How desperate is K-State's Ron Prince this year?
I still had a bunch of e-mails coming in about the season's most intriguing games but will lead with a Big 12 question.
From Paula in Kansas City, Kan.: How crazy do you think it is for Ron Prince to sign 19 junior college kids? Does that prove he knows if he doesn't win this year he's gone?
Feldman: I think it means he knows if he doesn't get the program cranked up by his fourth year, he won't get a fifth. And yes, signing 19 players is a huge number, though the program does have a strong history of winning with junior college talent. The thing that made Bill Snyder so successful at K-State was when he brought in JC players, he had a remarkably high success rate with them, much higher than the norm. Many of those standout Wildcats were JC guys. In 1997, the year Snyder brought in star QB Michael Bishop, he also took in 11 other JC players. The risks involved to me are twofold: First, you're bringing in a bunch of guys who haven't been developed through your system and more often than not were in junior college because they struggled academically in high school. Monitoring that will require plenty of work, and it's a potential APR fiasco.
The other part of it is that other schools will tout that you're in a "win now or else" mode to the players you target this recruiting season. Then again, if you don't win now, you probably won't need to worry about high school recruiting anyhow. The thing that surprised me about this is that Prince was fortunate his administration let him sign as many as JCs as he did. If you're a coach in your third season with a sub-.500 record, you know time's ticking. You might not get a fourth year if you don't get to a bowl game. You won't have time to see most of these other freshmen develop. You need guys who physically are able to help you now. If this experiment doesn't work, whoever replaces Prince could have quite a mess to clean up.
From John in Las Vegas: Do you think that Steven Garcia will make a difference at South Carolina this year? I know that you're somewhat close to this situation. Obviously the QB situation there is awful and he is supposed to be extremely talented.
Feldman: Garcia is talented. His arm is outstanding. He runs well and has a lot of fire. I bet he will play some for South Carolina this fall, but I'm not convinced he'll take over there. I get that this offense has lacked a spark for a while, and he could be that guy. However, the big challenge is that he really hasn't had on-field time to grasp Steve Spurrier's offense, and that will take time. What's interesting to me is Garcia is so unlike Spurrier's best college QB, Danny Wuerrfel. Garcia is flashy, a risk-taker and has all of the physical tools scouts love. It'll be fascinating to see how he develops under the Ol' Ball Coach.
From Mike in Nashville: It's been said that if you put San Diego State in the Pac 10, they would become "Florida State West" -- which shows how long the saying has been around, I guess. I actually think there are only a few left that haven't gotten their act together. ASU and Cal, to me, were the last two sleeping giants to be awoken.
Feldman: San Diego is a huge recruiting base. There is a ton of talent around, and also a lot of outstanding JC players within a four-hour driving radius, but for a variety of reasons this program has fizzled. I'm sure not being in the West Coast's glamour conference hurts, but that hasn't stopped Utah and Boise State from getting good talent out of Southern California. Just thinking about some of the players who were good students and left California for mid-major schools is eye-popping: S Eric Weddle, RB Ian Johnson, QB Alex Smith, S Marty Tadman and RB Darrell Mack are a few that come to mind.
Right now the school I see as the biggest underachiever out there is Texas A&M. The Aggies were great a long time ago, but in the last decade they have struggled to gain momentum.
From Harold in Syracuse, N.Y.: Ever since Texas beat USC in the Rose Bowl, I believe that Texas has descended into mediocrity whereas USC has remained strong. Do you agree?
Feldman: I wouldn't call winning 10 games in consecutive seasons mediocrity. Not going to a bowl game three years in a row would get categorized as mediocrity.
From Lee in Wilmington, Del.: Curious as to why you have a ND vs. Washington game on the radar, but overlook two BCS contenders opening the season -- Illinois vs. Missouri.
Feldman: I explained the appeal of the ND-Washington game because of the intrigue around the two coaches with both possibly being on the hot seat at that point. I think if there's one game on the 2008 Irish schedule Charlie Weis can't afford to lose it's this one.
From Phil in Lakeland, Fla.: In a state in which there are so many talented high school running backs, how come the Gators lack an elite RB?
Feldman: It's not like they didn't bring in backs who people thought were big-time players. It's just, for a variety of reasons, those backs didn't shine. Sometimes guys just miss. Urban Meyer's critics can say it's a flaw in his system, but other similar spread offenses haven't had that problem. I do wonder how different Florida would've been in 2007 had the Gators had C.J. Spiller, a guy they thought they had locked up two years ago. Does Tim Tebow still win the Heisman then?
• Never thought I'd see the day when Wake Forest gets ranked in the preseason top 25 and Miami and FSU don't. In fact, the Canes didn't even get one point in the others receiving votes category.
A few other quick impressions: I think Kansas is way too high at No. 13. I wouldn't have them in the top 25 this year and I think Mizzou (No. 7) is too low. I also believe Pitt, which would be No. 33 if you include the ORV points, will be a lot better than these voters think. I also didn't expect UVA to merit 12 votes. That's 12 more than I would've predicted, and Kentucky got five more than I would've imagined. My biggest surprise is that UCLA even got three votes. I think given the Bruins problems up front, they'll be very fortunate to win seven games this year. My hunch is they'll be under .500.
• Ronnie Wilson is back with the Florida football team, although the former O-lineman will now try and play DT, according to Pat Dooley:
"In August of 2007, Wilson received probation after pleading no contest to misdemeanor charges of battery and discharging a firearm in public. Wilson fired an AK-47 assault rifle into the air in a parking lot following an altercation with another man April 5, 2007. He was suspended from the team and from school for a year. Wilson completed an anger management class and community service."
Interesting move. Meyer's definitely sticking his neck out for a guy who may never start given how this could blow up in his face from a public relation standpoint.
• For the second straight year, stud WR DeAngelo Benton is not academically eligible and unable to report with the rest of LSU's freshmen when they arrive on campus Sunday for the start of fall camp and two-a-day workouts, William Weathers reports.
• Former Michigan O-lineman Justin Boren spoke to the Sporting News about his move to Ohio State, but opted not to comment on Rich Rodriguez. "When I get done with college football, I'll let it out," Boren says.
Will people still care by that point? Probably .. assuming the stuff he says is heavy enough.
• Auburn freshman DeRon Furr, who participated in spring drills at quarterback, is a defensive back now, one of eight newcomers at that position, writes Charles Goldberg.
• The arrival of Duke' new staff not only has recruits fired up but it also has sparked a transformation amongst the current Blue Devils, writes Patrick Stevens: Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis slimmed down considerably as well. The junior started the winter at 17.9 percent; he's now at 12.6 percent, all the better to show off athleticism muted by a young team that yielded 85 sacks the last two years.
"It was fun because you felt yourself getting better," Lewis said.
"You'd look in the mirror, and you'd see you've got muscles you've never seen before. You just feel better about yourself. You're in better shape than you ever have been, and it gives you a new outlook."
• Clemson is a team some are touting as a top 10 contender. I'm not convinced of that given the Tigers' suspect O-line, but there is still a lot of talent there. Paul Strelow lists five Tigers to watch. Not surprisingly, DE Da'Quan Bowers is one of them.