Stuart McNair

Franz Beard's Thoughts of the Day; Dec.11

A few thoughts to jump start your Friday morning...

The Southeastern Conference hasn’t claimed a national championship since Alabama did it in 2012 to complete a rare back-to-back that made it seven straight years that an SEC team came home with the big trophy and a year’s worth of bragging rights for what is universally considered the best league in all of college football. Auburn was one play away from making it eight straight in 2013 and Alabama got knocked out in the 2014 semifinals.

Alabama goes into this year’s College Football Playoff seeded second so the SEC will be represented at the highest levels, but below that, there are questions. Alabama is the SEC’s only top ten team and one of just four (Ole Miss #16, Florida #19 and LSU #22) in the top 25. says the SEC is no longer the best league top to bottom and other experts question if the league has come back down to earth after that incredible 7-straight run.

But is the league really down? Or is it a combination of a couple of things: a lack of experienced quarterbacks and youth?

If you answered yes to both questions, you win the kewpie doll. Quarterback play should be improved next year, and the entire league will boast much more experience since there isn’t a single team that will have to replace more than 20 players on its two-deep roster (22 offense, 22 defense, 4 special teams).

ALABAMA: Alabama has to replace 12 senior starters and 19 seniors overall on the two-deep, which is typical for a Nick Saban team. Alabama will simply reload. Derrick Henry is expected to bolt for the NFL. He will be tough to replace as will 3-year starter at center Ryan Kelly, but there’s a plug-in for everyone else.  

Senior starters: 5 offense, 7 defense

Other seniors on two-deep: 3 offense, 2 defense

Could leave early: Derrick Henry, RB; O.J. Howard, TE; A’Shawn Robinson DT; Eddie Jackson, CB

QB: Starter Jake Coker is a senior, likely to be placed by Cooper Bateman or Blake Barnett.  

Toughest to replace: Ryan Kelly, C; Jake Coker, QB; Reggie Ragland, LB; Cyrus Jones CB

ARKANSAS: If you go by sheer numbers, the Razorbacks will be one tough team to beat next year but five potential early entrees into the NFL Draft could really hurt Arkansas’ prospects. Bret Bielema can replace running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. The guys he has to keep are bookend offensive tackles Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper and tight end Hunter Henry.

Senior starters: 3 offense, 2 defense

Other seniors on two-deep: 2 offense

Could leave early: Denver Kirkland, LT; Alex Collins, RB; Jonathan Williams RB; Hunter Henry, TE; Dan Skipper, RT

QB: Starter Brandon Allen is a senior, likely to be replaced by younger brother Austin or redshirt freshman Ty Storey.

Toughest to replace: Brandon Allen, QB; Sebastian Tretola, LG; Hunter Henry, TE; Alex Collins, RB; Mitch Smothers, C

AUBURN: Auburn loses only 10 seniors on its two-deep and probably won’t lose anyone to the NFL. The biggest problem for the Tigers will be finding a quarterback who can run the ball. Gus Malzahn’s offense doesn’t function well if the QB isn’t a running threat.

Senior starters: 2 offense, 5 defense

Other seniors on two-deep: 2 offense, 3 defense

Expected to leave early: Carl Lawson, DE; Montravius Adams, DT

QB: Starter Jeremy Johnson returns but coud be replaced by juco John Franklin or incoming freshman Woody Barrett.

Toughest to replace: Cassanova McKinzy, LB; Kris Frost, LB; Ricardo Louis, WR

FLORIDA: There are only eight seniors on Florida’s two-deep roster. The Gators are deep enough in the secondary that the blow of losing corner Vernon Hargreaves III and safety Marcus Maye to the NFL won’t be crushing. The toughest players to replace will actually be DT Jonathan Bullard and LB Antonio Morrison.

Senior starters: 3 offense, 3 defense

Other seniors on two-deep: 1 offense, 1 defense

Could leave early: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB; Kelvin Taylor, RB; Marcus Maye, S; Demarcus Robinson, WR

QB: Starter Treon Harris returns but transfer Luke Del Rio or an incoming freshman (either Jacob Eason or Feleipe Franks) probably starts next year.

Toughest to replace: Trip Thurman, LG; Jonathan Bullard, DT; Antonio Morrison, LB; Brian Poole, NB/CB

GEORGIA: New coach Kirby Smart inherits a roster that will lose 18 seniors off the two-deep including both specialists. A lack of speed at the skill positions and mediocre QB play are going to be Georgia’s biggest challenges next year.

Senior starters: 5 offense, 5 defense, 2 special teams

Other seniors on two-deep: 2 offense, 2 defense

Could leave early: Leonard Floyd, LB;

QB: Greyson Lambert returns but he probably won’t start if Smart can hang on to the commitment of Jacob Eason.

Toughest to replace: Malcolm Mitchell, WR; Kolton Houston, LG; Hunter Long, C; John Theus, RT; Jordan Jenkins, LB; Jake Ganus, LB; Marshall Morgan, PK

Transferring out: QB Faton Bauta

KENTUCKY: The good news is Kentucky loses only nine seniors off the two-deep and no one figures to leave early for the NFL. The bad news is these same returning players have never tasted a winning season and with QB Patrick Towles transferring out, that’s a very questionable position.

Senior starters: 1 offense, 6 defense

Other seniors on two-deep: 1 offense, 1 defense

Could leave early: None

QB: Late season starter Drew Barker returns but after that it’s dicey, perhaps freshman Gunnar Hoak.

Toughest to replace: Patrick Towles, QB; Jordan Swindle, LT; Josh Forrest, LB; A.J. Stamps, S

Transferring out: Patrick Towles, QB

LSU: Even if LSU loses three or four players early to the NFL, this will be the SEC’s most experienced roster as the Tigers lose only five seniors off the two-deep. This team oozes talent. The only big question will be who’s going to coordinate the offense?

Senior starters: 1 offense, 3 defense, 1 special teams

Other seniors on two-deep: 0

Could leave early: Travin Dural, WR; Jerald Hawkins, LT; Kendell Beckwith, LB; Tre’Davious White, CB

QB: Starter Brandon Harris returns but whether he starts or not depends on changes with the offensive coordinator and offensive scheme.

Toughest to replace: Vadal Alexander, RT; Jalen Mills, S; Louis Lamar, LB; Jamie Keehn, P

MISSISSIPPI STATE: If Dan Mullen loses outstanding wide receivers De’Runnya Wilson and Fred Ross to the NFL Draft it will complicate the loss of Dak Prescott, the SEC’s best QB. All the others are replaceable. Mullen loses 10 seniors on his two-deep.

Senior starters: 3 offense, 3 defense

Other seniors on two-deep: 3 offense, 1 special teams

Could leave early: De’Runnya Wilson, WR; Fred Ross, WR; Beniquez Brown, LB

QB: Dak Prescott graduates and his replacement is likely to be Damian Williams, who was redshirted in 2015 so he could have two years of eligibility.

Toughest to replace: Dak Prescott, QB; Justin Malone, LG; Rufus Warren, LT; Traveze Calhoun, CB

MISSOURI: The Tigers played great defense and the offense was miserable. So what did they do when Gary Pinkel retired? They hired a defense first coach. The Tigers lose 13 seniors off their two-deep but they will get hit hard on the O-line where they lose Connor McGovern and Evan Boehm.

Senior starters: 5 offense, 3 defense, 1 special teams

Other seniors on two-deep: 1 offense, 2 defense

Could leave early: Michael Sherer, LB; Charles Harris, DE

QB: Starter Drew Lock is returning but if a new offensive coordinator goes to a spread Marvin Zanders could be next year’s starter.

Toughest to replace: Connor McGovern, LT; Evan Boehm, C, Kentrell Brothers, LB, Ian Simon, S

Transferring out: Maty Mauk, QB

OLE MISS: Ole Miss can replace the 10 seniors it loses off its two-deep. The real concern for Hugh Freeze is possibly losing five to the NFL early. It will be disastrous if QB Chad Kelly elects to enter the NFL Draft.

Senior starters: 3 offense, 4 defense

Other seniors on two-deep: 1 offense, 3 defense

Could leave early: Laquon Treadwell, WR; Laremy Tunsil, LT; Robert Nkemdiche, DT; Tony Conner, NB/S; Chad Kelly, QB

QB: If Chad Kelly returns it’s good. If he doesn’t return, then freshman Shea Patterson could be the starter from day one.

Toughest to replace: Cody Core, WR; Aaron Morris, LG; Fahn Cooper, RT; Trae Elston, S; Mike Hilton, CB

SOUTH CAROLINA: The good news is new coach Will Muschamp loses only four defensive players (3 starters) off the two-deep. That is also the bad news because South Carolina’s defense stunk. The offense also stunk and eight seniors off the two-deep will have to be replaced. Help is needed everywhere.

Senior starters: 5 offense, 3 defense

Other seniors on two-deep: 3 offense, 1 defense, 1 special teams

Could leave early: Pharoh Cooper, WR; Skai Moore, LB

QB: Starter Perry Orth graduates. New offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is sure to like the skill set of incoming freshman Brandon McIlwain.

Toughest to replace: Jerrell Adams, TE; Will Sport, RG; Brandon Wilds, RB; Gerald Dixon Jr., DT; TJ Gurley, S

TENNESSEE: Because the Vols return a senior quarterback and lose only nine seniors off their two-deep, they will probably be predicted to finish in the top 15 next year.

Senior starters: 2 offense, 3 defense

Other seniors on two-deep: 3 offense, 0 defense, 1 special teams

Could leave early: Cameron Sutton, CB; Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB

QB: Starter Joshua Dobbs is returning and he’ll be backed up by Quinten Dormady.

Toughest to replace: Kyler Kerbyson, LT; Brian Randolph, FS

TEXAS A&M: The Aggies lose only 12 seniors off their two-deep, but they will take a hit on the O-line if RT Germain Ifedi goes early, which means three three starters will have to be replaced. The situation at QB is dicey now that Kyle Allen is transferring out.

Senior starters: 3 offense, 4 defense, 2 special teams

Other seniors on two-deep: 2 offense, 1 defense

Could leave early: Josh Reynolds, WR; Germain Ifedi, RT; Daeshon Hall, DE

QB: Starter Kyle Allen is transferring and backup Kyler Murray could also transfer, which means Kevin Sumlin has a real disaster on his hands.

Toughest to replace: Mike Matthews, C; Joseph Cheek, RG; Julien Obioha, DT; Devante Harris, CB; Drew Kaser, P; Taylor Bertolet, PK

Transferring out: Kyle Allen, QB

VANDERBILT: Vandy loses only eight seniors off its two-deep, four each off the offense and defense. If Derek Mason can keep LB Zach Cunningham from leaving early for the NFL, the defense should be outstanding.

Senior starters: 3 offense, 3 defense

Other seniors on two-deep: 1 offense, 1 defense

Could leave early: Zach Cunningham, LB

QB: Late season starter Kyle Shurmur is returning as are backups Johnny McCrary and Wade Freebeck.

Toughest to replace: Jake Bernstein, LG; Spencer Pulley, C; Steve Scheu, TE; Caleb Azubuike, DE


First Team


QB: Deshaun Watson, Clemson

RB: Derrick Henry, Alabama; Leonard Fournette, LSU
WR: Corey Coleman, Baylor; Josh Doctson, TCU
TE: Jake Butt, Michigan
C: Jack Allen, Michigan State
OL: Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame; Spencer Drango, Baylor; Joshua Garnett, Stanford; Taylor Decker, Ohio State

DE: Carl Nassib, Penn State; Joey Bosa, Ohio State
DT: A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama; JONATHAN BULLARD, FLORIDA
LB: Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame; Reggie Ragland, Alabama; Kentrell Brothers, Missouri
S: Jeremy Cash, Duke; Jalen Mills, LSU

Special teams

PK: Roberto Aguayo, Florida State
P: Drew Kaser, Texas A&M
KR: Morgan Burns, Kansas State


All-Purpose: Christian McCaffrey, Stanford


Alabama running back Derrick Henry cleaned up Thursday night at the College Football Awards Show, taking home the Maxwell and Walter Camp awards as the national player of the year and the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back. Henry is considered the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy Saturday night but the Maxwell and Walter Camp winners don’t always score big in New York. Last year Marcus Mariota became the first Maxwell winner since Cam Newton to win the Heisman. Jameis Winston (2013) and Mariota won the last two Walter Camp awards but since 2007 the Camp winner has only won the Heisman four times.


“Leadership, to me, is really about being a decent human being and caring for people.” Slive’s ultimate test for leadership: “How you treat people who can’t do anything for you.”


There is very good news for the College Football semifinals and championship game – no Atlantic Coast Conference zebras. After seeing ACC zebras exposed continuously on instant replay all season, this is indeed a step in the right direction.

Here are the officiating assignments:

Cotton Bowl (Alabama vs. Michigan State): Big 12

Orange Bowl (Clemson vs. Oklahoma): Big Ten

Championship Game: Pac-12


1. Clemson 13-0: Preseason #9
2. Alabama 12-1: Preseason #3
3. Michigan State 12-1: Preseason #6
4. Oklahoma 11-1: Preseason #21
5. Stanford 11-2: Preseason #26

6. Iowa 12-1: Preseason #48
7. Ohio State 11-1: Preseason #1
8. Notre Dame 10-2: Preseason #7

9. Florida State 10-2: Preseason #12
10. North Carolina 11-1: Preseason #37
11. TCU 10-2: Preseason #2
12. Northwestern 10-2: Preseason #69
13. Oklahoma State 10-2: Preseason #18
14. Houston 12-1: Preseason #55
15. Oregon 9-3: Preseason #4
16. Ole Miss 9-3: Preseason #28
17. Michigan 9-3: Preseason #29
18. Baylor 9-3: Preseason #5
19. FLORIDA 11-2: Preseason #38
20. Utah 9-3: Preseason #32
21. Navy 9-2: Preseason #62
22. LSU 8-3: Preseason #13
23. Wisconsin 9-3: Preseason #16

24. Temple 10-3: Preseason #68
25. Western Kentucky 11-2: Preseason #74

Whiffed on:

Auburn 6-6: Preseason #8
Georgia 9-3: Preseason #10
Southern Cal 8-5: Preseason #11
Arizona State 7-5: Preseason #14
Georgia Tech 3-9: Preseason #15
Tennessee 8-4: Preseason #17
Arizona 6-6: Preseason #19
UCLA 8-4: Preseason #20
Boise State 8-4: Preseason #22

Texas A&M 8-4: Preseason #23
Virginia Tech 6-6: Preseason #24
Missouri 5-7: Preseason #24


Tulsa co-offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert will be the new offensive coordinator for Charlie Strong at Texas. Gilbert has worked for Art Briles and for Briles protégés Phil Montgomery and Dino Babers.

Former Michigan coach Brady Hole has been interviewed by East Carolina along with James Madison coach Everett Withers and Virginia Tech running backs coach Shane Beamer.


When you look at the number of returning players on the two-deep and the quarterback situations at each SEC school, what would be your top five teams going into next year?


My music choice for today was sealed the moment I heard “I.G.Y. (What a Beautiful World)” from Donald Fagen’s 1982 solo album “The Nightfly.” From the moment I heard that line “spandex jackets for everyone” I was hooked on the song. The album featured some great work by Fagen buddies Larry Carlton, the Brecker brothers, Marcus Miller and Rick Derringer. EQ Magazine rates “The Nightfly” as one of the ten best recorded albums of all time.

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