The SEC Weekly Digest 8-7-08
The SEC preseason football camps are in full swing.
By: BE Coleman
Alabama – As of Thursday the Crimson Tide has wrapped up five preseason practices in Tuscaloosa. Wednesday saw Alabama holding his first two-a-day workouts.
TE Nick Walker said, "I feel like we have picked things up the last couple of days. The guys are starting to have fun out there and things are starting to get exciting as we continue to work hard. We are working on just the basics right now, a lot of fundamentals. We haven't gotten too deep into the playbook yet."
The Crimson Tide football family is still reeling over the death of John Mark Stallings, son of former University of Alabama head football coach Gene Stallings. Stallings passed away early last Saturday morning. John Mark, who was born in 1962 with Down syndrome and suffered from health problems related to a congenital heart defect, was 46.
In 2005, The University of Alabama football equipment room was formally dedicated as the "John Mark Stallings Equipment Room." It has not been answered if the team will wear an emblem to honor the son of their last national champion coach.
Arkansas - After several setbacks with player discipline issues finds the Razorbacks on the field and performing under new head coach Bobby Petrino, a.k.a. Bobby Pet.
Day four practice reports are that the team had a banner day passing the football.
Passing the football is a new term that Hog Fans will have to get used to in their immediate future's vocabulary.
After working through kickoff drills to begin practice, the teams broke into position groups and concentrated on fundamentals before the offensive skill players took on the linebackers and defensive backs.
The Arkansas quarterbacks used a combination of both short and long passes to confound the Razorback's 4-3 defense, but there were several special plays made by the defenders. The Razorbacks wear full pads for the first time this summer on Friday.
Auburn – On the Plains of Auburn found the War-Eagle Tigers holding their first practice session in full pads on Thursday that saw lightening interrupting the teams first and last part of practice.
Tommy Tuberville said his troops lost about 20 minutes of practice work due to the inclement weather. The team workout consisted primarily on individual and group drills, with some special teams work in between.
Furr Departure Being Questioned
A fight now being called a scuffle on Saturday has left rumors of departed DeRon Furr - listed by Scout as the nations 31st best quarterback – of being allowed to take a beating while the Tiger coaches watched according to several Alabama news reports.
Al.com has published two reports that the player may have been beaten up after being told that he would not be playing quarterback. One unverified rumor says that Furr was agitated at the news of being moved to the secondary.
Furr got the worst of Saturday's fracas and was helped to the injury tent by AU trainers. Sophomore defensive back Zac Etheridge implied the fight was intended to send a message to loafing young players.
"It was just setting an example to the freshmen," he said. "It wasn't nothing but bumping heads. It's just showing them we're here to work and get to the championship." Furr missed practices on Sunday and Monday after the incident.
Asked about the absences, Furr's father's contention was that they were excused due to his son attending to class work. Tuberville cut off a reporter who asked about the situation and said, "Next question."
Georgia – The number one team in the nation has had a rough off season mired with player arrests. Wednesday marked the first day that the Bulldogs practiced in full pads as the temperature soared to 101 degrees in Athens.
Monday the team lacked energy that saw a turn around on Tuesday. "It was very hot yesterday," Richt said after practice. "It could have been as hot today, but I don't really know. It didn't seem as hot. I don't know if it was nervous energy or what, but we handled today a lot better as far as overall energy of the team.
Junior Michael Moore continues to struggle in practice that does not translate well. Moore dropped five passes thrown directly to him Thursday as Georgia is finding more players who can catch the ball.
O-C Mike Bobo said "the team must be better passing the football, and that's not just his quarterback Matthew Stafford – it players catching the ball."
Coach Richt announced that special team's stalwarts Andrew Williams and Benjamin Boyd have been awarded scholarships for the 2008 season. "We re-awarded Drew Williams two nights ago and awarded Benjamin Boyd with a scholarship last night," Richt said. "I'm happy for both of those guys. They've worked hard and earned it. It's always a pleasure to be able to award walk-ons with a scholarship.
Richt also indicated that WR A.J. Green incurred a hip flexor strain during the first practice on Monday, while weak corner Prince Miller suffered a bruised shoulder in that practice as well. Neither player's injuries were significant and will miss very little time. Green, a freshman returned on Thursday and is counted on heavily to make a depth chart spot.
Free safety John Knox was held out of Thursday practice due to dehydration. Richt said Knox lost 11 pounds in one day. Knox is listed at 190 lbs. with pads on the team roster.
Florida – The 2006 national champions have had a rough start to their opening week in Gainesville. TE Cornelius Ingram has been lost for the 2008 season that gets worse for Coach Urban Meyer.
Ingram who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in Tuesday's practice and will undergo surgery Monday, has already told reporters that his goal is to get ready for the NFL Combines.
Meyer told reporters that Wednesday's practice was disappointing citing a lack of energy and that there "were no relentless moments in going after the football…That comes from the leaders," of the team says Meyer.
"Right now we are young in places, that are a four letter word in young," added Meyer.
Meyer noted that, "the defense is behind right now and were ahead last year at this time."
Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow looks very sharp throwing the ball while wearing the red "no contact" practice jersey. Most of the highlights have seen him passing the ball – not in running formations.
Running back Chris Rainey is nursing a sore groin from a track injury he sustained back in the spring and has "been working his upper body to maintain strength," noted Meyer.
Kentucky – Kentucky's quarterback battle continues in Lexington. The battle remains as the names have changed in who is competing for the starting spot.
The troubled Curtis Pulley has been dismissed from the program. Brooks sacked his not ready for primetime quarterback on Tuesday after Pulley broke team rules with current disciplinary measures already in force.
During the SEC Media Days two weeks ago it was discovered Pulley was cited by Louisville police for marijuana possession back in June, when he was arrested in July on charges of driving on a suspended or revoked license, speeding and having expired plates or registration.
O-Coordinator Joker Phillip says that Mike Hartline will compete with Will Fidler, and freshman Randall Cobb from Alcoa, TN. for the starting job.
Pulley On the Move
Pulley went to an Eastern Kentucky University football practice in hopes of finding a spot on the Colonels roster. After getting his official release from UK he met with Coach Dean Hood on Wednesday.
Pulley's father said on Thursday that both parties ultimately decided in the best interests of everyone involved would be for Pulley to find another school to continue his playing career.
LSU – All is quite on the Bayou front in Baton Rouge as the defending national champions go about their business. The Tigers took a proverbial slap in the face when SI released its Top 20 teams this week.
The biggest kicker for Les Miles troops was seeing Auburn ranked ahead of LSU that may be answered with the War Eagles - Tigers defense that had ranked 6th in the nation in 2007. Didn't LSU finish 3rd on D...
The Tigers are doing two-a-days in shorts and helmets as temperatures soared that saw Miles using an indoor facility that saw players rotating in and out of the sun.
LSU has not seen sunshine all week as Monday and Tuesday forced the team indoors due to wide spread storms across the state. The Tigers will undergo a media training session with LSU professor Dr. Tommy Karam on Thursday before meeting with the media on Friday afternoon for LSU's Media Day.
Mississippi – The Houston Nutt era has begun in Oxford. Defense was the name of the game Wednesday in the third day of Ole Miss' preseason practice. The team was in shells for the first time this fall.
The Rebels worked on individual and team drills, with the defense showing out for most of the afternoon while the Rebel coaching staff continued to preach the importance of finishing strong. "We started out pretty good today, but didn't finish the right way," said Nutt.
Nutt noted, "we have got to learn how to finish. That's been our theme song all summer. When you get to day three in the heat and we're throwing a lot at them, it's easy to have a mental bust."
Mississippi State – The Bulldogs have gotten on track after a sluggish day one as the team regrouped for a solid two-and-one-half hour workout on Monday evening.
"The score is even now," said head coach Sylvester Croom. It has been scorching hot in Starkville this week. Heat index's are soaring near 90% at 11:00 at night that go over the century mark during the day.
Croom's praise ranged from the first defensive unit, which he called "impressive in the way they moved to the football," to junior running back Anthony Dixon, who had "his best-ever practice," as a Bulldog.
Ticket Sales Strong
The MSU ticket office says that team ticket sales for football has exceeded 34,082 tickets more than this time last season. Sounds like those cowbells are going to get much louder in 08.
Clad in a white long-sleeved shirt saw Croom watching over his forces on Wednesday morning for a three-hour workout. The program re-admitted players Jamon Hughes, Anthony Johnson and Rodney Prince to the institution.
The three players had been withdrawn from the university during the spring semester and were required to re-apply. All three players were suspended - Hughes and Johnson for firing guns on the campus.
Johnson and Prince will be placed back on scholarship and will rejoin the football program when classes begin at MSU on Aug. 18. Hughes will be given the opportunity to walk-on.
Seven players sitting out are offensive lineman Chris Spencer (concussion), defensive lineman LaMarcus Williams (shoulder), defensive back Damein Anderson (hamstring pull), defensive lineman Brandon Cooper (strained back), wide receiver Jamayel Smith (heat exhaustion), offensive lineman Johnny Carpenter (shoulder) and place kicker Eric Richards (hip flexor).
1st Injury Loss
Croom will be without O-Lineman Johnny Carpenter. On Thursday Croom said that Carpenter told him Wednesday night that a recurring shoulder injury was forcing him to leave the team. He'll remain enrolled at the university.
South Carolina – South Carolina players quickly learned the Ole' Ball Coach is dead serious about all practice sessions in 2008. A giggling episode by players on Tuesday saw Spurrier stopping practice early and the team running laps. "Well see if they want to laugh or run."
With temperatures hitting 102 in Columbia makes one wonder what could have been so funny in working in that type of heat.
The team is using their Bluff Road practice fields before lightning in the area ended the session prematurely on Sunday.
Thursday, Spurrier opened his practice up to the public to give his players some fan exposure while working out. News footage was allowed to be filmed during the first 15 minute of the practice session.
Garcia Return Draws Criticism
Embattled quarterback Stephen Garcia has been reinstated after multiple alcohol related offense's had him removed from the program. Sportswriter Ron Morris of the State News in Columbia is not happy to see him on the field.
"Garcia should not be on the practice fields this week ... for his own good," says Morris.
Spurrier noted that Garcia had thrown a lot of errant balls in practice as he went 3 of 13 in the teams light scrimmage Thursday.
Starting tailback Mike Davis left Thursday's practice with an injured left shoulder and could be out a week or so, according to Spurrier. "Mike Davis fell on the ground in a drill over here. Nobody touched him, he said he hurt his shoulder a little bit, he missed the entire practice."
Tennessee – The Volunteers are another team opening their season quietly in 2008. The team opened camp on Saturday and has already put six days of practice behind them.
The Vols opened up work with eleven freshman and two JUCO players in the mix. Philip Fulmer has spent most of his practices drilling his players with a mix of individual and group work.
Tennessee ended its NCAA mandated acclimation period on Wednesday after 3 hours workouts the previous two days. The Vols coach challenged his players on Tuesday by telling them, that they're "not going to travel to UCLA with a bunch of guys who are going out there to see Los Angeles, or see Hollywood. We're going to take the ones that want to play."
With no surprise, except on the players possibly saw Fulmer and his staff whip out the famous Tennessee Drill on his team for the teams first day in full pads. For players ready to lay a lick, it is a way of defining their own standing in this exclusive club. It is one of those first steps in boys to men concept that is what is required to play the SEC level.
The biggest was when number one D-Tackle Demonte Bolden was paired against the Vols strongest player in Jacques McClendon. The pair from Chattanooga went at it pretty good before coach's whistles stopped the action. McClendon bench pressed 625 lbs. multiple times in July before strength coach Johnny Long put a stop to his lifting endeavors.
Spirits soared during the seven-minute period as teammates surrounding the tackling area barking their encouragement to fellow unit players. While the defense got in some licks, the players shuffled in and out with enthusiasm. Overall, this drill was given to the defense, yet the offensive big men looked good with containment.
"The intensity was good in the Tennessee Drill," Fulmer said. "After we got the peer pressure going, the guys responded and seemed to get better."
Gerald Williams has not been slow to show off his stuff during the first week. Williams has to pass one class this week to make the 2008 roster after coming from Junior College.
Still No News On Warren
Highly touted transfer Brandon Warren is practicing, but there is still no word on his status. Last week AD Mike Hamilton said he expected the word to come down in the next few days from the NCAA.
Warren has already shown he is an answer in the pass game already while displaying a positive face amid not knowing if he will get to play in 2008 that Fulmer and Dave Clawson enjoy seeing. His practices have been regarded with emphasis placed on the word – excellent.
Tennessee defensive tackle Chase Nelson has been ruled out for the season following a left knee injury. The junior will undergo surgery next week and will miss 2008. Fulmer said while the loss is sad, it is time for a younger player to step up while he recovers.
Vanderbilt - Last but certainly not exactly the least finds Bobby Johnson Vanderbilt troops looking to add another big time upset in their belts in 2008. The "we will beat you in your own backyard," program
The SEC's only private university and its smallest school, has seen Johnson's led program upset Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia, Ole Miss - 2 times and South Carolina since 2005. Number one Georgia squeaked out a 3 point win last season as did Tennessee.
The Commodores focused on expanding their playbook and special teams play Wednesday.
One day after donning full gear and staging a limited live scrimmage, Bobby Johnson's squad practiced for more than two hours in shoulder pads, helmets and shorts.
While spending time on individual instruction and working to correct miscues from the Tuesday scrimmage, the staff allocated additional team teaching sessions aimed at broadening the offensive and defensive playbooks.
During 11-on-11 work toward the conclusion of practice, the offense gave greater emphasis to its rushing attack than in previous practices. The Commodores secondary is believed to be one of the better units in the conference this season with two fifth year seniors.
Josh Allen and Jared Fagan are a pair of fifth year players that have played since 2005 that Johnson is counting on heavily. Neither have shied away from drills this week in teaching the offense to not look their way.
Sidelined Black and Gold
Redshirt freshman Jamie Graham did not practice Wednesday due to heat fatigue, while D-Tackle Derrius Dowell suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during Tuesday's practice.
Dowell, who was on crutches Wednesday, will have surgery to repair the ligament and is out for the season. Simmons is nursing a pulled hamstring while Smith is scheduled to undergo surgery late Thursday for a stress fracture to his right foot.
Johnson sent redshirt freshman running back Jermaine Doster out the school doors for the 2008 season, following an arrest two weeks ago on three misdemeanor charges in his hometown of Tampa, Fla.
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