With Jeff Driskel firmly entrenched as the starter and both Treon Harris and Will Grier better athletes with more accurate arms than incumbent backup Skyler Mornhinweg, it was only a matter of time before Will Muschamp named one of the freshmen as the #2 quarterback. The nod goes to Treon Harris, who a lot of former Gators who live in South Florida have been telling me for months would be the best prepared freshman quarterback to come to UF in a long, long time. Obviously, they were on the money with that prediction because Harris is now the backup and Grier, who enrolled in January, could be a candidate for a redshirt.
Harris won’t wow you with his size – he’s listed 5-11, but looks like a dwarf standing next to fellow freshman and backup left tackle David Sharpe, who is 6-7 and 336 – and he doesn’t throw rockets, but the ball gets there on time and on target. That Wuerffel guy never threw darts, either, but the ball always got there on time and he was uncannily accurate. In watching Harris at some of the preseason practices, what was obvious was his natural feel for what to do in the pocket. He knows how to move around while staying protected and he finds throwing lanes. As a high school quarterback, he had the green light to take off whenever he felt the heat, but he showed in the practices that were open that he knows how to stay in the pocket until it’s obvious that he’s got to tuck and run.
Grier is still a fine prospect and when he fills out, he could be quite the physical specimen, but for now he’s going to have to get used to wearing a ball cap, toting a clipboard and learning the game from the sideline while Harris gets his feet wet in an offense where he will likely get on the field as early as the first half in the season opener. It will probably be the first time in his life that he’s ever had to sit and watch, but if Grier is patient and uses his time wisely, he still has a chance to blossom into the prospect he was thought to be coming out of high school. He doesn’t lack the skill, just the body and the experience right now. Harris was the best prepared starting day one of August camp and now he’s the #2. Grier should stay ready, however. It was only three years ago that both John Brantley and Jeff Driskel got hurt in the same game. This is the SEC after all and a backup quarterback is always just one hit away from seeing the field.
#2 Alabama: The Crimson Tide opens the season Saturday against West Virginia in Atlanta (3:30 p.m., ABC). Nick Saban hasn’t named a starting quarterback although everyone expects senior Blake Sims to get the start with Jacob Coker coming off the bench. Could the two split time? Nick Saban said, “We don’t have any plans to do that at this point in this game but that doesn’t mean that whatever pitcher starts the game is necessarily going to pitch nine innings. I mean, Joe Girardi (Yankees manager) tells (Masahiro) Tinaka he’s starting the game, he’s not telling him he’s going to pitch nine innings. Does he tell them that or does he just pitch until he doesn’t pitch well anymore?”
Arkansas: The Razorbacks open their season on the road at #6 Auburn Saturday (4 p.m., SEC Network). Arkansas has a game plan for Jeremy Johnson, who will start at quarterback for Auburn, and for Nick Marshall, the Heisman candidate who won’t start because of a marijuana citation from earlier in the summer. Said head coach Bret Bielema, “We’re going to obviously have a game plan when Nick’s in the game. We’ll have a game plan when Jeremy Johnson or anybody else that they throw in there. You’re not playing the player. You’re playing the team and it’s important for our guys to realize that.”
#6 AUBURN: The Tigers open the season at home Saturday against Arkansas (4 p.m., SEC Network). Auburn coach Gus Malzahn gets Arkansas at home in the season opener but he’s downplaying that the Tigers are 20.5 point favorites. Malzahn said, “We’re playing an Arkansas team we believe is going to be much improved, especially in the second year with their head coach. We had a good game versus them last year that was probably a little closer than the score and our guys know we’ll have to play well to be successful.”
#12 Georgia: The Bulldogs open their season at home against #16 Clemson (5:30 p.m., ESPN). The Bulldogs will be breaking in a new leader now that Aaron Murray has moved on to the NFL but new QB Hutson Mason won’t have to do it alone. It will be leadership by committee. Said head coach Mark Richt, “A lot of guys who have been around the block and have been highly productive who have totally bought into what we’re doing. Hutson’s got a lot of support as far as leadership is concerned.”
Kentucky: The Wildcats open their season Saturday with Division I-AA UT-Martin (12 noon, SEC Network). For the Wildcats to have a better 2014 much improvement has to be made by the wide receivers. Said head coach Mark Stoops, “We are improved. I feel much better about the receiver position. That was a position a year ago where we were absolutely just not good enough, not deep enough and it really cost us throughout the season.” Stoops had high praise for Javess Blue, who he said, “could be an impact player at the Z position,” Demarco Robinson and Ryan Timmons.
#13 LSU: The Tigers open their season Saturday in Houston against #14 Wisconsin (9 p.m., ESPN). LSU is going to play both sophomore Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris at quarterback but wouldn’t say how much. Said head coach Les Miles, “There’s a plan. We’re going to do those things that we feel like will benefit both quarterbacks and play them appropriately. It’s not something I’m going to reveal. I don’t think there’s any tremendous magic to it. We like both guys. Both will play.”
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs open their season at home Saturday night (6:30 p.m., SEC Network) with Southern Mississippi. The Bulldogs start the season with the most experienced team in the SEC and very high expectations. Said head coach Dan Mullen, “We’re really fired up to get this season going right now and excited about finishing on the high notes we had last season lot of guys coming back who have a lot of experience. I know they’re ready to get back out on the field and go play again and see what we can do ... we’re fired up and we’re ready to go.”
#24 Missouri: The Tigers open their season with South Dakota State from Division I-AA Saturday (3:30 p.m., ESPNU). Markus Golden, who came to Missouri as a juco transfer in 2013, was named team captain, just the second time in head coach Gary Pinkel’s 14 years at Missouri that a juco transfer has been voted captain by his teammates. Said head coach Gary Pinkel, “He came in as a linebacker, redshirted as a year. We thought he would most likely play down. He was 230 when he got here and now he’s about 262 and we moved him to defensive end. He’s an impact player and has the potential to be an impact player and has the potential to be a great, great player this season. He’s a guy who came in as a transfer and adjusted so well to the program. He walked into the office and said, ‘Coach whatever you want me to do I’m going to do.’”
#18 Ole Miss: The Rebels open their season in Atlanta tonight (8 p.m., ESPN) at the Georgia Dome with Boise State of the Mountain West Conference. The Rebels will once again play a lot of freshman. The depth chart is made up mostly of freshmen, redshirt freshmen and sophomores so head coach Hugh Freeze has to remain patient with the kids. Said Freeze, “I kind of remind myself daily and my staff daily that you cannot get caught up when you’re playing as young a kids as we’ve played the last two years and even this year we’re still a young team ... you cannot get caught up in the results. You have to remind yourself of the process and the journey that you’re on with those kids. You can’t afford to start judging solely on the results. I think the frustration can really come if you don’t see improvement.”
#9 South Carolina: The Gamecocks open their season tonight with Texas A&M (6 p.m, SEC Network), which starts a new quarterback in Kenny Hill, who is an unknown quantity. Said head coach Steve Spurrier, “They may be a little more disciplined Their quarterback may not run all over the place and every play is a scramble play, seems like when Johnny was there, almost every play. Kevin Sumlin’s had a good offense at Houston, Texas A&M, all his coaching stops. They know what they’re doing. We just got to stop the run, stop the pass and play smart, sound football best we can. Hopefully on offense we can take care of the ball and try to play our game, also.”
Tennessee: The Vols open their season at Neyland Stadium Sunday night against Utah State (7 p.m., SEC Network) from the Mountain West Conference in what head coach Butch Jones calls a “game of the unknowns” because of all the youngsters that will not only suit up but take the field. Jones said, “We’ll play as many as 28-30 true freshmen in the game and as many as 42-45 first and second year players. We only have six seniors on our depth chart.”
#21 TEXAS A&M: The Aggies open their season on the road at #9 South Carolina (6 p.m., SEC Network) with 14 freshmen and 12 sophomores listed on the depth chart. Said head coach Kevin Sumlin, “The challenging part in this deal with the number of young players is not knowing how they’re going to react in a hostile environment. So we’ll see where that is because it’s hard to duplicate.”
Vanderbilt: There was a four-way battle for the starting quarterback job for tonight’s first game against Temple (9:15 p.m., SEC Network). Head coach Derek Mason said, “We named Patton Robinette our starting quarterback. I think Patton had a great camp. I think he really separated himself from the group. I believe in the end he gives us our best chance for success.”
That story about former Gator Josh Shaw jumping off a second-floor balcony to save his nephew’s life turns out to be a hoax. He didn’t sprain both ankles from that leap and he didn’t rescue his nephew from drowning in the pool. Shaw admitted Wednesday that he was lying. What actually happened hasn’t been completely hashed out, but it wasn’t anything like Shaw described and then kept on repeating even when he was being questioned. He’s suspended indefinitely, a real hit to the Southern Cal secondary where he was expected to be a star.
Alabama stud inside linebacker Trey DePriest, a preseason All-SEC pick, will miss game one because of what has been deemed a “minor NCAA violation” ... Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon, who became the first player in NFL history to record back to back 200-yard games, has been suspended for the entire season for multiple drug violations ... Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers will be paid $10 million next season ... Since trading Yones Cespedis to Boston for pitcher John Lester, the Oakland A’s haven’t exactly been tearing it up. Maybe there is something to that team chemistry thingy ... I just can’t get into watching the Atlanta Braves any more ... North Carolina coach Larry Fedora suspended four players, two of whom are starters, for the season opener for a hazing incident ... Virginia Tech extended head coach Frank Beamer’s contract two years. He’s about to start his 28th year at the helm of the Hokies ... Former Georgetown and NBA great Patrick Ewing and his agent David Falk donated $3.3 million to Georgetown to help build a new intercollegiate athletics center ... Donald Sterling has finally given up his fight to retain control of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Will you be at The Swamp Saturday night or will you see this one from the flat screen in your own living room?
What really got me hooked on Bob Dylan was listening to “The Memphis Blues Again” in the summer of 1966. I thought that was the coolest song I’d ever heard and it got me listening to more Dylan songs. Oh, I had always listened to his protest songs like “Blowing in the Wind” but once I started listening to the lyrics I figured out Bob could really tell a story with his music. You can’t have Songwriter’s Week with him. This is “My Back Pages,” a Dylan song that The Byrds turned into a hit in 1967. This version is done by the post Roy Orbison Traveling Wilbury’s with Eric Clapton and Neil Young filling in for Orbison. The rest of the group is Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne (ELO).