What I'm hearing about SEC teams in Week 9
Each week, Matt Hayes uses his sources around the country to bring you insider knowledge about what’s going on in the SEC ahead of this week’s games.
This is what he’s hearing from SEC coaches and NFL scouts in Week 9 …
Florida’s plan vs. Georgia? See: LSU’s plan vs. Georgia
Want to know how Florida will attack the Georgia defense this weekend? Look at the Florida-LSU game, or the LSU-Georgia. “Look at LSU and Florida; they’re they same offenses,” one NFL scout told me this week. “They’re more comfortable run blocking, they’ve got tough (running) backs with deceptive speed and gutty quarterbacks who may not be elite, but do enough to hurt you if you stack the box to stop the run. You look at those two teams defensively, and LSU and Florida almost mirror each other — except Florida rushes the passer better, and LSU covers a little bit better.”
We’ve discussed Georgia QB Jake Fromm’s struggles on third down at length in First and 10, and scouts and SEC coaches I spoke to this week all think Georgia will throw on early downs with Fromm. “Yeah,” one SEC coach said, “all that means is (Florida DC) Todd (Grantham) will bring the house earlier. They’re going to get after (Fromm); I don’t care what down it is.” …
Georgia’s plan vs. Florida? Unleash Justin Fields
Meanwhile, the Georgia plan: more of backup QB Justin Fields. Look at Florida’s only loss: UK QB Terry Wilson played his best game this year, completing 11-of-16 passes and rushing for 105 yards. If it wasn’t Wilson in the zone read run game, it was Wilson breaking containment and picking up critical first downs.
That set up the big hammer of bruising TB Benny Snell Jr., and successful play action throws.
“There’s no doubt in my mind you’re going to see (Justin) Fields,” one SEC coach said. “This is the game you use everything and everybody. You’ve had two weeks to prepare for this thing, and you’ve got to find a way to keep that Gators pass rush off you, slow it down a bit. Everything’s on the table now. I wouldn’t be surprised if you see both quarterbacks in the backfield.”
How, you ask? Check this out: “We had the same situation once, and we set up a trick play, a halfback pass, by using the thrower as the QB, giving it to your running QB in any set – zone read, pitch, jet sweep,” the SEC coach continued. “If you’re successful running it – and you have to be successful – that sets up a throw off a quick or a pitch. You absolutely will see something like that.” …
SEC coach on A&M: ‘I can see 3 losses’ in closing stretch
If you think Texas A&M is a different team under Jimbo Fisher, there’s plenty of evidence to back it up. The Aggies are better at the quarterback spot, have a better and stronger running game, and have a Top 25 defense. Now comes November, or in this case, the final stretch of the season – where Kevin Sumlin’s Aggies teams struggled mightily, including six losses in the last two seasons.
Up next: a 5-game stretch to define the season, including back-to-back road games against Mississippi State and Auburn, and three consecutive home games to finish the regular season (Ole Miss, UAB, LSU). “I can see three losses there, absolutely,” on SEC coach said. “That’s what the culture change is all about. Those kids know what they’ve done in the past. What happens when they face that same adversity again? We’re going to see just how far Jimbo has come with that group, and how much further he still has to go.” …
NFL scout on Kentucky: QB an ‘issue’ but ‘the play-calling is terrible’
Kentucky likely will use multiple quarterbacks this week at Missouri, a game that both teams desperately need. Mizzou is in danger of not qualifying for the postseason, and Kentucky – one NFL scout told me – looks like a team “just trying to make it to that Georgia game over the last three weeks.” The Kentucky defense hasn’t slipped at all this season. The offense is a completely different story. “Clearly the quarterback is an issue,” the scout said. “But the play-calling is terrible. They’re too conservative. They’re not nearly as aggressive as they were early in the season. It’s like the quarterback who has a receiver wide open, no one around him for 10 yards, and the quarterback misses the throw because he doesn’t want to miss the throw. That’s what Kentucky looks like on offense now. They know their defense is holding the rope. But instead of getting after it, they’re just hanging on and trying to do the least amount of damage. That’s a recipe for disaster.” …
Expect to see Keytaon Thompson split snaps at QB
Don’t be surprised to see Keytaon Thompson play more snaps than Nick Fitzgerald Saturday against Texas A&M. We told you a month ago the Mississippi State staff was working on specific down and distance packages for Thompson. The idea first began during preparation for the Florida game on Sept. 29, and was put on the back burner after Fitzgerald followed a poor game in a loss to the Gators (11-of-26, 98 yards) with a strong performance in a win over Auburn (28 carries, 195 yards).
The initial idea was brought about in late September because Fitzgerald was absorbing too many blows as MSU’s No. 1 rusher, and there was a thought process that his fearless running style was impacting his throwing. Now it’s simply out of necessity to score points and hopefully add juice to a stagnant passing game that has accounted for 226 yards in the last three games. Thompson has MSU’s top passing performance this season (364 yards, 5 TD, 0 INT) vs. FCS Stephen F. Austin. …
A new wrinkle for Alabama’s QB situation
With Alabama QB Jalen Hurts still recovering from a high ankle sprain, expect third-string quarterback Mac Jones to take some snaps with the first team offense next week during practice. It’s a precautionary move that would give Jones some semblance of comfort with the first unit, especially if Hurts’ ankle injury prevents him from full-go participation in next week’s practice.
Starter and likely Heisman Trophy frontrunner Tua Tagovailoa tweaked his right knee earlier this season, and has been wearing a brace since. Even though coach Nick Saban says Tagovailoa is healthy, there are typically stability issues in most knee injuries for an extended period despite the initial healing process (hence, the need for the knee brace).