NCF Nation: Ben Jones

VT-Miami injury reports

November, 1, 2012
11/01/12
6:00
PM ET
Here are your injury reports for tonight's game in Sun Life Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, #VTvsMIA)

MIAMI

Probable
Surgery/Out for the season:
VIRGINIA TECH

Out for Season
Probable
Now that you've seen the recruiting needs for the SEC Western Division teams, it's time to check what teams in the East needed to focus on when it came to recruiting for the 2012 class:

FLORIDA

Offensive line: There's no getting around how much Florida's offensive line struggled in 2011. Florida doesn't lose a lot from its line, but the Gators need more talent. There are a lot of questions surrounding this position and getting qualities bodies is a must.

Running back: Florida loses seniors Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, and will enter the fall with unproven players in Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown. As Florida continues to move closer to a more traditional/pro-style offense, the Gators also need to add size to the position.

Wide receiver: Again, this is a position in which the Gators need to improve in the talent category. Florida lost just one senior from last year's squad, but unproven players lurk. What Florida needs to get in this class is a true playmaker at receiver. There is hope that Quinton Dunbar, Andre Debose and Frankie Hammond can step up, but some solid competition won't hurt.

GEORGIA

Offensive line: Georgia loses three starters in Cordy Glenn, Ben Jones and Justin Anderson. The Bulldogs would like to add a few more big bodies up front in this class to help with all that unproven depth.

Linebacker: In Todd Grantham's 3-4 defense, linebackers are extremely important. The Bulldogs will likely lose a couple bodies at outside linebacker next year, including star Jarvis Jones, and would like to add a couple of true playmakers at that position in this class.

Wide receiver: Come 2013, Georgia will have taken some hits at its wide receiver depth. There is young talent in Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Conley and Michael Bennett, but veterans like Tavarres King, Marlon Brown and Rantavious Wooten will be gone. Adding a couple standouts at wide receiver in this class would be nice.

KENTUCKY

Offensive playmakers: Whether it comes at quarterback, wide receiver, running back or tight end, the Wildcats need to find players who can make plays when they get the ball in their hands. Kentucky's offense was hard to watch all season because there was no one who could consistently move the ball.

Offensive line: Kentucky loses three starters -- Chandler Burden, Stuart Hines and Billy Joe Murphy -- from its offensive line and needs to load up here in this class. There is a handful of young players at each offensive line position, but the Wildcats need to think about adding more for the future.

Defensive back: Veterans are leaving the Wildcats' secondary, so it's time to stock up. Winston Guy, Taiedo Smith, Randall Burden and Anthony Mosley will all be gone, meaning the Wildcats are in need of adding some depth to both the cornerback and safety positions.

MISSOURI

Running back: Leading rusher Henry Josey suffered a severe knee injury toward the end of the 2011 season and the Tigers have some veterans jam packed at the top of the depth chart at the position. Getting help to add to future rosters would really help this offense as it moves to the SEC.

Defensive line: The Tigers are losing three starters along the defensive line and 10 players from 2011 will be gone by the end of next season. There are some youngsters there, but it's time to getting into restocking mode along the defensive line. Also, this is where games are won and lost in the SEC. Finding more athleticism here is crucial.

Offensive line: Like the defensive line, Missouri will lose three starters here. There are some bodies to fill in for now, but you can never have too many offensive linemen and now that the Tigers are headed to the SEC, getting some bigger, more athletic linemen will be key to survival in this jungle.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Defensive line: The Gamecocks have gotten a ton of production from here lately, but South Carolina will lose two starters in Melvin Ingram and Travian Robertson. South Carolina might want to add to defensive end the most, with Ingram leaving and Devin Taylor getting ready to depart in a year.

Linebacker: Over the next two years, the Gamecocks will lose some quality players at linebacker and even the spur position. A handful of veterans occupy the depth chart at linebacker, so that means South Carolina needs to add a few quality bodies for the future.

Defensive back: South Carolina's depth in its defensive backfield could be considered thin. The Gamecocks are down two starters at cornerback and will lose solid players in D.J. Swearinger and DeVonte Holloman in 2013.

TENNESSEE

Running back: The Vols never figured out how to run the ball last year and will now turn to a group of unproven running backs. Marlin Lane has the talent to excel, but he needs to be more consistent. Finding a couple talented backs in this class would help this position tremendously.

Defensive tackle: The Vols need some help inside, and now that they are moving to the 3-4, getting quality nose guards is a must for Tennessee. Adding some girth inside will be very important in order to improving this position.

Defensive back: Tennessee will say goodbye to quite a bit of their defensive backs in the next couple of years, so getting a head start on adding to players to both safety and corner would be a plus.

VANDERBILT

Offensive line: The Commodores return the bulk of their offensive line next year, but after that, Vanderbilt will be pretty thin and very young up front. Adding four or five bodies to the offensive line would go a long way for Vanderbilt.

Linebacker: Vanderbilt loses one starter, in Chris Marve, here for next season, but the year after will see a lot of turnover at the position, with four rising seniors on the roster.

Defensive end: Two starters — Tim Fugger and T.J. Greenstone — are gone and Vanderbilt will lose a handful more after the 2012 season. Getting some help at this position is another must for coach James Franklin.
Georgia will be well represented in the 2012 Senior Bowl later this month.

Cornerback Brandon Boykin, punter Drew Butler, offensive tackle Cordy Glenn and center Ben Jones will head to Mobile, Ala., for one last game at the college level.

"Georgia had one of the more remarkable winning streaks in the country this season, and there's no doubt these four seniors played a big role in the Bulldogs reeling off 10 straight victories to claim the Eastern Division title," said Steve Hale, who is the President and CEO of the Senior Bowl. "We're confident this group will take advantage of this opportunity to showcase their skills in front of the NFL decision-makers."

All four could hear their names called during the 2012 NFL Draft. Boykin was a second team All-SEC selection by the league coaches after recording 48 tackles, including nine tackles for loss, three interceptions, nine pass breakups and two fumble recoveries. Boykin would have heard his name in last year's draft as well, but he made a last-minute decision to return to school for his senior season.

Glenn and Jones were two of the best offensive linemen in the SEC this season. Glenn showed some versatility by moving from right tackle to left tackle, while Jones was a finalist for the Rimington Trophy, which is given annually to the nation's top center.

Butler punted 51 times for 2,260 yards, averaging 44.3 yards per punt, which ranks second in the SEC and 13th in the country. He had 16 punts of 50 yards or more and downed 19 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line.

Mississippi State running back Vick Ballard also added his name to the Senior Bowl roster. Ballard is fresh off of a 180-yard, two-touchdown performance in the Music City Bowl win against Wake Forest. Ballard rushed for 1,189 yards, averaged 6.2 yards per carry and scored 10 rushing touchdowns in 2011.

The game will be played at 4 p.m. ET on Jan. 28. All of the Senior Bowl practices can be seen on the NFL Network.

Georgia seniors help guide Bulldogs

December, 1, 2011
12/01/11
1:00
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Brandon Boykin was close to being out of the Bulldog door.

Georgia’s senior cornerback basically had his bags packed for the NFL shortly after a solid junior year, and it seemed like he’d thrust himself over the fence and onto the side filled with millions.

After all, there was one point in which Boykin was considered one of the top corner prospects available for last year’s NFL draft.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Boykin
Dale Zanine/US PresswireBrandon Boykin returned for his senior season, and after the year UGA has had, he's thankful he did.
Boykin, along with others juniors thinking of foregoing their senior seasons, went to meet with Georgia coaches when a snowstorm -- a blizzard by Georgia standards -- shut down Athens, Ga.

Conveniently trapped with his coaches for a couple of days, Boykin was left with his thoughts. He took more time to mull over turning pro and discussed feelings with coach Mark Richt.

“I felt like it was kind of a sign from God,” Boykin said.

Boykin took that sign, turned down his shot at jumping to the league and decided to stay in school for one more year.

Looking back on his decision, Boykin couldn’t be happier with sticking around. He’s headed to the SEC championship game to face No. 1 LSU (12-0, 8-0), he might have helped save his coach’s job and he got one more go-round with his teammates.

Just thinking about giving all that up seems like madness to Boykin.

“I feel foolish for even considering it just because of the impact of this senior season on my life and the way that it turned out and just how much more I've learned and just the overall effect of coming back for a senior year,” Boykin said.

And while this year has had an effect on Boykin, he and his fellow seniors have had a profound effect on the rest of this team.

Richt gets a lot of credit for leading the 14th-ranked Bulldogs' turnaround after its 0-2 start, but this senior class helped push the Bulldogs out of their early rut and toward their run back to the Georgia Dome.

To Richt, this senior class’ positive influence began when the NFL-ready ones returned for 2011. They showed they not only wanted to be around the program but they wanted to bring a championship back to Athens. Their buying into Georgia’s offseason training was infectious with younger players.

“Boykin and Ben Jones and Cordy Glenn and guys like that, they had the opportunity -- they knew they were going to be NFL players or have a shot at that, but they chose to stay and wanted to have a special season,” Richt said.

So when that 0-2 start sent Georgia fans into a panic, the seniors stood tall, making sure the Bulldogs didn’t fall to the enemy that is adversity. The seniors made sure there was no internal dismay or finger pointing. The focus remained.

While people were ready to dub this as the “same old Georgia,” Boykin took it upon himself to step forward and say something to his team after the opening loss to Boise State.

“I kind of wanted to make it a point to just step up and tell everybody to continue to grind and we were a great team, no matter what this first game had,” he said. “And after the second game as well, people would continue to stay positive. It definitely worked out for us.”

Sophomore linebacker Jarvis Jones said the seniors’ attitudes definitely rubbed off on the underclassmen. The younger players watched as the upperclassmen went longer in harder in practices. They owned the film sessions. That approach forced younger players to replicate the seniors’ efforts.

It wasn’t just that the seniors wanted to energize this team and get it past a rough opening to the season, they wanted to win and make their last season memorable.

“They really didn't want their last time here at the University of Georgia go out like it started,” Jones said, “like most people thought it was going to be.”

Georgia has now won 10 straight, sports a quarterback leading the SEC with 32 touchdown passes and has a defense that ranks fifth nationally. The Bulldogs are plus-10 in turnover ratio and are in play for a BCS bowl berth.

The Bulldogs’ level of play has helped guide them to their strong finish, but Jones said the poise and leadership of the senior class kept the spirits of the other players up. As long as the old guys stayed the course, the youngsters would follow suit.

“They're the reason why we kept our faith,” he said. “We gelled closer together, and we just kept believing in each other. Every day, they were like, ‘Just believe. Just come out here and work hard, and we control our own destiny.’

“Every day, that's what we did.”

3-point stance: RichRod vs. Ducks

November, 23, 2011
11/23/11
5:00
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1. Most offenses average a dozen or so possessions per game. That won’t be the case when Oregon plays Arizona. Ducks coach Chip Kelly relishes the fact that his hurry-up offense average time of possession is about 24 minutes per game. And now the Wildcats will play just as quickly with Rich Rodriguez as head coach. At his introductory news conference Tuesday, Rodriguez said, “A huddle is the biggest waste of time in football … When we’re on the field, we’re going to play ball.”

2. The results of my mock BCS draft Tuesday, in which I tried to figure out who the at-large BCS bowl teams will be. If two SEC teams play for the crystal football, the at-large pool will shrink from four teams to three. If No. 8 Houston wins out, the pool will shrink as well. Can a pool consist of two teams? My favorites: if No. 6 Stanford beats No. 22 Notre Dame, it’s a shoo-in. That will leave No. 7 Boise State at 11-1; or No. 15 Michigan, if it beats Ohio State and rises into the top 14, or No. 4 Oklahoma State, if it loses to No. 9 Oklahoma, thus failing to win the Big 12.

3. Georgia center Ben Jones is considered one of the best centers in the nation. But when coach Mark Richt talked about him Tuesday, he didn’t focus on Jones’ ability as much as his durability. “He showed up and started at center as a freshman in the Southeastern Conference,” Richt said. “That’s not easy to do. I don’t know if he’s missed a snap unless we took him out … There might have been a time he missed a practice, but I sure don’t remember it. He’s just a tough guy who loves football. He’s a great student of the game.”

Breaking down the SEC's top 25 players

August, 29, 2011
8/29/11
7:10
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The countdown of the SEC's top 25 players for the 2011 season is in the books, and I'm sure nobody has any beefs with our list.

Actually, I have a few myself, and I put the list together along with my SEC blogging mate Edward Aschoff.

When you have to keep it to 25 players in a league like the SEC, you're always going to second-guess yourself.

We certainly wouldn't have included Tennessee safety Janzen Jackson at No. 25 had we known he would squander his last chance and get booted for continuing substance abuse issues.

And who knew Arkansas' Knile Davis would go down with a fractured ankle in the preseason? But I absolutely stand by our decision to pick him in the top 5, and I'm just as convinced that he deserved to remain on the list even though he's not going to be playing this season. Davis is a class act in every sense of the word and a terrific football player.

As I survey the list, I admit to wincing a bit at not seeing more LSU players included. The Tigers are loaded with talent, but much of it is concentrated in the freshman and sophomore classes. If we did a top 50, LSU would probably be right there at the top.

The other thing is that we genuinely tried to pick the 25 players we felt would have the best seasons in 2011 without trying to make sure every team was accounted for or that a team had more players on the list simply because it was picked high in the preseason polls.

The No. 1 choice was tough, but we went with Alshon Jeffery for a number of reasons.

First, there's no denying his production. The bigger the game, the better he played last season, and he's only going to be more polished as a receiver. You're talking about a guy who's 6-4 and weighs 230 pounds and has the leaping ability to go up and get passes, the hands to catch passes with people hanging onto him, and the strength to out-wrestle defenders for passes you simply don't see many receivers catching.

He's not going to wow anybody with his speed (or his physique), but how many times do you see him being run down when he breaks into the clear?

Simply, Jeffery's a football player, and he's poised for a monster junior season.

Before getting into the 10 players who just missed the cut, here's a breakdown of the list:

BY TEAM

Alabama: 5
Arkansas: 5
South Carolina: 4
Georgia: 3
Tennessee: 2
Auburn: 1
Florida: 1
Kentucky: 1
LSU: 1
Mississippi State: 1
Vanderbilt: 1

BY POSITION

RB: 4
LB: 4
WR: 3
DT: 3
CB: 3
OL: 2
DE: 2
S: 2
QB: 1
TE: 1

Here are the 10 players (could have been 20) who just missed the cut. They're listed alphabetically:

LSU LB Ryan Baker: The Tigers are oozing with talent on defense, and Baker will be one of their leaders. He had seven sacks last season and played the first month with his mouth wired shut due to a broken jaw.

Ole Miss RB Brandon Bolden: He's got a chance to rush for 1,000 yards and also catch 30 passes. He just missed joining the 1,000-yard/30-catch club last season by 24 rushing yards.

Georgia CB Brandon Boykin: One of the SEC's top cover cornerbacks, Boykin is also one of the most dangerous return specialists in the league. Maybe we see him on offense this season, too.

Florida DE Sharrif Floyd: The Gators are going to play him at end because of his ability to both rush the passer and stop the run.

Georgia C Ben Jones: A stalwart in the middle of that Georgia offensive line, Jones ranks among the best centers in college football.

Vanderbilt LB Chris Marve: Everywhere you look in the SEC, there are great linebackers. Marve will be gunning for his fourth straight season of 80 or more tackles.

Ole Miss OT Bradley Sowell: The Rebels have two future NFL offensive tackles on their roster, and the 6-7, 315-pound Sowell is primed for a big senior season.

LSU RB Spencer Ware: The Tigers didn't really unveil Ware until the Cotton Bowl last season. He'll be the centerpiece of their offense in 2011.

Kentucky OG Larry Warford: Not many guys the size of the 6-3, 336-pound Warford can move the way he can. He's exactly what you're looking for at guard.

Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson: He gained a lot of mileage by the way he played against Auburn in relief a year ago. Don't be surprised if he leads the SEC in touchdown passes this season.

SEC scrimmage notes

August, 25, 2011
8/25/11
11:00
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The season is exactly a week away (thank you Mississippi State and Kentucky), and teams are still looking to work some more of the kinks out before game week officially starts.

A few teams scrimmaged Wednesday and here are some notes from how things went:

FLORIDA

New coach Will Muschamp has been pretty complimentary of the Gators during preseason camp. But that love fest was put on hold Wednesday.

After a sloppy scrimmage, Muschamp was reportedly fuming when he met with the media.

"Very immature football team at this point," Muschamp said. "Just disappointed overall with the mental effort tonight. Some procedure issues we should not be having at this point. Some mental mistakes we should not be having at this point. Overall, pretty displeased."

Muschamp said there was "no sense of urgency" from some players Wednesday and that "there ain't no doubt" players could lose their starting jobs because of Wednesday's effort -- or lack there of.

Muschamp also said that quarterback John Brantley was limited because of back soreness and wide receiver Omarius Hines is listed as questionable for the opener against Florida Atlantic with a hamstring injury.

You can check out video of Muschamp's not-so-happy news conference on Florida's official website. You can also read more news and notes here and here.

GEORGIA

The Bulldogs held their third scrimmage of the preseason Wednesday at Sanford Stadium.

Coach Mark Richt made things pretty interesting by putting the scout team ahead 31-0 to start the second half. The Bulldogs made up the ground and came out with a 38-34 victory.

Richt also announced the captains for the season opener in senior center Ben Jones, senior cornerback Brandon Boykin, senior defensive end DeAngelo Tyson and senior punter Drew Butler. They served as captains in Wednesday's scrimmage as well.

The highlight of the day came when receiver Tavarres King caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Hutson Mason with 11 seconds remaining for the win. Mason finished 7-for-9 passing for 98 yards and King had three receptions for 21 yards. Aaron Murray started and was 5-of-9 for 79 yards. Tight end Orson Charles had three catches for 31 yards.

The good news was that freshman running back Isaiah Crowell returned after a sore groin kept him out of a few practices. He rushed for 54 yards and a touchdown on six carries.

Defensively, Boykin potentially would have had two long touchdowns on an interception (75 yards) and a fumble recovery (80), but Richt blew the whistle to stop the play.

"I thought we had a really good scrimmage on both sides of the ball," said Murray. "Coach Richt moved the ball around, and we had to drive the field a few times and the defense created some turnovers. I thought we executed plays all around."

Here are more notes from Georgia's scrimmage on the Bulldogs' official website. There are more notes here and here.

SOUTH CAROLINA

The Gamecocks scrimmaged for about an hour inside Williams-Brice Stadium on Wednesday and the quarterbacks seemed to come to play.

South Carolina's three quarterbacks combined to complete 19 of 25 passes for 310 yards with two touchdowns. Stephen Garcia completed 9 of 13 attempts for 136 yards and a score. Connor Shaw finished 8-for-9 for 100 yards with a touchdown. Andrew Clifford connected on two of his three pass attempts for 74 yards in limited action.

Receivers Lamar Scruggs and Damiere Byrd both had a touchdown reception. Scruggs' was a 37-yarder from Shaw, and Byrd's was a 38-yarder from Garcia.

You can read more about the scrimmage and check out some nifty stats on the Gamecocks' official website. There are more notes here.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Virginia Tech hasn't even started spring practices yet (Wednesday is the Hokies' first) and Miami has already wrapped things up. What's next in Coral Gables? The Canes will get back in the weight room for six more weeks, but coach Randy Shannon said the staff won't push them too hard physically. They'll meet for 45 minutes twice a week to help the players retain everything they learned from their new coordinators. The staff will now use the mornings to watch practice tape and the afternoons to watch recruiting tape.

Shannon said both coordinators, Mark Whipple and John Lovett, brought a lot of excitement, enthusiasm and confidence with them, and the staff is on the same page. They kept some of the same terminology. The two areas they'd like to see more improvement in summer camp are building the depth on the offensive line and at linebacker. Colin McCarthy will be back in the fall, but Shannon is looking for four or five linebackers that are interchangeable.

As expected, there were a few bumps in the road, but overall the players picked things up quickly.

"Are we better than we were last spring? Definitely," Shannon said. "Are we better than we were at the end of the season last year? Definitely."

Here were a few highlights from spring ball at Miami:

• Taylor Cook finished the spring with a bit of an edge over Cannon Smith at backup quarterback.

• C.J. Holton's move from safety to linebacker should give him a better chance to get on the field and was a step in helping the depth. Sean Spence and Arthur Brown played well this spring and Shannon said Jordan Futch came around the last two weeks.

• Brandon Washington became an offensive lineman the staff can depend on. They've got seven guys they're comfortable with up front, but Shannon said he is still looking for the eighth guy. That could be Ben Jones, Jermaine Johnson or Tyler Horn.

• Tight end Richard Gordon did a great job while all of the other scholarship tight ends were out with injuries. Shannon said the staff put a lot of pressure on him, and he got a lot of reps. "He should be in great shape," Shannon said. "He responded. When those guys come back, there will be a great competition to see which guy is going to step to the forefront and be that guy."

• Shannon said the media is making too much of Miami's lack of interceptions last year (they had four, the fewest of all 119 FBS schools). Shannon said their priority is to stop the run first, which they got better at this spring as a result of depth and maturity. He also said the Canes had about eight to 10 interceptions minimum this spring. He was particularly impressed with the "unbelievable" transition Sam Shields made from wide receiver to the secondary and considers him a starter who can "step in and play right away."

• The players who made a big impression on Shannon this spring were: Shields, Brown, Washington, Mike James, and Olivier Vernon. He said Vaughn Telemaque and Kendal Thompkins "put their stamp on where they want to be." Also, running back Damien Berry did a "tremendous job."

"Those guys have really taken that next step," Shannon said. "That's the biggest improvement, when you see guys who didn't play last year, see if they can really take that next step and be a guy we can say wow, he's going to be a guy we can depend on. That group of guys has really taken that next step of doing what we want them to do."

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