Mailbag: Oregon, USC and the NCAA

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To the notes!

Bruce from Los Altos, Calif., writes: Re: Oregon's penalties for NCAA infractions. How do you think these will stack up against the loss of 30 (THIRTY) scholarships which USC lost. Remember, we had exactly ONE player and, at worst, one assistant coach involved. The Oregon situation has more players and the HEAD coach involved in what the NCAA has already called major infractions. Is there any hope that the NCAA will ever reduce the loss of scholarships?

Ted Miller: No. There is no hope the NCAA will ever reduce the loss of scholarships for USC. For one, USC already lost its appeal. Second, the 2014 class will be the final one under NCAA limitations.

Look: Everybody knows USC got screwed by the NCAA. Not just in the "In my opinion, the sanctions for the Reggie Bush case were too severe" way, but in the "The process was corrupt and the judgment unjustifiable" way.

And I don't think anyone in the country has hammered this point home as much as me.

A couple of years ago I was at USC, having a casual conversation with athletic director Pat Haden. Then, for whatever reason, I started to rant about USC's NCAA case. Not because I have any specific affection for USC, nor because I wanted to brownnose Haden, but because it really chafes me how horribly unfair the process was, how faulty the conclusions were, and how devoid of leadership the NCAA was when it refused to take corrective action against this unquestionably failed process.

No, I wasn't standing on a soapbox, but I got pretty wound up, as I am wont to do. You know what Haden said? "Let it go," he told me.

And he was right.

As for comparing the USC and Oregon situations, I have three words: Blueberries and potatoes (you thought I was going to type "Apples and Oranges," but I'm just way too writerly for that!).

I seriously doubt sanctions against Oregon will even approach those against USC. There is a gray area with Oregon, whether you think it passes the stink test or not.

But, well, with the NCAA, you never really know.

Tim from San Diego writes: What is up with Ucla recruiting? They are still recruiting right? After the top ranked class in the Pac this year, why has that momentum translated to more commits? They have 1(?), while the Pac12 blog is providing updates on the other schools recruiting efforts. Please advise.

Ted Miller: Clearly, UCLA is doomed.

I called up Jim Mora and asked about this tragic recruiting situation.

"I was going to recruit some guys," Mora didn't say. "But I first needed to catch up on 'Breaking Bad.' Then I got sleepy. Took a 35-day nap. Then Kevin Gemmell called and we chatted for, like, a week. Just, you know, talking about life and relationships. Noel Mazzone came over and we made a brisket and watched 'The Notebook.' Wait. What was the question?"

Tim, UCLA had just one commitment at this time last year. Didn't get No. 2 until June. Got No. 6 on Sept. 22, same day the Bruins lost to Oregon State in week four.

Seems like everything turned out OK.

Remember: Recruiting is like most things. It's not how you start, it's how you finish.

James from Salt Lake City writes: I just read an article on why the Utes should abandon the spread offense and switch to a power offense that is able to control the clock and slowly wear down defenses. The article states it would be similar to what Stanford has done and states several players like Karl Williams, Radley, Poole, Murphy, and Scott as well as others as their weapons to do this. I have seen the Utes at practice and thought the article was crap until I finished it. It had several good points and made more sense then what they have accomplished so far this spring. I also think they would have more options and success especially whe utilizing both tight ends. This goes against the trending PAC 12 offenses but may also give the Utes an edge in their conference games. What are your thoughts about the Utes running a power offense and do you think they could be more successful in the PAC 12 with it?

Ted Miller: I have a confession. I do have a preference when it comes to offenses. I tend to favor the one playing for the winning team. So I like Oregon's offense. And Stanford's. Also like Alabama's offense.

I know that's flip and not what you're looking for, but what we're ultimately talking about is not a scheme, but what's going to be effective. If Utah has the right personnel and coaching, it can run an effective spread. If it has the right personnel and coaching, it can run a pro-style or power attack.

But, ultimately, it's about winning the game, whether that's 17-10 or 52-35.

I do think changing coordinators and schemes, as the Utes have done three times since 2010, make establishing an offensive identity difficult. I'm sure coach Kyle Whittingham believes the same. When he hired Dennis Erickson to co-coordinate with Brian Johnson, he specifically cited the lack of an offensive identity.

Part of that struggle has been dumb bad luck: Norm Chow leaves after a season to become Hawaii's head coach; quarterback Jordan Wynn can't stay healthy, etc.

My feeling is Erickson has been brought in to help season Johnson, so a couple years down the road Johnson can take over with his own scheme.

As for power versus spread: The general feeling is spread or pistol offenses help teams with fewer five-star athletes compensate with misdirection. Alabama and USC aren't spread teams, because they get those A-list guys.

The question is can Utah push into the top-third of the Pac-12 as a power team? Can it get the athletes and the linemen to make it work, as Stanford has? And that's on both sides of the ball, by the way, because you've got to consistently stop opponents if you're not going to score 45 every Saturday.

Perhaps, James, the Utes look to you like they would be a better power team in the short term -- as in this fall. But this is ultimately about establishing a brand of football the program can recruit to and win with over the long term.

I don't think lining up in an I-formation with the quarterback under center is a long-term answer for the Utes.

Josh from Lynden, Wash., writes: Did you see the USC spring game? Is it possible that the Trojans are actually better at WR this year? With Lee, Agholor and some combo of Blackwell, Flournoy or Rogers? And in all honesty who do you think should be throwing to them this year?

Ted Miller: Are you asking me if losing Robert Woods is a good thing?


All of those guys, other than freshman Darreus Rogers, were there last year. Heck, George Farmer, now out with a knee injury, also was there, at least when he wasn't hurt. The problem last year with the Trojans' passing game, which was pretty darn potent just based on raw numbers, was not a lack of talent. It was execution and play-calling. The Trojans were too focused on the blinding talents of Marqise Lee, instead of distributing the ball to other playmakers, which would have kept defenses off-balance.

That said: I don't think receiver is a question mark for USC. Just about every team in the country would trade their top-two guys for Lee and Agholor.

As for quarterback: Cody Kessler made more plays this spring and was more consistent than Max Wittek, but Wittek has an arm that will make NFL scouts swoon. Coach Lane Kiffin doesn't seem to be in a hurry to name a starter, so the competition is almost certain to go at least a week or two into fall camp.

And, with a fairly forgiving early schedule, I almost wonder if Kiffin might give both guys a chance when the lights are on.

Jeff from Tucson, Ariz. writes: UA will be a much tougher out than last year. Their defense has now had a year to get used to a new scheme, and returns all starters. The offense, even with a bad injury to Austin Hill, has many weapons including the nations leading rusher, and now comes Davonte Neal a transfer from ND. I am excited and believe the Cats will challenge for the South title.

Ted Miller: Hmm.

First off, Arizona wasn't an easy out last year. It beat Oklahoma State, Washington and USC, and pushed Stanford into overtime.

I hear you on the defense, but I'm not so sure you should write off the loss of Hill so easily. And you guys all know where I stand on losing quarterback Matt Scott.

To me, it all comes down to how much production the Wildcats get at quarterback. The defense will be better. The offensive line should at least be as good. Running back Ka'Deem Carey is an All-American. The receivers, even without Hill, are solid.

But Scott ranked sixth in the nation with 343.8 yards of total offense per game in 2012. That is not easy to replace.

John from Royal Air Force Mildenhall, UK writes: Hey Ted,First off, thanks for the Blog. I read it all the time, but right now I am deployed to Afghanistan, so it is particularly nice to read it and get a piece of home. I especially like the creative ideas you guys come up, like the Buy or Sell piece, with in the off season to keep us fanatics involved. I'm a Washington grad, husly fanatic, so I always have to wait until you go over all of the other schools before we get to the Washington schools. Can't we reverse the order every once in a while? It's not our fault we fall at the end of the alphabet! In fact, you could just leave Oregon out if you wanted to.Thanks again.

Ted Miller: John, first off, thanks for your service. Stay safe.

We can't leave out Oregon, but I will now announce that our "Most Important Game" series is dedicated to John and all of our readers whose teams are discriminated against alphabetically.

And we do try to reverse things every once and a while, so Arizona doesn't always have to go first. Or the Cougs last.

Francis from Federal Way, Wash., writes: I know this isn't about the Pac 12 but a football icon has died today in the Great PNW! I know since you used to live here you've heard about PLU (Pacific Lutheran University) and their football coach Frosty Westering. Well he passed away today and he's one of nine other coaches that have won 300+ college football games. Hoping you can give him a shout out and all great things he accomplished on and off the field. I had a chance to have him come and be a "guest coach" for a day for my old high school football team (Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma...Sefo Luifau Colorado recruit). He was such a motivational, positive guy that brought the best out of anyone. Made the crappiest player on the team feel he was just as important as the best player on the team. Anyways, just thought you'd like to know and as a committed reader of the Pac 12 blog hoping you can do a little write up on him! Keep up the good work and GO COUGS!

Ted Miller: Class act. Great coach. Even better man.

I must admit that I never had the privilege to talk to him or write about him, but I certainly, as a nine-year Seattle resident, was familiar with him and his glowing legacy.

My former Seattle Post-Intelligencer colleague Art Thiel frequently cited him as an example of what a coach should be.

Here's his tribute to the man.