Earlier this summer, Marcell Dareus flew to south Florida and attended a party at which agents were present. The 280-pound defensive MVP denies coming into any direct contact with a sports agent and asserts his plane ticket was paid for by dually-investigated Marvin Austin of UNC.
With just a little under a week before the Crimson Tide kicks off their preseason No. 1 season, the NCAA, predictably, has yet to confirm any ruling on Dareus’ eligibility.
If Dareus is ruled ineligible for the 2010 season, it will be a hindrance to the young defensive line but won’t be a season-changer.
During the commencement of SEC play in 2009 season, Dont’a Hightower lined up against a Ryan Mallett-led Arkansas offense. After the snap, Mitch Petrus lowered his helmet at Hightower’s left knee, and Hightower fell to the turf.
However, to the silenced horror in Bryant-Denny Stadium, Hightower didn’t get up. Hightower’s knee had been completely shattered, tearing his ACL and meniscus. Fans in the stadium and at home watched morosely as trainers flexed Hightower’s ruined knee, only for it to resemble that of a Jell-O mold.
615944023_uk6d5-m_original_crop_358x243 Undra Billingsley will replace Marcell Dareus if ruled ineligable by NCAA investigation.
The 35-7 thrashing of Arkansas was deafened by a major blow to the Alabama D-line, and fans commenced writing online obituaries for what they thought was a championship season. The moment a somber Dont’a was driven to the locker room, Nick Saban was contemplating behind his vulnerable, weary eyes.
Nico Johnson, a true freshman linebacker from Andalusia, Alabama, stepped into Hightower’s rather large shoes. Johnson would later receive an All-SEC selection from Sporting News magazine, and Alabama would finish the season No. 2 in total defense.
Marcell Dareus is a superb talent—big, strong, surprisingly agile, and NFL-ready; moreover, it should come as a surprise that he started but four games last year. He is an important asset to the ‘Bama D, but not integral. There are plenty of defensive prospects that are starving for playing time and recognition.
One of those prospects could be highly-touted 2008 recruit Damien Square. Square is fresh off a knee injury and has the size and speed to light up quarterbacks all season long. Whether Dareus plays or not, fans can expect Square to play in some defensive scheme this season; he’s simply too good not to play.
Undra Billingsley is more likely to take the helm—Billingsley, an athlete who could play on both sides of the ball, shares much the same qualities of Dareus and will be a star once No. 57 inevitably departs for the NFL.
If Dareus’ claims are misleading, it’s justifiable that fans feel disappointed and frustrated, especially in lieu of Robby Green’s recent ineligibility ruling. However, it’s impractical to declare that the sky is falling and the season is lost because of one player. Marcell, in fact, may not have done anything wrong.
In 2009, the NCAA waited until mere days before the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game to give a ruling on an investigation involving Julio Jones and future Heisman winner Mark Ingram. The two, of course, participated in the opener, and the rest was history.
In the coming days, Alabama fans will be waiting with bated breath and readying their blogs. Tide fans will hope to breathe a sigh of relief; if so, the teams on Alabama’s schedule will no doubt breathe a sigh of dread.