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Tag:Steven Clark
Posted on: December 29, 2011 6:27 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2011 4:48 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Chick-Fil-A Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

AUBURN WILL WIN IF: Gene Chizik still has some of that old defensive coordinating magic tucked away somewhere. With the exception of a handful of games during his team's 2010 national title run, Chizik -- a Broyles Award winner as a DC with a long and exemplary track record at both Auburn and Texas -- has never been able to translate that acumen to his defenses as a head coach, either at Iowa State or Auburn. That continued this year, as the Tigers slumped to a 79th-place finish in total defense, their formerly stout rush defense (which led the SEC in 2010) plummeting to 98th nationally.

With the Auburn offense an out-and-out shambles by season's end (the Tigers failed to score more than 17 points against any SEC team outside the state of Mississippi) and Gus Malzahn unlikely to fix it while splitting time with his new head coaching duties at Arkansas State, Chizik's winning formula will have to be the same as it was in his team's midseason upset of South Carolina and defeat of Florida: a stifling defensive effort paired with just enough points to get by. In up-and-coming defensive end Corey Lemonier and fiery senior linebacker Eltoro Freeman, Chizik has some of the pieces necessary to reprise those game-winning performances from earlier in the year. With Ted Roof out of the picture and the Dec. 31 date giving him plenty of time to work with his defense, this is Chizik's chance to prove he can still make a difference on the defensive side of the ball; if he's not up to it, it's highly doubtful his team will be up to winning the game, either.

VIRGINIA WILL WIN IF: they take advantage of their opportunities. There aren't many teams with a wider gap between their FBS rank in total offense and scoring offense than the Cavaliers, who finished a respectable 48th in yards but managed to come in 88th in points. The culprit's an easy one to spot: Virginia converted just 21 of its 42 red zone possessions into touchdowns, a 50 percent mark that placed them 105th nationally. Starting running back Perry Jones (883 yards) and sophomore quarterback Michael Rocco (2,359 passing yards, 7.3 an attempt) have been capable when it comes to moving the chains, but aren't much for the big play; Jones has only five touchdowns on 176 attempts, Rocco 11 TD throws (to 11 interceptions) on 325 passes.

Given Auburn's defensive frailties, Rocco, Jones and the Cavs are likely to move the ball and add a few more red zone possessions to their total of opportunities. But if they don't cash in, the game could devolve into the kind of diown-to-the-wire white-knuckler in which Chizik's teams have had so much success.

THE X-FACTOR: A major reason Auburn won those slugfests with the Gamecocks and Gators, or its season-opening shootout with Utah State? Its special teams, which feature Ray Guy award finalist Steven Clark at punter, dangerous kick returners Onterio McCalebb and Tre Mason (who each have a return for a score this season), and touchback machine Cody Parkey handling kickoffs. According to Phil Steele's special teams ratings, Auburn finished the year eighth in the kicking game and Virginia 91st. If those numbers prove accurate, the Cavs could have a hard time overcoming what might be a decisive Tiger advantage in field position.

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Posted on: December 12, 2011 5:09 pm
 

Pro Football Weekly releases All-American team

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

And now for something not quite completely different, but almost: the Pro Football Weekly All-American team.

As you might expect, the criteria for making an NFL-driven media outlet's All-America team differs dramatically from making most others. In its statement announcing the team, the PFW writes that:

The team annually honors the most talented players in college football and is selected based on considerable feedback from NFL evaluators taking into consideration a player’s pure talent and contribution to his team. Unlike many other teams rewarding the best college football players, PFW places an extra premium on true talent and draft value in the selection process. However, participants are expected to have contributed for the bulk of the season, leaving off some talented prospects who were limited this season. Extra attention was paid to qualities such as toughness, competitiveness and work ethic.

The team:
Quarterback

Andrew Luck, Stanford
HONORABLE MENTION: Matt Barkley, USC, Robert Griffin III, Baylor

Running back

Trent Richardson, Alabama
HM: Montee Ball, Wisconsin, David Wilson, Virginia Tech

Fullback

Jay Prosch, Illinois
HM: Braden Wilson, Kansas State

Wide receivers

Sammy Watkins, Clemson
Kendall Wright, Baylor
HM: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State, Michael Floyd, Notre Dame, Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina, Marvin McNutt, Iowa

Tight end

Coby Fleener, Stanford
HM: Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame, Dwayne Allen, Clemson

Offensive tackles

Matt Kalil, USC
Riley Reiff, Iowa
HM: Barrett Jones, Alabama, Taylor Lewan, Michigan, Zebrie Sanders, Florida State, Cordy Glenn, Georgia

Offensive guards

David DeCastro, Stanford
Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin
HM: Chance Warmack, Alabama, Alvin Bailey, Arkansas

Center

Peter Konz, Wisconsin
HM: David Molk, Michigan, Ben Jones, Georgia

Defensive Ends

Sam Montgomery, LSU
Melvin Ingram, South Carolina
HM: Whitney Mercilus, Illinois, Barkevious Mingo, LSU, Vinny Curry, Marshall, Ronnell Lewis, Oklahoma

Defensive tackles

Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State
Devon Still, Penn State
HM: Michael Brockers, LSU, Brandon Thompson, Clemson, Josh Chapman, Alabama, Dontari Poe, Memphis

Inside linebacker

Dont’a Hightower, Alabama
HM: Luke Kuechly, Boston College, Lavonte David, Nebraska

Outside linebackers

Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
Jarvis Jones, Georgia
HM: Gerald Hodges, Penn State, Sean Spence, Miami (Fla.)

Cornerbacks

Morris Claiborne, LSU
Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
HM: Tyrann Mathieu, LSU, Brodrick Brown, Oklahoma State, Leonard Johnson, Iowa State, David Amerson, North Carolina State

Safeties

Mark Barron, Alabama
T.J. McDonald, USC
HM: Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State, Bacarri Rambo, Georgia, Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma, John Boyett, Oregon

Placekicker

Randy Bullock, Texas A&M
HM: Caleb Sturgis, Florida

Punter

Steven Clark, Auburn
HM: Brad Wing, LSU

Return specialist

Joe Adams, Arkansas
HM: Taveon Rogers, New Mexico State
A few comments:

S-E-C! S-E-C! (D-E-F-E-N-S-E). Certainly the pro scouts don't think the SEC's reputation for defense is overblown; only two of their 11 first-team defenders hail from any other conference. They would also tend to lean towards Alabama over LSU when it comes to naming the nation's most talented defense; four Tide defenders make the first team to LSU's two, though three Tigers do make honorable mention (to the Tide's one).

But not offensively. Of course, the opposite is true on the other side of the ball, where Trent Richardson is the SEC's only first-team representative. Perhaps most surprising is that the league's offensive linemen are given such short shrift; instead four of the five first-team OLs hail from the Big Ten, including a pair from Wisconsin.

Sammy power.
Only two freshmen made the team at all, and only one landed on the first team: Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins, who doesn't boast prototypical NFL wideout size but has nonetheless clearly caught the eyes of the pro scouts.

Did the Ray Guy get that right? No. But maybe the award's decision to include Auburn sophomore punter Steven Clark over LSU's Brad Wing (the other freshman honoree) as one of three finalists makes a little more sense given that the pros favor Clark's towering moonshots over Wing's, well, better all-around productivity/statistics.

Major notoriety for mid-major players. Marshall's Vinny Curry has gotten some press, but you won't see many other All-American teams with players from Memphis and New Mexico State honored, we don't think. We'll take the scouts' word for it on Tiger tackle Dontari Poe and Aggie returner Taveon Rogers; congrats to them.
Posted on: October 23, 2011 3:03 am
Edited on: October 23, 2011 3:11 am
 

SEC Winners and Losers, Week 8


Posted by Jerry Hinnen

A handy recap of who (and what) really won and really lost in the SEC's Week 8.

WINNERS: Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson. On the eve of the 2011 season, the LSU quarterback situation was supposed to be the team's Achilles heel. The senior Lee had spent his entire career as erratic at best and a turnover machine at worst; Jefferson was suspended and might never return; and despite intense fan interest, Zach Mettenberger hadn't been able to beat either out for so much as the backup's job. But after the Tigers' demolition of Auburn, it's time to give the Bayou Bengal quarterbacks their due: not only are they not a weakness, they're a major reason LSU is 8-0 and now preparing for an undefeated megatilt against Alabama.

The stats are argument enough: a combined 16-of-23 for 219 yards (9.5 an attempt), three touchdowns, and no interceptions. (This was LSU's fifth straight game without a turnover, by the way.) But the two touchdown throws they made in the second quarter -- one by each, both of 40-plus yards, both to the rapidly-improving Rueben Randle -- are an even better argument. On the first, Jefferson was leveled by an Auburn blitzer and stood strong in the pocket to deliver Randle a precision strike; on the second, Lee "dropped it in a bucket," as they say, allowing Randle to beat double coverage. The end result was that a quarter that began 7-3 and with Auburn in a dogfight ended with LSU up 21-3 and the game over. If those two throws are examples of what LSU can expect in two weeks, even Alabama might not be good enough to beat the Tigers. At this point, it seems obvious no one else in the SEC can.

LOSER: Houston Nutt. Honestly, this isn't entirely fair to Nutt, who just coaxed the best performance from his team all season and has nothing to hang his head about, final score-wise; losing to a legitimate top-10 outfit like the Razorbacks by five points is an accomplishment, especially when the outcome is still in doubt in the final minute. Still: a 17-0 second-quarter lead over that kind of opponent -- not only one of the best teams in the country, but an opponent whose fans enjoy needling Nutt and the Rebels about their failures -- is the kind of golden opportunity that Nutt and his team simply couldn't afford to let slip through their fingers. In the end, solid performance or not, it's just Nutt's 10th straight SEC loss ... and another few before the year's end could be the end for Nutt.

WINNER: James Franklin. On the other end of the spectrum, we've got a coach for whom beating Army isn't really that big a deal ... but beating them by a comprehensive 23 points is. The Commodores had only one week of study for the Black Knights' triple option and held them to 288 total yards anyway, forcing three turnovers in the process. The 'Dore running game racked up a stout 344 yards and Vandy may have finally found a quarterback in Jordan Rodgers, who didn't set the world on fire (10-of-27, one touchdown, two interceptions) but whose 10 completions did go for better than 18 yards a pop. In short: this was the kind of performance that suggests the 'Dores 3-3 record wasn't a fluke, and that they could go bowling in Franklin's first year. It won't be enough to win him Coach of the Year with Miles and Saban around, but it's still a heck of a job.

LOSER: Drama. Another week, another series of blowouts in the SEC. Save for Arkansas's escape from Oxford, the average score of the four Week 8 games involving SEC teams was 41-13. After another week of winning their two games by some outrageous combined score -- 66 points' worth this go-round -- LSU's and Alabama's average margin of victory has ballooned to a full 30 points. It's a good thing the Tide and Tigers have next week off; not only will it give us another week to savor the buildup to the Game of the Century of the Year, but maybe it'll give us a chance to enjoy more than a single helping of competitive SEC football.

WINNERS: Alabama's receiving corps. The Tide's wideouts were alleged to be the team's one weakness entering this season, and doubly so once Duron Carter was ruled ineligible. But Marquis Maze, Darius Hanks and Kenny Bell made that expectation look more ridiculous than ever in the second half Saturday night, hauling in acrobatic circus grab after acrobatic circus grab and eventually totaling 11 receptions, 213 yards, and Bell's game-clinching touchdown. AJ McCarron didn't have his best night, but Maze, Hanks, and Bell made him look awfully good all the same.

LOSERS: Auburn's special teams. The way LSU (and their quarterbacks in particular) are playing, it didn't matter what Auburn did today. But the one area where you can't show any weakness vs. Les Miles's team is in special teams, where they will kill you with field position if given the opportunity. Given the Tigers' strength in this area so far in 2011, Gene Chizik was probably expecting a draw in this phase, at least. Nope: punter Steven Clark had his worst game of the year, repeatedly failing to pin LSU deep when given the chance, and dynamic freshman kick returner Tre Mason fumbled away a second-half return to turn the game from decisive LSU advantage to full-on rout.

LOSER: Matt Simms. Ugly as Simms' final line in the box score was (8-of-17, 3.4 yards an attempt, no touchdowns, one interception), he was facing Alabama on the road; lots of quarterbacks would have looked just as bad, and Simms did play a role in getting the Vols to a 6-6 halftime tie. But Derek Dooley's decision to burn Justin Worley's redshirt late could indicate a move towards getting the freshman snaps at Simms' expense, and though he had a lot of company on the Tennessee sideline, he wasn't able to do much in preventing the Tide onslaught in the second half.

WINNER: College football. No. 1 LSU and (now consensus) No. 2 Alabama are going to meet in two weeks, both undefeated, both extremely heavy favorites to finish their regular season schedule perfect and run a way with the SEC East with a win over the other, both having established their national championship contender's bona fides weeks ago. It really, really, really shouldn't get any better than what we now know we'll see Nov. 5.


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