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.

Should Hugh Freeze lose his job?

The biggest question coming out of Oxford, MS at the moment is this: Will Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze be out of a job by the time the NCAA has finished with its investigations.

According to the NCAA’s filings, the school lacked insitutional control – which basically means that it turned a blind eye as boosters paid players, gave recruits thousands of dollars worth of money off from stores, paid electric bills, and let them hunt on property (which isn’t a big one). And even if Freeze himself didn’t know directly about what was going on under his nose, he darned well should have done.

Freeze has protected himself, saying: “Contrary to the allegations, I have demonstrated throughout this entire process that I have a strong record of promoting compliance and monitoring my staff, and I look forward to presenting that evidence to the Committee on Infractions.

In other words, the first thing Freeze is doing? Deny all charges and say: “Boss, it wasn’t my fault”. Why? It means that if the school DOES decide to fire him, he will still walk out with a great part of the $4.3 million he’s paid by the school – especially if this includes a severance package if he decides to appeal.

For pure butt-covering, Ole Miss may well fire Freeze because it makes them look good. Ole Miss’ AD Ross Bjork may throw him under the bus so it saves the school even worse punishment than is already given.

But although there are rumors that Freeze actually set up meetings between recruits and boosters, no-one really knows if this is true. What we do know is that any meeting between Freeze and his recruits really didn’t go that well: They were 30th in the 24-7 rankings, and 12th in the SEC.

And if they fire Freeze on something that they don’t know whether it’s true or not, then Ole Miss doesn’t look very bright in the least.

 

Ole Miss gives itself 1-year postseason ban

Ole Miss has given itself a postseason ban for the 2017 season after the NCAA found that it had violated 21 different rules.

The NCAA has charged the SEC school with a lack of institutional control, which includes various payments to players – including paying recruits between $13,000 and $16,000 in cash payments.

Ross Bjork, the school’s AD said: “The additional allegations announced today are serious,” Bjork said in a video statement released by the university. “But we will vigorously defend the university against the allegations that we believe are not appropriately supported, including that we lacked institutional control and that our head coach did not promote an atmosphere of compliance or monitor staff in the football program.”

Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss’ head coach said in a statement: “I am extremely disappointed to learn that any member of my staff violated any SEC or NCAA rules, and as the head coach, I regret those actions. Any behavior by my staff that is inconsistent with that commitment to do things the right way simply does not reflect the emphasis I personally place on NCAA compliance. As the record will show, I am constantly communicating to our compliance office, the SEC office, and industry leaders to make sure we are using best practices when it comes to doing things the right way.”

However, what was interesting was how quickly Freeze went to cover his own behind, after allegations that he had helepd to cover up the whole process. “Contrary to the allegations, I have demonstrated throughout this entire process that I have a strong record of promoting compliance and monitoring my staff, and I look forward to presenting that evidence to the Committee on Infractions.

Ole Miss had previously reduced their own scholarships, which includes 1 in 2015, 2 from 2016, and four from the 2017 and 2018 classes.

Worries to the possible future of the Rebels’ program hit Ole Miss hard in 2017: They were 30th in the 24-7 sports rankings.

Alabama defensive line coach and top recruiter expected to leave

Alabama defensive line coach Bo Davis is expected to leave or resign due to possible recruiting violations, the Tuscaloosa News has reported. 

Apparently Davis was being looked into not only internally but also by the NCAA into the possible transgressions. It is not known which players he was recruiting at the time that the possible transgressions took place.

If Davis left, it wouldn’t be his first departure from Alabama. Davis was hired in 2007 then left after the 2010 season for Texas, stayed 3 years in Austin and then came back in 2014, where he has been ever since.

Both Nick Saban and players have been nothing but complimentary about their coach.

When Davis departs, it could set off a college football-wide domino effect – especially as Alabama is the biggest name in college football and would be a top spot for any top recruiter or defensive line coach.

Ed Orgeron, anybody?

 

Hey Gators! The Will Grier loss ain’t that big!

Sorry to have missed the memo from the University of Florida, but apparently starter-and-school-hero-until-he-took-PEDS Will Grier decided that he didn’t want to play in Florida anymore, and decided to transfer to West Virginia, where no doubt he’ll be welcomed by burning couches and beautiful rattle of “Deliverance”.

If you’re a West Virginia fan, you’re delighted because Grier will take the year off – as you have to if you’re a transferred player (and the Mountaineers are quite used to transferring players) – and come back good-as-new in 2017. He’s a winner, an inspirer, and will be fine in Dana Holgerson’s offense (if Holgerson’s still around).

If you’re a Florida fan, you’re happy because Grier and the ghost of Grier and what he may or may not have done (we still don’t know what over the counter medicine Grier took – although it points to something called L3 Terminus) is now gone, and you can start a new chapter with Felipe Franks, Luke Del Rio, Austin Appleby and Kyle Trask.

If Will Grier wants something to do other than playing football and working out, we’d recommend doing a reverse over-nighter on the Gauley River. It’s some of the best whitewater rafting in the USA. It’s seriously awesome. And yes, we at the SEC Football Blog have done them.

We stand and applaud you, Missouri players

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to stand up and applaud anything that Missouri football players have done ON the pitch. They’ve been awful. They’ve been awful with quarterback Maty Mauk, and they’ve been awful with takeover quarterback Drew Lock. Their offensive line has more holes than Penn State’s – and that’s saying something – and if they actually played Kansas in a Grain War in 2015, the game wouldn’t end until 2016, such is the paucity of both offenses.

But off the field, I want to throw these guys a party.

Not because they stood up for their own players’ rights. I don’t believe college football players are slaves. They choose to play college football, and they get a nice education from the privilege.

But what they did last Saturday was awesome. They stood up for someone smaller and weaker than they were.

They stood up for one of their own fellow students, Payton Head (who’s the student body presiident) after the school ignored Head’s complaints after fellow student had yelled racial slurs at him. Head is black.

The football team – including some of the team’s superstar players – staged a sit-in, saying that they would neither practice nor play until the school’s president, Timothy Wolfe stepped down. He did so about 24 hours later, and his resignation was followed quickly by that of R. Bowen Loftin.

It’s really great to see a football team make a difference. Listen, we know that Missouri players have done their fair share of crappy things in the past, from Dorial Green-Beckham’s domestic abuse to Maty Mauk getting suspended from the team for disciplinary reasons. We also know that Missouri are not alone. Every college football team out there (we’re not just going to say “Every SEC team”) has their fair share of assholes, bullies and what some people would nicely call “troubled kids”,  but most would call “candidates for jail”. We don’t hear a lot about college football teams out there wanting to make a difference for something they believe in. But they did.

And here’s to hoping that other college football teams follow suit. I’ll guess that a protest against taking boosters money from SEC players won’t be one of them.

Ole Miss star Tunsil to return against Texas A&M

Ole Miss star offensive linesman Laremy Tunsil will return against Texas A&M, giving the Rebels a monster boost going into the final games of their SEC West run.

Tunsil was given a seven game suspension by the NCAA for receiving improper benefits, which meant the Memphis game will be his last game.

Ole Miss said: “During the course of the process, it was determined by the NCAA that Tunsil received impermissible extra benefits that included the use of three separate loaner vehicles over a sixth-month period without payment, a four-month interest-free promissory note on a $3,000 down payment for purchasing a used vehicle, two nights of lodging at a local home, an airline ticket purchased by a friend of a teammate, and one day use of a rental vehicle.  In addition, it was determined that Tunsil was not completely forthcoming when initially questioned by NCAA investigators regarding the loaner vehicles.  He later corrected his account and since apologized.

Tunsil will also have to make the vehicle payments, pay the value of the extra benefits to charity, and perform community service.

In the release, Tunsil said: “I take full responsibility for the mistakes I made and want to thank everyone for their continued support. I want to apologize to my teammates, coaches and the entire Ole Miss family for how my choices affected our program.  This was a learning experience, and I’m looking forward to being back on the field with my team and redeeming myself.  The last 10 months have been a physical and mental battle for me, but I love playing this game more than anything else.  I want to be here for my teammates who are depending on me to finish what we started together.

Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss’ coach said: “We have been supportive of Laremy throughout this process, and we are thankful he can return to competition starting with the Texas A&M game.  More important than his football ability is his character, and I am confident that Laremy will grow from this experience and continue to be a positive member of the University and our football team.

 

Tunsil is widely thought of being a first round NFL draft pick in the 2016 draft.

 

Florida suspends QB Grier for 1 year

The Florida Gators have suspended QB Will Grier for the rest of the season after the player failed a drugs test, head coach Jim McElwain announced.

Grier’s test – according to McElwain – was for taking an 0ver-the-counter supplement, and will find him out until the seventh game of the 2016 season.

Grier said in a press conference: “I took an over-the-counter supplement that had something in it…I did not check with the medical staff before taking it. I hope that people can learn from this, learn from my mistake. I’m really sorry to everyone, just really sorry.

McElwain added: “It’s something he feels horrible about….It’s an honest mistake, and yet can be prevented by checking with our medical staff. This is a mistake we’ll learn from. Everybody knows the policy, you police yourself. You’re no different. You either do or you don’t. … Before you even take cough medicine, you’ve got to check with the medical staff to allow you to be able to [take it].

The Gators play LSU on Friday in Tiger Stadium.

 

 

Ole Miss 2015 Preview: Great D, By Damn

Ole Miss’ 2014 was a weird one. The Rebs went to the heights of No.3 in the nation after winning their first seven games in a row, including an incredible field-invading, Katy Perry-attending, classic against Alabama. They looked solid. Bo Wallace looked ready to play. Everything was going their way. And then they walked into Tiger Stadium, LSU. There nothing went their way. They lost 10-7 that was classically bad, and then lost a home heartbreaker against Auburn 35-31, in which star WR Laquon Treadwell broke his leg and had us all reaching for the sick bucket. A 30-0 loss to Arkansas and a bowl schellacking by a pissed-off TCU – sandwiched with a gratifying 31-17 Egg Bowl victory over No.4 Mississippi State – made sure this was a season to smile about…but also think: “What if the luck had fallen for us?”

THE OFF-SEASON

Laremy Tunsil dominated the off-season, after getting arrested for domestic violence for getting in an altercation with his stepdad. Truly a horrible situation, Tunsil’s been accused of taking bribes by agents, coaches, and anyone but Wall Street bankers (actually, maybe them too!) to play at Ole Miss, but no-one actually knows what the hell is going on. It’s all pretty sad. The case was dismissed in early August, but it put a cloud over Hugh Freeze and the program. Mind you, the accusations of people taking money in the SEC aren’t exactly revelations, are they? The NCAA is still investigating.

Safety Trae Elston and WR Damore’ea Stringfellow were arrested for disorderly in January, with Elston charged with resisting arrest. Idiots. But it’s hardly the domestic violence charges that have haunted Alabama and LSU this season, is it?

Otherwise, Bo Wallace graduated, which is going to take a bit of fun out of Ole Miss’ offense this year, but recruiting went well, with four-star offensive linesman Javon Patterson, receivers DeMarkus Lodge and Van Jefferson and Juco DT DJ. ones providing the main highlights.

Anyway…

WE LOVE YOU, ROBERT NKEMDICHE AND THE DEFENSE

Seriously, we do. DT Robert Nkemdiche is absolutely filthy, and going to the NFL’s first round in 2016. If he chooses to leave. His stats of 27 tackles and 2 sacks would have been a lot more had he not been double-teamed a lot. If Nkemdiche’s tired, D.J. Jones – who also weighs in at 300lb – can provide ample back-up for him. Which isn’t bad going.

DE Fadol Brown is another part of a unit that returns seven starters. A lot of people are hugely excited the secondary.  Huskie Tony Conner is excellent in coverage, and seniors Mike Hilton and Trae Elston are going to roam the backfield. With two All-Americans departed from the unit, we will see.

AND THE OFFENSE?

The return of Tunsil to the offensive line and gamechanger Treadwell to the wide receiving corps is very exciting news for Hugh Freeze & Co, and will help junior QB Chad Kelly, who was great as a Juco after getting booted at Clemson. Freeze wasn’t exactly ecstatic-sounding naming Kelly as the Week 1 starter, but is that because Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade are as great too, or that QB isn’t a great spot for the Rebels? We don’t know at this stage. And we’re unlikely to know when Ole Miss drop 60 on Tennessee-Martin, either.

As well as Treadwell, we’re excited about Cody Core (558 yards, 6 TDs) and Quincy Adeboyejo, who could cause secondaries a lot of problems.

THE SCHEDULE

The schedule’s evil. That’s because Ole Miss plays in the SEC West.

Sep. 5 – UT-Martin
Sep. 12 – Fresno State
Sep. 19 – at Alabama
Sep. 26 – Vanderbilt
Oct. 3 – at Florida
Oct. 10 – New Mexico State
Oct. 17 – at Memphis
Oct. 24 – Texas A&M
Oct. 31 – at Auburn
Nov. 7 – Arkansas
Nov. 21 – Louisiana State
Nov. 28 – at Mississippi State

PREDICTION: Our friends at Saturday Edge think that Ole Miss goes under 8.5 wins this year. We think that Ole Miss goes a respectable 8-4 this year, taking a one-game back-step because of not only the loss of talent, but also the fact that they’ve got two evil road games at Alabama and Auburn, and that there’s always a surprise loss, which we think will be to Texas A&M at home in a shoot-out. 

Arkansas loses RB coach to New Orleans Saints

Arkansas has lost its running backs coach Joel Thomas to the New Orleans Saints, it has been reported.

Sports Illustrated senior writer Thayer Evans tweeted the news first, saying: “Arkansas RBs coach Joel Thomas has accepted same job w/ New Orleans Saints per sources.

Last year Arkansas was 24th in the nation in rushing offense, running for 2,834 total yards (218 yards per game). The running game – led by RBs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams – ran for around 5 yards per rush and 31 touchdowns.

The news comes just a few weeks after Thomas signed a contract extension with the school worth $280,000 per season.

 

 

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