sunny.png
Friday November 27th, 2020 9:49AM

In unusual SEC season, defense is becoming a punchline

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

LSU coach Ed Orgeron has lost patience with blown assignments, missed tackles and poor pursuit angles by Tigers defenders.

And when Orgeron says, “All these explosive plays have to stop,” he might as well be speaking on behalf of a host of coaches across the Southeastern Conference.

Even Alabama’s Nick Saban, who is as accomplished a defensive coach as there is in college football, can relate.

Six SEC teams -- LSU, Vanderbilt, Florida, Texas A&M, Missouri and Mississippi – rank worse than 50th in the nation in points allowed per game, with all of them allowing an average of 32 points or more.

Alabama isn't doing much better. The Crimson Tide ranks outside the top 40, allowing more than 30 points per game after outlasting Ole Miss, 63-48, in a game that saw Alabama give up the most yards (647) in school history.

“We had missed assignments and tackling -- probably the two things that were the biggest detriment for us in the last game,” Saban said. “Those are fundamental things that you have to fix.”

Orgeron's frustration is evident in the extreme remedy he suggested this week after a 45-41 loss at Missouri, which bounced defending national champion LSU out of the AP Top 25.

“We’ve got to simplify,” Orgeron said. “I don’t care if we have to play one defense and one coverage. Play it. Play it right.

“I know there’s not a lot of great defense being played in the SEC right now. That’s no excuse. I don’t want to hear that,” Orgeron added. “I want to play great defense at LSU, and we’re going to play great defense one way or another.”

The SEC has long been renowned for fielding fast, physical defenses that rank among the nation’s best and send numerous players on to the NFL. Six defensive players from LSU and five from Alabama were drafted by NFL teams last spring.

So it’s understandably jarring for coaches like Orgeron see his team lose a game in which his offense scores more than 40 points.

A number of SEC players find it odd as well – even offensive-minded ones like Florida quarterback Kyle Trask.

“That’s something that came up across my mind watching all the games,” Trask said this week, on the heels of the Gators’ 41-38 loss to Texas A&M. “There was a lot of high-scoring games, which is not what a lot of people expect ... especially in the SEC.”

First-year Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin said he’s noticed defenses across the country struggling and wonders if lost practice time due to the coronavirus pandemic is a factor.

The Rebels currently rank last in the nation, allowing 51.7 points per game – too much even for Kiffin’s wide-open offense to keep up.

“I don’t know if that’s a product of missing spring ball and that’s more important for defense than offense,” Kiffin said. “But I’ve heard a lot of defensive coaches saying they’re struggling and just read something about how many SEC teams are in the bottom half of defensive rankings. Usually, the SEC is extremely hard to move the ball, especially to run the ball.”

Saban, too, saw something to the suggestion that the pandemic had been harder on defenses than offenses.

“It’s much easier to practice offense on air than it is defense on air, because (on defense) you’re reacting to something all the time,” Saban explained. “Maybe that contributes to it.”

Saban added that poor play on defense can sometimes feed on itself by undermining players’ confidence.

“When players press, they actually can get worse,” Saban added. “You’ve got to play relaxed and confident and that comes from very good preparation and that’s what we need to do a better job of.”

Many coaches see the proliferation of up-tempo, spread, run-pass option offenses in the SEC as a contributing factor, although perhaps not enough to justify some of the high scoring seen in the first three weeks of this season.

Although new Mississippi State coach Mike Leach saw his “Air Raid” offense grounded at Kentucky last weekend, the scheme's SEC debut at LSU on Sept. 26 saw QB K.J. Costello pass for a conference-record 623 yards and five touchdowns in a 44-34 Bulldogs win.

“The game is changing in terms of how wide open it is. There are tremendous athletes in this league and guys aren’t in the I-formation anymore, pounding away for three yards and a cloud of dust,” Florida offensive coordinator Brian Johnson said.

At the same time, Johnson emphasized that 2020 “is just an unusual year.”

“Defenses really don’t tackle very much” during regular season practices, he added. “You got dynamic guys with the ball in their hands in the open field with a lot of space. That can be dangerous.”

Whatever the case, it’s gotten bad enough that a social media channel called “SEC Shorts” produced a satirical video in which fans wearing LSU, Alabama and Florida jerseys sit at classroom desks and struggle to correctly answer a teacher’s basic questions about how to play defense.

Meanwhile, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit launched into a diatribe.

“What in the world has happened to the SEC’s defense?” Herbstreit said. “It’s bizarre to see this conference having these kinds of results. ... I can’t even imagine what it’s like watching film for them, because it’s embarrassing.”

___

AP Sports Writers John Zenor, Mark Long, Pete Iacobelli, Charles Odum and Teresa Walker contributed to this report.

___

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Football, College Sports, AP Online - Georgia News, AP Sports - College Football, AP Sports - NFL
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
In unusual SEC season, defense is becoming a punchline
The Southeastern Conference's reputation for fielding ferocious defenses is taking a hit in this most unusual and pandemic-altered season
5:18PM ( 6 minutes ago )
As virus surges anew, Milan hospitals under pressure again
Coronavirus infections are surging again in the region of northern Italy where the pandemic first took hold in Europe, renewing pressure on hospitals and health care workers
5:17PM ( 8 minutes ago )
The Latest: Germany tightens mask-wearing regulations
Chancellor Angela Merkel and the governors of Germany’s 16 states have agreed to tighten mask-wearing rules and make bars close early in areas where coronavirus infection rates are high
5:13PM ( 11 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Virus wreaking havoc on SEC due to positive COVID-19 tests
The Southeastern Conference has had to postpone two games in the last three days because of positive COVID-19 tests
4:01PM ( 1 hour ago )
Braves 1B Freeman good, Ríos back in Dodgers' lineup at NLCS
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman is in his normal spot in the Atlanta lineup a day after getting hit by a pitch on his right elbow
3:07PM ( 2 hours ago )
Seahawks gain top spot in AP Pro32 poll
The Seattle Seahawks are on top of the latest AP Pro32 poll
2:17PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Sports
ACC teams struggling early following postseason berths
Several Atlantic Coast Conference schools that reached the postseason in 2019 have work to do if they hope to return this year
10:54AM ( 6 hours ago )
College Football Picks: UGA vs. 'Bama and BYU's tough test
The Southeastern Conference has the game of the week in college football
9:46AM ( 7 hours ago )
NFL will test for COVID-19 on game days, has no bubble plans
The NFL has no plans to move into a bubble as it takes several new steps to combat the spread of the coronavirus
2:54AM ( 14 hours ago )
AP Online Football
Florida halts meetings, practices amid uptick in COVID cases
No_ 10 Florida paused all team activities Tuesday following “an increase in positive COVID tests among players.”
5:51PM ( 23 hours ago )
Clemson duo of QB Lawrence, RB Etienne in line for Heisman
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and tailback Travis Etienne like to spend their time working together to defeat opponents
5:04PM ( 1 day ago )
The Latest: North Dakota ranks first in new cases per capita
Health officials in North Dakota said Tuesday that a sixth straight day of record active COVID-19 cases put the state’s number of current infections at 4,600
4:21PM ( 1 day ago )
College Sports
History, mistrust spurring Black early voters in Georgia
Black people are going to the polls by the thousands and waiting in lines for hours to vote early in Georgia
4:07PM ( 1 hour ago )
US Senate high stakes spur astronomical spending in Montana
Political groups fighting for control of the U.S. Senate have poured more than $118 million into the contest between Montana’s Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock and Republican incumbent Steve Daines
4:01PM ( 1 hour ago )
Freeman, Albies HR again, Braves hang on for 2-0 NLCS lead
Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies homered again, rookie Ian Anderson extended his postseason scoreless streak in an abbreviated start and the Atlanta Braves just held on for an 8-7 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers and a 2-0 lead in the National League Championship Series
3:13AM ( 14 hours ago )
AP Online - Georgia News
Alabama's Najee Harris braces for Georgia's stingy defense
Alabama tailback Najee Harris is is preparing for No. 3 Georgia and the nation's stingiest run defense in their Southeastern Conference showdown this weekend
5:04PM ( 2 days ago )
Mullen brushes aside criticism for wanting to 'pack Swamp'
Florida coach Dan Mullen was given several more chances to clarify any confusion regarding his comments about wanting to pack 90,000 screaming fans inside Florida Field during the coronavirus pandemic
3:33PM ( 2 days ago )
AP Sports - College Football
AP source: No positive tests for Titans; game on with Bills
A person familiar with the situation tells The Associated Press that the Tennessee Titans have no positive tests
9:19AM ( 1 day ago )
GM had personal stake in protecting Titans from COVID-19
Tennessee general manager Jon Robinson says he hopes people around the NFL understand he tries to do everything the right way
5:45PM ( 1 day ago )
Falcons name Raheem Morris interim replacement for Quinn
The Atlanta Falcons have named defensive coordinator Raheem Morris interim head coach after firing Dan Quinn
5:37PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Sports - NFL
As virus surges anew, Milan hospitals under pressure again
Coronavirus infections are surging again in the region of northern Italy where the pandemic first took hold in Europe, renewing pressure on hospitals and health care workers
5:17PM ( 8 minutes ago )
The Latest: Germany tightens mask-wearing regulations
Chancellor Angela Merkel and the governors of Germany’s 16 states have agreed to tighten mask-wearing rules and make bars close early in areas where coronavirus infection rates are high
5:13PM ( 12 minutes ago )
Barrett keeps Democrats, Trump at bay in Senate hearing
Amy Coney Barrett has said repeatedly at her confirmation hearings that she’d be her own judge if she’s confirmed to the Supreme Court
5:06PM ( 19 minutes ago )
Month after mass shooting, Rochester seeks answers, suspects
Nearly a month after a deadly mass shooting in Rochester, New York, there have been no arrests, no rewards offered and little word from the authorities on where the investigation stands
4:55PM ( 30 minutes ago )
Dodgers' Kershaw 'likely possibility' to start NLCS Game 4
Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts says Clayton Kershaw is a likely possibility to start Game 4 of the National League Championship Series after the left-hander was scratched from Game 2 because of back spasms
4:49PM ( 36 minutes ago )