Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Catching up: Other things are happening

* I'm not sure about this, but I think USC might have had a worse week than Michigan. After losing Ronald Johnson for six to eight weeks because of a broken collarbone on Saturday, Pete Carroll announced on Monday that projected starting cornerback Shareece Wright has been declared academically ineligible and will have to sit out the season. The Trojans plan to slide Josh Pinkard (the only returning defensive starter other than Taylor Mays) from safety to corner while bringing backup safety Will Harris into the lineup. Wright missed most of last season with a neck injury, but he's obviously talented -- he started the first two games of '08 before his injury forced Pinkard to move from safety to cornerback, and his return this year was expected to do the opposite.

* Also having a bad week: Oklahoma State, which has seen starting tight end Jamal Mosley quit the team for personal reasons and starting cornerback Perrish Cox arrested on charges of speeding and driving with a suspended license. There's no word yet from Mike Gundy on whether Cox will be disciplined, but if he is, the Oklahoma State secondary will have none of last year's starters on the field this weekend against Georgia and stud sophomore A.J. Green. Cox is also the Cowboys' kick returner, by the way.

* Iowa running back Jewel Hampton, a sophomore who was expected to start after running for nearly 500 yards and scoring seven touchdowns last year behind Shonn Greene, will miss the season because of a lingering knee injury. Redshirt freshman Jeff Brinson is next on the depth chart, but he's still recovering from an ankle injury and will miss the season opener. Expect him to take over the starting job as soon as he's healthy. Iowa's offense wasn't exactly a juggernaut to begin with, but any hopes of duplicating last year's running-game success have now gone out the window. As for this week, the Hawkeyes should probably be glad that they're playing Northern Iowa: "Former walk-on Paki O'Meara will get the start at running back Saturday."

* Alabama defensive end Brandon Deaderick spent Tuesday night in the hospital after being shot in the arm during an attempted robbery in Tuscaloosa, although a spokesman reported that he was in good condition. Deaderick's status for the season is unknown, but he's a returning starter who had four sacks last season, and it seems safe to assume that he won't play Saturday in the Tide's huge season opener against Virginia Tech in Atlanta.

* Michigan State will go with redshirt sophomore Kirk Cousins as the starting quarterback. Cousins was in a dead heat throughout camp with former Oklahoma transfer Keith Nichols, but he was fairly impressive in mop-up duty last year behind the departed Brian Hoyer, and Mark Dantonio cited that experience as a factor in his decision. Nichols is also expected to get some playing time, but Cousins is considered the slightly better passer of the two. Considering that the Spartans lost Javon Ringer and his ridiculous 390 carries from last season -- relatively unknown redshirt freshman Caulton Ray is expected to start at running back this year ahead of true freshmen Edwin Baker and Larry Caper -- they'll need a boost from the passing game if they hope to have anything approaching a good offense.

* Former Miami quarterbacks Taylor Cook and Cannon Smith (both sophomores) have each found a home, with Cook announcing that he'll play at Rice and Smith choosing his hometown Memphis Tigers. Interesting note: Smith's father, Fred, is the founder of FedEx, so whether or not Cannon ever plays in the NFL, he's probably safe financially. But with Memphis starter Arkelon Hall entering his senior year, he should have a good shot at the starting job in 2010. Cook will have a bit more competition, as the two players battling for the starting job this year are junior J.T. Shepherd and sophomore Alabama transfer Nick Fanuzzi.

* Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson named redshirt sophomore Larry Smith the Commodores' starting quarterback Tuesday, choosing Smith over senior Mackenzi Adams. Adams has played well in two seasons of spot duty behind the injury-prone Chris Nickson, but Smith looked good enough in the Music City Bowl win over Boston College (when Adams was out with an injury) that he appeared to be the frontrunner heading into spring practice.

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