South Carolina spring game

SEC spring game wrap-ups


In the week leading up to South Carolina’s spring game Saturday, head coach Steve Spurrier seemed confident in regards to the state of his Gamecocks ball team, getting a little “salty” when discussing a couple of SEC rivals.

Based on the number of fans in attendance, they’re feeling the confidence as well.

In front of what the school listed as 34,513 fans in attendance, the Black team, behind the play of quarterback Connor Shaw, outscored the Garnet team 38-24 in the annual Garnet & Black game.  In limited action, Shaw completed 6-of-7 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns.  Redshirt freshman Tanner McEvoy also tossed two TD passes for the Black squad.

Effectively the game was over at the half, with the Black team holding a 35-10 advantage with two quarters to play.

In his postgame comments, the Ol’ Ball Coach said that his 2012 Gamecocks “[have] a chance to be pretty good”, but also lamented a secondary and non-existent pass rush that allowed the quarterbacks to be so successful.

We obviously threw the ball and caught it better than any spring game. Probably more passing yards and completions. I thought coverage could’ve been better. We didn’t have a pass rush. Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor didn’t play much. The quarterbacks had time and the receivers caught about everything. They had good routes. Who’s to say if our coverage is suspect or not, but I know Coach Ward wasn’t happy about some guys getting behind them. It made the offensive guys look pretty good throwing and catching. Whatever it means, I don’t know. We’ll keep working and try to improve. You can tell we have pretty good-looking, physical guys. Brandon Shell looks like a big time offensive tackle. If he gets quicker and stronger, he’ll be a big time offensive tackle. It’s encouraging. I think he played probably 50 or 60 plays today. It was good to see a lot of those guys play a bunch. Most are in pretty good shape. The defensive line got tired. Some of them played both sides of course. It’s just the spring game; just a practice game. The highlight was at halftime introducing the senior guys. Hopefully the next year we’ll do the senior guys for doing something special like the 2011 guys did.

On the successful passing day
I guess it was nice for the offensive guys. Not real nice for the defensive guys. The quarterbacks picked them out well. That was surprising. They only threw one or two errant balls today. All the quarterbacks threw well and the receivers caught most of everything. That’s encouraging.

USC was one of six SEC teams to conduct its spring game Saturday, with recaps for the rest — minus Alabama, which has its own solo post HERE — available for consumption below:

Auburn — On the same day Auburn’s quarterback of the past was one of the school’s former Heisman winners to have his statue outside Jordan-Hare Stadium unveiled, the Tigers’ QB of the future was putting on a very impressive display inside the stadium that no doubt left the coaching staff (privately) salivating over the future.

Sophomore Kiehl Frazier dazzled the 43,000-plus in attendance, completing seven of his nine passes for 92 yards in helping lead the offense to a 36-27 “win” over the defense.  Head coach Gene Chizik, however, warned not to read too much into the numbers.

“I wouldn’t pay attention to any of the stats today. I wouldn’t read into any stats you may see, good or bad,” the coach said.

In addition to Frazier’s contributions, transfer running backs Mike Blakely (Florida) and Corey Grant (Alabama) each scored a touchdown on the ground.

Georgia — The story of UGA’s spring game may have been more about who wasn’t participating than about who was.  Neither cornerback Malcolm Mitchell, moved from wide receiver to cornerback at least for the short-term, nor stud freshman running back Keith Marshall were available due to hamstring issues.

Of those who were available, 44,000 fans at the annual G-Day Game watched as the Red team stopped a late two-point conversion to hold on for a 32-31 victory.  The winning side was led by running back Ken Malcolm’s two touchdowns as well as 112 yards passing and a touchdown from starting quarterback Aaron Murray.

Regardless of the particulars, head coach Mark Richt, like just about every other coach in America following these games, was pleased with what he saw.

“It was a great day for Georgia,” Coach Mark Richt said. “I feel like everyone enjoyed the game. I thought there were a lot of offensive plays that were made today. When you look at it, the defense was scoring points, too. I thought both sides of the ball played well. It was exciting.”

Missouri — With starter James Franklin out indefinitely after undergoing surgery on his right (throwing) shoulder, backups Corbin Berkstresser and Ashton Glaser combined to throw for 400 yards and three touchdowns in Mizzou’s first Black & Gold Game as a semi-official member of the SEC.  The game feature two distinct scoring systems: the first half pitted the starting offenses and defenses against the backups — the reserves won those two periods 34-10 — while the second half featured the starting offense vs. the starting defense — the latter trumped the former 5-3.  Linebacker Donovan Bonner led a solid defensive effort against a Franklin-less offense, returning an interception 65 yards for a touchdown and totaling six tackles.

Vanderbilt — In the Commodores’ annual Black & Gold spring game, the Black team was composed mainly of starters on both sides of the ball.  So, as logic would dictate, the Black team dominated the Gold team, coming out on the good side of a 30-0 whitewashing.  The duo of junior wide receiver Jordan Matthews and redshirt freshman wide receiver Josh Grady combined to score three touchdowns, including one that saw Grady take a direct snap and throw it to Matthews for the final score of the game.  Oddly enough, Grady did not catch a pass but still accounted for two TDs — one on the ground and the previously mentioned one through the air.

(Photo credit: South Carolina athletics)

Auburn horticulture professor offers dire update on torched Toomer’s Corner oak

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 10: Fans of the Auburn Tigers roll trees at Toomer's Corner after defeating the Arkansas State Red Wolves at Jordan Hare Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama. The Auburn Tigers defeated the Arkansas State Red Wolves 51-14.(Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

It appears that, once again, one of the oaks at famed Toomer’s Corner in Auburn will likely need to be replaced because of the actions of a lone dolt.

Following the win over LSU in late September, students and fans, as they have done for decades, rolled the oaks with toilet paper, only to watch as one of the trees go up in flames. A 29-year-old Auburn “man,” Jochen Weist, was identified on video using a lighter to set the toilet paper on fire and arrested.

Nearly four weeks later, it’s not looking good for the tree’s survival.

“Our message to the Auburn Family about the Magnolia Avenue tree remains the same as from the outset, that it is severely damaged from the Sept. 25 fire,” AU professor of horticulture Dr. Gary Keever said in a statement according to “We have conducted three assessments of its health, the most recent one showing 60-70 percent of the tree’s canopy is dead. A few new leaves have formed on some of the live branches, however, this does not indicate additional growth will occur or that those branches will be alive in the spring.

“Although the outlook is not promising, Auburn is doing everything possible to save the tree. We will continue to monitor the tree and provide updates as they become available.”

Weist was originally taken into custody on a charge of public intoxication. Additional charges of first-degree criminal mischief, a felony, and desecration of a venerable object were later added.

The case has been sent to a grand jury.

University officials have asked that the fire-damaged tree not be rolled. That tradition had just been revived this season following a three-year absence as a result of an Alabama fan poisoning the oaks.

Notre Dame AD: Brian Kelly ‘will lead this team out of the tunnel opening day next year’

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 01:  Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and his team wait to head on to the field for the start of the game against the Syracuse Orange at MetLife Stadium on October 1, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Getty Images

For those looking — or hoping — for Brian Kelly to be on the coaching hot seat, it appears you’ll have to wait another year or more.

Kelly’s Notre Dame squad, which began 2016 ranked 10th in the Associated Press Top 25, has had its fair share of issues on the field, stumbling to a 2-5 start that’s the program’s worst since 2007.  There have also been issues off the field related to those on-field struggles, with Kelly firing his defensive coordinator and throwing his players under the bus for good measure.  Former Irish football players have sounded off and taken aim as well.

Add it all up, and it had some thinking that Kelly might not be long for South Bend.  At least publicly, Kelly’s boss is emphatically putting the kibosh on such talk.

“Brian will lead this team out of the tunnel opening day next year,” Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick told earlier today. “I can tell you I continue to have complete confidence in Brian. … I get to see the program day in and day out and I continue to have great confidence in Brian and confidence in our future as a program.”

Kelly is in the midst of his seventh season at the school.  In the previous six, he’d led the Irish to a 55-23 mark.  Included in that total are a pair of 10-plus win seasons as well as an appearance in the BCS title game following the 2012 regular season.

In late January of this year, Kelly and the university reached an agreement on a six-year contract extension that runs through the 2021 season.

When did Nick Saban realize he missed college football? His ‘first press conference’ in Miami

Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban watches play   against the   Carolina Panthers   September 25, 2005 in Miami.  The Dolphins defeated the Panthers 27  to 24.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Yeah, he’s playing to, using the vernacular of the political season, his very fervent base, but it’s still not the least bit surprising.

When Nick Saban left LSU for the job with the Miami Dolphins in 2004, there were more than a couple of observers who were surprised the coach would leave the college game to get back into the NFL. When Saban, after infamously denying it, left the Dolphins to take the job at Alabama after just two seasons, there were more than a couple of observers who were not surprised the coach made such a decision.

Why? Because Saban just seemed like a coach who could relate better to — some would say control more — college players than those in the NFL. With Verne Lundquist serving as a guest on Saban’s weekly radio show Thursday night, the retiring college football broadcaster asked the Alabama head coach, writes, “when in his Miami Dolphins tenure he realized he missed coaching college football?”

Saban’s answer was illuminating…

“Well, the day I landed in Miami and went to the first press conference,” Saban said. “I started to realize the difference between the NFL then and what the NFL was like before when I was in it with Bill Belichick from 1991-94 in Cleveland, before we had free agency, before the media had infiltrated sorta everything that was happening. I guess right then.”

… but not as illuminating as the coach, once again, addressing his version of the Drew Brees situation as it relates to the level control, or lack thereof, in the NFL compared to what he has in Tuscaloosa.

“When [the Brees situation] happened, I said I can’t control my destiny here,” Saban said. “I can’t control my destiny here. There’s too many things that, no matter how hard I work or no matter what I do, I can control my destiny better in college by working hard and making good choices and decisions and creating a good program for players. I think that happening made me lean back to coming back to college.”

Yes, Saban may have, in the eyes of some, unfinished business in the NFL. At 64 years old — he’ll be 65 Oct. 31 — don’t expect him, though, to at any point in the near or distant future to rectify that “hole” in his coaching résumé.

Long-time starting guard ruled out by Tar Heels for rest of season

CHAPEL HILL, NC - OCTOBER 17:  Quinshad Davis #14 and Caleb Peterson #70 of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrate after a touchdown against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during their game at Kenan Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

As it turns out, the short-term hit North Carolina took to its offensive line last weekend will turn into a long-turn one.

Caleb Peterson (pictured, being uplifted) suffered a back injury earlier this month that kept him out of both the Virginia Tech (Oct. 8) and Miami (Oct. 15) games. Thursday night, the school announced that the offensive lineman will undergo surgery Friday at the Carrell Clinic in Dallas.

As a result, the senior guard will miss the remainder of the 2016 season. Peterson used his redshirt in 2012 and isn’t eligible for any type of waiver, meaning the 6-5, 300-pound lineman has likely seen his collegiate playing career come to an end.

In his Tar Heel career, Peterson had started a total of 42 games. He had a streak of 30 straight starts snapped when he missed the Tech game.

Following the 2015 season, Peterson was named second-team All-ACC by the league’s coaches.

In addition to Peterson, the football program also announced that Jonathan Smith underwent season-ending surgery Thursday to repair a fracture in his right foot. The freshman linebacker initially suffered the injury during practice in the week leading up to the game against the Hokies.

A three-star member of UNC’s 2016 recruiting class, Smith was rated as the No. 21 inside linebacker in the country and the No. 25 player at any position in the state of North Carolina. He had appeared in six games as a true freshman this season, and was credited with one tackle.