Saturday was first scrimmage day for most Southeastern Conference football teams as teams wrapped up the first full week of fall camps.
It was a day that coaches could begin to get a feel for their team and some of the highlighted position battles. Here is a look at how Saturday went for most teams:
“I thought we had a really good first scrimmage,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “The goal of the scrimmage was to get a lot of players opportunities so that we could evaluate. There were a lot of good things out there today.
“The ones on both sides of the ball did a decent job; the first offense played pretty well but didn’t finish a couple drives. Eddie Lacy did a good job. He had limited reps. we only wanted him to have six or eight carries, and he had eight carries. AJ (McCarron) played pretty well. The first defense played decently.”
Junior quarterback AJ McCarron was 19 of 29 passes for 222 yards and one touchdown. Lacy led the rushers with 57 yards on eight carries. Jalston Fowler ran seven times for 34 yards and a score. True freshman T.J. Yeldon had 24 yards and two touchdowns.
At Arkansas head coach John L. Smith talked about the positives from the morning session.
“It was a good scrimmage,” Smith said. “There were a lot of positive things on both sides. In particular, I liked the attitude that the defense approached (the scrimmage) with. They played with spirit and enthusiasm. There was a lot of grinding going on, on both sides of the ball. Overall, I was quite pleased from a defensive standpoint.
“The offense ran the ball well, when we concentrated on it down here (by the goal line),” Smith said. “We are going to be good offensively.”
“I thought today was very productive,” said Auburn head coach Gene Chizik. “I thought we got a lot accomplished; somewhere between 70-80 plays. We got a lot of special teams work in today, which was very good — to get a lot of that captured on film and do some great teaching off of it as well.
“We’ve got a long way to go. Again, we’re talking about inconsistencies that we’re trying to eliminate, and we didn’t do that today. We stayed about the same.
“We’ve got to eliminate some things. On offense, there are some focus points in the mental part of the game — illegal formations, false starts — and we’ve got to get those things fixed. Defensively, we had some good things happen, but the explosive plays we’re giving up still — we’ve got to eliminate those.
“Today was a good time to get some film and do some good evaluation and assessment. We’re getting great effort and there’s great competition on both sides of the ball. We’re going to keep working at it.”
“The first groups, we need to go let them play,’’ head coach Will Muschamp said before the scrimmage. “We’ve got a collection of guys who need to go out and play on their own, not have a coach let them know where to line up, what to do, where to shift, where to motion, where your eyes need to be. We need to get off the field and let them play. That’s what I’m looking for.”
“(It was) Really competitive,” Joker Phillips said afterward. “We had an old-school scrimmage, 140-something plays, just wanted to put the ball down and get as many snaps as we possibly could, reason being a lot of guys needed snaps.”
“I think our scrimmage started really well with our special forces units, which is our kicking units, our punt team and our punt return. Again, I’ve been saying that guys have been asking to be on those teams. It showed today how fast we played in it. It’s probably as clean as we’ve played in our kicking game.”
“There were some good things,” Phillips said of his quarterbacks. “At times we played sloppy at that position but I think there was more good than bad. The difference in the quarterback play than at receiver or offensive line, if you make a couple of bad plays at quarterback, it really shows. And that’s what people usually remember. We have to make sure we are playing clean all the time at that position.
“(There was) Nice competition. I thought the two young guys went in there and handled themselves well at times, but again (the pace of the game is) a lot faster and a lot more (to learn) on those guys but I thought they both did some good. I thought both of the two older guys did some good. We’ll go see (on the scrimmage video) if there’s enough separation between any of them to make some decisions. I’m not talking about ones and twos; I’m talking about three and four also. We’ll take a look at it.”
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger connected on 15 of 30 passes for 190 yards and two scores as LSU went through its preseason scrimmage indoors at the Charles McClendon Practice Facility.
“The scrimmage is awfully important to the development of any team and I felt like we saw a lot of young guys in a bunch of different spots, and a new quarterback that’s operating the business,” Les Miles said following the workout. “We got a lot accomplished, but we are not ready to play a game. We were sloppy — we had two substitution penalties and several pass interferences. But, this is a perfect way to correct your team. This film will be studied by the players and coaches as we go forward.
“I enjoyed the rushers,” Miles said. “I think (running back) Jeremy Hill made a couple of really nice moves and (Russell) Shepard took a couple of balls out of the backfield. We rushed the football pretty well. I thought we threw the ball better than we had (in previous practices). It was a good day, and a nice first scrimmage.
“I thought there were some really good performances, but the reality of it is it was what we needed as a team. I like where we’re at. I really do. I think there’s energy here. I think we are progressing,” Miles said.
The Rebel defense started and finished strong, while the quarterbacks led their offensive units to some success in the middle of the Rebels’ scrimmage.
Bo Wallace led his units to two touchdown drives and two field goal drives, while Barry Brunetti struggled before leading a drive that freshman running back Jaylen Walton punched in with a short TD run up the middle.
“We can do some things in the run game,” said coach Hugh Freeze, who was less pleased with his quarterbacks than in the previous two days of practice. “We kind of saved some of the guys and didn’t run them too much, like Randall Mackey. We think Jeff Scott will be back Monday and ready to go. I think we had some quarterback runs that looked good.”
“I’m excited about them. Both Jaylen and (freshman) I’Tavius (Mathers) looked good, particularly on tired legs,” Freeze said. “It’s day eight and everybody’s a little fatigued. They both had spurts that looked good. They’re still swimming and making mistakes, but they showed that they’re quality backs.”
Junior quarterback James Franklin had an outstanding day, as he completed 18 of 22 passes for 228 yards. Franklin completed his first nine passes of the day for 111 yards before an incompletion, and he had full command of the offense, showing a nice touch on short passes all the while zipping the ball downfield crisply on longer throws.
Junior tailback Rajion Neal exploded for 134 yards and a touchdown on just nine rushing attempts to spark Tennessee offensively. Vols coach Derek Dooley was most impressed by the team’s attitude throughout the course of the day.
“It was a good scrimmage and I was pleased with the attitude, competitiveness, toughness and effort that the players played with,” Dooley said. “That was a good thing to see… It was one of our better scrimmages from that stand point. We got on the buses and there wasn’t a word being said and that was good. They were locked in and treating it like a game and I think that is a sign of maturity and a sign of how important it is to them.”
“It was sort of one of our typical scrimmages,” said Steve Spurrier. “I don’t think anybody got hurt badly. We had a sprained ankle (Brandon Wilds) and a player (Kelvin Rainey) get a slight concussion in pre-practice, but other than that we came out of it very healthy.
“Several players played very well,” continued the Gamecocks’ eighth-year coach. “Defensively, a lot of guys, the pass rushers, were very good as usual. Kaiwan Lewis, a (true freshman) linebacker, was flying around out there making tackles. I know he was impressive. The other freshmen on offense, Shaq Roland caught everything that came his way. Jerell Adams had an excellent scrimmage also.
“The quarterbacks were so-so. Andrew Clifford probably looked better than all of them. Andrew hit about everything he threw I think. Dylan (Thompson) and Conner (Shaw) hit a few here and there and missed a few here and there. Overall, it was just very average, but some guys made some big plays, which was encouraging.”
From Kevin Sumlin after the Aggies scrimmage:
“I have to watch the film, to be honest with you. We got over 120-something plays in. I thought that was good. I thought the quarterbacks had at least 30 snaps apiece, which is good. That’s about half a game. We matched them up with everybody. So I think you guys see where the quarterback race is going. (Matt) Joeckel came in and did some good things. He’s had a really, really good camp. He’s improved a lot. Probably the most disappointing thing was (Mike) Matthews. I wanted to get him some snaps, but he got hurt early. I thought today gave our quarterbacks a chance to operate all over the field. We threw some balls, particularly in the red zone, to see who will make some plays and challenge some people. I was not pleased with the tempo that we ran the offense with today. Our defense has got to match that tempo. We need to turn that up this week and are guys will learn from it.”