Sidelines with John Clay

SEC football: Funeral scenes, religion classes, quarterback questions and more notes

Georgia freshman quarterback Jacob Eason has been running with the first team in practice as the Bulldogs prepare for their Sept. 3 opener against North Carolina.
Georgia freshman quarterback Jacob Eason has been running with the first team in practice as the Bulldogs prepare for their Sept. 3 opener against North Carolina. Georgia Sports Communications

With openers a little more than a week away, here are 30 SEC football notes:

▪ Though Georgia has yet to name a starting quarterback, highly-touted true freshman Jacob Eason is taking practice reps with the first team.

▪ New Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart, former defensive coordinator, thinks that running backs can be overcoached. Smart says the most important part is “getting them to the bus.”

▪ Defensive back Maurice Smith, transfer from Alabama, is picking up the Georgia defense quickly. That makes sense considering Smart was Smith’s defensive coordinator with Bama.

▪ Georgia opens the season against North Carolina in the Georgia Dome on Sept. 3. UNC’s high-scoring offense has had just one personnel question this fall: Who will start at right guard?

▪ Speaking of North Carolina, former Kentucky running backs coach Chad Scott is now coaching the Tar Heels’ tight ends. And according to head coach Larry Fedora, Scott wears a mouthpiece during practice.

▪ Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze created a video of his own funeral scene to get his team to think about eternity and life goals. “We won’t cheat death,” he said.

▪ Injured LSU running back Leonard Fournette could return to practice Thursday. The Heisman Trophy candidate has missed time with a sprained ankle. Fournette is out of his walking boot and has done some running.

▪ Wisconsin, which plays LSU on Sept. 3 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, has unexpectedly lost offensive line starter Dan Voltz to retirement. Voltz tore his ACL last season and has decided to give up his final year of eligibility. He started three years at center.

▪ ESPN’s Todd McShay puts Alabama No. 1 and LSU No. 2 when it comes to NFL draft talent for 2017. McShay has Florida at No. 5.

▪ Tennessee picked Quinten Dormady as its No. 2 quarterback behind starter Josh Dobbs.

▪ Three of cbssports.com experts picked Tennessee was the “most overrated” team in the SEC.

▪ South Carolina running backs coach Bobby Bentley just happens to be the father of the Gamecocks’ freshman quarterback Jake Bentley, who enrolled at USC a year early. Bobby Bentley is the former head coach at Presbyterian.

▪ By the way, Presbyterian College offers a freshman course entitled “Religion of SEC Football.”

▪ Gehrig Dieter, who caught 10 touchdown passes at Bowling Green last season, has welcomed the challenge of being a graduate transfer wide receiver at Alabama. Dieter figures to see time at slot receiver for the Tide.

▪ Lane Kiffin has had great success as Alabama’s offensive coordinator, but it hasn’t led to another head coaching gig. Kiffin was an NFL head coach with the Oakland Raiders, then was head coach at Tennessee and USC in the college ranks.

▪ Alabama defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson was back at practice Wednesday after suffering a twisted ankle last week.

▪ Jordan Harold, a walk-on transfer from Division II Nothwest Missouri, has played his way into Missouri’s defensive line rotation. Harold played for the U.S. National Football Team during the International Federation of American Football Under-19 World Championship in Kuwait.

▪ Missouri wide receiver Nate Brown had surgery on his ankle last week. Surgery went well but it’s not known when Brown might return.

▪ Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said he has not been affected by the fact Auburn has yet to name a starting quarterback for the Sept. 3 opener.

▪ Ex-Kentucky commit Russ Yeast, son of Craig, has locked in his official visit to Auburn. It will be the weekend of the Auburn-Clemson game.

▪ Marlon Davidson and Derrick Brown are a pair of true freshmen who are expected to receive significant snaps on the Auburn defense.

▪ Sports Illustrated thinks Auburn could start hot, then collapse in 2016. Gus Malzahn doesn’t need to hear that.

▪ C.J. Worton, a junior, and junior college transfer Dre Massey are the top candidates to add depth to Florida’s receiving corp behind starters Antonio Callaway and Brandon Powell.

▪ Florida coach Jim McElwain wasn’t happy that his offense committed three turnovers in the Gators’ last scrimmage.

▪ Arkansas quarterback Rafe Peavey is transferring to SMU. Peavey had been competing for the backup spot behind Austin Allen with the Razorbacks.

▪ Arkansas defensive end Ja’Michael Winston, a captain who lost his starting job midway through last season, believes he is poised for a comeback.

▪ Former LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings has been named starting quarterback at UL-Lafayette. Jennings started 12 games for LSU in 2014, throwing for 1,611 yards and rushing for 292.

▪ At Texas A&M, defensive coordinator John Chavis knows his group must improve against the run. The Aggies gave up 2,778 rushing yards last season, most in the conference.

▪ Vanderbilt’s special teams coordinator wants the punting game to be so boring the fans will have the opportunity to visit the concession stands.

▪ Malik Dear may be one of Mississippi State’s most versatile players, but he’s been practicing primarily at slot receiver. Dear caught 22 passes as a true freshman last season for the Bulldogs.

SEC football openers

Thursday, Sept. 1

  • 7:30 - Appalachian State at Tennessee (SEC)
  • 8:00 - South Carolina at Vanderbilt (ESPN)

Saturday, Sept. 3

  • 12:00 - South Alabama at Mississippi State (SEC)
  • 12:00 - Missouri at West Virginia (Fox Sports 1)
  • 3:30 - LSU vs. Wisconsin (ABC)
  • 3:30 - UCLA at Texas A&M (CBS)
  • 4:00 - Louisiana Tech at Arkansas (SEC)
  • 5:30 - Georgia vs. North Carolina (ESPN)
  • 7:30 - Southern Miss at Kentucky (ESPNU)
  • 7:30 - UMass at Florida (SEC)
  • 8:00 - Alabama vs. USC (ABC)
  • 9:00 - Clemson at Auburn (ESPN)

Monday, Sept. 5

  • 8:00 - Florida State vs. Ole Miss (ESPN)
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