Another college football season is upon us, and at least two major NCAA programs are facing the beginning of the season without some of their top players.
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets recently announced running back Dedrick Mills has been booted from the team for an undisclosed violation of athletic department policies. GT opens the season in a few weeks against Tennessee, and now Tech fans are wondering who will be carrying the rock against the Vols defense.
This is a major loss for Georgia Tech, as Mills was the team’s top offensive player coming into the season. He was incredible as a freshman, running for 771 yards and 12 touchdowns in only nine games. His breakout game came at exactly the right time, in the TaxSlayer Bowl, where Mills rushed for 169 yards on 31 carries.
Off-the-field problems chased Mills last year, causing him to be suspended for three games. This year, he’s done before the season even starts. Tech fans are left with questions … and dashed hopes.
Meanwhile, down in Gainesville, Florida, the University of Florida Gators announced they are sitting seven players, including top receiver Antonio Callaway, for the big-time home opener against Michigan. No specific reasons were given for the suspensions, only that the players had “violated team rules.”
Defensive end Keivonnis Davis, offensive lineman Kadeem Telfort, defensive lineman Jordan Smith, defensive lineman Richerd Desir-Jones, linebacker Ventrell Miller and linebacker James Houston will join Calloway in street clothes for the game. While several of these players are underclassmen and won’t be a big factor, losing Calloway will be a tough loss for the Gators to overcome.
This a huge game for Florida, even though Michigan is in a different conference. There are huge numbers of Wolverine fans in central Florida, so there will be a big contingent in The Swamp for the game. Florida fans have seen an inconsistent product on the field in recent seasons, so to begin with a poor offensive performance or even a loss, could be a significant black mark on a team that hasn’t seen glory days since Tim Tebow back in 2009.
Calloway has been in trouble before, but not to the level of missing a game of this magnitude. And, with six players out, a lot of Gator fans have to be wondering what’s really going on at the U of F.
No team wants to begin the season dogged by negative headlines. When you’re top teams in top conferences, the pressure is even more intense to deliver good news early and often. GT and UF are starting behind this year, but they still have time to get on the other side of these stories if they can keep other players out of trouble and, more importantly, deliver wins.