SEC: Percy Harvin

Ultimate 300: SEC's top classes 

January, 30, 2014
1/30/14
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The SEC has dominated the recruiting world over the past several years. Since 2008, the SEC has had at least three schools finish in the top 10 of the ESPN recruiting class rankings each year. Last year, the conference had an impressive six schools ranked among the top 10 recruiting classes in the country. This year is much of the same, as seven SEC schools are ranked in the top 10.

Here’s a closer look at the five best recruiting SEC schools in the Ultimate ESPN 300.

SEC all-BCS-era team

January, 13, 2014
1/13/14
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It’s time to celebrate the best of the best in the SEC during the BCS era.

So what we’ve done is taken on the monumental task of selecting an All-SEC team from the BCS era, which officially ended last Monday with Florida State’s 34-31 victory over Auburn in the VIZIO BCS National Championship.

To be eligible, a player had to have played at least one season in the SEC at any time between 1998 and 2013. More weight was given to those players who had longer careers and displayed consistency over the course of their careers.

Before the second-guessing commences, there were some spectacular players -- even a few players who won national awards such as the Heisman Trophy -- that were left off this team.

Nonetheless, it’s one star-studded team.

Here’s a look:

OFFENSE

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsTim Tebow accounted for more touchdowns than any player in SEC history.
QB -- Tim Tebow, Florida: A tough call at quarterback, but Tebow had a hand in two national championships, won the Heisman Trophy in 2007 and accounted for more touchdowns (145) than anybody in league history.

RB -- Mark Ingram, Alabama: In 2009, Ingram became the first Alabama player to win the Heisman Trophy with a 1,658-yard rushing season. He rushed for 42 career touchdowns, breaking Shaun Alexander's school record.

RB -- Darren McFadden, Arkansas: A two-time winner of the Doak Walker Award, McFadden averaged 120.8 rushing yards per game for his career, second only to Herschel Walker and Emmitt Smith in the SEC.

WR -- A.J. Green, Georgia: He combined speed, size and incredible body control to haul in 23 touchdown catches in 31 career games. Green caught more than 50 passes in each season from 2008 to 2010.

WR -- Josh Reed, LSU: The Biletnikoff Award winner as the top receiver in the country in 2001, Reed hauled in 17 touchdown catches in his last two seasons. He set the SEC single-season record in 2001 with 1,740 receiving yards.

TE -- Jason Witten, Tennessee: It’s hard to beat Witten in any era as both a receiving and blocking tight end. He had seven career touchdown catches, including five during his All-SEC junior season in 2002.

AP -- Percy Harvin, Florida: Harvin was Mr. Everything for the Gators on their 2008 national championship team and a two-time All-American. He finished his career with 32 touchdowns (19 rushing and 13 receiving).

OL -- Shawn Andrews, Arkansas: Andrews is the last player to win the Jacobs Award as the SEC’s top blocker in back-to-back seasons (2002 and 2003). The Hogs’ massive offensive tackle was a consensus All-American in both of those seasons.

OL -- Barrett Jones, Alabama: Jones was a part of three national championship teams at Alabama and started at every position on the line but left guard during his career. He won the Rimington Trophy in 2012 as the country’s top center and won the Outland Trophy a year earlier as the Tide’s left tackle.

OL -- Marcus McNeill, Auburn: A two-time All-America selection at offensive tackle, McNeil paved the way for the Tigers' explosive rushing attack and was a huge part of their unbeaten 2004 SEC championship team.

OL -- Chris Samuels, Alabama: The Crimson Tide have been stocked with menacing offensive linemen during their storied history, and Samuels is right there near the top. The big offensive tackle won the Jacobs Award and Outland Trophy in 1999 and helped lead Alabama to an SEC title.

C -- Maurkice Pouncey, Florida: Also a standout guard earlier in his career, Pouncey gravitated to center and won the Rimington Award in 2009 as the nation’s top center. He was a devastating blocker and made 40 starts in 41 career games.

DEFENSE

DL -- Glenn Dorsey, LSU: The most decorated SEC defensive tackle of the BCS era, Dorsey won the Outland Trophy and both the Lombardi and Nagurski awards in 2007. He was the centerpiece of that LSU national championship defense in 2007.

DL -- John Henderson, Tennessee: A two-time All-American, Henderson is one of just five defensive players in the BCS era to win the Outland Trophy (2000) as college football’s most outstanding interior lineman.

[+] Enlarge Jadaveon Clowney
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesJadaveon Clowney had 24 sacks in three seasons at South Carolina.
DL -- Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina: Even though his numbers dipped this season, Clowney remains one of the most disruptive defensive ends to play in the SEC during the BCS era. He finished with 47 tackles for loss, including 24 sacks, in 36 career games.

DL -- David Pollack, Georgia: Pollack joined Herschel Walker as Georgia’s only three-time, first-team All-Americans. He racked up a school-record 36 sacks from his defensive end position and was a two-time SEC Defensive Player of the Year in helping the Bulldogs win the 2002 SEC title, their first in 20 years.

LB -- C.J. Mosley, Alabama: Mosley is the only player in the Nick Saban era at Alabama to have back-to-back 100-tackle seasons and was a part of two national championship teams. He was terrific in coverage and an even better tackler.

LB -- Patrick Willis, Ole Miss: Before he found stardom in the NFL, Willis terrorized the SEC and won the Butkus Award in 2006 as college football’s top linebacker. He was a tackling machine for the Rebels and the quintessential middle linebacker.

LB -- Al Wilson, Tennessee: The heart and soul of Tennessee's 1998 national championship team, Wilson was a playmaking machine at middle linebacker for the Vols. He was a two-time All-SEC selection and consensus All-American his senior season.

CB -- Champ Bailey, Georgia: One of the most versatile players in SEC history, Bailey participated in more than 1,000 plays during the 1998 season and won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the nation’s best defensive player.

CB -- Patrick Peterson, LSU: No matter where Peterson lined up, he was the most explosive player on the field. As a cornerback, few were better. He won the Thorpe and Bednarik awards in 2010 and scored touchdowns three different ways during his career: punt return (two), interception return and return of a blocked field goal.

S -- Mark Barron, Alabama: The Crimson Tide’s 2011 national championship defense was dripping with talent, but Barron might have been the best of the bunch. He was a three-time All-SEC selection and two-time All-American.

S -- Eric Berry, Tennessee: Berry was as good in coverage as he was blowing up ball carriers. He won the Jim Thorpe Award in 2009 as the top defensive back in the country and was a finalist the previous year. He finished with 14 career interceptions.

SPECIAL TEAMS

PK -- Billy Bennett, Georgia: Bennett is the SEC record holder with 87 made field goals from 2000 to 2003. Bennett was equally accurate, connecting on 79 percent of his kicks.

P -- Dustin Colquitt, Tennessee: A finalist for the Ray Guy Award in both 2002 and 2003, Colquitt averaged 43.1 yards a punt during his career. As a junior in 2003, he had 19 punts of 50 yards or longer and 21 punts downed inside the 20-yard line.

RS -- Derek Abney, Kentucky: His eight career returns for touchdowns (six punts and two kickoffs) are an SEC record, and six of those came during one season (2002). Abney set seven NCAA records, 11 SEC records and 14 school records.
Demarcus RobinsonKim Klement/USA TODAY SportsDemarcus Robinson, who got a jump on the competition by participating in spring practice, has a steep hill to climb to make an impact as a freshman receiver at Florida.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- One of the main reasons Florida's passing offense has struggled since 2009 is the lack of production -- or a playmaker -- at receiver.

If the Gators' 2013 passing offense is going to be better than the unit that ranked 114th nationally last season, the receivers must be significantly better. Redshirt junior Quinton Dunbar, redshirt senior Andre Debose, and senior Trey Burton are the most experienced receivers and should be UF's go-to playmakers, but each have limitations.

Dunbar has 50 career catches, but he hasn't developed into the downfield threat the Gators have needed. Debose (29 career catches) has been that at times, but his career has been marred by inconsistency and work-ethic issues. Burton (69 career catches) has so many roles that it's hard for him to excel at one, and he's more of a short-yardage, possession receiver.

Sophomores Latroy Pittman and Raphael Andrades each caught two passes last season and were used more as blockers than receivers.

That means UF will be depending on two or more of the five signees to make a substantial impact. Demarcus Robinson is the most likely, as he enrolled in January and participated in spring practice. But either Ahmad Fulwood, Alvin Bailey, Marqui Hawkins or Chris Thompson will have to produce, too.

But even having only one of those freshmen become a reliable and productive part of the offense might be asking too much. It's hard for true freshman receivers to make an impact -- as the past 23 years have shown.

Florida hasn't had much luck with freshman receivers, especially when it comes to being anything more than someone who gets mop-up work.

The Gators have signed 61 receivers from 1990-2012, but only 20 played as true freshmen -- and only 19 caught passes. Of those 19, only four caught more than seven passes: Reidel Anthony, Ike Hilliard, Andre Caldwell and Percy Harvin. Anthony, Hilliard and Harvin all became first-round NFL draft picks and Caldwell was a third-round pick.

Here's more proof that it takes an especially gifted player to make an impact as a freshman: Twelve the 16 receivers who played as true freshmen from 1990-2009 went on to become draft picks.

Is there an incoming receiver who can make an impact in 2013? There's no way to know right now until September, but based on the last two-plus decades, it's unlikely.

Florida is an enigma, like 2006

October, 15, 2012
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Halfway through the 2012 season, the comparisons are already coming: Is this Florida team destined to repeat what it accomplished in 2006?

It sounds crazy, it really does, but the similarities are there. The offense isn’t exactly pretty, but the defense is stellar. Both running games have bulls in the backfield (2006 had a young Tim Tebow and power back DeShawn Wynn). Urban Meyer used more of a pounding spread, while Will Muschamp (also in his second year, like Meyer) has his team grinding along and outplaying everyone in the second half.

[+] EnlargeChris Leak
Bob Leverone/Sporting News via Getty ImagesChris Leak was a legitimate threat throwing the ball for the 2006 Florida team, something that lacks in this season's version.
The 2006 team didn't really feel like a true national championship contender halfway through the season because it never blew anyone away with the offense dragging along.

But somehow, the wins kept piling up, as toughness, not flash, got it done ... just like this year's team.

But can these Gators make a run to the national championship, or even the SEC championship? Can a team that has averaged 69 passing yards in its past two games really make it through the rest of its SEC schedule and beyond?

So far a mediocre passing game has been enough with that tremendous defense and rugged running game. But for this team to get on the 2006 team’s level, some things have to change, especially with No. 7 South Carolina venturing into the Swamp on Saturday.

For starters, the Gators have to be a threat to throw. In 2006, Chris Leak, who eventually became Florida’s all-time leading passer, was very much a passing threat. He didn’t throw for a lot of yards, averaging just 210 yards a game, but defenses had to account for a balanced Gators offensive attack.

This year’s team doesn’t really have that in Jeff Driskel. He’s a tremendous athlete and can throw a good ball, but he’s averaging just 139 yards a game and has four touchdown passes.

Now, Driskel doesn’t have the receiving threats Leak had. Frankie Hammond Jr., Quinton Dunbar, Jordan Reed and Andre Debose just don’t generate the same excitement as Percy Harvin, Andre Caldwell, Dallas Baker and Cornelius Ingram.

Sure, the Gators haven’t exactly needed to throw the ball with their running game and defense, but when Driskel has to pass against good defenses, will he be able to? It’s still a mystery, and that has to be concerning.

When you compare the defenses, the pass rushes are very different. The 2006 team had Jarvis Moss and Derrick Harvey, who combined for 18.5 sacks. That team had 34 sacks. This one has just 12. Quick passing teams hurt Florida’s pass rush to start the year, but it has to be more consistent in SEC play.

This year’s team does win the kicking battle with All-American hopeful Caleb Sturgis, and you could argue that the running game is stronger with Mike Gillislee.

Even with Tebow and Harvin helping out Wynn, those Gators averaged 160 rushing yards a game. Having more of a passing game cut into the rushing numbers, but Wynn wasn’t Gillislee, who leads all SEC running backs with 615 rushing yards and is one of only two backs to average 100 or more yards a game (102.5). Wynn finished the 2006 season with just 699 yards.

[+] EnlargeMike Gillislee
Kim Klement/US PresswireMike Gillislee is averaging 5.1 yards per carry this season.
Add Driskel, Omarius Hines, Solomon Patton and Trey Burton, and these Gators are second in the SEC in rushing, averaging 233.3 yards per game and 236 in conference play.

When it comes to points, both teams are pretty even. The 2006 team averaged 29 points and gave up 9.5 through the first six games (all wins as well), while this year’s team is scoring 27.8 and allowing 12.3. This year’s team is also averaging around 20 yards fewer (378.3) and giving up 40 more yards (297.2).

So the similarities are obvious, but this team doesn’t have the experience the 2006 team had, and you have to wonder if that will eventually catch up to it.

I have to admit I was very surprised to see Florida at No. 2 in the first BCS standings. Don’t get me wrong, the Gators have been impressive with those back-to-back SEC road wins, the second-half pushes, the win over LSU, and that defense and running game.

But No. 2?

In the right light, is this Florida team really a 2 or is it more like a 4, or even a 5? We’ll find out with South Carolina and Georgia next.

Florida might be a tough team to truly figure out, but the 6-0 start is a pleasant surprise. A team that was expected to be nothing more than a distant third in the East could be playing in Atlanta in early December.

That’s something the 2006 team would be very proud of.
Todd Gurley, Keith MarshallUS Presswire, Icon SMITodd Gurley and Keith Marshall have already rushed for a combined 964 yards and 15 scores.
In the realm of Georgia football, it’s the ultimate compliment.

Freshman running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall have burst onto the scene in such explosive fashion that teammates and fans have taken to calling the duo “Gurshall.”

That’s right, a tribute to the great Herschel Walker, who ran his way into SEC lore more than 30 years ago, and to this day, remains the standard for running backs in this league.

Too early to make such comparisons?

Yep, way too early.

But there’s no denying how good Gurley and Marshall have been to this point and the impact they’ve made on the No. 5 Bulldogs.

They’ve combined to rush for 964 yards and score 15 touchdowns … in just five games.

Marshall ripped off touchdown runs of 75 and 72 yards last week against Tennessee. Gurley has four scoring runs of 29 yards or longer, and he also returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in the season opener.

Their ability to strike so quickly and generate yardage in chunks is a big reason the Bulldogs have scored 40 or more points in all five of their games.

Consider this: Gurley has eight rushes of 20 yards or longer, which is tied for the most among FBS players. Marshall is close behind with five runs of 20 yards or longer. Last season, no Georgia player had more than six rushes of 20 yards or longer

As a team, the Bulldogs had three rushing touchdowns of 20 yards or longer last season. Gurley and Marshall have already combined for seven in five games this season.

[+] EnlargeThomas Brown and Danny Ware
AP Photo/Rogelio SolisBefore Gurley and Marshall, Danny Ware and Thomas Brown carried the Bulldogs to a 10-2 record and an Outback Bowl victory in 2004.
The stakes get higher and the stage gets bigger this weekend for “Gurshall” when No. 5 Georgia travels to Columbia, S.C., to take on No. 6 South Carolina, which is allowing just 2.2 yards per carry and features one of the best defensive lines in the SEC.

But nothing has seemed to faze these guys, who’re both from North Carolina and mapped it out in high school that they would attend the same college if possible.

“It’s been a blessing, just to be able to come in and have all this success this early as a freshman and getting all this attention,” said Gurley, who has 10 touchdowns. “We just keep trying to find things to get better on every day.”

There’s still a lot left of this season, but good luck in finding two true freshmen on the same team who’ve come into the SEC made the kind of splash “Gurshall” has.

Who are some of the other dynamic first-year duos that would compare?

Here’s a look, and we’ll start with the “old” guys first. Again, these are true freshmen:

RB Dalton Hilliard/RB Garry James, LSU, 1982: They were known as the “Dalton-James Gang” and combined for 1,611 rushing yards and scored 25 touchdowns. The Tigers went 8-3-1 that season and lost 21-20 to No. 3 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. Hilliard rushed for 901 yards and 11 touchdowns and James 710 yards and seven touchdowns. They also combined to catch 52 passes for seven more touchdowns.

RB Neal Anderson/RB John L. Williams, Florida, 1982: The famed Florida duo combined for 853 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in what was Charley Pell’s next-to-last full season at Florida. The Gators went 8-4 and lost in the Bluebonnet Bowl. Anderson rushed for 197 yards in his first collegiate start against Kentucky and scored three touchdowns.

RB Keith Henderson/RB Tim Worley, Georgia, 1985: Just a few years after Walker departed, Henderson and Worley arrived on the scene in Athens. They combined for 1,358 rushing yards and scored 12 touchdowns. Henderson averaged 6.8 yards per carry. The Bulldogs finished 7-3-2 and tied Arizona in the Sun Bowl.

RB James Stewart/RB Aaron Hayden, Tennessee, 1991: The Vols turned to a pair of true freshmen to carry the rushing load in 1991, and Stewart and Hayden combined for 1,643 yards. Stewart just missed the 1,000-yard rushing mark with 939 yards and eight touchdowns. Hayden finished with 704 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. He also caught a key screen pass for a touchdown in Tennessee’s memorable comeback win at Notre Dame. The Vols finished 9-3 and lost in the Fiesta Bowl to Penn State.

RB Fred Taylor/WR Reidel Anthony, Florida, 1994: If you throw in receiver Ike Hilliard, the Gators had a trio of stellar true freshmen in 1994. Taylor led the Gators in rushing with 873 yards and eight touchdowns and also caught 29 passes. Anthony caught 30 passes and set Florida freshman records with 615 receiving yards and five touchdown catches. Anthony averaged 20.5 yards per catch. Hilliard also had 22 catches for 306 yards and four touchdowns in Florida’s Fun ‘n’ Gun attack. The Gators finished 10-2 and won their second straight SEC championship.

DE Dennis Johnson/S David Johnson, Kentucky, 1998: The “Johnson Boys” made big splashes for the Wildcats, who had their first winning season (7-5) in eight years and played in the Outback Bowl. Dennis Johnson was a second-team Freshman All-American by The Sporting New and finished with five tackles for loss, including a pair of sacks, two fumble recoveries and a blocked field goal. David Johnson earned first-team Freshman All-America honors. He finished with 53 total tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and returned a fumble for a touchdown.

RB Carnell Williams/CB Carlos Rogers, Auburn, 2001: The Tigers’ “Cadillac” burst onto the scene with 614 rushing yards and six touchdowns and averaged 5.1 yards per carry. Williams’ roommate, Rogers, earned Freshman All-America honors by The Sporting News on defense. He finished with 58 tackles (46 solo) and 12 pass deflections and would go on to win the Jim Thorpe Award as a senior. The Tigers finished 7-5 and lost in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

RB Danny Ware/RB Thomas Brown, Georgia, 2004: They’re the duo “Gurshall” is chasing now in terms of Georgia freshman running back numbers. Ware and Brown combined for 1,567 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in helping Georgia to its third straight season of 10 or more wins. The Bulldogs finished 10-2 and beat Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl. Brown led the team in rushing that season with 875 yards and eight touchdowns.

RB Darren McFadden/RB Felix Jones, Arkansas, 2005: McFadden and Jones made a run at the 2,000-yard mark during their freshman seasons. They combined for 1,739 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. McFadden, who was a two-time Doak Walker Award winner, led the way with 1,113 yards and 11 touchdowns. Jones had 626 yards and three touchdowns. The Hogs finished with a 4-7 record.

QB Tim Tebow/WR Percy Harvin, Florida, 2006: Do the Gators win the 2006 national championship without Tebow and Harvin? They both came up big in clutch situations. Tebow, the Gators’ short-yardage specialist, was second on the team with 469 rushing yards and led the team with eight rushing touchdowns. He also passed for five touchdowns. In the 41-14 win over Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game, Tebow rushed for a touchdown and passed for a touchdown. Harvin scored five touchdowns and finished with 855 yards in total offense. He averaged 11.4 yards per touch to lead all freshmen nationally. Showing off his versatility, Harvin had a season-high nine catches in the national title game and rushed for a season-high 105 yards in picking up MVP honors in the SEC championship game win over Arkansas.

RB Mark Ingram/WR Julio Jones, Alabama, 2008: Ingram shared carries with 1,383-yard rusher Glenn Coffee, but still managed to churn out 728 yards of his own to go along with 12 touchdowns. Jones was named the SEC Freshman of the Year by The Associated Press and was also a second-team All-SEC selection. He led the Crimson Tide with 58 catches for 924 yards and four touchdowns. He was fourth that season in the SEC in receiving yards per game. Alabama went 12-0 in the regular season, but lost in the SEC championship game to Florida and in the Sugar Bowl to Utah.

WR Alshon Jeffery/CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina, 2009: The Gamecocks were able to keep two of the best from their state at home, and Jeffery and Gilmore both had big freshman seasons. Jeffery was named Freshman All-American by several outlets and led the Gamecocks with 46 catches for 763 yards. His six touchdown catches were second on the team. On defense, Gilmore started in all 13 games and also earned Freshman All-America honors. He was fifth on the team with 56 total tackles, including six for loss, and had eight pass breakups. The Gamecocks finished 7-6 and lost to Connecticut in the Papajohns.com Bowl.

Gators offense just offensive post-Tebow

August, 16, 2012
8/16/12
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It's only Year 2 of the Will Muschamp era at Florida, but Gator fans have to be feeling uneasy about its stagnant offense while winning just five regular-season games against FBS opponents in 2011.

Even more troubling, none of the five wins came against teams that finished the year with a winning record (1-11 FAU, 3-9 UAB, 5-7 Tennessee, 5-7 Kentucky and 6-7 Vanderbilt).

Expanding the scope and looking at the Gators against all automatic qualifiers, you can see just how much they scuffled in 2011.

Florida ranked 65th of 67 AQ schools in both third-down percentage (29.0) and total yards per game (284.0). Its offense also finished 64th in red zone touchdown percentage (41.7).

Florida’s struggles really started with the departures of Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin to the NFL.

Led by Tebow and Harvin in 2007 and 2008, the Florida offense completed 38 touchdown passes and threw eight interceptions in SEC contests.

With Tebow alone in 2009, the Gators managed only nine touchdown passes and five picks in SEC play, illustrating Harvin's importance to the team.

The last two years have been even worse for Florida -- a combined 12 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions against conference opponents.

Quarterback John Brantley never looked comfortable, while Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel went through predictable freshman growing pains. Not surprisingly, the Gators went 7-9 in the SEC over the past two seasons.

Both Brissett and Driskel struggled in particular when attempting to stretch the field in 2011.

Together, the pair combined to complete only 31 percent of their pass attempts of 10-plus yards downfield with one touchdown and five interceptions. On throws 20-plus yards, that percentage dropped to 6.7 percent (1-15) with a touchdown and four picks.

Along with their struggles through the air, the running game also let the Gators down in 2011.

Florida ranked 73rd in the FBS in rush yards per game (143.0) and scored an SEC-low nine rushing touchdowns. Of those nine touchdowns, seven came in two games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

The one bright spot for Florida was wide receiver Andre Debose. He reeled in a team-high four catches on pass attempts of 20-plus yards downfield and all four went for touchdowns.

More impressively, the four touchdown catches all gained at least 60 yards, giving Debose the most 60-plus touchdown receptions in the SEC (second in FBS).

Hired away from Boise State, new offensive coordinator Brent Pease has been asked to revive Florida’s sputtering offense.

Last season Boise State finished fifth in points (44.2) and T-ninth in yards per game (481.3) albeit against non-SEC competition.

Even still, if Florida puts up anywhere near those numbers in 2012, the Gators and their fans will be more than happy to "give Pease a chance."

All-SEC team from the BCS era

July, 5, 2012
7/05/12
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As promised, we're rolling out our All-SEC team from the BCS era this morning.

These are the top players by position in the league going back to the 1998 season. To be eligible, players had to have played in the SEC for at least two seasons starting in 1998 and running through now. Current players were also not eligible.

We unveiled our top 11 offensive players and top 11 defensive players of the BCS era on Tuesday. Later today, we'll come up with a list (with your help) of those deserving players who just missed the cut.

Here we go with the All-SEC team:

OFFENSE
DEFENSE
SPECIAL TEAMS

SEC's best of the BCS era: Offense

July, 3, 2012
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Now that it’s official that we’ll be leaving the BCS era for the playoff era in college football beginning in 2014, I thought it would be fun to reflect on the best SEC players of the BCS era.

These are the best players, period, going back to the 1998 season, which was the birth of the BCS era.

To be eligible, players had to have played at least two seasons in the SEC from 1998 until now, meaning a player who played in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998 would not be eligible. We also didn’t consider current players, meaning Marcus Lattimore, Jarvis Jones and Tyrann Mathieu weren’t eligible.

We picked 11 players on offense and 11 players on defense and consulted with a number of coaches and other media members in making these selections.

We’ll start with offense and come back with defense later today. We’ve also selected an All-SEC team of the BCS era that we’ll unveil.

The players are listed alphabetically. Here goes with our best 11 on offense:

Shaun Alexander, RB, Alabama: He scored 50 touchdowns in 41 career games and ranks as Alabama’s all-time leading rusher with 3,565 yards. He set the SEC single-season record for touchdowns scored in 1999 with 24.

Shawn Andrews, OT, Arkansas: A massive road-grader for the Hogs and a two-time All-American. Andrews won the Jacobs Trophy as the SEC’s best blocker in both 2002 and 2003.

[+] EnlargeA.J. Green
Icon SMIA.J. Green used his superior physical tools to record 23 TDs in 31 games in his Georgia career.
A.J. Green, WR, Georgia: Combined a blend of speed, size and incredible body control to haul in 23 touchdown catches in 31 career games. Green caught more than 50 passes all three seasons at Georgia from 2008-10.

Percy Harvin, WR, Florida: They called his position the “Percy” position because he was so versatile and so dynamic. Harvin lined up as a tailback, in the slot and out wide and finished his career with 32 touchdowns (19 rushing, 13 receiving).

Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: The first and only Heisman Trophy winner at Alabama in 2009, Ingram scored 46 career touchdowns and averaged 5.7 yards per carry on 572 career rushes. Ingram lost just two fumbles in more than 620 touches at Alabama.

Eli Manning, QB, Ole Miss: Prior to his Super Bowl heroics in the NFL, Manning carved out a record-breaking career at Ole Miss. He was a first-team All-American in 2003 and threw 81 career touchdown passes, which is fifth all-time in the SEC.

Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas: Won the Doak Walker Award in 2006 and 2007 as the nation’s best running back. McFadden averaged 120.8 rushing yards for his career, second only to Herschel Walker and Emmitt Smith in the SEC

Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: After an inauspicious start to his career at Florida, Newton produced a season for the ages in 2010 after transferring to Auburn. He accounted for 51 touchdowns and rushed for an SEC-best 1,473 yards in leading the Tigers to the national title.

Chris Samuels, OT, Alabama: Winner of the Outland Trophy in 1999, Samuels started 42 games for the Crimson Tide and cleared the way for a lot of Alexander’s 3,565 career rushing yards.

Tim Tebow, QB, Florida: Set the SEC record with 57 career touchdowns from 2006-09 and was an integral part of two national championship teams at Florida. Tebow won the Heisman Trophy in 2007 when he passed for 32 touchdowns and rushed for 23 touchdowns.

Carnell Williams, RB, Auburn: There’s a reason they called him “Cadillac.” Williams teamed with Ronnie Brown in 2004 to form one of the best backfield tandems in SEC history and finished his career with 3,831 rushing yards and 46 touchdowns.
Matt Hayes of The Sporting News has an extensive piece on Urban Meyer leaving what Meyer himself once described as a "broken" program at Florida.

Quoting sources and former players, Hayes paints a picture of a program that had a serious drug problem and one that had a different set of rules for star players.

Former Florida safety Bryan Thomas told Hayes, "The program was out of control."

[+] EnlargeUrban Meyer
Kim Klement/US PresswireAccording to a new report, Urban Meyer gave preferential treatment to his star players during his tenure in Gainesville.
Meyer, now the Ohio State coach, reportedly told top receiver prospect Stefon Diggs during the recent recruiting cycle that Meyer wouldn't allow his son to go to Florida because of significant character issues in the locker room. Diggs was considering Florida, Maryland and Ohio State at the time and wound up choosing Maryland.

Meyer denies that he ever painted Florida in a bad light to Diggs or his family.

Either way, it's not a pretty picture that Hayes paints in his piece, which was the culmination of a three-month Sporting News investigation.

One former player told Hayes, "Over the last two years (Meyer) was there, the players had taken complete control of the team."

Hayes' investigation uncovered what was called a "Circle of Trust," where select players were said to be given preferential treatment and not punished the same as others, which rocked team chemistry.

For instance, Hayes writes that former receiver Percy Harvin physically attacked then receivers coach Billy Gonzales during the 2008 season and threw him to the ground and had to be pulled off of Gonzales by other coaches. Sources told Hayes that Harvin was never disciplined. Meyer said he'd never heard of a "Circle of Trust."

Also, to open the 2008 season -- the Gators' second national championship season under Meyer -- he said publicly that Brandon Spikes, Aaron Hernandez and Harvin all missed the opener because of injuries, but sources told Hayes that they were suspended and missed the game after testing positive for marijuana.

Current Florida coach Will Muschamp declined to be interviewed for Hayes' story. But it was obvious when Muschamp took over the program following the 2010 season that he had some major disinfecting to do. He dismissed his best player, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, following Jenkins' second drug-related arrest, and Jenkins later told The Orlando Sentinel that if Meyer were still the coach at Florida that he'd still be playing.

So even though Muschamp inherited some talent from the Meyer regime (although not nearly as much as some of the recruiting rankings would suggest), he also inherited some serious headaches, which probably explains as well as anything why the Gators in the past two seasons have lost 11 games, gone 0-9 against nationally ranked teams and haven't beaten an SEC team that finished the season with a winning record.
From the moment Dorial Green-Beckham put that black-and-yellow Missouri ball cap on his head, the expectations for him at Missouri went through the roof.

Actually, the former Springfield, Mo., Hillcrest High star probably would have had relatively high expectations no matter where he signed. He's a special talent, who caught 119 passes for 2,233 yards and 24 touchdowns as a high school senior. The No. 1 receiver prospect stands 6 feet 6 inches and weighs 220 pounds, making him an ideal target for any quarterback in any type of offense. And even with his size, he still has the speed to be a legit deep threat at the college level.

Stop drooling James Franklin. You'll get to start working with him before you know it.

But will DGB be a star on the field from the word "go?" Will he immediately be that top-flight receiving threat that Missouri is still searching for in its offense? Will he take the SEC East by storm and help propel the Tigers toward the top of the division?

The hype machine says yes and he should benefit from having Franklin as his quarterback and being able to learn from vets, like T.J. Moe, who was Missouri's leading receiver last year, and Marcus Lucas, who emerged as a top receiving threat for the Tigers in 2011. However, he's never played on the level of the SEC or seen anything like what he'll see from SEC defenses.

Still, if DGB can nail Missouri's playbook down early and get pretty comfy in the Tigers' offense during the offseason, he could move from watcher to doer very quickly next season.

With his measurables and skill set, DGB could be a very special player in this league and if recent history is an indicator, he could very well make that immediate impact that Mizzou fans expect him to.

We don't have to go far to see success from rookie receivers in this league. Just last season Georgia's Malcolm Mitchell proved to be the Bulldogs' most talented pass catcher. He led Georgia, and was fourth in the SEC, in receiving, hauling in 45 passes for 665 yards and four touchdowns. He did that only playing 11 games, as a hamstring injury cut into his playing time during the middle part of the season.

There was also LSU's Odell Beckham Jr., who was second on the team in receiving and grabbed 41 catches as a frosh. Ole Miss' Donte Moncrief and Vanderbilt's Chris Boyd also made big impacts in their respective offenses, as Moncrief led the Rebels in receiving and Boyd led the Commodores with eight touchdown receptions.

Over the years, we've seen other freshmen come in and make their presences well known in passing games. Percy Harvin was one of the most exciting players to watch in 2006 at both a wide receiver and a running back, as he registered 855 total yards of offense and five touchdowns for Florida. In 2009, SEC All-Freshman mates Alshon Jeffery and Chad Bumphis led their schools in receptions and yards.

And who could forget what A.J. Green did at Georgia and what Julio Jones did at Alabama in their first seasons? Both could have just jumped to the NFL at the end of the seasons if they were allowed to. Coincidentally, DGB is being compared to both, so that's nice.

We've only seen a glimpse of what DGB can do as a football player and if the experts are correct, he has a bright future ahead of him. And Mizzou's faithful is hoping he can have the early success of some of those receivers who have come before him in this league.

Multi-running back systems rule the SEC

September, 23, 2011
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Houston Nutt has always taken pride in a treacherous rushing attack. Mostly because its success relied on multiple bodies.

There was Darren McFadden and Felix Jones at Arkansas. And more recently at Ole Miss he’s had the combinations of Dexter McCluster, Cordera Eason, Brandon Bolden, Jeff Scott and even a little Enrique Davis.

In Nutt’s three seasons at Ole Miss, his teams have averaged 186.5, 183.6 and 207.6 yards per game during a full season. Most of that damage was done with the help of the use of multiple running backs in the offense.

[+] EnlargeJeff Scott
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyRunning back Jeff Scott has had to carry the load for Mississippi because of injuries.
Fast forward to 2011, and Nutt finds himself without a strong running game and his Rebels are 1-2, averaging 109 rushing yards a game, which ranks 11th in the SEC.

Nutt watched as his top two backs -- Bolden and Davis -- went down with injuries in Week 1, leaving Scott to carry the load. Scott has been successful, but not having that second punch in the backfield has hurt the Rebels’ offense.

Bolden returned last week, but Ole Miss still couldn’t run the ball effectively. Without a successful multiple rushing attack, Nutt thinks any offense will struggle in this league.

“It’s a must,” Nutt said of having a multi-running back system in the SEC. “You probably gotta have three -- two for sure -- but you need three and sometimes four. This is the guy that’s going to get hit … this is the guy that’s gonna take some shots. How durable you are at the position is really the key for the year.”

Look at past three national champions.

In 2008, Florida basically used four rushers in quarterback Tim Tebow, wide receiver Percy Harvin and running backs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps. Each eclipsed the 600-yard mark and had four or more touchdowns. The Gators averaged 231.1 rushing yards per game and finished 13-1.

Alabama’s 2009 team had one of the toughest running back duos around in Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. Ingram won the Heisman Trophy after rushing for 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns. Richardson, then a freshman, had 751 yards and eight scores.

Of course, Auburn’s perfect run last season was fueled by the three-headed rushing monster of quarterback Cam Newton and running backs Michael Dyer and Onterrio McCalebb. Newton and Dyer both rushed for more than 1,000 yards (Newton had 1,400-plus) and McCalebb had 810, giving Auburn a staggering 284.8 rushing yards per game.

Currently, four -- Alabama, Florida, Auburn and Vanderbilt -- of the top six rushing teams in the SEC consistently utilize multiple running backs. Tennessee, Ole Miss and Kentucky are at the bottom of the league in rushing and don’t.

South Carolina, the SEC’s top rushing team, runs on Marcus Lattimore power, something coach Steve Spurrier worries could begin to weaken over time without some help. Lattimore already leads the nation in yards (534) and carries (87).

Alabama coach Nick Saban understands Spurrier’s concern, saying the use of more running backs helps keep players fresh and the offense firing. Saban's combo of Richardson and Eddie Lacy has combined for 619 yards and 11 touchdowns.

“I don’t think there’s any question about it that if you’re going to be able to run the ball it’s always good to have a guy who’s healthy and fresh out there that can give a little change of pace and have a little juice all the time,” Saban said. “That’s been beneficial for us for several years now.”

Seeing two talented running backs lineup together can also have defenses spinning, wondering who and how to attack.

“We’re going to be anywhere from empty to three backs,” said Florida coach Will Muschamp, whose rushing attack averages 210.3 yards a game. “That’s what’s difficult in preparing for our offense.

“There are a lot of multiple formations and shifts and different things that happen with the same personnel on the field.”

For Richardson, he’s thrived in a two-running back operation and loves it, even though he’s the go-to guy. It not only keeps him energized but it makes wearing down defenses that much more fun.

“It’s like, how are you going to control these two guys?” he said. “With the rotation that they have, and with the features they have to bring to the field, it’s kind of hard to slow these guys down.”
Will Muschamp has a lot on his plate this fall.

But one area that Florida's new coach has excelled in is recruiting. He's replacing one of the best in the recruiting business in Urban Meyer, but he currently has Florida's 2012 class ranked No. 4 in ESPN's class rankings. Of Florida's 17 verbal commitments, seven are on the ESPNU 150.

Still, the Gators are looking up at rival Florida State at No. 2. They might be just a notch behind in rankings, but how far are they really behind the Seminoles?

I caught up with ESPN recruiting analyst Corey Long to find out:

Florida has 17 commitments right now and seems to be getting on a nice roll heading into the season, but when you look at this class compared to Florida State's, does it even stack up?

[+] EnlargePittman
Miller SafritFlorida committ LaTroy Pittman (6-foot, 195 pounds) is a physical receiver who wears defensive backs down.
Corey Long: Well, it's apples and oranges in a way. Florida probably has the best offensive line class in the nation right now, but offensive line isn't a sexy position for the fan base to get excited over and it's rare that one of those guys makes an immediate impact. There's some other great talent here. I think Brian Poole is vastly underrated even though he's an ESPNU 150 player. I love LaTroy Pittman, I love Quinteze Williams, I love Marcus Maye ... these guys can play some football.

FSU has the top-ranked player in the nation, Mario Edwards Jr., and the top-rated quarterback in Jameis Winston. If this was a game of poker, Florida would be holding three kings and FSU would have a straight flush. The Seminoles have those stars that generate the headlines. When I write about Winston I know I'll get twice as many page views as I do when I write about the top offensive lineman. So even though FSU and Florida are sitting at No. 2 and No. 3 in our team rankings I think FSU is closer to No. 1 than Florida is to No. 2.

Florida might have a nice chunk of verbal commitments, but how are Florida's coaches doing in the state of Florida and around the Gainesville area?

Long: I believe that the Florida schools should recruit around 60-65 percent of their classes from in-state talent at a minimum. And when I say in-state I also take into consideration that south Georgia and east Alabama can also qualify as part of the primary "recruiting base." Usually when the "big three" get into range the class is successful. Right now eight of Florida's 17 recruits are from the state so it's a little under average. I would like to see them pull that up to 60 percent or better and if the top in-state guys on their board -- Tracy Howard, Kent Taylor, Avery Young, etc. -- choose the Gators they will be in that range. The in-state players that have committed to Florida, however, are guys I really like.

As for the Gainesville area, it's been a little strange. I thought it was interesting that two quality defensive lineman such as Jordan Williams and Trevarris Saulsberry both played at Gainesville High and didn't get much of a bite from Florida. I think Williams has star potential and Saulsberry had the size to play different positions along the line. Is Florida that loaded at defensive line that they didn't think two locals were worth an offer? There was some transition on the staff with the retirement of Urban Meyer so maybe the evaluations will back up the staff's choices but there's a reason both players went to Tennessee and that's because they want to play Florida every year and show them what they missed out on. And then to lose out on Tim Jernigan, the main prize sitting 40 miles away, to the Seminoles was an additional stomach punch.

As for this year's crop of area talent they have a commitment from LaTroy Pittman, quite possibly the most physical receiver pound-for-pound in the nation. He just beats defensive backs up. I think they could have had Sean Price and they let him go. He's done nothing but get bigger and better in the last six months and he seems set to USF. The Gator staff seems to have chosen Taylor over Price ... that's a risk. The one player that has me scratching my head is Chris Bivins. He is a great player that plays at Gainesville High and really wanted an offer. He has busted his butt this offseason and worked his way up from a relative unknown to a top 20 defensive back in the nation. He's a good character kid from a good family that preaches work ethic. I'm not sure why Florida (or FSU and Miami for that matter) haven't bitten on the young man yet. But to Bivins' credit he doesn't complain and he's been positive about the whole recruiting experience even though the fact that the local school hasn't offered is probably eating him up. Then you have P.J. Williams, sitting 30 minutes away, and has been solid to FSU for a year now.

Coach Muschamp is definitely going to have to re-establish that area between Ocala and Lake City as "Gator Nation" to the recruits.

What does Muschamp have to do to become more competitive with Jimbo Fisher and start bringing in the athletes like FSU has gotten verbals from thus far?

Long: I've said this a few times and it's no offense to the comedian but I believe Carrot Top could successfully recruit at UF because the resources are plentiful and the school has a name nationally. So getting players will never be a problem, getting the right players, however, is what separates the champions from the contenders.

Coach Muschamp has to win and he has to win the marquee games against the big teams such as LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, etc. And it's not going to be easy because this schedule is as tough as it gets after Week 2. He's going to have to win and show some of that fiery personality he has. When Steve Spurrier took the job in 1990 he basically forced every coach that followed him at Florida to have some sort of edge and a bit of a charming personality to go along with it. Ron Zook is a nice guy but he doesn't have that sort of an edge. He didn't win like the fans expected and he didn't last. Urban Meyer was a winner and he had a demeanor that was confident and maybe even a little cocksure -- that's something the Gator fan base loved. They love to win but they really love to win with style and flair. Spurrier and Meyer gave that to them. They knew how to feed the beast.

But Muschamp is not in an easy position. His margin of error is slim and there isn't going to be much of a honeymoon period. Not only is he following behind one of the most successful coaches but he's walking into the toughest time for Florida football.

That last point I didn't realize until a good friend of mine brought it up in a conversation. When Spurrier was the coach he revolutionized the way SEC football was played and he ran off four consecutive SEC titles while the other programs were playing catch up. During the mid-90s winning the SEC was a given for Florida so they just had to beat Florida State to compete for a championship.

When Meyer was the coach he had the fortune of catching FSU on a major downswing, the two best offensive players in college football (Percy Harvin and Tim Tebow) to handle his offense and arguably the best defensive coordinator in the game (Charlie Strong) to run through the SEC.

But Muschamp has to deal with a rejuvenated Steve Spurrier and a desperate Mark Richt in the SEC East, an SEC West division that could have 3-4 teams in the top 15 and an FSU program that is on the verge of being a national player again. He's going to have to prove he can navigate those rough waters before everyone buys in.

The SEC tease teams

August, 11, 2011
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No one likes a tease. They ruin a perfectly good time, and in the SEC, we've seen a few teases in the past couple of seasons.

A tease team is a team that looks good during the spring or preseason camp, but somehow implodes during the season. It can also be a team that has high expectations, but just never puts it together.

Could there be one lurking in our midst as we speak? Possibly. If Alabama doesn't compete for a national championship, would you consider the season a failure? Some would. Or what if South Carolina doesn't win the East? That would be considered a major disappointment to a lot of people out there.

Here are some of those tease teams we've seen in this league over the past couple of years:

Georgia: The Bulldogs have been notorious for underachieving. In Mark Richt's second season, Georgia went 13-1, winning the SEC. The Bulldogs repeated as East champs in 2003 and won the SEC again in 2005. During that four-year span, the Bulldogs went an impressive 44-9. Georgia was bringing in some of the best recruiting classes in the SEC and it seemed like the Bulldogs would regularly compete for a national championship. However, Georgia has had double-digit victories just twice since 2005 and hasn't made it back to the SEC championship. Last season was the ultimate low point when the Bulldogs went 6-7, the first losing season since going 5-6 in 1996. This season, Georgia has a slew of talent, thanks to a stellar recruiting class that featured a group of Georgians dubbed the "Dream Team." If not for injuries and attrition on the offensive line and at running back, the Bulldogs would be battling South Carolina for the role of preseason favorite in the East. But there is talent to make a run. Can the Dawgs scrap the underachieving bug in 2011?

Ole Miss: Recent Ole Miss teams have been a little disappointing after that deadly preseason hype. After Houston Nutt's impressive 9-4 first season -- a season in which the Rebels upset eventual national champion Florida and won six straight games to end the season -- many had the Rebels competing for much more than just back-to-back Cotton Bowls. The Rebels entered the season ranked eighth in the country and rose as high as fourth before faltering during the middle of the season and losing to Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl. However, Ole Miss won its second straight Cotton Bowl. Last season, Ole Miss wasn't picked to bring home any trophies, but the 4-8 season was far from what was expected. The Rebels touted a much-heralded defense and brought in former Oregon standout Jeremiah Masoli to run the offense. Neither lived up to expectations and Ole Miss won just one conference game.

Florida: It's not like Florida consistently underachieved under Urban Meyer, but in 2009, everyone and their mother had Florida playing in back-to-back national championships. The Gators had what some considered Florida's best defense ever and had Tim Tebow back for his senior season. Even without Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy, many figured Florida's offense would be fine. Well, the offense was rarely explosive or intimidating and the Gators were eventually blown out by Alabama in the SEC championship. Florida throttled Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl, going 13-1, but most of the Gator Nation's excitement left when those national championship hopes were destroyed. Before 2010, people expected John Brantley to blow up Florida's record books with his passing numbers, while running another explosive Meyer offense. Along with a mighty recruiting class, Florida had the look of a SEC contender. However, Brantley never fit into the spread attack and Florida's offense limped through an 8-5 season that included a blowout loss to Florida State, the first to the Seminoles since 2003.
Green and Gators just haven't gone well together lately.

This year alone, three Florida players -- cornerback Janoris Jenkins and linebackers Chris Martin and Kedric Johnson -- had misdemeanor marijuana-related arrests. Jenkins, an All-SEC performer in 2010, was dismissed from the team last week following his second arrest in three months for possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana.

[+] EnlargeJanoris Jenkins
Kim Klement/US PresswireNew Florida coach Will Muschamp dismissed cornerback Janoris Jenkins from the team.
On the same day as Jenkins’ dismissal, it was reported that former Florida offensive lineman Maurice Hurt tested positive for marijuana at the NFL combine in Indianapolis.

Former Gator receiver Percy Harvin tested positive for marijuana before the 2009 NFL draft, and tight end Aaron Hernandez admitted before last year’s draft that he failed a drug test during his time at Florida.

So when new coach Will Muschamp met with reporters before he spoke to the Central Florida Gator Club in Orlando on Tuesday night, he was asked if he thought there was a drug problem, specifically marijuana, with players at Florida.

Muschamp said he hasn’t specifically addressed marijuana use with his players, but said there is continuous effort to help them with the decision-making aspects of life outside of football.

“We’re constantly in the mental conditioning stage with our football team of making good choices and decisions,” Muschamp said. “It’s a constant effort. When you’re dealing with young people, that’s every day. It’s not going to change. We could have no incidents for 10 years, but we’re still going to be doing it.

“When you’re dealing with young people, you’re always in that developmental stage of making good choices and decisions.”

Despite the four incidents this spring, Muschamp classified those as isolated situations and doesn’t believe marijuana use is a rampant problem circuiting throughout his entire team.

“We’ve got a good situation going,” he said. “We’ve got some good kids on our football team. Some guys make poor decisions and choices and that shouldn’t reflect on the whole team.”

Though coaches are allowed to administer their own dismissals, Florida has the only drug policy in the SEC that allows an athlete to remain on a team with four failed tests. A fourth failed drug test results in a player missing 50 percent of the season.

Auburn, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee dismiss athletes after a third positive test, while Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi State dismiss athletes after a fourth.

Former Florida coach Urban Meyer recently told The Gainesville Sun that marijuana use among players was an issue at Florida before he became head coach in 2005.

Four of the 30 arrests during Meyer’s six-year tenure at Florida were for possession of marijuana.

"It was a problem when we got here," Meyer told The Sun. "I thought we put a little bit of a dent in it. But it's still a problem.

"It's an issue at a lot of places. I've talked to a lot of other coaches who told me they were dealing with it as well. But at Gainesville, it's a national story.

"We sought counselors. We did a lot of things. There comes a point when you have to separate the player from the university, and I did that several times."

Meyer said he cut players loose after a third failed test.

Muschamp made a powerful statement when he cut Jenkins loose.

While marijuana use might have been a problem before Jenkins’ dismissal, it doesn’t look like Muschamp will make it much of one anymore.
By hoisting the crystal football in January, Auburn cemented itself as the best team college football last fall. The Tigers went undefeated in the nation's toughest conference (the SEC) and brought home a national championship.

There was a Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Cam Newton, a freak of a defensive tackle in Nick Fairley and four All-SEC selections from the 2010 team.

But after looking at how the Tigers did in the NFL draft this weekend, it's hard to argue that last year's team relied on Newton more than people thought. And that says a lot.

Despite having a senior-laden team (and returning only six starters this spring), the Tigers weren't well represented in this year's NFL draft. Outside of Newton going first overall to the Carolina Panthers and Fairley going 13th to the Detroit Lions, Auburn's only other two draft selections came in the seventh round. Defensive tackle Zach Clayton went to the Tennessee Titans with pick No. 212 and offensive tackle Lee Ziemba went 244th to the Panthers.

Auburn's BCS opponent, Oregon, produced just one draft selection this year: linebacker Casey Matthews, who was drafted in the fourth round by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Florida had just three players drafted -- wide receivers Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy, and tight end Cornelius Ingram -- in the 2009 NFL draft following the Gators' Orange Bowl victory over Oklahoma, but returned a majority of that team for the 2009 season.

Oklahoma had the lowest amount of draft selections for a defending champ since 2000, with just two draftees -- linebacker Torrance Marshall and quarterback Josh Heupel -- in 2001.

The SEC's seven national champions since 2000 have produced 37 draft picks, with LSU leading the way with 14 of those selections and Florida having a SEC-high nine selections in the 2007 draft.

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