Paul from Escanaba, Mich., writes:
Your word to describe Michigan's defensive line depth was scary. Am I missing something, but what great depth did they have last year when everyone said their line was so good? Replacing Mike Martin is a huge question mark, but to me their defensive line is more athletic than a year ago and deeper with more young guys competing for spots.
There wasn't a ton of depth last season, but there were some players with experience in backup roles, like Will Campbell and Jibreel Black
-- two projected starters this season. There's a whole lot of youth and inexperience in backup roles this season. And last season's team had an All-American type in Martin, plus solid seniors in Ryan Van Bergen and Will Heininger. Even the starters this season carry questions, such as whether Campbell can live up to his potential, whether Black is big enough to play inside and whether Craig Roh
can handle the move to the strong side. Michigan did not have any major injuries on the defensive line last season until the Sugar Bowl. If it can get that kind of good health this year, the defensive line will be solid. If not, it might mean some very green players are trying to fill key roles.
Kyle from Denton, Texas, writes:
My question deals with redshirts. Do you think the NCAA should change the redshirt rule to allow all student athletes to play in a set number of games (say 2-3) and if they haven't gone over that limit they can be redshirted? I ask this because a guy like Brion Carnes
played in 3 games last season, in mop up duty, and that was it. Pretty much wasted his freshman year of eligibility and gained nothing from the year. Everyone knows that if a player doesn't redshirt his freshman year they probably aren't going to ever. The only way athletes get better is to take what they learn in practices, and apply it in games. Now that there are no JV games in college, players that are redshirted don't get this opportunity. By allowing them to play in a limited number of games this would allow these players to gain a little bit of experience without wasting a year of eligibility. It would also give the coaches a chance to see if the player can really contribute anything in a game situation.
I can't go along with your proposal, Kyle. The intention of the redshirt rule is not to give an extra year to a player who only appeared in a handful of games or plays and was not injured. That would open up a huge can of worms for all sorts of lightly used players and backups. A team could throw all of its freshmen in for the last two games and then redshirt them under your idea.
Bronko Nagurski's Ghost from Dinkytown writes:
Brian, I am the greatest player in Big Ten history so my word carries weight. Two things:1) My Gophers are going to surprise people this year. The BTN guys are raving about JUCO guys and the Frosh that Kill has brought in. Also, remember, Kill's teams have taken a huge step forward in year two at all of his coaching stops. 2) Wisconsin will struggle this year. Bret Bielema has been unable to develop a QB, Danny O'Brien
got benched last year, and the Defense and O-Line won't be as good as they were last year. Book it. Also, if anyone other than O'Brien has to play QB Wiscy is in BIG trouble.
I didn't really see a question in there, Bronko, but OK. I do like Minnesota to improve and possibly surprise people this season. But if you're relying on a bunch of freshmen and junior college players to step in right away and win in the Big Ten, that might not be the best plan. And I have to disagree about Wisconsin and O'Brien. His struggles were more about the change in system at Maryland, and I think he fits in much better with the Badgers' style of play. Are you really doubting Wisconsin's offensive line at this point?
Mike from Allentown, Pa., writes:
Hey, Brian: In regards to Graham Spanier speaking out now, it's been widely regarded in Penn State circles that he was going to eventually be charged with perjury. It seems he's stayed quiet because he hasn't really had anything to go against, but now that the Freeh Report is out he can point out "inconsistencies" in it. Personally, even as a Penn State fan, I hope that if all of these guys were really as in on it as the Freeh Report suggests they should all rot in jail. So, I hope this maybe gives you a little better incite as to why he's speaking up now, and wasn't speaking up for the last 8-9 months.
I get that, Mike, and I can see why Spanier would exercise some caution. But it's also true that he was basically silent, other than a few statements and letters, for 10 months. If someone accused me of harboring a child rapist and I was innocent, I'm pretty sure I'd grab a microphone somewhere and scream at the top of my lungs about how unfair that was. But none of the Penn State leaders acted like you'd think most people would. In his New Yorker interview
, Spanier couldn't seem to remember much at all. I think if I heard that my school's famed, aging defensive coordinator was seen naked in the shower with a young boy, that's something that would stick in my mind. Especially if I was told about a very similar incident a few years later. But maybe that's just me.
Jeff from Lansing, Mich., writes:
I have been reading about positions that schools have to find replacements for this year and I am wondering why there has been no mention about Michigan state and there loss at the long snapper position. There 1st string player transferred this spring and the next in line as projected starter had a terrible accident that ended his football career (thankfully it sounds like he will be fine). I know it is not a popular position, but is it that easy to find a replacement for that position that we shouldn't worry? I would be surprised if a team regularly has 3 players deep in that role. I have seen plenty of games that went bad for a team after a poor snap or two.
Congrats, Jeff, you are the first person to ever ask about a long snapper in the mailbag. We must be getting close to the season. But in all seriousness, you're right in that it's a position that is often overlooked -- until there's a bad snap. It's not really a position we can properly analyze in the preseason, since nobody really talks about it or watches long snapping much in practice. I can tell you that the Spartans gave a scholarship in this year's class to Taybor Pepper
, who had committed to walk on at Michigan. Pepper is only a freshman, but if a guy is good enough to get a scholarship for snapping, he must be pretty good at it.