The NCAA’s probe into Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel’s autograph signing spree is reportedly getting bigger. Among others, ESPN is now reporting that Johnny Football signed over 4,400 items for six different brokers. The NCAA is trying to determine if Manziel was paid, which of course would be a NCAA violation. As of yet, the NCAA has yet to find a money trail, if one exists.
Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin is in a tight spot because unless Johnny Football is cleared by the NCAA, Texas A&M runs the risk of allowing an ineligible player to play if at some later date the NCAA does suspended the quarterback. That's why I think Sumlin and the Aggies have to think long and hard whether to sit Manziel until, if or when, he is cleared.
The other factor in this Manziel case is if money did indeed change hands, there's going to be a record of this and must be reported to the IRS. So while that wouldn't become known until next year and Manziel's off to pursue a pro career, the Aggies are left holding the bag, having to answer questions as to why they played a player who should have been ineligible. And if you think the NCAA won't act retroactively, ask Southern Cal about the Reggie Bush case. So you can see why I think Texas A&M is in a tight spot, even more so than Johnny Football.
Auburn’s QB Race now a 2-Man Battle
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said the Tigers quarterback in 2013 will be either newcomer Nick Marshall or newcomer Jeremy Johnson. Former starter Kiehl Frazer, the USA Today National Offensive Player of the Year coming out of high school, has volunteered to move to safety, while Jonathan Wallace, who started at the end of last season, is now behind the newcomers.
Most people are speculating that Marshall is going to win the job. He is a true dual-threat quarterback who rushed for 19 touchdowns in junior college last year, while passing for 18 more. But Marshall also threw 20 interceptions, which is a big red flag. Remember Marshall is a guy that one of your biggest rivals signed, but not as quarterback, but instead a cornerback. So a really good question is, is he good enough to play the position in the Southeastern Conference? The Tigers are trying to find that out.
Meantime Johnson is a young man you've seen each of the last two high-school seasons here on CSS playing for Montgomery Carver High School and was named our In The Huddle All-CSS Offensive Player of the Year. He's more pro-style quarterback than dual and has a big-time arm. I would not dismiss him as the potential winner of this battle. I think the grasp of the Malzahn / offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee offense will be the biggest factor in determining the winner of this battle, not raw talent.
Major Compliment for Butch
Legendary Tennessee Vol Johnny Majors said he believes new coach Butch Jones will be the Volunteers’ best head coach in the last 10 years. Well that's certainly nice for Jones, but I can't help but think Majors’ comment is also a swipe at former coach Phil Fulmer. The last four years under Kiffin and Dooley—that's a given—Jones better be better than that. But the other part of those 10 years—Fulmer's last six seasons—the Vols were 49-27 and won two SEC East titles and also had two losing seasons.
Jones has work to do to match Fulmer's record as he inherits a Vols team that was 2-14 in the SEC the last two seasons. Jones six-year coaching record is 50-27 at Central Michigan and then Cincinnati, nearly identical as Fulmer's last six years at Tennessee. If Jones is as successful on the field as he has been at recruiting, he just might validate Majors’ opinion.
Rebels Draw NCAA’s Attention, Again
When you sign what is potentially the greatest recruiting class in school history, with guys like No. 1 prospect Robert Nkemdiche, top safety Tony Conner and No. 1 offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, I guess there's going to be some scrutiny. Well that apparently has happened with reports that the NCAA is looking into the Rebels’ recruitment of five-star defensive end Chris Jones, who instead signed with rival Mississippi State.
Coach Hugh Freeze said bring it on. Back in January, Freeze sent a tweet asking anybody with evidence of recruiting violations to e-mail the school's compliance department and they'd check them out. The school reportedly received 85 e-mails, to which Freeze said “I am confident in the way we are doing our business.” I think the intensity of the Chris Jones recruitment in Mississippi between the two rivals makes it one that gets red flagged by the NCAA. It remains to be seen if there’s anything to it.