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SEC questions, Part I
This time next week we'll be neck deep in SEC media days, which start Monday. We'll have live coverage at timesfreepress.com and we'll have Press Row on ESPN 105.1 FM live from the event Monday through Thursday of next week.
It should by a ton of fun, and by then hopefully we'll know the answer to several questions that are lingering above the SEC landscape.
With that in mind, let's explore some of the most glaring possible questions for each school in the SEC. Today we'll go over the SEC West; Thursday we'll do the SEC East. We also believe this could be a topic on Press Row for the next couple of days.
Alabama — Is there anyway Jacob Coker is not the quarterback? This will not get an answer from Nick Saban of course because, well, he's NIck Saban and he's a football coach, and Nick Saban loathes the media and coaches loath talking about transfers and newcomers as anointed starters.
Arkansas — Can the Hogs win an SEC game and what did Bret Bielema have for lunch? The answers of course are "Doubtful" and "Seconds."
Auburn — Could this Tigers be bunch be more talented and have a worse record? Absolutely. Auburn's high-powered offense lost but three starters and quarterback Nick Marshall gives coach Gus Malzahn his first returning starter at QB for the first time his college career. Still, it's tough to image the Tigers getting every conceivable break like they did during last year's regular season.
LSU — Will the Tigers keep reloading or will this actually be a rebuilding year for Les Miles and Co.? LSU has lost 17 underclassmen to the draft the last two years. Wow. Eventually that takes a toll and government do take a bite.
Mississippi — Are the super sophomores ready to take the next step? We think so. In fact, Ole Miss has the firepower to put up some serious numbers as long as Bo Wallace is the non-Egg Bowl Bo Wallace when looked more like Mike Wallace than Bo Duke.
Mississippi State — What's the ceiling for a MSU team that has talent and experience but faces a tall order scaling the tall buildings of the SEC West? Poor Mississippi State. They live in Starkville and they play in the SEC West. This bunch of Bulldogs has talent and Dak Prescott is salty, but since they go to Oxford, this year, MSU will likely be an under-Bulldog in every other SEC West team not-named Arkansas.
Texas A&M — How much will the offense fall off after losing three first-round draft picks, including Johnny Football? It has to hurt on the field, right? No Mike Evans. No Johnny Football. No Jake Matthews. Still, here's believing the distractions that follow Johnny Football will not be missed.
We had a request on The Twitter (@jgreesontfp) to discuss the Braves' dilemma at catcher with rookie hot shot Christian Bethancourt playing well as Braves start Evan Gattis heals up on the DL. Before we get to the Braves' 8-3 debacle at the Mets last night, let's kick this back and forth.
There is little comparison between the two defensively. Bethancourt has been considered the best defensive catcher in the Braves organization since as far back as 2009, which is a testament to his natural gifts considering the kid is only 22 years old right now. So even at 17 he was better defensively than perennial All-Star Brian McCann.
Gattis' game — at the plate and behind it — is raw, but powerful. Gattis leads all NL catchers in homers with 16 despite only playing 63 games. He's 27 and has struggled at times to stay healthy. And missing time with a sore back for a power-hitting catcher is like a speedy outfielder having trouble with his hamstrings — it could be a year-long bother.
While Gattis is injured, Bethancourt gives the Braves an embarrassment of riches. The kid has hit in seven of his eight starts since being called up and his hitting a respectable .281 while being a noticeable defensive improvement. But the question remains what do the Braves do when Gattis returns?
About three weeks ago when the offense was really scuffling, there was some discussion about moving Gattis to left field and making room for Bethancourt in the line-up. The logic seemed clear at the time, if Gattis is going to be a bad defensive catcher, being a really bad defensive left fielder seems like a plausible alternative.
Atlanta Braves' Christian Bethancourt (25) beats New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy (28) to the bag as he advances to second base on a B.J. Upton single in the seventh inning of a baseball game in Atlanta on Monday, June 30, 2014.
And maybe that's something that could be discussed down the road, but the Braves have a lot of coin invested in their outfield — Heyward and the Brothers Upton are making about $38 million per season, which is more than a third of the Atlanta playroll. Sure, money, salary and value do not represent the main goal, and if Gattis in left over Stinky Upton wins more games, then great. But there certainly would have to be some pause over sitting Upton because that would mean the second- and third-highest paid Braves players (Hi Danny Struggla) would be relegated to being reserves.
Plus, B.J. Upton has found recent success in the lead-off spot — he's at .279 (17-for-61) with 11 runs scored and four steals — in the No. 1 spot during the Braves' recent run of success.
Short term, the Braves get to enjoy options. Long term, the only way to get them both on the field would be moving Gattis to the outfield or giving Freddie Freeman an occasional break against tough lefties.
Or who knows, maybe the NL will finally adopt the D.H. and then the Braves are set.
On to the game:
The good: Another game with double-digit hits, although most of them were generated against the back half of the Mets' bullpen after the Mets built a 7-0 lead. Still, what would a Braves game be without leaving a small village on base.
The bad: Julio Teheran has been a stalwart, a legit ace, with 16 quality starts in 18 starts this year. If he has been an ace through the first half of the season, Tuesday he was a duece — allowing five runs on 11 hits in 3.1 innings.
The Uggla: Danny Struggla made a pinch-hit appearance Tuesday. As expected, Danny Struggla struck out Tuesday. He's now 0-for-10 as a pinch-hitter and at .162. For those of us that had under .200 on the season, well, go ahead and cash your chips. Struggla is 21-for-130 on the season and would have to go 9-for-20 to get to .200, and at this pace, it's hard to know if he'll get 20 more at-bats between now and September since he has 12 at-bats in the last month.
As the world turns
LeBron is scheduled to meet with the Heat today.
Yes, we'd like for this to be resolved today as well.
And yes, since we went super long on the first two, we thought we'd keep this short.
And oh yeah, Germany just scored again.
This and that
— Phil Mickelson always worried more about being impressive than winning. Well, we're impressed.
— Here's a list of the richest families in the U.S., and there are 185 worth more than $1 billion. Not surprisingly, the Waltons — owners of Wal-Mart — are atop the list with a net worth of $152 billion. For comparison sake, the Waltons giving away $1 million would be like you having $152 in your pocket and a street person asking for change and you giving them $0.01. Yep, $1 million is chump change to the Waltons. Good night John Boy.
— Former UT star and Vikings wide out Cordarrelle Patterson says he's going to be a top-five playmaker in the NFL. With a name like Cordarrelle, he has to be good.
— Classy move by DeAngelo Williams. The Carolina Panthers running back gave up his first-class airplane seat to a man in his Marine uniform. Well-played Mr. Williams. Well-played indeed.
— Great day for birthdays. Tom Hanks is 58. Chris Cooper is 63. Shaft is 72. Fred Savage is 38. O.J. is 67.
Grantland.com, a satellite site off ESPN.com, is offering a list that is right up our alley about the best villains in sports movies.
That begs the simple question for us: Rushmore of sports movies villains.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...