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Monday QB: USA Jags, LaGarrette Blount and the peril of college football openers

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Thoughts from the first weekend of the college football season …
I’ve been doing this football thing … high school, college and professional … for a long time, but I’ve never covered a program just starting out before.

I’ve got to believe, though, that the show South Alabama rolled out Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium is the blueprint for any college program trying to break into the big-time.

All week I read with amusement the myopic viewpoints of callers to the local newspaper’s readership feedback line and couldn’t help but wonder how stupid some of these people are to say that USA football is a “waste of time” and that it’ll never be on par with the state’s two largest college football programs.

Well, on one weekend  (their first weekend, I might add) South Alabama football was greeted by its fan base ... almost 30,000 of them ... with as much enthusiasm as any college program in the country.

The fans were as knowledgeable as you would expect football followers in the state of Alabama to be, and the school put on a first-class show … from the discipline and toughness Coach Joey Jones’ guys played with in a 30-13 win over Hargrave, to the professionalism with which Assistant AD (football) Brian Fremund ran his press box.

Throw in a first class marching band that looked like it had been playing together for years, wildly enthusiastic tailgate parties all over the parking lot and a great looking group of young women showing high school recruits around, and ... well, you get the idea.

Great job Jags. It can only get better from here.

I don’t know suspended Oregon running back LaGarrette Blount.

I have no know idea what Boise State’s Byron Hout said to him after Thursday night’s game that made Blount drop the hulking defensive end with a vicious right cross to the jaw.

And I have no clue what went on in meetings with Oregon’s staff and college administration that led to Blount being able to retain his scholarship, but be ineligible to play the rest of the season.

But, I do know this … Oregon not throwing the Perry, Florida, senior out in the cold because he had a stupid, ill-thought lapse in judgment may go a long way toward saving this guy from being just another has-been football player roaming the streets.

Regardless what you believe, too many big-time college programs could care less what happens to players once they’ve left campus.
There are horror stories about players not even being welcome back to take a shower at schools after their playing days are done.

Now, this isn’t Blount’s first run-in with trouble at Oregon since transferring from East Mississippi Junior College two years ago.
But it could very well be his saving grace that Oregon didn’t just dump him despite obvious anger issues.

Before the punch seen ‘round the country Thursday night, Blount was projected to be a second-round NFL draft choice next spring.

I heard some college football television analysts say that might be out the window now, but I called an NFL scout friend of mine Sunday who told me if Blount continues to practice and keeps out of trouble there are still teams in the league … including his … who’ll give him a serious look come draft time.

And that’s where Oregon is to be commended.
Letting Blount know that he … and only he … now controls his pro football destiny from here is a good move.

Letting him know they were willing to help him with that goal, by allowing him to pursue the education he might very well have to use now … unlike so many other pro players … is an even classier move.

Blount better be thanking God for folks who stayed on his side … instead of throwing him out with tomorrow’s trash.

College football’s opening weekend is one of the most nerve-wracking of any school’s major sports.

A team can be highly ranked in basketball, lose the first game and still have 30 or more left to get back to the top.

Likewise college baseball seasons are long enough to let teams hit a slump and still rebound in time to make a run at a championship.

But for football teams like Alabama, Florida, Southern Cal, Texas, Ohio State and Ole Miss, a victory in this past weekend’s slate of opening games was a win-or-else prospect.

Just ask Oklahoma.

Not only did it lose quarterback Sam Bradford for a least four weeks with a shoulder injury in a gut-wrenching loss to Brigham Young, but it almost assuredly has rocked their chances of any national title consideration.

Next up on the hot seat?
Southern Cal at Ohio State this Saturday.

The loser won’t be out of it, but with at least four other major college programs … including Brigham Young … now primed to run the table and go undefeated … the loser of that one will be looking up out of a big hole.
 

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