Stanford mailbag: Nike's Luck pun (groan)

Happy Friday. First, thanks for the kind words last week. I'm recovering nicely with the love of a good woman, a rambunctious 10-month-old boy and my trusty beagle at my side. The Kevin/Kevina jokes were pretty good and 51tj gets a tip of the cap for his Andrew Luck reference-hacking skills. Well played, sir.

On to this week's questions.

Adam in Newark, Calif., writes: Thanks for the Q&A with Wayne Lyons. But do you think one player can make that much of a difference on defense?

Kevin Gemmell: I actually think cornerback is the one true position where one player can make a massive difference. If Lyons establishes himself as a lock-down corner, that takes away half of the field in the passing game. But that's a big if, and we probably won't see that next year. He said it himself in the Q&A -- he doesn't have a film resume yet. He's going to have to grind this year and earn that name. He's probably going to be challenged a lot this season. How he responds to those challenges will dictate how he's treated by offensive coordinators over the next few seasons. So to come full circle, yes, I believe one player can make all of the difference. But if Lyons is said player, it won't happen until later in his career.

Michael in New York City writes: Kevin, this speaks for itself. First Nike ad for Mr. Luck. I've only watched it 17 times.

Kevin Gemmell: I watched it a couple of times. I always hated the pun off his name. It's so 2009. I'm sure he rolled his eyes a couple of times, too, after reading the script and they probably told him to just do it. But nevertheless, it's a cool spot.

Reed in Mercer Island, Wash., writes: I'm a Husky fan, that wishes Stanford would go back to being average. I'm curious if you have an opinion on how Andrew Luck will react to the NFL pass rush? I have "great respect" for him as an athlete and he seems like a really humble kid. My only question on him is that he has never dealt with a pass rush. He played behind fantastic lines at Stanford all three years and barely got his uniform dirty.

Kevin Gemmell: I think the answer lies in the question. He handled the pass rush extremely well in college and that's why he rarely got his uniform dirty. He has an excellent release, gets rid of the ball quickly and often has the ball in the air before the receiver turns on the break. That's what he's going to have to do in the NFL. There were times when I saw him get rattled -- the Oregon game comes to mind. But for all of the physical tools Luck has, it's really his cerebral game that is outstanding. He spent his entire college career working with David Shaw, who cut his teeth training quarterbacks to avoid the pass rush in the AFC North. You can't get much better preparation than that. He'll take his licks, but I'd expect when he's a bit more NFL seasoned, he'll handle it all extremely well.

Stacey in San Jose, Calif., writes: Kevin, if you were an NFL general manager and had to choose between Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro, who would you take?

Kevin Gemmell: Ugh ... putting me on the spot, Stacey. And Matt Kalil is unavailable? I've always held the belief that if I was going to build a team from the ground up, I'd start by 1) protecting my quarterback and 2) getting to the other guy's quarterback. That's where the game is won and lost, in my humble opinion. There seem to be some questions surfacing about Martin of late. Is he a left tackle? Is he a right tackle? Does he have the frame for left tackle? I think so. But right now, DeCastro seems more like the sure-thing pick. You know exactly what you're getting with him -- a bulldozing interior lineman who is also outstanding in pass protection. Both are great guys and I really enjoyed getting to know them. But there are fewer questions with DeCastro at this point.

Enjoy the hoops this weekend. My bracket has already found its way to the fireplace.