NCF Nation: John Jenkins

Notre Dame will examine Notre Dame Stadium's location to try to convert it into a hub for student life and academic facilities, the school announced Thursday.

[+] EnlargeNotre Dame
Courtesy of Notre Dame AthleticsThe University of Notre Dame announced Thursday that it is exploring an innovative approach to campus planning that would take advantage of the central location of the football stadium.
“Inspired by the University’s campus master plan, we will study the possibility of accomplishing multiple objectives -- namely, preserve the campus’ pedestrian character by taking advantage of a central location for needed facilities, retain the integrity of a legendary stadium, improve the visual attractiveness of the exterior stadium wall, and enhance the game-day experience for our football fans,” Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., the University’s president, said after presenting an outline of the initiative to members of the Board of Trustees at its spring meeting.

Potential areas that will be examined for construction additions to the stadium include classroom space, a student center, media resources and a press box, hospitality function locations, and premium seating options.

Costs for the potential additions, if there are any, are unknown, though the original stadium will remain intact no matter what.

Reps from the Offices of the Provost, Student Affairs, Executive Vice President, University Relations and Architect, Notre Dame Athletics and other departments will be involved in the study, as well as outside consultants.
After seeing a record 12 SEC players taken in the first round of the NFL draft, it's time to look at who could go in the second round.

NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. has his second-round mock draftInsider all ready and has eight SEC players going in tonight's second round. There are some real SEC gems remaining and I'm sure there will be a few surprises as well.

Here's a look at Kiper's mock draft:

No. 41: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee (Buffalo Bills)

No. 43: John Jenkins, DT, Georgia (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

No. 46: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama (Buffalo Bills)

No. 48: D.J. Swearinger, S, South Carolina (Pittsburgh Steelers)

No. 51: Kevin Minter, LB, LSU (Washington Redskins)

No. 54: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State (Miami Dolphins)

No. 55: Cornelius Washington, OLB, Georgia (Green Bay Packers)

No. 58: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M (Denver Broncos)

Kiper also has his list of the 10 best available players on Day 2Insider. Three of them are SEC players, including Lacy, who is listed at No. 2 on Kiper's list. He was a projected first-rounder heading into the draft, and even though he is listed as Kiper's top running back in the draft, he fell out of the first round.

Talk about a second-round steal.

Here are the SEC players listed and a little from Kiper on each:

No. 2: Lacy -- "The top runner on my board, I think Lacy has more talent coming into the pros than former Alabama star Mark Ingram."

No. 8: Minter -- "Minter has solid sideline-to-sideline range, even though he didn't jump out on film."

No. 9: Jenkins -- "Jenkins fits as a 3-4 nose tackle who can stuff the run and take on double teams."
National signing day might have come and gone, but that didn't stop Georgia from adding to its already stout 2013 recruiting class.

Almost two weeks after the most important recruiting day of the year, the Bulldogs signed Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College defensive tackle Toby Johnson, who is the nation's No. 4 prospect in the ESPN Junior College 100. He gives Georgia 33 signees in its 2013 class.

The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Johnson picked Georgia over Auburn and Mississippi State.

"I called Mark Richt last night and told him I was coming," Johnson said. "He was fired up. They want me to play defensive end, but I will move inside in the nickel package."

The addition of Johnson, who finished the year with 37 tackles, three sacks and four pass breakups in nine games, is big for the Bulldogs, who lost starting nose guard John Jenkins, along with Kwame Geathers, Abry Jones and Cornelius Washington up front. Georgia was in desperate need of some depth up front, and Johnson gives the Dawgs someone who can immediately help out.

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham wanted to play more defensive linemen last season, and he might get his way in 2013 after Georgia signed seven defensive line prospects in this year's recruiting class. But Johnson might be the best of the bunch with his versatility. It also doesn't hurt that he has some post-high school playing experience.

With all the struggles Georgia's defense had against the run last season, the addition of Johnson will give Grantham a chance to rotate more players up front, keeping guys much fresher this fall.

Johnson is rehabbing a torn ACL in his right knee, suffered in November, but he said that his injury shouldn't limit him when he reports this summer.

“I plan to enroll June 6, and I do not plan to redshirt,” Johnson said. “It feels great to be a Dawg.”
The NFL draft is right around the corner, and as we say goodbye to national signing day, we're turning our attention back to players who just left the SEC.

Following the 2012 season, the SEC was gutted by a tremendous amount of players looking to make futures for themselves in the NFL. And when you take a look at mock drafts, you can tell that the conference is losing a lot of very good talent in 2013.

ESPN NFL draft gurus Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay released new (early) mock drafts for April's NFL draft, and both are chock-full of SEC talent. Both Kiper's mock draft Insider and McShay's mock draft Insider have 16 SEC players going in the first round. Kiper has six SEC players going within the first 10 picks, including Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel going No. 1 to the Kansas City Chiefs and A&M defensive end Damontre Moore going No. 2 to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

McShay's top SEC players in his mock draft are Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner (No. 3 to the Oakland Raiders) and Joeckel (No. 4 to the Philadelphia Eagles).

Alabama dominated with at least four players making both mock drafts.

Here's a quick look at where SEC players stand in each mock draft:


1. Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M -- Kansas City
2. Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M -- Jacksonville
4. Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama -- Philadelphia
5. Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia -- Detroit
8. Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia -- Buffalo
10. Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU -- Tennessee
12. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee -- Miami
14. Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri -- Carolina
15. Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida -- New Orleans
18. Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama -- Dallas
20. D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama -- Chicago
24. Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State -- Indianapolis
26. Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama -- Green Bay
29. Matt Elam, S, Florida -- New England
31. John Jenkins, DT, Georgia -- San Francisco
32. Kevin Minter, LB, LSU -- Baltimore


3. Dee Milliner -- Oakland
4. Luke Joeckel -- Philadelphia
6. Barkevious Mingo -- Cleveland
9. Jarvis Jones -- New York Jets
10. Chance Warmack -- Tennessee
13. Damontre Moore -- Tampa Bay
14. Sharrif Floyd -- Carolina
16. Cordarrelle Patterson -- St. Louis
18. Sheldon Richardson -- Dallas
19. Alec Ogletree -- New York Giants
21. Eddie Lacy -- Cincinnati
24. Johnthan Banks -- Indianapolis
25. Sam Montgomery -- Seattle
26. John Jenkins -- Green Bay Packers
31. Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee -- San Francisco
32. Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama -- Baltimore

Notre Dame defends its investigation

January, 25, 2013
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Top administrators at Notre Dame decided within hours of hearing about the Manti Te'o dead girlfriend hoax that it did not involve a crime and within two days had concluded there was no NCAA violation, according to a letter sent by the university president to board of trustee members on Friday.

The Rev. John Jenkins told trustees that despite "the unrelenting scrutiny of hundreds of journalists and countless others -- and repeated attempts by some to create a different impression -- "no facts relating to the hoax have been at odds with what Manti told us" on Dec. 27-28.

The letter was obtained Friday by The Associated Press from a university official who provided it on condition of anonymity because the private school's internal workings are confidential.

The eight-page document, including a four-page letter from Jenkins and a four-page outline of how Notre Dame handled the hoax, is both a defense and an explanation of the school's actions.

"We did our best to get to the truth in extraordinary circumstances, be good stewards of the interests of the university and its good name and -- as we do in all things -- to make the well-being of our students one of our very highest priorities," Jenkins concluded in his letter.

Some of the timeline Notre Dame outlined is well known, including that its star linebacker disclosed the scam to his coaches the day after Christmas and it remained unknown to the public until broke the story on Jan. 16, long after the Fighting Irish lost the BCS championship to Alabama on Jan. 7.

Jenkins wrote that Notre Dame officials talked in the hours after hearing from Te'o on Dec. 26 and agreed there was no indication of a crime or student conduct code violation. Athletic director Jack Swarbrick spoke with Te'o the next day, and on Dec. 28 the school concluded there were no indications of an NCAA rules violation, which could have put Notre Dame's 12-0 regular season in jeopardy.

The school then made moves to find out who was behind the hoax, thereby protecting Te'o and itself.

"For the first couple of days after receiving the news from Manti, there was considerable confusion and we simply did not know what there was to disclose," Jenkins wrote.

On Jan. 2, after several days of internal discussion and a week after Te'o's disclosure, Notre Dame retained Stroz Friedberg, a New York computer forensics firm to investigate the case and whether any other football players had been targeted. The firm did not return phone or email messages left Friday.

To read the full story, click here.

Georgia bowl X factor

January, 1, 2013
We're taking a look at Georgia's X factor for the Bulldogs' matchup with Nebraska in today's Capital One Bowl:


Kwame Geathers, Jr., NG: With big man John Jenkins academically ineligible for today's game, Geathers steps in to try and clog the middle of Georgia's line against a very, very good running team. Nebraska led the Big Ten and ranked eighth nationally with 254.5 rushing yards per game. The Huskers are averaging 5.4 yards per attempt and run the ball almost 50 times a game. Georgia has to stop Nebraska's ground game or it's going to be a long day for the Bulldogs' defense.

Georgia enters the game with one of the SEC's worst rushing defenses, as the Bulldogs surrendered 177.8 yards on the ground per game. That was good enough for 12th in the SEC. Georgia is fresh off giving up 350 rushing yards to Alabama in the SEC championship and can't afford to get sloppy again up front because this defense will just wear down as the game goes on. That means Geathers, who has five tackles for loss on the year, has to get push up front to disrupt Nebraska's elite running game. Nebraska running backs Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah and quarterback Taylor Martinez combined for 2,597 rushing yards this season, so getting some pressure up the middle and clogging things up front will be key for Georgia's defense, as it looks to slow down the Huskers. Geathers isn't as wide as Jenkins, but he's taller and has a ton of strength. If he can slow plays up the middle, Georgia's defense should tire out like it did against Alabama.

Pregame: Capital One Bowl

December, 31, 2012
Georgia (11-2, 7-1 SEC) vs. Nebraska (10-3, 7-1 Big Ten)

Who to watch: Considering that the two defenses in the Capital One Bowl rank 95th (Nebraska at 194.9 rushing yards allowed per game) and 77th (Georgia, 177.8 ypg) against the run, we recommend that you keep an eye on the respective teams’ running threats.

The run is particularly important for Nebraska, which ranks eighth nationally in rushing offense at 254.5 yards per game. Quarterback Taylor Martinez (175 attempts, 973 yards, 10 TDs) and running backs Ameer Abdullah (219-1,089, 8 TDs) and Rex Burkhead (74-535, 4 TDs) present a major threat for a Bulldogs defense that has surrendered 300-plus rushing yards in three straight games.

Georgia’s offense is more balanced than Nebraska’s -- the Bulldogs average 274.2 passing yards and 184.2 rushing yards per game -- but offensive coordinator Mike Bobo will no doubt try to set up his passing game with his dynamite one-two punch of freshman tailbacks, Todd Gurley (199-1,260, 16 TDs) and Keith Marshall (109-723, 8 TDs). Marshall has two touchdown runs of 70-plus yards this season, providing the home run threat out of the backfield that the Bulldogs have lacked for several years.

What to Watch: Georgia’s defensive front against Nebraska’s offensive line. The Cornhuskers have a pair of All-Big Ten offensive linemen in guard Spencer Long and tackle Jeremiah Sirles, but center Justin Jackson is out with an injured ankle. Their backup center, either Mark Pelini or Cole Pensick, will not have to go up against Georgia’s senior All-SEC noseguard, John Jenkins, who will miss the game after being declared academically ineligible last week. But they’ll hardly get much of a break in having to block 6-foot-6, 355-pound nose Kwame Geathers, who will replace Jenkins in the starting lineup.

Nonetheless, after getting shredded by Alabama’s powerful running game, Georgia’s defensive line will be subject to close observation against Nebraska’s talented runners.

Why watch? The Capital One Bowl is traditionally one of the highest-profile non-BCS bowl games, and this one fits the bill. No. 7 Georgia came within 5 yards of upsetting Alabama and playing for the BCS title. No. 16 Nebraska could have played in the Rose Bowl before laying an egg against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game.

Surprisingly enough, though, these teams have played only once before despite their positions as two of the winningest programs in college football history. Nebraska’s 45-6 win over the Bulldogs in the 1969 Sun Bowl still ranks as the worst bowl loss in Georgia history.

Prediction: Nebraska is going to score, but can it score enough to keep up with Georgia? The Cornhuskers have played six games against teams that rank in the nation’s top 50 in scoring offense. They went 3-3 in those games and allowed an average of 39.5 points per game. And here’s the kicker: Georgia boasts the highest-scoring offense Nebraska has faced this season, as the Bulldogs rank 19th nationally in scoring at 37.2 points per game. Georgia 38, Nebraska 24.

SEC predictions: Bowl week

December, 28, 2012
And just like that, there's a new king of the SEC castle.

It seemed like only yesterday that Chris was gloating about his championship season of SEC picks. He reveled in the fact that he came back from what seemed like an insurmountable lead that I had built halfway through my first season on the blog. To lose the way I did last year really hurt, but it made me stronger and wiser.

This year, I came into the game with vengeance on my mind. Remember folks: Winning truly is the only thing in this world, and I intended to knock Chris down a few notches in Year 2.

It's clear that happened because we haven't seen as many anti-soccer references from him and he hasn't blasted me for being a cat-owning bachelor. No, the Chris Low who strutted around late last season is long gone after I crushed him in the picks this fall.

After we both correctly picked Alabama to beat Georgia in the SEC title game, I finished the year 101-12 (.893), while Chris went 94-19 (.832).

There's still a chance that Chris could make a run in the postseason, but I highly doubt that'll be the case. This one is over. In fact, it's been over for a while, but he pleaded with me to continue the picks through the bowl season. So here you go, Chris. Just for you, we're picking the bowl games.

We're saving the national championship for later, but here are the other eight SEC bowl games:



Chris Low: Very few people gave Ole Miss a chance to even be in a bowl game, but the Rebels made Hugh Freeze’s first season one to remember and will cap it in grand fashion. … Ole Miss 34, Pittsburgh 24

Edward Aschoff: The Rebels weren't supposed to be here, but Freeze's transformation of the program made Ole Miss a legitimate team in the SEC West this year. The momentum from that Egg Bowl win will carry over into a big win in Birmingham. ... Ole Miss 31, Pittsburgh 21



Chris Low: Vanderbilt owns the SEC’s longest winning streak at six straight games. The Commodores will make it seven in a row in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. … Vanderbilt 27, NC State 24

Edward Aschoff: The Commodores are the SEC's hottest team right now and scored 40 points or more in four of their past five games. Vandy will extend its winning streak to seven games. ... Vanderbilt 31, NC State 17



Chris Low: The schedule jumped up and grabbed the Bulldogs toward the end of the season after their 7-0 start. They won’t be able to get it back in the Gator Bowl. … Northwestern 23, Mississippi State 21

Edward Aschoff: Mississippi State didn't exactly end the season the way it expected and really struggled up front defensively. However, getting nine wins is a major motivator for the Bulldogs. ... Mississippi State 27, Northwestern 24



Chris Low: LSU wasn’t thrilled to drop to the Chick-fil-A Bowl, but the Tigers will take out their frustration on the ACC’s version of the Tigers -- Clemson. … LSU 24, Clemson 20

Edward Aschoff: With Zach Mettenberger's improved play, LSU now has a tougher offense for Clemson to battle. The fact that Clemson's defense is still struggling to stop anyone is a major concern. ... LSU 31, Clemson 17



Chris Low: There was a time when bowl games and South Carolina football didn’t mix, but it’s a new day now that the Head Ball Coach has things rolling in Columbia. … South Carolina 31, Michigan 23

Edward Aschoff: The last time Michigan played an SEC team, the Wolverines were literally run out of the state of Texas. South Carolina brings a much more aggressive defense and the league's best defender to Tampa, Fla. ... South Carolina 28, Michigan 17



Chris Low: Get out the calculators because this one might end up looking more like a basketball score. The Aggies will make enough stops on defense to pull it out in the fourth quarter. … Texas A&M 41, Oklahoma 38

Edward Aschoff: Expect a lot of points and a lot of yards in this one. Kliff Kingsbury might be gone, but Johnny Manziel and his gang of playmakers will keep that scoreboard flashing in Jerry's World. ... Texas A&M 44, Oklahoma 40



Chris Low: Missing one of its top players on defense, noseguard John Jenkins, Georgia will be even more vulnerable against the run, and it remains to be seen where this team is emotionally after that crushing loss in the SEC championship game. … Nebraska 28, Georgia 24

Edward Aschoff: This might be one of the SEC's top bowls, but the Bulldogs certainly aren't enthused about being in Orlando instead of Miami. But Nebraska is pretty bummed, too, after being blown out by Wisconsin and missing out on the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio. ... Georgia 27, Nebraska 23



Chris Low: The Gators are returning to a BCS bowl game for the first time since 2009, and while they’re not a juggernaut on offense, they’re way too stout defensively for Louisville to get out of the Big Easy with a win. … Florida 27, Louisville 14

Edward Aschoff: The Gators certainly have more overall talent, but they've been known to play down to their competition. Still, Will Muschamp and his crew have proved to be excellent game planners when it really counts. ... Florida 28, Louisville 14
1. Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times wrote a perceptive analysis of the collegiate career of USC quarterback Matt Barkley, who may not play in the Sun Bowl because of injury. It came as a stunner to read that Barkley never made All-Pac-10/12 in his four seasons as the Trojans’ starter. Barkley got outplayed by Sean Canfield of Oregon State (2009), Andrew Luck of Stanford (2010-11) and Marcus Mariota of Oregon (2012).

2. On the same day that the Senior Bowl announced that Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins had accepted its invitation, Bulldog head coach Mark Richt announced that Jenkins had been ruled ineligible for the Capital One Bowl because he didn’t make his grades. I bring up the Senior Bowl because a senior who trips up on academic issues isn’t sending a very smart message to his 32 prospective NFL employers. Jenkins will have some explaining to do in Mobile and throughout the pre-draft dog-and-pony show.

3. Barry Alvarez and the Wisconsin Badgers arrived in Pasadena on Wednesday for the Rose Bowl, and what a delight it is to see him back in charge. He called the opportunity to coach in his fourth Rose Bowl “the greatest gift anybody could give me.” Alvarez, the Wisconsin athletic director, isn’t coaching for free but he is a bargain. He will make $118,500 for his work. Alabama coach Nick Saban makes $5.32 million this season, which over a 14-game season works out to $380,000 per.

Georgia loses Jenkins for bowl game

December, 26, 2012

Georgia senior nose guard John Jenkins didn't meet academic requirements and won't be eligible to play against Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl.

Jenkins, projected as a first-round NFL draft pick, missed practice earlier this month with a concussion, but coach Mark Richt told reporters Wednesday when the team arrived in Orlando that Jenkins would not be playing in the game for academic reasons.

Kwame Geathers will start in Jenkins' place, and the Bulldogs are also getting Abry Jones back on the defensive line. Jones missed the last seven games of the regular season after undergoing ankle surgery.

The Bulldogs had their issues against the run this season. They're 12th in the SEC in rushing defense, allowing 177.8 yards per game. They were torched for 350 yards on the ground against Alabama in the SEC championship game.

Swarbrick saw pieces in place for run

November, 27, 2012
With the coach of the nation's No. 1 team handling all of the postgame obligations of clinching a title-game spot, his boss was left out in the open.

In the long delay between Notre Dame's win at USC and Brian Kelly's news conference, athletic director Jack Swarbrick held court in a makeshift tent in a scene quite familiar in the Coliseum.

"This of course reminds me a little bit of being pinned up against the wall four years ago here by you guys," Swarbrick cracked.

Then, in 2008, the Irish had laid another egg against the Trojans, not even gaining a first down until the last play of the third quarter. Then-coach Charlie Weis' job was the source of much speculation, though Swarbrick stuck with him through one more year.

But not even Swarbrick saw Notre Dame's climb back to the top coming so fast, as he admitted that, despite the good vibes he got from Kelly -- whose contract he extended after consecutive 8-5 seasons -- he did not see a national title run before Year 4.

"He told me this summer we're going to be very good this year," Swarbrick said of Kelly, adding: "I just think everything coming together. It's all the pieces. It's not just one thing, but you could see it, too. The coaching staff was really good, great team leadership -- all the pieces were there."

Swarbrick said he didn't finally start to realize his vision Saturday night until Notre Dame's goal-line stand.

And, despite negative incidents big and small in the first two years, he said that Kelly had entered this season on the coolest seat in America, seeing the infrastructure the coach was building along the way.

"He knew how to build a program, and he could explain it," Swarbrick said. "He could articulate every element of it. He could tell me exactly what all those elements were and how he was going to address them, and that's what we were missing -- the program elements.

"As you could see, we had some really talented kids, great leaders. It wasn't our problem with the approach to the game, it was the other stuff. And he knew how to build that stuff. He demonstrated it, and that compelled me."

Swarbrick added that he was most happy about the win for the players who had been through the ups and downs of coaching changes and mediocre seasons.

Midway through Swarbrick's interview, his boss interjected to ensure that everyone received due credit.

"The only thing I would add, if I could: Brian did such a great job, but Jack is the one that put in the structures that allowed us to achieve the best graduation rate in college athletics as well as this great win today," school president Rev. John Jenkins said. "He won't credit himself, but he deserves a lot of credit."

ATHENS, Ga. -- Judging by the combined 3 minutes, 54 seconds it took Georgia to score its first two touchdowns Saturday, the Bulldogs were more than ready to get the day over with.

The Bulldogs might have been taking on rival Georgia Tech, but this team was beyond ready to send its weaker counterpart back to Atlanta early, as it gets ready for its own trip to the state capital next week.

"They were just a speed bump on our road," said senior safety Bacarri Rambo, who forced two fumbles and grabbed two turnovers Saturday. "We’re trying to get to Miami."

Players insisted they thought only of Georgia Tech this week -- their 42-10 drubbing of the Yellow Jackets proved that -- but everyone knows how important next week is. Now, the Bulldogs can devote all their attention to Atlanta, as they play in what is essentially a semifinal for the Discover BCS National Championship Game.

"We’ll enjoy this win for a couple of hours, but we have to get our minds back on our goal, and that’s to get to Miami, and Alabama is in our way," Rambo said. "We just have to get better and work on them.

"We haven’t reached our highest peak, but we’re playing some pretty good ball, and we’re going to get better."

Georgia’s next opponent likely will be No. 2 Alabama. With the way the Bulldogs have played in the second half of the season, they have a real chance at making it to South Beach.

You can dog Georgia’s recent opponents, but that was the hand the Bulldogs were dealt, and they did everything they were supposed to do. In the three games prior to Saturday, Georgia had averaged 501 yards of offense and scored at least 37 points in all those games against overmatched opponents.

But to the Bulldogs, wins are wins in the SEC.

"We play against good people, man," said defensive tackle John Jenkins, who had a career-high 11 tackles Saturday. "You can never take anything for granted, no matter who you’re playing, because anybody can be beat."

So Georgia Tech entered the afternoon with the nation’s No. 62 defense? Georgia did exactly what was expected and did it quickly, scoring touchdowns on four of its five first-half possessions.

The Dawgs had 28 points by halftime and 13 plays of 10 or more yards through the first two quarters (three went for 20-plus, including a 57-yard pass from Aaron Murray to Malcolm Mitchell).

Starting fast has been this team’s modus operandi for the past four weeks, as the Bulldogs have outscored opponents 87-20 during that span.

The Bulldogs haven’t exactly played top-tier opponents this month, but they will walk into the Georgia Dome extremely happy about how they’ve played of late.

"We’re very confident,” linebacker Jarvis Jones said. “We play this game the same way they do. We put on our pads and shoes and everything just like they do."

The Bulldogs have the right to feel very sure of themselves. The offense is clicking, and the defense is grooving. The offensive explosion is back, and the defense finally resembles the defense that took the field last season in Athens. The overall numbers might be a little different, but the tough, aggressive play that made last season’s defense so deadly has returned.

People laughed at Georgia’s 35-7 loss to South Carolina in October, but it’s a mere blip on the radar now. Atlanta is in sight, and a win there means the Bulldogs will be playing for a national championship.

“Everything we came for, everything Georgia wants to do is next week,” linebacker Christian Robinson said.

The South Carolina loss certainly threw some off Georgia’s bandwagon, but that thing will be full during its short trip to Atlanta. However, the Bulldogs are hoping the Dome is just a pit stop this season.

"With the talent we got, I know we have the potential,” Rambo said. “It’s just going out there and showing it to everybody, and letting everybody know that we got what it takes to be the national champs."

Video: Georgia's John Jenkins

November, 24, 2012

Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins discusses Georgia's 42-10 win against Georgia Tech.
Barkevious Mingo, Sam MontgomeryWesley Hitt/Getty ImagesLSU's Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery will head up the strongest D-line in the SEC in 2012.
We’ve already gone through the different position groups on offense in SEC.

Now, it’s on to the side of the ball this league is known for -- defense.

More specifically, we examine the top defensive lines, and there are at least five or six in the SEC that would rank among the best in the country.

In fact, defensive line play is one of the things that has separated the SEC from everybody else over the years.

Here’s how we would rank the defensive lines going into the 2012 season:

1. LSU: All you really need to know about the Tigers’ defensive line is that they have three players -- ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo and tackle Bennie Logan -- who may go in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft. Look for sophomore tackle Anthony Johnson to also become an every-down force this season, and sophomore Ego Ferguson could also make his move. LSU is swimming in talent and depth up front.

2. South Carolina: In his second tour through the SEC, sophomore end Jadeveon Clowney is poised to wreak some serious havoc. His partner on the other side, senior Devin Taylor, is also All-SEC material. Sophomore tackle Kelcy Quarles should take a big step, and senior tackle Byron Jerideau was one of the team’s most improved players this spring.

3. Georgia: The Bulldogs’ strength up front starts right there in the middle with 350-pound senior nose guard Jonathan Jenkins. Now that he’s been through an entire SEC season, he’ll be even more of a force in 2012. Cornelius Washington adds a real pass-rushing threat at end in the 3-4 scheme after moving from outside linebacker, and senior end Abry Jones had a great spring.

4. Florida: If not for the injuries to junior tackle Dominique Easley and junior end/linebacker Ronald Powell, the Gators would be ranked even higher. Both players are expected back, with Powell facing the longest odds of being all the way back. Junior Sharrif Floyd is back at his natural position of tackle, and keep an eye on junior college newcomer Damien Jacobs inside. He showed up repeatedly around the ball this spring.

5. Alabama: Jesse Williams moves from end to nose guard and has the strength and power to develop into an NFL first-round draft choice. He shouldn’t have any problem making the transition. Damion Square is an accomplished pass-rusher at one end, and talented guys like junior end Ed Stinson have patiently been waiting their turn.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
AP Photo/Jon EiltsTexas A&M's Damontre Moore is expected to play at a high level again this season.
6. Auburn: It wasn’t a season to remember on defense a year ago for the Tigers, but their defensive line should be one of the most improved units in the league if everyone returns healthy in the fall. Junior end Corey Lemonier tied for fourth in the SEC with 9.5 sacks a year ago, while Dee Ford looks to be healthy on the other side after missing most of last season. The Tigers have some of the best inside depth in the league.

7. Mississippi State: Fletcher Cox’s early departure stings, but his former running mate inside, senior Josh Boyd, is back for his senior season, and junior college newcomer Denico Autry was the rage this spring at end. If Autry turns out to be as good as he looked in the spring, the Bulldogs will have that finisher off the edge they lacked last season.

8. Arkansas: This is a group that could make a significant move upward if everybody stays healthy. Tackle Robert Thomas will be a key in the middle. He should be more consistent this season after coming over from junior college a year ago. Another junior college newcomer, Austin Flynn, was impressive this spring. That’s important because Tenarius Wright is moving from end to linebacker.

9. Texas A&M: Stopping the interior run remains the big question mark for the Aggies, who are moving from a 3-4 to a 4-3. Junior Damontre Moore is a natural at end and will make his presence felt right away. He rates up there with Jarvis Jones, Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo and Corey Lemonier as one of the top defensive front-seven playmakers in the league.

10. Tennessee: The Vols are counting on a pair of junior college additions to come through this fall -- Daniel McCullers at nose tackle and Darrington Sentimore at end. They’re moving to a 3-4 in their base defense. Maurice Couch could factor in at nose guard or end, and junior Marlon Walls is back at end. Replacing Malik Jackson won’t be easy. He made a ton of plays for the Vols.

11. Vanderbilt: If you’re looking for the SEC’s top breakout players in 2012, junior defensive end Walker May should be near the top of your list. He had 4.5 sacks last season and is coming off a superb offseason. Senior tackle Rob Lohr was one of the more underrated interior linemen in the league last season, and the Commodores’ overall depth across the front has improved greatly.

12. Kentucky: The Wildcats won’t be hurting in the experience department. They just don’t have a lot of proven depth. The junior tackle tandem of Mister Cobble and Donte Rumph gives Kentucky more than 600 pounds of muscle in the middle. Senior end Collins Ukwu was slowed during the spring, but has all the tools to be a big-time pass-rusher in this league.

13. Missouri: The Tigers lost three starters from a year ago, and they’re also undersized up front. They have some talent coming, and sophomore end Kony Ealy is primed for a breakout season. Sheldon Richardson will be a key in the middle. He missed the spring with a shoulder injury. Senior end Brad Madison has All-SEC potential, but is also coming off a shoulder injury.

14. Ole Miss: The Rebels don’t have any depth at defensive tackle, which is a major concern for first-year coach Hugh Freeze. They could also use some help at end, which means getting freshman end Channing Ward eligible this fall is a must. Sophomore end C.J. Johnson played well this spring.
We all know that defense wins championships and the SEC is very much a testament to that. Alabama possessed the nation's No. 1 defense last season and now possesses another national championship. Runner-up LSU ranked second nationally.

Alabama ran away with the crown as the nation's and the SEC's best defense, but that title is for the taking in 2012. Alabama is down key players from last year's squad, like linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower, defensive tackle Josh Chapman, and defensive backs Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, and DeQuan Menzie.


Who will have the best defense in 2012?


Discuss (Total votes: 12,039)

Alabama's defense isn't as green as the 2010 group, but it's still drawing some comparisons to it. That's exactly what the Tide wants to hear. Nico Johnson seems primed to be a true leader at linebacker, while Adrian Hubbard could be a budding star at Upshaw's old position. Defensive backs Robert Lester and Dee Milliner are back and will be joined by a couple of JUCO standouts and talented sophomores Vinnie Sunseri and Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix. Jesse Williams could be a real force at defensive tackle along with end Damion Square.

Then you have LSU. The Tigers lost All-World cornerback Morris Claiborne to the NFL draft and two starting linebackers. Michael Brockers is gone at defensive tackle as well. But LSU is still loaded. The Tigers return Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon, who should be fine with an expanded role at cornerback. Junior Kevin Minter really stepped up at linebacker last year and should pick up right where he left off. Even without Brockers, the line is solid with future first-rounder Sam Montgomery at one end position and the underrated Barkevious Mingo at the other. The two combined for 17 sacks last season.

Bennie Logan and Anthony Johnson should provide some meat nastiness in the interior, while the very talented Eric Reid is back at free safety.

Georgia and South Carolina both finished the 2011 season ranked in the top five nationally in total defense. South Carolina was third, while Georgia was fifth, respectively. The Gamecocks lost first-round defensive end Melvin Ingram, but return freshman standout Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor, who many thought would be better than Ingram last season. Kelcy Quarles is back at defensive tackle and the coaches think he'll be even better in his second year.

Shaq Wilson and Reginald Bowens, who combined for 96 tackles last year, will grab time at linebacker again, while the very athletic DeVonte Holloman returns to the Spur for his senior year. There are questions in the secondary, but seniors D.J. Swearinger (safety) and Akeem Auguste (cornerback) return.

Georgia returns nine defensive starters. Brandon Boykin is gone at corner, and the Bulldogs will enter the fall with a lot questions in the secondary, especially with starters Branden Smith, Sanders Commings and Bacarri Rambo suspended to start the season. Star freshman receiver Malcolm Mitchell moved to corner this spring and fits right in, but there are depth issues at the position.

Other than that, the Bulldogs are still pretty stacked. Inside linebacker Alec Ogletree will serve a suspension to start the year, but Georgia will fill his spot by committee. Mike Gilliard, Cornelius Washington, Christian Robinson, Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson provide Georgia with a very solid linebacking unit alongside star Jarvis Jones, who racked up 19.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. Georgia's defensive line should also be pretty stout with the massive John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers battling in the middle. Abry Jones really progressed at end as well this spring.

Or maybe someone else will step up and take the crown ...