SEC: Arkansas

SEC lunchtime links

August, 23, 2013
8/23/13
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Just think, the next time you click on the SEC lunchtime links post it will be Monday of the first game week of the college football season. Ready or not, it's that time again.
  • Tennessee lost two defensive ends over the course of the preseason and spent much of the past week or so looking for their replacements. In 6-foot-5, 260-pound Jordan Williams, the Vols may have found their man to start.
  • Damiere Byrd is already the fastest player on the South Carolina roster. Now the speedy wide receiver wants to make the biggest plays in the biggest situations.
  • Matt Elam was a playmaker and an All-American at safety for the Gators last year. Marcus Maye, his replacement, worked with Elam this offseason and has impressed coaches with his work ethic so far. With the season nearly underway, Maye hopes to be the same type of presence on defense as his predecessor.
  • Vanderbilt's seniors Kenny Ladler and Javon Marshall have so much familiarity with one another that they rarely need to speak. The Commodores are hoping that experience and comfort level pays off as the two form what could be a stellar safety net for the secondary.
  • It won't be easy, but Missouri's defensive linemen must replace Sheldon Richardson's disruptive presence on the Tigers' defense.
  • Arkansas struggled to defend the pass last year, finishing dead last in the SEC in passing yards allowed. Eric Bennett and Rohan Gaines are hoping to change that. The two safeties expect big years.
  • Keihl Frazier surprised many when he dropped out of the quarterback race to start over in the Auburn secondary at safety. That move happened less than two weeks ago. And ready or not, he'll need to be ready to play just over a week from now when the Tigers host Washington State in their season opener.
  • Arie Kouandjio was starting at guard for all spring and most of preseason camp before an abrupt move to tackle last week. Austin Shepherd experienced the same thing, switched from tackle to guard in a position experiment by the Alabama coaching staff. Now, it appears that those experiments are over and the Tide can get to the job of establishing chemistry.
  • The Egg Bowl is months away, but Mississippi State went ahead and released its new snazzy uniform combination for the rivalry game against Ole Miss.
  • D.J. Welter and Lamar Louis are expected to start, but how do the rest of LSU's inside linebackers stack up?

SEC lunchtime links

August, 21, 2013
8/21/13
12:00
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Starters are being named, injuries are being assessed and coaches are seeking consistency. Yup, the season is drawing closer. Take a look around the SEC and see.
In the SEC, it's all about recruiting and player development. It's the big reason why the league has won seven straight BCS championships and produced more NFL players than any other conference. The two go hand-in-hand.

The Senior Bowl, which released its 2014 Watch List on Tuesday, further illustrated that fact, selecting nearly 20 percent (72) of its 400 candidates from the SEC. The ACC twas nearly lapped with 48 selections, followed by the Big 10 (46) and the Pac-12 (38).

And the team with the most players should come as no surprise as defending-champion Alabama had 10 make the list, including quarterback AJ McCarron and All-American linebacker C.J. Mosley. Florida, Mississippi State and Missouri tied for the second-most players taken from the SEC with six apiece.

Alabama: WR Kenny Bell, CB Deion Belue, CB John Fulton, P Cody Mandell, QB AJ McCarron, LB C.J. Mosley, WR Kevin Norwood, RG Anthony Steen, S Nick Perry.

Arkansas: WR Jevontee Herndon, DT Brian Jones, DE Chris Smith, C Travis Swanson, DT Robert Thomas.

Auburn: P Steven Clark, DC Chris Davis, DE Nosa Eguae, DE Dee Ford, FB Jay Prosch, DT Jeffrey Whitaker

Florida: WR Andre Debose, DE Dominique Easley, OG Jon Halapio, C Jonatthan Harrison, WR Soloman Patton, DC Jaylen Watkins.

Georgia: OG Chris Burnett, OG Kernarious Gates, TE Arthur Lynch, QB Aaron Murray, OB Garrison Smith.

Kentucky: IB Avery Williamson

LSU: IB Lamin Barrow, RB Alfred Blue, FB JC Copeland, FS Craig Loston, QB Zach Mettenberger

Mississippi State: DE Denico Autry, OG Gabe Jackson, RB LeDarious Perkins, QB Tyler Russell, OB Deontae Skinner, FS Nickoe Whitley

Missouri: OT Justin Britt, QB James Franklin, DC EJ Gaines, WR Marcus Lucas, WR L'Damian Washington, IB Andrew Wilson

Ole Miss: PT Tyler Campbell, IB Mike Marry, DC Charles Sawyer, RB Jeff Scott, IB DT Shackleford

South Carolina: DC Jimmy Legree, QB Connor Shaw, DE Chaz Sutton

Tennessee: OT Ju'Wuan James, DT Daniel McCuller, RB Rajon Neal, DE Jacques Smith, C James Stone

Texas A&M: LB Steven Jenkins, RB Ben Malena, OT Jake Matthews

Vanderbilt: IB Chase Garnham, DC Andre Hal, OT Wesley Johnson, FS Kenny Ladler, WR Jordan Matthews

Things could not have gone much worse for No. 8 Arkansas on Saturday night. The Razorbacks lost starting quarterback Tyler Wilson to an "above-the-shoulders" injury in the first half. They saw starting cornerback Tevin Mitchel and starting fullback Kody Walker carted off the field during a herky-jerky third quarter. To top it all off, they watched Sun Belt squad Louisiana-Monroe waltz into War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, Ark., and ruin their top-10 ranking with a 34-31 overtime upset.

Some quick, breathless reaction:

It was over when: ULM quarterback Kolton Browning looked for a play-action pass while trailing the Razorbacks 31-28 on fourth-and-1 in overtime. With his slot receiver covered in the flat to his left, Browning reversed field and took off through the Arkansas defense. Browning got the yards he needed for a first down and kept going, outrunning two Razorbacks defenders into the end zone for the upset.

Game ball goes to: Browning deserves more than one game ball for this performance. The junior threw a whopping 68 passes and completed 42 for 412 yards and three touchdowns. Browning didn't just save the Warhawks in overtime, either. His final passing touchdown of the night was a game-tying 23-yard strike delivered to wide receiver Brent Leonard on fourth-and-10 with just 47 seconds remaining in regulation. He led the Warhawks in rushing as well, with 15 carries for 76 yards and the winning score.

Hogs hampered by injuries: Wilson was the first and most notable Razorback to fall out of the affair with an injury. The senior left the game with what was described as an "above-the-shoulders" injury in the second quarter. Not only did he not return to the game, he also did not return to the Arkansas sideline. Mitchel was the next loss when he took a scary helmet-to-helmet hit in the third quarter. Play was stopped for upward of 10 minutes while trainers attended to the cornerback, who had to be carted off the field. Reports from the sideline said that Mitchel was responsive. Walker needed the cart moments later when he left the game with what appeared to be a leg injury.

The players' well-being means much more than any result, but it's discouraging that the suddenly injury-depleted Hogs must host No. 1 Alabama next weekend.

Giant killers: This is the second time in five years that the Warhawks have laid out an SEC West powerhouse. ULM famously upset Alabama 21-14 in 2007. The Warhawks travel to Auburn next week. Based on the way the Tigers played Saturday against Mississippi State, they should probably be worried.

Stopped cold: It looked as if Arkansas would survive the evening without Wilson when backup quarterback Brandon Allen fired a 13-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mekale McKay to take a 28-7 lead early in the third quarter. But the Warhawks outscored the Razorbacks 27-3 from the 9:42 mark of the third quarter to the end of overtime. Arkansas converted just three of 12 third downs on the night.
Say what you will about how it all ended, but this much is certain about Bobby Petrino’s tenure in Arkansas: He meant victories and money during his four years there.

From former coach Houston Nutt’s final season in 2007 to the 2010 season under Petrino, the Razorbacks saw donations to the football program rise a whopping 359 percent, with a more than 80 percent growth from 2009-10 to 2010-11, to $15.4 million. No other SEC school saw such growth in that time period: Auburn’s donations increased by 15 percent, while Florida saw a 9.7 percent increase. Georgia came in lower at 3.9 percent, and LSU saw donations decrease by more than 13 percent.

The figures come from data each university provides to the NCAA, and while it’s important to note that every athletic department handles donations differently -- some schools only take what they need each year from their fund-raising pots -- there’s no arguing Arkansas has seen a huge influx of cash during Petrino’s tenure.

Football revenue overall rose by 54 percent during Petrino’s first three years, to $61.1 million. Auburn, which won a national title during that time period, saw a 30 percent increase. LSU’s revenue growth came in at 13 percent to $69.1 million.

Petrino, who was in the middle of a seven-year contract under which his salary averaged $3.53 million, put teams on the field that had fan-friendly high-powered offenses.

“Under Petrino, the team averaged 94 percent capacity for home games. It was only 91 percent under [Houston] Nutt,” said Scott Prather, one of the founders of Coaches by the Numbers, a website dedicated to gathering statistical data on football coaches. “If you figure each ticket at an average of $50 per ticket, that’s nearly $600,000 per year.”

Petrino’s last two teams won 81 percent of their games, the best two-year record for any Razorback coach since 1988-89 under Ken Hatfield. In his Tuesday press conference announcing Petrino’s firing, Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long acknowledged he has a tough road ahead as he searches for a new football coach.

“It's a difficult time of year to be searching for a head football coach, no question,” said Long.

Replacing a successful coach is also potentially difficult timing for the athletic department, which broke ground on a new football complex last fall as part of a comprehensive athletic facilities master plan for many sports. The master plan, which aims to be funded solely by private donations, is estimated to cost up to $327 million at full completion.

Heather Collart, a former athletics administrator who now works for the Detroit Pistons, said the loss of an administrator or coach can have a definite impact on donations and capital campaigns.

“While talent reigns supreme within athletics, the personality of leadership has a stronger tie than most people realize to donors, alumni and especially former student-athletes,” said Collart.

The message from the university will be key in the next weeks several weeks, she said.

“Boosters will always question difficult decisions, especially when it results in the loss of a figurehead who had an enduring personality or winning record -- however if you can point to a long-standing process that holds a mission statement as gospel, boosters will come to accept the decision much more quickly and in most cases will remain loyal to a program.”

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