Mailbag: Lacking stars at media day, playing two QBs

Happy Friday. Welcome to the mailbag.

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To the questions!

Josh from Seattle writes: Saw your tweet about Pac-12 media days about not bringing star players and what I have to say back to you is boo hoo. Sorry the coaches aren't doing what you want but are doing what they want, honoring players who deserve to be there. When the media stops believing everything is about them we'll all be better off.

Ted Miller: It is shocking that we humble scribes and TV folk believe something called "Media Days" might possibly, to some extent, be about us, about our media needs. And, by "media needs," I denote our grand designs of providing publicity for college football teams, their conferences and their players, stories and video elements created to entertain and inform the fanbases of said teams and conferences.

But your describing the intent of media days as "honoring players who deserve to be there" warms my cold heart. Glad to know getting a spitfire of sometimes redundant questions from, cough, the media is an "honor."

To treat your query with more seriousness than you probably intended for it to receive, there is something to be said for teams following through with the obvious intent of an annual preseason media gathering -- offering up a conference's biggest stars for interviews in one location.

Sure, some coaches insist they want two hard-working seniors to go to media day as a reward. Fine. Let's suspend credulity and accept that bit of self-serving sanctimony, considering top stars often don't stick around for their senior years. The world does need more disingenuousness, right?

The simple fact, however, is fewer big names in attendance,\ means less interest in the Pac-12's preseason event and, therefore, less interest in the Pac-12. There's all sorts of potential ramifications for that for a conference that suddenly finds itself slipping behind the SEC and Big Ten in terms of revenue and certainly isn't secure even in third place. Certainly doesn't help the Pac-12 Network, which is owned by the very teams that are screwing it out of quality content.

Moreover, when a school doesn't bring a player who is obviously its biggest star, it inspires the question of "Why?" And that is almost always answered in a negative way -- that the school is worried about said star player handling himself well in front of reporters. That might seem unfair, but after covering every Pac-10/12 media day since 1999, I can tell you it's more often true than not.

Carolyn writes: Read your post regarding Pac-12 backup QBs. I was wondering if there might be a benefit for Stanford (or any team that has two strong candidates) to regularly play both Keller Chryst and Ryan Burns at quarterback during the course of a game. It makes the opposing team have to prepare for two quarterbacks, each one can have a specific game plan geared toward his strengths, and it would be unique and fun as a fan to watch. Would it have any negative effect(s) on the offense? Teams are ready for a backup to step in at any time anyway, aren't they? Wouldn't it be an interesting and potentially awesome opportunity for Stanford to try this?

Ted Miller: Some coaches, most notably Steve Spurrier, have legitimately tried to play two quarterbacks, but few coaches are fans of the idea. There's a reason the coaching cliche "if you have two quarterbacks, it means you have none" exists.

That said, I've always thought there's wisdom in playing a backup as often as possible for the simple reason that starting QBs get injured all the time. That includes the idea that you want to keep the backup thoroughly engaged and game-ready.

With Chryst and Burns, their skill sets are very similar, so there would be no need for different game plans. You wouldn't, for example, bring one in on the goal line to run an option play.

There are, however, some issues. Most starting QBs don't like to sit down. They'll say they lose their rhythm and get out of sync by missing a series here or there. It also might boil their competitive juices the wrong way. They might press and make mistakes because they are trying to play so well that their coaches don't want to play the backup.

The question most concerns quality playing time. Do you want your backup to see action when a game is still in doubt or only during garbage time late in the fourth, when they mostly play a ceremonial role of handing off or taking a knee?

The problem with playing a backup in a competitive game is that if he makes a critical mistake -- perhaps forcing things to try to remain in the game -- the coach will get second-guessed and will second-guess himself and his offensive coordinator.

When a coach finds himself with a 1A and 1B QB situation, he often really wants a couple of patsies in the nonconference schedule, which would allow him to play preseason-like games when winning is fairly certain and he can get a measure of how they perform in game situations.

Craig writes: It seems that the furor over satellite camps has been little more than a whimper out here on the Left Coast. But I believe Pac-12 schools do use them, which leads me to two questions. And trust me, I'm really limiting myself here by asking just two. First, which Pac-12 schools gain the most from these camps? Second, do you think the NCAA or Pac-12 may change their rules on these camps?

Ted Miller: Everybody uses them, and the overwhelming majority of Pac-12 coaches value them and have benefited from them. More than a few were angry when the ban was announced -- albeit temporarily -- and were even more belligerent when they learned UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero voted against the conference's wishes. You might recall that brouhaha.

The schools that benefit most from these sorts of camps are the ones furthest from A-list talent -- the Oregon States and Washington States -- while they are not as big a deal to urban schools, most obviously USC and UCLA, which are surrounded by talent within a few miles of campus.

As for changing the rules on these camps, that's probably inevitable. There's a lot going on in recruiting, and these camps don't make things easier to monitor. Most folks agree these camps are good because they give athletes opportunities to get in front of coaches, but obviously abuse is likely, as in all things in college football.