SEC: Mike Gilliard

Lunchtime links

October, 24, 2012
Checking out the SEC with a round of links and PB&J:

DawgNation links: Burrows will stay

July, 10, 2012
Radi Nabulsi writes: Redshirt sophomore ILB Brandon Burrows, who less than a week ago quit the team, had a change of heart Monday and rejoined the Bulldogs.

Kipp Adams writes Insider: Class of 2014 standouts, including early UGA commit Nick Glass, intend to do some catching up -- and some recruiting -- at Friday’s Dawg Night, the Bulldogs’ elite event in Athens.

Nabulsi Insider: Class of 2014 D-lineman Dante Sawyer was impressive enough at last month’s Mark Richt Camp to earn an invite to Friday’s exclusive Dawg Night, and his high school coaches believe the UGA staff has dug up a diamond in the rough with the 245-pounder.

David Ching writes Insider: Linebacker Mike Gilliard was one of Georgia’s more pleasant surprises last season as a junior, coming in third on the team in tackles, with 65. In 2012, he will likely play a key role in the middle.
We all know that defense wins championships and the SEC is very much a testament to that. Alabama possessed the nation's No. 1 defense last season and now possesses another national championship. Runner-up LSU ranked second nationally.

Alabama ran away with the crown as the nation's and the SEC's best defense, but that title is for the taking in 2012. Alabama is down key players from last year's squad, like linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower, defensive tackle Josh Chapman, and defensive backs Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, and DeQuan Menzie.


Who will have the best defense in 2012?


Discuss (Total votes: 12,039)

Alabama's defense isn't as green as the 2010 group, but it's still drawing some comparisons to it. That's exactly what the Tide wants to hear. Nico Johnson seems primed to be a true leader at linebacker, while Adrian Hubbard could be a budding star at Upshaw's old position. Defensive backs Robert Lester and Dee Milliner are back and will be joined by a couple of JUCO standouts and talented sophomores Vinnie Sunseri and Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix. Jesse Williams could be a real force at defensive tackle along with end Damion Square.

Then you have LSU. The Tigers lost All-World cornerback Morris Claiborne to the NFL draft and two starting linebackers. Michael Brockers is gone at defensive tackle as well. But LSU is still loaded. The Tigers return Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon, who should be fine with an expanded role at cornerback. Junior Kevin Minter really stepped up at linebacker last year and should pick up right where he left off. Even without Brockers, the line is solid with future first-rounder Sam Montgomery at one end position and the underrated Barkevious Mingo at the other. The two combined for 17 sacks last season.

Bennie Logan and Anthony Johnson should provide some meat nastiness in the interior, while the very talented Eric Reid is back at free safety.

Georgia and South Carolina both finished the 2011 season ranked in the top five nationally in total defense. South Carolina was third, while Georgia was fifth, respectively. The Gamecocks lost first-round defensive end Melvin Ingram, but return freshman standout Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor, who many thought would be better than Ingram last season. Kelcy Quarles is back at defensive tackle and the coaches think he'll be even better in his second year.

Shaq Wilson and Reginald Bowens, who combined for 96 tackles last year, will grab time at linebacker again, while the very athletic DeVonte Holloman returns to the Spur for his senior year. There are questions in the secondary, but seniors D.J. Swearinger (safety) and Akeem Auguste (cornerback) return.

Georgia returns nine defensive starters. Brandon Boykin is gone at corner, and the Bulldogs will enter the fall with a lot questions in the secondary, especially with starters Branden Smith, Sanders Commings and Bacarri Rambo suspended to start the season. Star freshman receiver Malcolm Mitchell moved to corner this spring and fits right in, but there are depth issues at the position.

Other than that, the Bulldogs are still pretty stacked. Inside linebacker Alec Ogletree will serve a suspension to start the year, but Georgia will fill his spot by committee. Mike Gilliard, Cornelius Washington, Christian Robinson, Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson provide Georgia with a very solid linebacking unit alongside star Jarvis Jones, who racked up 19.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. Georgia's defensive line should also be pretty stout with the massive John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers battling in the middle. Abry Jones really progressed at end as well this spring.

Or maybe someone else will step up and take the crown ...
ATHENS, Ga. -- It's never too late to put up some quick notes and thoughts after a visit to a college campus. While you should expect more from my day in Athens with the Georgia Bulldogs in the next few days, here are some notes and thoughts from my visit that really stood out to me:
  • Georgia players and coaches have every reason to be jumping ship and freaking out about with the recent suspensions of defenders Bacarri Rambo, Sanders Commings, Branden Smith and Alec Ogletree. Three of those players call the secondary their home, while one, Ogletree, looks like he's ready to be a real star at linebacker in this league. But the first thing you notice when patrolling Georgia's facilities is that everyone is calm and collected about the matter. Sure, players and coaches are pretty frustrated with the situation, but they have moved on. They are working together to find the pieces to replace those guys come the start of the season. Inside linebacker Christian Robinson said that Ogletree's spot is still wide open because the Bulldogs have so many options, and it doesn't sound like the coaches will really name a starter anytime soon. Don't forget that Mike Gilliard, who really came on last year as the season progressed, and Amarlo Herrera will get reps with Robinson at middle linebacker. Robinson also said rising sophomore Ramik Wilson is getting good reps at middle linebacker.
  • The secondary isn't exactly blooming with numbers, but defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said he isn't concerned with the amount of bodies he has out there. He's happy with the production so far, but added that this group still has a ways to go, especially with three starters out to begin the 2012 season. Rising sophomores Damian Swann and Corey Moore have turned heads in practice. Swann looks like he'll grab one of the starting cornerback spots to start the season. Also, Malcolm Mitchell, who moved from wide receiver, is coming along more and more as the days go by, so there's no need for the Bulldogs to hit the panic button just yet.
  • Another player turning heads in practice this spring is nose guard Kwame Geathers. He and Jon Jenkins rotated in and out last season, and while both are expected to do the same this fall, linebacker Jarvis Jones said that he's been very impressed with Geathers, especially the shape he's in. He's still big, but Jones said he's moving better and more often. He also said that he's been gigging Jenkins about possibly losing time to Geathers because of how well he's doing. Georgia will really benefit from having both those players at full speed up front this fall.
  • The Bulldogs are pretty excited about true freshman running back Keith Marshall. The early enrollee had some iffy moments with the offense at first, but he seems to be progressing more and more with the playbook. Coaches are hoping that he and Isaiah Crowell can be a dynamic duo this fall. He's been impressive in open space, and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said he's improving his play between the tackles, which will really help Crowell when he tires. "His head's spinning a little bit right now, but he has a chance to be very special here," Bobo said of Marshall. "He's got great vision and isn't afraid to stick it up in there."
  • Speaking of Crowell, the consensus in Athens is that he's a new person and player. He's working harder and is taking his workouts and practices more seriously. The coaches haven't had to push him as hard this spring, like they did last summer. Quarterback Aaron Murray said he felt he had to baby Crowell at times last year, but hasn't had to say much in terms of pushing the sophomore-to-be this spring.
  • Another running back impressing is Ken Malcome. He almost transferred last season, but has really started to come along this spring. He's building off the bowl game in which he tied a carrier high with 12 carries and had a career-high 51 yards. "He had an awesome spring for us," Bobo said. "Really clued in to what we're doing more, more conscientious of about every little detail."
  • Murray is also looking to improve and really wants to calm things down with his play. He knows he was erratic at times last year, especially in big games. He won't change much to his regime, but wants to improve his mental reps and his thought process during plays. "I put a lot of pressure on myself to improve on my mistakes," Murray said. He also said he feels "10 times better" with his pocket mobility and footwork -- two areas that he said he struggled with the past two years. He's making sure that he keeps two hands on the ball when he runs, isn't chopping down and isn't in an awkward stance with the ball.
  • When talking with Georgia players it's easy to tell which game meant the most for the Bulldogs. Each one talked about how important the Florida win was for the season and the program. It not only gave Georgia's seniors a win over the Gators, but it helped put the Dawgs in cruise control on the way to the SEC championship game. Jones, who grew up a fan of both Florida and Georgia (very strange, I know) said he took it upon himself to make sure the Bulldogs came out with the win. He did his part with four sacks, including one that basically ended the game. Robinson said it was "the greatest feeling" he's had since his arrival. That win coupled with South Carolina's loss to Arkansas propelled Georgia into the SEC championship game.

Opening spring camp: Georgia

March, 20, 2012
Schedule: Georgia begins spring practice March 20 and concludes with the G-Day Game, 2 p.m. ET April 14 at Sanford Stadium.

What's new: For the first time in a long time, the Bulldogs enter spring ball without any coaching changes. Georgia let its coaches know how much the 2011 season meant by giving extensions to head coach Mark Richt and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. The Bulldogs also went through mat drills before spring practice, something they didn't do last year. Georgia welcomed three early enrollees in running back Keith Marshall, quarterback Faton Bauta and junior college offensive lineman Mark Beard.

On the mend: Wide receiver Chris Conley could be limited this spring with a wrist injury. Also, outside linebacker/defensive end Sterling Bailey had foot surgery in December and could be limited. Receiver Rantavious Wooten is coming off of a season in which he battled concussion symptoms for most of the year after being in a car accident, but he's expected to be completely recovered this spring.

On the move: One of the biggest moves in the SEC revolves around receiver Malcolm Mitchell. After quite the freshman season, Mitchell will work at cornerback this spring, because Georgia's numbers there are so low. Mitchell was one of the best in the conference at receiver in 2011, but with Georgia needing more help at cornerback, he could see more playing time on defense rather than offense this fall. Bailey was listed as an outside linebacker last season, but there's a chance that he could move to defensive end this spring. Ray Drew will also get more reps at defensive end, after playing outside linebacker last fall. He's likely to get more reps than Bailey, considering he played more and Bailey is recovering from surgery. Richard Samuel, who moved back to running back from linebacker last fall, could get reps at fullback as well.

Questions: The cornerback spot will be very thin heading into the 2012 season. Thanks to attrition, dismissals and suspensions, Mitchell moved to corner. There is starting experience, but depth is an issue, and Sander Commings has been suspended for the first two games. With Commings and Branden Smith the only vets, Georgia will have to rely on youngsters will little experience this spring. Damian Swann, Devin Bowman and Blake Sailors will have to grow up fast. The offensive line lost starters Cordy Glenn, Ben Jones and Justin Anderson, and returns zero seniors this season. All 14 who will partake in spring practice are underclassmen. The good news is that there is depth, and a lot of players can play different positions, but it's a pretty inexperienced group. Chris Burnette, Kenarious Gates and Dallas Lee all started games last season, but they'll have to coach up a lot of younger players this spring. And you can't forget about the running back spot. Isaiah Crowell has vowed to work harder, and has had the most time since he arrived to be healthy, so a big spring is expected. He'll need it, with Marshall on campus and ready to see a lot some time this fall.

Getting defensive: The Bulldogs return nine defensive starters from a unit that ranked fifth nationally last season. Those returners include the SEC's top sack man in linebacker Jarvis Jones. Complementing Jones on what is arguably the SEC's top linebacking unit are Alec Oglreetree, Cornelius Washington, and Mike Gilliard. The massive John Jenkins is back at nose guard, and Abry Jones, who is coming off a solid 2011, is back at end. There certainly are questions in the secondary, but having starters Bacarri Rambo, Shawn Williams, Smith, and eventually Commings, will help tremendously

Don't forget about: With defense being in Mitchell's future, Georgia's offense will take a hit, but the Bulldogs aren't without bodies at receiver. Mitchell is easily Georgia's best receiver, but there is still some good talent behind him. Tavarres King hopes his bowl performance is a springboard for this season. He didn't put up stellar numbers, but became a more reliable target in the second half of the season. Then you have Michael Bennett, who really came on as a third option at receiver, catching 32 passes and five touchdowns. Conley will be limited, but proved to be a trusted target last season. Of course, Wooten and Marlon Brown are still looking to put everything together, but time is ticking for these two vets. It's time for them to step up this spring, and the coaches feel both have the physical tools and understand the offense enough to make it happen.

Breaking out: Brown appears to be the healthiest he's been since arriving in Athens. The coaches have been waiting and waiting for him to step up and be a force in the passing game, but he's been so off-and-on during his career. He enters the spring with high expectations from the coaching staff, and his quarterback, Aaron Murray, has a lot of confidence in him. Tight ends Jay Rome and Arthur Lynch are players who could break through this spring, especially with Mitchell working on defense. Rome and Lynch will be looking to replace Orson Charles' production. Running back Ken Malcolme is another player to keep an eye on. His attitude has changed, and he will push to be the second or third running back. Defensively, linebacker Cornelius Washington is another players the coaches hope elevates his play this spring and finally reaches his potential.

All eyes on: Murray is coming off two seasons in which he broke Georgia passing records, but the redshirt junior still hears some criticism. His play in big games has been called into question because of the mistakes he's made. Georgia opened the season with two losses against ranked teams, and ended the season that way. In Murray's past four games, he threw eight touchdowns and six interceptions, including two interceptions in the SEC title-game loss against LSU, and two in the Outback Bowl loss to Michigan State. Improving the little things and trusting those around him more will help Murray tremendously this spring. He'll also have the responsibility of making sure this team is mentally ready for all the hype and the spotlight that will come with a team that will surely be a favorite in the SEC East this fall.
Even as we turn our attention to the 2012 football season, there's always time to check back with the past from time to time.

The SEC released its last set of notes from the 2011 season this week, so we thought we'd take a look at some of the interesting facts and figures from the previous season.

For starters, how about a look at the SEC players of the week?

Week 1 (Games of Sept. 1-3): Offense - Vick Ballard, RB, Mississippi State; Defense - Tyrann Mathieu, DB, LSU; Special Teams - Joe Adams, WR/RS, Arkansas; Offensive Lineman - Rokevious Watkins, OT, South Carolina; Co-Defensive Lineman - Jaye Howard, DT, Florida; Luke McDermott, DT, Kentucky; Co-Freshman - Trey Depriest, LB, Alabama; Tre Mason, RB/RS, Auburn.

Week 2 (Games of Sept. 10): Offense - Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee; Defense - Mark Barron, S, Alabama; Special Teams - Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina; Offensive Lineman - Alvin Bailey, OG, Arkansas; Defensive Lineman - Rob Lohr, DT, Vanderbilt; Co-Freshman - Josh Clemons, RB, Kentucky; Isaiah Crowell, RB, Georgia.

Week 3 (Games of Sept. 15-17): Co-Offense - Chris Rainey, RB, Florida; Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina; Defense -Trey Wilson, DB, Vanderbilt; Special Teams - Caleb Sturgis, PK, Florida; Offensive Lineman - Wesley Johnson, C, Vanderbilt; Defensive Lineman - Bennie Logan, DT, LSU; Freshman- Odell Beckham, WR, LSU.

Week 4 (Games of Sept. 24): Offense - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama; Defense -Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina; Special Teams - Brad Wing, P, LSU; Offensive Lineman - Barrett Jones, OT, Alabama; Defensive Lineman - Jaye Howard, DT, Florida; Freshman- Isaiah Crowell, RB, Georgia.

Week 5 (Games of Oct. 1): Co-Offense - Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas; Jarius Wright, WR, Arkansas; Defense - Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina; Special Teams - Steven Clark, P, Auburn; Offensive Lineman - William Vlachos, C, Alabama; Defensive Lineman - Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU; Freshman - Isaiah Crowell, RB, Georgia..

Week 6 (Games of Oct. 8): Offense - Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina; Defense - Mike Gilliard, ILB, Georgia; Special Teams - Blair Walsh, PK, Georgia; Offensive Lineman - Will Blackwell, OG, LSU; Defensive Lineman - Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State; Freshman - Tevin Mitchel, CB, Arkansas.

Week 7 (Games of Oct. 15): Offense - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama; Co-Defense - Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn; D.J. Swearinger, FS, South Carolina; Special Teams - Steven Clark, P, Auburn; Offensive Lineman - Chris Faulk, OT, LSU; Defensive Lineman - Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State; Co-Freshman - Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina; Ray Drew, OLB, Georgia.

Week 8 (Games of Oct. 22): Offense - Dennis Johnson, RB, Arkansas; Defense - Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama; Special Teams - Brad Wing, P, LSU; Offensive Lineman - Ryan Seymour, OG, Vanderbilt; Defensive Lineman - Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU; Freshman - A.J. Johnson, LB, Tennessee.

Week 9 (Games of Oct. 29): Offense - Michael Dyer, RB, Auburn; Co-Defense - Jerry Franklin, LB, Arkansas; Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia; Special Teams - Zach Hocker, K, Arkansas; Offensive Lineman - Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia; Defensive Lineman - Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State; Freshman - Brandon Wilds, RB, South Carolina.

Week 10 (Games of Nov. 5): Offense - Jeff Demps, RB, Florida; Defense - Eric Reid, S, LSU; Special Teams - Dennis Johnson, RS/RB, Arkansas; Offensive Lineman - Ben Jones, C, Georgia; Co-Defensive Lineman - Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas; Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU; Freshman - Maxwell Smith, QB, Kentucky.

Week 11 (Games of Nov. 12): Offense - Zac Stacy, RB, Vanderbilt; Defense - Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama; Special Teams - Joe Adams, WR/RS, Arkansas; Offensive Lineman - Ben Jones, C, Georgia; Defensive Lineman - Travian Robertson, DT, South Carolina; Freshman - Isaiah Crowell, RB, Georgia.

Week 12 (Games of Nov. 19): Offense - Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas; Co-Defense - Ron Brooks, DB, LSU; Danny Trevathan, LB, Kentucky; Special Teams - Blair Walsh, PK, Georgia; Offensive Lineman - Will Blackwell, OG, LSU; Co-Defensive Lineman - Malik Jackson, DT, Tennessee; Abry Jones, DE, Georgia; Freshman - Curt Maggitt, LB, Tennessee.

Week 13 (Games of Nov. 25-26): Co-Offense - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama; Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina; Defense - Tyrann Mathieu, DB, LSU; Special Teams - Ryan Tydlacka, P, Kentucky; Co-Offensive Lineman - Kyle Fischer, OT, Vanderbilt; William Vlachos, C, Alabama; Co-Defensive Lineman - Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State; Garrison Smith, DE, Georgia; Freshman - Kenny Hilliard, RB, LSU.

SEC Championship Game MVP: Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU

BCS (Yes, the SEC has won six straight)
  • Since 2006, more than half of the slots in the BCS National Championship Game have been taken by SEC teams (7 of 12). The Big Ten and the Big 12 have two each and the Pac-12 has one.
  • An SEC team has led or tied for the lead at the end of 20 of the last 24 quarters of BCS National Championship Game play.
  • Since 2006, an SEC team has been ranked first in the weekly BCS standings in 26 of the 48 weeks, with four different teams holding the top spot. Florida was first for seven weeks, Alabama for six weeks, Auburn for three and LSU for 10 weeks, including all eight polls of this season.
  • The SEC has had more teams ranked in the BCS standings for the most times than any other conference since 2006. The league has had 11 of its 12 teams ranked at one time or another since 2006 for a total of 238 times. The SEC breakdown: LSU (45), Alabama (35), Florida (33), Auburn (29), Georgia (23), Arkansas (23), South Carolina (21), Tennessee (14), Mississippi State (8), Kentucky (4) and Ole Miss (3).
  • Since 2006, the SEC has posted a 9-3 record in BCS bowl games, more wins and a higher winning percentage (.750) than any other conference. The win total equals that of the next two highest conferences.
  • Since 2006, the SEC has accrued more bowl wins (36) and appearances (55) than any other conference. The conference’s .655 bowl winning percentage is third behind the Big East (23-10, .697) and Mountain West (20-9, .690) during that time.
  • In January bowl games, the SEC is 22-10 (.688) against nonconference competition. Since 2008, the league is 16-6 (.727) against nonconference opponents in January bowls.
  • In seven 2011-12 bowl games against nonconference teams, SEC defenses held opponents to less than its scoring average in five of those games. One of the two other games were in overtime (Michigan State-Georgia) and the other was Auburn holding Virginia to 24 points, when the Cavaliers season average was 23.2 points per game.
  • Over the last five seasons, Alabama owns the SEC's best winning percentage with a 50-12 record (.806). LSU has the most wins with 53, while Vanderbilt owns the league's lowest winning percentage (.355). LSU owns the best winning percentage over the last 10 years (.795) with a 105-27.
  • SEC teams were 20-28 on the road against SEC opponents last season. Kentucky, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Vanderbilt failed to win on the road against conference opponents.
  • LSU led the SEC with a touchdown efficiency on drives of 34.8. Alabama led in scoring efficiency (46.8). Ole Miss was last in scoring efficiency (20.1) and Kentucky was last in touchdown efficiency (13.2).
  • LSU led the SEC with 129 fourth-quarter points and a fourth-quarter scoring margin of plus-95. Ole Miss was last with 41 points and a scoring margin of -36.
  • Arkansas led the SEC in yards per scoring drive (61.9).

SEC lunch links

October, 13, 2011
Making the rounds in the SEC:

SEC players of the week

October, 10, 2011
Here is a look at the SEC players of the week as announced by the league Monday:


Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina: Shaw nearly surpassed his career totals in just about every passing category, as he completed 26-of-39 passes for 311 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in the Gamecocks' 54-3 rout of Kentucky. He also rushed 15 times for 42 yards. Shaw became the first Gamecock quarterback since 2006 to throw four touchdowns in a game. In the first half, Shaw completed 15-of-22 passes for 207 yards and three touchdowns.


Mike Gilliard, LB, Georgia: Gilliard recorded a game-high and career-high 12 tackles, including a sack for -14 yards and 2.5 tackles for a combined loss of 20 yards, forced a fumble and had a pass breakup during the Bulldogs’ 20-12 win at Tennessee. This marked the fourth straight game that Gilliard has led Georgia in tackles.


Blair Walsh, K, Georgia: Walsh was 2-for-2 in field goals and hit a pair of PATs to help clinch the Bulldogs’ 20-12 win at Tennessee. After starting the season 6-for-12, Walsh drilled a 35-yarder in the opening quarter to put Georgia up 3-0 and then a 23-yarder in the second quarter to give the Bulldogs a 6-3 edge.


Will Blackwell, OL, LSU: Blackwell played every snap and recorded a team-high 10 knockdowns in LSU’s 41-11 win against Florida. He did not allow a sack as the Tigers rolled up 453 total yards against a Florida team allowing just 258 total yards going into the game. Blackwell helped pave the way for 100-yard rusher Spencer Ware as the Tigers ran for 238 yards against a Gators defense that was holding opponents to 90 yards on the ground per game.


Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State: Cox posted a career-high seven total tackles, including five solo stops, in Mississippi State’s 21-3 victory against UAB. He was a presence in the UAB offensive backfield for most of the game, credited with five quarterback pressures. Mississippi State held the Blazers to 145 rushing yards on 35 carries with only one rush for more than 20 yards.


Tevin Mitchel, CB, Arkansas: In his first career start, Mitchel finished with seven total tackles, including three solos, in Arkansas’ 38-14 win against Auburn. Mitchel was part of a Razorback secondary that allowed just nine completions in 25 Tiger pass attempts for 104 total yards.

You can check out the other top performers from the weekend here.