That’s a leading question, counselor.

Ah, l’affaire Tunsil.  In the end, I suspect these aren’t going to be the key questions:

Should Ole Miss head football coach Hugh Freeze have to testify in a lawsuit filed by Laremy Tunsil’s stepfather, Lindsey Miller, against the former Ole Miss star offensive tackle? And if Freeze must testify, should the testimony be shielded from public view?

Instead, they’ll be (1) how much pressure will be put on Tunsil to settle? and (2) if Tunsil moves to settle the litigation, will Ole Miss be willing to kick in a few bucks to make things go away?

Stay tuned.

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Opening act

Nick Saban, Kirby Smart and the story of a flashy, neutral-site opener:

“It started as a recruiting strategy by Nick,” said Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, who served on Saban’s defensive staff for the past nine seasons, “which paid unbelievable dividends, because we go into (Atlanta in 2008 to play) Clemson, and just smash them that one game (34-10), and it kind of started the program, and it set a trademark. … You go outside your footprint and have a great game. In recruiting, it helps and the national exposure you get you can’t replace.”

Smart starts his head-coaching career with the Bulldogs in a neutral-site opener against the ACC Coastal champion Tar Heels. He has adapted Saban’s offseason methods because he has seen them work.

“If you ask a strength coach, any strength coach in the country, they will hard-sell that opening game,” Smart said. “The trend is, you go in reverse, so the first week of summer workouts, they’re going to (show video of) the game they have last. At Alabama, we would start with Auburn. … You show clips of that game, whether you won or lost, you show motivating clips of that game, so they’re thinking about that opponent. A kid’s squatting, he’s looking at a picture of the guy he’s going to line up across.”

By the end of summer workouts, when the team is lifting the most, the players are watching clips of their first opponent. “It’s a hell of a lot better when that first game is Clemson, North Carolina or Wisconsin than it is when it’s App State or Western Michigan or somebody,” Smart said.

I’d say it’s something we’d better get used to, Dawg fans.  The question is, would you rather have that splashy opener in, say, Dallas, or another cupcake game in Athens?  The money’s about the same, so McGarity won’t object (though, tough luck, local businesses).

Recruiting sells, you know?

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Filed under Georgia Football, Nick Saban Rules

The risk/reward ratio of Isaiah McKenzie

Question for you, Shane Beamer.

McKenzie is the main punt returner, barring injury (and he’s had a few) or something else. The 5-foot-8 (in high tops) speedster is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, and owns four career punt return touchdowns. He also has a kick return touchdown, as a freshman, so why did he only return four kickoffs last year? And why isn’t he back there for every single punt return? It’s worth pointing out that Davis brought back a punt for a touchdown last year too, and averaged a not-too-shabby 23.2 yards per kick return. But his longest kickoff return was only 39 yards last year. It’ll be interesting to see where Smart and Beamer go here: Get McKenzie, their most dynamic return option, back there as much as possible? Or do they end up with the same worries the previous staff had about McKenzie’s decision-making and ball control?

Okay, questions.  One of which I discount – if it’s a choice between Davis and McKenzie, decision-making and ball control is a wash.

Honestly, if coaching is all about getting your best players on the field, it’s hard to see how you can justify keeping a home run threat like McKenzie on the sidelines (assuming he’s healthy, of course).  And I say that knowing there are others, like Godwin and Michel, who have potential, but potential ain’t the same thing as five career touchdown returns in two seasons.

Hell, if you’re trying to hedge your bets a little, use a twin-returner formation on kickoffs.  But get Isaiah on the field.

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“The feeling is if the board got rid of Art (Briles), they’d be sitting in a $300 million mausoleum instead of that new football stadium…”

Again, the usual Chip Brown disclaimer applies, but if true, this sounds like things could get even uglier at Baylor, if that’s possible.

The Baylor board of regents is expected to remove six-year school president and chancellor Ken Starr by the end of the month – possibly sooner, sources tell HornsDigest.com.

The three dozen members of the Baylor regents board are preparing to blame Starr – not football coach Art Briles – for failed leadership during the ongoing scandal over how the school handled reports of rape and assault made against five BU football players – two of whom (Tevin Elliott and Sam Ukwuachu) were convicted of raping Baylor co-eds, sources close to the situation told HornsDigest.com…

The only thing that is clear, according to sources, is that Starr – not Briles – is going to be the fall guy for the school’s inaction after at least six Baylor female students reported they were raped or assaulted by BU football players from 2009 through April 3, 2016…

A source close to Starr said he might not go quietly if terminated.  [Emphasis added.]

Ken Starr with a chip on his shoulder?  Hoo, boy.  Pass the popcorn.

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Filed under Big 12 Football, Crime and Punishment

The X factor’s X factor

I know I’ll probably get some pushback on this, but as much as I’d like to point to all sorts of things being the key to Georgia’s success in the SEC this season, I can’t help but think it really boils down to one item:  Nick Chubb’s health.

Here’s something ESPN’s Alex Scarborough wrote:

When identifying the biggest X factor in the SEC, you could simply say “Georgia” and be done with it. With a new coaching staff, a deep well of talent and a relatively easy road in the East, the Bulldogs have a chance to shake up the conference. But to be more specific, there are two X factors to consider: Jacob Eason and Nick Chubb. We’ll start with Chubb. Before Leonard Fournette came along and Chubb went down with a knee injury against Tennessee, Chubb was the best back in the league. If he can get anywhere close to 100 percent, he and fellow running back Sony Michel could form the most dynamic backfield in college football. If they do, Eason’s role could get interesting…

That’s putting it mildly.  You can talk about the lines, size on defense, depth, attitude and anything else you want, but a healthy Chubb makes his teammates on both sides of the ball better, makes his coaches smarter and makes that margin for error just a little larger.

Scarborough’s right in the specifics, too.  With Chubb as your number one back, Chaney’s got far more flexibility in how he deploys Sony Michel.  Remember what even Schottenheimer was able to do in that department before the Tennessee game.

And, yes, a fully loaded backfield takes tons of pressure off both Eason and the coaches, if they decide he’s earned the starting job.  (Eason’s most important immediate task may very well be mastering the art of selling the play action pass.)  It almost goes without saying that the more productive and dangerous Georgia’s offense is, the better Georgia’s defense will be.

All of which isn’t to say Georgia won’t win a few games without Chubb’s services.  But…

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“It shouldn’t be a rigged game.”

This is revolting.  But not surprising.

At least a half-dozen top NFL health officials waged an improper, behind-the-scenes campaign last year to influence a major U.S. government research study on football and brain disease, congressional investigators have concluded in a new report.

The 91-page report describes how the NFL pressured the National Institutes of Health to strip the $16 million project from a prominent Boston University researcher and tried to redirect the money to members of the league’s committee on brain injuries. The study was to have been funded out of a $30 million “unrestricted gift” the NFL gave the NIH in 2012.

After the NIH rebuffed the NFL’s campaign to remove Robert Stern, an expert in neurodegenerative disease who has criticized the league, the NFL backed out of a signed agreement to pay for the study, the report shows. Taxpayers ended up bearing the cost instead.

The NFL’s actions violated policies that prohibit private donors from interfering in the NIH peer-review process, the report concludes, and were part of a “long-standing pattern of attempts” by the league to shape concussion research for its own purposes.

I’m sure those purposes were humanitarian.  Totally.

The NFL strenuously objects, of course.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy on Monday said: “The NFL rejects the allegations laid out … There is no dispute that there were concerns raised about both the nature of the study in question and possible conflicts of interest. These concerns were raised for review and consideration through the appropriate channels. … It is deeply disappointing the authors of the Staff Report would make allegations directed at doctors affiliated with the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee without ever speaking to them.”

But I notice it’s not stepping up to relieve the taxpayers of that $16 million dollar bill we’ve been presented with.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said on SportsCenter on Monday that the union decided, years ago, to split from the NFL on such matters because of the league’s conflicted history around brain research. He said the league has no commitment to the health and safety of its players.

“It’s one of the most troubling and disturbing reports I’ve seen,” Smith said of the Outside the Lines story Monday, adding he wasn’t surprised, however. “It reaffirms the fact that the league has its own view about how they care about players in the NFL.”

Pallone said he hopes the report will push the league to make changes.

“The history with the league is, if you catch them, then they start to listen,” Pallone said.

And you wonder why the people in charge keep getting sued for crap like this.

“Lots of history here. But our process was not tainted and all above board. … Trouble is of course that the [Stern] group is led by people who first broke the science open, and NFL owners and leadership think of them as the creators of the problem.”

Well, actually, you don’t.

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Filed under The Body Is A Temple, The NFL Is Your Friend.

“Improving the camp environment”

The SEC’s spring meetings start next week.  Judging from this, it sounds like they’ll be spending a lot of the time there discussing satellite camps, because, well… they’re satellite camps.

“The concerns are still there,” Sankey said in an interview with The Associated Press. “When it was a relatively small practice, it was fine. Some will argue that there’s a lot of instruction and development that occurs. Well, that may be true in some cases. But when I talk to our coaches who now have 10-15 calls a day, it starts to become an unhealthy activity.

“And it really is about recruiting. I’m hoping that if the solutions are identified by Sept. 1. We’ll certainly talk about different strategies next week that are attentive to the full scope of issues here.”

… In other words, there remains room for debate and perhaps change. Sankey certainly doesn’t feel the issue is closed.

“If you look at what the board of directors said in its press release, that language from the board agreed with our position, just not that outcome,” Sankey said. “Which seems to raise the issue of why do we have a rule in men’s basketball that we pursuing in football around non-institutional camps. It wasn’t about geography.

“We’ve never once complained about individuals coming in and recruiting. You know what, on an ad hoc basis somebody will say, ‘We don’t want them stealing our kids.’ But they say that about each other in our league. It’d be nice if we’d keep all of our players but I don’t think anybody’s under the notion that that’s realistic.”

Is there a coherent line of thought somewhere in there?  No wonder they’re going to spend so much time on the subject – Sankey can’t even figure out what to say in defense of what the conference wants.

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