It is one of the oldest questions in college football: Coaches know that at this time of year it is important to push their teams, mentally and physically, in order to get them ready for the season. At the same time, the coach also wants to get to the first game with a reasonably healthy team.
Push them too hard and the injuries start to mount up. Here are just a few injuries that have already impacted the upcoming season:
**–Darren Evans, RB, Virginia Tech: Evans, who set the school record for rushing by a freshman in 2008, tore an ACL and is out for the season. Virginia Tech opens against Alabama in the Chick-fil-A College Kickoff on Sept. 5 at the Georgia Dome.
**–Isaac Madison, CB, Arkansas: Was projected to be a starter on a defense that desperately needs improvement. Torn ACL. Out for the season.
**–Jaybo Shaw, QB, Georgia Tech: The backup to starter Josh Nesbitt broke a collarbone and will be out for six weeks. He may decide to redshirt.
**–Aaron Corp, QB, Southern Cal: Corp won the job of replacing Mark Sanchez in the spring but cracked a bone in his leg last week. If he doesn’t return to practice soon, it is likely that the Trojans will start a true freshman, Matt Barkley, in their opener against San Jose State on Sept. 5 and their big trip to Ohio State on Sept. 12.
**–Oklahoma State opens with Georgia on Sept. 5 but quarterback Zac Robinson has missed a bunch of practice with a bad hamstring. Robinson is expected to be ready for Georgia but how sharp will he be?
But if coaches don’t push their players hard enough, they don’t have the physical edge necessary to play at the highest level of college football. Georgia’s Mark Richt admitted that he started to back off a little last season when the injuries started to pile up. There is no question that it impacted the team, especially on defense.
“The head coach has to make that call and it is not always an easy one,” said former Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer. “Your staff wants to get after it pretty good because they want to see their guys get better. The head coach has to look at how injuries are affecting the entire team and tell his coaches what to do.”
For most of Vince Dooley’s 25 years at Georgia (1964-88) he believed in tough, physical practices in the preseason to set the tone for what was to come. Once the season started, however, Georgia would hit on Tuesdays and then have no contact the rest of the week. Later in his career Dooley would limit contact in practice, especially in the second half of the season.
“The natural reaction when you start getting injuries is to back off,” said Dooley, who won 201 games and six SEC championships at Georgia. “But injuries are part of the game and you can’t back off too much or your team won’t be ready to play. At the same time, you’ve got to get your best players on the field on Saturday. If you don’t, you’re not giving your team the best chance to win.”
So what’s the answer? If you’re a fan, do you have to live with a certain number of injuries, knowing that it is necessary to get your team ready to play? Or should coaches be less demanding in order to limit injuries, especially to key players?
The floor is yours.
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