May 5, 2008

No shortage of storylines from spring drills

Here's a top 25 list of some of the most unusual and sometimes unnerving football stories from the spring.

They range from ticket brokers asking $100 for a ticket to Nebraska's spring game to beefy linemen posing for a cheesecake calendar to possible patricide in Chapel Hill.

Yes, patricide.

Read on.

HAPPY HUSKERS
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini was met by the second-largest spring game crowd in history.

A TOUGH TICKET: Obviously excited about the potential of their program under new coach Bo Pelini, a crowd of 80,149 attended Nebraska's spring game. A sellout was declared a week before the game. Reserved tickets were sold for $10, but ticket brokers reportedly were getting as much as $100. As a comparison, Vanderbilt offers season-ticket packages for $99.

Suggested by their team nutritionist as a way to get motivated to stay in shape, Oregon offensive linemen posed for photos for a calendar that's being sold for $20. Among the photos are Jacob Hucko in scuba gear, a shirtless Jeff Kendall on a scooter and Mark Lewis in a barrel. Money raised for the sales will go to the National Childhood Obesity Foundation. "We all grew up as fat kids," Kendall said.

North Carolina's ram mascot Rameses XVII, who was 8 died from wounds he received after he was head-butted by another ram. The other ram? His son Pablo, who is 3. Infection set in after Rameses had a horn broken off in the collision. Pablo now takes on the name Rameses XVIII and succeeds his father as the Tar Heels' mascot.

While touring the Florida football offices, four-star tight end prospect Orson Charles posed for a photo with the Heisman Trophy won by Tim Tebow. In the process, he accidentally bumped into a table that held the Gators' 2006 national championship trophy. The $35,000 trophy toppled over and broke. Fortunately, it was insured, and another one is on the way. Ironically, Charles' high school coach had described him as a "bull in a china shop."

Well, it seemed like a good idea: Big-name music acts would play stadiums of big-time college football programs the night before spring games to raise big bucks. ZZ Top would play Texas A&M. Alan Jackson would play Alabama. Fergie was going to play Penn State. The Counting Crows were going to play Colorado. Players would attend the concerts and fans would text-message votes in a contest to determine who had the most school spirit. Alas, nobody checked to see if the players' involvement was against NCAA rules. It was. Two weeks before the shows were scheduled, they were canceled.

Peter Tom Willis is a former Florida State quarterback. He's also a former Seminoles radio analyst. Last month, Willis was fired from his position on FSU radio broadcasts because he had been too critical. Willis acknowledged he probably "stepped over the line" in 2005 when he compared the Seminoles' offense to a high school unit. Former FSU fullback William Floyd was named last week to replace Willis.

MAN TROUBLE
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy's famous tirade wasn't well received by Bobby Reid.

UNHAPPY SPLIT: Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is a man he's 40. But former Cowboys quarterback Bobby Reid charges that Gundy is a disingenuous man. Gundy made national news last season with a post-game rant in which he was defending Reid, a backup quarterback who had been criticized in a newspaper column. But Reid, now at Division I-AA Texas Southern, has been quoted extensively of late as saying Gundy's tirade was an act and that the resulting attention caused Reid further harm. Still, some might dismiss Reid's comments as a vendetta toward the coach that benched him. To paraphrase from Gundy's rant, the whole affair makes me want to puke.

Mark Sanchez won the nation's highest-profile position battle when USC coach Pete Carroll named him the starting quarterback over Mitch Mustain, the Arkansas transfer. Afterward, T-shirts featuring a Mexican flag and the words" Viva Sanchez" were sold inside the gates of the Los Angeles Coliseum, the site of USC's spring game. Apparently, the vendor wasn't affiliated with USC because selling such items is against NCAA rules, which mandate that a student-athlete's name or picture cannot appear on commercial merchandise. USC is trying to stop the sale of the shirts. Of course, some lawyer might argue that the NCAA doesn't have rights to the Mexican flag and that the Los Angeles phone book has several pages with "Sanchez" listed.

Staying with USC, Carroll was interrupted during a team meeting and informed that defensive end Everson Griffen had been accused of physically abusing a freshman and campus police had the tape to prove it. Griffen might have been wondering what was happening until the tape showed Griffin overpowering freshman offensive tackle Matt Meyer in a pass-rushing drill. Carroll planned the prank for April Fool's Day.

UCLA players ticked off new coach Rick Neuheisel by continuing an old tradition and ditching practice for a self-imposed day off. Several high school coaches and potential recruits who were there to watch the practice had to change plans. Former UCLA coach Terry Donahue said Neuheisel, once a quarterback for the Bruins under Donahue, had little reason to be angry. "When he was a junior and senior, he was the one instigating it. I guess what goes around come around," Donahue said.

In retrospect, maybe taking a day off wasn't such a bad idea for UCLA. The Bruins just picked the wrong day. No doubt, Neuheisel would've preferred an off day rather than watch his top two quarterbacks get taken off the field with injuries in the next-to-last practice of the spring. Projected starter Patrick Cowan tore the ACL in his left knee and will miss the 2008 season. Ben Olson will be out for about eight weeks after breaking his foot.

Kansas State paid a quarter-million dollars to avoid a game against Fresno State. That's a Big 12 team paying $250,000 to cancel a home game against a WAC team. Of course, said WAC team whacked K-State 45-29 last year. In need of a replacement opponent, K-State offered $350,000 to Montana State, a Division I-AA program that went 6-5 in 2007. Meanwhile, Fresno State raised its level of competition by replacing Kansas State on its schedule with Rutgers.

After numerous suspensions, LSU finally cut loose quarterback Ryan Perrilloux last week. He was the probable starter for the Tigers this season.

Alabama coach Nick Saban went on another tirade after Birmingham News reporter Ian Rapoport questioned how the Crimson Tide would get down to NCAA limit of 85 scholarship players. Bristling at the question, Saban basically said it was nobody's business and opined that fans don't care. Alabama fans don't care? Right. It would have saved a lot of trouble if Saban had just said, "Some will quit, some won't make it academically and some we'll run off."

PRYOR NOTICE
Top prospect Terrelle Pryor waited to sign a letter of intent.

WAITING GAME: Thousands of high school football stars signed national letters of intent in February, but one heralded recruit did not. Terrelle Pryor, the country's No. 1 prospect, chose to delay his decision until after his high school basketball season. That just served to raise the stress level for fans at Michigan, Oregon, Ohio State and Penn State the teams he was considering. He eventually chose Ohio State, showing once again that the rich do indeed get richer.
Florida State's best offensive player, wide receiver Preston Parker, was arrested in late April in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., for carrying a concealed weapon and possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana. The weapons charge is a felony, and Florida State's athletic code of conduct says any athlete facing felony charges isn't allowed to participate in games until the case is resolved in court. Parker was the Seminoles' MVP in 2007 after catching 62 passes for 791 yards and accumulating 1,513 all-purpose yards.

UCF's Ereck Plancher, a redshirt freshman wide receiver, collapsed after a workout March 18 and died shortly after being taken via ambulance to a local hospital. He was 19. When announcing his death, school officials described it as coming during a workout that lasted a bit more than 10 minutes. Later, it was amended to about 20 minutes. But players who requested anonymity because they feared repercussions later told the Orlando Sentinel that the workout was extremely intense and that Plancher had been singled out and cursed out by coaches for not giving enough effort. UCF coach George O'Leary denied those claims.

Cincinnati quarterback Ben Mauk petitioned the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility. The NCAA allows players five years to complete four years of eligibility, but in some circumstances will grant a sixth year. Mauk sat out a redshirt year in 2003 as a freshman at Wake Forest and played only one game in 2006 before enduring a season-ending injury. Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe has tried to help Mauk by sending letters to the NCAA, but the NCAA denied Mauk's petition and his appeal. Mauk isn't giving up: He is trying one more appeal.

Injuries are an accepted part of football, but Tennessee fullback David Holbert's broken leg would make even the most grizzled football observers squeamish. Holbert, who was coming back from last season's torn ACL, was hurt early in the Volunteers' first spring scrimmage. He was trying to catch a tipped pass when a hit by a defender caused his leg to break backward at a horrific angle. Photos circulated on the internet, but a word of warning to the morbidly curious: The image isn't for the faint of heart.

Auburn defensive end Antonio Coleman may scare opposing quarterbacks, but not more than he scared his teammates when he collapsed on the field after a rough exchange with tackle Lee Ziemba. Coleman, who lost feeling in his extremities, was immobilized, placed on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to a hospital. He eventually was diagnosed with a cervical sprain and is expected to start this season.

In late March, starting offensive lineman Justin Boren announced he was leaving Michigan, citing an erosion of family values under new coach Rich Rodriguez. Rodriguez fired back, saying his program was indeed family-oriented and pointed out that his mother-in-law had attended some practices. Michigan fans seemed to side with Rodriguez, especially after Boren transferred to Ohio State in April. Last week, Boren's younger brother, Zach Boren, committed to play for the Buckeyes

As if feuding with former offensive linemen and his former employer wasn't enough, Rodriguez also rankled rival Big Ten coaches who questioned his recruiting tactics. Purdue's Joe Tiller called him a "snake oil salesman in a wizard's hat." Ohio State's Jim Tressel said Rodriguez broke a gentleman's agreement among the league's coaches by continuing to recruit prospects who had committed. Rodriguez's retort was that he never received the conference's memo on how to be a gentleman and said he would not change his recruiting tactics.

Penn State president Graham Spanier told the media that coach Joe Paterno, in the final year of his contract, would not be offered a new deal until after the 2008 season. That raised speculation about whether '08 would be the last season for Paterno, who has 372 career victories, one behind Florida State's Bobby Bowden for the Division I-A career record.

Paterno likely is less concerned about the need for a new contract than he is about the need for a new linebacker after Sean Lee, an All-American candidate, tore the ACL in his right knee during a mid-April practice. Lee will miss the 2008 season.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive teased fans who have yearned for a playoff by proposing a "plus-one" format to the BCS system. The proposal suggested an additional game to determine college football's national championship. He also said he wasn't necessarily pushing the idea. Not surprisingly, the proposal was rejected at a meeting of conference commissioners in Florida last week.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.




 

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