The Southeastern Conference football schedule kicks off on Aug. 29 and that glorious day is just 24 days away when North Carolina and South Carolina tangle and Ole Miss travels to Vanderbilt. Until then, fall camps are in full swing.
Injuries to two skill players—actually, maladies might be a better term—on offense have the Florida Gators a bit concerned.
Both starting quarterback Jeff Driskel and starting running back Matt Jones are absent from camp. Driskel had an emergency appendectomy on July 30 and will miss a minimum of two weeks. Jones is battling a viral infection and will be out indefinitely.
Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy has seen action in three games for the Gators over his career but has never thrown a pass. He’s throwing plenty in camp as he’s the man under center while Driskel recovers. If all goes well for Driskel, Murphy won’t be forced to step in during the regular season.
Jones’ battle with infection is more worrisome. Not only is there no timetable until he’s completely healthy, it may take some time before he can work his way back in to game shape after he’s medically cleared. Redshirt junior Mack Brown and freshman Kelvin Taylor are stepping up to replace Jones, but the duo only has 40 career carries (all from Brown) at Florida.
The Georgia Bulldogs haven’t been in full pads yet—their first padded practice is slated for Monday—but two linemen have impressed early, according to Seth Emerson of The Macon Telegraph.
Junior offensive guard Watts Dantzler has earned first-team reps and praise from offensive coordinator Mike Bobo who said Dantzler finally “sees the light.”
Defensive line coach Chris Wilson said juco transfer Toby Johnson is “kicking butt right now.” It sounds as if Johnson is a bit behind as a junior-college player and his reps are being closely monitors after knee surgery in July, but his actions in camp have been impressive.
The Tennessee Volunteers may have found a play maker in freshman wide receiver Marques North who has drawn praise from both teammates and the coaching staff.
Linebacker Brent Brewer raved about North’s size and speed, according to Daniel Lewis of Nooga.com and said North was “doing big things out there.” Head coach Butch Jones also chimed in.
“In three very short practices, and in a very small time, [North] has proven he is going to be one of our play makers," said Jones. "He is dynamic, he is strong, he is physical, he can run, and we need him offensively."
The Vanderbilt defense notched 31 sacks last season, 19.5 of those coming from the defensive line. It appears from early camp sessions that more can be expected from the front four in 2013.
Not only are returning linemen ready for a repeat performance, possibly even a better showing, three freshmen are showing up upper classmen offensive linemen in one-on-one drills and getting to the quarterback, according to Jeff Lockridge of The Tennessean.
South Carolina Gamecocks
Quick, name any defensive end on the South Carolina Gamecocks’ football team that’s not named Jadeveon Clowney. Most outside of Columbia can’t do it.
Fifth-year senior Chaz Sutton spent considerable time in the offseason getting ready for his new role as starting defensive end opposite Clowney in 2013, according to Charles Bennett of The Greenville News.
Sutton has tweaked his stance, the way he moves his hips and worked on using his hands to get after opposing quarterbacks. Last season he ranked second on the team with five sacks as a backup and could see a lot of favorable pass-rushing situations this season as teams focus on Clowney.
Freshman defensive lineman Nate Crawford has already drawn comparisons to Ziggy Hood, former Mizzou standout and 2009 first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
That’s high praise from head coach Gary Pinkel, but Crawford is going to have to slow down on the field as he nurses a strained back.
Fall camp begins on Monday, Aug. 5 for the Kentucky Wildcats.