Alabama Crimson Tide: Sam Montgomery

Ultimate 300: SEC's top classes 

January, 30, 2014

The SEC has dominated the recruiting world over the past several years. Since 2008, the SEC has had at least three schools finish in the top 10 of the ESPN recruiting class rankings each year. Last year, the conference had an impressive six schools ranked among the top 10 recruiting classes in the country. This year is much of the same, as seven SEC schools are ranked in the top 10.

Here’s a closer look at the five best recruiting SEC schools in the Ultimate ESPN 300.

SEC's DLs, LBs strong at combine

February, 21, 2013

Several of RecruitingNation's SEC sites will look this week at the players headed to the NFL combine, which begins Friday in Indianapolis, and other predraft camps. Today: Defensive linemen and linebackers.

Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama's front seven was rock solid and had a distinctive rock-n-roll flair in nose guard Jesse Williams. Though the Crimson Tide defense lacked a true superstar, Williams' Mohawk haircut, countless tattoos and colorful face paint made the unit stand out.
  • DT Jesse Williams (Position rank: No. 8)
    Strengths: Like his counterpart on the middle of the Alabama offensive line, Barrett Jones, Williams is nothing if not versatile. He played both defensive end and nose guard at UA and possesses the type of strength and quickness that would allow him to do the same at the next level.
    Weaknesses: While Williams is above average in defending the run and the pass, he's not superb at either. His production at Alabama was less than ideal, which can be attributed to the scheme on defense, but a lack of sacks and tackles for loss highlight an inability to consistently rush the passer.
    Comparable: In terms of versatility and athleticism, he is similar to Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams.
  • ILB Nico Johnson (Position rank: No. 8)
    Strengths: Johnson -- who no longer is scheduled to attend the combine -- has the look of an NFL linebacker at 6-foot-2 and 249 pounds. He is a solid wrap-up tackler with good instincts. The fact that he has had no off-field trouble or injury concerns will only help his draft stock.
    Weaknesses: The emergence of C.J. Mosley hurt Johnson in 2012. When Alabama had to defend multiple-receiver looks, Johnson often came off the field in favor of Mosley. Johnson is built for run support, but his lack of athleticism hurts in terms of being an every-down linebacker.
    Comparable: Johnson looks and plays like New Orleans Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton. Both are sure tacklers with good instincts getting between the tackles and getting to the ball carrier.
  • DE Quinton Dial (Position rank: No. 27)
    Strengths: Every so often an Alabama player doesn't hit his potential until he has left college. Dial might be one of those guys. The big, thick defensive end has the raw size (6-foot-5, 307 pounds) and skill to play at the next level and will likely do well in team workouts leading up to the draft.
    Weaknesses: A lack of production at Alabama will create a glass ceiling for Dial. While scouts can fall in love with measurables, they still want to see the talent on tape.
    Comparable: Dial could learn a thing or two from Baltimore Ravens defensive end DeAngelo Tyson, who didn't blow away anyone at Georgia, but after being selected late in the seventh round has become a solid contributor. In terms of size, the two compare favorably, as Tyson comes in at 6-foot-2, 315 pounds.
  • Damion Square (Position rank: No. 29)
    Strengths: Square isn't going to light up the scoreboard with sacks or tackles for loss, but he's consistent. Under coach Nick Saban's watchful eye, Square developed into a solid defender against the run and pass, and understands the idea of gap-assignment football.
    Weaknesses: Simply put, Square doesn't possess the necessary athleticism to get drafted. If there is a player hurt most by missing out on the Senior Bowl, it's him.
    Comparable: N/A

Florida Gators

The heart of the Gators’ 2012 defense will participate in the combine today. DT Sharrif Floyd, whose stock is rising rapidly as he is projected to be taken as high as No. 3, had a fantastic season and anchored UF’s front. He dominated Florida State’s front, and his mixture of size, strength and quickness has scouts drooling. ILB Jon Bostic started every game the past two seasons and was UF’s leader on defense. Nobody was more dependable than Bostic. OLB Jelani Jenkins was limited in 2012 because of a broken finger, a strained hamstring and a broken foot, but when healthy he’s a solid player. OLB Lerentee McCray was forced into action at the buck position (hybrid end/linebacker) because of the injury to Ronald Powell. He didn’t produce big numbers but was a high-effort, high-motor guy.

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Alabama and LSUCal Sport Media/AP ImagesThe stakes are always high when the Crimson Tide and Tigers square off.

Growing up in Baton Rouge, La., LSU junior safety Eric Reid was accustomed to seeing that overwhelming sea of crimson march into his city every other year.

And he hated it more each time.

During his younger days, he detested the sight of that gray elephant and he absolutely loathed two words shouted so confidently by those outsiders from two states over: “Roll Tide.”

Reid, who grew up a staunch LSU fan, was always excited for the Tigers’ traditional rivals, but Alabama week brought more emotion. The hatred he carried around as a youngster was real and just the mere thought of losing to Alabama made Reid sick.

“I had that bitter feeling whenever ‘Alabama’ came off my tongue,” Reid said.

Now, Reid's feelings toward the Crimson Tide have only intensified. After playing Alabama three times in his two-plus years with the Tigers, his hatred has transformed into respect. There’s still bitterness, but he also has gained some civility.

And when Alabama week rolls around, he can’t help but have a different sort of excitement. It feels like a real traditional rivalry game to Reid and has been the game in college football the past two years. It might even be the sport’s best rivalry at the moment.

“I do think it’s up there with the big ones,” Reid said. “Everybody knows when Alabama and LSU are playing each other. It’s grown significantly over the past couple of years.

“Whenever Alabama and LSU play each other, it’s going to be a big game.”

When people talk about college football's best rivalries, no one forgets Ohio State-Michigan, Alabama-Auburn or Army-Navy. You also have Florida-Florida State, Oklahoma-Texas and Miami-Florida State.

But it’s clear we now have Alabama-LSU, and while it doesn't have the tradition of some of the other national rivalries, recent history has it soaking up all the national spotlight. And with the way these two giants have been able to recruit, it isn’t going away anytime soon.

Like last year’s two meetings, championship implications are on the line for Saturday’s matchup between No. 1 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) and No. 5 LSU (7-1, 3-1) in Baton Rouge. There was the national championship quarterfinal in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in Game 1 and the actual national championship in Game 2.

Like most traditional rivalries, trophies are at stake when these two play.

While the national audience is just now catching onto Alabama-LSU, this game is nothing new to the Deep South. Alabama leads the all-time series 46-25-5, but the real bitterness started when Nick Saban returned to the SEC and went to Alabama in 2007. Two years removed from bringing LSU its second national championship, Saban was done with the pros and back in the same division -- and less than 350 miles from Baton Rouge.

[+] EnlargeLes Miles
Marvin Gentry/US PresswireLes Miles and Nick Saban are 3-3 against one another as head coaches.
There was tremendous buildup to Saban’s first game against LSU in 2007 -- a 41-34 loss for the Tide -- but things reached a boiling point when he returned to the Bayou in 2008 and escaped with a 27-21 overtime win. He won again in 2009 and will enter Saturday’s game tied 3-3 with Les Miles in this series.

It probably doesn’t help LSU fans when they look up and see Saban holding two crystal balls as Alabama’s coach.

What really gives this game life is the national importance it has. The national championship really is on the line for both teams … again.

“People become more and more interested in those kinds of games, regardless of the league that they’re in,” Saban said.

It’s a game that has taken the country by storm, and to LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery, its magnitude is something younger players won’t truly comprehend until Saturday.

"Get ready. It's going to be the closest, most competitive thing you ever did in your life -- hopscotch to basketball to playing video games,” Montgomery said.

“They don't understand, but I hope soon they will.

“It's a true battle where only the mean can survive and make plays."

Miles was inside Ohio State-Michigan and isn’t ready to say this rivalry is there, yet. However, he did acknowledge that players and fans have a different look about them during Alabama week.

The same can be said for those in Tuscaloosa, especially running back Eddie Lacy, who attended Reid’s high school (Geismar, La./Dutchtown). He knows all too well that this is a love-hate affair.

“You just know they don't like each other,” Lacy said. “That's pretty much all you need to know.”

Everyone with any ounce of college football fandom will tune into this game. So much talent will be on the field, and just like last year, the winner will be a front-runner on the path to the BCS title.

There’s no turning back, and there’s no time to hide any sort of spite come Saturday night.

“There’s bad blood between the two teams when we play just because of who you’re lining up against,” Reid said.

Now that you've seen Chris Low's top 25, it's time to see what my list of the top 25 players in the SEC looks like.

I'm not perfect, but I'll try to be:

1. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Who has been more exciting than Johnny Football? The Aggies aren't 5-1 without him or his 1,600 passing yards, 676 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns.

2. Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida: He's powering Florida's offense and he's been the SEC's best back thus far. He's extremely explosive and is strong enough to bully his way to extra yards and wear down defenses.

3. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: He's turning into the dominating player we've really been waiting to see. Some think he might be the best player overall in the conference and is pushing to be next year's No. 1 NFL draft pick.

4. Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia: At one time, he was a Heisman candidate, but injuries and double-teams stunted that campaign. Still, he's the SEC's best linebacker, can fly around the field and just feasts on opposing quarterbacks.

5. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama: He's been Alabama's best defensive player this year and can make plays from just about anywhere on the field. He leads Alabama with 51 tackles, has 2.5 sacks, an interception and a forced fumble.

6. Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M: Even though he moved from linebacker to defensive end, Moore has been just as dominant as he was last season. He leads the SEC in sacks (8.5) and tackles for loss (15).

7. Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State: This summer, he said he was the SEC's best cornerback and he hasn't disappointed. He has three interceptions on the season and is averaging just 4.7 yards per attempt in man coverage.

8. Chance Warmack, OL, Alabama: He might be the nation's best offensive lineman and he's just blowing defenders up this season. No wonder Alabama can run the ball so well.

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What to watch in the SEC: Week 6

October, 4, 2012
It’s the biggest weekend of the season so far in the SEC, and here’s a look at what to watch in Week 6:

1. Lassoing Lattimore: There’s no other way to say it. South Carolina junior running back Marcus Lattimore has owned Georgia. Lattimore rushed for 176 yards and a touchdown last season against the Bulldogs, and he racked up 182 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman. Most notably, he’s been money in the fourth quarter. He had 94 of his yards last season in the fourth quarter. And in 2010, he had 56 yards in South Carolina’s final drive to ice the game. The Bulldogs simply haven’t been able to get Lattimore on the ground when it’s counted. Of his 358 rushing yards the last two years against the Bulldogs, 152 have come after contact. If they’re going to win this game, they need to put the clamps on Lattimore early and not allow South Carolina to ride him in the second half. He’s already had a pair of 100-yard rushing games this season against SEC foes Vanderbilt and Kentucky and combined for 145 rushing/receiving yards against Missouri. He’s answered a lot of the questions about whether he could regain his old form post-ACL surgery, but can make a resounding statement Saturday that he’s all the way back.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Lattimore
Zuma Press/Icon SMIWhile Vanderbilt couldn't slow down RB Marcus Lattimore, Georgia plans to give it a try this week.
2. Battle in the trenches I: Georgia’s offensive line faces its toughest test of the season against a South Carolina defensive line that hasn’t given up much of anything this season. Jadeveon Clowney is one of the most explosive pass-rushers in the country and is second in the SEC with 5.5 sacks. Georgia junior left tackle Kenarious Gates will be matched up most of the game against Clowney. The other matchup to keep an eye on is Georgia’s true freshman right tackle, John Theus, against South Carolina senior defensive end Devin Taylor, who’s a fierce pass-rusher in his own right. The Gamecocks have also been a brick wall against the run and are allowing just 2.2 yards per carry. The Bulldogs will need their best game of the season up front offensively.

3. Battle in the trenches II: Similar to Georgia’s offensive line, Florida’s guys up front will also encounter their toughest test of the season. LSU will rotate eight or nine players in the defensive line, and there’s not a lot of drop-off when the starters are resting. Florida has made it known that it wants to run the football, and the Gators will need to if they’re going to keep LSU honest on defense. Not only do the Tigers have a pair of potential first-round draft picks at end in Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, but they’re equally stout in the middle with Bennie Logan and Anthony Johnson. The offensive line has been the most improved part of Florida’s team this season, but the stakes (and the level of competition) go up considerably on Saturday.

4. October grinder: Nobody in the SEC has a tougher October than South Carolina, especially when you consider the Gamecocks don’t have their bye until Nov. 3. It’s the major reason that picking South Carolina to win the East is hard to do. Even if they can pull out a win over No. 5 Georgia on Saturday, they still have to go to No. 4 LSU and to No. 10 Florida the next two weeks followed by a home game with Tennessee to close out the month. LSU’s October slate isn’t a walk in the park. After playing at No. 10 Florida this weekend, the Tigers return home to face No. 6 South Carolina and then hit the road to play Texas A&M the following week. After a bye week, LSU takes on Alabama at home to kick off November. The Gators are also embarking on a grueling stretch. After LSU’s visit, they travel to Vanderbilt and then get No. 6 South Carolina at home and No. 5 Georgia in Jacksonville in back-to-back weeks. Can any of the three get through October unscathed?

5. Gators’ signature moment: Will Muschamp earned his first win over a nationally ranked foe as Florida’s coach back in September when the Gators went into Knoxville and defeated Tennessee. That was a big step for the program, but taking down No. 4 LSU will make a resounding statement to the entire college football world that Florida is indeed back. This is a game the Gators lost by 30 points a year ago. It’s a chance to show how far they’ve progressed since that blowout, not to mention a chance to prove they can play their best football on the biggest of stages.

6. Taking back the Swamp: There was a time, not too long ago, when the Swamp was the best home-field advantage in the SEC. The Gators didn’t just beat teams at home. They buried them amid a deafening roar and usually sweltering heat. It was a lot like walking into the lion’s den for the opposing team, and that’s something the Gators have to get back if they’re going to start winning championships again. They lost five games at home during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. That’s the same number of games they lost at home in Steve Spurrier’s 12 seasons as coach from 1990-2001. And in Urban Meyer’s first five seasons, they only lost twice at home. This Saturday should be a great atmosphere, the first top-10 matchup at the Swamp since the 2006 LSU game.

7. Defenseless defenses: If you’re an old-school defensive junkie, you might want to avoid the Arkansas-Auburn affair. Defense hasn’t been either team’s cup of tea this season, although the Tigers were much better in their last outing two weeks ago against LSU. In nine games, the two defenses have combined to give up 4,228 yards. The one saving grace for Arkansas is that senior quarterback Tyler Wilson has feasted on Auburn. With the way it’s gone for the Hogs this season on defense, they’re going to have to score 35 points to even have a chance. Wilson passed for 262 yards and two touchdowns last season against Auburn and came off the bench in relief of Ryan Mallett in 2010 to pass for 332 yards and four touchdowns.

8. Manziel for Heisman: As a senior at Tivy High School in Kerrville, Texas, Johnny Manziel put up some outrageous numbers. He passed for 45 touchdowns and ran for 30 touchdowns. The Texas A&M fans couldn’t wait to see “Johnny Football” in maroon. He makes his fifth start for the Aggies on Saturday against Ole Miss and is still cranking out unreal numbers, especially for a redshirt freshman. He set an SEC record last week with 557 yards of total offense in the 58-10 drubbing of Arkansas and leads the SEC in total offense with an average of 365 yards per game. How long can he keep up this pace? Well, Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin says Manziel is becoming a better quarterback every game, and while Ole Miss isn’t as bad as Arkansas on defense, the Rebels have still given up some big numbers this season. Either way, Manziel’s playing at a level right now that he could easily have close to 2,000 yards in total offense through his first five games as a starter.

9. Not turning it over: Not only is Mississippi State not turning the ball over, but the Bulldogs are also tied for the SEC lead in forcing turnovers. Through four games, they’ve forced 15 turnovers and committed only two, which is a big reason they’re unbeaten. A plus-13 turnover ratio, which is No. 1 nationally among all FBS teams, is going to mask a lot of other issues. The Bulldogs, who travel to Kentucky on Saturday, have played well to this point and have been resourceful, but they’ve by no means been dominant. What they’ve done is win the turnover battle in all four of their games, and they’ve been at least plus-three in the turnover department in three of those games. That’s a recipe for a lot of wins regardless of where you rank statistically in other areas. Case in point: Mississippi State is 10th in the SEC right now in total offense and eighth in total defense.

10. Finding some offense: Missouri and Vanderbilt meet on Saturday in Columbia, Mo., and both teams hope to cure some serious offensive ills. The Tigers have scored just 24 points on offense in their last two games, and one of those touchdowns came at garbage time in the waning seconds of a 31-10 loss to South Carolina two weeks ago. It’s been even more difficult for the Commodores to score points. In fact, they’ve yet to score a touchdown in the second half in any of their three games against FBS foes this season and have managed just two field goals after the break in those three games. One of the common denominators for both teams has been the inability to sustain drives. Missouri is next-to-last in the SEC in third-down conversion (20-of-73) and Vanderbilt is last (13-of-56).

LSU doesn't mind the lack of limelight

September, 20, 2012
It feels like ages ago when LSU was considered the nation’s elite team.

That’s old news.

There’s a new top dog, and its name is Alabama. All that attention LSU garnered coming out of summer was dumped into the Gulf and washed up on Alabama’s shores.

While the Tigers are currently playing second fiddle in the SEC -- and nationally -- they aren’t concerned about not being the center of attention.

[+] EnlargeZach Mettenberger
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireZach Mettenberger and LSU are punishing opponents, just as they did last season.
“The real good teams, we don’t care about what other people say,” LSU junior defensive end Sam Montgomery said. “We don’t care about the attention. We don’t care about the publicity, and we don’t care what anybody thinks. All that matters is that we get a ‘W’ and play hard-nosed football between the lines.

“Attention here or attention there doesn’t matter. We’re going to ball out anyway.”

And the second-ranked Tigers (3-0) have done that through the first three weeks.

Quietly, the Tigers have pounded their way to leading the SEC in rushing, averaging 269.3 yards per game. Like last season, LSU is making running the ball look simple with a stacked backfield led by sophomore Kenny Hilliard, who is third in the SEC with 303 rushing yards and first with six touchdowns.

The defense has been just as dominant, even without Tyrann Mathieu making a mess of things for opposing offenses. While the level of competition is far from what it was at this time last season for LSU, the Tigers have done their job. They’re only allowing 205 yards per game, which leads the SEC, and have outscored opponents 145-31.

Last year, LSU played very similar ball, but went through most of the season as the nation’s most complimented team. The 2011 Tigers took down a handful of ranked teams and were draped in the limelight.

That’s not the case this season, and quarterback Zach Mettenberger said it’s nice not having all that attention.

“It definitely lessens distractions, for sure,” Mettenberger said. “It makes it easier for us to stop sometimes and have fun. If we can just keep going out there, making good plays, we’ll be fine.”

So far, the Tigers have been more than fine. The offense isn’t terribly exciting with a less-than-flashy passing game and a bullying running game, but that style wins games. Alabama seems to be doing well with that same recipe, and it’s what earned the Tigers 13 straight wins in 2011.

“Coach [Les] Miles’ philosophy is to win anyway that we can to win football games,” Mettenberger said. “Shoot, last year we ran the ball really good and this year we’re running the ball really well, and we’re building off that with the pass game. We’re not going to try and be something we’re not.”

What LSU isn’t is a high-flying offensive threat. But it is a tough, punch-you-in-the-mouth squad that has used last season’s rugged formula to get through the first three games of the season.

Despite the continuing flow of distractions that started with the dismissal of the Honey Badger (Mathieu), LSU has stayed the course as it enters its first SEC game against Auburn (1-2) on Saturday. To Mettenberger, not mixing drama with football has yet again been LSU’s mantra.

“Football is kind of our outlet,” he said. “We never really bring baggage into our football operations building. That’s just not going to help.”

LSU might not be getting the love it deserves nationally, but there’s no doubting how good this team has been. The Tigers still look like a national championship contender, and the only team that could trip up Alabama.

The Tigers don’t need attention to be good, and as Montgomery puts it, keeping the praise away from Baton Rouge is a good thing.

“Attention can get you lackadaisical,” he said. “Attention can get you lazy. But the one thing that you have to stay true to is yourself, and how you have that quest to get better when you get on the field.

“You have to realize that if you’re still in college, you haven’t even reached your dreams to play at the next level, so why should you take a play off? Why should you go soft? There’s no reason to.” All-America team is SEC-laden

August, 29, 2012
Our preseason All-America team is out today, and 10 of the 25 players on the team play in the SEC.

Alabama and LSU each had three players selected.

Center Barrett Jones, offensive guard Chance Warmack and noseguard Jesse Williams are the Crimson Tide players on the team.

The LSU players who made it are defensive end Sam Montgomery, safety Eric Reid and punter Brad Wing.

South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks and LSU punter Brad Wing round out the SEC representatives.
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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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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The SEC has a nation-leading 19 players on the 2012 preseason watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which is awarded annually to the nation's best defensive player. Alabama leads the SEC with five players on the list, while LSU is second with four.

Here are all 19 SEC players on the Nagurski Trophy list:
For the complete Nagurski Trophy watch list, go here.

The SEC also leads the country with 19 players on the 2012 preseason watch list for the Outland Trophy, which is presented annually to the nation's top interior lineman. Alabama leads the SEC with four players on the list, including reigning Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones.

Here are all 19 SEC players on the Outland Trophy watch list:
For the full Outland Trophy watch list, go here.

Video: LSU's Sam Montgomery

January, 10, 2012
AM ET's Edward Aschoff talks with LSU's Sam Montgomery following the Tigers' loss to Alabama in the BCS title game.
NEW ORLEANS -- If Alabama running back Trent Richardson is looking for a president for his fan club, he should look no further than LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery.

Montgomery, who has the unflattering job of trying to contain Richardson during Monday's Allstate BCS National Championship Game, thinks the world of Richardson. The 5-foot-11, 224-pound tank has impressed Montgomery so much that he's ready to put the Doak Walker Award winner on the highest pedestal ... in all the game of football.

"He’s the best running back in the world," Montgomery said without hesitation. "NFL –- best running back in the world."

[+] EnlargeTrent Richardson
Spruce Derden/US PresswireTrent Richardson's 183-yard, four-touchdown performance against Ole Miss caught the eye of LSU's Sam Montgomery.
Ask Montgomery twice, and he won't even think of changing his answer.

"I stand by that," he said.

Richardson, who was a Heisman Trophy finalist, led the SEC with 1,583 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns. He also averaged 136.6 yards a game against SEC competition, so you can see why Montgomery had such complimentary things to say about the future first-round draft pick.

Montgomery has been eye-balling Richardson for a while, but he really started focusing on him after his 183-yard, four-touchdown performance against Ole Miss. That's also the game where he faked Ole Miss defensive back Senquez Golson out of his cleats with an amazing move he put on the youngster on his 76-yard touchdown run.

A few weeks later, Montgomery got to see Richardson in the flesh. Richardson totaled 169 yards of total offense, but had a few runs that left some LSU players looking silly and others bruised.

"He knows when to step in, when to hit moves," Montgomery said. "The move he hit in the Ole Miss game -- unbelievable. How does somebody think like that in that split second of time? How does he know to step in and step back and go forward?

"He’s an amazing, well-minded, well-rounded running back."

Montgomery coming back to school

Speaking of well-rounded, Montgomery has done pretty well for himself during his time at LSU. He's been a monster on the field (he was third in the SEC with nine sacks this year) and is 38 hours away from graduating with a kinesiology degree.

Montgomery sent in his NFL paper work to see how he might fair in this year's NFL draft, but even after getting a pretty good grade, Montgomery decided he needed another year of college football and wants to finish his schooling.

"I was very impressed, but I feel like I need to come back and learn more football, practice on my technique," he said.

Getting Montgomery back just adds to the embarrassment of riches that LSU's defense will have in 2012. This unit isn't particularly old, so the Tigers will be stacked on the defensive side of the ball yet again.

The thing about Montgomery is that this is his first full season of college football. He redshirted his freshman year and suffered a season-ending knee injury early in 2010. He's a physical freak who would have received a lot of interest from NFL teams this year.

He'll receive even more next year.


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.