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Former Texas A&M linebacker alleges recruiting, practice violations by Jimbo Fisher’s staff

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Former Texas A&M linebacker Santino Marchiol revealed in June he intended to transfer to Arizona. The Aggies had hired a new coach, Jimbo Fisher, and the coach who recruited him, Kevin Sumlin, was now in Tucson. Marichol enrolled at Texas A&M in January of 2017 and redshirted his first season in College Station, meaning to make the move to Arizona, he’d have to sacrifice a season of eligibility unless the NCAA granted him a waiver.

And as Dan Wolken of USA Today details, Marichol tried a perhaps unprecedented path to gain immediate eligibility at Arizona: by alleging NCAA violations at his old school. According to Marichol, he was handed hundreds of dollars in cash by Aggies assistant Bradley Dale Peveto to host recruits on official visits:

On two separate weekends this spring, Marchiol told USA TODAY Sports, he was given hundreds of dollars in cash by linebackers coach Bradley Dale Peveto to entertain prospects on unofficial visits. Those recruiting visits occurred, he said, following the April 14 spring game with Zach Edwards, a three-star linebacker from Starkville, Mississippi, and the second weekend in June with four-star linebacker Christian Harris (now a Texas A&M verbal commitment) and Nakobe Dean from Horn Lake, Mississippi, ranked as the No. 1 inside linebacker in the country by Rivals.com.

While NCAA rules at the time allowed schools to give a student host $40 a day to entertain recruits during official visits, prospects must pay their own expenses for unofficial visits, meaning any money provided by coaches would be an NCAA rules violation. Recruits are allowed to take up to five all-expenses-paid official visits each, but many also add unofficial visits to see other schools or make additional visits to a favorite school. News accounts of the visits that Marchiol discussed indicate all were unofficial.

Marchiol describes being taken aback after the spring game when Peveto pulled him into a bathroom near the coaches’ offices and handed him $300.

“There were coaches having meetings in the other office, and he said, here, come in the bathroom real quick because he’d just asked me to host the recruit,” Marchiol said. “So I went in the bathroom and it was just me and him in there, and he’s like, ‘Take this, if you need any more just text me and make sure they have a good time.’ ”

On the second occasion, Marchiol said, the money exchange took place in the bathroom at Razzoo’s Cajun Cafe in College Station, a restaurant where the team frequently takes recruits to eat. Marchiol said he received $400 in cash from Peveto and  that a teammate Marchiol identified in his waiver request was handed another $300 during the exchange.

“You know how you tip people in Vegas? He had the cash in his hand and he like handed it to us like, here (with a handshake),” Marchiol said.

But that wasn’t the only way in which current Aggies coaches have skirted NCAA rules, according to Marichol. Over this summer, Aggies defensive coordinator Mike Elko directed players to spend time at the football facility working on football activities far beyond the allowable levels as permitted by the NCAA.

When Texas A&M’s players returned after Memorial Day weekend, defensive coordinator Mike Elko brought his players into a meeting and made clear what he expected of them: “He said, ‘We’re going to have a lot of meetings and practices that aren’t technically required, but you guys have to be here because you’re way behind. We need to win,’ ” Marchiol said. 

Marichol said players were required to be at the facility from 9 a.m. until “well after” 6:30 p.m. four days a week through the summer and that coaches observed and instructed their 7-on-7 practices, with Elko demonstrating proper technique and alignment, as would be typical of a fall or spring practice but disallowed in the summer by NCAA bylaws.

Finally, Marichol said Aggies trainers mishandled an ankle injury he suffered in June.

Marchiol said he believes he was pushed to play through the injury because of a belief coaches frequently shared loudly with the players: The Aggies program had been like a country club under Sumlin. In fact, he said, everything in the message of Fisher and his assistants had been themed to demand more toughness, from the duration of workouts to the language coaches used on the field to players being told outright that highly rated recruits were coming to replace them.

Marichol is being represented by Thomas Mars, an Arkansas-based lawyer who represented Houston Nutt in his suit against Ole Miss. The NCAA does not comment on current or potential cases. A Texas A&M spokesperson said: “Texas A&M Athletics takes these allegations seriously, and we are reviewing the situation with the NCAA and the SEC Office.”

The Aggies open their first season under Fisher on Sept. 1 against Northwestern State (8:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network).

Utah State hires ex-Washington State assistant Roc Bellantoni

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Utah State is the latest football program to make a late-offseason addition to its coaching staff.  Or an early-fall addition.  Whichever verbiage you prefer.

That being said, Utah State announced this week that Roc Bellantoni has been added to Gary Andersen‘s Utah State football staff. Bellantoni will serve not only as the special teams coordinator for the Aggies but as tight ends coach as well.

Bellantoni spent the 2019 season at Washington State.  After Tracy Claeys stepped down as defensive coordinator in October of last year, Bellantoni, the linebackers coach at the time, and cornerbacks coach Darcel McBath served as interim co-defensive coordinators for the rest of the season.

Bellantoni spent the two seasons prior to his time at Wazzu at Buffalo as defensive ends coach and special teams coordinator.  In 2018, he also served as the Bulls’ special teams coordinator.

Prior to that, Bellantoni was the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Florida Atlantic for three years. That marked Bellantoni’s first job at the FBS level.

All told, Bellantoni has spent 25 seasons as an assistant at the collegiate level.  The Iona graduate also spent time on coaching staffs at Villanova, Eastern Illinois and Drake.  At Villanova, Bellantoni was special teams coordinator as well as defensive line coach.

Oklahoma beats out LSU, Maryland for Caleb Williams, the highest-rated quarterback in the Class of 2021

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LSU handed it to Oklahoma in the 2019 College Football Playoff.  On the Fourth of July a few months later, the Sooners returned the favor on the recruiting trail.

Last month, Caleb Williams, one of the top prospects in the Class of 2021, announced that he had whittled his recruiting to-do list down to three schools: LSU, Maryland and Oklahoma.  As expected, Williams announced his verbal commitment on the holiday weekend.  And, as expected, the quarterback gave that verbal to Oklahoma football.  Or, the new QBU if you will.

Lincoln Riley acknowledged the commitment on Twitter.

Williams is a five-star 2021 prospect.  The Washington D.C. high schooler is rated as the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the country — and the No. 1 quarterback overall.  On the 247Sports.com composite, Williams is rated as the No. 4 recruit in the country.

Suffice to say, recruiting observers are high on Williams’ future.  Very high.

“There’s nothing this kid can’t do,” former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer said last month. “I’ve been doing this a long time, he has very few limitations if any. He’s uber-competitive. Very focused when he walked in. He’s really clean, he’s consistent, clean usually means consistent.

“Every throw was good to great. I think he takes it that serious. I’m interpreting what his mind is telling him and it’s as if every throw is the most important throw of the day.

Texas Tech WR Caden Leggett arrested for racing on a highway

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Yes, Texas Tech football fan.  You read that headline correctly.

According to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Caden Leggett was arrested over the weekend in Lubbock County.  The charge?  Racing on a highway.  It’s believed that another Texas Tech football player was involved in the race, although that player has not yet been identified by the police.

Leggett was driving a Ford Mustang and admitted to police that a teammate was one of the individuals with which he was racing.  From the Avalanche-Journal‘s report:

A Lubbock police patrol officer saw three vehicles speeding northbound about 2:40 a.m. in the 10000 block of Indiana Avenue and began chasing the vehicles.

“I had to travel at a high rate of speed in order to attempt to catch up to the vehicles,” the officer wrote in his report.

The officer caught up to the three vehicles — a dark colored Dodge Challenger, a white Ford Mustang and another white vehicle — at a red light in the intersection of 82nd Street and Indiana Avenue. However, the vehicles sped away again when the light turned green, the report states.

The officer activated his lights and sirens to get the three vehicles to stop.

The officer pulled along side the Challenger and motioned and yelled at the driver to pull over. The officer believed the driver of the Challenger saw him and pulled behind the Mustang to stop the driver.

The driver of the Mustang pulled over in the 3300 block of 76th Street. However, the driver of the Challenger and third vehicle continued driving, the report states.

The Texas Tech football program is aware of the off-field situation involving members of the Red Raiders team.

Leggett joined the Tech football team in 2018 as a walk-on.  In 2019, the wide receiver was placed on scholarship.

In two seasons, Leggett appeared in 15 games.  Of those appearances, 11 came in 2019.  The Georgetown, Texas, product has caught two passes for 16 yards.

Family of the first Black football player in University of Texas history suing the NCAA

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A racial pioneer in the Texas football program is back in the news.

As we have noted previously, dozens of Texas student-athletes, including football players, are demanding change at the university.  One of those demands is naming a part of Royal-Memorial Stadium in honor of Julius Whittier, the first-ever Black player in University of Texas football history.

Coincidentally or not, the family of Whittier this week filed a lawsuit against NCAA.  In the suit, which is seeking damages in excess of a million dollars, the Whittier family is accusing the NCAA of negligence and wrongful death in connection to the pioneer’s passing in September of 2018.  Whittier had been battling Alzheimer’s for several years prior to his death.

According to the Houston Chronicle, “[p]ostmortem examination of his brain at Boston University… revealed that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease associated with head trauma.” The suit, filed by Whittier’s sister on behalf of her brother’s estate and three surviving children, alleges the Whittier’s death at the age of 68 was the direct result of football-related head trauma.

“Julius Whittier was a pioneer who became a lawyer and a member of the district attorney’s staff in Dallas County, and his life was about justice,” the family’s attorney told the Chronicle. “His family wants to carry on in his name and hope that we can make changes.

“We don’t want to end football. We just want to make it as safe as possible and make sure that everybody is informed about what can happen. That has not been the case historically, and we want to change that.”

The sister, Mildred Whittier, had previously filed a lawsuit against the NCAA on behalf of college players who suffered brain injuries from 1960 to 2014.

In 1970, Whittier became the first black player to letter in football at Texas.  He first joined the Longhorns in 1969.  At the time, though, the NCAA did not allow freshmen to play.  Whittier lettered every year from 1970-72, first as an offensive guard and then as a tight end his senior season.