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Florida basketball: Gators running out of time to salvage once promising season

Florida basketball-Florida Gators-Mike White-Tennessee-game time-TV channel-watch online-preview

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It was two games into the season, Florida’s second of four early 100-point offensive showcases, when North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll commented that the Gators had the look of a Final Four team.

When the message was relayed to Florida coach Mike White, he had a much different reaction, reminding everybody how far his team still had to go to be on that level.

Now, it seems like the Gators have gone so far from where they were during that hot start, but not in the right direction.

The team has lost five of its last seven SEC games, blowing second-half leads in the last two while continuing to show the same flaws White points out game after game. The Gators (17-10, 8-6 SEC) are projected as high as a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament by ESPN while CBS has them as low as a No. 11 playing in the First Four.

Potential seeding matters not, though, as White wants his players to simply understand they won’t be in the tournament at all if they keep careening off course as they have.

The Gators have four games left in the regular-season, starting Wednesday night at Tennessee (19-7, 9-5).

“We’re not talking about seeding, period. We’re just trying to win a game. And to win a game, we’ve got to have a good practice today. That’s all we’re focused on. Our guys know there’s four left, they know,” White said Monday. “I’ll just be very, very clear, our guys have been told there’s a chance we can go to the NCAA Tournament and there’s a chance we can go to the NIT. Period. Unfortunately, I think if you talk about that too much, you become too results oriented.

“I want to be results oriented in transition defense and blocking out and calling a switch and actually switching when you call a switch, blocking out a guy at the foul line. If we’re focused on those things for 40 minutes in Nashville, we’re sitting here in a much better situation. Unfortunately, our guys, after the first media timeout, we’re up 11 with 15 and a half minutes left and the message between our guys is ‘Guys, it’s not over yet, we’re only up 11. It’s not over yet. There’s 15 and a half minutes left in the game, are you kidding me, why are we looking at the scoreboard?’ The focus with this group just varies. We’ve got to do a better job keeping them on task somehow.”

Florida at No. 19 Tennessee

When | 9 p.m. ET Wednesday

Where | Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, Tenn.

TV | ESPN2, with Karl Ravech on the play-by-play call, Sean Farnham as the analyst and Seth Greenberg the in-game reporter.

Watch online | The game can be streamed via WatchESPN

Florida blew a 6-point lead in the final 20 seconds last week on the way to an overtime loss against Georgia. It blew that aforementioned 11-point second-half lead against Vanderbilt, wilting defensively down the stretch yet again.

Fans are growing restless and frustrated, and White was asked Monday how much responsibility he feels for this team not reaching its full potential as of yet.

“All of it, it’s all on us,” he said. “Every year you go into a season and you’re ultimate goal is for, obviously, to get better everyday and take it one day at a time, but at the end of the year you want to at least be close, if not all the way to reaching your team’s potential. It’s been a rollercoaster ride. We’re just very, very inconsistent, offensively and defensively, rebounding it. The games aren’t surprises to us because it’s what we see everyday in practice. It’s been a very, very unique year. A lot to learn from, a lot I don’t understand right now.”

It is ultimately the coaching staff’s job to press the right buttons and find a way to get through to a team, but White’s exasperation has been palpable this year. He sees his squad play in his vision for one half and then do something wholly different in the next half.

As he said, Florida’s flaws aren’t a mystery — they are harped on in every practice, every team meeting, every postgame news conference. What seems to be the mystery for the staff is finding a way to have the players receive the message that is being given.

“I feel like he’s done just about everything you can do. I feel like at this point it’s on us, as players, to kind of get it together for him and for ourselves, to see exactly how far we can go as a team,” center Kevarrius Hayes said.

White had the same frustration in his first season at Florida, feeling the Gators never fully bought in or maxed out while settling for an NIT appearance. But last year, they did, reaching the Elite 8 and seemingly setting the stage for more big things to come.

The strong start further supported that, as Florida surged all the way to No. 5 in the AP poll after putting up 108 and 111 points in wins over Stanford and Gonzaga before losing a tough one to Duke.

But even then, White was not pleased with his team’s defense. The Gators have sacrificed their fast-paced offensive outbursts to try to address their defensive and rebounding woes. They continue to try to find patch-work solutions on the interior as the reality sets in that senior center John Egbunu is looking less likely to make it back this season while seeing his recovery from a torn ACL stall.

For that matter, Florida has had so many players banged up throughout the season that getting in full practices has often been a challenge.

Whether these points are viewed as excuses or realities, the bottom line is the Gators are not where anybody thought they’d be at this point. And they’re running out of time to change that.

White was asked if he’ll play the underdog card with his team now as motivation.

“I don’t know, I’ve tried so many buttons, I might put underdog on a button and press that one. I don’t know if that’d work,” he said. “Call me simple-minded, but I think if you block out at the free throw line like you’re supposed to and you get the rebound and they don’t hit a 3 off of it, I don’t know how much you need to motivate. Just do what you’re supposed to do. We know what we’re supposed to do. Sometimes it’s too hard for us.

“It’s too hard for some of these inconsistent teams with one-and-done guys, and they’re freshmen. It’s too hard for us and we’re juniors and seniors. That’s a mentality, that’s a competitiveness level that this team lacks. We’re going to keep focused on doing our jobs. We’ve done them certain nights, and we did a decent job again the first 20 minutes the other night. We just for whatever reason can’t sustain it. Looking at the clock [like] it’s almost over — there’s 15 minutes left in the game, guys. My goodness. The whole mentality there should have been let’s get up 13, let’s get up 15, let’s get another stop. That was last year’s group. The competitiveness level is so different. It’s about holding on and hoping we can win by 1. That can’t be what it’s about.”

As White said several times in several ways Monday, “All I can tell you is we’re going to keep swinging, period.”

The post Florida basketball: Gators running out of time to salvage once promising season appeared first on SEC Country.

Florida basketball: Gators running out of time to salvage once promising season

Florida basketball-Florida Gators-Mike White-Tennessee-game time-TV channel-watch online-preview

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It was two games into the season, Florida’s second of four early 100-point offensive showcases, when North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll commented that the Gators had the look of a Final Four team.

When the message was relayed to Florida coach Mike White, he had a much different reaction, reminding everybody how far his team still had to go to be on that level.

Now, it seems like the Gators have gone so far from where they were during that hot start, but not in the right direction.

The team has lost five of its last seven SEC games, blowing second-half leads in the last two while continuing to show the same flaws White points out game after game. The Gators (17-10, 8-6 SEC) are projected as high as a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament by ESPN while CBS has them as low as a No. 11 playing in the First Four.

Potential seeding matters not, though, as White wants his players to simply understand they won’t be in the tournament at all if they keep careening off course as they have.

The Gators have four games left in the regular-season, starting Wednesday night at Tennessee (19-7, 9-5).

“We’re not talking about seeding, period. We’re just trying to win a game. And to win a game, we’ve got to have a good practice today. That’s all we’re focused on. Our guys know there’s four left, they know,” White said Monday. “I’ll just be very, very clear, our guys have been told there’s a chance we can go to the NCAA Tournament and there’s a chance we can go to the NIT. Period. Unfortunately, I think if you talk about that too much, you become too results oriented.

“I want to be results oriented in transition defense and blocking out and calling a switch and actually switching when you call a switch, blocking out a guy at the foul line. If we’re focused on those things for 40 minutes in Nashville, we’re sitting here in a much better situation. Unfortunately, our guys, after the first media timeout, we’re up 11 with 15 and a half minutes left and the message between our guys is ‘Guys, it’s not over yet, we’re only up 11. It’s not over yet. There’s 15 and a half minutes left in the game, are you kidding me, why are we looking at the scoreboard?’ The focus with this group just varies. We’ve got to do a better job keeping them on task somehow.”

Florida at No. 19 Tennessee

When | 9 p.m. ET Wednesday

Where | Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, Tenn.

TV | ESPN2, with Karl Ravech on the play-by-play call, Sean Farnham as the analyst and Seth Greenberg the in-game reporter.

Watch online | The game can be streamed via WatchESPN

Florida blew a 6-point lead in the final 20 seconds last week on the way to an overtime loss against Georgia. It blew that aforementioned 11-point second-half lead against Vanderbilt, wilting defensively down the stretch yet again.

Fans are growing restless and frustrated, and White was asked Monday how much responsibility he feels for this team not reaching its full potential as of yet.

“All of it, it’s all on us,” he said. “Every year you go into a season and you’re ultimate goal is for, obviously, to get better everyday and take it one day at a time, but at the end of the year you want to at least be close, if not all the way to reaching your team’s potential. It’s been a rollercoaster ride. We’re just very, very inconsistent, offensively and defensively, rebounding it. The games aren’t surprises to us because it’s what we see everyday in practice. It’s been a very, very unique year. A lot to learn from, a lot I don’t understand right now.”

It is ultimately the coaching staff’s job to press the right buttons and find a way to get through to a team, but White’s exasperation has been palpable this year. He sees his squad play in his vision for one half and then do something wholly different in the next half.

As he said, Florida’s flaws aren’t a mystery — they are harped on in every practice, every team meeting, every postgame news conference. What seems to be the mystery for the staff is finding a way to have the players receive the message that is being given.

“I feel like he’s done just about everything you can do. I feel like at this point it’s on us, as players, to kind of get it together for him and for ourselves, to see exactly how far we can go as a team,” center Kevarrius Hayes said.

White had the same frustration in his first season at Florida, feeling the Gators never fully bought in or maxed out while settling for an NIT appearance. But last year, they did, reaching the Elite 8 and seemingly setting the stage for more big things to come.

The strong start further supported that, as Florida surged all the way to No. 5 in the AP poll after putting up 108 and 111 points in wins over Stanford and Gonzaga before losing a tough one to Duke.

But even then, White was not pleased with his team’s defense. The Gators have sacrificed their fast-paced offensive outbursts to try to address their defensive and rebounding woes. They continue to try to find patch-work solutions on the interior as the reality sets in that senior center John Egbunu is looking less likely to make it back this season while seeing his recovery from a torn ACL stall.

For that matter, Florida has had so many players banged up throughout the season that getting in full practices has often been a challenge.

Whether these points are viewed as excuses or realities, the bottom line is the Gators are not where anybody thought they’d be at this point. And they’re running out of time to change that.

White was asked if he’ll play the underdog card with his team now as motivation.

“I don’t know, I’ve tried so many buttons, I might put underdog on a button and press that one. I don’t know if that’d work,” he said. “Call me simple-minded, but I think if you block out at the free throw line like you’re supposed to and you get the rebound and they don’t hit a 3 off of it, I don’t know how much you need to motivate. Just do what you’re supposed to do. We know what we’re supposed to do. Sometimes it’s too hard for us.

“It’s too hard for some of these inconsistent teams with one-and-done guys, and they’re freshmen. It’s too hard for us and we’re juniors and seniors. That’s a mentality, that’s a competitiveness level that this team lacks. We’re going to keep focused on doing our jobs. We’ve done them certain nights, and we did a decent job again the first 20 minutes the other night. We just for whatever reason can’t sustain it. Looking at the clock [like] it’s almost over — there’s 15 minutes left in the game, guys. My goodness. The whole mentality there should have been let’s get up 13, let’s get up 15, let’s get another stop. That was last year’s group. The competitiveness level is so different. It’s about holding on and hoping we can win by 1. That can’t be what it’s about.”

As White said several times in several ways Monday, “All I can tell you is we’re going to keep swinging, period.”

The post Florida basketball: Gators running out of time to salvage once promising season appeared first on SEC Country.

Mississippi State podcast: As one MSU program loses its coach, another gets its biggest win of the season

Quinndary Weatherspoon-Mississippi State-Mississippi State basketball-box score-recap-college basketball-SEC

W elcome to More Cowbell, SEC Country’s daily podcast about Mississippi State   sports with host Brandon Walker.

Well, that was quite a day. On a day that Mississippi State lost its baseball coach, the men’s basketball team traveled to College Station and earned its biggest win of the year, maintaining its spot on the NCAA Tournament bubble. The Bulldogs are now 20-8 overall and 8-7 in SEC play. More importantly, however, MSU looks to be one of the league’s top 5 teams heading down the stretch, and will be a tough out for anyone. If MSU can win out, they will barge into the NCAA Tournament.

Elsewhere, Andy Cannizaro officially resigned as MSU’s baseball coach Tuesday morning, and we close the book on that chapter of Mississippi State history on this edition of More Cowbell.

The post Mississippi State podcast: As one MSU program loses its coach, another gets its biggest win of the season appeared first on SEC Country.

LSU offers the nation’s top-ranked quarterback

lsu-tigers-recruiting-jack-miller

The push for LSU’s  next quarterback turn a pivotal turn on Wednesday afternoon.

The Tigers’ coaching staff extended an offer to Jack Miller, the top-ranked pro-style passer in the 2020 class.

Miller, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound pocket passer from Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Ariz., is a top-50 prospect nationally.

LSU joins an impressive group of early offers from the stud quarterback, including Ohio State, Oklahoma State, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas A&amp;M, UCLA and Florida State, among several others.

As a sophomore in 2017, Miller passed for 1,735 yards and 20 touchdowns compared to 6 interceptions. He completed better than 53 percent of his passes. Through two varsity seasons, Miller has more than 5,000 yards through the air and 73 touchdowns.

The Tigers did not sign a quarterback to their 2018 recruiting class and do not yet have one committed to their 2019 group. Myles Brennan, a sophomore, will enter the season as the favorite under center. His main competition will be redshirt freshman Lowell Narcisse.

Stick with SEC Country for more of LSU’s newest quarterback offer.

The post LSU offers the nation’s top-ranked quarterback appeared first on SEC Country.

LOOK: Shaq trolls Charles Barkley with ‘Fat Panther’ cover on Rolling Stone magazine

shaq-barkley-rolling-stone-fat-panther

It was Charles Barkley’s 55th birthday on Tuesday, and you knew it wasn’t going to pass without some sort of monumental trolling from fellow NBA on TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal. Actually, it would be a shock if that didn’t happen.

As expected, Shaq came through by poking fun at Barkley’s weight, something he’s been known to do in several ways over the years. However, his latest jab might be the best one yet.

Shaq posted this image resembling the latest cover of Rolling Stone magazine, which has Chadwick Boseman — the “Black Panther” himself — showing off his physique.

But Shaq did the opposite with this photoshopped version of Barkley in his place.

Happy birthday to the great Charles Barkley pic.twitter.com/EnjTzJ8wBB — SHAQ (@SHAQ) February 21, 2018

Here’s a look at the real cover with Boseman.

Chadwick Boseman covers the latest issue of @RollingStone #BlackPanther #WakandaForever pic.twitter.com/76iOr7FXv9 — Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) February 19, 2018

This isn’t the first and definitely won’t be the last diss that either NBA legend will throw at each other.

The post LOOK: Shaq trolls Charles Barkley with ‘Fat Panther’ cover on Rolling Stone magazine appeared first on SEC Country.

East Carolina grad transfer QB Gardner Minshew visiting Alabama this weekend

Alabama-Alabama football-Alabama Crimson Tide-Gardner Minshew

Alabama’s hunt for a quarterback in the 2018 recruiting cycle may be in its final days.

East Carolina graduate transfer quarterback Gardner Minshew is visiting Tuscaloosa this weekend, which was first reported by Matt Zenitz of AL.com and confirmed by SEC Country. Minshew, who has one year of eligibility left and the potential for a redshirt year, recently told SEC Country that he’s leaning toward the Tide.

“Alabama 100 percent leads,” Minshew said. “They were the first ones to hit me up. There haven’t been many schools to hit me up. I told the [Alabama] coaches that it was a situation that was favorable for me. I’m in. They told me they’re in, so I’m in on them. That’s where I’m at right now.”

Minshew threw for 2,140 yards, 16 touchdowns with 7 interceptions this past season for the Pirates. He was was expected to be ECU’s No. 1 quarterback this spring, but transferred from the program in late January because of an emergency family situation. He sent his release out to schools “within driving distance” from his home in Brandon, Miss. Schools in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee received his release.

Alabama was one of the first schools to reach out to Minshew. He said he initially spoke to offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, but his primary communication has been with quarterbacks coach Dan Enos. He’s also had one phone conversation with Saban.

The path to immediate playing time in Tuscaloosa is going to be quite difficult for Minshew with Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa on the roster, but Alabama is an appealing option for him because it’s only about a 2 1/2-hour drive from his family’s home in Brandon, Miss., and that is priority No. 1 to Minshew right now.

“As far as getting on the field right away [at Alabama], it’s going to be a grind,” Minshew said. “They told me that I can come in and compete. That’s all I ask for. I know where I’m coming in at. They have two really, really, really good young guys. I can’t say enough about them, their leadership and maturity. I just hope to bring in work ethic, leadership and more maturity. I want to help out that room any way I can.”

The post East Carolina grad transfer QB Gardner Minshew visiting Alabama this weekend appeared first on SEC Country.

Kentucky’s Nick Mingione on Mississippi State coaching speculation: ‘Why wouldn’t they say my name?’

Nick Mingione-Kentucky-Kentucky baseball-Mississippi State-Mississippi State baseball-Gary Henderson-Andy Cannizaro

LEXINGTON, Ky. — One year after Nick Mingione transformed Kentucky baseball into a national contender, and just five games into the 8th-ranked Wildcats’ 2018 campaign, comes a sense of uncertainty as Mingione’s name will  undoubtedly be on the short list for the Mississippi State job this summer.

“Yeah you know what, it’s a sad deal for everybody, right?” Mingione said when asked Tuesday night about the situation at Mississippi State. “Like anytime anybody loses their job, man that’s hard. You know what, that’s to be expected — my name, right? I spent over a decade with Coach [John] Cohen, like right? That’s like the obvious, right? Why wouldn’t they say my name?

“I just feel bad. That’s just an unfortunate deal. Man, I hate that for our sport.”

Andy Cannizaro  officially resigned as Mississippi State’s coach Tuesday morning after a  report Monday evening that he would be fired with cause. Gary Henderson, who coached eight seasons at Kentucky before resigning following the 2016 season,  has been promoted from pitching coach to interim head coach.

Mingione, who was named SEC Coach of the Year last season, signed a contract extension in September that will carry him through the 2022 season. Mingione is due $575,000 in each of the next five seasons. He has several tiers of incentives: if UK makes the NCAA Tournament, reaches the super regionals, reaches the College World Series, wins the national championship.

The Kentucky and Mississippi State baseball programs are intertwined by the trio of Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen, Henderson and Mingione.

Cohen coached Kentucky’s baseball program before taking the Mississippi State job. Henderson replaced him at Kentucky, and Mingione replaced Henderson. And the circle kept spinning as Cohen brought Henderson to Starkville, Miss., following his resignation. Suddenly, Henderson is now leading Cohen’s program.

Mingione has deep ties to Cohen and Mississippi State. Mingione spent the 2006-07 seasons as an assistant at Kentucky under Cohen. He then followed Cohen to Mississippi State. Mingione was an assistant for the Bulldogs for eight years before taking the Kentucky job.

RELATED:  Nick Mingione has changed the program, players have changed his life

Kentucky doesn’t come close to matching Mississippi State’s brand as a college baseball powerhouse. Mississippi State has appeared in the College World Series nine times, most recently in 2013. Kentucky has never made it to Omaha, Neb.

But the program is on a rapid rise under Mingione.  The Wildcats appeared in their first-ever super regional last season thanks to a thrilling 1 a.m. regional win that ended in a dog pile. 

Record crowds filled Cliff Hagan Stadium as the  Wildcats will move into a new $49 million home in 2019. But with the excitement of a new stadium in Lexington comes similar excitement in Starkville. The Bulldogs will soon play in a  state-of-the-art $55 million stadium.

The 8th-ranked Wildcats are 4-1 this season and the crowd of 4,118 at Cliff Hagan Stadium Tuesday night was the largest ever for a home opener.

“To think the last time we played a game here was in that regional, that regional final, and then to come back out in the next game we play and it looks just like it,” Mingione said. “So, can’t think the Big Blue nation enough. Obviously wish we would have got the win for the, but man that meant a lot to us.”

Mingione, while not at all dismissive of the Mississippi State job, said the Kentucky job “checks off a lot of boxes.”

“I believe in out athletic director, Mitch Barnhart, and I believe in our president, Dr. Capilouto,” Mingione said. “This is a really neat deal and there’s a reason why the University of Kentucky is thriving.”

Mingione’s limitless positivity has willed Kentucky baseball into a national contender, but Cohen and Mississippi State will have a few months to wind up the perfect pitch that could pull Mingione back to Starkville.

The post Kentucky’s Nick Mingione on Mississippi State coaching speculation: ‘Why wouldn’t they say my name?’ appeared first on SEC Country.

Who is Hal Hughes? Meet LSU baseball’s new starting shortstop

lsu-lsu baseball-lsu tigers-hal hughes-josh smith-shortstop-lsu shortstop

BATON ROUGE, La. — For at least a month, the LSU baseball team will be without sophomore shortstop Josh Smith, who is out with a back injury. In his place, LSU will rely on freshman Hal Hughes, a utility infielder known more for his defense than his offense.

“I think we all have known since the first day of the fall that I’m really excited about Hal Hughes,” LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri said. “I think Hal Hughes can step in and do a tremendous job defensively for us. He’s not the offensive force that Josh is, of course, not many are, but Hal can be a productive offensive player.

“I think he can handle the bat, he can be a tough out, he can lay down the bunt and steal a bag. He doesn’t have to go out there and hit .400 to be a good player for us. But the most important thing Hal can do for us is go out and make the plays at shortstop. I don’t have any doubt he’ll do that.”

Speaking with the media on Tuesday, Hughes couldn’t help but feel badly for Smith, but he’s also thrilled to see what he can do as an everyday player.

“It’s pretty cool,” Hughes said of taking over at shortstop. “I hate this for Josh. I really feel for him. He’s worked so hard to get to where he’s at right now, so I feel terrible for him. But at the same time, I’m ready to go. I’m excited to get my opportunity and I’m just going to run with it.”

With Hughes poised to take over at shortstop, here are five things you need to know about the new LSU contributor:

1. He is versatile

Prior to this injury, Hughes was LSU’s backup at shortstop, second base and third base. Mainieri hinted during the preseason that in late-game situations, he favored putting Hughes in at third base and moving third baseman Jake Slaughter to first base to give LSU its best possible defensive lineup.

2. He’s a coach’s son

Hughes is the son of former Virginia Tech and Oklahoma coach Pete Hughes. The elder Hughes won more than 500 games as a head coach, 250 of which came at Boston College, where he often coached against Mainieri, who worked at Notre Dame at the time. Pete now works as an assistant coach at Georgia.

3. His defense isn’t a myth

For his efforts in high school, Hughes was voted the 2017 Oklahoma Defensive Player of the Year. He made just one error during his entire senior season.

4. Where he goes, teams win

Hughes is the winningest player in the history of his high school, leading his program to district championships as a freshman and senior and region championships as a sophomore and junior.

5. He’ll hit near the back of the lineup

Though he hit .360 as a high school senior, Hughes’ bat doesn’t define him. The freshman is more of a spray hitter who will be used for singles and sacrifice bunts, likely from the No. 8 or No. 9 spot in the lineup. Between him and junior college transfer second baseman Brandt Broussard, LSU’s middle infield shouldn’t pack too much of a punch over the next month.

What’s next for LSU baseball?

The Tigers host New Orleans on Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. CT at Alex Box Stadium. The game will be available for stream online through WatchESPN.

The post Who is Hal Hughes? Meet LSU baseball’s new starting shortstop appeared first on SEC Country.

Spring practice will show Arkansas’ tight ends how they fit in new offense

Arkansas football-tight ends-Cheyenne O'Grady

Arkansas is set to begin its first spring under coach Chad Morris next week. The Razorbacks are scheduled to practice 14 times between March 1 and April 9, though another date could be added with the NCAA allowing up to 15 practices. The spring game will be played April 7 at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

When spring practice gets underway, the tight ends will find out how different things are going to be under Morris. The six scholarship tight ends on the roster should be excited by the fact Morris has coached a Mackey Award winner in the past — Clemson’s Dwayne Allen in 2011.

The group will have the advantage of some familiarity within the coaching staff with tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. being retained from the previous staff. As Lunney prepares to work with his players in the new system for the first time, here are three things the Hogs should look to accomplish this spring at the position:

Evolving the position

It’s very possible no position group on the roster is undergoing more change with the new coaching staff than tight ends. Arkansas is still going to use them but in a much different manner than during the Bret Bielema era.

In Morris’ spread scheme, the position group will have its hand in the dirt far less often. The tight ends will likely play an H-back role frequently and at times split out with the wide receivers in order to create mismatches in the passing game. There also won’t be more than one on the field nearly as often as in recent years.

Spring practices will give the current tight ends their first chance to adjust to the changes. Those who adapt quickly will obviously have the best chance at creating a role for themselves next season.

Who fits and who doesn’t?

Morris had four on-scholarship tight ends last season at SMU. That’s seems to be the number he envisions on Arkansas’ roster in the future.

Arkansas didn’t sign a tight end in its 2018 class. The Hogs have Hudson Henry as their top — and, basically, only — tight end target in the 2019 class. With them making room for a 2019 addition, they’ll trim the tight end scholarship number from six to five heading into the 2019 season as things stand now.

Arkansas scholarship tight ends

Player Year Height Weight Austin Cantrell Jr. 6-3 264 Will Gragg Jr. 6-4 254 Grayson Gunter So. 6-6 232 Jack Kraus Sr. 6-5 248 Cheyenne O’Grady Jr. 6-4 253 Jeremy Patton Sr. 6-5 250

But it’s very possible things won’t remain as they stand now. The tight ends on the current roster signed up for a much different offense, so the spring will give them a chance to see if they need to explore a potential transfer. This isn’t to say someone is definitely leaving, as there has been no indication as to who may even be considering a move. It’s just something to keep an eye on.

Take advantage of renewed opportunity

These changes don’t have to be a bad thing for the tight ends at Arkansas. There aren’t a lot of coaches with a Mackey Award winner on their résumé, and Morris is one of them.

It’s entirely possible the spread, up-tempo scheme suits some of the current tight ends better than the previous approach. The spring will be an opportunity for them to prove they can thrive in the system. That could potentially lead to securing a role next season. The most likely candidates to benefit from the change: Jeremy Patton, Cheyenne O’Grady and Will Gragg.

The post Spring practice will show Arkansas’ tight ends how they fit in new offense appeared first on SEC Country.

Will Muschamp on the balance of power in the SEC: ‘It’s not the West, it’s Alabama’

Will Muschamp-South Carolina-Nick Saban-Alabama

Ladies and gentlemen, Will Muschamp is here to settle your debates on the balance of power between the SEC East and SEC West.

After all, the South Carolina coach may be one of the most qualified people in the league to make an assessment. Not only does he coach the Gamecocks, but he’s a former Georgia player, former Florida head coach, and also has multiple stints as defensive coordinator at Auburn as well as LSU.

If there’s anyone currently involved with the on-field product who has seen the league from all sides, it’s probably this guy.

During a Q&amp;A with The Athletic’s Jason Kersey, which was released on Wednesday, Muschamp was asked about the balance of power in the league as the 2018 season approaches.

“I think it all goes in cycles,” Muschamp explained. “There was a time when Florida and Tennessee were really battling every year for the SEC championship and the national championship. It has swung to the West side.

“But I think more than anything, it’s not the West, it’s Alabama. Alabama has been dominant. That’s what I would look at and point to.”

Georgia broke an eight-game winning streak for the SEC West during last season’s SEC Championship Game, defeating Auburn 28-7. It avenged a regular-season loss to the Tigers on The Plains.

And while that championship game could mark the shift of power back in the direction of the East, at least temporarily, it is worth noting that Alabama went on to win the national championship in spite of missing out on a chance to play in the conference title game after an Iron Bowl loss place Auburn there instead. Even when you beat Nick Saban, you can’t keep him down for long.

Saban’s team has been in the SEC Championship Game in six of his 11 seasons at Alabama. Perhaps more stunning than that number is that Saban actually won a pair of national titles (2011, 2017) in two of the seasons with missed SEC title appearances, and the teams that played in Alabama’s place representing the SEC West (LSU: 2007, Auburn: 2010, 2013) went on to play for national title in the other three seasons.

Those results make it no surprise to Muschamp, who is a former Saban assistant himself from his time at LSU, that the league has hired coaches who worked in the Saban system to try to replicate the success.

“We were very fortunate to work for Nick Saban,” Muschamp told Kersey coming out of a nine-win season in Year 2 at South Carolina. “The model that he has is a very good one, from the offseason program to philosophically, offense, defense, special teams, recruiting.”

In addition to Muschamp at South Carolina, Georgia coach Kirby Smart, new Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt and new Texas A&amp;M coach Jimbo Fisher are just some examples of the league’s propensity to pursue Saban’s assistants. Fired Tennessee coach Derek Dooley, who is now the offensive coordinator at Missouri, and former Florida coach Jim McElwain are some others who represent failed attempts at that endeavor.

Even Muschamp himself, who was fired at Florida, is a statistic on that side of the Saban assistant argument.

SEC Championship Games during the Alabama-Nick Saban era Season SEC East champion SEC West champion 2007 Tennessee 14 LSU 21 2008 Florida 31 Alabama 20 2009 Florida 13 Alabama 32 2010 South Carolina 17 Auburn 56 2011 Georgia 10 LSU 42 2012 Georgia 28 Alabama 32 2013 Missouri 42 Auburn 59 2014 Missouri 13 Alabama 42 2015 Florida 15 Alabama 29 2016 Florida 16 Alabama 54 2017 Georgia 28 Auburn 7

The post Will Muschamp on the balance of power in the SEC: ‘It’s not the West, it’s Alabama’ appeared first on SEC Country.

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