Mailbag: Cyler Miles' departure, Jim Mora and Reggie Bush

Happy Friday. Welcome to the Mailbag, pre-March Madness edition.

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To the notes!

Grant from Seattle writes: What do you make of Cyler Miles' leave of absence? A precursor to his leaving the program? And to me, it seems like Chris Petersen didn't handle this very well, given Troy Williams ' departure as well. Is that fair & accurate?

Ted Miller: It seems safe to say that Miles is questionable-to-doubtful to be Washington's quarterback in 2015.

This from Adam Jude:

As things stand, Miles does not plan to play for the Huskies during the 2015 season, but he is keeping his options open, a source with knowledge of Miles’ plans told The Seattle Times.

Even if Miles' up-and-down career at Washington -- both on and off the field -- isn't over, he figured to face a stiff challenge in spring practices and preseason camp for the Huskies' starting job. While Miles did some good things in 2014 after being suspended for his first spring practice with new coach Chris Petersen, it became pretty clear that his upside as a playmaker is limited, though it might be unfair to dismiss the rising junior thusly because he was a first-year starter working with a new system.

What this means is the Huskies' quarteback next fall will either be junior Jeff Lindquist, who has some experience but hasn't done much with his game action, or redshirt freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels or true freshman Jake Browning, a touted recruit.

This, by the way, doesn't feel like a disaster for the Huskies. Based on heavy roster losses, 2015 looks like a transition year for Petersen and his team. I'm not ruling out a successful season -- however you define it -- before we even get past spring practices, but the roster attrition from an 8-6 team is significant enough to say the Huskies don't look like a Top-25 squad.

The point is going young at quarterback might have a payoff in, say, 2016 and beyond.

As for how Petersen handled this, I see no fault with him. Williams' transfer was his choice. It appears that Miles is dealing with personal issues, as the news release emphasized this was not a suspension or disciplinary issue.

It's fair to say there are some growing pains for the Huskies under Petersen. His approach is different than former coach Steve Sarkisian. That means installing his culture isn't something that happens seamlessly and in one season. While Huskies fans might have been hoping that Petersen would wave a magic wand and immediately create a Pac-12 contender to unseat their good friends from Eugene, Oregon, it's become clear the process is going to be a bit more complicated. More like making sausage than making magic.

Larry from Chino Hills, California, writes: Can Jim Mora get UCLA over the hump and win the big games to get to the playoff? Everyone but Hundley back on offense and defense returns 90 percent too ...can't beat Stanford or Oregon. Is this the year?

Ted Miller: Yes to the first question. Maybe to that one you tagged on at the end.

Is there some movement out there to make me out as Jim Mora's Boswell? It seems like we consider Mora just about every mailbag, whether it's his postgame handshake after the Alamo Bowl or some wondering if the Bruins had a disappointing season in 2014.

Again, in 1998, UCLA went 10-2 and lost the Rose Bowl to Wisconsin. The Bruins won 10 games again in just one season -- 2005 -- between then and when Mora was hired in 2012. UCLA had eight nonwinning seasons under three coaches during that span.

Mora has gotten UCLA over the hump already by winning 29 games in three seasons. UCLA's "hump" wasn't becoming a national-title contender in Mora's third season. UCLA becoming a national-title contender would be a modern-day plateau for a program that owns one national championship all-time (1954).

As for the Bruins earning a spot in the College Football Playoff this fall, let's first see how things go at quarterback, really the Bruins' only big question heading into 2015. At present, I'd rate Oregon and USC slightly ahead of the Bruins as playoff contenders, but not by much.

Oscar from Irwindale, California, writes: Being a USC fan, I can say that since the 2010 season it's been a roller-coaster ride. In large part because of the NCAA sanctions on the team, but we can now put that behind us and officialy start clean. Reggie Bush is viewed by many USC fans as the culprit for the team's punishment, but it seems like the recruits or the current young players -- Adoree' Jackson, for example -- idolize him and obviously wants to follow his footsteps for what he did on the field, not off. My question is will Reggie ever be part of USC like Matt Leinart is, or is this a bridge that burned along time ago and will never get repaired? There's no denying what Reggie did for USC, but I think it's time we let go of the past. Fight On!

Ted Miller: If you want my long-form take on this, read this.

As for whether Bush and USC can be reconciled, that seems unlikely in the near future, or at least as long as the NCAA holds sway in Power 5 football. Bush was "permanently disassociated" from USC, per NCAA sanctions, so his coming back to USC would require an OK from the NCAA.

Lachlan from Los Angeles writes: Is this the year we see Cal become an elite member of the Pac-12, or will their defense continue to hold them back?

Ted Miller: "Elite" might not be the right term. Cal, keep in mind, went 1-11 in 2013, so the baseline 2015 goal in my eyes is a winning record and a bowl game.

And, yes, Cal's defense figures to hold the Bears back. The Bears should have an offense good enough to win a Pac-12 North title, but the defense would have to improve dramatically to attain merely mediocre status statistically. It gave up 40 points per game and 42 touchdown passes last year, numbers that cause a sportswriter to double-check himself with a "really?"

You can't win the Pac-12 without a defense that ranks in the top half of the league. In fact, the teams that have dominated the conference in the past decade-plus -- USC, Oregon and Stanford -- typically had defenses that ranked in the top 25 nationally.

Roger from The Woodlands, Texas, writes: Ted, I followed your tweet to the Oregon Register-Guard article about the university potentially taxing the athletic department. After reading the article and posted comments, two of the impressions I came away with: 1) liberal ideology of tax the wealthy (but that's not for the Pac-12 Blog to discuss) and 2) the college sports arms race is amplifying the feeling many have that the athletes are not a proper representation of the university and student body as a whole.Do the faculty and "regular" students feel the athletes even deserve to be there? I'd be curious to see a chart comparing respective graduation rates of each football team, men's basketball team and entire subset of athletes to the entire university. That would be one quick, fact-based way (although I'm sure there are other more elaborate measures) to see if the athletes are truly part of the student body. I suspect negative feelings in some cases are warranted.

Ted Miller: Not sure how we equate a university's academic side wanting a larger portion of athletic department revenue to taxing the rich. The university preceded the football team. The football team is a part of the university. The football team wouldn't exist without the university.

A rough analogy would be a 12-year-old child actor getting $10 million to star in a movie but not wanting to share that money with his parents, though he still wants to live under their roof and have his needs taken care of.

As for comparing student-athletes to regular students, it's complicated. Even with graduation rates.

Based on available numbers, athletes typically graduate at a slightly higher rate than regular students, and the numbers have been improving nationwide. That holds true at Oregon, too.

Yet there's a lot of comparing apples to roses here. For the most part, once a young person arrives at most colleges -- athlete or not -- he or she can figure out a way to graduate as long as they show up to class and complete assignments. It's easy to avoid academic rigor that requires a significant intellectual investment simply to pass.

It's no secret that many athletes tend to take, er, "forgiving" majors. Even when they don't want to, some academic advisers push them away from classes and majors that might conflict with football. Or prove too demanding. When you read through a media guide and 25 football players are "criminal justice" majors, you should raise a skeptical eyebrow.

On the other hand, when you see an athlete not only seeking a legit major -- economics! English! history! business! pre-med! -- band doing well, you should know those folks are achieving much more than a regular student because they are thriving academically while holding down what amounts to a full-time job.

Tony from Chandler, Arizona, writes: If you could be a fly on the wall for a conversation between any two sports personalities, who would they be? I'm thinking a private conversation between Mike Leach and Bill Walton would be fascinating and mostly incomprehensible, or maybe fascinatingly incomprehensible.

Ted Miller: That's a good one.

What about Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch? Or Chip Kelly and Bill Belichick? Or Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods?

Oh, what about Sherman and Floyd Mayweather?

All that said, if you could get Philip Roth and Cormac McCarthy together for a couple of hours and let me listen, I'd die a happy man.

By the way, who's joining me on my campaign to get one or the other the Nobel Prize for Literature?