SEC: Jarius Wright

Three Arkansas football players were arrested Saturday and charged with burglarizing dorm rooms.

University police arrested wide receivers Marquel Wade and Maudrecus Humphrey, and tight end Andrew Peterson after security video showed the players allegedly walked into rooms where items had been taken. The police report valued the stolen property, including computers and textbooks, at almost $5,000.

[+] EnlargeMarquel Wade
Beth Hall/US PresswireRazorbacks coach John L. Smith immediately and indefinitely suspended receiver Marquel Wade and two other players in his first test of discipline since being hired to replace Bobby Petrino last month.
Arkansas coach John L. Smith indefinitely suspended the three:
"We have high standards for our student-athletes, and I expect them to conduct themselves appropriately. Poor conduct and misbehavior will not be tolerated and is not what we expect from the University of Arkansas football program."

The video that police viewed showed the three players walking the hallways, checking doors and entering rooms inside the dormitory. Police said a witness saw Peterson and Humphrey opening doors, and that another witness identified Peterson as having been in her room.

Some of the stolen items were recovered from a bookstore near campus and in Peterson's room. The report also said a store clerk identified the three as regularly selling used items.

Wade was charged with a felony count of burglary, while Humphrey and Peterson were both charged with nine felony counts of burglary.

Since March, six Arkansas players have been arrested, making 2012 even harder for the football program. Stack those arrests on top of Bobby Petrino's embarrassing exit, and this has been far from the start that Arkansas wanted.

Before the Petrino situation rocked the program, the Razorbacks were expected to be a team that contended for the SEC championship and maybe even the national championship. Since then, the road to multiple title for Arkansas seems to be a little muddier.

Saturday's arrests certainly don't help. Wade only caught eight passes for 62 yards in 2011, but the expectations are for him to be a major contributor in the passing game, especially with the departure of receivers Joe Adams, Greg Childs and Jarius Wright. Wade was also dynamic in the return game, averaging 25.6 yards per kickoff return and returning one kick 85 yards for a touchdown.

Smith was brought in to make the transition to the season easier for players after Petrino's firing. The thought was that this team would be lost if an outsider was brought in, so athletic director Jeff Long went with a very familiar face in Smith, who spent the past three seasons as Arkansas' special teams coach.

This isn't exactly rallying around your new coach. It's having no regard for him or your team. This incident is something a new coach doesn't want to deal with and shouldn't have to deal with. Obviously, Smith will have to see how things play out legally, but losing a player like Wade could put a wrench in Arkansas' plans this fall.

So once again, this team is left trying to pick itself up after yet another boneheaded incident that's brought more embarrassment. Players will no doubt say the right things and scold the wrongdoers, but this act has to be tiring in Fayetteville.

If this team really wants to show that its success isn't going to be all about the coach, it has to make sure the players are more focused going forward. Six arrests doesn't mean players have gotten out of hand, but it isn't a great number to have on your spring résumé. They also stand as more distractions.

And Arkansas doesn't need anymore distractions going forward.
Our look at the SEC's most productive returning players in 2012 continues with wide receivers.

Past producers:
The SEC returns five of the top 10 statistical wideouts from a year ago. Top statistical receiver Jarius Wright has departed, but the No. 2 receiver in the SEC is back, which means he'll have a chance to claim the crown as the league's top wideout in 2012.

Here is the conference's top returning producer at receiver:

Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee: While Rogers dealt with some issues last season that didn't pertain to football, he was still one of the best receiving threats in the SEC. He lead the league with 67 catches and was second with 1,040 receiving yards. He was also second in the conference with nine receiving touchdowns. Rogers finished the season averaging 15.5 yards per catch and hauled in six 100-yard receiving games, including having three in Tennessee's last four games. When he's totally invested, Rogers is a handful for defenders to stop. He's not only fast and can break away from defenders in a hurry but with his 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame, he's a much bigger load for defensive backs to handle.

The SEC returns four more of the top 10 statistical receivers from a year ago:
  • Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt: He caught 41 passes for 778 yards and five touchdowns, and averaged 19 yards per catch.
  • Tavarres King, Georgia: He caught 47 passes for 705 yards and eight touchdowns, and averaged 15 yards per catch.
  • Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia: He caught 45 passes for 665 yards and four touchdowns, and averaged 14.8 yards per catch.
  • Emory Blake, Auburn: He caught 36 passes for 613 yards and five touchdowns, and averaged 17 yards per catch.

Rogers will have his hands full trying to take the title of the SEC's best receiver, and it'll start in his own backyard, as big-time deep threat Justin Hunter is back from his ACL injury. Hunter might be the most gifted receiver in the league and he's showed in the past that it's hard to find a better deep threat with the speed and length he possesses. Quarterback Tyler Bray is no doubt salivating at the thought having both of these guys completely healthy for the fall.

Arkansas might have lost three NFL receivers from last year, but don't forget about Cobi Hamilton. Though he's been overshadowed at times, the senior-to-be has 85 career catches for 1,519 yards and 13 scores. He's fast and physical and with Tyler Wilson throwing the ball, he'll have plenty of chances to make a strong run as the league's best.

Odell Beckham at LSU came on strong as a true freshman last season, catching 41 passes for 475 yards and two touchdowns, and now that Rueben Randle is gone, Beckham should be LSU's top receiving target this fall. Florida's Andre Debose has yet to have a complete season at receiver, but he's the Gators best deep threat. If he can finally focus in a little more, he'll get more touches. Kentucky's La'Rod King was 11th in the league in receiving last year, and that was with major issues at the quarterback spot. A more settled QB situation in Lexington should help him move up the receiving chart.

As for some newcomers, Ryan Swope at Texas A&M is the first name you have to consider. He was third in the Big 12 in receiving, catching 89 passes for 1,207 yards and 11 touchdowns. He could have easily left for the NFL after last season. At Missouri, T.J. Moe returns as the Tigers' top receiver, but deep threat Marcus Lucas and incoming freshman Dorial Green-Beckham could also do some damage this fall. Lucas is a guy the coaches can't wait to let loose, but if Green-Beckham is as good as the coaches hope, he could be an instant star.

SEC lunch links

April, 30, 2012
Happy Monday all. Without further adieu, your links:

Spring shoes to fill: Arkansas

March, 20, 2012
Today, we shift our attention to Arkansas. The Hogs lost as many talented seniors as any team in the league, and did so on both offense and defense.

If they’re going to break through next season in the West, they have to get better on defense, and that means replacing the best big-play defender on their team from a year ago:

OUT: DE Jake Bequette. We easily could have gone offense here with the Hogs losing three receivers -- Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Greg Childs. Adams was equally valuable in the return game. And on defense, the Hogs need to find linebackers to replace Jerry Franklin and Jerico Nelson. But in Bequette, they lose that dynamic pass-rusher off the edge, the guy who made big plays for them and one of their best leaders. When he was healthy last season, Bequette was the opposing quarterback’s worst nightmare. He missed three games with a hamstring injury, but returned to rack up 10 sacks in 10 games, and also forced five fumbles.

IN: Chris Smith or Austin Flynn. Smith, a junior, is a prototypical speed rusher who’s bulked up to 251 pounds. He was somewhere around 230 when he arrived on campus as a freshman. Smith had six tackles for loss, including 3.5 sacks, last season and has the physical tools to be the kind of finisher the Hogs need him to be in 2012. Consistency will be the key for him along with standing in there and playing the run better. Flynn, who transferred in from Los Angeles Harbor Community College, has already turned heads in the strength and conditioning program. At 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, he’s closer to Bequette in size, and goes about his business much the same way on the field. Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino has called Flynn a Bequette clone. Flynn will be hard to keep off the field, but the reality is that both Smith and Flynn will play a lot of snaps this fall for the Hogs.
As a former star pitcher in his hometown of Greenwood, Ark., Tyler Wilson understands the importance of finishing what you started.

His sport of choice these days is football, and Wilson is more determined than ever to make his final season as Arkansas’ quarterback one they’ll remember in the Ozarks for a long time to come.

It’s not a season that will be measured in touchdown passes or passing yards, either.

It’s a season that will be measured in wins, and more precisely, in whether the Hogs can finally get over the hump in the Western Division and play for an SEC championship.

[+] EnlargeTyler Wilson
Nelson Chenault/US PresswireTyler Wilson passed up NFL dollars for one more shot at an SEC title.
That quest begins in earnest on Wednesday, when Arkansas opens spring practice, and Wilson says with conviction that unfinished business is the primary reason he’s back for his senior season.

“This run the last couple of years where we’ve given our fans a lot to cheer about excites me,” said Wilson, who led the SEC with 3,638 passing yards last season. “But I’m even more excited to finish it up strong and leave my stamp on the program and get it to where it needs to be and where it needs to stay going forward into the future.”

Wilson sought feedback from the NFL draft advisory committee following last season and seriously considered turning pro. Some analysts have said that he could have gone in the second or third round.

“There definitely was some contemplation, probably more so than I ever thought there would be,” Wilson said. “But we have a great team, and I think, the right chemistry, to go beyond even what we did last year. That’s what I kept coming back to when I was making my decision.”

Wilson, in his first year as the starter last season, became the first Arkansas quarterback to earn first-team All-SEC honors. He led the league in passing yards, total offense, passing efficiency and completions.

What’s more, he did it without star running back Knile Davis, who missed the entire season after fracturing his ankle in the preseason.

Davis is scheduled to return for the 2012 season, and if healthy, will no doubt put a charge back into the Hogs’ running game.

Wilson is losing three of his top receivers, including a pair of All-SEC selections in Jarius Wright and Joe Adams.

But senior receiver Cobi Hamilton is back along with senior tight end Chris Gragg, and Wilson warned not to sleep on some of the Hogs’ other receivers who simply haven’t had much of a chance to play the past couple of years because they were behind Greg Childs, Wright and Adams.

“People mention the young guys, but some of these guys have been around,” Wilson said. “It’s just that they’re stepping into bigger roles now and have been there behind Joe Adams and Jarius Wright and Greg Childs and are super talented as well and finally getting their opportunity.

“It’s their time now, and I’m excited about what I’ve seen. There’s always a curve there when you go from being a backup to a starter, but they’re ready to make their mark. You have Marquel Wade, Javontee Herndon and Julian Horton. They’re all big-time players. It just goes down the line. There are a lot of players who’ve been overshadowed, and I’m extremely exited to get them the ball and let them make plays for us.”

Wilson already owns nine school records. He and his predecessor, Ryan Mallett, are the only two Arkansas quarterbacks in school history to put together 3,000-yard passing seasons.

Not only that, but in 2011 Wilson led the Hogs to their first 11-win season since 1977, and they finished No. 5 in the polls.

The resurgence of the program under Bobby Petrino has electrified the entire state.

Nonetheless, the Hogs haven’t been able to break through and play in the SEC championship game and are just 1-5 against Alabama and LSU the past three seasons.

“Coach Petrino has used the term a number of times, but you just have to keep beating on the door, and one day, that door’s going to fall in,” Wilson said. “That’s the attitude I’ve taken and one our team needs to adopt.

“We just have to be there year in and year out establishing ourselves, and we’ll get the respect we need. Obviously, we have to win the big games, and once we do that, we’ll be where we need to be. I think we’re really close.”

Wilson is also quick to note that Arkansas gets both Alabama and LSU in Fayetteville in 2012.

“That’s another positive and sets us up on the path to be where we want to be at the end of the year,” he said.

Having been exposed to just about every defensive look imaginable in his first season as the starter, Wilson wants to use this offseason to become an even better student of the game.

In his mind, that’s where he can best help his team and go from an All-SEC quarterback to a quarterback who leads his team to a championship.

“You’re a year ahead of where you were last year and there are a lot of things you understand, but there’s a constant learning curve for any quarterback,” said Wilson, who threw just six interceptions in 438 passing attempts last season.

“My ability to execute the running game increased tremendously in the month that I had to prepare for the bowl game. If I can expand on that knowledge in the run game and on how to get our offense in a better position as far as the looks the defense is giving us and get us into a positive play when a negative play is called ... that’s the next step for me.

“We’ve got to eliminate the negative plays on first and second down, and a lot of that is on the quarterback and making sure we’re running the right plays against the right looks.”

Hamilton takes over as Hogs' go-to guy

March, 7, 2012
There's a new go-to receiver at Arkansas, and it's somebody who's already left his mark.

Rising senior Cobi Hamilton steps into that role and does so after catching a career-high 34 passes last season for 542 yards and four touchdowns. He's always been a big-play guy, but sometimes got lost in the shadows of Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs.

That record-setting threesome is now gone, though, which means Hamilton will command even more attention from opposing defenses next season.

He has 85 receptions for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns in his career and ranks ninth all-time at Arkansas with four career 100-yard receiving games, 11th in school history in receptions and 15th all-time at Arkansas in career receiving yards. He enters the 2012 season with a streak of 22 consecutive games with at least one reception.

Hamilton ranked fifth in the SEC last season by averaging 15.9 yards per reception.

He's raring to go for what comes next and talks about his role as the senior leader of the Hogs' receivers in this video previewing the Hogs' spring practice, which starts March 14.
After a drama-filled, late signing day for ESPNU 150 athlete Davonte Neal (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral), the nation's No. 8 prospect finally made a decision.

He picked Notre Dame over Arizona, Arkansas and North Carolina, ending what had turned into quite the spectacle.

Now that Neal's recruitment is officially over, Arkansas' coaching staff can officially put the 2012 recruiting class to bed. And while Neal would have been a tremendous addition to the Razorbacks' class, it's not the end of the world that Arkansas didn't land him. In fact, missing out on both Neal and top receiver Dorial Green-Beckham won't set Bobby Petrino's team back.

Also, after the "show" that Neal put on with his recruitment, there are definitely questions about his mindset. We don't know every single detail concerning his recruitment, but from what I know about Petrino's offense, a me-first attitude doesn't work within a scheme that tries to spread the ball around as much as possible.

[+] EnlargeCobi Hamilton
Beth Hall/US PresswireCobi Hamilton should be among the top returning receivers in the SEC.
Arkansas lost three future NFL draft picks in Joe Adams, Greg Childs and Jarius Wright, but returns a handful of receiving targets in 2012. Two of those returning -- tight end Chris Gragg and receiver Cobi Hamilton -- ranked third and fourth, respectively, in receiving for the Hogs.

Hamilton, who will probably see his name near the top of the list of returning SEC receivers this fall, caught 34 passes for 542 yards and was second on the team with four touchdowns. Gragg, one of the top returning tight ends in the league, caught 41 passes for 518 yards and two scores.

That's a good foundation, but it doesn't end there for the Hogs. Arkansas' deep receiving corps hasn't accumulated a ton of stats, but that's because these players haven't had much of a chance with those vets in front of them. They've shown that to the coaches in practice, but haven't had the chance to do it for the public.

One of those players expected to make a big leap in 2012 is rising sophomore Marquel Wade. He only caught eight passes last fall, but the coaches are expecting big things from him in Year 2. Wade has big play ability, is shifty and the coaches think he resembles Adams in his movements and returning ability. He should receive a lot more attention from quarterback Tyler Wilson and opposing defenders. However, with his speed and elusiveness, he should be able to make a play or two next fall.

Juniors-to-be Javontee Herndon and Julian Horton, who combined for 17 catches in 2011, are also back and from what the coaches have seen in practice, they expect them to step right in this fall.

Also, keep an eye out on incoming juco transfer receiver Demetrius Wilson and freshman tight end Demetrius Dean. Wilson should certainly get a chance to compete early because coaches don't exactly bring in juco players to sit and watch. Dean (6-foot- 3, 240 pounds) could come in and line up opposite Gragg and has the ability to split out wide if needed.

Striking out with both Neal and DGB wasn't exactly part of Petrino's recruiting plan, but his teams have led the SEC in passing the past three years for a reason, so don't expect him to pout too much about losing these two.

The SEC's top 25 players: No. 15

February, 22, 2012
This next guy on our countdown had a record-setting season.

No. 15: Jarius Wright, WR, Arkansas, Sr.

2011 summary: Wright led the SEC in receiving yards (1,117) and receiving touchdowns (12) and was second in receptions (66). He set the Arkansas single-season record in all three categories and leaves school as the career leader in receptions and receiving yards. Wright was a first-team All-SEC selection by both the coaches and Associated Press.

Why he's here: Not only did the 5-10, 180-pound Wright emerge as one of the SEC's best big-play receivers, but he improved as a runner after the catch and also showed a penchant for finding the end zone, as evidenced by his 12 touchdown receptions. Even though he's not very big, he showed his toughness time and time again in 2011 and combined that toughness with exceptional speed to put together a record-breaking season. Wright produced big catches and big performances and had an SEC-leading six touchdown catches in league games. His biggest game came in the 42-38 comeback win over Texas A&M when he pulled in 13 catches for 281 yards, and he also pounced on a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to tie that game. The Hogs weren't lacking in receiving talent this season, but Wright became the clear leader of that group and was also one of the strongest leaders on the entire team. His consistency was one of the big reasons the Hogs were able to win 11 games for the first time since the 1977 season.
In a year dominated by SEC defenses, it was a quarterback who took home the title of top SEC performance in 2011.

With more than 11,500 votes cast in our poll, Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson's record-breaking performance in the Razorbacks' comeback win over Texas A&M was named the conference's best individual performance from last season after taking 37 percent of the vote.

Wilson helped bring the Hogs back from a double-digit deficit against Texas A&M with his school-record 510 passing yards on 30 of 51 passing, three touchdowns and no interceptions in the 42-38 comeback win.

Even with how much attention SEC defenses received in 2011, it's hard to overlook what Wilson did against the Aggies. It probably didn't hurt Wilson that wide receiver Jarius Wright also had a record-breaking day when he caught 13 passes 281 yards and a touchdown.

Alabama running back Trent Richardson's day in the Grove took second, earning 24 percent of the vote. Richardson simply had his way with Ole Miss' defense, racking up 183 rushing yards and four touchdowns in Alabama's 52-7 rout of the Rebels. He also made the move of the year when his spectacular cutback just before the end zone sent an Ole Miss defender stumbling to his knees.

Next was Georgia's Brandon Boykin, who took home 16 percent of the vote. Georgia might have lost to Michigan State, but Boykin nearly stole the show with his performance. He scored three different ways and set a record for the longest play in Outback Bowl history with his 92-yard punt return.

The real surprise was the performance from LSU's Tyrann Mathieu. Both Chris and I had him at the top of our lists, but he ranked fourth when it came to the fan vote, getting 15 percent of the vote. For us, without Mathieu's day against Arkansas the Tigers might not have made it to the national championship game. Because Eric Reid was out with an injury, Mathieu played safety for the first time in his career and recorded eight tackles, forced two fumbles and recovered a fumble. His 92-yard punt return for a touchdown also started LSU's 34-3 run to end the game.

But that's why these polls are so great. Not everyone is going to agree, and it's always fun to see where the fans stand when it comes to these sort of things.

Our "Other" category received 7 percent of the vote.

Poll: SEC's top individual performance

February, 9, 2012
You've seen my list, and you've seen Edward's list.

We both took our shots at ranking the top 10 individual performances in the SEC this season.

Now it's your turn in our SportsNation poll.

We've selected four choices for you, but we also included an "other" category.

This should be interesting because everybody has his or her own idea of what constitutes a great performance.

Maybe it has to come on a big stage similar to what we saw from LSU's Tyrann Mathieu in the Arkansas game and SEC championship game. Maybe it's one play similar to what we saw from LSU's Eric Reid in the first Alabama game.

Some are hung up on gaudy stats. Arkansas' Tyler Wilson and Jarius Wright both put up big numbers in that comeback win over Texas A&M, and there's also something to be said for versatility. Georgia's Brandon Boykin, South Carolina's Melvin Ingram, Florida's Chris Rainey and Mathieu were all Renaissance Men at different points this season.

Does a great performance have to come in a win?

How do you pick when somebody like Alabama's Trent Richardson stacks up the great performances?

Don't forget about the defensive players, either. Georgia's Jarvis Jones and Kentucky's Danny Trevathan both had monster games this season.

Good luck and vote your conscience. This is your chance to be heard. Maybe there's a worthy performance out there that we both forgot about or we didn't include on our lists.

Looking forward to seeing your responses.
Now that you've seen Chris' top 10, here's mine. Let's see where we were the same and where we differed:

1. LSU's Tyrann Mathieu against Arkansas: Mathieu replaced the injured Eric Reid and played safety for the first time in his career. All he did was record eight tackles, force two fumbles, and recovered a fumble. With LSU down 14-7 in the second quarter, he ignited a dominating run when he returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown in LSU’s 41-17 win over Arkansas. A loss to the Hogs might have cost LSU a chance at the national title game.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Boykin
Jeff Griffith/US PresswireGeorgia's Brandon Boykin recorded a safety, had a punt return TD and a TD catch in the Outback Bowl.
2. Georgia’s Brandon Boykin in the Outback Bowl: Boykin sure went out in style, scoring three different ways in the loss to Michigan State. On Michigan State's first offensive play, he recorded a safety when he tackled Keshawn Martin in the end zone on a pass play. He later scored on 92-yard punt return, which is the longest play in Outback Bowl history, and scored on a 13-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter to give Georgia a 27-20 lead. He also had seven tackles, including two for loss.

3. LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu in the SEC championship game: He saved LSU yet again with his special-teams work. His 62-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter got LSU on the board after trailing 10-0. On Georgia’s first drive of the second half, Mathieu recovered a fumble at the Bulldogs’ 27 to set up the Tigers’ second touchdown. He set up LSU's third score with a scintillating return that left just about every Georgia player's head spinning.

4. Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson against Texas A&M: Wilson not only helped orchestrate a tremendous second-half comeback against the Aggies, but he passed for a school-record 510 passing yards, had three touchdowns and no interceptions on 30-of-51 passing.

5. Alabama’s Trent Richardson against Ole Miss: Richardson couldn't be stopped in Oxford, as he rushed for 183 yards and four touchdowns in Alabama's 52-7 drubbing of the Rebels. Richardson grabbed his signature play as well when he put on a show at the end of his 76-yard touchdown run by literally shaking Ole Miss' Senquez Golsen to the ground with his cut seen round the college football world.

6. Georgia’s Jarvis Jones against Florida: Jones had four sacks in the Bulldogs’ 24-20 win over Florida and forced a fumble at the Gators' 18-yard line in the third quarter that led to the game-tying touchdown. His fourth sack came in the fourth and basically sealed the Bulldogs' win.

7. Arkansas’ Jarius Wright against Texas A&M: Wilson couldn't have done his thing without Wright, who caught 13 passes, which tied a school record, for a school-record 281 yards and a touchdown. Wright surpassed the old record of 204 yards by halftime. He also recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown that tied the game at 35 in the fourth quarter.

8. Florida’s Chris Rainey against Florida Atlantic: Rainey kicked off the Will Muschamp era by scoring touchdowns three different ways in the season opener. He scored rushing, receiving and on a blocked punt. Rainey also registered 146 yards of total offense.

9. South Carolina’s Antonio Allen against East Carolina: Allen started the year off pretty well when he had 16 tackles, forced two fumbles, recovered two fumbles and broke up two passes in a season-opening 56-37 win over East Carolina. He also returned a fumble 25 yards for a touchdown.

10. LSU’s Brad Wing against Alabama Part I: In a game in which kicking mattered, four of his six punts were downed inside Alabama's 20-yard line. One punt was downed at the 5 and another at the 4. His 73-yarder in the fourth quarter saved LSU's defense from having to work with a short field and helped propel the game into overtime.

Here are five more that just missed the cut:

  • South Carolina's Melvin Ingram ran for a 68-yard touchdown on a fake punt against Georgia and scored a second touchdown on a 5-yard fumble return. He sealed the Gamecocks' 45-42 win when he recovered an onsides kick.
  • Tennessee's Tyler Bray passed for a career-high 405 passing yards, had four touchdown passes and no interceptions in a 45-23 win over Cincinnati. He also had a rushing touchdown and completed 34 of 41 passes.
  • Vanderbilt’s Zac Stacy rushed for 184 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-7 road victory over Wake Forest that sent the Commodores bowling. Stacy also became the school’s single-season record holder for rushing yards after his performance.
  • Kentucky’s Danny Trevathan registered 17 tackles, including 12 solo and three for loss in a 19-10 loss to Georgia. He also forced two fumbles.
  • Arkansas' Joe Adams had one of the best special-teams performance of the season in Week 1 against Missouri State when he had two punt returns for touchdowns of 69 and 61 yards in the 51-7 win. He had a school-record 174 yards on six punt returns.

SEC's top individual performances, Part I

February, 9, 2012
Tyrann MathieuChris Graythen/Getty ImagesTyrann Mathieu had a knack for the big play all season for LSU.
We’re already looking ahead some to the 2012 season in the SEC, but we haven’t completely forgotten about 2011.

We’re finishing up our postseason position rankings and taking another look at the top 25 players in the league based on what they did during the 2011 season.

Today, we’ll rank the top 10 individual performances from this past season. I’ll go first (That’s what happens when you dominate the picks contest), and Edward will follow.

We’ll also have a poll for the fans later today, so you guys will get your chance to weigh in as well and tell us how right or wrong we were.

Please don’t hold back, although you never do.

Here goes:

1. LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu vs. Arkansas: Moving over to safety for the injured Eric Reid, the Honey Badger put on a show for all shows. The only thing he didn’t do was clean up Tiger Stadium afterward in the 41-17 win over the No. 3-ranked Hogs. Mathieu had eight tackles, forced two fumbles, recovered a fumble and returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown. His punt return tied the game at 14-14, and the Hogs were toast from there.

2. LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu in the SEC championship game: Yep, it’s the Honey Badger again. The Tigers were dead in the water in the first half against Georgia, but Mathieu returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter to get LSU on the board. Mathieu followed that up by recovering a fumble at the Bulldogs’ 27 to set up the Tigers’ second touchdown. He then returned another punt 47 yards, this one even more spectacular than the first, to set up LSU’s third touchdown, and a close game suddenly became a 42-10 rout.

3. Georgia’s Jarvis Jones vs. Florida: It was a case of Jones simply not allowing his team to lose. He racked up four sacks in the 24-20 win over the Gators and forced a fumble at the Florida 18-yard line in the third quarter that led to the game-tying touchdown. His fourth and final sack came on fourth down late in the game and all but finished the Gators, lifting Georgia to just its fourth win over Florida in the last 22 meetings.

4. Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson vs. Texas A&M: With the Hogs trailing 35-17 at the half, Wilson brought them back with a school-record 510 yards passing in a 42-38 victory over the Aggies. Wilson finished 30-of-51 with three touchdown passes and no interceptions. He also had the 2-point conversion run that tied the game at 35-35.

5. Georgia’s Brandon Boykin in the Outback Bowl: The Bulldogs fell to Michigan State 33-30 in three overtimes, but don’t blame Boykin. The senior cornerback scored three different ways. He recorded a safety to open the game, also had a 92-yard punt return for a touchdown and scored on a 13-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter to give the Bulldogs a 27-20 lead. He finished with seven tackles, including two for loss.

6. Arkansas’ Jarius Wright vs. Texas A&M: Don’t forget about Wright in the Hogs’ dramatic comeback win over the Aggies. He tied a school record with 13 catches and set a school record with 281 receiving yards. The old record was 204 yards, and Wright surpassed that by halftime. He also caught a 68-yard touchdown pass and pounced on a loose ball in the end zone in the fourth quarter that wound up being the tying touchdown.

7. LSU’s Brad Wing vs. Alabama: Without Wing’s heroics, LSU doesn’t win that first game against Alabama. It’s just that simple. He kept the Crimson Tide bottled up all night. He punted six times and four were downed inside the Alabama 20-yard line. One was downed at the 5 and another at the 4. His 73-yard punt in the fourth quarter completely changed the game and helped get the Tigers to overtime, where they prevailed 9-6.

8. Alabama’s Trent Richardson vs. Ole Miss: There were so many great performances by Richardson that it’s difficult to pick out just one. But he rolled up 183 rushing yards and four touchdowns in the 52-7 rout of Ole Miss, and they’ll be showing the highlights of his dazzling 76-yard touchdown run for a long time to come. He averaged 10.8 yards per carry that night and finished with 213 all-purpose yards.

9. Tennessee’s Tyler Bray vs. Cincinnati: It’s about as perfect a game as a quarterback could have. Bray lit up the Bearcats in the second week of the season for a career-high 405 passing yards, four touchdown passes and no interceptions. He also had a rushing touchdown and completed 34 of 41 passes in the 45-23 victory. In the second half, Bray completed all but one of his 14 passing attempts, and his 83 percent completion rate set a school record.

10. South Carolina’s Antonio Allen vs. East Carolina: It’s one of the great performances of the season that nobody really remembers because it came in the opener. Allen, the Gamecocks’ “Spur” linebacker/safety, totaled 16 tackles, forced two fumbles, recovered two fumbles and broke up two passes in the come-from-behind 56-37 win over East Carolina.

Here are five more that just missed the cut:

  • South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram running for a 68-yard touchdown on a fake punt, scoring a second touchdown on a 5-yard fumble return and recovering an onside kick to preserve a 45-42 win over Georgia.
  • Florida’s Chris Rainey rushing for 108 yards and also totaling 104 receiving yards in a 33-23 win over Tennessee. Rainey accounted for 233 all-purpose yards and had an 83-yard touchdown catch to put the Gators ahead 30-7 in the third quarter. He also blocked a punt in the second quarter, leading to a Florida field goal.
  • South Carolina’s Connor Shaw passing for 210 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 107 yards and a touchdown in a 34-13 victory over Clemson. Shaw finished 14 of 20 passing without an interception.
  • Vanderbilt’s Zac Stacy rushing for 184 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-7 road victory over Wake Forest that made the Commodores bowl eligible. Stacy had touchdown runs of 40 and 20 yards on his way to becoming the school’s single-season record-holder for rushing yards.
  • Kentucky’s Danny Trevathan totaling 17 tackles, including 12 solo stops, for the second week in a row. He had three tackles for loss and also forced two fumbles in the Wildcats’ 19-10 loss to Georgia.

SEC players invited to NFL combine

February, 7, 2012
The NFL has released its list of invites to this years NFL combine. Of the more than 300 prospects taking part in the pre-draft shenanigans starting Feb. 22, 62 are from the SEC (for fun we are including Missouri and Texas A&M).

Here are the SEC representatives: School breakdown:
  • Alabama: 9
  • Arkansas: 4
  • Auburn: 3
  • Florida: 3
  • Georgia: 8
  • Kentucky: 2
  • LSU: 8
  • Missouri: 4
  • Mississippi State: 4
  • Ole Miss: 2
  • South Carolina: 5
  • Tennessee: 2
  • Texas A&M: 6
  • Vanderbilt: 2

SEC postseason position rankings: WR/TE

February, 3, 2012
The receivers/tight ends are on the docket Friday in our SEC postseason position rankings. The top two spots were easy. But after that, it gets a lot harder.

You can see our preseason rankings here.

Here's what we came up with for the postseason:

[+] EnlargeJarius Wright
Nelson Chenault/US PresswireJarius Wright's 12 touchdowns and 1,117 yards led Arkansas' talented receiving corps.
1. Arkansas: An easy call here for the top spot. Even though Greg Childs was unable to return to his pre-injury form, the duo of Jarius Wright and Joe Adams was outstanding. Wright set school records with 66 catches for 1,117 yards and 12 touchdowns. Don’t forget about Cobi Hamilton, either, or tight end Chris Gragg, who was third on the team behind Wright and Adams with 41 catches. There’s younger talent on the roster coming, too.

2. Georgia: One of the reasons Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray spread it around so much this season was because of the depth of his receiving corps, and it’s always nice to have the top pass-catching tight end in the league. Orson Charles caught 45 passes, including five touchdowns. The Bulldogs had five different players with at least four touchdown catches. Tavarres King led the way with eight, and freshman Malcolm Mitchell is a budding star in this league.

3. Alabama: The Alabama pass-catchers didn’t rack up a bunch of touchdown catches, but they made plays when they had to. It was a deeper unit than given credit for as evidenced by the play of Kevin Norwood and Kenny Bell in the BCS National Championship Game. Marquis Maze was Alabama’s top playmaker at receiver and one of the more underrated players in the league, and the Tide had two good tight ends in Brad Smelley and Michael Williams.

4. LSU: Rueben Randle is the reason the Tigers are this high. He led the SEC in league games with an average of 78.6 receiving yards per game and also averaged 19.1 yards per catch. Odell Beckham, Jr. was one of the league’s best freshman receivers, and even though Russell Shepard only caught 14 passes, four went for touchdowns. Look for Jarvis Landry to play a much bigger role next season.

5. Tennessee: The Vols should really be loaded at receiver in 2012 if Justin Hunter comes back healthy. He was off to a great start this season, but injured his knee in the third game. Da'Rick Rogers led the SEC with 67 catches, including nine touchdowns, and tight end Mychal Rivera was second on the team with 29 catches. The Vols added top junior college receiver Cordarrelle Patterson on signing day.

6. South Carolina: Alshon Jeffery alone puts the Gamecocks in the top half of the league. His numbers were down from his fabulous 2011 season, but he still caught eight touchdown passes. Ace Sanders provided some help underneath, but the Gamecocks didn’t have enough depth at the position to keep teams from shadowing Jeffery.

7. Vanderbilt: The Commodores made a big jump from where they were ranked in the preseason (11th). Sophomore Jordan Matthews was one of the most improved receivers in the league and gave the Commodores that big-play threat down the field they’d been missing. He had five touchdown catches and averaged 19 yards per catch. Redshirt freshman Chris Boyd also had a big season with a team-leading eight touchdown catches, and Brandon Barden was a nice target at tight end.

8. Auburn: Injuries killed the Tigers, especially with Emory Blake and Trovon Reed being out at the same time during one stretch. When healthy, Blake is one of the most dependable receivers in the league. Reed has yet to prove he can stay healthy, and there was really nobody else to provide any firepower in the deep passing game. The Tigers get bonus points here for Philip Lutzenkirchen, who had seven touchdown catches and is a terrific pass-catching tight end.

9. Florida: The Gators would appear to more talented than they’ve played at receiver the last couple of years. Andre Debose did come on this season and catch a few deep passes for touchdowns, and Jordan Reed has the tools to be one of the best tight ends in the league. The bottom line is that the Gators simply didn’t make much happen in the passing game all season long. In fact, none of the wide receivers on the roster caught more than 21 passes.

10. Mississippi State: The receiver position is an area that Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen is still looking to bolster. Chad Bumphis hasn’t been the kind of difference-maker most predicted when he signed with the Bulldogs. Perhaps 2012 will be the season he changes that. Freshman tight end Malcolm Johnson showed a lot of promise and caught three touchdown passes, while Arceto Clark and Chris Smith each hauled in 30 or more receptions.

11. Ole Miss: Granted, the Rebels had issues at quarterback, which was a big reason they never established much of a passing game. But here’s the most telling stat: Ole Miss finished the season with nine touchdown passes, and six of those went to true freshmen Donte Moncrief and Nickolas Brassell. Opposing defenses are bound to see even more of those two youngsters next season.

12. Kentucky: Everybody beats up on the quarterback when the passing game is ineffective, but the Wildcats simply didn’t have a lot of guys consistently making plays at the receiver position. There were too many drops across the board, and even though La'Rod King did catch seven touchdown passes, he was quiet in SEC games.

Who fared best against SEC competition?

January, 30, 2012
In the realm of the SEC, one of the best gauges of how a team or player fared during the season is looking back at what happened in league competition only.

We’ve all seen cases where players pad their stats against weaker nonconference teams, or where teams roll up big numbers out of conference and then are pretty average against league foes.

We’ll start with a bit of irony.

As brutal as LSU was on offense in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game, the Tigers led the SEC in both scoring offense (35 points per game) and rushing offense (220.4 yards per game) in eight-regular season games against league opponents.

Alabama and LSU tied for first in scoring defense, each giving up an average of 8.4 points game, while Alabama was first in total defense against league competition. The Crimson Tide allowed an average of 180.5 yards per game, which was nearly 45 yards fewer per game than the second-place team -- LSU.

The worst team offensively against SEC competition was Tennessee, which was last in scoring offense, rushing offense and third-down conversions, 11th in total offense and 10th in pass efficiency. In eight league games, the Vols averaged just 11.5 points and 63.5 rushing yards.

Defensively, Ole Miss brought up the rear and was last in total defense, scoring defense and rushing defense. The Rebels gave up an average of 36.5 points per game to SEC opponents.

And how important is turnover margin?

LSU was first in the league at plus-12, while Ole Miss was last at minus-11.

Turning to individuals, anybody want to venture a guess as to who led the SEC in pass efficiency in the regular season against league foes?

The correct answer: LSU’s Jarrett Lee. The No. 2 guy on that list was Alabama’s AJ McCarron, and LSU’s Jordan Jefferson was not listed among the 10 leaders.

Georgia’s Aaron Murray threw 18 of his school-record 35 touchdown passes in his eight regular-season games against SEC foes. Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson threw 14 of his 24 against league competition.

Alabama’s Trent Richardson and Auburn’s Michael Dyer were the only two players to average more than 100 rushing yards per game against SEC foes. Georgia’s Isaiah Crowell and Vanderbilt’s Zac Stacy were both over 80 yards per game on the ground.

Richardson’s 12 touchdowns against SEC defenses led the way, and Stacy was second with seven.

Arkansas’ Jarius Wright led the way with six touchdown catches, while LSU’s Rueben Randle did so with 629 receiving yards.

Kentucky’s Danny Trevathan was the only SEC player with 100 or more total tackles during SEC regular-season play. He finished with exactly 100. He also had the most solo stops (48). Florida’s Jon Bostic was second with 43 solo stops.

Georgia’s Jarvis Jones had 12.5 sacks, and LSU’s Morris Claiborne and Georgia’s Bacarri Rambo tied with five interceptions.

South Carolina freshman defensive end Jadeveon Clowney had five forced fumbles along with Auburn’s Corey Lemonier.