Overrated and underrated: SEC West
It’s always fun to toss around ideas while the football rests uneasy on the shelf as we head into the month of June.
So while time drags on until August rolls around and the football season, like a beacon in the night, raises our collective testosterone levels, let’s take a look at what might be overrated and what might be underrated in regards to the SEC West for 2016.
Leonard Fournette is a one-man show. Of course, Fournette is an elite talent. Nobody would argue that, but to say Fournette is a one-man show in the backfield at Baton Rouge would be mistaken. Derrius Guice is a beast. He’s fast, he’s strong and powerful. He would make a prime candidate to start for almost any other team in the SEC.
In fact, the Tigers have a stable of running backs that rivals any in the country. Darrel Williams at times has looked like the best running back on the team, and Nick Brossette was blossoming into yet another talented alternative to Fournette before a knee injury sent him to the sidelines.
Yes, the Tigers are loaded at running back. Yes, Leonard Fournette is the leader of that group. But Guice and/or Williams – not to mention a healthy Brossette – have given the Tigers more than serviceable playing time.
Noel Mazzone’s offensive scheme. Oh, boy. Here we go. Yes, the Aggies need a lift on offense. Yes, Mazzone’s offense could be the answer. But it’s not the slam dunk savior that some people are believing it will be. It’s an offense similar to the one Texas A&M enjoyed when it marched into the SEC and nearly took it down in Year 1.
However, that was with Johnny Manziel at the helm. Unless he’s hiding away some eligibility, don’t expect Mazzone to walk on water anytime soon. It’s an interesting scheme, but it’s a scheme that relies on a solid running game and until the Aggies can regroup along the offensive line, it’s going to be difficult for Trevor Knight to excel at the level Aggies fans are clamoring for.
Alabama’s demise. Year after year the media tries to put Alabama’s reign over the SEC West to bed, and year after year the Tide brushes off the naysayers. Whether we want to accept it or not, Alabama is here to stay. The Tide’s stranglehold on the SEC West isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Get used to it.
As long as Nick Saban roams the sidelines and until SEC West defensive coordinators can begin to slow down Lane Kiffin’s offensive schemes, the rest of the SEC West is going to keep looking up at a rolling tide. There may be some hiccups along the way (see Ole Miss the last two years), but over the long haul, nobody has seemed to figure out how to do it better than those in Tuscaloosa.
Lane Kiffin as Alabama’s OC. Yes, he’s been getting his props lately, but not nearly enough. Sure, Nick Saban is considered the ultimate defensive guru, but Alabama needed every one of the 45 points it scored to subdue Clemson in last year’s national title game.
And that probably wouldn’t have happened without Kiffin. Say what you will about his abrasive personality. Smite his character if you must, but Kiffin has provided the X factor the Tide has needed to stay one step ahead of the SEC pack.
John Chavis as defensive coordinator. Sure, the chief is recognized as one of the top defensive minds around, but he seems to be overlooked and underappreciated. It happened at Tennessee. It happened at LSU. If the old saying is true that familiarity breeds contempt, then Chavis is the posterchild.
He did wonders with a terrible Texas A&M defense in his first season with the Aggies and will only get better. Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall are premier bookends in the nation along the defensive front, and the linebackers are developing to compliment the dynamic duo. If given the chance, Chavis will make Texas A&M a top 10 defense.
Ole Miss staying power. It was a fluke that the Rebels beat Alabama and rose to contend for SEC West honors two years ago. However, to beat the conference champion twice in two years, that’s no fluke. Hugh Freeze just might have something going at Ole Miss. No, not just a flash in the pan. Not a meteoric rise to the top, and then a hard fall back into mediocrity.
In order to build a program, and then maintain it, takes athletes. That’s no secret. Freeze has been able to do that in the short time he’s been at Oxford. The more top recruiting classes means not only quality players on the front line but what all coaches dream of: Quality depth. That’s the challenge for Freeze. To not only maintain the top talent but also cultivate the numbers. It’s key to any program’s longevity, and Freeze has been able to continue the process year after year.
And with arguably the league’s top quarterback in Chad Kelly, a healthy season with him under center could result in even higher plateaus reached for the program. Ole Miss has already established it can play with the best. Adding depth to that could mean more consistency and ultimate success.