NCF Nation: Clint Boling
Any guesses on which SEC team had the most first-team selections?
Georgia ... by a mile.
The Bulldogs, who suffered through the worst season of the Mark Richt era, had five players on the first team, including Cordy Glenn and Clint Boling as both of the offensive guards. A.J. Green was selected at receiver, Justin Houston at outside linebacker and Drew Butler at punter.
No other SEC team had more than one player selected as a first-team All-American, which only reinforces that Georgia was far more talented than its record reflected this season. The Bulldogs (6-6) need to beat UCF in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl to avoid their first losing season since 1996.
Auburn's Cam Newton was beaten out by Stanford's Andrew Luck as the first-team quarterback. The only Auburn player to earn first-team honors was junior defensive tackle Nick Fairley.
The other SEC first-team selections included Florida center Mike Pouncey, Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson.
The SEC had 12 honorable mention selections, including Alabama running back Mark Ingram, Alabama receiver Julio Jones, Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams and South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery.
Here's the complete list (SEC players are bolded). Juniors are marked by one asterisk (*), draft-eligible sophomores have two (**) and true sophomores have three (***):
Andrew Luck, Stanford**
Kellen Moore, Boise State*
Cam Newton, Auburn*
Ryan Mallett, Arkansas*
Jake Locker, Washington
Colin Kaepernick, Nevada
Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State
LaMichael James, Oregon**
Andre Ellington, Clemson**
Mark Ingram, Alabama*
Jordan Todman, Connecticut*
Mikel LeShoure, Illinois*
Owen Marecic, Stanford
Anthony Sherman, Connecticut
Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State**
A.J. Green, Georgia*
Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina***
Julio Jones, Alabama*
Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma*
Titus Young, Boise State
Lance Kendricks, Wisconsin
D.J. Williams, Arkansas
Michael Egnew, Missouri*
Nate Solder, Colorado
Anthony Castonzo, Boston College
Marcus Cannon, TCU
Danny Watkins, Baylor
Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
Lee Ziemba, Auburn
Ben Ijalana, Villanova
Cordy Glenn, Georgia*
Clint Boling, Georgia
John Moffitt, Wisconsin
Rodney Hudson, Florida State
Stefen Wisniewski, Penn State
Mike Pouncey, Florida
Chase Beeler, Stanford
Mike Brewster, Ohio State*
Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson*
J.J. Watt, Wisconsin*
Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
Adrian Clayborn, Iowa
Allen Bailey, Miami (Fla.)
Cameron Jordan, California
Marcell Dareus, Alabama*
Nick Fairley, Auburn*
Stephen Paea, Oregon State
Corey Liuget, Illinois*
Luke Kuechly, Boston College***
Greg Jones, Michigan State
Manti Te’o, Notre Dame***
Nate Irving, North Carolina State
Von Miller, Texas A&M
Justin Houston, Georgia*
Bruce Carter, North Carolina
Akeem Ayers, UCLA* Sean Spence, Miami (Fla.)*
Patrick Peterson, LSU*
Prince Amukamara, Nebraska
Brandon Harris, Miami (Fla.)*
Janoris Jenkins, Florida*
Cliff Harris, Oregon***
Omar Bolden, Arizona State*
Eric Hagg, Nebraska
Jaiquawn Jarrett, Temple
Mark Barron, Alabama*
Rahim Moore, UCLA*
Ahmad Black, Florida
Alex Henery, Nebraska
Dan Bailey, Oklahoma State
Drew Butler, Georgia*
Chas Henry, Florida
Cliff Harris, Oregon***
Patrick Peterson, LSU*
Georgia is at the head of the class in the SEC, and it’s really not even close.
The Bulldogs return four players with more than 20 career starts on the offensive line, and their five projected starters coming out of the spring combined for 127 starts.
That’s almost 20 more starts than second-place Auburn, which has 108 career starts among its five projected starters.
Georgia’s numbers look even better when you throw junior tackle Trinton Sturdivant into the mix. He’s started 14 career games, but only one in the past two seasons because he’s battled knee injuries. Sturdivant started 13 games in 2007 as a true freshman left tackle. He hopes to return this season.
Georgia and Auburn are the only two SEC teams whose projected offensive line starters combine for 100 or more career starts.
While Georgia’s at the top with 127 starts, Tennessee’s at the bottom with only three career starts.
Auburn senior left tackle Lee Ziemba has started in every game since his freshman season in 2007 -- a streak of 38 straight games -- which is the most in the SEC for an offensive lineman.
Even though offensive line experience is important, there are exceptions. Alabama had one of the best offensive lines in the nation last season. The five guys who wound up being the starters had a combined 41 career starts entering the season. But here's the catch: Two players (left guard Mike Johnson and right tackle Drew Davis) had all 41 of those starts.
Here’s a breakdown of the entire league. Keep in mind these are only projected starters going into preseason camp and that some of these names could change:
1. Georgia: 127 (Chris Davis 37, Clint Boling 36, Ben Jones 23, Cordy Glenn 22, Josh Davis 9)
2. Auburn: 108 (Lee Ziemba 38, Ryan Pugh 31, Mike Berry 21, Byron Isom 18, Brandon Mosley 0)
3. Arkansas: 87 (DeMarcus Love 24, Wade Grayson 23, Ray Dominguez 20, Seth Oxner 13, Grant Cook 7)
4. Mississippi State: 82 (J.C. Brignone 24, Quentin Saulsberry 24, Derek Sherrod 22, Addison Lawrence 12, Tobias Smith 0)
5. Florida: 79 (Mike Pouncey 31, Carl Johnson 22, Marcus Gilbert 17, Xavier Nixon 5, James Wilson 4)
6. South Carolina: 52 (Jarriel King 19, T.J. Johnson 13, Terrence Campbell 11, Kyle Nunn 7, Garrett Chisolm 2)
7. Alabama: 42 (James Carpenter 14, Barrett Jones 14, William Vlachos 14, D.J. Fluker 0, Chance Warmack 0)
8. LSU: 41 (Joseph Barksdale 26, Josh Dworaczyk 13, Patrick Lonergan 2, Will Blackwell 0, Alex Hurst 0)
9. Kentucky: 27 (Stuart Hines 13, Brad Durham 7, Jake Lanefski 4, Billy Joe Murphy 3, Larry Warford 0)
10. Vanderbilt: 24 (Kyle Fischer 18, Joey Bailey 5, Ryan Seymour 1, Justin Cabbagestalk 0, Wesley Johnson 0)
11. Ole Miss: 22 (Bradley Sowell 12, Bobby Massie 5, Rishaw Johnson 4, Alex Washington 1, A.J. Hawkins 0)
12. Tennessee: 3 (Jarrod Shaw 3, Ja’Wuan James 0, Cody Pope 0, JerQuari Schofield 0, Dallas Thomas 0)
Running back Mark Ingram became the first Alabama player in history last season to win the Heisman Trophy. He rushed for 1,658 yards and scored 20 touchdowns.
Is it too farfetched to think that Trent Richardson might be the second from Alabama to take home college football’s most prestigious individual award somewhere down the road?
While Alabama’s at the head of the class in the SEC when it comes to being the most prepared to replace a key player, the Crimson Tide’s hardly the only team with quality depth in key spots.
One of the best examples is Georgia’s offensive line, specifically senior left tackle Clint Boling. The Bulldogs have eight lettermen returning up front, and while Boling has played both guard and tackle during his career, offensive line coach Stacy Searels could have some flexibility if Trinton Sturdivant and Tanner Strickland both come back healthy in the fall.
Sturdivant was Georgia’s starting left tackle for 13 games as a true freshman. The Bulldogs’ coaches felt like he was their best offensive lineman at the time, but he’s missed each of the past two seasons after tearing up his left knee. Strickland could also be a factor at guard after missing last season with a shoulder injury.
The Arkansas receiving corps is another position that’s among the deepest in the league.
Greg Childs, Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Cobi Hamilton are all big-time players in their own right. And when you throw in tight end D.J. Williams, it’s a collection of pass-catchers that any quarterback would love to have.
Losing one of those guys would hurt the Hogs’ passing game, but it certainly wouldn’t devastate it.
Ole Miss’ depth at defensive tackle is equally staggering. Jerrell Powe is one of the top two or three interior defensive linemen in the SEC. But the Rebels will be able to run tackles in and out of the game next season with the likes of Ted Laurent, Lawon Scott, LaMark Armour and Justin Smith.
LSU would have several options in its secondary if something were to happen to one of the starters.
Junior cornerback Patrick Peterson is the backbone of the unit, but the Tigers made some changes this spring and essentially went with four cornerbacks as the four starters. Jai Eugene moved from cornerback to safety, while safety Brandon Mitchell has also played a lot of cornerback during his career.
Sophomore cornerback Morris Claiborne looks like he’s going to follow in Peterson’s footsteps as one of the SEC's best, while junior cornerback Ron Brooks has also played a lot of quality snaps for the Tigers. If redshirt freshman safety Craig Loston comes around next season, that would give the Tigers’ even more flexibility in an already deep and talented secondary.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
ATHENS, Ga. -- Blink for just a millisecond in the SEC, and you risk being cast off into football oblivion.
That said, wasn't it just yesterday that Mark Richt was the fresh-faced newbie of the league, a Bobby Bowden protégé from Florida State, who was about to endear himself to Georgia fans forever with his signature "hobnail boot" victory over Tennessee?
|Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images|
|Georgia coach Mark Richt is feeling confident heading into the 2009 season.|
The truth is that was eight years ago, and there have been 17 head coaching changes in the SEC since Richt took over at Georgia in 2001. He enters next season as the longest-tenured head coach in the league at the same school.
With Phillip Fulmer and Tommy Tuberville being pushed out following last season, Richt suddenly finds himself as the dean of a conference that chews up and spits out head coaches.
"It changes fast, and you have to be willing to change with it," said Richt, who's been the hallmark of consistency at Georgia.
He's won 10 or more games in six of his eight seasons, and the Bulldogs have finished in the top 10 in the polls five of the past seven seasons. Richt is also one of only six head coaches who has won 80 or more NCAA Division I football games in his first eight seasons, joining the likes of Pete Carroll, Bob Stoops, Urban Meyer, Barry Switzer, George Woodruff and Amos Alonzo Stagg.
Along the way, Richt has won two SEC championships and six bowl games, including two wins in BCS bowls.
About the only thing he hasn't done is beat Florida consistently or win a national title.
Richt is committed to doing both, but he's not consumed by either.
"My goal is to watch these guys become men and develop into the best possible football player they can be," Richt said. "My goal is to get a team to reach its full potential on a yearly basis and come out of here better men than when they showed up.
"We absolutely want to win a national championship. We have the goal set to do that. But the national championship goal is one you really don't control. You can control winning the East and control winning the SEC and then hope two other cats on the other side of the country didn't go undefeated.
"We've won 82 games in eight years, (tied with LSU) for the most of anybody in the league. We've either won or shared the East four out of eight years. So we've done a nice job. But because of the national championship, if you haven't won that, then people say, 'You haven't done it yet.'"
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
The most underrated player in the SEC this season?
|AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain|
|Malcolm Sheppard, right, had 16 tackles for loss and led all SEC defensive tackles with 7.5 sacks.|
My pick would be Arkansas junior defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard, who was undersized to be playing tackle in the SEC (277 pounds), but made out just fine.
Sheppard finished second in the league with 16 tackles for loss and led all SEC defensive tackles with 7.5 sacks.
In the Hogs' season-ending 31-30 win over LSU, Sheppard moved outside to end and had 3.5 tackles for loss against the Tigers. He could stay at end next season depending on what his offseason is like. If he can put on some more weight, which hasn't been easy for him over the years, he'll probably stay inside.
If not, he could see his snaps at end increase, particularly if Arkansas can build some depth at tackle.
Either way, look for Sheppard to be one of the SEC's best and most versatile defensive linemen in 2009.
Here's a look at some of the other guys in the league that were underrated this season. They're listed in alphabetical order:
- Georgia sophomore offensive lineman Clint Boling: He started the season at right tackle, moved to right guard for a few games and finished the season at left tackle. Boling's versatility was a big reason the Bulldogs were able to weather so many injuries in the offensive line.
- Auburn sophomore linebacker Josh Bynes: After playing sparingly as a freshman, Bynes stepped in at middle linebacker when Tray Blackmon was lost for the season and led the team with three interceptions and finished fifth with 53 total tackles.
- Alabama senior offensive lineman Marlon Davis: Tackle Andre Smith and center Antoine Caldwell were both All-Americans and received most of the publicity, but Davis was a rock for the Crimson Tide at right guard.
- LSU junior tight end Richard Dickson: The SEC was loaded with talented tight ends, but Dickson was Mr. Dependable for the Tigers. He was third on the team with 27 catches, including four for touchdowns.
- Mississippi State senior linebacker Dominic Douglas: Quick, who led the SEC in tackles this season? That would be Douglas, who moved over to middle linebacker when Jamar Chaney was injured and finished with 116 total tackles.
- Vanderbilt junior safety Ryan Hamilton: He led all SEC defensive backs with 98 total tackles and was second on Vanderbilt's team. Hamilton had three interceptions in the win over Ole Miss, including one he returned 79 yards for a touchdown.
- Kentucky senior linebacker Braxton Kelley: After three years of starting in the middle, Kelley unselfishly moved over to weakside linebacker and ranked among the SEC leaders with 90 total tackles.
- Florida sophomore center Maurkice Pouncey: He started 11 games at right guard as a true freshman, but moved to center this season and solidified the middle of the Gators' offensive line.
- Ole Miss senior safety Jamarca Sanford: One of the strongest leaders on Ole Miss' team, Sanford led the Rebels with 80 total tackles and also forced two fumbles.
- South Carolina junior linebacker Darian Stewart: Playing the "spur" linebacker position in the Gamecocks' 4-2-5 scheme, Stewart did a little bit of everything. He had eight tackles for loss and led the team with eight passes broken up.
- Tennessee senior linebacker Ellix Wilson: In his first full season as a starter, Wilson led the Vols with 89 total tackles from his middle linebacker position and was sixth in the SEC.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
By this time next week (actually Sunday), we'll have our first look at the BCS standings, meaning Alabama will almost certainly be perched near the top if the No. 2-ranked Crimson Tide can take care of business Saturday at home against Ole Miss. Taking a page out of Nick Saban's lesson plan, what's it really mean if the Tide are holding down one of the top two spots with so much football left to be played? Well, South Carolina debuted at No. 6 in the BCS standings a year ago and never won again in losing five straight and not even making it to a bowl game. Nobody is suggesting that kind of collapse is looming for Alabama. Nick Saban has this team dialed in. But it is a reminder that a lot can happen in these next seven weeks. Here's a rundown of what to watch this week in the SEC:
1. Eroding support for Fulmer?: Still looking for his first SEC win of the season, embattled Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said confidently Thursday night while taking a break from making recruiting calls, "We're not close to being dead yet." Somebody might want to tell that to his athletic director, Mike Hamilton, who during an extensive interview with the Knoxville News-Sentinel this week discussed hypothetically how a change might be made before the season was over and even confirmed that some boosters had already discussed Fulmer's replacement with him. Hamilton later denied that he was trying to publicly lay the groundwork to fire Fulmer, although the timing of his comments was certainly odd. The bottom line: Fulmer and the Vols (2-4, 0-3 SEC) desperately need a win Saturday at home against Mississippi State.
2. The Saban influence: Coming off an open date, not only is Alabama as healthy as it's been, but Saban's had an extra week to ensure that his unbeaten Crimson Tide don't get ahead of themselves. "Coach Saban's constantly talking to us about that, and this team has bought in," Alabama junior offensive tackle Andre Smith said. "As long as you're a true competitor, there's always room for improvement. You can win the U.S. Open one weekend. But the following weekend, the field is back there wanting to eat you up. That's the way we're looking at it."
3. Searching for Greg Hardy: Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt would like to know where Hardy disappeared to last week against South Carolina. Hardy simply can't shake his "play when he wants to" persona. When he's on, he's one of the best pass-rushers in the SEC. The Rebels need him to be on Saturday, similar to the way he was a year ago against the Crimson Tide when he had 13 total tackles, including five for loss and three sacks. Hardy's at his best coming off the left edge, which means he won't be matched much against Alabama star left tackle Andre Smith. But the Rebels are moving him around more than they did a year ago.
4. Opportunity knocks for Mr. Garcia: His time is finally here. Stephen Garcia was the savior off the bench last week when he led South Carolina to a come-from-behind victory over Kentucky on the road. Now, it's his show. The redshirt freshman quarterback gets his first start against defending national champion LSU, which hasn't been as salty on defense as the Tigers' talent suggested they would be at the beginning of the season. Garcia is already a household name among South Carolina fans (thanks in part to his off-the-field escapades). If he wins this game, go ahead and erect his own wing in the school's football hall of fame.
5. The Bulldog Shuffle: This changing up the offensive line is becoming a weekly drill for Georgia, which plans to go with its fourth different left tackle of the season Saturday against Vanderbilt. Vince Vance went down with a season-ending knee injury last week, meaning sophomore Clint Boling will slide over from right guard. The Bulldogs opened the preseason with Trinton Sturdivant as their left tackle, but he blew out his knee in a scrimmage. They then moved Kiante Tripp from right tackle to left tackle, moved him to tight end and now back to left tackle this week for depth. Vance had moved over to left tackle from left guard. Whatever Georgia offensive line coach Stacy Searels is making, it's not enough.
6. LSU's secondary is on the clock: Les Miles sounds like he's getting a little antsy, a little restless. He's seen far too many mistakes and busts in the LSU secondary this season for his liking. It's not all young players, either. The Tigers gave up the 70-yard touchdown pass to Percy Harvin last week on a ball that was batted by Danny McCray. Senior free safety Curtis Taylor was supposed to be helping on coverage deep and was instead covering a shorter route. Miles has said he won't be hesitant to try different personnel. The last thing LSU can afford against South Carolina is to give up big plays, and you know the Head Ball Coach has already found a few ways to attack that secondary.
7. Don't bury the Commodores yet: Those were Bobby Johnson's words following Vanderbilt's loss last week to Mississippi State. It was a bad loss, maybe the kind of loss that would have sent the Commodores reeling in past years. But Johnson likes the resiliency of this club and its willingness to prepare the same every week. Plus, Vanderbilt goes into the Georgia game knowing this is a team it's fared well against the last few years. The Commodores won on their last trip to Sanford Stadium in 2006 and were driving for the winning score last season before fumbling inside the 10, opening the door for the Bulldogs to drive the field in the final minutes and kick the winning field goal as time expired. With Mackenzi Adams stepping in at quarterback, the Commodores think they will be able to keep the Georgia defense from loading up as much because of his ability to throw the ball from the pocket.
8. Offensive nirvana?: Honestly, it might just be downright offensive watching the Mississippi State and Tennessee offenses on Saturday. The Bulldogs are ranked 103rd nationally in total offense and the Vols 104th. In scoring offense, the Vols are tied for 108th and the Bulldogs tied for 113th. On third down, Mississippi State is converting just 36.3 percent of the time and Tennessee 32.9 percent of the time. Both teams, though, are on their second quarterback, which has helped some in recent weeks. Tyson Lee replaced Wesley Carroll for the Bulldogs, while Nick Stephens supplanted Jonathan Crompton for the Vols. Do we see another 3-2 game in the ninth?
9. Fresh off the Cobb: If ever Kentucky could use an infusion of offensive energy, it's now. Freshman Randall Cobb will take over the marquee role at receiver that was occupied by senior Dicky Lyons Jr., who was lost last week with a season-ending injury. Cobb should be back pretty close to 100 percent after suffering a high ankle injury earlier in the seas
on. The Wildcats are going to need all the offense they can get down the stretch, and he's their most explosive threat. Look for them to go to him often Saturday against Arkansas, and he's also going to continue to get a few touches at quarterback. The best way to get a stagnant offense going is hit a few big plays, and Cobb has that ability. He's going to return punts this week, too.
10. Petrino returns to the Bluegrass State: There won't be any welcome back parties for Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino ... from Kentucky fans or Louisville fans. But the Wildcats are looking forward to getting a shot at Petrino. Many of the players on Kentucky's team were involved with Petrino one way or the other during the recruiting process when he was at Louisville. They also remember what Petrino did to them on the field. He was 4-0 against the Wildcats, and his teams never trailed in any of those games. This is a chance for Petrino's Hogs to build on the momentum of their 25-22 road win last week at Auburn. It's a chance for Rich Brooks' Wildcats to repay a few old debts. "I would love to tell you -- off the record -- what I think of Coach Petrino. He's a great football coach. Let's leave it at that," Kentucky defensive tackle Corey Peters (a Louisville high school product) told the Louisville Courier-Journal.