ESPN 300: Five things to know in the SEC 

October, 22, 2014
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The SEC has an impressive 89 committed prospects in the updated ESPN 300 rankings. While the SEC West has been dominant on the field, 13 of the 14 SEC schools are ranked in the top 40 of the RecruitingNation class rankings. Here’s a closer look at five things to know in the SEC from the new recruiting rankings.

SEC Freshman Tracker: Week 8

October, 22, 2014
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Although Georgia’s Nick Chubb is the headliner for a second straight week after another ridiculous performance, this week’s SEC freshman tracker is heavy on defense -- including a couple of defensive linemen who have already emerged as breakout performers.

Here are five SEC true freshmen who stood out last Saturday (and five more worth mentioning):

RB Nick Chubb, Georgia

What he did:
Chubb continued to give Todd Gurley the Wally Pipp treatment by carrying 30 times for 202 yards and two touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ 45-32 win at Arkansas. He also caught a pass for an 8-yard gain. In the last two games, Chubb has run 68 times for 345 yards, and the Bulldogs have blasted Missouri and Arkansas on the road.

What it means: If and when Gurley returns to the lineup, he will obviously resume carrying the Bulldogs’ running game. But with the one-time Heisman Trophy frontrunner suspended and Sony Michel and Keith Marshall out with injuries, Georgia desperately needed Chubb to produce, and he has exceeded every reasonable expectation.

DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee

What he did:
Barnett logged his first game with double-digit tackles, recording 10 in a loss to Ole Miss, and also notched four tackles for loss and two sacks. The game wasn’t particularly competitive -- Ole Miss won 34-3 -- but Barnett clearly ranked among the Volunteers’ top defensive performers.

What it means: He hasn’t been getting the same kind of attention as Texas A&M freshman Myles Garrett, but Barnett might catch up soon. All of a sudden he’s second in the SEC with 9.5 tackles for loss, along with 38 tackles and three sacks.

DE Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss

What he did:
In the Rebels’ win against Tennessee, Haynes finished with five tackles, 2.5 sacks and his first career fumble recovery. That continued a dominant recent run in which he has totaled 4.5 sacks in the last two games.

What it means: Haynes leads arguably the SEC’s top defense with 7.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. He also leads the SEC with three forced fumbles. The Rebels already have a star-studded defense, and Haynes is quickly adding another name to the list of players to watch.

S Jamal Adams, LSU

What he did:
The Tigers’ highest-rated defensive signee in a well-regarded 2014 recruiting class, Adams had his best game yet in a win against Kentucky. He finished with a career-high eight tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack, plus he delivered the key block that sprung Tre'Davious White for a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown.

What it means: Simply put, the energetic Adams is showing why those around the LSU program believe he is the next Eric Reid at safety. He is the Tigers’ leading tackler on special teams and is already a leader on their nickel and dime defensive groupings.

S Dominick Sanders, Georgia

What he did:
Sanders started at safety for the seventh straight game and scored for the first time in his college career when he picked up a Brandon Allen fumble and returned it 54 yards for a touchdown. Sanders’ touchdown just before halftime gave Georgia a 38-6 halftime lead.

What it means: Sanders, who also made four tackles against Arkansas, has been one of the more reliable performers in Georgia’s depth-deprived secondary. The Bulldogs still have plenty to clean up on pass defense, but the overall defense continues to make progress under first-year coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

Other notables:

WR Kendrick Edwards, Arkansas: Caught a 4-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter as the Razorbacks attempted a late rally against Georgia.

QB Treon Harris, Florida: Rotated at quarterback with Jeff Driskel and finished 8-for-12 for 98 yards, one touchdown and one interception, and also rushed eight times for 26 yards.

RB Jalen Hurd, Tennessee: Ran 13 times for 40 yards and caught two passes for 19 yards in a loss to Ole Miss.

WR Josh Malone, Tennessee: Caught five passes for 75 yards in a loss to Ole Miss.

WR Speedy Noil, Texas A&M: Caught four passes for 32 yards and returned six kickoffs for 106 yards in a loss to Alabama.

SEC morning links

October, 22, 2014
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1. On Tuesday, my colleague Greg Ostendorf wrote about how Auburn freshman Roc Thomas is primed for a big second half to the season. Watching Thomas from afar, I'd have to agree. While he's not as fast as Corey Grant or as powerful as Cameron Artis-Payne, he's probably Gus Malzahn's most explosive running back when it comes to consistently picking up large chunks of yards. But Ostendorf's piece got me thinking: Who are some other potential second-half stars in the SEC? Here are four that come to mind:
  • Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama: A big body at linebacker who is just now beginning to scratch the surface of his ability. He'll be an integral part of stopping the run against LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn.
  • Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia: Too obvious? The longer Todd Gurley is sidelined, the faster the freshman back's star rises.
  • AJ Derby, TE, Arkansas: Bret Bielema told me this spring that the former QB had NFL talent as a tight end. We're starting to see more and more of that lately.
  • Brandon Holloway, RB, Mississippi State: A shifty running back with blinding speed that can catch the ball out of the backfield, Holloway is the perfect change of pace to the bruising style of Josh Robinson.

2. The Head Ball Coach took the Florida question in stride. Steve Spurrier says he's not leaving South Carolina for The Swamp to replace Will Muschamp. "No," Spurrier told reporters on Tuesday. "I tell everybody my next move is going to be to Crescent Beach, Fla." It was fun to imagine Spurrier roaming the Florida sideline again, but at 69 years old you knew it wasn't likely, if not altogether impossible. He's comfortable at South Carolina. Things might not be perfect there right now, but the work pales in comparison to what must be done at Florida. The Gators, should they choose to part ways with Muschamp, need a long-term solution, not a splashy stop-gap they'd have to replace sooner than later.

3. Texas A&M is going back to the drawing board. Even the QB position is up for grabs, said coordinator Jake Spavital. But that's not what caught my attention on Tuesday. What piqued my interest was coach Kevin Sumlin's comments about how Saturday's loss at Alabama was an "eye-opener." He said, "This program was founded on three things -- play hard, play smart, be physical." Texas A&M has done none of those things recently. It started with Mississippi State and Ole Miss, but it ended with Alabama breaking its will. There was no aggressiveness from the Aggies' sideline, no fire to show in the second half they're better than the score indicated. They gave up. They wanted to go home. And if you're a coach, that's the worst possible thing you can see. What we're seeing from A&M is that you can't survive in this league on talent alone. You have to have those three things Sumlin discussed, but you have to have them in more than name only.

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Kelly Stouffer and Anthony Becht explain the merits of Florida and Michigan, and debate which program will have a quicker turnaround.

Tim Tebow: Gators lack identity

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The pressure is mounting on Florida coach Will Muschamp and his slumping Gators.

The latest salvo came Tuesday morning from within the UF family, as former Heisman Trophy winner and current SEC Network analyst Tim Tebow delivered a pointed critique.

"I don't think the offense has an identity right now, and I don't think that they know what they want their identity to be," the former Florida quarterback said on Jacksonville sports radio station 1010 XL. "One of the biggest problems on the offense is leadership."

Florida (3-3, 2-3 in the SEC) has a bye this weekend after getting embarrassed in a 42-13 homecoming rout against Missouri. Fans chanted "Fire Muschamp" and booed both the offense and quarterback Jeff Driskel before leaving in large numbers during the third quarter.

"[The Missouri loss] was tough to watch," Tebow said. "If you're a Gator fan, it was not easy to watch. They just didn't play with the heart that I'm used to watching Florida Gators play with."

Tebow, who was raised a staunch Gator fan in nearby Ponte Vedra Beach, had been a strong supporter of Muschamp. Now he's just another sharply critical voice in the case against Muschamp, who has a 25-19 record at UF and has lost 10 of his last 13 games.

Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley on Monday said he is continuing to "evaluate the season as it plays out."


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Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
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There once again was a lot of big recruiting news from around the Southeastern Conference over the weekend. There was a big commitment, key visits and several new offers. Here's a closer look at the top recruiting news from around the conference.


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SEC morning links

October, 21, 2014
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1. You knew a statement was coming. On Monday, Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley delivered a short message about the status of head coach Will Muschamp: "Our sole focus right now is supporting our coaching staff and players as they prepare for Georgia." There's not much reading between the lines to be done there, especially when you consider the brevity of the statement. But to give in and make a statement in the first place is a sure sign of where things stand. There are six more weeks left in the season. Are you going to issue one release per game the rest of the way? Maybe they'll grow in length as they "evaluate the season as it plays out," as Foley wrote. Maybe they'll become increasingly cryptic or employ a well-placed emoticon to lighten the mood. If you use a decoder, will it spell out the name of each week's leading candidate? Now that would be something. For now, though, we're left with a few throwaway sentences about what appears to be a lame duck coach.

2. I'll admit it, I wasn't very high on Georgia's prospects post-Todd Gurley. In fact, I didn't like the Bulldogs' chances before he was suspended indefinitely. But Mark Richt's squad has shown me something, and it's more than the uber-talented Nick Chubb that's impressed me. Instead, it's how the rest of the team has picked up their play. Hutson Mason has thrown three touchdowns and no interceptions in his last two games. And the defense has found a way to create turnovers in bunches, picking off Missouri's Maty Mauk four times and Arkansas' Brandon Allen a pair of times. Leonard Floyd has been a beast rushing the passer and the rest of that front seven showed me something as it held down the Razorbacks' vaunted rushing game. Post-Gurley, Georgia's become a much more complete football team. If and/or when he comes back, he'll only make it better.

3. If there's been one area of Ole Miss' game that's concerned me, it's the offensive line. Though they've played much better than expected, the fact remains that there wasn't a lot of returning experience there from a season ago. Laremy Tunsil was someone you knew you could count on, but the rest was iffy. It turns out offensive coordinator Dan Werner found a good starting five after all, but now his depth will be put to the test as it looks like starting center Ben Still is questionable for the LSU game. As we all know, playing the Tigers in Baton Rouge is most often a battle in the trenches. Without his starting center, will Bo Wallace be as comfortable under center? And will an already limp running game take a step back? It's hard to say exactly, but the timing isn't ideal, that's for sure.

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Alabama's offense gets more good news, Arizona State turns back to Taylor Kelly and Florida coach Will Muschamp gets a vote of confidence -- sort of. It's all ahead in your College Football Minute.
A lot of talent has already come off the board, but there’s still quality at the top of the ESPN 300 that could give at least 10 teams a shot at the second-best class. Plus, Penn State's James Franklin continues to be the most talked about coach in the Washington D.C. metro area.

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AD to evaluate Will Muschamp

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
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Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said Monday that he would continue to evaluate the status of football coach Will Muschamp "as it plays out" over the season.

"At the beginning of the season, we said we would evaluate the season as it plays out," Foley said in a statement. "We will continue to do so. Our sole focus right now is supporting our coaching staff and players as they prepare for Georgia."

The statement comes on the heels of the Gators' embarrassing 42-13 homecoming loss to Missouri on Saturday.

The Gators have lost their past two games -- both home losses -- and fan discontent is at an all-time high under Muschamp, who is in his fourth season and was 4-8 a year ago.

Against Missouri, Florida committed six turnovers, including two that were returned for touchdowns, and allowed two special teams scores. Chants of "Fire Muschamp" started in the third quarter and could be heard throughout an emptying Florida Field the rest of the night.

The defeat was Florida's second straight on homecoming, the first time that's happened in Gainesville since 1947.

It dropped Muschamp's record to 25-19, including 15-14 in conference play.

The Gators (3-3) are off this week before facing Georgia on Nov. 1 in Jacksonville.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


(Read full post)


GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- In his most recent postgame news conference, Will Muschamp spoke as quickly as ever, but this time his words were hushed.

There's a pall over his Florida football program, and at this point it doesn't matter if words are screamed or whispered.

All that matters are results. The ones Muschamp has not delivered.

[+] EnlargeWill Muschamp
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsWith a 2-8 mark in his past 10 SEC games, one has to wonder how much longer Will Muschamp can survive as Florida's coach.
This past Saturday at the Swamp, with everyone in attendance aware that the coach's job was on the line, the Gators played like his fate was already sealed.

What could have been a stepping-stone game against Missouri to set up an SEC East showdown with Georgia in two weeks was instead a laugher. The Tigers returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and then stepped out of the way as Florida self-destructed.

When it was over Muschamp sounded like a coach out of answers.

"I told them anytime you go have one like this, you look in the mirror and figure what we need to do to improve," he said. "... We've just got to nail it down to some things that we do well, which right now is not that much."

Florida has lost 10 of its past 13 games. In the past two seasons, the Gators' only wins have come against Toledo, Eastern Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas.

In four seasons, Muschamp has a 25-19 record. He's 15-14 against SEC competition, including a 2-8 record in his past 10 conference games.

What few supporters were left on Saturday night gave up on their coach in the third quarter. Boos echoed throughout the Swamp, and loud chants of "Fire Muschamp" rained down on the field as fans left in droves.

As usual, the coach took full responsibility and swore to address the issues that are plaguing his team -- a starting quarterback who has had an astonishing 12 turnovers in his past 14 quarters, leaky pass protection, and a corps of receivers who drop balls with frightening regularity.

Reinforcements don't appear to be coming, though, as a lack of player development has compounded Florida's offensive ineptitude.

"It's on me" or something to that effect is what Muschamp has said after every ugly loss, but it's cold comfort to Gators fans who have grown restless and irate as the program has sunk to bottom-tier status in the league it dominated just a few years ago.

Muschamp claimed he did not hear the fans chanting for his ouster, and he vowed to stay focused on his team.

"I'm not going to get concerned about those things I don't have any control of other than this team," he said, "and I think that's the most important thing right now."

What's next for Florida is a tense bye week sure to be filled and fueled by speculation.

Athletic director Jeremy Foley said early in September he would give Muschamp the entire season to show progress before rendering judgement. After last Saturday's loss, Foley reiterated that stance when asked if he would fire his coach midseason.

"C’mon, I’m not going to answer that question," he told Greg Stoda of the Palm Beach Post. "It’s irrelevant. Any evaluations on this team will be made on the season."

After Saturday's ugly display on the field and in the stands, it's hard to imagine this coach and this team turning this ship around. Like last Saturday's game, the momentum has spiraled out of control.

It's also hard to argue that progress has been made, although one player insisted it has.

"We've improved drastically even if the numbers don't say it," senior center Max Garcia said. "We have. I feel it just as a team chemistry-wise. We're a team this year."

At this point in Muschamp's tenure, progress in the locker room likely won't be enough without the results to back it up.

Whether he coaches Florida against Georgia in two weeks or not, the fans chanting "Fire Muschamp" seem certain to get their wish.

At first glance: SEC Week 9

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
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Well, here we are once again after an entire Saturday of lopsided games. What did we learn that we didn't already know? If anything the league revealed itself to be more firmly divided between contenders and pretenders.

We'll just have to look forward to Week 9 for some better SEC entertainment.

Game of the week: No. 3 Ole Miss at No. 24 LSU
Now this should be fun. Night games at Tiger Stadium usually are. Two straight wins have LSU feeling good and back in the rankings. The Tigers are also back on the fringes of the SEC West race and could throw a giant wrench into the Magnolia State love-fest by upsetting the Rebels. The jury is still out on LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings, who didn't have to do much to beat Florida (110 yards passing) or Kentucky (120 yards passing). The Ole Miss defense, however, promises to give the Tigers their toughest test of the season. This unit is operating at peak performance at just the right time for a visit to Baton Rouge. The Rebs allowed zero rushing yards -- ZERO! -- to Tennessee last Saturday and have given up just six touchdowns in seven games this season. It should be a brawl in the Bayou.

Player under pressure: Maty Mauk, Missouri
The Tigers' gunslinging quarterback has been humbled and harnessed in his last two games -- a disastrous 34-0 home loss to Georgia in which he had five turnovers, and a goofy 42-13 win at Florida in which he was 6-of-18 passing for 20 yards and an interception. Mauk's and Missouri's seasons are nearing a crossroads. After playing what he called the worst game of his life against UGA, Mauk overcame a shaky start at Florida and played in control while the Gators self-destructed. The good news for the Tigers offense is that Mauk & Co. will have a solid chance to work out their issues against Vanderbilt, which will bring one of the worst defenses in the SEC (allowing 415.9 yards a game) to Columbia, Mo.

Coach under the microscope: Lane Kiffin, Alabama
The Tide's offensive coordinator might not have circled the third Saturday in October on his calendar, but you can bet 100,000 ticket-holding Volunteers fans sure did. In 2009 Kiffin coached his one and only season at Tennessee. He was full of promises, bravado and hot air. Other than some solid recruiting, the highlights of his 7-6 season were wins over Georgia and South Carolina and a near-miss at Alabama. Who can forget Bama's Terrance "Mount" Cody swatting away two Tennessee field goals in a 12-10 victory? Well, other than Kiffin? Now that he's back in the SEC, patrolling the Alabama sideline and steering its inconsistent offense, the vitriol is sure to reach a fever pitch on Saturday. Hundreds of students rioted when news broke of Kiffin's sudden departure in 2009. How are they going to treat his return?

Storyline to watch: Division dominance
The SEC West is a powerhouse. The East is a house of cards. So the story goes, and it doesn't seem likely to deviate with No. 1 Mississippi State visiting Kentucky and South Carolina traveling to No. 5 Auburn. The East has lost six of seven cross-division games so far this season, most of them with lopsided results. The much-improved Wildcats were riding high at 5-1 before being thrashed by LSU. Now they'll have to contend with Dak Prescott and his steamrolling MSU offense. South Carolina has the worst defense in the SEC and might need a miracle on the Plains to keep up with Auburn's offense. Don't look for the division script to flip this week.

Intriguing matchup: LSU offense vs. Ole Miss defense
As previously described in our game of the week entry, LSU can't expect much from its quarterback in Saturday's matchup against the fearsome Rebels defense. It gives Ole Miss a tremendous advantage to be able to stack the box against the run, but LSU has the horses to give the Rebel defense its toughest test of the season. Tigers senior RB Terrance Magee is coming off a career game with 220 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. He makes a fine pairing with freshman stud Leonard Fournette, LSU's leading rusher with 544 yards (5.0 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns. If the Tigers can establish the run against Ole Miss it could open up some play-action passing or at least give Jennings a chance to take some shots with the very capable Travin Dural, a sophomore wide receiver with 26 catches, 665 yards and seven touchdowns. It all starts in the trenches.

SEC morning links

October, 20, 2014
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1. Credit goes to Dan Mullen and his coaching staff for turning Mississippi State into a player on the national stage of college football. It was a slow build, which made for a sturdy foundation. But if you're looking at the program's success today, you ought to look at the program before Mullen arrived. You ought to remember Sylvester Croom. No, he never got Mississippi State near the heights it's experiencing today, but he did a standup job during his five seasons as head coach there. Everyone marveled at the eight-win campaign he engineered in 2007 and the day on Nov. 10 when the Bulldogs finally beat Alabama, Croom's alma mater. It's good to know how gratifying it is for him today to watch where Mississippi State has come since his departure. In his own way, he was a part of it.

2. Bye weeks are a great opportunity for most teams to reboot and recharge. Florida, however, is not one of those teams. What's said to be good timing probably couldn't be any worse. There's no game to distract us. There's no opponent to focus on. The only stat to know is 38.9. That's UF's winning percentage since the start of the 2013 season. For the next week-plus, that's all we're going to hear about. We'll see tape of Jeff Driskel's mistakes and the reaction to Saturday's embarrassing loss to Missouri. Sure, a bye week means Florida can't lose another game, but it won't stop the bleeding. It won't stop the steady chorus of boos directed at Will Muschamp. It won't stop websites like HireDanMullen.com from popping up. Nothing about a week away will keep the wolves at bay. If anything, it will make their howls amplified.

3. It was a small nugget. In fact, it didn't even lead the story. But the fact that Korliss Marshall is suspended is news. As Bret Bielema said, he's out three to four weeks for unspecified reasons. But that's not the kicker. What should take you aback is what else Bielema said of the situation: "He’s only got one more opportunity to get it right. If he doesn’t get it right, it will probably be one of the saddest stories in my coaching career because he’s got a lot of talent, he’s got a great heart." Wow. That's sending a message. It sounds like whatever Marshall's done, it's not minor. Or at the very least it's the latest in a string of events. But either way, Bielema's right; if Marshall doesn't get back on the field for the Razorbacks, it's a shame. He has the potential to be an outstanding running back. The fact that we're already questioning the long-term viability of the sophomore's career is troubling to say the least.

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Tebow Critical Of Gators' Leadership
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