The suspensions of three football players were reported last week by UGASports.com and confirmed by the University over the weekend. The only surprise is that medical reasons have ended Tony Wilson’s career.
For Figgins the suspension raises a question about the future of his career. Despite his shoulder surgery he was still considered the favorite to enter the season as the starting tight end. The depth chart will have to change as the result of the suspension, and as many as four players will get a chance at the position before Figgins is scheduled to return. Even before the suspensions were announced Mark Richt told the Roswell Bulldog Club (and presumably other clubs along the Road Tour) that both incoming tight ends (Lynch and Charles) would likely see time as true freshmen.
So Figgins faces the challenge of using the second half of his junior season just to battle back from behind and work his way through the depth chart. It would leave him with only his senior season in which to try to play most or all of the year as the starter. Of course that assumes he wins the job back, and that’s not necessarily a given with the talent coming in. A redshirt season in 2009 would allow him to rehab his shoulder completely and give him two full years to play, though, again, he’d be facing a much more crowded depth chart.
The question whether to redshirt Figgins needn’t be answered now; you don’t have to declare a redshirt before the fact. David Hale touches on the issues facing the tight end position without Figgins, and we’ll have six games to see whether those roles can be filled by others on the roster. If we get to October and the position looks to be in good shape, Richt might address the redshirt decision then. If the position looks shaky over the first six games or if a blocking tight end fails to emerge, you’ll almost certainly see Figgins return this year.
That leads to another question: would Figgins redshirting this season go against the spirit of the suspension?
PS…I know there are those reading this who will say, "Why bother to keep a repeat rules violator around any longer than necessary? He’s lucky to even be on the team." It’s true that Figgins’ attitude and behavior going forward will likely play into Richt’s decisions, but there’s also no need to cast off a potentially valuable contributor without cause.