Five things we learned about the SEC

Every team in the SEC is now up to speed with spring practice except Kentucky, and the Wildcats get started on Wednesday. Despite rainy conditions, a bunch of teams had scrimmages over the weekend. So what did we learn? Here are five things to ponder.

(Note: We’ll do the ACC on Tuesday).

 

1. Jonathon Crompton may be a serious QB contender at Tennessee after all: I’ll admit it, after watching Crompton struggle so much last season, I was totally convinced that he didn’t have what it takes, physically and mentally (especially mentality), to play quarterback at this level. I saw a guy with bad mechanics who didn’t make good decisions.  The reports I was getting back from Knoxville were that the offense of new OC Dave Clawson was simply too complex for him and that Crompton was simply being asked to do more than he was physically and mentally capable of doing. I believed that B.J. Coleman and Nick Stephens, when he got healthy, would quickly pass this guy. But based on the reports I’ve read and what I’ve heard Crompton looked good during Saturday’s scrimmage of about 120 plays. Local media reports quoted other players noticing that Crompton looked more comfortable out that. That is a first big step. Sometimes we forget that Crompton was a Parade All-American in high school in Waynesville, N.C.

2. LSU is loaded on defense: With only a couple of exceptions, John Chavis fielded very good defenses in his 14 seasons as the DC at Tennessee. But with the athletes Chavis has inherited at LSU, expect the Tigers’ defense of 2009 to be one of the most improved units in the entire SEC. According to reports out of Baton Rouge, LSU had three defensive touchdowns in Saturday’s scrimmage. The secondary, which was thought to be a concern going into the spring, is looking like a strength because of FS Chad Jones and the emergence of sophomore cornerback Patrick Peterson, who is going to be a star in this league. Yeah, Chavis has to find a couple of defensive linemen but when has LSU not had defensive linemen?

3. Gus Malzahn is throwing the kitchen sink at the Auburn offense: There are two ways to teach college football players a new system. You can spoon feed it to them and let them absorb it slowly and get comfortable with it. Or you and just dump everything on them at once, throw them in the deep end of the pool, and expect them to swim. It looks like Malzahn, the new OC at Auburn, is going to do the latter. It makes for some ugly scrimmages and the players get very frustrated early in the process. But eventually they are able to come up for air. Players, Nick Saban once told me, can absorb a lot more than you think. Malzahn has also dispelled the notion early on that this offense will lack toughness, something critics often say about the spread. The offensive linemen, who were asked to get leaner under former OC Tony Franklin, have been putting their weight back on. Some have gained 20 or more pounds in the offseason.

4. Florida fans are worried about replacing PH. They should be worrying about OT: Yes, when he was healthy, Percy Harvin created more matchup problems for opposing defenses than any other player in the SEC. And yes, Florida will probably have to replace him by committee. But if Florida doesn’t find a couple of offensive tackles in the spring none of that is going to matter. Both starters from the national championship team, Phil Trautwein and Jason Watkins, are gone. The starters will probably come from a group that includes junior Carl Johnson, sophomore Matt Patchan (who is still recovering from a knee injury), and junior Marcus Gilbert. Coach Urban Meyer was clearly not pleased with the position after Saturday’s scrimmage in Gainesville. The thing about good offensive tackles is that we all take them for granted until they are gone. Examples: Andre Smith at Alabama this year and Trinton Sturdivant at Georgia last year.

5. I’m starting to get a little concerned about the South Carolina defense:  Six starters were set to return from a defensive unit that kept the Gamecocks in most games while the offense was doing very little. The holes created by the losses  of CB Captain Munnerlyn, a player I really liked, SS Emmanuel Cook, and LB Jasper Brinkley were going to be tough enough to fill. Now DT Ladi Ajiboye, who has started 22 games, and sophomore cornerback C.C. Whitlock, who was contending for a starting spot,  have now been suspended. Ajiboye, from Riverdale, Ga., was arrested and charged with marijuana possession. Whitlock is a sophomore who played in nine games last season. Coach Steve Spurrier would only say that Whitlock had not been adhering to team requirements but reports say there are academic issues involved. I think Ajiboye has a chance to eventually get back after going through a diversion program. Don’t know about Whitlock. Spurrier’s not saying.  I do know that South Carolina can’t afford to lose many more SEC caliber players at this point.

 

 

69 comments Add your comment

Kid Ray

March 30th, 2009
9:14 am

(especially mentally)
Also TB – What do you think abuot all the AAU-type of football in the offseason.

Spanky

March 30th, 2009
9:20 am

Is the LSU “D” improved, or is the LSU “O” just that awful? Inquiring minds want to know.

joe

March 30th, 2009
9:21 am

If, and this is a huge if, UT gets some decent QB play to go along with a solid running game and a defense that should be very good, esp. in the secondary, might they actually make a bowl game and score an upset or two?

Miles

March 30th, 2009
9:28 am

Malzahn has yet to prove himself in the SEC…Springdale High School and Tulsa are worlds way from SEC’s level of play…being on the payroll at Arkansas for one year does not count as experience…Florida has five months to fix their offense…thus, they’ll be fine come September…part of Crompton’s problem in the past was having to work within Fulmer’s uncreative offense…LSU is loaded with talent not only on defense, but also on offense…Miles has plenty to work with in Baton Rouge…South Carolina is in trouble…fixing their problems would require Nobel Laureate status…maybe Orrin Hatch has some suggestions…

GeoffDawg

March 30th, 2009
9:38 am

There’s really no other way to slice it regarding Crompton. Even if he is able to perform better in a simplified offense, you’re still going to be stuck running a high school scheme against very sophisticated defensive matchups practically every week. This may be better for Crompton’s stats and UT may have more success with him at QB because of it but is this really in the best interests of their program? IMO – they’d be better off taking their lumps with someone who can grasp complex routes and plays and build towards something special down the road than to stick with somebody who may just be good enough to guarantee that you’ll field a decent, if not above average team.

DawgGirl32

March 30th, 2009
10:11 am

I feel like with Crompton as QB, there was really no way to go but up. I don’t think he could have gotten much worse so to say that he’s improving isn’t really saying a whole lot IMO.

Tony Barnhart

March 30th, 2009
10:13 am

Spanky,
I don’t think the LSU offense is awful. Jordan Jefferson is just getting started. I think Charles Scott will have a monster year at TB. A couple of the OL spots concern me but if T-Bob Hebert gets it done at center they will be able to run the ball. I just this think this team is loaded. Last year they mismanaged the defense and didn’t have a quarterback until Jefferson grew into the position.

Joe…Tennessee is definitely a bowl team. Now can they compete at the Florida level or even the Georgia level this season? That is what we don’t know. My guess is no on the Florida level and probably on the Georgia level.

mcdawg

March 30th, 2009
10:38 am

I STILL THINK CROMPTON NEVER FULLY RECOVERED FROM ELBOW SURGERY LAST YEAR-NO ZIP ON HIS THROWS COMPARED WITH THE PREVIOUS YEAR-TN WILL BE THE WILD CARD IN THE EAST

Jim Donnan

March 30th, 2009
10:38 am

UF will be fine on the OL. Both Johnson and Gilbert played a lot last year when the starters were injured and Johnson was basically a 6th starter. Gilbert had been a starter in the past 2 years as well. UF actually has a lot of depth on the OL so they will be fine.

Saint Nick

March 30th, 2009
10:39 am

Auburn’s “new” spread will be a disaster!!! Malzohn’s offense put a whopping 23 points up last year at Tulsa against an Arkansas defense that was pathetic, Bama had 49, Texas had 56 just to name a few. The wild boys better have plan b when it comes to a new QB, Crompton was lousy last year, nothing will change!!! You can’t fix stupid and you can’t polish a terd!!!!!!!!!!RTR!!!!!

JB

March 30th, 2009
10:39 am

Georgia will surprise some people this year. Still 10 -2, but a better looking 10-2 team.

mightyKC

March 30th, 2009
10:46 am

tony, re: the gators OL, agree that they need to find replacements, but, the 3 players you mentioned have 15 combined stars coming out of HS. point being, UF will be fine….Wilson and Johnson are in their 3rd (?) years, too, so it’s not like they are trying to fill holes w/ freshman…they have LOTS of depth

GeoffDawg

March 30th, 2009
10:50 am

Georgia’s offense may not be as potent but will probably be more consistent this year with a hopefully much healthier offensive line. The defense can only improve so I think JB’s analysis is pretty much on the money.

Also, my two cents on SC – this just seems like a program on the verge of spiraling out of control. The talent pull is slowly drying up on them and Spurrier just doesn’t have the motivation to out-scheme and out-maneuver the competition anymore in his signature Machiavellian fashion. This just strikes me as a tired program about to succumb to apathetic coaching staff and fan base.

GeoffDawg

March 30th, 2009
10:58 am

Oops – meant talent pool, not talent pull. typos vex me.

techie

March 30th, 2009
11:17 am

JB – Georgia surprised a lot of people last year – BWAHAHAHAHA

Robert

March 30th, 2009
11:18 am

UF should worry about gradulation rate. Go Gator.

G8R GRAD

March 30th, 2009
11:26 am

No worries.

We’ve the deepest bench I’ve ever seen at UF.

We’ll show up this fall, ready to play.

Kenny Powers

March 30th, 2009
11:34 am

techie, you suprise no one with your allegiance to the north avenue trade school’s nuevo riche status as percieved “winners”. You should try to be more awesome like me with god given talent, looks, and man organ.

Ecogator

March 30th, 2009
11:35 am

Of the 17 seniors on the Florida roster last year, all of them either have their degree or will have their degree by May of this year. And by the way, those seniors also have two NC rings and two SEC rings to go with their diplomas from one of only two SEC institutions that is a member of the American Association of Universities. Don’t worry about UF academics under Meyer. Zook was another story.

And our o-line will be fine. A lot of o-lines will be struggling against this Gator defense next year.

Saint Nick

March 30th, 2009
11:35 am

UF has Tebow and EVERYONE back on D!! Do they need anything else????

BamaDog

March 30th, 2009
11:47 am

I think there is one team in the SEC that is being overlooked by everyone. You may not like him, but Bobby Petrino’s Hogs will be the darkhorse this year. They will have one of the best QB’s in the country to go along with one of the best recieving corps. They are a young team who returns almost everyone on offense and defense. The defense will be alot better this year and I truly believe the offense will be one of the top 3 in the conference. I would not be surprised to see them playing in Atlanta and then again on or around New Years day.

Brew

March 30th, 2009
11:50 am

1. Crompton, not Stephens or Coleman, could run Clawson’ O last year, but this O doesn’t take two years to fully install. One of the three will be serviceable, if not good.

2. Chavis’ D will be fine as long as they stay out of third and long or “3rd and Chavis” as it was known at UT. Tiger fans, get used to too much cushion and no blitzing on 3rd and Chavis and a conversion rate of about 75%.

3. No one bought into the spread last year at AU, but hopefully for them, since the old guard is gone, there won’t be as much resistance this year.

4. Great skill players with escapability can mask a bad OL, but UF doesn’t have a bad OL anyway.

5. USC east is just about done. The O is dreadful and the D takes a big step backward this year. SOS will start catching heat in Columbia.

Brew

March 30th, 2009
11:51 am

Sorry, should have said “Crompton NOR Stephens or Coleman….”

Saint Nick

March 30th, 2009
11:51 am

ARKY and TENNY will play for the worst record in the sec!!!!!!!!!!!!!

murfdawg

March 30th, 2009
11:55 am

It looks like SOS arrogance is finally catching up to him. Remember when he pulled 11 scholarships from players his second year? Remember how all the high school coaches in South Carolina were “upset” with him? Look at all the blue chip athletes that have gone out of state in the last three years. With mediocre talent he is a mediocre coach. The pool of talent in the state of Florida is mindboggling. UF is still doing pretty good after SOS. Tony, if SOS is the greatest coach ever, why isn’t he winning more than Holtz? Basically, SOS is the best friend a sportswriter can have, because he always makes good copy. Someday I hope you separate his coaching ability from his entertainment ability.

Marble Rye

March 30th, 2009
11:57 am

Regarding SC, all of this talk is for naught if they continue losing to Clemson. SC people have been expecting an SEC title run out of Spurrier since he got there, but how can you realistically expect that if you can’t regularly beat a mid-card ACC team? Gotta beat Clemson – that should be the first expectation.

sb

March 30th, 2009
12:01 pm

I think Robert was being punney…not talking about Florida’s “graduation” rate, but rather congresssillyperson Corrine Brown’s now famous butchering of the english language…”Gradulations to Corch Meyers and Percy Harvey” in commenting on the University of Florida’s national championship.

That said, like Tony’s previous allusion to Kiffen embodying the same brash verbal power that Spurrier had while at Florida, I think Florida’s weakness at the OT position is somewhat overstated.

BamaDog

March 30th, 2009
12:16 pm

Sain Nick,

I don’t see either one of those teams finishing last. Either Ark, Bama, LSU or Ole Miss will come out of the West, and then you have FL in the east. TN, USC, GA, and Vandy will compete for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in the east. The west will be a toss up between 4 schools and Ark with the addition of Ryan Mallett, USC transfer RB Brodrick Green, and a couple of the top defensive recruits in the country, they have one of the most talented rosters in the conf. And again, love him or hate him, Petrino is one of the smartest coaches in the country and when you give him talent like he will have, he is very dangerous.

Tennessee Dawg

March 30th, 2009
12:45 pm

Looking at our schedule – we have some big time opportunities to get upset:

1. OK State – at Stillwater – returning the entire team. I think we should win – but this will be a big time opener!!!

2. So Carolina – Funny how this team is so good first half of the year – and dies the second half. DAWGS should win – but these guys always make it interesting.

3. Arkansas – PIGS were playing very well at the end of Petrino’s first year. Again – Dawgs should win – but this could be an upset in the making.

4. Tennessee – bottom line – these guys owned us last 2 of 3. Last year, we should have blown them out – an could not put them away. There defense will keep them in a lot of games this year – if there offense comes around – they could win 8 or 9 games.

5. Auburn – say what you will about their collapse last year – but they dang near beat us – and that last play (throw) into the endzone was very close to being caught for the win.

6. GT – last year – we collapsed in the second half defensively – this game will be a fight – and I bet we are play better.

The biggest game are Florida, LSU and OK State. We should be favored to win the rest.

Jay

March 30th, 2009
12:52 pm

Regarding the Gators…

Gosh, you mean two brand new starters are struggling against a D-Line that returns 100% of the of the first and second string and will likely be the best defense in the country this year? Shocking.

mightyKC

March 30th, 2009
1:02 pm

the heading from the main sports page to this article was “Gators O-LIne looknig for help” or whatever (i’m paraphrasing).

Tony and all the other AJC guys know that if you want to get hits on articles, mention the Gators. And even if they are one point out of a 5 point article, make theirs the heading/link. Not to mention, it brings out all the Gator Hating Pups and their comments, which brings out all the GT Nerds to bust the pups’ balls re: last years azz-whooping.

SMART GUYS, THESE AJC WRITERS!

Shane

March 30th, 2009
1:05 pm

Man are UF fans obnoxious.I guess they will never lose another game. I see UF regressing to there 07 9-4 form. Alabama will take a step back as well.

sb

March 30th, 2009
1:08 pm

Shane…keep wishin’, hopin’, thinkin’ and prayin’…

JustCallMeChamp

March 30th, 2009
1:18 pm

As far as Crapton is concerned, lets see what hes got when the lights come on. It’s easy to be a Springtime hero. He may well end up shellshocked after the Florida game, and probably will require eardrum surgery…LSU is always a scary team, they always have alot of talent and I think they will go as far as their QB will take them this year. The Florida game at LSU will be a dog fight…Auburn could surprise a few people (including me), but I don’t see them being all that competitive in the league for a couple of years…Replacing two tackles on the O line will be a focus of Florida over the spring and fall but there is a lot of talent there. Also, you don’t just replace a Percy Harvin, but there are so many skill players that together they can minimize his loss…Steve Spurrier has actually recruited pretty well last few years but has had an awful lot of off the field issues that can just kill a team.

DawgGirl32

March 30th, 2009
1:24 pm

“which brings out all the GT Nerds to bust the pups’ balls re: last years azz-whooping.”

A 3 point win is now an “azz-whooping”?

DawgGirl32

March 30th, 2009
1:29 pm

As far as UF is concerned, they will definitely be great next year. I honestly don’t see them going undefeated but I definitely see them as the team to beat in the SEC. Percy Harvin will definitely be missed. If a team can stop the run, Rainey and Demps aren’t nearly as dominant, and if a team can put enough pressure on Tebow to make him throw the ball, they are definitely beatable.

I’m actually pretty concerned about Arkansas this year. Everyone overlooks them because of their record last year but they gained momentum towards the end and they have some pretty big weapons on offense, including their QB and tailback. I sure hope my dawgs don’t overlook them when they go to Fayetteville in the fall.

G8R GRAD

March 30th, 2009
1:39 pm

Jay:

Well said.

Jason

March 30th, 2009
2:05 pm

Shane, put down the pipe son.

spivol

March 30th, 2009
2:09 pm

If Crompton comes alive then all of you may do well to be wary of a very hungry team. The Vols are responding very well to this energetic new staff. Spring has been an improvement over last year and our new S & C program is already starting to pay off (very few injuries, 120 play scrimage!!!). The O-line is not going to do the Clawfense flip-flop garbage from last year. The scheme has been simplified to run intensive zone blocking. Stronger line, better running game (should be interesting to see how much better when B.Brown and Oku make it to campus), equals less pressure on Crompton. In this case less is better judging by his decision making under duress last season. A more confident Crompton may make all the difference. Nowhere to go but up right? Now I’m not saying we win the East this year or even win more than 8 at most. IMO we are about a year off. We will be better this year with Crompton and we will be in the mix 2010 or 2011 with BJ or one of the top 2010 QBs. Get your shots at us while you can. The Big Orange machine is showing some signs of life.

As for Chavis… Man I loved having Cheif on our sidelines. Some terrific defensive efforts over the years. I just hope LSU can handle 3rd and Chavis and his desire to play CBs 15 yards off the line of scrimage. At least I won’t have to replace any more TV remotes because of that. Best of luck Cheif.

[...] Barnhart of The AJC looks back at the weekend scrimmages across the SEC and lists five things we learned from the action (with my smartass comments in parentheses):1)  Jonathan Crompton may be a serious [...]

MegaT

March 30th, 2009
2:12 pm

As a life long Tennessee fan, I’m worried about the QB position. I hope my fears are wrong, but Ut need a QB bad. Last year was a nightmare. As good as our Defense was, if we could have generated some offense, we could have won about 9 games minimum. All UT fans need to hope that Tony is right and Crompton will have an above average senior year.

spivol

March 30th, 2009
2:13 pm

Oooooops, “chief”. Dammit. i before e, i before e. LOL. At least I din’t do the “there, their, they’re” or the “your, you’re” screw ups…

Corrine (D) FL

March 30th, 2009
2:17 pm

I could not have said it better myself- go gator.

JP

March 30th, 2009
2:37 pm

I love the optimisim of Spring football where All American High School prospects are finally showing the potential after 3 years…..it makes the reality of the Fall that much more enjoyable to watch.

mightyKC

March 30th, 2009
3:08 pm

“A 3 point win is now an “azz-whooping”?”

if you give up 500 rushing yards, you got your azz whupped. no other way around it (unless you win…which UGA did not)

GeoffDawg

March 30th, 2009
3:22 pm

That’s a “mighty” convenient interpretation of an “azz-whooping” kc. Quite frankly, 3-0 would be a much bigger win than 45-42. When the score is that high, relatively speaking, the margin is razor thin. Not to take anything away from tech – they won the game fair and square. Let’s move on.

Shards 1967

March 30th, 2009
3:26 pm

I see UGA with a slower paced O team with Cox at the helm. UGA will try and establish the deep ball with the two flankers of course, but they wil do more dump off and possesion stuff, rather than the homerun shots that Stafford usualy took with low % of completions. Cox will prove to be a perfect game manager and will be the leader that Lil Abner Stafford and No Show never were. The running game with be conducted by a tandem of very excellent fullbacks ( 2 ) and very capable tailbacks
( 3 ) and will not have any yardage production drop off. The D will be MUCH better ………..far better due to tremendous motivation or Martinez this time will be toast.

Hoopie

March 30th, 2009
3:42 pm

Coach Superior should, at the least, be moving up in the Fulmer Cup rankings. USC-east just can’t get guys with enough character to be winners….self destruction is the norm.

Another HOF coach fails at USC.

Saint Nick

March 30th, 2009
3:58 pm

Spurrier should have bought his time and took a better gig than USC. He is a great coach, BUT, You can only expect 7 or 8 win seasons at best in Columbia. He should have stayed out one more year and sucked up to Skip Berkman and took that LSU job. But then again he never should have left UF to begin with.

sb

March 30th, 2009
4:34 pm

Dawggirl, “…and if a team can put enough pressure on Tebow to make him throw the ball, they are definitely beatable”…how’d that work out for y’all last year? And what makes you think that returning an entire team less 3 starters will cause Florida to regress?