SEC: Joe Adams

We're down to the final four in the ESPYS vote for Best Play, and former Arkansas wide receiver Joe Adams made the cut.

Adams' exciting 60-yard punt return for a touchdown against Tennessee beat out Minnesota Twins outfielder Ben Revere and his leaping, over-the-shoulder catch against the center field wall to make it to the round of four Tuesday.

Best Play was a bracket-style vote, and Adams' play, which was the No. 2 seed, is the highest remaining seed among the others in the running. Adams' play is joined by Indiana's Christian Watford and his 3-pointer to beat Kentucky, an over-the-wall catch from Derrick Salberg during the NWAACC Baseball Championships and Edson Barboza's wheel kick KO at UFC 142.

You can vote for Adams' play here. Voting will remain open through the ESPYS Countdown Show and will close when the show begins at 9 ET tonight.

Can the SEC prevail yet again on the big stage? Every vote matters.
We're down to the last day for voting for the ESPY Award for Best Play before it's trimmed from eight plays to four. And the only college football representative left just happens to be former Arkansas wide receiver and punt returner extraordinaire Joe Adams.

Adams' nifty 60-yard punt return for a touchdown against Tennessee last fall ranks No. 2 in the tournament-style voting, facing Minnesota Twins outfielder Ben Revere and his leaping, over-the-shoulder catch against the center field wall.

Adams eluded what looked like eight would-be Vols' tackles during his exciting return. He made it look so easy, too!

To cast your vote for Adams' return head here. Let's see if that SEC pride can make Adams' play a finalist in arguably the ESPYS' most exciting award.

Joe Adams up for ESPYS award

June, 28, 2012
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SEC football might have a chance to take another ESPYS award home in July.

Former Arkansas wide receiver Joe Adams' scintillating 60-yard punt return for a touchdown against Tennessee is up for an ESPYS award for best play.

Well, almost.

The school announced Wednesday night that the category of best play is a bracket-style vote involving 16 seeds. The seeds will be cut down to a final eight July 3, and the final four will be revealed July 9. Voting will remain open through the ESPYS Countdown Show and will close when the show begins at 9 p.m. ET on July 11.

You will have the chance to select the winner by voting online on the ESPYS website.

If you can't really remember exactly what Adams did to Tennessee's special teams, let me take you through the play.

Adams fielded the punt at Arkansas' 40-yard line and immediately cut toward the right sideline, but was met by a group of Tennessee pursuers. Adams backtracked 10 yards before almost being pinned by Tennessee defenders. He somehow shook out of a handful of tackle attempts before weaving his way back toward and down the right sideline, tiptoeing past another tackler. He was off to the races at that point, heading straight to the end zone untouched.

At last count, Adams broke seven tackles before zooming past everyone.

But don't take my word for it. Just check him out in action yourself. It's really, really fun to watch.

Top performer: Punt returner

May, 24, 2012
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Our look at the SEC's most productive returning players in 2012 concludes with a look at the league's top returning punt returners.

Past producers:
The SEC returns six of the top 10 punt returners from 2011. Unfortunately for all those interested in watching one of the most electrifying plays in football, the SEC's top returner won't be back. Arkansas' Joe Adams must have had a blast returning punts last year. If you don't believe me just look here. He led the nation with four punt returns for touchdowns and led the SEC with an average of 16.9 yards per return. His moves will be missed, but the top player returning (we're going by average per return) isn't too bad either:

Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU: He averaged 15.6 yards on 27 returns, had a long of 92 yards and recorded two touchdowns. If Adams was the most exciting punt returner in the country, Mathieu was a close second. He completely turned the Arkansas and Georgia games to LSU's favor with three huge returns. The first came on a 92-yarder against the Razorbacks to tie the game at 14 in the second quarter and helped spark a 34-3 run for the Tigers. Against Georgia in the SEC championship game, he gave LSU its first points of the game with a 62-yard touchdown return in the second quarter, but his most exciting return came on a scintillating 47-yarder in the third that he took down to Georgia's 17-yard line. Mathieu is a game-breaking returner and the best thing teams can do is just kick away from him.

The SEC returns five more of the top 10 punt returners from 2011:

Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State: He averaged 10.4 yards on 16 returns, had a long of 65 yards and recorded one touchdown.

Ace Sanders, WR, South Carolina: He averaged 9.3 yards on 12 returns, had a long of 68 yards and recorded one touchdown.

Marquel Wade, WR, Arkansas (currently not a part of Arkansas' team): He averaged 8.2 yards on 12 returns and had a long of 19 yards.

Quan Bray, WR, Auburn: He averaged 7.4 yards on 13 returns and had a long of 24 yards.

Jonathan Krause, WR, Vanderbilt: He averaged 4.1 yards on 19 returns and had a long of 18 yards.

Teams will likely kick away from Mathieu more this fall, so he could have a tougher time going for the crown in 2012. One player who could really push for the top spot in this category is Wade. But with him not currently being with the team following his recent arrest, he might not have the chance. Wade is a very dynamic athlete and got to learn from the best in Adams. If he comes back, he'll definitely compete for the throne.

Banks could have competition from his own teammate in Chad Bumphis. Bumphis only returned eight punts last fall, but returned one 82 yards for a score and averaged 16.6 yards per return.

Krause is someone to keep an eye on. Coach James Franklin was very pleased with how his spring went, but he might have to battle incoming freshman Brian Kimbrow here as well.

Texas A&M's Dustin Harris could certainly challenge for the crown after the season he had in 2011. He led the Big 12, averaging 18.6 yards per return, had a long of 72 yards and registered a touchdown. Last season against Kansas, Harris set the school record with 162 punt return yards, including that 72-yard score.

Ole Miss' Jeff Scott still has some academic hurdles to get over, but when he's fielding punts, he's one of the most fun to watch in the SEC. He averaged 17.2 yards per return on just eight returns last year and returned one for a touchdown.
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.

SEC lunch links

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

Spring shoes to fill: Arkansas

March, 20, 2012
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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.”
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.

SEC combine update

February, 27, 2012
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The NFL combine is wrapping up over the next two days in Indianapolis.

Here are some of the top SEC performers to date:

40-yard dash
Bench press
  • Georgia TE Orson Charles – 35 repetitions of 225 pounds
  • Georgia OT Justin Anderson – 32 repetitions
  • Georgia OT Cordy Glenn – 31 repetitions
  • LSU LB Ryan Baker – 30 repetitions
  • Auburn OT Brandon Mosley – 30 repetitions
  • Georgia C Ben Jones – 29 repetitions
  • Mississippi State DT Fletcher Cox – 30 repetitions
  • South Carolina DE Melvin Ingram – 28 repetitions
  • Tennessee RB Tauren Poole – 24 repetitions
  • Mississippi State RB Vick Ballard – 23 repetitions
  • Texas A&M RB Cyrus Gray – 21 repetitions
Vertical jump
  • Missouri WR Jerrell Jackson – 41 inches
  • Ole Miss RB Brandon Bolden – 38 inches
  • Arkansas WR Jarius Wright – 38 inches
  • Arkansas WR Greg Childs – 36.5 inches
  • Florida RB Chris Rainey – 36.5 inches
  • Arkansas WR Joe Adams – 36 inches
  • Tennessee RB Tauren Poole – 34 inches
Broad jump
  • Missouri TE Michael Egnew – 10 feet, 11 inches
  • Missouri WR Jerrell Jackson – 10 feet, 7 inches
  • Arkansas WR Greg Childs – 10 feet, 5 inches
  • Arkansas WR Joe Adams – 10 feet, 3 inches
20-yard shuttle
  • Florida RB Chris Rainey – 3.93
  • Arkansas WR Jarius Wright – 4.03
  • LSU QB Jordan Jefferson – 4.06
  • Missouri WR Jerrell Jackson – 4.11

The SEC's top 25 players: No. 13

February, 24, 2012
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Was there any SEC player last season more electric in the open field than this guy?

No. 13: Joe Adams, WR/RS, Arkansas, Sr.

Preseason rank: No. 16

2011 summary: Adams was second on Arkansas' team with 50 catches. He finished with 652 receiving yards and three touchdown catches. Adams returned four punts for touchdowns, tying an SEC record, and was second nationally with a 16.9-yard average on punt returns. Adams was a consensus All-American and honored as both a return specialist and all-purpose player. He was named the SEC's Special Teams Player of the Year by the league's coaches.

Why he's here: Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino would describe it simply as "Wow!" when Adams would make one of those jaw-dropping moves and then turn on the jets until he reached the end zone. Easily one of the most dynamic and versatile players in college football, Adams also had impeccable timing. Whenever the Hogs needed a big play, he was almost always there to deliver in 2011. He returned two punts for touchdowns in the opener against Missouri State and then capped his college career by returning one 51 yards for a touchdown to jump-start Arkansas to a 29-16 win over Kansas State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. Adams also had one of the plays of the year in the SEC when he broke seven tackles on his way to a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown against Tennessee. And if you want speed, go back and watch Adams' 92-yard run for a touchdown against Auburn. Adams was the only FBS player in the country last season to have multiple punt returns for touchdowns and also have a rushing and receiving touchdown. He was the ultimate playmaker for the Hogs.
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.

SEC Valentine's Day cards

February, 14, 2012
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Even in the fiercely competitive SEC, it’s good to spread a little love.

OK, maybe just once a year. And that one day is today … Valentine’s Day.

So just as we did a year ago, we’re going to set aside all the bitter rivalries, feuds and finger-pointing for a day and hand out some very deserving Valentine’s Day cards.

Sit back and enjoy.

Dear …

Alabama coach Nick Saban,

Your football program is without peer right now, and I mean anywhere in college football. A lot of people were shocked when they heard that Alabama was paying you $32 million over eight years – a financial package that has since been sweetened. I’d say it’s been money well spent when you look at the Crimson Tide’s trophy case over the last few years. Everybody wonders what your secret is. Here’s one: Great football players who are also high-character kids in the mold of Trent Richardson, Barrett Jones, William Vlachos, Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw.

Former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt,

Hated to see you go out like that. But regardless of what anybody says, average coaches don’t make it 14 years in this league at two different places. The same goes for your defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix. Both of you are better coaches than the last two seasons would suggest. There’s an entire body of work out there that says so.

South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore,

Can’t wait to see you back on the field, and here’s hoping you’re as good as new. Your sense of team, combined with your incredible work ethic and awesome athletic ability, make you the kind of player coaches and fans dream about.

Arkansas running back Knile Davis,

Probably should have sent you and Marcus the same card. We’re all keeping our fingers crossed that you’re healthy again. Your unbreakable will to keep coming back from so many injuries is an inspiration to all of us, and we're eager to see the version of you run the ball again that we saw in 2010 when you led all SEC running backs in rushing.

LSU coach Les Miles,

I’m not one of those who writes off what you and your team did for the first 13 games this past season simply because of that one forgettable night in New Orleans. It was a remarkable run against a killer schedule. But do everybody on the Bayou a favor and trash that offensive game plan from the BCS national championship game.

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray,

Your arm strength and ability to make all of the throws is unquestioned. You’re equally fearless in the pocket. But now it’s time to become a true quarterback and raise the level of play of all the guys around you. The great quarterbacks take it upon themselves to lead their entire team, and they do so as much off the field as they do on the field.

Arkansas receiver/punt returner Joe Adams,

Do you really have eyes in the back of your head? We’re still dying to know how you broke all of those tackles (somewhere around eight) on that 60-yard punt return for a touchdown against Tennessee? It’s as good a punt return as I’ve ever seen.

Vanderbilt defensive end Tim Fugger,

There are a lot of underrated players in this league, but you were right there at or near the top this season. You were invaluable to that Vanderbilt defense with your 13.5 tackles for loss, including eight sacks, and three forced fumbles. It wasn’t just your numbers that set you apart, but the way you played the game with precision, passion and grit on every snap.

Kentucky linebacker Danny Trevathan,

We’re not supposed to have favorites in our business. But how can you not pull for a guy like Trevathan? Kentucky coach Joker Phillips used to joke that he found Trevathan up under a rock down in Florida during the recruiting process. Well, Trevathan turned out to be a rock, racking up nearly 300 total tackles during his last two seasons and playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played no matter what the scoreboard said. We'll miss you, Danny.

Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham,

The entire Bulldog Nation thanks you for bringing a mental toughness to that defense (and to the program) that was lacking at times in past seasons. Your defense was the backbone in Georgia’s turnaround and 10-game winning streak this season, and even though your fire might have burned a little too brightly a couple of times, it’s exactly what the Bulldogs needed.

Former Auburn running back Michael Dyer,

Not even the great Bo Jackson rushed for 1,000 yards each of his first two seasons on the Plains. It was a joy to watch you play. Just wished it didn’t end on such a sour note.

Former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain,

Congrats on the new gig at Colorado State. You were destined to be a head coach, and I’ll make sure everybody remembers that they did play a little offense at Alabama this past season, too. In fact, your Tide offense was the only one in the SEC to average more than 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing per game. That’s saying something when you consider the level of defense played in the SEC.

Florida coach Will Muschamp,

You made some tough decisions in Year 1, notably sending star cornerback Janoris Jenkins packing following his second drug arrest. You’ve also got your coaching staff more to your liking, and your players understand unequivocally now what you expect from them. The 2012 version of the Gators will more closely reflect you as a football coach, and I’d be surprised if the results weren’t markedly better.

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen,

I really like the way you’ve helped yourself with junior college talent. I also like the way your 2012 schedule looks through the middle of October. With five home games and two very winnable road dates, a 6-1 or even 7-0 start is very possible. I’m not trying to jinx you, Dan, but maybe Year No. 4 in Starkville is going to be that magical season everyone was predicting this past year. The bottom line is that you’ve led the Bulldogs to back-to-back winning seasons, and the last time that happened was 10 years ago.

SEC postseason position rankings: ST

February, 10, 2012
2/10/12
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We've come to the end of our postseason position rankings. Special teams don't get a ton of credit when things go right, but we all know how much grief they get when things go wrong. Just look at all those shanks we saw from kickers last season.

Fortunately, there are other aspects of special teams that involve more exciting plays, like returns that can change the dynamic of a game or are just really easy on the eyes (just take a look at what Joe Adams did to Tennessee last fall).

You can see how we ranked the SEC's special teams units before the season here.

Here are our final rankings:

[+] EnlargeTyrann Mathieu
AP Photo/John BazemoreTyrann Mathieu's punt return for a touchdown against Georgia turned the momentum in the game.
1. LSU: All-American punter Brad Wing averaged 44.4 yards per kick, had 20 punts of 50-plus yards and pinned 27 kicks inside the opposing 20-yard line. His long of 73 yards completely changed LSU's first game with Alabama. Tyrann Mathieu had two clutch punt returns for touchdowns against Arkansas and Georgia at the end of the season and was fifth nationally averaging 15.6 yards per return. Morris Claiborne also returned a kickoff for a touchdown and averaged 25.1 yards per return. Opponents averaged 3.7 yards per punt return and just 20 yards per kickoff against LSU. Drew Alleman led the SEC in field goal percentage (88.9), hitting 16-of-18 kicks.

2. Arkansas: Adams was one of the best punt returners in the country, averaging 16.9 yards per return and taking four to the house for scores. The Hogs were just as dangerous on kickoffs, as Dennis Johnson and Marquel Wade both returned kicks for touchdowns and ranked in the top five in the SEC in return average. Zach Hocker hit 21-of-27 kicks and led all kickers by averaging 9.1 points per game. Dylan Breeding led the SEC in punting (45.3) and downed 16 inside the 20. Arkansas was one of the best in the SEC in kickoff coverage, but did allow two punt returns to go for scores in the two biggest games of the season.

3. Auburn: Auburn had Onterio McCalebb and Tre Mason take kickoffs back for touchdowns, as the Tigers led the SEC in kickoff return average (24.7) and also in kickoff coverage. Auburn wasn't great returning punts, but punter Steven Clark was a Ray Guy Award finalist and pinned 33 punts inside the 20. Cody Parkey ranked sixth in the league in field-goal kicking, connecting on 13-of-18 kicks (72.2).

4. Florida: Even without Urban Meyer running the show, the Gators were still pretty successful in this department. Florida was first in the SEC and tied for sixth nationally with six blocked kicks. Two punt blocks went for touchdowns. Caleb Sturgis was a Lou Groza Award finalist, hitting 22-of-26 field goals, including three from 50-plus yards. Florida was also solid in kickoff coverage and got kickoff touchdowns of their own from Andre Debose, who was third in the league in return average, and Jeff Demps. Florida averaged 7.2 yards per punt return and averaged 39.8 yards per punt.

5. Ole Miss: If not for special teams, Ole Miss would have been even worse in 2011. Tyler Campbell averaged 43.6 yards per punt on his 72 attempts and pinned 28 inside the 20. The Rebels also had two different players -- Nickolas Brassell and Jeff Scott -- return punts for touchdowns and Ole Miss was near the top of the league in kickoff coverage and had a net punting average of 38 yards. Bryson Rose also hit nine of his 11 field-goal attempts.

6. Vanderbilt: It was a mixed bag for the Commodores when it came to special teams. Vanderbilt was second in the league in opponent punt return average (3.9), but allowed a touchdown, and gave up another touchdown on kickoff coverage. Vanderbilt also blocked two kicks. Missed field goals haunted Vanderbilt, as the Commodores missed two in the six-point loss to Tennessee and one at the end of regulation in a three-point loss to Arkansas. Andre Hal logged a kickoff touchdown, but Vandy was 11th in the league in punt return average.

7. Alabama: Before the national championship game, Alabama's field-goal kicking game received a ton of criticism, especially for the four misses in the 9-6 loss to LSU. But Jeremy Shelley redeemed the unit by hitting 5-of-7 in the rematch. Alabama's kickers missed 13 kicks. Marquis Maze only had 12 kickoff returns, but averaged 28.5 yards per return, was third in the SEC in punt return average (13.2) and had that nifty touchdown against Arkansas. However, Alabama was 11th in the league in kickoff coverage and 10th in punt average.

8. Kentucky: Punter Ryan Tydlacka was fourth in the league in punting (43.6), had 20 punts of 50-plus yards and had 19 of his punts downed inside the 20. Craig McIntosh connected on 12-of-14 field-goal attempts (.857). Kentucky was in the middle of the pack in kickoff coverage. The Wildcats weren't so good at returning kicks, ranking 11th in the SEC in kickoff returns and last in punt returns, averaging 1.8 yards per return.

9. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs were last in the league in kickoff returns and were the only team to average fewer than 20 yards a return. The Bulldogs were better on punts, getting touchdowns from Chad Bumphis and Johnthan Banks, and ranked fifth in the league in punt return average. Punter Baker Swedenburg ranked seventh in punting and pinned 19 punts inside the 20. Derek DePasquale hit 12-of-18 field goals.

10. Tennessee: The Vols didn't record any special teams touchdowns, but were fifth in the league in kickoff returns and seventh in punt returns. As far as defending returns, Tennessee allowed just 18.1 yards per return, but was 10th in punt return coverage and gave up a touchdown. Michael Palardy hit of nine of his 14 field-goal attempts and punter Matt Darr was 10th in the SEC in punt average (38.1).

11. South Carolina: The Gamecocks struggled in the kicking game, but did have a bright spot in Ace Sanders recording a touchdown on a punt return and South Carolina blocked two kicks. However, South Carolina was seventh and eighth in the SEC in kickoff and punt returns, respectively. South Carolina was last in kickoff coverage and gave up a touchdown. Jay Wooten missed four field goals and three extra points, while punter Joey Scribner-Howard was ninth in the SEC in punting, averaging 38.9 yards per punt.

12. Georgia: Outside of Brandon Boykin's 92-yard touchdown return in the Outback Bowl, his 22.4-yard average on kick returns and Drew Butler's 44.2 yards per punt, Georgia didn't do much at all on special teams. The group that was supposed to be first in the league allowed two kickoffs and punts to go for touchdowns and allowed a fake punt for a touchdown against South Carolina. Blair Walsh entered the season as one of the nation's top kickers, but hit just 21-of-35 kicks, including missing two in overtime in the bowl loss to Michigan State.
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.

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