NCF Nation: Kadron Boone

BATON ROUGE, La. -- The game rested on Anthony Jennings' young shoulders when he took the field last season against Arkansas. This was no time for the 19-year-old quarterback to play like a tentative true freshman.

"Obviously if you come in like a mouse talking to the huddle and things, they won't believe me," Jennings recalled, "so I had to come in with confidence high and tell the guys, 'Here we go. We're going to go score.'"

[+] EnlargeAnthony Jennings
Crystal LoGiudice/USA TODAY SportsThe last time LSU played Arkansas, on Nov. 29, 2013, Anthony Jennings (pictured) and Travin Dural forged a lasting quarterback-to-receiver bond.
Jennings' LSU team trailed the Razorbacks 27-24 in the fourth quarter and Jennings was standing in his own end zone when he took the first snap on a possession that would forever tie his name with that of Travin Dural in LSU lore.

To that point in the season, Jennings had appeared only on a few select running plays and in garbage time, but here he was replacing injured senior starter Zach Mettenberger and needing to drive the Tigers 99 yards in the game's final 3:04 if LSU was to avoid a huge upset.

When the Tigers' backup quarterback entered the huddle, he projected the necessary confident tone, said Dural, then a redshirt freshman who spent most of the season in veteran stars Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham's shadows.

"He came in like he had been playing the whole game and came in like he was the starter and the offense never missed a beat," said Dural, whose Tigers (7-3, 3-3 SEC) will visit Arkansas (4-5, 0-5) on Saturday.

The drive started with a 2-yard Jennings run to get the Tigers some breathing room away from the goal line. Completions of 16 yards to tight end Dillon Gordon and 11 yards to Landry soon followed. Then Jennings broke a 21-yard run to push the Tigers past midfield.

The drive started to stall from there, however. Jennings tossed an incomplete pass to Kadron Boone and then completed a screen pass to tailback Jeremy Hill, but Arkansas' Deatrich Wise stopped him for no gain. The Tigers called a timeout, facing third-and-10 from the Arkansas 49-yard line with just 1:22 to play.

That's when Jennings lined up in the shotgun and launched a perfect strike down the left sideline to a wide-open Dural, who had streaked 10 yards behind Arkansas defensive back Jared Collins. Dural hauled in the pass and crossed the goal line to give LSU a 31-27 lead, and the final score, with 1:15 remaining.

It was one of the most exciting moments of the entire season for the Tigers, and it was a pair of freshmen who hooked up to make it happen.

"You're always going to remember that play and that 99-yard drive," Jennings said. "That's the story and then being a freshman at that, I'm always going to remember that."

Jennings and Dural used that game-winning touchdown pass as a launching point, with both players enjoying much more prominent roles in the Tigers' offense as sophomores.

Dural (30 catches for 701 yards, 7 TDs), who has started every game this season and ranks fourth in the SEC with an average of 70.1 receiving yards per game, said the Arkansas touchdown gave him confidence that he could become an impact player in the SEC.

"It was coming, but after that play it was really there," Dural said. "It kind of showed me, 'OK, I can make plays. I can do this.'"

Jennings (80-170, 1,266 yards, 9 TDs, 6 INTs) has had an up-and-down sophomore season, but the Tigers have won eight of his 10 starts since he took over for Mettenberger.

He said he didn't need the Arkansas comeback to believe he belonged at LSU, although he first credited his teammates and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Cam Cameron for making the drive a success.

"I don't think it was confirmation. I think I always had that confidence in myself that I could play at a high level," Jennings said. "So just that happening was a product of all the teammates around me helping me, guiding me, coaching me, Coach Cameron calling great plays there. So it really was not on me. It's about the guys around me."

The duo has already combined to provide several other huge plays for the Tigers since the Arkansas game. They hooked up for an 80-yard touchdown in a season-opening win against Wisconsin and combined for a school-record 94-yard touchdown on LSU's first offensive play the following week against Sam Houston State.

Dural was also the recipient of a 41-yard pass from Jennings on third-and-25 that extended the Tigers' go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter against Florida. He made a one-handed, 11-yard touchdown catch to cap the drive and give LSU a 27-24 lead with 2:40 to play.

Needless to say, Jennings-to-Dural has become one of the SEC's top big-play combinations this season, and it all started with an unlikely 99-yard drive last season against Arkansas where two freshmen showed up at the game's biggest moment.

"That was a big moment for both of those guys. It kind of jumpstarted both of their careers," senior running back Terrence Magee said. "They've made big plays throughout the year this year and we've counted on both of those guys and we're going to continue to count on them through the rest of this season.

"I think the big-play ability and the connection that they have with each other is going to be vital to the rest of this season and into the future for those guys."
HOOVER, Ala. -- Les Miles is convinced the LSU passing game will be better this season.

New offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is one of the reasons why, but the LSU players say it runs much deeper than that.

“It’s the experience we have now. It’s the consistency we’re playing with. It’s just everybody being on the same page,” LSU receiver Jarvis Landry said.

In particular, the Tigers feel much better about being able to throw the ball down the field this season and hit some bigger plays in their passing game.

The truth is they’re going to need to after finishing 11th in the SEC last season in passing offense. The Tigers finished with just 12 passing touchdowns. The only team finishing with fewer passing touchdowns a year ago was Auburn with eight.
“I think we just have a better feel for throwing the football and all that goes into throwing it well,” Miles said. “We’ll be a better throwing football team this year.”

Senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger said Cameron hasn’t changed is mechanics as much as he’s driven him to learn at the pace of an NFL quarterback.
“It hasn’t just been one thing,” said Mettenberger, who ranked 13th in the SEC in passing efficiency last season. “There are a lot of things we can do better, whether it’s me throwing with better balance or trusting my throws more, throwing it to the guy and not to the spot, just a lot of things we been working on.

“When we get those opportunities this season, we don’t want to miss any of them.”

Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr. are the main two cogs in the passing game and complement each other well. Senior Kadron Boone is also back, and Landry said redshirt freshman Travin Dural and true freshman Quantavius Leslie will both play big roles in helping the Tigers stretch the field.

“It’s looking really good right now. We just have to be more consistent and trust each other,” Landry said. “We’ve got to do our part in the passing game this year.”

Instant analysis: LSU 24, Texas A&M 19

October, 20, 2012
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Maybe Johnny Manziel and his Texas A&M Aggies aren't quite ready for their SEC coming out.

Even in a game they dominated.

Two second-quarter turnovers led to two touchdowns and helped No. 6 LSU erase a 12-point second-quarter deficit for a 24-19 SEC win at Kyle Field Saturday. Despite a 410-316 yardage edge for the Aggies, No. 18 Texas A&M had five turnovers, including three interceptions for Manziel, who completed 29 of 56 passes for 276 yards.

It was over when: LSU running back Jeremy Hill took a power run 47 yards for a touchdown with 3:12 left. The play was eerily similar to his 50-yard touchdown that gave the Tigers a 23-21 win over South Carolina last week. Manziel was intercepted by LSU's Tharold Simon on the play before -- Manziel's third of the game -- doubling his season total.

Game ball goes to: Hill, the LSU true freshman running back who rambled for 127 yards on 18 carries, again breaking out the big run when the game was on the line.

Key stat: 5-0. The turnover margin. After LSU gave up a first-quarter touchdown drive and a field goal drive, the Tigers figured out A&M's spread offense, harassed the slippery Manziel and forced turnovers. Texas A&M jumped to a 9-0 first-quarter lead that increased to 12-0 in the second quarter, but did not score another touchdown until the game's final two minutes.

Key play: Zach Mettenberger's 29-yard touchdown pass to Kadron Boone with 11 seconds left in the first half. After the Aggies had dominated the half, Boone made a nice double move, then a diving catch to give LSU a shocking 14-12 halftime lead.
The touchdown was set up by a Ben Malena fumble, forced by Ronald Martin and recovered by Lamin Barrow.

What it means: Ready or not, LSU (7-1, 3-1) has its showdown with No. 1 Alabama in two weeks and the Tigers will have a lot to work on during its off week. The Tigers had triple-digit penalty yards and, as has often been the case, could not consistently move the chains.

Texas A&M (4-2, 2-2) is now 0-2 against the SEC powers, both close losses at home. The Aggies have shown they belong, but maybe aren't quite ready for prime time.

What to watch in the SEC: Week 5

September, 27, 2012
9/27/12
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Here's a look at what to watch in the SEC in Week 5:

1. Shouldering the pain: A handful of SEC quarterbacks enter the weekend with shoulder issues. We already know about Connor Shaw and James Franklin and their highly publicized shoulder pain, so we'll keep an eye on them. But there are a couple more QBs dealing with shoulder injuries in Ole Miss' Bo Wallace and Kentucky's Maxwell Smith. Wallace injured his shoulder last week against Tulane and missed practice Tuesday, but returned Wednesday. Smith was injured against Western Kentucky and missed last week's game against Florida. He's expected to play.

2. Lattimore's strength: We still haven't seen the Marcus Lattimore of old, but slowly he's starting to get stronger and stronger. He shed his knee brace last week and probably ran the hardest he has all season in the Gamecocks' win over Missouri. He carried the ball 21 times for 85 yards, scored two touchdowns and caught seven passes for another 60 yards. The hesitation we saw in some of his earlier runs seems to be disappearing and the more confident he is, the better he is. That has to be a scary thought for defenses, and Kentucky could be just another victim for Lattimore as he continues his comeback.

[+] EnlargeRajion Neal, Josh Evans
AP Photo/Wade PayneVols RB Rajion Neal needs to be a factor to keep the Bulldogs' defense from pinning its ears back and rushing Tyler Bray.
3. Tennessee's running game: If the Vols are going to win at Georgia Saturday, they have to be able to run the ball. A one-dimensional offense won't beat Georgia and its defense. The Bulldogs will be trying to make quarterback Tyler Bray's day as miserable as possible by bringing pressure as much as it can. Bray hasn't done very well against the blitz, so Tennessee has to keep Georgia's defense honest through the running game. That means running back Rajion Neal has to run like he did against Akron. He has to get the tough yards, and he has to turn short runs into longer ones in order to extend drives. Bray can't do it all on his own.

4. Missouri's offensive confidence: It's pretty obvious that Mizzou's offense has stalled. It lacks creativity and it's having trouble getting much push up front. Injuries to the offensive line have contributed to that, but this line has to get tougher in order to help create more time for quarterback James Franklin and his skill players. T.J. Moe went as far as to say Mizzou's performance against South Carolina last week was "embarrassing." If this team is going to survive its first year in the SEC, the offense has to step up. UCF's defense has been solid, so this will be a good test for the Tigers before getting back to league play.

5. Mettenberger's rebound: Everyone is piling onto LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger after his subpar play against Auburn last week. He was off for most of the game and seemed to lose his confidence after his fumble at the 1-yard line early in the game. But that was his first SEC start on the road, and Auburn's defense played its best game in a while. Towson won't provide the same challenges, and this game should help boost Mettenberger's confidence. One thing that will help is if he starts to develop more of a downfield passing game. This team has to find some explosion at wide receiver and this could be the weekend Mettenberger starts developing more chemistry with his wideouts.

6. Tennessee's second-half push: Bray made it pretty clear this week that he wasn't very happy with the way the Vols played in the second half against Florida. He said earlier this week that the team "disappeared" in the second half and that the players met to discuss how they "crawled in a shell" in the last two quarters against Florida. That certainly can't happen in Athens this weekend. Georgia is built to play for four quarters and left Missouri behind in the fourth quarter earlier this season. Tennessee has to have a strong second half to keep up with the Bulldogs this weekend.

7. Aggies running wild: Arkansas coach John L. Smith said Wednesday that the two things that aren't working for the Razorbacks' defense are stopping the run and stopping the pass. Well, that's certainly not good with Texas A&M up next. The Aggies have played back-to-back cupcakes, but with a completely new coaching staff and offensive system, they have averaged 526.5 yards and 59 points in their past two outings. Arkansas is giving up a league-worst 458 yards and 36.3 points per game. Players have really picked up Kliff Kingsbury's up-tempo offense and Smith said keeping up with that offense is a major concern for the Hogs.

8. Where will they line up? Georgia coach Mark Richt is holding back from showing his cards when it comes to Malcolm Mitchell, Bacarri Rambo and Alec Ogletree. Mitchell has played all over the field for the Bulldogs this season, but he has received more reps on offense this week. He's listed as the starting boundary corner, but we could see more of him at receiver against the Vols. Rambo and Ogletree were suspended for the first four games, but are expected back this week. Richt isn't saying what their roles will be. Like the past four weeks, we'll have to wait until game time.

9. Manziel's maturation: Talk about a lack of jitters. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has been extremely fun to watch during his first season as a starter. After not taking a snap last year, Manziel has been one of the most productive quarterbacks in the league. He has passed for 641 yards with seven touchdowns and has carried the ball 32 times for 262 yards and five more scores. And what might be more impressive is that he hasn't thrown any interceptions. He'll face better talent this week than he has the past two, but Arkansas' defense is hurting, and Manziel has the ability to gut it.

10. Finding Bayou playmakers: Some of the criticism that has been thrown Mettenberger's way should be directed toward LSU's receivers. We haven't seen a go-to option for Mettenberger like we saw with Rueben Randle last year. Odell Beckham Jr. was thought to be that guy, but he has caught only 11 passes for 158 yards and no touchdowns. He caught two passes against Auburn. Jarvis Landry leads LSU with 17 receptions and 160 yards, but has only one score. Kadron Boone leads the team with three receiving touchdowns. If this offense is going to progress, someone has to step up as more of a consistent receiving threat.


AUBURN, Ala. -- Walking into LSU’s locker room at halftime gave Sam Montgomery a sick feeling inside.

But it wasn’t because his team was trailing 10-9 to what seemed like an overmatched Auburn team. Montgomery was upset at the long faces and disgusted by the hanging heads that followed him in.

“I’ve seen that before and I refused to have it again,” LSU’s junior defensive end said.

So, like any good leader, Montgomery stood up and addressed his teammates. He urged them to wipe the despair from the faces and expunge the negativity. The game was ugly, but Montgomery reminded players -- and coaches -- that these are the games LSU lives for.

Too close for comfort is something LSU and its head coach have thrived on for years, and to have a rough half spoil a night in Jordan-Hare was unacceptable.

“It’s one of those things where I know being a veteran guy that I’m going to go and give my all,” Montgomery said. “I just need somebody to come with me. And those guys really listened to me.

“That was a great point and time for our team to grow up and be men.”

And for the next 30 minutes of play, the Tigers did grow up, as they shut out Auburn and walked away from Pat Dye Field with their spirits soaring after a nail-biting 12-10 victory.

It’s very cliché, but all championship-caliber teams have these sluggish, uncomfortable games that serve as a pick-me-up.

Saturday night was LSU’s pick-me-up.

It was ugly, sloppy and uncharacteristically bad for a team that has real hopes of making back-to-back trips to the national championship game. But it wasn’t a loss, and it should motivate LSU.

Especially because execution, not talent, was the issue.

There was the opening drive that went 56 yards down to Auburn’s 2-yard line that ended with a Zach Mettenberger fumble. Then there was the second fumble by Mettenberger on the ensuing drive that almost ruined Montgomery’s safety after fumble No. 1.

[+] EnlargeSam Montgomery, Kiehl Frazier
Shanna Lockwood/US PresswireSam Montgomery -- after a halftime speech to LSU teammates and coaches -- brings down Auburn quarterbac Kiehl Frazier.
After Mettenberger’s second turnover, LSU’s offense basically went into hiding, and the mistakes and miscues shined brightly.

At halftime, LSU had three penalties. By the end of the game, the Tigers had committed nine for 80 yards. They weren’t even tolerable ones, as Les Miles called them “knickknack.” They were careless and either gave Auburn hope or stalled what looked like promising LSU drives.

If penalties weren't hurting the Tigers, engineering plays was. When big runs seemed to ignite LSU’s offense, wild passes, drops or more penalties killed drives. After LSU’s Drew Alleman hit the go-ahead field goal early in the third, LSU mustered just 84 more yards on its last four drives.

“We knew it was going to be a dogfight coming in, but we were just shooting ourselves in the foot,” said wide receiver Kadron Boone, who led LSU with three catches for 49 yards. “We have to correct those mistakes because they can hurt us in the back end of the schedule.”

And Boone's right.

Against Auburn, miscues helped a struggling team feel like it could upset the No. 2 team in the country. Against another ranked SEC opponent, they could cost LSU a win.

This team is too talented to let silly mistakes and a lack of poise, as Miles put it, get in the way of wins. A lack of execution irked Miles, but the penalties upset him, and he knows those can break any team in key situations.

“I promise you that’s something we gotta fix,” Miles said.

But with a grind-it-out, grit-your-teeth win like this, there are some positives. Miles' team grew and won a tight game in a great SEC atmosphere on the road.

That goes a long way in the confidence department, and heading into the meat of the SEC season, it served as a wake-up call for Miles' Tigers.

“It’s a tremendous lesson for us,” Miles said. “It’s something we’ll certainly be able to teach from in a very aggressive manner.

“Not perfect. Work to do, but we’ll take a victory on the road at Auburn.

“This is a place that tests you and I am pleased. That’s what we needed to have happened.”
With the LSU-Mississippi State game just hours away, fellow SEC blogger Chris Low and I decided to look at the keys to victory for each team.

LSU comes in with all the momentum after two tremendous showings by its defense. Mississippi State was a trendy dark-horse pick to win the West before the season started, but that talk was halted after a tough loss to Auburn last week.

Starkville will no doubt be jumping for tonight's game, but how can each team win? I looked into three ways that the Bulldogs could pull the upset, while Chris looked at how LSU can stay undefeated in a hostile environment.

Mississippi State's keys to victory:

1. Stop the run: Mississippi State was awful when it came to stopping the run last week. Auburn carved up the Bulldogs' front seven for 235 yards on the ground inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. Maybe we should have seen it coming after the Bulldogs surrendered more than 160 yards to Memphis a week earlier. LSU brings in a tough running game that features multiple backs, so stamina won't be an issue. The Tigers have put up back-to-back 175-yard rushing performances and if the Bulldogs don't get tougher in the trenches, it could be another long day for Mississippi State's defense. Mississippi State barely got any push from defensive tackle Fletcher Cox when he returned last week, but he and Josh Boyd can't afford to slump tonight.

2. Force Jarrett Lee to beat you: Lee hasn't been spectacular this season, but he has run the offense the way his coaches have asked him to. Lee's unsettled football past is well documented and if he gets in trouble, he can be a defense's best friend. He has had interception problems in the past and Mississippi State fields one of the most athletic and dangerous secondaries in the SEC. Cornerbacks Corey Broomfield and Johnthan Banks are big plays waiting to happen, while Charles Mitchell and Nickoe Whitley have a tremendous knack for finding the ball. Lee has yet to feel rattled this season, but the Bulldogs have the personnel in the secondary to do that.

3. Get the wide receivers more involved: Quarterback Chris Relf showed that he can be a one-man wrecking crew, but even that wasn't enough to push the Bulldogs past Auburn last week. He needs more help from his receivers. In two games, Mississippi State's leading receiver, Jameon Lewis, has just five catches for 116 yards and a touchdown. He had one catch for 3 yards against Auburn. Last week, Relf passed for 198 yards, but running back Vick Ballard led the team in catches with five. In order to get more variety out of the offense, Mississippi State's receivers have to get more separation and be more of a factor.

LSU's keys to victory:

1. Take control early: Scott Field is a tough place to play, and those cowbells have a way of ringing in your ears after a while. They don’t ring nearly as much or as loudly when Mississippi State is down, though. So taking the crowd out of the game early would be a huge help to LSU, which is at its best when it’s playing with the lead, running the football and dictating the flow of the game.

2. Hit some plays in the passing game: The Tigers don’t necessarily need to throw for 250 or 300 yards, but they do need to keep the Mississippi State defense honest by hitting a few big pass plays down the field. LSU’s longest completion to a wide receiver in the Oregon game was 10 yards to Rueben Randle, but Randle came back with a big outing last week in the blowout of Northwestern State. LSU is going to need Randle, Odell Beckham and Kadron Boone to stretch that Mississippi State defense tonight so that the Bulldogs aren’t able to walk a safety up and stack the box.

3. Ground the Bulldogs’ ground game: Mississippi State’s Vick Ballard is tied for third nationally in rushing. He has 301 yards in his first two games and is averaging 9.1 yards per carry. It’s not just Ballard, either. Quarterback Chris Relf is a big part of the Mississippi running game along with backup running back LaDarius Perkins, who had a 40-yard touchdown run last week against Auburn. LSU’s challenge is to keep Mississippi State from getting that running game going, particularly on first and second down, and forcing Relf into a lot of third-and-long situations. The Tigers are ranked eighth nationally against the run and are allowing just 1.65 yards per attempt. If they play that way tonight, they’ll make it 12 in a row over the Bulldogs.
With spring officially over in the SEC world, it’s time to take another look at some of the guys who surprised this spring.

After the first weekend of spring games, guys like LSU wide receiver Kadron Boone and South Carolina offensive lineman A.J. Cann drew high praise from their respective coaches.

Here’s a look at the players from the past two weeks of spring games who helped get their names out there:

Alabama

RB Eddie Lacy -- Last season, Lacy’s production was hindered because of a problem with fumbling. Lacy helped shake that stigma with a strong spring and appears to have secured the No. 2 running back spot. He finished the spring game with 74 yards (44 rushing, 30 receiving).

WR Brandon Gibson -- The fifth-year senior had a productive spring not only at wideout, but he’s becoming more of a leader for the Tide. He's always been a special-teams workhorse, but he's looking to make a name at receiver. He recorded five catches for 53 yards, including a long of 27, in Alabama’s spring game.

Arkansas

S Eric Bennett -- The sophomore from Tulsa, Okla., made it a battle this spring at the strong safety position with senior Elton Ford. Bennett was a quarterback in high school and has an edge to him that all coaches like. Whether he wins the starting job or not, he’s proved that he can help the Hogs in the secondary in 2011.

RB Ronnie Wingo, Jr. -- With the season Knile Davis had a year ago, a lot of people forgot about Wingo. But he came back this spring and showed his big-play capability both as a ball carrier and pass-catcher. He rushed for 62 yards on 11 carries in the spring game.

Auburn

DE Joel Bonomolo – The junior college transfer was injured all of 2010, and while he’s still a bit raw, he led the defense during the spring game with six tackles, three for a loss, including two sacks. He still has some things to learn, but he finished the spring on the right track heading into the offseason.

RB Anthony Morgan -- Morgan has moved all over the field during his Auburn career, but seemed to make a statement at running back this spring. He finished the spring game with a team-high 57 yards on six carries, and if he continues to improve, coach Gene Chizik said he could earn playing time this fall.

Georgia

DT Kwame Geathers -- The sophomore noseguard was one of the biggest surprises of the spring for the Bulldogs. He was named the defensive MVP for spring practice by Georgia’s coaches and had four tackles, including two for loss, in the spring game.

RB Ken Malcome -- Injured for part of the spring and seemingly buried on the depth chart, Malcome showed some of his bulldozing ability in the spring game. He's the kind of downhill runner the Bulldogs want in their offense, and if he's healthy he could contribute. He scored the game-winning, 12-yard touchdown and finished with 39 yards on the ground.

Kentucky

DE Collins Ukwu -- A starter a year ago, Ukwu only had one sack all season and none in SEC games. Look for that to change in 2011. He’s gotten bigger and stronger, adding to his great speed, and was a force this spring. He had two tackles for loss, including a sack, in the spring game.

WR Brian Adams -- The Wildcats were looking for dependable playmakers at receiver following the loss of Randall Cobb and Chris Matthews, and even though Adams split his time between football and baseball, he was as consistent as anybody. He was the star of the spring game with seven catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns.

Ole Miss

WR Vincent Sanders -- The redshirt freshman looked like the playmaker the Rebels had desperately searched for at times this spring. Like most of the other receivers, he was inconsistent at times, but finished the spring game with a game-high 96 receiving yards and a touchdown on four catches.

S Brishen Mathews -- Mathews worked his way into the No. 1 strong safety spot exiting spring. He was a pleasant surprise for the Rebels’ secondary and finished the spring game tying for a game-high eight tackles.

Tennessee

DT Daniel Hood -- After spending last season on the offensive line, Hood moved to defense and exited the spring as one of the starters at tackle. The Vols are extremely thin inside on the defensive line, and Hood gives them another big, athletic body in there.

RB Rajion Neal -- After carrying the ball just 46 times last season, Neal emerged this spring as a nice complement to Tauren Poole. Tennessee coach Derek Dooley is looking for two No. 1' at running back, and Neal showed some big-play ability the Vols were missing a year ago.

Vanderbilt

DT Colt Nichter -- With the injuries the Commodores were forced to weather up front last season, Nichter stepped in and played very well. But this spring, he showed signs of becoming a star and was a disruptive presence in every scrimmage. He had two sacks and two pass breakups in the spring game.

RB Wesley Tate -- The two big names in the Commodores’ backfield last season were Warren Norman and Zac Stacy, but get ready to add a third name to that equation. The 225-pound Tate showcased power and speed this spring and will add a different dimension to the Vanderbilt running game now that he’s healthy.
Spring practice is all about working the kinks out and getting guys back into the regular football flow.

It's also time for some of the more unheralded players to try and make a name for themselves.

Four springs are in the books in the SEC, and here are some under-the-radar guys who came up big:

Florida

QB Tyler Murphy -- He wasn’t even the favorite to be the No. 2 quarterback in Gainesville, but had the best spring game of the quarterbacks and improved mightily. Murphy finished with a game-high 68 yards and a touchdown on 7-of-11 passing.

WR Quinton Dunbar -- Coach Will Muschamp said Dunbar made the biggest plays in practice this spring. He had two catches for 45 yards, including a 29-yard catch-and-run in Florida’s spring game.

LSU

WR Kadron Boone -- Boone showed he has the speed and athleticism to be a threat in the Tigers’ offense. He’s unproven, but had a solid spring. Boone finished LSU’s spring game with a game-high four catches for 77 yards.

CB Tharold Simon -- Throughout the spring, Simon drew praise from coach Les Miles, who said he’s competing for regular time in LSU’s cornerback rotation. Though he recorded just one tackle in the spring game, he kept some of the tightest coverage on the field.

Mississippi State

QB Dylan Favre -- The redshirt freshman went 17-of-26 passing for 199 yards, with a touchdown and an interception, and also carried the ball 10 times for a game-high 41 yards in the Bulldogs’ spring game. Chris Relf is the starter, but Favre provides some nice depth at the position.

WR Robert Johnson -- Johnson made strides as a part of Mississippi State’s talent receiving corps. He led all receivers with seven receptions during the spring game and finished with 74 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown.

South Carolina

WR DeAngelo Smith -- South Carolina was looking for some big-play ability to complement Alshon Jeffery and might have found it in Smith. He was named the offensive player of the spring for the Gamecocks and caught three touchdowns in the spring game. One went for 62 yards.

OL A.J. Cann -- The redshirt freshman entered the spring as the No. 2 left guard, but also pushed for time at right guard. He could be a viable option at either position for the Gamecocks.

Boone nixes Tech offer to make last-minute commitment to LSU

February, 3, 2010
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New Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville's first signing day with the Red Raiders started off on a down note when prized wide receiver recruit Kadron Boone signed with LSU.

Boone, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound wide receiver from Trinity Catholic High School in Ocala, Fla., had made a non-binding verbal commitment to the Red Raiders and former coach Mike Leach last August. He was attracted to the school because of the development of players like Michael Crabtree, a two-time Biletnikoff Award winner during his two seasons with the Red Raiders.

But Leach's abrupt firing apparently caused Boone to have second thoughts, leading to his late commitment to LSU.

“They did a great job,” Trinity Catholic coach John Brantley told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal about Tech's commitment with two staffs. “He had built up a great relationship with Coach Leach. It’s not that he lost interest, but [Tech’s passing offense] is what caught his attention. That’s what got him interested in Texas Tech to begin with. Once that happened, he put his thought processes elsewhere.”

It's not really a surprise that he chose to go elsewhere. There's no indication what kind of offense that Tuberville plans to employ or how his receivers will be featured.

In the end, it apparently has cost the Red Raiders one of their top commitments.

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