SEC: Mississippi Rebels
Alabama Crimson Tide
What they are selling: What's not to sell? Alabama is coming off back-to-back national championships, and the Crimson Tide had nine players taken in April's NFL draft, including three in the first round. For the critics who say you won't play early at UA, ask T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper how much they contributed as freshmen.
What they are missing: Although they won a national championship, the Tide didn't generate much pass rush last fall, and they had trouble containing freshman sensation Johnny Manziel. Also, they need to rebuild the offensive line, a unit that anchored the offense last year.
What they are selling: New head coach Bret Bielema runs a completely different offensive system than the previous two Arkansas coaches. The Razorbacks are selling an opportunity for freshmen to come in and earn playing time early in their careers.
What they are missing: The Razorbacks signed only one offensive lineman, Denver Kirkland, who was rated a four-star prospect or higher last year. In this run-heavy system, look for Arkansas to focus on landing talented players along the offensive line.
What they are selling: It's a new regime for Auburn, but there's a familiar face running the show. New head coach Gus Malzahn knows the program from his days as offensive coordinator. He's already shown the ability to recruit, stealing ESPN 150 linebacker Tre Williams away from the Tide. There's a sense of excitement on The Plains again.
What they are missing: Malzahn filled out his first recruiting class with playmakers, but Auburn needs to build up front on the offensive and defensive lines. No matter what offense you run, if you want to win in the SEC, you need to be able to compete up in the trenches.
What they are selling: With no proven wide receivers on the perimeter, Florida is attempting to sell early playing time at the position. A chance to play for one of the best defensive minds in college football in Will Muschamp is another selling point to defensive prospects.
What they are missing: Production on offense. After finishing 114th nationally in passing offense, it will be hard to sell playing time to wide receivers without an explosive passing game in place.
What they are selling: Freshmen, if they're good enough, play early at Georgia. From running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall to offensive tackle John Theus to defensive end Jordan Jenkins, several freshmen Bulldogs made major contributions on a team that was a few yards away from making the national championship game.
What they are missing: Georgia has brought in four top-12 recruiting classes in the last four years. Depth might become an issue for some recruits, but Georgia has certainly shown a willingness to play younger players.
What they are selling: After finishing 2-10, Kentucky fired coach Joker Phillips. New head coach Mark Stoops is offering a fresh start and a chance to help build Kentucky in to a contender in the SEC East.
What they are missing: Plain and simple -- tradition. Sure, Kentucky is full of basketball tradition, but the success on the hardwood completely overshadows the football program. A record 50,831 fans attended the Wildcats' spring game, so the interest level is certainly headed in the right direction.
What they are selling: An unprecedented 10 underclassmen declared for the NFL draft. LSU is selling the opportunity, not only for early playing time because of the departures, but a chance to make it to the NFL in three years.
What they are missing: Because of all the departures, there are some holes on both sides of the ball. Depth is now an issue at running back and LSU will need to replace Eric Reid, Kevin Minter, defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, defensive tackle Bennie Logan and linebacker Kevin Minter.
Ole Miss Rebels
What they are selling: Ole Miss landed the No. 5-ranked class in the country, including No. 1 overall player Robert Nkemdiche and No. 1 offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil. Look for Ole Miss to sell recruits on the opportunity to help build something special under head coach Hugh Freeze.
What they are missing: Freeze brought a creative and innovative offense to the SEC, but the defense is still a work in progress. Ole Miss finished 12th in the SEC in pass defense and will need to continue to build depth in order to compete for the SEC West championship.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
What they are selling: Only 11 of 22 starters return for a team that finished 8-5 last year. The Bulldogs offer recruits a chance to play early and play in the best division in college football.
What they are missing: Mississippi State returns its starting quarterback Tyler Russell, but who will he be throwing to? Last year's four leading receivers, including Chad Bumphis, are gone. Look for the Bulldogs to focus on offensive weapons in this recruiting class.
What they are selling: The Tigers return 14 of 22 starters on a team that went 5-7 in its first year in the SEC East. Missouri runs a fun and innovative offense that is sure to attract recruits, and there is certainly an opportunity to play early.
What they are missing: The defensive line is probably the most critical area on any defense in the SEC, and the Tigers lost their best lineman in Sheldon Richardson. Mizzou must find a viable replacement for Richardson and linebackers Zaviar Gooden and Will Ebner.
South Carolina Gamecocks
What they are selling: The Gamecocks have been dominant on defense over the last few years, and a strong line is a big part of their success. South Carolina is selling an opportunity to be the next Jadeveon Clowney and be a part of one of the top defenses in the SEC.
What they are missing: Hard to believe, but head coach Steve Spurrier needs help at wide receiver. The Gamecocks signed only one wide receiver in their 2013 class. They have young bodies, but not much depth or production from the returning group.
What they are selling: A fresh start under new head coach Butch Jones. Since 2011, Tennessee has finished with the No. 13, 21 and 29 recruiting classes in the country. There plenty of holes to fill, and any incoming freshman will have plenty of opportunities to earn a starting spot.
What they are missing: Tennessee lost wide receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson to the NFL draft and must replace their production on the outside. The Volunteers are also thin in the secondary and will look to recruiting to plug some key holes on defense.
Texas A&M Aggies
What they are selling: There is a lot to sell a recruit on at Texas A&M right now. An explosive offense which led the SEC in total offense by more than 100 yards a game, Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and a team that went into Tuscaloosa and handed Alabama its only loss last season.
What they are missing: There are still some holes to fill on defense. The Aggies finished with the No. 8-ranked defense in the SEC and the No. 10-ranked pass defense in the league. They also need to replace talented defensive end Damontre Moore, who is now in the NFL.
What they are selling: Head coach James Franklin has taken Vanderbilt to a bowl in two consecutive years, and the Commodores are bringing in a solid recruiting class. Selling recruits on an opportunity to play at Vanderbilt during one of the best eras in the school's football history is enticing to high school recruits.
What they are missing: Vanderbilt is not yet on par with other SEC schools as far as facilities. The Commodores, though, are certainly headed in the right direction. A new indoor practice facility is being constructed, and stadium renovations are in the planning stages.
1. Alabama: Nick Saban is equipped with yet another national championship contender. Yes, it would be his third straight at Alabama and fourth in five years. An all-star cast returns on offense, led by veteran quarterback AJ McCarron and topflight receiver Amari Cooper. The offensive line lost three draft picks but had a good spring, and the defense is still loaded.
2. Texas A&M: The Aggies lost some important offensive pieces, including offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury and left tackle Luke Joeckel, but there are still a lot of weapons to use. Johnny Manziel is still in town, and he'll have a loaded running back stable to work with as well as a host of talented, young receivers led by Mike Evans. The real worry has to be on defense, where five starters are gone from the front seven.
3. Georgia: We all know that the Bulldogs will score a lot of points this fall. Aaron Murray has his entire offensive line back, the league's top running back duo (Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall) and a slew of receiving targets, led by Malcolm Mitchell. But the defense is very young. There is talent, but replacing 12 players who started or saw significant time will create early growing pains.
4. South Carolina: The Gamecocks return good balance on offense, starting with two quality quarterbacks in Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson and running back Mike Davis. The defense also has the luxury of having Jadeveon Clowney anchor what should be a very solid defensive line. The two-deep at linebacker is gone and there are holes in the secondary, so youth could be an issue.
5. Florida: Nobody will question the talent Florida possesses on defense. The Gators lost two first-round draft picks there, but Will Muschamp & Co. should reload with solid younger talent. But how good will the offense be? Quarterback Jeff Driskel will be a year older in the offense, the line should be better and the Gators will be stout running the ball, but there are no consistently reliable receiving targets.
6. LSU: Gradation and the NFL draft ravaged LSU's defense. Questions loom at linebacker and in the secondary, but coach Les Miles left spring pretty pleased with the defensive line. The offense should be improved with quarterback Zach Mettenberger's development, a solid line and all the receiving targets returning. But if running back Jeremy Hill's legal trouble sidelines him (he was suspended indefinitely after being charged with battery last week), the Tigers could be in trouble.
7. Vanderbilt: Coach James Franklin has to be pretty excited with the personnel he has coming back. He has competition at quarterback and running back, but receivers Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd, along with a stout offensive line, will help this offense go. The defense got stronger up front this spring, and there are quality starters at linebacker and in the secondary.
8. Ole Miss: Coach Hugh Freeze wants to make sure expectations are tempered in Oxford after last season's success and a monster recruiting haul. He lost just three starters from last season's team, and guys are motivated to top last year's 7-6 season. But injuries hurt the team this spring, and depth issues still exist at receiver and along both lines.
9. Auburn: The return of Gus Malzahn as coach has people on the Plains very excited. The offensive personnel fits his spread offense, and Ellis Johnson has instilled a new attitude on defense. The Tigers have to figure out their quarterback situation, and there are no proven receiving threats. Auburn will be better, but this team still has a ways to go.
10. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs had a Jekyll and Hyde 2012 but also lost some key parts to last season's squad. Quarterback Tyler Russell has to work with a new receiving corps, while the secondary has to replace three starters, including Thorpe Award winner Johnthan Banks. It sounds as though the defensive line made major strides this spring, especially ends Denico Autry and Ryan Brown.
11. Missouri: The Tigers didn't lose a lot from last season's 5-7 squad, but the offense dealt with a quarterback battle and protection problems from its offensive line. That's not good for a team that stumbled offensively all last season. The defense seemed to impress up front, but Mizzou is replacing two starting linebackers with a gang of inexperienced players.
12. Arkansas: Under new coach Bret Bielema, the Razorbacks got tougher across the board this spring. Bielema also found his quarterback in redshirt sophomore Brandon Allen, and both lines seemed to progress. But there are still questions at receiver, running back and with the lack of depth at linebacker. Plus, that regular-season schedule is just ugly for any first-year coach.
13. Tennessee: Butch Jones did a good job of supplying some much-needed energy within this football team, but he sure does have his hands full. Gone are the starting quarterback and basically all of last season's receiving production. He has a strong offensive line, and the defense seemed to adjust to the 4-3 scheme, but these players have to be much more consistent going forward.
14. Kentucky: Coach Mark Stoops has received a ton of support from Big Blue Nation, but he knows that his team has a long way to go. He has to find his quarterback and offensive playmakers. He has to replace three starters in the secondary and is thin at linebacker. The good news is that the defensive line will be the core of this team, which is huge for the first-year coach.
"It's right down the road," Conner said in an interview on ESPNU. "I feel more comfortable playing in my home state. I want to do something to put Mississippi on the map."
-- Mitch Sherman
What is the impact of Conner's decision?
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LAKE CITY, Fla. -- Five-star tackle Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Fla./Columbia) has signed his letter of intent to play for the Ole Miss Rebels.
The 6-foot-6, 295-pound athlete announced his decision live on ESPNU on Wednesday morning.
"I'm just trying to start special," Tunsil said. "You know, do something different besides go to Georgia or Alabama."
The No. 5-ranked prospect in the country chose Ole Miss over Georgia and Alabama.
He joins the nation's No. 1 overall prospect, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, among additions to Ole Miss' class that have helped it move into the top 10.
Tunsil said Ole Miss was a factor long before his official visit to Oxford, Miss.
"It really wasn't the official visit to be honest with you," Tunsil said. "Me and Chris Kiffin had a relationship for about a year. He never gave up, he never gave up. I told him that Alabama was on top then I told him that Georgia was on top and he still didn't give up."
What kind of player is Ole Miss getting?
"A hard-working player, who's down and dirty," he said. "But I have to get adjusted to the spread offense."
And how did Rebels coach Hugh Freeze react when he learned what Tunsil's decision would be?
"I told him I wanted to be a Rebel," Tunsil laughed. "He started kissing me."
What is the impact of Tunsil's decision?
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Daniel, No. 34 overall in the ESPN 150, faxed his letter to Auburn on Wednesday morning despite entering signing day as an Ole Miss commitment. He was previously committed to Clemson as well.
What is the impact of Daniel’s decision?
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- DT Montravius Adams, Vienna, Ga., No. 13 ESPN 150 (Alabama, Clemson, Georgia)
- CB Mackensie Alexander, Immokalee, Fla., No. 4 ESPN 150 (Clemson, Florida State, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Texas A&M)
- S Vonn Bell, Rossville, Ga., No. 50 ESPN 150 (Alabama, Ohio State, Tennessee)
- RB Alex Collins, Plantation, Fla., No. 57 ESPN 150 (Arkansas, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Wisconsin)
- S Antonio Conner, Batesville, Miss., No. 23 ESPN 150 (Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State, Ole Miss)
- WR Jordan Cunningham, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., No. 107 ESPN 150 (Florida State, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Vanderbilt)
- DE Elijah Daniel, Avon, Ind., No. 32 ESPN 150 (Arizona State, Florida, Mississippi State, Ole Miss)
- LB Reuben Foster, Auburn, Ala., No. 16 ESPN 150 (Alabama, Auburn, Georgia)
- RB Derrick Green, Richmond, Va., No. 38 ESPN 150 (Auburn, Michigan, Tennessee)
- S Tahaan Goodman, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., No. 108 ESPN 150 (LSU, Oklahoma, UCLA)
- RB Alvin Kamara, Norcross, Ga., No. 32 ESPN 150 (Alabama, Georgia)
- OT Denver Kirkland, Miami, Fla., No. 144 ESPN 150 (Arkansas, Miami, Ole Miss, South Florida, West Virginia)
- DE Carl Lawson, Alpharetta, Ga., No. 2 ESPN 150 (Auburn, Clemson, Tennessee)
- DT Dee Liner, Muscle Shoals, Ala., No. 26 ESPN 150 (Alabama, Auburn)
- DE Robert Nkemdiche, Loganville, Ga., No. 1 ESPN 150 (LSU, Ole Miss)
- WR Marquez North, Charlotte, N.C., No. 133 ESPN 150 (North Carolina, Tennessee)
- LB Quinton Powell, Daytona Beach, Fla., No. 99 ESPN 150 (Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina, USC)
- CB Jalen Ramsey, Brentwood, Tenn., No. 14 ESPN 150 (Florida, Florida State, Mississippi State, USC)
- LB Matthew Thomas, Miami, Fla., No. 6 ESPN 150 (Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, USC)
- OT Laremy Tunsil, Lake City, Fla., No. 5 ESPN 150 (Alabama, Florida State, Georgia)
- DT Eddie Vanderdoes, Auburn, Calif., No. 10 ESPN 150 (Alabama, Notre Dame, UCLA, USC, Washington)
- S Priest Willis, Tempe, Ariz., No. 59 ESPN 150 (Florida State, LSU, Nebraska, UCLA)
- QB Asiantii Woulard, Winter Park, Fla., No. 143 ESPN 150 (Clemson, Kentucky, N.C. State, UCLA)
Typically, these are freshmen who graduated high school early or junior college transfers. The benefit of enrolling at midterm is being able to go through spring practice.
Georgia leads the way in the SEC with 13 early enrollees. Alabama has nine, and Florida and Texas A&M each have eight.
Getting a head start can be key for those players -- both freshmen and junior college transfers -- that schools are counting on to make an immediate impact. Alabama's T.J Yeldon and Amari Cooper, Georgia's Keith Marshall, Florida's Antonio Morrison, LSU's Vadal Alexander and Ole Miss' Pierce Burton were all early enrollees last year.
Here’s a school-by-school look at the 2013 early enrollees:
- QB Cooper Bateman, Fr., 6-3, 202, Murray, Utah (ESPN 150)
- OL Leon Brown, Jr., 6-6, 313, ASA College
- QB Luke Del Rio, Fr., 6-2, 200, Highlands Ranch, Colo.
- WR Raheem Falkins, Fr., 6-4, 195, New Orleans, La. (ESPN 300)
- RB Derrick Henry, Fr., 6-3, 242, Yulee, Fla. (ESPN 150)
- OL Brandon Hill, Fr., 6-6, 350, Hargrave Military Academy
- TE O.J. Howard, Fr., 6-5, 225, Prattville, Ala. (ESPN 150)
- QB Parker McLeod, Fr., 6-3, 190, Marietta, Ga.
- DB Jai Miller, Fr., 6-3, 210, Valley Grande, Ala.
- S Tiquention Coleman, Jr., 5-10, 200, Georgia Military College
- OT John McClure, Jr., 6-4, 310, Butler Community College
- LB Myke Tavarres, Jr., 6-2, 222, College of the Siskiyous
- CB Carroll Washington, Jr., 6-0, 175, Hartnell Community College
- RB Cameron Artis-Payne, Jr., 5-11, 220, Allan Hancock Community College
- DL Ben Bradley, Jr., 6-3, 315, Hutchinson Community College
- OL Devonte Danzy, So., 6-3, 303, Hutchinson Community College
- LB Alex Anzalone, Fr., 6-3, 233, Wyomissing, Pa. (ESPN 150)
- DT Darius Cummings, Jr., 6-1, 310, East Mississippi Community College
- DL Joey Ivie, Fr., 6-4, 269, Dade City, Fla.
- LB Daniel McMillian, Fr., 6-2, 220, Jacksonville, Fla. (ESPN 150)
- OT Tyler Moore, So., 6-5, 312, Transfer from Nebraska
- WR Demarcus Robinson, Fr., 6-2, 200, Fort Valley, Ga. (ESPN 150)
- LB Matt Rolin, Fr., 6-4, 209, Ashburn, Va. (ESPN 150)
- RB Kelvin Taylor, Fr., 5-11, 215, Belle Glade, Fla. (ESPN 150)
- DT Johnathan Atkins, Fr., 6-4, 310, Hargrave Military Academy
- OL Aulden Bynum, Fr., 6-5, 265, Valdosta, Ga.
- OL Josh Cardiello, Fr., 6-3, 280, Buford, Ga.
- LB Reggie Carter, Fr., 6-1, 225, Snellville, Ga.
- ATH J.J. Green, Fr., 5-9, 185, Kingsland, Ga.
- S Tray Matthews, Fr., 6-0, 195, Newnan, Ga. (ESPN 150)
- S Quincy Mauger, Fr., 6-0, 199, Marietta, Ga.
- NG Chris Mayes, Jr., 6-4, 310, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College
- QB Brice Ramsey, Fr., 6-3, 195, Kingsland, Ga. (ESPN 150)
- LB Ryne Rankin, Fr., 6-1, 230, Orlando, Fla. (ESPN 300)
- WR Jonathon Rumph, Jr., 6-5, 215, Holmes Community College
- WR Tramel Terry, Fr., 5-11, 193, Goose Creek, S.C. (ESPN 150)
- CB Reggie Wilkerson, Fr., 5-11, 165, Citra, Fla. (ESPN 300)
- TE Steven Borden, Jr., 6-3, 250, Kilgore (Texas) College
- QB Reese Phillips, Fr., 6-2, 225, Signal Mountain, Tenn.
- DE Za'Darius Smith, Jr., 6-6, 260, East Mississippi Community College
- ATH John Diarse, Fr., 6-0, 210, Monroe, La.
- OT Fehoko Fanaika, Jr., 6-6, 340, College of San Mateo
- QB Anthony Jennings, Fr., 6-2, 205, Marietta, Ga. (ESPN 300)
- DE Christian LeCouture, Fr., 6-5, 267, Lincoln, Neb.
- OT Ethan Pocic, Fr., 6-6, 285, Lemont, Ill. (ESPN 150)
- TE Logan Stokes, Jr., 6-4, 240, Northeast Mississippi Community College
- WR Jeremey Chappelle, Jr., 6-2, 210, Tyler Community College
- S Justin Cox, Jr., 6-2, 185, East Mississippi Community College
- TE Artimas Samuel, Fr., 6-2, 242, Hargrave Military Academy
- QB Trent Hosick, Fr., 6-1, 217, Kansas City, Mo.
- QB Eddie Printz, Fr., 6-3, 200, Marietta, Ga.
- RB Mark Dodson, Fr., 5-10, 193, Memphis, Tenn. (ESPN 300)
- DT Lavon Hooks, Jr., 6-4, 290, Northeast Mississippi Community College
- ATH Quadarius Mireles, Jr., 5-11, 185, Hinds Community College
- TE Christian Morgan, Fr., 6-4, 255, Plano, Texas
- CB Ronnie Martin, Jr., 5-10, 180, Georgia Military Academy
- QB Connor Mitch, Fr., 6-3, 210, Raleigh, N.C. (ESPN 300)
- OT D.J. Park, Fr., 6-6, 335, Dillon, S.C.
- WR Paul Harris, Fr., 6-4, 195, Accokeek, Md.
- ATH Lemond Johnson, Fr., 6-1, 190, Cooper City, Fla.
- CB Riyahd Jones, Jr., 6-0, 186, Garden City Community College
- ATH Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Fr., 6-1, 200, Clarksville, Tenn.
- LB Corey Vereen, Fr., 6-2, 230, Winter Garden, Fla.
- LB Reggie Chevis, Fr., 6-2, 235, Houston, Texas
- TE Cameron Clear, Jr., 6-6, 275, Arizona Western College
- DL Jordan Points, Fr., 6-4, 255, Rockwall, Texas
- LB Tommy Sanders, Jr., 6-2, 215, Butler Community College
- CB Alex Sezer, Fr., 5-10, 170, Orange, Texas
- OL Jeremiah Stuckey, So., 6-6, 280, College of San Francisco
- LB Brett Wade, Fr., 6-2, 220, Kennedale, Texas
- WR Ja'Quay Williams, Fr., 6-3, 195, Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy
- OL Sean Dowling, Fr., 6-6, 260, Fallbrook, Calf.
- QB Johnathon McCrary, Fr., 6-3, 190, Ellenwood, Ga.
There were 28 coaches who took over programs in 2012, including three from the SEC.
Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin and Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze fared well in Athlon's rankings. Sumlin was No. 2 right behind Meyer and received an A-plus. Freeze was No. 4 behind Penn State's Bill O'Brien and received an A-minus.
Arkansas' John L. Smith, who wasn't retained following the Hogs' 4-8 finish, wound up next-to-last at No. 27 and received an F. The only coach ranked lower was Southern Miss' Ellis Johnson, who was fired after going 0-12 last season.
Here's Athlon's recap of the three SEC coaches:
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
What Went Right: New coach. New quarterback. New conference. Three factors that should have made 2012 a difficult year for Sumlin and Texas A&M. Instead, the Aggies finished as one of college football’s top 10 teams, and quarterback Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy after recording over 5,000 yards of total offense. Texas A&M knocked off No. 1 Alabama in mid-November and its only losses came by five points or less. Sumlin is on fire on the recruiting trail, and Texas A&M should be a national title contender in 2013.Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
What Went Wrong: Just as we mentioned with Urban Meyer, it’s hard to find many faults in Sumlin’s debut season. The Aggies lost offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, and it’s imperative for Sumlin to pick the right replacement this offseason. Texas A&M’s only defeats came to Florida and LSU -- a combined 21-5 -- so there’s nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to the loss column.
What Went Right: After finishing 2-10 and 0-8 in SEC play in 2011, Ole Miss was one of college football’s most improved teams. The Rebels won seven contests, including the in-state rivalry against Mississippi State and the BBVA Compass Bowl over Pittsburgh. Ole Miss hung tough against Alabama and lost by only six points to LSU. The Rebels are recruiting well, so more help is on the way for a roster that showed marked improvement in 2012.John L. Smith, Arkansas
What Went Wrong: Nothing.
What Went Right: For a team that began the year in most preseason top 25 polls and ended with a 4-8 record, it’s hard to find much that went right. Arkansas did win two SEC games, nearly knocked off LSU and defeated a good Tulsa team 19-15 in early November.
What Went Wrong: Considering the timing of the coaching change, it’s hard to blame everything on Smith. The Razorbacks never seemed to recover from losing head coach Bobby Petrino, especially on offense where they averaged just 23.5 points a game. Although it’s unfair to blame Smith for all of Arkansas’ woes, the Razorbacks only won two games in SEC play and struggled to be competitive against the bowl teams in the conference.
- Texas A&M athletic director Eric Hyman stresses Johnny Manziel's new role to Manziel's parents.
- Comparing this Alabama national championship team statistically to the last two.
- If only Urban Meyer had taken Chris Rainey's threats against women seriously, writes Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel.
- The upgrade to Commonwealth Stadium isn't too risky, says Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart.
- Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph takes a look at Georgia's recruiting board.
- LSU's massive NFL draft departure is the new normal, writes Glenn Guilbeau of Gannett Louisiana News.
- Pat Washington agrees to become the new Missouri receivers coach.
- Dan Mullen and Mississippi State are ready to dive into the 2013 season.
- Steve Stripling hopes to bring stability to Tennessee's ever-changing defensive line coaching position.
- Recruits need to get it right the first time, writes Parrish Alford of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.
Some were obvious. Some weren’t so obvious.
Either way, it was another banner season for the SEC, which produced its seventh consecutive national championship and became the first conference in history to have five of the top 10 teams -- 1. Alabama, T-5. Georgia, T-5. Texas A&M, 8. South Carolina and 9. Florida -- in the final rankings.
Sit back and enjoy.
Alabama’s repeat: Rebounding from a November home loss to Texas A&M, Alabama became the first team since Nebraska in 1994 and 1995 to repeat as national champions with a 42-14 battering of previously unbeaten Notre Dame in the Discover BCS National Championship. The Crimson Tide mauled the Irish physically and scored touchdowns on each of their first three possessions. The game was over by the time the second quarter began, and Alabama’s historic run had officially become a dynasty. The Crimson Tide won their third outright national title in four years, the first school to accomplish that feat since Notre Dame in the late 1940s.
John David Mercer/US PresswireJohnny Manziel was at his finest in Texas A&M's upset of Alabama.
Mosley’s tip: Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley got just enough fingers on the football to deflect Aaron Murray’s pass in the final seconds of the SEC championship game. The ball careened into the hands of Georgia receiver Chris Conley, who slipped to the turf at the Alabama 5-yard line as time expired. Alabama survived 32-28 and earned the right to play for another national championship in one of the most exciting SEC championship games in history.
Clowney’s hit: They’re referring to it as simply “The Hit” in South Carolina. The Gamecocks’ all-world sophomore defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney, leveled Michigan running back Vincent Smith, sending both Smith’s helmet and the ball flying. Clowney snatched the ball up with his left hand in one of those plays that becomes even more jaw-dropping every time you see it.
Miles’ outburst: LSU coach Les Miles has been must-see TV for a long time now. But do yourself a favor and go relive his “What a game!” performance during his news conference following LSU’s 41-35 victory over Mississippi. An emotional Miles even dropped an F-bomb and then implored fans to thank the "spectacular group" of LSU players with this memorable line: “You go find them, throw your arms around them and give them a big kiss on the mouth ... if you're a girl."
Screen to Yeldon: With Tiger Stadium roaring in a much-anticipated clash between Alabama and LSU, the Crimson Tide awakened offensively in the final minutes. Quarterback AJ McCarron led the Crimson Tide on a game-winning drive that was capped by a 28-yard screen pass to T.J. Yeldon for a touchdown with 51 seconds to play. McCarron was 1-for-7 for 0 yards in the second half before that final drive, which allowed Alabama to escape, 21-17.
Franklin’s hug: Vanderbilt’s 38-24 win over NC State in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl earned the Commodores their first nine-win season since 1915. Afterward, a Vanderbilt fan made his way into the news conference and thanked second-year coach James Franklin for what he’d done for the program. Franklin stopped the news conference, gave the fan a big hug and told him thanks for sticking with the Commodores. “You’re due for this,” Franklin exclaimed.
Support for Lattimore: No moment was more tear-jerking and yet heartwarming than the injury to South Carolina star tailback Marcus Lattimore this season. Sadly, Lattimore blew out his knee for the second straight season in the 38-35 win over Tennessee. As he lay on the field in pain after going down with the injury, players, coaches and support personnel from both teams surrounded Lattimore on the field in a touching show of support. It's the kind of thing you rarely, if ever, see on a football field and says volumes about the universal respect Lattimore has as a player and as a person.
Jones' strip: Great players make great plays, and Jarvis Jones' strip of Florida tight end Jordan Reed was the play that sent Georgia to the SEC championship game for the second straight year and kept Florida at home despite a huge turnaround for the Gators this season. Reed was motoring for the end zone with just over two minutes to play in Jacksonville, but Jones was able to punch the ball loose inside the 5, and the Bulldogs recovered in the end zone. It was one of 2 forced fumbles for Jones, who also had 3 sacks in the 17-9 win.
Ole Miss' resurgence: The Rebels entered the season with a 14-game SEC losing streak. But under the guidance of first-year coach Hugh Freeze, they scrapped their way to a 7-6 season, which included a resounding 41-24 win over rival Mississippi State in the regular-season finale after what was three straight losses to the Bulldogs. The Rebels then followed that up with a 38-17 rout of Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl. Hotty Toddy!
Florida enters signing day with the No. 1-ranked class nationally and also leads the way with 16 ESPN 300 prospects. The Gators have nine of the top 80 prospects nationally either signed or committed. Alabama has the No. 2 class nationally with 13 ESPN 300 prospects. Texas A&M is No. 5, LSU No. 8 and Georgia No. 9.
Other SEC teams in the top 25 include Auburn at No. 12, South Carolina at No. 16, Vanderbilt at No. 18 and Ole Miss at No. 22. LSU also has 13 ESPN 300 prospects, tying Alabama for second in the SEC in that category. Georgia has 12 and Texas A&M 11.
Every school in the league with the exception of Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee has landed at least three ESPN 300 prospects.
Below is a breakdown of each school's top three ranked prospects along with the number of ESPN 300 and ESPN 150 prospects each school has committed or signed:
1. FLORIDA (16 ESPN 300 prospects, 11 ESPN 150 prospects)
- No. 3 -- CB Vernon Hargreaves, Tampa, Fla.
- No. 8 -- RB Kelvin Taylor, Belle Glade, Fla.
- No. 31 -- OLB Daniel McMillian, Jacksonville, Fla.
- No. 9 -- RB/ATH Derrick Henry, Yulee, Fla.
- No. 25 -- WR Robert Foster, Monaca, Pa.
- No. 28 -- DE Jonathan Allen, Ashburn, Va.
- No. 33 -- TE Derrick Griffin, Rosenberg, Texas
- No. 61 -- WR Ricky Seals-Jones, Sealy, Texas
- No. 92 -- DT Justin Manning, Dallas, Texas
- No. 41 -- ATH Kendall Beckwith, Jackson, La.
- No. 60 -- CB Jeryl Brazil, Loranger, La.
- No. 82 -- DT Greg Gilmore, Hope Mills, N.C.
- No. 39 -- CB Shaq Wiggins, Tyrone, Ga.
- No. 89 -- ATH Tramel Terry, Goose Creek, S.C.
- No. 115 -- QB Brice Ramsey, Kingsland, Ga.
- No. 2 -- DE Carl Lawson, Alpharetta, Ga.
- No. 26 -- DT Dee Liner, Muscle Shoals, Ala.
- No. 132 -- DE Tashawn Bower, Somerville, N.J.
- No. 100 -- DT Kelsey Griffin, Hoschton, Ga.
- No. 131 -- RB David Williams, Philadelphia, Pa.
- No. 225 -- QB Connor Mitch, Raleigh, N.C.
- No. 176 -- DT Jay Woods, Jackson, Ga.
- No. 196 -- WR DeAndre Woods, Pinson, Ala.
- No. 284 -- WR Carlos Burse, Alpharetta, Ga.
- No. 198 -- QB Ryan Buchanan, Jackson, Miss.
- No. 229 -- RB Kailo Moore, Rosedale, Miss.
- No. 270 -- QB DeVante Kincade, Dallas, Texas
- No. 46 -- DE Chris Jones, Houston, Miss.
- No. 241 -- ATH Ashton Shumpert, Fulton, Miss.
- No. 245 -- QB Cord Sandberg, Bradenton, Fla.
- No. 213 -- QB Riley Ferguson, Matthews, N.C.
- No. 299 -- WR Ryan Jenkins, Marietta, Ga.
- NR -- OLB Corey Vereen, Winter Garden, Fla.
- No. 257 -- ATH Chase Abbington, St. Peters, Mo.
- NR -- ILB Eric Beisel, Fenton, Mo.
- NR -- RB Anthony Sherrils, Kansas City, Mo.
- No. 69 -- TE Hunter Henry, Little Rock, Ark.
- NR -- OLB Brooks Ellis, Fayetteville, Ark.
- NR -- QB Austin Allen, Fayetteville, Ark.