New SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey no doubt will have a lot of pressing items on his agenda when he takes over Aug. 1.
Here’s an issue that should be near the top: creating a conference rule as it regards the transfers of student-athletes involved in domestic violence cases.
The case of former Georgia and now former Alabama football player Jonathan Taylor illustrates a need for a tough stance by the SEC office. The conference needs to establish a rule that no school may accept a student-athlete who has been convicted of or is currently involved in litigation in a domestic violence case.
If such a rule currently existed, Alabama would never have been allowed to accept Taylor after he was dismissed by Georgia, where he is set to be arraigned Tuesday on previous charges of felony aggravated assault and family violence.
The fact that Taylor’s girlfriend recanted her allegations that Taylor bruised her neck and herself was arrested last Tuesday for filing a false report with police is potentially disturbing, but it would be irrelevant if Taylor were never allowed to go play for Alabama in the first place.
Alabama coach Nick Saban, who had a pretty bad week last week with three players being arrested in four days, is being vilified for accepting Taylor into his program. Rightly so. Were Taylor not such a potentially potent run stuffer, and had we just not seen Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott run flat over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, Saban probably wouldn’t have felt so benevolent toward Taylor.
But Saban isn’t the only one. According to 247 Sports last year, LSU and Auburn were among those who also tried to recruit Taylor after he wound up at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi. The website said Taylor took an unofficial visit to LSU in September.
The temptation to give a second or third chance to talents like Taylor, troubled though they may be, is simply too great for coaches to avoid. One reason, and it’s a compelling one, is if School A doesn’t recruit him, he soon may be tackling School A’s running backs for School B.
So the decision needs to be taken out of the coaches’ hands. And the SEC office needs set the standard.
Offenses pushing defense to the wall in SEC
Defense is getting harder to play in college football, whether it’s on the field or justifying the decisions made off it.
First, let’s look on the field. LSU led the Southeastern Conference in total defense in 2014, adding a further tear to the eye of those Tigers fans sad to see defensive coordinator John Chavis bolt for SEC West rival Texas A&M.
LSU allowed 316.8 yards per game last season. That’s great for the Tigers, but it’s also significant, historic even, in that it’s the highest average allowed by the SEC total defense champion since the conference started keeping such stats in 1948.
For context, the only other time a team led the SEC in total defense while allowing over 300 yards per game was in 1984, when Florida gave up 302.3 yards on average.
Scoring defense is on the rise, too. Ole Miss led the SEC allowing 16.9 points per game (LSU was second at 17.5). That ties the highest average ever to lead the SEC with Auburn in 2007, and that’s a stat that has been kept since the SEC was founded in 1933.
There’s a definite trend going on, as the numbers that led the SEC in total and scoring defense have risen for three straight years going back to 2011. Alabama was tops allowing 183.6 yards and 8.2 points per game that season, but those numbers were really anomalies. It was the fewest yards per game allowed in the SEC since 1979 and the fewest points per game allowed since 1988.
In other words, offense has defense on the retreat, and it’s likely to get worse. That’s good news for people who like a lot of scoring in their college football, but perhaps bad news for a conference that has lost its grip on college football’s dominance the past two years. Defense wins championships, right?
So don’t be shocked when LSU’s defense under new coordinator Kevin Steele gives up more yards than Chavis’ unit did last year, though the Tigers could still rank among the SEC’s best. That’s because being the best in the SEC at playing defense will continue to be an upwardly mobile target.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.