SEC: DeMarcus Love
Coach: Chris Klenakis
Position: Offensive line
Experience: He's in his second season on Arkansas' staff. Klenakis was the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach for six seasons at Nevada prior to replacing Mike Summers at Arkansas in January 2010. Klenakis has 20 years of Division I experience. He served two different stints at Nevada and was also the Wolf Pack's offensive coordinator from 1997-99. From there, he went on to head up the offenses at Southern Miss and Central Missouri. During his two stints at Nevada, Klenakis became the first offensive coordinator in NCAA FBS history to have a team lead the nation in rushing offense (2009) and passing offense (1997).
Of note: Klenakis is regarded as the creator of the "Pistol" offense. ... Klenakis and Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino were teammates in the early 1980s at Carroll College in Helena, Mont. ... Fifteen offensive linemen coached by Klenakis have gone on to the NFL, including tackle DeMarcus Love, who was taken in the sixth round of this past April's NFL draft. ... Klenakis' name was mentioned last January in connection with the Texas offensive line job, which was eventually filled by former Georgia offensive line coach Stacy Searels.
His challenge: Petrino was determined to put some more pop in the running game, and Klenakis' arrival last season helped the Hogs do just that. Knile Davis led all SEC running backs with 1,322 rushing yards, and Arkansas was much more effective running the football. Klenakis will have another key challenge in 2011, and that's shoring up the two tackle positions. Gone are Ray Dominguez and Love, who combined for 70 starts the past three seasons. True freshman Brey Cook enrolled early and was impressive this spring. He's already one of the strongest players on the team, but it's never easy to get a true freshman ready to line up against some of the marquee pass-rushers an offensive tackle has to face on a weekly basis in this league. Yet, that will be Job No. 1 for Klenakis in the fall. In fact, Klenakis won't have much experience, period, to work with at tackle. Sophomore Anthony Oden received most of the first-team work at the other tackle spot in the spring opposite Cook. Junior college newcomer Jason Peacock and fifth-year senior Grant Freeman are also possibilities. Freeman had a pair of starts during the 2009 season. Oden also started a game in 2009 as a true freshman, but missed most of last season with mononucleosis and had to redshirt. There aren't any question marks in the middle of the Hogs' offensive line, not with sophomore center Travis Swanson and sophomore guard Alvin Bailey returning. But especially with a new quarterback taking over this season, how quickly those two new tackles develop will go a long way toward determining whether or not Arkansas will be a serious player in the Western Division race.
These are guys who weren’t prep All-Americans, and in most cases, weren't very highly recruited all, but wound up being outstanding players this season. Several of them earned All-SEC and even All-America honors.
It’s a reminder to all the recruiting junkies out there not to dismiss those two- and three-star prospects your school signs on Wednesday.
Once you get on the practice field, stars don’t mean anything.
Here’s a look at our 2010 team, consisting of 15 players:
Auburn receiver Darvin Adams: The Tigers’ leading receiver the past two seasons, pulling in a combined 16 touchdown catches. Coming out of high school, Adams was ranked as the No. 90 wide receiver prospect in the country by ESPN. His only official visit was to Auburn.
Arkansas defensive end Jake Bequette: The Hogs’ sack leader with seven this season and a second-team All-SEC selection. Bequette was unranked at his position by ESPN coming out of high school. Kansas State was his only other scholarship offer.
Ole Miss running back Brandon Bolden: He just missed 1,000 yards rushing this season and also led the Rebels with 32 catches. Bolden was unranked at his position by ESPN coming out of high school, and even though he was from Baton Rouge, La., LSU’s only interest in him was as a defensive player.
South Carolina offensive guard Garrett Chisolm: A former walk-on who emerged this season as the Gamecocks’ best offensive lineman and a second-team All-SEC selection by the coaches. Chisolm attended South Carolina in 2008, but didn’t play football.
Kentucky receiver Randall Cobb: A star quarterback in high school who lived about 15 minutes from Neyland Stadium. Tennessee didn’t seriously recruit him until the very end. Cobb set an SEC record this season with 2,396 all-purpose yards and was second in the SEC with 84 receptions. He earned several first-team All-America honors.
LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu: One of the best freshmen in the SEC this season, Mathieu was ranked as the No. 36 cornerback prospect nationally in the 2010 class. LSU picked up on him at one of its camps. The other schools recruiting him at the time were Tulane, SMU, Miami (Ohio), Southern Miss, Louisiana-Monroe and Florida International.
Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley: The Lombardi Award winner this season and most dominant defensive tackle in college football. Fairley was ranked as an offensive tackle coming out of high school in 2007, No. 32 nationally. He didn’t qualify academically and went to junior college for two years before returning to Auburn.
Vanderbilt cornerback Casey Hayward: Tied for second this season in the SEC with six interceptions, Hayward will be one of the top returning cornerbacks in the league next season. He was unranked at his position by ESPN coming out of high school. His other offers were Southern Miss, Troy and Middle Tennessee.
Alabama safety Robert Lester: In his first season as a starter, Lester tied for second nationally with eight interceptions. He was ranked as the No. 39 safety in the 2008 class, and a lot of people thought he might have been more of a throw-in to help get his high school teammate, Julio Jones.
Arkansas offensive tackle DeMarcus Love: A first-team All-SEC selection, Love was the anchor of the Hogs’ offensive line at left tackle. Coming out of high school in Dallas, he was ranked as the No. 78 offensive guard prospect in the 2006 class and chose Arkansas over Kansas.
Tennessee linebacker Nick Reveiz: A former walk-on who earned a scholarship at Tennessee, Reveiz was a team captain each of the past two years and tied for fifth in the SEC this season with 108 tackles.
South Carolina defensive end Devin Taylor: A first-team All-SEC selection, Taylor led the Gamecocks with 13 tackles for loss. He was ranked as the No. 72 defensive end prospect coming out of high school and chose South Carolina over Virginia Tech, N.C. State, Wake Forest, Duke and Kentucky.
Kentucky linebacker Danny Trevathan: The SEC’s tackles leader this season with 144. Trevathan was also a first-team All-SEC selection. But coming out of high school, he was unranked at his position by ESPN. His other official visits were Purdue and Central Florida.
Mississippi State linebacker Chris White: A first-team All-SEC selection, White led the Bulldogs this season with 15.5 tackles for loss. He was unranked at his position coming out of high school and attended Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. South Florida and South Alabama were his only other offers.
Here's a wrap-up from the Scouts Inc. guys on what former SEC players helped themselves and those who maybe didn't help themselves last week in Mobile, Ala.:
- Georgia offensive guard Clint Boling, Alabama offensive tackle/guard James Carpenter, LSU linebacker Kelvin Sheppard and Tennessee tight end Luke Stocker were among the players Todd McShay listed whose draft stock is on the rise coming out of the Senior Bowl. Boling and Stocker exceeded expectations, according to McShay.
- Specifically about Boling, the Scouts Inc. guys had this to say, "Boling has shown good inline power and nice awareness all week, especially in the open field where he has done a great job of adjusting on the move to cover up targets. He's made himself some money this week."
- Mississippi State offensive tackle Derek Sherrod and Arkansas offensive tackle DeMarcus Love failed to improve their draft stock, according to the Scouts Inc. crew.
- Love's limitations athletically plagued him, according to the Scouts Inc. guys. He struggled with speed rushers and might have to transition to guard in the NFL. He appears to be a mid-round selection at this point.
- During the game, Sherrod did a nice job in pass protection. Despite his limitations with lateral agility, the Scouts Inc. crew thinks he has the frame strength and balance to become an effective right tackle in the NFL.
- Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy looked NFL-ready with his drops, mechanics and going through his progressions, but his lack of arm strength and overall tools will cause him to drop.
- Florida's Chas Henry established himself as the No. 2 punter in this draft class. His directional skills and how quickly he gets the punt off were what set him apart last week.
- LSU place-kicker Josh Jasper demonstrated good accuracy inside 40 yards, but wasn't as consistent on longer field goals. His hang time on kickoffs was good, but he was average to below average with his distance.
Three former SEC stars -- Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod, Auburn's Lee Ziemba and Arkansas' DeMarcus Love -- stand to have a lot to gain this week in Mobile, Ala.
All three were considered borderline first-round draft picks at one point during the season or prior to the season, but McShay lists them as Day 2 prospects going into the Senior Bowl. A strong week of practice could push them back into first-round consideration, but there's a chance they could fall, too, if they don't perform well this week. They all played left tackle in college, but McShay thinks they will be right tackles in the NFL.
- Offensive tackle DeMarcus Love
- Tight end D.J. Williams
- Linebacker Josh Bynes
- Offensive tackle Lee Ziemba
- Safety Ahmad Black
- Punter Chas Henry
- Offensive guard Marcus Gilbert
- Center Mike Pouncey
- Offensive tackle Clint Boling
- Running back Derrick Locke
- Defensive tackle Drake Nevis
- Linebacker Kelvin Sheppard
- Defensive end Pernell McPhee
- Offensive tackle Derek Sherrod
- Linebacker K.J. Wright
- Defensive tackle Jerrell Powe
- Tight end Luke Stocker
LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson: He threw for a career-high 254 yards and one touchdown and added 45 rushing yards and another score in LSU’s 43-36 win against Ole Miss. Jefferson completed 13 of 17 passes (76.5 percent) against the Rebels in LSU’s best offensive game of the season with 470 total yards.
Arkansas linebacker Jerry Franklin: He recorded a career-high 20 tackles (eight solos) in Arkansas’ 38-31 double-overtime victory at Mississippi State. Franklin matched his career high with two tackles for loss, including a sack. His 20 tackles were the most by any player in the nation this past week.
LSU place-kicker/punter Josh Jasper: He scored 11 points, including three field goals and two extra points, in LSU’s 43-36 win against Ole Miss. On Jasper's only punt attempt, he hit a 43-yarder that started an Ole Miss drive at its own 4-yard line.
Arkansas tackle DeMarcus Love: He helped pave the way for Arkansas’ 488 yards of total offense on 61 plays, an average of 8.0 yards per play, in the Razorbacks’ 38-31 double-overtime win at MississippiState. Love was key in blocking for Knile Davis’ 187 yards rushing and Ryan Mallett’s 305 passing yards.
Tennessee end Gerald Williams: He recorded a career-high eight tackles (six solos), including a pair of tackles for loss, a sack and a quarterback pressure in Tennessee’s 24-10 win at Vanderbilt. He also blocked a Vanderbilt 45-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter.
South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore: He rushed for 102 yards on seven carries with three touchdowns in South Carolina’s 69-24 win against Troy. Lattimore has scored 19 touchdowns this season, which is one shy of the SEC freshman record held by Reggie Cobb of Tennessee (20 in 1987).
But before we close the book on it for good, we’ll unveil our midseason All-SEC team. If a player missed two or more games, he wasn’t considered.
Here you go, and as usual, I’m sure there won’t be much debate:
QB – Cameron Newton, Auburn
RB – Stevan Ridley, LSU
RB – Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
WR – Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina
WR – Randall Cobb, Kentucky
TE – D.J. Williams, Arkansas
OL – Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State
OL – Lee Ziemba, Auburn
OL – Barrett Jones, Alabama
OL – DeMarcus Love, Arkansas
C – Mike Pouncey, Florida
DE – Jake Bequette, Arkansas
DE – Antoine Carter, Auburn
DT – Nick Fairley, Auburn
DT – Drake Nevis, LSU
LB – Justin Houston, Georgia
LB – Kelvin Sheppard, LSU
LB – Danny Trevathan, Kentucky
CB – Patrick Peterson, LSU
CB – Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt
S – Mark Barron, Alabama
S – Ahmad Black, Florida
PK – Josh Jasper, LSU
P – Chas Henry, Florida
RS – Patrick Peterson, LSU
But what about those guys who never get any publicity (unless they get caught holding) and those guys who are typically the backbone of your team?
Name the last team to win an SEC championship with a bad offensive line. For that matter, name me a team that won an SEC title with an average offensive line.
Alabama sophomore offensive guard Barrett Jones: Alabama has a bunch of guys who’ve played well on the offensive line this season. Jones has been a staple at his right guard position and is as consistent as the day is long.
Arkansas senior offensive tackle DeMarcus Love: He’s been Ryan Mallett's protector on the blind side. The Hogs had some problems with the rush in the Alabama game, but Love remains one of the better left tackles in college football.
Florida senior center Mike Pouncey: The snap problems earlier in the season marred what has otherwise been a dominant stretch of football for Pouncey. His natural position is probably guard, which is where he played last season.
Mississippi State senior offensive tackle Derek Sherrod: The Bulldogs’ left tackle has been named the SEC’s Offensive Lineman of the Week twice in the last three weeks. He’s a big reason Mississippi State is third in the SEC in rushing (211.8 yards per game) and has only given up eight sacks in six games.
Auburn senior offensive tackle Lee Ziemba: It’s hard to imagine Auburn playing a game and Ziemba not being at left tackle. He’s made 44 consecutive starts for the Tigers, who are leading the SEC in total offense with an average of 483 yards per game.
Here are five others who just missed the cut:
- Georgia senior offensive tackle Clint Boling
- Florida senior offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert
- Auburn senior offensive guard Byron Isom
- Ole Miss junior offensive tackle Bradley Sowell
- Alabama junior center William Vlachos
The SEC placed 15 players on the list, including three from Alabama -- offensive tackle James Carpenter, defensive end Marcell Dareus and linebacker Dont'a Hightower.
The Rotary Lombardi Award goes to "down linemen, end-to-end, either on offense or defense, who set up no farther than 10 yards to the left or right of the ball, or linebackers who set up no farther than 5 yards deep from the line of scrimmage."
Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was the 2009 winner.
Here's a look at the 15 SEC players who made the 2010 preseason watch list:
- Georgia offensive tackle Clint Boling
- Alabama offensive tackle James Carpenter
- Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus
- Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower
- Georgia outside linebacker Justin Houston
- Arkansas offensive tackle DeMarcus Love
- South Carolina defensive end Cliff Matthews
- Mississippi State defensive end Pernell McPhee
- Florida center Mike Pouncey
- Ole Miss nose tackle Jerrell Powe
- Auburn center Ryan Pugh
- South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders
- LSU linebacker Kelvin Sheppard
- Mississippi State offensive tackle Derek Sherrod
- Auburn offensive tackle Lee Ziemba
The three most glaring guys missing from this list, in my opinion, are Vanderbilt linebacker Chris Marve, Tennessee tight end Luke Stocker and Ole Miss defensive end Kentrell Lockett.
We’ll find out soon enough if that translates into a second straight national championship for the Crimson Tide.
Alabama had six players ranked among the top 150 NFL draft prospects for the 2011 draft. North Carolina and Ohio State topped the list, each with seven prospects. Alabama was tied for third nationally along with Miami, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Southern California.
Florida was right behind Alabama with five players among the top 150 prospects, while LSU was third in the SEC with four top 150 prospects.
The top-rated SEC player was Georgia receiver A.J. Green at No. 4 overall.
One of the biggest surprises was that Auburn had just one top 150 prospect. Lee Ziemba was ranked No. 84 overall and No. 8 among the draft-eligible offensive tackles for the 2011 draft.
Ole Miss and Tennessee also had just one player apiece to make the cut, while Kentucky and Vanderbilt didn’t have any players listed among the top 150 prospects.
Florida center Mike Pouncey was the SEC’s top-rated offensive lineman at No. 41 overall, but Arkansas offensive tackle DeMarcus Love was close behind at No. 45 overall.
It’s hard to believe that three cornerbacks were rated ahead of LSU’s Patrick Peterson, who’s No. 21 overall. Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara was No. 3, Virginia’s Ras-I Dowling No. 7 and Florida’s Janoris Jenkins No. 10.
Here’s a breakdown of the SEC teams. The players’ positions are what they’re projected to play in the NFL:
No. 5 – Marcell Dareus, defensive tackle
No. 19 – Mark Ingram, running back
No. 32 – Julio Jones, receiver
No. 52 – Mark Barron, safety
No. 99 – Dont’a Hightower, inside linebacker
No. 120 – James Carpenter, offensive guard
No. 10 – Janoris Jenkins, cornerback
No. 41 – Mike Pouncey, center
No. 78 – Ahmad Black, safety
No. 112 – Will Hill, safety
No. 144 – Brandon Hicks, outside linebacker
No. 21 – Patrick Peterson, cornerback
No. 61 – Terrence Toliver, receiver
No. 71 – Kelvin Sheppard, outside linebacker
No. 79 – Drake Nevis, defensive tackle
No. 12 – Ryan Mallett, quarterback
No. 45 – DeMarcus Love, offensive tackle
No. 107 – D.J. Williams, tight end
No. 4 – A.J. Green, receiver
No. 51 – Brandon Boykin, cornerback
No. 73 – Clint Boling, offensive guard
MISSISSIPPI STATE (3)
No. 77 – Pernell McPhee, defensive end
No. 123 – Derek Sherrod, offensive tackle
No. 124 – K.J. Wright, outside linebacker
SOUTH CAROLINA (2)
No. 55 – Weslye Saunders, tight end
No. 102 – Cliff Matthews, defensive end
No. 84 – Lee Ziemba, offensive tackle
OLE MISS (1)
No. 46 – Jerrell Powe, defensive tackle
No. 67 – Luke Stocker, tight end
Here's a look:
BRONKO NAGURSKI TROPHY
- Alabama S Mark Barron
- Alabama DE Marcell Dareus
- South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore
- Alabama LB Dont'a Hightower
- Georgia LB Justin Houston
- Florida CB Janoris Jenkins
- Vanderbilt LB Chris Marve
- South Carolina DE Cliff Matthews
- LSU CB Patrick Peterson
- Ole Miss DT Jerrell Powe
- LSU LB Kelvin Sheppard
- Auburn LB Craig Stevens
- Georgia T Clint Boling
- Alabama T James Carpenter
- Florida DT Omar Hunter
- Florida G Carl Johnson
- Alabama G Barrett Jones
- Georgia C Ben Jones
- Arkansas T DeMarcus Love
- LSU DT Drake Nevis
- Florida C Mike Pouncey
- Ole Miss DT Jerrell Powe
- Auburn T Lee Ziemba
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Arkansas senior guard Mitch Petrus is not one to sugarcoat anything. He'll tell you so himself.
So when he says the Hogs' offensive line needs to be the most improved unit on the team, believe it.
When he says the offensive line is the "X factor" to this offense being one of the most explosive in the country, believe it.
|Wesley Hitt/Getty Images|
|Guard Mitch Petrus knows the offensive line will be crucial to Arkansas' success.|
And when he says he's matured by leaps and bounds after having to sit out last season because he fell short in the classroom, believe it.
"It's important to see things the way they are," said Petrus, a second-team All-SEC selection two years ago. "The truth is that we have good players everywhere else. If the offensive line can hold its own and come through, we're going to be a really good team."
The Hogs return three starters on the offensive line from last season, and plugging Petrus back into the equation makes it four guys who've been full-time starters at some point.
"Mitch plays with a real good attitude," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "He's kind of nasty and mean and very, very aggressive. That kind of mentality helps the rest of our offensive line, being able to see that and having somebody with that personality playing with them."
It wasn't a pretty sight at times a year ago for anybody associated with the Hogs' offensive line. It allowed a staggering 46 quarterback sacks, which was the second-highest total among all FBS teams.
"It was not acceptable how many sacks we gave up," Petrus said. "We've got to improve, and we've been working hard to get it done. We're headed in the right direction, but we never can be satisfied with where we are.
"What our goal is and what we talk about is that we don't want to take one step forward and two steps back and go back and forth and back and forth and never be getting anywhere. We understand we're going to have bad practices some days, but it's important to not take steps back."
Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45 Final Buffalo 24 San Diego State 49 Final Tulane 21 Louisiana-Lafayette 24
6:00 PM ET Pittsburgh Bowling Green 9:30 PM ET Utah State 23 Northern Illinois
2:30 PM ET Marshall Maryland 6:00 PM ET Syracuse Minnesota 9:30 PM ET Brigham Young Washington
12:00 PM ET Rutgers Notre Dame 3:20 PM ET Cincinnati North Carolina 6:45 PM ET Miami (FL) 18 Louisville 10:15 PM ET Michigan Kansas State
11:45 AM ET Middle Tennessee Navy 3:15 PM ET Ole Miss Georgia Tech 6:45 PM ET 10 Oregon Texas 10:15 PM ET 14 Arizona State Texas Tech
12:30 PM ET Arizona Boston College 2:00 PM ET Virginia Tech 17 UCLA 4:00 PM ET Rice Mississippi State 8:00 PM ET 24 Duke 21 Texas A&M
12:00 PM ET Nebraska 22 Georgia 12:00 PM ET UNLV North Texas 1:00 PM ET Iowa 16 LSU 1:00 PM ET 19 Wisconsin 9 South Carolina 5:00 PM ET 5 Stanford 4 Michigan State 8:30 PM ET 15 UCF 6 Baylor
7:30 PM ET 13 Oklahoma State 8 Missouri 8:30 PM ET 12 Clemson 7 Ohio State