SEC: Eric Berry

SEC all-BCS-era team

January, 13, 2014
Jan 13
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It’s time to celebrate the best of the best in the SEC during the BCS era.

So what we’ve done is taken on the monumental task of selecting an All-SEC team from the BCS era, which officially ended last Monday with Florida State’s 34-31 victory over Auburn in the VIZIO BCS National Championship.

To be eligible, a player had to have played at least one season in the SEC at any time between 1998 and 2013. More weight was given to those players who had longer careers and displayed consistency over the course of their careers.

Before the second-guessing commences, there were some spectacular players -- even a few players who won national awards such as the Heisman Trophy -- that were left off this team.

Nonetheless, it’s one star-studded team.

Here’s a look:

OFFENSE

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsTim Tebow accounted for more touchdowns than any player in SEC history.
QB -- Tim Tebow, Florida: A tough call at quarterback, but Tebow had a hand in two national championships, won the Heisman Trophy in 2007 and accounted for more touchdowns (145) than anybody in league history.

RB -- Mark Ingram, Alabama: In 2009, Ingram became the first Alabama player to win the Heisman Trophy with a 1,658-yard rushing season. He rushed for 42 career touchdowns, breaking Shaun Alexander's school record.

RB -- Darren McFadden, Arkansas: A two-time winner of the Doak Walker Award, McFadden averaged 120.8 rushing yards per game for his career, second only to Herschel Walker and Emmitt Smith in the SEC.

WR -- A.J. Green, Georgia: He combined speed, size and incredible body control to haul in 23 touchdown catches in 31 career games. Green caught more than 50 passes in each season from 2008 to 2010.

WR -- Josh Reed, LSU: The Biletnikoff Award winner as the top receiver in the country in 2001, Reed hauled in 17 touchdown catches in his last two seasons. He set the SEC single-season record in 2001 with 1,740 receiving yards.

TE -- Jason Witten, Tennessee: It’s hard to beat Witten in any era as both a receiving and blocking tight end. He had seven career touchdown catches, including five during his All-SEC junior season in 2002.

AP -- Percy Harvin, Florida: Harvin was Mr. Everything for the Gators on their 2008 national championship team and a two-time All-American. He finished his career with 32 touchdowns (19 rushing and 13 receiving).

OL -- Shawn Andrews, Arkansas: Andrews is the last player to win the Jacobs Award as the SEC’s top blocker in back-to-back seasons (2002 and 2003). The Hogs’ massive offensive tackle was a consensus All-American in both of those seasons.

OL -- Barrett Jones, Alabama: Jones was a part of three national championship teams at Alabama and started at every position on the line but left guard during his career. He won the Rimington Trophy in 2012 as the country’s top center and won the Outland Trophy a year earlier as the Tide’s left tackle.

OL -- Marcus McNeill, Auburn: A two-time All-America selection at offensive tackle, McNeil paved the way for the Tigers' explosive rushing attack and was a huge part of their unbeaten 2004 SEC championship team.

OL -- Chris Samuels, Alabama: The Crimson Tide have been stocked with menacing offensive linemen during their storied history, and Samuels is right there near the top. The big offensive tackle won the Jacobs Award and Outland Trophy in 1999 and helped lead Alabama to an SEC title.

C -- Maurkice Pouncey, Florida: Also a standout guard earlier in his career, Pouncey gravitated to center and won the Rimington Award in 2009 as the nation’s top center. He was a devastating blocker and made 40 starts in 41 career games.

DEFENSE

DL -- Glenn Dorsey, LSU: The most decorated SEC defensive tackle of the BCS era, Dorsey won the Outland Trophy and both the Lombardi and Nagurski awards in 2007. He was the centerpiece of that LSU national championship defense in 2007.

DL -- John Henderson, Tennessee: A two-time All-American, Henderson is one of just five defensive players in the BCS era to win the Outland Trophy (2000) as college football’s most outstanding interior lineman.

[+] Enlarge Jadaveon Clowney
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesJadaveon Clowney had 24 sacks in three seasons at South Carolina.
DL -- Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina: Even though his numbers dipped this season, Clowney remains one of the most disruptive defensive ends to play in the SEC during the BCS era. He finished with 47 tackles for loss, including 24 sacks, in 36 career games.

DL -- David Pollack, Georgia: Pollack joined Herschel Walker as Georgia’s only three-time, first-team All-Americans. He racked up a school-record 36 sacks from his defensive end position and was a two-time SEC Defensive Player of the Year in helping the Bulldogs win the 2002 SEC title, their first in 20 years.

LB -- C.J. Mosley, Alabama: Mosley is the only player in the Nick Saban era at Alabama to have back-to-back 100-tackle seasons and was a part of two national championship teams. He was terrific in coverage and an even better tackler.

LB -- Patrick Willis, Ole Miss: Before he found stardom in the NFL, Willis terrorized the SEC and won the Butkus Award in 2006 as college football’s top linebacker. He was a tackling machine for the Rebels and the quintessential middle linebacker.

LB -- Al Wilson, Tennessee: The heart and soul of Tennessee's 1998 national championship team, Wilson was a playmaking machine at middle linebacker for the Vols. He was a two-time All-SEC selection and consensus All-American his senior season.

CB -- Champ Bailey, Georgia: One of the most versatile players in SEC history, Bailey participated in more than 1,000 plays during the 1998 season and won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the nation’s best defensive player.

CB -- Patrick Peterson, LSU: No matter where Peterson lined up, he was the most explosive player on the field. As a cornerback, few were better. He won the Thorpe and Bednarik awards in 2010 and scored touchdowns three different ways during his career: punt return (two), interception return and return of a blocked field goal.

S -- Mark Barron, Alabama: The Crimson Tide’s 2011 national championship defense was dripping with talent, but Barron might have been the best of the bunch. He was a three-time All-SEC selection and two-time All-American.

S -- Eric Berry, Tennessee: Berry was as good in coverage as he was blowing up ball carriers. He won the Jim Thorpe Award in 2009 as the top defensive back in the country and was a finalist the previous year. He finished with 14 career interceptions.

SPECIAL TEAMS

PK -- Billy Bennett, Georgia: Bennett is the SEC record holder with 87 made field goals from 2000 to 2003. Bennett was equally accurate, connecting on 79 percent of his kicks.

P -- Dustin Colquitt, Tennessee: A finalist for the Ray Guy Award in both 2002 and 2003, Colquitt averaged 43.1 yards a punt during his career. As a junior in 2003, he had 19 punts of 50 yards or longer and 21 punts downed inside the 20-yard line.

RS -- Derek Abney, Kentucky: His eight career returns for touchdowns (six punts and two kickoffs) are an SEC record, and six of those came during one season (2002). Abney set seven NCAA records, 11 SEC records and 14 school records.

All-SEC team from the BCS era

July, 5, 2012
7/05/12
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As promised, we're rolling out our All-SEC team from the BCS era this morning.

These are the top players by position in the league going back to the 1998 season. To be eligible, players had to have played in the SEC for at least two seasons starting in 1998 and running through now. Current players were also not eligible.

We unveiled our top 11 offensive players and top 11 defensive players of the BCS era on Tuesday. Later today, we'll come up with a list (with your help) of those deserving players who just missed the cut.

Here we go with the All-SEC team:

OFFENSE
DEFENSE
SPECIAL TEAMS

SEC's best of the BCS era: Defense

July, 3, 2012
7/03/12
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We’ve already unveiled our best SEC offensive players of the BCS era.

Now it’s on to the side of the ball that this league has come to be known for over the years – defense.

It was a nightmare trying to keep this list to just 11 players, but here’s what we came up with.

The players are listed alphabetically:

John Abraham, DE, South Carolina: He was a tremendous player on some really bad teams in college. Abraham led the Gamecocks in sacks for four straight seasons from 1996-99 and remains one of the NFL’s premier pass-rushers.

[+] EnlargeEric Berry
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesEric Berry had 241 tackles and 14 interceptions in three seasons.
Eric Berry, S, Tennessee: A consensus All-American in both his sophomore and junior seasons in 2008 and 2009. Berry won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back in 2009 and finished his career with 14 interceptions.

Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU: The anchor of LSU’s 2007 national championship defense. Dorsey capped his stellar career by winning the Outland Trophy, Lombardi Award, Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Lott Trophy as a senior in 2007.

John Henderson, DT, Tennessee: The Outland Trophy winner in 2000 and a two-time All-America selection. The 6-foot-7, 290-pound Henderson was also a finalist for the Outland Trophy in 2001 and finished his career with 38.5 tackles for loss

Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama: Nick Saban called McClain one of the smartest players he’s ever coached. He was plenty productive, too, and was a driving force behind the Crimson Tide’s unbeaten run to the 2009 national championship.

Reggie Nelson, S, Florida: The catalyst defensively for the Gators on their 2006 national championship team, Nelson was a consensus All-America selection that season and a finalist for the Jim Thorpe and Bronko Nagurski awards.

Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: One of the most explosive football players in SEC history. Peterson was equally dynamic as a shut-down cornerback and return specialist. He won the Jim Thorpe and Bednarik awards as a junior in 2010.

David Pollack, DE, Georgia: Joined Herschel Walker as Georgia’s only three-time, first-team All-America selection. Pollack was a two-time SEC Defensive Player of the Year and cleaned up as a senior in 2004 by winning the Lombardi and Bednarik awards, as well as the Lott Trophy.

DeMeco Ryans, LB, Alabama: One of the most prolific tacklers in Alabama’s storied history. Ryans finished his career with 309 total tackles from 2002-05 and won the Lott Trophy in 2005 as college football’s IMPACT Defensive Player of the Year.

Lito Sheppard, CB, Florida: A dynamic playmaker for the Gators on both defense and as a return specialist on special teams. Sheppard was a first-team All-America selection in 2000 and a two-time All-SEC selection

Patrick Willis, LB, Ole Miss: The most honored defensive player in Ole Miss history. Willis was a two-time, first-team All-American and won the Butkus Award and Lambert Award in 2006 as the nation’s top linebacker.

Lunchtime links

March, 19, 2012
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The madness of March continues later in the week, so you can take some time to check out what's going on around the SEC.

Top 100 NFL list includes 13 from SEC

July, 6, 2011
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The NFL players have spoken, casting their votes for the top 100 players in the NFL game today.

Manning
Manning
You can view their list on NFL.com. Before you go there, want to venture a guess on which conference had the most players?

It wasn't the SEC, nor was it the Big Ten.

It was the Big East with 16.

Now, there's a bit of a catch. We counted those Miami players who played for the Hurricanes when they were competing in the Big East as representing the Big East ... and not the ACC. The same goes for Michael Vick at Virginia Tech.

We also counted those Nebraska and Colorado players making the list as being from the Big 12, even though the Huskers are moving to the Big Ten and the Buffs to the Pac-12 this coming season.

The SEC and Big Ten tied for second behind the Big East, each with 13 players making the top 100. The ACC had 12, and the Pac-12 had 11. The Big 12 had just seven. Notre Dame had one, and the remaining 27 players were from non-BCS schools and/or smaller schools.

Miami led all teams nationally with 10 players. Tennessee was second on the list with six.

There are two ways to look at it from the Vols' perspective. One, they've done a good job of producing premium NFL talent. And two, they haven't done a whole lot with that talent, as it's been 13 years since they last won an SEC championship.

Would you believe that Alabama and Florida didn't have a single player on the list and that LSU has just one? Those three teams have combined for five of the past eight BCS national championships.

Here's a rundown of the SEC players:

TENNESSEE

No. 2 - QB Peyton Manning (1994-97)
No. 25 - RB Arian Foster (2005-08)
No. 36 - TE Jason Witten (2000-02)
No. 62 - LB Jerod Mayo (2005-07)
No. 93 - S Eric Berry (2007-09)
No. 99 - OT Chad Clifton (1996-99)

GEORGIA

No. 48 - CB Champ Bailey (1996-98)
No. 66 - DE Richard Seymour (1997-2000)

ARKANSAS

No. 98 - RB Darren McFadden (2005-07)

AUBURN

No. 75 - DE Jay Ratliff (2001-04)

LSU

No. 45 - WR Dwayne Bowe (2003-06)

OLE MISS

No. 23 - LB Patrick Willis (2003-06)

SOUTH CAROLINA

No. 69 - DE John Abraham (1996-99)

How SEC five-star prospects have fared

February, 7, 2011
2/07/11
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I had a question last week about five-star prospects and how many of those guys have panned out in the SEC.

Well, I went back to the 2007 signing class, and SEC schools have signed a total of 33 players who were five-star prospects or received grades of 85 or higher from ESPN coming out of high school.

That includes the 2011 signing class.

Florida leads the way with nine five-star signees during that span. LSU is second with eight, followed by Alabama with five, Georgia with four, Auburn with three and South Carolina and Tennessee with two apiece.

Of the 33 five-star prospects to sign with SEC schools, one has already played in the Pro Bowl (Tennessee safety Eric Berry), and two others transferred or left school (Tennessee running back Bryce Brown and Florida safety Jonathan Dowling). Brown transferred to Kansas State after Derek Dooley took over at Tennessee, and Dowling was dismissed from Florida's team by former coach Urban Meyer for violating team rules.

Counting Berry, four of the 33 five-star prospects earned first-team All-SEC or first-team All-America honors. The other three were Georgia receiver A.J. Green, Alabama receiver Julio Jones and LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson.

The following is a year-by-year breakdown of the five-star prospects signing with SEC teams going back to the 2007 class:

2011 (7)
  • Georgia – 2 (RB Isaiah Crowell, DE Ray Drew)
  • LSU – 2 (DT Anthony Johnson, OT La’el Collins)
  • Alabama – 1 (OT Cyrus Kouandjio)
  • Auburn – 1 (OT Christian Westerman)
  • Florida – 1 (QB Jeff Driskel)
2010 (5)
  • Florida – 4 (DE Ronald Powell, DT Dominique Easley, S Matt Elam, S Jonathan Dowling)
  • Auburn – 1 (RB Mike Dyer)
2009 (11)
2008 (6)
  • Florida – 2 (S Will Hill, S Dee Finley)
  • LSU – 2 (CB Patrick Peterson, DE Chancey Aghayere)
  • Alabama – 1 (WR Julio Jones)
  • Georgia – 1 (WR A.J. Green)
2007 (4)

Looking back at the 2007 class

January, 31, 2011
1/31/11
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The ESPN recruiting team has a fascinating look back at the 2007 class and how the ESPNU 150 prospects panned out.

In putting this package together, it re-ranked the top 10 classes in 2007 and included a list of hits and misses, not to mention prospects who exceeded expectations.

It's a reminder to us all that, while recruiting great players is a must if you're going to compete for championships, it's what you do with these players once they get onto campus that separates the good programs from the great programs.

Of ESPN's top 25 players in the 2007 class, six signed with SEC schools -- No. 4 Eric Berry with Tennessee, No. 7 Terrence Toliver with LSU, No. 9 Mike McNeil with Auburn, No. 14 Brian Maddox with South Carolina, No. 15 Carlos Dunlap with Florida and No. 25 John Brantley with Florida. Ryan Mallett was No. 12 in that class, but he signed with Michigan out of high school before transferring to Arkansas.

Keep in mind that Auburn's Cam Newton was also in that 2007 class, but had eight other quarterbacks ranked ahead of him nationally when he signed with Florida. Nick Fairley was a member of the 2007 class, too, and wasn't even on the ESPNU 150 list. In fact, he was ranked as an offensive tackle, the No. 32 offensive tackle prospect in the country, but failed to qualify academically and went to junior college.

Press Coverage: Oregon vs. Auburn

November, 10, 2010
11/10/10
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It's time for a blogger debate! And it doesn't get much better than when we match the SEC and Pac-10.

Our topic: No. 1 Oregon and No. 2 Auburn. Who's better and why?

Both are unbeaten, and if the season ended today, they'd play for the national title.

We've got lots of football left, and probably many more plot twists in the hunt for the national title, but there's no reason we can't engage in a hypothetical, is there?

So the Pac-10 blog -- Ted Miller -- and the SEC blog -- Chris Low -- have decided to meet for some civilized debate on Auburn versus Oregon.

Ted Miller: Chris, since things are so quiet in the sleepy SEC, I think we should spice things up with a Pac-10-SEC blogger debate! It seems like a long time since we last had a debate between our two conferences. How’d that one go? Let’s see I championed Taylor Mays and you celebrated Eric Berry. Wait. Why did I bring that up?

Anyway, our topic is Oregon and Auburn: Who’s better and why.

[+] EnlargeGene Chizik
John Reed/US PresswireGene Chizik has silenced those critical of his hiring last year but getting Auburn off to a 10-0 start this season.
This is a potential national title game between the No. 1 Ducks and No. 2 Tigers, who are both unbeaten and feature Heisman Trophy candidates leading high-powered offenses.

You get first blood. Tell me about Auburn. It seems like it wasn’t too long ago that Jay Jacobs was getting hounded for hiring Gene Chizik. Guessing that’s died down a wee-bit.

Chris Low: No doubt, Ted. I wonder where that obnoxious guy is now, the one yelling at Jacobs as he was leaving the airport after finalizing the deal with Chizik? Maybe Jacobs knew what he was doing after all. The guy with the 5-19 record at Iowa State has done all right by himself on the Plains. He has a Heisman Trophy-caliber quarterback and the SEC's leading rusher in Cam Newton, a 6-foot-6, 250-pound freak of nature who runs like Bo Jackson and also has an NFL arm. Keep your eyes, too, on freshman running back Mike Dyer, who they haven't had to lean on much this season, but is oozing with talent and has fresh legs for this stretch run. The Tigers' defensive numbers are nothing to write home about, but they do have the kind of dominant interior defensive lineman, Nick Fairley, who can take over games. Georgia coach Mark Richt said Fairley's the closest thing he's seen to Warren Sapp. Auburn's calling card defensively has been making plays at key times in the fourth quarter. The Tigers have been a serviceable defense through three quarters this season, but they've been a championship-caliber defense in the fourth quarter -- which is why they're 10-0.

So tell me about Oregon?

[+] EnlargeDarron Thomas
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireSophomore Darron Thomas was thrust into the starting quarterback job and has performed admirably.
Ted Miller: Speaking of coaches: How about Oregon’s Chip Kelly? How could he possibly expect to top winning the Pac-10 and playing in the Rose Bowl his first season? How about contending for a national title in his second? The Ducks, however, expected to be here when the 2009 season ended because just about everybody was coming back from the Pac-10 champions. That is until a guy you are now familiar with -- quarterback Jeremiah Masoli -- got caught up in some off-field issues and eventual got himself booted from the team. That seemingly left a void behind center, but sophomore Darron Thomas has not only filled Masoli’s shoes, he’s gone up a few sizes: He’s 15th in the nation in passing efficiency and 21st in the nation in total yardage. Meanwhile, speedy running back LaMichael James is the top Heisman alternative to your guy, Newton. As for the defense, it’s like the offense: Extremely fast. It ranks 13th in the nation in scoring defense and it has forced 28 turnovers, second-most in the nation. Folks often underestimate the Ducks' defense because it gives up some yards -- it ranks 29th in the nation in total defense -- but that’s because the offense scores so quickly: The nation’s No. 1 offense ranks 115th in the nation in time of possession. But the Ducks only give up 4.45 yards per play. Our factoid of the day is that number would rank No. 1 in ... wait for it ... the SEC!

Obviously, we're talking about two very good teams that have done impressive things on their way to remaining unbeaten. I know we both have Oregon ahead of Auburn in our power rankings, but give me the case for Auburn.

Chris Low: Ted, I think what separates Auburn is Newton. Nobody has been able to stop him. If you commit to taking away the run, he's proved he can beat people throwing the ball. And if you come after him and/or don't have enough people in the box, he's been magic running the ball. Keep in mind, too, that we're not talking about a 220-pound guy running the ball. We're talking about a 250-pound guy who's physical, tough and doesn't run out of bounds. In the red zone, he's the great equalizer, because he gains 3 yards when he falls forward and has the size and the strength to push the pile. On top of it all, he's always a threat to throw the ball. Similar to Oregon, Auburn doesn't flinch if somebody puts 30-plus points on the board, because the Tigers' mentality is that they're going to score 50. Their offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn, will make you defend everything -- reverses, throwback passes, passes to the backs, even passes to Newton. He caught a touchdown pass two weeks ago against Ole Miss. The Tigers also play at a tempo on offense that has opposing defenses gasping for air in the fourth quarter. But when they have to, they can put teams away and finish games by running the ball. They're fourth nationally (one spot ahead of Oregon) this week in rushing offense with an average of 307.2 yards per game. Auburn's top four rushers -- Newton, Dyer, Onterio McCalebb and Mario Fannin -- are all averaging at least 6.4 yards per carry. Do the Ducks have any answers for that running game?

[+] EnlargeCam Newton
Paul Abell/US PresswireAuburn's Cam Newton is just as dangerous with his arm as he is on his feet.
Ted Miller: That’s what’s so interesting about this as a potential national title game match -- there’s an odd familiarity that both teams will have with each other despite never crossing paths. My guess is Malzahn and Kelly already have studied each other, just in terms of mutual admiration. And both defenses will be familiar with up-tempo, no-huddle, spread-option offenses that can power you and finesse you and throw downfield. Further, the Ducks have played against a number of big, fast, capable quarterbacks with NFL futures: Washington’s Jake Locker, Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor and Stanford’s Andrew Luck. The results have been mixed. Last year, Luck and Pryor got them. Luck beat the Ducks with uncanny downfield accuracy, which is why he’ll go No. 1 in this spring’s NFL draft. Pryor shocked them with the best passing game of his career in the Rose Bowl. Locker missed this year’s game, but he’s never had much luck against Oregon. In general, Oregon has a good run defense: Opponents are averaging 3.38 yards per rush. But the Ducks are undersized. A physical Stanford team had some success, rushing for 177 yards. But one thing about Oregon on both sides of the ball: It is masterful with halftime adjustments. They shutout Stanford, owners of the nation’s No. 5 scoring offense, in the second half, and have given up just 48 points in the second half this year -- just seven in the fourth quarter!

Obviously, two very good teams that have done impressive things on their way to remaining unbeaten. I know we both have Oregon ahead of Auburn in our power rankings, but give me the case for Auburn if it played Oregon in the national title game. How do you see it going?

Chris Low: Well, if that happens, the first thing we all better make sure we have is a calculator. That and make sure there's no danger of a power surge to the scoreboard. You're right about Oregon. Nobody in the country has been better in the second half. The Ducks' ability to score points in bunches is amazing, but the Tigers are equally adept at going on head-spinning scoring sprees. Just ask Arkansas, which saw Auburn roll up 28 points in the fourth quarter in Xbox-like fashion. I have no doubt that an Auburn-Oregon matchup would be played in the 40s. I think the difference, though, would be Auburn's ability to put the breaks on the track meet and run the football in the fourth quarter, especially with Newton being so good at converting on third down. So I'm going Auburn 45, Oregon 41 in a game that rates up there with the Texas-USC classic to decide the 2005 national title.

Ted Miller: That's clearly something we can all agree on: This likely would be a highly entertaining, offensively driven national title game if these two teams manage to get themselves there. Further, I think, after never getting a USC-SEC title game, folks on both coasts would enjoy an SEC-Pac-10 matchup. No trash-talking there, right? And I do see a clear advantage for Auburn: It has been tested. It's played five games decided by eight points or fewer, and three decided by a field goal. The Ducks closest game? An 11-point win at Arizona State. But that's also why I'd pick Oregon in this one. Oregon beat the No. 6 team in the nation, Stanford, by 21 points. It shut Andrew Luck out in the second half. And I look at all of Auburn's close games: Mississippi State, Clemson, South Carolina, Kentucky and LSU, and think: None of them would be within 10 points of the Ducks. Maybe LSU, because any game Les Miles touches is surprising. And I think Vegas would agree with me. So if we ended up with an Oregon-Auburn national title game, my guess is the Tigers would go TD for TD with the Ducks in the first half, then the Ducks would pour it on late for a 50-35 win. But I reserve the right to change my mind, particularly because I think the Tigers' toughest test -- Alabama -- is ahead.

Moreover, both teams should be advised: You probably should get to the Jan. 10 date in Glendale before you start trash-talking each other. At least before you use your best stuff.

Lunchtime links: Hanging with Larry Munson

August, 11, 2010
8/11/10
12:15
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A check of what's making headlines in the SEC:

Looking back at the SEC's best in 2009

June, 2, 2010
6/02/10
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As we count down the top 25 players in the SEC going into the 2010 season, I thought we'd take one final look back at both the postseason and preseason lists from a year ago.

Notice some of the omissions in the preseason list.

No Mark Ingram. No Ryan Mallett. No Maurkice Pouncey and no Ben Tate.

Also, keep in mind that we did 30 players last year and only 25 this year, which makes this an even more impossible task.

The SEC's 30 best players, 2009 postseason:

  • No. 1: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
  • No. 2: Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama
  • No. 3: Dexter McCluster, RB/WR, Ole Miss
  • No. 4: Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
  • No. 5: Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
  • No. 6: Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
  • No. 7: Anthony Dixon, RB, Mississippi State
  • No. 8: Javier Arenas, CB, Alabama
  • No. 9: Joe Haden, CB, Florida
  • No. 10: Antonio Coleman, DE, Auburn
  • No. 11: Aaron Hernandez, TE, Florida
  • No. 12: Eric Norwood, OLB, South Carolina
  • No. 13: Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida
  • No. 14: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
  • No. 15: Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida
  • No. 16: Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee
  • No. 17: Ben Tate, RB, Auburn
  • No. 18: Montario Hardesty, RB, Tennessee
  • No. 19: Mike Johnson, OG, Alabama
  • No. 20: Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida
  • No. 21: Rennie Curran, LB, Georgia
  • No. 22: Randall Cobb, QB/WR, Kentucky
  • No. 23: Shay Hodge, WR, Ole Miss
  • No. 24: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
  • No. 25: Pernell McPhee, DE, Mississippi State
  • No. 26: Malcolm Sheppard, DT, Arkansas
  • No. 27: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
  • No. 28: Terrence Cody, NG, Alabama
  • No. 29: Brandon LaFell, WR, LSU
  • No. 30: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
The SEC's 30 best players, 2009 preseason:

  • No. 1: Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
  • No. 2: Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
  • No. 3: Jevan Snead, QB, Ole Miss
  • No. 4: Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida
  • No. 5: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
  • No. 6: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
  • No. 7: Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama
  • No. 8: Trevard Lindley, CB, Kentucky
  • No. 9: Greg Hardy, DE, Ole Miss
  • No. 10: Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida
  • No. 11: Eric Norwood, OLB, South Carolina
  • No. 12: Antonio Coleman, DE, Auburn
  • No. 13: Ciron Black, OT, LSU
  • No. 14: Terrence Cody, NG, Alabama
  • No. 15: D.J. Williams, TE, Arkansas
  • No. 16: Rennie Curran, LB, Georgia
  • No. 17: Joe Haden, CB, Florida
  • No. 18: Michael Smith, RB, Arkansas
  • No. 19: Charles Scott, RB, LSU
  • No. 20: Malcolm Sheppard, DT, Arkansas
  • No. 21: Brandon LaFell, WR, LSU
  • No. 22: Jeffery Demps, RB/WR, Florida
  • No. 23: John Jerry, OT, Ole Miss
  • No. 24: Chad Jones, S, LSU
  • No. 25: Geno Atkins, DT, Georgia
  • No. 26: Anthony Dixon, RB, Mississippi State
  • No. 27: Javier Arenas, CB/RS, Alabama
  • No. 28: Micah Johnson, LB, Kentucky
  • No. 29: Dexter McCluster, RB/WR, Ole Miss
  • No. 30: Myron Lewis, CB, Vanderbilt

Tennessee spring wrap

May, 4, 2010
5/04/10
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2009 overall record: 7-6

2009 conference record: 4-4

Returning starters

Offense: 4; Defense: 6; Kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

RB Tauren Poole, WR Gerald Jones, WR Denarius Moore, TE Luke Stocker, DE Chris Walker, DT Montori Hughes, LB Nick Reveiz, S Janzen Jackson

Key losses

QB Jonathan Crompton, RB Montario Hardesty, OT Chris Scott, OT Aaron Douglas, DT Dan Williams, LB Rico McCoy, CB Dennis Rogan, S Eric Berry

2009 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Montario Hardesty (1,345 yards)

Passing: Jonathan Crompton (2,800 yards)

Receiving: Gerald Jones* (680 yards)

Tackles: Rico McCoy (119)

Sacks: Chris Walker* (6)

Interceptions: Eric Berry, Wes Brown and Chris Walker* (2)

Spring answers

1. Poole of talent: Junior running back Tauren Poole proved this spring what most people on the team already knew (with the exception of former coach Lane Kiffin), and that is that he has what it takes to be a featured running back in this league. He broke a long run in just about every scrimmage, rarely goes down on the first hit and is hungry to show what he can do in the fall.

2. Dooley’s way: First-year coach Derek Dooley spent much of the spring establishing the way it was going to be under his regime. It’s the second straight spring the Vols have undergone a transition to a new coach. Last spring, it was Kiffin marking his turf. One of the priorities for Dooley and Co. this spring was finding out who could do what and who couldn’t do what for a Tennessee team that will be hurting for depth in 2010.

3. Replenishing the secondary: Sophomore safeties Janzen Jackson and Darren Myles Jr. both had big springs and will be the answer back there for the next two years. Answers for players the caliber of Eric Berry aren’t easy to come by, which is why it was so pleasing for the Vols to see Jackson and Myles make the number of plays they did. Now they both need to prove they can behave themselves off the field. Also keep an eye on junior Art Evans, who has the potential to be a very good shutdown cornerback in this league and comes highly endorsed by Berry.

Fall questions

1. Offensive line experience: Dooley sheds the best perspective on where the Vols are offensively when he asks if there’s ever been a team faced with having to replace all five starters on the offensive line, its top running back and its quarterback. The Vols will likely start two freshmen up front, Ja’Wuan James at tackle and JerQuari Schofield at guard, and another one, James Stone, could end up figuring into the rotation when he gets on campus. This is a unit that has some young talent, but will almost certainly struggle this first season.

2. Settling on a quarterback: Senior Nick Stephens left the program this spring after being demoted, leaving junior college newcomer Matt Simms and true freshman Tyler Bray to battle it out for the job. Simms, the younger brother of Chris Simms, is well-liked by his teammates and worked hard to establish himself this spring, but Bray may have a bigger upside. An extremely thin player, Bray looked good in the Vols’ Orange and White spring game and will almost certainly have to play some next season.

3. Kicking game issues: The Vols had so many holes to fill that the kicking game sort of got lost in the shuffle. But with so much inexperience on offense and defense, they have to be able to hold their own on special teams next season, or it could really get ugly. Given how shaky the kicking and punting looked this spring, incoming freshman Michael Palardy may end up doing all of the kicking in the fall. Palardy doesn’t arrive until this summer, but was rated as one of the top kicker prospects in the country.

Seven SEC players go in first round

April, 23, 2010
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The SEC's seven first-round NFL draft picks on Thursday night was second to the Big 12's nine.

The SEC has now had five picks in the top 20 of the first round four years in a row.

The first-round proceedings Thursday night reminded us all one more time that how decorated you are at the college level and how many awards you win aren't real important in the eyes of pro scouts.

Take Alabama cornerback Kareem Jackson, for instance. He played in the shadow of Javier Arenas all season a year ago. Arenas was a consensus All-American and one of the "stars" of the defense. It was all Jackson could do to earn honorable mention All-SEC status.

Still, he was solid all season as a shutdown cornerback, ran great times in the 40-yard dash and wound up being the fourth defender drafted from the league, going 20th overall to the Houston Texans.

Jackson is another one of those guys who wasn't highly recruited, either. He went to Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy out of school even though he was qualified academically and was committed initially to Vanderbilt until Nick Saban and Alabama jumped on him.

Say this, too, for Jackson. He's supremely confident in his abilities. He turned pro this past season despite Saban telling him he needed another season of college ball.

As for guys who slipped, who would have thought at the end of the regular season last year that Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap wouldn't go in the first round?

At that point, he was being projected as a top 15 pick by all the analysts. But that next week, he was arrested on DUI charges, was suspended for the SEC championship game, and apparently some of his interviews with teams following the season didn't go well.

In Friday night's second and third rounds, one of the SEC guys to watch will be LSU defensive tackle Al Woods. After a so-so college career, Woods really shot up draft boards this offseason with solid workouts.

And who will be the first SEC player to get picked in the second round?

I'll go with Alabama's Terrence Cody, but my dark horse is Ole Miss' Dexter McCluster.

Here's the complete list of SEC first-rounders on Thursday:

Lunchtime links: Berry awaits call

April, 22, 2010
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Checking in on what's making headlines around the SEC:

Lunchtime links: Tebow home for the draft

April, 21, 2010
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Scouring the SEC to see what all is out there:

SEC first-rounders the past decade

April, 20, 2010
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ESPN draft expert Todd McShay has six SEC players going in the first round in his latest mock draft.

Former Tennessee teammates Eric Berry and Dan Williams will both go in the top 10 picks, according to McShay, who has Berry going No. 7 overall to the Cleveland Browns and Williams No. 9 overall to the Buffalo Bills.

If that happens, Berry and Williams would become the first SEC defensive teammates to go in the top 10 picks of the same draft since Alabama defensive ends John Copeland and Eric Curry went Nos. 5 and 6 in the 1993 draft.

Speaking of first-rounders, anybody want to venture a guess on which SEC team produced the most during the past decade?

Georgia and Tennessee each had 10 from 2000-09. During that stretch, the Vols failed to win an SEC championship, while Georgia won two.

Every SEC team last decade produced at least one first-rounder with the exception of Mississippi State, which hasn't had a player drafted in the first round since defensive back Walt Harris went No. 13 overall and receiver Eric Moulds No. 24 overall in the 1996 draft.

LSU produced nine first-rounders last decade, and seven of those came in the past four years. Alabama produced just three first-rounders during the decade, and offensive tackle Andre Smith last year broke an eight-year drought for the Crimson Tide of not having a first-round selection.

Here's a breakdown of SEC first-rounders over the past decade:

Georgia -- 10

Tennessee -- 10

Florida -- 9

LSU -- 9

Arkansas -- 6

Auburn -- 6

Ole Miss -- 6

South Carolina -- 4

Alabama -- 3

Vanderbilt -- 2

Kentucky -- 1

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