College Weekly Report
by Brent Beaird
March 03, 2011
EMMERET QUOTE: New NCAA president Mark Emmert hasn't made many friends across the SEC in his short time in office. But that could change. The former LSU president was speaking in Baton Rouge yesterday when he was asked about the possibility of a playoff someday coming to college football. "I'm not the commissioner of baseball, even though I'd like to be some days," Emmert said. His point: The president of the NCAA can't make a one-man decision on a playoff.
He did say, however, that he would be "happy to help" set up a playoff pointing out that the NCAA stages 88 national championship tournaments each year.
But according to The Baton Rouge Advocate, Emmert also made it clear that everyone from university presidents to coach to players all seem happy with the bowl system. Unfortunately, Emmert used a common twist in his defense of the bowl system, saying that he's never heard from one player who wished his team had stayed home from a bowl.
Of course he hasn't. But the suggestion that a playoff would nix the second-tier bowls is nothing more than a misdirection and a smokescreen. Right now, the only bowl that matters is the BCS Championship Game, yet fans still travel to watch their 6-6 and 7-5 teams battle other 6-6 and 7-5 teams in Shreveport, Boise, Ft. Worth and beyond. Creating a playoff wouldn't change that fact and not one player would lose out on an opportunity to go somewhere for the holidays. (mrsec.com)
CRIME REPORT: Sports Illustrated and CBS News have just wrapped a six-month investigation into college football. The two parties took SI's 2010 preseason Top 25 and did criminal background checks on all 2,837 players on those teams' rosters. Some of their findings included:
7% of players (one out of every 14) in last year's preseason Top 25 poll "had been charged or cited for a crime, including dozens of players with multiple arrests." Of the 277 incidents uncovered, nearly 40% "involved serious offenses, including 56 violent crimes such as assault and battery (25 cases), domestic violence (6), aggravated assault (4), robbery (4) and sex offenses (3)." The report also states that there were 41 charges of property crimes such as burglary and theft.
Last year, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and LSU were in SI's preseason Top 25. Of those four squads, Arkansas led the way with 18 players on its roster who had been arrested/charged with a crime at one time or another. The Razorbacks' total tied with Iowa for second place on the "most arrests" list behind only Pittsburgh (22 players who had been charged). Florida's roster featured seven lawbreakers, Alabama's five and LSU's three. Of the 25 teams in the poll, only TCU had a squeaky clean roster with nary a jailbird on the squad. (mrsec.com)
ARKANSAS: SI.com posted a report detailing a six month investigation (by SI.com and CBS News) into the criminal records of a number of college football players. The report used only the teams ranked in SI's preseason Top 25 last year. Background checks were done on more than 2,800 players on those teams' rosters.
It was found that Arkansas had 18 players on its roster who had been arrested or charged with a crime at one time or another, the second-highest number on the list. Now Razorback athletic director Jeff Long has issued a response.
"The University of Arkansas has high standards and expectations for all of its students, including those who take part in intercollegiate athletics," Long said via statement. "When a student violates the law or the student conduct code, they are held accountable. Students who participate in intercollegiate athletics are also held accountable to our student-athlete conduct code."
"The Sports Illustrated/CBS News article on Top 25 football programs cited 18 members of the Razorback football team who had violated the law. While I am in no way dismissing or rationalizing the infractions, I do want the public to know the nature of those infractions."
Of the 18 players arrested, UA says seven were picked up on traffic violations that did not involved any illegal substances, three were arrested for driving while intoxicated, five were picked up on charges involving the illegal use or possession of alcohol, two was picked up for marijuana possession and one was nabbed for shoplifting.
OREGON INVESTIGATION: (sportsbybrooks.com) Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports and Joe Schad and Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com reported Thursday that NCAA officials are investigating a recent $25,000 payment made by the University of Oregon to a Houston man who reportedly may have steered high school football prospects to the school's football program.
In a line-by-line expenditure breakout from a University of Oregon budget summary dated June 30, 2010, a $25,000 payment from the university was authorized to Willie J. Lyles of "Complete Scouting Services." Ken Goe of the PORTLAND OREGONIAN reported Thursday, "Lyles has a mentoring relationship with Oregon running back Lache Seastrunk."
In 2009, Seastrunk was a heavily recruited high school prospect from Temple, Texas.
ESPN.com reported Thursday: Oregon athletics department spokesman Dave Williford confirmed to ESPN.com on Thursday that Oregon paid Lyles $25,000 for his recruiting services. Oregon's payment to Lyles was made shortly after Seastrunk signed a national letter of intent in February 2010 to play football for the Ducks, choosing them over California, LSU and USC.
As noted by the Yahoo.com report:
If Lyles and (Dallas-based Baron) Flenory aided in or were involved in any way in the recruitment of student athletes to Oregon, they would be classified as boosters by the NCAA, and any payment to them from the school would be considered a violation of Bylaw 13. Bylaw 13 prohibits boosters from directing a recruit to a school.
In the wake of the Yahoo and ESPN reports, a source familiar with the NCAA's examination of possible recruiting impropriety involving the Oregon football program told me late Thursday that NCAA investigators will be in Eugene on Friday to initiate a more direct inspection of the recruiting tactics of school's football program. I'm told the NCAA's imminent presence in Eugene was in response to revelations in the Yahoo and ESPN reports published Thursday. Before the dueling, breaking news broke Thursday, the NCAA had no plans to be in Eugene.
Thanks in part to information detailed in the Yahoo and ESPN reports, I've also learned that the NCAA may request Oregon provide evidence of the "recruiting services" rendered by Lyles in particular. According to records obtained from the Harris County (TX) website, Lyles is the sole proprietor of the unincorporated "Complete Scouting Services" - the same business the University of Oregon paid $25,000 for recruiting services.
The one-person Complete Scouting Services operation is, according to Harris County property tax records, located at Lyles' home address in Houston.
Yahoo Sports described Complete Scouting Services thusly: Lyles has also been affiliated with Complete Scouting Services, which claims to offer a national high school scouting and video database nationwide.
ESPN.com reported Thursday of Lyles' business background: A handful of FBS football coaches surveyed by ESPN.com on Thursday said recruiting services typically charge $5,000 or less per season for video footage and information about high school prospects.
In the past, Lyles has aligned himself with recruiting services.
But a person who once worked with Lyles said the $25,000 payment exceeded the $16,500 Oregon paid the recruiting service for its work during the previous two years. The source said Lyles' affiliation with the recruiting service had been terminated prior to Lyles billing Oregon on his own.
Two recruiting services Lyles has been affiliated with since 2004, Elite Scouting Services and Complete Scouting Services, according to records obtained from the Harris County (TX) website, are listed as located at the Houston home address of Lyles. (sportsbybrooks.com)
HOW IT AFFECTS THE SEC: As you likely know by now, the Oregon football program is currently being eyeballed by the NCAA. But that investigation could lead back to the team the Ducks lost to in the BCS Championship Game - Auburn - and the Tigers' home conference.
We'll give you the simple version. According to ESPN.com: NCAA officials are examining whether a Texas man helped steer high school football prospects to defending Pac-10 champion Oregon, and Ducks officials on Thursday told ESPN.com that the school paid the man $25,000 in the spring of 2010 for recruiting services.
Sources close to the inquiry told ESPN.com that NCAA officials are taking a close look at Oregon's recruitment of running back Lache Seastrunk, a redshirt freshman from Temple, Texas, who was one of the country's most highly recruited prospects in 2010. Specifically, the NCAA is asking what role Texas-based trainer Willie Lyles played in Seastrunk's decision to attend Oregon, the sources said.
Seastrunk chose Oregon over LSU, California and Southern Cal. He also attended Auburn's first Big Cat Weekend (and brought attention to himself by calling out Alabama's Nick Saban).
Schools use recruiting services to aid in the collection of tapes, etc. But $25,000 is a steep price to pay for such a service. It was more than Lyles had made in two previous years from Oregon. It was paid shortly after Seastrunk signed with the Ducks. And - get this - Lyles affiliation with the recruiting service had supposedly been terminated prior to Lyles billing Oregon on his own. Can you say street agent? Back to ESPN.com: Lyles, a Houston resident, has been tied to other high school players from Louisiana and Texas, who eventually signed with schools such as Auburn, Baylor, LSU, Oklahoma State, Southern California and Texas A&M.
Is that proof that Lyles, Auburn or LSU did anything wrong? Nope. But as we always say, it's best to stay off the NCAA radar altogether. It's never a good thing to be tied in any way, shape or form to someone the NCAA is investigating. Period.
But here's the real concern for Auburn: The NCAA, according to sources, is also examining Lyles' relationship with Sean Nelson of Thibodeaux, La., whose own relationship with top football prospects has been scrutinized by the NCAA. Last month, NCAA investigators interviewed former Thibodeaux High School coach Dennis Lorio about Auburn's recruitment of receiver Trovon Reed and offensive lineman Greg Robinson this year. Reed signed with Auburn last year; Robinson signed with the Tigers in February. Robinson and his mother also were questioned by NCAA officials.
Thayer Evans of FoxSports.com first mentioned the Nelson-Auburn-Thibodaux connection back on January 8th. The above is not proof at all that Auburn landed Reed or Robinson illegally. But the fact that the NCAA is snooping around asking questions should worry Tiger fans more than any off-the-wall claims or audio snippets coming from an attention-seeking radio host. And this story might not stop with Auburn, either. We at MrSEC.com wouldn't be shocked to learn that one, two or 11 other SEC schools had used a street agent at one time or another.
Rumor has it the HBO "Real Sports" investigation that's now focusing on the SEC actually began as a look into the world of street agents… and that initial investigation led directly to the Southeastern Conference. Supposedly.
All of this could just be a series of coincidences, of course, but it seems there's some smoke forming on the horizon. Mike Slive might want to put the fire brigade on stand-by just in case.
It appears the NCAA has street agents in their sites. The best high school football players are in the Southeast. As a result, the hottest, toughest, nastiest recruiting battles are in the Southeast. (mrsec.com)
AUBURN: Through an open-records request, the Birmingham News has learned that Auburn spent $2,901,706 for their football sojourn in the desert. That total was offset by an expense allowance of $2,287,600 given to the school by the SEC, meaning that Auburn "lost" just a little over $614,000.
For comparison's sake, the News writes, Oregon reported having a final deficit of $285,437 from its Pac-10 allowance of $2,263,295 over 10 days. In other words, it "cost" Auburn in the neighborhood of $330,000 more than it did their title game opponents. In reality, unused tickets were the primary culprits in both schools being technically in the red.
The largest single-line expense item for both teams was unsold game tickets that get used for complimentary purposes to administrators, band members, cheerleaders and others.
Auburn absorbed a loss of $781,825 from 2,456 unsold tickets from its allotment of 17,400. Oregon lost $555,575 by withholding 1,761 of its 17,400 tickets. Another factor in Auburn "losing" more money than Oregon was the size of the respective schools' traveling parties. Oregon brought 493 people to the event, while Auburn nearly doubled that number with 938.
PELTON HIRED: Mike Pelton is coming home. Auburn officially named Pelton as defensive line coach Wednesday afternoon replacing Tracy Rocker, who took a job with the Tennessee Titans, gets most of the credit for the transformation of Nick Fairley. Of course, Rocker wasn't a shabby defensive tackle himself. He won both the Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy as a senior at Auburn in 1988.
Pelton was also an All-SEC defensive lineman for the Tigers in 1994 and takes over an Auburn defensive line that's losing three starters. Fairley was obviously the star of that group, but Antoine Carter was extremely productive from his end position. Tackles Zach Clayton and Mike Blanc and end Michael Goggans were also guys up front who played a lot of football for the Tigers and are now gone. (auburnsports.com and aol.com)
MISSISSIPPI STATE: State returned to the practice fields just over two months removed from a 52-14 victory over Michigan in the Gator Bowl. The Bulldogs return 15 starters and 44 letter winners from the 2010 squad, including every player that scored a point in the Gator Bowl victory. In fact, Mississippi State welcomes back players responsible for 46 of 48 touchdowns scored last year. With spring practice kicking off tomorrow at Mississippi State, Dan Mullen says there'll be competition across the board for starting jobs. Even at quarterback.
Last year's starter, Chris Relf, finished the season with a scintillating performance in the Gator Bowl versus Michigan - 18 of 23 passing for 281 yards, plus 30 more yards rushing and a total of 4 touchdowns.
As for concerns, the Dogs will have two new assistant coaches and Chris Wilson will take over for Manny Diaz as defensive coordinator. But it's the loss of some key defensive players that concern Mullen. "Not seeing Pernell McPhee, KJ Wright and Chris White are going to have me a lot more concerned than any lack of coaches or different coaches out there on the field."
What's new: Chris Wilson, the co-defensive coordinator last season, takes over for Manny Diaz as the Bulldogs' primary defensive play-caller. Geoff Collins is the new co-defensive coordinator and will also coach linebackers. Angelo Mirando was promoted to receivers coach.
On the mend: Offensive guard Tobias Smith will do very little, if anything, this spring after undergoing shoulder surgery in January. Tight end Marcus Green will be limited after partially tearing the ACL and spraining the MCL in his right knee last season in the second game. Receiver Chad Bumphis who broke his collarbone and missed the Gator Bowl last season will be full go, according to Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen.
On the move: James Carmon, who came to Mississippi State last year as a defensive tackle, is moving to offensive tackle. The 6-7, 330-pound Carmon will get a shot to replace Derek Sherrod at left tackle.
Key battle: Juniors Trevor Stigers and Shane McCardell are listed as the co-starters at Pernell McPhee's old defensive end spot.
New faces: Junior college signee Joey Trapp will be in the mix in the offensive line rotation. Quarterback Dak Prescott, defensive end John Harris and offensive lineman Nick Redmond are all high school players who enrolled early and will go through spring practice.
Breaking out: If senior quarterback Chris Relf improves as much from this spring to next season as he did from last spring to last season, then look out. The 6-4, 240-pound Relf was one of the most improved players in the league in 2010. He's a bruising runner (713 rushing yards) and made huge strides as a passer. One of the goals this spring will be to improve his accuracy as a passer. He completed 58.6 percent of his passes last season.
Don't forget about: Even though Vick Ballard was second in the SEC with 20 touchdowns, rushed for 968 yards and had an outstanding debut season for the Bulldogs, sophomore LaDarius Perkins provides a different dimension at running back with his speed. He added three receiving touchdowns to his three rushing touchdowns last season and averaged 5.6 yards per carry.
All eyes on: The Bulldogs lost all three of their starting linebackers, which means this spring will be critical for younger guys like redshirt freshman Ferlando Bohanna. (espn.com)
LSU: A year ago, LSU coach Les Miles identified improvement in the running game as the main priority of spring practice. That emphasis certainly paid off during the 2010 campaign when the Tigers ran for more than 185 yards per game and produced a 1,000-yard rusher in Stevan Ridley. Miles has another goal for 2011 spring practice drills, which begin a week from Friday. Miles wants the passing game to develop to a higher level. There will be something old and something new with the LSU passing attack. The Tigers have two senior quarterbacks - Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee. LSU also has a new offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach and a junior college transfer at quarterback - Steve Kragthorpe and Zach Mettenberger. (espn.com)
GEORGIA: There's an interesting - and significant - position change on Georgia's football team. Former five-star recruit Alec Ogletree, who played safety as a freshman last season, will move to inside linebacker when spring practice starts next week, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said Thursday.
"I'm really excited because I think by moving him there it will allow us to put Jarvis [Jones, who was redshirted last season after transferring from USC] at outside 'backer," said Grantham.
The 6-foot-3, 224-pound Ogletree started four games last season. Richt said that new inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti will coach the team's kickoff coverage squad. … Wide receiver Tavarres King said he now weighs 196 pounds while Richt said wideout Rantavious Wooten has gained 15. Wooten is listed at 177 pounds in Georgia's preseason notes. … Senior cornerback Brandon Boykin said his body weight is a mere 2.3 percent. … Linebacker Christian Robinson said he now weighs 230 pounds.
Richt said that rising senior Cordy Glenn will play right tackle this fall after starting all 13 games at left guard a season ago. No stranger to the position, Glenn started four games at left tackle in 2009.
Trinton Sturdivant will start at left tackle and Ben Jones at center, leaving both guard spots open for competition.
"Both guard spots are really up for grabs," Richt said of the positions, which figures to get a boost with the decision to move Justin Anderson back over from the defensive line.
"(Kenarious) Gates, and there's lot of other candidates (Brent Benedict, Austin Long and Dallas Lee) that could possibly be the fourth and fifth guys for next season," Richt said.
TENNESSEE: Well, former Tennessee defensive line coach Chuck Smith just had his day in the sun… but it's hard to imagine much positive light falling on him after his morning press conference. According to radio host Jimmy Hyams of WNML-FM/AM in Knoxville, Smith ranted on a number of topics which we'll summarize for you:
Smith wanted Tennessee fans and media to know that he remains a "Vol for life" and did not quit on the UT program. He said that "family" isn't important at UT and that he was driven away because he was "too big for the program." In a bizarre twist, he then compared himself to Lane Kiffin saying that once a person puts on the "T" logo, he's a "Vol for life."
He denied rumors that he and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox ever came to blows. But when it came to praising his co-workers, he did have good things to say about UT's offensive assistants and Derek Dooley. His defensive mates were noticeably left out. He also said that his defensive line was the "MVP" of the team over the Vols' last four games. At one point, Smith said he would like to be a season-ticket holder at Tennessee… and then he said he'd like to coach elsewhere in the SEC East. (mrsec.com)
FLORIDA STATE: Florida State's 2011 Spring Football Game will take place Saturday, April 16 at 4 p.m. in Doak Campbell Stadium. The ESPN3.com broadcast of the game will be available on the Internet at no additional cost to fans who receive their high-speed Internet connection or cable TV subscription from an affiliated service provider.
JENKINS HEALTHY: The best sight at Florida State's offseason conditioning workouts is a healthy and slightly bigger Brandon Jenkins. Just two months ago, Florida State's star defensive end had shoulder surgery and his arm was immobilized in a sling. But, on a sunny Thursday afternoon, Jenkins was not only participating in FSU's 11th conditioning workout - the NCAA allows each team 16 this time of year - on the band's artificial turf field, but doing so with a noticeably larger frame.
That's great news for FSU and bad news for the rest of the ACC considering Jenkins emerged as a pass-rushing nightmare for opponents last season, racking up 13.5 sacks on his way to earning first-team All-ACC honors. Jenkins, who stands 6-foot-3, has climbed to 258 pounds, which is up from the 247 to 252 he played at last year according to head coach Jimbo Fisher. Several other Seminoles have made significant weight gains since the Seminoles' 26-17 win over South Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Year's Eve.
Offensive tackle Andrew Datko, who will be a senior in the fall, is up to a career-high 312 pounds, although the veteran is sitting out the workouts after undergoing shoulder surgery himself.
Defensive end Dan Hicks may have made the biggest jump of any player, rising up to 270 pounds according to Fisher. The most impressive part of the workouts so far may be how the school-record eight early enrollees have handled them so far. Fisher says you wouldn't know they are new by watching them.
"They look like they have blended right in," Fisher said. "They are doing a great job. (Junior college transfers) Tank (Carradine) and (Jacob) Fahrenkrug are doing a great job. (Freshmen) Nick Waisome and (Devonta) Freeman are doing a great job … They all fit in just like they've been here before. You can't tell."
Tank Carradine and Jacob Fahrenkrug are expected to compete for starting jobs immediately.
Carradine, listed at 6-foot-5, 249 pounds, has a well-built frame and showed good agility and quickness for a player his size in many of the footwork drills.
The 6-foot-4 Fahrenkrug showed up on campus at 330 pounds in January and has already dropped to 308-311 while adding strength according to Fisher.
Devonta Freeman appears to already have a college-ready frame with a muscular upper body and powerful legs. Freeman ran for over 660 yards in Florida's Class 6A state semifinals and finals while carrying Miami Central to a state title in 2010.
The best news Fisher delivered on Thursday involved a player who is being held out of the workouts.
Defensive tackle Moses McCray will return for the start of spring practice according to Fisher. McCray missed all of the 2010 season after tearing his ACL in August.
Having a healthy McCray, a 300-plus pounder who was a regular part of the defensive tackle rotation in 2009, would be a big boost to the run defense.
Another good sign is the return of offensive lineman David Spurlock, who is participating in the workouts without any limitations. Spurlock, who is being moved from guard to center in hopes of replacing departing senior Ryan McMahon (second-team All-ACC pick), missed the last seven games of last season after suffering multiple concussions.
According to Fisher, tight end Beau Reliford is still on the team, although he missed the workout to work on academics. Reliford was academically ineligible for the bowl game last year. (warchant.com)
MIAMI: Miami has named Tony Hernandez interim athletic director while the university conducts a nationwide search to replace Kirby Hocutt, who recently accepted the same position at Texas Tech. Hernandez, who has been at Miami for 13 years, is currently the school's deputy athletic director. The national search will begin immediately and a successor is expected to be announced by the beginning of the fall semester. Hocutt told university officials of his decision to leave on Friday, calling it the "correct decision" for his family. The move came roughly two months after Hocutt hired Al Golden as football coach, succeeding Randy Shannon. (canesport.com)
BRENT BEAIRD IS A SPORTS WRITER FOR MYCLAYSUN IN ORANGE PARK, FLA. HE ALSO WRITES FOR RIVALS.COM, SAMSPORTSLINE.COM AND GATOR BAIT MAGAZINE. HE CAN BE HEARD ON SPORTS RADIO 1010 XL.
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