Under Nick Saban and his relentless desire to seek out any advantage possible, Alabama has become something of a trend-setter in college football.
The latest Saban practice method to gain publicity — his use of former players like Blake Sims on the scout team — has raised a little controversy. But as the coaching legend explained on his Thursday night radio show, there’s nothing preventing other teams from copying the Crimson Tide.
“I just wish that people would quit complaining about what we do. That’s allowed by the rules, and why don’t they just do it?” Saban said.
In the spirit of Saban’s suggestion, SEC Country has come up with a list of former players each SEC squad could use on its scout team. Below are our picks for the East:
Georgia: Marlon Brown
If Knowshon Moreno had played at all recently, he would’ve been the easy pick. But he’s 29 years old and hasn’t taken an NFL snap since 2014.
Brown, who spent his first three pro seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, possesses some fantastic physical assets — namely a 6-foot-5, 214-pound frame. The Memphis native fought through injuries during his entire Georgia career, including a season-ending ACL tear his senior year, and finished with only 55 career catches and 8 touchdowns. But his talent shone through as an NFL rookie, when he caught 49 passes for 524 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Brown’s numbers were much more meager in 2014, and in May, the Ravens cut him after a failed physical. At 25 years old, he’s no doubt eager to get back in shape and onto a roster. Kirby Smart and his staff could help Brown in that endeavor by pitting him against Georgia’s bevy of young cornerbacks, such as Deandre Baker, Juwuan Briscoe and Rico McGraw.
Honorable mentions: Knowshon Moreno, Arthur Lynch
Tennessee: Denarius Moore
A fifth-round pick of the Oakland Raiders in 2011, Moore hasn’t caught a pass in two years. In the three seasons before that, however, the UT product combined for over 2,000 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns.
The 6-foot, 190-pound wideout has always had incredible speed, but he reportedly fell out of favor in Oakland because of practice habits and work-ethic issues. If Moore is serious about reviving his pro career, a stint helping out Butch Jones and crew might be just what he needs.
As a senior for the Vols, he led the SEC in yards per catch (20.9) and receiving touchdowns (9), and he’d make a great addition to Tennessee’s scout team, especially since his alma mater has to face the likes of Calvin Ridley and Antonio Callaway in 2017.
Honorable mentions: Montario Hardesty, Kyler Kerbyson
Florida: Tim Tebow
Between the baseball gig and ESPN continuing to pay him for “analysis,” Tebow doesn’t have much free time on his hands. But come on. If you’re Jim McElwain, and you can use a program legend to help prep for dual-threat quarterbacks like Jalen Hurts, you have to take that opportunity.
Tebow is still in great shape and possesses a skill set that’s hard to replicate. Detractors latch onto his NFL failures. However, they like to forget that Tebow was an incredible college quarterback, a Heisman-winner. He accounted for 12,232 total yards and 145 touchdowns during his college career. That’s ridiculous!
His presence and positive attitude alone would be beneficial, if nothing else. And who knows: If a Florida player gets hurt during practice, perhaps Tebow could heal him with prayer.
Honorable mentions: Riley Cooper, Will Hill
South Carolina: Dylan Thompson
With all due respect to Stephen Garcia, Will Muschamp needs to be sure whoever he picks won’t sleep through practice.
Thompson is only two years out of college, where he threw for 3,564 yards and 26 touchdown for the Gamecocks as a senior. The SEC East is home to a number of pro-style quarterbacks — Jacob Eason at Georgia, Austin Appleby at Florida, Drew Lock at Missouri and Tennessee’s presumptive 2017 starter, Quinten Dormady — so he’d be a great tool for Muschamp to use in sharpening his defense’s skills.
He might not be as sexy of a pick as Garcia or Connor Shaw, who is on the Bears’ roster, but Thompson is serviceable and still just 25 years old.
Honorable mentions: Ace Sanders, DeVonte Holloman
Missouri: William Moore
At 31, Moore is much older than other players on this list, but the hard-hitting safety also brings tons of NFL experience to the table.
Since being taken in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft, Moore started 72 games for the Atlanta Falcons, making 277 tackles, forcing 11 fumbles and hauling in 16 interceptions.
Practicing against Missouri’s high-volume spread offense would be a great way to stay in shape should an NFL team come calling, and given the Tigers’ poor defensive play this season, he’d also make a great mentor for their secondary. Think Aarion Penton couldn’t learn a thing or two from Willy Mo?
To top it off, Moore easily has the strongest rap game of anyone on this list.
Honorable mentions: Michael Sam, Chase Coffman
Kentucky: Winston Guy
The Wildcats have fewer options available than most schools, but Guy was an experienced player at UK who has 34 NFL games to his name.
As a senior, the safety recorded 120 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and 2 interceptions. Yeah, he averaged 10 tackles a game that season. Guy has bounced around between a few NFL teams since leaving the ‘Cats, so he’d be a valuable, uh, guy for Mark Stoops to have on hand at practice based on experience alone.
Honorable mentions: Ricky Lumpkin, Alfonso Smith
Vanderbilt: Zac Stacy
Stacy hasn’t done much of anything since rushing for nearly 1,000 yards as a rookie with the Rams, but there’s no denying the former Commodore great’s talent.
In addition to being part of Vandy’s 9-win campaign in 2012, Stacy logged 3,143 yards and 30 touchdowns across his four seasons. And at 25, you’d have to think he has a shot at rejoining a pro team somewhere.
With so many tough power backs to prepare for in the SEC East — Nick Chubb, Benny Snell, Jordan Scarlett and Tennessee’s John Kelly — Stacy is well-equipped to mimic those players in practice at 5-foot-9 and 216 pounds. More importantly, he knows what it’s like to be part of winning football at Vanderbilt, and that’s impossible to measure.
Honorable mentions: Earl Bennett, Sean Richardson