SEC: Blair Walsh

ATHENS, Ga. -- If you're a Georgia fan who had much confidence when Marshall Morgan took the field last season to attempt a field goal -- or heck, even an extra point -- consider yourself among the rare few.

Like many freshman kickers, Morgan's first season was rocky to say the least. Those who are any good, however, generally take a big step in Year 2, and Morgan is certainly doing that.

[+] EnlargeMarshall Morgan
AP Photo/Wade PayneGeorgia kicker Marshall Morgan has made 13 of 15 field goals he has attempted this season, and is 22-of-22 on extra point tries.
This week he was named as one of 20 semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award -- which goes to the nation's top kicker -- and won the SEC's Special Teams Player of the Week award for the third time in the six games since he returned from a two-game suspension to open the season.

“He's had some bombs and I don't even think about it now,” Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray said. “His 50-yarder he had the other day [a 49-yard kick against Florida], I wasn't even concerned at all. I was like, 'All right, it's going in.' I wasn't even watching. I turned around and he made it and I was like, 'Hey, attaboy' and gave him a little high five and that was it. No worries at all.”

Compare that attitude to last season, when Morgan started the season in a funk on PATs and ended it by hitting just two of his last five field-goal tries, and the difference is striking. Morgan admits that he sensed his teammates' trepidation when he would take the field, which makes his success this season even more gratifying.

“[They made] just little remarks that aren't meant to hurt you, but it sticks on, you know? So now it's kind of like you look back and put it in their face,” Morgan laughed.

The sophomore has had plenty of reasons to smile this season. He leads the nation in made field goals per game (2.2) and ranks 12th (first in the SEC) with an average of 10.2 points per game. He's a perfect 22-for-22 on extra points and his only two misses out of the 15 field goals he has attempted came from 52 (North Texas) and 39 (Tennessee) yards, while his long of 56 yards set a new record at Tennessee's Neyland Stadium.

“I feel like I'm starting to earn my scholarship a little bit,” Morgan said. “Before I felt kind of like, I don't know, like last year, it was like average kicking. And this year, I feel like I'm actually working towards a goal and actually achieving a goal slowly but surely.”

Asked about the difference in their kicker from last season to this fall, several Bulldogs mentioned his improved maturity -- an area that Morgan mentioned too.

“He was a little bit of an airhead when he first got here. He still is, but he's more mature,” receiver Michael Bennett cracked.

Morgan is also more confident on the field after an offseason of hard work and a transitional first year in college where he – like all kickers – had to adjust to playing in front of bigger crowds and kicking off the ground instead of off a tee.

That, Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said, is the biggest factor as a sophomore kicker makes significant improvement from his first college season.

“The first time you do it, you go from kicking in a high school stadium with 500 people or maybe 5,000 people,” Richt said. “You're kicking off a tee and the rush isn't the same, and then you go into these stadiums where there's 80, 90 or 100,000 people inside and there are people watching on TV. Every single game, you know that every kick you make is probably going to make a difference in winning or losing, or even every extra point.

“That's kind of hard to adjust to when you're not used to that, and it's probably a little bit of a shock to them.”

It has certainly been the trend at Georgia. In 2008, Blair Walsh hit just 65 percent of his field goals as a freshman before posting two of the most consistent seasons in school history as a sophomore (90.9 percent) and junior (86.96). Now Morgan is in position to post one of the best percentages in school history if he keeps kicking at the same clip down the stretch.

“I dreamed of it,” Morgan said when asked if he expected to enjoy this kind of success. “Of course I believed in myself, but now that it's actually happening, it's a lot better feeling.”

Competition also helped him raise his game this season, Morgan said. After a mediocre first season, and then an offseason arrest for boating under the influence that forced him to miss the first two games, Morgan knew he wasn't guaranteed a job when he returned to the active roster.

Patrick Beless went 2-for-2 on field goals and 10-for-10 on PATs, so Morgan had to produce once he came back for the North Texas game -- and he has.

“Patty did a great job. He didn't miss,” Morgan said. “So just in the back of my mind I was like, 'I could lose my job, so I've really got to take it serious.' I just hunkered down and just really no jokes on the field. I just really did my kicking and that's what I still do now and it's working.”

DawgNation links: Roundtable

August, 1, 2012
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DawgNation Roundtable Insider: Georgia’s safeties, who already might open the season minus leader Bacarri Rambo, are just one of the several units the Roundtable considers as being especially vulnerable to injuries that come with fall camp.

David Ching writes Insider: Georgia's Allison Schmitt wins gold in London.

Video: Georgia linebacker Chase Vasser talks to DawgNation's Radi Nabulsi about the grueling task of facing Georgia’s running backs and what it takes to garner the UGA coaches’ attention the right way during camp.

Ching Insider: Position previews – Special teams. After losing a Ray Guy Award winner, a record-setting Lou Groza Award finalist and the 2011 Paul Hornung Award winner , perhaps no unit is more unsettled than special teams as the preseason starts.

Ching Insider: Around the Hedges in 80 Days – 31 days to kickoff. While his freshman season established him as an SEC standout, Malcolm Mitchell's sophomore season will be a grueling test of his endurance while he faces immense expectations as a cornerback, a receiver and possibly a kick returner.

Lunchtime links

June, 26, 2012
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Making the SEC rounds with some links.

DawgNation links: OL Kublanow commits

May, 23, 2012
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Kipp Adams writes Insider: Talented O-lineman Brandon Kublanow has long considered an offer from UGA to be a dream, but a host of other programs thought the same of him. He took his time through the recruiting process, but followed his heart Wednesday and became a Bulldog.

video Adams Insider: Super competitive, strong and intense, Kublanow will afford Georgia great versatility on the O-line. It also doesn’t hurt that his HS coach says Kublanow is the best lineman he has seen in 16 years of coaching.

Video interview: Brandon Kublanow

DawgNation Roundtable Insider: UGA tied for the second biggest NFL class in the 2012 draft, and it could've been bigger. Who among the newest Bulldogs to go pro will have a banner career?

Top performer: Kicker

May, 17, 2012
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Our look at the SEC's most productive returning players in 2012 continues with a look at the league's top returning placekickers.

Past producers:
The SEC returns eight of the top 10 kickers from last season. We decided to go by field goals made over percentage, because a few players had higher percentages, but didn't have as many attempts. The top kicker is back, but when it comes to field-goal kicking, the crown is always always up for grabs.

Here's a look at the top returning kicker when it comes to field goals made:

Caleb Sturgis, Florida: He connected on 22 of 26 field goal attempts for a kicking percentage of 84.6 last season. He hit 19 of 21 kicks within 50 yards, and was 3-for-5 from 50 yards and beyond, including hitting a long of 55. Sturgis also nailed all 31 of his extra-point attempts. Sturgis, who was finalist for the Lou Groza Award, given annually to college football's best placekicker, did all of that after suffering a very serious back in 2010. The injury cost him the final nine games of the season. Sturgis has one of the strongest legs in the country, and really improved his accuracy in 2011. He will likely receive a few preseason accolades this fall, and should yet again be in the conversation as the nation's top kicker.

The SEC returns seven more of the top 10 kickers from 2011:
  • Zach Hocker, Arkansas: He connected on 21 of 27 (77.8) field goal attempts, including a long of 50 yards. He also hit 20 of 26 kicks from within 50 yards. He made 57 of 59 (96.5) extra points.
  • Jeremy Shelley, Alabama: He connected on 21 of 27 (77.8) field goal attempts, including a long of 44. All of his kicks came within 50 yards. He made 52 of 54 (96.3) extra points.
  • Drew Alleman, LSU: He connected on 16 of 18 (88.9) field goal attempts, including a long of 44. He also hit 16 of 17 kicks within 50 yards. He made 62 of 63 (98.4) extra points.
  • Cody Parkey, Auburn: He connected on 13 of 18 (72.2) field goals, including a long of 45. All of his attempts came within 50 yards. He made 41 of 42 (97.6) extra points.
  • Craig McIntosh, Kentucky: He connected on 12 of 14 (85.7) field goals, including a long of 48. All of his attempts came within 50 yards. He made 20 of 21 (95.1) extra points.
  • Bryson Rose, Ole Miss: He connected on 9 of 11 (81.8) field goals, including a long of 43. He also hit 9 of 10 kicks from within 50 yards. He made 20 of 21 (95.2) extra points.
  • Michael Palardy, Tennessee: He connected on 9 of 14 (64.3) field goals, including a long of 52. He also hit 8 of 12 kicks from within 50 yards. He made 25 of 26 (96.2) extra points.

Kicking is so unpredictable these days. Just look at last year's bowl season. Yuck. So it's tough to say if Sturgis will keep his crown. Hocker is someone who will definitely push for the top spot, because of all the scoring opportunities Arkansas will have. But he could also lose chances if the Hogs get in the end zone too many times.

Shelley and Alleman should also get plenty of chances to get near the end zone. Both Alabama and LSU should have improved passing games, so both offenses should move the ball well enough to satisfy their kickers.

Missouri returns Trey Barrow and Andrew Baggett this season. Barrow, who filled in nicely for the injured Grant Ressel, began the spring as a starter, but moved behind Baggett after struggling along the way. The competition should run through fall camp and should be pretty fun to watch. The winner should have more than a few chances of getting into kicking range with the Tigers' offense.

Longtime Georgia kicker Blair Walsh is gone, and while he struggled last season, he still made 21 field goals. The Bulldogs have a few options at placekicker and will take a hard look at freshmen Marshall Morgan and Collin Barber. The coaching staff has made it clear that it will work on live field-goal attempts more during the preseason than it has in the past.

Mississippi State must replace one of the league's top kickers in Derek DePasquale. Brian Egan, a former Parade All-American, looks ready to step in, so keep an eye on him this fall.

DawgNation: Spring look, special teams

March, 20, 2012
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David Ching writes: As spring practice started Tuesday, UGA announced senior tailback Carlton Thomas' intention to transfer.

Ching also writes Insider: Player(s) to watch, special teams -- Walk-ons. While it seems UGA's special teams walk-ons must accept their fate of only a slim chance at playing time, award-winning punter Drew Butler explains that consistency can be the key to changing that.

Ching: Looks at special teams this spring.

Video: DawgNation’s special teams analysis

Video: Mark Richt on special teams

DawgNation links: Team mailbag

March, 5, 2012
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Radi Nabulsi writes Insider: In this week's team mailbag, DawgNation addresses pressing questions from our Insiders about who might change positions or double up on positions, how the backup QB situation will shake out, and making second-half corrections.

David Ching writes Insider: Quick pro day observations from Athens.

Kipp Adams writes Insider: The Georgia Bulldogs' first Very Important Dawg Day in review.
After the NFL combine, Mel Kiper has been hard at work to deliver us a handful of news and notes. It seems as though he works just as hard as the participants do throughout the week.

He has updated his list of the top five players at each position heading into April's NFL draft and the SEC is very well represented, getting 20 players on his list and having at least one player listed at each position.

Here is Kiper's updated list and a little analysis from him on some players:

QUARTERBACK
RUNNING BACK
"Richardson is a rare running back who has the chance to crack the top 10 on draft day, but he'll need to prove his knee is fine. My guess is he will."
FULLBACK
WIDE RECEIVER
TIGHT END
OFFENSIVE TACKLE
  • No. 5: Bobbie Massie, Ole Miss, 6-6, 316, Jr.
OFFENSIVE GUARD
"Glenn is a massive guy, a versatile lineman who can move outside to tackle in a pinch. I still think he's best suited at guard."
CENTER
DEFENSIVE END
"Ingram is closing, and had a good week in Indy. Branch has the size and athleticism to move to 3-4 outside linebacker."
DEFENSIVE TACKLE
"Brockers and Cox profile similarly in terms of scheme, as 4-3 defensive tackles or even 3-4 defensive ends depending on what kind of looks a team is working with."
INSIDE LINEBACKER
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER
"I think Upshaw could be drafted into pretty much any scheme and succeed, but at 272 pounds, there are fair questions about whether he's a tweener -- too small to handle 4-3 DE, and too big to be an every-down 3-4 OLB. His talent is significant, but that's something we'll need to watch."
CORNERBACKS
"Claiborne was a revelation this season, and the film tells the story. The guy is exceptionally instinctive, and while he lacks the same level of athleticism as Patrick Peterson, he is every bit as good and probably better as a pure cover corner. Kirkpatrick has good size and maintains above-average quickness, and is safely in Round 1."
SAFETY
KICKER
"Going into the year, Walsh to me seemed like a lock to hold down the top spot. But his inconsistency became, well, consistent, and he dropped. He may need to battle through the UFA process if he wants to make a team."
PUNTER
"Butler actually boomed his punts farther as a sophomore, but over the past two seasons, he's become a master at getting maximum distance while eliminating returns. That's what NFL teams want -- a guy who can get off big punts, but not so long that they limit coverage."

DawgNation links: Prospect finds discipline

February, 23, 2012
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Radi Nabulsi writes Insider: Not taking care of business while hoping for a college football career landed OL Trenton Brown at Georgia Military College. The disciplined lifestyle there has helped the promising lineman turn a corner he hopes will lead him to an FBS career.

with
Video: Brown interview

David Ching writes: A DawgNation primer for the eight former Georgia Bulldogs showing off their skills this week at the NFL combine in Indianapolis.

DawgNation: Top prospect Nkemdiche visits 

February, 12, 2012
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Kipp Adams writes: Insider Four Grayson high school prospects, including top in-state (and maybe top national) recruit Robert Nkemdiche, spent Saturday taking in their own personalized junior day of sorts at UGA.

David Ching writes: Insider A kid with a soccer background and little knowledge of the intricacies of football impressed Georgia coach Mark Richt so much with his punts that Collin Barber was offered a scholarship by Richt on the spot -- and he took it on the spot.

SEC postseason position rankings: ST

February, 10, 2012
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We've come to the end of our postseason position rankings. Special teams don't get a ton of credit when things go right, but we all know how much grief they get when things go wrong. Just look at all those shanks we saw from kickers last season.

Fortunately, there are other aspects of special teams that involve more exciting plays, like returns that can change the dynamic of a game or are just really easy on the eyes (just take a look at what Joe Adams did to Tennessee last fall).

You can see how we ranked the SEC's special teams units before the season here.

Here are our final rankings:

[+] EnlargeTyrann Mathieu
AP Photo/John BazemoreTyrann Mathieu's punt return for a touchdown against Georgia turned the momentum in the game.
1. LSU: All-American punter Brad Wing averaged 44.4 yards per kick, had 20 punts of 50-plus yards and pinned 27 kicks inside the opposing 20-yard line. His long of 73 yards completely changed LSU's first game with Alabama. Tyrann Mathieu had two clutch punt returns for touchdowns against Arkansas and Georgia at the end of the season and was fifth nationally averaging 15.6 yards per return. Morris Claiborne also returned a kickoff for a touchdown and averaged 25.1 yards per return. Opponents averaged 3.7 yards per punt return and just 20 yards per kickoff against LSU. Drew Alleman led the SEC in field goal percentage (88.9), hitting 16-of-18 kicks.

2. Arkansas: Adams was one of the best punt returners in the country, averaging 16.9 yards per return and taking four to the house for scores. The Hogs were just as dangerous on kickoffs, as Dennis Johnson and Marquel Wade both returned kicks for touchdowns and ranked in the top five in the SEC in return average. Zach Hocker hit 21-of-27 kicks and led all kickers by averaging 9.1 points per game. Dylan Breeding led the SEC in punting (45.3) and downed 16 inside the 20. Arkansas was one of the best in the SEC in kickoff coverage, but did allow two punt returns to go for scores in the two biggest games of the season.

3. Auburn: Auburn had Onterio McCalebb and Tre Mason take kickoffs back for touchdowns, as the Tigers led the SEC in kickoff return average (24.7) and also in kickoff coverage. Auburn wasn't great returning punts, but punter Steven Clark was a Ray Guy Award finalist and pinned 33 punts inside the 20. Cody Parkey ranked sixth in the league in field-goal kicking, connecting on 13-of-18 kicks (72.2).

4. Florida: Even without Urban Meyer running the show, the Gators were still pretty successful in this department. Florida was first in the SEC and tied for sixth nationally with six blocked kicks. Two punt blocks went for touchdowns. Caleb Sturgis was a Lou Groza Award finalist, hitting 22-of-26 field goals, including three from 50-plus yards. Florida was also solid in kickoff coverage and got kickoff touchdowns of their own from Andre Debose, who was third in the league in return average, and Jeff Demps. Florida averaged 7.2 yards per punt return and averaged 39.8 yards per punt.

5. Ole Miss: If not for special teams, Ole Miss would have been even worse in 2011. Tyler Campbell averaged 43.6 yards per punt on his 72 attempts and pinned 28 inside the 20. The Rebels also had two different players -- Nickolas Brassell and Jeff Scott -- return punts for touchdowns and Ole Miss was near the top of the league in kickoff coverage and had a net punting average of 38 yards. Bryson Rose also hit nine of his 11 field-goal attempts.

6. Vanderbilt: It was a mixed bag for the Commodores when it came to special teams. Vanderbilt was second in the league in opponent punt return average (3.9), but allowed a touchdown, and gave up another touchdown on kickoff coverage. Vanderbilt also blocked two kicks. Missed field goals haunted Vanderbilt, as the Commodores missed two in the six-point loss to Tennessee and one at the end of regulation in a three-point loss to Arkansas. Andre Hal logged a kickoff touchdown, but Vandy was 11th in the league in punt return average.

7. Alabama: Before the national championship game, Alabama's field-goal kicking game received a ton of criticism, especially for the four misses in the 9-6 loss to LSU. But Jeremy Shelley redeemed the unit by hitting 5-of-7 in the rematch. Alabama's kickers missed 13 kicks. Marquis Maze only had 12 kickoff returns, but averaged 28.5 yards per return, was third in the SEC in punt return average (13.2) and had that nifty touchdown against Arkansas. However, Alabama was 11th in the league in kickoff coverage and 10th in punt average.

8. Kentucky: Punter Ryan Tydlacka was fourth in the league in punting (43.6), had 20 punts of 50-plus yards and had 19 of his punts downed inside the 20. Craig McIntosh connected on 12-of-14 field-goal attempts (.857). Kentucky was in the middle of the pack in kickoff coverage. The Wildcats weren't so good at returning kicks, ranking 11th in the SEC in kickoff returns and last in punt returns, averaging 1.8 yards per return.

9. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs were last in the league in kickoff returns and were the only team to average fewer than 20 yards a return. The Bulldogs were better on punts, getting touchdowns from Chad Bumphis and Johnthan Banks, and ranked fifth in the league in punt return average. Punter Baker Swedenburg ranked seventh in punting and pinned 19 punts inside the 20. Derek DePasquale hit 12-of-18 field goals.

10. Tennessee: The Vols didn't record any special teams touchdowns, but were fifth in the league in kickoff returns and seventh in punt returns. As far as defending returns, Tennessee allowed just 18.1 yards per return, but was 10th in punt return coverage and gave up a touchdown. Michael Palardy hit of nine of his 14 field-goal attempts and punter Matt Darr was 10th in the SEC in punt average (38.1).

11. South Carolina: The Gamecocks struggled in the kicking game, but did have a bright spot in Ace Sanders recording a touchdown on a punt return and South Carolina blocked two kicks. However, South Carolina was seventh and eighth in the SEC in kickoff and punt returns, respectively. South Carolina was last in kickoff coverage and gave up a touchdown. Jay Wooten missed four field goals and three extra points, while punter Joey Scribner-Howard was ninth in the SEC in punting, averaging 38.9 yards per punt.

12. Georgia: Outside of Brandon Boykin's 92-yard touchdown return in the Outback Bowl, his 22.4-yard average on kick returns and Drew Butler's 44.2 yards per punt, Georgia didn't do much at all on special teams. The group that was supposed to be first in the league allowed two kickoffs and punts to go for touchdowns and allowed a fake punt for a touchdown against South Carolina. Blair Walsh entered the season as one of the nation's top kickers, but hit just 21-of-35 kicks, including missing two in overtime in the bowl loss to Michigan State.

SEC players invited to NFL combine

February, 7, 2012
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The NFL has released its list of invites to this years NFL combine. Of the more than 300 prospects taking part in the pre-draft shenanigans starting Feb. 22, 62 are from the SEC (for fun we are including Missouri and Texas A&M).

Here are the SEC representatives: School breakdown:
  • Alabama: 9
  • Arkansas: 4
  • Auburn: 3
  • Florida: 3
  • Georgia: 8
  • Kentucky: 2
  • LSU: 8
  • Missouri: 4
  • Mississippi State: 4
  • Ole Miss: 2
  • South Carolina: 5
  • Tennessee: 2
  • Texas A&M: 6
  • Vanderbilt: 2
Even as we turn our attention to the 2012 football season, there's always time to check back with the past from time to time.

The SEC released its last set of notes from the 2011 season this week, so we thought we'd take a look at some of the interesting facts and figures from the previous season.

For starters, how about a look at the SEC players of the week?

Week 1 (Games of Sept. 1-3): Offense - Vick Ballard, RB, Mississippi State; Defense - Tyrann Mathieu, DB, LSU; Special Teams - Joe Adams, WR/RS, Arkansas; Offensive Lineman - Rokevious Watkins, OT, South Carolina; Co-Defensive Lineman - Jaye Howard, DT, Florida; Luke McDermott, DT, Kentucky; Co-Freshman - Trey Depriest, LB, Alabama; Tre Mason, RB/RS, Auburn.

Week 2 (Games of Sept. 10): Offense - Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee; Defense - Mark Barron, S, Alabama; Special Teams - Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina; Offensive Lineman - Alvin Bailey, OG, Arkansas; Defensive Lineman - Rob Lohr, DT, Vanderbilt; Co-Freshman - Josh Clemons, RB, Kentucky; Isaiah Crowell, RB, Georgia.

Week 3 (Games of Sept. 15-17): Co-Offense - Chris Rainey, RB, Florida; Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina; Defense -Trey Wilson, DB, Vanderbilt; Special Teams - Caleb Sturgis, PK, Florida; Offensive Lineman - Wesley Johnson, C, Vanderbilt; Defensive Lineman - Bennie Logan, DT, LSU; Freshman- Odell Beckham, WR, LSU.

Week 4 (Games of Sept. 24): Offense - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama; Defense -Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina; Special Teams - Brad Wing, P, LSU; Offensive Lineman - Barrett Jones, OT, Alabama; Defensive Lineman - Jaye Howard, DT, Florida; Freshman- Isaiah Crowell, RB, Georgia.

Week 5 (Games of Oct. 1): Co-Offense - Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas; Jarius Wright, WR, Arkansas; Defense - Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina; Special Teams - Steven Clark, P, Auburn; Offensive Lineman - William Vlachos, C, Alabama; Defensive Lineman - Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU; Freshman - Isaiah Crowell, RB, Georgia..

Week 6 (Games of Oct. 8): Offense - Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina; Defense - Mike Gilliard, ILB, Georgia; Special Teams - Blair Walsh, PK, Georgia; Offensive Lineman - Will Blackwell, OG, LSU; Defensive Lineman - Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State; Freshman - Tevin Mitchel, CB, Arkansas.

Week 7 (Games of Oct. 15): Offense - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama; Co-Defense - Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn; D.J. Swearinger, FS, South Carolina; Special Teams - Steven Clark, P, Auburn; Offensive Lineman - Chris Faulk, OT, LSU; Defensive Lineman - Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State; Co-Freshman - Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina; Ray Drew, OLB, Georgia.

Week 8 (Games of Oct. 22): Offense - Dennis Johnson, RB, Arkansas; Defense - Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama; Special Teams - Brad Wing, P, LSU; Offensive Lineman - Ryan Seymour, OG, Vanderbilt; Defensive Lineman - Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU; Freshman - A.J. Johnson, LB, Tennessee.

Week 9 (Games of Oct. 29): Offense - Michael Dyer, RB, Auburn; Co-Defense - Jerry Franklin, LB, Arkansas; Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia; Special Teams - Zach Hocker, K, Arkansas; Offensive Lineman - Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia; Defensive Lineman - Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State; Freshman - Brandon Wilds, RB, South Carolina.

Week 10 (Games of Nov. 5): Offense - Jeff Demps, RB, Florida; Defense - Eric Reid, S, LSU; Special Teams - Dennis Johnson, RS/RB, Arkansas; Offensive Lineman - Ben Jones, C, Georgia; Co-Defensive Lineman - Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas; Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU; Freshman - Maxwell Smith, QB, Kentucky.

Week 11 (Games of Nov. 12): Offense - Zac Stacy, RB, Vanderbilt; Defense - Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama; Special Teams - Joe Adams, WR/RS, Arkansas; Offensive Lineman - Ben Jones, C, Georgia; Defensive Lineman - Travian Robertson, DT, South Carolina; Freshman - Isaiah Crowell, RB, Georgia.

Week 12 (Games of Nov. 19): Offense - Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas; Co-Defense - Ron Brooks, DB, LSU; Danny Trevathan, LB, Kentucky; Special Teams - Blair Walsh, PK, Georgia; Offensive Lineman - Will Blackwell, OG, LSU; Co-Defensive Lineman - Malik Jackson, DT, Tennessee; Abry Jones, DE, Georgia; Freshman - Curt Maggitt, LB, Tennessee.

Week 13 (Games of Nov. 25-26): Co-Offense - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama; Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina; Defense - Tyrann Mathieu, DB, LSU; Special Teams - Ryan Tydlacka, P, Kentucky; Co-Offensive Lineman - Kyle Fischer, OT, Vanderbilt; William Vlachos, C, Alabama; Co-Defensive Lineman - Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State; Garrison Smith, DE, Georgia; Freshman - Kenny Hilliard, RB, LSU.

SEC Championship Game MVP: Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU

BCS (Yes, the SEC has won six straight)
  • Since 2006, more than half of the slots in the BCS National Championship Game have been taken by SEC teams (7 of 12). The Big Ten and the Big 12 have two each and the Pac-12 has one.
  • An SEC team has led or tied for the lead at the end of 20 of the last 24 quarters of BCS National Championship Game play.
  • Since 2006, an SEC team has been ranked first in the weekly BCS standings in 26 of the 48 weeks, with four different teams holding the top spot. Florida was first for seven weeks, Alabama for six weeks, Auburn for three and LSU for 10 weeks, including all eight polls of this season.
  • The SEC has had more teams ranked in the BCS standings for the most times than any other conference since 2006. The league has had 11 of its 12 teams ranked at one time or another since 2006 for a total of 238 times. The SEC breakdown: LSU (45), Alabama (35), Florida (33), Auburn (29), Georgia (23), Arkansas (23), South Carolina (21), Tennessee (14), Mississippi State (8), Kentucky (4) and Ole Miss (3).
  • Since 2006, the SEC has posted a 9-3 record in BCS bowl games, more wins and a higher winning percentage (.750) than any other conference. The win total equals that of the next two highest conferences.
Bowls
  • Since 2006, the SEC has accrued more bowl wins (36) and appearances (55) than any other conference. The conference’s .655 bowl winning percentage is third behind the Big East (23-10, .697) and Mountain West (20-9, .690) during that time.
  • In January bowl games, the SEC is 22-10 (.688) against nonconference competition. Since 2008, the league is 16-6 (.727) against nonconference opponents in January bowls.
  • In seven 2011-12 bowl games against nonconference teams, SEC defenses held opponents to less than its scoring average in five of those games. One of the two other games were in overtime (Michigan State-Georgia) and the other was Auburn holding Virginia to 24 points, when the Cavaliers season average was 23.2 points per game.
Random
  • Over the last five seasons, Alabama owns the SEC's best winning percentage with a 50-12 record (.806). LSU has the most wins with 53, while Vanderbilt owns the league's lowest winning percentage (.355). LSU owns the best winning percentage over the last 10 years (.795) with a 105-27.
  • SEC teams were 20-28 on the road against SEC opponents last season. Kentucky, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Vanderbilt failed to win on the road against conference opponents.
  • LSU led the SEC with a touchdown efficiency on drives of 34.8. Alabama led in scoring efficiency (46.8). Ole Miss was last in scoring efficiency (20.1) and Kentucky was last in touchdown efficiency (13.2).
  • LSU led the SEC with 129 fourth-quarter points and a fourth-quarter scoring margin of plus-95. Ole Miss was last with 41 points and a scoring margin of -36.
  • Arkansas led the SEC in yards per scoring drive (61.9).
We've seen how pro prospects rank overall and where they might go in April's NFL draft, so it's time to take a look at where players matchup head-to-head with others at the same position.

ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. has provided us with that opportunity by ranking the top five players at each position Insider heading into this year's draft.

Here's a look at where SEC players placed:

RUNNING BACK
No. 1 Trent Richardson, Alabama
Thoughts:
This should come as no surprise at all. Richardson possesses a tremendous combination of strength and speed that made him so tough to bring down during his three years at Alabama. The Doak Walker Award winner led the SEC in rushing, averaging nearly 6 yards per carry, and was a Heisman finalist.

WIDE RECEIVER
No. 5 Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina
Thoughts:
With the season that Jeffery had in 2010, many thought he might battle Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon for the top spot at wide receiver. However, Jeffery received much more attention from defenders and struggled in 2011. Still, his size makes him extremely imposing and tough one-on-one.

TIGHT END
No. 2 Orson Charles, Georgia
Thoughts:
Charles can really be a beast on the field and become a total mismatch for defenders. He can be too fast for linebackers and too big for defensive backs. Tight ends are becoming bigger components to NFL offenses, and Charles has the potential to make an impact early.

OFFENSIVE GUARD
No. 2 Cordy Glenn, Georgia
Thoughts:
Glenn had no problem moving outside to left tackle this season, but he might be better suited inside at the pro level. But with his versatility, he could move outside if needed, which would make him a very attractive option in the draft.

CENTER
No. 4 William Vlachos, Alabama
Thoughts:
Vlachos isn't the biggest, or most intimidating player up front, but he never quits. He has an absolute motor and can give bigger defensive linemen fits. His size could hurt him, but his determination won't.

DEFENSIVE END
No. 2 Melvin Ingram, South Carolina
Thoughts:
He could end up playing outside linebacker in a 3-4. Ingram has tremendous speed outside and had a real knack for making plays. He didn't get 10 sacks and score three touchdowns last season by accident.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES
No. 2 Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State
Thoughts:
After bursting onto the scene in his second year, Cox was arguably the SEC's top defensive tackle in 2011. Kiper thinks he can play in a 4-3 or a 3-4. With his build and athleticism, Cox would no doubt succeed in either.

No. 3 Michael Brockers, LSU
Thoughts:
His jump to the NFL was a bit of a surprise -- until you look at how productive he was as a third-year sophomore. Brockers not only clogs up the middle but has a tremendous wingspan that disrupts opposing passing and kicking games.

INSIDE LINEBACKER
No. 3 Dont'a Hightower, Alabama
Thoughts:
It didn't look like Hightower was coming off a knee injury last year. Hightower was all over the field for Alabama and helped create a dynamic duo at linebacker with Courtney Upshaw. Having Hightower lurking on your defense is definitely a good thing.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER
No. 1 Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
Thoughts:
He didn't have a ton of tackles last year, but it wasn't like Upshaw didn't cause offenses headaches. With his speed, he's a tremendous pass-rusher and that's probably how he'll earn his paychecks at the next level. He can cover when he needs to and always seems to find the ball.

CORNERBACK
No. 1 Morris Claiborne, LSU
Thoughts:
Was there a better cover corner in the country? Claiborne didn't get Honey Badger-like attention, but that didn't mean he wasn't great last year. Claiborne defended 12 passes last year and took away one side of the field when he was out there.

No. 2 Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
Thoughts:
Kirkpatrick has some questions to answer when it comes to his coverage ability, but his size will certainly help him at the next level. Kirkpatrick broke up nine passes last season and has ideal athleticism that will be attractive to teams.

No. 5 Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina
Thoughts:
Like Kirkpatrick, Gilmore will have to answer questions about his coverage skill. He got caught looking a few times in 2010, and while he improved last season, he was beaten a few times on jump balls. But his speed and athleticism will have teams very interested in him come draft time.

SAFETY
No. 1 Mark Barron, Alabama
Thoughts:
You'd be hard pressed to find a better safety in the country. Barron is big, though and knows how to take the deep ball away. He also isn't afraid of playing down in the box and taking the run away.

No. 2. Antonio Allen, South Carolina
Thoughts:
Allen made a ton of plays for the Gamecocks last year in the Spur position and could be a real player at the next level. He quietly led South Carolina with 88 tackles and also forced four fumbles and grabbed three interceptions.

KICKER
No. 3 Blair Walsh, Georgia
Thoughts:
He was supposed to be the top kicker in the country, but was extremely inconsistent throughout the season and struggled with his distance. He's a talented player, but missed 14 kicks in 2011, including the one that ended Georgia's season with a loss.

PUNTER
No. 1 Drew Bulter, Georgia
Thoughts: He might not have the most powerful leg, but Butler knew how to direct his kicks. He downed 21 inside the 20-yard line and also forced 15 fair catches.

Hot and Not: SEC bowl edition

January, 4, 2012
1/04/12
3:00
PM ET
Six bowl games involving SEC teams have given us plenty to digest.

Granted, two still remain with Arkansas taking on Kansas State on Friday night in the AT&T Cotton Bowl and then Alabama and LSU squaring off on Monday night in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game.

Before we look ahead, let’s look back with a special bowl edition of Hot and Not:

GLOWING EMBERS

SEC momentum: The league is already 4-2 in bowl games and assured of winning its sixth straight BCS national championship. Not only that, but if Arkansas can take care of Kansas State, there’s a pretty good chance that four of the top 8 teams in the final polls will be from the SEC. Alabama, LSU and South Carolina are top 10 locks. And looking ahead to next season, the early feeling among several in the college football world is that Alabama, LSU, Georgia and South Carolina could all start the season in the top 15, maybe even the top 10. Arkansas isn't going away, either.

HOT

Georgia’s Brandon Boykin: What a show the do-it-all senior cornerback put on in the Outback Bowl. Too bad the Bulldogs’ collapse spoiled what was one of the better all-around performances you’re ever going to see from a college player. Boykin returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown, recorded a safety when he tackled Michigan State’s Keshawn Martin in the end zone and also caught a 13-yard touchdown pass. Boykin’s a terrific football player and vastly underrated. I’m as guilty as anybody for not giving him more props throughout his career.

NOT

Mississippi State’s Chad Bumphis: After catching one pass for minus-3 yards and rushing twice for minus-4 yards in Mississippi State’s 23-17 win over Wake Forest in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Bumphis went out and got arrested the next night in his hometown of Tupelo, Miss., on charges of public drunkenness and disorderly conduct at a local bar. Making it even worse for Bumphis is that he claims he did nothing wrong and was hit in the face with champagne bottles while posing for pictures. So much for a Happy New Year.

HOT

South Carolina’s defense: Not a bad debut at all for newly promoted defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward. The Gamecocks held Nebraska scoreless over the final three quarters in their 30-13 Capital One Bowl win, and the Huskers had minus-15 total yards in the fourth quarter. They don’t call him “Whammy” for nothing.

NOT

Vanderbilt’s passing game: The Commodores had seemed to solve their passing game woes this season. But outside of Chris Boyd’s 68-yard catch and run for a touchdown, they didn’t make much happen through the air in their 31-24 loss to Cincinnati in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Jordan Rodgers started out ice cold and was injured. Senior Larry Smith came off the bench to throw the touchdown to Boyd on a short flip, but his late interception sealed the Commodores’ fate. Rodgers and Smith finished a combined 12-of-34 for 168 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.

HOT

Auburn quarterback Barrett Trotter: He’d been forgotten about by most fans, but Trotter came off the bench for the injured Clint Moseley and saved some of his best passing of the season for the finale, leading Auburn to a 43-24 win over Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Trotter is a perfect example of an upperclassman who lost his starting job, didn’t sulk, hung in there and was ready to answer the call when his team needed him.

NOT

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray: It wasn’t the return Murray was hoping for to his hometown of Tampa. The Bulldogs’ sophomore quarterback had a banner season with his school-record 35 touchdown passes, but the Outback Bowl turned in Michigan State’s favor on Murray’s two third-quarter interceptions. The first pick set up a touchdown, and the second pick was returned 38 yards for a touchdown, completely changing the complexion of that game.

HOT

Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn: We heard all season how bad the Gators were on offense -- and they were. It’s about time, though, that Quinn and that Florida defense get a little love. The Gators deserved better defensively this season and got it done in the 24-17 win over Ohio State in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl. It’s a defense that returns most of its key pieces next season and should be really good in 2012. Then again, the Gators ended this season ranked No. 9 nationally in total defense. Now, let’s see if they can move in the direction of building a top 10 offense.

NOT

Alshon Jeffery being kicked out: OK, he shouldn’t have been mixing it up with Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard in the first place and should have been smart enough to walk away. That’s easier said than done when a guy is hounding you all day. But go back and watch the replay. Only one of the two threw a punch, and it wasn’t Jeffery. Yet, both were ejected from the game.

FREEZER BURN

Mark Richt’s overtime strategy: His decision to play for a field goal -- a 42-yard field goal -- after Bacarri Rambo came up with the big interception in the first overtime was baffling enough. But then you consider how erratic the Bulldogs’ kicker, Blair Walsh, had been this season, and it’s even more baffling. Walsh had already missed 12 field goals coming into the game. The Bulldogs even took a 2-yard loss on second down to position the kick, and it backfired … badly. It was a good season for Richt and the Dawgs, especially the way they battled back from the 0-2 start, but the ending sure was weak.

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