- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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Lots of mailbag to catch up on. Will try to squeeze out a few more later in the week. For now, to the questions.
Eric in San Francisco writes: You mentioned that it remains to be seen if the three-tight-end plan can continue. It seems that if there was a "next up" young tight end that was sharp enough, then we might be able to hang on to some of those great plays in the playbook. Who is "next up" in the tight end position, and could they be good enough to preserve that 3 TE plan?
Kevin Gemmell: I don't think it's as much the actual playbook as it is the players -- specifically what Coby Fleener was able to do in the offense and the way he could exploit almost every defender who tried to cover him. Stanford has other tight ends -- but no one who is 6-foot-6, 250 pounds and out-run cornerbacks and out-jump safeties. Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz will continue to bring what they bring -- phenomenal athleticism for their size -- but neither is as fast as Fleener. And to their credit, I think Ertz has better hands than Fleener and I think Toilolo was a better blocker. That's what made the three of them so great. No one on the roster has Fleener's rare combination of size and speed. I do think we'll see some special packages with Ryan Hewitt as a third tight end and Geoff Meinken at fullback. And we have to see if David Dudchock steps up. I don't think the scheme is going to change -- but without Fleener splitting the middle on the deep go route, it's not going to look as pretty.
Scott in Redwood City, Calif., writes: No, I haven't been predicting a national championship for the 2012 Card. However, I do think they'll be darn good, maybe even great. And then I heard it mentioned somewhere that Tennessee - in its first season without Peyton Manning - won the national title in 1998. So, would you care to get me all goofy and tell me how many other parallels there are between the '98 Vols and '12 Card?
Kevin Gemmell: Well, hmmm. Tennessee started the year ranked No. 10 in the AP poll. I'd imagine Stanford will be anywhere between 10-15. Both teams are/were pro-style offenses. Tennessee faced the No. 2 team in the country in Week 2. Stanford might face the No. 2 team in the country in Week 3. Uhm, let's see... both schools have well-regarded women's basketball programs ... "S" and "T" are consecutive letters in the alphabet ... I don't know. I got nothing else ... have fun with that one, though.
John in Phoenix writes: All things being equal, wouldn't it make more sense to give Brett Nottingham the nod to be the starter over Josh Nunes given he has another year of eligibility?
Kevin Gemmell: In my experience, all things being equal rarely happens. One of the two will step up (or slip up) in the fall and someone will emerge as the starter. I'm just not sure which one. I've heard good things (and bad) about both from people in the know. My best guess though, is that whoever wins it will be keeping it warm for Ryan Burns. If they approach Burns the way they did Andrew Luck, he'll sit out his first year, which means he won't take the helm until 2014. Eligibility won't matter by that point. If you're Stanford, you want to win now and continue to capitalize on the momentum of back-to-back BCS appearances and a monster recruiting class. If that means swapping quarterbacks in consecutive years, so be it. Do what you can to win now and keep the ball rolling.
Alan in Palo Alto writes: Any plans to retire Luck's number?
Kevin Gemmell: None that I've heard, but you have to imagine it's coming -- and the sooner the better. From here on out, there should only be one No. 12 in the minds of Stanford fans.