Your Best 11 Mailbag: N.C. State Expectations, A&M Distractions and Much More

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Your Best 11 Mailbag: N.C. State Expectations, A&M Distractions and Much More
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Folks, I am back. Back in good old North Carolina. Back to drop college football nuggets. It has been three weeks since we've talked, so I'm going to go a little long, but as always, it shall be strong. Enjoy it!

I'm not sure if you're talking about the team or the staff here, with respect to racial makeup. But either way, I don't think it matters nearly as much as people probably want to believe, certainly not as much as youth and energy.

The biggest change for the Wolfpack is having a staff, black or white, that is excited to go out and recruit kids. A staff that engages them on their level and speaks their language. That is a major step up from a staff that treated recruiting as a chore.

The new offensive scheme and the new energy in selling it are a plus for N.C. State and the reason for its early success. Instead of plodding through the recruiting process trying to get it done, the new staff is  enthusiastically making its case to recruits. 

Staying on the N.C. State kick, I see.

Honestly, I have no clue. Clemson and Florida State will likely be relatively heavy favorites, but beyond that, the Wolfpack seem to be a pick'em in just about every game. And, yes, they can beat the Tigers and Noles, too, if things go their way.

This team is just like the rest of the non-Clemson/FSU ACC. It could win nine games if the close ones go its  way, and it gets some good breaks. Or it could go 6-6 and wish it had a few plays back that would make all of the difference in its season. 

If I had to hammer it down, I think the Wolfpack will win seven or eight games, be in the middle of the ACC and about where they were a year ago from the standpoint of bowl prestige.

Well, Mike London brought in Tom O'Brien, an experienced game coach, and I think the idea there is for that to translate to more stability and consistency from one game to the next. However, I don't know when, or even if, London can turn the potential into real wins.

The coach now has top-level talent in the program, and in Year 4, he needs to start putting wins together. Unfortunately, we have seen nothing in the previous three seasons to inspire anything more than a "maybe'' level of confidence in the Wahoos.

The Cavaliers are in a wide-open division of the ACC, where almost every team is flawed or in transition. There are new coaches, play-callers, leaders and a whole new conference for Pitt. The "stability" comes from Miami, a team that Virginia somehow seems to have figured out.

As for Taquan Mizzell, he fits right into the rotation at running back. Kevin Parks will be "the" guy early, but Mizzell will get touches the same way Parks got them when Perry Jones was the starting back. Mizzell's style fits with what Virginia wants to do. He's smaller in stature but runs between the tackles well, has enough wiggle to pick up the extra five yards and is not afraid to use his pads.

Patti, I don't think more coaches will join Nick Saban and Bret Bielema publicly in bemoaning the uptempo offenses, but there are already plenty of guys behind closed doors who absolutely hate it. Saban is unique because he keeps winning games, so he can pretty much say what he wants. Bielema is unique because he  does not care what he says, or at least does not seem to care.

As for the actual danger involved, I do not have any numbers or facts on that. But I will say that tired ballplayers lose technique, focus and concentration. That is part of the point of going uptempo, to make opponents lose technique, focus and concentration.

Injuries happen on every play, and as much as I, as a traditionalist who loves defense and physical play, would love to make an argument for the style of play that produces more injuries, I just cannot. Although, when that information comes out, everyone here will be the first to know!

Speaking of tempo, we get to the question a lot of people keep asking.

It is not going away. Some teams will go away from it, but the offensive scheme itself is not leaving. The Air Raid and its modified forms are here to stay. The same goes for Rich Rodriguez's spread option and Gus Malzahn's tempo system. They are all here to stay because they make offensive coordinators' lives easier.

These systems take who you can recruit and who can be successful in an offense and multiply it tremendously.

Have a quarterback who can sling it but is only 5'11"? No problem, plug him in and he can succeed.

Got a wide receiver who is not the fastest and cannot get off a jam? That's alright, he has great hands, we'll put him in motion and let him find holes in a zone to work the defense's soft underbelly.

Are you a high school quarterback that Big State U is saying has to play defensive back? Come here and live your quarterback dreams.

That is what these systems do, and it works. They are here to stay. Now, we will see some teams shift back to power as defenses gear themselves to exclusively stop the spread, but the offensive styles we are seeing now are not going to go the way of the wishbone.

Especially not as the quarterback talent levels rise on a near yearly basis.

Ah, the defensive question. I actually touched on that for Your Best 11, earlier this week. Two issues are at play, and they both work to create the "score 50, give up 48" point that is the bane of my Saturdays.

First is the excusing of poor defensive play. Missed tackles. Missed assignments. Missed alignments. Bad angles. Blown coverages. Defenders are allowed to get away with all of these things on a routine basis. If the tables were turned, say for a missed alignment, the offending receiver or tight end would be benched.

Second is the quality of players. While the caliber of athletes on college football rosters has gone up, the quality of athlete on defense has not kept pace with the offense. Elite athletes are pushed to offense in high school, and at the college level the distribution of talent is skewing toward offense at a rapid rate, especially for the non-elite recruiting schools.

Forget about Texas, Alabama, Ohio State types here. Let's talk the average school that recruits. If you can get an elite "athlete" on your roster, what do you do with him? Stick him on defense and hope that he can make some plays as a safety or a corner? Or stick him on offense where, with the ball in his hand, he can make a more direct impact?

Add in that it is a lot easier to entice high school players with dreams of touchdowns and highlights than tackles and zone coverage, and there you have my theory on it all.

Overrated talking point? Johnny Manziel.

Not because he's overrated, but because I think a lot of people are focusing on the wrong thing with respect to him and this Aggies offense. He is looking to grow as a ballplayer, and for his team, he has to develop into a guy who can get through all of his reads before running, or going on the run, this year.

Yet, everyone is focused on his off-the-field stuff.

No. No. No. No.

Texas A&M football does not have many off-the-field distractions. What it has is people outside the program creating off-the-field distractions. It's the sort of stuff that talk radio, media outlets and fans talk about for days. But inside the program, it is handled quickly with a Sumlin-to-Manziel or compliance-to-Manziel phone call.

That's not some huge distraction.

So, no, I don't think the Aggies will have a down year because of the distractions, and I don't think they got "too big, too fast."

But I also do not think they will win the SEC West.

As I stated before, everyone is so worried about the distractions that they are not even bothering to look at the football team.

The offense should be good, again, but A&M has a serious problems on defense, and instead of talking about any of that, everyone elects to hit on "distractions."

The Aggies lost three of their five best players in the front four. They lost two of their three linebackers. They lost the lone pressure-getter on the roster. Yet, everyone wants to talk about the abstract notion of distractions.

Texas A&M is going to have to grow up a lot on defense, real quick, if it wants to win the SEC West, and I don't know that I trust it to do that. Right now, the Aggies have one of the best offenses in the SEC, but without a defense to go with it, I'm not sure that they will be able to push to the top of the division.

So, I don't think it's a down year for them, I just think the defense has been ignored by everyone in favor of talking distractions, and that is a very real reason why I do not expect them to win the SEC West.

Now, as a great way to cool down, let's just all enjoy this.

No, it will not crack the Billboard Top 100, but Clemson will be firing off the cannon plenty of times this year. I think Brent Venables, in Year 2, will see considerable improvement in his players' understanding of his scheme, and with healthy linebackers, that will translate into a better defensive showing.

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