College Football Mailbag (cont.)
Posted: Wednesday May 16, 2007 12:53PM; Updated: Monday May 21, 2007 2:51PM
Is Kirk Ferentz overrated as a coach? He had talented teams in both 2005 and 2006 and they only went 13-12 over those two years, yet everyone still says Kirk is up there with Pete Carroll, Bob Stoops and Urban Meyer. I find that hard to believe.
A straight up comparison of Ferentz to the coaches you mentioned would not exactly be fair considering he's not working with anywhere near the same level of talent. That said, he definitely dropped several rungs on my ladder the past two seasons. One of the major reasons Ferentz earned his reputation in the first place was that he was able to take largely blue-collar, physically overmatched teams and beat teams like Ohio State and Michigan and pull off 11-2, 10-3 and 10-2 seasons from 2002-04. The other major trait of those teams is that they got notably better as the season went along, another indicator of good coaching.
But that second part simply did not happen last year. That 6-7 team was a major disappointment considering it had a proven, senior quarterback in Drew Tate and was by all accounts a more talented bunch overall than those earlier teams, whose players were primarily recruited when the program was in the tank. So the question becomes, was Ferentz overrated to begin with or did his earlier teams simply overachieve? I tend to think last year was one of those inevitable blips that every coach endures from time to time when a team, for whatever reason, simply fails to gel. It's also unrealistic to think any coach is ever going to win 10 games every year at Iowa. But it's also not as if Ferentz has such a long track record that he be afforded a free pass. (Especially now that he's being paid like a Stoops or Meyer.) It will be interesting to see how much improvement, if any, this year's Hawkeyes show.
The last couple of seasons, we have seen an influx in big non-conference games to start the season. Which game are you most eager to see. For me, it's Virginia Tech at LSU on Sept. 8!
That's going to be a good one, all right. I don't know who's going to win, but I bet the final score will be something like 10-9. I also think it's going to be an extremely important moment for the Virginia Tech community in its ongoing healing process. Assuming that's the "game of the week" nationally (Notre Dame-Penn State will get plenty of attention as well, but those teams aren't going to be ranked in the Top 10), I can only imagine how uplifting it will be for Hokies fans to see their school return to the national spotlight for something besides the recent tragedy.
The non-conference game I'm looking forward to most, however, is USC at Nebraska the following weekend. The Trojans are the expected preseason No. 1 team, but they're not without questions, particularly on offense. This will be just their second game of the season, and the first one is against Idaho, so this will truly be the first chance to gauge the 2007 Trojans. I also think this game will serve as a referendum on Bill Callahan's mostly stormy tenure in Lincoln. I thought Huskers fans got a little bit ahead of themselves last year in thinking their team would give USC any sort of scare in L.A. in what was then the start of Callahan's third season. At this point, however, it's year four, he's got his recruits and he's finally got a stud quarterback in Sam Keller. It's reasonable to expect that Nebraska -- one of the most storied programs of all-time -- should not roll over for anyone, even the No. 1 team in the country.
Stewart: It's time to play the annual eighth-year seniors game! I'll start it off ... really, a no-brainer: Notre Dame's Tom Zbikowski.
Ah yes, it's an annual Mailbag tradition. And Zbikowski is a perfect candidate for two reasons: 1) His recruitment as a high school senior in 2002-03 was so heavily chronicled that his name has been with us a whole extra year; and 2) I think most of us were under the assumption that last year would be his final season (he was in Brady Quinn's class but didn't play his first season). It was primarily because his stock plummeted so much that he came back for a fifth year.
Here are my nominees for other eighth-year seniors: Texas WR Limas Sweed, Michigan QB Chad Henne, LSU RB Alley Broussard, North Carolina WR Joe Dailey (Nebraska's starting quarterback in 2004), Penn State RB Austin Scott, Virginia Tech LB Xavier Adibi and Georgia K Brandon Coutu. More nominees are welcome.
We also have a new Hall of Famer. Ladies and gentlemen, what I'm about to tell you is truly astounding. Would you believe that Miami's Glenn Sharpe -- the cornerback from the famous Miami-Ohio State Fiesta Bowl pass-interference call -- is still in college?! Sharpe, a true freshman during that 2002 season, received a sixth year of eligibility after missing most of the 2004 and '05 seasons due to separate ACL tears. Next year, this little game may need to be officially renamed the Glenn Sharpe Game.
Stewart, is Ralph Friedgen making a huge mistake in leaning towards Jordan Steffy as Maryland's starting quarterback over transfer Josh Portis? What I have seen of Steffy so far has been far from impressive, and Portis seems like a perfect fit for Fridge's offense (a la former Georgia Tech QB Joe Hamilton). What gives?
That's a good question. Back when Portis decided to transfer to Maryland from Florida (where, if he stayed, he'd now be competing with Tim Tebow), I assumed Friedgen would just hand him the starting job in '07 if for no other reason than to avoid the wrath of Portis' psycho mother. But without having seen Portis play beyond a few meaningless snaps at Florida, I'm not sure I'm equipped to answer the question. So I've called in a guest expert, Heather Dinich, the Baltimore Sun's all-knowing Terrpains beat writer, whose Blog is a must-read both for her expertise on the Terps and her highly amusing comebacks at some of the "haters" who post on her comments board.
Regarding Portis, Heather says: "Everybody WANTS to see Portis because of all the hype surrounding him, and his exciting promise of athletic ability, but he's only a 'perfect fit' for Friedgen's offense if he knows it. Ralph has nearly 200 different pass patterns that can be run from about 15 different formations. Until Ralph is convinced Portis has an understanding of everything, Portis is going to be behind Steffy -- who has had more time to learn the system and spent all of last season calling plays in from the sidelines. There might also be a wee bit of politics involved. (Gasp!) It certainly isn't as if Ralph can afford to have Steffy transfer. Bottom line? Neither one of them has proven anything yet."
By the way, I would have pegged Steffy -- who played a bit in 2004 -- as an eighth-year senior himself, but it turns out he's only a fourth-year junior.
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