SEC: Corbin Berkstresser

SEC lunchtime links

August, 8, 2013
8/08/13
12:20
PM ET
"College Football Live" and its Summer Tour stops in Alabama today. Tom Rinaldi and Todd McShay will check in on Nick Saban, AJ McCarron and Co. Catch them throughout the day on "SportsCenter" and on CFB Live at 5 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

Here are some other things from around the SEC that you may find interesting.
  • Alabama's deep group of receivers may make this year's offense one of the best in school history, receiver Kenny Bell says.
  • Auburn fullback Jay Prosch draws strength from his faith and family as he tries to overcome his mother's death.
  • Georgia's offense didn't exactly light it up in the Bulldogs' first scrimmage.
  • LSU is trying to make sure its players act responsibly when using social media.
  • Kentucky forced just 13 turnovers last season and the Wildcats are making that a point of emphasis during the preseason.
  • Vanderbilt receiver Jonathan Krause is trying to rebound from a season in which he was the forgotten man on offense.
  • Florida having a successful season doesn't hinge on the quarterback, receivers or offensive line. It depends on how well the linebackers develop. The Gators did lose one of the country's top kick returners on Wednesday when the school announced that Andre Debose had suffered a torn ACL.
  • Texas A&M running back Ben Malena is a steadying force in the Aggies' backfield.
  • Five former college quarterbacks weigh in on how they believe Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel has handled his success.
  • Missouri still hasn't settled on a starting quarterback. James Franklin, is trying to hold off redshirt freshman Maty Mauk and sophomore Corbin Berkstresser.
  • Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze is frustrated with quarterback Bo Wallace's decision making.
  • TCU coach Gary Patterson took a shot at LSU coach Les Miles for reinstating running back Jeremy Hill after allowing teammates to vote to return to the team.

Missouri Tigers spring wrap

May, 6, 2013
5/06/13
7:30
AM ET
2012 record: 5-7
2012 conference record: 2-6 (fifth, Eastern Division)
Returning starters: Offense: 8; defense: 6; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

QB James Franklin, RB Henry Josey, RB/RS Marcus Murphy, WR Dorial Green-Beckham, OL Evan Boehm, DE Kony Ealy, LB Andrew Wilson, CB E.J. Gaines

Key losses

RB Kendial Lawrence, WR T.J. Moe, OT Elvis Fisher, DT Sheldon Richardson, LB Zaviar Gooden, LB Will Ebner, CB Kip Edwards

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Kendial Lawrence (1,025 yards)
Passing: James Franklin* (1,562 yards)
Receiving: Marcus Lucas* (509 yards)
Tackles: Andrew Wilson* (79)
Sacks: Michael Sam* (4.5)
Interceptions: Kip Edwards (2)

Spring answers

1. Henry’s health: After missing all of last season because of a devastating knee injury that occurred halfway through the 2011 campaign, many weren’t sure how running back Henry Josey would respond this spring. But he shed his knee brace early and craved contact from Day 1. He didn’t care if he left spring as the starter -- he just wanted to prove to himself that he was ready to play again. Coach Gary Pinkel says he ran a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash before spring, and Josey insists he's at 100 percent.

2. DGB's maturity: It sounds like last year’s top recruit is really getting it in Columbia. The offense wasn’t totally in sync this spring, but that didn’t stop Green-Beckham from making some good noise at receiver. He dealt with an ankle injury early, but bounced back well and it appears he showed that he’s ready for more responsibility and passes thrown his way this fall. His development is crucial to Mizzou’s offensive improvement.

3. Replacing Richardson: One person won’t replace the Tigers’ first-round defensive tackle, but it sounds like the team should have a lot to work with up front this fall, starting with junior Matt Hoch, who can play either nose guard or tackle. He might have had the best spring of any Mizzou defender and found ways to make plays. He’ll also have help from talented ends Kony Ealy and Michael Sam. Harold Brantley and Lucas Vincent also had solid springs inside.

Fall questions

1. Quarterback controversy: Franklin might have looked sharper and was the starter leaving spring, but redshirt freshman Maty Mauk is right behind him. He had a rough spring game, but has all the tools to be very good in the Tigers’ offense. They shared reps with Corbin Berkstresser, who is still in the hunt after serving as Franklin’s backup last year. Pinkel was very quiet about the race for most of spring, and this one will continue to go through fall camp.

2. Linebacker work: Losing two starters hurt the Tigers, and they’ll try to replace those bodies with younger, unproven players. Andrew Wilson and Donovan Bonner are both seniors, which helps, but there isn’t much game experience around them. Redshirt sophomore Kentrell Brothers made strides this spring, and the coaches expect more out of Darvin Ruise, who primarily played on special teams last year. Tackling was a problem last year, so this group has to improve there as well.

3. Protection issues: The offensive line might be healthier this spring, but has had a lot of issues with protection. It stunted the growth at times for an offense that desperately needs to improve in 2013. Evan Boehm might be Mizzou’s top lineman, but he moved to center and is still trying to get a handle on his new position. Veterans Justin Britt, Max Copeland and Mitch Morse are back, but there were still communication issues and protection problems that have to get corrected during fall camp.

Post-spring SEC QB races update

April, 23, 2013
4/23/13
2:30
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Spring might be done in the SEC, but there are a handful of teams that still have fun quarterback races that haven't finished.

I mean, it's only the most important position on the field. But history has taught us that having the wrong quarterback lining up for you isn't exactly a recipe for success -- especially in the SEC.

Here's a look at how quarterback races in the SEC look as we leave the spring and head into the offseason:

ARKANSAS

Brandon Allen vs. Brandon Mitchell: After Saturday's spring game, coach Bret Bielema made it sound pretty clear that he's comfortable with the idea of having Allen be his starter. He's the better pure passer and was more consistent this spring. Mitchell is more athletic, and there will be packages for him this fall, but Allen's ability to not turn the ball over as much this spring really helped put him ahead. Edge: Allen

AUBURN

Kiehl Frazier vs. Jonathan Wallace: Both of these quarterbacks fit into Gus Malzahn's spread offense, but everyone is waiting for Frazier to really step up and show that he can be the guy on the Plains. But after both he and Wallace impressed in the spring game and stayed relatively close throughout all of spring, Malzahn isn't ready to name a starter. Frazier has more experience, but Wallace was the starter at the end of last season. This one will go through fall camp. Edge: Frazier

KENTUCKY

Maxwell Smith vs. Jalen Whitlow vs. Patrick Towles: At the beginning of the spring, the thought was that Smith would regain his starting spot after injuries cut his 2012 season short. But Whitlow, a rising sophomore, took full advantage of his reps this spring and was the most impressive quarterback during the spring game. He threw for a spring game-high 193 yards with two touchdowns and appears to have left with a nice lead in this race. There's still time for Smith, who owns the most experience, and Towles to make up ground this fall, but Whitlow did a nice job distancing himself late. Edge: Whitlow

MISSOURI

James Franklin vs. Maty Mauk vs. Corbin Berkstresser: Franklin entered the spring with two years of starting experience, but his injuries and poor play last year created quite the battle for him. Mauk arrived last year with a ton of hype and knows the offense as well as anyone, while Berkstresser played in 10 games last year. The quarterbacks were sharing snaps all spring, but Gary Pinkel kept his thoughts on them very close to the vest. It sounds like no one separated himself during the spring game, but Franklin had the best day. This one will go through fall camp. Edge: Franklin

TENNESSEE

Justin Worley vs. Nathan Peterman: Worley was a little more consistent throughout the spring, but Butch Jones isn't ready to name a starter. He's putting the team in their hands this summer, and that will say a lot about each one's leadership skills once fall rolls around. Worley -- who actually has college experience -- was atop the depth chart all spring and had a more impressive spring game. Worley should enter the fall as the leader and Peterman will have to be more consistent in order to move ahead. Edge: Worley

VANDERBILT

Austyn Carta-Samuels vs. Patton Robinette: Coach James Franklin has a good problem on his hands. While he has said that he's unsure which quarterback has taken the lead, he has two talented and athletic guys to choose from. Carta-Samuels has way more experience and was the leader heading into the spring. He only helped his cause with an impressive spring game. Robinette is probably a little more athletic, but he'll have to work even harder this summer and fall to move ahead of Carta-Samuels. Edge: Carta-Samuels
For the first time since his senior year of high school, Missouri senior quarterback James Franklin’s shoulder isn’t killing him.

Franklin said his shoulder was never 100 percent during his first three years at Missouri, and while there’s still a little pain here and there when he throws it isn’t an annoyance, it doesn’t mess with his aura and it’s minuscule compared to what he felt in 2012. Doctors have also informed him that the pain he feels now will eventually disappear completely.

“I feel like just got a brand new pair of shoes with me,” Franklin said last week in a phone interview with ESPN.com. “It feels and looks sweet, and that’s how I’m feeling right now.”

Franklin said his shoulder felt fine during 7-on-7 work, but he really felt good after slinging the ball around when practice opened last week. It was a monster weight lifted off the, uh, shoulders, of someone who was a human bandage the past two years.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Scott Kane/Icon SMIJames Franklin knows he's in a fight to keep the starting quarterback job.
Franklin suffered around 10 nagging injuries -- which affected his ankles, ribs, fingers, hamstring and chest -- during his breakout sophomore season, but that pales in comparison to 2012.

Franklin was basically working with a noodle for a right arm after undergoing shoulder surgery to repair a sprained glenohumeral joint last spring and then dealing with an inflamed bursa sac for most of the fall. The two most important assets a quarterback has, Franklin said, are your brain and your throwing shoulder. For Franklin, his throwing shoulder, or “bread and butter,” was in shambles.

“If our bread and butter is stale and crusty and outdated, you get sick and then die,” Franklin said with a laugh.

Obviously, Franklin is alive and well, but with his shoulder completely out of whack, Franklin was a shell of his former, big-play self and his confidence took a major hit.

“It would hurt every time I would throw, but it wasn’t to the extent to where it would make it worse,” he said. “I knew that in the back of my head, but I still let it affect my decision making because I was starting to doubt myself and thinking, ‘OK, when is it going to hurt?’ ‘I need to take some off of this [throw],’ or maybe, ‘Oh, I can’t make that throw because it hurts too much.’”

Franklin only played in nine games last year, starting eight, and threw for just 1,562 yards and 10 touchdowns to seven interceptions, while rushing for 122 yards. He had the whole Cortisone refusal issue, had his toughness questioned and later suffered a knee injury and a concussion.

Last year was hell for Franklin, but he feels refreshed this spring, even if he still can’t get too comfortable with Corbin Berkstresser, who played in 10 games last year, and redshirt freshman Maty Mauk, who is drawing comparisons to former Mizzou standout Brad Smith, contending for his job.

Franklin understands that he’s in a fight, but he doesn’t feel any more pressure. His health has his confidence soaring and he’s motivated by the competition and a dismal fall. So far, Franklin is enjoying the competition because it’s making both parties better.

“It’s kind of like a two-for-one special at about $5 even, no tax included,” he joked. “I’m excited about that.”

He’s also excited about working with Mauk, who has the Mizzou fan base buzzing. The Parade All-American and two-time Gatorade Ohio Player of the Year, has become a program favorite and is really gunning for the No. 1 spot.

That’s fine, Franklin said, because it gives him the opportunity to teach the quarterback of the future and learn a thing or two.

But Franklin isn’t ready to tell the frosh that just yet.

“I may not necessarily tell him I’m learning from him, but I’m taking some things here and there,” he said.

Opening spring camp: Missouri

March, 12, 2013
3/12/13
11:00
AM ET
Schedule: The Tigers open spring practice today at 4:30 p.m. ET and conclude the spring on April with their annual Black & Gold Game on April 20 at 2 p.m. ET in Memorial Stadium.

What's new: After spending 12 years as a Missouri assistant, offensive coordinator David Yost resigned after the 2012 season and was named the inside receivers coach at Washington State. Josh Henson was then promoted from co-offensive line coach to offensive coordinator, while Andy Hill was promoted from wide receiver coach to quarterbacks coach/associate head coach. Pat Washington, who coached at Kentucky in 2012, was hired as the Tigers' new receivers coach.

On the mend: Running back Henry Josey is still recovering from the devastating knee injury he suffered halfway through the 2011 season, but coach Gary Pinkel recently said that Josey ran a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash and should be able to go through spring camp. Offensive linemen Justin Britt and Taylor Chappell are also recovering from knee injuries, but could be at full strength later this spring. Fellow lineman Anthony Gatti is recovering from recent ACL surgery and could also return in late spring. Defensive end Markus Golden is playing with a hand cast this spring, while wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham rolled his ankled during offseason workouts and is currently in a walking boot.

On the move: Green-Beckham is moving from the inside "Y" receiver spot to the outside "X" spot. With redshirt freshman tight end/Y Sean Culkin back from injury, Green-Beckham was moved outside, where he should be more of a deep threat for the Tigers. Sophomore Ernest Payton has moved from cornerback to safety. Senior linebacker Andrew Wilson has moved from strong side linebacker to middle linebacker. Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jordan Williams has moved from tackle to center.

Question marks: With Sheldon Richardson gone, the Tigers are looking for someone to step in and help fill that void. Mizzou might have to replace Richardson by committee this year. Junior Matt Hoch (defensive tackle) and Lucas Vincent (nose guard) will get the first shots at filling the middle. Vincent was Richardson's backup last year, but still has a lot of room to grow on the field. Hoch had a decent 2012 season and the staff is excited about redshirt freshman Harold Brantley. With the heavy amount of ends, the Tigers could move some guys inside to help with depth. Wide receivers Marcus Lucas and L'Damian Washington are listed as starters this spring, but after underwhelming 2012 seasons, they will be battling for their spots this spring. Also, keep an eye on Bud Sasser and Jimmie Hunt at the "H" receiver spot. One of them has to solidify that spot this spring. Really, the offense in general has a bunch of question marks, but the biggest one of all might be at quarterback, where James Franklin will be in a heated competition with redshirt freshman Maty Mauk and sophomore Corbin Berkstresser. Franklin's history of injuries could keep the concern level around him high.

New faces: Mizzou welcomed quarterbacks Trent Hosick and Eddie Printz, who enrolled early this spring. Wide receiver Darius White sat out last season after transferring from Texas during the offseason. The Tigers might have a lot of bodies at receiver, but the coaches are very excited about his potential, and he could push for real time this spring.

Key battle: Franklin's past injuries can't be overlooked, and after the season he had in 2012, the coaches have to get his current backups ready for the 2013 season. Franklin enters the spring as the starter, but he'll have to earn it throughout the next two months because the staff is very excited about the potential Mauk has. He's been compared to former Mizzou QB Brad Smith and people around the program feel he can run the offense as well as anyone. Word is that Mauk is really going after the No. 1 spot, so Franklin will be constantly looking over his shoulder this spring. Berkstresser got good experience last year and should be even more comfortable in Mizzou's offense. Getting more confidence at the QB spot is critical heading into the offseason.

Breaking out: Keep an eye on senior cornerback Randy Ponder. The former walk-on has had a lot of time to watch others and should be prepared for his starting role opposite shutdown corner E.J. Gaines. Brantley could be a big player at defensive tackle. He has packed on the pounds and with the position not solidified, the coaches are expecting a lot from him. Culkin should push Eric Waters for the starting spot at the "Y." The coaches are really excited about him and they didn't really want to redshirt him last year.

Don't forget about: Josey had to sit out all of last year, and while Kendial Lawrence rushed for more than 1,000 yards, the offense missed the home run presence Josey brought to the offense in 2011. Josey was the Big 12's best rusher before he went down halfway through the season in 2011, and the Tigers need him to be back to his old ways this fall. Things are starting off right for Josey, who will participate in drills this spring.
Now that spring practice is really gearing up for teams around the SEC, we thought we'd take a look at the most popular position battle for this time of year: the quarterback battle.

Spring practice is basically devoted to easy installation and going through the motions, but when you hear that there's even a hint of controversy at the quarterback position, all eyes are fixated on that area of the team until it's absolutely settled. That's natural, considering it's the most important position on the field.

Also, you either really love your quarterback or really despise him and love the backup instead.

The SEC has quite a few quarterback battles to keep an eye on this spring, and here they are:

ARKANSAS

Brandon Allen vs. Brandon Mitchell: Allen was Tyler Wilson's backup last year, but Mitchell brings much more athleticism to the position. Allen enters the spring with the advantage after getting more time at QB last year while Mitchell spent last year taking more reps at wide receiver. But with a new staff in Fayetteville, Mitchell will get a chance to compete for the starting spot. Mitchell has 332 career passing yards with three touchdowns to one interception. Allen has passed for 186 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions.

AUBURN

Kiehl Frazier vs. Jonathan Wallace: With Gus Malzahn back, Frazier will be much more comfortable in his spread offense. Both are built for the spread, but Frazier is the better athlete. He's certainly more comfortable throwing the ball now, compared to his freshman year, but Frazier has to get even more comfortable this spring. Wallace was a pleasant surprise for the Tigers last year, and ended the year as the Tigers' starter. Frazier might have more experience, but both will start the spring on relatively equal footing.

KENTUCKY

Maxwell Smith vs. Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles: If not for an injury-plagued 2012, Smith would be the overwhelming favorite to land the starting job for the Wildcats. He enters the spring as the favorite, but after Whitlow and Towles both played last year as true freshmen, new coach Mark Stoops will get a chance to see all three really compete this spring. Whitlow and Towles both had rough introductions to the SEC, but their athleticism should really make this a fun competition to watch this spring.

MISSOURI

James Franklin vs. Maty Mauk vs. Corbin Berkstresser: Like Smith, Franklin would be the overwhelming favorite here if not for all those injuries last fall. But because he limped his way through 2012, the coaches will have to get Mauk and Berkstresser more reps this spring. Franklin is the starter, but keep an eye on Mauk. The coaches think he fits the offense as well as anyone, and he arrived last year with a ton of recruiting hype. He's also been compared to Brad Smith, who started as a freshman. If Franklin slips, Mauk could make a move. Berkstresser also got valuable experience last year and should push Franklin even more this spring.

TENNESSEE

Justin Worley vs. Nathan Peterman: With Tyler Bray gone, the quarterback spot really is up for grabs in Knoxville. Worley was Bray's backup the past two years and has 738 career passing yards to his name. He also has just one touchdown and five interceptions. Peterman is much more athletic than Worley and was actually recruited by new Tennessee coach Butch Jones and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian at Cincinnati. This one should be very fun.

VANDERBILT

Austyn Carta-Samuels vs. Patton Robinette: Vandy's coaches should be excited about this one. Jordan Rodgers is gone, but he has two very capable guys looking to replace him. Carta-Samuels started two years at Wyoming before transferring to Vandy, while Robinette has a ton of athleticism to work with. Robinette redshirted last year, but his dual-threat ability will make him very tough for Carta-Samuels to run away from.
Now that we've taken a look at SEC players in the offseason spotlight at their respective schools, we noticed that there are a few quarterbacks in this league that have a lot to prove in 2013.

This spring will be crucial for the quarterback position in the SEC, and strong performances now could pave the way to more success this fall. That also means that average performances could cause some coaches to worry about the most important position on the field.

SportsNation

Which QB has the most to prove this spring?

  •  
    27%
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    12%
  •  
    20%
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    31%
  •  
    10%

Discuss (Total votes: 7,310)

First, you have Jeff Driskel at Florida. The rising junior had a very up-and-down sophomore campaign with the Gators, averaging just 137.2 yards per game and throwing 12 touchdowns to five interceptions. He also passed for less than 100 yards in four games last season. Driskel is a very gifted athlete, and showcased some great moves with his legs, but if Florida's offense is going to get any better in 2013, Driskel has to become a better passer. He has to be more confident and he has to develop better chemistry and rhythm with his receivers. He also has to come out of his shell and be more of a vocal leader, especially with a very thin/young receiving corps to work with.

You also have Missouri's James Franklin, who went from having a breakout sophomore season in the Tigers' final year in the Big 12 in 2011 to barely getting through his first go-round in the SEC. Franklin was one of the nation's best dual-threat quarterbacks in 2011, but injuries to his shoulder, head and knee kept him from being much of a threat to run for the majority of the year. It didn't help that his offensive line was constantly banged up as well. Franklin threw for just 1,562 yards with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also rushed for just 122 yards. He has some competition to work with this spring with Corbin Berkstresser and Maty Mauk returning. Franklin has to regain some of the confidence he lost last season and prove he's still the guy under center for Mizzou.

Auburn's Kiehl Frazier didn't take kindly to Scott Loeffler's pro-style offense last year, and his play suffered greatly because of it. He lost his starting spot and watched as true freshman Jonathan Wallace ended the season as the Tigers' starter. Frazier fits new coach Gus Malzahn's offense very well, and he was even recruited by Malzahn to Auburn. This is a chance for Frazier to start over, but it really is now or never for Frazier. He'll have to fight off Wallace this spring before Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson arrive this summer.

LSU's Zach Mettenberger enjoyed a strong month of November last season. He showed a lot of progress during the final month of the regular season, and the staff is hoping that carries over to the spring. Mettenberger will be accompanied by all of his top receiving targets from last year, so that should help the two parties develop even better timing and chemistry. And the addition of new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron should help his development as well. But if Mettenberger doesn't take any steps forward, it could really hurt this team because there is no SEC experience behind him at the quarterback spot. Mettenberger has to show that he can be more like the November QB who suited up for the Tigers from here on out.

Then, there's Tennessee's Justin Worley. He served as Tyler Bray's backup the past two seasons, and has passed for 738 yards with one touchdown and five interceptions in his career. Bray is now gone, so it's Worley's time to take charge of the Vols' offense. He'll compete with redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman this spring before freshmen Joshua Dobbs and Riley Ferguson arrive this summer. This is the most important spring for Worley, and he can't afford to slip, or he could fall on the Vols' depth chart.

James Franklin is a game-time decision

November, 21, 2012
11/21/12
12:35
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Missouri quarterback James Franklin will be a game-time decision this weekend when the Tigers take on No. 9 Texas A&M in College Station.

Coach Gary Pinkel said during Wednesday's SEC coaches call that Franklin, who suffered a concussion in Missouri's 31-27 loss to Syracuse this past weekend, threw a little on Tuesday, but the doctors and trainers haven't cleared him to play yet.

Pinkel wouldn't discuss how Franklin had done during the required concussion tests that he has to go through in order to get cleared. He just said that trainers told him that Franklin will likely be a game-time decision, as he continues his tests.

"It's all based on symptoms," Pinkel said. "It's all based on him hitting criteria that we know he's 100 percent OK."

If Franklin can't go, Corbin Berkstresser will make his fourth start of the season.

This is just another injury to add to Franklin's list that already consisted of two shoulder injuries and a sprained knee.

"The guy's been through a lot," Pinkel said.

Richardson back, A&M LB has surgery

November, 20, 2012
11/20/12
9:00
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After being suspended for Missouri's crucial game with Syracuse, junior defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson will play this weekend when the Tigers head to College Station to take on Texas A&M.

Richardson was suspended for violating team rules. Sources close to the program told ESPN.com that Richardson was suspended for missing a class multiple times and refusing to complete the punishment given to him for missing the class.

Without Richardson in the lineup, the Tigers fell to Syracuse 31-27, meaning they still need one more win in order to become bowl eligible. Missouri's defense surrendered 508 yards of offense and registered just two tackles for loss and no sacks. The absence of Richardson in the middle of the Tigers defensive line left Mizzou without arguably its best defensive player.

The lack of pressure on quarterback Ryan Nassib allowed him to throw for 385 yards with two touchdowns on Mizzou's defense.

Now, the Tigers will look for their sixth win of the season against the nation's hottest team. Richardson will really have to redeem himself this weekend, as the defense looks to somehow contain Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Gary Pinkel also announced that quarterback James Franklin is questionable for Saturday's game after suffering a concussion against the Orange. If Franklin, who has been banged up all season and has already missed two games, can't go, redshirt freshman Corbin Berkstresser will make his fourth start of the season.

Aggie LB has spinal surgery

Texas A&M linebacker Michael Richardson underwent surgery on his spine and was released from St. Joseph's hospital on Monday. The true freshman played in the third and fourth quarters of the Aggies' 48-27 win against Sam Houston State over the weekend,

Michael Richardson complained about having back pain after the game and X-rays showed that he had suffered a cervical spine injury. His surgery was Sunday.

The 6-2, 230-pounder has played in nine games and has registered nine tackles on the season.

Late touchdown lifts 'Cuse over Mizzou

November, 17, 2012
11/17/12
11:20
PM ET
For some reason, Alec Lemon had been open all night. Play after play, Syracuse's senior wide receiver was finding ways to beat Missouri defenders left and right.

So Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib decided to keep going to him -- again and again -- on the Orange's final drive of the game. It worked out as Nassib targeted him six times in seven plays, connecting with him four times for 81 yards, but his final catch was the biggest one of the day -- and the season.

A play after converting a fourth-down with Lemon, Nassib found him down the right sideline for a 17-yard touchdown to make it 31-27 with 20 seconds left. The score ignited Orange's sideline, while quieting most of those sitting inside Memorial Stadium.

The Tigers (5-6, 2-5 SEC) failed to score on the ensuing drive, giving the Orange its sixth win of the season, making Syracuse bowl eligible. Lemon finished the night with 12 catches for 244 yards and two touchdowns.

The Orange (6-5, 4-2 Big East) battled back from an early 14-3 deficit to outscore the Tigers 21-10 in the second half. After allowing Mizzou quarterback James Franklin to throw for 237 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, the Syracuse defense clamped down on Franklin, who eventually left in the second half with an injury.

With Franklin out of the game, Corbin Berkstresser stepped in and actually drove the Tigers 79 yards on a six-play touchdown drive that made it 24-17 Mizzou with seven minutes left. But after the Orange responded with a touchdown drive of their own, the Tigers got very conservative the closer they got to the end zone two drives later.

The conservative play calling led to an Andrew Baggett field goal with less than two minutes remaining. Syracuse then seemed to just stroll down the field on the Tigers on their game-winning drive.

This win gives the Orange postseason life, after the Orange missed out on a bowl last year. The loss puts Mizzou in real hole when it comes to the postseason. The Tigers still need one more win in order to become bowl eligible. Mizzou has made it to seven straight bowl games.

In order to make it eight straight, the Tigers will have to get that last win in College Station, Texas, to do it.

Yeah, that College Station, where Johnny Football and the Texas A&M Aggies reside. The Tigers have won three straight against Texas A&M, but these aren't the same Aggies. These Aggies are one of the nation's hottest teams and have a true Heisman candidate in quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Missing a bowl would be a very disappointing finish to the Tigers' first year in the SEC.

What to watch in the SEC: Week 9

October, 25, 2012
10/25/12
10:15
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We've got a few big games in the SEC this weekend and here's what you should be watching out for in Week 9:

1. Taking the East: It'll be quite the party in Jacksonville on Saturday, as this game will essentially decide the SEC East. If Florida wins, the Gators are headed back to Atlanta for the first time since 2009. A Georgia win gives the Bulldogs the edge in the East race from here on out. The Gators haven't dealt with success like this lately, so it'll be interesting to see how this team comes out against a Bulldogs team that has its back against the wall, just like last season. One thing playing in Georgia's favor is this team has been here before and fought its way out of a corner ... all the way to the SEC championship game.

[+] EnlargeAJ McCarron
Denny Medley/US PresswireThe Bulldogs need to get pressure on Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, who has only been sacked 13 times this season.
2. Pressuring McCarron: A lot of the talk surrounding the Alabama-Mississippi State matchup has dealt with AJ McCarron facing Mississippi State's very talented secondary. But if the Bulldogs are going to stop Alabama's balanced offense, they have to put pressure on McCarron and force him to make mistakes. The Bulldogs haven't been great at hurrying the quarterback this season and have registered just 11 sacks on the year, while Alabama's line has given up just 15 sacks. Obviously, this team has to defend the run, but getting to McCarron is going to be very important for Mississippi State's defense.

3. Arkansas' revival: Remember when the Razorbacks were basically dead in the water? Well, Arkansas has won two straight and things are starting to click for the Hogs. Their last two wins have come against Auburn and Kentucky, but wins are wins in this league, and Arkansas' confidence is flowing right now. Saturday's game with Ole Miss is crucial as far as Arkansas' bowl hopes go. The Hogs need three more wins and one of them has to come Saturday with the gauntlet that is November coming up. Players said the bye week helped clean up some of the little things, and that defense will have to be at its best against Ole Miss' high-powered offense.

4. Slowing down the run: Going back to the Hogs' defense, if Arkansas is going to control Ole Miss' offense, it has to stop the Rebels on the ground. Ole Miss is fourth in the SEC in rushing, averaging 211.4 yards per game. Arkansas has stopped the run well in its past two games, but neither of those running games were on par with Ole Miss' rush game. Tennessee and Georgia also have to control the opposing run games. Florida is third in the league in rushing and its offense has gone the way of its rushing attack for most of the year. If the Bulldogs can force Florida into more passing situations, it could benefit Georgia. The same goes for Tennessee, as the Gamecocks will look to run Marcus Lattimore as much as possible. Connor Shaw struggled throwing the ball last week, so the Vols will try to make him beat them Saturday.

5. Georgia's defensive toughness: Senior safety Shawn Williams created a stir when he called the play of his defense "soft" and then proceeded to name which linebackers should be playing more. Some feelings were hurt, but Mark Richt hopes it motivates his players. Williams' words very well could, but the pressure is now on him to play one of his best games. But this defense has to toughen up as a whole. It hasn't played well in the past three games, and that has to change against Florida's tough running game. Giving up big plays have really hurt this defense lately, and Georgia can't afford that Saturday.

6. Big-game time for Russell: Georgia's Aaron Murray isn't the only one with a lot to prove when it comes to big games this weekend. While he's looking for his third career win over a Top 25 team, Mississippi State's Tyler Russell is looking for a signature win in his career. Beating Alabama would certainly be that win. Russell has been tremendously efficient this season, tossing 15 touchdowns to just one interception. He'll have to be at his absolute best against Alabama's defense. This is the biggest game of his career, so keep an eye on how he deals with that pressure.

7. Johnny Football's rebound: Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel found second-half struggles in the loss to LSU, but he'll have the chance to really rebound this weekend against Auburn's floundering defense. The Tigers are giving up more than 400 yards a game, and Manziel has the ability to gash this defense through the air and on the ground. Manziel was getting some Heisman love before the LSU game, but his hopes haven't been destroyed. He can still make a run, and good outings against tough defenses in November will help.

8. Making the bowl push: This is an important weekend for a few teams still trying to make postseason runs. Vanderbilt needs three more wins and should get one easily Saturday against UMass. Ole Miss and Arkansas are in a bowl fight as well. The Razorbacks have to win this one if they are going get the three more wins required to become bowl eligible, while getting to five wins on the season now would only help the Rebels, especially with a tough November approaching. Tennessee has a favorable November ahead, but this is a game that could either help or really hurt this team's confidence going forward. Missouri is essentially in a must-win situation for a bowl. November will be a very tough stretch for the Tigers, so beating Kentucky is crucial for the postseason.

9. Getting the offense back on track: Missouri's offense hasn't been very explosive at all this season. Injuries have certainly hurt it, but SEC defenses haven't had much trouble shutting down the Tigers when they have the ball. Coach Gary Pinkel said before the bye week that things had to be simplified on offense, and he thinks that will happen going forward. It starts with backup quarterback Corbin Berkstresser being more comfortable in place of James Franklin. South Carolina is also looking to revive its offense after a very poor showing against Florida. The Gators' defense certainly was a big part of South Carolina's struggles, but the passing game was just ugly in general. All eyes will be on Shaw, but having a healthier Lattimore running the ball should help him.

10. Tennessee's fight: The Vols have had some really bad luck when it comes to keeping up in games. They put up a few big plays against Alabama last week, but averaged just 4 yards immediately following plays of 20 or more yards. After big defensive stops, Alabama came roaring back with scoring drives. The Vols also had back-to-back comeback attempts thwarted by opponents in the fourth quarter in the weeks prior. It might not appear likely, but Tennessee could still make it to the postseason and could still win eight games. But the Vols have to keep going mentally. With the losses and all the talk about Derek Dooley's job, it could be easy for this team to quit, but there's too much of the season left. Saturday's game is a chance for redemption. It's early, so Tennessee could catch South Carolina off guard. But if things are too far gone in Knoxville, this team could roll over at the first sign of adversity.
Missouri quarterback James Franklin will likely miss the Tigers' home game against Kentucky Saturday.

Franklin sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee in Mizzou's loss to Vanderbilt on Oct. 6, and was listed as "doubtful" on the Tigers' depth chart this week.

Franklin has struggled to stay healthy this season, as he missed the Tigers' game with UCF because of an inflamed bursa sac in his throwing shoulder he suffered in the loss to Georgia.

With Franklin likely sidelined, redshirt freshman Corbin Berkstresser is expected to get the start in Franklin's place. He has struggled for the most part this season, but with Franklin's injuries, he has been able to get more familiar with Mizzou's offense. Coming off of a bye week should help him.

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- It looked like the only thing that could stop the University of Alabama in the first half was the weather, and that’s exactly what happened.

With the Crimson Tide leading Missouri 27-0 midway through the second quarter, lightning strikes in the area delayed the game for 40 minutes. Alabama never really looked the same after the delay, but still won easily, 42-10.

Alabama rushed for 351 yards against the Tigers. Both Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon easily surpassed the 100-yard mark, and all six of the Tide’s touchdowns came on the ground. Quarterback AJ McCarron finished 16-of-21 for 171 yards.

It was over when: On the second play from scrimmage, Lacy broke a 73-yard touchdown run to give Alabama a quick lead. The Tide scored the game’s first 28 points, and although Missouri made it competitive in the second half, it was clear who the better team was on Saturday. Lacy finished with 176 yards and three touchdowns.

Game ball goes to: Lacy may have had more rushing yards in the game, but it’s Yeldon, a true freshman, who gets the game ball. On a day when McCarron and the offense struggled at times, especially in the second half, Yeldon kept making plays. He had 18 carries for 144 yards and two touchdowns, and he helped put the game out of reach.

Stat of the game: Missouri’s lone touchdown came on a 98-yard kickoff return from Marcus Murphy. It the fourth time Murphy has returned a kick for a touchdown this season, which sets a school record. He had taken three punts back for scores through the first six games.

Unsung hero: Alabama’s C.J. Mosley set the tone early for the defense. The junior linebacker rocked Mizzou quarterback Corbin Berkstresser twice in the first quarter and seemed to make plays all over the field. As a whole, the defense held the Tigers to 152 total yards and forced three turnovers.

What it means for Alabama: The game couldn’t have started any better for the nation’s No. 1 team. Alabama jumped out to a 27-0 lead midway through the second quarter and looked unbeatable, but then the lightning struck. A 40-minute weather delay stopped the Tide’s run and gave Missouri a spark. UA didn’t score again until the fourth quarter. Still, Alabama took care of business and passed another SEC road test.

What it means for Missouri: It took a weather delay and a kick return for a touchdown, but Missouri finally started playing football towards the end of the first half. The defense clamped down in the second half. The offense struggled for the second week in a row with Berkstresser under center, but they should get a lift when James Franklin returns. For how bad the first half was, the Tigers played much better in the second half.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Missouri was supposed to be at its best with the ball in its hands. Even after moving from the offensive-packed Big 12 to the more defensive-minded SEC, this team had enough firepower and speed to challenge its new defensive counterparts.

The Tigers expected their spread offense to work, and they were supposed to be a legitimate contender in the SEC East.

But at the halfway point of the season, Missouri's offense is sputtering around and has been pushed around by SEC defenses. Missouri is 0-3 in conference play after having been outscored 91-45. The explosion we expected from the passing game has been relatively nonexistent and the Tigers are getting worn down in the second half of games.

[+] EnlargeChris Jones
AP Photo/L.G. PattersonInjuries to quarterback James Franklin and many of the Tigers' linemen have left the once-potent Missouri offense sputtering.
Injuries to the offensive line and quarterback James Franklin's inability to stay healthy have certainly contributed to Missouri’s struggles, but with the second half of the season approaching, the Tigers have to find answers to all their offensive problems or this team won’t make it to a bowl.

“We can start making some plays,” senior wide receiver T.J. Moe said. “We have guys who can make plays.

“How you turn it around is you start playing like [former Missouri wide receiver] Danario Alexander and when your offense struggles you throw it to a guy and he has four consecutive 200-yard games. That’s how you turn it around. You don’t have to fix the offense; guys just need to start making plays. We have a lot of talent, we just need to start catching better and blocking better because it’s not just going to do it itself,” Moe said.

From top to bottom, this offense has been uninspiring since the first half of the Georgia game. For a team that ranked 12th nationally in total offense last year, averaging 475.5 yards per game, the Tigers are currently 12th in the SEC in total offense, averaging over 100 yards less.

Only once this season has Missouri had a quarterback pass for 200 or more yards and a running back rush for 100 yards or more in the same game.

Injuries up front have obviously been a problem, as all five of Mizzou’s preseason starters -- Justin Britt, Elvis Fisher, Jack Meiners, Mitch Morse and Travis Ruth -- have suffered injuries since fall camp and backups Taylor Chappell and Mark Hill are out for the season. Ruth has yet to play this season, while Meiners has been in and out and just underwent knee surgery that will keep him out a few weeks. Redshirt freshman Brad McNulty replaces Morse at center after Morse went down with a knee injury against Vanderbilt last week.

“Being football, you’re going to have your injuries here and there but you need to be able to have people, like we do, on your team that can go up there and play multiple positions on the line,” quarterback Corbin Berkstresser said.

Fighting through injuries is part of the game, as Berkstresser is finding out. He replaces Franklin, who will be out for a few weeks with a knee injury of his own.

Players are invested in Mizzou’s backups, but all of the up-and-down movement on offense is frustrating.

“I have confidence, I have confidence in our guys -- but it’s hard to have confidence in a torn MCL, like half of our offensive line [has] and it’s hard to have confidence in your quarterback when he’s sitting on the bench,” Moe said. “We’ve had some tough breaks and we haven’t played yet to the best of our ability.”

Now, Missouri gets No. 1 Alabama, which is first nationally in scoring defense and total defense and ranks in the top four in rushing and passing defense. Nothing says going backward on offense like playing against Alabama.

So, simplifying things is the next step, coach Gary Pinkel said. Pinkel is hoping less is more for the Tigers. It should help with the players’ comfort level and restore some confidence. It could also help with consistency.

In the end, Mizzou has to rediscover its big-play persona. Without it, the Tigers are toast in this league. Simplifying things is a start, but execution has to be there, regardless of who's banged up.

“When you’re out there, you probably have nine or 10 guys doing their job and then there are one or two who mess up and it messes it up for the whole scheme of things,” Fisher said. “So you've got to be able to get everyone on the same page for the majority of the game and for everyone to do their job -- that’s all you can really ask for.”

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October, 11, 2012
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I wonder how Chris will react when I leave the weekend with a four-game lead?

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