Texas Tech football is in the midst of spring practice… at least most of the players are. Junior corner Nigel Bethel II is not participating in theses practice sessions so is his status on the team in jeopardy?
To say that Texas Tech corner Nigel Bethel’s time in Lubbock has been tumultuous might be an understatement. The former 4-star recruit out of Miami, Florida has struggled with injuries, on the field consistency and maturity in his two years at Texas Tech.
At the moment, it is his maturity off the field that is costing him the chance to compete for a starting spot in the defensive backfield. Texas Tech head coach Kilff Kingsbury addressed the status of his 5-foot-9, 178-pound corner.
"“He’s focusing on academics this semester. Not (working out) right now.” Kingsbury said. He’ll focus on academics and we’ll take it from there.”"
Never one to say much of substance to the media (unless he’s throwing shade at Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema) Kingsbury’s remarks are telling. The fact that Bethel is not even working out with the team right now means he might as well not be considered part of the team at this point.
While his teammates are fighting for a position atop the Texas Tech football depth chart heading into the summer, it appears that Bethel is fighting just to stay on the roster. Kingsbury’s use of the phrase “we’ll take it from there” to end his statement on the mater allows one to assume that Bethel’s status moving forward is in question and yet to be determined by the coaching staff.
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From almost the moment Bethel arrived on campus in Lubbock, he has found himself in the news for negative reasons. In the summer of 2014, before the Florida native had even played a single college football game, Bethel was involved in a public physical incident with a member of the Texas Tech Lady Raider basketball team.
During a recreational game on campus, the two athletes became angry at one another and a physical altercation ensued resulting in Bethel punching Lady Raider basketball player Amber Battle in the face. Nigel Bethel was immediately kicked off of the football team and returned to his native Miami for a time. List
Ultimately, a Lubbock grand jury decided not to press charges against Bethel, an outcome Battle lobbied for publicly. Bethel returned to the team but was suspended for the first four games of the 2014 football season (and Battle was suspended for the first month of her season for her role as instigator of the incident).
Last year, Bethel again missed the first four games of the season but this time due to an injury. He would finish the season with 38 tackles, 10 passes defended and one interception.
It has been rare for Bethel to be out of the public eye in the world of Texas Tech fans. His most widely used tool is social media.
Just days prior to the first game of the 2015 Texas Tech football season, Bethell sent out a tweet that just said “Free Agent” . Though this term could related to his dating status or an infinite number of any other topics, the fact that the tweet came shortly after the release of Texas Tech’s first depth chart of the year, on which Bethel was not listed (due most likely to his injury) led to wild speculation by the Red Raider fan base.
This is just one example of numerous odd or controversial tweets Nigel Bethel has posted causing fans to question his standing with the team. Now, his academic work seems to be the latest threat to his place on the Texas Tech football roster.
If he is indeed on the roster next season, Bethel is a strong candidate to start at one of the corner back positions. The diminutive defender uses his excellent speed to make up for his lack of stature and he is never afraid of physical play or tackling.
However, should Bethel not be part of the 2016 football team, the candidates to start at corner are junior Tevin Madison and seniors Justis Nelson and D.J. Polite-Bray. The former, having ironically been off the team for all of 2015 due to his own academic struggles, would be a strong candidate to replace Bethel but expect all three to see significant playing time.
The current absence of Bethel from the practice field gives fans yet another issue to discuss and fret over concerning the tempestuous tenure of Nigel Bethel as a Texas Tech football player. Only time, and Kliff Kingsbury, will tell whether Bethel is able to once again defy the odds and remain part of the football program.