A couple of obvious first-team selections were Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper, who was only the nation's best receiver, Alabama safety Landon Collins and Ole Miss cornerback Senquez Golson. Mississippi State linebacker Benardrick McKinney and Missouri defensive end Shane Ray made the second team.
All good there.
But as you scan all three teams, you won't see Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott. No, the one-time Heisman Trophy front-runner, who set all kinds of Mississippi State records and helped lead the Bulldogs to their first 10-win season since 1999, didn't make it. Instead, Oregon Heisman winner Marcus Mariota, TCU's Trevone Boykin and Ohio State's J.T. Barrett made the cut.
Clearly, all three are worthy of All-America status, but so is Prescott after breaking 10 Mississippi State single-season records in 2014, including total offense (3,935), total offense per game (327.9) and touchdowns responsible for (37).
Four players for only three spots ...
Hey, there's always next season.
Here are the 15 SEC AP All-Americans:
WR: Amari Cooper, Jr., Alabama
C: Reese Dismukes, Sr., Auburn
CB: Senquez Golson, Sr., Ole Miss
S: Landon Collins, Jr., Alabama
OT: La'el Collins, Sr., LSU
OG: Arie Kouandjio, Sr., Alabama
OG: A.J. Cann, Sr., South Carolina
DE: Shane Ray, Jr., Missouri
DT: Robert Nkemdiche, So., Ole Miss
LB: Benardrick McKinney, Jr., Mississippi State
CB: Vernon Hargreaves III, So., Florida
S: Cody Prewitt, Sr., Ole Miss
P: JK Scott, Fr., Alabama
OT: Cedric Ogbuehi, Sr., Texas A&M
OG: Ben Beckwith, Sr., Mississippi State
Want to watch a literal implosion? You can, thanks to Texas A&M. On Sunday morning, the west side of Kyle Field will be imploded as the school continues its $450 million redevelopment of the Aggies' football stadium, which is scheduled for completion prior to next season. At 8 a.m. central time on Sunday, the massive 10-story structure will be brought to the ground so that the rebuild of that side can soon begin. A local television station and Texas A&M's athletics site will live stream the implosion and fans will to be allowed to view it in-person from just outside Reed Arena, the Aggies' basketball home.
There was plenty of speculation about Will Muschamp going to South Carolina before he eventually settled on Auburn, which can be understandably unsettling if you're a South Carolina defensive coach, considering Steve Spurrier hasn't made any changes in that regard. The Gamecocks' defensive coaches say they've tuned out the noise. "I don’t ride the rollercoaster," South Carolina’s secondary coach Grady Brown said. "That’s the business," defensive line coach Deke Adams said. It's natural for there to be speculation after the Gamecocks finished 13th in the SEC in yards per game allowed (433.6) and 12th in scoring (31.2 points per game allowed). For what it's worth, defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward did not speak with reporters after Tuesday's practice.
Around the SEC
- Missouri junior defensive end Shane Ray hasn't decided yet whether he'll enter the NFL draft, according to his mother.
- Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said he and athletic director Scott Stricklin hope to have a contract extension done soon and that he's not looking for another job.
- Should he stay or go? Arkansas running back Jonathan Williams is weighing whether to enter the NFL draft.
- Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said he's not looking for head coaching jobs but acknowledged it is part of the deal when you have success.
- Tennessee receiver Jason Croom will miss the TaxSlayer Bowl because a knee injury.
Saban: "Some little 10-year old boy came up to me after A-Day and asked if we had a quarterback other than Blake Sims."— Cecil Hurt (@CecilHurt) December 17, 2014
Geoff Collins is leaving Mississippi State to take over as the Gators' defensive coordinator, and he is bringing an abundance of confidence and personality, which should pay off for a program that has lacked both of late. The “Minister of Mayhem” is also taking with him a colorful goblet to house his endless stream of Diet Mountain Dew and 5-Hour Energy drinks.
The 43-year-old assistant is more than charisma and kitsch, though. He is also regarded as a good recruiter and an even better developer of talent. Since joining coach Dan Mullen’s staff at Mississippi State in 2011, he has helped send five Bulldogs defensive players through the NFL draft, including first-round pick Fletcher Cox and second-rounders Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay. According to ESPN, none of the three were regarded as top-25 recruits at their respective positions entering college.
Before you think Collins can’t recruit at the high level Florida is accustomed to, remember he spent a year working in Nick Saban’s recruiting operation at Alabama. As the Crimson Tide’s director of player personnel in 2007, Collins was on the ground floor of what has become one of the most successful recruiting programs in college football, with back-to-back-to-back No. 1-ranked signing classes.
So, yes, Collins is a wonderful hire for first-year Florida coach Jim McElwain.
Beyond his recruiting chops, Collins adds instant credibility to the defense. He will bring energy to the unit, which should get used to the idea of having its every movement tracked by a clever metric called “Juice Points,” which measures a player’s “juice” on a given play. It’s somewhat cliché, but players respond to it and are more apt to be aggressive, as evidenced by Mississippi State ranking second in the SEC in sacks and tied for third in interceptions during the regular season. Tony Hughes, a former fellow assistant coach at State, said, “Geoff is a 21st-century, cutting-edge coordinator that thinks out of the box.”
And that’s exactly what Florida needs. It needs a self-described “psycho” to help breathe new life into a program that felt stagnant and lacking in confidence under former coach Will Muschamp.
In fact, a little bit of change might be the only missing ingredient. Because talent isn’t Florida’s issue. The unit that ranked second in total defense in the SEC this season will return standouts Vernon Hargreaves III, Jalen Tabor and Bryan Cox Jr. in 2015.
They will have to get used to life without Coach Boom, but the move from Muschamp to Collins shouldn’t mean a defense that’s any less enthusiastic. It might actually get crazier.
Chaz Green, No. 52 in 2010 class
Green came out of Tampa Catholic High as a nationally coveted offensive tackle prospect. It looked like Green would end up at Tennessee until head coach Lane Kiffin left Knoxville for USC. Green ultimately chose Florida over USC capping a terrific class for the Gators that included Matt Elam, Sharrif Floyd, Ronald Powell and Dominique Easley.
Green redshirted his first year in Gainesville in 2010 before appearing in nine games in 2011, earning SEC All-Freshman team honors despite missing four games due to injury.
Green again was a key starter on the Gators offensive line in 2012, playing in 11 games and starting 10. Like the 2011 season, Green again missed time due to injury. Green was bitten by the injury bug again in 2013, but this time the entire season was lost due to an injury in August camp.
Green enjoyed a fully healthy season as a redshirt senior in 2014, making 11 starts while playing both right and left tackle, setting himself up to possibly being selected in the 2015 NFL draft.
Honorable mention: Gunner Kiel, No. 52 in the 2012 class. Kiel signed with Notre Dame out of high school, but transferred to Cincinnati after redshirting in 2012. Kiel started 12 games for the Bearcats this season, throwing for 3,010 yards and 30 touchdowns.
The Gators owned one of the SEC's best defenses, but ranked near the bottom of the league in passing (180.7 yards per game) and total offense (370.2). The Gators averaged just 269.8 yards in their five losses. This should have been a much different year for the Gators, but the offense never really took off, and Florida suffered some ugly losses along the way. There was the blowout at Alabama, a last-second lost to an LSU team that rallied in the Swamp, getting thrashed by Missouri on Homecoming, and an ugly overtime loss at home to South Carolina. The Gators lost three games at home, and will be handing over the keys to the Swamp to former Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain soon.
Best win: That would have to be the Gators’ thunderous 38-20 drubbing of Georgia. Two weeks after that embarrassing loss to Mizzou, the Gators bounced back with new starting quarterback Treon Harris and an ferocious running game to blow out then-No. 11 Georgia. Thanks to some masterful running by the duo of Kelvin Taylor and Matt Jones, the Gators piled up 418 rushing yards, averaging 7.0 yards per carry. Harris, in his first start of the season, threw the ball just six times for 27 yards, with a long of 13 yards. The loss eventually knocked the Bulldogs out of the SEC title game.
Worst loss: While the overtime loss to South Carolina eventually cost Muschamp his job, that 42-13 home loss to Mizzou was just awful. It was a night game a week after that heartbreaking loss to LSU, and you would have thought the Gators would have come out with some inspiration. Instead, the special teams completely imploded alongside the offense. Florida allowed two kick returns for touchdowns and two defensive touchdowns, while holding Mizzou to just 119 yards of offense, including 20 passing yards. Florida mustered 283 yards and six turnovers in a shameful Homecoming loss.
Player of year: Florida’s defense was pretty solid all season, and while cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III was fantastic yet again, defensive end/linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. was an absolute terror for the Gators. He was one of the league’s best pass-rushers and seemed to be involved on almost every play that was near the line of scrimmage. Fowler, who has declared for the NFL draft and will likely be a first-round pick, led Florida with 12 tackles for loss and 15 quarterback hurries and was second with 5.5 sacks. He was also third on the team with 57 tackles, had 26 solo stops and forced two fumbles.
Breakout player: A year after being a major disappointment as a freshman, Demarcus Robinson was easily the Gators best wide receiver in 2014. Robinson’s 774 yards and seven touchdowns were the most by a Florida receiver since 2009. At one point, Robinson, who finished the regular season with 47 catches and four 100-yard games, was near the top of the SEC in receiving, and really was Florida’s only true go-to receiver all year. He’s still raw and had some inconsistency issues, but Robinson is a great athlete and should only grow as a player if he can stay focused off the field, something that hampered his first season.
Play of year: With the Gators on fourth-and-7 and down 27-20 in overtime to Kentucky at home, the Gators pulled off a miracle of a touchdown pass. There was pre-snap confusion, a play clock that clearly hit double zeros and a fantastic backpedaling catch by Robinson over a Kentucky defender. However, the play never should have happened because quarterback Jeff Driskel didn’t get the snap off before the play clock ran out. However, the refs never saw it and Driskel was able to deliver a beautiful pass to Robinson to the left side of the end zone. The score kept the Gators alive in a thriller they eventually won.
2015 outlook: Right now, it’s one of the great unknowns in the SEC. McElwain’s tenure will officially begin after the bowl game, which will be coached by defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin. We don’t even know what assistants will stay or go from the previous staff, so Florida truly is an enigma. A lot of talent returns on defense, and there are certainly pieces to work with on offense for such an offensive-minded coach, but it's yet another year of offensive change for the Gators. Is Harris the guy at quarterback, or will redshirt freshman Will Grier get a good crack at it? All we know is that Florida has to have a pulse on offense to compete.
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Collins' deal at Florida is for three years, according to the source. He had signed a two-year extension worth $1.2 million in January and was scheduled to make $625,000 in 2015, according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.
Collins helped turn Mississippi State into one of the nation's top defenses. The Bulldogs rank 10th in scoring defense, allowing 19.4 points a game -- the 10th-lowest average in the FBS -- and lead the country in red-zone defense.
"His defenses have been successful everywhere he has been," McElwain said. "It was important to maintain some of the same philosophies and concepts that have made the defenses around here successful with this hire and our players will continue to progress under his direction."
Collins will replace D.J. Durkin, who will continue to coach the Gators' defense through the Birmingham Bowl against East Carolina.
The move will mark the latest in a massive coaching overhaul at Florida, which hired McElwain earlier this month to replace Will Muschamp.
McElwain, who coached Colorado State
“Tar Heel head coach Larry Fedora met with Durkin on Sunday, sources confirmed, and the UNC administration has granted Fedora the ability to offer a competitive financial package."
Durkin was named the Gators' interim coach for Florida's bowl game, but his return as defensive coordinator isn't a sure thing. Surely, McElwain won't wait until after the bowl game to figure out his staff, right?
2. It truly was heartbreaking to hear about the tragic death of Auburn freshman Jakell Mitchell, who was shot and killed early Sunday morning. On Monday, hundreds gathered to mourn and remember Mitchell at a candlelight vigil in Opelika, Alabama. Funeral arrangements have also been made for Mitchell:
- The funeral will be held at noon on Saturday at Greater Peace Baptist Church at 650 Jeter Avenue in Opelika.
- The visitation will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday night.
Former teammates also remembered Mitchell.
3. The Ole Miss Rebels have a lot going on around them, as they prepare to face No. 6 TCU in the Peach Bowl. For starters, the Rebels just lost linebackers coach Tom Allen to South Florida, where he will go to be the Bulls' new defensive coordinator.
Think Tom Allen will be a great fit for #USF. Knows the Tampa area well and he's a high character guy which recruits will like.— Derek Tyson (@DerekTysonESPN) December 15, 2014
Also, offensive guard Aaron Morris will miss the bowl game -- and then some -- with a torn ACL. That's a big blow to the Rebels' offense, and it will force Justin Bell to move to left guard, with freshman Rod Taylor now starting at right guard. Oh, and quarterback Bo Wallace is playing in his final game with the Rebels, while nursing an ankle injury. With a win over the Horned Frogs, Wallace would become the first Ole Miss quarterback to start and win three bowl games.
Jake Locker, No. 53 in 2006 class
Locker picked Washington over Oregon State out of Ferndale (Wash.) in a recruitment that wasn’t close due to staying close to home and having a number of friends that attended the University of Washington. Locker also had a strong relationship with then Huskies head coach Tyrone Willingham.
After a redshirt year in 2006, Locker took over as the starting quarterback for the Huskies in 2007, completing 155 of 328 passes for 2,062 yards and 14 touchdowns against 15 interceptions. He also had 987 yards rushing earning Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors.
The 2008 season was one to forget for the dual-threat signal caller. He completed 50 of 93 passes for 512 yards and a TD in four games before a thumb injury against Stanford ended his season.
Locker began to realize his potential in 2009 as a redshirt junior. He hit on 230 of 395 passes for 2,800 yards and 21 touchdowns, and added 387 rushing yards picking up a second honorable mention All-Pac-10 honor following the season.
As a fifth year senior, Locker threw for 2,265 yards and 17 touchdowns, and rushed for 385 yards in 12 games earning a third honorable mention All-Pac-10 award.
Locker left Washington as the school's second all-time passing and quarterback rushing leader with 7,639 passing and 1,939 rushing yards.
Locker was selected No. 8 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans, where he is currently the backup.
Honorable mention: Jeoffrey Pagan, No. 53 in 2011 class, and Demarcus Robinson, No. 53 in 2013 class. Pagan signed with Alabama out of Asheville High (N.C.) and went on to appear in 32 games in three seasons with 12 starts. After 61 career tackles and 3.5 sacks for the Crimson Tide, Pagan chose to forgo his final year of eligibility in Tuscaloosa. Pagan was selected in the sixth round, No. 177 overall, in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. Robinson was a back-and-forth recruitment between Clemson and Florida before deciding on the Gators. After an underwhelming freshman season in 2013, the Peach State native became one of the top receivers in the SEC in 2014 hauling in 47 passes for 774 yards earning All-SEC honors.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Five-star offensive tackle Martez Ivey led his team, Apopka (Florida) High School, to a 30-23 win over Miami Columbus in the FHSAA 8A state championship game on Saturday.
Just hours earlier, the No. 3-ranked player in the nation talked to new Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who had been recruiting Ivey when he was the head coach at Florida. Florida and Auburn have been Ivey’s top two schools for some time so with Muschamp heading to Auburn, could the momentum have shifted in the Tigers' direction?
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Alabama’s Kirby Smart makes $1.35 million per year and, at least for now, is the second-highest-paid defensive coordinator in the state.
How is that possible?
This is how: The price for good defense in college football is skyrocketing, especially in this era of offense being played at breakneck pace and 57 FBS teams averaging more than 30 points per game this season.
It’s the reason Auburn went out and made one of Smart’s best friends, former Florida coach Will Muschamp, the highest-paid coordinator (offense or defense) in college football. Muschamp’s blockbuster deal will pay him in excess of $1.6 million per year, which according to USA Today’s recent study, is more than at least 60 FBS head coaches earned this season.
That’s some serious dough to be paying a coordinator, but Auburn is serious about establishing the kind of identity on defense that it has on offense under Gus Malzahn.
What’s more, there’s also the business of keeping up with Alabama, which outgunned Auburn 55-44 a few weeks ago in the Iron Bowl, sending the Tigers to their fourth loss. In all four of those losses this season, Auburn gave up at least 34 points.
Less than 24 hours after the loss to Alabama, Malzahn fired veteran defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, who has a pretty spiffy résumé of his own. But Auburn struggled to stop people most of the season, and even though the Tigers played for the national championship a year ago, Malzahn felt like he had to make a move on defense.
It was already a foregone conclusion that Muschamp was going to be one of the hottest free agents out there after getting the boot at Florida with two games remaining in the regular season, which made Malzahn’s decision to part ways with Johnson only that much easier.
South Carolina and Texas A&M had also set their sights on Muschamp, who had the luxury of sitting back and seeing how everything played out. He walked away from Florida with a $6 million parting gift and his reputation as one of the top defensive minds in the game fully intact.
Few defensive coaches around the country are more respected than Muschamp, who runs the same 3-4 defense Alabama does under Nick Saban and Smart and has a keen eye for the kind of player he’s looking for in his scheme.
Muschamp’s problems at Florida were on offense. The Gators were a load on defense every year he was there. In fact, they’re the only team in the SEC to finish in the top 10 nationally in total defense each of the past four seasons. They allowed just 4.45 yards per play this season; only four teams in the country were better (Clemson, Penn State, Stanford and UCF).
The Gators gave up 21.2 points per game this season, which was their highest average under Muschamp.
His true value goes a lot a deeper than numbers, though. His defenses play with a passion and a bloody-your-nose mindset that are infectious, and it also doesn’t hurt that he knows Alabama’s defensive scheme inside and out.
Saban has said the two guys who know how to run his defense exactly the way he wants it run are Smart and Muschamp.
The challenge for Muschamp will be incorporating his style of defense into Malzahn’s hurry-up, no-huddle system on offense. As a rule, the two don’t always go together, and one of the tricky parts is being able to find the right balance on the practice field, where, as a defensive coach, you feel like you’re able to be physical enough to keep your edge.
One of the reasons Muschamp was comfortable with signing on as Malzahn’s defensive coordinator was that Malzahn, for all the talk about his being a spread coach, believes deeply in running the ball. The Tigers are not one of these spread teams that’s going to throw it on every down.
It’s an offensive world right now in college football. Every game is on television, and the people who write the checks love points and love being entertained.
Most of the marquee head-coaching jobs are going to offensive guys right now. That’s no coincidence.
But it’s also no coincidence that the teams winning national championships are also playing championship defense. Only one of the past 10 BCS national champions (Auburn in 2010) has finished outside of the top 10 nationally in total defense.
The game’s changing, no doubt, but not to the point where defensive coaches of Muschamp’s ilk are devalued.
As Auburn showed us Friday night, people are still willing to pay top dollar to get them.
The top five freshmen in the SEC
11:00 AM ET Nevada Louisiana-Lafayette 2:20 PM ET Utah State UTEP 3:30 PM ET 22 Utah Colorado State 5:45 PM ET Western Michigan Air Force 9:15 PM ET South Alabama Bowling Green
6:00 PM ET Marshall Northern Illinois 9:30 PM ET Navy San Diego State
12:00 PM ET Central Michigan Western Kentucky 8:00 PM ET Fresno State Rice
1:00 PM ET Illinois Louisiana Tech 4:30 PM ET Rutgers North Carolina 8:00 PM ET North Carolina State UCF
1:00 PM ET Cincinnati Virginia Tech 2:00 PM ET 15 Arizona State Duke 3:30 PM ET Miami (FL) South Carolina 4:30 PM ET Boston College Penn State 8:00 PM ET Nebraska 24 USC
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State