High-profile suspensions have taken a toll on several SEC teams
It’s one thing to lose a player or two to injury and watch a season unravel. But it’s much more painful when you lose your stars for all the wrong reasons.
It’s happened a lot in the SEC this year. Several high-profile players are home on the couch now – or home on the couch in their momma’s basement – instead of on the field because of suspensions and dismissals for doing stupid things. The phrases “violation of team rules” and “breaking NCAA guidelines” have been used far too often this year.
Here are the biggest names to go by the wayside, and the carnage they’ve left behind. Be it drugs or drinking, brushes with the law or extra benefits, these players selfishly didn’t care one bit about their teammates. They’ve left them behind to do battle on their own and, as you will see, most of these high-profile suspensions have had a profound effect on won-loss records.
Much of the damage has already happened, some may be coming down the road.
The top-5 problem children of 2015 are:
1. Maty Mauk, Missouri: When you go 22-5 in the games you’ve played in are a key figure in winning back-to-back SEC East titles, you are clearly a very important piece to your team. That’s Maty Mauk, who became the face of Missouri football the last two years with big throws, dramatic victories and toothy smiles. Then 2015 rolls around and Mauk gets suspended for violating team rules four games into the season. He’s gone for four weeks and in his absence the Tigers offense completely disappears. Mizzou goes three full games without scoring a single touchdown and manages just three third-down conversions in 41 tries. Mauk returns to the team … and promptly gets suspended within a matter of days for an alleged late-night incident at a bar. Now he’s gone for the year and the Tigers are probably going to finish 4-8 with a seven-game losing streak strapped around their collective necks. Nice job of being a leader, Maty.
2. D’haquille “Duke” Williams, Auburn: Williams entered the ’15 season as a projected first-round draft pick but repeated incidents finally forced coach Gus Mahzahn to dismiss him from the team last month. He has had a history of problems at Auburn, and had been suspended earlier in his career and missed a bowl game last year. Considering how terribly bad this season has gone for Auburn, there are plenty of people to blame, from the coaches on down through every last bit of the roster. This was, after all, a team considered by many in August to be the best team in the SEC. They were ranked No. 6 in the country, but now the Tigers are 1-4 in the league will likely be underdogs against Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama in their final three SEC games. Take your best player out of the mix, and in a tough league these things can happen. Thanks a lot, Duke.
3. Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss: Tunsil is considered one of the finest offensive linemen in the college game. He’s great. What he’s not great at, at least according to the NCAA, is returning loaner cars in a timely fashion. The NCAA forced Tunsil to sit for seven games as his penance and even though the Rebels beat Alabama without him, they lost two winnable games against Florida and Memphis. This could still be a special season for Ole Miss, but national title dreams might have been dashed by those two losses, even if they run the table and win the SEC. Let’s hope those extra miles of driving in style were worth it.
4. Pig Howard, Tennessee: Howard’s case is much like Williams, a diva receiver who couldn’t stay out of trouble and wound up costing his team wins. He was the Vols’ leading receiver in 2013 and 2014 and big things were expected of him in 2015. He missed the opener for violating team rules, made one catch in the Oklahoma game, then was dismissed for good early last month. His absence has been felt in four close losses this season. You think one big play from Howard might have made a difference in close losses to Oklahoma, Arkansas, Florida or Alabama? Duh. The only reason he’s not ranked higher is because he was also hurt at the time and might have missed some time anyway. Still, this could have been a special season for the Vols had Howard been around to lend a hand.
5. Will Grier, Florida: Who’s the best player – or at least the most important player – on this list? It just might be Grier, the redshirt freshman quarterback of the Gators. He was playing lights-out football for first-year coach Jim McElwain and had the Gators on a roll. Picked to finish fifth in the SEC East during the preseason, the Gators are suddenly the class of the East. But then Grier gets busted by the NCAA urine collectors and a failed drug test (or more?) for performancing-enhancing drugs got him a one-year suspension. The Gators are 6-1 and headed to the SEC Championship Game, so it’s not like Grier’s selfishness has ruined their season. Well, at least not yet. He’s fifth on this list only because the Gators are winning without him, with Treon Harris coming in to replace him. But Harris is no Grier. That was obvious in a narrow loss to LSU on the road, where some Grier heroics might have led to a different outcome. When they fall short against Florida State and in the SEC title game, Grier will have to live with that. And that won’t be easy.