SEC: Clint Moseley
Auburn is bringing a very familiar and successful face back to the Plains with the hiring of Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn as the Tigers' new coach.
After just one season with the Red Wolves, Malzahn is headed back to Auburn to take over for Gene Chizik, his former boss, who was fired after going 3-9 in his fourth season as Auburn's coach.
Malzahn's return brings hope that offensive competence resurfaces on the Plains. This past season was abysmal for the Tigers' offense. With Malzahn taking his act to Arkansas State, where he promptly went 9-3 and won a Sun Belt championship, and Scot Loeffler taking over, Auburn's offense shifted from the spread to a more pro-style look.
But without Malzahn's guidance -- or offense -- the Tigers were last in the SEC in total offense, mustering just 305 yards per game. Auburn shuffled around three starting quarterbacks, averaging 156 passing yards a game in the process, and scored fewer than 20 points seven times, including two shutouts in the final three weeks of the season.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Auburn's offense scored 48 fewer touchdowns and had 41 fewer 20-yard plays than the 2010 unit headed by Malzahn.
With Malzahn back, the hope is there will be an immediate offensive turnaround. Remember, when he stepped in as the offensive coordinator in 2009, he whipped that offense into shape right from the start. In 2008, the Tigers were one of the SEC's worst offensive teams, but by the end of the 2009 season, Auburn was second in the SEC, averaging 431.8 yards of offense per game, which was nearly 130 more yards a game than 2008.
Malzahn isn't expected to duplicate his 2010 success -- he just can't without a Cam Newton on campus -- but he should make the offense considerably better with his fingerprints on the playbook. He has a talented backfield to work with, starting with running backs Tre Mason, Mike Blakely and Corey Grant. He also has three quarterbacks in Jonathan Wallace, Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley, who all have dual-threat ability, which is what Malzahn's offense needs to succeed.
It should be especially exciting to see how Wallace responds. He took over as the starting quarterback late in the season, and showed some promise as both a runner and passer.
An immediate criticism will be that Malzahn won't have Newton to work with. He's 25-13 since 2009 without him. His teams score 10 fewer points and average about 84 fewer yards without him. But Malzhan did pretty well for himself this season at Arkansas State without Newton.
Here are some interesting Arkansas State stats courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information:
- Arkansas State is currently 40 yards shy of tying the school record for total yards in a season (currently at 5,782).
- The Red Wolves average 481.8 yards per game, which is on pace to break the school record of 447.8 set last season.
- The team currently averages 6.5 yards per play, which is on pace to break the school record of 6.0 set in 2008.
- 5.2 yards per rush would break the school record of 5.1 set in 1989.
- Arkansas State has scored 437 points this season, 19 shy of the school record.
Obviously, SEC defenses are tougher to beat than Sun Belt ones, but Malzahn should have his successes. In his three years as Auburn's offensive coordinator, the Tigers won 30 games, scored 33.6 points per game and averaged 424.9 yards of offense, including 227.8 on the ground, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
It also will help that he's extremely familiar with how things work at Auburn and the culture on the Plains. Fans know him and know what he can do. But with that comfort will come higher expectations. He'll have the usual grace period, but fans are very restless in Auburn, and they expect Malzahn to come in and clean off some of the mud splattered on the program in 2012.
This wasn't the sexiest hire for Auburn, but it's one the administration thinks will get this program back on track and back on the scoreboard.
The season has been a mess. The Tigers are 1-7, own the SEC's worst offense and have the second-worst defense in the league. Coach Gene Chizik and athletic director Jay Jacobs are feeling the heat as a program that won the national championship in 2010 is sinking deeper and deeper in the SEC.
But this weekend will bring some smiling faces to the Plains. Not only will the Tigers gain their second win of the season when New Mexico State comes to town, but they'll also officially find their new quarterback in true freshman Jonathan Wallace.
We'd heard about him in fall camp. He's received praise from players and coaches about his athleticism and practice habits before. Some thought he might have a legitimate chance of really competing for the starting spot at the beginning of the season. The staff went instead with Kiehl Frazier as Clint Moseley dealt with a shoulder injury.
Well, better late than never.
It's Wallace's time, and after an impressive showing last week in relief duty (122 passing yards and two touchdowns/71 rushing yards) he'll show everyone that he can lead this Auburn team.
Wallace has all of the physical tools to be a solid player and he'll provide a spark with his ability to pass and throw. He'll also take advantage of a New Mexico State defense that is giving up 460.9 yards per game (102nd nationally) and 265.8 passing yards per game (99th).
Wallace works like a veteran away from the field. He's meticulous in his film study and in the way he buries his head in his playbook. He knows that playbook and he's been waiting for a while to show everyone just how well.
Some think Wallace should have been handed the keys to Auburn's offense much earlier, but with all this time to sit back and watch and learn and study, Wallace will be more than ready to take on New Mexico State.
He might show nerves early with that home crowd looking down on him, but he'll eventually settle into a nice rhythm. Once he gets going, the Tigers might really have quarterback controversy on their hands.
Chizik announced on Tuesday that true freshman Jonathan Wallace will start for the Tigers on Saturday when they take on New Mexico State. Clint Moseley went down with an ankle injury last Saturday in Auburn's blowout loss to Texas A&M, and Wallace was much more impressive than fellow backup Kiehl Frazier. Moseley is still nursing his injury, so Wallace will take his place this weekend.
Wallace came off the bench to toss two touchdown passes and Chizik said that Wallace could provide a much-needed spark for Auburn's struggling offense. The Tigers are at the bottom of the barrel in both the SEC and nationally when it comes to offense and it's not like things could get much worse at this point.
Wallace completed six of his nine passes for 122 yards and ran the ball 13 times for 71 yards against the Aggies. He's very young, but when you're 1-7 and nothing is going right, you have to change something, and going with Wallace is the right move.
Even if Moseley was able to come back from his ankle injury this week, it's probably time to go in another direction. Neither Mosley nor Frazier were doing enough, so it's the rookie's turn at running this offense.
- Alabama is loving life on the road this season.
- Kevin Scarbinsky of the Birmingham News writes that Auburn needs more than just a coaching change, it needs a regime change.
- Clint Moseley was named Auburn's starting quarterback for Saturday.
- Florida linebacker Jelani Jenkins hopes to contribute more for the Gators this weekend.
- Georgia is looking to create some running room against Florida this weekend.
- Kentucky freshman cornerback Cody Quinn is rising quickly with hard work and confidence.
- LSU punter Brad Wing says there's no denying it, "It's Bama week."
- Mississippi State wide receiver Robert Johnson finally gets his number called.
- The little things matter to Missouri wide receiver T.J. Moe.
- Arkansas shouldn't slow Ole Miss' progress on Saturday.
- South Carolina offensive tackle Brandon Shell navigates freshman year with help from his great uncle Art.
- Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore is maturing into a consistent performer for the Aggies.
- Vanderbilt's schedule provides the chance for a fast finish.
The day belonged to Zac Stacy.
The senior running back became Vanderbilt’s all-time rushing leader with 169 yards on 27 carries, helping the Commodores hold off Auburn, 17-13, on Saturday. He broke the record on a 27-yard run late in the fourth quarter, which helped put the game out of reach.
The win moves Vanderbilt to 3-4, 2-3 in the SEC, and keeps its bowl hopes alive. Stacy, an Alabama native, now has 2,669 career rushing yards, passing Frank Mordica to become the school’s all-time leader. It was his second 100-yard game of the season, and he also scored a touchdown midway through the third quarter to give the Commodores the lead for good.
For Auburn, the loss drops them to 1-6 on the year and 0-5 in the SEC. The lone bright spot for the Tigers was sophomore running back Tre Mason, who rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown, but the Tigers couldn’t find any consistency from the quarterback position, a theme that has plagued them all season.
Starter Clint Moseley finished 14 of 20 for just 98 yards. True freshman signal caller Jonathan Wallace came in to give Auburn a spark, but it wasn’t enough. Wallace completed his only pass attempt of the game for 11 yards.
With three remaining SEC games against Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama, there’s a good chance Auburn finishes winless in the conference for the first time since 1980.
Then again, he didn't have a lot of people around him on offense playing well, either.
The Tigers had no choice. They had to give somebody else a shot at quarterback, and that's what they're doing with junior Clint Moseley, who will replace Frazier as the starter Saturday at Ole Miss.
Frazier had thrown just two touchdown passes and eight interceptions in his five starts. The Tigers (1-4, 0-3) have yet to score more than 10 points in any of their three SEC games this season.
Moseley played the second half last week in the 24-7 loss to Arkansas, but this will be his first start since last season, when he started the final six games.
It was difficult for the Auburn coaches to evaluate Moseley in the preseason because he was plagued by shoulder problems and just didn't have any zip on the ball. The Tigers are looking for any spark they can get on offense, although this is anything but a new problem.
In their past 10 SEC games dating back to last season, they've been held to 17 or fewer points nine times.
1. Alabama (5-0; LW: 1): The Tide was off last week, so it didn't have a chance to widen its lead on the SEC and the rest of the country. The last thing Alabama's upcoming opponents want is a rested Tide team. I can only imagine the extra work Nick Saban put his team through in order to clean up all those little things.
2. South Carolina (6-0; LW: 4): The Gamecocks completely dominated Georgia over the weekend. South Carolina's offense is extremely balanced and looks like it can just jump on Marcus Lattimore's shoulders at this point. He's just getting stronger and stronger. The defense is smothering up front and stopping that defensive line has been a nightmare for teams. But road games at LSU and Florida will be tough.
3. Florida (5-0; LW: 5): The Gators might not have the most exciting offense, but that defense is tremendous. Florida put a load of pressure on LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger over the weekend and clobbered the Tigers' running game. Behind Mike Gillislee, the Gators pounded LSU with their running game, but the passing game is still a concern. If Florida can get more through the air, this offense could start to really give defenses fits.
4. LSU (5-1; LW: 2): It's obvious that the Tigers can't put everything on their defense. Even with how talented LSU is on the defensive side of the ball, the offense needs major work, especially in the passing game. Mettenberger hasn't come close to living up to the hype and just doesn't look comfortable standing in LSU's pocket. The running game was one of the SEC's best, but was quieted against Florida because there just wasn't the threat to pass. No offensive balance could doom this team.
5. Georgia (5-1; LW: 3): The concern about the defense continues to grow after the Bulldogs' 28-point loss to the Gamecocks. USC was intent on running and Georgia couldn't do anything to stop it, allowing 232 rushing yards. Jarvis Jones has been a non-factor for the past two weeks and Aaron Murray's big-game struggles came right back in Columbia, S.C. The good news is the Bulldogs have the SEC East's easiest schedule from here on out.
6. Mississippi State (5-0; LW: 6): These Bulldogs weren't flashy, but they were very efficient against Kentucky. Tyler Russell is one of seven FBS quarterbacks with 10-plus passing touchdowns and fewer than two interceptions this season, while LaDarius Perkins is the only player in the SEC to be in the top two in rushing yards per game (99.8) and all-purpose yards per game (130.0). That defense has been pretty stout as well, as the Bulldogs have trailed for just 10:19 this season.
7. Texas A&M (4-1; LW: 7): Johnny Manziel grabbed hero status in Oxford, Miss., over the weekend. The redshirt freshman quarterback led the Aggies to 13 straight points in the fourth quarter, after trailing Ole Miss by 10. He had a nifty 29-yard touchdown run to trim the Rebels' lead to four and then found Ryan Swope for the game-winning 20-yard touchdown pass with 1:46 remaining. What's more impressive is the Aggies got the win despite committing six turnovers.
8. Tennessee (3-2; LW: 8): The Vols were off, but have a very important matchup with Mississippi State this weekend. We finally saw good balance out of the Vols against an SEC opponent in their shootout loss to Georgia two weeks ago, but most of the extra time Tennessee had better have been devoted to doing something about that defense. The Vols are 13th in the SEC in total defense (425.8 yards per game), and that just won't cut it if Tennessee is going to make any sort of second-half run.
9. Vanderbilt (2-3; LW: 12): The Commodores got a big win on the road at Missouri. Like prior games, Vandy wasn't great when it had the ball, but it played tough for four quarters and outlasted a banged-up Mizzou team. The defense really has been impressive for most of the season, but the Commodores have to get more out of the offense.
10. Ole Miss (3-3; LW: 10): After a heartbreaking loss to the Aggies, Ole Miss now has lost 16 straight SEC games. Blowing that 10-point lead in the fourth quarter probably will haunt this team all week. There's no doubt the Rebels can move the ball, but costly turnovers have doomed this offense. The defense has made strides since last season, but there's still too much break in this unit.
11. Arkansas (2-4; LW: 13): Just when you think the Hogs are done, they find some strength and walk out of Auburn with a huge win over the struggling Tigers. Auburn has had a plethora of issues this season, but from a mental aspect, this was a big win for Arkansas' team. The Razorbacks aren't totally out of the bowl hunt now, but there's still a lot of ground for this team to make up. Finally holding an offense in check, forcing five turnovers and getting eight sacks is a good start.
12. Missouri (3-3; LW: 9): This has not been the SEC welcome the Tigers expected. Mizzou has been banged up all year and pushed around by its SEC counterparts. James Franklin is out for a few weeks with a knee sprain. Corbin Berkstresser is now the starting quarterback, and he'd better get over his rough performance against Vandy, where he hit only 9 of his 30 passes. Things just get harder, as the Tigers host No. 1 Alabama Saturday.
13. Auburn (1-4; LW: 11): Things just aren't working on the Plains. With an extra week to prepare for the SEC's worst defense, the Tigers mustered only 321 yards of offense against Arkansas and found the end zone once. Kiehl Frazier was benched for Clint Moseley at quarterback, but two fourth-quarter interceptions doomed Auburn. The offense just has too many issues right now, and the Tigers might have lost their chance at a postseason berth with Saturday's no-show.
14. Kentucky (1-5; LW: 14): Injuries have crippled this team and things just aren't getting any better for the Wildcats. Kentucky was forced to play two freshmen at quarterback, and lost one (Patrick Towles) to an ankle injury, against Mississippi State. The Wildcats already were working without their starting running back. Things continue to heat up around Joker Phillips, whose team is hovering around the bottom of the SEC in most offensive and defensive categories.
1. Florida and South Carolina have great defenses: There's no question that it appears the road to Atlanta for the SEC East will go through Gainesville, Fla., and Columbia, S.C. Florida might have won by eight against LSU, but the Gators' defense totally dominated LSU's offense. Florida was at its best when LSU had the ball, allowing just 200 yards of offense and two field goals. LSU had five three-and-outs in the first half and crossed into Florida territory just once in the second half. LSU converted just 1 of 13 third downs and had nine first downs. As for South Carolina, the Gamecocks overpowered Georgia in every phase of the game in their 35-7 win, but the defense manhandled Georgia. South Carolina held Georgia to 224 yards of offense and kept quarterback Aaron Murray in check with loads of pressure. Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall were swallowed up by the Gamecocks' defense, combining for just 76 yards on 25 carries. South Carolina's front seven was outstanding all night and made things very easy for the secondary.
3. Murray still has big-game problems: Coming into the season, Georgia's veteran quarterback had the stigma that he couldn't win the big game. That stigma will remain after the way he played in the Bulldogs' blowout loss to South Carolina. The SEC's most efficient quarterback left Williams-Brice Stadium after connecting on 11 of his 31 passes for 109 yards and an interception. He continues to be the only Georgia quarterback under Mark Richt who has yet to beat a top-10 team in his career. For as good as Murray has been, he struggles on the big stage, as his only wins over Top 25 teams came last year against No. 20 Auburn and No. 23 Georgia Tech. Murray never looked comfortable with all that South Carolina pressure bearing down on him, but he also pressed on a lot of throws, constantly missing receivers. The mental side of things continues to work against Murray on the big stage.
4. Alabama's real challenger is in the East: With what Florida and South Carolina did Saturday, it's become pretty obvious that those two teams are Alabama's biggest challengers. Neither has a very flashy offense, but in this league, the really good teams win with their defenses. Both have smothering defenses and when their offenses do get the ball, they're pretty efficient and balanced for the most part. Alabama's offense could have issues with both defenses. The Crimson Tide have to make it to the SEC championship if they want a chance to play one of these two teams, but with the way Alabama has been rolling and with LSU having major offensive problems, getting there might be inevitable. Keep an eye on Mississippi State as well. The Bulldogs are undefeated, and a win over Tennessee could make their matchup with Alabama a must-see game.
5. Texas A&M and Missouri couldn't be any further apart: We all assumed that Texas A&M would be the team struggling in its new home. With a lot of roster movement and a new coaching staff, the Aggies were supposed to be playing catch-up in their first season in the SEC. Missouri, which had a lot of vets coming back and was supposedly loaded with explosive offensive talent, was going to really compete in the SEC East. Well, after six weeks, Texas A&M has become the darling of the league with a 2-1 SEC record, and Mizzou is now 0-3 in league play. Texas A&M is winning with a flashy offense and superb quarterback play, while the Tigers are losing because they are getting outmuscled and outplayed and can't get consistent quarterback play. Mizzou now has to take on No. 1 Alabama, while the Aggies travel to Louisiana Tech before taking on LSU at home. A&M could really make things interesting with LSU.
Even with a new quarterback, Auburn couldn't manage to find much semblance of an offense in its third SEC loss of the season.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik replaced starting quarterback Kiehl Frazier with backup Clint Moseley at halftime of the Tigers' 24-7 loss to Arkansas on Saturday. Frazier threw an interception and failed to register any points in another abysmal first half for the Auburn offense.
Moseley couldn't manage much better against an unstoppable Razorbacks pass rush, however. Arkansas came into the game allowing 40.6 points per game -- last in the SEC. That average will drop all the way down to 35 points after holding Auburn to one touchdown, largely thanks to a pass rush that generated a whopping eight sacks against a completely overmatched Auburn offensive line.
Even when the Tigers could keep their quarterbacks upright, they still committed five turnovers on the afternoon. Moseley fired two interceptions along with Frazier's one, and the Tigers coughed up a pair of fumbles.
Those horrific stats made a stop-and-start Arkansas performance look masterful by comparison. It looked like the Razorbacks would blow Auburn off the field early when they racked up 224 yards on the way to a 10-0 lead at halftime. But ugly miscues -- such as a missed 26-yard field goal and a muffed third-quarter punt -- allowed the Tigers to hang around and cut the lead as close as 10-7 at the end of the third quarter.
Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, who finished the day with 216 yards on 20-of-27 passing, led the Razorbacks into the Auburn red zone on his first drive of the fourth quarter. From there wide receiver Brandon Mitchell fired a 26-yard touchdown pass to fellow wideout Javontee Herndon on a trick play, putting Auburn in what proved to be an inescapable 10-point hole.
Arkansas running back Dennis Johnson carried the bulk of the ground game in place of starter Knile Davis, who did not appear to be injured. Johnson toted the rock 16 times for 70 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His second touchdown of the day put Arkansas up 24-7 with 8:20 to play.
It's Kiehl Frazier's time on the Plains.
The sophomore quarterback arrived at Auburn with a load of hype attached to his shoulder pads, but never looked ready to lead the Tigers. Now, he has that chance, as he'll walk onto the Georgia Dome turf in Atlanta on Saturday as Auburn's starting quarterback against No. 14 Clemson in the second game of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff.
The fans have been waiting. His coaches have been waiting. And he has been waiting. Now is his chance -- on a national stage, no less.
It wasn't easy for Frazier to get here. He was used more as a runner as a freshman, throwing the ball just 12 times with five completions and two interceptions. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Frazier hasn't completed a pass that traveled past the line of scrimmage in seven attempts -- unless you count his interceptions. It's no wonder Auburn's staff was so set on running him last year, as he carried the ball 76 times for 327 yards and three touchdowns.
But new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler arrived with his pro-style offense and pledged to turn Frazier into more of a passer. And it appears he has, as Frazier beat out junior Clint Moseley and freshman Jonathan Wallace during fall camp.
Frazier has all of the tools to be sucessful in this league, and now he'll really get to show if he's ready to guide the Tigers. Coach Gene Chizik seems to think so.
“We expect Kiehl to be a leader for this team and to continue to work hard every day," Chizik said. "I am confident in his ability and leadership skills and look forward to watching him progress in both areas.”
And what a stage to do it on. Not only is Auburn playing on national television, but it's against the defending ACC champs. You know, the same champs who are still giving up points to West Virginia. Those Tigers might have a new defensive coordinator in Brent Venables, but questions still remain for a unit that surrendered 70 points to the Mountaineers in last year's Orange Bowl, and ranked 71st nationally in total defense and 81st in scoring defense.
Frazier's job now is to control Auburn's offense. We know how athletic he is. If the pocket breaks down, he knows how to use his feet to get out of trouble. It's time for him to use his arm more and create receiving targets for himself. He'll get plenty of help from Emory Blake and Philip Lutzenkirchen, but he'll need to get others involved, such as Trovon Reed, Quan Bray or Travante Stallworth.
He'll have the chances to do that and we'll see a new and improved Frazier Saturday. We saw a one-deminsional Frazier in 2011. He'll be more of a threat to run and throw this fall and that maturation begins Saturday inside the Georgia Dome.
Let's take a look at each one from the spring and see where they currently stand:
The matchup: Sophomore Kiehl Frazier left the spring with the edge because he took most of the reps, as a sore shoulder sidelined junior Clint Moseley. This fall, freshman Jonathan Wallace entered the race and has continued to impress Auburn's staff.
The winner is: Frazier has the most athleticism and has felt much more comfortable throwing the ball with help from first-year offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. While coach Gene Chizik continues to say the race is even between Frazier and Moseley, who is still dealing with shoulder soreness, we'll go with Frazier because of overall talent. He can make more plays with his feet and if his arm really does improve, he could be a solid dual-threat QB in this league.
The matchup: This two-horse race between Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel has been intense since the spring. Brissett has had a little bit of the edge because of his game experience last year, but Driskel has made tremendous strides under the direction of new offensive coordinator Brent Pease.
The winner is: Will Muschamp continues to say the race is dead even. Driskel's bruised shoulder didn't even complicate the race. It doesn't sound like anyone really knows who has outperformed the other, but the concensus is the team and the coaches can win with either. With that said, Brissett has more experience and we assume is completely healthy, so we'll go with him, but both should play in the opener.
The matchup: Sophomore Maxwell Smith took all of the first-team reps this spring, while senior Morgan Newton recovered from shoulder surgery. However, Newton returned to get back into the race this fall. Joining them this fall were freshmen Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow.
The winner is: Smith. Joker Phillips named Smith the starter on Monday, so this race has come to an end. The offense can now focus on running around Smith, who has been the most consistent of Kentucky's quarterbacks since the spring. This isn't a surprise.
The matchup: Neither of Hugh Freeze's quarterbacks have proven much at all and have struggled with consistency since spring. Barry Brunetti was given the starting job at the beginning of last season, but lost it almost immediately, and Bo Wallace is fresh off a season in the junior college ranks. Wallace, however, did spend a year with Freeze at Arkansas State.
The winner is: Wallace seemed to have the edge for part of the spring, and then lost it as Brunetti got more comfortable with Freeze's offense. Both quarterbacks and Freeze felt things were very even heading into champ, but Wallace has had a much stronger champ. Both could end up playing in the opener, but we'll go with Wallace.
The matchup: Sophomore Jameill Showers, who has the only game experience at quarter, and redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel were nearly neck-and-neck for most of the spring, but Showers seemed to pull away little toward the end. Sophomore Matt Joeckel and true freshman Matt Davis also competed this spring.
The winner is: Manziel. It seemed as though Showers had the edge in this one, but Manziel outplayed him during fall camp. After a solid outing during one of the Aggies' scrimmages, coach Kevin Sumlin decided to end the battle and give the starting job to Manziel.
The matchup: Jordan Rodgers replaced Larry Smith last season, but still showed inconsistency on the field at times. So, this spring, he had a battle on his hands with Wyoming transfer Austyn Carta-Samuels, who was the Mountain West's Freshman of the Year in 2009.
The winner: Rodgers. This was probably always his job to lose, and he didn't. He had a very good spring and fall camp. Rodgers said this summer that he felt way more comfortable with the people around him this spring and is poised to have a much better year this fall.
The biggest news was that junior Clint Moseley is still battling soreness in his right throwing shoulder and conceded Wednesday that he was throwing through pain. He underwent an MRI on his shoulder this summer, but nothing structurally wrong was discovered.
Moseley’s lingering shoulder issues likely make sophomore Kiehl Frazier the favorite, although Chizik wasn’t ready to go that far Wednesday.
Chizik said there simply hasn’t been enough separation to make a call.
One of the highlights of the scrimmage, which was closed to the media, was a 65-yard touchdown run by senior running back Onterio McCalebb.
Gurley stars in Georgia’s scrimmage
It sounds like freshman Todd Gurley may have taken the early lead in Georgia’s starting tailback race.
Gurley had 58 rushing yards on six carries, including a touchdown, in the Bulldogs’ first scrimmage on Wednesday. Ken Malcome had 32 yards on five carries.
Senior receiver Marlon Brown also showed up with six catches for 103 yards and two touchdowns.
Georgia coach Mark Richt said the first-team offense scored touchdowns on its first three drives and that the first-team defense didn’t allow but one first down on the first three drives.
True freshman John Theus was working with the first unit at right offensive tackle during the first series of the scrimmage.
High praise for Vols’ sophomore linebackers
Tennessee first-year defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri was around some outstanding linebackers during his three seasons on the Alabama staff, but he suggested Wednesday that sophomores A.J. Johnson and Curt Maggitt could be in a different class.
“Those two kids might be the finest young linebackers that I ever coached,” Sunseri said. “Their attitude, their work ethic, their toughness … I am really, really pleased with those two guys.”
Johnson was second on Tennessee’s team last season as a true freshman with 80 total tackles. Maggitt was fourth with 56.
Also, receiver Cordarrelle Patterson turned more than a few heads in the one-on-one goal-line work during Tennessee’s evening practice on Wednesday.
He’s such a big target and separates so well. The Vols can’t wait to see what the heralded junior college newcomer does in games, especially with opposing defenses also having to deal with Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers.
LSU opening up deep passing game
Whereas former LSU quarterbacks Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee shied away from throwing the ball down the field unless something was wide open, the new guy pulling the trigger for the Tigers has the tools and the license to let it fly this season.
Early on in preseason practice, LSU offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa said it’s been obvious that Zach Mettenberger is comfortable throwing some of those deeper routes in traffic.
“That kid, when he sits back there and (a deeper seam route) is called, he’s going to make that throw,” Studrawa said. “He’s going to zip that thing in there. He’s got the confidence to do it. That’s why (Russell Shepard) and those wideouts are excited. They’ve run those routes before, and if it’s not wide open, it wasn’t thrown.
“You run 50 yards down the field and not get the ball a few hundred times. That’s why they’re excited.”
Hogs being careful with Davis
Arkansas is still waiting to pick its spot as to when star running back Knile Davis will take part in full contact this preseason.
Davis, who missed all of last season after fracturing his ankle, didn’t participate in Tuesday’s scrimmage and also sat out Wednesday’s live tackling drills.
Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said it was an “ongoing conversation” on when the Hogs would get Davis some contact this preseason.
Let's see what Auburn could do in 2012:
Auburn will play the role of spoiler this fall: That young talent is more mature and experienced.
Gene Chizik seemed pretty excited about the team he had coming back this spring. Yes, star running back Michael Dyer is gone and two new coordinators are in town, but Chizik was very happy with the maturity he saw from his younger players. This is a team that Chizik still considers pretty young all around, but the maturation this group showed this spring wowed the coaches. And a lot of that young talent got some good field experience last year. Defensive end Corey Lemonier is a budding star and was one of the top pass-rushers in the league last fall. Running back Onterio McCalebb is the old reliable one in the backfield, but he'll be assisted by three youngsters in Tre Mason, Mike Blakely and Corey Grant who should make the Tigers' running game pretty solid this fall.
Auburn's defensive line is stacked with talent and the secondary returns three experienced starters. Chizik has stocked up well in the past could of years, meaning Auburn has the talent to compete with the favorites in this league. Winning the West will be quite the uphill battle for Auburn, but if the talent proves its worth, the Tigers could ruin a true contender's season. A major run might be tough, but with the talent Chizik has on his squad, you can't count Auburn out for a chance to pull a big upset this fall.
Why it won't: Lots of questions remain on offense and defense.
Growth and maturation are great, but it has to translate to the field, and until the games are played, we don't know if that will happen. On offense, the Tigers are without their centerpiece from last year in Dyer, who followed former offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn to Arkansas State. Without him last year, what was Auburn's offense? McCalebb is one of the league's best home-run threats, but his work isn't done up the middle. That's where those younger backs will come in handy, but can one put the bulk of the carries on his back? Wide receiver Emory Blake is very talented and is certainly a downfield threat, but he needs help. While there's depth at receiver, it's pretty unproven, starting with Trovon Reed, who was expected to have a much better year than he did in 2011. Seniors Travante Stallworth and DeAngelo Benton have years but hardly any valuable experience.
And the quarterback situation is still up in the air. Kiehl Frazier had a good spring and left with the edge, but we still haven't seen him throw comfortably in real games. Clint Moseley was also very inconsistent as a starter last year and missed part of the spring with a sore shoulder. And who knows where Zeke Pike's head will be this fall.
The defense seems to be a little more stable and new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has experience in the SEC, but this unit allowed more than 400 yards of offense each game and ranked 11th or worse in the SEC in scoring, rushing, passing and total defense. The defense has to be considerably better for this team to make a real upset possible.
This is never easy. We go back and forth dozens of times before finding any sort of confidence in our lists. After checking with colleagues and people around the league, we come up with lists ranking each position and in the end someone gets upset. Someone has to be last and someone is always underrated or overrated.
Such is life.
The important factors for every position were great players, true game-changers, depth and experience. We also considered past performances, but we also had to think about possible projections for the upcoming season.
We’ll start with the quarterback position:
1. Georgia: Aaron Murray has thrown 59 touchdowns in his first two seasons and is on his way to breaking several school records. He has great toughness and mechanics, but needs to cut down on his 14 interceptions from a year ago. The staff is looking to redshirt Hutson Mason, but he might be the league's best quarterback insurance policy. He could be used if Murray suffers a serious injury. Freshmen Faton Bauta and Christian LeMay are both talented, but inexperienced.
2. Arkansas: Tyler Wilson is arguably the SEC’s best quarterback and probably would have been a first-rounder had he come out this past season. Junior Brandon Mitchell complements Wilson well with his running ability, but he'll be in an intense battle with redshirt freshman Brandon Allen, who is a stronger drop-back quarterback.
3. Tennessee: If Tyler Bray can stay healthy, he’s potentially a 3,000-yard, 30-touchdown guy. Justin Worley was thrown into the fire last season and gained some valuable experience, and the Vols also have high hopes for true freshman Nathan Peterman, who showed promise in the spring before dislocating his finger.
4. Alabama: If AJ McCarron picks up from 2011, he could contend to be the league's top quarterback. He has all the tools, but needs to keep making strides with his decision-making. Behind McCarron, Alabama doesn't have much experience with Phillip Sims transferring to Virginia. Next in line would probably be redshirt freshman Phillip Ely, but true freshman Alec Morris has turned heads in summer workouts.
5. Vanderbilt: Jordan Rodgers put a charge into the Commodores’ offense when he took over midway through last season. He’s a big-play quarterback, but needs to cut down on his turnovers. The other thing Vanderbilt has going for it is Austyn Carta-Samuels, who started for two seasons at Wyoming and rolled up nearly 2,100 yards in total offense in 2010. Plus, the staff is excited about early enrollee Patton Robinette, who is one of the top quarterback prospects to sign with Vandy in a while.
7. South Carolina: Connor Shaw is hardly the biggest quarterback in the SEC and runs a lot, so that’s never an ideal situation. However, he improved greatly toward the end of last season and made strides this spring to use his arm more than his legs. The Gamecocks have barely any experience behind Shaw, as Dylan Thompson and Andrew Clifford battle for the No. 2 spot.
8. LSU: It's Zach Mettenberger time in Baton Rouge, as he takes over a unit that has struggled with consistency. He was a very talented high school player a few years ago and helped make LSU's offense much more pass-friendly this spring. While he's an obvious upgrade for the Tigers, he's still pretty unproven at this level. Behind him, there's no experience, as Jerrard Randall and Stephen Rivers both redshirted in 2011.
9. Auburn: The Tigers should have quite the quarterback battle on their hands. Clint Moseley returns with more experience under center, but he lost ground to Kiehl Frazier this spring because of shoulder soreness. Frazier was a run-first QB last year, but looked much more confident with his arm this spring with help from new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. Zeke Pike was a top QB prospect coming out of high school, but off-field issues sent him home for the summer.
10. Florida: Will Muschamp said following spring practice that he felt like he had two quarterbacks he could win with. Nonetheless, he wasn’t ready to name either Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel the starter. Both struggled for the most part last year, but both were very talented high school prospects and each could excel with more experience. The reality is that both will end up playing this season.
11. Mississippi State: Dan Mullen said this spring that he was very pleased with how Tyler Russell performed this spring, but Russell has had consistency issues in the past. The hope is that now that Russell knows he's the starter, he'll be more comfortable on the field. However, Mississippi State only has one other scholarship quarterback on its roster: redshirt freshman Dak Prescott. Quarterbacks Dylan Favre and Nick Schuessler both transferred.
12. Kentucky: Maxwell Smith was far from perfect last year, but he took advantage of his time on the field. After replacing the injured Morgan Newton late in 2011, Smith was named to the SEC's All-Freshmen team. He also seemed to improve this spring with Newton watching and rehabbing. Newton's time as a starter could be over, but both will be pushed by incoming freshman Patrick Towles, who might be more physically gifted than the two ahead of him.
13. Texas A&M: Kevin Sumlin is working with a ton of inexperience at quarterback. Sophomore Jameill Showers has the edge, but he’s thrown all of five career passes. Things got even foggier for the Aggies when backup Johnny Manziel was arrested in late June and charged with disorderly conduct by fighting, failure to identify and having a fake driver's license. That leaves sophomore Matt Joeckel and true freshman Matt Davis with the chance to catch Showers.
14. Ole Miss: It looked like Bo Wallace would come in and snatch the starting job, but as spring went on Barry Brunetti played himself into a tie with Wallace. But Brunetti was the starter coming out of last spring and played in just five games last fall. Randall Mackey moved from quarterback to wide receiver, while Zack Stoudt left the team in June, so there is very little experience at the quarterback position in Oxford.
The 19-year-old Pike enrolled at Auburn in January and went through spring practice, but left behind sophomore Kiehl Frazier and redshirt junior Clint Moseley. He likely wasn't going to beat out either Frazier or Moseley this fall, but his chances certainly didn't improve after this.
Pike is still very young, but he's generating too much negative publicity this early in his career. The former three-star quarterback prospect out of Dixie Heights High School in Edgewood, Ky., was suspended for the season opener (ejection from a previous game) and season finale (undisclosed reasons) during his senior year and had all those Twitter run-ins with Alabama fans before he senior year even began.
He hasn't exactly flown under the radar away from the field, and that's usually not a good thing.
Pike has been adamant about righting his wrongs and make more mature decisions in his life. He said as much earlier this year during the week of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January. While he kept out of trouble during the spring he has now taken a step back.
He'll no doubt receive some sort of punishment from coach Gene Chizik and will probably have some not-so-friendly sessions with the Tigers' strength staff. Some early mornings filled with extra gassers might be in Pike's future.
As I stated before, Pike is still young and he's barely been at Auburn, but he was kind of thrown into the fire with his decision to enroll in school early. Instead of heading to prom, he hit the practice field. That can be tough for any player, especially a quarterback who received the attention he did as a high schooler. But Pike still isn't exactly starting his Auburn career off the right way. He has a lot of growing to do and it will take time, but the hope is that this serves as a learning experience for the youngster.