Hard times in the SEC

Word must have made it out to Montana that the Southeastern Conference ain’t all it’s cracked up to be lately, ’cause Stewart Mandel is on the mother.

I’ve got to say a couple of the reasons he cites, like a new crop of head coaches he labels “overmatched”, come off as a bit leaky.

More recently, the SEC since 2015 has lost four head coaches — South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier, Georgia’s Richt, Missouri’s Gary Pinkel and LSU’s Miles — who had all at been at their schools for more than a decade.

Admittedly none of them went out on top, and perhaps that’s part of the problem. “LSU held on to Les Miles way too long. He was a dinosaur,” said Sallee. “Spurrier was living off Jadeveon Clowney and Marcus Lattimore at the end.”

Your point being what, exactly?

The intriguing argument Mandel makes is that Nick Saban has managed to pull off the neat trick that Bear Bryant used to accomplish in the days of 100-man rosters — sign your kids and also the kids the other schools would’ve signed.

Kiffin can recite old Rivals.com recruiting rankings. He knows that his 2010 USC class and his buddy Steve Sarkisian’s 2015 class both finished No. 1 — and that every other year between and after, Saban claimed the top spot.

“It’s just complete domination in recruiting — no one has ever worked harder at it,” Kiffin said of his former boss. “Defensive players, they all want to go to Alabama. Even if you have to wait a year or two to play, you know you’re going to go out and have a chance to play in the NFL.”

He cites the example of 2017 defensive end Jarez Parks, a consensus Top 100 recruit nationally who opted to sign with Alabama despite the fact he’ll have to grayshirt for a semester. Guys like that used to be suiting up for the other teams.

“We’d go to play last year, and we knew that no matter what, when we walked onto that field, our roster was more talented than every team we played,” said Kiffin. “If you accumulate all of the (best recruits), now you’re not playing against them.”

That might explain Alabama’s dominance, but it hardly explains why the rest of the conference may have taken a slide against the rest of college football.  As Mandel himself notes, it’s not as if SEC recruiting has collapsed of late.

The SEC has hardly surrendered its longstanding recruiting dominance. From 2009-12, SEC schools signed 16 Rivals.com Top 10 classes. From 2013-16 that number rose to 22.

If Saban robbed the SEC, then the SEC robbed somebody else.  So much for that narrative.

Wade through the noise, and you get to the one reason that makes some sense.  It’s the quarterbacks, stupid.

In 2013, the SEC enjoyed a modern high point at the quarterback position. Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, LSU’s Zach Mettenberger, Alabama’s AJ McCarron, South Carolina’s Connor Shaw and Georgia’s Aaron Murray all finished among the top 12 nationally in pass efficiency. Manziel won a Heisman. McCarron was a finalist.

Three years later, Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs was the conference’s highest-ranked passer … at No. 20. Only two others, Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly and Arkansas’ Austin Allen, finished in the top 30 last season.

“Last year was a lot of QB ineffectiveness, injuries and inexperience,” said Sallee.

Gosh, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

SEC quarterback play in 2016 blew chunks, to put it mildly.  Mandel kind of glosses past it, but lost in that passage is that Jalen Hurts, despite all the advantages that come with playing for Alabama — including being coached by Lane Kiffin — finished a middling 44th in passer rating.  I don’t mean that as a knock; shoot, Hurts was a true freshman playing in the SEC.  But it’s clear that the conference had a ton of talent and experience at the position just a few seasons ago that it lacked in 2016 (nor did it help that Kelly ran into injury problems).  File that under shit happens and watch to see if the next round of new blood at the position manages a better showing in the next couple of seasons.


Filed under SEC Football

11 responses to “Hard times in the SEC

  1. Barrett Sallee is just a hot take machine, ain’t he?


  2. DawgPhan

    Has the SEC hired a coach that could actually claim to have developed a top 10 passer?

    2013 SEC schools signed 5 of the top 15 QBs
    2014 signed 7 of the top 15
    2015 sign 4 of the top 15. Oddly though UT signed #13,17 & 18
    2016 sign 7 of the top 15.

    Seems like plenty of talent ends up in the SEC under center, but SEC coaches just dont seem to do much with it.

    All the recent hires have been Defensive guys. Except for McElwain.

    maybe this crop with work out.


  3. “Gosh, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

    SEC quarterback play in 2016 blew chunks, to put it mildly.”

    Not only is that correct, but it did in 2015 as well. If one looks starts at the Power 6 + A&M, look at who was supposed to be QB and who actually was QB.

    UGA – 2015/6 should have been some combo of Ramsey/Jacob Park. Instead, we got Lambert and true frosh Eason.

    UF – 2015/6 should have been Will Grier. They got 6 good games of Grier and then had Treon Harris and the transfers in 2016.

    UT – had Dobbs, and were planning for Dobbs

    LSU – 2015/6 – they were supposed to reap the rewards of Brandon Harris as a Sophmore and Junior. Instead, he was bad.

    Auburn – Jeremy Johnson was supposed to contend for a Heisman trophy. Instead, they got their version of Joe Cox (Sean White). Small, “smart” QB who put up numbers in high school in a QB friendly system and were accurate in their Elite 11 performances.

    Bama – in 2015, Cooper Bateman and David Cornwell were supposed to be the guy instead of Coker (who was supposed to be the guy in 2014 and had been tossed aside). In 2016, Bateman, Cornwell, and RFr Barnett all failed to win the job over Hurts.

    A&M – In 2015, Kyle Allen was supposed to be taking a “next step” and Skyler Murray was good enough to be stealing PT from Allen. By year end, both had transferred, and A&M took on Trevor Knight, whose performance at A&M mimicked his career of inconsistency at OU.


    As for the rest, in the east, UK’s Patrick Towles imploded. USC has struggled to find a replacement for Connor Shaw, Matty Mauk imploded (and was really not that good originally), Drew Lock’s numbers mask a QB who is bad against decent defenses.


    Ole Miss and MSU have generally enjoyed good QB play, but both programs have other talent deficiencies, and the same could be said of Arkansas.


  4. Confucius

    Man who go to bed with itchy butt wake with smelly finger


  5. Bulldog Joe

    We can at least give Mandel credit for not using the work “clown” in his article, unless you count Jadaveon Clowney’s name.


  6. Chopdawg

    Maybe it’s Rivals.com that’s blowing chunks.