published Saturday, April 16th, 2011

Injuries, unfortunately, are the lasting issues of spring

The only lasting news from spring football practice is almost always bad.

Injuries or arrests are the primary issues that have ramifications from spring to fall. Beyond that, it’s interpretation and preparation from the perspiration in the spring participation.

So it goes in spring drills, which are as much for the fans as for the football program.

There are four scrimmages this afternoon within a 3 1/2-hour radius of Chattanooga that will conclude spring drills for SEC programs. Each session has been met with similar quotes from tough-minded coaches hoping for similar results.

There’s the desire to get better and to find depth. There’s the need to teach the young players and find new leaders among the older ones. There’s the chance for the winners to eat steak or lobster or whatever is deemed the reward and beanie-weenies for the losing teams.

It’s part of the process, but answers — at least lasting answers — are few and far between in April when fundamentals are at the forefront. Of those four programs — Auburn, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee — the game’s most basic fundamentals are at the core of the biggest questions on display today in front of tens of thousands of fans. Those include throwing and catching, blocking and tackling.

For the love of Gus Malzahn’s clipboard, it wasn’t until after last year’s spring practice had been concluded that the Auburn coaches were able to name Cam Newton as the Tigers starting quarterback. That turned out OK, huh?

Well, the Auburn coaches likely will wait again this year in narrowing down to a starting quarterback. Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley have been sharing the reps with the first unit, and head coach Gene Chizik and offensive coordinator Malzahn almost assuredly will make the decision after today’s A-Day game.

Who can argue with how waiting turned out last year? But the longer the decision drags, the more open the door becomes for incoming freshman Kiehl Frazier.

For Alabama, which likely will have three players drafted in the first round of next week’s NFL draft, finding replacements for Julio Jones seems to be one of the few issues for a team that probably will start next season among the nation’s top five.

A host of guys will get a chance: Darius Hanks and Marquis Maze each started some last season, and Brandon Gibson, Kenny Bell and Keiwone Malone have had moments so far this spring. If Hanks can build on his effort in the Tide’s second scrimmage when he had six catches for more than 100 yards and three scores, he will be a hot name through the summer.

In Athens, Ga., today, the names not playing are as familiar as the players who will take the field. The Bulldogs have suffered one of the more painful injuries of the spring when tackle Trinton Sturdivant tore his ACL. Sturdivant’s absence leaves Georgia looking for offensive line options — even mentioning A.J. Harmon, who has played in all of seven games in his career, and Justin Anderson, a converted noseguard.

For Tennessee’s Volunteers, a litany of injuries — including one this week to former Ooltewah defensive end Jacques Smith, who fractured a metatarsal in his right foot — has hounded an already depth-challenged defense. The Vols are left with a group of first-team linebackers who sound more like scout-teamers than starters. Among the healthy bodies are Nigel Mitchell Thornton (a reserve), Shane Reviez (a walk-on) and Daryl Vereen (a converted running back).

The stars of today may or may not be the stars of the fall; that’s part of spring.

The injuries of today, however, can shape the fall; that’s the lasting part of spring.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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