Friday, June 22, 2007

The Strange Saga of Jerrell Powe

Jerrell Powe graduated from high school in 2005. He is a prototype defensive tackle at 6'3" and 345 pounds, and was a 5-star player out of high school. He briefly committed to LSU. Then he briefly committed to Auburn. Finally, he committed to Ole Miss, saying he wanted to stay in the state of Mississippi. The problem? He couldn't qualify. The rumors? He could not read.

He was unable to qualify for the 2005 season and went to Hargrave Military Academy to get his qualifications in order. He took a lot of BYU correspondence courses, which many people consider to be something of a fraud. The NCAA, after a series of lawsuits, determined that Powe was not eligible for the 2006 season in which he also wanted to enroll at Ole Miss.

There was also an article where Powe's mother allegedly said, "Jerrell really is a good child, but he just can't read." The message boards lit up, and people questioned anew the validity of whatever Jerrell has accomplished so far.

Now it appears that he may make himself eligible, two years after graduating high school. The new problem? Ole Miss may decide they don't want him anymore. Montgomery, Alabama attorney Donald Jackson is working hard to convince the NCAA to clear him and to convince Ole Miss to take him. If Ole Miss doesn't, his recruiting will open up to other SEC schools. Says Mr. Jackson about the prospect of other schools being offered Mr. Powe's services: "The first thing they're going to do is sh-- in their britches. And then after they get that cleaned up, they're going to say, 'What do we need to do to make this happen?'"

They say he's really that good.

There are reasons to take Jerrell Powe:
  • He's allegedly really really good.
  • If you don't take him, you'll probably end up facing him during the season.
  • He'll be eligible for the NFL after this year, so he probably won't clog up your depth chart for a long period of time.
  • You get to tell the world you took the unselfish act of allowing a troubled young man a chance to pursue his dream.
  • Absolutely no one has said that Jerrell is a bad kid.
There are reasons not to take Jerrell Powe:
  • He won't exactly reverse a school's reputation of taking football more seriously than academics.
  • If he is cleared and plays, and then his eligibility is somehow revoked, it is possible that the school will be forced to forfeit games in which he played. I don't know the rules on this, but I certainly don't take a chance on a kid I know may have these kind of problems.
  • It is clear that the NCAA is not backing this kid, and going to bat for him could lead to retaliation in the future.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. I'm rooting for the kid. If he really has the kinds of learning problems that are rumored, you have to wonder what his parents and teachers were doing about it back when he was about 7 or 8 years old. It appears they only started trying to help him his academic difficulties became embarrassing to them. If that's true, and I don't want to say for certain that it is, Mr. Powe is to some extent a victim of indifference by his parents and exploitation by his schools. If getting into school helps him overcome that, good for him.

That said, I'm not sure I want him at LSU. We have outstanding depth and quality at defensive tackle. Adding a one-and-done supposed star who may not be eligible for a bowl game could harm chemistry and morale more than it helps the on-field talent. This, of course, assumes that we have a scholarship available to give him. But then again, I don't want him lining up for Auburn or Bama either. If he's really that good, he'd be perfect for Bama, whose primary team weakness right now appears to be a lack of quality defensive tackle.

Let's just say this is one of those situations where I'm going to trust the judgment of Les Miles, whatever he decides to do.

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