Over the past 30 or so years I've come to realize that in most of Georgia we have two seasons: summer and February. Still it's a little hard to believe that as I sit here on Thursday evening typing, the sun is going down and the heat index in Macon is still over 100. The temperature is a balmy 93.
It may not feel like it, but football season gets started in earnest with the kickoff of practice only three days from Friday. We are standing at the front door to college football season folks. There's naught left to do but grab Lou Holtz by his oversized ears and batter that thing down.*
One sure sign of college football's impending return is the compulsion of college coaches to take one last look at the ole roster. At Ole Miss for example, Houston Nutt seems to have taken a look at his QB situation and realized that, other than Nathan Stanley, he doesn't really have one. So he's going to the well of troubled but talented athletes again in getting former Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli enrolled in graduate school at Ole Miss.
I say "again" because, as you might recall, Houston Nutt is the same guy who last year took a chance on former Florida defensive back Jamar Hornsby (affectionately known around the internet as "that guy who stole the dead girl's credit card"). Hornsby rewarded the Reverend Nutt's faith by assaulting somebody with a set of brass knuckles in a McDonald's drive-thru before even hitting the practice field.
It's one thing to recruit high school kids who later go astray. When you herd 85+ physically aggressive young men together the chances of one or two of them doing something criminally stupid is pretty good. But there's only so much you can do to tell which ones are potentially felonious. It's quite another to try to get a guy admitted to your graduate program who pled guilty to burglary less than five months ago, after only recently getting a guy admitted to your undergraduate program after he committed $9000 worth of credit card fraud. These are not "emerging from an alley" or "failure to renew a driver's license." We're talking about real crimes against real victims that Houston Dale Nutt has shown himself willing to overlook in the name of winning football games in Oxford.
Nutt is an entertaining guy, no doubt. He's colorful and jovial and the SEC is a more entertaining place because of him. He's also a damned good football coach, consistently winning at Arkansas for years with what he was able to cobble together from Texas, Oklahoma, LSU and Tennessee's recruiting trail scraps (and some kid named McFadden who could have played anywhere). But I sometimes wonder if he hasn't gotten a little bit of a pass on things because of that. For example, Nick Saban is the blogosphere's patron demon of oversigning. But the SEC only imposed its 28 player per class limit after Nutt's colossal 37 player class of 2009. Houston Nutt is the embodiment of the old adage that people will put up with a lot from you if you're likable. And if you don't win enough football games to be roundly despised.
Another sign of the coming gridiron season is the itch to break out the old record book and think about who might secure a place in it. Roll Bama Roll actually looked back at the Tide's recently completed national championship campaign and noted a slew of records that might have actually flown under the radar. Chief among them for me was Mark Ingram setting a new 'Bama record for rushing yards with 1658. I understand that Ingram won that popularity contest they invite people to New York for, and I knew he had a good year, but I had no idea that no Crimson Tide back had ever had a better one. I seem to recall Shaun Alexander toting the mail in Tuscaloosa for a fair bit of yardage, and was a little surprised that he never hit 1700 yards. Shows you what I know.
This is also that wonderful transitional period in which baseball and football coexist on the sports landscape. Look, I truly don't give a rip about NBA basketball, and hockey generally only appeals to me in person. But college football and major league baseball have been among my favorite spectator sports for as long as I can remember, and the chance to alternate between the two is a treat for me. Especially when the Braves are in contention, which I am embarrassed to say has been the case for the majority of the summers of my life.
It has not escaped my notice, by the way, that since FOB (friend of the blog) David Hale began covering the Phillies for DelawareOnline the Phills are on a 7 game win streak and have traded for a frontline starter to bolster their rotation down the stretch, while the Braves have dropped back-to-back series to National League clubs after not losing a series to an N.L. outfit since mid-May. I like the guy, and Phillies fans are about to realize what a steal they got on a great beatwriter, but I swear he's a menace. Like Mrs. O'Leary's cow with a beard and a Pauly's beer card.
Finally, it's time to start talking about position battles in concrete terms, about guys gaining and losing depth chart ground on the field rather than in the back of a squad car or at a party on South Beach. One position to watch in Athens in the coming weeks will be the nose guard spot currently manned by Deangelo Tyson. Fletcher Page has a nice article up over at Dawgpost on the depth at that spot, be it ever so inexperienced. The quotes from Grantham make it sound like he would really, really like to be able to play Deangelo at end, which is probably a more natural position for him in the 3-4. While Tyson is strong for his size, at 6'3, 295 pounds he's not massive even for a 4-3 tackle. But at this point nobody knows how Kwame Geathers will do in gameday situations (though the practice results are promising) and Bean Anderson literally hasn't played a snap on defense yet.
While I hate to look into the future when we have so much worth worrying about in the present, there is reason for optimism in the interior line. With Tyson, Geathers and Anderson all likely back in 2011 (not to mention highly touted true freshmen Garrison Smith and Mike Thornton) there should be tons (literally) of depth among the big uglies next season. We'll just have to see how strong the growing pains are in 2010. We should know soon enough.
Kickoff is coming. It's time to tighten up:
Time to start your own fight club composed exclusively of 8 year olds? Not so much. Until later . . .
*Why visualize battering down a door using a pint-sized geriatric with a speech impediment, you ask? Why not, sir? That is my question for you. Plus Mark May is too heavy for us to pick up and he'd spend the whole time whining about how some Big East blogger could do it just as well as us.