NCF Nation: Lee Ziemba

The fallout has begun from Wednesday night's episode of HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" that included four former Auburn players saying they were paid during their time at Auburn.

Coach Gene Chizik called it "pure garbage" and questioned why players HBO talked with who disputed the payment claims weren't included in the show.

Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said the school would conduct its own investigation.

"While HBO confirmed to us they have no proof that any of these claims are true, we contacted both the NCAA and Southeastern Conference as soon as these allegations surfaced," Jacobs said. "We have engaged outside counsel to investigate this matter and will spare no resources to find the truth."

Chizik was Auburn's defensive coordinator from 2002-04. Two of the players making the claims, Stanley McClover and Troy Reddick, were at Auburn while Chizik was the defensive coordinator. One of the players saying he was paid, Raven Gray, came to Auburn in 2008, but never played because of injuries. The other, Chaz Ramsey, played as a freshman in 2007, suffered injuries and later tried to sue a former Auburn offensive line coach and trainer for mismanaging his back injury. That suit was thrown out of court.

Lee Ziemba, an All-America offensive tackle for the Tigers last season, told ESPN.com on Wednesday that he "never received a dime" at Auburn. He and Ramsey roomed together as freshmen, and Ziemba said he doesn't believe Ramsey's claims.

Here's a video of a heated Chizik disputing the allegations.

Ziemba doesn't buy payment claims

March, 30, 2011
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If money was being passed around at Auburn like some of Lee Ziemba’s former teammates claim it was, he wants to know why he was excluded.

Ziemba, an All-America offensive tackle on the Tigers’ national championship team last season, told ESPN.com on Wednesday that he never received any improper benefits during his time at Auburn and doesn’t believe the claims of four former players, who told HBO Real Sports that they were paid by Auburn boosters, and in one instance, by an unnamed assistant coach during the Tommy Tuberville era.

[+] EnlargeAuburn's Lee Ziemba
Mark J. Rebilas/US PRESSWIREAuburn tackle Lee Ziemba says he didn't see money exchanging hands at Auburn. "I think I would have been one of those people," Ziemba said.
“I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but if anybody would have seen something like that, I think I would have been one of those people,” Ziemba said. “I was heavily recruited, and there was a huge battle between Arkansas and Auburn to get me. I was never once offered any money and never saw or heard anything close to what they’re saying. I could have used the money, too. College was a struggle financially. There were some nights I was trying to decide whether to put gas in my truck or eat a meal.”

The HBO Real Sports show will air Wednesday night at 10 p.m. ET, and the SportsByBrooks website received a transcript of an advance copy from the show.

The former Auburn players claiming they were paid were Stanley McClover (2003-05), Troy Reddick (2002-05), Chaz Ramsey (2007) and Raven Gray (2008).

Ziemba says he and Ramsey roomed together as freshmen. Ramsey later sued Auburn for not properly managing his back injury, a suit that was eventually thrown out of court.

“We were both scratching around for enough money to buy a $5 footlong at Subway,” Ziemba said. “If he were getting thousands of dollars, you’re not going to keep that quiet. I would have heard about it, and he would have been spending so out of control that I would have noticed something.”

Ziemba said he and several of his former Auburn teammates had been talking among themselves Wednesday trying to figure out if certain players had indeed been paid. He said nobody had any pay-for-play stories during their time on the Plains.

“All this talk about $500 handshakes … I walked out of those same locker rooms 52 times after games, met those same boosters and got to know them and not once did anybody give me a dime,” Ziemba said. “It’s just not plausible.”

Asked what motives the players would have for making up these claims, Ziemba said, “Maybe they’re trying to get 15 more minutes of fame. Maybe they’re trying to make Auburn look bad because their time there wasn’t what they wanted it to be. I don’t know, but I’m not buying any of it.

"The whole thing is sickening because Auburn has taken enough blows."

SEC spring preview: Western Division

February, 22, 2011
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Mississippi State hits the practice field next Friday to kick off spring practice in the SEC, and several other teams will follow the next week.

Football is back, and here’s a snapshot of what to watch this spring in the Western Division:

ALABAMA

Start of spring practice: March 21
Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • McCarron or Sims? If you’re looking for one of the more intriguing position battles of the spring, it doesn’t get much better than A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims battling it out for the Alabama starting quarterback job. Both players are extremely talented and were highly rated coming out of high school, and they’re vying to replace a guy who was the essence of precision, smarts and productivity all wrapped into one -- Greg McElroy. McCarron played a little bit last season as a redshirt freshman, while Sims redshirted. We’ll see if one separates himself enough this spring for Nick Saban to name a starter.
  • Back in the SEC: In addition to settling on a starting quarterback, the other thing the Crimson Tide would like to determine this spring is who will be protecting that quarterback from the left tackle position. Junior college signee Aaron Douglas is probably the guy to beat. He’s already on campus after attending Arizona Western College last year and drawing a wide array of interest from schools. He started his career at Tennessee, where he earned Freshman All-American honors in 2009 while playing right tackle for the Vols.
  • Rushing the passer: The Crimson Tide would like to amp up their pass rush next season, which means getting there without having to blitz all the time. Jack linebacker Courtney Upshaw finished last season on fire and lived in the opposing backfield his last two games. This is an important spring for middle linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who’s also been used outside in pass-rushing situations. Hightower was coming off reconstructive knee surgery last season and didn’t appear to be all the way back. He’s eager to show this spring that he is all the way back and poised to be an All-SEC player again.
ARKANSAS

Start of spring practice: March 15
Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Mr. Wilson: A year ago, Tyler Wilson got a chance to show what he could do with the first unit because Ryan Mallett broke a bone in his foot and missed the spring after undergoing surgery. This spring, it’s Wilson’s show again, although Mallett won’t be coming back this time. Wilson, a sophomore, is the odds-on favorite to win Arkansas’ starting quarterback job. He passed for 332 yards and four touchdowns against Auburn last season on the road after Mallett was knocked out of the game with a concussion. Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said he thinks Wilson can be a terrific quarterback, but wants to see him beat out Brandon Mitchell and Jacoby Walker for the job before handing him the keys to the Hogs’ offense.
  • Getting defensive: The Hogs’ defense took the kind of step last season that was required to get them to 10 wins. They went from 89th in the country in total defense in 2009 to 36th in the country a year ago. The key figures from that defense return next season, and Petrino has said he thinks Arkansas will be even better on defense in 2011 than it was last season. Finding a replacement for Anthony Leon at one of the linebacker spots will be important this spring, and the Hogs could still use some more speed in the secondary.
  • Fourth-quarter blues: Special emphasis was placed on winning the close games last season and getting it done in the fourth quarter. That will be a familiar cry on the practice field again this spring. All three of Arkansas' losses last season came on the heels of fourth-quarter breakdowns. The Hogs couldn’t hold a lead at home against Alabama, and the Crimson Tide rallied from two touchdowns down in the fourth quarter to win. At Auburn, the Hogs were snowed under by a 28-point Auburn avalanche in the fourth quarter. And in the Sugar Bowl, the Hogs couldn’t capitalize in the final minutes despite blocking a punt and recovering inside the Ohio State 20.
AUBURN

Start of spring practice: March 23
Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Playing with a target: Auburn emerged from the shadows last season to go 14-0 and win its first national championship since 1957. Nobody really saw the Tigers coming. Now, even though they lost great players the caliber of Cam Newton and Nick Fairley, everybody will be circling the Auburn game on their calendars. With so many new faces in key positions, this team will have to establish its own identity and be prepared to get everybody’s best shot every weekend.
  • Rebuilding the O-line: It’s hard to imagine Auburn playing a game without departed senior offensive line starters Lee Ziemba, Mike Berry, Byron Isom and Ryan Pugh. They were together so long and made so many career starts alongside each other. This spring, the Tigers start the process of replacing their four rocks up front. The lone holdover from the BCS National Championship Game is right tackle Brandon Mosley, although A.J. Greene was also a starter last season until he injured his ankle. Redshirt freshman Ed Christian is definitely somebody to watch at one of the guard spots, and don’t forget about junior John Sullen, who can play guard or tackle.
  • Trotter in the race: Even as great as Newton turned out to be, coach Gene Chizik and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn were careful to make sure Newton was clearly the guy before naming him the starter at the conclusion of spring practice and heading into the summer. Junior Barrett Trotter and sophomore Clint Moseley were two of the guys battling with Newton last spring. But this spring, they will be battling each other for the starting quarterback job, a battle that’s likely to continue into preseason practice once heralded true freshman Kiehl Frazier arrives on campus this summer.
LSU

Start of spring practice: March 11
Spring game: April 9

What to watch:
  • Quarterback derby: Perhaps the most closely watched quarterback battle this spring will occur at LSU, where seniors Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee will try and hold off talented junior college signee Zach Mettenberger. Jefferson played better toward the end of last season, but the Tigers’ passing game was nonexistent for much of the 2010 season. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Mettenberger put up huge numbers in junior college last season after starting his career at Georgia. He obviously didn't sign with LSU to sit and watch.
  • Kragthorpe to the rescue: Former Louisville head coach Steve Kragthorpe takes over as LSU’s offensive coordinator and does so after the Tigers finished 11th in the SEC last season in total offense and last in the SEC in 2009. Kragthorpe wants to make sure LSU is getting the ball in the hands of its best playmakers, but he also wants to make sure the Tigers are balanced. Their running game improved dramatically last season. With Stevan Ridley leaving early for the NFL draft, Spencer Ware is next in line after rushing for 102 yards in the Cotton Bowl.
  • Special-teams makeover: The Tigers were gutted on special teams. Even special teams coordinator Joe Robinson left to take a job on North Carolina’s staff. Also gone are All-SEC place-kicker Josh Jasper, All-SEC return specialist Patrick Peterson and punter Derek Helton, who was second in the SEC with a punting average of 45.7 yards per game. LSU will be looking to fill voids across the board this spring in its kicking game, which was a big reason the Tigers won 11 games last season.
MISSISSIPPI STATE

Start of spring practice: March 4
Spring game: April 9
End of spring practice: April 11

What to watch:
  • New defensive chief: Manny Diaz was hired away by Texas to be the Longhorns’ defensive coordinator, meaning co-defensive coordinator Chris Wilson is now the guy running things in Starkville. Diaz and Wilson worked together closely last season, so it’s doubtful much will change. Dan Mullen did bring in Geoff Collins to serve as co-defensive coordinator to Wilson and also coach the Bulldogs' linebackers.
  • Lining up linebackers: The Bulldogs lost all three of their starting linebackers from last season, including their top two tacklers in Chris White and K.J. Wright. Emmanuel Gatling was the other starter, although he shared time with Cameron Lawrence at one of the outside spots. So while Lawrence might have first dibs on one of those three starting jobs this spring, the competition will be fierce. Redshirt freshmen Felando Bohanna and Christian Holmes are two to watch in the middle. Chris Hughes played some last season as a true freshman on the outside, and third-year sophomore Michael Hunt will also be in the mix for a starting job.
  • Relf’s supporting cast: Chris Relf enters his senior season as one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the SEC, and he’s also one of the league’s most improved players. The Bulldogs’ top threats in the running game return, but Relf will have several new guys he’ll be hooking up with in the passing game. Junior receiver Chad Bumphis has been working out and is expected back this spring after missing the Gator Bowl with a broken collarbone. The Bulldogs also redshirted several receivers last season they have high hopes for, including Malcolm Johnson, Robert Johnson and Jameon Lewis. Getting a healthy Marcus Green back at tight end will also make Relf's life easier.
OLE MISS

Start of spring practice: March 28
Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Lee to call plays: The last time Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt didn’t call his own plays was 2007 when David Lee called them during Nutt’s final season at Arkansas. Well, Lee has reunited with Nutt at Ole Miss for the 2011 season after coming over from the Miami Dolphins, and Nutt has again turned over the offensive play-calling duties to Lee in order to spend more time focusing on other areas of the team. Lee will build what the Rebels do offensively around an underrated stable of running backs, led by Brandon Bolden.
  • Quarterback questions: Jeremiah Masoli popped in at the last minute a year ago. But this time, it appears that the guy who separates himself this spring will be the Rebels’ quarterback for the season. Junior Nathan Stanley has the edge in experience. Randall Mackey is probably the most athletic, but will be limited this spring after undergoing knee surgery. Junior college signee Zack Stoudt is already enrolled and also eyeing the starting job, while West Virginia transfer Barry Brunetti will be in the middle of the race as well if he receives a waiver from the NCAA and is allowed to play this coming season.
  • Building back the defense: After back-to-back seasons in 2008 and 2009 when Ole Miss’ defense was outstanding, Tyrone Nix’s unit came crashing down last season. More than anything, it’s a group that needs to regain its confidence this spring and play with that same attacking mentality that made the Rebels so effective on defense the previous two seasons. Linebacker D.T. Shackelford is a leader and the kind of guy you win with in this league, but Nix & Co. need to find a few more like him this spring, especially in the secondary.

The 2010 All-SEC bowl team

January, 14, 2011
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Having had a few days to digest the 2010 bowl season, here’s a look at the All-SEC bowl team:

OFFENSE

QB Chris Relf, Mississippi State

One of the most improved players in the SEC, Relf was on top of his game in the Bulldogs’ 52-14 rout of Michigan. He was 18-of-23 for 281 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, and he also rushed for a touchdown.

RB Mike Dyer, Auburn

He said before the game he had fresh legs, and the true freshman delivered for the Tigers in their 22-19 win over Oregon in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game. Dyer rushed for 143 yards on 22 carries, including 57 of their 73 yards on their game-winning drive.

RB Spencer Ware, LSU

Where was this guy all season? The true freshman rushed for 102 yards on 10 carries in LSU’s AT&T Cotton Bowl win over Texas A&M and served notice that he’ll be somebody to reckon with in 2011.

[+] EnlargeLSU's Terrence Toliver
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezLSU's Terrence Tolliver had a career day, catching five passes for 112 yards and three scores.
WR Terrence Toliver, LSU

Toliver saved his best game of the season for the last game. He had five catches for 112 yards and three touchdowns, including a 42-yarder and 41-yarder. The three touchdown catches tied a Cotton Bowl record.

WR Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina

It was another disappointing bowl trip for the Gamecocks, but Jeffery capped a brilliant season with nine catches for 130 yards.

TE D.J. Williams, Arkansas

He finished with five catches for 38 yards in the Hogs’ Allstate Sugar Bowl loss to Ohio State and also caught a two-point conversion pass on what was a terrific effort play, where he extended the ball over the goal line with his right hand after appearing to be stopped on the play.

OL Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State

One of those guys who won’t be easily replaced, Sherrod ended his Mississippi State career with another dominant performance up front from his left tackle spot in the Bulldogs’ 52-14 walloping of Michigan.

OL Lee Ziemba, Auburn

His 52nd consecutive start at Auburn will be his most memorable. The Tigers, rolling up 519 yards of total offense, defeated Oregon 22-19 for the national championship.

OL Barrett Jones, Alabama

The Crimson Tide really missed Jones in their loss to Auburn to end the regular season. But he was back at his right guard spot in the bowl game, and Alabama rolled up 546 yards of total offense.

OL Will Blackwell, LSU

He made his first start at right guard since his injury in the season opener, and LSU had a field day running to the right side against Texas A&M in piling up 288 yards rushing.

C Ryan Pugh, Auburn

One of the rocks of Auburn’s veteran offensive line all season long, Pugh saved one of his best games for the Tigers’ most important game.

DEFENSE

DL Marcell Dareus, Alabama

Alabama’s defensive front-seven was too much for Michigan State, and Dareus was a big reason why. He had two tackles for loss, including a sack, and also led the Crimson Tide with three quarterback hurries.

DL Antoine Carter, Auburn

Another key cog in Auburn’s defensive masterpiece against Oregon, Carter had a tackle for loss and also broke up a pass in his final game in an Auburn uniform.

DL Nick Fairley, Auburn

Oregon coach Chip Kelly said after the game the Ducks simply couldn’t block Fairley. Then again, nobody else did this season, either. He finished with three tackles for loss, including a sack, and also forced a fumble in spearheading Auburn’s most impressive defensive performance of the season.

DE/OLB Justin Houston, Georgia

Georgia's defense wasn't the culprit in the 10-6 loss to UCF in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, and Houston led the Bulldogs with 10 tackles and two quarterback hurries.

LB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama

One of the mainstays in holding Michigan State to minus-48 yards rushing, Upshaw was dominant in the Crimson Tide’s 49-7 romp in the Capital One Bowl. He finished with three tackles for loss, including two sacks and forced a fumble.

LB Anthony Leon, Arkansas

The former safety was all over the field for the Hogs in the Sugar Bowl. He finished with two tackles for loss and also broke up a pass. One of his biggest plays was the initial hit in the end zone that led to a safety.

LB Nick Reveiz, Tennessee

An inspiration to his teammates with the way he fought back from a serious knee injury the year before, Reveiz led the Vols with 14 tackles in their Music City Bowl loss. He also had two pass breakups and a quarterback hurry.

DB Tyrann Mathieu, LSU

One of the most promising freshman defensive backs in the league, Mathieu had seven tackles, including a sack, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one interception and one pass breakup in the Tigers’ Cotton Bowl win.

DB Ahmad Black, Florida

His 80-yard interception return for a touchdown sealed Florida’s 37-24 victory over Penn State in the Outback Bowl, sending Urban Meyer out a winner. Black, a senior safety, also went out in style with two interceptions, while tying for the team lead in tackles.

DB Tramain Thomas, Arkansas

Thomas led the Hogs with 12 total tackles. He also forced two fumbles and broke up a pass. One of his forced fumbles came on fourth-and-1 from Ohio State’s own 38 when he knocked the ball loose on what would have been a first down.

DB Mike McNeil, Auburn

The Tigers’ senior safety, who came back this season from a broken leg, led all players in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game with 14 total tackles, including a couple of key stops in the open field.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K Wes Byrum, Auburn

With the pressure on, Byrum’s 19-yard field goal as time expired lifted Auburn to its first national championship since 1957. It was his third game-winning field goal of the season.

P Dylan Breeding, Arkansas

He dropped four punts inside the 20-yard line, including three inside the 10 -- and two of those came in the fourth quarter. He averaged 43.7 yards a kick for the Hogs.

KR Randall Cobb, Kentucky

In what was his final game in a Kentucky uniform, Cobb had a combined 119 yards on kickoff/punt returns in the Wildcats’ 27-10 BBVA Compass Bowl loss to Pittsburgh. His long was a 40-yard kickoff return.

Video: Auburn's Lee Ziemba

January, 5, 2011
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Chris Low talks with Auburn's Lee Ziemba about preparing for the title game.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The shadow stretches far and wide across the state of Alabama.

Nobody knows that better than the folks on the Plains.

We’re talking, of course, about the shadow cast by the University of Alabama’s football team, a shadow that grew to epic proportions last season when the Crimson Tide capped a perfect season with their first national championship in 17 years.

[+] EnlargeCam Newton
AP Photo/Dave MartinCam Newton feels Auburn is not getting the attention it deserves.
A year later, though, it’s Alabama that has spent the second half of this season in Auburn’s shadow and will again on Monday night when the college football season climaxes with the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game.

Consider it the Tigers’ answer to what the Crimson Tide did a year ago.

And what an answer it’s been.

Auburn (13-0) is unbeaten with a Heisman Trophy winner leading the way. Only two of the Tigers’ last seven opponents have come with 17 points of them, and they’re averaging 42.7 points per game for the season.

Sound familiar?

Alabama’s run had a similar ring to it a year ago, although the Crimson Tide did it with a suffocating defense.

The Tigers’ players insist they saw this coming, and the only thing they’re focused on now is finishing the job against an Oregon team that’s been even more explosive offensively this season.

“We’ve been long overdue for a national championship,” Auburn senior receiver Kodi Burns said. “We felt like this was our year. We had a lot of senior leadership on this team and just getting here has been a blessing. To win it would be great.”

It would also go a long way toward tearing down that “Little Brother” stigma that has dogged Auburn in its own state since the days of Bear Bryant.

“They had their time. This is our time,” Auburn senior offensive tackle Lee Ziemba said. “What matters now is what we do with it.”

Even before he broke his first tackle in an Auburn uniform or made his first jaw-dropping run, Cam Newton dropped a pretty subtle hint back in August that this was a team that wouldn’t be content with living in anybody’s shadow.

Alabama was receiving all the preseason hype. Alabama was the team everybody was talking about in terms of repeating as national champion, and Alabama was the team everybody was hailing as the most talented in the country.

When the preseason polls were released, Auburn was ranked near the bottom in both the Associated Press and coaches’ polls. Alabama was right at the top.

Newton immediately took offense.

“Any time you turn on the TV or you turn on the sports talk radio show or anywhere, they’re talking about the other team,” Newton said of the Crimson Tide. “Of course, we know they’re an excellent team as well. We feel like we’re not being mentioned as we should be.”

Turns out in addition to being the best football player in the country that Newton was also a prophet.

“We weren’t going to back down from anybody,” Newton said.

Burns said the Auburn players drew confidence from Newton’s words and had already been talking about it among themselves.

“We all were talking about it like, ‘Hey, we can do this. Alabama did it last year. Why not us?’ ” Burns said. “We reversed the tables. We’re here at the national championship now, and hopefully, we can go out and win it.”

Nothing drove home the point that those tables had been reversed any more than Auburn’s stunning comeback from 24 points down to beat Alabama 28-27 in the regular-season finale at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Burns said he’ll never forget that feeling walking off the field that chilly November afternoon in Tuscaloosa.

The shadow had been replaced by the glare of the spotlight.

“The most impressive thing was when we were down 24-7 and went in at halftime,” Burns recalled. “Nobody said a word. Everybody was looking around, and finally we say, ‘Alabama’s done. That’s all they got.’ Then we go out the next half and score at will. It was one of the best feelings I’ve had, an awesome feeling.

“There were times we might have felt inferior (to Alabama). But, now, things have changed. We knew that 8-5 season last year was just a sign of something about to come … and here we are.”

LSU's Peterson pulls off double

December, 9, 2010
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The SEC coaches thought enough of LSU's Patrick Peterson this season to name him Defensive Player of the Year and Special Teams Player of the Year, a rare double for a player in this league.

[+] EnlargePatrick Peterson
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswirePatrick Peterson returned two punts for TDs and had four INTs in 2010.
Of course, Peterson is a rare talent. Not only is he the best cornerback in college football, but he emerged as one of the most explosive return specialists in the game this season, taking two punts back for touchdowns. In his first season returning kicks, Peterson broke the school record with 851 kickoff return yards.

The other individual SEC awards, as voted on by the coaches, went to Auburn quarterback Cam Newton as the Offensive Player of the Year, South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore as the Freshman of the Year and Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy as the Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

In somewhat of a surprise, the coaches voted for South Carolina's Steve Spurrier as the SEC Coach of the Year. Auburn's Gene Chizik was the Associated Press winner of the award, as voted on by the media, and beat Spurrier twice this season. It's the seventh time Spurrier has been named SEC Coach of the Year. He earned the honor five times at Florida and also received the award in 2005, his first season at South Carolina.

Auburn senior offensive tackle Lee Ziemba won the Jacobs Trophy, which goes annually to the top blocker in the SEC. Ziemba has started in all 51 games at Auburn since arriving as a freshman in 2007.

So if you count the Associated Press individual awards, it's been an impressive haul for the Tigers. They can claim the top coach, top offensive player, top defensive player and top blocker in the SEC.

No wonder they're in the BCS National Championship Game.

Newton leads coaches All-America team

November, 29, 2010
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Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and Oregon running back LaMichael James headline the 2010 American Football Coaches Association All-America team. The Big Ten led all conferences with six selections, followed by the ACC, SEC and Big 12 with four each. Three non-AQ players made the squad as well:

Offense

WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma St.

WR Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina

TE Lance Kendricks, Wisconsin

OL Lee Ziemba, Auburn

OL Rodney Hudson, Florida St.

C Chase Beeler, Stanford

OL Stefen Wisniewski, Penn St.

OL Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin

QB Cam Newton, Auburn

RB Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma St.

RB LaMichael James, Oregon

Defense

DL Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson

DL Adrian Clayborn, Iowa

DL Jabaal Sheard, Pittsburgh

DL Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue

LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College

LB Greg Jones, Michigan St.

LB Tank Carder, TCU

DB Reggie Rembert, Air Force

DB Patrick Peterson, LSU

DB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska

DB Quinton Carter, Oklahoma

Specialists

P Kyle Martens, Rice

PK Will Snyderwine, Duke

AP Owen Marecic, Stanford

Video: Auburn tackle Lee Ziemba

October, 23, 2010
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Auburn offensive tackle Lee Ziemba talks about his team’s offensive performance in the win over LSU.

Video: Auburn's Lee Ziemba

September, 26, 2010
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Ivan Maisel talks with Auburn’s Lee Ziemba following the Tigers’ win over South Carolina.

What to watch in the SEC: Week 2

September, 9, 2010
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We’re off and running in the SEC, and there’s already been plenty of drama.

Georgia receiver A.J. Green will miss the next three games because of an NCAA-mandated suspension for selling one of his jerseys. Ole Miss is still trying to figure out how it lost to an FCS team in the opener, and Les Miles’ heart is probably still beating fast after LSU tried to give one away to a depleted North Carolina team in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.

Three conference matchups highlight Week 2 as we take a look at what to watch in the SEC:

1. Alabama’s home dominance: The Crimson Tide, who entertain No. 18 Penn State on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium, have won 15 games in a row overall. They haven’t lost at home since Nick Saban’s first season in Tuscaloosa, an embarrassing 21-14 loss to Louisiana-Monroe. Since that meltdown, they’ve won 15 in a row at home. And in those 15 games, they’ve given up more than 15 points only once, a 24-20 win over Ole Miss during the 2008 season. Ten times during their 15-game home winning streak, they’ve held teams to a touchdown or fewer. In fact, in their last seven home outings, they’ve only allowed a total of three touchdowns.

2. Clanging in Starkville: The cowbells will be out in force as college football’s national spotlight shines down Thursday night on Scott Field. Will the Mississippi State fans play by the rules and refrain from ringing them when Auburn has the ball? Stay tuned. More importantly, is Mississippi State ready to take that next step and win a game that would set off a different set of bells across the league, that the Bulldogs mean business this season in the Western Division race. Coach Dan Mullen likes the way his team has prepared during the short week. Keep an eye on Mississippi State defensive end Pernell McPhee and Auburn offensive tackle Lee Ziemba when they line up against each other, which should be often. That’s a battle that will be worth watching unto itself.

[+] EnlargeGene Chizik
John Reed/US PresswireGene Chizik knows his team will have to turn it up a notch when it plays Mississippi State Thursday night.
3. Defending the ‘D’: The statistics last week weren’t overly impressive for Auburn’s defense, especially the way Arkansas State moved the ball with its short passing game on the way to 323 passing yards. But coach Gene Chizik said it wasn’t all bad on defense, either, for the Tigers in their 52-26 season-opening win. They had four sacks and limited Arkansas State to just 43 yards rushing. Auburn was pretty conservative, too, and stayed in its base defense for much of the game. That’s sure to change Thursday against Mississippi State, and Chizik said there’s no question that the Tigers need to be better all the way around defensively, especially when it comes to defending the pass and creating turnovers. The Tigers didn’t force any turnovers in the opener. It also looks like they will be without suspended starting linebacker Craig Stevens for a second straight game.

4. Making a run on the Bayou: After seeing LSU’s near-collapse in Atlanta last week, it’s hard to fathom that this team will play with enough consistency to make a run. The Tigers did everything they could possibly do to lose the game in the fourth quarter to an outmanned North Carolina team, but managed to hang on. Maybe their bad quarter is out of the way. Maybe Miles will see to it that his playmakers get the ball. The bottom line is that this team is talented enough to reel off several wins in a row, and the schedule’s not that bad over the next month. After a trip to Vanderbilt this Saturday, LSU gets three straight games at home against Mississippi State, West Virginia and Tennessee. Is it too farfetched to think the Tigers could be 5-0 going into that Florida game on Oct. 9?

5. Covering for Green: Georgia made out just fine without Green last week, but that was against Louisiana-Lafayette. You can bet Ellis Johnson, South Carolina’s assistant head coach for the defense, will crowd the line of scrimmage even more with Green out of the lineup this Saturday. The Bulldogs will be looking to loosen up that defense by hitting a few big plays early. Senior Kris Durham is off to a nice start, and sophomore Tavarres King is back after being suspended for the opener. The Bulldogs would love for this to be sophomore Marlon Brown’s coming-out party, while sophomore Rantavious Wooten has all sorts of speed. He just needs to prove he can consistently catch the ball. Junior Logan Gray has adjusted quickly to the receiver position, and maybe the Bulldogs try to get a few plays from cornerback Branden Smith on offense again. Tight end Orson Charles is another guy who could loom large in this game with his ability to create mismatches.

6. Urgent undertaking: Florida coach Urban Meyer says there has been a sense of urgency this week in practice. Sometimes a team needs a dose of reality to hit it squarely in the face before it can reach its potential. There’s no way the Gators are as bad as they looked on offense last week. They had 25 total yards at the end of three quarters, and it was debatable at that point if they were going to have more first downs or more fumbles. There were encouraging signs of life in the fourth quarter, but a better test will come Saturday against South Florida. It’s unfair to say that it was one or two things holding the Gators down, although a few more plays by the receivers would help everybody. They’re getting Frankie Hammond Jr. back from suspension this week, and do we finally get a look at Andre Debose?

7. Keeping it close: Tennessee is a two-touchdown underdog at home, which is unheard of at Neyland Stadium. Oregon has downplayed the effect the crowd will have, but what Tennessee has to do is make the crowd a factor, which means getting this game into the fourth quarter. The Vols may also have a secret weapon in first-year defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, whose defense at Boise State shut down Oregon’s spread offense last season in a 19-8 win that saw the Ducks manage just 152 yards of total offense. Wilcox warns, though, that he’s not a magician and that the key to stopping any spread is making one-on-one tackles in space and being disciplined in your assignments.

8. Picking up the pieces: The sting of the loss to Jacksonville State in the opener is going to linger, even if Ole Miss goes on a mini-winning streak. And, really, the Rebels should go on a mini-winning streak when you look at their upcoming schedule. They travel to Tulane this weekend and then have Vanderbilt, Fresno State and Kentucky all at home before getting a bye week. The problem is that wins over any of those teams aren’t going to cancel out that loss to Jacksonville State in the minds of the fans. They’re games the Ole Miss fans will expect them to win. And if they lose one of these next couple … we won’t even go there. This is where we find out how strong this team is mentally, because the best thing the Rebels can do is keep their head down, do what it takes to win football games and not worry about anything on the periphery.

9. Adams the TD man: Arkansas junior receiver Joe Adams is a touchdown machine, and he’s only going to get better at finding the end zone. The Hogs are loaded at the receiver position, but coaches around the league fear Adams as much or more as any of them. He had two more touchdown catches in the opener against Tennessee Tech, averaging 23 yards on six catches. One of his touchdowns was an 85-yarder. The thing that makes Adams such a tough cover for defenses is that he’s electric after the catch. He’s now scored a touchdown in eight of the last 11 games in which he’s played and has scored a total of 10 touchdowns in those 11 games. He’s returning punts this season, too, so he’ll also get his chances in the return game.

10. Going for the throat: Several of the LSU players felt last week they had North Carolina by the throat and eased up in the second half, whether it was going away from their playmakers on offense, trying to get some of their younger guys in on defense or simply stumbling over themselves with turnovers and touchdown-nullifying penalties. The running game showed some flashes, which was encouraging. But sophomore receivers Russell Shepard and Rueben Randle still need more touches. They combined for five touches after the half against the Tar Heels. That’s after touching it a combined seven times in the first half and producing three touchdowns.
One of the best gauges for how a team will do that season is the amount of experience it has in the offensive line.

Georgia is at the head of the class in the SEC, and it’s really not even close.

The Bulldogs return four players with more than 20 career starts on the offensive line, and their five projected starters coming out of the spring combined for 127 starts.

That’s almost 20 more starts than second-place Auburn, which has 108 career starts among its five projected starters.

Georgia’s numbers look even better when you throw junior tackle Trinton Sturdivant into the mix. He’s started 14 career games, but only one in the past two seasons because he’s battled knee injuries. Sturdivant started 13 games in 2007 as a true freshman left tackle. He hopes to return this season.

Georgia and Auburn are the only two SEC teams whose projected offensive line starters combine for 100 or more career starts.

While Georgia’s at the top with 127 starts, Tennessee’s at the bottom with only three career starts.

Auburn senior left tackle Lee Ziemba has started in every game since his freshman season in 2007 -- a streak of 38 straight games -- which is the most in the SEC for an offensive lineman.

Even though offensive line experience is important, there are exceptions. Alabama had one of the best offensive lines in the nation last season. The five guys who wound up being the starters had a combined 41 career starts entering the season. But here's the catch: Two players (left guard Mike Johnson and right tackle Drew Davis) had all 41 of those starts.

Here’s a breakdown of the entire league. Keep in mind these are only projected starters going into preseason camp and that some of these names could change:

1. Georgia: 127 (Chris Davis 37, Clint Boling 36, Ben Jones 23, Cordy Glenn 22, Josh Davis 9)

2. Auburn: 108 (Lee Ziemba 38, Ryan Pugh 31, Mike Berry 21, Byron Isom 18, Brandon Mosley 0)

3. Arkansas: 87 (DeMarcus Love 24, Wade Grayson 23, Ray Dominguez 20, Seth Oxner 13, Grant Cook 7)

4. Mississippi State: 82 (J.C. Brignone 24, Quentin Saulsberry 24, Derek Sherrod 22, Addison Lawrence 12, Tobias Smith 0)

5. Florida: 79 (Mike Pouncey 31, Carl Johnson 22, Marcus Gilbert 17, Xavier Nixon 5, James Wilson 4)

6. South Carolina: 52 (Jarriel King 19, T.J. Johnson 13, Terrence Campbell 11, Kyle Nunn 7, Garrett Chisolm 2)

7. Alabama: 42 (James Carpenter 14, Barrett Jones 14, William Vlachos 14, D.J. Fluker 0, Chance Warmack 0)

8. LSU: 41 (Joseph Barksdale 26, Josh Dworaczyk 13, Patrick Lonergan 2, Will Blackwell 0, Alex Hurst 0)

9. Kentucky: 27 (Stuart Hines 13, Brad Durham 7, Jake Lanefski 4, Billy Joe Murphy 3, Larry Warford 0)

10. Vanderbilt: 24 (Kyle Fischer 18, Joey Bailey 5, Ryan Seymour 1, Justin Cabbagestalk 0, Wesley Johnson 0)

11. Ole Miss: 22 (Bradley Sowell 12, Bobby Massie 5, Rishaw Johnson 4, Alex Washington 1, A.J. Hawkins 0)

12. Tennessee: 3 (Jarrod Shaw 3, Ja’Wuan James 0, Cody Pope 0, JerQuari Schofield 0, Dallas Thomas 0)

SEC media days lineup: Day 3

July, 23, 2010
7/23/10
8:08
AM ET
HOOVER, Ala. -- The SEC media days wrap up today with Auburn, Tennessee, LSU and Ole Miss taking center stage.

Here's the complete lineup:

From 9:30 a.m. to 12:10 p.m. ET: Auburn and Tennessee

The players attending for Auburn are offensive tackle Lee Ziemba, linebacker Josh Bynes and safety Aairon Savage.

The players attending for Tennessee are tight end Luke Stocker, defensive end Chris Walker and linebacker Nick Reveiz.

From 11:50 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. ET: LSU and Ole Miss

The players attending for LSU are quarterback Jordan Jefferson, linebacker Kelvin Sheppard and cornerback Patrick Peterson.

The players attending for Ole Miss are offensive tackle Bradley Sowell, defensive tackle Jerrell Powe and defensive end Kentrell Lockett.
Here’s a look at the players on each team in the SEC that I would select as the most irreplaceable going into the 2010 season:

Alabama: Safety Mark Barron. He’s the Crimson Tide’s lone experienced guy back in the secondary and one of the best safeties in the SEC. He also worked a bunch this spring at Alabama’s all-important star/nickel position in the defense. If something were to happen to Barron, Alabama might have to rely on a true freshman, possibly Jarrick Williams or Nick Perry. Robby Green's NCAA-mandated suspension was a major hit in terms of the Tide's depth at safety.

[+] EnlargeRyan Mallett
Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesArkansas' Ryan Mallett is a franchise quarterback for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas: Quarterback Ryan Mallett. Even though Mallett’s backup, sophomore Tyler Wilson, has worked extensively with the first unit, he’s not Mallett, whose big-play potential on every play changes the way defenses attack the Hogs. Moreover, Mallett’s a franchise type of quarterback, and those guys are never easily replaced.

Auburn: Offensive tackle Lee Ziemba. The Tigers were hopeful that freshman signee Shon Coleman would be able to come in and sort of serve as Ziemba’s apprentice this first season at left tackle. Sadly, Coleman is battling lymphoma. Right now, it’s difficult to pinpoint anybody on Auburn’s roster who would be able to come in and competently handle defensive ends in this league.

Florida: Quarterback John Brantley. He’s the purest passer Urban Meyer has had at Florida and looked terrific this spring throwing the football. He still has to prove himself against SEC defenses, but the Gators are confident in what he’ll be able to do. Behind Brantley is true freshman Trey Burton, who had a 76-yard run in the spring game and may be used to run some of the “Tim Tebow” package next fall in short-yardage and goal-line situations.

Georgia: Quarterback Aaron Murray. Your first inkling is to go with junior receiver A.J. Green, who just might be the best receiver in the country. But the more you study the Bulldogs’ quarterback situation, it has to be Murray. Granted, he hasn’t taken a snap in a college game, but he’s at least gone through two spring practices at Georgia. If Murray goes down, the Bulldogs’ options are junior Logan Gray (who wants to move to receiver) and true freshman Hutson Mason, who just finished up high school.

Kentucky: Receiver Randall Cobb. What doesn’t Cobb do for the Wildcats? He’s their most effective offensive threat whether he lines up at receiver or at quarterback in the Wildcat formation. He also returns kickoffs and punts. Kentucky is optimistic that senior Chris Matthews could also be a go-to guy at receiver now that he’s in his second year in the program after coming over from junior college last season. But Cobb’s versatility makes him one of the most irreplaceable players in the conference.

[+] EnlargePatrick Peterson
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesLSU's Patrick Peterson is a shut down corner in one of the SEC's best secondaries.
LSU: Cornerback Patrick Peterson. On any level of football, lockdown cornerbacks come at a premium. Not only is Peterson a lockdown corner, but he’s an exceptional tackler, a budding leader and the kind of player who rubs off on everybody else around him with his unyielding confidence. The LSU coaches love the potential of Morris Claiborne on the other side. But if Claiborne all of a sudden has to become the “man” at corner, that changes things for the Tigers in what should be the best secondary in the SEC. Ron Brooks would be one of the candidates to replace Peterson, or the Tigers could also move converted safety Jai Eugene back to cornerback.

Mississippi State: Defensive end Pernell McPhee. The Bulldogs think they have the talent, size and athleticism in the defensive line to give opposing offenses fits next season. The guy who makes it all happen up front is McPhee, who’s powerful enough to play inside, but has the burst to play outside. He returns as one of the top defensive linemen in the SEC and is one of those difference-makers on defense you simply can’t take out of your lineup and not expect to have a steep drop-off. Junior Sean Ferguson or possibly redshirt freshman Johnathan McKenzie would be in line to replace McPhee.

Ole Miss: Defensive end Kentrell Lockett. The Rebels have more defensive tackles than they know what to do with. They’re as deep in the interior positions on the defense line as any team in the country. But Lockett is the lone wolf at end when you look at everybody that departed last season. The Rebels were encouraged by what they saw out of junior college newcomer Wayne Dorsey at the other end in the spring, but Lockett’s experience and ability to rush the passer will be one of the keys to Ole Miss’ defense. The Rebels are a lot less imposing in their front seven without him.

South Carolina: Cornerback Stephon Gilmore. It sounds like Gilmore’s duties may expand in 2010. Steve Spurrier is talking about using him a couple of series every game at quarterback in the Wildcat formation. He also returns punts and is South Carolina’s top cornerback. Gilmore was one of the top freshmen in college football last season. Even though he’s only a sophomore, he’s the heart and soul of that secondary and will be even better his second tour through the SEC. Junior C.C. Whitlock would be first in line to replace Gilmore and is plenty talented. Whitlock just needs to prove that he’s going to be more dependable -- both on and off the field.

Tennessee: Defensive tackle Montori Hughes. Nowhere on Tennessee’s roster is the depth more precariously thin than at defensive tackle. Hughes and Marlon Walls are pretty much it, and they were both pushed into action last season as true freshmen. They’re bona fide SEC tackles, too, and make for a solid tandem. They just don’t have anybody behind them who’s played many (or any) meaningful snaps in this league. There’s depth at defensive end, and Rae Sykes may be one of those guys who can also play inside. But if something happens to the 6-4, 317-pound Hughes, the Vols will be extremely vulnerable in the middle of their defensive line.

Vanderbilt: Middle linebacker Chris Marve. He’s first SEC player since former Vanderbilt great Jamie Winborn to post 100-plus tackles in both his freshman and sophomore seasons. Marve has also shown incredible toughness, playing through injuries and pain, and will be the heartbeat of that Vanderbilt defense in 2010 in more ways than one. There’s also not much experience around him at linebacker. Marve will be the one getting everybody lined up. And when there’s a play to be made, he’s the one who's usually making it. Redshirt freshman Blake Southerland would get a shot in the middle if something happened to Marve. The Commodores could also potentially move Tristan Strong or DeAndre Jones into the middle, although Strong is one of the favorites to step in for Patrick Benoist at weakside linebacker.

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


This Saturday in the SEC needs no buildup. There are marquee matchups everywhere.

The intrigue surrounding Tim Tebow’s playing status has sort of dominated the headlines, but the real story is what happens on the field.

It’s the first chance for a couple of teams to separate themselves. We’ll see if they’re up to the task.

Here’s a look at what to watch in the SEC in Week 6:

1. Bedlam on the Bayou: If you love college football and love the atmosphere surrounding college football on game day, find a way to be in Baton Rouge, La., on Saturday night. The party outside Tiger Stadium has a chance to be as good as the game itself. They do it up right on the Bayou for every game, but the environment for the Florida-LSU showdown will be electric. I can already taste the gumbo. I can already feel the anticipation of the last two national champions squaring off in one of college football’s most hallowed (and deafening) cathedrals. I can already hear the LSU band striking up those legendary first four notes: DAH-DANT-DA-DUM. For a little taste, go to LSUsports.com and click on “Touchdown for LSU” (pregame).

2. Getting the tough yards: If Tim Tebow does come back from his concussion and play for Florida, will he be as willing to take off and lower his head on third-and-short and down near the goal line? Let’s face it: His ability to get the tough yards and do the Gators’ dirty work has been what’s separated him and what’s made the Gators’ offense so difficult to defend. And if he doesn’t play, who’s going to assume those duties for Florida? Backup quarterback John Brantley isn’t much of a runner, and the Gators don’t really have an every-down running back. Emmanuel Moody, a 210-pound junior, would probably be the closest thing.

3. Dunlap and Cunningham: It’s hard to find a better defensive end combo in the country. Carlos Dunlap is pushing 290 pounds and has the strength to overpower an opposing offensive tackle while also having the speed to blow past him. Some analysts think Dunlap might be the top overall pick in the NFL draft if he decides to leave school early. On the other side is Jermaine Cunningham, who according to LSU offensive tackle Ciron Black, is the fastest defensive end in the country. LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson was sacked six times last week in the 20-13 win over Georgia, so you can bet that Dunlap and Cunningham will be pinning their ears back and coming on Saturday night.

4. Great Scott: The Tigers appeared to find something in their running game toward the end of the Georgia contest last week, and they did so by handing the ball to senior Charles Scott and letting him do his thing. Scott finished with season highs of 19 carries and 95 yards rushing. His 33-yard touchdown romp where he ran over a Georgia linebacker was the game-winner with 46 seconds to play. Entering that game, he’d only carried it 43 times combined in four previous games and hadn’t gone over 63 yards or carried it more than 13 times in a game. This is the same guy who rushed for 1,174 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. The Tigers’ problem is that Scott is also their best blocker in the backfield, and he's having to play some fullback. But getting him more involved in the running game will be key if the Tigers are going to establish anything on the ground against the Gators.

5. Prove-it-to-me time for Rebels: Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt and his players said all the right things in the offseason, that they were handling the expectations and all the hype accordingly. As it turns out, they probably didn’t handle it all that well. They’ve yet to come close to playing their “A” game this season and lost to the only team they’ve faced with a winning record. It’s been a disappointing first five weeks to the season, no doubt. But that can all change with a win over No. 3-ranked Alabama at home Saturday. Not only do the Rebels prove that they’re legit by winning, but they put themselves in prime position for the stretch run in the Western Division race. This is their shot to completely change the complexion of their season.

6. Julio’s just fine: Want to get Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy fired up? Ask him why Julio Jones hasn’t been more involved in the offense this season. Jones has nine catches for 133 yards and one touchdown. Part of the reason his numbers are down is that he’s missed virtually two games with a bruised kneecap. But McElroy isn’t buying that Jones hasn’t been involved. If anything, Jones is the main reason that so many different guys have emerged in the passing game for the Tide. McElroy has thrown touchdown passes to six different players. “Just because Julio’s not catching passes doesn’t mean he’s not involved. He’s very involved. He demands the eyes. Four eyes are on him every time we snap the ball. That’s two from a safety and two from a corner. He makes a difference whether he catches a ball or not,” McElroy said.

7. Redemption for the quarterbacks: For a league that’s hard on quarterbacks, some guys have put up some mighty impressive numbers heading into Week 6. In fact, four of the top 12 rated passers in the country are from the SEC. Tebow is No. 3 in passing efficiency, Alabama’s McElroy No. 6, Auburn’s Chris Todd No. 8 and Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett No. 12. Tebow’s not a surprise, and most people felt Mallett would come out slinging it in Bobby Petrino’s offense. But what about the two guys from the state of Alabama? Between them, Todd and McElroy have thrown 21 touchdown passes and two interceptions. Ole Miss' Jevan Snead is all the way down at No. 66 nationally in passing efficiency, but he's too talented not to make a move. Maybe it's this week. Ole Miss fans sure hope so.

8. Auburn at the front of the line: As we approach the midway point of the season, it’s hard to pick anybody other than Auburn when you start talking about the best offensive line in the league. Props go to Auburn offensive line coach Jeff Grimes. His guys have really played well up front. The numbers speak for themselves. The Tigers are second in the league and fifth nationally in rushing offense. They lead the league and are tied for second nationally with only two sacks allowed. They haven’t allowed any sacks the past two games, and they’ve also done it with different people. Guard Byron Isom has missed the last two games, meaning the Tigers have started a different combination in each of their last three games. Lee Ziemba might be the best left tackle in the league right now.

9. Garcia’s maturation: South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has resisted at every turn to drop the slightest bit of praise on sophomore quarterback Stephen Garcia. Maybe Spurrier didn’t want to jinx it. Maybe he wanted to keep Garcia on his toes. Maybe he’s just hard on his quarterbacks. Whatever the case, the Head Ball Coach is starting to come around and says now that Garcia has made tremendous progress. Even though South Carolina didn’t win, you could sort of see Garcia grow up in that Georgia game, and he’s been steady ever since. The best thing he’s done is manage the game, meaning he’s given the Gamecocks a chance in every game and making the plays when they’re there. He’s only thrown two interceptions this season and heads into Saturday’s game against Kentucky having gone 116 pass attempts without an interception. Simply, he's playing winning football.

10. Revival on Rocky Top: You heard it here first. If Tennessee doesn’t beat Georgia at home Saturday, the Vols won’t have a winning season. That’s how important this game is for Lane Kiffin’s club, which has shown a knack this season for hanging around in games, but hasn’t been able to generate enough offense to beat anybody that counts. Despite the struggles, Kiffin hasn't taken any shortcuts and has stuck to his guns. He dismissed receiver Brandon Warren from the team this week after Warren spent one too many nights in Kiffin’s doghouse. He’s also stuck with senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton and says he has no desire to start shuffling quarterbacks. Whether that comes back to get him remains to be seen. Either way, the Vols have continued to play hard. It’s getting to the point, though, that they probably need to see some results if they're going to hang in there for the rest of this season. That’s what makes this Georgia game so critical heading into the bye week. A 0-3 start in SEC play could become 0-4 real quick with Alabama looming in two weeks. The last time the Vols started 0-4 in SEC play was 1988 when they finished 5-6 overall.

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