Remember Friday's mailbag and to send in your NASCAR picks for the contest below.
From the "Talks too much" studios, let's make like Jordan McRae and stroke it from long range.
NFL combine issues
The most interesting aspects of this year's NFL combine — the carnival extra-ganza of college football stud ducks trying to impress NFL scouts — likely will happen off the practice field inside Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy.
There is the saga and all-important interviews for Notre Dame linebacker and internet dater Manti Te'o. Te'o has a body of work on the field that has garnered and deserved first-round attention. Dude made plays. His off-the-field puzzles, however, make his news conference and interviews arguably the most important of the week. He is not alone in answering difficult questions about difficult subjects, however.
In fact, the biggest movers among the game's most important position will be decided every bit by the answers they give as the spirals they toss. Yep, the most wide-open quarterback class in recent memory will feature a slew of cats trying to make the most of the vacuum atop the draft board. We know that a slew of teams with new coaches need new quarterbacks, and need them now. Unless you want to make Joe Flacco the highest-paid player in the game, the free-agent market offers little quarterback help. The trade possibilities are over-paying for Kirk Cousins or taking on the albatross of Matt Flynn's contract.
So there's the draft and the real chance of finding an Aaron Rodgers falling or reaching for Brady Quinn or Jake Locker.
Let's look at five quarterbacks who could really get rich by handling their BID-ness in Indy:
• Tyler Bray, Tennessee: We've said from the very start that Bray has serious NFL physical skills. Last week, NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. said Bray likely will be a second- or third-round pick. If dude shows the maturity that every UT fan has craved for the last three seasons in the interview process and can convince a team — any team — that his 5-cent head has made major progress toward his million-dollar arm, he could sneak into the first round. Seriously. He needs to be prepared to answer some questions about bottling throwing, back tats and loco dances with grace and charm, though.
• Geno Smith, West Virginia: Five weeks into last season, the 5-at-10 had Geno Smith winning the Heisman and West Virginia playing Bama for the national title. Uh, not so much. Still several folks have Geno as a real possibility as a first-round guy because of his physical gifts. We get it. He'll need a wow-type moment off the field this weekend to re-generate that kind of buzz in our view.
• Mike Glennon, N.C. State: Glennon has a big arm and the experience. In fact, his skills forced the Wolfpack coaching staff to ask Russell Wilson to go away a couple of years ago. (Of course that Wolfpack coaching staff was asked to go away a couple of months ago, too.) Glennon is atop many QB draft boards at the moment, meaning he's a first-rounder unless he flops. Of course we can't see spending a first-round pick on any QB that could only manage 21 points against a Sal Sunseri — SAAALLLLL!!! — defense.
• EJ Manuel, Florida State: Manuel is a supreme talent who almost always seemed to be underachieving because he has that big-time arm that scouts love. How he grasps the technical questions and the interviews will be key. We know he has a big arm, can he show an accurate touch will be the physical question.
• Since Matt Barkley will not throw because of injury, here are two names we think can emerge this week: Syracuse's Ryan Nassib and Duke's Sean Renfree. Nassib is underrated as a talent and experienced as a college starter in a pro-style system. Renfree lacks the big arm but has spent a few years learning at the altar of Cutcliffe, and there's something to be said for that.
Hi Tennessee basketball, it's nice to see you again
We asked on Twitter (@jgreesontfp) last night if Jordan McRae is a first-team All-SEC player. If you watched last night's dazzling showing — a career high 34 points and 6-of-6 shooting from 3 — the question may need to be reshaped to ask if he's a first-team All-American. It was that type of effort.
Here's a key quote from Downtown's story after the Vols' 82-72 win over LSU: "It's a different team," coach Cuonzo Martin said. "This is the team I thought we'd be at the beginning of the season, but you go through things and guys have to learn and guys have to grow. I didn't think Trae and Jarnell would have been the guys they were earlier in the season, but they're playing the way they're built and advertised and that's why you're having the results."
The Conz is right, this is a different team. It's playing with nothing lo lose and galvanized by the locker-room glue that desperation can congeal. The Vols need a miracle to make the NCAA tournament, and playing for a miracle is way less stressful than playing with meaning on the line.
This is not to take away from the Vols' recent run — four straight wins have moved UT's tournament hopes from life support to critical condition, and any improvement in regard to the bubble should be embraced. This is to acknowledge this was the team we expected from the start, and that makes this run bitter sweat in some aspects. Yes, it's nice for it to have arrived, but it's also fair to wonder why it was so fashionably late that the Dance party may have already escaped UT's grasp.
Sometimes, as Ray Kinsella once said, the cosmic tumblers click and the universe opens itself up and shows you what's possible. The reverse is also true, and for a painful stretch from Christmas to Groundhog Day, the miss-mash play of these Vols was diabolical in its dichotomy. Their strengths — Skylar McBee's shooting, Trae Golden's dependability, Jarnell Stokes' presence, etc. — were their main weaknesses.
Through it all, The Conz remained steady and focused. Maybe he knew what this team was and what it was not. Maybe he knew all along, and shared that belief in the quote above.
Sadly, it still feels like a lot of improvement that's a little too late (if this bunch had showed up a game earlier and not lost at home against Georgia, this is a really different conversation). Still, for these better Vols, better late than never does hold some promise for the immediate future.
Danica Patrick, left, displays the flag with Tony Stewart after winning the pole Sunday during qualifying for the NASCAR Daytona 500 Sprint Cup Series auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Patrick became the first woman to secure the top spot for any Sprint Cup race.
Join our Hit and Miss Daytona 500 contest. Give us the winner and where Danica finishes. If multiple entries pick the winner, Danica's finish will be the tie-breaker, and we'll use our normal Price is Right rules (closest without going over). If no one picks the winner, we'll see if anyone picked Danica's finish exactly right. If no one picks a winner or Danica's finish exactly right, we'll go to the entry(s) with the highest finishing driver, and then use Danica's finish as a tie-breaker. Deal? Deal.
We're playing for some sort of trinket — either from the Final Four or the Masters, you pick — and we'll try to get a slew of the local sports folks involved. Quake and Cowboy Joe are in. We're still trying to get Dr. B — he's a doctor after all — and we'll call Jim Gumm and Wells from ESPN radio. Any TV folks interested?
Here's our entries so far:
5-at-10: Kevin Harvick and 22nd
Mrs. 5-at-10: Jimmie Johnson and 35th
ESTUBuc13: Jeff Gordon and 33rd
BIspy4: Dale Jr. and 35th
Dawg 747: Jeff Gordon and 15th
Addictedtochalupa: Matt Kenseth and 12th
Orangeguy: Dale Jr. and 19th
McPell3: Kasey Kahne and 12th
TennFlyer: Tony Stewart and 15th
Sportsfan: Carl Edwards and 28th
Ordinaryguy: Danica Patrick and 1st
SportTalk's Quake: Clint Bowyer and 21st
SportTalk's Cowboy Joe: Dale Jr. and 32nd
BlueOval (via the Twitter... Nice): Tony Stewart and 32nd
OTWatcher: Brad Kesleowski and 15th
ThatIDidKnow: Kurt Busch and 12th
scole023: Dale Jr. and 11th
Tiger: Denny Hamlin and 18th
Harold: Matt Kenseth and 22nd
WarEagle: Tony Stewart and 5th
JJ: Jimmie Johnson and 9th
Quick side question heading into Daytona: If Danica was able to pull off the win, other than making OG's pick arguably the best prediction in the 607 5-at-10s we've done, where would it rank in NASCAR history? Where would it rank in women's sports history? Discuss.
This and that
— More college hoops: The clicker at the 5-at-10 compound had to go in for service after bouncing between the Vols-LSU and an old-fashioned slugfest when Indiana won 72-68 at Michigan State. Indiana is the best team in the best conference in the country, and if football has taught us anything, that should account for a lot, considering the Hoosiers deal with big-time foes and bigger pressure every night.
— Missouri punched it's ticket to the NCAA tournament with a 63-60 win over a Florida bunch that simply pantsed the Tigers last month in Gainesville. At 19-7 overall and now with a feather-in-their-cap win over the No. 5-ranked Gators, Missouri is in. That result also helps UT, since the Vols play Missouri in coming days and UT needs every chance to use a resume BeDazzler and add sparkling things to their tournament argument.
— Did you see the story that Johnny Football Manziel is taking his entire Texas A&M class schedule online, so as not to disturb his classes and other students? This is not a good precedent in our view. Not in the least. And how is it that Cam Newton can return to Auburn after two years in the NFL and carry on as a normal student, but Johnny Football can't?
— OK, Miami's football program has been accused of a lack of institutional control by an NCAA outfit that tampered with a legal investigation and bungled its case so badly the NCAA VP of compliance was fired. Lack of institutional control, huh? What's Miami's defense, "We know you but what are we?"
Doing our morning research (yes Spy, we do actually do a little research every now and then), we stumbled across this story about movies based on real-life events and how screenwriters change some details to add drama or action or a villain as to add intrigue to the movie's script. Interesting read if you have a moment, and the topic is germane at the moment because three of the Ocsar frontrunners — Lincoln, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty — were mentioned. Apparently details and facts were altered for affect.
Historic movies apparently are just catching on to what has been a sports staple. Dan Devine (played by Hall of Fame sports-movie-bad-guy Chelcie Ross) was not the battle axe he was portrayed as in "Rudy," and Gary's car crash in "Remember the Titans" happened in the spring of his senior year rather than before the state title game (side note: The Titans stomped their foe in the state title game without the need of any last-second trick play).
We know there were liberties taken with "Rocky" or "Field of Dreams" and we know in our soul that "Bad News Bears" was a documentary. (What? It wasn't? Really? OK.)
This is not something new, and we're not sure what our question is other than whether you're OK with it. We can see altering some details — in the book "The Natural" Roy Hobbs strikes out in the end, for example — but how much liberty should screenwriters get with "based on real events" movies?
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...