SEC: Marlin Lane

SEC lunchtime links

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
12:00
PM ET
Plenty going on as spring practices continue in the SEC. We have pro days, coaching talk, players adapting to new positions and even reality TV news in today's lunch links:

SEC lunchtime links

August, 22, 2013
8/22/13
12:00
PM ET
Kirk Herbstreit is excited about the return of college football. Are you? Read up on the SEC this afternoon and don't miss "The Herbie Awards" tonight at 8 ET on ESPNU.

SEC lunch links

June, 7, 2013
6/07/13
1:16
PM ET
Hitting the links on a Friday, and be sure to watch the debut of Granger Smith’s music video “Silverado Bench Seat”, which features Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, on College Football Live today (ESPNU, 3:30 p.m. ET):
The other day I was asked a question about the SEC that caught me off guard a little.

And no, it wasn't about Bob Stoops or scheduling.

I was asked if the league would be a quarterback or running back league in 2013. Obviously, when you think about the SEC, you think of pound-it-out, grind-it-out football. Games are won and lost in the trenches and running backs are usually a team's most coveted asset. The more the merrier, too.

But the SEC returns some pretty good experience at both positions.

At running back, the SEC will be without four of the league's top 10 rushers -- Eddie Lacy, Mike Gillislee, Zac Stacy and Kendial Lawrence -- from the 2012 season. The SEC will be without three of the top 10 passers -- Tyler Bray, Tyler Wilson and Jordan Rodgers.

Now, my math skills tell me that seven top players at a position is better than six, but the SEC is deep at running back this season. Of the seven top quarterbacks returning, six reached 2,500 passing yards, while only two made it to 3,000 yards -- Aaron Murray and Johnny Manziel. Nine true starters return (Kentucky's Maxwell Smith missed most of last season and ended the spring behind Jalen Whitlow). So five teams are breaking in new starters.

The SEC saw eight running backs hit the 1,000-yard mark last season. There's a chance the league could not only reach that number again but it could eclipse it.

[+] EnlargeT.J. Yeldon
AP Photo/Romeo GuzmanT.J. Yeldon takes over for running back Eddie Lacy as "the guy" for Alabama.
Alabama lost Lacy -- and his 1,322 yards/17 touchdowns -- but rising sophomore T.J. Yeldon appears more than ready to take over as the lead back. He rushed for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns last year, and it sounds like he looked even better as the guy. He'll also have help from fellow sophomore Kenyan Drake, who played in 12 games last year, and Jalston Fowler and Dee Hart, who are both returning from season-ending knee injuries. Remember, Fowler had nearly 400 rushing yards in 2011. True freshman Derrick Henry, who was tearing it up this spring before his leg injury, should help once he's healthy this fall.

Oh, and Alabama will welcome three more backs this summer, including ESPN 150 member Alvn Kamara.

Texas A&M and Florida will also have the luxury of a packed backfield. The Aggies return leading rusher (for a running back) Ben Malena (808 yards), but will also have rising sophomore Trey Williams, and transfers Brandon Williams and Tra Carson. Brandon Williams might be the most talented of the bunch, and none of these guys should get too tired with all those legs to work with.

The Gators lost Gillislee, but sophomore-to-be Matt Jones had an excellent spring. He knew the playbook backward and forward and showed a more physical style. He already has the goal of getting 1,500 yards. But he'll have help from redshirt junior Mack Brown, who had a very solid spring, and freshmen Kelvin Taylor (early enrollee) and Adam Lane. The coaches feel very good about all four contributing a lot this fall.

Georgia is a little thin at running back, but with Gurley and Keith Marshall returning, the Dawgs could have the best running back duo in the SEC -- maybe the country.

Here's a quick look at how other SEC teams currently fare at running back heading into the summer:

Arkansas

The Razorbacks lack experience at the position, but sophomore Jonathan Williams made good strides this spring and looks poised to be the top back. He'll also have incoming freshman Alex Collins to help him this fall.

Auburn

Tre Mason and his 1,000 yards return. He should have even more space to work with in Gus Malzahn's spread, which could spell trouble for defenses. Junior college transfer Cameron Artis-Payne had a solid spring, and Corey Grant returns.

Kentucky

Leading rushers Raymond Sanders (669 yards) and Jonathan George (504 yards) return with two talented youngsters to help out. Dyshawn Mobley had an excellent spring and Josh Clemons is back from a devastating knee injury he suffered in 2011.

LSU

Legal issues have Jeremy Hill's fall status unknown for the fall. If he returns, he gives the Tigers on of the top backs in the league. Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue return, but LSU will be thin at the position without Hill.

Mississippi State

LaDarius Perkins returns after his 1,000-yard season. He's a complete back and can hurt teams running and catching. Josh Robinson returns after a productive year as the backup. Nick Griffin has a ton of skill, but still hasn't reached his potential.

Missouri

Lawrence is gone, but Henry Josey is back and says he's 100 percent after his devastating knee injury in 2011. He was one of the Big 12's best and most explosive running backs before his injury. The Tigers have plenty of bodies at running back and should get good use out of Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough.

Ole Miss

Leading rusher Jeff Scott (846) is back and he'll be working with some solid sophomores in I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton. True freshman Mark Dodson had a productive spring as well. Along with the six returning lettermen, Ole Miss will have three more signees on campus this fall.

South Carolina

Mike Davis isn't trying to be Marcus Lattimore, but he did a good job of taking his spot this spring. The rising sophomore can pound it or break out for that home run play. Brandon Wilds and Shon Carson are back from injuries and ESPN 150 member David Williams will be in town this fall.

Tennessee

Marlin Lane's off-field problems didn't help things this spring, but Butch Jones was very happy with the play of Alden Hill and Rajion Neal this spring. Lane has every chance to come back and if he does the Vols will have a pretty solid three-headed rushing monster.

Vanderbilt

Stacy is gone, but Wesley Tate and Brian Kimbrow had good springs in Nashville. Jerron Seymour gives Vandy another body to use, as well. Tate and Kimbrow both have big-play ability, but they'll have to stay healthy because there isn't a lot of experience behind them.
2012 record: 5-7

2012 conference record: 1-7, (sixth, Eastern Division)
Returning starters: Offense: 5; Defense: 8; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

RB Rajion Neal, RB Marlin Lane, OT Antonio Richardson, OT Ja’Wuan James, LB A.J. Johnson, LB Curt Maggit, S Brian Randolph, S Byron Moore

Key losses

QB Tyler Bray, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, WR Justin Hunter, OG Dallas Thomas, TE Mychal Rivera, DE Darrington Sentimore, LB Herman Lathers, CB Prentiss Waggner

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Rajion Neal* (708 yards)
Passing: Tyler Bray (3,612 yards)
Receiving: Justin Hunter (1,083 yards)
Tackles: A.J. Johnson* (138)
Sacks: Darrington Sentimore (4)
Interceptions: Byron Moore* (5)

Spring answers

1. Buying into the new staff: There are always those awkward first moments with a new coaching staff, but the Vols seemed to go through spring pretty smoothly with new coach Butch Jones and his staff. This team didn’t have time to question Jones and his guys because the program has been trending downward for sometime now. Thanks to Jones, you could tell there was a lot more excitement in Knoxville this spring.

2. Defensive comfort: It looks like Tennessee’s defense adjusted back to a 4-3 defense will this spring. After struggling all year with the SEC’s worst defense in a 3-4 scheme under Sal Sunseri, Vols defenders really took to defensive coordinator John Jancek’s 4-3. With good experience coming back in the front seven, which proved to be a much more aggressive front this spring. If those guys continue to improve, it will help mask some of the issues in the secondary.

3. Sapp's emergence: With Herman Lathers gone, the Vols were in search of a valuable replacement, and it looks like they found it in senior Dontavis Sapp. He entered the spring with just two career starts and was Lathers' backup at the Will spot last year, but was Tennessee's most consistent defender this spring. His development this spring was very important with Curt Maggitt out for the spring while he recovered from the ACL injury he suffered last fall.

Fall questions

1. Quarterback competition: Jones left the spring saying that both Justin Worley and Nathan Peterman were about even for the starting quarterback spot. Worley was a little more consistent this spring and has game experience, but Jones is now putting the team in their hands, as they head into the summer. This competition won’t officially be decided until fall camp, so neither can afford to slip now.

2. Wide receiver issues: The Vols lost 2,914 yards and 26 touchdowns from their top four pass-catchers in 2012. Tennessee is in desperate need of finding quality replacements to help its inexperienced quarterbacks this fall. Pig Howard is expected to make an impact this fall, but struggled this spring. Sophomore Cody Blanc showed good strides, and the staff needs more out of redshirt freshmen Drae Bowles and Jason Croom.

3. Thin secondary: Tennessee still has some work to do in its secondary. Brian Randolph's return will be nice, but the numbers are still thin throughout the defensive backfield, especially at cornerback. Justin Coleman emerged as the Vols' top option at corner, but the spot opposite him still hasn't been determined. Having Eric Gordon away from the team for disciplinary reasons doesn't help, either. There were signs of improvement from the secondary, but it's still very much a work in progress.
Tennessee running back Marlin Lane is still suspended, coach Butch Jones said during Wednesday's SEC coaches teleconference.

"He still remains suspended from all team activities, but we've given him and provided him certain criteria that he has to meet for reinstatement," Jones said. "Is he on that path to doing that? Absolutely."

Lane was suspended this month for disciplinary reasons, but Jones still seems optimistic that Lane, who was second on the team with 658 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per carry in 2012, will return this fall.

"We're just taking it one day at a time with Marlin," Jones said. "He knows what he has to do to be reinstated at this time."

With Lane out for Saturday's spring game, backup running back Alden Hill rushed for a game-high 101 yards, averaging 5.6 yards per carry in the process. Rajion Neal, who led the Vols with 708 rushing yards and five touchdowns last season, registered 34 yards on 11 carries Saturday.

"Alden Hill had a tremendous spring for us," Jones said. "He's one of those individuals who kind of quietly kept getting better and bringing a high level of consistency each and every day. I thought Rajion Neal had a very good spring as well."

Lane was expected to grab a chunk of the carries this fall for a rushing offense that improved solidly from 2011 to 2012. Having a three-headed rushing attack would be huge for Jones in his first year, especially with so much inexperience at quarterback and wide receiver.
An already thin running back stable has taken another hit this spring for Tennessee with the recent absence of junior Marlin Lane for disciplinary reasons.

Lane missed his fourth practice Wednesday morning, but first-year coach Butch Jones said the door remains open for Lane to return to the team, and expressed optimism that he would be back and able to play in the fall.

"He has some criteria that has to be met, and he's meeting that criteria," Jones said. "But as of right now, he's still out."

Lane and senior Rajion Neal were being counted on to handle the bulk of the Vols' rushing duties in 2013. Neal rushed for 708 yards last season and Lane 658 yards. Lane averaged 5.5 yards per carry.

Redshirt freshman Alden Hill has seen his workload increase this spring with Lane suspended. Jones said both Hill and Neal had performed well this spring, but it's obvious the Vols are going to need to build depth at running back.

Neal said he's remained in touch with Lane, who is still on campus.

"I know he's dealing with a sensitive matter," Neal said. "I see him, call him and talk to him. I hope that he gets back quick."

The Vols improved their running game by an average of 60 yards per game last season (160.3 ypg) after finishing 116th nationally in 2011 with an average of 90.1 yards per game.
At this rate, Missouri may go into the summer without knowing for sure who its starting quarterback will be next season.

Senior James Franklin and redshirt freshman Maty Mauk have been battling it out this spring, and there wasn’t any real separation between the two in last Saturday’s scrimmage.

The Tigers’ defense had its way in the scrimmage, and both Franklin and Mauk threw interceptions. They both had some nice throws, too. Franklin saved the best for last and threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Dorial Green-Beckham on Franklin’s last possession of the scrimmage. Mauk threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Lucas.

If you’re looking for a player in the SEC who makes the biggest leap from Year 1 to Year 2, Green-Beckham would be a prime candidate. He caught eight passes for 135 yards in Saturday’s scrimmage and has looked like the game-changer everybody predicted he would be when he signed a year ago with the Tigers as the No. 1-rated prospect in the country.

For more on Missouri’s scrimmage, read here and here.

ALABAMA

Quarterback AJ McCarron and the Alabama defense had its way with a defense that was banged up in last Saturday's scrimmage.

McCarron passed for 319 yards and five touchdown passes. Sophomore receiver Amari Cooper just keeps getting better, which is scary for the defensive backs in this league. He caught four touchdown passes and has five touchdowns and 228 receiving yards in the Crimson Tide's first two scrimmages.

For more on Alabama's scrimmage, read here.

TENNESSEE

The Vols held their final major scrimmage of the spring last Saturday (prior to the Orange and White spring game) and did so without junior running back Marlin Lane.

Coach Butch Jones said Lane's absence was due to "disciplinary reasons." Lane also missed a couple of practices last week. One of those, Jones said, was to deal with an illness in his family. Lane rushed for 658 yards last season and averaged 5.5 yards per carry.

Tennessee is thin at running back, although redshirt freshman Alden Hill had a big scrimmage last Saturday with a couple of touchdowns.

For more on Tennessee's scrimmage, read here and here.

LSU

LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger said the Tigers would take a few more shots down the field under first-year coordinator Cam Cameron, and so far this spring, Mettenberger has put up big numbers throwing the football -- period.

He passed for six touchdowns in Saturday's scrimmage, although the defense was missing several starters -- end Jermauria Rasco, cornerback Jalen Mills and safety Ronald Martin.

Mettenberger threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry and a 36-yard touchdown pass to Odell Beckham, Jr. Also, running back Jeremy Hill gathered in a screen pass from Mettenberger and turned it into a 47-yard touchdown.

For more on LSU's scrimmage, read here and here.

Jay Graham heading to Florida State

February, 25, 2013
2/25/13
1:40
PM ET
Butch Jones' staff at Tennessee got a little smaller on Monday.

Running backs coach and former Vols running back Jay Graham has decided to leave Tennessee and take a job as an offensive assistant at Florida State. Graham's position with the Seminoles hasn't been announced.

Graham arrived at Tennessee in 2012 after spending three seasons coaching South Carolina's running backs. With Graham in control of the Vols' ground game, Tennessee greatly improved when it came to running the ball. After averaging an SEC-low 90.1 rushing yards per game in 2011, the Vols ranked eighth in the league last fall, averaging 160.3 yards per game. Running backs Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane combined for 1,420 rushing yards and seven touchdowns last season.

The loss of Graham is a big hit to Jones' staff. Not only did he do a very good job of restoring some respectability to the Vols' running game last fall but he's a top-notch recruiter. Before he even arrived at Tennessee, Graham made recruiting headlines by helping to get Marcus Lattimore to South Carolina. He then watched over Lattimore as he enjoyed a fabulous freshman campaign in 2010.
Graham was key when it came to recruiting Tennessee's most high-profile signees in the 2013 class. Most notably, he helped bring in wide receivers Marquez North, an ESPN 150 member, Paul Harris, who enrolled early, and quarterback Riley Ferguson.

Graham was the one coach Jones just couldn't afford to lose this early into his Tennessee tenure. Graham was the only coach from Derek Dooley's staff to be retained by Jones, and while he was slated to make $260,000 this year, he would have been the second-lowest paid assistant on Jones' staff. With how much Graham loved his alma mater and working with UT players, chances are that he'll see a significant raise and get more responsibility at Florida State.

Jones wrote on Twitter Monday that the process for finding a new coach was underway, but replacing someone like Graham will be tough for Jones, as he prepares for his first spring as Tennessee's head coach.

Welcome to Knoxville

October, 20, 2012
10/20/12
6:05
PM ET
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Greetings from Neyland Stadium!

The sun isn't really out, but the weather is just about perfect here. Tailgates were going hard for the Third Saturday in October.

Not a lot of people are giving Tennessee a chance in today's matchup with No. 1 Alabama, but don't sleep on the Vols' passing attack. The Tide's secondary came into the season younger and less experienced than last year's unit, and it really hasn't been tested this season. Now, the play up front has been a big reason, but this is easily the best passing game Alabama has faced to this point.

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray is passing for almost 300 yards a game and leads the SEC with 16 touchdown passes. He also has Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson to work with out there. Don't be surprised if he makes a few plays early on this secondary.

The key for Tennessee's offense is balance. If the Vols can't run the ball, Bray won't be able to be as affective throwing the ball against this swarming Alabama defense. That'll be tough for the Vols with running back dealing with an ankle injury. He's been listed as doubtful this whole week and hasn't done much during warmups. That leads Devrin Young and Marlin Lane to carry the load. Young and Lane have combined for 301 rushing yards compared to Lane's 500 on the season.

Alabama hasn't had to be flashy this year, and expect that again tonight. This team feeds off its running game and just pounds teams in the second half. Now, AJ McCarron might have the opportunity to throw it around a bit with Tennessee's defense reeling right now. McCarron has the ability to stretch the field, and he might get to more tonight.

Tennessee coach Derek Dooley will also be coaching down on the field today after hip surgery. He won't be moving around a lot, but he'll be down there.

Lunchtime links

September, 11, 2012
9/11/12
12:35
PM ET
Checking out some links on a Tuesday.

SEC lunch links

September, 4, 2012
9/04/12
12:05
PM ET
Making the SEC rounds on a Tuesday:

SEC power rankings: Week 2

September, 4, 2012
9/04/12
9:00
AM ET
The first weekend of the college football season brought some changes to our power rankings. As we enter Week 2, some teams are trending down, while others are on the up. And some look pretty much like we thought they'd look in their first games.

It's still early, but this weekend could help to better shape the conference race, especially in the SEC East where Florida travels to Texas A&M and Georgia heads to Missouri. Also, keep an eye on Mississippi State's home game with Auburn.

OK, time for the rankings:

1. Alabama (1-0): The Crimson Tide made quite the statement by absolutely dominating No. 8 Michigan inside Cowboys Stadium. The defense, which lost a host of top talent from last year's national championship team, took Denard Robinson out of the game from the start. The offense should be fun to watch this fall with freshman T.J. Yeldon and Eddie Lacy carrying the ball and AJ McCarron throwing to those young, explosive receivers.

2. LSU (1-0): It's not like the Tigers looked bad against overmatched North Texas, but Alabama's performance was just that good. Zach Mettenberger did well in his LSU debut, passing for 192 yards and a touchdown, while running backs Kenny Hilliard (141 yards) and Alfred Blue (123) pounded away at North Texas' defense. The Tigers racked up 508 total yards and limited North Texas to just nine first downs and 219 total yards.

3. Arkansas (1-0): We know Arkansas can score and churn out yards. The Hogs made both of those things look very easy against Jacksonville State, especially quarterback Tyler Wilson, who threw for 367 yards and three touchdowns Saturday. But the defense still has some questions surrounding it, as the Hogs gave up 24 points. The defense settled down the second half and gave up 322 total yards, which was one yard less than the average given up by top 15 teams this weekend.

4. Georgia (1-0): The Bulldogs' defense is obviously hurting without Bacarri Rambo and Alec Ogletree and it showed in the win over Buffalo. There was a lot of give in the pass defense and the Bulldogs struggled stopping quarterback runs. Improving in both of those areas will be crucial heading into the Missouri game. The offense looked pretty good, especially with freshman running back Todd Gurley carrying the ball. He registered 100 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries.

5. South Carolina (1-0): The offense was shaky when it came to throwing the ball, and it certainly wasn't any better after quarterback Connor Shaw went down with that shoulder injury. His health is critical, as there isn't much experience at all behind him. Running back Marcus Lattimore looked solid in his return and was back to his workhorse ways. The defense played well overall, but the secondary still has concerns.

6. Tennessee (1-0): Everything went right for the Vols against NC State. It became blatenly obvious that they have more depth across the board now than they've had during Derek Dooley's tenure. Getting the tough yards running the ball was still an issue at times, but Marlin Lane showed that he might have what it takes to be that explosive running back Tennessee needs. Tyler Bray had no issue throwing the ball with Justin Hunter back and newcomer Cordarrelle Patterson going off.

7. Florida (1-0): There was more bend in Florida's defense than the coaches would like, but it looked like players were more disinterested than anything else. Expect a little more enthusiasm from that group this week. The offense, however, has major work to do. Mike Gillislee can run, but the passing game was nonexistent. Jeff Driskel was named the starting quarterback and the Gators should open things up more this weekend at Texas A&M, but it'll be a tough road game.

8. Mississippi State (1-0): The Bulldogs were pretty balanced on offense against Jackson State, getting 193 passing yards and 202 rushing yards in their 56-9 win. The Bulldogs have a major test this Saturday with Auburn coming to town. Dan Mullen has yet to win a game in the West against someone not named Ole Miss. This game could go a long way to shaping the Bulldogs' season, kind of like last year's game at Auburn.

9. Missouri (1-0): The Tigers might not have all the size that other SEC teams possess, but this team showed it has some quality speed -- and some quality playmakers. The defense displayed some grit as well, forcing four turnovers in the blowout win over Southeastern Louisiana. But the real test is this weekend with Georgia coming to town. We'll see that high-flying spread offense battle one of the SEC's top defenses. Should be fun.

10. Texas A&M (0-0): The Aggies had their opener with Louisiana Tech postponed because of Hurricane Isaac. That gave Texas A&M a couple more days to game plan for Florida, but all the kinks and mistakes that you'd like to get out of the way early will now come in the Aggies' SEC opener against Florida. The Gators might not have much offense, but expect that defense to put a lot of pressure on first-year starting quarterback Johnny Manziel.

11. Auburn (0-1): These Tigers have clearly improved on defense under Brian VanGorder, but their "tackling" in Week 1 was ugly. Just ask Clemson running back Andre Ellington, who rushed for 231 yards in the win over Auburn Saturday. Kiehl Frazier looked more comfortable throwing the ball, and Auburn has a solid rushing tandem in Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb, but offensive efficiency has to improve. Auburn settled for too many field goals Saturday.

12. Vanderbilt (0-1): Thursday's loss to South Carolina was tough for this team to swallow. The swagger and talent is there in Nashville, but the little things that have plagued this program continue. Still, you can tell that with the offensive weapons and a hungry defense, this team has what it takes to beat one of the top teams in the SEC East. A trip to Northwestern this weekend is a must-win for the Commodores as far as confidence and making a bowl are concerned.

13. Ole Miss (1-0): The Rebels ended a seven-game losing streak dating back to last season in Hugh Freeze's debut. For the first time in a long time, Ole Miss' offense showed up, as the Rebels registered 565 yards of offense against Central Arkansas. Quarterback Bo Wallace also had a tremendous debut for the Rebels, with his 264 passing yards and 82 rushing yards. UTEP provides a bigger test, as the Rebels look for their first two-game winning streak since September 2010.

14. Kentucky (0-1): Not a lot went right for the Wildcats in their loss to Louisville. The offense moved the ball through the air at times, but couldn't make plays when it had to and rushed for just 93 yards. The defense was gutted up front, as two of Louisville's backs rushed for more than 100 yards. As far as making it back to the postseason, this was a game that Joker Phillips' team had to have. Line work on both sides has to get better if Kentucky is going to improve on last year's 5-7 season.

Tennessee finds toughness and depth

September, 1, 2012
9/01/12
1:50
AM ET


ATLANTA -- By the time the first quarter finally came to an end Friday night, Derek Dooley thought it was halftime.

The quarter, which lasted more than an hour and a half, was that long and that exhausting for Tennessee’s coach.

That type of fatigue from a coach usually means his team is just as tired, or worse. But not Friday.

For a team that could barely make it through a full game in 2011, Tennessee pushed through like Dooley had never seen, and the Vols cruised to a 35-21 victory over NC State in Game 1 of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff inside the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

A first quarter such as Friday’s would have sent last season’s Vols into rollover mode, but this team was different. After jumping ahead 22-7 in the first quarter, Tennessee was able to hold on to and build on its lead in front of the announced crowd of 55,529.

Even when the mistakes came and NC State cut Tennessee’s lead to eight before halftime, the Vols rallied to control the second half, thanks to some grit and some much-needed depth.

“That was a good step for our team,” Dooley said. “I said this at the beginning of the year: We’re going to have to learn how to grit through four quarters of football. We’re going to be in a lot of games this year, and that was a good start. I was proud of them.”

The first quarter was full of explosive plays from the Vols and featured a stretch in which they scored 16 points in 38 seconds. But the second was sloppy. NC State rushed back with a 67-yard touchdown drive, while Tennessee punted twice and saw its final drive end with quarterback Tyler Bray fumbling at the goal line on a quarterback sneak.

You could feel the momentum shift as both teams went into the locker rooms, but Tennessee adjusted, physically and mentally.

The staff rotated bodies all night to keep guys fresh, and it showed in the second half. The offensive line saw seven to maybe eight players get in. Three running backs played, with third-teamer Marlin Lane leading all ball carriers with 75 yards, including a long of 42, on nine attempts.

Tennessee threw as many defenders as it could out on the field, not just to keep guys fresh but because it had the bodies and talent to do it. For once in Dooley’s Tennessee life, depth wasn’t an issue, and it powered the Vols in the second half.

[+] EnlargeMarlin Lane
Daniel Shirey/US PresswireMarlin Lane had nine carries for 75 yards in Tennessee's win over NC State.
Wide receiver Justin Hunter, who played in his first game since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament early last season, said he hadn’t seen a Tennessee team play like the Vols did in the second half.

“Playing for 60 minutes was a problem that we used to have in the past,” said Hunter, who caught a game-high nine passes and had 73 receiving yards. “For us to come out here in a big environment and play for 60 minutes like this, I think we did great.”

Just look at third downs. Tennessee was 3-of-9 on them in the first half but was 6-of-10 in the second. That’s how you win games and that’s how you tire out opponents.

“Rotating running backs, linemen and receivers is going to keep fresh legs,” Lane said. “With this fast-paced offense, we’re going to keep wearing defenses down. With fresh legs on the field and a tired defense, it’s going to be [some] pretty great offensive drives that we can sustain.”

It also helps when you have a thoroughbred alongside Hunter at receiver. Junior-college transfer Cordarrelle Patterson more than made up for the loss of Da’Rick Rogers by having a true breakout game. He absolutely burned All-American corner David Amerson on a bump-and-go for his first touchdown -- a 41-yarder -- and shook/sprinted past the entire Wolfpack defense on a 67-yard touchdown run.

He finished the night with 165 total yards and two touchdowns on eight touches. Quite the opening night for someone Dooley didn’t think totally grasped the playbook.

“I’m not sure he ran the right route,” Dooley said. “That’s the beauty of Bray: He don’t care; he’s gonna let it fly. That pretty much summed it up. Run the wrong route, Bray rewards him, touchdown.”

But somehow he found a way, just like the rest of Dooley’s football team Friday. And when Patterson was shut down in the second half, the Vols tried to grind it out or Bray found other targets. There always seemed to be options.

The defense did its job by abusing the Wolfpack up front, with its revamped -- and much more intimidating -- image. As the Vols pressed, NC State quarterback Mike Glennon flinched and threw his way to three second-half interceptions.

It seemed like every other play, someone else -- starter or not -- was making a big play on defense for the Vols.

Tennessee wasn’t perfect but it was solid. Now, it’s time to build off Friday’s transformation.

“It’s one game,” Dooley said. “All that matters is we’re 1-0. We have to go clean up a ton of mistakes and go on to the next week and get focused on the next week. It really doesn’t mean anything other than we won the first game.”
Depth charts for all 14 SEC teams are out, so let's take a look at them.

I'll handle the Eastern Division, while Chris takes a look at the West later today.

I've added some notes of my own for each team:

FLORIDA

Depth chart
  • The first thing you notice is that "Or" comes up a few times. The quarterback spot is still up for grabs, as sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel will play by quarters against Bowling Green Saturday. The "X" receiver spot has three names by it with Frankie Hammond, Latroy Pittman and Andre Debose competing for that spot. Everyone is still waiting for Debose to be more of a complete player.
  • Both corner spots might appear to be up for grabs, but it would be a shocker if sophomores Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy didn't start. Roberson has the talent to be an All-SEC player at some point, while the staff thinks Purifoy is an extremely athletic player. Also, seeing Antonio Morrison behind Jelani Jenkins is impressive. He's been solid since arriving this spring.
  • You don't see De'Ante Saunders on there at free safety. Will Muschamp said he's battling a hamstring injury and will be out two weeks. Corner Jeremy Brown is also battling a wrist injury and isn't on the two-deep, either.
GEORGIA

Depth chart (Page 2)
  • It's hard to say how much we can really make of Georgia's depth chart. Bacarri Rambo and Alec Ogletree are both listed as starters. Rambo and Ogletree could still sit out a couple of games due to their reported failed drug tests this spring and Mark Richt hasn't said if either will play Saturday.
  • Malcolm Mitchell is listed as a starter at cornerback, opposite Branden Smith, and is a third-team receiver. That sounds about right, as Mitchell has primarily played corners since the spring. He has taken some reps on offense, so you might see him on both sides of the ball Saturday.
  • Two guys to keep an eye on are center David Andrews and outside linebacker Ramik Wilson. Andrews might be the key to the offensive line. He has done very well at center and there was some worry that he might not be cut out of the position. If he had to move this line might have been in disarray. Wilson received a lot of praise from his teammates this spring and he continued to show out this fall. He won't outshine Jarvis Jones this fall, but he'll cause a stir on defense.
KENTUCKY

Depth chart
  • You can tell that the Wildcats aren't afraid to throw out some younger players this fall. Kentucky has 24 sophomores, redshirt freshmen or true freshmen listed on its two-deep for Saturday. That's a lot, especially for a team that is looking to revamp both sides of the ball. There could be a lot of growing pains for this team early.
  • Sophomore receiver Demarco Robinson and redshirt freshman receiver Daryl Collins might be currently listed as backups for the Cats, but don't let that fool you. Both have been very impressive since the spring and both will get plenty of chances to see the field Saturday. Having three senior starters at wide receiver will help bring those two along, but I expect them to breakthrough eventually.
  • You won't see sophomore Josh Clemons listed on the two-deep at running back, as he's out after his knee was cleaned up. CoShik Williams and Raymond Sanders are listed as co-starters. I'm also curious to see what happens at linebacker. Four new starters are in and there were questions surrounding the weakside position. Former quarterback Tyler Brause moved ahead of Malcolm McDuffen, who exited spring as a starter. Joker Phillips has said this will be a day-to-day competition.
MISSOURI

Depth chart
  • The Tigers enter Week 1 against Southeastern Louisiana pretty banged up, especially on the offensive line. Potential starting guards Jack Meiners (knee) and Travis Ruth (triceps) are both out with injuries, and so is backup right tackle Taylor Chappell, who tore the ACL in his left knee and is out for the season. Starting corner Kip Edwards and projected starting free safety Braylon Webb are listed as doubtful with knee injuries. It's probably best to rest these guys if they could aggravate their injuries before the Georgia game next week.
  • Gary Pinkel also announced on Monday that running back Henry Josey is out for the season. He hasn't recovered from his devastating knee injury, but this was no surprise at all.
  • Some good news is that four starters -- linebacker Will Ebner, nose guard Matt Hoch, wide receiver L'Damian Washington and tight end Eric Waters -- made the two-deep after they were held out of last week's scrimmage. Listed behind Waters at the tight end/"Y" receiver spot is freshman Dorial Green-Beckham. Missouri wants to use him both inside and out, so expect him to move around Saturday.
  • Sophomore Kony Ealy and junior Michael Sam are listed as the starting defensive ends, with senior Brad Madison behind Sam. Madison's shoulder has healed, but maybe it says more about how far the others have come. Madison should still get solid reps, but keep an eye on Ealy. He has breakout potential.
SOUTH CAROLINA

Depth chart
  • The first thing that stands out to me is that top signee Shaq Roland is listed as a third-team wide receiver behind Ace Sanders and DeAngelo Smith. It might say more about how the others have done, but Roland is someone this staff has been very excited about and hopes he can make an instant impact on offense. He isn't taking Sanders' spot, but he'll get on the field.
  • That secondary looks pretty green without Akeem Auguste in it. He's out after tearing a muscle in his right thigh, meaning junior Jimmy Legree, who moved from safety this spring will get the start against Vanderbilt Thursday. Legree began last season as a starter, but lost his spot after struggling during the first two games. First-time starter Victor Hampton is at the other corner spot. He's unproven, but the staff is excited about his talent and athleticism.
  • Freshman tight end Jerell Adams might be listed as a second-teamer, but the coaches have been very impressed by him this fall and he'll have every chance to get some solid playing time early.
TENNESSEE

Depth chart
  • Junior Rajion Neal did a good job of staying ahead in the running back race. After an impressive spring, he will enter Friday's opener against NC State as the Vols' starter. He edged out Devrin Young and Marlin Lane, who both made good strides this spring. He has a lot of pressure to deal with, as Tennessee was awful running that ball in 2011.
  • Tennessee is hoping to get much more out of its defensive line this fall and junior college transfers Daniel McCullers and Darrington Sentimore could be the answers. Both came in with a ton of hype and snatched starting spots at nose guard and end, respectively. McCullers' arrival moved Maurice Couch from tackle to end. Derek Dooley has said the line is still a work in progress, but a lot is expected from Sentimore and McCullers.
  • Byron Moore and Brent Brewer are listed as co-starters right now, but Moore let it slip last week that he was named the starter. This could be another position that won't be settled right away. The secondary will get a nice test against the Wolfpack, so that could make things clearer for Week 2.
VANDERBILT

Depth chart
  • Redshirt junior Warren Norman is back, but he might have to wait his turn for reps. He's listed on Vandy's second team, but Zac Stacy and Jerron Seymour are on the first team. If the Commodores line up with two backs Seymour could be out there before Norman, who is coming back from a knee injury that sidelined him for all of 2011.
  • The defensive side has a few guys who were banged up listed as starters. Inside linebacker Chase Garnham was limited during fall camp, but he's set to start Thursday against South Carolina. So are defensive tackles Rob Lohr and Colt Nichter.
  • Looking at that offensive line, you'll see nothing but underclassmen on the second team. While that's a good sign for the future, it could be worrisome for this staff if a starter goes down this fall. Staying healthy up front is critical for this team.

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