NCF Nation: Jonathan Cornell

SEC's Super Seniors

December, 10, 2010
As we wind down the season and point toward the bowl games, I wanted to pay homage to the seniors in this league.

Yes, there are a ton of talented underclassmen in the SEC, many of whom are destined to leave early for the NFL.

But seniors are important in every program, and senior leadership is critical.

Here’s my tribute to the 12 seniors on each team in the league who rose above and beyond this season in terms of on-the-field performance, leadership and sacrificing for the good of the team.

We’ll call it our SEC’s Super Seniors, and it’s something we hope to do every season:

[+] EnlargeFlorida safety Ahmad Black
AP Photo/Phil SandlinFlorida safety Ahmad Black led all defensive backs for most tackles in the SEC.
Ahmad Black, S, Florida: Not even Urban Meyer was sure Black was going to make it at Florida when he first arrived. He wasn’t very big, nor exceptionally fast. But he’s proven to be a staple in the Gators’ secondary for the last three seasons. Black led Florida with 102 tackles this season, leading all SEC defensive backs. He was third on the team with 10 tackles for loss and also had three interceptions and three forced fumbles.

Josh Bynes, LB, Auburn: You talk about instant energy. Bynes was Mr. Pick Me Up all season for the Tigers, who fed off his intensity and his passion. He was the guy who rallied the defense all those times when Auburn fell behind by big margins, and he was an invaluable presence in the locker room. A three-year starter, Bynes led Auburn this season with 71 total tackles and also had three interceptions, including two big ones in the Arkansas game.

Jonathan Cornell, LB, Ole Miss: He’s not real loud. In fact, he’s pretty quiet. But Cornell did his talking with his play this season, putting up All-SEC numbers and winning the respect of everybody on his team by the way he went about his business each day. Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt called him the “backbone,” and Cornell was indeed a steadying presence in what was a tough season for the Rebels. He led the team with 80 total tackles and was fifth in the league with 14 tackles for loss.

Akeem Dent, LB, Georgia: Without a doubt, Dent was one of the more underrated players in the SEC this season. He was second in the league with 122 total tackles. First-year defensive coordinator Todd Grantham will tell you that Dent was invaluable to that defense this season from his middle linebacker position. He called all the signals, made the checks and made one key stop after another for the Bulldogs.

Mike Hartline, QB, Kentucky: Despite his arrest early Friday morning, Hartline came through with the most productive season of his career and was a rock for the Wildcats both on and off the field. The first part of his career had been marred by injuries and inconsistency, but Hartline stayed the course and put up huge numbers this season. He was second only to Ryan Mallett in the SEC with 3,178 passing yards and also threw 23 touchdown passes and nine interceptions.

Spencer Lanning, PK/P, South Carolina: Lanning was more than just a kicker for the Gamecocks. He was a strong voice in the locker room and demonstrated the kind of work ethic that was infectious. As a kicker, he was one of the best dual-threats in the country. He was 16-of-23 on field goals, ranking him fourth in the league, and was fifth in punting with a 44.2-yard average. Not bad for a guy who started his career without a scholarship and wound up becoming a captain.

Greg McElroy
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesAlabama quarterback Greg McElroy had the most productive season of his career.
Greg McElroy, QB, Alabama: One of the smartest guys you’re ever going to meet on a football field, McElroy had his most productive season of his career. His 19 passing touchdowns broke Alabama’s single-season record, and with 2,767 passing yards, he has a chance in the bowl game to break the single-season record for passing yards. McElroy has been a leader ever since he stepped into the starting quarterback role last season, compiling a 23-3 record as a starter.

Nick Reveiz, LB, Tennessee: Here’s another guy who started his career without a scholarship. But he quickly went from playing on the scout team to leading the Vols in tackles. A true inspiration with how he fought back from a serious knee injury last season, Reveiz piled up 94 total tackles this season and was the defensive quarterback on the field. He made big plays, got teammates in position to make plays and made a profound impact on everyone around him with the way he competed on every down.

Kelvin Sheppard, LB, LSU: The Tigers had a few veteran players to build around on defense, but they were also very young in a lot of spots. Sheppard was the centerpiece of the defense in every way. A fiery leader, he brought out the best in all of his teammates and wasn’t afraid to get in guys’ faces when it was warranted. His 108 total tackles ranked him third in the SEC. Included were 11 tackles for loss.

Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State: The names have changed in Mississippi State’s backfield the last two seasons, but the Bulldogs’ productivity in the running game just keeps churning along. Sherrod has been a big reason why. One of the best left tackles in college football, he was a multiple winner of SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors this season and is one of those guys everybody on the team looks up to for guidance.

John Stokes, LB, Vanderbilt: Headed to medical school, Stokes has been the quintessential student-athlete during his career at Vanderbilt. He also had the best season of his career on the football field. Injuries had plagued him in previous seasons, but he came fighting back to finish third on the team with 78 total tackles. With Vanderbilt being such a young team, Stokes was there every step of the way providing his senior leadership.

D.J. Williams, TE, Arkansas: The recipient of the Disney Spirit Award as college football’s most inspirational player, Williams had a dream senior season. The Hogs are going to the Sugar Bowl, and he also won the Mackey Award as the top tight end in the country. He leads the team with 49 catches and has become a much more complete tight end over the last couple of seasons. Moreover, he’s been the consummate team guy and is a big reason Arkansas’ team chemistry has been so good.

SEC Power Rankings: Week 10

November, 1, 2010
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

The state of Alabama can again be proud. Auburn and Alabama occupy the top two spots in the SEC Power Rankings as the calendar flips to November.

Here’s a look at this week’s entire SEC Power Rankings:

1. Auburn: The Tigers (9-0, 6-0 SEC) surpassed 500 yards in total offense for the fifth time this season in Saturday's 51-31 win over Ole Miss. The defense gave up a few too many big plays, but Auburn makes so many big plays itself that it doesn’t really matter. Onterio McCalebb had a long touchdown run for the second week in a row, and Cam Newton caught a touchdown pass. Auburn dropped to No. 2 this week in the BCS standings, but still controls its own destiny in the national title chase.

2. Alabama: The off week came at a good time for Alabama. The Crimson Tide (7-1, 4-1) go into Baton Rouge to face LSU this week rested, and giving Nick Saban extra time to prepare is never a good thing for the other team. Alabama was No. 6 this week in the BCS standings, but has a tough road ahead. The LSU game will be the first of three games remaining against nationally ranked SEC foes.

3. LSU: Here’s LSU’s chance to get back in it and make this a special season. A win over Alabama would keep the Tigers (7-1, 4-1) alive in the Western Division race, although those hopes would be faint. More realistically, LSU would keep its chances alive of landing an at-large berth in a BCS bowl. The Tigers are also coming off a bye week. To make a run this final month, they’re going to need more out of their passing game. But, then, that’s been the case all season.

4. South Carolina: The Gamecocks (6-2, 4-2) looked vulnerable at times last week in their 38-24 win against Tennessee and have serious issues right now when it comes to defending the pass. After saying the week before that the offensive play calling would be a "community" effort, Steve Spurrier said he called most of the plays against the Vols. Who knows what that’s all about? The bottom line is that South Carolina can clinch the Eastern Division championship with a win at Florida in two weeks. First, though, the Gamecocks have to deal with Arkansas this Saturday.

5. Arkansas: The Hogs (6-2, 3-2) rebounded from a sluggish start to trounce Vanderbilt 49-14 this past week, but it might have come at a price. Star receiver Greg Childs went down with an injury in the fourth quarter. The Arkansas radio broadcast said it was a knee injury. The Hogs were already missing Joe Adams, who didn’t play because of an ankle injury. The South Carolina game is an important one for the Hogs in terms of the bowl pecking order.

6. Mississippi State: Outside of Auburn, the hottest team in the league remains Mississippi State, which extended its winning streak to six games with a 24-17 win over Kentucky. The Bulldogs (7-2, 3-2) have shown a penchant for coming through in the clutch and did again Saturday when Johnthan Banks intercepted a pass at the goal line to seal the win. Mississippi State will be off this weekend before traveling to Alabama on Nov. 13.

7. Florida: The Gators (5-3, 3-3) awakened from their offensive slumber with Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps both putting a charge into the offense with big plays, and they edged Georgia 34-31 in overtime. It was Florida’s 18th win over Georgia in the past 21 meetings, and more importantly, keeps the Gators right in the middle of the Eastern Division race. They play at Vanderbilt this week and can win their third straight East crown by taking down South Carolina at home on Nov. 13.

8. Georgia: Just when you thought the Bulldogs might be making a move, they do what they always do -- lose to Florida. Give Georgia and redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray credit for battling back in the second half after falling behind 21-7, but there’s a mental block about this game that Georgia simply can’t seem to overcome. The Bulldogs (4-5, 3-4) still have considerable work to do if they’re going to finish with a winning season.

9. Kentucky: Nobody in the league has lost more close games this season than Kentucky. The Wildcats (4-5, 1-5) lost another one Saturday when Mississippi State held on for a 24-17 win in Starkville. Three of Kentucky’s losses this season have been by a touchdown or less. With Charleston Southern coming up this weekend, Kentucky will need to split with Vanderbilt and Tennessee those final two weeks to extend its bowl streak to five years.

10. Ole Miss: Injuries have taken a toll on the Rebels (3-5, 1-4). They’re a glimmer of what most people thought they would be defensively this season and could be without their two leading tacklers this coming week against Louisiana-Lafayette. Safety Damien Jackson was already suffering from a knee injury prior to the 51-31 loss to Auburn, and linebacker Jonathan Cornell left the game with an ankle injury. It’s been that kind of season for the Rebels, who’ve now lost three in a row.

11. Tennessee: For the first time since John Majors returned to Tennessee as coach in 1977, the Vols are 0-5 in the SEC. They had their chances against South Carolina, but were again hurt by a bad third quarter and lost 38-24 to the Gamecocks. The Vols (2-6, 0-5) were 0-for-October. If they’re going to make a bowl game, they will have to go unbeaten in November. That stretch starts at Memphis on Saturday. It looks like true freshman Tyler Bray will take over the quarterback duties.

12. Vanderbilt: The last three games have been a nightmare for Vanderbilt, which was thrashed 49-14 at Arkansas on Saturday and has now lost its past three games by a combined 113-21 margin. The Commodores (2-6, 1-4) scored touchdowns on their first two series with Des Kitchings taking over the play-calling duties. But from there, Arkansas and Ryan Mallett scored 43 unanswered points and absolutely carved apart the Commodores’ secondary.

SEC stock report, Week 5

September, 29, 2010
I can hear the bell ringing. It’s time for a stock report, something we’ll do every week in the SEC now that we’re far enough into the season to get a read on things:

Stock up

1. Robert Lester: One of the many new faces in the Alabama secondary, Lester had two interceptions in the 24-20 win over Arkansas and returned his second one 33 yards to the Hogs’ 12 to set up the game-winning touchdown. The sophomore safety leads the SEC with four interceptions.

2. Trey Burton: The Gators’ true freshman quarterback/receiver scored a school-record six touchdowns in the 48-14 win over Kentucky. It looks like he’s the answer in the Tebow package.

[+] Enlarge Robert Lester
Nelson Chenault/US Presswire Robert Lester leads the SEC with four interceptions.
3. Jonathan Cornell: It hasn’t been a good start for the Ole Miss defense, but Cornell has been all over the field for the Rebels. The senior linebacker is tied for the SEC lead with Tennessee’s Nick Reveiz in tackles (39) and is second in tackles for loss (8).

4. Stevan Ridley: Lost in Patrick Peterson’s spectacular play and LSU’s struggles in the passing game has been the steady improvement of Ridley, the Tigers’ bruising junior tailback. He’s third in the SEC with 434 rushing yards and averaging 5.8 yards per carry.

Stock down

1. Tennessee’s third-down offense: The Vols are 119th nationally out of 120 teams in third-down conversions. They’re 11-of-58 (18.9 percent) and have converted only one third down longer than 5 yards all season, that coming near the end of regulation in the UAB game.

2. LSU’s passing game: The Tigers are ranked 115th nationally in passing offense. Quarterback Jordan Jefferson has not reached 100 yards passing in his last three games while throwing three interceptions and no touchdown passes.

3. Washaun Ealey: After losing another fumble near the goal line last week against Mississippi State, Ealey is being replaced as Georgia’s starting tailback. He also fumbled inside the 5 against South Carolina and missed a key block in the Arkansas game that led to a sack of quarterback Aaron Murray.

4. South Carolina in the fourth quarter: The Gamecocks appeared to be in good shape on the Plains last week after going up 20-7 in the first half. But they gagged in the fourth quarter, turning the ball over on their last four possessions and falling 35-27.

Player of the Year race: Offense

1. Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn: He’s passed for nine touchdowns and run for five touchdowns while leading the SEC in rushing. Nobody has meant more to his team.

2. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: Even though he’s played in only two games, Ingram has been a force. He already has 308 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

3. Ryan Mallett, WR, Arkansas: The three interceptions against Alabama were disappointing, but he has 1,438 passing yards and 10 touchdown passes.

4. Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina: He’s quickly establishing himself as one of the toughest receivers to match up with in college football. He leads the SEC in receiving by more than 100 yards.

5. Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky: Even though he wasn’t a huge factor in the Florida loss, he’s still the most versatile player in the SEC. He’s accounted for touchdowns five different ways, the latest a fake field goal last week.

Player of the Year race: Defense

1. Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn: A dominant presence in the interior for the Tigers, Fairley leads the SEC in sacks (4) and tackles for loss (8.5). At times, he’s been unblockable.

2. Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: He’s college football’s best cornerback and has also been electric in the return game. Teams don’t throw his way. When they do, see the Mississippi State game when he had two highlight-reel interceptions.

3. Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida: He’s right there behind Peterson when it comes to the premier cornerbacks nationally. Jenkins is tied for the SEC lead with seven passes defended and also has two interceptions.

4. Drake Nevis, DT, LSU: He’s been a big part of LSU’s dominance on defense the last few weeks with his constant push up the middle. Nevis is second in the league in sacks (3.5) and leads all SEC defensive tackles with 21 total tackles.

5. Josh Bynes, LB, Auburn: One of the SEC’s true iron men, Bynes has been on the field for just about every meaningful snap and has consistently come up with big plays for the Tigers.

SEC position rankings: Linebackers

July, 27, 2010
Who in the SEC can claim the Linebacker U. moniker this season?

Here’s a rundown:

[+] EnlargeDont'a Hightower
Marvin Gentry/US PresswireExpectations are high for Alabama's Dont'a Hightower.
1. Alabama: How many teams lose a player the caliber of Rolando McClain in the middle and replace him with somebody just as talented? Dont’a Hightower made an amazing recovery from a serious knee injury and was going through contact in the spring. He’ll play in the middle of the Crimson Tide’s base defense and will rush the passer from the “jack” linebacker position on passing downs. Courtney Upshaw, Jerrell Harris, Chris Jordan and Nico Johnson are also back, and all four have star potential.

2. Georgia: With the Bulldogs going to a 3-4 scheme this season, that means junior pass-rushing specialist Justin Houston now falls into the linebacker category. Houston had 7.5 sacks last season from his end position. Sophomore Cornelius Washington also shifts from end to outside linebacker after collecting four sacks a year ago. The Bulldogs have moved senior starter Darryl Gamble from inside to outside linebacker, while senior Akeem Dent and junior Marcus Dowtin are also back. Dent and Dowtin were part-time starters last season.

3. Ole Miss: Two of the more underrated linebackers in the SEC are Ole Miss seniors Jonathan Cornell and Allen Walker. Cornell started all 13 games in the middle last season and was third on the team with 79 tackles, including eight for loss. Walker started 11 games last season at strongside linebacker. Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix also likes his younger talent, including D.T. Shackelford, Joel Kight and Mike Marry. Shackelford, in particular, could be poised for a breakout season. This is a productive and versatile group.

4. Auburn: The Tigers will line up with a pair of senior All-SEC candidates in Josh Bynes and Craig Stevens. They both finished among the top 10 tacklers in the league last season, combining for 199 total tackles. The only problem was that they had to play just about every meaningful snap. The Tigers hope to have more depth this season. They didn’t have any last season and are moving Daren Bates from safety to a hybrid outside linebacker position. Bates led all SEC freshmen a year ago with 70 tackles. He wasn’t able to go through spring, though, because he was recovering from shoulder surgery.

5. Florida: Brandon Spikes and Ryan Stamper were major cogs in the Gators’ linebacker corps a year ago and made a ton of plays. Life without them will be different, but not impossible. That’s what happens when you recruit talented players like Jelani Jenkins and Jon Bostic, both of whom had big springs. There’s also some experience returning. Senior A.J. Jones has 30 career starts and started the first 11 games a year ago at outside linebacker before injuring his knee. Senior Brandon Hicks has also been a part-time starter each of the past two seasons. There’s a lot of speed in this group.

6. South Carolina: The Gamecocks might have a little more depth than they had a year ago at linebacker, but what they don’t have is that proven playmaker on the outside. Eric Norwood filled that role as well as anybody the past two seasons, but now he’s gone. Junior Shaq Wilson was the team’s leading tackler last season, and he’s moving to one of the outside spots from middle linebacker. Senior Rodney Paulk returns in the middle after suffering through season-ending knee injuries each of the past two seasons. Senior Josh Dickerson is another guy who can move around and play different spots.

7. Tennessee: One of the most experienced positions on Tennessee’s team is at linebacker. The Vols had several players playing at a high level there last season only to be injured. They’re all back, including senior Nick Reveiz in the middle. Tennessee’s defense was never the same after he left the lineup with a knee injury. Senior LaMarcus Thompson is also back after battling through injuries a year ago, and the same goes for senior Savion Frazier. Sophomore linebacker Greg King is currently suspended, but he also showed promise last season as a freshman.

8. LSU: Senior Kelvin Sheppard returns as one of the top middle linebackers in the SEC. He’s a tackling machine who was fourth in the league in tackles a year ago with 110. He’s one of those defenders who’s a factor on every play. The key for the Tigers will be how quickly the players around him grow up now that veterans Jacob Cutrera, Harry Coleman and Perry Riley have all moved on. Sheppard thinks junior Ryan Baker is ready to shine at weakside linebacker after being a force on special teams the past two seasons. Junior Stefoin Francois is the top candidate to step in on the strong side after starting his career as a safety.

9. Vanderbilt: Linebacker has been one of the Commodores’ strong suits for several years now, and that shouldn’t change this season with junior Chris Marve manning the middle. A first-team preseason All-SEC selection, Marve has racked up more than 100 tackles in each of his first two seasons. Senior John Stokes, who’s already been accepted into Vanderbilt’s medical school, returns at one of the outside linebacker spots. The Commodores could use a healthy Tristan Strong, who tore his ACL last season as a redshirt freshman.

10. Mississippi State: Gone is hard-hitting Jamar Chaney, who came back from an injury last season and helped anchor the Bulldogs’ defense. Senior Chris White will move over to play in the middle after starting all 12 games and recording 75 tackles last season. Senior K.J. Wright returns as one of the best big-play defenders on the team after finishing with 6.5 tackles for loss and forcing two fumbles last season. After White and Wright, the Bulldogs will be counting on several younger players at linebacker.

11. Arkansas: The Hogs need to improve across the board on defense, and linebacker is no exception. Junior Jerry Franklin has started since he was a freshman and finished with 94 tackles last season. He’s capable of playing in the middle, but Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino wants to leave him at weakside linebacker and give him a chance to make more plays against both the run and pass. The Hogs still need to settle on a middle linebacker. Senior Jermaine Love and sophomore Terrell Williams were battling it out in the spring.

12. Kentucky: Junior Danny Trevathan returns at weakside linebacker. He’s the Wildcats’ leading returning tackler. But after Trevathan, there’s not much game experience at linebacker. Redshirt freshman Qua Huzzie made a big impression on the coaches last preseason before hurting his shoulder. Sophomore Ridge Wilson is another younger player who needs to come through for the Wildcats at linebacker.
Posted by's Chris Low

Again, I ask: What is indisputable evidence?

The replay official in the Auburn-Ole Miss game overturned a batted interception on the field in the second quarter and ruled that the ball hit the ground before Ole Miss’ Jonathan Cornell secured it.

Perhaps the replay official had the luxury of different angles than we did at home, but I saw nothing in the replays shown on television that would come close to rising to the level of being indisputable.

Put it this way: If that play was indisputable, how in the world was Dustin Doe’s interception return not overturned last week when replays in the Florida-Mississippi State game showed that the ball was clearly out of his hands before he crossed the goal line?

Obviously, there are different versions of what’s indisputable.