Aaron Hernandez

Iowa coach Brian Ferentz tiptoes around Aaron Hernandez verdict

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Believe it or not, there’s a college football connection outside of the University of Florida to the Aaron Hernandez situation.

Hernandez, of course, was convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.  After leaving the Gators early for the 2010 NFL draft, the Mackey Award-winning tight end was selected by the New England Patriots.  His position coach for the 2011 season with the Patriots was Brian Ferentz.

The son of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, the younger Ferentz now serves as the Hawkeyes’ offensive line coach.  The Iowa-Hernandez connection doesn’t stop there as D.J. Hernandez, the convicted murderer’s older brother, is an offensive grad assistant who’s worked with Iowa’s tight ends the past two seasons.

If you recall, the elder Hernandez was involved in a scuffle back in July of 2013 when some individuals mistook him for his brother.

As fate would have it, Ferentz was scheduled to meet with the media on the same day the Hernandez verdict was announced .  Not so surprisingly, Ferentz fielded questions regarding the development.

Just as unsurprisingly, the assistant attempted to steer as far away from the conversation as possible.

Here’s the transcription of the exchange, as provided by UI’s sports information department:

Q. You coached Aaron Hernandez and you coached alongside his brother here. First of all, how difficult what happened today is it for you personally, and then also to be there to try to support DJ?

BRIAN FERENTZ: These things are unfortunate, and really I don’t think it benefits Iowa football or myself to comment on the situation other than it’s tragic. It’s certainly much more tragic for the victims involved, but these types of things, they affect everyone. I feel bad for DJ and for his family, but I feel worse for the victims in this case. Things like this, again, I think the reason you don’t comment is what can you really say. I don’t know what I could say that would make any sense to me or to anyone in here and wouldn’t be picked apart.”

Ferentz isn’t the only one at the collegiate level looking to distance himself from Hernandez.

Even prior to the verdict, and shortly after Hernandez’s arrest in 2013, Florida removed nearly all mentions of Hernandez from their facilities. He still, though, remains in the school’s record book for receptions by tight ends.

Hernandez was connected to a 2007 shooting in Gainesville when he was just 17 and a freshman at UF, but police later said Hernandez was not a suspect and he declined to speak to police on the right to have counsel present.

Urban Meyer, Hernandez’s coach, was widely criticized by many following his former player’s arrest, with critics labeling the current Ohio State head coach as an enabler.  After initially distancing himself from the situation, Meyer finally took his shots at what he called “irresponsible” criticism.

“He was an athlete at Florida 4-to-7 years ago and there are some comments being made that are not correct,” Meyer said in July of 2013. “Our staff, myself and our families worked very hard to mentor and guide him. Prayers and thoughts are with the family and friends of the victim. Relating or blaming these serious charges to Univ. of Florida, myself or our staff is wrong and irresponsible.”

Ex-‘Husker great Lawrence Phillips suspected of slaying cellmate

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There are downward spirals when it comes to professional athletes, and then there’s Lawrence Phillips to go along with Aaron Hernandez‘s headlines.

Phillips was an immensely-talented but decidedly troubled running back at Nebraska, one whose prolific production on the field was trumped by off-field issues that included assault charges in March of 1994 and, most infamously, dragging his ex-girlfriend down three flights of stairs during the 1995 season.  Tom Osborne took much-deserved and pointed criticism for allowing Phillips back on his Cornhuskers football team following a shockingly-short suspension — “I imagine by suspending him, I took several million dollars away from Lawrence Phillips. He’s paid a price,” Osborne said at the time — with the criticism of Osborne, a current College Football Playoff committee member, trumped a few months later by the St. Louis Rams using a sixth-overall pick on the volatile back.

Phillips’ NFL career encompassed a total of three seasons, after which he bounced around NFL Europe and the CFL and the AFL. His playing career officially ended in 2003 with a stint with the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders; less than two years later, Phillips was charged with multiple felonies after allegedly trying to run over three teenagers with his vehicle following a dispute during a pickup football game in Los Angeles. In 2008, he was sentenced to 10 years in state prison on those charges; while serving that sentence, Phillips in August of 2009 was accused and ultimately convicted of assaulting a former girlfriend, and given a sentence of 31 years.

Phillips is currently incarcerated in a California prison, which brings us to the latest development in his descent into the prison system abyss:

“Phillips, currently in prison on a number of criminal charges, is now accused of killing his cellmate, according to media reports out of California.

Officials at Kern Valley State Prison in Delano, California, said they found 37-year-old Damion Soward unresponsive in his cell around 1 a.m. (PST) on Saturday. He died Sunday evening at a hospital.”

As much as some want to villify coaches — “Osborne coddled Phillips because of his talent;  Urban Meyer did the same with Hernandez” — sometimes bad people are just that: bad people, regardless of how athletically gifted they are.  And regardless of how much their sports coaches contribute to their sense of entitlement.

Jameis, Kiffin, Petrino make GQ’s ’25 Biggest Sleazebags in Sports’

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Despite his best intentions, Lane Kiffin simply can’t escape the shadow of his controversial past.  Nor can Bobby Petrino or Jameis Winston.

The latest example?  GQ published a list of who writer Drew Magary considers to be the 25 biggest sleazebags in all of sports.  Ousted Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling comes in at No. 1 followed by former Florida Gators tight end Aaron Hernandez — I’d put an (alleged) murderer at No. 1 but that’s just me — but the game of college football is “well represented” as well.

Louisville’s head coach, Petrino, who was fired amidst controversy from Arkansas two years ago, cracked the ignominious Top 10 at No. 10.  Writes Magary…

Want to become the perfect embodiment of a good-ol’-boy ****bag football coach? First, ditch your pro team (the Atlanta Falcons) for a college job without telling anyone you’re leaving. Then hire an underqualified woman to work on your staff just so you can **** her. Then take a motorcycle ride with your new mistress and crash the bike. Then refuse to call 911 in a last-ditch attempt to cover your ass. Congratulations! Louisville has a seven-year contract waiting for you.

Kiffin, now Alabama’s offensive coordinator after being unceremoniously dumped by USC last season, was given an arguably harsher critique — Magary referred to him as “a baby Petrino” — in coming in at No. 18:

The program-wrecking Alabama offensive coordinator is like a baby Petrino, only he crashed a Lexus, which is 31 percent classier than crashing a motorcycle.

Then, three spots later, the reigning Heisman winner and quarterback of the defending BCS champions completes the college football “Sleazebag” triumvirate. Winston, of course, was a suspect in an alleged rape that resurfaced yet again this month as well as his crab caper this past offseason. At No. 21, Magary had choice words for Winston as well:

The Florida State Heisman Trophy winner was never charged for allegedly raping a fellow student, despite incriminating evidence and her continued insistence that he did. What’s nice is that Winston had an entire infrastructure of school officials, coaches, lawyers, and deranged FSU fanboys all shielding him from having to answer questions about it. An ESPN sideline reporter tried once after a game, and Winston’s lawyer demanded a public apology, presumably in the form of stolen crab legs. (Google “Jameis Winston stolen crab legs” for further merriment.)

So there you have it. Discuss the relative merits of each individual’s inclusion on such a list amongst yourselves.

Former Oregon TE Colt Lyerla pleads guilty to cocaine possession

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Former Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla, who left the Ducks’ program back in October, pled guilty to cocaine possession on Friday.

He was placed on probation for two years and sentenced to 10 days in jail, with another 10 days on suspension. He’ll also have to enroll in a drug treatment program.

However, the decision by the judge to have him serve his probation under the court rather than under a probation officer means he’ll be able to leave the state to prepare for the NFL draft. He plans on doing so in Nevada.

The immensely talented tight end cut his junior season short in early October, when he withdrew from Oregon and declared his intention to make himself available for the NFL draft. Less than three weeks later, he was arrested on the drug charge.

Lyerl caught just two passes for 26 yards this season, but he caught 25 for 392 yards and six touchdowns in 2012.

He’s obviously an intriguing physical prospect at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds. Perhaps he can clean himself up in time to persuade some NFL team take a flyer on him.

But with the Aaron Hernandez ordeal still fresh in everyone’s mind, I wouldn’t count on it.

Braxton Miller’s returning, but Urban Meyer wants Kenny Guiton on the field, too

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Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller is listed as probable for Saturday’s game against Florida A&M, but Kenny Guiton played so well in Miller’s absence that Urban Meyer may have plans to play both moving forward.

Miller missed most of the last two games with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. Guiton, a senior, took his place and performed more than ably, completing 40 of 60 passes for 448 yards and six touchdowns to lead the Buckeyes to wins over San Diego State and California.

It’s Meyer’s policy that a starter can’t lose his job and he confirmed that Miller will retain his starting title, but he is clearly intrigued by the possibility of using Guiton, too, maybe even in conjunction with Miller.

“We’re in conversation about that right now,” Meyer said. “If (Guiton’s) one of the best 11, you have an obligation to get him on the field a little bit.”

One element that Guiton brings to the table is his ability to run the option. The option, Meyer said, is not Miller’s forte.

“Kenny is a natural option quarterback, Braxton is not quite as natural pitching the ball. I would say that’s probably the one area that Kenny excels at,” Meyer said. “In the last two games, we’ve ran more option than we’ve run in a long time.”

However he is used, Meyer said Guiton has ‘earned some time’. Meyer has a history of finding unique ways to use hybrid-type players — see what he did with Percy Harvin and Aaron Hernandez while at Florida. One of the side benefits of Miller’s injury is that Guiton’s performance in his stead might’ve opened the door for a new wrinkle to emerge in the Ohio State offense. Meyer seems dead-set on using him in some capacity.

“If you can buy stock, buy stock in Kenny Guiton,” Meyer said.

Having two guys who can run and pass in the same backfield would not be fun to defend. The rest of the Big Ten is keeping a close eye on this development, I’m sure.