We Talkin' 'Bout Spring Practice: NLRB ruling turns heads; Urban Meyer opens up
With spring football taking place across the country, Campus Union has decided to round up all of the important news and notes from each week in practice.
• The Northwestern football players attempting to unionize were granted a landmark ruling by the NLRB on Wednesday. The process will move to Washington, D.C., where there will likely be appeals. The NCAA and various schools have decried the decision, but SI.com's Andy Staples believes that maybe it's time to start thinking creatively. Staples writes:
No one on the CAPA or the O'Bannon plaintiffs' side will talk hard numbers -- why would they? -- but the leaders of college sports probably could negotiate a package that would stop all this. A settlement would keep the coaches and ADs rich. It would allow schools to keep subsidizing non-revenue sports and providing free educations for athletes other than football and men's basketball players. (Also known as the ones who bring in all the money.) Meanwhile, the players would get a little more -- but not so much that things change too dramatically. Amateurism can be whatever the schools say it is. All they have to do is change the rules to allow the schools that run their sports like a business to compensate their employees a little better.
Not everybody heard about the ruling, however. Take Florida head coach Will Muschamp.
• Alabama lineman Chad Lindsay is transferring, and he has already been connected to Michigan. The Wolverines need all the offensive line help they can get, and the guard from The Woodlands, Texas, would offer depth. As a graduate transfer, Lindsay will be eligible to play immediately in the fall.
• Malcolm Mitchell needs to start stashing a horseshoe or a rabbit's foot in his pocket. Georgia's wide receiver just can't catch a break. He missed the entire 2013 campaign after tearing his ACL in the Bulldogs' season opener at Clemson, and an injury that he suffered during recovery will sideline him for the remainder of spring. According to Chip Towers of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mitchell should be ready to go by the time Georgia opens fall camp in August.
• Urban Meyer opened up to CBS' Jeremy Fowler this week, even going so far as to draw him a play to explain current trends in college football. Meyer admitted that the Buckeyes' defense is a serious concern heading into next season, and he plans to make big changes. Per Fowler:
On fixing the Buckeyes defense: “I have a vision for our defense. I made it clear what I'd like to see. I'd like to challenge every throw and run like hell, to have a defense like we played at Florida. I want to see it. I'm more involved than I've ever been … There are a couple of positions that have to play better than they've played.”
On how to fix it: “Overhaul. Overhaul. Overhaul it. A little bit like when we came here and we overhauled the offense …What Chris Ash is able to do, we're overhauling it entirely. Some things will look the same, but there's a reason why our kids didn't play very fast last year, and it's not because of the players. We're overhauling everything, the terminology, the way we practice, the way we coach. It's going pretty good. No resistance, no egos, really good people.”
• EDSBS has handed the Fulmer Cup over to Reddit's CFB page, and not a moment too soon. Players continue to find themselves with too much free time on their hands during the offseason. South Carolina redshirt freshman offensive lineman Na'Ty Rodgers was charged with "disorderly conduct and consumption of alcohol by person under the age of 21" as a result of an incident on March 23, according to South Carolina's 247Sports site, The Big Spur. Rodgers has been suspended indefinitely.
• Florida is one of the biggest question marks heading into the 2014 season. The Gators flopped big time in '13, but still have the players (if healthy) to make a run in the SEC East. Muschamp has plenty of heat on him, and he told USA Today's Dan Wolken that he understands and welcomes the expectations. "It's not acceptable to go 4-8 at Florida regardless of the circumstances," Muschamp said. "There were some things that occurred within our team that were hard to overcome, and we didn't do a good enough job of managing that. And that's my fault, nobody else's. I need to do a better job."
• Elsewhere in the Sunshine State, Miami running back Duke Johnson is still recovering from the ankle injury he suffered at Florida State on Nov. 2 that forced him to miss the team's final five games. Johnson has added 10 pounds in the weight room and should be back to full strength by next month.
Kendell Beckwith has moved to middle linebacker from defensive end, where he will backup the only incumbent still in the same place, senior D.J. Welter. Kwon Alexander has crossed the field from the “Sam” or strongside linebacker spot (typically the linebacker opposite the tight end) to the “Will” or weakside, while Lamar Louis moves from middle backing up Welter to strongside.
The chess pieces are moving around the board in large part to account for the loss of Lamin Barrow, the departed senior starter who led the Tigers with 91 total tackles last season.
• Florida State's crazy baseball brawl with Florida wouldn't normally make a spring football report, but we'll make an exception when it features the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.
#FSU's Jameis Winston is held back by a cop as he takes part in a bench-clearing fight in the 8th inning against #UF pic.twitter.com/OiWeWw3ZZM
— jaxdotcom (@jaxdotcom) March 26, 2014
Q: What has stood out to you with the things you've seen from him so far?
Lashlee: A couple of things: You can tell that he's comfortable with the offense now. We have the ability to run the whole offense. He's not unsure of where to go with the football or anything like that. The other thing is that now he's comfortable in the system -- last year you'd call a play and he'd just worry about himself and what he had to do and it was, 'How do I do my job?' -- now he can worry about other people as far as leadership goes.
He's been much more vocal the first three days than he was at any point last year. And he was one of our leaders last year, but it really was more by example 'cause our guys believed in him. Now if our level of practice dips, he's one of the guys who gets on them about picking the tempo up before our coaches have to do it or he's encouraging guys. Now, he's even going to receivers and saying, 'Hey, I need you to do this on this route.' He's taken more ownership in things.
• Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton tore his ACL and MCL against BYU on Oct. 4, but he's on the road to recovery. Much like Johnson at Miami, Keeton has rededicated himself in the weight room. He's also spending time in the film room and has started throwing again. The hope is that he'll be ready to go by August. The Aggies will need him if they want to topple Tennessee in their opener on Aug. 30.
"Last year, when I interviewed with a couple pro teams, I came back to Penn State and I told the them, to the kids there, I said, ‘I love pro football but I really enjoy coaching you guys and I’m staying.’ So I think the kids there, they really respected our staff, our honest and the night that I took the Houston job, I called every kid from like 11:30 at night until 4 in the morning. It was tough. That was a tough deal because we were very attached for the reasons—everybody stuck together, it was a tough time, we won some games. We won some games that no one could believe we won, beating someone with 40 scholarship kids. So we owe a lot to those kids. But those kids, kids are resilient and they’ve got a good coach there now, James Franklin. I think they’ll be fine."
• Old Dominion turned down a million dollars to play Alabama. "I don’t think playing a game against Alabama would be an advisable move given the infancy of our program,” said Monarchs athletic director Wood Selig. The same could be said about a lot of teams, depending on one's lenient definition of "infancy." Still, a seven-figure check makes for a pretty nice Band-Aid.
• SI.com's Chris Johnson took in Illinois' spring practice recently. The Illini are heading into somewhat of a make-or-break season, and coach Tim Beckman seems to understand that. "I want this program to get better," Beckman said. "That's the bottom line. And that means five or six wins."
"Mike [Caputo] is back with me," [Safeties coach Bill] Busch said. "He will be a starter at the safety spot. Mike will be a leader, clearly. He does it on the field with his actions. He also does it verbally and in everything he does. He is definitely our leader."