SEC: Marlon Davis
The NCAA Committee on Infractions on Thursday placed Alabama's sports teams on three years' probation as a result of its student-athletes improperly obtaining approximately $40,000 worth of textbooks from the school's bookstore.
What does it mean for the Crimson Tide's football program, which is really the only sport that matters to most fans in Tuscaloosa?
Alabama will have to vacate as many as 21 victories from the 2005 through '07 seasons. The NCAA has asked Alabama officials to identify any games in which seven ineligible football players participated during the three-year period.
Five of the players have been identified -- offensive linemen Antoine Caldwell and Marlon Davis, running back Glen Coffee and defensive backs Marquis Johnson and Chris Rogers. The NCAA and Alabama have yet to identify the other two players who were ruled ineligible.
By my calculations, the Crimson Tide might have to vacate 10 victories from the 2005 season (at least one of the ineligible players competed in each of those games), six wins from 2006 and five victories from 2007. Alabama self-reported the violations in 2007 and suspended the aforementioned players. The Tide won't have to vacate their 41-7 victory over Tennessee in 2007 or their 30-24 win over Colorado in the 2007 Independence Bowl, because the ineligible players had already been suspended and reinstated before those contests were played.
What does it all really mean?
Well, remember that 9-0 start during the 2005 season, when the Crimson Tide climbed as high as No. 3 in the Bowl Championship Series standings and when former coach Mike Shula actually looked a little like daddy Don?
It never happened.
Remember Tyrone Prothro's amazing over-the-defender's-back catch against Southern Mississippi in 2005?
You might find it on YouTube, but you probably won't find it in Alabama's 2009 media guide. (I'm sure the home office in Bristol will allow Prothro to keep his ESPY.)
Remember former quarterback John Parker Wilson's 2-yard touchdown pass to fullback Le'Ron McClain, which beat Ole Miss, 26-23, in overtime in 2006?
McClain should have dropped it. In the eyes of the NCAA, it probably didn't happen.
The good news for Tide fans? Alabama won't have to vacate any Iron Bowl victories. The Crimson Tide weren't good enough to beat rival Auburn during the seasons in question.
With one fell swoop, the NCAA is attempting to wipe out three years of Alabama football history.
If only the NCAA would force Alabama to vacate that 21-14 loss to Louisiana-Monroe.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
The most underrated player in the SEC this season?
|AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain|
|Malcolm Sheppard, right, had 16 tackles for loss and led all SEC defensive tackles with 7.5 sacks.|
My pick would be Arkansas junior defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard, who was undersized to be playing tackle in the SEC (277 pounds), but made out just fine.
Sheppard finished second in the league with 16 tackles for loss and led all SEC defensive tackles with 7.5 sacks.
In the Hogs' season-ending 31-30 win over LSU, Sheppard moved outside to end and had 3.5 tackles for loss against the Tigers. He could stay at end next season depending on what his offseason is like. If he can put on some more weight, which hasn't been easy for him over the years, he'll probably stay inside.
If not, he could see his snaps at end increase, particularly if Arkansas can build some depth at tackle.
Either way, look for Sheppard to be one of the SEC's best and most versatile defensive linemen in 2009.
Here's a look at some of the other guys in the league that were underrated this season. They're listed in alphabetical order:
- Georgia sophomore offensive lineman Clint Boling: He started the season at right tackle, moved to right guard for a few games and finished the season at left tackle. Boling's versatility was a big reason the Bulldogs were able to weather so many injuries in the offensive line.
- Auburn sophomore linebacker Josh Bynes: After playing sparingly as a freshman, Bynes stepped in at middle linebacker when Tray Blackmon was lost for the season and led the team with three interceptions and finished fifth with 53 total tackles.
- Alabama senior offensive lineman Marlon Davis: Tackle Andre Smith and center Antoine Caldwell were both All-Americans and received most of the publicity, but Davis was a rock for the Crimson Tide at right guard.
- LSU junior tight end Richard Dickson: The SEC was loaded with talented tight ends, but Dickson was Mr. Dependable for the Tigers. He was third on the team with 27 catches, including four for touchdowns.
- Mississippi State senior linebacker Dominic Douglas: Quick, who led the SEC in tackles this season? That would be Douglas, who moved over to middle linebacker when Jamar Chaney was injured and finished with 116 total tackles.
- Vanderbilt junior safety Ryan Hamilton: He led all SEC defensive backs with 98 total tackles and was second on Vanderbilt's team. Hamilton had three interceptions in the win over Ole Miss, including one he returned 79 yards for a touchdown.
- Kentucky senior linebacker Braxton Kelley: After three years of starting in the middle, Kelley unselfishly moved over to weakside linebacker and ranked among the SEC leaders with 90 total tackles.
- Florida sophomore center Maurkice Pouncey: He started 11 games at right guard as a true freshman, but moved to center this season and solidified the middle of the Gators' offensive line.
- Ole Miss senior safety Jamarca Sanford: One of the strongest leaders on Ole Miss' team, Sanford led the Rebels with 80 total tackles and also forced two fumbles.
- South Carolina junior linebacker Darian Stewart: Playing the "spur" linebacker position in the Gamecocks' 4-2-5 scheme, Stewart did a little bit of everything. He had eight tackles for loss and led the team with eight passes broken up.
- Tennessee senior linebacker Ellix Wilson: In his first full season as a starter, Wilson led the Vols with 89 total tackles from his middle linebacker position and was sixth in the SEC.