Alabama Crimson Tide: Cyrus Kounadjio

Flood of underclassmen leaving SEC

January, 16, 2014
Jan 16
2:30
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The official list will be released by the NFL this weekend, but the latest count of underclassmen leaving the SEC this year is 28. That's after 32 left early a year ago.

The deadline to declare was Wednesday, although players still have a window to change their mind prior to this weekend as long as they don't sign with an agent.

For the second straight year, LSU is losing the most. Seven players with eligibility remaining are leaving early to enter the draft, which is actually down from the 11 players the Tigers lost last year. Alabama is losing five players and Florida and South Carolina four apiece.

Below is an unofficial list:

ALABAMA
OLB Adrian Hubbard, OT Cyrus Kouandjio, DT Jeoffrey Pagan, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S Vinnie Sunseri

AUBURN
RB Tre Mason, OT Greg Robinson

FLORIDA
DL Dominique Easley, CB Loucheiz Purifoy, CB Marcus Roberson, OLB Ronald Powell

LSU
RB Michael Ford, RB Jeremy Hill, OG Trai Turner, WR Odell Beckham Jr., WR Jarvis Landry, DT Ego Ferguson, DT Anthony Johnson

MISSOURI
RB Henry Josey, DE Kony Ealy

OLE MISS
WR Donte Moncrief

SOUTH CAROLINA
DE Jadeveon Clowney WR Bruce Ellington, CB Victor Hampton, DT Kelcy Quarles

TENNESSEE
OT Antonio Richardson

TEXAS A&M
QB Johnny Manziel, WR Mike Evans

SEC lunchtime links

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
12:00
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It's Hump Day, and, no, I'm not going to shout it like an overly eager camel in a crowded office. Instead, I'll just note that we're halfway to another exciting week of college football and only a day away from No. 3 Clemson going up against North Carolina State.
ATLANTA -- With Alabama down three points and the SEC title and a shot at the national title hanging in the balance, Nick Saban put the game in the hands of two freshmen.

Two players barely a year out of high school football would decide the fate of Alabama’s 2012 season.

Boy did it pay off.

“Two big plays by freshmen there,” senior center Barrett Jones said.

Big doesn’t even begin to describe them. You need more hyperbole for this one, like mammoth or gargantuan.

The first play came on third-and-5 at the 50-yard line. Georgia held a 28-25 lead, and it appeared that the Tide were squandering their great field position. With about four minutes remaining, quarterback AJ McCarron stuck the ball in T.J. Yeldon’s gut, and the frosh cut to the right side and barreled his way past the first-down marker.

It was a play everyone inside the Georgia Dome or plastered to a TV set knew was coming.

Yet Georgia’s defense, which had been giving up rushing yards like men give up beads at Mardi Gras, couldn’t stop the force that was Yeldon.

“He went out there and just ran people over,” offensive lineman D.J. Fluker said of the 6-foot-2, 216-pounder. “You can’t find that too often.”

[+] EnlargeAmari Cooper, Damian Swann
Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY SportsAlabama's Amari Cooper hauls in the winning TD pass in front of Georgia's Damian Swann.
That play kept the Tide alive. The next play broke Georgia’s spirit.

It was a simple post play to the left side, where it’s better if Amari Cooper releases on the inside. He cut outside and stopped momentarily as he looked for McCarron. Once he saw the play was coming, he left a helpless Damian Swann in his dust before hauling McCarron’s perfectly thrown pass and waltzing into the end zone to give Alabama the winning score in a 32-28 victory.

“Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games, and I wanted to come out here and be a big-time player,” said Cooper, who finished with a game-high seven catches for 127 yards and the key score. “I envisioned it before it happened, and it came true.”

He probably envisioned it because it looked easy on film, as he and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier felt confident taking shots at the Dawgs.

“That’s what we want as receivers,” Cooper said. “We want to take those shots, and that’s what we did.”

It helps that Cooper, who goes by the nickname Hollywood because of his on-field skill, is an extraordinary athlete. Before his touchdown, his play of the night came when he went up top and snatched a 44-yard prayer from McCarron away from one of the most physical players in the game in safety Bacarri Rambo in the second quarter. After that, he spent the rest of the night sprinting past or cutting by Georgia defenders and bailing Alabama’s offense out in crucial situations.

“He’s able to do the things that you would think a normal freshman wouldn’t do,” Tide linebacker Nico Johnson said. “He’s making big plays in big games, like he did today.

“He takes it and runs with it and lives to that name. He’s something special.”

To Jones, Cooper just has a different gear than a lot of players. One moment he is side-by-side with a defender; the next, he’s gone -- with the ball.

“He’s one of the fastest people I’ve ever seen,” Jones said.

Cooper stretched the field and gave Alabama more running room, which helped free Yeldon, who entered the game with just three 100-yard performances but carried the ball a game-high 25 times for a backbreaking 153 yards and a touchdown. While giving Eddie Lacy the occasional breather, Yeldon helped Alabama register an SEC championship record 350 rushing yards Saturday.

“It’s like he’s been here three times himself,” Lacy said. “As a freshman, you can’t ask him to play any better than he did tonight.”

You can’t ask more from either. They did so much for Alabama in the biggest game of either's career. Yeldon had nine runs that resulted in first downs, while Cooper had three first-down plays. Together, they touched the ball 32 times for 280 yards and two touchdowns.

Johnson tells both Cooper and Yeldon before every game to play with purpose. On Saturday, they did that and then some. This is only the beginning for these fabulous freshmen.

“I’m glad they’re freshmen because they are going to be here for a while,” offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio said.

That has to be a scary thought for the rest of the league.

Proving ground: Western Division

August, 20, 2012
8/20/12
1:55
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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.

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