ASK CFN - Where are the Receivers?
Posted May 17, 2007

Is Nick Saban walking into a better situation in Alabama than he did at LSU? When will the Big East earn more respect? Are there any real, live NFL receiver prospects, like Cal's DeSean Jackson, to get excited about? These questions and more in the latest ASK CFN.

Pete Fiutak

Fire over your questions to me at I might not be able to answer them all, but I promise they're all read. Any e-mails sent to this address may be published or edited unless requested otherwise. (Please put ASK CFN in the subject line, and PLEASE keep the questions short ... it makes my life easier.)

Over the past 3-4 years, I have noticed that college football “experts” continually pick a Big East team to be in the national championship.  I’ve already seen several columnists (not on your site) pick WV against USC in the champ game.  I know these are simply preseason picks.  Besides the obvious arguments (somewhat weak conference), why do people keep picking these teams to be a BCS frontrunner, when neither has yet to reach the title game?   I believe either team could play with anyone in the country, but they always fall short….usually to weak competition.  To get respect shouldn’t you have to earn it?  - J Dub

A: “Somewhat weak conference” compared to what? The SEC, sure, but the Big East was tremendous last season and should be even better top-to-bottom this year. As far as earning respect, Louisville had few problems with Wake Forest in last year’s Orange Bowl (scoff at the Demon Deacons if you will, but they were the ACC champions), and West Virginia beat Georgia two years ago in the Sugar Bowl. Look at what the league did in bowl games last year, and it earned its respect. I don’t think West Virginia or Louisville will reach the BCS title game this year, and it’s not because they’re not great, but it’s because it’ll be next to impossible to get through the Big East unscathed.

Past ASK CFNs ...     
- Why did Brady Quinn slide?
- The Virginia Tech situation

- Creating a MWest-WAC super-league
Mid-majors who should be in the bigs
The potential new superpower
The 5 best coaching jobs
March Madness for football?
Potential Bowl Shockers
Tim Brewster?
Fox's BCS broadcasts
- Is Brady really better than Russell?
Hot & Cold Bowl Programs
- How ineffective was Reggie Ball?
- A 2007 Top 10 Mock Draft
Can Michigan win a national title?
- BCS possibilities for several teams
- West Virginia schedule, BCS rules
- Toughest coaching jobs
- Hidden Heisman 5

- Is Temple worst ever?
- Oklahoma-Oregon fiasco
- Has Bob Stoops lost it?
- Is Colorado done?

Whatever happened to Biletnikoff Award winner Mike Hass out of Oregon State?  (Great hands, just not big or fast enough, I guess) I know he signed with the Saints and then spent some time on the practice squad for Chicago. – Steve

A: He was re-signed to the Chicago practice squad this off-season. Apparently, he catches everything in sight, and the coaches love his route running and work ethic, but he hasn’t been able to break through and become a real part of the team yet.

There has been many arguments on the message boards between Bama and LSU fans since Saban was hired at Alabama. One of these arguments is about the talent level. LSU fans have been saying that they had more talent when Saban went there than he does at Alabama right now. What say you? Also, can you compare the overall state of the two programs, meaning Bama right now and LSU back when Saban arrived? – TT

A: Both fan bases are right in their own way. If you remember, Gerry DiNardo was a heck of a recruiter who put together some good teams at LSU that just couldn’t get the job done. The knock was that the talent was in place, but the coach wasn’t. While there was certainly talent when Saban arrived, LSU really started to rock once the recruiting went through the roof from very good to elite. It’s the same thing at Alabama. The expectations were jacked up way too high after a somewhat fluky 2005 season when the Tide got every good bounce and break you could possibly imagine. 2006 was supposed to be a bit of a rebuilding year, and it was, and now Saban should swoop in and benefit. He did a good job recruiting in a limited amount of time, and he’s certain to bring in some monster hauls after getting more time to work.

However, and I always emphasize this with Bama fans, Saban had just one amazing year, and a bunch of good ones. He was never able to get Michigan State over any kind of hump, he failed as the Miami Dolphin head coach, and he only had one year at LSU when he lost fewer than three games. Just because Saban’s at Alabama, that doesn’t mean Florida, LSU, Tennessee, Georgia, and Auburn are going to curl up and die. It just means that Bama has a better chance of getting a turn in the SEC title rotation at some point.

It seems to me that the WAC and MWC are producing higher draft picks within the last 5 years. Alex Smith of Utah, John Beck of BYU, David Carr FSU. Do these kids just get overlooked in High School? Or are those programs producing them to become NFL-Caliber? The second part of the question is, who could be the next big draft pick out of the WAC or MWC in the next few years? Colt Brennan? Ian Johnson? – KC

A: Well, how have Smith and Carr done at the next level? The jury’s still out on Smith, but Carr has been a bust for a number one overall selection (although I keep saying he’s a good quarterback who simply never, ever, ever had time behind an awful Texan offensive line that was never upgraded).  Some of these “mid-major” stars do get overlooked by the bigger programs, but more often than not, they were great when they had the chance to play and develop.

You have to remember what an inexact science the recruiting game is. Programs are often looking at undeveloped 16 and 17-year-olds when they’re making the pitches, and sometimes kids blossom when they get a little older. Sometimes they simply get in the right system with the right coaching, as was the case with Smith and Carr, and now with Brennan, who’ll probably be the hot big draft pick out of the WAC and Mountain West. TCU defensive end Tommy Blake will also be a hot name next April.

Has the old benchmark 10-win season lost its luster? If you are a BCS conference team, you now have to lose at least 4 times to NOT have a 10 win season (counting bowls). This is not including teams that back into conference championship games. – Dan

A: Just like the 1,000-yard rushing mark in the NFL doesn’t have the same pizzazz it once had, the ten-win campaign, like you mentioned, isn’t quite as amazing considering there are more games. However, it’s still a great goal to shoot for, and you never have to apologize with a double-digit win season. It’s even better over the course of time, and putting together three, four, ten double-digit win seasons in a row is amazing no matter how you cut it.

1) Should NFL success or lack thereof affect how a college resume? Is Emmitt Smith better than Danny Wuerffel because Emmitt was better in the pros even though he didn't win a Heisman in college?
2) How should individual awards affect "best" debates? Should 'Bama be punished for no heismans? Should Rex Grossman be penalized because the committee doesn't like sophomores?
– Greg, Gainesville, FL

A: No, no, a thousand times, no; pro production has NOTHING to do with how good a player was in college. Ask yourself this; knowing what you know now, and what happened when the two were in college, if you could have Danny Wuerffel’s college career or Peyton Manning’s, which one would you take? Of course you’d take Wuerffel’s, and of course you’d take Manning in an NFL-career draft. Fine, you take Emmitt Smith at Florida, and I’ll take Ron Dayne’s career with the all-time rushing record, the two Rose Bowls and the Heisman. Obviously, you’d take Emmitt as a pro. Would you take the college career of Charles Rogers or Marques Colston? You could do this all day long.

To answer your second question, individual awards have to factor into the “best’ debates when you’re looking at the overall picture, but more importantly, you have to look at the college player’s career. I’ve always said the Crouch-over-Grossman Heisman win was one of the biggest mistakes in the award’s history, but Crouch did actually win the trophy, therefore making him more of a college football legend than Grossman. Tommie Frazier and Vince Young never won the Heisman, but you’d have to put them in the top five (if not top two) among the all-time greatest college quarterbacks. Individual awards get you in the discussion, and if you don't have them, you had to be truly special.

So Troy Smith ended up as the last pick in the fifth round of the NFL draft. Did scouts get it right or wrong? Are they making too much out of one lousy game against a great defense like Florida's and his 6 foot height? Is he really a bad QB who did it all with smoke and mirrors and his surrounding talent or did he just have a major let down after winning the game of the  century against Michigan and winning the Heisman Trophy? – CE

A: The bad title game didn’t help, and he certainly would’ve gone in the first 100 picks had he played well and/or if OSU won, but the real problems came after. There was the lousy loss to the Gators and he was mediocre in workouts and he was out of shape and he wasn’t nearly the hot commodity he was in November. His biggest asset was his leadership ability, and he, by his own admittance, hit the banquet circuit post-Heisman too hard, and didn’t seem nearly prepared enough to face the pumped up Gators.

Is it just me or is there a lack of big name WRs for this upcoming year?  Someone asked me who the top receivers in the draft would be next year and I was legitimately stumped.  Off the top of my head I could only come up with DeSean Jackson if he comes out and Todd Blythe (not sure if he even has NFL talent).  So who do you think are the Top 5 or 10 receivers in next year's draft including juniors that may or may not come out early? – JS

A: It isn’t you. Michigan’s Mario Manningham and LSU’s Early Doucet are the two top NFL prospect names out there, and neither one is a first round caliber pick (although the scouts love Doucet’s speed). I’m not 100% sold on Limas Sweed of Texas as a sure-thing NFL target. Oklahoma’s Malcolm Kelly is coming off a knee injury, Oklahoma State’s Adarius Bowman seems to have it all, but he wasn’t consistent last year, and Marcus Monk of Arkansas is a bit of an X factor because he doesn’t play in a passing offense. DeSean Jackson might be a Ted Ginn-type and rocket up the draft boards because of his speed, but are NFL types jacked up to get him? Well, yeah, but he's still not a be-all-end-all number one receiver prospect. As far as top receivers on a collegiate level, Vanderbilt’s Earl Bennett will probably be a CFN First-Team All-American. He’s a top-flight receiver who doesn’t get top-flight attention.

To answer your question, the top pro receivers in the 2008 Draft, in some order, will probably be (give or take a Davone Bess, D.J. Hall or Sammie Stroughter): 1) DeSean Jackson, Cal (but the return ability has a lot to do with that as well), 2) Early Doucet, LSU, 3) Adarius Bowman, Oklahoma State, 4) Malcolm Kelly, Oklahoma, 5) Mario Manningham, Michigan, 6) Limas Sweed, Texas, 7) Marcus Monk, Arkansas, 8) Mario Urrutia, Louisville, 9) Earl Bennett, Vanderbilt, 10) Keenan Burton, Kentucky
Is it better for teams like Boise State in the WAC, Houston and Southern Miss in CUSA, and BYU, TCU and Utah in the MWC to stay in their conferences and try to get into the BCS games that way, or if the offer comes to join a BCS conference, fight it out there, and get the guaranteed $$$?  At this time, I would say the teams mentioned above have a better shot getting into the BCS right now than any of the bottom feeders in the big 6 conferences. – Cary in Omaha

A: Yeah, it’s easier to get into the BCS as is for those teams, but any program worth its salt would rather play in a BCS league. More money, bigger games, more exposure, easier recruiting pitch. Of course, Boise State would need a miracle to win, say, the Pac 10 title, and BYU, TCU and Utah would certainly need everything to break right in a Wake Forest-like way to win a league title in a BCS conference, but that’s right now. Five years ago, you’d have never thought Louisville could be a powerhouse.