Posted on: June 27, 2011 12:11 pm
Edited on: June 27, 2011 2:50 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Russell Wilson is set to has announced his decision today, but even if he had chosen Auburn, he would have been far from the only ripple on the SEC's current "transfer market."
Because two former five-star recruits announced this past weekend that they would be looking for new homes outside their current residences in the SEC East. One of them is former Georgia offensive line signee Brent Benedict, who will be leaving the Bulldog program for the ubiquitous "personal reasons." The other is defensive end Chris Martin, who transferred to Florida last year after signing with Cal in spring of 2010. But after redshirting last fall, Martin will leave Gainesville without having played a down for the Gators, either, and will reportedly be looking for a transfer destination closer to his Aurora, Colo. hometown.
The good news for Will Muschamp and Co. is that thanks to the bounty of riches from that loaded 2010 Gator class, Martin might not be missed much. With Ronald Powell, Sharrif Floyd and their friends around, the Florida line should be able to shrug off the loss, even of a player who was viewed by nearly every recruitnik in the country as one of the 2010 class's best prospects at any position.
That's not the case in Athens, though, where the Dawg offensive line was already thin and has just gotten thinner. A redshirt freshman who had dominated at the high school level before a senior-year knee injury, Benedict was expected to land on the Georgia two-deep at right guard in 2011 with an eye towards starting in 2012.
But according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "differences over how much and what kind of off-season training he should be doing" arose between Benedict and the Georgia staff, and he elected to move on.
Even after the loss of Benedict (and fellow transferee A.J. Harmon, and ACL victim Trinton Sturdivant), the Bulldogs have enough talent and experience to weather the storm on their depth chart -- if their projected starting lineup can stay healthy and productive. But after the past few seasons of underachievement up front, that's a big "if," and one on which the fate of the SEC East might rest.
Posted on: April 27, 2011 5:49 pm
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.
Tags: Aaron Murray, Alec Ogletree, Alex Bullard, Alshon Jeffery, Ben Jones, Caleb King, Charlie Weis, Colt Nichter, Connor Shaw, Cordy Glenn, Daniel Hood, Derek Dooley, Dominique Easley, Dylan Thompson, Florida, Georgia, Isaiah Crowell, James Franklin, John Brantley, Joke Phillips, Justin Anderson, Ken Malcome, Kenny Miles, Kentucky, Kwame Geathers, Kyle Woestmann, Larry Smith, Marcus Lattimore, Mark Richt, Morgan Newton, New England Patriots, Nick Saban, Orson Charles, Raijon Neal, Raymond Sanders, Rick Minter, Ronald Powell, SEC, Sharrif Floyd, South Carolina, spring practice, Stephen Garcia, Stephon Gilmore, Steve Spurrier, Tennessee, Tim Tebow, Trinton Sturdivant, Tyler Bray, Urban Meyer, Vanderbilt, Will Muschamp
Posted on: April 11, 2011 12:30 pm
Edited on: April 11, 2011 12:52 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Football is a cruel game. And though it is occasionally, it's not often more cruel than it has been to Georgia senior offensive tackle Trinton Sturdivant.
Sturdivant burst on to the scene as a true freshman in 2007, starting every game for the Bulldogs at left tackle to earn freshman All-SEC honors and a handful of freshman All-America nods. But in 2008, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament and missed the entire season. In 2009, he started the Bulldogs' season opener against Oklahoma State and tore another ACL, ending his season again. He battled back to start seven games in 2010, and entering Saturday's scrimmage had been penciled in -- though it was more like ink -- for one of Georgia's two starting tackle spots.
That won't happen. Sturdivant left the scrimmage having torn his third ACL in four years . Per Georgia head athletic trainer Ron Courson, Sturdivant will have surgery this week to repair the ligament. He is expected to miss the entire 2011 season.
The blow is a severe one for the Georgia offensive line, a group that underachieved substantially last season, is working for a new position coach in Will Friend, and will now have to replace Sturdivant with either a converted guard or a player of limited (if any) SEC experience. If no unit on the team was as important this spring as the offensive line, it's possible no injury aside from one to Aaron Murray could hit them as hard as this one.
But the blow is no doubt even more savage for Sturdivant personally. He had previously discussed his furstration with having to undergo rehab a second time after his second tear, and had considered leaping to the NFL a year early while he could. With his injury history, a sixth year of eligibilty is a certainty if he wants it, but there's a lor of arduous rehabbing work and consideration to be done before that bridge is crossed.
If Sturdivant does elect to return to the Sanford Stadium field, we'll be wishing him nothing but the best. Football may be cruel, but there are times it seems to be too cruel, and this is one of those times.
Posted on: March 10, 2011 1:42 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Georgia , who begins spring practice today.
Spring Practice Question: Is the Bulldog offense ready to make a push up front?
Entering 2010, the biggest reason Georgia was supposed to be the biggest challenger to two-time defending SEC East champion (and heavy 2010 favorite) Florida was, not coincidentally, their biggest players. Led by veterans like bookend senior tackles Clint Boling and Josh Davis, the Bulldogs boasted the nation's most experienced offensive line . With highly-regarded (and well-compensated) OL coach Stacy Searels leading the unit, the line was believed to be the SEC's best.
Entering 2011, things are very, very different. That line fell far short of the advance hype, with the Bulldogs finishing a disappointing 10th in the SEC in rushing (ahead of only Vanderbilt and Tennessee), doing nothing special in pass protection, and even seeing Searels juggle the lineup late in the year. Though the line wasn't the only problem, it also did precious little to help as Georgia scored 12 points or fewer three times (all losses) and finished a mediocre 56th in the country in total offense. Following the disappointment, Boling, Davis, Trinton Sturdivant (who eventually replaced Davis) and guard Chris Davis all graduated. Searels accepted the same position at Texas. And the advance hype will almost certainly move on to some other team this offseason.
But that doesn't mean it's too late for the Georgia line to get Mark Richt to another SEC title game. For starters, there's still plenty of talent on hand even after the departures, starting with senior center Ben Jones (pictured, a 2009 All-SEC pick before being overlooked last year), 325-pound senior guard Cordy Glenn, and junior guard Kenarious Gates, another player who ascended to the starting lineup late in the year. After seemingly tuning out Searels last year, the Bulldogs will have a new voice in their ears in new coach Will Friend. And maybe most importantly of all, the remaining Bulldogs will have the sting of last year's failures -- rather than an offseason of praise -- fueling them. If Georgia's spring practice shows that the line is enjoying the proverbial addition by subtraction and looks poised to make good on the hype a year late, the rest of the SEC should look out.
Add all of that to a defense that seems certain to improve in the second year of Todd Grantham's 3-4 scheme, in a division that's as wide open as any in the SEC's recent memory, and the tools are there for Richt to forge a championship season out of even the miserable ashes of 6-7. But they won't do much good without a huge step forward from the offensive line, and that's where Bulldog fans' primary focus ought to be this spring.
Tags: A.J. Green, Aaron Murray, Ben Jones, Chris Davis, Clint Boling, Cordy Glenn, Florida, Florida, Georgia, Georgia, Isaiah Crowell, Josh Davis, Kenarious Gates, Kris Durham, Marcus Lattimore, Mark Richt, Marlon Brown, Orson Charles, Rantavious Wooten, SEC, Spring practice, Spring Practice Primer, Stacy Searels, Tavarres King, Tennessee, Texas, Todd Grantham, Trinton Sturdivant, Vanderbilt, Will Friend
Posted on: October 13, 2010 2:27 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Back in August, the Georgia offensive line was, to say the least, well-regarded; the players combined for 155 starts coming into the season, which was tops in the nation. Phil Steele ranked the Dawgs' front five as the best in the NCAA in his preseason magazine. Georgia placed two linemen in the SEC's preseason all-conference teams this season, which doesn't sound fantastic, but no SEC school had three. It's a good year for linemen in the SEC, and Georgia looked like they were at the top of the heap.
But along the way, ugh. Josh Davis was ineffective at right tackle, forcing head coach Mark Richt to move LT Clint Boling to the right side and install Trinton Sturdivant (who's coming off two knee injuries) at RT. Chris Davis and Tanner Strickland both struggled at right guard, so that paved the way for true freshman Kenarious Gates to start at RG last Saturday.
“Gates did a nice job,” Richt told the Athens Banner-Herald. “He did not have a bunch of busted assignments. Being next to [center Ben Jones] and Clint [Boling] helped him a lot, I’m sure, for those guys to get him where he’s supposed to be. … He pass protected pretty good. There might have been one pressure or one sack that was attributed to him. Overall, he did well.”
From the top O-line to only two of the five starters keeping their original assignments, all in the first week of the season. Not good form, Dawgmollies.
It's worth noting that Gates wasn't even Georgia's most highly-regarded offensive lineman by a longshot; Rivals and Scout both gave Gates a 3-star rating, and his only other major college offers were from the drecks of the SEC. That isn't to point out that Richt took the redshirt off the wrong true freshman, but just to further illustrate the folly of strictly adhering to the arbitrary 5-star ranking system. Gates is playing because he was best-suited to the task, and once camp starts, those ratings don't really mean much of anything.
At any rate, Georgia's 2-4 and facing a road test at Vanderbilt this Saturday. A win puts them one step closer to .500 -- and a bowl berth. No, sneaking into the Music City Bowl at 6-6 to face, like, Maryland wasn't really ideal for the Dawgs at the outset of the season, but Georgia's not really in a position to get choosy about their postseason prospects at this point.