Every Wednesday, the SEC coaches line up one-by-one to take questions from the SEC media. The hot topics this week were Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the importance of the coaches poll in the BCS standings and the big showdown between SEC East contenders Missouri and Florida in Columbia, Mo. Saturday afternoon.
How did the coaches respond?
Let's take a look at some of the highlights from this week's teleconference.
You Can't Stop Johnny Manziel, You Can Only Hope to Contain Him
Stopping Manziel is easier said than done, and the only two teams to successfully do it over the last year-and-a-half have been LSU and Florida. Manziel was held to just 233 yards in last season's opener versus Florida, and 303 by LSU in October of last year.
How'd they do it?
"The thing that's difficult is the off-rhythm plays," Muschamp said. "We tried as best we could to keep him in the pocket and push the pocket to where he couldn't create those off-rhythm plays, because there's where he creates so many explosives downfield."
LSU head coach Les Miles echoed those sentiments.
"We mixed coverage and pressure," Miles said. "We certainly needed to maintain contain and run east and west as best we could, and that's difficult to do. We had a very fast defense. It's a mixture of things, and year after year different."
While Manziel has been stopped during his career, those instances are few and far between. He's squarely in the mix for the Heisman Trophy yet again, and his work this year is continually impressing Aggie head coach Kevin Sumin.
"Y'all get to see him on Saturday. We get to see him every day," Sumlin said. "I'm not saying you ever get used to it, but you come to expect it."
If Manziel declares for the NFL draft following this season, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier's only shot at Manziel would be in the SEC Championship Game if the Gamecocks and Aggies both win their divisions. What does he think of Manziel?
"Johnny Manziel is the toast of the league, I guess you could say right now," Spurrier said.
Coaches Gear Up For Critical SEC East Showdown
Florida head coach Will Muschamp and Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel are preparing for one of the most critical SEC East matchups of the season. Missouri sits at 2-0 in conference play, Florida is trailing closely at 3-1, both programs control their own destiny and are dealing with critical injuries that could directly impact the division title race.
Gator running back Matt Jones became the latest Gator to see his season cut short, after the sophomore tore his meniscus in Saturday's loss versus LSU. He joins defensive tackle Dominique Easley, offensive tackle Chaz Green, wide receiver Andre Debose and quarterback Jeff Driskel as players who have been lost for the season since August.
Meanwhile, Missouri will be without starting quarterback James Franklin this week, after the senior suffered a shoulder injury in last week's win over Georgia. Redshirt freshman Maty Mauk will start in his place, and Pinkel is confident in his new starter.
"He's practicing well," Pinkel said. "What he has to do is not worry about expectations and just execute play after play. He certainly has a lot on his shoulders here, but thinking about that doesn't help you player better. He just needs to go out there and be himself, not be afraid to make mistakes and compete. He's a great competitor, and we need to see that on the field."
Muschamp recognizes that, while Mauk is relatively inexperienced, he's still a dangerous weapon that can be effective in this Tiger offense.
"He's played periodically throughout the season for them in some situations," Muschamp said. "He was a Parade All-American coming out of high school there in Ohio, and a guy who athletically can do everything that they want to do. He's been in this system for a while, and fits what they want to do."
Not many people pegged this game to be the one that establishes a true SEC East front-runner, but it will be. Considering all of the injuries in play, it should be interesting.
The injury lists around the SEC read like novels these days, and we got an update on some key ones this week.
Ole Miss defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, running back Jeff Scott, defensive back Mike Hilton and linebacker Serderius Bryant all suffered injuries last week against versus Texas A&M, and
"They're all either out or questionable, at best," Freeze said. "We're planning on going without them, because I just don't see them being ready."
The injury bug hit Florida in a big way last week with Jones' injury, but starting linebacker Ronald Powell's status is still up in the air after he suffered an ankle injury.
"Ronald Powell has not practiced so far this week," Muschamp said. "We are hoping to get him on the field today and see how he moves around there.
Georgia has three starting wide receivers out, but could get a receiver back who's been out for most of the season. Jonathon Rumph, a 6'5", 208-pound juniorcollege transfer, has been limited this fall with a hamstring injury. Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin is expecting Rumph to see the field on Saturday afternoon when the Bulldogs and Commodores meet in Nashville.
"They signed one of the top junior college players in the country," Franklin said. "Jonathon Rumph is a wide receiver who we is going to play this week from what we're seeing and hearing."
That will certainly help out the Bulldogs' injury-depleted wide receiving corps. Rumph caught four passes for 98 yards in Georgia's G-Day game, including two touchdowns.
Not Much Love for the Coaches' Poll
The USA Today coaches' poll was a topic raised in questions asked to some of the SEC's top head coaches on Saturday. The poll factors in to one-third of the BCS equation. Does it matter? Do coaches like voting? Do they even vote?
Les Miles does, at times anyway, and likes that the poll factors into who plays for the national championship.
"I think the coaches, when given time to do study and reflect on their geographic area of expertise, I think those coaches should have a say," Miles said. "I think the west coast teams are known west by the west coast coaches and the east coast teams are known by the east coast coaches. The best way to make it a quality opinion of teams is to give them geographical frameworks, and should be worth at least one-third."
How much time does Miles put into the poll?
"It kind of depends," Miles said. "During the open week, they can put some time in it. During game week, depending how they administer their practices and prepare their team, very minimal."
Spurrier agrees with Miles.
"I don't know how much time," Spurrier said. "How much time do sportswriters put into their poll? We look at all the highlights on Sunday morning or late Saturday night. We have an idea of who's playing well and so forth, and I think most of us use our director of operations to fill it out and go over it."
Does Spurrier think it should matter in the BCS?
"Yeah, I guess so," he said. "Why not?"
Never change, head ball coach. Never change.
* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC football writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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