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CFT 2018 Preseason Previews: SEC

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It wasn’t that long ago the SEC was labeled as being “down” in part due to the lack of good quarterback play across the league. How things have changed, as this year’s stellar crop of signal-callers makes the conference one of the toughest to play in yet again and more than capable of producing multiple College Football Playoff contenders throughout the season. Missouri’s Drew Lock has been labeled as an early first-rounder, as is Auburn’s Heisman contender in Jarrett Stidham. Alabama has not one but two good options behind center and transfers like LSU’s Joe Burrow (from Ohio State) have bolstered the ranks even further. Add in a host of new coaches to the league and there’s perhaps never been more intrigue from top to bottom of each division. 

In the SEC West, things begin and end as they always do in the era of Nick Saban with Alabama. The Crimson Tide looks primed to defend their title but this time around will be led by their offense. No matter who winds up being the long-term option at quarterback between Tua Tagovailoa or Jalen Hurts, the team will sport perhaps their best collection of young skill position talent in the last several years and another stout offensive line. The front seven remains loaded and while there are concerns about replacing so many starters in the secondary, few are going to doubt Saban from figuring something out. Their biggest challenge might come in their own state as Gus Malzahn sports another explosive offensive full of weapons and teams that up with a defense that very well could be the best in the conference. 

Don’t sleep on Mississippi State crashing the top two in the West, either, as new coach Joe Moorhead is a perfect fit for dual-threat QB Nick Fitzgerald and the Bulldogs have the players in the trenches on both sides of the ball to go toe-to-toe with anybody. Speaking of new coaches, nobody has more eyeballs on them than Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher, who will no doubt have a few growing pains in College Station but has enough talent to keep the Aggies afloat despite the tough schedule. Ed Orgeron faces an increasing amount of pressure to win big at LSU but, even with the addition of Burrow to run the offense, that might be a tough task in 2018. Both Ole Miss and Arkansas (with new coach Chad Morris) face rebuilding situations, but both sport a pair of fun offenses that should at least make their shootouts fun to watch even if the wins don’t follow.

Over on the eastern side of the conference, defending champion Georgia is primed to repeat in the division and make yet another run at the national title. The losses of guys like Nick Chubb and Roquan Smith hurt but nobody has recruited as well as Kirby Smart has since taking over in Athens and the Bulldogs will once again trot out more talent than anybody in the East. Their biggest challenger will likely come in the form of Will Muschamp’s Gamecocks as QB Jake Bentley and WR Deebo Samuel is one of the top combos in the league — and they get UGA in Columbia this season. Dan Mullen is back in The Swamp and in charge at Florida but the Gators, while set to be much improved, still have a way to go before they catch their rivals.

The aforementioned Lock has a lot to work with at Mizzou, but the Tigers will still have their work cut out for them, especially with Derek Dooley taking over as offensive coordinator despite previously never calling plays. Play-calling won’t be as big of an issue at Kentucky, which can build around terrific RB Benny Snell but enters rebuilding mode for veteran coach Mark Stoops. There’s a lot more talent for Jeremy Pruitt to work with in Knoxville during his first season with Tennessee, but it might still be a bit of a stretch to call the Vols pesky as the entire program turns over after a difficult stretch. Finally, Vanderbilt not surprisingly faces an uphill battle but does have a solid signal-caller to build around in Kyle Shurmur. 

Add it all up and it will just mean more yet again. Fresh off a season in which they put two teams in the national title game, it would surprise nobody if there’s a repeat of history for the SEC as it proves once again to be the best conference around.

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

SEC East

1. Georgia
2. South Carolina
3. Florida
4. Missouri
5. Tennessee
6. Kentucky
7. Vanderbilt

SEC West

1. Alabama
2. Auburn
3. Mississippi State
4. Texas A&M
5. LSU
6. Ole Miss
7. Arkansas

IN SHORT…

 

College Football in Coronavirus Quarantine: On this day in CFT history

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The sports world, including college football, has essentially screeched to a halt as countries around the world battle the coronavirus pandemic. As such, there’s a dearth of college football news as spring practices have all but been canceled at every level of the sport. And there’s even some concern that the health issue could have an impact on the 2020 college football campaign.

In that vein, we thought it might be fun to go back through the CollegeFootballTalk archives and take a peek at what transpired in the sport on this date.

So, without further ado — ok, one further ado — here’s what happened in college football on March 28, by way of our team of CFT writers both past and present.

(P.S.: If any of our readers have ideas on posts they’d like to read during this hiatus, leave your suggestions in the comments section.  Mailbag, maybe?)

2019

THE HEADLINE: Suspended Wisconsin WR Quintez Cephus not on Badgers spring roster
THE SYNOPSIS: The standout receiver was charged with sexual assault in August of the year before.  After missing the 2018 season because of the legal issue, Cephus was cleared to play in August of 2019.  This past season, Cephus set career-highs in receptions (59), receiving yards (901) and receiving touchdowns (seven). All of those numbers led the run-heavy Badgers as well.  In January of this year, he announced he was entering the 2020 NFL Draft.

2018

THE HEADLINE: Penn State QB Tommy Stevens eschews transfer after exploring options
THE SYNOPSIS: Roughly 14 months after this headline appeared, Stevens transferred to Mississippi State.

2017

THE HEADLINE: USF dismisses player arrested after being shot in road-rage incident
THE SYNOPSIS: This was easily one of the most bizarre stories of any offseason.  Hassan Childs was injured in a shooting.  Childs was subsequently charged in connection to the shooting in which he was injured.  The defensive back was then dismissed after he was arrested in connection to the incident in which he was shot.  College football, y’all.

2016

THE HEADLINE: Five-star Miss. St. signee charged after violent video goes viral
THE SYNOPSIS: Jeffery Simmons was accused of pummeling a woman who the defensive end alleged spoke ill of a dead relative.  Simmons ended up navigating those legal hurdles to be named first-team All-SEC in 2017 and 2018. After leaving Mississippi State early, Simmons was the No. 19 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

2015

THE HEADLINE: NCAA says no malice involved in Reggie Bush investigation
THE SYNOPSIS: Hey, USC fans.  Wanna get pissed off?  Again?  Click on the above link.

2013

THE HEADLINE: Sun Belt announces it will officially grow by four in 2014
THE SYNOPSIS: Appalachian State and Georgia Southern joined the following year as all-sport members, with Idaho and New Mexico State coming on as football-only members.  Seven years later, the latter two are no longer a part of the conference. Idaho, in fact, is now an FCS program.  New Mexico State, meanwhile, is an FBS independent.

2009

THE HEADLINE: RECEIVING GREAT’S SON WALKING ON AT UCLA*
THE SYNOPSIS: The receiving great would be Jerry Rice.  The son would be Jerry Rice Jr.  The younger Rice ultimately moved on to UNLV.  He finished his collegiate career with 155 yards and a touchdown on 20 receptions.

(*Yes, back in the day, we used to scream out our headlines at our readers in all-caps. The move to NBC a couple of months later mercifully ended that practice.)

Ohio State adds to top-ranked 2021 recruiting class with five-star RB commit

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In the midst of the growing coronavirus pandemic, Ohio State football announced that it would be shutting down recruiting through April.  Recruits, though, aren’t shutting out Ohio State football.

Still.

March 16, four-star 2021 running back Evan Pryor announced he had committed to playing for Ohio State football.  Less than two weeks later, fellow 2021 running back TreVeyon Henderson announced that he too has committed to the Ohio State football team.

Henderson made his commitment with a video posted to his Twitter account.  And made his commitment without taking a trip to the OSU campus, it should be noted.

In a subsequent conversation with 247Sports.com, Henderson explained his decision for his commitment to Ryan Day‘s football team.

“The people there,” Henderson told the website. “They really care about their players and their futures. They set their players up for good opportunities for life after football and things like that. …

“Everything about them has them as No. 1.  Football program is great, school is great, the coaches are great. Especially (running backs) Coach (Tony) Alford. We got a great relationship, he keeps it real about everything! He’s a really great guy.”

Henderson is a five-star 2021 prospect.  He’s the top-rated player at his position (running back) and his state (Virginia) regardless of position.  On the 247Sports.com composite, he’s the No. 11 player in the country.

Henderson is the second-highest-rated commitment to the Ohio State football Class of 2021.  The only commit rated higher is defensive end Jack Sawyer, who is the No. 3 recruit overall.

That OSU class, incidentally, further solidified its status as tops in the country.  Of the Buckeyes’ 15 commits, three are five-stars and 10 are four-stars.  The next 12 schools have three five-star commits.  Combined.

This Ohio State football class has 280.61 points on the composite.  Clemson is next at 220.98.  Clemson’s average, though, is at 95.59 (10 commits). Ohio State’s, meanwhile, is at 95.34 (15 commits).  Only Texas (94.15) is above 94.

For perspective, just five schools the past 10 years have finished with recruiting classes above 94.  Two of those belong to Ohio State football, including the Class of 2017 that, at 94.59, is the highest-rated in history.

On top of Henderson’s and Pryor’s commitments, Ohio State also got a verbal from Trey Sermon this month.  Unlike the other two, Sermon will be able to help OSU in 2020 as he’s coming in as a graduate transfer from Oklahoma.

SEC to begin allowing virtual instruction next week

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The SEC is about to allow coaches to use remote tools to instruct their players, according to a report from Auburn Undercover on Friday.

Citing a memo sent to SEC athletic departments, Auburn Undercover says the new policy will go into effect beginning on Monday, March 30. According to the memo, coaching staff members will be allowed to provide “technical or tactical instruction” to players. Strength and conditioning coaches may still provide players with specific workouts to do on heir own, but no coaches may observe the players while working out.

In these times, having any kind of chance to interact with players is important, even if it must be done through a computer. It’s better than nothing, after all. And while it may not be a perfect substitute for spring football practices, it at least keeps the lines of communication within the program more open.

As previously reported, Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley was quoted in a radio interview as having a concern about the Big 12 not allowing coaches to make use of their virtual options the way coaches in the ACC have. Riley noted players in the ACC are able to receive video instruction and training gear through the mail. The Big 12 may change their policies in the next week to be more accommodating for coaches and players in a similar fashion to what the SEC is doing.

Texas QB Sam Ehlinger starts online fundraiser for COVID-19 relief

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If there is one good thing to come out of the ongoing health scare in this country, it is the good show of humanity form some of college football’s brightest stars. Inspired by the effort of Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger has decided to launch his own online fundraiser to help those in need.

Lawrence re-launched a GoFundMe campaign with his girlfriend, Marissa Mowry, four days ago after the NCAA decided it would not be cracking down on such efforts during the pandemic. A previous campaign had been shut down quickly out of caution from the Clemson compliance office. Once the NCAA made the decision not to crack down on such efforts, the campaign was reorganized and now serves as inspiration for others like Ehlinger to join the cause. Lawrence thanked the NCAA for not interfering with a frivolous investigation process over the campaign.

“I am dedicated to helping families who have been impacted by the current global crisis, and have created a GoFundMe to raise money to assist organizations that are doing incredible work in my community and nationally including the Boys & Girls Club of America, the Central Texas Food Bank, Austin Pets Alive and more,” Ehlinger said on his GoFundMe campaign’s page.

Ehlinger has a lofty goal for the campaign with a target of $1 million. As of the time of this posting, the campaign has raised over $16,000 since being launched two days ago.

Ehlinger says the campaign has been approved by the Texas Athletics Compliance staff.