NCF Nation: DeAngelo Benton
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.
The only touchdown in this game came on when Auburn quarterback Barrett Trotter hit DeAngelo Benton on a 25-yard pass. The play was set up by a controversial no-call when Florida's Chris Rainey muffed a punt with an Auburn player right in his face.
Florida coach Will Muschamp went nuts on the sideline and could be seen screaming some not-so-nice words to officials. Parental guidance might be needed when watching Florida games with Muschamp roaming the sidelines.
It looked like Rainey didn't have enough room or time to catch the ball, but the refs felt otherwise.
Other than that, we saw Florida drive down the field a couple of times and settle for field goals. Neither offense has been close to great, but true Florida freshman quarterback Jacoby Brissett has looked more comfortable in his second start, but if Florida wants to get things going offensively, it needs to open up that playbook.
Rainey, right, left and up the middle can only get the Gators so far. But give the Tigers some credit, Auburn has done a very good job of taking the edges away from Florida's running game and getting pressure on Brissett.
But the Tigers have looked just as ugly on offense. You could tell the crowd was getting a little restless with the play calling and Auburn had just 102 total yards at the half. Trotter and Kiehl Frazier have completed just three of their nine total pass attempts. We have seen a very limited offense from the Tigers so far, and I expect that to change in the second half. Florida's defensive line, which was overpowered in the past two weeks against Alabama and LSU, has played well Saturday and limited the Tigers to just 69 rushing yards on 20 attempts.
Together, these offenses have combined for 208 yards. First to 13 wins!
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Taking the temperature around the SEC:
- Florida's Matt Patchan, who filled a void at defensive tackle last season, will move back to offense in 2009 and compete for one of the Gators' starting tackle jobs.
- Auburn assistant coach Trooper Taylor says top receiver signee DeAngelo Benton should be good to go academically this summer.
- LSU coach Les Miles fills his staff opening with former Boston College assistant Dan Yanowsky.
- Arkansas' Bobby Petrino lauds his graduate assistants for their role in the Hogs' recruiting efforts.
- The NCAA has denied the eligibility waiver for former South Carolina quarterback Chris Smelley, who had hoped to be eligible to play baseball right away at Alabama.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
My apologies to Auburn fans, and my apologies to DeAngelo Benton.
In the pre-spring SEC power rankings on Monday, I referred to Benton as a junior college receiver when I meant to refer to him as a prep school receiver. He attended Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy, and as I've been reminded now by countless Auburn fans, did not spend any time at a junior college.
My bad. I'll make it up by helping to roll Toomer's Corner after Gene Chizik's first big win at Auburn next season.
Anyway, now that we've got that straight, I do think Benton is perhaps the steal of the 2009 signing class.
I say "steal," because nobody really saw Auburn as a player until the very end. Even then, it was a shocker to many that Benton, who's from Bastrop, La., didn't sign with LSU.
He made an impromtu visit to Auburn late in January. New Auburn assistant Trooper Taylor worked his recruiting magic, and Benton saw himself fitting into Gus Malzhan's spread offense and playing for Taylor, who coaches receivers.
But, hey, any offense can use a 6-3, 210-pound receiver who has the hops to go up and get the football over most defensive backs and the speed to run by them. Benton is that kind of athlete, and the Tigers were ecstatic to get him.
Here's something else about Benton: He's hungry.
He signed with LSU on two different occasions, the first time out of high school in 2007 and the second time when he was at Hargrave last year. He failed to qualify academically both times, meaning he doesn't take anything for granted.
The plan is for Benton to be on campus this summer, assuming there are no snags with the NCAA Clearinghouse.
It shouldn't be hard to spot him in the fall, either. He'll be the new guy out there making all the plays, the kind the Tigers didn't make many of last season.