SEC Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2014

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Coaches dish on all 14 teams in the SEC.

SEC Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2014

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year.

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2014, Athlon asked coaches in the SEC to talk anonymously about their opponents.

 

Note: These scouting reports come directly from coaching staffs and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.

 

SEC Coaches Anonymously Scout Conference Foes

 

East Division

 

Florida

 

“They are the ones that I think can have the quickest turnaround because of who they have on defense.”…

“Their talent on defense is fantastic, but that talent didn’t always work hard last year. There were a lot of guys who were worried about next-level play instead of worrying about this level of play.”…

“If they can stay healthy offensively, they can have a quick turnaround. They’ve got a lot of talent on defense I’m not saying they’ll make it to a national championship game, but they could have an Auburn-like turnaround.”…

“They didn’t have a lot of guys that could make plays at wideout, which is amazing at a place like Florida.”…

“The quarterback situation is bad. When Jeff Driskel got hurt, the kid that left in the offseason (Jacoby Brissett) could have played but they didn’t have anybody there. Driskel goes down and the offense was devastated. That’s the danger of when you stockpile a bunch of quarterbacks or you miss on a quarterback. All of a sudden your starter gets hurt and then the guy who wasn’t the starter but was pretty good leaves. The days of waiting until the fifth year to start are few and far between.”…

“They lost Jon Halapio, who was a good player but was dinged up. When you have to play a lot of guys up front, it usually pays dividends down the road. Maybe that’s what happens for them”…

“Kurt Roper is a sharp guy.”…

“Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III was one of the best young players I have seen in the game in a long time, and he deserved every bit of accolades that came his way.”…

“Their defensive line was the freakin’ real deal. Darious Cummings, an inside guy, he’s a pretty powerful guy in there. Tough to handle. They’ve done a good job recruiting defensive linemen.”…

 

Georgia


“They were pretty darn young on defense, which isn’t always an excuse, because they were loaded there.”…

“Youth is more important with offense than defense. A young defense can really struggle.”…

“They have talent on defense, but the talent has to play hard. (Former defensive coordinator) Todd Grantham is a good coach, but his guys didn’t always seem to play hard.”…

“They’ve had guys dismissed at defensive back, which will hurt.”…

“With the new defensive coordinator (Jeremy Pruitt) it will be a learning curve but they are very talented. They were very young last year.”…

“Replacing the quarterback is a big, big loss. Aaron Murray was a heckuva player. Last I heard they are pretty high on the new guy (Hutson Mason) but to ask him to do all the things Murray did will be tough. Just his overall command of the offense and his composure was impressive.”…

“I don’t know what they have coming back up front offensively but it seemed they had a pretty good core coming back.”…

“The running back, Todd Gurley, as long as he can stay healthy, he’s the real deal. He’s big time.”…

“Gurley is as good as I have seen in the league. I think he is better than the backs that Alabama has had. He has game-changing ability. The Bama backs have all been good, but they have had great talent around them. Gurley is great without any help. Nobody wants to tackle the kid, and he runs away from everybody on the defense.”…

“Any time you have inexperience, it’s going to sting you eventually. That was kind of their deal was their lack of experience.”…

“They recruit so well that there won’t be a huge dropoff, and last year’s injuries were brutal. Everybody in the SEC East has questions next year – everybody. So it will be an interesting year.”…


Kentucky


“Just average. That’s the reality of the situation.”…

“I know they have to be excited about the quarterback, Drew Barker. We loved him coming out. He’s the real deal. There’s one thing that’s hurt them in the past, they haven’t had solid quarterback play in a long time. They might give him a baptism by fire and just throw him in, see what he can do. What else do they have there? Probably not much. Might as well.”…

“I think they liked a few things Max Smith did there but I’m not sure he’s the answer long term.”…

“Mark Stoops deserves a lot of credit for getting the recruiting pieces he needs. They’ve recruited really well.”…

“Some of the guys they have coming in are not typical Kentucky players. Getting the 370-pound nose tackle (Matt Elam) over Alabama? That doesn’t happen at Kentucky. They haven’t had talent there for a long time. Now they have to do something with the talent. I hope they give him time to do so.”…

“As far as the roster returning, they had some decent linebacker play and both defensive ends are decent – not spectacular but decent. That pretty much sums it up.”…

“They have a good coaching staff but the players they inherited don’t really jump out at you or scare you.”…

"I liked the linebacker (Avery Williamson), he was active and a good tackler, but he’s gone now.”…


Missouri


“They are replacing a lot on the defensive front and the quarterback, though I think they like the young guy, Maty Mauk.”…

“They lose a middle linebacker that was really physical, a straight-line guy but really solid. One of the inside guys was a senior as well. They’ll have some work to do from that regard”…

“What a blessing that quarterback situation was. James Franklin was in and out because of injury but with Mauk coming in to play, now they know what they have and I think they like what they have. It’s a positive experience for them. That will work out well for them in the long run.”…

“The wideouts were matchup problems, but the top three receivers from last year are gone.”…

“The running back, Josey, was a senior. They’ve got some work to do in the running game.”…

“Maty Mauk is a tough competitor, comes from good football family. Experience he gained from last year will pay huge dividends. That stuff still counts.”…

“For what they do, their offensive line is very effective. They aren’t overpowering guys, won’t maul people out there but are good at space blocking. Evan Boehm is a really good player.”…

“They’ll ride the Mauk kid I’m sure. Their receivers are so rangy and long and can get downfield in a hurry that they will make life easier for Mauk in his first full year. Some of those guys you can get physical with, but for the most part that offense will get theirs.”…

“It’s inevitable that they will take a step back on defense next year. Any time you lose that many guys on the defensive front, you are going to take a step back.”…


South Carolina


“We thought Connor Shaw was outstanding. The other kid (Dylan Thompson) got a lot of good reps. But Shaw was what made everything work there.”…

“When they were really getting it, Mike Davis ran hard. I would put him right in there with Todd Gurley as far as SEC East backs who are big time.”…

“I thought the inside guy, Kelcy Quarles, was a really good player – it wasn’t just Clowney there. I don’t know how the depth is there.”…

“Most will say Clowney was this or that – I’ll tell you, you had to gameplan for him. You had to have a special plan for him, anybody who said they didn’t was full of (expletive). That was the one guy in the county you had to do that for. That changes things for them. We had protections designed to slide toward him so we were not putting tackles in a lot of one-on-one situations. I didn’t think their other ends were incredibly great, so they won’t command that sort of attention.”…

“The safeties were OK.”…

“Thompson is probably a lot like the Mauk kid. Like Georgia and Mizzou, they all had quarterbacks that were their guys, but at one point or another the starters got hurt and backups came in and got valuable experience.”…

“Traditionally South Carolina was always at seven or eight wins and Steve has been able to get them up to the 10-win mark, which is impressive. It will be interesting to see how much longer he’ll go.”…


Tennessee


“They are still trying to figure themselves out. They’ve recruited well but they are replacing all five starters up front that will be a heckuva task there now. They lost a lot of starts there, including the Tiny Richardson kid who was powerful.”…

“You want to catch those guys early. You don’t want to play them late because they’ll be better but will be a little disjointed early. They’ll have a lot of young guys playing so you want to catch them in September. Get them before they kind of get their feet on the ground.”…

“I like linebacker A.J. Johnson. I was surprised he came back. I thought he might’ve declared. He was a good player. Very active.”…

“Their defensive line was average, linebackers are pretty good, secondary wise they were young and weren’t overly impressive as far as being an SEC-caliber defense but that youth will help them.”…

“The biggest question on offense is replacing those linemen.”…

“I thought quarterback Josh Dobbs was average. He’s a really smart kid and all that stuff, but from a talent and skill level, average. I’m talking about precision, getting the ball out on time, throwing with accuracy - you like to have a guy who can push the ball downfield. He was average in those areas, but a lot of that comes with young, so maybe he can develop that. Some guys need to see a guy wide open before they throw the ball and it’s too late. That’s the difference between good and great ones, getting the ball on time.”…


Vanderbilt
 

“Losing Jordan Mathews is going to be huge for them. That’s 100-plus catches that they’ll have to replace. That’s the biggest question mark.”…

“On defense - they lost the whole secondary, basically. Thy have some good young talent in there but it’s unproven.”…

“On the front, the defensive front should be pretty solid. They have some really good young linebackers, three guys I think could be impactful, but they are going to a 3-4 under Derek Mason, so I’m curious how they’ll fit those guys into the personnel.”…

“The defensive ends left there were pretty solid. The front seven will be solid and can compete each week in the SEC. The secondary is the big question mark.”…

“On offense, I don’t know how many catches they have coming back at receiver – it might be less than 30.”…

“The quarterback situation, the Johnny McCrary kid’s very talented but a little bit of a loose cannon. Patton Robinette is a really solid kid but can he carry them late in games? I don’t know.”…

“The offensive line guys, they lost Wesley Johnson, who was one of the best lineman in the league, but they have a lot returning, a lot of guys that know how to win in the SEC. that will help them.”…

“The previous staff recruited well, so there is some talent on that roster.”…
 

Listen to the Cover 2 college football podcast with guest Steven Godfrey:

 

West Division


Alabama


“Defensively they’ll be OK, probably won’t be up to their great standard. Losing Deion Belue, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Vinnie Sunseri – that’s really going to hurt on the back end. Linebackers, they’ll be slightly above average. Up front on the defensive line they might actually be better. D.J. Pettway is a more disciplined a player than Adrian Hubbard.”…

“The quarterback, I don’t know who it will be. It’s almost like what they do in the spring really doesn’t matter because they are bringing in (FSU transfer Jacob Coker).”…

“It’s probably the best receiving corps as a whole since Nick’s been there.”…

“The running backs are really solid, not as good as the 2010 lineup but really good. Kenyon Drake is maturing and Derrick Henry is doing a lot better with protections, assignments, developing the passing game – he could always run the ball.”…

“Losing Chad Lindsay is going to hurt because they had depth issues at offensive line. I think they wanted to move Ryan Kelly to left tackle. Now they have to rely on some young kids coming in.”…

As it sits, Alabama might be an eight-win team on paper. Obviously a lot hinges on how well the FSU kid does coming in - will be make or break the season? The freshman, David Cornwell, is not ready. If they have to go with Blake Sims, their offensive play-calling will be very limited. They would run the ball a lot, wouldn’t be very exotic with the passing game.”…

“It will be interesting to watch Lane Kiffin run the offense – Doug Nussmeier was really good. Lane can do it but I’m curious to see how strong his running concepts are with this team, because that’s obviously a big strength for them.”…

 

Arkansas


“I didn’t think they were very explosive last year with some of their skill players on the offensive side of the ball.”…

“The secondary was not really impressive.”…

“They did have a couple of good defensive linemen, especially Chris Smith, but he’s gone now.”…

“They will continue to struggle a little bit. They should be better but continuing to struggle.”…

“Based on what they are doing, I just don’t think they can score enough. It starts with the offense – they are not set up to score a lot of points. It’s ball control, grind it out, I-formation, play-action football.”…

“Their quarterback is back (Brandon Allen) and they should be better as a result, but I’m not sure if he’s the answer long-term.”…

“Alex Collins is a hard-nosed runner, physical kid. I do really like him. He can get them tough yards and a few scores. But that can’t be your whole offense.”…

“They have a hard time covering in the secondary. They sort of regressed as the year went on. They were probably better early on because they still had the confidence.”…

“Keep in mind, Bret didn’t inherit much. The recruiting transition from Petrino leaving to John L. Smith for a year was never going to be smooth. There were guys on that roster they wouldn’t have taken when he was at Wisconsin. So he needs time to get that done. But they need a boost at the skill positions, such as receiver and cornerback. They just don’t have a lot of playmaking there.”…


Auburn


“Looking at them on defense, they lost Dee Ford and they lost Chris Davis – just a few players, but if you look at the plays they made in the big games, especially Ford, those are significant losses based on Auburn’s body of work. They are going to be missed but they do have a lot of players returning.”…

“The linebackers will be average. A few of them are just guys.”…

“The secondary’s not tremendous with ball skills but they do have a lot of speed and recoverability. That’s their strength.”…

“Up front, I think they’ll have the best defensive linemen. Montravius Adams, he’s gonna be the next Glenn Dorsey.”…

“Losing the left tackle, Greg Robinson, he was the best in the SEC. I think he’s better than the (Jake) Matthews kid.”…

“If Auburn can develop a passing game, they will be probably the best team in the West.”…

Defensively, they are going to stop a lot of people.”…

“The only time the offensive line matters in Gus’ offense is when they go from tackle to wildcat, to the three-man side.”…

“They’ll miss (Tre) Mason. They were really high on him.”…

“Can Nick Marshall develop into a passer? If he doesn’t they’ll have to let their defense keep them in a lot of games. Being one-dimensional can only get you so far.”…

“Obviously they had a lot of success, but they’ll want to do something new, because Gus will want to grow that thing and be more multiple. If he can do it, they’ll be deadly next year.”…


LSU


“Obviously losing quarterback Zach Mettenberger hurts them a little bit. They have a couple of talented options coming up there but it will be interesting to see how they develop that talent. Cam Cameron has the personnel to go to a dual-threat quarterback but he’s more of a pro-style guy.”…

“They might have lost a few key players up front but return that good left tackle (La’El Collins).”…

“Those two receivers they had are gone and they were two of the best. I’m not really sure who’s filling those roles because they got the ball so much.”…

“Obviously the question is, who is the quarterback that will step up?”…

“The defense last year was pretty inexperienced and quite honestly weren’t very good.”…

“John Chavis’ scheme isn’t really that hard. He always does a good job hiding deficiencies just enough where he puts players in position to make plays. They had a lot of growing up to do up front. It all depends on how those guys develop. If they don’t get better up front, their team won’t be better. There really wasn’t one from last year that stood out, at least not compared to the standard LSU has set for that spot.”…

“Losing those guys will catch up with them. Slowly, if you lose kids to Alabama or Texas schools, you can still have stars but do they still have quality depth they used to?”…

“None of those guys on defense coming back really stuck out to me.”…
 

Mississippi State


“They’ve always been known for having a big-time defensive lines.”…

“Linebacker Benardrick McKinney, he’s a pretty decent player. He’s active.”…

“The guys up front were monsters when we played them. You could really struggle with them. I thought they were pretty impressive. Defensive coordinator Geoff Collins does a good job.”…

“If they ever get a really good quarterback, they can be pretty darn good. I know they are pretty high on Dak Prescott but since he didn’t start all of last season I’m not exactly sure what they have in him. He’s talented but still a bit of an unknown.”…

“Losing Gabe Jackson on the offensive line is big – he just mauled people. He created holes that you don’t know are going to be there now.”…

"This is a big year for Dan Mullen, who’s done a nice job there but hasn’t really broken through. I’d imagine they think it’s time to do that since they return a lot of starters and they are counting on Prescott to make a jump. But their defense will always keep them respectable. The question is, can they beat the teams they aren’t supposed to? They haven’t done much of that.”…

A lot of their success will depend on which defensive linemen are coming back, and it seems like they are returning a bunch. The best one they have is Chris Jones. He’s got NFL-type talent. He’s a little raw but the ability is obviously there.”… 

“Mississippi State is an intriguing team. It could go either way for them – they could break through or be toward the bottom of the SEC West.”…

 

Ole Miss


“They are probably the second-best team in the West, maybe better.”…

“It’s a young defense with really good athletic ability, Dave Wommack a heckuva coach.”…

“They are going to be hard to beat. Playing them at home is tough.”…

“Bo Wallace is not a big time quarterback but he’s functional. He won’t really screw it up a lot. Sometimes that’s what you need.” …

“The Nkemdiche brothers – both Denzel and Robert are studs.”…

“Tony Conner is great. He’s an absolute stud. They can run up front, on the back end. Great instincts, physical player, everything you’d want, he’s got it.”…

“The defensive coordinator keeps it simple enough for them to not mess up assignments. They fly to the football.”…

“Losing Donte Moncrief hurts.”…

“The offensive line was young but pretty dang good. I think they’ll be good up front. The Laremy Tunsil is a darn good player, young left tackle, he’s as big time as it gets.”…

“I like the big Ndemdiche kid (Robert) better. He’s more disruptive as a player than his brother. His brother’s a good player, good instincts, physical player. I like them both, but if I was in a draft room, the younger one brings more to the defense.”…

I think Ole Miss is going to be dang good. Don’t be shocked if they win the division. I wouldn’t. It’s sort of wide open this year with Alabama possibly down and LSU losing playmakers – they’d have to knock off Auburn, which should still be great. Huge year for Hugh Freeze.”…


Texas A&M


“They had really young guys on defense, so the biggest deal with them was they weren’t very big and got knocked off the ball up front. Even when they were decent in the secondary, you could run the ball in between the tackles. As long as those guys have stated growing and continue to develop, you won’t be able to do that.”…

“They’ll be good on defense. Mark Snyder got a lot of flack last year because people put up some points but he’s a good coordinator. He’s going to get those guys in position to make plays.”…

“What’s going to kill them is losing not only Johnny Manziel, but a couple of really good receivers and the Jake Mathews kid.”…

“How well they do as a team depends on how their defense does.”…

“I don’t know if their offense will have enough firepower – they’ll always be pretty good under Sumlin, but losing a guy like Evans, he was a playmaker. Losing him will really hurt them.”…

“Last year they had a safety that was terrible, defensive line wasn’t good, really nobody on defense. Those studs they had in 2012, four guys that were difference-makers. When those guys left, there was nobody.”…

“Sumlin has always been a good recruiter. They’ll get good young players. How soon can they be ready to play is the question? They’ve stockpiled a lot of skill guys and some talented defensive front seven guys the last two years so we’ll see if they can emerge.”…

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