Boateng has much to prove on and off the field
Nyan Boateng didn't play for California in the 2007 season, but he doesn't need his Cal teammates to describe the excruciating experience of tumbling from touted to maligned. He knows all about it.
Boateng, a Florida transfer, watched from the sidelines as the Golden Bears fell from No. 2 in the country to No. 7 in the Pac-10. They followed up an impressive 5-0 start that included victories over Tennessee and Oregon with a complete implosion -- six defeats in eight games.
It played out a lot like Boateng's football career to that point.
Now the Bears, desperate to find playmaking receivers, and Boateng, desperate for a second chance, hope to help each other rebuild and redeem their standing and reputation.
California is counting on Boateng to step in for a receiving corps that lost all of its production from a year ago, with DeSean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan expected to be drafted this spring.
But Boateng, a Brooklyn, N.Y., product and one of the top recruits from Urban Meyer's first recruiting class in 2005, has a lot to prove on and off the field.
He arrived in Gainesville with a reputation as a spectacular two-sport athlete with an abundance of confidence that he wasn't shy about sharing. He caught four passes for 77 yards and rushed for 16 yards on two carries as a freshman, but his modest highlights ended there.
Boateng signed with the Gators also intending to play basketball. He claims Meyer, after signing off on the idea during recruiting, tried to discourage his hoop dreams and penalized him on the depth chart for persisting.
"When my whole family is told I can play basketball and it won't jeopardize my football status, I expected nothing other than that," Boateng said. "It was completely different in reality when I got on campus."
Meyer said this week he has no problem with his players going out for other sports, noting that receiver Riley Cooper is presently playing baseball and a couple of others are running track. He said his policy, however, requires that they be in good standing in the classroom and off the field.
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Off the field is where things went south for Boateng as a sophomore. First, an ankle injury ended his season. Then he made headlines when a girlfriend stabbed him in the leg during a dorm room argument. The wound was minor and no charges were filed, but the damage was significant. Boateng was suspended from all team activities.
"That pretty much drove the stake through my heart," he said. "After that, my heart was no longer with the Gators even though I knew the program would have success."
Boateng said Meyer told other Gators to not associate with him after the stabbing, and Meyer doesn't deny that.
"When there are weapons around, I encourage our guys to stay away," Meyer said. "And a girlfriend stabbing a guy in the leg, I encouraged our guys to stay away."
Boateng transferred after the 2006 season, but his troubles didn't end there. Back in Gainesville in July of 2007 to finalize a divorce, according to the Tampa Tribune, Boateng got into an argument with another girlfriend, with whom he was staying.
After she denied him entry into her residence, he kicked in the door, according to reports. He was arrested and charged with burglary, battery and criminal mischief.
Boateng said that the woman in question was mad because he decided to stay with former teammates instead of her and she wouldn't let him inside to get his belongings.
"I should have called the police to go get my stuff," he said. "But I just went in the house and got my stuff and left. It was just me being a young guy, being dumb."
While all charges were eventually dropped, Cal coach Jeff Tedford suspended Boateng, who would have been ineligible in 2007 anyway due to transfer rules. Tedford made it clear that trouble needed to stop finding Boateng, but he also saw a guy who had been saddled with a bum rap.
"You've got to find out all the information," Tedford said. "Once I found out all the information, I was satisfied there wasn't [too much] there. He wasn't charged with anything. It was a misunderstanding. And he's been a model citizen here."
Meyer, while annoyed by Boateng's contentions, footnoted his counter by saying Boateng "is not a bad guy."
That's not exactly setting the bar high, though. Boateng knows it's time to grow up. And Cal needs him to do that.
While the Bears' quarterback competition between Nate Longshore and Kevin Riley will garner the most attention when spring practices start March 31, few major programs will be as green at receiver as the Bears in 2008. Boateng qualifies as the second-most experienced, just behind LaReylle Cunningham, who owns 10 career receptions.
And as good as last year's receivers were, they were undersized. Not so this year.
"They're all 6-3-ish," Tedford said. "They can really run. They can leap out of the gym. And they've got very good ball skills."
The incoming recruiting class boasts five receivers, including a pair of junior college transfers, and Tedford said he expects one or two to earn immediate playing time.
Boateng, who said he plans to play basketball next year, is a bit of a wild card. Of course, he expects to lead the charge -- a charge that will redeem him and a program.
"I'm not trying to be cocky," he said, "but I know what my athletic ability brings to the football field."
Ted Miller is a college football writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Ted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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