Happy Friday. Welcome to the mailbag.
To the questions!
Brian writes: Out of the four Pac-12 players taken in the first round of yesterday's NFL draft (Jared Goff, DeForest Buckner, Kenny Clark, Joshua Garnett), who do you think will end up having the best NFL career?
Ted Miller: Heck if I know.
Wait. I need to answer that, seeing that I solicited questions for this, [finger quotes] The Mailbag, and I'm supposed to be a COLLEGE FOOTBALL PROFESSIONAL.
Of the four, I think Buckner is the surest thing for Chip Kelly and the San Francisco 49ers. You could see him playing 10 years and earning multiple All-Pro selections. He's got so much physical upside and should be proficient versus the run and pass, which is golden for D-linemen, who often are good at one or the other but not both.
As it is with these four, I'd bet against all of them becoming straight busts, barring injury. Each of these guys is grounded, coachable and cares deeply about football. If NFL personnel men judge them to be physically up to the NFL grind -- which is exponentially more demanding than college -- they each have the mental and emotional tools to push through rookie adversity that is sure to come and eventually excel.
All this said, if I were to bet which 2015 Pac-12 player is going to be the most successful in the NFL -- barring injury -- it would be UCLA linebacker Myles Jack.
Alex writes: When Myles Jack declared for the NFL draft in September, Jim Mora called it risky and said "NFL teams are very, very conservative." People ripped Mora at the time, but he turned out to be partially right. If Jack had returned for his senior season, would he be a first-round pick in 2017 or are NFL GMs so risk averse and afraid of losing their jobs that he was destined for the second round as soon as he was injured?
Ted Miller: If Jack had opted to return for his senior year and played the entire 2016 season healthy, he might have become the No. 3 pick in the 2017 NFL draft behind Clemson QB Deshaun Watson and Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett. At the very least, he would have been a top-10 selection.
So, as he awaits selection in the second round Friday instead of the first, you could say he made a mistake. The entirety of his slipping out of the top 10 of the first round seems to hinge on recently elevated fears about long-term issues with his injured knee, and he could have eliminated those fears with a healthy season for the Bruins.
By the way, here's video of Mora, defensive coordinator Tom Bradley and linebacker coach Scott White celebrating that possibility in an alternate universe.
But this is after-the-fact thinking. When Jack not only declared he would enter the draft but also, unconventionally, decided to leave school in order to focus on his rehabilitation, I thought he made a tough but calculated and reasonable decision.
Why? Football is the toughest of games with the shortest shelf life for even the most talented players. If a player is projected as a first-round pick -- as Jack was, according to just about everyone -- he needs to leave school and get on with it. As for Jack, UCLA isn't going anywhere. He can go back and finish his degree later, when $8,000 a month rent for a luxurious pad near Westwood won't phase him in the least.
Chris from Tempe, Arizona, writes: So Laremy Tunsil admitted that the hacked screen shot of his Instagram message was real and a coach at Ole Miss gave him money. Us West Coast Pac-12 fans have a belief that this is a NORMAL occurrence in the SEC and this will magically go away. What say you? Do you honestly believe that in the very end, the NCAA will actually do anything and hand down a significant punishment??
Ted Miller: Don't forget some troubling issues at Alabama too, the publication of which seemed curiously well-timed to minimize media attention.
USC fans should worry. With all these other schools allegedly paying players or doing other dubious things, the NCAA is liable to dock the Trojans a few more scholarships just to teach everyone else a lesson. (Is that joke getting old? No? OK, good.)
Are these shenanigans "normal" in the SEC? Perhaps. Most observers would say yes, but they'd add rule-breaking and limit-pushing are par for the course in Power 5 conferences, not just the SEC, though the SEC uses Spinal Tap's amplifiers -- everything goes up to 11.
Do I believe Ole Miss and Alabama will get hammered after an NCAA investigation? No. Those days may have passed.
Luke from Bonney Lake, Washington, writes: Do you think UW fans have legitimate reasons to be excited about the direction of the program under Coach [Chris] Petersen? Could you perhaps point to some concrete examples of things you see him doing that his predecessors didn't? Finally could you offer a point of caution for UW fans of something you've noticed that needs to be addressed if UW is to take the Pac-12 North?
Ted Miller: Yes to your first question. My belief is Washington is headed back to the national rankings in 2016, and I see no reason that shouldn't become the new normal after the program's decade-plus of wandering the college football desert.
As for "concrete examples of things you see [Petersen] doing that his predecessors didn't," there's an obvious one: The Huskies led the conference in scoring defense last year, which they haven't done since Don James was head coach. They should do that again in 2016, seeing the star power they welcome back on all three levels, not to mention the light nonconference schedule.
As for a point of caution, that's easy too. While this is an obscure fact that Oregon fans never bring up, the Huskies haven't beaten the Ducks in 12 seasons. No transformation under Petersen will be complete as long as that streak endures.
Now, Huskies and Ducks, talk amongst yourselves.