Should Marcel Dareus and Mark Ingram Really be at Alabama?

One of the topics that comes up when talking about oversigning is the competitive edge that is gained by schools that abuse the signing process and accept more signed letters of intent on national signing day than they have room for under the 85 limit mandated by the NCAA.  As we have mentioned a million times, they can do this because the NCAA, until just recently, did not limit the number of players that can be signed each year.  They have since set the cap to 28 per year, but that is still an issue and nothing more than window dressing, but we'll get into that at another time.

The idea regarding the competitive advantage is that oversigning affords teams the ability to look at a larger pool of players and keep the best 85.  Typically speaking, the teams that sign the most players are also the teams that have the highest number of medical hardships, transfers, and number of players just cut from their scholarships.

Mark Ingram and Marcel Dareus were verbal commitments 29 and 30 in Alabama's 2008 recruiting class.  Let that sink in for a second - 29 and 30.  Dareus was a 3 star product out of the state of Alabama that was not highly recruited because of questions regarding his ability to qualify academically and Ingram was a 4 star out of Michigan who was being recruited by Michigan State and Iowa, but he too was a somewhat under the radar recruit.  It's not to say these guys were nobodies, but for all intents and purposes, neither of these guys were in the mold of Julio Jones, a 5 star in state recruit that everyone in the country wanted but who was a dead lock to go to Alabama and just waited until signing day to sign with Alabama.

Ingram turned out to be a Heisman Trophy winner and Dareus turned out to be the MVP of the National Championship Game.

These two guys really give us the best example of the competitive edge oversigning provides.

In the recruiting years leading up to Alabama's 2008 class of 32, Alabama signed 29, 32, 23, and 25 players.  That is 109 players signed, plus the 32 in 2008 and that is 141 players signed in a 5 year span.  Granted, Alabama was coming off of scholarship reductions from being placed on probation for paying a high school coach to steer a player to Alabama, but 141 players in 5 years is astronomically high. 

For reference, here are the 5 year numbers for a few other schools. 

Notre Dame: 16, 15, 28, 18, 23 = 100
Ohio State: 24, 18, 20, 15, 20 = 97 
Texas 20, 15, 25, 24, 20 = 104

Those are just a few -- do you see the pattern? 

This leads us to wonder, had oversigning been banned from college football entirely, would Mark Ingram and Marcel Dareus be at Alabama right now?  Were their scholarship spots made available by 2 of the 12 medical hardship cases that freed up football scholarships at Alabama and enabled Nick Saban to stay under 85 each year?  In Ingram's case it is possible that he might have ended up at Alabama regardless because of his father's connection to Nick Saban, but according to reports and in looking at when Ingram verbally committed, it wasn't until really late in the recruiting period and Saban had already landed more verbal commitments than he had room for under the 85 limit.  If Saban were to land Ingram under rules that didn't allow oversigning, then Ingram would have had to commit much earlier in the process and someone else wouldn't be allowed to sign - given that Julio Jones didn't sign until signing day, you have to imagine that Saban would hold a spot for him.  Instead, Saban was able to take LOI from Ingram and Dareus, despite being over, and still accepted Jones'.  He got them all and NO ONE ever raised a flag that there wasn't room for them all.

When we talk about the competitive advantage gained by oversigning, this is exactly what we are talking about.

Ironically, Mark Ingram was recruited by Michigan State (and Iowa), who at the time was carrying Arthur Ray Jr. on a football scholarship despite his medical condition -- who knows, had oversigning been banned, Mark Ingram and Arthur Ray could have been on the same team, instead, it's possible that kid at Alabama was pushed towards a medical hardship or into a transfer in order to make room for him.

Michigan State and Iowa both had room for Ingram and had he signed there, no one from those teams would have to be pushed out of the football program in order to make room, but instead, Ingram went to Alabama, a place that really didn't have room for him at the time, a place where 11 kids that year vacated their football scholarships, some transferred, some took medical hardships, some were arrested, some didn't make the grades, and some opted for the MLB.

Many people revere Alabama's backfield with Ingram and Richardson as the best in the country hands down -- some people ask, "who has a better backfield?"  The real question is, "who else was allowed to sign 141 players in a 5 year period from 2004-2008?"

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  1. I’m coming to the conclusion that without the crutch of oversigning, the SEC could not compete with the rest of the country.

    In other words, without oversigning the SEC are a bunch of sissies who can’t win any other way.

    If the SEC had to recruit the way other schools recruit, then the SEC would be just a mediocre conference. Pussies.

  2. Before the SEC/Alabama slappies pile in here I want to add my 2 cents. It is clear that SEC coaches use every advantage they have to put the best players on the field. If the machine chews up players that aren’t producing then too bad. After all, this is BIG BOY football and the coach is paid $4M to produce championships. This is BS–and the toothless NCAA will never step in to do anything about it, at least in the near term. The schools that do right by the student athletes are going to lose more often than not, but as more and more newspapers and websites like this one shine a light on this practice the time will come when the SEC will be shown for what it is. I’m only sorry that players on these teams arent being given this information before they sign.

  3. Without oversigning we’d likely hear far less about SEC >>speed<< – – as that conference’s superior advantage, and would see the SEC for what it truly is without its real advantage, semi-pro roster management and turnover: a pedestrian league continually plagued by roster shortfalls due to chronic academic casualties.

  4. Does the system that Saban uses give him a competitive advantage? Yes, but comptetive advantage is a weak arguement against oversigning. Saban’s renowned work ethic also gives him a competitive advantage because “the vast majority of coaches” choose not to work from dawn to well past dusk year around. The vast majority of schools also choose not to invest millions of dollars in facilities including stadiums seating 100,000+ and guess what? Those things provide a competitive advantage too. If a coach decides not to account for projected attrition by oversigning, so be it, but that choice shouldn’t be forced on a coach who is using the practice properly.

  5. Vesper, “projected attrition” is a very loose term, especially when your coach decides who the attrition will be. Injuries and academic casualties happen everywhere…of course. But what Bama does and many other SEC teams do is much more akin to “cuts” than simply medical hardship. It is not illegal, but definitely immoral, and the point of this blog is to end this practice for the sake of the kids who are getting screwed by the people who brought them in.

    Building the best facilities and having huge fan bases does not hurt any of the players. Oversigning does.

    • Marcus Hall is STILL ON SCHOLARSHIP, and he STILL COUNTS IN THE 85. He still goes to school, and can practice with the team. He can’t play in games. OSU was not over 85, and as such redshirting him could not be construed as a method of getting under the scholarship limit.

      I guess I just don’t see how that is anywhere near the same as a guy like Elliot Porter. He too, was academically qualified, and enrolled. He however, is not on scholarship, not going to school at LSU, and is not practicing with the team. And, oh yeah, LSU was over the 85 at the time he was encouraged to leave. So maybe, just maybe, they released him as a means of getting under 85.

      • I guess I just don’t see how he was ‘squeezed out’ if he is still IN the progam, ON SCHOLARSHIP, IN practice, and IN class.

        “Squeezed out” would seem more likely to apply to players who LOSE THEIR SCHOLARHSIP for no reason other than to get under the 85 limit. Clearly that was not the case with Hall.

        • Redshirting a player can happen for many reasons. Lots of Freshman are qualified and ready to play but get redshirted. This can be an advantage to the player, who will then get more opportunity to play later. Also, redshirting goes both ways. Yes the player does not play, but the team has one less player to use in case of injuries, etc.

          The medical hardship exception on the other hand, if used improperly, does not hurt the team, it improves the team by cutting a player to make room for another (presumably better) player, and the team still has the full 85 players to use.

        • Wow. Not sure why the personal attacks but anyway…as was stated, Marcus Hall redshirting for whatever reasons will give him more time to play and will actually tie up a scholarship longer. It is in Hall’s best interest to redshirt as he will have more years as a starter for a school he wants to play at. It is not in somebodies best interest to get cut because they would not play, if that is the school they want to play at and attend. And keep in mind, football is not the only reason they choose a school. They may actually have friends there too. Marcus Hall will be at OSU for 5 years, taking up a scholarship for all 5 years and hopefully fulfilling his dreams of an OSU education and a chance at the NFL. Something that none of the oversigning cuts can say.

          What’s ironic is that I am actually an OSU and Bama fan, as my dad went to Bama and I grew up cheering for them as my second team. But what they (and others) are doing really sucks for the kids it hurts. OSU is not hurting players by giving them a better chance at succeeding at OSU.

          I will now go back to the orphanage I volunteer at.

          • Do you work in the tOSU AD? You seem privy to a lot of what goes down there. The “sole reason” based on what information other than what Hall and Jim Tressel have said? You expect us to accept that every word out of Nick Saban’s mouth is the truth, but not Jim Tressel? Why is Nick’s (sorry, CNS) word not a heap of garbage? You use words like “obvious” “sole reason” but unless you can offer more than your opinion, you are sucking on the same pablum you accuse Ohio State fans of swallowing. Hall was not red-shrited because Tressel oversigned and had to cut him, which is what this discussion is about, not the reason Hall was redshirted, but why Tressel didn’t need him to be.

          • You’re doing an excellent job of modeling disingenuous sanctimonious pablum. Now back to the original topic.

        • Hall’s explanation of why he is redshirting despite the fact that he is qualified:
          “Due to the fact that I didn’t satisfactorily complete my academic responsibilities, I will be redshirting during the 2010 season. I’m looking at this in a positive way – as an opportunity to get better on and off the field, to get stronger in the classroom, and be better prepared all-around for the rest of my time at Ohio State. I will still be practicing every day, not just to help myself get better, but to help my teammates get better.”

          So that I am clear, is it your opinion that this ‘dubious’ redhsirt practice is morally and ethically equivalent to Porter’s release?

          • Again I ask, is it your opinion that this ‘dubious’ redhsirt practice is morally and ethically equivalent to Porter’s release?

            • My error, let me rephrase the question. Is it your opinion that the Hall redshirt is morally and ethically equivalent to Porter’s grayshirt offer?

          • DeepSthBoy,

            You do realize what an idiot you are making yourself out to be don’t you.

            Many schools, including Vanderbilt in the SEC, have academic requirements that are higher than the NCAA minimum requirements to participate in sports as a scholarship athlete.

            Jim Tressel is known for being very strict about his players having their academics in order. For an example of that, you can look up the number of players that have missed games (both regular season and bowl games) because of missing or being late to class.

            Hall met the NCAA guidelines, but he did not meet the school’s and Tressel’s guidelines therefor he was allowed to enroll, practice, and be part of the team in every way except play this year. He still takes up a scholarship, he still practices with the team, he still goes to classes, he just doesn’t play.

            Just because he met NCAA guidelines does not mean that he met Ohio State’s and his coach’s guidelines.

            • The problem DSB is that what IndyBuckeye is saying is what Jim Tressel and Hall have given as the reason for the red shirt. In your post you said the “sole reason” was “Hall was neither a freshman nor was he hurt. OSU simply had an ample number of big bodies to run out there this year and they are fearful that the supply may dwindle next year and beyond” which is nothing but speculation on your part. As I said you expect us to accept everything that CNS (LOL)says is gospel but everything Tressel says is crap. Have you ever questioned the validity of anything CNS has said? Are you not sucking the ‘Bama teat? Sure you are. Good boy

    • Ah, but you are switching arguements. If you wish to debate as to whether or not oversigning is immoral or hurts players, we can do that. But the premise of this article is that oversigning is bad because it leads to a competitive advantage. I’m basically saying, so what? Competitive advantage does not make the practice bad nor does it warrant a rules change. Ohio State has a bigger budget, better facilities, more exposure, and superior talent than Eastern Michigan. All of those things provide a significant competitive advantage for Ohio State, so what?

      • You actually have a point here. I’m not really against oversigning from a competitive advantage standpoint, just from a moral standpoint. the competitive advantage doesnt matter because if you do away with oversigning for the right reasons, the advantage will naturally disappear.

        I understand that my team is a beneficiary of the facility arms race that is going on, but again, that does not hurt any players, so I don’t think it’s a big deal. If my team was cutting otherwise good people who we promised a scholarship to, I would have a problem with that, as being on the team is about more than just playing on Saturdays.

        • I agree, they are two separate questions. Competitive advantage is of course the reason “why” coaches do this. They wouldn’t do it if it didn’t. But regardless of “why” coaches do it, the practice itself is immoral.

          • I’m not sure how to respond to this, because it is a strawman argument. Are are you seriously suggesting coaches oversign in the hope some lesser players mess up either academically or in some other way so they can be kicked off?

            • If a player gets kicked off the team for doing something wrong do what other coaches outside the SEC do… make due with the players you already have. Don’t oversign scholarships as a hedge against having players that screw up, and then end up having to screw over kids you recruited but now can’t take.

              It’s really not that hard to understand.

      • I would agree with this. There is is a competitive advantage to oversigning, no doubt. Perhaps the greatest advantage is not getting a kid like Porter ON your roster so much as it is to keep a kid like Porter OFF your rivals’ rosters.

        But I see little reason for schools that do not oversign to complain. They have chosen their own standards. God bless them for doing the right thing. But they should not, IMO, complain about other schools not chossing to do the right thing if the NCAA gives them the loophole to do the wrong thing.

        But what happened to some of these kids is just flat wrong. Porter has to be the landmark case of what is corruption this loophole allows.

        The oversigning loophole should be closed on its inherent lack of fairness to the kids, not because of any competitive imbalance.

    • “Too much depth?” Do you actually watch any Ohio State games? One of the major weaknesses for the past 3-4 years has been poor play at the T position. Hell, Pryor took a shot to the knee against lowly EMU when Mike Adams whiffed on a block; nothing new for Mr. Adams.

      Keep flogging your dead horse on this issue and as you keep telling others; maybe you should do more research and educate yourself.

      • You have no idea what you are talking about. You don’t know what Tressel did or didn’t do. Do you think we are all idiots and can’t see you have a BIG problem when it comes to Ohio State? You are clearly obsessed with a team that a. is not your rival. b. not in your conference and c. has not beaten you in the 3 times the two have played. Michigan fans don’t despise us as much as you do and we have been playing them for 100 years! Seriously man, move on.

        • Really? And what exactly do you know when it comes to Hall? Please enlighten us on your special intel that only you seem to have. Other than what Tressel and Hall have said regarding his RS, what information do you have that disputes it? Why won’t you ADMIT that you are totally full of crap? I don’t post on O-Zone which could be the reason you don’t recognize my name here. Saban oversigns. That is why this site exists. Jim Tressel doesn’t so you need to find something to hang on him and you can’t so you make up stuff and claim to “know” the real reasons for his decisions. Get over it.

          • Do you not understand that Tressel has higher standards for his athletes than just passing their classes. He has benched numerous players for an entire game (or more) simply for being late to classes. If you were half as knowledgeable about what goes on at Ohio State as you are pretending to be, you would know things like that.

            Just because Hall lived up to SEC standards of what is needed to get playing time doesn’t mean that he lived up to Jim Tressel’s standards of what it takes to get playing time.

            If you still don’t understand what we are saying you are obviously either obtuse or just being purposefully contrarian because you realize that you do not have a leg to stand on in this argument.

  6. wow, another stellar piece of writing about oversigning.

    Would Dareus be at Bama? Of course he would. He was the #1 target for DL in his class. He just decided later. If the numbers were less for offers, less offers would have gone out.

    Would Ingram still be there? Of course he would, same situation as above. Saban coached his dad, his mom wanted him down in Tuscaloosa to be coached by Saban because she knew that he would look out for him, like he did Mark Ingram SR.

    As usual, your hatred for anything Bama is showing thru. You want to have your premise taken seriously, but you notice you dont get quite as many references from more credible news sites, because you have taken to just slamming a program and a coach, instead of just highlighting what you think is a bad practice. Kudos to you i guess, you get to feel warm at night, but you are losing any credibility you thought you had people who could actually help you.

    • Couldn’t be further from the truth; I have been contacted by multiple major media outlets for interviews and question and answer sessions. This topic is not going away and is being investigated right now by people all over the country.

  7. Back to the math. How is it not a competitive advantage to have around 40 more players go through your program in a five year period over other top programs? Is it the premise that those other schools don’t want to compete and win? NO, they have taken stances internally about oversigning and breaking promises to children.

    40 more players throught the system!! That is about 1.5 to 2 more recruiting classes in the same time period. In major programs like the ones highlighted, they always find a few “stars” in each class, some known, some unknown. So lets say you find only 5 very good quality players in each of the additional “classes”. That’s anywhere from 5-10 more playmakers on your team. How much better would teams like Ohio State, Texas and Notre Dame be with 5-10 more studs on the team?

    The answer is clear and anyone who denies this can’t hide from the numbers and the impact that having so many more players walk through the door can have on a program.

  8. Banning medical scholarships would HURT the kids more than help them.

    Do you really think these schools are gonna start keeping the scrubs on the roster taking up space? No they’ll just force them to transfer to a smaller school. So instead of being on a medical ship & getting a degree from a big time school like LSU or Alabama, now they’ll get a degree from some rinky dink school like North Alabama or East Louisiana Tech. And that will hurt these kids.

    But then you really don’t care about the kids, you care about the “competetive advantage” that the SEC has over Ohio State.

    So YOU’RE really the bad guy.

  9. Since you missed it up above, can I ask you again?

    Is it your opinion that the Hall redshirt is morally and ethically equivalent to Porter’s grayshirt offer?

    • Thanks for the response. I would tend to agree that the Hall and Porter situations are different animals, and that is sort of the point of my questions. I don’t know if the Hall RS was done for competitive balance or not. It may well have been, and if so, that is not really fair to Hall, IMO. But any unfairness Hall has endured is miniscule compared to what Porter endured, IMO.

      As my post earlier indicated, I think the competitve imbalnce argument is irrelevant. I do think that oversigning can be patently unfair to the student-athletes and needs to be regulated for that reason alone.

      You brought up the Hall RS as an example of the competitive imbalance OSU was trying to gain, and as such expsoing the hypocrisy of the site. You asked if the Hall RS was “ethically solid” and “morally upright”. My questions were to delinieate if you felt Hall- a RS, and Porter-an oversigning casualty- are equivalent. You clarified that there is parallel, but I noticed that you stopped short of saying that they equally “ethically solid” and “morally upright” and I would agree with that.

      As a side note, I doubt many in the OSU camp desired Hall to not be playing this year. His absence leaves them thin at tackle, and I suspect he could have potentially competed for starting spot. I would draw more of a parallel to Rod Woodson… a guy who was going to contribute this year, and his departure leaves Saban thin in experience there. But he needed to leave for off-field reasons. I really doubt Woodson was sent packing to get under 85, because he could have contributed.

  10. Vesper,
    Your argument at the beginning was the stupidest thing I have ever heard. The reason why Alabama has an advantage is because Saban works from dusk until dawn….right. He is the only coach in the nation to do that and this is the reason why he wins. Pull your head out of your azz and realize this is CHEATING! Competitive advantage or whatever you want to call it.

    • Please explain specifically how Alabama is cheating. If you do not respond, I will be forced to conclude that you were just talking out your *** and have absolutely nothing legitimate to back it up with.

  11. I consider it cheating/competitive advantage if you continuously oversign and use medical hardship as a loophole to get rid of players you dont want. You have to be out of your mind if it is a mere coincidence that Alabama has on average more medical hardships then just about any other school in the nation. OUT OF YOUR DAMN MIND! When you take oversigning hand in hand with medical hardship it makes absolute sense. Alabama no matter how good they are will never gain my respect until they start treating these kids as humans and not numbers…ie oversigning.

  12. oh and yes the ‘loophole’ is legal and/or there is no rule in the NCAA rulebook……….yet. We will see how good Alabama/LSU/North Carolina are when they have to follow the 25 and 85 rule and not just hide kids with medical hardships or forcing kids to transfer…..

  13. nope according to everyone who doesnt oversign which is 99% of the teams in college football. Excluding, LSU, Alabama, Ole Miss, UNC and a few other. When a coach sends you a scholarship in the mail, it is a scholarship offer and not a scholarship offer to tryout! I know you get it but you want your team to win no matter if Alabama cheats or not. Alabama is one of the top 5 most penalized teams in the nation for a reason.

    • you info is flawed. And in fact, the Big 10 leads the nation with 55 infractions since 1953. Maybe you should check how clean your own house is before throwing stones around. Bama isnt one of the top 5 penalized teams at all.

  14. A player must be three years removed from his high school graduating class to be eligible for the NFL draft. A player’s redshirting has no effect on one’s draft eligibility.

    Hall redshirting hurt, not helped, OSU’s chances this year. If Tressel wanted to gain a competitive advantage, redshirting Hall was damaging to OSU’s competetive advantage.

    As another poster correctly pointed out above, Bama getting to cut their five weakest players every year in order to give those scholarships to other 4/5 star prospects is a HUGE advantage for Bama and any other school that does this. To say otherwise is totally disingenuous.

    • I suggest you start a blog on this since you have such passion for the topic of abusing red shirts.  Seriously.  Run it up the flag poll with the guys at the WSJ and see if they think it is legit.   Do some research and find stories on historical abuse of the red shirt process, including teams that left a conference because of it.  Get Stewart Mandel on the horn and tell him you have the story of a lifetime, not only do you know that Jim Tressel is screwing his players by abusing a loophole in the red shirting process, you are also the guy who figured out the owner of oversigning.com is an Ohio State fan with an agenda.  

      You can be famous man!  Of course you’ll have prove all of these things, but hey what else do you have to do?  The cool part for me is that I’ll get troll your site and tell everyone the story about how abusingredshirts.com started.

      • DeepSthBoy,
        If you had any sense you would see how “deep” tOSU OL was this year. It was so deep they had to start a true freshman at RT. Before you speak and claim someone is misusing redshirting do check on the roster to save yourself the embarassment. As for Sabino it is well known that he has all the talent in the world, but hasn’t put it all together. He was 17 yrs old when he started at OSU. I do have a source within the program familiar with the Sabino situation and the coaching staff is regretful they didn’t RS Sabino as a freshman, but didn’t expect it would take him this long long to gain a complete grasp of the defense…so you shouldn’t throw stones when you’re from SEC country especially when Hall and Sabino are still on scholarship at tOSU and Saban would rather “cut” players. The worst part for these players is often they are cut in late summer forcing them to scramble around looking for a school to attend. Which I might add in most cases severly limits their ability to find a DI school. I wouldn’t mind oversigning so much if players were told in Feb. that they wouldn’t have room for them and give them time to find a different school….just sayn’…..oh and by the way quit being a hater—

    • Why do keep insisting that you have a clue as to what and why Tressel does anything? You don’t. Join the club. You are over at Hineygate questioning posters about whether they are Dr.’s in regards to the ridiculous number of medical scholarships and yet you continue to post that Jim Tressel screwed over, rolled the dice etc. with regards to Hall as if you know that to be fact. You know nothing of the sort so stop acting as if you do.

      John, this obesession of yours is unlike anything I ever seen. The amount of time you dedicate to trying to discredit this website, tOSU and Jim Tressel is mind boggling. Why not just create your own website other than that stupid “I have a bone to pick” blog of yours, and debunk this one?

  15. GREAT ARTICLE. It would be interesting to see a roster of who would NOT be on certain teams like the tide because they committed after the school hit the real magic number.
    If you look at Florida now, they are being hit by some attrition that Saban can avoid by oversigning (Cam Newton, Torrey Davis, Jerimy Finch, TJ Lawrence, Adrian Coxson, Jordan Haden, Rainey [sort of] etc.).

  16. this idea that Marcus Hall “wanted to play” and was therefore sabotaged by the OSU coaching staff when he was RSed is hilarious. “wanting to play” is different than able to play. All of this discussion is based on the fact that Hall was in the 2 deep and during the course of the season, the OSU oline got banged up. Therefore, Hall would have gotten into the game. However, the decision was made at the beginning of the season before anyone knew of the future injury situation. If OSU had no injuries on the oline the entire year, then Hall’s “wanting to play” would have meant a wasted year sitting on the bench anyways.

    The reality is that the coaches made a short-term/long-term strategic decision. It can not be compared by the class-less decisions by SEC to kick people off scholarship to make room for fresh meat coming in. Even writing about these 2 things together is a joke.

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