Franz Beard's Thoughts of the Day: 7/29

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

With fall camps set to open throughout the SEC next week, it’s time to predict the SEC finish from top to bottom. Alabama won the national championship last year and until someone proves they can handle the Crimson Tide, there is no reason to pick anyone else to win. That doesn’t mean there isn’t talent. LSU has enough to win the national title and if the Arkansas defense comes around, nobody is going to want to play the Hogs.

This is how I see the SEC from top to bottom:

1. Alabama
2. LSU
3. Arkansas
4. Ole Miss

5. Tennessee
7. Georgia
8. Mississippi State
9. Texas A&M
10. Auburn
11. Vanderbilt
12. Kentucky

13. South Carolina
14. Missouri

Predicting the SEC West:

1. Alabama: The king is king until someone knocks him off his throne.
2. LSU: There is final four talent. Will Les Miles cut it loose?
3. Arkansas: If the defense gels, these guys will be scary.
4. Ole Miss: The Rebels have the best QB and the most potential distractions.
5. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs will be better than they appear on paper.
6. Texas A&M: Will Trevor Knight last an entire season or join the revolving door for QBs?
7. Auburn: If juco QB John Franklin III can’t get it done, Auburn is in trouble.


ALABAMA: Alabama is the 14th most experienced team in the SEC and ranks #116 nationally. Sounds bad except last year the Crimson Tide was #126 nationally in terms of experience. What that tells us is Bama does a tremendous job of developing its backups to get them ready to play. There are only 10 starters returning, five on each side of the ball. Is Nick Saban worried? Hardly. There will be a new QB (again) and DC Jeremy Pruitt is brand new. Big deal.

Offense (coordinator Lane Kiffin; 5 returning starters; 20 returning lettermen): 35.1 points per game, 427.1 yards per game, 5.89 yards per play

Rushing: 199.93 per game, 4.67 per carry, 33 TDs

Returning runners: Damien Harris 46-157, 3.41 per carry, 1 TD; Bo Scarbrough 18-104, 5.78 per carry, 1 TD

Passing: 227.1 yards per game, 7.6 per attempt, 22 TDs, 10 INTs, 26 sacks allowed

Returning QBs: Cooper Bateman 37-52, 291 yards, 5.6 per attempt, 1 TD, 2 INTs

Returning receivers: WR Calvin Ridley 89-1,045, 11.74 per catch, 7 TDs; WR ArDarius Stewart 63-700, 11.11 per catch, 4 TDs; TE O.J. Howard 38-602, 15.84 per catch,  TDs; WR Robert Foster 10-116, 11.6 per catch, 2 TDs

Defense (coordinator Jeremy Pruitt; 5 returning starters, 21 returning lettermen): 15.1 points per game, 276.3 yards per play, 4.3 yards per play

Run defense: 75.73 yards per game, 2.43 per carry, 7 TDs

Pass defense: 200.6 yards per game, 6.1 per attempt, 17 TDs, 19 INTs, 52 sacks

Returning tacklers: S Eddie Jackson 46; CB Marlon Humphrey 45; CB Mikay Fitzpatrick 45; DE Jonathan Allen 36; DT Dalvin Tomlinson 34

Returning pass rushers: DE Jonathan Allen 12 sacks; LB Tim Williams 10.5; LB Rashaan Evans 4; DE Da’Shawn Hand 3; CB Minkah Fitzpatrick 2

Returning DBs: S Eddie Jackson 6 INTs, 2 pass breakups; CB Marlon Humphrey 3 INTs, 8 pass breakups; CB Mikah Fitzpatrick 2 INTs, 11 pass breakups; S Ronnie Harrison 2 INTs, 6 pass breakups

ARKANSAS: This is a team that will scare people if they can get off to a good start in September. The Hogs are breaking in a lot of newbies on the offensive side, but as long as Dan Enos is the coordinator, they’ll score points. It’s the defense that has Bret Bielema salvating over. He has 9 returning starters and 28 lettermen. As a team the Hogs are the seventh most experienced in the SEC and they rank #92 nationally.

Offense (coordinator Dan Enos; 5 returning starters, 22 returning lettermen): 35.9 points per game, 465.5 yards per game, 6.83 yards per play

Rushing: 197.31 yards per game, 5.01 per carry, 31 TDs

Returning runners: Kody Walker 90-384, 4.38 yards per carry 6 TDs; Rawleigh Williams III 56-254, 4.54 per carry, 1 TD; WR Jared Cornelius 7-112, 16.0 per carry, 2 TDs

Passing: 268.2 yards per game, 9.3 per attempt, 31 TDs, 8 INTs, 14 sacks allowed

Returning QBs: Austin Allen 1-3, 35 yards, 11.7 per attempt, 1 TD

Returning receivers: WR Drew Morgan 63-843, 13.38 per catch, 10 TDs; WR Dominique Reed 28-535, 19.11 per catch, 6 TDs; WR Jared Cornelius 24-393, 16.38 per catch, 3 TDs; TE Jeremy Sprinkle 27-389, 14.41 per catch, 6 TDs; WR Keon Hatcher 13-198, 15.23 per catch, 2 TDs

Defense (coordinator Robb Smith; 9 returning starters, 28 returning lettermen): 27.4 points per game, 391.6 yards per game, 6.07 yards per play

Run defense: 116.48 yards per game, 3.76 per carry, 25 TDs

Pass defense: 275.2 yards per game, 8.2 per attempt, 18 TDs, 11 INTs, 20 sacks

Returning tacklers: LB Brooks Ellis 102; LB Dre Greenlaw 95; CB Henre’ Tolliver 55; DT Jeremiah Ledbetter 55; S Josh Liddell 52; CB Jared Collins 44; CB Kevin Richardson II 44; S Santos Ramirez 35; S DJ Dean 35; DE Deatrich Wise Jr. 31

Returning pass rushers: DE Deatrich Wise Jr. 8 sacks; DT Jeremiah Ledbetter 2; DE Tevin Beanum 2; LB Brooks Ellis 1.5

Returning DBs: S DJ Dean 2 INTs, 3 pass breakups; S Josh Liddell 2 INTs, 3 pass breakups; CB Ryan Pulley 1 INT, 2 pass breakups; LB Brooks Ellis 1 INT, 3 pass breakups; S Santos Ramirez 1 INT, 3 pass breakups

AUBURN: Nobody in the SEC West has more what ifs than Auburn. There is a lot of talent but not a lot of experience (eighth in the SEC and 94 nationally). There will be a new QB unless incumbents Sean White and Jeremy Johnson got struck by a bolt of talent from God in the summer. Over on the defensive side, it was a bad year last year and now there is a new coordinator in Kevin Steele. There is a reason they celebrated his departure in Baton Rouge.

Offense (coordinator Rhett Lashlee; 7 returning starters, 23 returning lettermen): 27.5 points per game, 370 yards per game, 5.39 yards per play

Rushing: 196.31 yards per game, 4.35 per carry, 28 TDs

Returning runners: Jovon Robinson 117-639, 5.46 per carry, 3 TDs; Kerryon Johnson  52-208, 4.0 per carry, 3 TDs; QB Jeremy Johnson 47-137, 2.91 per carry, 6 TDs

Passing: 173.7 yards per game, 7.4 per attempt, 11 TDs, 12 INTs, 19 sacks allowed

Returning QBs: Sean White 83-147, 1,167 yards, 8.2 per attempt, 1 TD, 4 INTs; Jeremy Johnson 95-157, 1,054 yards, 6.7 per attempt, 10 TDs, 7 INTs

Returning receivers: WR Jason Smith 13-203, 13.95 per catch, 2 TDs; WR Marcus Davis 30-182, 6.07 per catch, 1 TD; WR Tony Stevens 14-177, 12.64 per catch, 1 TD; RB Kerryon Johnson 14-159, 11.36 per catch

Defense (coordinator Kevin Steele; 6 returning starters, 25 returning lettermen): 26 points per game, 405.2 yards per game, 5.37 yards per play

Run defense: 182.54 yards per game, 4.54 per carry, 24 TDs

Pass defense: 22.6 yards per game, 6.3 per attempt, 13 TDs, 14 INTs, 19 sacks

Returning tacklers: S Johnathan Ford 118; CB Carton Davis 56; LB Tre Williams 55; S Tray Matthews 46; DT Montravius Adams 44; Dontavius Russell 42; DT Devaroe Lawrence 31

Returning pass rushers: DT Montravius Adams 2.5 sacks; DT Dontavius Russell 1.5; LB Jeff Holland 1; DE Carl Lawson 1

Returning DBs: CB Carlton Davis 3 INTs, 8 pass breakups; S Tray Matthews 2 INTs, 2 pass breakups; S Johnathan Ford 2 INTs, 2 pass breakups

LSU: There are 17 starters returning for a team that is second in returning experience in the SEC and #8 nationally. The big question on offense is will Les Miles take his thump off coordinator Cam Cameron and let him open up the passing game so that there are fewer in the box to stop Leonard Fournette? On defense new coordinator Dave Aranda has talent and speed he never had at Wisconsin. The Tigers could be scary good on that side of the ball.

Offense (coordinator Cam Cameron; 9 returning starters, 24 returning lettermen): 32,8 points, 437.3 yards per game, 6.7 yards per play

Rushing: 257.42 yards per game, 6.1 yards per carry, 36 TDs

Returning runners: Leonard Fournette 300-1,953, 6.51 per carry, 22 TDs; Derrius Guice 51-436, 8.55 per carry, 3 TDs; Darrel Williams 60-296, 4.93 per carry, 4 TDs; QB Brandon Harris 67-226, 3.37 per carry, 4 TDs

Passing: 179.8 yards per game, 7.8 per attempt, 13 TDs, 6 INTs, 17 sacks allowed

Returning QBs: Brandon Harris 148-276, 2,158 yards, 7.8 per attempt, 13 TDs, 6 INTs

Returning receivers: WR Malachi Dupre 43-698, 16.23 per catch, 6 TDs; WR Travin Dural 28-533, 19.04 per catch, 3 TDs; RB Leonard Fournette 19-253, 13.32 per catch, 1 TD; TE Colin Jeter 12-132, 11.0 per catch, 1 TD

Defense (coordinator Dave Aranda; 8 returning starters, 22 returning lettermen): 24.3 points per game, 347.2 yards per game, 6.7 yards per play

Run defense: 122.92 yards per game, 3.81 yards per carry, 14 TDs

Pass defense: 224.3 yards per game, 6.4 per attempt, 22 TDs, 10 INTs, 34 sacks

Returning tacklers: LB Kendell Beckwith 84; S Jamal Adams 67; DE Lewis Neal 48; CB Tre’Davious White 44; DE Arden Key 41; DT Davon Godchaux 41; S Rickey Jefferson 36; CB Kevin Tolliver II 35; DE Christian LaCouture 35; S Dwayne Thomas 34

Returning pass rushers: DE Lewis Neal 8 sacks; DT Davon Godchaux 6; DE Arden Key 5; LB Kendell Beckwith 3.5

Returning DBs: S Jamal Adams 4 INTs, 6 pass breakups; S Rickey Jefferson 1 INT, 3 pass breakups; CB Kevin Tolliver II 1 INT, 5 pass breakups;

MISSISSIPPI STATE: In terms of overall experience, the Bulldogs are #9 in the SEC and #97 nationally but that’s deceiving. There aren’t a lot of starters but there are a lot of players with actual game experience. The defense will be improved. If there is a question it’s at QB where Dan Mullen has lots of talent but not a lot of experience.

Offense (co-offensive coordinators John Hevesy and Billy Gonzales; 5 returning starters, 17 returning lettermen): 34.4 points per game, 460.5 yards per game, 6.46 per play

Rushing: 144.08 yards per game, 4.39 per carry, 21 TDs

Returning runners: Brandon Holloway 92-413, 4.49 per carry; Ashton Shumpert 59-228, 3.86 per carry 1 TD; Aeris Williams 40-206, 5.15 per carry, 3 TDs; Dontavian Lee 22-137, 6.23 per carry; QB Nick Fitzgerald 23-127, 5.52 per carry, 3 TDs; WR Malik Dear 11-110, 10.0 per carry, 1 TD

Passing: 316.4 yards per game, 8.2 per attempt, 33 TDs, 5 INTs, 32 sacks allowed

Returning QBs: Nick Fitzgerald 11-14, 235 yards, 16.8 per attempt, 3 TDs, O INTs; Elijah Staley 3-5, 51 yards, 10.2 per attempt

Returning receivers: WR Fred Ross 88-1,007, 11.44, 5 TDs; RB Brandon Holloway 33-396, 12.0 per catch, 5 TDs; WR Donald Gray 21-386, 18.38 per catch, 2 TDs; WR Malik Dear 23-226, 9.83 per catch, 2 TDs; WR Gabe Myles 12-175, 14.58 per catch, 2 TDs; TE Gus Walley 19-146, 7.68 per catch, 1 TD; RB Ashton Shumpert 13-109, 8.38 per catch

Defense (coordinator Peter Sirmon 6 returning starters, 22 returning lettermen): 23.2 points per game, 391.2 yards per game, 5.32 per play
Run defense: 174.62 yards per game, 4.27 per carry, 16 TDs

Pass defense: 216.5 yards per game, 6.6 per attempt, 16 TDs, 13 INTs, 30 sacks

Returning tacklers: LB Richie Brown 109; S Kivon Coman 76; LB J.T. Gray 65; S Brandon Bryant 63; LB Gerri Green 49; CB Tolando Cleveland 42

Returning pass rushers: LB Richie Brown 6.5 sacks; DE A.J. Jefferson 5; S Brandon Bryant 1.5; LB J.T. Gray 1.5

Returning DBs: S Brandon Bryant 3 INTs, 3 pass breakups; LB Gerri Green 2 INTs, 1 pass breakup; LB Richie Brown 1 INT, 2 pass breakups

OLE MISS: The Rebels have beaten Alabama two straight years and they’ve got the talent to do it three straight. Will they? The schedule is brutal and there is the distraction of a potential NCAA hammer dropping. Otherwise, Ole Miss will be extremely good even though the Rebels rank 10th in the SEC in terms of experience and #100 nationally.

Offense (Matt Luke and Dan Werner co-coordinators; 3 returning starters, 28 returning lettermen): 40.8 points per game, 517.8 yards per game, 7.07 per play

Rushing: 183.08 yards per game, 5.14 per carry, 29 TDs

Returning runners: QB Chad Kelly 107-500, 4.67 per carry, 10 TDs; Akeem Judd 78-425, 5.45 per carry, 3 TDs; Jordan Wilkns 72-379, 5.26 per carry, 4 TDs; Eugene Brazley 21-219, 10.43 per carry, 3 TDs

Passing: 334.7 yards per game, 8.9 per attempt, 35 TDs, 14 INTs, 19 sacks allowed

Returning QBs: Chad Kelly 298-458, 4,042 yards, 8.8 per attempt, 31 TDs, 13 INTs; Ryan Buchanan 8-13, 96 yards, 7.4 per attempt, 2 TDs, 1 INT

Returning receivers: WR Quincy Adeoyejo 37-644, 17.41 per catch, 7 TDs; WR Damore’ea Stringfellow 36-503, 13.97 per catch, 5 TDs; TE Evan Engram 38-464, 12.21 per catch, 2 TDs; WR Markell Pack 31-380, 12.26 per catch, 3 TDs

Defense (coordinator Dave Wommack; 5 returning starters, 28 returning lettermen): 22.6 points per game, 385.8 yards per game, 4.87 per play

Run defense: 127.08 yards per game, 3.33 per carry, 9 TDs

Pass defense: 258.8 yards per game, 6.3 per attempt, 23 TDs, 15 INTs, 29 sacks

Returning tacklers: LB DeMarquis Gates 76; DE Marquis Haynes 43; CB Ken Webster 41; DT D.J. Jones 40; CB Tony Bridges 36; LB Terry Caldwell 32; DE Fadol Brown 32; DT Breeland Speaks 32

Returning pass rushers: DE Marquis Haynes 10 sacks; DT D.J. Jones 4

Returning DBs: CB Tony Bridges 3 INTs, 9 pass breakups; CB Ken Webster 1 INT, 11 pass breakups; CB Zedrick Woods 1 INT

TEXAS A&M: If the Aggies can stop the run this year, they’ll be formidable on defense. That’s a big if. Over on the offensive side, Kevin Sumlin brought in Noel Mazzone and there is a grad transfer QB in Trevor Knight. The Aggies are #13 in the SEC in terms of experience and #114 nationally. If they don’t play well above their experience level it will be curtains for the head coach.

Offense (coordinator Noel Mazzone; 6 returning starters, 18 returning lettermen): 27.8 points, 424.7 yards per game, 5.59 yards per play

Rushing: 169.08 yards per game, 4.35 per carry, 13 TDs

Returning runners: RB James White 55-196, 3.56, 1 TD; RB Kwame Etwi 20-151, 7.55 per carry

Passing: 255.6 yards per game, 6.9 per attempt, 25 TDs, 15 INTs, 30 sacks allowed

Returning QBs: Jake Hubenak 40-75, 399 yards, 5.3 per attempt, 3 TDs, 1 INT

Returning receivers:

Defense (coordinator John Chavis; 6 returning starters, 29 returning lettermen): 22 points per game, 380 yards per game, 5.42 yards per play

Run defense: 213.69 yards per game, 5.01 per carry, 19 TDs

Pass defense: 166.3 yards per game, 6.9 per attempt, 10 TDs, 11 INTs, 34 sacks

Returning tacklers: S Armani Watts 126; LB Shaan Washington 81; S Justin Evans 78; CB Donovan Wilson 63; DE Myles Garrett 59; LB A.J. Hilliard 58; DE Daeshon Hall 54; LB Richard Moore 39; DT Daylon Mack 32

Returning pass rushers: DE Myles Garrett 12.5 sacks; DE Daeshon Hall 7; DT Zaycoven Henderson 3; DE Qualen Cunningham 2

Returning DBs: CB Donovan Wilson 5 INTs, 3 pass breakups; S Armani Watts 1 INT, 3 pass breakups; DE Myles Garrett 1 INT, 2 pass breakups; S Justin Dunning 1 INT; S Justin Evans 1 INT, 3 pass breakups


Jimmy Walker shot a 5-under 65 for the first round lead at the PGA. British Open champ Henrik Stenson is two shots off the pace and Jason Day is three back. US Open champ Dustin Johnson is +7 and 12 shots back while Rory McIlroy is at +4. Jordan Speith is at even par while Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson are at +1.

The NCAA will allow only one day of live contact in practice starting this fall. Live contact is described as tackling to the ground and full speed blocking.

Josh Gordon missed all of last year with the Cleveland Browns for violating the NFL substance abuse policy. He says he’s a changed man now that he returns. Missing those million-dollar paychecks will do that for you.


How do you predict the finish in the SEC West and how would you rate the SEC top to bottom?


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The Sheepdogs continue to grow on me. Today’s music is a live performance by the band last fall at the CityFolk Festival in Ottawa. 

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