What I'm hearing about SEC teams in Week 14
Each week, Matt Hayes uses his sources around the country to bring you insider knowledge about what’s going on in the SEC.
This is what he’s hearing from SEC coaches and NFL scouts in Week 14, ahead of the SEC Championship Game …
Hugh Freeze and the waiting game
Talked to an SEC coach this weekend about former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze — who could be a valuable commodity during the hiring/firing season – and how it all could hinge on what happens with Tide offensive coordinator Mike Locksley getting a head coaching job (possibly Maryland):
“I’d be shocked if you heard anything about Hugh until after we know what’s going on with (Alabama coach) Nick (Saban) and his staff. Nick wanted to hire Hugh last year, and the league wouldn’t let him. So what’s the (offensive coordinator) situation next year? I know Nick has been really impressed by (Tide quarterbacks coach) Dan (Enos) and the work he has done with the quarterbacks. If Locks leaves, do you hire Hugh in over Enos? If Locks stays, does Hugh take a job as an offensive analyst with Nick instead of an OC job somewhere else? That job as Nick’s latest reclamation holds some weight, you know.” …
Everything revolves around the Georgia run game
Georgia has to keep the Alabama offense off the field. There could not be a more simplistic game plan. But that’s has to include the way the Dawgs execute on offense. To that end, one NFL scout says Georgia has the ability to do so:
“The offensive line got much better in the second half of the season. D’Andre Swift has played like an All-American in the last six weeks, and (Elijah) Holyfield has run hard all season. They’re going to pose problems for Alabama because they’re so balanced. Alabama hasn’t seen anything remotely close to this offense all season. Maybe Missouri, but that Missouri team can’t control the line of scrimmage like Georgia can, and they certainly can’t run with power, can’t move a pile, like Georgia can. I really think more than anything, Georgia can’t get behind and have to play catch-up by throwing on every down. That’s a disaster waiting to happen.” …
Bright NFL future? Scout loves Jerry Jeudy
I asked an NFL scout to give me the best NFL prospect on the field in Saturday’s SEC Championship Game. While Alabama DE Quinnen Williams and Georgia CB Deandre Baker are easy choices for the 2019 draft, the scout looked one more year down the road. And not, surprisingly, at Tua Tagovailoa.
“I love Jerry Jeudy. That kid is a player. He doesn’t have the strength and power – yet – of Julio Jones, and he’s not as skilled as Amari Cooper at this point in his career. But by the time he’s done next year, he might be the best prospect of all those guys. I know that’s a big statement, but the way he runs; he’s so fluid. He knows the game, he works hard at what he does. He’s going to be a great – and I don’t use the word “great” often – great player in our league.” …
On rankings: ‘Florida got better. Kentucky got worse’
The Kentucky staff is privately fuming over their place in the latest College Football Playoff rankings. Their beef: they beat Florida in Gainesville, and the teams have the same record. If the committee can’t see that basic flaw, what else are they missing when it comes to picking the four teams for the Playoff? I spoke an SEC coach this week about this very subject, and not surprisingly, he didn’t agree:
“You can’t be serious. It’s November, and you get taken apart by a below average Tennessee team and you expect to be playing in a big bowl? Look, I don’t think Florida deserves it, either – but you have to have someone fill those games. Florida got better, Kentucky got worse. That’s the bottom line.
“Kentucky probably doesn’t like to hear that, but I’m pretty sure that’s what those folks in the committee are thinking. You want to play in one of those games? Beat a bad Tennessee team instead of getting your brains beat in by them.” …
LSU loves playing the blame game
Spoke to two coaches since last weekend’s thrilling seven overtime game between LSU and Texas A&M, and both, without prompting said the same thing: no one complains about losing quite like LSU:
“You’ve got to be kidding me? You’re going to blame a couple of bang-bang calls on blowing a chance to win a game like that? Come on, man, get off the field on 4th-and-18 and forget about it. Give me a break.”
Said another SEC coach: “This isn’t an (LSU coach) Ed (Orgeron) thing; they’ve been acting like this for years there. They never lose, they just get jobbed. The whole ‘the SEC has it out for us’ thing is tired. That political guy (James Carville) was on TV yelling about a conspiracy a couple of weeks back. Right then, the president, the athletic director, should’ve come out and said that’s ridiculous. That’s not how it works in this league, and our commissioner doesn’t play favorites. It’s always someone else’s fault.” …
The development of Jake Bentley
One NFL scout who watched South Carolina lose to Clemson said Gamecocks QB Jake Bentley finally played to the level many scouts have expected over the past two years:
“That was a guy who looked like a first-round pick. He was composed, he saw the field, he threw it accurately and he didn’t get rattled in a tough environment. Basically everything you want to see from a guy you spend a first round pick on.”
Bentley, who was battling to keep his job this season, is draft eligible.
“That would be a huge mistake for him to come out,” another NFL scout said. “He fits the mold, no doubt. Big, strong kid with a live arm. But he’s got to prove it on a consistent basis. I want to see him push himself to get better in his last season, knowing a big contract is there if he plays well — and then see him get better. Be nice to see him win a couple of those big games, too.”