SEC: Nathan Dick

Lunchtime links: Chizik hits the recruiting trail

December, 17, 2008

Posted by's Chris Low

We branch out to see what else is shaking in the world of the SEC:

  • Columnist Wally Hall of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette writes that it was inexcusable for Heisman Trophy voters to leave Tim Tebow off their ballots. Of the 904 people who vote, 154 left Tebow completely off their ballots.

Future looks bright for Petrino's Hogs

November, 29, 2008

Posted by's Chris Low

Seeing his team come back in the final seconds Friday to win 31-30 over defending national champion LSU was sweet enough for Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino.

Then he glanced down his roster.

Just about everybody making a play for the Razorbacks in their season-ending win over the Tigers will be back next season.

The Hogs (5-7, 2-6 SEC) fell one game short of making the postseason in Petrino's first year, but they did set a tone for the offseason. One more solid recruiting class, and this is a club that could be a factor in the Western Division race next season and certainly by 2010.

As fate would have it, one of the few guys who won't be back next season for Arkansas, senior quarterback Casey Dick, served up a memorable performance in his final game. He came off the bench in the second half after his younger brother, Nathan Dick, injured his thumb on his throwing hand, and rallied the Hogs from a 30-14 deficit.

Casey Dick's 24-yard touchdown pass to London Crawford on fourth-and-1 with 21 seconds to play won it for Arkansas, which was in every game after that wretched three-game stretch against Alabama, Texas and Florida earlier this season. Three of the Hogs' last four losses were by a total of six points.

And while Casey will be departing, Nathan will only be a sophomore next season, and the guy all the Arkansas fans can't wait to see at quarterback is Michigan transfer Ryan Mallett.

The Hogs lose a couple of key offensive linemen, including center Jonathan Luigs, but all of the guys they leaned on offensively against LSU will be back -- running back Dennis Johnson, tight ends D.J. Williams and Andrew Davie and receivers Jarius Wright, Greg Childs, Lucas Miller and Crawford. That doesn't even count 1,000-yard rusher Michael Smith, who missed the game because of a hamstring injury.

The Razorbacks took their lumps on defense this season. But they were playing a lot of young players, and the top 10 tacklers from this season are scheduled to return.

The more I think about it, the more I like Arkansas to be the breakthrough team in the West next season similar to Ole Miss this season.

Think Petrino is already looking forward to spring practice?

Hogs go with the other brother at quarterback

November, 22, 2008

Posted by's Chris Low

Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino went through with his plan to shake things up and started Nathan Dick at quarterback Saturday against Mississippi State.

Dick's older brother, Casey, had started 28 consecutive games, but was coming off a concussion and three interceptions two weeks ago in a 34-21 loss at South Carolina.

It started well enough for Nathan against Mississippi State, as Arkansas jumped out to a 14-0 lead. Nathan's 87-yard touchdown pass to Lucas Miller in the second quarter gave the Hogs a two-touchdown lead.

But the Bulldogs have scored 17 unanswered points to take a 17-14 lead in the third quarter.

What to watch in the SEC, Week 13

November, 21, 2008

Posted by's Chris Low

It's a quiet week in the SEC, as only seven teams are playing. The LSU-Ole Miss contest (aka the Magnolia Bowl) is the marquee matchup. The winner will move to the top of the list for a Cotton Bowl bid. If Vanderbilt can beat Tennessee, the Commodores will solidify only their second winning season in SEC play in the last 48 years. Alabama is off and has Auburn at home on Nov. 29. Think there's any chance Nick Saban might take a peek at some Florida tape this weekend? The Gators might as well be off. They face The Citadel at home. Here's a look at what to watch in the SEC in Week 13:

1. Peria Jerry: When the season began, the defensive tackles around the league getting most of the ink were LSU's Ricky Jean-Francois and Auburn's Sen'Derrick Marks. Turn on the tape from the last several games, though, and find a better tackle in the SEC right now than Ole Miss' Peria Jerry. You can't. He's been dominant, and it's obvious that he's healthy after undergoing surgery in the preseason to repair meniscus damage in his knee. The 6-foot-2, 290-pound Jerry is second among all SEC defensive tackles with 10.5 tackles for loss and will be a huge key if Ole Miss is going to end its six-game losing streak Saturday against LSU.

2. LSU's O-line vs. Ole Miss' D-line: This has to be one of the best matchups of the season. LSU has had its problems this season, but they haven't been on the offensive line. The Tigers have at least two future pros in tackle Ciron Black and guard Herman Johnson. One of the keys, though, will be senior center Brett Helms, who's not 100 percent and trying to gut it out. The Rebels also have two or three future pros in their defensive line and are finally healthy. Even enigmatic defensive endGreg Hardy looked like his old self last week. Ole Miss won't hold anything back, which is why the Rebels have an SEC-leading 80 tackles for loss this season.

3. Showcase for Snead: His numbers suggest he's one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, maybe the best. But to really make this a season to remember, Ole Miss sophomore quarterback Jevan Snead needs to lead his team to a big win on the road. Here's his chance against storied rival LSU. Ole Miss offensive coordinator Kent Austin has done a nice job of bringing Snead along at just the right pace. But like all first-year quarterbacks in this league, Snead has blown hot and cold at times. He seems to be hitting his stride now and will no doubt take his shots against an LSU secondary that has given up its share of big plays this season.

4. Hold on tightly: The surest way for Ole Miss to go into Tiger Stadium on Saturday and lose the football game is to turn it over a bunch of times. The Rebels know that drill well. They turned it over 15 times in their four losses this season, but have lost just one turnover during their three-game winning streak. Forcing turnovers hasn't been LSU's forte, either. The Tigers have forced just 14 turnovers this season, which is tied for next to last in the league along with Georgia. That's in direct contrast to LSU's ball-hawking defense from a year ago. The Tigers forced 36 turnovers on their way to the BCS national championship in 2007.

5. A brotherly thing: Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino won't make a final call on his starting quarterback for the Mississippi State game until later in the day on Friday. It sounds like he's leaning toward making a change and going with the younger of the Dick brothers, redshirt freshman Nathan. Casey, a senior, has started 28 consecutive games, but left the South Carolina game two weeks ago with a concussion after throwing three interceptions. Petrino said there's a chance that both of the brothers could play in the game and that they've been energized by the competition this week in practice. For Nathan, it's a chance to generate some momentum going into the offseason. He'll need to play well if he's going to beat out Michigan transfer Ryan Mallett for the job next season.

6. Malcolm who?: The offensive linemen who've gone against Arkansas defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard this season know who he is. Still, the 6-foot-3, 277-pound junior is one of the more underrated defenders in the league. He's tied for second in the SEC with 11.5 tackles for loss and leads all defensive tackles in that category. He also has 5.5 sacks, which is an SEC-high for defensive tackles. Sheppard, one of the Arkansas team captains, has helped to keep a defense together that went through a brutal three-game stretch in which it gave up 139 points to Alabama, Texas and Florida. The Hogs have played more respectably on defense ever since, and Sheppard has been a big reason why.

7. Croom's future: The fans at Mississippi State are growing increasingly more restless each week, and many of them are calling for Sylvester Croom to hit the road. Yep, the same Sylvester Croom that won SEC Coach of the Year honors last season and led the Bulldogs to eight wins and a Liberty Bowl victory. Mississippi State (3-7, 1-5 SEC) needs to show some improvement these last two weeks, especially on offense. Croom may shake it up some Saturday against Arkansas. He wants to get both redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Relf and redshirt freshman running back Wade Bonner on the field, while J.C. Brignone will return to center and Michael Gates will move to left guard.

8. Tennessee defensive pride: It's been a horrible season for the Vols. There's no way to sugarcoat it. But through the agony of it all, John Chavis' defense has continued to play with pride and deserves far better than how this thing is going to end up. Tennessee enters Saturday's game at Vanderbilt ranked No. 7 nationally in total defense, which is remarkable when you consider how little help the defense has received from an offense that has been held to single digits in its last three games. Chavis has had better defenses at Tennessee, but few have played with more resolve than this group.

9. Less orange in Vanderbilt Stadium: This may actually be an honest-to-goodness home game for Vanderbilt, which hasn't beaten Tennessee in Nashville since 1982. Traditionally, the orange in the Vanderbilt Stadium stands when these two teams meet is as prevalent as the black and gold. There have been years when it almost sounded like a home game for the Vols. But not this year. Tennessee is putting the wraps on one of the worst seasons in school history, while Vanderbilt is headed to a bowl game for the first time in 26 years. "I hope we have a huge black and gold advantage in our stadium," Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said.

10. 50, 60 and counting: How many points will Florida score on The Citadel, and how long will Urban Meyer play his starters? It's really one of those games that the Gators get very little out of, particularly this late in the season. In fact, you know Meyer and his staff will be holding their breath the entire time hoping somebody doesn't get rolled up and injured. It's no time to play scared, but you can bet that Meyer will be smart about how long he leaves guys like Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin and Brandon Spikes in the game. Florida hasn't lost to a current non-FBS school since losing to Villanova in 1946.

Lunchtime links: Georgia's Atkins says he will return

November, 19, 2008

Posted by's Chris Low

Our daily look at what else is out there in the SEC:

SEC internal affairs: Keep an eye on Hardy

November, 19, 2008

Posted by's Chris Low

With five of the 12 teams in the SEC off this week, we take our Internal Affairs look at the conference:

A Hardy sighting: Ole Miss junior defensive end Greg Hardy is feeling healthier and also has fresh legs, which could be bad news for LSU. Hardy led the SEC with 10 sacks last season, but has been plagued by a stress fracture in his right foot. He missed the first three games of the season, but returned in time to play a key role in the Rebels' 31-30 upset of Florida. He re-injured his foot against Alabama and spent most of the next two games on the sideline. But last week, he returned against Louisiana-Monroe and showed glimpses of his old self with a sack and 22-yard interception return. The open date before the Louisiana-Monroe game gave Hardy some extra time to rest his foot, and he should be closer to 100 percent this Saturday. When he's on, he's still one of the SEC's best pass-rushers.

Where's the Wild Berry?: One of the reasons Tennessee safety Eric Berry has not played on offense this season, according to coach Phillip Fulmer, is that he's had a shoulder injury and the coaches didn't want to take a chance on getting him tackled. Fulmer and Berry had both talked in the preseason about getting Berry involved on offense, and Berry did play one snap of offense against Alabama when he caught a screen pass. Berry, one of the top safeties in the country, has still been working some on offense in practice in recent weeks and could get a few snaps this Saturday against Vanderbilt, Fulmer said.

Battle of the brothers: It's a given that one of the Dick brothers will start at quarterback this Saturday for Arkansas. Whether it's Casey Dick or Nathan Dick, Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino would like to keep Mississippi State guessing. Casey has started every game this season, but was knocked out of the South Carolina game two weeks ago with a concussion. He also threw three interceptions in that game, which didn't sit well with Petrino. Having the open date last week to get a longer look at Nathan (and with Casey sitting out because of the concussion), Petrino decided to open up the competition. Casey is second in the SEC with 2,389 passing yards, but has also thrown 14 interceptions.

Nickson to start: Senior quarterback Chris Nickson will make his second straight start after leading Vanderbilt to a 31-24 victory over Kentucky last week, earning the Commodores their sixth victory and making them bowl eligible. Nickson has played through the pain of a shoulder separation (his right throwing shoulder, no less) for much of the last two seasons. The injury rendered him ineffective earlier this season, and Mackenzi Adams took over. Both quarterbacks may end up playing in the game, but Nickson looked much healthier in the win over Kentucky with 118 yards rushing and three passing touchdowns. His ability to both run and pass makes the Commodores a much more difficult team to defend. Nickson is just 78 yards shy of the all-time rushing record for a Vanderbilt quarterback. He has 1,390 career rushing yards.

Auburn pushing back the spring: It may not be game strategy, but Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville is already looking at some different strategy for the offseason. The Tigers are typically one of the earliest teams out of the gate for spring practice, starting in February. But with the injuries and surgeries piling up, Tuberville is now thinking about pushing back the start of spring practice. His thinking is that the extra time will give more players a chance to recover physically and be healthy enough to go through most of the spring if the Tigers hold off until March. The latest Auburn player to go down was tight end Tommy Trott, who will have knee surgery this week. He's the ninth Auburn player to undergo surgery since the preseason.

Petrino not sure which brother will start at QB

November, 18, 2008

Posted by's Chris Low

Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino isn't ready to make a call on who will be his starting quarterback this Saturday against Mississippi State.

 Cary Edmondson/US Presswire
 Bobby Petrino is considering starting redshirt freshman QB Nathan Dick against the Bulldogs.

Senior Casey Dick has been the Hogs' starter all season, but he was knocked out of the game with a concussion two weeks ago in the 34-21 loss to South Carolina.

Petrino is thinking seriously about going with Dick's younger brother, redshirt freshman Nathan Dick, against the Bulldogs.

"We're going to have to wait and see how (Casey) reacts to everything and see how the week of practice goes," Petrino said. "Whether he'll be the starter or Nathan will be the starter, we certainly feel confident with either one of them starting."

Dick is second in the SEC with 2,389 passing yards, but he's thrown 14 interceptions, including three against the Gamecocks.

"It wasn't Casey's best game of the year against South Carolina," Petrino said. "He made some mistakes prior to getting hit in the head. Also, you want to make sure Mississippi State has to prepare for both of them."

Petrino said tailback Michael Smith should be ready after injuring his shoulder in the South Carolina game. Smith didn't practice during the bye week, but returned to the practice field Monday night and looked good, according to Petrino.

"I think his legs are back and feeling good," Petrino said.

Smith has rushed for 1,012 yards and caught 30 passes this season. No running back in SEC history has ever rushed for 1,200 yards and caught 40 or more passes in the same season. Smith would be in select company if he rushes for 1,100 yards and catches 35 passes, as only a handful of SEC players have done that.