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VOL. 131 | NO. 42 | Monday, February 29, 2016

Lynch at NFL Combine, UT Troubles, Memphis Carries Senior Day

By Don Wade

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Paxton Lynch went through all the drills – physical and mental – at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis and, brace yourself for this deep insight, but the “experts” feel confident that his pro career will land somewhere between Tom Brady and Tim Tebow.

PAXTON LYNCH

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

For the record, Tebow was a first-round draft pick (25th overall) of the Denver Broncos. Brady was a sixth-round pick (199th overall) by the New England Patriots. Brady is headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Tebow, reportedly, is considering the Canadian Football League.

So, to some extent, concern about whether the former University of Memphis quarterback is the second, third or fourth QB taken in the draft and whether that happens in the middle of the first round, at the back of the first round, or in the second round, is a bit overdone.

Mostly, the opinion of Lynch has not changed substantially from this past season. At the combine he confirmed what scouts knew: He’s big, is quite athletic for his 6-7 frame, and has a strong arm.

They also knew coming in that Lynch had not been playing in a pro-style offense at Memphis. Thus, it shouldn’t have been surprising that his footwork in Combine drills confirmed that in a drop-back scheme he has work to do. His footwork must get better and until it does his accuracy will suffer.

The consensus from the various executives and scouts quoted before or at the combine seems to be that Lynch is less ready to assume starting NFL quarterback duties than Cal’s Jared Goff or North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz. So going second overall to the Cleveland Browns seems pretty unlikely. Might not be a bad thing.

Also, some teams may have concern about results from Lynch’s medical exam. Here is what Lynch himself said when he met with reporters in Indianapolis last Friday, Feb. 26:

“I had an issue with my left knee and my right knee, and an issue with my AC joint. When I hurt my AC joint back in my redshirt sophomore year, against Cincinnati, I didn't realize ... they said I had a small fracture in my clavicle.

"That popped up on the X-ray, but it was healed. There were just some pieces of bone floating around in there. So it spooked a team or two I think. They requested the MRIs and all that."

Best guess here: Lynch goes 13th overall to Philadelphia. If the Eagles let him slide by, he won’t fall far. To No. 15 and the Los Angeles (too bad they are still in St. Louis) Rams.

Rocky Top Horror Show
You may have heard a little something about the federal lawsuit filed against the University of Tennessee for how it deals with sexual assaults on campus. The suit not only alleges that UT has allowed/created a culture that tolerates sexual assaults by student-athletes, but specifically calls out the football program.

So pervasive has the problem been that I half-expected UT to be mentioned by name in Lady Gaga’s so-called empowerment anthem at the Oscars.

Recently, The Tennessean in Nashville published a timeline of events that highlighted recent incidents alleged to have involved football players. The length of the timeline alone, not to mention the details, is damning in its own right.

Innocent until proven guilty is, of course, still the standard of the land. But we have seen to what great effort power football programs will go to protect the brand.

Have we already forgotten about Penn State and Jerry Sandusky and the hear-no-evil, see-no-evil, speak-no-evil approach of Joe Paterno?

In the incidents naming UT players, there is a recurrent them. Whether charges are filed and go forward or not, the woman making the claim of sexual assault usually leaves the university.

In April of 2015 when wide receiver Von Pearson was accused of sexual assault, that made it six players from the Vols 2014 roster to be named in a sexual assault allegation. No charges were filed against him when his accuser declined to go forward with the case and left UT. Pearson was suspended for a short time but played in the 2014 and 2015 seasons, finishing his college football career.

Business as usual.

The part of this story getting the most attention now is coach Butch Jones denying the assertion by former receiver Drae Bowles that the coach told him he had “betrayed the team” by helping a woman who said she was assaulted by two other football players.

Jones has repeatedly said the football program and athletic department at UT has a “great culture.”

Perhaps Jones, athletic director Dave Hart and UT will all be cleared after due process. But in the moment, they seem to be very committed to a department-wide prevent defense against bad public relations.

The next class of recruits, after all, is at stake.

Successful Senior Day for Tigers Basketball
They won the game over Tulsa and met the attendance requirement to receive a portion of the $800,000 annual payment due from the Memphis Grizzlies.

So, Sunday, Feb. 28, was a grand day for University of Memphis basketball.

“We needed a win,” coach Josh Pastner said after the Tigers defeated Tulsa 92-82.

The Tigers’ home season and accompanying attendance drama now over, the Tigers close out the regular season with games at Temple and East Carolina. The win upped their record 16-13, 7-9 in the American Athletic Conference, and earned the Tigers a first-round bye in the conference tournament.

Pastner also swatted away questions directed at the possibility this was something of a Senior Day for him – he might have coached his last game at FedExForum – and said he planned to be coaching Memphis next season.

“I don’t know why anyone would think differently,” he said.

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