Posted on: August 15, 2011 4:19 pm
Edited on: August 15, 2011 4:27 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Running down everything you need to know from the weekend's news in the SEC, courtesy of our CBSSports.com RapidReporters.
ARKANSAS: Maybe that Knile Davis injury won't hurt the Hogs as badly as expected? That might be the lesson from Tyler Wilson's scorching fall camp, which continued through the weekend after a 16-of-20 performance in the scrimmage in which Davis was injured. Saturday, Wilson hit all 10 of his passes in a skeleton drill and had newly-anointed starting tailback Ronnie Wingo singing his praises. "“He’s taken control of the offense," Wingo said.
Wilson's progress has been helped by a new film system in which the Hogs' practice is shot from a camera at the top of a pole positioned behind the offense. More good news for the Hogs: starting lineman Grant Cook is back at practice and JUCO linebacker Alonzo Highsmith appears to have a starting position locked up.
GEORGIA: True freshman outside linebacker Ray Drew was expected to contribute early and often after picking the Dawgs over offers from nearly every school in the country, but that job became harder Sunday after Drew sprained his shoulder in a scooter accident. He's considered day-to-day.
But the much bigger injury crisis for the Bulldogs is taking place in the backfield--three of the first four tailbacks on the depth chart were forced to miss practice Saturday, including potential starters Richard Samuel and Isaiah Crowell.
LSU: Michael Ford arrived at Baton Rouge as a much-hyped running back prospect, but he was not among the four tailbacks mentioned by Les Miles as being in the starting mix for the Tigers. Those would be Spencer Ware (the favorite), Jakhari Gore, Alfred Blue, and true freshman Terrence McGee, who Miles singled out for some praise. "It's who's got the hot hand a little bit, and right now it would be those four," Miles said.
ALABAMA: Nick Saban sounded less than thrilled with his running game's iffy performance in the Tide's Saturday scrimmage. "At some point in this camp, we need to develop some cohesion,” he said. “I feel like we have power up front, and we should be a better running team." The passing game still has to yet to begin working with one of its key pieces, too, as receiver Duron Carter has not yet begin practicing as the school waits to solve a transcript issue.
But the Tide defense rolls on as expected; Mark Barron is 100 percent after last year's pectoral injury and redshirt freshman OLB Adrian Hubbard drew praise from Saban -- no easy task -- for his pass-rushing potential.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: Via the Clarion-Ledger's Brandon Marcello, Dan Mullen was not happy with his team's Saturday practice and was even more disgusted with the Bulldogs' Monday morning effort, calling the offensive showing "pathetic." Also: though Clemson transfer linebacker Brandon Maye has been expected by many to occupy one of MSU's three vacant starting linebacker positions, Mullen said Maye "has a long way to go to get a spot."
ELSEWHERE: Jadeveon Clowney collected a pair of sacks in South Carolina's weekend scrimmage, but defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson says he's not in line for a starting position just yet ... Florida do-everything tight end Jordan Reed got a look at punt returner over the weekend--and from the sound of things, came away with a shot at the job ... Speaking of punt returns, Auburn assistant Trooper Taylor said he'd take some heat this year if the Tigers' lackluster returns on his watch didn't improve. "It needs to get better or somebody else will be here talking to you," he said. "I'll be spraying fruit at Walmart" ... Tennessee is poised to start a pair of true freshmen linebackers in Curt Maggitt and A.J. Johnson. And while Derek Dooley was pleased with the improved "efficiency" of the Vol offense under Tyler Bray, Bray still completed just 12 of 26 passes (46 percent) in Saturday's scrimmage ... And speaking of errant passing, the three quarterbacks dueling for the Ole Miss job went a combined 7-of-24 in the Rebels' weekend scrimmage.
Tags: A.J. Johnson, Adrian Hubbard, Alabama, Alfred Blue, Alonzo Highsmith, Arkansas, Auburn, Brandon Maye, Clemson, Curt Maggitt, Dan Mullen, Derek Dooley, Duron Carter, Florida, Georgia, Grant Cook, Isaiah Crowell, Jakhari Gore, Jerry Hinnen, Jordan Reed, Knile Davis, LSU, Mark Barron, Michael Ford, Mississippi State, Nick Saban, Ole Miss, Ray Drew, Richard Samuel, Ronie Wingo, SEC, Spencer Ware, Tennessee, Terrence McGee, Trroper Taylor, Tyler Bray, Tyler Wilson
Posted on: August 12, 2011 6:42 pm
Edited on: August 12, 2011 6:44 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
While the future of the SEC hangs in the balance in College Station and Birmingham, the present of the SEC took an unfortunate turn Thursday when Arkansas running back Knile Davis suffered a season-ending ankle injury.
The SEC's leading returning rusher and a pick by many to make first-eam All-SEC despite the presence of potential All-Americans like Marcus Lattimore and Trent Richardson, Davis was set to be arguably the foundation for Bobby Petrino's entire 2011 offense. His loss is a savage blow to a program that had yet to uncover a true workhorse back since Darren McFadden, at least until Davis roared onto the scene in the second half of 2010. Making things worse, second-leading rusher Broderick Green was lost for the year in the spring with an ACL tear.
But obviously, the show in Fayetteville will go on all the same--and given the weapons Petrino has at his disposal at wide receiver and quarterback Tyler Wilson's abundant potential, it could still be quite a show. (Wilson went 16-of-20 in the same scrimmage in which Davis was injured.) Here's the Hogs' top options to replace Davis:
Ronnie Wingo: The Hogs' next leading rusher in 2010 -- though with only 253 yards -- the 6'3", 227-pound junior from St. Louis will likely have first crack as the offense's everydown back. Wingo provides both a brusiing straight-ahead running style and a receiving threat out of the backfield; he caught 27 passes a year ago for more yardage (274) than he gained on the ground. But Petrino would likely want a starter who'll do more than grind out three- and four-yard gains. Would Wingo be explosive enough?
Dennis Johnson: Perhaps the back with the highest upside among the remaining candidates, Johnson's combnation of speed, power and elusiveness has made him a fearful weapon when focused and healthy--witness his 107-yard, 7.6 yards-per-carry outburst in the Hogs' 2009 near-upset at Florida, or his pair of career kick returns for touchdowns. But that hasn't been often, as Johnson played in just two games a year ago thanks to a freak bowel injury. Reportedly healthy again, don't be surprised of Johnson winds up getting the majority of the Hog carries this season.
Kody Walker: Despite his Maxpreps ranking as the nation's No. 6 "big back" in the class of 2011, Arkansas was the Jefferson City, Mo. product's only SEC offer, choosing the Hogs over Minnesota and Missouri. But the early returns are that Petrino may have found a gem, as Walker gained 66 yards on 15 carries in a recent scrimmage and earned praise from Hog offensive coordinator Garrick McGee. Though clearly behind Wingo and Johnson in the pecking order, Walker is in line to earn the occasional spot carry--and maybe even more if he proves himself capable.
Kiero Small: A converted linebacker fresh out of JUCO, the 5'10", 255-pound Small has already made a big impression at fullback. Though not a candidate for major carries, Small could be used a goal-line and short-yardage option much as Green was a year ago.
All in all, things could be a whole heck of a lot better for Arkansas at running back. But with two experienced options still in the fold and Johnson in particular (in this writer's opinion) possessing the talent that could still make him a difference-maker in the SEC, things could be a whole lot worse, too.
Posted on: August 12, 2011 10:09 am
Edited on: August 12, 2011 10:18 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
UPDATE: Arkansas has confirmed that Davis is expected to miss the season with a left ankle injury
"I am extremely disappointed for Knile," head coach Bobby Petrino said in a prepared statement. "He is a captain who was incredibly focused on the upcoming year. His leadership throughout the offseason was significant in the development of this team. Our athletic trainers and medical staff are the best in the country, and Knile's mental toughness will be an asset to him during the recovery process. I am fully confident in the mindset of our running back group and their ability to perform."
Arkansas fans were horrified when they heard the reports of Knile Davis' lower leg injury on Thursday. Offensive coordinator Garric McGee and the rest of the Razorbacks refused to speak with the media about the severity of the injury, citing team policy for Bobby Petrino to be the only one to speak on the topic of player injuries. CBSSports.com's Jimmy Carter reports that the Davis' injury is "major" and he will miss "significant" time.
Davis' Arkansas teammates took to Twitter on Thursday night, sending their thoughts and prayers to the star running back.
Running back Broderick Green: "Prayers go out to my RB Knile Davis pray he stays strong and know GOD will see him through this difficult time. Please say a prayer for him."
Offensive guard Grant Cook: "The Lord does everything for a reason, we may not understand it, but there is a plan set in motion! #GodBless7."
While the media may not have been able to ask the players any questions about the severity of the injury, the players' tone has indicated that this is likely as bad as many have feared. Arkansas' Rivals site has already reported that Davis will be out for the season, and word out of Little Rock seems to confirm that suspicion.
Posted on: August 8, 2011 9:48 pm
Edited on: August 9, 2011 1:27 pm
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
Tags: A.J. Green, Aaron Murray, Alabama, Alshon Jeffery, Alvin Bailey, Anthony Johnson, Arkansas, Auburn, Barrett Jones, Ben Jones, Blair Walsh, Bobby Massie, Bobby Petrino, Bradley Sowell, Brandon Boykin, Casey Hayward, Chris Marve, Chris Relf, Cordy Glenn, Cotton Bowl, Courtney Upshaw, Danny Trevathan, Devin Taylor, Dont'a Hightower, Drew Butler, Emory Blake, Florida, Georgia, Greg Childs, Jadeveon Clowney, Jake Bequette, Janzen Jackson, Jarius Wright, Jerico Nelson, Jerry Franklin, Jerry Hinnen, Joe Adams, Johnathan Jenkins, Jordan Reed, Josh Chapman, Justin Hunter, Kentrell Lockett, Kentucky, Knile Davis, Kris Durham, Kwame Geathers, Larry Warford, LSU, Malik Jackson, Marcus Lattimore, Mark Barron, Mark Ingram, Mississippi State, Morris Claiborne, Ole Miss, Orson Charles, Phillip Lutzenkirchen, preseason All-SEC, Robert Lester, Ryan Baker, SEC, SEC preview, Sharrif Floyd, South Carolina, Stephen Garcia, Stephon Gilmore, Tauren Poole, Tennessee, Tramain Thomas, Trent Richardson, Tyler Wilson, Tyrann Mathieu, Vanderbilt, Williams Vlachos
Posted on: August 3, 2011 7:54 pm
Edited on: August 5, 2011 4:02 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Who's in your Top 5 for the best tailbacks of 2011? CBSSports.com experts J. Darin Darst and Adam Aizer sat back down today to hammer out their top fives, and the answers may shock you!
Well okay, they probably won't shock you, unless you've got an unusual amount of hope in, say, Bryce Brown putting it all together at Kansas State.
If you don't have nine minutes to listen (which, yes you do, but whatever), here's each podcaster's top five.
5. James White, Wisconsin
4. Bobby Rainey, Western Kentucky
3. Trent Richardson, Alabama
2. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
1. LaMichael James, Oregon
J. DARIN DARST
5. Chris Polk, Washington
4. Bobby Rainey, Western Kentucky
3. Knile Davis, Arkansas
2. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
1. LaMichael James, Oregon
Briefly, I don't have a whole lot of problems with the top of either guys' list, but I think they're putting too much stock in the 2010 stats of each guy -- specifically Trent Richardson. Yeah, Richardson had only 700 yards last year, but if we're talking about 2011, he's easily a better Heisman prospect than Chris Polk or Bobby Rainey. Moreover, if you had Richardson, Polk, and Rainey in the same backfield (and keep in mind Auburn had RBs Cadillac Williams, Ronnie Brown, and Brandon Jacobs in 2003, so it's not an impossibility), you're probably starting Richardson before Polk or Rainey, right?
Anyway, if they'd asked me for my five, it'd go James at the top, followed by Richardson, Lattimore, Davis, and then Rainey. Trepidation about Lattimore not handling a full workload might be fine in August, but by September or October I think it's going to be pretty obvious that Richardson is a freakish manbeast of the highest caliber. James is the best candidate for a 2,000 yard season so that's why he's my number one, but really, we're arguing about relatively small levels of difference in quality when we're talking about this highest echelon of running backs, so keep that in mind for this debate.
Tags: Adam Jacobi, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Big 10, Big 12, Bobby Rainey, Brandon Jacobs, Bryce Brown, Cadillac Williams, Chris Polk, James White, Knile Davis, LaMichael James, Marcus Lattimore, Non-BCS, Oregon, Pac-12, Ronnie Brown, SEC, South Carolina, Top 5 College Running Backs, Top 5 Running Backs 2011, Trent Richardson, Washington, Western Kentucky, Wisconsin
Posted on: July 20, 2011 3:28 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino was the first SEC coach to be subjected to the throngs of reporters at the SEC Media Days on Wednesday in Birmingham, and here are a couple highlights of his session.
On why he's had so much success with quarterbacks wherever he's been - "I think when you look at our success in coaching quarterbacks, one thing I really believe in is it's our job to find out what they do well and then ask them to do that.
It's our coaches' job, my job, to find out what our quarterback does best. Let's take this nice, fancy playbook we have, set it to the side, and develop the offense around the quarterback and give him a chance to be successful. I think the other thing that helps a lot is when you get the other ten guys to play real well around him."
On Tyler Wilson's performance in spring practice this year - "Tyler and Brandon [Mitchell] were the two guys taking reps with the ones. I really believe that those reps, they really tried to take advantage of them. I think Tyler also really understood that 'I just need to settle down, relax, and play the game the way I know how to play the game.' Not try to be Ryan Mallett. In [spring 2010 when Mallett was injured] at times he tried to do things that were out of his element and I thought this spring that was something he really understood 'Hey this is what I do well, this is what I have to work on, and I'm going to continue to do what I know how to do to move the ball.'"
On how Arkansas having so much depth at RB and WR helps the quarterback - "I think it'll really help our new QB, Tyler or Brandon, whoever it is. The fact that I have to distribute the ball according to what the defense is doing. There's been years when you're on offense and you know who your number one receiver is, your number two receiver is and sometimes, particularly when you're inexperienced, you try to force the ball into that guy. Our quarterbacks understand that we're very talented. I have to read the defense, understand what's going on and distribute the ball. Get it to my players and let them make plays for me. I think that's something we will rely on, and it'll really help us if you can turn around and hand it to Knile [Davis] 20 to 25 times a game and get to the proper third downs. That's what really helps there."
On Knile Davis and what he means to the team - "I think the first thing you look at when you look at Knile Davis is you look at his work ethic. Here's a young man that, in the weight room, has continued to get stronger and faster. In fact, he just did a great job in the weight room this past week.
"He's a young man that, in the winter, when we had our testing days, he went in there with every group. He didn't have to, but he was in there cheering them on, spotting guys. The offensive line came in after the running backs, he stayed and spent time with the offensive lineman. So it's become extremely important for him to show how much he cares, and how much he encourages his teammates.
"As far as his ability to run the football, you can see he can run with power, speed and has very, very good vision. I'm excited to see him take a step forward and make improvements in what he did from a year ago. He understands what he needs to do to do that."
On Arkansas' defensive line and how important defensive line play is in the SEC - "I'm excited for our defense this year because I really feel like it's the first time where we're physically where we need to be on the defensive front. Our guys will be big and physical and athletic. We've got speed on the edges which matches what we see every week in the conference.
"I've always believed since I was in the conference as an assistant and then coached in another conference as a head coach that the thing that separated the SEC from everybody else in America was the defensive front. The speed and athleticism on the edges and the athleticism and size on the inside. I found out when I came back into the league as a head coach that that was true."
On playing in a division as tough as the SEC West - "It's tough, you're going against guys that are very, very good players. Tremendous coaching staffs. That's what makes it hard is everybody is going to be well-prepared, understands how you play the game and has the talent to win the game. I think it's real important for us that we're disciplined, we understand how to play on the road and how to find a way to win in the fourth quarter."
On the high expectations at Arkansas - "I'm not afraid of high expectations. I'm excited with the fact that two years in a row now we have very high expectations....It's fun to approach the year that way."
On Ryan Mallett sharing Arkansas' hand signals with Jon Gruden in an ESPN special - "Yeah, they're changed. We already changed them. I wasn't real happy with him, by the way, when I was informed that he did that. He called me up and apologized, but he gave us a few ideas for some new hand signals, so that always helps."
On whether he considers 2010 to be an 11-win season rather than a 10-win season after Ohio State had to vacate the Sugar Bowl - "It's a ten-win season, we were 10-3. We had every chance in the world to win that game but were beat on the field."
Posted on: July 14, 2011 12:38 pm
Edited on: July 14, 2011 12:50 pm
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:
Tags: Aaron Murray, Alabama, Arkansas, Brandon Boykin, Casey Hayward, Darren McFadden, DeAngelo Tyson, Felix Jones, Georgia, James Stone, JaWuan James, Justin Hunter, Knile Davis, Mississippi State, Preseason All-SEC team, SEC, South Carolina, Stephon Gilmore, Taurean Poole, Tennessee, Tyler Bray, Vanderbilt, Vick Ballard
Posted on: May 27, 2011 1:03 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:56 am
By the Eye on College Football bloggers
To celebrate the 100 99 98 days remaining until the first Saturday of the new college football season, this is the CBSSports.com College Football 100: our countdown of the 2011 season's 100 most influential players, coaches, administrators, venues, or any other related things in college football. It's like that other "most influential" list, but, you know, more important. Also: it's supposed to be fun. Enjoy.
80. KIRK COUSINS, quarterback, Michigan State. Saying a team has "a lot to prove" after an 11-win season usually bodes poorly for how the season ended, and for Michigan State, that's no exception; the Spartans went 11-2, but those two losses were a 37-6 shellacking by Iowa and a 49-7 massacre in the Capital One Bowl against Alabama that didn't even seem that close. It was bad. Fortunately, MSU has the personnel to put together another strong showing in 2011.
The backfield hydra of Le'Veon Bell, Edwin Baker and Larry Caper will be the main focus of MSU's offense, but just like with Wisconsin's massive rushing attack last year, it's the senior quarterback at the helm that'll really keep defensive coordinators up at night. Not only that, but Cousins' arm is better than Scott Tolzien's. Significantly better. This'll be Cousins' third season starting, too, and though Mark Dantonio may not need his senior QB to average over 200 passing yards per game again, it'll be hard to keep Cousins' production down--especially when he's facing eight men in the box half the time. It's not a stretch to think Cousins could lead the Big Ten in passing efficiency in 2011--and even less of a stretch to think he could lead his men to double-digit wins once again. -- AJ
79. JOE PATERNO, head coach, Penn State. JoePa gets his own special Memorial Day weekend breakout entry; read it here.
78. BRANDON LINDSEY, defensive end, Pitt. The Pittsburgh defensive end had a stellar junior season in 2010, leading the Big East in tackles for loss (18.0) and finishing second in sacks (10.0). The Panthers have all new leadership up top, with Todd Graham in as head coach and Keith Patterson coming with him from Tulsa as defensive coordinator. Patterson is moving Pitt to a 3-4 defense that utilizes a hybrid "Panther linebacker," one often standing at the line of scrimmage.
The plan, according to Patterson and Graham, is to put Lindsey's explosiveness to use at that new "Panther" position. Graham compared Lindsey's role in 2011 to that of James Harrison--the ultimate playmaking linebacker in the city. Unfortunately, Lindsey missed spring practice with a shoulder injury. But the coaching staff is still counting on his frightening burst and ability to swarm to the ball in the backfield once fall camp opens. If Lindsey racked up 18 tackles for loss coming off the line, it would not be surprising to see the senior among the nation's leaders in his new role. -- CP
77. TRAVIS LEWIS, linebacker, Oklahoma. Travis Lewis's importance to the Oklahoma defense was already enough to warrant his inclusion on this list before the tragic recent death of fellow linebacker Austin Box. Now, not only will Lewis be looked to to lead the defense, but also help his teammates get over the loss of a teammate. He's the senior member of the Oklahoma linebacking corps, racking up an impressive 360 tackles (47.5 for loss), 6 sacks and 8 interceptions in his first three seasons.
As impressive as Lewis has been, though, he'll have to help improve one key part of Oklahoma's defense in 2011: stopping the run. The Sooners gave up 151.8 yards per-game on the ground last season, and while that number isn't terrible, it's not good for Oklahoma on the whole. Why? Because when teams are running on Oklahoma they're killing the clock, and every second that ticks away is a second that the Sooners' high-powered offense isn't on the field. As the leader of the linebacking corps, it will be up to Lewis to help stuff the run and get the Sooner offense back on the field. Whether he's able to do this or not could be the deciding factor between a Big 12 championship and a national championship in Norman. -- TF
76. "THE FLORIDA WAY," team code of conduct, Florida. So how, exactly, did one of the nation's most talented teams suffer five regular season losses in 2010, one shy of their total for the previous four years combined? As per usual with questions like these, it wasn't one factor but a perfect [deleted]storm for the Gators: poor coaching from the coaches, poor execution from the players, poor treatment from the football gods. (How many times out of 100 does LSU's accidental bounce-pass to their kicker on their game-deciding fake field goal actually wind up in the hands of the kicker?) But in retrospect, it appeared to be poor focus that cost the Gators more than anything. With Urban Meyer at the end of his coaching rope, Florida frayed in all kinds of directions: transfer rumors, sloppy fundamentals, petty arrests, Twitter embarrassments. The effort on gameday was there; the discipline needed for it to produce Meyer's usual results was not.
Enter Will Muschamp and the "Florida Way," his name for the team's new all-encompassing code of conduct. With most coaches and most teams, we'd call this sort of thing a P.R. sop for the coaching honeymoon, and move on to on-field matters. But when it comes to the Gators, 2010 proved this is an on-field matter. Before Charlie Weis's schemes can take root, before Muschamp can create his usual teeth-rattling D, the Gators have to rebuild the foundation of focus and discipline forged in the Tim Tebow days. If they do, though -- if the still supremely-talented Gators can follow through on the "Florida Way" -- expect them to follow it right back up the SEC East standings. -- JH
75. PRESEASON TOP 25'S, polls, mid-August. To some extent, the polls will always be the most influential component of all college football--they're what ultimately awards that national championship everybody's after, after all. (Or do through the BCS middleman, anyway.) But it's also true that the polls, for the most part, respond to the events on the field rather than vice versa.
But there's one set of ballots that not only wind up shaping the narrative of the entire season, but can and do influence results between the lines. Those are the preseason top 25's, easily the most influential polls of the season. Not do only do they establish a blueprint that forms the basis for every ballot that comes afterwards, but seemingly every year they build a wave of hype and expectation that drowns some team's championship season before it even begins. Ask Ole Miss in 2009 (the most recent, striking example) about the latter phenomenon. Ask Auburn in 2004 -- and their inability to overturn the two teams entrenched at the the top of the polls since preseason -- about the former. In college football, polls matter; the preseason variety matter even more than most. -- JH
74. JEFF GODFREY, quarterback, UCF. How do these stats sound for a starting freshman quarterback? 168-294, 2,071 passing yards, 12 TDs, 122.9 passing efficiency, 17 rushing yards, and 5 rushing TDs. Pretty solid production overall for a freshman, no? Probably one of the best freshman seasons in UCF history, right? Yes, it was one of the best: that was Daunte Culpepper's freshman year at UCF. Godfrey's, meanwhile, was better across the board.
Here's what Godfrey put up: 159-238, 2,159 passing yards, 15 TDs, 154.3 passing efficiency, 566 rushing yards, and 10 rushing TDs. Godfrey's throwing motion needs work, but the arm strength is there; he's surprisingly adept at the deep ball. Then there's the rushing. Godfrey doesn't have Denard Robinson's level of speed, but he's still darn fast--fast enough to be a nightmare for opposing secondaries when he's scrambling. Put it all together, and Godfrey -- as a true freshman -- was a more efficient passer than super-sophs Matt Barkley, Landry Jones, Robinson, Darron Thomas and even Godfrey's closest prototype: Robert Griffin III. Godfrey is already one of the brightest stars in Conference USA, and we have a feeling he's nowhere near done collecting accolades. -- AJ
73. KYLE WHITTINGHAM, head coach, Utah. One of two coaches to join the Pac-12 this year, Whittingham has been around the block before. He's got a BCS bowl win and undefeated season on his resume already, making him one of the most accomplished coaches in his new league from the get-go. His first task is trying to avoid the terrible stretch run the Utes had last season (losing three of their last five) and get them back to where they were earlier in the season.
The seventh-year head coach has plenty of weapons at his proposal and has brought in one of the school's most well known alums, Norm Chow, as offense coordinator to give the Utes a boost. Whittingham should be able to lean on Chow, who comes over from UCLA has has years of experience in the Utes' new conference. Whittingham is known more for his defensive instincts and he'll have to get the pass defense up to speed before jumping into league play and facing the Pac-12's the plethora of good quarterbacks. The schedule is manageable but most of the tough games are on the road. Welcome to the league, Kyle. -- BF
Obviously, if Texas is going to rebound in 2011 and get back to playing for a Big 12 title, then Gilbert is going to have to perform a lot better. Odds are he will. He has a year of experience under his belt now, and has a new offensive coordinator in Bryan Harsin, a coordinator that had quite a bit of success with quarterbacks at Boise State. If Gilbert can improve his grasp of the offense, be more efficient with his throws, and -- most importantly -- turn the ball over less, life should be a lot happier in Austin this fall. If not? Well, then heads are going to roll. -- TF
71. JAKE BEQUETTE, defensive end, Arkansas. Is it possible the fate of the SEC West -- a division featuring two consensus top-five teams -- could rest in the hands of a second-team all-conference end few fans outside the SEC (and even a good number in it) have ever heard of? It might not be likely; Alabama and LSU have the hype they have for a reason. But it's certainly possible, ironically enough because of the Razorbacks' offense.
Trust us: Ryan Mallett or no Ryan Mallett, no attack with arguably the nation's best receiving corps receiving, Knile Davis running, a veteran line blocking and (most of all) Bobby Petrino coaching will be less than outstanding. All the Hogs need to make a serious run at Atlanta is the top-drawer SEC defense they've lacked the last couple of seasons ... and Bequette, their most explosive pass rusher, is the key. The Hogs have loads of experience in the secondary and two rock-solid linebackers in Jerico Nelson and Jerry Franklin. If Bequette can more consistently generate the devastating bull rush he showed in flashes in 2010, the Hogs will have a defense that can look their SEC West rivals in the eye--and, when paired with that offense, take them right back into the BCS bowl hunt. -- JH
The 100 will return here to Eye on CFB Tuesday after the holiday. Until then, check out Nos. 100-91 and 90-81, and follow us on Twitter.
Tags: Alabama, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Austin Box, Big East, Big Ten, Bobby Petrino, Boise State, Brandon Lindsey, Bryan Harsin, Capital One Bowl, CBSSports.com College Football 100, Charlie Weis, Conference USA, Darron Thomas, Daunte Culpepper, Denard Robinson, Denard Robinson, Edwin Baker, Florida, Garrett Gilbert, Iowa, Jake Bequette, James Harrison, Jerico Nelson, Jerry Franklin, Joe Paterno, Keith Patterson, Kirk Cousins, Knile Davis, Kyle Whittingham, Landry Jones, Larry Caper, Le'Veon Bell, LSU, LSU, Mark Dantonio, Matt Barkley, Michigan State, non-BCS, Norm Chow, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Pac-12, Penn State, Pitt, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Mallett, ScottTolzien, SEC, Texas, the Florida Way, Tim Tebow, Travis Lewis, Tulsa, Urban Meyer, Will Muschamp, Wisconsin