5 coaching decisions I'd like to see made by SEC coaches
With only three weeks left in the regular season, most of the contenders and pretenders in the SEC have let themselves be known.
Unless there is a string of upsets nobody sees coming the next two Saturdays, the West will come down to the Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa. As if Auburn-Alabama isn’t great enough, this year the stakes have again been raised.
As for the East — the red-headed stepchild of the best conference in America — believe it or not it’s still mathematically possible to have a six-way tie between Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. Only Missouri has been eliminated at this point. Will the real division champ please stand up?
Due to injury, ineffectiveness or other mitigating factors, several coaches in the league face some tough choices as we make our way down the stretch. A few can help shape 2016. Others are in early preparation for 2017.
Here are five coaching decisions that I’d like to see made in the SEC. Sooner rather than later is the way to go, too.
patterson over pellerin
With Chad Kelly out for the year due to a torn ACL and Ole Miss now a disappointing 4-5, the future is now at quarterback.
While redshirt freshman Jason Pellerin is technically next on the depth chart, true freshman Shea Patterson is the heir apparent at the game’s most important position. Even with only three games left, burning his redshirt is justifiable.
It would be one thing if the Rebels were still in contention in the West — or at least had a shot at another New Year’s Six bowl game. That’s clearly not the case, so continuing to sit Patterson to make a run at the Belk Bowl makes little sense. What does make sense is getting a five-star signee some valuable live-action reps.
If Mississippi fans are worried that Patterson won’t be fully prepared for Texas A&M after just a few practices, then rotate him with Pellerin on Saturday. At the very least, he’ll get a taste of post-high school football.
When Patterson signed with the Rebs, he knew he’d have to sit behind Kelly. But with Kelly out, he shouldn’t have to sit behind Pellerin.
jf3 to another position
Sean White didn’t play the first half last week due to a mysterious injury, so Auburn started John Franklin III at quarterback.
The results weren’t good, as Franklin only completed 2-of-4 passes in 30 minutes of action. As a result, the Tigers actually trailed Vanderbilt by a field goal at intermission. Fortunately, White came to the rescue in the second half.
Whether he wants to admit it or not, Franklin isn’t a QB. That’s why Florida State first began experimenting with him at wide receiver — he resisted and ended up in JUCO before resurfacing on The Plains. Even in coach Gus Malzahn’s offense, which is a better fit for his skill set, he’s not cut out to be a passer.
That being said, Franklin is still a terrific athlete and a threat to score every time he gets his hands on the ball. A creative play-caller like Malzahn can find countless way to involve him as a runner and pass catcher.
Once per series, he should be given a toss sweep, an end around or a bubble screen. Franklin would have to embrace such a role, though.
more of a look for byrd
A four-star recruit from Naples (Fla.) High School, Tyler Byrd has the ability to be an explosive athlete on either side of the ball.
While he started his career at Tennessee as a cornerback, coach Butch Jones moved him to receiver. The Volunteers have been short on bodies in the secondary for weeks, yet Byrd continues to catch passes instead of defend them.
If the Volunteers do indeed envision him as a wideout for the rest of his stay in Knoxville, then go ahead and use him. Their top two targets are clearly Josh Malone and Jauan Jennings, but Byrd should have more than 12 catches for 157 yards — he was shut out in the upset loss at South Carolina — through nine games.
In terms of pure physical ability, Byrd has been compared to Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers. He needs more of a chance to contribute.
scarbrough late in games
When Derrick Henry took his Heisman Trophy and left early for the NFL, Bo Scarbrough got most of the preseason hype as his replacement.
Instead, fellow five-star signee Damien Harris has emerged as Alabama’s primary tailback. Even when Harris missed some time with injury, it was Josh Jacobs, not Scarbrough, who stepped in and starred for the Crimson Tide.
But in this past Saturday’s victory at LSU, Scarbrough ran with the kind of power — and delivered the kind of punishment — everyone expected all along from the 6-foot-2, 228-pounder. With 52 hard-fought yards on 11 carries against an inspired Tigers defense, he put an attitude on display that had been missing from his game.
There’s no reason to remove Harris. However, Scarbrough is perfect for protecting leads and burning clock in the second half.
William Ham started the season as Georgia’s kicker, but he struggled badly and only converted 3-of-7 attempts on field goals.
Rodrigo Blankenship — already a folk hero in Athens with his goofy-looking goggles — came to the rescue and has split the uprights on 9-of-10 tries. He was one of the stars last week at Kentucky, booting a 25-yard field goal on the last play of regulation to secure a come-from-behind victory over the Wildcats.
Unfortunately, coach Kirby Smart has been hesitant to reward Blankenship with a scholarship. Here’s hoping that wrong gets righted soon.