SEC: Mark Ingram

Ultimate 300: SEC's top classes 

January, 30, 2014
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The SEC has dominated the recruiting world over the past several years. Since 2008, the SEC has had at least three schools finish in the top 10 of the ESPN recruiting class rankings each year. Last year, the conference had an impressive six schools ranked among the top 10 recruiting classes in the country. This year is much of the same, as seven SEC schools are ranked in the top 10.

Here’s a closer look at the five best recruiting SEC schools in the Ultimate ESPN 300.

SEC all-BCS-era team

January, 13, 2014
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It’s time to celebrate the best of the best in the SEC during the BCS era.

So what we’ve done is taken on the monumental task of selecting an All-SEC team from the BCS era, which officially ended last Monday with Florida State’s 34-31 victory over Auburn in the VIZIO BCS National Championship.

To be eligible, a player had to have played at least one season in the SEC at any time between 1998 and 2013. More weight was given to those players who had longer careers and displayed consistency over the course of their careers.

Before the second-guessing commences, there were some spectacular players -- even a few players who won national awards such as the Heisman Trophy -- that were left off this team.

Nonetheless, it’s one star-studded team.

Here’s a look:

OFFENSE

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsTim Tebow accounted for more touchdowns than any player in SEC history.
QB -- Tim Tebow, Florida: A tough call at quarterback, but Tebow had a hand in two national championships, won the Heisman Trophy in 2007 and accounted for more touchdowns (145) than anybody in league history.

RB -- Mark Ingram, Alabama: In 2009, Ingram became the first Alabama player to win the Heisman Trophy with a 1,658-yard rushing season. He rushed for 42 career touchdowns, breaking Shaun Alexander's school record.

RB -- Darren McFadden, Arkansas: A two-time winner of the Doak Walker Award, McFadden averaged 120.8 rushing yards per game for his career, second only to Herschel Walker and Emmitt Smith in the SEC.

WR -- A.J. Green, Georgia: He combined speed, size and incredible body control to haul in 23 touchdown catches in 31 career games. Green caught more than 50 passes in each season from 2008 to 2010.

WR -- Josh Reed, LSU: The Biletnikoff Award winner as the top receiver in the country in 2001, Reed hauled in 17 touchdown catches in his last two seasons. He set the SEC single-season record in 2001 with 1,740 receiving yards.

TE -- Jason Witten, Tennessee: It’s hard to beat Witten in any era as both a receiving and blocking tight end. He had seven career touchdown catches, including five during his All-SEC junior season in 2002.

AP -- Percy Harvin, Florida: Harvin was Mr. Everything for the Gators on their 2008 national championship team and a two-time All-American. He finished his career with 32 touchdowns (19 rushing and 13 receiving).

OL -- Shawn Andrews, Arkansas: Andrews is the last player to win the Jacobs Award as the SEC’s top blocker in back-to-back seasons (2002 and 2003). The Hogs’ massive offensive tackle was a consensus All-American in both of those seasons.

OL -- Barrett Jones, Alabama: Jones was a part of three national championship teams at Alabama and started at every position on the line but left guard during his career. He won the Rimington Trophy in 2012 as the country’s top center and won the Outland Trophy a year earlier as the Tide’s left tackle.

OL -- Marcus McNeill, Auburn: A two-time All-America selection at offensive tackle, McNeil paved the way for the Tigers' explosive rushing attack and was a huge part of their unbeaten 2004 SEC championship team.

OL -- Chris Samuels, Alabama: The Crimson Tide have been stocked with menacing offensive linemen during their storied history, and Samuels is right there near the top. The big offensive tackle won the Jacobs Award and Outland Trophy in 1999 and helped lead Alabama to an SEC title.

C -- Maurkice Pouncey, Florida: Also a standout guard earlier in his career, Pouncey gravitated to center and won the Rimington Award in 2009 as the nation’s top center. He was a devastating blocker and made 40 starts in 41 career games.

DEFENSE

DL -- Glenn Dorsey, LSU: The most decorated SEC defensive tackle of the BCS era, Dorsey won the Outland Trophy and both the Lombardi and Nagurski awards in 2007. He was the centerpiece of that LSU national championship defense in 2007.

DL -- John Henderson, Tennessee: A two-time All-American, Henderson is one of just five defensive players in the BCS era to win the Outland Trophy (2000) as college football’s most outstanding interior lineman.

[+] Enlarge Jadaveon Clowney
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesJadaveon Clowney had 24 sacks in three seasons at South Carolina.
DL -- Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina: Even though his numbers dipped this season, Clowney remains one of the most disruptive defensive ends to play in the SEC during the BCS era. He finished with 47 tackles for loss, including 24 sacks, in 36 career games.

DL -- David Pollack, Georgia: Pollack joined Herschel Walker as Georgia’s only three-time, first-team All-Americans. He racked up a school-record 36 sacks from his defensive end position and was a two-time SEC Defensive Player of the Year in helping the Bulldogs win the 2002 SEC title, their first in 20 years.

LB -- C.J. Mosley, Alabama: Mosley is the only player in the Nick Saban era at Alabama to have back-to-back 100-tackle seasons and was a part of two national championship teams. He was terrific in coverage and an even better tackler.

LB -- Patrick Willis, Ole Miss: Before he found stardom in the NFL, Willis terrorized the SEC and won the Butkus Award in 2006 as college football’s top linebacker. He was a tackling machine for the Rebels and the quintessential middle linebacker.

LB -- Al Wilson, Tennessee: The heart and soul of Tennessee's 1998 national championship team, Wilson was a playmaking machine at middle linebacker for the Vols. He was a two-time All-SEC selection and consensus All-American his senior season.

CB -- Champ Bailey, Georgia: One of the most versatile players in SEC history, Bailey participated in more than 1,000 plays during the 1998 season and won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the nation’s best defensive player.

CB -- Patrick Peterson, LSU: No matter where Peterson lined up, he was the most explosive player on the field. As a cornerback, few were better. He won the Thorpe and Bednarik awards in 2010 and scored touchdowns three different ways during his career: punt return (two), interception return and return of a blocked field goal.

S -- Mark Barron, Alabama: The Crimson Tide’s 2011 national championship defense was dripping with talent, but Barron might have been the best of the bunch. He was a three-time All-SEC selection and two-time All-American.

S -- Eric Berry, Tennessee: Berry was as good in coverage as he was blowing up ball carriers. He won the Jim Thorpe Award in 2009 as the top defensive back in the country and was a finalist the previous year. He finished with 14 career interceptions.

SPECIAL TEAMS

PK -- Billy Bennett, Georgia: Bennett is the SEC record holder with 87 made field goals from 2000 to 2003. Bennett was equally accurate, connecting on 79 percent of his kicks.

P -- Dustin Colquitt, Tennessee: A finalist for the Ray Guy Award in both 2002 and 2003, Colquitt averaged 43.1 yards a punt during his career. As a junior in 2003, he had 19 punts of 50 yards or longer and 21 punts downed inside the 20-yard line.

RS -- Derek Abney, Kentucky: His eight career returns for touchdowns (six punts and two kickoffs) are an SEC record, and six of those came during one season (2002). Abney set seven NCAA records, 11 SEC records and 14 school records.

Hope springs in the SEC

May, 22, 2013
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Monday, we took a look at the 100-days checklist for the SEC. Today, we're taking a look back at what the SEC was able to do during the BCS era. In short, the conference has had a ton of success and is hoping to close out the BCS the way it began it -- with yet another national championship.

Here's a look at the best and worst for the SEC during the BCS era:

Best

1. Rings/crystals for days: The SEC and the BCS have had a great relationship. The SEC kicked the BCS era off with a bang in 1998 when Tennessee took home the first BCS national championship with its 23-16 win over Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl. Five years later, LSU won the conference's second BCS title with a 21-14 win over Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. But things really got out of hand starting in 2006, when Florida's 41-14 win over Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl sparked a string of seven straight BCS national titles for the SEC. Florida won again in 2008, Alabama has won three (2009, 2011, 2012), two-loss LSU won in 2007 and Auburn won in 2010. The SEC has won nine of the 15 BCS national championships, and its only loss came to itself when Alabama beat LSU 21-0 in the Allstate BCS National Championship in 2011.

2. Two's company: If five straight championships wasn't enough, the SEC got really greedy in 2011, when Alabama and LSU met in New Orleans, shutting the rest of the country out of a chance at the belt. This game sparked a ton of controversy after LSU had already defeated Alabama 9-6 in Tuscaloosa earlier in the season. But the Crimson Tide went unbeaten afterward and jumped up to the No. 2 spot in the BCS standings after Oklahoma State was upset by Iowa State. After LSU beat Georgia in the SEC championship game, the all-SEC title game was set, in which Alabama would have its revenge.

[+] EnlargeLSU vs. Alabama
AP Photo/Tom HauckAlabama's win over LSU was the only time two teams from the same conference faced off for the national title during the BCS era.
3. Alabama's dominance: Nick Saban brought LSU a national title in 2003, but he's done real wonders at Alabama. With Alabama's 42-14 win over Notre Dame in last season's Discover BCS National Championship Game, the Crimson Tide became the first team in modern history to win three national championships in four seasons. Alabama has won two straight national championships, has dynasty status and should be one of the favorites to win it all in 2013.

4. Heisman collection: The SEC's dominance during the BCS era hasn't just been about bling. The league also has a nice collection of bronze statues, as four of the past seven Heisman Trophy winners have come from the SEC. Last season, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the award, while Florida quarterback Tim Tebow became the first sophomore to win it in 2007 when he became the first player to rush and throw for 20-plus touchdowns in a single season. Alabama running back Mark Ingram took home the trophy in 2009, while Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, who became the first SEC player to run for at least 1,000 yards and pass for at least 2,000 in the same season, won in 2010.

5. Dominating the NFL draft: The SEC couldn't have won all those BCS titles without a little talent here and there. In last month's NFL draft, the league had 63 players drafted. That's a record for any league. The next closest was the ACC with 31 picks. The SEC had 32 players drafted within the first three rounds, including 12 in the first round.

Worst

1. Auburn getting snubbed: It wasn't often that the SEC got the short end of the BCS stick, but it certainly did in 2004 when Auburn was left out of the national championship after going undefeated during the regular season and winning an SEC title. Auburn went on to beat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl, while Oklahoma, which passed Auburn in the BCS standings late, was blown out by USC in the national championship.

2. Not showing up: The SEC had two Sugar Bowl appearances it would love to get back. Fresh off its only blemish of the season in its loss to Florida during the 2008 SEC championship game, Alabama truly looked uninspired a month later in its 31-17 loss to Utah in the Sugar Bowl. Last season, Florida, which was No. 3 in the BCS standings at the time, laid a real egg with its 33-23 loss to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl. Both Alabama and Florida were favorites and the more talented teams.

3. The Albert Means scandal: Back in 2002, the NCAA placed Alabama on five-year probation, gave the Tide a two-year bowl ban and reduced football scholarships by 21 over three years for major recruiting violations. The NCAA said a booster agreed to give Means' high school coach more than $100,000 to get Means, a highly-rated defensive lineman, to sign with Alabama. He signed with the Tide but later transferred to Memphis. Alabama narrowly missed getting the death penalty, but, as chairman of the infractions committee Thomas Yeager said, it was "absolutely staring down the barrel of the gun."

4. Tennessee's fall: The Vols might have captured the first BCS title, but Tennessee's program has been a shell of its former self since. Tennessee has endured losing seasons in four of the past five, has missed out on bowl trips in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the late 1970s and will enter the fall with its fourth different head coach in the past six seasons. Since winning it all in 1998, the Vols have been to the SEC championship game three times -- all losses.

5. Bobby Petrino's disgraceful exit: Last spring, Arkansas felt like a legitimate national championship contender. With the talent Bobby Petrino had assembled, the Razorbacks appeared equipped with the team ready to take the SEC West and more. However, Petrino's motorcycle accident in early April changed everything. He was caught lying about an affair he was having with a woman he hired and was later fired. Arkansas hired former special teams coach John L. Smith, who brought more giggles than wins, as Arkansas fell from contender to pretender with a 4-8 season. Petrino completely embarrassed himself and the program, but confidence seems to have been restored with the hiring of former Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema.

Star-studded SEC freshman classes

December, 26, 2012
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Freshmen have played a major role this season in the SEC.

A redshirt freshman, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, won the Heisman Trophy. A true freshman, Georgia running back Todd Gurley, leads the league in rushing with 1,260 yards, and two of Alabama’s most dynamic playmakers on offense are true freshmen -- receiver Amari Cooper and running back T.J. Yeldon.

It doesn’t stop there, either.

Ole Miss redshirt freshman Denzel Nkemdiche leads the Rebels with 78 total tackles, including 12 for loss, and Texas A&M redshirt freshman Mike Evans leads the Aggies with 75 catches for 1,022 yards.

It’s a freshman class, at least at this point, that would compare with any in the history of this league.

Here’s a look at some of the other recent star-studded freshman classes from the SEC:

2008

RB Mark Ingram, Alabama
WR Randall Cobb, Kentucky
WR Julio Jones, Alabama
WR A.J. Green, Georgia
OT Cordy Glenn, Georgia
DE Jake Bequette, Arkansas
LB Dont’a Hightower, Alabama
LB Chris Marve, Vanderbilt
CB Janoris Jenkins, Florida

2006

QB Tim Tebow, Florida
QB Matthew Stafford, Georgia
WR Percy Harvin, Florida
WR Brandon LaFell, LSU
OT Andre Smith, Alabama
CB D.J. Moore, Vanderbilt
CB Trevard Lindley, Kentucky

2005

RB Darren McFadden, Arkansas
RB Arian Foster, Tennessee
RB Felix Jones, Arkansas
OT Michael Oher, Ole Miss
WR Sidney Rice, South Carolina
WR Earl Bennett, Vanderbilt
DE Tyson Jackson, LSU

2001

QB David Greene, Georgia
RB Carnell Williams, Auburn
RB Ronnie Brown, Auburn
OT Shawn Andrews, Arkansas
C Ben Wilkerson, LSU
DE David Pollack, Georgia
CB Carlos Rogers, Auburn
CB Ahmad Carroll, Arkansas
P Dustin Colquitt, Tennessee

1996

RB Shaun Alexander, Alabama
RB Derek Logan, Kentucky
OT Chris Samuels, Alabama
OL Jeno James, Auburn
LB Jevan Kearse, Florida
CB Champ Bailey, Georgia

1994

QB Peyton Manning, Tennessee
RB Fred Taylor, Florida
WR Hines Ward, Georgia
WR Reidel Anthony, Florida
WR Ike Hilliard, Florida
LB Dewayne Rudd, Alabama
CB Corey Chavous, Vanderbilt
Todd Gurley, Keith MarshallUS Presswire, Icon SMITodd Gurley and Keith Marshall have already rushed for a combined 964 yards and 15 scores.
In the realm of Georgia football, it’s the ultimate compliment.

Freshman running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall have burst onto the scene in such explosive fashion that teammates and fans have taken to calling the duo “Gurshall.”

That’s right, a tribute to the great Herschel Walker, who ran his way into SEC lore more than 30 years ago, and to this day, remains the standard for running backs in this league.

Too early to make such comparisons?

Yep, way too early.

But there’s no denying how good Gurley and Marshall have been to this point and the impact they’ve made on the No. 5 Bulldogs.

They’ve combined to rush for 964 yards and score 15 touchdowns … in just five games.

Marshall ripped off touchdown runs of 75 and 72 yards last week against Tennessee. Gurley has four scoring runs of 29 yards or longer, and he also returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in the season opener.

Their ability to strike so quickly and generate yardage in chunks is a big reason the Bulldogs have scored 40 or more points in all five of their games.

Consider this: Gurley has eight rushes of 20 yards or longer, which is tied for the most among FBS players. Marshall is close behind with five runs of 20 yards or longer. Last season, no Georgia player had more than six rushes of 20 yards or longer

As a team, the Bulldogs had three rushing touchdowns of 20 yards or longer last season. Gurley and Marshall have already combined for seven in five games this season.

[+] EnlargeThomas Brown and Danny Ware
AP Photo/Rogelio SolisBefore Gurley and Marshall, Danny Ware and Thomas Brown carried the Bulldogs to a 10-2 record and an Outback Bowl victory in 2004.
The stakes get higher and the stage gets bigger this weekend for “Gurshall” when No. 5 Georgia travels to Columbia, S.C., to take on No. 6 South Carolina, which is allowing just 2.2 yards per carry and features one of the best defensive lines in the SEC.

But nothing has seemed to faze these guys, who’re both from North Carolina and mapped it out in high school that they would attend the same college if possible.

“It’s been a blessing, just to be able to come in and have all this success this early as a freshman and getting all this attention,” said Gurley, who has 10 touchdowns. “We just keep trying to find things to get better on every day.”

There’s still a lot left of this season, but good luck in finding two true freshmen on the same team who’ve come into the SEC made the kind of splash “Gurshall” has.

Who are some of the other dynamic first-year duos that would compare?

Here’s a look, and we’ll start with the “old” guys first. Again, these are true freshmen:

RB Dalton Hilliard/RB Garry James, LSU, 1982: They were known as the “Dalton-James Gang” and combined for 1,611 rushing yards and scored 25 touchdowns. The Tigers went 8-3-1 that season and lost 21-20 to No. 3 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. Hilliard rushed for 901 yards and 11 touchdowns and James 710 yards and seven touchdowns. They also combined to catch 52 passes for seven more touchdowns.

RB Neal Anderson/RB John L. Williams, Florida, 1982: The famed Florida duo combined for 853 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in what was Charley Pell’s next-to-last full season at Florida. The Gators went 8-4 and lost in the Bluebonnet Bowl. Anderson rushed for 197 yards in his first collegiate start against Kentucky and scored three touchdowns.

RB Keith Henderson/RB Tim Worley, Georgia, 1985: Just a few years after Walker departed, Henderson and Worley arrived on the scene in Athens. They combined for 1,358 rushing yards and scored 12 touchdowns. Henderson averaged 6.8 yards per carry. The Bulldogs finished 7-3-2 and tied Arizona in the Sun Bowl.

RB James Stewart/RB Aaron Hayden, Tennessee, 1991: The Vols turned to a pair of true freshmen to carry the rushing load in 1991, and Stewart and Hayden combined for 1,643 yards. Stewart just missed the 1,000-yard rushing mark with 939 yards and eight touchdowns. Hayden finished with 704 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. He also caught a key screen pass for a touchdown in Tennessee’s memorable comeback win at Notre Dame. The Vols finished 9-3 and lost in the Fiesta Bowl to Penn State.

RB Fred Taylor/WR Reidel Anthony, Florida, 1994: If you throw in receiver Ike Hilliard, the Gators had a trio of stellar true freshmen in 1994. Taylor led the Gators in rushing with 873 yards and eight touchdowns and also caught 29 passes. Anthony caught 30 passes and set Florida freshman records with 615 receiving yards and five touchdown catches. Anthony averaged 20.5 yards per catch. Hilliard also had 22 catches for 306 yards and four touchdowns in Florida’s Fun ‘n’ Gun attack. The Gators finished 10-2 and won their second straight SEC championship.

DE Dennis Johnson/S David Johnson, Kentucky, 1998: The “Johnson Boys” made big splashes for the Wildcats, who had their first winning season (7-5) in eight years and played in the Outback Bowl. Dennis Johnson was a second-team Freshman All-American by The Sporting New and finished with five tackles for loss, including a pair of sacks, two fumble recoveries and a blocked field goal. David Johnson earned first-team Freshman All-America honors. He finished with 53 total tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and returned a fumble for a touchdown.

RB Carnell Williams/CB Carlos Rogers, Auburn, 2001: The Tigers’ “Cadillac” burst onto the scene with 614 rushing yards and six touchdowns and averaged 5.1 yards per carry. Williams’ roommate, Rogers, earned Freshman All-America honors by The Sporting News on defense. He finished with 58 tackles (46 solo) and 12 pass deflections and would go on to win the Jim Thorpe Award as a senior. The Tigers finished 7-5 and lost in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

RB Danny Ware/RB Thomas Brown, Georgia, 2004: They’re the duo “Gurshall” is chasing now in terms of Georgia freshman running back numbers. Ware and Brown combined for 1,567 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in helping Georgia to its third straight season of 10 or more wins. The Bulldogs finished 10-2 and beat Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl. Brown led the team in rushing that season with 875 yards and eight touchdowns.

RB Darren McFadden/RB Felix Jones, Arkansas, 2005: McFadden and Jones made a run at the 2,000-yard mark during their freshman seasons. They combined for 1,739 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. McFadden, who was a two-time Doak Walker Award winner, led the way with 1,113 yards and 11 touchdowns. Jones had 626 yards and three touchdowns. The Hogs finished with a 4-7 record.

QB Tim Tebow/WR Percy Harvin, Florida, 2006: Do the Gators win the 2006 national championship without Tebow and Harvin? They both came up big in clutch situations. Tebow, the Gators’ short-yardage specialist, was second on the team with 469 rushing yards and led the team with eight rushing touchdowns. He also passed for five touchdowns. In the 41-14 win over Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game, Tebow rushed for a touchdown and passed for a touchdown. Harvin scored five touchdowns and finished with 855 yards in total offense. He averaged 11.4 yards per touch to lead all freshmen nationally. Showing off his versatility, Harvin had a season-high nine catches in the national title game and rushed for a season-high 105 yards in picking up MVP honors in the SEC championship game win over Arkansas.

RB Mark Ingram/WR Julio Jones, Alabama, 2008: Ingram shared carries with 1,383-yard rusher Glenn Coffee, but still managed to churn out 728 yards of his own to go along with 12 touchdowns. Jones was named the SEC Freshman of the Year by The Associated Press and was also a second-team All-SEC selection. He led the Crimson Tide with 58 catches for 924 yards and four touchdowns. He was fourth that season in the SEC in receiving yards per game. Alabama went 12-0 in the regular season, but lost in the SEC championship game to Florida and in the Sugar Bowl to Utah.

WR Alshon Jeffery/CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina, 2009: The Gamecocks were able to keep two of the best from their state at home, and Jeffery and Gilmore both had big freshman seasons. Jeffery was named Freshman All-American by several outlets and led the Gamecocks with 46 catches for 763 yards. His six touchdown catches were second on the team. On defense, Gilmore started in all 13 games and also earned Freshman All-America honors. He was fifth on the team with 56 total tackles, including six for loss, and had eight pass breakups. The Gamecocks finished 7-6 and lost to Connecticut in the Papajohns.com Bowl.

SEC's best of the BCS era: Offense

July, 3, 2012
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Now that it’s official that we’ll be leaving the BCS era for the playoff era in college football beginning in 2014, I thought it would be fun to reflect on the best SEC players of the BCS era.

These are the best players, period, going back to the 1998 season, which was the birth of the BCS era.

To be eligible, players had to have played at least two seasons in the SEC from 1998 until now, meaning a player who played in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998 would not be eligible. We also didn’t consider current players, meaning Marcus Lattimore, Jarvis Jones and Tyrann Mathieu weren’t eligible.

We picked 11 players on offense and 11 players on defense and consulted with a number of coaches and other media members in making these selections.

We’ll start with offense and come back with defense later today. We’ve also selected an All-SEC team of the BCS era that we’ll unveil.

The players are listed alphabetically. Here goes with our best 11 on offense:

Shaun Alexander, RB, Alabama: He scored 50 touchdowns in 41 career games and ranks as Alabama’s all-time leading rusher with 3,565 yards. He set the SEC single-season record for touchdowns scored in 1999 with 24.

Shawn Andrews, OT, Arkansas: A massive road-grader for the Hogs and a two-time All-American. Andrews won the Jacobs Trophy as the SEC’s best blocker in both 2002 and 2003.

[+] EnlargeA.J. Green
Icon SMIA.J. Green used his superior physical tools to record 23 TDs in 31 games in his Georgia career.
A.J. Green, WR, Georgia: Combined a blend of speed, size and incredible body control to haul in 23 touchdown catches in 31 career games. Green caught more than 50 passes all three seasons at Georgia from 2008-10.

Percy Harvin, WR, Florida: They called his position the “Percy” position because he was so versatile and so dynamic. Harvin lined up as a tailback, in the slot and out wide and finished his career with 32 touchdowns (19 rushing, 13 receiving).

Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: The first and only Heisman Trophy winner at Alabama in 2009, Ingram scored 46 career touchdowns and averaged 5.7 yards per carry on 572 career rushes. Ingram lost just two fumbles in more than 620 touches at Alabama.

Eli Manning, QB, Ole Miss: Prior to his Super Bowl heroics in the NFL, Manning carved out a record-breaking career at Ole Miss. He was a first-team All-American in 2003 and threw 81 career touchdown passes, which is fifth all-time in the SEC.

Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas: Won the Doak Walker Award in 2006 and 2007 as the nation’s best running back. McFadden averaged 120.8 rushing yards for his career, second only to Herschel Walker and Emmitt Smith in the SEC

Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: After an inauspicious start to his career at Florida, Newton produced a season for the ages in 2010 after transferring to Auburn. He accounted for 51 touchdowns and rushed for an SEC-best 1,473 yards in leading the Tigers to the national title.

Chris Samuels, OT, Alabama: Winner of the Outland Trophy in 1999, Samuels started 42 games for the Crimson Tide and cleared the way for a lot of Alexander’s 3,565 career rushing yards.

Tim Tebow, QB, Florida: Set the SEC record with 57 career touchdowns from 2006-09 and was an integral part of two national championship teams at Florida. Tebow won the Heisman Trophy in 2007 when he passed for 32 touchdowns and rushed for 23 touchdowns.

Carnell Williams, RB, Auburn: There’s a reason they called him “Cadillac.” Williams teamed with Ronnie Brown in 2004 to form one of the best backfield tandems in SEC history and finished his career with 3,831 rushing yards and 46 touchdowns.

Letterman and concerns return for Tide

April, 13, 2012
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Derick E. Hingle/US Presswire
Quarterback AJ McCarron is one of eight offensive starters returning in 2012.

Spring is a time for renewal. In college football, spring is also the time to look ahead to fall and the upcoming season. Saturday, Alabama holds its annual Golden Flake A-Day Game (ESPN3, 3 ET), which will give its fans a first look at the defending national champions.

Alabama captured its record-breaking ninth national championship of the major poll era in January. Once again, the Crimson Tide are expected to be one of the best teams in the country in 2012. But the Tide have been here before. Will history repeat?

In 2010, Alabama was preseason No. 1 in both The Associated Press and Coaches polls with 11 combined offensive and defensive starters returning from the team that had won the 2009 national title. The problem was the retention breakdown. Bama lost eight starters from a defense that allowed the second-fewest yards (244.1) and points (11.7) per game in the bowl subdivision. With quarterback Greg McElroy, the running back tandem of Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, and receiver Julio Jones, the belief was that the Tide would score points and win games with their offense, while buying enough time for their defense to jell.

However, all did not go as planned. The defense allowed slightly more PPG than in 2009 (13.5 in 2010, 11.7 in 2009). The Tide allowed more plays of 20-plus yards (13) in 2010 than it did in 2009 (7). They also blew a 24-point lead in a loss to rival and eventual national champion Auburn in the regular-season finale, the biggest collapse in Alabama’s storied history. That was one of three losses for the Tide that season.

Like in 2010, this Alabama team has a quarterback returning for his second season as a starter (AJ McCarron), along with a strong running back (Eddie Lacy). Also like the 2010 team, the Tide will lose several starters on defense including four likely first-round picks (cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, linebacker/defensive end Courtney Upshaw, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, and safety Mark Barron).

So how good will Alabama be in 2012? History suggests the Tide will be one of the best teams in college football, but not good enough to win a second straight national championship. Just like 2010.

The SEC's top 25 players: No. 1

March, 12, 2012
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We've come to the end of our countdown, and the No. 1 player on our list should come as no surprise to anyone. He spent all season running over and by defenders, and was up for college football's most prestigious award. Without him manning Alabama's backfield, the Crimson Tide might not have won its second national championship in three years. He's also expected to be the first running back taken in April's NFL draft.

No. 1: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama, Jr.

Preseason rank: No. 2 in the 2011 preseason countdown.

2011 summary: Richardson led the SEC and was fifth nationally with 1,679 rushing yards on 283 carries (5.93 yards per carry), and became the third player in SEC history to rush for 20 or more rushing touchdowns (21) in a season. He also caught 29 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns. Richardson was a unanimous first team All-American and All-SEC member. He also won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back, and was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.

Why he's here: In his first season as Alabama's starting running back, Richardson made sure the loss of Mark Ingram wasn't much of a concern for the Crimson Tide. He was the ultimate workhorse for Alabama, and had no problem being the focal point in the Tide's offense. What made him so special was his ability to pack power and speed into his game. He could sprint with track stars, but wasn't afraid to bulldoze his opponents if necessary ... of if he just felt like it. And Richardson certainly wasn't afraid of contact, as 49.7 percent of his rushing yards came after contact during the regular season. Richardson also showcased tremendous agility, and his elusiveness made him even more dangerous when he had the ball in his hands. Just ask Ole Miss cornerback Senquez Golson about his moves, because he's sure to be on Richardson's permanent highlight reel after getting shaken to the ground on a ridiculous cutback Richardson made on him last fall. His 2,017 yards from scrimmage accounted for more than 36 percent of Alabama's offense in 2011, and he did that while facing eight teams (LSU twice) that ranked among the top 51 nationally in total defense. No other Heisman contender had played more than five. In his two games against LSU (No. 2 in total defense), Richardson combined for 276 yards from scrimmage and recorded the only touchdown for either team in the series. Richardson registered nine games with at least 100 rushing yards, which tied a school record, and is expected to be a top-1o draft pick in April.
  • No. 2: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
  • No. 3: Tyrann Mathieu, CB/RS, LSU
  • No. 4: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
  • No. 5: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
  • No. 6: Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia
  • No. 7: Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama
  • No. 8: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
  • No. 9: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
  • No. 10: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
  • No. 11: Danny Trevathan, LB, Kentucky
  • No. 12: William Vlachos, C, Alabama
  • No. 13: Joe Adams, WR/RS, Arkansas
  • No. 14: Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia
  • No. 15: Jarius Wright, WR, Arkansas
  • No. 16: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
  • No. 17: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
  • No. 18: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
  • No. 19: Bacarri Rambo, S, Georgia
  • No. 20: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
  • No. 21: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
  • No. 22: Rueben Randle, WR, LSU
  • No. 23: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt
  • No. 24: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
  • No. 25: Michael Dyer, RB, Auburn

Looking back at the 2008 signing class

January, 19, 2012
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Our recruiting folks at ESPN have gone back and re-visited the 2008 signing class and assessed how the marquee prospects in that class fared in college.

It’s one of my favorite exercises, because it’s a reminder that recruiting is anything but an exact science, and that evaluating recruiting classes and prospects on signing day is a dicey proposition.

Everybody is trying to recruit great players, but what matters is what you do with those players once you get them on your campus.

Of the 25 top prospects in the 2008 class, seven signed with SEC schools.

No. 2 on that list was Julio Jones. No. 5 was A.J. Green, and No. 8 was Patrick Peterson.

I’d say the analysts got those three right. They were all great players who earned numerous awards and accolades, and all three were taken among the top six picks in last year’s NFL draft.

But for every Julio Jones, A.J. Green and Patrick Peterson, there’s a Will Hill, Dee Finley, Chancey Aghayere and Burton Scott.

All four were ranked among the top 25 prospects in the nation by ESPN in 2008, but for varying reasons, they never flourished in college.

Hill, a safety who signed with Florida out of West Orange, N.J., was the No. 3 overall prospect in 2008. He had a promising freshman season, but struggled with consistency his next two seasons. He declared early for the NFL draft and wasn’t selected, and wound up playing in the Arena Football League.

Finley, another safety who signed with Florida out of Auburn, Ala., was No. 10. He was sidetracked by injuries and off-the-field issues during his career and announced that he was transferring to North Alabama.

Aghayere, a defensive end who signed with LSU out of Garland, Texas, was No. 14. He’s a rising senior, but has played mostly in a reserve role for the Tigers. He didn’t make any starts this season and finished with three total tackles.

Scott, an athlete who signed with Alabama out of Prichard, Ala., was No. 19. He moved from running back to cornerback after arriving at Alabama, but wound up transferring and played at South Alabama this past season.

Florida signed an SEC-high six players in 2008 that were ranked among the top 55 prospects nationally. The Gators signed 10 players who were ESPNU 150 prospects.

It’s a haul that looked terrific at the time, but four seasons later, the Gators lost six football games and didn’t beat anybody in 2011 (in the FBS ranks) that finished with a winning record.

There’s also the flip side.

Alabama’s 2008 class was ranked No. 3 by ESPN, and it’s a class that was the driving force behind the Crimson Tide’s dizzying run the past few years, which includes two national championships.

So, again, there are always hits and misses in recruiting, and those players who miss sometimes do so for reasons that go well beyond football ability. What’s more, classes that look like a million dollars on signing day don’t always look so good three and four years later.

Just something to remember with national signing day approaching.

Here’s a look at the remaining ESPNU 150 prospects in 2008 who signed with SEC schools:
Don’t let Trent Richardson fool you.

His humble demeanor is a coach’s dream, and I respect the fact he says “We” and “They” more than “Me” or “I.”

But when you’re talking about the Heisman Trophy, only one person can win it. Only one person can have his named etched into that bronze beauty. Only one player has his photo plastered on the Heisman Hall of Funny Smiles each year.

[+] EnlargeRichardson
Kelly Lambert/US PresswireTrent Richardson picked up the torch from Mark Ingram, but can he pick up the Heisman as well?
This year, Trent, your cheesy smile should join the group.

However, someone should have informed Alabama’s mild-manner, bulldozing running back that it’s OK to be a little selfish sometimes when you’re trying to sell your Heisman campaign.

You can’t hate Richardson for his team-first attitude, and it just goes to show you that the award that judges both on-field AND off-field actions should return to Tuscaloosa, Ala.

“It’s an honor just to have my name mentioned in that situation,” Richardson said.

“It means a lot to me. I know it means a lot for the team because they deserve every bit of it.”

Sure, Alabama’s offensive line definitely deserves some credit for Richardson’s spectacular season – a season in which he took over for past Heisman winner Mark Ingram – but Richardson was the battering ram wearing down defenders. Richardson was the one who routinely required a cluster of defenders to bring him down, after about five more big-boy steps.

With Alabama replacing a handful of offensive veterans, Richardson was the offense’s linchpin. There was no game-changing wide receiver. There was no proven quarterback. So, Richardson, who spent two previous seasons as a backup, was left to carry Alabama’s offense on his doublewide shoulders.

Without Richardson, Alabama isn’t even in the conversation for the national championship.

“He does everything for us,” said quarterback AJ McCarron, who gave Richardson some bonus points by calling him a great role model.

Richardson finished the season leading the SEC with 1,583 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns. He was also second for Alabama with 27 receptions for 327 yards and three more scores, ranking him second in school and SEC history with 23 total touchdowns.

Against SEC opponents, Richardson averaged 137 rushing yards a game, 6 yards per carry, and his 12 total touchdowns put him second in the league in scoring in conference games (nine points a game).

He rushed for 100-plus yards nine times, eclipsing the 160-yard mark five times.

Against LSU’s second-ranked defense, Richardson gained 169 total yards, dragging a few Tigers along the bumpy ride.

Richardson didn’t get a championship game to showcase his skills one last time before a national audience, but when his last stage was set, he tore the roof off that sucker.

In the season finale at Auburn, Richardson had a career-best 203 yard rushing yards and had a receiving touchdown. He had another dazzling Heisman moment when he pushed aside a few Tigers on his way to a superb 57-yard run.

It wasn’t the 76-yarder he pulled off against Ole Miss, where he cut backward at full speed to juke poor Senquez Golson out of his shoes before waltzing into the end zone.

Ladies and gentlemen, Richardson is your guy. He’s meant more to this Alabama team than Ingram did when he won back in 2009. He’s been tremendously consistent and is the nation’s best running back, if not player.

Not buying that last statement? Well, Ingram told Richardson so.

“That means a lot coming from him,” Richardson said. “He was a Heisman winner.”

And so should you be, Trent.

My Heisman Trophy ballot has changed every week for the last couple of months.

I'm not surprised there are more than three players going to the trophy presentation.

Five players were invited to New York for Saturday night's Heisman Trophy presentation -- quarterbacks Andrew Luck of Stanford and Robert Griffin III of Baylor, tailbacks Montee Ball of Wisconsin and Trent Richardson of Alabama and cornerback Tyrann Mathieu of LSU.

It's a shame the Heisman Trust didn't have room for three more quarterbacks because Houston's Case Keenum, USC's Matt Barkley and Boise State's Kellen Moore were just as deserving.

With five finalists going to New York, it figures to be one of the closer votes in recent Heisman Trophy history.

The closest vote in Heisman Trophy history came just two years ago, when Alabama tailback Mark Ingram edged Stanford's Toby Gerhart by only 28 points. Ingram received 227 first-place votes, Gerhart got 222 and Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, the second runner-up, received 203.

Given the number of finalists and their geographical regions, we could have another really close finish on Saturday night.

Luck, the runner-up to Auburn's Cam Newton last season, entered the 2011 season as the Heisman Trophy favorite. His performance didn't slip much this season, as he completed 70 percent of his passes for 3,170 yards with 35 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

I still feel Luck might be the most valuable player on any team in the country. Without him, there's no way the Cardinal is ranked No. 4 in the country and playing No. 3 Oklahoma State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Luck has done more with less, as Stanford lacks the game-changing playmakers that other teams have.

But Luck might still be the second-best quarterback in New York. Griffin, who is widely known as RG3, completed 72.4 percent of his passes for 3,998 yards with 36 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also ran for 644 yards with nine touchdowns.

Without him, the Bears wouldn't have beaten TCU, Oklahoma and Texas. Griffin's one drawback: He had a late interception that sealed the Bears' fate in a 36-35 loss at Kansas State on Oct. 1 and threw two picks in a 59-24 loss at Oklahoma State on Oct. 29. But with everything else RG3 has done this season, it's easy to give him a mulligan for the miscues.

LSU defense
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesRunning back Trent Richardson has been at his best in Alabama's biggest games.
I still believe Richardson is the best player in the country. He looked like the best player on the field in No. 2 Alabama's 9-6 loss in overtime to No. 1 LSU on Nov. 5. He had 89 rushing yards and 80 receiving yards in a game where every yard mattered. He finished the season with 1,583 yards with 20 touchdown runs and three touchdown catches. He's also Mr. Dependable, not losing a fumble in his past 520 touches and only once in 614 career touches.

Ball has been a scoring machine for the No. 10 Badgers this season, running for 1,759 yards with 32 touchdown runs and six touchdown receptions. His 38 total touchdowns are one shy of matching former Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders' NCAA single-season record of 39 set in 11 games in 1988. Ball's production helped lead the Badgers to a Jan. 2 date against Oregon in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO.

Mathieu fell off my ballot after he was suspended from playing in the Tigers' 45-10 victory over Auburn on Oct. 22 for smoking synthetic marijuana. But his big plays helped the Tigers overcome deficits in each of their last two victories, over Arkansas and Georgia in the SEC championship game.

Mathieu -- aka the "Honey Badger" -- is the best player on the top-ranked team. He leads the Tigers with 70 tackles and has forced six fumbles and recovered five. He also is the most dynamic punt returner I've seen since Florida State's Deion Sanders. Mathieu has scored four touchdowns -- two on fumble returns and two on punt returns.

To penalize Mathieu for one foolish mistake wouldn't have been right. After all, Newton was briefly ruled ineligible at Auburn last season and 2010 Heisman Trophy finalist LaMichael James of Oregon was suspended from playing in last season's opener.

Vaunted 2008 Bama class saying goodbye

November, 17, 2011
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It’s never easy to say goodbye.

But that’s what Alabama coach Nick Saban and the rest of the Crimson Tide faithful will have to do Saturday when Alabama’s extraordinary 2008 class bids farewell to Bryant-Denny Stadium.

This class that featured the likes of Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, Courtney Upshaw, Mark Barron, Dont’a Hightower and Barrett Jones will go down in Alabama history as one of the best to step foot in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

For as serious as Saban can be, we might witnesses a softer side of him during Saturday’s senior day.

“A lot of guys in that class played a lot of really good football,” Saban said.

“Those guys to this point have won 45 games. That’s probably as many games as anybody around here has ever won in their career.”

The class has just six losses.

Not everyone stuck around or totally complied, but the ones who did certainly set the tone for Alabama’s football program under Saban. In 2008, the Tide went undefeated during the regular season, before falling to Florida in the SEC championship -- the semifinal for the national championship. It then bounced back masterfully to win 14 straight in 2009 and claim yet another national championship for Alabama.

That same year, Ingram won Alabama’s first Heisman Trophy.

While last season could be considered a disappointment for Alabama, 2011 could still be quite special for the Tide and this class. Their 9-6 loss at home to LSU is currently the only blemish on this team’s record and winning out could put them right back in the national championship game.

Some things still have to work out in Alabama’s favor, but the quest for a second national title in three years continues this weekend against Georgia Southern. Alabama needs style points and after a lackluster performance against Mississippi State last week, you can bet this team will be ready to run all over the Eagles.

But regardless of what happens at season’s end for this team and this class, Saban will always remember the players in this class for their tremendous leadership skills and winning attitude. Alabama might not be where it is right now if not for the 2008 class.

“There’s no doubt that that group was the group that sort of turned the program around, bought in, did the things that we all wanted to do to make it better,” Saban said. “They’ve set the example and certainly have made a more significant contribution than anybody would realize.”

What we learned in the SEC: Week 7

October, 16, 2011
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It’s that time of year when the answers are starting to outnumber the questions.

Here’s a look at what we learned in the SEC in Week 7:

[+] EnlargeRon Brooks
AP Photo/Wade Payne Ron Brooks and LSU have shown they can win big even when they don't play their best football.
1. The gap is getting wider: We already knew that Alabama and LSU had separated themselves from the rest of the SEC, but the truth is that they’re in their own league, maybe even on their own planet. LSU pummeled Tennessee 38-7 on the road Saturday, and LSU coach Les Miles conceded afterward that the Tigers didn’t play their best game and were especially suspect to open the game. Alabama squashed Ole Miss 52-7 on the road after also getting off to a so-so start. Even when these two teams give up a rare play on defense, they adjust and finish the game with a vengeance. LSU has given up a total of 25 points in its past three games. Alabama has given up just 17 points in its past three outings. And on offense, they both have the kind of running games that pound teams into submission in the second half. Who’s ready for Nov. 5 to go ahead and get here?

2. Richardson for Heisman: It’s starting to have that same feel as 2009 when Mark Ingram made his move. Alabama junior running back Trent Richardson is now front and center in the Heisman Trophy race and should be. If there’s a better player in college football (and, yes, that includes Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck), let’s see him. Richardson has been sensational in his past six games, rushing for 100 yards in all six and putting on a show in the rout of Ole Miss with 183 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Go back and watch his 76-yard touchdown run. Finding a better one this season in college football will be a chore. Richardson now has 912 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns and is ahead of Ingram’s pace in 2009. If Richardson has a big game against LSU on Nov. 5 and the Crimson Tide win, the Heisman will (and should) be his to lose.

3. Two-team race in the East: It’s Georgia and South Carolina in the Eastern Division, and neither would be classified as a great football team right now. The Bulldogs just barely survived at Vanderbilt in a 33-28 win despite a glut of personal foul penalties, not being able to finish drives on offense and a total meltdown on special teams. The Gamecocks held on to win 14-12 at Mississippi State, and while their defense is playing its best football, there are real issues on offense. Star running back Marcus Lattimore suffered a sprained knee in the game, and the Gamecocks will know more about the severity of his injury on Monday. If he’s out for a few weeks, this is a very beatable football team. Both teams have their warts, but they’re also two games ahead of everybody else in the East. Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee and Vanderbilt all have three SEC losses.

4. Plain resourcefulness on the Plains: Nobody expected this Auburn football team to be a championship-caliber football team again this season with all the Tigers lost a year ago. But this is definitely an Auburn football team that still knows how to win. It’s also an Auburn football team that’s on its way back when you look at all the youth on the roster. It’s not a secret that the Tigers are struggling at the quarterback position right now, but they’re finding ways around those issues and winning games. They’ve made vast improvement on defense. Their punter, Steven Clark, has been clutch, and they’ve committed to running the football. Their 17-6 victory against Florida on Saturday was a clinic in resourceful football, and that’s a credit to the Tigers’ coaches and their players. They’ve won five games now, and eight wins or more aren’t out of the question this season. The Florida game was a huge swing game for both teams. While Auburn is far from a dominant team, it’s a team that has mastered the art of winning.

5. Batting .500: At this rate, we might have as many as six teams in the SEC that finish no better than .500 overall in the regular season. Kentucky (2-4, 0-3) and Ole Miss (2-4, 0-3) are both headed for losing seasons. It’s going to be a struggle for Tennessee (3-3, 0-3) to finish above .500, especially with trips to Alabama and Arkansas looming. The Vols also get South Carolina at home on Oct. 29. Vanderbilt (3-3, 1-3) certainly hasn’t been a pushover this season, but six overall wins in James Franklin’s first season would be considered a huge success. Mississippi State (3-4, 0-4) needs to get busy if it's going to have a winning season. The Bulldogs are winless in SEC play and will have to upset either Alabama or Arkansas to finish above .500 in the regular season. Even Florida isn’t a lock to have a winning record in the regular season. The Gators (4-3, 2-3) have lost three in a row and still have to face Georgia in Jacksonville in two weeks while also having to travel to South Carolina on Nov. 12 and wrapping up the regular season with a home game against Florida State.

Trent Richardson taking humble approach

September, 21, 2011
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For someone handed the keys to one of the most visible football programs in America, Trent Richardson isn’t too worried about his production.

The third-year Alabama running back paid his dues for the past two years, sitting behind Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. Now he owns the Tide’s backfield, but he’s not looking to match Ingram’s career or carve his name into any record books.

Three games into his first season as "the guy," Richardson is running like he’s on a mission for some postseason accolades (he’s fourth in the SEC, averaging 105 yards a game and leads the league with eight rushing touchdowns), but he insists his only goal is winning.

[+] EnlargeTrent Richardson
Kelly Lambert/US PresswireTrent Richardson has put up gaudy stats so far, but he'll face his toughest challenge yet against the Razorbacks.
“I don’t care if people are trying to shut me down or not. As long as my team is having a good time and we’re winning, it’s OK with me,” Richardson said.

The last two defenses have failed miserably in shutting him down. Two weeks ago at Penn State, he carried the ball 26 times for 111 yards and two touchdowns. A week later, he ran just 11 times against North Texas for 167 yards and three touchdowns. He has two or more touchdowns in all three games this season.

Still, Alabama’s bullish back is humble in his approach and leads more with his mouth than his actions.

“In the past, he knew his role and he knew he wasn’t our primary back, but this year he knows the responsibility that comes with that position and he’s really stepped up leadership-wise and really become a leader for us,” offensive lineman Barrett Jones said.

Jones said it’s been a joy working with Richardson. Physically, Jones said Richardson is “better than ever” because of the shape he’s in and his ability to absorb hits better this season.

Richardson’s attitude has also been a blessing. It would have been easy for him to give up in the past as one of the most talented backups around, but he didn’t. It also would have been easy for Richardson to come in with a “get mine” attitude this season, but he hasn’t.

“Not many guys could have done what Trent did the past two years here -- playing behind Mark,” Jones said. “Most people would say that Trent probably would have started anywhere else in the country. He waited his turn and supported Mark and really was the ultimate teammate.”

Instead of resenting Ingram, Richardson listened and learned from him. He tried to mimic Ingram’s cutting ability and quickness.

He learned how to read defenses better with extensive film sessions with Ingram and most of all; he learned to be humble as the go-to -guy. Ingram left Richardson with the wisdom of expecting to get a defense’s best each week and to overprepare in order to keep from getting complacent.

This weekend, complacency would hurt Richardson and Alabama’s offense. The Tide faces its toughest test thus far when No. 14 Arkansas comes to town. The Razorbacks have yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season and are allowing 87.7 rushing yards a game and 3.3 yards per carry.

Richardson said he expects to get the kitchen sink thrown his way from Arkansas’ defense. Not just because of the West implications or the overall talent Arkansas’ defense has, but the Hogs know firsthand how talented he is.

Richardson has averaged 75 yards in two games against Arkansas. Richardson knows this Arkansas team will be accounting for him on every play and come Saturday afternoon, he’ll be ready for it.

“I know they’re going to bring everything to me Saturday,” he said. “I know I have to be prepare because they’re going to be ready for me.”

SEC Heisman candidates

August, 10, 2011
8/10/11
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It's time to take a look at the award in college football and who from the SEC might be up for that bad boy toward the end of the 2011 season.

That's right, folks, the SEC blog is tackling the Heisman Trophy. Don't worry, it's fine; it has a mean stiff-arm.

Three of the past four winners have come from the SEC. Three of the past four have been sophomores. Also, the SEC produced its first Heisman Trophy winners in back-to-back years when Cam Newton took home the award last season.

So what does that tell us? Pick a youngster from the South, and you should be fine in your Heisman pool.

Obviously, there is a lot of talent -- young and old -- in the SEC and a few players who have what it takes to win college football's most prestigious award.

Here are our five preseason SEC Heisman candidates (in alphabetical order, of course):
  • Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas: Davis burst onto the scene with a stellar second half in 2010. After rushing for 294 yards on 44 carries through his first six games, Davis kicked it up considerably, averaging 146.9 yards per game in the final seven games. He dipped below the 100-yard mark just once in that span, and his next-lowest outputs were 110 and 139 yards. Davis can flat-out fly, and he showed at times that he can slip though with enough wiggle room or break a tackle here and there. Although Arkansas has a very pass-friendly offense, Davis will be a major part of the Razorbacks' game plan.
  • Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina: Jeffery proved to be the toughest receiver in the country to guard in one-on-one situations. At 6-foot-4, 229 pounds, he's like covering a fast linebacker out there. Jeffery was one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, presented to nation's top receiver, after leading the SEC with 88 receptions for 1,517 yards and nine touchdowns. Coach Steve Spurrier and quarterback Stephen Garcia said the thing that makes Jeffery so good is his ability to catch pretty much anything thrown his way. He has exceptional hands and a very impressive vertical that allows him to manhandle smaller defensive backs.
  • Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina: Well, we have our sophomore from the SEC. I guess we can stop looking now. Lattimore had a monster freshman season. He was third in the league with 1,197 rushing yards and third with 17 rushing touchdowns. He also had 29 receptions for 412 yards and two more scores. Oh, and he was the unanimous choice for National Freshman of the Year and SEC Freshman of the Year, and was a first-team All-SEC member. He bulked up to 231 pounds heading into the spring but cut his 40 time down to 4.5. He wants to pack more of a punch for defenders while keeping his speed, and although boxes are likely to be stacked for him, he has the power and speed to break down defenses, no matter the numbers against him.
  • Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia: Another sophomore makes the list and like Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford before him, he's a quarterback back -- and a darn good one at that. Murray has more touchdown passes from a year ago (24) than any other returning starter in the SEC and passed for a Georgia freshman record 3,049 yards (second in SEC history by a freshman) in 13 starts. He also rushed 87 times for 167 yards and four more scores, giving him the school and conference record for most total offensive yards (3,216) for a freshman. Murray will be without the talents of A.J. Green, but tight end Orson Charles and receiver Tavarres King should provide solid passing targets, plus Murray hopes to get use out of a few younger receivers as well.
  • Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama: Richardson finally takes the reins in Alabama's backfield, and in his first year as a starter, a lot will be expected of him. He has a rare combination of strength and speed, making him a tank of a track athlete. With a young, inexperienced quarterback joining him in the Tide's backfield, Richardson's number will be called on more than maybe Mark Ingram's was. As a backup for two seasons, Richardson rushed for 1,451 yards and 14 touchdowns, and there are people around the program who think Richardson might be a better all-around back than Ingram, who won the Heisman in 2009.

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