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Trouble Ahead? Some SEC Defenses Gave Up A Lot Of Big Plays

swiss cheeseThe Southeastern Conference has long been known as a defensive league.  But as we pointed out yesterday, half the league’s teams allowed 400+ yards in their curtain-raisers last week.  Granted, some teams played tougher foes — with better offenses — than others.  Still, when you see a D give up big plays early in the season, it’s often as much a product of busted assignments and confusion as it is an flashy foe.

It’s early yet.  There’s plenty of time for coaches to correct Week One mistakes.  But some coaches have more teaching to do than others.

Alabama (vs Virginia Tech), Tennessee (vs Austin Peay), LSU (vs TCU) and Missouri (vs Murray State) were the only league defenses that did not surrender 10 or more plays of 10 or more yards.  Below are the 10 SEC schools that did give up yards in chunks:

 

Florida vs Toledo — 10 plays of 10+ yards

Arkansas vs UL-Lafayette — 12 plays of 10+ yards

Ole Miss vs Vanderbilt — 12 plays of 10+ yards (six of 20+ and five of 30+)

Georgia vs Clemson — 13 plays of 10+ yards (four of 20+ and three of 30+)

South Carolina vs North Carolina — 13 plays of 10+ yards

Kentucky vs Western Kentucky — 17 plays of 10+ yards

Mississippi State vs Oklahoma State — 17 plays of 10+ yards (five of 20+)

Texas A&M vs Rice — 18 plays of 10+ yards (five of 20+)

Vanderbilt vs Ole Miss — 18 plays of 10+ yards (four of 20+)

Auburn vs Washington State — 21 plays of 10+ yards

 

Alabama and LSU — not surprisingly — looked awfully stout considering the level of their competition and the lack of big plays they allowed.

Schools like Ole Miss, Kentucky, and Texas A&M have some work to do.  They gave up big plays and they did so against teams that haven’t been traditional powerhouses on offense (though Bobby Petrino’s presence at WKU makes the Hilltoppers more dangerous).

While Auburn did have to face Mike Leach’s funky Washington State offense, it’s got to be a concern that the Cougars were able to register more than 20 plays of 10 or more yards.  We all know that teams with up-tempo offenses typically allow more yards and more points per game.  Might that already be the case on the Plains?

This is one to watch moving forward.

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Auburn Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashlee: “Not Really Overall Pleased”

Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee addresses the performance of his unit against Washington State following Monday night’s practice.

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SEC Weekend Wrap – 9/2/13

weekend-wrapFirst, a great big Happy Labor Day to all of you!  Hope you have a fun one and a safe one.

Second, we’ll be providing a quickie/bullet-pointed wrap of SEC game action each Monday during the season.  The first edition of our Weekend Wrap starts… now.

 

1.  South Carolina 27, North Carolina 10 (Thursday)

Is there anyone who hasn’t taken a shot at Jadeveon Clowney and his conditioning yet?  The bar was set too high for a player who can change a game with one or two plays.  There was no chance of him winning the Heisman Trophy because there’s not a defensive end in the country to doesn’t lose more battles than he wins.  So keeping a camera on Clowney for every play was bound to show that, yes, he can be blocked.  But even with Clowney out of shape for the UNC game, the Gamecocks still held what was a very good offense last year to 10 stinking points.  That’s USC’s D with Clowney in bad shape?  What happens when he plays himself into shape?  His coaches have spoken of his tendency to take plays off, but this writer puts him in the Nick Fairley category.  Auburn’s old defensive tackle would go series without making an impact.  Then at crunch time he’d make a game-changing play.  Clowney’s the same kind of player.  Criticize him for not being in shape, but don’t suggest he’s not as good as the hype.  Here’s guessing Georgia’s will be double-teaming his out-of-shape rump on Saturday.

 

2.  Ole Miss 39, Vanderbilt 35 (Thursday)

Let’s get this out of the way: There was nary a defense to be seen in Nashville last Thursday.  But those offenses looked pretty good.  If Bo Wallace can take care of the football this year, Ole Miss can be a fly in someone’s West Division ointment.  And while he might have lost the game, Vanderbilt seems to have found an honest-to-goodness QB in Austyn Carta-Samuels.  It was one game, but the VU passing attack (even without Chris Boyd) seems to have gotten an upgrade.

 

3.  Florida 24, Toledo 6

Jeff Driskel was efficient.  The defense was stifling.  The running game cranked out more than 250 yards on the ground.  Different season, same script for the Gators.  After years of watching Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer offenses, however, one wonders if Florida fans will be happy with winning “ugly.”  The empty seats at The Swamp were blamed on the heat and the opponent this weekend, but let’s see what attendance looks like in October and November.  Here’s hoping UF fans aren’t so spoiled that they can’t appreciate a punch-you-in-the-mouth style victory.

 

4.  Texas A&M 52, Rice 31

Backup quarterback Matt Joeckel put up some good numbers against Rice (14-of-19 for 190 with a touchdown and no picks), but it’s clear that A&M is one team with Johnny Football and another without him.  First half score without Johnny Manziel: Aggies 28, Owls 21.  Second half score with Manziel: Aggies 24, Owls 10.  Texas A&M fans need to pray their hotshot signal-caller stays healthy (and eligible).

 

5.  Oklahoma State 21, Mississippi State 3

If you’re keeping track, MSU has now lost six of its last seven contests and Dan Mullen’s record against ranked opponents is 2-17.  Bulldog fans barked a year ago when we suggested State had plateaued under Mullen.  Judging by the messageboards, a few marooners are starting to see things the same way.  Sure the season’s young and State lost to a good OSU team.  But it’s Mike Gundy’s offense that’s good, not (usually) his defense.  The Cowboys allowed 420+ yards per game last season and ranked 82nd in the nation in total defense (64th in scoring defense at 28 points allowed per game).  Mullen’s squad managed a field goal.  It’s Year Five and State has a senior/veteran QB.  If Mullen hasn’t built MSU’s offense yet…

 

6.  Arkansas 34, UL-Lafayette 14

This one probably isn’t getting the attention it deserves.  Bret Bielema’s debut win came against a bowl team from a year ago.  Both Bielema and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney had reason to smile.  Bielema saw two running backs (Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins) break the 100-yard barrier.  And the pass happy Chaney saw new quarterback Brandon Allen complete 15 of 22 passes for 230 yards, three scores and no interceptions.  It wasn’t a win over LSU, but this was a very solid — and a tad surprising — curtain-raiser for the Hogs.

 

7.  Alabama 35, Virginia Tech 10

Christion Jones 18, Virginia Tech 0.  While Alabama’s offense struggled — just 110 passing yards and just 96 rushing yards — the junior receiver/returner saved the day.  He returned a punt for a score (72 yards), a kickoff for another (94 yards), and he caught AJ McCarron’s lone TD pass of the evening (from 38 yards out).  Kudos to Jones, but Bama’s offense — especially that rebuilt offensive line — needs some work if the Tide are to win their third BCS title in a row and back-to-back SEC crowns.

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SEC Week 1 Gameday Links: Kicks Off With Florida, Ends With LSU

gameday-linksToledo at Florida

1. Opportunity for this Florida team to begin to eliminate the bitter taste of last season’s Sugar Bowl.

2. What a difference a year has made for Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel.  

Rice at Texas A&M

3. With a suspended Johnny Manziel out for the first half, can a Rice team that ended last season with a five-game winning streak give the Aggies a challenge?

4. Temperatures today at College Station are expected to reach 101 degreees.

5. Today’s game may be against Rice, but the focus for many Aggie fans is already Alabama.  ”Texas A&M’s countdown to the Alabama game officially starts at noon Saturday.”

Mississippi State vs Oklahoma State (Houston)

6. Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen is 4-0 in season openers but this is the first time he’s opened against a BCS opponent.

7. With three news starters in the secondary, the Bulldogs defense has its work cut out for it.

UL-Lafayette at Arkansas

8. As Arkansas opens the Bret Bielema era, here are 11 questions facing the Razorbacks.

9. Bielema:  ”I think we have a great chance (today) of going out and showing people what they’ve been waiting to see.”

Virginia Tech at Alabama

10. This is the fourth time in six years that Alabama has opened the season with a high profile matchup at a neutral site.

11. Alabama is perfect in season openers under Nick Saban.  Closest margin was 10 points – also against Virginia Tech.

Austin Peay at Tennessee

12. The Butch Jones era begins with all eyes on quarterback Justin Worley.

13. A Tennessee win would be its 800th in program history. Keep your eye on true freshman receiver Marquez North.

Washington State at Auburn

14. How often has Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said “new day” since he took over the Tigers program?  Only about a thousand times or so.

15. Zero interceptions for Auburn cornerbacks last season.  They’ll have plenty of opportunities against Mike Leach’s “Air Raid” offense. 94 percent of Washington State’s offense last season came through the air.

16. Washington State fans apparently enjoy their liquor.

Western Kentucky vs Kentucky (Nashville)

17. Coach Mark Stoops is the 12th coach to make his UK debut since Bear Bryant in 1946.

18. A big focus for Stoops since arriving on campus?  Restoring confidence.

Murray State at Missouri

19. Welcome back Henry Josey.  Tigers running back set to play in his first game since suffering a brutal knee injury against Texas in 2011.

20. Here’s something else the Tigers didn’t have last season – a healthy offensive line.

Georgia at Clemson

21. Never before has Georgia opened the season in a matchup featuring two top 10 teams.  That all changes tonight in Death Valley.

22. Georgia was loose in practice this week. “Emotion is ceasing to be a factor.”

23. Georgia quarterback Aarron Murray and his Clemson counterpart Tajh Boyd have known each other for five years.  Quarterback guru George Whitfield has watched them both progress to stardom.

TCU vs LSU (Arlington)

24. Third time that LSU has played at Jerry’s World.  Tigers have won last 10 season openers including eight in a row under Les Miles.

25. Lots of new things with this Tigers team.  New offensive coordinator and plenty of new faces on defense for LSU - including four true freshmen who could see playing time tonight.

26.  Will he or won’t he?  Will LSU running back Jeremy Hill see the field tonight?

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WOW Headlines – 7/31/13

A vigil for a Texas A&M freshman football player drew more than 1,000 mourners on Tuesday night…
Polo Manukainiu was killed in overnight car crash in New Mexico early Tuesday morning
Florida QB Jeff Driskel had an appendectomy on Tuesday, but he could be back at practice within two weeks
The high school coach of RB Jabo Lee says Tennessee left the now Temple-bound player “out to dry”
Auburn will hold its preseason practices in the afternoon to prepare for the team’s 6pm opener against Washington State
With two recent departures, Vanderbilt’s basketball team is down to nine scholarship players
Follow the SEC all year long at MrSEC.com and at twitter.com/mrsec

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Calling Cam: AU Turns To Heisman-Winner To Thank Ticket-Buyers

cam newton phoneEarlier this week, a number of Auburn season-ticket holders received phone calls thanking them for their support of the 2013 Tiger football team.  Those calls came from Cam Newton.

Sort of.

The former Heisman-winner at Auburn recorded a message that was used in a “robocall” campaign.  Newton’s message to the Auburn faithful:

 

“War Eagle!  This is Cam Newton.  I was blown away by the strong showing of the Auburn Family at A-Day to celebrate a new day of Auburn football.  Coach (Gus) Malzahn has developed a fast-paced, exciting, hard-nosed team that plays football the Auburn way.  I just wanted to personally thank you for your support of the team.  I know we will be rolling Toomer’s Corner again this fall.  Bring your friends to help us sell out every game and let’s create an atmosphere that propelled us to a national championship.  I look forward to seeing you at Jordan-Hare Stadium on August 31st for our season-opener against Washington State.  War Eagle!”

 

In case you’re wondering how Auburn fans plan on rolling Toomer’s Corner now that the two majestic oaks felled by Harvey Updyke have been removed, click here.  The school is planning to use strands of wire to catch the tossed toilet paper until new trees grow large enough to handle the weight on their own.

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WSU’s Leach Thinks The Only Advantage The SEC Has Is On The D-Line

gfx - they said itMike Leach has never been afraid to speak his mind.  (Or to lock a kid in an equipment shed if you believe Craig James.)  Earlier this week, Washington State’s head coach shared his thoughts about the differences between conferences… specifically, the difference between the SEC and everyone else:

 

“Everybody loves to try to talk about these differences.  Conferences want their (own identity).  ‘They’re the power conference, they’re the speed conference, they’re the skill conference.’  All that’s a bunch of baloney, I’ll tell you that.  Once you’re in one of the major conferences, everybody’s got 300-pounders, everybody’s got people that can run.  As boring as this answer is, although it’s unique and more accurate, these conferences are all the same.

The difference with the SEC that does exist — don’t think in the SEC that the skill guys are any faster or better than the skill guys in the other conferences — what I do think is different is defensive front guys.  They’ve got good speed in their defensive fronts.  In other words, in the SEC, I think, a lot of time, you’ll see teams playing with four bona fide, good-looking, talented defensive linemen, where I do think that other conferences are playing with two or something like that.

After that, I’m telling you, not to dash any hopes, they’re very similar and remarkably the same.”

 

There’s no question that Leach knows what he’s talking about as he’s coached all over, including in the SEC.  But the fact that NFL teams draft more SEC players each year than players from other leagues tempers his statement just a bit.

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Ex-Mizzou O-Coordinator Yost: “It Got To A Point Where I Didn’t Love My Job”

david-yostAfter the 2012 season ended with a disappointing 5-7 record, Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel announced there would be no changes on his staff.  Just days later, offensive coordinator David Yost resigned… after 12 years at Missouri and 17 years with Pinkel.

Yost told CBSSports.com that he intended to sit out this season and re-charge his batteries, so to speak, but instead he’ll be coaching receivers — and only receivers — at Washington State under second-year coach Mike Leach.  So what happened at Mizzou:

 

“I’d just gotten tired.  I didn’t want to do it anymore…

I always loved my job, looked forward to it.  It got to a point where I didn’t love my job…

When I was single, I coached.  I was an office rat.  I was good.  It was great.  Over time you get married.  You have your first, your second, your third child.  When I moved to coordinator I didn’t do a good enough job delegating off things….

I’m working right now to make sure I don’t get in a heavy workload.  When my family gets here I want to make sure I have time for them, it gives me a chance to kind of reinvent myself.”

 

The NCAA’s recent decision to remove contact limitations and dead periods from its recruiting rules might impact Yost’s plan for a less busy lifestyle.

Pinkel replaced Yost by promoting co-offensive line coach Josh Henson to offensive coordinator in December.  Receivers coach Andy Hill was moved over to quarterbacks to fill Yost’s other duties.

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SEC Headlines – 11/12/12

Apologies for a quickie headline post today.  Too much going on with coaching searches and phone calls to check on coaching searches.

 

1.  Gene Chizik believes he can turn things around at Auburn.

2.  Is Alabama becoming too pass happy?

3.  Here are this week’s SEC football Players of the Week.

4.  Bowl projections for everyone.

5.  The SEC’s BCS title streak is in jeopardy now.

6.  Is Texas A&M proving that big, bad SEC defenses can be taken down by “an offense imported from Conference USA.”

7.  Pushing hard to land an SEC job, could Tommy Tuberville’s slap of a grad assistant hurt his chances?

8.  Meet the SEC’s hoops Players of the Week.

9.  TCU’s Gary Patterson sorta/kinda denies the Arkansas rumors.

10.  Mike Leach says he won’t be leaving Washington State this offseason.

11.  Ex-Ohio State coach Jim Tressel says there’s “no substance” to rumors that he might land at Kentucky.

12.  Mississippi State fans can tell you that it’s never good to be described as “reeling.”

13.  Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel is doubtful for Saturday’s game with Jacksonville State due to a sprained ankle.

14. From bad to worse: Tennessee loses linebacker Curt Maggitt to an ACL tear.

15.  Vanderbilt coach James Franklin said “that wound has healed” when asked about Derek Dooley’s postgame celebration after UT beat Vandy last year.

16.  Texas A&M was simply the better team in Tuscaloosa on Saturday.

17.  South Carolina opened the Frank Martin era with a win over Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

18.  Ready for another Kentucky-Duke hoops clash tomorrow?

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Ticket Sales Are Down At Ole Miss (As Should Have Been Expected)

What do you get when you add together a 6-18 record over two seasons, a 1-15 SEC record over that span, a third coaching change since 2004, three straight losses to your biggest rival, a new coach with a very limited track record, a fundraising campaign that requires a donation on top of the cost of tickets, the continued growth of HD television and the number of games broadcast each week, and a poor global economy?

A drop in season ticket sales at Ole Miss, that’s what.  According to The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, UM ticket sales are down about 3,000 from this point last year.  Of its 45,000 season tickets, the school has sold only about 32,000 so far (not counting student tix).

New AD Ross Bjork acknowledges the problem:

 

“We got some work to do.  There’s not doubt about that.  We just have to keep talking, keep pushing, keep selling…

Get people to believe we can get this thing turned around and invest now because of the vision for the program.  That’s been our message.  ‘Hey, we know we’ve had some bumps along the road the last couple of years, but get in now because we’re building this program the right way.’”

 

This is one of the ironies of college football.  Fans vote with their wallets and in Ole Miss’ case last year, the fans voted to oust Houston Nutt.  But rarely do season ticket sales jump after a coaching change is made — unless a school brings in a major name (more on that in a second).  Most fans take a wait-and-see approach with the new guy’s regime before spending cash to return to the stadium.  So schools often nuke a coach because of attendance issues, yet those attendance issues aren’t often fixed simply by nuking said coach.

As for a “major name,” one wonders if season ticket sales in Oxford would be going a bit better today had the Rebels tabbed Mike Leach as their new coach instead of Hugh Freeze.  Leach is a wild card and there’s a reason he’s coached in Lubbock, Texas and Pullman, Washington… two towns about as far off the beaten path as a man can get.  But Leach was available.  And he had an immediate impact at the ticket window at Washington State.  From a wins and losses standpoint and from a ticket sales standpoint, Freeze and the Rebels will forever be compared to Leach and the Cougars.  Fair or not.

It’ll be fun to see who turns things around first.  (And, yes, Rebel fans, the Pac-12 is an easier league than the SEC, but that won’t stop the comparisons that you know are coming.)

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