Posted on: August 26, 2011 8:31 am
The big showdown between No. 3 Oregon and No. 4 LSU that serves as the crown jewel of college football's opening Labor Day Weekend just keeps losing its luster.
Oregon's star cornerback and kick returner Cliff Harris, an All-American in just his sophomore season last year, has already been suspended for the contest. Harris, who led the country with 23 passes defended and the Pac-10 with six interceptions last season, was suspended by Ducks' head coach Chip Kelly after Harris' latest run-in with police. Harris, along with two teammates including starting quarterback Darron Thomas, was stopped by police for driving 118 miles per hour in a car loaned to him after being rented by a university official.
The receiver Harris likely would have been covering throughout much of the contest has now been suspended for the opener, as well.
Junior wideout Russell Shepard was suspended Thursday for the September 3 game at Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, Texas and is likely to miss more time as the university seeks his reinstatement from the NCAA. Shepard was suspended, according to the university, because he broke school and NCAA violations when he discussed specifics of his interview with investigators about the Willie Lyles recruiting controversy with a teammate also scheduled to be questioned.
LSU could also lose quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who was identified by a woman outside of a club in Baton Rouge, as having kicked a man in the face during a fight, according to a police report also released yesterday.
Jefferson was one of four LSU players identified in the report. Also interviewed by police were offensive lineman Chris Davenport, linebacker Josh Johns and wide receiver Jarvis Landry.
Police seized 49 pairs of athletic shoes from Jefferson's apartment, according to report. It is not yet known what role the shoes may have played in the fight, which occurred in the early morning hours one week ago.
While LSU head coach Les Miles has claimed that he's already begun disciplining the team for their actions, no suspensions for Jefferson or any of his teammates have yet been made public.
Should police find reason to officially charge Jefferson with a crime, a suspension from Miles could be the least of his concerns.
Posted on: June 17, 2011 10:29 am
Oregon junior cornerback Cliff Harris, an underrated component of the Ducks' drive to a berth in the BCS Title Game last year, has been suspended indefinitely by head coach Chip Kelly after being arrested for speeding and driving a rental car with a suspended license early this week.
Harris, along with two other unidentified Oregon football players, was pulled over by an off-duty Oregon State police officer after the car Harris was driving was clocked at approximately 118 miles per hour. They were pulled over south of Albany, Oregon, which is north of the University of Oregon campus in Eugene.
This is at least the second time that Harris, 20, has been cited for driving with a suspended license.
Kelly announced that Harris would be suspended for Oregon's opener against LSU in Cowboys Stadium in Texas "at the very least" and cautioned that the suspension could go on for much longer should Harris' behavior not improve.
“Cliff’s future clearly is in Cliff’s hands,” Kelly said. “Earning an opportunity to represent the University of Oregon and this football program certainly rests far beyond a player’s ability on the field of play. Our behavior out of the spotlight often is more important and will be held to a higher standard. Until Cliff is able to conform to the same standards all of us must comply with, his status will remain unchanged.”Though he's only entering his junior season, you can be sure NFL teams are already paying attention. Harris, 5-11 and 180 pounds, led the country with 23 passes defensed last season and led the Pac-10 with six interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown (against Tennessee). Harris is perhaps just as well known for his special teams' prowess, as he's one of the more dynamic return-men in college football.
Last year, he broke the Oregon school record with four punt returns for scores.
Harris currently ranks as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 2 junior cornerback prospect behind only Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick. Each would rate as first round values at this early stage in the process.
As this video will show, Harris' return skills are undeniable. So too are his ball skills. And while some of his punt returns come against weaker competition, three of his interceptions last year came against elite NFL prospects Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley.
Posted on: January 10, 2011 1:45 pm
Breaking down No. 1 rated Auburn and No. 2 Oregon in the weeks leading up to tonight's BCS Championship, what is most clear is why these two teams went undefeated.
The Tigers and Ducks each boasted a rare combination of schematic and athletic advantages over their prior opponents. Their spread option offenses not only put their athletes in position to make big plays, their skill position players have the elusiveness and speed to take full advantage.
What is also clear is that the two teams match up very well against each other.
Auburn has been able to simply out-score their SEC opponents, protecting a pass defense that ranked 106th (out of 120 teams) in the FBS. Though Oregon's running attack, led by Heisman finalist LaMichael James, rightly gets most of the attention, how Auburn's secondary is able to handle the passing of Darron Thomas will be key. Few realize that Thomas tied Stanford's Andrew Luck with a sparkling 28 touchdown passes to lead the Pac-10 during the regular season -- or that the sophomore Thomas accomplished this with 28 fewer attempts.
Auburn has the beef inside with Nick Fairley and an active inside linebacker in Josh Bynes to potentially slow James, but it won't do any good if Thomas and the Ducks' prolific passing attack gets hot against the Tigers' vulnerable secondary.
It is the Oregon defense's ability to match up against Heisman winner Cam Newton, however, that will ultimately determine whether the Pac-10 or SEC champion will get to hoist the BCS Championship trophy.
Oregon isn't as heavy on the defensive line as the Tigers, but possess their own playmaking defensive tackle in Brandon Bair, who led the Pac-10's interior defensive linemen with 15.5 tackles for loss.
If Bair is capable of collapsing the pocket, it will allow Oregon to keep their back seven in coverage and allow the Ducks' inside linebacker Casey Matthews to serve as a spy of sorts against Newton.
SEC teams have tried and failed to incorporate a spy against Newton. Newton has proven far too athletic for linebackers to handle him and much too big for safeties.
Matthews is neither particularly physical nor speedy, but does present a different problem for Newton and the Tigers -- he is one of the country's most instinctive defenders and, just as importantly, more reliable open field tacklers.
If Matthews is able to corral Newton, the Heisman Trophy winner will have to rely on just his passing to beat the Ducks. While NFL scouts would certainly love to see Newton's accuracy in the pocket put to this type of test, Auburn fans would not. Oregon's secondary has long been a strength (consider they've sent Patrick Chung, Jairus Byrd, T.J. Ward and Walter Thurmond into the NFL the past two years) and feature two sophomores in cornerback Cliff Harris and free safety John Boyett headed that way. Newton has impressed with his passing ability, but if forced to stay in the pocket, he could struggle against this athletic secondary.
Clearly, there are many factors that could determine a game this closely matched, not the least of which is how each team handles the long layoff.
In the end, however, the winner of Newton and Matthews' one on one matchup is most likely to determine the 2010 BCS Champion.