Welcome to this week's mailbag. I'm assuming you know everybody here.
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To the notes!
Stefan from Honolulu writes: I'm a huge duck fan, always have been always will be. But I started to think about Oregon's recent success and have a few questions. 1)Is it possible that other defenses will soon 'figure out' Chips spread offense? ... as defenses seem to evolve quickly these days ... 2) Is it possible that Oregon's recent success and PAC dominance is due to USC and other traditional PAC powerhouses having down years over the past three seasons?
Ted Miller: It became clear last year that defensive coaches had figured Chip Kelly out. After ranking No. 1 in the nation in 2011 in both scoring and total offense, the Ducks tumbled all the way to No. 4 in total offense and No. 3 in scoring.
Yes, we are being droll!
In 2007, Kelly's first year out of New Hampshire as the Ducks' offensive coordinator, the Ducks ranked 12th in the nation in scoring. That's their worst ranking in either scoring or total offense since he arrived.
So, the short answer to your first question is, "No." Good defenses and good coaching will sometimes outflank Kelly -- no coach wins every game -- but I see no reason to believe Kelly will be consistently outsmarted in the near-future.
Defensive coaches might figure out what Kelly did a year ago, but just as defenses change and catch up, so does Kelly adjust. Kelly has said repeatedly -- to me and other reporters, including Urban Meyer when he worked for ESPN -- that he's not married to one scheme. The Ducks last season were less a spread option team than they'd been under Kelly. He constantly tweaks and adds and subtracts based on his personnel. I suspect we'll see more quarterback running in 2012, but who knows?
As to your second question: Maybe.
Oregon has been very good under Kelly, regardless of what was going on at other programs. But, of course, USC, after a dynastic run from 2002-2008, took a fall in 2009 and 2010 while dealing with the departure of Pete Carroll and NCAA sanctions. Meanwhile, Washington, once the Northwest powerhouse, gradually and then suddenly collapsed after a Rose Bowl win in 2000.
USC looks to be back in the Rose Bowl and national title mix in 2012, and the Trojans-Ducks meeting in LA on Nov. 3 is one of the likely annual Games of the Century this fall. So, we'll see what happens.
Washington? I'd say its best chance to challenge the Ducks atop the conference might be 2013, but we'll see.
And keep in mind that USC will be more affected by NCAA scholarship reductions over the next three to five years than at present. The Trojans could be the program struggling to keep up a consistently high level of play.
So I don't see an Oregon fall as long as Kelly is in Eugene anytime soon. The Ducks aren't going to win the Pac-12 every season, but they look like they have staying power in the conference and national picture.
Barring, of course, the NCAA brutalizing Oregon with sanctions, something I don't think will happen.
David from San Diego writes: Did I read this right?...Lane Kiffin is taking tackling out of USC's practice again? I understand they are light in terms of numbers, but we've already seen what happens when you take tackling out of practices (Hellooo 2010 season). Has there been any word on if this was just an end of spring practice thing or is this going to continue into and through the fall?
Ted Miller: Sounds like Kiffin wants to do everything he can to limit injuries, so it could extend into the fall. His explanation, which is reasonable, is the Trojans' defense will be far more veteran in 2012 compared to 2010. It also will be more familiar with Monte Kiffin's defensive scheme.
Coaches walk a fine line here. Physical spring practices are beneficial. They toughen a team up, and give coaches a better feel for a depth chart pecking order. Full-go blocking and tackling make players better blockers and tacklers. But full-go practices also tend to produce more injuries (Though it does seem like a lot of injuries come in non-contact situations, too). While coaches typically act philosophical about injuries in their public comments -- "It's just a part of football" -- I've had enough off-the-record conversations with coaches to see the full agony of losing a key player.
Injuries can end a national title run (see Dixon, Dennis, 2007). Injuries can can get a coach fired. Kiffin is well-aware that his team's potential Achilles' heel is depth.
So, I hear you: The Trojans were poor tacklers in 2010, and that was widely attributable to a lack of full-go contact in spring and fall camp. It's a dice roll for Kiffin to limit contact, but it appears it's one he's willing to take to keep his team healthy.
Peter from Boulder, Colo., writes: Regarding Paul Richardson, as a Buff fan it is always disappointing to see a player go down. But we knew that this season was going to be tough one way or another with a new QB, RB, TE, WR, etc. If there were ever a scenario of turning lemons into lemonade I would say this is it. 2012 should provide good experience to all the players who step into these roles, and when 2013 rolls around, those players will be one year better, one year more familiar with the scheme of Embree, and will be getting the dynamic Richardson back. I think 2013 could be a bowl year for Colorado.
Ted Miller: It's good to encounter some measured, philosophical optimism. And I mostly agree.
Colorado has a lot of questions heading into 2012. It won't have as many heading into 2013. Richardson has a redshirt year available, so he'll get his junior year back.
We'll see how things play out in 2012. While it might be a struggle, Buff fans have a right to expect the team to show improvement from Game 1 to Game 12.
Bowl team in 2013? Makes sense to me.
Brett from Seoul, Korea writes: Fans of schools like Washington and Notre Dame claim they are 'elite' programs. They claim to have the history and tradition to back it up. The problem is they haven't won anything in almost a decade. How long can a program be down before they lose their elite status?
Ted Miller: Not sure if there is an official-unofficial rule here.
Good programs experience downturns. Sometimes extended downturns. Some, such as Minnesota, which won six national titles from 1934-1960, never climb back into the fray.
Oklahoma went belly-up for a while. Alabama and USC have suffered through plenty of lean years. Hire the right coach, and things perk up.
For one, Notre Dame and Washington aren't on the same level of "elite." Notre Dame is a legendary program with 13 national titles. Washington claims two, but is mostly recognized for just one.
My feeling is both programs are pointed in the right direction under Brian Kelly and Steve Sarkisian, respectively. Are they headed again toward national title contention? It doesn't feel that way in the short term.
You can't erase history. Both programs' past success props up the idea that it can happen again.
But, yes, when a program hasn't won a major bowl game in 10 years, it leaves a layer of dust on trash talking options.
Sam from Birmingham writes: TED I thought it was impossible for the Pac-12 coaching slate to get any more interesting, but lo and behold... Bobby Petrino needs a job! How awesome would it be to watch Petrino take over at Colorado and play the likes of Kiffin, Rich Rod and Mike Leach! The Pac-12 Network could EASILY make a reality show out of it. Please pull some strings and make this happen!!!
Ted Miller: No.
One thousand times no.
The Pac-12 is better without Bobby Petrino.
Andy from Lake Lagunita writes: Would you ever throw the Venus on Spider 3 Y Banana?
Ted Miller: Depends on the coverage. Safe bet is to dump it to the fullback.