SEC: Drake Nevis

A Decade of Les: All-Miles team

August, 8, 2014
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- With Les Miles opening his 10th season as LSU's head coach this week, we’ll use each day to review the decade with Miles helming the Tigers' program. Today we take a swing at naming a roster of the best players from the Miles era.

Let's break down the picks by offense, defense and special teams and discuss some of the tougher decisions.

OFFENSE
Among the most difficult positions to settle on were running back and wide receiver.

We went with Jeremy Hill (who set a record for a back with at least 200 carries by averaging 6.9 yards per carry in 2013) and Jacob Hester at running back. Because of his ability to play fullback, Hester -- the leading rusher on the 2007 BCS championship club with 1,103 yards and 12 touchdowns -- gets the nod over a host of talented alternatives like Charles Scott, Joseph Addai and Stevan Ridley.

[+] EnlargeJarvis Landry
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertJarvis Landry had 77 catches for 1,193 yards last season before being drafted by the Dolphins in the second round.
Receiver was an even more difficult position to evaluate. Wideouts such as Dwayne Bowe, Early Doucet and Rueben Randle all belong on the list, but we went with Jarvis Landry, whose 2013 (77 catches, 1,193 yards, 10 TDs) was the best single-season effort in the Miles era, and Brandon LaFell, a two-time All-SEC pick who is LSU's career receiving leader (2,517 yards) under Miles. We added Odell Beckham Jr. as an all-purpose player thanks in large part to a standout 2013 season (59 catches, 1,152 yards, eight TDs) when he won the Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player and ranked second nationally in all-purpose yardage (178.1 yards per game).

There are quarterbacks worth mentioning aside from JaMarcus Russell, namely Matt Flynn and Zach Mettenberger, but Russell completed one of the best seasons by a quarterback in LSU history in 2006 (232-of-342, 3,129 yards, 28 TDs) before becoming the top overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft.

La'el Collins gets the nod at one offensive tackle spot over candidates like Andrew Whitworth and Joe Barksdale, so he needs to prove he deserves that distinction this season. He has the potential to be the best pro prospect LSU has had at tackle under Miles.

LINEUP
QB: JaMarcus Russell
RB: Jeremy Hill
RB: Jacob Hester
WR: Brandon LaFell
WR: Jarvis Landry
TE: Richard Dickson
OT: Ciron Black
OG: Herman Johnson
C: Rudy Niswanger
OG: Will Blackwell
OT: La'el Collins
AP: Odell Beckham Jr.

DEFENSE
Defensive line and secondary have been loaded positions under Miles and John Chavis, so picking just two players at those positions wasn't easy.

[+] EnlargePatrick Peterson
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsPatrick Peterson won the Thorpe and Bednarik awards during the 2010 season.
At defensive end, we went with two-time All-SEC pick and eventual No. 3 overall draft pick Tyson Jackson and Sam Montgomery, LSU’s sack leader under Miles with 32.5 between 2010 and 2012, over alternatives like Barkevious Mingo and Melvin Oliver.

One tackle position was easy with 2007 Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski and Lott award winner Glenn Dorsey claiming one of the spots. The other tackle was a tough call, but we went with 2012 first-round pick Michael Brockers over a ton of great options such as Drake Nevis, Al Woods, Bennie Logan, Claude Wroten and Kyle Williams.

It would have been awfully difficult to pick just two cornerbacks if we hadn’t added a nickelback spot for Tyrann Mathieu to occupy. One of the SEC’s leading defensive playmakers of the 2000s, he definitely belongs on the roster, but Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne feel like no-brainers at corner, too.

At safety, it wasn’t much fun leaving All-American Craig Steltz off the list, but Eric Reid and LaRon Landry both made All-America teams, too -- and both of them became first-round draft picks, while Steltz went in the fourth round in 2008.

Linebackers Kevin Minter (130 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss in 2012) and Kelvin Sheppard (116 tackles in 2010) posted the top single-season tackle totals of the Miles era, while Ali Highsmith earned one All-America designation when he totaled 101 tackles and nine tackles for a loss on the 2007 BCS championship club.

LINEUP
DE: Sam Montgomery
DT: Glenn Dorsey
DT: Michael Brockers
DE: Tyson Jackson
LB: Ali Highsmith
LB: Kevin Minter
LB: Kelvin Sheppard
CB: Patrick Peterson
S: Eric Reid
S: LaRon Landry
CB: Morris Claiborne
Nickel: Tyrann Mathieu

SPECIAL TEAMS
LSU has had a bunch of electric kick returners under Miles. Peterson, Claiborne and Beckham would have been among the top options among kickoff returners, but since they're already on the roster, we went with Trindon Holliday, LSU's career kickoff return yardage leader under Miles (1,806 yards between 2006 and 2009). Peterson, Beckham, Holliday and Mathieu were phenomenal punt returners, so let’s add another new name to the list in Skyler Green, who ranks second all-time among LSU punt returners with 1,064 yards between 2002 and 2005.

It's tough to ignore LSU's single-season and career kicker scoring leader Colt David, but Josh Jasper is the most accurate field goal kicker in school history (83.9 percent) and trails only David on the kicker scoring list with 120 career points.

Brad Wing posted two of the top five seasons by a punter in school history in 2011 (an All-America season where he averaged 44.37 yards per punt) and 2012 (44.8), so he gets the nod over Derek Helton, Patrick Fisher and Chris Jackson.

LINEUP
PK: Josh Jasper
P: Brad Wing
KOR: Trindon Holliday
PR: Skyler Green
BATON ROUGE, La. -- With Les Miles opening his 10th season as LSU's head coach this week, we’ll use each day to review the decade under the eccentric Miles. Today we look back at the five best recruiting classes of the Miles era.

5. 2013
ESPN class ranking: Seventh
We’re making a call based on potential here, since several of the most talented members of this group have yet to make much of an impact (or haven’t played yet at all). Cornerbacks Tre'Davious White and Rashard Robinson and quarterback Anthony Jennings are the headliners thus far. But players like tight end DeSean Smith; defensive tackles Christian LaCouture, Greg Gilmore, Maquedius Bain and Frank Herron; and linebacker Kendell Beckwith could all become household names among LSU fans before the 2014 season is over.

4. 2007
ESPN class ranking: Sixth
Wide receiver Terrance Toliver was the highest-rated prospect in this 27-man class, and he had a fine college career, but other 2007 signees became the more important college players. The Tigers had three players in this signing class (kicker Josh Jasper, defensive lineman Drake Nevis and offensive lineman Will Blackwell) who became All-Americans according to at least one organization. They also had six players (Blackwell, Jasper, Nevis, defensive lineman Joe Barksdale, safety Chad Jones and running back Stevan Ridley) who made at least one All-SEC team and six (Jones, Ridley, Nevis, Barksdale, cornerback Ron Brooks and receiver Demetrius Byrd) who became NFL draft picks.

3. 2011
ESPN class ranking: 10th
No. 2 overall prospect Anthony Johnson was the biggest fish in this class, but “The Freak” didn’t quite live up to his advance billing in three seasons at LSU before becoming an undrafted free agent in the most recent NFL draft. However, this class was loaded with impact players -- including two of the most productive receivers (Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham) in school history, a pair of All-SEC offensive linemen from 2013 (La'el Collins and Trai Turner) and several others who should make an impact this season (running backs Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard, defensive end Jermauria Rasco, safety Ronald Martin and defensive tackle Quentin Thomas, among others). LSU also added quarterback Zach Mettenberger as a junior college transfer and signed running back Jeremy Hill in this class, although Hill didn’t contribute as a member of the team until 2012.

2. 2014
ESPN class ranking: Second
Yes, this is completely unfair. These kids haven’t played a single snap in college yet. Much like the 2013 class, it will be several more years before we know the full impact that this class will have at LSU. But with the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect (running back Leonard Fournette), the No. 1 players at three different positions (Fournette, receiver Malachi Dupre and offensive guard Garrett Brumfield) and other exciting additions like quarterback Brandon Harris, record-setting receiver Trey Quinn, safety Jamal Adams and linebacker Clifton Garrett, this could conceivably become one of the best recruiting classes in school history before it’s all over. Miles said on national signing day that he believes this class can help LSU contend for several national championships, and it certainly has the talent to do so.

1. 2009
ESPN class ranking: First
No. 1 athlete Russell Shepard was initially the crown jewel in the nation’s top signing class, but he wasn’t the guy who eventually made this such a successful class. Sure there were several star prospects who panned out in this class -- including No. 1 safety Craig Loston, No. 1 receiver Rueben Randle, No. 2 defensive end Sam Montgomery and No. 11 outside linebacker Kevin Minter -- but the Tigers got as much out of the players who weren’t considered to rank among the highest-rated signees at the time. The Tigers signed 10 ESPN 150 honorees in the 25-man class. Among those who didn’t make the list of the top 150 prospects: cornerback Morris Claiborne; defensive linemen Michael Brockers, Barkevious Mingo and Bennie Logan; offensive lineman Chris Faulk and linebacker Lamin Barrow. Claiborne, Brockers and Mingo all became first-round NFL draft picks, and five members of that group made at least one All-SEC team.
BATON ROUGE, La. – At his national signing day press conference, LSU coach Les Miles ran down a list of names on a sheet of paper, rattling off details about each of the Tigers’ signees. But when he got to the new defensive tackle from San Antonio, Miles grinned and had to pause.

“I better call him Trey L. this minute,” Miles chuckled while struggling to pronounce Trey Lealaimatafao's last name. “It will take me several years to get to that. And I want you to know something, he’s a wonderful man and I pray that he’ll be forgiving my inability.”

Miles predicted it would probably take “a couple years” before he clears that verbal obstacle, adding that his struggles will provide reporters with fodder “to throw at me just about any point in time that you need to.”

I can’t make any guarantees, but I’d imagine the kid will cut Miles some slack. Sure, questions and jokes about your name might get annoying from time to time, but you definitely get used to it. Continuing to get angry about it won’t do any good and would only mean you’d walk around in an irritable state most of the time.

Mr. L. seems to share that perspective. Just this week, he tweeted instructions on how to pronounce it for those who understandably need some assistance.



Simple, right?

[+] EnlargeTrey Lealaimatafao
Tom Hauck for Student SportsHis last name isn't the only big thing about Trey Lealaimatafao's (left) game.
Anyway, once he becomes a legit LSU letterman, Lealaimatafao will tie for the longest last name in Tigers football history. I know because I looked it up myself.

These are the things you do when you’re a bored college football writer during the summer months. You get a wild hair and comb through the list of lettermen in the media guide, checking to see if the new signee actually has the longest name among the six pages and hundreds of lettermen listed from more than 120 years of Tigers football.

In case you were wondering -- and I know you were -- Lealaimatafao’s 13-letter last name ties with 1939 letterman W.H. Froechtenicht for the top spot on this important list. They edge former LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger (12 letters), among others, by a single character.

Among some of the notable long names on the list: Ricky Jean-Francois (should hyphenated names count?) and All-SEC honorees Robbie Hucklebridge and Godfrey Zaunbrecher.

Ideally, Lealaimatafao will perform well enough at LSU that he eventually becomes a household name, not one that gives announcers nightmares.

At the very same introductory press conference, Miles compared him to a former Tiger who earned such “household name” distinction among LSU fans a few years back.

“What he would remind you of is Drake Nevis,” said Miles, referring to the Tigers’ former All-SEC defensive lineman. “He’s maybe a little taller, a little wider, maybe a little faster, but he has a very high motor and real acceleration on the field.”

For now, Lealaimatafao’s claim to fame will remain his difficult-to-pronounce last name, but that could change soon enough. If Miles’ comparison holds water, the transition might just occur sooner rather than later.

LSU can lean on defense for a long time

September, 14, 2011
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Through the first two weeks, LSU has proved it doesn’t need star power on offense to get the job done.

In fact, the second-ranked Tigers haven’t needed much offense at all as it has relied on its high-flying, dominant defense.

Against Oregon’s flashy juggernaut of an offense, LSU’s defense surrendered 335 total yards, but allowed just 95 on the ground. The Tigers also got a defensive touchdown and forced four turnovers. Last week against Northwestern State, the Tigers allowed just 95 yards, including -4 rushing.

The Tigers have one of the fastest, most athletic defenses in the country and while the offense hasn’t been tremendously exciting to look at, it might not have to be this season.

LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne said the defense has done what has been expected. It doesn’t need a high-powered offense at its side to be effective. All this defense does is focus on its play and the players understand that everything else will fall into place as long as they are hitting their assignments.

[+] EnlargeSam Montgomery
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireLSU's defense has limited opponents to just 91 yards on the ground so far this season.
“We know what we can do as a team,” Claiborne said. “As a defense, we come out, we fly around and we make plays.”

Fly around they have and make plays they’ll continue to do. But playing so physical up front has been a major reason for the Tigers’ success. Those rushing numbers from before can be hard for offensive coaches to stomach, but LSU’s linemen take pride in their carnage.

After all, this unit did lose the likes of Drake Nevis and Lazarius Levingston from the interior.

“We’re just trying to be physical and dominant this year,” sophomore defensive tackle Michael Brockers said. “We’re trying to fill in those gaps that Nevis left and Levingston left and show what we have. It’s time to show the world who we are.”

People have seen … and they’re scared.

But can the defense continue to be the backbone of this team? Well, it’s not as if LSU hasn’t dealt with the defense overshadowing the offense before. Last season, LSU surrendered just 307 offensive yards a game, while generating just 341 of its own. And how about 2008? That year, the Tigers won the national championship with a defense that allowed 288 yards a game and an offense that pounded the ball and was pretty average through the air.

Sounds familiar, but things could be changing for LSU’s offense.

The offense was more efficient against Northwestern State -- as it should have been -- but coach Les Miles was happy with the growth from Week 1 to Week 2. LSU increased its offensive outage from 273 yards against the Ducks to 400 last Saturday. A week after Jarrett Lee threw for just 98 total yards, he and Zach Mettenberger combined for 225 yards and two touchdowns.

The running game was solid as well. After the Tigers pounded the Ducks for 175 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, LSU hit that number again and registered five touchdowns from its stable of running backs.

The Tigers haven’t been extravagant offensively, but their methodical approach has worked.

“We would like to be balanced, period,” Miles said of the offense.

“We’re confident that we can throw it and run it. That is really what we want to accomplish.”

Wide receiver Rueben Randle, who enjoyed a five-catch, 121-yard outing against Northwestern State, said the offense expanded more in the second week and expects the playbook to open up more Thursday against Mississippi State and beyond.

He isn’t worried about the low offensive numbers (LSU ranks ninth in the league with 336.5 yards per game) because he’s confident the coaches will start letting the passing game fly more as the trust builds.

Should the Tigers’ really worry about the offense? Their defense is giving up 215 yards a game and has sent two offenses home banged up and bruised. More offensive production would be nice, but it isn’t a necessity.

For now, the Tigers will lean on their defense and the only people who should be worried are their opponents.

LSU opens preseason camp

August, 4, 2011
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LSU’s staff watched as 104 players reported to campus Wednesday before the Tigers took to the practice field Thursday morning.

The first practice is all about acclimating the youngsters, and LSU has quite a few to work with, as more than half of the team is comprised of freshmen and sophomores.

“We are going to make sure that the young players get an introduction to our style of football and give them a chance to get up to speed before we put on the pads in a few days,” coach Les Miles said Wednesday. “The first two days are going to involve a lot of teaching and we will go very slow with them. We’ll pick up the pace once we get to our shells.”

But don’t mistake youth for a lack of talent because the Tigers have a bunch of that as well.

Senior linebacker Ryan Baker saw it this spring and he’s seen it during summer workouts. As the new leader of the defense, Baker took it upon himself to make sure the young ones got used to some of the riggers associated with the high school-to-college transition.

So far, he’s been impressed.

“The young guys are coming on,” Baker said.

And they’ll need to. There are still some holes that need to be filled on LSU’s defense. Gone are destruction artists Drake Nevis at defensive tackle, Patrick Peterson at cornerback and Kelvin Sheppard at middle linebacker.

Sophomore Tyrann Mathieu has stepped in at corner opposite Morris Claibore, and LSU’s line should get a lot of work out of the talented redshirt freshman Ego Ferguson and early enrollee Anthony Johnson in the middle.

Johnson, in particular, has drawn a lot of attention.

“To see a young guy that advanced is crazy,” Baker said. “When I first got here I knew my body wasn’t ready and I didn’t understand the game. He’s ready to be a college football player.”

But questions still remain at the middle linebacker spot. As Baker puts it, the man in the middle is basically the director of the defense and it will be tough to replace someone like Sheppard. The first-team All-SEC performer was third in the league with 116 tackles last season and had double-digit tackle numbers six times.

Karnell Hatcher moved down from safety and got some work in at middle linebacker along with Kevin Minter this spring.

Baker said each impressed him this spring when they were both on the field, but finding that one player to hold down the middle is priority number one.

“It’s crucial. He’s the field general of the defense,” Baker said. “The whole defense goes through the middle linebacker, so as long as we have consistent linebacker play, we’ll be OK.”

With the talent and athleticism LSU possesses, the Tigers should be OK. And the players aren’t looking at 2011 as a rebuilding year. No, the Tigers expect big things -- championship things.

To Baker, last season was merely a stepping-stone for LSU. The Tigers are looking to build off of that and make a serious run for a January trip to New Orleans.

“We feel like we have expectations now,” he said. “Last year, we had a down year. We were 11-2, but it didn’t feel like we were 11-2. We want national championships here and we want to build on that.”

The SEC's 25 best players: No. 12

March, 4, 2011
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He was overshadowed at times by Auburn’s Nick Fairley, but the No. 12 guy in our countdown was dominant in his own right last season in the middle of that LSU defensive line:

No. 12: Drake Nevis, DT, Sr., LSU

[+] EnlargeDrake Nevis
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertDefensive tackle Drake Nevis (92) was a force for LSU last season.
2010 numbers/honors: Led LSU with 13 tackles for loss and was second on the team with six sacks and three forced fumbles. A second-team All-America selection by the Associated Press and Walter Camp. A consensus first-team All-SEC selection.

Preseason ranking: Not ranked in the 2010 preseason countdown.

Making the case for Nevis: The 6-2, 285-pound Nevis was the Tigers’ one-man wrecking ball in the middle of their defensive line last season. Defensive tackles don’t usually rack up big numbers. They’re there to stuff the run and take up blockers for other guys to make plays, but Nevis was one of the most active defensive tackles in the country. He finished with 56 total tackles, which was second only to Fairley’s 60 total tackles among interior defensive linemen in the SEC. Nevis was at his best in some of the Tigers’ biggest wins, and he also did most of his damage against SEC teams. He had 10 of his 13 tackles for loss in league play, including five of his six sacks. He had several key plays in the 24-21 win over Alabama and was dominant in the 33-29 win at Florida with 4.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis has coached a number of defensive tackles who’ve gone on to have stellar NFL careers, and he said Nevis compares favorably with any of them.

The rundown

No. 13: Auburn OT Lee Ziemba

No. 14: LSU LB Kelvin Sheppard

No. 15: South Carolina DE Devin Taylor

No. 16: Florida S Ahmad Black

No. 17: Arkansas TE D.J. Williams

No. 18: Alabama S Mark Barron

No. 19: Florida CB Janoris Jenkins

No. 20: Mississippi State LB Chris White

No. 21: LSU RB Stevan Ridley

No. 22: Mississippi State OT Derek Sherrod

No. 23: Alabama DE Marcell Dareus

No. 24: Kentucky LB Danny Trevathan

No. 25: Alabama LB Courtney Upshaw

SEC combine recap

March, 1, 2011
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Some numbers and observations from the NFL combine workouts concerning former SEC defensive linemen and linebackers:
  • It sounds like Alabama's Marcell Dareus might have passed Auburn's Nick Fairley in the eyes of NFL scouts as the top interior defensive lineman in the draft. Dareus (6-foot-3 and 319 pounds) ran a 4.94 in the 40-yard dash with a 1.69 10-yard split. The Scouts Inc. guys (Todd McShay, Kevin Weidl and Steve Muench) said the combine couldn't have gone better for Dareus, who showcased a blend of quickness, power and strength during the drills.
  • Fairley (6-3 7/8 and 291 pounds) was lighter than most had expected, but still had a strong showing. He ran a 4.89 in the 40 with a 1.76 10-yard split and also had a 31-inch vertical jump. Like Dareus, Fairley also moved well in drills. Still, the feeling coming out of the combine was that Dareus would be picked higher than Fairley on draft day.
  • Georgia's Justin Houston (6-3 and 270 pounds) worked out with the linebackers, but projects as a right end in the NFL. The Scouts Inc. crew think Houston helped his chances of being a first-round pick with his performance at the combine. He ran a 4.68 in the 40 and posted a 10-5 broad jump and 36.5-inch vertical jump. He also has huge hands (10.^ inches), long arms (34) and a wide wingspan (81]).
  • The Scouts Inc. crew reported that LSU defensive tackle Drake Nevis didn't look as explosive or agile as expected and had to re-start two different drills.
  • Also, Baylor's Phil Taylor (6-3 and 344) continued to separate himself from Ole Miss' Jerrell Powe (6-1 and 335) at the nose guard position, according to the Scouts Inc. guys. Taylor had the better frame, was in better shape and didn't appear to wear down as quickly as Powe.
  • Mississippi State's Chris White posted a 4.68 in the 40, which was tied for seventh fastest among the linebackers.
  • Georgia's Akeem Dent had a 10-3 broad jump, which was fourth among the linebackers.

How All-SEC team ranked as recruits

January, 31, 2011
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Look, we all to some degree pay attention to where players are ranked during the recruiting process.

In some cases, it’s an indicator, and it’s also something to keep us busy until the next season rolls around.

But player rankings are hardly foolproof.

One of the exercises I like to partake in every year is to go back and see where the first-team, All-SEC players were ranked coming out of high school.

Of the 11 players on the first-team defense this season, only two were ESPNU 150 selections coming out of high school, meaning they weren’t ranked among the top 150 prospects nationally.

Offensively, six of the players were ESPNU 150 selections.

Using ESPN’s recruiting rankings and the 2010 Associated Press All-SEC team, here’s a look back:

OFFENSE
  • QB: Cam Newton, Auburn – ESPNU 150 selection. No. 9 quarterback and No. 58 player overall in the 2007 class.
  • RB: Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina – ESPNU 150 selection. No. 2 running back and No. 19 player overall in the 2010 class.
  • RB: Knile Davis, Arkansas – No. 20 running back and unranked nationally in the 2009 class.
  • AP: Randall Cobb, Kentucky – No. 86 athlete and unranked nationally in the 2008 class.
  • WR: Julio Jones, Alabama – ESPNU 150 selection. No. 1 receiver and No. 2 player overall in the 2008 class.
  • WR: Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina – ESPNU 150 selection. No. 12 receiver and No. 102 player overall in the 2009 class.
  • TE: D.J. Williams, Arkansas – No. 10 tight end and unranked nationally in 2007 class.
  • OL: DeMarcus Love, Arkansas – No. 78 offensive guard and unranked nationally in the 2006 class.
  • OL: Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State – No. 26 offensive tackle and unranked nationally in the 2007 class.
  • OL: Barrett Jones, Alabama – No. 28 offensive tackle and unranked nationally in the 2008 class.
  • OL: Lee Ziemba, Auburn – ESPNU 150 selection. No. 4 offensive tackle and No. 62 player overall in the 2007 class.
  • C: Ryan Pugh, Auburn – ESPNU 150 selection. No. 1 center and No. 87 player overall in the 2007 class.
DEFENSE
  • DE: Devin Taylor, South Carolina – No. 72 defensive end and unranked nationally in the 2008 class.
  • DT: Drake Nevis, LSU – No. 46 defensive tackle and unranked nationally in the 2007 class.
  • DT: Nick Fairley, Auburn – No. 32 offensive tackle and unranked nationally in the 2007 class.
  • OLB: Justin Houston, Georgia – No. 28 defensive end and unranked nationally in the 2007 class.
  • LB: Kelvin Sheppard, LSU – No. 21 inside linebacker and unranked nationally in the 2006 class.
  • LB: Chris White, Mississippi State – Unranked at his position and unranked nationally in the 2006 class.
  • LB: Danny Trevathan, Kentucky – Unranked at his position and unranked nationally in the 2008 class.
  • CB: Patrick Peterson, LSU – ESPNU 150 selection. No. 1 cornerback and No. 9 player overall in the 2008 class.
  • CB: Janoris Jenkins, Florida – ESPNU 150 selection. No. 4 cornerback and No. 31 player overall in the 2008 class.
  • S: Ahmad Black, Florida – No. 49 safety and unranked nationally in the 2007 class.
  • S: Mark Barron, Alabama – No. 19 athlete and unranked nationally in the 2008 class.
SPECIAL TEAMS
  • PK: Josh Jasper, LSU – No. 6 kicker in the 2007 class.
  • P: Chas Henry, Florida – No. 10 kicker in the 2007 class.

SEC recruiting needs: Western Division

January, 28, 2011
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For many, National Signing Day in college football is more anticipated than the season itself.

It’s just around the corner, Wednesday to be exact.

We’ll start with the Western Division in the SEC and take a look at each team’s recruiting needs:

ALABAMA

[+] EnlargeJulio Jones
AP Photo/John RaouxAlabama is losing star receiver Julio Jones to the NFL.
Offensive line: Alabama has been swimming in All-America and All-SEC offensive linemen the past three years, but it’s time to replenish up front. With James Carpenter departing, the Crimson Tide need to find a left tackle. Junior college signee Aaron Douglas, who started his career at Tennessee and was a Freshman All-American two years ago, could be the answer.

Receiver: Talents like Julio Jones don’t come around very often, and he’s now headed to the NFL a year early on the heels of a record-setting junior season. Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks will both be seniors next season, so finding a few more playmakers on the perimeter is a priority.

Defensive end: Whether it’s defensive ends or outside linebackers, the Crimson Tide are looking for some finishers in their 3-4 scheme to help improve their pass rush. Defensive end Marcell Dareus declared early for the NFL draft. The Tide’s other starting end, Luther Davis, is also gone, while “Jack” linebacker Courtney Upshaw will be a senior next season. Alabama finished in the middle of the SEC pack this season with 27 sacks.

ARKANSAS

Receiver: There won’t be a more talented receiving corps in the SEC next season. However, Greg Childs, Joe Adams and Jarius Wright will all be seniors. Cobi Hamilton will be a junior, so it’s imperative that the Hogs add some youth to their talented receiving stable.

Tight end: D.J. Williams ended his Arkansas career as one of the best pass-catching tight ends in SEC history. Also gone is Ben Cleveland. Rising junior Chris Gragg had his moments this season, but he’s going to need some help down the road.

Defensive back: The Hogs are losing half of their starting secondary in cornerback Ramon Broadway and strong safety Rudell Crim. Free safety Tramain Thomas and cornerback Isaac Madison return, but both will be seniors next season. Cornerbacks will be at the top of the Hogs’ wish list.

Offensive line: Tackles DeMarcus Love and Ray Dominguez were both seniors along with left guard Wade Grayson. Several of the Hogs’ backups on the offensive line will be seniors next season.

AUBURN

Offensive line: The Tigers lose four senior starters on their offensive line. Left tackle Lee Ziemba, right guard Byron Isom and center Ryan Pugh all earned some type of All-SEC honors. Getting tackle A.J. Greene back will help. He was a starter at right tackle until he injured his knee in the third game. The Tigers’ top offensive line signee from last year, Shon Coleman, remains on hold. He’s battling Leukemia.

Defensive line: Most of the guys who played the meaningful snaps up front defensively for the Tigers this season are gone. The big loss was Lombardi Award winner Nick Fairley declaring early for the NFL draft. Rising sophomore end Nosa Eguae will be looking for all the help he can get, even though there are some promising young defensive linemen in the program.

Quarterback: It was only one season, but what a season it was for Cam Newton. The 2010 Heisman Trophy winner will now take his shot at the NFL, leaving Auburn thin in the quarterback ranks. Rising junior Barrett Trotter is probably the guy to beat next season. The Tigers needed a multi-dimensional quarterback in this class and think they scored a perfect fit for Gus Malzahn’s offense in Kiehl Frazier of Springdale, Ark. He’s rated by ESPN as the No. 2 quarterback prospect in the country.

Linebacker: The Tigers have been lacking for depth at linebacker the past two seasons, which is the reason Josh Bynes and Craig Stevens played so many snaps. They’re gone now, and Eltoro Freeman will be a senior next season. Auburn went looking for linebackers last recruiting period and is looking for a few more this year.

LSU

Defensive line: With defensive tackle Drake Nevis graduating, muscle inside is a priority. The same goes for adding some top-flight pass-rushers at end. The return of Sam Montgomery will be a huge plus for the Tigers, who didn’t get to the quarterback nearly as much once he got hurt this season. They’re looking for a few more pass-rushers just like him.

Receiver: Terrence Toliver is gone, and suddenly, Russell Shepard and Rueben Randle will be juniors next season. The Tigers need more firepower on the outside, in particular a deep threat at receiver. They’re hopeful that four-star commitment Jarvis Landry of Lutcher, La., can come in and help provide more big plays next season.

Quarterback: It was a struggle in the passing game all season for LSU, which finished with just 10 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. Jordan Jefferson did play better toward the end of the season, but he and Jarrett Lee are both rising seniors. It was critical that the Tigers get a marquee quarterback in this class, and they were able to get one at midterm. Former Georgia quarterback Zach Mettenberger is already enrolled and will go through spring practice. The 6-5, 230-pound Mettenberger threw 32 touchdown passes last season at Butler (Kan.) Community College.

MISSISSIPPI STATE

Linebacker: The Bulldogs are losing all three starters, and Chris White and K.J. Wright were their top two tacklers this season. Ferlando Bohanna is one of the 22 freshmen they redshirted last season and will get every chance to win a starting linebacker job in the spring.

Defensive line: In particular, Mississippi State is looking for ends and guys that can get to the quarterback. Pernell McPhee is gone, and Johnathan McKenzie left the team in September. The Bulldogs’ depth up front was also hurt by the tragic death of Nick Bell, who passed away in November after a bout with cancer.

Receivers: Dan Mullen is always looking for more receivers, even though the Bulldogs redshirted four of those guys last season. With the kind of offense Mullen wants to run, it’s important that Mississippi State bring in more guys on the perimeter who can stretch the field.

OLE MISS

Defensive line: The Rebels lost four senior tackles, both starters and both backups, and one of those was Jerrell Powe, one of the best run-stoppers in the league. Kentrell Lockett has applied to the NCAA for a sixth season. Regardless of whether or not he gets another season, the Rebels need more pass-rushers. Wayne Dorsey, a touted junior college transfer, struggled last season.

Receiver: An overall lack of production at receiver really hurt Ole Miss this season, and the Rebels’ two most dependable wide receivers, Markeith Summers and Lionel Breaux, are both gone. They need to find some more playmakers at the receiver position.

Defensive back: The Rebels lost two of the three in their safety rotation, and the one coming back, Damien Jackson, will be a senior. They’re also in need of cornerbacks, and just generally need to beef up a secondary that took its lumps this season. Ole Miss gave up 24 touchdown passes and intercepted only six passes.

Quarterback: Jeremiah Masoli’s year is up, leaving Nathan Stanley and redshirt freshman Randall Mackey, who’s more of a runner. Junior college signee Zack Stoudt is already on campus and will participate in spring practice.

LSU's Nevis withdraws from Senior Bowl

January, 25, 2011
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LSU defensive tackle Drake Nevis has withdrawn from the Senior Bowl and will not participate this week in the practices.

Nevis, who led the Tigers with 13 tackles for loss this past season, was one of three LSU players originally in the game along with linebacker Kelvin Sheppard and kicker Josh Jasper.

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay had Nevis going No. 31 overall in the first round to the Chicago Bears in his latest mock draft.

The 2010 All-Senior, All-SEC team

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Here’s what we came up with:

OFFENSE
  • QB – Greg McElroy, Alabama
  • RB – Derrick Locke, Kentucky
  • RB – Mario Fannin, Auburn
  • WR – Denarius Moore, Tennessee
  • WR – Chris Matthews, Kentucky
  • TE – D.J. Williams, Arkansas
  • OL – Derek Sherod, Mississippi State
  • OL – Lee Ziemba, Auburn
  • OL – James Carpenter, Alabama
  • OL – DeMarcus Love, Arkansas
  • C – Ryan Pugh, Auburn
DEFENSE
  • DL – Drake Nevis, LSU
  • DL – Jerrell Powe, Ole Miss
  • DL – Antoine Carter, Auburn
  • DL – Pernell McPhee, Mississippi State
  • LB – Kelvin Sheppard, LSU
  • LB – Chris White, Mississippi State
  • LB – Jonathan Cornell, Ole Miss
  • DB – Ahmad Black, Florida
  • DB – Zac Etheridge, Auburn
  • DB – Johnny Brown, Ole Miss
  • DB – Rudell Crim, Arkansas
SPECIAL TEAMS
  • PK – Josh Jasper, LSU
  • P – Chas Henry, Florida
  • KR – Demond Washington, Auburn

Fairley moves up to No. 2 on Big Board

January, 8, 2011
1/08/11
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- With Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck staying in school, Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley is one of the prime candidates to go No. 1 overall in April's NFL draft.

Fairley, a junior, has repeated several times this week that he hasn't given much thought to whether or not he's going to turn pro, but several in and around the Auburn program feel that he will declare for early entry.

ESPN's Mel Kiper in his latest Big Board of the top 25 NFL prospects has Fairley No. 2 overall behind Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers.

Fairley is one of 11 SEC players cracking Kiper's latest Big Board.

Georgia receiver A.J. Green is No. 3 and LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson No. 4. Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus also made the top 10 at No. 6.

Rounding out the SEC players are Auburn quarterback Cam Newton at No. 12, Alabama receiver Julio Jones at No. 13, Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett at No. 16, LSU defensive tackle Drake Nevis at No. 17, Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins at No. 22, Alabama running back Mark Ingram at No. 23 and Florida center Mike Pouncey at No. 25.

LSU season recap

December, 7, 2010
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For as limited as LSU was offensively for most of this season, it’s amazing that the Tigers finished up as well as they did.

That tells you a little something about how good they were on defense and special teams, although their defensive production waned those last couple of games.

The Tigers (10-2) struggled to throw the football for a second year in a row. They’re ranked 107th in passing offense, and junior quarterback Jordan Jefferson threw just four touchdown passes and nine interceptions in 12 starts.

For the second half of the season, Jarrett Lee also rotated in at quarterback. He threw just two touchdown passes, but they both came in the 33-29 win at Florida, including Lee’s 3-yard scoring pass to Terrence Toliver.

In vintage Les Miles fashion, the Tigers kept finding different ways to win despite their shortcomings on offense, and in fairness, junior running back Stevan Ridley had a very good season running the football. He’s one of four SEC players to rush for 1,000 yards and enters the bowl game with 1,042 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns.

John Chavis’ defense was one of the best in the country and still ranks eighth nationally going into the bowl game, but the Tigers showed some wear on that side of the ball in those last two games.

Offensive MVP: Running back Stevan Ridley. He showed flashes a year ago when he received some opportunities after Charles Scott was injured. But as the centerpiece of the Tigers’ running game, Ridley flourished with 1,042 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. He’s one of the more physical runners in the league.

Defensive MVP: Cornerback Patrick Peterson. Defensive tackle Drake Nevis and linebacker Kelvin Sheppard deserve some serious consideration, too, but Peterson is the best cornerback in college football. He had four interceptions and forces teams to go to the other side of the field because they don't want to throw in his direction.

Turning point: The 24-21 win over Alabama set the Tigers up nicely for a BCS bowl and was easily their most complete game of the season. All they had to do was win out, but Arkansas stole their BCS bid away the final week of the regular season.

What’s next: LSU will face Texas A&M in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, hoping to cap the season with 11 wins. Miles still has a decision to make about offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, who has come under considerable fire with the Tigers finishing 11th in the SEC in total offense this season and last a year ago. Miles was non-committal last week about any changes he might make on his staff.

SEC superlative tracker

November, 24, 2010
11/24/10
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We take our weekly look at the offensive player of the year, defensive player of the year and coach of the year races in the SEC:

Offensive Player of the Year

1. Auburn quarterback Cam Newton: Not only has he been the best player in the SEC this season, but he’s put together one of the more dominant seasons in SEC history. Accounting for 39 touchdowns in 11 games, Newton has been the player nobody in the league has an answer for this season.

2. Kentucky receiver Randall Cobb: His versatility and his consistency have been remarkable. He’s accounted for at least one score in all 11 games this season and has accounted for touchdowns four different ways -- rushing, passing, receiving and punt return. Cobb is the only player in the SEC with more than 2,000 all-purpose yards and is second in the SEC with 66 catches.

3. South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore: It’s no coincidence that when Lattimore has a big game running the football, the Gamecocks win. He leads all SEC running backs with 1,066 rushing yards and leads the league with 19 touchdowns. He needs two more to break the SEC freshman record for single-season touchdowns.

4. Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett: With the Hogs playing their best football here at the end of the season, so is Mallett. He leads the SEC with 3,272 passing yards and 27 touchdown passes and is completing 67.2 percent of his passes. Mallett is third nationally in passing efficiency.

Defensive Player of the Year

1. Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley: He’s the kind of disrupter in the middle all defenses are looking for and the kind of player that blows up plays from the start with his inside push. Fairley leads all SEC players with 18 tackles for loss and leads all defensive tackles with 7.5 sacks.

2. LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson: His four interceptions this season don’t begin to tell you what kind of player he is. Not only is he the best cornerback in college football and outstanding in man coverage, but he’s also one of the surest tacklers in the game.

3. Georgia outside linebacker Justin Houston: The 3-4 defense has obviously been good for Houston, who leads the SEC with 10 sacks. He’s second to Fairley with 17.5 tackles for loss and has developed his game to where he’s more than just a pass-rusher.

4. LSU defensive tackle Drake Nevis: Outside of Fairley, there hasn’t been a more dominant interior lineman in the SEC this season than Nevis. He leads all SEC defensive linemen (ends and tackles) with 53 total tackles, including 12.5 for loss.

Coach of the Year

1. Auburn’s Gene Chizik: A finalist for the Eddie Robinson national coach of the year award, Chizik has the Tigers two wins away from playing for their first national championship since 1957.

2. South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier: He has the Gamecocks in the SEC championship game for the first time in school history. They also have a chance to win 10 or more games for only the second time in school history.

3. Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen: Two consecutive losses haven’t soiled the job Mullen has done this season with the Bulldogs, who are already bowl-eligible and can get to eight wins by taking care of arch-rival Ole Miss on Saturday.

4. LSU’s Les Miles: If the Tigers win Saturday at Arkansas and finish 11-1 in the regular season, the Mad Hatter deserves some consideration. He’s kept this team together and on point despite all the negativity that gripped the program earlier this season.

Cam Newton cracks Kiper's Big Board

November, 17, 2010
11/17/10
3:50
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Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton is making his first appearance on Mel Kiper's Big Board of the top 25 NFL draft prospects.

Six of Kiper's top 10 prospects are from the SEC, led by Georgia receiver A.J. Green at No. 2. Newton checked in this week at No. 15.

LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson was No. 4, followed by Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley at No. 6, Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett at No. 8, Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus at No. 9 and Alabama receiver Julio Jones at No. 10.

Other SEC players on the Big Board are Alabama running back Mark Ingram at No. 13, LSU defensive tackle Drake Nevis at No. 16 and Mississippi State offensive tackle Derek Sherrod at No. 22.

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