NCF Nation: Da\'Rick Rogers
ATLANTA -- By the time the first quarter finally came to an end Friday night, Derek Dooley thought it was halftime.
The quarter, which lasted more than an hour and a half, was that long and that exhausting for Tennessee’s coach.
That type of fatigue from a coach usually means his team is just as tired, or worse. But not Friday.
For a team that could barely make it through a full game in 2011, Tennessee pushed through like Dooley had never seen, and the Vols cruised to a 35-21 victory over NC State in Game 1 of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff inside the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
A first quarter such as Friday’s would have sent last season’s Vols into rollover mode, but this team was different. After jumping ahead 22-7 in the first quarter, Tennessee was able to hold on to and build on its lead in front of the announced crowd of 55,529.
Even when the mistakes came and NC State cut Tennessee’s lead to eight before halftime, the Vols rallied to control the second half, thanks to some grit and some much-needed depth.
“That was a good step for our team,” Dooley said. “I said this at the beginning of the year: We’re going to have to learn how to grit through four quarters of football. We’re going to be in a lot of games this year, and that was a good start. I was proud of them.”
The first quarter was full of explosive plays from the Vols and featured a stretch in which they scored 16 points in 38 seconds. But the second was sloppy. NC State rushed back with a 67-yard touchdown drive, while Tennessee punted twice and saw its final drive end with quarterback Tyler Bray fumbling at the goal line on a quarterback sneak.
You could feel the momentum shift as both teams went into the locker rooms, but Tennessee adjusted, physically and mentally.
The staff rotated bodies all night to keep guys fresh, and it showed in the second half. The offensive line saw seven to maybe eight players get in. Three running backs played, with third-teamer Marlin Lane leading all ball carriers with 75 yards, including a long of 42, on nine attempts.
Tennessee threw as many defenders as it could out on the field, not just to keep guys fresh but because it had the bodies and talent to do it. For once in Dooley’s Tennessee life, depth wasn’t an issue, and it powered the Vols in the second half.
“Playing for 60 minutes was a problem that we used to have in the past,” said Hunter, who caught a game-high nine passes and had 73 receiving yards. “For us to come out here in a big environment and play for 60 minutes like this, I think we did great.”
Just look at third downs. Tennessee was 3-of-9 on them in the first half but was 6-of-10 in the second. That’s how you win games and that’s how you tire out opponents.
“Rotating running backs, linemen and receivers is going to keep fresh legs,” Lane said. “With this fast-paced offense, we’re going to keep wearing defenses down. With fresh legs on the field and a tired defense, it’s going to be [some] pretty great offensive drives that we can sustain.”
It also helps when you have a thoroughbred alongside Hunter at receiver. Junior-college transfer Cordarrelle Patterson more than made up for the loss of Da’Rick Rogers by having a true breakout game. He absolutely burned All-American corner David Amerson on a bump-and-go for his first touchdown -- a 41-yarder -- and shook/sprinted past the entire Wolfpack defense on a 67-yard touchdown run.
He finished the night with 165 total yards and two touchdowns on eight touches. Quite the opening night for someone Dooley didn’t think totally grasped the playbook.
“I’m not sure he ran the right route,” Dooley said. “That’s the beauty of Bray: He don’t care; he’s gonna let it fly. That pretty much summed it up. Run the wrong route, Bray rewards him, touchdown.”
But somehow he found a way, just like the rest of Dooley’s football team Friday. And when Patterson was shut down in the second half, the Vols tried to grind it out or Bray found other targets. There always seemed to be options.
The defense did its job by abusing the Wolfpack up front, with its revamped -- and much more intimidating -- image. As the Vols pressed, NC State quarterback Mike Glennon flinched and threw his way to three second-half interceptions.
It seemed like every other play, someone else -- starter or not -- was making a big play on defense for the Vols.
Tennessee wasn’t perfect but it was solid. Now, it’s time to build off Friday’s transformation.
“It’s one game,” Dooley said. “All that matters is we’re 1-0. We have to go clean up a ton of mistakes and go on to the next week and get focused on the next week. It really doesn’t mean anything other than we won the first game.”
We’re just about ready to get things started here at the first game of this weekend’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff, with Tennessee taking on NC State inside the Georgia Dome.
This should be one of the more exciting games of the first weekend, especially with the matchup between Tennessee’s passing game and the Wolfpack’s secondary. The interesting storyline is that both groups are down solid players.
Da’Rick Rogers has made his exit from Tennessee’s football team, while NC State cornerback C.J. Wilson, who has started 29 games in his career, is dealing with an NCAA eligibility issue.
The good news for the Wolfpack is that junior cornerback Dontae Johnson had already beaten out Wilson before he was ruled out of Friday night's game.
Oh, and cornerback David Amerson, who led the ACC in interceptions last year, is still around for NC State, and he might be a future first-round pick.
It’s not like the Vols are down and out at wide receiver without Rogers, who led the SEC in receptions (67) last year and was second in receiving yards (1,040). Justin Hunter is back after his ACL injury that he suffered early last season. At 100 percent, he might be the SEC’s top deep threat. Helping him will be junior college transfer Cordarrelle Patterson, who received a boatload of hype heading into fall camp.
Highlight reels show that Tennessee should be fine in the passing game, especially with quarterback Tyler Bray slinging the ball, but coach Derek Dooley’s still a little worried. He expects Hunter to be a bit rusty in his return and isn’t sure if Patterson will have the breakout performance fans are banking on against NC State’s talented secondary.
“I’m very concerned because we have very little experience and they’ve got a lot of experience,” Dooley said earlier this week. “What those guys do best is they make you pay for any mistakes, whether it’s a poor route, whether it’s an inaccurate football, a bobbled ball. Whatever it is, they’re going to make you pay.”
Bray’s natural ability will play a big part in helping limit the mistakes. He’s got all the skill to make his guys look good, but he’s had issues with the mental part of the game in the past.
Both teams are trying to prove that they can compete in their respective conferences. Tonight we’ll get a glimpse of things to come for both squads.
After hundreds of days of having to watch and follow inferior sports, take up new hobbies and do extra cute things with your better half just to pass the time, we are finally here.
It's college football season, again! The helmets are perfectly shined. The jerseys are hung so neatly and ironed so sweetly. You've gone to the store in advance to prep for the artery-bursting feast that awaits this weekend. Some are even lucky enough to be tailgating as we speak!
Cue up the bands, the grills and the fryers and the big-screen TVs. It's football season, and here's what to watch in the SEC this week:
2. Quarterback battles: Florida and Ole Miss still don’t know who their starting quarterbacks will be. Florida coach Will Muschamp said Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel will alternate quarters to start Saturday’s game, while Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze anticipates playing both Bo Wallace and Barry Brunetti in the opener. This could be the final round of competition at both schools.
3. Questionable offensive lines: So many offensive lines have questions entering the fall. Keep an eye on Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. Auburn and Georgia are working in a few new parts, while Florida is hoping most of the parts from last year’s line have improved. Mizzou has all sorts of injury issues and Kentucky, Ole Miss and Vandy are just hoping to stay healthy because depth is an issue for all three.
4. More passing yards: Last year, SEC quarterbacks were laughed at. It seems like that won’t be the case in 2012. Aaron Murray, AJ McCarron, Tyler Bray and Tyler Wilson could all throw for 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns, while Missouri’s James Franklin has arguably the best pass-run ability in the league. Vanderbilt’s Jordan Rodgers is a year older and wiser, while Zach Mettenberger is a major upgrade for LSU. If Connor Shaw learns to be more of a pass-first player, he could have a big year.
5. Athletic multitasking: Two players to keep both eyes on this weekend are Georgia’s Malcolm Mitchell and Ole Miss’ Randall Mackey. Mitchell will start at cornerback, but Mark Richt would like to play him at wide receiver and possibly have him return punts and kickoffs. He certainly is talented enough to do it, but I hope he gets a lot of sleep and loads up on 5-hour Energy. Mackey will start at running back, but since he’s played both quarterback and receiver for the Rebels, his coaches would like to move him around some. Expect him to line up out wide and as a Wildcat quarterback against Central Arkansas.
6. First days on the job: There will be a lot of debuts this weekend. Freeze will coach his first game at Ole Miss, Mettenberger takes over as LSU’s quarterback and Kiehl Frazier makes his first start at quarterback for Auburn. Freeze isn’t sure what he’ll see, but he’s looking to bring the Rebels’ fan base some much-needed excitement. Mettenberger has bided his time at both Georgia and LSU, but is finally the man. And Frazier can now call Auburn his team. He gets a very suspect defense in Clemson to start.
7. Alabama’s defense: There’s no question that Alabama lost a lot of talent from last year’s historic defense, but the thought is that the Tide will do more reloading than rebuilding. It will get a good first test against Michigan’s high-flying spread offense led by potential Heisman candidate in quarterback Denard Robinson. Nick Saban is still looking for key leaders to emerge, and he thinks he’ll finally find them come Saturday’s game. The key for this defense is getting out faster than it did when it was in a similar situation in 2010.
8. Tennessee’s passing game vs. NC State’s pass defense: Derek Dooley entered the season with a potent passing game, but the loss of Da’Rick Rogers suddenly makes that receiving depth not so attractive. Justin Hunter might be a little rusty and he’ll have a matchup with another potential first-rounder in corner David Amerson. We don’t know what Cordarrelle Patterson will do and he’ll battle Dontae Johnson, who beat out the talented C.J. Johnson before he was ruled ineligible. Dooley said he’s “very concerned” about his receivers, and this battle could determine Friday’s outcome.
9. Vanderbilt’s swagger: Thursday night is a chance for Vandy to make a strong statement to the rest of the SEC. Some are questioning if Vandy will build off of last year’s rebound or revert back to its old ways. The Dores don’t have to beat South Carolina, but they do have to show that same confidence they had last year and that they won’t back down.
10. Possible suspensions: It wouldn’t be opening day without some sort of controversy. Georgia starters Bacarri Rambo and Alec Ogletree both reportedly failed drug tests this spring, and suspensions were expected. But Richt has been very quiet about it and has told everyone to wait until Saturday. Can’t wait …
We are just days away from the college football season, so it's time to unveil our first batch of power rankings for the regular season.
A lot goes into our power rankings. It isn't just about how strong teams are right now. We look into our crystal ball as well to get a good read on how each team will finish the season -- before it has even started.
For each school, we look at talent coming back, coaching, roster changes, how teams have looked in practice now compared to the spring and uniform style. Well, maybe not that last part, but you get the point.
Here are our season-opening SEC power rankings for 2012:
1. LSU: The gap between the Tigers and Alabama got a lot smaller after Tyrann Mathieu's dismissal, so this could be viewed as 1A and 1B. Mathieu is a big loss for LSU on defense and special teams, but there is just way too much talent for this team not to make another title run. LSU's offense still has one of the best/deepest running games around and gets an upgrade with quarterback Zach Mettenberger. LSU also might have the best offensive line/defensive line combo in the nation.
2. Alabama: The defending champs lost a lot of star power on defense, but that unit should still be pretty darn good this fall. There could be some growing pains at times, but the Tide should still have one of the league's best defensive units this fall. The offense might be better and more balanced this fall, even without Trent Richardson. There is a good stable of backs, the nation's top offensive line and quarterback AJ McCarron has a little more explosiveness and athleticism to work with at receiver.
3. Arkansas: Bobby Petrino is gone, and that could be tough for the Razorbacks to overcome in the long run, but the team has bought in to what interim coach John L. Smith is saying. We still need to see how this team -- and Smith -- acts when adversity enters the picture. The offense has two of the league's best in quarterback Tyler Wilson and running back Knile Davis, who is back from a serious ankle injury. Wilson lost three NFL receivers, but his receiving corps doesn't lack talent. Questions still surround the defense, which lacked depth last season.
4. Georgia: A load of talent returns on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Aaron Murray could be a Heisman candidate, while linebacker Jarvis Jones might be one the country's best players, regardless of position. Isaiah Crowell is gone, but the Bulldogs seem happy with their stable of running backs and were probably going to run by committee again this season anyway. The defense will take a hit with a couple of key stars suspended to start the year, but this group has elite status. The schedule is set up again for a run to Atlanta.
5. South Carolina: The Gamecocks return a filthy defense headlined by sophomore defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. The defensive line should be one of the best in the league with Clowney and Devin Taylor on the ends and Kelcy Quarles coming back in the middle. The secondary has issues, especially with Akeem Auguste going down, but safety D.J. Swearinger and hybrid safety/linebacker DeVonte Holloman are studs. Marcus Lattimore is one of the nation's best, and he appears to be 100 percent after his ACL injury. The hope is that quarterback Connor Shaw will help take some pressure off of him.
6. Florida: The Gators return a fierce defense that should be strong across the board. End/tackle Dominique Easley is coming off an ACL injury, but has the ability to be one of the top linemen in this league. But for Will Muschamp, his second-year success will be determined by what the offense can do. Questions are everywhere, starting with a quarterback battle that isn't close to being settled. There are unproven pieces at receiver and the offensive line, which returns most of last year's parts, struggled mightily in 2011.
7. Tennessee: The Vols have a chance to challenge Arkansas for the league's best passing game. Tyler Bray can throw it all around a bit and has two potential stars in Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson to throw to. However, Da'Rick Rogers is gone, which means the pressure is on Hunter, who is coming off an ACL injury, and Patterson, who is in from the juco ranks. The defense has a lot of experience and talent, but four new coaches are on board, including defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri. Seven new coaches are in Knoxville, and it's no secret that Derek Dooley's seat is very hot there.
8. Mississippi State: There is a lot of confidence in quarterback Tyler Russell, who can finally call this team his. He'll have quite a bit of experienced weapons to throw to, including seniors Chad Bumphis, Arceto Clark and Chris Smith, who have combined to catch 221 passes for 2,782 yards and 22 touchdowns in their careers. The running game should be strong with LaDarius Perkins and Nick Griffin, while the offensive line is just hoping to stay healthy this year. The defense should be solid with a talented front seven and a very gifted secondary, starring potential All-American Johnthan Banks. The schedule is also very favorable in September and October.
9. Missouri: The newbies don't lack confidence, but on paper they lack size up front -- on both sides. The staff and players say it's not a problem, but let's see come mid-October. Quarterback James Franklin appears to be 100 percent after undergoing shoulder surgery and might be the league's best dual-threat QB. He's the key to a spread offense that returns a lot of speed. The defense is experienced and has a strong linebacker group. Ends Brad Madison and Kony Ealy could form a pretty good tandem this fall.
10. Auburn: The Tigers are still a young team and there are two new coordinators in town. Now that Kiehl Frazier has been named the starting quarterback, the offense can start molding around him. He'll have a solid group of running backs to work with, but the line is young and he needs more reliable receiving targets alongside Emory Blake and Philip Lutzenkirchen. The defense is loaded up front, headlined by end Corey Lemonier. But the defense as a whole still has a lot of questionable parts for new coordinator Brian VanGorder to work with.
11. Texas A&M: The Aggies have a new coaching staff, have to replace some key starters from last year and will be working with a very green quarterback in redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel. The good news for him is that the offensive line is very strong, starting with tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews. Helping Manziel will be senior receivers Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu and stud running back Christine Michael, who is coming back from an ACL injury. The defense is moving to a 4-3, but is stacked at linebacker. The secondary is dangerously young and thin.
12. Vanderbilt: This team surprised a lot of people last year, but opponents won't be caught off guard by the Commodores in 2012. There is good offensive firepower coming back, with quarterback Jordan Rodgers, running back Zac Stacy and receivers Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd. Plus, there is some good, young offensive talent. But the offensive line has depth issues and will have to use a lot of young guys this fall. The defense is also replacing some key components from last year's team.
13. Kentucky: The Wildcats saw their five-year postseason run end after having the SEC's worst statistical offense in 2011. Joker Phillips thinks he has more potential playmakers this fall and is excited about quarterback Maxwell Smith's potential. The offensive line is younger and can't afford an injury to either Matt Smith or Larry Warford. The defense will be strong up front, but is replacing all four linebackers and two starters in the secondary.
14. Ole Miss: New coach Hugh Freeze isn't working with a lot of numbers, as attrition from the past few years is catching up. The offense was one of the league's worst last year, and still has a quarterback battle between Bo Wallace and Barry Brunetti going on. The offensive line struggled mightily to grasp Freeze's spread this spring and has to improve quickly. Receivers Donte Moncrief and Ja-Mes Logan have a lot of upside, while the defense should be better, especially in the secondary. Still, depth is an issue overall.
We might never know just how many chances Da'Rick Rogers blew at Tennessee.
It certainly sounds, though, like he just blew his last one.
Tennessee announced Thursday that the Vols’ junior All-SEC receiver had been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules. Coach Derek Dooley went a step further following practice Thursday and said he didn’t expect Rogers to return to the program. Sources told ESPN.com that Rogers' suspension came after multiple violations of the school's substance abuse policy for athletes.
That’s a shame on one end, because Dooley as recently as last weekend was raving about how well Rogers had performed in preseason camp, and how much his attitude had improved.
There’s no getting around what a difference-maker Rogers could be on the field with his blend of size, strength and athletic ability. After all, he led the SEC with 67 catches last season.
But there’s also no getting around the fact that Rogers was a divisive force in the locker room and cared a whole lot more about himself than he did anybody else in the program.
We’ve seen it time and time again when talented players like Rogers succumb to their selfishness. You simply can’t count on them for the long term, because they always end up breaking your heart just when you think they’ve maybe turned the corner.
Rogers was never going to turn the corner, not with his me-first attitude. Dooley did all he could to manage Rogers and keep him in the program. The most talented players always get a little more rope, although some might argue that Rogers got so much rope that he thought he was above rules and such petty items as team policy.
It was always something with Rogers. He was barred from working out with the team this offseason for two weeks, and then there were rumblings in the spring that he planned to transfer.
He was a big part of Tennessee’s meltdown in the 10-7 loss to Kentucky last season, and some inside the program said he was openly defiant in the waning stages of that game as far as what that loss might mean for Dooley’s future.
Rogers also had multiple run-ins with strength coach Ron McKeefery, and Rogers is lucky that McKeefery didn't flatten him right there on the field given how insubordinate Rogers was to McKeefery during the Vols' 49-7 blowout loss to Arkansas last season.
It was just a matter of time before Rogers, as talented as he was, was finally shown the door.
As somebody at Tennessee told me after the news broke Thursday, better now than five or six games into the season.
At least now, the Vols can prepare without him … and do so with a little peace and a genuine sense of team.
One player can’t make a team, not in the realm of SEC football, but one player can sure wreck a team.
The junior led the SEC with 67 catches and was second in the league with 1,040 receiving yards in 2011. He also caught nine touchdown passes.
Rogers had run-ins with the coaching staff during the offseason, but from all accounts he was having a very productive fall camp. His absence now puts more on the shoulders of Justin Hunter, who is returning from a season-ending ACL injury and junior college transfer Cordarrelle Patterson.
Tennessee released its depth chart for the season opener against NC State in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff on Thursday, with senior Zach Rogers and freshman Cody Blanc behind Patterson and Hunter.
Stay tuned to the SEC blog for more on Rogers and the Vols.
It should be noted that the media has only picked the correct SEC champion four times since 1992. Those correct picks were Florida in 1994 and 1995, LSU in 2007 and Florida in 2008.
Here are some notes from the league on the All-SEC team:
- The 222 voters is an all-time high for SEC media days. The previous high was 177 voters in 2010.
- South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore was the leading vote-getter this season with 201 of 222 votes. He is the fourth running back in the past six years to be the highest vote-getter (2007 – Darren McFadden, Arkansas; 2008 – Knowshon Moreno, Georgia and Percy Harvin, Florida; 2009 – Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes, Florida; 2010 – Mark Ingram, Alabama; 2011 – Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina).
- Lattimore (2012) and Jeffery (2011) have been the leading vote-getters the last two seasons.
- Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones is a three-time member of the SEC media days first team
- South Carolina has had a sophomore make the media days first team for the third straight season – Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina, DE (2012); Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina, RB (2011); Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina, DB (2010).
- Since 2000, Arkansas’ Darren McFadden is the only unanimous selection to the SEC media days All-SEC team, collecting all 80 votes.
- LSU had the most first-team selections this season with seven. Since 1992, the most players on a first team were nine by Alabama in 2011 and eight by Alabama (2010) and Florida (2009).
- LSU leads with the most overall selections this season with 13. The total is the second highest ever, behind Alabama’s 16 last season. Prior to last season, Alabama (2010) and Florida (2009) had the most overall selections with 12.
- LSU is predicted to win the SEC championship by the media for the first time since 2007. It is the second time since 1992 that LSU has been predicted to win the league title. LSU did win the SEC title in 2007 and went on to win the BCS title.
Here is what the complete first team looks like:
QB: Tyler Wilson, Arkansas (127)
RB: Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina (201)
RB: Knile Davis, Arkansas (118)
WR: Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee (106)
WR: Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas (67)
TE: Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn (158)
OL: D.J. Fluker, Alabama (171)
OL: Alex Hurst, LSU (125)
OL: Chance Warmack, Alabama (124)
OL: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M (87)
C: Barrett Jones, Alabama (183)
DL: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina (140)
DL: Barkevious Mingo, LSU (126)
DL: Sam Montgomery, LSU (124)
DL: Corey Lemonier, Auburn (102)
ILB: Nico Johnson (84)
OLB: Jarvis Jones, Georgia (178)
OLB: Sean Porter, Texas A&M (81)
DB: Tyrann Mathieu, LSU (184)
DB: Eric Reid, LSU (142)
DB: Robert Lester, Alabama (131)
DB: Bacarri Rambo, Georgia (126)
K: Caleb Sturgis, Florida (127)
P: Brad Wing, LSU (153)
RS: Tyrann Mathieu, LSU (159)
AP: Dennis Johnson, Arkansas (86)
For a look at all three teams check out the SEC's official website.
Here's the predicted order of finish for the SEC champion and the votes:
1. LSU - 129
2. Alabama - 65
3. Georgia - 14
4. South Carolina - 6
5. Arkansas - 4
6. Auburn - 2
7. Florida - 1
8. Ole Miss - 1
Predicted order by division:
1. Georgia (132)
2. South Carolina (72)
3. Florida (12)
4. Missouri (2)
5. Tennessee (4)
1. LSU (139)
2. Alabama (72)
3. Arkansas (6)
4. Auburn (4)
5. Texas A&M
6. Mississippi State
7. Ole Miss (1)
Here are our top 10 SEC wide receivers:
2. Justin Hunter, Jr., Tennessee: Yes, his teammate was second in the league in receiving, but a healthy Hunter is arguably the league's best deep threat and he's incredibly athletic. He should be 100 percent this fall after tearing his ACL last year, and showed some pretty good flashes of being close to normal this spring. He has averaged 22.1 yards on just 33 career catches.
3. Da'Rick Rogers, Jr., Tennessee: There's no question that Rogers has elite receiving talent, but his off-field behavior has been repeatedly questioned. He was second in the SEC with 1,040 receiving yards and had nine touchdowns, but his production could be cut into by Hunter. Still, when he's focused he's one of the best out there.
4. Ryan Swope, Sr., Texas A&M: Swope was third in the Big 12 in receiving (1,207 yards) last year and could have easily left for the NFL draft. Kevin Sumlin said Swope was his top recruit in his first class and he'll be the centerpiece of the Aggies' passing game. Having a proven vet like Swope will only make A&M's young quarterbacks more comfortable.
5. Emory Blake, Sr., Auburn: He might be one of the more underrated players in the SEC. He isn't the biggest wideout, but he isn't afraid of contact, and he actually likes it. He's a burner as well. He was Auburn's most consistent receiving threat last year, registering 613 yards and 17 yards per catch.
6. Odell Beckham Jr., So., LSU: He challenged Malcolm Mitchell for top rookie receiver last year, hauling in 41 catches and was extremely consistent for the Tigers. He can stretch the field with his speed, but isn't afraid to go over the middle and get physical with opposing defensive backs.
7. Tavarres King, Sr., Georgia: Old Faithful could see his production increase depending on where Mitchell lines up more. King was sixth in the SEC in receiving last year and capped things off with record day against Michigan State in the Outback Bowl, where he grabbed six passes for 205 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown.
8. Jordan Matthews, Jr., Vanderbilt: Matthews was expected to have a breakout year in 2011 and he didn't disappoint. He racked up 778 yards and averaged an SEC-best 19 yards per catch along the way. Matthews is a big, physical receiver and can run right by defenders.
9. Malcolm Mitchell, So., Georgia: Mitchell would be much higher, but we just aren't sure how much offense he'll play this fall. He moved to corner this spring to help with depth and should start the season there as well, but coach Mark Richt has said that he would like to play Mitchell 50-50 this season. When he's at receiver, he's Georgia's top offensive weapon.
10. Donte Moncrief, So., Ole Miss: He really was the Rebels' best offensive player last year, catching 31 passes for 454 yards and four touchdowns, and would have started for a few teams in this league. He's very excited about Hugh Freeze's spread offense, and thinks he'll be even more effective with all the space he expects to have in the new scheme.
On to the league's wide receiver/tight end groups:
1. Tennessee: The Vols are equipped with two of the top wideouts in the league with Da'Rick Rogers, who was second in the SEC in receiving last year, and Justin Hunter, who might be the SEC's top deep threat. It sounds like Hunter will be 100 percent this fall after his ACL injury last year. Junior college transfer Cordarrelle Patterson is big, fast and possesses the big-play gene. The speedy Zach Rogers is back and is so is talented tight end Mychal Rivera.
2. Arkansas: Cobi Hamilton is now Arkansas' primary receiver, and he might be the league's most complete wideout. He can make the big-play and elude defenders along the way. While Marquel Wade's status is still unclear, if he does return, he'll be a major lift for this offense because of his playmaking ability in the slot. Julian Horton and Javontee Herndon have always impressed coaches in practice and now will get their chances to in games. Tight end Chris Gragg should be even more involved and is the league's top tight end.
3. Georgia: While Malcolm Mitchell could go back and forth between receiver and corner, when he's at receiver he's Georgia's top offensive threat and was one of the league's best as a rookie. There are vets behind him, starting with reliable senior Tavarres King, who had a very good spring, senior Marlon Brown, who seemed to take a big step in his game this spring. Sophomores Michael Bennett and Chris Conley combined for 48 catches for 608 yards and seven touchdowns last year. Unproven tight ends Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome will replace Orson Charles and Aron White.
4. Texas A&M: This isn't the fastest group out there, but there are some pretty reliable weapons, starting with star Ryan Swope, who could have left for the NFL after catching 89 passes for 1,207 yards and 11 touchdowns last year. Uzoma Nwachukwu was third on the team with 50 catches for 639 yards and three tight ends -- Nehemiah Hicks, Michael Lamothe and Hutson Prioleau -- return. Keep an eye on junior Nate Askew, who could be a downfield threat this fall.
5. LSU: Odell Beckham Jr. was one of the top rookies last year and could be even better in Year 2. He'll be joined by potential deep threat and big-play target Jarvis Landry, who developed some good chemistry with quarterback Zach Mettenberger this spring. Russell Shepard is talented, but he's been wildly inconsistent. Keep an eye on junior James Wright and incoming frosh Avery Johnson, who is the younger brother of Patrick Peterson. Also, tight end Chase Clement is on the John Mackey watch list.
7. Alabama: There is more speed out wide in Tuscaloosa, but there's a lot more youth. The Tide could turn to freshmen Chris Black, Amari Cooper and Eddie Williams to help develop a more downfield passing game. More will be expected from veterans Kenny Bell and Kevin Norwood, while sophomore DeAndrew White possesses a ton of speed. Still no word on Duron Carter. Tight end Michael Williams was solid last year, but will be used even more this fall.
8. Mississippi State: There is a lot of experience here, but this group has still underperformed at times, especially senior Chad Bumphis, who has yet to live up to all the hype that followed him from high school. Seniors Chris Smith and Arceto Clark combined for 65 catches last year, while the staff is very excited about the big-play potential redshirt freshman Joe Morrow possesses. Tight end Malcolm Johnson serves as a very reliable tight end target, as well.
9. Missouri: The Tigers lost two starting receivers and stud tight end Michael Egnew, but three of the top five pass catchers are back, including inside threat T.J. Moe, who led Mizzou in receiving last year. Big things are expected from Marcus Lucas, who can stretch the field with his speed and physicality, and the coaches think L'Damian Washington can also be a downfield threat. Also, Dorial Green-Beckham, last year's top recruit, should make an immediate impact. Eric Waters is replacing Egnew, but has just two career catches and suffered a knee injury this spring.
10. Auburn: Emory Blake is one of the league's top downfield threats and has been one of Auburn's most consistent offensive weapons. So has tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, who should be more of a passing threat with the addition of transfer fullback Jay Prosch. There is a lot of depth, but it's unproven. Trovon Reed was supposed to be a star, but had a lackluster second year. Seniors Travante Stallworth and DeAngelo Benton have 15 and 14 career catches, respectively. Quan Bray has shown potential and could have a bigger role this season and keep an eye on freshman Ricardo Louis.
11. Florida: The Gators have struggled here since 2009 and still lack proven playmakers. Andre Debose is probably the best bet to be one, but he's been very inconsistent. Quinton Dunbar has the speed to be an outside threat, but caught just 14 passes last year. And the coaches are still waiting for senior Frankie Hammond Jr. to turn things up. True freshman Latroy Pittman had a great spring and the coaches are excited about his potential. Tight end Jordan Reed is one of the most athletic players in the league and will be a bigger target with two young quarterbacks throwing the ball.
12. South Carolina: Now that Alshon Jeffery is gone, the Gamecocks have questions and inexperience here. The fast, athletic Ace Sanders is the only returning pass catcher with at least 20 catches from last year (29). The hope is Bruce Ellington will be more of a factor this fall. Tight ends Justice Cunningham and Rory Anderson combined for 26 catches and four touchdowns. Damiere Byrd has blazing speed, but caught just one pass last year. DeAngelo Smith had a solid spring, and the coaches hope he can be a downfield threat. A lot will be expected from incoming freshman Shaq Roland.
13. Ole Miss: Sophomore Donte Moncrief is a budding star in this league and thinks he'll be even better in Hugh Freeze's spread offense. Ja-Mes Logan caught 20 passes last year, but had a very good spring. But Nickolas Brassell was an academic casualty and Randall Mackey had to move over from quarterback. The coaches are looking for consistency from Terrell Grant and Vince Sanders, who are both pretty unproven. Tight end Jamal Mosley is expected to do more in the spread and averaged 13.8 yards per catch last year.
14. Kentucky: Joker Phillips' goal this spring was to find more playmakers and he thinks he did with sophomore Demarco Robinson, who had five receptions last year, and redshirt freshman Daryl Collins. The hope is that they'll take some pressure off of La'Rod King, who is really the only proven receiving threat on the team. Tight ends Ronnie Shields and Tyler Robinson did well this spring, but combined for just 10 catches last year.
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley's name has almost become synonymous with the phrase "hot seat" this year. On Monday, CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd released his hot-seat rankings for 2012 and Dooley was one of just two coaches (the other being Arkansas interim coach John L. Smith) given a rating of 5.0 with a "Hot seat! Win or be fired" label.
There's no question that 2012 is a crucial year for Dooley, but while he has an unsatisfactory 11-14 record in his two years as the Vols' coach and is coming off a year that ended with Tennessee's first lost to Kentucky since 1984 instead of a bowl berth, he wasn't exactly dealt much of a hand when he arrived in 2010.
(That class left Tennessee with more headaches than wins.)
Dooley dealt with issues he could barely control, but still sent the Vols to a bowl game in his first season. During this year's SEC meetings in Destin, Fla., Dooley expressed his feelings about the short-handed roster he had during his first year.
"I knew there were some challenges internally," Dooley told reporters last month. "I knew there were challenges with our culture. But probably the one thing that surprised me the most was the state of our roster. When we were in my first spring practice, I knew that this was going to be a much tougher road to plow than what I expected when I got here. Because I think I was probably no different than most typical fans who see the Power T and you expect a pretty deep and talented roster. And we didn't have that.
"Certainly the attrition had a big impact on it because of the changes. I knew that it was not something we could solve right away."
And Tennessee didn't. There were growing pains expected in 2011 with a young defense returning, but there was hope with offensive playmakers Tyler Bray, Da'Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter returning. Unfortunately for the Vols, injuries to Bray and Hunter stunted Tennessee's growth. Add an inconsistent offensive line and a nonexistent running game and Tennessee limped through 2011.
Dooley then had to replace seven assistant coaches before the spring, leaving even more questions about his job security. It's as if Dooley just can't catch a break. He returns nearly 20 starters in 2012, but loses seven assistants.
But those challenges haven’t prevented his name from appearing at the top of the college football hot-seat boards. Dooley could have done a lot more complaining about his situation but he didn't.
The problem Dooley finds himself in is that in this profession -- and especially in this league -- it's all about what you've done lately, and Dooley hasn't done a lot in the wins department. This year, that could change. Though there will be some adjustments made with players and new coaches, especially on defense with new defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri looking to run out of a 3-4 base, this is Dooley's best team. The offense might have one of the best passing games in the league, and the running game should benefit from what is expected to be an improved offensive line.
The schedule is also more favorable with Florida and Alabama at home and no LSU or Arkansas. The Vols could actually win eight games without beating Florida, Alabama, Georgia or South Carolina. That's good news, but it could also dump even more pressure on Dooley. Eight wins almost becomes a must for Dooley.
So if Dooley fails to reach the eight-win mark for the third consecutive year, will that be his undoing? It's hard to say what new athletic director Dave Hart will do in that situation. He's been adamant that he wants to see improvement, but won't put a number on wins Dooley needs.
But does he want to be the new guy who dismisses a coach who appears to finally have the numbers and talent needed to get Tennessee going again?
There's no question that Tennessee has to make strides in the right direction this fall. Whether its winning eight or more games, making a bowl or just being more competitive, the Vols have to be better than last year. Anything less could have Dooley out of a job, which is a sad reality in a league as competitive as the SEC.
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.
That's always a tough call because projecting can be a dicey proposition. For instance, South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore was No. 3 and Arkansas' Knile Davis was No. 4 last year, and they both got hurt.
The Sporting News' Matt Hayes has come out with his post-spring ranking of the top 25 players in college football for the 2012 season. He used on-field performance and next-level potential as the basis for his list. Nine SEC players, which was more than any other conference in the country, made Hayes' list. That includes three players from LSU's defense -- cornerback Tyrann Mathieu at No. 8, defensive end Barkevious Mingo at No. 12 and defensive end Sam Montgomery at No. 23.
The top SEC player was Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones at No. 5. The top player overall was USC quarterback Matt Barkley.
Here's a rundown of all nine SEC players on the list with a comment from an NFL scout:
No. 5 Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
NFL scout says: “He's the prototypical 3-4 outside linebacker. A top five (overall) guy.”
No. 7 Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
NFL scout says: “He would’ve been a low first-round guy had he come out. Great arm, plays in a pro system, can move up (draft boards) this year.”
No. 8 Tyrann Mathieu, CB/RS, LSU
NFL scout says: “He’ll get exposed a bit with bigger receivers, but he’s one of those guys who is always making a play when you need it.”
No. 11 Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
NFL scout says: “You never know how guys respond to ACL surgery. It’s a big question — especially for a guy who some thought was better than (Alabama’s) Trent Richardson.”
No. 12 Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
NFL scout says: “He has a chance to move into the top five (overall). In this league, it’s the quarterback first, and then guys that can affect the quarterback.”
No. 15 Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
NFL scout says: “He still makes too many poor decisions, and his accuracy is a big question. But you love his moxie and intangibles.”
No. 18 Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee
NFL scout says: “Talent-wise, he’s top 15-20 pick, and maybe better. But there will definitely be some character questions he’ll have to answer.”
No. 21 D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
NFL scout says: “He has the most potential to move up of just about anyone — if he comes to camp in shape and continues to play well.”
No. 23 Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
NFL scout says: “With his edge (rush) ability, he can play end in a 4-3, or outside linebacker in a 3-4. He’s so long, too. His wingspan makes him very difficult to engage and block.”
Some players insist on living there, even the ones as talented as Rogers.
You watch him pull in a touchdown pass one-handed and physically manhandle the cornerback trying to cover him and remind yourself that he’s an NFL talent that any coach would fight to keep on his team.
But then you hear how much Rogers is into himself – and apparently oblivious that football is a team game that demands genuine respect for your coaches and teammates – and you’re at a loss as to how Tennessee coach Derek Dooley could put up with Rogers’ nonsense as long as he has.
The latest on Rogers is that he didn’t practice Thursday and won’t return to the team until he does a few things internally required of him. Earlier this offseason, Rogers also wasn't allowed to work out with the team for a couple of weeks.
Dooley refused to call this latest deal a suspension. He rarely uses that word when talking about managing players.
“He's got some things he's got to do internally, and when he does them, he'll be back," Dooley told reporters following practice Thursday. "It's kind of an internal, team issue, and it's something he's just got to finish doing some stuff, and when he does, he'll be back. I wouldn't call it anything other than he's got to do some things, and when he does, he can come back. And (if) he doesn't, he's not going to be here."
Dooley said Rogers could be back as early as today or Friday.
But at this point: Does anybody on the team really want him back?
Is his baggage worth it in what's clearly a pivotal year for Dooley in his third season on the job?
Yes, Justin Hunter is coming off a serious knee injury, and heralded junior college receiver Cordarrelle Patterson is still not on campus. But at some point, Rogers has to start pulling in the same direction as the rest of his teammates and quit being such a distraction, or it's not going to matter what he does on the field.
Given how disconnected the Vols were as a team at the end of last season, Dooley's playing with fire. The last thing he wants to do is give the impression that one player is getting special treatment or playing by his own set of rules.
There was an Internet report Thursday that Rogers was leaving Tennessee and transferring to Georgia State. He's from Calhoun, Ga. Dooley said that nobody had said anything to him about Rogers wanting to leave.
"He's never told me that or indicated that to me or anybody else," Dooley said.
Either way, Rogers is dangerously close to wearing out his welcome on Rocky Top, and some might say that he wore out that welcome a long time ago.
Anytime you do this sort of thing you always second-guess yourself. There are always players you wish you had put higher, slid down lower, left off or put on the list. The only thing that's for sure is that you'll never be perfect and you'll never please everyone, but that's the way it goes.
Alabama running back Trent Richardson was the obvious choice to be first on our list. He was named the nation's top running back and was a unanimous first team All-American and All-SEC member. He accounted for more than 36 percent of Alabama's offense last year and became just the third player in SEC history to rush for 20 or more touchdowns.
Richardson is a track star built like a tank.
While Richardson was spot on, there was another player who we felt should have been higher. At second glance, Chris and I felt that Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones was too low. He ended up sixth, but we now feel like we should have had him above both Melvin Ingram and Courtney Upshaw.
When you finish the year with an SEC-best 19.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks after a a year away from the field you deserve to be higher.
We took some heat from the College GameDay crew during the season for having only one LSU player — cornerback Morris Claiborne — on our preseason list. (We didn't even have Tyrann Mathieu on the preseason list! We sure look boneheaded now.) Well, we certainly deserved that and had four Tigers on the postseason list, including No. 2 (Claiborne) and No. 3 (Mathieu). Defensive end Sam Montgomery and guard Will Blackwell just missed the cut, too.
We've also received word from some readers that we missed on Tennessee wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers, who was passed by LSU's Rueben Randle and South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery.
When we created this list we took into consideration stats and total impact on a team — good and bad. Yes, Rogers led the SEC in receiving, but his impact wasn't as positive as the others. Randle was LSU's top receiving target all season, was a true leader and finished the year third in the SEC in receiving. Jeffery was South Carolina's only real dependable receiver all season and of his eight touchdowns, five came in conference games. Jeffery also spent the first eight games on a team that didn't have much of a passing game and was still sixth in the league in receiving.
Also, Jeffery had a monster outing in South Carolina's bowl win, while when Tennessee needed a win over Kentucky to become bowl eligible, Rogers caught just two passes in the loss and was openly complaining and being divisive on the sideline.
Rogers had a solid season, but more was taken into consideration than just his play.
Five players — Richardson, Upshaw, Dont'a Hightower, Barrett Jones and Mark Barron — from our preseason top 10 remained there in our postseason countdown, so that made us look good.
We missed on two South Carolina players in the preseason in Devin Taylor (No. 6) and Stephon Gilmore (No. 12) and didn't see Ingram (postseason No. 5) coming. But we did have 14 of 25 from our preseason list back on our postseason list. It probably would have been more if not for injuries to South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, Arkansas running back Knile Davis and defensive end Jake Bequette, or the dismissal of former Tennessee safety Janzen Jackson.
Here's a breakdown of the list by team, position, side of the field, year and division:
- Alabama (7)
- Georgia (5)
- LSU (4)
- Arkansas (3)
- South Carolina (2)
- Auburn (1)
- Kentucky (1)
- Mississippi State (1)
- Vanderbilt (1)
- DB (7)
- LB (4)
- WR/TE (4)
- DL (3)
- QB (2)
- RB (2)
- OL (3)
- Defense (14)
- Offense (11)
- Senior (11)
- Junior (9)
- Sophomore (5)
- West (16)
- East (9)
Check in tomorrow to see players who just missed the cut for the postseason top 25.
You can see our preseason rankings here.
Here's what we came up with for the postseason:
2. Georgia: One of the reasons Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray spread it around so much this season was because of the depth of his receiving corps, and it’s always nice to have the top pass-catching tight end in the league. Orson Charles caught 45 passes, including five touchdowns. The Bulldogs had five different players with at least four touchdown catches. Tavarres King led the way with eight, and freshman Malcolm Mitchell is a budding star in this league.
3. Alabama: The Alabama pass-catchers didn’t rack up a bunch of touchdown catches, but they made plays when they had to. It was a deeper unit than given credit for as evidenced by the play of Kevin Norwood and Kenny Bell in the BCS National Championship Game. Marquis Maze was Alabama’s top playmaker at receiver and one of the more underrated players in the league, and the Tide had two good tight ends in Brad Smelley and Michael Williams.
4. LSU: Rueben Randle is the reason the Tigers are this high. He led the SEC in league games with an average of 78.6 receiving yards per game and also averaged 19.1 yards per catch. Odell Beckham, Jr. was one of the league’s best freshman receivers, and even though Russell Shepard only caught 14 passes, four went for touchdowns. Look for Jarvis Landry to play a much bigger role next season.
5. Tennessee: The Vols should really be loaded at receiver in 2012 if Justin Hunter comes back healthy. He was off to a great start this season, but injured his knee in the third game. Da'Rick Rogers led the SEC with 67 catches, including nine touchdowns, and tight end Mychal Rivera was second on the team with 29 catches. The Vols added top junior college receiver Cordarrelle Patterson on signing day.
6. South Carolina: Alshon Jeffery alone puts the Gamecocks in the top half of the league. His numbers were down from his fabulous 2011 season, but he still caught eight touchdown passes. Ace Sanders provided some help underneath, but the Gamecocks didn’t have enough depth at the position to keep teams from shadowing Jeffery.
7. Vanderbilt: The Commodores made a big jump from where they were ranked in the preseason (11th). Sophomore Jordan Matthews was one of the most improved receivers in the league and gave the Commodores that big-play threat down the field they’d been missing. He had five touchdown catches and averaged 19 yards per catch. Redshirt freshman Chris Boyd also had a big season with a team-leading eight touchdown catches, and Brandon Barden was a nice target at tight end.
8. Auburn: Injuries killed the Tigers, especially with Emory Blake and Trovon Reed being out at the same time during one stretch. When healthy, Blake is one of the most dependable receivers in the league. Reed has yet to prove he can stay healthy, and there was really nobody else to provide any firepower in the deep passing game. The Tigers get bonus points here for Philip Lutzenkirchen, who had seven touchdown catches and is a terrific pass-catching tight end.
9. Florida: The Gators would appear to more talented than they’ve played at receiver the last couple of years. Andre Debose did come on this season and catch a few deep passes for touchdowns, and Jordan Reed has the tools to be one of the best tight ends in the league. The bottom line is that the Gators simply didn’t make much happen in the passing game all season long. In fact, none of the wide receivers on the roster caught more than 21 passes.
10. Mississippi State: The receiver position is an area that Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen is still looking to bolster. Chad Bumphis hasn’t been the kind of difference-maker most predicted when he signed with the Bulldogs. Perhaps 2012 will be the season he changes that. Freshman tight end Malcolm Johnson showed a lot of promise and caught three touchdown passes, while Arceto Clark and Chris Smith each hauled in 30 or more receptions.
11. Ole Miss: Granted, the Rebels had issues at quarterback, which was a big reason they never established much of a passing game. But here’s the most telling stat: Ole Miss finished the season with nine touchdown passes, and six of those went to true freshmen Donte Moncrief and Nickolas Brassell. Opposing defenses are bound to see even more of those two youngsters next season.
12. Kentucky: Everybody beats up on the quarterback when the passing game is ineffective, but the Wildcats simply didn’t have a lot of guys consistently making plays at the receiver position. There were too many drops across the board, and even though La'Rod King did catch seven touchdown passes, he was quiet in SEC games.