National Football League
June 30, 2011
Draft King Analysis
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com
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The internet college football rumor mill has been in overdrive this week regarding the health of Arizona senior WR Juron Criner. A second-team All-American in 2010 as a true junior, the 6'4" 215 pound Criner had 82 receptions for 1,233 yards and 11 TDs last season. He had eight games with at least 95 yards receiving in 2010, including each of the final six games of Arizona's regular season.
Criner could have jumped to the NFL for the 2011 Draft, but he opted to return to school for his senior season. Now? His future is a giant question mark for reasons that are not yet publicly known.
Earlier this month, Criner missed a promotional tour that he was slated to attend on behalf of the Pac-12 (as it will be known beginning tomorrow) with ESPN for unknown reasons. Then came a blurb in this past Sunday's Arizona Star-Net by Greg Hansen which revealed that Criner might miss the entire 2011 season for undisclosed medical reasons. That article went online on Tuesday, and almost right away word of it spread through the college football world.
Bruce Feldman of ESPN wrote on Twitter yesterday that Criner wasn't injured and that he had some "personal stuff" to sort out. As you might imagine, speculation about what that personal matter may be has run rampant, though most reports have indicated that it's a non-injury medical issue of some sort. The University of Arizona has declined comment to all media sources that have asked the school for details about what exactly is wrong with Criner.
Despite his height, speed, and strong stats from 2010, Criner was seen in some circles as a player who needed more development on the college level, particularly in showing explosiveness off the line. Some knocked his pass-catching ability, which was humorous to me considering all he did last year and that his hands were seen as an asset coming out of high school in North Las Vegas, NV. Criner looked like he would have a chance to prove his critics wrong and potentially move into the upper tier of wide receiver prospects with a strong 2011 season.
For what it's worth, Gil Brandt of NFL.com had Criner ranked as #46 in his initial list of players eligible for the 2012 NFL Draft. Brandt's list has since disappeared from the NFL's website, though I'm not sure if that is because of Criner's situation or if it happened for unrelated reasons. But I concur with Brandt's placement of Criner in that spot based on what was known through May 2011, with Criner looking like a 2nd or 3rd round prospect for 2012 at that point.
|Juron Criner might miss the 2011 season. (Icon SMI)|
It warrants noting that Criner has a redshirt season available, so if he has to miss the entire 2011 season, he has the option of returning in 2012 without having to receive a special dispensation from the NCAA for a medical redshirt. That means that Criner could play for Arizona in 2012 if he misses this season. Of course, without knowing what exactly is wrong with Criner, it's unclear what the future holds for him.
The NCAA is restructuring its enforcement division, with a particular emphasis on a few specific areas: agents, football, basketball (men and women) and sports wagering. This page on NCAA.org explains the details behind the changes, using larger words than you typically see in a press release. For those with a limited vocabulary, here's the short version: the NCAA is adjusting its approach on enforcement in an attempt to become more efficient in how it handles the investigation of alleged rules violations.
Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated provided great insight about the NCAA's Agent, Gambling and Amateurism Activities division in an article last September. That story explained how the four people in that division found themselves traveling around the country investigating alleged rules infractions. The group, though small, was powered the energy of youth (all were between the ages of 27 and 33 at the time of publication), a necessary component for a group trying to police the activities of hundreds of member institutions.
In October 2010, the NCAA named Julie Roe Lach as the vice president of enforcement, replacing the retiring David Price. Lach previously served as the NCAA's director of enforcement dating back to 2004. The title bump-up for her might have had the appearance of being a formality, but as today's announcement reveals, Lach has spent several months to overhaul the NCAA's enforcement division via her new position.
Today's press release reveals the thought process behind the plan. Consider this sentence, which comes directly from the release: "The new structure maximizes opportunities for greater efficiency and effectiveness and will allow the staff to more easily “surge” to tackle complex cases or when there is a threat of compromise to an investigation."
What it means for college football fans is that the actions of players (I loathe the term student-athlete), coaches, and intermediaries will likely undergo even more scrutiny than they did in years past. It also means it's even MORE important for coaches and athletic departments at NCAA member institutions to educate their players on the rules and what is and isn't permissible.
To be clear, I disagree with a number of the NCAA's rules, but the enforcement division's job is not to make the rules but instead to enforce them. It's not dissimilar from what police officers often have to do in enforcing some of the ridiculous laws on the books which are often written outright by lobbyists and rubber-stamped by fat cat politicians on both sides of the aisle.
|Robert Quinn (#9) and Marvin Austin (#42) didn't play for UNC in 2010. (Icon SMI)|
In short, I hope that no one blames the enforcement division workers for doing their job and attempting to do so in a more efficient manner. Be mad at the NCAA for having rules that disallow active players from selling gifts or memorabilia acquired in connection with their status as a student-athlete, or for not deep-sixing the BCS and instituting a 16-team playoff system, but don't hold a grudge toward those who are being paid to enforce the rules.
The higher-profile players tend to draw more attention, so it's no surprise to look at the 2011 NFL Draft list and see how many players who went early in the draft who faced NCAA suspensions last season. Below are a list of players who received suspensions of varying lengths last year who went on to be high picks in the 2011 NFL Draft, including two (Robert Quinn and Marvin Austin) who missed the entire 2010 season due to their alleged actions in connection with the John Blake/Gary Wichard scandal.
1. Carolina: Cam Newton (Auburn) - One day in November 2010 before being reinstated the next day
3. Buffalo: Marcell Dareus, DL (Alabama) - 2 game suspension
4. Cincinnati: A.J. Green, WR (Georgia) - 4 game suspension
14. St. Louis: Robert Quinn, DE (North Carolina) - 2010 season suspension
52. NY Giants: Marvin Austin, DT (North Carolina) - 2010 season suspension
Has a player ever missed an entire season due to NCAA suspension and subsequently still end up being drafted in the top 15 of the following year's NFL draft, as was the case for Quinn? If so, please let me know; I don't recall anything remotely close to that having happened before.