Before the season, it was hoped that the defensive tackle rotation would help strengthen the front 7. In the 30 players/30 Days feature, I said the group's success or failure may depend on the progression of one guy: Daylon Mack.
While the defense as a whole continues to struggle, the rush defense is much improved to date. And a lot of that has to do with Mack's play.
He only has 6 tackles, but only Armani Watts has more tackles for loss than Mack's 3. He got his first career start Saturday, passing up the most consistent DT on the roster, Zaycoven Henderson. He's finally become a force to be reckoned with, forcing and defeating double teams. When he's on the field, especially with Kingsley Keke, teams don't run up the Middle on A&M. Teams have resorted to misdirection and sweeps to gain yardage. That's something they must continue to adjust to, but this is a far cry better than last year.
Add in Justin Madubuike and Jayden Peevy (who is way ahead of where I thought he'd be) to the rotation with Mack and Keke next year and the group should be even more formidable.
Get a good look at college hoops. A lot's about to change.
I've seen commentary on yesterday's arrests and indictments around college basketball that describe it as "Armageddon". Honestly, that's probably not too far from the truth. This situation will crush many prominent programs and will alter the balance of power significantly.
I follow football recruiting much more closely than basketball recruiting for a number of reasons. One of the reasons I try to avoid it is there are only so many showers you can take to get off the slime. Let's be real here: there's a lot of players getting paid and a lot of dirty deeds in football recruiting -- and you'd feel like you're dealing with Billy Graham and Saint John Paul II in comparison to what's going on in basketball recruiting.
It's not a surprise that assistants were indicted yesterday. That happened for several reasons: first, they're the guys who actually have their fingerprints on things, for plausible deniability reasons; second, those guys will flip. One of the most obvious but unstated truths about hoops recruiting is that AAU coaches have become glorified street agents for top players. Assistants who have the "responsibility" of dealing with AAU coaches at a lot of major programs are the bagmen.
I have seen efforts by major football programs (through boosters) try to buy players. The largest effort was in 2015, and the desperate program didn't really get the return on the investment it wanted (i.e. struck out with everyone except one). But I've heard very strong rumors about programs essentially buying teams in college basketball.
What I'm telling you here isn't exactly classified. A few minutes around this stuff and you'll know. The NCAA knew and was too impotent to actually do something about it. So the feds went right around them and did the investigating themselves, humiliating the NCAA as the overseer of college athletics found out at the same time we did.
Looking at the programs who have been busted so far, I can't really say that I'm surprised by any of them. Maybe South Carolina, but they got good fast and that's always something that can draw attention. But Auburn? Bruce Pearl. No shock. Oklahoma State? No shock there. Arizona? I wonder if this dated back to Lute Olsen.
And Louisville? Rick Pitino? That was a gimme. And if there's ever a reason for the death penalty to be used, Louisville basketball is begging for it.
Let's see here: the program is already on probation for multiple high-level violations, including hiring prostitutes to sleep with recruits on official visits. Pitino was suspended for that, but claimed ignorance. He did the same yesterday, when it came out that Louisville's assistants had funneled $100,000 to land a recruit, who was unnamed but was clearly freshman Brian Bowen.
Yeah, right. And John Gotti had no clue what was going on in his crime syndicate.
Yesterday, the teams in trouble all had ties to Adidas, which has to make A&M a little nervous. But today, the FBI is investigating Nike and their ties to programs. When you have both of the Big 2 shoe companies involved in a multi-year, multi-layer conspiracy, it looks ugly. I suspect that there will be many more high-powered programs that are going to get implicated in this, and the NCAA will have little choice but to crush them (and may do it gladly).
The fallout is already spreading: Alabama, which landed a number of bigtime recruits for new coach Avery Johnson last fall, had its director of basketball operations resign tonight. Right now, Arizona, Louisville, Auburn, Alabama, Oklahoma State, Miami, South Carolina and USC have already been drilled.
And now the FBI is working in the open, with the (supposed) assistance of the NCAA. It's just my opinion, but this is going to get bloody and will change the virtually everything we know about college hoops. It's one thing to try to skirt the pathetic NCAA; it's another when you're messing with time in federal prison.