Opening the mailbag: Position rankings and talking trash

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

My wife is piping Buffett throughout the house, trying to distract me from your notes.

Not that I'm claiming there's a woman to blame ...

Kevin from Phoenix writes: I know that nobody is talking about Danny Sullivan for the Sun Devils, but if somebody of note would take a look at this kid, he is a stud. He had an outstanding spring. He has turned into a great leader and motivator for DE's team He has an arm, the size, and the mental tools to be successful this upcoming season for the devils. So where is the love for Sully?

Ted Miller: Kevin, you need to talk to Manny from Scottsdale (see final note).

Sullivan will get love if Arizona State gets back on the winning track, simple as that.

Folks are nervous about him for two reasons: 1. He hasn't seen much action, and when he has it hasn't been terribly impressive; 2. He's not very mobile, and if you haven't noticed the O-line is an issue.

But you are right about his spring. There were lots of rumblings that other guys would overtake him, but Sullivan stepped up and ended that quickly. Erickson, in fact, went out of his way to laud Sullivan's performance.

Of course, as in all things looking ahead: We shall see.

Kenny from Corvallis, Ore., writes: Every year each college team graduates players at positions all over the field, meaning every team in the country has some sort of question marks somewhere (except for Florida this year). But obviously some are more important than others. How would you rank significance of "question marks" of positions? i.e. I would say offensive line is probably most significant, whereas wide receiver is probably the least significant.

Ted Miller: First off: Any of you notice that Kenny gets almost a letter a week? It's because he asks interesting questions.

Second, another mailbag rule: If you repeatedly call me a stupid, SEC-loving redneck who should go back to the south [Yes, SEC fans, I get it from BOTH FREAKING SIDES!], don't expect me to forget and publish your notes/questions a week later.

As for this query ... Quality trumps everything. There's a huge difference between a GOOD starter and just a starter.

Fans often get on pundits for paying too much attention to returning starters, and it's a fair criticism. It's also about all you can go on when you don't have a body of work from which to evaluate new starters.

I'd rate tight end last. But a great tight end -- particularly one who can catch and block -- is one of the best weapons a team can have.

Same with receiver, running back and safety, which are down my list. Unless your safety is Taylor Mays. Or Eric Berry.

I'd always start with experience at quarterback. A close No. 2 would be quality returning starters on the offensive line.

But the O-line is kind of cheating. It's five players.

It's hard to pick between cornerback, defensive end and defensive tackle, though I'd probably go in that order. Unless the DT is Sedrick Ellis or Haloti Ngata.

I rate linebacker lower than most folks would because I've seen so many great college LBs wash out in the NFL because they were protected by schemes that helped them pile up numbers.

So, if quality is a constant, I'd rank it: QB, OL, CB, DE, DT, LB, RB, WR, S, TE.

And, yes, I know there are some defensive coordinators who will tell you I'm cracked about the value of safeties. And, no, I won't turn my back on Mays when I go to USC practices this fall.

Rob from West Linn, Ore., writes: I'm a long-time Oregon fan but I have concerns about the 2009 Ducks. While most of the rating services rank the Ducks in the Top 15, it seems to me that the rankings are based on last year's performance and do not take into consideration that the Ducks are down to one healthy and experienced quarterback and one healthy and experienced running back. There are also depth issues at wide receiver and on the offensive and defensive lines. Chung, Byrd and Boyd have all departed, leaving significant holes in the secondary. Finally, there will be a new kickoff specialist, a new punter, at least one new kickoff returner and punt returner and a place kicker who began playing regularly only during the second half of last year. What's your assessment?

Ted Miller: You can't fool me, Rob. You're trying to tap into my anti-Oregon bias!

Oregon has earned the benefit of the doubt from many pundits, particularly after physically manhandling a good Oklahoma State crew in the Holiday Bowl.

The return of quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and running back LeGarrette Blount, last seen hurdling his 230-pound self over a Cowboy defensive back, means the bright-lights names are back. That goes a long way.

As for the issues you list: That's why I've been touted California as the most likely challenger to USC, with Oregon next in the pecking order.

Henry from Berkeley writes: Ted, what do you make of the 9am PT start time for my golden bears at Minnesota? Anti-PAC-10 sentiments? Do you think we could have another Maryland 08 fiasco?

Ted Miller: I'll hand this one off to Erik from Fremont, Calif., whose note arrived moments before Henry's. He wrote:

Lets not worry about the Cal-Min start time too much yet. Cal is 3-1 in the 9am slot under Tedford (wins @MSU, @ILL, and @A.F.). Lets credit Maryland for coming out and playing a great game.

Well said. As for a conspiracy: Chief blame goes to the sun, which has the audacity to always show up on the East Coast first.

Sun... kidding... stop... hot... sorry... my bad.

(I live in Arizona, so I can't take shots at the sun without repercussions).

Michael from Alameda, Calif., writes: With a passing game potentially being setup with Andrew Luck for Stanford, does Toby Gerhart's yard total go up or down in '09?

Ted Miller: It will be about the same because he'll get an extra game when Stanford qualifies for a bowl.

Go Bears! from Los Angeles writes: I'm just a first year law student, so I don't know much about the law yet, but after taking Constitutional Law, I'm pretty sure some federal court is going to strike down the Oregon law (Rooney Rule) as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause. It's almost impossible to pass any law that blatantly uses race like this. The only two times I can think of where such a statute was upheld was Michigan Law School's Affirmative Action program (which only used race as one factor among many) and Japanese internment camps (where a Japanese attack was imminent and Japanese spies were in America). In order to avoid being struck down, the Rooney Rule has to be the least restrictive means to further a compelling government interest. Requiring schools to interview at least one black candidate isn't really the least restrictive means (after all, I can think of a few alternatives just off the top of my head right now). Maybe the reason why Oregon is the first state to en
act such a law is because the courts won't allow it. After all, even facially race-neutral statutes that don't use racial terms get struck down.

Ted Miller: Posted this because I wanted to show how smart our readers are. I can't really say how things might go in a court battle. Someone's got to make the challenge first.

David from El Segundo, Calif., writes: I saw your update on that UCLA story about the players wearing the black armbands ten years ago and just wanted to fill you in that most of Scott Reid's story appears to be heavily influenced by a two part series by Sam Allen that ran in the Daily Bruin a few months earlier. Here are the links ONE and TWO. Student newspapers generally get short shrift, understandably, but this was a pretty well-researched series that deserves credit in its own right

Ted Miller: Duly noted. Thanks for the links. Kudos to Sam Allen.

Thomas from Los Angeles writes: Tom Hanks famously said "there's no crying in baseball." well, if there's no crying in baseball, then there's damn sure no crying in football. yet tebow got so much praise for his teary speech after the loss to ole miss. (and let's not forget that he was late to the press conference because he was sobbing in the locker room for nearly an hour.) it almost seems like many college football "experts" used that crying incident as justification for florida being in the bcs championship game over other one loss teams and utah (the speech was aired in a positive light about a zillion times last season). i didn't realize that american idol/kris allen fans are also in charge of picking the bcs contenders. should i expect more of the same this season? will crying and heart-tapping signals to urban meyer remain bcs criteria unless and until a playoff is implemented?

Ted Miller: Call this the deja vu mailbag.

Again, if you come here looking for me to insult Tim Tebow ... it's just not going to happen. He's a fantastic football player and, by every account, a fine young man.

And just because a moment like Tebow's speech gets endlessly replayed, even to the point of being sort of annoying, it doesn't subtract from its initial gravitas.

If that was [insert name of your quarterback here] making an emotional speech that preceded [insert your team's name here] drive for the national title, you'd rank it next to Winston Churchill's "never surrender!" radio address, too.

As for the BCS title game ... as I've said before: 1. I believe USC was the best team in the nation last year, a belief that was supported by the sports books in Las Vegas; 2. I also believe that the argument, supported by the computers and national polls, that the body of work Florida and Oklahoma produced last year was superior to USC's was sound, if not conclusive.

Johnny from Berkeley writes: With Jahvid Best getting all the attention in the Cal's backfield will Shane Vereen have a "Out of the Shadow" year or is Best just too special to be in a decoy role? Is there a chance that we see them both on the field at the same time?

Ted Miller: Vereen isn't exactly in the shadows, considering he rushed for 715 yards last year.

My guess is Vereen will get his 10-15 touches a game, spelling Best.

And I love the idea of both of them on the field at the same time. Didn't that happen some last year, though?

Pado from Portland writes: How many Pac-10 teams do you think will get into bowl games? Also, which teams? I think USC, Oregon, Cal, OSU, Stanford and UCLA will make bowl games (that's the order I have them finishing). Am I totally wrong? Or am I pretty close in my predictions?

Ted Miller: I think seven will be bowl eligible.

USC, California, Oregon and Oregon State are sure things.

I think three of these four will get the other slots: Arizona, Arizona State, Stanford, UCLA.

I'm trying to answer while saving some intrigue for the preseason.

Andy from Davis, Calif., writes: I was just wondering why California and Oregon whom finished the season not significantly better/worse than Oregon State are both receiving top 15 pre-season rankings, while the Beavers aren't even considered for a top 25 ranking. I know I know that there's questions on defense and the O-Line for the Beavers, but come on there's questions for Cal and Oregon at various positions, what's up with this?

Ted Miller: If it helps, Oregon State will be in my top 25.

California has 17 starters back, including Jahvid Best.

Oregon has 10 starters back. The Beavers have 11.

Did you happen to see the Civil War?

Josh from Oakland writes: The UGA guy is ruining the blog. I find it hard to believe that ESPN is willing to allow him to post

Ted Miller: Trolling is part of all the conference blogs because talking trash is a part of college football.

But, yes, there are unwritten rules.

Said commenter arrived with a set of assertions that were in large part incorrect or disingenuous. Another person corrected those comments and pointed out the illogic and situational applications of stats and dates.

At that point, the debate was over. Truth and intelligence won.

To make an analogy: An outsider arrived saying the world is flat. Pac-10 folks, as they are prone to do, provided the scientific proof it was, indeed, round.

It was revealing that the interloper then merely chose to repeat his original posts. Over and over again. And make up new things.

Obviously, he knows he lost the argument. But instead of being right, he now just wants to be annoying.

Ergo: World is flat! World is flat! World is flat! Bahahahahaha!

It's hard for most of us to understand the motivations for an adult to behave in such a way, but obviously folks like this exist, particularly in the cyber-world that grants certain types the anonymity they crave (and require).

This is not to say folks can't take issue with positions taken here or even issue biting drive-by insults. One of my favorite commenters is "GoBuzzGaTech." We agree on very little, but the dude's karate is good.

Notably, GoBuzz also seemed exasperated by said poster.

Not to sound like Oscar Goldman, but we have the technology to make folks disappear (da da duhhhhhhnnnnn!). But as one of the pooh-bahs told me from the home office in Bistol: It's a nuclear option we prefer not to take.

And, no, new screen names won't allow a person to hide.

I don't feel the poster in question has yet reached that point. He remains welcome here.

I just think we'd all appreciate if he upgrade his game a bit.