How Far Away are We in the SEC?

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Heading into the opening game of the season against Murray State I was looking a few specific areas where I know that we needed to see significant improvement on both sides of the ball to show that we would be better suited this year to compete in the SEC.  I knew that last  year would be a struggle because I had watched enough SEC football in the past to know that it was a much more physical game than what we had seen in the Big 12.  With that said I will give my opinions on where I think we made some progress even though it was against a Murray State team who we drastically overmatched.

#1 – Line of Scrimmage – I saw a little bit more physical play from our offensive line at the line of scrimmage where they opened up some nice sized holes for Josey, Hansbrough and Franklin.  I know that Murray State's defensive line was no match for us but I just liked the fact that the blocking had more of a physical look to it than a finesse look.  Last year there was way too many finesse plays in the running game and that does not work in the SEC against defensive lines who have great athletes.  On the defensive line I was not too happy.  The loss of Sheldon definitely hurts because he was clearly our best player on the defensive front and I think it will take us a few years to recruit the right type of player that we need.

#2 – Getting off Press Coverage – Last year I thought one of our biggest weaknesses was with our WR's getting off of press coverage.  A lot of our passing game is dependent on timing and the way the SEC corners love to get up on the line of scrimmage and press the receivers really disrupted our offense last season.  I think that was a big reason for Franklin's struggles last season beyond the fact that our offensive line struggled to protect him.  Our receivers were not getting off the line of scrimmage clean.  I think with DGB having another year of experience and seasoning under his belt he is going to really create some problems for SEC defenses because he actually looks like he knows what he is doing out there this season compared to how raw he was last year.

#3 – Secondary Play – I really liked what I saw out of our secondary in this game with Gaines and Webb both coming up with INT's.  With the questions that I think we have along the defensive line and the front 7 as a whole we are going to need to commit extra players to stop the run in the SEC this season.  If we can't stop the run then it will be another very rough year.  With that said if guys like Gaines, Webb, Ponder, Payton and White can do a solid job on the back end we can be more aggressive up front with run blitzes trying to get penetration and makes plays in the backfield.

#4 – Running Game – I mentioned this a bit in point #1 but I believe that Josey is going to have a really solid year.  It is great to have him back and he showed that he still has some serious wheels.  In the SEC speed kills and with Josey we have some speed.

We definitely aren't where we need to be yet but we are making progress.  I think this is going to be a defining year for Pinkel because he needs to show that he can adapt to the SEC style of play the way that Sumlin did at Texas A&M last year.  It is a different game and regardless of whether or not Pinkel is our head coach moving forward it is going to take time for us to recruit the right type of players.  That being said I saw some arrows pointing in the right direction against Murray State and we have another warm-up game against Toledo this weekend.  We won't really get a true sense of the progress we have made until we go through the SEC East gauntlet of Georgia, Florida and South Carolina in back-to-back-to-back weeks.

How do you feel about this team?  Do you think we have made some strides?

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Please edit this. It makes it very hard to read.
You got it buddy.

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Matthews, North Carolina

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