SDS mailbag: Auburn QBs, Tennessee's WRs, Florida's title hopes and more
We’re bringing back a fan-favorite and reopening the Saturday Down South mailbag.
Each week, we’ll answer your questions. Feel free to tweet questions to @sds or @FilmRoomEditor.
Many of this week’s questions were on related topics, so let’s get started:
@SDS Who will start at QB for Auburn against Clemson?
— Van Plexico (@VanAllenPlexico) March 31, 2016
Answer: Great question. There is no denying the growing buzz surrounding John Franklin III, the speedy dual-threat JUCO transfer who is challenging Jeremy Johnson for the starting job.
I’m on record as saying Auburn was more like Auburn — power football with the ability for the quarterback to throw and run — when Johnson ran the offense, rather than Sean White.
I still believe it’s Johnson’s job to lose. But coaches typically don’t recruit JUCO quarterbacks to have them sit.
Jeremy Johnson, John Franklin III, Sean White, Tyler Queen. Checking in on Auburn's quarterbacks at practice. Watch: pic.twitter.com/X7Og6jeNFC
— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) March 29, 2016
Franklin adds a wipeout dimension that neither Johnson nor White possess. They can’t go 70 yards off a broken play or designed roll out like Franklin has done.
Franklin also gives the Tigers another advantage: Clemson hasn’t seen him and doesn’t have much more than some junior college film to go on.
There is no doubt he brings a sense of excitement to the huddle, and opening at home, against a Heisman contender in Deshaun Watson and playoff contender in Clemson, the last thing Auburn wants is a slow start.
It will be somewhat of a curveball to go with Franklin, but I’m leaning more toward that the farther this goes, even if it’s just to give Clemson a different look early in the game.
@SDS can Kentucky be more competitive in conference while recruiting Ohio heavily?
— Richard McCormick (@captainrlm) March 30, 2016
Answer: It’s working so far, relative to where Kentucky has been. Kentucky is making strides in the SEC East and pushing for its first bowl game since 2010 and its first winning season since 2009. And it has four more Ohio commitments already in the 2017 class.
The in-state push will always be a priority — Drew Barker, Landon Young, etc., — but Ohio obviously is a border state, so it’s close enough to make it a regional hotspot for the Wildcats. And Ohio’s size and football history make it a hotbed.
It’s really no different than, say, recruiting Georgia or Florida. Kentucky typically won’t beat Ohio State or Michigan for the best talent, but it can be in the mix for the best of the rest who are considering Indiana, Purdue, Cincinnati or any number of MAC schools.
@SDS Will Tennessee's passing/receiving game improve enough this year to be a consistent threat?
— Joshua Parsons (@JoshParsons423) March 30, 2016
Answer: Yes, for two reasons: One, Jalen Hurd is back and might push for 1,600 yards this season, so he’ll keep linebackers honest and a safety closer to the line of scrimmage. Two, Joshua Dobbs is a year older, a year more experienced and he has an emerging weapon in Preston Williams.
Defenses will load the box, trying to limit Hurd and offset Dobbs’ running ability. That will create opportunities, much like — but to a lesser extent — Alabama, which always seems to take advantage of its best one-on-one matchup.
Dobbs is an underrated passer. He completed almost 60 percent of his passes last season, and his 15-5 TD-interception ratio was outstanding.
Those numbers will only grow this season.
@SDS with their defense still one of the best in SEC can Florida repeat as east champs if they find a QB who was at least as good as Grier?
— Scott Stogner (@ScottStogner) March 30, 2016
Answer: Finding a quarterback as good as Will Grier was during the first half of last season will be no small feat. I don’t expect Luke Del Rio or Austin Appleby to match Grier’s productivity. But let’s just say whoever wins the job comes close.
I’ve gone back and forth on how good SEC East defenses really were last season. They did most of their work against SEC East offenses, which obviously enhanced their defensive numbers.
Yet outside the security blanket of the East, many of those same defenses struggled. Florida shut down Ole Miss, one of the most surprising results from last season, but also gave up 27 to Florida State and 41 to Michigan.
The Gators lost playmakers on every level of the defense. They return a lot of talent, too, most notably Jalen Tabor, CeCe Jefferson and Jarrad Davis, but it’s difficult to envision them allowing just 18 points per game again.
In part because of how loaded Tennessee is, Florida winning the East in 2016 would be a bigger surprise than the Gators winning it in 2015.