Monday, November 16, 2009
McCluster hot, Tennessee trio not
By Chris Low
We take our weekly look at who’s hot and who’s not in the SEC:
Ole Miss running back Dexter McCluster: We need to come up with an entirely new category for McCluster. He’s so hot right now that they’re having to repair burn marks on the turf at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. He torched Tennessee for a school-record 282 rushing yards last Saturday in Ole Miss’ 42-17 victory over the Vols. In his last three games against SEC defenses, the 170-pound McCluster has rushed for 591 yards and has 787 all-purpose yards. In those three games, he also has six touchdowns, and three of them were from 60 yards or longer. His 71-yard touchdown jaunt against Tennessee last week was the run of the year so far in the SEC and rates up there with some of the gems Darren McFadden turned in at Arkansas among the best runs over the last few years in the league.
Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett: He’s throwing the ball so well that Arkansas fans are probably getting nervous. The NFL may come calling sooner rather than later. Mallett broke the Arkansas season record for passing yards last week and also tossed five touchdowns, giving him 23 for the season.
Florida receiver Riley Cooper: Florida’s downfield passing woes aren’t all on Cooper. In fact, he’s one of the few guys making plays for the Gators down the field. But he had two long passes thrown to him in the South Carolina game, one off his fingertips, that he’s got to catch if the Gators are going to win a title.
Alabama’s offense: The Crimson Tide are scoring from long distance again and getting everybody involved. That’s two weeks in a row now that Alabama has dialed up long scoring plays, and Julio Jones has found the end zone from 40-plus yards in both games.
Jarrett Lee’s fan club: Granted, his season a year ago was forgettable with the seven interceptions returned for touchdowns. But give the guy a break. Booing him in his own stadium when he’s filling in for the injured starter and you win the game? It’s not like he spit in Mike the Tiger’s face.
Alabama vs. Florida buildup: Don’t ask Alabama coach Nick Saban any questions about the Gators. His focus is on Chattanooga. He might be the only one because these next two weeks are going to seem like an eternity until we get to Alabama vs. Florida II on Dec. 5.
Late-season scrimmages: Let’s hope Alabama doesn’t get caught overlooking Chattanooga and that Florida doesn’t take Florida International too lightly. If they do, they might win by only 40 points instead of 50.
Florida defensive end Justin Trattou: The guy’s biceps tendon was torn off the bone in his shoulder, and he only missed one game. Some guys might not have finished the season. But there he was last Saturday night making the play to turn the game around in Florida’s 24-14 win over South Carolina. He showed some pretty nifty moves, too, for a big guy on his 53-yard return.
Tennessee defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin: Before anybody in orange gets all huffy about seeing Kiffin on the ‘Not’ list, it’s only because the Vols have been gashed pretty good this season against two of the spread teams they’ve faced. Auburn and Ole Miss both rolled it up against a Tennessee defense that has been stingy against everybody else.
Ice, Ice Baby
The Tennessee trio: Lane Kiffin dismissed Nu’Keese Richardson and Mike Edwards from the team Monday, but safety Janzen Jackson is still in limbo. It remains to be seen whether or not he survives. Either way, their arrests last week on attempted armed robbery charges tarnish what had been a solid season for the Vols otherwise and no doubt helped lay the groundwork for their dismal performance against Ole Miss in a 42-17 loss. Their selfishness is one thing for even putting themselves in that position a couple of days before such an important game. But the stupidity of the whole thing rises to an unconscionable level.