SEC: Tyler Love

Losing backup offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio for the season will make keeping Alabama’s starting offensive line healthy a major priority.

“It doesn’t affect our starters, so we keep that continuity,“ coach Nick Saban said Wednesday, “but it does affect our depth.”

The true freshman left tackle went down with a season-ending knee injury against Tennessee on Saturday.

Saban said he could use Alfred McCullough, who has moved around the line during his long career, as a backup to senior Barrett Jones at left tackle. McCullough started at right guard for Anthony Steen, who was out with an injury, against Tennessee. Steen should return for the LSU game and Saban said he could also play tackle if needed.

The Crimson Tide also has options at tackle in junior Tyler Love and redshirt freshman Austin Sheperd, who have both gotten playing time this season.

Regardless, Saban said losing Kouandjio is a big hit for the Tide’s line.

“When you lose guys it always affects your depth, and Cyrus was a very good player,“ he said. “We had looked at him as a guy, even though he’s a young player, just like a starter. He gave us some other flexibility and options because Barrett Jones could play some many different places. We don’t have that now, so hopefully -- God willing -- we’ll be able to stay health and other players will have an opportunity and I’m sure they’ll do a good job for us.”

Five position battles to watch in the SEC

February, 24, 2009
2/24/09
11:15
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Some of the fiercest battles for starting jobs are waged in the spring.

Granted, there's always that chance that a player could win a job back, or for that matter, lose a job once preseason practice begins in August. But spring practice is where it all starts.

Here's a look at five of the most compelling position battles around the SEC this spring:

1. LSU quarterback: When the season ended a year ago, true freshman Jordan Jefferson was in charge. He led LSU to a 38-3 rout of Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, marking his second straight start. Jefferson was steady in both of his starts and was the Tigers' leading rusher in the 31-30 loss to Arkansas, so he can definitely make things happen with his feet. He also didn't turn the ball over in either start. He'll be pushed this spring, though, by another true freshman. Russell Shepard was one of the most dynamic high school athletes in the country a year ago out of Houston and enrolled early to be able to go through spring practice. He and Jefferson will duel for the job with sophomore Jarrett Lee not completely out of the equation. Lee suffered through a nightmarish redshirt freshman season by throwing seven interceptions for touchdowns before LSU coach Les Miles turned to Jefferson at the end of last season.

2. Alabama left offensive tackle: Andre Smith has been in the news a lot lately for all the wrong reasons, but there's no debating what he meant to Alabama's football team last season. He was a dominant left tackle, one of the best to come through the SEC in a long time, and those guys aren't easy to replace. There are several different ways the Crimson Tide could go at left tackle, although one of the candidates won't be on campus until this summer. Signee D.J. Fluker, rated by Scouts Inc. as the No. 1 tackle prospect in the country, could be a definite factor once he arrives. But this spring, newcomer James Carpenter of Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College will get a head start in the race, as he's already on campus. One of the last options could be moving senior Mike Johnson from guard to left tackle. Johnson started for Smith in the Allstate Sugar Bowl before getting hurt, and Alabama then slid Drew Davis from right tackle to left tackle and played true freshman John Michael Boswell at right tackle. The other guy to watch this spring will be Tyler Love, a big-time recruit who redshirted last season.

3. Tennessee quarterback: The debate is ongoing about the last time Tennessee struggled as much at the quarterback position as the Vols did last season. Was it 25 years ago? Was it more than 30 years ago? Now that Lane Kiffin and a new staff are aboard, the race will be as wide open as ever in the spring among the three guys who shared the job a year ago -- Jonathan Crompton, Nick Stephens and B.J. Coleman. None of the three had much success. Crompton has the most experience and would seem to have the physical tools, but never found any kind of rhythm last season. For what it's worth, Kiffin and the Vols' coaches told some of the receivers they were recruiting this winter that Crompton was more than capable and that it was the system that held him back a year ago. We're going to find out this spring.

4. Florida "Percy" position: How good was Percy Harvin? So good that they're calling the position he played the last couple of seasons by his name -- part running back, part receiver and all playmaker. The Gators won't find one just like him. He was big enough and strong enough to take the pounding as a runner and fast enough to get open and run away from everybody at receiver. There's a long list of speedy guys on Florida's roster, but identifying somebody this spring who can do everything Harvin did will be a stretch. One of the guys to watch is Deonte Thompson, who has blazing speed and unbelievable athletic ability. Brandon James may see his role grow on offense, too, although he won't be around in the spring because of foot surgery. David Nelson came on at the end of last season, but he's strictly a receiver. Florida fans can't wait to get touted signee Andre Debose on campus. Some have already tagged him as the next Harvin. The 6-foot, 180-pound Debose played quarterback, slot receiver and wideout in high school. Sound familiar?

5. South Carolina cornerback: The Gamecocks lost their three top cornerbacks from a year ago. Carlos Thomas and Stoney Woodson were seniors, and Captain Munnerlyn compounded the situation by leaving early for the NFL draft. It will be a free-for-all for playing time at that position, and it starts this spring. Akeem Auguste played safety as a true freshman last season and played well despite a hamstring injury. The Gamecocks, though, are moving him back to cornerback, which is his natural position. They're also keeping their fingers crossed that C.C. Whitlock will continue on the course he's kept for most of this offseason and make a run at one of the starting cornerback jobs in the spring. Whitlock is a game-breaking athlete who struggled with maturity issues last year as a true freshman. And speaking of true freshmen, the guy everybody wants to see this spring is Stephon Gilmore, who enrolled early as a highly rated signee out of Rock Hill, S.C., and will start out at cornerback.

Gamecocks' Whitlock another freshman to watch

July, 11, 2008
7/11/08
2:33
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

I was prepared for the onslaught of responses (some nice, some not so nice) to my list Thursday of the 15 freshmen most likely to have the biggest impacts this season in the SEC.

Going into the project, I knew there would be some oversights, and South Carolina's Charles Whitlock was an obvious one. There's a reason everybody in the SEC wanted the Chester, S.C., native.

And to be honest, there will be a handful of freshmen that come out of nowhere to surprise even their coaches this season. There will also be a few that we're all expecting big things from that never get close to the field during a game.

Anyway, here's a few more that warrant mention as likely impact freshmen this season, and remember it can be true freshmen or redshirt freshmen. They're listed alphabetically:

Akeem Auguste, CB, South Carolina: The Gamecocks are deep and experienced in the secondary, but senior cornerback Carlos Thomas had better not get too comfortable. Auguste, a prep school player from Fork Union, looked more than capable in the spring.

Brandon Barden, TE, Vanderbilt: Originally signed with Virginia Tech, but transferred after a semester there. A quarterback in high school, Barden was impressive as a scout team tight end a year ago.

Mark Barron, LB/S, Alabama: Rated by some as a defensive back in high school, Barron may grow into a linebacker at Alabama and brings the kind of speed Nick Saban is looking for in that unit. He also rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a senior running back in high school.

Quindarius Carr, WR, Auburn: After redshirting last season, Carr raised his stock with a productive spring. He's bigger, more in tune with what's expected of him and more consistent. The Tigers are counting on him to be a part of their rotation this season.

Jeffrey Demps, RB, Florida: There's fast, and then there's Jeffrey Demps fast. He ran a 10.01 in the 100 meters last month at the U.S. Olympic Trials, the fastest time ever for an American teenager. Urban Meyer is drawing up plays as we speak to get Demps the ball.

Jamie Graham, WR, Vanderbilt: A redshirt freshman, Graham was a defensive stopper on the Commodores' basketball team last season. He'll move from defensive back to receiver in football and should be one of the most explosive athletes on the team.

Tavarres King, WR, Georgia: Most of the hype has centered around A.J. Green, but King went through spring practice and didn't take long to make an impression on the Georgia coaches with his ability to get open and make plays.

Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida: The Gators were painfully young in the secondary last season, but Jenkins is physical and can cover. What's more, Florida will take any help it can get in the secondary this season.

Tyler Love, OT, Alabama: The Crimson Tide will be looking for some help along the right side of their offensive line, and Love has what it takes as a true freshman to step in there and contribute this season.

Ahmad Paige, WR, Tennessee: The Vols don't really have a deep threat at receiver right now, and the wiry Paige might end up being that guy. He redshirted last season for the Vols and needed the extra year in the weight room.

Tristan Strong, LB, Vanderbilt: With Marcus Buggs now trying to make an NFL team, there could be a spot at outside linebacker for a freshman. The 220-pound Strong is a leading candidate.

Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama: Anybody who can play linebacker is going to have a chance this season with the Crimson Tide, and Upshaw was one of the most heralded outside linebacker prospects in the country last year.

Charles Whitlock, WR/CB, South Carolina: He went through the spring at receiver after graduating high school early. He can also return kicks and has shown great closing speed at cornerback, which may wind up being his future home.

O'Neal Wilder, WR, Miss. State: A world-class track athlete, Wilder brings some of that speed the Bulldogs are desperately seeking on the offensive side of the ball. He was also able to go through spring practice after graduating high school early, so the coaches know what he can do.

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