It is Friday and that means the mailbag, folks! This is the last Friday before the NFL draft, and that means my last Friday before I head to New York City. We'll be discussing and grading every pick, so download the Team Stream app for your Android, iPhone or BlackBerry to stay up-to-date with commentary from myself, Matt Miller, Chris Simms and Adam Lefkoe. Should be exciting! But, for now, let's get to these questions.
This is a great question for a few reasons. First of all, during my era we only went to one bowl game, the Continental Tire Bowl in Charlotte, N.C. Basically a return trip to my hometown during Christmas break, which is where I was anyway. We were a disaster in terms of going out and having a good time, but that is what happens when your team has not been to a bowl in several years.
Secondly, this is a great jumping-off point to talk about bowl locations and how those are the reward, many times, in themselves. With the exception of coaches who move their teams totally out of the action, a place like Miami is an area where guys can have a good time, spend their per diem on more than just a lunch.
It also raises the point that my guy Newy Scruggs of NBC Sports Radio brought up Thursday: securing an early bowl bid. BYU has already accepted a bid to the Miami Beach Bowl, and for the bowl and BYU that is a positive. For folks not involved with either entity, it seems odd to see a team decide its fate this early, or to see a bowl tie itself to a squad without seeing them play a down.
However, for the bowl and the school this is a major positive. BYU is now pushing Miami Beach Bowl tickets to its fans and that means people have a head start on accommodations and securing the funds to enjoy themselves in South Florida. That is a win-win for the program and the game. It certainly beats trying to decide what you're going to do, as a fan, in the first week of December for a game that takes place in three weeks.
Give me the guy with a little less ability, but a lot more knowledge. I want a center who can diagnose the fronts, recognize blitzers and possible added rushers and then can adjust protections based upon the shifting image defenses give him. Eighty-90 percent seems high—after all that is B grade—but that 10-20 percent of plays can lead to sacks and tackles for loss.
Sacks and tackles for loss mean my team is off schedule and being off schedule means constantly trying to pick up more yards than is likely for a team. Sacks and tackles for loss also mean hits on the quarterback and, in many instances, fumbles. Even without sacks, a quarterback pressure leads to errant throws and rushed tosses resulting in wasted plays on incompletions, again off schedule, or interceptions.
So, with that said, I want the guy who makes the right calls all the time and gets my team ready to, at worst, be in the best position to make plays. Another thing that I've found is the guy you're describing, limited athlete but deep understanding of the game, tends to have a workaround for his inabilities.
That is to say that he knows he cannot maul the 360-pound defensive tackle off the ball, but he understands he can work leverage and his quickness advantage to produce a win or a stalemate to allow his team to succeed. Same goes for the quicker body moved in on a passing down. Recognizing your target and helping set a protection that benefits the team, and your own technique, is a plus.
For those of you not as well-versed in mid-20th century learn-to-read books, here's what Dick and Jane were all about. And, yes, I do think that screaming for Myles Jack to play running back is the basal reader of football fandom. Get it away from me, as I wrote earlier this week.
Fans, do better. UCLA loses three stud defenders, including two linebackers, and people are clamoring for Jack to do more on offense when the side of the ball he plays on needs him badly. Oh, and let's not forget that a three-down linebacker, like C.J. Mosley, is more valuable than most running backs in the NFL, ultimately Jack's future career.
This is a tough one because there are so many kids all over the nation that I really liked in recruiting. I'll try to keep it tight here as we head into the weekend. The first guy that came to my mind this year was Matt Sokol. A former high school quarterback who is playing tight end at Michigan State. Big, strong kid and I really think he has the skill to contribute to a Spartans offense that should be beastly in 2014.
The Matt Dickerson kid at UCLA is another one I like because he is long and can hopefully come in and play that long-stick defensive end for them in spots. I like Naijiel Hale (he was a 4-star) and I think he'll help out early at Washington. I could not go this entire post without mentioning Nate Dogg's son.
At Texas Tech, the entire class was sort of under the radar, but I'm curious to see what the Payton Hendrix kid brings to the table because he's really long. I remember watching some of him on the server and just thinking what is it about him that he is not rated a little higher. He has great range and the length just adds to what I expect out of him.
And, lastly, an "at-home" plug: Isaiah Robinson. He inked with Wake Forest. I got to see him play a lot over the last few seasons and I really like this kid's game a ton. Good hands out of the backfield, low center of gravity with good balance and the ability to run through contact. Wake's looking for guys to carry the ball and I think he's got the ability to contribute in the run game and in the passing game.