Rodriguez Does Well With His Chips

Feb. 23, 2007

By Trev Alberts

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Trev Alberts is a football analyst for CSTV and
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You've got college football questions and CSTV football analyst Trev Alberts has answers and opinions. Each week Alberts will be answering questions and queries on the world of college football. So if you've got a question for Trev? Just ask him.


I am a West Virginia fan, a school that rarely if ever gets a Top 25-rated class. Yet they win consistently and put people in the NFL. I love the underdog, and the teams that play well together, instead of teams like Southern California or Texas that just harvest as many top-rated recruits as they can and throw them together and basically out-athlete other teams. Whatever happened to coaching a team to victory, not recruiting a team of all-stars that can't help but win? - Rob Braswell, Jacksonville, N.C.


I think that is probably one of the more well-written statements/questions that we've had here in the mail bag. Rob, you've hit it on the head.


There is tremendous talent on West Virginia. Rich Rodriguez is secure enough and big enough that he can recruit who he wants. He can get the kind of player he wants. He doesn't have to listen to a list of highly-rated recruits.


Whatever happened to coaches sitting down and watching high school film and saying, "This kid's a football player?" I remember talking to Rodriguez and him talking openly about not necessarily wanting the kid who had been given everything in life. He wants a kid in Morgantown that has a chip on his shoulder. He wants the kids that no one else wanted at that position. It doesn't mean they're not supremely-gifted athletes. The perfect example, of course, is Pat White. White wanted to play quarterback. Most colleges wanted him to play defensive back. So Pat White goes to college with a chip on his shoulder. It's not unlike Tommy Frazier's situation at Nebraska. Most schools wanted him to play defensive back. Nebraska offered him the opportunity to play quarterback and he wound up nearly winning the Heisman.


Kids that have a chip on their shoulder for, some reason, are the kids who are always going to be better than the kids who are comfortable. Is West Virginia as supremely talented as USC? No, but it's talent with a chip on its shoulder and that's why they're consistently good.


Who would you take, JaMarcus Russell or Brady Quinn?


I was asked this question about 10 years ago when Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf were coming out. It's not an easy question to answer.  


I remember when Leaf was coming out, a lot of people who won't admit to it now--but I'll admit to it--thought Leaf would be the better pick because he had more upside. You had this raw talent with Leaf. Peyton Manning is what he is. Is he going to get any better? He's in a system, he's robotic. He's probably not going to get any faster, his arm strength isn't going to get any stronger. Well, how incredibly wrong those of us who thought Leaf was the better pick. Given different circumstances, Leaf probably would have turned out just fine.


On the surface, you say Brady Quinn is a product of the system. Is he going to get any better? He is who he is. JaMarcus Russell is just a raw talent. He's very good, but he's a little unpolished.


That being said, I'm not trying to make the comparison that JaMarcus Russell is the next Ryan Leaf. I see both sides. I think Russell is a ridiculous talent. I would take Russell simply because of his upside. I think he's proven to be awfully good in college. The guy is just huge. He's going to end up being as big as lot of defensive ends that will be trying to tackle him. He's a lot more nimble than people think. I'm not equating him with Vince Young, but we've seen in the NFL that if you can take a big thrower, and you add dimension of escapability, you're almost unstoppable. Russell has a better arm and he's more accurate than Young. I don't think he's quite as mobile as Young, but the package is pretty comparable. Not quite as mobile.


Quinn, on the other hand, if you're not careful, he's the next Peyton Manning. I know Charlie Weis swears by Quinn and told me point blank that he has all the same qualities as Tom Brady.


You can't go wrong with either one, but if was forced to pick, I'd go with JaMarcus Russell.


It looks like the rule changes to the clock from last year are going back to the old ways, for the most part. Was it a bad move by the NCAA to institute the changes and why did they even bother changing the rules? The game was fine the way it was.


I think on the surface, the easy analysis is to say it was foolish to make those changes. I have criticized the NCAA in the past for being reactionary and consistently just sitting there and waiting. But when they're proactive in trying to improve the game, trying to shorten the length of the game, they have to be given some credit for making the effort.


You can argue that it was doomed strategy from the beginning, but at least they tried to benefit the student-athlete. I would rather the NCAA and its rules committee consistently err on side of being proactive rather than being reactive.


I give them credit for saying, "Look, it didn't work. It changed the integrity of the game. We heard the coaches. You were right, we were wrong."


Did it really ruin college football? No. They made some changes they thought would improve the game. It didn't so they changed it back.


They also made some small changes, moving kickoffs back to the 30-yard line from the 35. That's a good change. I think they handled the rule changes properly and appropriately, and I'm glad they moved the kickoffs back. More returns add to the excitement of the game.



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