SEC: Knile Davis

Lunchtime links

April, 29, 2013
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Quite the NFL draft for the SEC ...
The NFL Combine is in full swing, and after some chatting, running and lifting, prospects are starting to see their draft stocks rise and fall.

The SEC had 79 players invited to Indianapolis, and a few really turned some heads over the weekend.

Arkansas tight end Chris Gragg might have really helped his chances in this year's draft after posting the fastest 40-yard dash time among tight ends with a time of 4.50. He blew away the competition, as the second-fastest time for a tight end was Maryland's Matt Furstenburg and his 4.62. He also led all tight ends with a vertical jump of 37.5 inches and a broad jump of 125 inches. Florida's Jordan Reed was sixth among tight ends with a time of 4.72, while Tennessee's Mychal Rivera was 10th with his 4.81 time.

Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel, who could be the top pick in April's NFL draft, bench pressed 225 pounds 27 times, ran a 5.3 in the 40, had a vertical jump of 28.5 inches, had a broad jump of 106 inches and was clocked at 7.4 seconds in the three-cone drill.

SEC skill position players showed off some pretty good speed on Sunday. Auburn running back Onterio McCalebb was clocked at an unofficial time of 4.21 in the 40, which beat Chris Johnson's record-setting time of 4.24 in 2008. His official time was 4.34, which led all running backs and is still a little faster than what I could churn out. Arkansas' Knile Davis was second to McCalebb with a time of 4.37. He was also second in the bench press among running backs (31 reps), while Vanderbilt's Zac Stacy and Texas A&M's Christine Michael tied for four with 27 reps.

Texas A&M receiver Ryan Swope was the fastest of the SEC receivers and was third among wideouts with a time of 4.34. Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson ran a 4.42. Fellow Vols wide receiver Justin Hunter was clocked at 4.44 in the 40.

South Carolina wide receiver Ace Sanders, who shocked many with his decision to leave school early, didn't exactly help himself with his 40 time or his bench press. He ran a 4.58 40 and had just seven reps on the bench.

Missouri receiver T.J. Moe ran only a 4.74 in the 40, but led all receivers with 26 reps in the bench press.

You can check out how all the former SEC players did over the weekend at NFL.com.
We checked on the SEC's 3,000-yard passers from 2012 on Thursday, so we're taking a look at the running backs who hit the coveted 1,000-yard mark last fall.

Last summer, we looked at 10 running backs we thought could eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark. The SEC had four players reach 1,000 yards on the ground in 2011, and had nine, including Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, in 2012. I thought it was supposed to be the Year of the Quarterback?

Here's how the 10 running backs we looked at last year did in 2012:

1. Isaiah Crowell, Georgia: Well, maybe if he actually played a down for the Bulldogs this year he might have had a chance to reach 1,000 yards. Instead, Crowell was dismissed before the season and spent 2012 rushing for 842 yards and 15 touchdowns at Alabama State.

2. Knile Davis, Arkansas: Davis said he was 100 percent after missing all of 2011 with an ankle injury, but he never displayed the explosiveness and strength that made him a star in 2010. Davis was still hesitant at times and carried the ball only 112 times for 377 yards and two touchdowns.

3. James Franklin, Missouri: His laundry list of injuries and a banged-up offensive line didn't really help the dual-threat quarterback when it came to running the ball. A year removed from almost getting to 1,000 yards, Franklin rushed for just 122 yards and averaged 1.4 yards per carry in the process.

4. Eddie Lacy, Alabama: Real shocker that an Alabama running back bulldozed his way past 1,000 yards. Lacy overpowered defenders and left plenty looking silly with his patented spin move all year, finishing the season ranking third in the SEC with 1,322 yards and tying for second with 17 touchdowns. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry.

5. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina: For the second straight year, Lattimore's pursuit of 1,000 yards was cut short by a devastating knee injury. He rushed for 662 yards and 11 touchdowns on 143 attempts before dislocating his right knee and tearing multiple ligaments against Tennessee on Oct. 27.

6. Christine Michael, Texas A&M: Like Lattimore, Michael was coming off of an ACL injury this fall, but he never seemed to really fit in the Aggies' new spread scheme. Eventually, he really wasn't Texas A&M's first option at running back and he finished the season with 417 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 11 games of action.

7. LaDarius Perkins, Mississippi State: Perkins spent most of the year near the top of the SEC in all-purpose yards and was one of the toughest runners in the league. He averaged a stout 5 yards per carry and finished the year with 1,024 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.

8. Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt: For the second straight year, Stacy finished the season with more than 1,000 yards for the Commodores. Even with a few more weapons to use on the offensive side, Stacy rushed for 1,141 yards and 10 touchdowns on 207 carries.

9. Spencer Ware, LSU: Ware wasn't the same workhorse that he was for the Tigers in 2011. He played in 12 games, but only started four and carried the ball just 94 times for 367 yards (that's just 3.9 yards per carry). He finished fourth on the team in rushing and scored just one touchdown in 2012.

10. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama: Pretty good assumption last summer. Yeldon made sure he and Lacy were a migraine for defenses, as he pounded and darted his way to 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry and 74.1 yards in SEC games. Lacy packed the punch, while Yeldon showcased the moves last fall.

Who was overlooked:
  • Mike Gillislee, Florida: He proclaimed before the season that he'd rush for 1,500 yards and more than 20 touchdowns. He didn't get there, but he did become the first Gator to rush for 1,000 yards (1,152) since 2004. He basically was Florida's offense and added 10 touchdowns on the ground.
  • Todd Gurley, Georgia: We looked at the wrong Bulldog last summer. Gurley made more of an impact for Georgia as a freshman than Crowell did in 2011, finishing second in the SEC in rushing (first among running backs) with 1,385 yards and added 17 touchdowns to his 6.2 yards per carry.
  • Kendial Lawrence, Missouri: He was almost forgotten because of the year Henry Josey had for most of the 2011 season, but Lawrence was Mizzou's most consistent offensive weapon last fall, rushing for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also averaged 5.1 yards per carry.
  • Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: The Heisman winner was arguably the nation's most elusive player in the country when he took off running. He shredded defenses all season and led the SEC with 1,410 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also averaged 7 yards per carry.
  • Tre Mason, Auburn: There wasn't a lot to smile about on the Plains this past fall, but Mason was the best weapon the Tigers had, as he rushed for 1,002 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging an impressive 5.9 yards per carry.

Season report card: Arkansas

January, 15, 2013
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It's time to take a look at the season grades for the Arkansas Razorbacks:

OFFENSE: Interim coach John L. Smith left the offense in Paul Petrino's hands, but the Hogs never looked like the same team that led the SEC in total offense and scoring in 2011. Even with Tyler Wilson and Knile Davis back, the Hogs finished the year scoring just 23.5 points per game and ranking sixth in the SEC in total offense (420.2 yards per game). While getting yards wasn't always a problem, scoring points and staying away from turnovers were problems. Arkansas ranked last in the SEC in turnover margin and total turnovers (31). Things got off to a rocky start when Wilson was knocked out of the overtime loss to Louisiana-Monroe with a concussion. He finished the season fourth in the SEC in passing (3,387 yards), but threw 21 touchdowns to 13 interceptions and he threw for more than 300 yards just four times all year. Davis very hesitant running on his ankle, as his season-high for rushing was 70 yards in the opener. He finished with just 377 yards and two touchdowns on 112 carries. Dennis Johnson led the Hogs with 757 rushing yards eight touchdowns. Cobi Hamilton had an exceptional year, leading the SEC with 1,335 yards on 90 catches. After that, no one had more than 25 catches for the Hogs. Inconsistent play from the line also plagued the Hogs in 2012. Grade: C-

DEFENSE: It became painfully obvious that former coach Bobby Petrino did not put enough emphasis on defense when it came to recruiting. The defense was an issue for the Hogs in 2011, but had the offense to bail it out. In 2012, Arkansas' defense fell flat, ranking 12th in the SEC in total defense (409.9) and scoring (30.4). The Hogs surrendered nearly 6 yards per play and allowed 30-plus points in seven of their eight losses. Teams converted nearly 40 percent of their third downs against Arkansas and the Hogs' defense ranked last in the SEC when it came to giving up plays of 10 yards or longer (195). Arkansas also ranked last in the SEC with just 12 takeaways on the season. Arkansas did do well against the run, for the most part, ranking fifth in the league in rush defense (124.08). The Hogs also recorded 31 sacks, with 15.5 coming from ends Chris Smith and Trey Flowers. Grade: D-

OVERALL: The loss of Bobby Petrino crippled this Arkansas team back in April. Smith came in to try to add some energy and a familiar face to the program, but he wasn't able to be the leader or motivator that Bobby Petrino was. The Hogs never rebounded from their overtime loss to unranked Louisiana-Monroe and won just two SEC games -- against Auburn and Kentucky. This team's confidence was shot after a dreadful September that ended with a 1-4 record for a team that seemed like a dark horse candidate for the national championship during the preseason. This was a team that started off ranked in the top 10 during the preseason but finished with losing record. Grade: F

Past grades:

SEC lunch links

December, 12, 2012
12/12/12
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Our Wednesday stroll around the league:

Johnson, Arkansas survive Tulsa test

November, 3, 2012
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Arkansas' bowl hopes are slim, but they're still there.

It wasn't pretty, but with the Razorbacks' 19-15 win over Tulsa on Saturday, they are now two wins away from becoming bowl eligible after going 1-4 in September.

With running back Knile Davis dealing with a hamstring injury, Arkansas (4-5, 2-3 SEC) got another big day from Dennis Johnson. He carried the ball 22 times for a game-high 109 yards and had two touchdowns. His 1-yard touchdown run with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter gave Arkansas the lead for good.

Tyler Wilson threw for 272 yards and an interception, but got a major lift from wide receiver Cobi Hamilton, who caught 11 passes for a game-high 177 yards. Hamilton now has 69 catches for 1,077 yards this season. His 69 receptions break Jarius Wright's school record of 66 catches in a season.

Arkansas' defense had a solid outing against a pretty good offense. The Razorbacks held Tulsa to just 328 yards of offense and three second-half points.

This was a game that Arkansas absolutely had to have. If the Razorbacks are going to make it to a bowl game, a win had to happen on Saturday. The rest of November is going to be very tough, with two road games against Mississippi State and South Carolina before the season finale against LSU. Finding wins in the next three weeks definitely won't be easy, but there's definitely still some pride left in Fayetteville.

Lunchtime links

October, 30, 2012
10/30/12
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It's time to check out some SEC links on a Tuesday.

Who will transform in the SEC?

October, 26, 2012
10/26/12
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He was supposed to be a Heisman candidate. He was supposed to be one of the best running backs in the SEC.

Instead, Arkansas' Knile Davis has had a rough go in 2012. Coming off of that devastating ankle injury that took away his entire 2011 season, Davis just hasn't looked like himself this year. Through seven games, Davis, who led all SEC running backs in rushing yards in 2010, has gained just 337 yards on the ground and two touchdowns this season. He's averaging only 3.4 yards per carry, his longest rush of the season has been 28 yards and he has yet to cross the 70-yard mark in a game.

The Knile Davis of old hasn't shown up this year, but that will change Saturday. Facing an Ole Miss defense that has been suspetible to big plays this year, Davis will regain some of his swagger in Little Rock, Ark. The Rebels are allowing a little more than 145 rushing yards a game, but were torched by Texas for 350 rushing yards and Texas A&M registered 290 yards on the ground.

Davis is coming off of a much-needed bye week and should be totally fine physically. He'll be itching to get back on the field and itching to tear up the first defense he sees. Unfortunately for the Rebels, they have to try and stop Davis from running wild Saturday.

Ole Miss' defense has been better in recent weeks, but it's time for Davis to break through. He really hasn't put a complete game together this year, but you just keep waiting for him to finally have that outing that reminds us of how good he is.

He'll get that chance Saturday against Ole Miss. This offense has been clicking in its past two games and expect Davis to click as well. We'll see that speed again. We'll see that power. And we'll see that determination that made him one of the SEC's most exciting backs two years ago.

Davis has the ability to break a big play at any moment when he touches the ball, and we'll finally see that potential again on Saturday.

Lunchtime links

October, 12, 2012
10/12/12
12:30
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Are we really going to lose 30 Rock this year?

Athlon Sports brings us a few links for Friday:
Twenty-five Twitter accounts SEC fans can't live without.

Twenty statistical highlights from LSU-South Carolina games.

Week 7 SEC storylines and predictions.

Stifling pass rush sparks Arkansas

October, 6, 2012
10/06/12
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Even with a new quarterback, Auburn couldn't manage to find much semblance of an offense in its third SEC loss of the season.

Auburn coach Gene Chizik replaced starting quarterback Kiehl Frazier with backup Clint Moseley at halftime of the Tigers' 24-7 loss to Arkansas on Saturday. Frazier threw an interception and failed to register any points in another abysmal first half for the Auburn offense.

Moseley couldn't manage much better against an unstoppable Razorbacks pass rush, however. Arkansas came into the game allowing 40.6 points per game -- last in the SEC. That average will drop all the way down to 35 points after holding Auburn to one touchdown, largely thanks to a pass rush that generated a whopping eight sacks against a completely overmatched Auburn offensive line.

Even when the Tigers could keep their quarterbacks upright, they still committed five turnovers on the afternoon. Moseley fired two interceptions along with Frazier's one, and the Tigers coughed up a pair of fumbles.

Those horrific stats made a stop-and-start Arkansas performance look masterful by comparison. It looked like the Razorbacks would blow Auburn off the field early when they racked up 224 yards on the way to a 10-0 lead at halftime. But ugly miscues -- such as a missed 26-yard field goal and a muffed third-quarter punt -- allowed the Tigers to hang around and cut the lead as close as 10-7 at the end of the third quarter.

Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, who finished the day with 216 yards on 20-of-27 passing, led the Razorbacks into the Auburn red zone on his first drive of the fourth quarter. From there wide receiver Brandon Mitchell fired a 26-yard touchdown pass to fellow wideout Javontee Herndon on a trick play, putting Auburn in what proved to be an inescapable 10-point hole.

Arkansas running back Dennis Johnson carried the bulk of the ground game in place of starter Knile Davis, who did not appear to be injured. Johnson toted the rock 16 times for 70 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His second touchdown of the day put Arkansas up 24-7 with 8:20 to play.

Hot and Not in the SEC

October, 1, 2012
10/01/12
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It’s time to take our weekly temperature in the SEC and find out who’s hot and who’s not:

GLOWING EMBERS

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel: Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury said it best following Manziel’s record-breaking performance in the Aggies’ 58-10 romp over Arkansas. “The sky is the limit,” Kingsbury said. Manziel set an SEC record for total offense against the Hogs with 557 yards. He also set a Texas A&M record with 453 passing yards. Already a splendid athlete, Manziel is becoming a better quarterback every time he takes the field. In his last three games, the redshirt freshman has passed for 921 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions, and he’s also rushed for 306 yards with five more touchdowns. He’s sixth nationally with 1,460 total yards, and at this rate, could make a run at the SEC record of 4,327 yards, which was set by Cam Newton in 2010.

HOT

Georgia’s swagger: The Bulldogs are 5-0 and have scored 40 or more points in all five games. It’s a confident bunch of Dawgs that heads to No. 6 South Carolina on Saturday. Said receiver Michael Bennett following the 51-44 win over Tennessee: “The only team that can really beat us right now is ourselves.”

NOT

Arkansas running back Knile Davis: We saw a glimpse of the old Knile Davis last Saturday on his 64-yard touchdown reception, but it’s been a tough road back from his fractured ankle. Davis is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry through five games, and he lost fumbles in both the Texas A&M and Alabama games.

HOT

[+] EnlargeRichardson
AP Photo/L.G. PattersonMissouri defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson has been making a statement with his play in recent weeks.
Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson: He’s now making news on the field after making his ill-advised “old-man football” comment prior to the Georgia game. Richardson is second on the team with 33 total tackles, including five tackles for loss, and also leads the team with six quarterback hurries. He’s been as active as any interior defensive lineman in the league.

NOT

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray: It goes back to making better decisions and delivering in the clutch. Bray turned the ball over on each of the Vols’ final three possessions in the 51-44 loss to Georgia and missed some throws to wide-open receivers in the second half that could have gone for big gains. He'll have several more chances this month in big games to make amends.

HOT

South Carolina’s second-half defense: In the final seconds against Missouri two weeks ago, the Gamecocks gave up a meaningless touchdown. That’s the only points they’ve allowed in the second half in their last three games after shutting out Kentucky after halftime last week.

NOT

Tennessee’s defense: In their first two SEC games, the Vols have given up a whopping 88 points. Not only that, but they’ve allowed at least 555 total yards in both games. The number of big plays Tennessee is giving up on defense is staggering. Just in the two league games, opponents have racked up five scoring plays that were longer than 50 yards.

HOT

Georgia’s freshman phenoms: It’s still too early to make a lot of comparisons, but the Bulldogs’ freshman duo of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall has been nothing short of sensational. Between them, they have 964 rushing yards and have scored 15 touchdowns. Is it realistic to think that the Bulldogs could have a pair of true freshmen to rush for 1,000 yards this season?

NOT

LSU’s edge: Even though the Tigers have lost some key players to injury and suspension, they’re not lacking in talent. But something’s missing. It’s a team that’s done just enough to skate by the past few weeks, and that’s going to catch up with them unless the Tigers regain their edge. They’re going to need it these next four games -- at Florida, South Carolina at home, at Texas A&M and Alabama at home.

FREEZER BURN

Arkansas’ season: There’s such a thing as collapses and meltdowns, and then there’s what has happened to the Hogs this season. It was only natural to wonder how the whole Bobby Petrino scandal and his ouster would affect the team this season and whether or not the Hogs would be fragile when they encountered adversity. But to see this team totally unravel has been stunning. The Hogs have gone from being a top-10 team nationally in the preseason to battling with Kentucky for the dubious distinction of being the worst team in the SEC. Right now, the Hogs aren’t even competitive and are abysmal on defense. They’re 116th nationally (out of 120 teams) in scoring defense and have given up 179 points in four games against FBS foes.

What we learned in the SEC: Week 4

September, 23, 2012
9/23/12
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It's time to take a look at what we learned from a another weekend of football in the SEC:

1. The East has a trio of legit contenders: Heading into the season, it was the SEC Western Division that had the big three. Now, it looks like the East might own that distinction. Florida, Georgia and South Carolina have all been playing high-quality ball the past few weeks, and Saturday delivered us the kind of victories we needed to see from the Bulldogs and Gamecocks. We knew Florida had some real bite and fight after back-to-back road wins in tough environments; then Georgia and South Carolina dismantled their opponents at home. Georgia crushed a talented Vanderbilt team 48-3, while South Carolina ran over Missouri 31-10. The race between these three for the East crown should be very exciting this season, and it's time to seriously consider one of them having what it takes to really challenge the West winner in Atlanta.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
AP Photo/David J. PhillipJohnny Manziel and the Texas A&M offense are clicking on all cylinders right now.
2. The Razorbacks are lost: Tyler Wilson's return was supposed to energize a reeling Arkansas team. Having him on the field was supposed to make this team better. But it did neither, as the Hogs lost to Rutgers 35-26 in a game that could have been worse. Again, Arkansas' defense fell apart when the Hogs needed it the most. The Razorbacks surrendered 525 yards of offense, including 397 passing yards from Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova and 128 rushing yards. The Hogs squandered an early 10-point lead and looked dazed after Rutgers made its run from the second to third quarter. Wilson threw two interceptions and the running game managed just 73 yards, including 17 from Knile Davis. This was a game Arkansas had to win, but the Hogs folded. It's clear John L. Smith isn't the motivator or leader this team needs.

3. Zach Mettenberger has to get better: If LSU is going to continue to hold the torch as a legitimate SEC/national title contender, its quarterback has to play better. Mettenberger was supposed to make LSU's offense better, especially when it came to throwing the ball, but against Auburn, in his first SEC start, he didn't exactly make LSU's offense look much different from what we saw last year. His decision-making was off, as were some of his passes. In key situations, Mettenberger couldn't deliver the drive-extending throw, as he completed 15 of 27 passes for 169 yards. The Tigers survived against an overmatched Auburn team, but against the likes of Alabama, Florida or South Carolina, LSU might not be so lucky. His field focus has to improve.

4. The Aggies' offense is dialed in: The Kevin Sumlin era in College Station has come with a bunch of points and yards. Sure, the competition since the season-opening loss to Florida hasn't been near the quality the Aggies will face in league play, but you can tell A&M players totally understand what Sumlin and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury are trying to do on offense. We thought it might take a while for the Aggies to resemble Houston's old offense, but in the past two games A&M has scored 118 points and put up 1,053 yards. Fifteen of A&M's 17 touchdowns in the past two games have come from the offense, with quarterback Johnny Manziel being a part of 11 of them. The Aggies' adaptation to this new offense has been very impressive.

5. Missouri isn't fit for the SEC yet: We saw the obvious fatigue in the 41-20 loss to Georgia, and Missouri's lack of shape came to light in South Carolina's blowout win Saturday. The Tigers looked like they just didn't have the energy or strength to battle with the Gamecocks up front. Missouri managed just 109 rushing yards (averaging 3.4 yards per run) while giving up 144. Quarterback James Franklin was sacked three times and managed just 92 passing yards, as the Gamecocks made his day miserable with constant pressure. You just didn't see much fight against South Carolina. The Tigers were exhausted well before the game ended, and that's not a good thing. This team talked about size not being an issue, but it's clear that Mizzou's lines are wearing down. The Tigers haven't won the battle up front in their two SEC games (both losses).

What to watch in the SEC: Week 4

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
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Here’s a look at what to watch in the SEC in Week 4:

1. Punching back on the Plains: It’s no secret that No. 2 LSU is one of the most physical teams in the country and revels in pounding teams into submission in the second half. The beating LSU put on Auburn last season in Baton Rouge was R-rated. Auburn gets a chance to do something about it Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium. But it remains to be seen if Auburn is physical enough to stand toe-to-toe with LSU, which has barely broken a sweat in its first three games. Auburn is preparing to play more of its base 4-3 defense in this game to try to slow down LSU’s bruising running game. Auburn spent a lot of time in its 4-2-5 alignment in the first three games against teams that spread the field. It’s going to be more about winning one-on-one battles at the line of scrimmage in this game, which has typically been LSU’s forte.

[+] EnlargeTyler Wilson
Beth Hall/US PresswireThe Hogs, who have scored one touchdown in their past six quarters of play, could be without QB Tyler Wilson against Rutgers.
2. Tyler Wilson Watch: Even though Wilson has been practicing this week, the Hogs are still unsure if he’ll be cleared medically to play against Rutgers after missing the Alabama game last week with a concussion. It could be Friday or Saturday before the Hogs know, but they’re at least preparing as if Wilson will be able to play. Since he was knocked out of the Louisiana-Monroe game two weeks ago, Arkansas has scored one touchdown in its past six quarters of play. Clearly, the Razorbacks need Wilson back on the field if they’re going to make something of this season, and his leadership is needed as much as his ability to throw the football.

3. Running back revival: Everybody wondered in the offseason if South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore and Arkansas’ Knile Davis could return to their pre-injury forms. The jury is still out. Lattimore, coming off a torn ACL, rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns in the opener, but has carried it only 25 times in his past two games. The Gamecocks haven’t really needed him, but that could change Saturday against Missouri. It has been tough sledding for Davis, who has 191 yards on 54 carries in his first three games. Davis missed all of last season with a fractured ankle and just hasn’t been as decisive about hitting the hole. And to be fair, there hasn’t been a surplus of holes to run through to this point. The Hogs need to get the running game going and may give Dennis Johnson a few more opportunities.

4. Absorbing the pounding: South Carolina’s Connor Shaw and Missouri’s James Franklin are both hurting, and it’s still September. That’s not to question the toughness of either player, but it is a reminder that quarterbacks whose livelihood in this conference is running the ball have to be a special breed and also have to be able to absorb a serious amount of pounding. Shaw, who has a hairline fracture in his right (throwing) shoulder, will start Saturday against Missouri. He sat out the game two weeks ago and left the game early last week after aggravating the injury. Franklin is optimistic that he’ll be able to play Saturday after missing last week’s game against Arizona State. Franklin declined to take a painkilling shot after injuring his shoulder against Georgia two weeks ago.

5. Gators chomping away: There’s only one SEC team with two league wins, and that team is Florida. In fact, the Gators have two road wins and are home Saturday to face struggling Kentucky in the Swamp. To this point, Florida has been exactly what second-year coach Will Muschamp had hoped the Gators would be. They’re physical. They can run the ball, and they’ve been suffocating on defense in the second half. They’ve yet to allow any fourth-quarter points in three games and have forced 10 three-and-outs in the second half. Florida has a bye week after Kentucky’s visit and gets LSU at home on Oct. 6. So barring a major letdown in the Swamp this weekend, the Gators are poised to rejoin the SEC’s elite and will have a chance to rejoin college football’s elite that first Saturday in October.

6. Three straight shutouts for Alabama? In their first three games, the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide have won by a combined margin of 128-14. They haven’t allowed any points in their past two games, and if they blank Florida Atlantic this Saturday, it would mark the first time since 1966 that Alabama had recorded three shutouts in a row. That 1966 team, which finished 11-0 and won the SEC championship, had four straight shutouts and collected a total of six shutouts that season. The 2012 version of the Crimson Tide has been equally dominant, and if you go back to the end of the 2010 season, Alabama has played only one game in its past 17 that was decided by fewer than 16 points. That was the 9-6 overtime loss to LSU last season. Only twice in its past 16 victories has Alabama won by fewer than 21 points.

7. Carta-Samuels takes his shot: Vanderbilt coach James Franklin isn’t saying for sure who will start at quarterback this week against Georgia, but Austyn Carta-Samuels is listed No. 1 on the depth chart after playing the whole game last week in the Commodores’ 58-0 rout of Presbyterian. Jordan Rodgers, one of Vanderbilt’s team captains, had been the starter in the first two games, but the Commodores lost both and failed to score a second-half touchdown in either game. Franklin has shown in the past that he’s not afraid to switch quarterbacks. A year ago, the Commodores started playing some of their best football after Rodgers replaced Larry Smith. Now, it looks like Carta-Samuels, a transfer from Wyoming, will get a chance to show what he can do against an SEC defense. Franklin has been guarded about the whole situation and has refused to let either quarterback talk to the media this week.

8. Playing like a contender: Mississippi State played just well enough to survive last week in its 30-24 victory at Troy. The Bulldogs moved into The Associated Press’ Top 25 poll at No. 23 this week, but they still need to prove they belong there. A big step in that direction would be taking care of business against South Alabama in convincing fashion Saturday and not playing down to the competition. The Bulldogs are set up to have a special season when you look at their schedule. Quarterback Tyler Russell is playing lights out, and the defense stepped up big in the win over Auburn. But if Mississippi State is going to be a legitimate contender in the West, it’s time the Bulldogs start playing their best football every week … regardless of the opponent.

9. Most improved: Speaking of Russell, he’s right there at the top when you start reeling off the SEC’s most improved players three weeks into the season. Russell and West Virginia’s Geno Smith are the only two quarterbacks in the country with a passing efficiency rating of at least 160.0 with eight or more touchdowns and no interceptions. Florida’s Mike Gillislee, now that he’s the Gators’ go-to back, also has blossomed. He’s leading the SEC with 346 rushing yards. A few others who deserve mention are Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, Alabama place-kicker Cade Foster, South Carolina cornerback Jimmy Legree, LSU linebacker Kevin Minter, LSU running back Kenny Hilliard, Georgia receiver Marlon Brown and Florida receiver Frankie Hammond.

10. Maturation of Manziel: What has been the biggest difference in Texas A&M redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, who’s leading the SEC in total offense with an average of 325.5 yards through his first two games? That’s easy, said coach Kevin Sumlin. “The biggest transition for him has been moving from an athlete playing quarterback to a quarterback who’s an athlete,” Sumlin said. Manziel is still working on becoming a better passer and keeping his eyes down the field when he starts to scramble. But Sumlin likes what he sees from his first-year starter to this point. “The biggest compliment I can give him is how he’s led the team and taken care of the football,” Sumlin said.

SEC Heisman watch: Week 4

September, 18, 2012
9/18/12
10:30
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The SEC's Heisman hopeful list has taken different forms each week this season.

Let the transformation begin yet again.

We say goodbye to Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, who is battling a head injury, and running back Knile Davis, who is averaging just 63.7 rushing yards a game for the Razorbacks and has scored just twice this season.

Tyler Bray's second-half performance against Florida knocks him off our list as well.

Here are our four candidates:

1. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia: Murray is probably the top real Heisman candidate in the SEC and just keeps putting up stout numbers every time he goes out onto the field. Against Florida Atlantic, Murray passed for 342 yards with two touchdowns to one interception. He's currently third in the SEC with 842 yards and is tied for first with eight touchdowns. He's also second in the league with an efficiency rating of 180.16.

2. Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia: So, he wasn't on the list last week and didn't play Saturday. And? He should have made the list last week, but didn't and now he is. There's no question that Jones is the best player in the SEC. He was a total force in the Missouri game. He posted nine tackles, two sacks, five quarterback hurries, grabbed an interception and forced a fumble. His interception and forced fumble set up touchdowns for the Bulldogs in their 41-20 win. Jones completely changed that game in Georgia's favor. On the season, Jones has 17 tackles, 4.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks, an interception, two pass breakups, 11 quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles.

3. Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida: Out of nowhere, Gillislee is the SEC’s top rusher. He’s become the Gators' No. 1 offensive weapon and was instrumental in Florida’s come-from-behind win at Tennessee over the weekend, as he rushed for 115 yards, averaging 6.4 yards per carry. He certainly has to do more to get national recognition, but he currently has 346 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the season.

4. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina: While he hasn’t looked like the Lattimore of old, he’s still getting the job done for the Gamecocks and still hasn’t had to carry much of the load for his team yet. That’s probably a good thing with conference play coming up, as he could go off at any moment with the skill he has. On the season, Lattimore has rushed for 235 yards and four touchdowns.

Greetings from Fayetteville

September, 15, 2012
9/15/12
2:45
PM ET
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- It's a gross, wet day here in Fayetteville with No. 1 Alabama in town.

The Razorbacks are coming off of that shocking overtime loss to Louisiana-Monroe and now have to take on the country's best team.

Good luck.

The atmosphere around this game has certainly lost a lot of its luster, and this rain didn't help the fans or the early tailgating. There just wasn't a lot of energy around the stadium this morning. Also, with quarterback Tyler Wilson not expected to play, things just aren't going the Hogs' way.

But that's why we play all the games. Saturday didn't disappear just because Arkansas lost, so you have to think that these players are fired up to play Alabama.

While ESPN.com's Chris Low reported that Wilson won't play today, the Arkansas staff continues to say that he's a game-time decision. Wilson threw some during the first part of warmups and an official decision will be made once warmups conclude. If Wilson can't go, redshirt freshman Brandon Allen will start.

He'll get a rude awakening to the SEC with Alabama's defense coming at him. But the receiving talent is there for the Hogs to test Alabama's secondary. That unit still has a few questions surrounding it, so this should be a good test for the Tide as well.

The rain is coming down a little harder, so this game might come down to the running games. We know Alabama can carry the rock with all those studs in the backfield, but with Jalston Fowler out, that could affect the Tide in short-yardage situations and in blocking. That'll be interesting to keep an eye on today.

What remains to be seen is if Arkansas can run the ball against this defense. Knile Davis hasn't gotten going and the Hogs rank 13th in the SEC in rushing (130 yards per game). If the Hogs can't run, this one could get ugly early.

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