The mailbag is back this week and our inbox was flooded with questions about expansion and Knile Davis. Both have been major topics in the SEC of late and both will no doubt be brought up again throughout the season.
And that season is literally just around the corner. I can hardly wait, and I’m sure you guys are even worse.
Now, on to your questions:
Matthew in Richlands, N.C., writes: I just took a look at your list of players that could potentially have a break through season this year. Now, I realize he hasn't had a lot of playing time but what do you think about Chris Gragg (Arkansas' TE)? I think he has a lot of potential, and although he hasn't seen much playing time, the stats that he does have look pretty impressive. I'd look out for him this year.
Edward Aschoff: It’s easy for him to get lost in the shuffle. He did have to play behind one of the best at the tight end position last year in D.J. Williams. And don't forget about Ben Cleveland being there, either. But he is a player to keep an eye on this fall. Last fall, he caught eight passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns, including a long of 57 yards. He’s definitely an athlete and at 6-foot-3 and 236 pounds, he’s a load to take down. With Knile Davis gone, he might have more of a role in the offense. The Razorbacks will certainly be looking for another weapon to help fill the void. Yes, the Razorbacks have four very solid receiving options, but the tight end is always a valuable receiving threat; just look at all the work Williams did during his fine career with the Hogs. In this offense, Gragg will get plenty of opportunities to show what he can do.
Scott in Jacksonville, Fla., writes: I am an avid FSU fan! I was hoping we would go to the SEC. I think that FSU can play with them! I know FSU would not dominate like they did in the ACC but I do not think FSU would be at the bottom either. FSU would win their share. I have a lot of respect for Florida, but it is the fans that I do not like. Do you think that FSU will ever go in to the SEC?
Edward Aschoff: Honestly, I think Florida State would be a great addition to the SEC. FSU has a great athletic program and it doesn’t just revolve around football and basketball. Baseball is tremendous and track is a national contender every year. I think that competition would be a welcome addition to the conference. The Seminoles also bring national popularity. Putting FSU on TV is going to attract quite the national audience. But I don’t think we’ll see it. I don’t think Florida would be happy about losing its SEC recruiting advantage to FSU and Alabama, Auburn and Georgia might have something to say about the Noles as well. The word around the SEC is that the league likely won’t dip into states that currently house SEC schools, so FSU would be out of the running if officials sent in a request to join.
Mike in Nashville, Tenn., writes: What is your take on the Miami story as it relates to the argument that players should be paid at the collegiate level? Personally, I've never been in favor of paying players and this story only furthers my beliefs. I'm tired of the same old sob story about the downtrodden college athlete that can't afford pizza on the weekends or a movie with his girlfriend. Giving college athletes a little more spending money is not going to stop players from getting a taste of the high life from these boosters. Terrell Pryor didn't sell memorabilia so he could afford to gas up his car (you know, the Nissan 350Z that this starving college star's family could probably barely afford), he allegedly made over $40,000 in college. These Miami players weren't getting a free meal from a booster at the local diner, they were eating $500 lunches and going to strip clubs. Somebody please put an end to the myth of the poor college athlete that lives in constant squalor while the administrative fat cats eat with silver spoons.
Edward Aschoff: I’ve never been for paying college athletes. It just opens too many doors that lead to trouble. First of all, not every school can afford it. If you are going to pay football players, you have to pay everyone -- all athletes. Title IX isn’t going to let just the Trent Richardsons and the Aaron Murrays of the world get paid and leave it at that. If schools can start paying athletes, then what is stopping them from getting into bidding wars with other schools when it comes to recruiting? Recruiting has enough issues as it is. It will destroy smaller, less profitable schools’ chances of competing in recruiting. I understand college athletes gripe about not having money for the little things, so maybe athletes should be allowed to work outside of the athletic season in order to make some extra cash. Take out loans like the rest of us. The Miami incident doesn’t really make me think about paying athletes, it seems more like an incident where someone wanted to fit in and be cool, so he felt that if he did these things for athletes he’d be one of the boys. Well, it backfired.
Kyle in Gainesville, Fla., writes: If Texas A&M and another team from the west, lets just say Oklahoma, were to join the SEC do you think Auburn would be moved to the Eastern division? They would still play Georgia every year and Alabama could be the team from the west that stays on the schedule every year, plus it would bring back the old Florida-Auburn rivalry. The only problem I see with this is that Alabama would no longer play Tennessee every year.
Edward Aschoff: It would also mean that Alabama and Auburn could play in the SEC championship game. Just imagine that. Bringing the rivalry to Atlanta to play for a possible birth in the national championship would be utterly epic! You would lose that annual Auburn-LSU game every year, which has been one of the most exciting games to watch in the last decade, and, like you said, we’d have to wait every few years for the Alabama-Tennessee rivalry to kick back up. Maybe it will add something to it, but it would be hard to see that one go. It would also add some more fire power to the East. While this year will be probably be a rebuilding year for the Tigers, there is a lot of young talent that should have the Tigers competing for the SEC soon. Geographically, if any team is going to move from the West to the East, it would be Auburn.
Morgantown Matt in Morgantown, W.Va., writes: Please tell me that WVU is finally set to exit the Big East to join a conference that values football the way that the Mountaineer faithful do?!
Edward Aschoff: First of all, great first name. Very creative. While West Virginia has had its name thrown out in the SEC expansion rumor mill, I’m not sure what the SEC’s stance would be if the Mountaineers requested an invite. On the one hand, you are getting a pretty decent football program and you’re getting a solid basketball program as well. You’d probably tap into the Pittsburgh TV market and branch off into Ohio as well, which means more viewers in front of SEC games. Nothing wrong with that. But this is all speculation. Actually, most of the expansion talk is merely speculation. If/when schools start approaching the SEC about joining the league, West Virginia could be one of those teams, and the SEC might listen.