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Reports: Manziel to be suspended… for first half of opener

Johnny Manziel, Kenric McNeal, Dustin Harris AP

The Johnny Manziel situation has (reportedly) come to a conclusion, albeit with a final — and bizarre — twist.

In a tweet from Billy Liucci Wednesday afternoon regarding the Texas A&M quarterback, the TexAgs.com reporter wrote that “[p]er multiple sources, he’ll be suspended for first half of season-opener versus Rice on Saturday.”  Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com and Bruce Feldman of CBSSports.com subsequently confirmed the first-half suspension

As for the specific reason for a suspension — which has not been confirmed by the Aggies — Liucci writes that he is “assuming [the] suspension would involve secondary violation of by-law 12.5.2.2.”

That bylaw, titled “Use of a Student-Athlete’s Name or Picture Without Knowledge or Permission,” appears in full below:

If a student-athlete’s name or picture appears on commercial items (e.g., T-shirts, sweatshirts, serving trays, playing cards, posters) or is used to promote a commercial product sold by an individual or agency without the student-athlete’s knowledge or permission, the student-athlete (or the institution acting on behalf of the student-athlete) is required to take steps to stop such an activity in order to retain his or her eligibility for intercollegiate athletics. Such steps are not required in cases in which a student-athlete’s photograph is sold by an individual or agency (e.g., private photographer, news agency) for private use.

Essentially, if the reports are accurate, Manziel would be suspended for failing to take the proper steps to ensure that individuals were not profiting off his name and likeness.  It had been reported that Manziel had received tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for his signature on thousands of photos and pieces of memorabilia.

What remains unclear is if this would be merely a school-driven punishment or one that would end the NCAA’s involvement in the situation.

More than likely, it’s the latter as McMurphy reported that this suspension “closes the book” on the situation, with the “NCAA [acknowledging] Manziel did not accept money” in exchange for his signature.  Over the weekend, the NCAA spent six hours grilling Manziel in relation to his involvement with autograph dealers.  Everyone connected to the A&M football program has been since barred from discussing the Johnny Football situation by the school’s athletic director.

It had also been reported over the weekend that A&M had “no plans” to sit Manziel, although that no longer appears to be the case.

If Manziel is suspended for the first half of the game against Rice — he could miss the entire game as head coach Kevin Sumlin could choose to sit him out in the second half of what’s expected to be a blowout — the Aggies would turn to either junior Matt Joeckel or true freshman Kenny Hill.  By most accounts, the latter has been the most impressive of the two during summer camp.

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A win with an asterisk would be just fine with Clemson’s Swinney

Dabo Swinney

Florida State will open Saturday night’s home game against Clemson without starting quarterback Jameis Winston. Winston will not play until the second half of the key ACC Atlantic Division battle due to a half-game suspension. This seems to give Clemson an advantage at the start of the game, but nothing is guaranteed. If Clemson does return home with a win over the top-ranked Seminoles, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney will not care if anyone chooses to place an asterisk next to the result.

“Georgia beat us,” Swinney said referring to Clemson’s season-opening loss at Georgia, per per TigerNet.com. “Did we put an asterisk by that? We didn’t have three senior starters.” Clemson was without  defensive end Corey Crawford, offensive guard David Beasley and defensive back Garry Peters for the week one road game at Georgia. All three were suspended (as well as offensive tackle Shaq Anthony) for violations of team rules.

“Heck, no. They beat us. Period. There’s no asterisk by that. Give me a break.”

Swinney also made reference to Alabama’s 2010 BCS Championship Game victory over Texas to prove his point further. Texas lost starting quarterback Colt McCoy to an early injury in the game, leaving the Longhorns having to turn the offense over to a young and inexperienced Garrett Gilbert.

“I don’t think there’s an asterisk on that crystal ball down in Tuscaloosa,” Swinney said. “I think we’ve got a national championship trophy [at Clemson, referring to the 1981 season] where we beat Nebraska. I don’t think they played Turner Gill in that game but it still says national championship.” Gill did not play in that season’s Orange Bowl due to a leg injury.

The bottom line is pretty straightforward. Clemson can only worry about whatever they see on the other side of the field. The game still lasts 60 minutes and there is more than enough talent for Clemson to prepare for coming at them from the Florida State sideline. Florida State will give the start under center to Sean Maguire. Maguire’s parents already gave their tickets away. If Clemson benefits from Florida State being without Winston for 30 minutes, that is not Clemson’s problem.

Of course, if Florida State does lose, we then can entertain the arguments from Jimbo Fisher about how a fully-equipped FSU would split 10 games with Clemson down the road. Right?

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For what it’s worth, Big 12 piling up quality losses

Big 12 Football Media Days

When it comes to determining the best conferences, we tend to look first at the quality wins recorded in non-conference play. This is an area where the Big Ten has come under fire in a big way in the first few weeks of the season, and for good reason. While much will be discussed regarding the Big Ten’s place in the power conference pecking order, it may be time to take a close examination of the Big 12’s lack of signature wins as well.

Through the first three weeks of the season and last night’s Thursday night start to Week Four, the Big 12 has had its own share of opportunities to score some key victories for conference bragging rights. The best you can make of the Big 12’s start in non-conference play is “Well, at least we’re not the Big Ten.” That is not a terrific selling point.

The season started out on a down note with the Big 12 seeing Iowa State lose at home to FCS powerhouse North Dakota State. While most of the rest of the conference performed better against weaker opponents to start the season, the Big 12 missed on two chances to impress on the national stage with West Virginia losing to Alabama and Oklahoma State coming up short against Florida State. The Mountaineers and Cowboys may have played well or better than expected against the highly-ranked programs from the SEC and ACC, respectively, but in the end the Big 12 started 0-2 against power conference opponents.

The following week saw BYU steamroll Texas for a second straight season while the rest of the conference enjoyed victories against lesser opponents (except for Iowa State, losing at home to Kansas State in Big 12 play). Week three of the season was the first real test for the Big 12 and there were some positives to draw from it. The Big 12 proved on the field to be better than the Big Ten in three games (West Virginia over Maryland, Iowa State over Iowa, TCU over Minnesota), cementing the Big Ten at the bottom of the power conference pecking order for now, but the Big 12 still lags significantly behind the SEC, ACC and Pac-12 in terms of quality wins. Oklahoma did pick up a good win at home against a Tennessee program on the rise, but the Vols are still a work in progress and unranked. The same weekend saw Texas suffer a loss at the expense of the Pac-12’s UCLA. Texas Tech could not slow down Arkansas in Lubbock. Kansas was blown away by Duke as well.

Last night the Big 12 once again whiffed on an opportunity to defeat a quality opponent with Kansas State imploding inside the red zone and leaving points off the scoreboard in a 20-14 loss at home to Auburn. The Big 12 could have really used that win, especially on a light weekend schedule for the conference. Kansas will host Central Michigan Saturday afternoon. West Virginia will have a chance to notch a conference victory at home Saturday night, against Oklahoma. Just as it was perceived to be Ohio State’s or Michigan State’s responsibility to carry the Big Ten banner on the national stage, the Big 12 may now be in need of Oklahoma (or Baylor) running the table. Oklahoma losing in Morgantown may end up doing more damage than good for the sake of the Big 12 when it comes time for the College Football Playoff selection committee to do their job.

As stated already, the Big 12 has breathing room ahead of the Big Ten for now, but losses inside the conference could start to do more damage than they would have if the Big 12 could record some wins against power conferences not named the Big Ten.

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Louisville might have RB Michael Dyer vs. FIU

Michael Dyer

Louisville rushed for just 79 yards last weekend against Virgina. It is not time to push the panic button, especially after some strong performances on the ground in the two games prior to last week’s loss at Virgina, but the Cardinals are looking forward to the return of Michael Dyer. There may even be a chance Dyer makes his season debut this weekend as Louisville travels to FIU.

According to a report Thursday from The Courier-Journal in Louisville, head coach Bobby Petrino suggested it may be a possibility Dyer returns to action Saturday. The running back was injured in a scrimmage in August and has just completed his first full week of practice since going inactive.

“We saw some really good things from him,” Petrino said, according to the report. “The thing that’s hard on that is it’s not only the injury that he’s overcoming, it’s the soreness from not doing those things for five weeks — not running hard and cutting and doing all that. The rest of his body is sore.”

The urgency to rush Dyer back this weekend may not be huge given the opponent, but this could also be a good week to allow Dyer a chance to get his legs back in order. Louisville should manage to beat FIU without Dyer, but if there is a chance he can play then he should probably take advantage of it. It may be better to get in game shape this weekend as opposed to next weekend in ACC play (against Wake Forest).

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If Auburn was stealing signs, nobody to blame but Kansas State

Auburn v Kansas State

Auburn picked up a hard-fought victory on the road Thursday night at Kansas State, defeating the Big 12’s Wildcats by a final score of 20-14 in a game that almost seemed to go against the grain for the SEC’s Auburn Tigers. Auburn was forced to slow things down in order to protect a lead and there were times when Auburn’s running game seemed to be out-worked by a relentless and well-prepared Kansas State defense. Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder thinks Auburn had another advantage to rely on; stealing signs.

As the teams went to halftime Thursday night in Manhattan, Snyder told ESPN sideline reporter Sam Ponder he believed Auburn had picked up on some of Kansas State’s signals. The veteran coach suggested to Ponder his team needed to do a better job of disguising their calls in order to keep Auburn guessing. Following the game, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn disputed having any advantage of that kind, not that there should be any reason to feel bad about it if indeed Auburn did figure something out.

To be fair, Snyder was not accusing Malzahn and Auburn of doing anything wrong. He seemed to be just making an observation to Ponder, as it was reported during the telecast. Kansas State had plenty of opportunities to score the upset, and the possibility of having signals stolen by Auburn is far down on the list behind missed field goals, failed red zone opportunities and turnovers.

There should be a line drawn between the idea of stealing signals and picking up on signals. Stealing implies a team or person did something wrong, perhaps by sending someone undercover to scope out a team’s practice during the week or by getting a hold of an opponent’s playbook or game plan before the kickoff. Picking up on hand signals or vocal calls during the course of a game should be considered nothing more than awareness and showing an ability to adjust. There is nothing wrong with that just as there is nothing wrong with a quarterback calling an audible at the line of scrimmage because he does not like what he sees in the defensive formation.

The coach and team that learns to make adjustments the fastest will have a schematic advantage. Those who fail to make those adjustments are only holding themselves back.

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With a little help from their friends, Auburn beats K-State 20-14

Gus Malzahn

The blueprint was simple for both teams. When rushing for less than 200 yards over the past three years, No. 5 Auburn was 1-9. And when holding its opponent to less than 200 yards over that same period, No. 20 Kansas State was 21-2.

The Tigers rushed for 128 yards tonight, and won 20-14.

Quarterback Nick Marshall made the plays when he had to, throwing for 231 yards and two touchdowns – one to put his Tigers up 10-7 at the half, and another to push the lead to 17-7 – and a critical 39-yard clincher to Duke Williams (eight catches, 110 yards and a touchdown) to put the game away with under two minutes to play.

But this game was won for Auburn thanks to critical mistakes by the Kansas State offense and special teams.

It started on the first play of the game, when Jake Waters fumbled the ball inside his own red zone on a botched exchange, allowing Auburn to take a 3-0 lead. On the ensuing drive, the Wildcats moved 74 yards to the Auburn 2 before a Waters pass bounced off the face mask of all-everything wide receiver Tyler Lockett and into the waiting arms of Auburn cornerback Jonathan Jones. And then came the missed field goals. Three of them, all by the usually trustworthy Jack Cantele. He was 11-of-13 last season and 4-of-5 in 2014 until tonight, but missed from 41, 42 and 22 yards. He was replaced by Matthew McCrane for the Wildcats’ final extra point.

Waters, simply put, wasn’t nearly as good as a senior quarterback needs to be to win tonight. He threw for 245 yards, but recorded a terrible interception to Trovon Reed while Kansas State trailed 17-7 in the fourth quarter, and missed an opportunity to put Kansas State up 14-10 just before the half with Lockett wide open in the end zone. Instead, he held on to the ball, fumbled, and made Cantele’s 42-yard try much more difficult than it had to be. That’s just the kind of night it was for the Wildcats.

After falling behind 20-7, Kansas State pulled within 20-14 with 3:49 to play, but never possessed the ball again. The game was decided when Marshall hit Williams on a double move while facing a 3rd-and-9 in its own territory.

Defensively, Kansas State did everything one could have expected them to do. The ground game didn’t even register three yards per carry in its 45 attempts. In fact, Auburn didn’t even hit 100 yards of total offense until its first touchdown drive to end the first half, and nearly went the entire first half without converting a third down. However, it didn’t stay that way. It never does against Auburn. After missing its first five third down tries, Auburn converted 10 of its final 13, and outgained K-State on the night 359-285.

For Auburn, this is the type of night Gus Malzahn and staff can build on. Marshall-to-Williams is a certifiably reliable go-to option, and a six-point win on the road brings the type of value no 50-point shellacking of a mid-major can duplicate. “I’m glad it was tough,” Malzahn told ESPN after the game, “that’ll help us in the long run.” The Tigers host Louisiana Tech on Sept. 27 before reopening SEC play against No. 8 LSU on Oct. 4.

For Kansas State, what can you say? You did everything you needed to do to win the game, and you lost. In reality, there’s not much else you can do but rectify the result within yourself (with the help of a few adult beverages) and move on to the next game. That comes next Saturday when UTEP comes to town.

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D’oh! FSU QB Sean Maguire’s parents give away tickets, won’t attend son’s first start

Sean Maguire

So, this isn’t how you draw it up when you son signs a scholarship to play quarterback at Florida State.

With sophomore quarterback Sean Maguire set to make his first start Saturday, his parents won’t be in attendance. It’s not that they don’t support his career. They just gave his tickets away thinking there was no chance their son would see the field against an important conference rival.

They were probably right, until Jameis Winston hopped on that table and earned himself a half-game suspension.

Maguire, who ran a Wing-T offense in high school, has thrown 26 career passes with 16 completions for 144 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

No. 1 Florida State faces No. 22 Clemson at 8 p.m. ET Saturday night on ABC.

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K-State shoots itself in foot, shin and kneecap, trails Auburn 10-7 at the half

Tyler Lockett

When hosting the No. 5 team in the country and defending SEC champions, it’s never a good idea to turn the ball over twice – once in your own red zone, once in your opponent’s – and miss a field goal in the first quarter. No. 20 Kansas State did just that.

The Wildcats opened the game by forcing a punt, but gave the ball right back when Jake Waters dropped the ball on a botched zone read. Auburn’s Robenson Therezie recovered at the Kansas State 21, and the Tigers turned it into a field goal. On the ensuing drive, the Wildcats calmly marched 74 yards in 10 plays to set up a 2nd-and-goal at the Auburn one, but Waters’ pass was bobbled by all-everything wide receiver Tyler Lockett and straight into the arms of Auburn cornerback Jonathan Jones. This is an Auburn game, after all. Of course balls are popping off opponents’ face masks straight into their defenders’ arms. Kicker Jack Cantele put the cherry on top of a frustrating first quarter for Kansas State by missing a 41-yard field goal try.

With all that considered, Kansas State is lucky to be within 10-7 at the half.

The Kansas State defensive front has been fantastic to this point, limiting Auburn to 55 rushing yards on 17 carries. Nick Marshall has completed 9-of-18 passes for 118 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The simple fact that Auburn has more passes than rushes and twice as many yards through the air than the ground should tell you the job the Wildcats have done defensively.

Defensive tackle Travis Britz has been especially good, batting down one pass to end an Auburn drive, and deflecting another to create the Marshall interception. Auburn is just 2-of-7 on third down, and came up empty on its first five tries.

Jake Waters has had an up-and-down night so far, completing 13-of-20 passes for 151 yards with the interception to Lockett. He ended the half by taking an awful sack/fumble that set up another Cantele field goal miss at the horn.

The key for the second half, obviously, is the Auburn running game. The Tigers are 1-9 when rushing for less than 200 yards over the last three years, while Kansas State is 21-2 while allowing less than 200 rushing yards.

Kansas State gets the ball to open the second half.

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Report: Texas A&M will pay $300,000 to ship in a new field from North Carolina

Kyle Field

For a university that takes such pride in their grass (seriously, go there some time), the playing conditions – or lack thereof – at Kyle Field last Saturday night had to be especially disheartening for Texas A&M. Heavy rain Friday night and Saturday morning combined with Kyle Field’s natural grass combined to create a playing surface that was hazardous at best and dangerous at worst.

“The field was kind of bad, but both teams had to play on it,” Texas A&M wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones told the Houston Chronicle after the game.

Rice head coach David Bailiff said “had some concerns” about even bringing his team out of the locker room to play the second half. (He did, and Rice lost 38-10). “I thought the grounds crew did about as good a job as anybody could do,” Bailiff said. “They kept the surface safe. Every time they saw a divot, they ran out there and fixed it.”

These post-game tweets showed his fears were not without reason.

According to a report from the Bryan-College Station Eagle, Texas A&M has a plan in place to fix the field, and will spare no expense to do it. Texas A&M officials plan to pay North Carolina-based company Carolina Green to ship an entirely new field to College Station.

The field will be moved in pieces inside 21 refrigerated trucks and begin installation the week of Sept. 29. Texas A&M System vice chancellor of marketing and communications Steve Moore says the process should take about four days.

“After the game, the chancellor asked the staff and the Kyle Field redevelopment committee to look at options,” Moore told the paper. “He wanted to know how to provide the best competitive playing surface we could going to forward and that’s what led to this process and the decisions that have been made.”

Carolina Green offers a thicker, more solid base that should allow the sod to take root in time for the Aggies’ next home game. And if there’s one silver lining to this story, it’s that the replacement comes at a good time: the Aggies are on the road the next three weeks, visiting SMU on Saturday, facing Arkansas at AT&T Stadium on Sept. 27, and visiting Mississippi State on Oct. 4. The sixth-ranked Aggies return to Kyle Field and their new surface on Oct. 11 to face No. 10 Ole Miss.

The new field comes at a cost of $300,000, but that’s chump change when you’re paying nearly half a billion dollars to renovate your football stadium.

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At long last, BYU to retire Jim McMahon’s No. 9 on Oct. 3

Jim McMahon

From the Department of Things That Should Have Happened a Long Time Ago, BYU announced Thursday it would retire former quarterback Jim McMahon’s No. 9 on Friday, Oct. 3.

McMahon will be enshrined into the BYU Athletics Hall of Fame on Thursday, Oct. 2.

Seriously, the man quarterbacked the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl nearly 30 years ago, and has spent every waking second since then making sure we don’t forget it. Frankly, I’m surprised the man hasn’t broken in during the middle of the night (wearing his signature shades and utterly unnecessary head band, of course) and installed his own bust by now.

A tipster tells us the delay was on McMahon’s part, not BYU’s. Athletes are not eligible for enshrinement or jersey retirement until completing graduation, which McMahon apparently just recently finished.

McMahon, whose name and number will be permanently displayed on the LaVell Edwards Stadium press box, joins a group of a half-dozen former Cougars to have their numbers retired: Eldon Fortie (No. 40), Marion Probert (No. 81), Steve Young (No. 8) and Gifford Nielsen and Ty Detmer (both No. 14).

“I’m very proud of Jim finishing his degree. He is a competitor and a finisher. Completing his education at BYU is evidence of the type of person he is,” said his former coach LaVell Edwards. “Jim was a great leader and had a complete understanding of the game of football. He is very deserving of the hall of fame and having his jersey retired.”

McMahon left school in 1981 holding 70 school records after compiling 653 completions for 9,536 yards and 84 touchdowns with a 156.9 passer rating. As a senior, McMahon won the inaugural Davey O’Brien Award, the Sammy Baugh Trophy, and was named the NCAA Co-Offensive Player of the Year. He finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting behind USC’s Marcus Allen and Georgia’s Herschel Walker.

McMahon will be honored in a ceremony during No. 21 BYU’s home date with Utah State on Oct. 4. The Cougars host Virginia on Saturday.

 

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Torn ACL, MCL ends season for Texas State’s Michael Orakpo

Corey Robinson, Michael Orakpo AP

Looking to get a fresh start at Texas State after getting the boot from Colorado State, Michael Orakpo will instead spend the next several months rehabbing a rather significant injury.

Earlier this week, TSU head coach Dennis Franchione confirmed that Orakpo will miss the remainder of the 2014 season due to a torn ACL and MCL.  The linebacker, who’s the brother of former Texas All-American Brian Orakpo, sustained the injury in this past weekend’s loss to Navy.

Franchione described the injury as “not a pretty sight to see.”

The injury also ends the playing career of the fifth-year season as he will not be eligible for a sixth season of eligibility.  It was also a career that reeks of what could’ve been.

In April of 2012, Orakpo, along with two now-former Colorado State teammates, were involved in what was described as the “savage beating” of fellow CSU students.  The trio was suspended by the program, ultimately charged with one count each of disorderly conduct, and eventually dismissed from the team.

Orakpo originally intended to transfer to and play for Baylor, but was removed from the roster — after having his own profile on the team’s official website — because of the baggage he brought from CSU.  He ended up at TSU and would be named second-team All-Sun Belt for his play during the 2013 season.

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Cincy’s starting RB, CB cited, with another Bearcat arrested

Hosey Williams, Junior Sylvestre AP

With a huge intrastate non-conference game looming two Saturdays from now, an incident that could turn into at least a mild distraction for the Cincinnati football program has reared its head.

The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote Thursday afternoon that “[t]he future of two University of Cincinnati football players on scholarships is unclear after one was arrested and the second was cited when police responded to a weekend party near campus where gunshots were fired.”  In a press release, the school subsequently confirmed the arrest as well as a total of three citations issued to football players

The arrested one was freshman cornerback Alex Thomas, who was charged after attempting to flee police who had responded to the call of shots fired. Running back Hosey Williams was cited for disorderly conduct while intoxicated according to the Enquirer. The paper noted that Williams’ citation” indicates he refused to tell police where he attends school.”

The other two given unspecified citations were sophomore linebacker Ey’Shawn McClain and junior cornerback Leviticus Payne.

The incident that led to the arrest and citations happened very early Sunday morning.

“This kind of behavior is not acceptable and not indicative of the UC football program. Moving forward, we will continue to educate our players on making good decisions and being great representatives of the University,” a statement from head coach Tommy Tuberville read.

Houston has been suspended by the football program and “will not be eligible to participate in a game until his legal matter is completely resolved. He has a preliminary court date on Oct. 14 so he will miss at least four games and possibly more,” the school’s release read. The other three have been disciplined internally but remain on the roster and eligible to participate in games.

That’s particularly good news when it comes to two portions of the cited trio.  Williams is UC’s starting running back and, in the season opener in Week 3 — the Bearcats had byes the first two weeks — led the Bearcats with 103 yards on 14 carries. Payne, meanwhile, is on of UC’s starting corners.

Thomas and McClain are not listed on the Bearcats’ two-deep depth chart.

(Tip O’ the Cap: ArrestNation.com)

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Report: Tech fired Wallerstedt for suspicion of being under the influence

Matt Wallerstedt

Before you go there, yes, that would explain some of Texas Tech’s defensive woes.  Now, with that out of the way, we can move on.

Earlier today it was reported that Texas Tech had fired defensive its coordinator, Matt Wallerstedt, and replaced the second-year coach with Mike Smith.  The school has yet to confirm the move, although that’s expected at some point this afternoon of evening.

No reason for the abrupt dismissal three games into the season was given either, although it was believed to be performance-related as the Red Raiders’ defense had been gashed for almost 500 yards rushing against Arkansas.  As it turns out, that may not be the case.

From ESPN.com‘s Jake Trotter:

Texas Tech fired defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt on Thursday after the coach was suspected of being at the school’s football building while under the influence of an unknown substance, sources told ESPN.com.

Wallerstedt was sent home from the facility Monday, according to a source.

What that alleged substance was wasn’t detailed by Trotter, and it’s highly, highly doubtful the university will divulge the circumstances surrounding the dismissal let alone any details of the alleged substance involved.

What we are certain of is this likely isn’t the last we’ve heard of this particular story.

(Photo credit: Texas Tech athletics)

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VIDEO: Jameis Winston running out of chances in eyes of NFL

Jameis Winston

Personally, I could care less what if any impact the latest brouhaha involving Jameis Winston will have on the Florida State quarterback’s future NFL draft stock.  The only thing I care about are things like what effect it will have on FSU’s chances in the Clemson game… if will it further damage any shot at back-to-back Heismans… if it will have any bearing on the Seminoles repeating as champions… will it cause Winston to leave FSU early for the professional ranks.  That’s it.

It’s the college football angle and the college football angle only that interests me — unless it somehow becomes intertwined with the future of the Cleveland Browns either directly or indirectly.

The fine folks at PFT Live, however, are keenly interested in Winston’s draft stock and what impact it may or may not have in the eyes of NFL clubs and their scouting departments.  Unofficial data suggests that’s already happening as Mel Kiper has dropped Winston from No. 3 to No. 25 on his Big Board for the 2015 NFL draft.  An overreaction to the obscene and vulgar meme Winston publicly belted out?  Possibly, but the reality of the new NFL suggests it’s not.

As the esteemed and deftly-coiffed Mike Florio explains in this PFT Live segment, teams will likely be on the lookout for character issues of potential draft picks in the wake of the controversies involving Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.  Taking that into account, and taking into account the myriad off-field hiccups Winston’s already stepped into during his two-plus years in Tallahassee, Florio opines that “for a guy that’s going to be the face of a franchise somewhere, there is enough evidence out there to have a concern that this guy isn’t ready and may never be ready to be the face of your franchise.”

“He’s running out of chances to convince the NFL he can come in and be that player who is the leader of your team both in the locker room and in the public eye,” Florio added.

For those who are interested in the NFL aspect of this situation, this two-minute clip is actually well worth your time.

 

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Reports: Texas Tech cans DC Matt Wallerstedt

Matt Wallerstedt

Go ahead and file this in the “whoa, didn’t expect this so soon” folder.

Within minutes of each other Thursday afternoon, both CoachingSearch.com and FootballScoop.com reported via Twitter that Matt Wallerstedt has been fired as defensive coordinator by head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Mike Smith is expected to take over the coordinating duties on that side of the ball.

Tech is expected to release a statement confirming the move at some point this afternoon.

The apparent decision to can Wallerstedt, in his second season at Tech, comes just five days after Arkansas ran over, through and around the Red Raiders in an embarrassing 49-28 loss Saturday in Lubbock. In that game, the Razorbacks ran for 438 yards while passing for just 61.

Smith, a 2004 TT graduate, held the titles of co-defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach.

As it stands now, the Red Raiders’ defense is second-to-last in rushing defense and 106th in scoring defense through three games.  Last season, Wallerstedt’s first, they were 74th and 90th, respectively, in those categories.

(Photo credit: Texas Tech athletics)

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Ark. St. can return remembrance crosses to helmets

Arkansas State Cross

The fact that an attorney complained to Arkansas State about memorial crosses placed on the football team’s helmets triggered action from the university, with the crosses being altered or removed so that only the initials of the dead remained.  It also, though, triggered an outpouring of criticism of the school from those who felt they caved to the interests of a single individual at the expense of the majority.

One of those levying the most pointed criticism was the Liberty Institute, a conservative Christian legal organization that had complained in a letter to the university that it had infringed on the private religious rights of the players.

In the end, they’re right back to a similar place where they were prior to the original complaint lodged over a week ago: the players can have crosses on their helmets, if they want them there. And they won’t be placed their by an employee of the school as before; rather, the players themselves will be able to affix crosses or any other NCAA-sanctioned tribute to former defensive lineman Markel Owens and former equipment manager Barry Weyer Jr., who both died back in 2013 in separate incidents.

The university allowed that it was wrong for the school to place the crosses on the helmets originally. “The sticker idea originated among the coaches and the coaches’ small group of football players on the Leadership Council,” a letter from ASU System President Charles Welch to the institute stated, also noting that the stickers were paid for using public funds.  That will not happen this time around.

According to the same letter, “[t]he display of these stickers will be totally voluntary and completely independent of university involvement. The university will not procure the stickers, purchase them, or affix them to the helmets.”

ASU officials had consulted with their counterparts at the Liberty institute to come up with a solution that allows the individuals to make the choice.  It also came after conversations with its own legal team and the NCAA.

“In the interest of allowing our student-athletes to memorialize their fallen colleagues, Markel Owens and Barry Weyer, it is the university’s position that any player who wishes to voluntarily place an NCAA-compliant sticker on their helmet to memorialize these individuals will be able to do so,” the letter from the university continued.

The Liberty Institute issued its own statement hailing what it referred to as “a great victory for the players of Arkansas State University!”

“According to the letter we received from the University and communications from the Arkansas Attorney General Office, the players will be allowed to place the original cross sticker design on their helmets in the original location if they so choose.

“The University officials and the Arkansas Attorney General did the right thing restoring the religious liberty and free speech rights of the players to have the original cross sticker design if they so choose and we commend them for doing so.”

A Red Wolve football player had complained that the school had violated his right to free speech because of the cross flap, which gained the interest of the institute. The school, though, denies the player’s right to free speech was infringed upon due to the university’s actions.

In the letter referenced previously, the institute was taken to task by the president for disseminating what it called misinformation over what led to the school’s initial decision.

The University’s response said “The foregoing facts are in stark contrast to the misinformation contained in your letter stating that the ‘students designed the helmet sticker,’ that ‘[e]ach teammate affixed the sticker to his helmet,’ and that the ‘stickers were designed by the students on their own.'”

The letter also said that all of this was done without the advice of counsel. The University argued that “Accordingly, when the school modified the stickers to avoid Establishment Clause concerns, no student speech was infringed.”

(Photo credit: Arkansas State athletics)

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