SEC: CoShik Williams

Now that the pens have been put to paper, the classes have been announced and most of your attention has turned to the 2014 recruiting season, it's time to take a look at how each school in the SEC did when it came to immediately filling needs.

We're checking out what all 14 teams did to fill holes, and we're looking at which holes still remain. We'll start with the SEC East:

FLORIDA

Needs filled: LB, OL, DB, WR, DT -- The Gators had one of the most complete classes out there, finishing second in the ESPN class rankings. Florida landed the top cornerback prospect (No. 3 nationally) in Vernon Hargreaves III, defensive tackles Caleb Brantley and Jay-nard Bostwick, linebackers Daniel McMillian and Matt Rolin, and safeties Keanu Neal and Marcell Harris. The Gators also added five wide receivers, including ESPN 150 members Demarcus Robinson and Ahmad Fulwood.

Holes remaining: DE -- Will Muschamp seemed thrilled with his class, but he probably would have liked to get a least one more defensive end. The Gators missed on a few, including Tashawn Bower, who almost picked the Gators before signing with LSU. Four-stars Jordan Sherit and Antonio Riles were the only defensive ends in this class.

GEORGIA

Needs filled: ILB, S -- The Bulldogs had to replace a few bodies at middle linebacker, and did so by signing four. The star of the group is four-star ESPN 300 member Johnny O'Neal, who is the No. 5 inside linebacker in the county. Tim Kimbrough and Ryne Rankin, both ESPN 300 members, also signed with the Dawgs. Georgia also signed five safeties, including two junior college standouts. The top safety in this class is ESPN 150 member Tray Matthews.

Holes remaining: Elite OT, elite RB, elite DT -- Mark Richt was pleased with his 32-man signing class, but he knows it could have been better if a few elite players had signed with Georgia. The Dawgs barely missed on top offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil (Ole Miss), No. 4 running back Alvin Kamara (Alabama) and No. 2 defensive tackle Montravius Adams (Auburn).

KENTUCKY

Needs filled: DL, WR, OL -- Mark Stoops brought in a pretty balanced class overall, but he really struck gold in these three areas. He brought in five defensive linemen, including ESPN 300 defensive end Jason Hatcher, who flipped from USC. He should get a chance to play early, along with junior college defensive end Za'Darius Smith, who might be the gem of the class. Getting receiver Ryan Timmons to pick the Cats over Florida was big, and he's joined by two other receivers, including junior college standout Javess Blue. Stoops also signed four offensive linemen.

Holes remaining: RB -- The Wildcats signed true running back Jojo Kemp and athlete Khalid Thomas, but with the injury issues at running back last season and the loss of senior CoShik Williams, Stoops probably would have liked to sign at least one more running back.

MISSOURI

Needs filled: DT -- Gary Pinkel got a standout in defensive tackle Josh Augusta. With defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who was Missouri's top overall player last fall, taking his talents to the NFL this year, the Tigers had to find someone who could come in and help fill that void up front. Augusta has the size, strength and athleticism to make an impact early.

Holes remaining: Elite RB, DB -- The Tigers were in the race for the top player in the state of Missouri -- ESPN 150 running back Ezekiel Elliott -- but he spurned the Mizzou to sign with Ohio State. Getting a player like Elliott would have been a major addition to this class. It's also never a bad idea for SEC teams to get some quality defensive backs. Mizzou signed two true defensive backs -- safeties Shaun Rupert and Duron Singleton.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Needs filled: LB, DL, OL, RB -- The Gamecocks had to gather a bunch of linebackers in this class, with all their starters departing, and they did precisely that. Steve Spurrier signed six, including ESPN 300 inside linebacker Larenz Bryant, who could contribute early. Spurrier also signed four defensive linemen, including three ends -- which will come in handy after Jadeveon Clowney leaves for the NFL. ESPN 150 defensive tackle Kelsey Griffin is a big body who could contribute immediately. The Gamecocks signed two running backs, including ESPN 150 member David Williams, and five offensive linemen.

Holes remaining: DB, WR -- Spurrier said during his signing day news conference that he wasn't going to take any average receivers, so the Gamecocks signed one -- four-star Jasper Sasser. Still, the Gamecocks handed out a few offers and missed on a couple of prospects, and with Ace Sanders leaving, a top-tier receiver would have helped. South Carolina loses some quality bodies in the secondary, and signed only two defensive backs.

TENNESSEE

Needs filled: QB, WR -- With Tyler Bray gone, Justin Worley returns as the only experienced quarterback. Butch Jones signed two ESPN 300 quarterbacks in Riley Ferguson and Joshua Dobbs, who flipped from Arizona State on signing day. This should provide some good competition for Worley. And with Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson leaving, the Vols had to stock up on receivers. Jones signed five, including ESPN 150 member Marquez North, to give the Vols 10 scholarship receivers.

Holes remaining: DB, DL, OL, elite RB -- The Vols would have liked to add to their depth in the secondary, but signed only one true defensive back in junior college cornerback Riyahd Jones. Receiver Cameron Sutton could move to defensive back if needed. The Vols signed six total linemen (three defensive, three offensive), but Jones said Wednesday that he would have liked to add to that number. Tennessee also missed out on elite running back Derrick Green, who signed with Michigan. He was a major priority for Jones' staff.

VANDERBILT

Needs filled: WR, TE, QB -- With Jordan Matthews graduating after 2013, James Franklin needed a replacement, and he might have found him in ESPN 150 receiver Jordan Cunningham. He also grabbed ESPN 300 members DeAndre Woods and Carlos Burse, and picked up four tight ends, including four-star Mack Weaver. With Jordan Rodgers graduating, Vandy signed two quarterbacks.

Holes remaining: DT, OL -- The front seven is always very important in the SEC, but Vandy came away with only one defensive tackle in ESPN 300 member Jay Woods. Losing two seniors, Vandy would have liked to get at least one more true defensive tackle. After signing a good offensive line group in 2012, Vandy signed only two in this class.

Season report card: Kentucky

January, 17, 2013
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We're taking a look at the grades for the Kentucky Wildcats from the 2012 season:

OFFENSE: Injuries ravaged Kentucky's entire team, but really crippled the Wildcats' offense. The biggest losses were starting quarterback Maxwell Smith and running backs Josh Clemons, who sat out the 2012 season because of a knee injury he suffered in 2011, and CoShik Williams. They all missed significance time and the Wildcats' offense suffered because of it. Kentucky finished the season 13th in the SEC in total offense (315 yards per game) and last in scoring (17.9). Kentucky scored less than 20 points nine times in 2012 and managed more than 400 yards of total offense just three times all season, while averaging a league-low 4.8 yards per play. The Wildcats tied for last in the SEC with 27 touchdowns and were last with eight field goals. They were also 13th in the league with 146 plays that went more than 10-plus yards. The Wildcats ended up playing the majority of the season with two freshmen quarterbacks in Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles. They combined to throw three touchdowns and three interceptions. Whitlow played in 10 games, throwing for 801 yards. Raymond Sanders battled through injury to lead the Wildcats with 669 rushing yards and five touchdowns. La'Rod King led Kentucky in receiving (488), but after King, no player registered more than 297 receiving yards. Injuries were a major part of Kentucky's struggles, but the offense just never saw any sort of growth or improvement throughout the year. Grade: F

DEFENSE: The defense made strides in the second year under defensive coordinator Rick Minter, but the Wildcats finished the season ranked in the bottom half of the SEC in all of the major defensive categories, including ranking 13th in the league in scoring defense (31). The Wildcats also surrendered 48 touchdowns and were outscored 372-215. Eight times Kentucky allowed 30-plus points in games last fall. The Wildcats only grabbed 13 takeaways, including just five interceptions. Kentucky had injury issues on the defensive side, as well, but there wasn't enough growth from this defense as the season went on. Against SEC opponents, the Wildcats were outscored by an average of 25 points and gave up 36 points in those games. The Wildcats also allowed 424 yards in SEC games. Grade: F

OVERALL: A year after stopping a string of five straight bowl appearances, the Wildcats won just two games and went winless in SEC play. Coach Joker Phillips didn't even make it through the season, but he admitted during his way out that there weren't enough positive results for him to stay at Kentucky. The offense sputtered out of control thanks to injury and poor execution, while the defense was below average for most of the year. For the second straight year, the Wildcats struggled finding consistent playmakers on offense and the defense broke down too many times during league play. Things got off to a rocky start with the loss to Louisville, and the best win of the season came against a Kent State team that nearly made a BCS bowl game. Grade: F

Past grades:

Halloween in the SEC

October, 31, 2012
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We're saying Happy Halloween to everyone from the SEC blog. It's been another scary good year for the SEC, and all of this southern success must be truly frightening for the rest of the country.

Also, it's Nick Saban's birthday. You can't make this stuff up.

I can't wait to see all the Honey Boo Boos (not) and PSY (Gangnam Style) costumes parading around Atlanta tonight. But before we all go trick or treating, check out our most spine-chilling post of the year:

[+] EnlargeGene Chizik
Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesGene Chizik's Auburn squad has been scary bad this season.
Cursed: Two seasons removed from winning a national championship, Auburn is sitting at the bottom of the SEC with eight straight conference losses dating to last season. Auburn has the SEC's worst offense and is second to last in total defense. The Tigers are also near the bottom of the offensive barrel nationally. Auburn is on its third starting quarterback of the season, and coach Gene Chizik's seat is getting hotter and hotter on the Plains, as Auburn enters the weekend with a 1-7 record.

Trick: This spring, Arkansas was considered a real SEC championship contender, then, Bobby Petrino took that now infamous motorcycle ride. After Petrino, who thought he had a national championship-caliber team, was dismissed and John L. Smith took over, the thought was that there was still enough talent for this team to make a run in the SEC West. However, two weeks into the season, we found that not to be the case, as the Razorbacks lost in overtime to unranked Louisiana-Monroe. Alabama then shellacked the Hogs, and Arkansas went 1-4 in September. Arkansas' bowl chances are all but gone with a 3-5 record and blood-curdling November coming up.

Treat: Heading into the season, not much was expected from Ole Miss. But Hugh Freeze has played a perfect Dr. Frankenstein, creating a monster at Ole Miss. The Rebels might not be as menacing as Frankenstein's original monster, but they've been more challenging than the past two years. Oh, and Ole Miss is a win away from being bowl eligible for the first time since 2009. Freeze is just hoping that his monster doesn't have a tragic end like the one with the bolts in his neck.

Boo (boo): No question, the biggest injury of the season occurred over the weekend when South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore suffered that gruesome season-ending knee injury against Tennessee. Not only was the injury hard to watch, but you hate to see bad things happen to good people like Lattimore. He is one of the most respected individuals in college football, and the sport seemed to temporarily stop when word spread about his devastating injury.

Thriller: The play of the season right now might be Jarvis Jones' wicked fumble forced on Florida tight end Jordan Reed last week. Georgia's linebacker was having a monster game already, and capped it by sealing the game for the Bulldogs when he poked the ball out of Reed's hands as he tried to jump into the end zone for a potential game-tying touchdown. The ball flew out of Reed's hand, bounced off his knee and fell into the back of the end zone, where the Bulldogs fell on it.

The Walking Dead: Kentucky's football team looks like something right out of the minds of Robert Kirkman and Frank Darabont. It hasn't been healthy all season. Starting quarterback Maxwell Smith has suffered shoulder and ankle injuries and is out indefinitely. Backup Patrick Towles then suffered his own ankle injury. Former starting running back CoShik Williams is out for the season, and running back Josh Clemons, who might be the Wildcats' most talented back, has been out all season. Starting safety Dakotah Tyler is also out for the season. This team has had to play a handful of freshman because of all the injuries piling up.

House of Horrors: LSU has won a school-record 22 straight games at home. It's the nation's longest home winning streak, and it will be put to the test against No. 1 Alabama. But expect all those rabid Tigers fans to try to make the Crimson Tide's experience frightening.

Scary: As in just how scary good Alabama has been this season. The Tide has totally dominated the competition this season. It hasn't even been close. Alabama has one of the nation's most balanced offenses (1,776 passing/1,715 rushing) and is first nationally in scoring, rushing and total defense.

Scariest: Tennessee's defense has been downright terrifying to watch this season. New defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri's 3-4 scheme just hasn't translated well with his players, and the Vols have been beaten up by opposing offenses. Tennessee is last in the SEC in total defense (453.4 yards per game) and scoring (33.9), and 13th in passing (271.9) and rushing (181.5) defense.

Halloween costumes: LSU coach Les Miles/The Mad Hatter (just too easy, again); Jarvis Jones/Predator; South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney/Michael Myers (doesn't talk much, but he's terrifying on the field); Tennessee defensive tackle Daniel McCullers/Great Smokey Mountain; Vanderbilt coach James Franklin/College football bowl planner; Florida coach Will Muschamp/Lionel Messi (separated at birth?); Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel/Iron Man/Johnny Football; Ole Miss running back Jeff Scott/Mighty Mouse.

Midseason report: Kentucky

October, 16, 2012
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KENTUCKY

Record: 1-6 (0-4 SEC)

Not much has gone right for Joker Phillips and his Wildcats this season. The injury bug has hit this team hard, as major players on both sides of the ball have missed time this season. The biggest hit was starting quarterback Maxwell Smith, who had been playing very well until he suffered a shoulder injury. Right after he came back from his shoulder issue, Smith quickly injured his ankle and is out indefinitely. The Wildcats are missing a chunk of their starting secondary because of injury, lost starting running back CoShik Williams for the season, and Josh Clemons, who might be the most talented running back, has been out all season with a knee injury.

The injuries have crushed this team, and overall, things have just been ugly to watch in Lexington. A significantly younger defense has been gashed all season. Kentucky is 11th or worse in the SEC in four major defensive categories, including being last in scoring defense (32.9). And the offense hasn’t really helped out, as it’s last in rushing, 13th in scoring and total offense, and 11th in passing.

Phillips has had to use three quarterbacks this season, with two -- Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles -- being true freshmen. He’s now down to just Whitlow after Towles went down with an ankle injury.

These Cats really are black and blue, and seem sure to miss the postseason for the second straight year.

Offensive MVP: Receiver La'Rod King: Even with the injuries at quarterback, King has had a good start to the season. He has 31 receptions for 351 yards and four touchdowns. Phillips has been searching for other playmakers, but he’s been able to rely on King to step up in games.

Defensive MVP: Linebacker Avery Williamson: The Wildcats have been looking for someone to replace Danny Trevathan and his production, and Williamson has done his best to do that. He’s second in the SEC in tackles (68) and has been able to make plays all over for the Wildcats. He also has an interception, has forced a fumble and recovered one.
The injuries just keep piling up at Kentucky.

After losing starting quarterback Maxwell Smith indefinitely after he suffered a serious ankle injury, Kentucky is now down its starting running back, as coach Joker Phillips announced Wednesday that senior CoShik Williams is out for the season with a torn labrum in his hip.

Williams, who led the Wildcats in rushing last season, has battled injuries all season and only saw action on a total of 14 plays in just two games of work. He had rushed for 66 yards, including 62 in the opener against Louisville.

This is yet another blow to the Wildcats' running game. Sophomore Josh Clemons, who might be the most talented of Kentucky's running backs, has yet to play this season because he's still recovering from a knee injury suffered last season. Phillips said Wednesday that Clemons is still out, so the possibility of him redshirting this season has become more and more of a reality.

This season, Kentucky is 13th in the SEC in rushing, averaging just 119.6 yards per game.

So, the Wildcats will turn to junior Raymond Sanders, who leads Kentucky with 260 rushing yards and has two touchdowns on 40 carries. Junior Jonathan George, who has started the past two games, will also help. He's rushed for 182 yards and a team-high three touchdowns on 35 carries.

"Those two have played well," Phillips said of Sanders and George. "The thing that we must do is give them more opportunities.

"We're running the ball efficiently, just gotta get more opportunities."

Those opportunities haven't come because of offensive turnovers and the defense's inability to get off of the field, Phillips said.

Phillips is planning to give more reps to freshman Dyshawn Mobley and is considering stripping away Justin Taylor's redshirt if needed.

What you won't see are more designed runs for Kentucky's quarterbacks, as neither Jalen Whitlow nor Patrick Towles are fit to be effective runners, Phillips said.

Injuries hit Alabama and Kentucky

October, 1, 2012
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The injury bug has set up shop in the SEC.

Week 6 has started with Alabama and Kentucky losing a couple of offensive players. For Alabama, the Tide will be down sophomore wide receiver DeAndrew White and redshirt freshman running back Dee Hart, after both suffered season-ending knee injuries in Alabama's win over Ole Miss this past weekend.

Tide coach Nick Saban said that both will require surgery.

Losing White takes away a deep threat for the Tide. He had only caught eight passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns this season, but he entered the season expecting to be a key part of the Tide's more downfield passing game. Now, true freshman Amari Cooper, who is coming off of his best game with the Tide (eight catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns) will move to White's starting "X" position. Junior Kevin Norwood and sophomore Christion Jones will compete for time there as well.

Freshman Cyrus Jones has the "athlete" labeled attached to his name, but has lined up at receiver this season. He'll now be expected to do more at that position going forward.

The good news for Alabama is that there are a few players to pick from at wide receiver, although they are young. Young, but talented. Plus, when you have a quarterback like AJ McCarron directing things, the passing game should be just fine.

At running back, the Tide is now down to three scholarship running backs, with Jalston Fowler being lost for the season with a knee injury earlier this season. While Hart provided a nice option in the passing game for the Tide, he wasn't exactly a between-the-tackles guy, so Alabama won't be hurt too much in that area. Eddie Lacy, T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake should still be able to work just fine at running back. Expect to see even more of Drake.

Kentucky isn't so lucky when it comes to quality depth. The Wildcats have lost starting quarterback Maxwell Smith "indefinitely," coach Joker Phillips said. Smith is out after injuring his ankle against South Carolina over the weekend. Phillips said Smith will need surgery to repair a torn ligament in his ankle.

With Smith missing a game with a shoulder injury, Phillips said that the team will apply for a medical hardship for Smith if he can't return this season.

Now, the Wildcats will turn to a freshman duo at quarterback in Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles. Towles, who was arguably the Wildcats' most ballyhooed signee in 2012, will now burn his redshirt as he competes with Whitlow, Phillips said.

"It's going to take an effort of both of them," Phillips said. And it could be right in the middle of the series. If it's not series to series, it could be play after play after play, switching them in and out, give them things that they both can do, give them a chance to go out and play and compete."

This offense has bee inept without Smith in the lineup, so losing him is a huge blow the Wildcats. Already reeling with a 1-4 record, this team has to rally around a new quarterback -- or two. It will be important that their confidence and knowledge of the playbook are both accelerated this week before taking on No. 20 Mississippi State, which sports arguably the best cornerback duo in the SEC with Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay.

Phillips also said that starting safety Dakotah Tyler is out for the season with a torn ACL and running backs CoShik Williams and Raymond Sanders are both day-to-day. Tight end Gabe Correll is also out with an injury.

Losing Tyler hurts the Wildcats with depth. Kentucky was already struggling with bodies in its secondary, so this certainly doesn't help.
Kentucky on Saturday will yet again be without one of is top playmakers from a year ago.

Coach Joker Phillips ruled sophomore running back Josh Clemons out of Saturday’s game with Kent State. Clemons is still recovering from a devastating knee injury that he suffered last October. In six games last year, Clemons rushed for 279 yards and two touchdowns on 65 carries. The coaches were extremely excited about his explosive ability and his toughness between the tackles.

Clemons missed the season opener against Louisville because he had his knee scoped and some extra "bodies" were taken out.

On Wednesday, Phillips said Clemons still isn’t ready for game action, and he’s unsure when he’ll be.

“He’s probably going to be a week-to-week guy,” Phillips said.

Clemons just hasn’t been able to shake the swelling that continues to appear since he tore his meniscus last year. Phillips said that every time the coaches throw Clemons on the field in practice or push him the swelling re-emerges.

Without Clemons, the Wildcats turned to CoShik Williams and Raymond Sanders in the opener against Louisville. The two combined for 13 carries for 100 yards. Those numbers would have been better if Kentucky didn’t have to turn into more of a passing team once Louisville’s lead got bigger. Still, not having Clemons in the lineup is a big blow to the offense.

Phillips hasn’t ruled Clemons out for the rest of the season, but if he can’t get back on the field fast enough, Phillips might have to shut him down.

“As we go through this thing,” Phillips said, “if it gets to the point where we’re losing significant time we’ll make a decision whether or not to hold him for the rest of the year.”
Depth charts for all 14 SEC teams are out, so let's take a look at them.

I'll handle the Eastern Division, while Chris takes a look at the West later today.

I've added some notes of my own for each team:

FLORIDA

Depth chart
  • The first thing you notice is that "Or" comes up a few times. The quarterback spot is still up for grabs, as sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel will play by quarters against Bowling Green Saturday. The "X" receiver spot has three names by it with Frankie Hammond, Latroy Pittman and Andre Debose competing for that spot. Everyone is still waiting for Debose to be more of a complete player.
  • Both corner spots might appear to be up for grabs, but it would be a shocker if sophomores Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy didn't start. Roberson has the talent to be an All-SEC player at some point, while the staff thinks Purifoy is an extremely athletic player. Also, seeing Antonio Morrison behind Jelani Jenkins is impressive. He's been solid since arriving this spring.
  • You don't see De'Ante Saunders on there at free safety. Will Muschamp said he's battling a hamstring injury and will be out two weeks. Corner Jeremy Brown is also battling a wrist injury and isn't on the two-deep, either.
GEORGIA

Depth chart (Page 2)
  • It's hard to say how much we can really make of Georgia's depth chart. Bacarri Rambo and Alec Ogletree are both listed as starters. Rambo and Ogletree could still sit out a couple of games due to their reported failed drug tests this spring and Mark Richt hasn't said if either will play Saturday.
  • Malcolm Mitchell is listed as a starter at cornerback, opposite Branden Smith, and is a third-team receiver. That sounds about right, as Mitchell has primarily played corners since the spring. He has taken some reps on offense, so you might see him on both sides of the ball Saturday.
  • Two guys to keep an eye on are center David Andrews and outside linebacker Ramik Wilson. Andrews might be the key to the offensive line. He has done very well at center and there was some worry that he might not be cut out of the position. If he had to move this line might have been in disarray. Wilson received a lot of praise from his teammates this spring and he continued to show out this fall. He won't outshine Jarvis Jones this fall, but he'll cause a stir on defense.
KENTUCKY

Depth chart
  • You can tell that the Wildcats aren't afraid to throw out some younger players this fall. Kentucky has 24 sophomores, redshirt freshmen or true freshmen listed on its two-deep for Saturday. That's a lot, especially for a team that is looking to revamp both sides of the ball. There could be a lot of growing pains for this team early.
  • Sophomore receiver Demarco Robinson and redshirt freshman receiver Daryl Collins might be currently listed as backups for the Cats, but don't let that fool you. Both have been very impressive since the spring and both will get plenty of chances to see the field Saturday. Having three senior starters at wide receiver will help bring those two along, but I expect them to breakthrough eventually.
  • You won't see sophomore Josh Clemons listed on the two-deep at running back, as he's out after his knee was cleaned up. CoShik Williams and Raymond Sanders are listed as co-starters. I'm also curious to see what happens at linebacker. Four new starters are in and there were questions surrounding the weakside position. Former quarterback Tyler Brause moved ahead of Malcolm McDuffen, who exited spring as a starter. Joker Phillips has said this will be a day-to-day competition.
MISSOURI

Depth chart
  • The Tigers enter Week 1 against Southeastern Louisiana pretty banged up, especially on the offensive line. Potential starting guards Jack Meiners (knee) and Travis Ruth (triceps) are both out with injuries, and so is backup right tackle Taylor Chappell, who tore the ACL in his left knee and is out for the season. Starting corner Kip Edwards and projected starting free safety Braylon Webb are listed as doubtful with knee injuries. It's probably best to rest these guys if they could aggravate their injuries before the Georgia game next week.
  • Gary Pinkel also announced on Monday that running back Henry Josey is out for the season. He hasn't recovered from his devastating knee injury, but this was no surprise at all.
  • Some good news is that four starters -- linebacker Will Ebner, nose guard Matt Hoch, wide receiver L'Damian Washington and tight end Eric Waters -- made the two-deep after they were held out of last week's scrimmage. Listed behind Waters at the tight end/"Y" receiver spot is freshman Dorial Green-Beckham. Missouri wants to use him both inside and out, so expect him to move around Saturday.
  • Sophomore Kony Ealy and junior Michael Sam are listed as the starting defensive ends, with senior Brad Madison behind Sam. Madison's shoulder has healed, but maybe it says more about how far the others have come. Madison should still get solid reps, but keep an eye on Ealy. He has breakout potential.
SOUTH CAROLINA

Depth chart
  • The first thing that stands out to me is that top signee Shaq Roland is listed as a third-team wide receiver behind Ace Sanders and DeAngelo Smith. It might say more about how the others have done, but Roland is someone this staff has been very excited about and hopes he can make an instant impact on offense. He isn't taking Sanders' spot, but he'll get on the field.
  • That secondary looks pretty green without Akeem Auguste in it. He's out after tearing a muscle in his right thigh, meaning junior Jimmy Legree, who moved from safety this spring will get the start against Vanderbilt Thursday. Legree began last season as a starter, but lost his spot after struggling during the first two games. First-time starter Victor Hampton is at the other corner spot. He's unproven, but the staff is excited about his talent and athleticism.
  • Freshman tight end Jerell Adams might be listed as a second-teamer, but the coaches have been very impressed by him this fall and he'll have every chance to get some solid playing time early.
TENNESSEE

Depth chart
  • Junior Rajion Neal did a good job of staying ahead in the running back race. After an impressive spring, he will enter Friday's opener against NC State as the Vols' starter. He edged out Devrin Young and Marlin Lane, who both made good strides this spring. He has a lot of pressure to deal with, as Tennessee was awful running that ball in 2011.
  • Tennessee is hoping to get much more out of its defensive line this fall and junior college transfers Daniel McCullers and Darrington Sentimore could be the answers. Both came in with a ton of hype and snatched starting spots at nose guard and end, respectively. McCullers' arrival moved Maurice Couch from tackle to end. Derek Dooley has said the line is still a work in progress, but a lot is expected from Sentimore and McCullers.
  • Byron Moore and Brent Brewer are listed as co-starters right now, but Moore let it slip last week that he was named the starter. This could be another position that won't be settled right away. The secondary will get a nice test against the Wolfpack, so that could make things clearer for Week 2.
VANDERBILT

Depth chart
  • Redshirt junior Warren Norman is back, but he might have to wait his turn for reps. He's listed on Vandy's second team, but Zac Stacy and Jerron Seymour are on the first team. If the Commodores line up with two backs Seymour could be out there before Norman, who is coming back from a knee injury that sidelined him for all of 2011.
  • The defensive side has a few guys who were banged up listed as starters. Inside linebacker Chase Garnham was limited during fall camp, but he's set to start Thursday against South Carolina. So are defensive tackles Rob Lohr and Colt Nichter.
  • Looking at that offensive line, you'll see nothing but underclassmen on the second team. While that's a good sign for the future, it could be worrisome for this staff if a starter goes down this fall. Staying healthy up front is critical for this team.

One good thing: Kentucky

July, 24, 2012
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We continue our "One good thing" series looking at the Kentucky Wildcats.

Good reasons:
Let's see what the Wildcats can do in 2012:

Kentucky will make a bowl game: Joker Phillips is more confident in the offense.

Last year, finding consistent, reliable playmakers in Kentucky's offense was almost nonexistent. Wide receiver La'Rod King was the most reliable offensive weapon for the Wildcats last year, hauling in 40 catches for 598 yards and seven touchdowns. There were some bright spots in the running game here and there, but Josh Clemons' season-ending knee injury early in the year was a major blow. But this spring Phillips found more players to rely on offensively. For starters, quarterback Maxwell Smith impressed the coaching staff with a solid spring. Clearly, the starting quarterback job is his to lose. The Wildcats also got solid production out of wide receivers Demarco Robinson and Daryl Collins this spring. Tight ends Ronnie Shields and Tyler Robinson stepped up as well, giving Smith plenty more options than he had last year. Having more reliable options at receiver will take pressure off of King and will help Smith develop more. It should also help a running game that expects to get Clemons back and will still have CoShik Williams, who led the Cats in rushing last year, and Raymond Sanders.

The offensive line is still a work in progress, but Phillips said at SEC media days he felt much better about the line coming out of spring than he did going in. The Wildcats were the SEC's worst offense last year because of its lack of playmakers, but if these pieces fall into place like the coaches hope, the Wildcats' offense should be much improved and could be what Kentucky needs to get back to the six-win mark.

Why it won't: There are too many holes on defense.

While the Wildcats ranked near the bottom of the SEC in most defensive categories last season, there were some solid starters that will be tough to replace. Gone is Danny Trevathan, who was the SEC's leading tackler and one of the league's top linebackers. He wasn't just Kentucky's best overall player but he was the team's unquestioned leader. The Wildcats have to replace not just his production on the field but his guidance in the locker room. Hybrid linebacker/safety Winston Guy, who was third in the SEC in tackles last year, is also gone. Overall, the Wildcats are replacing six defensive starters -- four linebackers and two cornerbacks.

Replacing Trevathan might be the toughest job, as youngsters Malcolm McDuffen and Demarius Rancifer struggled to man the weakside linebacker spot this spring. Sophomore Miles Simpson left spring as the projected starter at Guy's hybrid position, but will be pushed for playing time by redshirt freshman Josh Forrest. The coaches feel pretty good about Marcus Caffey's move from running back to cornerback, but he has no collegiate experience on defense, and he might be the Wildcats' top corner on the roster.

If Kentucky's defense can't fill those holes, this unit won't make the necessary strides it needs to improve upon last year and it certainly won't go bowling.
We continue our position rankings by looking at some of the hardest working players in the league. Running backs are very important in the SEC and more is always better around these parts.

Past rankings:
On to the running backs:

[+] EnlargeSpencer Ware
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesThe powerful Spencer Ware should be a key part of LSU's running back depth this upcoming season.
1. LSU: The Tigers claim the top spot thanks to depth, talent and more depth. They have five guys back there who could start for a lot of teams. Michael Ford is the speed guy. Spencer Ware is a bruiser who also has great cutting ability, Alfred Blue is extremely versatile and strong, and Kenny Hilliard is an even bigger bruiser. This group combined for 2,338 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns last fall. Keep an eye out for freshman Jeremy Hill, too.

2. South Carolina: Marcus Lattimore alone would warrant the Gamecocks being near the top. All reports coming out of Columbia are that he’s healthy and ready to pick up where he left off when he hurt his knee. Sophomore Brandon Wilds was excellent in filling in for Lattimore last season, veteran Kenny Miles has said he will be back for his senior season and the talented Shon Carson should be back after his ACL injury.

3. Arkansas: It was a close call between the Hogs and the Gamecocks. Similar to Lattimore, Knile Davis insists he’s as good as new after missing all of last season with a fractured ankle. Dennis Johnson can do a little bit of everything and certainly won’t be forgotten about in the Hogs’ offense, while Ronnie Wingo Jr. returns for his senior season.

4. Alabama: Eddie Lacy gets his shot to be the Crimson Tide’s feature back now that Trent Richardson is gone, but Nick Saban prefers to share the wealth. Who wouldn’t when you’ve got a true freshman on campus as talented as T.J. Yeldon? Don’t forget about Dee Hart, either. Hart would have played some last season had he not been injured. And Jalston Fowler adds another big, bruising body to Bama's backfield.

5. Texas A&M: If the NCAA rules that Oklahoma transfer Brandon Williams is eligible this season, the Aggies may move up this list. Williams was sensational this spring, and Christine Michael also returns after rushing for 899 yards last season prior to tearing his ACL. In addition, incoming freshman Trey Williams was one of the premier running back prospects in the country.

6. Vanderbilt: We're still not sure what Warren Norman can do, as he returns from his knee injury. Jerron Seymour is a do-it-all guy. The centerpiece of the Commodores’ offense will again be Zac Stacy, who set a school record last season with 1,193 rushing yards. He’s the leading returning rusher in the SEC. Highly-touted freshman Brian Kimbrow could also be used at running back.

7. Mississippi State: The competition this preseason at running back ought to be fierce at Mississippi State. Speedy LaDarius Perkins is the likely starter, but the Bulldogs’ coaches can’t wait to see what a healthy Nick Griffin can do. There are two talented redshirt freshmen -- Josh Robinson and Derek Milton -- who’ve also been waiting their turn.

8. Georgia: Losing Isaiah Crowell was a real blow for the Bulldogs, but they’re not lacking in talent. We won’t have to wait long to see if true freshman Keith Marshall is the real deal, but he's at his best when he's in space or used in the passing game. Ken Malcome had a very good spring and was a co-starter heading into summer. Incoming freshman Todd Gurley will be called upon this fall as well.

9. Auburn: Onterio McCalebb remains one of the top breakaway threats in the league, but he's going to need help. Tre Mason could emerge as the Tigers' every-down back. Transfers Mike Blakely and Corey Grant also impressed this spring and will add good depth. Either way, losing a player the caliber of Michael Dyer always stings.

10. Missouri: People forget that Kendial Lawrence was the starter before he went down with an injury last year. He regrouped well and was even better this spring. Marcus Murphy was out last season with a shoulder injury, but will be back and adds explosion to the backfield. Big-bodied rising senior Jared McGriff-Culver returns and should get carries along with redshirt sophomore Greg White. It still looks as though leading rusher Henry Josey won't be healthy enough for the fall.

11. Florida: Mike Gillislee has been inconsistent during his career, but is perhaps the key to the team and is the first downhill runner Florida has had since Tim Tebow. The Gators also hope this is the year finally Mack Brown comes on. Hunter Joyer might be best true fullback in the league and Trey Burton will also play a role as an H-back/fullback.

12. Tennessee: The Vols will be searching this preseason for their go-to back. Junior Rajion Neal has gotten bigger and stronger and may be the most explosive back. He left spring practice tied with an improved Marlin Lane and Devrin Young for the starting spot. Tennessee's rushing game has to improve greatly, as it ranked 116th nationally last year.

13. Kentucky: All four top rushers are back, but none eclipsed the 500-yard mark last year. The Wildcats hope Josh Clemons can recover from a knee injury that cut short his promising freshman season. CoShik Williams was Kentucky's leading rusher last year (486) and is one of the Wildcats' more elusive backs. Jonathan George will be in the mix again, while Raymond Sanders figures to be healthier this fall.

14. Ole Miss: The Rebels can’t afford to lose top back Jeff Scott, whose academics are still being monitored. Seniors Devin Thomas and H.R. Greer provide depth, but have combined for 125 career rushing yards. Redshirt sophomore Nicholas Parker has dealt with shape issues and has yet to see any game action, while Tobias Singleton moved from receiver to running back this spring. The Rebels will have to turn to their incoming freshmen for help here.

Opening spring camp: Kentucky

March, 21, 2012
3/21/12
3:05
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Schedule: Kentucky opened its spring practice Wednesday morning and will conclude with the Blue/White Game on April 21. All practices are closed to the public.

What's new: Kentucky welcomed two new assistants to Joker Phillips' coaching staff during the offseason. Mike Cassity returned to his alma mater this year and will coach the Wildcats' defensive backs. Cassity coached Kentucky's defensive backs from 1980-81. Pat Washington also joined Kentucky's staff to coach wide receivers and to be the passing game coordinator after Tee Martin left to coach wide receivers at USC.

On the mend: Quarterback Morgan Newton will only do some light tossing and handoffs as he recovers from shoulder surgery. Defensive end Collins Ukwu will miss drills after undergoing labrum surgery. Running back Josh Clemons will be non-contact throughout the spring because he's rehabbing from the torn meniscus he suffered last season. Defensive tackle Tristian Johnson will be limited this spring because of a shoulder injury. Wide receiver Gene McCaskill is being evaluated day-to-day because of knee issues that he's dealt with the last couple of years. Offensive lineman Tyler Davenport won't go through contact either this spring because of a knee injury and center Sam Simpson is out indefinitely with a back injury. Linebacker Jabari Johnson won't go through contact either because of shoulder surgery.

On the move: Marcus Caffey is making a significant move for the Wildcats as he switches from running back to cornerback, which is a position that needs all the bodies it can get this year. Eric Dixon is also moving from safety to cornerback to help the Wildcats with numbers. Bookie Cobbins is moving from quarterback to wide receiver.

Questions: The Wildcats enter spring with a lot of questions on both sides of the ball. Kentucky must replace three starting offensive linemen from last season. The good news is that vets Larry Warford and Matt Smith are back, but Kentucky will work rising sophomores Darrian Miller (left tackle) and Zach West (left guard), and junior-to-be Kevin Mitchell (right tackle) with the first-team offense. Miller started two games last year and the coaches are high on him, but there won't be a lot of experience behind Warford and Smith. Kentucky is also looking for another wide receiver to step up opposite La'Rod King, who proved to be the Wildcats' best receiving option in 2011. Outside of King, Kentucky returns just one receiver -- E.J. Fields -- who registered 10 more receptions in 2011. Kentucky will likely have to look to its youngsters and is hoping for a couple of redshirt freshmen to stand out, like Cobbins, Daryl Collins and Rashad Cunningham. Kentucky is also replacing two starting corners and safeties (Winston Guy was a Spur) and three linebackers after Ridge Wilson was dismissed before spring. Converted corners Caffey and Dixon will come in handy at corner because Kentucky needs the most help there.

Don't forget about: Kentucky's offense was dead last in the SEC last season, but the Wildcats had some success at times running the ball. Kentucky's offense took a major hit when Clemons went down with that devastating knee injury last fall. The coaches expected big things from him and when he's healthy he's arguably the Wildcats' best offensive weapon. But Kentucky also returns rising senior CoShik Williams. He's added 10 pounds of muscle and could help Kentucky develop a solid rushing tandem once Clemons is healthy again. Raymond Sanders is another running back to keep an eye on. Injuries wrecked his 2011 season, but if he's healthy he'll help Kentucky's offense as it looks for more consistency.

Waiting in the wings: Quarterback Maxwell Smith won't have to fight off Newton this spring, as Newton recovers from shoulder surgery, but he'll get an up-close glimpse of his summer competition when 2012 signee Patrick Towles visits Lexington during his Spring Break. Towles will be on hand to take in as much of the Wildcats' offense as he can. Towles will arrive this summer with a lot of hype following him from high school and might already be the most athletic of the bunch at quarterback.

Breaking out: Kentucky is once again searching for playmakers this spring and it hopes to find a few at wide receiver. Cobbins, Collins and Cunningham are all players the coaches are excited about working with in the next month and with receiver so wide open, each will have the opportunity for a big spring. Kentucky also needs players to step up at linebacker, cornerback and the Spur position. All the starters from those positions are gone, including Kentucky's best player in linebacker Danny Trevathan. Attempting to replace Trevathan at the Will spot is rising sophomore Malcolm McDuffen. Underclassmen Tim Patterson and Demarius Rancifer are also players the coaches are excited about using at linebacker. Josh Forrest and Miles Simpson are also battling at the Spur.

All eyes on: Smith ended up being the best option Kentucky had at quarterback last season, despite some rocky play, but an injury kept him out of the season finale against Tennessee. It worked out that wide receiver Matt Roark managed well enough to guide the Wildcats to their first win over the Vols in 26 years. Smith now enters the spring with questions surrounding his game and the pressure of having to hold off Newton and Towles this summer. Coaches and players have more confidence in Smith now, but he'll have to continue to develop as more of a passer and generate more confidence in has abilities this spring. He'll have to start making those around him better, especially the wide receivers, who enter spring as a very unproven group. Smith could either run away with the starting job this spring or make the competition that much more fierce once the others start throwing with him this summer.
Now that national signing day is behind us, we'll continue our look back at each position in the SEC. Today, we're ranking the league's running back units:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12. Kentucky: As a whole, the Wildcats' numbers were better than Tennessee's. They were 11th in the league in rushing and averaged nearly 40 more rushing yards in conference games, but injuries ravaged this group. Freshmen Josh Clemons looked like he might have a solid season before a knee injury cost him the second half of the season. Raymond Sanders was supposed to be the guy, but played just six games. CoShik Williams ended up being Kentucky's leading rusher, with 486 yards.
You've already seen Chris Low's to-do lists for the Western Division teams, so now it's time to check out what the East teams need to take care of before next fall:

FLORIDA
  • Two major areas new offensive coordinator Brent Pease needs to hit during his first offseason with the Gators is running back and wide receiver. Florida must find a downhill running back for Pease's offense, and a reliable go-to wide receiver -- two things Florida lacked in 2011.
  • With quarterback John Brantley graduating, Pease must find a new starting quarterback. That means developing rising sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel, who struggled in relief of Brantley at times last season, and Tyler Murphy, who has yet to take a snap.
  • Toughen up mentally and physically. The Gators ranked 89th nationally in penalties, and were called out by coach Will Muschamp as being too soft in his first season. Soft can't win in the SEC.
GEORGIA
  • The Bulldogs' coaching staff needs to toughen running back Isaiah Crowell up. As the season went on he visited Georgia's training table more than the end zone in games. He was even booed by Georgia fans when he limped off the Georgia Dome field in the SEC title game. The Bulldogs were inconsistent running the ball because their lead back was always nicked up.
  • Getting the offensive line ready will be key to 2012. The Bulldogs will have to replace three seniors on that line, including All-SEC performers Cordy Glenn and Ben Jones.
  • Georgia also can't let the success of 2011 go to the Bulldogs' heads. We've seen what can happen to this team when expectations are high and the Dawgs are a favorite.
KENTUCKY
  • With how poorly Kentucky's offense performed in 2011, coach Joker Phillips' top priority should be finding offensive playmakers. There is hope that running backs CoShik Williams and Josh Clemons can help in that department, but finding a reliable receiver to complement La'Rod King will help, as no other receiver returns with more than 10 catches from last season.
  • Kentucky has to get its quarterback position settled before next season. Morgan Newton was supposed to be the guy last season, but major struggles and an ankle injury paved the way for Maxwell Smith. But neither threw a pass in Kentucky's 10-7 win against Tennessee to end the season.
  • Replacing linebacker Danny Trevathan's skill on the field won't be easy, but neither will be replacing his leadership skills. Trevathan was the heart of Kentucky's defense and the team's best leader. It's time for someone else to step up and lead the Wildcats.
MISSOURI
  • As the new Tigers on the block, Missouri needs to get used to its new surroundings. That means making any and all offensive and defensive adjustments to match their new SEC foes. That also means getting used to recruiting more in the southeast, especially Florida and Georgia.
  • Missouri returns a lot of talent in 2012, but the Tigers need to find a big-play threat at wide receiver. T.J. Moe and Marcus Lucas are back, but one has to emerge as more than just a top target -- he needs to be someone who can consistently make plays on SEC defenses.
  • The Tigers' defensive line was supposed to be better than it was in 2011. The SEC is won in the trenches, and if Missouri's line can't hold up against SEC offensive big men, the Tigers will be sunk.
SOUTH CAROLINA
  • Marcus Lattimore is one of the best running backs in the country when he's healthy, so making sure his rehab for his knee goes smoothly might be South Carolina's top priority during the offseason. He expects to come back better and stronger, so proper rehab will go a long way.
  • Now that Alshon Jeffery is gone, it's time for the Gamecocks to find a replacement. The Gamecocks didn't have any real receiving threats outside of Jeffery in 2011, and only Jeffery and Ace Sanders had more than 20 catches. South Carolina is a little undersized at the position, but developing a proper go-to is a must.
TENNESSEE
  • Tennessee must find the pieces to create a legitimate running game. The Vols ranked 116th nationally in rushing, and were the only team in the SEC not to average more than 100 rushing yards a game. Marlin Lane heads the rushing operation, but there are other bodies to help. Developing them is the next step.
  • Sal Sunseri takes over a defense equipped with a chunk of young, but talented players. Development in their games is the next step for these players, and that will rest on Sunseri.
  • The attitude of this team was questioned in 2011, so for Tennessee to get back to being truly competitive in the East, players need to totally buy in to what Derek Dooley is preaching.
VANDERBILT
  • Jordan Rodgers' emergence as Vanderbilt's starting quarterback during the second half of the season was a big plus for the Commodores' offense, but his confidence had to be shaken when he was basically benched for Larry Smith in the Liberty Bowl loss to Cincinnati. Rodgers had his ups and downs last season, but he needs to find the confidence that helped him make Vandy's offense explosive with him in charge.
  • James Franklin kept saying that this was a new Vanderbilt team, but the little mistakes that hurt Vandy throughout the years returned. Those mistakes cost them a chance at possibly winning nine games. Franklin must hammer home ball security and make sure this team is a little more mentally tough next season.

Season report card: Kentucky

December, 19, 2011
12/19/11
2:00
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Summer school continues as we take a look at Kentucky:

OFFENSE: F

Kentucky entered the season down a handful of playmakers, and never had much offensive rhythm. The offense stalled from the start, as the Wildcats began the year with an ugly 14-3 win over Western Kentucky. The Wildcats mustered just 190 yards of offense and turned the ball over three times. Things didn't get much better after, as Kentucky lost four of its next five games, getting outscored 161-37 in those four losses. On the season, Kentucky was last in the SEC in scoring (15.8), total offense (259.8), passing (135.6) and passing efficiency (96.2). Kentucky scored 30-plus points just twice. Injuries along the offensive line and at running back didn't help. The Wildcats seemed to have a budding star on their hands in freshman running back Josh Clemons, but he went down midway through the year with a season-ending knee injury. CoShik Williams stepped in for Clemons and became the Wildcats' top offensive weapon, leading Kentucky with 486 rushing yards and had three touchdowns. But it all came back to the quarterback position. A few years removed from a solid freshman year, Morgan Newton took a few steps back in 2011. He entered the season as the Wildcats' starter, but after suffering a late-season ankle injury, he was passed by freshman Maxwell Smith, who earned All-SEC Freshman honors. Both combined for 1,612 yards, 12 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions.

DEFENSE: C

Under the watchful eye of new defensive coordinator Rick Minter, the Wildcats improved from the 2010 season. Kentucky was much more aggressive and entertaining on defense this season. The Wildcats had the SEC's top two tacklers in Danny Trevathan (143) and Winston Guy (120) and forced 25 turnovers. This is obviously still a work in progress, as the Wildcats gave up 24.7 points per game and 377 yards a contest. Against SEC offenses, the Wildcats' defense upped the points to 30.2 per game and allowed 413.8 yards a game. Kentucky allowed 35 points or more in half of its SEC games. The Wildcats' defense hit rock bottom in their 54-3 loss to South Carolina. Kentucky gave up 54 unanswered points, a season-high 639 yards of offense, including 288 rushing yards, and 32 first downs. Kentucky's defense played arguably its best at the end of the year. The Wildcats frustrated eventual SEC East champ Georgia, taking the ball away four times, before holding rival Tennessee to 276 yards and forced three turnovers in a 10-7 win that snapped a 26-year losing streak to the Vols.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C

Kentucky didn't return the ball well, but the Wildcats sure knew how to kick and cover returns. Kicker Craig McIntosh connected on 12 of 14 field goal attempts (.857), and Kentucky was fifth in the SEC in kickoff coverage, averaging 46 net yards on kickoffs. Kentucky also finished the season with 14 touchbacks. Punter Ryan Tydlacka was fourth in the league in punting, averaging 43.6 yards per punt. He also had 20 punts of 50-plus yards and had 19 of his punts downed inside opponents' 20-yard line. On their own returns, Kentucky was last in the SEC in punt returns, getting just 35 yards on 19 returns. The Wildcats were also 11th in kickoff returns, averaging 20.3 yards per return.

COACHING: D

Joker Phillips didn't come close to having the season he wanted after a successful first year as the man in charge in Lexington. The offense was inept for just about every part of the season. The defense was improved, but this team just wasn't very competitive throughout the year. Kentucky missed out on a sixth straight bowl appearance with its 5-7 record, but we saw some improvement at the end of the season. Considering the injuries this team endured, Kentucky didn't quit. The Wildcats went 2-2 in November and ended things with a monumental win over Tennessee. The win ended the 26-year slide against the Vols and it also eliminated them from the postseason. It wasn't a bowl win for Kentucky, but it was pretty close.

Season recap: Kentucky

December, 7, 2011
12/07/11
9:00
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KENTUCKY

Record: 5-7, 2-6 SEC

The Wildcats entered the year down a handful of offensive playmakers and it certainly showed all season. Without the likes of Randall Cobb, Mike Hartline and Derrick Locke, Kentucky hovered around the bottom of the SEC in just about every offensive category for the entire season. Kentucky was last in scoring (15.8 points per game), total offense (259.8 yards) and passing (135.6 yards), and scored just 21 touchdowns all year.

Coach Joker Phillips prides himself on offense, which had to make this year that much more difficult. Morgan Newton had a solid freshman campaign, but as Kentucky’s starting quarterback in 2011, he regressed. Newton averaged less than 80 yards passing a game and threw eight touchdowns to seven interceptions. After Newton suffered an ankle injury late in the season, freshman Maxwell Smith eventually took over and performed better at times, but threw four touchdowns and four interceptions.

The Wildcats missed out on a sixth consecutive bowl trip and won just two conference games, but there was some satisfaction. The defense was much improved under new defensive coordinator Rick Minter and the Wildcats ended a 26-year losing streak to Tennessee on the season's final weekend — a victory that ended Tennessee’s bowl chances.

Offensive MVP: Running back CoShik Williams. He was one of the few bright spots for the Wildcats. Williams emerged after starter Josh Clemons went down with a season-ending knee injury and led Kentucky with 486 rushing yards and three touchdowns. His two 100-yard rushing games came in Kentucky’s only 30-point games.

Defense MVP: Linebacker Danny Trevathan. There might not be a more unheralded player in the SEC. For the second year in a row, Trevathan led the league in tackles. After registering 144 in 2010, Trevathan totaled 143 this season, added four interceptions and forced five fumbles.

Turning point: Kentucky’s offense got a facelift in a 38-14 victory over Jacksonville State on Oct. 22. It stopped a four-game losing streak, was the Wildcats’ first 30-point game and was the first of three wins in Kentucky’s last six games.

What’s next: Without a bowl to prep for, Kentucky’s coaches will be out on the road recruiting. Phillips should use this time to recruit the heck out of as many offensive players as he can. Kentucky was very limited in the playmaking department and that has to change going forward.

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