Mark May at Little Rock Touchdown Club Part 3

I went to hear Mark May speak at the Little Rock Touchdown Club on August 20, 2012 and he did a great job of giving some insights into the Penn St case and he also looked into the SEC race this year.

I do think that May has some good insights and I think his observation to watch out for Tennessee is a good insight into was is going on in the SEC. The Vols do have very good receivers and they have a very good quarterback in Tyler Bray. I think Arkansas has a better quarterback but I don’t think our receivers are as good as the Vols’ crew. (Losing Wade in off season was a blog to the Hogs.) As far as our chances of reaching Atlanta goes, it may come down to the Alabama, LSU and SC games for the Hogs. For Tennessee it comes down to Alabama, LSU, SC, Florida and Georgia. The real wild cards are Georgia and Florida. We know Alabama, LSU and SC are going to be really good, but how about Florida ad Georgia. I just don’t know yet.

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8/20/2012 at 3:18pm

ESPN's Mark May was the speaker at Monday's Little Rock Touchdown Club meeting.
Image by DeWaine Duncan
ESPN’s Mark May was the speaker at Monday’s Little Rock Touchdown Club meeting.

ESPN college football analyst Mark May covered more subjects in 30 minutes for the Little Rock Touchdown Club on Monday than most football banquet speakers would manage in a week. With his rapid-fire delivery and his ability to change directions in mid-thought, May touched on everything the Arkansas football fan would have wanted to know as the Touchdown Club opened its eighth season with a one-off at the Peabody Hotel.

May, a former NFL star offensive tackle with the Washington Redskins and a College Football Hall of Fame inductee, described himself Monday as “blunt, truthful and honest.”

That’s why he commands such a prominent position for ESPN analyzing college football alongside “Doctor” Lou Holtz and host Rece Davis on Saturdays. Their workday, which last year ran from 10:30 a.m. Saturday to 2 a.m. Sunday (that’s Eastern Time) just expanded to probably 4 a.m. thanks to ESPN now broadcasting a late Pac-12 game on Saturday nights.

That change might have Holtz grousing, if not going ballistic, May joked, but it doesn’t appear to faze a guy who still can’t believe he’s paid to watch and talk about college football.

His matter-of-fact style drew a full house Monday to the Peabody Ballroom.

The crowd also momentarily saw a 6-foot-4 man — who at peak playing weight in the NFL carried 305 pounds (320 in the off-season, he said) but now is a svelte 240 thanks to regularly working out — appear to tear up when the subject of the Penn State child molestation scandal come up during a Q&A with the audience.

May called it the biggest story in college football since the tragic Marshall University plane crash in 1970.

The image of the Nittany Lions program, built up behind the do-good reputation of Joe Paterno for nearly a half-century, “came down like a house of cards,” he said.

“How could a man [Paterno] not do everything in his means to stop a child molester,” May said, referring to Paterno and Penn State allowing former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky to have access to Penn State’s facilities, where alleged sexual molestation occurred, from 1998 on.

“I don’t understand how a person with the chance could not stop it,” May said haltingly. “It’s about as bad as it gets in college football. Hopefully everyone involved will get their just dues.”

Paterno, who died in January, has seen his reputation ruined, his campus statue taken down. Sandusky will spend the rest of his life in jail. Other Penn State officials await trial for their roles in the coverup.

The NCAA then came down hard on Penn State, whose followers will no doubt point out that May played for rival Pittsburgh in is college days. But May has long since shown on ESPN that he’s as unbiased an analyst as there is. Later, after addressing the Touchdown Club, May added about the NCAA’s penalties:

“After the Freeh report I think [NCAA President] Mark Emmert and the NCAA did a terrific job in how they handled it. The Penn State president signed off on it. I think it was a brutal agreement for Penn State but it was something that had to be done.

“It’s just a situation … I’ve got two daughters. As a father, if anything like that ever happened to one of my kids, they wouldn’t be able to restrain me. So, I’ve got a personal feeling about that and what was done there, it’s just a personal feeling of mine, I’ll go down saying it that I totally disagree with the policy they had, what had happened there, and the way they protected people there was just atrocious.”

May loves getting the better of his broadcast partner Holtz and says the 73-year-old former Arkansas coach once threatened to whip May’s backside during a break in one of their ESPN segments. May says he knows how to push Holtz’s buttons, but that the pair have a “great” relationship. At least it makes for interesting TV, especially at the end of a long college football day.

For a guy who has to know the college game from coast to coast, May seemed well-versed about the goings on in Arkansas. When an audience member suggested “Arkansas State” when May was making an analogy about Arkansas and a possible non-conference opponent, May said, “No, you’re not going to get me going there.”

May placed Tyler Wilson among the top 10 quarterbacks in the country, and said that Arkansas appears third behind Alabama and LSU but has both at home and, should the Hogs win those games, they could have a open road to the national title game.

“Bobby Petrino left a team with the cupboard full,” he said, adding however that he’d like to see running back Knile Davis hit in practice before he plays to have a better indication of his prospects. The Cotton Bowl defensive performance under new coordinator Paul Haynes was promising for this year’s team, he said.

May gave kudos to Jeff Long for landing Petrino to build the program and that Petrino had rival defensive coordinators “shaking in their boots.” He termed Petrino’s successor, John L. Smith, as a CEO “who won’t tinker with anything where there’s not a problem already there.”

Southern Cal is the preseason No. 1 in a variety of polls, but May says “that’s hard to fathom” other than the Trojans have an easy schedule. Tyrann Mathieu’s dismissal at LSU is a game-changer for the Tigers, he said. May says the SEC’s dominance and run of national titlists shouldn’t change this season, and he’d give the nod to Alabama again.

May expects South Carolina to win the SEC East if running back Marcus Lattimore is fully healthy again, but he also warned to watch for Tennessee, which will have a healthy Tyler Bray back at quarterback and a corps of talented receivers, plus new defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri off the Alabama staff.”

As for the first, late ESPN game from the Pac-12 on Sept. 1, May says Arkansas State will have it’s work cut out for it against Oregon, as well as a road trip at Nebraska on Sept. 15.

“Rest your starters, and save them for the conference games,” is May’s advice to new Red Wolves Coach Gus Malzahn. “Those are big-check [money] games. If they asked me, I’d play those games like an NFL exhibition game, where you play your starters for a quarter and then turn it over to the reserves.”

May’s blunt, truthful and honest commentary will be a weekly feature on Thursday mornings on KABZ-FM, 103.7 The Buzz and “The Show With No Name,” which is co-hosted by Touchdown Club president David Bazzel. Next Monday, the Touchdown Club welcomes former Southern Cal and UNLV coach John Robinson to the Embassy Suites in west Little Rock, where the remainder of the luncheon schedule will the held.

Email: jharris@abpg.com. Also follow Jim on Twitter @jimharris360

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