Banning academically ineligible players from combine solves nothing

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Stats don’t always tell the whole story in a football game. Likewise, a football player’s GPA doesn’t always measure how much he learned in college, or whether he’ll become a liability to a pro organization.

But it could determine if a player can participate in the NFL Combine. Bruce Feldman of CBSSports reports, citing a league source, reports that NFL is considering not inviting players who are academically ineligible in college to the Combine. The idea is being discussed in response to “increased scrutiny on the maturity and commitment of the prospects entering the NFL.”

Next, prospects will be required to wear 37 pieces of flair instead of 13.

Piggybacking on what PFT wrote, while the idea seems noble on the surface, there’s not much substance to it underneath. College football isn’t as much a “farm system” for the pros as it is a weeding out process, but the NFL nevertheless benefits from outsourcing its minor league system.

To suddenly put an extra emphasis on academics in college when football performance matters most to NFL clubs is only going to make things harder. The scouting combine is a money saver for pro organizations and academically ineligible players will be drafted anyways. On top of that, to correlate grades with the maturity needed to be a valuable member of an organization has a Band Aid-head wound type feel to it.

And just imagine the increase in academic fraud to make sure an athlete is eligible for the biggest event that determines his future career. Let’s say a prospect makes the grade to be eligible for the combine, but is later found to have committed academic fraud, along with his school, in the process. Does Roger Goodell do anything? Is it even punishable? If so, how? It’s certainly not a lesson to be learned by that point in the player’s career, or the team for which he plays.

The sweet irony of the idea is that it’s supposed to help NFL teams, when in fact it would do nothing of the sort; rather, it would only serve as another PR campaign for college programs so they could point to the number of football players “successful” on and off the field. It would be like the APR except even more meaningless and with the added bonus of being easily falsified.

But, most importantly, requiring players to be academically eligible for the combine won’t do what it’s supposedly intended to do: reduce bad apples. Players won’t strive for greatness in their lives because a minimum academic bar has been set. If anything, they’ll strive for that bar and that bar only, and use whatever means necessary, good or bad, to get past the detraction.

NFL clubs do plenty of scouting and due diligence as it is. There’s no need to add in a requirement that doesn’t matter to teams anyway.

LOOK: Arizona State to wear Pat Tillman-themed uniforms

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Pat Tillman is essentially the Knute Rockne of Arizona State football, the central figure that will be as important to the program 100 years from now as he is today. And while Notre Dame will wear Rockne-themed uniforms later this season, so, too, will Arizona State.

The program revealed Tillman-centric uniforms on Monday for their Nov. 4 game with Colorado, based on the uniform Tillman wore as a member of the U.S. Army while fighting in Afghanistan.

Tillman played linebacker at Arizona State from 1994-97 (he was named the Pac-10’s Defensive Player of the Year as a senior) and then spent four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals before the events of 9/11 inspired him to join the U.S. Army. He was a member of the Army Rangers before he was killed in action in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004, at age 27.

Arizona State unveiled a Tillman statue at Sun Devil Stadium at its season-opening win over New Mexico State.

“Pat spent his whole life trying to be the best person he could possibly be,” Kevin Tillman, Pat’s brother, said at the unveiling. “He didn’t focus on money, he didn’t focus on fame, he didn’t focus on a pretty statue. It was, ‘How can I make myself a better person in all these different facets of my life?’ And ASU gave him an opportunity to do that.”

Jim McElwain says family, players have received death threats over 3-3 start

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Florida has lost two in a row and is off to a 3-3 start, and that streak will probably reach three on Saturday after the Gators meet No. 3 Georgia. While everyone knows SEC fans are passionate about their football, some have taken Florida’s struggles too far.

How far? By threatening to kill the players and coaches.

“I think it’s a pretty good lesson for the way things are,” head coach Jim McElwain said, via Only Gators. “There’s a lot of hate in this world and a lot of anger. And yet, it’s freedom to show it. The hard part is, obviously, when it’s threats against your own players, death threats to your families, the ill will that’s brought upon out there. And yet, I think it’s really one of those deals that really is a pretty good testament to what’s going on out there nationally. There’s a lot of angry people, and in this business, we’re the ones you take the shots at. And that’s the way it is.”

In my experience, it seems people lodging death threats are far more serious about the threat part than the, uh, other. But that’s easy for me to say, I’ve never received one.

Report: Sam Darnold expected to return to USC in 2018

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Sam Darnold was appointed the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft on the second day of 2017. As a redshirt freshman, Darnold torched Penn State to the tune of 33-of-53 passing for 453 yards with five touchdowns and one interception in a 52-49 Rose Bowl win.

One problem, though. Darnold hasn’t played like a No. 1 pick this season.

While he hasn’t been the most disappointing player on what’s turning out to be a disappointing USC team, Darnold has posted pedestrian numbers (for him): hitting 63.5 percent of his passes for an even eight yards per attempt with 17 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He ranks 38th nationally in passing efficiency. This puts him, coincidentally, one spot ahead of former USC quarterback Max Browne.

On Monday, NFL Draft analyst Benjamin Allbright shared a report that Darnold is expected to return to USC next season.

Considering Ronald Jones could return next season and that Stephen Carr is just a freshman, the prospect of Darnold returning in 2018 has to take the sting out of a lost 2017 for Trojans fans.

Texas QB Sam Ehlinger, C Zach Shackelford in concussion protocol

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Texas has lost two straight upset bids in strikingly similar fashion: true freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger leads a potential-game winning drive, scrambles, hits his head on the turf and ends the possession in a puzzling throw.

The first came in last week’s loss to No. 10 Oklahoma. Trailing 29-24 late in the fourth quarter, scrambled for two yards to the Texas-48 yard line but hit his head on the Cotton Bowl turf and was forced to leave the game for five plays. Shane Buechele pushed the Longhorns to the Oklahoma 31, but he was replaced after a sack and Ehlinger ended up throwing the ball away on 4th-and-13 from the OU 34 with two minutes to play. That, as they say, was that.

Fast forward to Saturday and Texas was trailing No. 11 Oklahoma State 13-10 in overtime when Ehlinger opened the possession with a scramble that again saw the back of his head bang against the Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium turf. He stayed in the game this time, but ended the game on a puzzling (to say the least) interception to absolutely no one on 3rd-and-4 from the OSU 6.

While Ehlinger was not evaluated for a concussion during the game, he did not practice Sunday and head coach Tom Herman said Monday that Ehlinger and center Zach Shackelford are in concussion protocol.

Complicating matters for Texas is that sophomore back-up Shane Buechele is playing on a gimpy ankle that kept him out against San Jose State and Kansas State that Herman said will not improve as the season goes on.

No matter, Texas will face a hungry Baylor team on Saturday (noon ET, ESPNU) that nearly completed a comeback against No. 22 West Virginia on Saturday night.