Russell Wilson

Maurice Clarett, to Seminoles: ‘A lot of y’all need to grow up’

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To say that Maurice Clarett has dealt with significant issues away from the football field would be a massive understatement.  To say that the Florida State football program has dealt with some negative off-field issues of late would be one as well.

Recently, those two worlds collided.

As part of Jimbo Fisher‘s ongoing efforts to educate his Seminole football players, the former Ohio State star running back-turned-convict-turned motivational speaker was invited to address Fisher’s squad.  In a tremendous piece penned by ESPN.com‘s Adam Rittenberg detailing the hour-long talk with the team, Clarett didn’t hold back in an attempting to convey the message to the players that they don’t have to turn out like him, a convicted felon who spent almost four years in prison following an armed robbery and concealed weapon conviction.

“A lot of y’all need to grow up,” Clarett told his audience composed of football players and other FSU personnel. “That’s the bottom line. What happened to Maurice Clarett in prison was, I needed to grow the f— up. You had the world in your hands, the NFL in your hands, and you f—ed it up because you want to be a gangsta.

“There’s a lot of people in this room that want to be that.”

(Click HERE for Rittenberg’s entire article. It’s worth your time.)

Clarett’s tough-love talk comes a couple of months after a pair of Seminoles were charged in connection to incidents in which they were accused of punching females in the face.  One was dismissed, while another will have his fate, football and otherwise, decided in court later this month.

Following those incidents, FSU’s president held a come-to-Jesus meeting with the team.  The football team’s head coach, who spoke of no tolerance for hitting women, has publicly laid out the steps he and others are taking to better educate his players.

Fisher’s FSU players are in a new four-step program that includes such things as five-hour seminars. Just one week prior to the first arrest, former Navy SEALs spoke to the team about making good off-field decisions. Fisher is also good friends with Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who has agreed to work with the football team as part of his “Pass the Peace” campaign, which supports victims of domestic violence. Former Seminoles, including Charlie Ward and Myron Rolle, have offered their services to come back and speak to the team.

It was Clarett’s message, given his past, that resonated most with Fisher.

“That was one of the most bona fide, true, legit talks I’ve been around in college football in 28 years, trying to reach these young men about making the right choices in life,” the coach said. “Having it all going to the bottom, that gives him a lot of credibility, unfortunately.

“But sometimes, these guys have to see that.”

As much as it resonated with Fisher, it needs to resonate more with its intended target.

“He didn’t really tiptoe around anything,” defensive tackle Nile Lawrence-Stample said of Clarett. “The guys who really needed it the most need that direct quote. It means something that can really embed inside their brain.”

USC’s Sarkisian calls Carroll a mentor but would have called different play at end of Super Bowl

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Optimism is running rampant around the USC Trojans this summer. The Pac-12 media preseason favorite coached by Steve Sarkisian may be a tad overboard on the optimism scale, but Sarkisian seems to be situated well in leading USC back to the top of the Pac-12 despite what his track record at Washington might suggest. On Friday, Sarkisian was a guest on The Dan Patrick Show (simulcast on NBC Sports Network) and had the chance to talk about his working relationship with his former boss at USC and current Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll.

“He’s an unbelievable mentor to me,” Sarkisian said when asked about Carroll by Patrick. “He’s the reason I’m sitting here talking to you.”

Sarkisian was an assistant for the Trojans three separate times under Carroll, serving as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator from 2001 through 2008 (he spent the 2004 season with the Oakland Raiders). Sarkisian left USC to become the head coach at Washington in 2009, where he was head coach through 2013 before coming back to the Trojans to be the new head coach in the post-Lane Kiffin era. While Sarkisian may have a deep respect for Carroll, he said he would have called a different play at the end of the Super Bowl than Carroll did.

“I agree with the decision to throw it. I don’t know, necessarily, about the play call itself because I wasn’t in the game planning. From a tactical standpoint, with three downs to go and only one timeout remaining the correct decision in my mind would be to throw the ball on second down knowing you can run it on third and then you have a run-pass option on fourth.”

In case you forgot how the Super Bowl ended last season, Seattle had a 2nd and goal from the one-yard line with just over 20 seconds to play. Rather than hand off to Marshawn Lynch for what would be a Super Bowl-winning score, Carroll had Russell Wilson throw over the middle, and the pass was picked off by New England’s Malcolm Butler stepping in front of Ricardo Lockette.

Later in the show, after the in-studio interview with Sarkisian, UCLA head coach Jim Mora called in to take issue with Patrick’s assistants saying they would want to play for his crosstown rival. Mora was a guest earlier in the week. It was all in good fun, of course, but you have to love rivalry nuggets like this.

Jimbo: ‘There’s no tolerance for hitting women’

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Florida State has faced a P.R. nightmare the last month or so, with one player dismissed from the football program after a video surfaced of him punching a woman in the face at a bar and, a short time later, the star running back accused of the very same thing.

Not surprisingly, the off-field issues for his football program have taken center stage for Jimbo Fisher at the ACC Kickoff event in Pinehurst, NC, this week.  According to the FSU head coach, neither he nor his football program has any patience for a player who lays a hand on the opposite sex, which he (correctly) states is a problem that’s not unique to the Seminoles.

There’s no tolerance for hitting women,” Fisher stated. “You’re judged by what you do and we’ve had a couple of instances, just like other people have, too. It’s not a Florida State problem, it’s a national problem. It’s not just an athletic problem, it’s a domestic problem across our country. … we don’t tolerate it or accept it.”

Fisher, though, has been criticized because of his handling of the Cook situation, with many suggesting he’s still a part of the team, albeit suspended, because he’s the team’s top back — Cook led the ‘Noles in rushing as a true freshman last season. In explaining why Cook remains on the team (no video of the alleged punch has surfaced) while De’Andre Johnson was booted (video surfaced), Fisher stated plainly that “[w]ith each case you wait for the facts to come out.”

Because of the negative attention brought on the university by these situations, FSU president John Thrasher had what some have described as a come-to-Jesus meeting with the football team earlier this month.  Fisher says that’s simply part of the ongoing effort to educate all of his players.

“You have to continue to educate your kids,” Fisher said. “We’ve had a very extensive program. We go 40 days a year of bringing in character-building people, developmental conditioning with issues: drugs, alcohol, opposite sex, domestic violence. We’ve done it from the very first day I’ve been there.”

ESPN.com writes that, as part of that ongoing education, “[t]he players are in a new four-step program and are coming off a five-hour seminar that was originally planned for August.” Just one week prior to Johnson’s arrest, former Navy SEALs spoke to the team about making good off-field decisions. Fisher is also good friends with Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who has agreed to work with the football team as part of his “Pass the Peace” campaign, which supports victims of domestic violence. Former Seminoles, including Charlie Ward and Myron Rolle, have offered their services to come back and speak to the team.

Both the Cook and Johnson incidents took place at Tallahassee drinking establishments, which led to reports that Fisher had banned his players from bars. According to Fisher, the players themselves were involved in the decision to “avoid” bars and nightclubs and the like.

“They said they’re not putting themselves in those positions,” said the coach. “It’s a collective ban. They collectively as a group said the same thing, ‘we don’t need to be in there.'”

Five-star UGA signee to work out for MLB’s Atlanta Braves

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Does Georgia and its fans have to worry about losing the highest-rated member of its 2015 recruiting class to another sport?  Probably not, but stranger things have happened.

Terry Godwin was a five-star member of UGA’s class this year who also happens to be a fairly decent baseball player.  So decent, in fact, that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that, along with other prospects, the running back has been invited by the Atlanta Braves to a workout at Turner Field late this month.

The workout will take place a couple of weeks before the Major League Baseball draft, and there’s a very good chance that Godwin will be drafted, whether it be by the Braves or someone else.  That doesn’t mean, though, that he’ll ditch football for baseball.  In fact, Godwin’s high school baseball coach, Dusty Hubbard, is of the opinion that football is in his player’s future.

From the Journal-Constitution:

4. Should UGA football fans be worried about this baseball thing with Godwin? Let’s skip to the bottom line: “I don’t think so,” Hubbard said. “I think, no matter what, he is going to be at Georgia this fall. Let’s say he was to get drafted – and I don’t want to think for him, and I don’t want to speak for him … but I don’t know what kind of money we’re talking about. I have been given no indication by scouts about that with Terry. In the past, they’ll tell me with a player that ‘We’re looking at rounds 10 to 15 and ‘X’ amount of money.’ The scouts haven’t given me any indication on that, or if for sure that they’re going to draft him. We’ll have to see how everything unfolds. But Terry is preparing for it. There is no doubt about that. He has talked to his parents. His parents are preparing for it as well. If it comes to fruition, they will have a plan for it. I think, right now, that there’s a very, very good possibility that he’ll be at Georgia on June 1 and he’ll be there all summer long for this summer, no matter what. He’ll be there for his first football season.”

It is possible, ala Russell Wilson, for a college football player to sign a baseball contract and still maintain his football eligibility.  It’s also possible, or even probable, that Godwin could join the UGA baseball team, provided he can handle both the two-sport workload as well as his schoolwork.

Despite his confidence in Godwin playing for the football Bulldogs this fall, Hubbard still left the baseball door ajar.

“I do think he could play both sports,” the coach stated, before adding a handful of rhetorical questions. “Which way does he go? Does he go to Georgia and try to play minor-league baseball when he is finished with football? Does he go to Georgia and try to play baseball in the summers like Russell Wilson? Or does he play pro baseball and then go back to football?

“All those things are questions, and that’s for Terry and his family to decide.”

As alluded to earlier, the 5-11, 166-pound Godwin, along with defensive tackle Trenton Thompson, was the highest-rated member of a Bulldogs’ Class of 2015 (both at 6.1 per Rivals.com) that was ranked sixth in the nation and third in the SEC.  That same recruiting service listed him as the No. 2 player at any position in the state of Georgia and the No. 10 player overall in the country.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

Herd names Birdsong as Cato’s successor at QB

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Now we officially know who’ll be charged with the unenviable task of replacing Rakeem Cato under center for Marshall.

Herd head coach Doc Holliday announced Monday that Michael Birdsong has been named as his starting quarterback exiting spring practice.  Birdsong, who sat out the 2014 season after transferring from James Madison of the FCS, had been engaged in a spring-long battle with three other players: junior Gunnar Holcombe and freshmen Chase Litton and Cole Garvin.

While Birdsong was named the starter in April, it appears his name was written in pencil and not pen on the team’s depth chart, and he’ll have to keep fighting to hold the same title in September.

“Michael Birdsong is our No. 1 quarterback,” Holliday said. “Now, it’s up to him to keep the job through the summer conditioning and August camp, but he’s shown us he can do what we want and what we need.”

If Birdsong is indeed the man who’ll replace Cato, he’ll have tremendously big shoes to fill.

Cato was a four-year starter for the Herd and left Huntington with most of the school’s passing records, including career yards (14,079), completions (1,153), attempts (1,838), touchdowns (131) and total offense (14,918). He also holds the FBS record for most consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass (46), breaking the record last season that was previously set by Russell Wilson (38, 2009-2011).

One advantage Birdsong will have, especially over the other three, is game experience, even as Holcombe served as Cato’s primary backup last season and attempted 21 passes in mop-up duty. In two seasons at James Madison, Birdsong started 14 games, including 12 in his final season with the FCS program in 2013.

Still, living up to the legacy left by Cato on and off the field will be a tall order for anyone, including the current front-runner.

“Birdsong (6-5, 242 pounds) is different than Cato (6-0, 176), because of his height, and his size and his physical presence,” Holliday explained. “Cato could beat people with his feet. His escapability was there; he always had his eyes down the field. I think Birdsong is very similar.

“Cato had that ‘it’ factor. Cato had a knack about him to make plays when things went bad, and we’re hoping Birdsong can do the same thing.”

(Photo credit: Marshall athletics)