Saturdays in Athens
George Somerville. Saturday 29th august 2020
Welcome to our weekly round up of life in the Southeastern Conference.
This week things are heating up with fall camps well underway, finally some good news for Vandy, a real recruiting coup for Will Muschamp and his Gamecocks but bad news in Georgia. Throw in the coaches meeting the media and it’s been another wild week in the SEC.
Here are this week’s headlines….
But firstly, this week has been dominated by the role that sport has played in the continued protest against social injustice, and in particular the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.
Similar to the position taken by NBA and NFL players, college athletes looked to take a stand. Late this week word started to appear that teams would be pausing practice to reflect and talk about the issues.
By Friday, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and LSU had all paused fall practice to discuss the issue and how they can help find a solution and show their support. Mizzou Head Coach Eli Drinkwitz had much to say on the subject, and this is discussed more fully in the press round up later in this column.
As I write this, players from Alabama have announced that they plan to march in protest on Monday.
Let us be clear – this generation of athletes are not afraid to stand up and be heard, something that is not only good for the game but should be beneficial for society.
So with that said, let’s get started y’all!
This is a little bit of a hangover news from last week, but still very much headline worthy.
24 hours after Will Muschamp received the crushing news that freshman Marshawn Lloyd would miss the season with an ACL injury, the Gamecocks received a huge boost after it was confirmed that five star QB Gunner Stockton had committed to USC.
Stockton, a dual threat quarterback from Georgia chose the Gamecocks over his home state Bulldogs and becomes not only the program’s first 2022 recruit, but is also the highest rated quarterback ever to commit to USC. Is this proof that Will Muschamp is quietly building a team to be reckoned with over the next few years?
Stockton is rated #54 nationally, #6 in Georgia and the highest rated dual threat quarterback in the nation.
Good News For Vandy
There haven’t been too many rays of sunshine for head coach Derek Mason and the Commodores of late.
The announcement of a difficult schedule and the recent pausing of fall camp due to an outbreak of the virus would give even the most ardent of Vandy fans cause for despair.
But this week, Mason did finally get some good news when star linebacker Dimitri Moore announced his decision to play football in the coming season.
Moore had previously announced that he would miss the season following the passing of his grandfather, who had contracted the virus.
In his announcement, which was made via his Instagram page, Moore said,
“After my grandfather’s passing from COVID-19, I made a decision to opt-out of the upcoming football season. Since then, I have done more research and had many conversations with doctors and medical personnel. I look forward to returning to the program and playing this season, and I have made this decision on my own. As a team, we are responsible for our actions and hold each other accountable within our environment. I have trust and confidence in Vanderbilt’s testing abilities and safety protocols.”
The return of Moore will be a big boost to the Commodores, as the linebacker led the Vanderbilt defense in tackles (99) last season and is widely tipped to enter the 2021 NFL Draft. Positive news at last for Vandy!
Great Catch, Karch!
The schedule tells us that Arkansas fans are in for a rough season. An opening game against Georgia highlights the mountain that the Razorbacks have to scale.
But might there be light on the horizon?
Well we can’t always take what happens in camp as a precursor to what the season holds, but head coach Sam Pittman must have been heartened to see this catch from red shirt freshman Karch Gardiner.
If you aren’t familiar with Gardiner, he is a freshman out of El Paso, Texas. Gardiner only featured in one game last season and was therefore able to redshirt. Catching the eye of your new head coach in the first week of camp is a good way of setting yourself up for a good season.
Maybe Razorback fans can look forward to 2020 football after all.
Great catch, Karch!
A Cure For Hiccups
I promised some time ago to feature more of the adventures of Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach on Twitter.
I guess the serious business of Covid-19, plus the opening of fall camp has meant that the Chuckle Brothers have been relatively quiet in the last couple of weeks.
But ‘The Pirate’ is back on form with – well, yes – a cure for hiccups.
You can’t say that Coach Leach isn’t box office, because he is great value for money. Leach set out his thoughts on how to avoid hiccups on his own Twitter account this week. A subject often shied away from, it was good to hear him speak out on the scourge of many a respiratory system. The whole clip is below, but I will leave you with these wise words from the great man.
“Don’t politely not burp. I mean go around the corner and let it rip”.
Go on, say you don’t get the cutting edge news from the SEC each week.
Bad News In Athens
Some sad news out of Athens this week, with confirmation that wide receiver Dominic Blaylock has torn his ACL during practice.
Sports Illustrated reported that the injury will keep Blaylock out for the entire season and that he will undergo surgery imminently.
This is particularly sad news as Blaylock had just recovered from the same injury that he experienced back in December playing against LSU.
Blaylock, once fully recovered, was expected to play a significant role in the wide receivers corp following an impressive Freshman campaign, playing in 12 of 14 games prior to the injury against The Tigers.
The Bulldawgs still have an impressive corps at wide receiver. And aside from star man George Pickens, offensive coordinator Todd Monken has the talent of Jermain Burton, Kearis Jackson, Ladd McConkey, Matt Landers and Demetris Robertson at his disposal.
But Blaylock will still be sorely missed
Coaches Meet The Press: A Round Up
Across The SEC
Now that Fall camp is well underway, coaches are starting to meet with the media to give progress updates. Here are some of the highlights….
This week Nick Saban was asked about bringing ex-Crimson Tide player and Ole Miss defensive line coach Freddie Roach on to the football staff, and the impact he has had on the team.
“I’m excited about having Freddie Roach on the staff. He’s an Alabama guy, he’s got great energy and enthusiasm. He’s very knowledgeable and takes great pride in his performance in terms of what he’s trying to do. The players respond to him really, really well. So I think it’s very helpful to the chemistry of our staff to have that kind of personality added to the defensive staff”.
Asked about the difference he sees practicing during a pandemic Coach Saban said he saw no real difference except wearing a mask, which is hampering his ability to get his point across to his players in his usual manner. Saban said,
“I look like Jesse James robbing a bank and I can’t get on people the way I like to”.
He smiled when saying,
“It muffles the sound a little bit, so when we need to get someones attention we need to come out of bank robber mode”.
The players must be hoping the mask stays all season.
Mizzou Head Coach, Eli Drinkwitz also met with the media mid week after practice #7, and like Saban showed his humorous side.
Drinkwitz was asked about reports that Oklahoma and LSU had full position groups self isolate due to contact tracing, and if this was a problem Mizzou had experienced. Drinkwitz asked the question,
“Did you say LSU? Did that Come out today?”
Drinkwitz paused for a second seeming to take this in, before saying,
“That’s good to know. I’m going to write the down”.
Drinkwitz did go on to elaborate that the team had indeed had some contact tracing, mostly via roommates and had five players in a quarantine situation. Drinkwitz is fast becoming my favourite head coach in the SEC.
However it wasn’t all jokes with the Mizzou head coach, who opened his press conference with a statement about his feelings around the ongoing civil unrest as a result of the Jacob Blake shooting. Coach Drinkwitz had this to say before opening up to questions,
“We’ve got to keep bringing attention because there is a real problem in the United States of America. Abraham Lincoln said we are striving to become a more perfect union and we’re not there yet. We’re not there yet.
The atrocities that have occurred, on video tape in the last 3 months….it’s not right. It’s not right. No matter what justification was used, there was no reason for seven shots to be fired in that situation”.
Drinkwitz went on,
“We have to make reform. We’ve got to address the issue so that this does not continue to happen. I want to be part of the solution. Our football team wants to be part of the solution. We want to bring awareness to the situation and our prayers are with Jake just now and the State of Wisconsin and the situation right now”.
Head coach Gus Malzahn met the media on Saturday following the team’s first scrimmage of the year. Unsurprisingly, the Tigers Head Coach was asked about the all SEC schedule. Malzahn said this,
“I’m looking at this thing as as positive. Since we’ve been here, we can make a great argument that we’ve had the toughest schedule of anyone in our league. So one thing, it will not be a shock to our system, playing a tough schedule with a lot of SEC games. There’s teams in our conference that it will be shock to their system because they haven’t played the tough schedules like we have, so we’re looking at that as an advantage”.
Baton Rouge, LA
Coach O met with the media this week and was asked about how Myles Brennan’s period as a backup, particularly with some playing experience, will help him in the coming season. Coach O had this to say about his QB1,
“Myles has waited his turn, he’s matured – he’s different from when he first turned up. Now, he was a very talented young man when he arrived, but he’s gained his weight at 218 pounds and he’s very confident. I think he played the role of the second team quarterback very well. It was Joe’s team and everybody knew it, so he just stood in the background. Now he’s not in the background, he’s leading and everybody believes in Myles, he’s very vocal out there – he’s a totally different kid. He knows the offence, he has a very strong arm”.
Orgeron went on to talk about how Brenan will cope with a road game atmospheres:
“Now here’s the only thing I cannot assimilate. I can have ground noise but I can not assimilate a hostile crowd. With the Covid, I don’t know how hostile a crowd can be or maybe there will be music playing loud or something like that, especially on an away game. So we are going to have to practice hard and put him in some tough situations in scrimmages, so that he is used to it”.
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.