Lauren Brownlow

From Duke's defensive line to pods: Twitter Mailbag

Posted June 1

Duke coach David Cutcliffe prior to the Devils' game versus Wake Forest on Saturday, November 29, 2014 in Durham, NC.  (Photo by Jack Morton)

As usual, my readers have come through with the perfect mix of substantive and silly in my questions this week. Some would argue the sillier, the better - I know I would - but what better question to get us started than one that could start preparing us for college football season?

So let's get to it!

I couldn't get to this one last week, but thank goodness for Felder. He's going to help me get so ready for college football season by helping me break down the ACC each week, even though I know he already knows the answers to all of these questions he's asking me.

The defensive line is definitely both a potential strength and a question mark for Duke. The Blue Devils brought in a new defensive line coach a year ago in Ben Albert, and he led a group that had 29 sacks. Duke's two-deep for this year is stocked with experience, since a lot of the players in Duke's defensive line rotation last year were freshmen, but it's taken some hits in the off-season.

Marquies Price was a returning starter but he was dismissed from the team in February. He led all returning linemen with 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and six quarterback hurries. Brandon Boyce, who played in eight games and had two career sacks (one last year), was also dismissed.

Of course, of Duke's 29 sacks last year, 16.5 were by linebackers or defensive backs. And of the 12.5 by defensive linemen, 5.5 were by the now-graduated A.J. Wolf and an additional three of those sacks in Price and Boyce are gone. So the leading returner in sacks is Dominic McDonald with 1.5. (Edited: I have since been informed that McDonald is gone, too. So, uh. A few guys with 1.0 or 0.5 sacks.)

Obviously, Duke has other ways to get sacks that don't involve defensive linemen, and defensive tackles doing their job leads to the rest of the defense doing theirs effectively, even if it doesn't show up in the stats. But the lack of experience Duke has - even if it's more talented than it's been in recent years - has to be at least a little bit concerning.

So that's where Drew Jordan comes in. He's a bit undersized for a defensive lineman - 6-1, 236 pounds - but he has athleticism and quickness and can rush the quarterback, all of which help. Considering Duke's current situation, you'd have to think Jordan will at least help. But potentially, some of those sophomores with a year of experience for Duke can take the next step. No one's job will be safe, though, and Jordan will certainly push the returning players.


Okay, sorry. The pod system James references from Bill Connelly can be found here. There are a lot of great things about the pod system. It would equalize the schedules more, certainly. It would also make sure teams don't go decades without facing one another. And it would allow traditional rivalries to continue to flourish. Conference title games would be between the two best teams. Except....oh. Do you REALLY want Florida State and Clemson facing off every year, potentially eliminating the losing team from College Football Playoff contention? That's one argument against pods I would totally understand.

Tiebreakers could be tricky, as Connelly mentions, but if you use the CFP rankings for those, THINK about how much more dramatic those rankings will become!

I love the idea of pods. But don't get too excited - I don't think the coaches will ever go for this. The reason will drive you nuts, James - it's the shiny Divisional trophy! You know, the Divisional trophy State will always find it impossible to win because they're in the impossible Atlantic. But Coastal coaches can sure show that to their athletic directors! It's yet another arbitrary milestone that coaches can point to when their contracts get renegotiated. They won't give that up without a fight.

"Deserve" really isn't a part of the NFL vernacular, is it? Regardless of what you think of what Colin Kaepernick did by kneeling during the national anthem as a form of protest, if he were Aaron Rodgers-good, he'd have a job. It's really that simple. He isn't. Is he better than a lot of other quarterbacks in the league? You bet. Is he getting black-balled? There is no doubt in my mind.

In fact, I've never really understood people that argue he ISN'T being black-balled. It may not be a conspiracy necessarily in the sense that all of the teams are banding together to decide not to sign him, so in that way, maybe black-balled is too strong an expression. But is he being denied work BECAUSE of what he did? Yes. To argue otherwise is silly and a meaningless waste of time. If you don't like what Kaepernick did, why would you resist the idea that he's not being signed because of it? I don't understand this. No need to make a billion excuses based on rumors (most of which continue to be debunked) or cursory evaluations of his play and pretend as if you all diagnosed the NFL All-22 film. You didn't.

Finally, New York Giants owner John Mara came out and admitted what we all already knew - owners fear the fan backlash way more from signing Kaepernick than from keeping a player on their team who has committed domestic violence.

In all his years, Mara said, he'd never seen fans have a more emotional response - they'd stop rooting for the team if even one of his players knelt during the anthem, etc. I'm sorry, but if you're one of those people who would have written Mara a letter like that and wouldn't have written a letter about an NFL player who has committed domestic violence or rape, kindly sit and think about the contrast there and ask yourself why? Why would a player exercising a First Amendment right outrage you more than someone who has committed violence against women?

Part of me wanted to scoff at what Mara said. No way most of his fanbase would be more outraged over what Kaepernick did than what their recently-resigned kicker Josh Brown did. But the more I thought about it, and put it in the context of a larger society, the more I realized how true it probably is. And then I got sad all over again.

Well, I'd like to clarify that none of the coaches have medical training that I'm aware of, so I would really not want any of them treating my almost-11-month-old. So I'll have to pick a hypothetical pediatrician based on the guy most likely to wear an ice cream cone tie. One of my kid's pediatricians does this, and my husband and I find it to be delightful.

I don't want anyone who's too old, so out go Coach K, Roy, Jim Boeheim, Rick Pitino, Jim Larranaga. Brad Brownell has some anger issues, so he's out. Kevin Stallings' transfer situation is a huge red flag. I don't think my son could handle Leonard Hamilton's disapproving face (and by my son, I mean me). So he's out. Danny Manning's head would probably hit the ceiling in those tiny exam rooms. I think Buzz Williams would be a little too intense for the kid, and Josh Pastner would make me go "um excuse me could we get a doctor in here who can actually drive a car okay thanks" (I KID!).

Kevin Keatts has a very friendly and welcoming demeanor to him, but I do feel like he's probably pretty hardcore based on how hard his teams play. Tony Bennett is waaaaay too traditionally good-looking to be a pediatrician. CAN YOU IMAGINE?

So it's between Mike Brey and Jim Christian. I'm not a fan of Christian's haircut. And Mike Brey is one of the nicest coaches I've ever met. He may have a little 5 o'clock shadow from time to time, but his warm smile would make up for it. Give me Dr. Brey.

Again, not an advice question, but one that those who don't really care about my personal history can just skip right over!

*At least half of you roll your eyes and stop reading*

Okay. So regular old kid me kept a diary or a journal, but "fake deep" me kept it in the hopes that if I died, people would find it and be like "WHO IS THIS UNTAPPED LITERARY TALENT? WHY DID NO ONE PUBLISH HER SOONER? SHE'S AMAZING!" Either that, or my crushes would finally find out how I felt about them, even decades later, and be like "I always had a crush on her too! WHY DIDN'T I SAY SOMETHING!" They'd have to live with that regret forever. That thought gave me life.

I would say "fake deep" Brownlow started when I was around 14-15 and went on throughout high school and most of college, really. I dove into the AFI Top 100 movies of all time, reading all accompanying articles about their symbolism and metaphors and motifs. Fake deep Brownlow wanted to be an filmmaker once she saw American Beauty (seriously, and yes, that stupid bag floating through the air was something very meaningful to me). Fake deep Brownlow worked on a directionless and meandering novel about teenage romance when she found the time.

Oh, and in college, fake deep Brownlow did a lot of leaving AIM away messages that were song lyrics meant to signify something else. I had a boyfriend for almost the entirety of my college experience, which somewhat limited both the time and the angst that fake deep Brownlow had to really plumb the depths of her fake deep soul.

Look, I had some actual depth to me during that time, but I think I did most of those things because I was trying to prove how smart I was. I'm also poking fun at myself a bit too, because fake deep Brownlow had a stage where she was obsessed with Steve Buscemi because she wanted to prove she could have a crush on an actor because of his ability, not his looks. (Seriously. I rented almost every Steve Buscemi movie that summer. I was 18.) That kind of thing is pretty silly.

I still read books all the time and I still listen to music looking for deeper meaning and watch TV shows looking for the same. So maybe I'm throwing too much shade at my younger self. But if we can't be self-deprecating, why even bother?


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