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Malzahn understands criticism but “never told any player to fake an injury”

Gus Malzahn AP

Players faking injuries with the attempt of slowing down the opposing offense seems to pop up every week, and it is quite annoying. Annoying for fans watching, but infuriating for coaches who can see right through the fake pain being suffered by players on the field. One such incident appeared to take place Saturday night during Auburn’s road victory at Arkansas. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn has since distanced himself from the alleged fake injury nonsense as any coach would, but he does understand why questions have been raised after seeing the video.

“At the time I did not see it happen, but after watching the TV copy I could see why people questioned it,” Malzahn said in a report by AL.com. “I’ve coached for 23 years and I’ve never told any player to fake an injury.”

Whether Malzahn has ever instructed a player directly to take a dive or not may never be known for sure, but the video of Auburn linebacker Anthony Swain is pretty tough to argue against the idea the Tigers defensive player took a rather quick fall out of nowhere as the Razorbacks were pushing toward the end zone for a score. In the video shown below, you can see Swain standing on the field when all of a sudden he falls to the ground in supposed pain.

The fact that the alleged fake injury occurred against Arkansas could just be a coincidence or a bit of irony. Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema has gone on record on the past suggesting up-tempo offenses that are catching on around the sport have a negative effect on players and the game. Malzahn, who has thrived coaching that style of offense has taken a contradicting stance on the issue.

Helmet sticker to Guyism for the video.

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Bo Pelini suggests foul play by Ole Miss

Bo Pelini

There is an old football cliche that goes something like this: “If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.”

And Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini stopped just short of accusing the Ole Miss Rebels of cheating during a recent recruiting battle.

Wide receiver transfer Damore’ea Stringfellow, who originally chose the Washington Huskies as part of the 2013 class, verbally committed to Nebraska during a visit this summer. After visits to Alabama and Ole Miss, Stringfellow, a four-star recruit, decided to flip his commitment and he will attend Ole Miss in the fall.

What happened in between?

“Read between the lines,” Pelini told Huskers Illustrated’s Michael Bruntz. “I think we all know what happened in that situation.”

Since Coach Pelini suggested it, let’s read between the lines about what could have possibly happened.

OK — I’m reading between the lines now — what could Ole Miss have done to flip Stringfellow’s commitment?

  • They paid him.
  • They gave him a car.
  • They offered his parents a job.
  • They told him he would start right away.
  • Young ladies were used as “campus aides” to woo him.

There really is an untold amount of possibilities we can think of based on Pelini’s simple suggestion.

Or — and this is far more likely — a teenager with plenty of options available to him changed his mind. Too bad the coach on the wrong side of the decision simply couldn’t accept that fact.

Pelini didn’t give much of an explanation for his outburst, but he seemed to lay the blame at the feet of Stringfellow’s parents.

“Especially when it’s a clueless parent,” Pelini said.

Pelini may think he knows what’s best for every kid Nebraska recruits, but he is not in any position to tell Stringfellow and his family what’s best for them.

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A deluge descends upon UCLA’s campus

Terrence Bowman #12

A water main break near UCLA’s campus has completely flooded large areas of the university.

The football team was forced to quickly move its gear from the onrushing water. The football field is almost completely submerged, and the weight room is reportedly in “bad shape.”

Here are other images from around UCLA’s athletic complex:

If you want to follow the NBC 4’s coverage of the water break, click the video below:

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Report: Three more Longhorns could face a suspension

Daje Johnson

When four players were dismissed from the Texas Longhorns program last week, there was speculation more players would follow. Three more players have been identified by HornsDigest.com’s Chip Brown as being at risk.

Wide receiver Daje Johnson and offensive tackles Desmond Harrison and Kennedy Estelle all face suspension, according to Brown. The trio are apparently down to their “last strike” with the program.

It should be pointed out that Texas has not announced anything and these three players may simply be facing internal pressure to conform with head coach Charlie Strong’s new approach.

If we do take a moment to consider the possibility of any of these players being suspended, it would be a major blow to the Longhorns’ offense.

Harrison and Estelle are projected to the team’s starting bookends at offensive tackle. The Longhorns lack experience behind their starters and protecting quarterback David Ash with a pair of neophyte offensive tackles could prove to be disastrous. Kent Perkins, who is projected to start at guard, would likely be asked to move back to right tackle, while sophomore Camrhon Hughes would be thrust into the starting lineup.

At wide receiver, Johnson has shown the potential to be a dynamic play maker. While it may be difficult to replicate what Johnson can do within the offense, it could eventually prove to be an opportunity for a young receiver — whether it’s Jacorey Warrick, Jake Oliver or one of five incoming freshmen — to earn playing time and possibly produce.

It wouldn’t be surprising with Strong’s recent track record to find out that one or all of these players are eventually suspended, but we wanted to stress the fact that it hasn’t happened or hasn’t been announced at this time.

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Mizzou WR suspended due to a banned substance

Missouri v Vanderbilt

The Missouri Tigers’ war of attrition at wide receiver continues.

Sophomore Levi Copelin has been suspended for the 2014 campaign due to taking a banned substance.

“The reason I am suspended is that I recently bought an over-the-counter nutritional supplement from a local store, and used it as part of my workout routine,” Copelin said in a statement released by the schoool. “Unfortunately, I used it without clearing it with my strength coaches or trainers.  This supplement is legal and available to the public, but it isn’t approved by the NCAA, and as a result of using it, I failed an NCAA drug test.  This was a stupid mistake on my part, and I’m very sorry that I put myself and my team in this situation.  This is a hard lesson to learn, as I never had the wrong intentions. I also understand there aren’t any shortcuts to success.  There’s nothing I can do except dedicate myself to representing me, my family, my team, and Mizzou the right way going forward.  I’m very grateful to my coaches and my teammates for giving me a chance to overcome this.”

Last season, the Tigers had one of the most explosive wide receiver corps in college football. L’Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas were lost to the NFL, and budding superstar Dorial Green-Beckham was dismissed from the team in April.

The team will now rely heavily on seniors Bud Sasser, Darius White and Jimmie Hunt. Copelin was projected to be the team’s fourth starter at wide receiver in its spread system. Instead, Copelin’s absence will provide an opportunity for a pair of true freshmen, Nate Brown and DeSean Blair, to make an early impact for the Tigers. The coaching staff could also turn to tight end Sean Culkin to provide a big presence — all 6-6 and 245 pounds of him — in the slot.

“This is a very unfortunate situation, but one that Levi created for himself,” Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said in the statement. “He’s paying the price for this mistake, and I commend him for owning up to it and taking responsibility.  Our strength coaches and trainers rely on our players to be careful of what they do on their own, and to always get approval from them first.  We’re disappointed that Levi didn’t follow this guideline, but we will support him during this time, and have high expectations that he will handle all of his responsibilities in the classroom, in the community and on the field in a first-class manner.”

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WVU’s Wendell Smallwood cleared of charges in murder case

Wendell Smallwood

Sometimes, as is the case with West Virginia running back Wendell Smallwood, it’s far more prudent to allow the justice system to play itself out before a student-athlete’s future is determined.

Smallwood was arrested July 14 on charges of intimidating a witness involved in a murder case.

Wilmington (Delaware) police claimed at the time that Smallwood “tried to get a witness to recant statements implicating a friend (Zakee Lloyd) of his charged with first-degree murder.”

Lloyd, however, admitted to the crime, while Smallwood was a vital part of the investigation. The Wilmington Police Department issued a statement regarding Smallwood’s role in the matter:

Since his arrest, Wendell Smallwood has been fully cooperative with the Department of Justice and Wilmington Police Department including giving a full statement regarding his involvement in witness intimidation. He was fully prepared to testify truthfully in the upcoming trial, and his cooperation was instrumental to the State in securing today’s conviction of Zakee Lloyd.

There is no evidence of Smallwood’s involvement in the murder of Manuel Oliveras.  Moreover, despite the recorded phone call between Smallwood and Lloyd, there is no evidence that it resulted in a threat being conveyed to that witness.  In consideration of all of the facts and circumstances, including Smallwood’s full cooperation with authorities and the conviction of Zakee Lloyd, the State today entered a nolle prosequi on the witness intimidation charge against Wendell Smallwood.

Upon news of Smallwood’s involvement in the case, West Virginia University didn’t comment on the situation, and Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen wouldn’t discuss it during Big 12 media days. Instead, Smallwood remained on the roster, and he’ll now be able to return to the team without fear of suspension or dismissal.

Smallwood finished third on the team with 221 rushing yards in 2013, and he was second with 894 all-purpose yards.

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Jake Heaps expects to start at QB for the Hurricanes

Jake Heaps

Quarterback Jake Heaps hopes the third time is the charm.

Heaps is on his third team in four years. After unsuccessful stints with the BYU Cougars and the Kansas Jayhawks, Heaps has one year of eligibility left to make his mark with the Miami Hurricanes. And Heaps plans to make the most of it as the team’s starting quarterback.

“I didn’t come here to be the backup,” Heaps told the Miami Herald’s Susan Miller Degnan. “I made this decision for a reason. I came here to play, but you have to earn that. No one is going to give that to you, and that’s what I knew coming into this situation and that’s what I wanted.

“… That’s the only way you’re going to earn your teammates’ respect and gain their confidence. So for me, I’m very excited about this opportunity. This is my last year. I’ve given everything I have at this thing, and it’s extremely important for me to perform well — not only to win the job but for my goals and aspirations down the line as well.”

Heaps’ experience speaks for itself and provides him with an advantage in the Hurricanes’ upcoming quarterback competition. During his time with the other two institutions, Heaps played in 33 games and threw for 5,181 yards, 32 touchdowns and 27 interceptions.

The starting job, however, won’t be handed to the upperclassman. Although, the trek will be much easier to navigate without projected starter Ryan Williams in the running. Williams suffered a torn ACL during spring ball, which allowed Heaps to transfer to the University of Miami.

Heaps will compete with three young but very talented quarterbacks. Kevin Olsen is a redshirt freshman and former four-star recruit. Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier are a pair of highly touted true freshmen that could work their way into the mix with strong showings during fall camp.

“Many times you’re in a situation with quarterback battles, [and] it’s very easy to find a team that has a divided locker room, that in a lot of situations don’t handle this situation very well,” Heaps said. “It’s a testament to the group of guys in this quarterback room that there hasn’t been any division.

“I’ve tried to come in and be nobody but myself and show these guys how much I love the game of football. It has gone extremely well. These guys are great.”

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Disciplinary actions at Texas are helping recruiting

Charlie Strong

Charlie Strong had many challenges facing him when he took over as the head coach of the Texas Longhorns. The biggest of which was relating to high school coaches in the state of Texas after they became accustomed to the ways of Mack Brown over the past 16 years.

Strong’s recent disciplinary action — he suspended or dismissed six players last week, including two potential starters — wasn’t seen as a negative around the state. Strong is establishing a new culture in Texas, and high school coaches are taking notice.

“The high school coaches I’ve spoken with say they want to send players to a place where is sound discipline,” Daron Roberts, a Texas graduate who will coach at the high school level this season, told Bleacher Report’s Ben Kercheval. “Everyone knows that Strong means what he says.”

The high school coaches don’t just want their athletes to play for the University of Texas. They want them to become better men under the supervision of Strong.

“We’re in the development business,” Todd Moebes, the head football coach at Abilene Cooper High School, told Kercheval. “We want to make our players better citizens in society, but you also have to look at how that affects the program. I admire him.”

Strong is quickly setting the tone within his program and changing expectations around the state. And it’s working.

Texas currently ranks 20th overall in Rivals.com’s 2015 class rankings. The program didn’t rank in the Top 20 during Brown’s last full recruiting cycle. The team finished 24th. And the Longhorns received a pair of verbal commitments from wide receiver John Burt (Tallahassee, Fla./Lincoln) and defensive lineman Du’Vonta Lampkin (Houston/Cypress Falls) since the suspensions.

It will take time for Strong and his staff to fully ingratiate themselves into recruiting the state of Texas, but the coach has certainly set the right tone early in his tenure.

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NCAA rescinds Oklahoma State’s practice penalty

Mike Gundy

The NCAA reversed its course, and the Oklahoma State Cowboys won’t be docked practice time this season.

Two months ago, the NCAA ruled the Cowboys’ football team fell below the minimum standard required as it pertains to program’s Academic Progress Rate.

A mistake in calculating the APR was brought to the NCAA’s attention by Oklahoma State, which brought the school’s APR score above the minimum threshold.

“Throughout this process the NCAA has been committed to having complete and accurate data,” OSU’s senior associate athletic director for compliance Kevin Fite said in a release. “We were provided a great deal of assistance in ensuring the information we were evaluated on accurately reflected our football team’s academic performance, based on APR standards. When the additional point was discovered earlier this summer, the NCAA staff promptly re-evaluated our situation and added the point, which took us out of the penalty range.”

The mistake apparently came when the school “discovered the recent graduation of a player from the 1990s which counted toward the APR score”, according to FOX Sports Southwest’s David Ubben.

The change in policy won’t have a drastic effect on how Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy approaches practice during fall camp or during the season.

“We haven’t used the 20 hours in a number of years,” Gundy said during Big 12 media days. “And when you put it down on paper, we end up being about 45 minutes short. We’ll incorporate a few new things in two-a-days prior to school starting, when we don’t have any limitations, and we’ll move forward. I’ve challenged the players with accepting responsibility to make up for that time during the week.”

Oklahoma State has shown marked academic improvement over the past two years, which lessened the original penalty, but the program will have to continue on its upward trend to avoid this situation in the future. Next time they might not be able to find a player from two decades ago that will able to help their cause.

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Urban Meyer wants LeBron James at OSU games

Wisconsin v Ohio State

Basketball megastar LeBron James described his time with the Miami Heat as his “college experience.” Now that “The King” is “coming home” to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers, The Ohio State University would like to expand on his so-called college experience this fall by making James a permanent fixture on the football team’s sidelines.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was asked about James’ return to Ohio during the Big Ten’s media days. Meyer made sure to point out he has an open door policy with James.

James is one of the world’s most famous athletes, and the reason to have him around is obvious. James is a living and breathing recruiting tool, and coaches love to use every tool at their disposal.

Unfortunately, NBA training camps open at the start of October, and James will likely miss the bulk of Ohio State’s conference games, unless he has an off day or two from practice and games.

If Meyer really wanted James around more, he could have done exactly what the basketball program did and bequeath a permanent locker to James somewhere in the football facilities.

After all, there appears to be more than enough room in the team’s new extravagant new locker room to grant “The King” a throne…

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Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes have national title expectations

Urban Meyer

On The Dan Patrick Show, Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer addressed multiple issues he deals with on a daily basis as the leader of one of the nation’s premier programs.

Expectations for the Buckeyes may the most difficult issue to handle. Ohio State doesn’t just compete for Big Ten Championships. The program is trying to compete for national titles each and every year.

“I think it’s real,” Meyer told Patrick. “I felt it on our team last year during our win streak. I try to watch that. I been through it now for quite a while. I try to give some experience to it and focus on that task at hand. No one forced these players to come to Ohio State. No one forced these coaches. You get these top five, six, seven programs and that’s the way it is. You have to win every game you play, embrace it and try to do it. If you can’t, you rebound and try to win the next one. We have a good handle on that here.”

The Buckeyes are a consensus Top 10 pick entering the season, and they were chosen by the media to win the Big Ten Conference. If the Buckeyes hold true to form, they will have a legitimate shot to be one of four participants in the the new College Football Playoff.

To listen to the entire interview, click the video below:

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Media picks Cincinnati to win the American Athletic Conference

Tommy Tuberville

The Cincinnati Bearcats are the favorites to claw their way out of American Athletic Conference and potentially play in a major bowl game.

Cincinnati received 17 first-place votes from the media members currently covering the American’s media days.

“First time in my 19 years that I’ve ever been picked to win the conference,” Bearcats head coach Tommy Tuberville told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “I don’t think I have, but I can’t remember. But remember, Louisville was picked to win last year, and they didn’t win.

“We’ll have a target on our back every week. It’s something we can take and run with or we can hide from it. Obviously you want to take it and run with it.”

Two other teams, the UCF Knights and Houston Cougars, received first-place votes. The Knights received seven first-place votes and were chosen to finish second, while the Cougars had six first-place votes and were picked to finish third.

The Knights are coming off a BCS bowl berth and a Fiesta Bowl championship, but the losses of quarterback Blake Bortles and running back Storm Johnson to the NFL may be too much to overcome to repeat as league champions.

The Cougars, meanwhile, are highly talented on offense and have one of the nation’s best young quarterbacks in John O’Korn. The Cougars travel to Cincinnati on Dec. 6 with the conference championship likely on the line.

The conference’s newest addition, the East Carolina Pirates, were picked to finish fourth. The Pirates have arguably the best quarterback-wide receiver tandem in the AAC with Shane Carden and Justin Hardy, but the team plays a brutal non-conference schedule against the South Carolina Gamecocks, Virginia Tech Hokies or North Carolina Tar Heels.

The SMU Mustangs, South Florida Bulls, Memphis Tigers and Temple Owls were finished to finish fifth through eighth, respectively. The Connecticut Huskies and Tulane Green Wave received the same numbers of votes and tied for ninth place. Another new addition to the conference, the Tulsa Hurricane, was picked to finish last.

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NCAA settles concussion lawsuit

NCAA Men's Final Four - Practice

The NCAA’s headache over concussions and their treatment in multiple sports has been addressed for now.

The Associated Press obtained a court filing which states the NCAA will “create a $70 million fund to test current and former college athletes for brain injuries. Players can use the results later as grounds for suing for damages.

The NCAA agreed to settle the class-action lawsuit, which was comprised of ten individual lawsuits, but it denied “each and every allegation of liability, wrongdoing and damages and further denies that the MDL Action may be maintained as a class action except for settlement purposes.”

As part of the settlement agreement:

  • The NCAA agreed to pay $70 million in total.
  • The amount paid by the NCAA will go towards costs to fund the Medical Monitoring Program, Notice and Administrative Costs, the costs of the Medical Science Committee, Attorneys’ Fees and Expenses, and Service Awards.
  • The Medical Science Committee, which will be made up of four medical experts in the field, will establish a baseline screening questionnaire for the NCAA.
  • The allocation of the resources will be determined by a third-party professional service company.
  • Every student-athlete from each sport will receive preseason baseline testing.
  • If a student-athlete is diagnosed with a concussion, he or she is prohibited from returning to the game or practice that same day.
  • A student-athlete must be cleared by medical personnel before they can return to competition.
  • During all contact sports games, the institution is required to have trained medical personnel present. This applies to all three levels of the NCAA athletics.
  • The NCAA will create reporting process for institutions to report diagnosed concussions.
  • The NCAA will contribute $5 million to concussion research.

The NCAA is obligated to provide $30 million into the settlement account within the first 30 days of the ruling. If the full amount of the settlement is not used within a court appointed date, the money will be returned to the NCAA.

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Oklahoma recruit Joe Mixon claims innocence in statement

Mixon

In a statement released by his lawyer, Oklahoma’s five-star running back recruit, Joe Mixon, claims he was merely defending himself during an altercation Friday morning with University of Oklahoma student Amelia Molitor.

The statement, provided by The Oklahoman, reads:

This past Friday morning Joe Mixon found himself in a situation where he was subjected to both verbal and physical attacks from a very intoxicated and troubled young woman.  As a result of these physical attacks, Joe instinctually defended himself against further harm.

As promised, Joe met with investigators from the Norman Police Department this afternoon. Throughout the meeting, Joe continued to be forthcoming and cooperative with their investigation.

We are looking forward to a thorough investigation and are very much looking forward to the truth coming out.  As we have always maintained, Joe has done nothing wrong.

Molitor alleged Mixon punched her in the face, which caused a broken bone.

The Norman Police Department is still reviewing the case, and no charges have been filed against Mixon or Molitor at this time.

The University of Oklahoma is aware of the situation and will likely withhold further comment until the findings of the case are divulged.

Photo credit: Rivals

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Michigan AD says Brady Hoke isn’t on hot seat

University of Michigan Introduces Brady Hoke Getty Images

Michigan head coach Brady Hoke isn’t worried about being on the hot season this season, and he shouldn’t be.

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon stated Hoke’s job isn’t on the line as the Wolverines prepare for the 2014 campaign.

“It’s not,” Brandon told The Detroit News’ Bob Wojnowski. “Every football coach in America lives under enormous pressure, so I don’t need to apply any more. We’re the winningest program in the history of college football, we know what the expectations of our fan base is. Nobody has to tell Brady that. And I have all the confidence in the world that he’s bringing in the right kids, that he continues to do the right thing in terms of getting his staff lined up. I’m convinced we’re heading to a very, very good place.”

It’s certainly different to make such a claim in July than it will be a few months from now, particularly if the Wolverines struggle through another season.

Brandon expects the Wolverines to improve from last year’s 7-6 record. But he wasn’t willing to provide a benchmark for Hoke to remain off the hot seat. Brandon simply expects to see continued improvement.

“I have a high level of confidence that the pieces are being put together for this program to be what we all want it to be,” Brandon said. “I have to be patient because I know what’s involved. I know what was here when coach Hoke arrived, in terms of how we needed to change.

“We needed to get bigger, we went from one style (the spread offense under Rich Rodriguez) to a different style. You’d like to think you can snap your fingers and make that happen, but it takes time. So on the one hand, I have to be patient because I realistically know it takes some time, but on the other hand, I’m as impatient as anybody.

“I want to win, and my expectations haven’t changed one iota. We want to be in that game in Indianapolis, we want to be competing for that championship. We have unfinished business and that’s to get this program back where we want it. I’m confident that’s going to happen.”

Unfortunately for Michigan, the road to Indianapolis and the Big Ten Championship doesn’t go through Ann Arbor. It goes through Columbus or East Lansing. And a third place finish — or worse — in the Big Ten’s eastern division could finally land Hoke on the hot seat.

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Georgia adds brother of Alabama recruit

Georgia v Clemson Getty Images

Recruiting is all about relationships, and the Georgia Bulldogs may have pulled a trump card to eventually flip a current Alabama Crimson Tide commit.

The Bulldogs received a commitment from tight end Joseph Ledbetter, according to The Macon Telegraph.

“I’ll be at camp on Friday … and I will be on a full scholarship,” Ledbetter confirmed to Dawgs247.com.

Ledbetter, who played basketball for two years before deciding to transfer from Pfeiffer University, is the older brother of four-star recruit Jonathan Ledbetter.

Rivals.com ranks Johnathan Ledbetter as the third-best defensive end recruit in the nation. The defensive lineman committed to Alabama in January.

Despite his brother’s decision, Jonathan Ledbetter isn’t prepared to change his verbal commitment.

“It doesn’t really affect me,” Jonathan Ledbetter said. “I’m just glad he’s in school and has the opportunity, but we aren’t a package deal or anything.”

There could be some family pressure for Jonathan to eventually join Joseph at UGA, though.

“I would love to have two Georgia Bulldogs as sons, or three – because I have a third son as well,” the mother of Joseph and Jonathan Ledbetter, Teresa Belcher, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “But I try to stay out of it. I try to let them decide what is best for them. Of course, I give my opinion. But Jonathan will make his decision on what is best for him, as far as the type of team that fits his personality. I try not to overwhelm him with questions about that.

“Jonathan is very happy for Joseph. He is very excited for his brother. But I really don’t think it’s going to influence his college decision on way or the other.”

Georgia, meanwhile, will still benefit even if the younger Ledbetter doesn’t change his mind. Joseph Ledbetter will add depth and athleticism to the Bulldogs’ tight end position after Hunter Atkinson decided to leave the program.

The trend at the tight end position is get highly athletic former basketball players and convert them. Georgia now has two with Joseph Ledbetter and starter Jay Rome on the roster.

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