SEC: 2010 camp opens

Opening camp: Ole Miss

August, 8, 2010
Schedule: Practice starts Sunday at 5:25 p.m. ET. The first day in full pads is Thursday (Aug. 12).

What’s new: With Kent Austin leaving for the Cornell head coaching job, Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt brought in Dave Rader to be his co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. It’s still Nutt’s offense, so don’t look for the Rebels to change much on that side of the ball.

Sidelined: Defensive back Tig Barksdale has been dismissed from the team after being suspended for the spring. The Rebels are still waiting to hear on whether five signees made it academically -- receivers Vincent Sanders and Quadarias Mireles, defensive linemen Bryon Bennett and Delvin Jones and cornerback Tony Grimes.

Key battle: The Rebels feel pretty good about senior Markeith Summers as their starting split end, but they still need to settle on their other featured receivers. Senior Lionel Breaux, sophomore Jesse Grandy, redshirt freshman Ja-Mes Logan and sophomore Melvin Harris will be fighting it out for those spots.

New on the scene: Three junior college newcomers could play key roles this season. Damien Jackson made a ton of big plays in the spring and will push to be the starter at free safety. Wayne Dorsey enters the preseason as the starter at defensive end opposite Kentrell Lockett, and Nutt wants to get Randall Mackey the ball in several different spots on offense. Mackey was a quarterback in junior college, but may bounce around a little bit for the Rebels. Redshirt freshman Charles Sawyer will compete for a starting cornerback job. True freshman Mike Marry should play some at linebacker, while true freshman Carlos Thompson may be hard to keep off the field at defensive end.

Breaking out: Sophomore linebacker D.T. Shackelford showed enough flashes as a freshman that you knew it was just a matter of time before he became a marquee player in this league. That time may be now.

Don’t forget about: Senior nose tackle Jerrell Powe gets most of the publicity on Ole Miss’ defensive front and rightfully so. He’s one of the best interior defensive linemen in the league. But senior Ted Laurent is equally imposing in the middle of that defensive line and was named the Rebels’ most improved defensive player in the spring.

All eyes on: Senior quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. Nobody in the SEC, maybe the country, will have more eyes on him than Masoli, the star of the Oregon team until he was dismissed following his second run-in with the law. Nutt said Masoli’s on a zero-tolerance leash. But if he stays out of trouble and plays the way he did at Oregon, he’s just the kind of playmaker the Rebels are looking for on offense. Masoli still has to beat out sophomore Nathan Stanley for the job. Stanley exited the spring as the starter, although he doesn’t have any meaningful experience. Nutt’s probably not going to thrust Masoli to the top of the depth chart right away, but he also didn’t roll the dice on a player with Masoli’s baggage to have him sit on the bench and serve as a backup all season.

Quoting: “Nobody gave us a chance when coach Nutt first came in. I think we do really well when we don’t have a lot of expectations.” -- Ole Miss nose tackle Jerrell Powe

Opening camp: Vanderbilt

August, 6, 2010
Schedule: Practice starts Friday at 7 p.m. ET. The first day in full pads is Tuesday (Aug. 10).

What’s new: Bobby Johnson decided he’d had enough of football a few weeks before the start of preseason practice, and veteran offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell was chosen to succeed him. Caldwell was initially named the interim coach, but Vanderbilt officials have since removed the interim tag. Caldwell brought in former Tulsa offensive coordinator Herb Hand to take Caldwell’s place as offensive line coach. Before he retired, Johnson had already announced that quarterbacks coach Jimmy Kiser would call all of the offensive plays this season after sharing that role with Ted Cain, who remains on the staff as tight ends coach and special teams coordinator. Mike Pelton is in his first season as defensive ends coach.

Sidelined: Senior offensive guard Chris Aaron will not return because of an inner ear problem.

Key battle: The Commodores are set at two of their linebacker positions with Chris Marve in the middle and John Stokes at one outside spot. If Triston Strong is healthy, he could be the starter at the weak side spot, but will have to fend off challenges from Dexter Daniels, DeAndre Jones and Archibald Barnes.

New on the scene: Redshirt freshman Wesley Tate joins an already talented running back stable that includes Warren Norman and Zac Stacy. Redshirt freshman Wesley Johnson is in line to be one of the starters at offensive tackle, and the same goes for redshirt freshman Jay Fullam at free safety. Redshirt freshman defensive end Walker May had a strong spring and will provide pass-rushing help. The Commodores are looking for all the help they can get at receiver, which is where redshirt freshman Brady Brown and true freshmen Chris Boyd and Jordan Matthews come in.

Breaking out: Junior tight end Brandon Barden has All-SEC potential. He led the nation two years ago in catches by a freshman tight end. If he avoids the key drops, he could develop into the Commodores’ top receiving threat this season.

Don’t forget about: Jamie Graham has played a little bit of everywhere during his career. He even played on the Commodores’ basketball team at one point, but looks like he’s settled in on the defensive side of the ball at cornerback where he’s the front-runner to be a starter opposite Casey Hayward.

All eyes on: Junior quarterback Larry Smith. The Commodores have to get better play out of the quarterback position after completing just 48.3 percent of their passes last season. It goes much deeper than just throwing the ball, too. Vanderbilt needs a leader at quarterback, whether it’s Smith, junior college newcomer Jordan Rodgers or senior Jared Funk.

Quoting: “You have to earn everything you get in this league. We saw that last year. It can get away from you in a hurry. The only way to get it pointed back in the right direction is to go to work every day, and that’s what we’ve done.” -- Vanderbilt linebacker Chris Marve

Opening camp: Kentucky

August, 6, 2010
Schedule: Practice starts Friday at 2:55 p.m. ET for the first group and 4:15 p.m. ET for the second group. The first day in full pads is Tuesday (Aug. 10).

What’s new: The Joker Phillips era at Kentucky is being billed as “Operation Win” as he takes over for Rich Brooks. Phillips made several changes, including bringing in Mike Summers to coach the offensive line, Tee Martin to coach receivers, David Turner to coach the defensive line, Greg Nord to coach tight ends and special teams and Rock Oliver to head up the strength and conditioning program. Summers, Turner, Nord and Oliver all had previous stints at Kentucky.

Sidelined: Redshirt freshman Mister Cobble, who would have competed for one of the starting defensive tackle spots, has been ruled academically ineligible and won’t play this season. Defensive line signee Tim McAdoo will attend junior college, while linebacker signee Tim Patterson is on hold after undergoing knee surgery.

Key battle: The Wildcats lost four starters on the offensive line, and one of the battles to watch will be at center. Junior Jake Lanefski has the most experience after moving over from guard. He’s also coming off a knee injury that caused him to miss the contact portions of spring practice. Sophomore Matt Smith and redshirt freshman Sam Simpson will both push Lanefski.

New on the scene: Prep school signee Donte Rumph qualified late after two years of trying and should be able to help on the defensive line. Redshirt freshman Qua Huzzie will battle for a starting linebacker job. Redshirt freshman Jonathan George will help spell Derrick Locke at tailback. Junior college defensive back Mychal Bailey has a chance to make an immediate impact in the secondary. A pair of true freshmen to watch are kicker/punter Joe Mansour and linebacker Avery Williamson.

Breaking out: In his first season out of junior college, Chris Matthews emerged as Kentucky’s second leading receiver a year ago. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Matthews should be even better in Year No. 2. He’s big, but can also run and will take the pressure off Randall Cobb on the other side.

Don’t forget about: Junior Ronnie Sneed has waited his turn behind Micah Johnson at middle linebacker and is healthy now after battling through a bum shoulder last season.

All eyes on: Senior quarterback Mike Hartline. This is his last chance to make the kind of mark he wants to on this program. He heads into the preseason with a slight lead, but Phillips insists the quarterback race will be wide open with sophomore Morgan Newton and redshirt freshman Ryan Mossakowski also getting every opportunity to show what they can do over this next month.

Quoting: “We want to take this program to the next level, and the way you do that is by winning the key games Kentucky hasn’t typically won, going to BCS bowls and playing for SEC championships.” -- Kentucky receiver Randall Cobb

Opening camp: Arkansas

August, 5, 2010
Schedule: Practice starts Thursday at 4 p.m. ET for the newcomers and 7:30 p.m. ET for the veterans. The first day in full pads is Monday (Aug. 9).

What’s new: Bobby Petrino brought in Chris Klenakis from Nevada to coach the offensive line. Klenakis’ expertise with the “Pistol” offense will enhance that part of the Hogs’ package. Garrick McGee was promoted to offensive coordinator after Paul Petrino left for Illinois, although Bobby Petrino will still call plays. Kris Cinkovich is the new receivers coach and Steve Caldwell the new defensive ends coach.

Sidelined: Linebacker signee Courtney Gaston didn’t make it academically and will attend junior college. The same goes for defensive tackle signee Calvin Barnett.

Key battle: With Rudell Crim moving to safety, that opens up what should be a hotly contested battle for the two starting cornerback spots. Junior Isaac Madison returns from a knee injury that caused him to miss all of last season, while senior Ramon Broadway and sophomore Darius Winston are also eyeing starting roles.

New on the scene: The Hogs need some help at linebacker, which is where true freshman Braylon Mitchell comes in. True freshman kickers Eduardo Camara and Zach Hocker could give senior Alex Tejada a run if he’s not more consistent. True freshman Byran Jones is one to watch at defensive tackle, and the Hogs think true freshman defensive end Chris Smith can bolster their pass-rush off the edge.

Breaking out: Ronnie Wingo Jr. has the size, speed and explosiveness to be one of the SEC’s top running backs after playing in all 13 games last season as a freshman. Pushing 230 pounds, Wingo was timed at 4.37 in the 40-yard dash this spring.

Don’t forget about: Tenarius Wright missed the spring with a foot injury. He’d hoped to play linebacker in college, but is better suited to play defensive end. He only scratched the surface of his potential last season as a freshman and still finished with seven tackles for loss and three forced fumbles.

All eyes on: Junior quarterback Ryan Mallett. Everybody will be watching to see how he moves after undergoing two different surgical procedures to repair a broken bone in his left foot this offseason. Mallett just recently returned to full speed after sitting out spring practice. He had a second procedure in June to replace the screw in his foot.

Quoting: “Nobody expects more out of us than we do ourselves. If you want to call that pressure, fine. Our goal is to win a championship, and we don’t mind saying so.” – Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams

Opening camp: Florida

August, 5, 2010
Schedule: Practice stars Thursday at an undisclosed time. Florida is not publicizing practice times since there are no open practices this year. The first day in full pads is Wednesday (Aug. 11).

What’s new: Teryl Austin replaces Charlie Strong as the Gators’ defensive coordinator. Austin had spent the previous seven seasons in the NFL. The Gators may go to more of a 3-4 look under Austin, which wouldn’t be completely new. They also used some three-down sets under Strong. Zach Azzanni is in his first season coaching receivers and serving as the Gators’ passing game coordinator. After two seasons away, Stan Drayton returns for his second stint as running backs coach. He’ll also oversee recruiting. D.J. Durkin is in his first season as linebackers coach and special teams coordinator.

Sidelined: Cornerback Adrian Bushell left the team in May and plans to transfer.

Key battle: Finding a replacement for Joe Haden at cornerback will be one of the first orders of business. Sophomore Jeremy Brown may be the guy if he can overcome his chronic back problems. Senior Moses Jenkins has the most experience, while true freshmen Joshua Shaw and Jaylen Watkins are both big-time talents. Both went through spring practice and will be hard to keep off the field.

New on the scene: Given that Florida’s bringing in what many consider to be one of the most talented signing classes in history, there could be several of those guys on the field. Redshirt freshman receiver Andre Debose isn’t brand new, but this will be his first season after undergoing hamstring surgery last year. Redshirt freshman Jelani Jenkins is the likely starter at middle linebacker, and the Gators can’t wait to get three true freshman defensive linemen in uniform -- Ronald Powell, Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley. True freshman safety Matt Elam will almost certainly play early, and true freshman Gerald Christian has a chance to win the tight end job.

Breaking out: Senior captain Justin Trattou was the Gators’ inside pass-rushing specialist a year ago. He’ll go back to more of a traditional defensive end this season and will also be healthy after playing the second half of last season with a torn biceps tendon.

Don’t forget about: Chris Rainey is moving to slot receiver, and the Gators plan to utilize his speed in a number of different ways, including the return game.

All eyes on: Junior quarterback John Brantley. It’s never easy taking over for a legend. Brantley is a polished passer and will give the Gators a look on offense they haven’t had in a while. The tricky part will be replacing Tim Tebow’s third-down prowess. Go back and count how many times he willed the Gators to key third-down conversions the last few years.

Quoting: “We’re young, but we’re focused. Everybody has the same mindset. We don’t have any superstars on this team. Everybody just wants to go out and win games.” -- Florida center Mike Pouncey

Opening camp: Alabama

August, 5, 2010
Schedule: Practice starts Thursday at 10:30 a.m. ET for the first group and 8:30 p.m. ET for the second group. The first day in full pads is Monday (Aug. 9).

What’s new: After James Willis left to be Tommy Tuberville’s defensive coordinator at Texas Tech, Alabama coach Nick Saban promoted Jeremy Pruitt to a full-time assistant from his role as director of player development. Pruitt will work with the secondary.

Sidelined: Saban announced Wednesday that sophomore safety Rod Woodson has left the program and plans to transfer. Signees Ronnie Carswell and Wilson Love will grayshirt and enroll in January. A third signee, Deion Belue, has yet to qualify academically and won’t start camp with the Crimson Tide, who are still holding a spot for Blake Sims assuming he gets final approval from the NCAA Clearinghouse. Junior defensive end Marcell Dareus will practice with the team while he awaits word from the NCAA on whether he will be suspended for any games as a result of his trip to Miami in the spring. The NCAA is investigating to see if any part of that trip was funded by agents.

Key battle: With the exception of Mark Barron at strong safety, every job in the secondary is up for grabs. Dre Kirkpatrick is the probable starter at one cornerback, but B.J. Scott will fight it out with junior college newcomer DeQuan Menzie and true freshmen DeMarcus Milliner and John Fulton for the other starting spot. Robert Lester has a beat on that second safety job, but true freshmen Jarrick Williams and Nick Perry could also be factors.

New on the scene: In addition to all the new faces in the secondary, a pair of true freshmen may be doing the kicking for the Crimson Tide this fall -- Cade Foster as the place-kicker and Jay Williams as the punter. Redshirt freshman D.J. Fluker is the favorite to win the right tackle job on the offensive line. True freshman receiver DeAndrew White has been impressive with his speed during summer workouts.

Breaking out: Alabama has stockpiled talent at the linebacker position over the last few years. Don’t be surprised if junior Courtney Upshaw emerges as the next All-SEC linebacker for the Crimson Tide.

Don’t forget about: Dont’a Hightower was on the field last season for less than four full games. Imagine how good that defense would have been had he been there all season. He’s back healthy now after recovering from reconstructive knee surgery and will step into Rolando McClain’s middle linebacker spot in Alabama's base defense and shift over to the “Jack” linebacker spot on passing downs.

All eyes on: Junior running back Mark Ingram. What’s he do for an encore after winning the Heisman Trophy? One thing’s for sure. He won’t have to do it by himself. His backup, Trent Richardson, might be just as good, meaning there could be a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Tuscaloosa this fall.

Quoting: “A lot of people ask, ‘How are you being motivated?’ The way I look at it is that if you’ve been to the mountain top, why would you settle for anything less?” -- Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy

Opening camp: LSU

August, 5, 2010
Schedule: Practice starts Thursday at 10 a.m. ET for the first group and 4:30 p.m. ET for the second group. The first day in full pads is Monday (Aug. 9).

What’s new: Billy Gonzales comes over from the Florida staff and will serve as the Tigers’ receivers coach and passing game coordinator. Frank Wilson joins the staff as running backs coach and recruiting coordinator after spending the 2009 season on Tennessee’s staff. Steve Ensminger is in his first season as the Tigers’ tight ends coach.

Sidelined: Offensive line signee Elliott Porter has been granted his release and plans to go elsewhere after declining the Tigers’ request to grayshirt this season.

Key battle: LSU was 11th last season in the SEC in rushing offense, and LSU coach Les Miles has said at every stop that the Tigers will run the ball better this season. Junior Stevan Ridley is a 230-pound bruiser who showed flashes when he got a chance last season. Senior Richard Murphy is coming off a knee injury that caused him to miss most of last season, while some in the program think redshirt freshman Michael Ford may be the most talented running back of the group.

New on the scene: Redshirt freshman Sam Montgomery could wind up as the starter at one defensive end, while redshirt freshman Michael Brockers will be a part of the rotation at defensive tackle. LSU also hopes true freshman defensive end Ego Ferguson can provide some pass-rush help. The Tigers finished tied for eighth in the SEC last season with 21 sacks. Two others to watch are redshirt freshman safety Craig Loston and true freshman quarterback Zach Lee.

Breaking out: Now that Russell Shepard has had some time to get the nuances of receiver down and has worked exclusively as a pass-catcher, he has everything it takes to be one of the top all-purpose players in the league. The Tigers just need to make sure they get him the ball.

Don’t forget about: Patrick Peterson might be the best cornerback in college football, but the Tigers think they have another great one in the making in sophomore Morris Claiborne.

All eyes on: Junior quarterback Jordan Jefferson. He needs to make this his team, not to mention make a few more plays, if LSU is going to shake the offensive doldrums that were a problem all last season.

Quoting: “Last year, after the season, coach [John] Chavis told me that was only half the playbook. I laughed and said, 'Are you serious?' He said, 'I’ve been doing this for a long time.’ I’m looking for him to open it up. We’ve got young guys, but they’ve been through the system. So hopefully you’ll see more blitzes, and it will be more exciting.” -- LSU linebacker Kelvin Sheppard

Opening camp: Tennessee

August, 4, 2010
Schedule: Practice starts Wednesday at 2:15 p.m. ET for the first group and 7:45 p.m. ET for the second group. The first day in full pads is Sunday (Aug. 8).

What’s new: What isn’t new? Derek Dooley is the Vols’ third head coach in as many seasons. He brought in Justin Wilcox from Boise State to run the defense, meaning Wilcox will be the Vols’ third different defensive coordinator in as many years. Jim Chaney was retained from Lane Kiffin’s staff and will coordinate the offense. The difference is that Chaney will call the plays this season, whereas Kiffin was the play-caller a year ago. This will be the fourth straight year that a different coach has called Tennessee’s offensive plays. David Cutcliffe had those duties in 2007, Dave Clawson in 2008, Kiffin in 2009 and now Chaney.

Sidelined: Four signees are still waiting to be cleared academically -- defensive tackle John Brown, linebacker Martaze Jackson and defensive backs Eddrick Loften and Marcques Dixon. Redshirt freshman defensive back Naz Oliver is out while rehabilitating an ACL tear. Senior defensive end Ben Martin had arthroscopic knee surgery in June and will be limited.

Key battle: Junior Cody Pope will start out No. 1 at center, but junior college newcomer Darin Gooch and senior Victor Thomas, who moved over from defensive tackle, will also take their shots this preseason.

New on the scene: Get ready to see a ton of new faces in orange this fall. True freshman Ja’Wuan James is the starting right tackle, and redshirt freshman JerQuari Schofield is the starting left guard. The Vols are eager to see what true freshman Jacques Smith can do at defensive end. True freshman receivers Da’Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter look like they have what it takes to be big-play threats, and pair of true freshmen may wind up handling the kicking chores -- Michael Palardy as the place-kicker and Matt Darr as the punter.

Breaking out: Junior tailback Tauren Poole never got a chance last season. He wasted away on the bench while Bryce Brown got all the second-team snaps behind Montario Hardesty. Hardesty’s in the NFL now, and Brown’s back in Kansas. Poole has endured and is hungry to make up for lost time. Several of his teammates felt like he should have been playing ahead of Brown last season.

Don’t forget about: Senior middle linebacker Nick Reveiz has feverishly worked his way back from a knee injury that ended his season a year ago in the fourth week. From a leadership, knowledge and production standpoint, Reveiz is one of those guys who’s extremely difficult to replace.

All eyes on: Junior quarterback Matt Simms. He’s the starter going into preseason camp, and Dooley has made that clear. Simms, who started his career at Louisville before stopping over at El Camino (Calif.) Community College, has gone out of his way this offseason to be a leader. Now, he’s got to prove it on the field and fend off a challenge from true freshman Tyler Bray, who went through spring practice. Bray has a nice upside, but still has some maturing to do before he’s ready to lead a team.

Quoting: "I think people on our team feel good about our program, and that’s important. If the team doesn’t feel good about where you are and the plan to get where you want to be, then you’ve got real problems. But I feel like our team does feel that way." -- Tennessee coach Derek Dooley

Opening camp: Auburn

August, 4, 2010
Schedule: Practice starts Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. ET. The first day in full pads is Monday, August 9.

What’s new: Auburn was the only team in the SEC that didn’t have any turnover on its coaching staff. That doesn’t mean there won’t be a few changes. The Tigers plan to play Daren Bates some at outside linebacker after he led all SEC freshmen in tackles last season at safety. This will be his first look in his new spot. He was recovering from shoulder surgery and didn’t go through spring practice.

Sidelined: Offensive line signee Shon Coleman is battling leukemia and won’t be playing this season. Only one other player from the Tigers’ top-5 signing class didn’t make it to campus. Receiver Jeremy Richardson failed to qualify academically and will attend junior college.

Key battle: Junior college newcomers Brandon Mosley and Roszell Gaydon will resume their battle for the right tackle spot. Mosley had forged slightly ahead exiting the spring in what was a close race for the final starting spot on the Tigers’ offensive line.

New on the scene: True freshman running back Michael Dyer and true freshman receiver Trovon Reed shouldn’t have to wait long to get their hands on the ball. On defense, true freshman linebackers Jake Holland and LeDarius Owens provide depth at a position that was painfully thin a year ago. True freshman Jeffrey Whitaker is also a strong candidate to play early at defensive tackle.

Breaking out: Senior Mario Fannin is a player who has bounced around between different positions and been the consummate team guy. This is his time to step up and be the guy. Running backs coach Curtis Luper has already predicted that Fannin will be a 1,000-yard rusher as long as he stays healthy.

Don’t forget about: Aairon Savage is one of three senior safeties returning from injury, joining Zac Etheridge and Mike McNeil. Savage was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA after missing all of last season with an Achilles injury and the entire 2008 season with a knee injury.

All eyes on: Junior quarterback Cameron Newton. He won the starting job in the spring and gives the Tigers an added dimension with his ability to both run and pass. The 6-6, 250-pound Newton also gets a second chance to show what he can do after having his career cut short at Florida following off-the-field trouble.

Quoting: “Last year, we started 5-0 and finished 3-5, and that’s not going to get us anywhere. We lost key games. Coach (Gene) Chizik has talked about it in the offseason, that finishing those games is how you move from good to great.” -- Auburn linebacker Josh Bynes

Opening camp: South Carolina

August, 3, 2010
Schedule: Practice starts Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET. The first day in full pads is Saturday (Aug. 7).

What’s new: Shawn Elliott is South Carolina’s third different offensive line coach in as many years. He’ll also serve as the Gamecocks’ running game coordinator and brings with him from Appalachian State a version of the zone-read offense that South Carolina plans to incorporate into its package this season.

Sidelined: Tight end Weslye Saunders’ eligibility for the season remains in limbo after being questioned by NCAA representatives about alleged improper dealings with agents. It’s unclear how that investigation will affect his practice status.

Key battle: Akeem Auguste started nine games at cornerback last season, but he and Chris Culliver will be switching positions in 2010. If Auguste is going to remain in the starting lineup at free safety, he’ll have to hold off D.J. Swearinger, who was one of the stars of the spring.

New on the scene: Depending on how Stephen Garcia responds from being challenged publicly all offseason by Steve Spurrier, true freshman Connor Shaw could certainly see his share of snaps at quarterback. The Head Ball Coach was impressed with Shaw in the spring. Byron Jerideau, a 6-foot, 310-pound junior college newcomer, is being counted on at defensive tackle. Spurrier thinks true freshman Ace Sanders will fit in nicely as a slot receiver, while true freshman offensive linemen A.J. Cann, Tramell Williams and Ronald Patrick will all get a long look.

Breaking out: His former high school teammate, Stephon Gilmore, has already shown that he’s a budding star. Now it’s DeVonte Holloman’s turn at strong safety. The 6-3, 226-pound sophomore has all the tools to be a big-time player in this league.

Don’t forget about: Rodney Paulk has missed most of the last two seasons with knee injuries, but he returns as the Gamecocks’ starting middle linebacker. He’s started in 23 games during his career, but only one since the 2007 season. The NCAA recently granted Paulk a sixth year of eligibility, meaning he'll also be able to play during the 2011 season.

All eyes on: Freshman running back Marcus Lattimore. He’s perhaps the most important recruit that Spurrier has signed since arriving in Columbia in 2005. The jury is still out on South Carolina’s offensive line and will be until the Gamecocks prove otherwise. Lattimore is the kind of back with power, speed and acceleration that can make an offensive line look a lot better than it really is.

Quoting: “I think we’ve got the best group of athletes since we’ve been there. I know they have the best attitudes. Their work habits and so forth have been excellent. Now we need to get past seven wins. We need to win big at South Carolina.” – South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier

Opening camp: Mississippi State

August, 3, 2010
Schedule: Practice starts Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET for the first group and 5 p.m. ET for the second group. The first day in full pads is Sunday (Aug. 8).

What’s new: While Mississippi State isn’t switching to a 3-4, the Bulldogs will have a completely new look defensively under first-year coordinator Manny Diaz. Chris Wilson comes over from Oklahoma to coach the defensive line and serve as co-defensive coordinator.

Sidelined: The Bulldogs don’t have any major injury problems, although freshman receiver Malcolm Johnson is out for the start of practice with a foot injury.

Key battle: Pernell McPhee is entrenched at one end on defense, but Sean Ferguson and Nick Bell will slug it out for the starting spot opposite McPhee. The Bulldogs like their talent and depth up front defensively. Redshirt freshman Johnathan McKenzie also showed in the spring that he will be able to help. He’ll enter the preseason as McPhee’s backup, but could play his way into a starting role at the other end.

New on the scene: Junior college defensive tackle James Carmon, all 345 pounds of him, adds some serious muscle to the middle of the defensive line. Junior college newcomer Vick Ballard will compete for the starting running back job. He and Robert Elliott were neck-and-neck in the spring. Redshirt freshmen Montrell Connor and LaDarius Perkins will also factor into the running back rotation. True freshman Ferlando Bohanna may end up being the starting strong side linebacker before it’s all over, and Dan Mullen is always looking for more receivers. So keep an eye on true freshman Robert Johnson.

Breaking out: Tight end Marcus Green was the second leading receiver on the team last season as a sophomore. He has All-SEC potential and could prove to be a key target for whoever wins the quarterback job.

Don’t forget about: Senior Maurice Langston was suspended for the first four games last season after getting into trouble off the field. But he cracked the Bulldogs’ starting lineup at cornerback the last five games and should be a steadying presence back there this season.

All eyes on: Junior quarterback Chris Relf and redshirt freshman quarterback Tyler Russell. Relf is the runner, and Russell is the thrower. They will battle it out for the starting quarterback job this preseason. Relf has improved as a passer since last season when he was more of a specialty player, and there’s a good chance the Bulldogs will end up using both players. They complement each other well.

Quoting: “We didn’t win the close games last year. That sticks with you. Everything we did this offseason was about finishing games in the fourth quarter.” – Mississippi State safety Charles Mitchell

Opening camp: Georgia

August, 2, 2010
Schedule: Practice starts Monday at 3:25 p.m. ET. The first day in full pads is Saturday (Aug. 7).

What’s new: First-year defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and two other first-year assistants on defense – inside linebackers coach Warren Belin and secondary coach Scott Lakatos – will oversee the Bulldogs’ move to a 3-4.

Sidelined: Starting inside linebacker Akeem Dent is out four to six weeks after injuring his toe in an off-the-field accident. His status for the Sept. 4 opener against Louisiana-Lafayette is questionable. Starting receiver Tavarres King will also miss the opener as punishment for his underage alcohol charge.

Key battle: Brandon Boykin, Vance Cuff and Branden Smith will battle it out for the two starting cornerback spots. Grantham said all three will play extensively this season.

New on the scene: Junior college newcomer Jakar Hamilton went through spring practice and will battle Nick Williamsfor a starting safety spot. True freshmen who could play early include safety Alec Ogletree, receiver Michael Bennett and outside linebackers T.J. Stripling, Brandon Burrows and Dexter Morant. Also, Hutson Mason will be taking second-team snaps at quarterback.

Breaking out: Sophomore receiver Marlon Brown has impressed coaches and teammates after playing sparingly as a freshman and should be a much bigger part of the Bulldogs’ receiver rotation this fall.

Don’t forget about: Junior offensive tackle Trinton Sturdivant will give it another go after missing all but a few snaps of the past two seasons with knee injuries. Sturdivant started all 13 games at left tackle in 2007 as a true freshman.

All eyes on: Redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray. If the Bulldogs get steady play from Murray, they have the firepower around him on offense (10 returning starters) to make a run in the Eastern Division.

Quoting: "There’s an energy that we have this offseason that we probably haven’t had in a while, quite frankly.” – Georgia coach Mark Richt.