CFB Insider: Oklahoma a better fit for Jalen Hurts? Defending new-look LSU 'not fun,' mistake-free Jake Fromm and more
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 2 …
When LSU plays at Texas on Saturday night – and the college football world gets its first real look at the Tigers’ new offense – it’ll be a culture shock.
Gone are the days of 12 personnel sets and running backs blocking and quarterbacks throwing the slant or the go and nothing else. LSU, as quarterback Joe Burrow said after last week’s rout of Georgia Southern, is no longer “in the dark ages” with new passing game coordinator Joe Brady’s offense.
Here’s what you’ll see from the LSU offense: 11 personnel sets: 1 running back (yes, fullback lovers, 1 running back), multiple receivers and a spread scheme forcing defenses to cover in space. You know, like a majority of the rest of college football does it.
“But the rest of college football doesn’t have the talent at the skill positions that LSU does,” says one SEC coach. “That’s the problem for everyone in this league now. Used to be you knew what you got with LSU, and frankly, it wasn’t that difficult to defend. If they beat you, it’s because they were physically better than you – and they didn’t make mistakes. Now, it’s a different game. This offense forces defenses to choose, and if you’re a team with the talent they have, what are you choosing between? Getting punched in the face or kicked in the groin. It’s not fun.”
LSU began running similar concepts in 2018, and Burrow’s game went from safe to prolific. First 9 games of the season: 6 TDs, 4 INTs, 53.3 percent completion rate.
Last 4 games of the season: 10 TDs (and 3 TDs rush), 1 INT, 66.9 percent completion rate.
Better Fromm, worse numbers
Jake Fromm likely won’t put up the type of numbers he did last season, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t become a more complete quarterback at Georgia.
“He doesn’t make mistakes,” says Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason.
That, more than anything, might just be the perfect compliment for any quarterback.
Georgia’s strength is its offensive line and running backs. Georgia’s only weakness – if you can call it a weakness – is its untested and young wide receivers. There’s no Mecole Hardman or Riley Ridley in the group and might not be until deep into October.
That means lining up and running behind an offensive line that has 5 future NFL starters (as many as 3 potential 1st-round picks, an NFL scout told me). That means a steady diet of tailbacks D’Andre Swift, Brian Herrien, Zamir White and a loaded backfield.
Fromm’s management and knowledge of the offense are also critical in the development of inexperienced receivers. Freshman Kearis Jackson and sophomore Matt Jackson will be good players; former 5-star transfer Demetris Robertson has the potential to be a No.1 receiver.
But whether that group reaching its potential will depend on Fromm and offensive coordinator James Coley’s management.
Moving from dark ages, Part II
It was only one week, but Josh Gattis’ impact at Michigan already is beginning to show. The former Alabama assistant, Gattis has done to Michigan what Joe Brady has done for LSU. It already has sent shockwaves through the Big Ten.
“I saw some of that stuff,” one Big Ten coach told me. “Is it crazy that (Michigan coach) Jim (Harbaugh) is doing that? Hey, it’s all about getting that W. Whatever gets you there.”
The reality: What Michigan was doing offensively before (12 personnel sets, multiple tight ends, running power and throwing off play-action) wasn’t working when it played teams with similar talent.
No coach in the nation needed change more than Harbaugh. He lifted Michigan from the mess left by Brady Hoke (and Rich Rodriguez), but he hasn’t consistently won games that matter (Ohio State, Michigan State, bowl games).
What he did successfully at Stanford wasn’t translating to what he wanted to accomplish at Michigan. He hasn’t won his division, let alone the Big Ten title.
Michigan is 0-4 vs. Ohio State, 2-2 vs. Michigan State and has lost bowl games to Florida State, South Carolina and Florida.
The change in offensive philosophy will at least give opponents more to dissect and allow Michigan to be more dangerous on the outside with big, physical receivers. QB Shea Patterson – who grew up in the offense and played in a nearly identical scheme at Ole Miss – is the perfect fit for what Gattis wants from the position.
He’ll give the Wolverines a legitimate run threat from the quarterback position.
All Feleipe, all the time
Don’t expect to see a different Feleipe Franks in Florida’s home opener against overmatched Tennessee-Martin on Saturday.
He’s not pulling back on the emotion, and the Gators’ staff isn’t pulling back on putting the game in his hands.
Dan Mullen talked all offseason about Franks’ growth in the offense, and how he’s ready to have a big season. Mullen said after a close win over Miami that he was throwing with 4 minutes to play in the game and trying to protect a lead because he wanted the ball in Franks’ hands at the most important time of the game.
There will be one change moving forward: Look for more of Franks in the quarterback run game. If there was one overriding takeaway from the win over Miami, it’s that Franks wasn’t used enough in the run game – much like what the Gators did over the last month of the 2018 season.
It might not be noticeable against UT-Martin, but it will become significant next week when Florida opens the SEC schedule at Kentucky.
The evolution of Jalen Hurts
I was texting with Jalen Hurts’ dad, Averion, during the Oklahoma-Houston game, and the Hurts family had to be happy with what was playing out on the field.
For 2 years, Averion – a successful high school coach in suburban Houston – has been saying what many outside of the Alabama orbit wondered: Jalen Hurts was miscast in the Alabama offense.
Instead of spreading the field and allowing Hurts to read coverages and find holes, Alabama stayed true to its run-oriented mentality and throwing off play-action – a philosophy that has significantly changed with Tue Tagovailoa at quarterback. In fact, Averion Hurts and his staff at Channelview High made a point to tell me in the spring of 2018 that they believed the play calling in the 2017 National Championship Game changed when Tagovailoa replaced Hurts.
Fast forward to last weekend in Oklahoma’s season opener, and look at what a spread scheme can do for Jalen Hurts.
He’s a perfect fit for the offense, and of the rest of the season looks anything like the win over Houston – granted, there are better defenses (for the most part) in the Big 12 – the Sooners could have an unprecedented 3rd consecutive Heisman Trophy winner.