NCF Nation: Alonzo Highsmith

Tyler Wilson OK after car accident

October, 9, 2012
Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson is fine after a car accident on Interstate 540 Tuesday morning.

Team spokesman Zack Higbee said that Wilson should practice Tuesday with the Hogs.

"Tyler Wilson was in a car accident and has been checked out," Higbee said in a statement. "He is fine and we anticipate him to practice this afternoon."

I'm sure there was some sort of concern with Wilson considering the head injury he suffered earlier this year, but it sounds like he'll be fine.

Obviously, that's very good news. But what isn't so good is that the Razorbacks will be without linebacker Alonzo Highsmith for the rest of the season after he suffered a foot injury in the first half of the Auburn game. Coach John L. Smith said that Highsmith will require surgery.

Highsmith is a big loss for a defense that already couldn't afford anymore injuries. He was leading the team in tackles (54) with four for loss and two sacks. He was a dynamic player who had the ability to make plays all over the field with his speed.

Freshman Otha Peters lined up next to Terrell Williams after Highsmith left last Saturday, but backups Jarrett Lake and Matt Marshall could see some time with Highsmith gone.

With a team that has struggled all season with its defense, losing Highsmith really hurts for a unit trying to put the first half of the season behind it and regroup.
I'm hearing a lot of overrated/underrated talk, so college football must be right around the corner.

ESPN colleague Travis Haney has jumped right into the mix, listing a few teams in the Top 25 that he considers overrated and underrated .

The only SEC team to make his list is Arkansas. The Razorbacks are actually mentioned twice. He listed them as "underrated" in 2011, after they began the season ranked 14th, but finished fifth. Arkansas rose as high as third in the BCS standings last season and were a win over LSU away from playing in the SEC title game.

But he also has Arkansas in the overrated category for 2012, as the Hogs will enter the fall ranked 10th.

Haney talks about Arkansas being equipped with the talent to make a run this fall, but he also mentions the fact that we still don't know how this team will react at the first sign of adversity with interim coach John L. Smith taking over for the fired Bobby Petrino. And I totally agree with that point. I've been saying it since he was hired that while the players adore Smith and basically pleaded with athletic director Jeff Long to hire a very familiar face, we don't know how much control he'll have or how much respect he'll demand/get if things go wrong.

So far, he's done a good job of running the team, but how much he'll do this fall is yet to be seen.

Outside of Petrino's absence, I still have questions about the defense. This unit wasn't great last year, ranking eighth or worse in four major defensive categories (scoring defense, passing defense, rushing defense and total defense), but new defensive coordinator Paul Haynes does bring a more aggressive style to Fayetteville, which I think will help this unit out tremendously. Like Smith's leadership qualities, we'll have to wait and see with Haynes' style and the impact it has on Arkansas' defense.

With that said, I can't say that I think that Arkansas is overrated heading into the season. Tenth seems about right to me, considering the talent coming back and the fact that Alabama and LSU are both at home. At least getting a split between those two wouldn't be a surprise at all.

There is a lot of firepower on offense, starting with quarterback Tyler Wilson, running back Knile Davis, wide receiver Cobi Hamilton and tight end Chris Gragg. All four could be All-SEC performers. The offensive line is older and wiser and there are some solid young receivers lurking. This offense will put up points.

The defense returns six starters and should be strong within the front seven, even with Jake Bequette gone. Alonzo Highsmith and Tenarius Wright could be a deadly combo at linebacker, while there is solid depth at defensive tackle, led by Byran Jones, Robert Thomas and D.D. Jones. There will be some growing pains for this unit under Haynes, but I expect to see more production overall on this side of the ball.

I'm not saying this team will win the SEC West, but it has the talent to compete for the title to the very end. The defense might need some help from the offense, but something tells me that won't be a problem most of the time.

SEC newcomers to watch

April, 3, 2012
Newcomers come in all shapes and sizes.

There are freshmen newcomers, junior college transfers and regular transfers. Regardless, they all come in with the expectations of playing immediately. JUCO standouts and transfers maybe more so than rookies, but the days of automatically redshirting true freshmen are over. Like, dead.

Last year, the SEC saw a few newcomers make immediate impacts. A great example is Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones, who transferred from USC back in 2010, but didn't play until last fall. All he did was lead the SEC in sacks and tackles for loss. There was Arkansas linebacker Alonzo Highsmith, who came from the JUCO ranks to be one of the Hogs' most productive linebackers.

Freshman Isaiah Crowell had an up-and-down season, but was sixth in the SEC rushing, and was named the SEC's freshman of the year. His classmate, wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, wasn't too bad, either. You also can't forget about South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who was seventh in the SEC with eight sacks.

So, as spring practice begins to wind down around the conference, we're taking a look at five newcomers to keep an eye on in 2012. Some are on campuses, some aren't. Some are obvious choices, and you could be surprised by a couple. Top newcomers can be top league players, or players who will make big impacts on their teams at a position of need.

We're going in alphabetical order, so here's our list:
  • Denico Autry, DE, JUCO, Mississippi State: The Bulldogs are looking to replace Sean Ferguson at one of the defensive line spots, and Autry was brought in to do just that. The coaches have been extremely impressed with how the former East Mississippi Community College standout has looked in spring practice. People around the program have simply described Autry as a "beast," and the thought is that he'll enter the fall starting at one of the end spots.
  • Travell Dixon, CB, JUCO, Alabama: Dixon has had a pretty successful spring, and has had the honor of playing at Alabama's "star" (nickel) cornerback spot. That shows you just how much coach Nick Saban respects Dixon's game. Saban usually puts his most complete defensive backs at the star. That's where Javier Arenas played, and DeQuan Menzie after him. With Alabama losing Menzie and Dre Kirkpatrick at cornerback, Dixon has a chance to come in and start immediately.
  • Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Fr., Missouri: It was hard to find another 2012 recruit who received the attention that Green-Beckham did. He has drawn comparisons to A.J. Green, Julio Jones, and Calvin Johnson. That's pretty good company, and Missouri is expecting DGB to contribute immediately. DGB stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 220 pounds, making him a huge, physical target for quarterback James Franklin. DGB might arrive this summer as Missouri's most talented receiver. It also helps that he has top speed, and could be the deep threat that Missouri's offense needs.
  • Latroy Pittman, WR, Fr., Florida: Haven't heard of him? Don't worry, not many have. Pittman committed to Florida so long before national signing day, his recruitment wasn't too exciting or noticeable. However, Pittman, who was ranked the No. 24 wide receiver by ESPN recruiting services, has been very productive in spring practice. He isn't the fastest receiver, but with Florida struggling to find a true go-to receiving target, Pittman has really shined by being one of the Gators' most consistent receivers this spring. Word around Florida's program is that Pittman will definitely see playing time this fall. Receiver is wide open in Gainesville, so Pittman could play his way into quality time.
  • Shaq Roland, WR, Fr., South Carolina: With Alshon Jeffery gone, South Carolina is searching for a wide receiver to step up and become a primary target for quarterback Connor Shaw. Right now, Ace Sanders and Bruce Ellington will get the first shots, but a lot of players at the position are pretty unproven. Roland was one of the top high school receiving targets last year, and has the playmaking ability that could really spark the Gamecocks' passing game. Roland could be a deep threat or make plays over the middle. He wasn't afraid of contact in high school, and that mentality should carry over to the college level. Adding some weight will be key, but coach Steve Spurrier should have fun working him into the offense.

Halftime: LSU 21, Arkansas 14

November, 25, 2011
BATON ROUGE, La. – No. 1 LSU scored 21 unanswered points in the second quarter to go into halftime with a 21-14 lead over No. 3 Arkansas on Friday at Tiger Stadium.

Here’s a quick halftime analysis:

Turning point: Arkansas was driving in LSU territory late in the second quarter when running back Dennis Johnson fumbled the football. He was initially ruled down on the field, but the play was reviewed and ultimately overturned. LSU took over at its 34 with 1:59 left in the half and drove 66 yards in five plays for Jordan Jefferson's 9-yard touchdown pass to a slanting Russell Shepard, giving the Tigers a 21-14 lead. They scored all three of their touchdowns in the final 5:15 of the second quarter.

Player of the half: Tyrann Mathieu, starting at safety in place of the injured Eric Reid, had a hand in two of the Tigers’ three touchdowns. His 92-yard punt return for a touchdown made it a 14-14 game, and Mathieu is the one who stripped the ball from Johnson on the Hogs’ next offensive possession. Ron Brooks recovered, leading to the Tigers’ go-ahead touchdown.

Stat of the half: The two teams have combined for five touchdowns, which is already five more than was scored in LSU’s 9-6 overtime win against Alabama on Nov. 5.

Stat of the half II: The two quarterbacks -- Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson and LSU’s Jefferson -- were a combined 20-of-27 in the first half.

Of note: Both teams scored non-offensive touchdowns. In addition to Mathieu’s punt return, Arkansas linebacker Alonzo Highsmith returned a fumble 47 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.
Everyone is looking for the next Nick Fairley.

Everyone would love to have their own Cam Newton.

So as we look around the league at some of the newcomers from either the junior college ranks or who have transferred in from other schools, we'll try to find them.

Could Georgia noseguard John Jenkins be the beast in the middle that Fairley was? Does Barry Brunetti have what it takes to have a Newton-like impact at Ole Miss?

Here is a look at some of the new athletes around the league to keep an eye on this fall:

  • Duron Carter, WR: Carter could be a big-time playmaker for the Tide, but he has yet to enroll because of transcript issues. The former Ohio State and juco wideout is the son of star former NFL receiver Cris Carter.
  • Quinton Dial, DL: Dial could play both inside and out, but is currently getting quality reps at defensive end for Alabama. The former juco standout has made quite the impression on his head coach and he seems to be in line for a starting spot.
  • Jesse Williams, DT: Like Dial, Williams transferred in from the juco ranks in January and has also performed well in practice. He's gotten reps all around the line, but could also be in contention for one of the end spots. He's a massive lineman at 6-foot-4 and 319 pounds.
  • Alonzo Highsmith, LB: The juco transfer is an extremely athletic linebacker and has really impressed since his arrival. He stepped in at the starting weakside linebacker spot on Day 1 of preseason camp and appears to have the edge there heading into the season.
  • Robert Thomas, DT: Speaking of athleticism, the Razorbacks might have found their most athletic defensive lineman in Thomas. The juco transfer got a ton of reps this spring with Byran Jones and DeQuinta Jones out with injuries, and is currently competing for a starting spot.
  • Dan Wenger, C: He earned an extra year of eligibility after concussions cut his Notre Dame career short. He's reuniting with offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and offensive line coach Frank Verducci and is not only competing for the starting spot at center but has become a leader on the offensive line.
  • John Jenkins, DT: He was a giant gem of Georgia's 2011 class and was expected to snatch the starting noseguard position. However, the juco standout has had injury issues and hasn't been in the best shape. At 6-foot-4, and 340 pounds, people are hoping he can be a force in the middle this fall, but he's currently behind Kwame Geathers.
  • Jarvis Jones, LB: Jones transferred in from USC last year and takes over as the starting strongside linebacker. Georgia's coaches feel that with his speed and athleticism he could be a more versatile player than former stud Justin Houston.
  • Zach Mettenberger, QB: If Jordan Jefferson is indeed punished for his alleged involvement in a horrific fight outside of a Baton Rouge bar, Mettenberger's time could be now. He matches his cannon of a right arm with tremendous accuracy and might have the best skill set of any of LSU's current quarterbacks.
  • Brandon Maye, LB: Maye transferred from Clemson and with the Bulldogs looking to replace three starters at linebacker, Maye is expected to make an immediate impact at middle linebacker. He had a slow start to fall camp, but improved throughout.

  • Barry Brunetti, Randall Mackey, Zack Stoudt, QBs: All three are vying for the starting quarterback spot and all have done well since the spring. Brunetti transferred from West Virginia, while Mackey and Stoudt are former juco athletes. Brunetti has the edge at quarterback, but Mackey was on top this spring and won't make things easy for the sophomore. Stoudt isn't as athletic as the other two, but has been very sharp with his passing ability.
  • Uriah Grant, Gilbert Pena, DT: Both players were brought in to add some beef in the middle of Ole Miss' line and both could end up starters for opening day. Both have dealt with injuries, but that really hasn't slowed their on-field production in practice.
  • Wesley Pendleton, CB: Pendleton had an impressive juco career and has really caught on in Ole Miss' defense. He's in the thick of it for one of the starting cornerback spots and has shown that he might be the Rebels' most athletic defensive back.
  • Alex Bullard, OG: He transferred from Notre Dame and was granted a hardship in order to play this fall. Bullard has moved all along the line this preseason, but it looks like he could be in the running for one of the starting guard positions.
  • Maurice Couch, DT: A lot is expected from Couch, who hopes to fill one of the spots in the middle of Tennessee's line. It hasn't been an easy preseason for Couch, who suffers from asthma, but he has made improvements. He'll contribute at noseguard and the three technique this fall.
  • Izauea Lanier, CB: Though he made his mark playing safety in junior college, Lanier is competing for time at corner. At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, he's a bigger corner, which coach Derek Dooley likes.
  • Byron Moore, DB: Moore appears to be a "tweener" on defense. He could play safety or corner for the Vols. With Tennessee running a lot of nickel formations, Moore should see the field in some capacity this fall.
  • Jordan Rodgers, QB: Rodgers missed the 2010 season and missed the spring while recovering from shoulder surgery, but is No. 2 at quarterback. The younger brother to Super Bowl champ Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Rodgers is a player coach James Franklin has been especially excited about seeing.

A.J. Highsmith comes in at quarterback

September, 23, 2010
PITTSBURGH -- Miami quarterback Jacory Harris got drilled on a sack, and backup quarterback Alonzo Highsmith entered the game. There's no official word here in the press box as to whether Harris got hurt, but he came back into the game.