Rivals.com College Football Senior Writer
A fine line can separate a good team from a great one, but a fine quarterback can make a good team a champion.
Would Florida have won a championship in 2008 without Tim Tebow? Could Texas have won in 2005 without Vince Young? Auburn wouldn't have won last season without Cameron Newton.
Difference-making quarterbacks aren't always easy to find. Coaches will scour every high school and junior college to find a championship-caliber quarterback. But sometimes a talented quarterback who could be a difference-maker will transfer from another four-year program.
As an Auburn alum, I'm starting to get interested in the Russell Wilson rumors. What do you think are the odds that Wilson will transfer to Auburn or another school?
Michael in Hampton, Va.
Does it really matter? Seriously, just how much success can be reasonably expected from a quarterback playing just one year in program? Do you think a first-year guy could win a Heisman and a national championship or something?
Oh, wait. Never mind. I guess it's easy to see why the Plainsmen are interested in Wilson.
Wilson is athletic (he rushed for more than 400 yards last season) and an effective passer; he threw for 3,563 yards and 28 touchdowns while leading the Wolfpack to a 9-4 finish en route to earning second team All-ACC recognition in 2010.
But he also plays baseball (Wilson is playing minor-league ball in Asheville, N.C.), and coach Tom O'Brien tired of that divided interest. The coach has already named junior Mike Glennon the starter, prompting Wilson to pursue other options.
Wilson has said he is "95 percent sure" he'll play college football in 2011. He already has graduated from N.C. State and thus can transfer and be eligible immediately. He has one season of eligibility remaining.
Any program in need of a proven quarterback for a year while it develops others on the roster surely would welcome Wilson much the same way Ole Miss did Masoli last season. A dozen programs are rumored to have contacted him, and Wilson has indicated he wants to play in a Big Six conference outside of the ACC.
Some of the teams that could use Wilson would be Wisconsin, Washington, Texas, California and Missouri. Yet, the popular opinion seems to be that he'll most likely surface in the SEC, which could be good news for Auburn.
It appears neither Barrett Trotter nor Clint Moseley has taken charge in the quarterback competition, so Wilson could, in theory, come in and take over.
But if I were setting the odds, I might make South Carolina the favorite in the Wilson sweepstakes. South Carolina would seem to make the most sense because of proximity and opportunity.
After seeing what Arizona State's offense did against its tough defense in the spring game, I feel that the Sun Devils have a real good chance to take the Pac-12 South. Can the Devils be dominant this season?
Rich in Tempe, Ariz.
The torn ACLs suffered by two projected starters - cornerback Omar Bolden and wide receiver T.J. Simpson - in spring drills have dampened my enthusiasm a bit, but Arizona State remains my pick to win the Pac-12 South.
The Sun Devils are getting better and they weren't bad last season. Yes, they finished 6-6, but issues on extra points cost them in a 20-19 loss to Wisconsin and a 34-33 loss to USC. The Sun Devils also fell to Stanford by four points. Obviously, they were close to having a solid season.
Despite the aforementioned injuries, there are indications that the Sun Devils could be in for a big season. Quarterback Brock Osweiler was 17-of-22 for 237 yards and five touchdowns in the Sun Devils' spring game, so Arizona State fans have every right to be excited. True, he was playing against a defense that wasn't blitzing or changing looks, but Osweiler's performance hints that the Sun Devils may have solved the problems they've had at quarterback in recent seasons.
The offensive line has been a problem area, but that unit actually could be a strong point with five returning starters. The receivers are seniors and the running backs are good. Arizona State's defense has been sound the past few seasons and that doesn't figure to change.
If Osweiler continues to improve, the defense plays well and the kicking game becomes more reliable, Arizona State will be hard to beat.
Don't forget ...
I read your piece on dirtiest teams [Mailbag, April 22]. In my lifetime of 60 years, I don't recall the Texas Longhorns ever being on probation. Is that accurate?
Steve in Houston
Well, the memory can play tricks on us. Actually, Texas has been on NCAA probation three times.
In '65, Texas was cited for "improper recruiting entertainment, inducements, lodging and transportation."
In '82, Texas was cited for violations involving complimentary tickets and improper recruiting inducements.
In '87, the Longhorns were cited for infractions involving "improper entertainment, financial aid, lodging and transportation, extra benefits, complimentary tickets, improper recruiting contact, employment, entertainment, inducements and transportation."
In all three cases, Texas received one year of probation.
Let's talk about the "dirtiest" programs from a positive angle. Which teams have enjoyed the most success while remaining clean? Or to put it another way: Which are the most successful teams with the least NCAA infractions?
Stephen in Redmond, Wash.
What constitutes success can be debated, so I'll respond by revealing which teams have won national football championships and never have been cited for major infractions since the NCAA began keeping a record in 1954.
Since 1954, the NCAA recognizes 30 programs that have won some version of the national championship. Of those programs, only three - BYU, Iowa and Penn State - have not been cited for major violations by the NCAA.
Now, that doesn't mean every team that won a national title was cheating. For example, Michigan won a national championship in 1997 but was cited for violations in 2010. Similarly, Syracuse won the 1959 national title but was cited for a major violation in 1992.
Fall from grace
I was wondering what happened to Jeremy Beal and why he fell so far in the draft? The guy had a great career as a defensive end at Oklahoma and made a lot of big plays. I was wondering why he dropped all the way to the seventh round.
Jeff in Corpus Christi, Texas
That's a good question, especially considering that Texas A&M's Von Miller Missouri's Aldon Smith, other Big 12 players who were strong pass rushers, went early in the first round.
There were a lot of outstanding defensive end/outside linebackers in the draft (nine taken in the first round), so that figured to compromise Beal's draft prospects, but the seventh round was a surprise.
Beal, who was the Big 12's defensive lineman of the year last season, posted 29 sacks in his OU career - the second-highest total in school history. But his performance at the Senior Bowl drew poor reviews from scouts, and he was timed in an extremely slow 5.14 seconds in the 40-yard dash and underwhelmed in some other tests at the NFL Scouting Combine.