We’re just under four weeks from the start of the season, and Auburn, Kentucky’s first opponent, is dealing with some significant coronavirus issues in fall camp.
Last night, head coach Gus Malzahn told reporters that nine of his players had tested positive for COVID-19 and another seven are considered high risk due to close contact, bringing the total number of players being held out of practice this week to 16. Last week, the Tigers canceled two practices and their second scrimmage, although Malzahn said the team decided not to scrimmage in part due to the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
“We had a pretty challenging week last week,” Malzahn said. “We’re learning as we go here. Every day and every week is a challenge.”
Malzahn said the bulk of the new cases came from two position groups, one reason why the staff decided to cancel Wednesday’s practice.
“We’ll just have to adjust as it goes,” Malzahn said. “If we have a small number of a position group, we’ll just have to adjust. So that’s really going to be the name of the game moving forward. … And with who we’ve got out there, we’ll make the best of it.”
Malzahn said the team has had “very few” players who have exhibited “major symptoms.” Auburn’s protocols call for players to quarantine for at least 17 days following a positive COVID-19 test, including a 10-day isolation period and 7-day re-acclimation period before being cleared to return to action. Players who were in close contact with a positive case must quarantine for two weeks. The Tigers plan to resume practice on Tuesday.
On Kentucky’s side, three players have tested positive for COVID-19 so far in fall camp, although one was already in isolation due to contact with an infected person. On Saturday, Mark Stoops was asked about the uptick in cases on Auburn’s team and said that he’s only worried about his guys, who he believes are doing the best they can to keep everyone safe.
“I don’t spend any time really monitoring what’s going on there, I really don’t. That’s not to say that you don’t read any media coverage at all or anything. Certainly you see things or hear things in the office, but it’s not my concern because I can’t control that. Certainly, I hope we are all staying as safe as possible and keeping things under control because you always worry about that. You feel like if it gets out of control at any other place, it can affect you and it can affect us and our players, so for us, our focus is on keeping ourselves as safe as possible, and doing the things that we can do that controls our environment. And once again, we’re far from perfect, but I think our guys are doing a really good job and for us, right now, we have it as under control as you can, statistically. We’re doing as good as we can. Glad our players are doing it.”
If you’re counting down at home, we’ve got 26 days until kickoff.