SEC me­dia days re­port

Malzahn happy with QB depth

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FOOTBALL - Bay­lor trans­fer Jar­rett Stid­ham

HOOVER, Ala. — Many mem­bers of the me­dia have as­sumed Bay­lor trans­fer Jar­rett Stid­ham will slide im­me­di­ately into the start­ing quar­ter­back role at Auburn.

Fifth-year Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn said the com­pe­ti­tion, which in­cludes 2016 starter Sean White and fresh­man Ma­lik Wil­lis, is far from over.

White strug­gled to stay healthy last sea­son, but in 11 games he posted an SEC-best 63.9 com­ple­tion per­cent­age (133 of 208) for 1,679 yards with 9 touch­downs and 3 in­ter­cep­tions.

“The big­gest com­fort right now is we have qual­ity depth at the quar­ter­back po­si­tion,” Malzahn said last week dur­ing SEC foot­ball me­dia days. “Jar­rett Stid­ham is a very tal­ented young man. I think that’s a com­mon sense deal. What he’s done since he’s been at Auburn, just his lead­er­ship, he’s re­ally done a good job try­ing to win over his team­mates with his work ethic.

“Sean White. I’m very ex­cited about Sean White. When Sean White’s healthy, he plays at an ex­tremely high level. Last year when we got on that roll, that six-game [win] streak, he was lead­ing the league in com­ple­tions and quar­ter­back ef­fi­ciency.

“If he hadn’t got hurt, it would be com­pletely dif­fer­ent, I be­lieve. … We had a real chance.”

Malzahn called White and Stid­ham “two real guys, we know that for sure. That’s a great se­cu­rity blan­ket com­ing for­ward this sea­son.”

Malzahn called a lack of depth at quar­ter­back the Tigers’ Achilles heel the past two sea­sons.

K-Rich’s story

Univer­sity of Arkansas, Fayet­teville de­fen­sive back Kevin Richard­son’s story got plenty of play at SEC foot­ball me­dia days.

The Jack­sonville na­tive, whose nick­name is K-Rich, walked on with the Ra­zor­backs, earned play­ing time as a red­shirt fresh­man and is now a team cap­tain as he re­turns from surgery to re­pair a torn pec­toral mus­cle af­ter last year’s sea­sonopen­ing vic­tory against Louisiana Tech.

“It’s a dream come true for any guy from the state of Arkansas, just be­ing able to come from be­ing a walkon, to a starter to be­ing voted team cap­tain and now to be at SEC me­dia days,” Richard­son said. “It’s big.”

Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema talked about Richard­son dur­ing his open­ing re­marks in the main ball­room at me­dia days.

“Just re­ally em­bod­ies ev­ery­thing I be­lieve in,” Bielema said. “He’s a lit­tle un­der­sized, un­der-re­cruited, un­der-de­vel­oped com­ing out of high school. We pre­sented an op­por­tu­nity for him to walk on.

“Re­ally in the first two weeks, I knew we had some­thing. Prob­a­bly one of the most in­tel­li­gent foot­ball IQ play­ers I’ve ever been around.”

Hurts de­fense

South Carolina quar­ter­back Jake Bent­ley hung out ex­ten­sively with Alabama quar­ter­back Jalen Hurts, a fel­low sopho­more, at the Man­ning Camp this sum­mer and he can dis­pel some no­tions about a per­ceived Hurts weak­ness.

“Jalen looked great,” Bent­ley said. “All that crap about he can’t throw it, that’s un­true. That dude can spin it.”

Ag­gies QBs

Texas A&M Coach Kevin Sum­lin said the com­pe­ti­tion to re­place Trevor Knight as the Ag­gies’ start­ing quar­ter­back re­mains open go­ing into fall camp.

“There’s not re­ally a fron­trun­ner right now,” Sum­lin said. “All three guys are re­ally ca­pa­ble.”

Se­nior Jake Hube­nak is in the mix along with red­shirt fresh­man Nick Starkel and true fresh­man Kellen Mond.

“Jake has played for us,” Sum­lin said. “I think his first cou­ple years he was a lit­tle ten­ta­tive be­cause he was be­hind some guys and re­ally wanted to learn. But I see him right now as a ma­ture guy that un­der­stands that he wants it.

“Nick can throw it through a wall. … Kellen is re­ally a phe­nom­e­nal ath­lete, one of the top guys in the coun­try com­ing out.”

Hube­nak played in 13 games the past two sea­sons and com­pleted 101 of 179 passes for 1,283 yards and 9 touch­downs with 3 in­ter­cep­tions.

Griz­zly, man

Arkansas cen­ter Frank Rag­now touted his Griz­zly Man Out­doors web page, cre­ated with his brother Jack, on which fish­ing, camp­ing and out­door ac­tiv­i­ties are the fo­cus.

“I’ve al­ways grown up fish­ing and love fish­ing,” Rag­now said on the broth­ers’ YouTube video ti­tled “Griz­zly-ManOut­doors is here!.”

At SEC me­dia days, Rag­now wore a sports coat with “Griz­zly Man Out­doors” sewn into an in­side panel.

“I’ve got to be bet­ter at pro­mot­ing that,” Rag­now said while open­ing the coat for the cam­eras.

Rag­now said his mother Marty made three out­doorthemed out­fits for Briella Bielema, the week-old daugh­ter of Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema and wife Jen.

“My mom’s pretty pumped,” Rag­now said.

Fol­low the leader

Texas A&M line­man Koda Martin shared a story told by new strength and con­di­tion­ing coach Mark Hocke, who spent six sea­sons on the staff at Alabama and has also worked at Ge­or­gia and Florida State. Martin said the story came from Hocke’s days at Alabama, when a player threw up on an air­plane, caus­ing a domino ef­fect.

“If one per­son is freak­ing out, ev­ery­body is,” Martin said. “Com­par­ing that to work­outs and if you’re in pain, vo­cal­iz­ing that is poi­son.”

Hair to­day

Arkansas quar­ter­back Austin Allen faced plenty of ques­tions at me­dia days about the length of his flow­ing locks, and it turned out his look was the byprod­uct of a bet with ex-Ra­zor­backs tight end Hunter Henry.

“This is a bet that I had in Septem­ber,” Allen said. “We were sup­posed to go through the sea­son, and then we go through it and I was like, ‘Well, I just wear a hat ev­ery day any­way, so I might as well’ and this is it now. Which I don’t know how much longer I can keep it, so we’ll see.”

Allen said Henry “de­stroyed” him in the bet to see whose hair could grow long­est dur­ing the sea­son in both 2015 and last year “with him in San Diego, where his hair grows like a wild­fire.”

No Skai lim­its

South Carolina Coach Will Muschamp said line­backer Skai Moore is “ready to go” af­ter re­cov­er­ing from ma­jor neck surgery.

Muschamp said Moore en­gaged in a one-on-one drill on the first day of con­tact in spring ball.

“He went right af­ter it and threw his eyes in there, and it was awe­some,” Muschamp said.

“Don’t worry about Skai,” Game­cocks tight end Hay­den Hurst said. “I had to face him ev­ery sin­gle day in prac­tice. He’s the same old tal­ent, I prom­ise.”

Fash­ion sense

LSU tail­back Der­rius Guice, Mis­sis­sippi State re­ceiver Don­ald Gray and South Carolina re­ceiver Deebo Sa­muel were among the fash­ion stand­outs at me­dia days.

Guice wore a salmon­col­ored jacket, which he claimed came straight off a store man­nequin.

“Saw this man­nequin with this whole fit on and I’m like, ‘Bro, that’ll look way bet­ter on me,’ ” Guice said on the SEC Net­work. “Ob­vi­ously I took it off, tried it on and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m go­ing with this Mon­day.’ ”

Gray donned a suit in a shade of pink and Sa­muel sported a leather jacket Thurs­day.

“This is just a gold leather jacket,” Sa­muel said non­cha­lantly.

Pow­ell learn­ing

Drew Lock, a ju­nior go­ing into his third sea­son as Mis­souri’s start­ing quar­ter­back, said he’s been im­pressed with Tay­lor Pow­ell — a true fresh­man quar­ter­back from Fayet­teville — dur­ing sum­mer work­outs.

“Tay­lor’s a smart kid,” Lock said. “He’s learned our of­fense very quickly. He’s got a lively arm. I think he’ll be a good quar­ter­back for Mis­souri in the fu­ture.”

Ag­gies & Hogs

The Arkansas Ra­zor­backs are 41-29-1 against Texas A&M, but 0-5 in SEC games since Kevin Sum­lin be­came the Ag­gies’ coach in 2012.

“It’s been in­tense,” Texas A&M tackle Koda Martin said of play­ing the Ra­zor­backs. “They’ve had some re­ally good teams.”

Martin was a high school team­mate of for­mer Ra­zor­backs de­fen­sive line­man Tai­wan John­son at Man­vel, Texas.

“I re­ally re­spect Arkansas’ pro­gram and it’s been fun to com­pete against them year af­ter year,” Martin said. “I’m thank­ful to be get­ting those wins.”

Good fin­ish

Mis­souri was 4-8 un­der first-year Coach Barry Odom last sea­son.

“When you win four games, be­lieve me, it hurts your soul,” Odom said.

But Mis­souri’s fourth vic­tory gave the pro­gram mo­men­tum as the Tigers ral­lied from a 24-7 half­time deficit to beat Arkansas 28-24 on Nov. 25.

“I think that was huge for us, just to be able to look back in that game and see the deficit that we had and the tough­ness and grit we showed in com­ing back,” ju­nior quar­ter­back Drew Lock said. “It just shows the type of team we can be, that we will be. It was a Mis­souri team that had both of­fense and de­fense work­ing to­gether. We had a tough time get­ting that last year, and that’s why we only won four games.”

Re­gard­ing rules

SEC su­per­vi­sor of of­fi­cials Steve Shaw pointed out that 2017 is an off-year for rules changes ex­cept those re­gard­ing safety, and he brought up a cou­ple of changes in that re­gard.

On kick­ing plays, de­fend­ers can no longer get a run­ning start and leap over block­ers in an at­tempt to block a kick, Shaw said.

Also, the horse col­lar rule has been ex­panded to pe­nal­ize grabs in the name­plate area or up­per back of the shoul­der pads that lead to im­me­di­ate snap­backs of the head. The rule does not ap­ply to run­ners in­side the tackle box.

An­other point of emphasis is coach­ing con­duct, Shaw said while dis­cussing a new un­sports­man­like con­duct penalty on head coaches if they come on to the play­ing field to protest of­fi­ci­at­ing de­ci­sions.

“The goal is not to flag coaches, it is to change coach­ing be­hav­ior,” Shaw said. “If they stay within the bound­ary, they’ll have all the lat­i­tude they’ve had in the past.”

Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema brought up the rule change Mon­day and ref­er­enced his un­sports­man­like con­duct flag for protest­ing an of­fen­sive hold­ing call that negated a Ra­zor­backs touch­down against Alabama last sea­son.

“I un­der­stand some­body called it the ‘Bielema Rule,’ ” he said. “I don’t think the rule’s for me. Ob­vi­ously I got one in the Bama game but I knew what I was do­ing be­fore I took off. I knew where I was go­ing and I knew what I was go­ing to say and I knew what the reper­cus­sion was.

“I think the in­tent of the rule, to keep coaches off the field, is good in na­ture, es­pe­cially when they start see­ing some of the re­play of re­ally all con­fer­ences, all lev­els.”

Shaw is sched­uled to add the duty of NCAA foot­ball sec­re­tary rules ed­i­tor Sept. 1.

Hand jive

Arkansas quar­ter­back Austin Allen was asked what he thought about his brother, Bran­don, hav­ing a hand mas­sage in between the Se­nior Bowl and the NFL Scout­ing Com­bine in 2015 af­ter his hand size drew crit­i­cism at the Se­nior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

“He did what needed to be done, I guess,” Austin Allen said Mon­day. “His hand got big­ger af­ter the mas­sage.”

A re­porter asked Austin Allen about his hand size.

“Big­ger than his, I think, hope­fully,” he said. “Hope­fully I don’t need a mas­sage.”

Erotic limit

A re­porter was try­ing to set up Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema for a top sound bite when he asked if beat­ing Texas in the 2014 Texas Bowl was “bor­der­line erotic,” what would a vic­tory over Texas A&M on Sept. 23, feel like.

“I know you guys are all look­ing for quotes,” Bielema said, grin­ning. “I don’t think I can go much fur­ther than that one. … That was in a small group ses­sion and that was be­fore I had a child, so I’ll just leave it there.”

Tray’s new day

Auburn se­nior safety Tray Matthews, dubbed the leader of the Tigers’ de­fense, said the trou­ble he got into at Ge­or­gia as a fresh­man is well be­yond him now.

Matthews was dis­missed at Ge­or­gia by then-coach Mark Richt af­ter he and three other play­ers were charged with mis­de­meanor theft by de­cep­tion for dou­ble cash­ing school-is­sued fi­nan­cial aid checks.

“I just ba­si­cally got back to my roots and started do­ing things the right way,” Matthews said. “At Ge­or­gia, I was a fresh­man … very im­ma­ture. I just had to grow up and that right there grew me up quick. That’s all it took.”

Morgan props

For­mer Arkansas re­ceiver Drew Morgan clearly earned the re­spect of Florida de­fen­sive back Duke Daw­son.

Asked to name the best re­ceivers he has matched up against, Daw­son’s first re­sponse was “the slot re­ceiver at Arkansas.”

Morgan had a game-high seven catches for 95 yards and a touch­down in the Ra­zor­backs’ 31-10 vic­tory over the Ga­tors last sea­son.

AP file photo

will com­pete with Sean White and Ma­lik Wil­lis for the Auburn start­ing quar­ter­back po­si­tion. The Tigers open the sea­son Sept. 2 against Ge­or­gia South­ern.

Rag­now

Richard­son

Allen

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