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He gathers information

Join Senior Editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Derek from Rio Rancho, NM:
Do you think Scott Starks was a steal in the draft?

Vic: Starks was drafted right where he was supposed to be drafted; in the third round. His agent told him to expect to be drafted in the third round. So, it's not as though he unexpectedly fell, as Khalif Barnes did. Does Starks have the ability to play better than would be expected of a third-round pick? Yes, I think he can do that. He can run and jump. Those are two important skills in playing cornerback. He played in a strict man-to-man defense at Wisconsin, which means he has plenty of experience and schooling in playing with his back to the quarterback. The real question concerning Starks is can he play zone? The right cornerback position is referred to as the "squat corner." In other words, he plays a lot of underneath zone coverage. Starks' ability to play zone, in my opinion, is going to determine his effectiveness in the NFL. I'm not concerned about his size because he plays high – he had a whopping 43-inch vertical jump at the scouting combine – and Barry Alvarez doesn't turn out players who aren't physical. If you can start 48 of 51 games for Alvarez, you can hold up physically in the NFL.

Mike from London, Canada:
Do you think that if the players union got involved with steroid screening it would further the goal of a clean sport. It should be their concern, too, since it comes down to a guy on steroids taking a job from someone who isn't.

Vic: The players union is just as opposed to steroids use as the owners and right-minded fans are. It's not about what, it's about how. It's about the rights and civil liberties of individuals. We can't let this turn into a witch hunt. At what point does testing cross the line? At what point has a person's privacy been violated? Steroids are bad. They are a major threat to the integrity of athletics on all levels and it's the obligation of professional sports to lead the way in detection and prevention, but let's proceed carefully. There are too many big-picture issues involved to get reckless in this pursuit. Football players are people, not cattle.

Mike from Jacksonville:
I was fortunate to make the acquaintance of Shack Harris on a Southwest flight Tuesday evening. He's a kind gentleman. After exchanging pleasantries and informing him I was a 10-year season ticket holder, he began asking a few questions. When I informed him much of my Jaguars information came from "Ask Vic," he nodded approvingly saying, "You read Vic, too?"

Vic: Let me guess: You told him more than he told you, right? That's a typical conversation with "Shack," who has a unique way of getting information without passing any. He would've been a great detective or spy. "Shack" is an information-gatherer. It's the nature of his job. It's also the sign of a bright person. He wants to know the perspective of fans and media. He understands how it all fits in assembling a roster of players.

Carl from Palmer, MA:
I believe Byron is a great quarterback. I feel the last two years he has improved greatly. Do you think he will take the next step this year and go to the playoffs? If he does not, will Jacksonville consider another quarterback?

Vic: I believe Leftwich will prove he's the Jaguars' quarterback for the long-term future.

Robert from Jacksonville:
I am currently deployed in Iraq and was just wondering what your prediction is on how well the Jags will do this year? Will they be playoff contenders?

Vic: My expectation is for them to make the playoffs.

Olly from Nottingham, England:
I absolutely love Jeff Lageman as an analyst, but how good a player was he? Is there usually any relation between how good a player was and how good he is in the booth? In soccer over here the rule generally holds true that the better the player was, the worse he is as an analyst.

Vic: Jeff was an accomplished professional football player. He played hard, he played smart and he played with talent. He was one cut below a Pro Bowl defensive end. The thing that hurt Jeff in his career was that he was a tweener. He was something between a linebacker and a defensive end. Analyst, however, is the perfect position for him in his post-playing days. Jeff's a top-notch analyst because he's a student of the game, loves to talk about it and knows how to communicate his thoughts to the listener. Those are the ingredients all good analysts have. It has nothing to do with how good a player a guy was. Does he know his stuff, love to talk about it and know how to talk about it? The TV booth is full of great players and average players who are equally talented as analysts. The best thing about all of those guys is that you know you have one thing in common with them: They're fans, too.

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