Tide finds no violations in Calloway’s recruitment


Well, that was certainly fast.

A day after a “report” emerged that an Alabama supporter had “bought” the talents of UA signee Brent Calloway, the school has concluded its investigation.  Whether the SEC and/or NCAA sees this as the end of the saga remains to be seen.

According to both the Birmingham News and TideSports.com, a trip by school officials to Calloway’s hometown of Russellville Friday and subsequent interviews with those close to the linebacker resulted in UA finding no NCAA violations had occurred.  Thus, the school does not plan on filing a report with the NCAA.

At the center of the “controversy” created by Rivals.com‘s Auburn website is a man by the name of Darren Woodruff.  The website levied serious allegations earlier in the week that Woodruff, president of a chemical company and a self-professed Alabama supporter, had given a car to Calloway as well as cash to the recruit and at least one member of his family as an enticement to sign with UA.

Tide officials spoke with Woodruff during their trip to Russellville and uncovered several key distinctions regarding whether Woodruff is a “booster” or merely a really, really big fan of the football program.

Alabama learned that Woodruff drove Calloway to the majority of the school’s home football games in 2009, during his junior year, on unofficial visits. That could be considered an NCAA violation if Woodruff were found to be a representative of Alabama’s athletics interests.

But Alabama also learned that Woodruff is not a graduate of the school and has not donated money to the school’s athletics department or purchased season tickets. Any one of those characteristics could identify a person as a booster.

NCAA Bylaw says a school may provide up to three complimentary passes to a home football game (as long as they’re in the general seating section) for a prospect on an unofficial visit and two guests.

In addition, Alabama learned that Woodruff’s relationship with Calloway began when Calloway transferred to Russellville High School for the ninth grade, which would predate Calloway’s status as a major college football prospect.

That can be an important distinction when the NCAA decides whether a contact made by an individual is impermissible.

NCAA Bylaw lists exceptions to the general rule that prohibits recruiting contacts by a booster. One of those exceptions is an “established family friend or neighbor, it being understood that such contacts are not made for recruiting purposes and are not initiated by a member of the institution’s coaching staff.”

Woodruff himself spoke to TideSports.com, and reiterated what UA officials uncovered.

“I’m not an alumnus, I’ve never bought a ticket from them and I’ve never given them a dime of my money,” Woodruff told the website. “I attended games as a guest of Brent when he was a junior. I did it because he didn’t have a coach that would take him.”

Woodruff also shared an interesting tidbit that sheds some additional light on the motives behind his relationship with Calloway.

Calloway isn’t the only youth Woodruff has helped. Former Russellville student Aaron Hollingsworth, whose house burned down almost two years ago, currently lives with the Woodruffs. Hollingsworth is not a Russellville athlete and has no high school eligibility remaining.

“I’m just passionate about helping young people,” Woodruff said.

On the surface, and at least at the moment, this whole imbroglio seems to be nothing more than a website flinging mud in the general direction of their hated in-state rivals.  As far as Alabama is concerned, nothing has stuck that would constitute an NCAA violation.  As we said earlier, though, whether their conference or the governing body of collegiate athletics agrees that nothing impermissible occurred remains to be seen.

Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa (thumb) returns to practice

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In the end, it appears to be much ado about (mostly) nothing.

Tuesday, after the reigning national champions had put the finishing touches on its first practice of the spring, Nick Saban confirmed that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had suffered an unspecified injury to the thumb on his left (throwing) hand. It was expected that the quarterback would travel to Birmingham for further evaluation of the injury.

Wednesday, it was reported that the injury was believed to be just a sprain and that Tagovailoa could return to practice soon. That report proved prophetic as Tagovailoa was indeed back at practice Thursday, albeit on a limited basis.

From al.com:

The quarterback was not doing the normal drills with his teammates but was off to the side working with head athletic trainer Jeff Allen. It looked like they were testing Tagovailoa’s ability to grip the football since the injury was suffered on his throwing hand. He replicated a few play-action roll outs with the ball in his left hand. At one point, he rolled over toward where Jalen Hurts was standing and they high fived.

Until Tagovailoa is fully recovered, Jalen Hurts will take the majority of the reps as the Crimson Tide continues its march through their 15 spring practice sessions.

The rising true junior Hurts, who has started every game but one the past two seasons, and the rising true sophomore Tagovailoa, the national championship game hero who replaced Hurts at halftime of the overtime win, are entrenched in a competition for the starting job that, barring a post-spring transfer, is expected to extend into summer camp. That said, most observers outside of the UA football program fully expect Tagovailoa, because of his proficiency in the passing game relative to Hurts, to earn the job at some point before the Tide opens the defense of their title against Louisville in Orlando Sept. 1.

USC graduate transfer Jalen Greene heads east to play at Illinois in 2018

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Greene is turning orange. Well, Jalen Greene is at least.

The former USC wide receiver who announced he would pursue a graduate transfer earlier this month announced on Twitter that he would be heading East to play at Illinois in 2018. He will be immediately eligible to play for the Illini.

Greene was originally recruited by the Trojans as a dual-threat quarterback but eventually made the move to receiver. He caught eight passes for 98 yards at USC last season as a partial starter and added another eight receptions for 116 yards the year prior.

Illinois has already begun spring practice and has been trying several new players at wide receiver in the process to find a good complement to Mike Dudek on the outside. It seems Greene could find himself in the mix to be one of those guys when he arrives in Champaign.

Josh Heupel keeping most of Scott Frost’s playbook at UCF as spring practice begins

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There are a ton of interesting storylines as spring practice begins across the country but one of the most intriguing programs to watch might be in Orlando as UCF looks to simultaneously follow up an undefeated season while also transitioning to a new coaching staff.

ESPN’s Andrea Adelson wrote a good story on the Knights changing some things up under head coach Josh Heupel the past few months like eating with players during meals, new strength and conditioning regiments and the usual offseason stuff you typically wind up season. However there was one interesting nugget about the team’s playbook that the coach relayed:

In other areas, player input has kept a few things unchanged. Take the offensive playbook, for example. Heupel and (Scott) Frost share enough offensive concepts that the new staff has adopted the terminology that players already know on the plays they have in common. So in theory, that should allow the offense to hit spring practice, which started Tuesday, with much more familiarity than another program that has completely changed over its staff.

As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. In Heupel’s first head coaching gig, it seems he’s taking that to heart.

David Beaty elevates Cassius Sendish from GA to Kansas safeties coach

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It didn’t take long nor did David Beaty have to look far for Kansas’ new safeties coach.

The school confirmed on Thursday morning that graduate assistant Cassius Sendish, a former Jayhawks team captain and defensive back, would be taking over as the team’s new safeties coach to complete the staff for 2018.

“I am honored and proud to represent the University of Kansas football program,” said Sendish in a statement. “I hold this place near and dear to my heart and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to work at my alma mater. I can’t thank Coach Beaty and the rest of the football staff enough for allowing me to come aboard and be a part of something special.”

Sendish replaces Todd Bradford on the staff after he made the rather head-turning move to leave coaching and take a new job in the oil industry. Recently hired Bill Miller will continue to coach linebackers while the newest hire will team up with defensive coordinator Clint Bowen to handle the secondary.

There will be plenty of time for everybody to settle into their new on-field roles as the Jayhawks will open up spring practice on March 31st.