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Friday, March 11, 2011
Mailbag: New faces, title teams and top 25

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Thanks for all the questions this week. I'll be out covering the Big 12 tournament over the weekend, so if you can't get enough of me, head over to our college basketball page.

Kyler Roach in San Marcos writes: What true freshman that has enrolled early has been the most impressive this spring?

David Ubben: Since there are still only four teams in the league practicing right now, that's a pretty small group, but I'd go with Texas Tech linebacker Blake Dees. He impressed in the first two scrimmages, and in the Red Raiders' third on Thursday, played as the team's No. 1 middle linebacker, just weeks after leaving high school. He jumped ahead of another possible breakout star, Sam Fehoko, but coach Tommy Tuberville said not to make a lot of the move. "They’re about the same," Tuberville told reporters on Thursday. "One day one will look decent, and the next day the other one will do good. Right now, we’re just trying to teach them what to do and not worrying about first, second and third team. We’re just trying to get as many reps as we can and have a little idea after spring practice.”

Dees may not end up as the starter yet, but it's hard to see him not getting any playing time next season. To come in and make such a quick impact is rare. Last year, it was Luke Joeckel at Texas A&M who became the Aggies' starting left tackle as an early enrolling freshman after just 15 spring practices. For now, it looks like Dees, who, by the way, was the No. 61 linebacker in the 2011 class and a three-star recruit.




Paul in Austin writes: Hey David. Love the blog, and I hope that SOMEDAY I'll finally make it onto the mailblog page. I'll definitely save the screenshot if it happens. Anyways, two questions for you: 1) Since Nebraska is gone, who do you get the most mail from? I've noticed lately you've been taking a lot of questions about the Aggies (no complaints here) so I was just curious, and 2) What have you heard about Jerrod Johnson's pro day at A&M? I read the article you put up on the blog,, but other than that I haven't heard much, but only missing out on two completions (one drop) seems good. I mean, you've gotta feel bad for the guy, and I sincerely hope that he is able to at least get a chance at the next level. Thanks, and keep blogging. Love this stuff.

DU: Thanks for the e-mail, Paul. Happy to oblige. You can Command + Shift + 3 your heart out now.

To your question, it's definitely Texas A&M now. Oklahoma and Texas fans are probably second, but the Aggies like to be heard, which explains why you see questions about them so much in the mailbag and in the weekly chats.

As for Johnson, it sounds like he had a nice pro day and his throwing shoulder is continuing to regain its strength. He didn't look much better at the Senior Bowl than when he was benched in midseason, and the issue was never accuracy; it's his velocity on the ball. The difference between his junior year before he got hurt against Texas and his play last year after surgery was vast. Like you said, it's hard not to feel bad for the guy, and if he eventually heals up completely, he'll get a shot somewhere. I don't believe he'll be drafted at this point. Because he has such long arms, he's got a bit of an elongated release that's not as quick as NFL teams would like to see, but he'll definitely get a chance in a camp somewhere, and if he can look like he did in 2009 and convince an NFL team that he can become a contributor, he'll have a career.

That said, even if it doesn't work out, he'll be a fantastic coach, and ultimately, that's what he would like to do anyway. Even if his future isn't on the field, it's bright regardless.


Eric in Dallas asked: which Big XII RB do you think will have the best career at the next level?

DU: Definitely the guy we talked about today on the countdown: Daniel Thomas. You've got to like everything. He's got good vision, good speed, stays healthy, doesn't go down easily, has great vision, hangs on to the ball, produces and since the former QB has still only played the position two years, has a ton of upside. He'll make an NFL team very, very happy.


David in DC asked: During your chats, I've seen a couple of questions about what it would take for A&M to join college football's elites, and what the likelihood is of that happening in the next few years. Given that Stanford moved from perennial bottom feeder to national title contender in just a few years, it seems plausible that a school like A&M could do the same thing.

DU: Well, Stanford is a really bad comparison for a couple reasons. One, Jim Harbaugh was an exceptional coach who deserves a huge amount of the credit for his team's rise. Andrew Luck deserves plenty, too, but that's not the point.

Secondly, Stanford doesn't have the resources or successful history of A&M, which has been mediocre more than it's been truly bad, especially lately.

Lastly, it was really just one season for Stanford. When you talk about national-title contenders, you think of a team that's in the picture every couple years at least, like Texas and Oklahoma in the Big 12.

A better comparison to me would be a school like Auburn. A place with plenty of support, money and history, but still one that's not the major program in its state. Auburn made it pretty obvious that it's possible, and the same is true for Texas A&M. It's just about getting the right combination of coach, team and, of course, quarterback in there. Is that happening right now at Texas A&M? I have my doubts, but we'll find out on the field pretty quickly.


Jared in Clinton, Okla., asked: David,I just drove through Stillwater, do I deserve a Big XII South Champions ring? They seem to be giving them out here, even if you didn't win one...

DU: Ouch. Is Jared in Clinton, Okla., an alias for Oklahoma safety Tony Jefferson?


Kevin Bright in Oklahoma City asked: David,Loved the Best/Worst Case Scenarios as well as the Re-Caps of those scenarios. Tell me they are coming again this summer. Thanks for giving us football junkies our fix!

DU: Yeah, they definitely will be. That series was way more popular than I'd anticipated it being, so it'll be back again over the summer, before the 2011 season. Now, if only the Big 12 would release the schedules ...


Michael in St. Louis asked: We're up to number eight on your top 25. No sign of Alex Henery. Not even in your honorable mentions. I have my right hand raised, but I'm not sure if it's to give you a high five or the bird. I guess I'll have to wait seven more weekdays to find out...Until next time, keep up the great work...or check yourself. I'm so confused.

DU: This was by far my favorite e-mail of the week. Kudos, Michael. But unfortunately, I didn't put Henery on the list. I wrote why on Wednesday. Here's my take:

"I felt bad leaving Alex Henery off the list, but he's the only special-teamer I really considered. ... there were 25 more guys more valuable. It's always weird, though. We bloggers disagree about the placement of special-teams guys on lists like this. I'm generally against it, just because they're not on the field for enough plays."

So I suppose if you must, I'll step aside and allow you to give me the bird.