Trey to Play or Not to Play?
The offseason is a glorious time when players finally get some precious free time, which is always needed to recharge the batteries after the season, spring practices and classwork. Unfortunately for coaches, it also provides ample time for players to make a mistake and violate one of the NCAA's rules found in its 391,048-page (estimated) rule book.
Apparently Alabama linebacker Trey DePriest did just that.
Head coach Nick Saban announced Wednesday that DePriest will sit out the season opener versus West Virginia in the Georgia Dome on Saturday after committing a "minor NCAA infraction," according to B/R's lead Alabama writer Marc Torrence.
A big loss? Sort of.
Anytime you lose a first-team All-SEC linebacker for any reason, it's not a good thing. Plus, losing one to NCAA infractions—even minor ones—gives the NCAA a reason to ask questions, and no program wants that even if nothing else is there.
Alabama does, however, have plenty of depth and versatility at linebacker, as Torrence pointed out.
Trey DePriest goes down, so next two guys up? Top ILB of the 2012 class, top ILB class of the 2013 class. Rough go of it for Alabama.— Marc Torrence (@marctorrence) August 28, 2014
DePriest was nursing a knee injury during fall camp, which allowed sophomore Reuben Foster to cross-train at "Mike" and "Will" linebacker in Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart's 3-4 scheme. Now Foster will step into DePriest's starting role at "Mike" alongside Reggie Ragland at "Will." Dillon Lee has played outside and inside linebacker throughout his career, and freshman Shaun Dion Hamilton will provide depth as well.
Against West Virginia, this is actually a blessing in disguise.
Now some relatively inexperienced players will get a few more game reps against an offense that, while not exactly fearsome, will at the very least give the Tide creative looks and give defenders valuable experience down the road.
Rivalry? Or Offseason Talking Point?
Arkansas will visit Auburn in the season opener on Saturday afternoon on the Plains, and most of the intrigue in this game exists on the sidelines.
The Tigers are nearly three-touchdown favorites over the Razorbacks, according to OddsShark.com, with the big draw being the difference in styles between the two head coaches. Auburn's Gus Malzahn is a proponent of the hurry-up, no-huddle system that has become all the rage in college football, while Arkansas' Bret Bielema is more old school and was one of the figureheads of the failed 10-second rule hubbub in February.
Toss in Malzahn's Arkansas ties and the passive-aggressive war of words between the two last season during SEC media days, and this has all of the makings of a new rivalry in the SEC West.
Except that it isn't.
Bielema didn't take the bait when asked if—by saying he didn't have "anything hanging over his team" earlier in the week—he was taking a subtle shot at Malzahn's handling of quarterback Nick Marshall's suspension.
"Not at all. I think you're reading too much rhetoric," Bielema said. "As far as Gus and how he handles his team, he's obviously done a great job of it to win an SEC title, and (to) put himself in a national championship game speaks volumes about what that coaching staff is capable of doing and how talented they are."
Malzahn downplayed his role in this "budding rivalry" during SEC media days.
"I think it's real professional," he said. "I've got a lot of respect for Bret as a coach. When we're in meetings, we communicate. Like I said, I got a lot of respect for him. I know he's going to get that program where he wants it to be."
Do they love each other? Probably not. Name me one uptempo coach who doesn't want to keep his foot on the gas a little while longer if he gets the chance against Bielema. Can't do it? That's because that coach doesn't exist. On the flip side, Bielema probably would do the same to uptempo teams if he gets the chance.
Malzahn's Arkansas ties make this game a little more spicy, but let's not try to make the rivalry bigger than it is. It's an SEC West battle that, in Saturday's case, just so happens to be one of the bigger games of opening weekend.
That's big enough.
No Pressure, Kid
Fifth-year senior quarterback Hutson Mason is stepping in for a legend, literally.
Aaron Murray left Georgia as the SEC's all-time leader in passing yards (13,166) and passing touchdowns (121), but the cupboard is far from bare in Athens. Mason has weapons all around him, which should help him ease into the full-time starter's role and the leadership responsibilities that go with it.
"I think Hutson's doing a very good job, but I also think (center) David Andrews is," head coach Mark Richt said. "I think (running back) Todd Gurley has. We got (tackle) John Theus. We got a lot of guys who have good leadership skills—(tight end) Jay Rome, (running back) Keith Marshall, (wide receivers) Chris Conley and Michael Bennett. A lot of guys have been around the block and highly productive, and are totally bought into what we are doing. Hutson's got a lot of support."
That's not coach speak, it's the truth.
Mason is a veteran of the system and has established stars all over the place who can help take any pressure off of his shoulders early in his career. Clemson has a veteran defense that will certainly try to rattle him, but with the players he has around him and the poise he showed in his two starts last season, Mason will be fine.
Sophomore Anthony Jennings or freshman Brandon Harris?
That's the question facing LSU head coach Les Miles, and it appears that both will play in Saturday night's game versus Wisconsin in Houston.
"We're going to do those things that we feel will benefit both quarterbacks," Miles said on the coaches teleconference. "We're going to play them appropriately. It's not something without conception. We understand it. It's just not something I'm going to reveal. I don't think there's any tremendous magic to it. We like both guys. Both will play."
But who will finish the game as the No. 1 guy?
My money is on the true freshman Harris. The 6'3", 188-pounder from Bossier City, Louisiana, is accurate downfield, more of a threat with his legs and has more upside than Jennings.
In a battle where both contenders are relatively inexperienced, having a guy like Jennings going in as the starter against a tough opponent like Wisconsin will allow the team to get into a flow early. Once that happens, expect both to play but for Harris to show his potential early and often, leaving no doubt who the No. 1 quarterback should be.
Vols Getting Creative
Recruiting is a contact sport, and the way teams make contact with prospects is getting more and more creative.
Tennessee took it to the next level.
The Vols sent Shy Tuttle, a 5-star defensive tackle in the class of 2015, a Photoshopped Rolling Stone cover, complete with a fake headline of why Beyonce wants Tuttle on Rocky Top.
😂😂😂😂😂 they snapped with this pic.twitter.com/dSCeiTInho— Shy Tuttle (@KingTut_90) August 26, 2014
Over the top? Not at all. Programs need to stand out, and pairing Tuttle up with Beyonce—however fictitious that may be—will certainly resonate well with the 6'3", 315-pounder.
- Don't expect Auburn to have a specific time in mind on when to bring back quarterback Nick Marshall from suspension against Arkansas. Jeremy Johnson will likely be Auburn's starter in 2015 when they open in the Georgia Dome against Louisville in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. Having Johnson prepare as the starter and execute the game plan in a big season opener is valuable experience for him moving forward. If Marshall is slated to be out one quarter, expect his suspension to be "one quarter-ish," and if Johnson is in the middle of a drive, the sophomore will be allowed to finish it off.
- Alabama's offense might be sloppy, and it won't matter. With both Jake Coker and Blake Sims expected to play, offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin might throw a lot at each of them to see how they handle things in a real game. Some of it may not work, and that's OK. Alabama always has the luxury of turning around and handing the ball to Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon when it needs to. The offense may be sloppy and look disjointed at times, and that will be good news because it will go a long way toward determining who the full-time starting quarterback will be.
- Tennessee, be wary of Utah State and the Chuckie Keeton experience. There's an 80 percent chance of rain in Knoxville on Sunday, and the electrifying Keeton on a wet field against Tennessee's inexperienced front four should scare Vols fans.
- Will Clemson upset Georgia? Nope. Don't be surprised if Georgia's defense takes a massive step forward against a Clemson offense that is full of question marks.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.