SEC: D.J. Williams

The mailbag is back this week and our inbox was flooded with questions about expansion and Knile Davis. Both have been major topics in the SEC of late and both will no doubt be brought up again throughout the season.

And that season is literally just around the corner. I can hardly wait, and I’m sure you guys are even worse.

Now, on to your questions:

Matthew in Richlands, N.C., writes: I just took a look at your list of players that could potentially have a break through season this year. Now, I realize he hasn't had a lot of playing time but what do you think about Chris Gragg (Arkansas' TE)? I think he has a lot of potential, and although he hasn't seen much playing time, the stats that he does have look pretty impressive. I'd look out for him this year.

Edward Aschoff: It’s easy for him to get lost in the shuffle. He did have to play behind one of the best at the tight end position last year in D.J. Williams. And don't forget about Ben Cleveland being there, either. But he is a player to keep an eye on this fall. Last fall, he caught eight passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns, including a long of 57 yards. He’s definitely an athlete and at 6-foot-3 and 236 pounds, he’s a load to take down. With Knile Davis gone, he might have more of a role in the offense. The Razorbacks will certainly be looking for another weapon to help fill the void. Yes, the Razorbacks have four very solid receiving options, but the tight end is always a valuable receiving threat; just look at all the work Williams did during his fine career with the Hogs. In this offense, Gragg will get plenty of opportunities to show what he can do.


Scott in Jacksonville, Fla., writes: I am an avid FSU fan! I was hoping we would go to the SEC. I think that FSU can play with them! I know FSU would not dominate like they did in the ACC but I do not think FSU would be at the bottom either. FSU would win their share. I have a lot of respect for Florida, but it is the fans that I do not like. Do you think that FSU will ever go in to the SEC?

Edward Aschoff: Honestly, I think Florida State would be a great addition to the SEC. FSU has a great athletic program and it doesn’t just revolve around football and basketball. Baseball is tremendous and track is a national contender every year. I think that competition would be a welcome addition to the conference. The Seminoles also bring national popularity. Putting FSU on TV is going to attract quite the national audience. But I don’t think we’ll see it. I don’t think Florida would be happy about losing its SEC recruiting advantage to FSU and Alabama, Auburn and Georgia might have something to say about the Noles as well. The word around the SEC is that the league likely won’t dip into states that currently house SEC schools, so FSU would be out of the running if officials sent in a request to join.


Mike in Nashville, Tenn., writes: What is your take on the Miami story as it relates to the argument that players should be paid at the collegiate level? Personally, I've never been in favor of paying players and this story only furthers my beliefs. I'm tired of the same old sob story about the downtrodden college athlete that can't afford pizza on the weekends or a movie with his girlfriend. Giving college athletes a little more spending money is not going to stop players from getting a taste of the high life from these boosters. Terrell Pryor didn't sell memorabilia so he could afford to gas up his car (you know, the Nissan 350Z that this starving college star's family could probably barely afford), he allegedly made over $40,000 in college. These Miami players weren't getting a free meal from a booster at the local diner, they were eating $500 lunches and going to strip clubs. Somebody please put an end to the myth of the poor college athlete that lives in constant squalor while the administrative fat cats eat with silver spoons.

Edward Aschoff: I’ve never been for paying college athletes. It just opens too many doors that lead to trouble. First of all, not every school can afford it. If you are going to pay football players, you have to pay everyone -- all athletes. Title IX isn’t going to let just the Trent Richardsons and the Aaron Murrays of the world get paid and leave it at that. If schools can start paying athletes, then what is stopping them from getting into bidding wars with other schools when it comes to recruiting? Recruiting has enough issues as it is. It will destroy smaller, less profitable schools’ chances of competing in recruiting. I understand college athletes gripe about not having money for the little things, so maybe athletes should be allowed to work outside of the athletic season in order to make some extra cash. Take out loans like the rest of us. The Miami incident doesn’t really make me think about paying athletes, it seems more like an incident where someone wanted to fit in and be cool, so he felt that if he did these things for athletes he’d be one of the boys. Well, it backfired.


Kyle in Gainesville, Fla., writes: If Texas A&M and another team from the west, lets just say Oklahoma, were to join the SEC do you think Auburn would be moved to the Eastern division? They would still play Georgia every year and Alabama could be the team from the west that stays on the schedule every year, plus it would bring back the old Florida-Auburn rivalry. The only problem I see with this is that Alabama would no longer play Tennessee every year.

Edward Aschoff: It would also mean that Alabama and Auburn could play in the SEC championship game. Just imagine that. Bringing the rivalry to Atlanta to play for a possible birth in the national championship would be utterly epic! You would lose that annual Auburn-LSU game every year, which has been one of the most exciting games to watch in the last decade, and, like you said, we’d have to wait every few years for the Alabama-Tennessee rivalry to kick back up. Maybe it will add something to it, but it would be hard to see that one go. It would also add some more fire power to the East. While this year will be probably be a rebuilding year for the Tigers, there is a lot of young talent that should have the Tigers competing for the SEC soon. Geographically, if any team is going to move from the West to the East, it would be Auburn.


Morgantown Matt in Morgantown, W.Va., writes: Please tell me that WVU is finally set to exit the Big East to join a conference that values football the way that the Mountaineer faithful do?!

Edward Aschoff: First of all, great first name. Very creative. While West Virginia has had its name thrown out in the SEC expansion rumor mill, I’m not sure what the SEC’s stance would be if the Mountaineers requested an invite. On the one hand, you are getting a pretty decent football program and you’re getting a solid basketball program as well. You’d probably tap into the Pittsburgh TV market and branch off into Ohio as well, which means more viewers in front of SEC games. Nothing wrong with that. But this is all speculation. Actually, most of the expansion talk is merely speculation. If/when schools start approaching the SEC about joining the league, West Virginia could be one of those teams, and the SEC might listen.

Hogs looking for answers on third down

August, 1, 2011
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Arkansas has more proven offensive playmakers returning than any team in the SEC.

So as Tyler Wilson steps in at quarterback this season, he'll do so with the comfort of knowing that he can turn around and hand the ball off to Knile Davis and throw it to the likes of Greg Childs, Joe Adams or Jarius Wright. They combined for 31 offensive touchdowns last season.

Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said one of the most obvious challenges for the Hogs on offense this season will be taking care of the football at quarterback. But just as important will be converting third downs, which is where former tight end D.J. Williams was so valuable.

"That’s what we need to learn as an offense, how to convert third downs, and not only at quarterback, but we lost that tight end we used to go to a whole bunch," Petrino said. "When you’re missing that third-and-medium guy with tremendous confidence, we now have to have some guys step up."

Junior tight end Chris Gragg has already shown that he can get down the field and make a few plays. The next step is becoming that go-to guy on third-and-medium and getting the tough yards in the same mold as Williams. Petrino also expects big things from sophomore receiver Julian Horton.

"Julian Horton can really run great routes and catch the ball away from his body when he’s covered," Petrino said. "Chris Gragg has done a nice job of running and catching, kind of the same role we used D.J. in during his sophomore year. Chris just isn’t quite ready to run-block and pass-block like D.J. did."

Hogs' Williams a finalist for Sullivan Award

March, 3, 2011
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Former Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams has been named as one of the five finalists for the AAU James E. Sullivan Memorial Award, which is presented annually to the nation's most outstanding amateur athlete.

Williams is the only football player to make the list of finalists. The winner will be named at a ceremony at the New York Athletic Club on March 14.

[+] EnlargeD.J. Williams
Nelson Chenault/US PresswireD.J. Williams finished his career 152 catches, 1,855 receiving yards and 10 TDs.
The Sullivan Award, which dates back to 1930, is based on leadership, character and sportsmanship. Past winners include Michael Phelps, Michael Johnson, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Carl Lewis, Edwin Moses, Michelle Kwan and Mark Spitz. Only two SEC football players have ever won the award -- Florida’s Tim Tebow in 2007 and Tennessee’s Peyton Manning in 1997.

“We are extremely proud that D.J. Williams has been named a finalist for the prestigious AAU James E. Sullivan Memorial Award,” Arkansas vice chancellor and athletic director Jeff Long said. “D.J. is a tremendous example of how a student-athlete can excel on the field, in the classroom and in the community. He has used the attention he garnered as one of the nation’s best football players as an opportunity to raise awareness of domestic abuse. His story continues to provide others with inspiration and hope as they face adversity in their own lives. D.J. represents the very best of the Razorback program and the University of Arkansas.”

Williams ended his Arkansas career this past season as part of the first team in school history to play in a BCS game. The Little Rock, Ark., native had 152 career receptions, the second-highest total in school history and the most by a non-wide receiver, and 1,855 receiving yards, which ranks eighth on UA’s all-time list. He won the Disney Spirit Award, which is given to the most inspirational player, team or figure in college football and was named the Mackey Award winner as the nation’s top tight end. He was the first Razorback to win either award.

Here's the list of the five finalists:

  • Regina Jaquess, USA water skiing
  • Evan Lysacek, USA men’s figure skating
  • Tahnee Robinson, Nevada women’s basketball
  • D.J. Williams, Arkansas football
  • Karrissa Wimberley, USA baton twirling

SEC combine notes

February, 25, 2011
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The offensive linemen and tight ends were some of the first players to get measured and weighed at the NFL combine, and four of the largest guys there were from the SEC.

According to Todd McShay and Kevin Weidl's combine report, Florida offensive guard Carl Johnson (361 pounds), Arkansas offensive tackle Ray Dominguez (334), Georgia offensive tackle Josh Davis (331) and Florida offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert (330) were four of the five heaviest offensive linemen at the combine. Davis also measured 6-foot-7 1/8, making him the third-tallest offensive lineman on hand.

Florida's Mike Pouncey (6-5, 303) and Georgia's Clint Boling (6-4 5/8, 308) looked especially fit during weigh-ins, according to the Scouts Inc. guys.

The heaviest tight end was South Carolina's Weslye Saunders, who was suspended and didn't play this past season. Saunders checked in at 6-5 and 270 pounds. He also had the longest arms of the tight ends (35 5/8 inches) and the second biggest hands (10 5/8).

Before his suspension, the Scouts Inc. guys had Saunders ranked as the second best tight end in the draft. The interview process will be huge for Saunders if he's going to move back up into the top part of the draft.

Arkansas' D.J. Williams was one of the smallest tight ends at 6-2 and 245 pounds.

The SEC's 25 best players: No. 17

February, 25, 2011
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He’s considered one of the best pass-catching tight ends in recent league history and checks in at No. 17 on our 2010 postseason countdown:

No. 17: D.J. Williams, TE, Sr., Arkansas

[+] EnlargeD.J. Williams
Nelson Chenault/US PresswireD.J. Williams won the Mackey Award, honoring him as the nation's top tight end.
2010 numbers/honors: Led Arkansas with 54 catches, ranking him sixth in the SEC. Williams finished with 627 receiving yards and four touchdown catches. He won the Mackey Award as the top tight end in college football and was named as a semifinalist for the James E. Sullivan Memorial Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s most outstanding amateur athlete. A third-team All-America selection by the Associated Press and a consensus first-team All-SEC selection.

Preseason ranking: Ranked No. 19 on the 2010 preseason countdown.

Making the case for Williams: His 54 catches last season were the fourth highest single-season total in school history. His 152 career receptions were the second most in school history and the most by a non-receiver. The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Williams zeroed in on becoming a better blocker as a junior and was able to accomplish that, although his receiving numbers dropped. But as a senior, his second season with quarterback Ryan Mallett, Williams re-established himself as the top tight end in the college game. He had 33 of his catches against SEC teams, ranking him sixth in the league among all players. Extremely effective as a runner after the catch, Williams is a nightmare matchup for defenses. He has the speed to get down the middle of the field and the toughness to catch the ball in crowds. In addition to winning the Mackey Award, Williams also received the Disney Spirit Award, which is given to the most inspirational figure in college football. His example and the way he carried himself as a leader were a big part of the Hogs’ run to their first Sugar Bowl in 30 years.

The rundown

No. 18: Alabama S Mark Barron

No. 19: Florida CB Janoris Jenkins

No. 20: Mississippi State LB Chris White

No. 21: LSU RB Stevan Ridley

No. 22: Mississippi State OT Derek Sherrod

No. 23: Alabama DE Marcell Dareus

No. 24: Kentucky LB Danny Trevathan

No. 25: Alabama LB Courtney Upshaw

Newton, Williams up for Sullivan Award

February, 17, 2011
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Former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and former Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams have been selected among the 12 semifinalists for the 81st annual AAU James E. Sullivan Memorial Award.

Presented annually since 1930, the Sullivan Award honors the nation’s most outstanding amateur athlete and is based on leadership, character and sportsmanship. Only two SEC football players have ever won the award -- Florida's Tim Tebow in 2007 and Tennessee's Peyton Manning in 1997. Other past winners include Michael Phelps, Michael Johnson, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Carl Lewis, Edwin Moses, Michelle Kwan and Mark Spitz.

Newton, who gave up his senior season to enter the NFL draft, was the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner in leading the Tigers to their first national championship since 1957. He accounted for 51 touchdowns in his only season at Auburn.

Williams was the Mackey Award winner as the top tight end in college football and also won the Disney Spirit Award, which is given to the most inspirational figure in college football. He ended his career at Arkansas with 152 receptions, the second-highest total in school history.

The 2010 winner will be announced at a ceremony in New York on March 14. Newton and Williams were the only two football players to make the list of semifinalists. Here's the entire list:
  • Blair Brown, Penn State women’s volleyball
  • Jimmer Fredette, BYU men’s basketball
  • Robert Hoadley, UNC Greensboro men’s golf
  • Regina Jaquess, USA water skiing
  • Alix Klineman, Stanford women’s volleyball
  • Evan Lysacek, USA Men’s figure skating
  • Maya Moore, Connecticut women’s basketball
  • Cam Newton, Auburn football
  • Elena Pirozhkova, USA women’s wrestling
  • Tahnee Robinson, Nevada women’s basketball
  • D.J. Williams, Arkansas football
  • Karrissa Wimberley, USA baton twirling

Day 2 at the Senior Bowl

January, 26, 2011
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The Scouts Inc. crew of Todd McShay, Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl weigh in on Day 2 of the Senior Bowl practices and how some of the SEC guys fared:
  • Muench’s top performer for the South was Tennessee tight end Luke Stocker, who showed good toughness and was able to wall off blockers. But Muench said catching the ball over the middle was where Stocker made his mark. He made a one-handed catch behind the linebackers and in front of the safeties. He took a big hit, but still held on. Muench likes how physical the 6-foot-5 Stocker is, the way he makes plays in traffic and uses his frame to shield linebackers and generally the way he works over the middle. Muench said Stocker caught everything Tuesday.
  • Weidl’s top performer for the South was Georgia offensive tackle Clint Boling. Weidl said Boling projects as a guard, but lined up at tackle and did well during the one-on-one drills. Weidl said Boling moved his feet well, showed some athleticism on a screen play and also demonstrated good inline power and strength as a run-blocker. Weidl thinks Boling helped himself with a good overall showing on Tuesday with the way he held up at tackle.
  • LSU linebacker Kelvin Sheppard has been impressive with his straight-line speed, especially for his size (6-3, 240 pounds), but takes too long to regain his momentum when he has to change directions quickly. He’s quicker than he is fast.
  • Auburn’s Lee Ziemba had some issues lining up inside at guard. Bending at the knees was a problem, which affected his pad level.
  • Arkansas’ D.J. Williams has been impressive with the way he’s caught the ball and has also showcased his athleticism, but the Scouts Inc. crew thinks he’s probably more of a fullback than a tight end in the NFL.
  • Weidl said Alabama offensive tackle James Carpenter showed good feet in pass sets.
  • Mississippi State offensive tackle Derek Sherrod was beaten by Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller on an outside-in double move during a one-on-one pass-rushing drill.
  • Sherrod’s wingspan was measured at 83 7/8 inches, the longest of any player at the Senior Bowl. His arms were measured at 35 inches, which was also the longest. His hands were 11 inches, which was tied for second.
  • Florida offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert (329 pounds), Arkansas offensive lineman DeMarcus Love (318 pounds) and Ziemba (317 pounds) are among the five heaviest players at the Senior Bowl.

Sherrod starts slowly at Senior Bowl

January, 25, 2011
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The Scouts Inc. team of Todd McShay, Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl are breaking down the prospects at the Senior Bowl this week, and here are a few of their observations from Day 1 concerning former SEC players:
  • Mississippi State offensive tackle Derek Sherrod, who's considered a first-round prospect by some, struggled with lateral agility and keeping a consistent pad level, according to McShay. Arizona's Brooks Reed twice beat Sherrod with quickness, once to the outside and another time with a double move, exploiting what the Scouts Inc. team described as a lack of mobility and tightness in hips.
  • The Scouts Inc. team noted that Mississippi State defensive end Pernell McPhee showcased his power, but didn't demonstrate a lot of speed. They question whether or not he has the ability to be a pass-rusher on the edge in the NFL.
  • Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams measured at 6-foot-2 and weighed in at 236 pounds. Judging by those numbers alone, McShay thinks Williams projects as an H-back in the NFL or bigger receiver and not necessarily as a traditional tight end. McShay said of Williams, "He'll have to line up in the slot or at fullback in the passing game to create some favorable matchups, but he does not look big enough or strong enough to hold up as an inline blocker, which weakens his value."

Fans pick SEC 'All-Bowl Team'

January, 24, 2011
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The fans of the SEC have spoken and picked their SEC "All Bowl Team," honoring the top individual performers in bowl games this season.

It's pretty close to the All-SEC bowl team we selected a couple of weeks ago.

Anyway, here's the SEC Nation's "All-Bowl Team":

Offense:
QB - Cam Newton, Auburn
RB - Michael Dyer, Auburn
RB - Knile Davis, Arkansas
WR - Terrence Toliver, LSU
WR - Julio Jones, Alabama
TE - DJ Williams, Arkansas
OL - Derrek Sherrod, Mississippi State
OL - Lee Ziemba, Auburn
OL - Joseph Barksdale, LSU
K - Wes Byrum, Auburn
KR - Patrick Peterson, LSU

Defense:
DL - Nick Fairley, Auburn
DL - Drake Nevis, LSU
DL - Pernell McPhee, Mississippi State
LB - Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
LB - Josh Bynes, Auburn
LB - Kelvin Sheppard, LSU
LB - Nick Reveiz , Tennessee
CB - T'Sharvan Bell, Auburn
CB - Patrick Peterson, LSU
S - Ahmad Black, Florida
S - Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina
P - Chas Henry, Florida

Here's a link to the ESPN.com All-SEC bowl team. One of the chief differences is that we picked Mississippi State's Chris Relf as our quarterback. We also tabbed LSU freshman Tyrann Mathieu over his veteran cornerback teammate, Patrick Peterson.

The players making both teams were Auburn running back Mike Dyer, LSU receiver Terrence Toliver, Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams, Auburn offensive lineman Lee Ziemba, Mississippi State offensive lineman Derek Sherrod, Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw, Tennessee linebacker Nick Reveiz, Florida safety Ahmad Black and Auburn kicker Wes Byrum.

The 2010 All-Senior, All-SEC team

January, 21, 2011
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Thanks to a good idea from Scott in Vermont last week in the SEC mailbag, we’re rolling out our 2010 All-SEC team, honoring seniors only.

Obviously, the league was dominated by talented underclassmen this season, but there were also several seniors who had big years. As you can see, it was a stretch at some of the positions to find guys who genuinely had All-SEC-caliber seasons.

Greg McElroy
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesAlabama's Greg McElroy had arguably the best season of any senior signal-caller in the SEC.


There were several tough calls, too. Kentucky quarterback Mike Hartline had the best season of his career. But Alabama’s Greg McElroy was fourth nationally in passing efficiency, finishing with 20 touchdown passes and only five interceptions.

It was tough leaving LSU’s Terrence Toliver off at receiver, but Tennessee’s Denarius Moore had nine touchdown catches and averaged 20.9 yards per catch. Kentucky’s Chris Matthews also had nine touchdown catches and was fourth in the league with 61 receptions.

The linebacker spot was also loaded with outstanding senior players this season. Georgia’s Akeem Dent, Auburn’s Josh Bynes, Auburn’s Craig Stevens, Mississippi State’s K.J. Wright, Vanderbilt’s John Stokes and Tennessee’s Nick Reveiz were all deserving, but there was only three spots. Before anybody questions the selection of Ole Miss' Jonathan Cornell, he had 14 tackles for loss in 11 games.

There were only a handful of senior defensive backs that made big impacts this season in the SEC.

Here’s what we came up with:

OFFENSE

  • QB – Greg McElroy, Alabama
  • RB – Derrick Locke, Kentucky
  • RB – Mario Fannin, Auburn
  • WR – Denarius Moore, Tennessee
  • WR – Chris Matthews, Kentucky
  • TE – D.J. Williams, Arkansas
  • OL – Derek Sherod, Mississippi State
  • OL – Lee Ziemba, Auburn
  • OL – James Carpenter, Alabama
  • OL – DeMarcus Love, Arkansas
  • C – Ryan Pugh, Auburn
DEFENSE

  • DL – Drake Nevis, LSU
  • DL – Jerrell Powe, Ole Miss
  • DL – Antoine Carter, Auburn
  • DL – Pernell McPhee, Mississippi State
  • LB – Kelvin Sheppard, LSU
  • LB – Chris White, Mississippi State
  • LB – Jonathan Cornell, Ole Miss
  • DB – Ahmad Black, Florida
  • DB – Zac Etheridge, Auburn
  • DB – Johnny Brown, Ole Miss
  • DB – Rudell Crim, Arkansas
SPECIAL TEAMS

  • PK – Josh Jasper, LSU
  • P – Chas Henry, Florida
  • KR – Demond Washington, Auburn

SEC sends 22 to Under Armour Senior Bowl

January, 18, 2011
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The SEC is sending 22 players to the Under Armour Senior Bowl, which is the most in the country.

The newest additions from the SEC to the South roster were Auburn safety Zac Etheridge, Georgia offensive lineman Clint Boling and Kentucky running back Derrick Locke.

Florida and Mississippi State lead all SEC teams with four representatives each in the annual senior showcase event, which will be played on Jan. 29 and kick off at 4 p.m. ET on NFL Network from Mobile's Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Representing the Gators will be Ahmad Black, Chas Henry, Mike Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert. The four Bulldogs headed to Mobile are Chris White, K.J. Wright, Derek Sherrod and Pernell McPhee.

Here's a team-by-team list of the SEC players in the game:

ALABAMA
ARKANSAS
AUBURN
  • Linebacker Josh Bynes
  • Safety Zac Etheridge
  • Offensive tackle Lee Ziemba
FLORIDA
  • Safety Ahmad Black
  • Punter Chas Henry
  • Offensive guard Marcus Gilbert
  • Center Mike Pouncey
GEORGIA
  • Offensive tackle Clint Boling
KENTUCKY
LSU
  • Kicker Josh Jasper
  • Defensive tackle Drake Nevis
  • Linebacker Kelvin Sheppard
MISSISSIPPI STATE
  • Defensive end Pernell McPhee
  • Offensive tackle Derek Sherrod
  • Linebacker Chris White
  • Linebacker K.J. Wright
TENNESSEE

Video: Arkansas TE D.J. Williams

January, 5, 2011
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Brian Bennett talks to Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams about the Sugar Bowl.

Sugar Bowl shaping up as shootout

January, 4, 2011
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NEW ORLEANS -- A little more than five minutes into the Allstate Sugar Bowl, it looks like we could be in for a wild night.

Ohio State scored after a long run by Terrelle Pryor resulted in a fumble and recovery for a touchdown, while Arkansas answered on a pass to D.J. Williams that looked like a touchdown. But after he was ruled down, Ryan Mallett threw a 17-yard touchdown pass.

Arkansas could have scored on the very first play of the game, but Mallett and Adams just missed on a play-action deep strike. The Hogs looked nervous early, but on their second drive they found a lot of running room for Knile Davis, and that opened up the passing game.

On the flip side, Pryor was able to pick up two third downs on Ohio State's first possession, and Boom Herron was running over Arkansas defenders. Both defenses are at a disadvantage right now, and we could be looking at a high-scoring shootout.

SEC players in the Senior Bowl

January, 3, 2011
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Here’s a tentative list of the SEC players scheduled to play in the 2011 Senior Bowl. Players could be added and/or subtracted to this list as we get closer to the Jan. 29 game in Mobile, Ala.

ALABAMA
ARKANSAS
AUBURN
  • Linebacker Josh Bynes
  • Offensive tackle Lee Ziemba
FLORIDA
  • Safety Ahmad Black
  • Punter Chas Henry
  • Offensive guard Marcus Gilbert
  • Center Mike Pouncey
GEORGIA
  • Offensive tackle Clint Boling
KENTUCKY
LSU
  • Defensive tackle Drake Nevis
  • Linebacker Kelvin Sheppard
MISSISSIPPI STATE
  • Defensive end Pernell McPhee
  • Offensive tackle Derek Sherrod
  • Linebacker K.J. Wright
OLE MISS
  • Defensive tackle Jerrell Powe
TENNESSEE
Arkansas has one of the most balanced offenses in the nation and is riding a six-game winning streak.

Ohio State is ranked near the top of the nation in just about all of the defensive categories, but is plenty potent offensively, too. Ohio State has won five in a row, averaging 39.2 points during that stretch.

They meet up on Tuesday night in New Orleans in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, a Big Ten-SEC matchup that’s sure to reverberate throughout both conferences.

SEC blogger Chris Low and Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg take a closer look at this battle of the Hogs and the Buckeyes.

[+] EnlargeArkansas running back Knile Davis
AP Photo/Danny JohnstonArkansas running back Knile Davis has rushed for 889 yards in his last six games.
Chris Low: Adam, I’ll start with a concession. The Eastern Division this season in the SEC was brutal. Unless Kentucky can defeat Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl, four of the six teams will finish with losing records. The division champion, South Carolina, finished with five losses. So don’t judge Arkansas based on the way the bowl season started for the SEC with Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina all going down in flames. The Hogs were the second-best team in the league when the regular season ended. They can score with anybody in the country. They run it as well as they pass it, and they’re much improved defensively. The SEC came back strong on New Year’s Day. How did the Big Ten do? Better yet, how have the Buckeyes fared lately in bowl games against the SEC?

Adam Rittenberg: Chris, you know how much I'd love to make a witty comeback, a Cam Newton money reference or talk about the academic standards in the SEC, but I've got nothing. The Big Ten was embarrassed Saturday, especially in two of the three losses to the SEC. Michigan State's performance was the most shocking, while Michigan didn't show up again and Penn State let a mediocre Florida team hang around. I caught up with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany on Sunday, and he pretty much conceded defeat to the SEC, saying, "They have the strongest football-playing conference. We've had some competitive success, but they have the edge. Until we beat them, they deserve the edge." That pretty much sums up my thoughts. We all know Ohio State is 0-9 against the SEC in bowl games, a shocking stat. But Arkansas is a newcomer to a BCS bowl, while Ohio State has been there in each of the previous five seasons. How do you think the Hogs will handle the spotlight?

CL: Granted, Arkansas is new to the BCS, but the Hogs aren’t new to the spotlight. They faced Alabama when the Crimson Tide were No. 1 earlier this season and Auburn when the Tigers were a top-10 team. The Hogs know all about playing in big games. They beat four teams this season that finished in the Top 25 of the final BCS standings. To me, the most impressive thing about the Hogs’ season is the way they picked themselves up off the ground after that September home loss to Alabama, didn’t feel sorry for themselves and played their way back into BCS bowl contention. What about the Buckeyes? Any more “back to the future” suspensions coming?

AR: Yeah, how about that? Nothing like a little deferred punishment to add flavor to this game. I'm really interested to see how the suspended players and the rest of the Buckeyes respond after such a major distraction. It could bring them together for a critical game or you could see some fracturing, although I doubt it. Ohio State boasts a large and decorated senior class that will do all it can to make sure the players' heads are in the right place Tuesday night. People knock the Buckeyes for their national title game losses, but they know how to handle the BCS spotlight and showed it last year in Pasadena. The Buckeyes will need their seniors in a big way in this game, especially guys on the defensive side like Cameron Heyward, Brian Rolle, Ross Homan, Chimdi Chekwa and Jermale Hines. What's the biggest key for Arkansas' offense against one of the nation's top defenses?

CL: As long as those two Big Ten officiating crews that worked the New Era Pinstripe and Franklin American Mortgage Music City bowls don’t show up, the Hogs should be all right. Nah, seriously, the Hogs haven’t had any weaknesses offensively the second half of the season. They struggled to run the ball and protect leads earlier in the season, which cost them in the Alabama game. But the emergence of Knile Davis has been huge for Arkansas. He rushed for 1,183 yards, and 889 of those yards came in the last six games. At 220 pounds, he has breakaway speed, and can also grind out the tough yards. Ryan Mallett will spread the ball around, too. The Hogs have five different players with at least 500 receiving yards, including one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the country in D.J. Williams. My question is this: If this game is close in the fourth quarter, do the Ohio State players start thinking, “Here we go again?”

[+] EnlargeOhio State's Ross Homan, (51), Brian Rolle (36)
AP Photo/Jay LaPreteOhio State linebackers Ross Homan (51) and Brian Rolle (36) will be counted on to limit a fast start from the Arkansas passing game.
AR: Gotta love the Big Ten officials. I'm sure they'll be receiving a few letters from the state of Tennessee, or is all the hate mail directed at the Low household? SEC fans are, well, a little extreme. Ohio State has been better in the fourth quarter the last two seasons, and its recent struggles against the SEC have come earlier, in the second quarter. So it's important for Ohio State to prevent a fast start from the Hogs. The Buckeyes have been a slow-starting team this year, but they've been very good in the second half of games. Williams has to be a major concern, and Ohio State needs linebackers Brian Rolle and Ross Homan to perform well. Let's talk about the Ohio State offense and the Arkansas defense. What must the Hogs do to slow down Terrelle Pryor and Dan Herron? Any tattoo artists on the Razorbacks' sideline?

CL: One of the first things the Hogs did this season was make sure they got more speed on the field defensively, and moving Anthony Leon from safety to linebacker helped them do that. Arkansas is good up front and will play several different players. Linebacker Jerry Franklin has quietly had an excellent season. The Hogs were much better at not giving up the big plays this season, which will be key in this game. They want to make the Buckeyes drive the ball and not give up anything easy. If they can hold Ohio State below 28 points, I think Arkansas wins this game. The Hogs don’t mind playing in shootout-type games. In fact, that’s their comfort level. And let’s face it: There’s nothing comfortable about facing an SEC team in a bowl game for Ohio State. The drought grows to 10 games and counting. Final: Arkansas 34, Ohio State 24.

AR: C-Low, I agree that the higher the score gets, the better Arkansas' chances are of winning the Sugar Bowl. But I think you're underestimating Ohio State's defense in this game. A lot of teams move the ball against the Buckeyes, but it's extremely tough to score touchdowns against them. This is the ultimate bend-but-don't-break defense. I see Mallett and the Hogs moving the ball between the 20s, but they'll have a tough time in the red zone. Dan Herron has a big game against a mediocre Arkansas rushing defense, and Ohio State ends The Streak. Final: Ohio State 24, Arkansas 21.

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