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SEC Blogger Roundtable Discussion, Part 4
Will LSU face Florida in the SECCG?
Will LSU face Florida in the SECCG?
Collegefootballnews.com
Posted Jul 14, 2009


Which True Freshmen will stand out? Who will make it to the SEC Championship game and Which SEC Player will be the toughest to replace? All of these are questions we posed to our SEC Bloggers in the fourth installment of our SEC Roundtable Discussion.

- Blogger Roundtable, Part One 

- Blogger Roundtable, Part Two 

- Blogger Roundtable, Part Three 

Just when you thought you couldn’t handle any more from Barrett, Billy and Brian, the SEC Bloggers are back with Part Four of their SEC Roundtable Discussion. Three of our Collegefootballnews.com SEC Bloggers (Billy Gomila, Brian Harbach and Barrett Sallee) are back to get you through the summer until the season starts. This monthly SEC Blogger Roundtable Discussion should fire up our loyal CFN SEC readers and give you something to talk about during the College Football’s dead period. Each month the guys will dive into a handful of juicy topics to give your off-season water cooler discussions some life. This month our special guest is none other than “The King of College Football” Chuck Oliver. Chuck co-hosts Chuck and Chernoff on WCNN 680 The Fan in Atlanta, Ga., with his partner Matt Chernoff from noon to 3:00 PM Monday through Friday. This month the guys will take on the possible SEC Championship Match-ups, the True Freshmen to keep an eye on and they make an SEC prediction that will shock you.

Which player will be the hardest to replace this season?

Billy Gomila: An easy choice is Alabama’s Rashad Johnson, who made a fantastic leap from all-conference to All-American last year. Despite an excellent front seven, the Crimson Tide secondary was still pretty vulnerable at times. Javier Arenas, for all his value as a kick returner, struggles in coverage, and Kareem Jackson is probably still chasing Demetrius Byrd in his dreams. Johnson made up for a lot of their mistakes last season, nearly single-handedly beating LSU on his own with three interceptions and a touchdown. Safeties in Nick Saban’s defense have a lot of responsibility, as coverage reads can change several times pre-snap. New starter Robby Green will need to grow into the role, both mentally and physically.

Brian Harbach: When watching last year’s Sugar Bowl it was painfully obvious how much the Alabama offensive line relied on their star Left Tackle Andre Smith. A three year starter for Alabama, Smith was suspended for the bowl game and with him out the Utah defense ran wild all over a Crimson Tide offensive line that had been dominating SEC defenses all season long. Lat year Smith was a first team All American, the Outland Trophy winner and a top ten pick in April’s NFL Draft. A player like Smith is nearly impossible to replace, but Alabama has options starting with another lineman from the state of Alabama. DJ Fluker has a number of similarities with Smith such as also being from the state of Alabama, a five star recruit and the state’s overall number one player. It would not be surprising to see Fluker work his way into the starting lineup in two-a-days and start to make his mark at Alabama his freshmen year just like Andre Smith did three years ago. If Alabama does not get solid play from the left tackle spot there is a very good chance their offensive line resembles the Sugar Bowl more than it resembled the rest of the 2008 season.

Barrett Sallee: Georgia will have a very difficult time replacing Knowshon Moreno, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that they have to replace Matthew Stafford as well. A quarterback's best friend is a good running game – especially a new quarterback. Going into fall practice, the Bulldogs don't have an every down back, and hope that Caleb King, Carlton Thomas or the injured Richard Samuel can step up and take control of the position. Head coach Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo don't mind using a running back-by-committee, but would prefer finding a guy back there that can take the ball 20+ times behind first-year starting quarterback Joe Cox.

Chuck Oliver, “The King of College Football”: I have a few measuring sticks for this answer: first, your team had to have accomplished something last year -- if not, then having you didn't mean that much (ultimately) and replacing you won't be a devastating task. Sen'Derrick Marks was fantastic at times last season. And Auburn won five games and the coach got fired. Replacing Marks is simply in the pile with all the other problems to be fixed. Secondly, you needed to have had big moments in big games. 'Nuff said. Finally, your absence may force the coaching staff to actually change some of the Xs and Os in an effort to game-plan around you not being there.

If you take the take the question at face value, then Alabama won't have much trouble at all replacing Rashad Johnson -- they've got nine other starters coming back, Bama can probably find five different guys that can excel playing behind monsters like Rolando McClain, Dont'a Hightower, etc.

I am, however, staying in Tuscaloosa for my answer, but going to the other side of the ball. Remember, we're talking hardest to replace and Fluker may fit the bill at left tackle, while Green could turn in a fine season at strong safety. Alabama went 12-0 last season and not only did John Parker Wilson make plays on the biggest stages (the Georgia Dome, Athens, Baton Rouge, etc.), but the Tide has serious questions about what is going to happen at quarterback this year, especially the first few games before new starter Greg McElroy gets his legs under him. The coaching staff was seriously hoping a spring showdown would occur between McElroy, a junior, and redshirt freshman Star Jackson. Even walk-on Thomas Darrah was given an opportunity to jump into the mix. When the main reason you're the starter is because a freshman and a walk-on aren't ready, it speaks volumes. One of the keys to Bama's success on the ground is the threat of the quarterback pulling the ball out and finding Julio Jones deep (I like Marquis Maze, too). If McElroy can't connect on intermediate and deep routes, the opposing safeties will change their mailing address to the Alabama offensive backfield. Oh, and you open against Bud Foster and the Virgina Tech defense. You have fun with that, Greg McElroy.

Billy: Moreno’s toughness and energy in the huddle will be missed without a doubt. Running back by committee has been Mark Richt’s general modus operandi in the absence of a true workhorse back, so expect King, Samuel and Thomas to each have their chances. A multi-player approach will likely be how Florida fills the “Percy Position” as well. For all the talk about how Urban Meyer will fill those shoes, it’s not as though there’s some shortage of big-play athletes on the Gator roster. While it’s not likely that one guy can do all of the things Percy Harvin did as well as he did them without getting hurt (Harvin’s ability to play through nagging injuries was definitely his least-discussed talent), those 110 offensive touches could easily be spread amongst Chris Rainey, Jeff Demps, Brandon James, Deonte Thompson and freshman Andre Debose.

Which True Freshmen will make the biggest impact this year?

Brian: Last year no SEC freshmen made bigger impacts than Georgia’s AJ Greene and Alabama’s Julio Jones. These two freshmen came on campus last summer and proceeded to light up the rest of the conference in September en route to All SEC Second Team spots for both players. This season the wide receiver position will once again be where the biggest impact is made by a true freshmen and that freshmen will be LSU’s Rueben Randle. Randle has an excellent opportunity to get on campus and fight for a first team spot early. LSU’s receiving corps are losing men fast with Jared Mitchell likely playing professional baseball after being drafted in the first round by the Chicago White Sox last month and Tim Molton out for the season with a knee injury. Randle should get a lot of snaps this August and should earn himself significant playing time even if he can’t outshine returning starter Terrence Tolliver.

Barrett: Keeping with the wide receiver theme, I'll go with Georgia WR Marlon Brown. A.J. Green showed that he has the skills to be an SEC star last year, in his first season in Athens. Brown was the #2 ranked WR in the country in the 2009 class, according to Scout.com. With the addition of the 6-5, 205 lb. Brown, Joe Cox will have a 1-2 punch at receiver that will make life very difficult for SEC secondaries. Stat-wise, Brown and Green may not have the numbers that are worthy of player of the year honors, but Brown's presence will make a huge impact on the Bulldog offense as a whole, which will be searching for an identity after the departure of Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno.

Billy: Receivers seem to be the trendy pick here, not a shock given some of the new blood pumping into the league. As much as I would like to be the one guy here to take a defensive player, there are just more offensive players with shorter paths to the field. The circus surrounding his recruitment was extreme, but Tennessee’s Bryce Brown walks into the best chance at a starting job of any of the true freshmen. The Volunteers return just one running back with any appreciable amount of playing time, and Brown has the size to step right in and stand up to SEC defenders. His receiving skills could fit into well into Lane Kiffin and Jim Chaney’s offense as well, plus with the limitations at quarterback, a pass-catching running back may come in handy. Tennessee also has an experienced offensive line to block for Brown, and with a coaching staff eager (desperate?) to make a splash, there’s going to be plenty of opportunities for newcomers to see snaps.

Chuck:
Andre Dubose, UF
Do we all realize that there is actually a "Percy" position in Florida's offense? Gator recuit A: "I'm a right tackle,my roommate's a defensive end. What position do you play?"
Andre Dubose: "Percy."

At Seminole High School, Dubose played some wide receiver, a bit of running back, dabbled at quarterback, returned kicks and punts, . . . a little something for everybody. Sound familiar? And when you watch film of the 5'11" 178-pound true freshman you instantly see that Urban Meyer isn't simply taking a kid with some speed and jamming a somewhat square peg into a mostly round hole -- Dubose is a perfect fit to take over the Percy position. His sub-4.4 speed is a good place to start, as is his versatility in playing a dozen or so positions. But it's his stop-and-start, his short-area quickness that make you see a latter-day Harvin. The kid has frightening change of direction skills that at some point, probably very early in the season, is going to make an extremely talented and accomplished upperclassman look very silly (Trevard Lindley anyone?).

Brian: The most exciting thing about True Freshmen is that one player per team that seems to come out of nowhere to make a difference. Obviously recruiting rankings are flawed and some 2 or 3 star player can step up and look like a 4 or 5 star player once they get on campus. There is one spot that the SEC needs to keep an eye on and that is the Kentucky QB position. Mike Hartline is the starter, but he is not an SEC QB. Coach Rich Brooks seems sold on Randall Cobb as a receiver (terrible mistake) and one of two young true freshmen QB’s could play serious minutes if Hartline struggles and Cobb stays at wide receiver. Ryan Mossakowski and Morgan Newton were two highly ranked quarterbacks that have the talent to succeed in the SEC. Either of these two could give a spark to a Kentucky offense that refuses to put its best quarterback under center.

What prediction could you make for the upcoming season that would shock us?

Billy: All predictions and ruminations aside, uncertainty is the only real certainty, and rest assured that in January we’ll reflect back on something none of us saw coming. This time last year, most LSU fans believed the Jarrett Lee/Andrew Hatch combo would be able to manage an offense. Even the most ardent Alabama fan would have laughed at the thought of Glenn Coffee: 1,300-yard rusher. And every Georgia fan believed the Bulldogs would score more than 10 points on Florida.

2009 will be the year the SEC breaks character. In a league that has always been paced by big-time defenders, this season will be all about offense. The conference already fields two of the top 10 quarterbacks in Tim Tebow and Jeven Snead, three of the top 20 wide receivers and a plethora of potential All-American lineman. While several high-profile teams will be breaking in new quarterbacks, Jordan Jefferson, Grey McElroy, Ryan Mallet and Joe Cox all step into experienced huddles with other established playmakers, particularly on the outside. As for those teams last year that were more offensively challenged, there’s new blood in the offensive coaching staff, and…well…Kodi Burns or Jonathan Crompton can’t get worse>, can they?

Brian: Nearly every year, one team from the SEC West seems to make a huge step forward seemingly out of nowhere and that team will be Arkansas this year. My shocking prediction is that The Battle for the Boot will be played for the SEC Western division title this year. There are a lot of questions in the West this season and really any one of four teams (Alabama, Arkansas, LSU or Ole Miss) could potentially win the West and it wouldn’t really surprise anyone or at least it shouldn’t. Both LSU and Arkansas will be the only two loss SEC West teams heading into the final week of the season and the winner of that game will be on to face Florida in the SEC Championship. Good thing we answer who is the winner in our next question.

Barrett: South Carolina will finish 2nd in the SEC East. When head coach Steve Spurrier took over the Gamecocks in 2005, how many people thought that the their offense would be this bad four years later? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Well, this is the year that the Gamecocks get it cranking. Stephen Garcia enters the season as the unquestioned starting quarterback, which is a rarity in a Spurrier offense. The Gamecocks are going to go with a running back-by-committee approach, at least to start the season, with Brian Maddox, Jarvis Giles and Eric Baker. But don't be surprised if one of those guys, most likely Giles, steps up and takes control of that position in fall practice. Giles tallied 114 yards in the spring game against the always tough Gamecock D.

Aside from Florida, there is a big opening in the SEC East this season, with Georgia full of question marks and Tennessee in turmoil. The Gamecocks visit Georgia the second week of the season. In 2007, they went to Athens and upset the Bulldogs, which, in retrospect, prevented them from playing for the national title. In 2009, they return to Athens in a game that could determine who finishes second to the Gators. If they win, they will take the runner up honors behind Florida in the East.

Chuck: I was THIS CLOSE (my right thumb and index finger are approximately one inch apart) to jumping on the "Arkansas will shock the world" declaration. And I believe that Ryan Mallett is going to be a guy that makes you watch games that normally would only hold marginal interest for most of us (Arkansas - Mississippi State on November 21st is a great candidate for that). However . . . the schedule literally couldn't have played out worse for the Hogs if the conference had allowed Arthur Blank to script it: at Bama, at Florida, at Mississippi, at LSU. Oh, and your defense stinks (despite returning a #10 wash tub full of starters). Translation: Shreveport.

So what's my shocking prediction? Ole Miss will be Ole Miss and we all know what that means. Yes, I know that Houston Nutt is a very good coach. Yes, I know that Greg Hardy will make most left tackles look like human turnstiles. Yes, I know that Jevan Snead descended into Oxford from on high and will lead the Rebel fans out of the SEC desert...but only as far as Atlanta, Georgia and I don't mean for the conference championship game. As someone who sits on the selection committee, I can promise all Ole Miss supporters that Chick-fil-A sandwiches are a scrumptious and festive New Year's Eve treat. Enjoy several while wondering how you just lost to NC State.

Billy: The blogosphere and mainstream media/punditocracy seems split on the subject of Ole Miss this season, so their success or failure could be equally shocking, depending on where you stand. What is “shocking” is always relative, but here are a few more thoughts that may surprise some.
* Ryan Mallet will struggle through year one in the SEC. The 6-7 Texan may have the perfect skill set for Bobby Petrino’s offense, but his accuracy and decision making will lead to a lot of turnovers as he learns about SEC defenses.
*Greg McElroy will do just fine for Alabama in 2009. John Parker Wilson was practically the Websters’ definition of mediocre at times, but he got the job done in Jim McElwain/Nick Saban’s conservative and ultra-managed passing attack. It’ll be the much-hyped Alabama defense that will let them down a few times this year.
*John Chavis’ improvements to the LSU defense will be modest. If you’re one of those fans expecting LSU to go from the bottom of the league to the top stats-wise, you’re in for a rude awakening. But dramatics aren’t needed (assuming the offense doesn’t score 7 touchdowns for the opposition again) nearly as much as discipline and direction, and Chavis and the new staff will provide that.

Which teams will be playing in the SEC Championship Game in December?

Barrett: Only a contrarian would pick anyone but Florida in the East, so I will definitely go with the Gators out of that division. The West will be very interesting all year long. If LSU can beat Florida in Baton Rouge on October 10, and split on the road with Alabama and Ole Miss, they will likely represent the West. That's a lot to ask, and I don't think that will happen. Ole Miss gets to Atlanta thanks to a late-season win over LSU in Oxford, earning the West tiebreaker and a spot in the SEC Championship Game for the first time ever.

Billy: The most shocking thing that could possibly happen this year would be Florida not winning the east. There hasn’t been a team that, in terms of talent and experience, has appeared this head and shoulders above its division in the championship game era. But the west will be a complete battle-royal, and a tiebreaker scenario seems almost given. Ole Miss has the driver’s seat, without a single road game against a team they can’t out-class (at least on paper). Bama is in a similar position, only without Jevan Snead running the offense. LSU draws Florida and Georgia from the other division, and has to go to Athens along with Oxford and Tuscaloosa. My skepticism of the Rebels to handle their own hype is established, but the conditions are too lined up. Quarterback play will tell the tale, and for now Ole Miss has the edge here.

Brian: Call me a coward if you must, but I am not man enough to go against the Florida Gators in the East and their opponent in the SEC Championship game will be the LSU Tigers. The Gators should make quick work of the SEC Eastern Division title with the biggest speed bump being an October match up with LSU in Baton Rouge, but don’t expect them to lose any regular season games this year. The Fighting Tigers will not separate themselves nearly as much as Florida and it will take a home victory over Arkansas to seal their third division title under Les Miles in five seasons. SEC fans really couldn’t ask for anything more, two games pitting the National Champions from the last three seasons, we could only be so lucky.

Chuck: Florida wins the East and sets records while doing. In the West, LSU gets the nod because there are some seriously motivated upperclassmen on the that team, particularly on the defensive line and in the secondary. The Tigers' front seven was wretched at times last season and that won't be the case in 2009. Doing away with the co-coordinators thing was a step in the right direction, as was peeling John Chavis off the UT scrap heap. That's a hire that hasn't gotten nearly enough play this off-season. Get a sheet of paper out and write these three names on it and then put it under a magnet on your refrigerator: DE Rahim Alem, corner Patrick Peterson and the Largest Free Safety on the Planet, Chad Jones (if Harry Coleman is a linebacker -- if not, then Coleman is your free safety and Jones becomes a "slightly larger than most" strong safety). I expect the trio will be All-SEC and put the LSU defense into the Way Back Machine to 2007. 10 wins will follow, as will a rematch in Atlanta vs. Florida. And they'll lose that game, too.

Barrett: A lot of love for the Florida Gators, and zero love for the Alabama Crimson Tide, the defending SEC West champions. There's little doubt that, barring any serious injury, that the Gators are the cream of the crop, and should be able to comfortably win the East. I think, and the answers from all of us above confirm, that the SEC West is WIDE open, and should provide the most exciting competition on a week-in, week-out basis.

We hope you enjoyed our fourth SEC Blogger Roundtable Discussion, please email any of us or all of us with your comments. Also, if there are any questions you want us to answer go ahead and send them our way.

Billy Gomila

Brian Harbach

Barrett Sallee


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