Around the SEC
By Nick Roush on ©August 06th, 2018 @ 5:30pm
We live in a world where the Florida football program is modeling its new state-of-the-art facility after Kentucky’s. What a time to be alive.
The Tampa Bay Times recently profiled the rise of multi-million dollar complexes dedicated exclusively to college football programs. With more than a billion dollars spent nationally since 2013, the headlines tend to gravitate toward the extreme, like Clemson’s slide and Texas A&M’s TV-filled mirrors.
Kentucky’s $45 million Joe Craft Football Training Facility has all of the bells and whistles, but that’s not why it stands above the rest in the country. The University of Florida toured UK’s facility to see how Kentucky created one of the country’s most efficient football complexes.
“Everything’s there,” C.J. Conrad said.
It’s all there because a program’s most limited resource is time.
NCAA rules limit coaches to only four hours of player interaction daily, and players’ schedules are packed with class and training. If a new building can eliminate a 15-minute trip across campus, that’s 15 extra minutes they can spend watching film, studying or unwinding.
The same principle applies to a facility’s layout.
The Wildcats’ weight room flows to the practice fields, so players can transition easily from lifts to sprints. The practice fields flow to the 52-degree plunge pool for recovery. The hydrotherapy area flows to the locker room, where players can shower and change before heading to tutoring, meetings or the players’ lounge.
Kentucky has mastered the art of efficiency, but I wish they kept that secret. It could have been a valuable bargaining chip to move the annual game against the Gators from September to November.
Through this week I will be previewing the 5 SEC West teams that Kentucky will NOT be playing in the 2018 season. For some awesome in-depth previews of the other 8 teams that the Wildcats will be playing this year, be sure to read Nick Roush’s SEC Media Day breakdowns of UK’s conference opponents. Next up in my preview are the Ole Miss Rebels.
Just like last year, Ole Miss’s offense will be the strength of the team. They return everyone except for quarterback Shea Patterson, one offensive lineman, and 1,000-yard rusher Jordan Wilkins.
Even with the loss of Patterson to Michigan, this offense will still be electric. This is in large part due to senior Jordan Ta’amu who did an outstanding job at the position last season when Patterson went down with injury.
Ta’amu managed a 11-4 TD-Int ratio, while also totaling a better completion percentage and quarterback rating then Patterson managed. He also is considerably more mobile than Patterson as he scored four times on the ground while adding 165 yards.
I was very impressed with Ta’amu last season, and I don’t think they really lost anything at quarterback due to his breakout season in 2017. Expect a big year from the Hawaiian in 2018.
— Spencer Honda (@SpncerHonda) October 28, 2017
With the return of almost their entire offensive line and their top three receivers from last year, the Ole Miss air attack will be one of the best in the SEC.
However, with the loss of Wilkins they have a major hole to fill at running back. No one else on the roster has much experience so expect the Rebels to turn to junior college transfer Scott Phillips.
This offense was the 5th best offense in the conference last season and I expect an even better result this year. The air attack will be good enough to give the ground game time to find its footing.
Ole Miss’s defense went in the complete opposite direction in 2017. The unit finished dead last in the SEC in total defense and 115th in the FBS. Yea….it wasn’t great.
Despite returning seven starters, the Rebels lose their top two tacklers and almost all their linebacker core. Their defensive line depth will be their strength of the defense, but I don’t believe that it will be enough to offset the overall lack of talent this unit has.
Defensive tackle Benito Jones will be asked to lead this unit. He was once a highly touted prospect, and he recorded the most tackles for lost last season out of any returning defensive player.
Big boy ball from Benito Jones.
Getting overlooked a little due to the strength of the SEC interior DL group but believe he’s going to have a big year. pic.twitter.com/8Se2n8zGw9
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) June 27, 2018
It doesn’t matter what kind of defensive scheme a team has, you must have good linebackers to lead that side of the football. Going into the 2018 season, I can’t honestly tell you anything about Ole Miss’s linebackers besides the fact that the guys who started in front of them last year were not good.
So, I imagine their backups that will start this year won’t be too great either. To say that I don’t think much of the Rebel defense this season would be an understatement.
Best Overall Player
A. J. Brown is a baaddddddd man. After finishing last season on the All-American 2nd Team the receiver is back to set the SEC on fire once again.
At 6’1, 225 pounds, Brown totaled over 1,200 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on 75 receptions. He is a physical beast with great hands who runs crisp and quick routes.
A.J. Brown saw an average of 13.17 yards per target from the slot – the second-highest figure among returning FBS receivers pic.twitter.com/XIv6iu6FWv
— PFF College (@PFF_College) July 31, 2018
To say that the NFL is patiently waiting for Brown’s arrival to the pros would be a safe bet. Usually it’s not a great sign that a receiver is your best player, but in this case, it says more about Brown’s talent than it does about Ole Miss.
He will unquestionably be the first overall receiver taken in the 2019 Draft unless something disastrous happens between now and April. Brown will be one of the most entertaining players in the SEC this year so be sure to tune in to watch this guy snatch the souls from defensive backs.
Biggest Overall Weakness
Motivation. Ole Miss is still under a self-imposed bowl ban for 2018. Considering that this team will be very dependent on its offense this season, it’s not a great sign that they are guaranteed not to win a title.
A large amount of defense is simply the amount of effort players give on that side of the football. I think that will show a lot this season with an Ole Miss defense that will be playing catch-up with its offense.
Don’t forget, this is an SEC West team. They will be playing three or four of the toughest teams in the nation along with South Carolina from the East and Texas Tech in nonconference play.
In the back of their minds, this team knows that they don’t have a destination this season. They aren’t making an SEC Championship by any stretch of the imagination. Their season will end on Senior Night against archrival Mississippi State.
Some people may not think this matters a whole lot, but I really think it does. I hope the best for Head Coach Matt Luke this year. He didn’t ask for this kind of situation.
I don’t think this Ole Miss team will be very good in 2018, but I still think this team will surprise some people. With an offense with that kind of firepower, I think that the Rebels will straight-up outscore teams that will annihilate their defense.
Will they beat any teams in the top half of the SEC? No.
Official 2018 SEC Media picks
East (1st Place votes)
#1 Georgia (271)
#2 South Carolina (8)
#3 Florida (4)
#5 Kentucky (1)
#6 Tennessee (1)
#1 Alabama (263)
#2 Auburn (19)
#3 Miss State (2)
#4 Texas A&M
#6 Ole Miss
— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) July 20, 2018
But they have a favorable nonconference schedule. They will be picked to win all four of those games. Couple that win with the fact that they draw Vanderbilt out of the East and they play South Carolina at home and I think this team will avoid a losing season.
However, with a bad defense and a lack of motivation I believe that anything more than seven wins would be a huge surprise.
Through this week I will be previewing the 5 SEC West teams that Kentucky will NOT be playing in the 2018 season. For some awesome in-depth previews of the other 8 teams that the Wildcats will be playing this year, be sure to read Nick Roush’s SEC Media Day breakdowns of UK’s conference opponents. Next up in my preview are the Arkansas Razorbacks.
The Razorbacks finally enter a new era as Brett Bielema was fired at the end of last season. Gone is the archaic offense that worked in the Big 10 but failed miserably in the SEC.
Imagine what it must’ve felt like being an Arkansas fan last season. Every single game your team runs the ball 40 times only to finish the season 4-8. That’s pretty much the definition of running into a brick wall and smashing your face in repeatedly without stopping.
Thankfully for the Razorback faithful, Chad Morris takes over for Bielema. Morris will be implementing a new spread offense this season which will be quite a breath of fresh air.
But will it be successful? The Razorbacks return everyone offense except for Austin Allen at quarterback and one offensive lineman which means they will have an embarrassment of experience for Morris to work with.
With the move to a spread offense I expect whoever wins the quarterback competition to put up respectable numbers. Arkansas returns their top 4 receivers from last season while running back Devwah Whaley is back as well.
Cole Kelley (6’7, 245 pounds) is the supposed favorite to win the job after respectably filling in for Allen last season. He has tremendous size and arm strength, but accuracy is still a question mark.
— SpreadOffense.com (@SpreadOffense) April 12, 2018
Overall, this offense will be much better than it was last season. The new spread offense will help whoever wins the quarterback competition, plus their incredible amount of experience will matter in close games. Brighter days are on the way in Fayetteville.
Like on offense, the Razorbacks return just about everything on defense. They only lose two defensive backs and a defensive lineman, so everything seems to be pointing up on this side of the football as well.
The big news on defense is that Arkansas will be shifting back to a 4-3 after playing a 3-4 last season. It’s obvious this change needed to have been made after the Razorbacks gave up 196 rushing yards per game.
Linebackers Dre Greenlaw and De’Jon Harris both totaled over 100 tackles in 2017 and will be looking to cause more damage in 2018. They are similarly talented players who play incredibly hard and fast.
? LB Spotlight ?
? De'Jon Harris – Arkansas ?
Last season Harris had 115 Tackles, 3.5 sacks, 8.5 Tackles for Loss and 2 pass breakups. Harris has the quickness, the awareness and tackling ability to put up even bigger numbers in 2018. Remember the Name!!! pic.twitter.com/BFsvxY5Myn
— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) July 26, 2018
It will be very interesting to see how well Greenlaw and Harris perform in the new defense as they will be depended upon even more this year.
Overall, I see this defense improving this season. The change in schemes will give teams a different look from last season, plus it will give their best players more chances to make plays.
Best Overall Player
My vote for the most interesting player in the SEC goes to my pick for the Razorbacks’ best overall player: Hjalte Froholdt. And yes, I spelled his name correctly.
The crazy thing is that is his first name is actually pronounced “Yelda.” If you don’t believe me, here is the video evidence:
— Bo Mattingly (@SportsTalkwBo) August 6, 2017
All jokes aside, Froholdt is a fascinating player. He is actually from Denmark of all places and stands at a massive 6’4, 315 pounds. He possesses NFL-ready speed and toughness at the guard position even with being so huge.
One thing that Bielema did correctly during his time at Arkansas was recruit very talented offensive lineman which is exactly what Froholdt is. He has made just about every preseason watch list for linemen this summer after making the All-SEC Third team in 2017.
Trumain Carroll: “If you had to describe a complete SEC offensive lineman, it would be Hjalte Froholdt”
— Tyler Cass (@5NEWSTyler) July 30, 2018
Froholdt will be one of the most vital pieces of the Razorback offense in what will likely be his last season in Fayetteville. Oh yeah, he can also dish out some great trash talk on the field as well:
Hjalte Froholdt ends some late-game trash talk by telling Mississippi State to check the scoreboard. pic.twitter.com/6LgPGWiZxD
— Jimmy Carter (@NWAJimmy) November 20, 2016
The talent level at Arkansas is still low when compared to the rest of the SEC especially in the West division. Morris has a lot of experience at his disposal, but there is a reason why the Razorbacks only won four games last year.
For crying out loud they only beat Coastal Carolina by one point in 2017. That speaks for itself. Their only other victories were against Florida A&M, New Mexico State, and Mississippi.
Their experience will help counter their lack of talent, but this team still isn’t ready to compete week in and week out with the top teams in this conference. Morris will need multiple seasons to recruit the type of players that can launch the Razorbacks back to near 10-win seasons.
I am high on the Razorbacks this season. I think they will be in the running for one of the most improved teams in the SEC, and I guarantee they will make a bowl game this winter.
Chad Morris addresses the media. “You can feel it in the air, everyone’s excited for football season” pic.twitter.com/UtSwRRIqDK
— Tyler Cass (@5NEWSTyler) July 30, 2018
Their nonconference slate should give them four victories considering the best team they play is Colorado State. In SEC play they get Mississippi, Vanderbilt, and LSU all at home and Missouri on the road. I really do think that the Razorbacks will find a way to win two or three of those matchups.
The blend of experience and new schemes from a team that won just one SEC last season will be a bit of a shock to the rest of the conference. Couple that in with the coaching talent of Morris and I think you have a recipe for a surprising season.
Through this week I will be previewing the 5 SEC West teams that Kentucky will NOT be playing in the 2018 season. For some awesome in-depth previews of the other 8 teams that the Wildcats will be playing this year, be sure to read Nick Roush’s SEC Media Day breakdowns of UK’s conference opponents. Next up in my preview are the LSU Tigers.
Rebuilding. That’s a term that fanbases across the country absolutely dread to hear. However, every team goes through this phase at one time or another. What separates good programs from the great ones is just how much success they experience during these supposed rough patches.
In 2018, the LSU offense will certainly be rebuilding. The question is just how much success they will experience. They return a total of 5 starters from last season in the form of three offensive lineman, a receiver, and their tight end.
Gone is Danny Etling who enjoyed a decent year at quarterback, but most importantly gone is Derrius Guice at running back. Guice was the most important player on last year’s team and he will surely be missed. Gone as well is wide receiver DJ Chark who was one of the best receivers in the SEC.
With so many huge losses, sometimes you got to get creative. And creative is what head Coach Ed Orgeron became. In comes Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow at quarterback, Texas Teach transfer Jonathan Giles at receiver (1,158 yards in 2016), and NC State transfer Thaddeus Moss at Tight End.
Jonathan Giles comes to #LSU via the Transfer Route from Tx-Tech Univ. Giles had a Prolific year in 2016 for the Red Raiders with 1,158Yds & 13 TD.
— Josh Lemoine (@LsuFBallTruth) July 20, 2018
Not only does LSU welcome in three talented transfers on offense, but the Tigers are moving to a more pass-happy system this fall as well. It’s going to be weird to watch a normally run-dominant team air it out, but that’s what we will see this season.
They still have talent at half back with sophomore Clyde Edwards-Helaire taking over, however the LSU offense will be defined by its new-look passing game. If Burrow can improve upon what Etling did last year (which won’t be tough) and if Giles can once again be a big-play receiver, fans won’t be able to tell it’s a rebuilding year.
Urban Meyer says #LSU transfer QB Joe Burrow "was right there" with Dwayne Haskins in the Ohio State spring quarterback competition.
Meyer: "Do I wish he was still with us? I do. I love Joe Burrow."
— InsideTheTigers.com (@InsideLSU) July 24, 2018
There are three certainties in life: Death. Taxes. And LSU always having a great defense.
That doesn’t change in 2018 as the Tigers once again will be fielding a top 5 defense in the SEC. While it is true that LSU only returns 5 starters on this side of the ball they return three of their top four tacklers from last season.
Even more important for Orgeron’s team is that they return linebacker Devin White and defensive back Greedy Williams (what a name). They are the two most talented players on this team, and both will be selected in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
His team was up 45-21 with 1:36 left in the game.
He already had 13 Tackles, 1.5 TFL and a QB hurry.
LSU LB Devin White gets cut, gets up, pursues the football and ends up intercepting a tipped ball to seal the game!
Talent + Effort = Dominance pic.twitter.com/ueAjuJ3bdp
— Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) June 29, 2018
Three starters total return at defensive back which will be the most loaded aspect of LSU this season. Normally the Tigers field a tough defense against the pass and this season will not be any different.
They don’t return as much experience in the front seven, but with a plethora of highly touted recruits starting along with White this will not be a rebuilding year on defense for LSU.
Best Overall Player
This is an incredibly tough decision to make between White and Williams, but I’m going with the one and only Greedy Williams.
Not only is he likely winning the competition for best overall name in the SEC, but he is my pick for the best cornerback in the country. As a redshirt freshman last year Williams broke up 11 total passes while also grabbing six interceptions.
Combine those coverage skills along with the fact that Williams stands at 6’2 and you have an ideal cornerback in the national football league.
2019 Prospect Preview: #LSU CB Greedy Williams
He without question already has the best name in the country. Here’s my early scouting report on the Tigers very talented redshirt-sophomore. pic.twitter.com/tzv45cjqHo
— J Reid (@JReidNFL) June 27, 2018
Filmstudy 2-for-1 highlight feat. Jordan Chunn (RB, Troy) and Greedy Williams (CB, LSU). Watch the pull from OL and FB to give Chunn room and cut downfield. Williams out of NOWHERE for the save. #cfbtop25 pic.twitter.com/WEveXrfZ14
— Mr. Ed (@VeNGNCE) July 20, 2018
I would not be surprised at all if a team with a bad pass defense selects him within the first 10 picks in the draft. In fact, if LSU has a surprise year in the SEC Williams could be the SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
However, I don’t want to completely leave out White. He is the top inside linebacker in the country after totaling an absurd 133 tackles last season. He will be a first-round pick and in the running for SECDOPY as well.
LSU’s biggest weakness this season is the fact that they return an incredibly low amount of meaningful experience from last season. Sure, adding some big names in the form of transfers is a smart way to try and make up for this, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is mostly a brand-new football team on offense.
Orgeron is very smart to try and move to a pass-happy system. Every other offense in the SEC West will be improving from last season and the Tigers don’t need to get left in the dust.
With a very, very tough schedule that includes Miami, Alabama, at Auburn, and Georgia, having to rebuild team chemistry on offense is going to be incredibly hard to do.
Orgeron certainly has his work cut out for him this year. If Burrow can be the real deal at quarterback, I think the Tigers can win some games they probably shouldn’t have.
The Joe Burrow Heisman campaign starts today. pic.twitter.com/e2UaC4ZARC
— Bottlegate (@Bottlegate) April 14, 2018
This may be a hot take, but I’m a bit low on LSU this season. College football expert Phil Steele has the Tigers rated 129th on his experience chart heading into the season. In case you forgot, there is only 130 teams on this level of college football.
However, I still think LSU will make a bowl game this season. White and Williams are that talented on defense, and there is enough talent elsewhere on that side of the ball. That defense will win them games on its own this season.
While they won’t beat any teams in that murder’s row mentioned earlier, I still think they find a way to win six of their other eight games. They will win all three of their other nonconference games, beat up on Mississippi and Arkansas, and win a surprising game against Texas A&M to finish their regular season.
This really feels like a 6-6 team because of their lack of experience and incredibly tough schedule. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m proven wrong. You can never really count out the toughness of that LSU defense.
Through this week I will be previewing the 5 SEC West teams that Kentucky will NOT be playing in the 2018 season. For some awesome in-depth previews of the other 8 teams that the Wildcats will be playing this year, be sure to read Nick Roush’s SEC Media Day breakdowns of UK’s conference opponents. Next up in my preview are the Auburn Tigers.
Down the stretch of the 2017 season, the Auburn Tiger offense was borderline unstoppable. Except for a woeful performance in the SEC Championship Game, the Tigers amassed over 400 yards of total offense in 5 straight games.
Running Back Kerryon Johnson caught fire and was the best running back in the SEC. The offensive line improved greatly, and Jarrett Stidham became an elite college quarterback by the end of the year.
However, Auburn enters the 2018 season with more questions than Head Coach Gus Malzahn would probably like on offense. Gone is Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway at running back along with 4 starting offense linemen.
For a team that is known for its run game, those departures are big causes for concern. But fear not, because not only does Stidham return, but his top 5 receivers are back as well.
Like Alabama, I expect Auburn’s passing numbers to take a sizable leap this season. While it took some time for Stidham to figure out SEC defenses, he still managed to complete 66% of his passes while notching over 3,000 yards passing.
It is Stidham’s year in 2018. I fully expect a season that might put him in New York as a Heisman finalist. But that’s if an offensive line with much less experience can stop the pass rush from lethal SEC defenses.
Also, junior Kam Martin will be given the reigns at halfback. Last season he averaged six yards a carry as Johnson’s backup so the Tigers should have a consistent ground attack again.
Kam Martin’s 1st carry of the game pic.twitter.com/5PONBFC3GM
— Skye Underwood (@SkyeUnderwood) November 18, 2017
Despite the loss of four starters on the defensive side of things, the Tigers still managed to return three out of their four leading tacklers from last season.
The biggest area of strength for the Auburn defense in 2018 will be the defensive line where the Tigers return 9 of their top 10 guys. Wowza. Headlined by studs like Derrick Brown and Dontavius Russell this unit will without a doubt be one of the best and deepest defensive lines in the entire country.
— DLineVids (@DLineVids) November 11, 2017
Linebacker is also a position of strength for the Tigers. They lose only one starter here and their top tacklers from last season return.
Everything so far seems ideal, but Auburn took some very heavy losses in the secondary like Alabama did. The Tigers lose three starters here so expect teams with talented quarterbacks to take advantage of this potential weakness.
Overall, Auburn is pretty much set on this side of the football. Their front seven will be one of the best in the conference. While their defensive backs are younger, they are still very talented. Last season the Tigers held opponents to 19 ppg. I don’t foresee much of a drop-off, if any, from that total this year.
Best Overall Player
The answer to this question is Jarrett Stidham and it’s not even close. In next year’s NFL Draft, Stidham will easily be selected within the first 15 picks. Even if the offensive line struggles, he will have a season better than last year.
With all his receivers returning, Stidham should set the SEC on fire this season. To me, I think he is the best NFL prospect at the quarterback position in college football right now.
— Rick Karle (@RickKarle) July 19, 2018
His accuracy is the best in the country even against SEC defenses, and his arm strength is not too far behind either. He has prototypical size at 6’3, 214 pounds, plus his character and leadership are unquestioned.
I know there will be other quarterbacks that will have great size and arm talent that will enter the 2019 Draft, but none of them will have the full resume that Stidham will possess.
If a team that needs a quarterback has the first overall selection, they should select Stidham in what would be one of the easiest choices in recent draft memory. I’m that high on this guy.
MMQB’s Albert Breer put out his early 2019 NFL Mock Draft!
NYJ: DE Nick Bosa
MIA: DT Ed Oliver
ARZ: OT Greg Little
BUF: DE Clelin Ferrell
CIN: DT Dexter Lawrence
CHI: OT Jonah Williams
WAS: QB Jarrett Stidham
CLE: DT Christian Wilkins
TB: CB Greedy Williams
IND: DL Rashan Gary pic.twitter.com/1iq7eGPQP4
— uSTADIUM (@uSTADIUM) July 12, 2018
Their schedule. Look, I know this isn’t an actual team weakness, but I must be honest here. On both sides of the football Auburn is almost a complete team. Yes, there are worries on the offensive line and secondary, but they have plenty of talent ready to go in those positions.
In many ways, this team is a weird mirror image of Alabama (see my last article for that).
Therefore, I think their real biggest weakness is their schedule which will be one of the toughest in the country. It honestly makes the Crimson Tide’s schedule look like a walk in the park (which it is).
In their first game of the season they play Washington on a neutral field for crying out loud. Many people east of the Mississippi don’t realize this now, but the Huskies are easily winning the Pac-12 this year. They have a great chance of making the playoff.
Teams favored to win every game according to ESPN’s FPI:
— CFB Home (@CFBHome) July 19, 2018
Combine that tough matchup with the fact that the Tigers play Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi State ALL ON THE ROAD this season and you get a schedule that’s too tough for any team. Not to mention the fact that they would have to face Georgia twice to make the playoff, and we saw how well that went for Auburn last year.
Malzahn’s team easily has the talent not only to make the playoff, but to win it all. But with a schedule like that it will be very hard to do so.
Despite a tough schedule, I see Auburn winning nine or ten regular season games. With a loaded front seven and Stidham at quarterback I think the Tigers will find a way to win two games out of that brutal 4-game lineup against Washington, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi State.
The key for the Tigers will be winning the Iron Bowl. If they can best the Crimson Tide on the road then there is a chance they can make the SEC Championship with two losses especially if one of those defeats is against Washington.
Overall, Auburn is still loaded for this year and they will finish no lower than second in the SEC West. I think they are the third best team in the conference behind Georgia and Alabama.
— ESPN 105.1 The Zone (@ESPN1051TheZone) July 20, 2018
However, they will need a lot of luck to make the playoff considering that Alabama’s and Georgia’s schedules are a joke compared to what the Tigers have to deal with.
Enjoy this season near the top of the SEC West while you can Auburn fans. Because with the arrival of Jimbo Fisher in College Station and the coming departure of Stidham, the Tigers may not be near the top much longer.
By Nick Roush on ©July 26th, 2018 @ 2:00pm
Dan Mullen might have bit off a little more than he can chew. Six months after he was hired to take over the Florida football program, seven of his players were involved in a confrontation that featured BB guns, a baseball bat, a frying pan and a local gambler.
Police were called to the Keys Residential Complex on May 28 to investigate a disturbance. What they found were about a dozen people in a heated confrontation.
The incident was sparked by senior tight end C’yontai Lewis’ relationship with Devante Zachery, a local gambler who goes by the name of “Tay Bang.” The two were good friends when the Gators won, but not so much when they lost seven games in 2017.
Tay Bang was waiting to confront Lewis about the losses in front Lewis’ apartment complex. Lewis arrived with six other players — freshman quarterback Emory Jones, wide receivers Rick Wells, Kadarius Toney and Tyrie Cleveland, defensive tackle Kyree Campbell and tight end Kemore Gamble.
When the situation got heated, several players left the scene to get a wide assortment of weapons. The police report says some were holding rocks, BB guns and even a frying pan, while one of Tay Bang’s associates carried a baseball bat. The BB guns were painted all-black to resemble an AR-15. Before the confrontation could escalate any further, police arrived and people scattered. Nobody was arrested and five players face disciplinary action by the school, which could affect their status with the team.
“We were made aware of the incident when it occurred and immediately began following campus protocol,” Mullen said in a statement. “This has been an opportunity for us to educate our players about the dangers and negative perceptions that can occur when conflict arises, and how important honesty and good decision making is.”
For wide receivers Wells and Cleveland, it’s their second BB gun incident since they arrived at Florida. Kadrius Toney is the Gators’ leading returning wide receiver and Emory Jones was the nation’s top-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the 2018 recruiting class.
The report surfaced just days after Mullen suspended highly-touted freshman defensive back Justin Watkins following his second arrest in ten weeks. He now faces four charges, including a pair of felonies, for allegedly hitting his girlfriend.
Through this week, I will be previewing the 5 SEC West teams that Kentucky will NOT be playing in the 2018 season. For some awesome in-depth previews of the other 8 SEC teams that the Wildcats will be playing this year, be sure to read Nick Roush’s SEC Media Day breakdowns of UK’s conference opponents. To start things off, I preview Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide squad.
Ever since Saban took the Alabama job in 2007, we have seen the same basic but effective offense from the Crimson Tide. They win games by running the football down the other team’s throat while their quarterback respectably manages the game through the air.
This season I expect the offense to be a bit different in Saban’s 12th year at the school. The college football world knows all about the quarterback battle between Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa. Hurts would successfully manage games and get a lot of victories for Saban. However, everyone knows that Tagovailoa is the better passing quarterback which means he should be the starter.
— FOX Sports South (@FOXSportsSouth) July 18, 2018
Tua Tagovailoa started the title game as a backup.
He ended it as a legend. pic.twitter.com/YJIKxPtctG
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 9, 2018
With him starting, expect to see a big improvement in passing numbers. Last year Hurts threw for just over 2,000 yards to go along with 17 TD’s. Expect Tagovailoa to get near 3,000 yards passing and over 25 TD’s. Even with the departure of Calvin Ridley, the receiving core is still filled with dependable pass catchers that will make an impact.
Alabama returns almost all of its offensive line which will give Tagovailoa plenty of protection. With Damien and Najee Harris returning at halfback the Crimson Tide will once again have a dominant running game.
Overall, this will be Saban’s most balanced offense he has had in Tuscaloosa if he makes what I believe is the correct decision and starts Tagovailoa. The Hawaiian has a strong chance to end the regular season as a Heisman contender along with star Damien Harris.
The Crimson Tide returns just three starters back on defense with the departures of several talented players to the NFL. Gone is Minkah Fitzpatrick, Rashaan Evans, Ronnie Harrison, Da’Ron Payne, and Da’Shawn Hand just to name a few.
Nevertheless, despite the Alabama defense being a bit more inexperienced than usual, this unit will easily be one of the best in the nation at stopping the run. Over the past decade Saban has always lost plenty of guys to the NFL. Time and time again he rolls out another incredibly talented defense that shuts down opposing running backs thanks to years and years of great recruiting classes. That will not change this season.
Their strongest overall facet on defense is their linebacker core. Not only do two starters return, but seven total players come back who have some type of starting experience.
All these linebackers were also highly touted out of high school including Mack Wilson and Dylan Moses who were both ranked as the No. 1 overall linebacker in their classes.
— Chat Tide (@ChatTide) October 22, 2016
In complete seriousness, the Alabama Crimson Tide defense will put the fear of God into opposing running backs this season. And it’s going to be oh so fun to watch.
Best Overall Player
I know the hype behind Tagovailoa and Damien Harris going into the season is huge, but Raekwon Davis is far and away the best player on this year’s team and it’s not that close.
— BamaVideo (@BamaVideo_) January 10, 2018
— DLineVids (@DLineVids) July 19, 2018
Humans that are 6’7, 316 pounds shouldn’t be able to be that quick or that athletic but yet Raekwon Davis exists. This monster is going to put the absolute hurt on quarterbacks this year before being selected in the first 10 picks of next spring’s NFL Draft.
This is just one of those things that people don’t need to spend their time overthinking on. As a true sophomore last year, Davis was Alabama’s third leading tackler and he led the team in sacks (8.5). In case you somehow forgot already, that was on a defense with 3 or 4 guys supposedly better than him.
Now with another year of added experience, good luck trying to block this guy. He should be the SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
Biggest Question Mark
While the Crimson Tide will be just fine stopping the run with an insanely talented group of linebackers and Raekwon Davis, I am honestly worried about Alabama’s secondary.
They lost five out of their top six defensive backs. While they have plenty of talent to fill those positions thank to amazing recruiting, experience truly does matter especially when are you are out there on an island by yourself.
Here’s a look at Alabama’s secondary class after losing the whole secondary.
5* Patrick Surtain Jr. (No. 1 CB)
4* Jalyn Armour-Davis (No. 13 CB)
4* Josh Jobe (No. 14 CB)
4* Saivion Smith (No. 1 JUCO CB)
3* Eddie Smith (No. 42 CB)#RollTide
— Alabama DieHards (@AlabamaDieHards) February 7, 2018
Don’t get me wrong, however. The interior defense will be so good at getting to the quarterback that the Crimson Tide will still average great defensive numbers against the pass.
What I’m primarily worried about is how the secondary will perform in big time games towards the end of the season against very talented quarterbacks that can pick them apart.
These games will be against the likes of Auburn in the Iron Bowl, Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, and whoever they play in the playoff. In these contests, the inexperience in the secondary will show. It will be up to whoever starts at quarterback for Alabama to outplay the opposing team’s leader behind center to win these contests. I believe Tagovailoa has the potential to do just that.
Alabama has far and away the easiest schedule in the SEC West. It’s so easy that I am calling for 11 out of their 12 games to be guaranteed wins. Yupp. I’m completely serious.
Their non-conference slate is a complete joke. Their toughest game is against a rebuilding Louisville team on a neutral field. After that their non-conference schedule shakes out like this: Arkansas State, Louisiana, and The Citadel.
In conference they managed to draw Missouri and Tennessee out of the East, and they also get Mississippi State, Texas A&M, and Auburn all at home.
The only game I’m not marking as a guaranteed win is their regular season finale against Auburn, because I am worried about what Jarrett Stidham might do against the Crimson Tide secondary.
Even if they lose that game they will still make the SEC Championship in my opinion. And even if they lose the conference title game their fate will be in the hands of the selection committee and they will only have 1 or 2 losses. We all saw how kind that committee was to Alabama last season.
The way coaches on the CFP committee look at it is, “Who would we least want to play right now and who is genuinely the strongest team based on what we’ve seen on tape?” If you asked a cross section of coaches around the country those questions, the answer would be Alabama.
— Chris Low (@ClowESPN) December 3, 2017
Overall, there should be absolutely no reason why the Crimson Tide does not make the playoff once again. Unless they are depleted by injuries by the end of the season, Saban will have his guys in position to win yet another title.
By Nick Roush on ©July 21st, 2018 @ 6:00pm
Kentucky has developed quite a divisional rivalry with South Carolina. The Cats have won four in a row over the Gamecocks, yet South Carolina is still consistently picked ahead of Kentucky in the SEC East. When Mark Stoops was asked at SEC Media Days if that gives UK any extra motivation, Stoops clapped back.
“I don’t need South Carolina to motivate me. I am not worried about what they’re doing,” Stoops responded. “We don’t need them for our motivation. That’s for sure. We’re plenty motivated about what we’re doing in our program and the way we play.”
Once again, the Gamecocks were picked to finish ahead of Kentucky. Some of the hype is justified, but does Will Muschamp have enough talent to snap the losing streak this fall at Kroger Field?
The Best Thing Will Muschamp Said — The South Carolina defense lost pretty much their entire secondary. Instead of spinning the situation, Muschamp gave an honest assessment, a rare occurrence in the world of college football (I’m looking at you, Petrino).
“In the secondary, I’m concerned obviously at safety position. We only have one guy that’s played snaps for South Carolina in our league. Steven Montac passed that. We’re going to move Jamyest Williams to safety. J.T. Ibe is a graduate transfer from Rice. He was a three-year starter there, but I think certainly is a guy that’s going to be in that competition. We need some more guys to step up.
“In the corner position, Rashad Fenton, Keisean Nixon and Nick Harvey, a graduate transfer from Texas A&M. All are guys that have played well in our league. I’m excited about that, but we’ll need more than just those three guys.”
The Best Thing Will Muschamp Said (Out of Context) — “You all look rough.”
Coach Speak 101 — “We don’t focus on any opponents more than any other opponents. That’s not coach speak, that’s real.”
Who Replaces Skai Moore? The middle linebacker has been the cornerstone of South Carolina’s defense for years. Moore is just the 15th player in FBS history to lead his team in tackles for all four years of his college career. Moore’s 93 tackles were enough to earn second team All-SEC honors after the 2017 season.
T.J. Brunson is replacing Moore as the vocal leader in the middle of the defense, but he can’t replicate Moore’s production. The middle of the South Carolina defense is not as sound, but they’re excellent on the outside. D.J. Wonnum was a breakout star last year, selected third team All-SEC after recording 57 tackles, 7 for loss and 6 sacks. On the other side, Bryson Allen-Williams returns with high expectations after missing most of last season with a shoulder injury.
South Carolina’s Scariest Player — Deebo Samuel only needs one play to crush your hopes and dreams.
On the first play of the 2017 season, he returned a kickoff for a touchdown, ultimately giving the Gamecocks just enough to beat N.C. State. On the first play of the game against Kentucky, he crossed Derrick Baity’s face and went 68 yards for a score. If not for a third quarter season-ending injury, Samuel might have carried the Gamecocks to a victory over the Cats.
Bentley’s Back — The love affair between SEC media and the South Carolina quarterback is back for at least one more year. There’s no cheering in the press box, unless it’s for a gritty pocket-passer who skipped his senior year of high school to play SEC football.
The Jake Bentley hype is a statistical anomaly. Last year his touchdown-interception ratio was an atrocious 3-to-2 (18 TDs, 12 INTs). His completion percentage fell three points from his freshman season. The only numbers that improved from the previous year were South Carolina wins (+3) and passing yards per game (up 12 to 214 ypg).
Jake Bentley is a fine quarterback, but the astronomical hype is unfounded.
Good News for UK — The SEC’s No. 5 scoring defense from a year ago lost its leader and almost its entire secondary. On the offensive side of the ball, they lose two four-year starters on the offensive line and a first round draft pick at tight end. South Carolina has plenty of holes they must fill in the first month of the season before they make a road trip to Lexington.
Bad News for UK — South Carolina really, really, really wants to beat Kentucky. After losing four straight, the Cats have entered their crosshairs, even though they won’t readily admit it. Their front seven is solid, and if the Cats can’t contain Deebo Samuel, the Gamecocks will feed him until they walk away with a win.
Fear Factor — 5
Because after September 29, that’s how many consecutive years the Cats will have taken down South Carolina.
By Nick Roush on ©July 21st, 2018 @ 2:00pm
The SEC’s favorite doormat is predicted to finish the 2018 season last in the East. Just two years removed from a bowl berth, Derek Mason shares a similar situation with Barry Odom as a defensive-minded head coach who must rely on his offense to win games this fall.
The Best Thing Derek Mason Said — Hear how Mason summarized a not-so-great 2017 season.
“We got off to a fast start. We struggled in the middle as we got into conference play. Disappointed with how we played in the middle of that stretch of games, but I believe this, I believe you learn a lot about your team. And I thought we finished the right way.
“And so, in that, this team is now experienced. It was galvanized by that experience a year ago. The fast start, the struggle in the middle and then the finish, I think that really propelled this group because they haven’t forgotten any of that. As a matter of fact, I know we went into the season with unmet, unkept expectations.”
The Best Thing Derek Mason Said (Out of Context) — “Now it is time to go, so let’s ride.”
Coach Speak 101 — Derek Mason is a big fan of “the grind,” a phrase used multiple times in a variety of ways. He also tried to convince the media that Vanderbilt’s roster has never been better.
“I look at our depth and say it’s as good as it’s ever been.” Mason doesn’t fool me.
“Nashville’s Next Star” — Outside of the Omni Hotel in Atlanta, an electronic billboard featured Vanderbilt’s quarterback, marketed as Nashville’s Next Star. After relinquishing defensive coordinator duties, apparently billboard placement is now a part of Mason’s job.
“I’m excited about me getting back to the responsibilities of being head coach, CEO of a program,” Mason said. “If you want to know what that looks like, step right outside and you look at the billboard of Kyle Shurmur and that tells you exactly where we’re at. I’m CEO. I am looking at everything that’s Vanderbilt football and putting the right guy out front to showcase our program.”
Even though Shurmur’s name doesn’t scream “star,” his numbers do. The SEC’s second-leading passer with 235 yards per game in 2017, Shurmur only threw three interceptions in the first nine games of the season. With five returning starters on the offensive line to protect him, Vanderbilt’s success goes through Shurmur.
Vanderbilt’s Scariest Player — The Commodore defense has not been the same since Zach Cunningham took his talents to the NFL. Holding down the fort this year is LaDarius Wiley. The Mike Edwards of Vanderbilt’s defense, this defensive back is moved all over the field. As a junior Wiley had 90 tackles, six passes defended, a forced fumble and an interception.
Same Face, New Place — Remember Alex Stump? He was a four-star Ohio receiver that committed to Kentucky in May of 2014. When Ohio State offered that fall, he quickly flipped to the Buckeyes. After two years in Columbus, Stump is searching for more playing time as a redshirt sophomore for Vanderbilt.
Good News for UK — Vanderbilt started the season with three wins, including a victory over a Top 25 Kansas State team. Then they got a little too big for their britches. “Alabama, you’re next,” was the nail in Vanderbilt’s coffin and they are still trying to find a way to recover.
Bad News for UK — Kentucky’s pass defense has all of the tools to be great, but they ranked 13th in the SEC in pass defense last year by allowing 251.6 yards per game. If inconsistency continues to be an issue, Shurmur is good enough to pick apart the Kentucky defense.
Fear Factor — 2.16
Shurmur was good enough to pick apart the Kentucky defense last year. Instead, the Cats picked him off four times. This home game is a must-win that should not be a problem for Kentucky.
By Nick Roush on ©July 19th, 2018 @ 6:00pm
The offensive-minded Tigers turned around their season in the Kroger Field halftime locker room. Kentucky held on for a 40-34 victory, but Missouri proved they were a changed team. After a loss the following week to Georgia, the Tigers won their last six games to become bowl eligible and give Barry Odom’s team momentum entering his third season in Columbia.
The Best Thing Barry Odom Said — Odom was emotional after the Tigers’ loss to Auburn (the week before the UK game) and explained why that was one of the many catalysts that turned around their season.
“I wouldn’t recommend anybody starts out 1-5. That’s not a lot of fun or healthy for anybody. But we were getting close, and we didn’t play — we didn’t play very well on Saturday afternoon or Saturday nights for three and a half hours. We weren’t playing consistent enough to win a football game.
“We were doing some really good things at times, either offensively or defensively, but not really putting it together and playing smart football together. We were turning the ball over too much. We weren’t getting it back near enough defensively. We weren’t playing consistent.
“But our guys stayed the course. They stayed — because our practice habits were pretty darn good. Our preparation leading up to the game, things trending in the right direction. I knew we were close.
“The emotional side of that evening after that game, our players see that side of me often, and I’ve — I’m usually fairly reserved in a setting with media and don’t show that side of me, but that’s more of my personality.
“I thought at that point in the season, at the time that they needed — they needed to see that. I needed to stand up for them a little bit publicly, because I knew we were getting close. I knew we were going to continue to get better. If we could just hold tight together and continue to show the family that we knew that we had in our locker room and knew we had on our football field and in the classroom, the things we were doing collectively together, then we were going to have a chance. But if we fractured at any moment and we didn’t show togetherness, then obviously we would have fell apart from there.”
The Best Thing Barry Odom Said (Out of Context) — “They’re better husbands, better fathers, better brothers, better dads, better sons.”
Coach Speak 101 — “There’s a lot of great things going on at Mizzou.”
Lock it Out — Nobody in the SEC had better passing numbers in 2017 than Drew Lock. The only SEC quarterback to average more than 300 yards per game, Lock steadily improved his completion percentage from his sophomore to his junior year. Considered by Mel Kiper as the top quarterback prospect in the 2019 NFL Draft, Lock can bring Missouri back to the top of the SEC East in 2018.
Missouri’s Scariest Player — Terry Beckner is an absolute beast in the middle of the defensive line. The All-SEC defensive tackle from East St. Louis recorded 7 sacks and 11 tackles for loss in 2017. Beckner is Missouri’s biggest brute, but if you get past him, you’ll have to face Terez Hall, a middle linebacker who had 85 tackles in 2017.
How do you say that? The player many are picking ahead of C.J. Conrad as the SEC’s best tight end is Albert Okwuegbunam. I can’t tell you how to say his name, but I can tell you he broke Missouri’s freshman touchdown record with 11 in 2017.
Same Face, New Place — Missouri lost offensive coordinator Josh Heupel this offseason to become UCF’s next head coach. Barry Odom selected an odd replacement, Derek Dooley. Yes, that’s the same Derek Dooley that lost to a Kentucky team who had a receiver starting at quarterback.
Good News for UK — Benny Snell has saved his best games for Missouri. In two games he’s combined for four touchdowns and 309 rushing yards (5.3 yards per carry). Kentucky has averaged 228.3 yards on the ground in three consecutive wins over the Tigers. The Cats can make it four wins in a row if they can keep it rolling on the ground and get a few stops on defense.
Bad News for UK — Missou’s defense was bad, but they have seven returning starters. On offense, the only real loss is running back Ish Witter. On offense, Drew Lock will be protected by five returning starters from one of the SEC’s best offensive lines, and four of his top five targets return. Missouri didn’t lose much at all from a team that nobody wanted to play at the end of 2017.
Fear Factor — 7.7
Missouri gets crapped on as the “Big 12 of the SEC,” but don’t let the name fool you. These Tigers are no joke. A former defensive coordinator, if Odom’s defense only slightly improves to complement the SEC’s best offense, they can be a contender to win the SEC East.
By Nick Roush on ©July 19th, 2018 @ 3:15pm
Tennessee created the most chaotic coaching search in the history of college football to find Butch Jones’ replacement. When the dust settled, Phil Fulmer hired Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Of the many former Nick Saban disciples who are now SEC head coaches, nobody faces a more difficult task than Pruitt.
The Best Thing Jeremy Pruitt Said — Pruitt was asked if he got any advice from Saban after he was hired by the Vols.
“You think Coach Saban is going to give me advice? There’s a lot of us in the league. We’ve known us for a while, some of us assistant coaches, and now I get an opportunity now. It is probably you better write down everything you can. You better take it all in while you have the opportunity because as soon as you go put on the other uniform, I can guarantee you, everybody, even though everybody’s friends, we want to beat the other guy. You know? So we don’t want to give the other person the edge.”
The Best Thing Jeremy Pruitt Said (Out of Context) — “We’re hungry. They’re hungry. Everybody’s hungry.”
Coach Speak 101 — Pruitt mentioned the “Power of the T” at least three times in his address. I remember, because that’s how many times I threw up in my mouth.
One Stud — Trey Smith might just be the best offensive lineman in the Southeastern Conference. The nation’s top-ranked high school offensive lineman in 2017, he started left tackle as a true freshman and did not disappoint. Smith was injured in the spring but shouldn’t miss a step this fall.
Tennessee’s Scariest Player — Former JUCO transfer Jonathan Kongbo has the name of a terrifying pass rusher, even though he only had 2.5 sacks last year. Kongbo should be better suited as an outside linebacker in Pruitt’s 3-4 defense.
Call the Whambulance — Jarrett Guarantano had quite an impressive freshman year. Six games into the season, the dual-threat quarterback took over an offense that was in the midst of a 14-quarter touchdown drought. In his first start he almost led the dismal Vols to a game-winning touchdown drive against South Carolina.
Down six with 1:13 to play, Guarantano marched Tennessee down to the South Carolina two-yard line. They had a few attempts into the end zone with just seconds remaining before his final pass sailed out of bounds. Devastated, Guarantano fell to his knees on the sideline. South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley was there to pick up his opponent, earning a sportsmanship award from the SEC in the process.
Good News for UK — Tennessee is trash. The program is in shambles and I don’t think Pruitt can save face in just one year. All hatred aside, transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense isn’t easy, and the Tennessee defense lost their greatest playmaker, Rashaun Gaulden. On offense, Alvin Kamara isn’t walking through that door. Butch Jones scared off Jalen Hurd, Kamara was the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year and John Kelly has graduated.
Bad News for UK — The Vols do return their starting dual-threat quarterback and his top three targets. Most importantly, this game will be played at Neyland Stadium, a place that has not been kind to Kentucky over the last three decades.
Fear Factor — 3.4
It’s been 34 years since Kentucky won a football game on Rocky Top. History is the only thing scary about Tennessee (and that insufferable, puke in a pumpkin orange).
By Nick Roush on ©July 18th, 2018 @ 6:00pm
For the first time in a decade, Dan Mullen did not represent Mississippi State at SEC Media Days. In his place is former Fordham head coach and Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, but who exactly is this guy? He’s about what you’d expect from a Miss. State head coach, but not really.
Speaking at the podium, Moorhead was physically imposing, but his personality did not command attention like a typical college football head coach. He was easy-going. He didn’t bring a ton of corny coach-speak, but he did profess his love for Hoosiers. A guy who played quarterback in Munich, Germany, he is not an easy person to figure out, much like his team this fall.
Moorhead created an explosive offense under James Franklin at Penn State, but the last SEC West hire from the Big Ten didn’t work out so well. With a ton of returning talent, expectations are high in Starkville, but it’s difficult to tell if Moorhead can deliver.
The Best Thing Joe Moorhead Said — He does have a little sense of humor.
“I would like to thank the SEC communications department. When I saw the list earlier in the spring and saw I was speaking on the same day as Coach Saban, I was a little worried I was going to have to go after him. It would be like taking the stage and performing after the Beatles and no one is going to be in their seats and paying attention to what you’re doing.”
The Best Thing Joe Moorhead Said (Out of Context) — “Everything being wrapped in bacon, that’s pretty good.”
Coach Speak 101 — “Attitude reflects leadership.”
Miss. State’s Scariest Players — One of the most highly touted recruits Dan Mullen convinced to come to Starkville, Jeffrey Simmons is the SEC’s most explosive nose guard. Last year he had 12 tackles for loss, while his partner in crime, Montez Sweat, had a league-high 15.5 tackles for loss. Sweat also led the league in sacks with 10.5. The dynamic duo is the centerpiece of the best defensive line in the SEC.
Watch Out, Tebow — It took about two games for Nick Fitzgerald to draw comparisons to Tim Tebow. Both are large humans who run well for their size, and each reaped a ton of success in Dan Mullen’s spread offense. The padawan is on the verge of becoming the master.
Tebow holds the SEC record for career rushing yards by a quarterback with 2,947. Fitzgerald only needs 461 to break that record, something he can accomplish in less than half a season. Fitzgerald must do it within a new offensive scheme, but the changes should affect his passing numbers more than what he can produce on the ground.
Good News for UK — Mullen is gone. To become winners in the SEC, Kentucky traditionally has to dominate Vanderbilt and their annual western divisional opponent, Miss. State. That did not happen against Dan Mullen. Who knows how Moorhead will function in Starkville, but it’s hard to imagine he’ll be able to surpass Mullen’s success.
Bad News for UK — Miss. State is still a powerful team in the trenches with a quarterback that is incredibly tough to tackle. Last year in Starkville they beat the brakes off the Cats in a dominant 45-7 win. Lucky for Kentucky, the din of cowbells won’t be the soundtrack to this year’s game in Lexington.
Fear Factor — 7.9713436
Even though it’s a home game, it’s still a game against a team many predict to be Alabama’s greatest challenger in the SEC West. They return two All-SEC defensive linemen, a record-breaking dual-threat quarterback and a powerful back that rushed for 1,107 yards in 2017. Benny Snell is the only returning SEC running back who rushed for more yards last year. Dan Mullen may be gone, but Miss. State ain’t no joke.
By Nick Roush on ©July 18th, 2018 @ 4:00pm
It only took two seasons for Kirby Smart to give his alma mater an SEC Championship. If not for a bad Cover Two call, Smart might have defeated his mentor in the CFB Playoff Final. Georgia should be in similar territory this fall.
The Best Thing Kirby Smart Said — Georgia was so close to another National Title. Instead they took a demoralizing loss on a second and 26 in overtime, a play Smart has been forced to relive a few times.
“Obviously I see it on replays and different ESPN highlights. I got to watch it early with the “Get Up!” with Mike Greenberg. I thought they might open with the SEC Championship, but of course not. That’s part of it. I think we embrace that as coaches. I think that’s something that you guys think about a lot, but not really us. We’re on to the next year.”
The Best Thing Kirby Smart Said (Out of Context) — “What pieces of the puzzle are we going to put in what place?”
Coach Speak 101 — “Iron sharpens iron.”
Georgia’s Scariest Player — Rodrigo Blankenship is the Bulldogs’ Wild Thing. The placekicker’s eyes pierce the souls of opponents while ripping the hearts out of fans with game-winning field goals.
They Gone — There isn’t one person in the BBN that is sad to see Nick Chubb and Sony Michel (finally) go to the NFL. The running backs broke Kentucky tackles for years, and unfortunately, the next group of Georgia running backs are just as good.
In place of the powerful Chubb is the son of the former heavyweight champ, Elijah Holyfield. D’Andre Swift is the complete package and will contend for First Team All-SEC honors as the Dawgs’ featured back.
A Good Problem — Georgia could be the first school to ever have three different top-ranked quarterbacks start in three consecutive years. Jacob Eason led Georgia to eight wins in Kirby Smart’s first season, but lost the job to Jacob Fromm last year following an injury. Eason is now at Washington, while Fromm, a guy who took his team to the National Title and beat the Heisman Trophy winner along the way, must beat out Justin Fields to keep his job.
About Eason — Lonny Demaree became an SEC star with the following interaction:
Q. With Eason, Fromm and Fields, have you ever seen a better stock of quarterback in your career?
KIRBY SMART: Yeah. If we had all three of them, we’d be sitting pretty good. Eason is gone. He transferred.
Good News for UK — It’s a home game?
Bad News for UK — All of it. Maybe you’re like Ryan Lemond and lean on the Cats’ close calls against the Dawgs under Rich Brooks, but I can’t. The almost National Champs from a year ago have reloaded and I don’t know how the Cats can stop that steamroller.
Fear Factor — 8.79
Georgia’s road trip to Lexington is sandwiched between The World’s Largest Cocktail Party against Florida and a rivalry match-up in Athens against Auburn. Kentucky is the perfect trap game opponent that could spoil the Dawgs’ fun (but that’s a big if).
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©July 18th, 2018 @ 1:30pm
Is Tennessee’s new head coach Jeremy Pruitt capable of cleaning up Butch Jones’ mess in Knoxville? If you ask Aaron Murray, who played quarterback at Georgia while Pruitt was defensive coordinator, no.
“I don’t know if his personality is fit to be a head coach,” Murray said on 102.5 The Game yesterday. “As a head coach, there’s so many things that go into it. It’s not just going out there and coaching. You have to deal with front office. You’ve got to go talk with the president of the university. You have to deal with boosters. You have to deal with the offense, the defense. It’s not just going in there … and scheming up.”
Murray went on to say he didn’t like the way Pruitt treated former Georgia head coach Mark Richt.
“When he was at Georgia, the way he acted, the way he treated Coach Richt, I thought was poor. He needs to prove to me that he can handle the whole ship. For right now, I don’t think he can.”
Ouch. Pruitt defended himself this morning at SEC Media Days.
“I don’t really know Aaron, but I had a lot of respect for him as a player” Pruitt said, via Wes Rucker. “But I will say I was a kindergarten coach 15 years ago, and now I’m the head coach at Tennessee. That don’t happen if you don’t treat people well.”
Paul Finebaum came to Pruitt’s defense this morning on the SEC Network.
“I know Aaron, he’s a nice guy, but I don’t give two rips about what he thinks about Jeremy Pruitt,” Finebaum said, via Saturday Down South. “(Pruitt) rubbed everyone the wrong way because the culture at Georgia was laissez-faire. ‘We lost a game, what kind of wine do you guys want?’ So, Aaron Murray, go do whatever you’re doing right now, I don’t care. Your voice is not relevant when it comes to Jeremy Pruitt.”
Finebaum not holding back! I can’t wait to hear what the Georgia callers think of that later this afternoon.