SEC: Melvin Ingram

Porous UGA line now must face Clowney

September, 2, 2013
9/02/13
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ATHENS, Ga. -- While it might seem odd to criticize an offensive line that helped Georgia generate 545 yards -- on the road in one of the louder stadiums the Bulldogs will visit this season, no less -- it is clear that offensive line coach Will Friend has not settled on a lineup that he loves after Saturday’s 38-35 loss to Clemson.

With Jadeveon Clowney and South Carolina’s fearsome defensive front on deck Saturday, that is not a particularly encouraging sign for the Bulldogs. But Georgia’s linemen realize they can’t allow themselves to think that way.

[+] EnlargeClowney
Gerry Melendez/Getty ImagesJadeveon Clowney was unimpressive against North Carolina, but he has starred against Georgia.
“If you take that aspect of it, then you’re just going to psyche yourself out,” said offensive tackle Kolton Houston, who started his first college game at right tackle on Saturday. “You’ve got to give him credit. I mean Clowney’s definitely one of the best players there is, but at the end of the day, you’ve just got to treat it like any other guy.”

Such a philosophy might not be particularly useful for Georgia’s coaching staff, which knows it must frequently commit more than one blocker to Clowney -- a player widely viewed as one of the top pro prospects in college football.

Clowney got off to an unimpressive start in last Thursday’s win against North Carolina, but he has made his impression felt in two games against Georgia to date.

As a freshman in 2011, he twice sacked Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray and forced Murray into a fumble that teammate Melvin Ingram recovered for the win-clinching touchdown late in a 45-42 South Carolina victory. Last season, Clowney had two tackles for a loss and a sack as the Gamecocks harassed Murray into the lowest single-game QBR (8.4, when his season average was 78.2, 13th-best in the nation) of his college career.

“Whatever happened last year is last year,” said Georgia’s Kenarious Gates, who struggled mightily against Clowney a season ago. “The thing about me is I learned to move on and focus on what’s ahead of me.”

What’s ahead is a chance for redemption, not just for Gates, but for an entire offensive line that turned in an embarrassing effort in last season’s 35-7 loss to the Gamecocks. But it’s unclear who will line up on the edge to defend against Clowney, Chaz Sutton and South Carolina’s other pass rushers.

Friend experimented with several lineups in Saturday’s opener, to mixed results at best. While Georgia generated more first downs, rushing yards and passing yards, averaged more yards per play and led in time of possession, the line also committed a handful of costly penalties and surrendered four sacks -- more than in any game last year except one, when they allowed five to Ole Miss.

Three of those sacks came in the second quarter, when Clemson’s defense put the clamps on a Georgia offense that moved the ball at will early in the game. Tigers defensive end Vic Beasley zipped around flailing left tackle Gates on one third-down rush to nearly decapitate Murray with a vicious blind-side blow that forced a punt.

On Georgia’s next possession, Stephone Anthony got around right tackle Houston and knocked the ball away from Murray at the Bulldogs’ 20-yard line, forcing a fumble that Clemson’s Spencer Shuey recovered at the 16 to set up a short touchdown drive.

And on the final possession of the first half, Tavaris Barnes blew past Houston -- now playing left tackle -- to take down Murray near midfield and short-circuit Georgia’s attempt to drive for the go-ahead points just before halftime.

Clemson added one more sack on Georgia’s first possession of the second half and the Bulldogs otherwise kept Murray upright. Some key damage had already been done, however, and Georgia’s offense never regained its early momentum.

“We definitely had our ups and downs, but at the end of the day it’s a loss and Aaron got his jersey dirty,” Houston said.

Gates lost weight in the offseason, partially out of a desire to be quicker on his feet so he could more easily contend with speed rushers like Beasley and Clowney.

“I felt like that would make me a better player -- lighter on my feet and quicker and it’s lighter on my knees, as well,” Gates said last week. “I feel like doing it for me, doing it for the team, it would make me a more athletic player. I want to be that guy, and overall it’s been helpful.”

Clowney presents the biggest challenge of the season for Georgia’s pass protectors, though, and it seems unlikely that Friend and Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo will make one player responsible for the Gamecocks star. Count on Georgia to devote tight ends and running backs to Clowney’s side, as well, to assist the tackles against the player who totaled 23.5 tackles for a loss and 13 sacks a season ago.

And as Bulldogs coach Mark Richt pointed out, the Bulldogs will also enjoy the benefit of playing at home, unlike in Saturday’s loss. Georgia relied on silent snap counts because of the noise present in Death Valley, but the friendly confines of Sanford Stadium will allow the Bulldogs to vary their cadences and prevent Clowney and company from jumping the snap count so easily.

“I think the times we got beat in my opinion, we just got beat off the snap,” Richt said. “We’ll have our cadence next week and that will help. If we were at South Carolina, it would be a little bit tougher, but I think it will help when we get off on the cadence.”
The oldest cliché in football is that you win up front.

The more I watch the sport, especially in this league, the more I’m convinced that it’s not just a cliché.

I went back and looked at which schools in the SEC had produced the most offensive and defensive linemen to be selected in the top three rounds of the NFL draft over the past five years.

Any guesses which school topped that list?

Not surprisingly, Alabama and Florida tied with six apiece.

[+] EnlargeTyson Jackson
AP Photo/Butch DillDominant linemen like Tyson Jackson (LSU), chosen third overall in the 2009 NFL draft, have long been a key ingredient on the SEC's best teams.
The Crimson Tide have had four offensive linemen and two defensive linemen taken in the top three rounds of the draft over the past five years. That doesn’t include Courtney Upshaw, who was an outside linebacker in the Tide’s 3-4 scheme and was drafted at the top of the second round last year.

The Gators have had three offensive linemen and three defensive linemen go in the top three rounds.

Right behind Alabama and Florida (surprise, surprise) was LSU with five.

In fourth place was Auburn with four.

And with those four schools, you have the past seven national champions.

Every SEC school but Texas A&M has had at least one offensive or defensive lineman go in the top three rounds dating to the 2008 draft. Von Miller went No. 2 overall in the 2011 draft, but he was an outside linebacker.

Not since Chris Ruhman went in the second round of the 1998 draft have the Aggies had an offensive or defensive lineman drafted in the first two rounds. That’s getting ready to change, because offensive tackle Luke Joeckel is being projected as a top 5 pick in the 2013 draft, and defensive end Damontre Moore could also go in the first round.

In addition to Texas A&M, Arkansas, Georgia and Kentucky are the only other schools in the league that haven’t produced a first-round selection in the offensive or defensive line over the past five years.

LSU leads the SEC with the most first-round defensive linemen over the past five years with three -- Michael Brockers in 2012, Tyson Jackson in 2009, and Glenn Dorsey in 2008.

South Carolina has put together its best run in school history despite producing very few premium draft selections up front. Defensive end Melvin Ingram went in the first round last year, and is the only offensive or defensive lineman for the Gamecocks to go in the top three rounds over the past five years.

South Carolina hasn’t had an offensive lineman go in the first or second round of the draft since Ernest Dye was taken in the first round in 1993.

LSU is the only school in the league to have produced an offensive or defensive lineman that was taken in the first four rounds each of the past five years.

Mississippi State had defensive tackle Fletcher Cox go in the first round last year, and offensive tackle Derek Sherrod go in the first round in 2011. Prior to that two-year run, the last offensive or defensive lineman from Mississippi State to go in the first round was defensive end Glen Collins in 1982.

Tennessee has gone five straight years without an offensive lineman being selected in the first three rounds of the draft. The Vols haven’t had an offensive lineman go in the first round since tackles Charles McRae and Antone Davis went Nos. 7 and 8 overall in the 1991 draft.

Below is a listing for each SEC school of the offensive and defensive linemen selected in the top three rounds of the draft over the past five years:

  • Alabama: 6 (Four OL, Two DL. Three first-rounders)
  • Florida: 6 (Three OL, Three DL. Three first-rounders)
  • LSU: 5 (One OL, Four DL. Three first-rounders)
  • Auburn: 4 (No OL, Four DL. One first-rounder)
  • Ole Miss: 3 (Two OL, One DL. Two first-rounders)
  • Arkansas: 2 (No OL, Two DL. No first-rounders)
  • Georgia: 2 (One OL, One DL. No first-rounders)
  • Kentucky: 2 (No OL, Two DL. No first-rounders)
  • Mississippi State: 2 (One OL, One DL. Two first-rounders)
  • Missouri: 2 (No OL, Two DL. Two first-rounders)
  • Tennessee: 2 (No OL, Two DL. Two first-rounders)
  • South Carolina: 1 (No OL, One DL. One first-rounder)
  • Vanderbilt: 1 (One OL, no DL. One first-rounder)

South Carolina spring wrap

May, 15, 2012
5/15/12
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2011 record: 11-2
2011 conference record: 6-2

Returning starters: Offense: 7; defense: 6; kicker/punter: 0

Top returners:
WR Ace Sanders, OG A.J. Cann, QB Connor Shaw, RB Marcus Lattimore, CB Akeem Auguste, DE Jadeveon Clowney, DE Devin Taylor, DT Kelcy Quarles, LB Shaq Wilson, Spur DeVonte Holloman, S D.J. Swearinger

Key losses:
WR Alshon Jeffery, OT Rokevious Watkins, OG Terrence Campbell, Spur Antonio Allen, DE Melvin Ingram, CB Stephon Gilmore, DT Travian Robertson

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Marcus Lattimore* (818 yards)
Passing: Connor Shaw* (1,448 yards)
Receiving: Alshon Jeffery (762 yards)
Tackles: Antonio Allen (88)
Sacks: Melvin Ingram (10)
Interceptions: Stephon Gilmore (4)

Spring answers

1. Shaw's development: The goal for quarterback Connor Shaw this spring was to work on the passing part of the position. The run-first quarterback showed flashes of transformation in his mindset toward the end of last season and it bled over to this year. He seems to be more confident in his passing and that will go a long way for the Gamecocks offense, as the downfield passing game was missing for most of South Carolina's season in 2011.

2. Running back depth: With Lattimore sitting out the spring, South Carolina turned to reserves Brandon Wilds and Kenny Miles. Both performed well, but Miles was named the offensive player of the spring. He wrestled with returning to the Gamecocks, and still seems to be creating some drama about his return this fall, but if he comes back he'll be the No. 2 back. Miles made major strides in his game and his return would mean South Carolina has some insurance at running back if Lattimore struggles. Even if he returns at full health, having Miles there will give the Gamecocks a solid option to keep Lattimore fresh.

3. Shell's development: South Carolina's coaches were anxious to see what redshirt freshman Brandon Shell could do and he didn't disappoint. He ended spring as the starter at left tackle -- the same position that Rokevious Watkins manned last season. The Gamecocks lost two starters along the offensive line, but Shell provided a nice spark at the most important position along the line.

Fall questions

1. Lattimore's health: While word out of South Carolina's camp is that Lattimore was ahead of schedule with his knee rehab, it's still unknown if he will be back to his old self. It's hard to believe that anyone could come back from an ACL injury in this amount of time and be as effective and as good as Lattimore was, but his coaches think he can do just that. Until we see him play, there will still be some uncertainty. A healthy Lattimore makes this an SEC contender and maybe more.

2. Secondary: South Carolina has veterans Akeem Auguste and D.J. Swearinger returning in its defensive backfield, but both dealt with injuries in the spring and the Gamecocks must replace three of its top four cornerbacks from last season. The injuries gave young guys the opportunity to get more reps, but questions still remain. Victor Hampton, listed as a starter, might be South Carolina's most athletic returning corner, but he has limited experience and a history of off-field issues. Brison Williams should enter the fall as a starter at strong safety, but has just one career start. He's one of two players at strong safety with game experience. Jimmy Legree and Cadarious Sanders are the only other corners with game experience. Expect redshirt freshman Ahmad Christian to compete for time as well.

3. Wide receiver: The Gamecocks will start the summer still wondering about the wide receiver position. Ace Sanders returns as the team's most productive receiver, but after that there isn't a lot of production. The good news was that Bruce Ellington returned to football this spring, but the bad news is that even with him back, Sanders is still the only receiver returning with 20 or more catches (29). Speedster Damiere Byrd showed progress and the coaches expect to get more from D.L. Moore, but the position is still a mystery. Incoming freshman Shaq Roland will be relied on a lot when he reports in the summer.

SEC lunch links

April, 27, 2012
4/27/12
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It's Friday, and we've got your links:

Recapping the first round for the SEC

April, 27, 2012
4/27/12
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The SEC had nine players selected in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft on Thursday night, which led all conferences. The Big 12 was second with five first-rounders.

It was the sixth year in a row and eighth in the past 10 years that the SEC has had multiple selections in the top seven picks of the draft. It was the second year in a row that the SEC has had six of the top 14 selections in the draft. Eight of the nine selections from the SEC were defensive players.

Alabama had four players taken in the first round, giving the Crimson Tide 11 first-rounders in the past four years.

Even more remarkably, that gives Alabama coach Nick Saban 19 players that he has recruited and signed in his 10 seasons as an SEC head coach who’ve gone on to become first-round NFL draft choices. Saban was responsible for signing all nine of LSU’s first-round selections from 2004-09, and he signed 10 of Alabama’s 11 first-rounders over the past three years.

South Carolina had two players go in the first round -- cornerback Stephon Gilmore and defensive end Melvin Ingram -- for the first time in more than 30 years. In the 1981 draft, running back George Rogers went No. 1 overall and tight end Willie Scott No. 14 overall.

Mississippi State produced a first-rounder -- defensive tackle Fletcher Cox -- for the second year in a row. Offensive tackle Derek Sherrod also went in the first round last year. The Bulldogs had gone 14 years without a first-rounder until Sherrod was taken with the 32nd pick overall last year.

Here's a quick review from Thursday's first round:

No. 3: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama to the Cleveland Browns

Todd McShay video analysis here.

No. 6: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU to the Dallas Cowboys

Todd McShay video analysis here.

No. 7: Mark Barron, S, Alabama to the Tampa Bay Bucs

Todd McShay video analysis here.

No. 10: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina to the Buffalo Bills

Todd McShay video analysis here.

No. 12: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State to the Philadelphia Eagles

Todd McShay video analysis here.

No. 14: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU to the St. Louis Rams

Todd McShay video analysis here.

No. 17: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama to the Cincinnati Bengals

Todd McShay video analysis here.

No. 18: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina to the San Diego Chargers

Todd McShay video analysis here.

No. 25: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama to the New England Patriots

Todd McShay video analysis here.
It’s always a lot of fun to see how the top NFL draft picks were rated coming out of high school.

Of the 12 SEC players pegged to go in the first round Thursday night, eight were unranked nationally in the ESPN 150 when they were going through the recruiting process in high school.

The highest-ranked player was Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, who was the No. 4 overall prospect in the 2009 class and the No. 1 cornerback prospect.

That same year, Alabama running back Trent Richardson was the No. 6 overall prospect and the No. 1 running back.

The lowest rated of the SEC’s prospective first-round draft picks was Georgia offensive tackle Cordy Glenn. He was the No. 74 offensive tackle prospect nationally in the 2008 class.

Here’s a breakdown of all 12 players, including where they’re projected to go in the first round by Mel Kiper, their national rank by ESPN coming out of high school, their position rank, their grade and where they’re from.

Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (No. 5 to the Bucs): No. 6 overall in class of 2009, No. 1 running back, No. 2 in Florida behind defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel, who signed with FSU. Grade 91. Pensacola, Fla.

Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU (No. 6 to the Rams): Unranked nationally in ESPN 150 in 2008, No. 26 athlete. Grade 80. Shreveport, La.

Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State (No. 7 to the Jaguars): Unranked nationally in class of 2009. No. 36 defensive end. Grade 78. Yazoo City, Miss.

Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina (No. 10 to the Bills): No. 18 overall in class of 2009, No. 2 safety. Grade 85. Rock Hill, S.C.

Mark Barron, S, Alabama (No. 11 to the Chiefs): Unranked nationally in ESPN 150 in 2008, No. 19 athlete. Grade 80. Mobile, Ala.

Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina (No. 12 to the Seahawks): Unranked nationally in ESPN 150 in 2007, No. 12 inside linebacker. Grade 78. Rockingham, N.C.

Michael Brockers, DT, LSU (No. 15 to the Eagles): Unranked nationally in class of 2009. No. 24 defensive end. Grade 79. Houston, Texas

Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama (No. 17 to the Bengals): No. 4 overall in class of 2009, No. 1 cornerback. Grade 92. Gadsden, Ala.

Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia (No. 21 to Bengals): Unranked nationally in class of 2008, No. 74 offensive tackle. Grade 74. Riverdale, Ga.

Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama (No. 27 to the Patriots): No. 29 overall in class of 2008, No. 4 defensive end. Grade 83. Eufaula, Ala.

Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama (No. 29 to the Ravens): Unranked nationally in class of 2008. No. 26 defensive end. Grade 79. Lewisburg, Tenn.

Bobby Massie, OT, Ole Miss (No. 32 to the Giants): Unranked nationally in class of 2008, No. 34 offensive tackle. Grade 78. Lynchburg, Va.

Final NFL mock drafts

April, 26, 2012
4/26/12
10:00
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With this year's NFL draft only a few hours away, it's time to see when and where the experts have last year's top college football players going.

ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper's final mock draft Insider only covers the first round, while Todd McShay's mock draft Insider takes us through all seven rounds. Kiper has 12 SEC players (13 if you count Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill) going in the first round. If 12 SEC players are drafted in Thursday's first round, it will set a conference record. The current record is 11, set in 2007.

McShay has 11 SEC players going in the first round. The only player difference between the two is that Kiper has Ole Miss offensive tackle Bobby Massie going No. 32 to the New York Giants. McShay doesn't have Massie getting drafted until the second round.

McShay predicts that more than 40 SEC players will be drafted this year.

Here's a look at Kiper's first round, and a little analysis of each SEC pick:
  • No. 3 to the Minnesota Vikings -- Morris Claiborne, S, LSU: "The Vikings could target the offensive line, as we've had them pegged throughout this process, or they could trade down. But my hunch for now says they'll go with Claiborne, the gifted corner out of LSU. It's a need spot, and if they can't get a deal done to move down (I believe that's their preferred route), he fits."
  • No. 4 to the Cleveland Browns -- Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama: "The Browns are in serious need of help on offense, and given that they have some talent along the offensive line, Richardson can be successful early and take a lot of pressure off the quarterback."
  • No. 7 to the Philadelphia Eages (from Jacksonville) -- Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State: "In this scenario, the Eagles move up to get a defensive tackle they covet, and Jacksonville gets to move down, because it can't maximize value for a top need here."
  • No. 8 to the Miami Dolphins -- Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M: "This really is the best setting for Tannehill, too. We know Miami lacks a long-range plan at quarterback, and while Tannehill isn't an immediate starter, you take him for the promise."
  • No. 13 to the Arizona Cardinals -- Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina: "Arizona won't pass on a guy many consider the best sack artist in the draft."
  • No. 14 to the Dallas Cowboys -- Mark Barron, S, Alabama: "Dallas has been aggressive in targeting the secondary in free agency, and Barron is another big upgrade to what was a really weak unit in 2011."
  • No. 15 to the Jacksonville Jaguars (from Philadelphia) -- Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina: "Gilmore is capable of coming in and starting right away, and the Jags were simply decimated in the secondary last season."
  • No. 17 to the Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland) -- Cordy Glenn, OL, Georgia: "A huge body, he'll knock people back in the run game, and he has the feet to pull and line up linebackers on the second level."
  • No. 20 to the Tennessee Titans -- Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama: "The Titans lost their top cover corner in free agency, and Kirkpatrick has the talent and experience to contribute right away."
  • No. 25 to the Denver Broncos -- Michael Brockers, DT, LSU: "Denver needs to strengthen the inside to complement a solid group of pass-rushers."
  • No. 27 to the New England Patriots (from New Orleans) -- Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama: "What he can do is immediately help a defense with his skills as a pass-rusher and his willingness to use leverage and vision to do damage against the run."
  • No. 29 to the Baltimore Ravens -- Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama: "He is a potentially dominant interior linebacker and has been well-schooled."
  • No. 32 to the New York Giants -- Bobby Massie, OT, Ole Miss: "Massie could actually go much higher, perhaps as high as Detroit at No. 23, so he's a solid value here."
McShay's first round:
  • No. 3 to the Vikings: Claiborne
  • No. 4 to the Brown: Richardson
  • No. 8 to the Dolphins: Tannehill
  • No. 9 to the Carolina Panthers: Gilmore
  • No. 14 to the Cowboys: Barron
  • No. 15 to the Eagles: Cox
  • No. 16 to the New York Jets: Ingram
  • No. 17 to the Bengals: Brockers
  • No. 20 to the Titans: Kirkpatrick
  • No. 22 to the Browns: Glenn
  • No. 24 to the Pittsburgh Steelers: Hightower
  • No. 29 to the Ravens: Upshaw

Big draft looming for the SEC

April, 26, 2012
4/26/12
9:25
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It could be a record haul tonight in the NFL draft for the SEC.

As many as 12 players from the SEC are being projected to go in the first round, which will be carried live tonight on ESPN starting at 8 p.m. ET. Rounds 2 and 3 will be on Friday, also on ESPN beginning at 7 p.m. Rounds 4-7 will be on Saturday with ESPN coverage beginning at noon.

The most first-round selections the SEC has produced in one draft was 11 in 2007.

So if 12 go tonight, that would break the record.

Here's a look at the 12 SEC players being pegged to go in the first round. They're listed in order of their rank on Mel Kiper's Big Board :

Final NFL draft big boards

April, 25, 2012
4/25/12
3:45
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It's the eve of this year's NFL draft, so it's time to take a couple of final looks at what could happen on such a special extended weekend.

Today, we'll take a look at ESPN NFL draft gurus Mel Kiper's and Todd McShay's final big boards. Naturally, both are loaded with SEC talent, but both have a couple of differences.

Both boards have 11 SEC players on them (12 if you count Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill), and four of those players are in each one's top 10.

One big difference between the two is that Kiper's Big Board has only four Alabama players and has Ole Miss offensive tackle Bobby Massie at No. 21. McShay has five Alabama players in his top 32, but doesn't have Massie. In fact, McShay doesn't have Massie being drafted until the second round. We'll get to all that fun Thursday.

Kiper left Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower off of his list.

Here's a look at the SEC players on the final draft boards:

TRENT RICHARDSON, RB, ALABAMA

McShay: No. 3 -- "The most complete running back prospect to come along since Adrian Peterson."
Kiper: No. 3

MORRIS CLAIBORNE, CB, LSU

McShay: No. 4 -- "Claiborne's size, speed, fluid hips and impressive ball skills make him the clear-cut choice as the top cover corner on the board."
Kiper: No. 4

FLETCHER COX, DT, MISSISSIPPI STATE

McShay: No. 7 -- "Speed, quickness and agility, along with solid versatility, have vaulted Cox to the top of the defensive tackle class."
Kiper: No. 17

MELVIN INGRAM, DE, SOUTH CAROLINA

Kiper: No. 7 -- "A very good pass-rusher, Ingram has the ability to convert to a 3-4 OLB in the right system, but DE is probably the best spot."
McShay: No. 21

MARK BARRON, S, ALABAMA

Kiper: No. 8 -- "The top safety in the draft, he has ideal size, range and instincts for the position."
McShay: No. 8

STEPHON GILMORE, S, SOUTH CAROLINA

Kiper: No. 11 -- "Up-and-down season, but the draft process has pushed his stock back up."
McShay: No. 14

RYAN TANNEHILL, QB, TEXAS A&M

McShay: No. 12 -- "Tannehill needs time to develop, but his arm talent and overall tools and athleticism are impressive."
Kiper: No. 19

MICHAEL BROCKERS, DT, LSU

McShay: No. 13 -- "Brockers has the size and power to dominate the point of attack; he also has upside as a pass-rusher and plenty of overall potential."
Kiper: No. 22

CORDY GLENN, OL, GEORGIA

Kiper: No. 14 -- "He's played all over and could be on most boards as a tackle, but can also dominate at guard."
McShay: No. 25

DRE KIRKPATRICK, CB, ALABAMA

McShay: No. 20 -- "You'd like to see better ball skills from Kirkpatrick, and he has short arms, but he's very good in zone coverage and shows a physical edge in run support."
Kiper: No. 23

BOBBY MASSIE, OT, OLE MISS

Kiper: No. 21 -- "Really rising on a lot of boards because perception is he can come in and start as a right tackle early, with ceiling of a solid left tackle."

DONT'A HIGHTOWER, LB, ALABAMA

McShay: No. 23 -- "Hightower has versatility and an impressive combination of size, power and mobility."

COURTNEY UPSHAW, LB, ALABAMA

Kiper: No. 25 -- "Dipped a bit, as he's carrying the "tweener" label for some teams, but that could also imply versatility, and I buy in to that."
McShay: No. 28
A record 26 players are expected to be in attendance at the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Twelve are from the SEC, including five from Alabama.

Todd McShay's most recent mock draft Insider had 11 SEC players going in the first round (not counting Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill). That number would tie a conference record set in 2007. Last year, the SEC had 10 players drafted in the first round.

Here are the 12 SEC players who have invites to this year's draft:
This year's NFL draft is just around the corner and ESPN's draft gurus are hard at work, getting tons of information about past college stars and their NFL futures.

Mel Kiper's two-round mock draft Insider is out and it shouldn't come as a surprise that the SEC is well represented. Kiper has 12 SEC players going in the first around and 15 total getting drafted in the first two rounds.

Four SEC members -- running back Trent Richardson, cornerback Morris Claiborne, defensive end Melvin Ingram and quarterback Ryan Tannehill (sorry Big 12, but the SEC claims him now) -- are all slotted to go in the top 10.

Alabama leads the SEC with five players in Kiper's mock draft (all in the first round), while LSU is second with four.

Here's a list of all 15 SEC members and some analysis from Kiper:

4. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (Cleveland Browns)

"At his pro day, Richardson confirmed that his knee is just fine, and while we know a running back is always a risk this high, here is a player gifted enough, and with such a remarkable physical profile and skill-set that you're comfortable making him an exception to the trend."

5. Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

"What's not to like? Claiborne is hands down the best cover corner available in the draft, and the Bucs still need plenty of help with age and uncertainty dotting their secondary."

7. Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina (Jacksonville Jaguars)

"As versatile a defender as there is in the draft, Ingram provides immediate pass rush help to a Jacksonville defense that sorely needs it, and he offers great flexibility to any coaching staff that wants to mix up their looks, which is pretty much all of them."

8. Ryan Tannehill QB, Texas A&M (Miami Dolphins)

"We know Miami lacks a long-range plan at quarterback, and while Tannehill isn't a guy I'd endorse as an immediate starter, his ceiling is so high you can take him here with a plan in place because his rate of growth."

14. Mark Barron, S, Alabama (Dallas Cowboys)

"I don't think another corner is out of the question at this spot, but Barron is the best safety in the draft, and the Cowboys can't go wrong if he's available."

15. Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State (Philadelphia Eagles)

"Disruptive and explosive from the interior, Cox is another player you can take without worries about a scheme fit. He has a chance to become a Pro Bowl player regardless of where you line him up inside."

16. Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama (New York Jets)

"Rex Ryan should see Upshaw as a great fit for what he's trying to do on defense. Upshaw has size to hold up against the run even as a pass-rusher in a 3-4, making him an ideal fit here."

20. Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama (Tennessee Titans)

"Really tall for the position, people see his size and assume he'd become a safety, but he does everything a shorter corner can do, and will utilize his length to become a guy who can be left on an island against big targets, even in the red zone."

21. Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina (Cincinnati Bengals)

"A starter since the day he stepped on campus at South Carolina, Gilmore is a smart, mature player who has good instincts, can be effective in press and will pick up concepts quickly."

22. Cordy Glenn, OL, Georgia (Cleveland Browns)

"Glenn is versatile and can be moved around, but he has the chance to dominate on the inside."

24. Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama (Pittsburgh Steelers)

"He's recovered, and could become a star for the Steelers, with the size to hold up anywhere, and the athleticism to take on whatever role the Steelers need."

25. Michael Brockers, DT, LSU (Denver Broncos)

"So many guys made so many plays, you have to go back and look at where it started. In many instances, it was with the disruptive Brockers, who can create havoc from the inside, blowing up the run and penetrating against the pass."

47. Bobby Massie, OT, Ole Miss (New York Jets)
50. Rueben Randle, WR, LSU (Chicago Bears)
53. Brandon Taylor, S, LSU (Cincinnati Bengals)
Our next member of the countdown proved to be one of the fiercest, most athletic defensive ends around:

No. 5: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina, Sr.

Preseason rank: Not ranked in the 2011 preseason top 25.

2011 summary: Ingram recorded 48 tackles and was third in the SEC with 15 tackles for loss. He also tied for second in the league with 10 sacks. He recorded two interceptions, recovered a fumble, broke up two passes and had six quarterback hurries. Ingram also registered three touchdowns, including a 68-yard run for a score on a fake punt against Georgia. He was selected as a first-team All-American by The Associated Press and was a first team All-SEC member by the AP and the league's coaches.

Why he's here: Ingram was one of the most fun defensive players to watch in 2011. He was fast, powerful and relentless. He battled through a couple of nagging injuries and still found ways to make quarterbacks miserable throughout the season. He averaged .77 sacks per game last season, with 6.5 of his sacks coming in conference play. What made Ingram so dangerous on the outside was his ability to not only fly past tackles but the way he overpowered them as well. At 6-foot-2, 276 pounds, Ingram could shoot off the edge like a rocket or bulldoze over an opposing offensive lineman if he had to. Ingram's best game of the season came against Auburn when he recorded 11 tackles, including eight solo and 4.5 for loss. He also had 3.5 sacks against the Tigers. Another aspect of Ingram's game that made him so tough to deal with was the tremendous stamina he showed last season. He didn't take plays off and rarely got very tired out on the field. He would wear players down before he needed a breather. Ingram will enter April's NFL draft as one the top defensive end/linebacker prospects and figures to be a first-round draft pick.
After the NFL combine, Mel Kiper has been hard at work to deliver us a handful of news and notes. It seems as though he works just as hard as the participants do throughout the week.

He has updated his list of the top five players at each position heading into April's NFL draft and the SEC is very well represented, getting 20 players on his list and having at least one player listed at each position.

Here is Kiper's updated list and a little analysis from him on some players:

QUARTERBACK
RUNNING BACK
"Richardson is a rare running back who has the chance to crack the top 10 on draft day, but he'll need to prove his knee is fine. My guess is he will."
FULLBACK
WIDE RECEIVER
TIGHT END
OFFENSIVE TACKLE
  • No. 5: Bobbie Massie, Ole Miss, 6-6, 316, Jr.
OFFENSIVE GUARD
"Glenn is a massive guy, a versatile lineman who can move outside to tackle in a pinch. I still think he's best suited at guard."
CENTER
DEFENSIVE END
"Ingram is closing, and had a good week in Indy. Branch has the size and athleticism to move to 3-4 outside linebacker."
DEFENSIVE TACKLE
"Brockers and Cox profile similarly in terms of scheme, as 4-3 defensive tackles or even 3-4 defensive ends depending on what kind of looks a team is working with."
INSIDE LINEBACKER
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER
"I think Upshaw could be drafted into pretty much any scheme and succeed, but at 272 pounds, there are fair questions about whether he's a tweener -- too small to handle 4-3 DE, and too big to be an every-down 3-4 OLB. His talent is significant, but that's something we'll need to watch."
CORNERBACKS
"Claiborne was a revelation this season, and the film tells the story. The guy is exceptionally instinctive, and while he lacks the same level of athleticism as Patrick Peterson, he is every bit as good and probably better as a pure cover corner. Kirkpatrick has good size and maintains above-average quickness, and is safely in Round 1."
SAFETY
KICKER
"Going into the year, Walsh to me seemed like a lock to hold down the top spot. But his inconsistency became, well, consistent, and he dropped. He may need to battle through the UFA process if he wants to make a team."
PUNTER
"Butler actually boomed his punts farther as a sophomore, but over the past two seasons, he's become a master at getting maximum distance while eliminating returns. That's what NFL teams want -- a guy who can get off big punts, but not so long that they limit coverage."

SEC combine update

February, 28, 2012
2/28/12
11:05
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Other than Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe's performance, several SEC players put up some of the most impressive numbers Monday at the NFL combine.

Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower, Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram all helped themselves.

And with the defensive backs working out Tuesday, already LSU cornerback Ron Brooks has turned heads with a 4.35 in the 40-yard dash, which unofficially is the fastest 40 time this year at the combine.

Some of the other unofficial 40 times from Tuesday included South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore (4.44), LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne (4.47), Vanderbilt cornerback Casey Hayward (4.53) and South Carolina safety Antonio Allen (4.62).

Hightower, weighing 265 pounds, ran a 4.68 in the 40-yard dash on Monday, and also recorded a 32-inch vertical leap.

The ESPN Scouts Inc. guys said Hightower showed impressive mobility for his size.

Todd McShay of ESPN Scouts Inc. said Ingram had the best workout of the perimeter defensive linemen. Ingram turned in the second-best three-cone (6.83) and third-best short shuttle (4.18), and also finished in the top 10 among linemen in the 40 (4.79) and vertical jump (34½).

McShay said of Ingram: "Ingram's lack of size could mean a move to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, but for now he has the most explosive, violent hands in the defensive end class and he could end up being a top-10 pick. The Miami Dolphins (No. 8 pick) and Buffalo Bills (No. 10) could both have interest."

Cox's 4.79 in the 40 topped all defensive tackles. He posted a 7.07-second three-cone drill, which is more than a half-second faster than the four-year average. He turned in a 4.53 in the short shuttle.

McShay said of Cox: "Cox came into the combine as the second-rated defensive tackle on the Scouts Inc. board, and he did nothing to change our opinion. He shows the versatility to play the 3-technique (DT) or even left end at times in a 4-3 alignment or the 5-technique in a 3-4."

LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers didn't test well. He ran a 5.36 in the 40 and did only 19 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press. Even so, it sounds like Brockers will still be a high draft pick.

McShay said: "Brockers didn't look as quick or explosive as some of the other top prospects in drills, but he did move well in space for a 6-5 322-pounder. It's important to keep things in perspective, though, because Brockers' game tape is strong enough that his combine workout won't affect his stock nearly as much as it would a prospect who is less consistent on tape."

Big days for Cox, Ingram at NFL combine

February, 27, 2012
2/27/12
1:45
PM ET
Two of the best and most athletic defensive linemen in the SEC last season were Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox and South Carolina's Melvin Ingram.

Therefore, seeing some of their impressive workout numbers Monday at the NFL combine shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody.

Cox, who gave up his senior season to turn pro, was on display for the first time for the scouts, and at 6-4 and 298 pounds, ran a 4.79 in the 40-yard dash, which was one of the fastest times at the combine for an interior defensive lineman. Cox also showed impressive strength by doing 30 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press.

The 6-1, 264-pound Ingram also ran a 4.79 in the 40-yard dash and did 28 repetitions on the bench press. Ingram played defensive end at South Carolina, but also slid inside to tackle some during his career. Some NFL scouts think Ingram could be an outside linebacker in a 3-4. He actually started his career at South Carolina as a linebacker.

Both Cox and Ingram were projected as first-round picks even before the NFL combine.

Somebody else who helped himself Monday was Florida defensive tackle Jaye Howard, who turned in a 4.82 in the 40.

LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers didn't test as well as some had expected. He ran a 5.36 in the 40 and only did 19 repetitions on the bench.

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