SEC: Sam Montgomery

Ultimate 300: SEC's top classes 

January, 30, 2014
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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.


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Inconsistency an issue for UGA, LSU

September, 24, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- For all the ink spilled over the numerous defensive holes that Georgia had to fill before this season, perhaps no defense in the country suffered greater losses than LSU.

Just as Georgia had 12 key defensive players to replace this fall, LSU actually set an NFL draft record with six defensive players selected in the 2013 draft's first two days. And just as the Bulldogs have discovered, it has been difficult for LSU to pick up exactly where it left off without players like Barkevious Mingo, Kevin Minter, Eric Reid, Sam Montgomery, Tharold Simon and Bennie Logan.

So as No. 9 Georgia (2-1) and No. 6 LSU (4-0) prepare to meet on Saturday, they do so with young in places defenses that have delivered uneven results. Neither group lack potential, but they both have dealt with the understandable lapses that typically arise when new players take over for established stars.

“I think our players are as talented as we've ever had and I think there's a maturity that needs to take place so they can play with their cleats headed north and south and ready to make a tackle and show the style of confidence, if you will, that other defenses that have played in this uniform have shown,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “I think that's coming. I see it, in last week, better in certain spots and certainly that's got to continue.”

In Saturday's win against Auburn, Miles' Tigers could not have been more impressive early. They limited Auburn to just 41 yards of offense in the first quarter in jumping out to a quick 21-0 lead. However, Auburn made it a more competitive game -- LSU still won 35-21 -- by generating 333 yards in the second half and running a whopping 85 plays against a suddenly reeling LSU defense that was facing its first legitimate test.

“Everybody probably mentally may have gotten a little bit down. We had a couple of calls that were questionable, but we've got to be able to shrug that off,” LSU defensive end Jordan Allen said. “We have a couple things happening and not sure what's going on and we're not communicating on some things and we'll get it straight.”

LSU's early schedule was much more generous toward its defensive rebuilding effort than was Georgia's. The Tigers played TCU, UAB, Kent State and Auburn in the first four games, with only the TCU game -- it was held at the Dallas Cowboys' stadium in Arlington, Texas -- being played away from Tiger Stadium.

Their defensive statistics reflect that advantage, as LSU is tied for third in the SEC in total defense (310 yards per game), is second against the pass (173.8 ypg), seventh against the run (136.2) and fifth in scoring (19.5 points per game).

Because its first two opponents were top-10 teams with impressive skill talent, Georgia's defense looks much worse on paper. The Bulldogs are 13th in the league in scoring defense (29.7 ppg), 11th in total defense (388.7 ypg), eighth against the run (143.3) and ninth against the pass (245.3 ypg).

However, they actually enter the LSU game after their best performance yet. In Saturday's 45-21 win against North Texas, Georgia surrendered just 7 rushing yards and 245 total yards -- nearly 400 fewer than the Bulldogs' offense generated that afternoon. Further, the Mean Green scored just one offensive touchdown -- the other two came on special-teams plays -- and otherwise sputtered on offense .

“I feel like we really stepped up this game,” Georgia sophomore safety Josh Harvey-Clemons said. “We had the off week to kind of get everybody in the right spot or whatever, and I feel like we're really jelling together and really getting that chemistry that we're going to need next week against LSU.”

It was still far from a perfect effort, but Georgia has now allowed opponents to score just 13 points in their last 18 drives, dating back to halftime of the South Carolina game when the score was tied at 24-24 before the Bulldogs pulled away for a 41-30 win.

“You want to have confidence,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said of his defense after the North Texas win. “I don't think this bunch is going to be overconfident after this game. I think they did begin to play well together and I think they can be proud of what happened. It was a very good performance. But LSU's a good team, and we want them as confident as possible, but we don't want them to think they've arrived, that's for sure, because we've got a long way to go.”

Miles' coaching staff can certainly empathize with that sentiment, particularly as it prepares to face a Georgia team that ranks sixth nationally in total offense at 574 ypg -- in the Tigers' first true road game of the season, no less.

Inconsistency has characterized both defenses over the first month of the season, but they realize that excuses over inexperience have nearly lost their shelf life. The defense that is better at minimizing its mistakes on Saturday will almost certainly win what should be one of the most impactful games either team will play this fall.

Chavis understands skeptics' concerns

August, 26, 2013
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His defense lost eight players to the NFL draft after ranking eighth nationally in total defense a year ago, so John Chavis understands the skepticism that LSU’s defense faces this season. He just doesn’t find it a cause for major concern.

“It’s a natural thing when you lose the number of people that we lost. It’s natural for some people to think, ‘Well, they’re going to be down a little bit.’ But we don’t think that way,” said Chavis, entering his fifth season as LSU’s defensive coordinator. “We’re going to work to be the very best that we can be, and certainly if we reach the potential that we have in terms of the quality of the players, then we’re going to be fine.”

[+] EnlargeAnthony Johnson
John Korduner/Icon SMIAnthony Johnson is expected to provide a veteran presence on a defense that lost a lot from 2012.
That’s where Chavis’ confidence level is appropriate entering Saturday’s opener against No. 20 TCU in Arlington, Texas. With veterans Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson anchoring the front line and a huge group of talented youngsters jockeying for early playing time alongside established players like linebacker Lamin Barrow and safety Craig Loston, talent is not an issue at LSU.

Yes, the Tigers will be young and will face an extremely difficult schedule, but an infusion of talent up front -- including early enrollee Christian LaCouture at defensive tackle and ESPN 150 defensive end Tashawn Bower -- gives LSU’s coaches hope there won’t be a big drop-off after losing Barkevious Mingo, Bennie Logan, Sam Montgomery and Lavar Edwards to the draft.

“I like what we’re getting out of our veterans there,” LSU coach Les Miles said after Friday’s practice. The young guys are stepping to the front, and they seemed much more polished even from when they arrived.”

As with all young players, however, the trick is preparing them for the physicality, speed and knowledge base necessary to compete at the college level.

“When you have 92,000 people coming in, you’re not really going to have a lot of time to think,” LaCouture said. “I just want to make sure I have everything down when we go through that process and make sure I’m ready for Week 1.”

The freshmen are merely role players filling secondary roles on the depth chart for now, though. Now is the time for players like Barrow to seize the spotlight after Kevin Minter’s starmaking 2012 performance helped him become a second-round draft pick. And for Johnson and Ferguson to make good on their enormous potential now that the aforementioned big-name defensive linemen are in the pros. And for young cornerback standouts and a deep linebacking corps to perform at a high enough level that the Tigers can sort out their questions with the rotation up front.

Johnson is the No. 15 prospect for next year’s draft on ESPN Scouts Inc.’s most recent top 32, and even if the two-deep figures to be loaded with underclassmen, LSU has enough of a veteran presence from players like Loston, Barrow and Ferguson to help the Tigers remain a defensive force even while replacing so many major contributors.

“I come to work every day with the No. 1 goal of getting this defense ready to compete in the SEC. These guys are ready to compete,” said Chavis, whose units have finished 26th, 12th, second and eighth nationally in total defense since he arrived at LSU in 2009. “But everybody saying that we’re going to drop off, well, we don’t expect that, and we’ve got to work hard to make sure that that doesn’t happen.”
There's no question that this year's NFL draft really hit LSU's defense hard -- especially up front.

Gone is projected first-round draft pick Barkevious Mingo at defensive end, along with very productive leader Sam Montgomery. The Tigers also said good-bye to their plug in the middle, Bennie Logan.

That trio combined for 27 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks and 17 quarterback hurries in 2012. It's a lot production to replace, but coach Les Miles said during Wednesday's SEC coaches teleconference that he was pleased with the way his new defensive line looked this spring.

And it's not hard to believe him when you think about the talent and the numbers he and his staff have to work with.

The Tigers welcomed true freshman Christian LeCouture this spring and watched him play his way into the two-deep at defensive tackle. Miles also said he was pleased with the play of veteran tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson.

People know about the skill these two possess, especially Johnson, but it's all about being more consistent for these two. Miles seemed pleased with that this spring, and he's also hoping junior Jordan Allen finally comes into his own at defensive end after suffering a season-ending knee injury last year.

He was also very happy with the improvements made by rising junior Jermauria Rasco, who played in 13 games last season and recorded 10 tackles (two for loss). He'll have the responsibility of replacing one of LSU's talented ends, but Miles feels very confident in his ability to get the job done.

"Jermauria Rasco, in my opinion, is going to be a guy that can step right in there and play just as well as any of the guys we'll lose to the NFL draft," Miles said.

That's a lot to ask of someone who has had to wait in the wings for a while, but Miles and his coaches have no choice but to push players like him.

Sophomore Danielle Hunter is also expected to make a strong impact this fall, too, after he played in 12 games as a true freshman. Miles said Hunter, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 235 pounds, "has all of the ability that we would be comfortable with at the defensive end spot."

And once fall rolls around, the Tigers will have even more bodies to work with up front. LSU signed seven defensive linemen in its 2013 class, meaning six more, including ESPN 150 members Tashawn Bower (DE), Maquedius Bain (DT) and Greg Gilmore (DT).

"We're going to have a number of guys who will come in behind them as true freshman," Miles said.

Mel Kiper Jr. Mock Draft 4.0

April, 8, 2013
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We are getting even closer to this month's NFL draft, so get ready for yet another mock draft.

This time, ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. is at it again, but has added a second-round mock as well in his Mock Draft 4.0 . Kiper projects that 21 former SEC players will be taken within the first two rounds, including what would be a record 13 in the first round.

Eleven players were drafted out of the SEC in the 2007 draft, and the record for the most taken from one conference in the first round belongs to the ACC, which had 12 taken in 2006.

Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel is still projected to be taken No. 1 overall by the Kansas City Chiefs.

Here's a look at where Kiper has SEC players in the first two rounds:

FIRST ROUND

No. 1: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M (Kansas City Chiefs)
No. 3: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida (Oakland Raiders)
No. 5: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama (Detroit Lions)
No. 9: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU (New York Jets)
No. 10: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama (Tennessee Titans)
No. 12: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama (Miami Dolphins)
No. 14: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri (Carolina Panthers)
No. 15: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia (New Orleans Saints)
No. 21: Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia (Cincinnati Bengals)
No. 23: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee (Minnesota Vikings)
No. 25: Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU (Minnesota Vikings)
No. 26: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama (Green Bay Packers)
No. 29: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee (New England Patriots)

SECOND ROUND

No. 34: Matt Elam, S, Florida (San Francisco 49ers)
No. 44: D.J. Swearinger, S, South Carolina (Carolina Panthers)
No. 48: Cornelius Washington, OLB, Georgia (Pittsburgh Steelers)
No. 50: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama (Chicago Bears)
No. 53: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State (Cincinnati Bengals)
No. 57: John Jenkins, DT, Georgia (Houston Texans)
No. 58: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M (Denver Broncos)
No. 59: Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU (New England Patriots)
  • Alabama leads the way with five players projected to go within the first two rounds.
  • Moore has really seen his draft stock fall since his dismal showing at the NFL combine in February. He went from a top-five pick to out of the first round. Now, he's projected to go 58th to the Broncos. LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery, who was viewed as a first-round pick before last season, has also seen his stock plummet.
  • Swearinger is rising up the draft charts. His impressive workouts this spring and keen field instinct make him a very attractive prospect to teams looking for a ball hawk in the second round. While Swearinger is moving upward, LSU safety Eric Reid is falling. Another projected first-rounder before last season, Kiper doesn't even have him in the first two rounds, despite a solid workout at the combine.
  • Mathieu looked to have played himself out of the first couple of rounds because of his off-field issues, but after impressing scouts this spring, he's back in the good graces of the draft. He might not be an every-down cover corner, but there's no denying Mathieu's athleticism and game-changing ability.

SEC pre-combine NFL draft rankings

February, 20, 2013
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It's NFL combine week, and that means a lot of former college players will begin running, jumping, throwing and talking their way either up or down the NFL draft rankings as April approaches.

Players are arriving today. Things start with interviews, and on-field workouts begin Saturday. It's a fun time, but it can also be very nerve-racking because so much is on the line.

Before players get poked, prodded and asked a trillion questions about anything and everything, NFL.com draft expert Mike Mayock released his top five rankings at every position, and the SEC is well represented.

Twenty-one SEC players made the rankings and the conference was represented in every position but quarterback.

Here's how SEC players ranked:

Quarterbacks

None ... I wonder where Georgia's Aaron Murray or Alabama's AJ McCarron would be if they had entered the draft.

Running backs

1. Eddie Lacy, Alabama

5. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina

Wide receivers

1. Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee

Tight end

5. Jordan Reed, Florida

Center

3. Barrett Jones, Alabama

Guard

1. Chance Warmack, Alabama

3. Larry Warford, Kentucky

Tackle

1. Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M

4. D.J. Fluker, Alabama

Defensive end

2. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M

4. Sam Montgomery, LSU

Defensive tackle

1. Sharrif Floyd, Florida

3. Sheldon Richardson, Missouri

Outside linebacker

2. Jarvis Jones, Georgia

4. Barkevious Mingo, LSU

Inside linebacker

1. Alec Ogletree, Georgia

3. Kevin Minter, LSU

Cornerback

1. Dee Milliner, Alabama

3. Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State

Safety

2. Matt Elam, Florida

4. Eric Reid, LSU
The NFL draft is right around the corner, and as we say goodbye to national signing day, we're turning our attention back to players who just left the SEC.

Following the 2012 season, the SEC was gutted by a tremendous amount of players looking to make futures for themselves in the NFL. And when you take a look at mock drafts, you can tell that the conference is losing a lot of very good talent in 2013.

ESPN NFL draft gurus Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay released new (early) mock drafts for April's NFL draft, and both are chock-full of SEC talent. Both Kiper's mock draft Insider and McShay's mock draft Insider have 16 SEC players going in the first round. Kiper has six SEC players going within the first 10 picks, including Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel going No. 1 to the Kansas City Chiefs and A&M defensive end Damontre Moore going No. 2 to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

McShay's top SEC players in his mock draft are Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner (No. 3 to the Oakland Raiders) and Joeckel (No. 4 to the Philadelphia Eagles).

Alabama dominated with at least four players making both mock drafts.

Here's a quick look at where SEC players stand in each mock draft:

Kiper

1. Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M -- Kansas City
2. Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M -- Jacksonville
4. Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama -- Philadelphia
5. Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia -- Detroit
8. Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia -- Buffalo
10. Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU -- Tennessee
12. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee -- Miami
14. Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri -- Carolina
15. Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida -- New Orleans
18. Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama -- Dallas
20. D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama -- Chicago
24. Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State -- Indianapolis
26. Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama -- Green Bay
29. Matt Elam, S, Florida -- New England
31. John Jenkins, DT, Georgia -- San Francisco
32. Kevin Minter, LB, LSU -- Baltimore

McShay

3. Dee Milliner -- Oakland
4. Luke Joeckel -- Philadelphia
6. Barkevious Mingo -- Cleveland
9. Jarvis Jones -- New York Jets
10. Chance Warmack -- Tennessee
13. Damontre Moore -- Tampa Bay
14. Sharrif Floyd -- Carolina
16. Cordarrelle Patterson -- St. Louis
18. Sheldon Richardson -- Dallas
19. Alec Ogletree -- New York Giants
21. Eddie Lacy -- Cincinnati
24. Johnthan Banks -- Indianapolis
25. Sam Montgomery -- Seattle
26. John Jenkins -- Green Bay Packers
31. Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee -- San Francisco
32. Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama -- Baltimore

SEC has 79 players on NFL combine list

February, 7, 2013
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The SEC leads the way with 79 players invited to the 2013 NFL combine.

LSU has 13 players on that list, which includes cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, and that ties the Tigers with Florida State for the most nationally. A year ago, the SEC sent 52 players to the NFL combine.

The only SEC school not sending anybody to the NFL combine this year is Ole Miss.

The combine runs Feb. 20-26 at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Here's a team-by-team breakdown in the SEC:

LSU (13)
GEORGIA (11)
ALABAMA (10)
FLORIDA (10)
SOUTH CAROLINA (7)
ARKANSAS (6)
TEXAS A&M (6)
TENNESSEE (5)
AUBURN (3)
MISSISSIPPI STATE (3)
MISSOURI (3)
KENTUCKY (1)
VANDERBILT (1)

Departing starters in the SEC: West

February, 1, 2013
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Now that we know officially which underclassmen have entered the NFL draft, let’s take a look at those SEC teams losing the most starters.

If a player opened the 2012 season as a starter and only played two or three games before being lost for the season due to an injury or suspension, he wasn’t counted. An example would be LSU offensive tackle Chris Faulk.

We’ll start in the West and look at the East later today.

Texas A&M is losing the most full-time/regular starters in the West with 13 and Ole Miss the least with seven.

TEXAS A&M (13)

Offense: 5
Defense: 7
Specialists: 1

Key losses: Offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, center Patrick Lewis, receiver Ryan Swope, defensive end Damontre Moore, linebacker Sean Porter, linebacker Jonathan Stewart

Of note: The Aggies are losing five members of their starting front-seven on defense.

LSU (12)

Offense: 3
Defense: 7
Specialists: 2

Key losses: Defensive end Sam Montgomery, defensive end Barkevious Mingo, defensive tackle Bennie Logan, linebacker Kevin Minter, safety Eric Reid

Of note: The Tigers lost 10 underclassmen to the NFL draft, and six of those were starters on defense.

ALABAMA (11)

Offense: 5
Defense: 5
Specialists: 1

Key losses: Offensive guard Chance Warmack, offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, center Barrett Jones, running back Eddie Lacy, cornerback Dee Milliner, safety Robert Lester

Of note: The Crimson Tide are losing three starters on the offensive line and their top rusher, Lacy. But they return their top passer, AJ McCarron, who just missed throwing for 3,000 yards (2,933) as well as 1,000-yard rusher T.J. Yeldon (1,108) and 1,000-yard receiver Amari Cooper (1,000).

ARKANSAS (11)

Offense: 6
Defense: 4
Specialists: 1

Key losses: Quarterback Tyler Wilson, running back Dennis Johnson, running back Knile Davis, receiver Cobi Hamilton, safety Ross Rasner, punter Dylan Breeding

Of note: The Hogs lose their top passer, their top two rushers and their top three receivers. They also lose three of their top four tacklers.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (10)

Offense: 4
Defense: 6
Specialists: 0

Key losses: Receiver Chad Bumphis, tight end Marcus Green, defensive tackle Josh Boyd, linebacker Cameron Lawrence, cornerback Johnthan Banks, cornerback Darius Slay

Of note: Offensive guard Tobias Smith, who was listed as a senior this past season, has been granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA after losing the 2009 season and most of the 2011 season to injuries. He’s considering coming back and playing in 2013.

AUBURN (8)

Offense: 5
Defense: 3
Specialists: 0

Key losses: Running back Onterio McCalebb, receiver Emory Blake, tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, defensive end Corey Lemonier, linebacker Daren Bates

Of note: The Tigers are losing just four players who started in more than half of their games last season -- offensive guard John Sullen, Blake, Lemonier and Bates.

OLE MISS (7)

Offense: 3
Defense: 2
Specialists: 2

Key losses: Running back Randall Mackey, offensive guard A.J. Hawkins, cornerback Wesley Pendleton

Of note: The Rebels return eight of their top nine tacklers on defense, and on offense, they return their top passer, top two rushers and top three receivers.

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 19

January, 30, 2013
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One of the league's best pass-rushers from the past two years becomes the first lineman on our top 25:

No. 19: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU, RJr.

2012 summary: Montgomery registered 37 total tackles, including 18 solo. Named an All-SEC first-teamer by the league's coaches, he also collected a team-high eight sacks, which ranked fifth in the SEC, and totaled 13 tackles for loss. He forced two fumbles, recovered a fumble and registered a safety.

Most recent ranking: Ranked No. 6 in the 2012 preseason countdown.

Making the case for Montgomery: It was hard to find another player in the league with more energy and charisma. He was also a heck of a player and was very active in opposing backfields in 2012. Montgomery got off to a slow start, but was back to his menacing ways as the season went on. He didn't always make the tackle, but he altered the outcome of plenty of plays by applying tons of pressure to quarterbacks. He had the ability to chase down most quarterbacks and force them into very uncomfortable situations, which usually resulted in positives for LSU's defense. He collected multiple tackles for loss in three games during the fall, and had his best game of the year in a crucial 23-21 win against South Carolina, in which he notched two sacks. Montgomery had some issues with intensity at times, which cost him three starts, but when his motor got going, he was one of the toughest ends to stop in the SEC last fall. With his athleticism, strength, smarts and speed, Montgomery appears to be poised to go in the first round of this year's NFL draft.

The Rundown

LSU will recover from mass junior exodus

January, 21, 2013
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Sam Montgomery, Barkevious MingoCal Sport Media via AP Images, Getty ImagesSam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, projected to be first-round picks, highlight LSU's group of juniors leaving early for the NFL draft.
Les Miles isn’t sweating the mass exodus, so maybe everybody in Tigerland shouldn’t be sweating the 10 underclassmen leaving early for the NFL draft.

That number swells to 11 if you count Tyrann Mathieu, but Mathieu didn’t play this past season for LSU after being dismissed and had no chance of returning in 2013.

To put LSU’s 10 early NFL draft entrants into perspective, the entire SEC had 11 in 2012.

Then again, the SEC saw that number climb to 33 this year.

And, yes, there were a number of head-scratchers. That's always the case.

Players leave early for all sorts of reasons. Most of the time, they’re simply ready to take their shot at the NFL. Sometimes, they land in the doghouse and really don’t have much choice. Others listen to the wrong people and get bad advice.

There’s a reason LSU has been one of the elite programs in college football the past few years. The Tigers have recruited and developed players about as well as anyone.

The sobering reality for everybody else in the SEC is that nobody has done it as well as Alabama, and the Tigers and Crimson Tide just happen to reside in the same division.

So it’s understandable that fans on all sides would see 10 underclassmen leaving early in one year and wonder if LSU was about to hit one of those embankments that all elite programs fear. The cyclical nature of college football, particularly in the SEC, is a fact of life.

The other obvious question: Is there something amiss in LSU’s program right now that’s driving players away? After all, we hear constantly how players love playing for Miles, but we don’t see a lot of those guys hanging around for another chance at that coveted crystal trophy.

Those guys do exist, although they’re getting rarer.

AJ McCarron and C.J. Mosley chose to stay at Alabama for another season. So did Jake Matthews at Texas A&M, Aaron Murray at Georgia and Jordan Matthews at Vanderbilt.

In LSU’s case, most of the guys who are leaving already knew coming into this past season that this would likely be their farewell.

Go back to that star-studded 2009 signing class by LSU that was ranked No. 1 in the country by ESPN. Six of the players leaving early were in that class -- defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, defensive tackle Bennie Logan, linebacker Kevin Minter, offensive tackle Chris Faulk and running back Michael Ford.

All six of those players redshirted their first season, meaning this was their fourth year in the program.

Mingo and Montgomery are both projected as top-20 picks, while Minter and Logan both have a chance to slip into the latter part of the first round.

Ford probably saw the writing on the wall with the emergence of Jeremy Hill at running back this season, and Faulk had already missed most of this past season with an injury. He wasn’t willing to risk coming back to school and being injured again.

That 2009 signing class also included cornerback Morris Claiborne, defensive tackle Michael Brockers and receiver Rueben Randle, all of whom left early last year and were taken in the first two rounds. Claiborne and Brockers were both top-15 picks.

The Tigers’ 2010 signing class was ranked No. 8 nationally and included safety Eric Reid, cornerback Tharold Simon, running back Spencer Ware, not to mention Mathieu.

It was pretty much a given prior to this season that Reid was coming out. He’s rated as one of the top safeties in the draft. Simon has all the measurables and will probably help himself in workouts, while Ware had seen his role on LSU’s team reduced ever since his suspension in 2011 after reportedly testing positive for synthetic marijuana.

Even for a program that rakes in the talent the way LSU does, losing 10 players early in one year is bound to have an effect. The Tigers will be forced to depend on a lot of young players next season, and several others will have to step up their roles considerably.

Miles has built a strong enough foundation that LSU isn’t going to all of a sudden drop off the radar. But losing so many good players at once will make it that much more difficult to climb out from under Alabama’s growing shadow, and that’s not what anybody wants to hear on the Bayou.

Miles knows how the game works, though, and he also knows that it’s never a bad thing to be sending so many players to the NFL, or at least in the direction of the NFL. When you're recruiting in the waters that LSU does, the overriding question that just about every one of those recruits has is: How can you help me get to the NFL?

“I like the state of the program,” Miles told The Baton Rouge Advocate. “I like the fact that we send guys to the NFL early and recruit guys with the potential to go to the NFL early.”

Something says that cycle's not going to end any time soon at LSU and that the Tigers aren't going to lose their membership in college football's upper class.
Now that all of the early entries for this year's NFL draft are in, we decided to take a closer look at some of the players who decided to leave school early.

We're checking in on how teams were affected and who some of the winners and losers were from all of these early departures:

[+] EnlargeJoeckel
Brett Davis/US PresswireIt was a no-brainer for Luke Joeckel to take his talents to the NFL.
1. Biggest winners: Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel flirted with staying in school for his senior year, but it appears that would have been a major mistake for the nation's top left tackle. He was a guaranteed top-10 pick for most of the season, but with the draft creeping closer, Joeckel has a great chance of being the top pick come April. He definitely made the right decision to leave school early, and so did his teammate Damontre Moore. After a monster 2012 season, Moore could follow Joeckel as the second player taken off the board. He moved to defensive end last fall and is a very attractive pick for teams because of his versatility. Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones and Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner could also hear their names called very early in April, as they too could both be top-five picks.

2. Biggest loser: LSU was ravaged by the NFL draft, as ten underclassmen declared early. Some were pretty obvious, but others left people confused. It didn't shock anyone that defensive linemen Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo and Bennie Logan declared. Montgomery and Mingo could be first-round draft picks, while Logan could go within the first three rounds. Safety Eric Reid and linebacker Kevin Minter made sense as well, but seeing punter Brad Wing, cornerback Tharold Simon, offensive lineman Chris Faulk and running backs Spencer Ware and Michael Ford all leave was pretty surprising. The Tigers will be losing seven quality starters and basically their entire defensive line. LSU has a lot of quality youngsters who will be vying for major playing time, but losing all that experience will hurt the Tigers in 2013.

3. Head-scratchers: Ware, Ford and Simon could all have benefited from another year in Baton Rouge. Neither Ford nor Ware hit the 400-yard rushing mark and combined for just four touchdowns on the season. Maybe the emergence of freshman running back Jeremy Hill helped influence their decisions. South Carolina wide receiver Ace Sanders shocked everyone when he decided to turn pro at the last minute. Sanders was one of the league's top multipurpose weapons, and while he isn't going to get any taller (he's a generous 5-foot-8), he could use another year to improve his receiving skills. He'll be looked at as a returner first in the NFL and won't likely be drafted very high at all. Also, Florida linebacker Jelani Jenkins could have used another year of school as well. He was banged up in 2012, only playing in nine games, and registered just 29 tackles. He's a very smart player, but another year could have helped his draft status even more.

4. The replacements:

  • LSU loses a lot, but that doesn't mean that the Bayou is void of talent. Wing will be replaced by sophomore-to-be Jamie Keehn, who started in Wing's place for the Chick-fil-A Bowl. With Ware and Ford gone, Hill will be helped out by Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard in the run game. Junior-to-be Anthony Johnson should get more reps at defensive tackle with Logan gone, and he'll also be helped by Ego Ferguson. Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins both had solid seasons at corner, so expect more of each with Simon gone.
  • With Eddie Lacy leaving Alabama, rising sophomore T.J. Yeldon will now be the guy at running back for the Crimson Tide. With his 1,000-yard season, he's already proven that he can more than handle himself in this league. He'll also be helped by Dee Hart and Jalston Fowler, who are both returning from knee injuries, and Kenyan Drake, who looked impressive in mop-up duty last season. Also, keep an eye on incoming freshman Derrick Henry, who is already on campus and should be a factor in the run game.
  • Sanders' departure at South Carolina means Bruce Ellington is now the top returning receiver for the Gamecocks, and it also puts more on the shoulders of Shaq Roland, who was expected to make an immediate impact during his freshman year. Roland has the skills to be a big-time threat in the passing game.
  • Georgia lost some key juniors on defense, but no one will be missed more than Jones. Jordan Jenkins came on strong in his first year last fall, and will do his best to replace Jones' pass-rushing ability.
  • Florida only lost three underclassmen to the draft, but replacing safety Matt Elam and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd will be tough. There are a host of youngsters who could vie for Elam's spot (keep an eye on freshman Marcus Maye), while Damien Jacobs will help man the middle of Florida's line with Leon Orr.

SEC weekend movement

January, 7, 2013
1/07/13
10:30
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All the attention is on tonight's Discover BCS National Championship, but eyes were all over the SEC over the weekend, with a handful of players making decisions about their futures.

Here's a look at some of the movers and shakers from the weekend to check up on:

FLORIDA

Backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who was beaten by Jeff Driskel for the starting spot at the beginning of the season, and reserve running back Chris Johnson, who was primarily used on special teams, have decided to transfer. Brissett's decision didn't shock anyone. He was behind Driskel all year and played in just five games and his only start came late in the year when Driskel was out with an ankle injury. Johnson arrived at Florida as a safety, but moved to running back, where he was buried on the depth chart. His lasting image with the team was being ejected in the Gators' loss to Louisville in the Allstate Sugar Bowl for punching a Louisville player.

The loss of Brissett is significant when it comes to depth. After Driskel, the Gators will have three scholarship quarterbacks entering the 2013 season, but basically no experience. Tyler Murphy will be a redshirt junior, but has never thrown a pass at the college level, while Skyler Mornhinweg will be a redshirt freshman and Max Staver will be a true freshman. That means Driskel's health becomes the top priority in 2013 for the Gators.

GEORGIA

While Florida lost a quarterback, Georgia kept one, with Aaron Murray deciding to stay for one last year with the Bulldogs. Murray seriously considered leaving school early for the NFL, but will return for one final attempt at making a run to a championship. With the defense Georgia had in 2012, this past season felt like the best chance Murray had at winning multiple championships with the Bulldogs. Next year's defense will be gutted, so it will be back to the drawing board for that side of the ball.

One thing that has been counted against Murray when it comes to the pro level is his height. At 6-foot-1, he doesn't have ideal height for a quarterback, but what might have helped him in this year's draft was the play of Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who stands just 5-11, but has had a tremendous rookie year. Murray isn't going to get any taller, but he does have a chance to break even more records in a Bulldogs uniform and could improve his stock for the 2014 NFL draft.

On Friday, linebacker Jarvis Jones decided to enter April's NFL draft. No shocker at all, as he's No. 1 on ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s Big Board. Jones is a two-time All-American and has been right at the top of the list for the nation's best defensive player for the past two years. He would have been silly to come back for a final year at Georgia, and he's going to make himself -- and his family -- a ton of money. He was one of the league's most exciting players to watch, but it was his time to move on.

LSU

There was a mass exodus from LSU over the weekend, as eight underclassmen decided to leave the Bayou. It started with linebacker Kevin Minter last week. Then, safety Eric Reid, cornerback Tharold Simon, running back Spencer Ware and punter Brad Wing decided to leave LSU early Friday. On Sunday, sources told ESPN's Joe Schad that defensive linemen Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo and Bennie Logan would also enter the NFL draft.

Losing those linemen wasn't much of a surprise, as Mingo and Montgomery are projected to be first-round draft picks, and Logan is rated as Kiper's fifth-best defensive tackle among juniors. Wing's time in Baton Rouge seemed to be coming to an end, and his bowl suspension didn't help, but Simon and Ware could have benefited from another year of football. With the emergence of freshman Jeremy Hill, Ware saw his carries decline in 2012, while Simon still has some room to improve. He's rated the No. 15 cornerback by ESPN Scouts Inc., but didn't blow a ton of people away in 2012. He has great size and instincts, but it was surprising to see him leave early.

Mass exodus continues at LSU

January, 4, 2013
1/04/13
6:26
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The number of confirmed underclassmen leaving LSU early for the NFL draft is up to five, and that number could grow to eight before it's over.

LSU announced on Friday that safety Eric Reid, cornerback Tharold Simon, running back Spencer Ware and punter Brad Wing had joined linebacker Kevin Minter in declaring early for the NFL draft.

Defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo are also expected to come out, and Randy Rosetta of The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Friday that there are indications that defensive tackle Bennie Logan is also leaning toward declaring for the draft.

If all eight players do come out, that would be six defensive starters leaving early, which even for a program like LSU that has raked in the talent, is a tough pill to swallow.

The good news is that the Tigers still have a lot of young talent in the program that they're high on defensively, and several of those -- cornerbacks Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins, defensive tackle Anthony Johnson and linebacker Kwon Alexander -- all played extensively this season as sophomores or younger.

Get ready to see a lot of new faces next season in bigger roles.

Another one of LSU's top defensive weapons is leaving, as the school announced Friday that junior safety Eric Reid will forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft.

It's hardly a surprise that the All-American decided to throw his hat into the draft, but the Tigers will really miss their leader and ball hawk. Reid is ranked third among junior safeties by ESPN Insider Mel Kiper Jr. and is No. 42 overall by ESPN's Scouts Inc. He joins linebacker Kevin Minter and cornerback Tharold Simon as the LSU juniors leaving early for the NFL, but he probably won't be the last with all the top junior talent sitting on LSU's defense.

As the only returning starter in LSU's secondary this year, Reid finished the season with 91 tackles and two interceptions. During his three-year career, Reid started 29 games and recorded 194 tackles with six interceptions.

Reid wasn't just an outstanding player for the Tigers, he was a top-notch individual as well. The Baton Rouge native bled purple and gold long before he stepped on LSU's campus and he was the ultimate leader for the Tigers during his career. LSU will certainly miss that aspect of Reid's game and the Tigers will definitely miss his tremendous play as the last line of defense for them.

"I've been very fortunate and blessed to have been able to play football at LSU," Reid said in a news release. "It was always my dream to go to LSU and play football."

LSU's defense is expected to also lose junior defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo. Defensive tackle Bennie Logan and punter Brad Wing also are considering making the jump to the NFL.

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