By: Dan Hancock (@danhancock1978)
It’s been nearly 100 days since we left SEC Media Days in Birmingham. Looking back, what were we looking forward to? We were still in the thick of the Manziel - Manning Camp situation and hadn’t quite made it to the Great Autograph caper of 2013. Jadaveon Clowney was still the most feared man on the planet. Will Muschamp was finally going to loosen the reins on Jeff Driskel, which would hopefully open up the Gator offense. Gus Malzahn was hoping to turn the Auburn program around and prepare the Tigers for an Oregon-like attack on the Plains. The fun part about the summer is we live on hype and expectations. Now that fall is here, and we’re well into SEC play, it’s a good opportunity to assess the state of the Southeastern Conference, as compared to our thoughts from Birmingham.
Johnny Manziel is still Johnny Football, even as much as we wanted to deny it early in the season. Even in defeat, Manziel looked like the gun-slinger we first met in 2012. He nearly dethroned Alabama once again, single-handedly. With more than half of the 2013 season still ahead, Manziel looks to surpass his numbers from his Heisman season last year. Johnny is 100 of 140 with 1489 total yards. He’s averaging 10.64 yards per attempt and has a completion percentage of 71.4%. What these numbers don’t show is how he’s doing it. I can only imagine NFL scouts in College Station setting down their iPads, note pads, and three ring binders to say, “Well..this may not work at the next level, but I sure am going to enjoy this game today.” The guy is as talent as he is cocky and filled with knucklehead tendencies. So far, Manziel has been everything we’ve been hoping for…and more.
Jadaveon Clowney. Proof that the hype machine is a very powerful, but flawed instrument, used to keep us interested during the off-season. In all honesty, Clowney is probably having just as good a season this year as the one he had last year. What Clowney benefitted from, and is now burdened by, is that one last monster tackle against Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl. That hit was, no doubt, awesome and it was the highlight reel of the spring and summer. It helps that it was one of his last big plays of the season, being in a bowl game, and his stock had nowhere to go but up after that performance. This season, though, his star has yet to rise. It’s been falling at the same rate as teenage virginity in 2013. It doesn’t help Jadaveon that everyone he’d faced this season has been double-teaming the Clowney out of him. He’s a beast, but he is human.
Possibly the greatest “You Fooled Me” job of the offseason was the thought that Jeff Driskel was going to be allowed to do more than…I’m not exactly sure what he did in 2012, other than frustrate the life out of Gator fans everywhere. Muschamp, with Driskel, is still a believer that first down is more important than touchdowns. Kill the clock and defense will win the ball game. In fairness, Coach Boom is half correct. Defense can win games, however, offense does need to score points to beat the other team. Watching the Miami game was just as frustrating as the 2012 Georgia game. Neither team looked like they wanted to lose, nor did they have the talent to win. In just the second game of the season, Gator Nation considered the season a loss already.
Then it happened. Within one week, the Gators best players on both sides of the ball were done for the season. Jeff Driskel and Dominique Easley were done for the remainder of the year. The way both of these situations were handled by Muschamp were night and day different… both instances made me laugh. When Driskel left the Tennessee game, and Tyler Murphy came in to mop up—all while looking outstanding—Muschamp spoke about the injury with the speed and delivery of his buddy Jimbo Fisher. He was talking so fast. He couldn’t even think up an injury to sideline Driskel yet. Muschamp was saying something, but all I heard was “Driskel is out. Murphy looked amazing. We’ll think up something to diagnose Driskel with, but he might want to prepare his career with the Red Sox.” I’m not even going to highlight Tyler Murphy’s stats for his few games because the one thing that he does that is not on paper is give Gator fans hope for the remainder of the season. We haven’t been this confident at the QB position since the Chris Leak era. Yes, Tebow was good, but in a different way. Sidenote: Jacksonville Jaguars still have zero interest in signing him. When Florida fans look forward to the gauntlet now, LSU, South Carolina, Georgia, and FSU don’t look as daunting as they did a month ago. The games should have a little more life to them.
Throughout the Southeastern Conference, what was in July may not be in October. It never is. It’s why we love it, though. So far, there have been epic games in and outside of the SEC. And we’re not even half-way through the season. Stay tuned. Buckle up. October is gonna be more treacherous than a Lou Holtz speech therapy session.
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