SEC: Rico McCoy

A look at the leaders in SEC games only

March, 15, 2010
3/15/10
11:57
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After I pointed out recently that South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia was the leader in total offense last season in conference games, several of you asked about the leaders in the other statistical categories in conference games only.

Here goes:

In rushing, Alabama’s Mark Ingram led the way with 128.8 yards per game, but Mississippi State’s Anthony Dixon was right on his heels at 127 yards per game.

Interestingly enough, five of the top seven rushers from a year ago in SEC games are gone. The only two back are Ingram and Kentucky’s Derrick Locke, who averaged 84.4 yards per game.

Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett was the passing leader in conference games. He threw for 273.6 yards per game. Garcia wasn’t far behind with an average of 263.1 yards per game.

Anybody want to venture a guess on who threw the most touchdown passes in SEC games?

That would be Georgia’s Joe Cox with 17. Ole Miss’ Jevan Snead threw the most interceptions with 15.

Arkansas’ Greg Childs led the way in receiving yards per game (92.1), yards per catch (23) and most receiving yards (737) in conference games. Childs’ six touchdown catches were also tops among receivers in conference games.

Ole Miss’ Shay Hodge had the most catches (41), followed by LSU’s Brandon LaFell (39) and Florida’s Aaron Hernandez (38).

The top scorers among position players were Tennessee running back Montario Hardesty and Kentucky quarterback/receiver Randall Cobb, both of whom scored 10 touchdowns.

Ole Miss’ Dexter McCluster topped the league in all-purpose yardage with an average of 160.5 yards per game. The Kentucky twosome of Cobb and Locke were the next two. Cobb averaged 156.9 yards and Locke 156.8 yards.

Defensively, Tennessee linebacker Rico McCoy led the league with 91 total tackles. Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran was second with 90. Florida defensive end Jermaine Cunningham had seven sacks in conference games to lead the way, while Georgia defensive end Justin Houston had 11 total tackles for loss to finish No. 1 in the category. Alabama cornerback Javier Arenas had 10 solo tackles for loss.

Alabama safety Mark Barron had six interceptions in SEC games to rank No. 1 in that category.

The fans speak on the SEC's top 30 players

February, 26, 2010
2/26/10
4:02
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Some of your countdowns of the top 30 players in the SEC from this past season are starting to roll in.

Here’s one from Andrew of Auburn, Ala., and he has Tennessee safety Eric Berry No. 1. He also has Florida cornerback Joe Haden and Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes a little higher than I did and included Tennessee linebacker Rico McCoy and Auburn receiver Darvin Adams on his list. Otherwise, his list includes most of the same names as my list.

He only listed 29 players. I'll post a few more lists next week:.

Here's Andrew's list:

No. 1: Eric Berry, S, Tennessee

No. 2: Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama

No. 3: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

No. 4: Joe Haden, CB, Florida

No. 5: Dexter McCluster, RB/WR, Ole Miss

No. 6: Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida

No. 7: Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas

No. 8: Tim Tebow, QB, Florida

No. 9: Anthony Dixon, RB, Mississippi State

No. 10: Eric Norwood, LB, South Carolina

No. 11: Antonio Coleman, CB, Auburn

No. 12: Javier Arenas, CB/RS, Alabama

No. 13: Aaron Hernandez, TE, Florida

No. 14: Montario Hardesty, RB, Tennessee

No. 15: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

No. 16: Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee

No. 17: Mike Johnson, OG, Alabama

No. 18: Ben Tate, RB, Auburn

No. 19: Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida

No. 20: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

No. 21: Darvin Adams, WR, Auburn

No. 22: Shay Hodge, WR, Ole Miss

No. 23: Pernell McPhee, DE, Mississippi State

No. 24: Rennie Curran, LB, Georgia

No. 25: Rico McCoy, LB, Tennessee

No. 26: Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida

No. 27: Mark Barron, S, Alabama

No. 28: Malcolm Sheppard, DT, Arkansas

No. 29: Terrence Cody, NG, Alabama

Vols' McCoy: Game is still going to be played

September, 15, 2009
9/15/09
6:01
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee senior linebacker Rico McCoy sighed at the question.

He’s heard the talk, too.

Venturing down to the Swamp as a four-touchdown underdog and facing a Florida team that doesn’t just want to beat Tennessee, but wants to punish the Vols, how ugly could this one get Saturday?

“The game’s still going to be played. The game’s still going to be played,” McCoy repeated with emphasis. “And I have a say-so in the outcome. I don’t have anything to say right now. I’ll let the play speak for itself. It’s just a number (Florida being favored by four touchdowns) they threw out before a game, and we determine if that happens or not.”

McCoy knows the atmosphere will be wild Saturday and that the fans will be downright nasty.

He also knows that the Gators have had this game circled ever since Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin became a household name in the SEC back in February when he took aim at Urban Meyer.

“I’m not worried about it,” McCoy said. “I know my team is going to be ready to play. I’m confident. I hear the stuff about them not taking knees, (saving) timeouts.

“You know, if we leave ourselves in that situation, go ahead and do it. If you can do it, do it. But you know, we’re ready to play. We’re going to fight until that last second is off the clock.”

Kiffin said he actually likes the fact that nobody is giving the Vols any chance in this game.

“I kind of like it for our players, because I think it kind of takes the pressure off of them,” Kiffin said.

The Gators have beaten the Vols by a combined 63 points over the last two seasons and won 59-20 the last time Tennessee played in the Swamp.

Given the severity of those beatings, Kiffin doesn’t see how the Gators will be any more motivated for this game … regardless of what he might have said about Meyer or anything else.

“Urban has never lost to Tennessee, and it was (63 points) over the last two years combined,” Kiffin said. “There’s been motivation over there, and I don’t think that I motivated them. I wasn’t here yet.”

Nice try, but something says neither Meyer nor the Gators will quite see it that way come Saturday.

Tennessee spring wrap-up

May, 5, 2009
5/05/09
9:55
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Tennessee Volunteers
2008 overall record: 5-7

2008 conference record: 3-5

Returning starters

Offense: 7, defense: 6, kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

QB Jonathan Crompton, QB Nick Stephens, RB Montario Hardesty, WR Gerald Jones, DE Chris Walker, DT Dan Williams, LB Rico McCoy, S Eric Berry

Key losses

RB Arian Foster, OG Anthony Parker, DE Robert Ayers, LB Ellix Wilson, LB Nevin McKenzie, S Demetrice Morley

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Arian Foster (570 yards)
Passing: Jonathan Crompton* (889 yards)
Receiving: Lucas Taylor (332 yards)
Tackles: Ellix Wilson (89)
Sacks: Nevin McKenzie (5)
Interceptions: Eric Berry* (7)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 Western Kentucky
Sept. 12 UCLA
Sept. 19 at Florida
Sept. 26 Ohio
Oct. 3 Auburn
Oct. 10 Georgia
Oct. 24 at Alabama
Oct. 31 South Carolina
Nov. 7 Memphis
Nov. 14 at Ole Miss
Nov. 21 Vanderbilt
Nov. 28 at Kentucky
Walker blows up: If you're looking for a strong breakout player of the year candidate in the SEC, junior defensive end Chris Walker ought to be near the top of the list. He had a dominant spring and was referred to as "unblockable" more than once by Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin. Walker has great burst off the edge to get to the passer, but also plays the run well.

New energy: There's a new energy both in and around the Tennessee program right now. The players are talking about it, and the fans are eager to see where Kiffin and the new staff can take this program. The Vols had fallen from the SEC's elite in the past few years. Kiffin's challenge is to get them back there.

Law according to Kiffin: There's always going to be attrition when a new coach takes over, but the Vols are nearing double figures in terms of players who've left the program since Kiffin was hired. Some of the notables are running back Lennon Creer, safety Demetrice Morley and quarterback B.J. Coleman. Kiffin's response has been simple: His version of Tennessee football isn't for everybody.

Fall questions

Quarterback carousel: With Coleman out of the equation, it's down to Jonathan Crompton and Nick Stephens. Kiffin has said that Crompton is in the lead. The fifth-year senior will likely start the season as the Vols' starter. Whether he finishes the season as the starter remains to be seen. History suggests that Stephens will also get a shot at some point.

Clearing the way: Can the Vols block anybody that counts in the SEC? They looked to be further ahead in run blocking in the spring, and touted freshman running back Bryce Brown should help once he arrives. But pass protection remains a huge question mark. There's no depth at tackle, and redshirt freshman Aaron Douglas may end up starting next season even though he was a tight end in high school.

Backing up the talk: Kiffin has talked a mean game and stirred it up with the best of them. This much we know about him: It's not going to be boring. But is he ready to manage an SEC program and do all the things that it takes to win in this league? We're going to find out pretty fast because chances are that a few people will be gunning for him this fall.

Former Georgia signee looking at Vols

April, 15, 2009
4/15/09
7:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

It looks like Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin may give former Georgia signee Dexter Moody a second chance.

Moody, who was released from his letter of intent by Georgia last month after getting into trouble at his high school, tells Michael Carvell of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he plans to attend Saturday's Orange and White spring game along with his father and expects to receive a scholarship offer from the Vols.

Moody, who's from Twin City, Ga., has admitted to getting into an altercation with a male chemistry teacher at Emanuel County Institute. One report said Moody threatened the teacher. His coach at ECI, Milan Turner, said that Moody did not follow the plan Georgia laid out for him regarding his eligibility, schoolwork and behavior, prompting the Bulldogs to give him his unconditional release.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Moody was an ESPNU 150 selection and rated as the No. 10 outside linebacker prospect in the country.

The Vols are desperate for linebacker help. They just recently moved Rico McCoy back to weakside linebacker, and he's the only linebacker on Tennessee's roster who's started more than one game during his college career.

Tennessee recruiting needs

January, 26, 2009
1/26/09
5:06
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

It was almost two weeks ago that new Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin finally completed his coaching staff.

But the priority this recruiting period for the Vols had long since been established. They wanted to get more athletic and more talented across the board, especially on offense.

For all of Tennessee's offensive problems last season, right at the top was the Vols' inability to generate very many big plays. They hope receiver Je'Ron Stokes of Philadelphia can help change that along with running back David Oku of Midwest City, Okla.

Given their woes at quarterback last season, the Vols could certainly use another quarterback, too. But it appears that Kiffin will wait until 2010 and take his shot at one of marquee quarterback prospects in that class and ride with either Jonathan Crompton, Nick Stephens or B.J. Coleman next season.

Defensively, linebacker was a big need. Senior middle linebacker Ellix Wilson is gone, and Rico McCoy will be a senior next season. The Vols have also struggled to find finishers at the defensive end position, although they hope juniors Chris Walker and Ben Martin can live up to their recruiting billing next season.

Barring some unforeseen circumstances, All-America junior safety Eric Berry will likely be gone to the NFL after next season. Tennessee could also use some help at cornerback, which made the commitment of Eric Gordon of Nashville so important.

Kiffin has been outspoken about locking up the state. Gordon was a big get along those lines. The Vols are still waiting on receiver Marlon Brown of Memphis. He's rated by ESPN's Scouts Inc. as the No. 3 receiver prospect in the country and is just the kind of 6-5, 205-pound athlete that Kiffin would love to plug into his offense.

Vols backed into a familiar position

September, 19, 2008
9/19/08
8:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- In honor of Roberto Duran, we'll refer to Saturday's Florida-Tennessee clash as the "No Mas" game.

For those nonboxing enthusiasts, Duran was accused of uttering those now famous words in his second fight with Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980, abruptly ending the bout in stunning fashion.

Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes accused Tennessee this week of uttering those same words last September in the Swamp, at least figuratively.

"We saw them give up ... They quit playing," said Spikes, who went on to say that he knew the Vols weren't as tough as the Gators.

Fighting words?

Perhaps, but anybody who was at the Swamp last Sept. 15 would have a hard time disagreeing with Spikes.

Maybe the Vols didn't give up, but they certainly wilted in the scorching Florida sun and didn't put up much of a fight after Florida's Dustin Doe ran a fumble back 18 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.

"It makes you sick. It just makes you sick to your stomach when see that, and all you can do is blame yourself for allowing it to happen," Tennessee junior linebacker Rico McCoy said. "We can't say, 'Why did you do that?' We were on the field, too."

Let's face it, this has been a one-sided rivalry, for the most part, ever since the two teams started playing yearly in 1992 when the SEC expanded and split into two divisions.

Steve Spurrier had the Vols' number and reveled in gigging them about it when he was at Florida. Now, it's Urban Meyer who has their number, and it's not his nature to publicly gig them. He just beats the daylights out of them.

See last year's 59-20 carnage at the Swamp where the Gators were up four touchdowns midway through the fourth quarter with Tim Tebow still throwing it down the field.

It was Meyer's third straight win over Tennessee, and according to the Tennessee players, his message rang through loud and clear that day.

"I don't think they respect us one bit," sophomore receiver Gerald Jones said. "A lot of people probably don't, but we are going to earn our respect come Saturday."

For Tennessee, the ramifications are far greater than this year or this Eastern Division race.

The UCLA loss was a devastating blow to Fulmer. It only got worse when BYU destroyed the Bruins 59-0 last week.

The number of orange-hearted people fearing that the Tennessee program under Fulmer is a sinking ship is growing. Is that fair, especially for a program that was in the SEC championship game a year ago and has been to Atlanta five of the last 11 years?

Probably not, but the reality is that the level of fan apathy under Fulmer could approach an all-time high if the Gators come into Neyland Stadium on Saturday and waste the Vols for a second straight year.

There was no covering up the pockets of empty seats in Neyland Stadium last week against Alabama-Birmingham in the Vols' home opener. It will only get worse if Florida makes it four in a row.

Outside of going to Atlanta on a regular basis, the numbers this decade for Tennessee's program haven't been pretty.

The Vols haven't won an SEC championship since their 1998 national championship season and haven't played in a BCS bowl since the 2000 Fiesta Bowl.

The three schools you're measured by at Tennessee are Alabama, Florida and Georgia. Since 2000, the Vols are a combined 11-13 against those three schools. During that same span, they're 17-22 against nationally ranked teams.

And at home against Top 10 teams, they're 1-7 since the start of the 2000 season. Their last home win over an SEC team ranked in the Top 10 was Georgia in 1999.

"We need this win," Tennessee junior tailback Montario Hardesty said. "We definitely have a lot of pride in the team we're representing. Regardless of what they're saying or what's coming out of their mouths, we've got to go out and execute our plan and go out there and win this game."

In a twisted sort of way, maybe the Vols have the No. 4-ranked Gators right where they want them.

The last time we heard the talk this desperate in Knoxville was right before the Georgia game a year ago. The Vols, still reeling from their 59-20 loss to Florida, shocked the No. 12-ranked Bulldogs 35-14 and were able to navigate their way to the SEC championship game.

For whatever reason, Fulmer's teams have responded best in recent years with their backs to the wall and when nobody was giving them a chance. Some of their best wins this decade have come in an underdog role.

Or when their pride was severely bruised.

"Yeah, we do well in these situations," McCoy said. "But more than anything, we have to make up for what happened last year, to ease our minds. That wasn't us.

"You'll see what we're about on Saturday."

Vols don't need any extra motivation

September, 16, 2008
9/16/08
4:34
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

As the Tennessee players filtered into the interview room Tuesday at Neyland Stadium for media day, they didn't need to be told about Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes' comments from earlier in the day.

The television sets were tuned to ESPN, and Spikes' comments about the Vols quitting in last season's 59-20 rout were flashed up on the screen.

"He's entitled to his own opinion," Tennessee linebacker Rico McCoy said. "It's a new year, a new ballgame. We're going to see what happens this Saturday. I have nothing to say about that. That's his opinion. We have a ballgame to play Saturday and we'll see then."

Sophomore receiver Gerald Jones said it's up to the Vols to earn their respect, especially with the way the Gators embarrassed them last season. Tim Tebow was still in the game late in the fourth quarter, and Florida was still throwing the ball.

And to be fair to Spikes, it certainly looked like the Vols melted into a mound of orange creamsicles that scorching afternoon in the Swamp a year ago.

"I don't think they respect us one bit," Jones said of the Gators. "A lot of people probably don't, but we are going to earn our respect come Saturday."

Some of the Vols' biggest wins this decade have come when they've been decided underdogs. Some examples: Florida in 2001, Miami in 2003, Georgia in 2004, LSU in 2005 and Georgia last season.

Even Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer seems to revel in the underdog role.

"I don't think anybody in the nation is giving us a chance, maybe a couple of buddies and I think my wife. But I'm not sure about that one," Fulmer cracked.

The Vols are just 1-7 against Top 10 teams this decade in Neyland Stadium. That one win came in 2006 against California. The last time Tennessee beat a Top 10 SEC team at home was 1999, a 37-20 win over Georgia.

Tennessee readers fire back

July, 22, 2008
7/22/08
7:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

I'm hearing about it from Tennessee fans (and loudly) for leaving guard Anthony Parker off my preseason All-SEC first team on offense and for not having linebacker Rico McCoy on either of my first or second teams on defense.

A sampling:

"Come on Chris, being from Knoxville I thought you would not have made a mistake like putting Anthony Parker on the 2nd team when he was actually voted to the 1st team! But hey everyone makes mistakes......right?"

Well, no, it wasn't a mistake. Parker's a solid lineman and a big part of what I think will be one of the better offensive lines in the league this season. But I'm not convinced he's the best offensive lineman on Tennessee's team. Ramon Foster is vastly underrated, and Vlad Richard and Jacques McClendon are both physically better. They've just got to prove it on the field. The other thing hurting Parker is that the SEC is absolutely loaded with terrific offensive linemen this season. Michael Oher, Andre Smith and Ciron Black are all future first-round picks, and Jonathan Luigs is the finest center in the country. So, no, I didn't forget about Parker. I just know how deep the offensive line pool is this season in the SEC.

Another nice comment from a fan read:

"is this guy a ########? no Rico McCoy at linebacker? not even 2nd team? This guy obviously doesn't watch any college football whatsoever."

I do take in a few games from time to time, and I've seen McCoy play and practice extensively. He's a big play waiting to happen on defense, but has also been known to give up a few big plays. I agree that it's hard not to pick him among the top six linebackers in the league. But my question is this: Who are you going to leave off? Again, it's not a knock on McCoy as much as it is a testament to how deep this league really is -- particularly in the offensive and defensive lines and at linebacker.

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