Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Catching up: A rivalry in danger

* The end of The Holy War? I was under the assumption that when Utah was invited to the Pac-10 and said "yes please my bags are packed let's go," it meant that the Utah-BYU series would just continue as an annual nonconference matchup. But BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe doesn't sound very confident:
“BYU and Utah have over time developed one of the storied rivalries in college athletics,” Holmoe said in a statement released from the school. “Utah’s move to a different conference will certainly have an effect on the rivalry; however, at this point it’s hard to know to what extent. [Utah athletic director] Dr. Chris Hill and I have a very good relationship and will certainly be talking about this in the future. For now, we’re grateful for the long tradition of athletic competition between the two schools.”
Keep in mind that Utah also has a 115-year-old rivalry with Utah State and an upcoming series with Boise State from 2011-13. With the Pac-10 playing a nine-game conference schedule, that doesn't leave a whole lot of room for flexibility (although the series could always take a short break and then continue in 2014).

And the more I've been thinking about it, the more I've been wondering exactly how motivated Utah will be to keep playing BYU. The Utes are in the Pac-10 now -- they don't need the publicity or the national recognition from that sort of game. But BYU does. Wouldn't it benefit Utah to eliminate one of BYU's few nationally relevant games (and head-to-head recruiting opportunities) now that the Utes have the upper hand?

On top of that, it's not like Utah will be looking to toughen its schedule while regularly battling for bowl position in what should be a pretty deep Pac-10 (or Pac-12 or whatever). They'll be looking at the same formula as every other BCS conference school: more easy nonconference opponents = more home games, more money and more bowls.

I still hope something gets figured out, but this year's BYU-Utah game might be the last until at least 2014.

* A rough week for Ohio State: Ohio State had an Oregon-style week, losing three potential contributors to various shenanigans in a matter of three days. Recruit suffering life-threatening gunshot injuries? Check:
Jamel Turner, 18, was left in critical condition by a shooting early Saturday in Youngstown. A 17-year-old girl was killed in the shooting.
By the way, this is the second time Turner (a four-star DE/OLB) has been shot in the past year. "Wrong place at the wrong time" has to turn into "might wanna find some new friends" at some point. Hopefully Turner recovers and gets his life back on track.

Receiver (not a starter but a significant contributor) flunking out and transferring to a junior college? Check.
Receiver Duron Carter, a starter for Ohio State in 2009 as a freshman, has enrolled at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas with intentions on improving his academic standing. Carter, who had 13 receptions for 179 yards last season, missed the Buckeyes' 26-17 win over Oregon in the Rose Bowl after being ruled academically ineligible.
If the name sounds familiar, that's because Duron's father is Hall of Famer (and former Buckeye) Cris Carter. He looked like a potential star as a freshman before his academic issues, so his loss will be felt, especially in three- and four-receiver sets. OSU is particularly inexperienced after starters Devier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher. Carter was third among receivers in yardage last year; after that, there's nobody else on the roster with a college reception.

And last but not least (OK, this is probably least), defensive end Keith Wells left the team Monday and intends to transfer. Wells was a pretty highly touted recruit but hadn't amounted to much, getting spot duty as a freshman but then redshirting as a sophomore. He was looking at up a lot of similarly talented players on the depth chart and might have been having academic issues (there's some dispute on that). He hasn't yet announced a destination, but don't be surprised if it's a lower-division school where he can get immediate playing time if he's eligible.

* Arizona loses a receiver: Spectacularly named senior Delashaun Dean, one of a group of three returning Arizona receivers with over 40 catches last season, has been suspended indefinitely:
Arizona Wildcats wide receiver Delashaun Dean was arrested over the weekend on weapons charges and has been suspended from the football team indefinitely.

Coach Mike Stoops issued a statement this morning confirming the suspension. He said Dean's penalty is "due to a violation of team rules."

Dean's loss would hurt, but UA actually has remarkable depth at wideout, even with Terrell Turner (48 catches) graduating and tight end Rob Gronkowski heading to the NFL. There are four returning juniors with significant experience: starter Juron Criner (45 catches) as well as David Roberts (43 catches), David Douglas (31 catches) and William Wright (23 catches). This is a benefit of regularly sending out three- and four-receiver sets. With QB Nick Foles and the rest of the offense returning almost intact, the passing game should be fine.

As for Dean -- a pretty good athlete at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds -- any shot at the NFL probably hinges on working his way back and having a strong senior year.

* Former five-star recruit headed to ... USF? It's only been two years since Darrell Scott was the top-rated running back in the country (and No. 6 player overall on Rivals), but it's been a loooong two years. Scott passed up offers from USC, Florida, Texas and everybody else to go to to Colorado (for some reason) and has been the epitome of the team as a whole: a disappointment. He rushed for 343 yards as a freshman after getting beat out by fellow freshman Rodney Stewart, then posted a whopping 95 yards last year while missing time with a nagging hip injury. The lack of help on a horrific offense probably hasn't helped.

With Dan Hawkins on the holy-crap-my-ass-is-on-fire hot seat, Scott has decided to jump ship and head to (according to his Facebook page, anyway) USF.
"Just got a scholly peeps!!!! Your looking at a bull now," he wrote. "USF here I come baby."
If he's looking for playing time on what should be a pretty good team, he seems to have chosen wisely. USF's starting running back this year will be Moise Plancher, a sixth-year senior (yes, that's right). Backup Mike Ford was dismissed from the team in February, and there's nobody else of note on the roster.

Scott will have to sit out this season as a transfer but should be the front-runner for the starting job on a Big East contender in 2011.

* Oregon might be a little closer (maybe) to deciding on a QB: The battle to replace the moronic Jeremiah Masoli has been a dead heat since spring, with Dennis Dixon play-alike Darron Thomas (a redshirt sophomore) battling experienced-but-not-as-athletic senior Nate Costa.

I guessed about two months ago that Thomas would get the nod based on nothing but potential and one half against Boise State in 2008. But on Monday -- which was Oregon's first day of summer conditioning -- Oregon beat writer Rob Moseley made an observation that might mean something or might mean absolutely nothing:
Nate Costa has consistently been at the front of the pack leading guys through drills this evening.
Note that these weren't organized drills or plays, just "voluntary" workout-type things ("voluntary" goes in quotes because everyone knows they aren't really voluntary). But if Costa appears to be taking more of a leadership role for a program that hasn't exactly been stable this offseason, that might be the difference come September; this is a talented team with still-realistic Pac-10 title aspirations.

Don't expect an official decision until the final days of fall camp.

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