A glance at the schedules in the SEC shows that until we get to the bowls, there’s almost no break.
Ranked opponent after ranked opponent. Division rival after division rival. Without much in the way of a break or a week off, medical staffs are moving from the slow play to desperation in some instances. Trying to get a key player back on the field, this week or as soon as possible, is becoming even more valuable.
The staffs that can return someone a week earlier and get them back in their role, elevating the team’s talent, are doing something special. Let’s look around the conference at some of the ‘wins’ for medical staffs:
Luke Del Rio, QB Florida
A hurricane is never good and no, ignore the conspiracy theories about the cancellation, but it did end up working out a little bit for the Gators. Luke Del Rio will be ready to go, but there are still some questions he’ll have to answer about his knee. We’ll know early how he’ll adjust to his brace and likely a bit less lateral mobility. He’ll have tested this in practice, but in a game, he’ll have to make these moves instinctively. The things that can be known have been tested and the Gators medical staff has no hesitation using Del Rio this week and going forward.
Jalen Hurd, RB Tennessee
Jalen Hurd is going to be healthy enough to play in the same game with Jalen Hurts. Maybe Verne Lundquist has had nightmares about this, but for Tennessee, this is big coming into a game against Alabama even though Alvin Kamara was pretty darn good against Texas A&M, gaining nearly 300 yards from scrimmage. Against Alabama, another weapon, especially one that does some different things and gives more personnel options, is a very good thing.
Butch Jones says that Hurd is ready to go. His full load prior to the injury was about 20 touches, so I’m not sure he’ll get there, less because of the injury and more because of personnel variance. Even approaching 20, Hurd has the chance to match up against the big Alabama front, especially in red zone looks.
Leonard Fournette, RB LSU
Fournette is going to miss another game, his third with this ankle injury. It’s clearly something that isn’t cleared up with just rest and treatment and yes, NFL scouts continue to be a bit concerned by it. With LSU heading over to play Southern Miss this week in a non-conference game, there’s some question about whether Fournette would be playing if it were a conference game or at least a key game.
If so, there are three of those coming up, with Ole Miss and Alabama the next two weeks and nothing but ranked opponents the rest of the way. That’s an uphill battle for this team. With Fournette out, Derrius Guide will get more of a workload. He’s been great, going for more than eight yards a carry, but he’s not Fournette.
Drew Morgan, WR Arkansas
Morgan has a simple injury. He got hit – hard – in the back and has a bruise that affects both the joint and the muscles in the area. Any movement and he has pain, putting more pressure on the area and causing a pain/spasm cycle. This is in spite of the fact that Morgan was wearing a backplate. What’s that, you ask? Sometimes called a kidney guard, it’s the plastic and foam piece that is often attached to the back of shoulder pads, offering some protection. But only some. The design comes from the late 1960’s and simply isn’t as effective today as it was then, because the hits are harder and come from bigger guys.
The simple physics of the hits today means they need better pads, so you wonder why Morgan and virtually every other major college player is out there playing with an old pad rather than the most advanced and productive gear. Again, safety equipment is a relatively inexpensive way to get a rare assymetric advantage. For Morgan, he should be back out on the field this week, though he’ll probably be wearing that same backplate.