Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus was declared ineligible for two games for accepting close to $2,000 in improper benefits during a pair of trips to Miami.
An NCAA ruling Thursday also ordered Dareus, defensive MVP of the national championship game win over Texas last January, to pay $1,787 dollars to a charity of his choice before regaining eligibility.
After San Jose State, the top-ranked Crimson Tide hosts No. 19 Penn State. Alabama will already be without Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram (knee injury) for at least the opener.
Dareus was deemed ineligible for receiving preferential treatment and agent benefits, including airfare, lodging, meals and transportation during the Miami trips.
On his radio show in Tuscaloosa, head coach Nick Saban noted that Alabama will appeal the NCAA’s penalty and try to get the penalty cut to one game.
“It is important to note that Marcell never intentionally violated any NCAA rules and did not knowingly receive any benefits from an agent,” Mike Ward, Alabama’s associate athletic director for compliance, said in a statement. “Marcell lived up to the letter and spirit of the NCAA cooperative principle and the NCAA described him as ‘one of the most truthful student-athletes we have ever interviewed.”’
The NCAA cited “mitigating circumstances” in reducing the penalty from as many as four games.
Given the latest blow, Saban’s working on filling the void left by Dareus.
Sophomore Undra Billingsley, who saw some play at tight end last season, is listed as Dareus’ backup, followed by redshirt freshman Darrington Sentimore.
Sophomore Damion Square is the backup to Luther Davis on the other side and is the only one of the group that has played for the Tide on defense.
Dareus, considered a potential first-round NFL draft pick, had 6 1/2 sacks and made some key plays in the game against Texas, including the hit on quarterback Colt McCoy, that took the Longhorns’ QB out of the game with a shoulder injury. Dareus also intercepted a shovel pass late in the second quarter for a 29-yard for a touchdown.
With a legion of fans already concerned over the loss of nine key players on defense from last year’s team, along with Ingram missing at least one game, the loss of Dareus is just another blow that fans hope the team can roll with.
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Written by Dave Thomas