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Catching you up on all the important storylines from the summer
The start of the college football season is less than a month away and the offseason didn’t contain any new realignment or any coach motorcycle/coed scandals (fingers crossed).
That doesn’t mean it was a quiet offseason, certainly not for the sports most visible player down in College Station.
The offseason is long and new falls through the cracks. Here’s everything you need to know to get caught up.
1. Johnny Manziel: The important stuff
Johnny Manziel’s offseason activities are well-established, and we’re still not sure if any of it really matters to the product on the field. If anything is going to jeopardize Manziel's season, it may be the news that broke Sunday evening. The NCAA is investigating if Manziel was paid for signing autographs and memorabilia during a trip to South Florida in January. If the NCAA finds a violation, Manziel could be ineligible for all or part of the 2013 season. Before that, the Texas A&M quarterback faced the media barrage at SEC Media Days where he was neither apologetic nor defiant about being a 20-year-old Heisman winner with (parental) money in his pocket. Also, ESPN’s Wright Thompson gave us the definitive profile of what it’s like within the Manziel family right now as the family and the player attempt to cope with the pressures of being a college football superstar. And for the one bit of Manziel news that actually entered the legal system, Manziel pleaded guilty for failing to identify himself to police following a dispute prior to the 2012 season when he was still anonymous enough to do such things.
2. Running backs on the move
As if Louisville didn’t need another edge over its American Athletic Conference opponents, the Cardinals added a former five-star running back and BCS Championship Game MVP. Bringing in Michael Dyer (right) isn’t without risk, though. He hasn’t played football since 2011 when he left Auburn amid a drug suspension. He was also dismissed by Arkansas State before landing at Arkansas Baptist College where he was mentored by former San Jose State coach Fitz Hill. ... In a less controversial move, West Virginia added former Houston running back Charles Sims, who will be eligible immediately. Sims gives Dana Holgorsen an intriguing new toy: Sims has accounted for 1,672 rushing yards, 948 receiving yards and 27 total touchdowns in 22 games. West Virginia also added Rushel Shell, one of Pittsburgh’s top signees before last season. Shell visited UCLA and asked about returning to Pittsburgh, but landed in Morgantown.
3. Quarterback transfers
There will be more quarterback transfers after training camp starts to determine starters and backups, but two already felt the squeeze. Connor Brewer left Texas for Arizona, and Wes Lunt left Oklahoma State for Illinois. The latter drew attention after Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy forbade his 2012 opening day starter from transferring to the SEC, Pac-12, Central Michigan or Southern Miss in addition to the Big 12. Both will be eligible in 2014.
4. The Eddie Vanderdoes saga ends
Notre Dame has had most of the summer to prepare for a 2013 season without starting quarterback Everett Golson, but he’s not the only key personnel departure. Freshman defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes, expected to play a major role for the Irish this season, had a change of heart after signing to play in South Bend, but coach Brian Kelly attempted to block the lineman from leaving and playing immediately for UCLA. The NCAA appeals process favored Vanderdoes, and he’ll suit up for the Bruins.
5. Suspension season
Two of the top games in the first week of the season will be impacted by suspensions. TCU defensive end Devonte Fields (10 sacks, 18.5 tackles for a loss) is suspended for the first two games, knocking him out of the LSU game (and Southeastern Louisiana). ... Georgia safety Josh Harvey-Clemons will be suspended in the opener against pass-happy Clemson. ... Florida suspended linebacker Antonio Morrison, a potential breakout player, for the first two games (Toledo, at Miami) even though charges for resisting arrest were dismissed for reasons evident on the police dashcam video. ... Ohio State suspended running back Carlos Hyde for at least the first three games (Buffalo, San Diego State, at Cal) for his role in an altercation in a Columbus night club, though he won’t face charges. Star cornerback Bradley Roby is also facing a suspension following misdemeanor battery charges.
6. Also around the police blotter
Potential starting Virginia Tech running back Michael Holmes was “permanently separated” from the university after he was found guilty of misdemeanor assault and battery. ... Four Vanderbilt players, none starters, were dismissed and banned from campus amid a sex crimes investigation. ... Texas A&M cornerback Deshazor Everett and safety Floyd Raven were charged with misdemeanor assault and criminal mischief after an apartment altercation, but coach Kevin Sumlin has not announced any disciplinary action. ... LSU's top running back, Jeremy Hill, was reinstated thanks to a convenient team vote to bring him back despite his second arrest as a Tiger. ... Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, a Mackey Award contender, pleaded guilty to a DUI in July, but he may not be suspended for the opener against Boise State.
7. Tragedy at Texas A&M, Utah
Three football communities were devastated when Texas A&M’s Polo Manukainiu, Utah’s Gaius Vaenuku and Euless (Texas) Trinity High’s Lolo Uhatafe were killed in a rollover crash in New Mexico. Manukainiu and Vaenuku were Trinity graduates. Two other passengers — Utah signee Salesi Uhatafe and his father — survived the crash. Manukainiu’s final Tweet before his death indicated he was driving back to Texas on “no sleep.”
8. Oregon gets NCAA closure, Miami does not
The most serious penalty Oregon faced as a result of the Willie Lyles scandal impacted the coach who’s gone to the NFL anyway. Chip Kelly (right) was slapped for a an 18-month show cause, making him unhirable in the college ranks during that time. Also making him unhirable: Coaching the Philadelphia Eagles. Oregon got off light despite paying $25,000 for Lyles’ quesitonable scouting services — no bowl ban and only the loss of one scholarship in each of the next three seasons. ... Miami hasn’t been quite as lucky. The Hurricanes are starting their third season with the cloud of NCAA sanctions over the program, self-imposing bowl bans the last two seasons in the wake of the Nevin Shapiro scandal.
9. And behind the scenes...
Gordon Gee stuck one foot too many in his mouth. The Ohio State president, who once joked he hoped Jim Tressel wouldn’t fire him, retired after comments about Notre Dame and Catholics. “The fathers are holy on Sunday, and they’re holy hell on the rest of the week ... You just can’t trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday,” Gee said during a meeting of Ohio State’s athletic council. ... Elsewhere, Colorado hired Rick George as its new athletic director. For a program needing a lift, the Buffaloes looked outside the box by hiring George, the president of business operations for the Texas Rangers. ... Florida State is also in the market for a new athletic director after Randy Spetman stepped down in June.
10. Active players join O'Bannon lawsuit
Six active players agreed to join former UCLA star Ed O'Bannon's lawsuit against the NCAA over the use of athletes' names and likenesses in video games. Arizona linebacker Jake Fischer, Arizona kicker Jake Smith, Clemson cornerback Darius Robinson, Vanderbilt linebacker Chase Garnham, Minnesota tight end Moses Alipate and Minnesota wide receiver Victor Keise all joined O'Bannon's class action lawsuit. The NCAA also ended its contract with EA Sports effective after the NCAA Football 2014 video game, though the move effectively turned licensing to the Collegiate Licensing Company and individual schools and conferences for future video games.
11. The Summer of Stoops
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was one of the most vocal coaches during the offseason. He told The Sporting News he didn’t think players should be paid. He said the perception of SEC dominance is based on “propaganda.” He complained about Northern Illinois going to the BCS instead of Oklahoma. And just so we’re clear that he didn’t spend the entire summer as a cranky football coach, he tried to quietly participate in tornado cleanup in Moore, Okla. It took about 30 minutes before he was recognized.
12. And finally, FIU is the gift that keeps on giving
FIU, the school that hired Isiah Thomas to coach its basketball team, fired Mario Cristobal from coaching its football team and replaced him with one of the worst coaches in Illinois history, gave us the best press release of the offseason:
Early this morning, our football team had a workout and barbecue on Crandon Park Beach to conclude our summer conditioning program under the supervision of our strength and conditioning staff. Following the workout, some of our athletes went to rinse off at a designated public shower area and a few of them made a poor decision and changed their clothes in public. I want to apologize to the community and anyone who was at the beach this morning for this unfortunate incident. We are committed to helping our student athletes grow as gentlemen while preparing them for their careers. We are looking into this incident, and if appropriate, will take disciplinary action.
Head Football Coach
FIU also dismissed it starting running back for discharging a weapon on school property earlier that week.