SEC: Carey Spear

Today, our SEC position-by-position rankings move to an area that will see plenty of turnover throughout the league: special teams.

There are a ton of SEC heavyweights who lost key special teamers, like league champ Auburn -- which lost punter Steven Clark, kicker Cody Parkey, now-legendary return man Chris Davis and kickoff returner/tailback Tre Mason -- LSU (All-American Odell Beckham) and Alabama (punter Cody Mandell and kicker Cade Foster). That’s just a start.

The league is full of dynamic playmakers who can become stars in the return game, but as of right now, many SEC teams have questions to answer on special teams. That’s why teams that have returning veterans at those positions sit high in our rankings.

Special teams position rankings

1. Texas A&M: There aren’t many SEC teams that can make this claim, but the Aggies have a clean sweep of returning specialists. Leading the way is an All-American and Ruy Guy Award finalist at punter, Drew Kaser, who broke the school record with a 47.4-yard average last season. Texas A&M also has kicker Josh Lambo (8-for-10 on field goals in 2013), kickoff returner Trey Williams (25.2 yards per return, fifth in the SEC) and punt returner De’Vante Harris (6.7 yards per return, sixth in the SEC) back this fall. That’s a solid collection of talent that should help an Aggies team that certainly has some questions to answer on offense and defense.

2. Missouri: This is another squad that returns the key figures from a season ago, led by versatile return man Marcus Murphy. Murphy was fifth in the SEC in punt returns (7.0) and 11th in kickoff returns (22.2) while also contributing to the Tigers’ solid running game. Andrew Baggett (18-for-25 on field goals, 8.6 points per game) was the SEC’s second-leading scorer among kickers, and he returns along with punter Christian Brinser (41.0 yards per punt).

3. Georgia: Truth be told, Georgia was frequently terrible on special teams last season. The Bulldogs struggled to generate much of anything in the return game and experienced some issues with blocked punts. Coach Mark Richt changed the way the coaching staff will address special teams during the offseason, and perhaps that will make a difference. The individual specialists are actually pretty good -- particularly kicker Marshall Morgan, who should generate some All-America attention himself. Morgan was 22-for-24 (91.7 percent) and led all SEC kickers with an average of 10.3 points per game, truly one of the best seasons by a kicker in school history. Punters Collin Barber and Adam Erickson were mostly average, which is more than can be said for the Bulldogs’ return men. Keep an eye on freshman Isaiah McKenzie in August to see if he has a chance to contribute in the return game.

4. LSU: The return game will certainly suffer a blow without electric All-American Beckham -- the winner of last season’s Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player -- but LSU has no shortage of athletic players (running back Terrence Magee is one option) whom the coaches can plug into Beckham’s old spots. The Tigers are solid at kicker with Colby Delahoussaye, who led the SEC by making 92.9 percent of his field goals (13 of 14). They held a competition for the punting job during the spring between hot-and-cold Jamie Keehn (41.0 ypp) and walk-on Trent Domingue.

5. South Carolina: Here’s another one where experience helps, although the Gamecocks have much to improve upon this season. Punter Tyler Hull (37.8 ypp) is back, but South Carolina ranked last in the SEC with an average of 34.1 net yards per punt. They were mediocre both returning and covering kickoffs and at returning punts, although Pharoh Cooper (22.4 ypr on kickoffs and 4.4 ypr on punts) might be a breakout candidate for the Gamecocks this fall. Elliott Fry was a solid performer (15-for-18 on field goals, fourth in the SEC with 7.6 ppg) at place-kicker in 2013.

6. Alabama: The Crimson Tide should rank higher on this list by season’s end. After all, they have arguably the SEC’s top return man in Christion Jones (second in the league with 28.7 ypr on kickoffs and second with 14.0 ypr on punts). But they also lost a dynamic punter in Mandell and a place-kicker, Foster, who was solid last season before melting down in the Iron Bowl. Perhaps Adam Griffith (1-for-3 on field goals) will take over the kicking job, but Alabama also has high hopes for signee J.K. Scott, who is capable of kicking or punting in college.

7. Arkansas: The rankings start getting murky around the middle of the pack. Arkansas has a phenomenal punter back in ambidextrous Australian Sam Irwin-Hill (44.3 ypp, fifth in the SEC), but the Razorbacks also lost kicker Zach Hocker (13-for-15 on field goals) and punt returner Javontee Herndon. Kickoff returner Korliss Marshall (22.2 ypr, 10th in the SEC) is back. It would be huge for Arkansas if signee Cole Hedlund, USA Today’s first-team All-USA kicker for the Class of 2014, can come in and take over Hocker’s job.

8. Florida: We’re speculating here that Andre Debose comes back healthy and reclaims his job as the Gators’ kickoff return man. That would be a big deal since Debose is tied for the SEC’s career lead with four kickoff returns for touchdowns. Now-departed Solomon Patton did a great job in his place last season, averaging 29.2 ypr. The Gators also lost punt returner Marcus Roberson (9.2 ypr). The big issue, though, is at kicker, where former top kicking prospect Austin Hardin (4-for-12 on field goals) was awful last season and eventually gave way to Francisco Velez (6-for-8). Likewise, Johnny Townsend (42.0 ypp) took over at punter for former Groza finalist Kyle Christy (39.6) because of a slump, although both are back.

9. Kentucky: Although the Wildcats lost a solid kicker in Joe Mansour (12-for-14 on field goals), they still have several solid players returning. They include punt returner Demarco Robinson (10.4 ypr), kickoff returner Javess Blue (20.4 ypr) and punter Landon Foster (41.3 ypp). Austin MacGinnis, one of the nation’s better kicking prospects in 2013, claimed the place-kicking job during spring practice.

10. Auburn: As with Alabama, we expect Auburn to move up this list during the season. They have the No. 1 kicking prospect from 2013, redshirt freshman Daniel Carlson, taking over for Parkey at place-kicker. They have speedster Corey Grant as an option at kickoff return. And they have another talented redshirt freshman, Jimmy Hutchinson, inheriting the reliable Clark’s spot at punter. Quan Bray might be the man who takes over at punt returner for Davis, who averaged 18.7 ypr (which doesn’t include his 109-yard field goal return to beat Alabama), but he could face a challenge from candidates like Trovon Reed, Marcus Davis or Johnathan Ford.

11. Tennessee: Considering how the Volunteers lost punter/kicker Michael Palardy (third in SEC with 44.5 yards per punt and 14-for-17 on field goals), it’s a good thing that they signed top kicking prospect and Under Armour All-American Aaron Medley. Tennessee has return man Devrin Young (25.9 ypr on kickoffs and 7.9 on punts) and backup punt return man Jacob Carter (9.3 ypr) back, as well.

12. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs return most everyone from last season (minus punter Baker Swedenburg, who averaged 42.5 ypp), but it remains to be determined whether that’s a good thing. They were mediocre or worse in most special teams departments in 2013 – especially at place-kicker, where Devon Bell (6-for-14 on field goals) and Evan Sobiesk (3-for-6) were hardly reliable. Bell (41.2 ypp) was a decent punter, but could face a challenge from signee Logan Cooke on kickoffs and punts. Return man Jameon Lewis (23.5 ypr on kickoffs and 2.3 on punts) is back, as is speedster Brandon Holloway (37.7 ypr on three kickoffs and 18.0 ypr on two punts), who is trying to crack the starting lineup at running back, but could become a dynamic return man if given the opportunity.

13. Ole Miss: By losing punter Tyler Campbell (44.4 ypp, fourth in the SEC), kicker Andrew Ritter (16-for-24 on field goals) and punt returner Jeff Scott (12.7 ypr), Ole Miss has plenty of holes to fill. They have kickoff returner Jaylen Walton (20.6 ypr) back and also signed the No. 2 kicking prospect for 2014, Gary Wunderlich, who is capable of becoming a standout performer as both a kicker and punter.

14. Vanderbilt: New coach Derek Mason didn’t seem particularly enthused about his special teams units after spring practice. The Commodores lost kicker Carey Spear (15-for-19 on field goals) and potential replacement Tommy Openshaw struggled during spring scrimmages, potentially opening the door for a walk-on. Punter Taylor Hudson (42.9 ypp, seventh in the SEC) is back, but he and competitor Colby Cooke were apparently not very consistent this spring, either. Vandy lost punt returner Jonathan Krause (3.6 ypr) and returns leading kickoff return man Darrius Sims (22.8 ypr, eighth in the SEC).

Season report card: Vanderbilt

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Vanderbilt is the last of the 14 SEC teams to get its report card for the 2013 season, and once again, the Commodores received some high marks.

OFFENSE: C+

[+] EnlargeJordan Matthews
Marvin Gentry/USA TODAY SportsWide receiver Jordan Matthews was Vandy's offensive MVP after recording 112 catches for 1,477 yards and seven TDs in 2013.
For the second straight season, the Commodores averaged 30 or more points per game (30.1), although their running game dropped off to last in the league. Against SEC competition, Vanderbilt averaged just 115.4 yards per game on the ground. Give the Commodores credit, though, for taking a great player and riding him. Senior receiver Jordan Matthews made one key play after another, and Vanderbilt wasn't shy about feeding him the ball. Matthews concluded a record-breaking career by leading the SEC with 112 catches and 1,477 receiving yards. He was easily the most valuable player on offense, but senior left tackle Wesley Johnson at least deserves to be in the conversation. Senior quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels also showed a lot of courage by playing on a torn ACL in the last few regular-season games, and redshirt freshman Patton Robinette filled in capably in the couple games Carta-Samuels missed and in the bowl game after Carta-Samuels underwent surgery.

DEFENSE: B

There were some rough spots early, but Vanderbilt finished in the Top 25 nationally in total defense for the third straight season. The only other four SEC schools to do that were Alabama, Florida, LSU and South Carolina. The Commodores gave up 35 or more points in all four of their SEC losses, including 50-plus to both Missouri and Texas A&M, but settled down and played their best football on defense down the stretch. The secondary was once again outstanding. Safety Kenny Ladler led the team with 91 tackles and also had five interceptions and five forced fumbles. Cornerback Andre Hal was one of the best cover guys in the league and led the SEC with 18 passes defended. Even though the Commodores weren't dominant on defense, they were opportunistic. Their 30 forced turnovers tied for second in the league, and they also finished in the top five in third-down defense. All in all, another solid job by Bob Shoop and his staff.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-

The Commodores' return units weren't especially prolific, ranking 11th in punt return average and 13th in kickoff returns in the SEC. On the bright side, the Commodores were fifth in the league in net punting (39.1 yards), and senior placekicker Carey Spear was his usual dependable self. He made 15 of 19 field-goal attempts and was never shy about sticking his head in there on kickoff coverage, either. Adam Butler had two blocked kicks.

OVERALL: B+

If you just looked at the Commodores' numbers this season, they weren't overly impressive. But it's a team that found ways to win, which is a credit to James Franklin and his staff, not to mention the leadership on the team. It's true that Vanderbilt didn't beat up on a lot of teams that finished the season with winning records. But to win nine games for the second consecutive year -- something that had never previously been done at Vanderbilt -- speaks for itself. The Commodores won at Florida, beat Georgia and also went to Knoxville and won, their second straight win over the Vols. Losing Franklin to Penn State was a downer, for sure. He took the Commodores to unprecedented heights and brought a much-needed edge to the program. Given his success, it was inevitable that he was going to bolt for a bigger job, and he did when the Nittany Lions came calling. Nonetheless, he engineered the kind of run that we might not see for a long time again at Vanderbilt, which had enjoyed just one winning season in the 28 years prior to Franklin arriving on campus.


It was a wild one in Birmingham, Ala., but behind 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, Vanderbilt defeated Houston 41-24 in the BBVA Compass Bowl.

The Commodores opened the game with a 24-0 lead at halftime before allowing the Cougars to score 24 straight points of their own in the third quarter.

However, a 21-yard touchdown run and late interceptions by safety Jahmel McIntosh and cornerback Andre Hal helped seal Vandy's win after a valiant Houston comeback.

It was over when: Hal intercepted Houston quarterback John O'Korn and returned it 30 yards to the Houston 2-yard line, setting up Vandy's final touchdown.

Game ball goes to: In his final game in a Vanderbilt uniform, senior receiver Jordan Matthews led the Commodores with five catches for 143 yards and two touchdowns. Surprisingly, this was Matthews' first multi-touchdown game of the season. All of Matthews' stats came in the first half. He caught five of quarterback Patton Robinette's six pass completions. The SEC's all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards enjoyed a nice final game at the college level.

Stat of the game: It truly was a tale of two halves in Birmingham. The Commodores outgained Houston 232-22 in the first half and held the Cougars to just one first down. In the second half, Houston dominated the stat chart with 362 offensive yards to Vandy's 133. Houston outgained Vandy 309-44 in the third quarter alone.

Stat of the game II: Both teams combined to go 3-of-34 on third downs and punted 20 total times.

Unsung hero: Vandy kicker Carey Spear connected on two big field goals and five extra points. He also made a touchdown-saving tackle on a 62-yard kickoff return by Demarcus Ayers. The Cougars failed to score on the drive.

What it means for Vanderbilt: Vandy is now 16-4 in its past 20 games and has now won bowl games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history. The Commodores also have back-to-back nine-win seasons for the first time ever. Expect coach James Franklin to hear his named mentioned even more when it comes to head-coaching vacancies at both the college and pro level. It wasn't the prettiest victory after a bit of a second-half lull for the Commodores, but this win should still give the Commodores a ton of momentum going into the offseason. It certainly won't hurt in recruiting either.

What it means for Houston: The Cougars shouldn't hang their heads for too long after this loss. There is still a lot of good, young talent on this team, starting with O'Korn, receiver Deontay Greenberry and running back Ryan Jackson. The offense stalled against Vandy's stout defense early, but showed just how explosive it can be when things started to click in the third quarter. A solid second year under Tony Levine should help create higher expectations for a Houston program that should come back stronger in 2014.

To watch the trophy presentation of the BBVA Compass Bowl, click here.

SEC Power Rankings: Week 14

December, 2, 2013
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We have a new No. 1 in our Power Rankings, and there's a chance that either of the top two teams on this list could back its way into the BCS title game:

1. Auburn (11-1, 7-1 SEC; last week: 3): Call it luck, but don't forget to call the Tigers good. Auburn won the Iron Bowl 34-28 over No. 1 Alabama on a last-second field goal return for a touchdown by Chris Davis. It was another improbable win for the Cardiac Cats, but Auburn also ran for 296 yards on the SEC's best rush defense. Back-to-back thrillers have Auburn No. 3 in the BCS standings and SEC Western Division champions.

2. Missouri (11-1, 7-1 SEC; LW: 2): These Tigers will meet those Tigers in the SEC championship game on Saturday. After beating Texas A&M 28-21 at home, Mizzou completed its own improbable season in its second year in the league. Missouri now has five wins over opponents that were ranked when it played them. Like Auburn, Mizzou is very much in the national championship picture. The Tigers need help, but a win over Auburn would push a team that was left for dead last season a step closer to Pasadena, Calif.

3. Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC; LW: 1): The three-peat is likely over after Alabama was bested by its archrival. Why Nick Saban would attempt a 57-yard field goal with a second left without any speedy athletes on the field is mind-blowing. Saban rarely makes mistakes, but this one will sting for a very long time. Alabama is still very much in the hunt for a BCS bowl game, but a return to the title game is a long shot.

4. South Carolina (10-2, 6-2 SEC; LW: 4): Another year, another win over Clemson. That makes five in a row for Steve Spurrier and his Gamecocks after his guys walked over the Tigers 31-17. South Carolina forced six turnovers, and quarterback Connor Shaw impressed yet again with 246 yards of offense and two touchdowns. The BCS is out of reach for the Gamecocks, but they have a shot at three straight 11-win seasons.

5. LSU (9-3, 5-3 SEC; LW: 5): This is easily the most confusing team to follow in 2013. The Tigers started hot, hit some bumps and then finished strong with an exciting 31-27 win over Arkansas. LSU was without starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger (knee) late, but it didn't matter, as freshman Anthony Jennings drove the Tigers 99 yards, with a 49-yard go-ahead touchdown pass with 1:15 left. This could be another double-digit-win season for the Tigers.

6. Texas A&M (8-4, 4-4 SEC; LW: 6): Johnny Manziel went from carving up defenses to being smothered in his last two outings. In Saturday's loss to Mizzou, Manziel was held to a season-low 216 total yards and a touchdown. The defense was gutted -- again -- allowing 225 rushing yards, including a 57-yard Henry Josey touchdown run with 3:34 remaining. It's been a long November in College Station, but at least Kevin Sumlin is locked up for the long haul.

7. Vanderbilt (8-4, 4-4 SEC; LW: 8): Coach James Franklin might be near the top of USC's coaching list, but for now, he's doing a heck of a job as Vandy's coach. There's no wonder he's on the Trojans' radar. Vandy has won four straight, will make its third straight bowl game and is in line to win nine in back-to-back seasons. The Commodores didn't make it look easy against Wake Forest, but a Carey Spear field goal with 39 seconds left kept the Dores' winning streak alive.

8. Georgia (8-4, 5-3 SEC; LW: 9): Another team that didn't want things to be easy over the weekend, Georgia needed double overtime to beat rival Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs' defense was pushed around for 495 yards, but the offense was there to bring the Dawgs back from deficits of 20-0 and 27-17. When you have a guy like Todd Gurley (158 total yards and four touchdowns), it doesn't matter who you have at quarterback.

9. Mississippi State (6-6, 3-5 SEC; LW: 10): After being on the outside of the bowl picture just a couple of weeks ago, the Bulldogs rallied to win their last two, including an overtime victory against bitter rival Ole Miss on Thanksgiving. It wasn't the prettiest of games, but injured quarterback Dak Prescott came into the fourth quarter and threw for 115 yards, while running for 29, including the eventual winning 3-yard score. Dan Mullen has Mississippi State in the postseason for the fourth straight season.

10. Ole Miss (7-5, 3-5 SEC; LW: 7): Oh, what could have been for this team. Not only have the Rebels lost two straight, but they allowed their archrivals to make it to the postseason. For a season that started 3-0, some poor play in the red zone -- especially near the goal line -- against Missouri and turnovers against Mississippi State cost Ole Miss in its final two games.

11. Tennessee (5-7, 2-6 SEC; LW: 11): A long first year for Butch Jones ended with a nice 27-14 win over Kentucky. The Vols aren't going bowling, but now is the time when Jones has to ramp up the development phase and keep an already stellar recruiting class together. Remember, this team was a fake Vandy jump pass from a bowl berth.

12. Florida (4-8, 3-5 SEC; LW: 12): The Gators' nightmare of a season ended with a 37-7 rout by rival Florida State inside the Swamp. Florida then fired embattled offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis. Florida lost seven straight to end the season without scoring more than 20 points. And it isn't going bowling for the first time in 22 years and has its first losing season since 1979.

13. Arkansas (3-9, 0-8 SEC; LW: 13): With that heartbreaking loss to LSU, the Razorbacks have dropped a school-record nine straight and went 0-8 in conference play for the first time. This team fought hard in its final act, but it's clear that development and recruiting need to amp up during the offseason if Bret Bielema is going to have a chance at really competing in this league.

14. Kentucky (2-10, 0-8 SEC; LW: 14): The Wildcats have now gone 0-8 in SEC play in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1941-42 and have lost 16 straight SEC games. Mark Stoops is building a pretty impressive recruiting class right now, but we all know it takes more than recruiting. The Wildcats need more than talent, as they took steps back on both sides of the ball late in the season.
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray and Vanderbilt kicker Carey Spear are among the 12 finalists for the 2013 Wuerffel Trophy, which is given annually to the college football player who best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement.

Murray, the SEC's all-time leading passer, was also a finalist last year. He takes part in many off-the-field community projects, including Read Across America, assisting with wheelchair football championships and Countdown to Kickoff, which helped raise money and awareness for cancer research.

Spear, who's 28-of-34 on field-goal attempts the last two seasons, also earned a spot on the SEC academic honor roll in 2013. For the last two years, Spear has actively contributed to community outreach projects in Nashville, guided by Crosspoint Church. Those projects include mentoring women struggling with addiction and adopt-a-block cleanup efforts.

The last SEC player to win the Wuerffel Trophy was Alabama's Barrett Jones in 2011.

SEC Week 6: Did you know?

October, 4, 2013
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Not a ton of marquee games matching up ranked teams this week in the SEC, but some interesting matchups nonetheless, like Auburn-Ole Miss, Missouri-Vanderbilt and Arkansas-Florida, among others. Here are some statistical notes from around the league, with an assist from ESPN Stats & Information:
  • Georgia senior quarterback Aaron Murray is likely to become the SEC's career passing yardage leader on Saturday when the Bulldogs travel to Tennessee. He trails the current leader, former Georgia quarterback David Greene, by just 99 yards on the all-time SEC passing yardage list (Greene's record total is 11,528). Murray (11,249 passing yards) has never thrown for fewer than 109 yards in a game throughout his 45-game career.
  • Murray still needs 573 total offensive yards to catch former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow (12,232 yards) who holds the SEC's career total offense record. Murray has 11,659 total offensive yards to his name.
  • LSU has done well to avoid allowing one loss turn into two. The Tigers, who lost to Georgia in a thriller last week, haven't lost consecutive SEC games since 2009. They haven't lost two games consecutively, regardless of opponent, since 2008. Under head coach Les Miles, LSU is 20-1 following a loss (including season openers after a loss to end the previous season).
  • This is the first time in LSU history that the team has scored at least 30 points in each of the first five games of the season.
  • South Carolina's 169 rushes are the most the Gamecocks have recorded through four games since Steve Spurrier was hired as their head coach prior to the 2005 season. They've rushed for at least 220 yards in each of those first four games and are averaging 5.32 yards per carry, which is tied for 24th in the country.
  • Spurrier has been extremely successful against the Gamecocks' opponent this week, Kentucky. He owns a 19-1 career record against Kentucky.
  • Florida's rushing defense is No. 1 nationally in yards allowed per game (53.5) and it is the only defense to hold every opponent to fewer than 75 rushing yards this season. The average AQ conference team hits opponents at or behind the line of scrimmage 42 percent of the time; Florida has done it 57 percent of the time this year. The Gators also allow the second-fewest yards before contact per game, with 15. Only Michigan State (12.8 yards allowed before contact per game) has a better average.
  • While Florida's run defense has been dominant, Arkansas' rushing attack has been superb. The Razorbacks are second in the SEC in rushing yards per game (237) and freshman Alex Collins leads the conference with 597 rushing yards this year. So it will be interesting to watch who wins the battle when Arkansas runs the football against the Gators.
  • Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace is one of two quarterbacks in the FBS with at least 115 pass attempts and zero interceptions (Wallace has attempted 118 passes this year). Idaho's Chad Chalich is the only other player holding that distinction right now.
  • Auburn, which hosts Ole Miss, hasn't loss to the Rebels at home since 2003. The Rebels' quarterback that year? Eli Manning.
  • Alabama holds a 28-3 nonconference record under Nick Saban and is 21-0 in nonconference games since the start of the 2009 season. The Crimson Tide are also 13-1 all-time against current Sun Belt teams. The Tide host Sun Belt member Georgia State on Saturday.
  • Since taking over for injured quarterback Jeff Driskel, Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy has a 96.1 QBR, which would be second in the FBS if he had enough snaps to qualify for the national rankings. But in nine fewer drives than Driskel, Murphy has guided the Gators to more touchdowns (seven to Driskel's five), fewer turnovers (three to Driskel's seven) and fewer three-and-out series (four to Driskel's eight). A healthy Matt Jones at running back certainly doesn't hurt Murphy in that regard, either.
  • Tennessee has lost 18 straight games to teams ranked in the Associated Press poll. The last win by the Volunteers over an AP top 10 team was in 2006 against Georgia in Athens. The Vols will get a crack at Georgia, currently ranked No. 6, at Neyland Stadium.
  • Mississippi State has lost 11 consecutive games against ranked opponents. The Bulldogs’ last win over such a team was in 2010 over then-No. 22 Florida. As for top 10 teams, which their opponent on Saturday (LSU) is, the Bulldogs haven't beaten one of those since Sept. 30, 2000 (then-No. 3 Florida).
  • A Kentucky loss to South Carolina would drop the Wildcats to a 1-4 start in back-to-back seasons. The last time that happened was 2004-05.
  • Missouri is the only school in the country currently with four players who have rushed for 215 yards or more this season. The quartet consists of: running backs Russell Hansbrough (335 yards), Henry Josey (238), Marcus Murphy (224) and quarterback James Franklin (215).
  • Vanderbilt senior kicker Carey Spear hit a 50-yard field goal against UAB last week to become the Commodores' first kicker to hit four field goals of 50 yards or better in his career. His career best was 54 yards against South Carolina on Sept. 14 and that's also the second-longest field goal by an SEC player this season (Georgia's Marshall Morgan hit a 55-yarder against LSU last week).
Now that you've seen Chris Low's 2013 All-SEC team, it's time to take a look at mine. We have some similarities and some differences, but one thing we both agreed on is that it's still Alabama's world.

Remember, these are projections for the upcoming season:

OFFENSE

QB: AJ McCarron, Alabama
RB: Todd Gurley, Georgia
RB: T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
WR: Amari Cooper, Alabama
WR: Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
TE: Arthur Lynch, Georgia
OL: Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
OL: Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
OL: Antonio Richardson, Tennessee
OL: Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
C: Travis Swanson, Arkansas

DEFENSE

DL: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
DL: Dominique Easley, Florida
DL: Anthony Johnson, LSU
DL: Chris Smith, Arkansas
LB: C.J. Mosley, Alabama
LB: Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
LB: Lamin Barrow, LSU
DB: Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida
DB: Andre Hal, Vanderbilt
DB: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
DB: Craig Loston, LSU

SPECIALISTS

PK: Carey Spear, Vanderbilt
P: Kyle Christy, Florida
RS: Marcus Murphy, Missouri
AP: Odell Beckham Jr., LSU

EAST

1. South Carolina
2. Florida
3. Georgia
4. Vanderbilt
5. Missouri
6. Tennessee
7. Kentucky

WEST

1. Alabama
2. LSU
3. Texas A&M
4. Ole Miss
5. Auburn
6. Mississippi State
7. Arkansas

SEC CHAMPION

Alabama
We've looked at how all 14 special teams units stack up in the SEC. Now, it's time to take a look at the top kickers and punters the conference has to offer.

We're going five and five, so we'll start with the kickers:

1. Carey Spear, Sr., Vanderbilt: He enjoyed arguably the best season of any Vandy kicker after he connected on 20-of-24 field goals and set the school record for field goals made and kick scoring. He was also perfect from within 43 yards. He had a long of 52 yards and was 7-of-11 from 40 yards and out.

2. Cody Parkey, Sr., Auburn: He didn't attempt a lot of kicks last year, but made 11-of-14 field goals and didn't miss from within 46 yards. He's also connected on 51 straight extra points. With what should be an improved offense, he should have more opportunities to show off his leg this fall.

3. Zach Hocker, Sr., Arkansas: Even though he only made 11-of-18 field goals last year, Hocker is currently the most successful kicker in the SEC. He is the SEC's active career leader in extra points made (143), total points (287) and points per game (7.6).

4. Andrew Baggett, So., Missouri: As a freshman, Baggett only missed two kicks under 40 yards and was an SEC All-Freshman Team member. He finished the year hitting 14-of-20 field goals, with a long of 46 yards, and 33-of-37 extra points.

5. Devon Bell, So., Mississippi State: Bell was a little inconsistent when it came to hitting from distance early, but finished the year nailing 14 of his last 18 field-goal attempts. He hit 43-of-44 extra points, but will need to make sure the momentum he ended last season with spills over to the fall.

On to the punters:

1. Kyle Christy, Jr., Florida: He was one of the nation's best last year and should be considered the top punter in the country entering the 2013 season. He had a long of 62 yards and booted 25 of his punts 50-plus yards. Twenty-seven of his punts landed inside opponents' 20-yard line and he ranked ninth nationally last year in net punting.

2. Landon Foster, So., Kentucky: He'll start the season as one of the nation's best after 42.9 yards per punt and blasting 22 kicks 50-plus yards last season. He had a net average of 39.5 and had 13 kicks downed inside the 20. Fourteen of his kicks resulted in fair catches.

3. Tyler Campbell, Sr., Ole Miss: He redshirted last year, but was one of the best in the country two years ago. In 2011, Campbell averaged 43.6 yards per kick and ranked second in the SEC with 28 kicks that were downed inside the 20. Campbell has averaged 44.6 yards per punt during his career.

4. Baker Swedenburg, Sr., Mississippi State: Sure, he only sent five of his punts 50-plus yards, but he was one of the most consistent punters in the SEC last year. He averaged 41.1 yards per punt and pinned 18 kicks inside the 20. Ten of those punts were downed inside the 10. With his hang time, Mississippi State led the nation in punt coverage (.46 yards per return).

5. Cody Mandell, Sr., Alabama: Yes, Alabama does have a punter -- and he was pretty good last year. He averaged 44.3 yards on 50 punts, pinning 19 inside the 20 and sending 14 50-plus yards. He also had a net of 39.5 yards.
We conclude our position rankings by looking at special teams. These can be some of the unsung heroes of teams or they can be major goats. Believe it or not, it's hard out there for special teams guys.

Here's how all 14 SEC special teams units rank heading into the 2013 season:

1. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs return starting kicker Devon Bell, who hit 14 of his last 18 field goals last year, and punter Baker Swedenburg, who averaged 41.1 yards per kick last year and had a net of 39.9 yards. Jameon Lewis was Mississippi State's top return man last year, averaging 25.9 yards on his 20 kick returns. He also took one 100 yards for a touchdown. With Johnthan Banks gone, Lewis could move to punt returner, while LaDarius Perkins and Robert Johnson can handle kickoffs. Mississippi State also allowed just 6 yards on 13 punt returns (.46 yards per return), but did allow two touchdowns on kickoffs.

[+] EnlargeKyle Christy
AP Photo/John RaouxKyle Christ has averaged 44.0 yards per punt in his two seasons at Florida.
2. Florida: The Gators have to replace All-American kicker Caleb Sturgis, which won't be easy at all with nothing but inexperience there, but Florida has arguably the nation's best punter in Kyle Christy. He averaged 45.8 yards per kick, pinned 27 kicks inside the 20-yard line, blasted 25 punts that went 50-plus yards and ranked ninth nationally in net punting. Andre Debose proved to be one of the SEC's best return men again, averaging 28.3 yards on 18 kick returns and taking one back 100 yards for a score. Loucheiz Purifoy is a great cover guy and can help return kicks along with Marcus Roberson. Florida gave up 7.3 yards per punt return (one touchdown), just 18 yards on kickoffs and blocked six kicks last year.

3. Vanderbilt: Carey Spear knocked 20-of-24 field goals through last year, setting the school record for field goals made and kick scoring. He also didn't miss anything within 43 yards. Vandy must replace solid punter Richard Kent. Redshirt freshman Colby Cooke and walk-on Taylor Hudson competed at punter this spring, but freshman Tommy Openshaw could get a shot as well. Jonathan Krause returned 25 punts for 281 yards and became the first Commodore in 45 years to return two punts for touchdowns last year. Both Brian Kimbrow and Andre Hal averaged a little more than 22 yards per kick return. Vandy was solid defending kickoffs, but was second-to-last in the SEC in defending punts (10.7 yards per return and one touchdown).

4. Missouri: The Tigers return one of the nation's best return men in Marcus Murphy, who took three kickoffs and a punt to the house last fall. He averaged 24.1 yards per kick return and 13.9 per punt return. Andrew Baggett, who only missed two kicks under 40 yards last year, was a an SEC All-Freshman Team member last year, but has to be more consistent in 2013. Punter is up for grabs with Trey Barrow gone. Junior Christian Brinser is the favorite, but has just one career punt.

5. Alabama: The Crimson Tide has one of the league's most reliable punters in Cody Mandell, whose 44.3 yards per kick, pinned 19 inside the 20 and booted 14 50-plus yards. Christion Jones averaged 26.6 yards per kick return (eight returns) and had a touchdown last year, while returning 21 punts for 213 yards. He could get help from the shifty Dee Hart, who returns from an ACL injury. Short-yardage kicker Jeremy Shelley is gone, but long-distance man Cade Foster is back. He's shown improvement, but hit just 4-of-9 kicks last year and could share duties with redshirt freshman Adam Griffith. Coverage has to improve as well.

6. LSU: The Tigers lost kicker Drew Alleman and punter Brad Wing. Losing Wing sounds like the most significant, but the staff feels pretty confident in fellow Aussie Jamie Keehn, who averaged 43.7 yards on 12 punts last year. Odell Beckham Jr. racked up 320 yards and two touchdowns on punt returns and might get more chances on kickoffs. Freshman Jeryl Brazil is extremely fast and shifty, so expect him to get work in the return game, too. LSU was also one of the best kick/punt coverage teams in the SEC last year. Finding a suitable kicker won't be easy, though. Two walk-ons competed for the kicking job this spring. Junior James Hairston has a monster leg, but has been inconsistent on field goals.

7. Ole Miss: In hindsight, Ole Miss' coaches made a smart decision when they decided to redshirt Tyler Campbell. He was one of the country's best punters two years ago and has a career average of 44.6 yards per kick. In 2011, he downed 28 kicks inside the 20. Jaylen Walton became a dangerous returner for the Rebels last year, averaging 24.7 yards on 26 kick returns, and took one 100 yards for a score. The Rebels have to replace kicker Bryson Rose, but senior Andrew Ritter, who redshirted last year, should have the first crack at it. Though, he hasn't attempted a field goal in his career. Ole Miss also has to improve its kick coverage, as they gave up three total touchdowns on returns.

8. Auburn: The Tigers had some of the best numbers around when it came to defending kickoffs and punts. But that's because Auburn didn't kick off much and opponents rarely punted. So it's tough to say how good the Tigers are in those areas, but on five punt returns the Tigers allowed just 4 yards. Kicker Cody Parkey hit 11 of 14 kicks last year and didn't miss from within 46 yards. He's also hit 51 straight extra points. Punter Steven Clark averaged only 39.8 per kick, but his hang time forced only five returns last year. Onterio McCalebb is gone, finding a game-changer like him is up for grabs. Eyes are on Trovon Reed and Quan Bray.

9. Arkansas: Kicker Zach Hocker enters the season as the SEC's active career leader in extra points made (143), total points (287) and points per game (7.6). He'll have to improve on his 11-of-18 field-goal mark from last year. The Hogs were middle-of-the road when it came to defending returns and lost top return man Dennis Johnson. D'Arthur Cowan and Nate Holmes will handle return duties. Holmes ranked 10th in the SEC with a punt return average of 6.4 yards per return, while Cowan averaged 17.6 yards per kick return.

10. Texas A&M: The Aggies have one of the SEC's best returners in Trey Williams, who averaged 22.3 yards on 25 returns. Brandon Williams, who should be a big-play athlete for A&M, should also help out on kick returns. De'Vante Harris and Sabian Holmes should provide the Aggies with some solid return options on punts as well. A&M lost punter Ryan Epperson, but Drew Kaser shouldn't miss a beat as his replacement. Kicker Taylor Bertolet has to be much better, though. He hit just 13 of 22 field goals, missed seven extra points and was just 2-of-9 on field goals between 30 and 49 yards.

11. South Carolina: Bruce Ellington is a very good and very experienced kick returner. He averaged 22.6 yards per return last season and had a long of 50 yards. Now, replacing Ace Sanders at punt returner won't be easy, but Victor Hampton should be a viable option there. He's extremely fast and is a fast-twitch player, so he should be able to create plays in space. Speedy Damiere Byrd will get a chance on kickoffs and possesses the speed to hit a home run when he touches the ball. Punter Tyler Hull is back after averaging 39.4 per kick and pinning 12 inside the 20. Landon Ard left spring as the top placekicker, but has only handled kickoff duty during his career.

12. Tennessee: The Vols might have to rely on Michael Palardy to handle field goals, punts and kickoffs this fall. He hit 9 of 12 field goals last year, while Derrick Brodus hit 6-of-7. Only Palardy attempted a kick more than 40 yards last year and missed it. There will be competition at kicker, but Palardy should have the punter spot after averaging 43.1 yards per kick, pinning 16 inside the 20 and blasting 13 50-plus yards. With Cordarrelle Patterson gone, Devrin Young should take over kickoff and punt return duties. He was Tennessee's top punt returner last year.

13. Kentucky: The Wildcats return one of the nation's best punters in Landon Foster, who averaged 42.9 yards per kick and had 22 kicks go for 50-plus yards last year. But Kentucky is still searching for a field goal kicker. Joe Mansour has been the kickoff guy for three years, but freshman Austin MacGinnis might be the guy the coaches are depending on the most when he gets in for fall camp. Kentucky has one of its top return guys coming back in Demarco Robinson, but lost DeMarcus Sweat this summer. Sweat averaged 20.5 yards per return.

14. Georgia: The Bulldogs continued the trend of having issues defending returns, ranking last in the SEC in punt coverage (11.1 yards per return and a touchdown) and eighth in kickoff coverage (20.2 yards per return). Another concern is kicker, where Marshall Morgan could miss at least one game this fall following an arrest on June 29 for boating under the influence. He's Georgia's only scholarship kicker and was shaky last year, hitting 8 of 14 field goals. Punter Collin Barber averaged 41.5 yards per punt and pinned 19 of his 60 kicks inside the 20. Malcolm Mitchell has all the talent to be a return star, but his ill-advised decision-making has turned him into a liability.
The preseason accolades for kickers kept rolling in Wednesday, as the preseason watch list for the 2013 Lou Groza Award was announced. The Lou Groza Award is given annually to the nation's best placekicker.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Ray Guy Award, which is given annually to the nation's top punter, watch list was released.

The SEC has had its fair share of watch list members thus far, but only two made it onto the Lou Groza list:
We're taking a look at special teams today as we conclude our position rankings, so you'll see what we here at the SEC blog think of these guys and their fellow place kickers.
As the offseason grinds on and the days get hotter, we're slowly creeping closer and closer to the 2013 football season. With every day that ticks down until the start of a new, glorious football season, we're seeing more preseason predictions.

It's the time for all the prognosticators to get their thoughts and forecasts out there. We'll even take part in all the fun soon enough ... but that's a story for another day.

While we wait for all that hoopla, we'll take a look at Athlon Sports' 2013 All-SEC team. Many of the regulars made the cut, like Johnny Manziel, Todd Gurley, Amari Cooper, Jadeveon Clowney, C.J. Mosley and Anthony Johnson earning first-team honors.

AJ McCarron and Denzel Nkemdiche made the second team, while Aaron Murray and E.J. Gaines made the third team.

Alabama led all schools with 14 players making the three teams, including six first-team selections. Florida and Texas A&M were next with 10 selections, while Georgia and Ole Miss each had nine selections.

Here's a look at Athlon's All-SEC first-team:

OFFENSE

QB: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
RB: Todd Gurley, Georgia
RB: T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
WR: Amari Cooper, Alabama
WR: Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
TE: Arthur Lynch, Georgia
C: Travis Swanson, Arkansas
OG: Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
OG: Anthony Steen, Alabama
OT: Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
OT: Jake Matthews, Texas A&M

DEFENSE

DE: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
DE: Chris Smith, Arkansas
DT: Dominique Easley, Florida
DT: Anthony Johnson, LSU
LB: Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
LB: A.J. Johnson, Tennessee
LB: C.J. Mosley, Alabama
CB: Andre Hal, Vanderbilt
CB: Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida
S: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
S: Craig Loston, LSU

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Carey Spear, Vanderbilt
P: Kyle Christy, Florida
KR: Andre Debose, Florida
PR: Marcus Murphy, Missouri

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Vanderbilt’s Carey Spear earned second-team All-SEC honors last season as a place-kicker.

The Commodores’ third-year coach, James Franklin, looks at Spear and doesn’t see a kicker. He sees a football player.

“He’s a football player who happens to kick, and I’m talking everywhere,” Franklin said. “You ought to see him on testing day in the weight room. You’d think he was a D-tackle with his approach down there with all the chalk flying and everything.

“He echoes everything we’re trying to do here.”

[+] EnlargeCarey Spear
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsVanderbilt kicker Carey Spear has been all smiles since a successful surgery to correct a heart ailment.
The dependable Spear connected on 20 of his 24 field-goal attempts last season, and was 14-of-14 inside 43 yards. He was also perfect on extra points.

But for him, the fun starts after he kicks off. That’s when he transforms into a black-and-gold blur with absolutely no regard for his body.

His hit on Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson last season was priceless. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Spear knocked himself silly when he launched himself into Patterson, who probably thought it was a linebacker plastering him.

It took a few seconds for a wobbly Spear to get back on his feet, but it’s the kind of fighting spirit that has embodied this program’s rise under Franklin.

It’s also the kind of hit that you rarely see kickers laying on potential first-round draft picks, especially kickers who had to give up competitive soccer in high school because of a heart rhythm disorder.

Spear was diagnosed with Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), a condition that would cause his heart to beat frighteningly fast, particularly when he was engaged in any kind of physical activity.

“From my sophomore year in high school, I started to have problems,” said Spear, whose first love was soccer. “I’d be on the field, and my heart would start to flutter. At first, I kept it to myself because I wanted to play. But I’d get light-headed and wasn’t nearly as explosive as I wanted to be.

“I finally told my parents a year later.”

Spear, who’s from Mayfield Village, Ohio, had two different surgical procedures in high school to try and correct the problem. Neither was successful.

He’d also taken up kicking on the high school football team, but because of his health issues, had pretty much given up on his dream of playing collegiate soccer.

The good news for him was that he was accomplished enough as a kicker to draw some attention from several larger schools. He was leaning toward going to Michigan as a walk-on. But just prior to signing day, Vanderbilt and then-coach Bobby Johnson came through with a full scholarship offer. Spear had been on the Commodores’ radar after visiting campus the summer prior to his senior year of high school.

“We lost touch a little bit during my senior season, but it couldn’t have been a better fit,” Spear said. “I knew I wanted to kick in environments where there were 80,000 people in the stands, and I wanted to go to a school that valued academics.”

Medically, it was also the right fit.

It was at Vanderbilt that Spear was introduced to Dr. Frank Fish, a noted cardiologist in the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Spear served as the kickoff specialist his first season at Vanderbilt and was still having episodes. He’d debated about whether or not to tell the staff about his condition because he felt it might jeopardize his scholarship.

“It was a bold step,” Spear recalled. “I didn’t know if it was the right thing to do, but they appreciated my openness. They knew it was bothering me and limited what I could do that first season.”

Spear remembers vividly meeting with Fish for the first time and how confident Fish was that he could fix the problem.

“It was a seven- or eight-hour surgery, and I had it just before Christmas break ended in January,” Spear said. “Dr. Fish walked in the next morning and said, ‘We got it this time.’

“I just looked at my dad, and we were both filled with relief.”

It’s been more than two years since that surgery, and Spear hasn’t had any more episodes since. He’s not on medication and rarely even thinks about those scary moments any more when his heart would start beating so fast that he could barely catch his breath.

“He couldn’t be at a better place, to be in the hands of coach Franklin and have that medical facility right next door,” said Spear’s father, Tom Spear.

Likewise, it’s been neat for Fish to see Spear, a two-year co-captain for the Commodores, bounce back from the surgery with so much success.

“It’s a condition that comes up not infrequently among active athletic individuals,” Fish said. “Generally speaking, it’s more of an annoyance than a risk. Arrhythmia can cause life-threatening episodes. His was more of a bother, particularly being a place-kicker where there is so much pressure and focus on that single moment.

“It’s always fun to see one of your patients go out and engage in a normal lifestyle again. The fact that he’s playing football here at Vanderbilt adds to the excitement.”

Spear, who’s maxed out at 320 pounds on the bench-press, has only dialed up the intensity now that he’s been symptom-free for two years.

He’s proven that he’s Mr. Clutch on field goals, but relishes the role of Mr. Kamikaze on kickoffs even more.

“He loves to be physical and mix it up,” said Spear’s father. “You should have seen him play soccer. He got his share of yellow cards.”

Spear has one final season to give back to a university that has touched his life more profoundly than he could have ever imagined when he came to Nashville three years ago.

“It’s been remarkable the way God had a plan for me from the beginning,” said Spear, who’s taken mission trips to Haiti and Peru during his spring breaks.

“I found a football family, coaches and a training staff that cared about my health before they did performance, and I don’t know how much you see that these days with the pressure that exists in college sports. The surgeons here are second to none, and they changed my life.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’m here.”

SEC players of the week

November, 26, 2012
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Here are the SEC players of the week announced by the league Monday:

SEC Co-OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
  • Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida: Gillislee rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries in Florida’s 37-26 win at Florida State. His 37-yard run in the fourth quarter put the Gators ahead to stay, 23-20. Gillislee becomes the first Gator to rush for more than 1,000 yards since Ciatrick Fason in 2004.
  • Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss: Moncrief caught seven passes for a career-high 173 yards and a school record-tying three touchdowns in leading Ole Miss to a 41-24 win over Mississippi State. The 173-yard performance ranks fourth in Ole Miss history, the most ever against MSU and the most by a Rebel since 1993.
SEC Co-DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
  • Bacarri Rambo, S, Georgia: Rambo tallied eight tackles, forced two fumbles, recovered one and had an interception in Georgia’s 42-10 win over Georgia Tech. Rambo returned fumble 49 yards and interception 27 yards, both setting up Bulldog offensive touchdowns.
  • Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: Clowney set the school reord for sacks in a game with 4.5 and broke the school record for sacks in a season with 13.0 in the Gamecocks’ 27-17 win at Clemson. He totaled seven tackles, including six solo stops, and was also credited with a quarterback pressure. The sack total was also a Clemson Memorial Stadium record.
SEC Co-SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK
  • Carey Spear, K, Vanderbilt: Spear was perfect on field goals and PATs, hitting field goals of 52 and 50 yards and converting on all four PAT tries in Vanderbilt’s 55-21 win at Wake Forest. Spear also had four touchbacks on eight kickoffs. He becomes the first Vanderbilt kicker to make two 50+yard field goals in a game since 1996.
  • Caleb Sturgis, K, Florida: Sturgis was perfect on three field goals and three PAT tries in the Gators’ 37-26 win at Florida State. He also had two touchbacks on eight kickoffs. The Seminoles' average starting field position on Sturgis’ eight kickoffs was its own 26 yard line.
SEC OFFENSIVE LINEMAN OF THE WEEK
  • Barrett Jones, C, Alabama: Jones had the highest grade (96 percent) for any Alabama offensive lineman this season in the Tide’s 49-0 win against Auburn. The Alabama offensive line did not allow a sack in the game and Jones did not have any pressures, penalties or missed assignments. Alabama scored a touchdown on each of its first seven drives of the game.
SEC DEFENSIVE LINEMAN OF THE WEEK
  • Clowney: See above
SEC FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK
  • Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Manziel completed 32-of-44 passes for 372 yards with three touchdowns and an interception and rushed for 67 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns in Texas A&M’s 59-29 win over Missouri. With the effort against Missouri, Manziel became the SEC’s single-season total offensive yardage leader with 4,600 yards, breaking old mark of 4,327 yards set in 14 games by Auburn’s Cam Newton in 2010. Manziel is responsible for 43 touchdowns this season, which is tied for third in SEC history. He has generated five-or-more TDs in six games this season.

For more top performances from the SEC over the weekend, click here.

SEC players of the week

November, 5, 2012
11/05/12
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Here are the SEC's players of the week announced by the league Monday:

SEC Co-OFFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
  • Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia: Murray went 21-for-28, including 13-for-15 in the second half, for 384 yards and four touchdowns during Georgia’s 37-10 win over Ole Miss. He hit 11 different receivers and connected with four different targets for touchdowns against the Rebels.
  • Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee: Bray completed 29 of 47 passes for 530 yards with five TDs and no interceptions in the Vols’ 55-48 win against Troy. In the fourth quarter, Bray was 9-of-17 for 175 yards and two touchdowns, bringing the Vols back from a 40-34 deficit.
SEC DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Adrian Hubbard, LB, Alabama: Hubbard had a career-high and game-high tying 12 total tackles, including 2.5 for losses, in Alabama’s 21-17 win at LSU. Hubbard was in on the tackle stopping an LSU fourth-and-1 attempt at the Alabama 24-yard line in the fourth quarter. He was also in on quarterback sack for minus-7 yards early in second quarter, forcing LSU to punt. The Alabama defense finished the game with 10.0 tackles for loss, including three sacks. Alabama ranks first nationally in scoring defense (9.1 ppg) and second in total defense (228.9 ypg).

SEC SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Carey Spear, K, Vanderbilt: Spear connected on both of his field goal attempts and all three of his PAT attempts in Vanderbilt’s 40-0 win at Kentucky. His 48-yard field goal in the fourth quarter was a career long. Spear is second in the SEC in field goals per game (1.44) and third in field goal percentage (81.3). Spear is just three field goals shy of matching the Vanderbilt single-season record for field goals, held jointly by Ryan Fowler (2009) and Ricky Anderson (1984).

SEC Co-OFFENSIVE LINEMAN OF THE WEEK
  • La'el Collins, OG, LSU: Collins played all 84 offensive snaps in LSU’s 21-17 loss to top-ranked Alabama, leading the Tigers with nine knockdowns as the Tigers racked up 22 first downs, 139 rushing yards, 296 passing yards and 435 total yards -- all were the most given up this year by the nation’s top-rated defense.
  • Wesley Johnson, OT, Vanderbilt: Johnson earned an 87 percent blocking grade on the strength of eight knockdown blocks and five blocks that directly led to either Commodore touchdowns or first downs, in a 40-0 win at Kentucky.
SEC Co-DEFENSIVE LINEMAN OF THE WEEK
  • Chris Smith, DE, Arkansas: Smith had team-high eight total tackles, with 1.5 for losses, including a sack, with a fumble recovery, two pass deflections and two quarterback pressures in Arkansas’ 19-15 win against Tulsa.
  • Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida: Floyd tallied five total tackles (all solos), with a team-high three for losses, and one quarterback pressure, in Florida’s 14-7 win against Missouri.
SEC FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Manziel completed 30 of 36 passes for 311 yards and also rushed for 129 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns in Texas A&M’s 38-13 win at Mississippi State. Manziel directed an Aggies offense that tallied 693 total yards on 97 offensive plays and just one turnover.

For other top SEC performances from the weekend, check the SEC's official website.

Missouri's woes continue against Vandy

October, 6, 2012
10/06/12
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It's the halfway point of the 2012 season, and Missouri is still looking for the first win of its SEC tenure.

The Tigers dropped their third conference game of 2012 in an ugly 19-15 loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday night, and with No. 1 Alabama looming as the next opponent, it might have been their last opportunity for a couple of weeks.

Even more disheartening for the SEC East's newest member is that the Tigers outplayed the Commodores for much of Saturday night. Missouri racked up 395 yards of offense to Vanderbilt's 295. The Tigers also won the rushing battle with 150 yards on the ground to Vanderbilt's 89 -- another indicator of success. But injuries reared up again for Missouri quarterback James Franklin, who left the game in the first half with an apparent knee injury and did not return. In his place, backup Corbin Berkstresser struggled to find success against a stingy Vanderbilt secondary and finished with just nine completions.

Both defenses held the upper hand for most of the night, with the Commodores taking a 9-6 halftime lead. Vanderbilt benefited from a workmanlike night from running back Zac Stacy, who rushed 29 times for 72 yards and two scores. The Commodores took a 16-9 lead early in the fourth quarter on the second of Stacy's touchdown runs.

It looked like Berkstresser had broken through on the ensuing possession when he found receiver Bud Sasser for an 85-yard touchdown strike, cutting the Commodore lead to 16-15. But Vanderbilt responded by taking its next possession 78 yards to the Missouri 3-yard line, where kicker Carey Spear connected on a 21-yard field goal for the final margin.

Berkstresser led the Tigers as close as the Vanderbilt 25-yard line, but he could not buy a completion on 4th-and-11, and the Commodores took over on downs to preserve the win.

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