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Tag:Dan Mullen
Posted on: September 15, 2011 2:24 pm
 

SEC Interrogation, Week 3

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Each Thursday we demand the SEC give us answers to its most pressing questions. Here those are:




Mississippi State: can you finally avoid losing an SEC West game with turnovers and/or special teams breakdowns? More than a few wags skeptical of Dan Mullen's burgeoning reputation in Starkville have noted that he has yet to beat any division opponent other than downtrodden in-state rival Ole Miss, dropping to 0-9 after last week's loss in Auburn. But that agonizing defeat wasn't the first time Mullen has come tantalizingly close to making the breakthrough, and never has he been closer than LSU's last visit to Starkville.

In that 2009 meeting, the Bulldogs outgained the Bayou Bengals 374-263, held LSU to one (1!) yard per their 31 carries, and enjoyed a first-and-goal at the Tiger 2, down six, with under three minutes to play. But that possession ended with quarterback Tyson Lee tackled at the 1 on a botched option play (sound familiar?) and the Bulldogs fell 30-26. While much of the postgame chatter focused on that late goal-line failure, the larger story was State's four critical turnovers (one of them an interception returned for a touchdown) and a punt that bounced inside the 10 and was somehow still returned by LSU's Chad Jones for a backbreaking touchdown.

Those kinds of breakdowns have been a recurring theme for the Bulldogs, as last week's performance proved again. Chris Relf maybe could have scored on the game's final play, but the Bulldogs wouldn't have even been in that situation if Relf hadn't bounced a first-quarter pass off a defender's helmet (a pass eventually picked and housed), or if the Bulldogs hadn't allowed Auburn kick returner Tre Mason to repeatedly set his team up in excellent field position. Even in last year's 29-7 loss to LSU, the Bulldogs played the Tigers to a dead heat in the box score ... except for the 5-to-1 negative turnover margin that broke the game open.

With LSU's offense again unimpressive statistically in their week 1 win against Oregon (273 yards total, 3.9 yards per-play), Jarrett Lee unlikely to make major headway against a veteran Bulldog secondary, and State getting a boost from what should be a rabid Thursday night home crowd, the Bulldogs seem a good bet to once again play an SEC West opponent to a statistical stalemate ... or better. But if they once again lose the turnover and special teams battle that Les Miles's team specializes in winning, it's not going to matter any more than it did the first nine times.


Tyler Bray: can you do to the Gators anything like what you did to Cincinnati?
Let's be up front about this: Florida is going to score points against Tennessee Saturday. The injury-ridden, inexperienced Vol front seven gave up an incredible 6.4 yards per-carry against Cincinnati, and the combination of a revitalized-looking Gator offensive line and the Jeff Demps-Chris Rainey tag-team is far more fearsome than anything the Bearcats had to offer. And the Vols likely won't be able to answer with a strong ground game of their own; despite having faced Cincy and FCS Montana their first two weeks, Tennessee ranks dead-last in the SEC in yards-per-carry. Facing the Gators' loaded defensive front -- now including the newly-reinstated Sharrif Floyd -- is hardly going to be the cure for those issues.

Which means whatever hope the Vols have of keeping pace rests firmly on the shoulders of Bray. But to look at his remarkable performance last week -- 34-of-41, 405 yards, 4 TDs, no INTs -- he might be capable of fulfilling that hope all the same. It won't hurt that the matchup of dynamic sophomore duo of Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers against a Gator secondary starting two true freshman is one that overwhelmingly favors the Vols.

Attempting to win a shootout on the road with a one-dimensional offense isn't the typical recipe for victory in the SEC. But if Bray comes out as on fire as he has been the first two weeks of this season, we're not going to put it past him.



Auburn's defense: are you actually improving? Ask any Auburn fan (or coach, or maybe even player) about the team's defense before the season, and they'd have told you that with just two starters back and underclassmen all over the two-deep, it was going to be a work-in-progress. But no one expected it to be quite as much "in progress" as it's been through two weeks; the Tiger D ranks last in the SEC in yards allowed per-game by nearly 100 yards over next-to-last-place Georgia.

Some of that is the quick pace of the Auburn offense, but much more of it is the Tiger defense's near-total inability to get off the field. Utah State converted a mind-boggling 13-of-20 third- and fourth-downs, and Mississippi State wasn't far behind after going 12-of-21. The result? Auburn's D has been on the field for 181 plays already this season, the highest total in the nation. Until the Tigers start getting some stops on third down -- despite the presence of pass-rushers Corey Lemonier and Nosa Eguae, Auburn has just two sacks on nearly 70 opponents' dropbacks -- the defense isn't going to get legitimately better, and eventually an opponent is going to make the Tigers pay for that weakness.

Clemson may or may not be that opponent; the South Carolina-bred Tigers have flashed issues of their own in sluggish wins over Troy and Wofford. But Chad Morris's Gus Malzahn-like offense should provide a good measuring stick regardless.

Also worth asking: Is Ole Miss, Vanderbilt or Kentucky the SEC's worst team? (With the Rebels and Commodores battling in Nashville and the Wildcats taking on a reeling Louisville team, someone is going to be a definitive No. 12 by the weekend's end.) What does Arkansas look like against an opponent that almost-sorta has a pulse? (Troy isn't great, but they're better than Missouri State or New Mexico. The Hogs should break a sweat, at least. Anything more could spell trouble down the road.) What on earth is Georgia going to do at inside linebacker? (Coastal Carolina won't be anything more than cannon fodder, but the Dawgs have to figure out what they have at their injury-gutted ILB positions.)

Posted on: September 14, 2011 6:53 pm
 

SEC RapidReport Roundup, 9/14: Gators ready

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Running down everything you need to know from the week's news in the SEC, courtesy of our CBSSports.com RapidReporters.



FLORIDA. Just in time for the Gators to face their first opponent of 2011 with a definable pulse -- and judging by their comprehensive smackdown of Cincinnati, Tennessee has more than just a pulse at the moment -- Will Muschamp will have his most complete roster to date. Defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd will officially be in uniform after serving his NCAA-mandated two-game suspension, and running back Jeff Demps will be able to go after missing most of the Gators' drubbing of UAB with a shoulder problem.

"He's fine," Muschamp said of Demps. "He's playing. He's been practicing." The one question mark is backup linebacker Dee Finley, arrested earlier this week on multiple misdemeanor charges; Muschamp would not say whether Finley had been suspended or not.

TENNESSEE. On the other side of the rivalry, Derek Dooley has several nicked-up players -- including pivotal defensive back Prentiss Waggner -- practicing in non-contact jerseys, but only as a "precautionary" measure. For senior starting defensive end Ben Martin, though, even a precautionary non-contact jersey would be an improvement; an ankle injury means Dooley would "like to get 15 plays from him" but may have to keep him on the sideline entirely.

In other Vol lineup news, struggling freshman Justin Coleman is holding off senior Art Evans at starting corner ... for now. On the scheduling front, Tennessee will play third-year FCS program Georgia State in 2012.

AUBURN. Gus Malzahn and Chad Morris, the offensive coordinator for Auburn Week 3 opponent Clemson, have something unusual in common besides their similar schemes: both came up through the high school coaching ranks. Malzahn hopes the matchup will help other teams look at high school coaches when filling out their staffs. "Hopefully, things like this will give more high school coaches opportunities that we've been fortunate enough to both have," Malzahn said.

The Tigers have been using as many as 12 defensive linemen and won't change those plans against Clemson, though redshirt freshman end Justin Delaine's season-ending knee injury may limit that number by one. True freshman kickoff returner Tre Mason is hoping Clemson kicks to him after Mississippi State began using squib kicks last week.

SOUTH CAROLINA. Despite the Gamecocks' 2-0 record, Steve Spurrier isn't thrilled with his team's defense. "We don’t look like we know what we are doing or we have some bad players, one or the other," he said. "I have been reading about all these great athletes we have on defense, but we don’t play great that’s for sure right now." He had similar comments for his wide receivers, who he said "are getting a lot of publicity, but need to start doing something." Wideouts other than Alshon Jeffery have combined for only five receptions so far this season.

Despite the Gamecocks' struggles in the passing game (on both sides of the ball), Spurrier said he won't be rotating Stephen Garcia with Connor Shaw. "The competition was over," Spurrier said. "[Garcia]’s got every opportunity to take us as far as he can because we firmly believe he’s our best quarterback on the team."

ELSEWHERE: Alabama senior wide receiver Darius Hanks will return for the Tide's meeting with North Texas after missing the first two weeks with a redshirting issue. "I don’t think his transition back will be a problem," Nick Saban said ... Ole Miss running back Brandon Bolden is surprisingly already practicing again after his broken ankle was found to be only a hairline fracture. Bolden could see the field as early as this week ...

Mississippi State
head coach Dan Mullen says his players have practiced "angry" this week after last week's loss to Auburn. "They felt we should have won that football game," he said ... As for the Bulldogs' Thursday night opponent, LSU head coach Les Miles would not rule out backup quarterback Zach Mettenberger making an apparance after a successful debut against Northwestern State. "I would anticipate playing Jarrett Lee really start to finish," Miles said, but added "You just never can tell when you may turn to him and see if we can get a hot hand and go." Lee is nursing an ankle injury but should be fine against MSU ...

Starting Georgia safety Shawn Williams could get a look at inside linebacker after the position has been hard-hit by injuries ... Vanderbilt's surprising recruiting renaissance has continued with the commitment of a top-25 wide receiver from Minnesota.
Posted on: September 13, 2011 4:38 pm
Edited on: September 16, 2011 3:42 pm
 

PODCAST: The Pac-12, LSU-MSU & the Ineligibowl

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Bryan Fischer joins Adam Aizer and J. Darin Darst to talk about LSU-Mississippi State and the Ineligibowl (Ohio State-Miami), which he'll be attending this weekend. We've got the latest on the Boise State sanctions and we look at each 2-0 team in the Pac-12 and decide if we're buying or selling. Send us an email at cbsipodcastfeedback@cbs.com

You can listen to all this and more in the player below, or you can click here for the pop out player to continue browsing, or download the MP3.

You can find every episode of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcast by subscribing on iTunes.



Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: September 12, 2011 3:29 pm
Edited on: September 16, 2011 3:43 pm
 

PODCAST: Week 2 Review

Posted by Chip Patterson

The second weekend of college football provided high-octane thrills, last second finishes, and one historic evening to remember in Ann Arbor. Adam Aizer and J. Darin Darst get together to break it all down in the Week 2 Review College Football Podcast. Tune in to hear them question the potential issues at Ohio State, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia, as well as some interesting coaching decisions any Mississippi State's Dan Mullen and Missouri's Gary Pinkel.

You can listen to all this and more in the player below, or you can click here for the pop out player to continue browsing, or download the MP3.

You can find every episode of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcast by subscribing on iTunes.

Posted on: September 12, 2011 1:00 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2011 1:04 pm
 

SEC injury roundup: Another Georgia LB out

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

This Saturday was not kind to the SEC on the injury front. Here's the rundown.


GEORGIA. After the Week 1 injury to sophomore Alec Ogletree, there may not have been an area of the field where Georgia could less afford to sustain an injury than at inside linebacker. But that's exactly where they've sustained one all the same, as CBSSports.com RapidReporter Fletcher Page reported Sunday that junior Christian Robinson has injured his foot and will miss at least three games. Robinson leads the Bulldogs through two games with 22 tackles.

With former inside linebacker Richard Samuel now plying his trade at running back in the wake of the departures of Washaun Ealey and Caleb King, the two ILB starters for this week's meeting against Coastal Carolina will be some combination of senior walk-on Jeremy Sulek, junior Mike Gilliard, and trure freshman Amarlo Herrera. The trio combined for four tackles against South Carolina, three of them belonging to Gilliard. Mark Richt won't admit it even if it is what he's planning, but with Isaiah Crowell shining at tailback, we could see Samuel moved back to linebacker this week.

There is some good injury news for the Dawgs; starting offensive lineman Kenarious Gates should be back on the field this week after missing the Garolina game with a sprained ankle.

ARKANSAS. Though he's not currently expected to miss the Razorbacks' Saturday matchup with Troy, starting quarterback Tyler Wilson did leave his team's rout of New Mexico with concussion-like symptoms. Bobby Petrino said that though Wilson had not (and as of now, has not) been diagnosed with a concussion, they weren't taking any chanes.

Wilson wasn't the only Hog to take a knock against the Lobos. Though not currently expected to miss any time going forward, receiver Jarius Wright and defensive end Jake Bequette -- both key members of the Razorbak starting lineup -- missed the second half after being "nicked up" with a knee and hamstring injury, respectively.

MISSISSIPPI STATE. Bulldog fans had to fear the worst when starting left tackle James Carmon was carted off the field in the second half of State's loss to Auburn. And Carmon will indeed likely miss at least this Thursday's huge home tilt against LSU. But the good news here for MSU far outweighs the bad: Carmon will not face surgery, and Dan Mullen said that fellow injured lineman Quentin Saulsberry should be able to play against the Bayou Bengals.

Given both Carmon's and Saulsberry's importance to the State line and how serious both injuries appeared to look Saturday -- Carmon's in particular -- we suspect those sighs of relief you're hearing right now are coming from Starkville.

FLORIDA. The Gators are ailing, but as things stand now, they should have nearly everyone aavailable for their SEC opener against Tennessee. Running back Jeff Demps left the UAB drubbing with a shoulder injury but "should be fine" according to Will Muschamp. Starting tight end Jordan Reed should also be able to overcome a hamstring problem, and junior corner Jeremy Brown may be able to return from a knee injury after missing two weeks.

ELSEWHERE: South Carolina true freshman running back Shon Carson sustained a serious knee injury and will be "out for a while," per Steve Spurrier ... Tennessee had a pair of lineman starters leave the Cincinnati game with injuries, but both could see the field against Florida anyway ... Still no timetable on the return of backup Ole Miss running back Enrique Davis. (Starter Brandon Bolden is, of course, out with a broken ankle. Fortunately, third-stringer Jeff Scott appears more than capable of filling in.).
Posted on: September 9, 2011 3:02 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 2

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet.  Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom.

Admittedly the menu this week is not as artery-clogging as last week's, but that's probably a good thing. After the five-day all-you-can-eat buffet that was the first week of the season, we should all eat a bit lighter this week. Of course, just because we won't be feasting on meals guaranteed to shorten our life spans, that doesn't mean there aren't some tasty entrees at our disposal.

Let's take a look at what we have to dine on this Saturday.

BREAKFAST

#8 Wisconsin vs. Oregon State - ESPN 12pm ET

It's hard to imagine two seasons starting in such opposite directions. Oregon State dropped an overtime thriller to Sacramento State, while Wisconsin breezed to victory over UNLV. If these teams play at the same level tomorrow, this could be a historic blowout. And we all like watching touchdowns by the bucket, don't we? - Adam Jacobi

#17 Michigan State vs. FAU - ESPN2 12pm ET

Howard Schnellenberger's five-game road trip to kick off his farewell season rolls into Detroit to face a Spartan team looking to rebound from a sluggish start. This was supposed to be a home game for FAU, but with the $70-million stadium in Boca Raton still under construction the contest was moved to Ford Field.  After coaching from the press box last week due to complications from hip surgery, Schnellenberger will return to the sideline and try to inspire more than 137 yards of offense for the Owls.  Michigan State fans will also want to see more cohesion out of the Spartans, who committed eight penalties and never really hit their stride against an inferior Youngstown State squad. - Chip Patterson

Auburn vs. #16 Mississippi State - SEC Network 12:21pm ET 

It won't have the divisional title implications of the Georgia-South Carolina matchup, but both the Tigers and Bulldogs will be fighting every bit as tooth-and-nail for a victory here as their Eastern counterparts will later in the day. Dan Mullen's State team wants to cement its status as a legitimate West division factor but simply can't without a win over the brutally inexperienced Tigers; Auburn, meanwhile, is in desperate danger of being branded a one-year wonder if they follow up their escape from Utah State with a loss in one of the most winnable games on their SEC slate. - Jerry Hinnen

LUNCH

#23 Penn State vs. #3 Alabama - ABC 3:30pm ET

If Penn State fans want some respect from the national media for this team, the Nittany Lions are going to have to earn it on the national stage, hosting No. 2 Alabama. The Tide is loaded again this year, but like PSU, there's some QB drama at Bama. Watch to see if McCarron or whoever else the Tide throws out there on Saturday can handle what promises to be a maniacally loud Beaver Stadium. - AJ

#13 Oregon vs. Nevada - FX 3:30pm ET

After getting embarrassed by LSU's defense in the opener, I expect Mark Helfrich to have the attack meter all the way turned up against the Wolf Pack. Darron Thomas, LaMichael James, and Co. have not derailed from their 2010 form, it just seems these massive SEC defenses are the Ducks' kryptonite.  After a frustrating loss, coaches will want to take advantage of every single snap against their next opponent.  You will want to watch this game because Oregon will put the foot on the gas pedal (Cliff Harris!) and never let up for four quarters. - CP 

Air Force vs. #25 TCU - Versus 3:30pm ET

You can be sure that TCU didn't exactly enjoy having the entire country see Baylor tear its defense apart last Friday, and the unit is going to look to save some face against Air Force on Saturday afternoon. This game will also mark the beginning of the final year of Mountain West conference play for the Horned Frogs, and I'm sure they'd like to go out with quite a bang. - Tom Fornelli

Georgia vs. #12 South Carolina - ESPN 4:30pm ET

Well, this is it: the defining game of Mark Richt's Georgia tenure. Lose it, and any shred of momentum from the "Dream Team" offseason or hope of a divisional title (most likely) is gone. Win it, and the Dawgs suddenly sit in the East catbird seat with the SEC's easiest schedule on tap. It's either the miserable end for one of the sport's most visible coaches, or the giddy start to a stunning reclamation project, with no in-between ... and Stephen Garcia's involved, too. A must-watch. - JH

DINNER

#24 Texas vs. BYU - ESPN2 7pm ET

The Big 12 of the future! Does BYU win the game in hopes of gaining a Big 12 invite, or does it show its true Big 12 street cred by allowing Texas to walk all over it? Tune in to find out! Seriously, though, this will be a much better indication of how improved Texas is this year than last week's game against Rice. BYU is fresh off a nice road win against Ole Miss and should provide a much tougher test for the Longhorns. - TF

USC vs. Utah - Versus 7:30pm ET

The Pac-12 officially kicks off conference play and it should be a good one as former BCS busters Utah will try and prove they can play with the conference's most storied program from the get-go. USC's record-setting pair of quarterback Matt Barkley and wide receiver Robert Woods won't have much time to throw the ball around as the Utes have a very good front seven this year. Old friend Norm Chow also returns to the Coliseum, this time with a solid quarterback in Jordan Wynn, so it should be a fun league opener. - Bryan Fischer

Michigan vs. Notre Dame - ESPN 8pm ET

The first night game in the history of the Big House has plenty to offer everyone. How will Michigan's defense perform this week now that it might have to play an entire 60 minutes, and do so against a Notre Dame offense that features a lot more weapons than Western Michigan's did. Also, will Denard Robinson have an encore performance of his game against the Irish last year? That's the one that made him a household name last September when he accounted for 502 yards of total offense and 3 touchdowns. - TF

LATE NIGHT SNACK

UCLA vs. San Jose State - 10pm ET

Rick Neuheisel cares. He might be the only one at UCLA who cares, but he really does care passionately about his alma matter. The Bruins hope to turn things around after their disappointing loss to Houston in which the defense looked like a mess. San Jose State isn't the most appealing opponent but it's the only late night game on Saturday and the Bruins should get the offense going no matter who's in the backfield. - BF
Posted on: September 8, 2011 3:58 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2011 5:44 pm
 

SEC Interrogation, Week 2

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Each Thursday we demand the SEC give us answers to its most pressing questions. Here those are:




Mike Bobo: do you know what you're doing with an up-tempo shotgun offense?  After rumblings from fall camp that Georgia would unveil a no-huddle spread offense gainst Boise State, the Bulldogs didn't quite go the full Dana Holgorsen ... but they definitely flirted with it, breaking away from their traditional pro-style I-formation look for a multitude of quick snaps, multi-receiver sets, and shotgun handoffs. The results were occasionally spectacular (see Brandon Boykin's 80-yard touchdown run) but more frequently sputterrific (see the other 25 rushes for all of 57 yards, or Boise's six sacks).

So why the change? "We wanted to get more plays, which we didn’t do on Saturday,” Bulldog coordinator Bobo said. “But we’re committed to doing it, and more plays equals more opportunities, and more chances to score.”

This is true, technically speaking. A faster tempo does lead to more possessions and plays packed into a game, and more scoring chances. But that's true for both teams, not just the one running the no-huddle; barring onside kick shenanigans or the occasional odd break at the end of a half, possessions in football are always going to be equal. For seasoned practitioners of the no-huddle like Holgorsen or Gus Malzahn, tempo is partially about giving their offense as many opportunities as possible, but it's also about making it more efficient by keeping an opposing defense off-balance and wearing it down over the course of 60 minutes.

Bobo is not one of those seasoned practitioners. As the Athens Banner-Herald points out, in 2010 Georgia ran fewer plays than any other team in the SEC. Suddenly lurching into a part-time, only-half-committed shotgun spread outfit seems from here to be a good way to neither execute that plan well nor the Bulldogs' traditional power-running and play-action bread-and-butter. One Georgia blogger has cleverly referred to Bobo's plan as the Cheesecake Factory offense--one that attempts to do everything, and in the end does none of it well enough to win.

Mark Richt, for what it's worth, is firmly on board with Bobo's approach. But if it doesn't pay far more dividends against South Carolina than it did against Boise (and if there's a bigger red flag than giving up six sacks to the Broncos the week before facing Devin Taylor, Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney, we haven't seen it), Richt may pay for that support with an 0-2 start and the hottest seat in the country.



Auburn's defensive line: what can you do with Mississippi State? The surprising thing about Utah State's 84-play slice-and-dice job on the Tiger defense wasn't the 22-of-31 passing from true freshman Chuckie Keeton, or the resulting 13-of-20 mark for the Aggies on third- and fourth-down conversions; Ted Roof's Tiger teams have always had issues with a tight, controlled passing game like USU's. But they've also usually been stout enough against the run to make up for that Achilles heel -- Auburn led the SEC in rush defense last year -- making the true stunner the Aggies' 227 yards on the ground.

Unfortunately for Roof and the Tigers, things only get tougher this week. State boasts the league's best dual-threat quarterback in Chris Relf, a veteran line featuring three senior starters, Dan Mullen's tried-and-true option schemes, and one of the nation's most underrated tailbacks in Vick Ballard. Even Auburn is obviously a far cry from Memphis, but the 309 rushing yards and 8.1 yard per-carry average racked up by the Bulldogs in Week 1 still make for a hell of a warning shot across the bow of the Tiger front seven.

That front seven should get a boost with the return of suspended senior linebacker Eltoro Freeman, and Roof's long track record of run-stuffing success suggests some level of improvement is due. But the Tiger front remains so young -- all four starting defensive linemen are sophomores -- that it will take a major, major leap forward for Auburn to avoid getting steamrolled. Are they up to it?



Alabama: is your offense good enough to stake a claim to No. 1? Maybe we'll be proven wrong about this. But the guess here is that despite the change of venue to Happy Valley, there won't be any more competitive drama in Saturday's Alabama-Penn State clash than there was in last year's 24-3 Tide throttling in Tuscaloosa. Nick Saban's loaded roster of future pros dominated the Nittany Lions physically in nearly every aspect of the 2010 meeting, and that's not a problem we see Joe Paterno repairing in the space of one offseason.

Which means the burning question is one of degree: does the Tide offense have the chops to go on the road and put together a performance worthy of putting the team in the top-of-the-polls discussion? Underrated though Kent State's defense may be (10th in FBS total defense in 2010), the Tide still looked surprisingly sloppy on attack, despite the 48-7 final. The quarterbacks threw four interceptions; the offensive line missed a handful of assignments; the Tide receivers and quarterbacks put the ball on the ground four times.

Were those opening-week jitters ... or something more serious that might deprive the Tide of championships once the 2011 season is finished? A dominant performance against a Lion team with plenty of questions of its own in the front seven would go a long way towards affirming it was the former.

Also worth asking: Can Tennessee's Janzen Jackson-less secondary hold up against Cincinnati's lively passing game? (The league's most underrated Week 2 matchup could be decided here.) Can Vanderbilt  look like a real team another real team? (Despite their 45-14 win over FCS Elon, the 'Dores were outgained by 14 yards. Jury's well out.) Will Kentucky or Ole Miss show any signs of life on offense? (If the 'Cats and Rebels can't get better against Central Michigan and Southern Illinois, respectively, it's going to be a long season.)
Posted on: August 23, 2011 5:36 pm
 

Updating the SEC quarterback races

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

With lots of movement on the SEC quarterback front the last few days, now seems a good time to update the entire league's worth of races, team-by-team. Here's the latest, in alphabetical order:

ALABAMA: The Tide's season opener against Kent State is just 11 days away, but Nick Saban hasn't given any more indication towards his staff's decision between A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims than he did when spring practice opened. In fact, his last comment on the situation was to say that one of them might play a position other than qurterback. McCarron remains the slightest of favorites due to his extra year of experience, but the closer the opener grows, the more likely it becomes that Saban makes good on his April threat to platoon the two. And given that not even the most catastrophic of quarterback outings could submarine the Tide against the overmatched Golden Flashes, it might make some sense to use the opener as one final audition for both.

ARKANSAS: Believe it or not, the Hogs still don't have an official starting quarterback, as Bobby Petrino has refused to name Tyler Wilson the starter over sophomore Brandon Mitchell. That's despite the fact that anyone not directly related to Mitchell believes the job is 100 percent Wilson's and the junior has been lighting the practice fields up all camp. This one appears to be a formality designed to keep the carrot in front of Mitchell for as long as possible, but stranger things have happened, we guess.

AUBURN: As you probably know, junior Barrett Trotter has been named Cam Newton's successor, with redshirt sophomore Clint Moseley the backup and true freshman Kiehl Frazier third-string. But Gus Malzahn hasn't ruled out using Frazier in some capacity, and gave the four-star recruit every snap in last weekend's scrimmage. A late-season appearance might be in the cards, particularly if Trotter struggles.

FLORIDA: No controversy here: John Brantley has been the unquestioned starter since fall camp broke, with both coaches and players seeming to go out of their way to praise the much-maligned senior and downgrade the chances of five-star freshman Jeff Driskel. "John’s our starter, and he’s our quarterback, and I don’t have any anticipation of (Driskel playing)," Will Muschamp said when discussing the Gators' opener against Florida Atlantic. Driskel has, nonetheless, won the backup's role.

GEORGIA:
The Bulldogs don't have any drama, with Aaron Murray the unquestioned starter and sophomore Hutson Mason the established backup ahead of true freshman Christian LeMay. Mason has had an up-and-down fall camp, though, with some reportedly sharp practices offset by outings like one four-interception practice he called "my worst day ever — in football, period."

KENTUCKY: Morgan Newton
has long since been anointed the Wildcat starter, but Kentucky may need him to stay healthy even more than the Bulldogs' need the same for Murray. Newton and the Wildcat coaches have both had ample praise for backup Maxwell Smith's ability to pick up the offense after just one spring camp and one fall practice ... but the reason Smith's had just one of each is because he's a true freshman, and not a particularly highly-regarded one (according to recruiting experts) at that.

LSU:
Now here's some drama. Much to many Tiger fans' chagrin, as of this moment not even the threat of a second-degree battery arrest is enough to move the gauge-needle on Jordan Jefferson's starting job away from "likely." Now here's the even more depressing news for those bayou residents hoping strong-armed JUCO (and former Georgia backup) Zach Mettenberger would assume the top spot: Mettenberger still hasn't even supplanted Jarrett Lee as the Tigers' backup. According to Lee himself, Jefferson is still running with the "ones" in practice, Lee the twos, and Mettenberger is left with whatever reps Lee doesn't take. If Jefferson does miss the opener against Oregon, it will now be quite the shock if Mettenberger gets the call over Lee, who does say he's had the best camp of his long career.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: 
We know that Chris Relf will be the Bulldog' starter. The question is: will backup Tyler Russell borrow any of Relf's snaps, as he did early in 2010 as the designated pocket quarterback? The consensus seems to be that he won't, with third-stringer Dylan Favre (yes, the nephew of that other Favre) reportedly closer to Russell than Russell is to Relf. Dan Mullen hasn't entirely ruled out a return to a quarterback rotation, but we'll be surprised if we see Russell in the event of anything other than a Relf injury.

OLE MISS:
We touched on this earlier today in the wake of Randall Mackey's arrest and "likely" suspension for the Rebels' season opener, but it appears Barry Brunetti -- always the narrow favorite to win the starting job coming out of spring practice -- is now the most likely candidate to begin Ole Miss's 2011 season under center. But will he stay there? The Rebel coaching staff seems genuine in their repeated statements that none of their three candidates has separated himself from the other two, and former Houston Nutt doghouse resident Zack Stoudt offers a stronger-armed passing element that both Brunetti and Mackey lack. Unless Brunetti shines out of the gate, expect Stoudt to get a serious look at some point. And if Mackey avoids the doghouse himself, the same could go for him, too.

SOUTH CAROLINA:
Steve Spurrier promised a legitimate quarterback battle back at SEC Media Days, but whatever slim chance Connor Shaw actually had of unseating Stephen Garcia, it likely evaporated last week when Shaw injured his thumb and missed three practices. Never say never with Spurrier, but it will likely take some truly egregious play on Garcia's part (or another off-field incident) for Shaw to see any meaningful playing time.

TENNESSEE: Tyler Bray hasn't always pleased his coaches or put his best foot forward this fall, but he appears to have done plenty enough to hold off Matt Simms, who sounds as if he's resigned himself to being the backup. All the same, having Montana as an opening-week tune-up should be an excellent opportunity for Bray to make sure the Vols' two-headed QB wounds of 2010 don't reopen.

VANDERBILT:
The biggest news for Vandy's quarterbacks this week won't actually have any impact until 2012, when newly official Wyoming transfer Austyn Carta-Samuels becomes eligible. Until then, Vandy will make do with either senior Larry Smith or junior Jordan Rogers, who together directed an offensive performance at Saturday's scrimmage one disappointed Vanderbilt blog described as "Vanderbilt-like." It may take more than one season (or the arrival of Carta-Samuels, who spearheaded the Cowboys' bowl run in 2009) for James Franklin to get the 'Dores' long-simmering quarterback woes ironed out.


 
 
 
 
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