Saturdays in Athens
George Somerville. Saturday
19th September 2020
Welcome to our weekly round up of life in the Southeastern Conference.
As you read this we are seven days away from the start of SEC footballs. Yes, 7 days. Hands up if you didn’t think this day would ever come….
But still the Covid-19 virus continues to dominate the headlines and there remains doubt about the ability for teams to keep their student athletes safe and out of harms way. So this week we have players opting in, transfers approved, Ben Griffin Stadium on fire and waits what! No dawgs in Athens.
Here are this weeks headlines….
Let’s get started y’all!
Farrell opts back in
Baton Rouge, la
Stories about the impact that Covid-19 are never far away and to be honest drive most of the headlines these days.
This story is a little different. Back in August, LSU defensive lineman, Neil Farrell announced that he would be opting out of the Tigers upcoming season. Farrell’s reason for opting out was simple. His family had been impacted by the virus and his Grandmother had been admitted to hospital.
But great news this week. Firstly, Farrell’s Grandmother is now recovering from the virus.
Farrell wrote via his Twitter page,
“My grandmother is getting better each and every day & I thank God for that….I miss football”.
And that leads me onto the second piece of good news. Neil Farrell misses football so much that he is opting back in to the season with the LSU Tigers.
While Farrell’s scholarship had been protected under NCAA rules, it seems the pull to play in Baton Rouge was too much.
And given the number of players who departed for the NFL this year plus those who have chosen to opt-out, not just for health reasons. Farrell will be a sight for sore eyes down in the Bayou.
Not in the dawg house
There are many things that we have had to do without as a result of the world wide pandemic which shut down the world in March. Many sacrifices have and will need to be made. But the news out of Athens this week is truly shocking.
Georgia announced his week that UGA, their bulldog mascot will not be on the field this season.
Yup, the UGA DawgHouse will be empty this season. This is uncommon. In fact it has been 10 years since an UGA was not on the field.
So this news, ranks on the shock-o-meter with the hedges being lifted for the Olympics (you need to google this story to understand how big a broo-ha-ha this was).
The reason given for UGA’s absence is that he always pulls a crowd and in the current circumstances, it was felt this just sent out the wrong signal.
So no UGA at UGA. I guess we didn’t think we would have any football at all. So keeping UGA safe and out of harms way is no bad thing.
Hill in, Hilinski Out
Surprising news out of USC this week that grad transfer Collin Hill will start out at QB in the Gamecocks season opener against Tennessee.
Surprising? Yes, well for what its worth it seemed that Ryan Hilinski’s performances last year would see him favourite to retain QB1 coming in to the new season.
Hill, who is known to Will Muschamp and Mike Bobo from his time in Colorado threw for 3,323 yards and 23 touchdowns last year with the Rams.
Hill has a good understanding of Bobo’s offensive scheme, however, he has also had three ACL injuries in his career so far.
Of the decision, Gamecocks Head Coach Will Muschamp told the media at his press conference Thursday,
“Ryan’s had a really good camp. Obviously, there was an advantage for Collin playing for Coach (Mike) Bobo before. Schematically there are some things that helped him. But we can win with both guys. We’ve got confidence in both guys and, as I told them and our entire football team, we’re going into the unknown. We’ve got to have all hands on deck ready to play. Luke Doty has gotten more reps at the quarterback position, because what if we do lose Collin and Ryan to a COVID situation? We’ve got to have a bunch of guys ready to play in the game, but Collin will start for us.”
The College Chaps talked about this on their recent podcast.
NCAA approves Shorter Transfer
While the ongoing saga of Joey Gatewood’s transfer from Auburn to Kentucky rumbles on and on and on. Florida received the great news that wide receiver, Justin Shorter had received immediate eligibility from the NCAA to play for the Gators. Shorter had declared his intention to transfer from Penn State back on January 2nd.
While Shorter did not have a noticeable career at Penn State, the general feeling is that he will fit well into the Florida system. For a start Dan Mullen employs a rotation system at WR which is thought will benefit to Shorter. Also Mullen is keen for his wide-outs to block, something which is in Shorter’s game.
Dan Mullen said of his transfer on Monday during his weekly press conference,
“I mean, great physical blocker (at) the point of attack. You can see he’s a little bit of an older guy, he’s not a new guy coming in. He’s a veteran guy that’s played some football so he understands the importance of the complete game. Blocking is just as important as catching a 50 yard pass.
I think he’ll be an impact player for us this year”.
florida, a dumpster fire?
The Gators are much fancied this year, not just to win the SEC East, but with a fair wind, to win the SEC outright.
So two weeks before the Gators season opener against Ole Miss, no-one expected to be talking about a dumpster fire in Gainesville. But that’s exactly what happened on Saturday.
Pictures emerged last Saturday of smoke billowing out of the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Initially a fire in a dumpster was reported but later a fire caused by a tractor was cited as the cause.
Thankfully, no-one was hurt or no damage occurred as a result of the fire.
However, Florida Head Coach, Dan Mullen saw the funny side of the incident. Mullen making reference to his teams anticipated hot start to the season said,
“You know the Gators are gonna be on fire this year. But we still have 2 weeks till kick off”.
You know the Gators are gonna be on fire 🔥 this year. But we still have 2 weeks til kickoff.
— Dan Mullen (@CoachDanMullen) September 12, 2020
coach o meets the press
Baton Rouge, la
LSU Head Coach, Ed Orgeron met with the press this week following the Team’s second of three scrimmages ahead of the season opener against Mississippi State. Honest as ever, here are the highlights of his press conference.
Asked about whether one positional group was dominating more than another, Coach O said,
“We are so much better on defense right now than at any part of the season last year. I feel Bo Pelini has come in and brought a new energy, a new excitement. Dave Aranda did a tremendous job for us, but I’m just glad we moved to the 4-3 as we are more of an attacking style of defense using our personnel. Bo has done a tremendous job for us”.
On preparation for the opening game against Mike Leach’s air raid offence at Mississippi State,
“We don’t know what Mississippi State is going to do. We’ ve been looking at what he has done in the past, but we don’t know exactly what they are going to do. Because its going to be brand new. I’m sure there’s going to be some adjustments to be made. They got a new quarterback. We have to make end game adjustments just like any first game. But I do believe that our team is going to be ready to play…..we’re just ready to hit somebody else to be honest with you”.
Unsurprisingly, Coach O was asked about the health of his team.
“Two weeks ago we had everybody on our offensive line, except maybe two or three guys were out. I think most of, not all of our players but most of our players have caught it. Hopefully they don’t catch it again and hopefully they’re not out for games”.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL WRITER
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.