- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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In case you hadn't heard, my first Pac-12 mailbag from a couple of weeks ago was nominated for the Oscar for best supporting mailbag in a Pac-12-centric blog. I was the only nominee, but somehow I lost out. Hollywood can be so political.
Anyway, from here on out, Ted and I will be alternating mailbags on Fridays. And then when the season starts -- you'll get two mailbags a week. That's assuming the Mayans weren't off by a few months and I don't get that part as Channing Tatum's body double in Magic Mike 2: Hot Bloggers, Hot Bods. (Fingers crossed).
As always, follow the Pac-12 blog here on Twitter.
To the notes!
Ben in Phoenix writes: No De'Anthony Thomas?
Kevin Gemmell: Nope, 'fraid not. I can tell you there were about five or six times I said to Ted, "I can't believe we're leaving DAT off this list." Not because he's not one of the best players in the league, but because of the criteria we use to make the league. As I explained in the Blogger Debate, my criteria starts with postseason honors -- All-American, All-Conference, etc. Then I look at the numbers and then go with my gut to sort out what's left. And what was left was an amazing player who just didn't have the honors or numbers that some others did.
A lot of great players were left off the list. Won't rehash all of them, but you know who they are. One thing we can all agree on is that the list isn't perfect. The final product isn't exactly how I'd like it if I were doing it alone. And it's not how Ted would like it if he were doing it alone. But the majority of folks think we were in the ballpark (almost three out of four folks gave us either an 'A' or 'B' in the Tuesday poll). And when you're talking about a list that is wildly objective, that's not too bad.
Count on the acronyms -- DAT & ASJ -- being positioned favorably on the preseason top 25.
Brian in Denver writes: I know Stanford's got a lot of solid defensive players coming back, including much of the ferocious front seven that keyed the P12 championship and Rose Bowl run. But I'm a little nervous about the departure of Terrence Stephens. That dude was a singular mass of man clogging the middle of the line, and his absence was noticeable the last few games of the year. Who replaces Stephens, and will the drop-off be significant?
Kevin Gemmell: David Parry started the final three games when Stephens was out for committing secondary NCAA violations regarding his housing. Parry was very good in both UCLA games and the Rose Bowl. In the season finale against UCLA, he had a team high five solo tackles, a sack and he batted down a pass. He's a former walk-on who played his way into a scholarship. You have to love those guys because they never stop trying to prove themselves.
Stephens was very underrated for what he did on and off the field. He didn't have the gaudy numbers of a Will Sutton or the attention of a Star Lotulelei. He just went out every week and took on the double teams and let the linebackers mop up. Occasionally he'd get his name printed, but not often. Here's a great quote from Stephens from a story I did about the Stanford defense back in September.
I'm a nose tackle. That's a thankless job. You won't make many plays. Won't get a lot of recognition, but you're doing your job. And my job is to demand two, maybe three people at a time and let my linebackers and ends and secondary roar. That's my job. I have to be that concrete rock in the middle of the defense to let everyone else do their job. That's the mindset we all have. We celebrate as a team when Chase Thomas gets a sack and Trent Murphy gets a sack and when Ed Reynolds gets a pick, we are all part of it. We all made it happen in some way.
I haven't talked with Parry, but I know Stephens will be missed on the all-interview team. He's the kind of guy where you just put the recorder down, ask a question and let him go. Good guy. Good leader. But from what I saw from Parry, I'm thinking Stanford will be just fine across the line.
Speaking of Chase Thomas...
Chace in Mountain View, Calif., writes: Hello Kevin, am I the only one who was surprised at Chase Thomas's poor numbers at the combine? A 4.91 40 is abysmal for an outside linebacker in today's NFL, and while his 3 cone and shuttle times were not as bad they were still below average and put him in the bottom 5 in both of all linebackers at the combine. Same with his vertical and long jumps. I watched him for years at Stanford, and always thought of him as a very fast and athletic linebacker... was I really that far off?
Kevin Gemmell: Honestly, I'm not totally shocked. Thomas isn't a "measurables" kind of guy. He's one of those guys who -- as the cliche goes -- plays faster than he looks. He's got great linebacker instincts and a nose for the ball. He's a playmaker -- that's the bottom line. He's never been a pure-power rusher, but he has a knack for shedding blocks and disrupting plays in the backfield.
He is also extremely sound in his technique. Thomas and Murphy were as good as any OLB duo at setting edges and either making plays at the point of attack or forcing plays back into the middle of the field.
And I don't think anyone who watched his jump-ball interception in the Arizona game is worried about his vertical.
He might never be an All-Pro, but he should have a very productive career.
Mr. Huskie in Seattle writes: You guys seem to make a big deal out of your top 25. What's the big deal? It's a list. Why do you care what we think? Insecurity? How about doing some real stories where you actually talk to people.
Kevin Gemmell: I'm not insecure. At least my therapist doesn't think so. Does he? No, he doesn't. I don't even have a therapist. Should I get one? Do I need one? I don't even know now...
We make a big deal out of it because it's fun. We like the blog to be a little interactive, so that's why we involve the readers. We have fun with it and -- for the most part -- it seems like the readers do too. That's all.
It's fun because I called Ted on Tuesday to talk about our posting schedule for the week -- and he's still trying to change my mind about Matt Barkley. It's fun because the second I got off the phone with Kyle Whittingham on Wednesday, I immediately had to text Ted to tell him that Whittingham agreed with my choice of Reggie Dunn.
Neither of us went to a Pac-12 school, so we don't have a stake in the outcome. But you guys do. And yes, it promotes debate and discussion on a topic that usually takes a backseat to NCAA basketball in February.
Do we "care what you think?" About us personally, nah, not so much. Hopefully folks find Ted and I to be informative and witty. At least, the former. By the way, if it's so unimportant, why take the time to write? I can only assume you are a Washington fan. So you're probably hating on us right now for the lack of purple on the top 25 list. That's OK. But as you posed in your question, what's the big deal?
Since you're looking for "real stories," I thought I'd help you out. Here's a sampling of what we've done since the first Top 25 post ran on Jan. 22.
Team reviews for:
Some other pieces of note:
We looked at the impact of players leaving early for the NFL draft.
A Take 2 on the overall performance of the league in 2012.
I did a Q&A with new Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich. (You might want to pay close attention to this one since, ya know, that whole nine times thing).
An analysis of ASU's decrease in penalties.
And that was just the last days of January.
I don't really have the time to dig into all of the February stuff. But here's a sampling.
A debate on assistant coaching hires.
Ted's chat with Dennis Erickson.
A debate on the state of USC football.
In-person interviews with recruits from Oregon, UCLA, Arizona and Colorado.
My Q&A with Sonny Dykes.
Ted's conversation with new Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre.
Are those "real" enough for you?
Yes, Ted and I can be playful and self-deprecating. But we do it because it's fun. Don't ever mistake that for insecurity or a lack of confidence. There is more than 35 years of experience between us -- and we're very good at what we do. We are 100 percent confident in everything that we publish. That's why we put our names on it.
Speaking of which, "Mr. Huskie," (shouldn't it be Husky?) any reason you didn't use your real name? Insecurity, perhaps?
4hChantel Jennings and Ted Miller
1dChantel Jennings and Ted Miller