CFB Insider: Bama's new plan? Yes, Auburn can slow down LSU. And Jake Fromm's real issue ...
Each week, Matt Hayes uses his sources around the country to bring you insider knowledge about what’s going on in and around the SEC ahead of this week’s games.
This is what he’s hearing from coaches and NFL scouts in Week 9 …
Life with — or without — Tua
I spoke to 2 SEC coaches this week and got their thought process for Alabama’s game plan moving forward, with or without QB Tua Tagovailoa. The responses were as revealing as they were distinctly different:
“You’ve got to get by Arkansas first, and I know that sounds strange, but I know this league,” an SEC coach said. “If you don’t zero in on that game, you’re going to be a war.
“You’ve got to use that game to get (Mac) Jones in a rhythm. Find out what he likes (in the playbook), find out what he’s comfortable doing. Now is not the time to force what you think will work against Arkansas or LSU or any other team down the road.
“Look, we have no idea when Tua will be ready. High ankle sprains are a bad deal; I’ve seen guys not heal an entire season. I don’t know anything about that surgery, but I know about that injury. The swelling, the pain, the rehab. He’s going to be dealing with it the rest of the season, so you better get Jones ready and comfortable.”
Another SEC coach said: “I know this: That didn’t look good with Jones (against Tennessee). That’s surprising to me because he has been there a few years, and he should be at least a safe spot in there. Know where you’re throwing, know what you’re doing. It didn’t look that way.
“If I know Nick, they’re getting Tua’s younger brother (Taulia) ready right now – and not just as a backup. It’s risk/reward, and there’s much more risk right now. We recruited Taulia, he’s a talented thrower. But we’re all the same coaching creatures, we value the football.
“You put a young guy in there, and you’re risking ball security issues. At the same time, you’re going to need much more than what Jones gave you, especially if Tua’s injury lasts beyond the Arkansas game.”
Beating LSU’s RPO
We’re all focused on the Nov. 9 Alabama-LSU game, but 2 NFL scouts I spoke to stressed Auburn has the defense to cause problems for LSU on Saturday.
The best way to disrupt RPO offenses is to get them off time. No one has been able to do it consistently against LSU this season, but Auburn’s defensive line has the ability to do so.
“Florida did it a couple of times, and I would’ve loved to have seen Florida at full strength on the defensive line against the LSU offense,” an NFL scout told me this week. “The whole concept behind the RPO is two-fold: deception and quick decisions. You’re forcing safeties to commit to the run or the pass in a matter of 1 or 2 seconds, and then the quarterback adjusts and does the opposite.
“You beat it by not allowing the quarterback those 1 or 2 or 3 seconds to make those decisions.”
That means DLs Derrick Brown, Nick Coe and Big Cat Bryant – who have disrupted offenses all season – will be the most important players not named Joe Burrow in Saturday’s game.
“Absolutely, a no-brainer,” another NFL scout told me. “You’re talking about a group of guys that will all play in our league, who are impact players. If I’m looking at defensive lines, this Auburn line might have the best chance at disrupting what LSU does more than any other team this season.”
Seeing a different Fromm
There are thoughts throughout NFL scout personnel that Georgia’s struggles in the passing game have exposed some of QB Jake Fromm’s flaws. Among the issues: Fromm’s arm strength and accuracy.
Fromm’s numbers have decreased significantly from his first 2 seasons, and much of that can be attributed to young receivers and new offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach James Coley.
“His arm strength was never elite,” an NFL scout told me. “But when you’ve got young receivers running wrong routes and your offensive coordinator/play-caller is putting you in bad down-and-distance situations, those things are magnified.”
While Fromm has completed 70 percent of his passes, that’s “built on the back of easy, safe throws,” another NFL scout said. “But let’s not forget we’re talking about an elite football IQ (with Fromm). That’s going to carry a lot of weight when we really begin to break him down.
Mizzou’s mission: Staying focused
As bad as last week’s loss to Vanderbilt was, Missouri still controls its fate in the SEC East race. But that’s a long way from where this team was a week ago. The question: What happened?
“The hardest thing is to convince players to not look past teams you’re going to beat,” an SEC coach told me. “The absolute hardest thing we do on the field. There’s so many other things these guys deal with hour after hour, day after day, outside of football. The distractions are brutal, and we’re trying to get them ready to play — and they know who they’re playing. They watch the film and see they’re a better team. I guarantee you that’s what Missouri was dealing with. Barry is a helluva coach. He had them ready for Wyoming and had them ready for Vanderbilt.”
Missouri ran for less than 100 yards against a Vandy run defense ranked 108th in the nation. Quarterback Kelly Bryant completed only 50 percent of his passes and averaged 5.3 yards per attempt against a pass defense ranked 112th in the nation. The Tigers had 293 yards of total offense against a Vandy defense that was giving up 482 yards per game.
“Look, we make mistakes as coaches. At the end of the day, it’s on us,” the SEC coach said. “When you see a team lose a game it shouldn’t, more times than not, we as coaches didn’t do a good enough job stressing the importance of every week is new.”