SEC: David Williams

SEC lunchtime links

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
Recuperated from yesterday's U.S.-Ghana match at the World Cup yet? Check out this snippet of video that one of my media cohorts in Baton Rouge, Ross Dellenger, shot at the Varsity Theatre shortly after the Americans scored the winning goal. LSU folks know how to celebrate ... that's for sure.

Here are today's SEC links:

In 2013, the freshmen of the SEC were truly fabulous.

Hunter Henry and Alex Collins were impact players at Arkansas. Laquon Treadwell and Robert Nkemdiche were spectacular for Ole Miss. And who can forget the play of Vernon Hargreaves III, Chris Jones and A'Shawn Robinson?

But standout rookies aren’t easy to come by. More often it takes some time to transition from high school to college, and in Year 2 we generally see the biggest jump in production from players.

With that in mind, we’re taking a team-by-team look at the players who didn’t quite break through as freshmen but could see their stock skyrocket with as sophomores.

[+] EnlargePharoh Cooper
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesUnheralded Pharoh Cooper was a revelation as an all-purpose weapon as a freshman, and he'll figure even more into the plan in 2014.
Next up: South Carolina

Class recap: The Gamecocks and coach Steve Spurrier hauled in yet another top 25 class in 2013, finishing 18th according to ESPN. Connor Mitch, the No. 18-ranked pocket passer in the country, was the jewel of the class. But more importantly, it was a balanced group as six of its 11 four-star signees were linemen.

Second-year star: WR Pharoh Cooper (5-foot-11, 200 pounds)

Recruiting stock: Cooper wasn’t anywhere near the headliner of his class. A three-star athlete from North Carolina, he had plans on playing cornerback for South Carolina. Spurrier and Co., of course, had other ideas.

2013 in review: His versatility is what made him special as a true freshman. Appearing in 11 of 13 games, he was able to make the SEC All-Freshman team as both an all-purpose back and return specialist. All told, he accumulated 655 yards: 202 rushing, 54 receiving and 399 in the return game.

2014 potential: Spurrier called Cooper a “natural talent” earlier this spring, noting how he will once again serve multiple roles as receiver, return man and Wildcat quarterback. Think of him as the new Bruce Ellington. And like Ellington, the goal is to get him the ball in space by any means necessary. It went well last year as he averaged a first down every time he touched the ball on offense (10.1 yards per carry, 18 yards per reception). With Shaq Roland and Damiere Byrd demanding the attention of the secondary on the outside, Cooper could get some favorable one-on-one matchups in the slot this season.

Also watch out for: David Williams is “ready to go” after redshirting last season, according to Spurrier, who mentioned him among the group of running backs who will relieve Mike Davis throughout the season. The former four-star prospect was described as “electrifying” and someone who can “makes things happen” by Davis. On the other side of the ball, pay close attention to fellow redshirt freshman David Johnson, who came up with a sack in the spring game. His ability to rush the passer could be useful this season as the Gamecocks look to replace the presence of Jadeveon Clowney at defensive end.
We know a good idea when we see it. And with all apologies to our good friends at the Big Ten Blog, we’re going to steal one of theirs.

It’s time to plan your road trips.

Get your calendars out and your travel agents on the telephone. The football season is a few months away and you need to know where you’re going in the SEC from week to week.

This series, beginning today and then running every Monday for the next 13 weeks, will give you a rundown of the league’s action and we'll make our pick for the top one or two matchups.

So without further ado, let’s begin with Week 1 and a look at the schedule.

Saturday, Aug. 30
Ole Miss vs. Boise State (in Atlanta), Thursday, Aug. 28
Texas A&M at South Carolina -- Aug. 28
Temple at Vanderbilt -- Aug. 28
Alabama vs. West Virginia (in Atlanta)
Arkansas at Auburn
Idaho at Florida
Clemson at Georgia
UT Martin at Kentucky
LSU vs. Wisconsin (in Houston)
Southern Miss at Mississippi State
South Dakota State at Missouri
Utah State at Tennessee -- Sunday, Aug. 31

Alex Scarborough’s pick: Texas A&M at South Carolina

Welcome to the new SEC Network. And what a game it gets to kick things off.

Not only do we get to see the Head Ball Coach stalking the sideline for the Gamecocks once again, we get our first glimpse at Johnny Manziel’s heir apparent at quarterback -- whoever that may be. It might be unclear now who starts under center for the Aggies, but I’m giving coach Kevin Sumlin the benefit of the doubt. With promising receivers Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil, a stable of tailbacks led by Tra Carson and Trey Williams and a solid line that returns tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, the offense should be fine. The defense ... I’m not so sure. I was in Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Bowl, and it wasn’t pretty.

South Carolina, on the other hand, will be without Jadeveon Clowney. But the defense under Lorenzo Ward should be fine. And, besides, the offense should be plenty of fun to watch. Dylan Thompson looks to be a capable replacement for Connor Shaw at quarterback, and he’ll have plenty of weapons to work with. Not only is Mike Davis back to 100 percent, he’s joined by an enviable group of running backs that include Brandon Wilds, Shon Carson and David Williams. Receivers Pharoh Cooper and Shaq Roland weren’t household names last season, but watch out, because their stars are on the rise.

So while it’s tempting to skirt the rules, double-dip and spend a few days in Atlanta for Ole Miss-Boise State and Alabama-West Virginia, I’ll stick to the script and hope to land in Columbia for the SEC’s season opening game.

Edward Aschoff's pick: LSU vs. Wisconsin (in Houston)

While I like your decision to go with the SEC opener, I have to shift gears and look at one of the three neutral-site games that features an SEC team taking on another member of the Power 5. The two games in Atlanta should be very fun to watch, but I’m going with LSU vs. Wisconsin down in Houston. These are the kinds of games I hope we will see more of starting in 2016, and this one has a lot of intrigue in the Lone Star State.

For starters, we really don’t know a ton about this LSU team. Are the Tigers rebuilding or reloading after another mass exodus from Baton Rouge? Who is going to be the starting quarterback? Will Terrence Magee hold things down at running back, or will we see more of newcomer Leonard Fournette? And what will be the identity of this new-look LSU defense?

The possibilities really are endless for the Tigers, but there are also plenty of questions for the Badgers as well. There’s yet another quarterback battle in Madison, but running back Melvin Gordon is still around, so you know the Tigers defense will be keying on him. Watching him go toe-to-toe with LSU’s fast and athletic defense should make plenty of people go, “Wow!”

I will say that while we are still unsure what this LSU team will look like this fall, we all know that Les Miles always has his guys ready to play in Week 1 in these kinds of games. Miles is 3-0 at LSU in season-opening, neutral-site games against power-conference opponents. The atmosphere won’t unnerve them, and neither will be the sight of Wisconsin’s jerseys.

With all the uncertainty surrounding both teams, I think we are in for a great punch-you-in-the-mouth opener to the 2014 season.

South Carolina spring wrap

April, 30, 2014
Apr 30
Three things we learned in the spring about the South Carolina Gamecocks:

1. Offense is deep: As long as fifth-year senior quarterback Dylan Thompson stays healthy, South Carolina shouldn’t have many issues on offense. The backfield is deep and talented with Mike Davis leading the way. The offensive line is loaded with future NFL players. Although Bruce Ellington turned pro, the receiving corps features plenty of explosive options. With Steve Spurrier at the controls, it should be an entertaining year to watch the Gamecocks move the ball in a wide variety of ways.

2. Linebacker will be a strength: South Carolina’s defense certainly has some holes to fill, but the linebackers are a proven commodity. Three of the Gamecocks’ top-five tacklers return in Skai Moore, Kaiwan Lewis and Marcquis Roberts. It's a deep group of playmakers who could carry the defense while some new faces finds their way early in the season.

3. Defense has a lot to prove: Losing one of the best defensive talents ever to don garnet and black, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, will obviously be a blow. Same with defensive linemen Kelcy Quarles and Chaz Sutton and cornerbacks Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree. Those guys were the rocks of a solid South Carolina defense last season, and their absences were evident in the spring game when the defenses surrendered 6.5 yards per play and 16.8 yards per completion. The cupboard isn’t bare, but the Gamecocks still must fill a lot of holes.

Three questions for the fall:

1. Who takes over at cornerback? This seems to be the most likely position where a freshman might earn immediate playing time. The Gamecocks added a slew of talented cornerbacks -- including three of their four highest-rated signees in ESPN’s rankings, Chris Lammons, D.J. Smith and Wesley Green -- and struggled a bit at the position during the spring without Hampton and Legree. Safety Brison Williams and Rico McWilliams started at corner in the spring game, and Jamari Smith might be another name to watch. But it’s clear that nothing is settled at the position as of now.

2. Who backs up Thompson? Spring practice proved that Thompson is head and shoulders above the competition at quarterback. But who steps in if the senior suffers an injury? Connor Mitch is one option. Brendan Nosovitch and Perry Orth are others. Not yet on campus is a fourth option, signee Michael Scarnecchia. Thompson has already played a lot while sharing time with the departed Connor Shaw, but the reserves are a completely unproven bunch.

3. Might this be the SEC’s best backfield? The star power at Alabama and Georgia attracts more attention, but the talent in South Carolina’s backfield is nothing to sneeze at. Davis proved himself as a tough runner and home run threat last season, rushing for 1,183 yards and 11 touchdowns before fading late because of injury issues. In Brandon Wilds and Shon Carson, the Gamecocks have another two SEC-caliber backs, and the Gamecocks’ coaches seem excited about adding redshirt freshman David Williams to the mix. The depth here is excellent, and the backs will be running behind a stout offensive line. That should make for a highly productive running game in the fall.

One way-too-early prediction:

This is the golden age of South Carolina football, and Spurrier will add another impressive chapter this season. Namely, the Gamecocks’ streak of three straight seasons with at least 11 wins will grow to four. Although Lorenzo Ward’s defense has a lot to prove, the offense should be good enough to help the D hit its stride like it did as last season progressed. Plenty of preseason publications will name South Carolina as the favorite to win the SEC East, and that’s for good reason. Spurrier’s staff has built one of the league’s most consistent programs, and it should once again rank among the top contenders this season.
When the 14 athletic directors in the Southeastern Conference met Sunday night to vote on future scheduling, there were some opposed to the current format and the cross-division rivalries, but collectively they agreed that maintaining rivalries such as Alabama-Tennessee or Auburn-Georgia were too important for those fan bases and for the league in general.

“The priority for me was to make sure that we kept the Auburn-Georgia rivalry,” Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said. “There’s so much tradition and history there.”

The rivalry, better known as the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, began back in 1892. There have been a total of 117 games played between the two with Auburn holding a 55-54-8 edge after last year’s dramatic victory over the Bulldogs.

“Our history and heritage that we’ve had with not only the South’s oldest rivalry but also the relationship we’ve had,” Jacobs said. “Coach [Vince] Dooley played here and coached there; Pat Dye played there and coached here; Rodney Garner, and it just goes on and on and on.

We share all the revenue and expenses yet we cannot have a balanced, fair, equitable schedule. LSU has played Florida and Georgia 19 times since 2000, and Bama has played them eight times. Is that fair?

-- LSU athletic director Joe Alleva
“And the proximity, it’s right here geographically next to us. It’s just a great rivalry for our fans, and it was the No. 1 priority for me to make sure that we kept that.”

The Alabama-Tennessee rivalry is no different. It began back in 1901 and has been a staple for the league ever since. If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that the Crimson Tide and the Volunteers will play on the third Saturday in October, and both sides were vocal about continuing that tradition.

“Chancellor [Jimmy] Cheek and I have strongly and consistently advocated that this rivalry be preserved regardless of any other outcomes resulting from conversations about football scheduling,” Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said in a statement Sunday.

The other five cross-division rivalries have received mixed reviews. LSU athletic director Joe Alleva didn’t hide his feelings about having to play Florida every year as he told the Baton Rouge Advocate that he was disappointed in the leaders of the SEC and how they disregarded the competitive advantage that permanent partners award to certain schools.

“We share all the revenue and expenses yet we cannot have a balanced, fair, equitable schedule,” Alleva said. “LSU has played Florida and Georgia 19 times since 2000, and Bama has played them eight times. Is that fair?”

Meanwhile, pitting Arkansas and Missouri against each other seems to make sense and could create a new rivalry between the two schools that border each other.

The decision also kept the Ole Miss-Vanderbilt rivalry intact. No, it’s not the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry and it’s not played on the third Saturday of every October, but the Rebels and Commodores have played 87 times and haven’t missed a meeting since 1969.

“When people thought of rivalries, they obviously thought of Tennessee and Alabama, and Georgia and Auburn,” Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams said. “But we’ve played Ole Miss 87 times, and people don’t realize that. It maybe doesn’t rise to the level of rivalries like those others, but think of the last two games. Both games -- the one down at Oxford that we won and the one that they won up here last year -- were decided in the last minute.

“It’s close enough that their fan base can get up here, and our fan base can get down there. So it is a rivalry, and I think that we see each other as sort of a rivalry.”

Are the cross-division rivalries fair for the SEC? Probably not. Fans want to see matchups like Auburn-Florida or Alabama-Georgia more often. Players want the chance to play every team in the other division at least once during their four years in school.

However, the athletic directors voted and maintaining some of those traditional rivalries was more important.

SEC lunchtime links

April, 28, 2014
Apr 28
Spring football has come to a close in the SEC with two teams -- Arkansas and Kentucky -- hosting their spring games over the weekend. Today's lunch links include recaps of each, as well as plenty of talk about the SEC's scheduling announcement.

SEC's lunchtime links

April, 4, 2014
Apr 4
LSU and Ole Miss will hold their spring games on Saturday, with six more teams set to play their games next Saturday. As spring practice winds to a close at many of the schools around the conference, let's take a look at some of today's headlines.
Mike Davis came on so strong last season it was as if Marcus Lattimore had never left. South Carolina didn’t have to deal with the pain of losing its legendary running back because Davis stepped right into his place, seamlessly providing the same kind of power and speed at the position fans and coaches had become accustomed to.

Steve Spurrier knew Davis would be special even before last season's season opener. He told anyone who would listen how good his sophomore would be. But even now, some seven months after South Carolina blistered North Carolina on primetime television, the head coach of the Gamecocks is marveling at how some people are still sleeping on his running back.

[+] EnlargeMike Davis
Jim Dedmon/Icon SMISouth Carolina is counting on a big season from Mike Davis.
“In practice yesterday we were watching him run a little bit and somebody says, ‘People don’t realize how fast he is,’ ” Spurrier told “The first game last year he ran sort of an off-tackle play against North Carolina, and their defensive back took a bad angle and he broke down the sideline and I think, man, he’s going to have a 40- to 55-yard run and he ends up going all the way 75 yards, and they couldn’t catch him. We said, ‘Wow.’ He’s sort of sneaky fast.”

Davis ran for 100-plus yards in seven of his first nine games last season, outpacing SEC favorites Todd Gurley, T.J. Yeldon and Tre Mason. Through the first week of November, Davis ranked ninth in the country in total rushing yards (1,058) while also averaging the 13th-best yards per carry (6.37, minimum 100 attempts). He carried a heavy load with 166 carries, but he didn’t lack burst, rushing for 10 or more yards 26 times -- more than Mason, Yeldon and a fella by the name of Johnny Manziel.

But the wear and tear eventually caught up with him. Davis would rush for only 54 yards against Florida, miss the next game against Costal Carolina and fail to break the 50-yard rushing mark in each of South Carolina’s final two games against Clemson and Wisconsin. Even though he finished a respectable fourth in the SEC in rushing yards and fifth in all-purpose yards, it wasn’t his best. He simply wasn’t himself.

“It slowed me down a lot,” Davis said. “I don’t think people realized how much I was injured. The small injuries added up and hit me toward the end.”

Thankfully for South Carolina, Davis doesn’t appear to have the injury concerns of Lattimore before him. It was a series of minor injuries that took their toll, and now after a few months off, Davis is back to being fully healthy, he said. He’s taking it easy this spring and enjoying the emergence of his fellow running backs, most notably Shon Carson and former four-star David Williams, whom Davis called “electrifying” and someone “you like to watch in practice.”

All eyes are still on Davis, though. The rising junior has gone from unknown to a marked man in the SEC in one season. According to one sports betting site, Davis is at 18-to-1 odds to win the Heisman Trophy, trailing names such as Jameis Winston, Braxton Miller and Marcus Mariota, while also coming in ahead of the likes of Nick Marshall, Trevor Knight and Dak Prescott.

It's kind of like you're playing Madden or something. If you need yards, you just hand it off and let him go. It's cool.

-- South Carolina QB Dylan Thompson on RB Mike Davis
What does Davis think of the attention?

“It’s an honor, especially coming from where I’m from,” he said. “Everybody still calls me Little James or James Davis’ brother. I kind of wanted my own name growing up.”

Those who saw him play last season understand that Davis is his own man. When he’s healthy, he is as good as any running back in the country. Spurrier didn’t hesitate to say he could be the best running back in the SEC.

Dylan Thompson, who has already been named the full-time starter at quarterback by Spurrier, said it’s almost unfair to have someone like Davis to hand the ball off to.

“It’s kind of like you’re playing Madden or something,” Thompson said. “If you need yards, you just hand it off and let him go. It’s cool.”

The good news for both South Carolina and Davis is that he won’t have to carry the entire load this fall. Spurrier said he’ll give the ball to Davis only three or four times during scrimmages this spring, noting how he has the enviable problem of having “too many running backs” to incorporate into the lineup.

Beyond Carson and Williams, whom Thompson said ran a sub-4.4 second 40-yard dash in spring testing, South Carolina also has Brandon Wilds to turn to.

There’s no question, though, that Davis will be the centerpiece.

Now at “110 percent,” he wants to get even better than he was last season.

“If there’s anything I can do to get better and have an edge on my opponent, I’m always down for it,” he said. “So as far as getting faster, getting in the weight room and getting stronger, I’m always for it.”

SEC lunchtime links

January, 17, 2014
Jan 17
The coaching revolving door continues to spin as a big recruiting weekend arrives across the country -- including the SEC. Let's take a quick spin around the league.

Alabama responds to a report involving a disassociated booster's display featuring supposedly game-used and autographed game apparel of current and former Crimson Tide football players.

A number of key prospects will visit Columbia for South Carolina's big recruiting weekend.

It's a big recruiting weekend at LSU, as well, with megaprospects Malachi Dupre and Lorenzo Carter among the Tigers' expected visitors.

What do you know? Alabama and Auburn will host some key targets this weekend, as well.

Every SEC program except Missouri and Georgia has had to replace more than 30 coaches since 2001, the year Gary Pinkel and Mark Richt took over those respective programs.

Georgia safety Josh Harvey-Clemons' suspension will stretch into the first three games of the 2014 season according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution report.

Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams said Thursday night that the interview process is not complete as he searches for James Franklin's replacement as head football coach.

Coleman Hutzler is entrusted with improving Florida's uncharacteristically inconsistent special teams units.

Not surprisingly, Ole Miss and Mississippi State are loading up on in-state prospects in this recruiting class -- but this does not appear to be as deep a year for talent in the state as usual.

Chuck Carlton and Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News discuss whether the Houston Texans should take Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft.

Former Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham told reporters Thursday that a chance to compete for championships weighed into his decision to leave the SEC for the same job at Louisville.

SEC's lunch links

January, 14, 2014
Jan 14
Let's take a look at what's happening around the SEC.

Florida assistant and former Kentucky coach Joker Phillips is reportedly among the finalists to join Charlie Strong's new staff at Texas.

Kurt Roper left a secure situation at Duke to take over as offensive coordinator at Florida, and he needs to quickly construct an attack that can move up and down the field more effectively.

With the return of defensive line coach Bo Davis, Alabama welcomes back an excellent recruiter.

Former Auburn quarterback and receiver Kodi Burns plays an important role as a graduate assistant on Gus Malzahn's staff.

LSU grapples with massive losses from its offense to early entry into the NFL draft.

Freshman receiver De'Runnya Wilson could contribute on Mississippi State's basketball team.

Tennessee announced on Monday that it will play its spring game on April 12.

Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams is hitting the road in search of a new football coach.

Speaking of which, Athlon lists 10 candidates to replace James Franklin as the Commodores' coach.

Missouri receiver Dorial Green-Beckham's drug arrest from last week is still under investigation and has not yet been submitted to a prosecutor.

Florida running back Matt Jones will miss spring practice after he undergoes a second knee surgery in the next few weeks.
While Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams continues to insist that James Franklin is still Vanderbilt's head coach, there's still a chance he could be Big Ten bound on Saturday.

A source told ESPN's Brett McMurphy that a contract for Franklin to become Penn State's next head coach should be finalized and approved at a meeting of the school's newly formed compensation committee on Saturday morning. On Thursday, ESPN reported that Franklin had agreed to accept an offer to become Penn State's coach.

While Franklin is still Vandy's coach, it sounds like money is the last step in the process of luring Franklin away from Vandy after three very successful years in Nashville.

Williams continues to hold out hope that Franklin will remain the Commodores' coach, but it was always going to be hard for him to keep Franklin around there for the long haul. Franklin clearly has a tremendous amount of love for Vandy, and I'm sure a decision to leave would be gut-wrenching for him, but you just have to wonder how much he could truly grow at Vanderbilt.

He has too much upside and is too young in his coaching career not to take a shot at a bigger job. What he has done at Vanderbilt has been nothing short of remarkable, but now he's a hot coaching name with the opportunity not only to go back home but join a bigger program with more resources and a bigger reach nationally.

Nothing is totally official just yet, and at least one huge Vandy fan is still trying to keep Franklin in black and gold. Professional golfer and Vandy grad Brandt Snedeker went to Twitter (@BrandtSnedeker) to lobby for Franklin to stay by offering him free golf lessons for life. He then upped the offer late Thursday by tweeting:
Still holding out hope, offer extends to family as well @jamesfranklinvu !! Hoping your daughters and wife like golf!!! #hailmary
As Vanderbilt coach James Franklin's name continues to circulate for coaching vacancies, his boss is trying to make sure he stays put.

Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams told that he expects to not only keep Franklin in Nashville, but also plans to revise his contract -- among other things -- in order to keep Franklin happy with the Commodores.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
AP Photo/Phil SandlinHow long can Vanderbilt hang on to James Franklin?
"I expect James to be our football coach. I'm planning on it," Williams told "We're looking at facilities. We're working on some stuff. I have all thoughts that he's going to be our football coach. I'll do everything I can to make sure that he is."

Reports surfaced earlier this week that Franklin, who has led Vandy to back-to-back nine-win seasons for the first time in school history, was the front-runner for the Penn State opening.

It makes sense, really. Not only is Franklin a Pennsylvania native, he's become one of the hottest coaching names out there with his success at Vanderbilt. He's led the Commodores to bowl games in three consecutive seasons and back-to-back bowl victories. Both are firsts in school history. He can sell the program with the best of them and he's a hard-nosed worker and recruiter. He's also exceptional at developing talent.

It's tough to say how much we can put into what Williams is saying. Was he supposed to say anything different? Franklin has been on the short list of a few college jobs, including the Texas one, and NFL teams have come calling. When you talk to people around the program, it sounds like the NFL might not be Franklin's true calling. But it would be hard for him to turn down a big-time college job, such as Penn State.

Williams and Franklin have a very good relationship, but even Williams has to know how tough it would be for Franklin to turn down a much bigger job. It's how the world works, especially the world of coaching.

While there's no question that Franklin loves his current employer, but his head-coaching life is very young. With what he's done at Vandy, just imagine what he could do at a bigger school with more resources and more clout. With a bigger platform, Franklin might do wonders.

Whether Franklin stays at Vandy or not in 2014 is still unknown, but the reality of it all is that it's going to be very tough for the Commodores to keep him around for the long haul.
The head football coaches in the SEC are some of the highest paid in the country.

Eight of the 14 head coaches in the league make $3 million or more per year.

The athletic directors in the SEC aren't exactly going poor, but many of the other athletic directors at traditional football powerhouse schools are making more than their SEC colleagues.

USA Today did a study Wednesday of athletic director salaries at the 124 FBS schools. According to the study, Vanderbilt's David Williams was far and away No. 1 on the list at $3,239,678. As is pointed out in USA Today's piece, Williams wore several different hats at Vanderbilt during the period covered by the university's most recent available federal tax return. He was vice chancellor for university affairs and athletics, general counsel and university secretary for Vanderbilt and its medical center as well as a tenured law professor. As of July 2012, Williams' title changed to vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletics director. He no longer had the roles of general counsel and university secretary, but remains a tenured law professor.

After Williams, Florida's Jeremy Foley is the highest-paid athletic director in the SEC at $1,233,250. He's the only other athletic director in the league who makes $1 million or more in salary.

However, according to USA Today's study, Louisville's Tom Jurich ($1,411,915), Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez ($1,230,000), Nebraska's Shawn Eichorst ($1,123,000), Texas' DeLoss Dodds ($1,109,041), Ohio State's Gene Smith ($1,099,030), Notre Dame's Jack Swarbrick ($1,026,942) and Oklahoma's Joe Castiglione ($1 million) are all at $1 million or more. Michigan's Dave Brandon makes $900,000.

The Big Ten obviously values its athletic directors.

Below is a list of what the SEC athletic directors are making, according to USA Today's figures:
  • David Williams, Vanderbilt: $3,239,678
  • Jeremy Foley, Florida: $1,233,250
  • Jeff Long, Arkansas: $903,900
  • Dave Hart, Tennessee: $817,250
  • Eric Hyman, Texas A&M: $800,000
  • Joe Alleva, LSU: $725,000
  • Ray Tanner, South Carolina: $675,000
  • Mike Alden, Missouri: $674,317
  • Mitch Barnhart, Kentucky: $654,000
  • Jay Jacobs, Auburn: $615,000
  • Mal Moore, Alabama: $600,500
  • Greg McGarity, Georgia: $525,000
  • Scott Stricklin, Miss. State: $450,000
  • Ross Bjork, Ole Miss: $400,000

Missouri's Mike Alden ($347,915), Alabama's Mal Moore ($255,000) and Kentucky's Mitch Barnhart ($240,000) have the largest maximum bonuses in their contracts.
The mailbag is back up and running here on the SEC blog. Remember, you can send all of your questions here, whenever you want. Don't be shy. The more questions we get, the more mailbags we can do.

National signing day was Wednesday and spring practice is just around the corner, so let's get to your questions:

Jamey in Lower Alabama writes: Ed, in your opinion, which '13 offensive recruit (I think most would probably agree on the defensive impact player) will have the biggest impact in the SEC, and all of college football next fall?

Edward Aschoff: I honestly think SEC teams did a very good job overall of getting guys who can contribute right away. I think Alex Collins has the talent to be a big part of Bret Bielema's offense at Arkansas. Bielema wants to run the ball a lot and Collins might have the most upside in Arkansas' backfield. He can hit the home run and smash through the line. Vernon Hargreaves III could start at corner for the Gators. If he does that, Florida will be able to move Loucheiz Purifoy to offense, where the Gators need a lot of help. Derrick Henry and O.J. Howard could contribute right away in Alabama's offense. Obviously, No. 1 recruit Robert Nkemdiche should make an immediate impact on Ole Miss' defense. He'll have competition up front, but he's too special of an athlete not to help that defense out starting on day one. I think Nkemdiche has a lot of pressure on him during his first year, so I'm going to go with Collins making the biggest impact in 2013. I think he could legitimately start for the Hogs at running back for the majority of the season.

Mark in Mississippi writes: Do you think Freeze will continue on a recruiting roll, now that he's netted a top ten class? I'd think it'd be easier next year. Maybe not top ten, but top 20 for sure.

Edward Aschoff: Like Hugh Freeze said, it was the perfect storm for Ole Miss in this class. I think players now want to see what the Rebels do with all of that talent. This was a historic class, but let's not act like recruiting at Ole Miss is easy. Before this class, Ole Miss had just five total ESPN 150 members combined from 2008-12. Freeze is changing the culture there and he's making Ole Miss a much more popular school among high school players, but now he has to win more with these guys. We've seen "great" classes turn into duds in the past. It'll only be easier when he starts winning more, but I think he can consistently have a top 20 class at Ole Miss. He's too good at closing.

Jon in Atlanta writes: With Muschamp hitting the recruiting trail like a monster, do you think that the Gator offense will be able to produce more consistently in 2013?

Edward Aschoff: I think the defense is going to be fine because a lot of young guys rotated in last year, so they will come in with pretty good experience. Plus, Will Muschamp knows his defenses. Offensively, if those receivers the Gators brought in can produce and step up, then the offense will be better as a whole. Demarcus Robinson is a guy to watch. He's on campus now, and the coaches need him to be as explosive as he was in high school. Ahmad Fulwood will be in Gainesville over the summer, and he could be a big-play weapon at receiver too. But it's tough for freshmen to be instant stars, so the older guys have to step up. With all those running backs, Florida should be able to run the ball just fine. Passing is the question.

Kyle in Big Blue Nation writes: How impressed were you with the job Stoops and his staff did with this class and do you see UK getting back to a bowl next season?

Edward Aschoff: Very. I talked to Mark Stoops earlier today, and he told me he was surprised at how well they closed, considering the limited amount of time he and his staff had with guys. To keep juco defensive end Za'Darius Smith, who is already enrolled, and to flip defensive end Jason Hatcher from USC were huge. Add wide receiver Ryan Timmons, who turned down Florida and Ohio State, and Stoops has three players who could make immediate impacts at positions of need. This was a very, very balanced class, and Stoops seems very happy with his first haul in Lexington.

King in DC writes: Looking at UGA's September schedule, I can easily see them starting out 1-3 with LSU, Clemson, and USC on the schedule. I then see their defense developing, winning out, and thereby winning the East again due to beating Florida and winning at tie breaker against USC. Am I crazy?

Edward Aschoff: It isn't the easiest of starts to a season, so, no, you aren't crazy. Young defenses can get exposed early in the season, and having to play a good Clemson offense during the first week of the year will be tough. Now, there are some talented bodies on that side of the ball for the Bulldogs, but I think you'll see some appropriate growing pains early in the season. As for the second half, this could be a team that no one wants to face in November. It'll grow through SEC play; it's too talented not to. That Florida game will be interesting because something tells me Muschamp isn't happy about being 0-2 against his alma mater.

Rhett in Oregon writes: There are a lot of posts on the Web about how the playoff will "end" the SEC's run of championships. Do you think the SEC will be more or less likely to win the championship in the new format? And why?

Edward Aschoff: I don't need to go into too much detail with this one. The SEC will be more likely because I think it will have more chances to get two teams in the title game. When this was first announced I didn't think the SEC would have multiple teams in that often, and then this season happened. In a playoff, Alabama and Florida would have been in. Now, are they playing each other in the first round? Maybe. Depends on the selection committee, but having two teams in means the SEC is guaranteed a spot in the national championship. I also think that the SEC champion will always be guaranteed a spot in a four-team playoff.

Bobby in Texas writes: Is it just my imagination or is South Carolina not having a great recruiting season. It would seem like coming off back to back 11 win years and an SEC East title before that and sending guys to the NFL - the Gamecocks should be in a position to have a top 10 recruiting class and make new inroads into recruiting. Since there are new staffs at Tenn, Auburn, UK and Arkansas - I thought the Gamecocks would move closer to LSU, BAMA, Florida this recruiting season. Hw do you rate the Gamecocks' class and why are they missing out on 5 star recruits this year?

Edward Aschoff: I thought Steve Spurrier and his coaches did a fine job. They needed linebackers and signed six, including ESPN 300 inside linebacker Larenz Bryant, who could contribute very early. He also got four defensive linemen, including three ends, and ESPN 150 defensive tackle Kelsey Griffin who should be fun to watch. The Gamecocks signed two running backs, including ESPN 150 member David Williams, who could compete with Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds this fall, as they try to fill Marcus Lattimore's void. This is a solid class and it was wrapped up before signing day, so there wasn't much excitement.

John in Indiana writes: We already know that the country is tired of seeing the SEC win a national title every year, but is the SEC starting to get tired of seeing Alabama win it every year?

Edward Aschoff: Ha! Yes, and no. I think that conference officials are just happy to see the SEC win titles. Now, are fans overjoyed by seeing Alabama in the title game every year? Probably not, but they like seeing that crystal ball retuning to the conference each year. It's probably really tough on Auburn fans. When I asked SEC fans if they were rooting for Alabama or Notre Dame this year, the majority said Alabama -- like 95 percent. So league pride is high, but I'm sure a majority of the league is ready to see someone not named "Alabama" take home the crystal ball for the SEC sooner rather than later. Plus, they are tired of hearing about how many "official" titles Alabama claims it has ...
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:


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.