Because of my vacation last week, it's been a full seven days since the last mailbag. Time to remedy that and catch up on some overdue correspondence.
Eddie from Norwalk, Conn., writes:Hey, Brian, I can see you got quite a bit of sun down in Florida, haha. But, hey, who do you think has the best depth at quarterback in the league? I know just from experience that in the last two UConn seasons, we've gone though multiple quarterbacks and I think backups are often overlooked and can really make or break a season for a team (i.e. B.J. Daniels). Personally I'm not too worried about UConn depth knowing that both Frazer and Endres can play well, and I'm interested in seeing what our new redshirt freshman Mike Box can do. But which team do you think has the best backups?
Brian Bennett: You're right, Eddie, I did get quite a bit of sun. I'm now a nice shade of pink instead of my usual pale. Anyway, I touched on quarterback depth earlier this summer with my post-season position rankings. But to sum up, Connecticut, Cincinnati and Pitt are in the best positions should something happen to their starters. UConn has Cody Endres and a bevy of young quarterbacks. Cincinnati has Chazz Anderson, who has won games for them and who looked good this spring. And Pitt has Pat Bostick, who has two of the bigger wins in recent school history (at Notre Dame 2008, at West Virginia 2007).
Conversely, Rutgers and South Florida are in a world of hurt if something happens to either Tom Savage or Daniels.
R. Dean from Morgantown writes: Don't you suspect that one reason that West Virginia football might be taken lightly by the national media for the 2010 season is that it is just difficult to take coach Bill Stewart seriously?
Brian Bennett: That's an interesting question. Certainly, given Stewart's folksy way of speaking and the skepticism from some quarters that greeted his hiring after the 2008 Fiesta Bowl, you'd have to think there are many in the national media who underestimate him. I don't happen to be one of them. But Stewart does need to show he can do better than a nine-win season, which is nothing to scoff at, but still slightly below the lofty expectations of his fan base. These next two years are big.
Nick from Morgantown writes: The NCAA is doing a lot of probing. Also, there is considerable discussion about agents and NCAA players. How would you respond if the NCAA asked you to implement one rule to make the situation more efficient?
Brian Bennett: I would point to something in the distance, and when they turned their heads to look, I would run away. Seriously, though, it's almost impossible for the NCAA to keep agents from sniffing around players. You can't babysit them 24 hours a day, and when there's money at stake, people find a way to do what they're going to do.
The one change I'd like to see is making the players accountable for their actions. If you take money from an agent while you're in college and get your school on probation, then you have to at least pay back your scholarship money and perhaps a larger fine. If players thought there would be repercussions for dealing with agents while in school, they might think twice about it. Right now, a guy like Reggie Bush gets off scot-free except for the damage to his reputation.
On another note, how many of you guys have been sweating the possibility that an important player from your team went to one of those Miami parties? (I was just in Miami last week, but I swear I had nothing to do with it!).
Newman from Clifton writes:Would you please put an end to all of this talk about Cincinnati taking a step back because Butch Jones is in his first year? How long did it take him to win a championship at CMU? How long did it take Chip Kelly to get to a BCS bowl?
Brian Bennett: I think it's quite possible that Butch Jones will build on what Brian Kelly established. But let's face it: it's hard to improve on 12-0 in the short term. As I wrote in a post recently examining the effect of coaching transitions, history shows that programs where new coaches inherit highly successful teams usually take a small step backward initially. And by the way, Kelly's last Central Michigan team went 10-4 and a bowl victory; Jones's first Chippewas season ended with an 8-6 record and a postseason loss.
Rick from Newport, Ky., writes: I agree with your key stretchfor the Bearcats, but I disagree with your suggestion that weather for the UConn game could be a factor for a passing team like Cincy. Did you watch the Bearcats at Pitt last December? I also believe the defense will be improved for Cincinnati in 2010. The defensive game plan for most of last season was to take away big plays, which they were successful at. I believe the new staff will have the defense much better prepared to battle for every yard this season.
Brian Bennett:You make some good points, Rick. The cold and snow definitely didn't do much to slow down Cincinnati's offense in that Pitt game. The Bearcats scored 45 points (though their total offensive yardage, 371, was well below their season average). Rain and wet conditions do more to affect a passing team than cold and snow. But spread offenses are so efficient these days that even a little bad weather often times can't slow them down.
Robinson from Louisville writes: I've been looking everywhere for information on the 2010 Big East Media Day. What are the dates for it?
Brian Bennett:The coaches will arrive in Newport, R.I., a week from this Sunday. The annual clam bake -- mmm ... lobster -- will be the following Monday. The official media day, which consists of an hour each with all the league's coaches and the selected players, will be held Aug. 3. Of course, I will be there and will have all the news and developments throughout the event.
Sean from Tampa writes:You usually do a very good job in covering all of the Big East evenly; however I can't help but notice how you are undercutting USF's coverage a bit. I feel that the USF vs. Miami game or the USF vs. Florida game will earn the Big East more respect than Rutgers vs. UNC or UConn vs. (a struggling) Michigan. I understand you have those USF games listed; however they aren't in the Top 5, and I really feel that at least one of them should be. Moreover, in your Big East grudge matches article you failed to include the ever-growing rivalry between USF and WVU.
Brian Bennett:There's probably no better way for the Big East to gain respect than for South Florida to take down the Gators in The Swamp. I just cannot envision a scenario in which that happens, especially so early in the season with a new coaching staff leading the Bulls. So I don't view that as a realistic possibility. The Miami game would be another huge win, especially for USF's continuing quest for respect in its own state. But I think it's more important for the league that Pittsburgh -- the likely preseason favorite -- beats the Hurricanes at home in a nationally televised contest.
You make a good point about the USF-West Virginia rivalry. I didn't include it because there doesn't seem to be a lot of bad blood or controversy between the two schools despite how competitive that series has been. Yet it will be interesting to see if Skip Holtz can continue the Bulls' recent run of success against the Mountaineers.