Tennessee needs a running back. Michael Dyer needs a place to run.
It’s a match made in message-board and talk-show heaven, where it’s already a topic of conversation. The Sports Animal had callers inquiring about Dyer almost daily last week.
The pairing so natural you would assume the former Auburn star and UT are already talking.
You would assume that if you haven’t been listening to new Tennessee coach Butch Jones.
For UT’s purposes, Dyer couldn’t be any more off limits than if he had orchestrated a home invasion of Jones’ household.
He’s a repeat offender, kicked off teams at both Auburn and Arkansas State, where — in each case — he sometimes carried more than a football.
His handgun was used by Auburn teammates in a robbery. Dismissed from Auburn, Dyer transferred to Arkansas State, where he celebrated his second chance at college football by driving 96 miles per hour. When police checked his car trunk, they found a gun in the backpack.
UT needs a running back. It doesn’t need a two-gun kid.
Not after Jones has established “character” as a cornerstone for rebuilding a program that has had three consecutive losing seasons.
“A lot of coaches (talk about character),” Jones said. “We’re going to live it every day in our program.”
You can’t live like that and sign a player like Dyer, even if he did rush for more than 1,000 yards in the 2010 and 2011 seasons at Auburn.
Not all programs will pass on Dyer, who would be eligible to play in the fall if he graduates as expected this spring with an associate degree from Arkansas Baptist College in his hometown of Little Rock, Ark.
Those programs will weigh Dyer’s off-the-field transgressions against his production at Auburn and err on the side of touchdowns. My guess is one of them will be from the SEC.
If a four-star running back were involved in a jail break, at least one SEC school would have a representative on hand to clock his escape with a stop watch.
The school that signs Dyer will spin it hard and fast in a familiar pattern. He made a couple of bad choices when he was younger. He’s not the same person now. He has become a law-abiding citizen in his year at Arkansas Baptist, where he supposedly hasn’t been caught with so much as a water pistol in his possession.
Maybe Dyer has turned his life around in the past year at the small school, which is further removed from big-time college football than Tennessee is from a BCS bowl. If so,
good for him. Good for society, too.
But Tennessee can’t be the site of his third college try, not if its coach wants to keep his words and actions in sync; not unless he wants to lay the foundation for his program on hypocrisy, rather than character.
Former UT coach Derek Dooley and his staff talked a lot about character. And in 2012, they signed defensive back Deion Bonner, who distinguished himself as a recruit by stealing from Georgia players on a official visit to the school.
Bonner didn’t last a year at UT. He was suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules in mid-November and is no longer on the team, hopefully having departed without any of his teammates’ possessions.
Talented, troublesome players have a recent history of not working out at Tennessee, which got only one really productive season from safety Janzen Jackson (2010) and wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers (2011) before they were dismissed. Both had more chances than they deserved, mainly because the Vols needed a hard-hitting safety and a big-play wide receiver.
Now, they need a running back.
They need more than a running back, though. They also need a coach who doesn’t just talk a good game.
Jones tells us he’s that coach. He can prove it one day — and one decision — at a time.