Sometimes I think the depth that the nation’s top college football teams enjoy is almost a detriment to the players themselves. The fact that most teams can go two or three deep at most positions without a huge drop-off in talent is a gift and allows them to do things that even NFL teams can’t.
Sure, there’s always some drop off — a player is a starter over someone else for a reason — and there’s often a drop in experience or communication, but I wonder if it devalues the player.
As we see more and more injuries around the conference, key injuries that would seem to decide games, I have to question whether the “next man up” mentality has led to a commoditization of players. Does talent win championships, or depth?
While you think about that, let’s look around the conference:
How healthy will Fournette be for Florida?
Fournette rushed for 98 yards and 3 touchdowns vs. Arkansas, but it is apparent that his ankle injury is still an issue. And with the Tigers up 18, he even sat out the fourth quarter. His absence didn’t hurt anything — Derrius Guice rushed for a career-high 252 yards on 21 carries, including a 96-yard TD run in the final quarter.
It’s clear that Guice is very good, but Fournette’s size/speed combo is only slowed by this recurring ankle injury. His return to the game after tweaking the ankle in the second quarter was a good sign, but we’ll have to watch to see how much (and how) he practices ahead of this week’s matchup with Florida. At the very least, interim coach Ed Orgeron believes Fournette will be “fine.” We’ll see.
Will we see either Sean White or Kamryn Pettway this weekend for Auburn?
White didn’t tell the coaching or medical staffs that he had injured his shoulder more during the Tigers’ loss to Georgia. It shouldn’t have been a surprise. He was out the week leading up to the Vanderbilt game with what is assumed to be the same problem, but came in despite it and played well in the second half.
The same wasn’t true this past Saturday, with White’s shoulder looking very limited in strength vs. Georgia. The ball didn’t come out of his hand with any zip or touch, which usually indicates a stability problem.
His status is uncertain for this week’s game against Alabama A&M, but if White can’t make a big leap this week in terms of health, something he didn’t do the week prior, Gus Malzahn could afford to rest him against a 4-6 FCS team.
Meanwhile, Pettway did not even dress for the game vs. the Bulldogs, a sign of the severity of his leg injury. Pettway’s availability remains in question and we’ll have to watch to see how much he practices. Like White, there may be no need for Pettway to play this weekend, given the opponent.
Kamara’s health still not clear
As Mike Griffith noted here, the Tennessee injury situation has defined the Vols’ season almost as much as the big wins and bigger losses. Alvin Kamara was able to come back this weekend and looked very good, if somewhat limited. Kentucky’s defense didn’t really test him, but Kamara looked reluctant to make any hard cuts against the injured knee. That’s not to say he can’t, just that he didn’t.
That’s a common pattern for returns, so Kamara remains someone to watch since we don’t yet know his full capacity. The Vols host Missouri on Saturday.