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Tag:SEC
Posted on: December 9, 2011 6:00 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2011 6:06 pm
 

Report: Muschamp "targeting" Mike Shula for OC

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

In the wake of Charlie Weis's stunning departure for Kansas, Florida head coach Will Muschamp vowed that he would hire " the best offensive coordinator in the country." We're not sure the first name to bubble up as a serious candidate quite fits that bill.

From the Twitter feed of Gainesville Sun reporter Robbie Andrieu:



As a coach who's spent his entire career in the NFL with the exception of his largely ill-fated tenure in charge at Alabama, Shula certainly fits Muschamp's bill as a coordinator with pro experience who'd run a pro-style system in Gainesville. And he might quietly become a solid recruiter for the Gators as well; despite his struggles in Tuscaloosa, many of the players he brought to the Tide formed the foundation of the 26-2 2008 and 2009 teams, and he very nearly landed a Florida product you may have heard of named Tim Tebow.

But that's just about where the good news ends. Shula has only spent four seasons of his career as an offensive coordinator, all of them at the pro level with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; in those four seasons, the Bucs landed in the league's bottom three three times and were never better than 22nd.

He didn't appear to do much for the Tide's offense during his Alabama stint, either. His four years there never produced an offense that ranked in the top half of the FBS, and the Tide's average rank in total offense during his tenure was a mediocre 76th.

Currently, Shula is serving as the Carolina Panthers quarterbacks coach after holding the same position for the Jacksonville Jaguars the past three seasons. Cam Newton is having a nice season under his tutelage, but is that reason enough for Muschamp to bite? Is his prior resume? We're not seeing it, which is why if we were a Gator fan, we'd be hoping Muschamp eventually wound up targeting some other candidate.
Posted on: December 9, 2011 2:27 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2011 2:29 pm
 

Fischer's Heisman vote: RGIII, Luck, Moore



Posted by Bryan Fischer


Earlier this year, I was given the prestigious honor of voting for the Heisman Trophy for the first time. The award's illustrious history of selecting the country's most outstanding player has been well chronicled and I was happy to lend my expertise. As the weeks went by however, it became clear that this would be among the most difficult votes in some time - there was no runaway favorite like Cam Newton this year.

There did seem to be some resolution towards the end of the season but, in talking with other voters, it became clear that there was no easy pick. After sitting down and looking at stats, highlights and other things, who to vote number one became pretty clear. It was spots two and three (you only have three spots on your ballot) that caused me the most angst. Without further ado, my Heisman ballot and why I voted for them.

1. Robert Griffin III, quarterback, Baylor

Like my colleague Bruce Feldman, it's difficult to wrap your head around the fact that a player from Baylor is the most outstanding player in college football. I grew up in Texas and it always seemed the Bears were the ones everybody scheduled for homecoming. Thanks to the Big 12 television deal they were rarely on television unless they were playing a major school. Baylor, for most college football fans across the country, was irrelevant before Griffin burst onto the scene.

During September, the nation was transfixed on what, exactly, RGIII was doing but figured he couldn't keep it up. The first three games he was completing 85% of his passes, had 13 touchdown passes and no picks and flirted with a touchdown-incompletion ratio that was unheard of. The opener against No. 14 TCU was Baylor's first win over a ranked team since 2004 and the signal-caller was the chief reason why. Many expected the close loss to Kansas State to end any hopes of him making it to New York but in the deepest league in the country (sorry SEC fans), Griffin won nine games despite the Bears defense being ranked in the 100's in most major defensive categories. Safe to say that without RGIII, the Bears would have been 3-9.

What sealed the deal for me was the game-winning drive to beat Oklahoma for the first time in school history and an efficient game against what was the 9th-best defense in the country at the time in Texas to end the year. It's rare for any player in the conference to beat both schools but RGIII did accomplish the rare feat. He finished first in the country in passing efficiency with what would be an NCAA record 192.31 rating, edging out Russell Wilson despite attempting 85 more passes. He also finished second in the country in total offense and led the nation in points responsible for.

In January, Griffin was invited to speak at the NCAA convention in San Antonio by new president Mark Emmert. He was lauded for his achievements outside athletics such as getting a degree in three years and beginning his masters' with sights set on law school not his backup plan to the NFL, but his primary one. The attention and applause were genuine on that chilly day at the convention, just as it should be Saturday in New York City when he likely accepts the Heisman Trophy. On and off the field this year, Robert Griffin III was my pick for the most outstanding college football player.

2. Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford

He was supposed to be a shoe-in for this award. For most of the year, it looked like he wouldn't lose the Heisman, even if he didn't necessarily win it. I saw Luck up close several times this season and can confirm that he's the best quarterback in college football. He throws on the run better than anybody, his pocket awareness is uncanny, he calls his own plays and - like RGIII - has taken a program lacking success and turned it into a winner.

The Cardinal are 23-2 over the past two seasons and that is almost entirely due to Luck. Unfortunately his worst game of the year came when he needed it most, against Oregon. Even then, he threw for three touchdowns and the team was in things for three quarters. The offense scored fewer than 30 points just once all year - against Notre Dame when they could have topped the mark had they tried - and was more balanced than any other in the country as coaches had no issues sticking to running the ball if it was working.

A lot of people turn the Heisman race into a stats race. Luck's were good (3,170 yards passing, 35 touchdowns, 9 interceptions) but didn't top others. The thing I always kept in mind was what he did given the talent around him. Sure he had a good offensive line, so did Trent Richardson, Montee Ball, Wilson and Griffin. Nobody, however, put up the kind of numbers Luck did throwing to three tight ends who didn't have separation speed and with his best wide receiver sitting on the sidelines the second half of the year. Griffin had the dynamic Kendall Wright, Luck had Griff Whalen. That was a factor in my mind.

By all measures, he was outstanding this season but fell just short of being the most outstanding player in college football. He put up more points against USC in that school's history (against some defensive coordinator name Monte Kiffin) and had he had good defense, might be playing for the national title. He is the only quarterback ever to go undefeated against USC and Notre Dame. Listen to head coach David Shaw state his case for the quarterback and you can't help but consider him worthy of this award. I couldn't put him above RGIII so Luck wound up second on my ballot.

3. Kellen Moore, quarterback, Boise State

For many seeing this, the thought is that I gave Moore the third spot as a career achievement award. I did not.

For most of the week leading up to voting I had a running back (Ball or Richardson) penciled in.  But before I was making my choices I looked again at what the diminutive but excellent quarterback had done this year. Statistically he was great: 300-of-405 passing (74%), 3,507 yards, 41 touchdowns and seven picks. I watched a lot of Boise State games this year (even the blowouts) and know that most of the numbers were accomplished in three quarters or less. A great season was hampered by the loss to TCU but it's safe to say that Moore did all he could game-in and game-out to lead the Broncos to another top 10 ranking.

Moore's best strength this year was spreading the ball around. He lost his two best receivers from last season but didn't lose a step despite several of his young pass catchers dealing with drops from time-to-time. The running game wasn't as good but Moore made up for it through the air. Were it not for a one-point loss to a good team, he'd be in New York this year.

There were three things that caused me to put the quarterback on my ballot ahead of others however. The first was just the way he played. He's good as much as every person in the country likes to knock him for the competition he faces. He'd be the best quarterback in most power conferences, easily, and can drop the ball in on downfield routes perfectly. Second, he became the NCAA's all-time, winningest quarterback at the FBS level. How is that not outstanding? There's no knocking a winner, which Moore rightfully is. Finally, as a starting quarterback Moore has never trailed by more than seven points his entire career. Never. The combined margin of defeat in his three losses total is just five points. Those are just jaw-dropping stats and a measure of someone who not only starts good but doesn't panic if put into a difficult situation.

Moore was great this season and if you sort through it all, you'd see that too.

Why I didn't vote for them (in the order I would have)

Montee Ball, running back, Wisconsin: Ball was on my ballot for the stretch run but fell just short after considering Moore. He led the country in rushing with 1,759 yards and in scoring with 17.54 points per game. His 38 touchdowns is just one shy of Barry Sanders' record and more than 45 entire teams. It hurt that Russell Wilson was the man Wisconsin picked to campaign for earlier in the year but Ball without a doubt had a season to remember and was an outstanding college football player in 2011.

Matt Barkley, quarterback, USC: I wanted to put Barkley in my top three because he has not only been outstanding on the field leading USC back to the top 10, but he has been the face of the program that was put through the ringer. He set a school and conference record for touchdown passes in a season and tossed six TDs in a game twice. It was a season for the ages but he was hampered by a very slow start to the year, the Arizona State game and the head-to-head loss to Luck.

Trent Richardson, running back, Alabama: He was the best offensive player in the SEC and a great player who I'd want on my team in a heartbeat but I didn't think Richardson was the best running back in the country. He played only four games against schools with a winning record and faced just two defenses ranked in the top 40 against the rush. 46% of his yards came against North Texas, Ole Miss, Georgia Southern and Auburn and nearly the same percentage of his touchdowns came against those four defensive powerhouses. I get that he was hurt at times and shared carries; Richardson is a great player but just wasn't the best this season.

Tyrann Mathieu, cornerback, LSU: I love the Honey Badger - he's a game changer unlike any other in the way he forces turnovers and returns kicks. That said, he wasn't the most outstanding player on his own team (punter Brad Wing was) and wasn't even the best player in the secondary (Morris Claiborne was). His coverage skills were solid but not spectacular and had he not had two big games against Arkansas and Georgia to end the season, wouldn't have been invited to New York. The suspension during the season also played a factor.

Others under consideration: Case Keenum, Houston; LaMichael James, Oregon; Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State.

Posted on: December 9, 2011 1:47 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 1:58 pm
 

Georgia talks contract with Richt as rumors swirl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It sounds completely preposterous. But after watching Charlie Weis land at Kansas, we suppose even the most preposterous coaching rumor has to be taken at face value. And sure enough, Thursday night (and again Friday morning) CBSSports.com Texas A&M RapidReporter Brent Zwenerman confirmed the scuttlebutt that the Aggies' coaching search is making an effort to target none other than Georgia head coach Mark Richt. 

Houston's Kevin Sumlin
remains A&M's top candidate and the most likely choice to lead the Aggies going forward. But it hardly seems a coincidence that just as the Richt-to-College Station talk gets its most serious legs, Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity has confirmed that he and Richt have begun talks to extend Richt's contract, which expires in 2013.

"We are moving that discussion forward. He and I had a great discussion this morning," McGarity told Dawgs247 Friday. "I know Mark wants to be here, and we want him here. There's just some things we need to work on moving forward."

McGarity said there was no foundation to the Richt-to-A&M chatter, replying with a simple "No" if he was at all concerned that Richt might take another job.

That makes all the sense in the world, of course. Richt has said time and again that he'll be in Athens as long as the school would have him -- he said it again just before the SEC championship game -- and both he and his extended family have forged deep ties to the Athens community. He's coming off a calendar year that saw him revitalize the Bulldog program with its best recruiting class in years, a 10-win season and clean sweep of Georgia's biggest rivals, and the program's first SEC East title since 2005. If Richt was ever going to make a lateral head coaching move -- and with all due respect to A&M, that's being generous -- now certainly isn't the time.

So, like we said: preposterous. But not so out there that McGarity isn't moving to make certain it's as preposterous as it seems.
Posted on: December 9, 2011 11:54 am
Edited on: December 16, 2011 11:18 am
 

PODCAST: All-Americans and Best/Worst Bowls

Posted by Chip Patterson

The time between the final conference championship games and the opening of the postseason is filled with honoring the performances of the year and previewing the bowl games ahead. CBSSports.com's Eye on College Football Blogger Bryan Fischer sits down with Adam Aizer to break down the CBSSports.com All-American teams. The two discuss some of the most heated positions on the list, like whether or not Tryann Mathieu should have gotten the First Team nod as a punt returner.

As the mind behind CBSSports.com's Eye on Recruiting, Bryan also explains the reasoning behind the Freshman All-American squad. Finally, the pair take some time to preview the bowl schedule. Which games they can't wait to see, and which games they can't wait to see end.

[Click here to check out the CBSSports.com All-American Teams and the Freshman All-American team]


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Posted on: December 8, 2011 7:24 pm
 

Weis to Kansas: a good move for Florida?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

When Will Muschamp took the podium at his Gator Bowl press conference Thursday evening reportedly looking less than "thrilled." Muschamp rarely looks happy in front of the press, of course, but in this case he had particular reason to be on edge: his offensive coordinator, Charlie Weis, had left Florida for the Kansas head coaching position without reportedly even offering Muschamp the courtesy of telling him he was interviewing.

Muschamp did say he was "very happy" for Weis and "and clarified that running backs coach Brian White -- a holdover from the Urban Meyer staff -- will serve as the team's coordinator in the bowl game. The short term fit of Meyer's players with Weis's schemes has been awkward all season, and the short term situation between now and taking on Meyer's own future Ohio State Buckeyes is even more awkward.

Long term, though, we wonder if Weis didn't just do Muschamp a favor. Muschamp has stated repeatedly that what he wants out of an offense is the kind of offense his old bosses Nick Saban and Tommy Tuberville used when Muschamp was their coordinators; a pro-style, run-first, pound-it-out offense that milks clock, controls the game, and makes putting together a championship-quality defense that much easier. He reiterated in Thursday's press conference that he will be hiring another pro-style coordinator, someone "very similar schmatically."

But in retrospect, Weis certainly wasn't going to produce the smashmouth offense Muschamp wanted with Meyer's leftovers -- the Gators ranked 75th nationally in rushing with Muschamp openly coveting larger tailbacks by seaon's end -- and it seems likely Weis wasn't going to produce that offense in Gainesville, ever. He hasn't produced it anywhere, with the exception of a few games with the Kansas City Chiefs; his Notre Dame teams were centered on the arm of Brady Quinn first and then Jimmy Clausen second, with the running game an afterthought. The proof is in the statistical pudding: his five Irish teams finished 55th, 72nd, 115th, 105th, and 84th in FBS rushing.

Finding a new offensive coordinator is no doubt going to be a headache for Muschamp; along with White, the only candidate mentioned in the press conference was famous 1980s Gator quarterback and current Jacksonville Dolphins head coach Kerwin Bell. (Another possibility: former colleague and current Murray State head coach Chris Hatcher.) Whoever Muschamp picks will have to do quick work to win over recruits before Signing Day, get his system into place in spring practice, and have things ready to roll with the Gators' new starting QB next fall. Upheaval is never easy. 

But given how little Weis's offense both this year and in past years resembled what Muschamp had requested of him, it's for the best for Muschamp and the Gators that the upheaval is taking place now, before Weis's failures in the ground game gobbled up any more seasons and particularly seasons with more promise than this transitional one ever had. Muschamp may not be thrilled at the moment. But if he makes the right hire this time around, he may be thrilled when he looks back on it some day.

Posted on: December 8, 2011 5:52 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2011 7:11 pm
 

Uekman honored as part of SEC All-Freshman team

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The SEC released its 2011 All-Freshman team Thursday afternoon, and took the opportunity to honor the memory of Arkansas redshirt freshman tight end Garrett Uekman. 

Uekman, who was found dead in his dorm room Nov. 20, was named the All-Freshman team's "Honorary Captain." The league similarly named late Mississippi State defensive lineman Nick Bell the All-SEC honorary captain after his battle with cancer in 2010.

Uekman was one of four Razorbacks named to the team, alongside defensive end Trey Flowers, corner Tevin Mitchel and receiver/returner Marquel Wade. The team is headlined by the coaches' selection for SEC Freshman of the Year, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

The full team:
OFFENSE

TE - Malcolm Johnson, Mississippi State

OL -  A.J. Cann, South Carolina

        Marcus Jackson, Tennessee

        Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama

        Chaz Green, Florida

C -  Reese Dismukes, Auburn

WR -  Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia

         Odell Beckham Jr., LSU

QB – Maxwell Smith, Kentucky

RB –  Isaiah Crowell, Georgia

         Kenny Hilliard, LSU

AP -  Bruce Ellington, South Carolina


DEFENSE


DL - Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

       Trey Flowers, Arkansas

       Anthony Johnson, LSU

       Kaleb Eulls, Mississippi State 

LB - A.J. Johnson, Tennessee

       Curt Maggitt, Tennessee

       Serderius Bryant, Ole Miss

DB - Brian Randolph, Tennessee

        Vinnie Sunseri, Alabama

        Pop Saunders, Florida

        Tevin Mitchel, Arkansas


SPECIAL TEAMS


PK - James Hairston, LSU  

P -    Brad Wing, LSU 

RS – Marquel Wade, Arkansas
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: December 7, 2011 5:14 pm
 

Report: AU's Roof new UCF defensive coordinator

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Tuesday, we mentioned that if you're discussing an SEC coordinator whose defense hasn't lived up to expectations, you can't be surprised if said coordinator suddenly finds other work. It was true of Willy Robinson Tuesday, and it's true of Ted Roof Wednesday.

After three years in charge of Gene Chizik's defense at Auburn, Roof has reportedly accepted the defensive coordinator's position at UCF under George O'Leary. The original report appeared at AuburnUndercover.com, which adds that it's uncertain whether Roof will remain on hand to make defensive play-calls for the Tigers in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl against Virginia or not.

Roof replaces former Knights coordinator John Skladany, fired in the wake of UCF's disappointing 5-7 season. 

But it's doubtful Roof would have taken a job in a lesser conference for less money without a gentle push from his superiors at Auburn. Though a drop-off from the national title-winning defense of 2010 was expected with the loss of Nick Fairley and seven other starters -- especially in rush defense, where Roof's charges led the SEC last season -- few expected the Tigers to be on pace for a school record for most yards allowed per-game, or to rank 11th in the SEC in both total and scoring defense.

Roof's defenses on the Plains have always been vulnerable to the pass, and this year was no different; the Tigers ranked 87th nationally and dead last in the SEC in opponent's QB rating. 

Of course, Roof was also at the helm of the 2010 defense that held high-flying Oregon to 19 points in the Tigers' BCS title game victory, so he's hardly going away empty-handed. And as a former Broyles Award-winning coordinator himself, Chizik must also bear some of the responsibility for the Tigers' 2011 plummet.

Though that national championship has earned him a long, long leash, Chizik's decision on who replaces Roof  -- and that replacement's 2012 performance -- will nonetheless be highly scrutinized on the Plains.
 
 
 
 
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