GETTING THERE: Alabama, which just came off NCAA probation, has moved its overall scholarship numbers up to 77. The Crimson Tide no longer has any scholarship restrictions but could not get back to the overall maximum of 85 because it can only add 25 new players each year.
“We’re gaining ground there,” Coach Mike Shula said. “Hopefully, we’ll get there next year.”
Kentucky, another program coming off probation, will have 76 scholarship players this year, including four walk-ons who were awarded aid this year. Wildcats coach Rich Brooks also predicts his team will get up to 85 next season.
THE FREAK IS GONE: Arkansas has 16 starters returning but that might not matter since quarterback Matt Jones is not one of them. Jones led the Razorbacks in passing (2,073 yards) and rushing (622 yards) and had five times the total offense than the next player on the team last season.
“It’s hard to believe I won’t have No. 9,” Coach Houston Nutt said.
Sophomore Robert Johnson, who completed 10 of 19 passes for 209 yards last year, is the frontrunner to replace Jones. Jones is 80 percent recovered from a hernia, Nutt said, but is limited only in full speed running.
Freshman Alex Mortensen, the son of ESPN NFL analyst Chris Mortensen, and 22-year-old freshman Cole Barthel, who’s been playing minor league baseball, also are in the running.
“The main things we’re telling them is, ‘Don’t get us beat. We aren’t asking you to step into Matt Jones’ shoes. You can’t do that,’” Nutt said.
ONE-MAN SHOW?: Much like Richt when he arrived at Georgia, first-year LSU coach Les Miles doesn’t want to have a two-quarterback system. However, he will, he said, if two players can give him a different dimension to the game.
The favorite to win the job seems to be JaMarcus Russell, a sophomore who completed 73 of 144 passes for 1,053 yards and nine touchdowns last year, but Miles said sophmore Matt Flynn also will get a shot to start camp.
The unknown factor is incoming freshman Ryan Perrilloux, who was the USA Today national offensive player of the year in high school last year and comes in with at least as much hype as D.J. Shockley had when he entered Georgia in Richt’s first season.
“If there’s an opportunity for a quarterback to give us a special talent or a special part of the offense by his play then we could envision two quarterbacks,” Miles said. “But, if the quarterbacks are comparable, you would like to get your best quarterback every repetition because the number of times he’s in a situation is the best trainer.”