Thoughts of the Day: September 30, 2020

A few thoughts to jump start your Wednesday morning:

“At the end of the day let’s get off the field and give the offense the ball back” – Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham

That sounds so familiar, a lot like what Bobby Stoops was saying back in 1996 when he was Steve Spurrier’s defensive coordinator. Stoops knew if his troops got the ball back then Stevie Wonder and his Fun ‘n’ Gun offense would light up the scoreboard.

Grantham knows what kind of offense Dan Mullen has. He sees Kyle Trask throwing to Kyle Pitts and those exceptional receivers every day in practice. He saw what they did last Saturday in Oxford when they lit up Ole Miss for 51 points and 642 yards. No one knows more better than Todd Grantham that if his Florida defense had done its part Saturday the Gators might have scored 70 on the Rebels.

As capable as the Gators are of lighting up the scoreboard on every single opponent this year, the defense can’t be a consistent no show. Teams that rely on winning by shootout usually do a cheap imitation of the Titanic and sink when some defense does its version of an iceberg. So the defense has to get in the habit of getting stops. The sooner the better.

If you go by week one, the next two games offer ideal opportunities for Grantham to get his defense playing at a high level. South Carolina managed 27 points and 379 yards against a mediocre Tennessee defense. Texas A&M racked up 17 points and 372 yards against a very bad Vanderbilt defense. On film, neither of these teams should scare the bejabbers out of the Florida defenders but if they miss tackles and blow assignments as frequently as they did against Ole Miss, the Gators will have to win in shootout fashion.

Shootouts might be very entertaining but three-and-outs are better because they get the ball back for that UF offense. So how is Grantham going to impart the need for his unit to get the ball back to the offense?

“I look at it as each play how do you win the down?” Grantham asked. “You want to win more downs than you obviously lose. We just didn’t play well enough (vs. Ole Miss), whether it was a fundamental error, whether it was a lack of execution, whether it was leverage on the ball, just finishing. I mean, we just didn’t do it. It is what it is. You’ve gotta own it. The biggest thing to me is how do we respond and get better. I don’t think you can ever use anything as an excuse. You gotta find ways to get the job done and that’s what we’re gonna do.”

SEC MIDWEEK STUFF

#2 ALABAMA (1-0): With his 98 rushing yards against Missouri in game one, Najee Harris moved past Eddie Lacey into 11th place on the all-time Alabama rushing list with 2,475 yards. Dennis Riddle is in 10thplace all-time with 2,635 yards.

ARKANSAS (0-1): Former walk-on safety Simeon Blair played on four special teams and was in on 52 snaps against Georgia. Blair got his first career start against the Bulldogs last week when Joe Foucha missed several days of practice.

#7 AUBURN (1-0): Defensive end Big Kat Bryant, who played only a handful of snaps last week against Kentucky due to an ankle injury, expects to be at full speed Saturday at Georgia.

#4 GEORGIA (1-0): Although all eyes will be on Southern Cal transfer quarterback JT Daniels, Kirby Smart hasn’t made a decision who will start against Auburn. Daniels, Stetson Bennett IV and D’Wan Mathis will all take snaps with the first team offense in practice this week.

KENTUCKY (0-1): The focus at Kentucky has to be pass defense this week. The Wildcats gave up 8.6 pass yards per attempt against Auburn and managed a single sack. Ole Miss passed for 443 yards and averaged 13.4 yards per attempt against Florida.

#20 LSU (0-1): All-America corner Derek Stingley Jr., who missed last week’s loss to Mississippi State after being hospitalized for what his dad says was a “reaction,” is back at practice and will play this week when the Tigers visit Vanderbilt.

#16 MISSISSIPPI STATE (1-0): Mike Leach’s offense produced 623 passing yards and three receivers who caught passes for more than 100 yards each, the first time in a long time an MSU receiver had 100 or more receiving yards in a game. Two receivers last year caught a team-high 30 passes while Osiris Mitchell led the Bulldogs with 430 receiving yards and six TD catches.

MISSOURI (0-1): Linebacker Aubrey Miller has opted out for the remainder of the 2020 season. He is the seventh Missouri player to opt out this season.

OLE MISS (0-1): Paul Finebaum liked what he saw of Ole Miss in the Rebels’ 51-35 loss to Florida. Speaking on his Monday show, Finebaum said, “But to manufacture that much offense, I thought, was a very positive sign. It leads me to believe that Ole Miss will surprise somebody this year. If it can win some of those ‘tweener games, I think they’ll be in really good shape. I know, long term, they will be.”

SOUTH CAROLINA (0-1): Starting linebacker Sherrod Greene is out for 4-6 weeks with a fractured hip suffered in the Gamecocks’ loss to Tennessee. The injury will not require surgery.

#21 TENNESSEE (1-0): Defensive lineman Darel Middleton and nickel Shawn Shamburger remain questionable for Saturday’s game with Missouri. Both missed the South Carolina game for undisclosed reasons.

#13 TEXAS A&M (1-0): Senior DB Clifford Chatman, who earlier opted out for the 2020 season, has placed his name in the NCAA transfer portal. Chatman played in 12 games and made three starts last year.

VANDERBILT (0-1): Derek Mason likes true freshman quarterback Ken Seals. “You got to make sure you give guys the opportunity to make plays on the ball,” Mason said. “He can do that. He can do it on the perimeter, he can do it from the pocket and I think as he continues to play, he’s only going to get better.”

RANKING THE QUARTERBACKS IN THE SEC, 9/30/30

(1) Kyle Trask, Florida: Dan Mullen dropped these little hints in the preseason, alerting us to what Trask was going to be able to do. Mullen said Trask was performing in practice at a graduate school level. We saw that against Ole Miss when Trask went 30-42 for 416 yards and six touchdowns, spreading the ball among 11 different receivers.

(2) K.J. Costello, Mississippi State: In an injury-shortened season at Stanford last year, Costello threw for 1,038 yards and six TDs. He threw for 623 and five in his SEC debut against LSU and with Arkansas coming to Starkvegas this weekend, it’s almost a certainty that Costello will eclipse in two games what it took five to accomplish at Stanford in 2019.

(3) Mac Jones, Alabama: Jones throws a deep ball about as well as anyone in the country, but it’s easy to throw deep balls when you can heave it downfield to the likes of Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. He only played a half against Mizzou and was a tidy 18-24 for 249 yards and two touchdowns.

(4) Bo Nix, Auburn: He’s still not as accurate as you would like (16-27 for 239 yards against Kentucky), but he showed on his two touchdown throws that he can zing it. He’s a smart, dangerous runner (5-34 against UK) who seems much more patient in the pocket than last year.

(5) Matt Corral, Ole Miss: The plan going into the Florida game was for Corral to split time with John Rhys Plumlee. Corral threw darts against the Gators (22-31 for 395 yards and three touchdowns) and he showed so much mobility (13-50) that he may have relegated Plumlee to a situational guy who can also catch passes or run some option.

(6) Terry Wilson, Kentucky: Some of Wilson’s struggles against Auburn had everything to do with some fairly weird play calling and a scheme that really doesn’t make enough effort to get the ball down the field. In the loss to Auburn, Wilson was a respectable 24-37 throwing the ball for 239 yards and a TD plus he ran 13 times for 42 yards.

(7) Kellen Mond, Texas A&M: If week one against Vanderbilt was any indication of things to come then this is going to be an agonizing year for the Aggies. Mond was 17-28 for 189 yards and a TD and his seven runs netted 18 yards. Not what you expect of a fourth-year starter going against a young and very suspect bottom-feeder defense. The big concern was the number of easy passes to open receivers Mond missed.

(8) Myles Brennan, LSU: It didn’t take long for LSU faith to realize that Brennan is (a) not the next big thing nor is he (b) nearly as mobile as he is going to have to be with an offensive line (gave up seven sacks) that resembled a sieve. He was 27-46 against Mississippi State for 345 yards and three TDs but he threw two completions to the bad guys.

(9) Jarrett Guarantano, Tennessee: The Vols beat South Carolina in spite of Jarrett Guarantano and not because of him. He was 19-31for 259 yards and a TD plus he ran five times for 12 yards and another TD. The yardage totals have more to do with yards after catch than sharp downfield throws. He makes too many bad throws and is indecisive in the pocket.

(10) Shawn Robinson, Missouri: He played well in the second half against the Alabama scrubbeenies and finished 19-25 for 185 yards with a touchdown. He spent a lot of time running for his life and finished with -35 yards rushing. He would do well if he were playing for a team with a lot more talent.

(11) Stetson Bennett IV, Georgia: Bennett probably gets the start against Auburn since he did come off the bench to save Georgia from a potentially embarrassing loss to Arkansas last week. He was 20-29 for 211 yards and two second half touchdowns to save the day and he added 20 yards on five scrambles. The Georgia offense is in trouble but will be in even more trouble of Bennett has to continue as the starter.

(12) Collin Hill, South Carolina: He isn’t starting because he’s better than Ryan Hilinski. He’s starting because the Gamecocks are running the same offense Mike Bobo brought with him from Colorado State, where Hill spent the previous four years. He’s had three ACL tears so he’s pretty much a statue in the pocket. In the loss to Tennessee he was 25-39 for 290 yards with a TD and a pick. He had -12 rushing yards but did score a TD.

(13) Feleipe Franks, Arkansas: On the second Arkansas series against Georgia, Feleipe threw an absolute laser beam that turned into a touchdown. He threw a touchdown pass to Georgia too when he stared down a receiver and threw it right to the Georgia safety. Because he’s playing with a whole new cast that isn’t nearly as talented as the players he left behind at Florida, expect Double F to revert to a lot of bad habits. Against Georgia the final numbers were 19-36 for 200 yards, a TD and two picks.

(14) Ken Seals, Vanderbilt: To his credit, Seals was 20-29 for 150 yards and a TD in his true freshman debut on the road. He took the easy throw way too often rather than hold the ball and let a receiver have a chance to get open down the field. He’s got a lot of growing up to do.

MIDWEEK PITHY THOUGHTS: Houston is oh-fer the month of September. All four games have been cancelled due to Covid-19. The next attempt to play will be October 8 against Tulane … Clemson coach Dabo Swinney says he’s not on board with political organizations. “I’ve been voting since I was 18,” Swinney said. “So I’m very apolitical when it comes to organizations, so I don’t really support any organizations. I support common-sense causes.” …UCF is 2-0 and ranked 11th nationally yet the Knights have been penalized 27 times for 190 yards against two very bad teams … Tuesday was the 20th anniversary of the premier of the movie “Remember the Titans.” The T.C. Williams Titans were indeed a great team that won a state championship while doing marvelous things for race relations in the state of Virginia but Hollywood took plenty of liberties with the facts. Still, it’s one of the most entertaining sports movies ever. My top ten sports movies: (1) Brian’s Song; (2) The Natural; (3) Slap Shot; (4) Hoosiers; (5) Caddyshack; (6) Tin Cup; (8) Field of Dreams; (9) Bang the Drum Slowly; and (10) Remember the Titans.

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