NCF Nation: Duron Carter

WR Duron Carter leaves Alabama

July, 20, 2012
7/20/12
2:00
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Wide receiver Duron Carter has left Alabama, a source told ESPN's Joe Schad.

Carter originally signed with Ohio State and caught 13 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown during his only season with the Buckeyes in 2009. He then transfered to Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College for academic reasons before landing at Alabama in 2011.

Previously expected to be the Crimson Tide's next big offensive deep threat, Carter, the son of former NFL receiver and current ESPN analyst Cris Carter, never played a down at Alabama. He wasn't academically eligible last fall, and was suspended from the team this spring by coach Nick Saban.

Saban said this spring that it was up to Carter if he wanted to return Alabama's football team or not. Now, it appears that he didn't do enough after getting into Saban's doghouse. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported on Thursday that Carter has applied to Florida Atlantic and hopes to play for the team this fall.

Carter had the talent to be a real player in the Tide's offense, especially in the team's attempts to stretch the field, but quarterback AJ McCarron still has some solid talent to work with. The Tide will have to rely on some younger players at wide receiver, but those youngsters might possess a little more speed and explosiveness than last year's group.

Chris Black and Amari Cooper went through spring drills and both are expected to be used as deep threats this fall. Incoming freshman Eddie Williams did just about everything in high school, so if he acclimates well during fall camp he'll be used a few different ways in the offense.

And don't forget that sophomore speedster DeAndrew White and junior Kenny Bell are still around.

Carter probably would have been fun to watch with Alabama this fall, but the Tide will be fine without him.
Justin Hunter and Da'Rick RogersAP Photo/Wade PayneJustin Hunter (11) and Da'Rick Rogers (21) are considered to be the best receiving duo in the SEC.
Our SEC position rankings continue with a look at schools' wide receiver and tight end groups.

Past rankings:
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.

[+] EnlargeJordan Matthews
Don McPeak/US PresswireWide receiver Jordan Matthews is one player the Commodores will be counting on this fall.
6. Vanderbilt: This group surprised last year and returns most of its components, starting with Jordan Matthews, who was fourth in the SEC in receiving last year. Sophomore Chris Boyd was solid last year, hauling in 31 catches and eight touchdowns. Jonathan Krause is very good in space and should see his role increase this fall after a solid spring. The coaches are excited about former QB Josh Grady moving to receiver. Replacing tight end Brandon Barden won't be easy.

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.

SEC power rankings: Week 3

September, 12, 2011
9/12/11
9:22
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Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Another week means more movement in our power rankings:

1. LSU: The Tigers (2-0) have shown that you don't need a powerful offense to succeed. It's all about defense for LSU and that defense has been very good for the Bayou Bengals. After shutting down Oregon in Cowboys Stadium, LSU sported the purple jerseys in its home opener and totally dismantled an over-matched Northwestern State team, allowing just 95 total yards of offense. Moving the ball against this group looks like it will be a tall order for any team this fall.

2. Alabama: The Tide (2-0) isn't flashy on offense by any means, but this team manages the game well and is efficient. AJ McCarron seems to have cemented himself as the starter in Tuscaloosa after an impressive day in Happy Valley over the weekend. Help will eventually be on the way on offense, once receiver Duron Carter is cleared to play. He should provide a much-needed deep threat to the offense. Like LSU, consistently moving the ball on this defense is beyond hard.

3. Arkansas: This team has quietly put up a ton of points in its first two games. The Razorbacks (2-0) have outscored their opponents 103-10. Granted, Arkansas isn't playing top-level talent, but we can see that this offense can still move the ball, despite losing Ryan Mallett to the NFL draft and Knile Davis to a knee injury. It will be interesting to watch how injuries in Week 2 affect the Hogs. Quarterback Tyler Wilson left the game with concussion-like symptoms, receiver Jarius Wright suffered a strained knee, and defensive end Jake Bequette injured his hamstring. Arkansas won't need them against Troy this weekend, but they'll need to be healthy for the trip to Alabama to close the month.

4. South Carolina: The defense hasn't been pretty, but it made the necessary plays to squeak by Georgia in Athens on Saturday. South Carolina (2-0) has really been pushed in the first two weeks, but the Gamecocks have showed resiliency. They aren't winning the way they'd like to, but the Gamecocks are undefeated and have the early lead in the SEC East. Teams know Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery are going to be heavily targeted and both are still making plays.

5. Florida: We still don't really know what to expect from the Gators (2-0). Florida's defense has looked faster and much more aggressive under new head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, but Florida hasn't faced SEC-quality opponents. This week, the Gators will as Tennessee comes to town with its high-flying offense. Chris Rainey has been the star on offense and John Brantley isn't making a lot of mistakes, but the playbook will have to open up as the Gators get ready for the conference season.

6. Auburn: This team just doesn't know how to lose. Auburn (2-0) has won a nation-leading 17 straight games -- 10 by eight points or fewer. The Tigers kept that winning streak intact after a back-and-forth slugfest with Mississippi State Saturday. The defense still has a lot of question marks, but when a play had to be made, the Tigers did it. The offense isn't too exciting, but plays were made at critical times and Michael Dyer looked like his running legs were back as he made the Bulldogs' defense look silly. Will taking it down to the wire eventually catch up with these cats?

7. Tennessee: Well, we know the Volunteers (2-0) will keep the scoreboard lights on. Quarterback Tyler Bray has looked like the league's best quarterback through the first two weeks, passing for 678 yards and seven touchdowns. Receivers Da'Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter have made things easy for Bray, combining for 31 catches for 502 yards and five touchdowns. The Vols' offense will get a major test in Gainesville this weekend, where the winner will become top contender to challenge South Carolina for the division.

8. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs (1-1) came into the season as a trendy dark horse pick in the West, but left the weekend with yet another loss to the West under Dan Mullen. Mississippi State's defense showed it misses defense coordinator Manny Diaz and its three starting linebackers from last year as Auburn carved up the defense for 235 rushing yards. Chris Relf was most of the offense for the Bulldogs Saturday, until running back Vick Ballard finally got things going late, but Mississippi State needs much more from its receiving corps.

9. Georgia: This group of Bulldogs (0-2) has had a rough start to the season, but things get a little lighter from here on out. After losing a tough one in the Georgia Dome to Boise State, Georgia dropped a heart-breaker to South Carolina at home. Fans are no doubt growing more impatient, but the Bulldogs aren't out of the East race by any means. It will be a fight to get ahead now, but the season is far from over. It's all about staying together and making sure the Bulldogs are mentally ready for the rest of the season.

10. Vanderbilt: Getting that win over Connecticut Saturday was huge. The confidence is through the roof in Nashville and the Commodores (2-0) have a two-game winning streak for the first time since 2008. New coach James Franklin injected some swagger into this Commodores team and it showed when Vandy was down 21-14 in the fourth and scored 10 unanswered points. This defense is flying around and has been much more aggressive under defensive coordinator Bob Shoop.

11. Ole Miss: The Rebels (1-1) got into the win column over the weekend, but the offense still has a ton of question marks around it. Jeff Scott showed that he is a solid option at running back with Brandon Bolden and Enrique Davis out with injuries, but he looked like the only consistent weapon Ole Miss has on offense. The defense, which played very well against BYU in the first week, made things interesting against Southern Illinois by giving up 21 points in the second half.

12. Kentucky: The Wildcats (2-0) might be undefeated, but the offense is still struggling, especially in the passing game. Morgan Newton has been a starter before, but he hasn't looked very comfortable out there on the field yet. He has just 211 yards passing, two touchdowns and four interceptions in two games this year. Someone needs to step up alongside La'Rod King in the receiving game to give Newton some help. Two bright spots have been a faster, more effective defense and the play of freshman running back Josh Clemons, who has 165 rushing yards and two scores this year.
Alabama coach Nick Saban isn't much for being shy.

He's pretty matter-of-fact and when it came to talking about his young wide receivers after the season-opener against Kent State he didn't really hold back his frustration about their play.

"I don't think they played fast all the time," Saban said.

"I think there was a lot of anxiety. I don't think we had very good ball security. I don't think we looked balls in. I think we played in a hurry -- cut the routes a little bit short, don't do it exactly right, which sort of affects the timing of what you're trying to do and makes it a little bit more difficult for everybody."

Despite some issues in the receiving game, Alabama's quarterbacks still passed for 299 yards on 21 completions in the 48-7 win over the Golden Flashes. Eight of those catches and 118 of those yards came from senior Marquis Maze. He also had Alabama's lone receiving touchdown.

Outside of Maze, six receivers/tight ends combined for nine more catches. Four of them and 44 yards came from freshman DeAndrew White, who earned a lot of praise from his coaches and teammates during the preseason. With his speed, White has what it takes to be a deep threat for the Tide. He's also an elusive runner, which should continue to make him one of the Tide's top receiving options going forward.

Running backs Eddie Lacy and Trent Richardson combined for the rest of the 92 yards, with Lacy grabbing 76 yards and Richardson getting 16.

Alabama will be able to get away with dumping passes off to its running backs from time to time, but in order for this offense to take the next step with its young quarterbacks in AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims, Tide receivers will have to step their game up.

"A lot of players are going to learn a lot from that game, and I think it will help their performance in the future," Saban said.

What will help the future is that heralded junior college transfer and former Ohio State receiver Duron Carter is expected to play this weekend. Carter finally joined the team last week after he was held out because of transcript issues.

Once Carter, the son of NFL great Cris Carter, gets into the proper football shape, he should provide a big spark in the passing game. Check out some of his highlights circulating around the Internet when you get a chance. He has "big-play" written all over him.

And things should improve after Week 2 when senior Darius Hanks returns. Hanks had to sit out the first two games because he registered five plays in one game as a redshirt freshman.

The passing game wasn't the prettiest to look at, but it will get better.
Everyone is looking for the next Nick Fairley.

Everyone would love to have their own Cam Newton.

So as we look around the league at some of the newcomers from either the junior college ranks or who have transferred in from other schools, we'll try to find them.

Could Georgia noseguard John Jenkins be the beast in the middle that Fairley was? Does Barry Brunetti have what it takes to have a Newton-like impact at Ole Miss?

Here is a look at some of the new athletes around the league to keep an eye on this fall:

ALABAMA
  • Duron Carter, WR: Carter could be a big-time playmaker for the Tide, but he has yet to enroll because of transcript issues. The former Ohio State and juco wideout is the son of star former NFL receiver Cris Carter.
  • Quinton Dial, DL: Dial could play both inside and out, but is currently getting quality reps at defensive end for Alabama. The former juco standout has made quite the impression on his head coach and he seems to be in line for a starting spot.
  • Jesse Williams, DT: Like Dial, Williams transferred in from the juco ranks in January and has also performed well in practice. He's gotten reps all around the line, but could also be in contention for one of the end spots. He's a massive lineman at 6-foot-4 and 319 pounds.
ARKANSAS
  • Alonzo Highsmith, LB: The juco transfer is an extremely athletic linebacker and has really impressed since his arrival. He stepped in at the starting weakside linebacker spot on Day 1 of preseason camp and appears to have the edge there heading into the season.
  • Robert Thomas, DT: Speaking of athleticism, the Razorbacks might have found their most athletic defensive lineman in Thomas. The juco transfer got a ton of reps this spring with Byran Jones and DeQuinta Jones out with injuries, and is currently competing for a starting spot.
FLORIDA
  • Dan Wenger, C: He earned an extra year of eligibility after concussions cut his Notre Dame career short. He's reuniting with offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and offensive line coach Frank Verducci and is not only competing for the starting spot at center but has become a leader on the offensive line.
GEORGIA
  • John Jenkins, DT: He was a giant gem of Georgia's 2011 class and was expected to snatch the starting noseguard position. However, the juco standout has had injury issues and hasn't been in the best shape. At 6-foot-4, and 340 pounds, people are hoping he can be a force in the middle this fall, but he's currently behind Kwame Geathers.
  • Jarvis Jones, LB: Jones transferred in from USC last year and takes over as the starting strongside linebacker. Georgia's coaches feel that with his speed and athleticism he could be a more versatile player than former stud Justin Houston.
LSU
  • Zach Mettenberger, QB: If Jordan Jefferson is indeed punished for his alleged involvement in a horrific fight outside of a Baton Rouge bar, Mettenberger's time could be now. He matches his cannon of a right arm with tremendous accuracy and might have the best skill set of any of LSU's current quarterbacks.
MISSISSIPPI STATE
  • Brandon Maye, LB: Maye transferred from Clemson and with the Bulldogs looking to replace three starters at linebacker, Maye is expected to make an immediate impact at middle linebacker. He had a slow start to fall camp, but improved throughout.
OLE MISS

  • Barry Brunetti, Randall Mackey, Zack Stoudt, QBs: All three are vying for the starting quarterback spot and all have done well since the spring. Brunetti transferred from West Virginia, while Mackey and Stoudt are former juco athletes. Brunetti has the edge at quarterback, but Mackey was on top this spring and won't make things easy for the sophomore. Stoudt isn't as athletic as the other two, but has been very sharp with his passing ability.
  • Uriah Grant, Gilbert Pena, DT: Both players were brought in to add some beef in the middle of Ole Miss' line and both could end up starters for opening day. Both have dealt with injuries, but that really hasn't slowed their on-field production in practice.
  • Wesley Pendleton, CB: Pendleton had an impressive juco career and has really caught on in Ole Miss' defense. He's in the thick of it for one of the starting cornerback spots and has shown that he might be the Rebels' most athletic defensive back.
TENNESSEE
  • Alex Bullard, OG: He transferred from Notre Dame and was granted a hardship in order to play this fall. Bullard has moved all along the line this preseason, but it looks like he could be in the running for one of the starting guard positions.
  • Maurice Couch, DT: A lot is expected from Couch, who hopes to fill one of the spots in the middle of Tennessee's line. It hasn't been an easy preseason for Couch, who suffers from asthma, but he has made improvements. He'll contribute at noseguard and the three technique this fall.
  • Izauea Lanier, CB: Though he made his mark playing safety in junior college, Lanier is competing for time at corner. At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, he's a bigger corner, which coach Derek Dooley likes.
  • Byron Moore, DB: Moore appears to be a "tweener" on defense. He could play safety or corner for the Vols. With Tennessee running a lot of nickel formations, Moore should see the field in some capacity this fall.
VANDERBILT
  • Jordan Rodgers, QB: Rodgers missed the 2010 season and missed the spring while recovering from shoulder surgery, but is No. 2 at quarterback. The younger brother to Super Bowl champ Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Rodgers is a player coach James Franklin has been especially excited about seeing.

SEC position rankings: WRs/TEs

June, 16, 2011
6/16/11
9:17
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Today we take a look at the wide receiver/tight end positions in the SEC. This one gets tricky since we’re basing rankings on two different positions.

Let’s take a look at what we came up with:

[+] EnlargeJoe Adams, Jarius Wright, and Greg Childs
AP Photo/April L. BrownJoe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs combined for 2,260 yards last season.
1. Arkansas: The Razorbacks could have the best wide receiver corps in the country. Making things even better for Arkansas is that each member of its tremendous trio is a senior. First, there’s Greg Childs, who would have taken part in the NFL draft this year had he not suffered a knee injury late in the season. Childs is Arkansas’ best receiver when he’s healthy. Joe Adams really came on strong last year, especially after Childs went down. He’s the best when he gets the ball in open space and will command the slot. Then there’s Jarius Wright, who is the fastest of the three and got even stronger this spring as well. The three have 324 combined career receptions for 5,404 yards and 41 touchdowns.

2. LSU: The Tigers might have lost Terrence Toliver, but they’ll still have weapons at receiver. Junior Rueben Randle is expected to be the go-to guy in LSU’s offense and is coming off a season where he caught 33 passes for 544 yards and three touchdowns. Russell Shepard was right behind him last season, catching the same amount of balls, but only totaled 254 yards and one touchdown. He looked sharper this spring and is looking to break out this fall. Tight end Deangelo Peterson should also get more attention this fall. He only caught 16 passes, but that number should increase.

3. South Carolina: For starters, the Gamecocks have the league’s best receiver in Alshon Jeffery. The 6-foot-4, 233-pound freak snatched just about everything that came his way last fall and registered 1,517 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s nearly impossible to stop in one-on-one situations. Senior Jason Barnes didn't make a major impact in 2010, but he does have 60 career receptions under his belt. The smaller Ace Sanders should be even better after bursting onto the scene with 25 receptions for 316 yards and two touchdowns. D.L. Moore, who caught 17 passes in 2010, should have a more expanded role as well.

[+] EnlargeTavarres King
Dale Zanine/US PresswireWith A.J. Green in the NFL, Tavarres King should become the Bulldogs' main receiving threat.
4. Georgia: The Bulldogs are still looking for a few playmakers at receiver, but there is definitely talent in Athens. Junior Tavarres King has moved into A.J. Green’s flanker spot and while he’s not Green, he proved this spring that he’s ready to be the Bulldogs' main receiving threat. Tight end Orson Charles is the best at his position and can flex out to receiver if needed. His 26 catches for 422 yards should increase this upcoming season. Marlon Brown also made strides this spring and should be the No. 2 receiver.

5. Tennessee: Neither Justin Hunter nor Da'Rick Rogers had a ton of catches last fall, but that will change with a strong passing game in 2011. Hunter caught 16 passes, but registered 415 yards and seven touchdowns in the process. He’s a solid deep threat and playmaker. Rogers also only caught 16 passes, and while he didn’t have the yardage Hunter had, he made tremendous strides this spring. Tight end Mychal Rivera caught 11 passes in 2010 and with Luke Stocker gone he takes over as the Vols’ weapon at tight end.

6. Alabama: There aren’t a lot of questions surrounding the Crimson Tide, but receiver isn’t Alabama’s best area. Seniors Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks should get the brunt of the catches. They combined for 70 catches for 1,013 yards and six touchdowns last season. There is a long list of other inexperienced players who should grab some catches as well and former Ohio State receiver Duron Carter, who just transferred in, could be a factor this fall.

7. Florida: The Gators have talent at wide receiver, and Florida should have a more pass-friendly offense, but the group is very unproven. Frankie Hammond Jr. could be Florida’s best weapon at receiver with his speed and athleticism. Omarius Hines has the size and speed to be a major mismatch for defenders in the slot and on the outside. Freshman Quinton Dunbar was Florida’s top deep threat this spring and should get ample playing time. At tight end, Jordan Reed was called Florida’s best athlete and could end up being the Gators’ top playmaker. Trey Burton should catch a few more passes as well.

[+] EnlargeChad Bumphis
Marvin Gentry/US PresswireMississippi State's Chad Bumphis caught 44 passes for 634 yards and five touchdowns last season.
8. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have a ton of depth at receiver, starting with Chad Bumphis. The junior has yet to really break out, but this could be the year he finally puts it together. Alongside him, Mississippi State has Chris Smith, Brandon Heavens and Arceto Clark, who all had solid springs. Those four combined for 115 catches last fall. The Bulldogs also have a host of young receivers who appear ready to compete.

9. Auburn: There is still some talent left on the Plains at receiver. Sure, Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery are gone, but the Tigers will look to Emory Blake and Trovon Reed to make up for their departures. Blake is the leading returning receiver, while Reed will be used all over the field by Auburn’s coaches. He can be a threat in the slot and on the outside. Philip Lutzenkirchen will be more of a staple in the offense as the Tigers’ trusted H-back.

10. Ole Miss: Athletically, the Rebels are fine. However, this group is very inexperienced and was inconsistent this spring. The incoming freshmen will have every opportunity to take a starting spot and Tobias Singleton could be the best option of Ole Miss’ youngsters. Of the returners, Melvin Harris did the most in 2010, catching 30 passes for 408 yards and three touchdowns. Redshirt freshman Vincent Sanders will also get a chance to heavily contribute after making strong strides this spring.

11. Vanderbilt: Four of Vanderbilt’s five receiving leaders return, but the group wasn’t tremendously productive last fall. The Commodores didn’t have a receiver go over 320 yards last season and tight end Brandon Barden caught a team-high 34 passes for 425 yards. Vanderbilt's top two wideouts -- John Cole and Jonathan Krause -- are back, but the Commodores might have to turn to their youngsters for help.

12. Kentucky: The Wildcats lost a lot when do-everything Randall Cobb left early for the NFL and things didn’t get any better by losing No. 2 wideout Chris Matthews. Now, it’s back to the drawing board in Lexington. La'Rod King should be the top target for quarterback Morgan Newton, but he disappointed at times this spring. Matt Roark and E.J. Fields will compete for time, but both need vast improvement. The top athlete could be Brian Adams, but he spent spring playing for Kentucky’s baseball team.
A trio of Alabama players -- running back Trent Richardson, offensive guard Barrett Jones and safety Mark Barron -- have been named first-team All-Americans by Phil Steele in his annual preseason college football preview magazine, which hits newsstands on June 7.

South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina defensive end Devin Taylor and Georgia punter Drew Butler were the other three SEC players to receive first-team honors.

The SEC players receiving second-team All-America mention were:
  • South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore
  • Kentucky offensive guard Larry Warford
  • Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower
  • South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore
  • Alabama safety Robert Lester
  • Georgia place-kicker Blair Walsh

The third-team All-Americans from the SEC were:
  • Arkansas receiver Greg Childs
  • Georgia tight end Orson Charles
  • Alabama center William Vlachos
  • Arkansas defensive end Jake Bequette
  • Arkansas linebacker Jerry Franklin
  • Kentucky linebacker Danny Trevathan
  • Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw
  • LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne
  • Florida kickoff returner Andre Debose

Those SEC players making the fourth team were:
  • Georgia offensive tackle Cordy Glenn
  • Tennessee defensive tackle Malik Jackson
  • Florida defensive tackle Jaye Howard
  • Vanderbilt cornerback Casey Hayward
  • Arkansas punt returner Joe Adams

In surveying Steele's All-SEC teams, a couple of interesting things stick out.

For starters, who do you think he picked as his second-team quarterback? Georgia's Aaron Murray is the obvious choice for first-team honors, but Arkansas' Tyler Wilson was Steele's choice for the second-team guy. With all of the offensive firepower Wilson has around him, he's very likely to put up huge numbers in 2011. So he's as good a pick as anyone.

For whatever it's worth, Steele didn't have suspended South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia on any of his first four teams. Garcia is expected to rejoin the team in the next week or so, but could end up sharing duties with sophomore Connor Shaw.

Also, Steele has Alabama's Duron Carter as one of his second-team All-SEC receivers. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound Carter, the son of former NFL star Cris Carter, is transferring to Alabama after spending last season at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College. Carter began his career at Ohio State before leaving for academic reasons.

Alabama led all SEC teams with 13 different players receiving first- or second-team honors. Richardson was the first-team running back and second-team kickoff returner. Arkansas was second with 10 different players making the first two teams. Adams was a first-team receiver and first-team punt returner.

LSU, a top-5 preseason pick by many analysts, had just one first-team All-SEC player on Steele's preseason list -- Claiborne.
A late recruiting addition could mean some added depth for Alabama in its receiving corps.

Former Ohio State receiver Duron Carter, the son of Cris Carter, is finishing up at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College and plans to enroll at Alabama in June and will be eligible next season, Cris Carter told ESPN.com.

Duron played as a freshman at Ohio State in 2009 and had 13 catches for 176 yards and a touchdown, but was ruled academically ineligible that season and missed the Rose Bowl. He also sat out spring practice that next year because of academic reasons and left Ohio State in June 2010.

The 6-foot-5, 210-pound Carter was originally hoping to re-enroll at Ohio State after getting his academic business in order in junior college, but that door was later closed.

Miami and LSU also pursued Carter, but his Hall of Fame father said the structure of Nick Saban's program at Alabama was one of the deciding factors.

It also helped that the Crimson Tide were looking for more playmakers at receiver after losing Julio Jones early to the NFL draft. And with Carter being eligible to play next season, he'll get a chance to show what he can do right away.

Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks are both proven seniors who've played a lot of football for the Tide, while redshirt freshmen DeAndrew White and Keiwone Malone are two others that will factor heavily into the rotation next season.
Who will be Ohio State's No. 3 wide receiver this season?

The question has been asked for months, even before Duron Carter's departure from the school in mid June. Ohio State boasts two proven receivers in DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher, but the team has no other returning wideouts who caught a pass in 2009.

Interested parties wondered if senior Taurian Washington would take charge. Others watched redshirt freshman Chris Fields, who drew strong reviews from the coaching staff after spring ball. And don't forget about guys like Grant Schwartz, James Jackson or even true freshmen like James Louis or Verlon Reed.

[+] EnlargeJake Stoneburner
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireOhio State tight end Jake Stoneburner only had two catches last sesaon, but figures to play a bigger part in the offense in 2010.
My take: forget all those names for a second. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor's third option in the passing game this fall doesn't even play wide receiver but ... wait for it ... tight end.

"Oh, yeah," Jake Stoneburner said when asked about filling the No. 3 role. "During camp, they've had some instances where they'll split me out and they’ll have a two-back set with three receivers, and I'm the third receiver out there with Dane and DeVier."

Some people out there must be thinking I can't be serious. An Ohio State tight end being an integral part of the passing game? Jim Tressel would go for fourth-and-8 in his own red zone before featuring a tight end as a pass catcher.

Stoneburner had a grand total of two receptions in 2009, while starting tight end Jake Ballard had only 13. In 2008, Ballard and Rory Nicol combined for 11 receptions all year.

Nicol used to joke about how rarely the ball came his way. Ohio State tight ends used their hands for blocking and not much else.

It's why Stoneburner initially wasn't thrilled about switching from receiver to tight end before last season.

"I knew they didn't get the ball," he said.

What might change in 2010? For starters, Stoneburner is admittedly a pass-first tight end who has made blocking his top offseason priority.

He's a big target at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, and he boasts good speed in the middle of the field. Perhaps most important, Pryor likes to throw him the ball.

"The spring is when I really saw it," Stoneburner said. "We would have plays we normally hadn't run with the tight end running routes, and he's looking at me, like, 'Hey, get open on this. I'll try and get you the ball.' With Terrelle knowing the offense more and being more comfortable out there, he's looking for more targets. With me being able to run good routes and get open, he's looking at me to be one of his primary targets."

A year ago, we heard similar talk about Stoneburner being a bigger part of the passing game, and it never happened. But Pryor spread the ball around a bit better in the Rose Bowl and has continued to do so in practice.

Plus, Stoneburner has developed his game.

"I want to be an every-down tight end, and you've got to be able to block and catch the ball," he said. "I felt like with my speed and athleticism, I'll always be able to get open and catch the ball, but I really had to work on my strength, knowing the defense, knowing who to block when and footwork and that kind of stuff."

Stoneburner agrees that Ohio State needs more than two reliable receivers this fall. But Pryor should have more options, regardless of the position they play.

"We've got a lot more weapons," Stoneburner said. "The running backs can catch the ball just as good as the receivers and tight ends, so having all that come together at once, it's going to lead us to being able to do more things with our offense."
The Rose Bowl shed new light on Terrelle Pryor and the Ohio State offense -- a glow that Buckeyes fans hope doesn't go anywhere.

[+] Enlarge
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images Pryor completed 23 of 37 passes for 266 yards with two touchdowns in Ohio State's win over Oregon.
Ohio State's offense was mediocre at best during the regular season, and Pryor hadn't shown enough consistency in the passing game to complement his unique athletic talent. But in Pasadena, Pryor and his teammates put forth the balanced, efficient and effective product everyone had been waiting for.

The game marked a potential turning point for Pryor and the offense, a place where the Buckeyes could build. Ohio State offensive coordinator Jim Bollman certainly hopes so.

But Bollman also knows it's not that easy.

"You're not going to walk on the field [Thursday] and all of a sudden, be at that point," Bollman said. "How hard we all have to work, how focused we have to be to get back to that point, that's what's in front of us. That's the challenge, that's how you try to improve.

"You're not working toward an unseen performance level. We've been to that point. But everybody's got to understand what it takes."

Getting back to that point -- and beyond it -- is the challenge for Ohio State's offense, which begins spring practice Thursday afternoon. Bollman said Pryor won't be limited after offseason knee surgery, and the hope is that the third-year quarterback takes another step after his giant leap between the 2009 regular-season finale and the Rose Bowl.

So can Ohio State open up the playbook, particularly with the pass, for Pryor?

"If we show [progress] along those lines, certainly that would be a logical way for us to head in," Bollman said. "Plus, having the weapon of him being able to run, should we choose to do those kinds of things. But for him in the realm of the passing game, that's got to be a full team deal. Our protection has got to improve. His own performance has to be more consistent. We've got to get more of those outs going to the tight ends and the running backs.

"All of that has got to come together, and that's going to be a fun part of this spring."

Ohio State returns nine starters on offense, including four of five linemen and two capable receivers in DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher. But to truly spark the passing attack, the Buckeyes must identify more options this spring.

They need a No. 3 wideout, as Ray Small departs and no returning players besides Posey and Sanzenbacher recorded more than 20 receptions last fall. Running back Brandon Saine, who had 17 catches for 224 yards last year, should help a bit, but Ohio State wants more depth at receiver.

Bollman said Taurian Washington has the best chance to step in, but the senior had no catches last year and boasts only three in his college career. Duron Carter also returns, and Bollman thinks Chris Fields and James Jackson, as well as some incoming recruits, could factor into the mix.

"Washington's probably the leading candidate," Bollman said. "He really finished up the year strong, did a good job coming through in the bowl game. He'd be a guy that we're counting on to give us a hand in there."

A bigger boost could come from the tight end position, which Ohio State typically uses for run blocking. Former Buckeyes tight end Rory Nicol used to joke about how little the tight ends were used in the passing attack, and while Jake Ballard made a memorable catch in the Rose Bowl, he finished the season with only 14 receptions.

Things could change with Jake Stoneburner stepping into a featured role. The 6-5, 245-pound Stoneburner had only two receptions as a freshman last year, but his production should increase.

"His speed certainly can have more of an effect on the game than some other guys we've had in the past," Bollman said. "That's going to cause openings for someone, if not him. That can have a different effect on things, for sure."
Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel confirmed today that wide receivers Ray Small and Duron Carter and defensive end Rob Rose all will miss the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi.

Multiple media outlets had reported the three players were suspended for the game, but only Carter had officially been ruled out by the team. Tressel didn't provide specifics for the suspensions, but a source told me that Carter is academically ineligible, while both Small and Rose violated team rules. For Small, it was a repeat violation.

Small is probably the most significant loss, as he serves as Ohio State's No. 3 wide receiver and starting punt returner. The Cleveland product can be very dangerous on the field, but his troubles off the field have ended his college career early. Rose is also through at Ohio State.

With both Small and Carter sidelined, a Buckeyes passing attack that ranks last in the Big Ten and 106th nationally won't have two of its top four receivers. Tressel expects junior Taurian Washington and sophomore Lamaar Thomas, as well as freshman tight end Jake Stoneburner, to take on larger roles in the passing game.

"It certainly gives us less depth, without question," Tressel told WBNS radio in Columbus. "Guys like Taurian Washington and Lamaar Thomas are gonna have to step up in those areas from a depth standpoint."

Rose proved valuable at times in the defensive line rotation, but he's not a major loss. Top wide receivers DeVier Posey or Dane Sanzenbacher could handle the punt return duties against Oregon.

The Ducks aren't without their issues, either, as reserve wide receiver Jamere Holland is academically ineligible for the game.

Three-point stance: Gem of an idea

December, 22, 2009
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1. Bowl officials go to great lengths every year to entertain the players and the coaches of their respective teams. The Emerald Bowl will take the players from Boston College and USC to Alcatraz, mandatory for a trip to San Francisco. But there’s more than entertainment. On Christmas, the day before the game, members of both teams will volunteer in the kitchen of Glide Memorial Church. That’s an inspired idea.

2. Joe Paterno turned 83 yesterday. Now that Bobby Bowden will top out at 389 victories, JoePa’s 393 victories are 165 ahead of the next No. 2 among active coaches, Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech. Beamer is 63, so all he has to do is average eight wins a year for the next 20 years – to trail Paterno by five wins. Urban Meyer, 45, has 95 victories. If he wins eight games a year until he turns 83, he’ll have 399 victories. I’m guessing that won’t be enough to catch JoePa.

3. Freshmen wide receivers Morrell Presley of UCLA and Duron Carter of Ohio State didn’t make their grades in fall quarter and won’t play in their teams’ bowl games. I’m surprised that more freshmen on the quarter academic calendar don’t slip. Teams practiced for four weeks and then played three games before classes started. If you fall behind in a 10-week academic calendar, you have little time to catch up. Some guys learn that the hard way.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


Ohio State lost a few style points down the stretch, but the Buckeyes reaffirmed themselves as the team to beat in the Big Ten on a wild day in the conference.

Terrelle Pryor still does a few things that make you scratch your head, but the sophomore quarterback was mostly good in a 33-14 Buckeyes win over Indiana. He factored into all four Buckeyes touchdowns (3 pass, 1 rush) and distributed the ball extremely well. Junior running back Brandon Saine took advantage of his first start this season with 113 rush yards on 17 carries, and freshman wideout Duron Carter caught his first career touchdown. The offense doesn't always click, but it makes enough plays to win.

Once again, the real story for Ohio State was the defense, which forced three Indiana turnovers. Safety Anderson Russell, who was demoted after the season opener, came up big in place of the suspended Kurt Coleman with an interception and a fumble recovery. It was another big night for the Buckeyes' defensive line, which got an interception from Todd Denlinger and impressive second-half play from Rob Rose. Losing Dexter Larimore hurts, but the Buckeyes are stacked up front.

Indiana once again didn't quit and should have made it more competitive, but mistakes really hurt the Hoosiers after the first quarter. Wide receiver Tandon Doss had a really nice night (6 receptions, 96 yards) and the defense played well at times, but Indiana couldn't generate a rushing attack and Ben Chappell's two interceptions really stung. This is clearly a better IU team than many of us had imagined, but the Hoosiers are 0-2 in league play and need to bounce back soon.

Blogger debate: USC-Ohio State

September, 10, 2009
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Quarterbacks Terrelle Pryor and Matt Barkley will be the focal point for Saturday's Ohio State-USC throwdown.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg and Ted Miller


All eyes will be on Columbus this weekend as No. 3 USC visits No. 8 Ohio State (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET). Before the two teams lock horns on the banks of the Olentangy River, we debated several key questions heading into the mega matchup.

Adam Rittenberg: Ted, I look at this USC defense and don't see a glaring weakness. Still, several mobile quarterbacks [Vince Young, Dennis Dixon] have hurt the Trojans in the past. How do you expect USC to defend Terrelle Pryor and does Pryor give the Buckeyes a fighting chance in this game?

Ted Miller: I think Pryor gives the Buckeyes a fighting chance because he can make something out of nothing when a play breaks down -- and the USC defense is good at breaking down plays. While USC fans would debate you on the health of their defense vs. Vince Young, the fact is the Trojans learned from that game that you need to account for an athletic quarterback -- you can't just run your base defense and expect gap control and rush lanes to take care of things. There surely will be some sort of spying, whether with one guy or a shift of guys. On the plus side for USC, this is a really fast defense. It's much faster at linebacker than last year. Malcolm Smith is fast -- his brother is an NFL receiver -- and Michael Morgan is a 4.4 guy. Toss in end Everson Griffen and you've got some guys who can really run on the perimeter of the front-seven. Moreover, middle linebacker Chris Galippo implied to me that this will be more disciplined defense. As extraordinary as Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews and Rey Maualuga were last year, they, at times, freelanced, looking for big plays. That means the Trojans won't be as likely abandon their assigned gaps or let contain break down.

As long as we're talking quarterbacks, what do you think about the poise issue for both guys? USC's Matt Barkley claims he doesn't get nervous. You buy that at the Horseshoe? And how will Pryor react on this big stage?

AR: The Shoe remains the toughest place to play in the Big Ten, getting the slightest of edges against Penn State's Beaver Stadium. Barkley's nerves will be put to the test. It will be extremely loud, especially at the start of the game, and the south end zone addition really makes the decibels rise. I'd imagine USC will go to its strength right away, pound away with those tremendous running backs and athletic offensive line and give Barkley some time to get settled. Everything I've heard about this kid -- from yourself and other observers -- is that he's the real deal. I saw true freshman quarterback Tate Forcier show no nerves last week for Michigan in the Big House, but then again, he was playing at home. Ohio State's defensive line is the strength of the team, and it has to rattle Barkley early for the Buckeyes to have a shot. As for Pryor, he has shown some toughness late in games, particularly against Wisconsin last year. He's certainly more comfortable as a passer, but he can't get away from what makes him special and needs to make plays with his feet. I still haven't seen a team contain Pryor on the move, but he needs the freedom from head coach Jim Tressel and the willingness from within to really cut loose against USC.

Ohio State's defensive line is the team's strongest unit. Same could be said for USC's offensive line. How do you see that matchup shaking out, and will Ohio State need to use speed (Thaddeus Gibson, Cameron Heyward) rather than power to beat the Trojans' front?

(Read full post)


Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


The most significant number during Ohio State's preseason wasn't 2 (Terrelle Pryor's jersey), 3 (consecutive BCS bowl losses), 4 (consecutive Big Ten titles) or 5 (consecutive wins against Michigan).

It was 37.

"We had 37 guys that are new to the team," senior safety and co-captain Kurt Coleman said. "There's a lot of things that we didn't know what to expect heading into camp, but during camp, we definitely jelled and we've gone after it. The younger guys are definitely ready to step up and make big plays."

Ohio State lost 12 starters from last year's team, including national award winners like linebacker James Laurinaitis and cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, as well as offensive skill threats like Chris "Beanie" Wells and Brian Robiskie. Head coach Jim Tressel's Week 1 depth chart features 21 freshmen or sophomores in starting or backup roles.

Several true freshmen could see the field in Saturday's season opener against Navy (ESPN, noon ET), including wide receiver Duron Carter, fullbacks Zach Boren and Adam Homan, and offensive linemen Jack Mewhort and Corey Linsley.

"This preseason was a little bit different than perhaps a year ago, when we had a lot of veterans," Tressel said. "We had a lot of kids coming back who knew why we did things and how we did and who could teach the group coming in. We didn't have quite the number of veterans in our camp [this year].

"So it certainly was a newer group."

As a result, the Buckeyes intensified their preparation for the season. The small group of seniors scheduled a Team Week (most called it Hell Week) midway through camp where all electronic devices -- cell phones, TVs, laptops -- were confiscated for a week as players spent all of their off-field time hanging out together and bonding.

There also were differences when the team hit the practice field.

"We definitely hit a lot more," Coleman said, "which is good. Usually we go into a season, and we're not really fully prepared for that first game. This year, we're definitely prepared for what we're about to go through. You go into the first week, you don't understand the game speed, you don't understand the real hitting of someone going live.

"Us hitting almost every day, it really conditions your body and conditions your mind."

Ohio State can't afford many growing pains from its young players this fall, especially with No. 4 USC looming in Week 2. Last year, the Buckeyes struggled through their pre-USC tune-up against Ohio, and didn't look much better the next week against the mighty Trojans.

A strong effort against Navy will be crucial, and Coleman expects a smooth transition from the team's underclassmen.

"I'm going to say this: The guys that play, they're ready," Coleman said. "I would think they were at least a year into the program, the way they play and the way their bodies are. It's amazing the way they came into camp ready to go."

This spring, Tressel discussed the importance of preventing a sense of entitlement from taking over the team. No players in the program have lost to Michigan or been on a team that failed to win at least a share of the league championship. Freshmen like Carter are joining a program used to dominating the Big Ten.

But Coleman and his fellow captains have ensured that the young players don't think success is automatic.

"We've told them several times that, this isn't easy," Coleman said. "This is going to be a long road and we're going to face a lot of adversity throughout this trip. We told them, 'What we've done in the past doesn't matter. That's not going to help us win.'

"It's tough helping them understand the troubles and the problems that we'll go through this season."

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