It’s fitting that The Walking Dead had its season premiere on Sunday night. We’re at the point in the conference schedule where it seems like we have a couple zombies wandering SEC country. There are more teams that are in it than aren’t, but some hopes are dashed.
Some teams are down. Some teams are under expectations. The easy answer is firing coaches or hitting the recruiting trail harder, but I’d suggest that in almost every case, one of the easiest things to adjust would be sports medicine. The team that stays healthier (and keeps its star players healthier) is usually going to have an advantage.
It’s often a long play and that’s hard for coaches and athletic directors to invest in, especially when their jobs are on the line. That doesn’t make it a bad idea, though, and the teams that do — the Alabamas, the Ohio States, the Stanfords — are seeing a consistent advantage. For now, there’s plenty of injuries, so let’s look at the injuries from this weekend’s play:
Leonard Fournette, RB LSU
Can we stop asking questions about Fournette and his ankle now? Despite the huge performance and dominating physical play, the answer has to be no. Fournette came back after an extended absence and looked every bit as dominant as expected, showing speed, burst, power, and hard cuts. In other words, everything.
The question is whether the injury will recur — or for the pro scouts, whether it’s a chronic issue — and how it was that the LSU medical staff got him ready. Sometimes time heals and sometimes, it’s hours of pregame treatment, braces, tape, and even painkillers. Less is better, and sources tell me that Fournette didn’t need a ton of pregame work, but he did have the ankle braced as a precaution.
It’s certainly a good sign how Fournette played, or a very bad sign if you’re an SEC defender.
Austin Allen, QB Arkansas
Allen has made it clear he’s tough. He injured his knee vs. Auburn, rumored to be an MCL sprain, and came back in the game. He left before things were over — or at least before the game was finished. At 49-3, there was no reason to risk Allen any further.
If those rumors are true, and they match the mechanism and symptoms, then Allen is dealing with the same type of injury that Luke Del Rio of Florida dealt with earlier this season. Depending on grade, Allen could miss no time, but it’s going to come down to the grade of that potential sprain, how he adjusts to a brace, and pain management.
We should get an early indication by his presence and participation at practice. No one seems very confident in Ty Storey’s ability to take over.
Brandon Holloway, RB Mississippi State
Holloway (ankle) sat out the Kentucky game, but there’s a lot of thought that Mississippi State is looking ahead. If that’s the case, Holloway should be back at practice quickly, but the mystery that the Bulldogs are shrouding this in seems a lot more involved than a simple sprain.
Coming off a 40-38 loss at Kentucky, Dan Mullen needs a big win and someone to help Nick Fitzgerald. Aeris Williams and Malik Dear didn’t do enough to hold Holloway back if he’s healthy. A week of practice ahead of what should be an easy nonconference breather game against Samford would be the perfect way to bring Holloway back.
Nate Brown, WR Mizzou
Brown is getting closer. The Tigers have been waiting on their top receiver to come back for a while, but it is looking more certain that he’ll play this year. That had been a question as things extended from his late August ankle surgery.
If Mizzou is going to sneak into bowl eligibility, it will have to win its next two games (Kentucky and Vandy), then sneak out two wins out of three final games (South Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas). Brown would help big-time, and we could see him in practice as soon as this week.