10 Storylines of the Week
1. Last week saw Oregon attempt to put the top back on the volcano after three players were hospitalized following reported boot camp-esque workouts. They reprimanded their strength coach, Irele Oderinde, with a month’s suspension sans pay. Just as that story began to die down on the hamster wheel that is the 24-hour news cycle, the volcano erupted again early on Sunday morning. That’s when co-offensive coordinator David Reaves was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. Unlike Oderinde, who will remain on staff with the Ducks, Reaves will be terminated. His firing was announced days after he was formally introduced.
None of this looks good on head coach Willie Taggart, but we would advise against crafting a pattern out of two isolated, unrelated incidents. Last week, I wrote that Taggart needs to make sure to cross his ‘t’s and dot his ‘i.’ He might want to start dotting every letter just to be safe, but it is far, far, far too early for Duck fans to start looking for the exits.
2. Two pre-draft all-star games are now in the books, as the East-West Shrine Game and NFLPA Collegiate Bowl were played this past Saturday. The former ended 10-3, with only Louisiana-Lafayette RB Elijah McGuire managing to find the end zone. The game also saw a nice burst of January draft hyperbole from the NFL Network boys, with Daniel Jeremiah and Mike Mayock positively blushing over UCLA CB Fabian Moreau. Jeremiah went so far as to call Moreau a legitimate first-round prospect, while Mayock tagged him as a second-rounder at worst. Draft Analyst’s Tony Pauline applies a far more conservative sixth-round projection to the Bruins corner, though he believes a fast 40-yard dash at the Combine might seal a mid-round selection. Rotoworld’s Josh Norris offers a complete wrap of the East-West Shrine Game here. As for the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, Houston QB/maybe-wideout-to-be Greg Ward Jr. was picked off twice, while Virginia’s Taquan Mizzell rushed for 96 yards on just nine carries.
Next up, the Senior Bowl on Saturday, and then onward, onward to the NFL Scouting Combine and beyond.
3. Hey, speaking of the NFL Scouting Combine, it could use something. It could use, maybe, just a little bit more Swag. Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly is currently in Mobile for the Senior Bowl, but will not play due to a torn ACL suffered late in the season. The occasionally rabble-rousing Rebel hopes to be far enough along in his recovery that he will be able to throw at the Combine in Indianapolis just over a month from now. If that is a physical impossibility, he will try for Ole Miss’ Pro Day.
Barring a setback, Kelly’s ACL should heal up just fine. Whether he can repair his reputation is a different story. Just this past season, he was photographed in the presence of marijuana and also charged onto the field during a high school football game after his brother took a hard hit at the sideline. These are relatively minor indiscretions (if you even want to call them indiscretions), but added to his past troubles, it might be difficult for Kelly to completely sell himself as a changed man to NFL squads.
4. Dabo Swinney remains a fan of Deshaun Watson. Last week, he chewed out anonymous scouts who were giving Watson second-round grades. This week, Dabo shrugged and was like, “Eh, let’s just do this thing” and went into another stratosphere by saying that if the Cleveland Browns opted to pass on Deshaun Watson with the first overall selection this spring, they would be passing on Michael Jordan. Watson isn’t going to be the first overall pick unless Dabo’s finally figured out how to manipulate other humans with his mind, but he could still end up in a Browns uniform, as the team also holds No. 12.
Watson, by the by, is not participating in the Senior Bowl. This is reportedly irking some squads. It shouldn't tangibly damage his draft stock, though.
5. My father owned wild Mustangs while I was growing up in the wilderness of Idaho, and when they started to agitate toward him in the corral, he would say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa” before escaping. Sources within the Jets offered their own “whoa whoa whoa” when speaking with Walter Football’s Charlie Campbell about UNC QB Mitch Trubisky. In December a report surfaced that the Jets had fallen in love with the gunslinger. Maybe not so much yet. Take it away, Mr. Campbell:
“When I told this to Jets sources, they rolled their eyes and shook their head. They said that general manager Mike Maccagnan has them work more in depth on early entry players later in the process and not during the fall, so it is way too early to say that for almost any non-senior.”
One reason that the Jets might not be eyeing a quarterback early -- according to Campbell’s little birdies, former Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg has been quietly progressing to the team’s liking. We will believe it when we see it. Stranger things have happened. Flip on the news at a random hour -- stranger things are happening every minute. Christian Hackenberg turning into an NFL quarterback feels about right in context.
6. Two unsavory nuggets from the Big 12 this week. TCU RB Kyle Hicks, who led the team with 1,082 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns in 2016, was arrested early Sunday morning on a public intoxication charge after police were called about a fight at a restaurant. No suspension of any variety has been announced for Hicks as of yet and any punishment he does receive figures to be of the relatively low-grade variety.
Our other bit of Big 12 news is a bit more disturbing, as Oklahoma CB Parrish Cobb has been suspended not only from the football team, but also from the university itself, pending an investigation into three counts of felony robbery. Cobb was one player who received a release from Baylor following the team’s firing of Art Briles last May.
7. The NCAA has approved a ban on vacation practices beginning in August. Informally, it is being called the Jim Harbaugh Rule, as UM’s trip to IMG Academy in Florida last spring caused a grassfire of odd criticism. So blocks are being placed on Michigan’s plane. Before the NCAA officially cripples Jim Harbaugh’s zest for existence, though, Harbaugh plans on taking the team to Rome. In Europe. The one where Russell Crowe fights with tigers in the Colosseum. The team will use three of its allotted 15 spring practices while in Italy. The athletic department (probably smartly) would not put a pricetag on the trip, but it’s safe to assume that they are paying a pretty penny to thumb their noses at their NCAA overlords.
8. Auburn has found its Rhett Lashlee replacement in Arizona State's Chip Lindsey. The new Tigers offensive coordinator has been linked to multiple head-coaching positions over the past few seasons. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him try to springboard off his Auburn gig for a lead job next offseason. For now, he will work to shore up an offense which showed tantalizing flashes last season. They should have one of the best running attacks in the country in 2017. If Lindsey can unleash Baylor transfer QB Jarrett Stidham, this could be a very interesting offense indeed. Auburn ranked 112th in the country in passing offense a year ago. That should change for the better in 2017.
The man who Stidham will ostensibly be competing with for starting quarterback honors this offseason isn’t ready for a competition beyond, say, checkers right now. Sean White -- who started the majority of games last season -- is still recovering from a broken right arm suffered in the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma at the beginning of January. The best HC Gus Malzahn could give in regards to that injury is that he hopes White will be able to throw during spring practice.
9. In a prelude to National Signing Day’s wackiness, five-star LB Jacob Phillips opted to make like a pancake and flip from Oklahoma to LSU late in the week. He had been the Sooners’ highest-ranked pledge, standing proudly as Rivals’ No. 29 overall recruit for the current cycle. He credited LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda for showing him the Tiger-colored light. While LSU could have gone fishing for a big-name coaching hire after they fired Les Miles, they instead decided to stay in-house with Ed Orgeron. This move allowed a level of stability and probably helped to keep a few commitments on board. LSU’s current class ranks as Rivals’ seventh-best in the country. They could threaten the top five if National Signing Day breaks right for them.
Check back on Rotoworld come Sunday for a National Signing Day primer, and again on Thursday for a recap of all that fun.
10. While Stanford’s quarterback of the future is five-star commit Davis Mills -- both Rivals’ Mike Farrell and Scout’s Chad Simmons view him as a glove-fit with the Cardinal -- a familiar face will be returning next season. Early reports had Ryan Burns set to transfer out, as he lost his starting job to Keller Chryst in the back half of the 2016 campaign. However, with Chryst tearing his ACL in bowl action, Burns has decided that he will stay put. He did little to instill confidence during his seven-game starting stint, throwing for 1,058 with a 5/7 TD/INT ratio in that space. In his final three starts, he threw one touchdown to five interceptions. If Mills shows enough in offseason practices, it would not be a surprise to see him in the mix for starts early in 2017 ala Georgia’s Jacob Eason during the past campaign. Burns is not the answer in Palo Alto.