Albany State football coach Mike White.
ALBANY — When Greg Reid and Tyrann Mathieu were recently kicked off the Florida State and LSU football teams, respectively, Division II coaches around the nation started licking their chops.
And Albany State’s Mike White was no exception.
The Rams’ coach said this week that ASU didn’t make any serious push to get either of the star defensive backs, but added that Division II programs are always on the lookout for Division I talent.
“You would love to have a kid like that,” he said. “Those kids would come in and impact your program. I think all Division II coaches get excited if you have a chance to get a guy like that. I don’t have any connections with either (Reid or Mathieu), so I don’t know how excited I got.”
Reid, who was kicked off FSU after being charged with possession of marijuana and driving without a valid license after a traffic stop in Valdosta in July, officially joined Division II Valdosta State on Wednesday, while Mathieu, who was dismissed from LSU last week after reportedly failing multiple drug tests, is still contemplating his future.
Players who are released from their teams — like Reid and Mathieu — lose their Division I eligibility for that season, but moving down a rung gets them back on the field immediately.
In his 12 seasons as head coach of the Rams, White said he has made several attempts to sign talented players who were kicked off Division I teams.
“Over the years you establish relationships with certain teams, and a lot of D-I teams will call us and say, ‘Hey we got this player who is from Georgia and is trying to get back to Georgia,’ or, ‘We have too many cornerbacks, would you be interested in taking one?’ ” White said. “Usually you get wind of it, and if you know somebody who knows the kid, you try to find out where the kid is mentally and what exactly happened. All of those things have to be weighed out when you bring them in.”
Division II schools with larger football budgets have other methods of tracking down players who have been released, like hiring graduate assistants to do the leg work.
“We don’t have any grad assistants here, but a lot of them have grad assistants call every Division I program to ask them if they have anybody they are letting go or if they have cut somebody like that,” White said.
When a player is cut from a team, there’s usually a troubling story to go along with the dismissal — and White said that is always something he has to consider.
“You have to be careful what you bring in,” he said. “You don’t want to disturb what chemistry you already have. A lot of times that is what you are doing, trying to make a judgment on what happened to that young man. It’s a case-by-case basis. I think if some of the cases are that bad, we don’t even get involved.”
But sometimes White gives them a chance, like he did with 2010-11 QB Stanley Jennings, who was initially kicked off the Division I Dean College (Mass.) team for disciplinary reasons.
“Some of them come in and you already know he was been punished, and you tell them, ‘Look, we can’t have that here. This is your second chance. You have to take full advantage of it,’ ” White said.
Jennings took advantage of his second chance at ASU and finished his two-year career as a Ram with a 19-5 record, 50 touchdowns, 5,054 passing yards and a nod as the conference’s MVP in 2010.
WHITE DISCUSSES SCHOOL’S POLICY ON DRUG TESTING: It’s not just major Division I schools that have mandatory drug testing procedures.
White said that NCAA regulations require all Division II schools to also administer random drug tests during both semesters and the summer. Individual players are randomly selected, but White said that during years when ASU have reached the playoffs, more of his players have had to take tests.
“In 2010 we had quite a few during both the fall and spring semesters who were tested,” said White, whose Rams finished 11-1 overall that season and advanced to the quarterfinals of the Division II playoffs.
The 2010 season was also the last time an ASU player tested positive for drugs, though White declined to name the player.
“Once that comes back positive, his days here are over,” said White, who added that he had one other player to test positive since he took over as head coach in 2000.
THUNDERSTRUCK: The Rams were finishing up Wednesday’s practice when a thunderstorm rolled through Albany, and White said he and his players were caught off guard by how quickly it approached.
“It just snuck up on us there. You saw the clouds coming, and all of a sudden a flash of lightning and a crack of thunder hit, and the blue and gold jerseys went running,” White said. “They ran for a little while and slowed down when it stopped raining, but then even louder thunder hit and they took off running again.”
The team’s practice was cut short by only 5-10 plays. On days when the team is forced to practice inside for a longer period of time, the team watches film and walks through plays in the gymnasium.
NOTES: Freshman offensive lineman Ricardo Jones of Atlanta injured his leg during Tuesday’s practice, and White said Wednesday that he was unsure how serious the injury was. … The Rams will play their first intrasquad scrimmage Saturday afternoon, which could go a long way in helping the coaches decide between David Kooi and Keenan Grissett, who are battling for the starting quarterback job.