Mailbag: Why the Jadeveon Clowney story blew up

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

From @dtreystarling: why is the media in an uproar over Clowney sitting a year? Never been mentioned with another underclassman.

The column Tom Sorenson wrote about a week ago, saying Jadeveon Clowney should think about skipping 2013 hit on a nerve, but it also had a few other factors playing into it that sparked the sports media's attention.

First, it has the Clowney Factor. There has been national buzz surrounding him since before his senior season of high school, and it’s only kept building after two big seasons at South Carolina. His sophomore year was capped off by the highlight of the season, when he blasted Michigan’s Vincent Smith in a moment that looked so unreal it seemed like something you’d only see in a Hollywood movie. NFL scouts and rival college coaches rave about Clowney’s potential. Quick aside: I called a college line coach to ask about Robert Nkemdiche, the nation’s No. 1-ranked recruit in the Class of 2013. The guy said Nkemdiche is a very, very good player, but brought up Clowney (“best recruit I’ve ever seen and it’s not even close”) and couldn’t stop gushing about the 6-foot-6, 260-pounder.

Unlike other touted college players, whether it’s Andrew Luck or say Tim Tebow, there isn’t as strong a feeling of Clowney developing as a player without the added reps and seasoning of another college season. Instead, there’s the concern that the player who many analysts project as the top overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft has more to lose than gain potentially due to the risk of injury. That thought process also feeds into the feeling many have that for the pay-for-play argument that hovers around college sports these days. And this part of the "Clowney story" got ramped up even further when Kentucky’s freshman basketball star Nerlens Noel, a player some viewed as a potential top overall pick when he becomes eligible to enter the draft, went down earlier this week to a serious knee injury.

The biggest factor fueling this story, though, is that these days there are so many talking-head shows daily that literally are desperate for anything to talk -- and argue -- about. They’ll babble about anything. And if there’s great video to show and re-show, better still. And Lord knows, there is great video that goes with any Clowney story. (Sorry Vincent Smith. You’re 2013’s version of Bill Robinzine.)

From @cherod05: "if you woke a 60-year-old, die-hard CFB fan who's been in a 5-year coma, which realignment move would shock him the most?"

Probably seeing Texas A&M and Texas split apart, with the Aggies in the SEC. He’d also probably do a double-take when he heard that A&M is the hottest program in the country. Then again, if he’s been asleep five years, he probably wonders, ‘What the heck happened to USC?’

From @isthatcizzle: what is your true opinion on Kliff Kingsbury?

Really sharp guy. I think a lot of people get caught up in his “alpha-bro-ish” style and may not know that most of the football coaches who have been around him consider him perhaps the hardest-working, most driven guy they know. Kingsbury, behind the flashy sunglasses and trendy clothes, is as competitive as any guy in coaching, those who know him best will tell you.

I’ve known Kingsbury for years and I’m not at all surprised at how quickly he has risen up the coaching ranks. I recall the first time I’d ever seen him in a coaching setting. It was during the One-Back Clinic that was being hosted by Houston. The clinic featured some of the top offensive minds in college football from staffs all over the country. Then-UH OC Dana Holgorsen had Kingsbury give a presentation to the group about QB drills and it didn’t take long to see how easily the former Texas Tech star commanded the room and how well he communicated. Thinking back to that day, I could see how he can connect with players so well.

I think he is the ideal guy to get Texas Tech football cranked back up again although I’m sure there will be some growing pains. Even though Kingsbury has learned from excellent football minds (Mike Leach, Bill Belichick, Mike McCarthy, Dana Holgorsen and Kevin Sumlin), there’s still nothing that can replicate running your own program for the first time. 

From @emoskowi: what do you think the chances are that Oregon features a more pass-heavy offense under new head coach Mark Helfrich?

I’d say there’s a decent chance of a little increase in reliance on the passing game under Helfrich. But I really think this has more to do with the fact that right now the Ducks have a terrific QB in Marcus Mariota, who is the most talented passer the school has had in a long time. If Chip Kelly were still the coach in 2013, I’d expect Mariota to end up with more than the six 200-plus-yard passing games he had last season, too.

But there are likely to be new wrinkles. Every coach and play-caller is wired a little differently than the guy they followed. Helfrich, a disciple of Dirk Koetter, takes over a program that threw the ball only about a third of its snaps in 2012. While he was with Koetter at ASU, the Sun Devils led the Pac-10 in passing by a huge margin at 374 yards per game in 2005. Reportedly, Helfrich has told recruits he wants to throw the ball a lot. Of course, that could be just recruiting talk for QBs and wideouts. Of course, those ASU teams that he coached weren’t as dynamic as the offenses the Ducks have had the past few years. Why would anyone tinker much with that?

Helfrich did say at his introductory press conference last month that “99.2 percent” from a philosophical standpoint would be identical. I suspect he knows not to get away from the things that have made the Ducks a powerhouse. And, as those inside the program have told me in the past, Helfrich has been a vital part of this system, and that is now who he is, too.

From @Stanley_emile: Can UM have a dreamlike 2013 similar to Notre Dame 2012?

I expect Miami to be much-improved in 2013 from last year’s team that qualified for a spot in the ACC title game, but also had been beaten by double-digits three times. The 'Canes were one of the youngest teams in the country. The best talent in the program was all freshmen and sophomores, so with an added year of seasoning, they figure to be a lot better, tougher, smarter. They should be very explosive on offense, but the biggest difference between the 2012 Notre Dame team and what Miami returns is the Fighting Irish had some legit difference-makers in the middle of their defense. I don’t see that with UM right now. That’s what’s missing, and while Miami can be a Top 25 team without studs anchoring the D, the 'Canes aren’t going to be competing for titles without them. All the great Miami teams had speed and difference-makers up the middle of the D. Miami has the speed now, but it’s the other part of the equation that isn’t there yet. 

From @NickPlyntarf: How viable of a program is TCU if Gary Patterson were to leave? How desirable would the job be?

It’s a big-time job, and has been elevated significantly in the past five years. Much of that is due to all the success the program has had under Patterson. He has a record of 116-36 and produced three Top 10 finishes in the past five seasons. And coming off of that, the program has ping-ponged up in conference class, going from the WAC to Conference USA to the MWC to the Big East (at least on paper) and now to the Big 12. Better still, facilities there have been upgraded, including a stadium upgrade. Top recruits know the TCU brand and that means the Horned Frogs are less likely to lose out on in-state talent if some other AQ conference schools come in hoping to pluck away players.

If Patterson were to leave Fort Worth, and that’s a big if, he’d leave behind one of the better jobs in the Big 12. It’s not UT or OU, but there is a track record of success and you're in the middle of some of the most fertile recruiting soil in the country. Plus, you’d inherit a program that has been set up well with talent throughout the roster.

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