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John Blake's rocky path to Buffalo's D-Line includes scandal, Marcell Dareus, Jerry Hughes

Just call it another mid-March Monday under Rex Ryan. He always keeps it interesting.

Karl Dunbar is out as defensive line coach. And John Blake is in.

The 55-year-old Blake has coached 20-plus years at the college and pro level. He certainly has the resume for the job. On the bright side, he was the D-Line coach of the great Dallas Cowboys defenses that flustered the Buffalo Bills in two Super Bowl wins.

On the down side? Well, you probably heard this name before --- Blake was the center of NCAA scandal, resigning as North Carolina's D-Line coach in 2010 amid a NCAA investigation into his relationship with a NFL agent.

On Tuesday, the Bills made it official. Blake will take over the defensive line. Here are a few quick connections/notes on the once-embattled assistant coach...

--- Current Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus told NCAA investigators in 2010 that Blake recommended agent Gary Wichard (since deceased) to him in a phone conversation that summer. Blake and Wichard were close friends.

It was during this time that Alabama coach Nick Saban referred to agents as pimps, saying "I have no respect for people who do that to young people, none. I mean, none. How would you feel if they did it to your child?”

Now, Blake will be coaching Dareus in Buffalo.

From the Yahoo! Sports story:

Dareus, who was the defensive most valuable player in the 2010 BCS title game, was suspended by the NCAA for the first two games of this season for receiving improper benefits from agents during offseason trips to Miami. It was during that investigation, the sources said, that Dareus told NCAA investigators Blake had spoken to him about Wichard.

The sources said Dareus was extremely cooperative while describing his relationship with Blake to investigators, explaining that the former Tar Heels assistant recruited him while he was starring at Birmingham’s Huffman High School. The sources said Dareus told NCAA investigators that Blake had maintained contact with him since that recruitment, and that during the summer Blake called both Dareus and Dareus’ friend, South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders, to suggest they sign with Wichard. Both Dareus and Saunders were considered potential first-round picks entering this season.

As noted on Monday, whoever's in charge of the defensive line needs to maximize Dareus' talent.

--- And as Yahoo! Sports first reported, Blake and Wichard engaged in multiple financial transactions during Blake’s time at UNC.

The NCAA concluded that Wichard paid Blake for access to players, without disclosing the income to the university. Blake was reportedly employed by Wichard’s firm and wired money from the agent’s bank. The NCAA also cited Blake for unethical conduct and failing to cooperate. The NCAA levied a three-year show-cause penalty against Blake in March 2012, a virtual suspension.

--- Rex Ryan was John Blake's defensive coordinator at Oklahoma in 1998, when Blake served his final year as head coach. Blake was fired after going 12-22. Their relationship, however, didn't end there. As noted by Jets beat writer Brian Costello, the two stayed close through the years. Ryan consulted Blake before selecting Quinton Coples 16th overall in the 2012 draft --- Coples played for Blake at North Carolina. Ryan took Coples five picks ahead of Chandler Jones, who has blossomed into one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL. After 16.5 sacks in three seasons, Coples was released.

--- For all the details on Blake and the UNC investigation, read Andy Staples' story in Sports Illustrated. The former North Carolina head coach Butch Davis on it all? "I'm sorry that I trusted John Blake."

Blake's reaction to that: "It was probably one of the most painful things I've heard. It was devastating for me and my family to hear something like that. Blake believes Davis had little choice but to distance himself from his former friend. "I understand the pressure coach was under. I understand the things brought against me -- unjustly. I understood that, at that time, he felt that the best way for him to relieve some of the pressure that he was under was to say those things."

--- As noted by The MMQB, Blake has trained Bills outside linebacker Jerry Hughes, in addition to Jason Pierre-Paul, Dwight Freeney and Robert Quinn. He helped Pierre-Paul after the Giants end's hand was blasted in a fireworks accident.

This relationship should help. Hughes drew a slew of flags last season --- 14 in all --- but is the team's best pass rusher. The Bills must get him and Dareus rolling in 2016. Reigniting the pass rush starts with this duo.

--- If this stop in the NFL goes as well as the last one, the Bills will absolutely take it. With the Dallas Cowboys, Blake coached Pro Bowlers Leon Lett, Charles Haley, Russell Maryland and Tony Tolbert to a pair of Super Bowl titles. Away from the college game completely, maybe he can resurrect his coaching career. Blake was hired by Lamar University last month, which would've been his first coaching job since North Carolina in 2010.

But Rex Ryan, who loves giving second chances to players, appears set to give a second chance to a old coaching friend.

--- One more Bills connection? Wide receiver Greg Little, signed after the season, was part of the improper benefits scandal at North Carolina. He attended a party at South Beach that triggered the NCAA investigation into the university and led to suspensions and, eventually, Blake's resignation. The party, as Little explained in this interview, will "haunt" him.

“It was tough to know that essentially that I started the whole investigation, and that was one of the things that was very bearing and very hard to deal with,” he said. “It was something that will haunt me forever, to know that my team could have won a national championship if I played along with them.”


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