The third SEC teleconference of the 2017 football season took place on Wednesday. All 14 of the league’s head coaches made a 10-minute appearance to dish on their team in the final days of preparation for their upcoming opponents.
Here’s a look at the highlights from each coach’s appearance on the SEC teleconference on Wednesday, Sept. 13:
Ed Orgeron, LSU:
- On matchup at Mississippi State: “We’re prepared for a very tough, physical opponent. Hostile crowd, Dan Mullen has done a tremendous job at Missisippi State, they play great football right now.”
- Rashard Lawrence is highly questionable: “I don’t think he’s going to play.”
- On Arden Key making season debut: “It’s kind of wait and see what happens. To be honest with you, a little rusty. … His football condition is not where we want it to be right now, but he’ll get there.” Key will not play whole game, will have to be rotated in.
- On facing Nick Fitzgerald: “He’s very similar to our quarterback. I think he’s made tremendous strides. … Very accurate with the football. I think their very explosive offense is because of the play of their quarterback.”
Kirby Smart, Georgia:
- On matchup with Samford: “I think a lot of the program, it’s a beautiful campus, and our fans are excited to get another home opportunity, play under the lights.”
- Challenge for defense this week: “It’s not so much the pass rush, as it is the ability to tackle the guy after he catches it, yards after the catch. … You have to get them on the ground when they catch it, not give up the extra yards. … Extremely different style of play than what we played the last two weeks.”
- Smart said he would’ve considered calling defensive plays still when he became a head coach, if he had hired a young defensive coordinator. But he felt Mel Tucker should do it.
- On quarterback Jake Fromm’s first win: “I feel like he’s got a little more confidence. He didn’t play a perfect game, don’t get me wrong. … The last few days, he’s been a little more crisp.” Noted that Fromm may have a “monkey off his back.”
- On win over Notre Dame: “I’ll be honest, it’s another game like we played last year. Every game played it seems was down to the final possession of the game. We’ve kind of become accustomed to playing in those types of games. … We’ve got to make more plays late, at the end.”
Jim McElwain, Florida:
- On Hurricane Irma: “Our first thoughts are obviously with our kids, their families and the state of Florida. … I’m hoping this game, being able to play here, helps the people with a couple hours of enjoyment. As they try to get their lives back together, it’s been a tough prep, but I know we’re really looking forward to bringing the game back to The Swamp. And for the people in this city, an opportunity for them to get back to a football Saturday and maybe relieve their minds for a bit.”
- More on storm: “This particular storm caused great, great damage to the whole state. Last year’s had a huge impact on the east side of the state, and yet this one has been devastating for everybody throughout. We were obviously in shelters for about three straight days, lost contact with a lot of things that way. With that being said, I know our guys are excited to get an opportunity to play.”
- Was there ever possibility of not playing? “I know our responders, our police, all the people in the city, in the area, have been in contact with the government as well, and just seeing what the right thing is to do. … A lot of people got together and decided.”
- On Feleipe Franks not getting to play last week: “In the big picture, whether Feleipe Franks did it against Northern Colorado or gets a chance this week, it’s an opportunity this week. Our focus is to get ready to play a good ball game this Saturday. … There’s no doubt it would have been good to get a game again.”
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt:
- On Florida people recovering from Hurricane Irma: “Just know that we’re with you, Vanderbilt’s with you, and we’re thinking about you.”
- On facing Kansas State: “They’re explosive on special teams, they’re solid on defense. … We’ve got our hands full, we look forward to the task.”
- On Vandy QB Kyle Shurmur: “He’s managing the game well, he’s throwing well. He’s making all the throws.”
- On defense: “I think this group has done a terrific job of being where their feet are, staying in the moment. … Even when it was a non-work day, you see guys taking care of their bodies and in the film room. … This group is a group that has a lot left in the tank, but Kansas State’s going to present many challenges, the biggest of which how you prevent a dual-threat quarterback.”
- More on Shurmur: “He looks different, he’s confident, he’s the man. He’s the man that’s in command in the huddle.” He said on a scale from 1-10, Shurmur’s confidence is at an eight. “He’s leading the right way, he knows when to push, he knows when to help a guy up.”
Nick Saban, Alabama:
- On matchup with Colorado State: “Colorado State is a very good team. They’ve played very impressively this year. … Our focus needs to be on our players respecting their talent and focusing on improving and playing better as a group.”
- On LB Jamey Mosley: “He’s worked very, very hard, he’s gotten a lot bigger and a lot stronger. … I think that’s why he’s been able to make a contribution to the team.”
- On LB Shaun Dion: “I know it’s been a struggle for him to get back to where he wants to be, and he’s worked very, very hard. … His production so far has been very good.”
- On hurricane situations: “I think it makes it much more difficult for players to not get affected by external factors. … It’s something they should be concerned about, and I think the real challenge is getting the players focused.”
- More on Colorado State: “I’d say overall as a team they’re very well-coached, they play with a lot of toughness, they compete. They do a great job of getting takeaways on defense. … This is a very good football team all the way around.”
Butch Jones, Tennessee:
- On Florida matchup: “For us a football team, we must make significant improvements, really in all three phases of the game.”
- On waiting for decision on game location: “You can only control what you can control. We’ve been focused and we’ve anticipated that the game was going to be played on Saturday and that it would be played in Gainesville, so it really hasn’t taken us off course. … As a football coach, you want to be able to focus on getting your team ready to play, but it’s always in the back of your mind and I thought our administration did a great job of handling that.”
- On CB Shaq Wiggins: “I think it’s just the practice repetitions, it’s him getting his health back. … I think he’s going to help us win football games here, and I know that’s important to him.”
- On what he’s learned in first few weeks: “You always go into the first couple games and your team is developing its personality and its identity. … You never really know until you play your first three or four football games. … The different offenses we’ve had to face, it’s tough to get a gauge of where you’re really at, especially defensively.”
- On series with Florida: “It always sets the tone for the SEC East as well, and as we know, it’s a conference football game. … You look at the games, they’ve come down to the wire for, I want to say, for the last four years. Last year was a hard-fought game as well, and we made some plays at the end.”
- On Florida’s quarterbacks: “Very, very talented quarterback group, and I have a lot of respect for all of them. … It is a unique challenge, and we have to be ready. They’re going to run what they run.”
- On SEC challenge: “It’s the most in-depth conference in America. … I think playing in this conference, it teaches you resolve, it teaches you resiliency.”
Bret Bielema, Arkansas:
- Bielema gave credit to TCU a good game, plans to use bye week for extra practice before jumping into game week preparation for Texas A&M after the weekend.
- On kickers: “We’ll do a two-week competition.” He said Cole Hedlund and Connor Limpert will battle it out to see who will be the kicker against Texas A&M on Sept. 23, after Hedlund’s struggles against TCU.
- On looking back at TCU tape: “We had a lot of positive things, it was a game that I don’t think a lot of people expected to be a 14-7 game going into the final minutes. … Our defense made some big plays, kept answering the bell. … We missed too many tackles and ultimately gave up those two scores at the game you don’t want to give up. We don’t want to give any up, but you understand the game.”
- On defensive line: “They had good depth, we used the rotation system that got the numbers equaled out. … Other than the final two minutes, played some pretty good football.”
Barry Odom, Missouri:
- On matchup with Purdue: “We’ve got to make sure that we do everything right throughout the week in preparation.” He said some keys are forcing turnovers and playing better on special teams. “We did some really good things in practice last week and it didn’t carry over into live competition.”
- On Purdue’s offense: “They do so many things either through formations or route concepts, always getting guys into position to make plays, just the overall thought process they must go through as an offensive staff. … I know they’ve always been really explosive and very well-coached.”
Matt Luke, Ole Miss:
- Luke said team is leaving on Thursday to get an extra day to adjust to the time zone for this week’s road matchup at Cal.
- On QB Shea Patterson: “It’s his offense, so you just naturally have a little more confidence and cohesion there. The only way to get experience is to go play. … I think you’ll see him continue to get better and better.”
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M:
- On win over Nicholls State: “We did some good things last Saturday, and obviously some things we need to improve on. … I think the way we finished the game last week was obviously an improvement from the week before.”
- On playing 11 a.m. game: “You get used to playing at different times, particularly because TV dictates when you play. Obviously there’s some things you discuss with it being early. … It’s a little bit better because you’re up and you’re rolling. Everybody’s there, we try to get to the stadium two hours before the game.”
- On sideline rallying props: “I don’t know it’s that big of a deal, actually. Everybody’s got something to try to lift players’ spirits. You’ve seen the trash can, we’ve got a turnover can, too. … To me, those types of things are really internal rallying points and it’s some excitement to create turnovers. … It’s basically another tool that creates excitement and emphasizes points.”
Mark Stoops, Kentucky:
- On matchup with South Carolina: “It’s good to be 2-0 as we start league play. … We’re going to need to go on the road and play a very good team in South Carolina. Great environment, and South Carolina’s playing some really good football.”
- On S Darius West playing now after two injuries in career: “Even though he has not played a lot of football, the fact that he’s older and he’s been around, he’s been picking up things very quickly, and I’ve been pleased with his instincts and the way he’s been playing in the games. … You can feel and sense and see the frustration that goes through him and it’s been on his mind.”
Dan Mullen, Mississippi State:
- On LSU matchup: “We’re excited about starting conference play right now, obviously a huge challenge. … They have a top-10 team nationally, but we expect a great atmosphere.”
- On Mullen said WR Malik Dear is questionable for this week. A decision will be made Friday or Saturday morning.
- On LSU defense: “You look at the athleticism they have, all the NFL players that they’ve had and they’ve been doing it for several years, through the years now.”
- On DT Jeffery Simmons: “He’s one of the hardest working guys you’re ever going to see. … A lot of times, guys that have [success as a freshman] can maybe think they’re a little better than they are, think they have the answers, and slow down in progression in Year Two.” Mullen stated that Simmons is not one of those guys.
- On LB Leo Lewis missing practice for Ole Miss hearing: “We’re not going to comment on major violations that other institutions have, but Leo has done a great job of preparing this week.”
- On where QB Nick Fitzgerald has improved: “I think obviously his understanding of the offense, of what we’re doing, and the maturity of gameplanning.”
- On LSU coach Ed Orgeron: “I’ve known Ed for a long time, I’ve got a lot of respect for Ed.” He said he first met Orgeron at Syracuse when Mullen was starting as a graduate assistant and Orgeron was just leaving as defensive line coach.
Will Muschamp, South Carolina:
- On RB Rico Dowdle: “He had a little bit of a quad contusion against Missouri, but he’s practiced.” Dowdle hasn’t missed a rep, Muschamp said he’s fine.
- Muschamp said the key to playing QB Jake Bentley as a freshman last season — and with all young quarterbacks — is putting them in positions where they can succeed.
Gus Malzahn, Auburn:
- On matchup with Mercer: “Our team has really rebounded from a tough loss [to Clemson] last Saturday. Our guys have come out, had a good week of practice. … We’re looking forward to playing, it’s homecoming, too, so I know that’s exciting for our players.”
- On Clemson: “After playing Clemson’s defensive front, they’re very impressive. They’re as good as advertised.”
- On QB Sean White: “Sean White’s back, he’s had a good week of practice so far. He’s back and ready to go.”
- On RB Kerryon Johnson: “He’s still day to day. All of our guys were out there at practice yesterday, some were more limited than others.”
- Malzahn said he’ll know more about injury updates on Thursday.