Big Injury Scare
The first goal that comes to mind when thinking about this year's Florida team is "stay healthy."
Last year, 15 players suffered season-ending injuries (10 starters), and 25 players missed a total of 126 games, according to Florida's season wrapup notes.
If there are injuries during fall camp, a little bit of panic from Gator Nation is understandable. That's exactly what happened Thursday.
Star sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III injured his left knee in a scuffle during Thursday night's practice—which was open to the public. The AP All-American from a year ago was helped off the field and examined by Florida's medical staff, and Hargreaves' reaction understandably had Gator Nation holding its breath:
He’s walking around now, getting on cart being taken from practice field. He’s sitting in the passenger seat.— Richard Johnson (@RagjUF) August 8, 2014
Hargreaves visibly frustrated, hands on head, banging the cart in annoyance.— Richard Johnson (@RagjUF) August 8, 2014
Head coach Will Muschamp released a statement on VHIII's injury after practice, and it was surely met with relief:
Update from @CoachWMuschamp: “An MRI revealed that Vernon Hargreaves suffered a bone bruise and he is listed as day to day.”— GatorZone Football (@GatorZoneFB) August 8, 2014
Losing Hargreaves for a significant amount of time would have been a devastating blow to the Gators, and would have put a ton of pressure on some of the younger guys to step up—just as Hargreaves did as a true freshman.
It's safe to assume that Hargreaves will miss at least some practice time, which means more reps for guys like Jalen Tabor and Duke Dawson—two early enrollees who were already in line for rotational snaps either as backups or, in Dawson's case, perhaps as the "nickel."
All Quiet on the Bama QB Front
If you expected there to be some separation between quarterbacks early in Alabama's fall camp, well, you're probably a little disappointed right now.
There hasn't been.
Legit concern to freak out?
Florida State transfer Jacob Coker has only practiced for a week, and while it's likely that he'll win the job (after all, head coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin wouldn't bring him in to ride the pine), there was no chance for him to beat out senior Blake Sims and redshirt freshman Cooper Bateman early in fall camp.
The coaches were only able to have limited contact with him during "voluntary" offseason workouts, and they're not going to just hand the job to him until they've got a firm grasp of what he can and can't do.
This is not a typical quarterback battle. The unorthodox circumstances with a new offensive coordinator, an unproven graduate transfer going primarily up against a senior dual-threat signal-caller—Sims—almost forces this battle to go deep into fall camp.
It could go farther, too.
Coker is getting his fair share of hype—he was rated as the No. 1 breakout player (subscription required) in college football by ESPN insider Travis Haney—but don't be surprised if he and Sims both see time in the season opener against West Virginia in the Georgia Dome. Saban did it before, in 2011, with AJ McCarron and Phillips Sims. This battle almost requires it.
Lighting a Fire?
The Alabama quarterback battle isn't something to panic over.
The Tennessee quarterback battle, on the other hand, might be.
Senior Justin Worley and sophomores Joshua Dobbs and Nathan Peterman are competing for that job, and the early returns from fall camp haven't been pretty from head coach Butch Jones.
In fact, they've been downright ugly, according to Grant Ramey of the Maryville (Tennessee) Daily Times:
Butch on his QBs: "We're not playing winning football at that position right now. I'm always going to be brutally honest with you."— @GrantRamey (@GrantRamey) August 7, 2014
Butch Jones continued on the three-man race at quarterback: "Efficiency is what we're hunting. And we're not efficient at that position."— @GrantRamey (@GrantRamey) August 7, 2014
Last Butch on his QBs: "We're going to go back, we're going to refine it. But our passing game needs to take monumental strides"— @GrantRamey (@GrantRamey) August 7, 2014
Motivation? Could be.
But this quarterback battle is much different than the one at Alabama. Jones let last year's battle go deep into fall camp, and Worley, the eventual winner, didn't look comfortable early in the season before getting pulled, regaining the job and then getting hurt.
There's more urgency this time around on Rocky Top, and if the inconsistencies last another week or 10 days, it's time to push the panic button.
Depth and Versatility
Auburn's secondary was more of a punch line than a power last year, and now it's getting some pieces back.
Defensive back Josh Holsey tore his ACL in October of 2013 and is now back at the position he started his career at—cornerback. He'll provide a quality option for defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson opposite Jonathon Mincy, along with converted wide receiver Trovon Reed, Jonathan Jones and several incoming freshmen.
Holsey's versatility and ability to move back to the safety position will be incredibly valuable at boundary safety, where junior college transfer Derrick Moncrief is looking like a potential starter.
"He’ll know both the corner and the safety," head coach Gus Malzahn told Charles Goldberg of AuburnTigers.com. "We’re just trying to think through the year. Last year, we had a lot of injuries on the backend. He didn’t go through spring, but he got a chance to watch. So we had him out there at corner, but he does understand the boundary safety very well."
Moncrief has been out with an illness early this spring, according to James Crepea of the Montgomery Advertiser, which has allowed some younger guys to get valuable reps. Couple that with the versatility he provides and suddenly Johnson has options at the back end of the defense.
The start of fall camp always gives us a chance to get a glimpse of how some players have developed during offseason workouts.
LSU defensive end Danielle Hunter has evidently been spending some time in the weight room. Possibly a lot of time:
Hunter and Jermauria Rasco are bookending the Tiger defensive line this year, and with guns like that, Hunter's swim move is going to be something fierce.
Speaking of fierce, remember the last time we saw Alabama running back Derrick Henry in game action? It was when he was accounting for 161 total yards and two touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl loss to the Oklahoma Sooners.
The 6'3", 241-pound running back from Yulee, Florida is still a monster:
Anybody want to tackle him? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
One freshman burst on to the scene in Kentucky, and he's a big one.
Matt Elam, a 6'7", 375-pound defensive tackle from Elizabethtown, Kentucky, stepped foot on campus and the ground likely shook. Look at this guy
Matt Elam...mother of god pic.twitter.com/eLiIJBt5Ze— Chris Fisher (@ChrisFisher247) August 5, 2014
Defensive ends Alvin "Bud" Dupree and Za'Darius Smith will certainly enjoy Mt. Elam taking up space in the middle of that Wildcat defensive line, which will allow the two veterans to get after the quarterback.
Steve Spurrier vs. The SEC Network
Whenever Steve Spurrier has something on his mind, he's going to tell you about it. This week, he took aim—subtly—at the NCAA.
While discussing the new SEC Network with his players, Spurrier took a shot at NCAA's rules which prevent players from being paid:
Spurrier joke w/ team, on SEC Net in 90+million homes: "I said 'you know what that means, don't you fellas? More money, but not for you.'"— Michael Haney (@Haney1075) August 7, 2014
Spurrier: "The players need to share in it, just a little bit. I'm not talking about paying them $100,000 a year."— Michael Haney (@Haney1075) August 7, 2014
Spurrier: "We're trying to give them a little pocket money and give their parents money to go back and forth to ball games."— Michael Haney (@Haney1075) August 7, 2014
If that wasn't enough, Spurrier invited local media to sit in on film study, one day after the SEC Network's camera's did so:
Spurrier opening first 5 minutes of film study for media since SEC Network was given opportunity yesterday.— GamecockCentral.com (@GamecockCentral) August 7, 2014
Never change, Head Ball Coach. Never change.