It’s another week of non-conference action in the Southeastern Conference, although there are two more conference games on the schedule for this week.
Last week’s games included Georgia-South Carolina and Kentucky-Florida, while this week features LSU-Auburn and Ole Miss-Alabama. For the conference’s remaining 10 coaches, much of their conversation in Wednesday’s Southeastern Conference teleconference dealt with the getting their teams ready for another non-conference tuneup.
Similarities on Saturday: Seth Littrell and Chad Morris have never coached together, but they have similar offensive philosophies. Morris, in his first year at Arkansas, visited Littrell when he was turning heads with his offensive production at North Carolina in 2014 and 2015 and started a friendship. The two will meet again on Saturday when Littrell’s North Texas team meets Morris’ Arkansas team at Razorback Stadium.
“Seth and I go way back from his time of being a coordinator at North Carolina and our interaction there,” Morris said. “Just a great offensive mind that’s very bright. He does a great job of preparing his players. He came into North Texas and basically built that program from the ground floor up. Similarities offensively? Yeah, there are. They’re definitely going to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hand really quick. There are similarities.”
Rebounding from a conference loss: The Gators suffered their first loss in 32 games to Kentucky and first-year coach Dan Mullen said after Saturday’s game he would learn more about his team by their response in practice on Monday.
“I think our guys had a very positive attitude toward practicing this week, came out with energy on the practice field and are trying to take steps forward to continue to grow and get us at the level we expect to play at,” Mullen said. “We need to have another great day (on Wednesday) to get the plan down and then play with some confidence on Saturday … and get back in the win column this week.
“The attitude part is really good, we’ve just got a lot of work to do to get better. It takes time. You watch film and you’re constantly (saying), ‘Guys, is that as hard as you can go?’ When the answer is no and the question is why and they say, ‘I thought I was going hard,’ then they’re learning to push themselves to a new level.”
Running back by committee: Everyone knew replacing Nick Chubb and Sony Michel would be difficult, but to this point the Bulldogs seem to have a running back by committee as D’Andre Swift, Elijah Holyfield, Brian Herrien and James Cook have all enjoyed their moments in the spotlight.
“I think each one’s different in their own right,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “They all have similarities and they all have differences but you can probably say that about every position and every player. I think each one is unique to himself with Swift being the larger sized guy, but he has good speed and he has good quickness. Some of the other guys weigh different amounts, do a little different things but the one thing that is consistent with all four is they practice really hard and they help on special teams a lot.”
No more streaks: After Kentucky snapped its 31-game losing streak to Florida, Wildcat fans gathered at the airport and at the football complex to await the arrival of the team at 3 a.m.
“It was really nice,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “All the people that were on that plane greatly appreciated that support. I know that meant a lot to myself and the players. There were a bunch of people there at the airport and we get on the bus and go to the complex and there were a bunch of people waiting here as well. It just shows you the passion of our fan base. Next time, we don’t want to wait so long to get a big victory against a certain opponent.”
No turnovers this season: LSU is one of only five teams that has not had a turnover lost this season, joining Ohio, Toledo, Clemson and Tennessee.
“That’s something I got from Pete Carroll at USC,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. “The program is all about the ball. Today is ‘Turnover Wednesday’ for the defense, ‘No Turnover Wednesday’ for the offense. We start individual (workouts) every day with drills that we got from the Patriots on creating turnovers and trying not to create turnovers on offense. It’s a mindset. I have to give the credit to our coaches. They implemented it and our players believe in it.”
The return of Ruggs: Former Robert E. Lee star Kevontae’ Ruggs returned to practice on Tuesday after being held out the previous week for a concussion. Saturday’s game will offer the unique matchup of Ruggs tackling his older brother, Alabama receiver Henry Ruggs.
“He is out of concussion protocol and back full speed, expected to be in the game,” Ole Miss coach Matt Luke said. “He is a very, very aggressive and physical guy. What he lacks in size he makes up for with his passion and his toughness.”
Solid up front: The Bulldogs are coming off their biggest road win over a Power Five opponent since the early 1970s and their 2-0 start can be attributed to their play on both sides of the line. The starting offensive line of left tackle Greg Eiland, left guard Darryl Williams, center Elgton Jenkins, right guard Deion Calhoun and right tackle Stewart Reese drew praise from head coach Joe Moorhead in Wednesday’s SEC teleconference.
“I think they’re playing very well,” Moorhead said. “We haven’t given up a sack in two games, we’ve done a great job rushing the ball and opening up holes and protecting (quarterbacks) Nick (Fitzgerald) and KT (Keytaon Thompson). Elgton is certainly the brains, and the eyes and ears, of the operation from a center position, making all the calls and the declarations. It’s a group that prides itself on the physicality in the run game and ability to keep Nick on his feet.”
Who follows Drew: Redshirt freshman Taylor Powell has been the first guy off the bench in relief of starting quarterback Drew Lock in each of Missouri’s first two games, but coach Barry Odom said both redshirt sophomore Micah Wilson, who played in five games last year, and Powell were evenly matched as the next guy up.
“He’s doing a really good job,” Odom said of Powell. “Both are battling there in that ‘two’ spot and both have played the first two weeks and are in position to be the next quarterback if time allows or if something were to happen and the next guy had to play. Taylor has a really, really good football mind. He understands the game and the concepts and has put himself in position to have success.”
Muschamp praises Georgia line: While Will Muschamp continues to play a waiting game with Marshall to find out whether his game will be played as scheduled on Saturday, he was asked on Wednesday about his defense’s inability to stop Georgia’s offensive line, drawing some praise from the coach regarding the Bulldogs’ offensive line.
“I said going into the game they were massive in the offensive line,” Muschamp said. “In the second half, they got after us pretty good up front and their team speed – (receiver Mecole) Hardman has another gear—but their overall team speed jumps out at you on tape. They’ve got a good football team. We certainly helped them, but give them credit, they beat us.”
Brandon Kennedy out for year: Former Wetumpka High standout Brandon Kennedy, who graduated from Alabama and then transferred to Tennessee, started at center in the season opener against West Virginia, then was lost for the year after suffering a knee injury in practice the following Tuesday. In his place, Ryan Johnson moved from guard to center and freshman Jerome Carvin moved into the starting lineup.
“Losing Brandon Kennedy was tough for him, first of all,” Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt said. “Brandon had a career where, unfortunately, he has had some injuries. He’ll bounce back. I think, for any team across the country, when you lose a guy that’s a starter that has some experience, it’s going to have some effect. You have to shuffle guys around and figure out who the best five are.”
Getting past the controversy: Texas A&M was ready to move on to this week’s game with Louisiana-Monroe, but the buzz continued to focus on the narrow loss to second-ranked Clemson, particularly the controversial fumble after Clemson’s K’Von Wallace punched the ball loose from Aggie tailback Quartney Davis and the ball appeared to bounce out of bounds at the 1, yet was ruled a touchback by the officials, awarding the ball to Clemson. Television replay was not conclusive enough to overturn the call on the field regarding Davis’ fumble.
“You fumble through the end zone, it’s definitely a touchback, it should be a touchback,” Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. “We just felt it wasn’t. I didn’t agree with the call, I thought it went out before (reaching the end zone) but, hey, that’s it, we had to move on and we did. One thing I will say: I think we need to … get some better views and better things so the guys can make great decisions if they need to overturn a call or not overturn a call, whatever it may be. The end zones and the goal posts are critical areas in which I think we need to enhance our development of touchdowns and field goals, because sometimes you don’t get the (proper television) angles and it’s not anyone’s fault.”
Revisiting Touchdown Jesus: Derek Mason returns to the scene of the crime this week as the Commodores visit Notre Dame on Saturday. Mason was the defensive coordinator at Stanford along with current Commodore defensive coordinator Jason Tarver in 2012 when the Cardinal lost 20-13 in overtime after Stanford runner Stepfan Taylor ended up in the end zone but was ruled short of the goal after his forward progress was stopped.
“That was a physical Notre Dame team, a physical Stanford team,” Mason recalled. “For me, personally, I just remember the fourth-down play. We were told we didn’t get it in the end zone, Notre Dame wins the ballgame and it was a tough one for the Cardinal that day. Notre Dame is a tough place to play. It’s a great atmosphere.
“We’ve talked about that stadium, the history of that program, seeing Touchdown Jesus, not getting enamored with the history of Notre Dame. I think there are some little things that myself (and assistant coaches) Jason Tarver, Aaron Moorehead and Terrence Brown, who actually played in that game, bring to the table in terms of this football team.”