The Auburn Tigers are carrying as much recruiting momentum as any program in the country, save archrival Alabama. With one ESPNJr300 prospect already in the fold in tight end Landon Rice, (No. 299), Gus Malzahn and staff hit a four bagger with the bases loaded July 21 receiving a pledge from one of 2016's very best: No. 6-overall recruit Nate Craig.

Video: Gus Malzahn ready for season

July, 21, 2014
Jul 21
3:54
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Coach Gus Malzahn talks about the state of Auburn football and the new College Football Playoff.
We're hitting the home stretch on our ultimate SEC road trip, and with just two weeks left in the regular season, this week’s games might as well be the calm before the storm.

The majority of the league’s elite teams scheduled easy nonconference games in preparation for their season finale the following week. Both Alabama and Auburn went the FCS route the week leading up to the Iron Bowl, and Florida, Georgia and South Carolina all have cupcakes coming to town before they square off against their in-state rivals.

If you're just now jumping on board, we at the SEC blog have been getting you ready for the coming season by plotting out our top destinations for each week of the season.

So far we’ve been to some of the usual spots (Athens, Auburn, College Station, Tuscaloosa), and a few outside of the SEC footprint in locales like Houston and Oklahoma. We've got 12 weeks down and just two more to go with conference title game right around the corner.

So without further pause, let’s take a look at the best options for Week 13:

Nov. 22
Western Carolina at Alabama
Samford at Auburn
Eastern Kentucky at Florida
Charleston Southern at Georgia
Ole Miss at Arkansas
South Alabama at South Carolina
Missouri at Tennessee
Vanderbilt at Mississippi State

Greg Ostendorf's pick: Missouri at Tennessee

Can I save my trip this week and go to two games next week? Just a thought. But in all seriousness, I have yet to attend a game at Neyland Stadium on our road trip, and this game could have major bowl implications. I'm not kidding.

Missouri went through the SEC East gauntlet earlier in the season, and we’ll know after Week 8 if the Tigers are legitimate contenders. If they win two of their first three league games, we're talking about a return trip to Atlanta. Lose two or even three of those games, and this team might need a win against the Volunteers just to make them bowl eligible.

The stakes are even higher for a Tennessee program that hasn’t made the postseason since 2010. If it’s going to happen this year, the Vols have to win this game.

My question is how will the UT freshmen respond this late in the year? You saw Ole Miss fall off late last year, partially due to the youth and inexperience on the team. How can a Vols team that has more newcomers than any other team in the league finish strong down the stretch? Playing at home and having over 100,000 fans pulling for you will help, but this isn’t high school or junior college. This is the SEC.

As for the pregame atmosphere, I might try to talk my way on to one of the boats in the Vol navy depending on the weather and what time the game is. It’s one of the more unique tailgating experiences in all of college football and a perfect way to spend a Saturday.

Edward Aschoff’s pick: Ole Miss at Arkansas

It isn’t a thrilling week in the SEC, but there’s one game that really does intrigue me: Arkansas vs. Ole Miss.

I’ve been saying it all year, but I really do think that the Rebels are a legitimate dark horse to win the SEC West. Bo Wallace's shoulder is healthy, the offense is fast, fast, fast, and the defense is mature and pretty underrated at this point. But this game is no gimmie for the Rebels. Arkansas is an interesting team because we really aren’t sure what the Hogs are capable of this season. I don’t see the Razorbacks making it to a bowl game, but I think this team will frustrate its western counterparts all year. Arkansas wants to prove something in Year 2 of the Bret Bielema era, and this game is important for that.

If the Rebels want to show that they’re ready to take the next step under Hugh Freeze, they have to beat one of the top teams in the West, but they also have to win the games they’re supposed to. This is one of them, but it won't be easy. The Hogs are at home and will be fighting all year for respect. If Arkansas is going to make it to the postseason, the Hogs will likely have to win this game. Heck, if they want any momentum heading into next year, they’ll need to win this one.

Ole Miss wants to stretch the field and tire out opponents with its uptempo, spread offense, while Arkansas wants to punch you in the mouth on both sides of the ball. Something will have to give.

But don’t forget about some great tailgating, either. You get Ole Miss’ finest to mingle with some rowdy Razorbacks, and you’ll have yourself a good time.

Video: Les Miles on Tigers' youth

July, 21, 2014
Jul 21
1:45
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LSU Tigers head coach Les Miles talks about the loss of talent to the NFL draft, how he will replace quarterback Zach Mettenberger and his expectations for running back Leonard Fournette.
HOOVER, Ala. – Now that Chris Conley's impressive “Star Wars” film has become Internet gold, Georgia’s senior receiver is moving on to his next film project. This time, the director/writer/actor is taking his talents to the superhero ranks.

Sporting Batman socks during last week’s SEC media days, Conley said he has an original script in the works and plans to start shooting a trailer for his Kickstarter within in the next two weeks. He hopes to officially start shooting his next film toward the end of the year, when things start to die down some in his football life.

[+] EnlargeChris Conley
Marvin Gentry/USA TODAY SportsGeorgia WR Chris Conley has a second film in the works.
What makes this project even more exciting for Conley is the fact he’ll actually get outside funding for this project. His “Retribution” film came completely out of pocket, with Conley spending around $650 himself, but after getting a waiver from the NCAA, Conley and his production crew will be able to raise money to help cover a much bigger budget for a film that Conley hopes will surpass his 26-minute mini blockbuster.

“It’s not cheap to make films and this next project I’ll be working with local filmmakers from Athens and Atlanta; some from L.A.,” Conley said at SEC media days. “It’ll be a pretty big budget.”

How big Conley isn’t sure, but this film isn’t for amateurs. Conley wants his superhero flick to reach full-length movie status. This is no college project. This is an actual movie with professional actors so it needs a professional budget that goes beyond what he and his friends could provide from their own pockets.

Getting the funds meant Conley needed to face the NCAA and plead his case for why he deserved a waiver to raise money and not violate any rules in the process.

Conley said there was some apprehension on the NCAA’s part at first, but that after he thoroughly explained his plan, the NCAA decided his venture was worth some outside funding.

“None of this money is going toward me,” Conley said. “All of it is going to be used to fund the film -- fund locations, food, cameras, equipment and everything that’s necessary to make a film work. I think the fact that they didn’t really know what we were doing made them kind of nervous. Obviously, you initially react by saying, ‘No, you can’t do this.’ I think people need to realize we’re not four guys running around with a GoPro. This is an actual film crew and we’re actually making films. When people realized that and realized what we were doing, they kind of relaxed a little bit.”

So Conley can raise money for his film, but he isn’t sure if he can profit off it after it makes its debut. With a longer film (possibly 90 minutes this time), Conley can try to air it on TV or make a deal with a distributor and sell it as a DVD domestically or internationally. Whether the NCAA will allow him to do that is a mystery.

“The fact that they haven’t really dealt with that situation before is what makes it difficult,” Conley said. “I’ll have to get them to answer that question when the time comes.”

Conley will be diving deeper into this project in the coming months. Again he’ll be managing his time -- and cutting down on his sleep -- to juggle football, school, some sort of social life and shooting a movie. With the goal for this one to be longer, Conley will have even less time to himself, but he doesn’t care. He loves it. He loves making movies and he loves playing football.

Conley has a chance to really impress on the field for the Bulldogs this fall, but he also has another chance to show off his talents away from the gridiron, something he hopes to see other athletes strive to do as well.

“It just lets you know that you can do both, you can be good at something other than your sport,” he said. “That’s what a lot of people need to realize is that football players have other talents and they have other desires and other things they are interested in, and you can pursue those things.

“Sometimes you might not have as much time as a student, but you have to find a way.”

Video: Missouri's Pinkel on Mauk, more

July, 21, 2014
Jul 21
12:45
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Missouri Tigers head coach Gary Pinkel talks about quarterback Maty Mauk and how he will fare with their crop of receivers.

SEC lunchtime links

July, 21, 2014
Jul 21
12:00
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Seven SEC coaches, including Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and LSU’s Les Miles, will go through ESPN’s “Car Wash” on Monday, appearing on "Sportscenter," "College Football Live," "First Take" and more. Stay tuned throughout the day.

In the meantime, be sure to read Monday’s lunch links to get your SEC fix.
HOOVER, Ala. -- Nick Saban could have stepped to the microphone last week at SEC media days and delivered a stern message to his team at Alabama. After an offseason colored by two DUI arrests, one player getting caught with marijuana and another getting arrested for disobeying a police officer, it seemed like a prime opportunity to fire a shot across the bow. Or, at the very least, to make a statement about the direction the program is headed.

But Saban wasn’t interested in doing that. As he has done with each off-field incident since last season ended, he insisted that issues will be handled internally. He argued, essentially, that to do otherwise would be akin to kicking your own child out of the family for disappointing you.

“We have to try to support them, teach them, get them to do the right things because we love them, we care about them,” he said.

[+] EnlargeNick Saban
AP Photo/AL.com/Vasha HuntNick Saban on discipline: "I want you to know that there's not one player, not one player, since I've been a head coach that I kicked off the team that ever went anywhere and amounted to anything ..."
Saban spoke about a “disparity in the behavioral culture of our young people” and how they must “control their impulsive behaviors.” He closed his mini-sermon by saying that the process -- his process -- “really does work.”

“I want you to know that there's not one player, not one player, since I've been a head coach that I kicked off the team that ever went anywhere and amounted to anything and accomplished anything, playing or academically, all right?” he said.

All right.

Saban did levy a little bit of discipline. Harkening back to “guys learning how to control their impulsive behavior,” he said, “those players are suspended, but they’re not kicked off the team.” But which players? It could be Jarran Reed, Kenyan Drake, Altee Tenpenny or Dillon Lee. It could be all four that are “suspended from activity” until “they prove ... they’re ready to come back.”

In Saban’s eyes, discipline isn’t punishment.

“That’s what you all think: What are you going to do to the guy? How many games is he getting suspended? Are you going to kick him off the team? This guy kicked this guy off the team because he did this, and that was a good thing,” he said. “Well, but what about the kid? What happens to him? Well, I’m telling you what happens to him: I’ve never seen one go anyplace else and do anything.”

While Saban did drop some occasionally strong remarks -- “There’s an end of the rope for everybody.” “Sometimes you have to get the wrong people off the bus.” -- he never really dropped the hammer, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are some coaches whose track records as disciplinarians is lacking, but Saban isn’t one of those men.

“Are there consequences?” he said. “Yeah, we don’t have to depend on the guy. They might get suspended for some games, because that’s the one thing that will change their behavior because they all want to play. I get that part, and we do that. But I don’t usually announce that. I don’t usually say we’re going to do that. I tell you before the game, ‘These three guys aren’t going to play.'"

It was interesting, however, to note the tonal change at media days between what Saban said and what Mark Richt said a few hours earlier.

Richt has long been a lightning rod on the subject of discipline. Type “Mark Richt lost control” into Google and you will get roughly 29,000 results. But this offseason Richt developed an image of being tough on crime. Rather than offering starters Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons a route back to school, he dismissed them from Georgia. Rather than worrying about the program’s strong drug policy creating a competitive disadvantage, he said, “It doesn’t bother me.”

“We don't want our guys to do drugs, OK? I don't want my son to do drugs,” he said. “We've got policies that are stronger maybe than some when it comes to the punitive part of it. That's kind of what everybody talks about. Georgia ends up suspending their guys a little bit sooner in the policy, which I've got no problems with.”

“It's a lot more than just the punitive part,” he said later. “There's a punitive part, there's an educational part, then we love 'em. You made a mistake. You have these consequences. Now let's turn in the right direction and become a better man for it.”

Georgia linebacker Ramik Wilson said it’s simple: “Do the right thing is all they ask.”

“You’re either going to do it Coach Richt’s way or you’re going to go home,” he added.

Strong words, wouldn’t you say?

Saban and Richt want the same thing when it comes to keeping players on the right track and on the right side of the law. But for at least one day and one offseason, the coach we expected to play the role of disciplinarian was not the one who showed up to take the stage.
Nine SEC players were among the 50 from across the nation included on Friday's watch list for the Walter Camp Award, which goes to the player of the year in college football.

Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Alabama's AJ McCarron were among the five finalists last season, with the award eventually going to Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.

This year's list of SEC watch list members include multiple players from Alabama and Georgia. Here's the full SEC list:

DB Landon Collins, Alabama
WR Amari Cooper, Alabama
RB Mike Davis, South Carolina
RB Todd Gurley, Georgia
DB Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
QB Nick Marshall, Auburn
DB Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss
LB Ramik Wilson, Georgia
RB T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
SEC legends Steve Spurrier, Bo Jackson, Charles Barkley, Frank Thomas and Chucky Mullins are among the subjects of upcoming “SEC Storied” documentaries that will air on the SEC Network.

Four new documentaries will debut in a three-week period between the new network's launch on Aug. 14 and Sept. 4. The films and schedule were revealed this week at SEC media days.

Here's a quick rundown. Click the movie titles to view the trailers:

“The Stars Are Aligned”
Directed by Andy Billman
Thursday, Aug. 14, 9 p.m. ET
On the first day of the new network, a group of 14 famous figures each representing a different SEC college -- including actress Ashley Judd, musician Darius Rucker, political consultant James Carville and Governor Rick Perry -- explain how they live and die with their respective SEC schools. Some other celebrities included in the documentary are Shepard Smith, Emmitt Smith, Jonathan Papelbon, Melissa Joan Hart, Charlie Daniels, Amy Robach and Ralphie May.

“Bo, Barkley and The Big Hurt”
Directed by Larry Weitzman
Thursday, Aug. 21, 8 p.m. ET
Told through their reunion at the 2013 Iron Bowl, this documentary recounts how future Hall of Famers Charles Barkley, Bo Jackson and Frank Thomas arrived at Auburn in the 1980s and brought their teams to national relevance. It started with oversized, wisecracking basketball player Barkley's arrival on the Plains, followed by multi-sport star Jackson picking the Tigers over Alabama and continued with Thomas, who will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on July 27, initially coming to Auburn to play football when no MLB club drafted him.

“The Believer”
Co-directed by Kenny Chesney and Shaun Silva
Wednesday, Aug. 27, 8 p.m. ET
Country music star Kenny Chesney co-directed this story about South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier's long history within the conference -- growing up as a Tennessee fan, winning a Heisman Trophy at Florida and later leading the Gators to a national championship, and now as the coach who has built the Gamecocks into a national power. It will air on Aug. 27, the day before the Gamecocks host Texas A&M in the first football game on the SEC Network.

“It's Time”
Directed by Fritz Mitchell
Thursday, Sept. 4, 8 p.m. ET
Inspired by an unlikely friendship born out of tragedy, “It's Time” explains what happened after a 1989 play when Ole Miss defensive back Chucky Mullins suffered a broken neck while hitting Vanderbilt running back Brad Gaines -- a play that did not injure Gaines but left Mullins as a quadriplegic. The two became close friends over the next two years until Mullins died of a blood clot in a Memphis hospital room, with Gaines by his side.
Now that you've seen the media's preseason All-SEC team, and Chris' ballot, it's time to see what I cooked up after a week of fun in Hoover, Ala.:

OFFENSE
QB: Nick Marshall, Auburn
RB: Todd Gurley, Georgia
RB: Derrick Henry, Alabama
WR: Amari Cooper, Alabama
WR: Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
TE: O.J. Howard, Alabama
OL: Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M
OL: La'el Collins, LSU
OL: Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
OL: Corey Robinson, South Carolina
C: Reese Dismukes, Auburn

DEFENSE
DL: Dante Fowler Jr., Florida
DL: A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama
DL: Chris Jones, Mississippi State
DL: Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
LB: Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State
LB: Leonard Floyd, Georgia
LB: Curt Maggitt, Tennessee
DB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
DB: Tre'Davious White, LSU
DB: Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss
DB: Landon Collins, Alabama

SPECIALISTS
PK: Marshall Morgan, Georgia
P: Drew Kaser, Texas A&M
RS: Andre Debose, Florida
AP: Christion Jones, Alabama

East
1. South Carolina
2. Florida
3. Georgia
4. Missouri
5. Tennessee
6. Vanderbilt
7. Kentucky

West
1. Alabama
2. Auburn
3. Ole Miss
4. Mississippi State
5. LSU
6. Texas A&M
7. Arkansas

SEC Champion
Alabama
The extended version of SEC media days is behind us, and we've seen the way the media voted in terms of picking the champion and the preseason All-SEC selections.

Alabama was the pick, which given our track record, might not be the best news for the Crimson Tide. As Nick Saban so willingly reminded everybody, it's not like the media has had a crystal ball lately when it comes to picking the SEC champ. Only four times in the last 22 years have the media correctly picked the SEC champion at the SEC's preseason shindig.

Maybe this is the year we start the kind of streak John Wooden would be proud of. Here's a look at the selections from SEC media days this year.

Below is my own ballot, and Edward will unveil his later today after he finishes breaking down tape from all of the World Cup matches (or are they games?).

OFFENSE
QB: Nick Marshall, Auburn
RB: Todd Gurley, Georgia
RB: Mike Davis, South Carolina
WR: Amari Cooper, Alabama
WR: Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia
TE: Hunter Henry, Arkansas
OL: Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M
OL: Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
OL: La'el Collins, LSU
OL: A.J. Cann, South Carolina
C: Reese Dismukes, Auburn

DEFENSE
DL: Dante Fowler, Jr., Florida
DL: Chris Jones, Mississippi State
DL: A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama
DL: Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
LB: Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State
LB: Leonard Floyd, Georgia
LB: Trey DePriest, Alabama
DB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
DB: Taveze Calhoun, Mississippi State
DB: Landon Collins, Alabama
DB: Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss

SPECIALISTS
PK: Marshall Morgan, Georgia
P: Drew Kaser, Texas A&M
RS: Marcus Murphy, Missouri
AP: Christion Jones, Alabama

EAST
1. South Carolina
2. Georgia
3. Florida
4. Tennessee
5. Missouri
6. Vanderbilt
7. Kentucky

WEST
1. Alabama
2. Auburn
3. Mississippi State
4. LSU
5. Ole Miss
6. Texas A&M
7 Arkansas

SEC CHAMPION
Alabama
HOOVER, Ala. -- It's like SEC media days just started.

Well, not really. Four days of a nonstop influx of SEC information could knock Todd Gurley off his feet. It was a fun week, but now it's over, and it's time to shift our attention to fall practice. It's just a couple of weeks away!

As we inch closer to the regular season, let's take one last look at the week that was with five takeaways from what went down in Hoover:

1. Alabama has something to prove: Buried in some Texas-sized talk you'll find something else that gets under Nick Saban's skin: The way his team finished last season. After being picked by just about everyone to win the BCS title, the Alabama Crimson Tide lost its last two games of the season, including getting run out of New Orleans in a Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma. So while Alabama was picked to win the West, this team is still hurting after how last season ended. "We have to reestablish our identity as a team at Alabama," Saban said. "It's going to take every player to have a tremendous amount of buy-in for us to be able to do that." The team has to do that for an entire season. It has to listen, and it sounds like that's happening so far. A Saban-coached team filled with five-star talents is hungry and upset? That bodes well for the rest of the league ...

2. Will Muschamp doesn't feel the heat: Months after coaching one of the worst seasons in Florida Gators history, Muschamp is ignoring the toxicity surrounding his program. When you go 4-8 at a school like Florida, your seat will be engulfed in flames, but Muschamp is keeping his cool and focusing on his team during a critical season for the program. "I think you combat the hot-seat talk with having a good team and winning games," Muschamp said. "Control the controllable is always what I've said. ... That's coaching our football team, developing our football team. There was never any time in my mind that I didn't think I would be retained." Muschamp, whose team is breaking in a new spread offense and getting healthier, added that he expects his team to have "an outstanding year."

3. Vandy and Kentucky don't lack confidence: The Vanderbilt Commodores are breaking in a new coach and the Kentucky Wildcats are looking to build for the long term in Year 2 with Mark Stoops. Both teams have a ton of questions entering the year, but representatives from both programs oozed confidence and even some bravado. "Our team is a team of probably no-name young men who have a chance to do something great," first-year Vandy coach Derek Mason said. "It's talented across the board. I think our opportunity to compete for an SEC East title is now." James Franklin who?

For Stoops, he isn't dwelling on the past because he's pretty amped about the present, and possibly the future. "I'm excited about this team," Stoops said. "This team has worked extremely hard. They've done everything we've asked them to do. ... Our players have put in the time. Our training staff has done a great job getting them prepared. We're physically better. Hopefully that will translate to more wins." Stoops isn't ready to say he has a bowl team, but he promises it doesn't lack any heart or fight.

4. Richt and Spurrier like their teams: While Saban scolded the media about its decision to pick his team to win the SEC, Georgia Bulldogs coach Mark Richt wasn't thrilled about being ranked second in the SEC East. "Obviously, what's important is what happens at the end of the year. Earlier I got asked that question. I said, 'I'm not happy to be named No. 2. I'm not going to start cheering that 'We're No. 2.' I think in the end it's going to be Georgia."

And he wasn't kidding. He really likes returning an offense that averaged nearly 500 yards and 36.7 points per game that could only get better with some healthier components returning, and he thinks his defense will play smarter. The addition of new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has Richt excited. And when Steve Spurrier comes out and praises his team within the first minute of his introductory news conference, that means he likes the guys he's coaching. South Carolina's offense is loaded, but the defense has questions in the secondary. Spurrier doesn't seem too concerned, though.

5. The future is now in Baton Rouge: One of the most talked-about players of the week wasn't even in the building. Heck, he hasn't even played a snap of college ball. But LSU freshman running back Leonard Fournette was compared to Michael Jordan and was said to have the talent to be the best player to ever play at LSU. Those are quite the compliments to pay a freshman, but Tigers coach Les Miles and Fournette's teammates believe he can live up to the hype. "He has been compared to Adrian Peterson," LSU running back Terrence Magee said. "To be honest, I think it's the only guy that's playing the running back position right now that you can compare [Fournette] to." He wasn't the No. 1 recruit in the 2014 class for nothing, and Fournette should make an immediate impact in an offense looking for a bellcow back to replace Jeremy Hill.
HOOVER, Ala. -- It wasn't a surprise to see Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper selected as first-team All-SEC by the media Thursday. He led all wide receivers in points, and his 282 points were the most received by any player at any position.

“Never have I seen a player like Amari,” teammate Landon Collins said when asked about Cooper. “Not even playing in Louisiana when I was a recruit coming up.”

Cooper battled injuries throughout the 2013 season but still finished with 736 yards receiving and four touchdowns. He's healthy now and primed for a big season.

[+] EnlargeLaquon Treadwell, Deshazor Everett
Michael Chang/Getty ImagesLaquon Treadwell caught 72 passes for 608 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman at Ole Miss.
However, there's another wide receiver in the conference, Ole Miss sophomore Laquon Treadwell, who is hoping to follow in the same footsteps and make that jump to elite status. He was actually left off the media's first-team offense despite a freshman season in which he was third in the SEC in receptions (72) and had 608 yards receiving with five touchdowns. If you ask his teammates, they'll tell you Treadwell is just as good, if not better, than Cooper.

“Amari Cooper is fast,” Rebels safety Cody Prewitt said. “But if I were going to go up in a jump ball against both of them, I'd rather do it against Amari because Laquon is a big body. He's a really good receiver. To be as big as he is, it's amazing to watch him run because he still runs like a deer at 230.”

“Oh absolutely Quon,” Rebels defensive end C.J. Johnson said. “He's a freak physically. I think him being able to impose his will over people -- he's so big, he's gotten bigger since last year -- you can just imagine what that's like.”

When Treadwell first arrived in Oxford, Mississippi, he was 195 pounds. Now, a year later, he's closer to 220 pounds. He looks more like former Ole Miss wide receiver Donte Moncrief, now a member of the Indianapolis Colts, which is fitting considering he'll be moving outside and filling the role once occupied by Moncrief.

Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace went one step further and compared Treadwell to Dallas Cowboys star Dez Bryant.

“I don't like to compare anybody -- you get in trouble when you compare people -- but he's that type of player,” Wallace said.

Treadwell, a former ESPN 300 prospect who was ranked No. 1 at his position, was part of the star-studded recruiting class head coach Hugh Freeze and his staff put together in 2013. Freeze remains high on the players in that class, Treadwell in particular, as they enter their second year with Ole Miss.

“I couldn't be more pleased with the leadership of that class,” Freeze said. “[Laquon] really takes serious his role of being a leader on the offensive side of the football. He's a physical specimen. He's a blocking machine. His hands are really good. I'm really excited to see what Laquon is going to do this year.”

Maybe Treadwell isn't on Cooper's level just yet, but even Collins remembers facing No. 1 on Ole Miss from last year's game.

“Laquon is very talented, very gifted,” Collins said. “I see that when he plays against other teams. I saw that when he played against us -- he made some spectacular plays."
HOOVER, Ala. -- "We're 0-2," Amari Cooper said.

After last season's loss to Auburn and the blowout defeat to Oklahoma that followed, Alabama and its star receiver are looking at the start of the 2014 season in a different way: two games in the hole.

Cooper remembered the 99-yard touchdown he scored against Auburn last November. The pass from AJ McCarron to Cooper in the fourth quarter silenced the crowd at Jordan-Hare Stadium that night. McCarron had his "Heisman moment" and Cooper showed the world just how dangerous he can be. Auburn rocked on its heels, and Alabama had a trip to the SEC championship game all but reserved.

[+] EnlargeNick Saban
Marvin Gentry/USA TODAY Sports"We're a team that has a ton of questions," Alabama coach Nick Saban said at SEC media days.
But Cooper doesn't remember the long touchdown against his rival fondly. There's too much pain attached to the moments that followed the play: Auburn's furious comeback, Chris Davis' last-second, 106-yard return for the game-winning score. Auburn went on to Atlanta. Alabama went home, settled for the Sugar Bowl and lost back-to-back games for the first time since 2008.

"I remember it ... but I really wish we would have won that game," Cooper said.

Alabama coach Nick Saban didn't spend much time talking about 2013 on Thursday. This year's trip to SEC media days was all about hitting the reset button.

No more AJ McCarron. No more C.J. Mosley. No more aura of invincibility for the Tide.

Alabama was picked by the media to win the SEC again this season -- garnering more points than all other teams combined -- but the cloud of inevitability was more transparent than in years past.

"Our situation as a team is a lot different this year than it's been the last couple years, when we were coming off of successful seasons, championship seasons," Saban said in his opening comments to the media inside the Hyatt's packed ballroom. "The challenges were so much different in terms of trying to deal with success and complacency.

"Having lost our last two games last year, I think it's a little bit different mindset with our players."

Half an hour earlier, in a more private setting, Saban acknowledged the amount of hurdles facing his team. With the opening of fall camp only weeks away, there are more than a handful of starting jobs still up for grabs.

"We're basically an unproven team in some areas," he said, "and in some cases it's at critical positions."

"We're a team that has a ton of questions," he continued later.

The question du jour (Will the Tide settle on transfer QB Jacob Coker?) will linger into the foreseeable future, as Saban insisted that no decision, no matter the outside perception, has been made about who will start under center.

"We really can't make that decision or prediction as to what's going to happen at that position," Saban said, "but the development of that position, regardless of who the player is, is going to be critical to the success of our team."

The good news for Saban is that he's not devoid of talent. With Cooper, tight end O.J. Howard and the two-headed monster of T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry at tailback, there's plenty of firepower on offense. As South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said earlier in the week, "They've got the greatest collection of football players ever assembled for a college team."

The bad news, though, is that the talent coming in is unproven at several other key spots. There's the potential for a true freshman to play at left tackle, and three-quarters of the starters in the secondary are gone.

Landon Collins was a preseason first-team All-SEC choice for a reason, but he can't do it alone at strong safety.

"The young guys are looking at me to show them the ropes," Collins said.

Two of those youngsters are true freshmen: Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey, both five-star prospects, have the potential to take significant reps at cornerback.

"They have impressed me," Collins said. "They're going to be phenomenal when it's their time. When it's time to showboat and do their thing, they're going to show you what they've been doing since high school."

The question is when their time will come.

Last season, Alabama relied heavily on a slew of inexperienced corners (Eddie Jackson, Maurice Smith, Cyrus Jones, Bradley Sylve) and the defense paid the price. Auburn was able to get a few big plays through the air, and then Oklahoma took it a step further when Trevor Knight transformed from an enigma into Peyton Manning in New Orleans, completing 32 of 44 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns.

Alabama wasn't Alabama those final two games last season. The offense became inconsistent, the defense struggled and special teams came up just short.

Until the 2014 season kicks off, there's a big 0-2 record hanging around the team's collective neck.

Until Alabama gets back to playing Alabama football, players feel as if they're in the hole.

"I think it's a little bit of a different mindset with our players," Saban said.

For Cooper, it's almost a welcomed change. Winning championships inevitably breeds complacency. Losing back-to-back games and then having to answer all the questions that follow is simply fuel for the fire.

"When you have people doubting you, you're automatically hungry," he said. "You want to work hard just to prove them wrong."

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