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Tag:Alshon Jeffery
Posted on: January 12, 2012 1:29 am
Edited on: February 3, 2012 12:22 pm
 

1-to-35: Ranking the 2011 bowl games



Posted by Jerry Hinnen


Each December, there's plenty of rankings out there as to how good each bowl should be. But if that's the "before," what about the "after"? Here's the Eye on CFB's (highly subjective) ranking of all 35 bowls from the 2011-2012 college football postseason, best game to worst.

1. Rose. Unlike certain other bowls we could name (who happen to rhyme with "Schmalamo"), the Rose's outburst of offense came despite the presence of legitimate championship-level defenses--making the punch and counter-punch between Russell Wilson and Montee Ball on one side and LaMichael James and De'Anthony Thomas on the other like haymakers in a heavyweight prizefight. Add in college football's greatest venue, a down-to-the-wire ending, and even the aesthetic battle between the Badgers' understated uniforms and the Ducks' glitter factory helmets, and you've got the best bowl-watching experience of the year.

2. Fiesta. Andrew Luck vs. Justin Blackmon at the top of their powers -- at the top of the powers of anyone at their positions in college football -- would be worth a top-five placement alone. Luck vs. Blackmon and 79 points and overtime drama? That's worth top-two.

3. Alamo Bowl. To call the defenses in this game abominably porous would be an insult to pores (and abominations). But the Alamo is a random weeknight bowl game--just as no one wants to watch an Oscar-baiting 17th-century literary adaptation on their Guys' Night Out, so no one tuned into the Alamo for rugged defense and awesome punting. Thankfully, what Baylor and Washington gave us was the college football equivalent of four hours of Jason Statham shooting explosions.

4. Outback. Come for Kirk Cousins leading the most unlikely comeback this side of the whooping crane, stay for Mark Richt nominating himself for the (dis)honor of "World's Fraidiest-Cat Football Coach." Oh, and triple overtime.

5. New Orleans. We'd ask if you could remember this thriller between Louisiana-Lafayette and San Diego State from the bowl season's opening night, but we don't think anyone who watched could forget Ragin' Cajun kicker Brett Baer deliriously celebrating his last-second game-winner if they tried.

6. Military. One word: #MACtion. And two numbers: 42-41. And, all right, eight more words to help do this game justice: last-minute do-or-die failed fake extra point holder-kicker option.

7. Sun. We're suckers for any game featuring the triple-option (see the Air Force game ranked one spot above), and Utah's 4th-and-14 touchdown conversion to send the game into OT was one of the more dramatic single plays of the entire bowl season. That 3-0 anti-classic between Pitt and Oregon State was a particularly distant memory in El Paso this year.

8. Belk. A matchup of Utterly Average ACC team vs. Utterly Average Big East team -- in a bowl sponsored by a department store that thinks Macy's is way too wild and edgy -- should have been one of the snoozers of the year. Instead, Mike Glennon caught fire, Louisville mounted a spirited comeback, and this wound up one of the better games of the postseason.

9. Little Caesars. The quality of play in this game at times was like ... well, have you ever actually eaten the pizza of the sponsor? But Western Michigan receiver Jordan White put on a spectacular show (13 catches, 249 yards), the teams combined for 69 points, and the Boilers special teams pulled off two onsides kicks and a kick return for TD. Tasty!

10. Famous Idaho Potato. OK, OK: we're giving this game (which was less-than-must-see-viewing for much of the first 55 minutes) a slight bonus for its killer logo. But we're giving it a much bigger bonus for the pulse-pounding final drive from quarterback Tyler Tettleton and the Bobcats for the first bowl win in program history.

11. Armed Forces. If you're going to be a sorta-dull game between two sorta-unmemorable teams, better come up with a memorable play and/or a big finish. Riley Nelson's game-winning fake spike touchdown to become college football's answer to Dan Marino just about did the trick.

12. Sugar. Another for the "ugly game, fascinating ending" file, but this was Michigan doing their damnedest to be Michigan again and Virginia Tech doing their damnedest to avoid the rabbit's feet and horseshoes and four-leaf clovers falling out of the Wolverines' pockets -- Danny Coale most especially -- and it was in New Orleans. You didn't quit watching, did you?

13. Poinsettia. Not a classic, but three-and-a-half back-and-forth hours with a feisty Louisiana Tech team and an underrated TCU squad most definitely qualified as "serviceable." Think of this year's Poinsettia as the quality burger-and-fries plate from the local joint down the street--not mind-blowing, but spend a few weeks in Peru, where they don't have burgers or college football, and you'll crave a Poinsettia Bowl so badly you could scream.

14. Orange. In the space of about an hour, Dana Holgorsen's evisceration of Clemson went from thrilling to discomfiting to boring to morbidly fascinating to -- once we all realized the Mountaineers weren't going to hit triple digits -- back to boring again. Not every game that hits 100 points is one for the DVD vaults, as it turns out.

15. Liberty. Give me Cincinnati defeating Vanderbilt in surprisingly convincing, mildly entertaining fashion or give me death! (Actually, we've got that first thing already, so no need to worry about providing the second, thanks.)

16. Chick-Fil-A. For 2.5 quarters, this was a delightful shootout with all the requisite trickery you'd hope for from a game involving Gus Malzahn. Then Virginia remembered that it was not only Virginia, but proud ACC member Virginia, and the fun was over.

17. Meineke Car Care. Seriously, Texas A&M, we didn't tune in to see you only flirt with blowing a huge lead against a team that hasn't won a bowl game since approximately the Grover Cleveland administration.

18. Capital One. This game featured an abundance of must-watch plays -- Alshon Jeffery catching a  bomb, Alshon Jeffery hauling in a half-ending Hail Mary, Alshon Jeffery getting ejected for fighting -- but aside from, well, Alshon Jeffery, there wasn't much to it.

19. Cotton Bowl. The 15 seconds of Joe Adams' punt return, the 10 seconds of Jarius Wright's touchdown, and the 5 minutes when it looked like Kansas State might mount yet another smashing comeback were riveting stuff. The other 54:35? Not so much.

20. BCS National Championship. A great game, if you're the sort of fan who enjoys watching nature shows where a pride of lions tear a wildebeest to pieces because the wildebeest can't complete a downfield pass to save its life.

21. TicketCity. If he'd stuggled, he'd have been called a fraud; because he ripped Penn State's D into tiny shreds, no one paid attention. Which is why we're working on a sitcom pilot right now called Case Keenum Can't Win.

22. Gator. When one team's special teams scores just one fewer touchdown than the two offenses combined (as Florida's did), it's safe to say you're not watching a classic.

23. GoDaddy.com. Thanks to a 31-0 run from Northern Illinois, what was expected to be a nailbiting shootout ended up the biggest disappointment since that "unrated web content" we checked out.

24. Champs Sports. It wasn't pretty, but at least the Seminoles and Irish were trying their best ... to make us wish they'd just aired a repeat of the 1993 meeting instead.

25. Las Vegas. College football produces a lot of emotions, but from the neutral perspective, it's rare that one of them is outright legitimate anger. Seeing Kellen Moore forced to end his career slumming it against an Arizona State team that checked out in early November sure turned the trick, though.

26. Independence. The Tar Heels came out so flat, and were finished off so quickly, that we're pretty sure the only lovely parting gift they walked away with was "Independence Bowl: the Board Game."

27. Music City. Mississippi State turned the ball over four times, and Wake Forest averaged 2.9 yards per-play. If Hank Williams or some other old-time country artist had come to Nashville to write a sad song about a sad bowl game, this is the game they'd use for inspiration.

28. Insight. Sadly, the only "insight" we got from this game was that Vegas oddsmakers -- who had the Sooners installed as the biggest favorite of the entire bowl season -- know what they're talking about. And who didn't know that already?

29. Holiday. It wasn't that long ago when Jeff Tedford's Cal and Mack Brown's Texas squaring off would have been appointment television. This game was, too, though in the sense that it was the sort of game you made an appointment somewhere else to avoid viewing.

30. Hawaii. Nevada and Southern Mississippi were collectively as sharp as your average butter knife, but let's see you spend a week chilling in Hawaii and then play a quality football game. The best players the NFL has to offer try it every single year and haven't succeeded yet.

31. Pinstripe. The only thing we remember from this game was our wish to travel back to, say, 1998, and explain to a random college football fan that in 2011, Rutgers would win a bowl game in Yankee Stadium that would give them the nation's longest postseason winning streak. (We're still not sure it's actually happening.)

32. Beef 'O' Brady's. Newton's Second Law of Bowl Aesthetics: Whensoever a Game Produces Fewer Offensive Touchdowns Than the Game Has Apostrophes in its Title, That Game Shall Be, Verily, Entirely Terrible.

33. New Mexico. We'd waited so long to be able to sit down and watch a college bowl game, and by halftime we were sort of wishing we'd gotten to wait a little bit longer.

34. BBVA Compass. For two straight years, Pitt has been forced to play in Legion Field on a January weekday afternoon in front of no one under an interim coach against a nondescript opponent. Vs. SMU the Panthers looked like they'd much rather be off somewhere doing something much more fun, like peeling potatoes with their teeth--and we don't blame them a bit.

35. Kraft Fight Hunger. Comedian Patton Oswalt once called a certain famous KFC product a "failure pile in a sadness bowl." Capitalize that B, and we can't think of a better way to describe 2011 Illinois "battling" 2011 UCLA.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. View a preview. Like us? Tell our Facebook page.
Posted on: January 5, 2012 12:45 pm
 

Gamecocks lose Jeffery, Gilmore to NFL Draft

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

South Carolina likely didn't have any illusions about where star receiver Alshon Jeffery was going to play his football next season. But the Gamecocks were no doubt hoping that Jeffery might be the only major early departure for the NFL Draft; the decision made Wednesday by junior corner Stephon Gilmore, however, means that Jeffery will have company on the way out of Columbia.

Both players have now publicly declared for April's draft, with Jeffery relaying his decision to ESPN and Gilmore's mother confirming her son's choice to CBSSports.com RapidReporter Josh Kendall. Gilmore informed the Gamecock coaching staff Wednesday.

"I'm ready for the next step," Jeffery said. "I'm physical and can make plays in the red zone. I can make big plays in big games. I can work on my speed and get quicker. I want to be like Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson."

For Jeffery, the decision was a likely no-brainer. Though the buttoned-up nature of the Gamecocks' 2011 offense (and increased defensive attention without the presence of Marcus Lattimore) saw a sizable decline in Jeffery's numbers, his All-American sophomore season -- 88 catches, 9 touchdowns, and more yards (1,517) than any wideout not playing in a non-BCS league or the state of Oklahoma -- meant he'd already proven just about everything he could prove at the college level. His final collegiate game showed that his immense physical talent is as intact as ever, as he skied for a game-changing Hail Mary and finished with 148 yards in a Capital One Bowl MVP performance.

It wasn't enough for either of our CBSSports.com draft experts to move Jeffery into the first-round of their most recent mock drafts, but a series of good workouts could change things.

Gilmore didn't have nearly Jeffery's nationwide name-recognition, but he arguably had a much larger impact on the Gamecocks' 2011 success than his offensive counterpart; after a subpar 2010, the South Carolina secondary finished second in the nation in pass defense and third in opponent's passer rating, with Gilmore's four interceptions and cover-corner skills playing a large role in that improvement. Our Dan Brugler has Gilmore projected to go to the New England Patriots with the 28th pick of the draft. 

That kind of projection is why the Gamecocks will have some big shoes to fill in the passing game -- on both sides of the ball -- come 2012.

Check out where Jeffery, Gilmore, and all the 2012 draft prospects rank on the CBSSports.com draft board, and follow all the news on early entrants here. 

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. View a preview. Like us? Tell our Facebook page.

Posted on: January 5, 2012 12:45 pm
 

Gamecocks lose Jeffery, Gilmore to NFL Draft

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

South Carolina likely didn't have any illusions about where star receiver Alshon Jeffery was going to play his football next season. But the Gamecocks were no doubt hoping that Jeffery might be the only major early departure for the NFL Draft; the decision made Wednesday by junior corner Stephon Gilmore, however, means that Jeffery will have company on the way out of Columbia.

Both players have now publicly declared for April's draft, with Jeffery relaying his decision to ESPN and Gilmore's mother confirming her son's choice to CBSSports.com RapidReporter Josh Kendall. Gilmore informed the Gamecock coaching staff Wednesday.

"I'm ready for the next step," Jeffery said. "I'm physical and can make plays in the red zone. I can make big plays in big games. I can work on my speed and get quicker. I want to be like Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson."

For Jeffery, the decision was a likely no-brainer. Though the buttoned-up nature of the Gamecocks' 2011 offense (and increased defensive attention without the presence of Marcus Lattimore) saw a sizable decline in Jeffery's numbers, his All-American sophomore season -- 88 catches, 9 touchdowns, and more yards (1,517) than any wideout not playing in a non-BCS league or the state of Oklahoma -- meant he'd already proven just about everything he could prove at the college level. His final collegiate game showed that his immense physical talent is as intact as ever, as he skied for a game-changing Hail Mary and finished with 148 yards in a Capital One Bowl MVP performance.

It wasn't enough for either of our CBSSports.com draft experts to move Jeffery into the first-round of their most recent mock drafts, but a series of good workouts could change things.

Gilmore didn't have nearly Jeffery's nationwide name-recognition, but he arguably had a much larger impact on the Gamecocks' 2011 success than his offensive counterpart; after a subpar 2010, the South Carolina secondary finished second in the nation in pass defense and third in opponent's passer rating, with Gilmore's four interceptions and cover-corner skills playing a large role in that improvement. Our Dan Brugler has Gilmore projected to go to the New England Patriots with the 28th pick of the draft. 

That kind of projection is why the Gamecocks will have some big shoes to fill in the passing game -- on both sides of the ball -- come 2012.

Check out where Jeffery, Gilmore, and all the 2012 draft prospects rank on the CBSSports.com draft board, and follow all the news on early entrants here. 

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. View a preview. Like us? Tell our Facebook page.

Posted on: January 2, 2012 4:29 pm
Edited on: January 5, 2012 12:22 pm
 

QUICK HITS: South Carolina 30, Nebraska 13

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Bowl games haven't been Steve Spurrier's specialty at South Carolina -- he was just 1-4 with the Gamecocks entering Monday's game -- but thanks to another big game from Connor Shaw and a huge play from Alshon Jeffery to close the first half, that might have changed at the Capital One Bowl. The Gamecocks trailed 13-9 when Shaw dialed up a Hail Mary in Jeffery's direction to end the second quarter, and the big junior -- likely playing in his final game as a collegian -- hauled it in and dove into the end zone (see above) for a 16-13 halftime lead.

With Shaw throwing for an efficient 229 yards (13.5 per attempt) and running for 42 more, that was all the momentum the Gamecocks would need. Taylor Martinez was entirely bottled up in the second half, finishing with just 153 total yards of offense (117 passing, 36 rushing) and unable to get his team on the scoreboard over the final two quarters.

WHY SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Because with Martinez always erratic in the pass game and the dynamic Gamecock front always likely to cause some problems with the Husker ground game, Nebraska couldn't afford to waste opportunities--especially ones that could have put them in firm control of the game. But that's precisely what they did late in the first half, when Ameer Abdullah picked up a first down on a 3rd-and-3 from the Gamecock 8, his team on the verge of extending their 13-9 lead to double-digits ... and then got hit by D.J. Swearinger and fumbled the ball away.

The Huskers could have retaken the lead after Jeffery's Hail Mary, driving to a first-and-goal at the Carolina 8 on their first drive of the third quarter. First down: crazy pass from Martinez for loss of 8. Second: rush for 5. Third: delay of game. Then a screen for a loss of 2. Fourth: a missed 35-yard field goal, Brett Maher's first miss from under 40 this season. The Huskers would go on to commit four penalties on their next drive and never threatened again. The Gamecocks were the better team, but if Nebraska had been able to keep their composure in the red zon, they could have at least stayed competitive.

WHEN SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Taking over up 23-13 with just over 9 minutes to play, Shaw led the Gamecocks on a methodical, clock-killing march that would eventually burn off more than 6 minutes and end with a Kenny Miles touchdown, putting the game entirely out of the Huskers' reach.

THAT WAS CRAZY: If this was indeed the final game for Jeffery and star Nebraska corner Alfonzo Dennard, their careers didn't end the way either player would have liked. The pair scuffled after a third-quarter play, with Dennard throwing a series of punches and Jeffery delivering a two-handed shove to Dennard's facemask; both players were ejected. And though Jeffery is the bigger name nationally, the Huskers seemed to suffer more from Dennard's ejection, their secondary losing its way over the remainder of the game.

WHAT SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Their 11th game of the season, for the first time in school history. Though the Gamecocks were always aiming for a repeat trip to the SEC title game, 11-2 with Shaw and Marcus Lattimore returning isn't a bad consolation.

WHAT NEBRASKA LOST: Their fourth game of the 2011 campaign, wrapping up the Huskers' first year in the Big Ten at 9-4. Bo Pelini has now lost his last two bowl games.

FINAL GRADE: The first half had the makings of a classic, with both teams exchanging big plays and long drives, capped by the Hail Mary lightning bolt. But the second was a major letdown, with the Huskers totally unabe to get out of their own way and Carolina slowly squeezing the life out of Nebraska's chances--and the game. B-.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview

Posted on: December 30, 2011 9:19 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Capital One Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

SOUTH CAROLINA WILL WIN IF: Connor Shaw plays in Orlando the way he has back home at Brice-Williams Stadium. With Marcus Lattimore out and Alshon Jeffery only narrowly showing up on the side of a milk carton, Shaw emerged as the Gamecocks No. 1 offensive threat down the stretch, peaking in the season finale vs. Clemson with a 14-of-20, 210-yard, 3 TD, no pick, 107 rushing yard MVP performance. But that wasn't all that unusual for Shaw when it came to playing in Columbia; in the four games he played at home (plus a cameo against Vanderbilt), Shaw was 63-for-91 (69 percent) for 9.1 yards an attempt and a 10-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio, not to mention 341 of his 482 rushing yards. Away from Brice-Williams? Shaw was 49-of-80 (61 percent) for 4.8 yards an attempt and a 2-to-4 TD-to-INT ratio. 

Nebraska has struggled mightily with offenses led by dual-threat quarterbacks like Shaw, giving up 418 yards to Denard Robinson's Michigan, 468 to Dan Persa's Northwestern, 486 to Russell Wilson's Wisconsin. If Shaw treats the neutral Citrus Bowl like a home venue, he should have more than enough leeway from the Huskers D to propel the Gamecocks to victory. If he has a relapse of those road blues, though, it's not like there's a whole lot else on the Gamecock offense to save him.

NEBRASKA WILL WIN IF: they can open up some running holes. This is easier said than done, of course; the Gamecocks boast a veteran senior starter at DT in Travian Robertson and arguably the nation's best set of defensive ends in Melvin Ingram, Devin Taylor, and Jadeveon Clowney. But Carolina still finished just 44th in rush defense nationally and sixth in the SEC, giving up 130 yards or more on the ground in seven different games. The option attacks of Navy and the Citadel, in particular, gave them fits, a promising development for the Huskers' read option looks with Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead.

But if Martinez and Burkhead can't get it going -- if Robertson can't be moved out of the middle, if Ingram, Taylor and Clowney blow up the option -- the Huskers will be in trouble. Martinez's struggles as a passer meant that when Nebraska ran for 180 yards or more, they were a perfect 9-0. When they didn't? They went an equally imperfect 0-3. Where the Huskers are concerned, it's go nuts on the ground, or go bust.

THE X-FACTOR: Whether or not Carolina wants to play this game. For all the good Steve Spurrier has done at South Carolina, he hasn't yet solved the dilemma of how to get his Gamecocks ready for the postseason; he's 1-4 with the 'Cocks overall and winless against BCS competition, with the last three losses coming by an average of 14.3 points. It goes more-or-less without saying that even with this being Spurrier's first 10-win team with Carolina, they're still nowhere good enough to no-show and still beat a nine-win Big Ten team like Nebraska.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview

Posted on: December 18, 2011 4:16 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 4:20 pm
 

2012 NFL Draft Early Entry Tracker



Posted by Chip Patterson


With many draft-eligible juniors deciding to file the official evaluation paperwork with with NFL, we take a look at the hottest prospects with the option of declaring for the 2012 NFL Draft. Of the 32 players on Rob Rang's latest Big Board, 19 of them are eligible to return to school for at least one more season.

Keep up the marquee names from Rob's Big Board, with a few notable additions here at the CBSSports.com NFL Draft Early Entry Tracker.

[Updated Dec. 21]

Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 1
What's Next: Fiesta Bowl vs. Oklahoma State, Jan. 2
The Latest: In a surprise to no one, Luck believes he is "absolutely" ready to enter the NFL.

Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 2
What's Next: USC finished the season 10-2, but was ineligible for the postseason due to NCAA sanctions.
The Latest: Matt Barkley has decided to return to USC for his senior season.

Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 3
What's Next: BCS National Championship Game vs. LSU, Jan. 9
The Latest: Richardson has decided not to make his decision until after the title game. He suggested that he would return for another year earlier in the season, but his tone has changed since the completion of the Tide's regular season. "I'm going to sit down with coach and my mom after the last game of the season and see what's best for me and my family and see what's best for the team," Richardson explained.

Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 4
What's Next: USC finished the season 10-2, but was ineligible for the postseason due to NCAA sanctions.
The Latest: Kalil ended any hopes of a "package deal" return with Matt Barkley when he announced his intentions to enter the NFL Draft.

Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 5
What's Next: BCS National Championship Game vs. Alabama, Jan. 9
The Latest: Claiborne won't make his decision official until after the title game, but many LSU fans expect he will take advantage of his high stock and make the jump after this season.

Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 6
What's Next: Alamo Bowl vs. Washington, Dec. 29
The Latest: Griffin hasn't committed to returning to Baylor for another season, but he hasn't announced the intention to turn pro either. However, his parents are reportedly interviewing prospective agents. So there's that.

Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 7
What's Next: Fiesta Bowl vs. Stanford, Jan. 2
The Latest: Blackmon ended the speculation early and has already declared his intentions to enter the NFL Draft. "I think it's just time. It's that time to go. I came back last year to win a Big 12 championship, set us up for a BCS bowl and I think we did that," Blackmon said.

David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 8
What's Nextst: Fiesta Bowl vs. Oklahoma State, Jan. 2
The Latest: CBSSports.com's Rob Rang reports that DeCastro will indeed enter the 2012 NFL Draft, capitalizing on his status as one of the top interior lineman in the class.

Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 11
What's Next: Insight Bowl vs. Oklahoma, Dec. 30
The Latest: Reiff has started the last 25 Hawkeye games, but will not make his decision until he plays at least one more. "I haven't really thought about [the NFL Draft] yet at all," Reiff said. "When the time is right, I'll sit down and think about it. Right now, I'm just worried about the bowl and bowl preparations."

'Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 12
What's Next: BCS National Championship Game vs. LSU, Jan. 9
The Latest: Kirkpatrick has not addressed the NFL Draft, and likely will not until after the title game. Some scouts have considered Kirkpatrick a little raw, which may lead to his return for another year at Alabama. But the All-American corner has not given any hint which way he is leaning.

Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 13
What's Next: Fiesta Bowl vs. Oklahoma State, Jan. 2
The Latest: Martin is considered the second best tackle in the class behind Kalil, who reportedly has decided to make the leap to the NFL. Martin has yet to give any hint which way he is leaning, though with such a high position in the eyes of most scouts it would not be surprising to see him go.

Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 14
What's Next: Boston College finished the season 4-8, missing the postseason for the first time since 1998.
The Latest: The star linebacker broke school and ACC records for career tackles after leading the nation for the second year in a row with 191 tackles in 2011. The Lombardi Award winner said he hopes to announce his plans for next season "shortly after Christmas."

Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 19
What's Next: Memphis finished the season 2-10, TCU co-offensive coordinator Justin Fuente was hired to replace Larry Porter as head coach. The Tigers went 3-21 in two seasons under Porter.
The Latest: Poe has "just been focusing on the here and now" and is in the process of gathering information on his draft stock. After Memphis' final game he said his mother, Sandra, will have the final say.

Mohammed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 23
What's Next: Pinstripe Bowl vs. Iowa State, Dec. 30
The Latest: The official word from Rutgers' athletic department is that no underclassmen have made a decision regarding the NFL Draft, but a report last week in Metro New York claims Sanu has informed the coaching staff of his decision to return to the Scarlet Knights for one more season.

Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 24
What's Next: Music City Bowl vs. Wake Forest, Dec. 30
The Latest: Cox will not address the decision to enter the NFL Draft until after the Music City Bowl. Head coach Dan Mullen said all of the juniors, including Cox, have filed their draft evaluation papers with the NFL.

Nick Perry, DE, USC
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 25
What's Next: USC finished the season 10-2, but was ineligible for the postseason due to NCAA sanctions.
The Latest: Perry is reportedly joining Kalil in the 2012 NFL Draft class.

Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 26
What's Next: Orange Bowl vs. West Virginia, Jan. 4
The Latest: Dwayne Allen has submitted the NFL paperwork for an official analysis from the league, but will not make his final decision until likely early January. That will give him two weeks to make a decision before the Jan. 15 deadline.

Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 27
What's Next: Outback Bowl vs. Georgia, Jan. 2
The Latest: Worthy told The Grand Rapids Press a decision regarding the NFL Draft would be made after the Outback Bowl.

Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: 32
What's Next: After a 6-6 finish, Miami declared themselves ineligible for the postseason in response to the current NCAA inquiry into the football program.
The Latest: Lamar Miller has already declared his intentions to enter the 2012 NFL Draft.

Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: NR
What's Next: Capital One Bowl vs. Nebraska, Jan. 2
The Latest: Jeffery has submitted the evaluation paperwork to the NFL, and will reportedly make his decision after getting his response in early January.

Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: NR
What's Next: Rose Bowl vs. Oregon, Jan. 2
The Latest: Peter Konz has also submitted the official evaluation paperwork with the NFL, and will not address the decision until after the Rose Bowl. Konz missed the final three games of the season with an ankle injury, but is expected to begin practicing again soon.

Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: NR
What's Next: Insight Bowl vs. Iowa, Dec. 30
The Latest: Jones has applied for draft evaluation, and recently acknowledged starting to think about the decision "a little bit more."  He will likely wait until after the bowl game, and hearing the results of his evaluation from the league.  “If it's right for me to go, I'm going to go," Jones explained on Tuesday.  "If it's right for me to stay, I'm going to stay. I just have to kind of think about it a little bit more.”

Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: NR
What's Next: BCS National Championship Game vs. LSU, Jan. 9
The Latest: Hightower will not make an official decision until after the bowl game, but many expect the All-American linebacker to make the jump after this season.

Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: NR
What's Next: Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl vs. UCLA, Dec. 31
The Latest: The All-American defensive end has been busy collecting end-of-season honors and has not made an official announcement, but Sports Illustrated's Tony Pauline reports that Mecilus will likely forgo his final season with the Illini and go pro.

Stephen Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: NR
What's Next: Capital One Bowl vs. Nebraska, Jan. 2
The Latest: Like Jeffery and the rest of the South Carolina juniors, Gilmore has applied for evaluation from the NFL.  Assistant coach Lorenzo Ward believes a "first or second round grade" from the evaluation would convince the junior to enter the draft.

Orson Charles, TE, Georgia
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: NR
What's Next: Outback Bowl vs. Michigan State, Jan. 2
The Latest: Charles has applied for NFL evaluation along with the rest of his draft eligible teammates. "It's really going to come down to what the Lord wants me to do," Charles explained. "I'm going to pray about it, talk to my family and definitely wait until after the Michigan State game, and take it from there."

Bacarri Rambo, S, Georgia
Rob Rang's Big Board Rank: NR
What's Next: Outback Bowl vs. Michigan State, Jan. 2
The Latest: Like Charles, Rambo has publicly delayed the decision until after the bowl game and hearing a response from the league's draft evaluation.  Rambo leads the SEC with seven interceptions and was named an AP First Team All-American, but wants to see "what everyone thinks of me and what I can improve on."


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Posted on: December 7, 2011 8:24 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 11:53 pm
 

CBSSports.com 2011 All-SEC team

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The season has wrapped, the bowl games are set and it's time to hand out some awards. As part of CBSSports.com's look at the regular season, here is the best of the SEC.

Awards

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR 

Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama. No SEC player was more electrifying to watch on a weekly basis than the Tide workhorse, whose raw strength and unmatched determination could turn an average four-yard gain (usually into the teeth of half the opposing defense) into must-see TV. Of course, the elusive, explosive 70-plus-yard bursts -- like his showstoppers against Ole Miss and Auburn -- weren't too shabby, either. Few have ever combined those gifts like Richardson, and no one in the SEC was any better this season.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU. Claiborne wasn't just the best one-on-one man-coverage corner we saw this season, bar-none, SEC or elsewhere--he might have been the best defender we saw this season, SEC or elsewhere. By erasing his side of the field (except for those lone occasions when he was tested and -- as AJ McCarron found out -- usually ready to make a pick), Claiborne set the tone for the best secondary in the country and played arguably the biggest role of any LSU defender in getting the Tigers to the national title game.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Les Miles, LSU. James Franklin 
has earned legitimate consideration for his work at Vanderbilt. But when you look at not only the juggernaut constructed by Miles in Baton Rouge but his ability in steering it through the storms of the preseason bar fight incident, suspensions, and quarterback controversy, there's not really any other choice to make in this slot.

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR

Brad Wing, P, LSU. A punter, over a running back like Isaiah Crowell? When we're talking about the nation's third-best net punting average for a No. 1-ranked prfect-record team that thrived on field position, you bet. That Wing's best two games came at the best possible times -- at Alabama and vs. Georgia in Atlanta -- makes his selection even easier.

Offense

QUARTERBACK

Tyler Wilson, Jr., Arkansas. It was far from a banner year for quarterbacking in the SEC -- only three teams were even able to keep the same starter for all 12 games -- but you wouldn't know it from watching Wilson, whose 3,422 passing yards led the league by nearly 600 yards. No team in the conference was more dependent on their quarterback, but despite taking frequent poundings behind a suspect line Wilson repaid that faith to the tune of a 10-2 record.

Honorable mention: Georgia's Aaron Murray led the league with 33 touchdowns and was the East champions' clearcut best offensive player, but his 12 interceptions were also an SEC high. AJ McCarron struggled for Alabama in the LSU showdown but still finished the year with an SEC-best QB rating and that spot in the BCS title game.

RUNNING BACK

Trent Richardson, Jr., Alabama. It won't win him the Heisman Trophy, but Richardson's brilliant 2011 season -- 1,583 yards, 23 total touchdowns, an eye-popping 6.0 per-carry average despite a league-high 263 carries, and more highlight-reel runs than any running back in the country -- deserves to have cemented his status among the SEC's all-time backfield greats. Not even his predecessor Mark Ingram was ever better.

Michael Dyer, Soph., Auburn. The only back besides Richardson to average more than 100 yards per SEC game, Dyer was often the only thing the sputtering Auburn offense had going for it--and he still finished with 1,242 yards while averaging better than 5 yards a carry.

Honorable mention: Vanderbilt's Zac Stacy quietly enjoyed a breakout season as the league's second-most explosive back behind Richardson, scoring 13 touchdowns and averaging 6.2 yards a carry.

WIDE RECEIVER

Jarius Wright, Sr. Arkansas. Though not the most heralded of the Hogs' star-studded receiving corps entering the season, Wright quickly established himself as Wilson's go-to receiver and arguably the league's top wideout, finishing in the SEC's top two in receptions (63), yards (1,029), touchdowns (11), and average per reception (16.3).

Da'Rick Rogers, Soph., Tennessee. Like Wright, Rogers was supposed to take a back seat to fellow Vol wideout Justin Hunter. But when Hunter went down with an ACL injury in Week 3, Hunter stepped forward to lead the SEC with 1,040 receiving yards and 67 receptions--despite often being the woeful Volunteer offense's only threatening playmaker.

Rueben Randle, Jr., LSU. Rather than take a tight end, we're promoting a third receiver to our first team to make room for the SEC's biggest downfield threat. Randle caught "only" 50 passes (fourth in the conference) but saw eight of them go for touchdowns and averaged 18.1 yards per completion, making him one of only three BCS-conference receivers nationally to clear both 50 total catches and 18 yards a reception.

Honorable mention: If we'd gone with a tight end, Georgia's Orson Charles (44 receptions, 572 yards, 5 TDs) would have been an easy choice. Alshon Jeffery didn't have anything like the All-American season expected of him at South Carolina, but he was still the only receiver outside Wright, Rogers, and Randle to finish in the league's top seven in receptions, yards, and touchdowns.

OFFENSIVE LINE

OT/OG Barrett Jones, Sr., Alabama. Whether at guard or tackle, Jones was hands-down one of the nation's best offensive linemen and a deserving All-American who's about to become quite the wealthy individual in the NFL. An easy selection.

OG Will Blackwell, Sr., LSU. The league's best prototype guard this season, Blackwell punished opponents in run blocking and played a major role in LSU's weekly second-half bulldozings on the ground.

C William Vlachos, Sr., Alabama. The SEC's best center, Vlachos put both his considerable strength and veteran guile to use in leading Alabama to the SEC's most productive rushing attack.

OT Alex Hurst, Sr., LSU. As effective as the LSU ground game was, the line also had to give Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson time to uncork those bombs to Randle. And thanks in large part to senior tackle Hurst, they did; the Tigers allowed the fewest sacks in the SEC.

OT Rokevious Watkins, Sr., South Carolina. Even without Marcus Lattimore, the Gamecocks averaged more yards per-carry and scored more rushing touchdowns than any team in the league outside of Alabama and LSU, and the much-improved Watkins was a huge reason why.

Honorable mention: Both Georgia tackle Cordy Glenn and center Ben Jones had strong senior campaigns (following) iffier junior seasons and have strong arguments for first-team inclusion. Kentucky never got anything going on offense, but guard Larry Warford was a bright spot.

ALL-PURPOSE

PR/WR/KR Joe Adams, Sr., Arkansas. Instead of reading this comment or looking up his stats, just watch this video:
 

Defense

DEFENSIVE LINE

DE Melvin Ingram, Sr, South Carolina. His 13.5 sacks and 8.5 sacks -- both among the SEC's top five totals -- might have been enough anyway. Add in his two defensive touchdowns, critical fake punt touchdown rumble vs. Georgia, and skill at kick-blocking, and he's a total no-brainer.

DT Josh Chapman, Sr., Alabama. When you're the nose tackle that anchors a run defense that not only finishes No. 1 in the nation but allows an unbelievable three rushing touchdowns all season, yes, you've had quite the campaign.

DT Malik Jackson, Sr., Tennessee. Don't hold the Vols' poor team numbers (or record) against Jackson; the ever-active veteran finished with 11 tackles-for-loss (second among SEC tackles) despite receiving constant attention from opposing offensive lines.

DE Sam Montgomery, Soph., LSU. Picking the best LSU defensive lineman is like picking which cast member of Arrested Development How I Met Your Mother is your favorite, but we'll go with Montgomery, who combined incredible disruption (9 sacks, 13 tackles-for-loss) with stout down-to-down run defense.

Honorable mention: Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox led all SEC tackles in tackles-for-loss with 12.5 and Auburn's Corey Lemonier led all SEC ends with 9.5 sacks; both deserve a tip of the cap.

LINEBACKERS

Jarvis Jones, Soph., Georgia. Todd Grantham's 3-4 system made a star out of Justin Houston a year ago, but it paid even bigger dividends for Jones, who led the SEC in both tackles-for-loss and sacks and his Georgia defense -- one of the nation's best -- in tackles overall.

Courtney Upshaw, Sr., Alabama. Of the many terrors in the Tide linebacking corps, Upshaw may have been the biggest, collecting 17.5 tackles-for-loss, 8.5 sacks, and as much general havoc caused as any player in the country.

Danny Trevathan, Sr., Kentucky. No SEC player filled the whirling-dervish tackling-machine middle linebacker role better than the veteran Wildcat, who led the league in tackles for a second straight year and seemed to be three or four places at once late in the season.

Honorable mention: We're pretty sure that Crimson Tide inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower makes the first team in any other league in the nation; given the Tide's unreal rushing defense numbers and Hightower's role in them, we won't argue if you want to put him first in this league, too.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Jr., Alabama. Much as we've talked up Alabama's run defense, the Tide's pass defense was No. 1, too, and Kirkpatrick was the best player in pass coverage Nick Saban had in 2011--quite the accomplishment considering the competition.

CB Morris Claiborne, Jr., LSU. As much as we admire Claiborne's mustelid teammate in the LSU secondary, Claiborne's outrageous cover-corner skills means that if forced to pick one or the other to build our secondary (or team) around, we don't even have to think very long before taking Claiborne.

S Mark Barron, Sr., Alabama. Ho-hum, just another All-American season as the leader of the nation's top pass defense and the second-leading tackler on the nation's top rush defense.

CB/S Tyrann Mathieu, Soph., LSU. The Honey Badger is a tad overrated as a corner--which is why he wound up playing safety late in the year when Eric Reid suffered an injury. But it's pretty much impossible to overrate his nose for the ball or knack for the big play, which stands alone as the best in the nation.

Honorable mention: Casey Hayward and his five interceptions (and outstanding ball skills) for Vandy could and maybe should have him in the All-American discussion ... but since this is the SEC secondary we're talking about, he's here. The same goes for Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo and LSU's Reid, and though not quite in that class, Mississippi State corner Johnthan Banks had a season worth mentioning as well.

SPECIALISTS

P Brad Wing, rFr., LSU. We're assuming the Ray Guy Award voters left him off because they expected to simply hand the thing over each of the next two seasons.

PK Caleb Sturgis, Jr. Florida. His 21-of-25 season was a rare positive for the Gators in difficult season.
Posted on: November 13, 2011 1:58 am
Edited on: November 14, 2011 5:25 pm
 

SEC Winners and Losers, Week 11

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



WINNER: Atlanta ticket brokers. Not that there's ever any shortage of demand for the SEC championship game, but with the A-T-L's biggest college football team (sorry, Georgia Tech) officially on their way to the Georgia Dome, that hometown demand should drive prices clean through the roof.

Wait, whaddya mean, "not officially"? The only thing standing between Georgia and their trip to Atlanta is a home game against Kentucky, the same team that spent its Saturday getting drilled 38-8 by Vanderbilt. It's more likely some sort of bizarre last-minute eligibility scandal -- Bacarri Rambo busted for selling prime Sanford Stadium hedge clippings, or something -- keeps the Dawgs from the East crown than the Wildcats do. Arrange the days off, book the hotels, scalp the tickets--for the first time since 2005, Georgia's going to play for the SEC title. 

LOSER: The ghost of Willie Martinez. So why have the Dawgs made the leap? The friendliest possible league schedule has had a lot to do with it -- if Georgia goes to Arkansas and it's South Carolina who gets to visit Ole Miss, the Gamecocks are booking their tickets today -- but it's also true that as much hand-wringing as there's been over the Dawgs' struggles since 2005 at quarterback, the offensive line, running back, play-calling, etc, their biggest problem has always been on the defensive side of the ball. And in his second season after replacing the exiled, despised Willie Martinez as Georgia's defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham has those problems nearly solved. His unit ranks in the national top 10 in rush defense, pass defense, and total defense, and showed why vs. Auburn. Clint Moseley got no time to throw, Michael Dyer found precious little room to run, Rambo made the biggest play of the game with a pick-six, and the bottom line was that a Tiger offense that had scored 41 points two weeks earlier got none after their opening drive.

After that performance, it's safe to declare the specter of Mr. Martinez's failures fully exorcised.

WINNER: Hangovers. You play the Game of the Century one week, maybe it shouldn't be a surprise you don't quite play with your hair on fire the next. So even though they're LSU and Alabama, LSU and Alabama still took their leisurely time putting away outmatched opponents in Western Kentucky and Mississippi State, respectively. (The Hilltoppers a little more outmatched than the Bulldogs, obviously.) No one's immune to the week-after effect, apparently.

LOSER: The Rematch Resistance. Hangovers or no hangovers, though, LSU-Alabama II: Rematch of the Century took a big step closer to reality Saturday with both Stanford and Boise State falling from the ranks of the unbeaten. With Oregon unlikely to be any more palatable a rematch opponent for the Tigers than the Tide is, the only hurdle for Alabama to clear appears to be whichever team wins Bedlam: Oklahoma State would be undefeated and home-free, of course, but Oklahoma might also stake a claim with plenty of computer power and the voters' aversion to a sequel. But with that Texas Tech loss looking less and less explicable by the day, the educated guess here is that a Sooner win would send the Tide on for a second crack at the Tigers.

WINNER: Joe Adams. Because seriously:

LOSERS: Ole Miss supporters. Facing a substantially less-talented Louisiana Tech squad at home Saturday, the Rebels had a terrific opportunity to 1. rally for their fired head coach Houston Nutt 2. snap their six-game losing streak 3. show some kind of pride in their program and themselves regardless of the off-field distractions and coaching turnover. Instead they lost to the visitors from Ruston by three full touchdowns in what has to go down as the worst, most embarrassing nonconference loss for an SEC team this season. The Rebels still have two games to play this season -- at home to LSU and at Mississippi State -- and we don't envy anyone from Oxford compelled to watch either one.

WINNER: Steve Spurrier. The Gamecocks won't be going back to Atlanta. They won't make any kind of dent in the national title race. They won't go down in history as some great team gone unrewarded, not having now won three SEC games in which they scored 17 points or fewer and having been the only SEC team to host Auburn and not blow the Tigers out of the water. Marcus Lattimore won't win the Heisman, Alshon Jeffery won't be named All-American or even All-SEC (today's tally: 2 receptions, 17 yards), and the less said about Stephen Garcia the better. 

So on many, many levels, this 2011 season is a disappointment ... and on the other, even for all of those struggles, the Gamecocks have just won 6 SEC games for the first time ever. As Spurrier noted, they've gone 6-0 the past two seasons vs. their main East rivals at Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida. And in players like Jadeveon Clowney, Brandon Wilds and tackle Cody Gibson, there's still plenty of young talent to groom. The specific goal was to win another East title, and Spurrier failed at that. But maybe the larger, more important goal was to prove that 2010 wasn't a fluke  --  that the old annual November swoon, perpetual also-ran Gamecocks were gone for good -- and on that count Spurrier has succeeded, without question. If he wasn't already the best coach in the Gamecocks' history, this 2011 season means he is now. 

LOSER: Derek Dooley. Any talk of removing the second-year head man at Tennessee is wildly premature; if Tyler Bray and Justin Hunter are still healthy, who knows what the Vols' record is? And Dooley of course had nothing to do with a schedule that handed his team LSU, Arkansas, and Alabama out of the west. But it's one thing to lose a lot of games -- even SEC games, even six such games in a row -- and another to look as hopeless as the Vols did in their drubbing at Arkansas. Dooley's already been more good than outstanding on the recruiting trail, and if he loses next week to James Franklin and Vandy, the knives are going to really come out among the Vol faithful ... and that recruiting job is only going to get harder. 

(Gene Chizik isn't in the same boat, but he deserves a mention here all the same. The 4-3 SEC record isn't bad, but in the non-Ole Miss portion of the schedule, those three wins have come by a total of 21 points and the three losses by 97. With a defense that Chizik has a major hand in the main culprit, those blowouts suggest last year's national champion has a lot of work to do between now and 2012.)


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