Saturday, July 07, 2007

HOW FAR SHOULD YOU GO?

A story about Southern Mississippi's penchant for latching onto "troubled" stars -- in the PC words of the Clarion-Ledger -- raises some interesting questions about how far teams, particularly mid-majors, should be willing to go for highly-regarded recruits that the big boys stay away from for various reasons.

HATTIESBURG — Antwain Easterling knows he's stepping into a white-hot spotlight. He understands he will draw immediate attention, not only for what he might do with a football in his hands this fall for Southern Miss, but also for the circumstances that in large part led to his arrival in Hattiesburg. ...
Few stars shined as brightly in Dade County's football firmament as the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Easterling. He rushed for 2,831 yards and 33 touchdowns last season, and was rated by national recruiting services among the top 17 backs in the country, including No. 5 by ESPN.com.
But on Dec. 7, just days before his Miami Northwestern team was to play in the state championship game, Easterling was arrested and charged with second-degree lewd and lascivious battery on a minor, a felony charge stemming from having consensual sex with a 14-year-old girl at his high school three months earlier when he was 18. ...
In 2003, USM stood by a scholarship offer to George County receiver Anthony Perine, who had been arrested as a high school senior on a felony charge of having sex with a minor. Perine played at USM from 2003-06 and graduated with his degree last season.
Two summers ago, USM signed Marcus Raines of Antelope, Calif., a highly regarded junior college linebacker who had spent three years incarcerated after accepting a plea bargain on involuntary manslaughter charges. ...
Cornerbacks Cornelius McGee and C.J. Bailey are expected to return to the team this summer despite being expelled from school last fall after a felony arrest for shooting a BB-gun on campus from a car.

First, C&F feels like the charges here are of a varying nature. For example, shooting a BB-gun is not quite as serious an incident as having even consensual sex with a minor. However, both of those tend to pale in comparison to killing a man, whatever the circumstances.

This all, of course, ties in with the controversial case of Genarlow Wilson, a can of worms C&F does not wish to open.

But the main point boils down to when a team should bail out on a recruit or a current player. These questions are, of course, nothing new to South Carolina given our recent experience with a coach who struggled to deal strongly with "troubled" stars.


Involuntary manslaughter? Sounds like my kind of recruit!

The pressure to take a chance, of course, is more acute at schools like USM and, until recently, South Carolina, where blue chips are few and far between. If Southern Cal or Florida or Ohio State looses a five-star, so what? There are four or five more at the same position they're working on. For a USM, though, that player is a rare chance to get a recruit that otherwise would have gone to one of the big boys.

Any time, it's a roll of the dice. "A lot of people deserve second chances," USM coach Jeff Bower says. But which people? And which chances? After all, a second chance at life in general is far different than a second chance at a taxpayer-funded trip to college or the ticket to a gold-lined road to the NFL.

And where do you get to the point that Holtz did with Derek Watson, where you keep giving second chance after second chance after second chance until you're on the fifth or sixth chance? How do you know a player won't be a cancer eating at the chemistry of the locker room?

Yet there are those -- like Josh Hamilton in baseball -- who have been at the bottom and found their way back.

There are no simple answers, and it's not an easy job. C&F certainly doesn't envy those who have to sift through the names and situations to make the decisions.

At USM, we could have a test case.

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STUPID RADIO HOST TRICKS

Normally don't just post and link to what other people have done. But, in this case, it's just too good. And embellishment is unnecessary. Trust me: If you haven't seen this EDSBS post already, it is worth the click.


Feeling like this? You're not alone.

Fair warning to any D.C.-area radio personalities: All those Houston Nutt letters to the people of Nuttistan? Yeah, completely made up.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

GEORGIA FACES GATOR INVASION

Hope everyone had a great Independence Day.

And speaking of underdogs trying to overthrow their oppressors, Georgia officials are taking a close look at a request for specialty license plates designed for UF alumni.

The fact that Georgia's football squad has lost 15 of its past 17 encounters with the Gators has nothing to do with his opposition, says Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson (R-Savannah).
"A Gator tag will cause accidents. Gator fans cannot drive or read traffic signs. A car up on blocks cannot move," Johnson wrote in his letter to state Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham. ...
But even after Graham gives his approval, the state Legislature still would have to give an up-or-down vote on the tag when it reconvenes in January. Johnson, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, promised close scrutiny.
Even should lawmakers somehow overcome their pro-Bulldog prejudice, Johnson predicted high-handed judicial activism. "If our prisoners have to make these tags, the Supreme Court is going to declare that cruel and unusual punishment," he said.

Knowing Sen. Johnson professionally, I think he was joking. I think.


Governor, they're already unbearable.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

MIRANDA RIGHTS? NOT SO MUCH

Unexpected trouble in the case of the stabbed Northern Colorado punter. Apparently, Dick Cheney sent some hand-picked CIA agents in to handle the interrogation of the accused.


Rights? Who needs those?

Either that, or the accused has an active imagination. Which, this being Northern Colorado and Wyoming, it's not like he had anything better to do with his spare time.

GREELEY, Colo. -- A former Northern Colorado punter accused of stabbing the starter testified Tuesday that he felt bullied while being interrogated by detectives and that he implied he wanted a lawyer, only to be ignored.
Mitchell Cozad, who is charged with attempted first-degree murder, swiveled in his chair on the witness stand as he answered questions from his attorney, Joseph Gavaldon.
When asked why he spoke to investigators without an attorney, Cozad testified: "I had nothing to hide." ...
Cozad is accused of leaving a three- to five-inch-deep gash in Rafael Mendoza's kicking leg during a Sept. 11 ambush. Police have said they believe Cozad stabbed Mendoza in an attempt to get the starting job.
The case is set to go to trial July 30, but Gavaldon said lawyers were negotiating to resolve the case before trial. Chief deputy district attorney Michele Meyer declined to comment on any possible plea deal.

I have nothing to hide. Now may I please have a plea deal?

Last Sept. 12, Cozad was interviewed by Evans police detective George Roosevelt in the office of Nathan Cole, the university's coordinator for student rights and responsibilities. Cozad, who had been suspended from the school and kicked off the team, waited there for his mom to arrive from Wheatland, Wyo., because Cole had evicted him from his dorm room.
Prosecutors argued Cozad didn't ask for a lawyer while in the Cole's office with detectives, but Gavaldon contended it was implied. Cozad testified that he said, "My mom wanted me to wait [to talk] until we have a lawyer" as he waited for her. ...
Mitch Cozad said he was later given two options: Waive his rights and answer two questions from the detectives and go home, or ask for an attorney. But if the attorney didn't arrive in five minutes, he would go to jail.
Cozad said he reluctantly waived his rights. ...
After Cozad was handcuffed and taken to the police station, he inquired about dinner because he hadn't eaten since around 11:30 a.m. A pizza was ordered.
"He [Roosevelt] gives me the smallest slice. He licks his thumb, puts it into the pizza and says, 'If you're hungry, you'll eat that,'" Cozad said.

C&F is no legal expert, but if true, this might be a problem per any statements that Cozad made. But it also looks like there wasn't that much incriminating in what Cozad said -- at least from the article -- meaning the prosecution likely has other evidence. Like a ready-made motive. Like trying to be the starting punter.

All of this, of course, is for naught if he cops a plea anyway.

That said, there's no excuse for ruining a perfectly good pizza.

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SCHEDULE STRENGTH: U-DUB, FSU ... GAMECOCKS?

Well, another list of toughest schedules has come out (following SI's), with ESPN's Mark Schlabach counting the Gamecocks' slate as the third hardest in the country.

First up is the Washington kamikaze schedule, a group of teams and dates that would be insulted by being called brutal:

including these five games to open the season: at Syracuse, home contests against Boise State and Ohio State, at UCLA and at home against Southern California. The Pac-10 conference slate also includes home games against Oregon on Oct. 20 and California on Nov. 17, as well as road games at Arizona State on Oct. 13 and Oregon State on Nov. 10. At least the Huskies will have some sort of a bowl game, even if they finish below .500 -- Washington finishes the season at Hawaii on Dec. 1.

Ouch.

Meanwhile, if Pappy Bowden isn't yet senile, he could get knocked around by this schedule enough to get there -- particularly if FSU isn't any better this year.

FSU opens the season with a nationally televised game at Clemson on Labor Day ... the first of four challenging ACC road games; FSU also plays at Wake Forest, Boston College and Virginia Tech. The Seminoles play only five home games -- an Oct. 20 date against Miami headlines the Doak Campbell Stadium schedule -- along with a neutral-site game against Alabama in Jacksonville, Fla., on Sept. 29.


Wait a minute -- where's Jeff? I did what?

Then comes us.

The Gamecocks play four of the most talented SEC teams on the road: at Georgia, LSU, Tennessee and Arkansas. They also play home games against defending national champion Florida and archrival Clemson to finish the season.

At least we have South Carolina State.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

ERIN ANDREWS, SECOND ONLY TO SCARLETT

And so it falls to C&F to defend the honor of Erin Andrews, recently maligned by the slander of Addicted To Quack (though I must give props on the name) and damned with faint praise (if even that) by EDSBS.

For those of you coming late to this program, both ATQ and EDSBS have questioned the hotness of Erin Andrews, or "EA" as she is known thanks to the ramblings of Chris Fowler.

Now, C&F will grant that EA will never quite eclipse Scarlett Johansson in his heart.


Any excuse. Any excuse.

But ATQ takes a step farther, saying: "If I never see Erin Andrews again, it'll be just dandy with me."

Heathen!

ATQ builds his case heavily on a few unflattering photos of EA, including one where she is obviously wearing far too much make-up for her girl-next-door cuteness and looking into a harsh light that can only be a nearby solar flare.

Incontrovertible evidence follows:


Not hot.


Hard on the eyes. (The one on the right, the one on the right.)


Unbearably ugly.


Can't stand her. Oh ... sorry, Scarlett again.

C&F rests his case.

He must also, however, heartily thank ATQ for sparking the most enjoyable research project C&F has done in quite some time.

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LES, THE NICE MEN IN THE WHITE COATS WANT TO SEE YOU

Les Miles is crazy.

Not odd. Not a bit strange.

He's literally, legally, undeniably nuts.

Need proof? Not long after his emotional tirade against Nick Saban, Miles has gone off again, this time by blasting the schedule strength of the Pac-10 and ... wait for it ... the Big XII, a league that once included a head coach named Les Miles. (HT: EDSBS)


I don't care if it was against the other team, it was still a crappy call.


"I can tell you that I would like nothing better than to play USC for the title," Miles said in a speech that radio station WWL made available on its Web site. ...
"I can tell you this, that they have a much easier road to travel," Miles said of the Trojans. "They're going to play real knockdown drag-outs with UCLA and Washington, Cal-Berkley, Stanford -- some real juggernauts -- and they're going to end up, it would be my guess, in some position so if they win a game or two, that they'll end up in the title (game). I would like that path for us." ...
Speaking later in the week with reporters in Baton Rouge, Miles continued the theme.
"The Big 12 is a conference that might have two really pretty good teams, maybe four," said Miles, who coached in the Big 12 while at Oklahoma State. "I think the Pac-10 may have one or two really good ones. The ACC certainly, arguably, has some quality teams."

Most of the attention has been drawn by the comments about the Pac-10, given as they were in the context of a projected NC game between Southern California and LSU. But C&F would say the most aggrieved party is the ACC, which Miles says "certainly, arguably, has some quality teams."

Perhaps the problem is that no one really disagrees with that statement about the ACC -- which Miles won't even confirm has "some quality teams" -- while there are others who are perhaps a touch hypersensitive about any perceived slight of their conference's strength.

There are probably few SEC fans who would disagree with Miles' take on their conference's strength. (Must ... hold to ... rule ... against ... conference ... wars ...) But for a coach to say it -- particularly in the context of playing a team that you have a decent chance at playing -- can only be described as nuts. Whacked. One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest.

And, um, Coach Miles might want to wait for a year when he doesn't play Tulane, Middle Tennessee State and Louisiana Tech all the same year to start taking pot-shots at people's strength of schedule.

C&F never thought he'd see someone challenging Spurrier for the title "Mouth of the South," but Les Miles might even need a new name by the time this is over.

Krakatoa of the South, anyone?


Told you not to ask him about Russell leaving early.

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WARNING: PARENTAL GUIDANCE SUGGESTED

As reported earlier on C&F, Charlie Weis sung "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the 7th inning stretch at Wrigley Field on Sunday. Flaunting all standards of decency, WGN has posted the video here.
Go ahead, click it. But don't say you weren't warned.
Let Charlie serenade you.

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

WEIS STRETCHES ... IN A SENSE

Well, here we were again with the Midwestern football coaches singing "Take Me Out the Ballgame." In this case, it was Notre Dame's own Charlie Weis, who had to tone down his normal language at sporting events.


Weis tunes up his pipes for his seventh-inning stretch performance.

As of yet, the video has not been posted at WGN's Cubs blog, which can only be described as a humanitarian gesture. His voice hit an awkward note on the first "me" of the song, which sounded to C&F like an overdone adolescent-voice-changing joke on a sitcom.

Weis did seem to particularly relish the line "Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks..."


Mmmmm, Cracker Jacks.

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WIDE, BUT NOT DEEP?


As much as Gamecock fans have reason to be concerned about Blake Mitchell's mental state, there is another, perhaps more pressing worry: Who is going to replace Sidney Rice? Or at least take the place of his prolific production.

Looking at the numbers -- which don't quite capture the importance of Rice to the Gamecocks -- show his impact. In 2006, Rice accounted for fully 33.4 percent of South Carolina's receiving yards, and an eye-popping 41.7 percent of its receiving TDs. (In fairness, half of Rice's 10 scores came in a brutal beatdown of Florida Atlantic.) Rice also led the team with 83.8 yards a game -- a full 16 yards better than the next-best receiver on the team.

That brings us to the next-best receiver in 2006: Kenny McKinley.

For sure, McKinley is the player with the best shot at taking Rice's place in the offense. The only other player with more than 50 catches on the team (he had 51), McKinley had 880 yards and 5 touchdowns and averaged 67.7 yards a game. At 6' even, there are questions about whether he has the height to move from the slot, where he thrived last year as the No. 2. But one way or another, he will have to step up.


Heir to the throne?

In this respect, one of his stats is encouraging: McKinley averaged 17.3 yard a catch, a full two yards more than Rice. Some doubts do linger with C&F, who is normally a McKinley booster. Mostly, he wonders whether McKinley has the ability or body control to make the acrobatic catches that defined Rice's tenure at South Carolina. And if there's anything that is necessary to be the No. 1 receiver on a team with Blake Mitchell as QB, it's the ability to make acrobatic catches.

One player who will also make the transition easier is RB Cory Boyd, who grabbed 35 passes for 406 yards and 2 TDs last year and could take some of the heat off McKinley, particularly with short dump-off throws if the defense is swarming McKinley.

But there's only so much relief that passing to the running back can provide for McKinley. Someone else will have to step up. And the list is, well, somewhat thin. The only other players to catch for more than 100 yards last season were the departed Noah Whiteside (114) and returners Freddie Brown (147) and Jared Cook (113).

Cook is looking at a possible move to tight end, though, and there are questions about where the 6'2" Brown will end up on the depth chart.

JUCO transfer Larry Freeman, measuring 6'1", is expected to contribute, as is incoming freshman Chris Culliver. Mark Barnes, another signee, could be a wide receiver or a cornerback. Jason Barnes and Joseph Hills have the stature to also make plays.

And this all assumes no injuries. Having to go without McKinley (or Freeman or Culliver) could be huge blows to the team if no one else is ready to take over.

Spurrier could opt to go another year with more of a ball-control offense than he might prefer, but C&F is pretty confident that won't be the case.

So it's quite simple: No matter who it is -- Freeman, Culliver, one of the Barneses, Hills or Brown -- someone has to become a reliable enough No. 2 so that McKinley doesn't face double- and triple-coverage in passing situations. And McKinley has to do what Gamecock fans and coaches thought as recently as last November wouldn't be necessary until at least next year.

He'll have to replace Sidney Rice.

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