Demar Dorsey's surprise decision to sign with Michigan has once again put head coach Rich Rodriguez and the "character issue" in the spotlight at Schembechler Hall.
Dorsey is the highest-rated recruit in the Big Ten this year, according to ESPN's Scouts Inc. The safety from Florida fills a vital need for Michigan, which struggled mightily in the secondary last year and loses its top defensive back (Donovan Warren) to the NFL. If the Wolverines turn things around in 2010, many may point to Dorsey's signing as a big reason why.
But it's not Dorsey's talent, but his checkered legal past, that has generated a ton of attention since Wednesday afternoon. Dorsey's legal issues are chronicled here, but basically he confessed to two burglaries and had a connection to a third burglary. He has never been convicted and instead went through a diversion program for juvenile offenders.
Dorsey, in an interview with the Detroit Free Press, acknowledged his past problems and said he plans to "show everybody I'm not that person who I was a couple years back then, hanging with the wrong crowd and stuff like that." He said he picked Michigan in part because it allows him to get away from home and start fresh.
Dorsey deserves a chance to start fresh and play college football. And he had several good options on signing day.
The real question here is: Should Michigan be the team to provide him that chance?
Some say no, citing the risks of Dorsey falling into trouble again. Michigan has had players fall into legal trouble, including former quarterback Justin Feagin, who was dismissed from the team in June. Then again, almost every team in the country has had similar cases, if not worse. Just look around the Big Ten and you'll find several examples. Better yet, look around the SEC. Yikes.
Rodriguez and Michigan are assuming a risk with Dorsey, a larger risk than with most players because of his history. If he gets in trouble in Ann Arbor, the head coach and the university will take heat for it. Heat they'll deserve.
But is that risk large enough to push the Wolverines away when other programs wouldn't think twice about adding Dorsey to their roster? Does Michigan have to hold itself to a perceived higher standard, a standard that might not even exist in college football, much less at U-M? Some will say yes, but these folks need to open their eyes and realize this is big-time college football.
Lloyd Carr gave players second chances, too. He assumed the risk of them messing up again. Every college football coach does. Like it or not, it's part of this sport.
Michigan shouldn't have to stay away from every promising recruit with a checkered past because it's Michigan. Rodriguez has given second chances before, and some have blown up in his face. But he shouldn't stop doing it entirely.
If Rodriguez and his staff are satisfied that Dorsey's troubles are behind him, they have the right to bring him on board. They also have the right to be criticized if he messes up again.
It seems like a pretty fair deal.