While many of the football-loving community is eagerly anticipating the kickoff to the NFL season tonight, there are sure to be plenty of scouts focusing on another game -- the showdown between two of the most explosive offenses in college football in Arizona and Oklahoma State.
One of the primary reasons for scouts attending the game in Stillwater this evening was to watch Wildcat wideout Juron Criner. Unfortunately, rather than be able to compare and contrast him to Cowboys' star Justin Blackmon, scouts will have to focus their attention elsewhere, as Criner did not make the trip due to an "illness."
The 6-4, 215 pound Criner missed about a month of off-season workouts this past year dealing with "personal and family issues," according to Arizona head coach Mike Stoops. However, when he returned to the practice field, onlookers reported that he looked fit and every bit the playmaker he'd been in the past. Last season Criner enjoyed one of the greatest seasons in the school's history, catching 82 passes for 1,233 yards and 11 touchdowns and earning First Team All Pac-10 accolades.
He seemed ready to put all of the distractions behind him with a strong opening performance last week, as well, catching six passes for 151 yards and a touchdown against Northern Arizona. Criner's impressive stat line was enough to earn him a spot on my fellow Senior Analyst Chad Reuter's Risers list for the first week.
While Criner's play last week was impressive, the ambiguity of his malady and absence from this game will cause scouts to question exactly what is going on with the Arizona wideout.
There are plenty of rumors circulating as to why Criner mised so much off-season time. Whether this latest absence has anything to do with his previous departure from the program will almost certainly be a question scouts ask when they see him next -- whether that be on campus, at a post-season all-star game or at the Combine.