Mailbag: Character not an issue with James

Welcome this week's mailbag.

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To the notes.

Glenn from Portland writes: Have you seen [this column] from George Schroeder on LaMichael James? What do you think? Do you think it's fair to compare Cam Newton and LaMichael James as questionable characters? People don't seem to know the whole story with James.

Ted Miller: I don't know Cam Newton, and I haven't been reporting on that story. So I'm going to leave that alone and let it play out. Heisman Trophy voters are going to make their own call on how to treat it.

That said: I have no problem defending James, whom I believe to be a young man of high character, despite what happened to him during the offseason.

I wrote this in March about James after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor harassment charge and was sentenced to 10 days in jail for an altercation with his ex-girlfriend outside his apartment. Here is the sentencing memorandum that explains what happened the day in question.

And ESPN.com's Bruce Feldman paints an even more detailed picture hereInsider. The closure, when more information was available, should take precedence over lurid initial reports that came out before facts were available.

James is a humble guy and a good student. He was involved in a bad situation that he didn't handle perfectly and he paid a significant price for it and continues to pay for it beyond fairness because of how the maelstrom of "information" -- truths, half-truths, exaggerations and lies -- spews unevenly in our Internet age.

What would I say to Heisman voters who believe James is the best player in the nation but have character concerns?


Matthew from Santa Rosa, Calif., writes: How upset would the Tournament of Roses be if they were forced to take an undefeated Boise St or TCU over a one-loss Stanford team?

Ted Miller: The Rose Bowl, above all other bowls, values tradition.

That said: undefeated Boise State or TCU versus the Big Ten champ would be a winner, both in terms of the local economy and in terms of TV ratings. Not only that: It means the bowl would fulfill its non-AQ obligation for the cycle through 2014 with an undefeated team ranked in the top-three.

So some Rose Bowl traditionalist might shed a tear publicly, but there's no guarantee they wouldn't be crocodile tears.

Nick from Portland writes: What do you think Oregon State QB Ryan Katz's ceiling is? From what Ive seen so far hes got a big arm and good mobility, but whats concerned me is his accuracy. I've heard scouts say accuracy is one of those things that's very hard to improve so, from what you've seen, how much will this hamper his development.

Ted Miller: I think Katz's ceiling is pretty high. He has struggled lately, sure, but he's not getting a lot of help from his line, and it's clear he misses receiver James Rodgers.

As for accuracy, I think a college player can improve his accuracy. What you hear scouts say -- and it's what you hear about Jake Locker when scouts express concern -- is that there's not much you can do to make an inaccurate passer in college an accurate passer in the NFL. In other words, a 22- or 23-year-old senior should be mechanically sound enough that you know his accuracy.

In fact, lots of accurate passers in college aren't accurate in the NFL because the windows are smaller, the coverages are faster and the passes demand more arm strength.

Katz, a sophomore, is a first-year starter with great physical ability. He's completing 60 percent of his passes and has thrown 14 touchdowns and just five interceptions. I have a hunch that patience will pay off.

Kris from Mission Viejo, Calif., writes: As the season winds down, it appears that the Pac-10 will not be able to fill its available bowl slots, meaning schools will lose out on valuable bowl payouts. I am sure Larry Scott recognizes this, so could the Pac-10 potentially lobby the NCAA to grant USC a waiver to participate in a bowl game this season?

Ted Miller: To the USC part of this question... no. Not happening. USC wouldn't even ask. And neither would the Pac-10.

But as to "valuable bowl payouts"... no again.

This is a dirty little secret of the bowl system: Bowl games are not big revenue drivers. Just read the Nov. 15 issue of Sports Illustrated. Bowl games have value to programs -- and players get to have a good time -- but, for example, Washington would not suddenly experience a financial windfall if it earned a berth in the Sun Bowl.

Here's the crazy thing. Want to know how the Pac-10 schools might make the most money from the bowl season? Get two BCS bowl berths and only send teams to the Alamo and Holiday bowls.

The second BCS game means the conference will split up an extra $4.5 million. The Alamo and Holiday bowls are the only two Pac-10 bowl contracts that pay out more than $2 million per team, so a team that is wise with its travel party and expenses and can sell tickets can break even.

Missing out on the Sun, Las Vegas and Kraft Fight Hunger bowls probably would end up saving money.

Nick from Washington D.C. writes: I read that Coach Kelly made a trip to Seattle to "talk with Coach Carroll and some Oregon players" that are on the roster...I have two questions about this: 1. Should Duck fans be worried that Kelly is going to leave to work for the Seahawks? 2. How likely is it that Carroll would offer that job to Kelly?

Ted Miller: You should not worry about Kelly leaving Oregon for the NFL. He just signed a contract extension with Oregon. He likes his job.

Chris from Portland writes:[The Pac-10 blog wrote:] "Even his critics, who have an odd obsession with calling a humble, classy young man overrated and relishing in his failure." You do realize that MOST, and I do say MOST of these fans that you are alluding to (and I'm making an assumption here that you are alluding to Oregon fans), are relishing in the Locker's failures because it translates into failures for Washington (OUR RIVAL). Most of us hold no ill will towards Locker. The ill will is towards our Rival fan base who propped Locker up to be Purple Jesus. I really hope you do understand that, because your statement seams to hint that there is a large contingent of fans that want a Classy, Humble young man to fail, when it has nothing to do with a Classy and Humble Jake Locker. It has everything to do with a rivalry and the fan bases.

Ted Miller: Chris, my guess is you are correct. But your note suggests you hang out with mature people who have perspective.

You'd be shocked how much crazy email I get -- such as you, "comma,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,guy" -- that comes off as, well, a little unhinged.

But I disagree with one point, and I think it's an important distinction that hasn't been made enough.

Huskies fans loved Locker from the day he signed. And they loved him more when he had a thrilling debut as a redshirt freshman at Syracuse. They loved him because he was a Husky and they had high hopes for him.

But it wasn't Husky fans who started hyping Locker as the potential top overall NFL draft pick in 2010. It was NFL scouts, well-connected NFL reporters and other coaches. Read my 2009 blog post on his anointing by then USC coach Pete Carroll and ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

If I recall, there was a significant amount of, "Really?" from Huskies fans. And, Ducks fans, you might recall Locker's biggest fan is one of your own. When I asked an NFL scout about Locker's accuracy a year ago, he told me his study of game film actually suggested that Locker was much more accurate -- particularly downfield -- than his numbers suggested. In fact, there weren't any major Locker skeptics among educated voices in the preseason, though everybody said he needed to show improved accuracy as a senior.

Sure, Washington probably went overboard with their aggressive positioning of him as a Heisman Trophy candidate. But the school was hearing the same thing everyone else was: expect a big-time breakout in 2010.

It didn't happen. He and the Huskies have suffered through a disappointing season.

Ducks fans have every right to trash talk about the Huskies troubles. That's what fans do.

In fact, they have a right to say whatever they want about Locker. I don't get the feeling he cares that much. He's still going to be rich at this point next year.

But there's something off-putting about the wide-eyed zeal some folks have shown while gloating over a classy, humble young man's struggles.