Pondering Shawn Oakman's Immediate Eligibility

Aug 6, 2012; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach Bill O'Brien looks on during practice at the Lasch Football Building practice fields. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-US PRESSWIRE

If you read the writeup I posted last night about the defense, you'd know that defensive end is one of my areas of biggest concern on our team. We have guys in Gary Mason, Jr. and Terrance Lloyd who will probably be solid contributors but not playmakers, and depth is certainly an issue. It's entirely possible that a true freshman, albeit the highest-ranked defensive recruit Baylor has gotten in some time, could see significant run even without one of our starters going down with a serious injury.

That's where Shawn Oakman, the former Penn State DE that announced his intention to transfer to Baylor earlier in the summer, comes in. If he could get on the field this season, he could provide immediate depth at the position and the type of physical presence-- he's 6-8, 250 pounds, after all-- Baylor has lacked at DE for a long, long time. Expecting him to start games this season is almost certainly too much-- word from the practice fields is that he is athletically gifted but extremely raw-- but he could be an extremely valuable contributor on defense and special teams. The more playing time he gets now will also help him build on an outstanding recruiting pedigree to possibly grab a starting job next year.

The problem is that he transferred before the Penn State sanctions for reasons largely unrelated to the scandal. It's unclear whether the NCAA's decision to grant transferring PSU players immediate eligibility at their new schools applies to him at all. My initial reaction was somewhat mixed: I could see the NCAA lumping Oakman in with other players granted immediate eligibility, but I could also see them drawing the logical distinction between pre and post-sanction transfers.

That's what makes the NCAA's decision to grant immediate eligibility to former PSU DB Derrick Thomas so intriguing to me. Thomas, like Oakman, left Penn State for personal reasons prior to the announcement of any sanctions against the school. Thomas, like Oakman, transferred to another D1 university-- Marshall-- where the rules should force him to sit out a year. Thomas's new school, like Oakman's, vigorously pursued immediate eligibility for their new addition. The situations differ slightly in that Oakman was dismissed from the team by new coach Bill O'Brien for the brouhaha with the on-campus store. I don't know if Thomas was dismissed or not.

The key, at least to me, is that neither player left the school because of the imposition of sanctions by the NCAA. Both were gone already by the time that happened. But the Derrick Thomas situation, without more information as yet unknown, gives me significant hope that the NCAA will allow Shawn Oakman to play this year. I don't see how the NCAA establishes an extremely arbitrary line in the sand between Thomas and Oakman that allows one to play while the other sits. Of course, we are talking about a group that basically specializes in unequal treatment. I may be underestimating them.

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