Tag:Brandon Boykin
Posted on: August 10, 2011 11:49 am
 

SEC RapidReport Roundup, 8/10: Dooley unhappy

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Running down everything you need to know from the day's news in the SEC, courtesy of our CBSSports.com RapidReporters.


TENNESSEE: Derek Dooley was less-than-thrilled with the Volunteers' first scrimmage of fall camp, saying of the offense "they just weren't working together, they looked like 11 individuals out there." And though quarterback Tyler Bray had his moments, Dooley wanted more out of his sophomore signal-caller.

"He made some throws, made a couple of big plays," Dooley said. "But the consistency was nonexistent, it's enough to drive you crazy." For the scrimmage, Bray went 13-of-29 for 165 yards and two touchdowns. Former blue-chip receiver Da'Rick Rogers had a productive scrimmage, catching six balls for 77 yards and a touchdown.

GEORGIA: The Bulldogs have named their three new starters on the offensive line, joining senior holdovers Cordy Glenn at tackle and Ben Jones at center: sophomore guards Kenarious Gates (left) and Chris Burnette (right), and senior left tackle Justin Anderson. Of thre three, only Gates made a start in 2010; Anderson was playing on the defensive line.

Two names impressing in the early going are converted linebacker Richard Samuel at running back -- at 6'2, 243 now a much more imposing physical presence than in his first stint at RB -- and wide receiver Marlon Brown. "“Coach (Mark) Richt asked me the other day if I could name one receiver that’s caught my eye," said quarterback Aaron Murray. "I said Marlon. He’s having a tremendous camp. He’s making plays, looks fluid and is real consistent.”

But the highlight of yesterday's practice? 6'4", 330-pound nose tackle Johnathan Jenkins taking an interception back for a score. Also, starting CB Brandon Boykin and potential starting S Jakar Hamilton continue to be held out of practice with hamstring inuries.

AUBURN: Gene Chizik confirmed yesterday that after offseason shoulder surgery, five-star linebacker signee Kris Frost will miss the entirety of the season. Frost likely would have began his Auburn career on the two-deep at outside linebacker. He becomes the second five-star Tiger recruit in as many seasons to miss his freshman year, following tackle Shon Coleman's leukemia diagnosis in 2010.

It doesn't sound like fan favorite fullback Ladarious Phillips will be a major contributor anytime soon for the Tigers; Chizik said he hasn't "bought any stock in his development yet" and that Phillips "has a long way to go."

ALABAMA: To hear wide receiver Brandon Gibson tell it, the rest of the Tide offense isn't taking sides in the QB battle between A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims. " “They both come out with a great attitude, they help each other out, and they're both competitive," Gibson said. "So with either one of them, we're going to be fine.”

As for third quarterback Blake Sims, Nick Saban said he could see the field as the Tide's designated Wildcat quarterback, or even at tailback. After missing Monday's practice with a leg injury, backup offensive lineman Arie Kouandjio (brother of five-star Tide tackle signee Cyrus Kouandjio) participated in drills Tuesday.

AND ELSEWHERE: Starting senior guard Grant Cook was held out of Tuesday's Arkansas practice with a leg injury, but Bobby Petrino doesn't believe the injury is serious. True freshman Brey Cook (no relation, we think) is filling in with aplomb ... At South Carolina, No. 1 overall recruit Jadeveon Clowney returned to practice after a one-day absence due to a "personal matter." Clowney ran with the Gamecocks' first-team line in practice ... The Florida offensive line wants under-fire quarterback John Brantley to know they've got his back. And though we're not sure about the thoughts of speed-backs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey on the switch, Gator powerback Mike Gillislee likes the move to a pro-style scheme ... Sixth-year defensive end Kentrell Lockett sat out Tuesday's practice as Rebel coaches exercised caution with their oft-injured star. Houston Nutt also praised JUCO quarterback transfer Zack Stoudt, saying that after his spring game suspension he had done what he needed to do over the summer.

Posted on: August 8, 2011 9:48 pm
Edited on: August 9, 2011 1:27 pm
 

CBSSports.com Preseason All-SEC team

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

As part of CBSSports.com's season preview, we offer one blogger's choices for preseason All-SEC.
Our team includes 11 players on either side of the ball, because any more is cheating.

Offense

QUARTERBACK

Aaron Murray, rSoph., Georgia.
A 24-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio would be damn good for any quarterback. For a redshirt freshman in his first year on the job playing without the benefit of a strong running game, it was downright outstanding. (And, in fact, made him the most efficient underclassman quarterback in the country.) Murray should emerge as the conference's clearcut best passer as a sophomore.

Also watch for: Mississippi State's Chris Relf, the conference's best rushing quarterback and option operator; Arkansas's Tyler Wilson, like all Bobby Petrino pupils a 300-yard day waiting to happen; and South Carolina's Stephen Garcia, Murray's biggest competition for first-team honors if he can eliminate the backbreaking turnovers that have plagued his career.

RUNNING BACK

Trent Richardson, Jr., Alabama.
Boasting arguably the nation's best combination of power and speed at the position, Richardson should find himself carrying the lion's share of the load for a Tide offense that's never shied away from pounding out wins on the ground--and will shy away even less in 2011 with an unsettled passing game and ruthless defense.

Marcus Lattimore, Soph., South Carolina. The league's near-unquestioned leader in yards-after-contact, Lattimore's ruggedness and stamina sometimes overshadowed his other stunning gifts: his Mark Ingram-esque balance, surprising acceleration, and maybe the best pair of hands for a back in the SEC. Maybe the nation's best all-around back.

Also watch for: pretty much everyone, given even the SEC's least-heralded backs (like, say, Tennessee's overlooked Tauren Poole) have the potential for a 1,200- to 1,300-yard season. But we'll spotlight Arkansas workhorse Knile Davis, a good bet to finish as the league's top rusher despite the Heisman candidates above.

WIDE RECEIVER

Alshon Jeffery, Jr., South Carolina.
The league's leading receiver in 2010 by nearly 400 yards, there are sea urchins that could tell you Jeffery belongs here. A consensus preseason All-American and first-round lock, don't be surprised if he walks away with this year's Biletnikoff Award.

Greg Childs, Sr., Arkansas.
We're five selections in now and have yet to break ranks with preseason consensus, but we're not going to in this slot, either; at an NFL-ready 6'3", 215, Childs was step-for-statistical-step with Jeffery last season before an injury cut things short. Expect him to make up for lost time in 2011.

Also watch for: Childs' Razorback teammates Joe Adams and Jarius Wright, either of which could top 1,000 yards themselves; Tennessee sophomore home-run threat Justin Hunter; and junior Emory Blake, who could see a massive statistical bump as the No. 1 receiver in Auburn's more aerial-friendly offense.

OFFENSIVE LINE

C William Vlachos, Sr., Alabama.
The senior leader of what shapes up as the conference's best offensive line, Vlachos will have a shot at the Rimington Trophy.

OT Barrett Jones, Jr., Alabama.
After two years at guard, the All-SEC performer and All-American candidate moves to tackle for 2011.

OT Bobby Massie, Jr., Ole Miss.
Senior teammate Bradley Sowell could fit in this slot, but we like the immensely talented 6'6", 315-pound mauler to take another big step forward, especially in the run game.

OG Alvin Bailey, rSoph., Arkansas. Speaking of steps forward, Bailey started all 13 games in 2010, earned freshman All-American honors, and should be the focal point of an improved Hog ground game.

OG Larry Warford, Sr., Kentucky. The future pro was named second-team All-SEC a year ago and preseason All-SEC this year by both the media and coaches--not an easy thing to do at Kentucky.

Also watch for: Sowell, for one. But every SEC team has at least one player or two with all-conference potential. Perhaps the most likely candidates not listed above are at Georgia, where center Ben Jones and tackle Cordy Glenn could put an end to the Bulldogs' years of line underachievement in their senior seasons.

TIGHT END

Orson Charles, Jr. Georgia.
No other returning tight end in the league was close to his 26 receptions for 422 yards last year--and with A.J. Green and Kris Durham gone, Charles's role in the Bulldog offense should only expand from here.

Also watch for: Auburn's Phillip Lutzenkirchen, also due to see a numbers spike thanks to other receivers' departures. And if Florida jack-of-all-trades Jordan Reed sticks to TE, expect an impact from him as well.

Defense

DEFENSIVE LINE

DE Jake Bequette, Sr. Arkansas. In collecting seven sacks a year ago, Bequette emerged as the most explosive performer in the Hogs' highly-underrated front seven.

DE Devin Taylor, Jr., South Carolina. The Gamecocks finished a quiet third in the SEC last season in rush defense, due in large part to Taylor's 13 tackles-for-loss (tops among returning linemen) and 7.5 sacks.

DT Malik Jackson, Sr., Tennessee. It won't be easy for the talkative Jackson this season--he's the Vols' only returning starter in the front seven, and he's already missing two weeks of practice with a knee injury--but no returning SEC tackle was as disruptive in 2010.

DT Sharrif Floyd, Soph., Florida. Part of Urban Meyer's famous five-star haul in February 2010, Floyd collected 6.5 tackles-for-loss despite only starting two games and has reportedly been unblockable in recent Gator practices.

Also watch for: the nose tackles in either Alabama's or Georgia's 3-4 schemes--Josh Chapman in Tuscaloosa, and Kwame Geathers or Johnathan Jenkins in Athens. Ole Miss end Kentrell Lockett is in his sixth year and could lead the league in sacks if healthy. And the early reports are that megarecruits Jadeveon Clowney (at Carolina) and Anthony Johnson (at LSU) are as good as advertised.

LINEBACKERS

OLB Courtney Upshaw, Sr. Alabama.
Seven sacks and 14.5 tackles-for-loss a year ago, and those numbers should only improve as Nick Saban makes him the cornerstone of a more-dedicated Tide pass rush.

ILB Dont'a Hightower, Jr. Alabama. Hightower's rusty 2010 return from an ACL injury doesn't merit inclusion here, but his experience -- combined with the expected return of the athleticism he flashed a freshman All-American in 2008 -- certainly does.

MLB Danny Trevathan, Sr., Kentucky. We're fudging the formation a bit with two inside 'backers and just one OLB, but it's worth it to make room for the SEC's leading tackler from a year ago.

Also watch for: the excellent tandem of Jerico Nelson and Jerry Franklin at Arkansas, or Chris Marve at Vanderbilt, or LSU's underrated Ryan Baker.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

CB Tyrann Mathieu, Soph., LSU.
Teammate Morris Claiborne has received most of the preseason love, but Mathieu came on like gangbusters at the end of his freshman season -- culminating in an MVP performance at the Cotton Bowl -- and should be ready for an all-conference season.

CB Casey Hayward, Sr., Vanderbilt. The Commodores' disappointing 2010 wasn't Hayward's fault; his 17 passes defended led the SEC, and his six interceptions placed him second.

S Mark Barron, Sr., Alabama. His All-American status overrates him ever-so-slightly -- it's possible to get deep on Barron occasionally, if not frequently -- but no defensive back in the league (and maybe the country) has a better nose for the ball or knack for the game-changing play.

S Robert Lester, Jr., Alabama. Two Tide safeties might feel like overkill, but there's not really any arguing with numbers like these: an SEC-high eight interceptions, 12 passes defended, 52 tackles, and the Tide's league-best opposing passer rating of just 103.56.

Also watch for: Tennessee's Janzen Jackson, now that he's reportedly reported to camp in great shape after his layoff; Claiborne, obviously; Razorback safety Tramain Thomas; Georgia corner Brandon Boykin; and oh, fine, Stephon Gilmore. We don't think netting two pass breakups and three picks for a Gamecock pass defense ranked 97th in the country adds up to being an All-SEC player, but we're in the minority.

SPECIALISTS

P Drew Butler, Sr., Georgia; PK Blair Walsh, Sr., Georgia.
We wish the Bulldog specialists the best of luck in their 11th year in Athens. (No, we refuse to believe the pair of them have only had four years of eligibility each.)

Posted on: July 14, 2011 12:38 pm
Edited on: July 14, 2011 12:50 pm
 

Coaches' preseason All-SEC team released

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

We haven't felt like joining in the "wow, college football is really close!" chorus that's popped up as SEC Media Days creeps closer and various media guides across the land have landed in various media mailboxes. With more than half of July and all of August still to cross before we finally reach the promised land, we remain more depressed about the relative closeness of the season than excited.

But maybe, just maybe, it's closer than we think. That's our reaction to the news that the coaches' preseason All-SEC team has already been released. (That, and that the league's coaches sure don't think much of the Tennessee offense.)

A few notes before we get to the teams:
  • Arkansas leads the league with 14 total players honored, but not surprisingly it's Alabama with the most first-team selections, with seven.
  • More intriguingly, the team with the second-most first-team players? Georgia, including (as expected) the conference's first-team quarterback in Aaron Murray. Notably, though, none of those six play defense; lineman DeAngelo Tyson and corner Brandon Boykin were named second-team.
  • We don't have a whole lot of gripes with the selections, though we'd personally take outstanding Vanderbilt corner Casey Hayward over South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore for the first team. While big and physical, Gilmore was vulnerable to getting beaten deep, a big part of the Gamecocks' 10th-place conference finish in both overall pass defense and opponent's QB rating.
  • There's likely to be a lot more griping out of Knoxville, though, after zero Volunteers made any of the three offensive teams. There are cases to be made for running back Taurean Poole, offensive lineman JaWuan James and James Stone, and quarterback Tyler Bray, but the player with the biggest complaint is likely sophomore receiver Justin Hunter. Hunter only caught 16 balls last year, but seven of them went for touchdowns as he averaged an eye-popping 26 yards per reception. With the Vols' three leading receivers from a year ago all graduated, Hunter seems poised for a huge season.
  • It wasn't long ago the SEC was actually somewhat devoid of bellcow running backs. (In 2006, for instance, no player outside of the Darren McFadden-Felix Jones tag-team at Arkansas topped 1,000 yards.) That's not the case this season -- how often do you see the league's leading returning rusher (the Hogs' Knile Davis) consigned to second-team, or a player with 20 rushing touchdowns (Mississippi State's Vick Ballard) dropped all the way to third?
And without further ado, the teams:

OFFENSE

First-Team Offense

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
TE Orson Charles, Georgia 6-3 241 Jr. Tampa, Fla.
OL Cordy Glenn, Georgia 6-5 348 Sr. Riverdale, Ga.
OL Barrett Jones, Alabama 6-5 311 Jr. Memphis, Tenn.
OL Bradley Sowell, Ole Miss 6-7 315 Sr. Hernando, Miss.
OL Larry Warford, Kentucky 6-3 340 Jr. Richmond, Ky.
C Williams Vlachos, Alabama 6-1 294 Sr. Mountain Brook, Ala.
WR Greg Childs, Arkansas 6-3 217 Sr. Warren, Ark.
WR Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina 6-4 233 Jr. St. Matthews, S.C.
QB Aaron Murray, Georgia 6-1 211 So. Tampa, Fla.
RB Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina 6-0 231 So. Duncan, S.C.
RB Trent Richardson, Alabama 5-11 224 Jr. Pensacola, Fla.

Second-Team Offense

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
TE Brandon Barden, Vanderbilt 6-5 345 Sr. Lincolnton, Ga.
OL Alvin Bailey, Arkansas 6-5 319 So. Broken Arrow, Okla.
OL D.J. Fluker, Alabama 6-6 335 So. Foley, Ala.
OL Brandon Mosley, Auburn 6-6 306 Sr. Jefferson, Ga.
OL Rokevious Watkins, South Carolina 6-4 334 Sr. Fairburn, Ga.
C Ben Jones, Georgia 6-3 316 Sr. Centreville, Ala.
WR Joe Adams, Arkansas 5-11 190 Sr. Little Rock, Ark.
WR Rueben Randle, LSU 6-4 210 Jr. Bastrop, La.
QB Stephen Garcia, South Carolina 6-2 230 Sr. Lutz, Fla.
RB Knile Davis, Arkansas 6-0 230 Jr. Missouri City, Texas
RB Jeff Demps, Florida 5-8 190 Sr. Winter Garden, Fla.
RB Mike Dyer, Auburn 5-9 206 So. Little Rock, Ark.

Third-Team Offense

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
TE Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn 6-4 253 Jr. Marietta, Ga.
OL Grant Cook, Arkansas 6-4 318 Sr. Jonesboro, Ark.
OL Alex Hurst, LSU 6-6 329 Jr. Bartlett, Tenn.
OL Bobby Massie, Ole Miss 6-6 325 Jr. Lynchburg, Va.
OL Kyle Nunn, South Carolina 6-5 296 Sr. Sumter, NC
C Travis Swanson, Arkansas 6-5 305 So. Kingwood, Texas
WR Emory Blake, Auburn 6-1 197 Jr. Austin, Texas
WR Marquis Maze, Alabama 5-10 180 Sr. Birmingham, Ala.
WR Jarius Wright, Arkansas 5-10 180 Sr. Warren, Ark.
QB Chris Relf, Mississippi State 6-4 245 Sr. Montgomery, Ala.
RB Vick Ballard, Mississippi State 5-11 220 Sr. Pascagoula, Miss.
RB Onterrio McCalebb, Auburn 5-10 172 Jr. Fort Meade, Fla.

DEFENSE

First-Team Defense

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
DL Jake Bequette, Arkansas 6-5 271 Sr. Little Rock, Ark.
DL Josh Chapman, Alabama 6-1 310 Sr. Hoover, Ala.
DL Malik Jackson, Tennessee 6-5 270 Sr. Northridge, Calif.
DL Devin Taylor, South Carolina 6-7 248 Jr. Beaufort, S.C.
LB Dont'a Hightower, Alabama 6-4 260 Jr. Lewisburg, Tenn.
LB Chris Marve, Vanderbilt 6-0 235 Sr. Memphis, Tenn.
LB Danny Trevathan, Kentucky 6-1 230 Sr. Leesburg, Fla.
DB Mark Barron, Alabama 6-2 218 Sr. Mobile, Ala.
DB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina 6-1 194 Jr. Rock Hill, S.C.
DB Robert Lester, Alabama 6-2 210 Jr. Foley, Ala.
DB Morris Claiborne, LSU 6-0 177 Jr. Shreveport, La.

Second-Team Defense

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
DL Melvin Ingram, South Carolina 6-2 271 Sr. Hamlet, N.C.
DL DeAngelo Tyson, Georgia 6-2 306 Sr. Statesboro, Ga.
DL Kentrell Lockett, Ole Miss 6-5 248 Sr. Hahnville, La.
DL Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State 6-4 295 Jr. Yazoo City, Miss.
DL Barkevious Mingo, LSU 6-5 240 So. West Monroe, La.
LB Ryan Baker, LSU 6-0 227 Sr. Grand Ridge, Fla.
LB Jerry Franklin, Arkansas 6-1 245 Sr. Marion, Ark.
LB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama 6-2 265 Sr. Eufaula, Ala.
DB Brandon Boykin, Georgia 5-10 183 Sr. Fayetteville, Ga.
DB Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt 5-11 188 Sr. Perry, Ga.
DB Tramain Thomas, Arkansas 6-0 198 Sr. Winnie, Texas
DB Tyrann Mathieu, LSU 5-9 180 So. New Orleans, La.

Third-Team Defense

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
DL Corey Lemonier, Auburn 6-4 229 So. Hialeah, Fla.
DL Sam Montgomery, LSU 6-4 250 So. Greenwood, S.C.
DL Travian Robertson, South Carolina 6-4 298 Sr. Laurinburg, N.C.
DL Tenarius Wright, Arkansas 6-2 252 Jr. Memphis, Tenn.
LB Jon Bostic, Florida 6-1 238 Jr. Wellington, Fla.
LB Jelani Jenkins, Florida 6-1 233 So. Olney, Md.
LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama 6-2 234 So. Theodore, Ala.
DB Johnathan Banks, Mississippi State 6-2 185 Jr. Maben, Miss.
DB Dre' Kirkpatrick, Alabama 6-3 192 Jr. Gadsden, Ala.
DB Neiko Thorpe, Auburn 6-2 185 Sr. Tucker, Ga.
DB Prentiss Waggner, Tennessee 6-2 181 Jr. Clinton, La.

SPECIALISTS

First-Team  Specialists

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
PK Blair Walsh, Georgia 5-10 192 Sr. Boca Raton, Fla.
P Drew Butler, Georgia 6-2 214 Sr. Duluth, Ga.
RS Brandon Boykin, Georgia 5-10 183 Sr. Fayetteville, Ga.
AP Joe Adams, Arkansas 5-11 190 Sr. Little Rock, Ark.

Second-Team  Specialists

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
PK Caleb Sturgis, Florida 5-10 192 Redshirt Jr. St. Augustine, Fla.
P Tyler Campbell, Ole Miss 6-2 227 Jr. Little Rock, Ark.
RS Warren Norman, Vanderbilt 5-10 195 Jr. Stone Mountain, Georgia
AP Trent Richardson, Alabama 5-11 224 Jr. Pensacola, Fla.

Third-Team  Specialists

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
PK Zach Hocker, Arkansas 6-0 180 So. Russellville, Ark.
P Dylan Breeding, Arkansas 6-1 211 Jr. Hoover, Ala.
P Ryan Tydlacka, Kentucky 6-1 185 Sr. Louisville, Ky.
RS Andre DeBose, Florida 5-11 180 So. Sanford, Fla.
AP Trey Burton, Florida 6-2 222 So. Venice, Fla.


Posted on: December 29, 2010 3:57 pm
 

CBS Bowl Bonanza: Liberty Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The Basics: UCF (10-3) vs. Georgia (6-6), Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. EST.

Why You Should Watch: The SEC's bowl tie-ins give the non-AQ teams of the world just one shot at the nation's highest-profile conference, and this is it; the Liberty annually pairs one of the SEC's also-rans against the Conference USA champion. But even with the field seemingly as tilted in favor of the C-USA upset as it could possibly be, it hasn't happened yet, as the SEC has swept all four of the SEC-vs.-C-USA Liberty Bowls to date. UCF represents maybe the best chance for C-USA yet, as they have both the airtight defense (18th nationally) and offensive starpower (in freshman quarterbacking prodigy Jeff Godfrey) to give Georgia all they want.

Of course, the Dawgs have A.J. Green and Justin Houston and Aaron Murray and a whole bunch of other SEC athletes, not to mention a statistical profile much better than their 6-6 record. Last year's Liberty went into overtime, and on paper this one's evenly-matched enough to make it 2-for-2. For depth of talent on display and a well-balanced, competitive matchup, you're not going to do much better before New Year's than the Liberty.

Keys to Victory for UCF: Frankly, the Knights should come into this game the substantially more motivated team. They're coming off of a championship season, but one without a win over BCS competition (after close losses vs. N.C. State and at Kansas State); they couldn't ask for a more perfect finishing touch than beating a traditional SEC power for the program's first-ever bowl victory. That should give the Knights an emotional edge, one that could give them a fast start against a Bulldogs team that badly underachieved to land at 6-6 and no doubt had their sights set on a bowl destination more glamorous than Memphis.

If the Knights do come away with a halftime or three-quarters lead, Georgia will be in trouble. Godfrey was a revelation after taking over for the injured Rob Calabrese at midseason, finishing eighth in the country in passer rating with a sparkling 68.4 completion percentage and 9.8 yards-per-attempt average. He added 10 touchdowns and 546 yards on the ground for good measure, pacing the Knights to the kind of balance (2,502 rushing yards, 2,493 passing) and steady efficiency (fifth in the FBS in time-of-possession at 33:09 a game) that most teams can only talk about.

But as effective as the Knight offense was, it was the defense that did the heavy lifting, starting with a secondary that placed both corner Josh Robinson and safety Kemal Ishmael on the All-C-USA first team and finished in the national top 30 in opponent's passer rating, opponent's yards-per-attempt, and interceptions. But the Knights also have a pair of fearsome defensive ends in Bruce Miller and Darius Nall, who combined for 21 tackles-for-loss and 15.5 sacks to give UCF the nation's 10th-ranked rush defense. (Ishmael's team-leading 82 tackles helped, too.) The absence of a big-play passing game means they won't want to fall behind, but if the Knights can get out in front, their combination of sound defense and clock-killing offense will have them well-positioned for the victory.

Keys to Victory for Georgia: It's simple: if the Dawgs overcome their disappointment of a season and match UCF's levels of energy and focus, they win.

Because while UCF might have several awfully solid players, Georgia has several All-Americans. Houston led the SEC in sacks, finished second in tackles-for-loss, and was a finalist for multiple national awards; Murray might be the only freshman quarterback in the country to have had an even more impressive season than Godfrey, posting an incredible 24-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio; and Green might be the most purely talented college receiver since Larry Fitzgerald. And even aside from their headlining stars, Georgia can boast an offensive line packed with both experience and future NFL players like senior tackle Clint Boling; dangerous skill position weapons like tight end Orson Charles and running back Washaun Ealey; maybe the nation's best pair of specialists in punter Drew Butler and cannon-legged kicker Blair Walsh; kickoff returner Brandon Boykin, who's taken four kicks to the house the past two seasons; two steady senior linebackers in Akeem Dent and Darryl Gamble; etc.

All of that talent means it's something of a mystery how Georgia ever wound up at .500, though plain old bad luck in the form of poorly-timed fumbles and critical defensive breakdowns in close games -- the Dawgs went 0-3 in games decided by 7 points or fewer -- probably had something to do with it. Their average per-play margin of +1.2 (6.4 gained per snap, 5.2 allowed)
ranked first by a wide margin in the SEC East and fourth in the conference behind the leagues' two BCS teams and Alabama. In short, this is a team that's been much better than their place in the SEC standings (or their Liberty berth) would indicate, and if they play to that same standard, they should have enough to overpower the less-talented Knights.

The Liberty Bowl is like: That one sharp-witted, twinkly-eyed elderly gentleman in your neighborhood who you knew from church, or the diner down the street, or maybe just the rocking chair on his front porch, who told stories and though not all of them were classics, he always had one you'd never heard before and some of them stayed with you like Louisville beating Boise State 44-40 in 2004. The Liberty has been in business since 1959, making it one of the oldest pre-New Year's games, and though it's not the game it once was, UCF and Georgia promise to give it another memorable chapter in its distinguished history.


Posted on: October 27, 2010 1:44 pm
 

Want better special teams? Try helmet stickers

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

If you missed Georgia defeating Kentucky 44-31 last Saturday night, you missed a dominating special teams performance by the visiting Bulldogs. Brandon Boykin broke loose for a 100-yard kick return touchdown, a surprise Wildcat onsides kick was recovered by Georgia, and dangerous Kentucky punt returner Randall Cobb was held without a return yard on three Georgia punts.

The performance was all the more impressive considering that behind Cobb and players like excellent punter Ryan Tydlacka , Kentucky ranked -- and still ranks -- No. 1 in statistical guru Phil Steel 's cumulative special teams ratings . And after Saturday, the Bulldogs themselves have movd all the way up to sixth.

What's the secret of Georgia's success? According to interviews with players before the Kentucky game, it's as simple as the dog-bone pride stickers on the back of Georgia's helmets:

 

“Special teams isn’t emphasized enough as far as the fans go, but coach (Mark) Richt wants the best guys out there,” Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray said. “Those guys get rewarded. If you play special teams, you get more bones on your helmet and this and that. Now we’ve got starters wanting to get out there and play special teams.”

Front-line defensive players are among the most eager volunteers, and helmet stickers have a lot to do with it.

Standards for earning dog bones on defense are a little different than on special teams.

“If I didn’t play special teams, I wouldn’t have half the dog bones that I have now,” Georgia cornerback Sanders Commings said. “There’s more opportunities for dog bones. To get dog bones on defense, you have to make a tackle. But on special teams, you don’t have to make a tackle. You cover your responsibility, you get a bone.”

Seems a little over-simplified, right? Award helmet stickers, get better players for the special teams, have better special teams? If it was that easy, wouldn't every program in the country would be awarding pride stickers?

Maybe. But maybe not. According to a (100 percent accurate and comprehensive) list of sticker-employing programs on Wikipedia , 24 teams offer pride stickers for good play, or exactly 20 percent of the FBS. Of those 24, however, eight rank in Steele's special teams top 25, or 32 percent. If we take Steele's ratings at face value, it's true: teams with helmet stickers represent a greater share of teams excelling on special teams than we would expect from a random, equal distribution.

Admittedly, the correlation isn't that strong; it's likely the phenomenon examined here is simply coincidence. But unless keeping the team's helmet unspoiled is a top priority, isn't it evidence enough (along with Georgia's testimony) for programs to at least consider offering pride stickers? If one minor uniform tweak might be all it takes to get one minor upgrade at one special teams position, couldn't the benefit over the course of the season be worth the attempt?

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