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College Football Mailbag (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday July 12, 2006 12:59PM; Updated: Wednesday July 12, 2006 3:12PM
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I see Art has a strategy, so I'm developing one too. I'm going to ask the same question every week until it's answered: Kyle Wright and Chris Leak were the two top-rated QBs in the 2003 recruiting class. Each faces an important and defining season this year, as Leak is in the second year of the Urban Meyer era and Wright is in his second year under center at the U. Who do you think will have the better year and why?
-- Ryan, Casselberry, Fla.

It's an excellent question, Ryan, and I'm sorry if I missed it the first time (or second, or third ...). That said, it's probably unfair to compare the two at this point. While they may have entered college at the same time, Leak has a two-year head start in terms of experience, having started since his freshman year, and is entering his second season in the same offense. On the other hand, Wright has to start from scratch with new offensive coordinator Rich Olson.

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Wright showed flashes of brilliance at times last season -- he has a cannon for an arm -- and hopefully new quarterbacks coach Todd Berry will help continue his development, but he may still struggle at times. Conversely, I anticipate that Leak will have a huge senior season. Both of Meyer's previous quarterbacks (Bowling Green's Josh Harris and Utah's Alex Smith) thrived in their second season in the offense, and Meyer said repeatedly during the spring that Leak was practicing at a much higher level than before. The only possible setbacks will be if the line doesn't protect him, which was a big issue last year, or if he has trouble handling the fact that more fleet-footed freshman Tim Tebow will likely see playing time as well.

What previous schools have reached national-championship glory with an inexperienced QB? Specifically, can USC do it with an inexperienced QB in either John David Booty or Mark Sanchez?
-- Trojan Q, Surf City, Calif.

You have a short memory, Trojan Q. Your own team did it three years ago with Matt Leinart as a first-time starting quarterback. (Time for the obligatory appease-the-LSU-fans disclaimer: Yes, I'm aware you were the national champions that year, too. Please spare me the BCS lecture. The teams all agreed to the rules before the season, there's only one crystal football, blah, blah, blah. Believe me, I've heard it.) Of course, one major difference between then and now was that Leinart had the help of noted QB guru Norm Chow. This season will mark the first big test for offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. I happen to think Kiff is one of the brightest young minds in the game, but let's face it, getting handed the keys to last year's USC offense wasn't exactly a telling barometer of his mentoring abilities.

If you ran a team, what style of offense would you run -- i.e. shotgun spread, West Coast, option or one of the variants?
-- Cory Meza, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Well, that's hard to say, Cory, because like any smart coach, I would adjust my offense to suit the personnel on hand. What style quarterback do I have? Can he run? If so, I might lean toward the spread. What kind of running backs do I have? Power guys or slashers? That might affect whether I go with a pro-style system. You can rule out the West Coast, though. I don't have the patience to wait the requisite three years for my quarterback to figure it out.

I think the ideal college offense right now is the one Bobby Petrino runs at Louisville, which mixes the spread with the traditional power-I. Obviously, the pure shotgun-spread, when run efficiently, can be pretty unstoppable as well. And USC has done just fine the past few years with a traditional pro-style offense. It helps, of course, that the Trojans had pro players.

You recently mentioned Marcus Vick and the problems he had while he was at Virginia Tech. I am glad someone in the program stood up for what was right and kicked him off the team. What, in your opinion, would have been the outcome had Marcus attended Florida State or Miami instead of Tech? I know those programs have a reputation of ignoring bad behavior by allowing problem players to stay, thereby putting wins above what is (probably) the right thing to do (certainly more of a reputation than Tech has ever had).
-- Jim Hoebel, Reston, Va.

Amazing, isn't it, how old reputations die hard? While FSU and Miami may have merited those labels in the '80s or '90s, times have changed. I don't know if you've noticed, but Bobby Bowden dismissed heralded freshman receiver Fred Rouse from the team last year at the first sign of trouble. He also suspended star linebacker A.J. Nicholson prior to the Orange Bowl when he was accused of rape. Miami, meanwhile, hasn't had what I'd consider to be a real "problem player" in years. Compared with most big-time programs, the Hurricanes have had very few publicized instances of bad behavior, and when they did, it was usually something fairly harmless (like the tawdry rap song last year) that got blown out of proportion specifically because of the program's past reputation. Or they involved 'Canes that either hadn't gotten there yet (Willie Williams) or had already left (Sean Taylor).

I agree that it's good that someone (in this case the school president) finally stood up and did the right thing with Marcus, but let's not get carried away. I don't know that I've ever seen a college athlete get as many second (and third, and fourth) chances as he did. I think even Sebastian Janikowski was heard somewhere saying, "C'mon -- enough already."

As someone who has proven to have good taste in women (Jenna Fischer, anyone?) and someone who has obviously traveled to college campuses far and wide, what school/campus has the most attractive women, in your opinion?
-- Eric Kohn, Raleigh, N.C.

Uh uh, no way am I touching that. Loyal Mailbag readers know well how defensive college fans can be about their football teams -- what's going to happen when I unintentionally slight the entire female population of a certain school? Remember, I have to go back to these places.

I will say this -- if I was going to pick a No. 1, it would definitely come from the SEC. And it would not be an easy call.

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