SEC: Da'Rick Rogers

Now that we've checked out last season's 3,000-yard passers and 1,000-yard rushers from the SEC, it's time to look at which players ended the year in the 1,000-yard receiving club.

Before last season, we looked at seven receivers we thought could reach the 1,000-yard mark in 2012. At season's end, the SEC had five players reach 1,000 receiving yards. That's three more than in 2011.

Here's a look at how the seven wide receivers we looked at before the season did in 2012:

1. Emory Blake, Auburn: Without much of an offense to speak of on the Plains last fall, Blake was the only bright spot in the receiving corps. He led the team with 50 catches for 789 yards and three touchdowns. He was Auburn's only player to catch more than 18 passes last fall.

2. Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas: He certainly made us look really good in 2012. Hamilton was one of the best receivers in the league, catching 90 passes for a league-high 1,335 yards and recorded five touchdowns. He also led the SEC by averaging 111.2 receiving yards per game.

3. Justin Hunter, Tennessee: Hunter seemed to get better as the year progressed. He seemed hesitant at first after coming off his knee injury, but his knee didn't seem to bother him after the first few games, and he finished the year leading the Vols with 73 catches for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns.

4. Tavarres King, Georgia: Quarterback Aaron Murray had a lot of targets to throw to in 2012, but King proved to be his most reliable. King led the Bulldogs with 42 catches for 950 yards and nine touchdowns. His 22.6 yards per catch weren't too shabby, either.

5. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt: He could have easily forgone his senior season with the year he had in 2012. Matthews was arguably Vanderbilt's best offensive weapon, leading the SEC with 94 catches and registering 1,323 yards with eight touchdowns. He also collected seven 100-yard receiving games.

6. Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee: Rogers might have cracked the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight year, but he was dismissed from Tennessee's football team before the season. He ended his college career at Tennessee Tech, catching 61 passes for 893 yards and 10 touchdowns.

7. Ryan Swope, Texas A&M: Swope ended his Aggies career with a very productive senior season. He was second on the team with 72 catches for 913 yards and led the Aggies with eight touchdowns. He had five 100-yard receiving games last fall.

Who was overlooked:
  • Amari Cooper, Alabama: He wasn't even supposed to be the Crimson Tide's best freshman receiver, but he looked like the league's best receiver during the latter part of the season. He finished the year with 59 catches for 1,000 yards and was second in the SEC with 11 receiving touchdowns. He registered 100 yards receiving in four of Alabama's final five games.
  • Mike Evans, Texas A&M: Even with Swope lining up with him, Evans broke onto the SEC scene during his freshman year with a monster season. He led the Aggies with 82 receptions for 1,105 yards and also had five touchdowns. He caught at least four passes in all 13 of Texas A&M's games.

SEC lunch links

September, 12, 2012
Making the rounds on a Wednesday:

Tennessee finds toughness and depth

September, 1, 2012

ATLANTA -- By the time the first quarter finally came to an end Friday night, Derek Dooley thought it was halftime.

The quarter, which lasted more than an hour and a half, was that long and that exhausting for Tennessee’s coach.

That type of fatigue from a coach usually means his team is just as tired, or worse. But not Friday.

For a team that could barely make it through a full game in 2011, Tennessee pushed through like Dooley had never seen, and the Vols cruised to a 35-21 victory over NC State in Game 1 of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff inside the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

A first quarter such as Friday’s would have sent last season’s Vols into rollover mode, but this team was different. After jumping ahead 22-7 in the first quarter, Tennessee was able to hold on to and build on its lead in front of the announced crowd of 55,529.

Even when the mistakes came and NC State cut Tennessee’s lead to eight before halftime, the Vols rallied to control the second half, thanks to some grit and some much-needed depth.

“That was a good step for our team,” Dooley said. “I said this at the beginning of the year: We’re going to have to learn how to grit through four quarters of football. We’re going to be in a lot of games this year, and that was a good start. I was proud of them.”

The first quarter was full of explosive plays from the Vols and featured a stretch in which they scored 16 points in 38 seconds. But the second was sloppy. NC State rushed back with a 67-yard touchdown drive, while Tennessee punted twice and saw its final drive end with quarterback Tyler Bray fumbling at the goal line on a quarterback sneak.

You could feel the momentum shift as both teams went into the locker rooms, but Tennessee adjusted, physically and mentally.

The staff rotated bodies all night to keep guys fresh, and it showed in the second half. The offensive line saw seven to maybe eight players get in. Three running backs played, with third-teamer Marlin Lane leading all ball carriers with 75 yards, including a long of 42, on nine attempts.

Tennessee threw as many defenders as it could out on the field, not just to keep guys fresh but because it had the bodies and talent to do it. For once in Dooley’s Tennessee life, depth wasn’t an issue, and it powered the Vols in the second half.

[+] EnlargeMarlin Lane
Daniel Shirey/US PresswireMarlin Lane had nine carries for 75 yards in Tennessee's win over NC State.
Wide receiver Justin Hunter, who played in his first game since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament early last season, said he hadn’t seen a Tennessee team play like the Vols did in the second half.

“Playing for 60 minutes was a problem that we used to have in the past,” said Hunter, who caught a game-high nine passes and had 73 receiving yards. “For us to come out here in a big environment and play for 60 minutes like this, I think we did great.”

Just look at third downs. Tennessee was 3-of-9 on them in the first half but was 6-of-10 in the second. That’s how you win games and that’s how you tire out opponents.

“Rotating running backs, linemen and receivers is going to keep fresh legs,” Lane said. “With this fast-paced offense, we’re going to keep wearing defenses down. With fresh legs on the field and a tired defense, it’s going to be [some] pretty great offensive drives that we can sustain.”

It also helps when you have a thoroughbred alongside Hunter at receiver. Junior-college transfer Cordarrelle Patterson more than made up for the loss of Da’Rick Rogers by having a true breakout game. He absolutely burned All-American corner David Amerson on a bump-and-go for his first touchdown -- a 41-yarder -- and shook/sprinted past the entire Wolfpack defense on a 67-yard touchdown run.

He finished the night with 165 total yards and two touchdowns on eight touches. Quite the opening night for someone Dooley didn’t think totally grasped the playbook.

“I’m not sure he ran the right route,” Dooley said. “That’s the beauty of Bray: He don’t care; he’s gonna let it fly. That pretty much summed it up. Run the wrong route, Bray rewards him, touchdown.”

But somehow he found a way, just like the rest of Dooley’s football team Friday. And when Patterson was shut down in the second half, the Vols tried to grind it out or Bray found other targets. There always seemed to be options.

The defense did its job by abusing the Wolfpack up front, with its revamped -- and much more intimidating -- image. As the Vols pressed, NC State quarterback Mike Glennon flinched and threw his way to three second-half interceptions.

It seemed like every other play, someone else -- starter or not -- was making a big play on defense for the Vols.

Tennessee wasn’t perfect but it was solid. Now, it’s time to build off Friday’s transformation.

“It’s one game,” Dooley said. “All that matters is we’re 1-0. We have to go clean up a ton of mistakes and go on to the next week and get focused on the next week. It really doesn’t mean anything other than we won the first game.”

Welcome to the Georgia Dome

August, 31, 2012
ATLANTA -- And we’re off in one of the country’s best college football cities and one of the sport’s best venues.

We’re just about ready to get things started here at the first game of this weekend’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff, with Tennessee taking on NC State inside the Georgia Dome.

TGIF, indeed!

This should be one of the more exciting games of the first weekend, especially with the matchup between Tennessee’s passing game and the Wolfpack’s secondary. The interesting storyline is that both groups are down solid players.

Da’Rick Rogers has made his exit from Tennessee’s football team, while NC State cornerback C.J. Wilson, who has started 29 games in his career, is dealing with an NCAA eligibility issue.

The good news for the Wolfpack is that junior cornerback Dontae Johnson had already beaten out Wilson before he was ruled out of Friday night's game.

Oh, and cornerback David Amerson, who led the ACC in interceptions last year, is still around for NC State, and he might be a future first-round pick.

It’s not like the Vols are down and out at wide receiver without Rogers, who led the SEC in receptions (67) last year and was second in receiving yards (1,040). Justin Hunter is back after his ACL injury that he suffered early last season. At 100 percent, he might be the SEC’s top deep threat. Helping him will be junior college transfer Cordarrelle Patterson, who received a boatload of hype heading into fall camp.

Highlight reels show that Tennessee should be fine in the passing game, especially with quarterback Tyler Bray slinging the ball, but coach Derek Dooley’s still a little worried. He expects Hunter to be a bit rusty in his return and isn’t sure if Patterson will have the breakout performance fans are banking on against NC State’s talented secondary.

“I’m very concerned because we have very little experience and they’ve got a lot of experience,” Dooley said earlier this week. “What those guys do best is they make you pay for any mistakes, whether it’s a poor route, whether it’s an inaccurate football, a bobbled ball. Whatever it is, they’re going to make you pay.”

Bray’s natural ability will play a big part in helping limit the mistakes. He’s got all the skill to make his guys look good, but he’s had issues with the mental part of the game in the past.

Both teams are trying to prove that they can compete in their respective conferences. Tonight we’ll get a glimpse of things to come for both squads.

What to watch in the SEC: Week 1

August, 30, 2012
It's here.

After hundreds of days of having to watch and follow inferior sports, take up new hobbies and do extra cute things with your better half just to pass the time, we are finally here.

It's college football season, again! The helmets are perfectly shined. The jerseys are hung so neatly and ironed so sweetly. You've gone to the store in advance to prep for the artery-bursting feast that awaits this weekend. Some are even lucky enough to be tailgating as we speak!

Cue up the bands, the grills and the fryers and the big-screen TVs. It's football season, and here's what to watch in the SEC this week:

[+] EnlargeMarcus Lattimore
C. Michael Bergen/The State/MCT/Getty ImagesSouth Carolina's Marcus Lattimore is one of three star running backs to keep an eye on this weekend.
1. Running backs return: If not for Texas A&M’s game getting postponed, we’d get to see three elite running backs returning to the field after injuries cut their 2011 seasons short. Christine Michael's debut will have to wait, but we’ll still get to see how South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore and Arkansas’ Knile Davis do with the ball in their hands. When they’re 100 percent, it’s hard to find two better running backs out there.

2. Quarterback battles: Florida and Ole Miss still don’t know who their starting quarterbacks will be. Florida coach Will Muschamp said Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel will alternate quarters to start Saturday’s game, while Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze anticipates playing both Bo Wallace and Barry Brunetti in the opener. This could be the final round of competition at both schools.

3. Questionable offensive lines: So many offensive lines have questions entering the fall. Keep an eye on Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. Auburn and Georgia are working in a few new parts, while Florida is hoping most of the parts from last year’s line have improved. Mizzou has all sorts of injury issues and Kentucky, Ole Miss and Vandy are just hoping to stay healthy because depth is an issue for all three.

4. More passing yards: Last year, SEC quarterbacks were laughed at. It seems like that won’t be the case in 2012. Aaron Murray, AJ McCarron, Tyler Bray and Tyler Wilson could all throw for 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns, while Missouri’s James Franklin has arguably the best pass-run ability in the league. Vanderbilt’s Jordan Rodgers is a year older and wiser, while Zach Mettenberger is a major upgrade for LSU. If Connor Shaw learns to be more of a pass-first player, he could have a big year.

5. Athletic multitasking: Two players to keep both eyes on this weekend are Georgia’s Malcolm Mitchell and Ole Miss’ Randall Mackey. Mitchell will start at cornerback, but Mark Richt would like to play him at wide receiver and possibly have him return punts and kickoffs. He certainly is talented enough to do it, but I hope he gets a lot of sleep and loads up on 5-hour Energy. Mackey will start at running back, but since he’s played both quarterback and receiver for the Rebels, his coaches would like to move him around some. Expect him to line up out wide and as a Wildcat quarterback against Central Arkansas.

6. First days on the job: There will be a lot of debuts this weekend. Freeze will coach his first game at Ole Miss, Mettenberger takes over as LSU’s quarterback and Kiehl Frazier makes his first start at quarterback for Auburn. Freeze isn’t sure what he’ll see, but he’s looking to bring the Rebels’ fan base some much-needed excitement. Mettenberger has bided his time at both Georgia and LSU, but is finally the man. And Frazier can now call Auburn his team. He gets a very suspect defense in Clemson to start.

7. Alabama’s defense: There’s no question that Alabama lost a lot of talent from last year’s historic defense, but the thought is that the Tide will do more reloading than rebuilding. It will get a good first test against Michigan’s high-flying spread offense led by potential Heisman candidate in quarterback Denard Robinson. Nick Saban is still looking for key leaders to emerge, and he thinks he’ll finally find them come Saturday’s game. The key for this defense is getting out faster than it did when it was in a similar situation in 2010.

8. Tennessee’s passing game vs. NC State’s pass defense: Derek Dooley entered the season with a potent passing game, but the loss of Da’Rick Rogers suddenly makes that receiving depth not so attractive. Justin Hunter might be a little rusty and he’ll have a matchup with another potential first-rounder in corner David Amerson. We don’t know what Cordarrelle Patterson will do and he’ll battle Dontae Johnson, who beat out the talented C.J. Johnson before he was ruled ineligible. Dooley said he’s “very concerned” about his receivers, and this battle could determine Friday’s outcome.

9. Vanderbilt’s swagger: Thursday night is a chance for Vandy to make a strong statement to the rest of the SEC. Some are questioning if Vandy will build off of last year’s rebound or revert back to its old ways. The Dores don’t have to beat South Carolina, but they do have to show that same confidence they had last year and that they won’t back down.

10. Possible suspensions: It wouldn’t be opening day without some sort of controversy. Georgia starters Bacarri Rambo and Alec Ogletree both reportedly failed drug tests this spring, and suspensions were expected. But Richt has been very quiet about it and has told everyone to wait until Saturday. Can’t wait …

Week 1 in the SEC

August, 27, 2012
Here's a quick primer as we enter Week 1:


[+] EnlargeMarcus Lattimore
Jim Dedmon/Icon SMISouth Carolina fans will surely be eager to watch the return of star RB Marcus Lattimore on Thursday.
No. 9 South Carolina at Vanderbilt, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: It's our first look at South Carolina star running back Marcus Lattimore since he injured his knee last season against Mississippi State. Is he back to his old self? Lattimore had a 52-yard touchdown catch and a 22-yard touchdown run last season against Vanderbilt to break open that game.

Texas A&M at Louisiana Tech (in Shreveport, La.), 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU: It's the kind of game no coach in the SEC would hand-pick as an opener. The Aggies don't have a whole lot to gain, but they have plenty to lose against their WAC foes. Plus, the game is being played in Louisiana Tech's back yard.


Tennessee vs. North Carolina State (in Atlanta), 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU: The Vols have the loss of All-SEC receiver Da'Rick Rogers to deal with, not to mention a talented N.C. State secondary led by All-America cornerback David Amerson, who had 13 interceptions last season. It's a game Tennessee (and third-year coach Derek Dooley) desperately need to win.


Buffalo at No. 6 Georgia, Noon ET, SEC Network: The Bulldogs get a tune-up before going on the road the second week to face Missouri. The big question: How many Georgia players will be suspended and for how many games?

Bowling Green at No. 23 Florida, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN: The Florida quarterback competition will continue into the season with Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel both playing in the opener. It may be two or three games into the season before the Gators settle on their guy.

Auburn vs. No. 14 Clemson (in Atlanta), 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: Both teams will be without key players. Auburn center Reese Dismukes was suspended after being arrested over the weekend on a public intoxication charge, while Clemson will be without All-America receiver Sammy Watkins for the first two games. Watkins was arrested on drug-related charges in May.

North Texas at No. 3 LSU, 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU: The Zach Mettenberger era begins in Baton Rouge. And while Les Miles is always going to demand that the Tigers commit to the run, he's also saying they will open up the passing game this season and give Mettenberger a chance to put that big right arm to good use.

Central Arkansas at Ole Miss, 7 p.m. ET, Pay-per-view: Ole Miss fans will want to make sure they have their updated rosters handy for this game. The Rebels are going to play a bunch of new faces, and a lot of those new faces will be freshmen.

Jackson State at Mississippi State, 7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net: The Bulldogs get a chance to flex their muscles a bit before Auburn comes to town the second week. It will be interesting to see how different the offense looks with Tyler Russell stepping in as the full-time starter at quarterback. He has a senior-laden receiving corps.

Jacksonville State at No. 10 Arkansas, 7 p.m. ET, Pay-per-view: Arkansas running back Knile Davis tweeted "still got it" after getting his first live contact work in last Friday's mock game, which was closed to the public. We all get to see Davis carry the ball for the first time in more than a year on Saturday night when the Hogs kick it off at home.

Southeastern Louisiana at Missouri, 7 p.m. ET, Pay-per-view: It's the first of three straight home games for the Tigers, who get to show off junior quarterback James Franklin and his surgically repaired right throwing shoulder. It's also the debut of prized freshman receiver Dorial Green-Beckham.

No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 8 Michigan (in Arlington Texas), 8 p.m. ET, ABC: The Crimson Tide are used to starting the season in these prime-time affairs against nationally ranked opponents. Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson will put pressure on an Alabama defense that had to replace a lot of talented players. But it's also a defense that had a ton of talent waiting in the wings.


Kentucky at Louisville, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN: The Wildcats lost last season at home to the Cardinals, ending a four-game winning streak against their in-state rivals. As openers go, this is a huge one for third-year coach Joker Phillips and is sure to shape the season one way or the other.

SEC power rankings: Week 1

August, 27, 2012
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

We are just days away from the college football season, so it's time to unveil our first batch of power rankings for the regular season.

A lot goes into our power rankings. It isn't just about how strong teams are right now. We look into our crystal ball as well to get a good read on how each team will finish the season -- before it has even started.

For each school, we look at talent coming back, coaching, roster changes, how teams have looked in practice now compared to the spring and uniform style. Well, maybe not that last part, but you get the point.

Here are our season-opening SEC power rankings for 2012:

1. LSU: The gap between the Tigers and Alabama got a lot smaller after Tyrann Mathieu's dismissal, so this could be viewed as 1A and 1B. Mathieu is a big loss for LSU on defense and special teams, but there is just way too much talent for this team not to make another title run. LSU's offense still has one of the best/deepest running games around and gets an upgrade with quarterback Zach Mettenberger. LSU also might have the best offensive line/defensive line combo in the nation.

2. Alabama: The defending champs lost a lot of star power on defense, but that unit should still be pretty darn good this fall. There could be some growing pains at times, but the Tide should still have one of the league's best defensive units this fall. The offense might be better and more balanced this fall, even without Trent Richardson. There is a good stable of backs, the nation's top offensive line and quarterback AJ McCarron has a little more explosiveness and athleticism to work with at receiver.

3. Arkansas: Bobby Petrino is gone, and that could be tough for the Razorbacks to overcome in the long run, but the team has bought in to what interim coach John L. Smith is saying. We still need to see how this team -- and Smith -- acts when adversity enters the picture. The offense has two of the league's best in quarterback Tyler Wilson and running back Knile Davis, who is back from a serious ankle injury. Wilson lost three NFL receivers, but his receiving corps doesn't lack talent. Questions still surround the defense, which lacked depth last season.

4. Georgia: A load of talent returns on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Aaron Murray could be a Heisman candidate, while linebacker Jarvis Jones might be one the country's best players, regardless of position. Isaiah Crowell is gone, but the Bulldogs seem happy with their stable of running backs and were probably going to run by committee again this season anyway. The defense will take a hit with a couple of key stars suspended to start the year, but this group has elite status. The schedule is set up again for a run to Atlanta.

5. South Carolina: The Gamecocks return a filthy defense headlined by sophomore defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. The defensive line should be one of the best in the league with Clowney and Devin Taylor on the ends and Kelcy Quarles coming back in the middle. The secondary has issues, especially with Akeem Auguste going down, but safety D.J. Swearinger and hybrid safety/linebacker DeVonte Holloman are studs. Marcus Lattimore is one of the nation's best, and he appears to be 100 percent after his ACL injury. The hope is that quarterback Connor Shaw will help take some pressure off of him.

6. Florida: The Gators return a fierce defense that should be strong across the board. End/tackle Dominique Easley is coming off an ACL injury, but has the ability to be one of the top linemen in this league. But for Will Muschamp, his second-year success will be determined by what the offense can do. Questions are everywhere, starting with a quarterback battle that isn't close to being settled. There are unproven pieces at receiver and the offensive line, which returns most of last year's parts, struggled mightily in 2011.

7. Tennessee: The Vols have a chance to challenge Arkansas for the league's best passing game. Tyler Bray can throw it all around a bit and has two potential stars in Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson to throw to. However, Da'Rick Rogers is gone, which means the pressure is on Hunter, who is coming off an ACL injury, and Patterson, who is in from the juco ranks. The defense has a lot of experience and talent, but four new coaches are on board, including defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri. Seven new coaches are in Knoxville, and it's no secret that Derek Dooley's seat is very hot there.

8. Mississippi State: There is a lot of confidence in quarterback Tyler Russell, who can finally call this team his. He'll have quite a bit of experienced weapons to throw to, including seniors Chad Bumphis, Arceto Clark and Chris Smith, who have combined to catch 221 passes for 2,782 yards and 22 touchdowns in their careers. The running game should be strong with LaDarius Perkins and Nick Griffin, while the offensive line is just hoping to stay healthy this year. The defense should be solid with a talented front seven and a very gifted secondary, starring potential All-American Johnthan Banks. The schedule is also very favorable in September and October.

9. Missouri: The newbies don't lack confidence, but on paper they lack size up front -- on both sides. The staff and players say it's not a problem, but let's see come mid-October. Quarterback James Franklin appears to be 100 percent after undergoing shoulder surgery and might be the league's best dual-threat QB. He's the key to a spread offense that returns a lot of speed. The defense is experienced and has a strong linebacker group. Ends Brad Madison and Kony Ealy could form a pretty good tandem this fall.

10. Auburn: The Tigers are still a young team and there are two new coordinators in town. Now that Kiehl Frazier has been named the starting quarterback, the offense can start molding around him. He'll have a solid group of running backs to work with, but the line is young and he needs more reliable receiving targets alongside Emory Blake and Philip Lutzenkirchen. The defense is loaded up front, headlined by end Corey Lemonier. But the defense as a whole still has a lot of questionable parts for new coordinator Brian VanGorder to work with.

11. Texas A&M: The Aggies have a new coaching staff, have to replace some key starters from last year and will be working with a very green quarterback in redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel. The good news for him is that the offensive line is very strong, starting with tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews. Helping Manziel will be senior receivers Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu and stud running back Christine Michael, who is coming back from an ACL injury. The defense is moving to a 4-3, but is stacked at linebacker. The secondary is dangerously young and thin.

12. Vanderbilt: This team surprised a lot of people last year, but opponents won't be caught off guard by the Commodores in 2012. There is good offensive firepower coming back, with quarterback Jordan Rodgers, running back Zac Stacy and receivers Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd. Plus, there is some good, young offensive talent. But the offensive line has depth issues and will have to use a lot of young guys this fall. The defense is also replacing some key components from last year's team.

13. Kentucky: The Wildcats saw their five-year postseason run end after having the SEC's worst statistical offense in 2011. Joker Phillips thinks he has more potential playmakers this fall and is excited about quarterback Maxwell Smith's potential. The offensive line is younger and can't afford an injury to either Matt Smith or Larry Warford. The defense will be strong up front, but is replacing all four linebackers and two starters in the secondary.

14. Ole Miss: New coach Hugh Freeze isn't working with a lot of numbers, as attrition from the past few years is catching up. The offense was one of the league's worst last year, and still has a quarterback battle between Bo Wallace and Barry Brunetti going on. The offensive line struggled mightily to grasp Freeze's spread this spring and has to improve quickly. Receivers Donte Moncrief and Ja-Mes Logan have a lot of upside, while the defense should be better, especially in the secondary. Still, depth is an issue overall.

SEC lunch links

August, 24, 2012
A Friday stroll around the league:
We might never know just how many chances Da'Rick Rogers blew at Tennessee.

It certainly sounds, though, like he just blew his last one.

Tennessee announced Thursday that the Vols’ junior All-SEC receiver had been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules. Coach Derek Dooley went a step further following practice Thursday and said he didn’t expect Rogers to return to the program. Sources told that Rogers' suspension came after multiple violations of the school's substance abuse policy for athletes.

That’s a shame on one end, because Dooley as recently as last weekend was raving about how well Rogers had performed in preseason camp, and how much his attitude had improved.

There’s no getting around what a difference-maker Rogers could be on the field with his blend of size, strength and athletic ability. After all, he led the SEC with 67 catches last season.

But there’s also no getting around the fact that Rogers was a divisive force in the locker room and cared a whole lot more about himself than he did anybody else in the program.

We’ve seen it time and time again when talented players like Rogers succumb to their selfishness. You simply can’t count on them for the long term, because they always end up breaking your heart just when you think they’ve maybe turned the corner.

Rogers was never going to turn the corner, not with his me-first attitude. Dooley did all he could to manage Rogers and keep him in the program. The most talented players always get a little more rope, although some might argue that Rogers got so much rope that he thought he was above rules and such petty items as team policy.

It was always something with Rogers. He was barred from working out with the team this offseason for two weeks, and then there were rumblings in the spring that he planned to transfer.

He was a big part of Tennessee’s meltdown in the 10-7 loss to Kentucky last season, and some inside the program said he was openly defiant in the waning stages of that game as far as what that loss might mean for Dooley’s future.

Rogers also had multiple run-ins with strength coach Ron McKeefery, and Rogers is lucky that McKeefery didn't flatten him right there on the field given how insubordinate Rogers was to McKeefery during the Vols' 49-7 blowout loss to Arkansas last season.

It was just a matter of time before Rogers, as talented as he was, was finally shown the door.

As somebody at Tennessee told me after the news broke Thursday, better now than five or six games into the season.

At least now, the Vols can prepare without him … and do so with a little peace and a genuine sense of team.

One player can’t make a team, not in the realm of SEC football, but one player can sure wreck a team.
Tennessee receiver Da'Rick Rogers has been indefinitely suspended from the team and his status for the rest of the season is yet to be determined, the school announced Thursday.

The junior led the SEC with 67 catches and was second in the league with 1,040 receiving yards in 2011. He also caught nine touchdown passes.

Rogers had run-ins with the coaching staff during the offseason, but from all accounts he was having a very productive fall camp. His absence now puts more on the shoulders of Justin Hunter, who is returning from a season-ending ACL injury and junior college transfer Cordarrelle Patterson.

Tennessee released its depth chart for the season opener against NC State in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff on Thursday, with senior Zach Rogers and freshman Cody Blanc behind Patterson and Hunter.

Stay tuned to the SEC blog for more on Rogers and the Vols.

SEC players, teams in Herbie Awards

August, 21, 2012
ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit will present his 12th annual Herbie Awards tonight at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Herbstreit is picking the SEC's national championship streak to come to an end this season. He predicts Florida State to defeat USC in the BCS National Championship Game. And in the SEC championship game, Herbstreit has Alabama beating Georgia. His selection for SEC Player of the Year is South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore.

Two of Herbstreit's top five surprise teams for the 2012 season are Mississippi State and Tennessee.

Here's a look at where SEC players and coaches rank in some of Herbstreit's categories:

Best Running Backs
1. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
3. Knile Davis, Arkansas

Top Wide Receivers
4. Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee

Quarterbacks: Pocket Passers
2. Aaron Murray, Georgia
3. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas

Quarterbacks: Dual-Threat
4. James Franklin, Missouri

Tight Ends: Best in the Biz
4. Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn
5. Chris Gragg, Arkansas

End Game: Defensive Ends
1. Sam Montgomery, LSU
4. Barkevious Mingo, LSU
6. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
7. Corey Lemonier, Auburn

Inside Job: Defensive Tackles
3. Jesse Williams, Alabama
5. Bennie Logan, LSU

Got Your Back: Outside Linebackers
1. Jarvis Jones, Georgia
5. Jelani Jenkins, Florida

Inside Linebackers
4. Nico Johnson, Alabama

Take Cover: Defensive Backs
3. Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State

Safety First: Top Safeties
1. Eric Reid, LSU
3. Robert Lester, Alabama
4. Bacarri Rambo, Georgia

Right To Execute: Most Exciting Players
5. Onterio McCalebb, Auburn

Don't Turn Your Back: Backyard Football
5. Eric Reid, LSU

Dress For Success: Looks The Part
2. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
4. Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee

Off And Running: Ready To Take It To The Next Level
4. Nico Johnson, Alabama
5. Cobi Hamlton, Arkansas

Old School: Throwback Players
3. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
5. Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn

Ouch! The Ankle Breakers
5. Dustin Harris, Texas A&M

Basic Instinct: It's Everything
5. Cameron Lawrence, Mississippi State

Sudden Impact: Best Coordinator Hires
2. Doug Nussmeier, Alabama
3. Sal Sunseri, Tennessee
4. Brian VanGorder, Auburn

Movin' On Up: Head Coaches Who Will Get Higher-Profile Opportunities
2. James Franklin, Vanderbilt

The Ultimate Herbie
3. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
4. Barrett Jones, Alabama

Weekend SEC scrimmage notes

August, 13, 2012
A handful of SEC teams took to the practice field to conduct scrimmages over the weekend. Here are some notes from some of the scrimmages:


  • Junior quarterback Aj McCarron led the way for the offense, completing 19 of 29 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown. Running back Eddie Lacy led all rushers with 57 yards on eight carries, and caught a scrimmage-best five passes for 25 yards. Jalston Fowler ran seven times for 34 yards and a score, and T.J. Yeldon had 24 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Kevin Norwood led all receivers with 61 yards on two catches, and freshman linebacker Trey DePriest stood out on defense with five tackles and an interception.
  • For more on Alabama's scrimmage, check out the school's official website.

  • Quarterback Tyler Wilson had another solid performance, completing 21 of 39 passes for 288 yards, with four touchdowns and the interception. However, it was Arkansas' defense that commanded most of the attention. Arkansas' defense racked up 12 sacks, 27 tackles for losses and forced two turnovers.
  • Arkansas' offense scored touchdowns on just five of its 12 possessions, but quarterback-turned-wide receiver Brandon Mitchell was a major part of the offense, catching nine passes for 74 yards and two touchdowns.
  • You can find more on Arkansas' scrimmage here.

  • Quarterback Zach Mettenberger had a solid outing during the Tigers' first fall scrimmage. He led all passers with 190 yards and two touchdowns on 15 of 30 passing. He connected with wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for a 55-yard touchdown pass, and hit James Wright for a 31-yard touchdown.
  • Beckham Jr. led all receivers with four catches for 101 yards, and Wright caught four passes for 57 yards. Freshman running back Jeremy Hill was the team's top rusher, with 71 yards on just nine carries.
  • Junior cornerback Tharold Simon stood out on defense with two tackles, one sack and an interception.
  • For more on LSU's scrimmage, check out the school's official website.

  • It seems as though quarterback James Franklin is healing well after shoulder surgery this spring. During Mizzou's first scrimmage, he completed 18 of 22 passes for 228 yards. He completed his first nine passes for 111 yards before throwing his first incompletion. Freshman Maty Mauk added 152 yards on 25 of 36 passing.
  • Running back Kendial Lawrence had the lone touchdown of the day when he ended a 75-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. Lawrence also carried 11 times for a team-high 37 yards, and caught six passes for 50 yards. Jimmie Hunt led all receivers with 68 yards on six catches.
  • For more on Missouri's practice, check out the school's official website.

  • The Rebels' quarterbacks struggled during Ole Miss' scrimmage. Both completed fewer than 50 percent of their passes, with Bo Wallace passing for 145 yards and Barry Brunetti passing for 94 yards. Brunetti also threw two interceptions.
  • The running game was much more productive, as I'Tavius Mathers ran for 47 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries, and Jaylen Walton rushed for 30 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries.
  • For more on Ole Miss' scrimmage, check here and here.

  • A lot is expected from freshman wide receiver Shaq Roland, and he had a pretty solid debut for the Gamecocks. He led all receivers with 59 yards and a touchdown on four catches.
  • Running back Brandon Wilds was the top rusher of the day, getting 40 yards on three carries, and Marcus Lattimore, who is coming back from his season-ending knee injury, carried the ball four times for 25 yards.
  • Quarterback Connor Shaw threw for 108 yards and a touchdown, but backup Andrew Clifford led the quarterbacks with 122 yards and two scores.
  • For more on South Carolina's scrimmage, check out the school's official website.

  • Quarterback Tyler Bray had no problem finding his favorite receiving targets during the Vols' scrimmage. He hit Da'Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter 13 times, with Rogers grabbing six passes for a team-high 105 yards. Hunter caught seven passes for 47 yards.
  • Tennessee' offense also did well running the ball. The Vols' totaled 295 rushing yards, with 134 coming from junior running back Rajion Neal.
  • For more on Tennessee's scrimmage, check out the school's official website.

  • Freshman running back Trey Williams had a solid debut Saturday, rushing for 125 yards and two touchdowns on six carries during the first half of the Aggies' scrimmage. His highlight of the day came on a 76-yard touchdown run.
  • The Aggies showcased a tremendous pass rush last season, and continued that trend during the scrimmage, registering four sacks in the first half, including two from defensive end Damontre Moore.
  • For more on Texas A&M's scrimmage, check out the school's official website.

  • It was all about offense for the Commodores on Saturday night. Vandy's offense scored eight touchdowns in the 105-play scrimmage.
  • Running back Zac Stacy got it going again during the third-down situation portion of the scrimmage with a 40-yard run on the first play. The offense finished the third-down situations 8 of 14.
  • Freshman Brian Kimbrow had a solid debut, leading rushers with 112 yards. Stacy racked up 98 rushing yards, and quarterback Jordan Rodgers passed for 153 yards and a touchdown.
  • For more on Vandy's scrimmage, check out the school's official website.

One good reason: Tennessee

August, 7, 2012
Our "One good reason" series focuses on the Tennessee Volunteers today.

Good reasons.
What's in store for the Vols in 2012?:

Tennessee will break through in Derek Dooley's third season and win at least eight regular-season games: The Vols have more depth, more experience, better team unity and an easier schedule.

This is the season most reasonable Tennessee fans pointed to as Dooley's first real opportunity to show what he could do with this program. He's recruited well, upgraded the talent level and also developed some depth. The Vols' players are also saying all of the right things about being a more united bunch and determined to make some noise in the East race after suffering through back-to-back losing seasons. The offense, especially if it can find some semblance of a running game, should be one of the more explosive ones in the league with quarterback Tyler Bray throwing to the threesome of Justin Hunter, Da'Rick Rogers and heralded junior college newcomer Cordarrelle Patterson. Even if the defense has a few lapses this season, the offense should be good enough that the Vols will get away with winning some shootouts. Dooley has emphasized that he likes this team's focus and its maturity. There was a clear disconnect between Dooley and some of his players toward the end of last season, but both parties insist everybody's on the same page heading into the 2012 season.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the Vols traded Arkansas and LSU last season for Mississippi State and Missouri this season on their schedule. That's not a bad swap. Plus, Tennessee gets Florida at home. The opener against North Carolina State in Atlanta is perhaps the most important game Dooley has faced to date as Tennessee's head coach. If the Vols win that one, they could still lose to Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina -- the four nationally ranked preseason teams on their schedule -- and still get to eight wins in the regular season. And if they win can win one of those, they have a chance to get to nine wins.

Why it won't: Leadership issues flare up, and the Vols go in the tank after losing a couple of key games early.

It's impossible to downplay how important the first few weeks of the season are for this team. Dooley has said over and over that you're judged on your entire body of work, and in theory, he's right. The only problem is that the Vols' body of work could be doomed before the calendar even flips to October if they lose to North Carolina State out of the gate and then Florida two weeks later. A 1-2 start (Georgia State is the second game) would be disastrous for Tennessee, particularly given the way Dooley lost his team at the end of last season and all the turnover on the coaching staff during the offseason. And until we see some really strong leadership across the board on this team, it's fair to question where that leadership will come from. Senior linebacker Herman Lathers is certainly capable and the kind of guy any coach would want on his team, but he's going to need help. There were signs that Bray was headed in the right direction in terms of leadership, although the whole beer bottle-throwing episode a few weeks ago would seem to suggest otherwise. Either way, this is a team that could really take off coming out of September ... or really flop.

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 19

August, 7, 2012
This certainly isn't a down year for quarterbacks in the SEC, and our first one makes the list at No. 19:

No. 19: Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee, Jr.

2011 summary: Bray was limited to just seven games last season because of a broken thumb suffered against Georgia. In the seven games he did play, he passed for 1,983 yards -- completing 59.5 percent of his passes -- and threw 17 touchdowns to six interceptions. Fourteen of those touchdowns came in the first four games of the season, and four of his interceptions came in the last two games.

Most recent ranking: Not ranked in the 2011 postseason countdown.

Making the case for Bray: Bray has only played in 16 career games, but has put up solid numbers in only a short amount of time. In barely two seasons of work Bray has passed for 3,832 yards and 35 touchdowns to 16 interceptions. He's displayed one of the league's strongest arms, and isn't afraid the tough passes. He puts just the right zip on his passes and has the ability squeeze them into tight spaces to find receivers. Sometimes he does rely on his arm too much, causing him to get lazy with his mechanics, but this spring was devoted to working on his technique, and more importantly, his footwork in order to give himself more time and more options. Making Bray much more imposing against defenses is the fact that he has a few quality receiving weapons to work with. Da'Rick Rogers was second the SEC in receiving yards last year and Justin Hunter is back from his ACL injury. When Hunter is healthy he's one of the SEC's top deep threats. Bray will also have junior college transfer Cordarrelle Patterson, who the coaches think will be another weapon to spread the field. There's no question Bray has the talent to be a top passer in this league, but his immaturity can get in the way sometimes. He has to work on being more of a true leader, and his recent off-the-field transgression showed he isn't there yet.

The rundown

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 24

July, 31, 2012
The No. 24 player in our countdown of the SEC’s best 25 players for the 2012 season led the SEC in catches a year ago.

No. 24: Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee, Jr.

2011 summary: The SEC leader with 67 catches last season, Rogers was one of two players in the league with more than 1,000 receiving yards. He finished with 1,040 and also caught nine touchdown passes. Rogers was a first-team, All-SEC selection by the Associated Press.

Most recent ranking: Not ranked in the 2011 postseason countdown.

Making the case for Rogers: One of the more enigmatic players in the league, Rogers has unlimited physical tools. He was plenty productive last season, too, and was able to put up big numbers even with fellow receiver Justin Hunter and starting quarterback Tyler Bray going down with injuries. The only reason the 6-3, 206-pound Rogers isn’t ranked higher is because he was in and out of the doghouse during the early portion of this past offseason after no-showing in the embarrassing 10-7 Kentucky loss at the end of last season. By all accounts, Rogers’ attitude has improved, and he should own the middle of the field this season with Hunter and junior college newcomer Cordarrelle Patterson doing their thing on the outside. Rogers is also one of the more physical receivers in the league and is a prime target in the red zone with his ability to go up and wrestle the ball away from defenders.

The rundown

No. 25: Matt Elam, S, Florida, Jr.



Saturday, 9/20
Thursday, 9/18