Tag:SEC
Posted on: January 20, 2012 4:34 pm
Edited on: January 30, 2012 2:31 pm
 

A first look at 2012's returning starters

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It's never, ever too early to talk about the next college football season once the previous one has passed. But it's a lot less too early once the deadline for NFL Draft declarations has passed and teams can enjoy an accurate -- or at least semi-accurate -- gauge of what their returning talent will look like next season.

Thanks to data-cruncher Phil Steele, we can enjoy that same semi-accurate gauge. As he does every January -- among the teams predicted for big things at this time last year were Michigan, Alabama and Vanderbilt -- Steele has released a comprehensive list of FBS returning starters for 2012, ranking each team 1-123. Yes, 123, thanks to the arrivals of UT-San Antonio, Texas State and UMass; Larry Coker's UTSA Roadrunners even top the list with 23 total returning starters (11 offensive, 10 defensive, and both specialists) as they ready for their first WAC season.

But of course, UTSA has its work cut out for it to make an impact, no matter how experienced its players might be. Among programs college football fans are more familiar with, here's the numbers and teams from Steele's data that stand out:

  • Sharing the lead amongst all BCS programs are Texas Tech and Tennessee with 20 starters each, including quarterbacks Seth Doege and Tyler Bray, respectively. If Red Raider and Volunteer third-year coaches Tommy Tuberville and Derek Dooley can't turn that kind of experience into a better year 3 than their collective Year 2's, neither one should be surprised if they don't receive a Year 4.
  • Never say never with Chris Petersen still around, but this looks like the season Boise State's incredible run of dominance and top-10 finishes comes to a halt. The Broncos rank dead-last, rock-bottom, with just 6 starters coming back--3 offensive 2 defensive, and (infamous) kicker Dan Goodale. (Then again, in the newly TCU-less Mountain West, will anyone stop them regardless? The league leader in returning starters is Colorado State, with no other MWC program ranked higher than Fresno State at 29th.)
  • It's possible Badger fans will rue their back-to-back failures at the Rose Bowl even more than they do already; with just 10 returning starters, Wisconsin ranks at the bottom of the Big Ten and 116th overall. Big Ten fans should instead gear up now for an even-more-critical Ohio State-Michigan game than usual; the Buckeyes are second in the league behind Indiana with 18 starters, and the Wolverines are tied with Nebraska for third with 16.
  • The Vols, Auburn, Florida and Vanderbilt top the SEC list -- with 18 starters or more, all rank among the nation's 19 most experienced teams -- which means the league could see a more topsy-turvy season than usual; despite their cavalcade of young talent LSU returns just 5 defensive starters, national champions Alabama just 4. Despite major losses on the offensive line, Georgia looks poised to field the conference's best defense, with nine starters coming back for a unit already ranked fifth in the FBS.
  • Why is USC getting so much early preseason love? Pretty simple: of the 10 teams listed in Bruce Feldman's early-bird top 10, the Trojans are one of just two to have as many as 17 returning starters. The other is Oklahoma, and since the Sooners finished the year getting chewed up and spit out by Oklahoma State while the Trojans were busy upsetting Oregon in Eugene and annihilating UCLA, it's not hard to see why voters might go for the former.
  • Poor Al Golden: not only is his Miami team still laboring under the weight of the Nevin Shapiro allegations, not only do they rank 96th nationally and tie for next-to-last in the ACC with 12 returning starters, but according to Steele's data the Hurricanes are -- amazingly -- the only ACC team to not return its starting quarterback for next season. 
  • Gus Malzahn is going to be one of the FBS's most closely watched mid-major head coaches after his move from Auburn, and with six returning starters including QB Ryan Aplin on offense, the Red Wolves should be fine on that side of the ball. But with just three starters back on defense, ASU ranks 116th overall and last in the Sun Belt in total starters returning. Opposite Malzahn's punishing up-tempo attack, we'd like to place an early wager on the Red Wolves as one the nation's statistically weakest D's in 2012 ... and on Malzahn needing at least two years to return ASU to last year's championship perch.

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Posted on: January 20, 2012 12:20 pm
 

Gamecock trustee: count cross-division games less

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

One South Carolina Board of Trustees member has a proposal to solve the "problem" of his Gamecocks missing out on the 2011 SEC championship game to Georgia, despite beating the Bulldogs head-to-head: make East division games like that one count more than the cross-divisional games that cost Carolina the East title.

That board member, Chuck Allen, recently asked Gamecock athletic director Eric Hyman to request the SEC count intra-divisional games as a full game in the standings and cross-divisional games as only a half-game. If put into practice, the change would have given the 2011 Gamecocks -- 5-0 against the East, but just 1-2 against the West, including a road loss to an Arkansas team Georgia missed -- a trip to Atlanta.

“This (proposal) takes the randomness out of the non-divisional schedule,” Allen told the Anderson (S.C.) Independent Mail. “It doesn’t eliminate it, but it does reduce it. It just seems fair that the team that won all its division games would be the division champ.”

Per Allen, Hyman is expected to pass on the proposal when the SEC convenes to develop a schedule for 2013 and its permanent cross-divisional rotations. Allen (and Hyman) are no doubt just as unhappy with the league's cross-divisional matchups for 2012, though, as they were for 2011, since the projected gap in the difficulty of the Gamecocks' and Bulldogs' respective West opponents has only gotten worse; Carolina will take on the Razorbacks and defending SEC champion LSU (both of which feature in Bruce Feldman's early 2012 top 10) while Georgia gets Auburn and Ole Miss.

“When I talked to (Hyman) his response to me was that he never contemplated it and so he said, ‘Yes, it sounds like a good idea,'" Allen said. "'If you’ll put it in writing (Hyman said), I’ll use it as a vehicle and take it to the conference meeting and we’ll introduce the proposal, argue for it and see what we can do.’”

According to the SEC, though, what the Gamecocks "can do" in the way of overhauling a system that's been in place since the league's 1992 divisional split is "not much." League associate commissioner Charles Bloom said point-blank he does not expect the measure to gain much traction. 

“The philosophy of the league has always been that all conference games are weighted the same,” he told The State newspaper.

We're not unsymapthetic towards Allen and Hyman in this situation; it's not entirely fair that the Gamecocks swept the East and still didn't win the division, and it's not entirely fair they've drawn the Bayou Bengals in the SEC's one-off 2012 schedule while Georgia's hosting the downtrodden Rebels. But our estimate of the number of things in college football that aren't entirely fair checks in at a round 8 bajillion, and we doubt Allen and Hyman are going to ask for all 8 bajillion to be corrected. 

Eventually, inevitably, the league's cross-divisional rotation and West opponent strength will cycle around to give the Gamecocks an edge over the rest of the East, Bulldogs included; will Allen and Hyman still want to make cross-divisional games count less at that point? We seriously doubt it. 

Want more on Gamecocks football? Follow our South Carolina CBSSports.com RapidReports by writer Josh Ward. 

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Posted on: January 19, 2012 7:24 pm
 

Florida DT Leon Orr arrested on pot charges

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Unfortunately for Will Muschamp, the 2012 offseason has started much the same way the 2011 version did: with a player arrested on marijuana charges.

Last January, it was soon-to-be-dismissed corner Janoris JenkinsThis January, according to student newspaper the Alligatorit's sophomore defensive tackle Leon Orr, arrested Jan. 10 after a search of Orr's dorm room. Orr is charged with possession of marijuana and of drug paraphernalia. 

According to the police report obtained by the Alligator, university police searched Orr's dorm room (with his consent) about 30 minutes before midnight, finding a "baggy [sic] of a green leafy substance, a glass pipe and rolling papers." Orr admitted to owning the items and was arrested.

It wasn't immediately clear why police had been called to Orr's room or why they has asked to search it. Both possession charges are misdemeanors, with Orr's court date set for Feb. 8. 

Since ranking as one of the top prospects in the nation when signing with Florida in 2010, Orr has been mostly relegated to backup duty, redshirting two seasons ago and collecting just 10 tackles (with one sack) in 20112.

Orr's arrest is the fifth in less than a year of a Gator player on marijuana charges, two of them belonging to Jenkins and two to other players last January. All together, eight different Gators have been arrested since Muschamp's hire, despite his pledge to have his players act in accordance with the "Florida Way." The Gators had already developed a thick reputation for off-field misdeeds under Urban Meyerwith Muschamp's stern words and emphasis on discipline expected to produce a change in his team's offseason behavior.

We don't want to make too much out of a routine possession arrest, one that occurs dozens of times on college campuses across the country every week. But there's also no point in pretending that, to this point, the "Florida Way" -- no matter who's the coach -- means petty criminal behavior, arrests, and marijuana problems. Muschamp still has a long way to go.

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Posted on: January 19, 2012 3:05 pm
Edited on: January 19, 2012 3:06 pm
 

PODCAST: 2011 College Football Season Wrapup

Posted by Adam Jacobi

J. Darin Darst and Adam Aizer give some final thoughts on the BCS Championship Game and the 2011 season as a whole. The SEC dominated again, USC is back and conference expansion is annoying. The guys also look at some recent coaching news. Will Brent Venables be a good hire for Clemson? Did Wisconsin take a risk by hiring Matt Canada as offensive coordinator? 

Remember, all of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcasts can be downloaded for FREE from the iTunes Store.

You can listen to the podcast in the player below, pop out a player to keep browsing, or download the MP3 right to your computer.

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Posted on: January 19, 2012 2:47 pm
Edited on: January 19, 2012 3:02 pm
 

Tide NT Chapman played 7 games with torn ACL

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It was already safe to say that Alabama senior nose tackle Josh Chapman -- the anchor for one of the greatest rush defenses of college football's past decade -- was one of the nation's best players this past season. It turns out he may also have been one of the toughest.

Chapman revealed Wednesday that he had undergone knee surgery the previous day and would be missing both the Senior Bowl and most of the upcoming NFL Draft Combine. The surgery repaired both a torn ACL and a torn meniscus in his left knee.

But neither the details of nor the fallout from Chapman's injury are nearly as attention-grabbing as when that injury occurred: October 1, in the Crimson Tide's 38-10 victory over Florida. 

"Normally I can deal with pain pretty well, but after three days I needed an MRI," Chapman told the Birmingham News. "Dr. (LyleCain said he's never seen a guy that can have a torn ACL and still stay that stable."

How stable? Despite the injury, Chapman missed just one of the Tide's final eight games, an intended light workout vs. FCS Georgia Southern that turned much more serious when -- thanks in part to Chapman's absence -- the triple-option Eagles ran for a stunning 302 yards.

The late surgery won't allow Chapman to be at his best for the pro scouts, but given what was at stake for the Tide, he says he never considered a premature end to his senior season.

"I didn't really want to give up like that," he said. "I enjoyed playing. As long as it stayed right, I could play."

Chapman played all right, returning from the absence vs. GSU to help the Tide allow zero offensive points over their final eight quarters (Auburn scored touchdowns on defense and special teams) and win the national title. Despite finishing the season with just 23 tackles, 3.5 tackles-for-loss, and one sack, Chapman is still ranked the 77th prospect overall by NFLDraftScout.com, the 20th-best defensive tackle, and a possible second-round selection.

Not bad for a guy playing on one knee for two-thirds of the season.

Eye on CFB named Chapman to its 2011 All-SEC team. See who else made the cut by clicking here.

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Posted on: January 19, 2012 11:20 am
Edited on: January 19, 2012 11:26 am
 

PHOTO: Southern Miss enters Miss. billboard wars

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Southern Miss has no doubt always felt a little overlooked when it comes to Mississippi college football, what with the state's two SEC schools taking up so much airspace even when -- as was the case this year -- it's the Golden Eagles winning conference titles and Rebels and Bulldogs combining to win one league game* that wasn't at the expense of the other.

So on the one hand, getting involved in the ongoing billboard wars between Ole Miss and Mississippi State isn't going to accomplish anything tangible other than adding to the USM budget. But on the other: the warm-and-fuzzy intangible benefits of wedging your way into said wars for some entirely deserved crowing? Those are well worth however much this cost:

Ole Miss and Mississippi State fans will no doubt say they could care less what the Golden Eagles are bothering to put up (whether they do or not), but it's hard to imagine a Southern Miss fan looking up at that and not smiling from ear-to-ear ... which is why Eye on CFB is hoping the state's billboard wars drag on for, oh, about as long as your average Middle Ages England-France conflict.

*Against Kentucky, no less. HT: SBNation.

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Posted on: January 18, 2012 2:13 pm
 

Illinois FB Jay Prosch to transfer to Auburn

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

We mentioned in the wake of Barrett Trotter's departure from the Auburn football program that Gene Chizik appeared to be looking to move in a pro-style direction with his new offensive coordinator hire--a decision that looks even more likely with the delay in replacing Gus Malzahn rumored to be due to Chizik interviewing candidates still involved in the NFL playoffs. But the arrival of a new transfer from Illinois now makes that philosophical shift look more likely than ever.

That player is Illini fullback Jay Prosch, a Mobile (Ala.) native who will be transferring to Auburn in order to be closer to his ailing mother, who is battling cancer. New Illinois head coach Tim Beckman announced Prosch's decision in a statement Wednesday.

"Jay Prosch has decided to transfer to Auburn and will be there for the current semester," Beckman said. "He will have an opportunity to be much closer to his mother, who continues to face health issues. We wish Jay the best as he makes this move."

Prosch could be available for the Tigers as soon as the 2012 season, if the NCAA approves a hardship waiver due to his mother's health; if not, he will redshirt during his transfer year and return with two years of eligibility remaining in 2013.

Though the transfer of few fullbacks would make headlines, Prosch isn't any ordinary fullback. He was named a first-team All-American by Pro Football Weeklyan honor that essentially amounts to the publication naming the sophomore the FBS's top pro prospect at the position. Prosch became the Illini's starting lead blocker as a true freshman and helped the team to an 11th-place finish in rushing in 2010, thanks in large part to his workout-warrior strength and devotion to the weight room.

Prosch recently admitted to the Mobile Press-Register that he may have considered staying in Champaign if not for the Illini's head coaching change, which will see the team move to a spread system that doesn't utilize fullbacks; Beckman reportedly told Prosch he would be used as either an H-back or tight end, and with Prosch claiming he's "never been trained in running pass routes," a diminishing role appeared to be a certainty.

But this begs the question: why transfer to Auburn, whose offense under Malzahn also rarely (if ever) used a traditional fullback? Prosch said he had been cleared to talk to 11 of the 12 SEC schools (the Illini prohibited him from following ex-Illini assistant and newly-hired coordinator Paul Petrino to Arkansas), many of which already employ pro-style offenses and use Prosch-like fullbacks far more regularly than the Tigers.

The answer is very, very likely to be that Auburn is about to become the sort of team that regularly uses a fullback. And fortunately for Chizik, his team stands poised to start by using one of the nation's best.

For daily real-time updates on Auburn or Illinois football, follow our Tiger CBSSports.com RapidReports by Jay Tate here or Cody Westerlund's Illini RapidReports here. 

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Posted on: January 18, 2012 1:13 pm
 

Miles denies rumors of BCS pregame conflict

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

So why did Les Miles elect to keep Jarrett Lee rooted to the bench during the BCS title game as Jordan Jefferson flailed his way through the flailingest quarterback performance since, well, his performance against Georgia*? 

It made little-to-no sense, and like most things in college football that make little-to-no sense, rumors and theories have popped up in the game's wake to explain Miles's decision--most of them claiming that Miles faced a minor player revolt in support of Lee just before kickoff, and responded by throwing his own support behind Jefferson as feverishly as ever.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the BCS title game, Miles addressed those rumors, and predictably squashed them.

"Not at all," Miles said when asked if there was any truth behind the speculation. "We took the field just like we always have. There's never been any issue prior to a game. 

"There has never been a player-coach interaction before or after a game that was negative," he added.

Miles instead reiterated his postgame stance that he felt Jefferson's advantage in mobility vs. the Alabama pass rush simply made him the better choice. "We needed someone who could move his feet," Miles said.

Will that be enough to quell the rumors? It's not likely--not when, immobile feet or not, the Tiger offense was crying out for a quarterback who could get the ball downfield and loosen up the Tide front. That quarterback was Lee, especially given how lost Jefferson looked. Given Miles' history as a coach who prefers to juggle quarterbacks over sticking with one guy come hell-or-high-water-or-Alabama's-2011-defense, it's hard not to think some kind of off-field development shaded his thinking in some fashion.

But will we ever truly know for certain one way or the other? That's even less likely.

Miles also addressed several other topics Tuesday:

-- On star quarterback recruit Gunner Kiel's departure for Notre Dame after a previous commitment to LSU: ""There's a guy in the Midwest that's staying close to home. I understand that very much. This recruiting class will still be the style of class that we've had in years past."

-- On whether the ascension of projected 2012 starter Zach Mettenberger might lead to a shift in offensive philosophy:  "We'll throw the football more ... We'll have a guy who can scramble, but he'll throw the football for a greater percentage."

-- On Lee's excellent performance (13 of 18, 176 yards, 2 TDs) at a recent All-Star game: "I understand he did well, and I think that's great." 

*In retrospect, Jefferson's 5-for-13, 2.3 yards-per-attempt outing against the Bulldogs should have been treated as a much bigger red flag than it was.  

All quotes via reporter Glenn Guilbeau's CBSSports.com LSU RapidReports. Follow them for up-to-the-minute LSU updates and analysis here.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com