Monday, August 15, 2011
Recapping the SEC scrimmages
By Chris Low
Here's a quick recap of some of the scrimmages around the league this past weekend:
Alabama: Coach Nick Saban declined to hand out any statistics on the quarterbacks from Alabama's scrimmage on Saturday, further clouding who's ahead in the race between AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims. Saban said scrimmage stats can be misleading. It sure sounds like senior receiver Marquis Maze is having a big preseason. He caught five passes for 123 yards and three touchdowns. It also doesn't sound like Saban was overly impressed with the running game on Saturday. The Crimson Tide are still working different combinations up front. True freshman Cyrus Kouandjio is getting a look at left tackle. Here's a little more information on the scrimmage from Alabama's official web site.
Auburn: Coming out of Saturday's scrimmage, Auburn coach Gene Chizik said the quarterbacks did some "nice things," but said there was still not enough separation to name a starter. The longer this goes, the more it sounds like true freshman Kiehl Frazier is going to be a real factor for the Tigers this season at quarterback. Chizik said several jobs remain wide open, and defensive coordinator Ted Roof was able to get a look at a ton of young players. Running back Mike Dyer and offensive tackle A.J. Greene were held out of the closed scrimmage with undisclosed injuries. Here's a video courtesy of Andy Bitter of The Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer with the three quarterbacks talking about the competition.
Kentucky: Coach Joker Phillips said the first-team defense probably had the upper hand in the Wildcats' first scrimmage of the preseason on Saturday, but first-year defensive coordinator Rick Minter was lamenting the fact that the defense didn't create any turnovers. That's been an emphasis in Minter's new scheme. Kentucky was missing three starting offensive linemen (left tackle Chandler Burden, left guard Stuart Hines and center Matt Smith) because of injuries. Phillips noted that he thought junior quarterback Morgan Newton threw the ball well and took a step forward.
LSU: Coach Les Miles was pleased with some of the big plays in the Tigers' passing game from Saturday's scrimmage and singled out Russell Shepard, but Miles also said the Tigers weren't ready yet to play a game. Miles said Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee both had big days throwing the ball. Shepard had the longest scoring play of the day. The Tigers are banged up right now on the offensive line. Josh Dworaczyk, Chris Faulk, Will Blackwell, Evan Washington and La'El Collins have all been injured. One of the best battles on defense is for the middle linebacker spot between Kevin Minter and Karnell Hatcher, who's moving over from safety. Here's a link to The Baton Rouge Advocate's story from the closed scrimmage.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs scrimmaged last Friday, and coach Dan Mullen said he would give that round to the offense. Mullen said senior quarterback Chris Relf was sharp at times, but added that all of the quarterbacks had their sloppy moments. One of the real positives for the Bulldogs is that it looks like tight end Marcus Green will be healthy to start the season after tearing his ACL a year ago.
Ole Miss: The Rebels went through their first full-scale scrimmage of the preseason on Saturday and are still unsure who their starting quarterback will be to open the season. None of the three quarterbacks was able to consistently move the offense, and there was very little rhythm in the passing game. Barry Brunetti and Randall Mackey both made a few plays running the ball, but offensive coordinator David Lee said there has to be more consistency throwing the ball. Coach Houston Nutt said defensive ends Kentrell Lockett and Wayne Dorsey were hard to miss on the defensive side, and Nutt also said freshman linebacker C.J. Johnson played with consistency.
South Carolina: Coach Steve Spurrier wasn't in the bragging mood after the Gamecocks' first scrimmage of the preseason Saturday and said they looked like the seventh best offense in the league and the seventh best defense. That may be, but there were still some positive signs. It looks like Bruce Ellington, the point guard on the basketball team, is going to be a playmaker for the Gamecocks. He got some snaps at quarterback in the Wildcat formation and made some things happen. Spurrier was very impressed with sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw's outing. Shaw was 9-of-11 for 142 yards and two touchdowns. Stephen Garcia is still the starter, but Shaw is pushing hard. Also, freshman defensive end Jadeveon Clowney made his presence felt with a pair of sacks. South Carolina's official web site has a complete report on the scrimmage, including video interviews with several players.
Tennessee: Coming out of the Vols' second scrimmage of the preseason on Saturday, coach Derek Dooley felt much better about the way sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray ran the offense as opposed to the first scrimmage. Dooley said Bray was in command and managed the offense well, although Dooley would still like to see the Vols hit more big plays down the field when they have opportunities. Kicking field goals has been a problem for Tennessee the past few seasons, but Michael Palardy was 4-for-4, including a 52-yarder. On defense, true freshman linebackers A.J. Johnson and Curt Maggitt are pushing hard for starting spots. Maggitt has drawn rave reviews from the Vols' coaching staff. Here's a rundown from the scrimmage thanks to Tennessee's official web site.
Vanderbilt: Freshman running backs Jerron Seymour and Mitchell Hester both caught their head coach's eye in Saturday's scrimmage. James Franklin said the 5-foot-7 Seymour has been tough for anybody to tackle all preseason and is always gaining extra yardage. Senior quarterback Larry Smith was 10-of-25 for 152 yards and two touchdowns. One of those touchdowns was to Jordan Matthews, who made a leaping 40-yard grab over two defenders. The Commodores need Matthews to be that big-play threat for them this season, something they haven't had the past two seasons at the receiver position.