Posted on: April 20, 2011 3:06 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
All twelve SEC head coaches jumped on board a conference call to talk about their Spring Practices. Here's a few notes on what each coach said.
Les Miles, LSU
On senior quarterback Jordan Jefferson:
"He gets it out of his hand so quickly now and goes through his reads much quicker," Miles said. "There's much less hesitation in his decision-making process. I also think going into your senior year, there's a want to have a great senior year, and the leadership position is something your quarterback must embrace.
Miles also said that new offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe has been a major help for all of the quarterbacks on the roster. Backups Zach Mettenberger and Jarrett Lee pushed Jefferson this spring and will continue to do so in the fall, which makes the team better.
Will Muschamp, Florida
On quarterback John Brantley this spring:
"I’m really pleased with his poise, leadership and habits off the field studying what we need to do to be successful,” Muschamp said. “He’s got the ability and we’re very pleased.”
On Brantley's tough spring game:
“I don’t think in the spring game John had much of a chance,” Muschamp said. “I was behind him and saw it coming pretty fast, too.”
Muschamp made Florida's policy on grayshirting very clear, in that they don't do it period. He also mentioned that Javares McRoy transferred because he wants to play with his brother and Chris Dunkley left because, "sometimes things don't fit." All the injured Florida players should be healthy and ready to go this summer.
Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
"Well, we like the way the rule is now because we actually sign four or five guys that are on the bubble of qualifying. This year we've got about five that haven't quite done it and probably three that won't make it," Spurrier said. "We could not sign all of our guys which was embarrassing for us a little bit and for them. Sometimes time heals a lot of wounds. It appears that one guy in particular will be able to sign and come with us when all the freshmen report. Our state education is.. a lot of them are borderline of qualifying or not. It's helpful for the University of South Carolina to be able to oversign."
Spurrier touched on suspended quarterback Steven Garcia, which you can read more about here. It's the Old Ball Coach's 66th birthday today and he said he was teeing off with Boo Weekley at a pro-am this afternoon. Spurrier was upbeat on current quarterback Connor Shaw, even joking he "is from our planet," in contrast to Garcia.
James Franklin, Vanderbilt
On the challenge at Vandy:
"I love the word daunting. To me, it's an opportunity, it's a challenge," Franklin said. "Just like everything else in life, it's how you look at it and perceive the situation. The way myself, this staff and this program looks at it, we have a chance to really do something special."
Franklin said the team stayed healthy for the most part this spring which was key because of depth issues. The spring was mainly about laying a foundation and the head coach felt they did that.
Derek Dooley, Tennessee
On the fan base being more united with some stability in the program:
"I hope fans see a coach who wants to be here and appreciates the tradition and the history of Tennessee football and has a good systematic approach on and off the field," Dooley said.
The head coach also said his honeymoon was over with the fans and that it ended at kickoff of last season. Dooley dismissed some of the struggles of quarterback Tyler Bray in the spring game because of the way he performed throughout the spring. He briefly touched on the 'Dooley Rule' that was implemented requiring a runoff of time in the last minute of a game on a penalty and said that it makes the game better.
Nick Saban, Alabama
On meeting with players to evaluate their progress:
"We go over a player's strengths, weaknesses, things he needs to work on, academic circumstance, personal issues, problems, leadership things he can contribute," Saban said. "It's pretty comprehensive to sit down and talk, sort of develop a plan for what that person needs to do to be successful personally, academically and athletically."
Saban discussed the quarterback battle between Phillip Sims and A.J. McCarron, including the possibility of playing both. Saban mentioned walk-on defensive back Ranzell Watkins as one player who is in the competition for a starting job because of his hard work this spring.
Bobby Petrino, Arkansas
On the QB battle between Tyler Wilson and Brandon Mitchell:
"I think they still have a long way to go," Petrino said. "They both have great leadership qualities but they have a ways to go to do their job well so they can lead by example first."
Petrino said the Spring Game was one of the most attended in history and was a big deal because it was televised. He was pleased with figuring some of his offensive line out this spring and thought his defense showed off the veteran unit's maturity. Petrino mentioned having four good receivers will help the offense tremendously no matter the quarterback.
Houston Nutt, Ole Miss
On QB Randall Mackey's spring:
"I thought Randall Mackey had an outstanding spring," Nutt said. "You can see why he was a junior college All-American quarterback. He can really spin the play and buy some time, he has some escapablity and is very accurate. We knew he could be in the shotgun but he got up under center much better."
Nutt said Mackey was ahead in the quarterback derby but nothing is finalized until this fall. He thought the few seniors on the team really stepped up and showed great leadership. Nutt also liked the way the defensive tackles got better as the spring went on and felt they also became more physical. He labeled Wesley Pendleton as the surprise of the spring.
Mark Richt, Georgia
On spring practice overall:
"I think we got better, we practiced with the right amount of intensity," Richt said. "We competed well, guys were competing for jobs, competing in offense versus defense."
Richt said the offensive tackle situation is fluid and still up in the air and the third guy could end up playing both left and right tackle. Richt said he wouldn't ban social media for his players because he knows it's such a big part of their lives. "They sacrifice enough with the amount of time they put in," he said. Richt did mention that it would be an issue if a guy is irresponsible with it. Richt wouldn't comment on the locker room thefts that occurred a few weeks ago.
Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
On the quarterback position:
“The competition, to me, is wide open right now,” Mullen said. “Chris Relf, obviously, did a great job this spring. I don’t know if he separated himself from all the other guys but he also has the experience and has played in the game and has done nothing to not be our top quarterback at this point going into the summer.”
Mullen didn't comment on any of the injuries on the team. He mentioned that since there were so many young players, it was good to get some practice time with them and they did a great job. He said the defense won't really change with the departure of Manny Diaz but that they would try a few new things. Mullen said he doesn't have a top-flight wide out but the group overall is very solid.
Gene Chizik, Auburn
On the all the distractions around the program:
"We only focus on one thing and that's what we can control,' Chizik said. "We know we're doing everything the right way and feel good about the direction of the program. We don't pay attention to any outside distractions."
Chizik thought there was an eagerness to learn from the younger players on the team but they have a long ways to go. He wanted the quarterbacks to be more consistency and will be a battle into the fall. Incoming quarterback Kiehl Fraizer will be in the mix as well.
Joker Phillips, Kentucky
On what he's gotten out of spring football:
"I've really been pleased with the progress of our team defensively," Phillips said. "I'm really pleased after 14 practices that we're getting the best personnel on the field and we're unitizing some of our better people."
Phillips liked the development of the quarterbacks and feels they can be a better passing team in the fall. He said they're in "desperate need" of somebody stepping up on the perimeter at wide receiver and being a playmaker.
Tags: A.J. McCarron, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Bobby Petrino, Boo Weekley, Brandon Mitchell, Chris Dunkley, Chris Relf, Connor Shaw, Dan Mullen, Derek Dooley, Florida, Gene Chizik, Georgia, Houston Nutt, James Franklin, Jarrett Lee, Javares McRoy, John Brantley, Joker Phillips, Jordan Jefferson, Kentucky, Kiehl Frazier, Les Miles, LSU, Manny Diaz, Mark Richt, Mississippi State, Nick Saban, Ole Miss, Phillip Sims, Randall Mackey, Ranzell Watkins, SEC, Steve Kragthorpe, Steve Spurrier, Steven Garcia, Tennessee, Tyler Bray, Tyler Wilson, Vanderbilt, Wesley Pendleton, Will Muschamp, Zach Mettenberger
Posted on: April 20, 2011 1:09 pm
Edited on: April 20, 2011 1:10 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
As mentioned in yesterday's wrap of spring practice in the SEC West, Alabama quarterbacks A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims entered spring practice in a virtual dead heat for the starting job and left it somehow even more inseparable, drawing equally positive reviews throughout spring and throwing for nearly identical statistics in the Tide's (very well-attended) spring game.
If their head coach was someone a little more adventurous offensively than Nick Saban, you might expect them to split time this fall. But surely, if any coach was set on naming one guy the starter and getting on with things, it'd be the notoriously risk-averse, uncertainty-hating Saban, right?
Not necessarily. As our Bryan Fischer reported from the SEC coaches' teleconference today:
Color us surprised. Maybe sharing a conference call with Steve Spurrier rubbed off on him somehow?
Dumb jokes aside, don't wager the house on seeing McCarron and Sims take equal snaps in the Tide's opener against Kent State just yet. There's still four-plus months and the entirety of fall camp for one or the other to "separate," and if a random fan plucked out of Section 227 could likely lead the Tide to victory over the Golden Flashes, having the quarterback controversy hang over the team's head as they travel to Penn State in Week 2 might not be the best idea.
With that said, the month of spring practice did so little to divide McCarron and Sims, it's not hard to see the ensuing summer and fall doing little more. And the Tide will likely be as immune to a quarterback controversy as a team can be; between the powerful running game, lockdown defense, and Saban's hyper-focused leadership, swapping signal-callers might not be the distraction (or on-field disruption) it would be elsewhere.
So maybe we'll see a quarterback platoon at Alabama after all. It's not the prototype for national title contenders, certainly. But when Saban says he won't have a problem with it, there's no reason to think he does.
Posted on: April 19, 2011 4:42 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 4:55 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
With all six spring games completed, we wrap up spring practice in the SEC West, team by team. In alphabetical order:
ALABAMA: The two big headlines for Tide fans this spring were the quarterback battle between A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims (pictured), and the unveiling of the new Nick Saban statue added to those of the school's first three national title-winning head coaches. As our own Dennis Dodd reported (and as you can hear for yourself in the reverent tone of this student news broadcast), the statue left the Tide faithful plenty satisfied; the quarterback battle, not so much, as neither McCarron nor Sims was able to create any real separation from the other. (How close were they? At A-Day, McCarron went 21-of-38 for 222 yards and one interception, Sims 19-of-38 for 229 yards and an interception.)
But as we pointed out in our Tide spring primer, who's at the reins of the offense isn't nearly as important as whether the offense can remain productive without Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, et al. With Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower each looking like terrors this spring in the linebacking unit and All-American safety Mark Barron showing few ill effects of his postseason pectoral muscle surgery (he returned a fumble 96 yards for a score at A-Day), the defense looks poised to live up the "best in the nation, or damn close" expectations. All the offense has to do is not screw things up, and the running game -- behind Trent Richardson, a dynamo on A-Day with 167 all-purpose yards, and a loaded line with former five-star right tackle D.J. Fluker beginning to fulfill his vast potential -- appeared ready to do the job nearly by itself.
The Tide still haven't found what looks like a go-to receiver in the wake of Jones' departure (Richardson led both sides in receptions and yards at A-Day), and the McCarron/Sims derby could be a distraction lasting well into the fall. But given the help either one will receive from the running game (and line) on display Saturday, none of that might matter.
ARKANSAS: The big question before spring started was simply "can the Hogs handle losing Ryan Mallett?" And though the Red-White game certainly isn't a guarantee, it's definitely an arrow pointed in the direction of "goodness, yes." Likely new quarterback Tyler Wilson averaged 9.7 yards per his 25 attempts, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. His receiving corps -- on paper, the SEC's best, hands-down -- lived up to its billing, with Jarius Wright hauling in five balls for 157 yards and two scores. The White team defense had its moments, too, holding All-SEC candidate Knile Davis to just 44 yards on 16 carries.
The Hogs' spring wasn't perfect -- backup tailback Broderick Green went down for the year with an ACL tear -- and Bobby Petrino hasn't even officially named Wilson the starter yet. But with the quarterback position looking solid and the defense boasting its best spring in years, the loss of Mallett sure hasn't put much of a dent in the Hogs' new position as West challengers just yet.
AUBURN: The Tigers entered the spring looking for playmakers to fill at least part of the colossal void left by Cam Newton's and Nick Fairley's departures. And at defensive end, they may have found some; sophomores Corey Lemonier and Nosa Eguae both drew positive reviews throughout the spring, and previously little-used junior Dee Ford burst into the rotation with a big camp and a pair of sacks at Auburn's A-Day game. New line coach Mike Pelton said he was impressed by -- and would use -- all three this fall.
The rest of the defense didn't have a shabby A-Day, either, as they defeated the offense 63-32 in Gene Chizik's unique scrimmage scoring system. But most of the offense's efforts went towards polishing up the passing attack (tailbacks Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb combined for just seven carries), and those efforts didn't yield much in terms in terms of finding big-play potential. Tight end Phillip Lutzenkirchen (pictured) won MVP honors for his 65 yards receiving and catching the lone touchdown of the scrimmage, and DeAngelo Benton added one 48-yard reception. But otherwise, offensive excitement was hard to come by, and Chizik afterwards called the quarterbacking from Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley "inconsistent." (The two will compete for the starting job into the fall.)
Under Chizik, Auburn hasn't made much of an effort to put on a show in their spring game -- the reviews on Newton's debut in the 2010 version were universally ho-hum -- but there still seems little doubt Gus Malzahn will look for much more explosiveness out of his attack come fall camp.
LSU: It's the same old story on the bayou. The Tigers entered spring hoping to finally put their quarterbacking issues to rest behind someone, be it incumbent starter Jordan Jefferson or someone else ... and left it with Jefferson still the starter and still on less-than-firm ground after an ugly 4-of-14, no touchdowns, one interception performance.
Well, less-than-firm ground with the LSU fanbase , anyway. Bayou Bengal supporters seem to have universally pinned their hopes on JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger, despite Mettenberger being mired at third on the depth chart entering the spring game. But you can't blame them when Jefferson struggled the way he did, Jarrett Lee averaged all of 4.5 yards per-attempt (with a pick, of course) and Mettenberger did this:
None of that made any difference to Les Miles and the LSU staff, who gave Jefferson the team's "Jim Taylor Award" for his spring effort and leadership. And quarterback or no quarterback, LSU showed how formidable they'd be all the same: Spencer Ware followed up his breakout Cotton Bowl performance with a huge spring, the secondary looks as airtight as ever even without Patrick Peterson, and there's plenty of playmakers on both sides of the ball.
But unless Jefferson lives up to his coaches' faith in him -- and that spring game performance did little to assure anyone he will -- LSU's still going to have some headaches.
MISSISSIPPI STATE, OLE MISS: Despite their wildly divergent 2010 seasons, the question for both Mississippi schools was the same entering the spring: how would their defenses fare after losing several major contributors from last year?
In Oxford, that question was all the more important for last year's defense having been such a disappointment in the first place. And it got even harder to answer mid-spring when potentially the unit's best player, linebacker D.J. Shackelford, was lost for the year with an ACL tear. The Rebel defense had a successful spring game all the same, holding the two offenses to just 27 total points and scoring seven of their own on an Ivan Nicholas interception return. But coming against a Rebel offense in flux after seeing former JUCO Randall Mackey ascend to the likely starter's job (and former favorite Nathan Stanley leave the program), the jury will remain out despite the positive signs.
Up the road in Starkville, the news seemed more unambiguously positive: Dan Mullen said his defensive line "dominated" the Marron-White Game, producing 11 tackles-for-loss. The Bulldogs already seemed happy with their new linebackers, and that was before redshirt freshman Ferlando Bohanna blew up for eight tackles and a pair of sacks in the spring game. The secondary may remain a work-in-progress (State quarterbacks, including backup Dylan "Yes, That" Favre, combined to average a healthy 7.8 yards per-attempt), but the front seven looks like it shouldn't take too big a step back.
We'll cover the SEC East next week once the slowpokes at Kentucky hold their spring game this weekend.
Tags: A.J. McCarron, Alabama, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Barrett Trotter, Bobby Petrino, Broderick Green, Cam Newton, Clint Moseley, Corey Lemonier, Cotton Bowl, Courtney Upshaw, D.J. Fluker, D.J. Shackelford, Dan Mullen, DeAngelo Benton, Dee Ford, Dont'a Hightower, Dylan Favre, Ferlando Bohanna, Gene Chizik, Gus Malzahn, Ivan Nicholas, Jarius Wright, Jarrett Lee, Jordan Jefferson, Jordan Jefferson, Julio Jones, Kentucky, Knile Davis, Les Miles, LSU, Mark Barron, Mark Ingram, Michael Dyer, Mike Pelton, Mississippi State, Nathan Stanley, Nick Fairley, Nick Saban, Nick Saban state, Nosa Eguae, Ole Miss, Onterio McCalebb, Patrick Peterson, Phillip Lutzenkirchen, Phillip Sims, Randall Mackey, Ryan Mallett, SEC, Spencer Ware, spring practice, Trent Richardson, Tyler Wilson, What I Learned, Zach Mettenberger
Posted on: April 4, 2011 1:06 pm
Edited on: April 4, 2011 1:08 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Having already updated the quarterback battle at one of the two SEC co-favorites earlier today in LSU , it's worth a look at how the same issue is playing out at the other, Alabama. The only problem is that at this stage, it doesn't sound like there's anything to report in the push-and-pull between redshirt freshman Phillip Sims and third-year sophomore A.J. McCarron (pictured):
The final decision of choosing a replacement for two-year starter Greg McElroy, ultimately to be made by coach Nick Saban, isn't expected until preseason practice.To hear Saban tell it, you might expect the stats from the scrimmage to lean heavily to one QB or the other, but even there, Sims and McCarron were nearly even; Sims went 20-of-30 for 235 yards with a 3-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio, while McCarron finished 18-of-33 for 189 and a 3-to-1 ratio. Though McCarron probably remains a slight favorite based on his extra year at the Capstone (and Saban's praise means that Tide fans should be encouraged regardless), it's still far too early -- and the quarterbacks apparently too evenly matched -- to declare either one a leader in the Tide's quarterbacking race.
That might not be the case down the road at Ole Miss, where Randall Mackey has emerged as the Rebels' potential starter and, at the least, the most impressive quarterback of the Rebels' spring so far:
In a four-man battle for positioning on the depth chart at quarterback for Ole Miss, Mackey seemed to finish the first week a little better than the rest. In Saturday's 115-play scrimmage, he was 5-for-8 for 51 yards and a touchdown pass threaded with savvy into the back of the end zone for Korvic Neat ...If any of the other Rebel quarterbacks could have been expected to make the battle close, you'd have expected it to be Nathan Stanley, the junior who had the job won last spring before Jeremiah Masoli's transfer pushed him into the backup's role. But Stanley went just 3-of-9 in the scrimmage for only 11 yards.
It's not time just yet to side with the spectator who clearly believes the race is over. But with Mackey's apparent momentum -- and Stanley's current inability to match it -- it does seem fair to say that Mackey has earned the inside track to be under center when the Rebels open against BYU Sept. 3.
Posted on: March 21, 2011 4:01 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Alabama , who starts spring practice today .
Spring Practice Question: Does Alabama have the offense to win another national championship? Or, alternatively, do they really need one?
As spring practice opens today in Tuscaloosa, most eyes are going to be on the revamped Tide offense, and with good reason; with no Greg McElroy, no Mark Ingram, and no Julio Jones, the Alabama attack is going to undergo a more thorough overhaul than any it's undergone since Jones and Ingram burst onto the scene in 2008.
But it's also because there's not a lot for most eyes to see on the Tide defense. With 9 or 10 starters back from a unit already ranked fifth in the nation in total defense, including the entirety of the Tide's linebacking and secondary groups with those including All-American safety Mark Barron and potential All-American linebacker Dont'a Hightower , on paper this will certainly be one of the FBS's best defenses. And the Tide may look even better on the field than they do on paper; after last year's (relative) 10-3 disappointment and occasional backbreaking defensive letdowns (as vs. Auburn and LSU), there's little doubt Nick Saban is going to be at his most firebreathingly intense (and most scrupulously detailed) this offseason.
In short, the defensive show put on this spring isn't likely to be any different from what Tide observers already saw prior to the Tide's undefeated regular seasons in 2008 and 2009. The offense, on the other hand, has several issues to resolve:
Quarterback: Certainly the most high-profile of those issues, the starting quarterback job will be contested this spring by sophomore A.J. McCarron and redshirt freshman Phillip Sims. McCarron boasts the advantages of an extra year in Jim McElwain's offense and a modicum of playing time in 2010 (that's him at right in the Tide's laugher against Duke), but in the end Saban seems likely to select whichever quarterback can be safer with the ball. Opposite that defense, playmaking ability may come second in importance to not-turnover-making ability. That goes double considering the ...
Offensive line: One of college football's biggest mysteries during the 2010 season was why a previously dominant rushing attack featuring a Heisman Trophy winner at tailback and an offensive line loaded with both talent and experience wound up seventh in the SEC in total rushing in conference games. Don't expect Saban to let it happen again, Ingram or no Ingram, with new line coach Jeff Stoutland lighting a fire under talents like former five-star tackle D.J. Fluker, All-SEC guard Barrett Jones, and veteran center William Vlachos. Still, Tide fans will no doubt want to be reassured that numbers like the 2.3 yards per-carry Alabama averaged in their three losses a year ago are a thing of the past.
The running backs aren't nearly as much of a question mark; after biding his time for two years alongside Ingram, Richardson should be ready to fully establish himself one of the SEC's best, and even if he's not (or struggles with injuries), powerful sophomore Eddie Lacy or true freshman (and spring enrollee) Dee Hart should be able to pick up the slack. Pair them with the defense described above, and it's easy to see the Tide making a run at yet another national title if the line can get back to its road-grading ways and the passing attack can be simply competent.
How big an "if" is that? We'll start to find out these next few weeks, and there's no doubt plenty of observers across the SEC (and maybe the country) hoping it proves bigger than we expect it to be.
Tags: A.J. McCarron, Alabama, Auburn, Barrett Jones, Brandon Gibson, D.J. Fluker, Darius Hanks, Dee Hart, Dont'a Hightower, Duke, Eddie Lacy, Greg McElroy, Jeff Stoutland, Jim McElwain, Julio Jones, Kenny Bell, LSU, Mark Barron, Mark Ingram, Marquis Maze, Nick Saban, Phillip Sims, SEC, spring practice, Spring Practice Primer, Trent Richardson, William Vlachos
Posted on: March 4, 2011 5:15 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
So who is going to replace Greg McElroy at Alabama next season? Will it be A.J. McCarron or Phillip Sims? Maybe it will be Phillip Ely?
These are questions that Nick Saban is going to be hearing a lot in the coming months, and he seems fine with it. According to the Alabama head coach, it doesn't matter how many times the question of who Alabama's new quarterback will be is asked, he's not in any rush to answer it.
"I know that every press conference between now and whatever is going to be about the quarterback," Saban said. "I'm not going to have a lot to say about it. This is something that you have to let happen and you have to let develop. Even though it may create a great news story every day it's something that cannot be affected by anything other than what happened on the field.
"Obviously we'll have a new quarterback one way or the other. Without creating a quarterback controversy of any kind, and I would appreciate it if we don't, somebodies going to have to earn the job through their ability to manage the team, lead the team and make good choices and decisions that allows them to play winning football on the team. That has to be determined and there's no timetable to determine it."
If any of the quarterbacks have an edge, it'd likely be McCarron. He has the most experience as he threw 48 passes for the Tide last season, completing 30 of them for 389 yards and 3 touchdowns. Sims on the other hand spent the entire year being redshirted, and Ely was in high school last year. So for either of them to take the job, they'll have to play extremely well this spring.