Posted on: August 29, 2011 12:24 pm
Edited on: August 29, 2011 2:42 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Running down everything you need to know from the weekend's news in the SEC, courtesy of our CBSSports.com RapidReporters.
LSU: Not that it took anyone by surprise, but Les Miles officially named senior Jarrett Lee the starter for Saturday's season opener against Oregon. For his part, Ducks head coach Chip Kelly doesn't expect the Tigers to be any less formidable for Lee getting the nod. (Per our Oregon RapidReporter Chris Hansen, Kelly also called LSU "“the most talented team we play all season.”)
Interestingly, Miles said he suspended the arrested Jordan Jefferson not as a disciplinary measure, but so Jefferson could tend to his legal troubles. "It's absolutely correct for him to be free at this point to tend to his personal business," Miles said. "If he were playing on this football team, it would be too much." Jefferson has changed his legal representation in the wake of his arrest.
ARKANSAS: In an announcement even less surprising than Lee's, Bobby Petrino finally named Tyler Wilson the Hogs' starting quarterback for their season debut against Missouri State, ending the non-suspense. Petrino said sophomore Brandon Mitchell will see playing time, possibly as early as the second quarter. (If Mitchell still sees time against opponents more dangerous than the Bears, that will be a development worth watching.)
Injured running back Knile Davis has promised he'll do everything he can to help his team from the sideline. As for replacing him, senior DeAnthony Curtis may get a shot after looking impressive following his move from cornerback.
ALABAMA: Still no sign of JUCO wideout Duron Carter at practice, with Nick Saban telling reporters he "has information" on Carter's status but that he'll believe his arrival "when he sees it." Saban also seemed to confirm that the Tide will begin the year with a rotation between quarterbacks Phillip Sims and A.J. McCarron. "“I don't want either guy … to think that if they go in the game and make a mistake, that's when the other guy gets to go in," he said. "That's not how it's going to get managed."
In positive news, long snapper Carson Tinker is close to fully recovered from injuries suffered in the spring tornado that killed his girlfriend, Ashley Harrison.
GEORGIA: Mark Richt announced a surprising change to his defensive starting lineup, confirming that safety Bacarri Rambo (the team's leading tackler in 2010) would start the year second-string behind Sanders Commings and Shawn Williams. Even with corner Branden Smith "day-to-day" with a foot injury, Richt said former corner Commings would not switch positions to cover for Smith.
The Dawgs are banged-up elsewhere as well, with JUCO nose tackle Johnathan Jenkins struggling with a hamstring injury and tailback Richard Samuel not yet at full speed despite practicing Saturday.
SOUTH CAROLINA: He's still Steve Spurrier: the Ol' Ball Coach said that both Stephen Garcia and Connor Shaw would play in the Gamecocks' opener against East Carolina, and added that neither has won the starting job yet. Giving the understudy Shaw meaningful playing time could be a dangerous move against the Pirates, whose pass-heavy attack could exploit a Gamecock secondary that struggled in 2010 and could be without starting corner Akeem Auguste; Auguste has a foot injury and missed practice at the end of last week.
Could CBSSports.com second-team All-American Devin Taylor see time on offense? Garcia told reporters the Gamecocks have been working on a package including the 6'7" defensive end.
ELSEWHERE: At Auburn, star sophomore running back Michael Dyer says he's 100 percent healthy after a nick earlier in fall camp. On the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Ted Roof said the Tigers' depth will result in them playing more than their typical 18-to-20 players ... Florida running back Jeff Demps admitted his track obligations put him behind the curve when it came to learning the Gators' new offense ... Tennessee has moved corner Prentiss Waggner to safety to cover for the dismissal of Janzen Jackson, who will transfer to FCS McNeese State, that school announced.
Tags: A.J. McCarron, Akeem Auguste, Alabama, Ashley Harrison, Bacarri Rambo, Brandon Mitchaell, Carson Tinker, Chip Kelly, Connor Shaw, DeAnthony Curtis, Devin Taylor, Duron Carter, East Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Janzen Jackson, Jarrett Lee, Jeff Demps, Jerry Hinnen, Johnathan Jenkins, Jordan Jefferson, Les Miles, LSU, Mark Richt, McNeese State, Michael Dyer, Missouri State, Nick Saban, Oregon, Phillip Sims, Prentiss Waggner, Richard Samuel, Sanders Commings, Shawn Williams, South Carolina, Stephen Garcia, Steve Spurrier, Ted Roof, Tennessee, Tyler Wilson
Posted on: August 26, 2011 4:20 pm
Edited on: August 26, 2011 4:26 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
No, Les Miles is not responsible for Jordan Jefferson's arrest Friday on felony battery charges. No, we do not believe there is anything Miles could have done to prevent his senior starting quarterback from visiting Shady's bar in the wee hours of the morning of Aug. 18 and -- allegedly -- kicking a man in the head. No, it is not Miles's fault that Jefferson will not start the season opener against Oregon, and may very well never put on an LSU uniform again.
But if Jefferson's absence plays a direct role in the Tigers losing that game against Oregon? If the quarterback position he leaves behind causes LSU to fall short of the SEC championship that has eluded them since 2007? That you can blame Miles for. And you should.
We won't disagree with our colleague Dennis Dodd that LSU doesn't need Jefferson or any other "difference-maker" at quarterback to have a successful season. They don't even need one to win championships. The Tigers hoisted crystal footballs with Matt Mauck under center in 2003 and Matt Flynn in 2007, quarterbacks no one would deny were "serviceable" but that no one mistook for the first coming of Andrew Luck, either.
Here's where Dodd and I differ: he files backup-crowned-new-starter Jarrett Lee into the same "serviceable" vein as Mauck and Flynn. For his career, Lee has thrown just as many interceptions (18) as touchdowns, including tossing a nation-leading 16 in 2008. His career yards-per-attempt mark is a mediocre 6.6 and his career completion percentage an even-worse 53.5 percent, numbers that would have ranked him third-from-last and next-to-last in the SEC last season. If Lee is indeed serviceable, even that will be a huge step up from his career-to-date.
If he isn't? There's the fans' choice, JUCO transfer (and former Georgia Bulldog) Zach Mettenberger, who some thought could have a Cam Newton-like impact for the Tigers. But given that even the entirety of spring practice and the bulk of fall camp wasn't enough for Mettenberger to unseat Lee as second-string -- much less challenge Jefferson as the starter -- it seems unlikely Mettenberger is the savior LSU fans have been hoping for, either.
And the lesson of LSU's past two seasons is that if neither Lee nor Mettenberger are up to serviceability, the Tigers aren't winning an SEC championship. Yes, the LSU defense should be lights-out, but John Chavis's units were already 11th in the nation in scoring defense each of the past two years; they can't get much more lights-out than they already are. But thanks to an offense that finished dead last in the SEC in total offense in 2009 and 11th in 2010, LSU finished a combined five games out of first in the West anyway.
So why has Miles waited so long to find a solution to his team's quarterbacking dilemma? In 2008, Lee so thoroughly submarined the season with his interceptions (and the pick-sixes that still define his career, for most SEC fans) that Jefferson -- a lightly regarded recruit by LSU standards -- was named the starter in November. The only insurance Miles took out against Jefferson's failed development that offseason was the signing Chris Garrett, a previous Mississippi State commitment who disappointed LSU's coaches and has since left the team.
In 2009, Jefferson was actually mildly efficient as a quarterback, but still: worst in the SEC in total offense is worst in the SEC in total offense. Miles responded by signing four-star quarterback Zach Lee out of Texas. Too bad Lee had his sights set elsewhere; he signed a professional baseball contract and never so much as stood on a gameday sideline.
Miles may have finally solved his 2012 quarterback issues with the addition of Mettenberger to the 2011 class, but where this season is concerned, it may be too late. Whether by choice or simple failure, Lee's known mediocrity meant he was gambling the future of his quarterback position -- and arguably his team's title chances -- on the development of Jordan Jefferson and two risky recruits.
Miles is known for riding his luck, of course, and it's still to early to say for certain he's come up snake eyes this time. But we also won't be surprised if this one portion of mismanagement forces his team to walk away from the championship table once again.
Posted on: August 26, 2011 11:25 am
Edited on: August 26, 2011 1:54 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Shortly after arrest warrants were issued for LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson and linebacker Josh Johns on Friday morning, both players turned themselves into Baton Rouge police. Both will be charged with second-degree battery, which is a felony charge.
After the warrants were issued, LSU issued a release on Friday morning, announcing that both Jefferson and Johns have been suspended indefinitely by LSU.
"Jordan and Josh have been suspended indefinitely," head coach Les Miles said in the release. "We will continue to cooperate with the authorities in an effort to find out exactly what took place during the incident.
"As sad as this incident is, it's important that we learn from this and that we take away a valuable lesson. This has weighed on all of us. It's time for us to come together as a team and focus on what we are here to do."
The Jefferson suspension means that Jarrett Lee will likely be LSU's starter in the team's season opener against No. 3 Oregon on September 3.
This news comes after a week of speculation about what took place in a bar fight involving a number of LSU players. There had been a report last weekend that four LSU players were going to be arrested on Monday, but that did not happen and instead the four players were interviewed by Baton Rouge police on Tuesday. Police then investigated the homes of different LSU players on Wednesday, including Jefferson's where 49 pairs of shoes were confiscated.
Witness reports claimed that Jefferson had kicked a man in the head during the altercation.
Posted on: August 23, 2011 5:36 pm
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.
Tags: A.J. McCarron, Aaron Murray, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Austyn Carta-Samuels, Barrett Trotter, Barry Brunetti, Bobby Petrino, Brandon Mitchell, Chris Relf, Christian LeMay, Connor Shaw, Dan Mullen, Dylan Favre, FAU, Florida, Florida Atlantic, Georgia, Gus Malzahn, Houston Nutt, Hutson Mason, Jarrett Lee, Jeff Driskel, Jerry Hinnen, John Brantley, Jordan Jefferson, Kent State, Kiehl Frazier, LSU, LSU, Matt Simms, Maxwell Smith, Mississippi State, Morgan Newton, Nick Saban, Ole Miss, Ole Miss, Oregon, Phillip Sims, Randall Mackey, South Carolina, Stephen Garcia, Steve Spurrier, Tennessee, Tyler Bray, Tyler Russell, Tyler Wilson, Vanderbilt, Will Muschamp, Zach Mettenberger, Zack Stoudt
Posted on: August 10, 2011 12:55 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Perhaps the hottest topic during LSU's fall camp has been the status of wide receiver Russell Shepard, the Tigers' co-leading returner in receptions, who recently found himself at the center of a "compliance issue" related to his off-campus housing.
Having skipped SEC Media Days due to the incident, Shepard spoke to the media yesterday (including CBSSports.com RapidReporter Glenn Guilbeau) for the first time regarding the issue. "I could be suspended for the first game or more games," he said. "I don't know. It's out of my hands."
But in what must be music to the ears of Tigers fans desperate for one of their most explosive playmakers to take the field against Oregon, Shepard's head coach was much, much more confident regarding Shepard's eligiblity. How confident? This confident:
"There have been communications that would make it appear that it's not very, very serious," Miles said. "He's fine. No, he won't have to sit out."So -- as far as Miles is concerned -- there you have it. Shepard's good to go.
But it's difficult to take Miles completely at his word when the player himself still seems unsure. "You never really know," Shepard said when asked if the issue could cost him the season. "I don't think it will ever get that big. But the NCAA's job is to protect athletes as well as universities. They're going to do the best possible thing for college football."
That's exactly the right thing for Shepard to say, considering it's the NCAA who's holding his 2011 campaign in the balance. But you have to forgive Miles and the Tiger faithful for hoping that this once, the organization does the best possible thing for LSU football.
Also in LSU RapidReports: Many LSU fans have wanted to see strong-armed JUCO transfer (and former Georgia quarterback) Zach Mettenberger take over for incumbent Jordan Jefferson, but to this point Mettenberger hasn't even beaten out Jarrett Lee for the backup's role. But Mettenberger, for his part, is fine with that.
"That's reasonable," he said. "I'm behind two guys who've been here four years. I'm just looking to learn as much as I can from two guys who've really put in some time in the SEC. They're both really good. Both won a lot of games, and now I'm trying to learn as much as I can from them."
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 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 11:47 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
We noted in our LSU Spring Practice Primer that more than a few Tiger fans were hoping for big things, big immediate things, from JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger. With Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee's results the previous three seasons ranging from "decent" to (most often) "mediocre" to "flat embarrassing," you could hardly blame them for crossing their fingers that Mettenberger's blue-chip arm and practice battles with Aaron Murray at Georgia would give their Tigers the consistent passing attack they've craved ever since the departure of Matt Flynn.
As it stands today, though, those fans aren't going to get their wish. In fact, unless Mettenberger finishes spring with a huge flourish, their wish is going to enter fall camp still stuck at third-string, according to Les Miles:
While Jefferson seems to be the clear-cut starter, Miles said senior-to-be Jarrett Lee has the edge on junior college transfer Zach Mettenberger for the backup spot.So for the fans in question, that's the bad news. And that the ever-wobbly Lee remains one injury away from full-time duty again is probably the worse news.
But there's good news, too, namely that Jefferson has been impressive enough to end the supposed quarterback battle even before it really began. Miles said the senior was making "much better decisions" and threw four touchdown passes in Saturday's scrimmage. If that's the case, it's possible Jefferson's MVP performance in the Cotton Bowl thrashing of Texas A&M was a turning point rather than a one-off blip.
And if that's the case, the Bayou Bengals could very well make good on the championship expectations that have been percolating ever since the 2010 season ended. Even if Mettenberger's initial season in Baton Rouge proves to be more hype than substance, assuming Jefferson's continuing offseason momentum pays dividends on the field, LSU's quarterbacking glass is still more full than empty.