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Tag:Raijon Neal
Posted on: November 26, 2011 4:18 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Kentucky 10, Tennessee 7

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

KENTUCKY WON: 
In and of itself, not a big deal. But they won against Tennessee. Kentucky never beats Tennessee. They hadn't done it in 26 years. They'd had a dozen golden opportunities over the years and never pulled it off. Apparently, what they needed was to plug in a wide receiver at quarterback and let him operate out of the Wildcat nearly the entire game; Matt Roark ran for 152 yards and tailback CoShik Williams added 68 yards and the one second-half touchdown the Wildcats would need. The much-maligned Kentucky defense held Tyler Bray below a 50 percent completion rate and picked him off twice -- once on the Vols' 4th-and-17 final desperate play -- and of course the Tennessee running game added nothing. Result? Wildcats 10, Vols 7. Yes, Virginia, Kentucky can beat Tennessee.

WHY KENTUCKY WON: As much attention as Joker Phillips' decision to go to Roark at quarterback and completely forsake the terrible Wildcat passing game will get -- Kentucky only attempted 6 passes, completing four of them for all of 15 yards -- this game was ultimately about how flat-out awful the Volunteer offense became over the second half of this season. Shooting blanks against Alabama or LSU or with Justin Worley at the helm is one thing; with Bray under center and facing the nation's 64th-ranked defense, the Vols should have been able to put at least a few points on the board, right? 

Aside from one 54-yard bomb from Bray to Raijon Neal that gave Tennessee a brief glimmer of second-half hope: entirely wrong. Bray averaged a just-better-than-terrible 5.7 yards an attempt, thanks half in part to some scattershot throws and half due to the Vol receivers failing repeatedly to get open. As always, the Tennessee running game did nothing, netting 61 yards on 24 carries. And with the game on the line in the fourth quarter, the Vol line could not keep Kentucky's defensive line off of Bray--thus the game coming down to "4th-and-17."

Derek Dooley is about to have a flamethrower taken to him by Vol fans and the Knoxville media, not that it will keep him from a third year at the helm. But his inability to find any way to get the Tennessee offense moving at all -- especially when contrasted with Phillips's ingenuity with Roark -- means some of that heat is justified.

WHEN TENNESSEE LOST: When Taiedo Smith picked off Bray on that 4th-and-17 from Tennessee's 31. With fewer than 90 seconds left and no Vol timeouts remaining, all that was left was the Wildcat victory formation.

WHAT KENTUCKY WON: I think they'll be happy with snapping the nation's longest annual series losing streak, don't you?

WHAT TENNESSEE LOST: Not only did the loss end the nation's longest annual series winning streak, not only will it crank up the heat on Dooley's seat to the hottest levels in the SEC (and maybe the nation), but this loss drops Tennessee to 5-7 overall--and will leave the Vols home for bowl season, depriving them not only of the prestige and payout but the extra practice that Dooley's young team desperately needs. There's no way to spin this as anything less than a total disaster for the Vols and their head coach. 

Posted on: September 27, 2011 3:13 pm
 

SEC RapidReport roundup: Auburn WR Reed out

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Running down everything you need to know from the current news in the SEC, courtesy of our CBSSports.com RapidReporters (and others).

AUBURN. After last week's decidedly ho-hum display against FAU, it's safe to say the Tigers will need every offensive weapon they can get facing South Carolina this Saturday in Columbia. But one weapon they won't have is redshirt freshman receiver Trovon Reed, who Gene Chizik said yesterday was doubtful for the game with a shoulder injury suffered vs. the Owls. He then confirmed today that Reed will not play against the Gamecocks. Reed has collected 13 receptions so far this season for 91 yards, making him Auburn's second-most productive receiver to date.

The matchup against Carolina will be broadcast on CBS at 3:30 ET Saturday. The Tigers will likely stick with the simplified cover 2 defensive schemes that led to (somewhat) better results against FAU. The inexperienced Tiger offensive line doesn't have its chemistry perfected yet, says senior guard Jared Cooper--potentially a major issue confronting the Gamecocks' beastly defensive line.

ALABAMA. The Tigers' cross-state rivals have their own injury worry with linebacker C.J. Mosley "questionable" for the Tide's showdown with Florida (8 p.m. ET Saturday, also on CBS). Nick Saban said Mosley would be replaced by committee, with Dont'a Hightower adding that no one would be "the equivalent" of Mosley, but that he has confidence in the Tide's linebacking depth.

The game is a homecoming of sorts for Florida native Trent Richardson, whose high school team's nickname was the Gators. Richardson said he raced against Gator speedster Jeff Demps in high school. "For the first 40 meters we were going at it. After that, it wasn’t a race. I think after 80 meters he was 10 meters, maybe 20 meters in front of me," he said.

FLORIDA. The story of the Gators' season so far has been the revitalization of the Jeff Demps-Chris Rainey tag team, but Will Muschamp says there's still more to see. "They’re going to touch the ball," Muschamp said Monday. "The touches we get them could be different and not as conventional as we’ve seen." But Muschamp said that despite those tweaks, the strength of Alabama's run defense meant John Brantley would throw the ball more often as well.

Muschamp said he knows former mentor Saban well--but that it won't help the Gators' preparation, since Saban knows him just as well.

GEORGIA. Bulldog center Ben Jones clipped Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox during the two teams' 2010 meeting, and revealed in advance of this week's rematch that he felt poorly enough about it to write Cox a letter of apology. "I felt bad when I got home," Jones said. "I was like, `Man, that’s wrong.’ "

On the Dawg injury front, linebacker Christian Robinson could return from the foot injury that's kept him out the past two weeks, but lineman Chris Burnette may be out longer than initially thought with his knee injury.

ELSEWHERE: Arkansas senior corner Isaac Madison left the Alabama game with a minor injury, but will return against Texas A&M. Fellow senior defensive back Tramain Thomas also left the game, but for reasons Bobby Petrino said were performance-related ... Despite his strong start to his career (team-high four sacks, five tackles-for-loss, three forced fumbles), Jadeveon Clowney still won't start just yet. Melvin Ingram (the SEC's reigning Defensive Player of the Week ) and Devin Taylor remain the team's bookend DEs in their base defense ...

Tennessee
all-purpose back Raijon Neal will focus on the wide receiver position for now ... Injured Vol teammate Herman Lathers was able to jog for 20 minutes at practice Monday. The veteran linebacker is working his way back from breaking his ankle in the spring ... While acknowledging that Texas A&M's move to the SEC was "great for the Southeastern Conference and great for us," Les Miles also added that he found the splintering of the Big 12 "inconceivable." "It's hard for me to figure this," he said. "You're taking the traditional rivalries and throwing them out the window" ... None of the four players who left the West Virginia game with injuries have been ruled out of this Saturday's game against Kentucky ...

Mississippi State is reshuffling its offensive line in advance of their trip to Georgia, with former left tackle James Carmon working at right guard after his recent MCL injury ... Last year, Ole Miss ran for more yards in one game against this week's opponent -- Fresno State -- than they have this year in all four games combined ... One bright spot for Kentucky as they get ready for their trip to Death Valley: senior defensive tackle Mark Crawford will return from a four-game suspension.

Posted on: April 27, 2011 5:49 pm
 

What I Learned This Spring: SEC East

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

With all six spring games completed, we wrap up spring practice in the SEC East, team by team. In alphabetical order:


FLORIDA: When spring began, we said the Gators might have the most interesting offense in the country. Urban Meyer's former spread-option death machine, destroyed and rebuilt from the ground up, by none other than Charlie Weis, in the image of the steady no-frills pro-style attacks Will Muschamp saw work for old boss Nick Saban, as piloted by 2011-or-bust quarterback John Brantley? That's quite the storyline they've got going there.

But the Gators will have to hope it's a story that will be rewritten come the fall. While no one was expecting the offense to look like Weis's old New England Patriot attacks after three weeks of practice, no one was expecting it to put on a 13-10 spring game universally panned as a hideous eyesore, either. Brantley went an ugly 4-of-14 after missing his first six passes, the leading rusher was a walk-on defensive back, and the entire offensive output for the game amounted to 340 yards.

Much of that can be pinned on a wicked rash of injuries that took out most of the offensive line, an entire stable of running backs, multiple receivers, etc.; encouragingly, much of it can also be pinned on a rampaging defensive line led by Sharrif Floyd, Dominique Easley and Ronald Powell, all members of Meyer's loaded 2010 class and all looking posied to make good on their five-star hype. But the bottom line is that much of it can also be pinned squarely on Brantley, who Muschamp and his other coaches universally lauded for an excellent spring but who showed little of that alleged improvement when playing in public.

Does it matter? Give him a solid summer and a solid fall camp, and it may not. But until Brantley proves he's something other than what he's appeared to be since the moment Tim Tebow left -- in over his head -- skepticism is in order.

GEORGIA: The biggest question entering the most critical spring of Mark Richt's spring tenure concerned the Bulldogs' biggest players: could their offensive line bounce back? When you have Aaron Murray, Orson Charles, a fleet of talented (if still unproven) receivers, and eventually Isaiah Crowell, if you have a line, you're going to have a heck of an offense.

There was good news and bad news on that front, the latter a devastating torn ACL suffered by fifth-senior and projected starting tackle Trinton Sturdivant. But there were positives, too, namely a terrific spring from potential All-SEC  center Ben Jones and guard-to-tackle position switch Cordy Glenn. G-day primary tailbacks Ken Malcome and Caleb King combined for 69 yards on 12 carries, a not-so-shabby 5.8 yards per-carry. Overall, the line was impressive enough this spring that senior Justin Anderson -- billed as a potential starter on the OL -- has been moved to defense.

The Dawgs had themselves a fine spring on the defensive front as well, with newly bulked-up nose tackle Kwame Geathers the talk of the Bulldogs' spring camp and converted safety Alec Ogletree providing a big boost the linebacking corps. The secondary is unsettled and one of those aforementioned receivers needs to emerge as a go-to target for Murray, but if the improvements in the front seven and offensive line aren't mirages, the Bulldogs wil be back in the thick of the East race all the same.

KENTUCKY: Consider it a successful second spring for Joker Phillips and the Wildcats. We noted that with nearly all of the major players from 2010's surprisingly effective Wildcat passing game gone, Phillips would want to make rebuilding that passing attack around junior quarterback Morgan Newton priority No. 1 in spring camp. And though we'll have to wait until fall to see the finished results, for now it looks like Mission Accomplished: Newton had a terrific spring, capped by a 23-of-44, 256-yard, three-touchdown performance in the Wildcats' Blue-White Game.

Things weren't perfect: the Wildcat receivers were plagued by drops, and a defense still adjusting to new co-coordinator Rick Minter's aggressive schemes paired several big plays with several breakdowns. But with Newton cementing himself as a reliable option under center and a veteran line paving the way for new tailback Raymond Sanders to average better than 7 yards a carry, there's far more optimism for the Wildcat offense coming out of spring than going in.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Whatever storyline you might have constructed ahead of time for the Gamecocks' spring, it was always going to overshadowed by the continuing Stephen Garcia circus. Until Carolina receives a definitive word one way or the other on Garcia's return (though as we wrote earlier today, that return seems likely), the team is going to be in something close to suspended football animation.  The lack of developments aside from Garcia was only enhanced by the fact that so many of Carolina's key players -- Marcus Lattimore, Alshon Jeffery, Stephon Gilmore, an offensive line with four returning starters -- are known commodities.

That said, the Garnet-Black Game showed that if Garcia doesn't come back, the Gamecocks won't be totally lost at quarterback. Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson combined to go a productive 23-of-40 for 344 yards (though Thompson threw a pair of picks), and on an offense with weapons like Lattimore, Jeffery, and tailback Kenny Miles (43 yards on just 6 carries in the spring game), "productive" should be enough.

The downside: those passing numbers came against a Gamecock secondary that got routinely torched in 2010 (FBS 97th in pass defense). Garcia or no Garcia, more improvement in that secondary will be necessary to take Carolina back to Atlanta.

TENNESSEE: Entering spring, the road to improvement for the Volunteers was clear: get stronger, more physical, better along each line of scrimmage, then let the Vols' cadre of up-and-coming skill position stars -- led by sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray -- do the rest.

The Vols made plenty of headway on the first part of that equation; the White team earned a dominant victory over the more starter-heavy Orange in the Vol spring game thanks in no small part to a bruising run game led by second-string tailback Raijon Neal; defensive linemen on both squads were able to get consistent quarterback pressure; and offensive lineman Alex Bullard and defensive tackle Daniel Hood won the team's top awards for spring performance. Both lines remain so young that there's still a long way to go to SEC dominance, but it seems unlikely they'll be pushed around the way they were at times in 2010, either.

But as for the other part of the equation, stay tuned. Bray went a miserable 5-for-30 quarterbacking the defeated Orange side, with Derek Dooley suggesting afterwards that perhaps Bray had been overconfident. Bray is expected to take a major step forward in his first full season as the Vols' starter, but if that step winds up as minor as the spring game proposes it might be, all the line improvement in the world won't push the Vols back into relevance in the SEC East.

VANDERBILT: When you finished last season dead last in the conference in both total offense and total defense -- and you are Vanderbilt -- any kind of improvement in any area will be music to new coach James Franklin's ears. But fortunately for the 'Dores, they saw some green shoots in two positions that have been partocularly troublesome the past few seasons.

One is quarterback , where previously scattershot senior Larry Smith completed 16-of-26 for 233 yards and a touchdown, leading his Black side to a 19-7 win over the Gold. The other is the defensive line , where defensive tackle Colt Nichter recorded a pair of sacks and defensive end Kyle Woestmann collected a sack and an interception. But when you're Vandy, you'll take whatever you can get.

"The big thing," Franklin said, "is that we stayed healthy."

For the same review of the SEC West, click here.

Posted on: April 18, 2011 4:51 pm
 

Tyler Bray's spring game did not go very well

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

When Tennessee's coaches assigned starting quarterback Tyler Bray and most of the starting offensive talent to the "Orange" squad for their Orange-White spring exhibition, what they probably had in mind was letting the Vol fans get a good, positive look at their 2011 offense doing good, positive things.

Thanks to an outing by Bray we're going to charitably call "terrible," it didn't exactly work out that way. The Orange side was throttled by the lesser-regarded White team 24-7, with Bray completing just five of his 30 passing attempts against a Tennessee pass defense that ranked 81st in the country last year.

Derek Dooley said the White's physical dominance of the Orange side was "fun to watch," and for a coaching staff that needs a bigger boost from their running game this fall, seeing tailbacks Tauren Poole and Raijon Neal have big days probably was. But Dooley also didn't hide the fact that Bray's day had been a disappointment:
“You know what I said Thursday — if Tyler would have gone 27-of-30 for 300 (yards) I would have said, ‘Yeah, we’re doing good,’ ” Dooley said. “If he would have gone 5-for-30, which is what he did, ‘It’s just the spring game, it doesn’t matter.’

“There were a lot of reasons he wasn’t on, and it starts with him. I think he went in a little bit confident, feeling good about the matchups, and when you’re not on edge, you’re never going to perform. There were some serious mismatches in protection that I think affected him early, and then once it gets going bad early you’ve got to get that run-game settled in.”
Still, there's bad, and then there's 5-for-30 bad. Bray had a nice finish to the season, but much of his success came against the defenses of teams like Memphis and Vanderbilt; a full season's worth of battles against the likes of Alabama and Georgia will be something else entirely. If Bray's already feeling "a little bit confident" about his own abilities -- to the point of completing 16.6 percent of his passes in a spring game -- Tennessee can only hope Saturday's pratfall will do its deserved part to keep that kind of confidence in check.

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