SEC: Tray Blackmon

Another tough break for Auburn's Blackmon

October, 16, 2008
10/16/08
3:04
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

I can't think of another player in the SEC who's had a longer string of bad luck over the last few years than Auburn linebacker Tray Blackmon.

The Tigers' junior middle linebacker will miss the rest of the season after doctors determined that he needs surgery to repair a cracked bone in his wrist. Blackmon had been trying to play through the injury, but his playing time had dwindled.

The good news for Auburn is that sophomore Josh Bynes has played well while filling in for Blackmon and should finish the season as the Tigers' starting middle linebacker.

For various reasons (some of them his fault), Blackmon's career just never has taken off since coming to Auburn from LaGrange, Ga., as a consensus prep All-American. He redshirted his first year on campus and was suspended the first six games of his second year, his redshirt freshman season. Last season as a sophomore, he missed four games because of a recurring ankle injury.

Blackmon has played in just 21 of a possible 33 games during his career because of injuries or suspensions.

SEC Week 3 award winners

September, 15, 2008
9/15/08
11:51
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

The votes are in (only a few bribes were accepted), and here's a look at our weekly award winners in the SEC:

OFFENSE

Charles Scott, RB, LSU: Say this for Scott. He's making the most of his opportunities in a talented LSU backfield. The 5-11, 233-pound junior rushed for 102 yards on seven carries in the 41-3 win over North Texas and had touchdown runs of 43 and 39 yards. He had 160 yards on 16 carries in the opener against Appalachian State and is averaging 11.4 yards per carry.

DEFENSE

Tray Blackmon, LB, Auburn: In a defensive game for all defensive games, Blackmon was the catalyst for the Tigers with six tackles, including one for loss in the 3-2 win over Mississippi State. Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said it was the best Blackmon has played since coming to Auburn.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Brian Mimbs, P, Georgia: His 77-yard punt while standing a few yards deep in his own end zone might have been the play that saved the Bulldogs. That fourth-quarter rocket was followed by a 51-yard punt on Georgia's next possession that was fair caught at the South Carolina 9. Without those two punts, Georgia is probably 0-1 in the SEC right now.

COACH

Auburn defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads: With so much talk about the switch to the spread on offense and new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, lost in the shuffle was that Auburn also brought in a new defensive coordinator. Rhoads, who'd been at Pittsburgh since 2000, has the Tigers' defense playing at an extremely high level. They're third nationally in scoring defense and 10th in total defense.

Blackmon's time to shine?

August, 12, 2008
8/12/08
2:59
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn junior cornerback Jerraud Powers thinks this is finally the year.

He smiles when he says it, but he thinks this is the year that middle linebacker Tray Blackmon fully introduces himself to the rest of the SEC.

"I know we've been saying that for the past couple of years," Powers said. "And last year, I thought, was going to be his year, and a couple of injuries set him back.

"This year, he's healthy. He's stronger, bigger, faster and understands everything. His head's on straight, and he's loving and enjoying the experience right now. I don't think a lot of people have seen that out of Tray since he's been here. It's going to be a different Tray, and I think it's going to be back to his high school ways."

His high school ways made him one of the most highly recruited linebackers in the country out of LaGrange, Ga. But Blackmon's the first to admit that he didn't adjust very well socially to college life.

He redshirted his first year and was suspended for the first six games of his second year on campus, his redshirt freshman season. And then last season, he missed four games because of a recurring ankle injury.

"I think people have seen what I can do in flashes, like against Arkansas and Alabama last year," Blackmon said. "There were some games, but I want to put together a full season, healthy and all-out balling.

"It's definitely feeling like that year. I'm healthy, and I'm handling all my business on the field and off the field. Everything's ahead of me now. I'm going into everything prepared and feeling good."

More than anything, Blackmon said he's matured. He was popped for underage alcohol consumption before he ever played a game at Auburn and admitted he had several other things off the field that landed him in Tommy Tuberville's doghouse.

"I thought about transferring while I was suspended, thought about giving up," Blackmon said. "But Auburn stuck with me. The coaches stood in my corner. That whole experience humbled me and brought me back to reality. Now, I'm going to pay Auburn back."

Blackmon won't have to do it by himself, either. He thinks this is the most complete defense he's been a part of at Auburn.

"We've always had speed and guys who want to play," Blackmon said. "Sometimes we haven't had the best depth at positions. But I think this year, when you look at speed and all the guys running around that will hit you, it's the best it's been since I've been here."

******************

OK, that's all from the Plains. One note from Tuesday morning's practice, though, Offensive tackle Lee Ziemba and defensive end Antonio Coleman were involved in another fight on the practice field. Actually, offensive tackle Ryan Pugh and Coleman were the ones who initially squared off, but Ziemba ran over and joined in. During spring practice, Coleman was carted off the field on a stretcher after he and Ziemba tangled. Ziemba later apologized and said he had no issues with Coleman.

Some major props for Gators' Wright

July, 17, 2008
7/17/08
8:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

 
 J. Meric/Getty Images
 The Gators are expecting big things from Major Wright this season.

Now for those players in the SEC on the cusp of breaking out and becoming household names. Some of these players have already made their mark to varying degrees, while others either haven't gotten the chance or just haven't done it yet. Keep an eye on all 10 this season:

1. Major Wright, S, Florida: A punishing hitter who tied for the SEC lead in forced fumbles a year ago as a true freshman. Took his lumps along with the rest of the Gators' young secondary, but he'll be better for it this season.

2. Jeremy Jarmon, DE, Kentucky: For all intents and purposes, had a breakout season last year with nine sacks in his first full season as a starter. But with more depth and better talent around him, Jarmon will be even better in 2008.

3. Chad Jones, S, LSU: Another physical safety to watch in 2008. Jones showed his playmaking abilities in spots last season as a true freshman. At 6-foot-3 and nearly 230 pounds, he has all the tools to be a great one.

4. Tray Blackmon, LB, Auburn: A suspension his freshman season held him back, and it was an ankle injury last season. Blackman still finished seventh on the team in tackles despite playing in just nine games. This is the year he puts it all together.

5. Gerald Jones, WR, Tennessee: Was underutilized last season by the Vols as a freshman. But he's something to see in the open field, and new Tennessee offensive coordinator Dave Clawson is determined to get him the ball.

6. Al Woods, DT, LSU: Probably will back up Charles Alexander to start the season, but this is the year he puts it all together and plays like the NFL first-round draft pick he's been projected as. Think the Tigers are deep up front?

7. London Crawford, WR, Arkansas: Finally ready to live up to lofty high school credentials now that he's in Bobby Petrino's pass-happy offense. One of the Hogs' most improved players in the spring.

8. Terry Grant, RB, Alabama: Set an Alabama freshman rushing record last season with 891 yards despite being hindered by a painful sports hernia. Had offseason surgery to correct the problem and has become a more complete back.

9. Richard Murphy, RB, LSU: Even with Jacob Hester gone, the LSU backfield remains crowded. Some are fingering Keiland Williams as the breakout guy, but Murphy had the better spring with his blend of speed and pass-catching ability.

10. Mario Fannin, RB/WR, Auburn: Shoulder surgery derailed him in the spring, but the explosive Fannin is moving to the slot in Tony Franklin's spread offense. He's still going to get his touches running the ball, too.

In closing: Arkansas has a couple of tight ends to watch this season -- Andrew Davie and D.J. Willams. South Carolina tight end Jared Cook has "star" written all over him, too. Is this the year Tennessee defensive tackle Demonte Bolden puts it all together for 12 games? And for that matter, does another member of that Tennessee defensive line, senior end Robert Ayers, finally realize how good he can be?    

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