SEC: Chris Culliver
Five of those players played in the SEC.
LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson's 4.34 was second overall to Miami cornerback Demarcus Van Dyke, who turned in a 4.28. Of course, Van Dyke weighs 170 pounds and Peterson 219 pounds.
Auburn running back Mario Fannin came out of nowhere to run a 4.38, and he did so weighing 231 pounds. One of the things holding Fannin back at Auburn was a rash of nagging injuries, and he also bounced around between different positions.
Alabama's Julio Jones had the fastest 40 among SEC receivers with a 4.38 and posted that time despite a fracture in his foot.
South Carolina cornerback Chris Culliver, who missed the final five games last season after tearing a pectoral muscle, helped himself with a 4.4. Kentucky's Derrick Locke also ran a 4.4, which wasn't a surprise. Locke was one of the fastest running backs in the SEC the past two seasons.
Here's a look at the fastest 40 times from this year's combine:
- Miami CB Demarcus Van Dyke: 4.28
- LSU CB Patrick Peterson: 4.34
- Maryland RB Da'Rel Scott: 4.34
- Abilene Christian WR Edmund Gates: 4.37
- Belhaven WR Ricardo Lockette: 4.37
- Auburn RB Mario Fannin: 4.38
- Alabama WR Julio Jones: 4.38
- Ohio State CB Chimdi Chekwa: 4.40
- South Carolina CB Chris Culliver: 4.40
- Kentucky RB Derrick Locke: 4.40
- Connecticut RB Jordan Todman: 4.40
Culliver suffered a torn pectoral muscle Saturday in the 38-24 win over Tennessee, and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said he will be "out a while." The Gamecocks are last in the SEC in passing defense, giving up an average of 259.9 yards per game, and are 11th in pass efficiency defense. Lately, they haven't been able to stop anybody throwing the football.
Culliver had dealt with his share of struggles this season in coverage. Still, this is not the time to be losing experienced defensive backs with Arkansas' No. 1-ranked passing offense coming up this Saturday and a trip to Florida the following weekend. The Florida-South Carolina matchup will determine the East champion.
Junior C.C. Whitlock will likely move into a starting role in place of Culliver. The Gamecocks are thin enough in the secondary that former walk-on Brandan Davis and current walk-on Marty Markett may have to play some Saturday.
It’s been one thing after another, really across the entire SEC.
Georgia star receiver A.J. Green is serving a four-game suspension for selling one of his jerseys to an individual deemed to be an agent by the NCAA. He wasn’t allowed to make the trip with his teammates. Georgia is appealing his suspension, hoping that it will be reduced and he can return for the Arkansas game next week or the Mississippi State game in two weeks.
South Carolina has come through most of its issues, at least for now. There could be more coming. The university received an official letter of inquiry from the NCAA on Thursday.
In the short term, though, the Gamecocks got two of their players back, both starters. Cornerback Chris Culliver and offensive tackle Jarriel King were both cleared by the NCAA to play in this game after sitting out the opener.
That's a huge swing in favor of the Gamecocks, who thought at one point prior to the Southern Miss game last week that they might be without 12 players.
Now, the only player still missing for them is senior tight end Weslye Saunders.
Georgia's an excellent team and a team I think will only get better and hang around in the East race all season.
But it just seems to set up nicely for the Gamecocks. Not only do they get their players back, while the Bulldogs are missing their best player, but this will be Georgia redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray's debut on the road.
In other words, if it's really going to happen for the Gamecocks this season, this is a game they better win.
Culliver was one of three South Carolina players to miss the opener against Southern Miss after questions arose about who was making the payments for an insurance policy he'd taken out.
The Gamecocks are expected to be without offensive tackle Jarriel King and tight end Weslye Saunders for a second straight week.
Culliver's return will strengthen a South Carolina secondary that was missing two starters last week. Antonio Allen, who plays the Gamecocks' hybrid "Spur" position, is still questionable after missing the opener with a hamstring pull.
He said the Gamecocks were preparing that way.
“I think he’s going to play, but we don’t know for sure,” said Spurrier, adding that there’s also no word yet on offensive tackle Jarriel King.
Both players were held out of the opener because of separate NCAA matters.
Meanwhile, Georgia coach Mark Richt said Tuesday that he does expect a ruling to be made on receiver A.J. Green prior to Saturday's game (ESPN2, noon ET). Green was held out of the Bulldogs' opener because of an ongoing NCAA investigation.
“I will be highly disappointed if we don’t hear something this week,” Richt said. “I think we will.”
The Gamecocks had as many as 12 players in limbo right up until an hour and a half before kickoff last Thursday against Southern Miss.
Obviously, that’s anything but ideal, but Spurrier said the Gamecocks are in no position to fight it.
“The NCAA runs college football,” Spurrier said. “You gotta have a sheriff. As coaches and administrators, we understand they have a difficult job to do. We’ll just have to wait it out and see what happens.”
Both teams were extremely impressive in their openers. There won’t be any shortage of players on the field who can change the game in a hurry this Saturday in Williams-Brice Stadium, and both defenses look to be rock solid, not to mention very well-coached.
The one difference about the opening week was that the Gamecocks played a stronger opponent.
It’s unfortunate that Saturday’s game is being marred by a handful of players who remain in limbo.
Georgia star receiver A.J. Green didn’t play in the opener and may not play in this game while the NCAA continues to investigate several players around the country and their dealings with agents.
The Gamecocks also had three players suspended for the opener -- tight end Weslye Saunders, cornerback Chris Culliver and offensive tackle Jarriel King.
Saunders may not be back at all this season, but the Gamecocks are hopeful of getting a ruling this week from the NCAA on Culliver and King. Culliver’s issue is an insurance policy he took out prior to his senior season and making sure all the paperwork checks out on who’s paying the premiums. King’s issue is tied to the Whitney Hotel investigation.
The Gamecocks played without a total of five starters in their 41-13 win over Southern Miss last Thursday. In addition to the suspended players, linebackers Shaq Wilson and Antonio Allen were hurt. There’s no guarantee they will get either one of them back this week.
The Bulldogs also played without running back Washaun Ealey, receiver Tavarres King and safety Alec Ogletree, all of whom were suspended by Georgia coach Mark Richt following arrests. King will definitely return for this game, and Richt expects him to have a big impact.
But when all the smoke cleared after a frenetic 24 hours, starting cornerback Chris Culliver and starting offensive tackle Jarriel King were the two players kept out of the game.
Culliver was a surprise, because he wasn’t one of the players linked to the Whitney Hotel investigation. King, however, was one of the players living at the hotel before South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier told everybody to move out.
As many as 10 players were staying at the Whitney Hotel, and there was real concern that a large chunk of those players might be required by the NCAA to miss this game.
With King out, the Gamecocks are expected to start junior Kyle Nunn at left tackle. Junior C.C. Whitlock is expected to step in for Culliver at cornerback.
Ironically, Whitlock was one of the players tied to the Whitney Hotel probe that was thought to be most at risk as far as missing the game.
In fact, 12 were taken in the NFL draft, and seven went in the first three rounds. Gone are Eric Berry, Joe Haden, Kareem Jackson, Major Wright, Javier Arenas, Chad Jones, Myron Lewis, Walt McFadden, Marquis Johnson, Kendrick Lewis, Reshad Jones and Trevard Lindley.
What’s that leave in the way of the top defensive backfields in the SEC for 2010?
Here’s a look:
2. South Carolina: The Gamecocks were second in the league last season in pass defense and should be even harder to throw the ball on in 2010. Sophomore Stephon Gilmore is one of the best young cornerbacks in college football, and his former high school teammate, safety DeVonte Holloman, may be one of the breakout players in the league. Senior Chris Culliver, a second-team All-SEC selection last season, also returns and is switching from safety to cornerback.
3. LSU: If you’re looking for the fastest secondary in the SEC, look no further than the unit the Tigers will put on the field this season. Patrick Peterson is the best cornerback in the country -- period -- and his running mate on the other side, Morris Claiborne, has been turning heads since the spring. They may end up being the best cornerback tandem in the league. Jai Eugene has moved from cornerback to safety, while Brandon Taylor returns at the other safety. He, too, is a former cornerback.
4. Auburn: There’s nothing like adding three veteran leaders back to the mix, and that’s what Auburn will do with senior safeties Zac Etheridge, Aairon Savage and Mike McNeil. All are returning from serious injuries. One of the priorities this season is to get junior cornerback Neiko Thorpe more help. He played too many snaps a year ago. Demond Washington is returning to his cornerback position after filling in at safety last season.
5. Vanderbilt: Don’t blink. Vanderbilt has consistently played some of the best pass defense in the SEC under Jamie Bryant, who oversees the Commodores’ secondary. Safety Sean Richardson and cornerback Casey Hayward are returning starters, and both have what it takes to be All-SEC players. Junior Jamie Graham has settled in at the other cornerback after playing receiver earlier in his career. Nickelback Eddie Foster also returns, and the Commodores liked what they saw this spring from freshman safeties Jay Fullam and Kenny Ladler.
6. Alabama: The only guy who won’t be new for the Crimson Tide this season in the secondary is junior safety Mark Barron, who led the SEC with seven interceptions a year ago. Everybody else who was in the rotation is gone. Alabama still has plenty of young talent in its defensive backfield, but there could be some growing pains early. Sophomore cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick has unlimited potential. There’s also a chance that junior college cornerback DeQuan Menzie could be back after tearing his Achilles tendon in the spring.
7. Georgia: The Bulldogs gave up far too many big plays in the secondary last season and allowed a league-high 25 touchdown passes. They should be better in 2010, particularly with the addition of junior college safety Jakar Hamilton, who was one of the stars of the spring. Junior cornerback Brandon Boykin has the skills to be one of the league’s top cover guys, but the Bulldogs are still thin at the cornerback position. They can’t afford any injuries.
8. Tennessee: The dismissal of starting safety Darren Myles Jr. following his arrest and involvement in a bar brawl drops the Vols down a spot or two. They don’t have a lot of depth behind him. The leader of the unit is sophomore free safety Janzen Jackson, who can be one of the best defensive backs in the league if he stays out of trouble off the field. Junior cornerback Art Evans is underrated and will be the Vols’ top cover guy.
9. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs got big performances from freshmen last season in their secondary, which means their pass defense should improve considerably from their No. 11 showing in the SEC a year ago. Sophomore cornerback Corey Broomfield had six interceptions, and sophomore Johnthan Banks had four interceptions. Banks is moving from free safety to cornerback this season. Also look for a big junior season from strong safety Charles Mitchell, who is Mississippi State’s enforcer back there.
10. Kentucky: With Lindley missing four full games last season with a high ankle sprain, the rest of the Wildcats’ defensive backs were forced to step up their games. Three starters return, including budding star Winston Guy at free safety. Cornerbacks Paul Warford and Randall Burden are also back, as Kentucky started five defensive backs in most games. Finding another safety will be key this preseason.
11. Ole Miss: The lone returning starter is senior safety Johnny Brown, who’s coming off his best season. The Rebels’ other safety a year ago, Kendrick Lewis, was one of their mainstays on defense, and replacing him won’t be easy. Junior college newcomer Damien Jackson will draw that job, and he was extremely impressive in the spring. Ole Miss will be both inexperienced and thin at the cornerback positions.
12. Arkansas: The Hogs gladly welcome back junior cornerback Isaac Madison, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. Their pass defense suffered with Madison out of the lineup, and they finished last in the league, allowing 401.2 yards per game. They also gave up 22 touchdown passes. To get more speed on the field, Arkansas moved Rudell Crim to safety during the spring. Ramon Broadway returns at the other cornerback and Elton Ford at the other safety.
Senior Chris Culliver, who's making the move from safety to cornerback, is recovering from shoulder surgery. It's his second shoulder surgery in less than a year, and one of the reasons he and Akeem Auguste are swapping positions is that the Gamecocks' defensive staff thinks Culliver will be able to better protect his shoulder at cornerback than safety.
Some of the other key names on defense that will be sitting out the spring are end Cliff Matthews (shoulder), tackle Travian Robertson (knee), linebacker Reggie Bowens (shoulder) and linebacker Rodney Paulk (knee).
In addition, tackle Ladi Ajiboye will probably do very little this spring just to make sure he's healthy entering preseason camp.
Sounds like some new faces on defense for the Gamecocks will have a big opportunity this spring to show what they can do.
One of the guys to watch, in my mind, is sophomore safety DeVonte Holloman. He's up to 226 pounds, and after starting in two games a year ago, is poised to be an enforcer at strong safety.
- Former Alabama linebackers Eryk Anders and Zeke Knight are taking different paths to the NFL, writes Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News.
- It's not Urban Meyer's job to make Tim Tebow NFL-ready, writes Mike Bianchi of The Orlando Sentinel.
- Former South Carolina defensive lineman Clifton Geathers is out to prove his brand-name skills at the NFL combine.
- South Carolina's Chris Culliver and Akeem Auguste will swap positions in the defensive backfield this spring.
- Former Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin doesn't agree with Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton's assertion that Kiffin wasn't a good cultural fit for Tennessee.
- Ole Miss students vote by a nearly 3-to-1 count for a new on-field mascot to replace Colonel Reb.
- Georgia settles a lawsuit with former player Decory Bryant out of court and will pay Bryant a $400,000 settlement.
Making the rounds on a Friday in the SEC:
- This year's Heisman Trophy race is going to go down to the wire, writes Bryan Mullen of The Tennessean.
- Eric Berry's new role on the Tennessee defense has diminished his interception numbers and hurt his chances of breaking the NCAA record for career return yardage.
- Alabama's "Band of Brothers" has turned the Crimson Tide's defense into a fortress this season.
- Florida linebacker A.J. Jones is having a breakthrough season, writes Robbie Andreu of The Gainesville Sun.
- Special teams have been pretty special this season for LSU, writes Gary Laney of The Baton Rouge Advocate.
- Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi isn't buying that linebacker Brandon Spikes "volunteered" to sit out the entire game against Vanderbilt and smells a little P.R. spin by the Gators.
- Ellis Johnson, South Carolina's assistant head coach for the defense, doesn't like the way safety Chris Culliver handled things last week, but says it's time for people to get off his back.
- Georgia strength coach Dave Van Halanger takes issue with some of the criticism out there that the Bulldogs are a weak football team.
- Ole Miss' staff is reassessing what the Rebels are doing on offense and may end up simplifying things. They've averaged just 17.2 points in five SEC games this season.
Maybe there's something about the latter part of the season and South Carolina football that just don't mix.
The Gamecocks, trying to avoid another late-season collapse, will be without two more starters this weekend at Arkansas. Defensive end Cliff Matthews had already been ruled out by coach Steve Spurrier after injuring his shoulder at Tennessee.
But Spurrier said on Tuesday that safety Chris Culliver would also miss the game after injuring his shoulder last week. Offensive tackle Jarriel King is out with a concussion.
It hasn't been the best year for the Gamecocks on the injury front. Defensive tackle Travian Robertson and middle linebacker Rodney Paulk were lost earlier this season to knee injuries.
The loss of Culliver in the secondary is a big blow. The Gamecocks were already playing two true freshmen back there and don't have any depth. This is the last week you wanted to be short on defensive backs going against Ryan Mallett and the Arkansas passing game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
ATHENS, Ga. -- Already, South Carolina has made some crippling mistakes on offense, the most recent one costing the Gamecocks a touchdown.
Stephen Garcia’s 43-yard touchdown pass to Tori Gurley, which would have made it a 14-7 game, was nullified by an ineligible man down the field penalty.
The Gamecocks were fortunate penalties didn’t ruin their first touchdown drive.
Safety Chris Culliver recovered an A.J. Green fumble at the Georgia 23. But on the first play, the Gamecocks were hit with a delay of game penalty. And then with a first-and-goal at the 2, they were penalized for illegal formation.
Gurley's touchdown catch bailed them out.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low