SEC Saturday Week 5: Quarterback Play Dooming Talented Teams

Photo: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to SEC Saturday, a new weekly series now that conference play is getting underway! Each week, the TDN staff will divide up the conferences, watch the games pertaining to their assigned conference and then write up an extensive overview of the key takeaways from that weekend in college football.

I'm on SEC duty again this week, and quite a few performers stood out despite most of the games being extremely one-sided. There's a lot of bad quarterback play in this conference, and it's separating the top teams from the wannabes now more than ever.

Jake Bentley Gotta Go

This one may happen by default because he was injured in the fourth quarter, but Jake Bentley gotta go for South Carolina. The hang up to that may be the team's lack of a quality backup quarterback, but how can he be worse than Bentley? The South Carolina quarterback was 13-28 for 148 yards, 1 touchdown and three interceptions, missing throws left and right and consistently panicking in the pocket.

For a quarterback who is consistently described as cerebral, his decision-making is mind-boggling on a regular basis. Honestly, outside of a good arm and athleticism, I'm not sure what Bentley has going for him. He's killing South Carolina's offense with his inefficiency, and he's not the only one.

Wake up, Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards

Two drops for Bryan Edwards, including one big gainer that was right in his gut. I saw on social media that Deebo Samuel dropped one too, although I didn't see it myself. They are getting killed by Bentley's awfulness, but they also aren't helping themselves enough either by making extraordinary plays when given the opportunity.

Samuel finally made a nice grab and housed it for his first really big play of the season, but there needs to be a lot more of that from these two moving forward.

D.K. Metcalf vs Greedy Williams was...weird

Greedy Williams won the matchup, but it certainly wasn't the barnburner we hoped it would be. D.K. Metcalf had good position a few times, but Williams was mostly smothering him or Jordan Ta'amu was off-target. Of course, it's definitely helpful for Williams that Metcalf only runs like three routes in the Ole Miss offense, and that the Rebels were relentlessly trying to take vertical shots to the big wideout. Metcalf does need to work on his double move however, as he didn't fool Williams with a sloppy hesitation against off coverage in the third quarter.

Both players got hurt in the second half but returned. Metcalf was open often underneath, but didn't do any damage over the top with LSU playing softer coverage after the break.

Jachai Polite emerging

Polite notched sacks in back-to-back weeks against Colorado State and Tennessee, then added two more to his season tally by doubling up Mississippi State. Polite needs to work on his stance, but when he gets a good jump off the ball, his speed and flexibility at the top of the arc really shine. He's got some nuance to his rush game as well, flashing quick and violent hands to flatten the edge. I'm excited to see more of Polite this season.

Darrell Taylor, sleeper alert

If Polite should be high on your watch list as a true junior, move Darrell Taylor up a few notches as well as a redshirt junior. Taylor has had some character concerns at Tennessee, but he's playing outstanding football right now. The defensive end was this close to multiple sacks against Florida, then cashed in on those opportunities on Saturday with three sacks against Georgia.

Taylor has the quickness to challenge opponents with speed out of his stance, but he flashed the ability to win inside and out against the Bulldogs. His first two sacks were strip sacks around the edge, plays that could have been game-altering if Tennessee had recovered either. I think he's an ascending talent with the athletic traits to be an impact player in the NFL. We'll see if he declares or returns for a fifth season!

Nick Fitzgerald ain't it

And when I say Nick Fitzgerald ain't it, I don't mean as an NFL prospect. That's a foregone conclusion. I mean as a desirable college football starting quarterback. It's great that he's run for a bunch of yards, but he can't throw worth a lick, and he's neutered Mississippi State's offense as a result.

The Bulldogs are very talented, from their interior offensive line to their running backs to their defensive front seven. But as long as Fitzgerald is quarterbacking the team, they'll never be able to hang with the top teams in the conference, let alone the average ones. They're in a plight of being held prisoner by a record-setting quarterback who still isn't good enough to start, and it's the biggest reason why they've dropped two straight.

Quick Hitters

  • Another sack for D'Andre Walker, who has given Missouri and Tennessee's offensive lines fits in back-to-back weeks.
  • J.R. Reed may have been at fault for a miscommunication that led to a Vols touchdown, but he excelled most of the day at running the alley and finishing as a tackler in space on boundary runs and quick screens.
  • DaMarkus Lodge is one of the top blocking wide receivers in the draft
  • I love Benny Snell's physicality, but he tried to bounce runs several times against South Carolina and his lack of speed and burst were extremely obvious. His limitations are being undersold right now in the draft community's quest to find an RB1
  • Montez Sweat drew two holding penalties against Florida, consistently whipping Jawaan Taylor and Martez Ivey in pass protection.
  • Josh Allen with three sacks against South Carolina, taking his season total to six already. He's vastly improved from last season, although two of his sacks were of the unblocked/hustle variety. Allen's ability to get his body turned to the pocket while progressing up the arc have allowed him to corner more easily, displaying some flexibility that wasn't apparent in his 2017 tape. Now, to develop some actual pass rush moves for the situations where you can't just run around your opponent all game...

SEC Power Rankings After Week 5

1. Alabama

2. Georgia

3. LSU

4. Auburn

5. Kentucky

6. Texas A&M

7. Florida

8. Mississippi State

9. Missouri

10. South Carolina

11. Ole Miss

12. Vanderbilt

13. Tennessee

14. Arkansas