In a week of bad football recruiting news, U of L picked up a late addition for the 2012 class when it was announced former Dixie Heights (in Fort Mitchell, KY) quarterback and Auburn commit Zeke Pike would transfer to Louisville, but as a tight end rather than QB.
Former Auburn QB Zeke Pike transfers to Louisville to play TEauburn.247sports.com/Article/Zeke-P…
— Football Rumor Mill (@fbrumormill) August 3, 2012
Pike was a 4-star (or high 3-star, depending on which rankings you look at) player and US Army All-American, and at 6-6, 225 lbs, is a big kid, but a balanced athlete who can is more than capable of playing the tight end position. However, this is a move that Cards fans will and should question, and it has nothing to do with his talent. Pike did not choose to transfer to Louisville out of the blue, but did so after Auburn Head Coach Gene Chizik kicked him off the team. This was unfortunately not his first off-the-field issue.
As a recruit, Pike came with red flags. As reported by ESPN.com’s Damon Sayles, Pike was suspended his first game of his senior year after being ejected in a playoff game his junior year. He was then suspended his senior year for a playoff game for a “violation of team rules,” and had to postpone his announcement to play in the Army All-American game nearly a month due to the suspension. He also caused a bit of a controversy on Twitter, where he was apparently running his mouth to some Alabama fans. Per Sayles, Pike wanted to use the Army game as an opportunity to right the wrongs in his life and prove to his doubters that he was maturing. Yet, his off-the-field troubles continued.
He enrolled as a freshman in January at Auburn, but it did not take long for Pike to get into trouble as Chizik sent him home after he was arrested for public intoxication earlier this summer. Now, it appears that Chizik decided the young man was a liability and too much of a risk to take on. Therefore, he sent him packing for good, and the player has now landed in Louisville.
As a Louisville fan, this sits a bit uneasy with me. The program has taken on troubled players before, including linebackers Nate Harris, Willie Williams, and James Bryant. Harris was a success story, Bryant did not do much of anything on or off the field, and Williams was an absolute disaster, causing embarrassment to the school, Tom Jurich (who vouched for him), and especially himself. Charlie Strong has not shyed away from taking in troubled players at Louisville, either. In his first year as head coach, Strong had planned on bringing Demar Dorsey (but is his Twitter account REALLY his?), a one-time Michigan recruit (who was not accepted there) and high school All-American defensive back who had previously been in big trouble with the law. He never did make it to campus, but it seemed Coach Strong was willing to take a risk on him. He was also willing to take a risk on QB Zach Mettenberger, who had allegedly groped a girl at a bar and had plead guilty to sexual battery. Mettenberger eventually went on to LSU.
Now, I am not one to question Charlie Strong (I pity the man who ever does), and if anyone can keep a recruit in line, it is him. Yet, this is a young man who has proven multiple times that he has maturity and attitude issues that seem very Derrick Caracter-ish. We are extremely thin at tight end right now, and Pike definitely has the size and athletic ability to be a great tight end (and he and Gerald Christian could be a deadly tight end combo), but can he keep his head on straight? If he did not respect Gene Chizik’s rules, what makes anyone think he will respect Charlie Strong’s? Strong will no doubt keep him on a VERY short leash, but with a team with such high aspirations this season (and next), why take a chance with an off-the-field risk that could prove a distraction?
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for people getting second chances, but I don’t like the idea of Pike being “punished” by going to Louisville to play on scholarship with Teddy Bridgewater throwing passes to him. I am of the crowd that believes when a college athlete screws up, he takes the Cam Newton route (Mettenberger also did this) and face a little humility while earning his way back by playing JUCO for a year or two or even 1-AA ball. However, I have also never met Zeke Pike and know nothing about him outside of what I have read. Perhaps I should not be so judgmental. He is, after all, an 18-year old, and like many 18-year olds, he has done things that are incredibly dumb. I hope he gets his head straight, works hard, and becomes a better man and football player after being here. I hope he proves pessimists like me wrong. One of his idols is Tim Tebow, the ultimate boy scout, so maybe he will inspire Pike to get his act together. If Coach Strong believes he is worthy of another chance, I am not going to boo this move, not at all. For now, though, it is just something that sits a little uneasy with me.