Dallas Colleges: Anthony Steen

What we learned in the SEC: Week 4

September, 22, 2013
9/22/13
10:00
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It might have been a down weekend for the SEC, but there is still plenty to talk about from Saturday's action. Here are five things we learned around the conference in Week 4:

[+] Enlarge Jeremy Hill
Crystal LoGiudice/USA TODAY SportsLSU running back Jeremy Hill (33) torched Auburn for 183 yards and three touchdowns.
LSU is a legitimate title contender: We won’t know for sure until next week when the Tigers travel to Athens to play Georgia, but LSU looked mighty impressive in its 35-21 win against Auburn on Saturday. The Tigers were physically dominant in the first half, especially on the offensive line. Jeremy Hill rushed for a career-high 152 yards and three touchdowns by the intermission. Auburn fought back in the second half, but LSU proved to be too much. Zach Mettenberger threw his first interception of the season, but he responded with two long scoring drives. The senior quarterback finished 14-of-22 for 229 yards with a touchdown and the one pick. The defense still has some question marks that need to be answered before next week.

The nation’s No. 1 team has work to do: Alabama is coming off back-to-back national championships, but this year’s team is far from perfect. Last week, the defense had no answers for Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel. On Saturday, it was the Crimson Tide’s offense that struggled. Alabama knocked off Colorado State, 31-6, in the home opener, but the Tide had just one offensive touchdown going into the fourth quarter. It didn’t help that star running back T.J. Yeldon was suspended for the first quarter, and the Tide were without wide receiver Amari Cooper and offensive guard Anthony Steen, but Alabama still should have dominated against such an inferior opponent. They rushed for just 66 yards in the game.

Florida has a new quarterback: Jeff Driskel had his ups and downs this year, but he was basically the only option Florida had at quarterback. Now he’s no longer an option. Driskel broke his lower right leg in the first quarter against Tennessee, an injury that will force him to miss the rest of the season. Enter Tyler Murphy. The junior signal-caller, who had yet to throw a pass, was 8-of-14 for 134 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 84 yards and a score and helped Florida pull away from the Volunteers, 31-17. Murphy was a two-star recruit coming out of high school, but now he’s the starting quarterback for the Gators. He’ll make his first start next weekend when Florida hits the road to take on Kentucky.

It was a rough day for the new head coaches: The SEC features four first-year head coaches this season, and not a single one picked up a victory Saturday. Gus Malzahn and Butch Jones faced difficult road tests against better opponents. Auburn lost to No. 6 LSU in Death Valley, and despite a strong start, Tennessee came up short against Florida. The one that hurt the most was Brett Bielema’s Arkansas team and its collapse against Rutgers. The Razorbacks led 24-7 late in the third quarter, but Rutgers rallied in the fourth to win, 28-24. What makes it worse for the Hogs is that their next four opponents are all ranked in the top 20, beginning with Texas A&M next week. Kentucky’s Mark Stoops, the other first-year coach, had the weekend off.

Don’t sleep on Missouri: At the same time LSU was holding off a late comeback from Auburn, Missouri was running up the score on the road at Indiana. The Hoosiers might be a basketball school, but if you remember, Missouri lost to Syracuse late in the season last year, which kept the Tigers out of the postseason. More importantly, quarterback James Franklin is healthy. The senior threw for 343 yards, rushed for 61 yards and scored a combined three touchdowns against Indiana. He has now accounted for more than 1,000 yards of offense through the first three games. The Tigers aren’t likely to compete for the SEC East, but this team looks like a bowl team.

Bama tuning out hype of rematch with A&M

September, 11, 2013
9/11/13
12:12
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Not many of Alabama’s players watched No. 6 Texas A&M host Sam Houston State over the weekend. The truth is they didn't miss much. The 37-point blowout was little more than a tuneup for the Aggies. But Alabama's players couldn't have named the score if they were asked to. Many, if not most, of them were too busy relaxing on their off week to find the nonconference game on the television dial.

Anthony Steen, the Tide's veteran right guard, was out at the lake. AJ McCarron didn't even know the game would be televised.

"Were they on TV?" Alabama's senior quarterback asked. At the very least, it was available online. "I don't have a laptop so …"

[+] EnlargeManziel
Thomas Campbell/USA TODAY SportsAlabama will have to deal with Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M's raucous crowd this weekend.
There was no follow-up question, though his trailing voice certainly left room to ask about his cell phone and tablet situations. It's hard to believe that an athlete in this day and age could be without some method of accessing the internet. At least then he might have been able to get a taste for what the environment at Kyle Field will be like on Saturday when the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide travel there to face Texas A&M.

It was typical McCarron nonchalance. He wasn't too concerned with anything when he spoke to the media on Monday. When asked, he said he had no plans to communicate with his friend, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, this week. The last time the two spoke, he said, was at SEC media days in July. And then, he added: "We're just friends, guys. Y'all make this thing a lot bigger than it needs to be."

Downplaying the significance of their relationship was understandable. But downplaying the significance of the game they'll play in just a few days wasn't possible. For the first time since 1988, Alabama is going to College Station to play a football game.

And that was enough to get McCarron excited.

"It's going to be a fun experience," he said. "Their whole 12th Man and everything, it's going to be a very cool experience for myself. Hopefully it'll be a good experience."

Steen said he watched the Aggies home opener two weeks ago and thought the crowd noise wasn't as bad as he expected. Still, it will be an obstacle for an offensive line that had difficulty communicating in its season opener against Virginia Tech in Atlanta two weeks ago.

"Things weren’t as loud as people say it is at 12th Man Stadium," he said. "We expect to not be able to hear each other, especially our center making the calls. We just have to stay focused and each and every person on the offensive line has to know all the calls for every position."

Steen, like so many of his teammates, downplayed the hype surrounding the game. There was no talk of revenge or retribution, just winning.

"It’s just one of those things where it’s in the back of your head that you lost last year, so you want to try that much harder to make sure you win this year," Steen said.

"I guess for some people it does [add motivation], but for me it’s another game and I know we’ve got to win it and I’m not going to go out there and come out flat. I’m going to go out there and try to play the best game I can."

Amari Cooper, Alabama's star wideout, said he doesn't watch TV and that and a Saturday’s trip to Kyle Field is only one step of many.

"We don't buy into the hype here," Cooper said. "I think all the hype is really irrelevant because at the end of the day you have to go out there and play your game. All the hype is really not real, you know, the things they say on TV and stuff like that. It doesn't line up with what's really going on."

Manziel's Total QBR proves eye test correct

August, 21, 2013
8/21/13
2:30
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Nearly everyone who watched Johnny Manziel run circles around opposing defenses last season agreed that the Texas A&M star was the nation’s top quarterback in 2012.

A new statistical measure that ESPN will introduce to college football this season -- Total QBR (Quarterback Rating), which it brought to the NFL a couple of years ago -- confirms that Manziel’s 2012 performance did more than just pass the eye test.

Of the 122 qualified quarterbacks, the Heisman Trophy winner led the nation with a 90.5 Total QBR.

Here is a primer on the similar NFL QBR, which explains how the metric attempts to explain everything a quarterback does: running, passing, sacks, fumbles and penalties. It measures a player on a 1-100 scale, where 50 is average.

Sharon Katz of ESPN Stats and Information recently explained how Total QBR is an important measuring stick for teams harboring BCS championship hopes. Four of the last five quarterbacks who helped their teams win the BCS title ranked in the nation’s top eight in QBR.

That might be an important statistic to watch for the six SEC teams who are ranked in the top 12 in the Associated Press preseason poll: No. 1 Alabama (AJ McCarron was eighth nationally last season with an 81.1 QBR), No. 5 Georgia (Aaron Murray, 13th with 78.4), No. 6 South Carolina (Connor Shaw, 38th with 64.6), No. 7 Texas A&M (Manziel), No. 10 Florida (Jeff Driskel, 51st with 59.1) and No. 12 LSU (Zach Mettenberger, 80th with 47.0).

If the annual QBR trends hold true, some of those players must considerably improve their consistency if their team is to snatch a spot in the championship game in Pasadena.

McCarron, however, might simply need to hold steady in order to lead the defending champion Crimson Tide to yet another spot in the title game. That could prove trickier than one might expect for Alabama’s senior star, who has a wealth of skill talent at his disposal, but will line up behind a rebuilt offensive line this fall.

In a recent blog post, ESPN.com’s Tobin Petipas examined the Tide’s o-line from 2012 -- a group that featured the same starting five in all 14 games and ranked among the most dominant offensive fronts in recent memory. Three starters -- D.J. Fluker, Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones -- became 2013 NFL draft picks, leaving behind only elite NFL prospect Cyrus Kouandijo at left tackle and right guard Anthony Steen, who was actually the only member of the group who did not commit a penalty or allow a sack last season.

Nonetheless, it will be difficult for Alabama’s rebuilt offensive line to provide the same dominant effort that allowed McCarron and the Tide’s running backs to perform so effectively in 2012. Alabama’s running backs averaged an SEC-high 4.1 yards per carry before first contact and were not touched until five yards past the line of scrimmage on a whopping 34.6 percent of their carries thanks in large part to the big holes the offensive line created.

Further, McCarron passed for 13 touchdowns and no interceptions off play-action fakes last season, largely because of the fear that Alabama’s rushing attack struck into opponents’ hearts.

New offensive line coach Mario Cristobal has no shortage of talent at his disposal, but his two returning starters are the only players in his meeting room who have started a game.

The Tide’s rushing production and McCarron’s Total QBR numbers could slide if Cristobal’s line struggles to adjust, but we should learn quickly how much of a concern the line will be for Nick Saban’s club. Alabama opens against a typically stout Virginia Tech defense, which ranked in the top six in FBS in negative plays forced and quarterback pressures (hurries and knockdowns) last fall.

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