2 great decisions every SEC East team made in 2016 ... and 1 it would like back
Previously, we looked at the good, bad and even the ugly of the 2016 season in the SEC West. Now we focus on the SEC East and take a look at each team, a couple of decisions that made it look good and one decision that made each look very bad.
Good – Plugging in six true freshmen to fill holes made by injuries, a bold move and proof of great recruiting.
Good – Postponing the Oct. 8 game with LSU because of Hurricane Matthew until Nov. 19. The Gators won the rescheduled game, 16-10, in Baton Rouge to secure a second consecutive SEC East title.
Bad – The Gators had no answers for the second-half surge of Tennessee, blowing a 21-0 lead in a 38-28 defeat.
Good – Throwing true freshman QB Jacob Eason into the fire. Eason threw for 2,266 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Good – Playing youth along the defensive line, not only a good move for this season but for future years as well. The Bulldogs ranked fourth in the SEC against the run, allowing 141 rushing yards per game.
Bad – Relying too heavily on an underachieving veteran offensive line. Despite having both Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in the backfield, the Bulldogs finished eighth in the SEC with 186.5 rushing yards per game.
Good – Choosing JC transfer Stephen Johnson to play quarterback for the injured Drew Barker. The Wildcats went 7-3 with Johnson, including an upset of Louisville.
Good – Turning to the running game. The Wildcats produced two 1,000-yard rushers in Stanley “Boom” Williams (1,135) and true freshman Benny Snell (1,057).
Bad – Mark Stoops waited too long before taking a role in a defense that went from terrible to simply bad. The Wildcats were 11th in the conference, allowing 31.2 points per game.
Good – Handing the keys to sophomore QB Drew Lock, who led the SEC with 3,399 passing yards and threw for 23 touchdowns.
Good – Hiring Brick Haley to coach the defensive line. The veteran with NFL coaching experience saw nine defensive linemen selected in the NFL draft over six seasons at LSU.
Bad – First-year head coach Barry Odom probably didn’t do himself any favors raising expectations for the 2016 season.
Good – Removing the redshirt from QB Jake Bentley. After a 2-4 start, the Gamecocks won four of the six games he started and qualified for a bowl game in Will Muschamp’s first season as head coach.
Good – Hard-nosed defense will keep you in any game. Muschamp knows this as well as anyone and his decision to stay with that philosophy helped the Gamecocks become bowl eligible.
Bad – Muschamp’s ultra-conservative offense probably played against him in a couple of games, especially a 17-10 loss at Kentucky.
Good – It was an easy call but a good one to allow QB Joshua Dobbs to lead the offense. The senior surpassed last year’s totals with 2,655 passing yards (fourth in the SEC) and a conference-best 26 touchdown passes.
Good – Halftime adjustments of the Florida game. The Vols reeled off 35 unanswered points in a 38-28 victory.
Bad – Having just missed a 37-yard field goal, head coach Butch Jones was reluctant to try another one in the waning moments of a season-ending 45-34 loss to Vanderbilt. Instead, the Vols failed on fourth down from the Commodores’ 12-yard line, effectively ending the game.
Good – Head coach Derek Mason staying the course and not losing the team after a 2-4 start. It paid dividends as the Commodores finished 4-2, including victories over Georgia, Ole Miss and Tennessee, and became bowl eligible.
Good – Hanging with QB Kyle Shurmur. The sophomore struggled early but finished with a flurry, throwing for 200-plus yards in three consecutive games before the 416-yard performance against Tennessee.
Bad – The program’s all-time leader in rushing attempts, RB Ralph Webb probably didn’t get the ball enough in the Commodores’ close losses to South Carolina (13-10), Florida (13-6), Kentucky (20-13) and Auburn (23-16).