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Opening the Mailbag: Top-30 discussion and gripes

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Happy Friday.

Why is Oregon safety T.J. Ward standing in my driveway in full uniform? Pacing. And pacing.

To your notes.

Blake from Beaverton writes: I'm assuming the top two on your top thirty (one) list is Mays and Best which is understandable but how come T.J. Ward isn't on there somewhere? Ward is pretty close to Walter Thurmond, if not better.

Ted Miller: Ward is an outstanding hitter. My guess is he'll become a complete player this year. But, to be honest, I'd bet if I went up to Ward after practice and asked him why he thought I didn't rank him among the top 30 he'd look me in the eye and go, "I need to be more consistent in coverage. I also need to not bite on play-action fakes."

I will not, however, go and ask him this in my driveway. I want Chip Kelly and Mike Bellotti around to protect me.


Tom from Sacramento writes: Ted, I've been following your list of the 30 best players in the Pac-10, and I believe you're making a huge omission: SPECIAL TEAMS. Where are all the kickers and punters and KRs and PRs? As a Cal fan, I know Bryan Anger is one of the best punters in the country, and was vital to Cal's success last season. Do you think the Pac-10 is full of glass boots, or do you just not respect the guys that coaches depend on in the final seconds of many close games?

Ted Miller: Fair point. And talk about Anger management. Got lots of notes about him.

I'd just point out how rare it is for an NFL team to draft a punter or kicker early in the draft. Great ones are extremely valuable. And Anger is a freak. But if I were starting a team, there's no one on this list I'd trade for a punter or kicker, no matter how good.


Nate from Nashville writes: You ought to create a revised 30 best players at season's end, see how they compare to your pre-season predictions. I think by then, there will be more than just three of my Cal bears on the list.

Ted Miller: Nate, you may be correct. And that is a good idea. Seeing as I keep noting a potential top-10 finish for Cal, my guess is a receiver, defensive lineman, linebacker and maybe even a quarterback could be Bears added to a post-eason list.

We shall see.


Danny from Los Angeles writes: Ted, With regard to your Top 30 of the Pac-10, I wonder if all the underclassmen that entered the draft remained, where would they rank in that list? (E.g., Is Mark Sanchez in the top 5? Does Cameron Morrah make the top 30?)

Ted Miller: USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, Arizona offensive tackle Eben Britton and Oregon cornerback Jairus Byrd all would have made the list, with Sanchez and Britton clearly ranking toward the very top.

California tight end Cameron Morrah would have been considered but I don't think I would have ranked him top-30. It would have been close.


Todd from Granada Hills, Calif., writes: Can you look at the recruiting done so far this year (for 2010 class) and let me know if my excitement for the Husky class is justified. It looks like Sark is getting the best talent in the state, and some good talent from out of state, to commit early and build a class that Heaps cannot say no to. Let me know your thoughts.

Ted Miller: Well, the Huskies already have seven oral commitments, apparently the most in the Pac-10, and appear to be mopping up in-state, though marquee in-state quarterback Jake Heaps is still on the board.

How could you not be excited about that?

The momentum is there. And it feels completely different than last year.

Now the question is whether they can keep up that momentum and get the signatures.

You Husky fans have been through a lot over the past few years. It seems perfectly reasonable to me to get pumped up when even a whiff of good news wafts through the Seattle fog.


Patrick from Garden Grove, Calif., writes: While following one of the links covering Cal's quarterback Kevin Riley i noticed that Tad Smith, Cal's #1 Tight End on the depth chart, suffered a broken scapula during one of their practices and could be out as long as 4-6 months. After an early exit for the NFL draft by last years starter Cameron Morrah, isn't this a big injury for the bears?

Ted Miller: Patrick, I've got good news for you, courtesy of Jonathan Okanes. At the bottom of his story from Friday he has this:

Tight end Tad Smith underwent surgery on his broken scapula Tuesday and is expected to be sidelined for 3½ months. Tedford expects Smith to be ready by the beginning of fall camp in August.

So you can let out that breath.


Cam from Albany, Ore, writes: Ted, It is looking more and more like Oregon will have Masoli, Blount, Dickson, Harper, Maehl,and the speedster Holland on the field at the same time next year. Who around the Pac-10, or the nation, can match that kind of talent at every position on offense?

Ted Miller: Every position? There are 300-pounders everywhere grunting.

That's certainly a nice group at the skill positions, though the receivers are unproven. My guess is USC, other than a big if at quarterback, is fairly excited about the nine starters it's got back. Florida also might have something to say if you're thinking nationally.

Oregon's issue on offense in 2009 will be the maturation of a rebuilt offensive line. And, by the way, its issue on defense will be the maturation of its defensive line.

And, as for the O-line, it's not just me saying that either.


Logan from Tucson, Ariz., writes: After watching Arizona's spring game I came away very impressed with Foles ability to move in the pocket. He is my opening day starter as of now. If you were Mike Stoops who is your starting QB if games started this weekend?

Ted Miller: I only watched one practice in Tucson, but it sounds like the two quarterbacks, Matt Scott and Nick Foles, were neck-and-neck throughout spring. Stoops told me he was happy with both. And he intimated that he might play both in the opener vs. Central Michigan to see how each reacts under fire. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't let both play in the first two games before the big visit to Iowa on Sept. 19.

At least, that's what I'd do.