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Mailbag: Problems with grad transfers and Utah's offense

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To the questions!

Ken from Bothell, Washington, writes: Given the state of programs following the departures of graduate transfer quarterbacks, do you expect teams to continue to actively pursue them? Watching a true freshman QB get maimed is painful, and watching an ineffective junior can be worse, but offenses are complex and continuity is valuable. It seems like for every Russell Wilson, there are about 5 Dakota Prukops. The practice would seem to be generally detrimental to the development of homegrown quarterbacks. I tend to doubt that Nick Saban, Urban Meyer or even Chris Petersen would do something like that as a strategic move. This raises the chicken and egg question, do coaches bring in graduate transfer QBs because they are desperate, or do they become desperate because they take a shortsighted view?

Ted Miller: The biggest problem with graduate transfer quarterbacks is simple: The debate about graduate transfer quarterbacks.

Understand: There are zero negatives about bringing in a graduate transfer quarterback.

Think about it this way. You have Team A. It's uncertain at quarterback. It brings in a graduate transfer to compete for the job. Then you have Team B. It's uncertain at quarterback. It doesn't bring in a graduate transfer quarterback to compete for the job.

Which team is better off? The one with more options and more competition or the one with less?

Or think about it this way. What happens with the Oregon Ducks in 2015 if Vernon Adams is 100 percent healthy all season?

I'll answer that because we aren't actually having a conversation, Ken. Oregon would have used an impressive win at No. 5 Michigan State in Week 2 to catapult itself to the Pac-12 championship and a second consecutive berth in the College Football Playoff.

You scoff. Well, go here and look at Oregon's 2015 slate and take note of the common denominator in every game the Ducks lost. That's right. No Adams -- or at least no healthy Adams for four quarters.

Oregon's 2016 season didn't go rear end over tea- ettle because of Dakota Prukop, who lost the starting job to promising freshman Justin Herbert. The Ducks offense averaged 35.4 points per game and their 6.6 yards per play ranked second in the Pac-12 behind Washington (6.8).

The defense, meanwhile, yakked up 41.4 points per game and was feckless against the run and pass.

The same could be said for California, which got plenty of quality production from coveted Texas Tech grad transfer Davis Webb this past fall but little support from a milquetoast defense.

Obviously, fans want to see a pattern of redshirt freshmen and sophomores seamlessly taking over for juniors and seniors headed to the NFL. They want those youngsters go all Marcus Mariota, Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston as first-year starters, too.

And I want to start with an 11 or split aces in blackjack every darn time!

There's nothing shortsighted or desperate about taking a graduate transfer QB. In fact, bringing in a veteran QB with a proven track record means a coach gets a player who already has revealed himself under the bright lights. It's an additional option instead of playing a youngster who perhaps could use another year of seasoning.

If the team culture is about winning and not something silly like seniority then the locker room won't resent an addition of talent and competition.

As for Saban, Meyer and Petersen, if USC QB Sam Darnold, for whatever reason, gave any of them a call down the road saying he wanted to transfer, all three would spontaneously leap into the air, click their heels together four times and offer to give him piggyback rides to class that entire fall.

Bruce writes: Utah has been speed dating with offensive coordinators for the last 10-plus years and here we are again with a new shiny one, Troy Taylor. While each OC has come in with promises of change and high aspirations, Utah's offenses haven't changed dramatically - which many believe is because of the common denominator in defensive-minded coach Whit (whom I love by the way). Is Kyle Whittingham reining in these OCs with his conservative, defensive-minded coaching philosophy, or have we just had some bad luck with a mix of OCs, players, injuries, etc.? Do you predict to see a similar Utah offense at the end of next year?

Ted Miller: I had a conversation with Aaron Roderick this past season about the aforementioned Darnold. Roderick said he wasn't surprised in the least about Darnold's quick ascension at USC. He had been all over him in recruiting and mourned him as a big fish that got away.

If Darnold had signed with Utah, the Utes would have won the South Division this past season and Roderick would be getting a raise.

Yeah, I know, "Ifs are for stiffs and the miffed."

It has become an annual question for Utah. What happens if the Utes get above-average play at QB? We don't know because it hasn't happened since the Utes left the Mountain West, but throwing the football has been the Utes glaring and consistent weakness since 2011.

Of course, the failure behind center always traces back to coaching -- recruiting, development as well as X's and O's -- which is why Whittingham is on his ninth offensive coordinator in 10 seasons.

Does Whittingham deserve some blame for the offensive shortcomings? Absolutely. It's his team. Does he meddle with the offense? Absolutely. It's his team, and when the offense falls short of his expectations he's going to interject and strongly suggest.

That said, if the Utes become productive, efficient and balanced under Taylor, you can bet that Taylor will receive plenty of autonomy while collecting endless backslaps and fist bumps from Whittingham.

Taylor is an interesting hire. He was Washington QB Jake Browning's coach at Folsom (California) High School, and Browning put up ludicrous passing numbers for him. Taylor was one half of the Pac-12 raid on Eastern Washington this offseason, as Eagles head coach Beau Baldwin is now running new coach Justin Wilcox's offense at Cal. Sort of disappointing that Utah and Cal don't play this fall.

Utah's QB competition will be interesting this spring. While Troy Williams is a returning starter, he will be challenged by sophomore Tyler Huntley.

Whoever prevails, Bruce, my guess is Taylor is going to throw the ball more this fall than Utah has previously as a member of the Pac-12.

Dirk from Valdosta, Georgia, writes: What do you know about Georgia football and Georgia recruiting? Stick to the Pac-10 and that weak West Coast football. Let me educate you. Mark Richt was all hype in recruiting. He didn't sign enough linemen and he wasn't good enough as an in-state recruiter. Kirby Smart knows better. You and everyone else will see that this year when the Bulldogs make their move in the SEC and that's the same as making a move in the playoff because the best football is played down here but you probably have no idea of that out there on the lefty coast.

Ted Miller: Hmm.

I typed: "From 2012 to 2015, Richt only twice signed the top player in the state. One of those was Josh Harvey-Clemons, who was kicked out of school and transferred to Louisville."

And I typed: "That's not the case in this class, however. Second-year coach Kirby Smart signed five of the top six players from his home state, including all three five-star recruits."

So, yeah, reading.