SEC: Auburn Tigers
- Matt Hayes of The Sporting News writes that Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has only himself to blame for his troubles.
- Johnny Football was also very close to transferring before the 2012 season.
- Tennessee's response to Marcus Lattimore's devastating knee injury last year earns the SEC's annual sportsmanship award.
- Alabama, Auburn and Vanderbilt rank in the top 10 of CBS Sports' list of the softest non-conference schedules.
- Alabama commits JC Hassenauer and JK Scott join an exclusive geographic club at Alabama.
- Kevin Scarbinsky of Al.com writes that Auburn coach Gus Malzahn is already giving some other SEC coaches nightmares.
- Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace's mechanics are better after surgery.
- A fast set of twins transfers to Kentucky from Pittsburgh.
Also, make sure you tune into "College Football Live" today at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2 where Paul Finebaum will be talking all things Johnny Manziel.
- The rise of uptempo offenses prompts a widening divide among SEC coaches.
- Upgrades to Alabama's Mal M. Moore Athletic Facility will include a waterfall inside the locker room.
- Arkansas projects $80.6 million in revenue for 2013-14.
- Here are five freshmen at Florida who could emerge in 2013.
- Georgia's secondary is already being tested before the season even starts.
- Here's a look at a trio of key commitments for Kentucky.
- Linebacker Serderius Bryant checks in at No. 50 on The Jackson Clarion-Ledger's countdown of the 75 most important Rebels in 2013.
- ESPN 300 linebacker Gavin Bryant committed to Tennessee Monday.
- Kevin Sumlin's stint at Washington State under Mike Price gave Texas A&M's coach direction.
Well, SEC teams are once again making sure their recruiting foundations are strong, as 10 of the 14 teams are among the top 30 of the ESPN class rankings, including five in the top 10.
Alabama moved up two spots to lead all the SEC teams, ranking second only to Michigan in the rankings. Alabama has 13 commitments, including six ESPN 150 members and nine ESPN 300 members. Right now, the Crimson Tide's class is highlighted by recent ESPN 150 quarterback commit David Cornwell (Norman, Okla./Norman North) and No. 2 athlete Bo Scarbrough (Tuscaloosa, Ala./Northridge).
Texas A&M fell one spot behind Alabama. The Aggies' class currently has 14 members with four ESPN 150 members and nine ESPN 300 members. Kevin Sumlin is having no problem recruiting in his second year in the SEC and as the Aggies' coach. He closed very well last year and has verbals from the No. 1 outside linebacker -- Hoza Scott (La Porte, Texas) -- and No. 3 pocket passing quarterback -- Kyle Allen (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain).
Kentucky and Tennessee have been very pleasant surprises in the recruiting world this year. Both are operating with new head coaches, yet both are ranked inside the top 15. Tennessee sits at No. 6 in the rankings, while Kentucky is 11th.
Here's a look at where all the SEC teams ranked in the top 30:
2. Alabama (13 commits) -- 6 ESPN 150, 9 ESPN 300
3. Texas A&M (14) -- 4 ESPN 150, 9 ESPN 300
6. Tennessee (17) -- 2 ESPN 150, 7 ESPN 300
7. LSU (10) -- 5 ESPN 150, 9 ESPN 300
9. Florida (10) -- 3 ESPN 150, 6 ESPN 300
11. Kentucky (18) -- 1 ESPN 150, 5 ESPN 300
13. Georgia (10) -- 4 ESPN 150, 5 ESPN 300
14. Auburn (9) -- 3 ESPN 150, 6 ESPN 300
15. Ole Miss (16) -- 1 ESPN 150, 3 ESPN 300
26. Vanderbilt (10) -- 0 ESPN 150, 1 ESPN 300
The 14 SEC teams also have combined to grab verbal commitments from 32 ESPN 150 members and 64 ESPN 300 members.
Also, “College Football Live” will be discussing Alabama-Texas A&M today at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2, so make sure you tune in!
- Georgia's young defense takes another hit, as freshman cornerback Reggie Wilkerson suffers a knee injury.
- Kentucky gets a commitment from four-star running back Stanley "Boom" Williams.
- LSU coach Les Miles enjoys the quiet love that comes with Father's Day.
- Texas A&M athletic director Eric Hyman kids that coach Kevin Sumlin "controls the Tide."
- Danny Sheridan gives Nick Saban a D-minus for backup quarterback management.
- Virginia Tech has limited tickets available for the season opener against Alabama.
- Lee's Summit, Mo., cornerback Logan Cheadle packs on the pounds and commits to Missouri.
- Can Tennessee turn its APR dilemma into a winning number?
- Butch Jones and Erik Spoelstra built a friendship on coaching values.
- Auburn linebackers and special teams coach Scott Fountain is enjoying his return "home" as an on-field coach.
It's the time for all the prognosticators to get their thoughts and forecasts out there. We'll even take part in all the fun soon enough ... but that's a story for another day.
While we wait for all that hoopla, we'll take a look at Athlon Sports' 2013 All-SEC team. Many of the regulars made the cut, like Johnny Manziel, Todd Gurley, Amari Cooper, Jadeveon Clowney, C.J. Mosley and Anthony Johnson earning first-team honors.
AJ McCarron and Denzel Nkemdiche made the second team, while Aaron Murray and E.J. Gaines made the third team.
Alabama led all schools with 14 players making the three teams, including six first-team selections. Florida and Texas A&M were next with 10 selections, while Georgia and Ole Miss each had nine selections.
Here's a look at Athlon's All-SEC first-team:
QB: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
RB: Todd Gurley, Georgia
RB: T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
WR: Amari Cooper, Alabama
WR: Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
TE: Arthur Lynch, Georgia
C: Travis Swanson, Arkansas
OG: Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
OG: Anthony Steen, Alabama
OT: Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
OT: Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
DE: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
DE: Chris Smith, Arkansas
DT: Dominique Easley, Florida
DT: Anthony Johnson, LSU
LB: Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
LB: A.J. Johnson, Tennessee
LB: C.J. Mosley, Alabama
CB: Andre Hal, Vanderbilt
CB: Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida
S: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
S: Craig Loston, LSU
K: Carey Spear, Vanderbilt
P: Kyle Christy, Florida
KR: Andre Debose, Florida
PR: Marcus Murphy, Missouri
- Danny Sheridan breaks down odds and lines for Alabama, as he looks at the 2013 college football season. He also handicaps the 2013 Heisman Trophy race that includes a few SEC players.
- Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin says he's already been given the chance to be a head coach in the NFL.
- Four-star offensive lineman Jordan Sims is focused on Alabama, Auburn and Ole Miss.
- Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald has more on Georgia defensive tackle John Atkins' arrest last week for not having a valid driver's license.
- Tennessee's football team must work on academics as it looks to improve on the field.
- Because Florida failed to sell its ticket allotment for the Sugar Bowl, the school lost about $840,000 on the bowl game.
- Four-star running back Stanley Williams plans to visit Kentucky today.
- Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame inductee Tom Hodson is still the king of LSU quarterbacks.
Nonconference opponents (2012 records)
Aug. 31: Washington State (3-9)
Sept. 7: Arkansas State (10-3)
Oct. 12: Western Carolina (1-10)
Oct. 26: Florida Atlantic (3-9)
SEC home games
Sept. 14: Mississippi State
Oct. 5: Ole Miss
Nov. 16: Georgia
Nov. 30: Alabama
SEC road games
Sept. 21: at LSU
Oct. 19: at Texas A&M
Nov. 2: at Arkansas
Nov. 9: at Tennessee
Gut-check time: The Tigers face two extremely tough road trips the first half of the season. They play at LSU on Sept. 21, and travel to Texas A&M on Oct. 19. The trip to College Station is one that jumps out there for a lot of reasons. Not only do Johnny Football and the Aggies score points at a dizzying pace, but nobody on the Plains has forgotten the 63-21 beating Auburn suffered at the hands of Texas A&M last season at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Trap game: Auburn visits Tennessee the second week of November, which will be the Tigers’ second straight SEC road trip after visiting Arkansas the week before. The Vols are likely to be desperate for wins at that point in order to qualify for a bowl, and will see a home date with Auburn as a chance to beef up their resume.
Snoozer: Actually, there are a couple of snoozers in the month of October. Western Carolina, which managed just one win last season, comes to town on Oct. 12, and Florida Atlantic pays a visit two weeks later. Here’s betting there might be a few tickets floating around for both of those tilts.
Telltale stretch: There are never any guarantees, but the Tigers have a good chance to be 2-0 to open the season after home games with Washington State and Arkansas State. Then comes three SEC games in a span of four weeks that will shape Auburn’s season one way or the other. It’s a stretch that starts with Mississippi State at home on Sept. 14, a trip to LSU the next week, then a bye followed by a home date with Ole Miss on Oct. 5.
Final analysis: The first half of the Tigers’ schedule is far more accommodating than the last half. Five of their first six games are at home, which means they better protect their home turf. At worst, they need to be 4-2, and a 5-1 mark heading into the second half of the schedule could really open up some possibilities. The nonconference schedule is soft, so there’s really not much excuse for missing a bowl game in 2013. The early November road swing to Arkansas and Tennessee will be pivotal, especially with the Tigers closing the season against Georgia and Alabama at home. Auburn went just 3-9 last season, which was enough to get Gene Chizik fired two years removed from winning a national title. If the Tigers play closer to their talent level in 2013 under the new staff, they could carve out as many as eight wins and be one of the bounce-back teams of the year in college football.
Recruiting is the lifeblood of every program in the country, and every conference has its own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to landing top prospects. In the start of a weeklong series, we'll examine the BCS conferences plus Notre Dame to find each's strength, the biggest obstacle each faces and the overall view of the conference. The SEC is up today. Biggest obstacle: When it comes to recruiting in the SEC, the biggest obstacle arguably comes from within. No conference recruits as consistently strong from top to bottom as the SEC and the margin for error is very small. From 2006 through 2013, the SEC has had no fewer than six programs finish within the top 25 of the class rankings in any given year, and the 2013 final class rankings saw all 14 teams finish in the top 40, including 10 in the top 25. A program could be having good success on the recruiting trail and still find itself in the middle or even the back of the pack. Mississippi State, for example, finished with the 25th-ranked class this past cycle only to finish 10th within its own conference.
Being able to recruit as a member of the SEC brings with it many benefits, but as a result of that there are no weak links among SEC teams on the recruiting trail. Alabama has posted back-to-back top-ranked classes and a group that includes programs such as Florida, Georgia and LSU are usually top 10-15 staples, if not top class contenders themselves year in and year out. Other programs within the SEC have shown the ability to have success and even make a big impact as well. Ole Miss this past cycle broke from the pack to land a top-five class that included the nation's top-ranked prospect (Robert Nkemdiche). Even Vanderbilt, long considered a back-of-the-pack staple, made a surge on the recruiting trail as well under the direction of James Franklin and finished with a top-25 class for 2013.
Competition on the recruiting trail is tough all over, but in the SEC it has proved to be extremely fierce and a class that would be great in any other conference simply might not be good enough as a member of this conference.
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Of course, when new coaches enter this league, they almost always face significant rebuilding jobs.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the challenges and hurdles Bret Bielema, Butch Jones, Gus Malzahn and Mark Stoops have in front of them heading into the 2013 season.
Bret Bielema, Arkansas: Bielema’s track record speaks for itself. He went to three straight Rose Bowls at Wisconsin and now gets to prove that he can get it done in the SEC. Recruiting more difference-makers on defense was the first priority, and that’s still a work in progress. The Hogs simply haven’t measured up defensively the last couple of seasons. It’s also going to be equally important next season that Arkansas develop an identity on offense, especially losing the likes of quarterback Tyler Wilson, running backs Knile Davis and Dennis Johnson and receiver Cobi Hamilton. With Jim Chaney coming over as offensive coordinator, look for the Hogs to be more balanced. Any team Bielema is coaching is always going to be able to run the ball, but he also understands the importance of being able to throw it in the SEC. The biggest hurdle Bielema has in 2013 is the schedule. The Hogs play at Alabama, at Florida, at LSU, at Ole Miss and get South Carolina and Texas A&M at home. Talk about a rude welcome to the league. This is a program that needs some confidence early after everything the players went through last year.
Butch Jones, Tennessee: Tennessee’s program has plummeted to nearly unprecedented depths over the last few years, and Jones is the Vols’ fourth head coach in the last six seasons. Tennessee has suffered through four losing seasons in the last five years and hasn’t won a bowl game since 2007. The fan base has been splintered, and there’s been a dark cloud hovering over this program for a long time. Jones has worked feverishly to galvanize the fans, and he’s also reached out to the Vols’ former lettermen and welcomed them back with open arms. The talent level in Tennessee’s program had slipped noticeably, and that’s where Jones has concentrated much of his efforts. The 2014 signing class is coming along nicely with several nationally ranked recruits committed. In the meantime, Jones has to find a way to survive with a defense that was ravaged last season and very few proven playmakers returning on offense. Simply getting to a bowl game this first season could be dicey. The Vols have trips to Alabama, Florida and Oregon.
Gus Malzahn, Auburn: Malzahn knows his way around the Plains. He was Auburn’s offensive coordinator for three years, including the 2010 national championship season. In returning to replace his old boss, Gene Chizik, Malzahn has done his best to erase everybody’s memory of what happened a year ago. That’s easier said than done when you go winless in the SEC and lose your last three SEC games by a combined 129 points. The good news for Malzahn is that he inherited some talent. The Tigers are much more talented than they played a year ago. The trick will be getting them to play to that talent level. The most pressing question is finding a quarterback, or more specifically, finding some consistency at the quarterback position in Malzahn’s fast-paced, no-huddle offense. Jonathan Wallace and Kiehl Frazier battled it out in the spring, and a couple of newcomers will join the fray this August. Even though Auburn won the national title three years ago, Alabama has run off and left its Iron Bowl rival. Closing that gap (and doing it quickly) will be Malzahn’s most daunting challenge.
Mark Stoops, Kentucky: What’s the toughest coaching job in the SEC? Most in and around this league would tell you that it’s a close race between Kentucky and Vanderbilt. And with James Franklin taking the Commodores to back-to-back bowl games, the challenge that Stoops faces at Kentucky is in a class by itself. Basketball is always going to be king at Kentucky, but that doesn’t mean there’s zero passion for football there. In fact, give Stoops major props for exciting that fan base with some of his early recruiting and his aggressive style on both sides of the ball. More than 50,000 people showed up for Kentucky’s spring game. Upgrading the talent level was right at the top of Stoops’ to-do list, and he’s off to a good start. He's had good success in the state of Ohio. The Wildcats are lacking in the offensive playmaker department, and that’s one of Stoops' biggest concerns going into this first season. Ultimately, he’s confident that offensive coordinator Neal Brown will put an offense on the field that can score points and move the ball. But filling in the right pieces could take some time.
Missouri had the SEC’s highest score with a 982, and two-time defending national champion Alabama was second with a 978. Both the Tigers and Crimson Tide were honored by the NCAA last week for their APR scores in football.
The APR measures eligibility, retention and graduation over a four-year period. The new scores cover a four-year period from the 2008-09 through the 2011-12 academic years.
Tennessee (924) was the only SEC football program under the 925 threshold, which subjects teams to penalties such as scholarship losses and reduced practice time.
By 2014, schools that fall under a four-year APR average of 930 could face a postseason bowl ban.
First-year Tennessee coach Butch Jones knew the Vols were flirting with that standard when he took the job in December, but is confident the right steps have been taken to get Tennessee's APR scores back up to speed and steer clear of a bowl ban.
For instance, Tennessee's team GPA in the most recent semester improved to a 2.8, and Tennessee has also made it a priority under athletic director Dave Hart to strengthen its academic support system. Tennessee recently hired Joe Scogin from Missouri to head up its Thornton Center, which is the academic support center for athletes.
“Academics are at the forefront of the priorities within our football team, and we are excited with the results in the classroom from the spring semester,” Jones said. “We are moving forward with a great plan and structure that alleviates past academic concerns, and we are confident of avoiding any APR issues. Everything is in place to provide the best possible environment for achieving academic success for our student-athletes as we continue to move forward."
From Derek Tyson: Florida added a commitment from defensive end Taven Bryan.
From Gary Laney : While there are four Louisiana wide receivers in the ESPN 150, LSU took a commitment from unranked D.J. Chark in large part because of the positional versatility he offers.
From Sam Khan Jr. : OT Zachary Ledwik talks about receiving a Texas A&M offer and says he could decide soon.
More from Khan : There are several suitors for 2015 DB James Locke.
From Alex Scarborough: South Alabama and the Mobile area have been good to Alabama recruiting, and now Auburn, Florida State and other top programs are making it a hotly contested recruiting area.
From Greg Ostendorf : Here is the Mobile-area’s top 10 recruits since 2007.
- The Iron Bowl rivalry is all about respect and understanding for Nick Saban and Gus Malzahn.
- Running back Jabo Lee is Tennessee's only 2013 signee unlikely to qualify.
- LSU's proximity to home was a key to landing receiver D.J. Chark.
- Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity doesn't expect the school's stringent punishment for a positive drug test to be lessened any time soon.
- Joe Tereshinski Sr., a Georgia football patriarch, passes away at 89.
- Athlon Sports ranks the top stadiums in the SEC, and LSU's Tiger Stadium checks in at No. 1.
- Top running back prospect Nick Chubb will choose Tuesday night among Auburn, Georgia and South Carolina.
- South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney enters the 2013 season squarely in the Heisman Trophy talk.
- Picking the ideal Florida football team.
- Harvey Updyke is freed in the Auburn tree poisoning case.
- Texas A&M will face UTSA in 2016 and 2019.
Any guesses who's No. 1 on that list?
Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is tied for the top spot along with Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris.
Smart has already had a few opportunities, but he's wisely been picky. He was a finalist for the Auburn head coaching job back in December and was also linked to the Arkansas opening. At some point, the right opportunity is going to come along.
Georgia would be the no-brainer for Smart when Mark Richt decides to step aside. Smart played at Georgia and still has strong ties to his alma mater.
For the time being, though, he's more than content in being a major part of Alabama's football machine and has his eyes set on winning a third straight national championship. Smart received a new three-year deal back in April making him the highest paid defensive coordinator in college football. He will earn $1.15 million in 2013 and $1.35 million in 2014 and 2015.
Other SEC coordinators on Haney's list were Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash, Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee and Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown.
A few others on Haney's list were recent assistants in the SEC -- Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
Who are some other current SEC assistants that warrant mention as potential head coaches down the road?
Among the names that come to mind: South Carolina co-offensive coordinator Shawn Elliott, Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, Vanderbilt defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward.
One thing to keep in mind is that until last season everybody in the league played three games outside their division. With Missouri and Texas A&M joining the league, that number dwindled to two.
Over the last decade, only one team has made the SEC championship game after playing three cross-divisional opponents with winning SEC records.
Wouldn’t you know it. That team was Spurrier’s 2010 South Carolina club. The Gamecocks beat Alabama (5-3), but lost to Arkansas (6-2) and Auburn (8-0). South Carolina was the only team in the East that season with a winning league record. In fact, four of the six teams that year in the East finished with losing SEC records.
During the last two seasons, the SEC championship game participants didn’t play a single team from the other division that finished with a winning SEC record. In fact, seven of their 10 combined opponents out of division won two or fewer league games.
In the last six years, only one time has a team making the SEC championship game had to face more than one cross-divisional opponent with a winning league record. Once again, that team was South Carolina in 2010.
Alabama has played in the SEC championship game three times under Nick Saban (2008, 2009 and 2012). Only one of the eight cross-divisional foes the Crimson Tide played in those three years had a winning conference record. Georgia finished 6-2 in 2008.
Likewise, LSU has also played in the SEC championship game three times under Les Miles (2005, 2007 and 2011). Of the Tigers' nine cross-divisional opponents in those three years, seven finished with losing conference records.
What’s all this mean?
Make up your own mind, but below is a look at the participants in the last 10 SEC championship games and a rundown of who they played out of division and the combined league records of those opponents:
- Alabama: 3-13 (Missouri 2-6 and Tennessee 1-7)
- Georgia: 3-13 (Auburn 0-8 and Ole Miss 3-5)
- LSU: 6-18 (Florida 3-5, Kentucky 2-6 and Tennessee 1-7)
- Georgia: 6-18 (Auburn 4-4, Mississippi State 2-6 and Ole Miss 0-8)
- Auburn: 10-14 (Georgia 3-5, Kentucky 2-6 and South Carolina 5-3)
- South Carolina: 19-5 (Alabama 5-3, Arkansas 6-2 and Auburn 8-0)
- Alabama: 10-14 (Kentucky 3-5, South Carolina 3-5 and Tennessee 4-4)
- Florida: 11-13 (Arkansas 3-5, LSU 5-3 and Mississippi State 3-5)
- Alabama: 11-13 (Georgia 6-2, Kentucky 2-6 and Tennessee 3-5)
- Florida: 10-14 (Arkansas 2-6, LSU 3-5 and Ole Miss 5-3)
- LSU: 11-13 (Florida 5-3, Kentucky 3-5 and South Carolina 3-5)
- Tennessee: 12-12 (Alabama 4-4, Arkansas 4-4 and Mississippi State 4-4)
- Arkansas: 9-15 (South Carolina 3-5, Tennessee 5-3 and Vanderbilt 1-7)
- Florida: 14-10 (Alabama 2-6, Auburn 6-2 and LSU 6-2)
- LSU: 11-13 (Florida 5-3, Tennessee 3-5 and Vanderbilt 3-5)
- Georgia: 10-14 (Arkansas 2-6, Auburn 7-1 and Mississippi State 1-7)
- Auburn: 14-10 (Georgia 6-2, Kentucky 1-7 and Tennessee 7-1)
- Tennessee: 14-10 (Alabama 3-5, Auburn 8-0 and Ole Miss 3-5)
- LSU: 14-10 (Florida 6-2, Georgia 6-2 and South Carolina 2-6)
- Georgia: 14-10 (Alabama 2-6, Auburn 5-3 and LSU 7-1)
No, it had nothing to do with his customary visor, and he wasn't drawing up ball plays on a napkin or looking at his watch and wondering if he'd make his tee time.
"I got to thinking, 'Where are all the guys who played football in this league over the last 30-some years?'" Spurrier recounted. "You don't see many former players from the league coming back [to the SEC] to be head coaches anymore."
Over the past decade, there have been a few such as former Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom (Alabama), former Kentucky coach Joker Phillips (Kentucky) and former Auburn coach Gene Chizik (Florida). And before Nick Saban took over at Alabama, former Alabama quarterback Mike Shula headed up the Crimson Tide's program.
Currently, though, Spurrier and Florida's Will Muschamp are the only two. Matter of fact, more of the current SEC head coaches played their football in the Big Ten -- Arkansas' Bret Bielema and Kentucky's Mark Stoops at Iowa, LSU's Les Miles at Michigan and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin at Purdue.
An SEC pedigree was once a must for becoming a head coach in the SEC, but times have changed.
Click here to read my entire column on the changing guard in the SEC.