top 10 list for this up and coming season and not put Alabama on it?! We are gonna dominate Virginia Tech's one-man show and then its time to cruise through the SEC to meet up with Florida, for what I hope is another No. 1 vs. No. 2 game so we can say we beat the best! Then I guess we will have to suffice the country's needs and beat Texas or Oklahoma so we can get credit for being the best. Roll Tide! 14-0.

Feldman: My doubts about Alabama right now stem from having to rebuild an O-line that was the engine of last season's Tide team. They had a bruising, physical, run-blocking offense and now they have to fill in a lot of big holes. They also go from having an experienced game manager to a first-timer, which I imagine will be Greg McElroy.

From Michael in Atlanta: Nice to see the Notre Dame checks cleared. My question is do you guys get one big check sent to Bristol and you split it evenly to keep the hype machine going? Or do they send you individual checks to your home and when you cash it you have to write your "return to glory" articles for the Irish. I see Ivan received his first this year.

Feldman: Very, very nice. I have to admit I too am skeptical about the Irish and it all really comes down to one issue: Can Charlie Weis actually be a good head coach? For all of the bluster over the past four seasons, the Irish have been awful the past two seasons and there's no reasonable way to blame anyone else for what happens in Year 4 of a coach's tenure. Good coaches can win with sophomores and juniors, especially facing the caliber of teams ND had last year. Weis has not.

The thing I've heard that is one of Weis' biggest issues is he tries to do too much and doesn't settle into anything, and you can't do that in college. It seems as though he's that kid playing the video game who gets off to the frustrating start and quickly jabs at the RESET button every time something goes wrong, and so it keeps blowing up in his face. So why will this season be different? I suspect he has learned from the past and also now has a greater margin for error with the talent level being more experienced and his competition getting even weaker. Would I bet my car on ND making it to the national title game? No, but I think the Irish at least have an outside shot.

From Vib in Fremont: Holding the BCS thing against Jeff Tedford is a joke. The Pac-10 has never got two teams into the BCS system. How does Oregon or Cal not get in? Also, Cal was a BCS team in 2004. Mack Brown's lobbying was one reason. Also, the next year there was an additional BCS bowl. If Cal had the 2004 season again, Tedford would've been in the Rose. He's an excellent coach. Aaron Rodgers was a stud and he hasn't found a replacement for him. Look at the great RBs he's produced. Arrington not being invited to NYC was a joke.

Feldman: I think Tedford is a very good coach and I never was the one who insinuated he wasn't. Here's the problem: If Cal was a BCS team that year the Bears certainly didn't go out and prove it in the bowl game where Texas Tech thumped them. What really has hindered the perception of Cal -- that it isn't a heavyweight -- is the school's record in big games: In the past four years, the Bears are 3-6 against top-20 teams and 0-4 against top-10 opponents. They must start winning some of these games.

From Lynn in Pasadena: Did you see this story about Rick Neuheisel calling out Cal and explaining why its harder for UCLA to recruit than it is for some other programs in the country? Why don't we read more stories about this kind of thing around Signing Day?

Feldman: The Neuheisel comments were pretty strong. They came from an interview he did with Bruins Nation:

"Cal has some advantages over us in that there are other majors that kids can get into at the University of California. I'm not sure I have all of it correctly down to give you more detail, but I do know that they are allowed to take a few more players than we are. And that always raises the hair on the back the necks of Bruin football fans because [they ask] "why, if we're in the same system, can they get more players than we can?" "Why can..."; who was the great wide receiver from Long Beach Poly that was ...?

BN: DeSean Jackson?

Neuheisel: Yeah, "why can DeSean Jackson get into Cal, and not UCLA?" "Why can Marshawn Lynch get into Cal, and not UCLA?" Those are great questions [from Bruin fans]. But, I trust that we're working towards having equality with Cal, and I want the admissions people at UCLA to trust that we understand our mission is not just to win football games, but to make sure the kids get the full UCLA experience.

That's really some strong stuff. It feels like Lane Kiffin 2.0 in bluntness. Some coaches might hint at that but few would come out and cite examples on the record.

Finding out who can get admitted and who can't, can be very tricky. Many fans assume because their school has a strong rep when it comes to selecting regular students that it carries over to their football teams. That's often not the case. At a place such as Stanford it is. Other elite academic institutions, as I realized from actually seeing the information the schools use while working on "Meat Market," not so much. And the selection criteria frequently change; depending on the relationship of the head coach or how that program may be doing, it can get easier to get borderline kids admitted or harder. The only real gauge to tell where things are is if you actually see the academic profiles of the recruits and chart who ends up where for that year.

From Geoff in Denton, Texas: Any thoughts about TCU after the Spring Game? Jerry Hughes says this years LB core will be better than Phillips and Henson last year. Is Daryl Washington the MWC Defensive Player of the Year or is it Jerry Hughes?

Feldman: Washington looks like a rising star. Gary Patterson had told me that when the pro scouts came to TCU last spring, Washington, a 6-3, 232-pound linebacker, had clocked a 4.42 in the 40. I thought he looked good as did the other LB Tank Carder, and I was very impressed with Tanner Brock, the freshman from Robert Griffin's old high school at Copperas Cove. Still, I think Hughes is the best player on that team. I am curious to see how well the middle of that defense plays since it is pretty green.


• This is a basketball story, but I think it really relates to football as well. "The frenzied pursuit of high school star John Wall of Raleigh has galvanized college basketball fans to get involved in an interactive way via Facebook and other social networking Web sites. That has schools concerned about running afoul of NCAA rules," writes Roger van der Horst:

"Thursday morning, N.C. State asked Taylor Moseley, a freshman, to shut down 'John Wall PLEASE come to NC STATE!!!', a Facebook group that drew more than 700 members. By Thursday night, it was gone. Moseley started a new group -- 'Bring a National Title back to NC STATE!' -- that makes no mention of Wall but includes a photograph of the senior at Raleigh Word of God, who is widely considered the nation's best point guard prospect."

Just on a quick search for touted 2010 football recruits I found Facebook pages called "CLEMSON FANS FOR MARCUS LATTIMORE" and "Gamecock Nation is for Marcus Lattimore" as well as others with titles such as "Jackson Jeffcoat: We all want you at the University of Texas" and "Lache Seastrunk, come to Texas!" although that last one about the speedy Texas tailback had only one member. I get why schools are concerned especially if it makes it easier for boosters to befriend prospects and no doubt that really could be problematic. That said, I think it's such a slippery slope in being proactive and paranoid, no?

• I went out to USC practice Thursday to check out the Trojans. What a mob scene it was. There probably were about 800 people outlining the practice fields watching. Many were from local high schools (apparently lots of schools are on spring break). Freshman Matt Barkley had a very solid day and Pete Carroll, who isn't one to gush especially not before studying the practice tape, spoke highly of Barkley's savvy. "He's not bogged down on the installation and terminology. He just has an aptitude, and that's giving him a chance to compete," Carroll said. "He hasn't taken a step backward at any time. Normally, the freshmen do."

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