Looking back at some of the scrimmage highlights from this past Saturday:
Alabama coach Nick Saban would like to see more of his second-team players playing at a higher level, but he was pleased with his first units in last Saturday's scrimmage. In particular, he said the quarterbacks threw the deep ball well, and the Crimson Tide made more explosive plays down the field than they did the week before. Don't be surprised if senior receiver Marquis Maze emerges this season as one of the top big-play threats in the league. Saban continues to say that both quarterbacks, AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims, are going to play, although Alabama is not releasing any quarterback statistics from the closed scrimmages. The Crimson Tide are still searching for their best combination in the offensive line. True freshman Cyrus Kouandjio has been everything Alabama thought he was and is making a legitimate run at the starting left tackle job. It's also been a very good preseason camp for sophomore offensive guard Anthony Steen.
The Tigers' scrimmage last Saturday focused more on the younger players, so true freshman Kiehl Frazier took the snaps at quarterback. One of the stars of the scrimmage was true freshman receiver Quan Bray. He's not the only first-year playmaker who's made a name for himself this preseason. It's also been a big camp for true freshman running back Tre Mason. Two other true freshmen expected to contribute right away are center Reese Dismukes and safety Erique Florence. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said after the scrimmage that it was the toughest decision he's had in picking a starting quarterback. Junior Barrett Trotter helped separate himself with his mental and physical toughness, according to Malzahn. Freshman receiver Sammie Coates will have foot surgery this week.
Back from a groin injury, true freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell was impressive last Saturday during the scrimmage part of the Bulldogs' practice. Coach Mark Richt told reporters that Crowell had a "couple of great runs" and also had a "great run after the catch" for a touchdown. It was the first time Crowell had gone full speed since injuring his groin on Aug. 12. True freshman receiver Malcolm Mitchell sat out Saturday with a pulled leg muscle, but is making a strong bid to be one of the Bulldogs' top three receivers. One of the surprises this preseason for Georgia has been that junior college newcomer John Jenkins hasn't been able to overtake Kwame Geathers at nose guard. Jenkins sat out Saturday after pulling his hamstring Friday in practice.
Coach Joker Phillips liked the aggressiveness of his defense in last Saturday's scrimmage. He said the Wildcats are running to the ball and attacking from different angles. One of first-year defensive coordinator Rick Minter's priorities was to create more turnovers. The first-team defense gave up a couple of big plays early in the scrimmage, but settled down after that, Phillips said. Quarterback Morgan Newton continues to play with confidence this preseason, and Phillips really likes Newton's command of the offense right now. The Wildcats are still trying to settle on their starting receivers, although Phillips felt like they caught the ball as a team better on Saturday.
The Rebels' first-team defense was missing some key players nursing injuries in last Saturday's scrimmage, including linebacker Joel Kight and safety Damien Jackson, but defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix was still pleased with some of the turnovers they were able to create. Wesley Pendleton and Tanner Burns both had interceptions, and true freshman linebacker C.J. Johnson had another big scrimmage. There's still no word on Ole Miss' starting quarterback, and coach Houston Nutt is content to let the competition play out. Randall Mackey started out with the first team and was intercepted by Pendleton on his first play, but came back later in the scrimmage and threw a 53-yard pass to Donte Moncrief.
Coach Steve Spurrier was anything but pleased with his offense following last Saturday's scrimmage. But the defense? That was a different story. "The defense took charge," said Spurrier, noting that the offense had trouble making a first down when they put the ball on the 30. Quarterback Stephen Garcia struggled through a 3-for-11 day passing and was also intercepted once. Backup quarterback Connor Shaw, who played extremely well in the last scrimmage, didn't participate in this scrimmage after injuring his thumb. He hopes to return this week. The Gamecocks held out star running back Marcus Lattimore and star receiver Alshon Jeffery from the full-field part of the scrimmage. Once again, freshman defensive end Jadeveon Clowney made his presence felt. This should be the Gamecocks' best defensive line in a long time.
The offense and defense differed as to who won last Saturday's scrimmage, but coach Derek Dooley felt like there was improvement across the board. The first-team offense put together a pair of drives that were at least 10 plays. Quarterback Tyler Bray had his most efficient performance of the preseason scrimmages, going 10-for-20 for 144 yards and a 5-yard touchdown pass to true freshman Vincent Dallas. Dooley feels like the Vols will be better equipped to run the football this season. True freshman Marlin Lane's speed has helped. Defensively, true freshman outside linebacker Curt Maggitt has been one of the stories of preseason camp. He had four tackles in Saturday's scrimmage.
The defense forced five turnovers, and it was an overall sloppy performance by the Commodores' passing game in last Saturday night's scrimmage. Dropped passes plagued Vanderbilt on offense. It wasn't a live scrimmage, and the whistle blew when defenders touched the offensive player. Still, coach James Franklin was pleased with his defense's performance. Cornerback Trey Wilson intercepted a Larry Smith pass and returned it 35 yards. Backup quarterback Jordan Rodgers was intercepted on back-to-back passes. The offense managed just two touchdowns in the 99-play scrimmage. The Commodores are still looking for somebody other than Jordan Matthews at the receiver position to emerge as a consistent playmaker.