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Mailbag: Best WRs, coaches and co-champs

3/4/2011

Thanks once again for all the questions. Lots of good ones this week. I hope you all enjoy the weekend.

Aaron in Denver, Colo., asks: DU, what are the chances that Murray gets put in a slot receiver roll in the NFL? Would he really be better as a back? Also, I already voted for him to be on the cover of EA's NCAA Football 2012!

David Ubben: I don't think we'll ever see him moved to a full-time slot receiver, but his ability as a pass-catcher certainly boosts his draft stock. If you're paying X amount for a player, you want to make sure you're getting your money's worth. Not many backs are as talented in the passing game as Murray. Wherever he ends up, it would be a mistake for that team not to give him some time in the slot. In this era of the NFL, every team is going to have more than one capable back (or at least should), and putting Murray in the slot and a second running back in the backfield is a good way to get talent on the field. Lots of NFL teams do that.

And as for your voting, I'm sure he appreciates it. It looks like he's been campaigning pretty hard on Twitter.


GTCat in Tonganoxie, Kan., asks: If you had to already pick a big 12 player as the face of NEXT year's NCAA football video game cover, who would it be? Blackmon? Bryce Brown?

DU: Interesting question. If you want to talk raw credentials and talent, Blackmon is a good call, but a big part of the game is name recognition and helping sell the game. Nick Fairley had enough press in his only year on the field to get the recognition, but the others up for consideration are two four-year starters/contributors in Murray and Jake Locker and a Heisman winner in Mark Ingram.

So from a name recognition standpoint, a four-year player from a perennial power like Ryan Broyles at Oklahoma would probably be a good call.


Joe in Denver, Colo. asks: Brandon Weeden posted a picture of his Big 12 South Championship ring on Twitter this week. What are your thoughts on co-champions or even claiming division championships?

DU: I don't have a problem with what Weeden did, or others who showcase the hardware the conference gives out, but I hate that the conference gives out hardware to everyone with a share of the division title. This isn't junior high where there aren't any tiebreakers and everybody is a co-regional district area neighborhood champion. I watched a Big 12 championship game with two teams in it this year.

And by handing out the trophies, which sure, players earned, you put schools in awkward positions. If a school proclaims itself a division champion when it didn't play in the title game, they're going to catch flack from opposing fans and programs and have a mild PR problem. That's just the way it's going to be.

If they don't acknowledge or celebrate it, it's a bit of a slap in the face to both the conference and the players who helped earn the trophies and rings. It's nice for programs and players to be given recognition for their efforts during the year, but are you aware that the Big 12 handed out FIVE divisional champion trophies for football this year? Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M all got them. That's absurd.

So please, Big 12: Next year, just hand out one set of rings and one trophy for the team at the top of the heap.


Tyler in Eden Prairie, Minn. writes: What a dirty trick, Ubben. Well played, sir. Well played.

- All of Nebraska

DU: Just keeping the Huskers on their toes.


Hob Howell in Waco, Texas, asks: I believe that Robert Griffin III remains the key ingredient in the Bears hopes for more wins next season. However, the Bears return all 5 of their top recievers, and two of them have a chance at All-Conference seasons (Kendall Wright and Josh Gordon). Their depth at WR impresses me; do you think this could be one of the most explosive and talented WR corps in the conference, if not the nation?

DU: I definitely agree that Wright and Gordon have a great chance to be All-Big 12 players next season, but Baylor's receivers on the whole aren't quite on the level with what Texas A&M, Oklahoma State or Oklahoma will be putting on the field this year.


Nick in NE asks: David, Just a little heads-up that Eric Crouch of Nebraska was featured on a cover for a 2002 NCAA Football game. I believe it was the one by 2K Sports. All I remember is my wife had that game for her GameCube when I met her in college.

DU: A different game franchise, but good to know. She sounds like a keeper, by the way.


Gerry in Columbia, Mo., asks: With all the hype Blaine Gabbert has gotten heading into the NFL Draft, the big question everyone seems to be asking is how Missouri will replace him. I find it interesting that no one wants to talk about how Missouri will replace their five departing starters on defense, including three of four defensive backs. People forget that it was Missouri's 6th-ranked scoring defense that carried the team this year, rather than the offense, as is usually the case. Anyway, just wanted to know how you see Missouri's defense shaping up over the course of the spring.

DU: They may have some trouble, but I look at what Missouri did last year with so many injuries already in the secondary and at linebacker. I don't think you can say enough about what defensive coordinator Dave Steckel did to get those guys ready despite a revolving door at the second line of the defense especially. The Tigers even played without a likely first-round pick in DE Aldon Smith for a good percentage of the year, and when he returned, he wasn't quite himself.

Steckel's an experienced coach, but this is only this third year as a coordinator at the major college level, and in my opinion, he's already established himself as one of the best coordinators in the league. Last year was really, really impressive, and outside of Brent Venables and Tim DeRuyter, I'm not sure anyone's done a better job than Steckel as a defensive coordinator, shoring up a defense that had historically been a weakness for the Tigers. He'll get a big test this year, but like Missouri's offense did with Chase Daniel at quarterback, big picture, the defense turned a corner in 2010.


Baron in Lubbock, Texas, asks: DU, I'm sure you've had a chance to make it to every big 12 stadium this past season. Rank the best gameday atmospheres based on your experiences. Thanks!

DU: I get asked that a lot, but I've got you covered.


Jimmy in Haysville, Kan., asks: So, do you think if Norman was as "loud" as Nebraska or Texas A&M, OU could lose as many games at home as those teams do? I'm sure both of those teams would trade their loud crowds for OU's home record any day of the week.

DU: This came up in our chat this week, but here's the fact of the matter: It's not like Owen Field is a peaceful oasis on game day, but it's not Death Valley either. Could, just maybe, Oklahoma's record at home compared to the Aggies and Huskers have more to do with the fact that the Sooners have been a whole lot better than Texas A&M and Nebraska over the last decade?

Any Oklahoma fan with a shred of self-awareness would willingly admit that the Sooners' remarkable current winning streak at home (36 games) and record under Bob Stoops (72-2) has a lot more to do with the teams Stoops is fielding every year than the fans making it a wholly intimidating atmosphere for opposing teams. They'll get up for big games like Texas Tech in 2008, but the atmosphere for pedestrian conference games like Colorado or Kansas State isn't anywhere close to where it can be. With the exception of this year against Florida State, when fans really sensed the winning streak could be on the line, they don't provide an elite atmosphere consistently. When they do, like in the Florida State and Tech games, the team responds. Clearly.