Recruiting road rules (cont.)
Offensive tackle Abraham "Nacho" Garcia weighs every ounce of 347 pounds. How do I know? Check out the photo on the right.
The NCAA rulebook can be a bear. Express players were supposed to take unofficial visits to Florida State, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Florida during the trip. On an unofficial visit, coaches and players can meet with recruits. Basically, the only difference between an unofficial visit (the recruit pays his own way) and an official visit (the school pays) is who foots the bill.
At FSU, the coaching staff had even planned a dinner presentation. Express coaches and players would have had to pay for the food, but they would have gotten plenty of face time with the staff. A last-minute check of the rules by FSU officials scuttled the plans for the unofficial visits at every school except Florida. Why? Because the rules state that programs cannot host a team traveling to a competition. Meanwhile, it is perfectly legal to host teams returning from a competition.
Express coach Brett Goetz couldn't believe the stupidity of the rule, but he was more frustrated that coaches at four schools didn't check until the day the trip began. In defense of the coaches, this isn't an issue college football coaches face often. A basketball coach probably would have immediately told Goetz to schedule any unofficial visits after the tournament, because basketball coaches deal with traveling teams all the time.
The football coaches will have to deal with them more as elite travel football grows. Goetz, meanwhile, will know better next year. He'll take his team to the tournament first, then to the schools.
Blue-chip defensive back recruit Wayne Lyons can sleep in any conceivable position. Lyons proved this time and time again on the bus. As soon as the wheels turned, Lyons' eyes drooped. It didn't matter if he was sitting up, reclined, or laying across the seats with an armrest jammed in his back; Lyons let nothing stand between him and his beauty rest.
You may already have read about Lyons. He has a 5.0 weighted GPA at Dillard High in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., but he takes mostly college classes now. His specialty is engineering, and he has a particular love for robotics. A school looking for a future Rhodes Scholar would be wise to recruit Lyons, and dozens have. When he returned from the trip with the Express, Lyons narrowed his options to 14 schools.
They are, in no particular order: Auburn, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Stanford, Vanderbilt, UCLA, South Florida.
There is a reason Alabama has recruited so well since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa. Saban knows how to stay ahead of most of his competitors. Remember thevideo conferencing? It wasn't an accident that the first BadgerSports national tournament took place at Alabama's football complex. Though NCAA rules forbid a school hosting such a tournament from entertaining players with unofficial visits, the tournament still served as a weekend-long advertisement for Alabama's program.
So guess where next year's national tournament will be? That's correct. Tuscaloosa.
Who says kids these days don't like to read? Express players were more than happy to read the subtitles of Shottas, a 2002 Jamaican gangster flick in which the actors speak almost entirely in Patois. They also want to know why co-star Spragga Benz didn't win a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
The bus ride on the first day was long; eight hours from Hollywood, Fla., to Tallahassee, Fla., then almost three more from Tallahassee to Milton, Fla. As we left Florida State, the players weren't exactly thrilled about the idea of more time on the bus. But once Shottas appeared on the screen, complaints ceased.
I learned more Patois from the movie than I learned in two trips to Jamaica. Unfortunately, it was a gangster movie, so my Patois-speaking ability is limited pretty much to swearing. (By the way, Jamaicans with phlebitis must get very offended when they go to the doctor. Don't understand? Click the link above and check the B section of the glossary.)
I worried about how Plantation (Fla.) High linebacker Ryan Shazier would fare in the Fastest Man portion of the tournament's skills competition after he downed 18 ribs earlier in the day at Tuscaloosa's Dreamland Barbecue. I really worried when, after we pulled into our hotel, Shazier sprinted off the bus and into the bathroom.
The fears proved unfounded. Shazier, a 206-pounder who projects as a linebacker in college, blew past everyone in his position group and finished second overall. Later, he said he thinks he can run the 40-yard dash in the 4.3-second range.
So maybe ribs are Shazier's personal rocket fuel. Who knew? If Shazier winds up at the NFL's scouting combine after his college career, he'll know the surest way to prepare to run his way to millions: find a good barbecue joint.
#DearAndy: Big Ten football, Baylor Bears, and bacon
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