NCF Nation: Earl Bennett

SEC helmet stickers: Week 12

November, 17, 2013
11/17/13
9:00
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Here are five players (or groups) from around the SEC who earned helmet stickers with their performances on Saturday.

Nick Marshall and Ricardo Louis (and Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons): Let's be clear. It was nothing more than a 1-in-1-million occurrence that allowed Louis to catch a 73-yard pass from Marshall, deflected between Matthews and Harvey-Clemons, to score the game-winning touchdown with 25 seconds remaining on Saturday. But the Tigers scored that touchdown, and kept their SEC championship hopes alive in the process. Marshall finished the day with 229 passing yards against his old team, plus 89 rushing yards and two more scores. And Louis had 131 receiving yards, 66 rushing yards and two touchdowns. It was certainly a winning combination.

Aaron Murray: The Georgia quarterback's ridiculous second half will fade in relevance over time, but the only reason Marshall even needed to complete the last-minute touchdown pass to Louis was because Murray carried his team into the lead in the second half. Georgia stunk it up in the first half, but Murray rallied the Bulldogs to a 38-37 lead with 1:49 to play after trailing by 20 points early in the fourth quarter. Murray finished with 415 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception, while also rushing for 37 yards and two more scores -- including a diving go-ahead touchdown in the closing minutes -- although Auburn's Hail Mary minimized the importance of Georgia's rally.

Alabama's defense: By this point, this should be obvious. The reason anyone is talking about AJ McCarron contending for the Heisman Trophy is that we can't collectively give it to his defense. Alabama turned the ball over four times Saturday against Mississippi State -- including two interceptions from McCarron -- but the defense allowed just seven points and 197 total yards. Heck, State's one touchdown came on a fumble forward into the end zone. Alabama led 10-7 at one point in a mediocre third quarter, but the defense didn't allow things to get truly scary. McCarron should be taking THOSE guys out to dinner this week.

Jordan Matthews: The Vanderbilt receiver caught 12 passes for 141 yards, becoming the first Commodores wideout to post back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, and rushed twice for 31 yards in Vandy's 22-6 win over Kentucky. He's within three catches of former Vandy receiver Earl Bennett's SEC record of 236 career catches. And the Commodores (6-4) are bowl eligible for three straight years for the first time in program history -- thanks in large part to the contributions from their senior receiver.

Elliott Fry: I almost went with Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace here -- his four touchdowns in Ole Miss' 751-yard effort against Troy were impressive -- but place-kicker Fry's four field goals in Saturday's 19-14 win against Florida were much more important. The Gators led 14-13 entering the fourth quarter on Saturday, but Fry knocked down a 22-yard kick with 6:43 remaining and a 43-yard field goal with 2:16 to play to extend the Gamecocks' lead to five points. Fry went 4-for-5 on field goals Saturday and hit his only PAT as South Carolina put pressure on Missouri to claim the SEC East title.

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Scour the national recruiting rankings, and you won't find Vanderbilt's class anywhere in the Top 25.

Heck, you're lucky to find it in the Top 75, whatever that means. The Commodores won seven games last season and won a bowl game.

That's as many games as South Carolina won (and the Gamecocks lost their bowl game) and more games than Arkansas, Auburn and Tennessee won in 2008.

Anybody taking bets that Vanderbilt's classes weren't ranked as highly as the classes of Arkansas, Auburn, South Carolina or Tennessee three and four years ago?

Recruiting at Vanderbilt is a whole different animal than anywhere else in the SEC. For one, the Commodores rarely go head-to-head with other SEC schools on recruits. Then there's the whole matter of finding kids who not only can get into Vanderbilt academically, but have what it takes to keep up with that curriculum and also play SEC football.

Under Bobby Johnson, the Commodores have been exceptionally good at evaluating kids who might have flown under the radar a little bit during the recruiting process. In a lot of cases, they're going into talent-rich states in the SEC region and getting players the marquee programs don't want for various reasons ... and then turning around and beating those programs with those same kids.

Some recent examples: Earl Bennett (Birmingham, Ala.), Chris Nickson (Brundidge, Ala.), D.J. Moore (Spartanburg, S.C.), Chris Williams (Glynn, La.), Broderick Stewart (Newnan, Ga.), Myron Lewis (Pompano Beach, Fla.), Reshard Langford (Tanner, Ala.) and Marcus Buggs (Madison, Tenn.).

This year's Vanderbilt class was highlighted by three running back prospects -- Warren Norman (Stone Mountain, Ga.), Zac Stacy (Centreville, Ala.) and Wesley Tate (Hendersonville, Tenn.). The Commodores also landed Parade All-America quarterback Charlie Goro (Park Ridge, Ill.).

Here are some of Johnson's overall thoughts on the class. The Commodores have 18 starters returning next season:

"We felt like certain needs were met. Of course we always talk about that, but defensive backs, offensive linemen and running backs were high priorities for us. We feel like we addressed those positions. Offensive line was especially important. We were also able to get some high quality talent in just about every position, so we feel good about it."

On the impact of the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl win:

"I think it's probably going to help us more this (next) year than it did this year. We had probably about 12 commitments almost halfway through the season, almost the first part of the season. I think the bowl victory helped us finish off this class and keep them interested in Vanderbilt and wanting to come to Vanderbilt. But I think the biggest push we'll get out of that bowl victory is when we start recruiting this year's juniors and hopefully help us get them on campus this spring and maybe get them to commit earlier to our program this coming season."

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