A spin through the email:
Q: I was just wondering if you ever criticized Bobby Petrino for using first teamers (like Michael Bush) on special teams, since you criticize Steve Kragthorpe for doing it?
A: Nope. I never did. But there’s a difference. It’s one thing to use Michael Bush on the punt team when you’ve got Eric Shelton, Lionel Gates, Kolby Smith and George Stripling at the same position. It’s another thing to use him there when he’s the only running back you have.
My point this morning was not that Kragthorpe shouldn’t use first-team guys on special teams. Clearly, you have to do some of that. My question was whether it was prudent to use the ONLY EXPERIENCED wide receiver as a special teams blocker. If U of L had the kind of stacked receiver corps it has had in recent years, there would be no question. But it doesn’t. In fact, in terms of experienced guys, at the time of his injury, Long was it. Now, if he’d been returning kicks, that would’ve been one thing. But to be out there as a blocker, in a role that plenty of guys, including lesser-used receivers, ought to be able to fill, I think makes this a legitimate question.
I went out of my way to let Kragthorpe have his say. In fact, I let him have his say in this column first. I disagree. But it’s a legitimate question.
There’s clearly precedent for a player’s value to the team precluding his use on special teams. Otherwise, you’d see a lot of quarterbacks, many of whom are superior athletes, lining up for coverage duty.
Q: How can you blame Kragthorpe for a non-contact injury?
A: I don’t think I blamed him for the injury. My question had to do with using a player with unique qualifications — that is, a level that no one else on the team now has — in a position that is far less crucial. I questioned the risk-reward thinking of the move. Is that second-guessing, well, yes it is. Do I like doing it before even the first game is played, no I don’t. But you know, it’s kind of my job. Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel described this job as: “Sitting high on a hill above the battle and, when it is over, riding down to bayonet the victims.” I try to be fair. But I’m paid to write what I think.