Guerry Clegg commentary: Wait until August to judge football teams

April 22, 2014 

Alabama looked terrible on offense and outstanding on defense.

Auburn looked outstanding on offense, terrible on defense.

Georgia looked … meh.

Georgia Tech looked OK, according to dozens of eye-witnesses.

At least, those were the prevailing reviews after those teams' respective spring football games. So, in other words, what we learned was …

Nothing.

Not.

One.

Thing.

I covered Georgia toward the end of Vince Dooley's career. The offense looked particularly good one G-Day game. Dooley was not overly impressed.

"That's just target practice," he said.

The most passionately devoted fans react in one of two extremes. Either they fret severely over their team's apparent shortcomings, or they overlooked the obvious because, well, their team is perfect.

Take the case of Alabama's quarterback play. Blake Sims completed 13 of 30 pass attempts for 178 yards. He threw two interceptions and only one touchdown pass.

Some Bama fans saw the less than stellar performance, either live or via ESPNU, and went, "Yikes!" Others leaned on the excuse of Sims working with a limited playbook and being restricted from running.

Many in both camps shrugged and said, "Oh, well. Jake Coker will be our starting quarterback come August."

The skinny playbook alibi is a flimsy excuse. For one thing, it's not as if Alabama's offense relies on deception and masterful play-calling.

The Tide's offense under Nick Saban relies on a power running game and throwing the ball downfield just enough to keep defenses honest.

Besides, whatever play is called, the quarterback still has to execute. Sims didn't execute enough plays, simple as that. But that doesn't mean he's not capable.

I can't believe he could be the starting quarterback for the best coach in college football at the best program in the country if he didn't have the skills to play on that level.

Here's the final spring assessment: Wait till August.

Then you have Auburn, which turned its A-Day game into a flag football contest. The first-team offense torched the second team defense for 386 passing yards.

Or was it 386 points?

OK, so it was only 58 points. But there was a reason for that. The offense was working with a limited playbook.

The final spring assessment: Wait till August.

Then there was Georgia. As with Auburn, the offense fared better. The first-team offense rolled up 405 yards on the first-team defense.

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt expressed disagreement with handing out defensive awards just because that's the way it's always been done.

"It's kind of like, nowadays everybody's playing t-ball and everybody gets a trophy," Pruitt said.

Still waiting to confirm whether they handed out juice boxes and apple slices.

The final spring assessment: Wait … well, you know.

And finally there was Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets held their spring game on a Friday night. It was cold and rainy. There was a report that attendance was only 117. In truth, it was probably close to a thousand. Still not very impressive, but not alarming either.

It's just practice. Sure, a good practice is much more encouraging than a bad one. But in the end, it's no more meaningful that any other practice.

Even so, ESPN has taken to televising spring games because … well, it's football, or something close to it, and fans watch.

The final spring assessment: Wait till August.

Problem is, we can't.

-- Guerry Clegg is an independent correspondent. You can write to him at sports@ledger-enquirer.com.

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