SEC: Deonte Thompson

We know the players everyone will being watching when SEC teams start postseason play.

You have Jordan Jefferson. Everyone wants to see Trent Richardson. People want to know how John Brantley really ends things as a Gator.

But there are a few other players to keep an eye on as well during the heart of bowl season. Here's a look at a player from each SEC participant that we can't forget about this time of year:


WR Marquis Maze: Alabama didn't generate much of a passing game last time it met LSU's defense, but it'll have to this time around and Maze could be a major player here. He was seventh in the SEC in receiving and caught a game-high six passes during the first game, but also had that devastating interception on a trick play. He's no doubt looking to redeem himself in the national championship.


DE Tenarius Wright: The Cotton Bowl figures to be a high-scoring affair with these two offenses going at it. But the best way to stop an offensive train is to get a lot of pressure in the backfield. That's where Wright comes into play. Jake Bequette will be manning one side, with Wright on the other. Wright has been hampered by a broken arm this year, but is all healed up and if he can apply some pressure to Kansas State's backfield it should slow down the Wildcats.


RB Tre Mason: The Tigers lost their best offensive weapon for the Chick-fil-A Bowl when running back Michael Dyer was suspended. Mason will now have the opportunity to help Onterio McCalebb and should get a bunch of carries against a Virginia team that possesses a pretty good run defense. Mason has that big-back mentality and should complement McCalebb well.


WR Deonte Thompson: This is Thompson's last game in a Florida uniform. With Florida looking for one last offensive spark this season, maybe Thompson can provide that. Thompson caught just 19 passes during the regular season, but he has tremendous speed and has the ability to make one or two last plays for the Gators against Ohio State in the Gator Bowl.


TE Aron White: He's a player who can sneak up on defenses. With fellow tight end Orson Charles and receiver Malcolm Mitchell getting most of the attention in Georgia's passing game, White can slip right by and make a big play. Michigan State's defense is tough and talented, but it can't forget about someone who had four touchdowns on nine total catches.


RB Spencer Ware: He's fallen under the radar since his midseason suspension. Running backs designated as backups have had more of an impact for the Tigers in recent weeks, but Ware is still a bruiser and he'll still need to show up against the Crimson Tide. For LSU to pound the ball against Alabama, it will need all of the components of that talented backfield and we could see the Ware of old in New Orleans.


CB Corey Broomfield: It's been a relatively quiet year for Broomfield. He's recorded a good bit of tackles, but has yet to snag an interception. What a perfect time to come alive for the Bulldogs. There has been more bend in Mississippi State's secondary than most expected this year, but there is still a lot of talent back there. Broomfield has the ability to be a game changer and his coverage skills could be an issue for Wake Forest in the Music City Bowl.


RB Brandon Wilds: He surprised most of us with the way he played after Marcus Lattimore went down. He's certainly not as talented as Lattimore, but he works hard and he has become a major component to the Gamecocks' offense. For this offense to get going against Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl, Wilds needs to continue to play with that bulldog-like mentality between the tackles.


WR Chris Boyd: The Commodores have a pretty good group of offensive playmakers, but Boyd could end up being really special. As a freshman, he leads Vandy with seven touchdown receptions. Cincinnati will likely key in on running back Zac Stacy and top receiver Jordan Matthews, meaning Boyd could have a big day. The Bearcats will have to monitor both Boyd and Matthews during the Liberty Bowl, which won't be easy.

Florida's 2010 class loses two more

October, 26, 2011
Maybe all the glitter really isn’t gold.

Just take a gander at Florida’s 2010 recruiting class.

Praised by many as the greatest recruiting class ever, Florida watched as two more from that group walked away Tuesday.

Even after both players practiced during the bye week, Florida coach Will Muschamp announced that tight end Gerald Christian and Robert Clark will transfer from Florida.

“Both of these players have expressed a desire for more playing time and felt that it would be in their best interests to transfer,” Muschamp said. “We wish them both the best of luck and appreciate their contributions to the program.”

Neither one had done much in their Florida careers, as Christian redshirted last year and spent time as both a linebacker and tight end. He caught four passes for 72 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown. Clark has touched the ball twice this season on punt returns, and muffed one. Last year, he caught seven passes for 69 yards and a touchdown.

That makes eight players who have left the team in the past year from that vaunted class – a class that featured 18 ESPNU 150 members (wide receiver Adrian Coxson signed with Florida, but transferred to Maryland before the 2010 season and is listed as a Maryland signee).

Attrition aside, this class has yet to make the kind of impact many expected it to. Yes, they are sophomores or redshirt freshmen, but even former Florida coach Urban Meyer said he expected this class to come right in and make significant contributions.

We’ve seen some here and there. Trey Burton, who was one of Florida’s least heralded members from the 2010 class, led Florida with 12 total touchdowns last season. Matt Elam has become one of Florida’s most trusted defenders at the strong safety spot. Chaz Green is starting to get more reps on Florida’s offensive line in his second year.

After that, this class has had mixed results. When you look at Florida’s defensive line haul from that year, we’re still waiting to see what it can really do. Defensive end Ronald Powell, who was the No. 1 recruit in the country, had a tough freshman year, but hasn’t made much improvement in 2011. Sharrif Floyd had a solid freshman year at tackle, but after moving to end this year he hasn’t made much of an impact at all. Dominique Easley has shown flashes here and there inside, but just isn’t consistent.

Cornerback Cody Riggs had a handful of good moments last year, but has had coverage issues this season. Joshua Shaw was the No. 3 corner coming out, but has moved to safety, and running back Mack Brown can’t seem to crack the depth chart.

Outside of inconsistency on the field, this class was ravaged by attitude problems that caused a major rift with the upperclassmen last year. With a new coaching staff and a fresh start, the thought was that wouldn’t be an issue, and maybe it hasn’t been, but the hype surrounding this class has been damaging from the start.

The interesting thing about Christian and Clark wanting more playing time is that the positions they were at didn’t exactly have playmakers wowing everyone with their numbers. Florida’s leading wide receiver is senior Deonte Thompson, who has 12 catches for 152 yards and no touchdowns. Tight end Jordan Reed has 12 catches for 91 yards.

Regardless, this class has yet to live up to its billing. Twelve of the 26 who made it on campus for the first game played in six or more games, with six playing in all 13 games, so it’s not like this class hasn’t had the chance to get some on-field development.

There is certainly time for this class to get things together, but the moniker of “best ever” is long gone.
When you look at John Brantley and Florida’s passing game this season compared to last season, it’s pretty clear that improvements have been made.

The often-criticized senior quarterback has looked more comfortable in Charlie Weis’ pro-style offense and his numbers are better than they were at this point last year. They aren’t tremendously better, but they are better.

He has 52 more passing yards than he did after four games last year, but two fewer touchdowns. Most of his production has come on swing passes and check downs and his best friends have been running backs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, who have the highest catch totals on the team.

[+] EnlargeJohn Brantley
Kim Klement/US PresswireJohn Brantley (12) has been able to rely on Chris Rainey (1) and the Gators' running backs so far this season.
We’ve heard ad nauseum that Brantley is taking what defenses have given him. If the deep ball isn’t there, go underneath. If the receivers are blanketed, toss to a running back. None of Florida’s receivers currently has a touchdown reception and only Deonte Thompson is close to 100 yards, with 93.

Florida has relied heavily on one of the best running games in the country (averaging a league-high 259 yards a game) that is coming off a 405-yard performance against Kentucky. The Gators might lead the league in total offense (461.8), but most of it has come from the running game.

Can it continue? And will the run-first, throw-short strategy work this weekend against an Alabama defense that smothers short games with ease?

According to Gator coaches and players, they won’t change until the defense makes them. It might sound hardheaded and cliché, but it’s the way this Florida team operates and the coaches are smart enough to know what works and what doesn’t.

“You have to wait to see how they play the game,” Weis said.

“You have to have a plan to where if they stop this you have another way of getting to the same means to an end.”

And the Tide will be looking to gobble up the run. Alabama is giving up 1.8 yards per carry and 45.8 yards per game.

Florida’s rushing duo of Rainey and Demps ise quite possibly the fastest rushing pair in the country, but it certainly isn’t the biggest. Rainey and Demps barely stand 5-foot-9 and 5-foot-8, respectively, and hover around 180-plus pounds.

This isn’t exactly a wrecking crew of a backfield, and Alabama should load the box to test their strength.

“You’ve got to be multiple against Alabama,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said. “You can’t be one-dimensional and have success. You've got to stay balanced in what you do in both the run and the pass and be effective in being efficient in both areas.”

As for those pesky passes to the flats, don’t think the Tide won’t be keying in on them. Florida has yet to face a defense with the speed of Alabama’s, so those throws likely won’t be as open.

So what does that mean for Florida’s offense? It means Florida might actually have to establish a more threatening deep game, something Brantley says is possible … with some help from Florida’s opponent.

“Anytime we can throw the ball downfield, we will,” Brantley said. “Like I’ve said, we’re just going to take what the defense gives us and try to protect up front.”

Of course.

While Brantley took a few shots against Kentucky -- leaving for the locker room just before halftime -- he said he’s fine and healed for Alabama. The fifth-year senior hasn’t been spectacular this season, but Alabama coach Nick Saban said he sees a different, more confident Brantley on film.

He also sees a team that has properly and successfully utilized its top playmakers, but notices that Florida has other weapons adept to making big plays when given the chance.

“I do think that they have capable receivers, good athletic tight ends and John Brantley is certainly capable of throwing the ball downfield,” Saban said.

“There’s not a lack of respect for their ability to do that on our part.”

Regardless of what Florida’s offense has looked like to this point, Weis assures that Alabama will witness new things. He wouldn’t dive too deep into the game plan, but Weis does plan to “throw the kitchen sink” at the Tide Saturday night.

“You guys have been writing about holding things back. Well, you won’t have to worry about that this week,” he said. “They’re going to get plenty.”
It's a touchy subject in college football.

We can thank Ohio State for that.

Just talking about selling college memorabilia immediately triggers beads of sweat to form on athletes' foreheads. Not because they might be guilty of it but because they're afraid anything they say could incriminate them.

After all, according to the NCAA, selling or trading memorabilia by college athletes is deemed illegal. The NCAA equates getting money for memorabilia to receiving improper benefits.

But it belongs to the athletes, right?

When Florida wide receiver Deonte Thompson was recently approached with the question of college athletes being allowed to sell their game-worn jerseys or championship rings, he hesitated for a few seconds before reeling off a string of "I don't know" responses as he shook his head.

A common response, but there were some who didn't shy away from confronting the issue.

Tennessee defensive tackle Malik Jackson feels as though the jerseys, socks, belts, pants and rings given to players should be considered their property. And in this country, you're allowed to sell your property.

"If they give it to us, it’s ours. We should be able to do what we want," Jackson said. "You have coaches making millions and players who gotta wonder what they’re going to eat toward the end of the month because we’re not getting paid.

"I feel like if it has my name on the back of the jersey, I should be able to do what I want with it."

Jackson transferred from USC last summer. In his time there he went to a Rose Bowl, getting a special bowl jersey and ring for winning. To his credit, he hasn't needed the extra money and said he has never thought about selling his Rose Bowl ring or jersey.

And that's the general consensus from players around the league. Most feel as though players should be able to sell what is rightfully theirs, but most would rather keep their items for memory's sake.

Arkansas wide receiver Jarius Wright agrees with Jackson, but personally doesn't think selling memorabilia is right. He'd rather "cherish it and give it to his kids."

Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said he wouldn't sell any of his items, but didn't consider it wrong for players to be able to. For some players, Cox said, affording everyday comfort items is hard because of financial hardships. If players are struggling for money, Cox thinks they should be able to sell their gear in order to get by.

He's also in favor of student-athletes receiving some sort of extra compensation because he sees college football as actual work.

"The way I look at it, football is a job to us," Cox said. "We always talk about it as a job. We’re in football all day. You really don’t have time for a part time job, like a regular student would."

We heard and read about proposals to give student-athletes extra funds, but that process is still in the ground stages. So, why not put in the hands of the athletes? If they own their jerseys, gloves and championship rings, why shouldn't they be able to sell them for some extra cash?

Will it transform a 4.4 guy into a 4.2 guy? Will a quarterback have a tighter spiral because he sold the jersey he wore in the national championship?

No, but it will help those in need, and while Wright might not agree with the idea, he understands the sense it makes to allow athletes to sell what belongs to them.

"I know I don’t have much say so in that, but in a way they should be able to sell it because once the school gives it to them, it’s theirs," he said.
Five years ago, Deonte Thompson was a can’t-miss prospect.

Visions of numerous touchdowns and dizzy defenders danced around in Gators fans’ heads when he picked Florida back in 2007.

But things haven’t exactly panned out for the redshirt senior receiver. He went from being labeled as can’t-miss to can’t-catch, as his hands have been his worst enemy at times.

[+] EnlargeDeonte Thompson
Kim Klement/US PresswireFive-star receiver Deonte Thompson finished his five-year career with 101 catches for 1,446 yards and 9 TDs.
Thompson has always wowed with his speed, but his hands have kept him back. And it’s no secret to him. He’s heard all of the negativity about his questionable pass-catching ability.

In his final season in Gainesville, Thompson is out to quiet his critics and lead his Gators.

"I’m just looking to help my team win any way possible. That’s what it’s all about, getting the ‘W,’" Thompson said. "You get the win, everything else falls in place."

Buried under his mistakes are 80 career receptions for 1,182 yards and eight touchdowns. Thompson admits he expected more during his career, and that fuels him for the fall.

Thompson took his summer workouts to the extreme by training with Percy Harvin, Riley Cooper, Louis Murphy and Cornelius Ingram. Working out in Gainesville, the four NFLers ran Thompson through a rigorous combination of passing drills and conditioning.

Thompson came away both exhausted and confident. He watched as the more reps he took the slower the ball came and the more his concentration grew.

"It’s given me another aspect of my game, stepping up a whole new level," Thompson said.

Thompson exudes new swagger and confidence. He flashes that boyish smile that was his high school trademark, but things weren't always this fun. He might have a more positive attitude, but there were times when he fell into a discouraging funk. He reached out to friends and family when he was at his lowest, but it was his embattled quarterback who he communicated most with.

Like Thompson, quarterback John Brantley has been draped in criticism. Heralded as one of the best to ever throw the ball in the state of Florida, Brantley hardly looked capable of running a college offense in his first year as a starter.

Together, the two have spent time picking the other one up, but enter the 2011 season planning to stay up.

"Deonte and I are real close," Brantley said. "We’ve been to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. We’ve been through it all together and we want to be able to stick it out with each other the rest of this last year."

The two are so close that when Brantley finally decided that he wasn't transferring in January, Thompson was the first teammate he told.

When these two first got together in 2007, they envisioned a Brantley-to-Thompson combo being one of the best in the conference, if not the nation. They developed an on-field chemistry that made them nearly unstoppable to beat in practice.

And while that didn't transfer to the field last fall, there has been no lost love or trust.

"He’s my boy and I’ll always believe in him," Brantley said of Thompson. "I’ll always have his back, no matter what, and I think he’s going to have a great year."

Thompson feels the same about Brantley, but expects so much more from himself. He's ready for the hate and doubt. And he's ready to prove people wrong, flashing that confident smile in the process.

"I feel like I can be successful this year," he said. "Last year, if you asked me I’d say the same thing. I don’t go into the season thinking this isn’t going to be my year.

"This is the last go-round. Gotta make it happen.

"I just want to be one of the top receivers in the SEC. I just want to win. When you win, everything falls in place."
Alabama QBsUS PresswireWith no winner in the quarterback competition, Alabama may use Phillip Sims and A.J. McCarron.
Nick Saban understands the situation he is in. He also understands it is not exactly ideal.

Alabama’s coach will enter the 2011 season with one of the nation’s most talented football teams.

Ten starters return on defense and the offense has the experience and talent to put up fine numbers this season.

But experience fades at the most important position on the field -- quarterback.

That’s not comforting knowing that the Tide still has to play another season in the SEC, where life can be pure hell for quarterbacks, especially young ones.

The competition between sophomore A.J. McCarron and freshman Phillip Sims was fierce this spring and continues to be in fall camp, with both taking equal practice reps.

So, with two quarterbacks neck-and-neck in one of the nation’s biggest quarterback battles, Saban says he will not hesitate to play both in games.

“We want to continue to bring both guys along as best we can, and I think it’s only fair that both guys have an opportunity to play in games before any kind of decision gets made about who’s the best player,” Saban said. “Maybe, even, there isn’t a best player. There’s just two really good players.”

The use of a multiple-quarterback system has its perks and its drawbacks. It can be tough for offenses to get into rhythm with the switching, but using quarterbacks with different styles can also have the same effect on opposing defenses.

See the 2006 Florida Gators, who used Chris Leak as their primary passer and Tim Tebow as the running threat. It was successful enough to guide the Gators to a national championship.

However, that tactic backfired for Florida last season. John Brantley was used in passing situations, while Trey Burton and Jordan Reed were the run threats. Eventually, Brantley and Reed took the bulk of the snaps, and there were times where Brantley was brought in only for third downs, leading to a very predictable and underwhelming offense.

“I feel the one-quarterback system is better because it’s the quarterback,” Florida wide receiver Deonte Thompson said. “You don’t want to keep taking him out of the game and then just put him in on third down and he doesn’t even know the tempo of the game.”

Florida’s team passing efficiency was 117.29, while the offense ranked 82nd nationally.

That won’t stop teams from attempting this task. Ole Miss currently has three quarterbacks battling, but both offensive coordinator David Lee and quarterback Barry Brunetti wouldn’t be surprised if all three took snaps during games this fall.

"I'll tell you this, fellas, and I really believe it -- I think we can play with all three of these guys in this offense. It's not like none of them can play,” Lee told members of the media last week. “I think all three of them can play."

Brunetti and Randall Mackey are superb running threats for the Rebels, while Zack Stoudt is most definitely more of a passing threat, so Brunetti said he could see the coaches using each in different situations during games and expects the competition to continue throughout the season.

Like the Rebels, Auburn also has three quarterbacks battling and also like the Rebels, Auburn has one true pro-style quarterback (junior Barrett Trotter) and two more athletic dual-threats (freshmen Clint Moseley and Kiehl Frazier).

Trotter appears to have a slight edge at the moment, but Tigers could change the pace up by using the other two at times.

One team that always seems caught up in the two-quarterback system is LSU. The Tigers have yet another trio to work with in Jordan Jefferson, the unquestioned starter, senior Jarrett Lee and junior college transfer Zach Mettenberger.

There is a ton of hype surrounding Mettenberger and his big arm, but he and just about everyone else in Baton Rouge acknowledges that Jefferson is the starter. But Mettenberger still expects to get valuable playing time this season.

What a coincidence. Jefferson is a strong runner and Mettenberger is a more gifted passer.

For Mettenberger to get into some sort of in-game rotation he’ll have to learn and mature a little more. Jefferson is not concerned about sharing snaps, since splitting time will help Mettenberger's development for not just the fall but also the future.

“I’m doing whatever it takes to make sure that he’s prepared because there is going to be a time in his career where he’s going to become the starter,” Jefferson said.

Lunchtime links

July, 26, 2011
Read some of these SEC links while you get your afternoon grub on.

Lunchtime links

July, 25, 2011
We're back from Hoover, Ala., and SEC media days, which means that football is just around the corner. Most teams start fall practice next week. Check out some links from around the league this morning.
HOOVER, Ala. -- Florida's Deonte Thompson looked back at his quarterback, John Brantley, more than once this spring following a Brantley rifle shot down the field and nodded his head approvingly.

"There were a couple of scrimmages where he ripped the whole defense apart," Thompson said. "He got his confidence back. It was the old Brantley out there."

[+] EnlargeJohn Brantley
Kim Klement/US PresswireFlorida quarterback John Brantley has forgotten about last season when he threw 10 interceptions to just nine touchdowns.
Or maybe the new Brantley.

Brantley gets a fresh start this season with a new offense, new offensive coordinator and new head coach.

The best part for Brantley is that the offense -- Charlie Weis' pro-style attack -- fits what he does best and has also helped to unify the team after a turbulent season a year ago in Gainesville with different players and different factions pulling in opposite directions.

"With a new coaching staff and a new offense, it's like you're starting all over again, a clean slate," said Brantley, who finished last season with nine touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. "Everyone has bought in, and everyone is closer together.

"I think every single one of us has forgot about last year. We're just looking forward to this year and moving on."

Thompson, who had his own struggles catching the ball last season, said Brantley's renewed confidence this spring and summer has rubbed off on the entire team.

That and the reality that the Gators lost five football games a year ago after losing only twice in the previous two seasons combined.

"The leaders have stepped up," Thompson said. "We're not used to losing, man. We've got to change something."

Brantley said one of the biggest changes fans will notice in the Gators' new offense is that they're not going to be in the shotgun nearly as much.

"It's going to be more ground and pound, but coach Weis isn't scared to take shots down the field," Brantley said. "That's his style of offense. I think the change is good, and I think our fans are going to love it."

Brantley said he's looked at a lot of tape from the Kansas City Chiefs last season when Weis was the offensive coordinator. He's also watched a lot of tape from Weis' Notre Dame days when Jimmy Clausen and Brady Quinn were running the Irish offense.

Thompson said Brantley absorbed too much of the blame last season for a Florida offense that went belly-up and finished 10th in the SEC in total offense.

"Last year, I wouldn't say it was all on Brantley," Thompson said. "There were times we should have gotten open quicker. It's more than just him. I know he's the quarterback and all the pressure's on him, but it's more than just him.

"It's on all of us, and we're in this together."
HOOVER, Ala. -- The certainty around the football future of Florida running back Jeff Demps isn’t so clear anymore.

This spring, coach Will Muschamp was confident that his world-class speedster would be roaming the Gators’ backfield this fall, but after a successful track season and his current trip to Italy with the U.S. national team, Demps’ situation is becoming more and more uncertain.

“He got that opportunity in Italy. I granted him permission to do that,” Muschamp said. “He and I will meet next week to see when he will join our football team in August. I'll update you once he and I speak and talk about that. I expect him to be a part of our football team.”

[+] EnlargeJeff Demps
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallFlorida's Jeff Demps has a decision to make regarding his future. Will it be on the track or on the football field?
But it appears that the fastest man in college sports is no longer so confident that he’ll be throwing his pads on this fall. He broke his own school record in the 60-meter dash with a national champion time of 6.53 during the indoor season this spring and also had a wind-aided 9.96 in the 100-meter dash in outdoor competition.

With some slimming down and total dedication to running, Demps would undoubtedly have a bright future in track. He’s never had the offers like he’s had this year in the professional world of track, and it might seem silly for him to turn them down.

Muschamp still wants to sit down with Demps to discuss his options, but his teammates expect to see him on the football field for his senior season.

“I feel confident, very confident,” wide receiver Deonte Thompson said about Demps returning. “Every time I see him he says, ‘I’m coming back, bro.’ So, I think he’s coming back.”

Added quarterback John Brantley: “He loves Florida football. He would do anything for the program and I think he still has that mindset. He’ll make the best decision.”

But when you start discussing Demps’ financial opportunities and a chance at the 2012 Olympics (a goal of his), players understand the magnitude of his decision.

“I’d make the best decision for me and my family,” Thompson said. “If track is best for him at the moment, we’re going to support him regardless of if he doesn’t come back. He’s a part of the Gator Nation, and even if he doesn’t, we’re gonna all support him.”

While he’s showed that he’s nearly unstoppable to catch in open space on the football field, questions about his size (5-foot-8, 181 pounds) and durability could hinder him at the next level. Sure, he’ll get drafted, and at times he’ll be able to do special things with the ball, but his longevity in the league is an uncertainty.

And Demps is far from reaching his track potential with football weight holding him back. Florida track coach Mike Holloway has said in the past that he’d like to have the chance to work with Demps year-round and help mold him into a track star with goals beyond collegiate achievements.

Playing another year of football could seriously diminish his chances of reaching his goal of running in the 2012 Olympics because of the bulk and weight he’d have to shed, while getting his times down even more during the spring.

For Demps, his decision will come down to two things: Will he pursue an occupation in his dream field (football) or will he head the route where he’s most talented (track)?

SEC media days: Best of Day 1

July, 21, 2011
Best quote: "He's a players' coach. He lets the players play. It's like he told me, ‘It's your team.' That's what I like about him. He lets the players run the team. He makes the decisions, but he lets us run it." -- Florida receiver Deonte Thompson on first-year coach Will Muschamp.

Best support for a teammate: South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery said he's 100 percent behind embattled quarterback Stephen Garcia. Despite being suspended five times during his career, Garcia is on track to be fully reinstated to the team in August. "We believe in Stephen," Jeffery said. "No matter what he goes through, we all have his back."

Best running back: There was considerable chatter Wednesday among all of the players about who was the SEC's best running back. Arkansas' Knile Davis said it was a tough call, but that he would put himself on top. Jeffery went with his teammate, Marcus Lattimore, and said Alabama's Trent Richardson was a close second. "I'd have to say Marcus first and then Trent, and the rest of them fall into place," Jeffery said. "They're both great running backs. Trent is a little faster, but Marcus is a lot more powerful."

Best re-writing of history: Muschamp, who played his college football at Georgia, was asked how it felt to be a Georgia guy coaching at the University of Florida. Muschamp responded, "I'm a Florida guy."

Best threads: Florida's Thompson was sporting a black suit with pinstripes and a turquoise shirt. Even his tie had a splash of turquoise. He said his mother picked out his outfit.

Best candor: South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier made it clear that he wasn't a big fan of at least one of SEC commissioner Mike Slive's new proposals for the NCAA -- making scholarships a multi-year deal. "That's a terrible idea, Commissioner," Spurrier said. "Do you sports writers have a two-year contract ... three or four-year? Have you ever had a two-year deal?"

Best admission: Mississippi State senior quarterback Chris Relf admitted that he was playing almost exclusively on natural ability when last season began and doing very little reading of defenses. "A lot has changed since then, mostly what I'm seeing when I go to the line," Relf said.

Notebook: Petrino likes his defense

July, 20, 2011
Arkansas: Bobby Petrino has been very vocal about his defense being the best it's been since his arrival, but what should guide this unit through the season is the defensive front.

With Jake Bequette and Tenarius Wright flying off the ends, the Razorbacks should have a ferocious pass rush and there is a wealth of depth in the middle.

"I'm excited for our defense this year because I really feel like it's the first time when we're physically where we need to be on the defensive front. Our inside guys will be big and physical and athletic. We've got speed on the edges, which matches what we see every week in the conference."

Florida: The one thing that stuck more than the ineptitude of Florida's offense last season was the lack of confidence quarterback John Brantley had. He was a former high school phenom and had a ton of hype thrown his way, but when it was his time to take hold of the Gators, he looked timid.

That old Brantley appears to be gone. He's taken more of a leadership role and with Charlie Weis' new pro-style offense Brantley is taking charge in the pocket.

"He's got his swag back," wide receiver Deonte Thompson said. "He's right.

"His confidence is the biggest thing. Just from summer workouts, 7-on-7 drills, he's come in and taken control of the huddle. A lot more verbal."

Mississippi State: There might not be a better defensive tackle tandem in the league than the one that resides in Starkville. Fletcher Cox and Josh Boyd combined for 53 tackles, 13 for loss and five sacks last year.

With the Bulldogs losing quality linebackers from a year ago, Mississippi State will need the defensive line to step up and Cox believes he and Boyd will definitely hold up their ends.

How do they get better? Both constantly look to outperform each other during drills and inside the weight room.

"We always compete against each other," Cox said. "We're never satisfied. We set a standard and meet our standard."

South Carolina: Steve Spurrier hasn't lost his sense of humor and he knows how to motivate his team. The Head Ball Coach yet again downplayed his team's success from the past year, saying that the Gamecocks still have a lot of work to do.

That hasn't upset his players at all. In fact, they embrace his barbs because they act as an extra motivator for them.

Check out these loving words from Spurrier today: "You know we lost our last two games last year, so we're not sitting around patting each other on the back too much. We got clobbered in the SEC game by Auburn and didn't play when the game was on the line. Against FSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, we fought back, got back in the game, but when it was on the line, didn't do much."

Florida's Deonte Thompson talks at SEC media days.

SEC Media Days lineup

July, 13, 2011
It's almost here, folks. SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala., are just a week away, which means the regular season is just around the corner.

You're ready for some football, and we're definitely ready for some football.

You can always find an interesting story or two at media days and there are always a few surprises here and there.

What will the coaches say about paying players? What will players say about paying players? What will be the reactions to the new rules on oversigning? Who will have the snazziest suit? Who will drop the best/funniest quotes of the week?

And of course, which fan base will have the most representation during the three-day event?

Each team will be bringing three players, along with the head coach. There are some good names on this year's list, including Ole Miss defensive end Kentrell Lockett. He's not only fun to talk with but has one of the more interesting stories to follow, considering his 2011 season was up in the air a few months ago.

Two youngsters that should get a lot of attention are South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore and Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. Big things are expected from each one this fall, so it will be interesting to see how they deal with the media onslaught.

This will be Will Muschamp and James Franklin's first go-rounds at media days. Florida's new coach will also be bringing much-criticized quarterback John Brantley with him, but senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard won't make the trip. Too bad because he has a great personality and is fun to talk to.

Alabama coach Nick Saban, running back Trent Richardson, safety Mark Barron and linebacker Dont’a Hightower should get a few cameras and tape recorders in their faces next week. Alabama enters the fall as the likely favorite in the league and everyone will let Saban and his crew know that when they arrive Friday morning.

One disappointment is that South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia won't be around. The troubled athlete is looking to clean up his image in Columbia, but we won't have an opportunity to hear what he has to say as he attempts his transformation. Luckily, coach Steve Spurrier will be in town, meaning there should be some good laughs and great quotes. Plus, I'm interested to see if he's had more thoughts on compensating student-athletes.

I’m sure a few more personalities will come out next week, so it should be fun.

Here is a complete list of players and coaches for next week's event.

First Rotation:
1 -- 3:50 p.m. ET

Coach Bobby Petrino
RB Knile Davis
WR Jarius Wright
DE Tenarius Wright

Coach Will Muschamp
QB John Brantley
DE William Green
WR Deonte Thompson

Second Rotation: 3:20 -- 6 p.m. ET

South Carolina
Coach Steve Spurrier
WR Alshon Jeffery
RB Marcus Lattimore
DT Travian Robertson

Mississippi State
Coach Dan Mullen
RB Vick Ballard
DT Fletcher Cox
QB Chris Relf

First Rotation:
8:30 -- 11:20 a.m. ET

Coach Joker Phillips
OG Stuart Hines
CB Anthony Mosley
QB Morgan Newton

Coach Mark Richt
CB Brandon Boykin
C Ben Jones
QB Aaron Murray

Second Rotation: 10:50 a.m. -- 1:30 p.m. ET

Coach Gene Chizik
WR Emory Blake
DT Nosa Equae
TE Phillip Lutzenkirchen

Coach Derek Dooley
DL Malik Jackson
RB Tauren Poole
OL Dallas Thomas

First Rotation:
8:30 -- 11:20 a.m. ET

Coach Nick Saban
S Mark Barron
LB Dont'a Hightower
RB Trent Richardson

Coach James Franklin
CB Casey Hayward
LB Chris Marve
QB Larry Smith

Second Rotation: 10:50 a.m. -- 1:30 p.m. ET

Ole Miss
Coach Houston Nutt
RB Brandon Bolden
DE Kentrell Lockett
OT Bradley Sowell

Coach Les Miles
LB Ryan Baker
QB Jordan Jefferson
WR Russell Shepard
It’s not like Florida coach Will Muschamp doesn’t have enough to worry about this offseason.

Between the carousel of booster club meetings and deciding on an appropriate punishment for senior cornerback Janoris Jenkins, Muschamp has to be sweating over how his players will take to summer workouts, especially his offensive skill players.

Muschamp and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis will be limited with players, so strength coach Mickey Marotti and the players themselves will be left with the responsibility of making sure spring improvements bleed over into fall practice.

Player-organized 7-on-7s will be the crucial next step to finding that player the offense can consistently rely on.

Florida has a stable of unproven wide receivers and tight ends and while speed is the name of Florida’s running game, none have proven to be capable of being a primary running back.

So who will step up to help out quarterback John Brantley this fall? Let’s take a look at the options:

Chris Rainey
: When he’s good, he’s dangerous, but Rainey has always dealt with inconsistency and he’s not the strongest athlete. At 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, he’s not an intimidating player to look at, but he’s one of the most elusive runners in the SEC. He’ll be used as a receiver at times and Muschamp praised him for having one of the best springs of any of Florida’s players.

Jeff Demps: He’s a national champion in the 60-meter dash and he was one of the most exciting players in the country to watch during his first two seasons. However, he proved that his 5-foot-8, 181-pound frame couldn’t handle being an ever-down running back last season when he went down with a foot injury after carrying the ball more than 20 times against Tennessee. He’s Florida’s best weapon in space, but he can’t be asked to carry a heavy load out of the backfield.

Trey Burton: He’s no longer a quarterback and will be used more out of the backfield. He was a major running threat at times and caught 32 passes in 2010. He wasn't terribly shifty or much of a deep threat, but he became a consistent target for Brantley last season.

Deonte Thompson
: Thompson was supposed to be Florida’s next great deep threat, but inconsistency with his hands has hindered that. He was a top recruit coming out of high school, yet enters his senior season with the unproven tag. His speed isn’t questioned, but he’s got to shore up his catching ability before he can be a major factor.

Frankie Hammond Jr.: He’s got big-play ability, but he’s never really been used extensively in Florida’s offense. He’s got pretty good speed and left spring as a starter on the outside. He said during spring that he and Brantley have developed good on-field chemistry, but will it carry into the fall?

Omarius Hines: Hines was hardly used last season, but combines his 6-foot-1, 211-pound frame with exceptional speed to become a mismatch for most defenders. He’s got the traits to be a playmaker, but he needs to be used more.

Andre Debose: Coming out of high school, he was expected to immediately replace Percy Harvin on offense, but severe hamstring injury sidelined him his freshman year and his inconsistency in practice cost him playing time in 2010. This spring, he was held out of the latter part of practice and the spring game with an ankle injury. Debose had the gifts in high school, but he’s yet to fully show them at Florida.

Quinton Dunbar: Dunbar became one of Muschamp's most talked about offensive players this spring because of his big-play ability and speed. He's inexperienced, but appears to have the tools to be a deep threat in Florida's offense.

Robert Clark: He was solid in the slot this spring and could be a guy that gets the ball in the backfield as well. He’s elusive and has good speed, so he could be a real threat in the middle of the field for the Gators this fall.

Jordan Reed: He’s back at tight end and during spring he drew tons of praise from his teammates and coaches. Brantley called him one of the most athletic players on Florida’s team, regardless of position. Now that the tight end is a major part of the offense, Reed could end up being a prime target for Brantley this fall.