It’s Friday, and all of us are free to discuss any topic that is on our minds, even if it’s not college football. But with the start of the season less than a week away, there are still a ton of things that we don’t know. Here are just a few:
Will UGA’s Richard Samuel become a star? Since the end of spring practice I’ve said that Georgia’s biggest concern for this season is not at quarterback, where Joe Cox is replacing Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 draft choice. The question I’ve had is whether or not one of Georgia’s running backs would step up and show some star power. Because with this offensive line, which I believe is Georgia’s best since the SEC championship team of 2002, a star running back to replace Knowshon Moreno is the thing that Georgia needed most on the offensive side of the ball. That’s because Georgia needs to limit the exposure of its defense and keep Cox in manageable down and distance situations. A star at tailback helps a team do that.
Georgia may have found that guy in Samuel, the sophomore from Cartersville. I’m hearing reports that Samuel (6-2, 218) has shown the strength and power to run through defenders. At the same time he has shown the ability to burst through the line of scrimmage and run away from defensive backs. In other words, this guy can turn an average play into a big play.
It’s been a while since Georgia has had a guy with both power and breakaway speed. Now can Samuel do this when the stadium is full and the band is playing? We’ll find out on Sept. 5 in Stillwater.
Should Miami fans be concerned? The opening four games on Miami’s schedule are ridiculous but Hurricane fans knew that. They knew that the starting stretch of Florida State, Georgia Tech, at Virginia Tech and Oklahoma was going to be about survival. But now the Hurricanes will have to navigate this gauntlet without their No. 2 and No. 3 quarterbacks. Taylor Cook and Cannon Smith independently decided that new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple did not have them in his plans.
And they were probably right about that. There is no question that Whipple was brought in to tutor Jacory Harris and make him a star. Everyone in the Miami camp knows that Harris, a sophomore, is the guy and will hold the job for at least two more years. The future at quarterback after that seems to be equally as clear in the person of true freshman Ali Highsmith, son of former UM great Alonzo Highsmith. Highsmith led his Texas high school team to a berth in the state 5A championship game last season. The concern for Miami fans is over what will happen if Harris gets dinged up in that tough four-game stretch. Now they HAVE to get Highsmith ready.
Can Southern Cal win the Pac-10 with a true freshman at quarterback? Coach Pete Carroll surprised some people yesterday and named true freshman quarterback Matt Barkley as the starter for the Sept. 5 opener with San Jose State. Sophomore Aaron Corp won the job over Barkley (who enrolled in college early) in the spring. But Corp missed significant practice time this summer (cracked bone in his left leg) which opened the door for Barkley. Corp returned to practice recently and was getting stronger. And someone close to the USC program told me that all else being equal, Carroll wanted to start Corp because he knew the offense better. But Barkley was just too impressive when he got his chance to work every day with the first team offense.
Barkley is the guy and that is not going to change unless he gets hurt or is a flop. He will be able to make mistakes against San Jose State. But the following week the Trojans go to Ohio State. I believe Pete Carroll thinks that Barkley gives him the best chance to win in Columbus and to win an eighth straight Pac-10 title.
You got any eligibility left? Tennessee sure could use some receivers: The Tennessee receiving corps was already depleted by injuries but the Vols could at least say they still had their best guy in Gerald Jones. Now he’s on crutches (sprained left ankle) and will be lucky if he can get back for the Florida game in Gainesville on Sept. 19. Before the injury to Jones we were predicting that the offensive game plan would have to be scaled back and rely heavily on the run. Now Tennessee is really going to have to play smart and lean on its defense, which is going to be pretty good. And it’s also clear that the true freshmen, a group that includes Nu’Kueese Richardson, are going to have to play whether they are ready or not.
And while we’re on the subject of the Vols I’ll predict this: QB Jonathan Crompton is going to have a very respectable year. This offense is more quarterback friendly than the previous one and Crompton will not be asked to do things he can’t do-like throw the ball 41 times in a game (as he did at UCLA).
As Clint Eastwood once said: “A man’s got to know his limitations.” That is especially true in football.
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