Tag:Kentucky
Posted on: September 5, 2011 12:33 pm
Edited on: September 5, 2011 12:39 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 1

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Yes, it's back.

234 days after Auburn defeated Oregon in Glendale, college football has returned. And did it ever.

At some point during Russell Wilson's return at Wisconsin, Baylor and TCU's shootout, Auburn's furious comeback or Texas A&M's blowout of SMU, one just had to take a deep breath, take in everything that was going on around the country and say, yes, the sport is back.

As Washington beat writer Bob Condotta summed up, "College football spent 9 months trying to drive everyone away and in about 18 hours has brought everyone back."

Three straight days worth of games (and one more tonight) couldn't have come at a better time either after, as Condotta alluded to, a rough offseason. Realignment and infractions were in most writers' computer clipboards just from all that went on. Ohio State, Oregon, USC, Miami, etc., were the schools being talked about in lieu of directional schools being beat up by state schools.

The newest addition to the great CBSSports.com crew, senior columnist Bruce Feldman, broke down The Big Picture from opening weekend and now it's time to dive into the details.

Stat of the week

Admission: I'm a passionate baseball fan. I write, live and breath college football for a living but to me, there's nothing like the intricacies of a baseball game. There's Vin Scully in the booth, phenom call-ups, the DH debate and John Sterling going as over the top as you can get on a home run call. The sport isn't for everyone though, and the biggest reason most point to is the pace of the games.

Turns out, the baseball players have come around to that point too. I've watched a ton of Red Sox-Yankees games over the years and still enjoy every pitch despite them routinely taking around four hours to play.

"It's brutal. I can't stand playing a nine-inning game in four hours. It's not baseball," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "I don't even know how to describe it. If I was a fan, why would I want to come watch people sitting around and talking back and forth, going to the mound, 2-0 sliders in the dirt? Four-hour games can't be fun for a fan, either?"

On Thursday, the opening day of college football, the Yankees and Red Sox played nine innings in four hours and 21 minutes. 4:21. Not one football game all week took longer than four hours during week one that wasn't extended due to weather. Heck, out of 1,526 games during the 2010 season, the average length of a game was 3:12.

Stats like this make me glad I cover football and am just a fan of baseball. The excessive TV timeouts in the college game might make some angry but do keep things in perspective: at least it's not baseball.

Other stats of note

- SEC teams scored 63 touchdowns, 22 through the air, five on defense and five through returns.

- Florida running back Jeff Demps broke the 2,000 yard rushing mark for his career while his teammate Chris Rainey (left) scored a touchdown receiving, rushing and via a punt return. He was the first Gator to ever score in those three ways in one game.

- Arkansas's Joe Adams managed to return two punt returns for touchdowns against Missouri State.

- The 53 pass attempts from by Oregon's Darron Thomas were the most by a Ducks quarterback since Kellen Clemons on October 9, 2004.

- North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner had a great debut for the Tar Heels, going 22-23 for a 95.7% completion percentage. That's an ACC record and is the second best mark in NCAA history behind Tennessee's Tee Martin at 95.8%.

- USC's Robert Woods caught a school-record 17 passes and Matt Barkley threw a school-record 34 completions.

- Kellen Moore has 102 career touchdown passes against just 20 interceptions after his game in the Georgia Dome. According to Tony Barnhart, 10 of those interceptions came in his first year.

- UCLA hadn't lost in the state of Texas in 34 years (to Houston) before falling to the Cougars on Saturday. They also hadn't lost to a team from Texas since Houston beat them at the Rose Bowl in 1979. More than the record books though, Rick Neuheisel badly needed a win for this year's record.

- Oregon State true freshman Malcolm Agnew is the nation's leading rusher after a 223 yard performance... but his team still lost to an average FCS team this weekend.

- No surprise to see FIU's T.Y. Hilton turn in another great all-around performance, racking up a nation's-best 283 all-purpose yards against North Texas.

- Amazingly, Oregon-LSU was only the seventh time two ranked Pac-12 and SEC teams met on the field in the last 10 years. The SEC has a 4-3 edge after the Tigers took care of business in Arlington.

The NCAA is following Miami

The NCAA taking a road trip to see Miami tonight…. NCAA.com that is.

The site is wrapping up a five game, five state, five day road trip to kick off the season and is taking a behind the scenes look at several programs along the way. They were in Charlotte, N.C. to check in on student-athlete Stephen Garcia leading South Carolina to a win over ECU. The were soaked after rain storms shortened West Virginia's victory over Marshall. Tonight they'll be in College Park to see Maryland and Miami play.

While the trip is noble, there's a tinge of irony that the NCAA is taking their talents to see the team from South Beach play. Either way, check it out here.

I'm not sure which of the 16 different uniform combinations Maryland is using Monday night either but maybe they can figure out a way to wear the all white ones despite it being a home game. After all, seems like this would be their only chance since you certainly can't wear (all) white after Labor Day.

Don't forget about these guys

- Notre Dame was as sloppy as the field they played on and there's not much else to say beyond that. Yes it was rainy, yes it was the first game of the year but all that shouldn't matter for the Irish - looking to finally live up to expectations and be a top 10 team this year. There's still plenty of time for them to get it together but their lack of fundamentals and now very real quarterback controversy will be something Brian Kelly will have to figure out quickly. On the bright side, Michael Floyd (right) had 12 catches, 154 yards and two touchdowns.

- Auburn is a young team and they're going to take some lumps given their difficult schedule. Let's get that statement out of the way. They can - and should - be better than what everybody is saying they'll be but still, it was a bit shocking to see the Tigers on the brink of a loss at Jordan Hare Stadium to Utah State. It will take some time for this young team to gel and get caught up to the pace of the game. Auburn got a very real wake up call that Cam Newton wasn't taking the snap, now it's time to see how they'll respond.

"We are a long way off from being able to win very many games right now," head coach Gene Chizik said.

Aggies true freshman Chuckie Keeton was the star of the show if you look beyond the box score (21-30, 213 yards) thanks to the tremendous poise he had in his first game ever at the collegiate level. He'll be one to keep an eye on in the future.

- If you were a Michigan fan who managed to stay dry at the Big House, you had to be somewhat encouraged at the progress your defense made. Yes there's nowhere to go but up from last year but Greg Mattison looked like he had the team being much more aggressive. The players still aren't the caliber they once were but there are some bright spots, such as linebacker Brandon Herron.

- It's hard to read too much into Alabama's game against Kent State other than that their defense is nasty (90 total yards allowed) and they have an unfair advantage with Eddie Lacy and Trent Richardson in the backfield. It appears AJ McCarron has the edge at quarterback but both him and Phillip Sims tossed two interceptions. The real test comes when both go into a hostile Happy Valley to take on Penn State. That's when Nick Saban will truly find out which is his "guy."

- Memo to Bob Stoops: walk-on transfer Dominique Whaley needs a scholarship. It's the least Oklahoma's head coach can do after Whaley ran for 131 yards and four touchdowns in the Sooners opener against Tulsa. It's the Sooners bye week, perhaps Stoops can find the cash lying around for a full-ride.

- A so-so debut for Missouri quarterback James Franklin on Saturday. There were positives and negatives for Blaine Gabbert's replacement as he seemed about a half-step behind where he should have been in the passing game, failing to hit open receivers at times. Third down conversions (3 of 13) is one area that has to be concerning but certainly his skills running the ball have to be somewhat exciting to Tigers fans but there will have to be a bit of polishing going on before they take on the big boys like Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

- No surprise to see LSU corner Tyrann Mathieu named as SEC player of the week. He was all over Cowboys Stadium for the Tigers and made one of the biggest plays of the game when he recovered/forced a muff punt and scooped and scored.

More on College Football
Analysis
Dennis Dodd Dennis Dodd
LSU's Tigers sink teeth into Ducks, show they could be in running for No. 1 ranking. Read >>
Brett McMurphy Brett McMurphy
A changed Garcia makes all the difference for Gamecocks. Read >>
Tony Barnhart Tony Barnhart
Boise State's dominant win over Georgia proves they're ready to run the table. Read >>
Related links
Video
Pulling Rank

The AP and coaches polls don't come out until Tuesday with a game being played on Monday. Here's Dennis Dodd's latest power poll top 10 however.

1. Oklahoma, 2. LSU, 3. Boise State, 4. Alabama, 5. Wisconsin, 6. Virginia Tech, 7. Florida State, 8. Stanford, 9. Texas A&M, 10. Nebraska.

Not a big disagreement with that group, but perhaps the Cardinal is a bit undervalued at number eight.

Links for later

- With plenty of time to talk about conference realignment before the games begin again, be sure to check out Dallas Mavericks owner - and Indiana alum - Mark Cuban's thoughts on what Big 12 schools should do. Namely, just say no.

- The video of the week comes out of Lubbock, as Texas Tech's head coach Tommy Tuberville gets the Red Raider fans fired up in this pre-game intro. It didn't work as well as the second half intro, as Tech pulled away 50-10.

- A precision attack from Kellen Moore and his receivers picked apart Georgia's defense. Here's how they did it.
 
- Good column from Sun Sentinel columnist Dave Hyde, who gets Al Golden to open up and share his view of the scandal that has engulfed his program.

- Is The Longhorn Network the sticking point for Texas going to the Pac-16? Yes, but it appears they can get out of it if they want.

Where We'll Be This Week

Looking ahead, Dennis Dodd will be on-hand to see Joe Paterno can try and pull of a massive upset as Alabama travels to Penn State. Tony Barnhart will be seeing if Georgia can bounce back and save Mark Richt's job as the Bulldogs take on South Carolina while Brett McMurphy travels to Ann Arbor for the big night game between Michigan and Notre Dame. Gregg Doyel is going to see one independent take on a possible future independent as BYU travels to play Texas. Finally, myself and Bruce Feldman will carpool to the Coliseum and witness the first ever Pac-12 conference game between Utah and USC.

Across the goal line

Finally, let's not forget how the first day of Oh-thank-goodness-college-football-
is back ended for most of us. I'm really not sure why a game between two commonwealth schools would be played in the state of Tennessee in the first place, but it was. I understand wins in the state are hard to come by, but just how bad was the Kentucky-Western Kentucky game?

The highlight of the night was pretty much Hilltoppers linebacker (and first-team All-Namer) Andrew Jackson telling the nation, "They supposed to be in the SEC?" Of course his team was down at the time but you understood why he chose to make the remarks.

Wildcats' punter Ryan Tydlacka said afterwards, "I'm kind of exhausted." If your punter says he's exhausted after a game, it better be because he ran more than two fake punts, not because he averaged 47 yards on seven punts.

But it was football. The game we love so, so much has returned.

And good, bad, ugly or Kentucky, we'll take it.


Posted on: September 4, 2011 2:53 am
 

What I Learned in the SEC (Sept. 3)

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

1. LSU isn't going anywhere, even with Jarrett Lee at the controls. The expectation is that one of these years, one of these games, putting out a quarterback scarcely more competent than your average Sun Belt starter is going to finally catch up with Les Miles and the Tigers. Saturday night's 40-27 thumping of Oregon wasn't that game, though, and this may not be that year.

As my collegue Bryan Fischer wrote, Lee didn't do anything to lose the Tigers the game; the flipside is that he barely did anything to win the game, either, putting together a 10-for-22, 98-yard effort that we promise you'll see referred to in the dictionary next week in the entry for "pedestrian." Aside from one well-thrown fade to Rueben Randle for his only touchdown pass of the evening, Lee's primary instruction for the night was just to stay the hell out of the way.

And, as it always seems to for Miles, that instruction worked to perfection. The Tiger defense and special teams forced four turnovers, Spencer Ware and Michael Ford combined for nearly 200 yards on the ground, the LSU secondary held Darron Thomas to a miserable 4.4 yards per his 54 attempts, and only a last-second Duck touchdown prevented the final from being a three-touchdown rout ... even though Oregon finished with more total yards than the Tigers.

We still don't think it's likely LSU wins an SEC championship with Lee at the helm and completion percentages just over 45 percent in the stat book. But looking at what the Tigers did against one of the nation's best teams Saturday, you can't rule it out, either.

2. Florida will have a say in who wins the East. First, the caveat: FAU is bad. Really, really bad. As in, "may finish dead last in the Sun Belt" bad. But still: the casual ease with which the Gators brushed the Owls aside -- scoring 24 points over the first four possessions, holding FAU to 30 rushing yards on 30 carries, outgaining the Owls by 331 yards -- was the farthest of far cries from last year's opening-week wheeze past Miami (Ohio). Bad team or not, Florida pounded the Owls the way an SEC contender ought to pound them.

Meanwhile, the two teams expected by many to top the East standings had less-than-comfortable Saturday nights. Georgia, of course, began 2011 looking for all the world like the same team that ended 2010. South Carolina spotted East Carolina a 17-0 lead by starting Connor Shaw, then ran off 56 of the game's next 70 points behind Stephen Garcia. Still, there's little doubt that being caught in a four-point game late in the third quarter and outgaining the Pirates by all of six yards wasn't what Steve Spurrier had in mind.

It's still too early to anoint the Gators East favorites, or even on even footing with the Gamecocks. (As for the Bulldogs, well, maybe if they'd just kept things close ...) But it's not too soon to recognize this as a three-team race until such time the SEC standings say otherwise.

3. Auburn should be happy, but it shouldn't be confused. Somewhat lost in analyzing the rampant flaws that led to the defending national champions' 38-28 deficit to Utah State has been the resolve and determination that led to their stunning comeback; for Gene Chizik to hold his senior-laden 2010 team together in the face of staggering deficits is one thing, to do so with his all-but senior-free 2011 team another. Going back to the 2009 Outback Bowl, Chizik has now won nine straight one-possession games, a testament to his team's remarkable fourth-quarter focus and resilience.

But being a resilient team is nice. Being a good team is better, and even the cardiac-inducing Tigers of last year didn't bother to let the likes of Utah State take them to the wire. Thrilled as Auburn fans have a right to be with the comeback, it also shouldn't make them blind to the kind of major issues that result in needing a borderline-miraculous comeback against a 4-8 WAC team in the first place. Much as the aforementioned Miami (Ohio) struggles proved an accurate foreshadowing of 2010's Gator troubles, so it's now safe to say Auburn will not challenge for the West title ... and against their brutal schedule, might need every ounce of that resilience just to make a bowl.  

4. Jacksonville State didn't show up to this year's party. The three SEC-on-FCS matchups Saturday were every bit as lopsided as the SEC might have hoped, with Arkansas blasting Missouri State, Tennessee handling Montana by an impressive 26-point margin, and even Vanderbilt getting into the act with a 45-14 thumping of Elon in James Franklin's debut. Exactly how much these victories mean is a matter of conjecture -- FCS schools, after all -- but at the very least the conference avoided the kind of egg on its face Ole Miss's infamous loss to JSU's Gamecocks produced in last year's opening week. (That egg is perhaps being saved for Jacksonville State's visit to Kentucky.)

5. Speaking of the Rebels, they still don't have a quarterback--or an offense. There's no shame in losing to a solid-enough team like BYU by a point, even at home. But totaling barely more than 200 yards and averaging all of 3.6 yards per-play, 2.2 yards per-rush, and 5.1 yards per-pass ... there's some shame in that. And the quarterback issues that have plagued the Rebels for years showed no signs of abating; Houston Nutt turned to JUCO pocket-passer Zack Stoudt for the bulk of the second half, and Stoudt rewarded him by fumbling the game away on the goalline. The road back to relevance for Nutt and the Rebels still looks plenty long.

6. AJ McCarron is Alabama's quarterback. The battle might continue officially, but we're ready to declare a winner.

Posted on: September 2, 2011 5:12 pm
Edited on: September 2, 2011 5:15 pm
 

PODCAST: Three studs, three duds from Thursday

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Here's the podcast I recorded with Adam Aizer earlier today, looking at the three studs and three duds of Thursday. I picked four studs. I can't do anything right.

Click here to listen in a new window, or listen in the embedded player below.

I should have given extra kudos to Vick Ballard, by the way, mainly because of his name. One, it sounds like the name of a 265-pound running back, the type of guy who really has no business trying to run a 40-yard dash or wearing a form-fitting uniform. It's almost a disappointment that he's an average-sized tailback. And two, because I feel like America needs more young men named Vic, or Vick, or Victor. That's the kind of man that ends up owning an auto care shop -- or at the very least a non-ironic, grease-stained mechanic shirt with that name stitched onto the breast. Vic won't screw you over on that muffler repair. Vic does an honest day's work.

I digress.

Past all that, we talk Wisconsin and Russell Wilson a little more, and also Jordan Jefferson and LSU. I suppose I'm more on Adam Aizer's side than is evident in our answers to the question, in that I never thought this was LSU's year to begin with, but the odds of a win over Oregon are sufficiently lower now with Jarrett Lee under center than with Jefferson that it's fair to say that Jefferson's suspension is costing LSU the shot at the title (rather than, say, costing them the title outright).

Click here to subscribe to the CBSSports.com College Football Podcast on iTunes!

Posted on: September 2, 2011 10:45 am
 

Kentucky survives WKU, by the numbers

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Western Kentucky linebacker Andrew Jackson played like a star on the field last night in his team's 14-3 loss to Kentucky, recording 12 tackles (two of them for loss) and a sack. But he talked like a star on the sidelines, too, giving us this memorable summary of the Wildcats' toothless performance:



They supposed to be SEC. That's right, Andrew, but in no way, shape, or form did the Wildcats look like an SEC team last night, wheezing their way to the most uncomfortable of victories over a Hilltopper team that -- while expected to be much-improved over last year's 2-10 team -- is still believed to be a mid-to-lower level Sun Belt squad.

Here's a breakdown of the Wildcats' Thursday night mediocrity, by the numbers:

44 -- Number of yards by which Kentucky was outgained. By Western Kentucky.

35, 75 -- Number of total yards the Wildcat offense had gained by halftime and through three quarters, respectively. Against Western Kentucky.

3.7 -- Kentucky's offensive yards-per-play. (Against Western Kentucky.) If stretched over a full season, this number would have ranked the Wildcats dead last in the FBS last year.

5.4, 3.7 -- UK quarterback Morgan Newton's yards-per-attempt, and his yards-per-attempt if his 31-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass is removed from the calculation. (Against Western Kentucky.) If stretched over a full season, the 5.4 number would have ranked Kentucky 115th in the FBS last year.

3-to-1-to-0 -- Newton's ratio of interceptions to touchdown passes to first quarter completions against Western Kentucky.

2.8, 1.1 -- Kentucky's average yards per-carry, and their average yards per-carry on the 32 attempts that weren't Newton's game-saving 58-yard fourth-quarter scramble on 3rd-and-12. Against Western Kentucky.

45.9 -- Eye-popping net yards per-punt on seven attempts by Wildcat punter Ryan Tydlacka, the hands-down Wildcat MVP of the win.

That is, unless you want to cruelly name Hilltopper QB Kajuan Jakes the Wildcats' MVP; Jakes suffered through a 9-of-27, four-interception nightmare, one that included a second-quarter overthrow of a wide-open tight end in the end zone. Complete that, and WKU goes up 10-0 ... and the way the Wildcat offense was operating, maybe powers home to the victory.

We asked yesterday if the Wildcats could find some playmakers left behind from their 2010 exodus, and on the balance of last night, they don't have one, much less "playmakers," plural. Even having put a "1" in the win column, as Jackson said, Kentucky was supposed to look like an SEC team last night. And what they looked like was a team that might have a rough go of it in the Sun Belt.

Video by SportsGrid. HT: TeamSpeedKills.

Posted on: September 1, 2011 4:40 pm
Edited on: September 1, 2011 5:56 pm
 

SEC Interrogation: Week 1

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Each Thursday we demand the SEC give us answers to its most pressing questions. Here those are:

Steve Spurrier: are you really going to voluntarily saddle his team with a full-blown quarterback controversy? The Ol' Ball Coach has always done things his way, and it's safe to say very few other coaches' ways would include telling a fourth-year senior starter he's going to share snaps in a potentially challenging season opener, threatening to bench him if his competition outplays in said opener, and publicly declaring said competiton has outplayed him in preseason scrimmages.

Stephen Garcia has seen and heard it all from his head coach before, of course, and given his off-field history, it makes a certain amount of sense for Spurrier to keep Connor Shaw's confidence and focus at its highest possible point at all times. If the Gamecock schedule gave the team a few weeks' worth of breathers, it would make sense to keep Shaw engaged and Garcia on his toes.

But Spurrier doesn't have that luxury; East Carolina isn't Western Carolina, and the Gamecocks' critical trip to Georgia arrives right on its heels in Week 2. If Shaw (pictured) plays well enough Saturday to force another week's worth of Spurrier waffling, Carolina is going to enter the single most important game of its entire season with a colossal question mark still hanging over the team's collective head. And though we're not Steve Spurrier, we retain serious doubts as to whether that's the best way for it to prepare.

Jarrett Lee: can you avoid making the killer turnover? We won't hide from it: when we wrote in this space not long ago that Les Miles had failed his LSU team by not finding a better replacement for Jordan Jefferson than Zach Mettenberger in his first year out of JUCO or fifth-year senior Lee, yes, that was a knock against Lee. To this point, Lee's career -- a 53.5 career completion percentage, those nation-leading 16 picks in 2008 -- is the sort which, frankly, has to be knocked.

But if Lee has matured into the kind of under-control, safety-first game manager that always seems to be under center at LSU's rivals at Alabama, there's nothing stopping the Tigers from being, well, Alabama; the overpowering line, breakout running back (we see you, Spencer Ware), and lockdown defense are all in place.

Now we just have to find out about Lee, and fortunately, we won't have to wait long. Oregon forced 37 turnovers a year ago, the second-highest total in the nation; even without Cliff Harris, if Lee is loose with the ball, the Ducks are going to take it the other way.

Georgia: how comfortable are you in Todd Grantham's 3-4 defense? Much of the pregame chatter regarding Georgia's chances against Boise State have revolved around whether Isaiah Crowell can live up to his considerable hype, and there's no question Crowell's potential impact would give the Dawsg a huge boost.

But just as key -- if not moreso -- will be how the Bulldog defense handles a Bronco offense that's going to come out guns blazing. Chris Petersen and his staff have always been at their best with extra time to prepare, and if the Bulldogs haven't shored up what was an improved-but-hardly-airtight defense from 2010, Kellen Moore and Doug Martin are going to punish those leaks with a quickness. Some of the Dawgs' personnel issues with the 3-4 have been resolved (starting with the ascension of nose tackle Kwame Geathers and the shift of hard-hitting safety Alec Ogletree to inside linebacker), but that doesn't mean all the kinks are ironed out just yet.

And if there's one or two too many kinks remaining, the Broncos could be up big before the Dawgs even know what hit them, much as Virginia Tech discovered a year ago. The Hokies were able to mount a full comeback behind Tyrod Taylor, but with an angry Dawg crowd "behind" a psychologially-fragile 6-7 team, Mark Richt may not be so lucky. Grantham's unit had best be prepared.

Also worth asking: What can Ole Miss accomplish in the air, either offensively or defensively? (Some measure of competence from Barry Brunetti and the rebuilt Rebel secondary would go a long way towards SEC competitiveness.) Does Kentucky have any offensive playmakers? (No Randall Cobb, no Derrick Locke, no Mike Hartline, no Chris Matthews. What's left?) Quarterbacks: how do they look? (In addition to Ole Miss and LSU, there's some level of uncertainty at Auburn, Alabama, Florida, Vanderbilt ... the number of teams in the league that know what they're getting from under center are vastly outnumbered by the ones that don't.)



Posted on: August 8, 2011 9:48 pm
Edited on: August 9, 2011 1:27 pm
 

CBSSports.com Preseason All-SEC team

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

As part of CBSSports.com's season preview, we offer one blogger's choices for preseason All-SEC.
Our team includes 11 players on either side of the ball, because any more is cheating.

Offense

QUARTERBACK

Aaron Murray, rSoph., Georgia.
A 24-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio would be damn good for any quarterback. For a redshirt freshman in his first year on the job playing without the benefit of a strong running game, it was downright outstanding. (And, in fact, made him the most efficient underclassman quarterback in the country.) Murray should emerge as the conference's clearcut best passer as a sophomore.

Also watch for: Mississippi State's Chris Relf, the conference's best rushing quarterback and option operator; Arkansas's Tyler Wilson, like all Bobby Petrino pupils a 300-yard day waiting to happen; and South Carolina's Stephen Garcia, Murray's biggest competition for first-team honors if he can eliminate the backbreaking turnovers that have plagued his career.

RUNNING BACK

Trent Richardson, Jr., Alabama.
Boasting arguably the nation's best combination of power and speed at the position, Richardson should find himself carrying the lion's share of the load for a Tide offense that's never shied away from pounding out wins on the ground--and will shy away even less in 2011 with an unsettled passing game and ruthless defense.

Marcus Lattimore, Soph., South Carolina. The league's near-unquestioned leader in yards-after-contact, Lattimore's ruggedness and stamina sometimes overshadowed his other stunning gifts: his Mark Ingram-esque balance, surprising acceleration, and maybe the best pair of hands for a back in the SEC. Maybe the nation's best all-around back.

Also watch for: pretty much everyone, given even the SEC's least-heralded backs (like, say, Tennessee's overlooked Tauren Poole) have the potential for a 1,200- to 1,300-yard season. But we'll spotlight Arkansas workhorse Knile Davis, a good bet to finish as the league's top rusher despite the Heisman candidates above.

WIDE RECEIVER

Alshon Jeffery, Jr., South Carolina.
The league's leading receiver in 2010 by nearly 400 yards, there are sea urchins that could tell you Jeffery belongs here. A consensus preseason All-American and first-round lock, don't be surprised if he walks away with this year's Biletnikoff Award.

Greg Childs, Sr., Arkansas.
We're five selections in now and have yet to break ranks with preseason consensus, but we're not going to in this slot, either; at an NFL-ready 6'3", 215, Childs was step-for-statistical-step with Jeffery last season before an injury cut things short. Expect him to make up for lost time in 2011.

Also watch for: Childs' Razorback teammates Joe Adams and Jarius Wright, either of which could top 1,000 yards themselves; Tennessee sophomore home-run threat Justin Hunter; and junior Emory Blake, who could see a massive statistical bump as the No. 1 receiver in Auburn's more aerial-friendly offense.

OFFENSIVE LINE

C William Vlachos, Sr., Alabama.
The senior leader of what shapes up as the conference's best offensive line, Vlachos will have a shot at the Rimington Trophy.

OT Barrett Jones, Jr., Alabama.
After two years at guard, the All-SEC performer and All-American candidate moves to tackle for 2011.

OT Bobby Massie, Jr., Ole Miss.
Senior teammate Bradley Sowell could fit in this slot, but we like the immensely talented 6'6", 315-pound mauler to take another big step forward, especially in the run game.

OG Alvin Bailey, rSoph., Arkansas. Speaking of steps forward, Bailey started all 13 games in 2010, earned freshman All-American honors, and should be the focal point of an improved Hog ground game.

OG Larry Warford, Sr., Kentucky. The future pro was named second-team All-SEC a year ago and preseason All-SEC this year by both the media and coaches--not an easy thing to do at Kentucky.

Also watch for: Sowell, for one. But every SEC team has at least one player or two with all-conference potential. Perhaps the most likely candidates not listed above are at Georgia, where center Ben Jones and tackle Cordy Glenn could put an end to the Bulldogs' years of line underachievement in their senior seasons.

TIGHT END

Orson Charles, Jr. Georgia.
No other returning tight end in the league was close to his 26 receptions for 422 yards last year--and with A.J. Green and Kris Durham gone, Charles's role in the Bulldog offense should only expand from here.

Also watch for: Auburn's Phillip Lutzenkirchen, also due to see a numbers spike thanks to other receivers' departures. And if Florida jack-of-all-trades Jordan Reed sticks to TE, expect an impact from him as well.

Defense

DEFENSIVE LINE

DE Jake Bequette, Sr. Arkansas. In collecting seven sacks a year ago, Bequette emerged as the most explosive performer in the Hogs' highly-underrated front seven.

DE Devin Taylor, Jr., South Carolina. The Gamecocks finished a quiet third in the SEC last season in rush defense, due in large part to Taylor's 13 tackles-for-loss (tops among returning linemen) and 7.5 sacks.

DT Malik Jackson, Sr., Tennessee. It won't be easy for the talkative Jackson this season--he's the Vols' only returning starter in the front seven, and he's already missing two weeks of practice with a knee injury--but no returning SEC tackle was as disruptive in 2010.

DT Sharrif Floyd, Soph., Florida. Part of Urban Meyer's famous five-star haul in February 2010, Floyd collected 6.5 tackles-for-loss despite only starting two games and has reportedly been unblockable in recent Gator practices.

Also watch for: the nose tackles in either Alabama's or Georgia's 3-4 schemes--Josh Chapman in Tuscaloosa, and Kwame Geathers or Johnathan Jenkins in Athens. Ole Miss end Kentrell Lockett is in his sixth year and could lead the league in sacks if healthy. And the early reports are that megarecruits Jadeveon Clowney (at Carolina) and Anthony Johnson (at LSU) are as good as advertised.

LINEBACKERS

OLB Courtney Upshaw, Sr. Alabama.
Seven sacks and 14.5 tackles-for-loss a year ago, and those numbers should only improve as Nick Saban makes him the cornerstone of a more-dedicated Tide pass rush.

ILB Dont'a Hightower, Jr. Alabama. Hightower's rusty 2010 return from an ACL injury doesn't merit inclusion here, but his experience -- combined with the expected return of the athleticism he flashed a freshman All-American in 2008 -- certainly does.

MLB Danny Trevathan, Sr., Kentucky. We're fudging the formation a bit with two inside 'backers and just one OLB, but it's worth it to make room for the SEC's leading tackler from a year ago.

Also watch for: the excellent tandem of Jerico Nelson and Jerry Franklin at Arkansas, or Chris Marve at Vanderbilt, or LSU's underrated Ryan Baker.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

CB Tyrann Mathieu, Soph., LSU.
Teammate Morris Claiborne has received most of the preseason love, but Mathieu came on like gangbusters at the end of his freshman season -- culminating in an MVP performance at the Cotton Bowl -- and should be ready for an all-conference season.

CB Casey Hayward, Sr., Vanderbilt. The Commodores' disappointing 2010 wasn't Hayward's fault; his 17 passes defended led the SEC, and his six interceptions placed him second.

S Mark Barron, Sr., Alabama. His All-American status overrates him ever-so-slightly -- it's possible to get deep on Barron occasionally, if not frequently -- but no defensive back in the league (and maybe the country) has a better nose for the ball or knack for the game-changing play.

S Robert Lester, Jr., Alabama. Two Tide safeties might feel like overkill, but there's not really any arguing with numbers like these: an SEC-high eight interceptions, 12 passes defended, 52 tackles, and the Tide's league-best opposing passer rating of just 103.56.

Also watch for: Tennessee's Janzen Jackson, now that he's reportedly reported to camp in great shape after his layoff; Claiborne, obviously; Razorback safety Tramain Thomas; Georgia corner Brandon Boykin; and oh, fine, Stephon Gilmore. We don't think netting two pass breakups and three picks for a Gamecock pass defense ranked 97th in the country adds up to being an All-SEC player, but we're in the minority.

SPECIALISTS

P Drew Butler, Sr., Georgia; PK Blair Walsh, Sr., Georgia.
We wish the Bulldog specialists the best of luck in their 11th year in Athens. (No, we refuse to believe the pair of them have only had four years of eligibility each.)

Posted on: July 21, 2011 5:34 pm
Edited on: July 21, 2011 7:13 pm
 

SEC Media Days Notes and Quotes

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

We've got all the important coaching comments highlighted here at Eye on CFB, we've got Dennis Dodd and Brett McMurphy on site, we've got Tony Barnhart weighing in as well.

But even we can't keep up entirely with the flood of quotes and stories coming out of SEC Media Days. So here's some more tidbits from college football's favorite annual media feeding frenzy:
  • Don't expect this to be Mike Slive's final rodeo, or next-to-final, or even next-to-next-to-final. Even at the age of 71, he's planning on staying in his position for "some more years" beyond 2011-2012. "I have a couple of things I'd like to accomplish here before I retire," he said, declining to say what they were.
  • All-SEC linebacker Danny Trevathan (pictured) said he wants to return kickoffs for his Kentucky team. And he was serious--he handled return duties in high school and posted a 30-yard return in the Wildcat's spring game two years ago.



Posted on: July 21, 2011 10:38 am
Edited on: July 21, 2011 10:40 am
 

Joker Phillips supports compensating players

Posted by Chip Patterson

Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips was the first to take the microphone on Day 2 of SEC Media Days in Birmingham. One question offered to pretty much every coach on the podium so far has been their reaction to Mike Slive's proposed changes from Wednesday. Phillips, who played wide receiver at Kentucky from 1981-1984, quickly voiced his support for the discussion of player benefits.

"It's great that we are having dialogue about paying players, or compensating players," Phillips said. "There's a lot of factors involved, I understand that. Having this dialogue has gotten us to the fact-finding phase of this thing. As we continue to find out the facts, and come up with some answers that might fit. We have to understand the answers are not just about football and basketball, but all sports involved. We have to take care of everybody, not just men's football and men's basketball. Whatever solution we come up with, I'll be for."

Here are some more highlights from Phillips' comments to the media Thursday morning:

-The second-year head coach enters the 2011 season returning only 15 starters from 2010's squad, and will be looking to replace starting quarterback Mike Hartline, leading rusher Derrick Locke and Mr. Everything Randall Cobb. But with 9 of those starters on defense and a lot of confidence in the next group he still thinks they should be competitive in the upcoming season. Their theme this year is "RISE" and that is his challenge to the players. With so much production, particularly on offense, gone - new stars need to rise to the occasion for the Wildcats to succeed.

- Although last year did finish with a bowl berth, Phillips pointed out that the 6-7 finish was a drop-off from two straight 8-5 seasons. His goal for the Wildcats is to be able to hang in the SEC East race as long as possible. When asked about how close they were to "getting over the wall," Phillips believes that his squad is approaching that level.
"We're very, very close," Phillips responded. "We lost a lot of close games. Things that will get us over the hump will be being the most disciplined team, being the most physical team, and having mental toughness."

- Several mentions were made to the Wildcats strength and conditioning program under Rock Oliver. He wants the team to be attacking, aggressive, and display the aforementioned mental and physical toughness. He thinks this team has done well in the two years under Oliver in offseason preparation, and the squad looks leaner and stronger than they have in a while. Phillips also praised new co-defensive coordinator Rick Minter, who actually got to to work with the team for the 15-16 practices leading up to the BBVA Compass Bowl on Jan. 8 in Birmingham.

Keep it here at the Eye On College Football for more updates from media days from all conferences in the upcoming weeks.
 
 
 
 
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