SEC: Ashton Glaser

Lunchtime links

July, 10, 2012
Getting some links in before the storm clouds come through Atlanta ...
Aaron MurrayAP Photo/David GoldmanAaron Murray and the Georgia quarterbacks rank as the top position group in the SEC.
As we get closer and closer to the 2012 college football season, it's time for one of the blog's most popular items -- position rankings.

This is never easy. We go back and forth dozens of times before finding any sort of confidence in our lists. After checking with colleagues and people around the league, we come up with lists ranking each position and in the end someone gets upset. Someone has to be last and someone is always underrated or overrated.

Such is life.

The important factors for every position were great players, true game-changers, depth and experience. We also considered past performances, but we also had to think about possible projections for the upcoming season.

We’ll start with the quarterback position:

1. Georgia: Aaron Murray has thrown 59 touchdowns in his first two seasons and is on his way to breaking several school records. He has great toughness and mechanics, but needs to cut down on his 14 interceptions from a year ago. The staff is looking to redshirt Hutson Mason, but he might be the league's best quarterback insurance policy. He could be used if Murray suffers a serious injury. Freshmen Faton Bauta and Christian LeMay are both talented, but inexperienced.

2. Arkansas: Tyler Wilson is arguably the SEC’s best quarterback and probably would have been a first-rounder had he come out this past season. Junior Brandon Mitchell complements Wilson well with his running ability, but he'll be in an intense battle with redshirt freshman Brandon Allen, who is a stronger drop-back quarterback.

3. Tennessee: If Tyler Bray can stay healthy, he’s potentially a 3,000-yard, 30-touchdown guy. Justin Worley was thrown into the fire last season and gained some valuable experience, and the Vols also have high hopes for true freshman Nathan Peterman, who showed promise in the spring before dislocating his finger.

4. Alabama: If AJ McCarron picks up from 2011, he could contend to be the league's top quarterback. He has all the tools, but needs to keep making strides with his decision-making. Behind McCarron, Alabama doesn't have much experience with Phillip Sims transferring to Virginia. Next in line would probably be redshirt freshman Phillip Ely, but true freshman Alec Morris has turned heads in summer workouts.

5. Vanderbilt: Jordan Rodgers put a charge into the Commodores’ offense when he took over midway through last season. He’s a big-play quarterback, but needs to cut down on his turnovers. The other thing Vanderbilt has going for it is Austyn Carta-Samuels, who started for two seasons at Wyoming and rolled up nearly 2,100 yards in total offense in 2010. Plus, the staff is excited about early enrollee Patton Robinette, who is one of the top quarterback prospects to sign with Vandy in a while.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Spruce Derden/US PresswireNow that Missouri is in the SEC, James Franklin enters as one of the most versatile quarterbacks.
6. Missouri: James Franklin enjoyed a breakout season in 2011 and enters his first year in the SEC as the league’s best dual-threat quarterback. However, will he be all the way back after undergoing shoulder surgery in the spring? With Franklin out, redshirt freshman Corbin Berkstresser worked with the Tigers' first team this spring and performed well. Junior Ashton Glaser is in his fourth season, but has barely played.

7. South Carolina: Connor Shaw is hardly the biggest quarterback in the SEC and runs a lot, so that’s never an ideal situation. However, he improved greatly toward the end of last season and made strides this spring to use his arm more than his legs. The Gamecocks have barely any experience behind Shaw, as Dylan Thompson and Andrew Clifford battle for the No. 2 spot.

8. LSU: It's Zach Mettenberger time in Baton Rouge, as he takes over a unit that has struggled with consistency. He was a very talented high school player a few years ago and helped make LSU's offense much more pass-friendly this spring. While he's an obvious upgrade for the Tigers, he's still pretty unproven at this level. Behind him, there's no experience, as Jerrard Randall and Stephen Rivers both redshirted in 2011.

9. Auburn: The Tigers should have quite the quarterback battle on their hands. Clint Moseley returns with more experience under center, but he lost ground to Kiehl Frazier this spring because of shoulder soreness. Frazier was a run-first QB last year, but looked much more confident with his arm this spring with help from new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. Zeke Pike was a top QB prospect coming out of high school, but off-field issues sent him home for the summer.

10. Florida: Will Muschamp said following spring practice that he felt like he had two quarterbacks he could win with. Nonetheless, he wasn’t ready to name either Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel the starter. Both struggled for the most part last year, but both were very talented high school prospects and each could excel with more experience. The reality is that both will end up playing this season.

11. Mississippi State: Dan Mullen said this spring that he was very pleased with how Tyler Russell performed this spring, but Russell has had consistency issues in the past. The hope is that now that Russell knows he's the starter, he'll be more comfortable on the field. However, Mississippi State only has one other scholarship quarterback on its roster: redshirt freshman Dak Prescott. Quarterbacks Dylan Favre and Nick Schuessler both transferred.

12. Kentucky: Maxwell Smith was far from perfect last year, but he took advantage of his time on the field. After replacing the injured Morgan Newton late in 2011, Smith was named to the SEC's All-Freshmen team. He also seemed to improve this spring with Newton watching and rehabbing. Newton's time as a starter could be over, but both will be pushed by incoming freshman Patrick Towles, who might be more physically gifted than the two ahead of him.

13. Texas A&M: Kevin Sumlin is working with a ton of inexperience at quarterback. Sophomore Jameill Showers has the edge, but he’s thrown all of five career passes. Things got even foggier for the Aggies when backup Johnny Manziel was arrested in late June and charged with disorderly conduct by fighting, failure to identify and having a fake driver's license. That leaves sophomore Matt Joeckel and true freshman Matt Davis with the chance to catch Showers.

14. Ole Miss: It looked like Bo Wallace would come in and snatch the starting job, but as spring went on Barry Brunetti played himself into a tie with Wallace. But Brunetti was the starter coming out of last spring and played in just five games last fall. Randall Mackey moved from quarterback to wide receiver, while Zack Stoudt left the team in June, so there is very little experience at the quarterback position in Oxford.
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- On paper, Missouri's group of wide receivers bleeds inexperience.

Outside of veteran T.J. Moe, who will be a senior this fall, Missouri's returning receiving targets have combined for 51 catches for 712 yards and five touchdowns in their careers.

But when you talk to players and coaches at Missouri, those numbers tell a much different story. They say that while the returners aren’t burning up the stat sheet, it hasn't been because of a lack of talent.

"It's only unproven because guys haven't got the chance to do anything yet," Moe said. "We have a lot of good receivers out here and we have a lot of guys out here who have made plays."

Last year, Moe led the Tigers with 54 receptions and 649 yards. Behind him, Missouri had former All-American tight end Michael Egnew (50 receptions) and seniors Wes Kemp (29 receptions) and Jerrel Jackson (17 receptions), who combined for 36 starts.

"It's hard to beat those guys out because they do all the right things," offensive coordinator David Yost said.

While most of the talk concerning Missouri's receivers has revolved around inexperience and numbers, Yost and Co. are excited about what this group can do.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Lucas
AP Photo/Matt YorkMissouri will be counting on speedy WR Marcus Lucas to make a significant impact in 2012.
Coaches and players think they have bona fide deep threats in rising juniors Marcus Lucas and L'Damian Washington. Lucas was fourth on the team in receiving last year (23 catches for 414 yards) and tied for first with five touchdowns. Washington was fifth with 20 catches for 364 yards and three scores.

Yost said both received more time as the season went on because of how explosive they were (Lucas has been clocked running a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash). Both ended the year averaging 18 yards per catch.

Washington was banged up this spring, but Lucas said he took full advantage of his time on the field. With more reps, Lucas said he shook the laziness that hurt him last year. His jogging and trudging around the field turned into sprints, his head stopped swimming and he finally learned how to finish plays after getting more comfortable in Missouri's offense.

"It comes with confidence, really," said Lucas, who caught four passes for 81 yards in Missouri's spring game. "When you don't really know exactly [what's going on] and you're guessing on what your exact assignment is it slows you down. Whenever you're out there just playing, you can play at your top-end speed."

Players like Bud Sasser, who worked at the Y position/tight end position, Gahn McGaffie and Jimmie Hunt, who caught an 88-yard touchdown in the spring game, all impressed this spring. So did tight end Eric Waters, who will now take over for Egnew, before he went down with an MCL injury that required surgery. Coach Gary Pinkel said Waters, who has two career catches, will be a key cog in the offense and should be back up to speed in three months.

Upperclassmen Rolandis Woodland, Jaleel Clark and Kerwin Stricker should also contribute more this fall and much ballyhooed recruit Dorial Green-Beckham, known around the program as "the big guy," will be on campus this summer.

"We're in pretty good shape," Pinkel said.

Before spring practice, 7-on-7 sessions helped build receiver chemistry, but what really brought this group together was not having quarterback James Franklin healthy this spring. After being sidelined with a shoulder injury, the receivers were forced to work with backups Corbin Berkstresser, Alex Demczak and Ashton Glaser.

Lucas said it was tough building chemistry with the other quarterbacks at first, but it forced the receivers to be more vocal in film sessions and in the huddle with the QBs

It also helped the receivers learn to take on more responsibility in the offense. They felt as though they were the voices this spring, and Lucas said that will be more beneficial for this group than in past seasons.

"We just want to be dominant," he said.

"We're kind of like the motor for [the offense]. We run the pace out there. If the wideouts are having a good day, it feels like the offense is having a good day."
Missouri quarterback James Franklin will undergo surgery to repair his injured right/throwing shoulder and will miss the remainder of spring practice, but is expected to be ready for the beginning of the 2012 season.

Franklin was injured last Tuesday when he jumped on a fumble at the end of a play and had a defender land on his outstretched arm. The diagnosis was a sprained glenohumeral (GH) joint.

The rising junior will undergo surgery Friday and a timetable for his return to throwing will be determined following the procedure. At first, surgery wasn't expected and the thought was that Franklin would return this spring, but the staff decided surgery would be best in the long run.

“We’re disappointed for James naturally,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “But this is absolutely the right thing to do, and we all know he’ll be in great hands, as we have the best doctors and trainers in the nation. James has an outstanding work ethic, and he’ll be able to get past this setback just fine. We expect him to be 100 percent and ready to go for the season. Until then, our younger guys will benefit from more reps and more work with the No. 1 offense, and we’ll look at that as a positive."

With Franklin out, the Tigers will turn to redshirt freshman Corbin Berkstresser and junior Ashton Glaser to handle most of the quarterback duties this spring. Berkstresser ran with the first-team offense during Missouri's scrimmage Saturday, completing 10 of 25 passes for 105 yards. He wasn't stellar, but he also didn't turn the ball over and led the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 nickel defense for a field goal in two-minute drill work. He finished the drive with a 24-yard scramble to get out of bounds with less than 5 seconds left before Trey Barrow's 33-yard field goal.

Berkstresser didn't get into the end zone, but Glaser did with a 6-yard pass to Rolandis Woodland on a fade route.

You never want to see your starting quarterback go down, especially when you're transitioning to a new conference, but the good thing is Franklin should be ready for the fall. But Franklin would be behind if there are any sort of changes Missouri wants to make to its offense between now and when he returns.

On the other hand, this will prepare Missouri's backups just in case they're needed this fall. Franklin has already talked about trying to trim down his injuries by avoiding unnecessary hits, but we all know that they happen again and again in this league. It's going to take Franklin time to adjust to the defensive speed, so the hits will come. Having someone ready and prepared in the wings will help in case Franklin, who suffered a handful of injuries last season, goes down again an any point.

SEC weekend practice notes

March, 19, 2012
Missouri was one of the first SEC schools to get football practice started this spring, so Saturday counted as a big step for the Tigers, as they went through their first spring scrimmage Saturday.

Led by seven takeaways, Missouri's defense won the scrimmage 19-7. Sophomore defensive end Kony Ealy forced two fumbles, recovering one, broke up two passes and registered a quarterback hurry. Junior linebacker Andrew Wilson also recorded an interception and recovered a fumble. Sophomore cornerback Xavier Smith and redshirt freshman corner Ernest Payton each grabbed an interception as well.

While the defense dominated Saturday's session, the offense was without a number of key players, including starting quarterback James Franklin, who is dealing with a shoulder injury, left tackle Elvis Fisher (knee), running back Henry Josey (knee), and wide receiver L'Damian Washington (hamstring).

That didn't stop the offense from getting a couple of scores, though. Junior quarterback Ashton Glaser recorded the first score of the day when he connected with senior receiver Rolandis Woodland on a fade in traffic for a 6-yard touchdown pass. Senior running back Kendial Lawrence came up with the second score with a 19-yard run. Lawrence finished the day with 12 rushes for a team-best 61 yards.

Senior Gahn McGaffie led all receivers with eight catches and 75 receiving yards, while senior T.J. Moe had five catches for 54 yards.

With Franklin out, redshirt freshman Corbin Berkstresser got the start and completed 10 of 25 passes for 105 yards. Berkstresser didn't turn the ball over and closed the day when he led the No. 1 offense down field against the No. 1 nickel defense for a field goal in two-minute drill work. He capped the drive with a nice 24-yard scramble to get out of bounds with less than 5 seconds left. That play set up Trey Barrow for a 33-yard field goal to close the series.

You can check out the scrimmage stats on Missouri's official website.

Florida also went through its first practice weekend. Michael DiRocco of ESPN's GatorNation has a slew of info on the Gators' first practice in pads.

One thing that sticks out in DiRocco's observation is that the quarterbacks didn't have much success throwing the ball downfield.

DiRocco writes:

"[Jeff] Driskel, Jacoby Brissett and [Tyler] Murphy had a lot of success completing passes in the 10- to 15-yard range, but were unable to get the ball down the field. Each quarterback did complete deep balls over the two days, but it was rare to see any completions of 20 or more yards that weren't sideline or seam patters. No deep ins or outs. It's understandable that they would struggle, though, because it is only the first week of practice, and the Gators' secondary is pretty good."

Obviously, that will come with more practice, but it's something to keep an eye on as the Gators progress through the spring.

Vanderbilt also went through its first weekend of spring practice. Coach James Franklin praised his players for the energy and attitude they brought to Friday's opening practice.

"I thought our energy was much better," Franklin said. "I think we’re obviously in much better shape. We had a hard time practicing like that last year. We’ve come a long way. I still have much higher expectations and I think our guys do, too. For the first day, I thought it was pretty good."

After a lengthy 11-on-11 team drill, Franklin ended practice with a series of competitive 1-on-1 tire pulls.

With depth issues at running back, wide receiver Wesley Tate got work out of the backfield Friday. He started off his career as a running back at Vandy, and will continue to work there throughout the spring.

Three quarterbacks also took snaps for the Commodores, as last year's starter Jordan Rodgers, Wyoming transfer Austyn Carta-Samuels and early enrollee Patton Robinette all shared reps. This is expected to be an intense battle for the Commodores this spring and will receive a ton of attention from Franklin.

"The area I talked to the guys about after practice is we have to do a better job throwing the ball during competitive periods," he said. "That’s something we have to talk to them about in the offseason. I don’t think we’re doing a very good job of that."

Lunchtime links

March, 13, 2012
Making the SEC rounds on a Tuesday with some links.



Wednesday, 12/24
Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12