ATHENS, Ga. -- A series of arrests. Players kicked off the team. It's been a tumultuous offseason for the Georgia Bulldogs, raising questions about the way Coach Mark Richt runs the program.
Richt insists there are no major issues, just a few bad apples.
His players, on the other hand, thought the situation was serious enough to meet before the start of preseason practice on Friday.
"We just felt like we needed to get together and hash some things out," linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. "That's the first time we've done that in the three years I've been here."
There was plenty to discuss.
Starting safety Josh Harvey-Clemons was kicked off the team after being suspended twice last season. Four players were arrested on charges of illegal check-cashing, including another starting safety, Tray Matthews, and defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor. Matthews was eventually dismissed from the team and transferred to Auburn. Taylor was soon gone, too, after his second arrest of the offseason, this one for the alleged beating of his girlfriend.
Last weekend, three days after Taylor was sent packing, freshman linebacker Davin Bellamy was arrested in Athens on charges of driving under the influence.
"We needed to get everybody together, get the leaders together, and just get it fixed," Jenkins said.
Senior receiver Michael Bennett said it's imperative for everyone to take a stake in the team.
"It does bother me," Bennett said. "It kind of makes me feel like I let them down in a way. We all did a little bit."
But Richt said it's not fair to blame the entire program for the actions of a few.
"The guys that misbehaved have been the problem, and that's why we discipline them," he said. "Some are still here and some aren't. It's part of the consequences of not doing what you're supposed to do, when you're supposed to do it. But the majority of our guys are doing a great job."
QB Coker debuts
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama opened preseason camp with a quarterback competition, several suspended players and a focus on rebounding from a pair of season-ending defeats.
The Crimson Tide veterans hit the practice field Friday with starting nose guard Brandon Ivory, fellow defensive lineman Jarran Reed and linebacker Tim Williams suspended for violating team rules, but also with a prominent newcomer throwing passes.
Quarterback Jacob Coker made his practice debut after transferring from Florida State and arriving this summer. He and last year's backup Blake Sims are vying to replace 2013 Heisman Trophy finalist AJ McCarron, but Coach Nick Saban said they are in no rush to pick a starter for the Aug. 30 opener against West Virginia.
Saban, who worked the young players in a second session, said he is looking primarily for decision-making, accuracy and leadership from the candidates.
"It's going to take some time and some repetition and giving some guys some opportunity to be able to sort that out," he said. "We're not going to be in any hurry to try to make a prediction about what's going to happen at that position. We can't.
"As anxious as everybody is to know and as anxious as everybody is to find out, we can't make something happen before we get an opportunity to evaluate it fairly for everybody."
Coker has been throwing to receivers this summer after Sims and Cooper Bateman led the competition in spring practices. Saban said it was too early to evaluate chemistry between the quarterbacks and the rest of the team.
"I think when you're in a competition, you bring out the best in each player, so it's been helping us a lot as players with guys around them getting quality reps and that's helped us out a lot," tight end Brian Vogler said. "We're not really sure who the quarterback is going to be right now, but the fact that we're getting everybody's best is helping us out tremendously."
Talent on display
OXFORD, Miss. -- Coach Hugh Freeze has just about mastered the self-effacing, aw-shucks attitude that has helped his Mississippi football program escape lofty expectations.
There is too much talent on the Rebels' roster to avoid that now.
Freeze said Friday the goal is to compete in the SEC Western Division.
The Rebels return 15 starters, including third-year starting quarterback Bo Wallace. A talented sophomore class -- including offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, receiver Laquon Treadwell and defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche -- is expected to be a huge contributor after an encouraging freshman season.
The Rebels open the season Aug. 28 against Boise State in Atlanta.
Ole Miss has some question marks on the roster, especially at offensive line, where the Rebels are trying to replace three starters. Freeze looks forward to the upcoming position battles during the next four weeks but said it's also important to keep his relatively thin roster healthy.
"It's a quandary in my mind that I go through every single day," Freeze said. "You want to be fast and physical, like we were in the spring. But now I feel like we have a team that can be good, and hopefully go from good to great, but everything changes if you have injuries."
Ole Miss looks especially deep on defense, where nine starters return. Senior linebacker Serderius Bryant led the Rebels with 78 tackles last season, including 12½ for a loss.
"It's crazy how much better the team has changed from my freshman year until now," Bryant said. "I really feel like the team can be great."
Sports on 08/02/2014
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