Takeaways from SEC East weekend scrimmages
We’re just 11 days away from another SEC kickoff and most coaches have had two scrimmages to judge position battles entering the final stretch before game week.
Here’s some player news and scrimmage notes from practice over the last few days involving teams in the SEC’s Eastern Division:
FLORIDA’S FIRST-TEAM OFFENSE SHINES — Since SEC Media Days, Gators coach Will Muschamp has bragged about his team’s talent level this season, saying it’s the most talented group he’s had since he arrived in Gainesville. During Friday’s 15th fall practice and second scrimmage inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, his offense lit several big-play fireworks including a 97-yard bomb from Jeff Driskel to Ahmad Fullwood on a double hitch move. Driskel showed poise from the pocket and enjoyed one of his best practices of the fall, but Muschamp was more impressed with athleticism shown by several wideouts, including Latroy Pittman, in Kurt Roper’s new-look offense.
POTENTIAL SERIOUS INJURY TO OL DAMPENS GAMECOCKS’ MOOD — South Carolina’s offense fared much better Saturday than it did during the first scirmmage against the Gamecocks’ first team defense, but a potentially devastating blow to starting guard Mike Matulis dampened everyone’s mood. Steve Spurrier told reporters that in case the redshirt junior’s left knee injury is serious, he plans to move Cody Waldrop to guard and start Clayton Stadnik at center. Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward has set the depth chart in the secondary, going with senior Brison Williams and true freshman Al Harris Jr. at the corner spots and sophomores Chaz Elder and Chris Moody at the safety positions. South Carolina will begin installing its game plan for Texas A&M on Sunday Ward said.
MARK RICHT FRUSTRATED WITH LACK OF EXECUTION — After a multitude of bad shotgun snaps, a couple offsides penalties and Hutson Mason’s 54-yard pick six to Dominick Sanders, Georgia coach Mark Richt had seen enough at Friday’s scrimmage. “Maybe some guys got a little uptight with that, I don’t know,” Richt said according to Seth Emerson of The Macon Telegraph. “But there’s gonna be a lot more pressure when there’s 95,000 (in attendance) and a few million people watching. But there was just too much of that for this time of year.” In other areas, kicker Marshall Morgan appeared in midseason form with nine consecutive field goal makes while linebacker Jordan Jenkins eluded blockers to pick up nine tackles and two sacks.
MIZZOU’S DEFENSE OUTPERFORMS MAUK, OFFENSE — Quarterback Maty Mauk completed just 8-of-20 passes against Mizzou’s second-team defense Saturday during the Tigers’ second scrimmage of the fall, but coach Gary Pinkel says there’s no reason to worry. Mauk misfired on several passes down the field — tallying five straight incompletions at one point — and never found a rhythm. Russell Hansbrough continued to handle much of the first-team rushing load and scored two touchdowns. Mizzou’s secondary played well, batting down several passes and intercepting two others — one by Raymond Wingo and the other Aarion Penton.
KENTUCKY COACHES STILL MUM ON QB SITUATION AFTER PASS-HEAVY SCRIMMAGE — Coach Mark Stoops and offensive coordinator Neal Brown each acknowledged Saturday that they felt progress has been made at the quarterback position following the Wildcats’ second fall scrimmage, but neither gave any clues as to who is the frontrunner between Patrick Towles, Drew Barker and Reese Phillips. A quarterback will be chosen once Kentucky’s coaching staff can evaluate film and determine who best manages tempo and handles communication. Third-down decision making is an important element according to Brown.
NEARLY 40,000 FANS WATCH TENNESSEE UNDER THE LIGHTS — An estimated 40,000 fans attended Saturday night’s open scrimmage at Neyland Stadium and Butch Jones took notice, thanking the crowd afterwards for creating a ‘game-like atmosphere’ for many newcomers who had never played in front of a sizable number of fans. It was the second practice of the day for the Vols who also took the field earlier in the morning. Jones, for the first time in weeks, seemed pleased with his players’ effort level and said starters should be announced on Monday.
DEREK MASON INTRIGUED BY JOHNNY MCCRARY’S ABILITY — He may not start under center when the Commodores open the season Aug. 28 against Temple, but Johnny McCrary has a chance to make an impact in certain packages if he continues to showcase his dual-threat abilities to Vanderbilt’s coaching staff. The Commodores’ second fall scrimmage Thursday was closed to the public and media, but Mason and a couple of McCrary’s teammates acknowledged the redshirt freshman’s handle on the offense. Mason alluded to a few red zone turnovers from quarterbacks in the starting mix (Patton Robinette, Stephen Rivers and McCrary), but didn’t mention any players by name.