SEC: Jonathan Rumph



Welcome to Missouri's world, SEC East. It isn't so pretty, is it?

A year ago, the Tigers were wrapped in bandages and chugging Robitussin every week of their debut season in the SEC. Now, it seems like the top teams in the SEC East are doing the same thing as we head into the sixth week of the 2013 season.

Florida, Georgia and South Carolina are dealing with injuries, and it looks like Missouri is actually the healthiest team and is starting to make some noise in the conference after its 51-28 thrashing of Vanderbilt in Nashville over the weekend.

[+] EnlargeKeith Marshall
Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesGeorgia sophomore running back Keith Marshall is out for the season with a torn ACL.
It literally looks like the last man standing will win the SEC East this year, as injuries continue to pile up.

Just look at the Georgia Bulldogs. Heavy favorites to win the division after their 44-41 win against LSU two Saturdays ago, the Bulldogs are now in the realm of the unknown after losing three key offensive players to knee injuries in a thrilling overtime win over Tennessee. Running back Keith Marshall and wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley are out for the rest of the season with ACL injuries, while receiver Michael Bennett will have to undergo surgery to find out the extent of his knee injury and will miss Saturday's game against Missouri.

Receiver Malcolm Mitchell was already lost for the season with an ACL injury, and running back Todd Gurley is sidelined with an ankle injury. Punter Collin Barber left Saturday's game early with a concussion, and Georgia was without receiver Jonathon Rumph (hamstring) and safeties Tray Matthews (hamstring) and Connor Norman (concussion) for the entire game.

So, Mark Richt, have you ever seen that many injuries in a game before?

“Not like that," he said following Saturday's game. "It's just such a shame."

It really is for the Bulldogs, and now Georgia's lead in the East doesn't look so insurmountable.

Florida came away from the weekend with quite the performance in its 30-10 win over Arkansas. What was so impressive, other than another dominating defensive performance? Well, the passing game stepped up when the Hogs buried Florida's running game.

Yes, you read that correctly. Florida's passing game stepped up and quarterback Tyler Murphy, who just so happens to be in for the injured Jeff Driskel (broken leg), threw for 240 yards and three touchdowns.

Arkansas certainly doesn't have the most intimidating defense, but Florida has to be feeling pretty good about last Saturday. Can the Gators sustain that? This team is down Driskel and its best overall player in defensive tackle Dominique Easley (ACL). Another big injury could cost the Gators a shot at Atlanta. Murphy has to stay upright if this team is even going to have a chance.

South Carolina watched quarterback Connor Shaw go down with a shoulder sprain against Central Florida only to bounce back and play well against Kentucky Saturday. Do injuries even affect this kid anymore? Still, his aggressive style makes him very susceptible to injuries.

It's become clear that injuries are affecting Jadeveon Clowney, who has played well below average this season. He's dealt with illness, a toe injury and now ribs. His coaches didn't even know he wasn't playing against Kentucky until right before the game.

"[If Clowney] wants to play, we will welcome him to come play for the team if he wants," Spurrier said after the game. "But if he doesn't want to play, he doesn't have to play. Simple as that."

The problem is that having him on the field -- even if he isn't playing close to 100 percent -- creates an issue for offenses. They've directed plays away from him and now they don't have to. Against the Wildcats, South Carolina's defense surrendered a 21-point lead. This defense has struggled, and it absolutely cannot afford anymore injuries at this point.

Then there's healthy, confident Mizzou. This was the team that couldn't get out of the infirmary last year. Now it's second in the SEC in total offense (543.8 yards per game), scoring (46.6) and sacks (15).

Mizzou has a chance to take a mighty step forward this weekend with a trip to Athens. The Dawgs beat up on the Tigers last year, but it's Georgia that enters Saturday's game battered and bruised. Mizzou should already be considered a threat in the East, but if the Tigers can keep bandages off their stripes, it'll be an exciting four-team race to Atlanta in the East.
Looking at ESPN NFL Insider KC Joyner's recent piece on whether West Virginia's offense can stay elite got me to thinking: Can the SEC's top offenses from 2012 replicate last year's success?

The SEC is bringing back some real offensive firepower in 2013. Sure, this is still a defensive league, but as we've seen over the past couple of years, the offenses are really evolving and getting better.

So can the top five SEC offenses from last year duplicate what they did in 2012? Let's take a look:

1. Texas A&M
2012 total offense: 558.5 yards per game
2012 scoring offense: 44.5 points per game

The Aggies bring back Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, but a lot of Johnny Football's supporting cast is gone. Gone are offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, left tackle Luke Joeckel and senior receivers Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu. Joeckel was the best tackle in the SEC last year, Kingsbury and Manziel had a special on-field relationship, and those receivers are taking 1,398 yards and 15 touchdowns.

The Aggies have a stacked backfield that should be headlined by senior Ben Malena and Oklahoma transfer Brandon Williams, and Mike Evans leads a younger but very talented receiving corps. But teams will have better game plans for Manziel and those youngsters at receiver will have to grow up quickly. Manziel is special, but that target on his back is enormous. The Aggies were great on offense last year, and they'll be good again, but I expect the Aggies' numbers to dip in 2013.

2. Tennessee
2012 total offense: 475.9
2012 scoring offense: 36.2

The Vols lost their starting quarterback and top four receiving targets. Tyler Bray accounted for 3,612 passing yards and 34 touchdowns. His top four targets, including Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson, caught 187 passes for 2,914 yards and 26 touchdowns. Tennessee returns one of the top lines around and has a solid trio at running back, but so much is different on offense.

Can the Vols adapt to Butch Jones' new hurry-up offense before the season starts? Can either Justin Worley or Nathan Peterman play beyond their inexperience this fall? There isn't a lot of experience at quarterback or receiver, and that's a major problem when Tennessee's offense revolved around its passing game last year.

3. Georgia
2012 total offense: 467.6
2012 scoring offense: 37.8

Record-setting quarterback Aaron Murray is back along with his entire offensive line, arguably the top running back duo in the SEC (Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall) and a host of talented receivers. Tavarres King and Marlon Brown, ranked first and third on the team in receiving last year, are gone, but Malcolm Mitchell is back and Michael Bennett should be healthy for the start of the season. Bennett might have been the Dawgs' top receiver before he went down with an ACL injury early last season.

There are some young players to keep an eye on as well in Chris Conley and Justin Scott-Wesley. Junior college transfer Jonathan Rumph and seasoned tight end Arthur Lynch should both be valuable options as well. This could be one of the most balanced offenses in the country this fall.

4. Alabama
2012 total offense: 445.5
2012 scoring offense: 38.7

Running back Eddie Lacy and three starters along Alabama's offensive line are gone. Two of those linemen were first-round picks and Lacy was a second-rounder. But quarterback AJ McCarron is back and he has a lot to work with. Amari Cooper is one of the top receivers in the league and Chris Black should be 100 percent this fall, giving McCarron another deep threat to complement Cooper and Kenny Bell. Kevin Norwood is also a reliable target for McCarron.

We know the offense goes through the running game first, and Alabama's backfield is once again stacked. T.J. Yeldon will battle to be one of the top rushers in the league and he'll have big boy Jalston Fowler and speedster Dee Hart to share time with. Youngsters Kenyan Drake and Derrick Henry, who is returning from a spring injury, should both contribute as well. Henry can be used in both the rushing and passing game. Alabama's line seems fine, so there isn't much worry in Tuscaloosa.

5. Ole Miss
2012 total offense: 423.8
2012 scoring offense: 31.5

The Rebels return a lot of pieces on offense and you'd think they'd be even better in Year 2 of Hugh Freeze's spread offense. Ole Miss managed to get through last season without any major injuries. Even Freeze doesn't know if that's likely to happen again. If it does, the Rebels should be fine, considering starters Bo Wallace (quarterback), Jeff Scott (running back) and Donte Moncrief (wide receiver) are all back. There are some talented younger players the Rebels can use as well, but the continuing theme in Oxford is that there are still depth issues along the offensive line and at receiver.

Any sort of injuries to those positions could rock the Rebels. Plus, Wallace is coming off of shoulder surgery and threw 17 interceptions last year. Wallace can't be as careless with the ball this fall. Vince Sanders and Ja-Mes Logan, along with true freshman Laquon Treadwell, should take some pressure off Moncrief, and the Rebels are also deep at running back, but the Rebels won't sneak up on people this fall.
We're continuing to look into the future toward the 2014 NFL draft, and ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. is coming out in full force this week.

First, he took a look at the top wide receiver prospects Insider and top defensive end prospects Insider for next year's draft. A few SEC names made the cut at both positions.

The SEC has a pretty strong group of receivers coming back this season. When it comes to draft eligible players, Kiper has two SEC receivers currently in his top five, including Texas A&M redshirt sophomore Mike Evans at No. 3. He led the Aggies in catches (82) and yards (1,105) last season and also caught five touchdowns.

To me, he really stood out in the Alabama game. He only caught five passes for 40 yards that day, but he out-muscled guys to make catches. He carried a couple defenders for extra yards. He was just the tougher player at times. He's big and rangy, making him a prime target for Johnny Manziel. More will be asked of him this fall with Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu gone. He should expect more attention and plenty of double-teams. He'll really get a chance to show what he's made of in a few months.

Vanderbilt senior-to-be Jordan Matthews comes in at No. 5 on Kiper's list. Matthews could have left early for the NFL this year, but he decided to spend another year in school. Matthews was probably one of the more underrated players in the SEC last year. He doesn't really have game-breaking speed, but he's quick off the line and his 6-3, 205-pound frame causes problems for opposing defensive backs. He led the SEC with seven 100-yard receiving games and 94 catches last year.

Ole Miss' Donte Moncrief and Georgia's Malcolm Mitchell made Kiper's "Next up" list. Both could have really big seasons this fall. Mitchell will be all offense this fall, so that will help him get way more reps. He really is a top-tier player at receiver when he's out there enough.

Moncrief showed his big-play ability during the second half of the Rebels' season in 2012. He's big and has exceptional hands. He'll be looked at more by defenders this fall, but he's such a physical receiver that it might not matter too much.

Other draft-eligible receivers I'd keep an eye on this fall:
  • Jarvis Landry, LSU: He really stepped up and looked like a true big-play threat in the Tigers' offense this spring.
  • Marcus Lucas, Missouri: He has the makings to be a legitimate deep threat for Mizzou, but he has to work on his focus and consistency.
  • Jonathan Rumph, Georgia: The junior college transfer has great size and speed and really impressed this spring.

As for defensive ends, only South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney made Kiper's cut. Clowney's appearance at the top of Kiper's list for defensive ends shouldn't surprise anyone. He could very well be the top pick in next year's draft, anyway.

Florida's Dominique Easley made Kiper's "Next up" list. It'll be interested to see what pro scouts think about Easley. He's extremely disruptive up front and can play either end or tackle. He's moving back inside this fall, but he'll probably venture out here and there.

Other draft eligible defensive ends I'd keep an eye on this fall:
  • Denico Autry, Mississippi State: He didn't have a great 2012 season, but Autry showed lots of improvement this spring. He has all the talent to be a force off the edge, but he has to be more consistent.
  • Alvin Dupree, Kentucky: He moved to defensive end this spring and could be a top pass rusher in the SEC this fall with his speed and strength off the line.
  • Dee Ford, Auburn: He came back pretty strong from a back injury in 2011. Ford registered six sacks and eight quarterback hurries last year.
  • C.J. Johnson, Ole Miss: He made a big jump from Year 1 to Year 2 and has the makings of a being a real star on the Rebels' defense.
  • Chris Smith, Arkansas: The rising senior led the Razorbacks and ranked fourth in the SEC in sacks last year with 9.5. He can be very frustrating for tackles to deal with up front.

DawgNation links: No-huddle offense

August, 17, 2012
8/17/12
4:37
PM ET
David Ching writes: Entering Year 2 of the no-huddle offense, Aaron Murray & Co. have Georgia exuding the confidence that comes with knowing the scheme better every day, and looking forward to even more productivity in 2012.

Ching Insider: A no-nonsense, no-huddle Q&A with Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.

Ching Insider: Two tackles, a pass breakup and the halting of a Murray drive via interception in a scrimmage has netted sophomore safety Corey Moore plenty of praise from defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.

Kipp Adams writes Inside the DawgHouse Insider: Catch up on the latest DawgNation Insider exclusive recruiting news.

Adams Insider: Class of 2013 UGA commit Brandon Kublanow works overtime as a top Dawgs recruiter in bringing two hot prospects to Athens for their first visits.

Radi Nabulsi (video): Arthur “Artie” Lynch interview

SPONSORED HEADLINES