SEC: Luke McDermott

SEC players of the week: Week 1

September, 5, 2011
Here are the SEC players of the week as the league announced Monday:


RB Vick Ballard (Mississippi State) -- Ballard rushed for a career-high 166 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries in Mississippi State’s 59-14 win at Memphis, making it the fifth time in 13 career games that he has scored three touchdowns.


CB Tyrann Mathieu (LSU) -- Mathieu had a team-high 10 total tackles, forced a fumble, which he returned for a 3-yard touchdown, broke up two passes, and had a tackle for loss in LSU’s 40-27 win against Oregon. He also returned three punts for a total of 26 yards, including a long of 15 yards.


WR Joe Adams (Arkansas) -- Adams tied an SEC record with two punt returns for touchdowns in Arkansas’ 51-7 win over Missouri State. The last SEC player to accomplish the feat was Kentucky’s Derek Abney against Mississippi State in 2002. Adams scored from 61 yards and 69 yards. Adams also had a school-record 174 yards on six punt returns and also caught an 11-yard pass.


OT Rokevious Watkins (South Carolina) -- Watkins made his first-career start at right tackle for the Gamecocks after playing guard in 2010 and helped South Carolina to a 56-37 win against East Carolina. South Carolina's offense generated 351 yards of total offense against ECU. The Gamecocks had just one lost yardage play on 65 plays. Watkins recorded eight knockdowns, four pancakes, allowed no sacks and no quarterback pressures.


DT Jaye Howard (Florida) -- Howard had four tackles, 1.5 for losses, and a 12-yard sack in Florida's 41-3 win over Florida Atlantic. The Gators gave up just 30 rushing yards to FAU on 30 attempts.

DT Luke McDermott (Kentucky) -- McDermott had four tackles, including a 5-yard sack in Kentucky’s 14-3 win against Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers had just 234 total yards in the game.


LB Trey DePriest (Alabama) -- DePriest led Alabama with 10 total tackles, had 0.5 for loss and a quarterback hurry in the Crimson Tide's 48-7 win over Kent State. The Tide defense held Kent State to 90 total yards, including -9 on the ground.

RB/RS Tre Mason (Auburn) -- Mason had 176 kickoff return yards on four attempts, including a 97-yard touchdown, in Auburn’s 42-38 win over Utah State. His return yardage is tied for third in school history.


WR/RS Marquis Maze (Alabama) -- Totaled 253 all-purpose yards against Kent State including 118 on eight catches, 96 yards on eight punt returns and 39 yards on a kickoff return.

QB Tyler Wilson (Arkansas)
-- In his first career start he completed 18-of-24 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns against Missouri State.

WR Travante Stallworth (Auburn) -- Had four catches for 93 yards and a touchdown against Utah State.

RB Chris Rainey (Florida) -- Scored three touchdowns, all different ways -- a 14-yard rushing score, a 22-yard blocked punt return for a touchdown and a 14-yard receiving score -- against Florida Atlantic.

TE Orson Charles(Georgia) -- Had six catches for career-high 109 yards and a touchdown against Boise State.

S/LB Winston Guy (Kentucky) -- Had 10 tackles, including 2.5 for losses and two interceptions against Western Kentucky.

DB Charles Sawyer (Ole Miss)
-- Returned an interception 96 yards for a touchdown and had seven tackles against BYU.

DB Marvin Bure (Mississippi State) -- Posted five tackles on kickoff coverage as Bulldogs held Memphis to just 17 yards per return on 10 kickoffs.

QB Stephen Garcia(South Carolina) -- Came off the bench against East Carolina and accounted for three touchdowns -- two on the ground (32 yards and 10 yards) and one through the air.

QB Tyler Bray (Tennessee) -- Completed 17-of-24 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns against Montana.

LB Daryle Vereen (Tennessee) -- Led the Vols with a career-high and team-best six tackles against Montana.

LB Chris Marve(Vanderbilt) -- Led the Commodores with 12 total tackles, including two for losses (-3 yards) against Elon.
Today we look at the big uglies that cause all the mayhem in the trenches. The SEC consistently spits out nasty defensive linemen and this year has more of an athletic feel.

Here's how the teams stacked up:

1. South Carolina: The Gamecocks return a defensive line that would make any offensive line shutter. Plus, incoming freshman Jadeveon Clowney comes in as the top high school player in the country and could be one of the best ends in the league this fall. Devin Taylor leads the group at end and was second on the team with 7.5 sacks as a sophomore. Helping on the outside is Melvin Ingram, who plays inside on passing downs, and led South Carolina with nine sacks a year ago. Senior Travian Robertson, who came off injury to get four sacks last year, is solid in the middle as well.

[+] EnlargeDevin Taylor
Dale Zanine/US PresswireDevin Taylor made a habit of harassing quarterbacks last season.
2. Arkansas: The Razorbacks might have the best pass-rushing group Arkansas has seen in a while. Things revolve around defensive end Jake Bequette, who was one of the more unheralded players in the league last year, despite having seven sacks. On the other side of the line is Tenarius Wright, who will make up the second part of a formidable outside duo in Fayetteville with his speed and athleticism. In the middle, there are plenty of options. Byran Jones and DeQuinta Jones missed spring due to injury, but will be back this fall and there’s a wealth of depth behind them. Junior college transfer Robert Thomas might be the best and most athletic option in the middle is primed to break out.

3. LSU: There are some questions about the experience the Tigers bring back, but no one will question the talent and athleticism in Baton Rouge. Sam Montgomery is back at defensive end, after suffering a serious knee injury. He hasn’t played much, but the coaches believe he’s got what it takes to be a top end in this league. Kendrick Adams started 11 games last year at end, while Lavar Edwards filled in for Montgomery. Ego Ferguson redshirted last year, but should get a ton of playing time in the middle this fall. He is already one of the most athletic tackles in the SEC. Don’t forget about five-star early enrollee Anthony Johnson, who made very strong impressions on his coaches this spring and will be in the rotation inside.

4. Florida: This unit was criticized for lacking toughness last season, but will be full of that and even more athleticism in 2011. Jaye Howard is returning from spring ankle surgery and is already considered a top defensive tackle prospect in next year’s NFL draft. Alongside him are youngsters Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley. Floyd was the most consistent of the much-ballyhooed freshman class last fall, while Easley struggled with attitude problems. Easley has rebounded and both excelled this spring. Omar Hunter is finally healthy and will share time with Floyd at noseguard and senior William Green will occupy an end spot. This group is even better when Ronald Powell lines up at end in the 4-3.

5. Alabama: On paper, there are a few questions with this group, but it’s hard to drop Alabama very far on this list. The 3-4 scheme will have senior Josh Chapman at noseguard. Chapman started 12 games in the middle last fall, totaling 31 tackles, including 3.5 for loss. Damion Square will compete for time on the outside, and since returning from his ACL injury, he’s gained a lot more playing confidence and could be a budding star in the league. Junior college transfers Quinton Dial and Jesse Williams will compete for time on the line as well, while sophomore Ed Stinson will stay at end after starting last season at Jack linebacker.

6. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have arguably the top returning tackle tandem in the SEC. Fletcher Cox and Josh Boyd are the behemoths in the middle who combined for 53 tackles, 13 for loss and five sacks last year. Finding any sort of inside running game against Mississippi State will be extremely tough. Developing a pass-rusher is the next step for the Bulldogs’ staff. Sean Ferguson occupies one side, but the other is still up for grabs. Trevor Stigers and Shane McCardell battled for the spot this spring, but neither has really pushed ahead.

7. Georgia: There is a lot of talent in Athens, but there could be a lot of movement on the line. JUCO transfer John Jenkins is the big -- and we mean big -- name up front and he’s yet to play a down in the SEC. He arrives with a ton of hype, but is perfect at noseguard in Todd Grantham’s 3-4. DeAngelo Tyson moves to his natural position outside after playing noseguard last year. Kwame Geathers played in the middle this spring, but could be usurped for Jenkins this fall and move outside. Abry Jones is still maturing after moving to end and recording 34 tackles including 3.5 for loss last season and had a 16-tackle performance against Georgia Tech.

8. Auburn: The Tigers must replace three starters this season. Inside, Auburn is talented but inexperienced with Kenneth Carter and Jeffrey Whitaker having 13 combined tackles from a year ago. There’s less concern on the outside with lone returning starter Nosa Eguae on one side and sophomore Corey Lemonier on the other. Eguae might have more experience with 11 starts, but Lemonier appears to be more athletic and should be near the top of the defensive end pool this year. After that, the Tigers are young across the board.

9. Tennessee: The Volunteers’ line will grow with senior Malik Jackson running things in the middle. He had 48 tackles and five sacks a year ago and some think he’ll be even better this fall. A lot will also be expected from incoming JUCO transfer Maurice Couch. He’s pretty athletic at 6-foot-4, 327 pounds and he’ll be greatly needed, considering the dismissal of Montori Hughes. Jacques Smith has All-SEC potential and will hold one of the end spots. After that, Tennessee has some young, but encouragingly talented bodies at each position.

10. Ole Miss: Some of the best news of the spring coming out of Oxford was the return of Kentrell Lockett at defensive end. Lockett was granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA and will not only be the Rebels’ top lineman but possibly their best defensive player. After that, the questions roll in with four tackles gone and youth coming in. Tackle Justin Smith has yet to really emerge as the All-SEC talent he was expected to be and Ole Miss is smaller up front. JUCO transfer Gilbert Pena could add some size in the middle. Gerald Rivers returns to get time at end, but has played in just 15 career games in two years.

11. Vanderbilt: This was supposed to be a strength for the Commodores last year until injuries hit. Still, Vanderbilt returns three starters. Experience is there, but this unit has to continue to improve, especially in the pass-rushing department where the Commodores had just 20 sacks in 2010. Rob Lohr led Vanderbilt with four sacks a year ago and had 35 tackles. T.J. Greenstone is coming off of injury and will line up inside. Tim Fugger was one of the Commodores' most consistent players at end, playing in every game and registering three sacks and four forced fumbles.

12. Kentucky: End Collins Ukwu and tackle Luke McDermott return with the most experience on Kentucky’s line. Ukwu improved not only on the field but in the weight room this spring and is expected to be a more consistent pass-rusher. McDermott is a walk-on currently ahead of Donte Rumph, who has the talent to be one of Kentucky’s top defenders, but has yet to fully buy in to the program. The coaches are also waiting for tackle Mister Cobble to finally break out of his funk and be a regular contributor. The rest of Kentucky’s linemen have some developing to do and are inexperienced.
When Rick Minter looks at film of Kentucky’s 2010 defense, he can easily point out the weaknesses.

He says it's not the talent, but the drive.

[+] EnlargeDanny Trevathan
Mark Zerof/US PresswireNew Kentucky coordinator Rick Minter is confident he can maximize the talents of star linebacker Danny Trevathan, right.
Hesitance suffocated the Wildcats at times, leading to blown assignments and a lack of toughness.

Minter, the Wildcats’ new co-defensive coordinator, is looking to toughen up this group.

“We’re going to be an aggressive, move-around defense,” Minter said. “We’re going to attack people. We’re not going to sit back and wait and we’re going to be a combination of zone coverages and zone pressures and man defenses.”

Minter, who joined Kentucky two weeks before January’s BBVA Compass Bowl, is also making things a bit more interesting by experimenting with a three-man front and operating out of a 4-2-5 alignment, while still having a 4-3 base.

He’s moving guys around, trying to get more speed on the field, especially closer to the line of scrimmage.

There is different terminology for players to decipher, a new playbook study and some new, more innovative formations to memorize.

It’s a lot to throw on his new unit, but more than halfway through spring practice, Minter said he’s pleased with how his guys have taken to all this change.

“I’m extremely happy with how hard they’re trying to do their best,” said Minter, who was the head coach at Cincinnati from 1994-2003 and was the linebackers coach at Indiana State last season.

“I couldn’t be happier with what they’re doing.”

But in January, that wasn’t the case.

With only a small window of time to work with his new players, Minter mostly worked on technique, staying away from implementing his new schemes. The preparation, Minter says, was good, but the result wasn’t as the Wildcats fell 27-10 to Pittsburgh, giving up 261 rushing yards in the process.

“We tried to make it through December, tried to prove ourselves, “Minter said. “Yet, we went out and basically did not get the job done in the bowl game.”

After seeing his defense gutted on the ground against the Panthers, Minter has put special emphasis on stopping the run. Kentucky allowed 177.1 yards rushing yards a game lat season, good enough for 11th in the SEC.

Funky formations and a more creative blitz package will be a main force against the rush, Minter said, but the key cog is 6-foot-1, 230-pound senior weakside linebacker Danny Trevathan, who was first in the SEC and ninth nationally with 144 total tackles in 2010.

“Danny Trevathan was an outstanding football player long before I got here,” Minter said. “What we want to try and do is take his game to another level.

“You can see quickly when you coach him out there on a daily basis and you’re around this kid how he did indeed lead this league in a whole lot of areas in tackling.”

It hasn’t been an easy adjustment, but Minter is starting to see guys adapt to the new system. Guys like middle linebacker Ronnie Sneed, linebacker/safety Winston Guy, cornerbacks Martavius Neloms, Randall Burden and Anthony Moseley, and defensive tackle Luke McDermott have all caught on nicely, Minter said.

Junior quarterback Morgan Newton has seen more than just a handful of guys catching on. He said working against Kentucky‘s new schemes has been both confusing and frustrating at times and he’s convinced the defense will surprise people this fall.

“The defense is as exciting as anyone out here. They’re flying around, making plays," Newton said. “Coach Minter and the guys are going to have them making plays (this fall).”

That sort of praise is nice, Minter said, but there’s still work to be done.

The defensive performance in the first spring scrimmage drew high praise from head coach Joker Phillips, but it was also marred with inconsistency.

It’s fixable, but it’s out of Minter’s hands. The next step in the maturation of this defense, Minter said, is for players to be more reliable and more devoted to applying what they learn from mistakes.

“We’re not anywhere [near] where we need to be in the sense of consistency,” he said. “They gotta understand they gotta bring their lunch bucket every day to play.”

Walking on to success in the SEC

September, 2, 2010
Hey, we can’t kick off the season without acknowledging the walk-ons.

Even in a league like the SEC, where teams spend an obscene amount of money to go all over the country and recruit players, occasionally a few guys slip through the cracks and make big impacts as walk-ons.

South Carolina’s Spencer Lanning is a prime example.

He enters his third season as the Gamecocks’ punter. In fact, he punted his sophomore season without a scholarship before later earning one.

It’s one of the best investments the Gamecocks could have made. Lanning is now their place-kicker and punter, the only player in the league last season to handle both roles, and is an All-SEC candidate at both spots as he enters his senior season.

He’s also emerged as one of the most respected leaders on the team, and his head coach no longer has trouble remembering his name. When Lanning first showed up, Steve Spurrier was prone to refer to him as "Lanning Spencer."

Now, Spurrier simply refers to him as clutch.

“Spencer Lanning may be one of the toughest kickers you’ll ever see,” Spurrier said. “In the weight room, he’s one of the best lifters (strength coach Craig Fitzgerald) has seen. He’s kicked beautifully. He’s at the top of his game right now. Hopefully, he didn’t peak in preseason, but he makes virtually everything in practice each day.”

Lanning was 17-of-20 on field-goal attempts last season and also averaged 41.9 yards a punt. He made 12 straight field goals at one point without a miss.

He’s not the only former walk-on in the league poised to have a big impact this season.

Kentucky has had an incredible run of success with walk-ons, at least one regular starter for seven years in a row. Junior Luke McDermott is slated to start at defensive tackle this season. Nick Melillo was the Wildcats’ starting tight end until he was injured.

At Mississippi State, Patrick Hanrahan is listed as the starting fullback, and Emmanuel Gatling is pushing for a starting job at outside linebacker.

Nick Reveiz is Tennessee’s starting middle linebacker and one of the Vols’ most inspirational leaders. Garrett Chisolm is penciled in to start at offensive guard for South Carolina, while James Stampley is LSU’s starting fullback.

Here’s a sampling of walk-ons around the league who’ve gone on to become starters or will play key roles as backups or special teams players this season:
  • Seth Armbrust, DB, Arkansas
  • Garrett Chisolm, OG, South Carolina
  • John Fairbanks, DS, Florida
  • Reuben Faloughi, OLB, Georgia
  • Ty Frix, DS, Georgia
  • Emmanuel Gatling, OLB, Mississippi State
  • Daniel Graff, DB, LSU
  • Patrick Hanrahan, FB, Mississippi State
  • Richard Kent, P, Vanderbilt
  • Will Lowery, S, Alabama
  • Luke McDermott, DT, Kentucky
  • Craig McIntosh, K, Kentucky
  • Nick Melillo, TE, Kentucky
  • Spencer Lanning, PK, South Carolina
  • Nick Reveiz, LB, Tennessee
  • James Stampley, FB, LSU
  • Carson Tinker, DS, Alabama
  • Jay Wisner, WR, Auburn