It’s been a very long wait since LSU capped off last season with a national title, but college football is finally back in our lives. Specifically, the SEC has returned and that means we will get to hear the best jingle in sports this weekend. I feel the same way, Shaq.
— Trinidad C. Miller (@trin_miller61) September 19, 2020
Camp has finally ended and on Saturday there will be seven SEC football games played in a 10-hour window for all of us to consume and potentially wager on. What a time to be alive.
Since most of you are not completely obsessed like me and have not been reading practice reports from all 14 teams in the Southeastern Conference, I’m here to get you caught up to speed on where things stand in the league. There are a lot of individuals who have stood out in camp and you need to know about them. Now it’s time to dig in as we all get ready for what should be a very adventurous fall in “It Just Means More” land.
1.) Arik Gilbert’s Freak Potential
In the class of 2020, LSU and Ed Orgeron snuck into Atlanta to pluck three top-100 prospects. Two came from the same high school and defensive end BJ Ojulari is drawing some rave reviews, but fellow Marietta native Arik Gilbert might just be the truth.
Ed Orgeron on freshman TE Arik Gilbert:
"He's similar to Calvin Johnson"
— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) September 21, 2020
Obviously that comment is a stretch, but there is some stuff there with Gilbert. He is the highest ranked tight end ever and at 6-foot-5, 249 pounds he’ll be flexed out in spread formations despite having the body type of a legit EDGE player. That is a scary thought for the the nickels and safeties that will have to matchup with him this fall.
Gilbert was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year last season as he pulled in 101 receptions for 1,760 yards. He could be a legit All-American as a true freshman and may lead LSU in receiving this season. Get familiar with him.
2.) No JT Daniels?
Just a few weeks ago, USC transfer JT Daniels was granted immediate eligibility to play for Georgia this season and quickly after that Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman decided to opt-out. That led to Daniels, a former five-star prospect, to be considered the next quarterback for the Dawgs but that just may not be the case.
Kirby Smart says JT Daniels still hasn't been medically cleared to play Saturday but remains "hopeful" it will happen in the next couple days.
"It's one of those things that's beyond our control right now," Smart said.
— Seth Emerson (@SethWEmerson) September 23, 2020
Georgia has yet to release a depth chart for the game on Saturday and Kirby Smart is feeding us a ton of word salad, but there could be a different guy at quarterback for UGA. D’Wan Mathis is a tall, lanky redshirt freshman from the same high school that produced UK players Marquan McCall and Justin Rogers in Detroit. A late recruiting win in the class of 2019 when he flipped to Georgia from Ohio State, the fringe four-star had been forgotten about. However, this job may just be his.
"Like takin' candy from a baby!" ?
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 19, 2020
Mathis is the only quarterback shown in the clip released by the SEC Network and as of right we would have to assume that he is QB1 in Athens.
3. SEC Transfer Uncertainty
We all know about the Joey Gatewood saga, but there are other transfer issues going on within the Southeastern Conference. Georgia transfer Otis Reese is attempting to get eligible at Ole Miss while Georgia offensive line transfer Cade Mays is trying to get cleared at Tennessee. According to Greg Sankey, it’s not looking good.
Greg Sankey tells @jimdunaway on WJOX, regarding transferring within the SEC, that the current rule is appropriate.
— Dan Harralson (@danharralson) September 23, 2020
What that essentially means is that the SEC does not allow transfers within conference and all three players won’t be eligible this season. However, the schools aren’t going down without a fight with Jeremy Pruitt taking a stand on Wednesday while Reese is taking the battle to public. This will be something to monitor in the coming weeks.
4.) Alabama’s Loaded
Nick Saban has not gone longer than three seasons without a national championship in Tuscaloosa and this is year three following their most recent championship in 2017. They have the best roster in college football.
The Tide will start seven former five-star recruits and 11 former top-100 prospects. Only two three stars will be starting and one of those (Mac Jones) could be replaced by five-star true freshman Bryce Young at any moment. They should be considered the heavy favorites to win the SEC again.
5.) New Home for Feleipe Franks
The former Florida quarterback that everyone loved to hate the last couple of seasons has found a new home thanks to Kyle Trask taking over for the Gators. Franks immediately entered the transfer portal following the end of the 2019 regular season and moved to Arkansas.
He will be Sam Pittman’s first starting quarterback and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles has had some success at different stops in the past. Franks has a big arm and some intriguing wide receivers to deliver the ball to, but things should be pretty rough in his only year in Fayetteville.
6.) Stephen Garcia 2.0
It was very easy to make the case that Ryan Hilinski was the biggest recruit of the Will Muschamp era and the class of 2019 quarterback was going to determine if Muschamp would last at South Carolina. Well, after mediocre true freshman season the former top-100 recruit has been beaten out by a Group of Five transfer.
Is Collin Hill just Stephen Garcia?!? pic.twitter.com/Wf39KYUQGc
— Unnecessary Roughness (@UnnecRoughness) September 23, 2020
Colorado State transfer Collin Hill followed his head coach to South Carolina and new offensive coordinator Mike Bobo is rolling with a player he knows very well. Hill grew up going to games at Williams-Brice Stadium and is still playing ball despite suffering through three ACL injuries. We’ll see if he plays like him, but he looks just like the former South Carolina quarterback who made Steve Spurrier throw off his visor numerous times.
7.) Vanderbilt Could Be Historically Bad
In Derek Mason’s seventh season, the Commodores could end up having the worst SEC team we’ve seen in quite some time. Thanks to the league only schedule combined with a brand new quarterback, two brand new coordinators, a handful of opt-outs and other uncertainty, the Commodores are set to be pretty bad this season.
Vandy is currently projected to be at least a two touchdown underdog in every game they play this season and the most winnable game (Missouri) occurs on the road. It is going to be a very long season on the West End with a lot of blowouts. This new schedule will not be kind to the Commodores.
8.) LSU’s Five-Star Skill Talent
We all know the story. Joe Burrow put up the most ridiculous passing numbers we’ve ever seen and he’s now playing for the Bengals. Stud running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire is balling out for the Chiefs. Justin Jefferson is playing for the Vikings and Biletnikoff Award winner Ja’Marr Chase has decided to opt-out for 2020 before becoming a top pick in the NFL Draft. However, the cupboard isn’t empty.
At tailback, John Emery is a former five-star recruit. At wide receiver, Kayshon Boute and Terrace Marshall Jr. were former five-star recruits. We’ve already touched on Arik Gilbert who might be the best tight end in college football. The talent is still off the charts at the playmaking positions and new quarterback Myles Brennan will have plenty of weapons.
Steve Ensminger returns at offensive coordinator with Joe Brady moving to the NFL, but the Tigers have to prove the concepts they rolled with last year weren’t a fluke. No matter what happens, it won’t be because of lack of talent on the perimeter.
9.) New Egg Bowl
The lack of a traditional offseason kind of took away some buzz the new coaches at Ole Miss and Mississippi State would’ve created, but the early television schedules already tell us they are going to make a big splash one way or the other.
Lane Kiffin gets the prime noon slot on Saturday when the Rebels host Florida on ESPN with the beautiful powder blue making an appearance on the grass while Mike Leach will get the CBS broadcast as the Bulldogs head on the road to take on LSU. People are obsessed with both Kiffin and Leach so expect to make a ton of storylines in the first month of the season.
Fresh paint job for Vaught-Hemingway Stadium ? pic.twitter.com/0f7QjSE6QW
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) September 22, 2020
After that new car smell wears off, however, we’ll likely forget about them because both are projected to finish below .500 this season. However, we’ll be all in again when the Egg Bowl arrives on Thanksgiving weekend.
10.) Auburn’s Pendulum
No program in college football is more up-and-down than the Tigers from the Plains and this has been enhanced in the Gus Malzahn era. The former offensive savant has somehow dodged the hot seat a trillion times, but occasionally beating Alabama can have that effect. However, we have seen his teams alternate from really good to not so great on a year-to-year basis.
In 2013, Auburn ran the table and played in the national championship only to have most of that team return in 2014 to finish 8-5. In 2017, Auburn won the SEC West, went 10-2 in the regular season and was one win away from making the College Football Playoff. The very next year they finished 8-5 with a shocking home loss to a bad Tennessee team.
Last year we saw Auburn finish just 9-4, but that was mainly due to schedule. The Tigers had one of the sport’s best defenses with their four losses coming to teams who all finished in the top-10 of the final AP poll with wins over Alabama and Pac-12 champion Oregon. However, this year they lose a ton off that defense along with major offensive staff turnover.
The pendulum is swinging the other way and we’ll see if this is a season where Auburn finds itself in a dog fight to finish .500.