SEC: Andre Smith
- Tim Tebow has declined the NFL's invitation to be in New York for the draft and will watch it from his family's ranch just outside Jacksonville.
- Alabama's Nick Saban won't be able to win his case against the Crimson Tide as the preseason No. 1 team in the country, writes Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News.
- After what happened with Andre Smith two years ago, Saban has hired an outside consultant to assist players in their selection of an agent, writes Gentry Estes of The Mobile Press-Register.
- Kentucky sophomore linebacker Ridge Wilson is starting over after running into trouble off the field last season, writes Chip Cosby of The Lexington Herald-Leader.
- Arkansas receiver Joe Adams returns to the practice field after missing three of four practices last week, writes Brandon Marcello of The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
- Former Tennessee safety Eric Berry would be a rarity if he goes in the top 5 picks of the NFL draft, writes David Paschall of The Chattanooga Times Free Press.
- Former Mississippi State running back Anthony Dixon is just trying to be "cool" as he awaits the NFL draft, writes Kyle Veazey of The Jackson Clarion-Ledger.
- A new study reveals what Georgia football players make on the SAT.
Former Tennessee teammates Eric Berry and Dan Williams will both go in the top 10 picks, according to McShay, who has Berry going No. 7 overall to the Cleveland Browns and Williams No. 9 overall to the Buffalo Bills.
If that happens, Berry and Williams would become the first SEC defensive teammates to go in the top 10 picks of the same draft since Alabama defensive ends John Copeland and Eric Curry went Nos. 5 and 6 in the 1993 draft.
Speaking of first-rounders, anybody want to venture a guess on which SEC team produced the most during the past decade?
Georgia and Tennessee each had 10 from 2000-09. During that stretch, the Vols failed to win an SEC championship, while Georgia won two.
Every SEC team last decade produced at least one first-rounder with the exception of Mississippi State, which hasn't had a player drafted in the first round since defensive back Walt Harris went No. 13 overall and receiver Eric Moulds No. 24 overall in the 1996 draft.
LSU produced nine first-rounders last decade, and seven of those came in the past four years. Alabama produced just three first-rounders during the decade, and offensive tackle Andre Smith last year broke an eight-year drought for the Crimson Tide of not having a first-round selection.
Here's a breakdown of SEC first-rounders over the past decade:
Georgia -- 10
Tennessee -- 10
Florida -- 9
LSU -- 9
Arkansas -- 6
Auburn -- 6
Ole Miss -- 6
South Carolina -- 4
Alabama -- 3
Vanderbilt -- 2
Kentucky -- 1
After all, when you start listing great players over an entire decade in the SEC, the names start pouring through your mind. There just are so many of them.
The guy who was the hardest for me to leave off the Top 10 was Auburn running back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams. He rushed for 45 career touchdowns and teamed with Ronnie Brown on that unbeaten 2004 Auburn club to form one of the best running back combos in SEC history.
Right behind Williams was Georgia quarterback David Greene, who was the winningest quarterback in major college football history until Colt McCoy passed him this season. Greene remains the SEC career leader with 11,528 passing yards from 2001-04.
I also thought long and hard about Arkansas offensive tackle Shawn Andrews, Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith and Auburn offensive tackle Marcus McNeil. They would have been my top three offensive linemen.
Tennessee defensive tackle John Henderson won the Outland Trophy in 2000 and was a finalist in 2001. Leaving him off was difficult. Alabama linebacker DeMeco Ryans was another outstanding defender that just missed the cut.
Another quarterback who deserves mention is Vanderbilt’s Jay Cutler, especially when you look at the numbers he put up during the 2005 season and the way he helped elevate the program.
Georgia's Matthew Stafford was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft, and Kentucky's Andre Woodson threw 79 career touchdown passes, ranking him fifth all-time in the SEC.
Two of the best receivers of the decade were Vanderbilt’s Earl Bennett and LSU’s Josh Reed.
There are many more, too. But I just wanted to provide a glimpse of some of the other great players in this conference who were considered.
But it’s obvious it was a learning experience.
Senior linebacker Cory Reamer said Alabama was a splintered football team emotionally and mentally last season at the Sugar Bowl, and that was clear in how they played.
Utah whipped Alabama 31-17 in a result some of the players saw coming. Andre Smith’s suspension the week before the game for improper dealings with an agent was a time bomb that had been ticking inside the program, according to Reamer.
“We had a lot of guys who were potential first-round and second-round guys, and a lot of guys who were going to get drafted, so there were agents and (people) like that everywhere who really weren’t interested in what our best interests were,” Reamer said. “They were worried about themselves. But we have a plan set now where we can handle it as players and handle everything here, which I think helps a lot because we don’t have a lot of outside people influencing us on what their ideas should be.”
Reamer said the Crimson Tide learned the hard way how a few people getting “too caught up in what’s coming next” can soil an entire season.
He said nobody on this team ever plans to go through that again.
“You’ve got to know what your responsibility is, and know what your focus should be, and you should never get caught in those situations,” Reamer said. “You should never put yourself in a situation where you could be a distraction for the team. You focus on what you have to do to help this team win this game and not worry about what’s coming after that.”
Alabama noseguard Terrence Cody has been named as one of four finalists for the Lombardi Award, which goes annually to the nation's top lineman or linebacker.
Cody joins TCU senior defensive end Jerry Hughes, Oklahoma junior defensive end Gerald McCoy and Nebraska senior defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh as this year’s finalists.
Cody is the seventh Crimson Tide player to be named a finalist and the second in a row, joining offensive tackle Andre Smith, who was a finalist for the award in 2008. Former All-American linebacker Cornelius Bennett is the only Alabama player to win the Lombardi Award, capturing the honor in 1986.
Five other SEC players made the cut of 12 semifinalists for the Lombardi Award -- Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran, Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap, Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain, South Carolina linebacker Eric Norwood and Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes -- but Cody was the only player in the league to make it through as a finalist.
In nine games, Cody has recorded 20 tackles, including five tackles for loss (minus-20 yards), while constantly going against double teams. He has also added two blocked kicks, two quarterback pressures and one pass breakup.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Some SEC links to munch on:
- Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes directs Auburn's offensive line down the right path with a healthy dose of toughness, writes Jay G. Tate of The Montgomery Advertiser.
- Chris Harry of The Orlando Sentinel has a terrific piece on former Florida quarterback John Reaves' struggle with alcohol and drug addiction. Reaves is the father of Layla Kiffin, wife of Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin.
- Florida is ready to match wits with coaching legend Monte Kiffin, writes Robbie Andreu of The Gainesville Sun.
- Lane Kiffin's offseason comments spice up the Florida-Tennessee rivalry, writes Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN.com.
- Comparisons to his Outland Trophy-winning predecessor, Andre Smith, don't bother Alabama left tackle James Carpenter.
- Despite being stricken with the flu in the opener, Ole Miss safety Johnny Brown shows that he belongs.
- LSU adds Louisiana-Monroe to its schedule for the 2010 season and moves the Southern Miss game to 2011.
- Cornerback Ramon Broadway and the Arkansas defense are seeing Green this week, as in A.J. Green, writes Robbie Neiswanger of The Morning News.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
A little SEC linkage for your Friday enjoyment:
- Steve Spurrier turns to his defense to save the day, writes Ron Morris of The State newspaper in Columbia.
- Ole Miss tight end Gerald Harris is fighting a hamstring injury and may not be able to play in Sunday's opener against Memphis.
- Florida freshman receiver Andre Debose won't play this season unless he's 100 percent healthy.
- Alabama's James Carpenter is a big man with big shoes to fill, replacing Andre Smith at left tackle.
- Having played just about everywhere during his football career, Mark Barron finds a home in Alabama's secondary.
- Georgia freshmen Orson Charles, Branden Smith and Marlon Brown are ready to make big debuts for the Bulldogs.
- After a bout with the flu, Brandon Taylor settles in as LSU"s starting strong safety.
- Walk-on Marcus Davis will get his first start at center Saturday for Kentucky. Jorge Gonzalez is suspended for this game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Could the last few months (the last few weeks, for that matter) have been any more harried for Alabama's football team?
It's been one thing after another.
But the best news Tuesday afternoon for the Crimson Tide players and coaches was seeing senior defensive end Brandon Deaderick back around the practice field. He was released from the hospital after being shot in the forearm Monday night during a robbery attempt and watched part of practice.
It's unclear if Deaderick will be able to play in Saturday night's opener against Virginia Tech, but his teammates were just relieved that he was OK.
Deaderick's shooting was just the latest distraction to hit the radar for Alabama's football team.
- Alabama officials are still waiting to hear something from the NCAA and/or SEC on Julio Jones and Mark Ingram and their well-chronicled fishing trip this past spring. Alabama spent the whole summer investigating and had hoped to hear something back by now.
- A flu bug has swept across Alabama's campus in the last week, and at least three players -- Terrence Cody, Marquis Maze and Cory Reamer -- have missed practice time with flu-like symptoms.
- Two weeks ago, reserve linebacker Courtney Upshaw was arrested on a charge of domestic violence after a university police officer witnessed an altercation between Upshaw and his girlfriend, who was also arrested.
- Just as preseason practice began, the brother of freshman defensive tackle Kerry Murphy was shot and killed in what police called a homicide.
- And in June, Alabama was placed on three years of NCAA probation and forced to vacate 21 victories from the 2005-07 seasons as a result of the textbook scandal. Alabama has since appealed, hoping to get back the vacated wins.
Who knows how Alabama will perform Saturday with everything that's swirling? It's certainly not the way you'd draw it up as a coach.
What's more, nobody at the Capstone needs to be reminded how poorly the Crimson Tide responded a year ago when Andre Smith was suspended for the Sugar Bowl.
It's true that every team in the country is antsy at this point just to play a game.
But this weekend can't get here soon enough for the Crimson Tide.
Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News has a column Wednesday about Alabama's hiring of Joe Mendes as a consultant.
Nick Saban did so on the recommendation of Southern California coach Pete Carroll. Mendes' specialty is helping players make more informed decisions with regard to agents. Mendes has 25 years of NFL front-office experience.
Does Andre Smith come to mind?
I can tell you from meeting with Saban a couple of weeks ago that he's still bothered by that whole situation. Saban told me that agent education was still an area where Alabama wasn't quite up to speed, which explains Mendes' hiring.
Saban has never been one of those guys just to say something to be saying it. So when he says Alabama will pour its resources into the total development of the program and the total development of the players in that program, he means it.
He's also serious about finding a way to come down harder on the unscrupulous agents and runners that are a problem for every major program.
Saban, in vintage fashion, bristles whenever he talks about it.
"Everything in our program here is to get kids to be responsible for their own self determination, to be accountable, have discipline, don't expect something for nothing, do a day's work for a day's pay," Saban said. "Those are the values that we preach … and then some guy gives them a free ride and it's a problem. I'm mad at the guy.
"If you're doing what I want, then you don't give anybody a free ride because we're trying to teach guys that that's not real. That's not how it is. That's not going to help you be successful. Don't think you're going to get something for nothing. There is no such thing as something for nothing.
"Every agent is doing us a disservice and the kids a disservice by doing that stuff."
Hiring Mendes is a smart move by Saban and Alabama. At least they're trying.
But the reality is that you can't ensure that players (or their family members) are going to make smart decisions regardless of all the safeguards and education you put into place.
Not when somebody is waving a bunch of money in front of their faces when there hasn't been any money for the last 21 or 22 years.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Here's the second part of my Q&A with Alabama coach Nick Saban.
It's obvious in listening to him talk about his father, Nick Sr., what a huge influence he was on the younger Saban's life and why he is the way he is today.
The values the coach preaches in his program -- self-determination, being accountable, being disciplined, doing a day's work for a day's pay -- come straight from his father.
|Marvin Gentry/US Presswire|
|As a kid growing up, Nick Saban was an Alabama football fan.|
Saban's father died in 1973 of a heart attack. He was only 46. Saban was just starting his coaching career at the time as a graduate assistant on the Kent State staff under Don James.
How often do you find yourself thinking about your father and the influence he had on your life?
Nick Saban: He was a big influence on a lot of people's lives because he started Pop Warner football in our area [Fairmont, W. Va.]. He bought a school bus and went and picked up kids. Everybody lived in a coal mining town, so we hitch-hiked about every place we went. All of us did. We didn't have cars. You kind of knew who was going to go by. It was a rural area. You knew who would pick you up and who wouldn't. A lot of kids didn't participate because they couldn't get to practice. There are a lot of things I took from my dad -- work ethic, responsibility, compassion for other people. The lessons I learned working at that Gulf service station that my dad owned ... I still relay a lot of those lessons to our players now.
What were some of the most enduring lessons?
NS: I was working at the station when I was about 15 years old. I remember being in a bad mood because I had a fight with my girlfriend, and we broke up. So I wasn't treating the customers very well and talked back to a customer. In those days, everything was full service. You cleaned the windows, checked the oil, put the gas in, said 'please' and 'thank you,' got the change and gave it back to them. I was a little curt that day. My dad said, 'Your mom told me you broke up with your girlfriend. You're a little upset about that?' I said, 'Yeah, I'm a little upset about that.' He said, 'Let me just tell you this: When you let one bad thing that happens to you affect other things, sometimes you create more negative consequences than you like. You're about ready to cause a couple more. You don't have a girlfriend right now. Pretty soon, you're not going to have a job, because I'm going to fire you. And if I fire you, I'm going to whip your ass.' It was that kind of stuff from him all the time.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- One of the rocks on Alabama's football team this season will undoubtedly be senior offensive lineman Mike Johnson.
He and senior Drew Davis are the only holdovers from an offensive line last season that was one of the best in the country.
Whenever the Crimson Tide got in trouble on offense, they turned to their guys up front.
Johnson isn't ready to say this group is ready for that same kind of responsibility, not after just eight practices and not with Andre Smith and Antoine Caldwell currently in NFL camps, but he's confident they will get there.
"It's one of those things where cohesiveness is so big for the offensive line," said Johnson, who's back at his left guard spot after playing left tackle in the Sugar Bowl last season when Smith was suspended.
"It's five guys who all have to be on the same page. When you've got three newcomers plugged into the offensive line, it's not going to just happen overnight. It's time together that's going to let us get to that level. Those guys last year, we all spent a lot of time together. I think we definitely have the ability. It's just going to take some time.
"We're on our way. One day, it's going to click, and we're going to be just like we were."
It sounds like Alabama is pretty set with four guys. The left side has junior college newcomer James Carpenter at tackle and Johnson at guard. Junior William Vlachos has been a fixture at center, but the right side could include any number of combinations.
Right now, the Crimson Tide have been working true freshman D.J. Fluker at right tackle. If he's good enough to win that job, then Davis could slide inside to guard. Davis started all 14 games at right tackle last season. Sophomore Alfred McCullough and junior Brian Motley are also possibilities at right guard if the Tide choose to keep Davis at right tackle.
Regardless of how it shakes out, Johnson thinks the Crimson Tide will be more balanced on offense this season.
And he's not interested in analyzing how far the program has come under Nick Saban in just two short years. He'll have time to reflect on down the road.
"The main thing we have to realize as a team is not to stop and look at what we've done," Johnson said. "It's one of those things where if we stop and look, we're going to slow down. If we keep learning and Coach Saban keeps pushing us the way he is, then we'll be where we want to be."
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
How Alabama's starting offensive line will shake out in the fall is still anybody's guess.
Senior Mike Johnson's a lock somewhere, probably at left guard, and so is senior Drew Davis, probably at right tackle. Junior William Vlachos is also a good bet to be the starting center when the Crimson Tide open the season against Virginia Tech on Sept. 5 in the Chick-fil-A College Kickoff in Atlanta.
But as the final pieces are put into place when preseason practice starts in August, there's bound to be a few surprises.
The unknown of it all is also bound to make for a few sleepless nights in Tide Land.
There's no debating that the offensive line was Alabama's rock last season. Those five guys were the reason the Crimson Tide were able to control games, control the clock and jump out front against just about everybody they played.
As Vlachos noted this spring, "We put a lot of stock in our O-line."
Yes, they do. But it remains to be seen if they will be able to lean on the offensive line as much as they did a year ago with Andre Smith, Antoine Caldwell and Marlon Davis all gone.
"We obviously have high expectations," said Johnson, one of the better returning offensive linemen in the league. "Just because you lose a few guys here and there, we still gotta plug those guys in and focus on having a good team next year and playing to the best of our ability.
"We lost some great guys. I look back to my true freshman year. We lost three NFL guys on the offensive line and came back and won 10 games. It's just something you've got to piece together and come together as a team, and every school goes through it every spring or so. It's something we've got to work with."
But it's not as simple as putting your five most dominant or five most talented guys out there. Solid offensive line play is all about chemistry, cohesiveness and know-how.
"It's not the five best guys. It's the five who make the best team," Johnson said.
Joe Pendry, Alabama's veteran offensive line coach, knows that as well as anyone. This is not his first rodeo. A former NFL offensive coordinator, he's put together a few offensive lines in his time after losing great players.
And, really, talent shouldn't be an issue.
The Crimson Tide have stocked up on highly rated offensive line prospects.
Junior college newcomer James Carpenter exited spring as the likely starter at left tackle, but heralded incoming freshman D.J. Fluker might also have something to say about who protects Greg McElroy's blind side. The 6-7, 350-pound Fluker is massive. He's bigger than Smith was when Smith arrived on campus. But Smith was mentally sharp enough to handle that position as a true freshman and was a quick learner. We don't know that yet about Fluker.
Fluker is also coming off arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder in April, which could possibly stunt his development.
The right guard spot would appear to be wide open. Junior Brian Motley started there in the spring game, but sophomore John Michael Boswell will be one to watch once preseason practice starts. True freshman Chance Warmack (6-3, 325) also looked good in the spring after enrolling early.
Junior David Ross and sophomore Barrett Jones are guys who could factor in at both guard and center.
"There's a standard that we have as an offensive line, and that standard was met last year," Ross said. "We're going to have to meet it again. I mean, we're going to run the ball between the tackles. There's no question. That's our offense. So we're going to do whatever we have to do to be successful at that."
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
The latest headlines from around the SEC:
- Columnist Ray Melick of The Birmingham News writes that there's seemingly no end to all the things "Bo Knows."
- Here's an early look at the 2009 preseason All-SEC team thanks to Consensus Draft Services.
- Tony Barnhart of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution takes a look at what we don't know yet about the SEC West race.
- Want to represent former Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith? Sounds like agents are battling to negotiate what's sure to be a sweet contract.
- Former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville finds a new gig -- talking SEC football on the Web.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
|Tim Larson/Icon SMI|
|Tyson Jackson's stock skyrocketed in the weeks leading up to the draft.|
Jackson played on an LSU defensive line that underachieved in a big way last season, but it obviously didn't hurt his stock. He was one of the few up front who played well last season. He also had great workouts and is big enough and quick enough to play in a lot of different schemes.
Everybody thought Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith was going to be the big loser after his agent-related suspension at the Sugar Bowl, his nightmarish NFL combine experience and some of the boneheaded decisions he made.
But I said at the time and was confident in saying so that there was no way he would slip out of the top 10, and he went sixth overall to the Cincinnati Bengals. Smith will play a long time in the NFL, and it could be that the lessons learned these last few months will end up making him a better pro.
There were a few eyebrows raised when Alabama running back Glen Coffee decided to come out early. But he was coming off an outstanding season, and he saw it as an opportunity to strike while the iron was hot. He was right. He went in the third round to the San Francisco 49ers and was the sixth running back selected.
As is the case every year, there were a handful of players who should have stayed in school.
Vanderbilt cornerback D.J. Moore was a terrific college player and made an impact wherever he lined up last season. But slow 40-yard dash times pushed him down to the fourth round. I still think he'll end up being a really good pro. He has great instincts, great leaping ability and plays his best against the best competition. But to give up a final season of eligibility and go in the fourth round is a downer.
South Carolina safety Emanuel Cook came out early and went undrafted. His former teammate, South Carolina cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, gave up his final season and went in the seventh round to the Carolina Panthers.
Talk about getting bad advice and/or putting yourself in a position academically where you have no choice but to turn pro.
And what about the case of LSU defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois? He looked to be one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the SEC entering last season after playing lights out in the BCS National Championship Game.
But he slumbered through a disappointing junior season last year, decided to come out anyway and was taken in the seventh round by the San Francisco 49ers.
At the other end of the spectrum is Tennessee running back Arian Foster. He received a second-round grade from the NFL draft advisory committee last year, but elected to stay in school. He suffered through a disappointing senior season, injured his hamstring in the Senior Bowl and went undrafted.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
With the help of SEC associate commissioner Charles Bloom, here's some NFL draft trivia as it relates to the SEC:
- The SEC has either led or tied for the lead in most draft selections in nine of the last 11 seasons, including the last two drafts.
- Since 1990, the SEC has led the nation with 702 total draft selections, an average of more than 36 per year.
- Since conference expansion in 1992, the SEC has had 99 first-round selections in 16 drafts, an average of 6.19 selections per draft.
- This season, the NFL's Web site lists up to 63 SEC players who could be selected during this weekend's draft. The most players ever selected from the SEC in one season were 47 in 2002.
- The most first-round selections ever from the SEC were 11 in 2007.
- Since expansion, the SEC has produced four No. 1 overall picks in the draft -- all quarterbacks. LSU's JaMarcus Russell went No. 1 in 2007, Ole Miss' Eli Manning in 2004, Kentucky's Tim Couch in 1999 and Tennessee's Peyton Manning in 1998. Georgia's Matthew Stafford would be the fifth if he goes No. 1 as expected on Saturday.
- Since expansion, the team with the most players taken in one draft was Tennessee in 2002 with 10 selections. Three of those were first-rounders -- John Henderson, Donte Stallworth and Albert Haynesworth. Florida had nine players selected in the 2007 draft, while Georgia had eight players taken in the 2002 draft.
- Spanning the last 20 drafts, Tennessee has the most first-round picks with 22. Florida is close behind with 21, while Georgia (16), LSU (14), Alabama (11) and Auburn (10) are also in double figures.
- But over the last five drafts, it looks a little bit different when you start counting first-rounders. LSU leads the way with eight followed by Arkansas with six, Auburn with five and Tennessee with four. Florida, Georgia, Ole Miss and South Carolina each have three.
- In his final pre-draft projection, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has eight SEC players going in the first round, including six of the first 17 picks. He has Stafford going No. 1 to the Lions, LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson No. 3 to the Chiefs, Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith No. 6 to the Bengals, Tennessee defensive end Robert Ayers No. 12 to the Broncos, Ole Miss offensive tackle Michael Oher No. 16 to the Chargers and Florida receiver Percy Harvin No. 17 to the Jets.