Saturdays in Athens
George Somerville. Saturday
12th September 2020
Welcome to our weekly round up of life in the Southeastern Conference.
We’re now only two weeks from the SEC season opener and you get a real sense of the pressure rising in the conference. So this week Kirby Smart finally talks about Jamie Newman’s departure, Covid impacts practice at Knoxville, Lane Kiffin uses the past to shape the future, Sam Williams is back and SEC fans are being, well, SEC fans. It’s all happening in the SEC so here are this weeks headlines….
Excited? You bet. Let’s get started y’all!
Kirby Talks About Newman
Last week the SEC was rocked by the news that Georgia QB Jamie Newman had decided to opt out of the season before even wearing the red and black Bulldog jersey.
Last week, Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart had elected not to talk about his QB leaving. However after Saturday’s full team scrimmage, Smart met with the media and it was no great surprise that Newman’s announcement was top of the list of questions from them. Here’s what Smart had to say about that and the QB situation in general,
When did you learn of his (Newman’s) plans and how did that fall into your plans?
You know its not relevant now, we’re moving forward. I respect Jamie, he’s done a great job (and) I respect any player that chooses to opt out.
He came and let me know on Tuesday. It was a non practice day for us…he let me know and then he announced it on the Wednesday.
What did you think about the quarterback position now with out Jamie Newman?
It’s a work in progress. We had guys today who went out and practiced well. But we want a guy to assume the lead, to take the lead and that hasn’t happened yet. You know we can have a guy make a great play, great series and then come back with a bonehead mistake. Nobody has really taken charge and taken over. I wish I could say that. But we don’t have a guy that’s way ahead.
Do you expect JT (Daniels) to get cleared to play for the Arkansas game (the season opener)?
I am under the assumption that is what is going to happen. But that is not my decision. Obviously thats the medical decision.
He’s cleared to practice, which is unique to that position because they are not out there getting hit all day. They are non contact. So we expect him to be cleared for the first game but that’s not a complete certainty. I know Ron (Courson) feels confident that he’s far enough post op and that he has enough strength in his leg to be in a good position to be able to play but that’s going to boil down to Ron and our Doctors making that call.
Trouble In Tennessee
While the excitement towards the SEC season builds, the spectre of COVID-19 continues to loom large over the country.
And another step back for the season opener happened this week when Tennessee cancelled its scrimmage which was scheduled to take place in Knoxville on Saturday 5th September.
Vols Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt told the media that 44 players were unable to practice – 7 players who had tested positive for the virus with the remainder quarantined due to contact tracing.
This is the second practice session that Pruitt has cancelled, with a practice on Aug 28 cancelled, also due to positive tests within the team.
According to Blake Toppmeyer of the Knoxville News Sentinel, the Vols are now unlikely to use their full allocation of practice sessions, with the best guestimate being that the Vols will use 22 of their 25 practice slots.
It wasn’t just the result that caused raised eyebrows. It was the manner of the deafeat.
Final score: Navy 3 BYU 55
While we expected there to be upsets and shocks in this season of great uncertainty, it was the limp nature of Navy’s defense that had the experts scratching their heads. But then Navy Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo uttered those now infamous words about his team. A team that had practiced no contact football in the lead up to the seasons opener. Niumatalolo said,
“We’re probably the cleanest team in the country, but unfortunately we suck at football right now”.
And this sums up perfectly the dilemma that Head Coaches have today in trying to create a winning environment whilst having a healthy team to field in the first place.
So during this week’s Ole Miss press conference, Head Coach Lane Kiffin was asked about treading this fine line. Kiffin was asked this by the press,
“How difficult has it been as a Coach to balance this year, all of the Covid concerns with getting your team physically ready to play from a blocking and tackling standpoint?”
“Well I guess in a way I kinda had a little bit of practice with the sanctions at USC, when our (player) numbers were so far down. You know, I think I made a mistake that year, after having a really good year (before) there. Even though our numbers were really low because of the sanctions and only being able to sign fifteen guys. You know, we didn’t tackle and didn’t do the same practice formats and we went out and played really poorly that year.
So, (this year) we’ve tackled like we normally do in practice, for those reasons. It won’t do any good to stay healthy if we get out there and can’t tackle on gameday. So, we’ve been doing everything as normal”.
Sam Williams Returns
Ole Miss Athletics issued a statement this week that pass rusher Sam Williams will return to the team.
Williams had been suspended from the team following his arrest for sexual assault back on July 24th. Williams was released on $25,000 bail however, charges have since been dropped against him.
The Ole Miss Athletics statement said,
“With no pending charges, Sam Williams has returned to football activities. We defer to his legal counsel on questions regarding his case”.
Williams, who was a JUCO transfer into Ole Miss, was the Rebels leading pass rusher in 2019 and would have been a significant miss for Ole Miss going into this conference only schedule.
SEC Football - It Just Means More!
Banter between SEC fans is always intense. And there’s no love lost between the states of Georgia and Alabama as this Twitter post suggests.
Harsh? Almost certainly.
2020? Yes, it is!
A GLASWEGIAN LIVING IN LONDON, GEORGE IS A COLLEGE FOOTBALL FAN WHO FOLLOWS THE ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE. HE PROVIDES CFB CONTENT FOR THE TOUCHDOWN AND IS ONE THIRD OF THE COLLEGE CHAPS PODCAST.