Of course Nick Roush arrived late to Hoover. Being the good citizen that I am, I followed SEC guidance and secured my credentials on Sunday at promptly 4:00 p.m. local time. The place was eerily quiet, but not for long. My football kickoff week started off a little rocky as I tweeted the first three coaches that are to be on the podium on Monday and included Les Miles’ name instead of new head Tiger Ed Orgeron. Long offseason folks, we all make mistakes. Moving on.
Day one offers two of the SEC’s most rambunctious coaches in Arkansas’ Bret Bielema and the aforementioned Ed Orgeron of LSU. If Coach O stays true to trend, he’ll be on his 9th Red Bull by go-time. Both are likable, passionate, and possess a sense of humor that is at times lacking at Media Days. And then there’s Tennessee’s Butch Jones. Expect an overabundance of coachy clichÃ©s when the head Vol is on stage.
This week, Nick and I will be writing several posts on the KSR website. I’ll be focusing on the technical aspect of conference teams to include rosters, coaches, depth charts, schedules, and personnel. Nick, well I’m not sure what Nick will be doing, but I definitely know that my friend will be producing a daily Depth Chart Podcast. The podcasts will be shorter than usual but filled with funny, behind the scenes goings on and other ridiculous topics that normally arise in Hoover. Now let’s get started:
Day One Preview
— 11:30 a.m. CT: Commissioner Greg Sankey will chest thump yet another stellar year for the nation’s top league to get things kicked off. It just means more.
— Immediately after the Commissioner’s remarks head Boss Hog Bret Bielema will be the first coach on the podium. After posting a 3-9 mark in his first season, Bielema was treading water trying to clean up the mess that Bobby Petrino had left behind. Arkansas went bowling the next three seasons by posting a 7-6, 8-5, and 7-6 record respectively. 2016 saw the Hogs fade late in games with second half leads. Arkansas led Missouri 24-7 at halftime and lost 28-24. The Belk Bowl followed suit when Arkansas led Virginia Tech 24-0 at intermission before surrendering 35 unanswered points. Quarterback Austin Allen is the best player in the SEC that you’ve probably not heard of and has all conference center Frank Ragnow blocking for RB Devwah Whaley.
Bielema brought in former Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads to lead his defense. Rhoads is bringing a 3-4 scheme to Fayetteville which should fit LB Dre Greenlaw’s versatile style of play.
— Ed Orgeron is up next. Folks that I’ve talked to about this event are all excited to see and hear Coach O deliver his State of the Tiger proclamation. Orgeron has surrounded himself with excellent coordinators: OC-Matt Canada and DC-Dave Aranda.
2016 featured RB Derrius Guice bursting onto the scene by rushing for 1387-yards and 16 touchdowns. QB Danny Etling should benefit from Canada’s tutelage and new system that promises to open up the Tiger’s traditionally monotonous game plans. The LSU defense lost several starters to the NFL but the cupboard is far from bare. The SEC’s sack leader Arden Key is back for another run at opposing quarterbacks. LSU likes to refer to itself as DBU (Defensive Back University). Cornerbacks Donte Jackson and Kevin Tolliver both have lock-down potential. Replacing All American safety Jamal Adams will be a challenge, but defensive talent is hardly an issue in Baton Rouge.
— The Champions of Life Leader Butch Jones has a reservation for one on the proverbial hot seat. Bewildering losses to lesser talented South Carolina and Vanderbilt barred a trip to Atlanta. UT lost its starting quarterback, two-starting running backs (Jalen Hurd quit mid-season), the university’s all-time sack leader, and its top receiver. Patience is wearing. Players with proven explosive play capabilities have left Knoxville. A serious question that continues to surface around the program is just what is Butch Jones’ ceiling? Are 8-4 seasons the max or can he lead the once proud Tennessee Volunteers back to national prominence? Jones brought in 6 new assistant coaches and a bus load of support staff in an attempt to breathe new life into the program.
— RB John Kelly returns to a backfield that is will feature a new starting quarterback. Either Quinten Dormady or redshirt fresman Jarrett Guarantano will get the call. Jones’ team strength and most experienced position group is at offensive line, but it didn’t exactly play at a consistent level in 2016. Gone is All American DE Derek Barnett but talented defensive players remain on the depth chart which include defensive back Todd Kelly Jr. and LB Darrin Kirkland.
Stay tuned for much, much more. Should be a fun week.