SEC: Barry Brunetti

SEC lunchtime links

December, 27, 2013
The weekend is fast approaching and bowl game action is beginning to heat up. Here are some headlines from around the league today to sink your teeth into:

SEC lunchtime links

November, 18, 2013
Another wild weekend of SEC football is in the books. Let's take a look at what's being talked about around the league on Monday:
OXFORD, Miss. -- Bo Wallace was known for a lot of things last season. Being stationary wasn’t one of them.

For the past few months, that’s basically what Wallace has been, as Ole Miss’ gun-slinging quarterback has been stuck on the sideline for all of the Rebels’ practices this spring as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.

He’s been watching backups Barry Brunetti and Maikhail Miller have all the fun, while standing back and taking mental reps.

“The first couple of months were tough on me because I was so bored and I wasn’t able to be out there with the guys,” Wallace told Thursday.

[+] EnlargeBo Wallace
John David Mercer/US PresswireQuarterback Bo Wallace, recovering from shoulder surgery, hopes to be cleared shortly to resume throwing.
It was a stir-crazy kind of bored.

With his shoulder out of commission, Wallace was forced to completely shut his body down. He had to run in a pool because running on solid ground jarred his shoulder. Trainers could only move his arm a little each day in order to loosen it. And he couldn’t even stretch because of the pain.

Wallace went from football player to statue.

But in a couple of weeks, Wallace expects to be back throwing, well, anything. Wallace sees a doctor the first Wednesday of every month and he’s hoping his next visit will end with him being cleared to throw little medicine balls and maybe a football.

Sitting out hasn’t been ideal, but it’s been necessary for Wallace, who spent most of 2012 with nagging shoulder pain. He originally hurt it against Tulane on Sept. 22, but team doctors didn’t think he’d need surgery. Another hit late in the Rebels’ 30-27 win over Arkansas five weeks later changed that, as they determined he’d either have to rest or push surgery back and play through the pain.

Wallace chose the pain.

"I probably could have sat out a couple of games,” he said, “but you're not going to do that if you're a competitor."

With his shoulder aching, Wallace said he played more conservatively and had less power behind his throws. Mentally, he lost his confidence in deep passes because he literally couldn’t deliver them.

"I was used to being that gunslinger who could fit it in and then toward the end of the year I was lucky if I could throw a ball 45 yards,” Wallace said.

That became obvious when he was pulled late in the loss to LSU because his coaches knew his arm was shot. Wallace said that was the most painful game of the season.

To help protect himself more last season, Wallace took lessons in sliding. Coaches placed a padded mat on the turf inside the Rebels’ indoor practice facility and Wallace would run and attempt to slide onto the mat. It wasn’t very pretty.

"It's so awkward because you want to keep running and you're going full speed to slide that way,” he said. “I'm not a baseball player or anything so it's not natural for me to do that."

But it saved him a few times late in the season, especially in the Mississippi State game where he found himself sliding more than he’d like.

Now, Wallace can’t slide, so he’s helping himself by being more of a student of the game. When he isn’t calling out protections and mentally dissecting every detail of every offense play, including what works and doesn’t in certain protections and against certain defensive looks, he’s examining all 17 major mistakes he made last season by watching his “Interception Reel” with offensive coordinator Dan Werner.

While Wallace passed for nearly 3,000 yards and had 22 touchdowns, he also threw a league-high 17 interceptions. In losses to Texas, Texas A&M and LSU Wallace totaled eight interceptions and Ole Miss lost the last two by a combined nine points.

“He knows that that's No. 1 on his list of things to improve if we want to be next-level stuff," Hugh Freeze said.

It’s hard to eliminate mistakes when you aren’t taking live reps, so Wallace is helping his backups. If he can’t cut down errors, he’s making sure they do by helping them with reads and finding defensive holes.

It isn’t as exciting as actually going through the motions, but it’s helping him grow and beats the statue-like alternative.

Opening spring camp: Ole Miss

March, 15, 2013
Schedule: The Rebels open spring practice at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, and will conclude the spring at 2 p.m. ET April 13 with the BancorpSouth Grove Bowl at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Practices are open to the public this spring.

What's new: After losing cornerbacks coach Wesley McGriff to the New Orleans Saints last month, the Rebels replaced him with former Oklahoma State assistant Jason Jones. Jones will coach Ole Miss' cornerbacks, and holds the title of co-defensive coordinator.

On the mend: Starting quarterback Bo Wallace will miss all of spring practice as he recovers from offseason clavicle surgery. Junior wide receiver Collins Moore will only take part in non-contact drills this spring, as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery. Junior left guard Aaron Morris is expected to miss spring drills after having shoulder surgery.

On the move: With Wallace out for the spring, senior Barry Brunetti will take the majority of the first-team snaps at quarterback, but there's a chance he could play multiple positions this fall when Wallace returns. Junior college transfer Quadarias Mireles arrived at Ole Miss this spring as an athlete and will start the spring at cornerback. Moore could play safety once his shoulder heals. Sophomore wide receiver Cody Core could also plays some safety this spring, and redshirt freshman Temario Strong is moving from defensive tackle to linebacker.

New faces: The Rebels welcomed Mireles and defensive tackle Lavon Hooks from juco this spring. Freshman running back Mark Dodson and freshman tight end Christian Morgan also enrolled early. Nick Brassell is also back with the team after going the juco route in 2012 due to academic issues. He was a two-way player for the Rebels at both receiver and cornerback as a freshman in 2011, but will start the spring at corner.

Question marks: The Rebels return four starters along the offensive line, but will be without their best lineman from a year ago in right guard A.J. Hawkins. Ole Miss has some solid options to work with this spring, but replacing a guy like Hawkins won't be easy. The Rebels have to replace their top three tight ends from last season, including full-time starter Ferbia Allen. Senior Justin Bigham, who mostly played on special teams last season, is the lone letterman returning to the position. Morgan and redshirt freshman John Youngblood will also compete there this spring. Starting kicker Bryson Rose is gone, leaving redshirt senior Andrew Ritter and freshman Andy Pappanastos to compete for that spot.

Key battle: The departure of Hawkins leaves the Rebels with a major hole on the offensive line. He had the best season of any of Ole Miss' offensive linemen last season, and replacing him will be very tough. Versatile senior Patrick Junen will take the first snaps at right guard this spring, but he will really be challenged by athletic sophomore Justin Bell. The coaches expect a few others to compete for Hawkins' old spot as well.

Breaking out: Sophomore defensive end Channing Ward arrived at Ole Miss last year with a lot of hype surrounding him. He played in 12 games, registering 21 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss, but much more is expected from him in Year 2. Ward has all the tools to be a major player up front for the Rebels. Senior wide receiver Philander Moore could be poised to have a big spring as well. He only played in eight games last season, catching four passes for 38 yards and touchdown, but he's been around the program long enough that the coaches are looking for him to take the next step. The coaches are also excited to see what redshirt junior defensive end Carlos Thompson and senior wide receiver Korvic Neat can do this spring.

Don't forget about: Senior linebacker D.T. Shackelford is finally back on the playing field after two straight years with knee injuries. Even during his absence from the playing field, he's still been one of the team's top leaders. That role should only expand with him coming back. He's an extremely versatile players, who has played well at both linebacker and defensive end during his career. He registered five sacks back in 2010 and was a part of the SEC All-Freshman team in 2009. He should be 100 percent this spring, and having him on the field this fall will instantly make this defense better.

All eyes on: Brunetti has had a very interesting career with the Rebels, but he's getting yet another chance to prove that he can be the quarterback when his number is called. Coach Hugh Freeze liked to switch Brunetti and Wallace in and out at times last seaosn, but Brunetti was used as more of a runner. This is a great chance for him to develop more as a passer and become an even bigger weapon for the Rebels this fall.

Thanks to 24-point first half and commanding performance by its defense throughout the afternoon, Ole Miss captured its first bowl victory since 2009 with a 38-17 win over Pittsburgh in front of a sea of red that was a part of a record crowd of 59,135 for the BBVA Compass Bowl.

The SEC improved to 5-3 in bowl games, while the Big East ends bowl play with a 3-2 record.

It was over when: Ole Miss back up quarterback Barry Brunetti pushed forward on a quarterback keeper for a 1-yard touchdown to make it 31-10 Rebels with 21 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

Game ball goes to: First-year coach Hugh Freeze. He didn't throw any passes or make any tackles, but he had his players very ready for Saturday's bowl game. This game meant a lot to players and fans, and the Rebels came out fast on offense and hunkered down on defense. After missing out on a bowl game the last two seasons, and winning just six total games during that span, Ole Miss finished the year 7-6 after a major culture overhaul thanks to Freeze's guidance.

Stat of the game: Ole Miss held the rushing advantage over Pittsburgh 222-81.

Stat of the game II: Pittsburgh defenders Jason Hendricks and Shayne Hale combined for 30 tackles and 21 of those tackles were solo.

Best call: All year, Freeze rotated his quarterbacks throughout games. Bo Wallace was always the starter but Brunetti would come in for obvious running plays. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it was a little too obvious, but it certainly worked on Saturday. Wallace finished the game with 151 passing yards and three touchdowns to two interceptions on 22 of 32 passing. He also ran for 27 yards, while Brunetti totaled 34 yards, but helped really open up a running game that finished with 222 yards and 4.6 yards per carry.

Unsung heroes of the game: Running back Jeff Scott left the game early with a hamstring injury, leaving freshman Jaylen Walton to help carry the load. He kept the chains moving for the Rebels, carrying the ball 10 times for 56 yards. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry in the process. Linebacker Mike Marry has been one of the most underrated players in the SEC this year and he had a very productive day. He was all over Pitt's backfield, registering four tackles for loss. He finished the day with seven total tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.

What Ole Miss learned: This team brought a lot of fight to Birmingham, Ala. When Scott went down with his hamstring injury, there had to be some concern on that Ole Miss sideline that the Rebels' offense might lose some of its rhythm. It didn't. The Rebels continued to work the ground game with other options and just wore down the Panthers up front. That running game helped open up the passing game and helped the Rebels enter the offseason with a ton of momentum after this win.

What Pitt learned: It had no offense without star senior running back Ray Graham. He had a heck of a career with the Panthers, but a hamstring injury kept him out of the BBVA Compass Bowl, and the Panthers just couldn't replace his production on the field. Pitt ran the ball 36 times for 81 yards, averaging just 2.3 yards per carry. Rushel Shell replaced Graham, rushing for 79 yards on 25 carries. That lack of a running game severely limited the Panthers through the air as well, as quarterback Tino Sunseri passed for just 185 yards.
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin has heard an awful lot about his offense in the past few weeks. But he's turned some of his focus to the offense he'll face this weekend in Oxford, Miss.

Ole Miss might be coming off of a 19-point loss to No. 1 Alabama, but Sumlin isn't overlooking the ability the Rebels have in their offensive arsenal, saying the defensive preparation for this week has been "pretty tedious" with all the formations, shifts and movements he expects to see from the Rebels.

Currently, Ole Miss has the SEC's No. 4 offense (434 yards per game).

While the Rebels are dealing with yet another quarterback battle on their hands, Sumlin said there's potential for a lot of firepower out of Ole Miss' running game. The Rebels own the SEC's No. 4 rushing offense (224.2) and it is ranked 21st nationally.

Bo Wallace and Barry Brunetti might be fighting for the starting spot at quarterback, but both can be very dangerous with their legs. Wallace has rushed for 165 yard this season, and Brunetti has rushed for 154.

Sumlin has also paid a lot of attention to running backs Jeff Scott and Randall Mackey, who have run for 317 and 204 yards, respectively.

"Randall Mackey and Jeff Scott back there can really fly," Sumlin said.

One thing that will help the Aggies is that Ole Miss' up-tempo, no-huddle offense is very similar to the one the Aggies run. Having to face that sort of offense every day in practice should prepare A&M for most of what they'll see from Ole Miss on Saturday.

"Fortunately, we're a no-huddle team, too," Sumlin said. "So the ability to adjust on the fly shouldn't be as difficult for us as it is for some."

Sumlin also expects his defense to continue its current run of keeping teams away from the end zone. In the past three games (all wins), the Aggies have allowed just 27 points. The Rebels might have some flash to their offense, but Sumlin is hoping his defense will help take some shine off the Rebels this weekend.

"Our defense has been pretty sound this year, and I don't expect that to change very much this week," he said.

Starting quarterbacks on the mend

September, 26, 2012
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze and Kentucky coach Joker Phillips enter the weekend with similar predicaments.

Both are hoping that shoulder injuries don't sideline their starting quarterbacks with tough matchups coming up Saturday.

For Kentucky, Phillips expects to see Maxwell Smith back on the field against No. 6 South Carolina, after he missed last week's 38-0 loss to Florida with a shoulder injury that he suffered in the loss to Western Kentucky.

Having Smith back is very important for this offense, as he's third in the SEC with 966 passing yards and has eight touchdowns.

But if Smith can't go, true freshman Jalen Whitlow will start in his place. Whitlow replaced senior Morgan Newton against Florida last week, completing one of his six passes for 12 yards. Phillips said Whitlow has been taking the second-team reps at quarterback since the Louisville game and Newton's struggles as the starter against the Gators officially moved Whitlow behind Smith.

"He's coming," Phillips said of Whitlow. "He doesn't have the full package of our offense, but there are some things he can do. Every week he gets closer and closer to being able to do even more."

Freeze is also optimistic about getting Bo Wallace back against No. 1 Alabama. Wallace injured his shoulder in Ole Miss' 39-0 win at Tulane last week and was held out of practice Tuesday. Wallace told his coach that he could have practiced Tuesday, and Freeze seemed confident that Wallace would practice Wednesday.

"We'll see how the ball is coming out of his hand today," Freeze said.

If Wallace is held out, junior Barry Brunetti will start. Brunetti has had a very up-and-down Ole Miss career, but Freeze said he's been pleased with Brunetti's play during games this season. However, his issue is with his consistency in the passing game in practice.

If Brunetti goes this weekend, he'll have to leave that inconsistency in Oxford, as he'll face the SEC's top defense.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze has made a decision on his quarterback battle.

After sleeping on it Wednesday night, the first-year coach named junior college transfer Bo Wallace his starting quarterback for Saturday's opener against Central Arkansas. Wallace, who arrived in Oxford this spring, beat out junior Barry Brunetti, who transferred to Ole Miss last year from West Virginia.

Wallace actually spent a year with Freeze at Arkansas State before going the juco route at East Mississippi Community College, where he threw for 4,604 yards and 53 touchdowns last season.

Wallace spent the first part of spring with an edge at the quarterback position, but as spring progressed, Brunetti caught up and the two entered the summer tied for the starting spot. However, Wallace had a much more productive fall camp, so it should come as no surprise that he took the starting spot. He's more familiar with Freeze's offense and he's considered a better passer than Brunetti.

This has to be a tough pill for Brunetti to swallow. He was named Ole Miss' starter heading into last season, only to lose it before the opening game even finished. Later in the season, he got his spot back, but had to learn yet another offense this spring. He felt very confident about where he stood in the competition this summer, but just didn't do enough this fall.

Both quarterbacks struggled with consistency this spring and fall, so there still has to be a little concern with the quarterback spot. But now that the competition is over, the offense can concentrate on molding itself around one guy. That will help with comfort and chemistry -- two things Ole Miss' offense desperately needs.
When Hugh Freeze reaches the Walk of Champions to officially welcome his Ole Miss Rebels to the Grove and game day on Saturday, he’ll see many glimpses of himself.

He’ll stop for a brief moment -- soaking up everything -- right before crossing the threshold just outside the Student Union to look upon a sea of red and blue where he once stood as an envious young boy.

Growing up just outside of Oxford, Miss., in Senatobia, it was a family tradition to set up shop in the Grove and cheer on the Rebels. Waiting for them to make that steady walk through the Grove shook Freeze a little more each time he went.

[+] EnlargeHugh Freeze
Shelby Daniel/Icon SMIOle Miss coach Hugh Freeze is hoping to invigorate his team's fan base in his debut season at the school.
He bathed in the camaraderie, loyalty and passion that came with being an Ole Miss fan, but Saturday, when the Rebels kick off their 118th season against visiting Central Arkansas, he’ll see it from a different perspective, as all eyes will be on him and his team.

“It’s a happening there and an event, so I know how much that day means to [fans],” Freeze said. “The atmosphere of family always stuck out in my mind.”

For now, Freeze has a very surprising tone about him. While he’s taking over a program that has been stuck in the SEC’s cellar for two years, posting a 6-18 record with a current 14-game losing streak against SEC opponents, Freeze isn’t nervous about his debut.

He’s eager to see his team play, and he’s excited about not really knowing what his team will look like come Saturday afternoon.

“There are a lot of unknowns about our football team,” he said. “I’ve never coached them in a single game. It’s very hard to honestly evaluate them.

“I’m anxious to go and play a game and see if we are talent-wise better than I had hoped or not as good as I thought. All those things go through your mind. That gets you very anxious for the game.”

The unknowns are a bit thrilling. There hasn’t been much to cheer about in Oxford, so he’s interested to see what he has to work with. And he’s interested to see the fans’ reception.

Lately, most have called the Grove more of a home than Vaught-Hemingway Stadium -- and that’s during games. But Freeze believes the fervor isn’t gone. It came with every “Hotty Toddy” cheer that welcomed him to booster clubs and it comes with the fan frustration.

If they didn’t care about Ole Miss and what Freeze might do, he wouldn’t hear about it. But he does. Saturday is for Freeze and his players, but it’s also about bringing a fan base back to the field, and Freeze knows that.

That’s why he won’t hold back. He and his staff will throw everything at Central Arkansas in order to see some maturation in their players and some excitement.

“We’ll do everything that we need to do to be successful,” Freeze said. “Whatever that is, we’ll try it. We won’t hold anything back.”

There are still a lot of questions for Freeze’s team. The quarterback battle between Bo Wallace and Barry Brunetti is still unsettled and Freeze expects to play both Saturday. Both lines have struggled at times, and Freeze still wonders if he truly has enough SEC-caliber players.

Not everything will get answered before or during Saturday’s game, but it’ll be a start. What Freeze does know is that he has a more grounded and accountable team that has “grown tremendously” since spring.

There’s going to come a point Saturday when things aren’t going to go right for the Rebels, and Freeze is curious as to how his team will respond. It could revert to its old mediocre ways or it could charge ahead and fight harder.

More than ever, Freeze is banking on the latter.

“Most of our young men are starting to get it,” he said. “They’re not all there. I don’t know that we’ll ever get them all there, but I do think that a large percentage of who we’re dependant upon has matured significantly.”

SEC power rankings: Week 1

August, 27, 2012
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

We are just days away from the college football season, so it's time to unveil our first batch of power rankings for the regular season.

A lot goes into our power rankings. It isn't just about how strong teams are right now. We look into our crystal ball as well to get a good read on how each team will finish the season -- before it has even started.

For each school, we look at talent coming back, coaching, roster changes, how teams have looked in practice now compared to the spring and uniform style. Well, maybe not that last part, but you get the point.

Here are our season-opening SEC power rankings for 2012:

1. LSU: The gap between the Tigers and Alabama got a lot smaller after Tyrann Mathieu's dismissal, so this could be viewed as 1A and 1B. Mathieu is a big loss for LSU on defense and special teams, but there is just way too much talent for this team not to make another title run. LSU's offense still has one of the best/deepest running games around and gets an upgrade with quarterback Zach Mettenberger. LSU also might have the best offensive line/defensive line combo in the nation.

2. Alabama: The defending champs lost a lot of star power on defense, but that unit should still be pretty darn good this fall. There could be some growing pains at times, but the Tide should still have one of the league's best defensive units this fall. The offense might be better and more balanced this fall, even without Trent Richardson. There is a good stable of backs, the nation's top offensive line and quarterback AJ McCarron has a little more explosiveness and athleticism to work with at receiver.

3. Arkansas: Bobby Petrino is gone, and that could be tough for the Razorbacks to overcome in the long run, but the team has bought in to what interim coach John L. Smith is saying. We still need to see how this team -- and Smith -- acts when adversity enters the picture. The offense has two of the league's best in quarterback Tyler Wilson and running back Knile Davis, who is back from a serious ankle injury. Wilson lost three NFL receivers, but his receiving corps doesn't lack talent. Questions still surround the defense, which lacked depth last season.

4. Georgia: A load of talent returns on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Aaron Murray could be a Heisman candidate, while linebacker Jarvis Jones might be one the country's best players, regardless of position. Isaiah Crowell is gone, but the Bulldogs seem happy with their stable of running backs and were probably going to run by committee again this season anyway. The defense will take a hit with a couple of key stars suspended to start the year, but this group has elite status. The schedule is set up again for a run to Atlanta.

5. South Carolina: The Gamecocks return a filthy defense headlined by sophomore defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. The defensive line should be one of the best in the league with Clowney and Devin Taylor on the ends and Kelcy Quarles coming back in the middle. The secondary has issues, especially with Akeem Auguste going down, but safety D.J. Swearinger and hybrid safety/linebacker DeVonte Holloman are studs. Marcus Lattimore is one of the nation's best, and he appears to be 100 percent after his ACL injury. The hope is that quarterback Connor Shaw will help take some pressure off of him.

6. Florida: The Gators return a fierce defense that should be strong across the board. End/tackle Dominique Easley is coming off an ACL injury, but has the ability to be one of the top linemen in this league. But for Will Muschamp, his second-year success will be determined by what the offense can do. Questions are everywhere, starting with a quarterback battle that isn't close to being settled. There are unproven pieces at receiver and the offensive line, which returns most of last year's parts, struggled mightily in 2011.

7. Tennessee: The Vols have a chance to challenge Arkansas for the league's best passing game. Tyler Bray can throw it all around a bit and has two potential stars in Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson to throw to. However, Da'Rick Rogers is gone, which means the pressure is on Hunter, who is coming off an ACL injury, and Patterson, who is in from the juco ranks. The defense has a lot of experience and talent, but four new coaches are on board, including defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri. Seven new coaches are in Knoxville, and it's no secret that Derek Dooley's seat is very hot there.

8. Mississippi State: There is a lot of confidence in quarterback Tyler Russell, who can finally call this team his. He'll have quite a bit of experienced weapons to throw to, including seniors Chad Bumphis, Arceto Clark and Chris Smith, who have combined to catch 221 passes for 2,782 yards and 22 touchdowns in their careers. The running game should be strong with LaDarius Perkins and Nick Griffin, while the offensive line is just hoping to stay healthy this year. The defense should be solid with a talented front seven and a very gifted secondary, starring potential All-American Johnthan Banks. The schedule is also very favorable in September and October.

9. Missouri: The newbies don't lack confidence, but on paper they lack size up front -- on both sides. The staff and players say it's not a problem, but let's see come mid-October. Quarterback James Franklin appears to be 100 percent after undergoing shoulder surgery and might be the league's best dual-threat QB. He's the key to a spread offense that returns a lot of speed. The defense is experienced and has a strong linebacker group. Ends Brad Madison and Kony Ealy could form a pretty good tandem this fall.

10. Auburn: The Tigers are still a young team and there are two new coordinators in town. Now that Kiehl Frazier has been named the starting quarterback, the offense can start molding around him. He'll have a solid group of running backs to work with, but the line is young and he needs more reliable receiving targets alongside Emory Blake and Philip Lutzenkirchen. The defense is loaded up front, headlined by end Corey Lemonier. But the defense as a whole still has a lot of questionable parts for new coordinator Brian VanGorder to work with.

11. Texas A&M: The Aggies have a new coaching staff, have to replace some key starters from last year and will be working with a very green quarterback in redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel. The good news for him is that the offensive line is very strong, starting with tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews. Helping Manziel will be senior receivers Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu and stud running back Christine Michael, who is coming back from an ACL injury. The defense is moving to a 4-3, but is stacked at linebacker. The secondary is dangerously young and thin.

12. Vanderbilt: This team surprised a lot of people last year, but opponents won't be caught off guard by the Commodores in 2012. There is good offensive firepower coming back, with quarterback Jordan Rodgers, running back Zac Stacy and receivers Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd. Plus, there is some good, young offensive talent. But the offensive line has depth issues and will have to use a lot of young guys this fall. The defense is also replacing some key components from last year's team.

13. Kentucky: The Wildcats saw their five-year postseason run end after having the SEC's worst statistical offense in 2011. Joker Phillips thinks he has more potential playmakers this fall and is excited about quarterback Maxwell Smith's potential. The offensive line is younger and can't afford an injury to either Matt Smith or Larry Warford. The defense will be strong up front, but is replacing all four linebackers and two starters in the secondary.

14. Ole Miss: New coach Hugh Freeze isn't working with a lot of numbers, as attrition from the past few years is catching up. The offense was one of the league's worst last year, and still has a quarterback battle between Bo Wallace and Barry Brunetti going on. The offensive line struggled mightily to grasp Freeze's spread this spring and has to improve quickly. Receivers Donte Moncrief and Ja-Mes Logan have a lot of upside, while the defense should be better, especially in the secondary. Still, depth is an issue overall.
Heading into the spring, the SEC had a few fun quarterback races to watch in both divisions. Some of those battles have come to an end, while a few still remain.

Let's take a look at each one from the spring and see where they currently stand:


The matchup: Sophomore Kiehl Frazier left the spring with the edge because he took most of the reps, as a sore shoulder sidelined junior Clint Moseley. This fall, freshman Jonathan Wallace entered the race and has continued to impress Auburn's staff.

The winner is: Frazier has the most athleticism and has felt much more comfortable throwing the ball with help from first-year offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. While coach Gene Chizik continues to say the race is even between Frazier and Moseley, who is still dealing with shoulder soreness, we'll go with Frazier because of overall talent. He can make more plays with his feet and if his arm really does improve, he could be a solid dual-threat QB in this league.


The matchup: This two-horse race between Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel has been intense since the spring. Brissett has had a little bit of the edge because of his game experience last year, but Driskel has made tremendous strides under the direction of new offensive coordinator Brent Pease.

The winner is: Will Muschamp continues to say the race is dead even. Driskel's bruised shoulder didn't even complicate the race. It doesn't sound like anyone really knows who has outperformed the other, but the concensus is the team and the coaches can win with either. With that said, Brissett has more experience and we assume is completely healthy, so we'll go with him, but both should play in the opener.


The matchup: Sophomore Maxwell Smith took all of the first-team reps this spring, while senior Morgan Newton recovered from shoulder surgery. However, Newton returned to get back into the race this fall. Joining them this fall were freshmen Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow.

The winner is: Smith. Joker Phillips named Smith the starter on Monday, so this race has come to an end. The offense can now focus on running around Smith, who has been the most consistent of Kentucky's quarterbacks since the spring. This isn't a surprise.


The matchup: Neither of Hugh Freeze's quarterbacks have proven much at all and have struggled with consistency since spring. Barry Brunetti was given the starting job at the beginning of last season, but lost it almost immediately, and Bo Wallace is fresh off a season in the junior college ranks. Wallace, however, did spend a year with Freeze at Arkansas State.

The winner is: Wallace seemed to have the edge for part of the spring, and then lost it as Brunetti got more comfortable with Freeze's offense. Both quarterbacks and Freeze felt things were very even heading into champ, but Wallace has had a much stronger champ. Both could end up playing in the opener, but we'll go with Wallace.


The matchup: Sophomore Jameill Showers, who has the only game experience at quarter, and redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel were nearly neck-and-neck for most of the spring, but Showers seemed to pull away little toward the end. Sophomore Matt Joeckel and true freshman Matt Davis also competed this spring.

The winner is: Manziel. It seemed as though Showers had the edge in this one, but Manziel outplayed him during fall camp. After a solid outing during one of the Aggies' scrimmages, coach Kevin Sumlin decided to end the battle and give the starting job to Manziel.


The matchup: Jordan Rodgers replaced Larry Smith last season, but still showed inconsistency on the field at times. So, this spring, he had a battle on his hands with Wyoming transfer Austyn Carta-Samuels, who was the Mountain West's Freshman of the Year in 2009.

The winner: Rodgers. This was probably always his job to lose, and he didn't. He had a very good spring and fall camp. Rodgers said this summer that he felt way more comfortable with the people around him this spring and is poised to have a much better year this fall.
Randall Mackey hasn't had much time to rest since new coach Hugh Freeze took over at Ole Miss.

Mackey began the Freeze era in Oxford as a quarterback, but quickly moved to wide receiver this spring. After having a pretty decent spring, Mackey was on the move again at the beginning of fall camp, as the staff moved him to running back.

The extremely athletic -- and versatile -- senior has his third home on the field in less than a year, but he's yet to complain about all the movement. He actually embraces it and thinks he's finally settled at a position in which he believes he can showcase the most skill.

[+] EnlargeRandall Mackey
AP Photo/Rogelio V. SolisMississippi plans to take advantage of Randall Mackey's versatility this season.
"I love playing running back," Mackey said. "That's the best one of all of them that I like. I have the feel for it now."

At first, it seemed as though quarterback was the best spot for him. Despite thinking he'd be a receiver for the Rebels, Mackey battled for the starting spot before the 2011 season, but a preseason arrest moved him down the depth chart.

But after it seemed no one could throw the ball straight for the Rebels last season, Mackey got his shot again in early October against Fresno State, where he completed eight of his 18 passes for 214 yards and one touchdown. He ended up starting six games and led Ole Miss with 1,112 passing yards and seven touchdowns.

However, he quickly fell behind Barry Brunetti and junior college transfer Bo Wallace this spring and got the early sense that his quarterbacking days were over.

"I wasn't making it happen at quarterback that much, and Barry and Bo were doing a better job," he said.

So, he was temporarily moved to receiver before running backs coach Derrick Nix got in his ear. At first, it was merely a joke, but as fall camp drew closer and closer, Ole Miss' coaches got more serious about moving him. When camp arrived, Mackey was officially a running back.

In order to get his body ready for the punishment running backs take, Mackey said he ballooned to 205 pounds. Unfortunately, that was too much weight for the 5-foot-11 athlete, and Mackey felt sluggish and tired. His speed suffered because of it, so he dropped five pounds and found his footing.

Now, his coaches consider him one of the Rebels' top offensive threats because of his running ability and the fact that he can still line up all over. Mackey said he'll shift out wide on some plays, and still has Wildcat packages to throw from.

What makes running back so appealing to Mackey is the fact that he can improve more on the field and just "play my game."

"That's what I've been wanting to do since I came to Ole Miss," he said.

"My style is just try and get the ball to the end zone."

One advantage for Mackey at running back is working with the starter, Jeff Scott. The junior playmaker has helped Mackey adjust to his new position with tutoring away from the field. Mackey also tries to mimic some of Scott's running style in order to improve his field speed.

The smaller Scott should be thrilled that his roommate is following in his footsteps, because it will help ease some of the load t a position that is lacking depth.

Mackey said he's a full-time running back, but will move around, which he likes. He just wants to help his team, and hopes that what started as a joke will have him getting the last laugh this fall against defenses.

"Whatever coach needs me to do," he said, "I'm going to do it to help my team."

Weekend SEC scrimmage notes

August, 13, 2012
A handful of SEC teams took to the practice field to conduct scrimmages over the weekend. Here are some notes from some of the scrimmages:


  • Junior quarterback Aj McCarron led the way for the offense, completing 19 of 29 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown. Running back Eddie Lacy led all rushers with 57 yards on eight carries, and caught a scrimmage-best five passes for 25 yards. Jalston Fowler ran seven times for 34 yards and a score, and T.J. Yeldon had 24 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Kevin Norwood led all receivers with 61 yards on two catches, and freshman linebacker Trey DePriest stood out on defense with five tackles and an interception.
  • For more on Alabama's scrimmage, check out the school's official website.

  • Quarterback Tyler Wilson had another solid performance, completing 21 of 39 passes for 288 yards, with four touchdowns and the interception. However, it was Arkansas' defense that commanded most of the attention. Arkansas' defense racked up 12 sacks, 27 tackles for losses and forced two turnovers.
  • Arkansas' offense scored touchdowns on just five of its 12 possessions, but quarterback-turned-wide receiver Brandon Mitchell was a major part of the offense, catching nine passes for 74 yards and two touchdowns.
  • You can find more on Arkansas' scrimmage here.

  • Quarterback Zach Mettenberger had a solid outing during the Tigers' first fall scrimmage. He led all passers with 190 yards and two touchdowns on 15 of 30 passing. He connected with wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for a 55-yard touchdown pass, and hit James Wright for a 31-yard touchdown.
  • Beckham Jr. led all receivers with four catches for 101 yards, and Wright caught four passes for 57 yards. Freshman running back Jeremy Hill was the team's top rusher, with 71 yards on just nine carries.
  • Junior cornerback Tharold Simon stood out on defense with two tackles, one sack and an interception.
  • For more on LSU's scrimmage, check out the school's official website.

  • It seems as though quarterback James Franklin is healing well after shoulder surgery this spring. During Mizzou's first scrimmage, he completed 18 of 22 passes for 228 yards. He completed his first nine passes for 111 yards before throwing his first incompletion. Freshman Maty Mauk added 152 yards on 25 of 36 passing.
  • Running back Kendial Lawrence had the lone touchdown of the day when he ended a 75-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. Lawrence also carried 11 times for a team-high 37 yards, and caught six passes for 50 yards. Jimmie Hunt led all receivers with 68 yards on six catches.
  • For more on Missouri's practice, check out the school's official website.

  • The Rebels' quarterbacks struggled during Ole Miss' scrimmage. Both completed fewer than 50 percent of their passes, with Bo Wallace passing for 145 yards and Barry Brunetti passing for 94 yards. Brunetti also threw two interceptions.
  • The running game was much more productive, as I'Tavius Mathers ran for 47 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries, and Jaylen Walton rushed for 30 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries.
  • For more on Ole Miss' scrimmage, check here and here.

  • A lot is expected from freshman wide receiver Shaq Roland, and he had a pretty solid debut for the Gamecocks. He led all receivers with 59 yards and a touchdown on four catches.
  • Running back Brandon Wilds was the top rusher of the day, getting 40 yards on three carries, and Marcus Lattimore, who is coming back from his season-ending knee injury, carried the ball four times for 25 yards.
  • Quarterback Connor Shaw threw for 108 yards and a touchdown, but backup Andrew Clifford led the quarterbacks with 122 yards and two scores.
  • For more on South Carolina's scrimmage, check out the school's official website.

  • Quarterback Tyler Bray had no problem finding his favorite receiving targets during the Vols' scrimmage. He hit Da'Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter 13 times, with Rogers grabbing six passes for a team-high 105 yards. Hunter caught seven passes for 47 yards.
  • Tennessee' offense also did well running the ball. The Vols' totaled 295 rushing yards, with 134 coming from junior running back Rajion Neal.
  • For more on Tennessee's scrimmage, check out the school's official website.

  • Freshman running back Trey Williams had a solid debut Saturday, rushing for 125 yards and two touchdowns on six carries during the first half of the Aggies' scrimmage. His highlight of the day came on a 76-yard touchdown run.
  • The Aggies showcased a tremendous pass rush last season, and continued that trend during the scrimmage, registering four sacks in the first half, including two from defensive end Damontre Moore.
  • For more on Texas A&M's scrimmage, check out the school's official website.

  • It was all about offense for the Commodores on Saturday night. Vandy's offense scored eight touchdowns in the 105-play scrimmage.
  • Running back Zac Stacy got it going again during the third-down situation portion of the scrimmage with a 40-yard run on the first play. The offense finished the third-down situations 8 of 14.
  • Freshman Brian Kimbrow had a solid debut, leading rushers with 112 yards. Stacy racked up 98 rushing yards, and quarterback Jordan Rodgers passed for 153 yards and a touchdown.
  • For more on Vandy's scrimmage, check out the school's official website.
Alabama could be without one of its top young receivers for the 2012 season, as true freshman Chris Black will miss three to four months after injuring his shoulder during practice on Sunday.

Nick Saban said Black will need surgery to repair his shoulder.

Black, who was part of a highly-touted receiver class for the Crimson Tide, enrolled at Alabama in January. By all accounts, he had a pretty solid spring and caught three passes for 61 yards and a 44-yard touchdown in Alabama's spring game.

The former Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast standout was the No. 2-rated wide receiver coming out of high school and had the potential to be a deep-play threat in Alabama's offense.

"He wants to play so bad he can't see straight," Saban told reporters Thursday. "This is one of the unfortunate things. We feel bad for him, but everybody here is going to be very, very supportive, and he's going to be an excellent player for us in the future."

The good news for Alabama is there is good depth at receiver. Juniors Kevin Norwood and Kenny Bell are looking to make names for themselves this season, while the team has been impressed by youngsters Amari Cooper, who enrolled early, Eddie Williams and Cyrus Jones. Sophomores DeAndrew White and Christion Jones also have big-play potential.

DGB getting work at tight end

With injuries piling up at tight end for Missouri, freshman Dorial Green-Beckham got some work there Thursday. While he ran with the third-team offense behind Bud Sasser and Brandon Holifield, it sounds like he was a matchup issue lining up in the slot.

This really shouldn't come as a surprise, as there was talk coming out of Mizzou's camp this spring that Green-Beckham would get a look at the tight end/Y-position this fall. With his size and speed, he could really frustrate defenses inside. His size and speed makes him a natural mismatch, especially for opposing linebackers, through the middle of the field.

Overall, DGB has reportedly been turning heads both inside and out for the Tigers thus far in camp.

Tennessee moves practice east

The Vols are gearing up for what they hope is the ultimate bonding experiment, as their practices have been moved to Milligan College in Elizabethton for the next six days.

"We wanted to do this to limit ourselves from the distractions and simulate what used to be very common as it relates to team chemistry and getting to know each other, building leadership and togetherness," coach Derek Dooley said.

Improving on the chemistry of this team was a top goal for this coaching staff heading into the fall, and this road trip could certainly help with that.

While Tennessee's team is on the road, all of the football offices and operations will be moved into Tennessee's new football training center.

Dooley also announced a couple of injuries Thursday. Highly-touted junior college wide receiver transfer Cordarrelle Patterson missed Thursday's practice with a shoulder sprain. The good news for the Vols is Dooley said the injury isn't expected to be serious.

However, freshman linebacker Kenny Bynum could be out for while after tearing his meniscus. Surgery is still being evaluated.

Ja'Juan Story transferring from Florida

The Gators have parted ways with reserve wide receiver Ja'Juan Story, coach Will Muschamp announced Friday.

Story, who signed with Florida in 2011 but had yet to play a down for the Gators, met with Muschamp on Thursday to inform him of his intentions of leaving.

"Ja'Juan came me to Thursday afternoon and indicated that he wanted to transfer," Muschamp said in a statement through the school. "He just felt like this wasn't a good fit for him and he needed a fresh start. Ja'Juan is a good student and was a good teammate and we wish him the best of luck."

Story redshirted in 2011, but spent the year on Florida's scout team. He's the fourth player to transfer from Muschamp's first class at Florida.

Ole Miss QBs still even

Another practice is in the books at Ole Miss, and the quarterback position is still unclear. Through the ups and downs from the first week of fall practice, Barry Brunetti and Bo Wallace are still even, coach Hugh Freeze says.

"It's a process," Freeze said. "They are getting better. Yesterday and today they took steps in the right direction. We still made some very poor decisions at times, but everything is still relatively new to them. Even though they had some practices in the spring, they shared those reps with four guys. You do see them getting better, and they did make some really nice throws today.

"Right now I don't feel that there is enough to say that one is ahead. I think you're going to see both of them play the first few weeks."

Chris Low discusses best-case and worst-case scenarios for Mississippi.