SEC: Dre Kirkpatrick

Ultimate 300: SEC's top classes 

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
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The SEC has dominated the recruiting world over the past several years. Since 2008, the SEC has had at least three schools finish in the top 10 of the ESPN recruiting class rankings each year. Last year, the conference had an impressive six schools ranked among the top 10 recruiting classes in the country. This year is much of the same, as seven SEC schools are ranked in the top 10.

Here’s a closer look at the five best recruiting SEC schools in the Ultimate ESPN 300.

Alabama, LSU form NFL pipeline

May, 20, 2013
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Kevin Scarbinsky of AL.com recently suggested that an NFL roster comprised exclusively of Alabama and LSU players wouldn’t be a terrible idea.

As he points out, according to a listing on ESPN.com, there are 49 players from LSU in the NFL and 41 players from Alabama.

In reading that piece, I couldn’t help but think back to a conversation I had with former Alabama offensive line coach Joe Pendry just prior to the first Alabama-LSU game in 2011. Pendry retired following the 2010 season and had served as offensive coordinator for both the Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans in the NFL before joining Nick Saban at Alabama.

Realizing how much talent would be on the field that night at Bryant-Denny Stadium, especially on defense, I jokingly asked Pendry how anybody would score.

He estimated that somewhere around 18 to 20 of the 22 defensive starters would end up playing in the NFL.

Looking back, he was dead on.

Of the 22 defensive starters that night, 16 were selected in the NFL draft. Six other defensive players who played in the game were also drafted. That’s a total of 22 players. Two other players that went undrafted spent last season on NFL practice squads.

We’re talking high-round draft picks, too. Of the 22 who were drafted, 14 went in the top three rounds.

Moreover, as many as seven other defensive players from that game who are still in school are likely to be drafted in either 2014 or 2015. Among them: Linebackers Adrian Hubbard, C.J. Mosley and Trey DePriest and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama and tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson and safety Craig Loston of LSU.

So, the final tally of defensive players from that game (some played on special teams) who were either drafted or have spent some time on an NFL roster will likely end up being 30-plus.

No wonder those two teams played eight quarters that year, and only one touchdown was scored between them.

Here’s a rundown of the draft picks from that game on defense:

ALABAMA
LSU
It seemed like only a matter of time before one of Alabama's assistants was scooped up following another tremendous season in Tuscaloosa.

According to multiple reports, Florida State is expected to announce Alabama defensive backs coach Jeremy Pruitt as its new defensive coordinator. A source close to the situation later confirmed to ESPN that the moved was expected to happen.

Pruitt will replace former defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, who was named Kentucky's head coach on Nov. 27.

Pruitt has spent three seasons as the Crimson Tide's secondary coach. Last year, the Tide secondary was equipped with three NFL draft picks, including All-Americans Mark Barron and Dre Kirkpatrick. Alabama finished the 2011 season ranked first nationally in pass defense (111.5 yards per game) and pass efficiency defense (83.69).

The Tide's secondary took a bit of a personnel hit in 2012, but still managed to end the regular season with the No. 8 pass defense, giving up 166.2 yards through the air a game. The most glaring difference in production this season was Alabama's knack for giving up bigger plays in the secondary, but the Tide never allowed any team to throw for 300 yards or more during a game this season.

TideNation links: Where's the D?

November, 14, 2012
11/14/12
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Alex Scarborough writes: It took a couple of months, but the loss of several key defenders to the NFL has finally cost Alabama, as the Crimson Tide have suffered from a lack of big plays.

Scarborough: Big 3 – Alabama’s Nick Saban believes SEC team could make BCS title game.
All of a sudden, Robert Lester is the veteran in the Alabama secondary.

It seems like yesterday that he was one of the unknowns trying to crack the rotation and prove himself.

“In 2010, I was that guy who hadn’t played yet,” Lester said. “I had been around the program, but I hadn’t really played. I was hungry to go out there and make my mark.”

[+] EnlargeRobert Lester
Butch Dill/Getty ImagesAlabama defensive back Robert Lester still sees the hunger in his teammates this offseason.
Lester did just that with a team-leading eight interceptions as a sophomore, and was playing in a secondary that included eventual NFL draft picks Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick and DeQuan Menzie.

It’s also a secondary that was gutted from the year before. The Crimson Tide lost seven defensive backs off their 2009 national championship defense.

Mental breakdowns plagued the Alabama secondary in 2010, and they were glaring in all three of the Tide’s losses.

“You’ve got to remember that we had three guys back there who had never really played in a game -- me, Dre and Menzie,” Lester said. “We were all inexperienced and pretty young, too.”

So when Lester is asked if he sees a lot of similarities between that secondary and the one Alabama will put on the field in 2012, he’s not necessarily ready to make that comparison.

Sure, the inexperience factor is there, but he also thinks this secondary will be ahead of the one in 2010 because the guys stepping in have been around the program longer and have a better understanding of the defense.

“You look at this year, and it’s not so much that we have a lot of young guys,” Lester said. “Some of these guys are juniors and sophomores who played a lot last year, and I’m a fifth-year senior. These guys have been here and know what it takes. They know how to execute in this defense. So, really, it’s nothing like it was in 2010. And the other thing is that the leadership is a lot better.”

What the makeup of the Alabama secondary will look like against Michigan in the opener is still up in the air.

Lester returns for a third season as a starter at one safety spot. But sophomores Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri are battling for that other safety spot.

Junior Dee Milliner, who started last season when the Tide went to five defensive backs, will be an every-down starter at cornerback this season. He has a chance to be this season’s version of Kirkpatrick, a player that goes from a lesser role to a first-day NFL draft pick.

“You can see it in his eyes,” Lester said. “It’s his time, and I can’t wait to see what he’s capable of.”

Junior college transfer Deion Belue, one of the stars of the spring, is battling junior John Fulton for that other starting cornerback spot.

Alabama’s depth in the secondary has taken a hit over the past week or so with junior college transfer Travell Dixon leaving the program for personal reasons, and junior safety Jarrick Williams tearing his ACL last week in practice.

The Crimson Tide routinely play five defensive backs, which means they’re probably going to need a couple of the freshmen to contribute. Safety Landon Collins and cornerback Geno Smith are the most likely candidates.

Developing young players in the secondary has been one of Alabama’s specialties. It’s a big reason the Crimson Tide have had seven defensive backs drafted in the past four years, including three first-rounders and a second-rounder.

“I’m excited by what I see out of these guys,” Lester said. “They’ve got the talent, but they also have the focus that it takes to play in this system.

“I know people keep asking about 2010. This is a totally different team. I know when a team is hungry and when a team is ready. That team wasn’t hungry (in 2010). This team is.”

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 22

August, 2, 2012
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We're at No. 22 in our countdown today, which brings us to yet another outstanding cornerback at Alabama.

No. 22: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama, Jr.

2011 summary: A starter when the Crimson Tide went to their nickel and dime packages last season, Milliner led the team with three interceptions. He also tied for the team lead with 12 passes defended, which ranked him sixth in the SEC, and he finished with 27 total tackles.

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

Making the case for Milliner: There are a number of players on Alabama's defensive roster just waiting to explode this season into All-SEC and maybe even All-America performers. The 6-foot-1, 199-pound Milliner is at the top of that list. He was excellent in what the Crimson Tide asked him to do last season as the third cornerback, and will play an even bigger role in the secondary this season. In a lot of ways, he has a chance to be this season's version of Dre Kirkpatrick, who blossomed into a first-round NFL draft pick a year ago. Even though he's a bigger corner, Milliner still has the speed to run with anybody. Rarely does a receiver run by him, and he's also a blur in getting to the line of scrimmage and helping in run support. Milliner has some serious hops, and can go up and take the ball away from opposing receivers. Look for him to be even more physical this season and become the kind of shutdown corner that has been a fixture in Alabama's secondary under Nick Saban.

The rundown
We all know that defense wins championships and the SEC is very much a testament to that. Alabama possessed the nation's No. 1 defense last season and now possesses another national championship. Runner-up LSU ranked second nationally.

Alabama ran away with the crown as the nation's and the SEC's best defense, but that title is for the taking in 2012. Alabama is down key players from last year's squad, like linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower, defensive tackle Josh Chapman, and defensive backs Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, and DeQuan Menzie.

SportsNation

Who will have the best defense in 2012?

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Discuss (Total votes: 12,039)

Alabama's defense isn't as green as the 2010 group, but it's still drawing some comparisons to it. That's exactly what the Tide wants to hear. Nico Johnson seems primed to be a true leader at linebacker, while Adrian Hubbard could be a budding star at Upshaw's old position. Defensive backs Robert Lester and Dee Milliner are back and will be joined by a couple of JUCO standouts and talented sophomores Vinnie Sunseri and Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix. Jesse Williams could be a real force at defensive tackle along with end Damion Square.

Then you have LSU. The Tigers lost All-World cornerback Morris Claiborne to the NFL draft and two starting linebackers. Michael Brockers is gone at defensive tackle as well. But LSU is still loaded. The Tigers return Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon, who should be fine with an expanded role at cornerback. Junior Kevin Minter really stepped up at linebacker last year and should pick up right where he left off. Even without Brockers, the line is solid with future first-rounder Sam Montgomery at one end position and the underrated Barkevious Mingo at the other. The two combined for 17 sacks last season.

Bennie Logan and Anthony Johnson should provide some meat nastiness in the interior, while the very talented Eric Reid is back at free safety.

Georgia and South Carolina both finished the 2011 season ranked in the top five nationally in total defense. South Carolina was third, while Georgia was fifth, respectively. The Gamecocks lost first-round defensive end Melvin Ingram, but return freshman standout Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor, who many thought would be better than Ingram last season. Kelcy Quarles is back at defensive tackle and the coaches think he'll be even better in his second year.

Shaq Wilson and Reginald Bowens, who combined for 96 tackles last year, will grab time at linebacker again, while the very athletic DeVonte Holloman returns to the Spur for his senior year. There are questions in the secondary, but seniors D.J. Swearinger (safety) and Akeem Auguste (cornerback) return.

Georgia returns nine defensive starters. Brandon Boykin is gone at corner, and the Bulldogs will enter the fall with a lot questions in the secondary, especially with starters Branden Smith, Sanders Commings and Bacarri Rambo suspended to start the season. Star freshman receiver Malcolm Mitchell moved to corner this spring and fits right in, but there are depth issues at the position.

Other than that, the Bulldogs are still pretty stacked. Inside linebacker Alec Ogletree will serve a suspension to start the year, but Georgia will fill his spot by committee. Mike Gilliard, Cornelius Washington, Christian Robinson, Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson provide Georgia with a very solid linebacking unit alongside star Jarvis Jones, who racked up 19.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. Georgia's defensive line should also be pretty stout with the massive John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers battling in the middle. Abry Jones really progressed at end as well this spring.

Or maybe someone else will step up and take the crown ...

Recapping the first round for the SEC

April, 27, 2012
4/27/12
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The SEC had nine players selected in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft on Thursday night, which led all conferences. The Big 12 was second with five first-rounders.

It was the sixth year in a row and eighth in the past 10 years that the SEC has had multiple selections in the top seven picks of the draft. It was the second year in a row that the SEC has had six of the top 14 selections in the draft. Eight of the nine selections from the SEC were defensive players.

Alabama had four players taken in the first round, giving the Crimson Tide 11 first-rounders in the past four years.

Even more remarkably, that gives Alabama coach Nick Saban 19 players that he has recruited and signed in his 10 seasons as an SEC head coach who’ve gone on to become first-round NFL draft choices. Saban was responsible for signing all nine of LSU’s first-round selections from 2004-09, and he signed 10 of Alabama’s 11 first-rounders over the past three years.

South Carolina had two players go in the first round -- cornerback Stephon Gilmore and defensive end Melvin Ingram -- for the first time in more than 30 years. In the 1981 draft, running back George Rogers went No. 1 overall and tight end Willie Scott No. 14 overall.

Mississippi State produced a first-rounder -- defensive tackle Fletcher Cox -- for the second year in a row. Offensive tackle Derek Sherrod also went in the first round last year. The Bulldogs had gone 14 years without a first-rounder until Sherrod was taken with the 32nd pick overall last year.

Here's a quick review from Thursday's first round:

No. 3: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama to the Cleveland Browns

Todd McShay video analysis here.

No. 6: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU to the Dallas Cowboys

Todd McShay video analysis here.

No. 7: Mark Barron, S, Alabama to the Tampa Bay Bucs

Todd McShay video analysis here.

No. 10: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina to the Buffalo Bills

Todd McShay video analysis here.

No. 12: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State to the Philadelphia Eagles

Todd McShay video analysis here.

No. 14: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU to the St. Louis Rams

Todd McShay video analysis here.

No. 17: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama to the Cincinnati Bengals

Todd McShay video analysis here.

No. 18: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina to the San Diego Chargers

Todd McShay video analysis here.

No. 25: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama to the New England Patriots

Todd McShay video analysis here.

High school ratings of top draft prospects

April, 26, 2012
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It’s always a lot of fun to see how the top NFL draft picks were rated coming out of high school.

Of the 12 SEC players pegged to go in the first round Thursday night, eight were unranked nationally in the ESPN 150 when they were going through the recruiting process in high school.

The highest-ranked player was Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, who was the No. 4 overall prospect in the 2009 class and the No. 1 cornerback prospect.

That same year, Alabama running back Trent Richardson was the No. 6 overall prospect and the No. 1 running back.

The lowest rated of the SEC’s prospective first-round draft picks was Georgia offensive tackle Cordy Glenn. He was the No. 74 offensive tackle prospect nationally in the 2008 class.

Here’s a breakdown of all 12 players, including where they’re projected to go in the first round by Mel Kiper, their national rank by ESPN coming out of high school, their position rank, their grade and where they’re from.

Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (No. 5 to the Bucs): No. 6 overall in class of 2009, No. 1 running back, No. 2 in Florida behind defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel, who signed with FSU. Grade 91. Pensacola, Fla.

Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU (No. 6 to the Rams): Unranked nationally in ESPN 150 in 2008, No. 26 athlete. Grade 80. Shreveport, La.

Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State (No. 7 to the Jaguars): Unranked nationally in class of 2009. No. 36 defensive end. Grade 78. Yazoo City, Miss.

Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina (No. 10 to the Bills): No. 18 overall in class of 2009, No. 2 safety. Grade 85. Rock Hill, S.C.

Mark Barron, S, Alabama (No. 11 to the Chiefs): Unranked nationally in ESPN 150 in 2008, No. 19 athlete. Grade 80. Mobile, Ala.

Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina (No. 12 to the Seahawks): Unranked nationally in ESPN 150 in 2007, No. 12 inside linebacker. Grade 78. Rockingham, N.C.

Michael Brockers, DT, LSU (No. 15 to the Eagles): Unranked nationally in class of 2009. No. 24 defensive end. Grade 79. Houston, Texas

Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama (No. 17 to the Bengals): No. 4 overall in class of 2009, No. 1 cornerback. Grade 92. Gadsden, Ala.

Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia (No. 21 to Bengals): Unranked nationally in class of 2008, No. 74 offensive tackle. Grade 74. Riverdale, Ga.

Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama (No. 27 to the Patriots): No. 29 overall in class of 2008, No. 4 defensive end. Grade 83. Eufaula, Ala.

Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama (No. 29 to the Ravens): Unranked nationally in class of 2008. No. 26 defensive end. Grade 79. Lewisburg, Tenn.

Bobby Massie, OT, Ole Miss (No. 32 to the Giants): Unranked nationally in class of 2008, No. 34 offensive tackle. Grade 78. Lynchburg, Va.

Final NFL mock drafts

April, 26, 2012
4/26/12
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With this year's NFL draft only a few hours away, it's time to see when and where the experts have last year's top college football players going.

ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper's final mock draft Insider only covers the first round, while Todd McShay's mock draft Insider takes us through all seven rounds. Kiper has 12 SEC players (13 if you count Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill) going in the first round. If 12 SEC players are drafted in Thursday's first round, it will set a conference record. The current record is 11, set in 2007.

McShay has 11 SEC players going in the first round. The only player difference between the two is that Kiper has Ole Miss offensive tackle Bobby Massie going No. 32 to the New York Giants. McShay doesn't have Massie getting drafted until the second round.

McShay predicts that more than 40 SEC players will be drafted this year.

Here's a look at Kiper's first round, and a little analysis of each SEC pick:
  • No. 3 to the Minnesota Vikings -- Morris Claiborne, S, LSU: "The Vikings could target the offensive line, as we've had them pegged throughout this process, or they could trade down. But my hunch for now says they'll go with Claiborne, the gifted corner out of LSU. It's a need spot, and if they can't get a deal done to move down (I believe that's their preferred route), he fits."
  • No. 4 to the Cleveland Browns -- Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama: "The Browns are in serious need of help on offense, and given that they have some talent along the offensive line, Richardson can be successful early and take a lot of pressure off the quarterback."
  • No. 7 to the Philadelphia Eages (from Jacksonville) -- Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State: "In this scenario, the Eagles move up to get a defensive tackle they covet, and Jacksonville gets to move down, because it can't maximize value for a top need here."
  • No. 8 to the Miami Dolphins -- Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M: "This really is the best setting for Tannehill, too. We know Miami lacks a long-range plan at quarterback, and while Tannehill isn't an immediate starter, you take him for the promise."
  • No. 13 to the Arizona Cardinals -- Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina: "Arizona won't pass on a guy many consider the best sack artist in the draft."
  • No. 14 to the Dallas Cowboys -- Mark Barron, S, Alabama: "Dallas has been aggressive in targeting the secondary in free agency, and Barron is another big upgrade to what was a really weak unit in 2011."
  • No. 15 to the Jacksonville Jaguars (from Philadelphia) -- Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina: "Gilmore is capable of coming in and starting right away, and the Jags were simply decimated in the secondary last season."
  • No. 17 to the Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland) -- Cordy Glenn, OL, Georgia: "A huge body, he'll knock people back in the run game, and he has the feet to pull and line up linebackers on the second level."
  • No. 20 to the Tennessee Titans -- Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama: "The Titans lost their top cover corner in free agency, and Kirkpatrick has the talent and experience to contribute right away."
  • No. 25 to the Denver Broncos -- Michael Brockers, DT, LSU: "Denver needs to strengthen the inside to complement a solid group of pass-rushers."
  • No. 27 to the New England Patriots (from New Orleans) -- Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama: "What he can do is immediately help a defense with his skills as a pass-rusher and his willingness to use leverage and vision to do damage against the run."
  • No. 29 to the Baltimore Ravens -- Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama: "He is a potentially dominant interior linebacker and has been well-schooled."
  • No. 32 to the New York Giants -- Bobby Massie, OT, Ole Miss: "Massie could actually go much higher, perhaps as high as Detroit at No. 23, so he's a solid value here."
McShay's first round:
  • No. 3 to the Vikings: Claiborne
  • No. 4 to the Brown: Richardson
  • No. 8 to the Dolphins: Tannehill
  • No. 9 to the Carolina Panthers: Gilmore
  • No. 14 to the Cowboys: Barron
  • No. 15 to the Eagles: Cox
  • No. 16 to the New York Jets: Ingram
  • No. 17 to the Bengals: Brockers
  • No. 20 to the Titans: Kirkpatrick
  • No. 22 to the Browns: Glenn
  • No. 24 to the Pittsburgh Steelers: Hightower
  • No. 29 to the Ravens: Upshaw

Big draft looming for the SEC

April, 26, 2012
4/26/12
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It could be a record haul tonight in the NFL draft for the SEC.

As many as 12 players from the SEC are being projected to go in the first round, which will be carried live tonight on ESPN starting at 8 p.m. ET. Rounds 2 and 3 will be on Friday, also on ESPN beginning at 7 p.m. Rounds 4-7 will be on Saturday with ESPN coverage beginning at noon.

The most first-round selections the SEC has produced in one draft was 11 in 2007.

So if 12 go tonight, that would break the record.

Here's a look at the 12 SEC players being pegged to go in the first round. They're listed in order of their rank on Mel Kiper's Big Board :

Final NFL draft big boards

April, 25, 2012
4/25/12
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It's the eve of this year's NFL draft, so it's time to take a couple of final looks at what could happen on such a special extended weekend.

Today, we'll take a look at ESPN NFL draft gurus Mel Kiper's and Todd McShay's final big boards. Naturally, both are loaded with SEC talent, but both have a couple of differences.

Both boards have 11 SEC players on them (12 if you count Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill), and four of those players are in each one's top 10.

One big difference between the two is that Kiper's Big Board has only four Alabama players and has Ole Miss offensive tackle Bobby Massie at No. 21. McShay has five Alabama players in his top 32, but doesn't have Massie. In fact, McShay doesn't have Massie being drafted until the second round. We'll get to all that fun Thursday.

Kiper left Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower off of his list.

Here's a look at the SEC players on the final draft boards:

TRENT RICHARDSON, RB, ALABAMA

McShay: No. 3 -- "The most complete running back prospect to come along since Adrian Peterson."
Kiper: No. 3

MORRIS CLAIBORNE, CB, LSU

McShay: No. 4 -- "Claiborne's size, speed, fluid hips and impressive ball skills make him the clear-cut choice as the top cover corner on the board."
Kiper: No. 4

FLETCHER COX, DT, MISSISSIPPI STATE

McShay: No. 7 -- "Speed, quickness and agility, along with solid versatility, have vaulted Cox to the top of the defensive tackle class."
Kiper: No. 17

MELVIN INGRAM, DE, SOUTH CAROLINA

Kiper: No. 7 -- "A very good pass-rusher, Ingram has the ability to convert to a 3-4 OLB in the right system, but DE is probably the best spot."
McShay: No. 21

MARK BARRON, S, ALABAMA

Kiper: No. 8 -- "The top safety in the draft, he has ideal size, range and instincts for the position."
McShay: No. 8

STEPHON GILMORE, S, SOUTH CAROLINA

Kiper: No. 11 -- "Up-and-down season, but the draft process has pushed his stock back up."
McShay: No. 14

RYAN TANNEHILL, QB, TEXAS A&M

McShay: No. 12 -- "Tannehill needs time to develop, but his arm talent and overall tools and athleticism are impressive."
Kiper: No. 19

MICHAEL BROCKERS, DT, LSU

McShay: No. 13 -- "Brockers has the size and power to dominate the point of attack; he also has upside as a pass-rusher and plenty of overall potential."
Kiper: No. 22

CORDY GLENN, OL, GEORGIA

Kiper: No. 14 -- "He's played all over and could be on most boards as a tackle, but can also dominate at guard."
McShay: No. 25

DRE KIRKPATRICK, CB, ALABAMA

McShay: No. 20 -- "You'd like to see better ball skills from Kirkpatrick, and he has short arms, but he's very good in zone coverage and shows a physical edge in run support."
Kiper: No. 23

BOBBY MASSIE, OT, OLE MISS

Kiper: No. 21 -- "Really rising on a lot of boards because perception is he can come in and start as a right tackle early, with ceiling of a solid left tackle."

DONT'A HIGHTOWER, LB, ALABAMA

McShay: No. 23 -- "Hightower has versatility and an impressive combination of size, power and mobility."

COURTNEY UPSHAW, LB, ALABAMA

Kiper: No. 25 -- "Dipped a bit, as he's carrying the "tweener" label for some teams, but that could also imply versatility, and I buy in to that."
McShay: No. 28
A record 26 players are expected to be in attendance at the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Twelve are from the SEC, including five from Alabama.

Todd McShay's most recent mock draft Insider had 11 SEC players going in the first round (not counting Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill). That number would tie a conference record set in 2007. Last year, the SEC had 10 players drafted in the first round.

Here are the 12 SEC players who have invites to this year's draft:

Big draft looming for Alabama

April, 16, 2012
4/16/12
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In Todd McShay's latest mock NFL draft Insider, he has five Alabama players going in the first round.

He's not the only draft analyst, either, predicting that many Crimson Tide players to be selected in the first round on April 26.

It would be an historic night for the SEC. That's because no SEC school has ever produced five first-rounders in the same draft. Miami has the record nationally when the Hurricanes produced six first-rounders in 2004.

McShay has running back Trent Richardson going No. 4 overall to the Cleveland Browns, safety Mark Barron going No. 15 to the Philadelphia Eagles, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick going No. 20 to the Tennessee Titans, outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw going No. 23 to the Detroit Lions, and inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower going No. 24 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Alabama had four players go in the first round last year. LSU produced four first-rounders in the 2007 draft, and Auburn had four go in the first round in 2005.

McShay projects 11 SEC players to be taken in the first round, which would tie an SEC record.

Here's his rundown of SEC players:

Letterman and concerns return for Tide

April, 13, 2012
4/13/12
2:00
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Derick E. Hingle/US Presswire
Quarterback AJ McCarron is one of eight offensive starters returning in 2012.

Spring is a time for renewal. In college football, spring is also the time to look ahead to fall and the upcoming season. Saturday, Alabama holds its annual Golden Flake A-Day Game (ESPN3, 3 ET), which will give its fans a first look at the defending national champions.

Alabama captured its record-breaking ninth national championship of the major poll era in January. Once again, the Crimson Tide are expected to be one of the best teams in the country in 2012. But the Tide have been here before. Will history repeat?

In 2010, Alabama was preseason No. 1 in both The Associated Press and Coaches polls with 11 combined offensive and defensive starters returning from the team that had won the 2009 national title. The problem was the retention breakdown. Bama lost eight starters from a defense that allowed the second-fewest yards (244.1) and points (11.7) per game in the bowl subdivision. With quarterback Greg McElroy, the running back tandem of Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, and receiver Julio Jones, the belief was that the Tide would score points and win games with their offense, while buying enough time for their defense to jell.

However, all did not go as planned. The defense allowed slightly more PPG than in 2009 (13.5 in 2010, 11.7 in 2009). The Tide allowed more plays of 20-plus yards (13) in 2010 than it did in 2009 (7). They also blew a 24-point lead in a loss to rival and eventual national champion Auburn in the regular-season finale, the biggest collapse in Alabama’s storied history. That was one of three losses for the Tide that season.

Like in 2010, this Alabama team has a quarterback returning for his second season as a starter (AJ McCarron), along with a strong running back (Eddie Lacy). Also like the 2010 team, the Tide will lose several starters on defense including four likely first-round picks (cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, linebacker/defensive end Courtney Upshaw, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, and safety Mark Barron).

So how good will Alabama be in 2012? History suggests the Tide will be one of the best teams in college football, but not good enough to win a second straight national championship. Just like 2010.

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