Folks, I am back in North Carolina following a week in New York City for the draft in which I learned, work or play, my nearly 30-year-old body can still see four in the morning. We've got a gang of questions to answer today, but first, there's a bit of housekeeping to handle on my end.
At the end of business today, Michael Felder will no longer be a writer here at Bleacher Report. I love the team that I've worked with and truly believe that the college football writers here are going to keep crushing it going forward. Obviously, I've enjoyed delivering dope content here for all of you to read, especially the mailbag that has been, as best as I can describe, super fun.
Do not weep for me. In fact, you will not even miss me. While I will no longer be a writer at B/R, I am still a part of the college football team, moving from a Lead National College Football Writer into my new role as a National CFB Analyst. Basically, a fancy way of saying that instead of writing, I'm going to become a full-time video contributor here at B/R.
We're going to be delivering a lot more content on recruiting, pushing to give deeper dives into X's and O's and working to bring everyone great news, insight and opinion. Also, you will get to see my sweet, sweet face a lot more. I am excited, I hope you all are as well, and I am already trying to find a way to turn the mailbag into a video spot, somehow!
OK now, here are the questions.
Do not fret Patti, one of my favorite question-askers, I'll still be on the Twitter and videos.
As for my ultimate team-building move, I think it is tough to top cooking class. Obviously, there are more meaningful things that can be done like donating time and energy to grounds beautification, visiting the hospital and adopting a needy family. All of those are things that every team around the nation does in some capacity and are all well worth the time and effort because they help improve the community as a whole.
Other team-building activities, like basketball teams or tournaments, ultimate frisbee, tubing, rafting, bowling and the like are fun to do, and everyone gets a chance to compete in some regard. However, all of those mean some manner of sweating to me, even bowling, and sweating just seems like more work that I have to do.
Although, like any good home chef, I do sweat in the kitchen, that is, from the heat of the oven and the nerves of making sure I get it right, not because I am lifting heavy things or exerting physical energy. You do enough of that with football; give me the knives, a mandolin, a Microplane plus some high-quality mise en place and the ability to instantly go from a middling football player at best to the tops on the team in something, and I'll take it.
I have a confession: In the age of Spotify and iTunes and all that jazz, I am not a big playlist guy. In fact, the only time I consistently use a playlist is when I brunch on Saturday or Sunday mornings and I have a nice little "Saturday Chill" mix that I play. Otherwise, I am a whole-album guy.
Lately, for my working out, I've gone one of two ways: Iggy Azalea or Kanye West. When I'm in the mood to, in the words of Bubba Sparxxx, "get it right, get it tight," from a body standpoint, I go Azalea's newest album and just get after it. For those times that I am dreading sweating it out, I go with Yeezus and just let his words fuel me.
Michigan State is absolutely for real. They will have one of the nation's best offenses this year with so much balance it will be tough for defenses to play them on a down-to-down basis. Obviously, Jeremy Langford on the ground is a problem, but Connor Cook grew up into a high-quality QB last season, and they have receivers just waiting to catch the ball. I'm excited to see what DeAnthony Arnett, the transfer from Tennessee, brings to the table.
As for the Big 12, I am penciling Oklahoma in at the top. Trevor Knight has to play as he did in the Sugar Bowl for that to happen, but at least we saw, against a good opponent, that playing like a madman was within his scope of possibility. Baylor is the other team that should be right there at the top. Shock Linwood should come out balling, Bryce Petty stabilizes the passing game and Shawn Oakman can be a man on defense.
There are so many question marks around the league that those two teams are the ones that stand out the most as contenders for the Big 12 title.
This is a tough question because there are a few different layers. At Texas A&M, a true freshman likely is the starter out of the gate, so he doesn't actually count as taking reps from anyone. Miami's Kevin Olsen is poised to start the year, but that is due in part to Ryan Williams going down with a knee injury during spring ball.
I know a lot of people are pointing at Jeff Driskel as a possibility, because he has struggled at times and freshman Will Grier was an early enrollee. That is a spot with a legitimate shot of it happening, but for me the answer has to be North Carolina.
Marquise Williams finished the 2013 season as the starter and looked strong running Larry Fedora's offense. This spring he found himself locked into a furious battle with Mitch Trubisky for the lead job. That battle will carry over into fall, and both guys are targeting the position. Williams, the redshirt junior, showed how versatile he could be and has game experience.
However, Trubisky is thought to be the quarterback of the future, and as they get closer to running neck-and-neck Fedora may pull the trigger on youth. I think that's the best answer to this question.
Sort of? Kind of?
Here's the thing, I thought Gregory was a phenomenal player a season ago, but I also thought Noah Spence and Shilique Calhoun were on his level, and I am surprised neither is being mentioned nearly as much. Gregory does bring a bit more physical maturity than Spence and more versatility than Calhoun, but he also does not stand up nearly as often as the Ohio State hybrid player.
For Gregory to make good on the projections, I think it will be a blend of getting help from some other Nebraska defenders and his defensive staff getting creative with his athleticism. More standing up, more rushing from the outside to the inside, stronger push from the linebackers in run defense to force the bounce to Gregory, and his doing a more solid job of holding the edge.
The kid has a ton of skills and a wealth of talent. Right now, to go from a nobody in 2013 to a projected top-five pick in 2015 is a big jump, and he has to grind to keep his name as hot as it is right now.
Oh, this is a no-brainer. Give me guys who do their jobs. Pass-rushing defensive tackles are nice and can be a tremendous benefit, especially on third downs, but if the interior of the defensive line is weak in assignment, ability and consistency against the run, why would a team ever throw the ball?
Shove that ball down those suckers' throats and then line up and do it again. Trap-block them because all they want to do is get up the field. Run zone and push them totally out of the play since they don't want to anchor down the line.
It is easier to generate a pass rush than it is to get consistent interior defensive-line play. I'll take the stout bodies who do their jobs any day. I can blitz, run stunts and bring in package players to generate a pass rush on passing downs. There is nothing I can do if my defensive tackles are pass-rushers who are weak against the run.
Now, in a year, after those DTs get their behinds whipped against the run and I have time to teach them technique? Give me the athletically explosive youth who have it figured out.
There is no shot we see an under-three-hour game on the SEC Network. That is an area that the Big Ten Network has on lockdown, and I love every second of those short games. Football is a 60-minute game; whether that 60 minutes takes three hours or four hours is entirely up to the networks and the teams involved.
Man, this is a tough one to wrap up on this week. Wes Lunt, for those who do not know, is the former big-time quarterback who enrolled at Oklahoma State, was named the starter in 2012 and then lost the job, leading to a transfer to his home-state team of Illinois. Todd Monken, now the head coach at Southern Miss, was the offensive coordinator for Lunt's year with the Poke; Bill Cubit fills that same position at Illinois.
Honestly, I do not think it is Lunt's skill set that is going to be the measure of his success. Monken and Cubit, although different in philosophy, have both employed shorter passing games to set up longer tosses and have shifted to an individual quarterback's abilities and strengths.
The reason I am excited for Lunt and think he can be successful is the circumstance. Cubit is getting a kid who has already been about as low as a highly touted quarterback can get. Lunt got the starting job, then not only got hurt and lost the job but dropped to third-string. Then, when he elected to transfer, Mike Gundy attempted to block him from 40 schools, making the process absolutely miserable.
Lunt's had a year to get healthy, sit and wait in the shadows and spend time with Cubit working on the offense and showing skills that have his new staff excited. Lunt is back in his home state, which is a point of comfort, and instead of playing for a team coming off a BCS Bowl win hoping to stay at the top, he's playing for a squad that's dreaming of getting to six wins.
Less pressure in a more forgiving environment is what I think will help translate to success for Lunt at Illinois.