Only a few days removed from national signing day, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn has a big decision ahead of him regarding one of the key members of the 2014 signing class.
Kalvaraz Bessent, a 4-star prospect from Kingsland, Ga. who was rated as the nation's No. 13 cornerback, was arrested in Nassau County, Fla. on Friday night and charged with two felony counts of possession of marijuana and possession with intent, according to Brandon Marcello of AL.com.
According to the report, Bessent was riding in a car with three other passengers that was pulled over. Officers found 202.5 grams of marijuana under the driver's and passenger's seats when they searched the vehicle, and arrested all four occupants on the same charges since none of them claimed ownership of the drugs.
Malzahn said that he was aware of the situation and is continuing to gather information. The real question is: What information is there to gather?
If none of the four occupants claimed ownership of the marijuana, it leaves Malzahn in a tricky spot. He now has to either wait out the legal process see if any of the occupants flip on each other, or he must decide himself what the circumstances were surrounding the incident.
If that results in Bessent being released from his scholarship, that'd be a big blow to Auburn's class—which was loaded with defensive stars who could play right away.
Bessent is one of those stars.
The 6'0", 170-pounder was praised by Malzahn on national signing day as a player who could make an immediate impact in an Auburn secondary that finished 13th in the SEC in pass defense (257.7 YPG) and lost its best cornerback, Chris Davis, to graduation.
"We feel we have a guy that can help us immediately," Malzahn said in quotes released by Auburn. "He’s got very good ball skills and is a good cover guy.”
Will Kalvaraz Bessent be a contributor at cornerback for Auburn in 2014?
As details come out, it will be interesting to see what message Malzahn chooses to set.
Obviously, since there are felony charges at play here, the legal process could take some of the decision out of his hands entirely. But Malzahn is a coach who's had very few off-the-field issues since taking over the Auburn program, and the ones he has had to deal with, he has dealt with swiftly.
Senior safety and leading returning tackler Demetruce McNeal was dismissed from the program in August 2013 after being arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession, according to Marcello. Does that set a precedent?
No two situations are identical, and McNeal's "personal issues" that cost him several practices last spring could have also played a factor in the dismissal.
That's really the only comparable situation for Malzahn to use as a tone-setter.
In college football—a world that forces coaches to reset what's acceptable within a program year after year due to roster turnover—this is is an opportunity to set the tone for the new crop of Tigers.