BOWLING GREEN - Gregg Brandon insists he does not knowingly recruit miscreants to play football for Bowling Green State University.
But he can be duped, which has been apparent this offseason as a rash of arrests have left the Falcons coach fielding questions as to whether the overall perception of his program is shaky.
Seven members of the team and a former captain have run into legal trouble since BG's last game. The charges range from underage consumption of alcohol, to felony drug trafficking, to aggravated burglary. There are also some academic issues. Brandon has dismissed two promising young players, including quarterback Nate Brown, because of poor grades. Linebacker Glen Stanley was removed from the team during the spring.
"I'm not the type of guy that wants to run a program that takes a lot of questionable guys," Brandon said yesterday from his office in the Sebo Center. "But once I get a kid here and he makes a mistake, I'm going to give him a second chance - sometimes third chances. Maybe that's a flaw on my part, but I really believe when we recruit kids we invest in them. Eighteen to 22-year-old kids are going to make mistakes. You just hope they're not career ending."
Sometimes they are. Defensive linemen Orlando Barrow and Jacob Hardwick were arrested on home invasion charges stemming from an early June incident in Bowling Green. Brandon initially suspended the two but has since dismissed them from the program. Also removed from the team for violating a team rule was defensive back Tarell Lewis. Brandon did not say whether Lewis was the third team member involved in the robbery with Barrow and Hardwick.
"Anytime a kid gets into trouble, everything that's written is, BGSU football player, or ex-BGSU football player. No one is writing Joe English student got popped for selling drugs," Brandon said. "That's the nature of the beast. I tell the guys when you sign on the dotted line, when you sign your scholarship, you give up your privacy."
That raises the question as to whether Brandon and his staff are doing a poor job of evaluating character during the assessment process. Recruiting is demanding and never ending, often forcing coaches to offer scholarships before conducting thorough background checks.
"The rules today are more restrictive for us to spend time with these kids," Brandon said. "The whole process is sped up. You get a little concerned that in the time that you have to recruit them that you can do the character background checks that you need to do."
The interior defensive line has been affected most by the dismissals. Hardwick moved over from end in the spring and was expected to be the opening-game starter. Barrow, who started five games last year as a freshman, would have likely factored into the two-deep.
That leaves Michael Ream and Nick Torresso as the probable starters. Torresso was cited for disorderly conduct in April after breaking a glass entrance door at a dormitory but will not face penalty from the team. Adding depth along the front is often-injured senior Nick Davis, and redshirt freshmen Andrew Johnson and Kevin Alvarado. Davis is recovering from a season-ending knee surgery that he suffered against Western Kentucky, and his playing status appears tenuous.
"Nick Davis is the X factor," Brandon said. "He's looking good. He just has to get into the fray and take that first hit. He's a warrior and I think he still has the passion for it."
QUARTERBACK COMPETITION: Brandon hinted that the starting quarterback position belongs to junior Tyler Sheehan. Junior college transfer Andrew Beam was signed in February and was believed to have a chance at unseating Sheehan, a third-team Mid-American Conference selection. Brandon praised Beam's leadership skills and attitude but sounded as if Sheehan is still the guy.
"It would be ideal if Andrew and Tyler are competing in the fall and Tyler's our starting quarterback," Brandon said. "With Andrew, the thing is you need a capable backup."
True freshman Aaron Pankratz is the only other quarterback on scholarship after redshirt freshman Brown was dismissed due to academic reasons.
RANSOM PROGRESSING: Brandon said senior running back Eric Ransom is "looking good" in his recovery from a torn ACL. Ransom started last season atop the depth chart before suffering the injury in the second game against Michigan State.
"He really hung in there and did a good job in school," Brandon said. "He's been a good team guy and he's working his butt off this summer."
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