SEC: AJ McCarron
Here's what he's looked at so far:
Now, we're taking a look at Kiper's top quarterback and cornerback draft prospects. We'll start with the quarterbacks and look at the corners later today.
Matthew Stockman/Getty ImagesAlabama's AJ McCarron falls in the top five of Mel Kiper Jr.'s top 2014 NFL draft QB prospects.
Manziel is getting all sorts of draft attention after his record-breaking, Heisman-winning season. He's the most talked about quarterback in the country and while he doesn't have an elite arm, he's extremely athletic and slippery. He's looking to develop more into a passer, but his ability to improv will continue to help him when his arm can't.
McCarron is someone who could have left for the NFL this year, but decided to stay in school. He makes great decisions with the ball (he threw 30 touchdowns to three interceptions last season) and certainly knows how to win. He has two national championship rings and is going for his third straight. He hasn't been asked to do a lot at Alabama, but he's put up some pretty good numbers and is easily the most talented quarterback Saban has had at Alabama.
Wallace has a tremendous amount of athleticism, but he had a lot of decision-making issues last year. He threw for nearly 3,000 yards, but threw 22 touchdowns to 17 interceptions. Fixing his turnover issue is the biggest thing Wallace has to work on this fall. He has good arm strength and can get out of trouble situations with his feet.
Then you have Murray, who isn't getting a lot of draft love. He flirted with heading to the NFL, but also decided to stay in school. Murray's height (listed at 6-1) has hurt his draft status, but he has a solid arm, moves around well with his feet and has really improved his decision making. He had the stigma of not coming up in big games, but showed improvements in 2012 with his second-half effort in the Dawgs' win against Florida and with the way he played against Alabama in the SEC championship game. He'll probably end the 2013 season with a handful of SEC/Georgia records and should become the first SEC quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards in four straight seasons.
Other draft-eligible quarterbacks I'm keeping an eye on this fall:
- Jeff Driskel, Florida: He wasn't great last year, but there's no denying Driskel has talent. He's more comfortable with the playbook, and he has a lot more confidence. He must have more command and develop better chemistry with his receivers this fall.
- James Franklin, Missouri: He spent most of last season battling injuries, but finally isn't dealing with excruciating shoulder pain. His confidence was up this spring and that will go a long way this fall.
- Zach Mettenberger, LSU: He really came along in November and has all of his receiving targets back. People at LSU feel like he's much more comfortable with Cam Cameron's guidance.
- Tyler Russell, Mississippi State: He's had an up-and-down career with the Bulldogs, but when he was on last year he was extremely efficient. He lost all of his receivers from last year and can't press like he did late last season.
- Connor Shaw, South Carolina: It's hard to find a tougher quarterback out there. Shaw has dealt with a lot of injuries, but when he's been on the field, he's had a lot of success. Here's a chance for him to really improve his draft stock.
Alex Scarborough's take
I'm reminded of a conversation I had with former Alabama great Jay Barker prior to last season. We spoke about the pressure McCarron would shoulder as the quarterback of a team trying to repeat as national champs, and Barker was able to provide some valuable insight having helped Alabama to the 1992 title only to see the following season end in disappointment.
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But everyone loves to take a peek at what could be. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. is no different, and he has finally debuted his first Big Board for 2014 . His top 25 players for next year's upcoming draft are here for your viewing pleasure and 10 of them reside in the SEC.
Who's No. 1? Well, that would be man-child defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. South Carolina's soon-to-be junior seems to be atop everyone's very early draft boards, and it's going to take a lot to knock him off his perch. Sure, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who checks in at No. 2, has received a decent amount of love, but Clowney is just on a different planet.
He might not touch the ball on every down, but he'll figure out a way to try and do it -- and he hasn't even reached his potential.
Four SEC players, including Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews.
Eight of the 10 SEC players on Kiper's first Big Board are underclassmen, including Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Texas A&M's quarterback has kept quiet about his future plans when it comes to declaring early for the NFL draft, but his stock might not get any higher after 2013. He made a major splash onto the scene with his record-breaking first year with the Aggies, but still has some room to improve.
His arm has to get stronger and he has to develop more as a passer. He isn't getting any taller, but his amazing athleticism makes up for that in trouble situations.
Here's a look at the full list of SEC players:
No. 1: Clowney
No. 4: Kouandjio
No. 6: Matthews
No. 10: Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida
No. 11: Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
No. 12: Adrian Hubbard, OLB, Alabama
No. 17: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
No. 18: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
No. 22: Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU
No. 25: Manziel
Kiper also listed his next 25 players to keep an eye on . Seven SEC players made that list, including three Alabama players.
Here are the SEC players in Kiper's next 25:
No. 30: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
No. 39: Trey DePriest, LB, Alabama
No. 41: AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama
No. 43: Daniel McCullers, DT, Tennessee
No. 48: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
No. 49: Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State
No. 50: A.J. Johnson, LB, Tennessee
I'm not sure it's realistic to expect that kind of haul next year, but it's never too early to start looking ahead to the 2014 draft class.
So, similar to a year ago, I've come up with our list of the SEC's top 20 draft prospects for 2014.
This isn’t a mock draft. Likewise, it’s not a ranking of who I think will be the best players in the SEC next season. Rather, it’s a projection of who will be the most coveted NFL prospects from the SEC when the 2014 draft rolls around in April. In coming up with this list, I’ve talked to several draft analysts as well as NFL personnel, SEC coaches and others who are clued in to the whole draft process.
Some players will obviously play their way onto this list next season, while others will play their way off it. Injuries undoubtedly will be a factor, and then occasionally, guys will come from nowhere to be first-round picks.
Among the prospects I nailed this time a year ago were Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, Alabama offensive guard Chance Warmack, LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo and LSU safety Eric Reid.
Among those I missed the boat on were Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker.
I had Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson No. 1 overall and South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore in my top five. So it never goes exactly the way anybody predicts, especially 11 months before the draft.
Here goes with our 2014 list. Again, we’re not suggesting all 20 will go in the first round or even the first two rounds. It’s simply the order we think they will come off the board in next April’s draft and includes only draft-eligible players:
1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina, Jr.: The ultimate game-changer on defense, Clowney would have been a first-rounder had he been draft-eligible after his freshman season. Clowney then excelled in 2012, elevating his status as the 2014 No. 1 favorite.
2: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama, Jr.: A potential top-five pick in next year's draft, the 6-foot-6, 310-pound Kouandjio is everything you're looking for in a left tackle.
3. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M, Sr.: We know Matthews has the bloodlines, but he also has the game. He's shifting over from right tackle to left tackle for his senior season.
4. Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee, Jr.: The man they call Tiny has the size and athleticism to be a franchise left tackle. Clowney said Richardson was one of the best tackles he faced a year ago.
5. Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU, Jr.: There's a reason they call him Freak. They just seem to breed great defensive linemen at LSU, and Johnson is next in line.
6. Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida, Jr.: He's a pure cover cornerback with good size and an explosive athlete to boot. The Gators also will play him at receiver next season.
7. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M, RSo.: Yes, Manziel is shorter than the NFL typically likes its quarterbacks, but do measurables really matter when you make as many plays as Johnny Football does?
8. Dominique Easley, DT, Florida, Sr.: Easley is fully recovered from the torn ACL he suffered at the end of the 2011 season. He's sliding inside to tackle next season and will be a force for the Gators.
9. Adrian Hubbard, OLB, Alabama, RJr.: We saw his ability to get to the quarterback in flashes last season. Look for Hubbard to take that next step in 2013 and become a premier finisher.
10. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama, Sr.: As the saying goes, he's a football player. Mosley is a sure tackler. He's excellent in coverage and is always money whenever Alabama needs a big play.
11. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama, Jr.: In the past four drafts, Alabama has produced four first-round selections in the secondary. Clinton-Dix could be the top safety off the board next year.
12. Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M, RSo.: In his first season in the SEC, the 6-5, 225-pound Evans was sensational with 82 catches and 1,105 yards. He'll be even better his second time through.
13. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama, Sr.: Sure, he's been surrounded by great talent, but McCarron also has an NFL arm, delivers in the clutch and takes care of the football.
14. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt, Sr.: The 6-3, 205-pound Matthews is so smooth that he makes it look easy. And talk about productive. He averaged 109.6 receiving yards in eight SEC games.
15. Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss, Jr.: One of the more underrated players in the SEC, the 6-3, 215-pound Moncrief has a knack for finding the end zone with 14 touchdowns in his first two seasons.
16. Daniel McCullers, DT, Tennessee, Sr.: This mountain of a man (6-8, 360 pounds) is still developing, but he should make an imposing nose tackle for a team that uses a 3-4 defensive scheme.
17. Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida, Jr.: The "other" Florida cornerback also has big-time skills and was second in the SEC in passes defended last season with 14.
18: Chaz Sutton, DE, South Carolina, RJr.: Clowney will get most of the attention next season, but don't be surprised if Sutton blows up and has a monster senior season.
19: Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State, Sr.: Jackson thought about coming out early this year. He returns as one of the top offensive guards in college football.
20: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia, Sr.: The opinions are mixed on Murray, who's bearing down on several SEC records. His numbers speak for themselves, and so does the way he approaches the game.
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.
With the new College Football Playoff set to begin in 2014, the SEC is looking to say goodbye to the BCS by saying hello to its eighth straight crystal football.
The SEC has won nine of the 15 BCS championships, and it would be fitting for the conference that won the first BCS title to take home the final one.
And the league has the horses to do it.
It all starts with Alabama. The Crimson Tide will enter the fall as one of the favorites to take home the final BCS title. That would be three straight for Nick Saban & Co. and the fourth in the past five years.
It's gaudy. It's greedy. It's Alabama.
As usual, the defense has elite talent sprinkled around, but it's still "a work in progress," as Saban puts it. Something tells me it'll be just fine come Aug. 31.
Oh, and you think this team is worried about complacency? It's not even a word in Tuscaloosa.
"We don't have that situation at our place," Saban said. "Last year, the team had to make a decision of what the legacy of that team wanted to be, and they sort of took that challenge and did a nice job with it. This team is going to have to do the same thing."
The rest of the country also has to pay attention to Florida, Georgia, LSU, South Carolina and Texas A&M. And maybe there's a 2010 Auburn lurking in the weeds.
All five of those teams have the talent to take home the final BCS prize, but none is perfect.
Georgia and Texas A&M have the pieces to consistently blow scoreboard lighting, but will they have the defenses to keep up?
Florida will still run and defend well, but the passing game is an enigma. Can the Gators get back to double-digit wins with a small margin for error again?
South Carolina brings a balanced offense back and has the pleasure of fielding the country's best defender in defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, but there are a lot of holes at linebacker and in the secondary.
And LSU's defense was picked apart by the NFL draft, but the line should be strong again and the offense should be much better thanks to quarterback Zach Mettenberger's spring development.
All of these teams will begin the year ranked in the Top 25, but all -- including Alabama -- have flaws. But so did the past seven national champions.
SEC teams just seem to find a way, and it only makes sense that the conference will figure out a way to take one more for the road.
2012 record: 13-1
2012 conference record: 7-1 (first, Western Division)
Returning starters: Offense: 5; defense: 6; kicker/punter: 2
QB AJ McCarron, LT Cyrus Kouandjio, RG Anthony Steen, WR Amari Cooper, RB T.J. Yeldon, LB C.J. Mosley, LB Adrian Hubbard, S Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, CB Deion Belue, DE Ed Stinson
C Barrett Jones, LG Chance Warmack, RT D.J. Fluker, RB Eddie Lacy, CB Dee Milliner, S Robert Lester, LB Nico Johnson, NG Jesse Williams
2012 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Eddie Lacy (1,322 yards)
Passing: AJ McCarron* (2,933 yards)
Receiving: Amari Cooper* (1,000 yards)
Tackles: C.J. Mosley* (107)
Sacks: Adrian Hubbard* (7)
Interceptions: Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix* (5)
1. Weapons abound: It's an embarrassment of riches, really. The Alabama offense has steadily gained strength in recent years, but this coming season promises more explosiveness with a senior under center and a number of playmakers at wide receiver. Starters Amari Cooper and Kevin Norwood return, along with a triumvirate of rehabilitated weapons in Chris Black, Kenny Bell and DeAndrew White. Throw in a talented freshman in tight end O.J. Howard, and the possibilities in the passing game are limitless.
2. Rebuilt offensive line: It started the offseason as the biggest question mark, but spring camp quelled any fear of the offensive line experiencing a significant drop-off after losing three of five starters from last season. Ryan Kelly has become the centerpiece snapping the football, stepping in for former Rimington Award winner Barrett Jones at center. And with two cornerstone linemen in left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and right guard Anthony Steen, coach Nick Saban has to feel good about where things stand up front on offense.
3. Leadership from the top: For two years he hasn't had to take the bull by the horns. There have been other, often older, leaders to step up and take charge. But this season is different for quarterback AJ McCarron. He's not only coming into his own as a passer, he's developing into the voice of the football team -- and not just on offense.
1. Secondary solutions: Year after year, the problem is the same. Alabama develops stars in the secondary only to see them leave for the NFL draft. This time it was shutdown cornerback Dee Milliner and veteran safety Robert Lester walking out the door. And who will step up to replace them remains unclear. Deion Belue looks to have rebounded after a shaky first season in Tuscaloosa, and rising sophomore Geno Smith showed promise as a rookie in 2012. But it will take more than a handful of starters to keep the Tide's secondary on track.
2. Rushing the passer: While it's true that Saban's system isn't built on traditional defensive statistics like sacks and tackles for loss, it is capable of accomplishing those things with the right playmakers in place. And recently there has been a lack of pure edge rushers capable of collapsing the pocket on a consistent basis. Adrian Hubbard stepped up at outside linebacker late in the season, but his production has been up and down. If guys like linebacker Xzavier Dickson and defensive end Dalvin Tomlinson can provide that pressure, the defense will be in good shape.
3. In case of emergency: It's the scenario no one around Tuscaloosa wants to entertain: What would happen if AJ McCarron were injured and missed a significant portion of the season? If he were to go down, would the Tide's championship hopes leave with him? Last season's backups have been inconsistent at best, and don't appear to be real options over the long term. The three early enrollees at the position aren't ready either, but redshirt freshman Alec Morris might be the one the staff can rely on. He'll have the fall to prove whether he's capable of becoming a dependable backup, and in turn the future at quarterback when McCarron moves on after this season.
Todd McShay has you covered in that department with his list of the top 32 eligible players for next year . Obviously, this is a very, very early list, but don't act like you aren't interested!
First shocker (yeah, not really) of the list is that South Carolina monster defensive end Jadeveon Clowney tops the list. I mean, he's arguably the most athletic player in the country (6-foot-6, 256 pounds and runs a 4.5 40-yard dash). Seriously, someone check this man's DNA. I'm still not convinced he's from this planet.
Clowney might not have the ball in his hands on every play, but he's a true game-changer and hasn't even reached his full potential. The scary thing is that he could -- and should -- be even better in 2013. He's a legit Heisman candidate, will most certainly skip his senior season, and has the talent to make an immediate impact with whichever team takes him next year.
After Clowney, McShay has 12 other SEC players on his list, including five Alabama players. Five SEC players are in McShay's top 10. One of those players in the top 10 is Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. He's extremely athletic and makes very good throws on the run, but his size is certainly an issue. The good news is that his elusiveness will help make up for his lack of size at times.
Here's a list of the 13 SEC players in McShay's top 32:
No. 1: Clowney
No. 3: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
No. 6: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
No. 9: Manziel
No. 10: Adrian Hubbard, OLB, Alabama
No. 12: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
No. 15: AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama
No. 16: Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
No. 19: Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida
No. 22: Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU
No. 23: Daniel McCullers, DT, Tennessee
No. 24: Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
No. 30: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The Crimson Tide are the only team in the league during that span to rush for more than 8,000 yards and pass for more than 8,000 yards.
Of course, when you look back at who signed the most ESPN 150 prospects on offense from 2009-12, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Alabama has been so productive offensively.
The Crimson Tide signed an SEC-high 20 offensive players from 2009-12 who were ESPN 150 prospects (ranked among the top 150 prospects nationally).
But No. 2 on that list was Florida, and the Gators have finished 10th in the SEC or worse in total offense each of the last three years. They signed 19 ESPN 150 prospects on offense from 2009-12.
So it’s never as simple as merely counting up who gets the highest-ranked players coming out of high school. We're reminded of that every year.
In fact, over the last three years (2010-12), nobody in the SEC has signed more ESPN 150 prospects offensively than Auburn. The Tigers signed 15, which equals the number of offensive players Alabama signed in the ESPN 150 during that same span.
However, Auburn was last in the SEC in total offense last season and next to last in scoring offense. Several of the highly-ranked players the Tigers signed on offense from 2010-12 are no longer in the program, including running back Michael Dyer, offensive lineman Christian Westerman and receivers Antonio Goodwin and Shaun Kitchens.
Below are some of the highest-ranked offensive players coming out of high school from 2009-12 who will be on SEC rosters next fall. They’re categorized by year:
Missouri’s Dorial Green-Beckham (No. 1 receiver), Georgia’s Keith Marshall (No. 2 running back), Florida’s D.J. Humphries (No. 1 offensive tackle), Alabama’s Chris Black (No. 2 receiver), South Carolina’s Shaq Roland (No. 5 receiver)
Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio (No. 1 offensive tackle), LSU’s La’el Collins (No. 3 offensive tackle), Florida’s Jeff Driskel (No. 1 quarterback), Georgia’s Jay Rome (No. 1 tight end), Auburn’s Kiehl Frazer (No. 2 quarterback)
Tennessee’s Ja’Wuan James (No. 2 offensive tackle), Florida’s Mack Brown (No. 4 running back), Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews (No. 7 offensive tackle)
Georgia’s Aaron Murray (No. 3 quarterback), Florida’s Andre Debose (No. 2 receiver), Alabama’s AJ McCarron (No. 4 quarterback), Georgia’s Austin Long (No. 5 offensive tackle)
Below is a team-by-team breakdown by year of ESPN 150 offensive prospects signed by SEC schools. Other than Alabama, Auburn and Florida, only Georgia, LSU and Tennessee signed more than six total from 2009-12.
Here’s a look:
Alabama: 2012 – 4. 2011 – 7. 2010 – 4. 2009 – 5. Total – 20
Florida: 2012 – 4, 2011 – 4, 2010 – 6, 2009 – 5. Total – 19
Auburn: 2012 – 4. 2011 – 6. 2010 – 5. 2009 – 0. Total 15
Georgia: 2012 – 2. 2011 – 4. 2010 – 3. 2009 – 6. Total – 15
Tennessee: 2012 – 3. 2011 – 4. 2010 – 5. 2009 – 3. Total – 15
LSU: 2012 – 2. 2011 – 4. 2010 – 3. 2009 – 4. Total – 13
South Carolina: 2012 – 2. 2011 – 0. 2010 – 2. 2009 – 2. Total – 6
Texas A&M: 2012 – 3. 2011 – 0. 2010 – 2. 2009 – 1. Total -- 6
Arkansas: 2012 – 0. 2011 – 2. 2010 – 1. 2009 – 0. Total – 3
Ole Miss: 2012 – 0. 2011 – 1. 2010 – 0. 2009 – 2. Total – 3
Miss. State: 2012 – 0. 2011 – 0. 2010 – 1. 2009 – 2. Total – 3
Missouri: 2012 – 2. 2011 – 0. 2010 – 0. 2009 – 0. Total – 2
Kentucky: 2012 – 0. 2011 – 0. 2010 – 0. 2009 – 1. Total – 1
Vanderbilt: 2012 – 1. 2011 – 0. 2010 – 0. 2009 – 0. Total – 1
Alabama and Georgia each placed two players on the early list. Quarterback AJ McCarron and running back T.J. Yeldon were on it from the Crimson Tide, while quarterback Aaron Murray and running back Todd Gurley made it for the Bulldogs.
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who won the 2012 Heisman Trophy, was one of three SEC quarterbacks making the cut.
The sixth player from the SEC on the list was South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who was the lone defensive player.
In time, I'd be surprised if Alabama receiver Amari Cooper isn't a legitimate candidate. There are a lot of people around the game that I respect who think Cooper is as good, if not better, than USC's Marquise Lee and Maryland's Stefon Diggs.
But what if you were picking the best NFL draft prospect at quarterback from this league for next year?
ESPN's Brock Huard has done just that, and he has Georgia's Aaron Murray at the top of his list . In fact, Huard has Murray No. 3 nationally behind Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and Clemson's Tajh Boyd.
Obviously, the Texas A&M and Alabama fans won't agree with Huard, but Murray is one of those quarterbacks who has probably drawn more criticism than he's deserved. There's a reason he's thrown for 10,091 career yards, 95 touchdowns (and 32 interceptions). He's talented, tough, smart and durable, not to mention the only quarterback in SEC history to have thrown for 3,000 yards in three straight seasons.
But as Huard points out, the big challenge for Murray in 2013 will be playing his best football in the Bulldogs' biggest games. In games against Alabama, Florida and South Carolina, Murray has a combined 2-5 TD-to-INT ratio.
Huard has Alabama's AJ McCarron No. 6 overall in his ranking of the top quarterback draft prospects for 2014 and Manziel No. 7.
Manziel, who will be a third-year sophomore, is a lot higher on other people's draft lists for 2014. He obviously doesn't have ideal size, but his ability to create and make plays when there seemingly aren't any to make is a trait they're looking for at all levels of football.
The even harder question in the SEC is: Who would be the fourth quarterback on that list?
LSU's Zach Mettenberger could zoom up draft boards with a big senior season, and Mississippi State's Tyler Russell might be in that conversation as well.
Again, these aren't necessarily the top SEC quarterbacks going into next season, but quarterbacks with a chance to emerge as NFL draft choices.
Alabama's two-time national championship-winning quarterback will drive the pace car before NASCAR's Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway, leading the field before Sunday's Aaron's 499. He'll be driving around the track in a special Ford Mustang GT.
McCarron said he has watched races at Talladega and has "always had a passion to get up to speed on the track." Sunday, he'll get his chance to show some speed out there.
It's a pretty cool deal for McCarron. I've never been to a race at Talladega, but I've driven by during one -- ironically, it was after an Alabama-Tennessee game -- and I swear I felt my car shake from a combination of the cars and the roar of the crowd. It really is an awesome sight to see, so I can only imagine what it would be like to be there in person.
There will be more Bama love on the track Sunday with Michael Waltrip's No. 55 Aaron's Toyota sporting an Alabama national championship paint scheme.
- NFL draft success is an important sales pitch on the recruiting trail.
- Auburn running back Tre Mason follows in Onterio McCalebb's footsteps by continuing Auburn's squirrel-chasing legacy.
- Georgia coach Mark Richt says his offensive line doesn't have to be dominant this fall.
- Former Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson got a life-changing gift on his 29th birthday.
- Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart gets a one-year extension and a $50,000 retention bonus.
- Texas A&M is expected to announce on Wednesday that Kyle Field's capacity will go over 102,000.
- Missouri adds wide receiver Thomas Richard to its 2014 recruiting class.
- Alabama's AJ McCarron is on the Senior Bowl's preliminary 2014 list of eight quarterback candidates.
From David Ching : A record eight Georgia players were selected in the 2013 NFL draft, and looking ahead to 2014, Aaron Murray headlines a potentially strong 2014 class.
From Michael DiRocco : Eight Gators were taken in the 2013 NFL draft and defensive linemen headline what could be a big year for Florida in the 2014 draft.
From Gary Laney : The Tigers are making a move for ESPN 150 athlete Ronnie Clark (Calera, Ala./Calera.)
From Sam Khan Jr. : Looking ahead to Texas A&M's draft hopefuls for 2014.
Also from Khan Jr. : Four-star linebacker Josh Mabin says his injured knee feels 'amazing.'
From Alex Scarborough : With quarterbacks tumbling down draft boards, the nation’s top-rated passer AJ McCarron sits in Tuscaloosa where the risk of returning for a senior season could be big.
From Greg Ostendorf : Florida is the latest program to stop by and try to pry Bo Scarbrough from the Crimson Tide.