NCF Nation: Nathan Dick
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
We branch out to see what else is shaking in the world of the SEC:
- Auburn coach Gene Chizik doesn't waste any time and hits the road recruiting.
- Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard takes some parting shots at Gene Chizik.
- Florida coach Urban Meyer explains his Notre Dame/dream job comments.
- With quarterback Ryan Mallett set to become eligible next season, Nathan Dick elects to transfer from Arkansas.
- Columnist Wally Hall of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette writes that it was inexcusable for Heisman Trophy voters to leave Tim Tebow off their ballots. Of the 904 people who vote, 154 left Tebow completely off their ballots.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
It's a quiet week in the SEC, as only seven teams are playing. The LSU-Ole Miss contest (aka the Magnolia Bowl) is the marquee matchup. The winner will move to the top of the list for a Cotton Bowl bid. If Vanderbilt can beat Tennessee, the Commodores will solidify only their second winning season in SEC play in the last 48 years. Alabama is off and has Auburn at home on Nov. 29. Think there's any chance Nick Saban might take a peek at some Florida tape this weekend? The Gators might as well be off. They face The Citadel at home. Here's a look at what to watch in the SEC in Week 13:
1. Peria Jerry: When the season began, the defensive tackles around the league getting most of the ink were LSU's Ricky Jean-Francois and Auburn's Sen'Derrick Marks. Turn on the tape from the last several games, though, and find a better tackle in the SEC right now than Ole Miss' Peria Jerry. You can't. He's been dominant, and it's obvious that he's healthy after undergoing surgery in the preseason to repair meniscus damage in his knee. The 6-foot-2, 290-pound Jerry is second among all SEC defensive tackles with 10.5 tackles for loss and will be a huge key if Ole Miss is going to end its six-game losing streak Saturday against LSU.
2. LSU's O-line vs. Ole Miss' D-line: This has to be one of the best matchups of the season. LSU has had its problems this season, but they haven't been on the offensive line. The Tigers have at least two future pros in tackle Ciron Black and guard Herman Johnson. One of the keys, though, will be senior center Brett Helms, who's not 100 percent and trying to gut it out. The Rebels also have two or three future pros in their defensive line and are finally healthy. Even enigmatic defensive endGreg Hardy looked like his old self last week. Ole Miss won't hold anything back, which is why the Rebels have an SEC-leading 80 tackles for loss this season.
3. Showcase for Snead: His numbers suggest he's one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, maybe the best. But to really make this a season to remember, Ole Miss sophomore quarterback Jevan Snead needs to lead his team to a big win on the road. Here's his chance against storied rival LSU. Ole Miss offensive coordinator Kent Austin has done a nice job of bringing Snead along at just the right pace. But like all first-year quarterbacks in this league, Snead has blown hot and cold at times. He seems to be hitting his stride now and will no doubt take his shots against an LSU secondary that has given up its share of big plays this season.
4. Hold on tightly: The surest way for Ole Miss to go into Tiger Stadium on Saturday and lose the football game is to turn it over a bunch of times. The Rebels know that drill well. They turned it over 15 times in their four losses this season, but have lost just one turnover during their three-game winning streak. Forcing turnovers hasn't been LSU's forte, either. The Tigers have forced just 14 turnovers this season, which is tied for next to last in the league along with Georgia. That's in direct contrast to LSU's ball-hawking defense from a year ago. The Tigers forced 36 turnovers on their way to the BCS national championship in 2007.
5. A brotherly thing: Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino won't make a final call on his starting quarterback for the Mississippi State game until later in the day on Friday. It sounds like he's leaning toward making a change and going with the younger of the Dick brothers, redshirt freshman Nathan. Casey, a senior, has started 28 consecutive games, but left the South Carolina game two weeks ago with a concussion after throwing three interceptions. Petrino said there's a chance that both of the brothers could play in the game and that they've been energized by the competition this week in practice. For Nathan, it's a chance to generate some momentum going into the offseason. He'll need to play well if he's going to beat out Michigan transfer Ryan Mallett for the job next season.
6. Malcolm who?: The offensive linemen who've gone against Arkansas defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard this season know who he is. Still, the 6-foot-3, 277-pound junior is one of the more underrated defenders in the league. He's tied for second in the SEC with 11.5 tackles for loss and leads all defensive tackles in that category. He also has 5.5 sacks, which is an SEC-high for defensive tackles. Sheppard, one of the Arkansas team captains, has helped to keep a defense together that went through a brutal three-game stretch in which it gave up 139 points to Alabama, Texas and Florida. The Hogs have played more respectably on defense ever since, and Sheppard has been a big reason why.
7. Croom's future: The fans at Mississippi State are growing increasingly more restless each week, and many of them are calling for Sylvester Croom to hit the road. Yep, the same Sylvester Croom that won SEC Coach of the Year honors last season and led the Bulldogs to eight wins and a Liberty Bowl victory. Mississippi State (3-7, 1-5 SEC) needs to show some improvement these last two weeks, especially on offense. Croom may shake it up some Saturday against Arkansas. He wants to get both redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Relf and redshirt freshman running back Wade Bonner on the field, while J.C. Brignone will return to center and Michael Gates will move to left guard.
8. Tennessee defensive pride: It's been a horrible season for the Vols. There's no way to sugarcoat it. But through the agony of it all, John Chavis' defense has continued to play with pride and deserves far better than how this thing is going to end up. Tennessee enters Saturday's game at Vanderbilt ranked No. 7 nationally in total defense, which is remarkable when you consider how little help the defense has received from an offense that has been held to single digits in its last three games. Chavis has had better defenses at Tennessee, but few have played with more resolve than this group.
9. Less orange in Vanderbilt Stadium: This may actually be an honest-to-goodness home game for Vanderbilt, which hasn't beaten Tennessee in Nashville since 1982. Traditionally, the orange in the Vanderbilt Stadium stands when these two teams meet is as prevalent as the black and gold. There have been years when it almost sounded like a home game for the Vols. But not this year. Tennessee is putting the wraps on one of the worst seasons in school history, while Vanderbilt is headed to a bowl game for the first time in 26 years. "I hope we have a huge black and gold advantage in our stadium," Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said.
10. 50, 60 and counting: How many points will Florida score on The Citadel, and how long will Urban Meyer play his starters? It's really one of those games that the Gators get very little out of, particularly this late in the season. In fact, you know Meyer and his staff will be holding their breath the entire time hoping somebody doesn't get rolled up and injured. It's no time to play scared, but you can bet that Meyer will be smart about how long he leaves guys like Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin and Brandon Spikes in the game. Florida hasn't lost to a current non-FBS school since losing to Villanova in 1946.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Our daily look at what else is out there in the SEC:
- Georgia defensive tackle Geno Atkins says he will be back for his senior season.
- Will this be Tim Tebow's final home game at the Swamp? He says he's not even thinking about it.
- This Vanderbilt team is making a bid as the best Vanderbilt team ever.
- It's brother vs. brother in the race for Arkansas's starting quarterback job this week.
- Tennessee safety Eric Berry had to learn to love hitting. Now, he's one of the hardest hitters in the SEC.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
With five of the 12 teams in the SEC off this week, we take our Internal Affairs look at the conference:
A Hardy sighting: Ole Miss junior defensive end Greg Hardy is feeling healthier and also has fresh legs, which could be bad news for LSU. Hardy led the SEC with 10 sacks last season, but has been plagued by a stress fracture in his right foot. He missed the first three games of the season, but returned in time to play a key role in the Rebels' 31-30 upset of Florida. He re-injured his foot against Alabama and spent most of the next two games on the sideline. But last week, he returned against Louisiana-Monroe and showed glimpses of his old self with a sack and 22-yard interception return. The open date before the Louisiana-Monroe game gave Hardy some extra time to rest his foot, and he should be closer to 100 percent this Saturday. When he's on, he's still one of the SEC's best pass-rushers.
Where's the Wild Berry? One of the reasons Tennessee safety Eric Berry has not played on offense this season, according to coach Phillip Fulmer, is that he's had a shoulder injury and the coaches didn't want to take a chance on getting him tackled. Fulmer and Berry had both talked in the preseason about getting Berry involved on offense, and Berry did play one snap of offense against Alabama when he caught a screen pass. Berry, one of the top safeties in the country, has still been working some on offense in practice in recent weeks and could get a few snaps this Saturday against Vanderbilt, Fulmer said.
Battle of the brothers: It's a given that one of the Dick brothers will start at quarterback this Saturday for Arkansas. Whether it's Casey Dick or Nathan Dick, Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino would like to keep Mississippi State guessing. Casey has started every game this season, but was knocked out of the South Carolina game two weeks ago with a concussion. He also threw three interceptions in that game, which didn't sit well with Petrino. Having the open date last week to get a longer look at Nathan (and with Casey sitting out because of the concussion), Petrino decided to open up the competition. Casey is second in the SEC with 2,389 passing yards, but has also thrown 14 interceptions.
Nickson to start: Senior quarterback Chris Nickson will make his second straight start after leading Vanderbilt to a 31-24 victory over Kentucky last week, earning the Commodores their sixth victory and making them bowl eligible. Nickson has played through the pain of a shoulder separation (his right throwing shoulder, no less) for much of the last two seasons. The injury rendered him ineffective earlier this season, and Mackenzi Adams took over. Both quarterbacks may end up playing in the game, but Nickson looked much healthier in the win over Kentucky with 118 yards rushing and three passing touchdowns. His ability to both run and pass makes the Commodores a much more difficult team to defend. Nickson is just 78 yards shy of the all-time rushing record for a Vanderbilt quarterback. He has 1,390 career rushing yards.
Auburn pushing back the spring: It may not be game strategy, but Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville is already looking at some different strategy for the offseason. The Tigers are typically one of the earliest teams out of the gate for spring practice, starting in February. But with the injuries and surgeries piling up, Tuberville is now thinking about pushing back the start of spring practice. His thinking is that the extra time will give more players a chance to recover physically and be healthy enough to go through most of the spring if the Tigers hold off until March. The latest Auburn player to go down was tight end Tommy Trott, who will have knee surgery this week. He's the ninth Auburn player to undergo surgery since the preseason.