Archive for May, 2017

QBs in the SEC: Who’s in the best shape for 2017?

LSU always seems to have a quarterback problem, it’s been argued that Florida hasn’t had a good one since Tebow, and Georgia hasn’t won the SEC despite having good quarterbacks, while Alabama has won a lot of SEC titles without having any quarterbacks that you’d say are NFL-worthy. So for 2017, which SEC team is in the best shape at quarterback? And who is struggling? Clue: It’s probably not a team from Baton Rouge.

  1. Mississippi State: Nick Fitzgerald did wonders at Mississippi State last year. He led the SEC in total yards in 2016, throwing for over 2,400 yards and 21 TDs (and no interceptions) and rushing for nearly 1,400 yards and 16 TDs. He also beat Ole Miss, which pretty much makes him God in Starkville. There are worries because he didn’t have a sharp Spring Game, but it’s a Spring Game. Mississippi State’s in fine fettle at that position. Whether he’ll have the contributors he needs now Fred Ross he needs to give him the good stats is another thing altogether.

2. Auburn: After playing one Spring Game for Auburn, there was already Heisman hype around Jarrett Stidham on the plains. Some have even compared him to Drew Brees. Managing to get Stidham – who was already familiar with a high-octane offense by playing for Baylor in 2015 – to come play for you was a masterstroke by Malzahn and company. Stidham is a fantastic dual-threatt QB who’s going to cause defenses a lot of problems.

3. Alabama: Talk about an embarrassment of riches. Nick Saban keeps on getting hold of freshmen who are so good that that sophomore who had an insane season is suddenly worrying about his job. We see with Jalen Hurts – who had an incredible freshman year – in a sudden quarterback battle with Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa – a five star from Hawaii – had a brilliant Spring Game which got the tongues about Hurts’ job stability. And next season? There will probably be someone else to scare the crap out of these two.

4. Georgia: With Jacob Eason, the Bulldogs have an entrenched starting quarterback. His problem might well be the same that haunted him last year – the offensive line. But for pure stability – and a cannon for an arm – the Dawgs are going to be juuuuust fine.

5. Arkansas: We quite like the shape the Razorbacks are in at this position. Allen’s got a cannon, and threw for 3,450 yards, 25 TDs and 15 INTs last year. His problem will be the offensive line, which got him sacked THIRTY FOUR times last year. But if that improves, the Razorbacks have one of the best weapons in scrimmage around.

6. Missouri: Drew Lock’s going to start at quarterback for the Tigers, and he’s got the arm to be a star. If his receivers (we see you, J’Mon Moore) could actually catch the ball, then he could put up some immense stats and lead the Tigers forward.

7. Kentucky: Drew Barker vs Stephen Johnson is an interesting QB battle. Barker was the 2016 starter before he hurt his back, and then Johnson took the team over and led the team to seven wins – including a win over hated rivals Louisville. There is hope in Big Blue Nation. Although Mark Stoops has been uncommittal about the QB battle, it’s Johnson’s team, and UK is in a good position.

8. Vanderbilt: Kyle Shurmur will start. He had 2,400 yards passing, although he threw more INTs (10) than TDs (9). He progressed nicely through the last few weeks of the season, throwing for 221, 252, 273 and 416 yards in his last four games of the year. The 416 came against Tennessee’s defense (just in case you were thinking it was against a ‘nobody’. Vandy should be in pretty good shape here.

9. Ole Miss: Shea Patterson was given a lot of love when he walked into The Grove, and during his first year he threw for nearly 900 yards with 6 TDs and 3 INTs. And the opposition (Texas A&M, Vandy and MSU) wasn’t terrible either. The problem won’t be about Patterson’s skills, but more if the team plays with confidence after the trouble that the school is going to be in with the NCAA. And we’d argue that’s going to be a lot.

10. South Carolina: A lot of people were excited about Jake Bentley, who came in mid-way through the season and threw for 1,420 yards and 9 TDs (and 3 INTs). His strong Spring Game got Gamecocks fans drooling (if they weren’t already bearing in mind they had a Final Four game to watch that day).

11. Florida: The QB battle between Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask is certainly an interesting one, although both aren’t particularly well-known quantities. Luke Del Rio’s coming back from a shoulder injury, and could compete for the job. While some are excited about Florida if the QBs prove capable, we still don’t know a massive amount about them. They should be helped by a nasty defense, though.

12. Texas A&M: Jake Hubenak, Kellen Mond, and Nick Starkel didn’t exactly stand out at A&M’s Spring Game, but Starkel was given the most love because of how he stood in the pocket – and that his receivers dropped passes. The good news for Aggie Nation is that the running game looks very solid indeed.

13. Tennessee: Former Josh Dobbs back-up Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano are fighting it out for the Vols QB position, but I’m not convinced about either of them. Sorry, Vols fans.

14. LSU: This is how bad the LSU QB competition is. Ed Orgeron – normally Mr Exuberant and Mr Confident in these situations – told the press: “No-one has earned the starting spot…. Most of the spring, [starter for most of 2016] Danny [Etling] has been there. Nobody has taken him over. But tonight, underneath the pressure, the guys didn’t perform the way we wanted to. They’ll have to show me who can perform under pressure and be the LSU quarterback.” Normally when the guy who ended last year as the starter is safe and hasn’t transferred or been arrested (ie doesn’t go to Oklahoma), he’s your man to be the starter for 2017. Not so for Louisiana State University. In the Spring Game, Justin McMillan passed only three times and Lindsay Scott didn’t pass once. And Etling was horrible. These could be bad, bad times for the Purple and Gold and trying to get a QB into Baton Rouge.

Nick Saban signs extension but raises questions

Nick Saban has signed a contract extension this year that will pay him $11.1 million in 2017 as part of an eight-year deal that will pay the coach a total of $65 million – and that’s before bonuses that could pay him another $700,000 per year until 2024.

Also seeing their salaries bumped are new AD Greg Byrne (who only took the job in June), as well as his assistants, led by co-defensive co-ordinator Tosh Lupoi, who will earn $950,000, while new offensive co-ordinator Brian Dobell has re-signed until January 2020 in a $1.2 million salary deal.

Record

Saban’s record at Alabama is stunning – 119-19 over the last 10 years, with four of those years leading the Crimson Tide to a National Championship.

During his tenure at Alabama Saban has not been immune from the loss of co-ordinators, who have gone on to varying successes. Former OC Jim McElwain is the head coach of Florida, former DC Kirby Smart is the head coach of Georgia and most recently, OC Lane Kiffin in the head coach of Florida Atlantic University, while offensive line coach and recruiter supreme Mario Cristobal is now the co-offensive co-ordinator at Oregon.

The deal is great for Saban, his family, for Alabama fans still worrying he might leave for Texas, and of course, his agent Jimmy Sexton, who should be pocketing a tidy amount for the negotiation.

Alabama and other schools

In the time that Saban has been in charge of Alabama, the school has made more than $100m from football – which is absolutely stunning. And football’s success and the subsequent financial income has meant good news for the other non-revenue-making sports ‘on the Alabama roster’, which are being kept afloat by the thousands of fans buying tickets, shirts, hats and probably pets called ‘Crimson’ just for bathing in the light of the pigskin.

Oh, and rival schools – whether they like to say it or not – probably love Saban’s success, because every time the Crimson Tide come to town there is more fanfare than a Royal Wedding in Britain, leading to higher TV exposure. The SEC certainly loves Alabama’s success – Saban’s made the conference look better. ESPN and CBS have enjoyed the Crimson Tide for viewing figure purposes, and those charming people on the secondary market who concentrate on Tuscaloosa games are probably driving Mercs.

But what about the students?

The biggest annoyance we have with a deal like this for Saban is that Alabama players over the years of Saban’s multi-million dollar success have been paid exactly $0. Of course, there are stipends (and we suspect under-the-table ‘players’ donations’ given by boosters (it being the SEC), but that’s nothing if you consider what Alabama has made in terms of sports revenue.

Of course, the likes of Paul Finebaum and many Alabama fans will argue that Saban’s contract is worth it, and we’d agree – if you are thinking about the price paid by the university itself. There are a ton of players who have profited from Saban’s teaching, too. Especially the 22 first round picks who played for Saban in Tuscaloosa (65 in total have gone pro).

But there are a ton of players who have played for Saban and have come out with exactly nothing, while their coach has reaped the financial rewards.

I’m sorry, but that doesn’t seem right.