Opening the mailbag: Perspectives on the Lobbestael arrest

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Just like the Pac-10 coaches, you've got questions heading into spring.

Eric from Pullman writes: Some more information about the [Washington State quarterback Marshall Lobbestael] alcohol incident has been brought forward and it appears that the initial reports from [The Daily Evergreen] were not correct. Cougfan.com has some updated info on the incident (although I'm sure you have probably figured that out by now. I figured i would send it to you since I'm sure multiple Cougs have already emailed you calling you an idiot for posting misleading information, but it wasn't your fault and I just wanted to say thanks for doing a great job covering the Pac-10 this season!)

Ted Miller: Eric thanks for the link. And the compliment is even better.

My inclination was to avoid this question. But we may be able to learn something about "news events" that could be valuable.

First, the second story corrected the other in one significant way, revealing that that Lobbestael, 19, was arrested for "minor exhibiting the signs of having consumed alcohol" instead of "minor in possession of alcohol."

Sounds like splitting hairs, but it's about being correct.

Other than that, however, no set of "facts" was established with a firmer foundation.

Clearly, we two versions of an event: 1. The Pullman police; 2. One that could be termed coming from Lobbestael's camp.

The Daily Evergreen story included this:

Pullman Police Cmdr. Chris Tennant said the police found Lobbestael passed out in a Dodge pickup parked in front of the Pullman Police Department.

"He was slumped over with a grocery bag of vomit between his feet,” Tennant said.

The rebuttal story said Lobbestael was not passed out and added this:

A different news report later quoted a Pullman police officer saying Lobbestael was "slumped over with a grocery bag of vomit between his feet." CF.C has since learned it was instead a car trash bag, similar to what someone might put on a stick shift that contained some McDonald's wrappers and other garbage, but no "vomit."

The second story cites "reliable independent sources," who appear to be saying Cmdr. Tennant isn't telling the truth.

What really happened?

We don't know.

In general, it doesn't seem that hard to fill in some blanks here, but we're going to stay away from speculating.

Getting caught drinking when you are underage has consequences. Getting caught drinking when you are underage and you play for a BCS conference football team means those consequences include news stories.

Is underage drinking the worst crime known to man? No.

I talked to Lobbestael just a few weeks ago. Seemed like a great kid. I've only heard good things about him, too. You might even read into this arrest story that he ended up getting in trouble because he was trying to help the girl in question, who I've been told is his out-of-town girlfriend.

When I finish typing this, I really won't think any less of him. My guess is you won't either. And he'll probably still start at quarterback for the Cougars in 2009.

Ryan from Atherton, Calif., writes: I just read your article about "big shoes to fill". I was surprised that you did not mention the three pairs of linebacker shoes that need to be filled in Berkeley. How do you think Cal's young and inexperienced linebackers will perform this season? Also, any ideas on who the starting linebackers will be besides Mohamed?

Ted Miller: It might sound silly, Ryan, but I just said to myself, "Bigger shoes? Center Alex Mack or those three LBs?"

Mack, at 6-foot-5, 320 pounds, seemed like he had bigger shoes.

But, seriously, it seems to me that replacing a center as good and as smart as Mack with a player who's seen little to no time at the position will be a bigger challenge than promoting three linebackers, particularly when the potential replacements saw action last season.

Talked to coach Jeff Tedford today for a Q&A that runs Wednesday. Not to bite off my own feature, here's what he said when I asked him about the LBs.

We have some guys, thankfully, who got a lot of playing time last year. Those guys who left us are big-time players, who were very productive for us, especially when we went to a 3-4. But Eddie Young started at an outside linebacker last year. Devin Bishop moves inside and he's a guy who's ready to step up. Mike Mohamed played a lot for us last year. Mychal Kendricks, who was a true freshman, played a lot. We feel pretty good about those guys. And giving us a little bit of depth there are some of our junior college guys, Ryan Davis and Jarred Price and Jerome Meadows are three JC linebackers coming in to give us a little bit of depth, too.

And a guy I forgot to mention is D.J. Holt. He's inside and he played quite a bit last year as well. We're not starting from scratch. These guys have been on the field and have a lot of ability.

So my guess is Mohamed and Young can be penciled into two spots, with Bishop, Kendricks and Holt and the JC guys competing for the other two voids.

Honestly, I think Cal will be fine at LB.

Aaron from Ocala, Fla., writes: What is the big deal about Mike Thomas running a faster 40 time than Percy Harvin? ... Also, Harvin's main attribute was never his straight line speed anyway. Anyone who paid attention to Florida knows that RBs Will Demps and Chris Rainey are faster than Harvin, and that WR Louis Murphy is only a hair behind Harvin (as the combine proved). What makes Harvin such an effective football player is his quickness, explosiveness, and change of direction.

Ted Miller: Aaron wrote a lot more about Harvin, but you get his point.

The big deal to me was that, until the combine times were published, it would never have occurred to me that Thomas was faster -- any which way -- than Harvin.

Did any of you think Thomas would run a better 40 than Harvin?

Harvin is a wonderful, thrilling player and will be picked well before Thomas. And rightfully so.

But I'm a Thomas fan -- both as a player and person. I think he's going to help a team smart enough to take him off the board on the first day of the draft.

Mitch from San Jose writes: Ted, I think I would enjoy your perspective on guys like Nick Reed at Oregon who were outstanding college performers (even on a national level), but don't even get an invitation to the NFL Combine. How do these guys cope? What must that be like for them? And what are their options?

Ted Miller: I could answer this, but I'm going to do you a favor and turn you over to the best NFL writer in the nation (who doesn't work for ESPN.com, that is).

Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News talked to Reed
about not getting invited to the combine and explains why the NFL went that direction.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Reed. I have to admit every time I interviewed him I thought, "How does this guy do it?" Defensive ends are supposed to look like Jevon Kearse or Julius Peppers.

Reed ain't much to look at. But production is production and he's gotten past a lot of offensive linemen in his career who are now playing in the NFL.

Joseph from Everett, Wash., writes: With Sark bringing in a new, pro-style offensive system, do you think Jake Locker's skills will be under utilized because he will no longer do what he does best (run) or do you think Sark will instill some running plays for Jake to continue to use his athleticism on the ground? P.S. You said it will take Huskies @ least 3 years to get back to .500? You are scaring me, Sir!

Ted Miller: Without question, the best offense for Washington in 2009 with Jake Locker would be a spread-option that features lots of Jake Locker right and Jake Locker left with a mix of Jake Locker up the middle.

He knows that offense. He's good at it. It works with the Huskies personnel.

And Jake Locker is a baaaaad man with the ball in his hands.

That said, it will be better for Locker's NFL prospects and, in my opinion, the Huskies program in the long run, to adopt more of a pro-style offense.

Sarkisian can help Locker prove he can play QB in the NFL. And, along the way, a message will be sent to all the golden-armed prep passers on the West Coast that they don't have to fret about the proliferation of the spread-option scheme.

And I promise Locker will run plenty next year, even from pro sets.

As for three years to .500... I thought I typed -- during a ESPN.com chat -- that the Huskies would get there within three years.

My guess is there's a real shot for .500 by Locker's senior season in 2010.

Robert from Seattle writes: Simple question Ted - is it good for USC to be so dominant in the pac ten?

Ted Miller: Not if you're UCLA.

Or Arizona. Or Arizona State, California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Washington or Washington State.

But if you're USC, it's great.

If you're asking if it might benefit the conference to have another team win the conference and play for a national title, I'd say absolutely without a doubt.