SEC East Notebook

Published 5:31 pm Wednesday, September 10, 2008

FLORIDA: Running back Emmanuel Moody has been somewhat missing in the first two games of the season.

He carried twice for two yards in the opener against Hawaii, sprained an ankle and sat out the rest of the game. He didn’t even play last week against Miami, sitting out for undisclosed reasons.

But coach Urban Meyer has vowed to make Moody a bigger part of the offense when the fourth-ranked Gators (2-0) play Tennessee on Sept. 20.

“We’re expecting a lot out of him,” Meyer said. “Yeah, we’re going to get going.”

Florida needs the help, too. Kestahn Moore, Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps were pretty much shut down against the Hurricanes, and Meyer is hoping the 6-foot, 210-pound Moody can make more of an impact as the Gators embark on the Southeastern Conference slate.

Meyer said Moody needs to get more comfortable in the offense.

“We’re force-feeding it pretty hard core to him right now,” Meyer said. “The thing about this offense, people say it’s complicated, and it is. There’s a lot of stuff to it and it works.

“It’s not real hard to turn around and hand it off and the tailback runs into big piles. We expect our guys to learn a lot.”


GEORGIA: The second-ranked Bulldogs are looking for more pressure out of their defensive ends heading into their SEC opener against South Carolina.

Georgia (2-0) got a total of 1.5 sacks from the ends in the first two games, but coach Mark Richt said the Bulldogs need to get more consistent heat on opposing quarterbacks.

“I do think our inside pressure has been better than our outside pressure,” he said. “At times we’ve gotten good pressure up the middle, but the quarterback has been able to step up in the pocket and throw because the ends didn’t do their job containing. The ability and discipline to contain the quarterback is just as important” as sacks.

The Bulldogs didn’t have that problem last season. Marcus Howard was an undersized force at the end position, leading the team with 10.5 sacks and ranking second with 12 tackles for losses. Overall, Georgia had 42 sacks in 13 games.

They are running behind that pace this season with four sacks in the first two games, which likely will be the two easiest contests on a brutal schedule.

Keep an eye on end Demarcus Dobbs, however. The 266-pound sophomore came up with a huge play in last Saturday’s 56-17 rout of Central Michigan, picking off a tipped pass and returning it 78 yards for a touchdown in his first college start.

But Richt acknowledged that Georgia had yet to uncover a player such as Howard who can get consistent pressure on the quarterback.

“I think his body type really helped him as a pass rusher,” Richt said. “He was very, very fast, and he could get so low off the edge. An offensive tackle needs a surface area to block. He needs to get his hands on something. When a guy can get that low, he can turn his body in such a way that you can’t get a hand on him.”


KENTUCKY: @ Two wins and five points allowed in eight quarters hasn’t done much to impress the poll voters that Kentucky is for real.

The Wildcats received 28 points in the latest coaches poll and just six points in this week’s AP poll. This despite coming off a second straight 8-5 season that culminated in a Music City Bowl win.

“I’m not saying we’re a Top 25 team right now or not, but if some of the teams I’ve seen ranked in the Top 25 are Top 25 teams then we are too,” said coach Rich Brooks. “We haven’t had a touchdown scored on us. We did win a bowl game last year. We did beat the No. 1 team in the nation last year. We showed we can compete in the SEC.”

Yet the Wildcats’ long history of being SEC also-rans, not to mention the slew of talent that left for the NFL after last season, has the skeptics out in full force. Brooks has been around long enough to know that’s the way it goes while you’re trying to build a winner. He had similar problems at Oregon.

“I think if what we’d accomplished in the past year or two years, and the way we started this year, if we had a history of being a more competitive team in the SEC we would probably be ranked in the Top 25,” Brooks said. “I think people are looking at us trying to see how many more games we’re going to win rather than how good we are right now. If we keep winning games we’ll get there.”


SOUTH CAROLINA: Stephen Garcia’s time at quarterback is coming. Not this Saturday against No. 2 Georgia, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier says, but possibly soon.

Spurrier and the Gamecocks have been looking for an answer to inconsistent quarterback play. Junior Tommy Beecher and sophomore Chris Smelley have been uneven in a win over North Carolina State and a loss to Vanderbilt. So talk has naturally centered on Garcia, a freshman who had missed the past two spring practices because of suspension.

“He’s coming around,” Spurrier said this week. “I don’t think he’s ready to go this week yet, but he’s been getting a lot of snaps.”

Garcia took about 25 snaps in South Carolina’s “Monday night football” scrimmage for younger players, Spurrier said.

Spurrier says Garcia has worked hard, is studying plays and attending meetings. “His attitude has improved from last year when he was just around,” Spurrier said.

Garcia was part of Spurrier’s 2007 class and considered by many rabid South Carolina fans as the team’s next great quarterback. That coronation was delayed when Garcia had three run-ins with authorities since arriving on campus 20 months ago. He missed the past two spring practices and did not work out with the team this summer because of a school suspension.

Spurrier says Garcia has shown some growth since returning on Aug. 1.

“I think Stephen has matured a bit,” Spurrier said. “Hopefully (he) wants to do the right things around here.”

That’s good news for those who see Garcia as the spark South Carolina’s sluggish offense needs. The Gamecock are ninth in overall offense in the SEC and 10th in scoring offense.


TENNESSEE: Dave Clawson has spent the past nine seasons on the sideline as a head coach. Moving back to the press box takes some adjustment for the Vols’ new offensive coordinator.

“It’s a much different environment,” Clawson said. “In some ways it’s good and some ways it’s bad. Sometimes it feels like you’re in an office rather than at a football game because you’re up there and it’s quiet and you don’t hear the crowd noise as much.”

Clawson’s predecessor, David Cutcliffe, also viewed games from above while another former coordinator, Randy Sanders, spent most of his time calling plays from the sideline.

Clawson said he prefers to call the offense from the box because he feels he can get a better view of the defense and make adjustments more easily.

He said he thought he had good communication with his players by phone in the Vols’ 27-24 overtime loss to UCLA on Sept. 1. He’ll have his first shot at calling games at Neyland Stadium when the Vols (0-1) host UAB (0-2) on Saturday.

But using the phone to talk to quarterback Jonathan Crompton comes with a price.

“You do miss being able to look the players eye-to-eye. You can’t have it both ways,” he said. “Right now I think the positives of being up there certainly outweigh the negatives so there’s no plan on switching that.”


VANDERBILT: If any area of the Commodores can overcome a key injury, it might be the defensive secondary.

Nickel back Darlron Spead, one of the team’s most reliable pass defenders, is out indefinitely after breaking a fibula in last week’s upset over then-No. 24 South Carolina. He was injured after intercepting a pass and being knocked out of bounds near a kicking cage.

While Spead is expected to play again this season, a return date is unknown. The Commodores (2-0) host Rice (2-0) on Saturday night.

“Losing Darlron will certainly be a blow to that group,” Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said. “He was sort of a specialist at the nickel back position and did a great job at it and had a knack for rushing the passer when we were blitzing and also had a knack for getting underneath those underneath routes.”

Nonetheless, the Commodore secondary still ranks among the best in the Southeastern Conference due to the presence of players such as All-SEC cornerback D.J. Moore and veteran safety Reshard Langford, who also had an interception against the Gamecocks.

“They have played well and we expected them to play well,” Johnson said.