Opening the mailbag: Pac-12 and NFL

August, 12, 2011
8/12/11
5:00
PM ET
Happy Friday. Soon these Fridays will be freighted with HIGH expectations.

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To the notes.

Nic from Tampa writes: Your crazy! Don't even put the pac12 and the SEC in the same sentence. Just look at the NFL. It's all SEC!!!! Do any soft pac12 players even play in the NFL? Your an idiot, by the way and every body makes fun of you SEC message boards, I hope you know!

Ted Miller: Sniffle.

Nic, you hurt my feelings, but I suspect that was your purpose. You're pointing out things in your note I must acknowledge. You're spot on. I respect your opinions. I respect your ability to put me in my place.

But your note did get me to thinking.

Do any Pac-12 players really play in the NFL? So I racked my brain for exactly 17 minutes and came up with an All-Pac-12 NFL team (Pac-12 fans, I did this quickly, so feel free to chime in your opinions).

Offense
QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (California)
RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville (UCLA)
RB Steven Jackson, St. Louis (Oregon State)
WR DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia (California)
WR Chad Ochocinco, New England (Oregon State)
TE Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville (UCLA)
OL Sam Baker, Atlanta (USC)
OL Alex Mack, Cleveland (California)
OL Ryan Kalil, Carolina (USC)
OL Jordan Gross, Carolina (Utah)
OL Andre Gurode, Dallas (Colorado)

Defense
DL Haloti Ngata, Baltimore (Oregon)
DL Tyson Alualu, Jacksonville (California)
DL Sedrick Ellis, New Orleans (USC)
LB Desmond Bishop, Green Bay (California)
LB Clay Matthews, Green Bay (USC)
LB Lance Briggs, Chicago (Arizona)
LB Terrell Suggs, Baltimore (Arizona State)
CB Nnamdi Asomugha, Oakland (California)
CB Antoine Cason, San Diego (Arizona)
S Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh (USC)
S Jairus Byrd, Buffalo (Oregon)

Couple of thoughts.

Man, Oregon has been a safety factory of late. Picked Byrd, who played corner for the Ducks, but could have gone with T.J. Ward or Patrick Chung also.

After Ngata, defensive line wasn't easy to put together. That is one position where the SEC has a clear edge on everybody.

Lots of All-Pros here. Some might argue that Rodgers, Ngata, Matthews, Suggs, Asomugha and Polamalu are the best at their positions in the NFL.

But, really, none of these guys exist. I just made them up.

Jake from Phoenix writes: ASU has its first game on a Thursday and plays Missouri the following Friday thus giving the sun devils 8 days to prepare for mizzou. But mizzou plays on Saturday and has to also travel to ASU to play, thus only having like 5 or 6 days to prepare. How big of an advantage is this?

Ted Miller: Extra practice time should provide an advantage. Repetition helps execution. The Sun Devils will get more reps with their game plan than Missouri.

Further, the game is at ASU and kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. PDT, which will feel like 9:30 CDT for the Tigers.

Finally, the Tigers play Miami of Ohio in their opener. While they should win fairly easily, the Redhawks went 10-4 last year and welcome back 17 starters from the MAC championship team. In other words, the Tigers probably won't spend a ton of time this preseason game planning specifically for the Sun Devils. The Redhawks are good enough to require a 100 percent focus.

The Sun Devils, meanwhile, open against UC Davis, an FCS team that went 6-5 last year. The Sun Devils can afford to do some Missouri game planning this month.

So, yes, this game sets up well for Arizona State. Now they just need to get it done on the field.

Josh from Lynden, Wash., writes: Ted, in your last article about Kiffin (which was a good read) you mentioned that USC was in store for an inevitable step back. Can you explain why this step back is inevitable? The way I see it they are painstakingly young right now, and if they win 10 games this year they should open in the top 10 next year and if Barkley comes back they could be a legit NC contender. Am I a blind Trojan fan for thinking this? And when you say a step back what should be realistic expectations after Barkley is gone?

Ted Miller: You can't really get around losing 30 scholarships over three recruiting classes. You just can't.

Further, this is not the 2004 Trojans, who had stockpiles of talent. This is a team with plenty of talent -- talent that 80 percent of the programs in the country would envy -- but there are several thin positions, and that wasn't the case at the height of the Pete Carroll Era.

USC has enough talent -- baring some key injuries -- to win 10 games this year. But I'd be surprised if Barkley returned for his senior year in 2012 (of coure, I wrote the same about Andrew Luck). And my guess is OT Matt Kalil, DE Nick Perry and FS T.J.McDonald also could join him in leaving early for the NFL draft. Those are some big hits.

Now, if all of those guys -- or most of them, including Barkley -- came back in 2012 after winning 10 games in 2011, yes, I'd think the Trojans would have a good chance at a top-10 preseason ranking. That's a big if, though.

But scholarship reductions will really start to hurt in 2013-2016. The Trojans will be stuck with an almost unworkable small margin for error in terms of injuries and recruits not panning out, particularly on the lines.

Do I think USC is likely to bottom out with, say, a three- or four-win season? Probably not. But my guess is there will be at least a couple of six- or seven-win seasons over the next four to six years.

Daryl from Oakland writes: Has the recent failures of Cal, despite the crazy amount of defensive talent, skewed preseason predictions concerning the team? I've not seen one list or publication which has any optimism for the team and, watching Cal for a long time, I believe this is the most talented defense they've ever had. Your thoughts?

Ted Miller: Naturally, Cal's recent struggles, particularly at quarterback, have reduced the program's perception among so-called pundits. But if Cal gets at least adequate QB play this fall, it's hard for me to not believe they won't go to a bowl game, particularly with a forgiving nonconference schedule.

Of course, getting to a bowl game -- or winning seven or eight games -- is no longer a thrill for Bears fans.

As for the Bears talent on defense, they certainly have some intriguing young talent, but it's unproven, and the Bears lost a lot of good guys from last year's unit, including DE Cameron Jordan, LB Mike Mohamed and S Chris Conte.

I tend to be cautious projecting great things based on freshmen and redshirt freshmen. I want to see what they do in games first. It's notable that no freshmen or redshirt freshman made first- or second-team All-Pac-10 last year as a position player (USC WR Robert Woods made it as a kick returner).

Getting away from defense for a moment, let's touch on a guy that some Cal fans are hounding me about as the savior of the running game.: Freshman running back Brendan Bigelow.

Bigelow may become a star. He may take over the starting job by the end of fall camp and rush for 1,500 yards. But that's hugely speculative. What he is today is a 180-pound true freshman who's blown out his knee the past two seasons of high school football. I'm not going to cut and paste greatness on him before I see him making Pac-12 defenders miss him in a real live game.

Just like I'm not going to call the Cal defense dominant until I see how it fills some notable holes and how good the youngsters look when the lights come on for real.

Aaron from Portland writes: In Jon Wilners article the date CAL is receiving this list of recruits Feb. 11, 2009 at 10:34 a.m. Lyles had yet to form his company Complete Scouting Services. This leads me to believe that he actually gave them the list from his at that time current employer Elite Scouting Services. If he hadn't yet formed the new service or as the timeline suggest even thought of it till December 2009 how could he have made this list under that business name or billed them under that name?

Ted Miller: Got a bunch of notes like this. I thought Ducks fans wanted the media to stop writing about Willie Lyles and Oregon?

I get your point. In fact, both Wilner and I recognized this, er, oddity.

Again, here's what Wilner wrote:

The list was sent from Lyles’ personal email account, as an attachment, to assistant coach Kenwick Thompson on Feb. 11, 2009 at 10:34 a.m., according to a document provided by Cal. (Thompson is from Houston and recruits the state of Texas.)

The date is five days after the National Signing Day for the class of 2009 and coincides with the start of the recruiting cycle for the class of 2010.

Lyles has said he worked for Elite Scouting Services until forming CSS in late 2009.

Asked about the apparent conflict, Tedford said: “That’s their problem. He billed us as Complete.”

Lyles could not be reached for comment.


I also took note of this:

Though it's notable that it appears [Lyles] gathered much of his information while working for another recruiting service: “That’s their problem," Cal coach Jeff Tedford told Wilner.


And Tedford is right: If there's an issue -- speculate on its nature as you wish -- between the two scouting services, it's not Cal's problem. Lyles departure from Elite Scouting Services reportedly was not on good terms, perhaps this is one of the reasons why.

Further, writes Wilner, "Starting in Feb. ’09 and ending nearly a year later, [Lyles] provided Cal with more than 30 videos of prospects in the class of 2010, a school official said."

So Lyles' provided Cal with original video throughout the 2009-10 recruiting season, just as ESS did.

Does it appear Lyles was two-timing, working for one recruiting services while making his own side deals? Hard not to construe that. So, yes, that's some more murk here -- shocking, eh? -- though not directly relevant to Cal or, really, Oregon.

Of course, it could prove relevant -- indirectly -- for Oregon if the grand secret in this turns out to be that Oregon can prove it received hours and hours of quality video from Lyles. You'll recall that, for whatever reason, Oregon hasn't released any video produced by Lyles.

From The Oregonian:

Oregon did receive video from Lyles, Oregon spokesman Dave Williford said Thursday [July 14]. But Williford said he could not characterize how much video the Ducks received or in what format, or say whether the Ducks received anything other than the YouTube link. Video was the only item mentioned in Lyles' Feb. 22, 2010, invoice to Oregon.

If Lyles sent DVDs to Oregon as he did to LSU, it's not clear why the Ducks do not have them. Oregon's state records law generally requires institutions to retain records about recruitment of athletes for five years or until the end of an athlete's eligibility, whichever is longer.


So, as I have written repeatedly, there figure to be several more chapters in this twisting tale and the ultimate resolution -- good or bad for Oregon -- remains decidedly uncertain.

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