October 26, 2011
San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois(notes) plays for former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh and was a college teammate of the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NFL draft, JaMarcus Russell(notes), so he has plenty of opinions about current Stanford star, and projected top-draft pick, Andrew Luck. And -- surprise, surprise -- the SEC product thinks the Pac-12 QB is overrated because of a lack of good competition.
"I'm not a Pac-12 fan at all," Jean Francois told Inside the 49ers, "I'm an SEC guy. But if he ever plays against an SEC school, Alabama, LSU, that draft stock is going to fall. That will be one game they just don't show the scouts."
Jean Francois went on to say that Luck wouldn't be drafted No. 1 if he had to play in the SEC and cites JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn(notes) as past examples of this theory. Quinn's performance for Notre Dame against the Jean Francois and Russell LSU Tigers in the 2007 Sugar Bowl made his draft stock plummet, while a good performance by Russell in the same game turned the quarterback into a viable No. 1 pick.
[Related: Video: Stanford primed for run to BCS title game ]
There's a certain irony in using JaMarcus Russell as the beacon for SEC quarterbacking success considering he's one of the biggest busts in NFL history. Still, Jean Francois has a solid point: Luck may be the top quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning(notes), but his on-field heroics at Stanford have come against the finesse defenses of the Pac-10 (and Pac-12), not the stacked defenses of Alabama and LSU.
This is hardly a cause to have his draft stock slip. Carson Palmer(notes) played those same finesse defenses at USC (albeit with a tougher nonconference schedule), Michael Vick(notes) faced Big East teams throughout his time at Virginia Tech) and Alex Smith of the University of Utah parlayed an undefeated season in the Mountain West Conference and a bowl victory over Pittsburgh into a No. 1 draft choice. If Luck gets to the national title, no sort of stinker there will detract from what he did to get there. And if he doesn't, merely taking Stanford to a Rose Bowl should be achievement enough. Those mechanics don't change whether you're playing Washington St. or LSU.
Jean Francois may talk a big game about SEC dominance over the Pac-12 to reporters, but not to his coach, Jim Harbaugh, who was at Stanford last season. "Coach might not talk to me about that one," he said. "That's the one subject he might get touchy on. That's his team, that's his school that he coached for, but I'm really strong about SEC schools."
Thanks, Larry Brown Sports
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