Camps open without key players

Camps open without key players
August 5, 2013, 11:45 am
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The latest with Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel led me to at least acknowledge it at the beginning of this blog post. 

I feel like the timing of this report is sketchy at best and I am interested to see how much the NCAA can find on whether or not Manziel took money for autographs. I think that a reasonable person would deduce that there is no way Johnny would take money prior to his career being over, because he doesn't need it! However if someone in his circle of friends cut a deal without him knowing, well then Houston we may have a problem. 

I will write more later in the week in my second installment. 

Camps opened this past weekend and while hopes and optimism reign supreme, many key players were missing from the field for several Southeastern Conference contenders. 

Start with the 11-win Florida Gators which are missing their starting backfield in quarterback Jeff Driskel and running back Matt Jones. Throw in starting left guard John Halapio and middle linebacker Antonio Morrison and there is plenty to be concerned about for Week 1. 

LSU won 10 games last season and will begin camp Monday without starting running back Jeremy Hill. There has been no timetable for his return, but the buzz in Baton Rouge is that he will at least miss the first game of the season against TCU. 

Ole Miss won't have junior cornerback Nick Brassell who is academically ineligible, and one day into camp the Rebels lost starting wide receiver Vince Sanders who is out six weeks with a broken collarbone. This is a very important time to keep an eye on the health of your team and how they are progressing. You would hate to lose an impact player this early in camp for any reason. 

The running back spot is deep this season in the SEC. Let's look at the best returning rushers according to the stats complied at collegefootballstats. Here I’ll examine running backs that had at least 35 carries last season and look at their first-down successes. 

Brian Kimbrowof Vanderbilt led the way at 8.31 yards per carry on 1st down. Ben Malena of Texas A&M was second at 7.31yards per carry while the rest of the top five were as follows: 

3.   Marlin Lane, Tennessee - 7.19 yards per carry

4.   Jeff Driskel, Florida - 7.16 yards per carry

5.   Kenny Hilliard, LSU - 7.16 yards per carry 

FYI - The top three rushers in the conference last year, Johnny Manziel, Todd Gurley and Eddie Lacy, all averaged over six yards per carry. 

Now let's look at third down and the top five backs with at least 10 carries. I think this stat speaks volumes on why Johnny Football won the Heisman. 

Keith Marshallof Georgia led the way averaging a whopping 11.17 yards per carry while Raymond Sanders at Kentucky averaged 10.6 yards per carry. 

3.   Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M – 9.08 yards per carry (had 60 attempts)

4.   Kenny Hilliard, LSU - 5.94 yards per carry.

5.   Ben Malena, Texas A&M - 5.53 yards per carry. 

FYI - Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon averaged over five yards per carry, while Todd Gurley came in just under at 4.92 yards per carry. 

Ack's Analysis 

First of all, the fact that Manziel can run for an average of nine yards per carry is just not fair, especially since he was a lethal passer as well. I think the defenses won’t allow him to run on third down this season and play conservatively up front sacrificing the potential sack to make sure he does not run. Ben Malena was a nice threat last year, and that showed up in the stats. I would expect the Aggies to look a bit different this season in the run game. 

LSU is without Hill to open practice but don't forget about Kenny Hilliard. Two years ago he was a beast down the stretch in their run to New Orleans. If he can stay motivated he could be a factor again in 2013. 

I would look to see Florida use Driskel in zone-read concepts more on first down to take the pressure off the new running backs. His ability to run is something the Gators must keep in the offensive arsenal. 

This and that... 

The coaches’ poll was released last week and the SEC was well represented with six of the top 13 teams in the country. I was disappointed that Vanderbilt was not in the top 25 after winning their final seven games and posting a nine-win season. However both the Commodores and the Ole Miss Rebels could get a shot in the arm on opening night when they play each other in Nashville. 

The poll may seem meaningless to some, but in the BCS era it does matter where you start. There are a few examples of teams that climbed up into position after being off the pack, like Oklahoma in 2000, Auburn in 2010 and even Notre Dame in 2012. However those teams had a perfect season and needed a lot of help to get where they were going, especially the Irish. In this era of one-loss champions, you can start high, lose and get back in the mix at the end of the season. I can’t see anyone outside the top 25 playing for a national title this year and you could almost make the case that no one outside the top 20 will make it to Pasadena. 

According to the website the Georgia Bulldogs have been one of the five most overrated teams since 2008, according to the preseason and postseason polls. LSU checks in as the seventh-most overrated team while Florida ranks No. 15. 

South Carolina and Arkansas have been the most underrated teams since 2008.

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