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College president endorsed Dyer to Taggart

17

July

Not only did USF football host former Auburn running back Michael Dyer for a visit this past weekend, but the president of Arkansas Baptist College, where Dyer spent the past year, said he has spoken to Bulls coach Willie Taggart by phone about the potential transfer.

"I told Coach Taggart he's an accountability mentor, not just for Michael, but for all student-athletes who come from similar backgrounds," said Fitz Hill, the college's president and a former football coach who spent eight years as an assistant at Arkansas and was head football coach at San Jose State from 2001-04. "It's having people in place to steer and guide a young man in the right direction. I'm looking for a stable situation for him, where he has a great support system."

Dyer, 22, would be an intriguing match for the Bulls, who could use a proven running back -- he broke Bo Jackson's Auburn freshman rushing record, topping 1,000 yards in each of his two seasons with the Tigers and earning offensive MVP honors with 143 yards in Auburn's national championship win after the 2010 season. He has, however, been dismissed from both Auburn and Arkansas State. He admitted to USA Today last week that he failed a drug test at Auburn, and a gun he legally purchased was allegedly used by four teammates in a 2011 robbery, though he told the newspaper it was taken without permission.

He's been away from football for a year, and Hill has vouched for his behavior since coming to Arkansas Baptist last fall. He has earned his associate of arts degree, which will allow him to transfer this fall and play his final two years of college football.

"We call ourself a second-chance college, for people looking to make better choices in the future," Hill said. "Michael's done everything I've asked him to do since he enrolled here. He graduated, and I worked with him through the entire process. I told him your life is like a football game. If in the first and second quarter you don't play well, at halftime you make adjustments. If you come back and do what you're supposed to in the second half, a lot of people forget about the first half."

Taggart has an impressive run of success with his running backs, getting a 1,500-yard rusher in each of the last four seasons, going back to Toby Gerhart in 2009 at Stanford when he was the running backs coach there. The Bulls are lacking a proven back on the current roster, where projected starter Marcus Shaw has rushed for 391 yards in his first three seasons.

Dyer's visit to USF was first reported by ESPN's Joe Schad, and Hill confirmed that he came to Tampa, along with "several" other schools. Hill said he speaks with Dyer daily and said he expects him to choose a college in the next 7 to 10 days, a timeframe that would allow him to sign with USF and report to training camp with the rest of the Bulls on Aug. 4.

"The thing that's most intriguing to me about Michael's situation is the perception is worse than the reality of him as an individual," Hill said. "Michael Dyer does not have one charge against him. He's never been incarcerated. ... Did he make some bad choices? Yes. But after sitting down with him the last several months, he's also made a lot of good choices. It's a branding issue. You can have a good product and a bad brand, but nobody knows how good your product is because your brand is bad."

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 5:54pm]

    

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