SEC: Glen Coffee
Also, we haven't done a mailbag in a very long time. We can't do it without you guys, so send in some questions for later today. I know you guys have some ...
- Athlon Sports: Hugh Freeze has Ole Miss on the rise and how Heisman voting has changed.
- The Gainesville Sun's Pat Dooley has Part 1 of his grading of the SEC slates in 2013.
- After a brief NFL career, former Alabama running back Glen Coffee is set to graduate from Airborne School.
- Auburn could look to newcomers to help improve punt returns.
- Which recruits does Georgia coach Mark Richt follow on Twitter?
- Florida picks up a commitment for its 2016 class.
- Suspension or conduct probation are both in the past for Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M.
- Tennessee's dilema: ticket sales are down and SEC travel costs are up.
- The Vols' roster shows weight gains on defense and a slimmed-down offensive line.
- Vanderbilt's new indoor practice facility nears completion.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- As Alabama awaits the results of its appeal on the penalties handed down by the NCAA in the textbook case, Nick Saban doesn't mind saying that he thinks the Crimson Tide got a raw deal.
The football team was forced to vacate 21 victories during the 2005-2007 seasons and placed on three years' probation. The university isn't contesting the probationary period, but is asking that the 21 wins be restored.
Saban's disappointment with the NCAA's decision to strip the Crimson Tide of five wins in 2007 revolves around the fact that the school took immediate action when it discovered that there was a problem. Starters Antoine Caldwell, Marlon Davis and Glen Coffee were suspended for four games along with Chris Rogers and Marquis Johnson.
"The institution did it right. This is not something we got turned in for by somebody else. We self-reported everything and gave every bit of information to the NCAA," said Saban, whose first season at Alabama was 2007.
"To me, if you're going to get treated that way, there should be something out there that says, 'When you self-report it and do things right and are pro-active in handling your situation and are giving the NCAA all the information, there should be some kind of established parameters as long as a competitive advantage wasn't gained -- cheating in recruiting, extra benefits, academic fraud.' All those things are different, completely different. But you didn't have a competitive advantage in this case."
In other words, Saban's having a hard time seeing how the punishment fits the crime, especially given the fact that Alabama suspended the five offending players for the number of games the NCAA said they should be suspended.
He simply doesn't get how a retro penalty of vacating wins would be tacked on when the Crimson Tide acted so decisively in 2007.
"We didn't win any games around here because of what happened," Saban said. "Nobody made any money on those books. All the books were turned in. If you got a book for your buddy or your girlfriend, they all got turned in at the end because that was the book policy here at the time. There was no competitive advantage gained.
"Now, if you had a guy on your team taking steroids, just as an example, and that created a competitive advantage because he was bigger and faster, you wouldn't go back and say every game you won because that guy was playing that you were going to take away the win.
"You suspend him moving forward, and that's his punishment. That's his penalty ... and we did that."
The NCAA Committee on Infractions on Thursday placed Alabama's sports teams on three years' probation as a result of its student-athletes improperly obtaining approximately $40,000 worth of textbooks from the school's bookstore.
What does it mean for the Crimson Tide's football program, which is really the only sport that matters to most fans in Tuscaloosa?
Alabama will have to vacate as many as 21 victories from the 2005 through '07 seasons. The NCAA has asked Alabama officials to identify any games in which seven ineligible football players participated during the three-year period.
Five of the players have been identified -- offensive linemen Antoine Caldwell and Marlon Davis, running back Glen Coffee and defensive backs Marquis Johnson and Chris Rogers. The NCAA and Alabama have yet to identify the other two players who were ruled ineligible.
By my calculations, the Crimson Tide might have to vacate 10 victories from the 2005 season (at least one of the ineligible players competed in each of those games), six wins from 2006 and five victories from 2007. Alabama self-reported the violations in 2007 and suspended the aforementioned players. The Tide won't have to vacate their 41-7 victory over Tennessee in 2007 or their 30-24 win over Colorado in the 2007 Independence Bowl, because the ineligible players had already been suspended and reinstated before those contests were played.
What does it all really mean?
Well, remember that 9-0 start during the 2005 season, when the Crimson Tide climbed as high as No. 3 in the Bowl Championship Series standings and when former coach Mike Shula actually looked a little like daddy Don?
It never happened.
Remember Tyrone Prothro's amazing over-the-defender's-back catch against Southern Mississippi in 2005?
You might find it on YouTube, but you probably won't find it in Alabama's 2009 media guide. (I'm sure the home office in Bristol will allow Prothro to keep his ESPY.)
Remember former quarterback John Parker Wilson's 2-yard touchdown pass to fullback Le'Ron McClain, which beat Ole Miss, 26-23, in overtime in 2006?
McClain should have dropped it. In the eyes of the NCAA, it probably didn't happen.
The good news for Tide fans? Alabama won't have to vacate any Iron Bowl victories. The Crimson Tide weren't good enough to beat rival Auburn during the seasons in question.
With one fell swoop, the NCAA is attempting to wipe out three years of Alabama football history.
If only the NCAA would force Alabama to vacate that 21-14 loss to Louisiana-Monroe.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
|Tim Larson/Icon SMI|
|Tyson Jackson's stock skyrocketed in the weeks leading up to the draft.|
Jackson played on an LSU defensive line that underachieved in a big way last season, but it obviously didn't hurt his stock. He was one of the few up front who played well last season. He also had great workouts and is big enough and quick enough to play in a lot of different schemes.
Everybody thought Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith was going to be the big loser after his agent-related suspension at the Sugar Bowl, his nightmarish NFL combine experience and some of the boneheaded decisions he made.
But I said at the time and was confident in saying so that there was no way he would slip out of the top 10, and he went sixth overall to the Cincinnati Bengals. Smith will play a long time in the NFL, and it could be that the lessons learned these last few months will end up making him a better pro.
There were a few eyebrows raised when Alabama running back Glen Coffee decided to come out early. But he was coming off an outstanding season, and he saw it as an opportunity to strike while the iron was hot. He was right. He went in the third round to the San Francisco 49ers and was the sixth running back selected.
As is the case every year, there were a handful of players who should have stayed in school.
Vanderbilt cornerback D.J. Moore was a terrific college player and made an impact wherever he lined up last season. But slow 40-yard dash times pushed him down to the fourth round. I still think he'll end up being a really good pro. He has great instincts, great leaping ability and plays his best against the best competition. But to give up a final season of eligibility and go in the fourth round is a downer.
South Carolina safety Emanuel Cook came out early and went undrafted. His former teammate, South Carolina cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, gave up his final season and went in the seventh round to the Carolina Panthers.
Talk about getting bad advice and/or putting yourself in a position academically where you have no choice but to turn pro.
And what about the case of LSU defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois? He looked to be one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the SEC entering last season after playing lights out in the BCS National Championship Game.
But he slumbered through a disappointing junior season last year, decided to come out anyway and was taken in the seventh round by the San Francisco 49ers.
At the other end of the spectrum is Tennessee running back Arian Foster. He received a second-round grade from the NFL draft advisory committee last year, but elected to stay in school. He suffered through a disappointing senior season, injured his hamstring in the Senior Bowl and went undrafted.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
It's never a good thing when you have to appear before the NCAA Committee on Infractions as Alabama did on Feb. 20 in connection with the 2007 textbook violations.
It's especially unnerving when the NCAA starts throwing around "major violation" references, and it's also worth noting that Alabama could still be under the gun as a "repeat offender" stemming from the 2002 sanctions.
The NCAA is expected to render a final decision on Alabama's punishment in May. Keep in mind the textbook violations weren't just confined to football players. There were also allegedly some track athletes involved.
After talking with people at Alabama, I continue to believe that nothing serious will come out of this. It's not like the Crimson Tide gained a competitive advantage or somehow enticed an athlete to come to Alabama by its "failure to adequately monitor its student-athlete textbook distribution system," as the NCAA has charged and Alabama has admitted.
Football players Antoine Caldwell, Glen Coffee, Marlon Davis, Chris Rogers and Marquis Johnson were suspended for four games during the 2007 season after Alabama officials launched an internal investigation into the impermissible receipt of textbooks.
Caldwell told me toward the end of last season that the only thing he did was get extra textbooks for his girlfriend to help save her some money. So this hardly sounds like a "major" violation.
Still, Alabama officials are braced for a slap on the hand, maybe the loss of a few scholarships or some restrictions placed on official visits.
More than anything, it's an embarrassment for Alabama. Just hearing those four letters (N-C-A-A) causes Crimson Tide fans to huff in disgust.
I joked with somebody in Alabama on Thursday night that Phillip Fulmer's name probably wouldn't come up in this one.
Not so fast, I was told.
The suspensions of the five players -- three of them starters -- were handed down the night before Alabama and Tennessee played in 2007, and the Crimson Tide still went out the next day and shredded the Vols 41-17.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Alabama could face additional penalties from the NCAA due to the textbook investigation in 2007 that led to the suspension of several players.
Antoine Caldwell, Glen Coffee, Marlon Davis, Marquis Johnson and Chris Rogers were suspended by Alabama for four games during the 2007 season, but were later reinstated by the NCAA.
Representatives from Alabama met Feb. 20 with the NCAA Committee on Infractions to answer a notice of allegations regarding potential "major" violations. The NCAA has yet to respond with any additional punishment that could be weighed against UA in the matter.
Alabama president Robert Witt said he's comfortable with the way the school's compliance office handled the situation.
My take is that nothing further from the NCAA will come of this, especially when you consider that Alabama took the corrective steps it did in 2007.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
The unofficial count on SEC underclassmen leaving school early to enter the NFL draft this year is 15, which is nearly one-third of the total number of players leaving school early around the country.
Here's a breakdown by school of the SEC players declaring for the draft. The deadline to declare was Thursday, although players have 72 hours to change their minds as long as they don't sign with an agent:
- ALABAMA: Running back Glen Coffee and offensive tackle Andre Smith.
- ARKANSAS: Tight end Andrew Davie.
- AUBURN: Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks and cornerback Jerraud Powers.
- FLORIDA: Running back/receiver Percy Harvin.
- LSU: Defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois and receiver Brandon LaFell.
- SOUTH CAROLINA: Safety Emanuel Cook, tight end Jared Cook and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.
- VANDERBILT: Cornerback D.J. Moore.
It's worth noting that only six of the 15 underclassmen coming out made my postseason edition of the 25 best players in the SEC, which was based on their performances this season through the SEC Championship Game. They were Coffee (20th) and Smith (2nd) at Alabama, Harvin (6th) at Florida, Moreno (5th) and Stafford (8th) at Georgia and Moore (9th) at Vanderbilt.
As I look back on it, Auburn's Marks should have been on that list. That's one I missed, and LSU's LaFell was borderline with his eight touchdown catches.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Now that I'm back from South Florida (Geez, I already miss that weather), here's a quick update on a couple of SEC players and their NFL plans.
|AP Photo/Dave Martin|
|Glen Coffee had a breakout season for Alabama, amassing 1,383 yards and 10 TDs on the ground.|
Alabama running back Glen Coffee said he will give up his senior season and declare for the NFL draft. Meanwhile, Kentucky middle linebacker Micah Johnson has decided to stay for his senior season, which is a coup for the Wildcats' defense. They were already losing senior linebackers Braxton Kelley and Johnny Williams.
As for Coffee's turning pro, I'm not too sure about that one. He had a great year this season, no doubt. And I love how hard he runs, but there are a lot of backs just like him at the next level. I don't think he will be drafted very high, but I'm sure helping his family played a large role in this decision.
He probably also figured that his stock would never be higher. The Crimson Tide are going to always alternate running backs under Nick Saban, and Mark Ingram will be back for his sophomore season next year. Alabama is also bringing in one of the top running back prospects in the country in Trent Richardson of Pensacola, Fla.
The talk coming out of the Florida camp early Friday morning following the 24-14 win over Oklahoma in the FedEx BCS National Championship Game was that Tim Tebow may announce his future plans during the team's celebration this weekend in Gainesville, which is good news for the Gators.
Everybody I talked with after the game in Miami felt like Tebow was coming back, and I agree. Outgoing offensive coordinator Dan Mullen said the only way Tebow would come out is if he's going to go in the first round, and nobody expects Tebow to get a first-round grade from the NFL draft advisory committee.
I would be very surprised if Percy Harvin returns for his senior season, and I'd say linebacker Brandon Spikes is about 50-50. It doesn't sound like Spikes got a first-round grade. So we'll see.
Two others to watch in the SEC are Ole Miss defensive end Greg Hardy and LSU offensive tackle Ciron Black. Of the two, I'd say Hardy is more likely to turn pro.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Other than his down time after spraining his knee, Alabama nose tackle Terrence Cody has been pretty consistent on the field.
He's been equally consistent in saying that he would return to Alabama for his senior season. Cody, a first-team All-America selection by just about everybody, reiterated Thursday that he wasn't leaving early.
In fact, he doesn't even plan to go through the process of seeking an evaluation from the NFL draft advisory committee.
Even though some mock drafts have Cody being selected in the first round, he said he's discussed the matter with Alabama coach Nick Saban and simply thinks that one year of college football isn't enough for him to be ready for the NFL. The 365-pound Cody would also like to get his weight down. Remember, he reported to Alabama weighing more than 400 pounds. He also wants to use the offseason to get his knee stronger.
With Cody back, the Crimson Tide should again have one of the most formidable defenses in the country next season. They will again be stout right up the middle with sophomore Rolando McClain returning at middle linebacker, although replacing senior safety Rashad Johnson won't be easy.
Nine of the 11 defensive starters from the SEC Championship Game will be back next season. In addition, there were 22 players on Alabama's roster who had double digits in total tackles this season, and 20 of those players are scheduled to be back.
Offensively, tackle Andre Smith and running back Glen Coffee will both explore their NFL options. Smith, the Outland Trophy winner, is a top pick and will almost certainly come out. Coffee, even though he's had a great season, isn't expected to get a first-round grade by the advisory committee and would be wise to come back for his senior season.
Should Coffee decide to come out, it's not like the Crimson Tide will be hurting at running back in 2009. Mark Ingram showed what he's made of this season as a freshman. Roy Upchurch will be back, even though he will miss the Sugar Bowl after undergoing surgery on his neck, and Alabama has a commitment from Trent Richardson of Pensacola, Fla., who's ranked among the top two or three prep running backs in America.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
The first No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in SEC history (according to the Associated Press poll) is upon us. Alabama and Florida have met five previous times in the SEC championship game, but the stakes have never been this high for both teams. The winner earns a spot in the BCS National Championship Game. Back in August, a lot of people were picking the Gators to be here. Nobody expected the Crimson Tide to be here. At least, nobody outside of the 205 area code. Both teams are still relatively young. Alabama only has nine scholarship seniors on its entire team, the fewest in the nation. Florida, meanwhile, is the only team in the SEC without a senior starter on defense. They've gotten here with contrasting styles -- the Gators with speed and the Crimson Tide with power. It ought to be a classic. Here are a few things to watch:
1. How's Percy? Through Thursday's practice, Florida running back/receiver Percy Harvin hadn't done anything on the field this week with rest of the team. He spent Thursday in the pool rehabilitating his sprained right ankle, but Florida coach Urban Meyer remains hopeful that Harvin will be able to play some in the game. How much remains to be seen. Meyer said he should know more Friday. Harvin is no stranger to playing through injuries. It seems like he's had something plaguing him from the time he arrived at Florida. But even when he's not 100 percent, Harvin is one of those guys that can turn a quick toss or a missed tackle into a touchdown. There's a reason he's scored a touchdown in 14 consecutive games, the longest such streak in the nation.
2. Scoring in different ways: Florida has scored seven non-offensive touchdowns this season -- five interception returns and two punt returns. There are only three teams nationally who've scored more, and one of those is Alabama. The Crimson Tide have eight non-offensive touchdowns this season, tying Kansas State and Boston College for the most among FBS schools. Alabama has four interception returns for touchdowns, two punt returns, one fumble return and one blocked punt. Both defenses are so good that a non-offensive touchdown could easily be the difference in this game. Both teams have big-time weapons in the return game, too. Between them, Alabama's Javier Arenas (five) and Florida's Brandon James (four) have returned nine career punts for touchdowns.
3. Rushing to success: There's an age-old adage in football that says if you can run the ball and stop the run, you're going to win a lot more games than you lose. That adage has been the cornerstone of Alabama's success this season. The Crimson Tide are second in the SEC in rushing offense (Florida is first), but they're also second nationally when it comes to stopping the run. They're allowing just 73.6 yards per game on the ground and have given up only three rushing touchdowns all season, the fewest in the country. The Tide's rushing defense will really be tested by the Gators, who've run for a staggering 1,612 more yards than their opponents this season. Ultimately, it's probably going to get down to whether Alabama can keep the ball away from Florida by running the ball and putting together long drives. Being able to get 4 and 5 yards consistently on first down will be especially important for the Tide.
4. Tebow time: One of the reasons Florida quarterback Tim Tebow has been so efficient this season is that he hasn't had to do as much as a year ago. The emergence of Chris Rainey and Jeffery Demps in the backfield has helped to take a lot of the pressure off of Tebow. Spreading the wealth around also means that it's a much healthier Tebow than it was at this time a year ago. He hasn't taken the pounding he did last season, which means he's going to be more willing than ever to lower his shoulder and try to pick up the tough yards. Having that dimension in the red zone and in short-yardage situations is invaluable. It's also a nice bonus for the Gators should Harvin not be as effective on his gimpy ankle. Tebow carried it a season-high 16 times last week against Florida State. He'll have at least that many carries in him Saturday if need be.
5. Spikes vs. Coffee: As good as Florida middle linebacker Brandon Spikes has been this season, he's been known to wander out of position at times. It's more a product of being too aggressive than anything else. He's a dynamic player capable of making game-turning plays. See his four interceptions against Top 25 teams. Still, look for Alabama to try and use some of that aggressiveness against him and do its best to get him out of the play. Alabama junior running back Glen Coffee hits the hole as hard as anyone, and he's the kind of runner who delivers the blow. His 1,235 rushing yards are the second most in the SEC behind only Georgia's Knowshon Moreno, who has 1,338. Coffee led all SEC rushers with a minimum of 100 attempts by averaging 6.2 yards per carry. He also showed the ability to break the long one. So look for Spikes and Coffee to come face-to-face more than a few times Saturday.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Wow, the regular season is over, which means this is the last time this year we'll award SEC helmet stickers on a conference-wide basis:
Glen Coffee, running back, Alabama: If Alabama coach Nick Saban had gone out and had a mad scientist invent the perfect running back for this offense, he couldn't have created anybody better than Coffee. The guy runs like every play is his last, hits it up in there as well as anybody, yet has also shown the speed to break away. Coffee had 144 yards on 20 carries against Auburn and now has 1,235 yards for the season, which ranks seventh on the Alabama single-season list. He's averaging 6.2 yards per carry, which leads all SEC runners who've carried the ball at least 100 times this season.
Tyrone Nix, defensive coordinator, Ole Miss: Talk about dialing up a defense. Nix had his Ole Miss defenders shooting the gaps from everywhere in the 45-0 rout of Mississippi State. The Rebels finished with a school-record 11 sacks and now have a staggering 105 tackles for loss on the season. This is a defense that has played lights out the entire second half of the season, and Nix deserves his props. The Rebels haven't allowed more than 13 points in any of their last four games.
Casey Dick, quarterback, Arkansas: Dick will be the first to tell you that his career was filled with highs and lows. But he went out in style on Friday when he came off the bench in the second half to fill in for his brother, Nathan, and rally Arkansas from a 16-point deficit in a 31-30 win over LSU. Playing in his final college game, Dick threw the game-winner with 22 seconds left, a 24-yard touchdown pass to London Crawford on a fourth-and-1 play.
Phillip Fulmer, head coach, Tennessee: Fulmer was fittingly carried off the field on players' shoulders Saturday after coaching the Vols to a 28-10 victory over Kentucky in his final game at Tennessee. His contribution to the university has transcended the 152 games and championships he won. His entire body of work at Tennessee will certainly warrant strong Hall of Fame consideration. He just didn't win enough games against the people that count here lately, another reminder that college football truly is big business.
Tim Tebow, quarterback, Florida: If the Heisman Trophy truly is about the best football player in the country, then Tebow gets my vote for the second straight year. He passed for three touchdowns and ran for another in the 45-15 win over Florida State. In the rain and the mud, he slugged his way to 80 yards rushing on 16 carries, threw a key block on Percy Harvin's 9-yard touchdown run, saved a touchdown after a Florida State fumble recovery and recovered one of his own teammate's fumbles in the second half. The guy never quits competing.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
|AP Photo/Mark Humphrey|
|Tim Tebow accounted for five TDs in the Gators' win over Vanderbilt.|
Alabama's hot. Florida may be hotter. How's that for a segue into this week's edition of Hot and Not? We could sit here for days and argue the merits of both teams, and I'm sure it would be a lively debate. But we get to find out who's the best team on the field come Dec. 6 when they meet in the SEC Championship Game. That showdown, a play-in game for the right to play in the BCS National Championship Game if both teams can win the rest of their regular-season games, should take all the debate out of it. Until then, we can still go back and forth.
Florida quarterback Tim Tebow: In his last three games, Tebow has accounted for 14 touchdowns (seven passing and seven rushing). His passer rating of 214.5 leads the nation over that time frame, and he hasn't thrown a fourth-quarter incompletion in nearly two months. In Florida's 42-14 fleecing of Vanderbilt last weekend, Tebow had three touchdown passes and two touchdown runs all in the first half. He might not win his second Heisman Trophy, but he has the Gators positioned for the prize he wants most of all -- a national championship.
Alabama receiver Julio Jones: The SEC has several big-time receivers. Florida's Percy Harvin, Georgia's A.J. Green, South Carolina's Kenny McKinley and LSU's Brandon LaFell are all right up there. But there's not a tougher receiver to cover man-on-man in the league than Jones, who has the size, strength, speed and body control to beat any cornerback. It's remarkable to think that he's only a freshman. Or as Larry Munson would say, "My God, a freshman."
Alabama nose tackle Terrence Cody: It was obvious Cody wasn't close to 100 percent against LSU. A knee sprain for any player is a difficult injury to come back from in a couple of weeks. But for a 365-pound defensive lineman? Cody looked a bit heavier and a lot slower. Maybe that's because he was freakishly dominant before the knee injury. You wonder how much he'll play this week against Mississippi State. The good news for him is that Alabama has an open date the next week.
Tennessee coaching rumors: The only person who hasn't been connected with the Vols' coaching search is Elvis, and there are some sketchy reports that he was seen playing golf at Tennessee National with Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher, Vince Lombardi and Gen. Neyland. They all then hopped a jet and met at Graceland to put the staff together. Sounds like Elvis is going to call plays.
Vanderbilt's passing game: The Commodores have lost four straight, and a big part of their problem is a passing game that doesn't scare anybody. They've averaged just 129.2 yards passing during that skid and thrown seven interceptions. Mackenzi Adams suffered a hip pointer last week against Florida, so Chris Nickson could step back into the starting role against Kentucky.
South Carolina receiver Kenny McKinley: Like a fine wine, McKinley just keeps getting better and better. The senior from Mableton, Ga., had seven catches for 130 yards against Arkansas and broke Sterling Sharpe's school record for career receiving yards. McKinley now has 188 catches for 2,602 yards, both school records.
Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez: It can't be a fun time for Martinez, who's a good coach coaching a bad defense right now. But when things go bad in college football, the coach gets the blame. The Bulldogs have given up 38 or more points in three straight games for only the second time in school history and the first time since ... 1900.
Alabama running back Glen Coffee: If there's a harder running 198-pound back in the country than Coffee, I want to see him. The guy hits it up in there like every carry is his last. Coffee rushed for 126 yards on 26 carries against LSU to become the 13th running back in Alabama history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. He now has 1,010 yards on 162 carries, an average of 6.2 yards per carry.
Tennessee's offense: The Vols, in losing 13-7 to Wyoming in a shameful performance, managed to hit another new low. They've now gone three straight games without scoring in double digits, the first time that's happened since 1964. In seven of their 10 games this season, they've scored 14 or fewer points. Where have you gone Peyton Manning, Carl Pickens and Chuck Webb?
Ice, Ice Baby
LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee: He's only a redshirt freshman, so it's unfair to expect Lee to carry too much of the load for the defending national champions. But he also can't keep throwing the ball to the other team. He has 14 interceptions this season and threw four more last weekend in the 27-21 overtime loss to Alabama. Even more damaging, he threw his sixth interception of the season that was returned for a touchdown. LSU coach Les Miles says he's going to play true freshman Jordan Jefferson some this Saturday against Troy. Here's a novel concept: Why not give Jefferson a chance against some of the teams that count?
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Alabama gets a chance to finish the job a year later. And in the process, the Crimson Tide can go a long way toward finishing what they started this season.
"Everything we do -- in the weight room, during offseason runs, in practice, in the huddle in the fourth quarter -- we talk about finishing," Alabama junior tailback Glen Coffee said. "It's what we do. It's what you have to do if you're going to play in this program for Coach Saban."
As all the hoopla over Nick Saban returning to LSU reaches a fever pitch, the question du jour for Alabama fans has nothing to do with revenge or nasty receptions or proving that their coach is at the right place.
It has everything to do with finishing the job.
Can Alabama keep alive this improbable run to the SEC Championship Game and ultimately to the BCS National Championship Game?
"You definitely think about it and want to finish it off and be a part of the legacy here," Alabama safety Rashad Johnson said. "But at the same time, we have to stay focused on what's right in front of us.
"That's what has gotten us here."
There's a bit of irony that the LSU game is Alabama's first chance to clinch the Western Division title.
The Crimson Tide were leading the Tigers by 10 points late in the third quarter a year ago, and Bryant-Denny Stadium was bursting at the seams with excitement.
With a little more than seven minutes to play, Alabama led by a touchdown following a Javier Arenas punt. But it was all downhill from there.
The Tigers scored 14 points in the final 2:49 of the game to win 41-34 and went on to win their second BCS national championship in the last five years.
It all unraveled for the Crimson Tide, who didn't win again in the regular season and lost four straight. It was a loss that stuck with them all summer.
"We learned a lot from that game," said Coffee, who was suspended because of the textbook ordeal and didn't play. "It wasn't just that game. It was the way we let the season get away from us. You've got to play every game for 60 minutes.
"We've had some struggles finishing games this year and some second halves where we didn't put teams away. But this is the time of year where you better put everybody away."
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Glen Coffee's running style is pretty simple.
|Andy Lyons/Getty Images|
|Glen Coffee is fourth in the SEC in rushing with 894 yards.|
"Be tougher than the defender trying to tackle you," said Coffee, who's not exceptionally fast or exceptionally big. "I've never really been a shifty guy, and I know I have to make up for my size. So when I'm running the ball, I want to make sure I'm the one delivering the blow."
The Alabama junior tailback is listed at 198 pounds, but runs a lot bigger.
"He's one of those guys who will try to get inside your pads when you tackle him," Alabama safety Rashad Johnson said.
It was like that the day Coffee stepped foot on campus. It's like that now with Coffee having a career year in what's been a magical ride for No. 1-ranked Alabama heading into Saturday's showdown with LSU at Tiger Stadium.
For Coffee, the big difference has been his health, both physical and spiritual.
"Last year, I played as hard as I could, but I think I played for the wrong reasons," said Coffee, who's fourth in the SEC in rushing with 894 yards. "In the middle of the season last year, I found Christ. One of my goals this year was to glorify his name and run with a passion."
He's certainly done that and has gained a reputation around the SEC as one of the most rugged ball-carriers in the league. He's averaging 6.6 yards per carry, which is second only to LSU's Charles Scott. Scott is averaging 6.7 yards.
Coffee, vying to become the 13th player in Alabama history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, has been able to stay fresh as part of the Crimson Tide's three-pronged rushing attack. He's shared the carries along with freshman Mark Ingram and junior Roy Upchurch.
Alabama leads the SEC in rushing with an average of 205.3 yards per game, and Coffee takes pride in the fact that the Crimson Tide make no pretenses about how they plan to move the ball.
"Other teams know what we're about to bring to the table, and it's a challenge to see them try to stop it even though they know what we're doing," he said.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
We take our weekly "Internal Affairs" look at the upcoming games this week in the SEC:
1. Three-headed attack: More than at any other time this season, Alabama's running game has become a three-headed attack with Glen Coffee, Mark Ingram and now Roy Upchurch. The Crimson Tide will throw all three running backs at the LSU defense this Saturday, and Upchurch is probably the freshest of the bunch. He has a little different style than Coffee and Ingram and probably brings a little more speed to the equation. Upchurch has 21 touches in his last two games (counting catches) after not carrying the ball at all against Kentucky. The bottom line is that Alabama will look to have a set of fresh legs in the game at running back at all times against the Tigers.
2. Dueling quarterbacks: Kentucky coach Rich Brooks has never been fond of playing two quarterbacks, but that's the route he plans to go the rest of the season with freshman Randall Cobb and sophomore Mike Hartline. Cobb will again be the starter this week against Georgia, and Hartline will back him up. From there, Brooks will go with the hot hand. He simply feels it's Kentucky's best chance to win games right now. The interesting part of this plan is that when Hartline comes in, Cobb won't necessarily go to the bench. He'll stay on the field as one of the Wildcats' top receivers.
3. Wright sighting: The Razorbacks have been looking for more firepower on offense to help junior tailback Michael Smith, and they found it last Saturday in true freshman receiver Jarius Wright. His role in the offense will be even more critical for the Hogs as they go against a South Carolina defense that will load the box this weekend and play a bunch of man coverage. Wright caught five passes for 112 yards in the 30-23 win over Tulsa after coming into the game with a total of seven catches for 67 yards. Most importantly, Wright had a couple of big-gainers against Tulsa, the kind of plays the Hogs will need to soften up the South Carolina defense.
4. Creating chaos: South Carolina's defense hasn't done it with smoke and mirrors this season. The Gamecocks are talented and experienced on defense, and defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson and his staff have done a good job of mixing it up. The Gamecocks, ranked third nationally in total defense, will undoubtedly throw an array of fronts, blitzes and coverages at Arkansas this Saturday. The Hogs do have a senior quarterback in Casey Dick, but the Gamecocks are especially good at Williams-Brice Stadium with the home crowd of keeping offenses off balance with different looks.
5. Putting it on Wilson: It's supposedly the blueprint for beating Alabama, but nobody has been able to execute it: Get ahead of the Crimson Tide and make them beat you with John Parker Wilson throwing the football. The onus is on the LSU defensive front-seven this weekend, if the Tigers are going to follow that blueprint. The key is getting Alabama in a lot of third-and-longs and stopping the run on first and second downs. LSU will again move Tyson Jackson around from end to tackle depending on the down and distance, and this is a game that screams out for tackle Ricky Jean-Francois, who should be healthier now, to show the same dominance he did a year ago in the BCS title game. In short, the Tigers will sell out to stop the Tide's running game.