Every week in the SEC is a big week. Last week had a huge matchup. This week will have a huge, perhaps division-deciding matchup as we complete the Alabama-Tennessee-Texas A&M round-robin.
Now that we’re past the midway point, teams are fighting fatigue as much as trauma, so things like cryotherapy, sleep hygiene, and recovery become ever more important. Results are what matters, so let’s look around the conference at some key injury situations:
Luke Del Rio, QB Florida
From a medical standpoint, I told you not to worry much about Del Rio when he returned. The Gators QB showed absolutely no issues at all with his knee or with the knee brace he was wearing to protect it. Del Rio showed that he had a stable base for throwing and was able to move normally. He should only get better, though I would expect that the medical staff will keep the brace on Del Rio for at least the rest of the month, if not the rest of the season.
The Gators get a week off before their annual meeting with Georgia, and a win there puts them in great position to win the SEC East. The bye gives Del Rio more time to let his knee heal more and to get even more comfortable with what he can and can’t do.
By the Georgia kickoff, I believe Del Rio will be at his maximum improvement. Then the burden shifts to keeping defenders away from Del Rio’s knee the rest of the season.
DeAndre Goolsby, TE Florida
Goolsby looked to be in a lot of pain as he left Saturday’s game with an apparent finger injury. An intrepid tweeter caught video of the trainers popping his pinkie finger back into place. Goolsby went back in the game, so this is definitely a positive sign for the Mackey Award midseason watch list candidate.
Dislocations that get easily reduced will have some residual pain and swelling, but Goolsby should be fine for the Oct. 29 game vs. Georgia. Given all the other injuries in the receiving corps and to Del Rio, it’s still something of a surprise that Goolsby is the team’s leader in receptions with 25 so far. We’ll be watching to see that he’s back at practice.
Leonard Fournette, RB LSU
At what point does LSU pull the plug on the Leonard Fournette Returns experiment? That’s the question some are asking, especially given the play of Derrius Guice in the interim. For Ed Orgeron, the answer is “not yet.”
Orgeron told the media that he thinks Fournette will be back from his lingering ankle injury this week against Ole Miss. Fournette will need to make it through practice, but there’s no reason to think that this is an injury that won’t heal, even if it’s taken longer than expected.
The bigger question right now is whether Fournette will go right back to getting the bulk of the touches and if he’ll be able to produce the way that Guice has. That’s one we don’t have an answer to, but given how cautious the team has been around the top rated back, I have to believe it will be a split of carries.
I’ll be watching for signs that Fournette has his push, his burst, and his ability to bull through runners, which should tell us how much that ankle problem is still lingering.
Nate Brown, WR Missouri
This is going to be a key week for Brown and the Tigers. Coming off ankle surgery in mid-August, Brown is slightly ahead of schedule in his recovery, but it’s mid-October. The team is going to have to ask the question about the value of bringing him back at all. Brown would be a big new weapon for the offense, but he’d also be a nice add for next year if he’s medically redshirted.
To some extent, it will be a medical decision. Will he be cleared to play, are there any restrictions or risks of re-injury, or any limitations? Once those are answered, it’s back to a football decision.
It’s tough for Brown or anyone to lift Mizzou from 0-3 in the division to bowl consideration, but the schedule, starting with this week’s non-conference game, is relatively weak until the end of the season. Expect a decision on Brown to be made by mid-week and made known by the end of itl