SEC: Winston Guy

Replay: SEC Show

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
9:56
AM ET
Watch ESPN.com SEC reporters Edward Aschoff, David Ching and Greg Ostendorf discuss all things SEC. They hit on the latest on Todd Gurley, the initial College Football Playoff rankings, the big Ole Miss-Auburn game and more.

One good thing: Kentucky

July, 24, 2012
7/24/12
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We continue our "One good thing" series looking at the Kentucky Wildcats.

Good reasons:
Let's see what the Wildcats can do in 2012:

Kentucky will make a bowl game: Joker Phillips is more confident in the offense.

Last year, finding consistent, reliable playmakers in Kentucky's offense was almost nonexistent. Wide receiver La'Rod King was the most reliable offensive weapon for the Wildcats last year, hauling in 40 catches for 598 yards and seven touchdowns. There were some bright spots in the running game here and there, but Josh Clemons' season-ending knee injury early in the year was a major blow. But this spring Phillips found more players to rely on offensively. For starters, quarterback Maxwell Smith impressed the coaching staff with a solid spring. Clearly, the starting quarterback job is his to lose. The Wildcats also got solid production out of wide receivers Demarco Robinson and Daryl Collins this spring. Tight ends Ronnie Shields and Tyler Robinson stepped up as well, giving Smith plenty more options than he had last year. Having more reliable options at receiver will take pressure off of King and will help Smith develop more. It should also help a running game that expects to get Clemons back and will still have CoShik Williams, who led the Cats in rushing last year, and Raymond Sanders.

The offensive line is still a work in progress, but Phillips said at SEC media days he felt much better about the line coming out of spring than he did going in. The Wildcats were the SEC's worst offense last year because of its lack of playmakers, but if these pieces fall into place like the coaches hope, the Wildcats' offense should be much improved and could be what Kentucky needs to get back to the six-win mark.

Why it won't: There are too many holes on defense.

While the Wildcats ranked near the bottom of the SEC in most defensive categories last season, there were some solid starters that will be tough to replace. Gone is Danny Trevathan, who was the SEC's leading tackler and one of the league's top linebackers. He wasn't just Kentucky's best overall player but he was the team's unquestioned leader. The Wildcats have to replace not just his production on the field but his guidance in the locker room. Hybrid linebacker/safety Winston Guy, who was third in the SEC in tackles last year, is also gone. Overall, the Wildcats are replacing six defensive starters -- four linebackers and two cornerbacks.

Replacing Trevathan might be the toughest job, as youngsters Malcolm McDuffen and Demarius Rancifer struggled to man the weakside linebacker spot this spring. Sophomore Miles Simpson left spring as the projected starter at Guy's hybrid position, but will be pushed for playing time by redshirt freshman Josh Forrest. The coaches feel pretty good about Marcus Caffey's move from running back to cornerback, but he has no collegiate experience on defense, and he might be the Wildcats' top corner on the roster.

If Kentucky's defense can't fill those holes, this unit won't make the necessary strides it needs to improve upon last year and it certainly won't go bowling.

Kentucky spring wrap

May, 15, 2012
5/15/12
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2011 record: 5-7
2011 conference record: 2-6
Returning starters:: offense: 6; defense: 5, kicker/punter: 1

Top returners:
C Matt Smith, OG Larry Warford, WR La’Rod King, QB Maxwell Smith, RB CoShik Williams, DE Collins Ukwu, DT Donte Rumph, DT Mister Cobble, S Martavius Neloms, S Mikie Benton

Key losses:
OT Chandler Burden, OG Stuart Hines, OT Billy Joe Murphy, WR Matt Roark, LB Ronnie Sneed, LB Danny Trevathan, LB Ridge Wilson, CB Anthony Mosley, S Winston Guy, CB Randall Burden

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: CoShik Williams* (486 yards)
Passing: Maxwell Smith* (819 yards)
Receiving: La'Rod King* (598 yards)
Tackles: Danny Trevathan (143)
Sacks: Trevathan (3)
Interceptions: Trevathan (4)

Spring answers

1. Finding more playmakers: Coach Joker Phillips feels like he has more firepower to work with on offense again. After struggling mightily to find consistent playmakers on offense in 2011, Phillips left spring with more confidence about players he felt he could rely on going forward. The biggest standout was receiver Demarco Robinson. He became one of the most consistent players at practice and caught nine passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game. Also, freshman receiver Daryl Collins surprised coaches with his playmaking ability. Tight ends Ronnie Shields and Tyler Robinson also stepped up and should help take pressure off of Kentucky's running game.

2. Adjusting to Minter's defense: Strides were definitely made by Kentucky's defense in Year 1 with Rick Minter, but it looks like the defense felt even more comfortable in it this spring. While there is still work to do and bodies to replace, Minter has said he sees more aggression and attitude out of this unit. The defensive line also progressed this spring and could finally be the strength of this unit. The goal is for Kentucky's defense to be a much more physical and tougher group and both Minter and Phillips see it shifting that way.

3. Caffey's move: Kentucky entered the spring trying to replace two starters at cornerback, so the staff moved running back Marcus Caffey there. The experiment appeared to work, as Caffey was one of the more impressive looking players this spring. He caught on quickly at his new position and ended the spring as a starter. He's also a bigger body and the coaches say he's very durable. Both will come in handy against bigger receivers in this league.

Fall questions

1. Offensive line: Three starters up front had to be replaced this spring and the Wildcats ended practice knowing that the offensive line is still a work in progress. There is leadership and experience in Larry Warford and Matt Smith, but after that there's a lot of inexperience. Behind Warford and Smith, rising sophomore Darrian Miller and junior-to-be Kevin Mitchell combined for three starts last year. There were bright spots here and there this spring, but the inexperience up front is still a concern for coaches heading into the offseason.

2. Defensive holes: While the Wildcats got more comfortable in the defense, there are still a lot of missing starters at linebacker and in the secondary. There will be four new starting linebackers, including the Spur, and two new starting corners. The coaches feel good about Caffey at corner, but questions still remain at the other corner spot. Players must also replace the production created by Danny Trevathan, Winston Guy and Ridge Wilson, who was dismissed this spring. They accounted for 310 tackles, including 28.5 for loss. Alvin Dupree and Avery Williamson turned heads at linebacker, but Malcolm McDuffen and Miles Simpson struggled to fill in for Trevathan and Guy and could be pushed by incoming freshmen.

3. Smith as the guy: Outside of the spring game, Maxwell Smith had a pretty impressive spring in Lexington. He seemed to develop his game the way the coaches wanted and needed him too, but his mistakes in the spring game brought some worry. He rushed his play and reverted back to some bad habits. While he'd be the starter if the season started today, the coaches hinted that the race is still open with Morgan Newton coming back from shoulder surgery and incoming freshman Patrick Towles arriving this summer. Smith might have improved, but Newton and Towles will get every chance to win the starting job. If Smith regresses again, he might fail to win the job he thinks is his to lose.

Lunchtime links

April, 26, 2012
4/26/12
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Making the SEC rounds with some lunch links.

Opening spring camp: Kentucky

March, 21, 2012
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Schedule: Kentucky opened its spring practice Wednesday morning and will conclude with the Blue/White Game on April 21. All practices are closed to the public.

What's new: Kentucky welcomed two new assistants to Joker Phillips' coaching staff during the offseason. Mike Cassity returned to his alma mater this year and will coach the Wildcats' defensive backs. Cassity coached Kentucky's defensive backs from 1980-81. Pat Washington also joined Kentucky's staff to coach wide receivers and to be the passing game coordinator after Tee Martin left to coach wide receivers at USC.

On the mend: Quarterback Morgan Newton will only do some light tossing and handoffs as he recovers from shoulder surgery. Defensive end Collins Ukwu will miss drills after undergoing labrum surgery. Running back Josh Clemons will be non-contact throughout the spring because he's rehabbing from the torn meniscus he suffered last season. Defensive tackle Tristian Johnson will be limited this spring because of a shoulder injury. Wide receiver Gene McCaskill is being evaluated day-to-day because of knee issues that he's dealt with the last couple of years. Offensive lineman Tyler Davenport won't go through contact either this spring because of a knee injury and center Sam Simpson is out indefinitely with a back injury. Linebacker Jabari Johnson won't go through contact either because of shoulder surgery.

On the move: Marcus Caffey is making a significant move for the Wildcats as he switches from running back to cornerback, which is a position that needs all the bodies it can get this year. Eric Dixon is also moving from safety to cornerback to help the Wildcats with numbers. Bookie Cobbins is moving from quarterback to wide receiver.

Questions: The Wildcats enter spring with a lot of questions on both sides of the ball. Kentucky must replace three starting offensive linemen from last season. The good news is that vets Larry Warford and Matt Smith are back, but Kentucky will work rising sophomores Darrian Miller (left tackle) and Zach West (left guard), and junior-to-be Kevin Mitchell (right tackle) with the first-team offense. Miller started two games last year and the coaches are high on him, but there won't be a lot of experience behind Warford and Smith. Kentucky is also looking for another wide receiver to step up opposite La'Rod King, who proved to be the Wildcats' best receiving option in 2011. Outside of King, Kentucky returns just one receiver -- E.J. Fields -- who registered 10 more receptions in 2011. Kentucky will likely have to look to its youngsters and is hoping for a couple of redshirt freshmen to stand out, like Cobbins, Daryl Collins and Rashad Cunningham. Kentucky is also replacing two starting corners and safeties (Winston Guy was a Spur) and three linebackers after Ridge Wilson was dismissed before spring. Converted corners Caffey and Dixon will come in handy at corner because Kentucky needs the most help there.

Don't forget about: Kentucky's offense was dead last in the SEC last season, but the Wildcats had some success at times running the ball. Kentucky's offense took a major hit when Clemons went down with that devastating knee injury last fall. The coaches expected big things from him and when he's healthy he's arguably the Wildcats' best offensive weapon. But Kentucky also returns rising senior CoShik Williams. He's added 10 pounds of muscle and could help Kentucky develop a solid rushing tandem once Clemons is healthy again. Raymond Sanders is another running back to keep an eye on. Injuries wrecked his 2011 season, but if he's healthy he'll help Kentucky's offense as it looks for more consistency.

Waiting in the wings: Quarterback Maxwell Smith won't have to fight off Newton this spring, as Newton recovers from shoulder surgery, but he'll get an up-close glimpse of his summer competition when 2012 signee Patrick Towles visits Lexington during his Spring Break. Towles will be on hand to take in as much of the Wildcats' offense as he can. Towles will arrive this summer with a lot of hype following him from high school and might already be the most athletic of the bunch at quarterback.

Breaking out: Kentucky is once again searching for playmakers this spring and it hopes to find a few at wide receiver. Cobbins, Collins and Cunningham are all players the coaches are excited about working with in the next month and with receiver so wide open, each will have the opportunity for a big spring. Kentucky also needs players to step up at linebacker, cornerback and the Spur position. All the starters from those positions are gone, including Kentucky's best player in linebacker Danny Trevathan. Attempting to replace Trevathan at the Will spot is rising sophomore Malcolm McDuffen. Underclassmen Tim Patterson and Demarius Rancifer are also players the coaches are excited about using at linebacker. Josh Forrest and Miles Simpson are also battling at the Spur.

All eyes on: Smith ended up being the best option Kentucky had at quarterback last season, despite some rocky play, but an injury kept him out of the season finale against Tennessee. It worked out that wide receiver Matt Roark managed well enough to guide the Wildcats to their first win over the Vols in 26 years. Smith now enters the spring with questions surrounding his game and the pressure of having to hold off Newton and Towles this summer. Coaches and players have more confidence in Smith now, but he'll have to continue to develop as more of a passer and generate more confidence in has abilities this spring. He'll have to start making those around him better, especially the wide receivers, who enter spring as a very unproven group. Smith could either run away with the starting job this spring or make the competition that much more fierce once the others start throwing with him this summer.
We move to linebackers today in our postseason position rankings.

Defensive lines are very important in this league, but there are other guys in the box who have to be pretty reliable as well in this league. This league has done a pretty solid job of producing some top talent at this position as well.

You can see what are preseason linebacker rankings looked like here.

And here are our postseason rankings:

[+] EnlargeDont'a Hightower
Marvin Gentry/US PresswireDont'a Hightower had career highs in tackles (79), sacks (3.0) and interceptions (1) this season.
1. Alabama: This unit was at the top of our preseason rankings and didn't budge throughout the season. When you have two All-Americans in Courtney Upshaw, who was the defensive MVP in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game, and Dont'a Hightower it's pretty understandable to see why. Those two combined for 136 tackles, including 29 for loss. Nico Johnson was fourth on the team in tackles, while C.J. Mosley added 37 of his own. Alabama's defense was first nationally in total defense and first in rushing defense, allowing 74.2 yards per game.

2. Georgia: Linebackers are essential to any 3-4 defense, and the Bulldogs' group did quite well in 2011. Georgia ended up with one of the nation's best linebackers in Jarvis Jones, who led the SEC with 19 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. He also had 49 quarterback hurries. Michael Gilliard was third on the team behind Jones with 65 tackles. While Alec Ogletree missed part of the first half of the season, the speedster still finished with 52 tackles, including 7.5 for loss. Cornelius Washington, Amarlo Herrera Christian Robinson combined to add 101 more tackles, as Georgia's defense ranked fifth nationally.

3. Arkansas: Arkansas' defense had a lot of bend in it last season, but the linebackers found ways to make plays. Newcomer Alonzo Highsmith was third on the team with 80 tackles, led with 12.5 tackles for loss and had 4.5 sacks. The star continued to be Jerry Franklin, who led the team in tackles (101) for the fourth straight year. Then there was Jerico Nelson, who was all over the field as that hybrid linebacker/safety. He came away with 70 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions. Ross Rasner, who played outside with Nelson, added 53 more tackles and two sacks.

4. Florida: The Gators' defense ranked eighth nationally in part because of the aggressive play of its front seven. Jon Bostic commanded the middle, leading the team with 94 tackles, including 10 for loss. Jelani Jenkins seemed to come more into his own outside, finishing third on the team in tackles. The big surprise was Lerentee McCray, who played both Sam linebacker and the hybrid Buck. He was one of Florida's most active linebackers and grabbed 7.5 tackles for loss. Ronald Powell started at the Buck, but saw most of his production from defensive end.

5. Vanderbilt: The Commodores entered the season needing to replace three starting linebackers and ended the year with a very impressive linebacking corps. It was led by vet Chris Marve, who was 10th in the league in tackles. Archibald Barnes had a solid year at the Will, ranking fourth on the team in tackles and grabbing two interceptions. Chase Garnham and Al Owens manned the Sam position and combined for 72 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss. Against conference foes, Vandy's rush defense ranked fourth in the league.

6. LSU: The Tigers were in search of that dominant middle linebacker all season and might have found a budding star in Kevin Minter, really grew into the position by the end of the season and was fifth on the team in tackles. He started 11 games, but shared time with Karnell Hatcher, who finished with 24 tackles. Ryan Baker was LSU's best linebacker, was an outstanding leader and was fourth on the team with 64 tackles. Stefoin Francois was the starter at Sam, but he accumulated just 11 tackles, while backup Tahj Jones registered 27. Still, LSU owned the No. 2 national defense.

7. South Carolina: The Gamecocks saw improvement from this group as the season went on. While the defensive line got a ton of credit, the linebackers did their part in securing the defense's No. 3 national ranking. Antonio Allen spent some time in the box at the Spur position and led South Carolina with 88 tackles and had 9.5 for loss. Rodney Paulk and Shaq Wilson, who returned from injury, rotated at the Mike and combined for 109 tackles. Will linebacker Reginald Bowens added 44 tackles.

8. Kentucky: The Wildcats owned the SEC's top tackler in Danny Trevathan (143), who should have received more national attention. Trevathan was one of the most active defenders around at the Will. Winston Guy played the hybrid linebacker/safety and was third in the SEC with 120 tackles. Ronnie Sneed added 71 more tackles. Kentucky's defense was much more aggressive under new defensive coordinator Rick Minter and got more exotic looks from its linebackers.

9. Mississippi State: Cameron Lawrence was a beast for the Bulldogs in 2011. He was second in the SEC with 123 tackles, and had 49 solo. Senior Brandon Wilson added 94 more tackles. Brandon Maye, who transferred from Clemson, was expected to make a bigger impact for the Bulldogs, but played behind Wilson and was 11th on the team in tackles. Sophomore Deontae Skinner added 69 tackles and Mississippi State ranked in the bottom half of the SEC in total defense.

10. Tennessee: The Vols' top three tacklers were linebackers. The leader was senior Austin Johnson, who finished the season with 81 tackles, including 41 solo. Next were two true freshmen on the outside in A.J. Johnson (80) and Curt Maggitt (56). Both freshmen experienced up-and-down seasons, but were SEC All-Freshman selections. Herman Lathers, who was a projected started, missed 2011 with a fractured ankle, and after the big three, the Vols didn't get a ton out of their linebackers, as Dontavis Sapp was their next most productive linebacker with 20 tackles.

11. Auburn: The Tigers' defense really struggled in 2011 and gave up more than 200 rushing yards a contest. Auburn had to basically start over at linebacker, but lone returning starter Daren Bates had a heck of a year, ranking fourth in the league with 104 tackles. He really tried to make sure he played all over the field last fall. After that, the play was up-and-down. Senior Eltoro Freeman took over in the middle halfway into the year and finished with 58 tackles, while Jake Holland and Jonathan Evans combined for 83 tackles.


12. Ole Miss: The Rebels' defense had all sorts of problems defensively, including allowing 256.5 yards per game and 21 rushing touchdowns. The linebackers took a major hit with the absence of D.T. Shackelford, who missed the season with a knee injury. Mike Marry stepped up at the Mike and led Ole Miss with 81 tackles and five for loss. Freshman Serderius Bryant and junior Joel Kight combined for 122 tackles. Damien Jackson played the Spur and added 64 tackles, but Ole Miss' defense ranked dead last in the SEC.

SEC players invited to NFL combine

February, 7, 2012
2/07/12
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The NFL has released its list of invites to this years NFL combine. Of the more than 300 prospects taking part in the pre-draft shenanigans starting Feb. 22, 62 are from the SEC (for fun we are including Missouri and Texas A&M).

Here are the SEC representatives: School breakdown:
  • Alabama: 9
  • Arkansas: 4
  • Auburn: 3
  • Florida: 3
  • Georgia: 8
  • Kentucky: 2
  • LSU: 8
  • Missouri: 4
  • Mississippi State: 4
  • Ole Miss: 2
  • South Carolina: 5
  • Tennessee: 2
  • Texas A&M: 6
  • Vanderbilt: 2
Now that you've seen the recruiting needs for the SEC Western Division teams, it's time to check what teams in the East needed to focus on when it came to recruiting for the 2012 class:

FLORIDA

Offensive line: There's no getting around how much Florida's offensive line struggled in 2011. Florida doesn't lose a lot from its line, but the Gators need more talent. There are a lot of questions surrounding this position and getting qualities bodies is a must.

Running back: Florida loses seniors Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, and will enter the fall with unproven players in Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown. As Florida continues to move closer to a more traditional/pro-style offense, the Gators also need to add size to the position.

Wide receiver: Again, this is a position in which the Gators need to improve in the talent category. Florida lost just one senior from last year's squad, but unproven players lurk. What Florida needs to get in this class is a true playmaker at receiver. There is hope that Quinton Dunbar, Andre Debose and Frankie Hammond can step up, but some solid competition won't hurt.

GEORGIA

Offensive line: Georgia loses three starters in Cordy Glenn, Ben Jones and Justin Anderson. The Bulldogs would like to add a few more big bodies up front in this class to help with all that unproven depth.

Linebacker: In Todd Grantham's 3-4 defense, linebackers are extremely important. The Bulldogs will likely lose a couple bodies at outside linebacker next year, including star Jarvis Jones, and would like to add a couple of true playmakers at that position in this class.

Wide receiver: Come 2013, Georgia will have taken some hits at its wide receiver depth. There is young talent in Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Conley and Michael Bennett, but veterans like Tavarres King, Marlon Brown and Rantavious Wooten will be gone. Adding a couple standouts at wide receiver in this class would be nice.

KENTUCKY

Offensive playmakers: Whether it comes at quarterback, wide receiver, running back or tight end, the Wildcats need to find players who can make plays when they get the ball in their hands. Kentucky's offense was hard to watch all season because there was no one who could consistently move the ball.

Offensive line: Kentucky loses three starters -- Chandler Burden, Stuart Hines and Billy Joe Murphy -- from its offensive line and needs to load up here in this class. There is a handful of young players at each offensive line position, but the Wildcats need to think about adding more for the future.

Defensive back: Veterans are leaving the Wildcats' secondary, so it's time to stock up. Winston Guy, Taiedo Smith, Randall Burden and Anthony Mosley will all be gone, meaning the Wildcats are in need of adding some depth to both the cornerback and safety positions.

MISSOURI

Running back: Leading rusher Henry Josey suffered a severe knee injury toward the end of the 2011 season and the Tigers have some veterans jam packed at the top of the depth chart at the position. Getting help to add to future rosters would really help this offense as it moves to the SEC.

Defensive line: The Tigers are losing three starters along the defensive line and 10 players from 2011 will be gone by the end of next season. There are some youngsters there, but it's time to getting into restocking mode along the defensive line. Also, this is where games are won and lost in the SEC. Finding more athleticism here is crucial.

Offensive line: Like the defensive line, Missouri will lose three starters here. There are some bodies to fill in for now, but you can never have too many offensive linemen and now that the Tigers are headed to the SEC, getting some bigger, more athletic linemen will be key to survival in this jungle.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Defensive line: The Gamecocks have gotten a ton of production from here lately, but South Carolina will lose two starters in Melvin Ingram and Travian Robertson. South Carolina might want to add to defensive end the most, with Ingram leaving and Devin Taylor getting ready to depart in a year.

Linebacker: Over the next two years, the Gamecocks will lose some quality players at linebacker and even the spur position. A handful of veterans occupy the depth chart at linebacker, so that means South Carolina needs to add a few quality bodies for the future.

Defensive back: South Carolina's depth in its defensive backfield could be considered thin. The Gamecocks are down two starters at cornerback and will lose solid players in D.J. Swearinger and DeVonte Holloman in 2013.

TENNESSEE

Running back: The Vols never figured out how to run the ball last year and will now turn to a group of unproven running backs. Marlin Lane has the talent to excel, but he needs to be more consistent. Finding a couple talented backs in this class would help this position tremendously.

Defensive tackle: The Vols need some help inside, and now that they are moving to the 3-4, getting quality nose guards is a must for Tennessee. Adding some girth inside will be very important in order to improving this position.

Defensive back: Tennessee will say goodbye to quite a bit of their defensive backs in the next couple of years, so getting a head start on adding to players to both safety and corner would be a plus.

VANDERBILT

Offensive line: The Commodores return the bulk of their offensive line next year, but after that, Vanderbilt will be pretty thin and very young up front. Adding four or five bodies to the offensive line would go a long way for Vanderbilt.

Linebacker: Vanderbilt loses one starter, in Chris Marve, here for next season, but the year after will see a lot of turnover at the position, with four rising seniors on the roster.

Defensive end: Two starters — Tim Fugger and T.J. Greenstone — are gone and Vanderbilt will lose a handful more after the 2012 season. Getting some help at this position is another must for coach James Franklin.

Season report card: Kentucky

December, 19, 2011
12/19/11
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Summer school continues as we take a look at Kentucky:

OFFENSE: F

Kentucky entered the season down a handful of playmakers, and never had much offensive rhythm. The offense stalled from the start, as the Wildcats began the year with an ugly 14-3 win over Western Kentucky. The Wildcats mustered just 190 yards of offense and turned the ball over three times. Things didn't get much better after, as Kentucky lost four of its next five games, getting outscored 161-37 in those four losses. On the season, Kentucky was last in the SEC in scoring (15.8), total offense (259.8), passing (135.6) and passing efficiency (96.2). Kentucky scored 30-plus points just twice. Injuries along the offensive line and at running back didn't help. The Wildcats seemed to have a budding star on their hands in freshman running back Josh Clemons, but he went down midway through the year with a season-ending knee injury. CoShik Williams stepped in for Clemons and became the Wildcats' top offensive weapon, leading Kentucky with 486 rushing yards and had three touchdowns. But it all came back to the quarterback position. A few years removed from a solid freshman year, Morgan Newton took a few steps back in 2011. He entered the season as the Wildcats' starter, but after suffering a late-season ankle injury, he was passed by freshman Maxwell Smith, who earned All-SEC Freshman honors. Both combined for 1,612 yards, 12 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions.

DEFENSE: C

Under the watchful eye of new defensive coordinator Rick Minter, the Wildcats improved from the 2010 season. Kentucky was much more aggressive and entertaining on defense this season. The Wildcats had the SEC's top two tacklers in Danny Trevathan (143) and Winston Guy (120) and forced 25 turnovers. This is obviously still a work in progress, as the Wildcats gave up 24.7 points per game and 377 yards a contest. Against SEC offenses, the Wildcats' defense upped the points to 30.2 per game and allowed 413.8 yards a game. Kentucky allowed 35 points or more in half of its SEC games. The Wildcats' defense hit rock bottom in their 54-3 loss to South Carolina. Kentucky gave up 54 unanswered points, a season-high 639 yards of offense, including 288 rushing yards, and 32 first downs. Kentucky's defense played arguably its best at the end of the year. The Wildcats frustrated eventual SEC East champ Georgia, taking the ball away four times, before holding rival Tennessee to 276 yards and forced three turnovers in a 10-7 win that snapped a 26-year losing streak to the Vols.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C

Kentucky didn't return the ball well, but the Wildcats sure knew how to kick and cover returns. Kicker Craig McIntosh connected on 12 of 14 field goal attempts (.857), and Kentucky was fifth in the SEC in kickoff coverage, averaging 46 net yards on kickoffs. Kentucky also finished the season with 14 touchbacks. Punter Ryan Tydlacka was fourth in the league in punting, averaging 43.6 yards per punt. He also had 20 punts of 50-plus yards and had 19 of his punts downed inside opponents' 20-yard line. On their own returns, Kentucky was last in the SEC in punt returns, getting just 35 yards on 19 returns. The Wildcats were also 11th in kickoff returns, averaging 20.3 yards per return.

COACHING: D

Joker Phillips didn't come close to having the season he wanted after a successful first year as the man in charge in Lexington. The offense was inept for just about every part of the season. The defense was improved, but this team just wasn't very competitive throughout the year. Kentucky missed out on a sixth straight bowl appearance with its 5-7 record, but we saw some improvement at the end of the season. Considering the injuries this team endured, Kentucky didn't quit. The Wildcats went 2-2 in November and ended things with a monumental win over Tennessee. The win ended the 26-year slide against the Vols and it also eliminated them from the postseason. It wasn't a bowl win for Kentucky, but it was pretty close.

Did you know? Week 10

November, 4, 2011
11/04/11
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Some notes about the SEC that you might not have known heading into Week 10:
  • This season, the SEC has had eight teams ranked in the AP top-25 poll a total of 59 times after the first 10 weeks — above the league's average for the past five seasons.
  • Using the latest published depth charts from the 12 SEC teams, South Carolina has the youngest offensive starting lineup and the most experienced defensive starting lineup in the league.
  • Using a numerical formula of 1 point for freshmen, 2 points for sophomores, 3 points for juniors and 4 points for freshman, the Gamecocks average 2.33 on offense and 3.45 on defense.
  • The most experienced offense is Kentucky at 3.25, the least experienced defense Florida at 2.36.
  • On defense, there are just eight freshman starters in the SEC, three of them at Tennessee. On offense, South Carolina starts four freshmen and Ole Miss three.
  • Mississippi State starts six seniors on offense, followed by Alabama, Kentucky and LSU with five each. On defense, Arkansas, Kentucky and South Carolina start five freshmen each.
  • Alabama has started slowly in the first quarter this season, but has quickly turned things around and finished strong. The Crimson Tide have outscored its opponents 243-25 in the final three quarters of games this season after holding just a 72-30 edge in the first quarter. The disparity has grown even wider over the past six games, when Alabama owns a 44-27 scoring edge in the first quarter and a 196-10 edge in the final three quarters. Alabama has outscored its opposition in the second half of the past six games by a score of 142-7, but has not allowed a second-half point in the past four. Arkansas, in Week 4, was the last team to score against Alabama after halftime.
  • Arkansas has won five consecutive games against opponents from the SEC Eastern Division, the longest winning streak against Eastern Division foes in school history and the third-longest current interdivision win streak in the SEC. Arkansas’ previous record for consecutive games won against the Eastern Division was three (1992-93 and 2006). Arkansas is off to its best start under Bobby Petrino and is 7-1 for just the third time since joining the SEC in 1992.
  • With its victory over Ole Miss, Auburn has extended its Jordan-Hare Stadium winning streak to 13 games, its longest at home since winning 13 in a row from 1993-94. It is tied for the sixth-longest home winning streak in school history. The Tigers are 25-4 in night games (5 p.m. or later) at Jordan-Hare dating back to the 2000 season.
  • Florida quarterback John Brantley returned from injury to start last week against Georgia, throwing for 245 yards and a touchdown. He averaged 20.4 yards per completion, the highest of his career as a starting quarterback. The mark is the highest in the SEC and eighth-best in the country this season for quarterbacks with a minimum of 10 completions). In his career, the fifth-year senior has completed 332 of 541 passes (61.4 percent) for 3,893 yards and 25 touchdowns, with 14 interceptions and a passer rating of 131.9.
  • Georgia senior Brandon Boykin and junior Branden Smith are seeing action on defense, offense and special teams this season. Boykin has four career kickoff returns for touchdowns, and against No. 5 Boise State, he had an 80-yard rushing touchdowns on his first career carry. He had a school-record seven kickoff returns and tallied 198 all-purpose yards against No. 12 South Carolina. Smith and Boykin split time as punt returners while Boykin is one of the top kickoff returners in the nation.
  • Kentucky seniors Danny Trevathan and Winston Guy are the SEC’s top two tacklers. Trevathan charted a career-high-tying 17 tackles last weekend and is now the league’s top tackler with 94 to Guy 's 83. The duo are tied for fifth and 16th, respectively, in the nation with 11.75 and 10.38 tackles per game.
  • LSU went the entire month of October without a turnover. The Tigers have turned the ball over just three times this season (two fumbles, one interception), with their most recent turnover coming in the fourth quarter against Mississippi State in Week 3. LSU has gone 336 offensive snaps, 59 possessions and 174 minutes and 52 seconds of possession time since its last turnover. LSU has given up just 41 points in the first five SEC games, the fewest since 1985, when the Tigers also allowed 41 points in their first five league games. LSU has won 17 consecutive games when winning the turnover battle. Under Les Miles, LSU is 33-4 when forcing more turnovers than it gives up.
  • Six true freshmen and three redshirt freshmen have started for Ole Miss this season. True freshmen have made a combined 18 starts, while redshirt freshmen have made a combined 10. Freshman wide receiver Donte Moncrief is tied for fifth in the nation among true freshmen with four touchdown receptions.
  • Mississippi State has won nine consecutive non-conference games dating back to head coach Dan Mullen’s first season in 2009. Mullen’s teams have posted a 10-2 non-conference mark, with a pair of losses in 2009 to nationally ranked Georgia Tech and a Houston team that received votes in both polls the week of the game. The Bulldogs’ 10 consecutive out-of-league wins marks the longest such streak since an 11-game run from 1989-91.
  • Junior wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (167 receptions for 2,748 yards) needs just 33 yards to match Kenny McKinley (2,781) as South Carolina’s all-time leader in receiving yards. He needs three catches to pass Sterling Sharpe (169) for second all-time in career receptions. He also needs three touchdown catches to tie Sidney Rice on the school’s all-time list for touchdown receptions at 23. Jeffery is also tied for first at South Carolina with 11 100-yard receiving games and is sixth in school history with 16.5 yards per reception.
  • Three of Tennessee’s six leading tacklers are freshmen in A.J. Johnson (1st with 57), Curt Maggitt (fourth with 34) and Brian Randolph (sixth with 31), making the Vols the only team in the country with freshmen as three of its top six tacklers. Tennessee is the only team in the country with two true freshmen among its top four tacklers. In fact, there are only a pair of schools – Miami (Fla.) and Army – that even have two in their top six.
  • Vanderbilt’s Casey Hayward knocked down six Arkansas passes last weekend – tied for most in any one game in the country this season with Duke’s Matt Daniels, who did it against Richmond. Hayward was named this week as one of 15 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation’s top defensive back. Hayward is tied for fourth nationally with five interceptions and is the SEC active leader in career picks with 13.
  • Mississippi State is 27-16 against non-conference foes since 2000 and has a nine-game win streak against out-of-SEC competition.
  • South Carolina and Arkansas are 1-2 in the SEC in non-offensive touchdowns scored this season. Carolina has five (four defense/one punt return) while Arkansas has four (one defense/one kickoff return/two punt return) and tied with LSU and Vanderbilt.
  • Florida leads the SEC with 291-game scoring streak. The last time Florida was shut out was Oct. 29, 1988, when it lost 16-0 to Auburn.
  • South Carolina is 3-0 in SEC road games this season. The Gamecocks have never gone 4-0.
  • Vanderbilt’s scoring drives average 6.77 plays, fewest in the SEC.
  • South Carolina is 21-37 against the Western Division and Arkansas is 24-34 against the Eastern Division. Arkansas has won five in a row against the Eastern Division.
  • Ole Miss’ Brandon Bolden is the SEC’s second active leading rusher with 2,426 yards, trailing active leader Trent Richardson of Alabama by only 14 yards (2,440).
  • Georgia leads SEC with 21 scoring drives of less than two minutes.
  • South Carolina is second in the SEC in holding opponents to three-downs-and-out at 42.5 percent (45 of 106).
  • Georgia sophomore QB Aaron Murray is already SEC’s leading active player in total offensive yards (5,077), completions (344), TD responsibility (48), TD passe (42) and passing yards (4,871).
  • Tennessee is one of four SEC teams not to allow a non-offensive touchdown this season (Alabama, LSU and South Carolina).
  • Georgia has scored first in seven of its eight games this season, second in the league to LSU, which has scored first in all eight.

Lunchtime links

September, 6, 2011
9/06/11
12:10
PM ET
We're checking out some links from around the league.

SEC players of the week: Week 1

September, 5, 2011
9/05/11
11:30
AM ET
Here are the SEC players of the week as the league announced Monday:

SEC OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK

RB Vick Ballard (Mississippi State) -- Ballard rushed for a career-high 166 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries in Mississippi State’s 59-14 win at Memphis, making it the fifth time in 13 career games that he has scored three touchdowns.

SEC DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK

CB Tyrann Mathieu (LSU) -- Mathieu had a team-high 10 total tackles, forced a fumble, which he returned for a 3-yard touchdown, broke up two passes, and had a tackle for loss in LSU’s 40-27 win against Oregon. He also returned three punts for a total of 26 yards, including a long of 15 yards.

SEC SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK

WR Joe Adams (Arkansas) -- Adams tied an SEC record with two punt returns for touchdowns in Arkansas’ 51-7 win over Missouri State. The last SEC player to accomplish the feat was Kentucky’s Derek Abney against Mississippi State in 2002. Adams scored from 61 yards and 69 yards. Adams also had a school-record 174 yards on six punt returns and also caught an 11-yard pass.

SEC OFFENSIVE LINEMAN OF THE WEEK

OT Rokevious Watkins (South Carolina) -- Watkins made his first-career start at right tackle for the Gamecocks after playing guard in 2010 and helped South Carolina to a 56-37 win against East Carolina. South Carolina's offense generated 351 yards of total offense against ECU. The Gamecocks had just one lost yardage play on 65 plays. Watkins recorded eight knockdowns, four pancakes, allowed no sacks and no quarterback pressures.

SEC Co-DEFENSIVE LINEMEN OF THE WEEK

DT Jaye Howard (Florida) -- Howard had four tackles, 1.5 for losses, and a 12-yard sack in Florida's 41-3 win over Florida Atlantic. The Gators gave up just 30 rushing yards to FAU on 30 attempts.

DT Luke McDermott (Kentucky) -- McDermott had four tackles, including a 5-yard sack in Kentucky’s 14-3 win against Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers had just 234 total yards in the game.

SEC Co-FRESHMEN OF THE WEEK

LB Trey DePriest (Alabama) -- DePriest led Alabama with 10 total tackles, had 0.5 for loss and a quarterback hurry in the Crimson Tide's 48-7 win over Kent State. The Tide defense held Kent State to 90 total yards, including -9 on the ground.

RB/RS Tre Mason (Auburn) -- Mason had 176 kickoff return yards on four attempts, including a 97-yard touchdown, in Auburn’s 42-38 win over Utah State. His return yardage is tied for third in school history.

OTHER TOP PERFORMERS:

WR/RS Marquis Maze (Alabama) -- Totaled 253 all-purpose yards against Kent State including 118 on eight catches, 96 yards on eight punt returns and 39 yards on a kickoff return.

QB Tyler Wilson (Arkansas)
-- In his first career start he completed 18-of-24 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns against Missouri State.

WR Travante Stallworth (Auburn) -- Had four catches for 93 yards and a touchdown against Utah State.

RB Chris Rainey (Florida) -- Scored three touchdowns, all different ways -- a 14-yard rushing score, a 22-yard blocked punt return for a touchdown and a 14-yard receiving score -- against Florida Atlantic.

TE Orson Charles(Georgia) -- Had six catches for career-high 109 yards and a touchdown against Boise State.

S/LB Winston Guy (Kentucky) -- Had 10 tackles, including 2.5 for losses and two interceptions against Western Kentucky.

DB Charles Sawyer (Ole Miss)
-- Returned an interception 96 yards for a touchdown and had seven tackles against BYU.

DB Marvin Bure (Mississippi State) -- Posted five tackles on kickoff coverage as Bulldogs held Memphis to just 17 yards per return on 10 kickoffs.

QB Stephen Garcia(South Carolina) -- Came off the bench against East Carolina and accounted for three touchdowns -- two on the ground (32 yards and 10 yards) and one through the air.

QB Tyler Bray (Tennessee) -- Completed 17-of-24 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns against Montana.

LB Daryle Vereen (Tennessee) -- Led the Vols with a career-high and team-best six tackles against Montana.

LB Chris Marve(Vanderbilt) -- Led the Commodores with 12 total tackles, including two for losses (-3 yards) against Elon.
Former Kentucky offensive lineman Bob Talamini will be inducted into the Kentucky Chapter of the National Football League Players Association Hall of Fame today at the Lexington Opera House.

Talamini will be one of six players inducted into the Hall of Fame, which recognizes pro football standouts who played their college football in the commonwealth of Kentucky, according to a release.

Talamini played for the Wildcats from 1957-59 and helped lead Kentucky to a 5-4-1 record during his junior season. He earned third-team All-SEC honors as a senior in 1959.

He was selected by the Houston Oilers the second round of the 1960 American Football League draft and played nine seasons in the league. He played 126 games at left guard without missing a game and was a part of two AFL championships with the Oilers. He played eight years in Houston before joining the New York Jets in 1968.

Talamini made first-team All-AFL in 1962 and was selected to six straight AFL All-Star games through 1967. He helped anchor an offensive line that helped Hall of Fame quarterback George Blanda set passing records that stood for decades, while creating holes for Hall of Fame running back Billy Cannon and standout backs Charlie Tolar, Sid Blanks and Hoyle Granger.

In his only season with the Jets, Talamini was a part of an offensive line that protected quarterback Joe Namath and running back Matt Snell. He participated in one of the greatest upsets in pro football history when the Jets defeated the NFL’s Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

Eight Kentucky players will also be honored in the inaugural “All-Commonwealth Team,” which recognizes players from every college football team in the commonwealth of Kentucky.

Do-everything wide receiver Randall Cobb, running back Derrick Locke, quarterback Mike Hartline, offensive guard Larry Warford, linebacker Danny Trevathan, safety Winston Guy and punter Ryan Tydlacka represented the Wildcats. Wide receiver Chris Matthews was an honorable-mention selection.

The selection committee included representatives from the Kentucky NFL Alumni and Kentucky media.

Ranking the SEC safeties

June, 22, 2011
6/22/11
11:30
AM ET
Safeties seem to have more responsibility on the field these days and there are a ton of players in this league that love to mix it up close to the line of scrimmage.

The range of some of these players is amazing to watch. Some are known more for their hitting, while others can get involved in the cover game as well.

Here’s the list we came up with at the safety position:

1. Mark Barron, Alabama, Sr.: It would have been easy for Barron to have turned pro this year, but he opted to stay another year with the Tide. He might be the top safety prospect for next year’s NFL draft and even though he went through spring in a non-contact jersey, the coaches expect him to be back to his old self this fall. Passers beware.

[+] EnlargeTramain Thomas
Paul Abell/US PresswireRazorbacks safety Tramain Thomas has seven career interceptions, including four in 2010.
2. Tramain Thomas, Arkansas, Sr.: Thomas was tremendous last season and showed that he could make plays all over the field. He registered 83 tackles and grabbed four interceptions. This spring was one of his best, as he made tons of plays and could be the league’s ultimate ball hawk this season.

3. Robert Lester, Alabama, Jr.: Lester has already heard his name associated with next year’s draft and plenty of mock drafts have him going in the first round with Barron. He led the Tide with eight interceptions a year ago and was second in the league with 12 pass breakups. He makes Alabama’s safety tandem arguably the best in the country.

4. Brandon Taylor, LSU, Sr.: He’s the leader of the defensive backfield and should be healed from his foot injury he suffered at the end of last season. Before his injury, he started the first nine games, collecting 44 tackles, including four for loss and had five pass breakups. He has great cover skills and should fly around the field if that foot is fine.

5. Janzen Jackson, Tennessee, Jr.: He would be right near the top if we knew for sure that he’d be playing this fall. He withdrew from school this spring to take care of some personal issues, but Tennessee’s staff is hopeful he returns. If he does, he shouldn’t miss a beat with his ability to take away the deep ball. He grabbed five interceptions last season and has some of the best range at the postion.

6. Sean Richardson, Vanderbilt, Sr.: He’s another member of Vanderbilt’s stout defensive backfield. He’s not an interception machine, but he roams all over the field and registered a team-high 98 tackles and had a sack in 2010. Richardson has the talent to compete at the highest level in the SEC.

7. Winston Guy, Kentucky, Sr.: For a while, Guy didn’t get much praise from his coaches, but that has changed this spring after he was more consistent during spring practice. He plays in the box a lot and will be the team’s nickel linebacker as another one of those versatile hybrids.

8. Bacarri Rambo, Georgia, Jr.: As a freshman, Rambo looked like he was going to be a major hit in the SEC safety world. He had 82 tackles and three interceptions last year, but lacked consistency at times. If he regains the form he had when he first arrived, he could easily move up on this list.

9. Charles Mitchell, Mississippi State, Sr.: He’s another safety that makes his way all around the field. He was third on the team with 93 tackles and is praised by his coaches for having relentless work ethic and is considered the team’s best tackler.

10. D.J. Swearinger, South Carolina, Jr.: The Gamecocks coaches have been very impressed with the progress Swearinger has made. Now in his third year, Swearinger has the talent to be the X factor in the Gamecocks’ secondary. He’s a hard hitter and can move down from his free safety spot to play in the box.
We head into high-flyer mode as we discuss defensive backs today. They are athletic as ever this season, and some teams return a bevy of secondary talent in 2011.

Here’s how the teams look:

[+] EnlargeMark Barron
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesMark Barron decided to return to Alabama instead of making himself eligible for the NFL draft.
1. Alabama: This was an area of the team that was a problem and it wasn’t so much the yardage given up but the lack of consistency, especially in big games (see the Auburn game). This year, the Tide should have one of the best defensive backfields in the country. Safety Mark Barron could have entered the NFL draft, but stayed. And while he was in a non-contact jersey this spring, he’ll be one of the top safeties around this fall. Robert Lester is another solid safety who is also making everyone’s short list of top safeties for next year’s draft. At corner, everyone knows Dre Kirkpatrick, but DeQuan Menzie could be Alabama’s best weapon in the secondary. Dee Milliner is still in the mix at corner and there is a lot of good young talent as well.

2. LSU: No Patrick Peterson? No problem. The Tigers are once again loaded in their secondary with corners Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu. Both are All-SEC material and Claiborne led the Tigers with five interceptions last season. Mathieu found a way to get to the ball often last season and both should make it tough for any quarterback to throw on LSU this fall. Sophomore Tharold Simon made strong improvements at corner this spring as well. Safety Brandon Taylor is another top player at his position and he should be fine after suffering a foot injury at the end of last season. Youngsters Eric Reid and Craig Loston look like stars in the making at safety.

3. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs return five players who started at some point in 2010. Johnthan Banks, Corey Broomfield and Nickoe Whitley each recorded three interceptions and had 50-plus tackles last year. Broomfield should be the Bulldogs' top option at corner, while Banks can play both corner and safety. Charles Mitchell returns at safety and was third on the team with 93 tackles last season. All of Mississippi State’s defensive backs not only have a knack for making big plays down field but they can each play efficiently in the box.

4. Arkansas: This group is a little inexperienced, but there is a lot of talent to go around. Things start with safety Tramain Thomas. Thomas was fourth on the team in tackles last season and grabbed four interceptions. Thomas looked even better this spring, making play after play. Fellow senior Elton Ford should get time at safety, and converted corner Eric Bennett should get reps as well. Hybrid linebacker Jerico Nelson enhances the group when he drops back with the safeties and Isaac Madison returns at one of the corner spots and should team up with Darius Winston. The two have 27 career starts under their belts.

5. South Carolina: The Gamecocks’ secondary has to improve after underachieving a year ago, and South Carolina has the weapons to do it. Corner Stephon Gilmore wasn’t at his best last year, but has tremendous cover ability and speed to be tops at his position. Akeem Auguste moved from safety back to his more natural position at corner and should give the Gamecocks one of the top corner tandems in the SEC. DeVonte Holloman moved to the Spur linebacker spot, so there are still questions at safety, but D.J. Swearinger really impressed this spring and some think he’s the most gifted defensive back in Columbia. Replacing Holloman’s spot is going to be tough, and the coaches have yet to find someone to solidify that position.

6. Vanderbilt: This is the strongest part of Vanderbilt’s team. The Commodores return a heap of talent, starting with senior corner Casey Hayward, who was a second-team All-SEC pick a year ago. Hayward led the SEC with 11 pass breakups and had six interceptions. Safety Sean Richardson led the team with 98 tackles and would start on a lot of teams in the SEC. The other safety spot is occupied by Kenny Ladler, who was one of the top safeties in the league last season, even as a freshman. Junior Trey Wilson had a great spring and could move past last year’s starter Eddie Foster on the depth chart.

7. Georgia: Like most positions at Georgia, there’s no shortage of talent. However, there are still questions. Senior Brandon Boykin is solid at one of the corner spots with his natural corner instincts, great speed and is the defensive leader. Sanders Commings is talented and has the best size, but he’ll have to battle Branden Smith at the other corner spot. Smith is a total athlete, but he has to improve his coverage skills. Bacarri Rambo is solid at safety, but he needs to return to the form he had as a freshman. Finding someone to line up next to him is important. With Alec Ogletree moving to linebacker, there is a hole at safety and one of Georgia’s newcomers might have to step in this fall.

8. Florida: The Gators would have been higher on this list had it not been for the dismissal of All-SEC corner Janoris Jenkins. There’s a gaping hole at corner, and the hope is that junior Jeremy Brown can help fill it. He finally played after a severe back injury kept him out for two years, and while he struggled at times, Florida’s coaches were very impressed with his play this spring. Sophomore Cody Riggs was a pleasant surprise at corner last season and is battling unproven senior Moses Jenkins. There is nothing but youth and inexperience behind them. At safety, Matt Elam had a good spring at strong safety, while free safety wasn’t totally locked down by Josh Evans. The good news is that Florida signed six defensive backs this year.

9. Tennessee: This group could be decent, but there are so many questions. We aren’t sure if star Janzen Jackson will return after leaving school this spring. Prentiss Waggner moved from safety to corner last season, where he was an All-SEC performer, and then back to safety when Jackson left. But he might be back at corner this fall. If Waggner is a corner and there’s no Jackson, there’s an enormous hole at safety. If he stays at safety, then there’s one at corner. Fortunately, Brent Brewer, a former minor league baseball player, is a solid safety, and corner Marsalis Teague returns after converting from receiver last season. Incoming junior college transfer Byron Moore should compete immediately for time at corner.

10. Kentucky: There is a lot of experience with four senior starters returning, but the unit has to show that it can be consistent in big games. Safety/linebacker hybrid Winston Guy leads the group with his speed, strength and athleticism, and will move down into the box as the nickel linebacker. Seniors Randall Burden and Anthony Mosley are back at corner after combing for 11 pass breakups and two interceptions. Junior Martavius Neloms began the spring as the starter at corner, but could see more time at safety this fall. Mychal Bailey will line up at safety and was second behind Guy with two interceptions last season. Inexperience behind this group is still a problem.

11. Auburn: Things started off poorly when senior safety Michael McNeil was one of the four players arrested for robbery and later dismissed this spring. McNeil, who started seven games last season, was supposed to be one of the stars of the Tigers’ defense this fall. Now he’s gone and former corner Neiko Thorpe is moving over to safety. The move actually benefits the hit-first defensive back. T’Sharvan Bell is at corner and has the speed and tight cover skills to be one of the best at his position. After that, it’s a free-for-all. Incoming freshman Erique Florence should get an opportunity to come in and play immediately at safety.

12. Ole Miss: This group had to hear about how it was the goat of last season’s 4-8 campaign after allowing 246 passing yards a game. It was a motivational tool this spring, but there’s a lot of work to do. New defensive backs coach Keith Burns was pleased with the spring progress and really liked how JUCO transfer Wesley Pendleton played at corner. He’s competing to take one of those spots from either Marcus Temple, who missed spring with injury, or Charles Sawyer, who had to be pushed at times this spring. The reliable Damien Jackson is back at safety and could line up next to Brishen Mathews, who got good playing time last season, but is still unproven. JUCO transfer Ivan Nicholas and freshman Cliff Coleman will compete for time at safety and corner, respectively.

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