SEC: Anthony Oden

SEC lunch links

July, 18, 2011
Happy Monday to everybody. Great to be back after some time away. Here are a few links to munch on:

Coaching 'em up: Arkansas

June, 28, 2011
Today's coaching spotlight shifts to Arkansas.

Coach: Chris Klenakis

Position: Offensive line

Experience: He's in his second season on Arkansas' staff. Klenakis was the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach for six seasons at Nevada prior to replacing Mike Summers at Arkansas in January 2010. Klenakis has 20 years of Division I experience. He served two different stints at Nevada and was also the Wolf Pack's offensive coordinator from 1997-99. From there, he went on to head up the offenses at Southern Miss and Central Missouri. During his two stints at Nevada, Klenakis became the first offensive coordinator in NCAA FBS history to have a team lead the nation in rushing offense (2009) and passing offense (1997).

Of note: Klenakis is regarded as the creator of the "Pistol" offense. ... Klenakis and Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino were teammates in the early 1980s at Carroll College in Helena, Mont. ... Fifteen offensive linemen coached by Klenakis have gone on to the NFL, including tackle DeMarcus Love, who was taken in the sixth round of this past April's NFL draft. ... Klenakis' name was mentioned last January in connection with the Texas offensive line job, which was eventually filled by former Georgia offensive line coach Stacy Searels.

His challenge: Petrino was determined to put some more pop in the running game, and Klenakis' arrival last season helped the Hogs do just that. Knile Davis led all SEC running backs with 1,322 rushing yards, and Arkansas was much more effective running the football. Klenakis will have another key challenge in 2011, and that's shoring up the two tackle positions. Gone are Ray Dominguez and Love, who combined for 70 starts the past three seasons. True freshman Brey Cook enrolled early and was impressive this spring. He's already one of the strongest players on the team, but it's never easy to get a true freshman ready to line up against some of the marquee pass-rushers an offensive tackle has to face on a weekly basis in this league. Yet, that will be Job No. 1 for Klenakis in the fall. In fact, Klenakis won't have much experience, period, to work with at tackle. Sophomore Anthony Oden received most of the first-team work at the other tackle spot in the spring opposite Cook. Junior college newcomer Jason Peacock and fifth-year senior Grant Freeman are also possibilities. Freeman had a pair of starts during the 2009 season. Oden also started a game in 2009 as a true freshman, but missed most of last season with mononucleosis and had to redshirt. There aren't any question marks in the middle of the Hogs' offensive line, not with sophomore center Travis Swanson and sophomore guard Alvin Bailey returning. But especially with a new quarterback taking over this season, how quickly those two new tackles develop will go a long way toward determining whether or not Arkansas will be a serious player in the Western Division race.
The big uglies up front on the offensive side are our focus today. There are some quality veterans out there, but teams all across the league are looking to replace some quality linemen in the trenches.

Here's how we see the league stacking up:

[+] EnlargeBarrett Jones
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireBarrett Jones has been one of the mainstays of Alabama's offensive line the past two seasons.
1. Alabama: Four of Alabama’s five linemen from a year ago return, making this one of the team’s strongest units. The returners have combined for more than 70 starts at Alabama. Barrett Jones is the star of the show. The junior has been the Tide’s starting right guard each of the past two seasons, but took reps at left tackle and could be asked to move. William Vlachos is back at center and could be the best at his position in the league. Fellow starters D.J. Fluker and Chance Warmack are back and took reps at left tackle this spring.

2. Ole Miss: The Rebels’ offense isn’t getting much respect this offseason, but its offensive line returns All-SEC candidates in tackles Bradley Sowell and Bobby Massie. Seven of Ole Miss’ linemen started two or more games each on the offensive line in 2010. Last season, the Rebels were first in the league in sacks allowed, giving up just 14. Alex Washington should stay at left guard after starting eight games there and A.J. Hawkins will likely get the nod at center after playing eight games there as well. Arkansas transfer Matt Hall will compete for time at center.

3. LSU: Joseph Barksdale might be gone, but the Tigers have a very talented group of linemen returning. Tackle Alex Hurst seems primed to be a star in the league and senior Josh Dworaczky is arguably the Tigers’ top lineman with 25 career starts. Patrick Lonergan is solid at center, while T-Bob Hebert is valuable at both center and guard. Sophomore Chris Faulk has the tough assignment of replacing Barksdale, but made quite the impression on his coaches this spring.

4. Kentucky: The Wildcats return four starters on their line. Right guard Larry Warford headlines the group after gaining second-team All-SEC honors a year ago. Kentucky also returns two-year starter Stuart Hines at left guard and Matt Smith at center, who was solid in his first year there. Left tackle Chandler Burden missed spring practice, but is expected back by fall practice. Finding a suitable right tackle is the next step for Kentucky.

5. Tennessee: This group could be one of the most impressive units for the Volunteers this season. It’s deeper and more experienced in Derek Dooley’s second year and he was very pleased with its performance this spring. Junior Dallas Thomas is solid at left tackle, and sophomore Ja’Wuan James really came on strong in his first year and is one of the top linemen in the SEC. James Stone also returns at center. The surprise of the group was true freshman Marcus Jackson, who held down the left guard spot for most of the spring.

6. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs must replace All-American left tackle Derek Sherrod, but most of the line is somewhat on point. Center Quentin Saulsberry will anchor the line and is versatile enough to play just about every position on the line. Left guard Gabe Jackson and right tackle Addison Lawrence return and the Bulldogs will have junior Tobias Smith lining up at right guard. Blaine Clausell and James Carmon, who moved from defensive tackle, will compete at left tackle.

7. Georgia: This was supposed to be one of the strongest offensive line units in the league, but the Bulldogs lost tackle Trinton Sturdivant to a season-ending knee injury this spring and fellow tackle A.J. Harmon transferred. Georgia’s most-reliable options are Cordy Glenn, who moved from guard to left tackle and Ben Jones at center. Kenarious Gates is at left guard, but he’s athletic enough to play tackle if needed. Former defensive lineman Justin Anderson will start off at right tackle. Right guard is the next area of business and the depth all around is a problem.

8. South Carolina: The Gamecocks have questions here, but there is talent across the line. Rokevious Watkins is one of the most talented guards in the league and he’ll be assisted by returning starter at center T.J. Johnson. Senior Kyle Nunn has made strides at left tackle and redshirt freshman A.J. Cann took over duties at left guard this spring. Still, the younger linemen will be counted on to contribute this fall.

9. Arkansas: The Razorbacks must replace three starters on the offensive line. Center Travis Swanson and left guard Alvin Bailey are the only returning starters. Just a sophomore, Bailey impressed his coaches last season and will be one of the top linemen in the league this fall. After that, the Hogs will have to turn to youth for help. True freshman Brey Cook could be thrust into the starting role at right tackle, while sophomore Anthony Oden could get the job at left tackle.

10. Florida: Florida’s offensive line struggled throughout the 2010 season -- and that was with a senior-laden group. This fall, the Gators will start over with a ton of inexperience. Right guard Jon Halapio and right tackle Xavier Nixon are the only returning starters. Halapio struggled at times last season and Nixon battled injuries. Florida’s line spent most of the spring in the infirmary, so little is known about the overall talent. Freshman Chaz Green left spring as the starter at left tackle, Jonotthan Harrison will battle former Notre Dame lineman Dan Wenger at center. He transferred in after spring, but has health concerns.

11. Auburn: The Tigers will go from having one of the top offensive line groups in the country to having a major work in progress in 2011. Senior Brandon Mosley is the lone returning starter, and while he was solid on Auburn’s line last season, he came from junior college as a defensive end/tight end. The good news is that tackle A.J. Greene should be fine this fall after sustaining a season-ending leg injury last year. The rest of Auburn’s linemen are very young and inexperienced. Don’t expect many redshirts from this group.

12. Vanderbilt: The Commodores might return all five starters, but this unit had trouble keeping things together last year. The offense needs this group to improve mightily. Wesley Johnson is Vanderbilt’s best option, despite only being a sophomore at left tackle. There will be size on the right side, with 300-plus pounders Kyle Fischer and Ryan Seymour over there. Simply put, this unit has the experience, but it requires a lot of improvement.

Hope and concern: Arkansas

May, 11, 2011
For the second straight year, hope springs eternal in the Arkansas camp, but there’s also reason for concern.

Biggest reason for hope: A defense with all the right pieces

To win championships in this league, you have to play championship-caliber defense. Everybody knows the Hogs have the firepower on offense to score points in bunches. Now, they have that same kind of firepower on defense to create turnovers, come up with key stops and keep teams out of the end zone. The defensive front should be one of the deepest in the league, and the addition of junior college tackle Robert Thomas (6-3, 325 pounds) this spring only added to the Hogs’ athleticism and size. Senior linebackers Jerry Franklin and Jerico Nelson are back after finishing No. 1 and No. 2 on the team in tackles last season, while senior Tramain Thomas returns as one of the best all-around safeties in the league. It’s easily the most speed the Hogs have had on defense since Bobby Petrino has been in Fayetteville, and it’s also an experienced defense. Arkansas was able to lean on its defense in spots a year ago. This coming season, it may be that the Hogs set the tone defensively in just about every game.

Biggest reason for concern: Youth in the offensive line

The Hogs were a veteran offensive line last season, particularly at tackle, and that was a big reason for their offensive success. It will flip the other way in 2011 when Arkansas is expected to field one of the youngest offensive lines in the league. True freshman Brey Cook worked much of the spring as one of the starting tackles after enrolling early. He’s mature beyond his years and already one of the strongest players on the team, but it’s always a thrill a minute in this league when a true freshman is starting at offensive tackle. Sophomore Anthony Oden could be the starter at the other tackle spot after redshirting last season. Oden was suspended for the opener and was then forced to withdraw from school in the fall because of complications from mononucleosis. The Hogs will be equally young inside, although talented. Sophomore center Travis Swanson and sophomore guard Alvin Bailey both started as freshmen last season.