Your Best 11 Mailbag: Big Impact Hires, Top 2014 Safety Duo & Deciding to Go Pro

Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterJanuary 17, 2014

New Texas football Charlie Strong, left, poses for a photo with athletic director Steve Patterson, right, both displaying the
Eric Gay/Associated Press

Things got weird to wrap up the season, but we finally found some time to get to questions. That's right, the Your Best 11 Mailbag is making a triumphant return. We've got some fun questions to hit on so let's get into it!

Ah, glad to see you back Patti!

Honestly, of all the new hires, I think Charlie Strong is going to have the biggest impact. Not wins and losses, perhaps, but with respect to shoring up the foundation of a program. I love the way Strong builds things from the ground up and he'll be doing the same at Texas. That means everything from reworking the strength and conditioning program to reteaching fundamentals across the board.

It even means working on what guys wear in the facilities and how teaching is done in the film rooms. That is the type of stuff that normally doesn't show up on a stat sheet or appear to the masses, but it helps build a solid foundation.

So, in that regard, I'm all in on Strong. Some guys might not like it and those guys, as is the case with every coaching change, certainly will leave.

Whew. Last year, I entered the season looking forward to Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri, as well as Craig Loston and Ronald Martin. I ended up falling in love with Calvin Pryor and Hakeem Smith. They were amazing. Easily the best tandem to watch all season.

This year, I'm looking forward to Florida State's guys the most. Jalen Ramsey was a freaking revelation at the position after switching midseason. Tyler Hunter returns to the fold after missing the 2013 season with an injury. That should be a fun duo in the back end. 

I'm also looking forward to what happens at Notre Dame. Max Redfield finally cracked the starting lineup against Rutgers and I think between Elijah Shumate and Matthias Farley it has a shot to find two quality safeties. Farley took a bit of a step back in 2013, but with Brian VanGorder there, I expect to see him return to form.

It's a blend of family, college coaches, the NFL Draft Advisory Board and whatever they hear from prospective representatives. Families are of huge importance. Parents and grandparents situations influence kids. Obviously, if the young man has a child, that plays a big role in his decision. If the individual is lucky enough to have a family member who has gone through the process, that tends to help a lot.

College coaches can, and often do, play a big role in the process. Some guys try to recruit players back to school. Others are pushing kids out of the boat to get them to realize their potential. Coaches are connected to the NFL on different levels. Longtime NFL guys with big ties to front offices and coaches have a leg up on lifetime college coaches who have not built the same wealth of league contacts.

The advisory board is nice, but it is an inexact science. They evaluate players and tell where they fall overall, but they do not only give out 32 first-round grades, 32 second-round grades and the like. Rather, they give players a range; a range that can fluctuate based upon team needs, personal interviews and individual scout, GM and coach evaluations.

Which brings us to representatives. These guys have been painted in such a negative light with respect to being associated with runners and the way the NCAA and schools try to punish kids for working with agents. The fact is, agents are an integral part of the process and these guys are a must, because most players are not Matt Elam, whose brother Abram Elam, a former NFL player, guided him in the process.

The runners that get discussed are a lot less about "bad advice" and a lot more about wooing guys to sign with a specific agent. Giving a kid bad advice to go pro doesn't benefit the agent or the runner, because those guys make money off the player's signed contract. A player with no value, struggling to make a team as a free agent, doesn't hold much worth.

So, while it has happened, the bulk of the work agents do, with respect to leaving school, tends to make sense. After all, everyone is trying to get paid.

Players put all those factors into a box, shake them up and arrive at an answer. Some guys have the luxury of being able to say "screw it" with respect to getting paid early, and come back to enjoy school. Some guys really just hate school and even though coming back would help them, they decide they'd rather risk going undrafted than play for a new coach, a coach they dislike or waste time in school.

The big thing I try to tell people is that it's really the kids' choices to make.

Whew, this is a tough one. There are a lot of capable coaches out there and the ideals of pattern-matching in zone coverage has really expanded recently as more coaches really push the ideal. Basically, the idea is that even in zone coverage the defenders should relate to the man, not simply cover an area. It results in tighter coverage, denies more throws and closes down the open spaces.

In my head, Harlon Barnett and Jimmy Lake, from Michigan State and Washington (formerly at Boise State), are just flat-out great defensive back coaches. They work man, they work pattern matching principles and they get results. I love Terry Joseph for the same reason, although he just got the job at A&M so that might make him a nonstarter.

That said, to get any of those three, I expect they'd need a promotion to the coordinator spot and they are all 4-3 people and that's not what Florida State wants to be. The rumors are that Charles Kelly is close to being promoted, which would keep the 3-4 as the staple, but the DB coach question would remain unanswered.

Truth be told, Florida State is in such a unique position I'm not sure what the move should be. The job is better than most in the nation, as far as position coaches go. However, the best guys at that position are names that likely are hoping to get coordinator looks soon, not a move to keep being a position guy.

Two names that I do like, who I think are interesting, are Joe Speed and Kirk Callahan. Speed's at Georgia Tech right now and I love the way his guys move to the football. Callahan has done good work at UCF and for a team that plays a lot of zone, he has his guys around the ball a lot.