NCF Nation: Marcell Dareus

SEC expected to dominate top 10 picks

April, 28, 2011
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ESPN's Mel Kiper has unveiled his final NFL mock draft, and if he's right, get ready to hear a bunch of SEC players' names right away on Thursday night from Radio City Music Hall.

Kiper is predicting that five of the first six picks in the draft will be SEC players, led by Auburn quarterback Cam Newton going No. 1 overall to the Carolina Panthers.

The only non-SEC player in Kiper's top six is Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller going No. 2 to the Denver Broncos.

After that, Kiper has Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus going No. 3 to the Buffalo Bills, Georgia receiver A.J. Green going No. 4 to the Cincinnati Bengals, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson going No. 5 to the Arizona Cardinals and Alabama receiver Julio Jones going No. 6 to the Cleveland Browns.

Also in the top 10, Kiper projects that Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley will go No. 8 to the Tennessee Titans.

That would be six SEC players in the top 10 picks, which would be a record.

The SEC has produced four of the top 10 players in the draft on two different occasions. In 2008, Arkansas running back Darren McFadden went No. 4, LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey No. 5, Florida defensive end Derrick Harvey No. 8 and Tennessee linebacker Jerod Mayo No. 10. In 2005, Auburn running back Ronnie Brown went No. 2, Auburn running back Cadillac Williams No. 5, South Carolina receiver Troy Williamson No. 7 and Auburn cornerback Carlos Rogers No. 9.

Overall, Kiper has nine SEC players going in the first round this year. The SEC record for first-rounders is 11, which was set in 2007.

Rounding out the SEC players projected to go in the first round, Kiper has Florida offensive center/guard Mike Pouncey going No. 15 to the Miami Dolphins, Alabama running back Mark Ingram going No. 28 to the New England Patriots and Mississippi State offensive tackle Derek Sherrod going No. 29 to the Chicago Bears.
Chris, I like your Patrick Peterson pick. He's probably the best defensive back in the draft and he's also a special playmaker.

Carolina has lacked a true difference-maker on defense since Julius Peppers left and Peterson is the kind of player who could fill that void.

However, the Panthers' secondary isn't that bad off. Carolina ranked 11th in the league in passing defense in 2010, giving up 212.1 yards per game and allowed just 19 passing touchdowns, which was sixth-best in the NFL.

Plus, Carolina hired former San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera whose defense was statistically the best in the league last season and was first in passing yards allowed (177.8).

[+] EnlargeMarcell Dareus
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesMarcell Dareus would give Carolina versatility along its defensive line.
Rivera could probably work wonders with Peterson in his secondary, but it doesn't appear as though cornerback is a position of need this early in the draft.

The No. 1 pick is nothing to joke about, and since the Panthers currently don't have a second-round pick, general manager Marty Hurney has to fill the position of greatest need for his team.

Most are predicting the Panthers to select Auburn quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. But is that the best move? The Panthers already have Jimmy Clausen, who might have struggled mightily in his rookie season, but shouldn't be considered a bust after just one year. I agree that quarterback is a position of need for the Panthers, but to use the first overall pick on one -- especially one with as many question marks as Newton -- would be unwise.

So, I'm going with Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. The Panthers need help on the interior of their defensive line and Dareus is the type of player who could make an instant impact in Carolina -- and for the next few years.

Quick: Name Carolina's starting defensive tackles from last season. Yeah, neither could I.

Dareus, who Scouts Inc. ranks as the top overall prospect in the 2011 NFL draft, has the complete skill set as a defensive lineman and can play just about every position on the line. He's also pretty versatile at 6-foot-3, 319 pounds and played in multiple schemes under Alabama coach Nick Saban.

Dareus has a tremendously fast first step, mammoth strength and is a proven leader. He'll plug running holes and harass opposing quarterbacks. He's also quite athletic. Everyone should remember the interception he returned for a touchdown in the 2009 national title game on his way to MVP honors.

Dareus had 34 tackles, including 11 for loss, and 4.5 sacks last season. He also had four pass breakups, four pass deflections and 10 quarterback hurries.

Quarterback is a need, but the Panthers have to address the gaping hole on their defensive line and Dareus is just the guy to plug that gap.

My advice to Panthers: Take Peterson

April, 28, 2011
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Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney hasn’t asked me, and something tells me he won’t.

But if he did, my advice would be simple.

Forget about Cam Newton and forget about Marcell Dareus.

Rather, take that No. 1 overall pick in Thursday’s NFL draft and select the guy who’s going to come in and make the most profound impact over the next 10 seasons -- LSU’s Patrick Peterson.

There’s no such thing as a sure thing in any draft. But the closest thing to that in this draft is Peterson, a 218-pound freak of an athlete who can lock down on the best receivers in the game and then turn around and change the game with an electrifying punt return for a touchdown.

To me, Newton is a serious reach with the No. 1 overall pick.

He had an unbelievable season a year ago at Auburn, and I could see using a pick later in the first round to get him, especially if he gets in the right system. But no way would I take him with the first pick in the draft.

Dareus would be No. 3 on my board, just a shade behind Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley.

But my clear No. 1 would be Peterson, who just also happens to be No. 1 on Mel Kiper’s final Big Board.

As I’ve said many times after watching Peterson play the past three seasons in the SEC, there just aren’t many guys like him anywhere on the planet.

He’s pushing 220 pounds, runs a 4.34 in the 40-yard dash, tackles like a linebacker and has that edge about him all the great defenders possess.

He’s also one of those rare guys who could play cornerback, nickel or safety in the NFL and be a star at all three positions. And if he gets his hands on the ball, good luck in getting him on the ground.

On special teams, Peterson’s a big play waiting to happen. He led the SEC last season in kickoff return average and punt return average and took two punts back for touchdowns.

When you’re picking first in the NFL draft, you’re looking for a guy who can come in and transform your franchise, a guy who can be a cornerstone for years to come.

That guy wore No. 7 for the LSU Tigers the past three seasons.

If the Panthers are smart, he’ll be wearing one of their uniforms next season.

Newton poised to be drafted No. 1?

April, 8, 2011
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Both ESPN draft analysts, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, have Auburn quarterback Cam Newton going No. 1 overall to the Carolina Panthers in their latest mock NFL drafts this week.

Six SEC players will go among the top 10 picks, according to both Kiper and McShay.

Here's a look at the SEC players in Kiper's three-round mock draft:

First round
Second round
Third round

Here's a look at the SEC players in McShay's three-round mock draft:
  • Auburn QB Cam Newton, No. 1 overall to the Carolina Panthers
  • Alabama DT Marcell Dareus, No. 2 overall to the Denver Broncos
  • Georgia WR A.J. Green, No. 4 overall to the Cincinnati Bengals
  • LSU CB Patrick Peterson, No. 7 overall to the San Francisco 49ers
  • Auburn DT Nick Fairley, No. 8 overall to the Tennessee Titans
  • Alabama WR Julio Jones. No. 10 overall to the Washington Redskins
  • Florida OG Mike Pouncey, No. 15 overall to the Miami Dolphins
  • Mississippi State OT Derek Sherrod, No. 23 overall to the Philadelphia Eagles
  • Alabama RB Mark Ingram, No. 28 overall to the New England Patriots
Second round
  • Georgia OG Clint Boling, No. 33 overall to the New England Patriots
  • Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett, No. 39 overall to the Tennessee Titans
  • Georgia OLB Justin Houston, No. 42 overall to the Houston Texans
  • Kentucky WR Randall Cobb, No. 47 overall to the St. Louis Rams
  • LSU LB Kelvin Sheppard, No. 55 overall to the Kansas City Chiefs
  • Alabama OT James Carpenter, No. 60 overall to the New England Patriots
Third round
Coming off an impressive showing at the NFL combine, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson has jumped up to No. 1 on ESPN analyst Mel Kiper's latest Big Board of the top NFL draft prospects.

Peterson, weighing 219 pounds, ran a 4.34 in the 40-yard dash to go from a sure-fire top 10 pick to possibly one of the top two or three picks in the draft. Kiper thinks there's a chance that Peterson could go No. 1 overall.

Three of the top four guys on Kiper's latest Big Board, which reflects combine performances, are SEC players. Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley is No. 2, and Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus No. 4.

In fact, seven of the top 13 players are from the SEC.

Georgia receiver A.J. Green is No. 6, Auburn quarterback Cam Newton No. 10, Alabama running back Mark Ingram No. 12 and Alabama receiver Julio Jones No. 13.

Peterson was among those players who gained ground at the combine, according to Kiper.

Among those who lost ground, according to Kiper, were Florida safety Ahmad Black and Newton. Black's best time in the 40 was a 4.74, and with him weighing in the 180-to-190-pound range, Kiper doesn't see that combination cutting it at safety in the NFL.

SEC combine recap

March, 1, 2011
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Some numbers and observations from the NFL combine workouts concerning former SEC defensive linemen and linebackers:
  • It sounds like Alabama's Marcell Dareus might have passed Auburn's Nick Fairley in the eyes of NFL scouts as the top interior defensive lineman in the draft. Dareus (6-foot-3 and 319 pounds) ran a 4.94 in the 40-yard dash with a 1.69 10-yard split. The Scouts Inc. guys (Todd McShay, Kevin Weidl and Steve Muench) said the combine couldn't have gone better for Dareus, who showcased a blend of quickness, power and strength during the drills.
  • Fairley (6-3 7/8 and 291 pounds) was lighter than most had expected, but still had a strong showing. He ran a 4.89 in the 40 with a 1.76 10-yard split and also had a 31-inch vertical jump. Like Dareus, Fairley also moved well in drills. Still, the feeling coming out of the combine was that Dareus would be picked higher than Fairley on draft day.
  • Georgia's Justin Houston (6-3 and 270 pounds) worked out with the linebackers, but projects as a right end in the NFL. The Scouts Inc. crew think Houston helped his chances of being a first-round pick with his performance at the combine. He ran a 4.68 in the 40 and posted a 10-5 broad jump and 36.5-inch vertical jump. He also has huge hands (10.^ inches), long arms (34˝) and a wide wingspan (81]).
  • The Scouts Inc. crew reported that LSU defensive tackle Drake Nevis didn't look as explosive or agile as expected and had to re-start two different drills.
  • Also, Baylor's Phil Taylor (6-3 and 344) continued to separate himself from Ole Miss' Jerrell Powe (6-1 and 335) at the nose guard position, according to the Scouts Inc. guys. Taylor had the better frame, was in better shape and didn't appear to wear down as quickly as Powe.
  • Mississippi State's Chris White posted a 4.68 in the 40, which was tied for seventh fastest among the linebackers.
  • Georgia's Akeem Dent had a 10-3 broad jump, which was fourth among the linebackers.

SEC weekend combine recap

February, 28, 2011
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Over and above A.J. Green and Julio Jones, here's a quick snapshot of some of the highs and lows involving SEC players at the NFL combine this past weekend:

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton tested extremely well. His 10-6 broad jump tied for the best among quarterbacks, and he also ran a 4.59 in the 40-yard dash, which tied him for third fastest among quarterbacks. But in some of his passing drills, he struggled, in particular the shorter and intermediate routes. His timing was a bit off, too, and at one point, he sailed three out routes over the heads of his receivers.

Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, along with Florida State's Christian Ponder, turned in the best passing performances of the day, according to Todd McShay and Kevin Weidl of ESPN's Scouts Inc. Mallett has the strongest arm of the quarterback class, and according to the Scouts Inc. crew, the ball exploded out of his hand. He also demonstrated nice touch on his passes.

Kentucky receiver Randall Cobb helped himself with a 4.46 in the 40, which was faster than a lot of people expected. Cobb also impressed with his route-running.

Auburn's Mario Fannin had the second fastest 40 time among running backs (4.38). Kentucky's Derrick Locke was tied for third (4.4). Fannin and Locke tied for fifth with a 37.5-inch vertical jump.

Alabama's Mark Ingram didn't run a particularly fast 40 time (4.63), but the three-year average for the running back position is a 4.59. Plus, Ingram fared very well in the drills with his balance and lateral agility.

Georgia outside linebacker Justin Houston was second among linebackers with 30 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.

LSU's Stevan Ridley was fourth among running backs with a 6.78 in the 3-cone drill. Ridley ran a 4.66 in the 40.

LSU's Terrance Toliver was third among receivers with a 6.48 in the 3-cone drill.

Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus checked in at 6-3 and 319 pounds, while Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley wasn't as tall or as big as expected. He was 6-3 and 291 pounds. He was listed at 6-5 while playing at Auburn.

Some of the other 40 times from SEC receivers were: Tennessee's Denarius Moore (4.45), Auburn's Darvin Adams (4.56), South Carolina's Tori Gurley (4.56) and LSU's Terrence Toliver (4.59).

Some of the bench-press numbers among SEC offensive linemen were: Florida's Marcus Gilbert (30 reps), LSU's Joseph Barksdale (29), Georgia's Clint Boling (28), Arkansas' DeMarcus Love (27), Alabama's James Carpenter (23), Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod (23), and Auburn's Lee Ziemba (20).

SEC players in future NFL drafts

February, 17, 2011
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In Mel Kiper's latest mock NFL draft, he's moved Auburn quarterback Cam Newton way up, going No. 3 overall to the Buffalo Bills.

Newton's Auburn teammate, defensive tackle Nick Fairley, is the No. 1 overall pick in Kiper's mock draft, going to the Carolina Panthers.

If Kiper is on target, the top half of the first round will be an SEC who's who.

He has Georgia receiver A.J. Green going No. 4 overall to the Cincinnati Bengals, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson going No. 7 to the San Francisco 49ers, Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus going No. 8 to the Tennessee Titans, Alabama receiver Julio Jones going No. 11 to the Houston Texans and Alabama running back Mark Ingram going No. 15 to the Miami Dolphins.

That's seven SEC players in the top 15 picks.

Two other SEC players Kiper has going in the first round are Florida center/guard Mike Pouncey to the Seattle Seahawks with the No. 25 pick and Georgia outside linebacker Justin Houston to the Green Bay Packers with the No. 32 pick.

Kiper also has an early look at the 2012 draft and a top 5 at each position. Here are the SEC players that made the cut:

Running back
Receivers
Offensive guards
  • No. 1 Cordy Glenn, Georgia
  • No. 4 Rokevious Watkins, South Carolina
Centers
  • No. 2 William Vlachos, Alabama
  • No. 4 Ben Jones, Georgia
Defensive tackles
  • No. 5 Jaye Howard, Florida
Inside linebackers
  • No. 1. Dont'a Hightower, Alabama
  • No. 4 Jerry Franklin, Arkansas
  • No. 5 Chris Marve, Vanderbilt
Cornerbacks
  • No. 1 Janoris Jenkins, Florida
  • No. 4 Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt
  • No. 5 Brandon Boykin, Georgia
Safeties
  • No. 1 Mark Barron, Alabama
Kickers
  • No. 1 Blair Walsh, Georgia
Punters
  • No. 2 Drew Butler, Georgia
SEC commissioner Mike Slive ought to be used to this by now.

Another football season, another national championship.

[+] EnlargeMike Slive
AP Photo/ Butch DillSEC commissioner Mike Slive said he aims to have a format for future league scheduling on Friday.
Auburn made it five in a row for the SEC last month with its 22-19 victory against Oregon in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game.

And as Slive proudly points out, Auburn was the fourth different SEC team in as many years to take home college football’s top prize.

“It’s truly a historic achievement,” Slive said in a recent interview with ESPN.com. “Everybody talks about records are made to be broken, but I can’t foresee this record ever being broken, particularly when you talk about four different teams winning national championships. I don’t know what the right words are, but it’s a historic achievement and one I don’t think will be duplicated, probably ever.”

While historic on the field, the 2010 football season also had another uglier side to it off the field for the SEC.

It started with three star players in the league – Georgia’s A.J. Green, Alabama’s Marcell Dareus and South Carolina’s Weslye Saunders -- getting caught up in impermissible agent-related matters and ultimately being suspended. Green missed four games, Dareus two games and Saunders the entire season.

South Carolina and Tennessee received official letters of inquiry from the NCAA, and those investigations remain open. LSU fired an assistant coach and docked itself two scholarships over improprieties in the recruitment of a junior college player.

Then there was the Cam Newton affair where it was confirmed that the Heisman Trophy winner’s father, Cecil Newton, tried to shop him to Mississippi State for $180,000 coming out of junior college.

The week of the SEC championship game, Auburn declared Newton ineligible for a day without making it public after the NCAA determined that his father broke NCAA rules and that a violation of Newton’s amateur status had occurred. But the next day, the NCAA reinstated Newton when it said there was no evidence to support that Newton knew what his father was doing or that any money ever exchanged hands.

The NCAA and SEC both were heavily criticized for that controversial decision, and some of the criticism came from other conference commissioners, namely the Big Ten’s Jim Delany.

Slive felt at the time the right decision was made to allow Newton to play, and he doesn’t feel any differently now that he’s had time to reflect on everything. Moreover, while some around the country might attach an asterisk to this season based on everything that was swirling around Newton, Slive does not.

[+] EnlargeCam Newton
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireCam Newton and Auburn celebrated another national title for the SEC, but it was tinged with controversy involving the recruitment of the Auburn QB.
“I don’t view it with an asterisk,” Slive said. “But on a personal note, to say the very least, it was an interesting fall, certainly a fall not without its stresses and strains. But looking back on it, the facts at this point and time haven’t changed. The NCAA hasn’t come up with anything that I’m aware of today that changes the facts that led to the decision to reinstate (Newton), so I am exactly in the same place as I was (when he was reinstated).

“We take pride in having the national champion and take great pride in having won it five years in a row, but the facts have not changed. It’s now time to look forward and see what legislation needs to be put in place to deal with the kind of conduct that we find reprehensible and don’t want in intercollegiate athletics.”

In a lot of ways, 2010 was the best of times and the worst of times for the SEC.

Of the latter, Slive quips, “I was glad to see 2010 go away.”

He’s the first to admit that the off-the-field issues the SEC encountered this past season were disappointing.

“But I don’t think it’s a pattern. Those things happen,” Slive said. “Our institutions are dealing with them in a way that I’m satisfied, but I fully expect, and so do our presidents and ADs, that 2011 and beyond will be different.”

With some of the unsavory things that have transpired in the SEC this past year, Slive understands the league has made itself an easy target. But he also wonders if some of the SEC’s loudest critics are living in glass houses.

“We’ve had some issues, but there isn’t a conference that’s looking at us and being critical of some of the things we’ve gone through this year that doesn’t have issues of its own,” Slive said.

“The difference is that we don’t talk about what’s going on in those other conferences.”

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.

Fairley moves up to No. 2 on Big Board

January, 8, 2011
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- With Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck staying in school, Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley is one of the prime candidates to go No. 1 overall in April's NFL draft.

Fairley, a junior, has repeated several times this week that he hasn't given much thought to whether or not he's going to turn pro, but several in and around the Auburn program feel that he will declare for early entry.

ESPN's Mel Kiper in his latest Big Board of the top 25 NFL prospects has Fairley No. 2 overall behind Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers.

Fairley is one of 11 SEC players cracking Kiper's latest Big Board.

Georgia receiver A.J. Green is No. 3 and LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson No. 4. Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus also made the top 10 at No. 6.

Rounding out the SEC players are Auburn quarterback Cam Newton at No. 12, Alabama receiver Julio Jones at No. 13, Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett at No. 16, LSU defensive tackle Drake Nevis at No. 17, Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins at No. 22, Alabama running back Mark Ingram at No. 23 and Florida center Mike Pouncey at No. 25.

Ingram, Dareus, Jenkins turning pro

January, 7, 2011
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With Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett announcing on Thursday that he was turning pro, Alabama running back Mark Ingram, Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus and Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins are all expected to follow suit.

ESPN's Joe Schad reported Thursday night that Ingram, Dareus and Jenkins had decided to forgo their final year of eligibility to enter the 2011 NFL draft.

The deadline for underclassmen to declare is Jan. 15.

The SEC figures to have several players that will leave early. South Carolina receiver Tori Gurley had already announced that he was coming out.

Georgia receiver A.J. Green, Alabama receiver Julio Jones and LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson are three others from the SEC expected to enter their names into the draft.

Georgia leads way with 'pro' All-Americans

December, 21, 2010
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Pro Football Weekly, after gathering input from NFL evaluators, has released its 2010 All-America team based on a combination of draft value, pure talent and performance.

Any guesses on which SEC team had the most first-team selections?

Georgia ... by a mile.

The Bulldogs, who suffered through the worst season of the Mark Richt era, had five players on the first team, including Cordy Glenn and Clint Boling as both of the offensive guards. A.J. Green was selected at receiver, Justin Houston at outside linebacker and Drew Butler at punter.

No other SEC team had more than one player selected as a first-team All-American, which only reinforces that Georgia was far more talented than its record reflected this season. The Bulldogs (6-6) need to beat UCF in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl to avoid their first losing season since 1996.

Auburn's Cam Newton was beaten out by Stanford's Andrew Luck as the first-team quarterback. The only Auburn player to earn first-team honors was junior defensive tackle Nick Fairley.

The other SEC first-team selections included Florida center Mike Pouncey, Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson.

The SEC had 12 honorable mention selections, including Alabama running back Mark Ingram, Alabama receiver Julio Jones, Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams and South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery.

Here's the complete list (SEC players are bolded). Juniors are marked by one asterisk (*), draft-eligible sophomores have two (**) and true sophomores have three (***):

Quarterback
Andrew Luck, Stanford**

Honorable mention
Kellen Moore, Boise State*
Cam Newton, Auburn*
Ryan Mallett, Arkansas*

Jake Locker, Washington
Colin Kaepernick, Nevada

Running back
Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State

Honorable mention
LaMichael James, Oregon**
Andre Ellington, Clemson**
Mark Ingram, Alabama*
Jordan Todman, Connecticut*
Mikel LeShoure, Illinois*

Fullback
Owen Marecic, Stanford

Honorable mention
Anthony Sherman, Connecticut

Wide receivers
Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State**
A.J. Green, Georgia*

Honorable mention
Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina***
Julio Jones, Alabama*

Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma*
Titus Young, Boise State

Tight end
Lance Kendricks, Wisconsin

Honorable mention
D.J. Williams, Arkansas
Michael Egnew, Missouri*

Offensive tackles
Nate Solder, Colorado
Anthony Castonzo, Boston College

Honorable mention
Marcus Cannon, TCU
Danny Watkins, Baylor
Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
Lee Ziemba, Auburn
Ben Ijalana, Villanova

Offensive guards
Cordy Glenn, Georgia*
Clint Boling, Georgia


Honorable mention
John Moffitt, Wisconsin
Rodney Hudson, Florida State
Stefen Wisniewski, Penn State

Center
Mike Pouncey, Florida

Honorable mention
Chase Beeler, Stanford
Mike Brewster, Ohio State*

Defensive ends
Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson*
J.J. Watt, Wisconsin*

Honorable mention
Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
Adrian Clayborn, Iowa
Allen Bailey, Miami (Fla.)
Cameron Jordan, California

Defensive tackles
Marcell Dareus, Alabama*
Nick Fairley, Auburn*


Honorable mention
Stephen Paea, Oregon State
Corey Liuget, Illinois*

Inside linebacker
Luke Kuechly, Boston College***

Honorable mention
Greg Jones, Michigan State
Manti Te’o, Notre Dame***
Nate Irving, North Carolina State

Outside linebackers
Von Miller, Texas A&M
Justin Houston, Georgia*

Honorable mention
Bruce Carter, North Carolina
Akeem Ayers, UCLA* Sean Spence, Miami (Fla.)*

Cornerbacks
Patrick Peterson, LSU*
Prince Amukamara, Nebraska

Honorable mention
Brandon Harris, Miami (Fla.)*
Janoris Jenkins, Florida*
Cliff Harris, Oregon***
Omar Bolden, Arizona State*

Safeties
Eric Hagg, Nebraska
Jaiquawn Jarrett, Temple

Honorable mention
Mark Barron, Alabama*
Rahim Moore, UCLA*
Ahmad Black, Florida

Placekicker
Alex Henery, Nebraska

Honorable mention
Dan Bailey, Oklahoma State

Punter
Drew Butler, Georgia*


Honorable mention
Chas Henry, Florida


Return specialist
Cliff Harris, Oregon***

Honorable mention
Patrick Peterson, LSU*

Capital One Bowl

December, 6, 2010
12/06/10
2:14
AM ET
Alabama Crimson Tide (9-3) vs. Michigan State Spartans (11-1)

Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Alabama take by SEC blogger Chris Low: National championships don’t come easily, and back-to-back national championships in college football are practically unheard of.

Alabama (9-3) fell short in its goal to repeat this season, which isn’t stunning given how rarely that’s happened in this sport. But seeing the Crimson Tide lose two of their last three SEC games was certainly different, especially when you consider that Nick Saban’s club had won 16 straight regular-season SEC games coming into this season.

Inconsistency plagued the Crimson Tide, who had trouble putting four quarters together. Never was that more apparent than in the final regular-season game when they built a 24-0 lead on No. 1 Auburn in the first half, only to unravel across the board and drop a bitter 28-27 decision at home.

This is still an extremely talented team with three guys who will probably go in the first round of the NFL draft next April. Nonetheless, the Crimson Tide’s inexperience in the secondary caught up with them this season. They will be even more inexperienced in the bowl game. Junior safety Mark Barron underwent surgery for a torn pectoral muscle after being injured in the Auburn game and won’t be able to play against Michigan State.

Senior quarterback Greg McElroy suffered a concussion against Auburn, but he should be fine for the bowl game. Probably the most surprising thing about this season for the Crimson Tide was that they weren’t able to run the ball better, although Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson battled injuries.


Michigan State take by Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg: A BCS bowl appearance would have been huge for Michigan State, but a matchup against Alabama in the Capital One Bowl is the next best thing.

As expected, the Spartans were snubbed from the big bowls despite a BCS-worthy résumé: a team-record 11 wins, a co-Big Ten championship, a victory against Rose Bowl-bound Wisconsin. Instead, they get an opportunity to prove just how worthy they are against the defending national champions, who are led by a man who used to coach in East Lansing.

The Nick Saban-Michigan State connection certainly adds intrigue to arguably the nation’s best non-BCS bowl. Saban coached the Spartans from 1995-99, compiling a 34-24-1 record before bolting for LSU before the 2000 Citrus Bowl (now Capital One Bowl). Current Spartans coach Mark Dantonio served as Saban’s secondary coach in East Lansing.

The game pairs two of the nation’s smartest and classiest quarterbacks in Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins and Alabama’s Greg McElroy as well as two of the nation’s most accomplished defenders in Michigan State’s Greg Jones and Alabama’s Marcell Dareus. Jones and the Spartans’ run defense face arguably their biggest test of the season against reigning Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, a native of Flint, Mich., as well as dynamic sophomore Trent Richardson.

After setting so many milestones this fall, Michigan State aims for one more. The Spartans look for their first bowl win since 2001 and their first Jan. 1 bowl win since the Citrus in 2000.

Tide's Marcell Dareus arrives just in time

November, 26, 2010
11/26/10
5:11
PM ET
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It hasn't been the dominant season that many had predicted for Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus, but he's been a force in this game.

Several times, he's put pressure on Auburn quarterback Cam Newton or wrecked plays before they ever had a chance to get started.

Dareus was among the top 10 players this week on Mel Kiper's Big Board of 2011 NFL draft prospects, and he's playing like it right now.

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