Monday, April 2, 2012
SEC weekend scrimmage recap
By Chris Low
A quick recap of the weekend scrimmages around the SEC:
It looks like junior quarterback AJ McCarron has picked up where he left off in the BCS National Championship Game. McCarron finished 25-of-43 for 290 yards, three touchdowns and an interception last Saturday in the Crimson Tide's first full scrimmage of the spring.
Alabama coach Nick Saban said McCarron was "very commanding" under center, and Saban said he's been impressed with how the receivers have been able to get onto the same page with McCarron. Sophomore Christion Jones had a pair of touchdown catches. Kevin Norwood also caught a touchdown pass. The freshman receiver who's caught Saban's eye is Amari Cooper. Sophomore DeAndrew White also got off to a good start this spring, but is now battling a pulled hamstring.
On defense, Vinnie Sunseri and junior college newcomer Deion Belue both returned interceptions for touchdowns. Belue is competing for a starting cornerback job. Saban said John Fulton is also having a good spring and in that mix. Another junior college newcomer to watch is Travell Dixon, who's working at both cornerback and the "star" position, which is the nickel back role when the Crimson Tide go to five defensive backs.
Some of the best news for the Crimson Tide last Saturday was that their kickers were a combined 7-of-8 on field goals. Jeremy Shelley was 4-of-4, and Cade Foster was 3-of-4. Foster's only miss was from 54 yards and was blocked by Nico Johnson.
Here's a report from the scrimmage on Alabama's official web site, and it includes stats and pictures.
There wasn't any shortage of offense in the Hogs' scrimmage last Friday, and not surprisingly, senior quarterback Tyler Wilson was the catalyst. He passed for 310 yards and four touchdowns. Star running back Knile Davis was held out of contact, but Dennis Johnson was plenty productive in his absence with 75 yards on 12 carries. Johnson also scored three touchdowns.
Senior Cobi Hamilton had a big day catching the ball and so did sophomore Marquel Wade, who caught seven passes for 149 yards and three touchdowns.
The first-team offense scored on seven of its first 10 possessions. The Hogs' defense struggled to stop the run at times, which was a problem last season. Sophomore cornerback Tevin Mitchel didn't participate in the scrimmage after suffering a hamstring pull earlier in the day.
The Tigers' first scrimmage of the spring featured a couple of long touchdown passes by sophomore quarterback Kiehl Frazier, who connected with Emory Blake and Travante Stallworth. Clint Moseley didn't participate in the scrimmage. He's been plagued by a sore throwing shoulder.
The running back job is wide open, and Corey Grant made his case Saturday with several nice runs. His teammates were raving about his explosiveness through the hole.
On defense, first-year coordinator Brian VanGorder felt like his guys made a positive step, although giving up the big play continues to be a problem.
"You can't do that and be a good defense," VanGorder said.
VanGorder was pleased with Kris Frost's improvement at linebacker and also liked what he saw from Jawara White at middle linebacker.
The defense has been the story for much of this spring for the Bulldogs, and that was again the story Saturday in their first full scrimmage.
While piling up 12 sacks, the defense also saw the offense break through with a few plays, namely redshirt freshman tight end Jay Rome. He caught a 30-yard touchdown pass and had another scoring grab down on the goal line where he made an acrobatic play in the corner of the end zone.
Several of the Georgia players also had high praise for freshman running back Keith Marshall.
Safety Shawn Williams had 4.5 tackles, two pass breakups and an interception to lead the defense.
Zach Mettenberger threw two second-quarter touchdown passes to lead the White to a 24-17 win over the Purple on Saturday in LSU's National L Club spring game.
Mettenberger finished 14-of-25 for 270 yards and threw touchdown passes of 49 yards to Odell Beckham, Jr. and 18 yards to Russell Shepard. Alfred Blue led all rushers with 73 yards on nine carries.
Mettenberger also threw a pair of interceptions, one of those returned 74 yards by freshman linebacker Lamar Louis for the Purple's final touchdown.
Safety Eric Reid also returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown to put the White ahead 21-0 in the second quarter.
There weren't any iron-clad answers at quarterback for the Rebels in their scrimmage last Friday.
Barry Brunetti had the best day. He was 7-of-10 for 80 yards and threw touchdown passes of 30 yards and 15 yards to Ja-Mes Logan.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said evaluating the quarterbacks was even more difficult because the Rebels continue to struggle in the offensive line.
After a slow start, Bo Wallace finished strong. He was also able to run the ball with some success.
The Gamecocks held their second major scrimmage last Saturday, and Steve Spurrier wasn't thrilled with the passing game.
"I hope we don't have to run the ball all the time next year, but if we can't throw it very well, that's what we'll do," said Spurrier, who was especially frustrated by the sacks his offense allowed.
He said Connor Shaw has to get better at throwing the ball away and not taking sacks.
"Connor (Shaw) must have had four sacks today in 10 passes," Spurrier said. "He’s got to throw the ball somewhere and get it out of his hands a little quicker. The other quarterbacks were not real accurate at times, but we hit a few here and there.”
Star running back Marcus Lattimore, still recovering from knee surgery, didn't scrimmage.
Jared Shaw returned a Dylan Thompson interception 38 yards for a touchdown.
Vanderbilt coach James Franklin was pleased with the way his first-team offense performed in the red zone in last Saturday's scrimmage, but said the Commodores have work to do between the 20's. He also wants to see his defense do a better job with its back to the goal line.
""There's a feeling sometimes, especially with a young team, that when you get in the red zone, it's OK to give up points, and offensively, it should be easier to score," Franklin said. "We need to make sure that we have the same mentality on offense, whether we are on the minus five or the plus five, and defensively, whether we are on the minus one or plus one, that we have the mentality that we're going to stop them."
Quarterback Jordan Rodgers was 11-of-17 for 83 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a touchdown.