SEC Roundtable: LSU Returns Key Piece to Defensive Line and Latest News Around the Conference

Glen West

The SEC is just 11 days away from kickoff as programs around the conference put the finishing touches on gameplans and there is no shortage of news. LSU returns a big man in the trenches on Monday afternoon and COVID-19 cases are down across the conference.

 Here’s the latest news across the conference with gameday inching closer:

Alabama

The Crimson Tide held its second fall scrimmage on Saturday and like usual Nick Saban said he was pleased, but not satisfied with the team’s progress. The big concern remains in the back end defensively, a position group that could make-or-break Alabama’s national-championship aspirations. 

“We're very, very thin in the secondary,” Saban said. “We don't have a lot of depth and we've got a lot of young players, and it's very difficult to train them at multiple positions, but we're trying to use this time to be able to do that. Whether we can continue to do that throughout the season remains to be seen.”

One of the few decision yet to be made with the starters is on the offensive line, where Landon Dickerson can play center or guard. Alabama has four returning starters up front, so the decision boils down to who’s the fifth man?

The university had 294 confirmed coronavirus cases last week, which was relatively good news after having 846 the previous week. Overall, there have been 2,573 positive cases since the fall semester began Aug. 19

—Christopher Walsh, BamaCentral

LSU

LSU finally released its plan for gamedays and they’re thorough after months of planning. Tiger Stadium will open at 25% capacity and just a few of the noteworthy guidelines are, of course, face masks being required, tailgating will not be permitted on campus, no alcohol sales and the bands will be required to stay in the stands.

While medical experts have differing opinions on whether fans should be allowed, the extensive precautions are about as good as can be expected considering the circumstances. It was a months-long venture but athletic director Scott Woodward believes the plan allows fans in the stadium in as safe a manner as possible.

"I’m an optimistic guy. I’m glass half-full kind of guy and I’m just amazed that we could get to this point with a lot of hard work and a lot of stipulations in place to make sure we can do it safely, that we can do it in a healthy fashion,” Woodward said on Hangin' with Hester and Hanny. 

Another big piece of news to break Monday afternoon was the first opt in for the LSU program. Senior defensive end Neil Farrell elected to return to school after spending the last month tending to a family member who had contracted the virus. The addition of Farrell is a huge boost to the Tigers defensive line that at one point this offseason was by far the strongest position group on the team.

—Glen West, LSU Country

Ole Miss

For the first time since players and coaches returned to campus, Ole Miss is reporting zero positive COVID-19 tests from this past week of testing. The Rebels still have a small number of players quarantining after prior rounds of testing deemed them either positive or in close contact with someone who had tested positive, but this is still a hugely positive sign moving forward.

"We're almost all the way back," said head coach Lane Kiffin. "That was great. We want to give a lot of credit to our kids for that. For a time that a lot of college kids are getting it, we need to continue to do a good job with that."

Elsewhere, Ole Miss is still waiting on news from the NCAA regarding transfer safety Otis Reese and his eligibility for the 2020 season. A Georgia transfer, if Reese is healthy he will be a day one starter for the Rebels. Kiffin has said he's already one of the best players on not just the defense, but the team as a whole. — Nate Gabler, The Grove Report. @nategabler

South Carolina

With the season opener less than two weeks away the Gamecocks are still getting starting spots solidified including at the quarterback position. The competition has come down to graduate transfer Collin Hill and sophomore Ryan Hilinski. Hill played for offensive coordinator Mike Bobo at Colorado State and has a firm grasp of the offense as well as his expectations, but has sustained three ACL tears in his career. He has said he feels fine, health is obviously a concern. Hilinski was a true freshman last year that underwent a trial by fire and came in with the goal of improving his technique and mechanics. After three scrimmages during fall camp, head coach Will Muschamp said they will make a decision this week. 

“Both quarterbacks played extremely well with Ryan and Collin. We have not made any decision on that as far as the quarterback is concerned,” he said. “We're going to continue to work through that tonight into tomorrow and then maybe look at Tuesday's practice. We don't officially start on Tennessee till Thursday. That will be our first practice for Tennessee, but both guys did a really nice job. Both guys command the offense. Our first six possessions offensively, we had five touchdowns. So it says a lot there.”

Freshman sensation MarShawn Lloyd underwent a successful surgery after tearing his ACL.

Vanderbilt

No news is apparently good news at the moment for Derek Mason and the Commodores. After missing time earlier this fall because of positive test and another and day away from practice after a second group of positive tests, Vanderbilt is going into the second consecutive week without a positive result. That’s giving people around the program hope they have a handle on things. 

Several position battles continue, specifically quarterback where all speculation centers around true freshman Ken Seals, who most believe is the leader to earn the starting role. While Mason hasn’t come close to a hint as to who is leading, multiple sources are insistent Seals will get the call. 

Surprisingly there is a competition at kicker as well. Javan Rice was the presumed starter, but Pierson Cooke and his cannon leg have made it interesting. —Greg Arias-Commodore Country  

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