The SEC's 'second chances' that have paid off
Nick Saban was very open about giving defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor a second chance at Alabama. The former Georgia Bulldog threw his second chance away over the weekend when he was arrested for domestic violence, his second such arrest in his troubled college career, and swiftly dismissed from Alabama.
Bringing Taylor into the program was a mistake for Alabama, an unnecessary risk for a program that’s had its share of run-ins with the law the last few seasons.
While the decision to bring in Taylor blew up in Alabama’s face, there have been a host of other players that have gotten a second chance after being dismissed from their original program or coming very close to it.
Cam Newton, Florida to Auburn
At the dawn of 2009, Newton looked like he could be the heir apparent to Tim Tebow for the Gators. While he hadn’t played much behind the Heisman winner, most expected Newton to take over for Tebow once the SEC great’s career at Florida came to an end. However, Newton left the team in January 2009, not even enrolling for the spring semester that year.
When he left the school, many assumed it was for a chance to play after Tebow decided to return for his senior season. Newton had run into trouble before at Florida and was arrested for laptop theft in 2008. As it turned out, Newton was actually on the verge of expulsion from the university after three incidents of academic cheating.
We all know how Newton’s story turned out. After a year at Blinn Community College, Newton enrolled at Auburn for 2010 and set the world on fire, leading the Tigers to the national championship during a Heisman season, then going No. 1 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Zach Mettenberger, Georgia to LSU
One of the top quarterbacks coming out of high school in 2009, Mettenberger spent one year at Georgia as a backup. In 2010, he was dismissed from the team due to a violation of team rules, which ended up being two misdemeanor sexual battery charges that stemmed from an incident in which he groped a bar worker.
Mettenberger went to junior college for a year, leading Butler C.C. to a JUCO national title. He then transferred to LSU before the 2011 season and lit it up for two seasons after taking over as the starter in 2012, leading LSU to two double-digit win seasons.
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
After redshirting his freshman year, Manziel was this close to leaving Texas A&M. He was arrested in June 2012 for getting into a fight and was charged with failure to identify and possession of fake IDs. He was initially suspended for all of the 2012 season. Manziel appealed the suspension, and if it had been upheld he reportedly would have transferred.
Manziel’s suspension was indeed overturned, thanks to a lack of evidence in his case, and he ended up just being suspended for the first half of Texas A&M’s season opener. The rest is history, as he set the SEC ablaze in the Aggies’ first year in the conference and won the Heisman as a redshirt freshman.
Nick Marshall, Georgia to Auburn
Marshall started his career as a touted defensive back at Georgia. However, after his first season at Georgia, he was dismissed from the Bulldogs along with two other teammates for stealing from a teammate. Marshall transferred to Garden City Community College in Kansas, where he made the switch to quarterback. He lit it up there and decided to transfer to Auburn, where he thought he’d have a chance to play quarterback.
Marshall was right about getting that chance, leading the Tigers to the 2013 SEC West title and a berth in the BCS title game. Marshall did run into a bit of trouble before the 2014 season when he was cited for marijuana possession. He was suspended for the first half of the season opener and went onto another successful season with the Tigers in 2014.