Alabama Crimson Tide: Knile Davis

Game preview: Alabama vs. Arkansas

September, 14, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The fun is over.

Better yet, it's just beginning.

The time for SEC play has arrived for the No. 1 ranked Crimson Tide. On Saturday, Alabama will travel to Fayetteville, Ark., to begin league play against an opponent with something to prove.

"This is a game that we are really looking forward to," Alabama coach Nick Saban said of facing the Arkansas Razorbacks. "This is a great opportunity. It is always great to play in the league. These guys certainly have a very, very good team and one that presents a lot of challenges for us.”

Arkansas endured a humiliating defeat at the hands of the pesky Louisiana Monroe Warhawks a week ago, one that had many questioning just how good John L. Smith's Razorbacks really were. The Hogs slipped from No. 8 in the polls to "others receiving votes" in no time.

It's was a familiar scene to some players at Alabama, recalling when the Tide lost to Louisiana Monroe in 2007. Bama linebacker Nico Johnson said simply, "It happens" when asked about the defeat and added that he's sure the Razorbacks will bring their best on Saturday.

"We know they're at home, they're looking to bounce back," he explained. "So, we've got to be on our P's and Q's this week."

Three storylines
  1. Who starts under center? The will he or won't he game surrounding Tyler Wilson has yet to run its course. Having not participated in any contact drills, it's still unclear whether one of the best quarterbacks in the country will be available to play, let alone start. If Arkansas loses the heart and soul of its offense, it could be a long day for the Razorback faithful.
  2. Protecting McCarron: Alabama's offensive line was, at times, lost against Western Kentucky. The six sacks on AJ McCarron tell the story of missed assignments and poor execution. If there's one player Alabama can't afford to lose, it has to be its starting quarterback. There are only so many games he can win from his backside.
  3. Secondary schooling: Whether it's Tyler Wilson, Brandon Allen or Betty White under center for the Razorbacks, their offense is still dangerous. With players like Chris Gragg, Cobi Hamilton and Brandon Mitchell to throw the ball to, the Alabama secondary will have to be on its toes. This will be, by far, the biggest test of the year for a young group of defensive backs.
Alabama players to watch
  1. RT D.J. Fluker: Whether he's tipping his protection or not, Fluker needs to do better against the Arkansas pass rush than he did against WKU. He looked slow and out of place at times this past weekend, and it's safe to assume the Razorbacks will attempt to exploit that once again.
  2. RB Eddie Lacy: The time for Lacy to get back to 100 percent is here as SEC play begins. The junior running back hasn't looked the same as he did a year ago, and with Jalston Fowler lost for the year, it's imperative he take ownership of the tailback position. If he doesn't, freshman T.J. Yeldon might just do it for him.
  3. OLB Adrian Hubbard: The sophomore linebacker got to Tyler Wilson last year, delivering a highlight reel hit to the Razorbacks' quarterback in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The hope for he and his teammates is that he can do it again, this time on the road and as a starter.
Arkansas players to watch
  1. QB Tyler Wilson/Brandon Allen: The drop off between starter and quarterback is significant. All one needs to do is what the tape of last weekend's game to see that. But whoever is under center for Arkansas has a number of weapons to throw to on offense, which makes him dangerous.
  2. TE Chris Gragg: He may not be a household name in the SEC, but Gragg's performance in his senior season has been impressive. The tall, athletic receiving threat already has 193 yards and two touchdowns this season.
  3. RB Knile Davis: Whether he's the Knile Davis of old is still up for debate, but even if he's half of what he was, he's still the best running back the Tide have faced this season.
Key matchup

C.J. Mosley versus the underneath passing game: The WKU offense was shut out on the scoreboard this past weekend, but the Hilltoppers didn't have much trouble moving the chains against Alabama. WKU completed 16 of 20 passes to tight ends and tailbacks. C.J. Mosley, the Tide's most affective linebacker in pass coverage, will have his hands full against Arkansas defending the underneath and intermediate passing game.

By the numbers
  • 550: The Razorbacks defense was nonexistent against Louisiana Monroe, surrendering a whopping 550 yards of total offense to the Warhawks.
  • 5-0: In recent years, the Alabama-Arkansas series has been quite lopsided. with the Crimson Tide taking the last five contests, losing just three times since 2000.
  • 5 of 6: Alabama has been lethal inside the red zone this year, scoring touchdowns on five of six drives inside the 20-yard line.

Five storylines: Alabama at Arkansas 

September, 13, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- At this point, we were supposed to be discussing two top-10 teams going into a Saturday matchup with SEC- and national-championship implications. We were supposed to be talking about two undefeated teams putting those records on the line to start league play. The hype machine was bound to be similar to that of Alabama-Michigan almost three weeks ago.

But what was supposed to be, never was. Thanks to Louisiana Monroe, the Alabama-Arkansas matchup that was so highly anticipated just a week ago was brought down to earth. And thanks to an injured Tyler Wilson, what the game will turn out to be is anyone's guess.

While it's no longer two ranked teams going head-to-head, it doesn't mean there won't be a lot to lose on both sidelines, especially for No. 1 Alabama. Both schools have the opportunity to build, or rebuild, their resumes starting Saturday afternoon.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It happened to Alabama during Nick Saban's first season in Tuscaloosa. The heavily favored Crimson Tide became the laughing stock of college football in 2007 after losing to Louisiana Monroe at home 21-14.

After the game, quarterback John Parker Wilson told reporters it was "embarrassing" and that "We're Alabama. We're supposed to win."

Maybe that's why coach Nick Saban spent all of last week lecturing reporters about the quality of another Sun Belt opponent -- the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. Alabama dispatched WKU after Saban's tirade about overlooking opponents, winning 35-0, but the other pesky team from the Sun Belt wasn't so easily slain in Little Rock, Ark., on Saturday.

Then-No. 10-ranked Arkansas was upended by Louisiana Monroe in overtime at what was essentially a home game for the Hogs. The loss was a potential deathknell for a team with national championship aspirations.

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What to watch in the SEC: Week 1

August, 30, 2012
It's here.

After hundreds of days of having to watch and follow inferior sports, take up new hobbies and do extra cute things with your better half just to pass the time, we are finally here.

It's college football season, again! The helmets are perfectly shined. The jerseys are hung so neatly and ironed so sweetly. You've gone to the store in advance to prep for the artery-bursting feast that awaits this weekend. Some are even lucky enough to be tailgating as we speak!

Cue up the bands, the grills and the fryers and the big-screen TVs. It's football season, and here's what to watch in the SEC this week:

[+] EnlargeMarcus Lattimore
C. Michael Bergen/The State/MCT/Getty ImagesSouth Carolina's Marcus Lattimore is one of three star running backs to keep an eye on this weekend.
1. Running backs return: If not for Texas A&M’s game getting postponed, we’d get to see three elite running backs returning to the field after injuries cut their 2011 seasons short. Christine Michael's debut will have to wait, but we’ll still get to see how South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore and Arkansas’ Knile Davis do with the ball in their hands. When they’re 100 percent, it’s hard to find two better running backs out there.

2. Quarterback battles: Florida and Ole Miss still don’t know who their starting quarterbacks will be. Florida coach Will Muschamp said Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel will alternate quarters to start Saturday’s game, while Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze anticipates playing both Bo Wallace and Barry Brunetti in the opener. This could be the final round of competition at both schools.

3. Questionable offensive lines: So many offensive lines have questions entering the fall. Keep an eye on Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. Auburn and Georgia are working in a few new parts, while Florida is hoping most of the parts from last year’s line have improved. Mizzou has all sorts of injury issues and Kentucky, Ole Miss and Vandy are just hoping to stay healthy because depth is an issue for all three.

4. More passing yards: Last year, SEC quarterbacks were laughed at. It seems like that won’t be the case in 2012. Aaron Murray, AJ McCarron, Tyler Bray and Tyler Wilson could all throw for 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns, while Missouri’s James Franklin has arguably the best pass-run ability in the league. Vanderbilt’s Jordan Rodgers is a year older and wiser, while Zach Mettenberger is a major upgrade for LSU. If Connor Shaw learns to be more of a pass-first player, he could have a big year.

5. Athletic multitasking: Two players to keep both eyes on this weekend are Georgia’s Malcolm Mitchell and Ole Miss’ Randall Mackey. Mitchell will start at cornerback, but Mark Richt would like to play him at wide receiver and possibly have him return punts and kickoffs. He certainly is talented enough to do it, but I hope he gets a lot of sleep and loads up on 5-hour Energy. Mackey will start at running back, but since he’s played both quarterback and receiver for the Rebels, his coaches would like to move him around some. Expect him to line up out wide and as a Wildcat quarterback against Central Arkansas.

6. First days on the job: There will be a lot of debuts this weekend. Freeze will coach his first game at Ole Miss, Mettenberger takes over as LSU’s quarterback and Kiehl Frazier makes his first start at quarterback for Auburn. Freeze isn’t sure what he’ll see, but he’s looking to bring the Rebels’ fan base some much-needed excitement. Mettenberger has bided his time at both Georgia and LSU, but is finally the man. And Frazier can now call Auburn his team. He gets a very suspect defense in Clemson to start.

7. Alabama’s defense: There’s no question that Alabama lost a lot of talent from last year’s historic defense, but the thought is that the Tide will do more reloading than rebuilding. It will get a good first test against Michigan’s high-flying spread offense led by potential Heisman candidate in quarterback Denard Robinson. Nick Saban is still looking for key leaders to emerge, and he thinks he’ll finally find them come Saturday’s game. The key for this defense is getting out faster than it did when it was in a similar situation in 2010.

8. Tennessee’s passing game vs. NC State’s pass defense: Derek Dooley entered the season with a potent passing game, but the loss of Da’Rick Rogers suddenly makes that receiving depth not so attractive. Justin Hunter might be a little rusty and he’ll have a matchup with another potential first-rounder in corner David Amerson. We don’t know what Cordarrelle Patterson will do and he’ll battle Dontae Johnson, who beat out the talented C.J. Johnson before he was ruled ineligible. Dooley said he’s “very concerned” about his receivers, and this battle could determine Friday’s outcome.

9. Vanderbilt’s swagger: Thursday night is a chance for Vandy to make a strong statement to the rest of the SEC. Some are questioning if Vandy will build off of last year’s rebound or revert back to its old ways. The Dores don’t have to beat South Carolina, but they do have to show that same confidence they had last year and that they won’t back down.

10. Possible suspensions: It wouldn’t be opening day without some sort of controversy. Georgia starters Bacarri Rambo and Alec Ogletree both reportedly failed drug tests this spring, and suspensions were expected. But Richt has been very quiet about it and has told everyone to wait until Saturday. Can’t wait …
We all know that there is more to football than just big dudes smashing into each other.

Sure, they provide most of the entertainment, but you can't have a college football season without some fearless predictions to start the year off with. Yes, us media folk are allowed a little fun and some of the attention.

Last year, fellow SEC blogger Chris Low and I split our predictions up, as we came up with 10 each that can be viewed here and here. This year, we're cleaning things up and creating just one list of 10 SEC predictions for the 2012 season.

We both had are share of hits and misses last year. I only got one of my 10 predictions correct when I said that Chris Rainey would score touchdowns three different ways. I crossed that off Week 1. Some I missed on were predicting that the Heisman trophy would stay in the SEC, Brandon Bolden finally getting 1,000 rushing yards, Zach Mettenberger having more touchdowns than Jarrett Lee and the SEC sending 10 teams bowling.

I was pretty close with my prediction that Morris Claiborne would lead the SEC in interceptions and Tyrann Mathieu would lead in defensive touchdowns. Claiborne was third with six, while Mathieu finished with four total touchdowns with two being defensive.

However, Chris showed his veteran ability and hit on seven of his 10. He really is a showoff. But he did whiff on Spencer Ware rushing for 1,200 yards. Ware only got 707 yards.

Enough of the walk down memory lane, here are our 10 fearless predictions for 2012:

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Proving ground: Western Division

August, 20, 2012
With the start of the 2012 college football season less than two weeks away, let’s take a look at those players in the SEC who have the most to prove.

I’ll kick it off with five players in the West, and Edward will come back later today with five players in the East.

Keep in mind that there are all sorts of reasons why a player may have something to prove. Sometimes, it’s making that jump from a good player to a great player. Other times, it’s going from a hyped freshman to a key contributor, bouncing back from a so-so or injury-plagued season or simply filling some big shoes.

Here are five players in the West to watch. They’re listed alphabetically:

[+] EnlargeArkansas running back Knile Davis
AP Photo/Danny JohnstonA fractured ankle kept Knile Davis off the field last season, but the junior running back netted 1322 yards in 2010.
Josh Boyd, DT, Mississippi State: It’s Boyd’s time now to be the enforcer in the middle of that Mississippi State defensive line. He’s been a productive player the last couple of seasons, but with Fletcher Cox leaving early for the NFL, the Bulldogs need Boyd to step his game up more than ever in 2012. He has the physical tools to be an All-SEC player and one of the premier interior defensive linemen in the league.

Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas: There’s still some mystery as to whether Davis is all the way back after missing all of last season with a fractured ankle. The Hogs have held him out of full contact work this preseason in scrimmages, although his teammates say he’s looked like his old self in everything else. Davis led all SEC running backs in rushing in 2010 with 1,322 yards. There’s no doubting his talent, determination and heart. He just has to go show it on the field … again.

Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama: From the day Kouandjio walked onto campus at Alabama, his teammates have raved about his pure physical ability. One of the most heralded prospects in the country two years ago, the 6-foot-6, 311-pound sophomore has been impressive enough that the Crimson Tide moved Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones to center to make room for Kouandjo at left tackle. That’s a lot of pressure for a first-time starter, but the feeling in and around the Alabama program is that he has a lot of game.

Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU: The Tigers were a consistent passing game away from winning the national championship last season. They think Mettenberger is the missing piece to the puzzle. He has a big arm and has been very impressive in both spring practice and preseason camp. He just doesn’t have any meaningful experience in SEC games. Coach Les Miles has said LSU will open up the passing game with Mettenberger at the helm. This is the second chance Mettenberger has been waiting for after getting in trouble at Georgia and being dismissed from the team earlier in his career.

Trovon Reed, WR, Auburn: Injuries have plagued Reed during his first two seasons on the Plains. He arrived with the reputation of being electric in the open field and the kind of player who can turn short passes into big gains. Auburn struggled to get anything going in the passing game a year ago, and with the uncertainty at quarterback going into this season, the Tigers are looking for as many playmakers as they can find on offense. They need Reed healthy and they need him to be the difference-maker everybody was convinced he was when they signed him.

Best of the 2012 SEC media days

July, 20, 2012
HOOVER, Ala. -- Now that another year of SEC media days are through, it's time to take a look back at the best moments from this year's three days in the Wynfrey Hotel:

Best interview: Yes, Missouri wide receiver T.J. Moe had a pretty good time with the media in Hoover and Arkansas coach John L. Smith seemed to win over the main ballroom during his press conference, but the best interview of the week had to go to Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones. The veteran strolled right into our interview room munching on pecan pie bites without a care in the world. But the real magic came during his video interview where he playfully crushed his best friend and former teammate William Vlachos and gave fellow SEC blogger Chris Low a shout out during his hit. Jones came prepared and knew how to have fun.

[+] EnlargeDonte Moncrief
Butch Dill/AP PhotoOle Miss WR Donte Moncrief dresses to the nines for his appearance at SEC media days.
Best quote: There were so many good one-liners from Moe that we're giving you our top three from the week:
  • Moe on what's different about the SEC: “They say girls are prettier here, air’s fresher and toilet paper is thicker.” -- Offensive lineman Elvis Fisher later told us that this line was planned after a conversation during the trip over.
  • But Moe wasn't done there: "Apparently Ryan Swope is a god because he can come in and get first-team all-SEC. But that’s fine.”
  • And this one really got to Arkansas running back Knile Davis: “In the Big 12, we put our best athletes on offense. [In the SEC], they put their best athletes on defense."
Best outfit: The players came out and dressed well this week, like Auburn's Corey Lemonier and bow tie and red-striped socks and Vanderbilt's Trey Wilson in his slick charcoal suit with the black checkered shirt and red tie. But Ole Miss wide receiver Donte Moncrief stole the show with his colorful outfit. He rocked a light beige jacket over a checkered mint shirt and a blue bow tie. He was also equipped with salmon pants and a bright pink pocket square. The man dresses with confidence.

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HOOVER, Ala. -- The 2012 SEC media days All-SEC team was announced Thursday, and LSU led the conference with the most first-team selections with seven. The media has voted for a preseason All-SEC team and predicted the order in which each team would finish since 1992.

It should be noted that the media has only picked the correct SEC champion four times since 1992. Those correct picks were Florida in 1994 and 1995, LSU in 2007 and Florida in 2008.

Here are some notes from the league on the All-SEC team:
    [+] EnlargeMarcus Lattimore
    Daniel Shirey/US PresswireSEC members are expecting big things this season for South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore.
  • The 222 voters is an all-time high for SEC media days. The previous high was 177 voters in 2010.
  • South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore was the leading vote-getter this season with 201 of 222 votes. He is the fourth running back in the past six years to be the highest vote-getter (2007 – Darren McFadden, Arkansas; 2008 – Knowshon Moreno, Georgia and Percy Harvin, Florida; 2009 – Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes, Florida; 2010 – Mark Ingram, Alabama; 2011 – Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina).
  • Lattimore (2012) and Jeffery (2011) have been the leading vote-getters the last two seasons.
  • Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones is a three-time member of the SEC media days first team
  • South Carolina has had a sophomore make the media days first team for the third straight season – Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina, DE (2012); Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina, RB (2011); Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina, DB (2010).
  • Since 2000, Arkansas’ Darren McFadden is the only unanimous selection to the SEC media days All-SEC team, collecting all 80 votes.
  • LSU had the most first-team selections this season with seven. Since 1992, the most players on a first team were nine by Alabama in 2011 and eight by Alabama (2010) and Florida (2009).
  • LSU leads with the most overall selections this season with 13. The total is the second highest ever, behind Alabama’s 16 last season. Prior to last season, Alabama (2010) and Florida (2009) had the most overall selections with 12.
  • LSU is predicted to win the SEC championship by the media for the first time since 2007. It is the second time since 1992 that LSU has been predicted to win the league title. LSU did win the SEC title in 2007 and went on to win the BCS title.

Here is what the complete first team looks like:

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HOOVER, Ala. -- Day 2 of SEC media days sent some media members in to a frenzy, as 24 combined representatives from six teams paraded through The Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala.

Arkansas tried to steal the show Wednesday, as Knile Davis anointed himself as the conference's best running back for the second straight year and interim coach John L. Smith sent a barrage of one-liners through the main ballroom.

But get ready for the crowd Friday. That's when Alabama comes to town, meaning a cluster of Crimson Tide faithful will be packing into the Wynfrey and drowning out every bit of noise with a never-ending series of "Roll Tide."

Joining Alabama is Tennessee, Ole Miss and Georgia.

Here are some things to look out for:
  • Nick Saban hates comparisons, but expect him to receive a few questions about comparing his current defense to the one he had in 2010. He'll certainly love those.
  • He and his players will also get a plenty of questions about the offense, especially with quarterback AJ McCarron returning and Eddie Lacy taking over at running back. Unfortunately, neither will be in attendance.
  • It's no secret that Tennessee coach Derek Dooley's seat is pretty hot in Knoxville, so he should expect to receive questions surrounding his job security. But has he really had enough time to right a ship that was sinking when he arrived and is just now patching up the hole?
  • Tyler Bray will be in the house. He's one of the league's best quarterbacks and he's confident in his ability, but let's see just how much maturing he's done heading into Year 3.
  • Georgia has dealt with a handful of offseason distractions thus far, including losing starting running back Isaiah Crowell. Mark Richt and his players should be prepared to answer questions about moving on and where the running game goes from here.
  • Jarvis Jones and his pursuit to be the nation's best linebacker should be a fun subject to tackle.
  • Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze is at SEC media days for the first time. He's asked Rebel Nation for patience and is dealing with a roster that has a lot of holes on it. Can he convince people here that the Rebels are ready to turn things around?

It's almost time for hundreds of media folk to pile into a swanky ballroom and kick off another year of SEC media days.

The festivities begin Tuesday at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala., and last until Thursday afternoon. The event serves as the unofficial kickoff to SEC football season.

So what should we be on the lookout for this year?

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The SEC's preseason All-Star teams

July, 17, 2012
Some of my best childhood memories go back to the Major League All-Star Game and sitting around and watching the Midsummer Classic with family members.

That’s what we did last week at our house.

So in keeping with the All-Star theme, we’ll select a preseason SEC All-Star team with the East going up against the West.

Who would win?

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Earlier, we ranked all 14 SEC running back groups, so it's time to look at the league's top 10 rushers heading into the 2012 season. As usual, there are some pretty talented backs in the league, so narrowing it down to just 10 backs wasn't easy to say the least. But someone had to do it!

Past rankings:
Like all the other positions, we're looking at overall talent, game-changing ability and experience. We also looked at past performances and projections for 2012.

Here are our top 10 SEC running backs:

[+] EnlargeMarcus Lattimore
Daniel Shirey/US PresswireMarcus Lattimore is apparently ahead of schedule with his rehab after tearing his ACL last season.
1. Marcus Lattimore, Jr., South Carolina: He might be the nation's best all-around running back, and all indications are that he's ahead of schedule with his rehab after tearing his ACL halfway through last season. Before his injury, he led the SEC in rushing and has a tremendous combination of size, speed and strength that make him one of the toughest players to stop.

2. Knile Davis, Jr., Arkansas: Like Lattimore, Davis is coming off of a devastating injury from last year. He had yet another ankle injury that cost him all of his 2011 season, but it sounds like he's more than ready to return to the playing field. He's one of the most dynamic rushers in the country, and when he was healthy in 2010 he averaged 146.9 yards in the last seven games of the season.

3. Christine Michael, Sr., Texas A&M: He's another back coming off a season-ending injury. Before he tore his ACL last fall, Michael rushed for 899 yards and is a true workhorse. His punch-you-in-the-mouth, explosive, downhill running style will fit right in in the SEC. He should be good to go this fall, and if he's 100 percent he'll certainly challenge for the rushing title.

4. Zac Stacy, Sr., Vanderbilt: He was a real surprise in the SEC last season and returns as the league's top statistical rusher, with 1,193 yards from a year ago. He isn't the fastest back, but he's strong, works hard and has excellent vision. Last season, Stacy tied for the SEC lead with runs of 40 or more yards, and averaged 5.7 yards per carry against SEC defenses.

5. Eddie Lacy, Jr., Alabama: Lacy takes over for the very talented Trent Richardson, but he's no slouch. Lacy has shown pretty good explosion and strength when he's had the ball, averaging 7.1 yards per carry last season. Nagging injuries have slowed him in the past, but if he's healthy he'll make plenty of defenders miserable -- and sore -- this fall.

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The rundown
2011 record: 11-2
2011 conference record: 6-2
All-time against Alabama: 8-12

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Proving ground: Western Division

May, 25, 2012
Edward has already unveiled the five players in the East who have the most to prove in 2012.

Now, it’s on to the West:

1. Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU: Mettenberger finally gets his chance to lead a team in the SEC. He’s persevered through adversity. He’s got a big arm, and he understands what he’s up against when it comes to SEC defenses. The Tigers are counting on Mettenberger making them more balanced on offense with his ability to throw the ball down the field and keep defenses from loading up against the run. LSU is plenty talented enough to be right back in the BCS National Championship Game in 2012. The only thing the Tigers were missing a year ago was a consistent passing game when it counted most. That’s where Mettenberger comes in.

2. Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas: If anybody can make it all the way back from three fractured ankles, it’s Davis. He was pushing to play at the end of last season and now insists that he’s 100 percent healthy. He was clocked this offseason at 4.33 in the 40-yard dash and is one of the Hogs’ strongest players. There simply aren’t many running backs that combine Davis’ blend of speed, power and strength. His biggest hurdle may be mental, which is why Arkansas plans to get him some live contact in preseason camp. Everybody will be watching to see if he can get back to his 2010 form when he led all SEC running backs with 1,322 rushing yards.

3. Trovon Reed, WR, Auburn: Trooper Taylor, Auburn’s receivers coach, once referred to Reed as a limousine with no gas. From the day Reed signed with the Tigers, he’s been pegged as one of those playmakers in space that gives every defensive coordinator nightmares. The only problem is that Reed has battled injuries each of his first two years on the Plains. He sat out his first season with a knee injury and was plagued by a shoulder injury last season as a redshirt freshman. He’s yet to score a touchdown for the Tigers, who are going to need more firepower from the receiver position in 2012. Emory Blake won’t be able to do it by himself.

4. Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M: With the Aggies moving to the SEC in 2012, it’s imperative that they man up in the defensive line. Moore is the most talented of the group, but he’s moving from a hybrid outside linebacker position in Texas A&M’s old 3-4 setup to defensive end in Mark Snyder’s new 4-3 scheme. Moore has shown in the past that he can get to the quarterback and make big plays. He led the Big 12 last season with 17.5 tackles for loss. The Aggies are counting on him to be more than just a pass-rusher this coming season. And while Moore won’t be the biggest defensive end in the league, he’ll need to play big in every game if the Aggies are going to hold their own up front.

5. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama: It’s safe to say that McCarron has already proved himself on a big stage. He was outstanding last season in the BCS title game win over LSU with his poise, decision-making and accuracy. The Crimson Tide did a nice job of not putting too much on McCarron’s shoulders during the season. That’s going to change some as he enters his junior season. Alabama will look to stretch the field more in 2012. McCarron has an NFL-caliber arm, and teams will gear their defenses more to stop him in 2012. We’ll see if he can pick up where he left off in New Orleans and sustain that level of play for the entire season.

SEC post-spring power rankings

May, 18, 2012
We're putting spring behind us and looking toward the fall with our post-spring power rankings:

1. LSU: The Tigers had one of the best springs around. Things were quiet off the field, and the offense rallied behind quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Coach Les Miles was very impressed with Mettenberger's play and maturity, and expects LSU's offense to be more balanced with him under center. LSU can still use four or five running backs as well. Defensively, the Tigers are stacked once again, especially up front with two potential first-rounders in ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo. Questions surround the inexperienced linebackers, but Kevin Minter had a tremendous spring in the middle. On paper, LSU is equipped with the talent to make another title run, and gets Alabama at home this year.

2. Alabama: The defending national champs saw a lot of "new" faces on defense this spring, but coach Nick Saban left happy with where his players were -- but not satisfied. There is still work to be done, especially in the secondary, where the Tide must replace three starters. Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw are gone at linebacker, but the coaches were impressed with how Nico Johnson, C.J. Mosley and Adrian Hubbard played this spring. Some think Hubbard, a redshirt sophomore, could be Bama's top pass-rusher. Offensively, quarterback AJ McCarron is back, more mature and surrounded by a very veteran line. He has a group of younger receivers to throw to, but has at least four quality running backs. Alabama's road to repeating is tougher, with games at Arkansas and LSU.

3. South Carolina: A healthy Marcus Lattimore (knee) makes South Carolina an even better contender for the SEC East crown. His status is uncertain, but the pieces around him are pretty impressive. Quarterback Connor Shaw had an impressive spring, and looks ready to be the passer coach Steve Spurrier wants him to be. The defense is once again stacked, especially up front with ends Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor. There are questions in the secondary, with two new, young starters in Victor Hampton (cornerback) and Brison Williams (safety), and senior Akeem Auguste coming back after missing all of last season with a foot injury. Still, Spurrier is chirping about his SEC counterparts, so you know he thinks he's got a good team this year.

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Alabama Dismisses Jonathan Taylor
Alex Scarborough discusses the Crimson Tide's decision to dismiss defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor after he was arrested on domestic violence charges in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.