Welcome to another edition of “Case of the Mondays” Crystal Ball Run’s look at the good, the bad and the sublime in the world of college football and beyond.
Interestingly, a lot happened in the sport this week (relative to June, anyway), but we start with a quick reminder that…
1) It’s Top 10 Week Here at Crystal Ball Run: As you may have noticed over the last fortnight or so (you definitely weren’t ready for me to drop a word like “fortnight” within the first few sentences of this column, were you?), we’ve been dabbling in “theme weeks” here at Crystal Ball Run. Two weeks ago we blew things out of the water with “Heisman Week,” and followed it up last Monday with “Hot Seat Week” which in the end, really just turned into a tribute to Frank Spaziani’s incredibly lousy coaching acumen. And this week we present you… Top 10 week!!
That’s right, after just about every major publication and outlet has come out with their Top 10 (or Top 25 or Top 120 or whatever), we here at Crystal Ball Run are doing the same. Starting later this morning, we’ll share our staff’s collective preseason Top 10, with profiles on each team to make our list. And the best part? We didn’t all agree on each of the teams to make this list, and suspect that you won’t either. Therefore, if you feel like we missed something, over or undervalued a team, don’t be afraid to let us know. The comments section is always open for your opinions.
Regardless, it’s going to be a fun week, but for now it’s time to transition to some actual on the field football stuff. And in case you didn’t hear it was a big week down in South Carolina, where…
2) Clemson Snagged Themselves A Couple Nice Commitments Last Week: Including the verbal pledge of the nation’s unanimous No. 1 overall recruit, Georgia defensive end Robert Nkemdiche. Nkemdiche committed along with two of his Grayson High School teammates while visiting the campus on Wednesday.
To me, the news is both shocking, and it isn’t. Let me explain.
On the surface, it’s shocking, if only because Nkemdiche didn’t seem in a rush to make a decision. He had originally intended to announce his choice in May of this year, but after some introspection, decided that he wasn’t close to ready to making a college choice (his own words) and that he’d likely commit closer to Signing Day in February 2013. Well here we are a month later, and Nkemdiche has declared, and surprisingly it’s to Clemson. That’s no knock on Dabo Swinney, and if anything is a testament to him for beating out Nick Saban, Les Miles, Mark Richt and some of the SEC’s best to get high school football’s best player.
At the same time, the news didn’t totally surprise me either, and here’s why: A few weeks ago I had the chance to chat with my buddy Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report, who actually had a sit down with Nkemdiche earlier this month. At the time Barrett was adamant that he didn’t think Nkemdiche would end up at the school most presumed he would, Alabama, simply because Nkemdiche had concerns about how he fit into the Crimson Tide’s scheme. According to Barrett, Nkemdiche didn’t think Alabama’s 3-4 defense would get him ready for the NFL as well as playing defensive end in a 4-3 would, and because of it, the Crimson Tide had an uphill battle from there.
Well, when you remove Alabama (and in turn Georgia) because of the 3-4 element, that changed the whole tenor of his recruiting. LSU was presumed to be the new favorite, but really LSU never made total sense to me personally. For all the success the Tigers have had recruiting instate (which safe to say is A LOT), they really don’t have much of a national recruiting profile. Patrick Peterson was from Florida, Russell Sheppard from Houston, but otherwise, Les Miles hasn’t really landed many elite players from outside of Louisiana’s borders (then again, he hasn’t really had to either). Beyond the Tigers, did you really see Nkemdiche committing to Ole Miss or Mississippi State? Ole Miss seemed feasible since his older brother plays there, but still a longshot.
Therefore in the end, Clemson kinda made sense, and the Tigers credit for snagging the biggest fish in the recruiting pond. Of course the bigger question now becomes…
3) Can Clemson Keep Him Committed Through Signing Day?: It won’t be easy, and you know that Saban, Miles, Hugh Freeze, Mark Richt and others won’t go down without a fight.
But you know what? I think Nkemdiche will sign on the dotted line and go to Clemson, and the reason is simple: As I mentioned earlier, two of Nkemdiche’s teammates (running back Wayne Gallman and defensive back David Kamara) have also pledged for the Tigers as well.
My theory here has little to do with football, little to do with scheme and has everything to do with elementary psychology. After all, do you remember when you were 18? Do you remember the almost uncomfortable amount of influence your friends had over you? Now, can you imagine doing something as big as turning your back on them and going to play college football somewhere else? Me neither, and I think that’s the biggest reason why Robert Nkemdiche will end up in Clemson orange in February: Peer-pressure is a b**ch. And as tough as it might be to say no to Miles, Saban or Richt, it’ll be twice as hard for Nkemdiche to say no to his best friends.
In the end, if I were a Clemson fan, I’d be sleeping pretty easy right now. The No. 1 recruit in the country has committed to your school, and I don’t think he’ll be going anywhere.
Of course on the other hand…
4) That’s Not Stopping Other Kids From Decommitting: And Georgia learned that the hard way this week, when they lost the signature player of their 2013 class, Florida running back Derrick Henry.
Now, on the surface it’s not a totally huge loss. Georgia will still finish in the Top 10 nationally by Signing Day (like they always do), and running back is one of the few positions where picking up a key player wouldn’t fill a “need” as much as a “want.” After all, Georgia just signed one of the top running back prospects in the class of 2012 in Keith Marshall, and that follows up Isaiah Crowell’s commitment in 2011. As my buddy who is a Georgia fan once told me “Mammas love Mark Richt.” In 99 percent of cases, it’s proven to be true.
Of course Henry has proven to be an outlier, and decommitted from the Dawgs last week. Granted, the move wasn’t totally shocking, if only because the news came just days after Henry visited Alabama, and photographed himself in a Crimson Tide jersey. That didn’t seal the deal for ‘Bama, but it did officially seal the deal that Henry wanted to re-open things and look at some other schools, which he will going forward.
For Henry, you can hardly blame the kid, if only because he’s young and allowed to change his mind. He’s been committed to Georgia for some time now, and if he thinks he needs to take a few months to decompress and reconsider his future, he should be allowed to do it.
And the good news for Georgia fans is that there’s still a good chance he’ll end up in Athens. The other schools that Henry appears to be most seriously considering are Alabama and Tennessee, each of which have questions that need to be answered. For Alabama, the question is: Which side of the ball will Henry be featured on? Henry claims that Nick Saban wants him on offense, something that runs quite counter to what a lot of reporters have heard about Henry switching over to the defensive side of the ball. Only Saban knows his plans for sure, but could that be enough to sway Henry back to Athens, where he’ll undoubtedly be used as a featured back? And at Tennessee the question is much simpler: Will Derek Dooley win enough games in 2012 to actually be there when Henry arrives in the fall? Only time will tell, but if not, it’s hard to see Henry ending up on Rocky Top.
Now, let’s get off the recruiting stuff and talk big boy college football, where…
5. Some interesting shenanigans are going on up at Ohio State: Where, in case you didn’t hear, head coach Urban Meyer had previously suspended and now removed the scholarships of senior starters Jake Stoneburner and Jack Mewhort. Each was arrested and found guilty of one charge of disorderly conduct, for a public urination incident a few weeks ago.
So, is this Urban Meyer planting his flag, and taking a stand against unruly behavior in his program? Umm, I hardly think so.
The simple reality here is that for Meyer, this is the perfect crime. It’s one that his players are clearly guilty of (again, they pled guilty in court) and one that he can use as a teaching moment for the other guys on his team. Simply put, if two senior starters can lose their scholarships, it can happen to anyone.
At the same time, Meyer also has said that each has the ability to earn their scholarships back, meaning… I’d be stunned if they weren’t fully reinstated for Week 1 against Miami (OH). Again, it’s the perfect crime for Meyer. One which he can discipline his players for breaking the law, but one that is essentially so petty, that no one will blame him for bringing the players back on in time for the season.
Simply put, I’d be stunned if Mewhort and Stoneburner weren’t in Ohio State’s starting lineup starting in Week 1.
6. Moving away from college football: I’m ashamed to admit that I suffered from one of the signature “Man, am I getting old moments” in life on Saturday, when I accidentally dozed off on the couch, in the middle of the day watching baseball. To add insult to injury, I ended up being late to an event because of it.
Maybe the funniest thing about it though was the fact that after I tweeted about it, the overwhelming response was something to the effect of, “Oh, you think this is bad. Wait until you start watching golf every day.” To which I must say, if that day ever comes, just go ahead and find me a burial plot. There will be no turning back at that point.
In all seriousness though…
7. I’ve Got A Confession To Make: I barely watch golf. And I barely tuned into the U.S. Open at all this week.
I know, I know it’s blasphemy, but I really just can’t understand the enjoyment in spending two or five or 10 hours on the couch watching this painfully boring sport. Other than Tiger and Rory I don’t find any of the players particularly compelling, and other than a few fleeting moments in a round, most shots are truly forgettable. Think about it like this: In baseball, someone can hit a homerun on any pitch. In basketball, a guy can throw down a big dunk out of nowhere. In golf, you get a hole-in-one, what, once a tournament? Heck, even watching golf in person is boring. I can honestly say that a professional golf tournament is the only sporting event I’ve ever been to that’s actually more fun to watch on TV than in person. And as I mentioned, I don’t find golf on TV to be particularly entertaining either.
As a matter of fact, let’s just move on and away from the U.S. Open and talk…
8. Basketball: Since I am currently writing this article just hours before tip-off of Game 3 of the NBA Finals, there seems to be little reason to bother discussing the game. So instead, I’ll stay on topic and say that if you haven’t read Dan LeBatard’s profile on LeBron James from Sunday, do it. Like right now.
Do it, and hopefully you’ll see a different side, or at least think about LeBron in a different way than you have before. I’ve been arguing for a while now that it’s time to get past the petty grudges with LeBron about “The Decision” and look at the bigger picture here. The guy is an incredible talent. He’s an incredible teammate. And as Keyon Dooling mentioned in LeBatard’s piece, he’s also a great father, family man and role model. If those are reasons to “hate” him, then how does that make you feel about guys like Michael Vick and Tiger Woods, guys who’ve committed actual and ethical crimes?
Think about that for a second, then think about the most salient points from LeBatard’s article. Hopefully it’ll get you thinking a bit differently about King James.
9. Oh yeah: Miami 97, Oklahoma City 94 is my prediction for Game 3. Feel free to tell me how stupid I am in the morning.
10. And finally, I’ll wrap up as I always do: By giving a book, TV or movie recommendation.
Since I haven’t been to a movie in ages, and haven’t watched any quality TV in months, instead, I give you a very good book recommendation. If you haven’t picked up John U. Bacon’s incredibly-detailed, amazingly well-reported look inside of Michigan’s football program titled “Three and Out: Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football,” it comes highly recommended. Actually, it’s one of the best football books I’ve read in years. It’s amazing how much access Bacon was given to one of college football’s most unique programs, at one of the most volatile times in their program history.
Check out the book, and we will be chatting again soon.
Until next time…
For all his articles, opinions and insights into college football, please follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.