Other coaching talk:
One of my favorite sections of Athlon’s preseason magazines is the ‘Coaches Sizing Up Opposing Teams’ section.
Athlon asked current coaches to talk anonymously about their opponents, and it’s always interesting to get opposing coaches’ impressions off the record, especially when it’s not bland ‘coach speak’.
Here are some excerpts as to what coaches thought about their opponents in the SEC East:
“Oddly enough, and I don’t think they were the best offense, but Florida was the most difficult offensive team to prepare for last year. They have so many different personnel groupings, and they can do so many different things, and their identity changed on a weekly basis. They are kind of like South Carolina – they want to win games on defense and not turn the ball over. They are trying to find their identity. They probably thought they had their identify at one point, but then some of the bigger, stronger teams of our league kind of challenged that identity. I like Will Muschamp. I respect him a lot. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. His mentor is Nick Saban, and he put his stamp on the team in Year 2 in regard to toughness and winning games in the kicking game and on defense.”
“Aaron Murray is really good. If you commit people to stop the run and put one-on-one on the perimeter, he has such a nice feel with his wide receivers. If you play two deep or quarters, then they will kill you with the run. It’s the combination of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall that kills you…They don’t wow you with Xs and Os because they don’t have to. They will remind you of the Miami teams in the 2000s. They lined up in pro sets and twins and you got a chuckle out of it, then 450 yards and 42 points later they got the last laugh…Gurley and Marshall complement each other so well. Gurley runs tackle to tackle as well as anyone. He bullies you and he is a big boy, but don’t underestimate how fast he is.”
“Kentucky, for the past few years, hasn’t had anybody that’s scared you on offense, on the perimeter or at running back. When your best player is your right guard [Larry Warford], that’s probably a little bit of a problem. I’m sure Mark Stoops will come in and attract some talent. The fact of where Lexington is and his ties to Ohio, you will see an outside the box thinking as far as recruiting. Stoops is well regarded as a defensive coordinator. Offensive coordinator Neal Brown is very confident. He has a little bit of a swagger to him.”
“I respected their scheme tremendously. They got off to a decent start last year. Between James Franklin and some of the other guys getting hurt, especially on the offensive line, they really had trouble moving the ball. And I think the overall SEC took its toll on them as the year went on. WR Dorial Green-Beckham didn’t do much at all, and he was the No. 1 recruit in the nation. I get the impression he needs to mature a little bit. The running back coming back from injury, Henry Josey, he’ll be dangerous if he returns healthy. Really talented back.”
South Carolina Gamecocks
“I like quarterback Connor Shaw. He’s underrated. All he does is win. And he is fiercely tough. Dylan Thompson may be the more talented of the two, and clearly South Carolina knows that their defense is legit, and if they don’t turn the ball over and make mistakes, they will win a lot of games. They should be able to absorb the loss of Marcus Lattimore. Mike Davis is a very good back. Ace Sanders was a great return guy and a good slot receiver. I always thought he was dangerous, but I didn’t look at him and say he was an elite wide receiver in the league. He’s a loss, but they have established some really solid depth at receiver.”
“They will be an up-tempo, no huddle spread offense that will play with a lot of enthusiasm. Butch Jones hired some coaches with some experience in the SEC, like John Jancek and Willie Martinez, who know the league and the type of player it takes to be successful in this league. The offensive line was very good. Losing OL coach Sam Pittman may hurt more than losing any of the players. They have won two SEC games in two years. That is bizarre. It just shows you how fiercely competitive the SEC is – for a school with those resources to have only two wins in two years. Butch Jones is a hit ‘em in the face kind of guy who will try and win back the state of Tennessee in recruiting.”
“Their wide out, Jordan Matthews, is pretty good. He’s really good, actually. He’s pretty athletic, and he will make guys miss. Keeping him is pretty big. He had a chance to go to the NFL. The quarterback that transferred from Wyoming [Austyn Carta-Samuels], they feel he’s as talented as the guy they had, Jordan Rodgers. You know, the won nine games and play you really tough, but I think they’ll be middle of the road – the middle of the pack in the SEC. But the next step is to become an elite SEC team, and I’m just not sure they have the personnel yet.”
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