SEC spring game wrap-ups

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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)

AAC commissioner Mike Aresco says league is being disrespected by Playoff selection committee

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Mike Aresco has gone full Rodney Dangerfield.

The AAC commissioner made the rounds with several national media folks on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after seeing a three-loss Mississippi State team jump the conference standard-barer Central Florida in the latest College Football Playoff Selection Committee’s Top 25 rankings. Not only is the American commish claiming that the Knights aren’t getting a “fair shake” by the committee as part of the disrespect shown toward his league, he’s also not happy that one-loss South Florida isn’t even making the cut for the top 25.

“I just don’t think our league is garnering the respect it deserves, period… I feel strongly about it. The evidence is in,” Aresco told ESPN. “We’ve tried to prove for five years how good our conference is. What do we have to do is my question, to prove that we’re a really good league, especially at the top? I just don’t like the notion that, well, strength of schedule, I don’t like to see UCF behind three- and two-loss teams, and I think they can play with anyone. I just don’t know what more we can do.”

Aresco later expanded on his comments and said UCF should be in the top 10 and ahead of two-loss teams like Ohio State.

The fact that Aresco is sticking up for his league and his teams are no surprise but the public way he is going about criticizing the selection committee is a much different tack than previously employed. The AAC remains all but a lock to secure the annual Group of Five bid, which should go to the conference champion among No. 15 UCF, No. 20 Memphis or unranked USF (which would have a chance to beat both of the others in the next two weeks).

CFP executive director Bill Hancock issued a very generic statement in response to Aresco’s comments but his latest salvos should make for some interesting questions next Tuesday when chairman Kirby Hocutt goes in front of the cameras to explain the next set of rankings.

Amid Jimbo Fisher rumors, Florida State continues to explore facilities upgrades

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Jimbo Fisher turned interest from LSU to be their head coach into one of the biggest coach-friendly contracts in the country. Could he be leveraging the same kind of interest from Texas A&M into further facilities upgrades? It appears so.

Hot on the heels of Houston Chronicle report that said Fisher is the top target to replace the eventually deposed Kevin Sumlin in College Station, the Orlando Sentinel says that the Seminoles are exploring a number of different options to give the football program their own sport-specific facility on campus.

“You have no idea,” Fisher told the paper on Monday when asked about the importance of a centralized complex. “Their days are strung out … the schedules they’re on and what they’re asked to do. When you’re wasting time in between, you’re wasting development time for them.”

The Sentinel reports that there are two leading options for the program, the first of which includes a renovation of the team’s current home, the Moore Athletic Center, that would also result in other Seminoles sports moving to a different area for office space and training facilities. The other option would include a brand new football complex that would be built right next to the current indoor practice facility. Things are still in the planning stage at this point but it certainly sounds like things are getting fast-tracked given everything that is going on in the college football world in Tallahassee and beyond.

Whether Fisher leaves or not, it’s pretty clear that Florida State will be looking to build a new football facility for the simple fact that they need to keep up with their peers in the state. Florida is set to break ground in December on their new facility and Miami should have their new indoor facility ready to go by the start of next season. Even USF has laid the groundwork for a $40 million project that will include the latest and greatest for the Bulls football team.

Kevin Sumlin says he has not spoken with Aggies’ AD this week

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While it seems like Texas A&M has been preparing to fire head coach Kevin Sumlin since this summer, it very much appears as though his tenure in College Station is going to officially come to an end at the conclusion of the regular season on Saturday.

A report on Tuesday evening from the Houston Chronicle said that Sumlin will be let go — win or lose — following the team’s game at LSU. Despite that definitive-sounding nature of the report from the well-sourced newspaper, the head coach himself says he has not spoken with athletic director Scott Woodward in nearly a week to discuss his status with the team going forward.

“I haven’t talked to Scott since Saturday at the game, so there hasn’t been any discussion about that,” Sumlin said on the SEC coaches teleconference. “It’s not like we haven’t dealt with this since the spring. I think our team has done a really nice job of focusing on games at hand, and we’ll continue to do that. Certainly we’ve had that experience since the beginning of the year.

“We haven’t really had a chance to talk to our team yet, because we haven’t practiced yet and all this information came out after practice. We’ll deal with it the way we’ve dealt with everything this year, and we’ll continue to do business as usual. Like I said, our staff and our coaches have done a nice job of handling it. In football, it’s not just about football. You try to teach lessons and dealing with adversity, that’s what life’s about.”

Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman said that players and coaches learned of the Chronicle’s report after practice on Tuesday and were upset at the timing and nature of the news surfacing ahead of the team’s game against an SEC rival like the Tigers. While it’s not like they couldn’t see things coming given the animosity on all sides following a disappointing, if injury-riddled, campaign for the Aggies, it’s still not the greatest feeling in the world to go into a game knowing it will be the coaching staff’s last no matter the result.

East Carolina suspends punter charged with drunk-driving, fleeing

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Punters are players too. And apparently drinkers and, in this case, runners as well.

According to multiple media outlets, East Carolina’s Austin Barnes (pictured, No. 17) was arrested on a handful of charges very early Sunday morning following an attempted traffic stop and apparent chase. Specifically, the senior punter was charged with driving under the influence, fleeing/eluding arrest and having no operator’s license.

No details of what led to the arrest and charges have been released.

As a result of the suspension, Barnes has been suspended by Scottie Montgomery. Below is a statement attributed to the head coach:

Representing East Carolina University is a privilege and any behavior that’s not in accordance with that is unacceptable. We have conduct standards and expectations in place for our program for a reason and it’s disappointing when individuals choose not to be accountable for their teammates, especially those who are perceived to be in leadership roles.

As Barnes is in his final season of eligibility, and as the three-win Pirates can’t become bowl-eligible, this ends the collegiate portion of the booter’s collegiate playing career.

With a 44-yard average, Barnes currently leads the AAC and is 19th nationally in yards per punt. Barnes came to ECU s a graduate transfer from Eastern Michigan.

(Tip O’ the Cap: ArrestNation.com)