Posted: Tuesday July 12, 2005 10:24AM; Updated: Tuesday July 12, 2005 5:54PM
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After reading your lists of the best, worst, underrated and overrated coaches, I couldn't help but notice that former NFL coaches (Pete Carroll, Al Groh and Chan Gailey) are front-and-center on all lists. So, looking ahead two to three years from now, where do you think Pittsburgh's Dave Wannstedt will fall? --Josh, Columbus, Ohio
If the early returns are any indication, Wannstedt could ultimately wind up being one of the best hires of any school this offseason. Wannstedt, a Pitt alum and Steel City native, has wasted no time flexing his muscle on the local recruiting scene, already securing 12 commitments for next year, 11 of them in-state. Not coincidentally, Penn State, which has made a common practice in the past of loading up early, has just two verbals, neither of them from Pennsylvania. The Panthers' commitments are no slouches, either. One of them, Dorin Dickerson, is rated as the fifth-best receiver in the country by Scout.com. Another, Jason Pinkston, is ranked No. 11 at defensive tackle.
I still think Walt Harris got a raw deal when he was basically shoved out the door last year despite significantly boosting the program -- which was 15-41 in the five years before his arrival, 39-23 in his last five years there -- but at the same time, he had pretty much maxed out his capabilities. Many Pitt fans still cling to the belief the program can return to its mid-'70s level, when it won a national championship, and while I've always felt that was largely unrealistic, Wannstedt may be the one guy who can do it. He wasn't exactly an overwhelming success as an NFL head coach, but neither was Carroll or Groh. He's always been considered a solid defensive mind, was a major part of Jimmy Johnson's success at Oklahoma State, Miami and with the Dallas Cowboys, and it may be that his background and personality are better-suited for the college game, particularly his alma mater.
C'mon now! How can you leave the University of Florida off of your list of teams that could win the national title in hoops and football in the same year? With Urban Meyer calling the shots in the Swamp and Billy Donovan going deep in the tourney numerous times, including the championship game in '00 (not to mention the Andrew DeClerq-led Final Four appearance back in '94). --Tim Alessi, Beaver Falls, Pa.
You're right, I blew that one. The Gators are poised for a title run in hoops this year with Anthony Roberson ... oh wait, he left? ... well, Matt Walsh ... what, he bolted too? ... well, at least they have David Lee. ... no. He graduated? Oh right, that's why I left them off. Also, a little correction to Tim's revisionist history about Donovan's "numerous" deep tourney runs -- Florida hasn't made it out of the NCAA second round since the '00 title-game run, and Lon Krueger was the coach in '94.
Speaking of corrections, I apologize profusely to you, the readers, for not fact-checking a question submitted last week by Hunter Roberts of Richmond, Va. In defending Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, he made an allusion (which, I confess, I read right past) to him leading a program with "the most bowl appearances of all time." The Vols are second to Alabama in that department, as numerous Crimson Tide fans wrote in to point out, an accomplishment that's all the more impressive when you consider how often 'Bama has been banned from the postseason.
Are there any predictions on which freshman will have an Adrian Peterson-like effect on his team? --Allen, Washington D.C.
Last year was a particularly special one for freshmen, when you consider the impacts made not only by Heisman runner-up Peterson but Michigan running back Michael Hart and quarterback Chad Henne, North Texas running back Jamario Thomas, Ohio State receiver Ted Ginn Jr. and USC receiver Dwayne Jarrett. I doubt we'll see anyone like Peterson or Henne this year, considering none of the running backs in this year's class were anywhere near as touted as Peterson, and most of the top quarterbacks (USC's Mark Sanchez, LSU's Ryan Perilloux, Tennessee's Jonathan Crompton) are at places where they'll likely redshirt. There are, however, several receivers who could have an instant impact on their team, most notably Penn State speedster Derrick Williams, whom Joe Paterno envisions using much the same way the Buckeyes did Ginn; Cal's DeSean Jackson, the MVP of last January's U.S. Army All-American Bowl, who walks into a Bears receiving corps depleted by graduation; and Florida State's Fred Rouse, who enters a similar situation in Tallahassee.
Don't you think Michigan State could also fit in the category of sleeping giants, as well as possible dual national-title winners? As you mentioned, we've got a great coach in John L. Smith, a new addition to our stadium -- which is consistently sold out -- and a healthy Drew Stanton, who, had it not been for his untimely injuries, could have gotten us past those annoying Wolverines. Our basketball program isn't too shabby, either. --Rob Melching, East Lansing, Mich.
I have no doubt Smith, who planted the seeds for Louisville's top-10 team last season, can turn the Spartans into consistent winners, and Stanton could be one of the surprise performers in the country this season. However, barring a complete collapse at the programs in Ann Arbor and Columbus, I find it difficult to ever put Michigan State in the category of potential national-title contender, because the Spartans will always struggle to recruit the kind of talent necessary to reach that level. Sure, they pluck the occasional T.J. Duckett or Charles Rogers, but for the most part, the majority of blue-chippers in Michigan are always going to lean toward the Wolverines, just as those in their neighboring state are usually going to choose Ohio State. It's the same "little brother" dilemma faced by schools like Oklahoma State and Washington State, and it's the reason Nick Saban once concluded -- correctly, as it turned out -- he'd have a better chance of achieving national prominence at LSU than he did in East Lansing.
You're an expert in both sports, so here is my question: Do you see Greg Paulus trying out for the Duke football team? If you say yes, do you think he could help turn the program around in the ultra-competitive ACC? He was the Gatorade Player of the Year in football. --Garry Gordon, Richmond, Va.
After watching Paulus at the All-American Bowl, I would suggest, politely, that he stick to hoops. He looked completely out of his league compared with the other quarterbacks there (Sanchez, Perrilloux, Crompton, etc.), which I've been told can be attributed to the weak competition he played against in upstate New York. He's the real deal at point guard, though, and while his quarterbacking abilities may still be an upgrade for the Blue Devils, I'm sure he realizes his professional future is in basketball and will concentrate on that.
I live for college football, but it makes me sick that there is a game being played somewhere almost every night of the week. Am I alone here? Does anyone else care? Where's the seven-day buildup? As a man, I finally understand the importance of foreplay. --Scott, Windsor, Ontario
Ah, Windsor. A teenage male's utopia. I don't mind, and actually quite enjoy, the Thursday-night games, which usually feature semi-prominent teams and have included some memorable contests in recent years (Miami-Louisville last season, the Cardinals' '02 upset of Florida State, Philip Rivers' breakout performance against Georgia Tech in '00). They serve as an appetizer to the weekend much the same way Monday Night Football wraps it up. Tuesday-, Wednesday- and Friday-night games I could do without, though, and I'm sure many others feel the same way.
I didn't notice it so much in the past because ESPN tended to place C-list games on those nights, but looking at this season's schedule, Boise State-Bowling Green, a possible matchup of top-25 teams, is scheduled for a Wednesday night, as are key MAC games Northern Illinois-Toledo and NIU-Miami. The upshot is these teams get to play on national television in an exclusive window, whereas on Saturdays they'd be overshadowed by any number of other games. The downside, as Scott mentioned, is it lessens the traditional week-long buildup that makes college football so unique and makes it more closely resemble basketball, with games on almost every night of the week.
In your last Mailbag, you mentioned how it's amazing ASU and Arizona don't have top-10 recruiting classes in each sport every year. Were you referring to our incredible weather and facilities or our world-famous coed "talent?" --John, Tempe, Ariz.