SEC Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2015

Coaches dish on all 14 SEC teams.

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 2015, Athlon asked coaches in the SEC to talk anonymously about their opponents.

Related: SEC Predictions for 2015

 

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

 

“In the short term, I think they’re probably going to be about the same as they were last year.”

 

“Who’s going to be the quarterback will have a lot to say about how their season goes. Treon Harris was effective at times, but I’m not sure that’s the answer long term. The old staff thought Will Grier was their most talented guy, but we’ll see.”

 

“If you look at what Jim McElwain did at Colorado State, he zeroed in on one guy early and developed the heck out of him. I bet he’ll do the same thing at Florida. He’ll pick the guy who gives him the best chance to win down the road and ride him through the ups and downs. I just don’t know who that guy is.”

 

“Whether it was injuries or lack of depth, offensive line was a big issue the last two years. With a new system, how will it affect them? If the offensive linemen they recruited are as good as advertised, they’ll have a chance to be good down the road. It’s hard to win playing freshmen in this league.”

 

“Who are their playmakers? The Demarcus Robinson kid has a chance to be pretty special at wideout, but who else? There’s a reason they struggled to score points.”

 

“Will Muschamp recruited some talent there so they have players on defense, but they lost three guys up front. It’s not easy to replace a Dante Fowler.”

 

“I would think their back end should be as good as anyone.”

 

“Hargreaves may be the best corner in the country”

 

“Geoff Collins had the No. 1 red-zone defense in the country last year at Mississippi State and one of the better third-down defenses. He’ll bring a lot of energy.”

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

Georgia

 

“They’re the most talented, best team in the East without question.”

 

“The quarterback situation is a big unknown. Who’s the guy? How will they use him? Will he be a guy who has to make plays or a guy they ask to just not get them beat? I’m sure Brice Ramsey is the guy they’re counting on, but he hasn’t played a lot of meaningful snaps. Is there a Plan B if he can’t get the job done? I’m not sure.”

 

“I don’t understand why people there gave Mike Bobo a hard time. Look at the numbers. Offense wasn’t their problem.”

 

“Nick Chubb is phenomenal, and he’s a great young man, by the way. Brian Schottenheimer will come in and build it around him. I don’t expect they’ll change much philosophically.”

 

“I think Jeremy Pruitt does a great job with their defense. They were a little bit inconsistent, but they were significantly better than the year before. You could see his DNA starting to impact the way they played.”

 

“Lorenzo Carter has a big-time future. I thought he was a very impactful linebacker as a freshman, and I expect him to have a breakout year. He could be a difference-maker for their entire defense.”

 

“I was surprised Leonard Floyd came back. He should be an All-SEC guy without question.”

 

“They lost some solid linebackers, and they finally got Damian Swann to play to his potential at cornerback last year. That’s a lot of experience to lose at key positions, so how they replace them will go a long way in determining how dominant they are.”

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Kentucky

 

“This is Year 3 for Mark Stoops, so I think the system is in place with what they want to do. And being a defensive guy, he’s going to make sure they’re good on that side of the ball.”

 

“He’s (Stoops) done a really great job recruiting, but it’s still hard at Kentucky to get the same level of player they face week in and week out. I know this, though: He’ll get the most out of the defensive talent he has.”

 

“The schedule caught up to them last year, but from afar it seemed like they made strides turning the culture around up there. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get any easier in this conference; plus they have to play Louisville. In any other league, they would’ve been a bowl team, but with their schedule they needed to pull an upset or two.”

 

“It was tough to scheme for them because they change up what they do offensively week to week. They played at a real fast tempo. Neal Brown left (for Troy), so it’ll be interesting to see how they make the adjustment and how they deal with staff changes because they had pretty good continuity early on.”

 

“I really like Patrick Towles. He’s big and he’s more athletic than you think. He doesn’t get a lot of publicity because he’s at Kentucky, but I think he’s one of the better quarterbacks in the league.”

 

“They have some nice-looking skill guys and do a good job spreading the ball around, but you still have to get it done up front in this league to win big.”

 

Missouri

 

“They’ve never been a team that’s going to wow you with who’s on their depth chart, but they play hard, they play sound, they don’t beat themselves and they just win. There’s something to be said for that.”

 

“You can say the East has been down, but you don’t think Georgia or Florida would’ve liked to go to Atlanta the last two years? Hell, South Carolina has only gotten there one time ever since they’ve been in the league. It’s pretty amazing what they’ve done there over the last decade.”

 

“Dave Steckel was the most underrated defensive coordinator in the league. Just look at the guys they’ve developed on the defensive line the last two years.”

 

“They may not be as good on the edge without Shane Ray, but from a scheme and preparation standpoint they shouldn’t miss a beat with Barry Odom. He was with Steck for a number of years. He knows the style Pinkel wants to play, and he proved himself as a coordinator at Memphis. He’s real good.”

 

“Maty Mauk is definitely not the most accurate passer in the league, but they know what he is, he knows what he is and he’s won games for them. That counts for a lot.”

 

“What people overlook is how talented they’ve been at receiver. When they had Dorial Green-Beckham, L’Damian Washington and Bud Sasser two years ago, they were as good as anybody. I’m not sure they’ve replaced those guys with the same level of talent. But they have a veteran at quarterback, and if he can play a little bit better, they can be a real threat.”

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

South Carolina

 

“You hear a lot of talk about (Steve) Spurrier’s window closing, but I’m not buying it.”

 

“I think what happened to them defensively last year was more of a fluke than a trend because they’ve been really good for four or five years before that. I expect them to bounce back and be much better.”

 

“They were definitely the biggest disappointment in the league, but they had some crazy losses. If they don’t blow big leads against Mizzou, Tennessee and Kentucky, it’s another 10-win season and they go to Atlanta. Shows you how fast things can change in this league.”

 

“Who’s going to replace Dylan Thompson? He was a tough customer. I really don’t know much about their young guys. This is really the first time in awhile they’ve gone into the fall without a pecking order at quarterback, but Coach Spurrier always does a good job with their offense and you’ve got to think he’ll figure it out.”

 

“Mike Davis didn’t have the year they expected, but he was a big part of their team. Who knows, they may be just as good running the ball. Brandon Wilds has had some big games for them.”

 

“They lost some guys, but they have playmakers at receiver. The variety of ways they use Pharoh Cooper will make them hard to gameplan for. They can line him up in the slot, out wide or under center and get first downs when they need to.”

 

“If they do have a quarterback, you have to like their chances in the East.”

 

Related: South Carolina 2015 Fall Camp Preview

 

Tennessee

 

“I think Butch Jones and those guys have done a great job with the young talent, putting them in some positions to succeed but not overloading them. They stayed really, really simple.”

 

“Even though Mike Bajakian left (for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) right when they were starting to figure things out offensively, I know they feel really good about Josh Dobbs and the direction they’re going to go. Stylistically, I think they’ll probably be a lot like Auburn with Nick Marshall, a guy who can put pressure on the defense with the way he runs it.”

 

“Their wide receivers are big-time. They can run and they’re long.”

 

“Jalen Hurd, that dude is going to be a stud. They have a ton of skill coming back.”

 

“My question is can they run the football well enough outside of the quarterback? They had to overhaul the offensive line last year and they need some more consistency there to take the next step.”

 

“A.J. Johnson was their best defensive player in my opinion. He was really good and I don’t know if they can replace everything he did.”

 

“Cam Sutton is an excellent cornerback. He finds ways to make plays on the ball.”

 

“They’ve upgraded their talent level overall, but I just don’t know if they have a bunch of difference-makers on defense.”

 

“The next couple years, I think if they can keep some guys healthy and win a close game or two it wouldn’t surprise me to see them at nine wins.”

 

Related: Ranking the SEC's Top Heisman Contenders for 2015

 

Vanderbilt

 

“Obviously, what happened last year showed what a good job James Franklin did to go to three straight bowl games. They were young, but I expected them to be much more competitive.”

 

“Defensively, they did some really nice things. They’re sound, they’re fundamental. It was a no-brainer for (Derek) Mason to take a more active role in the defense. It can be tough for a first-time head coach to get a feel for how much involved to be on one side of the ball, but if he thinks their defense will be better if he’s more hands-on, it’s the right move.”

 

“I know just from talking to people that they do feel like the intensity in spring ball was a lot higher than last year. They said it was a positive, noticeable change and I would expect them to be better.”

 

“It was a complete trainwreck offensively last year. They couldn’t settle on a quarterback, and I think moving them around so much hurt their whole team. It didn’t seem like they knew what they were offensively or what they wanted to be. Once they establish who their quarterback is going to be, they’ll get better in Year 2. But who is that guy? I have no idea.”

“I still don’t know if they have dynamic playmakers. The Webb kid played pretty well for them as a freshman, but that was about the only bright spot offensively.”

“I’m guessing they may struggle to score again, so they’ll need to be really good on defense.” 

 

West Division

 

Alabama

 

“They’ve got the best talent top to bottom in our league again.”

 

“It’s an NFL-style attack on both sides of the ball, and they have big people that understand the system and play really well together.”

 

“They do a lot of different things with motions and shifts, and they’re very sound fundamentally.”

 

“Their defensive front will be as good as it’s been the last five years. They’re two-deep — at least — at every position. They eat up a lot of space and don’t let you run the football. That’s what they’re built to do.”

 

“They don’t have a C.J. Mosley-type at linebacker, but Reuben Foster is unbelievably talented. That’s a good solid part of their defense.”

 

“Teams hurt them on the back end of their defense last year, but they have guys returning in the secondary who are great athletes. They should be better there. Teams picked on Tony Brown a little bit last year as a freshman, but he’s a really talented corner. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t take the next step.”

 

“The quarterback question is interesting. With (Jake) Coker, throwing the ball isn’t the issue. They tried like crazy to make him the guy last year, but (Blake) Sims just outplayed him. Does (Coker) have the moxie? That’s the intangible you need to go out and win games in this league.”

 

“Nobody in the league was real sad when T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper declared for the draft, but the way they’ve recruited you know they’ll have playmakers on the perimeter.”

 

Related: SEC Predictions for 2015

 

Arkansas

 

“The thing that comes to mind with them is just how big they are. They’re freaking huge, and they’re physical. Yeah, they do a lot of shifts and motions offensively, but the big thing is they’re going to establish the run game, pound you and try to wear you down.”

 

“The defense is sound. They play with great fundamentals, and they’re not going to beat themselves. They’re going to let the offense eat the clock up.”

 

“Robb Smith did as good a job as anybody in the country last year with that defense. His scheme is very sound, very solid and he doesn’t ask those guys to do too much, but he puts them in position to make plays. He’s really good scheming up his opponent and taking away what they do best. I was really impressed with the way he had those guys playing by the end of the year.”

 

“Losing the (Darius) Philon kid early will hurt them up front. He and (Trey) Flowers were two difference-makers.”

 

“Bijhon Jackson is their best inside guy, and Deatrich Wise is a really good long player at defensive end that can maybe be similar to what Flowers was for them.”

 

“I don’t think they have elite guys on the back end, but they don’t play a lot of man. They’re a zone team and his scheme allows those guys to play well with what they do.”

 

“Brooks Ellis is a solid player at linebacker. He made great strides last year from the year before. I think he’ll be very good.”

 

Related: SEC Breakout Players for 2015

 

Auburn

 

“They’re really, really fast. They had a dynamic quarterback for what they did in Nick Marshall, but the times you saw Jeremy Johnson come in, he’s got legitimate arm talent. He’s proven in games what he can do.”

 

“Getting Duke Williams back for another year was huge for them. He is bigger than they list him. He’s a big, big man and he can run — great hands, great catch radius.”

 

“They lost Sammie Coates, but I don’t see a big drop-off at receiver. They have a bunch of guys who can make plays.”

 

“They’re surprisingly physical. The spread gets a misnomer that it’s not a physical attack, but their base play is power, and their second play is a buck sweep.”

 

“They weren’t as good at the H-back position without Jay Prosch, but the word is they have some physical young guys who can play that position so their running game may be better.”

 

“They’re younger in the backfield and don’t have the one big-name guy like Tre Mason or Cameron Artis-Payne, but they may be more talented overall.”

 

“On defense, a healthy Carl Lawson will be huge. He can impact the game in a big way. Auburn’s defensive line will be about as good as anybody in the league, but will there be the depth there they need?”

 

“Can they get consistent play on the back end? That’ll be the key. Jonathan Jones made a bunch of plays last year, and he’s pretty good.”

 

“(Johnathan) Ford is in position to have a monster year at safety. He’s about as fast as anyone in the SEC.”

 

Related: SEC Quarterback Rankings for 2015

 

LSU

 

“I’m mystified why they haven’t been good offensively. They have dynamic receivers. Their offensive line is big, and (Leonard) Fournette is phenomenal. They have talent on the perimeter. Really, they have everything they need. If they can get better quarterback play, they’ll be one of the better offenses in our league.”

 

“Brandon Harris is as gifted as any player as you can find throwing the football. Can he win the job or can they make him fit into their system? If it works itself out, he’s very talented. If he’s not the guy they’ll be very similar to last year, really conservative.”

 

“They’ll be great in the secondary. They always are. They have long athletes that can cover and run.”

 

“It’ll be interesting to see which direction they go schematically with Kevin Steele.”

 

“Kendell Beckwith has a chance to maybe be the best linebacker in our league. He’s big-time. He’s what you think of when you think of an LSU linebacker, and their other backers are good, too.”

 

“They struggled a bit at defensive tackle last year, and it may be a lot of the same, but Davon Godchaux is going to be great. He played a lot as a freshman and he’ll be a factor.”

 

“They don’t have the defensive ends they’ve had in the past. Maybe (Kevin) Steele will have a different scheme that allows the guys they do have to be what they need, but they don’t have those typical LSU guys you’re scared you can’t block.”

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

Mississippi State

 

“If you have a quarterback you have a chance, and they’ve got one of the best leaders in the country.”

 

“Dak Prescott isn’t the most talented guy, but I just think he’s a winner. As long as he’s there, they can be really, really good.”

 

“There are some defensive question marks, but I think with the bulk of the offense coming back, they’ll be fine.”

 

“De’Runnya Wilson is one of the most underrated receivers in the league. He’s a little bit raw, but if he takes another step forward he’s going to be a big-time player.”

 

“Defensively, they lost a bunch up front. Chris Jones will still be a big factor, but they were six or seven deep on the defensive line last year. They would roll their second unit in and sometimes they were just as good as the first unit. I can’t see that happening again.”

 

“Losing Benardrick McKinney will hurt them at linebacker. He was a really good player. He was the key to the style of defense they played, and I’m not sure how they replace that.”

 

“I think Geoff Collins did a great job there, but Manny Diaz plays a different style completely. Geoff had more of a ‘bend, but don’t break’ type defense. You could get yards, but he didn’t give up many points. Manny’s style is really good at forcing turnovers. He’s probably a little more aggressive and creates a little more havoc.”

 

Related: SEC Quarterback Rankings for 2015

 

Ole Miss

 

“It’ll be interesting how their key guys come back off injuries, but they were really good on defense last year and don’t lose a lot.”

 

“They’re just as athletic as anybody in our league. They may have the most athletic front, and (Robert) Nkemdiche can really move for a big guy.”

 

“People don’t really talk enough about Isaac Gross. I thought he was the best nose tackle we played last year.”

 

“Their ends aren’t big guys, but they can really rush the passer.”

 

“Losing Senquez Golson hurts them at corner, but they’ll be solid on the back end. Trae Elston was their best safety the last two years. Cody Prewitt got all the accolades, but we thought Trae was the better player all along.”

 

“Dave Wommack is just so sound and his guys play hard.”

 

“If you don’t have a quarterback in our league you’re going to struggle. That’s a big question for them, but they’ll be talented at wideout again if (Laquon) Treadwell comes back healthy.”

 

“They’re different because they don’t really try to run the ball. They just run it because they have to, to keep you as honest as they can.”

 

“If the (Chad) Kelly kid can become a player they’ll have a chance to contend because their defense is going to be good enough. I just don’t know if their depth on the offensive line is that great.”

 

“Do they have a big-time SEC running back? If not, your quarterback better be special. As good as Bo Wallace was, everybody knew he’d beat himself a little bit, too.”

 

“Who knows if Kelly can produce, but they have talent.”

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Texas A&M

 

“They’re fast, high-tempo, and they really like to spread it around.”

 

“You could see Kyle Allen progress as the season went on. I’m not sure why he didn’t start from Day 1. Everyone was talking about Kenny Hill after that first game, but Allen was the more talented player all along. It was only a matter of time before they made the switch.”

 

“I really like how they used Speedy Noil. He’s a dynamic guy you can move around, do different things with. I’d try to get him as many touches as possible and I’m sure that’s what they’re planning to do, but with smaller guys like that you have to be careful not to wear them down.”

 

“They’ll be better on defense with John Chavis, no question. You know what you’re going to get with him. He’s been so good for so long. He’s just going to do what he does.”

 

“Schematically, what you’ve seen from LSU the last decade is what you’re going to start seeing from A&M.”

 

“They probably have the most talented defensive player in our league in Myles Garrett. He’s the one guy for sure that you know you’re going to have to give your tackles help with. He’s phenomenal. He was hard to block as a freshman, so what he’s going to be in Year 2 is pretty scary. He’s not real physical against the run but as a pass rusher he’s the best in our league — and it’s not even close. He can really change a game by being that kind of player alone.”

 

“They lost a lot in the secondary and have some guys back in the middle, but I’m not sure how elite they really are.”

More Stories: