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The 10 Best Ineligible College Football Players for 2014 Season

Brian PedersenFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 3, 2017

The 10 Best Ineligible College Football Players for 2014 Season

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    USA TODAY Sports

    A virtual all-star team of college football talent won't see the field during the 2014 season because of ineligibility.

    Whether it's because of academics, NCAA transfer rules or disciplinary action that resulted in a suspension or dismissal from the team, plenty of big-time players will not be eligible again until 2015 at the earliest. Most of them would likely have played a significant role in their team's performance this fall, but instead they'll either be on the sidelines or away from the stadium altogether each Saturday.

    Nearly every team in FBS lost a player to the ineligible list during the offseason, but some stand out more than others. We've compiled a list of the most notable ineligible players based on the significance of their absence to their respective teams.

    Only players suspended for the entire 2014 season were considered, while those not officially ruled out for the year also were left off. That's why you won't see Notre Dame receiver DaVaris Daniels and three other teammates being investigated for possible academic fraud because they're being held out only of preseason practice.

Darian Claiborne, LB, Texas A&M

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Why he's ineligible

    Darian Claiborne was dismissed from Texas A&M in June, along with defensive lineman Isaiah Golden, shortly after both players were charged with aggravated robbery stemming from a May 2014 incident. Both players had previous run-ins with the law, which coach Kevin Sumlin cited in a news release, stating, "these two players have exhibited a pattern of behavior that we will not tolerate at Texas A&M."

     

    What his absence means

    Claiborne was one of the few bright spots on the Aggies' soft defense in 2013, registering 89 tackles including seven tackles for loss to earn SEC all-freshman honors. Sam Khan of ESPN.com noted "Claiborne emerged as perhaps the defense’s best player late last season after he began to find his groove" while playing middle linebacker, and he was expected to start on the weak side this fall.

    The loss of one of A&M's most talented and experienced players, despite just one season on the field, will make the goal of improving on defense in 2014 a lot harder to achieve.

     

    Who replaces him?

    Sophomore A.J. Hilliard will take Claiborne's spot, but his experience is very limited. After sitting out last year following a transfer from TCU, Hilliard comes in with one career tackle from his Horned Frog days.

Dezmon Epps, WR, Idaho

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    Dean Hare/Associated Press

    Why he's ineligible

    Dezmon Epps was dismissed from Idaho after pleading guilty to DUI charges in June. Coach Paul Petrino cited a "violation of team rules" in announcing the dismissal on June 20.

     

    What his absence means

    Epps was by far the Vandals' best offensive weapon in 2013, catching 79 passes for 980 yards with four touchdowns as a junior after transferring from City College of San Francisco. He was responsible for 35 percent of the team's receptions, 35 percent of the passing yardage and had more catches and yards than any two other Idaho players.

    Without Epps, an already bad team facing a lost season will be even worse. In April the program was ruled ineligible for postseason play in 2014 because of poor Academic Progress Rating scores. Making a bowl wasn't very likely, as the Vandals were 1-11 last year as an independent and join the Sun Belt Conference this fall.

     

    Who replaces him?

    Epps' dismissal means sophomore Deon Watson (24 catches, 279 yards, one TD) is the team's top returning wideout. He will have to step in to the No. 1 receiver spot, while newcomers and reserves from last season will fill in for Watson.

Devonte Fields, DE, TCU

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Why he's ineligible

    Devonte Fields was dismissed from TCU on Aug. 14, three weeks after he was "separated" from the program in the wake of being accused of domestic violence charges.

     

    What his absence means

    Fields missed most of the 2013 season with a foot injury, but he was expected to be a huge part of TCU's defense this fall and had been named the Big 12's preseason Defensive Player of the Year in mid-July just days before the criminal allegations came to light. The award was based heavily on Fields' play as a freshman in 2012, when he had 18.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks and was named the conference's Defensive Player of the Year.

    Combined with the graduation of Jon Koontz, the Horned Frogs' defensive line will be inexperienced all over, and not just on the edges.

     

    Who replaces him?

    Junior Terrell Lathan started five games at defensive end and had five sacks in 2013, while junior Mike Tuaua started three times, but no other projected contributors have started before. Those two players will likely take the starting jobs, but even together they're not as good as Fields was individually.

Isaiah Golden, DT, Texas A&M

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Why he's ineligible

    Isaiah Golden was dismissed from Texas A&M in June, along with linebacker Darian Claiborne, shortly after both players were charged with aggravated robbery stemming from a May 2014 incident. 

     

    What his absence means

    Golden was in line to be the starting nose guard this season after excelling as an injury replacement for Kirby Ennis. He started six games and made 30 tackles and had three tackles for loss.

    With Golden gone, the Aggies' already young and inexperienced defense got even more raw, which can be seen in the depth chart released Wednesday for next week's season opener at South Carolina. All told there are 11 true freshmen listed on the two-deep chart, most of whom are on defense.

     

    Who replaces him?

    Zaycoven Henderson and Hardreck Walker are listed as co-starters on the depth chart at nose guard. Henderson, a true freshman, is a 4-star prospect the Aggies flipped from January, while Walker is a sophomore who started the 2013 opener against Rice but ended up with only five total tackles in nine games. 

Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Why he's ineligible

    Dorial Green-Beckham was dismissed from Missouri in April after being implicated in a robbery and accused of pushing one woman down several steps and injuring another woman who was his girlfriend. Though only charges, Tigers coach Gary Pinkel said the dismissal was necessary to help Green-Beckham "benefit from a fresh start."

    Green-Beckham enrolled at Oklahoma in July, and he has appealed to the NCAA to be eligible to play in 2014. John Infante, a former college compliance officer, told the Tulsa World in July that he considers Green-Beckham's appeal, which is based on the run-off exception, a "long shot."

     

    What his absence means

    With it unlikely he will be able to play this fall, Green-Beckham's absence affects two major programs. With Oklahoma, he's practicing in preseason camp but in effect is taking touches away from a young receiving corps that, outside of junior Sterling Shepherd (who had 51 catches for 603 yards and seven touchdowns), does not have much experience coming back.

    His departure from Missouri is more significant, though, because in 2013 he had a team-high 59 catches for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Tigers also lost L'Damian Washington and Marcus Sasser to graduation, and those three accounted for 25 of the team's 31 receiving TDs.

     

    Who replaces him?

    Bud Sasser and Jimmie Hunt have the potential to step up as the top returning pass-catchers from a year ago, but after that "the receiving corps gets awfully green, awfully quickly" according to SB Nation's Bill Connelly. True freshmen recruits such as Desean Blair, Nate Brown and Lawrence Lee are likely to get into the mix early.

Josh Harvey-Clemons, S, Louisville

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Why he's ineligible

    Josh Harvey-Clemons must sit out the 2014 season after transferring from Georgia, where he was dismissed from the team in February for multiple violations of team rules.

     

    What his absence means

    Harvey-Clemons made 11 starts for the Bulldogs in 2013, recording 66 tackles and three fumble recoveries along with an interception. His best game was a 15-tackle performance in Georgia's 44-41 win over LSU last October.

    He was one of three players from the secondary who left the team in the offseason, along with safety Tray Matthews and cornerback Shaq Wiggins. Collectively those losses are huge because it "has left the secondary as the biggest question mark for Georgia this season," according to David Paschall of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The secondary was a major weakness last year, but the arrival of new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt from Florida State (where he'd just won a national title) brought hope that things would turn around back there.

     

    Who replaces him?

    The pressure will fall on a pair of seniors, cornerback Damian Swann and safety Corey Moore, as well as newcomers like converted running back J.J. Green at safety.

Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Why he's ineligible

    Venric Mark announced on Aug. 13 he was transferring from Northwestern, shortly after coach Pat Fitzgerald revealed he had suspended Mark for the first two games of the 2014 season for violation of team rules. Mark, who said he wants to play closer to his mother in Lubbock, Texas, hasn't said where he plans to transfer, but CBS Sports' Jeremy Fowler has reported that possibilities include Texas Tech or Div. II schools Northwestern Missouri State and West Texas A&M.

    If Mark were to go to another FBS school, he'd likely have to sit out the year because he hasn't graduated.

     

    What his absence means

    Mark was expected to provide a big boost to Northwestern's offense after being severely limited because of injuries last season. In 2013, the junior only had 31 carries for 97 yards, after rushing for 1,366 yards and 12 TDs in the Wildcats' 10-win campaign in 2012.

    With Northwestern also losing top receiver Christian Jones to a season-ending knee injury, the offense almost has to be completely overhauled with little time before the Aug. 30 opener against California. Though the Wildcats do have good depth at both skill positions, ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg noted that "Northwestern's offense could use all the weapons it can get after a subpar 2013 season."

     

    Who replaces him?

    Senior Treyvon Green was Northwestern's starter last season with Mark hurt most of the year, and he ran for a team-high 736 yards and eight touchdowns. He averaged 5.4 yards per carry and shouldn't have any problem stepping back into the starting role, where he'll get help from reserves such as sophomore Stephen Buckley.

Tray Matthews, S, Auburn

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Why he's ineligible

    Tray Matthews must sit out the 2014 season after transferring from Georgia, where he was dismissed from the team in June because of behavior issues and his connection to a theft-by-deception scheme. At the time of the dismissal, Bulldogs coach Mark Richt told Seth Emerson of The Telegraph that "we are trying to make room for guys who want to do things right."

     

    What his absence means

    Matthews started six games at free safety as a true freshman and had 36 tackles along with an interception and a forced fumble. Though he was just as at fault as every other member of Georgia's 2013 defense, which allowed 29 points per game, Matthews showed a lot of promise in his first year and figured to fit in well with new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt's aggressive defensive schemes.

     

    Who replaces him?

    Sophomore Quincy Mauger took over for Matthews as starter midway through last season, so now he'll be the full-time guy. Mauger started seven games and had 57 tackles with one interception.

Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Why he's ineligible

    Baker Mayfield must sit out the 2014 season after transferring from Texas Tech. Though a walk-on at both schools, Texas Tech ruled he should still lose a year of eligibility, something Mayfield's family has hired an attorney to challenge in an appeal to the NCAA.

     

    What his absence means

    Mayfield started seven games at Tech in 2013, the most ever by a freshman, but lost his job late in the year to fellow freshman Davis Webb and became expendable. He threw for 2,315 yards and 12 touchdowns.

    At Oklahoma, Mayfield would almost assuredly be the Sooners' No. 2 quarterback behind sophomore Trevor Knight, especially after the team moved Blake Bell to tight end during spring practice. Mayfield was stellar in spring ball, and in the final scrimmage, he was 9-of-9 for 125 yards with two touchdowns.

     

    Who replaces him?

    If something were to happen to Knight, either through injury or ineffectiveness, Mayfield would have made for a great replacement. Instead, Oklahoma has redshirt freshman Cody Thomas and true freshman Justice Hansen next in line unless Bell were to get moved back under center.

    Thomas was a 4-star recruit in 2013 who was listed as the No. 8 pro-style passer in the country that year, while Hansen is a 4-star prospect from the 2014 class who was the fifth-best dual-threat quarterback on the board.

Frank Shannon, LB, Oklahoma

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Why he's ineligible

    Frank Shannon was suspended in June after a school Title IX investigation revealed Shannon had been implicated in an alleged sexual assault in January. School president David Boren announced on Aug. 11 that Shannon would be suspended for the entire season, but because of a court ruling blocking that decision, the case has moved to the Oklahoma Supreme Court to enforce the suspension.

     

    What his absence means

    Shannon had a monster year in 2013 as a sophomore, recording a team-high 92 tackles along with seven tackles for loss, two sacks, an interception and a forced fumble. A starter in every game, he was solid in the Sooners' Sugar Bowl win over Alabama and looked to be a big piece of what was projected as a top-tier defense for Oklahoma this fall.

    Thankfully, the Sooners have two really good linebackers on the edges who can help fill the void in Dominique Alexander and Eric Striker.

     

    Who replaces him?

    Without Shannon, Ryan Aber of NewsOK.com wrote that Oklahoma could be thin at inside linebacker and would have to rely on Jordan Evans to fill in. Evans had just 12 tackles in eight games last season before missing the rest of the season after getting injured on a kickoff in a loss at Baylor.

Honorable Mentions

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    Former Minnesota quarterback Phillip Nelson transferred to Rutgers in January, but then was dismissed from the Scarlet Knights in May.
    Former Minnesota quarterback Phillip Nelson transferred to Rutgers in January, but then was dismissed from the Scarlet Knights in May.David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Just because a player didn't make our top 10 list doesn't mean his absence isn't notable to his current (or former) team. Here are some other notables who won't be playing in 2014 who likely would have been key contributors.

     

    LeRoy Alexander, S, Nebraska: Suspended on Aug. 8 for undisclosed reasons.

    Austin Golson, OL, Auburn: Must sit out after transferring from Ole Miss during offseason. 

    Titus Howard, CB, Pittsburgh: Suspended on Aug. 1 for undisclosed reasons.

    Jabari Hunt-Days, LB, Georgia Tech: Declared academically ineligible in May for "failure to meet NCAA eligibility standards."

    Isaiah Jones, WR, Florida State: Ruled academically ineligible on Aug. 16.

    Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma: Suspended on Tuesday in connection with misdemeanor assault charges.

    Phillip Nelson, QB, Minnesota/Rutgers: Transferred from Minnesota in January, then was dismissed from Rutgers in May after being charged with assault.

    Kendall Sanders, WR, Texas: Suspended July 24 along with wide receiver Montrel Meander in connection with felony sexual assault charges.

    Shaq Wiggins, LB, Louisville: Must sit out after transferring from Georgia during the offseason.

    Max Wittek, QB, Hawaii: Must sit out after transferring from USC, where he will join the team as a walk-on instead of as a graduate transfer who could play immediately.

     

    All recruiting info courtesy of 247Sports.

    Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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