EAST LANSING – The only positive coming out of Bobby Williams’ press conference yesterday was that things can’t get much worse.
Just five days after the Michigan State coach announced the suspension of starting quarterback Jeff Smoker, Williams confirmed that two redshirt sophomores, fullback Jason Bradley and linebacker James Cooper, voluntarily left the team.
Bradley, who hails from Sarasota, Fla., played mostly on special teams for the Spartans. Cooper, a St. Louis native, played two games this season and recorded three tackles in limited duty.
It’s undetermined whether or not the players’ exit from Michigan State has anything to do with Smoker’s recent suspension.
Williams said that Smoker, who sat out the Spartans’ 42-24 loss to Wisconsin this past Saturday because of a violation of team rules, could possibly return before the season is over and that Smoker is still enrolled at Michigan State.
“It’s an indefinite suspension, which means it’s open-ended,” Williams said. “He could come back or he may not come back. It depends on the terms that he has to go through.”
Smoker was widely considered the top quarterback in the Big Ten coming into the season and was also named a contender for the Davey O’Brien Award, given annually to the nation’s top quarterback.
“It was a very tough decision, very disappointing, but it was the best decision for him and the program,” Williams said.
The recent downward spiral of the Michigan State program, particularly Smoker’s suspension, has been widely discussed in internet chat rooms. A wide variety of vicious rumors are circulating about Smoker and other Spartans.
“We have no control over what is written in the print media, and we have no control over what is going on on the internet,” Williams said. “The internet, the information that is out there is unbelievable. We deal with fact. The frame of mind is positive. There’s so much negative surrounding the program about things being said about some of the players and things going on inside the program that we have no control over.”
Banks for Heisman?: After Iowa quarterback Brad Banks’ outstanding play against Michigan, when he passed for 222 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 53 yards, the Hawkeyes are eyeing an undefeated conference season and Rose Bowl berth. And come December, Banks could be eyeing something else: The Heisman Trophy.
Banks is no doubt a darkhorse to win, but the race is wide open again this year and Banks is arguably playing as well as anyone in the country. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz isn’t quite ready to throw out Banks’ name for Heisman consideration.
“I’m kind of in the dark on the national scene,” Ferentz said. “I haven’t seen many of the players that are talked about just because I haven’t had a chance to look at their film. I know there are a lot of great players out there, and I’ll also say this: I don’t think anybody involved with our team would be willing to trade Brad for anyone in the country. But whether or not he is deserving of Heisman mention, I’m really not qualified to say.”
Banks’ mobility has earned him comparisons to former Indiana quarterback Antwaan Randle El and Iowa State’s Seneca Wallace.
“I led the campaign for Seneca Wallace after seeing him,” Ferentz said. “He’s an outstanding player and I felt the same way about (Antwaan) Randle El last year.”
Quite a Gamble: Ohio State’s 13-7 victory over Penn State last Saturday was keyed by the play of sophomore Chris Gamble, who returned an interception 40 yards for the Buckeyes’ only touchdown.
His play is all the more impressive when considering Gamble was in on nearly 100 plays on offense, defense and special teams.
Initially just a wide receiver, Gamble began playing cornerback after Ohio State lost Richard McNutt for the season. Gamble’s defensive prowess was exposed when the Buckeyes had the wide receiving corps play defense in the spring and early fall.
“He always did very, very well when he was over there on the cover side, as well as the good job he does running routes,” Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said.
Playing as much as Gamble is no small task, and he might not be able to keep up all season. But should his time be limited, Tressel will have a tough decision to make.
“I’m not sure a young man can play 95 plays week after week, but Chris is one of those special kids: He is a punt returner, a kick returner, an excellent receiver, an excellent corner,” Tressel said. “I think we are going to have to pick-and-choose how to maximize his talent.”
Gimme some Mo: Ohio State freshman running back Maurice Clarett left the Penn State game with a shoulder injury shortly after passing 1,000 yards rushing for the season.
The injury may have killed Clarett’s Heisman hopes, but it has hardly ended his season as Tressel said that Clarett is listed as “probable” for the Buckeyes’ upcoming game against Minnesota. His status isn’t surprising considering Clarett missed just one game after arthroscopic knee surgery earlier this season.