ESPN Kids Writer Mailbag 15

Q: What do pro football coaches look for in a running back and why do running backs only play in the pros for 3 to 4 years? Zachary from Georgia
A: Zach, running back is one of the most important positions on the field. They have to be strong and fast and have the ability to move from side to side with the ball, cutting sharply. They also get tackled on most plays, meaning they have to be tough and know how to take a hit. This is also one of the reasons why running backs have relatively short careers. They get tackled so often that they can't play effectively for as long as quarterbacks or wide receivers.

Q: Who do you think will win the Big 12 North this year? Elijah from Kansas
A: Elijah, if last year is any indication, there will be a very close race in the Big 12 North. Missouri has won the division for the last two years, but lost a lot of talent to graduation, including star receiver Jeremy Maclin and quarterback Chase Daniel. This year, I think Kansas could be the team to beat. Quarterback Todd Reesing and receiver Dezmon Briscoe will again lead one of the highest-scoring offenses in the Big 12 North. Come December, look for the Jayhawks in the Big 12 Championship Game.

Q: What is the name of the new quarterback for West Virginia? Derek from North Carolina
A: Derek, it will be very difficult for the Mountaineers to replace Pat White, last year's All-American quarterback who was drafted by the Miami Dolphins. It looks like senior Jarrett Brown will have that task. Brown served as White's back-up the last few years, and emerged as a talented runner. He is expected to have a great year as West Virginia's starting quarterback, so keep an eye on him!

Q: Which pro football player do you think will win MVP this year? Nasir from New Jersey
A: Nasir, this is always a good pre-season debate. As always, the usual names will contend for the MVP award -Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson will all certainly have big seasons as long as they stay healthy. My vote, though, goes to Eli Manning. I think that Manning is now very comfortable as the Giants' starting quarterback, and has a number of good young receivers on his team.

Q: When playing football, why do players put black paint on their faces? Kelly from Florida
A: Kelly, football players use eye black (which is typically made of wax, not paint) to help keep the sun or bright lights out of their eyes. During day games, the glare can make it very difficult to see the ball, so players try to improve their vision any way they can.

Q: Do you think that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will do better this year with a new coach? Saundra from Florida
A: Saundra, I do expect that the Bucs will be a better team under Raheem Morris. Along with his coaching staff, Morris should implement a more physical style of offense that emphasizes the run. With the addition of quarterback Byron Leftwich, running back Derrick Ward and tight end Kellen Wenslow, the Bucs added some talented playmakers that will fit into this new system. Look for Tampa Bay to improve on last year's 9-7 record.

Q: Is it possible to front flip over the corner back and run a 99 yard touchdown? Ryan from New Jersey
A: Ryan, the great thing about football is that anything is possible! I have never seen a running back flip over a defensive player before, but it's not impossible. Football players are tremendous athletes and are capable of some amazing plays.

Q: How many pre season football games are played by each team, before the regular season starts? Mike from Delaware
A: Mike, NFL teams typically play four pre-season games to get ready for the regular season. These games serve to get players some more practice. They also give coaches a chance to watch young players and players trying to make the team in game situations.

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