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Three & Out returns every Monday in 2011 to give you three SEC thoughts, news and notes. In the fourth edition of the 2011 season, we take a look at the Alabama quarterback situation, ineligible players in Baton Rouge and Florida's offense. This column is an expansion and Danny Sheridan-free zone.
IF ANY TEAM CAN DO IT, IT'S ALABAMA
I, like a lot of people, am of the belief that if you have two quarterbacks, you really don't have any quarterbacks. That cliche comes with an asterisk in the case of the 2011 Alabama Crimson Tide, because if any team can make it work, it's this year's group in Tuscaloosa.
Neither A.J. McCarron nor Philip Sims took control of the six-month battle to replace Greg McElroy as Alabama's No. 1 signal caller, so the Tide will enter 2011 with both players still fighting it out. For most teams, that'd be a big - BIG - red flag. For Alabama, and Nick Saban in particular, it's not.
It's no secret that Alabama wants to win by running the ball and playing solid defense. Depth behind starting running back Trent Richardson is an issue, but that's true of a lot of teams. So while there should be some concern at running back, it should only be a moderate concern unless he gets hurt or eligibility concerns arise from the T-Town Menswear scandal.
On defense, there's no concern. Collectively, the group defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has coming back rivals the talent that was on the field during Alabama's national championship run two seasons ago.
Besides, it's not like Nick Saban is opposed to playing two quarterbacks. He did it twice at LSU - in 2002 with Marcus Randall and Matt Mauck and in 2004 with Randall and JaMarcus Russell.
For the second straight season, the LSU Tigers are heading into a big-time season opener that is riddled with controversy. Although contrary to last season when the Tigers' game with North Carolina was riddled with questions on the opposing sideline, this year a lot of the problems rest in Baton Rouge.
No, losing wide reciever Russell Shepard and quarterback Jordan Jefferson won't have much of an impact on the season opener at Jerryworld against Oregon. LSU has way - WAY - too much talent up front on both sides of the ball to lose to Oregon. In last season's BCS National Championship Game, Auburn did its best to make it an old-fashioned slug fest against the Ducks, and that game plan clearly worked. If Auburn can do it, LSU is just as capable - if not more.
But how will the loss of Jefferson and Shepard impact the rest of the season if either or both are out for a prolonged period of time (which, at this point, probably should be expected)?
Jefferson takes his share of heat for the inconsistency he has shown during his career, but there's a reason he was No. 1 and Jarrett Lee - he of "pick six" fame - was a clear No. 2. Jefferson gives the Tigers the best chance to win, whether he's a good quarterback or not. With his arrest coming so close to the start of the season, it doesn't give Lee or junior college transfer Zach Mettenberger much time to prepare both mentally and physically to be a starting quarterback. When the bullets start flying, who's to say both of them won't be able to handle it? I don't think it will be an issue against Oregon, because the Tigers will make that a slug fest and try to hide the quarterback. But that won't work for 12 straight games.
On paper, Shepard's absence isn't too staggering. His 33 catches for 254 yards and one touchdown last season are nothing to write home about; but even though LSU's passing game wasn't great, Shepard at the very least provides a legitimate threat on the outside both as a receiver and on end arounds. Whatever threat LSU was going to provide through the air with him in the lineup will diminish without him.
CAUSE FOR CONCERN?
New Florida head coach Will Muschamp was clearly upset with his team following the team's final scrimmage of fall camp last week. Should that concern Gator fans? I don't think so.
Ripping your team after the final scrimmage is something that's learned on the first day of Coaching 101. Was it sloppy? Maybe. Aside from a day-long inundation on ESPN, information doesn't flow very freely in Gainesville under Muschamp, so it's hard to say. Do the Gators have a lot to work on before the season opener against Florida Atlantic? Probably. After all, they are installing a brand new offensive system.
If everything was completely perfect, would Will Muschamp say that? Not. A. Chance.
Florida has been pretty much a mystery since the night of the 2010 Heisman Trophy presentation - when word leaked out that Muschamp was headed to Gainesville. This time next week, we will know a lot more about the Gators and how that offense will look.
Gut feeling - the Gators will have more questions answered than anyone anticipates when toe meets leather on Saturday.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter at @BarrettSallee
2011 Three & Out Archive
Three & Out – August 29, 2011
Three & Out – August 22, 2011
Three & Out – August 15, 2011
Three & Out – August 8, 2011
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