SEC: Carl Johnson
According to Todd McShay and Kevin Weidl's combine report, Florida offensive guard Carl Johnson (361 pounds), Arkansas offensive tackle Ray Dominguez (334), Georgia offensive tackle Josh Davis (331) and Florida offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert (330) were four of the five heaviest offensive linemen at the combine. Davis also measured 6-foot-7 1/8, making him the third-tallest offensive lineman on hand.
Florida's Mike Pouncey (6-5, 303) and Georgia's Clint Boling (6-4 5/8, 308) looked especially fit during weigh-ins, according to the Scouts Inc. guys.
The heaviest tight end was South Carolina's Weslye Saunders, who was suspended and didn't play this past season. Saunders checked in at 6-5 and 270 pounds. He also had the longest arms of the tight ends (35 5/8 inches) and the second biggest hands (10 5/8).
Before his suspension, the Scouts Inc. guys had Saunders ranked as the second best tight end in the draft. The interview process will be huge for Saunders if he's going to move back up into the top part of the draft.
Arkansas' D.J. Williams was one of the smallest tight ends at 6-2 and 245 pounds.
Florida stunk on offense. There’s no other way to say it.
But that’s not really the issue. The issue is whether or not that stench is going to linger.
In other words, was it merely a case of first-game jitters made worse by a bunch of new faces on the offensive line and some fluky fumbles?
Or is this an offense that’s missing some of the key parts required to drive the football consistently, pick up the tough yards and finish drives with touchdowns?
It’s a good thing the Gators were playing Miami (Ohio), which won just one game a year ago.
Otherwise, the urgency Meyer has talked about this week on the practice field might be more in line with misery.
Not being able to get the shotgun snap is one thing, but Florida struggled to sustain drives. Had it not been for the defense, who knows?
Janoris Jenkins scored on a 67-yard interception return. Ahmad Black returned another interception to the 3, setting up a touchdown. The Gators scored a third touchdown after Miami (Ohio) tried a fake punt and failed on its own 21.
Jeff Demps ripped off a 72-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, and the Gators’ only other touchdown came at the end of the game when Chris Rainey had the ball bounce into his hands on a fourth-down heave into the end zone.
“Once you get out of rhythm as many times as we did in that first half, that’s tough,” said Meyer, whose Gators had just 13 yards of total offense at the half. “It was second down and forever.”
With South Florida coming to the Swamp this Saturday, Meyer says flatly that the Gators will have to play much better or they won’t win.
And you get the feeling that he means it, too.
“They have one of the best quarterbacks we’ll face all year and are very athletic on defense, so we better get our game right,” Meyer said.
In particular, they better find their game on offense.
The jury is out on what the Gators are going to be offensively this season. Throwing the football is clearly John Brantley's forte.
But do the Gators have the playmakers at receiver to keep defenses from stacking the line? We know they have the speed with Demps and Rainey, but Demps can’t do it by himself and Rainey is still adjusting to his new role.
More pressing, who’s going to pick up the tough yards – on third-and-short and around the goal line?
There’s enough speed and enough athleticism on this offense that the Gators are going to break their share of big plays. One- and two-play drives are the great equalizer in football.
It still remains to be seen, though, if this offense can grind it out when it needs to and put together sustained drives. To win an SEC championship, those are prerequisites.
Meyer said the Gators should get back starting tackle Xavier Nixon (injury) and starting guard Carl Johnson (suspension) for Saturday’s game. They had to move guys around on the offensive line last week, and it didn’t help matters when guard James Wilson went down with an injury.
“It’s tough to get things going when you’re having turnovers, but we know what we did wrong,” said Brantley, who was 17-of-25 for 113 yards in his debut as a starter. “We all know as a team what we did wrong, and we’re going to fix it this week.”
That’s not all on John Brantley, either. In fact, a lot of what went wrong Saturday for Florida in its sloppy 34-12 victory over Miami (Ohio) wasn’t Brantley’s fault.
In short, it might have been the worst overall offensive showing of the Urban Meyer era.
The Gators couldn’t get right the most basic aspect of offensive football -- the snap.
There were more than 10 snaps that were either bad, fumbled or simply not executed. It was a miserable day for senior Mike Pouncey, who was moving over to center from guard to take over for his twin brother, Maurkice Pouncey.
Equally disturbing for the Gators was that they couldn’t run the ball with any consistency. There were a ton of negative-yardage plays because of bad snaps, and Florida finished with just 99 rushing yards. Even that figure is deceiving because Jeff Demps broke a 72-yard touchdown run.
Without Tebow, it remains to be seen who will get the tough yards on this team.
Florida was playing without at least three potential starters in its offensive line. Tackles Xavier Nixon and Matt Patchan were out with injuries, and senior guard Carl Johnson missed the game for unspecified reasons.
Brantley, making his starting debut, finished with just 113 yards passing. He threw two touchdowns and wasn’t intercepted, but one of those touchdowns came on a fourth-down desperation heave in the final minutes that was tipped and caught by Chris Rainey. Brantley also had what should have been a touchdown pass in the first half dropped by Deonte Thompson.
The Gators managed four offensive touchdowns. Florida's first touchdown was scored by cornerback Janoris Jenkins on a 67-yard interception return.
One game hardly makes a season or defines a season. But this is an offense that has a ways to go if the Gators are going to get back to Atlanta for a third straight year and play in the SEC championship game.
Nothing against the effort Miami (Ohio) put up, but had the Gators been playing anybody in the SEC on Saturday, they'd probably be 0-1 right now.
The numbers were surely ugly.
The Gators mustered just 13 yards of total offense in taking a 21-6 lead against Miami (Ohio) into the half. One of Florida's touchdowns came on a 70-yard interception return by Janoris Jenkins.
There were fumbles, bad snaps, a dropped touchdown pass and no semblance of a running game. Tim Tebow WAS Florida's running game the past couple of seasons. Now that he's gone, the Gators look like they're still trying to find one.
It's only the first game, so it's way too early to panic. But seeing the Gators this pedestrian offensively is nonetheless eye-opening.
Quarterback John Brantley did have a nice touchdown pass in the first half where he stood in the pocket, took a hit and delivered the throw on the money to Omarius Hines.
In short, this offense is a far cry right now from the way senior offensive lineman Carl Johnson described it this week.
Remember his promise about how versatile the Gators would be?
Something along the lines of ... "Do you want us to run it on you, or do you just want to lie down and take it? But you're going to get it."
Maybe we'll see that version of the Gators in the second half.
So with that, here’s the way we see the offensive lines stacking up in the SEC this season:
2. Alabama: The loss of All-America left guard Mike Johnson will hurt, but sophomore Barrett Jones is a budding star at right guard. William Vlachos is one of the best centers in the league. James Carpenter more than held his own a year ago at left tackle after transferring in from junior college, and massive D.J. Fluker (6-6, 340) looks like he’ll be the right tackle. On top of it all, Alabama has one of the best line coaches in the business in Joe Pendry.
3. Georgia: If everybody stays healthy, it’s going to be hard to beat the Bulldogs’ depth and experience. The key is staying healthy. Trinton Sturdivant has missed each of the last two seasons with knee injuries, but was Georgia’s starting left tackle as a true freshman in 2007. Offensive line coach Stacy Searels will have some options. Several of the guys returning can play multiple positions. Senior tackle Clint Boling and junior guard Cordy Glenn are both All-SEC caliber players.
4. Auburn: The Tigers have all but one starter returning from an offensive line that paved the way for a 2,612-yard passer, 1,362-yard rusher and 997-yard receiver last season. All four of the returning starters are seniors, too. Lee Ziemba could make a strong case as one of the best left tackles in the league, and Ryan Pugh is right there at the top of the list in terms of centers. The Tigers still have to settle on a right tackle and establish some depth behind the starters.
5. Arkansas: The biggest name on Arkansas’ offensive line from a year ago is gone (Mitch Petrus), but the Hogs still return four experienced starters. Seniors DeMarcus Love and Ray Dominguez form an imposing tackle tandem, and senior guard Wade Grayson is a powerful drive blocker inside alongside junior center Seth Oxner. The Hogs will also have a new offensive line coach in 2010, as Chris Klenakis reunites with Bobby Petrino.
7. Ole Miss: The middle of the Rebels’ offensive line from a year ago is gone, including third-round draft pick John Jerry. Remember all the trouble Bradley Sowell had at left tackle, particularly early last season? Well, he made it through the storm and is back as one of Ole Miss’ most experienced linemen. Sophomore Bobby Massie returns at right tackle after breaking into the starting lineup as a freshman.
8. LSU: It can’t get much worse for the Tigers up front, not after giving up 37 sacks and failing to generate any kind of consistent running game last season. Senior Joseph Barksdale is moving from right tackle to left tackle. He’s used to moving. In high school, he was a highly recruited defensive lineman. LSU moved a couple of different people around in the spring hoping to find the right combination. Sophomore Alex Hurst shifted from guard to right tackle. Center T-Bob Hebert was suspended in May after being arrested and charged with DUI.
9. South Carolina: The Gamecocks have been through the offensive line coaches. Shawn Elliott is the third different one in as many years. Steve Spurrier has said that a couple of true freshmen may have to play for the Gamecocks, even though that’s easier said than done in the SEC. Like LSU, South Carolina gave up 37 sacks a year ago. Senior tackle Jarriel King is probably the best of the bunch, and sophomore T.J. Johnson is nestled in at center. Prized freshman running back Marcus Lattimore is on his way, but he’s going to need more help than the South Carolina backs got last year.
10. Tennessee: Having a first-year starter at quarterback in the SEC is daunting enough, but the Vols will go one better. They will put five new offensive line starters on the field, too. There’s some young talent in the group, led by true freshman right tackle Ja’Wuan James. Sophomore Dallas Thomas emerged at the other tackle and had a solid spring. This is a line that could be very good down the road if the Vols keep everybody together, but they may take their lumps this season.
11. Kentucky: The Wildcats like their younger talent in the offensive line, and that’s a good thing. A lot of those guys are going to have to play key roles this season. The lone returning starter is junior guard Stuart Hines, and he’s the guy the Wildcats ran behind in key spots a year ago. His leadership and guidance will be even more important in 2010. Mike Summers steps in as Kentucky’s offensive line coach.
12. Vanderbilt: Robbie Caldwell’s job was already tough enough. But in addition to taking over for Bobby Johnson as interim head coach, he also has to whip a Vanderbilt offensive line together that will battle youth and inexperience. The Commodores are hopeful Ryan Seymour can return from shoulder surgery. They also lost promising tackle James Williams to academics after he missed most of last season with a broken ankle. Redshirt freshman tackle Wesley Johnson will have to grow up in a hurry.
Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram was a first-team selection at running back along with Julio Jones at receiver, guard Barrett Jones on the offensive line, end Marcell Dareus on the defensive line, Dont’a Hightower at linebacker and safety Mark Barron in the secondary.
The Crimson Tide also had three second-team selections – quarterback Greg McElroy, running back Trent Richardson and offensive tackle James Carpenter.
Counting both the first and second teams, Florida had the most selections with 10, including three first-team players.
There are five first-team selections that were also on last year’s first-team coaches' All-SEC postseason team. Those include: center Mike Pouncey (Florida), receiver A.J. Green (Georgia), running back Mark Ingram (Alabama), defensive back Mark Barron (Alabama) and punter Drew Butler (Georgia).
Right off the bat, I can see two glaring omissions. Georgia outside linebacker Justin Houston and Ole Miss defensive end Kentrell Lockett didn’t make either the first or second team. Between them, they had 25 tackles for loss, including 12.5 sacks, last season.
Here’s a look at the entire first and second teams (ties were not broken, which is why some positions have more players):
(* - Tie)
QB -- Ryan Mallett, Jr., Arkansas
RB -- Mark Ingram, Jr., Alabama
RB -- Derrick Locke, Sr., Kentucky
WR -- A.J. Green, Jr., Georgia
WR -- Julio Jones, Jr., Alabama
TE -- D.J. Williams, Sr., Arkansas
OL -- Clint Boling, Sr., Georgia
OL -- Carl Johnson, Sr., Florida
OL -- Barrett Jones, So., Alabama
OL -- Lee Ziemba, Sr., Auburn
C -- Mike Pouncey, Sr., Florida
DL -- Marcell Dareus, Jr., Alabama
DL -- Jerrell Powe, Sr., Ole Miss
DL -- Cliff Matthews, Sr., South Carolina
LB -- Josh Bynes, Sr., Auburn
LB -- Dont’a Hightower, So., Alabama
LB -- Chris Marve, Jr., Vanderbilt
LB -- Kelvin Sheppard, Sr., LSU
DB -- Mark Barron, Jr., Alabama
DB -- Patrick Peterson, Jr., LSU
DB -- Stephon Gilmore, So., South Carolina
DB -- Janoris Jenkins, Jr., Florida
PK -- Blair Walsh, Jr., Georgia
P -- Drew Butler, Jr., Georgia
RS -- Warren Norman, So., Vanderbilt
AP -- Randall Cobb, Jr., Kentucky
QB -- Greg McElroy, Sr., Alabama
RB -- Jeff Demps, Jr., Florida
RB -- Trent Richardson, So., Alabama
WR -- Darvin Adams, Jr., Auburn
WR -- Alshon Jeffery, So., South Carolina
TE -- Luke Stocker, Sr., Tennessee
OL -- James Carpenter, Sr., Alabama
OL -- DeMarcus Love, Sr., Arkansas
OL -- Derek Sherrod, Sr., Miss. State
OL -- *Cordy Glenn, Jr., Georgia
OL -- *Joseph Barksdale, Sr., LSU
C -- Ryan Pugh, Sr., Auburn
DL -- Pernell McPhee, Sr., Miss. State
DL -- Drake Nevis, Sr., LSU
DL -- *DeQuin Evans, Sr., Kentucky
DL -- *Chris Walker, Sr., Tennessee
DL -- * Ladi Ajiboye, Sr., South Carolina
LB -- Jerry Franklin, Jr., Arkansas
LB -- A.J. Jones, Sr., Florida
LB -- Craig Stevens, Sr., Auburn
LB -- K.J. Wright, Sr., Miss. State
DB -- Ahmad Black, Sr., Florida
DB -- Chris Culliver, Sr., South Carolina
DB -- Will Hill, Jr., Florida
DB -- Neiko Thorpe, Jr., Auburn
PK -- Caleb Sturgis, Jr., Florida
P -- Chas Henry, Jr., Florida
RS -- Brandon Boykin, Jr., Georgia
AP -- Chris Rainey, Jr., Florida
ALL-SEC BY TEAM
Ole Miss: 1
Miss. State: 3
South Carolina: 5
Here's a look:
BRONKO NAGURSKI TROPHY
- Alabama S Mark Barron
- Alabama DE Marcell Dareus
- South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore
- Alabama LB Dont'a Hightower
- Georgia LB Justin Houston
- Florida CB Janoris Jenkins
- Vanderbilt LB Chris Marve
- South Carolina DE Cliff Matthews
- LSU CB Patrick Peterson
- Ole Miss DT Jerrell Powe
- LSU LB Kelvin Sheppard
- Auburn LB Craig Stevens
- Georgia T Clint Boling
- Alabama T James Carpenter
- Florida DT Omar Hunter
- Florida G Carl Johnson
- Alabama G Barrett Jones
- Georgia C Ben Jones
- Arkansas T DeMarcus Love
- LSU DT Drake Nevis
- Florida C Mike Pouncey
- Ole Miss DT Jerrell Powe
- Auburn T Lee Ziemba
Casey in Tikrit, Iraq, writes: You have a very strong point in who the best running back duo is the SEC. But my question is that if the Georgia Bulldogs’ offensive line blocks like they are supposed to, then would you say that Washaun Ealey and Caleb King could be the sleepers? The way they ran at the end of the last season in my mind looked unreal. What would you say?
Chris Low: First of all, Casey, I want to thank you for your service and please be safe over there. As for running back duos, Ealey and King would be No. 2 on my list right now behind the Alabama tandem of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, although I think the running backs at Arkansas and Auburn could have something to say about that No. 2 spot before it’s all over. With Ealey finishing the season the way he did a year ago, I think that will only motivate King. Did you notice how King’s numbers went up as Ealey got it rolling last November? In Georgia’s last five outings, the two of them averaged a combined 193 yards rushing per game. King had six touchdowns in those five games, too. I think they will be good for each other, push each other and they will also keep each other fresh. So, yes, I like the Ealey-King duo running behind a deep, veteran Georgia offensive line. If the Bulldogs get Trinton Sturdivant and Tanner Strickland back healthy next season, it could be one of the best lines in the league. But as Mark Richt says himself, he wants to see it on the field before he starts talking about what this line may or may not be capable of in 2010.
Stephen in Mobile, Ala., writes: In your opinion, who out of Auburn, Florida and Georgia will have the best offensive line?
Chris Low: As I stated above, I think Georgia will certainly be right up there. But until we get into the season, there are a few too many “ifs” that scare me. We just don’t know yet about Sturdivant and Strickland, although Sturdivant is due some good luck after missing each of the past two seasons with knee injuries. Auburn and Florida each have four of five starters returning. All four of Auburn’s starters are seniors. The Gators’ only loss was a big one, center Maurkice Pouncey, who was a first-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers. His replacement, twin brother Mike Pouncey, will slide over and play center, and the Gators have three other returnees who are NFL prospects -- senior tackle Marcus Gilbert, sophomore tackle Xavier Nixon and senior guard/tackle Carl Johnson. It’s a close call among all three of the teams you ask about. But right now, I’d go with the Gators based on their ability to both run block and protect the passer. They also have some quality depth. Maurice Hurt, James Wilson and Matt Patchan have all played some in the past.
Mark in Chattanooga, Tenn., writes: Tell me how Tennessee struggles to get to six wins. Tennessee-Martin, Vanderbilt, Memphis and UAB are all wins. Kentucky will be a good challenge, but it’s in Knoxville. Three of our four toughest games are at home (Oregon, Florida and Alabama). We could pick up a win against a weaker Ole Miss team at home. I think we could win at least one of the away games against Georgia or South Carolina. It is a tougher schedule with LSU and Oregon rolling in and UCLA and Auburn rolling out. But we lost those two games last year, so it won't change wins versus last year if we lose both. I liked how Crompton ended his career, but he didn't get rolling until Georgia. One of our quarterbacks can figure it out by then. Our receivers are talented. We have two good options at running back. The offensive line will be a big factor. I think we have some good players on defense and some with experience due to the injuries last year. What seven teams do you think beat us?
Chris Low: I know Derek Dooley would appreciate your optimism. There’s not a surplus of that around Knoxville these days and may not be for a couple of years. As I look at the Vols’ 2010 schedule, their lack of experience at quarterback and on the offensive line and their general lack of depth across the board, I think 6-6 sounds about right. But I also don’t think it will be easy to get there. Outside Tennessee-Martin, I wouldn’t say any game is a guarantee. The Vanderbilt series has been pretty close the past few years, and the Commodores won in 2005. The Vols had to go into overtime to beat Kentucky two of the past three years, and I wouldn’t call the Memphis game (a November night game on the road) a lock. But my best guess is that Tennessee wins three of its four nonconference games, wins two SEC games at home (maybe Ole Miss and Kentucky) and finds another win somewhere (maybe Vanderbilt). Again, though, it will be a struggle to get there.
DK in Portland, Ore., writes: When and if the SEC expands to possibly 16 schools, who do you see getting the invites? Is it possible that they look for new territory and invite Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to join the Western Division? What a strong conference that would be.
Chris Low: Anything is possible. I do believe the landscape is going to change with regard to the conferences in the next two years. How much it changes is the question. In talking to some folks at the SEC, they’re just waiting and not antsy to make any moves. If the Big Ten goes to 16 schools (and I’m starting to think that’s not going to happen), then the SEC will certainly respond. If we do indeed get to that point, then I think all four of the schools you mention could be in play, especially if Nebraska and Missouri were to leave the Big 12. I’ll admit that it would be fun (the coaches might not think so) to see Florida going up against Texas every few years and Alabama and Oklahoma squaring off on occasion.
John in Columbia, S.C., writes: At South Carolina, do you think that Spurrier will be more aggressive with the play-calling next football season.
Chris Low: John, to be honest, I think he will be more consistent. Now, he says he called most of the plays last season. Some in and around Columbia aren’t buying that. To me, the genius of Spurrier as a playcaller was always that he'd keep you on your toes. He’d get into one of those rhythms calling plays, would commit to the run when it made sense and then rip your heart out with a play nobody saw coming. The key here is committing to the run. The Gamecocks gave up on the run way too early in some games the last two seasons. If the Head Ball Coach is truly going to call all of the plays next season, I don’t think you’ll see that happen. The other thing is that he needs to do a better job of protecting his defense next season and not hang those guys out to dry as much.
Mark in New Market, Ala., writes: Why are tickets so high this year?
Chris Low: For one, have you seen what they’re paying head coaches these days? Heck, forget the head coaches. I saw recently where seven of the 10 highest-paid assistant coaches in the country reside in the SEC. Six of the 12 defensive coordinators in this league make $500,000 or more annually. I’m not begrudging them. They deserve every penny when you consider the pressure to win in this conference. But when you’re paying the kind of coin SEC schools are to coaches, renovating stadiums the way schools are and constantly building new facilities, ticket prices are going to keep going up. It’s almost to the point where the average Joe can’t afford to take his family of four to a game. Sad … but that’s reality.
Strongest position: Offensive line
Key returnees: Senior center Mike Pouncey, senior guard/tackle Carl Johnson, senior tackle Marcus Gilbert, sophomore tackle Xavier Nixon, senior guard Maurice Hurt, junior guard James Wilson
Key departures: Center Maurkice Pouncey
The skinny: The Gators did some bang-up recruiting this offseason with a signing class some have called the most talented ever. But their most important recruit might have been holding onto Mike Pouncey, who opted not to turn pro early and will instead slide over from guard and take over for his twin brother, Maurkice, at center next season. Maurkice was a first-round selection and will certainly be missed, but the Gators return four starters up front -- and three of those are seniors. Nixon took over at left tackle as a true freshman last season and started the last five games. Johnson returns at left guard, but has also started at tackle. Gilbert returns as the Gators’ right tackle. Hurt and Wilson will probably battle it out for the right guard spot. Hurt started some at guard a year ago. The Gators have enough depth and versatility in their offensive line that Steve Addazio will have the luxury of working a couple of different combinations to ensure getting his best five guys on the field. Junior tackle Matt Patchan could also factor in somewhere after being injured most of last season. Barring a rash of injuries, this may end up being the best offensive line Urban Meyer has had at Florida.
Weakest position: Defensive end
Key returnees: Senior Justin Trattou (17 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, one interception), senior Duke Lemmens (10 tackles), junior William Green (12 tackles, three tackles for loss)
Key departures: Carlos Dunlap (38 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, nine sacks), Jermaine Cunningham (34 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, seven sacks, two forced fumbles)
The skinny: If ever the Gators could use an infusion of talent, it’s at defensive end. Not by coincidence, they went out and signed some of the most talented end prospects in the country, most notably Ronald Powell of Moreno Valley, Calif. He might need to bulk up some, but Powell is an incredible athlete who will be a nightmare for opposing offensive tackles off the edge. It’s rare that true freshman defensive linemen come into the SEC and make an immediate impact, but Powell is that kind of talent. Trattou is the top returnee and will need to make more big plays for the Gators, who got a combined 31.5 sacks from Dunlap and Cunningham the past two seasons. Green has big-play potential at the other end. He just has to go do it. Lemmens is a steady player, but neither is in the class of Dunlap and Cunningham. Rushing the passer effectively will be more important than ever next season, too, when you consider that the Gators will be filling holes in the secondary created by the early departures of cornerback Joe Haden and safety Major Wright. Two more true freshmen who could end up helping are Dominique Easley and Lynden Trail. Easley could get snaps at both end and tackle.
Strongest position: Offensive line
Key returnees: Mike Pouncey, Carl Johnson, Marcus Gilbert, Xavier Nixon, Maurice Hurt, Matt Patchan, James Wilson
Key departures: Maurkice Pouncey
The skinny: Had Maurkice Pouncey not decided to turn pro, the Gators would have one of the deepest, most experienced offensive lines in the country in 2010. Even with him gone, they should still be very good up front. They really like the way Xavier Nixon is developing after he stepped in as the starter at left tackle late last season as a true freshman. Mike Pouncey, an All-SEC performer, will move from guard to center. Carl Johnson has started at both guard and tackle, while Marcus Gilbert was the starter at right tackle last season. Maurice Hurt and James Wilson will probably fight it out for that other guard spot, and if Matt Patchan is healthy, he’ll push somebody for a starting spot.
Weakest position: Receiver/tight end
Key returnees: Deonte Thompson, Andre Debose, Omarius Hines
Key departures: Riley Cooper, Aaron Hernandez, David Nelson
The skinny: The Gators lost four of their top five receivers from a year ago, including their top three. One of those was Hernandez, who was a nightmare matchup problem for defenses at tight end. Freshman Gerald Christian may be the heir apparent to replace Hernandez. At receiver, the Gators have some talent, but even more unknowns. Is this the year Thompson is more consistent and doesn’t have as many drops? He needs to become the go-to guy of this group. How healthy will Debose be after coming off hamstring surgery? As talented as he is, keep in mind that he’s never played in a college game. There’s also a huge opportunity for guys like Frankie Hammond, Solomon Patton and Hines to step up and be playmakers. One move the Gators made was shifting Chris Rainey from running back to slot receiver.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Florida's Carl Johnson got some good news Tuesday when his former girlfriend dropped a restraining order against him.
Johnson is working this spring as the Gators' starting left offensive tackle. Florida coach Urban Meyer said Johnson remains in good standing with the team.
Florida is looking to replace both offensive tackles from last year -- Jason Watkins and Phil Trautwein.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
The charge against Florida offensive lineman Carl Johnson for allegedly violating a restraining order has been dismissed by the State Attorney's Office.
There wasn't enough evidence to charge Johnson, according to State Attorney Bill Cervone. Johnson's ex-girlfriend also said she would not pursue criminal charges stemming from rape allegations she made against Johnson.
These developments are good news for Johnson, who had not been allowed to work out with the rest of the team during the offseason. He started in the FedEx BCS National Championship Game at guard and was a candidate to win one of the starting tackle jobs for the Gators in the fall.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Making the rounds in the SEC:
- Georgia's tight ends won't be forgotten in 2009. The Bulldogs' tight ends caught just 10 total passes a year ago.
- Ole Miss is still searching for a 12th game for its 2009 schedule. One of the possibilities was TCU, but TCU has agreed to play Clemson next season.
- A continuance is granted in the Carl Johnson case. The hearing for the Florida offensive lineman will now take place in April.
- Arkansas receiver Crosby Tuck decides to leave the football team for injury-related reasons.
- How much money did former Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith cost himself with the whole NFL combine debacle? Darren Rovell of CNBC thinks as much as $20 million or more.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Branching out and seeing what else is out there in the SEC:
- Florida return specialist Brandon James will miss spring practice after undergoing surgery on his right foot.
- Columnist Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News writes that Auburn's new football staff proves that it's a young man's game. The average age of the Auburn assistants is 42.
- Florida offensive lineman Carl Johnson has been released from jail.
- Three Ole Miss assistants get small raises. Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt saw his package increase to more than $2.5 million annually last December.
- Top running back prospect Bryce Brown is talking up his Tennessee visit from last weekend.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
More news is starting to come out concerning the arrest of Florida offensive lineman Carl Johnson, who's been hit with some serious accusations by a former girlfriend.
Jeremy Fowler of The Orlando Sentinel was able to obtain court documents in which a former girlfriend claims Johnson "date-raped" her on three occasions during last football season. Johnson was arrested on Monday for violating a temporary restraining order.
Florida coach Urban Meyer has yet to comment. He's out of the country, according to Florida officials, who are looking into the details of the report.