SEC: Tyler Bray

SEC lunch links

May, 2, 2013
Making the rounds on a Thursday:

SEC lunch links

May, 1, 2013
Linking our way around the SEC:

Top SEC players who didn't get drafted

April, 29, 2013
Among the SEC players who didn't get drafted were Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray, Arkansas guard Alvin Bailey, Auburn running back Onterio McCalebb, Mississippi State receiver Chad Bumphis and Alabama safety Robert Lester.

Bray was the most surprising because of his big arm and ability to throw the football, although there were serious questions among NFL scouts about his football smarts, maturity and work ethic.

Here's a list of some of the more high-profile players in the SEC who didn't get drafted. If they agreed to a free-agent deal, that team is listed in parentheses:

Opening spring camp: Tennessee

March, 8, 2013
Schedule: The Vols open spring practice Saturday at 10:30 a.m. ET and will conclude the spring on April 20 with their annual Orange & White game at 2 p.m. ET in Neyland Stadium.

What’s new: Butch Jones is the Vols’ fourth different head coach in the past six years. He was previously at Cincinnati for three seasons and guided the Bearcats to first-place finishes in the Big East each of the past two seasons. Several assistants followed him from Cincinnati, including offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian, offensive line coach Don Mahoney, tight ends coach and special teams coordinator Mark Elder, defensive coordinator John Jancek, associate head coach and defensive line coach Steve Stripling and defensive backs coach Willie Martinez. Zach Azzanni is the receivers coach and recruiting coordinator after coaching last season at Wisconsin. Tommy Thigpen is the linebackers coach after coming over from Auburn. Former Florida running back Robert Gillespie will coach the running backs after spending the past two seasons on the West Virginia staff. Jones had originally re-hired Jay Graham from the previous Tennessee staff to coach running backs, but Graham left last week to take a job at Florida State.

On the mend: Linebacker Curt Maggitt (knee) and safety Jaylen Reeves-Maybin will both miss the spring. Offensive tackle Antonio Richardson will be limited.

On the move: Devrin Young will shift from running back and get a look at slot receiver this spring. Brent Brewer is moving from safety to linebacker. Corey Vereen and Jacques Smith will both get work at the stand-up defensive end position in the nickel package. Justin King will move to tight end from fullback.

Question marks: The Vols need to solidify the secondary. Getting safety Brian Randolph back will be huge. He was their best defensive back before tearing his ACL in the Florida game last season. The Vols will be careful with him this spring. All of Tennessee’s top receivers are departing -- Cordarrelle Patterson, Justin Hunter, Zach Rogers and tight end Mychal Rivera. It’s a big spring for all of the younger receivers, in particular Pig Howard, Drae Bowles and Jason Croom. Heralded signee MarQuez North arrives this summer. The Vols also need to find more playmakers and more depth up front defensively. Daniel McCullers and Maurice Couch will be key on the interior of that defensive line.

New faces: Junior college cornerback Riyahd Jones has a chance to be a starter from the outset. The Vols struggled to cover anybody last season. True freshman Paul Harris, an early enrollee, could crack the receiver rotation.

Key battle: The Vols have to find a replacement for Tyler Bray at quarterback. Redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman is a good athlete who can move around and make plays. He was recruited by Jones and Bajakian at Cincinnati. Junior Justin Worley has the most experience and has a few starts under his belt. He’s not as athletic as Peterman, but is smart and has improved his arm strength. It should be a close race.

Breaking out: Redshirt freshman LaTroy Lewis would have played extensively last season as a true freshman, but was injured during preseason camp. He’s moving to defensive end from outside linebacker in the Vols’ new 4-3 scheme and has everything it takes to be a dynamic finisher off the edge. The Vols haven’t had more than 17 sacks in a season since 2010.

Don’t forget about: Tennessee’s offensive line should be one of the best in college football next season with four returning starters who all have a chance to play in the NFL. Six offensive linemen are returning who’ve started games for the Vols. Alex Bullard and Marcus Jackson will compete for Dallas Thomas’ left guard job.

SEC spring preview: Eastern Division

February, 25, 2013
We're taking a look at key storylines for all seven teams in the SEC Eastern Division.

Chris will take a look at the main issues in the Western Division on Tuesday.


Spring start: March 13

Spring game: April 6

What to watch:
1. Rebuilding at linebacker: The Gators have to start figuring out the linebacker situation. Do they go with redshirt junior Michael Taylor in the middle, who’s a run-stuffer but has to come off the field in passing downs? Or do they try sophomore Antonio Morrison, who played outside at 218 pounds as a freshman and has hopefully bulked up a bit? The most likely scenario is Morrison, which means UF has to find a weakside linebacker. That could be freshmen early enrollee Daniel McMillian or Alex Anzalone. The strongside starter should be, at least entering the spring, redshirt junior Neiron Ball.

2. Robinson's growth: One of the most scrutinized players this spring will be receiver Demarcus Robinson. He was the only one of UF’s five receiver signees to enroll early and he’ll be given every chance to win a starting spot. UF’s receivers have been below average for the past three seasons and the Gators desperately need someone to become a consistent playmaker. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Robinson, who caught 53 passes for more than 1,000 yards and scored 15 touchdowns as a senior at Fort Valley (Ga.) Peach County, is going to be under a lot of pressure to produce.

3. Driskel's confidence: Quarterback Jeff Driskel returns for his second season as a starter, and it’ll be interesting to see how much he improves on his decision-making, release and accuracy. He’s sure to benefit from not splitting reps 50-50 any longer. But just as important as Driskel’s development is what happens behind him with redshirt junior Tyler Murphy and redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg. Neither has thrown a pass in a college game. Why is that important? Because Driskel has not been able to stay healthy in his first two seasons in Gainesville. He missed starts as a freshman and sophomore because of ankle injuries. UF was lucky in 2012 to have Jacoby Brissett, who had played significantly as John Brantley’s backup in 2011. With Brissett transferring to NC State, the Gators no longer have that luxury.

-- Mike DiRocco, GatorNation


Spring start: March 2

Spring game: April 6

What to watch:
1. Rebuilding the defense: Georgia begins its transition to a completely new collection of defensive talent this spring. No longer are Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree, Shawn Williams, Bacarri Rambo and John Jenkins on the roster. In fact, the Bulldogs must replace a total of 12 defensive players who were either full-time starters or key contributors, and at some positions, the possible replacements have little to no college experience. That makes this a pivotal time for defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to begin identifying which players will fill those roles, as the Bulldogs will have little margin for error when they open the season against Clemson’s explosive offense Aug. 31. Some names to watch this spring: Josh Harvey-Clemons, Sheldon Dawson and Jonathan Taylor.

2. Developing the youngsters: The good news for Grantham and the other defensive coaches is that they brought in a number of January enrollees who should be able to help immediately. Junior college transfer Chris Mayes and John Atkins hope to fill the void left by Jenkins and Kwame Geathers at noseguard. Ryne Rankin and Reggie Carter will immediately enter the mix at linebacker. And cornerback Reggie Wilkerson and safeties Tray Matthews and Quincy Mauger can help address Georgia’s depth shortage in a secondary that lost four key players. Georgia’s 13 early enrollees -- more than twice as many January enrollees as Georgia coach Mark Richt has ever brought in before -- will help fill needs on both sides of the ball, but the defense is where the newcomers were most necessary.

3. Offensive line reps: For the most part, Georgia used the same starting lineup along its offensive line throughout the 2012 season and each of those starters should return this fall. But two of those starters -- right guard Chris Burnette and right tackle John Theus -- underwent surgeries during the offseason and will miss all or part of spring practice. There was a good chance that offensive line coach Will Friend was going to deploy more players in his line rotation this fall anyway, but the valuable practice reps that will be available with Burnette and Theus sidelined might make a deeper rotation even more likely. Someone still has to take advantage of the opportunity, however.

-- David Ching, DawgNation


Spring start: March 18

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:
1. Getting used to new coaches: New coaches are roaming Kentucky’s football facility this spring. Mark Stoops brings a more defense-minded philosophy to Lexington, but his coaches will have to get things going on offense if the Wildcats are going to improve in 2013. There are always awkward moments when transitioning to a new staff, but now’s the time to create valuable trust on both sides.

2. Finding offensive playmakers: Stoops might have a strong defensive background, but the Wildcats have to find answers on offense. Injuries were an issue last year, but for two straight years the Wildcats had real problems finding consistent playmakers on offense. Quarterback Maxwell Smith returns, but he needs more than just wide receiver La’Rod King to help him. Getting running back Josh Clemons back would be big, but expect the coaches to turn to a young group of receivers and running backs.

3. Tougher team: One thing Stoops wants from his players is a tougher identity. Stoops wants to build a stronger team from the ground up. He’s taking a page from Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin when it comes to preparing his new team. This spring, we’ll see just how much of an emphasis the coaches put on the weight room and conditioning before hitting the football side of things.


Spring start: March 12

Spring game: April 20

What to watch:
1. Josey's rehab: The Tigers will be keeping tabs on running back Henry Josey, who missed all of 2012 after suffering a devastating knee injury midway through the 2011 season. He was the Big 12’s best running back before his injury and Mizzou needs him back. The staff has had to be patient, but this could be a crucial time in his rehab, as he looks to get his football legs back.

2. Rebuilding the front seven: Mizzou must replace a lot in its front seven. Star defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson’s absence leaves a gaping hole up front, while linebackers Will Ebner and Zaviar Gooden must be replaced. Lucas Vincent will be first in line to take Richardson’s spot, while Darvin Ruise, Donovan Bonner and Michael Scherer are three players to watch at linebacker.

3. Toughening up: Injuries ravaged Mizzou’s offense last year, but it’s clear that Mizzou wasn’t in the playing shape that it would have liked to be in during its first year in the SEC. Injuries are part of the game, but gaining that toughness factor this spring will go a long way for the Tigers in 2013. The SEC is more than just a grind, and the Tigers found out the hard way that conditioning in this league is a little different than in the Big 12.


Spring start: March 5

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:
1. New backfield options: Marcus Lattimore and Kenny Miles are gone, so the Gamecocks will have to turn to their younger backs. Brandon Wilds missed the 2012 season with an ankle injury but should return this spring. Rising sophomore Mike Davis has all the tools to be a big-time player for the Gamecocks and could be the top option in the Gamecocks’ backfield. Shifty Shon Carson also returns from a knee injury, so South Carolina will have a solid group to work with this spring.

2. QB controversy: Quarterback Connor Shaw might be tabbed as the starter, but with him out for the spring, Dylan Thompson will take the first-team reps. Thompson proved to be very valuable last year, and both will play this fall. Thompson has become one of the most vocal players on the team and is a strong leader. A good spring could bring some real controversy to the position.

3. Holes at linebacker: South Carolina will be without its two-deep at linebacker and “Spur” DeVonte Holloman is gone. That means there’s a lot of work to be done when it comes to finding viable replacements. Sharrod Golightly will get the early crack at the Spur, and keep an eye on Kaiwan Lews, who was a true freshman last year and has a lot of potential to work with.


Spring start: March 9

Spring game: April 20

What to watch:
1. New coaches on the block: With Butch Jones in town, the Vols have to get used to their third head coach in five springs. Jones and his staff have helped bring some much-needed energy to the program since arriving, but now it’s time to develop vital on-field chemistry between the coaches and players.

2. Receiving help: The Vols’ offense took at major hit at receiver. Juniors Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson made the leap to the NFL, while deep threat Zach Rogers and tight end Mychal Rivera graduated. Tennessee will now turn to a host of inexperienced receiving targets, including rising sophomore Alton Howard and early enrollee Paul Harris.

3. Quarterback battle: With Tyler Bray leaving for the NFL, Tennessee will work with rising junior Justin Worley and redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman. Worley has the edge when it comes to game experience, but with a new staff, this battle will be wide-open. They will also need to make strides before freshmen Joshua Dobbs and Riley Ferguson get on campus this summer.


Spring start: March 15

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:
1. Replacing Rodgers: Quarterback Jordan Rodgers is gone. The good news is Austyn Carta-Samuels has good experience after starting two years at Wyoming before transferring to Vandy. Redshirt freshman Patton Robinette is someone the coaches also are excited about, especially with his dual-threat ability, and should really push Carta-Samuels the whole spring.

2. Running back battles: The Commodores lost star running back Zac Stacy, so veteran Wesley Tate, who has bounced around positions, and rising sophomore Brian Kimbrow, who has the do-everything look to him at running back, will share reps. Warren Norman and Jerron Seymour also return, making for quite the talented backfield.

3. Keeping the edge: Now that another very successful season under James Franklin is over, the Dores have to continue to keep the edge that got them to where they are. It might sound like a broken record, but Vanderbilt still has to prove that it isn’t the Vandy of old. People are certainly taking the Dores more seriously, but keeping that edge is important for more growth.
Now that the pens have been put to paper, the classes have been announced and most of your attention has turned to the 2014 recruiting season, it's time to take a look at how each school in the SEC did when it came to immediately filling needs.

We're checking out what all 14 teams did to fill holes, and we're looking at which holes still remain. We'll start with the SEC East:


Needs filled: LB, OL, DB, WR, DT -- The Gators had one of the most complete classes out there, finishing second in the ESPN class rankings. Florida landed the top cornerback prospect (No. 3 nationally) in Vernon Hargreaves III, defensive tackles Caleb Brantley and Jay-nard Bostwick, linebackers Daniel McMillian and Matt Rolin, and safeties Keanu Neal and Marcell Harris. The Gators also added five wide receivers, including ESPN 150 members Demarcus Robinson and Ahmad Fulwood.

Holes remaining: DE -- Will Muschamp seemed thrilled with his class, but he probably would have liked to get a least one more defensive end. The Gators missed on a few, including Tashawn Bower, who almost picked the Gators before signing with LSU. Four-stars Jordan Sherit and Antonio Riles were the only defensive ends in this class.


Needs filled: ILB, S -- The Bulldogs had to replace a few bodies at middle linebacker, and did so by signing four. The star of the group is four-star ESPN 300 member Johnny O'Neal, who is the No. 5 inside linebacker in the county. Tim Kimbrough and Ryne Rankin, both ESPN 300 members, also signed with the Dawgs. Georgia also signed five safeties, including two junior college standouts. The top safety in this class is ESPN 150 member Tray Matthews.

Holes remaining: Elite OT, elite RB, elite DT -- Mark Richt was pleased with his 32-man signing class, but he knows it could have been better if a few elite players had signed with Georgia. The Dawgs barely missed on top offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil (Ole Miss), No. 4 running back Alvin Kamara (Alabama) and No. 2 defensive tackle Montravius Adams (Auburn).


Needs filled: DL, WR, OL -- Mark Stoops brought in a pretty balanced class overall, but he really struck gold in these three areas. He brought in five defensive linemen, including ESPN 300 defensive end Jason Hatcher, who flipped from USC. He should get a chance to play early, along with junior college defensive end Za'Darius Smith, who might be the gem of the class. Getting receiver Ryan Timmons to pick the Cats over Florida was big, and he's joined by two other receivers, including junior college standout Javess Blue. Stoops also signed four offensive linemen.

Holes remaining: RB -- The Wildcats signed true running back Jojo Kemp and athlete Khalid Thomas, but with the injury issues at running back last season and the loss of senior CoShik Williams, Stoops probably would have liked to sign at least one more running back.


Needs filled: DT -- Gary Pinkel got a standout in defensive tackle Josh Augusta. With defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who was Missouri's top overall player last fall, taking his talents to the NFL this year, the Tigers had to find someone who could come in and help fill that void up front. Augusta has the size, strength and athleticism to make an impact early.

Holes remaining: Elite RB, DB -- The Tigers were in the race for the top player in the state of Missouri -- ESPN 150 running back Ezekiel Elliott -- but he spurned the Mizzou to sign with Ohio State. Getting a player like Elliott would have been a major addition to this class. It's also never a bad idea for SEC teams to get some quality defensive backs. Mizzou signed two true defensive backs -- safeties Shaun Rupert and Duron Singleton.


Needs filled: LB, DL, OL, RB -- The Gamecocks had to gather a bunch of linebackers in this class, with all their starters departing, and they did precisely that. Steve Spurrier signed six, including ESPN 300 inside linebacker Larenz Bryant, who could contribute early. Spurrier also signed four defensive linemen, including three ends -- which will come in handy after Jadeveon Clowney leaves for the NFL. ESPN 150 defensive tackle Kelsey Griffin is a big body who could contribute immediately. The Gamecocks signed two running backs, including ESPN 150 member David Williams, and five offensive linemen.

Holes remaining: DB, WR -- Spurrier said during his signing day news conference that he wasn't going to take any average receivers, so the Gamecocks signed one -- four-star Jasper Sasser. Still, the Gamecocks handed out a few offers and missed on a couple of prospects, and with Ace Sanders leaving, a top-tier receiver would have helped. South Carolina loses some quality bodies in the secondary, and signed only two defensive backs.


Needs filled: QB, WR -- With Tyler Bray gone, Justin Worley returns as the only experienced quarterback. Butch Jones signed two ESPN 300 quarterbacks in Riley Ferguson and Joshua Dobbs, who flipped from Arizona State on signing day. This should provide some good competition for Worley. And with Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson leaving, the Vols had to stock up on receivers. Jones signed five, including ESPN 150 member Marquez North, to give the Vols 10 scholarship receivers.

Holes remaining: DB, DL, OL, elite RB -- The Vols would have liked to add to their depth in the secondary, but signed only one true defensive back in junior college cornerback Riyahd Jones. Receiver Cameron Sutton could move to defensive back if needed. The Vols signed six total linemen (three defensive, three offensive), but Jones said Wednesday that he would have liked to add to that number. Tennessee also missed out on elite running back Derrick Green, who signed with Michigan. He was a major priority for Jones' staff.


Needs filled: WR, TE, QB -- With Jordan Matthews graduating after 2013, James Franklin needed a replacement, and he might have found him in ESPN 150 receiver Jordan Cunningham. He also grabbed ESPN 300 members DeAndre Woods and Carlos Burse, and picked up four tight ends, including four-star Mack Weaver. With Jordan Rodgers graduating, Vandy signed two quarterbacks.

Holes remaining: DT, OL -- The front seven is always very important in the SEC, but Vandy came away with only one defensive tackle in ESPN 300 member Jay Woods. Losing two seniors, Vandy would have liked to get at least one more true defensive tackle. After signing a good offensive line group in 2012, Vandy signed only two in this class.

Departing starters in the SEC: East

February, 1, 2013
We shift our attention to the Eastern Division now and take a look at who’s losing the most starters.

Florida and Georgia are each losing 12 full-time/regular starters, and that counts specialists.

Tennessee is losing the fewest starters in the East with eight, and four of those were underclassmen who left early for the NFL draft.


Offense: 4
Defense: 7
Specialists: 1

Key losses: Running back Mike Gillislee, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, linebacker Jelani Jenkins, linebacker Jon Bostic, safety Matt Elam, place-kicker Caleb Sturgis

Of note: The Gators are losing five of their top six tacklers on defense.


Offense: 2
Defense: 10
Specialists: 0

Key losses: Receiver Tavarres King, outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, inside linebacker Alec Ogletree, nose guard John Jenkins, safety Shawn Williams, safety Bacarri Rambo, cornerback Sanders Commings

Of note: The Bulldogs are losing 12 players on defense who started in at least two games this past season.


Offense: 4
Defense: 6
Specialists: 1

Key losses: Running back Marcus Lattimore, receiver Ace Sanders, center T.J. Johnson, linebacker Shaq Wilson, spur DeVonte Holloman, safety D.J. Swearinger

Of note: The Gamecocks are losing their top four tacklers on defense.


Offense: 4
Defense: 4
Specialists: 1

Key losses: Receiver La’Rod King, offensive guard Larry Warford, center Matt Smith, defensive end Collins Ukwu, safety Martavius Neloms

Of note: The Wildcats return four of their top five tacklers on defense. On offense, they don’t return anybody who caught more than two touchdown passes this past season.


Offense: 3
Defense: 5
Specialists: 1

Key losses: Running back Kendial Lawrence, receiver T.J. Moe, offensive tackle Elvis Fisher, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, linebacker Zaviar Gooden, linebacker Will Ebner

Of note: The Tigers lose five of their top eight tacklers on defense. On offense, the only player departing who caught a touchdown pass last season is Moe, and he caught just one.


Offense: 4
Defense: 4
Specialists: 1

Key losses: Quarterback Jordan Rodgers, running back Zac Stacy, offensive tackle Ryan Seymour, defensive tackle Rob Lohr, cornerback Trey Wilson

Of note: The Commodores lose their top passer and top rusher, but return their top two pass-catches, Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd, who combined for 13 touchdown receptions. On defense, they return six of their top seven tacklers.


Offense: 5
Defense: 3
Specialists: 0

Key losses: Quarterback Tyler Bray, receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, receiver Justin Hunter, offensive guard Dallas Thomas, tight end Mychal Rivera, linebacker Herman Lathers

Of note: The Vols are losing their top four receivers, who combined to catch 26 touchdown passes this past season. On defense, they’re returning 12 of their top 14 tacklers.
Heading into the 2012 season, a lot of attention was paid to the quarterback position. Some proven studs were returning and a few that lacked in experience made up for it in hype.

So, before the year got underway, we took at look at nine players we thought had a chance to hit the 3,000-yard passing mark. Chris predicted that at least four would actually hit it, and he was right. The SEC produced just four 3,000-yards passers, which was two more than 2011.

Here's a look back at what our original nine did in 2012:

1. Tyler Bray, Tennessee: He was finally healthy for an entire season and cleared the 3,000-yard mark by a wide margin. Bray finished his year third in the SEC with 3,612 yards and was second in the league with 34 touchdowns. He averaged 301 yards per game and 8 yards per attempt.

2. James Franklin, Missouri: Injuries ruined Franklin's first year in the SEC. Thanks to two separate shoulder injuries, a concussion and a knee injury, Franklin played in just nine games and threw for 1,562 yards and only 10 touchdowns. He averaged just 6.7 yards per attempt in 2012.

3. AJ McCarron, Alabama: McCarron might have ended the year as a national champion (again) and the country's most efficient passer, but he just missed out on getting 3,000 yards. McCarron threw for 2,933 yards and 30 touchdowns to just three interceptions. Really, not bad at all.

4. Zach Mettenberger, LSU: His hype certainly made it seem like he would have no problem reaching 3,000 yards, but we forgot that he actually had to play games first. Mettenberger didn't get going until late in the year, but that has to be encouraging for 2013. Mettenberger finished with 2,609 yards and 12 touchdowns to seven interceptions.

5. Aaron Murray, Georgia: Once again, Murray didn't disappoint on the stats sheet. Murray became the first SEC quarterback to pass for 3,000 yards in three straight seasons when he threw for a league-high 3,893 yards and 36 touchdowns. He averaged 278.1 yards per game.

6. Jordan Rodgers, Vanderbilt: Rodgers made a lot of improvement from 2011 to 2012. He was a much more patient player and passed for 2,539 yards, which surpassed his 2011 total by more than 1,000 yards. He also had 15 touchdowns to just five interceptions.

7. Tyler Russell, Mississippi State: He quietly had a very productive year through the first seven games of the season, but the teeth of the schedule hurt his production during the last month of play. Still, he had a good year overall, passing for 2,897 yards and 24 touchdowns (single-season school record) to 10 interceptions.

8. Connor Shaw, South Carolina: If not for all of those injuries (shoulder and foot) Shaw would have had a much more productive season. He just couldn't stay healthy in 2012 and finished the year with 1,956 yards, but had 17 touchdowns. Not bad for a walking Band-Aid.

9. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas: Even with his head injury and the absence of Bobby Petrino, Wilson still managed 3,387 yards and 21 touchdowns. It was a very up-and-down year for Wilson, who threw 13 interceptions, but he still managed 308 passing yards per game.

Who was overlooked:
  • Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: I mean, come on. No one saw this coming! He wasn't even supposed to be the starter until fall practice got underway. But the redshirt freshman shocked everyone with his record-setting, Heisman-winning year. Johnny Football passed for 3,706 yards, which was good enough for second in the SEC. He also threw 26 touchdown passes.

Season report card: Tennessee

January, 23, 2013
It's time to take a look how how the Tennessee Vols graded out in 2012:

OFFENSE: The Vols certainly knew how to move the ball in 2012. Quarterback Tyler Bray finally made it through an entire season and finished the year third in the SEC with 3,612 passing yards and was second with 34 touchdowns. While he did have his issues forcing the ball into bad situations, he threw for more than 300 yards in six games and tossed multiple touchdown passes in 10 games. He set the school record for passing yards in a game when he threw for 530 (second most in SEC history) and five touchdowns in a 55-48 win over Troy. In that same game, the Vols racked up a school-record 718 yards of total offense. Receiver Justin Hunter returned from his ACL injury in a big way, catching a team-high 73 passes for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns. Junior college transfer Cordarrelle Patterson led the SEC in all-purpose yards (1,858). He was one of the best playmakers in the league last fall, catching 46 passes for 778 yards and five touchdowns. He also carried the ball 25 times for 308 yards and three more scores. With help from much-improved play from the offensive line, the Vols' run game improved dramatically, averaging 160.3 yards per game. Tennessee finished the year second in the SEC in total offense (475.9 yards per game), but the Vols did have issues with turnovers and closing out games. Tennessee turned it over 22 times and there were too many times when players, especially Bray, couldn't deliver down the stretch in key games. Bray turned it over late with chances to win or tie against South Carolina and Georgia, and the Vols failed to convert a 4th-and-3 against Missouri, leading to a loss in quadruple overtime. Grade: B+

DEFENSE: Tennessee easily had the SEC's worst defense in 2012, finishing last in the conference in scoring defense (35.7) and total defense (471.3). The Vols ranked 13th in the SEC in rushing (188.8) and passing (282.5). Tennessee allowed 400-plus yards of total offense 10 times in 2012, including in each of the final eight games. The Vols lost four games in which their offense scored more than 30 points. Tennessee was the only team in the SEC to surrender 3,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards on the season. Teams averaged 6.1 yards per play against the Vols and scored 51 touchdowns in 2012. The Vols gave up an SEC-high 74 plays of 20-plus yards and were last in the league with just 17 total sacks on the season. Darrington Sentimore led the team with four sacks. A.J. Johnson had the most productive year on Tennessee's defense, recording a league-high 138 tackles (63 solo). It was obvious that players never felt completely comfortable in Sal Sunseri's 3-4 defense. Grade: F

OVERALL: Even though this was Derek Dooley's most talented team during his tenure, the Vols fell flat after blowing a second-half lead in an eventual 17-point loss to Florida in Week 3. Tennessee was never really the same after that game, especially on defense. The offense was prolific for most of the season, but it just didn't have enough to help the defense, as the Vols trudged through back-to-back 5-7 seasons and won just one SEC game for the second straight year. Tennessee should have gone bowling, but blew a 21-7 lead at home to Missouri before being blown out by Vanderbilt a week later to be eliminated from postseason play. Derek Dooley was then fired before the season even ended. Grade: F

Past grades:

Aggies' Damontre Moore entering NFL draft

December, 31, 2012
No big surprise, but Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore plans to give up his senior season and will enter the NFL draft.

ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has the 6-foot-4, 248-pound Moore rated as the No. 4 overall prospect in April's NFL draft. Moore is tied for second in the SEC with 12 sacks and ranks third with 20 tackles for loss. He proved this season that he could be effective in a 4-3 scheme after playing previously as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

Moore's two teammates -- offensive tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews -- have yet to make their decisions on the NFL draft. Both are projected as first-round picks, and Joeckel has been pegged as a top-5 selection by some analysts.

Here's an updated list of SEC underclassmen who've already declared for the NFL draft:
Below is another list of SEC underclassmen expected to turn pro or seriously considering doing so:

SEC lunch links

December, 21, 2012
Linking our way around the SEC on a Friday:

SEC underclassmen eyeing the NFL

December, 13, 2012
The reality of having so many talented underclassmen in the SEC is that a large percentage of them won’t be around for their senior seasons.

Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, Arkansas running back Knile Davis and South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore have already announced that they’re leaving early, while Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron announced Wednesday that he would return for his senior season.

Here’s a team-by-team look at some of the other juniors in the SEC who are most likely to declare for the NFL draft:

Mississippi State will be without backup running back Nick Griffin when it takes on Northwestern in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1.

The sophomore was injured in practice on Saturday and tests later revealed that he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He'll miss the Bulldogs' bowl game, but the hope is that he'll be able to return by next fall and compete in the 2013 season.

Griffin was thought to be one of Mississippi State's top returning offensive athletes this fall. While he played behind starter LaDarius Perkins, he rushed for 223 yards and a touchdown, averaging 7 yards per carry.

Freshman running back Josh Robinson is expected to fill in for Griffin against the Wildcats. Robinson actually carried the ball more than Griffin this fall and finished the regular season with 244 yards and a touchdown. He has a low center of gravity and very strong legs, which make him tough to bring down at times.

This is the second time Griffin has suffered a major knee injury during his football career. He also tore the ACL in his right knee less than two years ago, causing him to miss the first five games of his freshman campaign.

You have to feel for a player with such potential and has been through something like this before. The timing of these kinds of injuries is never good, but to have it happen right before the bowl game must sting even more. Not only will he miss the postseason game that he and his teammates worked so hard to get to but this sort of injury usually takes close to a year to heal and any setbacks could eat into his 2013 season.

Chaney heads west

It didn't take former Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney to land on his feet. On Wednesday, Arkansas announced that Chaney will be joining new Arkansas coach Bret Bielema as the Razorbacks' new offensive coordinator.

“Jim Chaney’s approach will blend well with my ideas as we work to put together a plan for the team we have and over time develop our specific philosophy,” Bielema said in a statement. “While he was at Purdue, several of the best coaches in the nation sought his advice on how to use the spread offense. Jim went on to spend a few years in the NFL and gained a new appreciation for a pro-style offense similar to the balanced attack we will look to incorporate at Arkansas. He has spent his career developing numerous players for the NFL including Drew Brees. He knows the SEC, having coached at Tennessee, and is familiar with what it takes to be successful in this conference. He is an upbeat and positive person who has proven at every stop he is an elite coach in our profession.”

The Hogs were lethal through the air when Bobby Petrino was in charge, and the hope is that Chaney's high-flying offense will help restore some of that high-octane feel that was lacking under John L. Smith's guidance in 2012.

Chaney spent the past four years as Tennessee's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, but the Vols' offense really took off in 2012. Tennessee ranked second in the SEC in total offense, averaging 475.9 yards per game. The Vols were also one of the best passing teams in the conference, with quarterback Tyler Bray passing for 3,619 yards and 34 touchdowns. Bray's touchdown passes were the seventh-most in a season in SEC history, and his passing yards ranked 11th in conference history.

Bray also broke Tennessee's single-game record with 530 yards passing in the Vols' 55-48 win over Troy. It is the second-highest single-game total in SEC history.

With Bielema's hard-nosed rushing approach and Chaney's vaunted passing attack, the Razorbacks hope to be extremely balanced on offense in 2013.

How they fared vs. SEC competition

December, 12, 2012
The SEC prides itself on being a cut above everybody else in college football.

So it makes sense when we’re evaluating players and deciding who had the best seasons that we look closer at how those players fared against SEC competition.

Sometimes, statistics can get skewed when you add in the non-league games against lesser teams.

With that in mind, here’s a quick checklist of the league leaders and their numbers against SEC foes (not counting the SEC championship game):


1. Todd Gurley, Georgia: 762 yards, 5.8 yards per carry
2. Eddie Lacy, Alabama: 725 yards, 6 yards per carry
3. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: 698 yards, 5.5 yards per carry
4. Mike Gillislee, Florida: 649 yards, 4.2 yards per carry
5. Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt: 629 yards, 4.7 yards per carry


1. Eddie Lacy, Alabama: 11
2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: 10
2. Christine Michael, Texas A&M: 10
4. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina: 9
5. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama: 9


1. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas, 304.7 yards per game
2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M, 286.1 yards per game
3. Bo Wallace, Ole Miss, 265.8 yards per game
4. Aaron Murray, Georgia, 257 yards per game
5. Tyler Bray, Tennessee, 254.8 yards per game


1. Tyler Bray, Tennessee: 19/11
1. Aaron Murray, Georgia: 19/6
3. AJ McCarron, Alabama: 15/2
4. Tyler Russell, Mississippi State: 14/5
5. Connor Shaw, South Carolina: 13/5
5. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas: 13/9


1. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt: 109.8 yards per game
2. Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas: 92.9 yards per game
3. Ryan Swope, Texas A&M: 89.9 yards per game
4. Chad Bumphis, Mississippi State: 83.6 yards per game
5. Mike Evans, Texas A&M: 80 yards per game


1. Chad Bumphis, Mississippi State: 8
1. Amari Cooper, Alabama: 8
3. Tavarres King, Georgia: 6
3. Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss: 6
5. Ryan Swope, Texas A&M: 6


1. Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee: 145.6 yards per game
2. LaDarius Perkins, Mississippi State: 127.3 yards per game
3. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt: 123.9 yards per game
4. Todd Gurley, Georgia: 114.2 yards per game
5. Eddie Lacy, Alabama: 110 yards per game


1. Jarvis Jones, Georgia: 9
2. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M: 8
3. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina: 6.5
3. Chris Smith, Arkansas: 6.5
5. Sam Montgomery, LSU: 6


1. Jarvis Jones, Georgia: 14.5
2. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina: 13.5
3. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M: 12.5
4. Chase Garnham, Vanderbilt: 11
5. Trey Flowers, Arkansas: 9.5
5. Chris Smith, Arkansas: 9.5

SEC lunch links

December, 12, 2012
Our Wednesday stroll around the league: