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Senior College Football Columnist

Mailbag: the creepy Ohio State recruiting story, 2013 BCS title pick, playoff talk

Here is this week's mailbag. As always, send your questions to me via Twitter @BFeldmanCBS:

From Derek in Akron: No doubt that story about the Buckeyes fan getting close to OSU recruits is creepy, but how doesn't it seem like an overreaction for that recruit's family to rip TOSU coaches and then turn around and say he's still considering Penn State after all that went on there?

That situation surrounding the 31-year-old Buckeye fan, who has been tweeting to numerous OSU recruits and then posed for pictures with several of them, including that kid who later de-committed from Ohio State, Alex Anzalone, is one of the most bizarre, and yes, creepy recruiting stories I've seen in awhile.

The fan is listed as a registered sex offender in Kentucky.

I've been saying for a few years now that the climate for scandal tied to recruiting is ripe because of two big factors: one, there are more eyes on recruiting now than ever before, so media and fans know plenty about who these recruits are, where they're from and what they like/don't like etc. Two, these kids are so much more accessible than ever before because of Twitter and Facebook. Plus, now that so many college coaches are on Twitter, you can easily see which recruits they are interested in by who they're following. And things have only gotten more combustible in the past 18 months with more people taking to Twitter. But this was a scenario I'm not sure many close to the recruiting world would've envisioned.

The reality is there is only so much a program can do to get out in front of something messy before it actually happens because now there are too many entry points for trouble.

About five or six years ago, I remember getting an email from the fan of a certain program making a lot of allegations about another program which had beaten the emailer's favorite team for a blue-chipper or two. Several of the “facts” the emailer claimed about the other team were inaccurate or just flat out wrong. Several others were hearsay and couldn't be corroborated. While having a back-and-forth with the fan, he made allegations about other programs being dirty. I responded by saying that he was fingered a list of eight schools or so and I also included the school I figured he rooted for, and was the reason I suspected for his initial email. The guy responded by saying he could guarantee that school would never cheat or get caught in any such scandal. Truth is, any school that has a sizeable fan base with also some overzealous folks is vulnerable to a mess and yes, a scandal of some sort.

It is worth noting that OSU compliance director Doug Archie sent an e-mail during the week to Ohio State student-athletes, according to the school's student newspaper, The Lantern, warning them about the 31-year-old Buckeye fan and being careful about selecting acquaintances and friends on social media sites.

The school also issued a statement on Friday: "The issue surrounding the individual from Kentucky is being treated by the Department of Athletics as a student-athlete welfare issue," the statement said. "When the University became aware that this individual had been seen in pictures -- taken in public places -- with student-athletes, proactive precautions were taken and the Department of Athletics alerted more than 1,000 Ohio State student-athletes about this person."

I'm not sure you can fault OSU on this. Every program now warns their fans from contacting recruits via social networking. It seems like the Buckeyes were about as pro-active as could be expected. Are they supposed to do background checks on every person who shows up at their spring game?

As for whether it's an overreaction by the recruit's family, people are going to do what they're most comfortable with. If this situation left the family with a sour taste in their mouths about Ohio State, it's their right to go in another direction and just move on. I can't imagine how bizarre this all must be for someone to get dragged into such a disturbing story.



From @Dirtyboyz26: whose ur preseason title pick after Spring ball?

I'm sticking with my pick of USC. No one has a better QB—and team leader than Matt Barkley. He has the best 1-2 receiving tandem in Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, a 1000-yard rusher back (Curtis McNeal) and four starting O-linemen back playing in the spots they played in 2011. USC's back seven should be outstanding since everyone is back and that linebacker group was all freshmen by the end of the season when they were playing pretty well.

The schedule sets up well with Oregon and Notre Dame having to come to USC this fall. And no team will be hungrier than this bunch. Barkley and T.J. McDonald, the leader of the defense, came back for their senior seasons after this program sat out the past two postseasons.

I have seen some people question the team's depth saying while their first-team is outstanding, after that, it gets pretty thin. I saw USC practice a bunch this spring. Their 2's -- as in the rest of their second-team -- will be stronger than most in the top 25 as well. They are stacked at DB and now at linebacker too. When George Farmer and De'Von Flournoy are battling just to be the No. 3 wideout, you're in good shape. The last time USC had a top five team (2008) they had a lot more bodies at wide receiver, but they didn't have anywhere near as much talent. You add five-star recruit Nelson Agholor and four-star Darreus Rogers to the mix, and you have waaay more than your share of studs.

There are four tight ends in the program who would start at a bunch of other places in the conference. They have eight O-linemen who can play and that is before adding in Zach Banner, Jordan Simmons and Max Tuerk, a trio of blue-chippers this summer. Even if only one of those guys proves to be a factor this year (last year, they had two TF O-linemen emerge, Marcus Martin and Aundrey Walker), you have a very deep front.

According to Lane Kiffin, their two thinnest areas are at running back, where there is McNeal and D.J. Morgan as well as unproven Buck Allen, a former four-star signee, and at defensive tackle, where they have one proven guy in George Uko to go with J.R. Tavai, Antwaun Woods, Cody Temple and Christian Heyward. Would a season-ending injury to McNeal or Morgan send the USC coach staff into a panic? Yes, especially after converted RB Tre Madden was lost for the season due to a knee injury. But you could say the same for a lot of top teams if they lost two of their top three guys at one position.

It's not like other talented teams don't have significant issues either. Bama has to replace the bulk of its defense, go to both LSU and Arkansas, AND try to repeat, which is ridiculously hard in college football. LSU needs to show that it has a QB that can consistently play winning football. Oregon breaks in a new QB, loses LaMichael James, go-to WR Lavasier Tuinei and has to go to USC this fall.

From @LadyBlue7318: Is BCS any closer to a fair playoffs system in their talks?

BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock told the Dan Patrick Show Friday morning that he expects there will be a decision by the conferences on the exact four-team playoff format by late June. That is encouraging.

Fair? Um, it depends on whose perspective you're looking at things from. No matter how this system is structured, someone—actually a bunch of people will be angry. And then, when the system plays out, expect a bunch more people will be angry. You're never going to please everyone.

With college football you have a much smaller sample size than you do with the NFL and college basketball, so things are even more subjective. Plus, unlike in the NFL, you have conferences that have championship games while other college leagues do not. The difference between the divisions in the AFC is much more closely aligned than say the SEC and the Big East or the MAC. Sorting that out gets messy.

I spoke to a head coach at a “mid-major” program Thursday night about the playoff and he basically was just shrugging his shoulders at the dynamic. The people who are the power brokers come from the biggest leagues and their word will carry the most weight. But, as he said, the chances of a mid-major cracking the top two in the BCS were so remote, it was basically irrelevant regardless of what the BCS rhetoric was.

From @TheBigLead: I had a few guys try to say DeAnthony Thomas was better (than Clemson's Sammy Watkins.) One guy said Lee of USC.

(This comment, along with several others, was in regards to news that Watkins was arrested this week. The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre noted that the Clemson wideout was trending worldwide and I remarked that it was because the guy was the best freshman in the sport, which sparked outrage from Oregon, USC and South Carolina fans.)

My point: no freshman in 2011 had a bigger impact than Sammy Watkins had for Clemson. He was No. 4 in the nation in all-purpose yardage with 176 per game. Watkins keyed big wins for Clemson when the Tigers season took off in late September with victories over Auburn and Va. Tech and he shined the rest of the season despite becoming the focal point of rival defenses and special teams.

Of the three other freshmen who I heard mentioned a lot on Twitter Friday morning, each is a great talent.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if USC WR Marqise Lee emerges as a better receiver by the time his college career is over than Watkins. He came in pretty raw but by the end of the season he had some inside the program believing he was even better than Robert Woods. (I'll have more on Lee next week when the annual Freaks column appears.)

South Carolina DL Jadeveon Clowney has the most potential of anyone in this class. He made a lot of big plays in 2011, but as I wrote a few weeks back, he really struggled with technique and didn't know how to use his hands. He really had a lot to learn last fall, his coach Brad Lawing said and learned the hard way he just couldn't throw his shoulder into guys and just overpower them at this level.

Oregon's do-everything guy De'Anthony Thomas is the most exciting of the group, but for all of the fireworks, he didn't have the impact on a game-in, game-out basis like Watkins.

Thomas was a big weapon for the Ducks last year. Watkins was the main weapon for Clemson last year. Without Thomas, Oregon's still probably in the Rose Bowl last year. Without Watkins, Dabo Swinney might not even still be the head coach at Clemson. Remember, Swinney was 6-7 the previous year. Watkins and QB Tajh Boyd got things cranked up so fast in 2011, it got Swinney off the hot seat, and as anyone who witnessed that 70-33 rout by WVU in the Orange Bowl knows, the Tigers weren't going to win a lot of games with D. They allowed 37 ppg over their final eight games of the season.

From @drofdarb23: Boise State had six players drafted last weekend. How much will that help Chris Petersen & the Broncos on the recruiting trail?

A lot. The Boise State profile has sky-rocketed in the past two years. It helps that the Broncos are on TV almost every week and people in the media have to talk about them because they win games and they're also producing NFL talent. Those things resonate to recruits.

From @odogg63: does tommy rees arrest make Brian Kelly decision easier? I hope so it's Golson time!! Go ND

We have to see how the situation with Rees plays out in the courts over the next few weeks, but my hunch is yes, it will make the decision easier for Kelly. One of the biggest pluses, Rees had was his experience and, in theory, savvy but after this incident involving he and LB Carlo Calabrese casts the ND program in an embarrassing light, you have to think it gives Kelly pause whether the junior is the ideal guy to front his program going forward in 2012.

Reports on Kelly's feelings about redshirt freshmen Everett Golson sound very intriguing. He gushed about the QB when I brought his name up on our Signing Day Central show a few months back. Golson doesn't have prototype size. He's under 6-feet, but he has a better arm than Rees and much better feet. And from listening to Kelly, it sounds like he has a charisma and leadership skills, this program really could use right now.

With Rees, you wonder if the Irish can only go so far with him, whereas Golson sounds like he could be a difference-maker and a spark to a program that had a shocking amount of trouble in the Red Zone despite having two legit RZ weapons last year in Michael Floyd and TE Tyler Eifert.

From @MJCCJM77: How similar is the WVU game day experience compared to other Big 12 schools?

It'll rank up with any of the top Big 12 schools as far as enthusiasm and atmosphere. I was there before the LSU Saturday night game in Morgantown and saw “the Mantrip” and the passion those fans have for that team as they walk to the stadium. WVU gets very loud. It isn't quite LSU loud but it'll certainly measure up in the Big 12. The place on a Saturday night definitely feels “big-time.”

From @RyanM_BG: Which of the big 3 Florida schools (if any) will be BCS relevant in 2012?

Miami and Florida are in rebuilding mode. While I think both have the potential to win as many as nine games this season IF things go well with unproven, but gifted QBs, I don't think enough of the pieces are in place to be legit Top 15 teams. FSU, on the other hand, has a nasty defense and a deep crew of receivers. E.J. Manuel has more experience and is further along than his Cane and Gator counterparts. If Manuel can become more consistent and the O-line jells, FSU should be a top 10 team.

The Noles have two tricky road spots in 2012: at Miami and at Va. Tech on a Thursday night. There is no OU this year and they get UF in Tallahassee. Of course, FSU entered last season with plenty of hype and a top six ranking. Jimbo Fisher finally needs to cash in on these circumstances this year. It may not get this ripe again for awhile.

From @CallmeBigStein: any chance ole miss wins an SEC game this year?

It's going to tough for Hugh Freeze in Year One. The cupboard is pretty bare. The non-conference schedule has three very winnable games: Central Arkansas, UTEP and at Tulane. The Rebels' best bet for an SEC win will be Nov. 10 when Vandy visits. After that, I'd say it's the Egg Bowl. I give a lot of credit to Freeze as a motivator, I buy that he can knock off the Commodores and double Ole Miss' win total from 2011.

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