NCF Nation: SEC

Chris Conley’s recent cinematic adventure was quite an accomplishment.

Georgia’s senior receiver might make his name on the football field, but he grew up in a geek culture. His chiseled 6-foot-3, 206-pound frame is SEC, but his passions scream Comic-Con.

Months before Saturday’s highly anticipated debut of Conley’s no-so-amateur “Star Wars” short “Retribution,” Conley fidgeted in a rolling chair under the fuzzy lighting of a conference room inside Georgia’s football facility as he discussed the process of his project.

There was anxiety and excitement on his breath when he spoke about his film and how he dove headfirst into the project with football very much the center of his college life.

“I just kind of blindly picked up the phone and started recruiting people to be part of this team,” Conley said.

[+] EnlargeChris Conley
AP Photo/ Richard ShiroChris Conley has 81 catches, 12 for touchdowns, in three seasons at Georgia.
Conley’s mind has always been filled with comics, superheroes and science fiction. His real movie-making days began with a stop-motion animation film starring Legos he made with his brother Charles, whose middle name just happens to be Xavier, making him Charles Xavier for all you "X-Men" fans.

He and his brother both made comics that stretched from three to seven pages long, but Conley insists that Charles was the more artistic one.

And to tackle “Star Wars” seemed ideal. He was introduced to the series through the original three and he grew up with the most recent trilogy, causing him to embrace all six movies.

“To a kid, who doesn’t know any better, those [recent three movies] were amazing,” Conley said with a smile. “Everybody in my generation doesn’t understand what purists complain about because we’re like, ‘We love the whole thing.’”

Equipped with state-of-the-art computer graphics, slick choreography and a heart-pounding soundtrack, Conley brought to life an action-packed, 26-minute ride inside Georgia’s campus through a George Lucas-like lens.

“I like to be an avid learner, so it’s been a real learning process to learn how to do film and how to do it the right way, being someone who’s never gone to film school,” Conley said.

He started gathering his team in December. Writing, casting and choreography bled into February, when filming officially started. Conley, meanwhile, was entering spring practice as one of Georgia’s top returning receivers, doing morning mat drills with teammates.

“This was a unique experience,” Conley said. “I’ve worked on some small projects, but nothing ever this big. This is the first time that I’ve had about 60 people who are all looking at me for the answers, like when to be where and how we were going to go about things.”

Conley was learning the directing ropes. He was learning terminology, ordering shots, learning how to conduct himself on set, learning how to properly schedule shoots, figuring out framing, finding the right lighting, structuring blocking and studying how people react to what he said on set.

Interacting with people came naturally, but learning how to actually direct them was challenging, Conley said.

He also successfully juggled the sport he loved, academics and his ever-growing passion through discipline and cutting into one of his favorite activities.

“Planning a production takes a ridiculous amount of time,” Conley said. “The question when I told my coaches was where are you going to have time to do that, and I said, 'I don’t know.' So that time really came out of my sleep. I spent a ridiculous amount of hours up and planning this stuff because I couldn’t take anything out of my football obligations.”

The first weekend of shooting took 23 hours. The following Monday, Conley was up at daybreak for mat drills. He never let the movie become a distraction, which helped raise the respect his teammates had for him, Mason said.

“He’s a senior who’s been around a lot and he’s made plays, so guys kind of shut up and listen when he talks,” quarterback Hutson Mason said. “Guys know that he’s different. He’s not saying one thing and doing the other. Guys know that he’s genuine.

“Conley is the guy that you want modeling the name of Georgia and the name on the back of your jersey.”

Now we’ll find out how difficult it is to be a famed director and star SEC receiver. After catching 45 passes for 651 yards and four touchdowns last fall, Conley will be asked to do even more in 2014. With Malcolm Mitchell recovering from an ACL injury, Conley assumed the role as No. 1 receiver and dominated the spring.

Conley had time to direct and write a movie while playing a diabolical Sith lord. Returning to the gridiron shouldn’t be an issue.

“He represents his name and Georgia well, to a ‘T,’” Mason said. “Then, you take a guy who is a big, tall receiver, who just as far as the football field is another great weapon for us.

“He’s a guy that we feel if you leave one-on-one, it’s a mismatch. Conley’s just one of those guys that we feel if it’s in the red zone or in the middle of the field, we have to find ways to get him the ball.”
The annual SEC media days begin Monday, which means we are in for another preseason circus in Hoover, Alabama.

It also means we are that much closer to the start of fall camp and the college football season. I wonder if any fan base will dwarf the Alabama fans who'll be lined up inside the lobby of the Wynfrey Hotel. Probably not. That's Tide turf, and everyone knows it.

Media days run from July 14-17. The SEC's official website, ESPN, ESPNU and WatchESPN will have continuous coverage of all the festivities.

MONDAY

Session I: 12–3:30 p.m. ET

Commissioner Mike Slive

Auburn
Session II: 3:40–6:40 p.m. ET

Florida
Vanderbilt
TUESDAY

Session I: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. ET

South Carolina
Mississippi State
Session II: 2–5 p.m. ET

Texas A&M
Tennessee
WEDNESDAY

Session I: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. ET

Steve Shaw (SEC coordinator of officials) / Justin Connolly (ESPN Senior Vice President of College Networks)

Missouri
Session II: 2–5 p.m. ET

LSU
Arkansas
THURSDAY

Session I: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. ET

Georgia
Ole Miss
Session II: 1–4 p.m. ET

Alabama
Kentucky


This spring, we shared with you the trailer for "Retribution," Georgia receiver Chris Conley's "Star Wars" fan film.

Now, the completed project is here. It's 26 minutes of well-done goodness, beginning in Sanford Stadium and proceeding with plenty of action scenes, lightsabers and several cameos from recognizable Georgia football figures like head coach Mark Richt, running back Todd Gurley and even UGA mascot Hairy Dawg.

The Richt cameo, which appears at about the 15-minute mark, is particularly entertaining as he sits on a bench with headphones on, looking at a tablet, oblivious to the battle going on around him on campus. Clearly, Mark Richt has lost control of ... everything.

The film is written and directed by Conley, who caught 45 passes for 651 yards and four touchdowns last season for Georgia. A self-proclaimed nerd, Conley began this journey in November by soliciting fellow "Star Wars" fans to volunteer for lightsaber battles on the Georgia campus, according to the Athens Banner-Herald. He got a strong initial response, enlisted the services of Georgia football videographer Frank Martin, held a production meeting and things took off from there.

Above is the finished product, which is impressive. Do yourself a favor and give this fun piece a look. Conley clearly has a talent for film-making. And like any good storyteller, Conley offers a tease, via Twitter:



Update: Here are some images from the film’s production and promotion, featuring Georgia students and a cameo from coach Mark Richt.



Richt wasn't the only one to get in on the action, however. Gurley, Georgia's star running back, took a break from evading defenders on the field to show off his acting chops.

Coaches get away with golf

July, 3, 2014
Jul 3
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In more than 30 years of coaching, Steve Spurrier has never lost a round of golf to one of his players. New challengers are apt to dismiss the claim, but Spurrier is happy to provide witness accounts of each of his triumphs. It's a record he takes seriously.

Of course, opportunities to hit the tees at all are getting harder to come by for coaches. The recruiting calendar has grown more cumbersome, the demands of the job more strenuous, and the number of coaches regularly playing golf has diminished as a result. Even Spurrier, the elder statesmen of the coaching ranks on both the football field and the golf course, doesn't get out quite as much as he used to. By the end of July, his clubs are already gathering dust.

But as the demands of the job increase, the importance of finding an escape is even more crucial, Spurrier said. So he has kept golf a priority during those few months every year when NCAA rules prevent him from working with his players.

For the rest of David M. Hale's story about why golf is a favorite offseason activity for football coaches, click here. And to find out what a few college football coaches had to say about playing golf with players and other coaches, their best rounds, their favorite courses and more, click here.
In the world of college football, staying stagnant puts you behind. If you aren't trying to get bigger, strong and faster on the field, you're lost.

But you're also going to suffer if the environment surrounding your program isn't sparkling and dazzling to look at.

That's why stadium expansion is running rampant and why video scoreboards are getting bigger, brighter and bolder. High-definition screens have grown and more entertaining videos and graphics have made it into college football stadiums.

Fans love what's happening on the field, but looking up and seeing all those detailed pixels rounds out the game-day experience.

But does size really matter? Do we really care how large JumboTrons are? Do fancy graphics bring you to more games?

For athletic departments, the answer is a resounding yes, or they wouldn't bother. A massive big screen also looks pretty nice on all those recruiting visits.

They might be obnoxiously big and a little unnecessary, but we love them all the same. Here are the 10 biggest and most entertaining scoreboards in college football:

Texas Memorial Stadium scoreboard 140701Karl Wright/USA TODAY SportsThe video board at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium is 55 feet tall and 134 feet long.

1. Texas: Well, there's one thing that Longhorns fans can cheer about: That enormous video board that basically takes up one side of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. The board stands 55 feet tall and is 134 feet long, measuring around 7,370 square feet. Texas' board has been the largest in college football since 2006 (see Texas A&M below) and has a beautiful pixel pitch (the distance between pixel clusters, is a measure of high definition) of 20mm and native resolution of 2064-by-848. Texas' gigantic LED board provides fans with a bodaciously big Bevo. That screen should also really make Charlie Strong's muscles pop!

Kyle Field videoboardsCourtesy of Texas A&M AthleticsTexas A&M's new scoreboard will be the biggest in college football.

2. Texas A&M: They say that everything is bigger in Texas, and that's exactly what the Aggies are getting with their new video board at Kyle Field. Rival Texas had the country's largest video board. But with Texas A&M throwing $450 million into stadium renovations, it only made sense that the Aggies' brain trust best the Longhorns. This board could be No. 1, but since we haven't seen it live, second place is where it goes. The Daktronics 13HD LED video board will be the first in college football to have 1080 resolution (that's 1,080 lines that create the image). It will sit in the south end zone, measure 47-by-163 and have nearly 300 more square feet (7,661) than Texas' big board.

3. Arkansas: It might not have the largest square feet (6,286), but it's actually the longest video board in the country at 166.3 feet. And it stands 37.8 feet tall. With strong player introductions and graphics, there has been plenty to take Razorbacks fans' minds off of the subpar play exhibited by their team over the last two seasons. The massive SMARTVISION video display creates a dazzling backdrop behind the north end zone while standing atop Arkansas' indoor practice facility.

Coliseum video boardCal Sports Media via AP ImagesThe scoreboard at the L.A. Coliseum is 150 feet by 40 feet (6,000 square feet).

4. USC: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is iconic in its own right, but the construction of its video board in 2011 gave the stadium a high-tech reboot. With a native resolution of 3,000-by-792, the Coliseum's board brings the Troy faithful one of the nation's best pictures at the size of 150 feet by 40 feet (6,000 square feet). It's currently the fifth largest video board in the country. What really gives it life is the raucous and impressively entertaining pregame player entrance that fills the board just before each home game.

Sun Life Stadium scoreboardAP Photo/Paul SpinelliThe scoreboard at Sun Life Stadium is the third largest in college football.

5. Miami: The Hurricanes and their fellow students might have to travel some 20 miles from their Coral Gables campus to Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, but it's well worth it when they see what the stadium's big screen is packing. Before Texas came along, Sun Life owned the nation's biggest board. Now Miami sits in third place on the list, with a screen that measures 6,717 square feet (138.5-by-48.5). That's a very big Al Golden.

Arizona Stadium scoreboardChris Morrison/USA TODAY SportsThe scoreboard at Arizona is also Xbox compatible, making for an impressive game of Madden.

6. Arizona: The video board inside Arizona Stadium is 5,264 square feet (112-by-47), but there's more to it than just the size. When it was constructed 2011, Arizona's administration decided to make it more than just a fan experience; they created a player and recruit experience. This bad boy not only introduces players and coaches in high quality, it also is Xbox compatible. Is it necessary to play video games on a screen with 1,728-by-720 resolution? Absolutely not, but it's awesome just the same.

Mississippi State scoreboardCourtesy of Mississippi StateAs if one giant video screen wasn't enough, Mississippi State is building another across the stadium.
7. Mississippi State: Back in 2008, the school used $6.1 million to construct a true HD board that spans the roof of the Leo Seal M-Club Center in the south end zone of Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. This behemoth stands 152 feet wide by 135.6 feet tall, with a main HD screen stretching 111 feet by 47 feet. When that thing lights up at night and the cowbells are clanking, you feel like some mythical creature is going to slither out of that pigskin sanctuary.

Oklahoma Memorial Stadium scoreboardJackson Laizure/Getty ImagesThe video board at Oklahoma will soon be expanding from its already-impressive size.

8. Oklahoma: It's only natural that “Big Game Bob” has a big-game board. It's barely shorter in length than Arkansas' monstrosity (166 feet) and is very aesthetically pleasing with its 3,168-by-600 resolution. And soon it will get bigger. A planned $370 million renovation of Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium will make the video board 8,750-square feet, up from 5,146-square feet.

Spartan Stadium scoreboardAP Photo/Al GoldisIn 2012, Michigan State increased the size of its scoreboard by nearly tenfold.

9. Michigan State: Talk about an upgrade. When the school decided it was time to expand its puny scoreboard in 2012, the size grew from 567 square feet to a massive 5,300 square feet. It was a part of a $10 million project to upgrade the entire stadium's viewing experience. This gives a whole new meaning to The Big Green

Ohio Stadium scoreboardJoe Robbins/Getty ImagesThe scoreboard at Ohio Stadium also features 25 speakers on each side.

10. Ohio State: The Buckeyes' high-def Panasonic scoreboard measures 42 feet by 124 feet and has an array of 25 speakers on each side. You get great picture quality along with fantastic sound. The fans also are offered some pretty neat extras, like videos of student-athletes and teams, interactive features with former Buckeyes and quality player introductions.

Honorable mentions

Baylor: McLane Stadium's seating capacity might be shrinking, but the JumboTron is growing. The board at the new stadium will measure 47 feet high by 107 feet wide and will feature a 15 HD pixel layout this fall.

Minnesota: It measures 48 feet tall by 108 feet long, but what really sets it apart is the fact that it displayed YouTube sensation “Dramatic Gopher” to distract Wisconsin kicker Jack Russell last fall. The gopher went 1-for-2 in distractions on the day.

South Carolina: The atmosphere already is electric enough before and during games, but add a 4,464-square-foot crowing rooster and it’s quite the image.
This is beginning to sound like a broken record, but Alabama is in the midst of putting together yet another historic recruiting class. The Crimson Tide's 2015 class already has 19 commitments, 16 ranked in the ESPN 300, and it's only July. What's maybe more impressive is that 10 different states are represented in the class.

There's just one problem. When you recruit on a national level, it allows your in-state rival, in this case Auburn, to take kids out of your own backyard.

Last week, Gus Malzahn and the Tigers landed commitments from ESPN 300 offensive lineman Tyler Carr and three-star tight end Jalen Harris, two in-state prospects who had offers from Alabama but chose to go to Auburn instead.

"It was really just a gut instinct," Carr told ESPN.com after he committed. "I felt a little bit more at home at Auburn. I just had to go with what I felt was right."

In April, ESPN 300 athlete Kerryon Johnson, the state's top prospect, committed to Auburn over the likes of both Alabama and Florida State. It was a huge recruiting victory for the Tigers, and if it holds it will be the first time they have landed the No. 1 player in the state since 2011 and only the second time in the last eight years.

So what's the reason for balance of power shifting in the state of Alabama?

"I just think when Gus came back that people saw a new Auburn," Johnson said. "He brings a lot of energy to that place. They're fired up to play football now, and that's enticing to [anybody]. There's a lot of people at Bama, there's a lot of people who still choose Bama, but it's just that new fire there that's hard to pull away from."

The ‘kick six' in last year's Iron Bowl also gave the Tigers a boost.

"That's how easy momentum can shift," Johnson said. "One game, an in-state game like that, and it's just over."

Still, it's not as if Auburn is dominating the state. In fact, the Tide had the same number of in-state commitments in the 2014 class, and they have the same number of in-state commitments so far in 2015. If anything, the two are on a level playing field ... both on the field and in recruiting their home state.

But it wasn't long ago when Alabama was dominating the state, taking all of the best players. Those days have since passed.

Auburn already has five in-state commitments for 2015, and the Tigers are in good position with at least three others in the top 10 including outside linebacker Richard McBryde and offensive lineman Brandon Kennedy.

"I think it's a great thing," Carr said. "It's definitely going to help us out later on. It's something to have people from in state because it means a little bit more to them I think, but it will be really interesting to see how it goes."

Come signing day, both schools will have their fair share of in-state commitments. More importantly, both schools will have elite recruiting classes. It's the reason why they have combined to play in the last five national championship games, and it's the reason why they will be be a part of the CFB Playoff conversation for the foreseeable future.

The balance of power in Alabama might be shifting, but it's only making both sides stronger.
SEC LogoMike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesThe ACC has a few teams that could be a natural fit if the SEC were to expand further.

Maryland and Rutgers officially made the move to the Big Ten on Tuesday, and that got us at the SEC blog thinking. If (more like when) the SEC goes to 16 teams, who would be the two teams most likely to join college's football elite conference?

I know, I know. You've all enjoyed an offseason devoid of conference realignment rumors, but wouldn't it be fun to think of the possibilities? Hypothetically, of course.

Edward and I took to the task. We eliminated Clemson and Florida State because despite how much sense it makes, it's never going to happen. They're more likely to join the Big 12 one day than the SEC. With that in mind, we picked the two teams that not only make sense but that we most want to see join the league that's won seven of the last eight national championships.

Take 1: Greg Ostendorf

Did you know that Georgia Tech and Tulane were founding members of the SEC? Why not just bring them back? Both schools would embrace the move, and Alabama's fight song would make sense again. Nah, the SEC can do better than that. This is the same league that went out and swiped Texas A&M the last time it expanded.

I'm thinking bigger. I'm thinking the program that invented swagger, the program that has won five national championships in the last 30 years, the program that nearly joined the SEC in 1990 when the league first expanded.

I'm thinking Miami.

It's been awhile since the Hurricanes were at the top of the college football world, but you'd think a move to the SEC would help with that. It'd be significant for recruiting as local kids would no longer have to leave town to play in the SEC. Attendance would go up if for no other reason than visiting schools bringing their fans down to South Beach, and it might help the school's chances of landing a new stadium.

From the SEC's standpoint, it makes sense geographically. It would bring back the Florida-Miami rivalry, and who wouldn't want to see Alabama, LSU or Auburn play Miami every couple of years. This should have happened years ago.

If Miami joined, Florida State would once again make the most sense to jump on board, but that's not going to happen. So instead I went the other direction with my second choice. I went with Louisville.

It would continue to expand the SEC's market in that area, it would pair the Cardinals with their in-state rival Kentucky, and it would significantly boost the league in both basketball and football. And how about Bobby Petrino returning to the SEC? Love him or hate him, he's the type of personality that would thrive in this league. He's already shown that once.

If the league sticks to its current model, both Louisville and Miami could join the East and allow for Missouri to move over to the West where it belongs.

Take 2: Edward Aschoff

While I like where Greg's head is at, I'm thinking even bigger. Also, Greg, have fun convincing Florida that having Miami in the same conference is beneficial.

If I were in charge of the SEC, I'd send some feelers east and see if there's any interest from North Carolina and Virginia Tech.

Both schools have been linked to the SEC for years. We're basically just waiting for someone to strike. I mean, it makes sense for both of them to ditch the ACC and make a new home in SEC territory. Travel wouldn't be bad for either school, and think of all the increased exposure for their brands.

However, whenever dealing with these schools, you have to think about their rivals -- Duke and Virginia. Would either school leave the ACC without its instate counterpart? That's a tough one, and you have to wonder if the SEC would want Duke or Virginia as a package deal. It might be tough to leave a man behind, but when the SEC -- and all that money -- comes calling, you'll probably wait around to hear the entire pitch.

We know that UNC and Virginia Tech would certainly benefit from a financial aspect, but the SEC would benefit too. UNC makes the most sense with that rich athletic and academic background (let's just put aside that whole academic investigation for a second). Not only do you have a football team that could compete, UNC would be an excellent addition to most Olympic sports, too. You now completely own the Carolina markets and get a school with a real national brand. Oh, and another power in basketball? Commissioner Mike Slive would love that (sorry Kentucky).

Virginia Tech has the atmosphere and culture that would make the transition over the SEC extremely easy. SEC fans have to be dying to check out a game in Blacksburg. And it's another market to tap into once you get Washington, D.C. secured. Virginia Tech might not have the overall athletic history as UNC, but it's by no means shabby.

It's tough to say that this scenario would ever happen, but it'd be perfect for the SEC, and not just for football reasons.
Here's a good way to survive the dog days of summer -- relive the glory of last year's best college football games.

ESPNU will count down the top 25 games and air all but four of them July 21-Aug. 3. Of course the SEC is well-represented. Game Nos. 6-25 have already been determined. Here's a look.

No. 23 -- Alabama 49, Texas A&M 42
Re-airdate: July 22, 7 p.m. ET
This Week 3 contest was a much-anticipated grudge match after Johnny Manziel and the upstart Aggies had upset the mighty Tide in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in 2012. The return engagement had fireworks from the start, as A&M's 628 yards were the most given up in Alabama's history.

No. 20 -- Georgia 44, LSU 41
Re-airdate: July 23, 10 p.m. ET
Two teams ranked in the top 10 slugged it out to the tune of nearly 1,000 combined yards, as the quarterback performances by Georgia's Aaron Murray and former teammate Zach Mettenberger were among the best of their careers.

[+] EnlargeMelvin Ray
Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY SportsNick Marshall & Co. were involved in four of the season's top 25 games, including three within the top 4.
No. 17 -- Auburn 45, Texas A&M 41
Re-airdate: July 25, 7 p.m. ET
Looking back, this huge upset on the road might have fueled Auburn's amazing season. One year after being beaten 63-21 by the Aggies, the Tigers roared back to national prominence behind QB Nick Marshall and RB Tre Mason. The Auburn defense gave up more than 500 yards to Manziel but came through in the end to preserve the win.
No. 15 -- Georgia 34, Tennessee 31 (OT)
Re-airdate: July 28, 7 p.m. ET
Just think of how differently we would have viewed UT's season had the Vols pulled off this upset. Georgia withstood injuries and a determined Tennessee team, and rallied to tie the game with five seconds left when Murray found Rantavious Wooten for a touchdown. UT's Alton Howard fumbled a sure touchdown in overtime, which set up UGA's game-winning field goal.
No. 11 -- Ole Miss 39, Vanderbilt 35
Re-airdate: July 29, 10 p.m. ET
The opening game of the season set a clear tone for high-scoring offense and thrilling late-game heroics. Vandy raced to a 21-10 halftime lead and then gave up 29 points, including a back-breaking 75-yard touchdown run by Jeff Scott with just over a minute to play.
No. 7 -- South Carolina 27, Missouri 24 (OT)
Re-airdate: July 31, 10 p.m. ET
Gamecocks QB Connor Shaw came off the bench to score 17 fourth-quarter points to send this one into overtime, where the teams traded touchdowns before USC won it with a kick. Missouri was slapped with its first loss of the season, but the Tigers won the rest of their games and the SEC East crown.

Now we need your help choosing a top five, and again the SEC is prominent with four choices available. Voting ends Monday. If you need help deciding, here's how I would rank 'em.

No. 5 -- Texas A&M 52, Duke 48
Manziel penned a memorable swan song in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, as the Aggies and Blue Devils piled up more than 1,200 yards of offense. Manziel passed for 382 yards and four touchdowns, ran for 73 yards and one TD, and led his team back from a 21-point halftime deficit.

No. 4 -- Florida State 34, Auburn 31
The Tigers' miracle season came crashing down when FSU rallied from an 18-point deficit, the largest ever overcome in a BCS championship game. A thrilling fourth quarter closed with Heisman winner Jameis Winston leading the Noles 80 yards in 66 seconds for the win.

No. 2 -- Auburn 43, Georgia 38
Any time a game evokes a nickname it has also earned a place in college football lore. This game got two of them -- "The Prayer at Jordan-Hare" and "The Immaculate Deflection" -- thanks to a 73-yard Hail Mary touchdown that Bulldogs safety Josh Harvey-Clemons tipped to Auburn's Ricardo Louis.

No. 1 -- Auburn 34, Alabama 28
Is there any doubt which game transcended the 2013 season into the history books? With his improbable, last-second, missed field-goal return, Chris Davis' 109-yard touchdown run -- the "Kick Six" -- was forever branded on the sport's collective consciousness.



video
Jadeveon Clowney didn't have the monster season everyone expected in 2013. His final season at South Carolina raised questions about his drive and conditioning after he seemed too gassed during games and recorded a career-low three sacks.

It was clear there were times when Clowney didn't give it his all or took plays off, and the former SEC star admitted as much after last season. To his credit, Clowney did have to have foot surgery to help with bone spurs, meaning he played through pain pretty much the entire season.

But it sounds like there was even more pain for Clowney to do deal with during his final season with the Gamecocks. According to a report, Clowney, who was drafted first overall by the Houston Texans in this year's NFL draft, played with a sports hernia injury through the 2013 season. Clowney had sports hernia surgery two weeks ago, which forced him to miss the Texans' minicamp.

Clowney
Now, the rub on Clowney last season was that he didn't give it 100 percent, leaving some to wonder if he would have the mental edge to compete at the next level. We all knew Clowney was the most physically gifted player the SEC had to offer when he stepped on the field, but his 2013 resume left so much to be desired. I'm not here to make excuses for Clowney, but playing with a sports hernia isn't exactly the most comfortable of things.

Especially for a player who has to constantly thrust his body into another behemoth of a man at a high rate of speed. And when you are Clowney, you probably had to deal with constant double-teams.

After further review, yes, Clowney had to deal with double-teams... over and over.

To ours and Clowney's standards, he didn't have a great final season in Columbia. He just wasn't the consistent force we had seen before. He didn't come close to living up to the hype, but maybe the injuries contributed to that. Honestly, it had to, and there is no denying he played through nagging pain all season, whether it was a sports hernia or his foot.

How much better would Clowney have been if he was healthy? Would Clowney have been more inclined to dial it back a notch at times if he knew he wasn't at risk for making his injuries more serious? We don't know, but we do know Clowney dealt with more complications than we originally thought.
If the SEC has plenty of one thing, it's athletes.

Every year we see running backs and wide receivers that can make one move and go the distance. They're explosive in every sense of the word. They're quick, fast and utterly elusive.

In 2013, Henry Josey and Tre Mason were home run hitters at running back. Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans and Jordan Matthews routinely burned defenses deep at receiver. Heck, who can forget Johnny Manziel's big-play antics at quarterback?

But all of those playmakers have moved on. Now it's time for a new group of explosive athletes to emerge on offense in the SEC.

Here's a rundown of each team's most dangerous weapons:
  • Alabama: A talented return man, Christion Jones knows how to operate in space and break free from the defense. Amari Cooper, meanwhile, has the feet of a ballerina and can dance away from coverage just as well -- or run right by it. After experiencing a down sophomore year due to injury, he should return to his freshman form where he had 19 receptions for 20 yards or more. And don’t lose sight of Kenyan Drake while you’re at it. Even on limited carries last season he had 29 rushes of 10 or more yards.
  • Auburn: Speed is in ample supply at Auburn, from quarterback to receiver to running back. Nick Marshall’s agility and big-play ability under center speaks for itself. Meanwhile, Sammie Coates has some of the best straight-line speed you’ll find in the country. And, finally, running back Corey Grant is one of the league’s all-time burners, having reportedly clocked a sub-4.2 second 40-yard dash. He had 29 rushes of 10 or more yards last season and averaged a whopping 9.8 yards per carry.
  • Arkansas: Bret Bielema needs some help at receiver. Sure, Keon Hatcher (12.8 yards per catch) showed some promise late and the return of Demetrius Wilson from injury is reason for hope. But ultimately the real big-play ability on offense comes from the running backs. Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams combined for 56 rushes for 10 or more yards last season -- a number that would have tied for third nationally behind Jordan Lynch (64) and Taysom Hill (60).
  • Florida: Andre Debose, when healthy, is an athlete with world-class speed. After all, he was a state track champion in high school, running the 100-meter dash in 10.68 seconds. It’s part of why he already holds the school record of four kickoff returns for touchdowns -- a record tied for tops in SEC history with Willie Gault, Felix Jones and Brandon Boykin. How's that for good company? With two major injuries hopefully now in his past, Debose is a threat to score at both receiver and in the return game.
  • Georgia: Malcolm Mitchell will be a welcome return at receiver after missing all but one game last season with a torn ACL. When he was healthy, he was able to run in the neighborhood of a 4.4-second 40-yard dash. He and Chris Conley, who led the team in receiving yards last year, can stress any secondary. That’s not to mention Justin Scott-Wesley, who was a state champion in both the 100- and 200-meter dash in high school.
  • Kentucky: You should know Javess Blue's name, but chances are that many of you probably don’t. Unfortunately his work at receiver flew mostly under the radar at Kentucky in 2013. His five catches of 20-plus yards may not sound overwhelming, but you have to remember he did that without much help from his quarterbacks. Still, Blue is a burner to the tune of a 4.29 second 40-yard dash.
  • LSU: Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. will be missed. But coach Les Miles wasn’t left lacking for playmakers on offense when they went on to the NFL. Terrence Magee was quietly one of the most explosive backs in the league last season with 10 rushes for 20 or more yards. Even so, No. 1 overall recruit Leonard Fournette might overshadow him. Fournette is not just big and strong, he’s also fast. (Think of a young Adrian Peterson). And while we’re talking true freshmen, Malachi Dupre has the chance to make an immediate impact at receiver. The former five-star prospect runs in the 4.5-second 40-yard dash range, and has impressive size and a vertical to match.
  • Mississippi State: It’s a make or break year for Mississippi State’s offense. In the past coach Dan Mullen has struggled to find playmakers. Now he has three guys who can really spread out a defense. Jameon Lewis, who has the tools of a poor man’s Percy Harvin, is a great underneath receiver, and Brandon Holloway, who can play either running back or receiver, is lightning quick and deadly in space. With De’Runnya Wilson standing at 6-foot-5 with the leaping ability of a true basketball player (he's a forward for the Bulldogs, in case you didn't know), Mullen’s offense should be able to attack every level of the secondary.
  • Missouri: Coach Gary Pinkel lost a lot of firepower on both sides of the ball this offseason. But even with Dorial Green-Beckham and LaDamian Washington no longer in Columbia, there are still plenty of dangerous weapons on offense. Russell Hansbrough is a talented back who had 20 rushes for 10 or more yards in 2013. Then factor in Bud Sasser (13.88 yards per play) and Marcus Murphy (17 career touchdowns four different ways: rushing, kickoff return, punt return and receiving), and the Tiger offense should be able to stretch the field just fine.
  • Ole Miss: By now you ought to know about Laquon Treadwell, who finished second only to Jordan Matthews in the SEC in total receptions last season (72). He became the first player in school history to be named SEC Freshman of the Year by the league coaches. Though he may lack elite top-end speed, he more than makes up for it with his elusiveness and ability to make yards after the catch. And don’t sleep on running back Jaylen Walton. In addition to being the team's primary kick returner, he also rushed for 523 yards last season. His 29 receptions were fourth on the team and he led all Rebs with eight total touchdowns.
  • South Carolina: Dylan Thompson may not have a lot of height at receiver, but he’s got plenty of speed. Shaq Roland is an All-SEC type of talent, if he can play with some consistency. His 18.2 yards per play last year ranked 15th nationally (minimum 25 touches). Opposite him at receiver is Damiere Byrd, who could be the fastest player in the league. His 17.3 yards per play ranked 20th nationally and an impressive 72.7 percent of his receptions went for either a first down or a touchdown.
  • Tennessee: Outside of a spectacular one-handed grab against South Carolina, Marquez North and his 13 yards per catch were somewhat lost in the shuffle last season. At 6-foot-4 and in the neighborhood of 220 pounds, he shouldn’t have the speed he does. With his size and athleticism (he won the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics 110-meter hurdles at the age of 12), he’s a threat to burn any defensive back in the SEC.
  • Texas A&M: All credit goes to Kevin Sumlin for pulling in some top-tier athletes on the recruiting trail the past two years. Trey Williams, who still has to adjust to the ins and outs of the running back position, has the speed and agility to be a breakout star this season. Meanwhile, there’s Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil to consider. They’ll wow you in different ways -- Noil is all moves and agility and speed, while Seals-Jones is pure height and jumping ability -- but both are threats to score from anywhere on the field.
  • Vanderbilt: The first sentence of Brian Kimbrow’s high school scouting report by ESPN says it all: “Kimbrow may be small but he's an electrifying running back prospect with excellent speed and quickness.” When you think of his running style, think of Warrick Dunn. Kimbrow came on strong as a freshman in 2012 with 413 yards on only 66 carries, but he saw his production taper off last year behind Jerron Seymour and Wesley Tate on the depth chart. Now he has a fresh start under new coach Derek Mason, who showed a major commitment to the running game while at Stanford.
Thanks to some extraordinary typing chops by Jack Nicholson and a little direction from Stanley Kubrick and Stephen King, an up-and-coming typewriter delivered one of the eeriest, yet memorable movie lines of all time.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

[+] EnlargeSpurrier
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsIn addition to football, golf continues to be a big part of Steve Spurrier's life.
If you haven't seen "The Shining," then you're really missing out. And if you don't live by that slogan, then get outside and smell the roses, friends. There's a whole big world out there ready for us to see. There's more to life than bills and the office, and one SEC coach knows that all too well.

Steve Spurrier loves his job. He loves wincing under his visor, and he loves being drenched in the occasional Gatorade bath. He loves teaching, and he loves coaching. He's one of those coaches who can charm just about everyone he meets and works with.

But he also loves golf. Like, he really, really, really loves golf.

The chance to play more at some pretty nice courses was something that peaked his interest when he returned to the college ranks and decided to coach at South Carolina. It's something that's as much a part of him as football. It's a release and a passion, and it's also a way to step away from the game and recharge with a birdie or two.

Even while spending most of his coaching career in college football's toughest conference, he's always made room for golf, his therapy, in the offseason. He might not be playing as much as he used to, but Spurrier is still making time for some course work before he gets back to grinding away in his football life.

Here's a little of what he said after a round last week in North Carolina:
“I have read stories that people who last a long time have outside interests. I can’t grind on football 11 months a year maybe the way some of these coaches do. They can grind now. I mean, they will go 6:30 a.m. to 7:30, 8:00 at night in the offseason. Did you know that? I don’t know what they do. They say they are working.”

Spurrier doesn't need to do that. He's entering his 10th season with the Gamecocks holding a 77-39 record. In the past four seasons, South Carolina is tied for ninth nationally with 42 wins, including winning 11 games in three straight seasons. No one else in the SEC East can say that, and 42 is just four behind Alabama (46), which ranks second. Spurrier was also the first coach to lead the Gamecocks to back-to-back, double-digit-win seasons.

Maybe, he should be playing more golf.

Would he hit the 12-win mark or have an SEC title at South Carolina with less time away from the film room during the offseason? Would he have a national championship with the Gamecocks with more time going over the playbook during the summer?

Who knows, but that's not how Spurrier wants to operate. When it's time for his focus to be on the pigskin, his brain will be nothing but football. When it's time to catch some rays, get out of a bunker and swing a few clubs, he'll do that without any hint of guilt.

It's a great trait for a coach who isn't as young as he used to be. He knows how to perfectly balance his life with his work life.

We've seen coaches burn out. We've seen passion for the game slip away. We've seen stress devour guys. That isn't happening to Spurrier.

Fun in moderation, and this is Spurrier's moderation. This job doesn't have to be 24/7, 365 in order for you to be successful, and Spurrier has more than proved that.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Brian Johnson wants his quarterbacks prepared for anything. It’s not enough to be tall and fast and strong, or to have a powerful and accurate arm. As the old boxing adage goes, everyone has a plan until they get hit in the face. Or something unexpected happens. So Johnson asks his players to be instinctive and make what he calls, “superior spontaneous decisions.”

Bad snap? No problem.

Can’t find the laces? Make due.

[+] EnlargeBrian Johnson
Boyd Ivey/Icon SMIBrian Johnson is only seven years older than his starting QB at Mississippi State.
Wrestling the ball away from a 300-pound defensive lineman? Remember the drill.

"You may think it was easy," Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott explained, "but when you fall and someone is trying to take the ball you don’t want to go against them, you want to go with them.”

Johnson taught him that. He also taught him how to dig an errant snap out of the dirt and how to catch the ball with one hand. In as much as this past spring was about fundamentals and repetitions, the preamble to Prescott’s would-be breakout season was also about learning new things from a new position coach, one who loves to challenge him with awkward situations.

“If you looked [at practice], you’d think it was basketball,” Prescott said. “It’s the ball between the legs, dropping the ball and trying to catch it before it hits the ground.”

Johnson, who left Utah in February to coach quarterbacks at Mississippi State, handles his players a little differently than his predecessor, Les Koenning. Some of that is the way he runs practice. A big part of it is perspective. Koenning has been a football coach for the better part of four decades, a career that began in 1981. Johnson, meanwhile, was born in 1987 and is only six years removed from a storied playing career at Utah that saw him become the school’s all-time leader in wins.

It’s not that Koenning wasn’t a good coach. But Johnson is more relatable to today’s athlete.

Prescott will better understand going up against Alabama because Johnson threw for 336 yards and beat Nick Saban’s defense in the 2009 Sugar Bowl. He’ll better understand his newfound fame and his role as a Heisman Trophy contender because Johnson was Alex Smith’s backup in 2004 when he finished fourth in the Heisman balloting, and Johnson was once on the cover of the EA Sports NCAA Football video game.

And if that’s not enough, Johnson too has played for Dan Mullen. After all, it was Mullen who recruited Johnson to Utah when Urban Meyer was head coach there. It was that preexisting relationship that drew the two together when Koenning went to Texas.

“The guy has played in a lot of big games, has been in their shoes and in their shoes recently," Mullen said. "The fact that he was recruited by me and played a year for me, he knows my expectations, which are pretty high.”

Mullen didn’t hire Johnson simply because he’s young and relatable. It helped, but ultimately he was brought to Starkville to produce. The SEC West is wide open this year. The old excuses of a lack of playmakers and an underwhelming quarterback no longer exist. The parts are all there for Mississippi State to make a run. If Prescott doesn’t develop into an All-SEC quarterback, it would come as a disappointment.

“Obviously there are huge expectations coming in,” Johnson said.

“By no means are we a finished product in what we want to be. We want to continually get better, continually find ways to improve.”

That statement might be a well-worn coaching cliché, but it’s also what Johnson believes. He might be only 27 years old, but setbacks as both a player and coach have left him well-seasoned to the game. Mississippi State represents a fresh start, one he isn’t taking for granted.

“Already at a young age he’s had some ups and downs in his career, and in talking to him, he’s not fazed by any of that,” Mullen said. “To me, that’s something that’s really important. He knows what his job is going to be. As a young guy he’s been in several different roles already, and I think he’s handled all those really well.”

[+] EnlargeDak Prescott
Spruce Derden/USA TODAY SportsDak Prescott is looking to improve after accounting for 23 total TDs last season but also seven interceptions and a 58 percent completion percentage.
As Johnson sat behind his new desk this spring talking about the move from Utah and the moving truck he still needed to return, he wasn’t trying to sell his youth or his recent playing experience. In fact, he said, “The whole age deal really doesn’t affect me. ... I’ve been young in everything I’ve done in life.”

He could have easily went on and on about what a marvelous talent Prescott is, noting how he finished last season with an epic come-from-behind win over rival Ole Miss before putting on a five-touchdown show in the bowl game against Rice. But the most Johnson will say is, “I like where he’s at” and “he’s super experienced in the system.”

“He’s everything that you look for when you go out and try to recruit a quarterback and an ambassador of your program,” Johnson said of his junior QB. “He’s an extremely hard worker, intelligent and he really raises the level of play.”

And that’s the point. We know about Prescott’s talents and his understanding of Mullen’s offense. Those building blocks are established.

It’s the unknown that we haven’t seen. How will he handle pressure situations? How will he react when something goes wrong? If there’s a loose ball and he’s near it, will he come up with the possession? Will he make the “superior spontaneous decisions” that take quarterbacks from good to great?

If Johnson and his drills have anything to do with it, he will.

“Nobody touches the ball more than [the quarterback],” Johnson said. “You have to be able to handle the ball at awkward angles. What we try to accomplish is creating game-like situations and stuff that’s really going to happen and they can go back and see it on film and say, ‘Hey, that’s our individual drill right there’ when they had to bend at an awkward angle to catch a bad snap or catch a one-handed snap. Stuff like that shows up over the course of playing the position.

“We make it hard for them so when they get in the game it’s not as hard.”
Texas and Texas A&M might not be playing one another anytime soon.

But other schools around the league are interested in the prospects of rekindling rivalries that were destroyed by two rounds of conference realignment.

While the Longhorns and Aggies remain at odds, Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt told ESPN.com this week he’s optimistic that he’ll be able to get Texas A&M on the Red Raiders’ schedule down the line again. Hocutt said there has been interest from Texas A&M’s side, as well.

“Hopefully that’s a series that at some point in time that could start again,” Hocutt said. “Is that a game that won’t happen again? No. We’ve had discussions about it. Hopefully we can reengage that in the coming years.”

Oklahoma and Nebraska already have an agreement in place to play a home-and-home in 2021-22. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel has reportedly said he thinks his school will play Kansas again someday.

And West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck, who has already added Penn State and Virginia Tech to future schedules, told ESPN.com he's hopeful he'll be able to revive the “Backyard Brawl” with Pitt at some point, as well.

“At some point we’ll get Pitt back on the schedule,” Luck said. “What I’m trying to do with our nonconference games is stay as regional as possible and rekindle some of our historical rivalries. Penn State is back on the schedule. Virginia Tech is back on the schedule. That game meant a lot to southern West Virginians. The Pitt game meant a lot to northern West Virginians. We’ve continued to play Pitt in many of the sports.

“We’ve both gone through transitions, so it’s tough schedule-wise for both of us. But I think at some point we’ll get Pitt back on the schedule. I see [Pitt athletic director] Steve Pederson every now and then at various conventions. And we’ve had some discussions about that. We just haven’t been able to really eyeball the proper time to get it going again.”

Position U: Offensive line

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
11:45
AM ET
video
Who really deserves to claim the title of “Offensive Line U” for the 2000s?

OFFENSIVE LINE
1. Alabama (242 points): Nick Saban (whose first season at Alabama was 2007) has been the Crimson Tide’s coach for only half of the time period that we examined. But that’s when nearly all of the noteworthy accomplishments have occurred in the 2000s for the Tide’s offensive line: three national awards, seven All-America picks, 11 all-conference selections, four first-round picks and eight linemen drafted. Saban teams win by dominating the line of scrimmage, and the offensive line results reflect why Alabama has been so successful.

Award winners: Andre Smith, Outland (2008); Barrett Jones, Outland (2011), Rimington (2012).
Consensus All-Americans: Antoine Caldwell (2008), Andre Smith (2008), Mike Johnson (2009), Barrett Jones (2011, 2012), Chance Warmack (2012), Cyrus Kouandjio (2013).
First-team all-conference: Paul Hogan (2000), Marico Portis (2002), Wesley Britt (2002, 2003, 2004), Andre Smith (2007, 2008), Antoine Caldwell (2008), Mike Johnson (2009), James Carpenter (2010), Barrett Jones (2011, 2012), William Vlachos (2011), Chance Warmack (2012), D.J. Fluker (2012), Cyrus Kouandjio (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Andre Smith (2009), James Carpenter (2011), Chance Warmack (2013), D.J. Fluker (2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Justin Smiley (Round 2, 2004), Evan Mathis (Round 3, 2005), Antoine Caldwell (Round 3, 2009), Mike Johnson (Round 3, 2010), Barrett Jones (Round 4, 2013), Cyrus Kouandjio (Round 2, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Shawn Draper (Round 5, 2001), Wesley Britt (Round 5, 2005),

2. Michigan (238 points): If any program was going to threaten Alabama’s claim on the top spot, it was Michigan, which has enjoyed a ridiculous run of success along the offensive line. Four first-round picks (Jeff Backus, Steve Hutchinson, Jake Long and Taylor Lewan) include one (Long) who was the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. Throw in five consensus All-Americans, two national award winners and 21 All-Big Ten selections. The 2000s were truly a great time to be a Michigan offensive lineman.

Award winners: David Baas, Rimington (2004); David Molk, Rimington (2011).
Consensus All-Americans: Steve Hutchinson (2000), David Baas (2004), Jake Long (2006, 2007), David Molk (2011).
First-team all-conference: Steve Hutchinson (2000), Jeff Backus (2000), Jonathan Goodwin (2001), David Baas (2002, 2003, 2004), Tony Pape (2002, 2003), Matt Lentz (2004, 2005), Adam Stenavich (2004, 2005), Adam Kraus (2006, 2007), Jake Long (2006, 2007), David Molk (2010, 2011), Taylor Lewan (2012, 2013), Patrick Omameh (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: Steve Hutchinson (2001), Jeff Backus (2001), Jake Long (2008), Taylor Lewan (2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Maurice Williams (Round 2, 2001), David Baas (Round 2, 2005), Michael Schofield (Round 3, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Jonathan Goodwin (Round 5, 2002), Tony Pape (Round 7, 2004), Stephen Schilling (Round 6, 2011), David Molk (Round 7, 2012).

3. Wisconsin (192 points): Although Wisconsin placed well behind the juggernauts from Alabama and Michigan, the Badgers have a ton to brag about. Joe Thomas and Gabe Carimi were both Outland Trophy winners, consensus All-Americans and first-round draft picks. In fact, Wisconsin had a total of 14 offensive linemen drafted in the 2000s, four of whom went in the first round (with Kevin Zeitler and Travis Frederick joining Thomas and Carimi).

Award winners: Joe Thomas, Outland (2006); Gabe Carimi, Outland (2010).
Consensus All-Americans: Joe Thomas (2006), Gabe Carimi (2010).
First-team all-conference: Casey Rabach (2000), Dan Buenning (2004), Joe Thomas (2005, 2006), Marcus Coleman (2007), Gabe Carimi (2009, 2010), John Moffitt (2009, 2010), Peter Konz (2011), Josh Oglesby (2011), Kevin Zeitler (2011), Travis Frederick (2012), Rick Wagner (2012), Ryan Groy (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Joe Thomas (2007), Gabe Carimi (2011), Kevin Zeitler (2012), Travis Frederick (2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Casey Rabach (Round 3, 2001), Bill Ferrario (Round 4, 2001), Al Johnson (Round 2, 2003), Dan Buenning (Round 4, 2005), Kraig Urbik (Round 3, 2009), John Moffitt (Round 3, 2011), Peter Konz (Round 2, 2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Ben Johnson (Round 7, 2003), Bill Nagy (Round 7, 2011), Ricky Wagner (Round 5, 2013).

4. Oklahoma (186 points): With four first-round picks and four consensus All-America selections, Oklahoma has had a great run along the offensive line in the 2000s. And the Sooners have been consistent throughout that time period, placing at least one lineman on the all-conference team in every season except 2000 and 2002. In some years, there were as many as three on the all-conference first team.

Award winners: Jammal Brown, Outland (2004).
Consensus All-Americans: Jammal Brown (2004), Duke Robinson (2007, 2008), Trent Williams (2009).
First-team all-conference: Frank Romero (2001), Jammal Brown (2003, 2004), Vince Carter (2003, 2004), Davin Joseph (2005), Chris Messner (2006), Duke Robinson (2007, 2008), Phil Loadholt (2008), Trent Williams (2008, 2009), Eric Mensik (2010), Gabe Ikard (2011, 2012, 2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Jammal Brown (2005), Davin Joseph (2006), Trent Williams (2009), Lane Johnson (2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Chris Chester (Round 2, 2006), Phil Loadholt (Round 2, 2009), Donald Stephenson (Round 3, 2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Wes Sims (Round 6, 2005), Duke Robinson (2009).

5. USC (182 points): Considering how much success it experienced in the early and mid-2000s, it seems strange that USC didn’t have a first-round offensive lineman until Sam Baker in 2008 (the first of three, as Tyron Smith and Matt Kalil have since joined him). Nonetheless, the Trojans churned out six second-round picks, 17 all-conference linemen and a trio of All-Americans, so there has been plenty of acclaim for the group in the 2000s.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Jacob Rogers (2003), Deuce Lutui (2005), Sam Baker (2006).
First-team all-conference: Jacob Rogers (2002, 2003), Norm Katnik (2003), Ryan Kalil (2005, 2006), Deuce Lutui (2005), Sam Baker (2005, 2006, 2007), Chilo Rachal (2007), Kristopher O’Dowd (2008), Jeff Byer (2009), Charles Brown (2009), Tyron Smith (2010), Matt Kalil (2011), Khaled Holmes (2012), Marcus Martin (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Sam Baker (2008), Tyron Smith (2011), Matt Kalil (2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Jacob Rogers (Round 2, 2004), Winston Justice (Round 2, 2006), Deuce Lutui (Round 2, 2006), Ryan Kalil (Round 2, 2007), Chilo Rachal (Round 2, 2008), Charles Brown (Round 2, 2010), Khaled Holmes (Round 4, 2013), Marcus Martin (Round 3, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Fred Matua (Round 7, 2006).

6. Florida State (166 points): FSU has only one first-round draft pick and one national award winner (Bryan Stork, who won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center last season) along the offensive line in the 2000s. But with three All-Americans and 13 all-conference selections in the 2000s, the Seminoles still rank among the nation’s better programs for linemen.

Award winners: Bryan Stork, Rimington (2013).
Consensus All-Americans: Alex Barron (2003, 2004), Rodney Hudson (2010), Bryan Stork (2013).
First-team all-conference: Justin Amman (2000), Char-ron Dorsey (2000), Brett Williams (2001, 2002), Montrae Holland (2002), Alex Barron (2003, 2004), Rodney Hudson (2008, 2009, 2010), Bryan Stork (2013), Tre Jackson (2013), Cameron Erving (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Alex Barron (2005).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Montrae Holland (Round 4, 2003), Brett Williams (Round 4, 2003), Ray Willis (Round 4, 2005), Mario Henderson (Round 3, 2007), Rodney Hudson (Round 2, 2011), Menelik Watson (Round 2, 2013), Bryan Stork (Round 4, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Char-ron Dorsey (Round 7, 2001), Milford Brown (Round 6, 2002), Todd Williams (Round 7, 2003), Andrew Datko (Round 7, 2012), Zebrie Sanders (Round 5, 2012).

7. Miami (158 points): The Hurricanes were nearly unstoppable at the turn of the century, thanks in large part to a supremely talented offensive line. Between 2000 and 2002, Miami had eight first-team all-conference players, two All-Americans and two national award winners. The Hurricanes have been successful along the line here and there since then, but their spot in the top 10 is largely because of those outstanding days in the early 2000s.

Award winners: Brett Romberg, Rimington (2002), Bryant McKinnie, Outland (2001).
Consensus All-Americans: Bryant McKinnie (2001), Brett Romberg (2002).
First-team all-conference: Joaquin Gonzalez (2000, 2001), Bryant McKinnie (2000, 2001), Martin Bibla (2001), Brett Romberg (2001, 2002), Sherko Haji-Rasouli (2002), Eric Winston (2003, 2005), Jason Fox (2009), Brandon Washington (2010).
NFL first-round draft picks: Bryant McKinnie (2002), Vernon Carey (2004).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Martin Bibla (Round 4, 2002), Rashad Butler (Round 3, 2006), Eric Winston (Round 3, 2006), Jason Fox (Round 4, 2010), Orlando Franklin (Round 2, 2011), Brandon Linder (Round 3, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Joaquin Gonzalex (Round 7, 2002), Carlos Joseph (Round 7, 2004), Chris Myers (Round 6, 2005), Brandon Washington (Round 6, 2012), Seantrel Henderson (Round 7, 2014).

8. Texas (150 points): Texas would have ranked higher on this list had we compiled it a few years ago. The Longhorns haven’t had a first-team all-conference pick or a draft pick since 2008, nor a consensus All-American since 2006. They were good enough in the early 2000s that the Longhorns still cracked the top 10, but Texas needs to turn it around under Charlie Strong if it intends to stay there over the next few years.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Leonard Davis (2000), Mike Williams (2001), Derrick Dockery (2002), Jonathan Scott (2005), Justin Blalock (2006).
First-team all-conference: Leonard Davis (2000), Mike Williams (2001), Derrick Dockery (2002), Tillman Holloway (2003), Justin Blalock (2004, 2005, 2006), Jonathan Scott (2004, 2005), Will Allen (2005), Kasey Studdard (2006), Tony Hills (2007), Adam Ulatoski (2008).
NFL first-round draft picks: Leonard Davis (2001), Mike Williams (2002).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Derrick Dockery (Round 3, 2003), Justin Blalock (Round 2, 2007), Tony Hills (Round 4, 2008).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Jonathan Scott (Round 5, 2006), Kasey Studdard (Round 6, 2007).

T-9. Iowa (144 points): No. 2 overall pick Robert Gallery, who won the 2003 Outland Trophy and was an All-American that season and a two-time all-conference pick, is the big point winner for Iowa, but the Hawkeyes have produced a considerable number of productive offensive linemen. They can claim 13 drafted offensive linemen in the 2000s, including three first-rounders (Gallery, Bryan Bulaga and Riley Reiff).

Award winners: Robert Gallery, Outland (2003).
Consensus All-Americans: Eric Steinbach (2002), Robert Gallery (2003).
First-team all-conference: Eric Steinbach (2001, 2002), Robert Gallery (2002, 2003), Bruce Nelson (2002), Mike Jones (2006), Seth Olson (2008), Bryan Bulaga (2009), Dace Richardson (2009), Riley Reiff (2011), Brandon Scherff (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Robert Gallery (2004), Bryan Bulaga (2010), Riley Reiff (2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Eric Steinbach (Round 2, 2003), Bruce Nelson (Round 2, 2003), Marshal Yanda (Round 3, 2007), Seth Olsen (Round 4, 2009).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Ben Sobieski (Round 5, 2003), Pete McMahon (Round 6, 2005), Mike Elgin (Round 7, 2007), Kyle Calloway (Round 7, 2010), Julian Vandervelde (Round 5, 2011), Adam Gettis (Round 5, 2012).

T-9. Ohio State (144 points): With 13 draft picks -- but just one first-rounder, Nick Mangold -- and 14 all-conference picks, Ohio State built a solid résumé for offensive linemen in the 2000s. Center LeCharles Bentley, a Rimington Trophy winner, is the only All-American, but the Buckeyes have turned out plenty of outstanding players along the line.

Award winners: LeCharles Bentley, Rimington (2001).
Consensus All-Americans: LeCharles Bentley (2001).
First-team all-conference: LeCharles Bentley (2001), Tyson Walter (2001), Alex Stepanovich (2003), Rob Sims (2005), Doug Datish (2006), T.J. Downing (2006), Kirk Barton (2007), Alex Boone (2008), Justin Boren (2009, 2010), Mike Adams (2010), Mike Brewster (2010), Andrew Norwell (2012), Corey Linsley (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Nick Mangold (2006).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: LeCharles Bentley (Round 2, 2002), Alex Stepanovich (Round 4, 2004), Rob Sims (Round 4, 2006), Mike Adams (Round 2, 2012), Jack Mewhort (Round 2, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Tyson Walter (Round 6, 2002), Shane Olivea (Round 7, 2004), Adrien Clarke (Round 7, 2004), Doug Datish (Round 6, 2007), Kirk Barton (Round 7, 2008), Reid Fragel (Round 7, 2013), Corey Linsley (Round 5, 2014).

REST OF "OFFENSIVE LINE U" RANKINGS
134 – Stanford; 132 – Florida; 124 – TCU; 116 – Arkansas; 112 – Auburn; 108 – Louisville; 104 – Penn State, Utah; 98 – California; 96 – Texas A&M; 94 – Boston College, LSU; 92 – Ole Miss; 90 – Minnesota, Virginia, West Virginia; 88 – Colorado; 84 – Georgia Tech; 82 – Georgia, Oklahoma State; 80 – Nebraska; 76 – Arizona State, Pittsburgh; 74 – Virginia Tech; 72 – Clemson, Oregon; 70 – Tennessee; 66 – Baylor; 58 – BYU, North Carolina; 56 – Syracuse; 54 – Maryland, Wake Forest; 50 – Illinois, Rutgers; 48 – Kansas State, Oregon State; 46 – Notre Dame; 44 – Missouri; 38 – Mississippi State; 36 – Texas Tech; 34 – Washington State; 32 – Washington; 30 – Purdue; 28 – Vanderbilt; 24 – NC State, UCLA; 18 – Kansas, Michigan State; 16 – Iowa State, Kentucky; 14 – Arizona; 12 – Indiana; 10 – Northwestern; 10 – South Carolina; 8 – Duke
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- One thing is clear in the wake of Joker Phillips' sudden departure from Florida on Wednesday: The Gators haven't had much luck with wide receivers coaches in recent years.

It's no coincidence that Florida hasn't had a wideout with more than 600 yards since Riley Cooper led the team with 961 yards in 2009. That was UF's last season of stability at a coaching position that has been turbulent ever since.

In 2009, Billy Gonzales ended a five-year run as Florida's wide receivers coach when he reportedly resigned with a sticky note that said, "I'm going to LSU."

Then-Florida head coach Urban Meyer replaced Gonzales with Central Michigan receivers coach Zach Azzanni, who only lasted one season. He was not retained when new head coach Will Muschamp took over for Meyer and assembled his staff in 2011.

Muschamp brought in former Gators standout Aubrey Hill, who coached one season before resigning amid allegations of involvement with improper benefits in his previous coaching job at the University of Miami.

Hill's departure came in August 2012, weeks before the season began.

"Aubrey informed me he was resigning for personal reasons that have nothing to do with the University of Florida," Muschamp said in a statement at the time.

Muschamp promoted graduate assistant Bush Hamdan to replace Hill and then hired Phillips after the 2012 season.

At the time, Phillips was quoted on the school's official website as saying, "I’m looking forward to contributing to the long-term vision that [Muschamp] has for this program."

Surely that vision wasn't one of nearly constant turnover, as Phillips left for "personal reasons" of his own.

With graduate assistant Chris Leak's promotion on Wednesday, Florida is on its sixth wide receivers coach in six seasons.

Perhaps that's why Muschamp made sure to mention Leak's standing, saying, "He is one of the all-time Gator greats and being at Florida is very important to him."

In promoting Leak, Muschamp is hoping the former star quarterback is ready to be a full-time assistant coach at the age of 29 and can bring the continuity that has been missing for so long.

Leak inherits a receiving corps largely comprised of talented youngsters who must be developed. Florida has six wide receivers entering their first or second season this fall.

When asked early in spring practice if this group is the most talented he's had in his three years at Florida, Muschamp said, "I don't think there's any question."

Now, after Phillips' departure, the unit and its inexperienced coach are surrounded by questions.

If the Gators are to rediscover their winning ways through the air, Leak and his receivers will have to factor in prominently. If they do that, perhaps Florida will have something as rare as a 1,000-yard receiver -- a wide receivers coach roaming the sidelines for a second season.

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