Over the last few seasons, we've seen the offseason evolve into a de-facto free agent period for college football players looking for new homes.
We've seen ex-N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson move to Wisconsin before the 2011 season, ex-Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien follow suit the following season and high-profile signal-callers Gunner Kiel and Wes Lunt make moves this offseason.
But one big fish is still left in the college football free-agent pond.
Former Auburn running back and 2011 BCS National Championship Game offensive MVP Michael Dyer.
Dyer, who left Auburn in January 2012 to play for Arkansas State but was dismissed in July of that same year, spent last season away from football at Arkansas Baptist College—but it was only a temporary break from the gridiron.
He told George Schroeder of USA Today that he's interested in finding a home this season at a FBS program and would be willing to walk on at a big program if one would welcome him. One that is particularly attractive for the Little Rock native is Arkansas.
"If Arkansas said I could walk on, I'd go walk on at Arkansas," Dyer said.
It'd be a great move for Dyer and first-year head coach Bret Bielema.
Why the change of heart? A combination of talent, desperation and a short window of opportunity.
Dyer's highly publicized character issues are what's holding him back.
He was suspended from Auburn's 2011 Chick-fil-A Bowl win over Virginia and left the Plains for Arkansas State. He testified that it was his gun used in the March 2011 armed robbery involving four former Tiger players and was later pulled over in Jonesboro, Ark. for speeding where the officer discovered a handgun—which was purchased legally and left unloaded—in his trunk, according to Schroeder.
He insists that he's a changed man, and went so far as to allow his grades at Arkansas Baptist to be released. In three semesters, he posted GPAs of 3.6, 3.337 and 4.0.
How much weight should Arkansas—or any potential landing spot—put in those grades? They certainly add some substance to his case and prove that his assertion that he's a changed man is more than just lip service.
Even if he isn't though, the junior is likely one-and-done and off to the NFL after the 2013 season.
Can you trust Dyer to stay clean and out of trouble for four months?
It's hard to find the time to get in trouble during the season, and four months isn't a lot of time. Staying clean from now through December is certainly easier than it would be to make it through an entire summer session.
He has options at lower levels, but the fact that he's holding out and making a big push to find a high-profile home suggests that he's not only a changed man, but he wants to prove it on a big stage. That's a convincing campaign tactic.
Even though he's been out of football for a year, there's no denying the talent of the 5'9", 210-pounder. He rushed for 2,335 yards and 15 touchdowns in two years on the Plains (2010-11). This was all while smoking synthetic marijuana—which caused him to be late for several meetings and hinder his preparation—throughout his career at Auburn, according to Evan Woodbery of AL.com.
Would he slow the development of sophomore Razorback running back Jonathan Williams and perhaps highly touted freshman Alex Collins?
In theory, yes.
But Bielema has found carries for stocked backfields in the past.
Seven Wisconsin running backs have eclipsed the 700-yard mark in a single season over the last three seasons. In 2010, Montee Ball was four yards away from being the third Badger running back to break 1,000 yards in that season alone (James White and John Clay also eclipsed the 1,000-yard plateau in 2010).
He'd stabilize the Razorback offense even more, which will allow new quarterback Brandon Allen—who beat out Brandon Mitchell this spring—to ease into the starting role. It's the relative inexperience of Allen which has caused my change of heart.
The trio of Dyer, Williams and Collins would give the Hogs a dynamic rushing attack with players who can impact the game in a variety of ways. Even if Allen struggles in the passing game, it would allow offensive coordinator Jim Chaney the opportunity to still be creative with his play calling and keep opposing defenses on their toes.
Plus, the more you examine the Razorback schedule, the need for quality depth becomes apparent.
Between Sept. 21 and Oct. 19, Arkansas goes through a five-game stretch at Rutgers, vs. Texas A&M, at Florida, vs. South Carolina and at Alabama. An 0-5 record during that stretch would create a razor-thin margin for error, and the one goal for the Hogs this season should be to get to a bowl game and—more importantly for Bielema in his first year—bowl practices.
Those bowl practices are invaluable to the future of the program, even if Dyer's presence creates some short-term headaches for players already on campus.
The fact that we haven't heard an outright "no" from Arkansas despite reports suggesting Arkansas isn't interested, suggests that there's some serious lobbying going on behind the scenes. Dyer to Arkansas is still possible.
In the end, Arkansas won't invite Dyer to walk on. In Bielema's first season, accepting what would likely be a one-and-done player with that much high-profile baggage would create too many superficial headaches. Perhaps things would be different if it wasn't Bielema's first season in Fayetteville.
Dyer would benefit the program though.
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