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Campus Kickoff | FOOTBALL GAMEPLAN

Campus Kickoff

Maxx Williams: Ready for NFL, Not Ready to Impact!

Gene Clemons, FBGP Analyst
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Many believe that Minnesota Redshirt Sophomore tight end Maxx Williams played his final game for the Golden Gophers in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. After a seven catch, 97 yard day which included a highlight, double hurdle, 54-yard touchdown reception, it seems like that decision would be the correct one. His size 6’4” 250 pounds and athleticism certainly agree. His versatility in the passing game makes NFL fans who appreciate the passing game agree. He certainly fits the mold of the new breed of pass-receiving tight end.

But the NFL is fickle. The most successful pass-catching ends are either matchup nightmares because of their height and athleticism (Jimmy Graham, Julius Thomas) or because they possess the ability to catch and block in-line effectively (Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen). Guys who possess only one of those abilities not only see their draft stock drop, but they end up as journeymen in the NFL. This is the category that Williams must try to avoid if he does not want to be a predictable spot duty guy in the NFL.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Troy Niklas, and Jace Amaro possessed the size, athleticism, and offensive skill to be day one draft picks but dropped in the draft because of their perceived lack of blocking ability. ASJ and Nicklas were labeled as a “work in progress in-line blocking” and many evaluators believed that Amaro was nothing more than an over-sized slot receiver. In all three cases they dropped to second round picks and spent the season playing in a platoon role.

The lone first round pick from the 2014 draft, Eric Ebron, has spent most of his rookie season in a three TE rotation where he serves as the “stretch the field” end. It’s hard to argue that any of those guys made a mistake by coming out after being selected in the first two rounds of the draft, but it’s easy to see that none were ready to make a significant contribution to their team. All four will probably have long NFL futures, but nobody can truly say they will be elite.

Florida State TE and Mackey Award winner Nick O’Leary had similar stats last season: 33 receptions, 557 yards, and seven touchdowns as Williams this season: 36 receptions, 569 yards, and eight touchdowns. However, O’Leary decided to come back to school this year to improve his stock by improving his in-line blocking. It no doubt will help him in his draft positioning and in his ability to make an impact on the field.

Williams impact for the Golden Gophers is undeniable. Just in the Citrus Bowl they lined him up out wide, in the slot, as a wing, sent him in motion, and yes even in-line. He blocked well in space versus defensive backs and linebackers, but he only asked to block in-line on backside cutoffs. The majority of that in-line blocking duty went to Senior Drew Goodger and Junior Lincoln Plsek. It is something that Williams would be relied on to do more if he returned next season.

Williams has desire and dedication similar to O’Leary, but he has not had the time. There is always the belief that players should get their professional clock started as soon as possible, but quality tight ends tend to have much longer careers than the average player. Williams needs to ask himself, “Is my goal to be in the NFL or be a factor in the NFL?” Another year would give him four in the program, allow him to finish his studies, and complete his metamorphosis from a 210-pound true freshman, who had never put his hand in the dirt, to the 2015 Mackey Award winner.

Oh, and most likely a more valuable NFL prospect.

Minnesota Golden Gophers TE Maxx Williams Post-Citrus Bowl Press Conference

 

Questions? Comments?

Email: gclemons@footballgameplan.com

Tweet: @geneclemons

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The Future is Very Bright in Arizona!

Gene Clemons, FBGP Analyst
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Ironically, on the same day that now former Michigan head coach Brady Hoke was fired, Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year. It’s interesting to note that the school who decided Rodriguez was not a worthy hire, a coach who truly embodies that sentiment, celebrated Hoke’s success with Rich Rod’s players and offensive scheme in his first season; and then watched as the kingdom came tumbling down during the next three seasons.

But this is not about Hoke’s failure or Michigan’s idiotic decision to fire Rodriguez. It’s not even about Rodriguez’s success this season. Let this serve as notice to everybody in the Pac-12 and beyond; there’s a new big dog on the block.

When Arizona takes on Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game, they will do so playing with house money. Nobody expects them to win the game. Many don’t think the game will be competitive…which is strange considering the Ducks have lost their previous two games against the Wildcats. For Arizona, this season is already a success. They could lose the Pac-12 Championship Game; they could even lose their bowl game and most likely still be ranked in the Top 25.

But next season, watch out!

If you think your head was spinning this year keeping up with the Cats, next year you may have to watch their game like you watch NASCAR: “There they go, there they went!” Remember the last time Rodriguez found the perfect quarterback for his offense? His West Virginia teams went 11-1 in 2005, 11-2 in 2006, and 10-2 in 2007 with Pat White at the helm. Two of those three seasons ended in BCS bowl games. Now he has Anu Solomon at Arizona, and “magically”, Rich Rod has another 10 win season after two impressive eight-win marks in his first two campaigns.

What makes this current season more impressive is that Arizona has put together such a phenomenal march to the Pac-12 title game relying mostly on kids. Seventeen of the 22 players on the Arizona offensive two deep are underclassmen. Thirteen of those 17 are freshmen and sophomores, including Pac-12 honorable mention players Solomon (rFR), sophomore wide receiver Caleb Jones, and true freshman running back Nick Wilson. The defense looks very similar with 14 of their 22 as underclassmen, 11 of those being freshmen or sophomores. Sophomore linebacker Scooby Wright was named the Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year.

Thirteen starters are expected to return for the Wildcats next season. Most of them are in key positions necessary to make the Rich Rodriguez machine run smoothly. All but one (two if you count their tight end) offensive skill position starters will return. The entire linebacker corps and their nose guard, will continue to man the defensive core. The kicker, second team all-conference punter Drew Riggleman, and both punt and kick returners will be back to solidify the special teams units.

When you add in the beautiful campus and phenomenal football facilities, thanks to renovations made to Arizona Stadium and the construction of the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility in 2013, it’s not hard to imagine that recruiting high-caliber athletes to Tucson will be easier and easier.

Regardless of the finish to this season, put your shades on because the future looks bright for the Wildcats. Rodriguez can be accused of many things, but he will never be accused of not knowing how to use talent. Thankfully for the Wildcats, the Gators decided to go the safe route and not reach out to Rich Rod. Unfortunately that’s bad news for the Pac-12!

Questions? Comments?

Tweet: @geneclemons

Email: gclemons@footballgameplan.com

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2014 Florida Classic has a Plethora of Storylines

Gene Clemons, FBGP Analyst
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This Saturday will mark the 69th meeting of Florida A&M University and Bethune Cookman University on the gridiron and their 35th meeting in the Florida Blue Florida Classic. This game has become a premier sporting event in Florida and a national highlight for the Historically Black College and University community. For the schools and their alumni, this game represents bragging rights for an entire year, but for the teams it means so much more.

The BCU Wildcats are looking at this game as a must-win if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive. Cookman has put together another good season under head coach Brian Jenkins who in his five seasons, has amassed a 45-14 record at the helm of the Wildcats. He has led BCU to three FCS playoff bids and they were looking poised to make a fourth appearance (third in a row) this season until they hit a hiccup last week. They traveled to Hampton University and the Pirates were able to pull off a 40-35 upset.

With that loss, Jenkins’ squad no longer holds their playoff destiny in their hands. BCU needs a win, and some help, to capture the conference title and its automatic playoff bid. The only time the Wildcats have not reached the post season under Jenkins was in 2011 when, like this season, they lost three contests as well. In the other three seasons, the playoffs have not been kind to BCU; they have had one 2nd round exit and back-to-back 1st round losses the previous two seasons. If the Wildcats don’t get help, at least the win would leave them at 9-3 for the season with a win over their arch rival and the opportunity to earn an at-large bid.

The looming question will be if Jenkins, who is a fast-riser-up in the football ranks, will be courted heavily by FBS programs in the offseason. After the success the Wildcats have experienced over the past five seasons, one would surmise that the alumni are not ready to deal with life without Jenkins at the helm. He has definitely cemented himself as one of the best coaches in Bethune Cookman football history in only a short amount of time.

The FAMU Rattlers will look to “Strike and Strike again” after a season that has been less than stellar. It has seen the return of the world famous Marching 100 band. It has also seen the controversial departure of head coach Earl Holmes the week of FAMU’s homecoming game.

Holmes, a Rattler’s alum, rose up the ranks and was named the head coach in 2013 and was charged with creating a more sustainable winning culture. However, in only his second season at the helm, he was fired by newly appointed athletic director Kellen Winslow Sr. after only 19 games, and four days before homecoming. Holmes had amassed an unimpressive 3-14 record before winning the final two games before he was shown the door by Winslow. Firing the incumbent head coach when a new athletic director comes in is not abnormal, especially when the success has been minimal, but the timing was. Many alumni were unhappy with the timing of that decision and Winslow received plenty of backlash for it.

Just less than a week ago, the Rattlers added more fuel to their fire when the FAMU board of trustees issued a 6-3 vote of no confidence in Winslow even after he apologized for the timing of the aforementioned actions. So the green and orange will have mixed emotions going into the game. There will be some who believe their season was ripped from them just as it was getting on track. There will be others who believe that the shake up was needed to wake up a sleeping giant.

The Rattlers will be competing for pride and an opportunity to bond their community back together with a common goal; beating the Wildcats. They also have the added pleasure of ensuring that both seasons will come to an end concurrently if they are able to pull the upset. As always with a rivalry game, you can throw the records out the window.

For several individuals this game may represent their last opportunity to produce good film for pro evaluation. Most FCS programs struggle for national attention and that’s especially true for historically black colleges and universities because they are normally underfunded and their facilities fall short of some of the more prominent FCS programs. So when they get the opportunity to perform in the national eye they must take advantage. Many of the seniors have professional aspirations and this is a nationally televised audition for the next level. It’s potentially the last entry on their professional resume. How will they use this platform to help their team to victory and raise their individual profile as well?

On the other side of the spectrum are those who are playing their final football game ever. It definitely snuck up on them and they finally realize the significance of this rivalry. They have most likely spent the entire week talking about past Classics they have competed in with freshmen who are about to experience it for the first time. “You will remember this week and these games forever!”

For those people on the outside looking to simply enjoy the spectacle, this is a week full of concerts, fraternity and sorority parties, fundraisers, bands, bands, bands, and a football game. This contest will be consumed by people sporting hangovers with heads full of newly etched memories that will be shared with others and hoping they can leave with an overall positive outlook on the HBCU football atmosphere.

It’s love, it’s hate, it’s passion, extremes, a fight for respectability on the field, the standard of excellence in music and the hope of national equality. These are teams that are regionally known, bands that are nationally acclaimed, and an event that is universally recognized as a must experience in college football. It’s the Florida Blue Florida Classic and if you don’t know, you better ask somebody!

Questions? Comments?

Email: gclemons@footballgameplan.com

Tweet: @geneclemons

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College Football Committee Decision Ripples

Gene Clemons, FBGP Analyst
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You should be thankful you are not a member of the college football selection committee because this is the week that things will get real. They have a tough task ahead and they may have made their own job more difficult.

If you ask most of the experts, the reign of the Mississippi State Bulldogs as the number one team in the nation will end this weekend when they face the fifth ranked Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. If that prediction comes true, many believe that the rankings will be shaken up, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s a chance that the changes in the top four could be as simple as one team moving out and the next moving in.

Unfortunately, for the college football selection committee this is finally the week where their consistency will be put to the test. With the release of their first rankings, they set the precedent for not overreacting to “good losses” they ranked Ole Miss and Auburn in the top four despite having recent losses. They realized that any SEC West team would have a near impossible time making it unblemished through their conference schedule.

They have been reluctant to move Alabama back into the top four and many outsiders believe that they did it because they knew the “Tide” could win their way back in. If Mississippi State loses their first game of the year to a top five team on the road, how will they be able to justify not giving them the same respect they showed Auburn and Ole Miss?

For that reason, if the Bulldogs lose on Saturday, they will still be a top four team. The only reasonable drop for the number one team in the nation is to number four, especially in lieu of the opponent. If this comes to fruition, then either TCU or FSU (as long as they both win) will drop out of the top four. If TCU drops out then it will show that the selection committee doesn’t respect the BIG 12 as much as the SEC West. If FSU is dropped, it will show that the committee cares more about the way you win, rather than simply winning. They’ve already started down that road by allowing a one-loss Oregon team to leap over the Seminoles because their undefeated record has not been as impressive this season as it was last season.

The reverberations of these actions are why you see teams beginning to ‘run up the score’ again and throwing sportsmanship out the window. It will not only be important to win, but to win by a substantial margin to impress the committee. This has prompted Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher to state that he would not compromise his beliefs in order to placate the selection committee. “I’m hoping to hold the integrity of the game higher than everybody else. If people on the committee can’t see that, then that’s it. We’ll play the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”

Because the BCS was formed to take a lot of the human bias out of selection, teams were more inclined to put the backups in and/or turn off the pressure in a lopsided game because the computers didn’t consider margin of victory. Over the years this has allowed teams to keep their starters fresher, and give their backups more experience in game.

The earlier actions of the committee may have backed them into a corner. If Alabama beats the Bulldogs, and the other three top four teams win, they are going to make a decision that they won’t be able to explain away with metrics or by their previous actions. The amount of scrutiny and second guessing in the air would be palpable. It’s when we will find out if public perception has the power to sway the thoughts of the committee.

Say what you want about the BCS, but their computers couldn’t read the negative feedback received from their decisions. That’s the beauty of impartiality and anonymity. It’s something the selection committee will find out about 10 minutes after their rankings are released on Tuesday.

Questions? Comments?

Tweet: @geneclemons

Email: gclemons@footballgameplan.com

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Let’s Be Real About K-State

Gene Clemons, FBGP Analyst
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Listen to any college football talk show, to any analysis and breakdown of teams with a chance to appear in the college football playoff and you will hear the name Kansas State. These analysts say things like “Kansas State should have more respect nationally” or “Watch out for Kansas State” but the truth is why? Why should we? What have they ever done to make us believe they are legitimately a national title contender?

This is going to come off as disrespecting Kansas State, and that’s fine if people want to grab at low hanging fruit, but truthfully it’s not. They should be commended for the way they keep themselves competitive. It’s hard for any program when they have to heavily populate their roster with junior college transfers and elite-level program cast offs. When you compare that to Kansas University and their inability to put a quality program on the field, you are even more impressed by what Kansas State has done. However, when “experts” defend your right to be a top 4 team by citing a close loss to a top program the argument falls flat on its face.

Let’s look at the two biggest reasons the arguments for K-State just don’t hold much water.

1. Their schedule’s not that great.

Auburn is the best game and they lost. Before someone says that they played them tough, understand that there have been a few teams that have played Auburn tough and throughout the years, top teams have been tested by teams they are better than. The object is to win, they didn’t, and they were at home.

Oklahoma was a good win but it could have easily been another good loss. The problem with taking credit for a good loss is that you have to take criticism for a close win. Many still believe they Oklahoma is a better football team than K-State.

While the Auburn loss was considered a “good loss” the Iowa State win has to be a “bad win.” When you barely beat a team who routinely loses to FCS opponents, how can you stake a claim to be one of the best teams in the nation? Kansas State could have easily lost that game and if they did, we would consider them just another bad team in the Big 12.

K-State’s other opponents are teams that are not only unranked but are nowhere near the upper echelon of college football.

2. They don’t pass the eyeball test.

Name a player on the Kansas State roster. In fact, other than Collin Klein name any player on the Kansas State roster in the last three years. In those three years Arthur Brown was the highest NFL draft pick for the Wildcats as a second round pick. Overall they have only had six players drafted in that time.

Their offense doesn’t scare you. There are no backs that put fear in your heart. The quarterback doesn’t seem to have the ability to win the game on his own. Their receiving Corp and offensive line are nondescript. The defense is essentially the same. K-State reminds you of the movie where a bunch of discarded rag tag players come together to form a champion. The problem is that in the real world those teams are nice stories but never win it all.

That’s what K State is. They are very nice story, of a nice teen, with a nice coach, but they’re not nearly the best team in the nation. On a neutral site with the chips on the line you can’t have faith that Kansas State is going to pull off a win against one of the top teams in the nation.

Questions? Comments?

Tweet: @geneclemons

Email: gclemons@footballgameplan.com 

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The Perfect Fit

Gene Clemons, FBGP Analyst
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Despite the results of their game versus the University of Georgia, it seems safe to say that, barring a miracle, University of Florida head football coach Will Muschamp has had an unsuccessful tenure at the helm of the Gators. This season is the culmination of ineptitude on the offensive side of the ball. The Gators no longer resemble the high-flying, high powered, offensive juggernaut that brought two national championships to Gainesville.

The one thing that has remained consistent at the University of Florida is its defense. Muschamp came to Gainesville known as a great defensive coach and in his time with the Gators, he has done nothing to change that perception. Florida’s defense had been one of the tops in the nation since Muschamp’s arrival. While he continues to miss the mark on the offensive side and picking offensive coordinators, he continually hits on stellar defensive recruits, and he knows how to use them correctly.

When he is relieved of his duties as head coach, he will certainly have an opportunity to take the reins at a lower level university. He could also take a break from coaching and be an analyst on some Saturday morning college football show. What he should do is go back to doing what he does best; coaching defense.

He should look no further than Gator rival Florida State as a perfect landing spot!

Florida State has enjoyed success throughout the Jimbo Fisher era. They are currently on a historic run that has yielded one national championship, one Heisman Trophy winner, and currently in position to make a run at a second consecutive undefeated season and national crown.

While the Florida State defense has been scary good over the past several seasons, this year the defense has looked pedestrian. As they break in more inexperienced players and their third defensive coordinator in three seasons, the quality of play on the defensive side of the ball has waned.

Over the past two seasons, Florida State has watched eleven defensive starters be snatched up in the NFL draft. They also watched their first defensive coordinator under Jimbo Fisher, Mike Stoops, become the head football coach at the University of Kentucky. The second defensive coordinator, Jeremy Pruitt, left to take the same position at Georgia after only one season on the job with the Seminoles.

Current FSU defensive coordinator Charles Kelly has not been able to produce the consistency and dominance that the past two coordinators have. It could simply be a result of players not maturing as quickly as they’d like or it could be that while Kelly is a fine coach, he just needs now time to find the right formula for this current Seminole defense. Either way it seems that as of right now, if the Seminoles do not repeat, it will be a direct result of an under-performing defense.

What Muschamp would bring is another respected mind on the defensive side of the ball. It would allow Kelly to focus strictly on defensive backs, while Muschamp devised the game plan to allow the Seminoles to take advantage of their vast amount of defensive talent. If the many reports that this will be Jameis Winston’s final season in Tallahassee are true, the defense will need to be greatly improved as Jimbo Fisher breaks in a new quarterback.

What makes this an easy transition, is that Fisher and Muschamp have a great relationship. They even own a beach house together, which they purchased together when they were both on the staff at LSU under Nick Saban. They have remained good friends and Muschamp would satisfy everything that Fisher would want in a defensive coordinator. It would also give Muschamp the opportunity to rehabilitate his career and eventually take another chance at being a head coach at a premier university.

Gators fans would hate it, which would be another reason that it would be great move for the Seminoles. They should even consider bringing him on immediately following their rivalry game to help them prepare for the college football playoff.

It’s an out-of-the-box move, but if Fisher is dedicated to continuing to improve his team, he can’t be naive enough to think that the answers will always come from within.

Questions? Comments?

Tweet: @geneclemons

Email: gclemons@footballgameplan.com

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A College Football Compromise

Gene Clemons, FBGP Analyst
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There has been a long debate about whether or not college football student-athletes should be paid. Football is only one of two (men’s basketball) major revenue generating sports in college athletics. The debate was heated last season when for Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was accused of taking money to sign memorabilia. This season, the discussion seems even more explosive as Georgia running back Todd Gurley and reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston deal with similar issues as Manziel.

It’s illegal to make money off of your image or likeness according to the NCAA, which seems ridiculous because they essentially are saying its okay for us to profit off your name but you can’t do the same. This type of hypocrisy angers some but others feel it is a fair exchange. NCAA student-athletes receive scholarships that cover their tuition, room, and board. They are also afforded the opportunity to travel around and have all expenses paid for. Many of those same people believe that the only reason a large majority of these athletes are in institutions of higher education is because of athletics and those student-athletes could care less about the student part. They feel as if these young men are squandering a free education.

Both points are valid and in an effort to never provide criticism without solution, there is a way that both sides can be appeased. It’s a fair exchange that the NFL should be on board with as well. After all, student-athletes are the one’s that drive jersey sales and are promoted on media guides and posters. They are the ones who are sacrificing their bodies for their school so they should be given some slice of an extremely large pie. But, there is no excuse for a player to spend four, five, and even six years in school and not receive at least one degree; that’s just wasteful.

The Compromise!

College players should have the option to profit off their image and likeness. But if they do, they have to get a college degree before they can declare for the NFL. The last four starting quarterbacks for Florida State all received their degrees and it seemed as if Winston wanted to do the same, but all of this trivial stuff surrounding him may force him to move on and forgo the two years of eligibility he has remaining. He has been a revitalizing force in Tallahassee and he should be able to live out his college career while profiting from the millions that FSU is making because of him.

If a player chooses not to profit off their image or likeness, they can declare for the NFL after two seasons instead of three. This is especially effective for those players who are simply in college to play professionally because football, has no farm system and they want to get out as soon as possible. Jadeveon Clowney wasted a year of his NFL career protecting himself against injury because of the three years removed from high school rules. It was clear Clowney didn’t want to be in college so why force him to?

A student-athlete will have the right at any time during his collegiate career to opt into the career student-athlete track which would make him eligible to receive compensation for his likeness. When Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott arrived in college he had to fight for his position and once he took it, he established himself as one of the best signal callers in the SEC. As a result, the Bulldogs have experienced unprecedented success so why should he not be allowed to make money when his value is the highest. Many evaluators don’t believe he is an NFL caliber quarterback so college is his only true opportunity to cash in on his talent. He is a guy who is likely to stay and receive his degree so the school wins, the player wins, and everybody is happy.

There are so many football players that love the college experience and it gives them their final years of sophomoric freedom before they have to live in an adult world and make mature decisions. It’s a shame when a young man is forced to accelerate this process based solely on financial concerns. This would bridge that gap while supplying them with something far more valuable than money: an education.

College football would produce more mature and level-headed graduates to populate professional football and private industries, which would in turn, be better for their products.

Greed and selfishness is at the heart of the issues with the NCAA; it’s very similar to the AAU in the Steve Prefontaine days. We all know what happened to the AAU and how track and field continues to thrive today. The NCAA better wake up to this reality before it is overthrown for a better system.

Question? Comments?

Tweet: @geneclemons

Email: gclemons@footballgameplan.com

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Congratulations Mississippi, But…

Gene Clemons, FBGP Analyst
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The state of Mississippi is flying high after last weekend. Mississippi State moved their record to 5-0 with a convincing win over Texas A&M and Ole Miss followed suit by upsetting Alabama. Both teams find themselves ranked third in the nation depending on what publication you follow. That’s rarified air for the state of Mississippi and it makes you wonder exactly how long they can stay that high.

The SEC, especially the SEC West, is a marathon not a sprint. It’s not won in a week but won, one week at a time. You can never get too high or too low because the one thing you can guarantee, especially now that the two Mississippi teams are good, is that the team you face next week will be a quality opponent. Both teams will find that out this weekend when they return to action.

Ole Miss has been on cloud nine since defeating Alabama. The Rebel fans rushed the field last week and tore the goal post down. The players had to get back to work on Tuesday and while receiving pats on the back and kudos for a job well done, they must prepare for a desperate Texas A&M squad. The Aggies, who are coming off a loss to Mississippi State, understand that two losses in their division will most likely put them on the outside looking in come SEC championship time. If Ole Miss wants to be taken seriously they must follow up the epic win over Bama with another win. If they allow the glow of the Bama victory to blind them from their ultimate goal, they could fall to a good Aggies squad.

The Bulldogs knew they were in for a rough stretch and after dispatching of Texas A&M they didn’t rush the field because they knew that their next test would be even tougher as they welcome Auburn who is currently ranked second in the nation. The Tigers were just in the national championship game last season so they know what playing in big games are like. This might be the biggest game in Bulldog history. Even if they find a way to win a game they will definitely be the underdog in, they will still have to navigate through games against an Improved Kentucky squad and SEC West foes, Arkansas, Alabama, and of course interstate rival Ole Miss.

The road to utopia in Mississippi is clear to see, but that road is full of dangers and perils. There is no guarantee both, or even one of the two Mississippi universities will get through the season unblemished. This season can really be an opportunity for these programs to build their profile up beyond one year and become a regular factor in the SEC West. The season can have an extremely positive effect on their recruiting and fundraising. Will Mississippi become football heaven? Can they run the table or even get into the playoffs this year? Are they one year away? Are they one-year wonders?

There are definitely more questions than answers right now and that’s okay because the answers will come by continuing to win. Winning is the ultimate equalizer. It will be interesting to see how winning will affect these two Mississippi universities. Will it motivate them to continue to strive for more or will it pacify them? Or are they just happy to get here in time to be considered as a prospect?

Questions? Comments?

Tweet: @geneclemons

Email: gclemons@footballgameplan.com 

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Stay Strong, Charlie!

Gene Clemons, FBGP Analyst
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Charlie Strong was named head coach at Texas on January 5th after the Longhorns brass exhausted every avenue to find their next head coach. Strong was by no means the first choice, or close to it, but he had to take this job. As a black man, Strong had to realize that minorities rarely have been afforded the opportunity to run the football program at a storied university. Strong also has to know that he will have less time to return the Longhorns to prominence.

This is just the way for minorities in these power positions. Strong is already taking heat in Austin because he is cleaning up a mess that the Mack Brown era left behind. In this climate of football, being wild and undisciplined, Strong is being criticized for trying to implement discipline and accountability. Media personalities like Danny Kannell and Paul Finebaum have led the charge against Strong and his tenure at Texas so far. These things are never surprising, especially when you consider the landscape of football especially in the South. While these football teams are filled with minority players, there is only a spattering of minority coaches.

Currently there are 13 minority heads coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Only seven of those coaches’ head power five conference schools and two are in charge of programs with historic national reach (Strong, Texas and Franklin, Penn State). The 13 minority head coaches reflect 10.1 percent of the 128 FBS universities. That is incredibly low percentage considering the amount of minority players they lead.

Why are minorities lacking representation in college football?

There seems to be no real answers but one of the thoughts is that college football is still an “old boys’ club” and they are still not willing to open the flood gates to minority coaches like they have to minority players. Like in the NFL, the problem goes much higher because there are only nine minority athletic directors in the FBS. I would venture to say that there are even less minority presidents. The question becomes how you get people to hire men that they can’t identify with? We normally attract people we feel most comfortable around and that seems to come back to race at some level. The changes have to be made from the top down and these minorities have to be given a chance to succeed or fail.

Brian Jenkins (Head Coach Bethune-Cookman)

The number of minority coaches represented at the Football Championship Subdivision (21.3%) doubles the FBS. That number is deceiving because it includes Historically Black College and University conferences. The SWAC (nine of 10 coaches are minorities) and the MEAC (10 of 11 coaches are minorities). When those two conferences are removed that percentage (6.9%) is even lower than the FBS. So there are no signs that change is coming from the bottom up.

When was the last time you saw a minority assistant coach from the NFL given an opportunity at a major university?

Name a minority coach who was able to go from successful high school head coach to power-five conference head coach in nine years a la Gus Malzahn?

Name a minority coach who has been given several opportunities at different FBS universities?

Qualified minority candidates are out there but it takes outside the box thinking to find them. In the NFL, you see position coaches receive head coaching jobs but you rarely ever see that at the collegiate level. With head coaches being figureheads and CEO’s now, isn’t it possible that a strong minority candidate may be a wide receivers coach, a defensive backs coach, or a special teams coordinator? They usually end up being great recruiters and that is the name of the game in college football. The Rooney rule in the NFL has not seemed to increase the number of minorities dramatically but it has stabilized it. The NCAA does not have a stabilization problem, but they definitely are not growing their minority numbers.

James Franklin (Head Coach, Penn State)

When do we stand up as a society and say that this is not right? When do we leave the old world behind and step into the 21st century? Will recruits and parents even begin to look for programs being ran by men that look and possibly grew up similar to them? Can HBCU’s increase their profile to attract more prominent recruits?

There are far more questions than answers about this subject. The only answer I have is that if you give a quality minority coach an opportunity (like Charlie Strong) they will have success just like any other quality coach.

Stay Strong, Charlie!

Questions? Comments?

Tweet: @geneclemons

Email: gclemons@footballgameplan.com

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He is Twenty! Remember Twenty?

Gene Clemons, FBGP Analyst
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Do you remember when you were twenty?

You probably felt invincible and powerful, like the world was yours for the taking. You walked with confidence, spoke with a purpose, and pretended that you were listening to the advice of others. You were king of the jungle; queen of the night, and the world had no idea what was about to hit it. You ruled your campus and were looking to spread your empire very soon.

Or, were you invisible? Did you walk in anonymity? Did you hope for the admiration of others or just wish someone would talk to you? You probably thought to yourself that one day you would be seen for who you really are. The campus just didn’t get you but the world would appreciate what you have to bring to the table.

However your college career unfolded, when you were twenty you made some mistakes that you would never want anybody to know about. You did things publicly that were embarrassing but you did them knowing that in college everybody does stupid things. Even the most well adjusted student does things in college that they are not proud of. Research shows that women mature faster than men but female coeds do things that are rather forgettable, so of course men definitely will. Weather you were shy or gregarious in college you did things to either make people pay attention, or to raise/ keep up your status. Maybe we were just duped into doing something stupid. Peer pressure is real and it permeates throughout a college campus.

Imagine living that college life in front of cameras and social media. Imagine growing up in the public eye.

Jameis Winston was suspended yesterday for the first half of Florida State University’s ACC clash against Clemson University. While many might read these words and think that it is apologizing for Winston’s behavior think about this. These words, are not condoning Winston’s actions, they just explain them.

Over the past 24 hours, members of the media and every personal opinion from social media have said similar things.

“He just doesn’t get it.”

“He seems like and entitled punk.”

“He is being enabled.”

“He’s a baby.”

The commentary on social media became much worse than that and won’t be repeated here.

Here’s the truth. Who would get it? Who would not seem entitled? Of course he’s being enabled and yes he is a baby; he’s twenty!

For the record here’s what he has really done.

Let’s assume that he actually shot a BB gun through a window. Okay, many young men have done that. What is that supposed to represent?

He allegedly stole a soda from a fast food restaurant. How?

He was accused, ACCUSED, of sexual assault. He was not charged and therefore his actual crime was having sex with a young woman who had ulterior motives which is simply poor judgment.

He “stole” crab legs from a store but he says he just forget to pay. We can assume he stole them but we can also understand the narrative that he was ‘getting a hookup’ that went wrong. So let’s just file that under bad judgment.

This most recent “transgression” was Winston jumping on a table and screaming an obscenity.

The only thing of concern is the rape allegation because as a young man in the public eye who will soon earn millions of dollars, he has to be aware of women who have dollar signs in their eyes and are looking at Winston as a pay check and not as someone they are genuinely interested in.

Apparently these things have soured people on Winston. Mel Kiper dropped Winston from #3 to #25 on his big board. Did he become a worse football player because he screamed obscenities?

He’s been growing up in the public eye. Between the ages of 17-20 have been spent on ESPN and every other major sports outlet. Let’s remember, other the talented youngsters hitting speed bumps as they grew up in the public eye. Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Chris Brown, Robert Downey Jr., Drew Berrymore, all had a long list of transgression or bad decisions while growing up in the public eye and that list goes on and on.

When we screwed up we apologized and said we would do better but inevitably we screwed up again. The key was to not make the same mistake twice. That’s what Winston is doing; he’s going through normal growing pains that are being lived out in the public eye. Just because he is not progressing to adulthood at the rate that others want him do doesn’t make him a bad guy, it just makes him human.

We can be disappointed in a person’s actions without turning our back on that person. Before you make a determination on Winston’s character, just imagine if we were judged on what we did at age 20. Wow!

Questions? Comments?

Twitter: @geneclemons

Email: gclemons@footballgameplan.com

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The Suicide of Michigan Football

Gene Clemons, FBGP Analyst
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The top definition of suicide is intentionally taking one’s own life and the second definition is the destruction of one’s own interests or prospects. Both seem to apply to the situation at the University of Michigan and its once proud football program.

In any potential suicidal case, one should look for a traumatic event or events that may cause someone to consider suicide.

For Michigan football that is easy to identify. Long time Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr announced his retirement on Nov. 19th 2006 amidst talk that the offensive innovation had fallen on hard times. Although Carr had amassed a 121-40 record over his 12 seasons in Ann Arbor, his losing record (6-7) versus Ohio State was a big reason for him finally retiring from his post. Of course Michigan brass believed that the prestige of their program would net them whomever they wanted to take over the program. After all, they have the notoriety, educational clout, facilities, and they recruited nationally, so who wouldn’t want to coach the maize and blue.

Michigan first reached out to a “Michigan Man” in Les Miles but he turned them down. He was fighting for a national title that season and he realized the recruiting jewel he had in LSU. They did not reportedly reach out to a fellow “Michigan Man” in Jim Harbaugh who was finishing up another great season at San Diego and Stanford University swooped in and scooped him up in December of 2006. They then turned their attention to a “Michigan-Like” coach in Greg Schiano, who was the head coach at Rutgers at the time, but they were again turned down. The realization that they couldn’t have anyone in America quickly set in and made this changing of the guard even more dramatic.

Behavior changing 180 degrees can be a sign that something is not okay.

After waiting until it was almost national signing day, the Wolverines finally tabbed Rich Rodriguez as its new head football coach. They were able to wrestle him away from West Virginia where he had turned a fledgling program into a Big East and national power. Rodriguez definitely signaled a new day at Michigan because he was a far cry from what a “Michigan Man” looked like. He spoke with a twang and ran different innovative offenses and defenses. He conducted practices differently than the conventional football program and had his own unique ideas about creating excitement again in Ann Arbor. Most importantly, he was looking to recruit different types of players to run his philosophy.

The good thing is that when given time, Rodriguez had been successful everywhere he landed which included Glenville State, Tulane, Clemson, and West Virginia. He was hoping that the change could be quick and it would have been if they landed the nation’s top recruit quarterback Terrelle Pryor whom he was recruiting at West Virginia and was now deciding between Michigan and rival Ohio State. Rodriguez lost his first battle against the Buckeyes when Pryor picked Columbus over Ann Arbor. This was another reason for despair at Michigan and was ultimately the reason Rodriguez didn’t succeed.

Rich Rod went into his first season with very few of his own recruits because of how late he received the job. His first season was terrible at 2-9, the worse in school history. His second season they were 5-7, but by his third campaign they were 7-5 and bowl eligible. He had recruited players that valued his philosophies and believed in his schemes and practices. He had recruited a dynamic quarterback in Denard Robinson who had two seasons remaining and another one the way in Devin Gardner. He also boasted several players who would go on to be NFL draft picks and extremely effective players at Michigan. Unfortunately after that season Rodriguez was fired.

When Michigan fired Rodriguez they essentially committed program suicide. They went away from what makes any program successful, consistency.

It took Rodriguez three seasons to get the type of players he needed to run his system and once he had them, he was fired; not allowed to see what he could do in year four with his players in place. Because they had not achieved at a high level, it meant that any elite level coach was out of the question. College football’s elite would not want to come in and clean up that mess. Michigan was again shunned by Les Miles and this time they reached out to Jim Harbaugh but he chose the NFL instead.

This time Michigan, determined to employ a Michigan man reached out to former assistant Brady Hoke, who was the head coach at San Diego State. Hoke and Michigan brass wanted to return Michigan to its original roots which meant once again the program had to go through a 180 degree change. Hoke did a smart thing and won big in his first year essentially running a Rodriguez-style offense and leaning on Junior stud Robinson at quarterback. But his inability to recruit at the level of other top quality head coaches, and trying to return Michigan to a traditional style of play, has caused the program to slip back down into mediocrity. The man Jason Whitlock referred to as; “The perfect coach for Michigan” just can not get it done at Michigan.

Imagine what Michigan would have been if Rodriguez was allowed to see his vision through. Imagine what the program would be if Rodriguez was able to convince Pryor to attend Michigan. Imagine what would have happened if they would have reached out to Jim Harbaugh the first time.

Now Michigan, like the entire Big 10, is flat-lining in irrelevance and there does not seem to be any chance of resuscitation. Did I mention they just lost to Notre Dame 31-0?

Time of death, Saturday September 6th 2014 at approximately 11:30 pm. It was a good run Wolverines.

Questions? Comments?

Twitter: @geneclemons

Email: gclemons@footballgameplan.com

 

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“We Are” Ashamed!

Gene Clemons, FBGP Analyst
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The NCAA is sending flowers and candies to the NFL offices every hour on the hour. James Franklin is running around Happy Valley high fiving everybody he can possibly reach. Under the cloud of the Ray Rice incident, which has now become an NFL debacle, the NCAA announced that they were lifting the sanctions against Penn State football.

The Nittany Lions were punished for covering up the awful crimes of Jerry Sandusky who used his affiliation with the university to rape and molest countless amounts of boys. It was proven that Penn State knew what Sandusky was doing but instead of calling the police and having him arrested, they decided the best course of action was to try and distance themselves from him without completely disconnecting. In essence, Penn State funded Sandusky’s abuse of these kids and never thought to protect these boys from a monster.

For their despicable inaction, Penn State was given probation for five years, banned from postseason play for four seasons, had scholarships reduced for four years, and was fined $60 million dollars.

Within one season of serving their sentence PSU had their scholarship reductions lightened and now after two seasons, everything is being reinstated. Why? Nobody was banging the drum for Penn State other than Penn State. Their crime was horrific and legitimately punishable. But it only amounted to a two-year bowl ban, scholarship reductions, and $60 million dollar fine.

The fine was a joke because Penn State prints money. While the scholarship reductions for two seasons sting, they don’t cripple you. A two-year bowl ban can be easily absorbed. How could the NCAA possibly believe this was enough; that Penn State had paid their penance? When you think of how they have handled previous high profile cases, when did the NCAA get into the change of heart business?

USC was given similar sanctions as PSU but was not given any relief from those sanctions. USC’s crime was “oversight”; not knowing that Reggie Bush’s parents were making deals with agents. It’s a crime that had no victim. Nobody was hurt, and nobody’s life was forever affected by the actions or inaction of the Trojans athletic department. Now, Penn State has made significant steps to change their athletic department but so did USC. Both schools have new presidents, athletic directors, and head coaches. So why didn’t USC get relief? That could have saved Lane Kiffin’s job.

There’s this sense that Penn State represents something more special, elitism, and that arrogance led them to sweep horrible acts under the rug and try to pin it all on their long-time iconic coach who ultimately died shortly after of cancer and to some extent a broken heart.

But Penn State made significant changes? They were covering up a rape case by someone involved in their football program but still thought it was a great idea to hire a coach who less than a year ago was involved and accused of helping cover up a rape allegation on this football team. That doesn’t seem like the smart way to go. I think that James Franklin is a great coach, but trying to contact the victim that is accusing your players of rape is a bad look no matter the reason. Months later he was saying goodbye to Tennessee and moving on up to Happy Valley where everyone conveniently forgot what went down on his watch at Vanderbilt.

This type of inadequate action by the NCAA sets a bad precedent that if you do what the NCAA tells you to do faster than they said, they will reduce your sanctions. They should have told Penn State thank you for complying but your punishment is your punishment. Because your actions significantly hurt a countless amount of young men you must pay the penalty for those actions. The NCAA has a lot of warts and eventually they will be too ugly to look at, and the NCAA will go the way of the AAU because they seem to just not get it.

It makes you wonder how the young men raped and molested by Jerry Sandusky feel about Penn State being let off with a slap on the wrist? Did they wake up and see the announcement and wonder if they were all alone again? Are they reaching out again and finding no hand reaching back? Those that have come forward and told their story about being attacked by that monster at Penn State are disgraced again. Those that will never come forward and tell their story feel that chilly twinge down their spine as they deal with their grief in silence and anonymity.

The NCAA should be ashamed but their not. This has become the rule not the exception.

Questions? Comments?

Twitter: @geneclemons

Email: gclemons@footballgameplan.com

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Don’t Be Selfish Fans

Gene Clemons, FBGP Analyst
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So you’re tired of watching top-level FBS teams play small schools? You want to see the heavyweights cannibalize each other during the regular season? Okay, that’s fine, but you also want the little guy to get a shot at the big guy? We all love a David versus Goliath story; Appalachian State beats Michigan, Georgia Southern beats Florida. We all stay glued to the television or turn to the game when the overwhelming underdog is standing their ground against the big bad FBS. With all that said we must realize…..

We can’t have it both ways!

There are no preseason games in college and scrimmages are not allowed. Coaches must use the first couple games of the season to figure out their strengths and weaknesses. We all know the structure of FBS college football frowns on losses. So today, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Clemson have an uphill battle to make the new four-team playoff and in the old system they would have practically no shot of a title. Many teams are not willing to put their entire season on the line in week one, especially those with championship aspirations.

For FCS teams, losing their first game doesn’t have any bearing on their season. Because their playoff system is so much more substantial, they can take a couple shots in the regular season and still end up in the playoffs. This allows them to schedule games against FBS teams who help them fund their athletic program’s season budget. The Idaho Vandals football team received 950 thousand dollars for their game against Florida State last season according Josh Wright a writer for the Idaho Spokesman-Review. Game guarantees accounted for 20 percent of the Vandals’ athletic budget last season. So imagine what would happen if they didn’t have that revenue coming into the program.

This season’s guaranteed game against the Florida Gators was for a reported 975 thousand dollars. The game was canceled due to an “Act of God” or rainstorms and as a result, the Gators are not obligated to pay that money. If Florida does not, the ripple effect could be felt in the Vandals’ athletic program for the next couple of years. If someone told you to do the same things this year as you did last year but this year they are going to decrease your finances by 20 percent, you would deem it practically impossible.

The major FBS programs feel the financial ramifications as well. The guaranteed games allow them to have extra home games, which in most cases, account for millions of extra dollars being poured into the program. When major FBS teams play each other, they usually play at neutral sites or they sign a ‘home and home’ which means one less home game in one of those seasons and millions of dollars lost.

Many FCS football programs have folded over the years because they could not afford to

Cal-State Fullerton dropped its football program back in 1992 because of financial problems

continue to operate. If they were able to consistently procure one of those guaranteed games, they may have saved their football programs. We all acknowledge that college football is big business. That business is felt throughout the university. Their commercials run during their games against major FBS teams and in almost all cases this will be the only time during the year that these FCS teams will be on national television. That effect of that on a school’s enrollment is incalculable especially if they could find a way to win the game.

Yes, we would like to see the heavyweights play each other. Yes, some of these David versus Goliath matchups don’t end well for David. Yes, we want to see the college stars battle against each other… but be patient. Every season we are gifted with great matchups weekly and with the new college football playoff, we will be ensured three epic games at the end of the season. Why should we be selfish? Everyone should get a piece of the action.

Questions? Comments?

Twitter: @geneclemons

Email: gclemons@footballgameplan.com

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Apparently Loyalty is a One Way Street for Louisville

Gene Clemons, FBGP Analyst

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So let’s get this straight, everything that the NCAA and its member affiliates do is for the kids? That’s what they are selling, that’s what they hope you believe. The problem is every time you look up it’s the kids that are being penalized the most. I guess mom and dad can’t punish themselves can they?

The University of Louisville just recently brought back possibly the most immoral and untrustworthy coach in America, Bobby Petrino. They can give you all of the song and dance routines they want but they brought him back for one reason, he is one hell of a coach. That has never been disputed. One could understand the move and even applaud the school for giving Petrino another chance (well… this is actually like his fourth chance but, semantics).

Everyone is entitled to a second chance right? Apparently not!

Fort Pierce Central outside linebacker, Sharieff Rhaheed, was a highly touted and sought after prospect this past season. On national signing day, he decided to continue his academic and athletic career at Louisville despite the fact that the coaching staff that recruited him had since moved on to join former Louisville head coach Charlie Strong at Texas. He committed. He signed his name on the line and he legally bound himself to this university that told him that he was going to be a part of their family.

Then Rhaheed got into trouble. This high school boy had sex with a high school girl and she ended up pregnant. Things further deescalated when the girl told her mother she had an abortion in November. In February Rhaheed was arrested and charged with felony lewd and lascivious behavior with a victim aged 12 to 16. The girl was 14, so in essence he was arrested for having sex with a girl three years younger than he was. She told the police that she was not forced, but Florida law mandates that any child under 16 cannot consent to sexual activity.

So Rhaheed pled no contest and was charged as a juvenile. We won’t focus on how the details of this minor’s case were made public; apparently he doesn’t have any rights as well. His name was drug through the mud by headline-grabbing news media and he was vilified as a hoodlum by social media. What was his “real” crime? Bad judgment! How many of us displayed good judgment all the time at 17 years old?

This is where your family sits you down, talks to you, tells you they are disappointed in you for making a bad choice but they still love you and have confidence that you will grow from this situation. This is where a family puts their arms around you. This is where a family makes you feel safe and secure because family is all you’ve got. Unfortunately, this is not what Louisville did.

A kid, who had to be scared to death that he could go to jail for up to 15 years just for having consensual sex with another high school kid, should have heard encouragement coming from the ‘family’ he decided to join but he heard a “no comment” and “we are aware of the situation.” Then right around his 18th birthday Rhaheed was informed that Louisville was rescinding his letter of intent, or breaking their contract, with the kid. This was a shock to everyone involved because according to Central’s head coach Josh Shaffer, a conversation with Petrino had led him to believe that everything was still a go for Rhaheed at Louisville.

“Sharieff Rhaheed-Muhammad will not attend the University of Louisville. At this time, we believe this is the right decision in the best interest of the University and the athletic department.”

And with those words Louisville had washed their hands of the problem, of the minimal media attention generated out of a small city on the Treasure Coast of Florida. In the process they screwed over a kid whom they told they would treat like family.

Now Rhaheed found himself a few weeks away from graduation with no place to call home and little options. His dream of playing football at Louisville dashed. The numerous offers that he possessed from other programs including Arkansas, Michigan State, and Missouri were gone. He was left with, finding a prep school and starting the process all over again next year or going to junior college.

Rhaheed chose to start his college career now. He is playing at Nassau Community College in New York. Since he is already D1 eligible, he is most likely banking that he can have an immediate impact and parlay that into another D1 offer. It’s surely not the road that he wanted to take but it’s what he’s left with after not being afforded a second chance by a school that practically begged him to come and that he entered into a contractual agreement with.

So Louisville chose to give an adulterer who is a lying, disloyal, crooked, man who could give a damn less about anyone but himself another chance; but giving a kid who used poor judgment another shot was, “Not in the best interest of the university and the athletic department.”

Maybe if Rhaheed was married they would have honored his contract. Adultery worked for Petrino and Petino, it could have worked for Rhaheed as well.

That’s a bad look Louisville, that’s a really bad look!

Questions? Comments?

Twitter: @geneclemons

Email: gclemons@footballgameplan.com

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