Saturday, August 04, 2012

Catching up is outta here

More Penn State guys are gone (to other places): Breaking news: Some guys are leaving Penn State. The good news is that "some" is not "a ton." The bad news is that "some" does include a handful of starters and other young guys who could/would have been multiple-year starters on a team that will have zero depth in about 2015 because of the scholarship limitations.

The first guy out the door this week: Khairi Fortt, a one-time big-time linebacker recruit who's already signed his paperwork to transfer to Cal (short trip, yes?). Fortt's a junior who had been a rotational guy at Penn State but was supposed to compete for the starting job in the middle this fall if he had fully recovered from knee surgery. Sounds like that's not a definite:
Fortt said he is leaving for Cal Sunday. Still recovering from knee surgery. Still possibility he could redshirt.
FYI, he never took a redshirt at Penn State and thus does have one available. Cal doesn't necessarily need him right away -- there's sufficient depth at linebacker with Cecil Whiteside's return from a malfeasance-related suspension -- but the guys other than Whiteside (Cal plays a 3-4) have a combined nine career tackles and obviously don't have the meaningful game experience Fortt has.

Next: kicker Anthony Fera, who went 14 of 17 last year, was a semifinalist for the Groza Award and was the second-team All-Big Ten punter. He's good. He's also headed to Texas for his junior year to take over for the departed Justin Tucker. The kickers-are-flaky-and-meaningless meme doesn't apply here from a Penn State perspective seeing as how Fera easily scored more points than anybody else on the team last year and probably would've been even more valuable this year. A team without an offense generally benefits from having a good kicker and a good punter; it's problematic when those guys are the same guy and said guy leaves. FWIW (which is nothing), his replacement at kicker will presumably be walk-on sophomore Sam Ficken, who went 1 for 2 last year, and his replacement at punter will be walk-on junior Alex Butterworth, who has an uninspiring 37.5-yard average on eight career punts. I know: You don't care.

Next: Ryan Nowicki, a moderately touted O-lineman who was part of the Penn State's class, redshirted as a freshman and will be taking four years of eligibility with him to Illinois. I'll say it again: These guys with tons of eligibility are the guys Penn State couldn't afford to lose since they don't have the scholarships to replace them. Senior losses would've been more problematic this year but far less painful going forward. As for Illinois, the O-line is severely lacking talent but probably not to the extent that a redshirt freshman steps into a starting job; he'll get a chance, though.

And the last guy (from a chronological standpoint): senior wideout Justin Brown, who would've been by far the top returning receiver (35 catches for 517 yards and two TDs last year) but instead is transferring to Oklahoma. It's probably not a coincidence that Kenny Stills is literally the only scholarship receiver on the Oklahoma roster who hasn't been suspended; Jaz Reynolds and Trey Franks will be out "multiple, multiple games," according to Bob Stoops, which means Brown will most likely be stepping into a starting job for at least the short term (and I wouldn't count on Reynolds' immediate return since he's already been suspended four times). Either way, Oklahoma will get some desperately needed help at wideout and Brown will get to (probably) catch a lot more than 35 passes since he'll actually have, like, a functioning quarterback. Everybody wins ... except Penn State, obviously.

On a related note, Rob Bolden finalized his transfer to LSU the other day and has already started practicing. He actually requested his release before the sanctions came out but will still be eligible immediately to do some fine clipboard holdin' for Zach Mettenberger.

That should be the extent of the damage for Penn State. A summary of the nine Lost Souls: three All-Big Ten-level starters, one potential starter/regular contributor (Fortt), a redshirt freshman tackle (Nowicki), a freshman defensive tackle (Jamil Pollard), a sophomore tight end (Kevin Haplea) and only two guys (Bolden and walk-on safety Tim Buckley) who had basically no bearing on either the present or future. Yeesh.

Sammy Watkins is gone (for two games): Sammy Watkins' arrest for smoking pot while driving while carrying non-prescription painkillers in a car with a temporary tag at some point between midnight and 3 a.m. back in May netted him a two-game suspension that was announced Friday. Those two games: Auburn in Atlanta and Ball State (lol).

I'll now refer back to what I wrote at the time of his arrest:
An any-game suspension is meaninful since the Auburn game is sitting there as a potential loss; anything beyond that but short of four games is essentially meaningless since the rest of the September schedule is cupcake-tastic.
Yup. the second game is an autowin; the first isn't but is probably winnable against a team with a couple new coordinators and a mystery spot at quarterback. The hard-to-answer question is how much Watkins' absence will affect an offense that got him the ball a ton last season. Reminder: He had 82 catches for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns last year as a freshman (!!!) despite not having a single game with more than 155 yards or two TDs. He's good and kinda important. Clemson did play one game without him last year and beat a blah NC State team 37-13; take that for what it's worth. They also beat Auburn (in Death Valley) by two touchdowns in a game in which Watkins had 10 catches for 155 yards and, um, two touchdowns. So yeah.

Greg Reid is gone: What the headline says:
Florida State cornerback Greg Reid has been dismissed from the team, according to a statement from Jimbo Fisher on Wednesday morning.

Reid, a senior, chose to return to FSU for his last year rather than declare for the NFL draft. Along with Xavier Rhodes, he was set to be one of FSU’s starting cornerbacks as well as punt returner.
Ouch. Flashback: Reid was arrested about a month ago and charged with possession of marijuana, driving with a suspended license and a seatbelt violation (his fifth seatbelt violation, which lol). The charges in and of themselves were relatively minor but also constituted his third screwup in the past year; he was arrested last September for lying about a stolen scooter (?) and then was suspended for one game due to a super-specific violation of team rules. Jimbo Fisher said "no mas."

As for Reid, he's undoubtedly headed to the FCS since his options are (a) the FCS and (b) doing nothing until next year's draft. As for Florida State, losing a slightly above-average starting corner might be less significant than losing arguably the best punt returner in the country. Xavier Rhodes will still be the top cover corner; the replacement on the other side will be either Tyler Hunter (last year's nickel guy), Nick Waisome or Keelin Smith. Wideout Rashad Greene was the backup return guy last year and probably will be again this year, but there's nobody on the roster with a career 12.5-yard average and three touchdowns on runbacks.

DeAndre Johnson also is gone: AIRBHG wins. He always wins.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz announced Wednesday afternoon that sophomore DeAndre Johnson has been dismissed from the team. This comes after Johnson was ticketed for maintaining a disorderly house on Thursday -- a charge Ferentz initially laughed off during Big Ten media days -- and then got in trouble again Saturday when he allegedly sped his motorcyle through a 25 mph zone and failed to pull over right away for cops.
A little context from my post last week on Johnson's spectacularly amusing string of arrests:
That leaves spring co-starter Damon Bullock and his 10 career carries as the only available back who has ever accumulated a statistic in a college game. There's also relatively highly touted freshman Greg Garmon, who was arrested last month on a misdemeanor marijuana charge but avoided a suspension.

Hilarious postscript: Johnson is the fifth (!!!) Iowa running back arrested/injured/dismissed this offseason.
It never ends. Paging Paki O'Meara.

Wisconsin WTF: Montee Ball will be unavailable for the start of camp after getting randomly attacked last week on campus, which raised some questions about why a bunch of large dudes at Wisconsin would wanna attack a guy who (a) ran for a billion yards and a million touchdowns last year and (b) has numerous buddies in the 6-foot-7, 320-pound range.

The answers to those questions are ... ummm ... ambiguous:
Police in Madison, Wis., have found new evidence in the Montee Ball battery case that determines there was a fight the night before Ball was attacked involving Wisconsin football players with Ball present.

According to the police report on the City of Madison police website, there is no evidence Ball was involved in the fight, but there are leads on suspects that are not being released.

Madison police, "through information developed by detectives, have determined that there was a fight that occurred Friday night (July 27th-28th) which involved UW students, members of the UW football team, and other individuals that were not affiliated with the University of Wisconsin's Athletics Department," said the report, issued by officer Howard Payne. "We have also determined that Montee Ball was present at the location of that fight, but we have no information that leads us to believe that he had any involvement in that particular event."

Police on Friday were investigating comments made by a witness, who reportedly said one of the assailants said something like, "One down, nine to go," Central District Capt. Carl Gloede told the Wisconsin State Journal.
The police's version of events makes a little more sense than "hey look it's a Heisman Trophy finalist let's murder his ass." That said, Ball reportedly will be fine and isn't even alleged to have been involved in the hypothetical fight that prefaced the beating; the chances that he'll miss any meaningful time are nil (this is Bret Bielema's team, after all). Whether that extends to the guys who "had any involvement in that particular event" is impossible to say without knowing whether that particular event actually happened and what it entailed. We'll see.

An unfortunate ending: Oklahoma center Ben Habern is now former Oklahoma center Ben Habern:
Oklahoma's starting center has decided to quit football because of lingering neck and back concerns.

Coach Bob Stoops announced Wednesday that Ben Habern was calling it a career after starting 30 games for the Sooners. Habern, who would have been a senior, had sat out spring practice after a career marred by injuries. He broke his left leg as a freshman in 2009 and missed part of last season with a broken right arm.
"Lingering neck and back concerns" sound not fun; he apparently was planning to play through them but decided shortly after media day that he just couldn't do it. Unfortunate.

The good news (from Oklahoma's standpoint, anyway): Gabe Ikard filled in last year after Habern broke his arm and thus has some experience, which can't possibly be understated at center. There will still be a drop-off seeing as how Habern was named to the All-Big 12 first team and was probably the team's best lineman.

More center devastation: Boise State center Cory Yriarte is out for the year -- which would have been his sixth year because of two previous torn ACLs -- with a knee injury that may or may not be related to the others. His career is presumably over.

Insightful analysis: Returning senior starters (especially at center) are kinda valuable. Yriarte started the last 11 games last year (after sitting out all of 2009 and '10) but missed the opener, which was started by then-sophomore Matt Paradis; he's expected to take over the starting job and has at least played in a moderately meaningful game.

Also of note for Boise: No. 3 wideout Geraldo Boldewijn is out for the first four games because of a stupid NCAA rule he violated when he (a) used "a car and driver’s insurance coverage provided by his host family" while he was a foreign-exchange student in high school (he's from the Netherlands) and (b) received financial help to book a plane ticket home for Christmas (he has already repaid that money). Guh.

Anyway, Boldewijn averaged about two catches a game over the final two months of last season; he's replaceable in the short term since Matt Miller and Mitch Burroughs are the starters and consume a large majority of the catches. Guys who will presumably get more playing time in his absence (which should only be relevant in the opener against Michigan State): Kirby Moore, Dallas Burroughs, Chris Potter, et al.

Read more here:

Good news for Northwestern: Former USC uber-recruit Kyle Prater is eligible at Northwestern:
Northwestern received some good news on Tuesday when the NCAA announced that wide receiver Kyle Prater, who transferred from USC earlier this year, will be eligible to compete for the Wildcats when the 2012 season opens Sept. 1.

Prater was given a residence waiver from the NCAA allowing him to bypass the one-year wait period traditionally required of transfers in FBS football.
Prater was the No. 3 player overall (!!!) in the 2010 class but redshirted as a freshman and then got stuck behind Robert Woods and Marqise Lee and Brice Butler and maybe George Farmer last year. Not being as good as Robert Woods and Marqise Lee and a junior Brice Butler doesn't necessarily mean he's not good; it just means he's not one of the three best receivers on a team with a bunch of hilariously talented receivers.

Northwestern does not have that problem. Three of the top five receivers from last year are gone or no longer playing receiver (Kain Colter is the full-time QB now), so it will not be a surprise if Prater is starting by the opener, especially since Northwestern's receiving corps is somewhat lacking for 6-foot-5 guys with freakish talent.

Oklahoma State ouch: More data to add to the "Oklahoma State won't be going 13-1 this year" pile:
Oklahoma State offensive lineman Michael Bowie, who was projected to be the Cowboys' starting left tackle in 2012, is no longer with the program after violating team rules, coach Mike Gundy announced Wednesday.
Bowie was a part-time starter last year who was gonna be taking over on a full-time basis for Levy Adcock, who basically bounced back and forth between the two tackle spots depending on the opponent. Without him, there will be three new starters on the O-line this year (although one guard comes back from injury to make that number effectually two). Mind-blowing stat: Oklahoma State allowed 12 sacks last year. Yeah. I know. Probably not happening this year.

Parker Graham was basically a right-side version of Bowie last year (six starts and a bunch of mop-up duty) and will step into that spot, but the only other tackle who has actually played in a college game is redshirt sophomore Daniel Koenig; the alternatives are redshirt freshman Darian Davis and a couple incoming freshmen who I can assure you are not physically ready. Depth: There is none.

Unsurprising and surprising news of the day: Zeke Pike had a pretty successful career at Auburn:
AUBURN, Alabama -- Auburn coach Gene Chizik said Wednesday that freshman quarterback Zeke Pike is no longer a member of the football team and will transfer.

Pike was sent home to Kentucky (over the summer) after being arrested for public intoxication.
I've mentioned this before but will repeat it anyway: Pike was a big-time QB recruit whose offer list started going backwards when he started doing a bunch of stupid things at about the time he committed to Auburn. He got kicked out of a seven-on-seven camp for allegedly throwing the ball at an official, got into a bunch of stupid Twitter wars with Alabama fans, got suspended for his senior-year season opener as punishment for an ejection in the previous year's playoffs and then got suspended for his team's playoff loss for undisclosed reasons (woo maturity!). He then enrolled early and looked OK in spring but came out of it third on the depth chart behind co-starters Kiehl Frazier, a sophomore, and Clint Moseley, a redshirt junior who was limited by a shoulder problem in the spring but is reportedly healthy now.

Auburn will be fine; Pike might have been the QB of the distant future but might not have been worth the hassle, either. And in the short term, it's not like he was gonna salvage the season if forced onto the field via injury or incompetence or whatever.

As for Pike ...
Informed sources tell that former Auburn quarterback Zeke Pike will transfer to Louisville. Although Louisville's players have reported, Pike is not expected on campus until next week.

Pike will not play quarterback for the Cardinals. Instead, he will line up at tight end.
... ummm wut? Seriously: wut? The Louisville thing makes some geographical sense; the tight end thing makes no sense whatsoever seeing as how he was purely a quarterback coming out of high school and had offers from just about everybody before all the shenanigans. A four-star quarterback who's 6-foot-6 and has a rocket arm and decent athleticism can find a place to play quarterback. I mean ... yeah. I don't get it.

Sorry, Liberty Bowl: UCF won't be going to a bowl this year because of some serious shenanigans:
The NCAA's Committee on Infractions has banned the University of Central Florida from postseason play for one season in football and men's basketball because of major rule violations in both sports.

Central Florida, which appeared before the infractions committee in April, also was fined $50,000 and placed on five years' probation. In addition, the university was cited for a lack of institutional control.

At issue was the university's involvement with Ken Caldwell, a Chicago man with ties to a sports agency who helped steer several prospects to Central Florida. The report states that third-party individuals provided more than $16,000 to three prospects and two Central Florida student-athletes. They provided travel expenses, cash, tuition and a laptop computer. ...

Athletic director Keith Tribble and assistant football coach Kelly resigned after they were accused of taking part in inappropriate recruiting practices. The NCAA imposed a three-year show cause penalty against Tribble. Kelly received a one-year show cause penalty.
The problem wasn't so much that Caldwell was steering prospects to UCF but that he was steering prospects to UCF at the discretion of the athletic director, an assistant football coach and the basketball coach. That's SMU-type stuff (or at least Miami-type stuff) except with recruits instead of active players. And UCF was already on probation for not-substantially-different violations! Amazing.

The result: a one-year postseason ban (that's being appealed, of course) and some self-imposed, relatively minor scholarship reductions in both sports. The guy at the Bylaw Blog is shocked and appalled:
What UCF was accused of was, on its face, one of the worst packages of NCAA violations in recent memory. Not only were both of its revenue sports using a runner (among others) to help recruit athletes and that runner was providing benefits to student-athletes, but all of this was with the knowledge, encouragement, and even active participation of the athletic director.

For all that, UCF got off relatively light. ... The NCAA would have been justified in laying to waste both of UCF’s most prominent sports for the rest of the decade.
Yup. Take note when trying to project the decimation at North Carolina and Miami; there won't be much unless the proposed this-is-serious-stuff-guys punishment structure gets implemented before their cases go to committee.

As for Central Florida, the postseason ban isn't totally meaningless: They went 5-7 last year but were picked to win their division in the Conference USA preseason poll and had five votes in the coaches' poll.

Speaking of bowls: The NCAA's Board of Directors has made it nominally possible for a 5-7 team (but only one with a top-five APR score) to be selected for a bowl game if there are literally no other eligible teams. I hate the idea of 5-7 bowl eligibility with a fiery passion but don't know what the alternative would be in the ever-more-likely scenario in which there aren't enough teams to fill all 48,377 bowl games. I mean, the good alternative (hacking the bottom-feeding bowls that only survive via the ticket guarantees that require the participating the schools to take a loss) isn't really an alternative as far as the NCAA is concerned and thus will never happen.

Good news: There are so many qualifiers before the 5-7 tiebreaker kicks in that it should never be relevant. Bad news: There will be more bowl games (the Champions Bowl and maybe a Big East-affiliated one) by 2014, at which point it will probably be relevant. #getoffmylawn

Mandatory reading: ESPN's Don Van Natta put together a really interesting investigative-type story with all the details on the Penn State negotiations, starting with the initial contact between Mark Emmert and Rodney Erickson and continuing through the post-presser tantrums by everybody on the Board of Trustees. I highly recommend it. Read it.

Relevant points: (a) Penn State agreed in advance that the Freeh report would precede and/or replace an NCAA investigation, (b) it was Emmert who backed away from the death penalty after a consensus-type thing from the Division I Board of Directors and (c) that backing away took a lot of persuasion on the part of Erickson and Penn State counsel Gene Marsh.

Reasonable reactions FTW: Oh I feel so bad for him oh wait lol no I don't:
Jerry Sandusky is distraught over the NCAA penalties issued to Penn State's football program ... 

Settle down, Dan Mullen: This also seems like a totally reasonable reaction:


TCU yikes: Casey Pachall wasn't directly involved in that whole TCU drug-sting thing but apparently wasn't totally clean, either:
FORT WORTH, Texas -- TCU starting quarterback Casey Pachall admitted to police that he smoked marijuana and failed a drug test in February, two weeks before his roommate was arrested during a drug sting.

The revelation was in a Feb. 15 police report obtained Friday by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and first reported by, the university's student media website.

The report said that Pachall also stated that he used cocaine and ecstasy in the previous year.
Don't do that. For serious.


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