More accusations leveled against Auburn’s football program

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Over two years after Gene Chizik, Cam Newton, et al hoisted the crystal football, allegations of misconduct continue to dog the Auburn football program.

According to a report titled “Auburn’s Tainted Title: Victims, Violations and Vendettas for Glory” from former New York Times and Sports Illustrated writer Selena Roberts on her new website Roopstigo.com, Chizik and/or his coaching staff — and/or his predecessors — were responsible for multiple violations of NCAA bylaws including impermissible benefits and academic fraud.

The story ostensibly centers on former Tigers defensive back Mike McNeil, one of four ex-AU football players charged with armed robbery in March of 2011.  McNeil was one of a handful of former players quoted on the record for Roberts’ piece, a group that included wide receiver Darvin Adams, defensive end Mike Blanc, defensive end Antoine Carter and defensive back Neiko Thorpe.  Other unnamed sources were utilized in the story, on which AU officials have thus far declined to comment.

McNeil, who’s scheduled to go on trial later this month and faces 21 years to life in prison if convicted, leveled most but not all of the accusations included in the article.  Some of those include:

— After being rebuffed by his computer science instructor and that instructor’s supervisor in an attempt to get a grade changed, McNeil claims he went to an athletic department counselor with his problem. “Within days… the grade was changed from an F to a C and he did not miss a game,” Roberts wrote.  Additionally, three of the players claimed that nine players, including star running back Michael Dyer, should not have played in the BCS championship game against Oregon in January of 2011 because they were academically ineligible. “Auburn found a way to make those dudes eligible,” Blanc was quoted as saying.

— Adams, who set an SEC championship game record with 217 receiving yards that sent the Tigers to the BCS title game, claimed that he was offered financial incentives — McNeil and Blanc claimed it was several thousands of dollars —  by the AU coaching staff to return to the Tigers for the 2011 season.  Instead, Adams turned pro early and went undrafted.

— Following “a difficult day at practice in 2007,” McNeil claims that then-defensive coordinator and current Florida head coach Will Muschamp handed him $400 in cash and asked, “is this enough?  Is this good?”  Through a UF spokesperson, Muschamp, who left AU for Texas following that season, denied such a payment was made.

— McNeil claimed that he was given $500 to host 2008 recruit and eventual 2009 Alabama signee Dre Kirkpatrick — the NCAA limit is $50. “If I’m a star player and I’m a likable person, and a recruit comes in at my position, then, of course, I’m going to take him under my wing,” McNeil said in the article. “If a star recruit was in town, you would get a lot more than the NCAA limit.”

In addition to no reaction from the university, neither Chizik nor his agent have been available for comment, although one of the most-quoted players in the piece offered up this curious reaction via Twitter once the story went viral.

“Man this article is outrageous and isn’t true. The media will do anything for a juicy story smh #sad,” Blanc tweeted this evening.

Roberts’ blockbuster is the latest in a long line of accusations leveled against the AU football program that stretch back to months before their 2010 BCS title.

The most publicized scrutiny involved the recruitment of Newton, the Heisman-winning quarterback who left The Plains after one title-winning season for the NFL.  The NCAA investigated the allegations — that Newton’s services could be obtained during the recruiting process for a substantial financial “donation” to the player’s father — and ultimately determined that no violations had occurred.

Interestingly, there was no mention of Newton in Roberts’ report that focused primarily on that championship season.

In addition to the Newton imbroglio, the AU football program has been investigated over the past two years by the NCAA regarding its recruiting practices… allegations made by four former players on an HBO showTiger ProwlJovon Robinsontwo now-former ace recruiters and their recruitment of Robinson… and that’s about all for now as you get the point.

The NCAA has yet to respond to requests for comment, although they understandably have more pressing issues on their collective plates.

UPDATED 9:21 p.m. ET: In a pair of tweets posted to his Twitter account, Neiko Thorpe claims that he was misquoted by Roberts in her story.

“While I spoke to Selena Roberts about Mike I have just read her article & not only am I misquoted but my words are very out of context. We didn’t talk about NCAA violations or recruiting. I’m proud 2 have played at Auburn & the opportunities it gave me.”

For her part, Roberts stands by her reporting, including the on-the-record quotes attributed to the former players.

Ex-Penn State K Joey Julius tweets he’s ‘in full recovery’ in ongoing battle with eating disorder

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Monday brought word that cult kicking icon Joey Julius was no longer a member of the Penn State football team.  A day later, we have an update on Julius’ very personal but still public battle with an undisclosed eating disorder.

This past May, Julius revealed on Facebook that he “had to return to St. Louis to seek further treatment at the McCallum Place” as part of his ongoing fight with the disorder.  On Twitter very early Tuesday morning, assured concerned fans that he’s “in full recovery” and has “been discharged from treatment for awhile.”

According to PennLive.com, Julius has been treated for an eating disorder at least twice in the last year.

While Julius is no longer a part of the Nittany Lions football team, he’s still in their thoughts, as head coach James Franklin expressed during his turn at the Big Ten Media Days Tuesday.

With decision coming ‘very soon,’ dismissed Duck Darren Carrington reportedly opts for Utes

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Despite the off-field baggage he brings to the table, Darren Carrington‘s talent could very well lead the wide receiver to another shot with a Power Five program — perhaps even one in his former conference.

Earlier this month, Oregon announced that it had dismissed Carrington, a move that came a couple of weeks after the senior was arrested on charges of driving under the influence of intoxicants. According to a tweet from The Oregonian‘s John Canzano in the middle of last week, those circumstances are doing little to dissuade others as “[m]ore than one Pac 12 coach told me [last Tuesday] he was interested in… Carrington.”

More to the point, Canzano wrote that “the ex-Ducks receiver spent [last Tuesday] at Utah.”

Subsequent to that tweet, Carrington’s father, former NFL wide receiver Darren Carrington, confirmed to the Salt Lake Tribune over the weekend that his son had indeed visited Utah as well as received interest from other unnamed Pac-12 schools. The elder Carrington added that a decision on a new home would be coming “very soon.”

Then, Tuesday morning, word began to trickle out that Carrington had indeed opted for the Utes, although there’s been no official word from the player, his family or his rumored new program.

As Carrington, who expressed disappointment over how his time in Eugene ended, is already a graduate of UO, he would be eligible to play immediately for the Utes, or any other FBS program for that matter — even one in the Pac-12.  Camps all across the country will be kicking off in less than two weeks, which will lead to the Carrington camp expediting the transfer process.

Regardless of where Carrington ends up, his new team will be getting a gifted player with a consistent penchant for finding himself on the wrong side of headlines.

The senior’s 606 yards receiving last year were tops on the team, while his five receiving touchdowns were tied for first. His 43 catches were second on the team as well.

On the flip side, and in addition to his DUII arrest, Carrington was ruled ineligible for Oregon’s College Football Playoff Championship loss to Ohio State a couple of years ago; was cited for open container in October 2015; and was accused of breaking a man’s arm in a Halloween incident last year.

Report: Florida loses incoming frosh LB Nick Smith for six weeks

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Earlier this month, Florida lost one of the most experienced members of its defense to a season-ending injury.  This week, they have reportedly lost one of their youngsters on that side of the ball as well, albeit to one not as serious.

Citing a source close to the program, the Gainesville Sun has reported that Nick Smith underwent surgery on his left knee Monday to repair a torn meniscus.  It’s unclear how or when the linebacker suffered the injury.

As a result of the medical procedure, Smith will be sidelined for a period of at least six weeks.  Such a timeline would not only keep Smith out for the whole of summer camp, but for, at minimum, the 2017 opener Sept. 2 against Michigan in Arlington as well.

It should be noted that UF has yet to publicly address what if any health issues Smith may need to overcome.

A three-star member of the Gators’ 2017 recruiting class, Smith was rated as the No. 79 outside linebacker in the country.  While Smith has been expected to contribute immediately on special teams, his expected absence early on exacerbates the dearth of available talent in UF’s linebacking corps.

From the Sun:

The loss of Smith is a blow to Florida’s depth at linebacker, a position that returns just four players who have started a game for the Gators.

Versatile playmaker Janarion Grant back to 100 percent for Rutgers

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The opening of the Big Ten’s Media Days Monday brought some welcome news for Rutgers fans.

One of the most explosive and productive players in the conference, Janarion Grant went down with a serious-looking ankle injury — at the end of a 76-yard touchdown — late in the first half of a Week 4 game against Iowa that ultimately ended the wide receiver’s 2016 season.  Grant was in non-contact mode this past spring, leading some to wonder whether he’d be available for summer camp or even the start of the upcoming season.

Yesterday, Chris Ash put any such fears to rest by declaring Grant completely recovered less than two weeks ahead of the start of camp.

“He’s 100 percent… He’s had a great summer,” the head coach said according to nj.com. “He was limited through the spring semester, but this summer he’s been pretty much full go for the majority of the summer. He looks great, he’s in great shape, he’s put weight back on. We’re obviously excited to have him back.”

At the time of the injury, Grant led the Scarlet Knights with 15 receptions and was second on the team with 143 yards rushing. His 562 all-purpose yards were tops in the Big Ten entering Week 4 play last year.

He had six touchdowns in those three-plus games and did it in a quartet of ways — rushing (three), punt return (one), kick return (one) and passing (one).

Suffice to say, Grant was named as part of the Hornung Award watch list earlier this month.  He’s on the watch list for the prestigious Maxwell Award as well.