NCF Nation: Nate Askew

Justin Hunter and Da'Rick RogersAP Photo/Wade PayneJustin Hunter (11) and Da'Rick Rogers (21) are considered to be the best receiving duo in the SEC.
Our SEC position rankings continue with a look at schools' wide receiver and tight end groups.

Past rankings:
On to the league's wide receiver/tight end groups:

1. Tennessee: The Vols are equipped with two of the top wideouts in the league with Da'Rick Rogers, who was second in the SEC in receiving last year, and Justin Hunter, who might be the SEC's top deep threat. It sounds like Hunter will be 100 percent this fall after his ACL injury last year. Junior college transfer Cordarrelle Patterson is big, fast and possesses the big-play gene. The speedy Zach Rogers is back and is so is talented tight end Mychal Rivera.

2. Arkansas: Cobi Hamilton is now Arkansas' primary receiver, and he might be the league's most complete wideout. He can make the big-play and elude defenders along the way. While Marquel Wade's status is still unclear, if he does return, he'll be a major lift for this offense because of his playmaking ability in the slot. Julian Horton and Javontee Herndon have always impressed coaches in practice and now will get their chances to in games. Tight end Chris Gragg should be even more involved and is the league's top tight end.

3. Georgia: While Malcolm Mitchell could go back and forth between receiver and corner, when he's at receiver he's Georgia's top offensive threat and was one of the league's best as a rookie. There are vets behind him, starting with reliable senior Tavarres King, who had a very good spring, senior Marlon Brown, who seemed to take a big step in his game this spring. Sophomores Michael Bennett and Chris Conley combined for 48 catches for 608 yards and seven touchdowns last year. Unproven tight ends Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome will replace Orson Charles and Aron White.

4. Texas A&M: This isn't the fastest group out there, but there are some pretty reliable weapons, starting with star Ryan Swope, who could have left for the NFL after catching 89 passes for 1,207 yards and 11 touchdowns last year. Uzoma Nwachukwu was third on the team with 50 catches for 639 yards and three tight ends -- Nehemiah Hicks, Michael Lamothe and Hutson Prioleau -- return. Keep an eye on junior Nate Askew, who could be a downfield threat this fall.

5. LSU: Odell Beckham Jr. was one of the top rookies last year and could be even better in Year 2. He'll be joined by potential deep threat and big-play target Jarvis Landry, who developed some good chemistry with quarterback Zach Mettenberger this spring. Russell Shepard is talented, but he's been wildly inconsistent. Keep an eye on junior James Wright and incoming frosh Avery Johnson, who is the younger brother of Patrick Peterson. Also, tight end Chase Clement is on the John Mackey watch list.

[+] EnlargeJordan Matthews
Don McPeak/US PresswireWide receiver Jordan Matthews is one player the Commodores will be counting on this fall.
6. Vanderbilt: This group surprised last year and returns most of its components, starting with Jordan Matthews, who was fourth in the SEC in receiving last year. Sophomore Chris Boyd was solid last year, hauling in 31 catches and eight touchdowns. Jonathan Krause is very good in space and should see his role increase this fall after a solid spring. The coaches are excited about former QB Josh Grady moving to receiver. Replacing tight end Brandon Barden won't be easy.

7. Alabama: There is more speed out wide in Tuscaloosa, but there's a lot more youth. The Tide could turn to freshmen Chris Black, Amari Cooper and Eddie Williams to help develop a more downfield passing game. More will be expected from veterans Kenny Bell and Kevin Norwood, while sophomore DeAndrew White possesses a ton of speed. Still no word on Duron Carter. Tight end Michael Williams was solid last year, but will be used even more this fall.

8. Mississippi State: There is a lot of experience here, but this group has still underperformed at times, especially senior Chad Bumphis, who has yet to live up to all the hype that followed him from high school. Seniors Chris Smith and Arceto Clark combined for 65 catches last year, while the staff is very excited about the big-play potential redshirt freshman Joe Morrow possesses. Tight end Malcolm Johnson serves as a very reliable tight end target, as well.

9. Missouri: The Tigers lost two starting receivers and stud tight end Michael Egnew, but three of the top five pass catchers are back, including inside threat T.J. Moe, who led Mizzou in receiving last year. Big things are expected from Marcus Lucas, who can stretch the field with his speed and physicality, and the coaches think L'Damian Washington can also be a downfield threat. Also, Dorial Green-Beckham, last year's top recruit, should make an immediate impact. Eric Waters is replacing Egnew, but has just two career catches and suffered a knee injury this spring.

10. Auburn: Emory Blake is one of the league's top downfield threats and has been one of Auburn's most consistent offensive weapons. So has tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, who should be more of a passing threat with the addition of transfer fullback Jay Prosch. There is a lot of depth, but it's unproven. Trovon Reed was supposed to be a star, but had a lackluster second year. Seniors Travante Stallworth and DeAngelo Benton have 15 and 14 career catches, respectively. Quan Bray has shown potential and could have a bigger role this season and keep an eye on freshman Ricardo Louis.

11. Florida: The Gators have struggled here since 2009 and still lack proven playmakers. Andre Debose is probably the best bet to be one, but he's been very inconsistent. Quinton Dunbar has the speed to be an outside threat, but caught just 14 passes last year. And the coaches are still waiting for senior Frankie Hammond Jr. to turn things up. True freshman Latroy Pittman had a great spring and the coaches are excited about his potential. Tight end Jordan Reed is one of the most athletic players in the league and will be a bigger target with two young quarterbacks throwing the ball.

12. South Carolina: Now that Alshon Jeffery is gone, the Gamecocks have questions and inexperience here. The fast, athletic Ace Sanders is the only returning pass catcher with at least 20 catches from last year (29). The hope is Bruce Ellington will be more of a factor this fall. Tight ends Justice Cunningham and Rory Anderson combined for 26 catches and four touchdowns. Damiere Byrd has blazing speed, but caught just one pass last year. DeAngelo Smith had a solid spring, and the coaches hope he can be a downfield threat. A lot will be expected from incoming freshman Shaq Roland.

13. Ole Miss: Sophomore Donte Moncrief is a budding star in this league and thinks he'll be even better in Hugh Freeze's spread offense. Ja-Mes Logan caught 20 passes last year, but had a very good spring. But Nickolas Brassell was an academic casualty and Randall Mackey had to move over from quarterback. The coaches are looking for consistency from Terrell Grant and Vince Sanders, who are both pretty unproven. Tight end Jamal Mosley is expected to do more in the spread and averaged 13.8 yards per catch last year.

14. Kentucky: Joker Phillips' goal this spring was to find more playmakers and he thinks he did with sophomore Demarco Robinson, who had five receptions last year, and redshirt freshman Daryl Collins. The hope is that they'll take some pressure off of La'Rod King, who is really the only proven receiving threat on the team. Tight ends Ronnie Shields and Tyler Robinson did well this spring, but combined for just 10 catches last year.

Some extra Jerrod Johnson nuggets

August, 25, 2010
8/25/10
3:32
PM ET
Hope you enjoyed our story on Texas A&M's Jerrod Johnson today as part of the Big 12 preview. Check it out if you haven't already. But lots and lots of good stuff didn't make it in the story. Here's the best of the rest, plus a few observations and thoughts from my visit to College Station.
[+] EnlargeJohnson
Nelson Chenault/US PresswireJerrod Johnson threw for 3,579 yards and 30 touchdowns last season.

  • Johnson studied kinesiology and education, and as part of the curriculum, he had to spend six weeks last semester as a P.E. teacher at a local elementary school. That is exactly as awesome as it sounds. "Those kids wore me out more than any football practice could," Johnson said. Kids would roll through every half hour to 45 minutes, and Johnson would see about 80-90 kids per day from kindergarten to fourth grade. Some of the kids only knew their new P.E. teacher as "Mr. Johnson," but plenty knew they were getting primo instruction from the quarterback for Texas A&M. "Some of the kindergarteners knew, because they'd come in and say, 'My dad wants to know who our new defensive coordinator wants to be,'" Johnson said. "I'm like, you can't even spell 'defensive coordinator.'"
  • Johnson admitted he came into fall practice a little rusty, but part of his early struggles came because of an improving defense, he says. "It just fits our personnel so much better," Johnson said of the new 3-4 scheme. "The last two years, we've been trying to recruit all these athletic linebackers because in the Big 12 you see so many spread offenses, and your linebackers have to be your strength. They have to be big enough to defend the run but agile enough to play in the secondary."
  • He's the team's unquestioned leader, but Johnson might not know just how true that is, according to Von Miller. "He’s the man. I don’t think Jerrod knows how much I look up to him and his leadership qualities and skills," Miller said. "I’m a leader on this team too, but he’s my leader. I look to Jerrod for advice and all that stuff. He’s been a leader for a couple years and this is my first time getting a taste of this. I watch the way he handles himself and deals with situations and I try to do that, too."
  • In response to today's report in the Houston Chronicle about Johnson not being 100 percent healed from the offseason shoulder surgery, that would certainly support what I saw in practice on Friday. Johnson was plenty accurate, but it was my first time getting to see him up close going full speed, and compared to others I've seen like Sam Bradford and Robert Griffin, who I got a close look at on Tuesday, the velocity on his ball when he's trying to whip it in through traffic was significantly lower than the others I just named. My assumption is that will change, and he's got a few warm-up games to do it until the Aggies travel to Stillwater, but we'll see how he looks in October.
  • Texas A&M's receivers have size that might be unrivaled across the conference. Jeff Fuller is obviously the big name at a very legitimate 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, but the Aggies also have senior Terrence McCoy (6-foot-4, 211), freshman Nate Askew (6-foot-4, 223) and backup quarterback/receiver Ryan Tannehill (6-foot-4, 216). They should all be contributors this year, and the Aggies also have the more normal-sized Uzoma Nwachukwu, Kenric McNeal and Ryan Swope. A really nice mix of guys that have the best case as the deepest corps in the conference.
  • As a fifth-year senior, Johnson takes it upon himself to show the younger players how to adjust to the college game. One of the biggest pieces of advice he gives them is to read as little as possible about themselves, namely on message boards. "You can't control what people say about you or what people’s opinions are of you. Just live the way you think you should live and do what you can do and that’s all you can control," Johnson said. "If you start worrying about and trying to control things you can't control, you'll drive yourself crazy."
  • He also makes sure they understand what it means to be a college athlete, and specifically, a college athlete at Texas A&M. "This school is going to give you so much. It'll give you an education, put your name out there and people are going to want to hire you but you have to make sure you get just as much out of the school as the school is going to get from you," he said. "It’s gonna get touchdowns, and they’ll make money off you filling up the stands. But it also makes you get friends, contacts and memories. Engulf yourself in Texas A&M and you’ll benefit just as much as the school will benefit from you. I preach that to everybody."
  • Not as many players and coaches had actually seen Jerrod's karaoke performance blowing up on YouTube, currently pushing over 26,000 views. Word had spread that it was shown on local TV, but plenty of guys hadn't seen the actual video yet.

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