SEC: Brandon Bolden

Spring shoes to fill: Ole Miss

March, 30, 2012
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A lot is changing at Ole Miss, and the Rebels had to say goodbye to one of their best offensive weapons:

OUT: RB Brandon Bolden: He was one of the most productive running backs to play for Ole Miss. Bolden ended his career ranked second in school history in both total touchdowns scored (33) and rushing touchdowns (27), third in all-purpose yards (3,681), and fourth in rushing yards (2,604). Those numbers would be even higher if not for an ankle injury he suffered in the season opener against BYU. While he returned two weeks later from his slightly fractured ankle, Bolden was never really himself, as he rushed for just 472 yards and four touchdowns last fall. But when Bolden was healthy, he was easily the Rebels' most versatile player. He wasn't the most explosive running back but he was very consistent and could grind out the tough yards. He was very successful in the passing game, leading the team with 32 receptions in 2010. Bolden was also very productive without the ball in his hands. He was an excellent blocker and a key gunner on special teams. Inside the Rebels' locker room, Bolden was an outstanding leader, so replacing the multitasking Bolden won't be easy at all.

IN: Jeff Scott, Devin Thomas or Nicholas Parker: The Rebels only have three scholarship running backs to work with this spring. Scott was Ole Miss' leading rusher last season, gaining 529 yards on 116 carries. He was eighth in the SEC in all-purpose yards, averaging 101.4 yards per game. Scott's numbers would have been better if he had not been suspended for the last two games of the 2011 season. Scott is the top back the Rebels have, but he has to show more leadership skills and be more accountable. The coaches are being very careful with him this spring because he's worth so much to this offense and losing him to injury would severely hinder Ole Miss's offensive progress heading into the fall. Thomas, a senior, carried the ball just 20 times last season and although he isn't the fastest or more most gifted athlete, he's a very tough and consistent runner, and the coaches have been quite impressed with how good his hands have been. Parker has spent most of his time with Ole Miss' scout team, but will get regular reps at running back this spring. Parker had the size of a fullback at one point, but dropped around 20 pounds and the coaches have liked what they've seen from him, considering he has yet to play in a collegiate game.

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
Now that national signing day is behind us, we'll continue our look back at each position in the SEC. Today, we're ranking the league's running back units:

1. Alabama: Not only did Alabama lead the SEC in rushing (214.5 yards per game) but Alabama's running game led the league with an average of 5.1 yards per carry against SEC teams. Alabama also had the Doak Walker Award winner in Trent Richardson. Projected as a top-10 pick in April's NFL draft, Richardson finished the season with 1,679 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns. Backups Eddie Lacy and Jalston Fowler combined for 1,059 yards and 11 touchdowns.

2. LSU: The Tigers used a stable of running backs throughout the year and led the SEC with 200.9 rushing yards per conference game. Michael Ford and Spencer Ware each eclipsed the 700-yard mark, while Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue combined for 875 yards. LSU's four regular running backs combined for 30 touchdowns. For 13 games, LSU made its mark on offense by wearing teams out with its running game.

[+] EnlargeMichael Dyer
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesAuburn's Michael Dyer was one of two SEC running backs to average over 100 rushing yards in league games. The other? Heisman finalist Trent Richardson.
3. Auburn: This group of Tigers might not have gotten a ton of offensive praise this season, but Auburn probably had the best running back duo behind Alabama in Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb. Dyer was the only back other than Richardson to average more than 100 yards rushing against SEC opponents (101.1) and he was second in the league with 1,242 yards. McCalebb put up 641 rushing yards and five touchdowns.

4. South Carolina: The Gamecocks would have been higher on this list if not for the unfortunate season-ending injury Marcus Lattimore suffered in the middle of the year. Lattimore led the SEC in rushing after six games, but was injured a week later, ending the year with 818 yards and 10 touchdowns. Former redshirt candidate Brandon Wilds was a pleasant surprise as he rushed for 486 yards, including gaining 100-plus yards in three of his last five games.

5. Georgia: Like LSU, the Bulldogs used a stable of running backs to get through the season. Freshman Isaiah Crowell led the group and started the season off well, but his play dipped during the second part of the season, as injuries took hold. He was named the SEC's freshman of the year by the Associated Press and gained 850 yards with five touchdowns. Injuries affected Georgia's entire backfield, but the Bulldogs still ranked fifth in the league averaging 169.8 yards in SEC games.

6. Vanderbilt: The Commodores didn't have great depth at running back, but did have an absolute stud in the starting lineup. Zac Stacy came out of nowhere in 2011 to rank third in the SEC with 1,193 yards and second with 14 touchdowns. Freshman Jerron Seymour added 268 yards and five touchdowns.

7. Florida: The Gators had two of the fastest running backs in the country in their backfield in Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps. Both excelled in space and both ranked in the top 10 in rushing during conference play, as they each averaged more than 59 yards a game and combined for 872 yards. They combined for 1,430 yards, but didn't create a power running game as Florida ranked eighth in the league in rushing.

8. Mississippi State: Vick Ballard had a tremendous season for Bulldogs, rushing for 1,189 and 10 touchdowns in 2011. But the Bulldogs scored just seven rushing touchdowns in SEC play and averaged 131.1 yards per SEC game, ranking ninth in the league. LaDarius Perkins was second on the team with 422 yards and Mississippi State averaged just 3.4 yards per carry against conference teams.

9. Arkansas: The Razorbacks took a major hit when Knile Davis missed the season with an ankle injury. There was depth, but it took a while before Dennis Johnson finally emerged as Arkansas' top back. He finished the season with just 670 yards and three touchdowns. Ronnie Wingo Jr. was second with 458 yards and three scores, as Arkansas ranked ninth overall in rushing in the SEC and seventh in conference play. As a whole, inconsistency plagued Arkansas' backfield.

10. Ole Miss: Houston Nutt prided himself on running the ball, but Ole Miss failed to do it well in 2011. Brandon Bolden's ankle injury at the beginning of the season didn't help. Speedster Jeff Scott received the bulk of the carries, but never really provided a consistent spark and bruiser Enrique Davis was a no-show for most of the year. The Rebels were 10th in the SEC in rushing and their running backs scored just three rushing touchdowns against SEC opponents.

11. Tennessee: If not for Tauren Poole, the Vols would have been dead last on our list. Tennessee was awful running the ball, but Poole gained 693 rushing yards and five touchdowns. However, Tennessee ranked 116th nationally in rushing and last in the SEC, averaging 90.1 yards per game and averaged just 63.5 against conference opponents. Tennessee running backs scored just 11 rushing touchdowns.

12. Kentucky: As a whole, the Wildcats' numbers were better than Tennessee's. They were 11th in the league in rushing and averaged nearly 40 more rushing yards in conference games, but injuries ravaged this group. Freshmen Josh Clemons looked like he might have a solid season before a knee injury cost him the second half of the season. Raymond Sanders was supposed to be the guy, but played just six games. CoShik Williams ended up being Kentucky's leading rusher, with 486 yards.

Season report card: Ole Miss

December, 16, 2011
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We kick off our season report cards today with the Ole Miss Rebels, one of three SEC teams that didn't qualify for a bowl game. Instead of the postseason, Ole Miss, Kentucky and Tennessee get summer school.

OFFENSE: F

Nothing went as planned for Ole Miss offensively this season. The Rebels had hoped to lean on their offensive line and pound away in the running game, but senior running back Brandon Bolden broke his foot in the opener. An even bigger problem was the quarterback position. Barry Brunetti opened the season as the starter and was replaced in the first game by Zack Stoudt, who was more of a pocket passer. Then it was Randall Mackey, who showed a few flashes before he was suspended at the end of the season. The three quarterbacks combined to throw nine touchdown passes and 13 interceptions, and the Rebels averaged just 16.1 points per game. It was even worse in the eight SEC games, as Ole Miss averaged just 11.6 points per game. The bright spots were true freshmen receivers Donte Moncrief and Nickolas Brassell. Moncrief led the team with 31 catches, including four touchdowns, while Brassell was second with 24 catches, including two touchdowns. There's some young talent returning, but the bottom line is that Ole Miss was held to a single offensive touchdown (or less) in six of its eight SEC games this season. In this league, that's a 2-10 season waiting to happen.

DEFENSE: D

Losing top linebacker and team leader D.T. Shackelford in the spring to a knee injury was a killer for the Rebels. Not only did it hurt them on defense, but it was a huge blow in the locker room. More injuries followed during the season, and defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix was left with a frighteningly young and inexperienced defense. The Rebels simply wore down after starting the season with an excellent defensive effort against BYU in a bitter 14-13 loss at home. Ole Miss finished last in the SEC in scoring defense and total defense. The Rebels gave up an average of 32.1 points per game, but were hung out to dry more times than not by an offense that couldn't score points and couldn't move the ball. Most of the Rebels' best players on defense were their youngest players. Sophomore cornerback Charles Sawyer had a team-leading four interceptions and was second on the team with 70 tackles. True freshman linebacker Serderius Bryant was an SEC all-freshman selection and tied for fourth with 61 tackles. Redshirt freshman linebacker Ralph Williams and true freshman linebacker C.J. Johnson also played key roles. Where the Rebels really struggled was up front. They had an SEC-low 13 sacks and simply couldn't stop anybody from running the ball, finishing 111th nationally in rushing defense and giving up 224.9 yards per game on the ground.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B

If not for the kicking game, it could have been even worse for the Rebels. They had two different players return punts for touchdowns (Jeff Scott and Brassell) and finished second in the league in kickoff coverage. What's more, they didn't give up a touchdown on a kickoff return or punt return. Punter Tyler Campbell is lucky his leg didn't fall off during the season. He punted it 72 times, but averaged 43.6 yards per kick and had 28 downed inside the 20. Place-kicker Bryson Rose was 9-of-11 on field goals. One of his two misses was from 52 yards.

COACHING: F

In 14 seasons as a head coach in the SEC, Houston Nutt has certainly had his share of success. It's fair to say, though, that he won't look back on either of his final two seasons with much fondness. The Ole Miss program hit bottom this season, and Nutt was fired two days after the loss to Kentucky on Nov. 5. While Nutt deserves credit for leading the Rebels to back-to-back nine-win seasons and Cotton Bowl victories his first two years on the job, he simply didn't recruit well enough and had too many misses on the recruiting trail those first couple of years to make it long term in Oxford. Several player suspensions only made it worse this season, and the Rebels weren't a very disciplined team. They were 11th in the league in penalty yards and 11th in turnover margin. Hugh Freeze takes over an Ole Miss program that has lost 14 straight SEC games. He does inherit some promising young talent, but the climb in the Western Division will be a steep one.

Season recap: Ole Miss

December, 7, 2011
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OLE MISS

Record: 2-10, 0-8 SEC

The 2011 season looked like it was going to start with such promise for Ole Miss.

The Rebels led 13-0 over BYU in the early minutes of the fourth quarter in the season opener. They were playing great defense and had Vaught-Hemingway Stadium rocking. But the bottom fell out in the fourth quarter, and BYU came storming back to win 14-13.

It was a microcosm of the entire season for Ole Miss, which hit rock bottom. The Rebels limped to a 2-10 finish, their worst record since 1946, and saw their SEC losing streak reach 14 consecutive games dating back to the 2010 season.

Following the 30-13 loss to Kentucky on Nov. 5, coach Houston Nutt was fired, although he was allowed to finish out the season. The Rebels never won again, scoring a total of 13 points in their final three games.

It was offensive nightmare for the Rebels all season. They played three different quarterbacks and finished with nine touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. Top running back Brandon Bolden broke his foot in the opener. He was able to return later in season, but the senior captain was one of four players suspended for the Alabama game.

There were multiple suspensions throughout the year, and the Rebels ended the season on a seven-game losing streak.

Defensively, Ole Miss showed signs of improvement early on, but was decimated by key injuries. It actually started in the spring when top linebacker D.T. Shackelford tore his ACL and was lost for the season. The Rebels sorely missed his productivity and leadership.

Offensive MVP: Receiver Donte Moncrief. There’s some young talent returning next season, and Moncrief is right there at the top of the list. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound freshman led the Rebels with 31 receptions, and he was also the team leader with four touchdown catches. Already mature beyond his years, Moncrief’s best days are ahead of him.

Defensive MVP: Cornerback Charles Sawyer. Even though he was just a sophomore, Sawyer was forced to take on a leadership role for the Rebels on defense and turned in a solid season all the way around. He finished second on the team with 70 total tackles and also had a team-leading four interceptions.

Turning point: The season-opening loss to BYU was disappointing, but the 30-7 loss to Vanderbilt two weeks later was the beginning of the end for Nutt. The Rebels were thoroughly outplayed and outcoached and were never the same again.

What’s next: Earlier this week, Ole Miss announced Hugh Freeze as Nutt’s successor. Freeze spent this season as the head coach at Arkansas State and guided the Red Wolves to a 10-2 record and Sun Belt Conference championship. He’s a native of Senatobia, Miss., and worked as an assistant on the Ole Miss staff from 2005-07. He has his work cut out, particularly in the rigorous Western Division. But his most pressing task is catching up with archrival Mississippi State, which has won three consecutive Egg Bowls.

Brandon Bolden hurts leg

November, 19, 2011
11/19/11
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OXFORD, Miss. -- If Ron Brooks' interception returned for a touchdown 28 seconds into the game wasn't bad enough, Ole Miss running back Brandon Bolden went down with a leg injury on the Rebels' second drive.

Bolden, who fractured his left ankle in the the Rebels' season opener, limped off of the field and immediately went to the training table, where he had his ankle heavily taped.

He's trying to jog on the sideline and is walking without much of a limp.
When discussing his most memorable games against LSU as a head coach, Ole Miss’ Houston Nutt relayed the sad reality of life as an SEC coach.

Naturally, Nutt talked about his 2-0 start against the Tigers, but he also mentioned the thoughts of the fans back then. He reminisced about the emails he received praising him for winning the close games that had always gotten away from Ole Miss.

Life was good after back-to-back wins over LSU, back-to-back nine-win seasons and back-to-back Cotton Bowl victories.

“There were also some emails that I got that said I was going to be here as long as John Vaught during that time,” Nutt said. “That shows you how quickly our game changes. Those games are in the rear-view mirror.”

[+] EnlargeHouston Nutt
Don McPeak/US PresswireHouston Nutt on Saturday will coach his final home game at Ole Miss.
And so are Nutt’s successes at Ole Miss. After a promising start, Nutt is on his way out after back-to-back disastrous seasons.

Saturday, Nutt will coach his last game inside Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium as Ole Miss’ coach, just like the Rebels’ senior class will play its last game there. Those who came in with him will leave with him, but in a very unflattering manner.

Senior running back Brandon Bolden, who said Nutt was the final factor in his decision to pick Ole Miss over Alabama, said Saturday would be very bittersweet. He’s excited for senior day, but he’s sad to part ways with his team and his coach.

He described his first two years as great, but the last two as “a blow to the stomach,” and more specifically, this year, which currently has Ole Miss 2-8 and riding a 12-game conference losing streak dating back to last year, as a “slap in the face.”

“We just had bad on bad after we had two good years when he started with the program,” Bolden said. “It’s how the ball rolls sometimes. We came out real hot and then we got real cold.”

It’s time to find some fire again, Bolden said.

After Saturday’s dreadful homecoming loss to Louisiana Tech, Bolden said Ole Miss’ locker room was mostly silent with shocked stitched on the Rebels’ faces.

But it’s time for Ole Miss to get over the misery of Saturday -- and the season -- and step up against No. 1 LSU (10-0, 6-0), a team Nutt is 2-1 against as Ole Miss’ coach.

This isn’t just an SEC game. It’s a rivalry game that Bolden said the freshmen have been asking about since the summer and means more sometimes than a winning season.

“The older guys know what this game means, the freshmen know what this game means and it’s been reiterated over and over,” Bolden said. “Everybody will be mentally ready.”

Sixth-year senior defensive end Kentrell Lockett, who went through two rough Ed Orgeron years, said players have no excuse not to be ready. Mourning is over and Lockett said true competitors relish in the opportunity to rebound after crushing losses.

“It’s football, man. If you don’t get excited to play football, then you’re playing the wrong sport,” Lockett said. “You’re supposed to be doing it because you love it and you’re supposed to be competitive about it, but that loss is supposed to take something from you because you’re a competitor.”

Lockett said keeping the Rebels’ locker room hasn’t been an issue and that the team hasn’t quit.

He’s also a realist when it comes to Nutt’s situation. He said he and his teammates “love” Nutt, but Lockett understands that wins define coaches.

“This is the world we live in. People want W’s and want you to be productive,” he said. “The first two years were great years, but you knew it had to come to an end. Those guys had to graduate, the next guys had to graduate and you have to build and get younger guys. That’s where we are now. Because he wasn’t producing enough W’s, changes had to be made.

“It was unfortunate, but that’s the way life is.”

When Lockett thinks about going out with his head coach, you can hear dejection in his otherwise cheery voice. He knows this isn’t all on Nutt, and for that, it’s tough for the senior to come to grips with the fact that better play might have kept the Nutt honeymoon going.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” he said. “It’s your last year and you want to go out with a bang. You want to be known for something good, not known for something bad. You want to give the fans some wins, you want to do it for the community, knowing that they’ve watched you for four or five years growing up and growing into the player you are now.”

Did you know? Week 10

November, 4, 2011
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Some notes about the SEC that you might not have known heading into Week 10:
  • This season, the SEC has had eight teams ranked in the AP top-25 poll a total of 59 times after the first 10 weeks — above the league's average for the past five seasons.
  • Using the latest published depth charts from the 12 SEC teams, South Carolina has the youngest offensive starting lineup and the most experienced defensive starting lineup in the league.
  • Using a numerical formula of 1 point for freshmen, 2 points for sophomores, 3 points for juniors and 4 points for freshman, the Gamecocks average 2.33 on offense and 3.45 on defense.
  • The most experienced offense is Kentucky at 3.25, the least experienced defense Florida at 2.36.
  • On defense, there are just eight freshman starters in the SEC, three of them at Tennessee. On offense, South Carolina starts four freshmen and Ole Miss three.
  • Mississippi State starts six seniors on offense, followed by Alabama, Kentucky and LSU with five each. On defense, Arkansas, Kentucky and South Carolina start five freshmen each.
  • Alabama has started slowly in the first quarter this season, but has quickly turned things around and finished strong. The Crimson Tide have outscored its opponents 243-25 in the final three quarters of games this season after holding just a 72-30 edge in the first quarter. The disparity has grown even wider over the past six games, when Alabama owns a 44-27 scoring edge in the first quarter and a 196-10 edge in the final three quarters. Alabama has outscored its opposition in the second half of the past six games by a score of 142-7, but has not allowed a second-half point in the past four. Arkansas, in Week 4, was the last team to score against Alabama after halftime.
  • Arkansas has won five consecutive games against opponents from the SEC Eastern Division, the longest winning streak against Eastern Division foes in school history and the third-longest current interdivision win streak in the SEC. Arkansas’ previous record for consecutive games won against the Eastern Division was three (1992-93 and 2006). Arkansas is off to its best start under Bobby Petrino and is 7-1 for just the third time since joining the SEC in 1992.
  • With its victory over Ole Miss, Auburn has extended its Jordan-Hare Stadium winning streak to 13 games, its longest at home since winning 13 in a row from 1993-94. It is tied for the sixth-longest home winning streak in school history. The Tigers are 25-4 in night games (5 p.m. or later) at Jordan-Hare dating back to the 2000 season.
  • Florida quarterback John Brantley returned from injury to start last week against Georgia, throwing for 245 yards and a touchdown. He averaged 20.4 yards per completion, the highest of his career as a starting quarterback. The mark is the highest in the SEC and eighth-best in the country this season for quarterbacks with a minimum of 10 completions). In his career, the fifth-year senior has completed 332 of 541 passes (61.4 percent) for 3,893 yards and 25 touchdowns, with 14 interceptions and a passer rating of 131.9.
  • Georgia senior Brandon Boykin and junior Branden Smith are seeing action on defense, offense and special teams this season. Boykin has four career kickoff returns for touchdowns, and against No. 5 Boise State, he had an 80-yard rushing touchdowns on his first career carry. He had a school-record seven kickoff returns and tallied 198 all-purpose yards against No. 12 South Carolina. Smith and Boykin split time as punt returners while Boykin is one of the top kickoff returners in the nation.
  • Kentucky seniors Danny Trevathan and Winston Guy are the SEC’s top two tacklers. Trevathan charted a career-high-tying 17 tackles last weekend and is now the league’s top tackler with 94 to Guy 's 83. The duo are tied for fifth and 16th, respectively, in the nation with 11.75 and 10.38 tackles per game.
  • LSU went the entire month of October without a turnover. The Tigers have turned the ball over just three times this season (two fumbles, one interception), with their most recent turnover coming in the fourth quarter against Mississippi State in Week 3. LSU has gone 336 offensive snaps, 59 possessions and 174 minutes and 52 seconds of possession time since its last turnover. LSU has given up just 41 points in the first five SEC games, the fewest since 1985, when the Tigers also allowed 41 points in their first five league games. LSU has won 17 consecutive games when winning the turnover battle. Under Les Miles, LSU is 33-4 when forcing more turnovers than it gives up.
  • Six true freshmen and three redshirt freshmen have started for Ole Miss this season. True freshmen have made a combined 18 starts, while redshirt freshmen have made a combined 10. Freshman wide receiver Donte Moncrief is tied for fifth in the nation among true freshmen with four touchdown receptions.
  • Mississippi State has won nine consecutive non-conference games dating back to head coach Dan Mullen’s first season in 2009. Mullen’s teams have posted a 10-2 non-conference mark, with a pair of losses in 2009 to nationally ranked Georgia Tech and a Houston team that received votes in both polls the week of the game. The Bulldogs’ 10 consecutive out-of-league wins marks the longest such streak since an 11-game run from 1989-91.
  • Junior wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (167 receptions for 2,748 yards) needs just 33 yards to match Kenny McKinley (2,781) as South Carolina’s all-time leader in receiving yards. He needs three catches to pass Sterling Sharpe (169) for second all-time in career receptions. He also needs three touchdown catches to tie Sidney Rice on the school’s all-time list for touchdown receptions at 23. Jeffery is also tied for first at South Carolina with 11 100-yard receiving games and is sixth in school history with 16.5 yards per reception.
  • Three of Tennessee’s six leading tacklers are freshmen in A.J. Johnson (1st with 57), Curt Maggitt (fourth with 34) and Brian Randolph (sixth with 31), making the Vols the only team in the country with freshmen as three of its top six tacklers. Tennessee is the only team in the country with two true freshmen among its top four tacklers. In fact, there are only a pair of schools – Miami (Fla.) and Army – that even have two in their top six.
  • Vanderbilt’s Casey Hayward knocked down six Arkansas passes last weekend – tied for most in any one game in the country this season with Duke’s Matt Daniels, who did it against Richmond. Hayward was named this week as one of 15 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation’s top defensive back. Hayward is tied for fourth nationally with five interceptions and is the SEC active leader in career picks with 13.
  • Mississippi State is 27-16 against non-conference foes since 2000 and has a nine-game win streak against out-of-SEC competition.
  • South Carolina and Arkansas are 1-2 in the SEC in non-offensive touchdowns scored this season. Carolina has five (four defense/one punt return) while Arkansas has four (one defense/one kickoff return/two punt return) and tied with LSU and Vanderbilt.
  • Florida leads the SEC with 291-game scoring streak. The last time Florida was shut out was Oct. 29, 1988, when it lost 16-0 to Auburn.
  • South Carolina is 3-0 in SEC road games this season. The Gamecocks have never gone 4-0.
  • Vanderbilt’s scoring drives average 6.77 plays, fewest in the SEC.
  • South Carolina is 21-37 against the Western Division and Arkansas is 24-34 against the Eastern Division. Arkansas has won five in a row against the Eastern Division.
  • Ole Miss’ Brandon Bolden is the SEC’s second active leading rusher with 2,426 yards, trailing active leader Trent Richardson of Alabama by only 14 yards (2,440).
  • Georgia leads SEC with 21 scoring drives of less than two minutes.
  • South Carolina is second in the SEC in holding opponents to three-downs-and-out at 42.5 percent (45 of 106).
  • Georgia sophomore QB Aaron Murray is already SEC’s leading active player in total offensive yards (5,077), completions (344), TD responsibility (48), TD passe (42) and passing yards (4,871).
  • Tennessee is one of four SEC teams not to allow a non-offensive touchdown this season (Alabama, LSU and South Carolina).
  • Georgia has scored first in seven of its eight games this season, second in the league to LSU, which has scored first in all eight.

Late lunch links

October, 19, 2011
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It was another late lunch for us on the blog. It happens to the best of us.

Rebels suspend four, including Bolden

October, 14, 2011
10/14/11
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The season had already been disappointing enough for Ole Miss, and now this.

Coach Houston Nutt announced the suspension of four players on Thursday for Saturday's game against No. 2-ranked Alabama, including senior captain Brandon Bolden. Also suspended were senior offensive guard Alex Washington, junior center A.J. Hawkins and sophomore receiver Philander Moore.

Nutt said the players violated team rules and added that the suspensions had nothing to do with substance abuse or criminal activity.

In Bolden's case, the Rebels were hopeful that he was going to be closer to 100 percent with last week's open date. Bolden fractured his foot in the season opener, but ran for two touchdowns two weeks ago in the Fresno State win.

Hawkins had started all five games at center this season, but the coaches had already decided to start sophomore Evan Swindall at center against Alabama. Washington started in the Fresno State game at left guard, but sophomore Patrick Junen will move back into the starting lineup for this game. Junen started the first three games of the season, but was replaced as a starter following the loss to Vanderbilt.

Midseason review: Ole Miss

October, 11, 2011
10/11/11
7:30
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OLE MISS REBELS

Record: 2-3 (0-2 SEC)

For the second straight season, the early part of the schedule looked very manageable for the Rebels. And for the second straight season, they find themselves with three losses at the midway point. The season-opening 14-13 loss to BYU at home was a tough one to swallow after playing so well defensively and blowing a 13-0 lead. But the embarrassing 30-7 loss to Vanderbilt two weeks later was the one that sent everything into a frenzy in Oxford. For the most part, the Rebels’ offense has been a disaster. There was a ray of sunshine, though, heading into last week’s open date when junior quarterback Randall Mackey played his best football, leading Ole Miss to a 38-28 win at Fresno State. The Rebels had been juggling quarterbacks, but it looks like they’ve found their guy. The defense, after taking a terrible beating last season, has come back strong and played well enough to win in most games. The schedule only gets more difficult the rest of the way starting with Alabama on Saturday. The Rebels are hopeful senior running back Brandon Bolden will be a lot closer to 100 percent with the extra week of rest. Either way, they’re going to have to pull off some major surprises the second half of the season to avoid a second straight losing record.

Offensive MVP: RB Jeff Scott. When Bolden went down with a fractured ankle in the opener, the Rebels needed somebody to step up. That somebody was the 5-7, 175-pound Scott, who’s been their most dependable offensive threat. He leads the team in rushing (350 yards) and touchdowns (six) and is fifth in the SEC in all-purpose yards (144.6 yards per game). One of the top breakaway threats in the league, Scott has touchdown runs of 69 and 37 yards and also returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown.

Defensive MVP: LB Mike Marry. He's been hampered by a painful foot injury, but it hasn’t stunted Marry’s production from his middle linebacker position. The 6-2, 248-pound sophomore has been one of the SEC’s leaders in tackles all season and tops the Rebels with 51 total tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss. He's lived in a walking boot throughout the week and hasn't practiced a whole lot, but still goes out there on Saturday and racks up 10 tackles.
Saturday night could have been described as an offensive explosion for Ole Miss.

The Rebels entered the game scoring less than 19 points a game, but doubled that out in Fresno, Calif., with a 38-28 win over Fresno State.

It was a huge when for an Ole Miss staff that was feeling all sorts of heat on and off campus this season.

For head coach Houston Nutt, this was a win that he absolutely had to have. His seat was basically thrown into the furnace after back-to-back losses to Vanderbilt and Georgia, but a little water was thrown on those flames after this win.

And the Rebels actually survived a shootout, something no one really saw coming. For a team that was near the bottom of the SEC in just about every offensive category, the Rebels reeled off five touchdowns and racked up a season-high 430 yards of offense.

Randall Mackey started the game at quarterback and did a pretty good job leading this offense. He had 214 yards passing, a touchdown and didn't turn the ball over. It looks like the Rebels have found their quarterback and it seems like it's time to quit with the quarterback shuffle and construct this offense around Mackey and his abilities. He ran the ball six times for 35 yards, but if he remains the starter, expect both of those numbers to increase because he has some nice moves in space and good speed.

Jeff Scott might be Ole Miss' best offensive weapon. He carried the ball 24 times for 138 yards and had two touchdowns, including a 69-yard score. He and Brandon Bolden will make a nice pair when Bolden gets some more carries back there. Bolden did have two touchdowns on the night as well.

The Rebels really needed this win -- not just in the standings but mentally. This team was just crumbling in front of our eyes, but getting away on the other side of the country was impressive for this group.

Now, Ole Miss hopes on a plane back home to prepare for Alabama in two weeks. Talk about the perfect bye week.
It must be that West Coast persona that has Ole Miss clicking a little more on offense Saturday night.

The Rebels went into halftime leading Fresno State 20-14 and they can thank Brandon Bolden for most of that. The senior, who dealt with a tough ankle injury in the first game had 33 yards on three carries and two touchdowns.

Randall Mackey also got the start at quarterback and threw for 114 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for 33 yards with long of 28.

Ole Miss had 203 total yards of offense in the first half.

Defensively, the Rebels gave up 264 yards, but forced two turnovers. All and all it was a good half for the Rebels, but the offense needs to keep going in order to keep the lead and extend it.

Multi-running back systems rule the SEC

September, 23, 2011
9/23/11
10:40
AM ET
Houston Nutt has always taken pride in a treacherous rushing attack. Mostly because its success relied on multiple bodies.

There was Darren McFadden and Felix Jones at Arkansas. And more recently at Ole Miss he’s had the combinations of Dexter McCluster, Cordera Eason, Brandon Bolden, Jeff Scott and even a little Enrique Davis.

In Nutt’s three seasons at Ole Miss, his teams have averaged 186.5, 183.6 and 207.6 yards per game during a full season. Most of that damage was done with the help of the use of multiple running backs in the offense.

[+] EnlargeJeff Scott
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyRunning back Jeff Scott has had to carry the load for Mississippi because of injuries.
Fast forward to 2011, and Nutt finds himself without a strong running game and his Rebels are 1-2, averaging 109 rushing yards a game, which ranks 11th in the SEC.

Nutt watched as his top two backs -- Bolden and Davis -- went down with injuries in Week 1, leaving Scott to carry the load. Scott has been successful, but not having that second punch in the backfield has hurt the Rebels’ offense.

Bolden returned last week, but Ole Miss still couldn’t run the ball effectively. Without a successful multiple rushing attack, Nutt thinks any offense will struggle in this league.

“It’s a must,” Nutt said of having a multi-running back system in the SEC. “You probably gotta have three -- two for sure -- but you need three and sometimes four. This is the guy that’s going to get hit … this is the guy that’s gonna take some shots. How durable you are at the position is really the key for the year.”

Look at past three national champions.

In 2008, Florida basically used four rushers in quarterback Tim Tebow, wide receiver Percy Harvin and running backs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps. Each eclipsed the 600-yard mark and had four or more touchdowns. The Gators averaged 231.1 rushing yards per game and finished 13-1.

Alabama’s 2009 team had one of the toughest running back duos around in Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. Ingram won the Heisman Trophy after rushing for 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns. Richardson, then a freshman, had 751 yards and eight scores.

Of course, Auburn’s perfect run last season was fueled by the three-headed rushing monster of quarterback Cam Newton and running backs Michael Dyer and Onterrio McCalebb. Newton and Dyer both rushed for more than 1,000 yards (Newton had 1,400-plus) and McCalebb had 810, giving Auburn a staggering 284.8 rushing yards per game.

Currently, four -- Alabama, Florida, Auburn and Vanderbilt -- of the top six rushing teams in the SEC consistently utilize multiple running backs. Tennessee, Ole Miss and Kentucky are at the bottom of the league in rushing and don’t.

South Carolina, the SEC’s top rushing team, runs on Marcus Lattimore power, something coach Steve Spurrier worries could begin to weaken over time without some help. Lattimore already leads the nation in yards (534) and carries (87).

Alabama coach Nick Saban understands Spurrier’s concern, saying the use of more running backs helps keep players fresh and the offense firing. Saban's combo of Richardson and Eddie Lacy has combined for 619 yards and 11 touchdowns.

“I don’t think there’s any question about it that if you’re going to be able to run the ball it’s always good to have a guy who’s healthy and fresh out there that can give a little change of pace and have a little juice all the time,” Saban said. “That’s been beneficial for us for several years now.”

Seeing two talented running backs lineup together can also have defenses spinning, wondering who and how to attack.

“We’re going to be anywhere from empty to three backs,” said Florida coach Will Muschamp, whose rushing attack averages 210.3 yards a game. “That’s what’s difficult in preparing for our offense.

“There are a lot of multiple formations and shifts and different things that happen with the same personnel on the field.”

For Richardson, he’s thrived in a two-running back operation and loves it, even though he’s the go-to guy. It not only keeps him energized but it makes wearing down defenses that much more fun.

“It’s like, how are you going to control these two guys?” he said. “With the rotation that they have, and with the features they have to bring to the field, it’s kind of hard to slow these guys down.”
Vanderbilt's offense looks like it's on the move and gaining some momentum heading into halftime.

Both the Commodores and Ole Miss left the first quarter scoreless, but Vandy ran out to a 21-0 lead after getting three touchdowns in the final five minutes of play. The last one came on a 9-yard run by Jerron Seymour.

The yardage still isn't very pretty to look at, but Vanderbilt leads 172-115. The Commodores have gotten 102 of those yards from the running game.

Vandy is flying around on defense and seems to have a lot more juice right now.

This isn't the way Ole Miss wanted to go into the half. The offense has been hard to watch to this point, and the Rebels need some sort of spark. Running back Brandon Bolden is back and he's been productive, but the passing game is really struggling. Zack Stoudt has three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, and has just 51 yards on 4-of-12 passing. The running game has mustered just 64 yards on 19 attempts.

Things have to get turned around on Ole Miss' side in the second half or the Rebels will leave Nashville losing three of their past four against Vandy.

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