Danny Shelton

Sarkisian’s troubling past begins to shed light on current problems at USC

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With USC placing head coach Steve Sarkisian on an indefinite leave of absence Sunday amid rumors of a troubles with alcohol, new information regarding Sarkisian’s past issues with alcohol have been revealed.

In a report from The Los Angeles Times today, one former unnamed Washington player claims he smelled alcohol on Sarkisian during team meetings. The report also gathered documentation to piece together Sarkisian’s past use of alcohol, going so far as to determine Sarkisian’s preferred drinks and locales while the head coach at Washington.

Sarkisian’s recent acts, from his preseason drunken outburst in front of boosters to this latest development have brought out criticisms from those with prior experience with Sarkisian, including current NFL players Danny Shelton and Shaq Thompson. Both former Huskies played for Sarkisian befroe he took the USC job last year. The two took to their Twitter accounts to offer their takes on Sarkisian, although it appears those reactions may have been deleted from each of their social networking profiles.

It is one thing to have a battle with alcohol away form the playing field while out on recruiting trips and booster events. It is another to bring those demons with you onto the practice field, meeting rooms and to the sideline during a game.

USC Athletics Director Pat Haden announced an indefinite leave of absence for Sarkisian on Sunday after Sarkisian allegedly showed up to practice on Sunday “not healthy.” Haden himself has come under fire for the hiring of Sarkisian, a former assistant coach under former Trojans coach Pete Carroll. If there was enough of this evidence lingering about Sarkisian, one has to wonder how much Haden was aware of the troubles before hiring Sarkisian. If Haden was aware, what was the plan to address them as Sarkisian was hired?

Whatever the case, this is an unfortunate and disturbing situation for USC and Sarkisian. First and foremost, Sarkisian needs to address his personal ills by any means neccessary. If that means not coaching for a while, so be it. Sarkisian needs to confront his problems and take care of them before doing anything else, especially with regard to football. As for USC, providing assistance for Sarkisian through this troubling time is admirable, but that should not mean Haden and the university should stand by Sarkisian’s side by keeping him as head coach. Sarkisian brought an unstable environment into the locker room and that should be given a zero tolerance, especially in light of Sarkisian’s booster event comments this summer. USC can still support Sarkisian, but does not have to keep him on as head coach.

Ameer Abdullah earns Reese’s Senior Bowl MVP as North triumphs over South

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The 2014 season was one for the ages for Big Ten running backs, so it was fitting to see Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah and Minnesota’s David Cobb help lead the North to a Reese’s Senior Bowl victory Saturday in Mobile, Alabama. Abdullah, the game’s MVP, rushed for 73 yards and added 40 receiving yards and Cobb rushed for 79 yards and a touchdown. The North pulled away from the South in the second half for a 34-13 victory.

For Abdullah, the chance to wrap up his collegiate career before a large group of family and friends from his home state of Alabama was a special opportunity

“Being down here was much more than putting on a good performance for me,” Abdullah said after the game. “Leaving this state was something that was hard for me to do. You could write a movie about it, really, just coming back and playing on Alabama soil for my last time as a collegiate athlete. I couldn’t paint a better picture.”

The Senior Bowl performance was especially good for Abdullah, who had battled some injuries in 2014 and had a somewhat discouraging week of practice leading up to the game according to some scouting reports.

Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty also had a tough time in practices this week, missing out on an opportunity to shine in the spotlight for a game without two of the top quarterbacks entering the NFL Draft (Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston). Petty completed nine of his 13 pass attempts for 123 yards and was intercepted once. It was not a banner week for any of the quarterbacks in the game, to be fair. Oregon State’s Sean Mannion tossed the only touchdown pass of the afternoon, a 10-yard pass to Notre Dame tight end Ben Koyack in the second quarter. Auburn’s Nick Marshall made the move to cornerback and recorded five tackles in the game, tied for the most tackles on the South team.

The Pac-12 had two players stand out in the game on defense as well. Utah defensive end Nate Orchard and Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton were among the defensive standouts with five tackles. Orchard had 1.5 tackles for a loss in his stat line.

How much stock is placed on one performance in the Senior Bowl varies by team and scout, but there were some players that stood out above most of the others on Saturday. Yale fullback Tyler Varga was one of them. Varga had four rushing attempts resulting in 31 yards and he was the North’s second leading receiver behind Abdullah with 39 receiving yards.

Leonard Williams’ disappointment in All-American status exposes flaw in roster

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There is an inherent flaw in the naming of Walter Camp’s All-American teams at a particular position

The reaction from USC Leonard Williams after being named a Second-Team All-American perfectly illustrates the issue.

Williams wasn’t happy when the announcement was made Thursday:

Williams should be disappointed. There appears to be a built-in bias against interior defenders along the defensive line.

All four of the First-Team All-Americans named this year are defensive ends. Only one defensive tackle was included last year. The last time a pair of defensive tackles were named to the First-Team Walter Camp All-American team was in 2011.

Flashy stats seem to outweigh quality play by those that do more of the dirty work. It’s not hard to figure out the reasoning behind the four defensive linemen named to the first team this year. All four were among the college football’s top seven in sacks.

Whereas Williams finished the season with six sacks. But that’s certainly not a reflection in his level of play.

There are major differences in styles of play between each of these players. Williams was dominant this season, but he’s starts as a 3-4 defense end. Williams isn’t an edge rusher whose primary job is getting to the quarterback. He plays all along USC’s defensive line, and his play was as good as anyone that was named to the first team.

Washington’s Danny Shelton was also named to the second team. As a pure nose tackle, Shelton’s production was unbelievably impressive. The mammoth defensive tackle was second on Washington’s roster with 89 total tackles. He finished with 16.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks. Those are numbers that nose tackles simply don’t post all that often. Yet it wasn’t good enough to be named to the first team.

A differentiation between positions along the defensive line should be prioritized by the Walter Camp Football Foundation. Not all positions and systems are created equally, but the players in them can be as dominant as those posting better overall numbers.

Bednarik Award watch list names 76 players

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Watchlist season continued Monday with the release of the 2014 Chuck Bednarik Award watch list by the Maxwell Football Club. A total of 76 players were named to the watch list.

The Chuck Bednarik Award is awarded to the nation’s top defensive player as determined by the Maxwell Football Club. Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald was named the Bednarik Award winner each of the first two years the award was presented (1995 and 1996), and Penn State has had four Bednarik Award winners, the most of any school. Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald was the 2013 Bednarik Award winner.

This year’s watch list includes three of last year’s semifinalists, Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley, Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and USC defensive end Leonard Williams. Georgia has three linebackers on the watch list and Stanford continues to gain respect on defense with four players named to the watch list.

Here is the 2014 Bednarik Award watch list:

DE Henry Anderson, Stanford

LB Stephone Anthony, Clemson

DE Vic Beasley, Clemson

DT Michael Bennett, Ohio State

DE Joey Bosa, Ohio State

LB Kelby Brown, Duke

DT Malcom Brown, Texas

DE Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State

CB Alex Carter, Stanford

S Sam Carter, TCU

S Jeremy Cash, Duke

DE Frank Clark, Michigan

S Landon Collins, Alabama

DT Christian Covington, Rice

S Su’a Cravens, USC

DT Carl Davis, Iowa

LB Trey DePriest, Alabama

CB Quandre Diggs, Texas

CB Lorenzo Doss, Tulane

S Kurtis Drummond, Michigan State

DE Alvin Dupree, Kentucky

DE Mario Edwards, Florida State

CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon

LB Kyler Fackrell, Utah State

DE Devonte Fields, TCU

DE Try Flowers, Arkansas

LB Leonard Floyd, Georgia

DE Dante Fowler, Florida

CB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech

DE Markus Golden, Missouri

DE Randy Gregory, Nebrska

LB Bryce Hager, Baylor

CB Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida

DE Eli Harold, Virginia

S Anthony Harris, Virginia

LB Ben Heeney, Kansas

DT Chucky Hunter, TCU

DE Martin Ifedl, Memphis

LB Myles Jack, UCLA

DT Grady Jarrett, Clemson

LB Jordan Jenkins, Georgia

LB A.J. Johnson, Tennessee

S Karl Joseph, West Virginia

LB Eric Kendricks, UCLA

LB Hau’oli Kikaha, Washington

CB Jordan Lucas, Penn State

DT Luther Maddy, Virginia Tech

LB Tyler Matakevich, Temple

LB Lorenzo Mauldin, Louisville

LB Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State

DE Ryan Mueller, Kansas State

DE Shawn Oakman, Baylor

DE Norkeithus Otis, North Carolina

LB Denzel Perryman, Miami

LB Terrance Plummer, UCF

S Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss

LB Hayes Pullard, USC

DE Cedric Reed, Texas

S Jordan Richards, Stanford

DE A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama

DT James Rouse, Marshall

CB KeiVarae Russell, Notre Dame

LB Jake Ryan, Michigan

LB Frank Shannon, Oklahoma

DT Danny Shelton, Washington

S Derron Smith, Fresno State

LB Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame

LB Eric Striker, Oklahoma

DE Charles Tapper, Oklahoma

LB A.J. Tarpley, Stanford

S Robenseon Therezie, Auburn

LB Shaq Thompson, Washington

CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State

DE Leonard Williams, USC

CB P.J. Williams, Florida State

LB Ramik Wilson, Georgia

Earlier today the Paul Hornung Award watch list was released. The Maxwell Award watch list was released alongside the Bednarik Award watch list as well.