Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sizing up the competition (anonymously)

I saw Blutarsky and Tyler post on it earlier this week, so I decided to read up on what the SEC coaches were saying about each other's teams. If you haven't already you can as well, just click here. There's something deliciously intriguing about providing someone with anonymity. Kind of like giving a blogger... message boreder... twitterer...a person a keyboard and internet connectivity.

Anyway, thought it would be cool to look specifically at our biggest games this season through the lenses of SEC coaches. Here's what I took away from it.

Mizzou
The QB Franklin will be the real deal and the offense will make the Tigers a threat. However, the general feeling is that the defense won't be up to snuff. The question of toughness will be answered as the games wear on, and it will not tilt the scoreboard in Mizzou's favor.

However, will this affect the SEC opener at all? It's pointed out that Mizzou has to face Georgia, S. Carolina, Bama, Texas A&M and Florida. That's a tall task for an SEC fledgling. Eventually the collision course that is SEC Saturdays will affect the Tigers. I'm just not sure how much it will play into the game September 8th. 

Don't misunderstand. It will be a determining factor; how well Mizzou can handle Georgia's talent, depth and physical nature (especially when they have the ball) will play into the final score. But how much it does depends on Georgia in their first test on the season.

Tennessee
It's clear to the SEC coaches that Tennessee is a broken program. Words and phrases like "get himself straight mentally", "did not play hard", "soft" and "just okay" don't scare many opposing coaches. And it's clear to opposing fans that no one really knows how good this team will be. The Vols have the talent to do some real damage, even make a run for the SECCG. But you can just as easily see them only winning a game or two before folding up like they did last year.

Receiver is clearly the position that scares opponents the most. Justin Hunter was easily on pace to equal a sterling freshman season last year when he went down with an ACL tear. Cordarelle Patterson was a huge JUCO pickup for Dooley in the off season. And Rogers is back with the team again, right? I've lost track. If this talented corps can catch enough bottles balls from Bray it should really open things up for them offensively.
New USCe DC, Coach Ward (via)

South Carolina
The quotes on the Gamecocks are understandably glowing. Despite not winning the East last season, Spurrier did a masterful job at adjusting his tried and true playbook to the personnel he had on the field. It's clear that to beat the Gamecocks you have to win in the trenches, and last year's game at Sanford is a clear example of that. You might outplay them on the edges and downfield, but if you don't out tough them along the lines of scrimmage you are in for a long day.

However, one thing that is noticeably missing is the non mention of the new defensive coordinator, Lorenzo Ward. He was elevated to the position when Ellis Johnson left to become the head coach at Southern Miss. Ward will likely do a lot of things Johnson was successful doing. If it ain't broke right? He promises to have an attacking style and still has the personnel to make that happen.

But it's his first year running things. That's something to at least keep an eye on. As a basis to go from, Carolina was 10th nationally in scoring defense last season and 3rd in total defense. They were especially difficult for opposing offenses at home where they only gave up 12 points per game. On the road, that number more than doubled. Will the transition to Ward running things be smooth enough to rise to those numbers again?

Florida
First off, this is just gold for all my fellow gator-haters:
Scheme was also a problem because they were trying to play a pro-style offensive with spread-style players. (Former offensive coordinator) Charlie Weis never seemed to have a handle on what he could do to get the offense going.
They were maybe the fastest team that we played against, but I did not think they were tough, and I think there were some issues between some players and coaches on the offensive side of the ball.
There's little question that last season's Florida team was a shell of its former self. They lacked their usual intensity, size, toughness and were noticeably awkward in trying to adapt track stars into formations and systems ill equipped to showcase their wares. Going forward Muschamp's team will have to become a tougher team that can handle 60 minutes of football. Dropping the dead weight of Weis' "decided schematic advantage" could go a long way towards helping that. And at times the defense just seemed a step or two away from getting things together. Year two in the system should help.

Overall, this team will be improved. In the Athlon piece a coach noted that Florida's offense was composed of very dangerous TE's and RB's, but teams weren't afraid of their wideouts. For the Gators to turn things around that will have to change. Additionally, it's hard to get a handle on just how much further Muschamp can take the team in another off season. He inherited a mess. A super fast track team of a mess, but a team in disarray nonetheless. 

Auburn
The analysis starts here with the coordinator changes. Just like with Florida (offense), Tennessee (defense) and South Carolina (defense) the adjustments to new systems and styles will go a long way in determining the season's win-loss record. And the Plainsmen have it on both sides of the ball.

On offense, Scott Loeffler takes over for guru Malzahn. Fortunately for Auburn Loeffler has had a tour through the SEC before in 2009 with Florida. Unfortunately - 
I don’t know about the quarterback situation. I guess they don’t either. That’s never a good thing.
Of course, Brian Vangorder takes over for Ted Roof as defensive coordinator. That's a certain upgrade. But along with it, Willie Martinez takes over as secondary coach for [insert ANYone's name here] and that's a surefire downgrade. 

Ultimately, I think Auburn's defense keeps them in a lot of games. How many of those turn out to be wins depends on how well the quarterback position pans out. There's a lot of young talent at running back (even without the freshman Robinson who is surely not going to play anywhere this season) and they have senior McCalebb to lead the way. The Auburn Tigers could be a fortified unit come November, or a team desperate for a win.

Is it September yet?