NCF Nation: Chris Faulk

Now that all of the early entries for this year's NFL draft are in, we decided to take a closer look at some of the players who decided to leave school early.

We're checking in on how teams were affected and who some of the winners and losers were from all of these early departures:

[+] EnlargeJoeckel
Brett Davis/US PresswireIt was a no-brainer for Luke Joeckel to take his talents to the NFL.
1. Biggest winners: Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel flirted with staying in school for his senior year, but it appears that would have been a major mistake for the nation's top left tackle. He was a guaranteed top-10 pick for most of the season, but with the draft creeping closer, Joeckel has a great chance of being the top pick come April. He definitely made the right decision to leave school early, and so did his teammate Damontre Moore. After a monster 2012 season, Moore could follow Joeckel as the second player taken off the board. He moved to defensive end last fall and is a very attractive pick for teams because of his versatility. Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones and Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner could also hear their names called very early in April, as they too could both be top-five picks.

2. Biggest loser: LSU was ravaged by the NFL draft, as ten underclassmen declared early. Some were pretty obvious, but others left people confused. It didn't shock anyone that defensive linemen Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo and Bennie Logan declared. Montgomery and Mingo could be first-round draft picks, while Logan could go within the first three rounds. Safety Eric Reid and linebacker Kevin Minter made sense as well, but seeing punter Brad Wing, cornerback Tharold Simon, offensive lineman Chris Faulk and running backs Spencer Ware and Michael Ford all leave was pretty surprising. The Tigers will be losing seven quality starters and basically their entire defensive line. LSU has a lot of quality youngsters who will be vying for major playing time, but losing all that experience will hurt the Tigers in 2013.

3. Head-scratchers: Ware, Ford and Simon could all have benefited from another year in Baton Rouge. Neither Ford nor Ware hit the 400-yard rushing mark and combined for just four touchdowns on the season. Maybe the emergence of freshman running back Jeremy Hill helped influence their decisions. South Carolina wide receiver Ace Sanders shocked everyone when he decided to turn pro at the last minute. Sanders was one of the league's top multipurpose weapons, and while he isn't going to get any taller (he's a generous 5-foot-8), he could use another year to improve his receiving skills. He'll be looked at as a returner first in the NFL and won't likely be drafted very high at all. Also, Florida linebacker Jelani Jenkins could have used another year of school as well. He was banged up in 2012, only playing in nine games, and registered just 29 tackles. He's a very smart player, but another year could have helped his draft status even more.

4. The replacements:

  • LSU loses a lot, but that doesn't mean that the Bayou is void of talent. Wing will be replaced by sophomore-to-be Jamie Keehn, who started in Wing's place for the Chick-fil-A Bowl. With Ware and Ford gone, Hill will be helped out by Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard in the run game. Junior-to-be Anthony Johnson should get more reps at defensive tackle with Logan gone, and he'll also be helped by Ego Ferguson. Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins both had solid seasons at corner, so expect more of each with Simon gone.
  • With Eddie Lacy leaving Alabama, rising sophomore T.J. Yeldon will now be the guy at running back for the Crimson Tide. With his 1,000-yard season, he's already proven that he can more than handle himself in this league. He'll also be helped by Dee Hart and Jalston Fowler, who are both returning from knee injuries, and Kenyan Drake, who looked impressive in mop-up duty last season. Also, keep an eye on incoming freshman Derrick Henry, who is already on campus and should be a factor in the run game.
  • Sanders' departure at South Carolina means Bruce Ellington is now the top returning receiver for the Gamecocks, and it also puts more on the shoulders of Shaq Roland, who was expected to make an immediate impact during his freshman year. Roland has the skills to be a big-time threat in the passing game.
  • Georgia lost some key juniors on defense, but no one will be missed more than Jones. Jordan Jenkins came on strong in his first year last fall, and will do his best to replace Jones' pass-rushing ability.
  • Florida only lost three underclassmen to the draft, but replacing safety Matt Elam and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd will be tough. There are a host of youngsters who could vie for Elam's spot (keep an eye on freshman Marcus Maye), while Damien Jacobs will help man the middle of Florida's line with Leon Orr.

Chick-fil-A Bowl

December, 2, 2012
LSU Tigers (10-2) vs. Clemson Tigers (10-2)

Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET, Atlanta (ESPN)

LSU take by GeauxTigerNation's Gary Laney: How does one judge LSU's season?

At 10-2, the Tigers fell short of their preseason No. 1 ranking. They failed to make the SEC championship game, much less defend their conference title.

On the other hand, LSU masterfully overcame a ton of problems.

Tyrann Mathieu, the Tigers' Heisman Trophy finalist at cornerback, was dismissed from the team in August. Chris Faulk, the left tackle who seemed destined to be drafted by the second round, was lost to a knee injury after one game, and running back Alfred Blue was also lost to a knee injury a couple of weeks later. The Tigers finished the season with three offensive line starters who weren't starters at the beginning of the season.

Yet, by the end of the regular season, LSU seemed to have it figured out. Zach Mettenberger was much improved in the passing game, and Jeremy Hill emerged as one of the nation's best freshmen running backs. And the defense, though it gave up passing yards late in the season, remained solid, led by end Sam Montgomery and linebacker Kevin Minter.

So how LSU's season is perceived might come down to how the Tigers play in the bowl. If the offense continues its resurgence and the Tigers win, they will go into the offseason with a rosy outlook. If the Tigers lose and the defense continues to give up passing yards, followed by the seemingly inevitable loss of underclassmen like Montgomery and free safety Eric Reid to the NFL draft, it could be an offseason of worry on the bayou.

Clemson take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: Clemson, much like Florida State this year, was oh-so-close to something bigger than the Chick-fil-A Bowl, but the Tigers’ losses to the Seminoles and rival South Carolina ruined the program’s chances at a second straight appearance in the ACC championship and a BCS bowl.

That’s not to say this wasn’t a successful season for coach Dabo Swinney. The Tigers maintained their position as a top 15 team all year, and have thrived behind a high-scoring offense led by quarterback Tajh Boyd, who was named the ACC’s Player of the Year. In his second season as a starter, Boyd helped lead Clemson to back-to-back 10-win seasons, the first Clemson quarterback to do that since Rodney Williams in1987-88. Clemson had the No. 6 scoring offense in the country this year (42.33) points per game, but was smothered in a 27-17 loss to South Carolina. The defense under first-year coordinator Brent Venables was better, but it wasn’t championship-caliber, finishing No. 47 in the county, allowing 24.92 points per game.

Clemson’s only ACC loss this year was in Tallahassee to a Florida State team that was ranked No. 4 in the country at the time. Clemson reeled off seven straight wins after that loss and had momentum heading into its regular-season finale against the Gamecocks, but for the fourth straight season, Clemson was outplayed and outcoached by its in-state rival.

Clemson will forever be remembered for its abysmal performance in last year’s Discover Orange Bowl, but this matchup against LSU will be a chance for the Tigers to take a monumental step towards redeeming their postseason image.

SEC helmet stickers: Week 7

October, 14, 2012
Let’s hand out the helmet stickers for Week 7 in the SEC:

Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel: Proving yet again that he can make big plays with his arm and legs, Driskel did it Saturday with his legs in rushing for a career-high 177 yards and three touchdowns in Florida’s 37-17 win over Vanderbilt. His 70-yard touchdown run sealed the Gators’ sixth consecutive victory with 2 minutes, 20 seconds to play after the Commodores had pulled within a touchdown. Driskel also had touchdown runs of 37 and 13 yards.

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze: Had Ole Miss held on last week to beat Texas A&M, Freeze would be getting some serious consideration for midseason Coach of the Year honors in the SEC. Still, it says volumes about the direction in which this program is headed that Ole Miss could come back from that bitter loss last week and spank Auburn 41-20 on Saturday to end the Rebels’ 16-game SEC losing streak. Freeze has this young team believing right now, and the Rebels have their sights set on a bowl trip in his first season.

LSU offensive line: The Tigers underwent another shakeup in their offensive line Saturday, as tackle Alex Hurst missed the game. Keep in mind that they’ve been playing without their best tackle, Chris Faulk, since the first week. None of that mattered against a South Carolina defensive line that was hailed as one of the best in the country. The Tigers won the battle up front all night in their 23-21 victory over the Gamecocks and paved the way for 258 rushing yards. Coming into the game, South Carolina was ranked second in the SEC against the run and was giving up just 83.8 yards per game.

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel: They might as well start calling the SEC total offense record the “Johnny Football” record. He broke his own record Saturday in Texas A&M’s wild 59-57 win over Louisiana Tech with 576 yards in total offense. Manziel accounted for six touchdowns. He passed for 395 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 181 yards and three touchdowns. His final touchdown was a 72-yard romp to put the Aggies ahead 59-44 with 2:04 to play.

Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson: In only two and a half quarters, Wilson put up the kind of numbers a lot of quarterbacks would take over a three-game stretch. He was 23-of-31 for 372 yards and tied a school record with five touchdown passes in the weather-shortened 49-7 rout of Kentucky. He hit 10 different receivers and was 11-of-12 in the first quarter for 263 yards and three touchdowns. Wilson now has 14 touchdown passes in six games.

Welcome to the Bayou

October, 13, 2012
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Greetings from Tiger Stadium. We have a big one between LSU and South Carolina.

Two top-10 teams and two very, very talented defenses will be going at it under the lights Saturday in one of college football's best environments.

The Tigers are limping in after that 14-6 loss to Florida, but interesting things happen under the lights in this place, and something tells me The Hat will have a few new things in store for the Gamecocks. It will be interesting to see how South Carolina deals with not just the crowd noise but with its own emotions after last week's blowout victory over Georgia.

This is South Carolina's first real road trip and the Tigers have their backs against the wall.

It'll be interesting to watch both of these offenses tonight. The Gamecocks have been very balanced and have one of the SEC's most efficient quarterbacks in Connor Shaw. That fractured shoulder hasn't been much of an issue at all. The Gamecocks will face their toughest test up front, and that is a concern for offensive-line coach Shawn Elliott. His line has been shaky at times this year, and the tackle spots are key. Corey Robinson and Brandon Shell will have their hands full with Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo going at them.

For LSU, the Tigers were already without top offensive lineman Chris Faulk and will now be without starting left tackle Alex Hurst, who continues to deal with personal issues. Josh Dworaczyk will start at left tackle, where he has really struggled. Trai Turner will also start for the injured Josh Williford at right guard, while Vadal Alexander will start at right tackle; both are freshmen. LSU will have three underclassmen starting on the offensive line ... with Jadeveon Clowney, Devin Taylor and Kelcy Quarles to battle.

Talk about a lot of pressure up front ...
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- If you didn't already know, line play is pretty important in the SEC.

Well, you're going to find out just how important it is today when Florida and LSU square off.

For the Gators, we've certainly seen an improved and more physical offensive line, but keep an eye on the left tackle spot. Xavier Nixon might be penciled in as the starter, but freshman D.J. Humphries could get a lot of time there today with the way Nixon has been playing. He's a talented youngster, but he'll have his hands full with Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo.

LSU also has its own issues at left tackle. Replacing the injured Chris Faulk hasn't been easy. Veteran Josh Dworaczyk didn't exactly get the job done when he was there, so look for Alex Hurt to get more time there. And the Gators are going to try and bring a ton of pressure his way.

If these left tackles struggle, it'll be a long day for both teams' quarterbacks.

What we learned in the SEC: Week 5

September, 30, 2012
If you like points and lots of them, then you had a blast Saturday in the SEC. Here’s a look at what we learned in Week 5:

1. Getting defensive: For a league that prides itself on defense, some eye-opening offensive numbers were generated Saturday. Even Alabama’s vaunted defense gave up 16 first downs to Ole Miss, which finished 8-of-17 on third down. That was just scratching the surface, though. Georgia outlasted Tennessee 51-44 with the Bulldogs rolling up 560 yards and the Vols 478 yards. This was a Georgia defense that added starters Alec Ogletree and Bacarri Rambo to the mix and was still shredded to the tune of 197 rushing yards. As for Tennessee’s defense, the Vols are well on their way to historical lows this season. They’ve played two SEC games and given up a total of 88 points and 1,115 yards. At least they’ve been consistent. They gave up 555 to Florida and 560 to Georgia and have been gashed for 618 rushing yards in those two games. The Vols have nothing on Arkansas, though. The Hogs, in losing 58-10 to Texas A&M, have given up 110 points and 1,154 yards in two SEC contests. The Aggies piled up 716 yards on Saturday against an Arkansas defense that is utterly defenseless. In four games against FBS foes, the Hogs have allowed a total of 179 points. It’s only five weeks into the season, but maybe some of the defenses in this league aren’t quite as advertised. Then again, maybe the offenses are simply catching up.

[+] EnlargeLes Miles
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesAlthough his Tigers are 5-0, Les Miles' team has yet to play up to its potential.
2. LSU still a quandary: The Tigers are giving new meaning to winning ugly after slopping their way to a 38-22 win over “mighty” Towson on Saturday. You survey LSU’s team, and there’s no question the talent’s there, especially on defense. But the Tigers aren’t playing like the No. 3 team in the country. In fact, they’re not playing like the No. 3 team in the SEC. They’re playing just well enough to win, and that’s a dangerous way of life in this league. One thing to keep in mind is this is not the same team LSU thought it was going to have in August. Losing left tackle Chris Faulk was a killer on offense. Now, it looks like running back Alfred Blue might be out for the season. Linebacker Tahj Jones was also sidelined because of academics. Throw in the dismissal of Tyrann Mathieu, and that’s four key players the Tigers are missing. Clearly, quarterback Zach Mettenberger has to play better, and his receivers need to make more happen. The prelims are over, though. LSU heads to the Swamp this coming Saturday to take on Florida, followed by a home date with South Carolina and then another road trip to Texas A&M. Then comes a bye week followed by Alabama’s visit on Nov. 3. In short, we’ll know plenty about these Tigers three or four weeks from now.

3. Aggies making their move: Don’t sleep on Kevin Sumlin and his Texas A&M football team. Moreover, don’t sleep on Texas A&M redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel. For one, you gotta love the “Johnny Football” moniker. It certainly fits. To this point, there hasn’t been a more entertaining player in the SEC to watch play. Manziel set the school record for total offense in the 58-10 rout of Arkansas with 557 yards. In his past three games, he’s passed for 921 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s also rushed for 306 yards in those three games with five more touchdowns. The Texas A&M players were adamant during the preseason that they were planning on coming into the SEC and winning right away. They didn’t want to hear about any kind of transition period. Go back to the Florida game three weeks ago. The Aggies were right there but couldn’t quite finish the game. Sumlin has this bunch playing at a high level and believing. He also has a quarterback who’s playing lights-out. If you’re looking for a sleeper in the West, don’t sleep on the Aggies.

4. Tennessee still has some fight: When you get past all the points and yards Tennessee gave up Saturday in its 51-44 loss to Georgia, there was one glaring difference about this game for the Vols. They stood and fought and didn’t wilt even after falling behind by 17 points in the first half. Even more encouraging for Big Orange fans is that the Vols showed some grit, some mental toughness and some courage in the second half. That’s been the knock on Derek Dooley’s teams at Tennessee. They’ve run away and hidden more times than not in the second half -- but not this time against a very talented Georgia football team on the road. Granted, there are serious defensive concerns, and junior quarterback Tyler Bray has to play better in the clutch. But it’s the kind of performance the Vols can build on going forward. They get a bye this coming week, and then comes a trip to Mississippi State on Oct. 13 that will go a long way toward determining where this program is headed and whether or not Dooley is going to be around long term.

5. Freshman sensations: When’s the last time two true freshman running backs have come into the SEC and made the kind of immediate impact that Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall have for the Bulldogs? They’ve already combined for 964 rushing yards in five games. Marshall, who had touchdown runs of 75 and 72 yards against Tennessee, is averaging 8.2 yards per carry, while Gurley is averaging 7.9 yards per carry. Gurley already has 10 touchdowns, including a 100-yard kickoff return. It’s not out of the realm to think that both these guys could rush for 1,000 yards this season. Again, we’re talking about freshmen. The Bulldogs might want to pay a franchise tax to North Carolina this year, because they went into that state and pulled out a pair of franchise running backs who look like they’re going to torment the rest of the SEC for a long time.
LSU coach Les Miles confirmed on Wednesday that five players have been ruled out for the 2012 season.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported on Tuesday that linebackers Tahj Jones and D.J. Welter, tight end Tyler Edwards and offensive lineman Evan Washington have all been ruled academically ineligible, according to a source close to the program.

Miles wouldn’t comment on if the players were ruled academically ineligible.

“I don’t know that it’s fair for me to confirm that, to be honest with you,” Miles said during Wednesday’s SEC coaches call. “There’s a privacy responsibility that I have. Those guys will not play this year. I don’t know that I can tell you the specifics as to why and why not.”

Miles also said that sophomore defensive end Jordan Allen will miss the rest of the season due to injury.

This just gives LSU more depth issues to deal with. The Tigers lost freshman signees Avery Johnson (wide receiver) and Jeremy Liggins (quarterback), and junior college transfer offensive lineman Fehoko Fanaika because they couldn’t qualify academically.

LSU also dismissed All-American and Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu before the season started. Junior offensive tackle Chris Faulk and freshman wide receiver Travin Dural are also out for the year because of injuries.

Jones, a junior, was expected to compete for the Sam linebacker position, but had yet to see any game action this year. He played in all 14 games last season, making one start, and registered 33 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, one interception and one fumble recovery. He has played in 27 career games.

Edwards, a senior, has played in 39 career games with one start as more of a blocker and has one catch for 10 yards.

SEC mailbag: Replacing LSU's Chris Faulk

September, 7, 2012
I’m coming at you live from College Station, Texas, where the Aggies make their SEC debut on Saturday against No. 24 Florida.

While I eagerly await that historic matchup, let’s empty out the SEC mailbag:

TD Carey in Ruston, La., writes: LSU and Chris Faulk: Let us not forget that LSU could have had Mo Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu and Mike Brockers. The loss of these four, especially now that Faulk is out, will make a difference, as there is no way to replace Faulk.

Chris Low: I wouldn’t go as far as to say that there’s “no way.” Faulk was a key part of that LSU offensive line and an excellent player, but the Tigers have some depth and experience up front. Getting Josh Dworaczyk back for a sixth season was huge. He’s versatile and will step in Saturday at left tackle for the Tigers. He’s not the only option there, either. It’s a blow to lose Faulk, no question. But I’m not ready to say it was a knockout blow. This LSU team has been too resilient in the past and is still oozing with talent.

Brian in Richmond, Va., writes: Hey Chris, War Eagle people seem to be really down on Auburn this year. They “almost/should have” beaten a very good ranked Clemson team that has a great chance of winning the ACC. It pains me to admit this, but Auburn has had some personnel issues since winning the 2010 national championship. How much better would Auburn be this year with Mike Dyer, Antonio Goodwin, Shaun Kitchens, Dakota Mosley and Jovon Robinson? I would include Zeke Pike, but he wasn't going to start this year and he's a train wreck anyway. Would they have really made that big of a difference? Obviously, Mike Dyer is a known quantity.

Chris Low: Fans are always going to be down when you lose the opener, but this is about what I expected from this Auburn team. It’s not so much that I’m down on the Tigers. I just think it’s going to be tough sledding for them this season with a first-time starter at quarterback who’s learning on the job and a defense that still clearly has some issues. I expect Auburn to improve on defense as the season goes on, but inexperience at quarterback and a leaky defense are a bad combination. And as far as some of the players you mentioned that are no longer there, maybe part of the problem is that there have been too many misses on the recruiting end with kids who simply had no desire to behave. Weeding out those kids might be the best thing that could have happened to this team.

Brian in Gadsden, Ala.: Chris, I was just reading your prediction regarding Mississippi State and Auburn. I think you have some revisionist history. Mississippi State was not one foot short of winning at Auburn last year. They were one foot short of being behind by two points with no timeouts and a chance to tie the game with a successful two-point conversion. Last time I checked, a two-point conversion was not a 99 percent certainty like an extra point. I have no problem with a pick against Auburn, but please don’t change the facts from last year.

Chris Low: Actually, we were both wrong. What I should have written was that Mississippi State came within a foot of tying the game and sending it into overtime with an extra point or having a chance to win it with a successful two-point conversion. The final score was 41-34, so all the Bulldogs would have needed to tie the game was an extra point. A successful two-point conversion would have won it in regulation. Anyway, my apologies, and I promise there’s no War Eagle conspiracy at work here.

Tommyboy in Atlanta writes: 1. Can you please quantify SEC speed? 2. What is the international unit of measurement of SEC speed? 3. Do SEC scoreboards have to be specially calibrated or purpose built for SEC speed? 4. Do all SEC teams have SEC speed? 5. If a team were in another conference and joined the SEC, does that team automatically get SEC speed, or is there a waiting period? If there is a waiting period, does time travel faster due to SEC speed? 6. Could ESPN please mention SEC speed more? 8. Please complete the following: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Gandhi are to ______ as SEC speed is to ______. The questions skip from No. 6 to No. 8 because my computer cannot keep up with my typing because my fingers have ... SEC speed.

Chris Low: Very simply, SEC speed = six consecutive national championships. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Gandhi are to great men and men of vision as SEC speed is to bringing in the bling and collecting crystal footballs. I like your style, though. Good stuff. We may have to let you sit in one day for me on the SEC blog. On second thought, maybe not. You might take my job.

Bryan in Roswell, Ga., writes: With South Carolina struggling against Vanderbilt, the East seems wide open this year. The Georgia-Missouri game is huge, and a Missouri win would seemingly set the stage for the Tigers to win the East on their first try. What would that scenario do for Mizzou going forward in their new home?

Chris Low: I still say that Vanderbilt is better than a lot of people are giving the Commodores credit for. It’s true that South Carolina didn’t throw the ball well, but the Gamecocks didn’t play that poorly. My guess is that the rest of the East would love to see Georgia go down this weekend in its first SEC game. If that happens, this East race might look a little bit like the one in 2010. Everybody’s going to beat up on everybody else. Arkansas went to the SEC championship game in its fourth year in the league, so it's not outrageous to think that Missouri could make some noise this first year if the Tigers can get out of the blocks with a victory over the Bulldogs.

Dale in Winchester, Tenn., writes: Chris, not trying to look ahead. But so far after seeing the N.C. State game, do you think this year’s Tennessee team, if it stays healthy and some of its players like Tyler Bray and Herman Lathers continue to step up and lead, could be the one to get the Big Orange back to the powerhouse we used to be? Go Vols!

Chris Low: The most impressive thing about the Vols in the opener was the way they finished the game and didn’t flinch when Bray lost the fumble at the goal line right before halftime. I would still like to see them be better in short yardage situations on offense, and the defensive secondary still has some growing up to do. But there’s no doubt that this is Derek Dooley’s best team, and I expect to see the Vols in the East race come November. I’ll stop there … for now.

Kevin in Lexington, S.C., writes: I know it’s several weeks away, but how do you think South Carolina's secondary will hold up against Missouri’s spread attack after looking overwhelmed at times against Vandy?

Chris Low: I’ll have a better answer for you after watching Missouri go up against Georgia’s defense Saturday night. Losing senior cornerback Akeem Auguste was a killer for the Gamecocks. They were already thin back there. To me, the real burden is on South Carolina’s front seven now and generating even more pressure. Jadeveon Clowney is a freakish talent, but he can’t take plays off.

Herrin in Boiling Springs, S.C., writes: 1. Are you contractually obligated to write "SEC speed" in each article? 2. LSU and Alabama have not had a close SEC game in some time. Does the rest of the SEC still have SEC speed? 3. Have you ever seen a team crow more about its conference -- while accomplishing less on its own -- than South Carolina? 4. Does Clemson have SEC speed? I mean, we have beaten SEC teams nine out of the last 11 years.

Chris Low: All fair points. Now let me ask you a question: How many straight years has South Carolina beaten Clemson? I noticed you didn’t bring up that topic.

LSU tackle Faulk to miss rest of season

September, 7, 2012
BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU left tackle Chris Faulk is out for the remainder of the 2012 season, a school official confirmed Friday. LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette confirmed the news to GeaxTigerNation on Friday afternoon following reports that the junior's injury, suffered in practice this week, would cause him to miss the rest of the season.

Faulk's injury was first revealed by LSU coach Les Miles after the Tigers' practice Wednesday evening, though Miles did not comment on the severity. In Faulk's place, LSU will go with senior Josh Dworaczyk, who will move from guard to tackle.

LSU must press on without Chris Faulk

September, 7, 2012
LSU will see its resiliency and depth tested yet again.

First, it was Tyrann Mathieu, the team's most dynamic playmaker on defense and special teams and a Heisman Trophy finalist from last season. Mathieu was dismissed from the team in August for repeated violations of the school's drug-testing policy for athletes.

The latest blow came on offense. Junior left tackle Chris Faulk injured his knee in practice this week, and multiple reports are now surfacing that it's ligament damage and that he could miss the entire season. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported on Thursday that Faulk was "likely done for the 2012 season with a major knee injury that will require surgery and long-term rehabilitation."

The 6-foot-6, 323-pound Faulk was one of the Tigers' most athletic offensive linemen and a key in being able to block the never-ending stream of explosive edge pass-rushers you see in the SEC.

In fact, had you picked three or four players at the start of training camp that the Tigers could least afford to lose, Faulk would have been in that group along with Mathieu. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. had Faulk rated as the No. 3 junior offensive tackle in the country.

The Tigers have a couple of different ways they can go without Faulk. It's not like they haven't recruited well in the offensive line the past few years. The plan this Saturday against Washington is to start sixth-year senior Josh Dworaczyk at left tackle. LSU coach Les Miles said before the season that Dworaczyk would be the Tigers' utility man up front. Plugging in Dworaczyk means nobody else has to move, although just about all of Dworaczyk's game experience has been at guard.

Moving senior Alex Hurst from right tackle to left tackle is also something the Tigers will consider. Like Faulk, Hurst is an NFL draft prospect. Plus, moving Hurst would get promising true freshman Vadal Alexander on the field at right tackle.

Sophomore La'El Collins moved inside to guard last season after coming to LSU as a highly rated tackle prospect. He started at left guard in the opener, but is somebody else that could move to tackle if the Tigers have more injuries.

The good thing is that they have options, and they've shown in the past under Miles that they don't easily get off track even when they do lose key players.

When we did our preseason countdown on the SEC blog of the 25 best players in the league, Faulk checked in at No. 14 and Mathieu would have been in the top five had he not been kicked off the team.

Very few teams could get away with losing two players of that caliber (at those positions) this early in the season and still be a serious contender for the national championship.

LSU is one of those teams, although the Tigers' path to Miami just got a lot harder.

Keith Price promises 'A game' for LSU

September, 6, 2012
After Washington's 21-12 win over San Diego State -- a mediocre but hardly dreadful performance -- quarterback Keith Price looked like a guy who'd lost a football game. And his wallet. And his best friend. And his dog.

"I haven't played that bad a ball game in a long time," he said.

Said coach Steve Sarkisian, "That's what makes 17 special. He's got a standard he holds himself to."

[+] EnlargeKeith Price
Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireKeith Price and Washington will likely have to be nearly flawless to win at LSU on Saturday.
Price will need to meet his high standard for Washington to have a chance Saturday at LSU, which is 28-0 in nonconference, regular-season games under coach Les Miles. If he does, an upset over the third-ranked, SEC power would announce the Huskies' return to national relevance and would elevate Price from long shot Heisman Trophy candidate to a legitimate contender.

Of course, the challenge in Baton Rouge is about as tough as it gets. The Huskies defense will be challenged by a physical Tigers running game. The Huskies offense will be challenged by one of the nation's best defenses, one that has speed at every position, including a pair of A-list ends in Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo.

Another challenging element: The elements. It's going to be hot and humid and thundershowers are possible, which would typically benefit the team that prefers running the ball.

Oh, and there's 93,000 nutty, well-lubricated LSU fans in Tiger Stadium, perhaps the nation's loudest venue.

Further, the Huskies have taken a number of injury hits. They lost two starters from their offense against San Diego State, RB Jesse Callier, who is out for the season with a knee injury, and RT Ben Riva, who's out indefinitely with an arm injury. On defense, it was announced that end Hau'oli Jamora's fall camp knee injury was a season-ender.

LSU will be without LT Chris Faulk, but the Tigers are deep and experienced on their O-line.

So, yes, the Huskies are up against a lot.

Yet recall 11th-ranked LSU came a-calling to Husky Stadium in 2009, Sarkisian's first year in Seattle. That Washington team was coming off a winless season. It was widely considered QB Jake Locker and a bunch of stiffs. What transpired was a highly competitive game, with the Tigers prevailing 31-23.

What does Sarkisian remember from that matchup?

"Hopefully, we look a little better in pregame warmups," he said. "I was a little kind of looking at their side and looking at our side and it didn't feel like this was a great matchup in pregame warmups."

LSU is notorious for looking good getting off the bus, not unlike USC. But that game surely registers among the Huskies veterans, and probably some of the Tigers who were around then. It wasn't the physical mismatch it had been drummed up to be. Afterwards, the LSU players were highly complimentary of the Huskies.

"We have a lot better team than we did three years ago," Price said. "I'm sure they're not overlooking us. They know we're going to bring it to them. And they are going to bring it to us."

Price is where it will all start. He can't afford to make mistakes, but he's going to have to be aggressive and take his shots. The Huskies won't be able to grind the ball down the field. Price needs to get rid of the ball quickly, but he also can't obsess about LSU pressure and cut short his progressions and dash from the pocket.

"I'll be in the pocket a lot more regardless of if they bring heat or not," Price said. "I'll just be under duress."
Price isn't the only Husky who can make a name for himself. Budding stars such as receiver Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins could join Price for a "Hello World" moment.

As for the defense, one word: tackle. The Huskies looked improved on defense against San Diego State, but Sarkisian noted the Aztecs had 90 yards after initial contact. The 225-pound Spencer Ware leads a crew of physical, athletic Tigers running backs could double that number if the Huskies don't tackle well.

If the Huskies defense can contain the LSU running game -- a big if -- it's uncertain just how well the Tigers will be able to throw. New QB Zach Mettenberger has a live arm, but he was kicked off the team at Georgia after a number of off-field incidents, and, after a single game against North Texas, already has seemed rattled by the scrutiny at LSU. It's reasonable to question how he will react to adversity if the screws tighten in the fourth quarter.

Price, as cool as a pint of Häagen-Dazs, isn't going to be rattled.

"They're good," Price said. "But we will be on our A game. Trust me."

Alright then. But will that A game be enough to pull the upset?

SEC West post-spring notes

May, 8, 2012
The good folks over at the SEC office delivered a plethora of post-spring notes for us to dive into as summer creeps closer and closer.

I've split it up by division, so you all aren't overwhelmed. We'll start with the SEC West:

  • The attendance for A-Day was 78,526 (1st in the SEC and 2nd nationally this year to Ohio State) which was the fifth-largest in school history. Each spring game under coach Nick Saban has had an attendance of 78,200 (2008) or higher.
  • As an SEC head coach (beginning in 2001 at LSU and 2007 at Alabama), Saban has totaled 73 NFL draft picks with 20 first-round selections and 10 among the top 10 overall.
  • During the last academic year, Alabama’s football program led the SEC (in what is believed to be a conference record) with a total of 38 student-athletes on the Academic All-SEC Honor Roll. A total of 22 players were on the bowl roster who had already earned their degrees, which was tied for first nationally in terms of graduates on bowl rosters.
  • Of Alabama’s 13 starters lost, all were either drafted or signed free -agent contracts with the NFL. Included among those 13 were the four first-rounders along with LB Courtney Upshaw (2nd round), NG Josh Chapman (5th round), DB DeQuan Menzie (5th round) and TE Brad Smelley (7th round). OG Alfred McCullough, WR Marquis Maze, WR Darius Hanks, C William Vlachos and LB Jerrell Harris each signed as free agents following the draft.
  • Arkansas is the only team in the SEC to return a quarterback (Tyler Wilson) with a 3,000-yard passing season in his career and a running back (Knile Davis) with a 1,000-yard rushing season.
  • Arkansas has been ranked in 32 straight Associated Press polls, tied for the seventh-longest active streak in the nation, and in the top 10 for nine straight polls, which also ranks seventh among active streaks in the country.
  • Arkansas finished the 2011 season undefeated at home for the first time since 1999. With seven home victories in 2011, the Razorbacks have 19 wins at home in the past three years, which is tied for the fourth-highest total in the NCAA. Arkansas enters the 2012 season with an 11-game home winning streak, the fifth-longest active streak in the country.
  • Kicker Zach Hocker enters his junior season as Arkansas' record holder for career field goal percentage with his success rate of 80.4 percent. He also ranks in the top 10 in school history in six other categories and finished the 2011 season second in the SEC in points per game, field goals made per game and touchback percentage.
  • Auburn returns 48 lettermen (20 offense, 26 defense, 2 specialists). Of the 68 scholarship players who participated in spring drills, 61 percent (38) were underclassmen.
  • The Tigers start the 2012 season in the same location as they finished the 2011 campaign, playing in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. On Sept. 1, Auburn opens with Clemson in the Chick-fil-a Kickoff Game. The Tigers completed the 2011 season with a 43-24 victory over Virginia in the Chick-fil-a Bowl on Dec. 31. Auburn’s 2012 schedule features eight games against bowl participants from a year ago, including five that played in traditional New Year’s games.
  • Junior punter Steven Clark, one of three finalists for last year’s Ray Guy Award, is one of two returning first team All-SEC honorees for Auburn, along with junior defensive end Corey Lemonier. Returnees Philip Lutzenkirchen (senior tight end) and Onterio McCalebb (senior all-purpose back) were second team all-SEC selections in 2011.
  • The Tigers have four running backs coming back who had seven or more rushing touchdowns (Spencer Ware 8, Kenny Hilliard 8, Michael Ford, Alfred Blue 7).
  • LSU has five returning offensive linemen with starts to their credit, led by C P.J. Lonergan with 26 and OG Josh Dworczyk with 26. Other linemen with career starts to their credit include LT Chris Faulk (13), RT Alex Hurst (23) and RG Josh Williford (9). A sixth offensive lineman – La’el Collins – came out of spring practice as possibly the starter at left guard.
  • Defensively, LSU returns its top two tacklers (Tyrann Mathieu 76, Eric Reid 76) and its top two leaders in both tackles for loss (Barkevious Mingo 15.0, Sam Montgomery 13.5) and sacks (Montgomery 9.0, Mingo 8.0).
  • LSU returns 11 players on defense that started at least one game a year ago, including five defensive linemen.
  • Mississippi State is one of only two SEC teams to bring back all 10 on-field coaches from last season. The entire staff continuity is a first in more than a decade (1999-2000) for the Bulldogs.
  • Dan Mullen enters the 2012 campaign with 21 wins in his first three seasons, the second most in school history (Alllyn McKeen, 26, 1939-41). Mississippi State had only won 21 games over any three-year stretch eight times prior to Mullen’s arrival.
  • Wide receiver Chad Bumphis enters the season with 101 career receptions, good for eighth in school history and 61 shy of David Smith’s (1968-70) record of 162. The Tupelo native needs five touchdowns to reach the school record of 17 held by Eric Moulds (1993-95) and Justin Jenkins (2000-03).
  • Five returning offensive linemen have each started five or more games in their career, including junior starting center Evan Swindall. Senior A.J. Hawkins and sophomore Aaron Morris settled in at the guards during the spring, while a pair of potential first-time starters, junior Emmanuel McCray and mid-year JUCO transfer Pierce Burton, have taken the lead at the tackles.
  • Special teams remains a strength of the Rebels, led by 2010 NCAA punting champion and two-time All-SEC senior Tyler Campbell. In addition, senior K Bryson Rose has made 25 of 29 career field goals and 65-of-67 PATs.
  • In the return game, junior running back Jeff Scott has established himself as a weapon during his career, ranking 20th in the country in kickoff returns in 2010 and helping Ole Miss finish third as a team nationally in punt returns in 2011.
  • Senior Dustin Harris enters the 2012 football season as the reigning punt return average statistical champion. The cornerback from Livingston, Texas, led the NCAA with a 18.9 average on 18 returns in 2011, with a 72-yard touchdown return against Kansas. Against the Jayhawks, Harris set a school record with 162 punt return yards.
  • Senior Ryan Swope, from Austin, Texas, has career numbers of 180 catches for 2,204 yards and is chasing Jeff Fuller’s school records of 233 catches for 3,092 yards. Fuller’s records would appear to be within range after Swope’s record-setting junior season that saw him set school standards with 89 catches for 1,207 yards.
  • The Aggies led the nation with 51 sacks in 2011 (six more than the second-best team), and A&M’s top two pass-rushing threats return in 2012. In fact, Texas A&M is the only team in the nation with two returnees that posted 8.5 or more sacks in 2011. Senior Sean Porter led the Big 12 with .73 sacks per game (No. 19 nationally), while junior Damontre Moore chipped in .71 per game (No. 21 nationally).
  • Despite attempting the ninth most pass attempts in the NCAA FBS, the Aggies did a remarkable job of protecting their quarterback in 2011. In 13 games, A&M allowed just nine sacks for a NCAA-low 44 lost yards. Four of five starters return from the 2011 offensive front, including juniors-to-be OTs Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, who have been mentioned as first-round draft picks in several early 2013 mock drafts.
  • The offensive line was penalized for holding just twice in 2011 and enters 2012 with a streak of 11 straight games without a holding call against a lineman.
LSU offensive guard Josh Dworaczyk has been granted a sixth year of eligibility, the NCAA and LSU announced Wednesday.

Dworaczyk, who was arguably the Tigers' top lineman heading into last season, suffered a season-ending knee injury during training camp in August and missed all of the 2011 season.
“I’m excited to be able to get another year so that I can finish my career on the field,” Dworaczyk said in a release through the school. “I felt like I had some unfinished business, so being able to get this additional year is a blessing.

“Watching from the sidelines last year wasn’t always easy, because I was so used to being a contributor on the field. Getting another year means that I get to wear the Purple and Gold again, and for that I’m very thankful.

“Getting to see the game through the eyes of a coach and understanding what they are looking for from the players on the field, it helped me fully understand our offense. It also gave me a different relationship with my teammates. As a player, I was a leader on the field. Last year, I couldn’t be in the huddle with my teammates so I tried to be a motivator, giving words of advice or encouragement and doing whatever I could to help from the sidelines.”

Dworaczyk's return will ease the loss of All-American Will Blackwell, who took over at left guard halfway through his past season.

Dworaczyk has started in 26 of the 38 games (all at left guard) that he's played in, and will add to an already experienced returning line. The addition of Dworaczyk means LSU's offensive line will enter the fall with 105 combined starts -- Dworaczyk (26), center P.J. Lonergan (26), right tackle Alex Hurst (24), left tackle Chris Faulk (15), and right guard Josh Williford (14) -- and will yet again cement itself as one of the top offensive lines in the SEC.

“This is great news for our program,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “You never want to see a player have his career cut short because of an injury. Josh is a tremendous representative of our program, and it’s nice to see that he’s going to get a chance to finish out his LSU career on the field.”