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Tag:Marcus Lattimore
Posted on: September 11, 2011 2:16 am
Edited on: September 11, 2011 2:20 am
 

What I Learned in the SEC, Week 2

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

1. Mark Richt is in deep, deep trouble. But he's not finished. It would be different if the Dawgs had lost Saturday the way they lost against Boise State, getting overwhelmed in the trenches and wilting in the second half. It would be different if Richt's team hadn't shown such drastic improvement from Week 1 to Week 2--not just on the scoreboard, but in everything from run blocking to tackling to special teams work. It would be different if Georgia hadn't had every opportunity to win the game Saturday. And most importantly, it would be different if the Dawgs were facing a different schedule.

But they are facing the schedule they're facing, which includes one tricky true road date (at Tennessee), the annual Cocktail Party showdown against Florida, two challenging home games against Auburn and Mississippi State ... and six other winnable games. Saving Richt's job won't be easy; we projected earlier it would take nine wins to do it, meaning Richt would have to go 3-1 in the games above and sweep the remaining six. 

But it's certainly possible. His team hasn't thrown in the towel. He has a star on his hands in Isaiah Crowell, who in the Dawgs' next big game we'll wager won't carry only 16 times. He has a quarterback who remains one of the SEC's best, despite his serious mistakes against the Gamecocks. He has a defense that only really gave up 27 points and should be even better against anyone who's not Marcus Lattimore. He's not dead yet.

2. Alabama is a national title contender. This is something we've had confirmed, rather than outright "learned," but there's no other way to look at the Tide's strangle job on the Nittany Lions. AJ McCarron wasn't impressive statistically (just 5.3 yards per attempt), but that "zero" in the interceptions column is really the only statistic that matters. Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy combined for 196 yards on the ground. And after generously allowing Penn State a first-quarter field goal, the Tide defense barely let the Lions breathe again until the game was entirely out of reach. 

Considering all of that was on the road against a quality Big Ten team, yes, the Tide deserve to be in the same breath with LSU and Oklahoma at the top of the polls until proven otherwise.

(A random aside: is it time for Lacy to start borrowing a few more of Richardson's carries? He's gotten only 19 attempts in two games to Richardson's 37, but boasts a per-carry average of 7.5 yards to Richardson's 3.8. Food for thought.)

3. Whatever else they are, Auburn is dangerous. Given that they share a division with the Tide, LSU and Arkansas, it's hard to see a team that's given up 979 yards in two games (one of them against Utah State) go on to win a division title. But focusing entirely on Auburn's defensive problems means missing the fact the Tigers have started the year with 83 points in those two games--42 in the first, 41 in the second. And that's before Gus Malzahn's attack has really put it all together, too. The run game sputtered in Week 1; the passing game was inconsistent in Week 2. 

Combine a potentially even more lethal offense with a much-improved special teams (led by freshman kickoff return weapon Tre Mason and redshirt frosh kicker Cody Parkey), and there may not be any single game on Auburn's schedule where they couldn't erupt for 40-45 points and win.

4. Speaking of dangerous: Tyler Bray is, too. That 5-of-30 performance in the Vols' spring game is far, far behind the sophomore now. Bray tore the visiting Cincinnati defense to pieces, completing 34 of his 41 passes for 405 yards, 4 touchdowns, and -- perhaps most importantly for a player whose coaches have occasionally accused of being too loose with his decision-making -- zero interceptions. Like Auburn, the Vol defense may not be strong enough to insert Bray's team alongside the Gamecocks and Gators in the SEC East race (the Bearcats ran for a whopping 6.4 yards on their 26 carries) ... but they might make things awfully interesting all the same.

5. Florida and Arkansas need to play someone. Full credit to the Gators and Hogs for dispatching lightweights UAB and New Mexico by a combined 88 points Saturday. But it's tough to know exactly how seriously to take either team playing cream-puff opponents like these or respective week 1 fodder FAU and Missouri State. (At least the Gators get serious next week against the Vols; the Hogs have to wait until a Week 4 showdown with the Tide.)

6. Vandy won't be an embarrassment. It remains to be seen how much headway they can make in the win column against their SEC slate, but that doesn't mean we should overlook that James Franklin's 'Dores already have as many wins in 2011 as they had in either 2009 or 2010. Thanks to a legitimately stingy defense that held UConn to fewer than 200 total yards, Vandy should be far more competitive than the 2010 squad that was outgained by 245 yards per SEC game.

Posted on: September 10, 2011 8:49 pm
Edited on: September 10, 2011 9:11 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 12 South Carolina 45, Georgia 42

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

SOUTH CAROLINA WON: In another good old-fashioned SEC shootout (that's how it goes in this conference these days), the Gamecocks escaped Athens with a 45-42 victory, defeating Georgia in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2000-2001. Marcus Lattimore only enhanced his reputation as the league's preeminent Bulldog-slayer with 160 yards on just 26 carries, a 6.2 per-carry average. But the story was the opportunistic Gamecock defense and special teams, which scored three touchdowns directly -- two of them by defensive end/tackle Melvin Ingram, who rumbled 68 yards for a score on a fake punt and later recovered a fumble for a score -- and set up a fourth with a 57-yard Stephon Gilmore fumble return to the Georgia 5.

WHY SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Because they made the plays that mattered. As with many of Georgia's losses a year ago, the Bulldogs were good enough from a statistical standpoint to win the game: they held Stephen Garcia to just 141 yards passing and picked him off twice; they outgained Carolina overall 435 yards to 389; they averaged a healthy 6.5 yards per-play and revived their moribund running game behind Isaiah Crowell's hard-charging 116 yards.

But in the end, none of that was enough to offset the Dawgs' three killer turnovers, which Carolina turned into a touchdown on all three opportunities. As sharp as Aaron Murray was overall, hitting 19-of-29 for 248 yards and four touchdowns, his two mistakes were backbreakers: first a pick-six thrown to Antonio Allen immediately following the momentum-changing fumble return to put the Bulldogs down eight entering the fourth, and then the all-but-game-ending fumble that Ingram returned to put Carolina up 10 with just 3:12 left. 

Yes, as he was in 2010, Lattimore was the best player on the field; by the fourth quarter, he was powering over, past, and through Bulldog defenders much as he did in Columbia last year. But without the fake punt, the fumble returns, and Allen's interception, the Bulldogs likely would have found a way to outshine him anyway.

WHEN SOUTH CAROLINA WON: How good was Ingram? Not only did he score on the momentum-turning fake punt (smoothly eluding a tackle attempt by UGA punt returner Branden Smith in the process), not only did he score the Gamecocks' final touchdown (after Jadeveon Clowney had forced the Murray fumble), but he also skied to recover the Bulldogs' well-executed last-gasp onside kick with 2:15 remaining. With Georgia only down three and having carved up the Gamecock secondary for much of the second half, Ingram's effort was critical ... and arguably sealed team MVP honors for the day.

WHAT SOUTH CAROLINA WON: With Florida coming to Columbia later this season, the right to be called the clearcut SEC East favorites. Moreover, the win was another sign that the up-and-down malaise that affected the early years of Steve Spurrier's tenure are well and truly gone. The old Gamecocks would have found a way to wilt on the road in the face of a quality opponent playing quality football; the new ones have the big guns in Lattimore, Ingram, Clowney, and Alshon Jeffery to weather the storm and make enough plays to ride out the storm.

WHAT GEORGIA LOST: Give Mark Richt this: his team played far, far better than they did a week ago, and they could have very easily won the game. But there have been many Bulldog football games over the past three years where Georgia could have won, where they played well but not well enough to win. With the Bulldogs now staring down a de facto two-game hole in the SEC East race and sitting at 0-2 overall, Richt has no doubt now lost every last shred of "margin for error" or "benefit of the doubt" his tenure possessed. He must win the overwhelming majority of his remaining games -- surely, nothing less than nine of them -- or he will be fired.

Posted on: September 2, 2011 1:41 pm
 

VIDEO: Previewing Week 1 in the SEC

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

If you've checked out the recent news regarding Boise State suspending three key players for their showdown with Georgia, you've seen one of our preview videos for this week's SEC matchups. But there's plenty more where that came from. Enjoy:

LSU vs. Oregon



Florida vs. FAU



Auburn vs. Utah State



Less than 24 hours now before the first Saturday of the season. Hope you're as ready as we are.

Want even more? You can check out our college network affiliate videos at Georgia, where defensive coordinator Todd Grantham discusses his team's preparation for the season, or at South Carolina, where Heisman Trophy candidate Marcus Lattimore is ready for his sophomore season in Columbia. 


Posted on: August 31, 2011 3:39 pm
Edited on: August 31, 2011 3:42 pm
 

Jadeveon Clowney could start for South Carolina

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Steve Spurrier has positioned South Carolina to not only make to a run at another SEC East title, but a BCS bowl as well in 2011.

Key to the Old Ball Coach transforming the Gamecocks into a - gulp - perennial contender? Impact freshman from in-state.

In 2009, wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey signed with the program and wound up a consensus Freshman All-American. Last year running back Marcus Lattimore picked South Carolina and was a unanimous pick for National Freshman of the Year as the Gamecocks rolled to a division title.

This year, with perhaps his most talented team returning, Spurrier has added the consensus number one overall recruit in the country in Jadeveon Clowney. The 6-foot-6 defensive end racked up 29.5 sacks his final year in high school and pretty much lived in the opponent's back field. While his dominance is unlikely to translate right away at the collegiate level, it's clear South Carolina is going to incorporate Clowney in their defensive line rotation right from the get-go to see what he can do.

"We're trying to let him learn," Spurrier said Wednesday. "Obviously there's a lot of attention if you're the number one recruit in the nation. He's not listed as the starter but he'll be in there a whole lot, early and often."

An ankle injury has slowed him down some during fall camp but he's abused his fair share of offensive lineman during the month of August. It's unclear how exactly defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson will use his newest weapon but don't be surprised if Clowney rushes the passer as a stand up linebacker on occasion. He'll likely take the field behind senior Melvin Ingram but starting the opener versus East Carolina hasn't been ruled out.

"He may start or he may not, I'm not sure what our line coach wants to do right now," Spurrier said. "He's certainly in the mix and a player who is going to play a lot."

Clowney won't just be a speed rusher off the edge for the Gamecocks either. Spurrier notes the freshman has added a few tricks to his repertoire.

"He's also a power rusher," Spurrier added. "In high school, he flew all over the place, fast, ran around everyone. But he's actually gained about 10 pounds or so and is up to 260 or so. He can use a power move also. That's obviously very good for defensive ends."

A scary proposition for opposing left tackles this season and a reason why several quarterbacks are bracing for his impact.
Posted on: August 30, 2011 3:39 pm
Edited on: August 30, 2011 4:11 pm
 

Could CB Auguste's injury hurt Gamecocks vs. ECU?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

During Monday night's South Carolina practice, starting corner Akeem Auguste reaggravated a left foot injury. Per CBSSports.com RapidReporter Josh Kendall, Auguste will now come off the bench in the Gamecocks' Saturday season opener against East Carolina--if he plays at all.

Starting in Auguste's place will be senior and part-time 2010 starter C.C. Whitlock, with the Gamecock's top backups in the event of Auguste's absence projected to be senior (and former walk-on) Marty Markett and redshirt freshman Cadarious Sanders. A former track athlete, Markett has one start in his two seasons on the Gamecock football team, while Sanders was one of the lower-profile additions to Carolina's 2010 class.

If the 'Cocks were opening their season against any random FCS or Sun Belt tomato can, nothing that was going on in the Gamecock secondary would matter. Even if they were opening against most Conference USA teams, or some lower-rung BCS squad, it wouldn't matter. But against the Pirates? It could matter.

It's not likely to, of course; South Carolina is a legitimate top-20 team and ECU -- 6-7 a year ago with a defense ranked dead last in FBS total defense -- is most certainly not.

But thanks to that ailing Carolina secondary, the Pirates could present the Gamecocks with a stiff challenge all the same. ECU's (newly slimmed-down) head coach is Ruffin McNeill, a former defensive coordinator under Mike Leach at Texas Tech, and McNeill's offensive coordinator is Lincoln Riley, a former Tech wide receivers coach and devoted Leach protege. So it wasn't a surprise when their 2010 Pirate offense was as close to Leach's old Air Raid as it was possible to get, throwing more often than any other team in the country, turning quarterback Dominique Davis into the country's fourth-leading passer, and receivers Dwayne Harris and Lance Lewis into a matched pair of 1,100-yard receivers.

Now Riley, Davis, Lewis, and two other players with 40-plus receptions* are all back for another go-round--meaning that they might present matchup problems for South Carolina even if Auguste wasn't injured. The Gamecock secondary was quietly the team's Achilles heel last season, ranking 97th in pass defense and a scarcely-better 87th in opponent's quarterback rating. And even those numbers might have been generous to the Carolina secondary, which had the good fortune of playing alongside the nation's fifth-most potent pass rush. In short: whenever opposing quarterbacks had time to throw against the 2010 'Cocks, they found plenty of success.

And ECU's system -- as with Leach's before it -- is structured in such a way that their quarterback always has time. Despite their nation-leading number of attempts, the Pirates still finished in the FBS top-20 in sacks allowed, giving one up just once every 50 dropbacks. Gamecock defensive line coach Brad Lawing took notice:
"You can’t sack them,” Lawing said. “He just catches it and throws it, catches it and throws it. You can’t get there. It’s just not going to happen. You could have Lawrence Taylor up there five times and you can’t get there.”
So ... if the Gamecock pass rush won't matter ... and the Gamecock secondary can't keep up ... what happens?

What happens is that South Carolina wins going away 9 times out of 10, maybe 95 times out of 100. The Pirates have no answer for the likes of Marcus Lattimore or Alshon Jeffery, no way to handle the size Carolina offers up front, no way to avoid wearing down in the face of the Gamecocks' superior depth. We're not suggesting an upset is imminent, not when the Gamecocks have the firepower to match every score the Pirates put on the board and then some. Even the secondary concerns may be overblown--while we don't feel Stephen Gilmore has been an All-SEC caliber player (for the reasons listed above), having him, Whitlock, and fellow returning starter D.J. Swearinger back must lead to some improvement.

That said--if Stephen Garcia has one of his occasional space-case performances? If Connor Shaw isn't ready for his close-up? And Davis and the Pirate wideouts begin abusing Auguste's replacements? And the game remains close into the third or even fourth quarters, and the favored Gamecocks can't find their mojo in Charlotte's neutral-site venue? This being the 1 time out of 10 isn't impossible.

*Though one of those players won't see the field Saturday.



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 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: August 3, 2011 7:54 pm
Edited on: August 5, 2011 4:02 pm
 

PODCAST: Top 5 running backs of 2011

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.

ADAM AIZER

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.

Who's in your Top 5? 




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