Friday's Mailbag 

June, 26, 2009

I'm leading this week's mailbag with the story of a player committed to giving back.

From Devin in Ann Arbor, Mich.: Is it my imagination or has this off-season been full of depressing news about players getting arrested, Florida's off-field issues, Lane Kiffin's BS and recruiting rules being violated even more so than any other year?

Feldman: Perception-wise, it probably has. Some of that starts with the fallout from Kiffin's comments about Urban Meyer and how much of a spotlight he's brought to Tennessee, which indirectly focused even more attention on the SEC and every subsequent secondary violation. Then you have to factor in the added Internet coverage from blogs, Web sites, message boards and year-round CF TV coverage, which means stories (and many non-stories) have extended life. The spotlight is wider, not just brighter. Does that mean folks have been behaving any worse than in the past? Honestly, I'm not sure. Probably not.

But there are still plenty of positive stories out there and this is a good opportunity to talk about one surrounding Navy QB Ricky Dobbs.

Earlier this month Dobbs set up a free football camp in his hometown of Douglasville, Ga. What started out as a chance to work with three high school kids and one middle schooler grew into a little clinic for eight kids. "But we ended up with about 30 kids there," Dobbs said, adding that he was thrilled with the increased turnout.

It was his way of trying to give back to the people in the community where he was raised, and as he explained it, the camp was an opportunity to teach more than just football to these kids. Obviously with Dobbs at the Naval Academy, he's proved that he's not only well-rounded but he's also been exposed to some amazing leadership training.

"My uncle [Thomas Cobbs] always taught me to give back to the community," he said. "Those fundamental skills were something I should give back. It was real rewarding and it made my day when I'd hear parents saying 'I couldn't get my kid to do these things.' I really wanted to teach the kids about the value of teamwork and what it means to be accountable and responsible."

Dobbs used his examples to make his point. Like the day when he was about to discipline one player who made a mistake. Dobbs asked the other campers who else wanted to do extra push-ups. Only four guys stood up. Ultimately, the Navy quarterback showed the group why they all should be doing the extra push-ups for the mishap. "It's like coach Niumet [Ken Niumatalolo] says, the other 10 guys can do everything right on a play, but if one guy is wrong, the whole thing is messed up."

It's a great lesson. Dobbs says after football he plans to be a high school coach or a youth minister to continue reaching children.

From Connie in Pittsburgh: I was interested in your story about the recruits involved in the international 19-and-under football tournament taking place in Ohio this month. Aren't a lot of college coaches reluctant to let their players play because they might get injured?

Feldman: I'm sure some are. Many college coaches get nervous if they have incoming freshmen playing in summer all-star games. This is even more than that since it's three games, but there are other reasons why college coaches might be reluctant. If you're playing on the national team, it means you might not be able to take that summer session of classes and that's six college credits you might not complete before training camp.

I asked Marshall coach Mark Snyder about his feelings on allowing standout WR recruit Aaron Dobson to play in the tournament. Snyder said because Dobson is getting to represent the U.S. he felt it was an important opportunity for him to experience so the coach left the decision up to the player and his parents. Snyder also thought being exposed to more football and competition was a positive and that since Dobson was a local kid, who already knew where the dining hall and other places are around the Marshall campus, he wouldn't have to worry about any additional time required to get acclimated to college life.

Dobson talks about his experience with Team USA in this Q&A.

Now, if some team has a player blow out an ACL don't be surprised if a few coaches change their mind next time around.

From Jim in Grand Junction, Colo.: When Ron Zook first arrived at Illinois there were rave reviews about his recruiting there and at Florida before he left. That talk seems to have all died down. What is the status of his current recruiting and his teams?

Feldman: Zook has done a really good job at Illinois. Obviously getting the Illini to a Rose Bowl is a major accomplishment. I think they'll be a dangerous team this year and should be in the top 25. QB Juice Williams has a lot of firepower at his disposal. He should have a big year. If they can get out of their first four games at 3-1 (Mizzou in St. Louis; Illinois State; at OSU and Penn State), they could be a top-10 team and get to another Rose Bowl. I think they're a legit sleeper.

As far as recruiting goes, as long as Zook is there, I think they'll land a lot of blue-chip kids. This year they're off to a pretty good start. I've heard good things about QB Chandler Whitmer and they've already got commitments from a trio of impressive DB prospects. Landing big WR Kyle Prater, an in-state kid, would be huge for them. They also have a good shot at reeling in coveted TE prospect C.J. Fiedorowicz, another Illinois product.

From David in Winston-Salem, N.C.: Why do people keep ranking Florida St. in the Top 25? Every season they start out ranked in the top 25 and every season for about the past 3 or 4 they have succeeded to fall out of the rankings. With all due respect to Bobby Bowden and his entourage of coaches Florida St. just isn't as good or as dominant as they used to be. With all of the money put into their football program and all of the great coaches they have on their staff how can they explain losing to a school with WAY less talent that puts not nearly as much money into football in Wake Forest for the past three years. I love Wake Forest but their talent level is inferior at every position, so it must be the coaching right? There is no excuse for Florida St. to ever EVER be shut out and lose by 30 points, at home, to WAKE FOREST! So why are they ranked in the top 25 again this season with no real changes made since last season?

Feldman: No doubt they aren't as good as they were a decade ago. FSU was riding incredibly high in those days. The Noles still get some great players, but for a variety of reasons the program has backslid. I addressed that topic a few months ago.

To me the biggest reason to expect the Noles to at least crack the top 25 is they finally have some experience on their O-line, which for years has been dreadful. Now, it should be pretty good. Keep in mind that most of those guys were playing as freshmen. That's a huge difference. On top of that, QB Christian Ponder is a dual-threat guy who figures to be better with another year of seasoning and defensively, they should be very fast. That said, you look at their schedule and it's rough. They have six road games and BC is probably the easiest.

To read the rest of Bruce's mailbag -- with thoughts on Kansas State this season, Bruce on Twitter, and Oregon recruiting -- you must be an ESPN Insider. Insider