- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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After vigorous debate and consulting all stakeholders, we've officially come up with a name for the Pac-12 blog mailbag. From here on out, it will be known as the Pac-12 blog mailbag. Simple, sophisticated. We considered two divisions for when Ted and I do them -- he'd be the "Turf" Division and I'd be the "Surf" Division. But that was voted down by an executive counsel of former coaches and administrators.
So, enjoy the Pac-12 blog mailbag. And, as always, follow the blog on Twitter.
David in Billings, Mont., writes: Kevin, In your top 25 PAC-12 players for 2012-2013, you chose no players from Washington. Please explain how you were unable to recognize Desmond Trufant as worthy when he was selected # 22 in the NFL draft. He may not have had the stats you were looking for because nobody wanted to throw at him. Do you actually watch the games? Did you not recognize him because you hate Washington or is it because you don't know what you are talking about? I wonder why I bother reading your blog.
Kevin Gemmell: I've got a little secret. Whenever you see me write a story with the dateline "Seattle," I'm actually at El Gaucho enjoying the $74 Bone-In New York cut. It beats actually going to the game. They are just so crowded. And that stadium got sooooo loud last year. Why bother?
I'm not going to rehash our entire thought process again about the top 25. But you're welcome to read an extensive blogger debate Ted and I did back in February that digs into how we collaborated on the list. You'll see Ted and I both struggled over Trufant and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. I invite you to read it -- though since you are convinced I hate Washington (by the way, I had a great chat with Sark yesterday for a Q&A on Monday -- and I was sure to tell him how much I hate his team) -- it's not going to change any opinions. But for what it's worth, we did write on Wednesday that we believed Trufant would be picked in the first round. But the top-25 list wasn't just about a draft -- a lot of factors, stats, team success, number of players at certain positions etc. etc.
All I can say is I don't hate Washington and thanks for being a reader. Have a fantastic weekend and I hope you enjoy the Sark Q&A on Monday.
Rob in Santa Clara writes: What was your USC column about: USC or, your favorite team, UCLA? You are so fulla ... (NOTE: I wasn't familiar with the "sh" word Rob used at the end of his letter. After years of going to catholic school and a Jesuit college, I just assume he meant I'm fulla great insight and well-crafted arguments).
Kevin Gemmell: I don't hate Washington -- but man do I love me some UCLA! So much! My personalized Jim Mora alarm gently buzzed me awake this morning to the sweet sounds of "Is that a question or statement? Is that a question or a statement? Is that a question or a statement? Is that a ques (click)."
I pulled off my Bruins comforter, did one good long stretch on my Bruins sheets and then rolled out of bed and glided into my Bruins slippers. I put in my contacts, slipped on my Bruins beanie, looked deeply into the mirror and then did an eight-clap to get me ready for the day.
Big, big UCLA fan here.
And yet despite my unquenchable lust for all things UCLA, was I wrong?
Per the attached poll, I'm not. I suppose if I wrote Stanford was USC's most important game -- considering USC's recent struggles against the Cardinal -- you would have called Stanford my favorite team. (By the way, my David Shaw alarm clock is on its way. It's not as exciting as the Mora clock. It just says "power right" 50 times in a row).
USC's most important game is UCLA. And the fact that the Bruins pushed the Trojans around last year isn't opinion or misconstrued homerism -- it's fact.
Darryl in Oakland writes: Hey Kevin, Did Cody Kessler play in any games for SC last year? The reason that I ask is in the Athlon rankings blog article you said that you wouldn't rank Zack Kline ahead of other QBs in the 9 to 11 spots but you appear to be fine with Kessler, who unless I missed something, is just as unproven as Zack Kline is. For what it's worth, I've seen both of their High School tape and Kline is far superior than Kessler.
Kevin Gemmell: How dare you use my own logic against me! Grrrr.
You are 100 percent correct. However, the reason I would rank Kessler higher than the other inexperienced quarterbacks is 1) Kessler has the No. 1 wide receiver in the country in Marqise Lee and one of the brightest up-and-coming receivers in the league -- possibly the nation -- as his No. 2 in Nelson Agholor. Even with the loss of George Farmer, there is still an extremely deep receiving corps with Victor Blackwell, De'Von Flournoy and very good tight ends in Randall Telfer and Xavier Grimble. 2) He's been in the offense for a couple of years backing up Matt Barkley. He's not learning a new scheme from scratch and he has more continuity than the other inexperienced guys.
Pointing out the inconsistency in my logic is very reasonable -- and perhaps I should have specified that more in the original post. But given the weapons Kessler (or Max-squared) will have at their disposal, I don't think it's unreasonable to give him/them a slight bump over some of the other guys who are transitioning to new coaches and have talented, but mostly unproven receivers around them.
There are exceptions to every rule. Just like in their running backs rankings -- I'm OK with Thomas Tyner and Barry Sanders being on the list because Sanders has a great offensive line and Oregon's offense is a proven commodity for running backs.
Kevin in Los Angeles writes: I just noticed that USC plays 13 games compared to 12 for the other pac 12 teams. Any reason why?
Kevin Gemmell: NCAA rule 220.127.116.11. Off the top of your head? Anyone? Anyone know NCAA rule 18.104.22.168?
And here I thought I was the only one who had memorized this easy-to-read leaflet laying out a couple of tiny ground rules in a clear and non-enigmatic manner.
Teams that play a game in Hawaii are granted an extra game, usually at home, to help offset travel costs. They can also choose to have an extra bye week if they want, but in this case the Trojans opted for an additional nonconference game. Their extra game this year is Utah State. By the way, the start time for the Hawaii game was announced this morning. 8 p.m. PT.
Rob in Portland writes: Can you let me know your thoughts on players stock rising and falling in the few weeks before the draft. I understand their stock can change dramatically based on combines, interviews, senior bowl, etc, but how does it change 1 week before the draft, when they haven't done anything? 2 weeks ago someone might have been projected a first rounder, but suddenly he is a 2nd-3rd rounder after sitting at home ? How does "momentum" swing that fast in the absence of any new news?
Kevin Gemmell: Gonna let you in on a little secret. It doesn't.
From my time covering the NFL, I can tell you this -- most draft boards are locked in a couple of weeks before the draft. Obviously, as things shift and adjust throughout the course of the draft, there are changes that have to be made. But a lot of the pecking orders and hierarchies are already in the place a few weeks before. This, of course, is barring any sort of news that could impact a player's stock -- an injury, a legal issue etc. etc.
All that changes is public perception. For starters, a local publication will post their own mock drafts or player rankings -- but it's in relation to their home team. For example, a recent story ranked San Diego State tight end Gavin Escobar above Stanford's Zach Ertz. This might be because Escobar is a better fit for the Chargers offense -- and there was probably a little home cooking. I covered Escobar in my life before ESPN and he's an outstanding player. But only one was a unanimous All-American. But others will read that and it could influence their mock drafts ... and so on and so on. Suddenly there is "buzz" and "momentum" changes. The truth is -- take what you read pre-draft with a grain of salt. There is no other happening in sports that creates more pre-event hype and speculation than the NFL Draft. But to the guys in the war rooms, the gameplan -- right or wrong -- is already in place.
Atlanta and Trufant is a perfect example of this. I'm guessing that weeks ago, the Falcons said if Trufant was there at No. 22, they were going to trade up to get him. They targeted a position and they went after it. That didn't happen on the fly or because momentum was swinging toward Trufant. He crushed it at the Senior Bowl. He crushed it at the NFL scouting combine. They wanted him. They got him.
Larry Scott, Pasadena: So Kevin, how well do you think I did in the playoff negotiations? Would you have done anything differently? What could improve the system (other than making it a real playoff where every team has a fair chance of winning)?
Kevin Gemmell: I think the eight-team model is the way to go. If you're No. 5 -- you still might have a legitimate gripe for not getting in. But if you are No. 9 -- you probably don't have a leg to stand on. But this is what we have for now and it's going to take baby steps to get there.
We don't know what the system is going to be yet -- so I can only speculate as to what I think would be.
For starters -- I think every team has to be on the same page when it comes to scheduling. I don't care if that's an eight-game or nine-game conference schedule. Also, in the Pac-12, they aren't allowed to take late-season byes or schedule FCS opponents later in the year. It's a huge advantage for some conferences to separate their rivalry games late in the year with weaker teams. (Oregon State was the exception last year because of the hurricane).
Also, strength of schedule must, must, must be a point of major consideration. This can't be another BCS by any other name. I'm also curious when they will release the rankings for the top four teams. Will it be in October like the BCS? November? I'd be in favor of a week-by-week standing after the first month so teams know where they stand.
But above all -- there has to be complete transparency in the selection process. Every week we have to know how and why the teams are ranked where they are. That's the only way people will understand and accept the process.