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Friday, February 6, 2009
Mailbag: There's no place like Nebraska for a spring game

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here's a collection of letters I received over the last week.

Ross Struss of Lincoln, Neb., writes: Hey Tim, I just wanted to know how you would rate spring games across the Big 12? In my opinion Nebraska should be No. 1 not only in the Big 12 but maybe even in the nation.
We had to buy our tickets for the Cornhuskers' spring game on Wednesday and it took us three hours to get through. Any other place like this?

Tim Griffin: I don't know of many schools that emphasize a spring game as a promotional tool for the school quite like Bo Pelini and the Cornhuskers. There is more pent-up demand to watch that game than any place across the Big 12 and likely anywhere in the country.

I think the excitement that Pelini has helped foster there in less than a year has made this the toughest ticket in all of spring football. It will be interesting to watch the spectacle this season, particularly as Shawn Watson sorts through his quarterback options. I'm kind of curious to see how Cody Green looks, too.


Darrell from Orlando, Fla., writes: Any news on Miami quarterback Robert Marve's proposed move to a Big 12 school? Does Oklahoma or Oklahoma State even need Marve. Your thoughts?

Tim Griffin: I know that both Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State are on Marve's list of "finalists" along with Purdue and South Florida. All of the Big 12 schools would appear to have more national appeal for the former Miami quarterback than his other finalists. I think he will face some acclamation "issues" wherever he ends up.

Marve would be a natural addition if he chose Oklahoma State, considering that Zac Robinson is leaving school after next year. Most presume that Sam Bradford likely will remain at Oklahoma for only one more year, providing a natural entry at Oklahoma in much the same manner. And Taylor Potts will have two remaining years at Texas Tech.

Strong sources around the Oklahoma program told well-connected Tulsa World columnist Dave Sittler the Sooners have no interest in Marve. So I think it's more likely he would end up at Oklahoma State or Texas Tech, if he ends up in the Big 12.

But I'm guessing that the most likely place for Marve to land will be somewhere a little closer to home like South Florida. He grew up in Tampa and staying at home might make sense for him in the end. It will be interesting to see where he ends up.


Matt from Dallas writes: I know in the course of monitoring Texas and Oklahoma recruiting as well as fawning over the talent the Aggies are about to spend four years wasting, you may not have noticed that Texas Tech pulled in a very solid class on the defensive side of the ball. Pearlie Graves and Myles Wade will be added to Colby Whitlock and Chris Perry. Suddenly Texas Tech may not be so soft up the middle anymore.

Tim Griffin: I agree with you. I think this might be the most solid defensive recruiting class that Mike Leach has ever attracted. And I know that Graves and Wade, along with Whitlock, should really anchor the Red Raiders' interior for the next couple of seasons.

I thought the Red Raiders showed a lot of improvement defensively until their late slide against Oklahoma and Mississippi. It will be interesting to see how they will rebound from those struggling performances next season.


Austin R. from Austin writes: Hey Tim, it really didn't surprise me that my Longhorns lost out on Dre Kirkpatrick from Alabama or Devon Kennard from Arizona. The moment I hear that these guys are going to announce their school sitting at a table with hats, I knew the Horns are out of the running. Is it that Texas gets the guys that are not into the dramatics? Or is Texas not cool enough for some recruits?

Tim Griffin: I saw Kirkpatrick's announcement on television as well. Longhorn fans might not have liked his sense of dramatics, but I bet they would have warmed to him if they had seen him play cornerback in the burnt orange.

It was interesting to me that Texas wasn't as successful out of state as in previous seasons when they missed out on recruits like Kirkpatrick and Kennard. I'm thinking that the Longhorns are good enough to be at the top of the Big 12 recruiting lists almost every season by dominating Texas talent as they did this season.

But for them to make to challenge for the mythical national championship in recruiting, they need to generate a national splash by attracting a couple of quality out of state recruits. They did it recently with recruits like Blaine Irby and Lamarr Houston and previously were successful recruiting top out-of-state recruits like like Chris Simms, Bo Scaife, and Ricky Williams. They probably need to do it again to reclaim the top spot in national recruiting in future years.

And here's an intriguing nugget I came up with when looking at their recent recruiting lists. Texas has earned only three commitments from out-of-state players in the last three recruiting lists. Compare that with the 49 out-of-state players who have committed to Oklahoma during that time, or the 29 who have committed to defending national champion Florida.


Brent from Overland Park, Kan., writes: Tim, you haven't mentioned Kansas very much since the bowls ended. They are quietly putting together one of the best classes in the nation, but have had little coverage on ESPN, from what I've seen. Mangino is known for getting the 'diamonds in the rough' (Reesing, Briscoe, et al.). Do you see any more in this 09 class?

Tim Griffin: No coach has done a better job in developing underrated talent after their arrival at college than Mark Mangino. The story about how they got hooked up with Dezmon Briscoe ranks as one of the most notable recruiting stories in Big 12 history. But this class for the Jayhawks appears to have more talent than any since his arrival. I think recruits are starting to notice the Jayhawks after their back-to-back bowl appearances and particularly their trip to the 2008 Orange Bowl. And I think the fact they attracted top recruits Prinz Kande and Bradley McDougald is a testament to that.


Bruce from Columbus, Ga., writes: This is a long-term recuiting question I asked during your recruiting-day chat and you didn't answer it. Anyway, I had thought that Bo Pelini's tenure at LSU would provide the Cornhuskers with access to top players to recruit, yet he has none. Will it be a source in the future and why hasn't it helped in the short-term? Thanks.

Tim Griffin: Bruce, thanks for the question and I apologize to not getting to it during my chat. I might not have even seen it. I would answer one question and 15-20 more would materialize in the time I had been away from the board. I wasn't able to answer or even read many of them.

You do raise an interesting question. But I don't see the South ever really being a critical recruiting area for Nebraska. Pelini only had three years of exposure in that area when he was coaching at LSU.

Because of that, I think the Cornhuskers will always look first to areas like California and especially Texas. I think they have contacts in place in both states. It was critical for them this year with eight recruits from Texas and six from California.

The South is
really a closed shop where the Southeastern Conference teams really dominate. Look at how both Texas and Oklahoma both were stoned in their bids for top talent when Texas unsuccessfully tried for Dre Kirkpatrick and Oklahoma went for Rueben Randle. So I think most Big 12 teams will look elsewhere for their major areas of recruiting.


J. Aston of Lubbock, Texas writes: Who in your opinion does the most in the Big 12 with the least as far as recruiting goes? I have my personal opinion, but it might be a little biased. And do you think that if those teams got more highly recruited players, would they be able to do better in the big 12?

Tim Griffin: I think in recent years the coaches that have done the most with underrated talent have been Mark Mangino of Kansas, Gary Pinkel of Missouri and Mike Leach of Texas Tech. All have turned their programs into consistent bowl teams while not normally having access to the upper talent base.

It's been interesting to me that those teams all have had trouble with winning consistently against Oklahoma and Texas - the two teams that typically recruit the most top athletes in the conference.

It would be interesting to see what all programs like the Jayhawks, Red Raiders and Tigers would be able to do with the access to five-star talent. Managing those players - and egos - is a little different than working with some of the other recruits. But I'm thinking all of those schools could develop into national powers if they were able to get more top-ranked talent like the Sooners and Longhorns traditionally feast on.


Clint Seaton from Tecumseh, Okla., writes: With Bill Young becoming the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, what would be a realistic timeline for improving their defense? And maybe even having their defense ranked in the top 30?

Tim Griffin: It's not like Oklahoma State fans aren't putting any pressure on Young, is there?

That being said, Young's work will likely determine if the Cowboys can live up to all of the early hype about their team during the upcoming season. The Cowboys appear to have an offense that can keep up with anybody nationally. But in order to contend for their first Big 12 South title, the defense will have to play markedly better than it did in late losses to Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oregon.

Young is known as one of the most wily coordinators in college football. And I expect him to improve the Cowboys. But moving them into the top 30 might be a little bit much - particularly with all of the prolific offenses that the Cowboys will be facing next season.

Maybe they might be able to talk about a top 30 defense in a couple of years. The Big 12's offenses should be just as potent in 2009 as they were last year. And Texas, at No. 51, ranked as the Big 12's best defense in 2008.

That's all for this week. Please keep the e-mails coming and I'll try to answer as many as I can. Thanks again for all of the good correspondence.