NCF Nation: Clint Moseley

Gus Malzahn returning to Auburn

December, 4, 2012
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Auburn is bringing a very familiar and successful face back to the Plains with the hiring of Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn as the Tigers' new coach.

After just one season with the Red Wolves, Malzahn is headed back to Auburn to take over for Gene Chizik, his former boss, who was fired after going 3-9 in his fourth season as Auburn's coach.

Malzahn's return brings hope that offensive competence resurfaces on the Plains. This past season was abysmal for the Tigers' offense. With Malzahn taking his act to Arkansas State, where he promptly went 9-3 and won a Sun Belt championship, and Scot Loeffler taking over, Auburn's offense shifted from the spread to a more pro-style look.

But without Malzahn's guidance -- or offense -- the Tigers were last in the SEC in total offense, mustering just 305 yards per game. Auburn shuffled around three starting quarterbacks, averaging 156 passing yards a game in the process, and scored fewer than 20 points seven times, including two shutouts in the final three weeks of the season.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Auburn's offense scored 48 fewer touchdowns and had 41 fewer 20-yard plays than the 2010 unit headed by Malzahn.

With Malzahn back, the hope is there will be an immediate offensive turnaround. Remember, when he stepped in as the offensive coordinator in 2009, he whipped that offense into shape right from the start. In 2008, the Tigers were one of the SEC's worst offensive teams, but by the end of the 2009 season, Auburn was second in the SEC, averaging 431.8 yards of offense per game, which was nearly 130 more yards a game than 2008.

[+] EnlargeGus Malzahn
Nelson Chenault/US PresswireAfter one season with Arkansas State, Gus Malzahn is returning to Auburn, this time as the head coach.
But he really made a name for himself in 2010, when he and some guy named Cam Newton helped Auburn to a 14-0 season and a national championship behind the SEC's No. 1 offense. Newton won the Heisman Trophy after passing for 2,854 yards with 30 touchdowns and rushing for an SEC-high 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns. Newton's 4,327 total yards of offense set an SEC record.

Malzahn isn't expected to duplicate his 2010 success -- he just can't without a Cam Newton on campus -- but he should make the offense considerably better with his fingerprints on the playbook. He has a talented backfield to work with, starting with running backs Tre Mason, Mike Blakely and Corey Grant. He also has three quarterbacks in Jonathan Wallace, Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley, who all have dual-threat ability, which is what Malzahn's offense needs to succeed.

It should be especially exciting to see how Wallace responds. He took over as the starting quarterback late in the season, and showed some promise as both a runner and passer.

An immediate criticism will be that Malzahn won't have Newton to work with. He's 25-13 since 2009 without him. His teams score 10 fewer points and average about 84 fewer yards without him. But Malzhan did pretty well for himself this season at Arkansas State without Newton.

Here are some interesting Arkansas State stats courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information:

  • Arkansas State is currently 40 yards shy of tying the school record for total yards in a season (currently at 5,782).
  • The Red Wolves average 481.8 yards per game, which is on pace to break the school record of 447.8 set last season.
  • The team currently averages 6.5 yards per play, which is on pace to break the school record of 6.0 set in 2008.
  • 5.2 yards per rush would break the school record of 5.1 set in 1989.
  • Arkansas State has scored 437 points this season, 19 shy of the school record.

Obviously, SEC defenses are tougher to beat than Sun Belt ones, but Malzahn should have his successes. In his three years as Auburn's offensive coordinator, the Tigers won 30 games, scored 33.6 points per game and averaged 424.9 yards of offense, including 227.8 on the ground, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

It also will help that he's extremely familiar with how things work at Auburn and the culture on the Plains. Fans know him and know what he can do. But with that comfort will come higher expectations. He'll have the usual grace period, but fans are very restless in Auburn, and they expect Malzahn to come in and clean off some of the mud splattered on the program in 2012.

This wasn't the sexiest hire for Auburn, but it's one the administration thinks will get this program back on track and back on the scoreboard.

SEC: Who will transform tomorrow?

November, 2, 2012
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Saturday is a chance for Auburn to take a positive step forward.

The season has been a mess. The Tigers are 1-7, own the SEC's worst offense and have the second-worst defense in the league. Coach Gene Chizik and athletic director Jay Jacobs are feeling the heat as a program that won the national championship in 2010 is sinking deeper and deeper in the SEC.

But this weekend will bring some smiling faces to the Plains. Not only will the Tigers gain their second win of the season when New Mexico State comes to town, but they'll also officially find their new quarterback in true freshman Jonathan Wallace.

We'd heard about him in fall camp. He's received praise from players and coaches about his athleticism and practice habits before. Some thought he might have a legitimate chance of really competing for the starting spot at the beginning of the season. The staff went instead with Kiehl Frazier as Clint Moseley dealt with a shoulder injury.

Well, better late than never.

It's Wallace's time, and after an impressive showing last week in relief duty (122 passing yards and two touchdowns/71 rushing yards) he'll show everyone that he can lead this Auburn team.

Wallace has all of the physical tools to be a solid player and he'll provide a spark with his ability to pass and throw. He'll also take advantage of a New Mexico State defense that is giving up 460.9 yards per game (102nd nationally) and 265.8 passing yards per game (99th).

Wallace works like a veteran away from the field. He's meticulous in his film study and in the way he buries his head in his playbook. He knows that playbook and he's been waiting for a while to show everyone just how well.

Some think Wallace should have been handed the keys to Auburn's offense much earlier, but with all this time to sit back and watch and learn and study, Wallace will be more than ready to take on New Mexico State.

He might show nerves early with that home crowd looking down on him, but he'll eventually settle into a nice rhythm. Once he gets going, the Tigers might really have quarterback controversy on their hands.

Wallace to start at QB for Auburn

October, 30, 2012
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Auburn coach Gene Chizik is making another change at quarterback.

Chizik announced on Tuesday that true freshman Jonathan Wallace will start for the Tigers on Saturday when they take on New Mexico State. Clint Moseley went down with an ankle injury last Saturday in Auburn's blowout loss to Texas A&M, and Wallace was much more impressive than fellow backup Kiehl Frazier. Moseley is still nursing his injury, so Wallace will take his place this weekend.

Wallace came off the bench to toss two touchdown passes and Chizik said that Wallace could provide a much-needed spark for Auburn's struggling offense. The Tigers are at the bottom of the barrel in both the SEC and nationally when it comes to offense and it's not like things could get much worse at this point.

Wallace completed six of his nine passes for 122 yards and ran the ball 13 times for 71 yards against the Aggies. He's very young, but when you're 1-7 and nothing is going right, you have to change something, and going with Wallace is the right move.

Even if Moseley was able to come back from his ankle injury this week, it's probably time to go in another direction. Neither Mosley nor Frazier were doing enough, so it's the rookie's turn at running this offense.

Stacy pushes Vandy past Auburn

October, 20, 2012
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The day belonged to Zac Stacy.

The senior running back became Vanderbilt’s all-time rushing leader with 169 yards on 27 carries, helping the Commodores hold off Auburn, 17-13, on Saturday. He broke the record on a 27-yard run late in the fourth quarter, which helped put the game out of reach.

The win moves Vanderbilt to 3-4, 2-3 in the SEC, and keeps its bowl hopes alive. Stacy, an Alabama native, now has 2,669 career rushing yards, passing Frank Mordica to become the school’s all-time leader. It was his second 100-yard game of the season, and he also scored a touchdown midway through the third quarter to give the Commodores the lead for good.

For Auburn, the loss drops them to 1-6 on the year and 0-5 in the SEC. The lone bright spot for the Tigers was sophomore running back Tre Mason, who rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown, but the Tigers couldn’t find any consistency from the quarterback position, a theme that has plagued them all season.

Starter Clint Moseley finished 14 of 20 for just 98 yards. True freshman signal caller Jonathan Wallace came in to give Auburn a spark, but it wasn’t enough. Wallace completed his only pass attempt of the game for 11 yards.

With three remaining SEC games against Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama, there’s a good chance Auburn finishes winless in the conference for the first time since 1980.

Auburn turns to Moseley at quarterback

October, 12, 2012
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It's unfair to dump all of Auburn's offensive struggles this season on sophomore quarterback Kiehl Frazier, who just never looked comfortable in the Tigers' first five games.

Then again, he didn't have a lot of people around him on offense playing well, either.

The Tigers had no choice. They had to give somebody else a shot at quarterback, and that's what they're doing with junior Clint Moseley, who will replace Frazier as the starter Saturday at Ole Miss.

Frazier had thrown just two touchdown passes and eight interceptions in his five starts. The Tigers (1-4, 0-3) have yet to score more than 10 points in any of their three SEC games this season.

Moseley played the second half last week in the 24-7 loss to Arkansas, but this will be his first start since last season, when he started the final six games.

It was difficult for the Auburn coaches to evaluate Moseley in the preseason because he was plagued by shoulder problems and just didn't have any zip on the ball. The Tigers are looking for any spark they can get on offense, although this is anything but a new problem.

In their past 10 SEC games dating back to last season, they've been held to 17 or fewer points nine times.

SEC power rankings: Week 7

October, 8, 2012
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There's movement all over as we check out the SEC power rankings for Week 7:

1. Alabama (5-0; LW: 1): The Tide was off last week, so it didn't have a chance to widen its lead on the SEC and the rest of the country. The last thing Alabama's upcoming opponents want is a rested Tide team. I can only imagine the extra work Nick Saban put his team through in order to clean up all those little things.

2. South Carolina (6-0; LW: 4): The Gamecocks completely dominated Georgia over the weekend. South Carolina's offense is extremely balanced and looks like it can just jump on Marcus Lattimore's shoulders at this point. He's just getting stronger and stronger. The defense is smothering up front and stopping that defensive line has been a nightmare for teams. But road games at LSU and Florida will be tough.

3. Florida (5-0; LW: 5): The Gators might not have the most exciting offense, but that defense is tremendous. Florida put a load of pressure on LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger over the weekend and clobbered the Tigers' running game. Behind Mike Gillislee, the Gators pounded LSU with their running game, but the passing game is still a concern. If Florida can get more through the air, this offense could start to really give defenses fits.

4. LSU (5-1; LW: 2): It's obvious that the Tigers can't put everything on their defense. Even with how talented LSU is on the defensive side of the ball, the offense needs major work, especially in the passing game. Mettenberger hasn't come close to living up to the hype and just doesn't look comfortable standing in LSU's pocket. The running game was one of the SEC's best, but was quieted against Florida because there just wasn't the threat to pass. No offensive balance could doom this team.

5. Georgia (5-1; LW: 3): The concern about the defense continues to grow after the Bulldogs' 28-point loss to the Gamecocks. USC was intent on running and Georgia couldn't do anything to stop it, allowing 232 rushing yards. Jarvis Jones has been a non-factor for the past two weeks and Aaron Murray's big-game struggles came right back in Columbia, S.C. The good news is the Bulldogs have the SEC East's easiest schedule from here on out.

6. Mississippi State (5-0; LW: 6): These Bulldogs weren't flashy, but they were very efficient against Kentucky. Tyler Russell is one of seven FBS quarterbacks with 10-plus passing touchdowns and fewer than two interceptions this season, while LaDarius Perkins is the only player in the SEC to be in the top two in rushing yards per game (99.8) and all-purpose yards per game (130.0). That defense has been pretty stout as well, as the Bulldogs have trailed for just 10:19 this season.

7. Texas A&M (4-1; LW: 7): Johnny Manziel grabbed hero status in Oxford, Miss., over the weekend. The redshirt freshman quarterback led the Aggies to 13 straight points in the fourth quarter, after trailing Ole Miss by 10. He had a nifty 29-yard touchdown run to trim the Rebels' lead to four and then found Ryan Swope for the game-winning 20-yard touchdown pass with 1:46 remaining. What's more impressive is the Aggies got the win despite committing six turnovers.

8. Tennessee (3-2; LW: 8): The Vols were off, but have a very important matchup with Mississippi State this weekend. We finally saw good balance out of the Vols against an SEC opponent in their shootout loss to Georgia two weeks ago, but most of the extra time Tennessee had better have been devoted to doing something about that defense. The Vols are 13th in the SEC in total defense (425.8 yards per game), and that just won't cut it if Tennessee is going to make any sort of second-half run.

9. Vanderbilt (2-3; LW: 12): The Commodores got a big win on the road at Missouri. Like prior games, Vandy wasn't great when it had the ball, but it played tough for four quarters and outlasted a banged-up Mizzou team. The defense really has been impressive for most of the season, but the Commodores have to get more out of the offense.

10. Ole Miss (3-3; LW: 10): After a heartbreaking loss to the Aggies, Ole Miss now has lost 16 straight SEC games. Blowing that 10-point lead in the fourth quarter probably will haunt this team all week. There's no doubt the Rebels can move the ball, but costly turnovers have doomed this offense. The defense has made strides since last season, but there's still too much break in this unit.

11. Arkansas (2-4; LW: 13): Just when you think the Hogs are done, they find some strength and walk out of Auburn with a huge win over the struggling Tigers. Auburn has had a plethora of issues this season, but from a mental aspect, this was a big win for Arkansas' team. The Razorbacks aren't totally out of the bowl hunt now, but there's still a lot of ground for this team to make up. Finally holding an offense in check, forcing five turnovers and getting eight sacks is a good start.

12. Missouri (3-3; LW: 9): This has not been the SEC welcome the Tigers expected. Mizzou has been banged up all year and pushed around by its SEC counterparts. James Franklin is out for a few weeks with a knee sprain. Corbin Berkstresser is now the starting quarterback, and he'd better get over his rough performance against Vandy, where he hit only 9 of his 30 passes. Things just get harder, as the Tigers host No. 1 Alabama Saturday.

13. Auburn (1-4; LW: 11): Things just aren't working on the Plains. With an extra week to prepare for the SEC's worst defense, the Tigers mustered only 321 yards of offense against Arkansas and found the end zone once. Kiehl Frazier was benched for Clint Moseley at quarterback, but two fourth-quarter interceptions doomed Auburn. The offense just has too many issues right now, and the Tigers might have lost their chance at a postseason berth with Saturday's no-show.

14. Kentucky (1-5; LW: 14): Injuries have crippled this team and things just aren't getting any better for the Wildcats. Kentucky was forced to play two freshmen at quarterback, and lost one (Patrick Towles) to an ankle injury, against Mississippi State. The Wildcats already were working without their starting running back. Things continue to heat up around Joker Phillips, whose team is hovering around the bottom of the SEC in most offensive and defensive categories.

What we learned in the SEC: Week 6

October, 7, 2012
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Two teams in the SEC East made major statements Saturday:

1. Florida and South Carolina have great defenses: There's no question that it appears the road to Atlanta for the SEC East will go through Gainesville, Fla., and Columbia, S.C. Florida might have won by eight against LSU, but the Gators' defense totally dominated LSU's offense. Florida was at its best when LSU had the ball, allowing just 200 yards of offense and two field goals. LSU had five three-and-outs in the first half and crossed into Florida territory just once in the second half. LSU converted just 1 of 13 third downs and had nine first downs. As for South Carolina, the Gamecocks overpowered Georgia in every phase of the game in their 35-7 win, but the defense manhandled Georgia. South Carolina held Georgia to 224 yards of offense and kept quarterback Aaron Murray in check with loads of pressure. Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall were swallowed up by the Gamecocks' defense, combining for just 76 yards on 25 carries. South Carolina's front seven was outstanding all night and made things very easy for the secondary.

[+] EnlargeZach Mettenberger, Lerentee McCray
AP Photo/John RaouxZach Mettenberger had his worst game of the season against Florida, completing just 44 percent of his passes and throwing a pick.
2. LSU and Auburn need major offensive adjustments: Both sets of Tigers were atrocious on offense this weekend. Florida's defense absolutely smothered LSU, allowing just 200 total yards and two field goals, while Auburn generated just 321 yards and seven points against the SEC's worst defense in Arkansas. Auburn averaged just 1.3 yards per rush, and LSU ran for just 42 yards against the Gators. A lot of what these Tigers are doing isn't working offensively, and it starts with quarterbacks. Timing is off, and execution is mediocre at best. Credit has to be given to both defenses they faced, but the way these teams are playing when they have the ball is just bad all around. LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger looks nothing like the quarterback who took the field to start the season, while Kiehl Frazier was eventually benched for Clint Moseley on Saturday.

3. Murray still has big-game problems: Coming into the season, Georgia's veteran quarterback had the stigma that he couldn't win the big game. That stigma will remain after the way he played in the Bulldogs' blowout loss to South Carolina. The SEC's most efficient quarterback left Williams-Brice Stadium after connecting on 11 of his 31 passes for 109 yards and an interception. He continues to be the only Georgia quarterback under Mark Richt who has yet to beat a top-10 team in his career. For as good as Murray has been, he struggles on the big stage, as his only wins over Top 25 teams came last year against No. 20 Auburn and No. 23 Georgia Tech. Murray never looked comfortable with all that South Carolina pressure bearing down on him, but he also pressed on a lot of throws, constantly missing receivers. The mental side of things continues to work against Murray on the big stage.

4. Alabama's real challenger is in the East: With what Florida and South Carolina did Saturday, it's become pretty obvious that those two teams are Alabama's biggest challengers. Neither has a very flashy offense, but in this league, the really good teams win with their defenses. Both have smothering defenses and when their offenses do get the ball, they're pretty efficient and balanced for the most part. Alabama's offense could have issues with both defenses. The Crimson Tide have to make it to the SEC championship if they want a chance to play one of these two teams, but with the way Alabama has been rolling and with LSU having major offensive problems, getting there might be inevitable. Keep an eye on Mississippi State as well. The Bulldogs are undefeated, and a win over Tennessee could make their matchup with Alabama a must-see game.

5. Texas A&M and Missouri couldn't be any further apart: We all assumed that Texas A&M would be the team struggling in its new home. With a lot of roster movement and a new coaching staff, the Aggies were supposed to be playing catch-up in their first season in the SEC. Missouri, which had a lot of vets coming back and was supposedly loaded with explosive offensive talent, was going to really compete in the SEC East. Well, after six weeks, Texas A&M has become the darling of the league with a 2-1 SEC record, and Mizzou is now 0-3 in league play. Texas A&M is winning with a flashy offense and superb quarterback play, while the Tigers are losing because they are getting outmuscled and outplayed and can't get consistent quarterback play. Mizzou now has to take on No. 1 Alabama, while the Aggies travel to Louisiana Tech before taking on LSU at home. A&M could really make things interesting with LSU.

Stifling pass rush sparks Arkansas

October, 6, 2012
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Even with a new quarterback, Auburn couldn't manage to find much semblance of an offense in its third SEC loss of the season.

Auburn coach Gene Chizik replaced starting quarterback Kiehl Frazier with backup Clint Moseley at halftime of the Tigers' 24-7 loss to Arkansas on Saturday. Frazier threw an interception and failed to register any points in another abysmal first half for the Auburn offense.

Moseley couldn't manage much better against an unstoppable Razorbacks pass rush, however. Arkansas came into the game allowing 40.6 points per game -- last in the SEC. That average will drop all the way down to 35 points after holding Auburn to one touchdown, largely thanks to a pass rush that generated a whopping eight sacks against a completely overmatched Auburn offensive line.

Even when the Tigers could keep their quarterbacks upright, they still committed five turnovers on the afternoon. Moseley fired two interceptions along with Frazier's one, and the Tigers coughed up a pair of fumbles.

Those horrific stats made a stop-and-start Arkansas performance look masterful by comparison. It looked like the Razorbacks would blow Auburn off the field early when they racked up 224 yards on the way to a 10-0 lead at halftime. But ugly miscues -- such as a missed 26-yard field goal and a muffed third-quarter punt -- allowed the Tigers to hang around and cut the lead as close as 10-7 at the end of the third quarter.

Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, who finished the day with 216 yards on 20-of-27 passing, led the Razorbacks into the Auburn red zone on his first drive of the fourth quarter. From there wide receiver Brandon Mitchell fired a 26-yard touchdown pass to fellow wideout Javontee Herndon on a trick play, putting Auburn in what proved to be an inescapable 10-point hole.

Arkansas running back Dennis Johnson carried the bulk of the ground game in place of starter Knile Davis, who did not appear to be injured. Johnson toted the rock 16 times for 70 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His second touchdown of the day put Arkansas up 24-7 with 8:20 to play.
Heading into the spring, the SEC had a few fun quarterback races to watch in both divisions. Some of those battles have come to an end, while a few still remain.

Let's take a look at each one from the spring and see where they currently stand:

AUBURN

The matchup: Sophomore Kiehl Frazier left the spring with the edge because he took most of the reps, as a sore shoulder sidelined junior Clint Moseley. This fall, freshman Jonathan Wallace entered the race and has continued to impress Auburn's staff.

The winner is: Frazier has the most athleticism and has felt much more comfortable throwing the ball with help from first-year offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. While coach Gene Chizik continues to say the race is even between Frazier and Moseley, who is still dealing with shoulder soreness, we'll go with Frazier because of overall talent. He can make more plays with his feet and if his arm really does improve, he could be a solid dual-threat QB in this league.

FLORIDA

The matchup: This two-horse race between Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel has been intense since the spring. Brissett has had a little bit of the edge because of his game experience last year, but Driskel has made tremendous strides under the direction of new offensive coordinator Brent Pease.

The winner is: Will Muschamp continues to say the race is dead even. Driskel's bruised shoulder didn't even complicate the race. It doesn't sound like anyone really knows who has outperformed the other, but the concensus is the team and the coaches can win with either. With that said, Brissett has more experience and we assume is completely healthy, so we'll go with him, but both should play in the opener.

KENTUCKY

The matchup: Sophomore Maxwell Smith took all of the first-team reps this spring, while senior Morgan Newton recovered from shoulder surgery. However, Newton returned to get back into the race this fall. Joining them this fall were freshmen Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow.

The winner is: Smith. Joker Phillips named Smith the starter on Monday, so this race has come to an end. The offense can now focus on running around Smith, who has been the most consistent of Kentucky's quarterbacks since the spring. This isn't a surprise.

OLE MISS

The matchup: Neither of Hugh Freeze's quarterbacks have proven much at all and have struggled with consistency since spring. Barry Brunetti was given the starting job at the beginning of last season, but lost it almost immediately, and Bo Wallace is fresh off a season in the junior college ranks. Wallace, however, did spend a year with Freeze at Arkansas State.

The winner is: Wallace seemed to have the edge for part of the spring, and then lost it as Brunetti got more comfortable with Freeze's offense. Both quarterbacks and Freeze felt things were very even heading into champ, but Wallace has had a much stronger champ. Both could end up playing in the opener, but we'll go with Wallace.

TEXAS A&M

The matchup: Sophomore Jameill Showers, who has the only game experience at quarter, and redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel were nearly neck-and-neck for most of the spring, but Showers seemed to pull away little toward the end. Sophomore Matt Joeckel and true freshman Matt Davis also competed this spring.

The winner is: Manziel. It seemed as though Showers had the edge in this one, but Manziel outplayed him during fall camp. After a solid outing during one of the Aggies' scrimmages, coach Kevin Sumlin decided to end the battle and give the starting job to Manziel.

VANDERBILT

The matchup: Jordan Rodgers replaced Larry Smith last season, but still showed inconsistency on the field at times. So, this spring, he had a battle on his hands with Wyoming transfer Austyn Carta-Samuels, who was the Mountain West's Freshman of the Year in 2009.

The winner: Rodgers. This was probably always his job to lose, and he didn't. He had a very good spring and fall camp. Rodgers said this summer that he felt way more comfortable with the people around him this spring and is poised to have a much better year this fall.

Shoulder pain still bothering Moseley

August, 9, 2012
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Auburn coach Gene Chizik’s only proclamation about his quarterback battle coming out of Wednesday’s scrimmage was that the Tigers’ quarterback play across the board was “too inconsistent.”

The biggest news was that junior Clint Moseley is still battling soreness in his right throwing shoulder and conceded Wednesday that he was throwing through pain. He underwent an MRI on his shoulder this summer, but nothing structurally wrong was discovered.

Moseley’s lingering shoulder issues likely make sophomore Kiehl Frazier the favorite, although Chizik wasn’t ready to go that far Wednesday.

Chizik said there simply hasn’t been enough separation to make a call.

One of the highlights of the scrimmage, which was closed to the media, was a 65-yard touchdown run by senior running back Onterio McCalebb.

Gurley stars in Georgia’s scrimmage

It sounds like freshman Todd Gurley may have taken the early lead in Georgia’s starting tailback race.

Gurley had 58 rushing yards on six carries, including a touchdown, in the Bulldogs’ first scrimmage on Wednesday. Ken Malcome had 32 yards on five carries.

Senior receiver Marlon Brown also showed up with six catches for 103 yards and two touchdowns.

Georgia coach Mark Richt said the first-team offense scored touchdowns on its first three drives and that the first-team defense didn’t allow but one first down on the first three drives.

True freshman John Theus was working with the first unit at right offensive tackle during the first series of the scrimmage.

High praise for Vols’ sophomore linebackers

Tennessee first-year defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri was around some outstanding linebackers during his three seasons on the Alabama staff, but he suggested Wednesday that sophomores A.J. Johnson and Curt Maggitt could be in a different class.

“Those two kids might be the finest young linebackers that I ever coached,” Sunseri said. “Their attitude, their work ethic, their toughness … I am really, really pleased with those two guys.”

Johnson was second on Tennessee’s team last season as a true freshman with 80 total tackles. Maggitt was fourth with 56.

Also, receiver Cordarrelle Patterson turned more than a few heads in the one-on-one goal-line work during Tennessee’s evening practice on Wednesday.

He’s such a big target and separates so well. The Vols can’t wait to see what the heralded junior college newcomer does in games, especially with opposing defenses also having to deal with Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers.

LSU opening up deep passing game

Whereas former LSU quarterbacks Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee shied away from throwing the ball down the field unless something was wide open, the new guy pulling the trigger for the Tigers has the tools and the license to let it fly this season.

Early on in preseason practice, LSU offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa said it’s been obvious that Zach Mettenberger is comfortable throwing some of those deeper routes in traffic.

“That kid, when he sits back there and (a deeper seam route) is called, he’s going to make that throw,” Studrawa said. “He’s going to zip that thing in there. He’s got the confidence to do it. That’s why (Russell Shepard) and those wideouts are excited. They’ve run those routes before, and if it’s not wide open, it wasn’t thrown.

“You run 50 yards down the field and not get the ball a few hundred times. That’s why they’re excited.”

Hogs being careful with Davis

Arkansas is still waiting to pick its spot as to when star running back Knile Davis will take part in full contact this preseason.

Davis, who missed all of last season after fracturing his ankle, didn’t participate in Tuesday’s scrimmage and also sat out Wednesday’s live tackling drills.

Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said it was an “ongoing conversation” on when the Hogs would get Davis some contact this preseason.
Aaron MurrayAP Photo/David GoldmanAaron Murray and the Georgia quarterbacks rank as the top position group in the SEC.
As we get closer and closer to the 2012 college football season, it's time for one of the blog's most popular items -- position rankings.

This is never easy. We go back and forth dozens of times before finding any sort of confidence in our lists. After checking with colleagues and people around the league, we come up with lists ranking each position and in the end someone gets upset. Someone has to be last and someone is always underrated or overrated.

Such is life.

The important factors for every position were great players, true game-changers, depth and experience. We also considered past performances, but we also had to think about possible projections for the upcoming season.

We’ll start with the quarterback position:

1. Georgia: Aaron Murray has thrown 59 touchdowns in his first two seasons and is on his way to breaking several school records. He has great toughness and mechanics, but needs to cut down on his 14 interceptions from a year ago. The staff is looking to redshirt Hutson Mason, but he might be the league's best quarterback insurance policy. He could be used if Murray suffers a serious injury. Freshmen Faton Bauta and Christian LeMay are both talented, but inexperienced.

2. Arkansas: Tyler Wilson is arguably the SEC’s best quarterback and probably would have been a first-rounder had he come out this past season. Junior Brandon Mitchell complements Wilson well with his running ability, but he'll be in an intense battle with redshirt freshman Brandon Allen, who is a stronger drop-back quarterback.

3. Tennessee: If Tyler Bray can stay healthy, he’s potentially a 3,000-yard, 30-touchdown guy. Justin Worley was thrown into the fire last season and gained some valuable experience, and the Vols also have high hopes for true freshman Nathan Peterman, who showed promise in the spring before dislocating his finger.

4. Alabama: If AJ McCarron picks up from 2011, he could contend to be the league's top quarterback. He has all the tools, but needs to keep making strides with his decision-making. Behind McCarron, Alabama doesn't have much experience with Phillip Sims transferring to Virginia. Next in line would probably be redshirt freshman Phillip Ely, but true freshman Alec Morris has turned heads in summer workouts.

5. Vanderbilt: Jordan Rodgers put a charge into the Commodores’ offense when he took over midway through last season. He’s a big-play quarterback, but needs to cut down on his turnovers. The other thing Vanderbilt has going for it is Austyn Carta-Samuels, who started for two seasons at Wyoming and rolled up nearly 2,100 yards in total offense in 2010. Plus, the staff is excited about early enrollee Patton Robinette, who is one of the top quarterback prospects to sign with Vandy in a while.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Spruce Derden/US PresswireNow that Missouri is in the SEC, James Franklin enters as one of the most versatile quarterbacks.
6. Missouri: James Franklin enjoyed a breakout season in 2011 and enters his first year in the SEC as the league’s best dual-threat quarterback. However, will he be all the way back after undergoing shoulder surgery in the spring? With Franklin out, redshirt freshman Corbin Berkstresser worked with the Tigers' first team this spring and performed well. Junior Ashton Glaser is in his fourth season, but has barely played.

7. South Carolina: Connor Shaw is hardly the biggest quarterback in the SEC and runs a lot, so that’s never an ideal situation. However, he improved greatly toward the end of last season and made strides this spring to use his arm more than his legs. The Gamecocks have barely any experience behind Shaw, as Dylan Thompson and Andrew Clifford battle for the No. 2 spot.

8. LSU: It's Zach Mettenberger time in Baton Rouge, as he takes over a unit that has struggled with consistency. He was a very talented high school player a few years ago and helped make LSU's offense much more pass-friendly this spring. While he's an obvious upgrade for the Tigers, he's still pretty unproven at this level. Behind him, there's no experience, as Jerrard Randall and Stephen Rivers both redshirted in 2011.

9. Auburn: The Tigers should have quite the quarterback battle on their hands. Clint Moseley returns with more experience under center, but he lost ground to Kiehl Frazier this spring because of shoulder soreness. Frazier was a run-first QB last year, but looked much more confident with his arm this spring with help from new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. Zeke Pike was a top QB prospect coming out of high school, but off-field issues sent him home for the summer.

10. Florida: Will Muschamp said following spring practice that he felt like he had two quarterbacks he could win with. Nonetheless, he wasn’t ready to name either Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel the starter. Both struggled for the most part last year, but both were very talented high school prospects and each could excel with more experience. The reality is that both will end up playing this season.

11. Mississippi State: Dan Mullen said this spring that he was very pleased with how Tyler Russell performed this spring, but Russell has had consistency issues in the past. The hope is that now that Russell knows he's the starter, he'll be more comfortable on the field. However, Mississippi State only has one other scholarship quarterback on its roster: redshirt freshman Dak Prescott. Quarterbacks Dylan Favre and Nick Schuessler both transferred.

12. Kentucky: Maxwell Smith was far from perfect last year, but he took advantage of his time on the field. After replacing the injured Morgan Newton late in 2011, Smith was named to the SEC's All-Freshmen team. He also seemed to improve this spring with Newton watching and rehabbing. Newton's time as a starter could be over, but both will be pushed by incoming freshman Patrick Towles, who might be more physically gifted than the two ahead of him.

13. Texas A&M: Kevin Sumlin is working with a ton of inexperience at quarterback. Sophomore Jameill Showers has the edge, but he’s thrown all of five career passes. Things got even foggier for the Aggies when backup Johnny Manziel was arrested in late June and charged with disorderly conduct by fighting, failure to identify and having a fake driver's license. That leaves sophomore Matt Joeckel and true freshman Matt Davis with the chance to catch Showers.

14. Ole Miss: It looked like Bo Wallace would come in and snatch the starting job, but as spring went on Barry Brunetti played himself into a tie with Wallace. But Brunetti was the starter coming out of last spring and played in just five games last fall. Randall Mackey moved from quarterback to wide receiver, while Zack Stoudt left the team in June, so there is very little experience at the quarterback position in Oxford.

SEC post-spring power rankings

May, 18, 2012
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We're putting spring behind us and looking toward the fall with our post-spring power rankings:

1. LSU: The Tigers had one of the best springs around. Things were quiet off the field, and the offense rallied behind quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Coach Les Miles was very impressed with Mettenberger's play and maturity, and expects LSU's offense to be more balanced with him under center. LSU can still use four or five running backs, as well. Defensively, the Tigers are stacked once again, especially up front with two potential first-rounders in ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo. Questions surround the inexperienced linebackers, but Kevin Minter had a tremendous spring in the middle. On paper, LSU is equipped with the talent to make another title run, and gets Alabama at home this year.

2. Alabama: While the defending national champs saw a lot of "new" faces on defense this spring, coach Nick Saban left happy with where his players were -- but not satisfied. There is still work to be done, especially in the secondary, where the Tide must replace three starters. Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw are gone at linebacker, but the coaches were impressed with how Nico Johnson, C.J. Mosley and Adrian Hubbard played this spring. Some think Hubbard, a redshirt sophomore, could be Bama's top pass-rusher. Offensively, quarterback AJ McCarron is back, more mature and surrounded by a very veteran line. He has a group of younger receivers to throw to, but has at least four quality running backs. Alabama's road to repeating is tougher, with games at Arkansas and LSU.

3. South Carolina: A healthy Marcus Lattimore (knee) at RB makes South Carolina an even better contender for the SEC East crown. His status is uncertain, but the pieces around him are pretty impressive. Quarterback Connor Shaw had an impressive spring, and looks ready to be the passer coach Steve Spurrier wants him to be. The defense is once again stacked, especially up front with ends Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor. There are questions in the secondary, with two new, young starters in Victor Hampton (cornerback) and Brison Williams (safety), while senior Akeem Auguste returns after missing last season with a foot injury. Still, Spurrier is chirping about his SEC counterparts, so you know he thinks he's got a good team this year.

4. Georgia: The Bulldogs should be higher on this list, but when you take into account the suspensions of four defensive starters at the beginning of the season, they slide a little. Georgia returns nine defensive starters, including one of the nation's best linebackers in Jarvis Jones, and some firepower on offense, led by veteran quarterback Aaron Murray, who could get some early Heisman love. It also sounds like enigmatic running back Isaiah Crowell is slowly turning things around. Yet again, the Bulldogs have a favorable SEC schedule, with no games against Alabama, Arkansas or LSU, so their road to the SEC championship is easier than South Carolina's, but keep an eye on that inexperienced offensive line.

5. Arkansas: If not for Bobby Petrino's embarrassing dismissal, the Razorbacks might be ranked higher. Offensively, it doesn't get much better than what Arkansas has. Tyler Wilson returns as arguably the league's best quarterback, and he'll get to work with one of the most complete backs around, Knile Davis, who is returning from a devastating ankle injury. An older and more improved offensive line returns, and so does a talented receiving corps led by Cobi Hamilton. But there are questions. How effective will interim coach John L. Smith be, especially if something goes wrong? Will Marquel Wade's suspension leak into the fall after his spring arrest? And will the defense improve and be more aggressive under new coordinator Paul Haynes? The good news is that Alabama and LSU play in Fayetteville this fall.

6. Florida: The chemistry is much better in Gainesville. Florida returns 10 starters from a defense that ranked eighth nationally in 2011. Matt Elam looks like a budding star at safety, and Florida's linebacking group is solid. Buck/defensive end Ronald Powell could be out after tearing his ACL this spring, but coach Will Muschamp recently said Powell is off crutches. Stud defensive tackle Dominique Easley is also walking fine after tearing his ACL in last year's season finale. The Gators have their third offensive coordinator in three years, and unproven sophomore quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel are still battling. Florida has unproven running backs and receivers, but the offensive line toughened up tremendously.

7. Auburn: The Tigers welcomed two new coordinators, Scot Loeffler and Brian VanGorder, this spring, and by all accounts players were very receptive. Coach Gene Chizik is still dealing with a lot of youth, as close to 70 percent of his roster is made up of underclassmen. One of those underclassmen is quarterback Kiehl Frazier, who made strides as a passer this spring and seems to have the edge in the quarterback race with Clint Moseley, who missed some of the spring with a sore shoulder. The defensive line will be the team's strength, with end Dee Ford exploding this spring and Corey Lemonier returning. There is a lot of depth up front on defense, which will go a long way for the Tigers.

8. Missouri: Coach Gary Pinkel and his players have made it clear they aren't intimidated by the move to the SEC. These new Tigers return solid offensive firepower, but there has to be some concern about quarterback James Franklin, who missed most of the spring after having surgery on his throwing shoulder. Plus, Mizzou's backup QB could miss games this fall after his recent arrest, so the Tigers' offensive success will be riding on Franklin's health. The Tigers are replacing a few starters on both lines, but feel confident about both areas. Mizzou will face a Georgia team down a few defensive players in Week 2, but must travel to South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M.

9. Tennessee: A lot is different in Knoxville, as the Vols welcomed seven new assistant coaches. Coach Derek Dooley insists the changes were for the best, but there's still going to be some adjusting to do this fall. The good news is that Tennessee returns a lot on both sides of the ball, starting with quarterback Tyler Bray and receivers Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers. A healthy trio there makes Tennessee's passing game one of the best in the league. Questions remain on the offensive line and at running back, but improvements were made this spring. New defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri would like to run more 3-4 this fall, but players aren't totally comfortable, leaving some concerns.

10. Mississippi State: Quarterback Tyler Russell finally looks ready to take over as the guy in Starkville, and he'll have a veteran receiving corps to work with. However, that group still has a lot to prove, especially senior Chad Bumphis. The running game looks solid with LaDarius Perkins and Nick Griffin, and the offensive line got help from the junior college ranks. Defensively, there are a few holes to fill up front and in the secondary, but Johnthan Banks and Corey Broomfield are a solid cornerback tandem and linebacker is set with a few vets back, including stud Cameron Lawrence. Junior college defensive end Denico Autry has to perform early to help a line with a couple of holes.

11. Texas A&M: The Aggies have some holes to fill this year, but the offensive line will be a strength. Left tackle Luke Joeckel, a future first-rounder, leads a line that returns four starters. Star wide receiver Ryan Swope is back, and running back Christine Michael should be healthy (knee) this fall, but quarterback is an issue. Sophomore Jameill Showers has the edge right now, but like all of his competitors, he lacks experience. The defense will lean on linebackers Sean Porter, Steven Jenkins, Jonathan Stewart and converted end Damontre Moore, but the secondary has depth and experience issues, and the team will still be adjusting to a new staff led by coach Kevin Sumlin.

12. Vanderbilt: There is some solid offensive talent in Nashville, starting with running back Zac Stacy and receivers Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd, but coach James Franklin is still waiting for quarterback Jordan Rodgers to be more consistent. The offensive line is very thin and could barely get through spring. The defense must replace a handful of starters and leaders, but Franklin felt better about guys like linebacker Chase Garnham, defensive end Walker May and cornerback Trey Wilson. Vandy's schedule will be tough this fall, and if that offensive line doesn't hold up, getting back to a bowl will be tough.

13. Kentucky: Coach Joker Phillips was pleased with how spring practice ended, especially when it came to finding offensive playmakers, like receivers Demarco Robinson and Daryl Collins. Quarterback Maxwell Smith had a solid spring, but struggled during the spring game, meaning the battle with Morgan Newton and freshman Patrick Towles should go into the fall. The offensive line is still trying to get by after losing three starters, and the Wildcats must replace six starters at linebacker and in the secondary. Given the Wildcats' schedule, they will need to sweep their nonconference games to be in bowl shape.

14. Ole Miss: The arrival of coach Hugh Freeze brought a lot of positive change to Ole Miss, especially off the field, but there are still a lot of concerns. There are depth issues at just about every position, especially running back and defensive tackle. Even one of the most experienced groups, the offensive line, has struggled mightily with picking up Freeze's spread offense and is the team's biggest weakness. Academic issues are also worrying Ole Miss' staff, and top running back Jeff Scott and cornerback/receiver Nickolas Brassell are in that group. Quarterback is still up for grabs, but progress was made on defense, especially in the secondary.


The maturation of Auburn’s football team could clearly be seen on a first-and-goal late in last season's Chick-fil-A Bowl.

The Tigers were sitting at the 4-yard line, only steps from scoring, but there wasn’t any urgency. There wasn’t any desire to take those few steps because the game was well in hand. So instead of shooting for 50 points, Auburn knelt on the ball twice to run the clock out.

Moments later, Auburn was celebrating its 43-24 thrashing of Virginia without starting quarterback Clint Moseley or starting running back Michael Dyer.

[+] EnlargeGene Chizik
Joshua S. Kelly/US PresswireGene Chizik has been impressed with his team's maturity heading into the 2012 season.
The team buried in youth and inexperience for most of the season looked like a group vets with its composure and dominance.

The squad that left the Georgia Dome that night was a much better representation of the Tigers than any prior last season, and coach Gene Chizik said that New Year’s Eve win propelled this team into the offseason.

“There’s a lot of value in playing in a bowl game and winning it,” Chizik said.

That value has come in the form of a more competitive and faster spring on the Plains. Even with the addition of two new coordinators in Scot Loeffler and Brian VanGorder, Chizik said this team was further ahead as far as maturation and development within the schemes than last spring‘s group.

“It’s been a really productive offseason,“ Chizik said. “We know that we’ve got a long way to go, but I think our kids understand that our future here is very bright and the foundation has been laid and will continue to work in that direction. Everybody’s very upbeat, very positive and understanding that there’s an urgency to be a better football team than we were the previous year.

“We’re excited about it and our kids are, too.”

One side of the ball that made a lot of progress was the offense. Auburn’s players were entrenched in a spread style with Gus Malzahn running the show, but with Loeffler in town, the Tigers have added more pro-style sets. The good thing, Chizik said, is that Loeffler has a background in both styles, which made it easier for players to adapt this spring.

Loeffler would rather run more of a pro-style offense, but he isn’t na´ve. He knows what his talent can do, and while Chizik wouldn’t exactly give the blueprint for Auburn’s offense, he did hint that there could be elements of both styles this fall.

“We’re going to come up with our own package and our own identity,“ he said. “We’re going to try and get good at just a few things, but we have certainly moved forward in terms of finding out exactly what we can and can’t do this spring; no question about it.”

Another thing that isn’t totally clear is who will throw the ball for the Tigers this fall. Moseley, who started the last six games of the season, was sidelined for most of the spring with a sore shoulder, while rising sophomore Kiehl Frazier, who was used more for running situations last year, took a bit of a lead.

Frazier fits more of a spread style, but Loeffler’s teaching really helped him develop more of his game, especially as a passer, this spring.

“I don’t think that there’s any question about it; he certainly improved in a lot of aspects this spring,” Chizik said. “He had a lot of opportunities. He’s maturing as a quarterback, but he’s learning a lot. He’s still a young 19-year-old kid that has a lot in front of him, but we’re asking a lot of him. I thought he handled it very well.

“His best days are certainly ahead of him, but he made a lot of strides this spring.”

And Chizik thinks the best days are ahead for his entire team. Offensively and defensively, this team will still be young, as close to 70 percent of Auburn’s scholarship players will be underclassmen, but Chizik said the level of maturity this year doesn’t resemble a group of underclassmen.

Development still has a ways to go, Chizik said, but the want to improve and win is exactly where he wants it.

“As long as you have young, eager guys that are wanting to succeed and wanting to better themselves,“ he said, “I think you always got a great chance to have a successful year.”

Post-signing day SEC Power Rankings

February, 6, 2012
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Now that national signing day is out of the way, we're going to take another look at our SEC power rankings.

You won't see any change really, but we have more confidence in some teams now than we did before:

1. Alabama: The Crimson Tide hauled in the nation's No. 1 recruiting class last week and not only did Nick Saban sign a handful of top-rated players, but he met all of Alabama's major needs with the 2012 class. There are a few freshmen who could make early impacts in Tuscaloosa, including athlete Eddie Williams (Panama City, Fla./Arnold), and wide receivers Chris Black (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) and Amari Cooper (Miami/Miami Northwestern).

2. LSU: The Tigers' class wasn't as highly rated as some recent ones, but Les Miles and his coaches brought in a solid group and there are a few defense players who might see some playing time early. Three starting linebackers need to be replaced and a few freshmen will get their chances. While LSU lost Torshiro Davis (Shreveport, La./Woodlawn) flipped to Texas, the Tigers brought in ESPNU 150 linebackers Kwon Alexander (Oxford, Ala.) and Ronnie Feist (Edgard, La./West Saint John).

3. Georgia: The Bulldogs needed to get bigger up front and add a couple of playmaking linebackers. Georgia did just that with the handful of athletic defensive linemen signed and grabbed top outside linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons (Valdosta, Ga./Lowndes), who should thrive in Todd Grantham's 3-4. Georgia's offense could be even better this fall with Keith Marshall (Raleigh, N.C./Millbrook) helping Isaiah Crowell, and the wide receiver depth returning.

4. South Carolina: Talk about underrated. South Carolina didn't make much noise at all on national signing day, but the Gamecocks brought in a very balanced class and have a few players who should contribute early to a team that will yet again compete for the SEC East title. Two freshmen to keep an eye on in 2012 are wide receiver Shaq Roland (Lexington, S.C.) and safety Chaz Elder (College Park, Ga./Benjamin E. Banneker).

5. Arkansas: It seemed like the Razorbacks were headed for a very strong finish to their 2012 recruiting class, but watched as top receiver Dorial Green-Beckham (Springfield, Mo./Hillcrest) and four-star offensive tackle Jordan Diamond (Chicago/Simeon) committed elsewhere. However, Arkansas is still waiting on top athlete Davonte Neal (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral) and signed some pretty talented wide receivers to add to that high-flying offense. Defensive depth was a need and Arkansas added six defensive linemen and snatched Tennessee linebacker commit Otha Peters (Covington, La./Covington) late.

6. Auburn: Before Auburn could complete its recruiting class, it had to find someone to run its offense. The Tigers lured Scot Loeffler away from Temple, getting a coach who knows a thing about teaching quarterbacks. Clint Moseley and Kiehl Frazier should be ecstatic. The loss of Michael Dyer hurts, but Auburn has a stable of running backs to work with and signed one of the best offensive line classes around. Also, athlete Ricardo Louis (Miami Beach, Fla/Miami Beach Senior) could be a real playmaker at wide receiver.

7. Florida: Will Muschamp wanted his team to get tougher and he took a step in the right direction by hitting the line of scrimmage hard in his first full recruiting class. He also got a big back in Matt Jones (Seffner, Fla./Armwood) and having D.J. Humphries (Charlotte, N.C./Mallard Creek) in early should really help the offensive line. Florida is also waiting for a potential receiving threat in Stefon Diggs (Olney, Md./Our Lady of Good Counsel). Muschamp feels better about this team's attitude and expects a more resilient squad in 2012.

8. Missouri: These Tigers could come in and frustrate some of its new SEC East family with the depth it returns. No one is quite sure if top running back Henry Josey will return in 2012 after a major knee injury, but the Tigers added a very complete back in Morgan Steward (Kansas City, Mo./Staley), who could compete for playing time early. But Missouri took home the biggest national signing day prize when Green-Beckham picked Missouri. Mizzou lacked a big-play receiving threat until now.

9. Tennessee: There is a lot of talent returning in Knoxville and the Vols added some quality depth with its 2012 recruiting class. Tennessee took a hit when top inside linebacker Dalton Santos (Van, Texas) flipped to Texas and needed to add a big-time running back to help that offense, but grabbing junior college wide receiver Cordarrelle Paterson (Rock Hill, S.C./Hutchinson Community College) was big. He'll add to an already solid receiving tandem and could provide more leadership. Tyler Bray should have a fun offseason.

10. Texas A&M: The Aggies lose a lot heading into their first season as a part of the SEC Western Division, but helped the future by signing a top-25 class. Running back Trey Williams (Houston/Andy Dekaney) could provide an early spark for the offense with Cyrus Gray leaving. The receivers got some needed help with the signing of No. 3 receiver Thomas Johnson of Dallas, and outside linebacker Jordan Richmond (Denton, Texas/Billy Ryan) should see early playing time as well.

11. Vanderbilt: James Franklin's first full class at Vanderbilt was a total success. He showed that he won't just compete on the field with the SEC big boys but he'll recruit with them too. He beat out a few bigger schools for ESPNU 150 athlete Brian Kimbrow (Memphis, Tenn./East) and the Commodores added a lot of bigger bodies up front and at linebacker. Vandy's veterans shouldn't have an issue mingling with this solid recruiting class.

12. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs will head into the spring looking to jump start their offense. There is a lot of depth and three senior starters returning at wide receiver, but some oomph needs to return to this offense. It's officially Tyler Russell's time at QB and LaDarius Perkins and Nick Griffin could be a powerful one-two running back punch. Where Mississippi State really struck gold in recruiting was up front, where the Bulldogs added three top defensive linemen, including No. 13 tackle Quay Evans (Morton, Miss.).

13. Kentucky: The Wildcats need playmakers on offense and having running back Josh Clemons come back at full health this year, will go a long way. But Kentucky desperately needed to add more with its 2012 recruiting class. The Wildcats are hoping dual-threat quarterback Patrick Towles (Fort Thomas, Ky./Highlands) can help in that department. Kentucky won't get anywhere without developing the talent already on campus and that's most important at this point.

14. Ole Miss: Hugh Freeze had some defensive success in his first recruiting class as the Rebels' head coach. There is a good foundation with ESPNU 150 defensive tackle Issac Gross of Batesville, Miss., and ESPNU 150 defensive end Channing Ward of Aberdeen, Miss., and the secondary got a boost when safety Trae Elston (Oxford, Ala.) picked Ole Miss over LSU. Now, Freeze turns his attention to players a part of a two-win 2011 season. Generating discipline and finding leaders are key for a program glued to the bottom of the SEC.
Auburn's coordinator search is finally over.

The school announced Sunday night that former Temple offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler has been hired to replace Gus Malzahn as the Tigers' offensive coordinator. Malzahn left after the Chick-fil-A Bowl to become the head coach at Arkansas State.

[+] EnlargeScot Loeffler
AP Photo/Temple Athletics Joseph V. LabolitoFormer Temple offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler will take his system to Auburn next season.
Loeffler brings 14 years of coaching experience on the collegiate and NFL levels to Auburn's coaching staff. While directing Temple's offense in 2011, the Owls' offense ranked seventh nationally in rushing (256.5 yards per game) and 39th in scoring (30.6).

While Temple excelled at running the ball under Loeffler's guidance, he does have a lot of experience working with quarterbacks that have gone on to play in the NFL, including Tom Brady, Tim Tebow, Brian Griese, Chad Henne, Drew Henson and John Navarre.

“Scot is a rising star who has worked with some very good quarterbacks, and has achieved a tremendous amount of success,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “He is a tireless worker, is an outstanding recruiter and knows the rigors of competing in this conference. We’re very excited to have Scot join our staff, and we welcome him to the Auburn family.”

Loeffler, who is a Michigan graduate, gained experience in the SEC while serving as Florida's quarterbacks coach in 2009 and 2010. In 2009, Florida's quarterbacks, headed by former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, led the nation in passing efficiency (167.3) and passed for 3,305 yards, 28 touchdowns and five interceptions. Florida also ranked second in the SEC in passing offense (236.1).

I interacted with Loeffler a few times during his two years at Florida, and he certainly seemed like a man who knows what he was talking about. He probably has more pro-style ideals when it comes to running an offense, so this might be his chance to get out of the spread mindset that he's had since his time with the Gators.

He'll also have the job of improving Auburn's quarterback play. The Tigers were wildly inconsistent at the position last season, and finished the season ranking 100th nationally in total offense (337.8). Seven-game starter Barrett Trotter, who graduated, decided not to return to Auburn, leaving Loeffler with rising junior Clint Moseley and rising sophomore Kiehl Frazier as the only quarterbacks with any experience.

Moseley took over for Trotter midway through the season, but struggled to get the Tigers' offense going, passing for 800 yards and five touchdowns, with three interceptions. Frazier came in more for running situations throughout the season and only attempted 12 passes, tossing two interceptions in the process.

Loeffler will also be without star running back Michael Dyer, who left with Malzahn for Arkansas State, but Auburn does have a lot of young talent to work with. If Loeffler is making the switch to a more pro-style offense, there will no doubt be some hiccups along the way, but those are common with coaching changes. Implementing the system he wants should be his first priority.

“Auburn is one of the special jobs and special places in college athletics, with a tremendous amount of history and tradition. It’s an honor to be joining coach Chizik’s staff, and I’m very appreciative of this opportunity," Loeffler said.

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