As expected, the anonymous coaches heaped praise on defending national champion Alabama. Even with the loss of running back Derrick Henry, the Crimson Tide remain a popular choice to repeat.
“It’s like saying you’re at the Goodyear plant and your tire wore out,” one coach told GridIron Now. “Just get another one.”
Sophomore RB Bo Scarbrough is next in line in Tuscaloosa. He follows a backfield lineage that has gone from Trent Richardson to Eddie Lacy to T.J. Yeldon to, most recently, Henry. None has been drafted later than the second round.
“Bo is as good as Derrick,” a coach told GridIron Now. “At that time in their careers, Bo was a lot better. He will be a more natural, instinctive runner and faster. Only problem with Bo is he’s not great in pass protection.”
Scarbrough carried the ball 18 times for 104 yards as a freshman behind the Heisman Trophy winner on the depth chart.
In addition to Henry, Alabama lost defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, who left for a head-coaching gig at Georgia. Smart takes over a program that went 10-3 last season but does so with no head coaching experience and paired with a true-freshman quarterback, albeit one of the best in the nation in Jacob Eason.
“I don’t know how you can win with a freshman quarterback and a first-year head coach,” one coach told GridIron Now.
Although one coach said Smart has some maturing to do, others expect a smooth transition from a talented coach.
“Everybody is behind Kirby,” another told the website. “They had 93,000 at the spring game. And Kirby is a get-it-done type guy. He knows how to do the deal. They’ve already got a machine rolling.”
Tennessee, the favorite in the East, has loads of pressure after seasons of five, seven and nine wins under head coach Butch Jones.
“This is Butch Jones’ fourth year, and he’s done a hell of a job,” one coach told GridIron Now. “This ain’t a make-or-break year, but this is a year where he needs to win 10. This is his double-digit year. He needs to win the East.”
The Vols are armed with one of the conference’s top returning signal callers in senior Joshua Dobbs. In addition to Dobbs’ 2,291 passing yards, Tennessee returns a majority of starters from both sides of the ball.
Tennessee largely underacheived last season, with all four of its losses coming by one possession or less. Its ability to close out opponents could make the difference between a College Football Playoff contender and pretender.
“The hardest thing to do in the SEC is break through and win those crucial games when it gets tight,” another coach told the site. “That’s hard. It’s a culture. You have to develop the culture. It just doesn’t happen. I don’t know if they have that culture yet. We won’t know until this season.”