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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

February 7, 2012 at 11:58 AM

Boom! Mizell booted from Cougars

Apparently, it’s not a good idea to test Mike Leach, the new WSU football coach. Late Tuesday morning, the Cougars announced that sophomore linebacker C.J. Mizell “will not be retained” on the WSU squad after an eventful couple of seasons.

Mizell was charged Sunday with fourth-degree assault and second-degree criminal trespass by Pullman police after an alleged fight at a fraternity. A police spokesman told the Spokane Spokesman-Review that Mizell punched a victim several times after he was denied admittance to a party at the Delta Tau Delta house.

I detailed the pre-WSU Mizell drama when he entered WSU in 2010. He grew up in southern Georgia, and as a sophomore at Coffee County, Ga., got into an altercation with the coach at the school, Jerry Odom. Neither Mizell nor Odom would say much about it, but June Munford, assistant superintendent of Coffee County schools, told me in 2010, “It wasn’t really a fight. It wasn’t really punches, just some aggressiveness, one toward the other.” Munford said it happened in the locker room after a practice.

Mizell’s family moved south to Tallahassee and he signed a letter of intent with the hometown Florida State Seminoles in 2009, but he came up shy of a qualifying test score. Court records show him receiving probation for possession of a small amount of marijuana.

Mizell said he talked to the new FSU coach at the time, Jimbo Fisher, and Fisher wanted him to attend a junior college. Mizell didn’t want to, and he slipped between the cracks and was a surprise signee by the Cougars in 2010. A friend of then-WSU grad assistant Sheldon Cross tipped the Cross on Mizell’s availability, and the Cougars took a flyer and signed him.

He was a handful from the beginning. Mizell would visibly loaf through some early practices, as if trying to be insubordinate. Paul Wulff and his staff tried to discipline him, but also gave him a fairly long leash. He was a talent. Finally, Mizell began to show better work habits, and he was a fairly big factor down the stretch for the Cougars — memorably setting the tone in a big upset at Oregon State by running star back Jacquizz far out of bounds onto a hard surface for a 15-yard personal-foul penalty.

Mizell had a fairly undistinguished sophomore season, capped by a perplexing incident at the Apple Cup in which he appeared to take himself out of action, wearing sweats after halftime. There was speculation about whether he would be allowed to return, regardless of whether Wulff was retained. Now we know.

Assuming football is important to Mizell, not doing his best to impress the new staff has to rank as a supremely stupid move on his part. He would have been a junior on a team that seems to have some promise, and if he had chosen to take off following the 2012 season for a shot at the NFL, it was there for him. He has those kinds of physical gifts. Now, to make that happen in a year, he has to drop down a level of competition. In any case, he’s wasting a mountain of ability.

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