NCF Nation: Richard Murphy

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

One of the best recruiting jobs LSU coach Les Miles did this past offseason was holding onto senior offensive tackle Ciron Black.

In reality, I don't know how much recruiting Miles really did, but there's no denying how much better the Tigers will be with Black lining up at left tackle for another season.

 
  Brad Schloss/Icon SMI
  Ciron Black has started in 40 straight games at left tackle for the Tigers.

Not only is he the best offensive tackle in the SEC, but he's the kind of strong-willed leader that keeps everybody accountable. In more ways than one, Black will be the Tigers' rock in 2009.

He insists that he hasn't regretted his decision to put off the NFL and return for his senior season one bit.

"I realized I had a lot more to do," said the 6-foot-5, 325-pound Black, who has started in 40 straight games at left tackle for the Tigers. "I have a lot more to work on in becoming a better player, a better all-around player."

When one of your best players has that kind of attitude, it typically rubs off on everyone else.

The other thing that sticks out about Black is that he's not a pass-the-blame kind of guy. Case in point: While many were blaming LSU's struggles last season on a lack of senior leadership, Black steadfastly refused to throw his former teammates under the bus.

That's refreshing, too, because how many times have we heard players talking about former teammates who've moved on (usually unnamed teammates) that were too selfish the year before or weren't in it for the team?

Not Black.

"The leadership was there," Black said. "Our mindset wasn't right, and things fell apart on us. We started getting bogged down late in the season and it kind of wore on us."

Black's only suggestion for the coaches heading into this season is to hammer away with the running game. He said the Tigers' backfield is "unbelievable" with the threesome of Charles Scott, Keiland Williams and Richard Murphy.

"Offensive linemen love coming off the ball and hitting somebody in the mouth," Black said.

Something tells me he'll get plenty of chances.

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

No returning SEC running back rushed for more yards last season than LSU's Charles Scott.

 
  Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
  Charles Scott is looking for more consistency from the offense this season.

He put together one of the most productive seasons for a running back in LSU's storied history. He rushed for 18 touchdowns, one off the school record, and only Charles Alexander, Kevin Faulk and Dalton Hilliard have rushed for more yards in a season at LSU.

With the passing game struggling for much of the year, Scott gained 1,174 yards and averaged 5.4 yards per carry. He had six 100-yard games.

Not bad when you consider that Scott had never carried the ball more than 46 times in a season prior to last year. He'd surpassed that total by the fourth game in 2008.

The Tigers hope to be more rounded offensively in 2009, but Scott will still be a big part of the offense. He scored a pair of touchdowns in last Saturday's spring game.

When it comes to numbers, Scott would gladly trade some of his yards for more wins. He's the ultimate team player and even shifted over to fullback some this spring because of the Tigers' lack of depth there.

Scott took some time recently to share his thoughts on what's ahead for him and the Tigers:

You'd never gained more than 324 yards in either of your first two seasons. Were you surprised at what kind of season you had a year ago?

Charles Scott: I look at it as a good year. Obviously, I didn't have a good enough year, because we were only 8-5. That's the way I look at it, and that keeps me grounded and makes me want to do 10 times better than last year and go above and beyond. That's what this team has to do and what we didn't do last year.

What were your expectations for yourself last season?

CS: I came in with high hopes and wanting to be a guy this team could rely on down in and down out. The first game, that's how it worked out and the way it worked out the whole season.

Your depth at running back remains strong. Are there enough carries to go around for you, Keiland Williams and Richard Murphy?

CS: We're having fun, but we're still competing. We don't realize how much better we're making each other, just staying on each other's toes. It will definitely bring out the best in you when you've got somebody on your toes.

What do you think took your game to another level last season?

CS: My vision came to me and was something I worked on and worked on. Now, it's my pass-blocking. Not that it's bad, but I've got to tighten that up a little bit.

What weight do you plan on playing at in 2009?

CS: I was 235 last year. I'm under 235 now and will stay a little lighter, so I can move a little better.

How much will we see you at fullback, and is that something that you embrace?

CS: I don't mind at all putting my hand in the dirt. You look at people like Jacob Hester and everything he did and following in his shoes. We've got to have more of that, more of doing whatever it takes for this team to win. If I need to get to fullback and block, I don't mind that at all. I can handle anything they want to give me.

What do you want to see out of this offense next fall?

CS: Definitely consistency. We've got to be on the same page. Everybody in that huddle has to know what the snap count is, and it gets down to executing your job. Once we get in a rhythm, we need to stay in a rhythm. We can't do it in flashes and have a good play here and a terrible play there. As you saw last year, that's not going to win games for us.

Is Jordan Jefferson ready to take that next step at quarterback after being pressed into action last season as a true freshman?

CS: I'm a firm believer that the best experience is learning by experience. He's taking control of the huddle and making good reads. He gets the ball in the hands of the playmakers and makes a play when he has to with his legs. He's come a long way.

You were an unknown quantity around the league heading into last season, but defenses will be loading up to stop you from the outset next fall. Are you ready for that?

CS: I wouldn't want to go out there and have it be easy. Everybody knows I'm coming, so I've got to be ready. That means I've got to step my game up, and I have to be even more prepared. The stakes have gone up.

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Making our daily rounds in the SEC:

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

 
 J. Meric/Getty Images
 The Gators are expecting big things from Major Wright this season.

Now for those players in the SEC on the cusp of breaking out and becoming household names. Some of these players have already made their mark to varying degrees, while others either haven't gotten the chance or just haven't done it yet. Keep an eye on all 10 this season:

1. Major Wright, S, Florida: A punishing hitter who tied for the SEC lead in forced fumbles a year ago as a true freshman. Took his lumps along with the rest of the Gators' young secondary, but he'll be better for it this season.

2. Jeremy Jarmon, DE, Kentucky: For all intents and purposes, had a breakout season last year with nine sacks in his first full season as a starter. But with more depth and better talent around him, Jarmon will be even better in 2008.

3. Chad Jones, S, LSU: Another physical safety to watch in 2008. Jones showed his playmaking abilities in spots last season as a true freshman. At 6-foot-3 and nearly 230 pounds, he has all the tools to be a great one.

4. Tray Blackmon, LB, Auburn: A suspension his freshman season held him back, and it was an ankle injury last season. Blackman still finished seventh on the team in tackles despite playing in just nine games. This is the year he puts it all together.

5. Gerald Jones, WR, Tennessee: Was underutilized last season by the Vols as a freshman. But he's something to see in the open field, and new Tennessee offensive coordinator Dave Clawson is determined to get him the ball.

6. Al Woods, DT, LSU: Probably will back up Charles Alexander to start the season, but this is the year he puts it all together and plays like the NFL first-round draft pick he's been projected as. Think the Tigers are deep up front?

7. London Crawford, WR, Arkansas: Finally ready to live up to lofty high school credentials now that he's in Bobby Petrino's pass-happy offense. One of the Hogs' most improved players in the spring.

8. Terry Grant, RB, Alabama: Set an Alabama freshman rushing record last season with 891 yards despite being hindered by a painful sports hernia. Had offseason surgery to correct the problem and has become a more complete back.

9. Richard Murphy, RB, LSU: Even with Jacob Hester gone, the LSU backfield remains crowded. Some are fingering Keiland Williams as the breakout guy, but Murphy had the better spring with his blend of speed and pass-catching ability.

10. Mario Fannin, RB/WR, Auburn: Shoulder surgery derailed him in the spring, but the explosive Fannin is moving to the slot in Tony Franklin's spread offense. He's still going to get his touches running the ball, too.

In closing: Arkansas has a couple of tight ends to watch this season -- Andrew Davie and D.J. Willams. South Carolina tight end Jared Cook has "star" written all over him, too. Is this the year Tennessee defensive tackle Demonte Bolden puts it all together for 12 games? And for that matter, does another member of that Tennessee defensive line, senior end Robert Ayers, finally realize how good he can be?    

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