Saban defends Tide's medical redshirting in wake of critical report

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With the practice of medical redshirting seemingly on the rise — or, at least, the subject of more reports than it’s been in the past — the Wall Street Journal aimed a critical spotlight last week on what some consider a nefarious form of roster manipulation, with most of the harsh light placed squarely on the Alabama football program under Nick Saban.

The piece quoted three former Tide players — one who describes himself as “still kind of bitter” — who were among the 12 medical redshirts given out by the Saban-led program since 2007.  That number is nearly half of the estimated 25 medical redshirts handed out by SEC schools the past three years.

Medical redshirts are designed for players who are no longer able to play football due to injury, but still allows them to receive the financial aid that permits them to continue their schooling as if they were on scholarship.  At least one of the former Tide players interviewed for the piece claims he was still medically able to play, but was urged — or pressured — by the school to take the medical waiver in order to clear a roster spot for better players.  With scholarship limits set at 85, and the pressure to build and sustain a successful football program higher than it’s ever been, roster spots are at a premium, and there’s likely no program in the nation that doesn’t look to “massage” the outer edges of NCAA rules as it pertains to how a roster can be constructed.

When it comes to medical redshirts, however, Alabama’s head coach says that’s out of his hands.

“I didn’t really read the article. I didn’t see the article,” Nick Saban said when asked about the Wall Street Journal article Wednesday. “But we don’t make the decision about medicals. I have nothing to do with that. Those are medical decision made by our medical staff. I think we have one of the finest medical staffs in the country.”

Saban dismissed claims by his former players that the medical redshirts were given to clear roster spots for better players, claiming that there were legitimate medical reasons for what’s occurred.

“I don’t have any question about the fact every player we have given a medical to, it’s been because of the medical opinion of the medical staff,” Saban said. “Those guys should not continue to play football because it would put their future in tremendous risk.

“Those decisions are always made in the best interest of the player. Whether the player agrees with that or not, I can’t control. I don’t make the decision. They don’t make the decision as players. That’s why we have a medical staff.”

Do schools such as Alabama err so close to the side of medical caution that the medical redshirt practice takes on a “shady” hue?  Perhaps, but there’s a pretty damn positive side for any players who may feel jilted because they were “subjected” to such “indignity”: even as they will not be allowed to remain a member of the football program, they will still get a free education.

Or, if they truly feel that they are medically able, they can transfer to another school to continue their football career.

Either way, they still get a free education.

With all of this medical redshirt talk and the sudden surge in wailing and gnashing of teeth when it comes to paying college football players, that’s something that unfortunately seems to get lost in all of the bluster.

Maryland adds Tyler Bowen to staff as OL coach, reassigns Dave Borbely to off-the-field role

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 08: Head coach DJ Durkin of the Maryland Terrapins reacts in the first quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium on October 8, 2016 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Spring practice is just around the corner but Maryland coach D.J. Durkin is still tinkering with his coaching staff.

The school announced on Saturday afternoon that Fordham offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen is joining the Terps as the team’s new OL coach. Bowen is no stranger to the program, having played for the school for three years before becoming a student assistant coach for then-head coach Ralph Friedgen in 2010. He also served as a graduate assistant with the Terps for two seasons.

That’s not the only move being made by Durkin however, as former offensive line coach Dave Borbely is remaining in College Park. According to the school’s release, the coaching veteran will remain on the staff — but in an off-the-field role as Special Assistant to the Head Coach.

Adding Bowen as an on-field coach is the bigger news for the program though. With current Maryland OC Walt Bell still calling plays, the two should be an interesting mix and give the Terps two bright young offensive minds to lead that side of the ball as the team tries to build on a surprising turnaround season from 2016.

Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield arrested in Arkansas

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 10:  Baker Mayfield #6 of the Oklahoma Sooners walks off the field after a 24-17 loss against the Texas Longhorns during the 2015 AT&T Red River Showdown at Cotton Bowl on October 10, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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They always say a quiet offseason is a good offseason in college football. That appears as though it will not be the case for  Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops this year however.

According to booking information and a preliminary police report released by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Arkansas, Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield was arrested early Saturday morning and charged with public intoxication, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and fleeing the scene.

The report also states that Mayfield was booked at 8:21 a.m. CT on Saturday morning and released at 11:07 a.m. A preliminary hearing on the case has been scheduled for 8 a.m. in Fayetteville District Court on Monday.

Mayfield has been a star for Oklahoma the past two seasons in leading the team to back-to-back Big 12 titles. He was a Heisman Trophy finalist a season ago and is expected to be a front-runner for the award in 2017 as a senior.

An Oklahoma statement on the matter said they are aware of the matter but are still gathering information. The Sooners are set to begin spring practice on March 21st and open the season against UTEP before traveling to Ohio State the second week of the year for what is likely a top five showdown.

UMass hires Ed Pinkham as defensive coordinator

HADLEY, MA - SEPTEMBER 17:  The Massachusetts Minutemen run onto the field prior to the game against the FIU Golden Panthers at Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Hadley, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
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After floundering on defense the past three years, UMass’ change at the top on that side of the ball is official.

The football program, via a press release, announced Saturday that Mark Whipple has signed off on Ed Pinkham as his new defensive coordinator.  Pinkham replaces Tom Masella, who was ousted last month after three years on the job.

Whipple and Pinkham have a previous working relationship, serving on the same staff at New Hampshire in the late eighties.

“I’ve known Ed since we worked together at UNH,” Whipple said in a statement. “I have tremendous respect for his approach and how his defenses have always played. He brings a wealth of knowledge at the FBS level. He’s an outstanding recruiter and great leader of young men. I couldn’t be more excited about the future of our program as we head into winter conditioning and spring practice.”

Pinkham had spent the past three seasons as the coordinator at Western Michigan.  Last season, the Broncos finished 16th nationally in scoring defense at 19.5 points per game.

The Minutemen in 2016 were 108th in the same category at 35.5 points per game.  The previous two seasons, they were 93rd (31.4) and 105th (33.0).

“I’m extremely excited to be back in New England and renewing relationships with coaches I’ve worked with in the past at previous stops,” Pinkham said. “I coached against UMass so I’m aware of the strong football tradition that exists here. I’m excited to play a role in achieving the goals that we set as a staff and as a program.”

Pinkham has also served as the coordinator at Rutgers (2009-10) and as secondary coach at Minnesota (1989-91) during a coaching career that began in 1975.

‘Insensitive, regrettable comment’ leads Jon Reschke to transfer from Michigan State

EAST LANSING, MI - NOVEMBER 28: Christian Hackenberg #14 of the Penn State Nittany Lions passes while under pressure from Jon Reschke #33 of the Michigan State Spartans in the first half of the game at Spartan Stadium on November 28, 2015 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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An offseason of discontent continues in East Lansing, with another likely starter leaving Michigan State amidst head-scratching circumstances.

In a statement, Jon Reschke announced that he has decided to transfer out of the Spartans football program.  The reason? “Over a month ago, in an argument and a brief moment of anger, I lost control of my emotions and made an insensitive and totally regrettable comment involving a former teammate,” the linebacker wrote.

Just what that comment was and to who it was directed was not detailed.  Below is Reschke’s statement, in its entirety.

Over a month ago, in an argument and a brief moment of anger, I lost control of my emotions and made an insensitive and totally regrettable comment involving a former teammate. In so doing, I have hurt and offended countless number of people, and for that, I am deeply sorry. If I could take my comment back, I would do so in a second.

“I have addressed my teammates and coaches and while many understand my actions were totally uncharacteristic of who I am, the hurt still lingers. Therefore, after discussions with coach Dantonio and other members of the staff, we have mutually decided that I will complete my degree and seek the opportunity of a graduate transfer for my final year of football.

“To the entire Spartan Nation, to all of my teammates past and present, to coach Dantonio and the entire coaching staff, to all the trainers, managers and administrators – I offer my sincere apology and I thank you for the greatest four years of my life. I will always cherish the friendships, the memories and the journey. There is no doubt in my mind that the Spartan Dawgs will rise up and again return to being one of the strongest programs in college football. Forever Go Green, God Bless.

After starting all 14 games for the Spartans in 2015, Reschke started two of the first three this past season before an ankle injury knocked him out for the remainder of the year.  The junior missed the season opener because of another injury.

He had been expected to reassume his starting role this coming season prior to the off-field incident.

Earlier this monthThiyo Lukusa, the projected starter at right tackle, announced that he was leaving not only the football team but the sport, citing a loss of love and passion for the game.  Additionally, three unidentified football players as well as a football staffer were suspended amidst sexual assault allegations.