by Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
If Nevin Shapiro’s allegations in the latest Yahoo! Sports report are true, Miami football is in big trouble. The Hurricanes could be facing major penalties from the NCAA as a result of the investigation, which details improper benefits to 73 current or former Miami athletes, as well as a few players from other schools.
Although the allegations could have a significant long-term impact on Miami, there should be a lot of concern surrounding the status of some players for this season.
Here's a breakdown of the 12 current players mentioned in the report and how this could affect the Hurricanes' chances on the field this year:
Travis Benjamin, WR
Dyron Dye, TE
Jacory Harris, QB
Aldarius Johnson, WR
The biggest name in this bunch is Harris. The senior is in a heated battle with sophomore Stephen Morris for the starting job. According to the report, Harris participated in pool tournaments for money, was provided food, drinks and entertainment at Shapiro’s home and was allowed VIP access to nightclubs. Johnson and Benjamin are also expected to be significant contributors to the offense this year. Benjamin is the team’s top returning receiver, while Johnson caught 15 passes for 157 yards last season. Johnson supposedly received multiple cash gifts from Shapiro, which if true, would jeopardize his 2011 season.
If Harris is suspended for any games, Morris will get the call under center. The receiving corps would be hit hard if Benjamin and Johnson are out of action, but there is experience with LaRon Byrd and Tommy Streeter returning.
Ray-Ray Armstrong, S
Marcus Forston, DT
JoJo Nicolas, CB
Adewale Ojomo, DE
Marcus Robinson, DE/LB
Sean Spence, LB
Vaughn Telemaque, S
Olivier Vernon, DE
The allegations from the report could have a bigger impact on the defensive side of the ball. Armstrong and Spence are arguably the top two players on the Miami defense and are expected to contend for All-American honors. Telemaque, Vernon, Forston and Nicolas are projected starters. Ojomo was expected to be one of Miami’s top backups on the defensive line. The secondary was a concern going into 2011 and could be an even bigger issue if Armstrong, Nicolas and Telemaque are forced to miss any action. Vernon finished second on the team with six sacks last year and was expected to be Miami's top pass rusher this season.
What does it mean for Miami on the field?
Although these are just allegations, Miami will have to provide some answers and the eligibility of these 12 players could be in jeopardy. Potential suspensions could be a couple of games or could end the career for a few Miami players.
This situation should be very similar to North Carolina last year. If the Hurricanes lose the 12 players for any significant amount of time, any chance at an ACC Coastal title is likely gone. If the players escape any suspension, the biggest issue could be dealing with the distraction this report and investigation has created.
Coach Al Golden and his staff were putting together a 2012 top 10 recruiting class. However, with these allegations, it’s likely that momentum on the recruiting trail will take a hit, and the Hurricanes could struggle to keep all of their current commitments. Florida State was already red hot on the recruiting trail, and this development will only help Jimbo Fisher and his coaching staff continue to reel in the top prospects in Florida.
There was a positive buzz surrounding Miami going into this year. New coach Al Golden resurrected a dreadful Temple program and was believed to be the right man to get Miami back into ACC title contention. However, Golden could be facing an uphill battle. If the Hurricanes are leveled by the NCAA, no one could blame Golden for bolting from Miami after one season. If things get really bad in the next two weeks, would Golden consider stepping down? Although the first-year coach says he is happy in Miami, digging out from this scandal could take years.
Other College Football Players Implicated
Florida WR Andre Debose
Florida OT Matt Patchan
Georgia TE Orson Charles
Kansas State LB Arthur Brown
Kansas State RB Bryce Brown
Purdue QB Robert Marve
UCF QB Jeff Godfrey
Charles is expected to be one of the top targets for Georgia this year, while Godfrey is the starting quarterback for Conference USA preseason favorite UCF. Arthur and Bryce Brown ended up at Kansas State, after starting their careers at Miami and Tennessee, respectively. Neither player made much of an impact at their first stop, but were expected to be make significant contributions in 2011. Marve has battled injuries at Purdue and entered fall camp likely to share the quarterback duties with Rob Henry. Florida’s Andre Debose is one of the top kick returners in college football, while Matt Patchan is expected to start at left tackle.
Although the allegations will take some time to investigate, Georgia, Florida, Kansas State, Purdue and UCF may have to suspend these players. Without Godfrey, the Knights are no longer the favorite to win the Conference USA East title. Kansas State is counting on Arthur Brown to be one of the top defenders, while Brown is expected to lead the team in rushing. Charles is an Athlon Sports preseason third-team All-American and would be a big loss for Georgia if he misses any action.
What can Miami expect?
When comparing the USC and Miami investigations, the one in South Beach appears to be much worse. If the Trojans lost 30 scholarships and faced a bowl ban for two years, the Hurricanes should be bracing for something much worse. As the college football world has noticed, there is no consistency in the rulings from the NCAA. However, there is a mountain of evidence, and the Hurricanes could be facing bowl bans and significant reductions in scholarships.
Unless Miami can find a way to somehow suffer very minor losses from this investigation, it may be a while before we see the Hurricanes relevant on the college football scene.
ACC title in 2011? Forget about it.
And Miami needs to be worried about keeping Al Golden around or the rebuilding process could be even more difficult.