5 Players/Programs Under the Most Scrutiny for the 2014 College Football Season
With less than three months away from the start of the 2014 college football season, players across the country are preparing with numerous hours on the practice field and working out in the gym.
College football said goodbye to Johnny Manziel with his entry into the National Football League. With him gone to the pros, so go the drama and scrutiny that surrounded him during his final season at Texas A&M.
Although he is gone, certain star players might still be under scrutiny from media and fans due to past arrests and various incidents that have affected their image. This offseason, 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston was in the media numerous times for the wrong reasons due to questionable actions.
Winston wasn't the only well-known college football player to have a negative spotlight associated with him since last season. Numerous other players and teams will be dealing with their public image and perception by sports fans.
Here are four players and one program who are under the most scrutiny heading into the 2014 college football season.
Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
Top high school football player of the class of 2013, Robert Nkemdiche finished off his freshman season at Ole Miss with 34 total tackles, eight tackles for loss and two sacks in 11 games.
In the 2013 season, the Rebels won eight of their 13 games, including a 25-17 victory over Georgia Tech in the Music City Bowl. Although Nkemdiche was a vital member of the defense on the field, off-the-field issues arose after the end of the 2013 season.
According to Fox Sports, in February 2014, Robert, his brother Denzel and five other football players were accused of getting into a brutal fight with a student at a fraternity party, just after Robert committed to Ole Miss.
The alleged victim wants $2 million in damages for the injuries received in the fight. A month after the assault complaint was made, the Nkemdiche brothers filed a counter-claim for "seeking an unspecified amount in damages" for "untrue and false statements," according to USA Today.
Whether or not this incident is true, Robert Nkemdiche should have never placed himself in a situation like this. This could turn into a civil case for the players involved, which might linger on through the upcoming season. The Rebels will need their rising defensive star to be a vital member of the team in his sophomore campaign and not be involved in costly court matters.
Everett Golson, Notre Dame
Everett Golson's first season as Notre Dame's starting quarterback was very successful. He led the Fighting Irish to an undefeated regular season and an appearance in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game. While Alabama ended up defeating Notre Dame 42-14, Golson earned first-team All-Independent honors.
Just four months later, he was suspended for academic violations and other reasons, which didn't allow him to play for the university this past season. The Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, native was readmitted to the university on December 13, 2013.
In a video interview with Sports Illustrated reporter Andy Staples, Golson admitted to cheating on a test as the reason for his suspension. During the suspension, he spent time working with quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. on improving his skills at the position.
On the most recent Rivals.com depth chart, Golson ranks as the top quarterback and most likely starting QB for the upcoming season. While he is back in the university's good graces, this situation certainly affected the team last season.
Although his academic issues won't affect this upcoming year like it did last season, it could still be a cause of scrutiny from college football fans across the country. Fans will not forgive Golson for his conduct quite so easily.
Jameis Winston, Florida State
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston couldn't have asked for a better freshman season. He won the Heisman and most importantly helped the Seminoles win their third national title.
The media attention continued to build as he and the Noles continued to win games. The Bessemer, Alabama, native posted solid numbers, while his team continued to win games by double digits.
However, in November, negative media attention started to surface after the Florida State Attorney’s Office announced that they were investigating Winston's involvement in a 2012 sexual assault complaint. According to ESPN.com, less than a month later the state attorney announced that the investigation was complete, and no charges would be filed.
In April, Winston drew the negative limelight once again after being issued a civil citation for shoplifting crab legs from a Tallahassee Publix store. The surveillance footage showed him leaving the market with the stolen crab legs.
Both incidents are situations that a starting quarterback of a top college football team should not be involved with. Media attention will continue to follow Winston through his sophomore campaign both on and off the field.
UNC Football Team
North Carolina athletics have recently been scrutinized due to former players, tutors and other people coming forward and questioning the academic integrity of the institution. Philip Caulfield of the New York Daily News reported that a former UNC tutor instructed student-athletes with academic issues in an ESPN interview.
Mary Willingham revealed that one former football player wrote a 146-word term paper that earned him an A-minus. Also, she explained that some students she tutored had a second- or third-grade reading level. She even said that certain players couldn't write a paper, paragraph or even a sentence.
If more stories from various former UNC football athletes emerge in the future, then this upcoming season might be marred by the negative media attention.
Jalen Mills, LSU
Although LSU junior defensive back Jalen Mills doesn't play a flashy position like quarterback or running back, he is a vital member of the Tigers defense. According to ESPN.com, the starting safety was suspended indefinitely after being arrested on a second-degree battery charge on June 11.
The report was issued after a woman allegedly accused Mills of punching her in the mouth a little more than a month earlier. He didn't show up to a June 10 meeting with the police regarding the incident, which resulted in an arrest warrant.
Although a decision has not been made yet on this recent incident, the Tigers could possibly lose an important piece to their defense. Mills had three interceptions and was third on the team with 67 tackles last season.
The upperclassman was a crucial cog in the secondary and might have jeopardized his football career. He would be an unfortunate potential loss for LSU in the upcoming season, but as they say in football, "next man up."