Opening the mailbag: Debating the Heisman, Stoops, the spread

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Still trying to catch up on some neglected mail...

Jim from Portland writes: Regarding your recent blog about RBs for next year. Just curious as to why you did not mention that Jacquizz Rodgers could be a Heisman candidate as well? After being voted Offensive POY, you would think he has great momentum for Heisman candidacy in 2009. If OSU has a great year in 2009 and if Quizz stays healthy and has another productive year, then he should be a serious candidate. Also, there is something different and special about Quizz compared to other top RBs. Not sure what it is, but I suspect it is the way he gets his yards between the tackles and the way he makes people miss. It is the the stuff not reflected in statistics. For example, he consistently makes a -1 yard loss into a +2 gain. He gets better as the game goes on. And if defenses are stacking the box, he still finds a way to manufacture yardage. So, his YPC is not as high as some others, but he is OSU's best defender because he grinds out the clock and keeps the ball away from opposing offenses. I have never seen a player like Quizz before.

Ted Miller: If Oregon State has a great year and Rodgers stays healthy and beats his numbers from last year, I'd certainly rate him a Heisman Trophy candidate. Or at least an All-American candidate.

I think California's Jahvid Best has a better Heisman shot for three reasons.

First and foremost, he's a human highlight film. Spectacular plays grab voter attention.

Second, I think the Bears are more likely than the Beavers to be hovering around the nation's top 10 next year. It's almost a prerequisite these days for a Heisman candidate to play for a national title contender or at least an elite team.

Third, I think the going might be tougher for Rodgers with the Beavers restocking at receiver and the offensive line.

Dexter from New York writes: Ted, On at least a couple of occasions, you've written that Jahvid Best will be a legitimate Heisman candidate in 2009. I agree that he's an excellent player, but let's not lie to each other. Let us assume - for entertainment purposes only, of course - that you were placing a bet on next season's Heisman winner, and the options are (a) Sam Bradford, (b) Colt McCoy, (c) Tim Tebow, or (d) the field. What odds would I have to give you before you'd lay real money on option (d)? Skeptically yours,

Ted Miller: Fair point. I would need really, really favorable odds.

Yet, as the Pac-10 blogger, my focus is on the Pac-10. I think Best is the lead candidate in the Pac-10.

And, if Cal improves to 5-0 on Oct. 3 after beating USC behind 148 yards and two touchdowns from Best, he will certainly rate at least a strong No. 4 on your list.

And who knows if Bradford, McCoy and Tebow will match last year's production? Or if there won't be some Bradford, McCoy, Tebow exhaustion?

MJ from Berkeley writes: What is you opinion of coaches sending out more scholarship offers than they could possibly honor. [MJ mentions a school already making 81 offers, which I couldn't verify]. Is it meant as an incentive to get kids to sign early, or lose their offer? It seems to me that it greatly diminishes the value of a scholarship offer.

Ted Miller: My opinion is a program has got to do what a program has got to do.

Schools play the scholarship game. Players play the scholarship game. It's a numbers game and the math can get pretty complicated when filling out a team of 85 scholarships with 25 incoming guys a year.

When teams start the recruiting process, they have a big board with hundreds of names and ratings for those players.

If School A offers, say, 81 players in the spring before their senior year, most likely said school knows these guys can play. Heck, that's an offer without the benefit of senior season film.

The assumption is only a handful of players will commit on the early offer. There's never been a case on record of a team finding itself in a bind before June because, say, 40 guys accepted scholarship offers, though some schools -- like Texas this year with 19 commitments already -- often have a lot of committed players before summer arrives.

School A also very likely tells players that the scholarship offer has a shelf life. Only the truly elite prospects get an open-ended, no conditions offer, one where their decision late in the process may force a delayed enrollment on a previously committed player.

Moreover, while it makes sense for a prospect to make his decision deliberately after taking five official visits, if said prospect isn't high on School A's list, he runs the risk of having his offer rescinded.

Welcome to the adult world.

In other words, this is business as usual and just the way the system works.

Rodney in Los Angeles writes: I watched [UCLA's freshman quarterback] Richard Brehaut tape and he seems to lineup in the shotgun a lot. Do you think he will have trouble adapting to chow's pro-style offense?

Ted Miller: I haven't wanted much Brehaut tape. Blockbuster was out when I went last week. Kidding.

In general, prep -- or college -- quarterbacks moving up to the next level who have primarily played in offenses that use the shotgun almost exclusively struggle for a time to play under center.

Imagine: You are learning completely different footwork while, simultaneously, the game is speeding WAY up.

I do think this could significantly diminish Brehaut's chances to win the Bruins starting quarterback job as a true freshman.

That said: It depends on the kid.

And I'm sure Brehaut, knowing full well for months what sort of college offense he'll be running, has been working hard to learn the nuances of playing under center.

Andrew in Berkeley writes: Regarding Congress's questionable use of the people's time in writing a resolution to commend U$C...I'm pretty confused as to why either UCLA or SEC fans would want to read it, as suggested by the article title.

Ted Miller: Confused? Really, Andrew?

I thought the resolution was silly. And I thought that silliness would resonate with UCLA and SEC fans the loudest.

UCLA fans because USC is their arch-rival.

And SEC fans because USC's consensus position as the nation's premier college football program bothers them.

Steve from San Diego writes: I would just like to know your thoughts on Mike Stoops and the U of A football program. I just do not understand how one winning season translates into a contract extension for Stoops. Do you think that this still would have happened if BYU actually came to play and beat them? Was this just a fluke or can they really sustain this success long term? Please explain to me how one 8-5 season outweighs a 24-33 overall record?

Ted Miller: Steve, by the way, is an Arizona State guy. And it's 25-34.

But to answer the question: Stoops inherited in 2004 a program ravaged by the John
Mackovic Era. The Wildcats were in the pits.

Five years later, said program is coming off its first bowl win since 1998 and has restocked with talent that arguably places it in the top-half of the Pac-10.

Was the process from Point A to Point B perfect? No. Did rebuilding take longer than expected and were their some coaching blunders along the way? Yes.

But Stoops has improved as a coach and set up his program up for future success.

Two more things: First, BYU came to play in the Las Vegas Bowl. Arizona was clearly a better and much more athletic team.

Second, Stoops can be a grump with the media. But I regularly hear from folks at Arizona what a good guy he is -- how he treats everyone with respect -- which is the complete opposite of the previous administration.

And, in my little book of college football, that matters.

Being well-liked might not help win football games, but it might serve as a cup of cool water on that hot seat when things aren't going well.

Kevin from Phoenix writes: Is there any shot for Richard Morrison or Bryson Beirne to win the starting QB position at Arizona or is it a two horse race between Matt Scott and Nick Foles?

Ted Miller: Beirne appears to have a lot of ground to make up this spring. He needs to get on it because offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes said he'd like it to be no more than a two-horse race by the end of spring.

As for Morrison, true freshmen quarterbacks come in with big ideas about what they can do. Then that playbook crunches down in front of them, and defensive ends who run like high school running backs set to chasing them around.

So, I doubt Morrison will be a factor, and, if he's smart, he'll want to redshirt.

Bowl from Berkeley writes: Do you think Oregon's spread offense makes the QB more susceptible to injury? After seeing Oregon go through several QBs in each of the past few seasons, it seems like they should switch it up a bit or have 4 QBs working with the 1st team this spring. Has Kelly or Bellotti ever addressed the QB injury situation to the media?
Ted Miller: This is one of Mike Bellotti's least favorite topics, and his irritation is well-captured in this story on the subject.

The spread-option, in itself, doesn't make a quarterback vulnerable.

Being a running quarterback makes a quarterback vulnerable. Being a quarterback who gets hit a lot makes a quarterback vulnerable. Being a quarterback who isn't built like 240-pound Tim Tebow makes quarterback vulnerable.

Bellotti contends the Ducks had more injuries at the position when they used a traditional offense, where a quarterback can get blindsided and often doesn't see the defender coming. Bellotti believes a running quarterback who's engaging a defense has a better chance of protecting himself.

He writes off the injury issues at quarterback the past two seasons to bad luck.

Washington State, for example, had the same sort of epidemic injury issues at the position without running a spread offense.

On the other hand, of course, Washington lost Jake Locker four games into the season when he was running out of a spread-option.

My guess is that, over time, spread quarterbacks would get hurt more, but not so much more often that the offense would fall out of favor.