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.