SEC: Michael Dyer

SEC lunch links

July, 2, 2013
7/02/13
12:04
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Hopping around the SEC on a Tuesday:
As we explored earlier this week, Alabama has been as balanced offensively as anybody in the SEC over the last three years.

The Crimson Tide are the only team in the league during that span to rush for more than 8,000 yards and pass for more than 8,000 yards.

Of course, when you look back at who signed the most ESPN 150 prospects on offense from 2009-12, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Alabama has been so productive offensively.

The Crimson Tide signed an SEC-high 20 offensive players from 2009-12 who were ESPN 150 prospects (ranked among the top 150 prospects nationally).

But No. 2 on that list was Florida, and the Gators have finished 10th in the SEC or worse in total offense each of the last three years. They signed 19 ESPN 150 prospects on offense from 2009-12.

So it’s never as simple as merely counting up who gets the highest-ranked players coming out of high school. We're reminded of that every year.

In fact, over the last three years (2010-12), nobody in the SEC has signed more ESPN 150 prospects offensively than Auburn. The Tigers signed 15, which equals the number of offensive players Alabama signed in the ESPN 150 during that same span.

However, Auburn was last in the SEC in total offense last season and next to last in scoring offense. Several of the highly-ranked players the Tigers signed on offense from 2010-12 are no longer in the program, including running back Michael Dyer, offensive lineman Christian Westerman and receivers Antonio Goodwin and Shaun Kitchens.

Below are some of the highest-ranked offensive players coming out of high school from 2009-12 who will be on SEC rosters next fall. They’re categorized by year:
2012

Missouri’s Dorial Green-Beckham (No. 1 receiver), Georgia’s Keith Marshall (No. 2 running back), Florida’s D.J. Humphries (No. 1 offensive tackle), Alabama’s Chris Black (No. 2 receiver), South Carolina’s Shaq Roland (No. 5 receiver)

2011

Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio (No. 1 offensive tackle), LSU’s La’el Collins (No. 3 offensive tackle), Florida’s Jeff Driskel (No. 1 quarterback), Georgia’s Jay Rome (No. 1 tight end), Auburn’s Kiehl Frazer (No. 2 quarterback)

2010

Tennessee’s Ja’Wuan James (No. 2 offensive tackle), Florida’s Mack Brown (No. 4 running back), Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews (No. 7 offensive tackle)

2009

Georgia’s Aaron Murray (No. 3 quarterback), Florida’s Andre Debose (No. 2 receiver), Alabama’s AJ McCarron (No. 4 quarterback), Georgia’s Austin Long (No. 5 offensive tackle)

Below is a team-by-team breakdown by year of ESPN 150 offensive prospects signed by SEC schools. Other than Alabama, Auburn and Florida, only Georgia, LSU and Tennessee signed more than six total from 2009-12.

Here’s a look:

Alabama: 2012 – 4. 2011 – 7. 2010 – 4. 2009 – 5. Total – 20

Florida: 2012 – 4, 2011 – 4, 2010 – 6, 2009 – 5. Total – 19

Auburn: 2012 – 4. 2011 – 6. 2010 – 5. 2009 – 0. Total 15

Georgia: 2012 – 2. 2011 – 4. 2010 – 3. 2009 – 6. Total – 15

Tennessee: 2012 – 3. 2011 – 4. 2010 – 5. 2009 – 3. Total – 15

LSU: 2012 – 2. 2011 – 4. 2010 – 3. 2009 – 4. Total – 13

South Carolina: 2012 – 2. 2011 – 0. 2010 – 2. 2009 – 2. Total – 6

Texas A&M: 2012 – 3. 2011 – 0. 2010 – 2. 2009 – 1. Total -- 6

Arkansas: 2012 – 0. 2011 – 2. 2010 – 1. 2009 – 0. Total – 3

Ole Miss: 2012 – 0. 2011 – 1. 2010 – 0. 2009 – 2. Total – 3

Miss. State: 2012 – 0. 2011 – 0. 2010 – 1. 2009 – 2. Total – 3

Missouri: 2012 – 2. 2011 – 0. 2010 – 0. 2009 – 0. Total – 2

Kentucky: 2012 – 0. 2011 – 0. 2010 – 0. 2009 – 1. Total – 1

Vanderbilt: 2012 – 1. 2011 – 0. 2010 – 0. 2009 – 0. Total – 1
Auburn's football program is coming off of a bad week in the media world.

First, there was the report by former New York Times and Sports Illustrated writer Selena Roberts discussing grade changes, money exchanging hands and other recruiting violations conducted under the watch of former coach Gene Chizik.

Then, a six-month investigation conducted by ESPN The Magazine and "E:60" stated that a dozen players, including star running back, Michael Dyer, failed tests for synthetic marijuana during Auburn's national championship run in 2010.

Shortly after these stories ran, Chizik, former players and athletic director Jay Jacobs denied any wrongdoing. Jacobs even went as far as to write an open letter to the Auburn community disputing the ESPN The Magazine report. You can read Jacob's full letter here.

If you follow Twitter or Internet message boards, you'll notice that most of the Auburn faithful are quite upset with Roberts and ESPN The Magazine. No one likes when bad things are written about their teams, and they have every right to be upset by the negativity thrown Auburn's way. So do current players and coaches.

But you won't hear much coming from Auburn's team about reports. On the surface, players either don't care, aren't worried about any potential fallout or both. Honestly, there really isn't any other way players could handle the situation. Sure, they could be mad and sling mud at Roberts and ESPN, but they know this entire ordeal is out of their hands. They can't control what's been written, but they can control how they get through it and finish spring practice.

That's what's important to this team, especially after a disaster of a 2012 season that led to the firing of Chizik and the hiring of Gus Malzahn. Routes, schemes and technique should be on the minds of players, not the 2010 season.

Players have even said coaches haven't really addressed the allegations with them.

"You really just don't pay any attention to it," cornerback Joshua Holsey told members of the media last week. "You try to stay off the Instagrams and the Twitters and the ESPNs. You just try to block it out as much as you possibly can. It's really hard because there's so much of it, but you just try to do your best to not worry about it and focus on what you've got in front of you."

And what the Tigers have in front of them is the challenge of getting back to being a factor in the SEC West race again. Kudos to players and coaches for staying focused during a spring that has thrown a lot at them. A new staff is in town, so this team is trying to build trust while re-learning old stuff and digesting new concepts. There's no time to worry over allegations.

Even Auburn great Bo Jackson isn't sweating the negativity. Over the weekend, Jackson told reporters that he thinks attention might be the main factor behind the allegations from former players. One of those former players is defensive back Mike McNeil, who was the subject of the Roberts' report. Monday, he received a split sentence after pleading guilty to first-degree robbery.

"I don't even know the kids. I've probably met them. But it seems like to me somebody's fishing, somebody wants some attention, and they aren't getting it," Jackson said. "I actually wouldn't give those accusations the time of day, to be honest with you."

Opinions on the truth surrounding Auburn's situation will surely differ, and we may never truly get all of the answers, but that's not for these current players to worry about. Their concern should be elsewhere, and it sounds like they're doing a good job of avoiding what Chizik once deemed as "energy vampires."
More controversy continues to swirl around Auburn's 2010 national championship team.

The first hits came from a story reported by former New York Times and Sports Illustrated writer Selena Roberts, who stated that Auburn players' grades were changed in order to secure eligibility, money was offered to potential NFL draft picks so they would return for their senior seasons and NCAA recruiting rules were violated under former coach Gene Chizik.

While former players, including ones quoted in Roberts' report, quickly denied any such wrongdoing at Auburn, more negativity came when a six-month investigation conducted by ESPN the Magazine and "E:60" revealed that a dozen players, including star running back, Michael Dyer, failed tests for synthetic marijuana -- or spice.

Here's part of the story that will appear in ESPN The Magazine's April 29 NFL draft Issue, and will air on the season-premiere of "E:60" on April 23:
MICHAEL DYER waves the smoke out of his eyes and tries to focus on the question: Can we have your gun?

On one side of him, an Auburn teammate is nodding off, too sick and tired from his high to stay awake. Another teammate is holding his stomach and retching while his brain burns.

Dyer, a 20-year-old running back coming off a freshman All-American season in 2010, is celebrating spring break at a friend's apartment, drinking beer and smoking chemically coated leaves that are sold in gas stations under the name Spice. But the mood turns serious when fellow freshman teammate Shaun Kitchens asks: "Man, let me use your strap. We need to go hit a lick."

The "strap" is a .45-caliber handgun with a laser sight stashed beneath the couch in Dyer's off-campus apartment. But Dyer, according to records of his subsequent interview with police, isn't interested in committing a robbery on this night, or any night. Not when he's just two months removed from single-handedly marching Auburn down the football field in the final seconds of the 2011 BCS title game, the school's first national championship since 1957. Not when two more seasons stand between him and a first-round spot in the 2013 NFL draft.

SEC mailbag: Replacing LSU's Chris Faulk

September, 7, 2012
9/07/12
7:56
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I’m coming at you live from College Station, Texas, where the Aggies make their SEC debut on Saturday against No. 24 Florida.

While I eagerly await that historic matchup, let’s empty out the SEC mailbag:

TD Carey in Ruston, La., writes: LSU and Chris Faulk: Let us not forget that LSU could have had Mo Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu and Mike Brockers. The loss of these four, especially now that Faulk is out, will make a difference, as there is no way to replace Faulk.

Chris Low: I wouldn’t go as far as to say that there’s “no way.” Faulk was a key part of that LSU offensive line and an excellent player, but the Tigers have some depth and experience up front. Getting Josh Dworaczyk back for a sixth season was huge. He’s versatile and will step in Saturday at left tackle for the Tigers. He’s not the only option there, either. It’s a blow to lose Faulk, no question. But I’m not ready to say it was a knockout blow. This LSU team has been too resilient in the past and is still oozing with talent.




Brian in Richmond, Va., writes: Hey Chris, War Eagle people seem to be really down on Auburn this year. They “almost/should have” beaten a very good ranked Clemson team that has a great chance of winning the ACC. It pains me to admit this, but Auburn has had some personnel issues since winning the 2010 national championship. How much better would Auburn be this year with Mike Dyer, Antonio Goodwin, Shaun Kitchens, Dakota Mosley and Jovon Robinson? I would include Zeke Pike, but he wasn't going to start this year and he's a train wreck anyway. Would they have really made that big of a difference? Obviously, Mike Dyer is a known quantity.

Chris Low: Fans are always going to be down when you lose the opener, but this is about what I expected from this Auburn team. It’s not so much that I’m down on the Tigers. I just think it’s going to be tough sledding for them this season with a first-time starter at quarterback who’s learning on the job and a defense that still clearly has some issues. I expect Auburn to improve on defense as the season goes on, but inexperience at quarterback and a leaky defense are a bad combination. And as far as some of the players you mentioned that are no longer there, maybe part of the problem is that there have been too many misses on the recruiting end with kids who simply had no desire to behave. Weeding out those kids might be the best thing that could have happened to this team.




Brian in Gadsden, Ala.: Chris, I was just reading your prediction regarding Mississippi State and Auburn. I think you have some revisionist history. Mississippi State was not one foot short of winning at Auburn last year. They were one foot short of being behind by two points with no timeouts and a chance to tie the game with a successful two-point conversion. Last time I checked, a two-point conversion was not a 99 percent certainty like an extra point. I have no problem with a pick against Auburn, but please don’t change the facts from last year.

Chris Low: Actually, we were both wrong. What I should have written was that Mississippi State came within a foot of tying the game and sending it into overtime with an extra point or having a chance to win it with a successful two-point conversion. The final score was 41-34, so all the Bulldogs would have needed to tie the game was an extra point. A successful two-point conversion would have won it in regulation. Anyway, my apologies, and I promise there’s no War Eagle conspiracy at work here.




Tommyboy in Atlanta writes: 1. Can you please quantify SEC speed? 2. What is the international unit of measurement of SEC speed? 3. Do SEC scoreboards have to be specially calibrated or purpose built for SEC speed? 4. Do all SEC teams have SEC speed? 5. If a team were in another conference and joined the SEC, does that team automatically get SEC speed, or is there a waiting period? If there is a waiting period, does time travel faster due to SEC speed? 6. Could ESPN please mention SEC speed more? 8. Please complete the following: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Gandhi are to ______ as SEC speed is to ______. The questions skip from No. 6 to No. 8 because my computer cannot keep up with my typing because my fingers have ... SEC speed.

Chris Low: Very simply, SEC speed = six consecutive national championships. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Gandhi are to great men and men of vision as SEC speed is to bringing in the bling and collecting crystal footballs. I like your style, though. Good stuff. We may have to let you sit in one day for me on the SEC blog. On second thought, maybe not. You might take my job.




Bryan in Roswell, Ga., writes: With South Carolina struggling against Vanderbilt, the East seems wide open this year. The Georgia-Missouri game is huge, and a Missouri win would seemingly set the stage for the Tigers to win the East on their first try. What would that scenario do for Mizzou going forward in their new home?

Chris Low: I still say that Vanderbilt is better than a lot of people are giving the Commodores credit for. It’s true that South Carolina didn’t throw the ball well, but the Gamecocks didn’t play that poorly. My guess is that the rest of the East would love to see Georgia go down this weekend in its first SEC game. If that happens, this East race might look a little bit like the one in 2010. Everybody’s going to beat up on everybody else. Arkansas went to the SEC championship game in its fourth year in the league, so it's not outrageous to think that Missouri could make some noise this first year if the Tigers can get out of the blocks with a victory over the Bulldogs.




Dale in Winchester, Tenn., writes: Chris, not trying to look ahead. But so far after seeing the N.C. State game, do you think this year’s Tennessee team, if it stays healthy and some of its players like Tyler Bray and Herman Lathers continue to step up and lead, could be the one to get the Big Orange back to the powerhouse we used to be? Go Vols!

Chris Low: The most impressive thing about the Vols in the opener was the way they finished the game and didn’t flinch when Bray lost the fumble at the goal line right before halftime. I would still like to see them be better in short yardage situations on offense, and the defensive secondary still has some growing up to do. But there’s no doubt that this is Derek Dooley’s best team, and I expect to see the Vols in the East race come November. I’ll stop there … for now.




Kevin in Lexington, S.C., writes: I know it’s several weeks away, but how do you think South Carolina's secondary will hold up against Missouri’s spread attack after looking overwhelmed at times against Vandy?

Chris Low: I’ll have a better answer for you after watching Missouri go up against Georgia’s defense Saturday night. Losing senior cornerback Akeem Auguste was a killer for the Gamecocks. They were already thin back there. To me, the real burden is on South Carolina’s front seven now and generating even more pressure. Jadeveon Clowney is a freakish talent, but he can’t take plays off.




Herrin in Boiling Springs, S.C., writes: 1. Are you contractually obligated to write "SEC speed" in each article? 2. LSU and Alabama have not had a close SEC game in some time. Does the rest of the SEC still have SEC speed? 3. Have you ever seen a team crow more about its conference -- while accomplishing less on its own -- than South Carolina? 4. Does Clemson have SEC speed? I mean, we have beaten SEC teams nine out of the last 11 years.

Chris Low: All fair points. Now let me ask you a question: How many straight years has South Carolina beaten Clemson? I noticed you didn’t bring up that topic.



Tyrann Mathieu is receiving a lot of schools, as he plans his college football future.

About 20 schools are interested in the All-American defensive back and have contacted LSU to get permission to speak with Mathieu. He has already visited McNeese State and Nicholls State officials said on Wednesday that they were granted permission to speak with Mathieu, but haven't heard from him.

What we still don't know is if Mathieu, who was dismissed from LSU for reportedly failing yet another drug test, will return to LSU in 2013. Reports surfaced this week that he was interested in sitting out the 2012 season, paying his own way at LSU and returning to the Tigers' football team in 2013. However, the school won't comment either way on it.

Sumlin names starting QB

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin announced on Wednesday that redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel will start for the Aggies in the season opener against Louisiana Tech.

For a while it seemed as though redshirt sophomore Jameill Showers, who is the only quarterback with any game experience, would eventually win the starting spot, but Manziel made strides during fall camp and passed Showers after a solid showing during Texas A&M's scrimmage Saturday.

"Johnny has performed the best at this stage and we will proceed until the season opener with him getting the first-team reps," Sumlin said. "My policy is simple really; the best player plays. Competition is a great thing and we need more competition at all of our positions. All of our quarterbacks have competed well and I expect them to continue to push Johnny."

Dyer not playing football this fall

It now appears that former Auburn running back Michael Dyer won't be playing football this fall.

Dyer's uncle, Andre Dyer, told ESPN's Joe Schad that his nephew intends to enroll in classes somewhere, but won't play football this fall. Instead, he'll concentrate on returning in 2013.

Dyer's drama began with his indefinite suspension at Auburn for violating unspecified team rules before last season's Chick-fil-A Bowl and continued with him transferring to and later leaving Arkansas State. Dyer, who followed former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, was dismissed from Arkansas State for violating team rules.

Andre Dyer said the goal is now to "get Michael's head in the right place, work on building character and addressing issues before turning back to look at any interest from major schools."

That's certainly a good thing for Dyer, who eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark as both a freshman and sophomore at Auburn. Football should be put on the back burner, as Dyer tries to get his life in order.

Mississippi State's stadium expanding

Mississippi State is about to begin its $75 million expansion of Davis Wade Stadium. It's expected to be finished before the 2014 season.

More than 6,000 seats will be added to bring the stadium's capacity to 61,337. There are also plans for a second high-definition video board, premium seating, restrooms and concession stands.

Mississippi State's new stadium capacity will rank just 12th out of 14 SEC teams, but expansion was needed, as the Bulldogs have sold out 16 straight games and have a waiting list for season tickets.

Lattimore strong during scrimmage

While he didn't play a lot in South Carolina's second scrimmage, running back Marcus Lattimore looked strong as he continues to return from his season-ending knee injury in 2011.

Lattimore only played during the Gamecocks' first two offensive series, but rushed for 23 yards on five carries. Two of his runs went for first downs, and he also caught a pass for 5 yards. He didn't generate a lot of yards, but what pleased coaches was he was able to break several tackles during his runs.

"Marcus made a few runs," coach Steve Spurrier said. "There wasn't a lot of blocking, wasn't a whole lot of holes in there, but he's been going against the first defense."

Even with South Carolina's quarterbacks struggling at times during the scrimmage, freshman tight end Jerell Adams had an impressive outing, as he led all receivers by catching four passes for 83 yards and a touchdown.

For more on South Carolina's scrimmage, check out the Gamecocks' official website.

Gurley solid again in Bulldogs' scrimmage

Freshman running back Todd Gurley continued to impress during fall camp, as he led all of Georgia's running backs with 87 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries in the Bulldogs' second scrimmage. During Georgia's two scrimmages, Gurley has combined for 167 yards and two scores on 15 carries.

Fellow freshman Keith Marshall added 62 yards on five carries, while Richard Samuel and Ken Malcome rushed for 40 and 35 yards, respectively.

Coach Mark Richt wasn't too pleased with parts of the scrimmage, as turnovers became an epidemic.

"I saw some good things," Richt said. "Some good things happened, but I saw a lot of bad things. I saw three pics...bad interceptions, although Corey Moore made a great play on one. Every time the quarterback got touched, they fumbled. We weren't tackling the quarterback, but you're not supposed to fumble every time you're touched."

For more on Georgia's scrimmage, check out the school's official website.

SEC lunch links

August, 14, 2012
8/14/12
12:46
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Checking on what's making headlines around the SEC:

Rounding up some weekend SEC news

July, 30, 2012
7/30/12
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With the start of practice approaching, the news ticker is heating up. Let's catch up on some of the happenings in the SEC over the weekend:
  • It's really sad to see the train wreck that has become Michael Dyer's college career. Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn announced over the weekend that Dyer had been dismissed from the team. Dyer led Auburn in rushing last season with 1,242 yards, ranking him second in the SEC. But Dyer was suspended for the Tigers' bowl game and wound up leaving the team. He followed Malzahn to Arkansas State and had hoped to play this season, but the NCAA ruled that he would have to sit out a season per normal NCAA transfer rules. During the robbery trial of former Auburn teammate Antonio Goodwin, Dyer testified that he smoked synthetic marijuana while he was at Auburn. This is the same guy who became the first player in Auburn history to rush for 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons.
  • LSU is looking for some insurance at quarterback. Penn State junior quarterback Rob Bolden visited the LSU campus over the weekend. Bolden became the first freshman to start at quarterback for Joe Paterno in 2010, but lost his starting job after suffering a concussion. Bolden shared playing time with Matt McGloin last season. There have been several reports that Bolden has already been removed from the Penn State roster and is no longer with the team. He requested a transfer at the end of the 2010 season, but Paterno wouldn't release him. Zach Mettenberger is LSU's starter, and the Tigers have high hopes for him. But he only threw 11 passes last season. His backups are redshirt freshmen Stephen Rivers and Jerrard Randall. One thing about Bolden is that he's extremely mobile, and LSU coach Les Miles likes having a quarterback who can run.
  • At Georgia, Mark Richt made it clear that the Bulldogs are not pursuing any Penn State players after originally saying that the Bulldogs might be interested.

Lunchtime links

July, 20, 2012
7/20/12
12:00
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SEC media days are over, but the British Open is going strong.

One good reason: Auburn

July, 16, 2012
7/16/12
5:00
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We're back with our "One good reason" series, and we're talking about the Auburn Tigers.

Good reasons:
Let's see what Auburn could do in 2012:

Auburn will play the role of spoiler this fall: That young talent is more mature and experienced.

Gene Chizik seemed pretty excited about the team he had coming back this spring. Yes, star running back Michael Dyer is gone and two new coordinators are in town, but Chizik was very happy with the maturity he saw from his younger players. This is a team that Chizik still considers pretty young all around, but the maturation this group showed this spring wowed the coaches. And a lot of that young talent got some good field experience last year. Defensive end Corey Lemonier is a budding star and was one of the top pass-rushers in the league last fall. Running back Onterio McCalebb is the old reliable one in the backfield, but he'll be assisted by three youngsters in Tre Mason, Mike Blakely and Corey Grant who should make the Tigers' running game pretty solid this fall.

Auburn's defensive line is stacked with talent and the secondary returns three experienced starters. Chizik has stocked up well in the past could of years, meaning Auburn has the talent to compete with the favorites in this league. Winning the West will be quite the uphill battle for Auburn, but if the talent proves its worth, the Tigers could ruin a true contender's season. A major run might be tough, but with the talent Chizik has on his squad, you can't count Auburn out for a chance to pull a big upset this fall.

Why it won't: Lots of questions remain on offense and defense.

Growth and maturation are great, but it has to translate to the field, and until the games are played, we don't know if that will happen. On offense, the Tigers are without their centerpiece from last year in Dyer, who followed former offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn to Arkansas State. Without him last year, what was Auburn's offense? McCalebb is one of the league's best home-run threats, but his work isn't done up the middle. That's where those younger backs will come in handy, but can one put the bulk of the carries on his back? Wide receiver Emory Blake is very talented and is certainly a downfield threat, but he needs help. While there's depth at receiver, it's pretty unproven, starting with Trovon Reed, who was expected to have a much better year than he did in 2011. Seniors Travante Stallworth and DeAngelo Benton have years but hardly any valuable experience.

And the quarterback situation is still up in the air. Kiehl Frazier had a good spring and left with the edge, but we still haven't seen him throw comfortably in real games. Clint Moseley was also very inconsistent as a starter last year and missed part of the spring with a sore shoulder. And who knows where Zeke Pike's head will be this fall.

The defense seems to be a little more stable and new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has experience in the SEC, but this unit allowed more than 400 yards of offense each game and ranked 11th or worse in the SEC in scoring, rushing, passing and total defense. The defense has to be considerably better for this team to make a real upset possible.

Transfers come and go in the SEC

July, 14, 2012
7/14/12
10:05
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While it’s true there’s no such thing as trading in college football, the transfer market can get quite active.

The SEC is no exception.

The biggest names leaving the SEC following this past season were former Auburn tailback Michael Dyer and former Alabama quarterback Phillip Sims.

Dyer was second in the SEC in rushing last season with 1,242 yards and became the first player in Auburn history to rush for 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons. But he found his way into Gene Chizik’s doghouse, was suspended for the Chick-fil-A Bowl, and wound up transferring to Arkansas State.

The NCAA recently denied Dyer’s request to be eligible this season, meaning he will have to sit out and won’t be able to play until 2013.

Sims, who lost the quarterback battle at Alabama to AJ McCarron last season, will be on the field this fall. The NCAA granted his waiver for immediate eligibility, and Sims will compete for the starting quarterback job at Virginia.

While Dyer and Sims are on their way out, Auburn welcomes fullback Jay Prosch from Illinois and Vanderbilt welcomes quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels from Wyoming.

Prosch, wanting to be close to his ailing mother in Mobile, Ala., will be eligible to play right away and figures to make a big impact in the Tigers’ running game. Carta-Samuels sat out last season after starting for two years at Wyoming. He will battle incumbent Jordan Rodgers for playing time this fall.

Running back Corey Grant will also be eligible this fall at Auburn after transferring from Alabama. Grant hasn't played in two years. He redshirted in 2010 at Alabama and sat out last season at Auburn to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.

Another transfer to watch is Tennessee defensive end Darrington Sentimore, who started his career at Alabama. Sentimore spent last season at Gulf Coast (Miss.) Community College before returning to the SEC and signing with the Vols in December.

The highest-profile transfer in the SEC heading into the season just happens to be the best defensive player in the league.

Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones led the SEC in sacks (13.5) and tackles for loss (19.5) last season. It was his first season on the field for the Bulldogs after transferring from USC.

Ironically enough, Jones left USC after injuring his neck and not being cleared to play by the Trojans’ medical staff. He’s originally from Columbus, Ga.
Earlier, we ranked all 14 SEC running back groups, so it's time to look at the league's top 10 rushers heading into the 2012 season. As usual, there are some pretty talented backs in the league, so narrowing it down to just 10 backs wasn't easy to say the least. But someone had to do it!

Past rankings:
Like all the other positions, we're looking at overall talent, game-changing ability and experience. We also looked at past performances and projections for 2012.

Here are our top 10 SEC running backs:

[+] EnlargeMarcus Lattimore
Daniel Shirey/US PresswireMarcus Lattimore is apparently ahead of schedule with his rehab after tearing his ACL last season.
1. Marcus Lattimore, Jr., South Carolina: He might be the nation's best all-around running back, and all indications are that he's ahead of schedule with his rehab after tearing his ACL halfway through last season. Before his injury, he led the SEC in rushing and has a tremendous combination of size, speed and strength that make him one of the toughest players to stop.

2. Knile Davis, Jr., Arkansas: Like Lattimore, Davis is coming off of a devastating injury from last year. He had yet another ankle injury that cost him all of his 2011 season, but it sounds like he's more than ready to return to the playing field. He's one of the most dynamic rushers in the country, and when he was healthy in 2010 he averaged 146.9 yards in the last seven games of the season.

3. Christine Michael, Sr., Texas A&M: He's another back coming off a season-ending injury. Before he tore his ACL last fall, Michael rushed for 899 yards and is a true workhorse. His punch-you-in-the-mouth, explosive, downhill running style will fit right in in the SEC. He should be good to go this fall, and if he's 100 percent he'll certainly challenge for the rushing title.

4. Zac Stacy, Sr., Vanderbilt: He was a real surprise in the SEC last season and returns as the league's top statistical rusher, with 1,193 yards from a year ago. He isn't the fastest back, but he's strong, works hard and has excellent vision. Last season, Stacy tied for the SEC lead with runs of 40 or more yards, and averaged 5.7 yards per carry against SEC defenses.

5. Eddie Lacy, Jr., Alabama: Lacy takes over for the very talented Trent Richardson, but he's no slouch. Lacy has shown pretty good explosion and strength when he's had the ball, averaging 7.1 yards per carry last season. Nagging injuries have slowed him in the past, but if he's healthy he'll make plenty of defenders miserable -- and sore -- this fall.

6. Spencer Ware, Jr., LSU: Ware was one of the top backs in the league during the first part of last season, but was never the same after his midseason suspension. Word is that he's very determined to redeem himself this fall. He's a true bruiser who can soften defenses, and has a knack for pushing through for an extra yard or three.

7. Michael Ford, Jr., LSU: He's considered the fastest of LSU's five-headed rushing monster and ended up leading the Tigers in rushing last season (756), after starting just three games. Ford might be LSU's best big-play threat at running back, but he's also not afraid to put his head down and knock someone over.

8. Onterio McCalebb, Sr., Auburn: McCalebb might not be the every-down back the Tigers need in replacing Michael Dyer, but he's one of the best home run threats in the league. He's at his best when he takes runs to the outside, and can be deadly in the passing game, too.

9. Dennis Johnson, Sr., Arkansas: After taking over for Davis last season, Johnson led the Hogs with 670 yards on just 106 carries. He might be known more for his kick return ability, but Johnson could probably start at running back for a few teams in the SEC. He has a solid blend of power and speed, but has to get over his fumbling issues.

10. Nick Griffin, So, Mississippi State: LaDarius Perkins might be the starter to open the season and has big-time speed, but Griffin is the complete package and is probably the closest thing the Bulldogs have on their roster to the departed Vick Ballard. The coaches are especially excited about his potential, and it would be no surprise if Griffin eventually takes the bulk of the carries for the Bulldogs this fall.
We continue our position rankings by looking at some of the hardest working players in the league. Running backs are very important in the SEC and more is always better around these parts.

Past rankings:
On to the running backs:

[+] EnlargeSpencer Ware
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesThe powerful Spencer Ware should be a key part of LSU's running back depth this upcoming season.
1. LSU: The Tigers claim the top spot thanks to depth, talent and more depth. They have five guys back there who could start for a lot of teams. Michael Ford is the speed guy. Spencer Ware is a bruiser who also has great cutting ability, Alfred Blue is extremely versatile and strong, and Kenny Hilliard is an even bigger bruiser. This group combined for 2,338 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns last fall. Keep an eye out for freshman Jeremy Hill, too.

2. South Carolina: Marcus Lattimore alone would warrant the Gamecocks being near the top. All reports coming out of Columbia are that he’s healthy and ready to pick up where he left off when he hurt his knee. Sophomore Brandon Wilds was excellent in filling in for Lattimore last season, veteran Kenny Miles has said he will be back for his senior season and the talented Shon Carson should be back after his ACL injury.

3. Arkansas: It was a close call between the Hogs and the Gamecocks. Similar to Lattimore, Knile Davis insists he’s as good as new after missing all of last season with a fractured ankle. Dennis Johnson can do a little bit of everything and certainly won’t be forgotten about in the Hogs’ offense, while Ronnie Wingo Jr. returns for his senior season.

4. Alabama: Eddie Lacy gets his shot to be the Crimson Tide’s feature back now that Trent Richardson is gone, but Nick Saban prefers to share the wealth. Who wouldn’t when you’ve got a true freshman on campus as talented as T.J. Yeldon? Don’t forget about Dee Hart, either. Hart would have played some last season had he not been injured. And Jalston Fowler adds another big, bruising body to Bama's backfield.

5. Texas A&M: If the NCAA rules that Oklahoma transfer Brandon Williams is eligible this season, the Aggies may move up this list. Williams was sensational this spring, and Christine Michael also returns after rushing for 899 yards last season prior to tearing his ACL. In addition, incoming freshman Trey Williams was one of the premier running back prospects in the country.

6. Vanderbilt: We're still not sure what Warren Norman can do, as he returns from his knee injury. Jerron Seymour is a do-it-all guy. The centerpiece of the Commodores’ offense will again be Zac Stacy, who set a school record last season with 1,193 rushing yards. He’s the leading returning rusher in the SEC. Highly-touted freshman Brian Kimbrow could also be used at running back.

7. Mississippi State: The competition this preseason at running back ought to be fierce at Mississippi State. Speedy LaDarius Perkins is the likely starter, but the Bulldogs’ coaches can’t wait to see what a healthy Nick Griffin can do. There are two talented redshirt freshmen -- Josh Robinson and Derek Milton -- who’ve also been waiting their turn.

8. Georgia: Losing Isaiah Crowell was a real blow for the Bulldogs, but they’re not lacking in talent. We won’t have to wait long to see if true freshman Keith Marshall is the real deal, but he's at his best when he's in space or used in the passing game. Ken Malcome had a very good spring and was a co-starter heading into summer. Incoming freshman Todd Gurley will be called upon this fall as well.

9. Auburn: Onterio McCalebb remains one of the top breakaway threats in the league, but he's going to need help. Tre Mason could emerge as the Tigers' every-down back. Transfers Mike Blakely and Corey Grant also impressed this spring and will add good depth. Either way, losing a player the caliber of Michael Dyer always stings.

10. Missouri: People forget that Kendial Lawrence was the starter before he went down with an injury last year. He regrouped well and was even better this spring. Marcus Murphy was out last season with a shoulder injury, but will be back and adds explosion to the backfield. Big-bodied rising senior Jared McGriff-Culver returns and should get carries along with redshirt sophomore Greg White. It still looks as though leading rusher Henry Josey won't be healthy enough for the fall.

11. Florida: Mike Gillislee has been inconsistent during his career, but is perhaps the key to the team and is the first downhill runner Florida has had since Tim Tebow. The Gators also hope this is the year finally Mack Brown comes on. Hunter Joyer might be best true fullback in the league and Trey Burton will also play a role as an H-back/fullback.

12. Tennessee: The Vols will be searching this preseason for their go-to back. Junior Rajion Neal has gotten bigger and stronger and may be the most explosive back. He left spring practice tied with an improved Marlin Lane and Devrin Young for the starting spot. Tennessee's rushing game has to improve greatly, as it ranked 116th nationally last year.

13. Kentucky: All four top rushers are back, but none eclipsed the 500-yard mark last year. The Wildcats hope Josh Clemons can recover from a knee injury that cut short his promising freshman season. CoShik Williams was Kentucky's leading rusher last year (486) and is one of the Wildcats' more elusive backs. Jonathan George will be in the mix again, while Raymond Sanders figures to be healthier this fall.

14. Ole Miss: The Rebels can’t afford to lose top back Jeff Scott, whose academics are still being monitored. Seniors Devin Thomas and H.R. Greer provide depth, but have combined for 125 career rushing yards. Redshirt sophomore Nicholas Parker has dealt with shape issues and has yet to see any game action, while Tobias Singleton moved from receiver to running back this spring. The Rebels will have to turn to their incoming freshmen for help here.

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July, 6, 2012
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Our Friday stroll around the league:

Top performer: Running back

May, 8, 2012
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Our look at the SEC's most productive returning players in 2012 continues with the running backs.

Past producers:
Just five of the top 10 statistical rushers return in 2012. The league's top two rushers from last year -- Trent Richardson and Michael Dyer -- are gone, leaving the race wide open for the title as the SEC's best running back this fall.

Here is the conference's top returning producer at running back:

Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt: He ranked third in the SEC in rushing with 1,193 yards and was second only to Richardson with 14 rushing touchdowns. He averaged 5.9 yards per carry and 5.7 yards per carry in SEC games, while scoring seven of his rushing touchdowns in those contests. In four of Stacy's last seven games, he rushed for more than 100 yards an outing. In those games, he averaged 161.3 yards. Twelve of his 14 rushing touchdowns came in the last seven games of the season. Stacy isn't the biggest back in the league, but he can be quite elusive and has great vision. His speed gives him the ability to break long runs if the right hole opens up.

The SEC returns four more of the top 10 statistical rushers from a year ago:
  • Isaiah Crowell, Georgia: He rushed for 850 yards, five touchdowns and averaged 4.6 yards per carry.
  • Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina: In barely seven games, he rushed for 818 yards, 10 touchdowns and averaged 5 yards per carry.
  • Michael Ford, LSU: He rushed for 756 yards, seven touchdowns and averaged 6 yards per carry.
  • Spencer Ware, LSU: He rushed for 707 yards, eight touchdowns and averaged 4 yards per carry.

Lattimore would have been much more productive and probably would have challenged Richardson as the SEC's best back if not for his ACL injury halfway through the season. A totally healthy Lattimore is arguably the nation's top running back in 2012.

But don't forget about Arkansas' Knile Davis. Davis burst onto the scene back in 2010, after he rushed for 1,322 yards and 13 touchdowns. However, he missed all of the 2011 season with a broken ankle. He didn't go through contact this spring, but Arkansas' coaches expect him to be 100 percent this fall. He probably isn't as powerful as Lattimore between the tackles, but he's faster and more agile. He'll be extremely fun to watch this fall.

Eddie Lacy just missed the cut because he finished the year ranked 11th in the SEC in rushing and now takes over for Richardson. He'll have a couple of other players to work with, but Lacy will be in charge of Alabama's running game and if he can overcome some nagging injuries, he'll be tough to stop this fall.

Newcomers Kendial Lawrence at Missouri or Texas A&M's Christine Michael will challenge for top dog, too. Even though Michael shared carries with Cyrus Gray and tore his ACL against Oklahoma halfway through the year, he ranked eighth in the Big 12 in rushing (899 yards). He was ahead of schedule this spring with his rehab.

Lawrence finished with 566 yards last year, after starter Henry Josey went down with a devastating knee injury. He took the majority of the reps this spring and while he isn't the biggest guy, he'll make defenders work to bring him down.

There are a host of talented players flying under the radar as well, so don't be shocked if some unheralded guys make some noise this fall.

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