SEC: Tyrann Mathieu

Ultimate 300: SEC's top classes 

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
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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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UGA-LSU games always memorable

September, 27, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. – As an SEC West school, LSU is hardly a fixture on Georgia's annual football schedule. But when the Tigers and Bulldogs do get together, the results are almost always memorable.

Just think back over the past decade. Two meetings in the SEC championship game – one won by each school. The phantom celebration penalty against Georgia receiver A.J. Green in 2009, helping pave the way for LSU's comeback victory. Georgia putting huge point totals on LSU's defending BCS champion teams in 2004 and 2008.

There's a lot to remember – and just like in Saturday's meeting between No. 6 LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC) and No. 9 Georgia (2-1, 1-0) – there are often major SEC and BCS implications in play.

“[I told the younger players] any game can go down to the last second, but what kind of fight that they're going to have to be ready for,” said Georgia fifth-year senior receiver Rantavious Wooten, one of the few Bulldogs who were on the team when LSU last visited Athens in 2009. “They've got aspirations just like we do. They want a championship and we want a championship and this game right here, this is the game for it. So I just let them know what to expect and how it's going to be and just to get ready for it.”

Georgia coach Mark Richt is 3-4 against LSU since arriving at UGA in 2001 and Tigers coach Les Miles is 2-2 against the Bulldogs. Let's take a look at the last five times their programs squared off:

[+] EnlargeMark Richt
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports Mark Richt and the Bulldogs hope to give LSU its first loss of the season on Saturday.
2011 SEC Championship Game (Atlanta): No. 1 LSU 42, No. 16 Georgia 10
In one of the most bizarre games of Richt's tenure, Georgia's defense thoroughly dominated the first half. LSU didn't muster a single first down and was in danger of falling down by a big margin, but Georgia receivers dropped a pair of potential first-half touchdown passes and LSU punt returner Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu took a kick back for a touchdown to make it 10-7 Georgia at halftime. The second half was a completely different story, as the Bulldogs committed a couple of turnovers, LSU's pounding rushing attack began to have its intended effect and Todd Grantham's defense seemed helpless as the Tigers rushed for 202 yards and three touchdowns after intermission, turning the game into a rout.

Oct. 3, 2009 (Athens): No. 4 LSU 20, No. 18 Georgia 13
This one will forever be remembered among Georgia fans for a referee's questionable decision to penalize Georgia superstar Green for excessive celebration following his leaping, go-ahead touchdown catch with 1:09 to play, giving Georgia its first lead at 13-12. The penalty forced the Bulldogs to kick off from their own 15 and LSU return specialist Trindon Holliday made them pay by returning the kickoff to the Georgia 43, with a 5-yard penalty against the Bulldogs on the kickoff moving LSU even closer to the UGA end zone. Two plays later, Charles Scott rushed for his second touchdown of the fourth quarter, a 33-yard run with 46 seconds to play allowing LSU to improve to 5-0.

Oct. 25, 2008 (Baton Rouge): No. 7 Georgia 52, No. 13 LSU 38
As wild as the ending of the 2009 game was, this one was crazy from the very beginning. Georgia linebacker Darryl Gamble returned an interception for a 40-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage and added a 53-yard pick six in the game's closing minutes as the Bulldogs hung half-a-hundred on LSU's porous defense. The Tigers surrendered 50-plus twice that season – the first time in school history that had happened – leading Miles to dump co-defensive coordinators Doug Mallory and Bradley Dale Peveto after the season in favor of former Tennessee coordinator John Chavis, who has been in Baton Rouge ever since.

2005 SEC Championship Game (Atlanta): No. 13 Georgia 34, No. 3 LSU 14
Although fellow receiver Sean Bailey caught a pair of first-quarter touchdowns from D.J. Shockley that got Georgia off on the right foot, Bulldogs senior Bryan McClendon – now the team's running backs coach – might have delivered the play of the game when he blocked a punt midway through the second quarter deep in LSU territory. That helped Georgia score to take a commanding 21-7 halftime lead which LSU never threatened. The Bulldogs' defense also did its job that day, limiting an LSU rushing attack that dominated in their 2003 meeting in Atlanta to just 74 rushing yards.

Oct. 2, 2004 (Athens): No. 3 Georgia 45, No. 13 LSU 16
Nick Saban's final game against Georgia while at LSU ended with a humiliating loss, as the Tigers surrendered the most points allowed by an LSU defense since Florida hung 56 on them in 1996. Georgia quarterback David Greene threw only 19 passes, but set a school record by completing five of them for touchdowns. The Bulldogs had lost twice to Saban's Tigers in 2003 – 17-10 in Baton Rouge and 34-13 in the SEC Championship Game – but they quickly exacted a degree of revenge by jumping out to a 24-0 lead before LSU could answer. The Bulldogs also generated three turnovers and sacked LSU quarterbacks Marcus Randall and JaMarcus Russell five times.

Both teams have been ranked in the top-20 in all seven of their meetings in the Richt era, and this will be the second time they've both been in the top-10. While not every meeting between the two has produced a close contest, they've all been memorable – and almost always impacted their respective championship chases.

“They've been great games. ... Just about every one of them, both teams are ranked teams and at least in the Top 25,” Richt said. “It is a cross-conference rival, so it doesn't hold quite the weight of an Eastern Division [game] when it comes to who plays in Atlanta. We could lose the game and still control our destiny, and they could lose the game and still control their destiny, so it's not do-or-die as far as league play, but it's very important for any national title hopes.”

ATHENS, Ga. -- Arthur Lynch refused to let snapper Nathan Theus remain the only scapegoat after North Texas blocked a Georgia punt for a touchdown, the fourth huge special teams error by the Bulldogs in three games.

Although Theus' snap was high -- an error that led Georgia's coaching staff to replace him with Trent Frix later in the game -- senior punt protector Lynch said he misdiagnosed what the Mean Green's rushers were preparing to do and shifted the Bulldogs' coverage.

“That was my fault,” Lynch said. “I should have shifted the protection to the left. The snap and the punter had nothing to do with that. If I would have just gotten the protection corrected … I'll put that on me. We'll correct that.

“It's unfortunate, I knew what was going on and I should have called timeout so we could have shifted it. And that's inexcusable, especially for the fact that I've been doing it for three years.”

No. 9 Georgia (2-1) thoroughly dominated Saturday's game statistically, but two special teams touchdowns by North Texas -- the Mean Green also returned a kickoff for a 99-yard score -- helped make it 21-all early in the third quarter.

It continued a string of early mishaps in the kicking game -- Theus' high snap late in the third quarter against Clemson prevented the Bulldogs from attempting a potential game-tying 20-yard field goal, plus punter Collin Barber dropped a snap in the second quarter against South Carolina, setting up a short touchdown drive – that form an alarming trend.

[+] EnlargeNorth Texas
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsNorth Texas players celebrate after a blocked punt resulted in a touchdown against Georgia.
“We've probably had 100 special teams plays by now, but you just hate that the bad ones have been really bad,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said.

The timing of those errors might be useful for Georgia's coaches, however, considering the opponent preparing to visit on Saturday. Traditionally dangerous on special teams, players from No. 6 LSU (4-0) are no doubt excited over the possibility of making a game-changing play off a return or fake kick against the Bulldogs.

That's a convenient reminder where Richt's coaching staff can reinforce the importance of special teams in this week's practices.

“It's OK to be on high alert this week, so maybe it will help us,” Richt said.

The older players on Georgia's roster probably don't need the reminder on how LSU's return teams can shift the course of a game. The last time these teams played, in the 2011 SEC championship game, LSU punt returner Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu helped swing a game that Georgia controlled early with a 62-yard touchdown return and helped turn it into a rout with a 47-yard runback later in the game.

Mathieu is now in the NFL, but the Tigers' current return specialist, Odell Beckham Jr., is nearly as explosive.

“Unfortunately for us, we've seen what their return teams can do: The Honey Badger,” Lynch said.

Auburn didn't give Beckham many opportunities to break a long return on Saturday night. He was able to return just one kickoff and one punt thanks to Auburn's deep and high kicks, neutralizing an explosive player who returned a missed UAB field goal 109 yards for a touchdown earlier this season.

There were still a couple of big special teams plays on Saturday, however -- one that helped LSU and one that hurt. Auburn punter Steven Clark dropped a snap and dove on the ball for a 16-yard loss at his own 10 early in the game, setting up an LSU touchdown on the next play that helped the Tigers go up 14-0.

Leading 28-7 in the third quarter, LSU coach Les Miles elected to fake a field goal at Auburn's 14. Seth Fruge ran 8 yards on the fake, but was stopped short of a first down. Auburn then drove 94 yards for a touchdown that made it a more competitive game, although LSU still won 35-21.

That aggressiveness is part of the reason the Bulldogs know they can't afford to keep making sloppy errors in the kicking game.

“We've just had a couple of off calls. I'm not worried about it,” said Barber, who averaged 49.8 yards per punt against North Texas. “I trust my protection, pride team. We're going to be the best. There's no doubt in my mind that we can't fix it and get it better by LSU.”

That could mean using different personnel on the coverage units, Richt said, beyond simply using Frix as the punt snapper -- although he said it's likely that change will remain in place this week.

“Your center can't afford to be spraying one a game. You can't afford it,” Richt said. “It's got to be on the money. It's got to be where it's supposed to be when it's supposed to be there.”

The coaches will make those decisions this week after reviewing what went wrong -- as well as what went right -- against the Mean Green. And Richt made the point on his Sunday teleconference that there has been more right than wrong.

“We'd been really covering kicks extremely well all year long and then you get one like that [touchdown],” he said. “You might think it's broken, but it's really not broken. We've just got to go back to doing what we've been doing all year long and that's placing the ball where we want it and getting guys down there covering it, being in the right spots and making the play when they get there.”

The Bulldogs would do themselves an enormous favor if they get back to doing that on Saturday. Beckham is one of the nation's most dangerous all-purpose performers and he will absolutely exploit any crack in Georgia's kick coverage schemes.

Cleaning up those mistakes was one of the first objectives when the Bulldogs began preparing for LSU on Sunday afternoon.

“Trust me, we know what kind of guys they've got,” Lynch said. “… Special teams will be a deciding factor in this game, I think.”

SEC lunch links

May, 24, 2013
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We wrap up the week with a few Friday links:

Alabama, LSU form NFL pipeline

May, 20, 2013
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Kevin Scarbinsky of AL.com recently suggested that an NFL roster comprised exclusively of Alabama and LSU players wouldn’t be a terrible idea.

As he points out, according to a listing on ESPN.com, there are 49 players from LSU in the NFL and 41 players from Alabama.

In reading that piece, I couldn’t help but think back to a conversation I had with former Alabama offensive line coach Joe Pendry just prior to the first Alabama-LSU game in 2011. Pendry retired following the 2010 season and had served as offensive coordinator for both the Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans in the NFL before joining Nick Saban at Alabama.

Realizing how much talent would be on the field that night at Bryant-Denny Stadium, especially on defense, I jokingly asked Pendry how anybody would score.

He estimated that somewhere around 18 to 20 of the 22 defensive starters would end up playing in the NFL.

Looking back, he was dead on.

Of the 22 defensive starters that night, 16 were selected in the NFL draft. Six other defensive players who played in the game were also drafted. That’s a total of 22 players. Two other players that went undrafted spent last season on NFL practice squads.

We’re talking high-round draft picks, too. Of the 22 who were drafted, 14 went in the top three rounds.

Moreover, as many as seven other defensive players from that game who are still in school are likely to be drafted in either 2014 or 2015. Among them: Linebackers Adrian Hubbard, C.J. Mosley and Trey DePriest and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama and tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson and safety Craig Loston of LSU.

So, the final tally of defensive players from that game (some played on special teams) who were either drafted or have spent some time on an NFL roster will likely end up being 30-plus.

No wonder those two teams played eight quarters that year, and only one touchdown was scored between them.

Here’s a rundown of the draft picks from that game on defense:

ALABAMA
LSU

More trouble for LSU's Jeremy Hill

April, 29, 2013
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LSU's football team was due a quiet offseason, especially given how turbulent the last two have been.

But this one hasn't started off too well.

Leading rusher Jeremy Hill was arrested early Saturday morning and charged with simple battery following an incident at Reggie's, a bar near the LSU campus. He was jailed briefly and released after posting a $500 bond, according to booking records. Hill is accused of punching a 20-year-old man and was caught on video, according to police. A second attacker is still being sought after the victim said he lost consciousness.

LSU coach Les Miles was in New York City attending the NFL draft and has yet to comment. He dealt with the Tyrann Mathieu situation last summer when Mathieu was dismissed from the team after failing multiple drug tests. And then two years ago, there was the August bar brawl involving starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson that led to Jefferson being suspended for the first part of the season.

The Tigers had a school-record nine players taken in this year's NFL draft, but one of those, cornerback Tharold Simon, was arrested in his hometown two nights before he was drafted in the fifth round for public intimidation of a police officer, resisting an officer, a noise violation and obstruction of a roadway.

In Hill's case, being involved in an incident at a bar is not a huge deal in itself. It happens all the time with college students.

But his past potentially makes it a very big deal. If he's convicted, he could be in violation of his probation from pleading guilty to carnal knowledge of a juvenile in January of 2011. Hill originally signed with LSU in 2011, but didn't attend LSU that year after being arrested on charges of oral sexual battery involving a 14-year-old girl. He eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of carnal knowledge of a juvenile and accepted a six-month suspended sentence with supervised probation for two years.
You've seen Mel Kiper Jr.'s second-round mock draft so we thought we'd throw another one at you before tonight's festivities begin. This time, we're taking a look at Scouts Inc.'s predictions for the second round.

Kiper had eight SEC players projected to go in the second around, while Scouts Inc. has nine, including former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu.

Here's a look at Scouts Inc.'s second-round predictions for SEC players:

No. 34: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee (San Francisco 49ers)

No. 37: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama (Cincinnati Bengals)

No. 43: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

No. 45: John Jenkins, DT, Georgia (San Diego Chargers)

No. 48: D.J. Swearinger, S, South Carolina (Pittsburgh Steelers)

No. 49: Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU (New York Giants)

No. 51: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State (Washington Redskins)

No. 53: Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU (Cincinnati Bengals)

No. 61: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama (San Francisco 49ers)

Tyrann Mathieu upset at report

April, 12, 2013
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Former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu is disputing a USA Today Sports report that has a quote attributed to him from an unnamed NFL assistant coach about failed drug tests.

The assistant coach told USA Today that Mathieu was asked how many drug tests he failed in college and that he replied that he "quit counting at 10."

Mathieu contacted LSU Friday and disputed the report:
"It is irresponsible and shows a lack of integrity for anyone to disclose medical information regardless of how it was gathered. I would expect that conversations regarding my drug testing history during the course of my medical treatment would be private. LSU has a strong drug testing program and LSU went to great lengths to help me in my treatment and recovery. I understand that many people enjoy reading about the negative side of sports, but to publish those second-hand comments without being given a chance to address that comment prior to the publication of the article is irresponsible."

This could also be quite an ordeal for LSU if Mathieu did in fact fail more than 10 drug tests. LSU athletic director Joe Alleva acted quickly and defended LSU's substance abuse program:
"LSU has a strong substance abuse program that tries to identify and assist in the treatment and long term recovery process of drug use and abuse, and it is a program we would put up against any in the country. Once a substance abuse problem is identified, LSU is diligent in tracking those individuals over extended periods of time with frequent testing and engages them in meaningful opportunities for support through counseling and substance abuse treatment."

Mathieu's history of substance abuse has NFL teams apprehensive about drafting him, but he did sound sincere at February's NFL combine when he talked about about how he had changed his lifestyle through rehab. However, this certainly isn't something Mathieu needed a week before the NFL draft. Whether it's true or not, some NFL teams could still be concerned about the prospects of drafting Mathieu.

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 lunch links

March, 28, 2013
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Our Thursday stroll around the SEC:

RecruitingNation links: SEC edition

March, 27, 2013
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DawgNation
From David Ching Insider: Cornelius Washington had a relatively quiet senior season at Georgia, but after a star turn at the NFL combine, the defensive end is making the most of his soaring draft stock.

More from Ching Insider: With 10 starters returning, it was no surprise to see the defense dominating during Georgia’s first scrimmage of the spring.

GatorNation
From Michael DiRocco: Trip Thurman’s injury is the latest malady to befall Florida’s offensive line and suddenly the Gators are facing some big problems this spring.

GeauxTigerNation
From Gary Laney: With 28 participants, headlined by Tyrann Mathieu and Barkevious Mingo, LSU's pro day is a must-watch event.

More from Laney Insider: 2015 CB Xavier Lewis might have had a rough day at Sunday's National Underclassmen 5-star Challenge, but he's not letting that slow down a recruitment that has several SEC schools, including LSU, showing interest

TideNation
From Alex Scarborough: Football is a copycat game, and with all their success, nobody is being imitated more than the Crimson Tide.
Tuesday brought us the final day of the NFL combine and even more speed, as defensive backs showcased their stuff in Indianapolis.

Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner arrived at the combine as the top-rated defensive back in this year's NFL draft, but had an up-and-down day. He had an impressive official 40-yard dash time of 4.37 seconds, which was the second-fastest 40 time of the day, but he struggled during drills -- dropping a handful of balls. Milliner also had a 36-inch vertical jump and a 122-inch broad jump. He's probably still the top-rated corner in this year's draft with his 40 time and it doesn't sound like his field drills will knock him out of that top spot.

[+] EnlargeDarius Slay
AP Photo/Dave MartinMississippi State CB Darius Slay showed off his leaping ability during NFL combine workouts.
Mississippi State cornerback Darius Slay made some good noise as well after he won the 40 battle, sporting a time of 4.36. That sort of time will certainly help his draft stock, especially after his name was buried a bit heading into the combine. He also had 14 reps of the 225-pound bench press, registered a 35.5-inch vertical and claimed 124 inches in the broad jump.

While Slay helped himself in Indy, teammate Johnthan Banks didn't. He might have won the Thorpe Award, as the nation's best defensive back, but Banks didn't have a good day at the combine. He ran an unflattering 4.61 in the 40 and struggled during field work. He had just 10 bench reps, but sported a 34-inch vertical and a 125-inch broad jump. Banks will have a chance to make up for Tuesday at Mississippi State's pro day.

When it came to showcasing some real strength, Georgia safety Shawn Williams topped all SEC defensive backs with his 25 bench reps. That number ranked third among defensive backs at the combine. He was also one of the fastest safeties out there with his 4.46 in the 40. He also had a 36-inch vertical. Williams really helped himself out with all that strength and speed he showed.

LSU safety Eric Reid also impressed when it came to speed and strength. He tied for the best vertical jump of the day with a height of 40.5 inches and he also tied for the top broad jump (134 inches). Reid also ran a 4.53 40 and did 17 reps on bench.

Florida safety Matt Elam had a big drop in field drills, but he turned some heads with his 4.54 40 time and he was able to get 17 reps on the bench. The 5-foot-10 Elam also registered a 35.5-inch vertical.

The other big story of the day revolved around the performance of former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu. A lot of questions surrounded the Honey Badger, who was dismissed from LSU's team before the 2012 season, but he looked like he was in pretty good shape during Tuesday's workouts. While he tied for last with just four reps on bench, Mathieu was very impressive during field drills, showed good speed with his 4.50 in the 40, and registered a 34-inch vertical and a 117-inch broad jump.

Mathieu might have a lot of past off-field issues, but there's no doubt that he's a ballplayer, and Tuesday certainly helped him as far as the draft is concerned.

You can read about all the defensive back performances during the final day of the combine here.

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)

SEC lunch links

January, 22, 2013
1/22/13
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Checking on what's making news around the SEC:

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.

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