NCF Nation: Tyson Jackson

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

The big winner last weekend was LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson, who was the third overall selection in the NFL draft by the Kansas City Chiefs.

 
  Tim Larson/Icon SMI
  Tyson Jackson's stock skyrocketed in the weeks leading up to the draft.

Jackson played on an LSU defensive line that underachieved in a big way last season, but it obviously didn't hurt his stock. He was one of the few up front who played well last season. He also had great workouts and is big enough and quick enough to play in a lot of different schemes.

Everybody thought Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith was going to be the big loser after his agent-related suspension at the Sugar Bowl, his nightmarish NFL combine experience and some of the boneheaded decisions he made.

But I said at the time and was confident in saying so that there was no way he would slip out of the top 10, and he went sixth overall to the Cincinnati Bengals. Smith will play a long time in the NFL, and it could be that the lessons learned these last few months will end up making him a better pro.

There were a few eyebrows raised when Alabama running back Glen Coffee decided to come out early. But he was coming off an outstanding season, and he saw it as an opportunity to strike while the iron was hot. He was right. He went in the third round to the San Francisco 49ers and was the sixth running back selected.

As is the case every year, there were a handful of players who should have stayed in school.

Vanderbilt cornerback D.J. Moore was a terrific college player and made an impact wherever he lined up last season. But slow 40-yard dash times pushed him down to the fourth round. I still think he'll end up being a really good pro. He has great instincts, great leaping ability and plays his best against the best competition. But to give up a final season of eligibility and go in the fourth round is a downer.

South Carolina safety Emanuel Cook came out early and went undrafted. His former teammate, South Carolina cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, gave up his final season and went in the seventh round to the Carolina Panthers.

Talk about getting bad advice and/or putting yourself in a position academically where you have no choice but to turn pro.

And what about the case of LSU defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois? He looked to be one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the SEC entering last season after playing lights out in the BCS National Championship Game.

But he slumbered through a disappointing junior season last year, decided to come out anyway and was taken in the seventh round by the San Francisco 49ers.

At the other end of the spectrum is Tennessee running back Arian Foster. He received a second-round grade from the NFL draft advisory committee last year, but elected to stay in school. He suffered through a disappointing senior season, injured his hamstring in the Senior Bowl and went undrafted.

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

A quick check of what's making headlines around the SEC:

  • Rob Keys of The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Northwest Edition writes that Bobby Petrino's stock continues to soar with Hog fans. 
  • John Adams of The Knoxville News-Sentinel writes that Lane Kiffin and his staff are doing exactly what they said they would do -- recruit great prospects.
  • Tim Tucker of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution takes a look at five storylines to follow as Georgia opens spring practice on Tuesday.
  • South Carolina switches up its spring practice times this week as the Gamecocks return from spring break.

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Few teams in the country have been able to boast the kind of defensive line talent LSU has put on the field in recent years.

 
  Crystal LoGiudice/US Presswire
  LSU has high expectations for Chancey Aghayere.

But this spring, there are more than a few question marks for the Tigers up front defensively. Gone are four seniors, including All-SEC defensive end Tyson Jackson, and junior tackle Ricky Jean-Francois, who left early for the NFL draft.

That doesn't mean the talent well has run dry. It's just that some new faces will get a shot up front, and that starts this spring.

In particular, first-year defensive coordinator John Chavis is anxious to get a look at the four defensive linemen the Tigers redshirted last season. One of those, Chancey Aghayere, was rated by Scouts Inc. as the No. 3 defensive end prospect in the country when he came out of Garland, Texas, last year.

The other three defensive linemen the Tigers redshirted last season were ends LaVar Edwards and Chase Clement and tackle Cordian Hagans.

"There are some young guys who haven't played yet, but they're very talented," Chavis said. "It's up to us to develop that talent."

This will also be a big spring for senior tackle Al Woods and junior tackle Drake Nevis. They need to prove that they can be consistent performers at this level. The Tigers got good news during the offseason when tackle Charles Alexander was granted a sixth year of eligibility, and they also return senior Rahim Alem at end. Alem was third in the SEC last season with eight sacks.

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

We take our weekly "Internal Affairs" look at the upcoming games this week in the SEC:

1. Three-headed attack: More than at any other time this season, Alabama's running game has become a three-headed attack with Glen Coffee, Mark Ingram and now Roy Upchurch. The Crimson Tide will throw all three running backs at the LSU defense this Saturday, and Upchurch is probably the freshest of the bunch. He has a little different style than Coffee and Ingram and probably brings a little more speed to the equation. Upchurch has 21 touches in his last two games (counting catches) after not carrying the ball at all against Kentucky. The bottom line is that Alabama will look to have a set of fresh legs in the game at running back at all times against the Tigers.

2. Dueling quarterbacks: Kentucky coach Rich Brooks has never been fond of playing two quarterbacks, but that's the route he plans to go the rest of the season with freshman Randall Cobb and sophomore Mike Hartline. Cobb will again be the starter this week against Georgia, and Hartline will back him up. From there, Brooks will go with the hot hand. He simply feels it's Kentucky's best chance to win games right now. The interesting part of this plan is that when Hartline comes in, Cobb won't necessarily go to the bench. He'll stay on the field as one of the Wildcats' top receivers.

3. Wright sighting: The Razorbacks have been looking for more firepower on offense to help junior tailback Michael Smith, and they found it last Saturday in true freshman receiver Jarius Wright. His role in the offense will be even more critical for the Hogs as they go against a South Carolina defense that will load the box this weekend and play a bunch of man coverage. Wright caught five passes for 112 yards in the 30-23 win over Tulsa after coming into the game with a total of seven catches for 67 yards. Most importantly, Wright had a couple of big-gainers against Tulsa, the kind of plays the Hogs will need to soften up the South Carolina defense.

4. Creating chaos: South Carolina's defense hasn't done it with smoke and mirrors this season. The Gamecocks are talented and experienced on defense, and defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson and his staff have done a good job of mixing it up. The Gamecocks, ranked third nationally in total defense, will undoubtedly throw an array of fronts, blitzes and coverages at Arkansas this Saturday. The Hogs do have a senior quarterback in Casey Dick, but the Gamecocks are especially good at Williams-Brice Stadium with the home crowd of keeping offenses off balance with different looks.

5. Putting it on Wilson: It's supposedly the blueprint for beating Alabama, but nobody has been able to execute it: Get ahead of the Crimson Tide and make them beat you with John Parker Wilson throwing the football. The onus is on the LSU defensive front-seven this weekend, if the Tigers are going to follow that blueprint. The key is getting Alabama in a lot of third-and-longs and stopping the run on first and second downs. LSU will again move Tyson Jackson around from end to tackle depending on the down and distance, and this is a game that screams out for tackle Ricky Jean-Francois, who should be healthier now, to show the same dominance he did a year ago in the BCS title game. In short, the Tigers will sell out to stop the Tide's running game.

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Time to make our daily rounds throughout the SEC to see what else is out there, sort of like Larry Munson used to check in as only he could with Loran Smith by saying, "Loran, what do ya got?" during the Georgia broadcasts:

  • If Auburn were to fire Tommy Tuberville following this season, his $6 million buyout wouldn't be spread out, but rather would be payable within one year in two $3 million payments. He also wouldn't be penalized for taking another job if he's terminated.

Week 8 SEC helmet stickers

October, 19, 2008
10/19/08
11:08
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

The stretch run of the SEC race ought to be high drama, with two huge dates looming -- Nov. 1 and Nov. 8. Florida and Georgia play on Nov. 1 in Jacksonville, while Alabama visits LSU on Nov. 8 in Baton Rouge. Before we look too far ahead, though, let's pass out some helmet stickers from this past weekend:

Randall Cobb, receiver, Kentucky: It was desperation time for Kentucky's offense, and Cobb stepped up the way Kentucky coach Rich Brooks predicted he would back in August. Brooks said back during preseason camp that there was something special about Cobb and that it was up to the Wildcats to get the true freshman the ball. Down two touchdowns, they did just that Saturday in rallying to beat Arkansas 21-20 in the final minutes. Cobb caught two touchdown passes from quarterback Mike Hartline in the final 4:15, and Kentucky escaped what would have likely been a crippling loss.

Knowshon Moreno, tailback, Georgia: Welcome back, Mr. Moreno. The Bulldogs' star tailback looked like a star Saturday in rushing for a season-high 172 yards on 23 carries against Vanderbilt. It was the best Moreno has looked this season against an SEC defense, although he did have 101 yards last week against Tennessee. Coming into Saturday's 24-14 win, Moreno had been averaging 71.3 yards through three games against SEC defenses and only 3.8 yards per carry.

Tyson Jackson, defensive end, LSU: All the talk about LSU's defense not being the same this season obviously didn't sit well with Jackson and his defensive line cohorts. Jackson finished with two sacks, spearheading a relentless defensive effort by the Tigers in a 24-17 road win over South Carolina. LSU finished with six sacks, and that's after collecting a total of nine in its previous five games. The Tigers held the Gamecocks to 42 total yards in the second half and dominated the game up front.

Tennessee's defense: Needing anything to hang onto in a season gone south, Tennessee found it Saturday in a rock-solid defense that scored a pair of touchdowns and held Mississippi State to 189 total yards in the Vols' 34-3 victory. Eric Berry returned the first interception 72 yards for a touchdown, and Demetrice Morley followed that up with a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown, as Tennessee erupted for 21 fourth-quarter points to win for the first time this season in an SEC game.

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

This is a game that stands on its own.

Florida and LSU are two of the most talented teams in the country, two of college football's premier programs and the owners of the last two BCS national championship trophies.

  

It's a matchup that really didn't need any extra spice, although LSU defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois made sure of it with his comments that he was going take Tim Tebow out of the game if he got a clean shot.

Jean-Francois says his comments were misinterpreted. Try telling that to the Swamp crazies on Saturday night and to the big guys up front responsible for protecting the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner.

Let's face it. If the game is half as entertaining as the one a year ago on the Bayou, we're all in for a treat.

Florida vs. Georgia might be the most anticipated game this season in the SEC, and Alabama vs. LSU has all the juicy storylines.

But the best game, the game that makes even the fans feel sore afterward because of all the thunderous hits and causes neck cramps from watching all the premium playmakers blaze up and down the field?

That game is Florida vs. LSU.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Remember that LSU defense that had a chance to be even better than the unit that helped bring a national championship to Baton Rouge a year ago?

Four games into the 2008 season, nobody's ready to go there, even the players.

At least, not yet.

 
 Marvin Gentry/US Presswire
 By most accounts, Tyson Jackson and the rest of the LSU defense has underachieved so far this season.

"We've been playing OK," LSU senior defensive end Tyson Jackson said. "There are still a lot of things we can improve on, starting up front with us and with our linebacker corps. We need to get to the quarterback more and cause more problems in the backfield."

The No. 3-ranked Tigers have been good enough on defense to carve out a 4-0 record. But they also haven't played an offense that will come close to testing them the way Florida will on Saturday night in the Swamp.

Auburn's offensive struggles have been well-documented, while Mississippi State is tied for 114th in the country in scoring offense. Neither Appalachian State nor North Texas had the personnel to test the Tigers.

So in other words, we really don't know how good this LSU defense is.

"These are the kind of games you find out a lot about yourselves," Jackson said.

A quick check of the SEC statistics reveals that the Tigers are hovering around the middle of the pack in most defensive categories.

A year ago, they led the SEC in total defense and were third nationally.

In each of their last two games, they've given up some long touchdown drives late, as well as some big plays. Experience at cornerback is a concern, but Jackson said the responsibility lies on the whole defense.

"We've blown some coverages, but we've also blown some calls up front," Jackson said. "There's a lot we can improve on at this point and a lot we need to improve on against a team as explosive as Florida. This is one of those games where if you don't step it up, you're going to be in trouble."

The Tigers are near the bottom of the SEC in sacks and interceptions. They've sacked opposing quarterbacks just six times in four games and have picked off three passes.

The best news for the LSU defense is that senior middle linebacker Darry Beckwith will be back in the lineup after missing the last two games with a knee injury. Beckwith is the Tigers' enforcer in the middle and the kind of player that generates some of the big plays they've been missing.

"We still think we're one of the best defenses in the country and trying to take it week by week," Beckwith said. "We just want to improve every time we go out, and I think we'll be better in this game than we have in any of the other games."

Internal affairs in the SEC

October, 8, 2008
10/08/08
11:48
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Defense continues to take center stage in the SEC, while offense remains hit and miss around the league. Auburn is searching frantically for any offensive continuity. Tennessee is searching frantically for any SEC win, and South Carolina looks like it might be making a move after a key road win at Ole Miss. Here's our "Internal Affairs" look at the conference:

Whittling down the spread: Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville insists that the Tigers are committed to the spread offense and aren't scrapping it in midseason. That said, the Tigers continue to whittle down the playbook in an effort to find something that works for them consistently. They had success in the first quarter against Vanderbilt in their two-tight end run formation, something Arkansas can expect to see more of this Saturday. The Tigers are still going to be in the shotgun a bunch, but look for more power running sets along the way.

Lightening the load: LSU has used a quicker, smaller defensive line at times this season to better be able to get to the quarterback. When the Tigers, who haven't racked up big sack numbers, go to that set, they slide Tyson Jackson inside from end to tackle and bring Rahim Alem into the game at end. With Tim Tebow's penchant for getting out of the pocket and scrambling for yardage, the Tigers may turn to that quicker lineup more than normal Saturday to try and keep him at bay. The Gators also don't have one of those bruising running games where they just keep pounding on you.

McKinley's influence: With star receiver Kenny McKinley back to full health after injuring his hamstring against Vanderbilt on Sept. 4, look for the Gamecocks to take a few more shots down the field this Saturday against Kentucky and look for them to use McKinley as that hybrid player they've been missing. Steve Spurrier even threw out there this week that the Gamecocks might run a few reverses or even fake a few, especially now that McKinley has played some and is back closer to 100 percent. They've yet to run a reverse this season, which is unusual for Spurrier's offenses.

Colquitt's back: Tennessee will welcome back punter Britton Colquitt against Georgia after a five-game suspension stemming from his drunken driving arrest back in the spring. It's no secret the Vols have struggled in the punt game, and Colquitt has the leg to be a weapon and help Tennessee with field position. He'll probably also kick off. The Vols have already had two punts blocked this season, one of those returned for a touchdown by UCLA, and also gave up a punt return for a touchdown to Florida.

Going to the zone: To help eliminate the big play, Mississippi State will likely use All-SEC free safety Derek Pegues as more of a center fielder this week against Vanderbilt. Pegues told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger that the Bulldogs were putting in more zone coverages and were going to get away from some of the man coverage with no safety help that has burned them at times this season. Mississippi State has had trouble getting to the quarterback, which has made man coverage even more difficult. The Bulldogs are 10th in the SEC with eight sacks through five games.

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