Dear Andy: Deion Sanders' future, Baylor's QB change, and using NIL to get around scholarship limits

Dear Andy: Deion Sanders’ future, Baylor’s QB change, and using NIL to get around scholarship limits

Coach Prime keeps making moves, and you have questions…

Your colleagues were discussing how they believe Deion Sanders will be the head coach at Florida State sooner rather than later, and seemed very assured about it. My question is: Why? Deion gets headlines, but not necessarily for the right reasons, and he has not endeared himself to the boosters (both old and young, like myself). What is your take on this?

—Matt

Stewart Mandel answered a similar question from reader Brad in his mailbag on Wednesday, so pardon my doubling up. But I think everyone is missing the point when they discuss whether Sanders will wind up the head coach at Florida State. Yes, Sanders played for the Seminoles. But given what he’s done in a short time at Jackson State, do we really think only one FBS school would be interested in hiring him if he continues to succeed on the field and on the recruiting trail? Forget Florida State. If Sanders wins 11 games again this season or reels in some more top-100 recruits, he might have a list of schools trying to hire him.

Yes, Prime Prep—Sanders’ foray into high school football—was a disaster. But athletic directors are willing to overlook previous issues if a coach has succeeded at his most recent stop. And make no mistake, Sanders has succeeded at Jackson State. The Tigers went 11-2 and won the SWAC last season. Sanders requested the top-ranked player in the class of 2022 away from his alma mater to attend an FCS school. If Sanders was named Bob Smith, played DB at John Carroll and grinded his way through the levels of college football as a graduate assistant, small-school position coach and small-school coordinator, we’d be hailing him as the next hot FBS coaching candidate. But because he’s maybe the best cornerback who ever played and he just dropped into college coaching and started doing this, Sanders isn’t viewed through the same lens.

The first mistake is assuming the only place Sanders could coach is Florida State. It makes sense because it’s his alma mater, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only option. Plus, I still haven’t given up on Mike Norvell as the Seminoles’ coach. The roster still needs work and the start to 2021 was terrible, but Norvell got his team to play hard for him down the stretch. Because of the financial aftermath of Willie Taggart’s hiring and quick firing, the Seminoles would have to be in pretty dire straits to fire another coach and eat another buyout so quickly. If they show signs of improvement in 2022, Norvell should be OK.

But other programs are in different places, and if Sanders has another good season, he might be a — wait for it — prime candidate when/if those jobs come open.

Which programs? How about Georgia Tech? Geoff Collins needs to win this year, or the Yellow Jackets may be looking elsewhere. Given what Sanders has been able to do recruiting at Jackson State — he just got a class of 2023 commitment from three-star Fairburn, Ga., receiver Robert Lockhart — imagine him at an ACC school in the middle of Atlanta.

Staying in the ACC, what if Dave Doeren — who looks to have his best NC State team in 2022 — has a great season and gets a massive raise to go elsewhere? What kind of talent could Sanders recruit to Raleigh?

What if, after a massive staff overhaul because of alleged NCAA violations, Arizona State has a bad season and fires Herm Edwards? Arizona State’s facilities aren’t the best in the Pac-12, but they’re a lot better than what Sanders inherited at Jackson State. At any of these places, Sanders would be able to bring in higher-rated recruiting classes than the current coaches. His name alone gets him in any door, if only because the recruit wants an audience with Deion Sanders. The staff he hired at Jackson State has proven capable, so it stands to reason he could hire a quality staff at any stop further up the food chain.

Plus, Sanders at a Power 5 school might finally produce the juicy behind-the-scenes documentary the college football world has been craving. Reader Justin asked a few weeks ago why there isn’t a college football series that comes close in terms of access or drama to F1: Drive to Survive. Sanders’ Coach Prime docuseries is the closest thing college football has provided to that. Now imagine it in Tempe.

That might actually get the Pac-12 Network distributed.

Dave Aranda naming Blake Shapen as the starter in time for Gerry Bohanon to transfer is such an Aranda move. However, the classiness of that move has kinda overshadowed the (at least on a surface level) shock value of replacing a returning senior QB that led Baylor to literally its best season in school history (highest AP poll finish, most wins). This got me thinking, when was the last time a successful returning QB lost his job before the next season (let alone after Spring)?

—Clayton

If you listen to the podcast interview with Aranda that I published Monday, his decision to name Shapen the starter in time for Bohanon to make the best decision for himself is completely on-brand for Aranda. (It also may give us a hint about how the Baylor staff views redshirt freshman QB Kyron Drones.) But it isn’t as if Shapen came out of nowhere. He was named the offensive MVP of the Big 12 title game while filling in for an injured Bohanan.

There aren’t many prominent examples of an incumbent being unseated this early. Texas QB Jerrod Heard started 10 games in 2015, missed the season finale due to injury and switched to receiver in preseason camp after missing spring practice with a shoulder injury. Then-freshman Shane Buechele took over at QB. It happened at Connecticut this year, too. Steven Krajewski finished last season as the Huskies’ starter, but he put his name in the transfer portal this week after spring practice showed that Penn State transfer Ta’Quan Roberson would be the likely QB1.

Had the transfer rules been in their current state in 2018, that may have been how the Alabama QB competition played out. After Tua Tagovailoa replaced Jalen Hurts in the second half of the national title game and led the Crimson Tide to an overtime win against Georgia, it seemed obvious Tagovailoa would be Alabama’s starter in 2018. But coach Nick Saban stretched the competition into preseason camp. That probably wouldn’t have happened under the current rules. In 2018, staying at Alabama for the fall was Hurts’ best option. He hadn’t graduated, so he could have transferred after spring practice, sat out 2018 and played at a new school in 2019 or played 2018 at Alabama, graduated and played at a new school in 2019. Either way, he couldn’t play at the next place until 2019. So he stayed, which allowed him to save Alabama’s bacon in the 2018 SEC title game before then transferring to Oklahoma for 2019. Had the current rules been in place, Hurts and Tagovailoa probably would have forced a choice so that the player who didn’t win the job could transfer and start elsewhere that fall.

Aranda did the right thing by not dragging out the competition to hold one of the QBs hostage. The deadline to enter the transfer portal and play at another school in 2022 is Sunday. This gives Bohanon a chance to find somewhere to play immediately if he wishes.

There is, of course, a risk to do the right thing. In 2013, Florida coach Will Muschamp wanted to be fair to QBs Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett by making a decision early. He chose Driskel, and Brissett transferred to NC State. Driskel broke his leg in Week 3 against Tennessee, and without a capable backup the offense was a disaster the rest of the way. Florida went 4-8 that season. The difference in Baylor’s case is that the 6-2, 222-pound Drones looks more capable than anyone Florida had behind Driskel that season.

Super leagues, Conference Realignment, NCAA Constitutions, a lot of changes are being postulated. If a super league occurs and you’re named the commissioner, what are you doing to ensure a fun, interesting product that doesn’t alienate large swaths of college fandom and keeps the league distinct from an NFL minor league?

—Mike

I’m putting games on television involving teams affiliated with large universities on Saturdays in the fall (and sometimes on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays). Those games will be attended by people who attended those universities and participate in crazy/funny/weird cheers unique to those universities. There probably will also be marching bands.

That’ll pretty much do it.

Look, I know a lot of you who ask questions for this column and Stewart Mandel’s column are worried about all the changes. Change can be scary sometimes. But remember, for every one of you, there are 100 times more who don’t give a rip about any of this regulatory stuff and just want to watch the games when they’re on. Give them the games — which is what ESPN, Fox, etc. will be paying huge money to broadcast—and they’ll be perfectly happy. Those entities investing all that money in televising those games are going to make damn sure there are games to broadcast.

A lot of fans are speculating/hoping that schools can use NIL to get around scholarship limits: Arrange enough NIL to cover the full cost of attendance and then some for certain players, take those players off scholarship and give those scholarships to someone else, in essence having 105 people on full ride. Possible/legal, or an uninformed pipe dream? To be fair I’ve seen it more in connection with basketball, but the principle is the same.

—Jeffrey

This is definitely possible, and I’ve spoken to several coaches worried about the possibility of losing scholarship players to walk-on NIL deals at wealthier schools.

But there is a number that the wealthier schools and any players who might take such a deal aren’t considering: 11.

That’s how many people can play at one time. I realize the occasional Matt Cassel has slipped into the NFL without playing much in college, but that’s the exception. The vast majority of NFL players started and played extensively in college. So giving up a scholarship and a starting or rotation spot at, say, a Group of 5 school to be a third- or fourth-team walk-on at a Power 5 school probably isn’t very smart if the goal is to play in the NFL. If the goal is to obtain a degree from that particular school and use its alumni network to further your career, then by all means take the walk-on deal.

But take it from someone who was a human tackling dummy on a national title team. If your goal is to play in college and possibly the NFL and you’re transferring in as a walk-on third-teamer, you’re probably making a huge mistake.

Some players may make that mistake. If they do, oh well. Hopefully, someone will take their scholarship slot at the other school and put it to good use. The only part that needs to be tweaked is ensuring those scholarship spots get filled. There may need to be a loosening of annual scholarship limits — while keeping the total limit at 85 — to ensure available scholarships go to serving players.

Random Ranking

I had two incredible suggestions this week, so I let the people decide what I ranked. Jonathan wanted me to rank TV drama theme songs, and Jesse wanted me to rank Rick Moranis movies. I put a poll on Twitter on Tuesday, and Moranis edged the themes.

Before we start, we need to establish some ground rules. A few weeks ago, I ranked the best non-Batman movies starring actors who had played Batman. Val Kilmer steals every scene in which he appears in Tombstone, but I was viewing that as a Kurt Russell movie. When the ranking appeared, I wished I’d set the criteria differently and included Tombstone, which is one of my favorite movies. So for Moranis movies, we will establish the threshold for his involvement as Ghostbusters. He wasn’t one of the top-billed stars, but he owned much of the movie. He also inspired my 2020 Halloween costume.

On to the ranking…

1. Spaceballs

2. Little Giants

3.Strange Brew

4. Ghostbusters

5. Little Shop of Horrors

6. Brewster’s Millions

7. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

8. Parenthood

9. My Blue Heaven

10. Ghostbusters II

(Photo: Charles A. Smith/Jackson State University via Getty Images)

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