When Arkansas native Gus Malzahn defected from Auburn last December to take over as head coach at Arkansas State, the NCAA didn't bat an eye. ASU didn't even have to ask. Alas, for a lowly "student-athlete" – in this case, fellow Arkansas native Michael Dyer – the homecoming will not go so smoothly: As expected, the NCAA has officially denied Dyer's petition for immediate eligibility at Arkansas State this fall, forcing the former Auburn star to spend a redshirt season on the bench. He'll be allowed to play in 2013 with two years of eligibility remaining.
Obviously, Malzahn could have used his old workhorse. By the end of last season, Dyer was not only Auburn's best player, but arguably the only reliable positive on the team: With 1,242 yards on a little over 20 carries per game, he was the only Tiger on either side of the ball voted first-team All-SEC, one year after he broke Bo Jackson's freshman rushing record during the Tigers' run to conference and BCS championships. In the BCS title game, Dyer was voted MVP after breaking late runs of 53 yards – no, his knee is still not down – and 16 yards to set up the Tostitos-clinching field goal on the final snap of the game.
Almost exactly one year later, to the day, he was granted a release from his scholarship, after police traced Dyer's gun to an armed robbery involving four teammates the previous summer; earlier this year, Dyer told a jury at the trial of former wide receiver Antonio Goodwin that he had smoked synthetic marijuana with all four suspects just before the alleged robbery, and let Goodwin borrow the gun. Dyer wasn't charged in the case (Goodwin was convicted in April; the other three suspects are still awaiting trial), but he was subsequently suspended for December's Chick-Fil-A Bowl and devised his exit in short order.
The question now is whether we'll ever see Dyer again in any college uniform: With three years of school under his belt, he'll be eligible for next spring's NFL Draft, and his combination of size (210 pounds on a sturdy, 5-foot-8 frame) and production against a high level of competition guarantees that he'll get a long look from the scouts if he submits his name. In the meantime, the Red Wolves will have to content themselves with another blue-chip exile from the SEC, David Oku, whose stint at Tennessee in 2009-10 was not nearly as productive as Dyer's in Auburn (and who was charged with a crime, for alleged domestic assault last July), but who will be immediately eligible this fall. Hey: In the Sun Belt, you take 'em whenever and however you can get 'em.