Posted: Tuesday May 31, 2005 12:04PM; Updated: Tuesday May 31, 2005 1:45PM
Submit a question or an opinion to Stewart.
While the Big Ten is obviously superior overall to the MAC, why does the MAC consistently get better quarterbacks? Do that many guys slip through the cracks, or is there more to it? Did Chad Pennington, Ben Roethlisberger, Charlie Frye and Omar Jacobs really not get recruited by the Big Ten? --Aaron, Mansfield, Ohio
Excellent question, Aaron, but you're making what I believe is a false assumption that Roethlisberger, Frye, etc., were already better quarterbacks coming out of high school than, say, John Navarre or Justin Zwick. While recruiting is certainly an inexact science, I'm guessing there was a good reason the recruiting analysts and Big Ten coaches had the latter guys rated ahead of the former players. At that early stage in their development, the QBs Michigan and Ohio State had their eyes on may indeed have been further along than the ones who wound up at Marshall and Akron.
The fact is, though -- and I know this is going to sound sacrilegious to some, but there's definite truth to it -- many of the good MAC programs (Miami, Toledo, Marshall, etc.) run systems that better develop and better showcase a quarterback's talents than many of their Big Ten counterparts.
Take Toledo's Bruce Gradkowski. The guy was barely recruited out of high school, but he obviously had some natural ability that just needed to be cultivated. In the Rockets' offense, Gradkowski gets to spread the ball all over the field to the tune of 40 pass attempts per game -- and he has to put it in all the right places, because he's not exactly working with Larry Fitzgerald-type receivers who can bail him out on bad throws.
Now, had Gradkowski gone to Michigan or Ohio State (and assuming he even got off one of their benches), he'd be asked to run a conservative offense where he hands the ball off 35 times a game and, when he does throw, rarely gets the chance to go downfield (and if he does, he's probably throwing to some sick athlete like Braylon Edwards, who can turn poorly thrown floaters into completions).
I'm not saying one type of system is better than the other; each fits its respective league and the type of personnel it typically recruits. But can you see now where it might be possible for a Roethlisberger or Frye to "lap" a Navarre or Zwick in his development from the time he's a college recruit to the time he's an NFL prospect?
Minnesota center Greg Eslinger is a true junior. He graduated from high school in 2002. He's hardly an "11th-year senior." --Andrew Prokop, Bismarck, N.D.
This was one of just many e-mails I got from people who clearly did not grasp the gist of the 11th-year senior game (from the May 17 Mailbag). The idea is not to identify actual 11th-year seniors. They don't even have to be fifth- or sixth-year seniors. It's just guys who seem like they've been there for 11 years, either because they've been starting since they were freshmen or we've been hearing about them for even longer than that. Eslinger fits the bill: He was freshman All-America in 2002 and has been in part of the college football consciousness for what seems like an eternity. Classic examples include former Georgia Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton, former Arizona quarterback Oretege Jenkins and former Michigan kickers Remy Hamilton and Hayden Epstein. Work with me here, people.
Some good submissions to add to my original list: Missouri quarterback Brad Smith (from Jesse Olsen, Kansas City, Mo.), UAB quarterback Darrell Hackney (Michael Gray, Irondale, Ala.), and Florida center Mike Degory (Matthew Houston, Tallahassee, Fla.).
Looking back, do you think the NCAA was unfair in its punishment of Alabama in 2002 for recruiting violations? I mean, people have been screaming about violations at Tennessee for years, and every time, "nothing" is found -- even when there was a paper trail leading to improper benefits for Tee Martin. More recently at Ohio State, the NCAA just gave up trying to investigate Maurice Clarett's allegations. Alabama did its time and is moving on, but I'm curious to see what people think with the benefit of hindsight. --James, Birmingham, Ala.
I'm sure Alabama fans will continue to seethe until the day Tennessee finally receives its "justice" for all those so-far unsubstantiated tales of misdeeds that have been circulating for years. And I know it had to be particularly galling for Tide followers to see Ohio State get off scot-free now that it's clear to all but the most blindly loyal Buckeye followers that something was going on in Columbus. (Last November, Clarett described a culture where boosters set up players, including him, with phantom jobs where they were paid without having to do any actual work; six weeks later, Troy Smith gets busted for ... taking $500 from a booster who, according to the NCAA's report, put Smith on his company's payroll but never had the player do any work. You do the math.)
The difference is, Alabama got caught, and no, I do not think it was unfairly punished. If anything, the Tide was fortunate to get off as lightly as it did. Because of the school's status as a "repeat violator" (the Tide had been tagged in 1995 for violations under Gene Stallings), the NCAA would have been well within its right to impose the death penalty, but many believe it'll never again do that because of the painfully severe effect it had on SMU.
The NCAA enforcement division is hardly a model of fair justice. Because its investigators are so limited in their powers (they cannot force anyone to testify), they are almost entirely dependent on the presence of a voluntary whistle-blower. With Alabama, they had several, most notably Albert Means' assistant high school coach, Milton Kirk. With Ohio State, however, once Clarett declined to cooperate, the investigators had none.
Looking at it from strictly a football point of view (and not a geographical one), is there any reason Notre Dame should not join the Big East? --Trip, Chicago
You and I must be living in different realities, Trip, because I can't think of a single reason Notre Dame should join the Big East. In the new BCS contract, the Irish are automatically guaranteed a BCS bowl berth by finishing in the top eight. They could do the same thing playing in the Big East -- or, if someone else in the conference happens to finish higher, wind up in the Gator Bowl (or worse, since the Gator is looking to replace the Big East after this season).
Speaking of which, even if the Irish's bowl partnership with the Big East dissolves, bowls such as the Gator and Cotton would flip head over heels to make individual agreements with them. And the school makes far more money from its contract with NBC than it would from a share of even a renegotiated Big East deal with ABC. These reasons you speak of ... fill me in.
Carrie Underwood (left), Jason White
Stewart, you have to be kidding by selecting Rachel Bilson as the object of our worship. Carrie Underwood is a much better choice because she is a) hot, b) from a college football hotbed and c) not a blatantly obvious pick. Your thoughts? --Marc, Surprise, Ariz.
Not an obvious choice? Are you kidding me? How many people watched American Idol, like 87 million? (For the record, I was not one of them.) How many talk shows has Carrie been on in the past week, about 140? I am happy, however, that the state of Oklahoma has a new idol to celebrate, because she sure is whole lot better looking than Jason White.