Opening the mailbag: Neuheisel vs. Sark discipline

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To the notes.

Tristan from New York writes: As a UCLA fan, I was impressed with Rick Neuheisel's decision to suspend the three freshmen who were accused of theft. They were all given a chance to rejoin the team and re-enroll at UCLA if they improved their behavior. Obviously Josh Shirley just committed to Washington, but how does this bode for Coach Sark and Washington? Seems like a questionable move.

Ted Miller: It means Neuheisel is a disciplinarian and Steve Sarkisian is slack! Kidding.

Coaches walk a tightrope on discipline. Go too harsh and you lose good players and maybe your locker room. Go too lenient and you cultivate a culture of limit-pushing where players act without fear of substantive penalty.

Neuheisel has a reputation -- fair or unfair -- as being a "player's coach" who is slack on discipline. The early impression of Sarkisian is he doesn't take a lot of crap. So the booting by UCLA and salvaging by Washington runs counter to the present impression.

But you know what? Coaches are paid to win. Neuheisel may have felt he needed to make a statement about discipline, so he may have helped his program, in the long run, by taking a notable hard line. Sarkisian really, really needs an outside linebacker. He probably thinks rolling the dice on Shirley will help him win.

You'd hope that Shirley is embarrassed about being caught allegedly stealing a purse and has learned his lesson. So, as a firm believer in second chances, I say good for UCLA and good for Washington.

Jeremy from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: With all the information coming out about agents, I saw [a commentator] say that the players should be paid $5000 a year. I used to be in favor of paying players, but then I realized that even just $5000 a year means universities paying out an extra $425000 a year. That probably means the elimination of at least one other men's team because of Title IX (travel and per diem allowance) and most athletic departments are operating in the red. I don't think a lot of big name universities (like Stanford) would be on board for this and I understand why. Do you think they could stop as low as $5000 (like that's going to stop future Reggies) or that it is even reasonable?

Ted Miller: You can't pay football players because you'd then have to pay all athletes -- at least at public institutions -- per Title IX.

Moreover, college athletes do get paid: They get a college scholarship, room and board and a stipend. When people say college athletes aren't paid, they either don't know what they are talking about or are being disingenuous. College athletes get paid about -- conservatively -- $30,000 to $60,000 a year (depending on where they play) even if they never set a foot on the field over five years.

How much did you get paid when you were 18 to 22 years old? Any parents of college-aged children out there think a full-ride scholarship sounds financially super-awesome?

I know, I know: College football generates millions -- heck, billions -- and everybody is getting rich but the athletes.

Know what really generates billions? The jerseys.

Old Dame from Portland writes: Do you see Oregon State's success hinging on the defense? Last year in losses they gave up 28, 37, 42, 37, and 44 points and on average 400 yards. The only game you could argue the offense was an issue was against Cinci. (don't give me the wind bowl and it's negative yardage punts). With what they have coming back, I don't see the offense being an issue again this year. In past years OSU had near tops in the conference defense but it disappeared last year.

Ted Miller: Well, we'll have to wait and see at quarterback. Recall that Oregon State is replacing the first-team All Pac-10 QB -- Sean Canfield -- with a sophomore who has yet to play a meaningful snap. Ryan Katz has looked great in practice, but you just don't know how he will do when the spotlight shines down on him and he's running from 250-pound ends.

But I hear you on the defense. I haven't had my annual summer chat with defensive coordinator Mark Banker yet, but I'd imagine some of last year's game tape gives him indigestion. The Beavers defense has been near the top of the Pac-10 most years under Banker but last year it ranked sixth in scoring (25 ppg) and sixth in total yards (350 ypg). While a downturn was not completely unexpected -- see the linked Q&A -- what was unexpected was how few big plays the Beavers were able to generate in 2009.

They recorded just 17 sacks, which ranked ninth in the conference, and forced 16 turnovers, the fewest in the conference. For a defense that thrives on pressure, those are worrisome numbers.

At the end of the 2009 season, Oregon State's depth chart was encouraging: Nine starters were scheduled to return, topped by perhaps the conference's best defensive tackle in Stephen Paea. But then two starters with promising upsides quit: end Matt LaGrone and middle linebacker David Pa'aluhi. And outside linebacker Keith Pankey tore his Achilles (he's expected to be ready for fall camp; we'll see). More to worry about.

To me, the guy who holds the key in 2010 is end Gabe Miller. He's a great athlete who appears poised for a breakthrough as a pass rusher. With Paea collapsing pockets from the inside, and Miller hurling himself at the QB from the outside, the Beavers should generate more pressure -- so more sacks and more forced turnovers.

Oregon State is going to be pretty good next year. The difference between seven or eight wins and nine or 10 wins is mostly going to be about solid QB play and more big plays on defense.

Matthew from Corvallis writes: ATTENTION TED MILLERATTENTION TED MILLER I have started to notice that you don't seem to think that Oregon State is Oregon's arch nemesis (Please see Oregon's best case - worst case, specifically worst case where Locker wins the Heisman).Just so you know, since Washington hasn't been relevant for quite some time. Also, the Oregon State - Oregon rivalry is BIGGER than Ohio State and Michigan.Please adjust Oregon's worst case scenario, so that Rodgers wins the Heisman, because that really would be the worst thing to happen to UO.Thanks,Beaver Nation P.S. I better see this e-mail on the mailbag blog, or else I'll be forced to switch to Buker's blog, and nobody wants that.

Ted Miller: Have you been to an Ohio State-Michigan game? Yeah, well, me neither. But I hear it's super-cool.

Anyway perhaps that's a future poll question for Oregon fans: Whom do you hate more, the Huskies or Beavers? (I still think the Ducks hate the Huskies more but maybe I'm wrong).

As for Buker's blog, I'd be careful. That guy is all into a mind control and stuff like that. Just look at his picture.