One thing appears certain as the annual SEC business meetings get under way in Destin this week.
The league will take some sort of stance on football over-signing, even if that is simply to endorse its current cut-off of 28 scholarship offers – three above the NCAA allowance of 25 scholarships per class.
If the status quo remains undisturbed it won’t happen without a lot of hand-wringing and discussion.
Ole Miss athletics director Pete Boone has been part of the committee to help draft the proposed SEC legislation.
“I don’t think there is an intent to use the Big 10 (Conference) policy, which says you can sign no more than 25 and may go further to say that if you only have 18 scholarships available to get to your limit of 85 that you can’t sign more than 18. I don’t think we want to do that,” Boone said. “I do think everybody wants transparency in everything we do in dealing with our prospective student-athletes.”
Details of the proposed legislation began to emerge last week, and if passed without change, coaches would be able to offer only 25 scholarships, the Athens Banner-Herald reported. That would mark the end of over-signing in the SEC.
The over-signing is necessary, Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt says, because of an increased rate of attrition in college football.
Nutt has dealt with a rash of it lately, as recently as this month when he dismissed linebacker Clarence Jackson – a likely starter – and defensive end Delvin Jones following an alcohol-related arrest.
“It has been disappointing with those kinds of kids. They’re good ballplayers, but they have to act right, and they didn’t do that,” Nutt said.
Then there are other cases. Players want to play.
“Guys like Dele Junaid, Nathan Stanley, Julian Whitehead. Julian Whitehead graduated, he wants to go play. He wants to go start. Nathan Stanley wants to go start. I understand that,” he said.
Sometimes how Nutt and a player view opportunities are different.
In individual meetings with each player he lays out where he believes they are relative to their chances for playing time and where they can be.
Occasionally, a player Nutt believes is close to getting more snaps opts to leave anyway. A recent example is Lekenwic Haynes, who had spent two seasons on special teams but was beginning to work his way up a linebacker depth chart that has suddenly become thin with the injury to D.T. Shackelford and the dismissal of Jackson.
Haynes decided to leave, and Nutt helped him find a place with Larry Coker, the former Miami coach now at Texas-San Antonio.
Some fans argue that if the coaching staff did better in terms of evaluation and development that fewer players would become disgruntled and depart.
“Everybody from Nick Saban and all the way down have made mistakes,” Nutt said. “Until you’ve actually done it, I’d be careful how many stones you throw on that one. That’s the hardest part, because you can’t open up the heart. You can’t look inside.”
As in the case of Jackson, who ended spring as the starting weak side linebacker, not all players have the option to return.
Since the school released its roster leading into the 2010 season finale against Mississippi State, 12 players have left the program.
“Everybody’s going to have a little bit of (attrition), some more than others,” Nutt says, adding that he sees increased attrition in the last five to six years.
“A lot of it is because a lot of our student-athletes do come from a one-parent home. Sometimes, besides their high school coach, we’re the first male authority figure in their lives, and that’s a tough transition for them,” Nutt said.
Not all of those stories end poorly. Nutt singled out sophomore running back Jeff Scott as a player who has settled into a new environment and has overcome a difficult period of adjustment to excel.
“Jeff Scott is the only one from his family who has ever entered college. He didn’t pass but four hours the first semester, but right now, boy he is rolling and doing great. The people at the FedEx (academic center) are like, ‘Boy he’s doing so good coach, he’s studying, he’s kind of comprehending everything a little bit better.’ He understands college now.”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Parrish Alford will report from the SEC meetings in Destin, Fla., all week. It’s expected that Mississippi State’s cowbells will also be on the agenda as league policies for next season are debated.
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal