Tag:Bobby Petrino
Posted on: September 18, 2011 1:44 am
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What I Learned in the SEC, Week 3

Posted by Jerry Hinnen


Until proven otherwise, yes, Arkansas is a step behind LSU and Alabama. Thursday, the Bayou Bengals put together what we'd confidently call the most impressive defensive performance by any FBS team this season. Saturday, well, Alabama didn't do a whole lot in their 41-0 workout against North Texas. But we know what the Tide are capable of with that defense, as the previous week's throttling of Penn State proved.

But Arkansas? Their Saturday performance against Troy might be the first one by any of the consensus top three teams in the West you could legitimately describe as "disappointing." After scrimmages against FCS Missouri State and FBS-in-name-only New Mexico, the Trojans were the first Hog opponent of the year capable of doing much more than meekly rolling over ... and Troy did much more than that in Fayetteville, rolling to 457 total yards (three more than the Hogs) and cutting a 31-7 deficit to 31-21 midway through the third quarter. Bobby Petrino's teams made major mistakes on both sides of the ball, turning it over three times on offense -- including a pick-six from Tyler Wilson -- and allowing the Trojans seven plays of 20 yards or more.

It might be just a one-week fluke; it might be the Hogs looking ahead to next week's showdown against the Tide; it might be something more serious. Whatever it is, it's the kind of sloppiness we haven't seen yet from the Tide or Tigers--and reason enough to doubt the Hogs can upset the LSU-Alabama apple cart until they do.

Florida is a frightening, frightening football team. The old adage says that to win in the SEC, you have to run and stop the run, and everything else will take care of itself. So maybe it's time to start taking the Gators as a serious conference contender--and not just on the East divisional side of things. Defensively, Will Muschamp's team held Tennessee to minus-9 yards on the ground and their tailbacks to less than two yards a carry; offensively, they netted 134 themselves with Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey averaging 5 yards an attempt.

No doubt there will be stronger running games to shut down and stronger front sevens to run against down the road. But as long as Florida stays anywhere near this productive on the ground, their hat will remain in the ring.

Houston Nutt is on the hottest seat in the SEC. It's one thing to lose to Vanderbilt; the Commodores don't do it often, but occasionally they do leap up like those crocodiles in a Discovery Channel documentary about African water holes and drag some unsuspecting SEC wildebeest into the mud. And with James Franklin having instilled a stunning amount of confidence in the downtrodden 'Dores and NFL-bound corner Casey Hayward leading one of the league's best secondaries (one that now has three pick-sixes in three weeks), that's an occurrence you can expect to happen more often.

But to lose to Vandy 30-7? To go without a single point against Vandy for 57 minutes? To be outgained by the 'Dores by 153 yards? There's no other word for it than "embarrassment," one that without question ranks along the very lowest points of the Ed Orgeron era. Nutt's biggest misstep has been his butchering of the Rebel quarterback situation; after waffling all offseason between Randall Mackey and Barry Brunetti, Nutt seemed to settle on JUCO Zack Stoudt against BYU on little more than a whim. Stoudt responded by fumbling away that game, then topping himself with five interceptions Saturday in Nashville.

With the Rebel offense in total disarray and what seems like the team's only potential SEC win on the road (at Kentucky in November), an Oregeron-esque 0-8 mark in the conference -- and a 2-10 or 3-9 overall record -- is entirely in play. And as much support as Nutt earned in his back-to-back Cotton Bowl seasons, last year's loss to Jacksonville State and Saturday's horrorshow has burned through virtually all of it with the Rebel fanbase ... and maybe even Nutt's boss. When Georgia comes to Oxford next week, Mark Richt will clearly need a win in almost the worst possible way. But we'd argue Nutt will, somehow, need one even more badly.

Auburn's defense is even worse than it should be. Yes, the Tigers are ridiculously, fatally young. Yes, Clemson is loaded with explosive playmakers that will give more veteran units fits, too. Yes, the up-tempo nature of Gus Malzahn's offense --particularly when it struggles, as it did for the final two-and-a-half quarters Saturday -- puts a hefty portion of extra pressure on that defense.

But that's still no excuse for numbers like Clemson's 14-of-18 mark on third-down conversions or 624 total yards, numbers far beyond what Dabo Swinney's squad managed against either Troy or Wofford. While Ted Roof is public enemy No. 1 among Auburn fans right now, Gene Chizik also has some questions to answer. As many, many positive things as he's done at Auburn (for which he's rarely received enough credit), Chizik also has yet to translate the acumen that made him such a successful assistant into any kind of defensive consistency on the Plains.

South Carolina hasn't put it together yet. A week after edging Georgia as much on Georgia's fatal mistakes as the Gamecocks' own play, Carolina needed a last-minute stop to hold off Navy. The talent in Columbia demands that the Gamecocks remain the SEC East favorites, but they haven't played like it yet.

Kentucky's bowl streak is in serious, serious jeopardy. With the Wildcats unable to overcome an inexperienced Louisville team in Lexington, it's a difficult, difficult thing to find four more wins on the UK schedule. Jacksonville State, you'd hope. Home to Ole Miss, sure. And after that? Best of luck, Joker Phillips.

Posted on: September 16, 2011 4:32 pm
 

Arkansas's Wright, Bequette to miss game vs. Troy

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The good news for Arkansas is that their schedule has handed them the home game against Troy this week and the road trip to Alabama next week. The bad news? A pair of key starters for the Hogs will head into that critical SEC West showdown without getting a tuneup against the Trojans.

Bobby Petrino announced Thursday that both senior defensive end Jake Bequette and senior wideout Jarius Wright will miss his team's matchup against Troy Saturday, Bequette with a tweaked hamstring and Wright with a strained knee. The Razorbacks may also be without  star receiver Greg Childs, whose grandmother passed away this week.

None of those absences should matter much against the Trojans. For one thing, the Hogs have capable replacements; Bequette's spot will be filled by sophomore Chris Smith, already tied for the team lead in tackles-for-loss with 2. And as for Wright, this is where the Hogs' national-best depth at receiver comes into play. Even if Childs misses the game as well, Arkansas can still start a pair of Biletnikoff Award Watch List members in Cobi Hamilton and Joe Adams.

For another, after their 43-19 loss to Clemson in Week 1, this may not be a vintage Troy squad. And the Hogs even have some good news to report on the injury front, as explosive running back and kick returner Dennis Johnson is due to return from a hamstring injury of his own.

But the questions surrounding Bequette and Wright's absences aren't about to subside no matter how well the Hogs play against Troy. For Petrino's team to win in Tuscaloosa, they'll need all of their most talented players  -- which, without question, includes Bequette and Wright -- playing at something close to their best games. So: will they be healthy enough for that? Will they have any rust after missing the last game and a half and a big chunk of practice time? If they are rusty, will they have any hope of hanging with a team of the caliber of the Crimson Tide, on the road?

Thanks to the schedule-maker, things could be worse for the Hogs. But given the uncertainty that now surrounds the team's best pass-rusher and field-stretching receiver, things could be a lot better, too.
Posted on: September 12, 2011 1:00 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2011 1:04 pm
 

SEC injury roundup: Another Georgia LB out

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

This Saturday was not kind to the SEC on the injury front. Here's the rundown.


GEORGIA. After the Week 1 injury to sophomore Alec Ogletree, there may not have been an area of the field where Georgia could less afford to sustain an injury than at inside linebacker. But that's exactly where they've sustained one all the same, as CBSSports.com RapidReporter Fletcher Page reported Sunday that junior Christian Robinson has injured his foot and will miss at least three games. Robinson leads the Bulldogs through two games with 22 tackles.

With former inside linebacker Richard Samuel now plying his trade at running back in the wake of the departures of Washaun Ealey and Caleb King, the two ILB starters for this week's meeting against Coastal Carolina will be some combination of senior walk-on Jeremy Sulek, junior Mike Gilliard, and trure freshman Amarlo Herrera. The trio combined for four tackles against South Carolina, three of them belonging to Gilliard. Mark Richt won't admit it even if it is what he's planning, but with Isaiah Crowell shining at tailback, we could see Samuel moved back to linebacker this week.

There is some good injury news for the Dawgs; starting offensive lineman Kenarious Gates should be back on the field this week after missing the Garolina game with a sprained ankle.

ARKANSAS. Though he's not currently expected to miss the Razorbacks' Saturday matchup with Troy, starting quarterback Tyler Wilson did leave his team's rout of New Mexico with concussion-like symptoms. Bobby Petrino said that though Wilson had not (and as of now, has not) been diagnosed with a concussion, they weren't taking any chanes.

Wilson wasn't the only Hog to take a knock against the Lobos. Though not currently expected to miss any time going forward, receiver Jarius Wright and defensive end Jake Bequette -- both key members of the Razorbak starting lineup -- missed the second half after being "nicked up" with a knee and hamstring injury, respectively.

MISSISSIPPI STATE. Bulldog fans had to fear the worst when starting left tackle James Carmon was carted off the field in the second half of State's loss to Auburn. And Carmon will indeed likely miss at least this Thursday's huge home tilt against LSU. But the good news here for MSU far outweighs the bad: Carmon will not face surgery, and Dan Mullen said that fellow injured lineman Quentin Saulsberry should be able to play against the Bayou Bengals.

Given both Carmon's and Saulsberry's importance to the State line and how serious both injuries appeared to look Saturday -- Carmon's in particular -- we suspect those sighs of relief you're hearing right now are coming from Starkville.

FLORIDA. The Gators are ailing, but as things stand now, they should have nearly everyone aavailable for their SEC opener against Tennessee. Running back Jeff Demps left the UAB drubbing with a shoulder injury but "should be fine" according to Will Muschamp. Starting tight end Jordan Reed should also be able to overcome a hamstring problem, and junior corner Jeremy Brown may be able to return from a knee injury after missing two weeks.

ELSEWHERE: South Carolina true freshman running back Shon Carson sustained a serious knee injury and will be "out for a while," per Steve Spurrier ... Tennessee had a pair of lineman starters leave the Cincinnati game with injuries, but both could see the field against Florida anyway ... Still no timetable on the return of backup Ole Miss running back Enrique Davis. (Starter Brandon Bolden is, of course, out with a broken ankle. Fortunately, third-stringer Jeff Scott appears more than capable of filling in.).
Posted on: August 23, 2011 5:36 pm
 

Updating the SEC quarterback races

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

With lots of movement on the SEC quarterback front the last few days, now seems a good time to update the entire league's worth of races, team-by-team. Here's the latest, in alphabetical order:

ALABAMA: The Tide's season opener against Kent State is just 11 days away, but Nick Saban hasn't given any more indication towards his staff's decision between A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims than he did when spring practice opened. In fact, his last comment on the situation was to say that one of them might play a position other than qurterback. McCarron remains the slightest of favorites due to his extra year of experience, but the closer the opener grows, the more likely it becomes that Saban makes good on his April threat to platoon the two. And given that not even the most catastrophic of quarterback outings could submarine the Tide against the overmatched Golden Flashes, it might make some sense to use the opener as one final audition for both.

ARKANSAS: Believe it or not, the Hogs still don't have an official starting quarterback, as Bobby Petrino has refused to name Tyler Wilson the starter over sophomore Brandon Mitchell. That's despite the fact that anyone not directly related to Mitchell believes the job is 100 percent Wilson's and the junior has been lighting the practice fields up all camp. This one appears to be a formality designed to keep the carrot in front of Mitchell for as long as possible, but stranger things have happened, we guess.

AUBURN: As you probably know, junior Barrett Trotter has been named Cam Newton's successor, with redshirt sophomore Clint Moseley the backup and true freshman Kiehl Frazier third-string. But Gus Malzahn hasn't ruled out using Frazier in some capacity, and gave the four-star recruit every snap in last weekend's scrimmage. A late-season appearance might be in the cards, particularly if Trotter struggles.

FLORIDA: No controversy here: John Brantley has been the unquestioned starter since fall camp broke, with both coaches and players seeming to go out of their way to praise the much-maligned senior and downgrade the chances of five-star freshman Jeff Driskel. "John’s our starter, and he’s our quarterback, and I don’t have any anticipation of (Driskel playing)," Will Muschamp said when discussing the Gators' opener against Florida Atlantic. Driskel has, nonetheless, won the backup's role.

GEORGIA:
The Bulldogs don't have any drama, with Aaron Murray the unquestioned starter and sophomore Hutson Mason the established backup ahead of true freshman Christian LeMay. Mason has had an up-and-down fall camp, though, with some reportedly sharp practices offset by outings like one four-interception practice he called "my worst day ever — in football, period."

KENTUCKY: Morgan Newton
has long since been anointed the Wildcat starter, but Kentucky may need him to stay healthy even more than the Bulldogs' need the same for Murray. Newton and the Wildcat coaches have both had ample praise for backup Maxwell Smith's ability to pick up the offense after just one spring camp and one fall practice ... but the reason Smith's had just one of each is because he's a true freshman, and not a particularly highly-regarded one (according to recruiting experts) at that.

LSU:
Now here's some drama. Much to many Tiger fans' chagrin, as of this moment not even the threat of a second-degree battery arrest is enough to move the gauge-needle on Jordan Jefferson's starting job away from "likely." Now here's the even more depressing news for those bayou residents hoping strong-armed JUCO (and former Georgia backup) Zach Mettenberger would assume the top spot: Mettenberger still hasn't even supplanted Jarrett Lee as the Tigers' backup. According to Lee himself, Jefferson is still running with the "ones" in practice, Lee the twos, and Mettenberger is left with whatever reps Lee doesn't take. If Jefferson does miss the opener against Oregon, it will now be quite the shock if Mettenberger gets the call over Lee, who does say he's had the best camp of his long career.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: 
We know that Chris Relf will be the Bulldog' starter. The question is: will backup Tyler Russell borrow any of Relf's snaps, as he did early in 2010 as the designated pocket quarterback? The consensus seems to be that he won't, with third-stringer Dylan Favre (yes, the nephew of that other Favre) reportedly closer to Russell than Russell is to Relf. Dan Mullen hasn't entirely ruled out a return to a quarterback rotation, but we'll be surprised if we see Russell in the event of anything other than a Relf injury.

OLE MISS:
We touched on this earlier today in the wake of Randall Mackey's arrest and "likely" suspension for the Rebels' season opener, but it appears Barry Brunetti -- always the narrow favorite to win the starting job coming out of spring practice -- is now the most likely candidate to begin Ole Miss's 2011 season under center. But will he stay there? The Rebel coaching staff seems genuine in their repeated statements that none of their three candidates has separated himself from the other two, and former Houston Nutt doghouse resident Zack Stoudt offers a stronger-armed passing element that both Brunetti and Mackey lack. Unless Brunetti shines out of the gate, expect Stoudt to get a serious look at some point. And if Mackey avoids the doghouse himself, the same could go for him, too.

SOUTH CAROLINA:
Steve Spurrier promised a legitimate quarterback battle back at SEC Media Days, but whatever slim chance Connor Shaw actually had of unseating Stephen Garcia, it likely evaporated last week when Shaw injured his thumb and missed three practices. Never say never with Spurrier, but it will likely take some truly egregious play on Garcia's part (or another off-field incident) for Shaw to see any meaningful playing time.

TENNESSEE: Tyler Bray hasn't always pleased his coaches or put his best foot forward this fall, but he appears to have done plenty enough to hold off Matt Simms, who sounds as if he's resigned himself to being the backup. All the same, having Montana as an opening-week tune-up should be an excellent opportunity for Bray to make sure the Vols' two-headed QB wounds of 2010 don't reopen.

VANDERBILT:
The biggest news for Vandy's quarterbacks this week won't actually have any impact until 2012, when newly official Wyoming transfer Austyn Carta-Samuels becomes eligible. Until then, Vandy will make do with either senior Larry Smith or junior Jordan Rogers, who together directed an offensive performance at Saturday's scrimmage one disappointed Vanderbilt blog described as "Vanderbilt-like." It may take more than one season (or the arrival of Carta-Samuels, who spearheaded the Cowboys' bowl run in 2009) for James Franklin to get the 'Dores' long-simmering quarterback woes ironed out.


Posted on: August 12, 2011 6:42 pm
Edited on: August 12, 2011 6:44 pm
 

With Knile Davis out, now what for Arkansas RBs?

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
 

Arkansas RB Knile Davis out for the season

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 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.)

 
 
 
 
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