Alabama Crimson Tide: Damontre Moore

Revisiting Texas A&M-Alabama, part I

September, 10, 2013
9/10/13
1:40
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Texas A&M shocked the college football world when it went into Tuscaloosa, Ala., and upset the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide last November. It was a game for the ages, with the Aggies jumping out to a 20-0 lead, Alabama charging back to make it close and a nailbiter finish that included a turnover near the goal line.

With the Crimson Tide coming to Kyle Field for a rematch with the Aggies, anticipation has built throughout the offseason. The Tide are again No. 1, defending their BCS championship from a year ago and the Aggies still have their linchpin, Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, who made his most compelling case for the trophy that afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

As the heavily hyped clash approaches, let's look back at some of the keys to last year's game and how they might affect the rematch.

1. Credit to the Texas A&M defense

When dissecting Texas A&M's upset of Alabama last season, many cite the Aggies' offensive explosion en route to a 20-0 first-quarter lead as one of the most difficult things for Alabama to deal with. And while the Aggies used creative playcalling and personnel packages, their fast pace and precision execution to score three touchdowns on their first three drives, the Aggies' defensive effort had as much -- or more -- to do with their ability to take that kind of commanding lead.

A.J. McCarron
John David Mercer/US PresswireAJ McCarron threw his first interceptions of the season in Alabama's loss to Texas A&M last season.
The first play from scrimmage helped the Aggies set the tone as Alabama handed off to running back Eddie Lacy on an off-tackle play to the left side. Tight end Michael Williams motioned to that side of the formation to help open a hole for Lacy, but Texas A&M linebacker Sean Porter eluded Williams and sliced into the gap between Williams and left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and made a strong tackle to stop Lacy for no gain. Alabama went three-and-out on that drive and punted.

The Crimson Tide's next offensive drive started on a much better note for Alabama, with Lacy gaining 23 yards on his first two carries. But everything halted as the Aggies created a turnover when quarterback AJ McCarron tried to find Kenny Bell in the middle of the field. As a McCarron pass hit Bell in the chest, safety Howard Matthews delivered a hard, clean hit to Bell, who dropped the pass. Porter was there to intercept the pass, and that set up the A&M offense with great field position after a 16-yard return to the Alabama 41.

One of the key players throughout the day for the Aggies' defense was defensive tackle Spencer Nealy. A former defensive end who moved to defensive tackle at the start of the 2012 season despite lacking what would be considered "SEC size" for a tackle, Nealy played an integral role in the Aggies' run defense. Evidence of that was on display at the start of the Crimson Tide's third drive of the game.

On the first play of the drive, Alabama handed off to T.J. Yeldon on the left side and the 6-foot-5, 277-pound Nealy, who lined up at nose tackle on that play and for much of the day, used his quickness to beat center Barrett Jones and tackled Yeldon for a loss of 4 yards. The Crimson Tide went three-and-out on that drive as well as the Aggies forced McCarron's hand with a safety blitz and Matthews got into the backfield untouched, forcing an incomplete pass. The defensive effort by the Aggies forced McCarron to start the game 1-of-5 passing for 5 yards.

And even though the Tide were able to gather their bearings and make a strong comeback with some big plays on offense, the Aggies still found ways to make plays on defense. Matthews plugged a gap on third-and-2 when Yeldon tried to cut back for first-down yardage, holding the Crimson Tide to a third-quarter field goal. Safety Steven Terrell stripped Yeldon in the fourth quarter on the play after a 50-yard pass from McCarron to Amari Cooper. And of course, cornerback Deshazor Everett picked off McCarron on the Tide's final offensive play with 1:36 remaining.

The drawback for Texas A&M in the rematch is that many of the above names are gone. Nealy, Porter, Terrell and other key players -- such as defensive end Damontre Moore and linebacker Jonathan Stewart -- have graduated. They've been replaced by younger, more inexperienced players who have taken their lumps in the first two games. The Aggies also haven't had their full complement of defensive players because several served suspensions in the first two games. Saturday will be the first opportunity for all of their key guys to play together this season.

Lacy is gone for the Tide, as are several offensive linemen. The Tide struggled in that area in their season-opening win against Virginia Tech. So there will be adjustments on both sides with the differences in personnel.

2. Finding the "Y"

Manziel went to receiver Ryan Swope, the "Y" receiver who lines up in the slot on the right side of the offensive formation, early and often against the Crimson Tide. Early in the game the passes were of the short, quick variety, hitch routes that gained incremental yardage, almost like running plays.

Ryan Swope
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireRyan Swope, a senior last season, made 11 catches against Alabama.
As the game wore on, Manziel went downfield to Swope, who made some of the biggest catches of the season. One was in the middle of the field for 28 yards as he was nailed by safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the third quarter. In the fourth, Manziel found Swope down the right sideline for 42 yards.

Swope graduated as well, but look for the guy who made the catch on the play after Swope's 42-yard reception -- Malcome Kennedy -- to be a factor. Kennedy caught a 24-yard touchdown pass on the next play and having experience in a game like that can only help him this Saturday. The question is, can Kennedy bring the kind of consistency that Swope did in catching 11 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown against Alabama?

And should he be healthy for the game, 6-foot-5 freshman receiver Ricky Seals-Jones could be a factor at that position as well. Seals-Jones missed the Sam Houston State game last Saturday with a knee injury.

3. McCarron can scramble, too

While Manziel is known for his scrambling, McCarron showed he has good mobility as well.

McCarron isn't nearly as fleet of foot, but he did show the ability to escape pressure and make quality throws. On two instances in the Crimson Tide's first scoring drive, he evaded the Aggies' pass rush and found Cooper for a first-down completion.

In the second half, McCarron scrambled and tried to find Cooper. He avoided an interception from Everett (who was ruled out of bounds on the catch), but nevertheless, scrambling is a tool McCarron can use if the Aggies dial up extra pressure Saturday.

4. Defending Manziel on the ground

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
AP Photo/Dave MartinJohnny Manziel had great success running in the first half against Alabama, but the running lanes closed a bit in the second half.
In the first half last year, Manziel was electric with his feet. Then-offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury was comfortable in calling designed quarterback draws. They were successful as Manziel piled up 82 yards on nine first-half carries.

But the Tide did a much better job containing Manziel in the final two quarters. In the second half, he finished with 10 rushing yards on nine attempts.

This season, Manziel is making an effort to improve as a pocket passer without taking away his playmaking ability. The Aggies have a new offensive coordinator and playcaller (Clarence McKinney) and a new quarterbacks coach (Jake Spavital). It will be interesting to see how much running Manziel does Saturday and how Alabama handles it.

5. Big plays in the Alabama passing game

Cooper, now a sophomore for the Tide, had a huge game in last year's matchup, catching six passes for 136 yards.

He had a catch of 50 yards and a 54-yard touchdown reception, both in the fourth quarter. The first came on an out-and-up, when he beat Everett one on one. The next one came when the Aggies sent Everett on a cornerback blitz and Cooper beat Matthews deep for a touchdown.

Tide schedule preview: Texas A&M 

June, 20, 2013
6/20/13
1:00
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Editor's note: The season is nearly upon us, and TideNation is taking steps to get you ready for every one of Alabama's regular-season opponents. Every Tuesday and Thursday we'll go through each week of the Crimson Tide's schedule, starting with the season-opener against Virginia Tech and closing with the finale against Auburn.

The rundown

2012 overall record: 11-2
2012 SEC record: 6-2, tied for second in the West
Record all time against Alabama: 2-3
Last meeting: Texas A&M 29, Alabama 24 in 2012

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
AP Photo/Dave MartinJohnny Manziel and Texas A&M beat Alabama in 2012. Can they repeat the feat this fall?
Starters returning
Offense: 6; Defense: 6; Kicker/punter: 1

Top returners
WR Mike Evans, CB Deshazor Everett, RB Ben Malena, QB Johnny Manziel, OT Jake Matthews

Key losses
LT Luke Joeckel, DE Damontre Moore, OLB Sean Porter, WR Ryan Swope, FS Steven Terrell

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Johnny Manziel* (524 yards)
Passing: Johnny Manziel* (2,967 yards)
Receiving: Mike Evans* (953 yards)
Tackles: Damontre Moore (119)
Sacks: Damontre Moore (5.5)
Interceptions: Deshazor Everett* (2)

SEC's DLs, LBs strong at combine

February, 21, 2013
2/21/13
12:03
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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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Where they ranked as recruits: Defense

January, 30, 2013
1/30/13
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Now that we’ve examined where the offensive players on the 2012 Associated Press All-SEC team ranked as high school recruits, we look next at the defensive players.

Whereas only four of the 12 offensive players (counting the all-purpose player) on this season's All-SEC team were ESPN 150 prospects, nine of the 11 defensive players made the ESPN 150 cut as high school recruits. Eight of the 11 were ranked among the top 10 prospects nationally at their position.

The only two who weren't ESPN 150 prospects were Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore and Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks.

Here's a look back:

[+] EnlargeJadeveon Clowney
Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsSouth Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney was ranked No. 1 overall in the ESPN 150 in 2011.
DEFENSE

DE: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina -- A five-star prospect and ranked No. 1 overall in the ESPN 150 in 2011. Received a grade of 95 and described by some analysts as one of the most talented and physically impressive high school prospects to be evaluated since the advent of recruiting rankings.

DE: Damontre Moore, Texas A&M -- A three-star prospect and unranked in the ESPN 150 in 2010. Ranked as the No. 48 defensive end prospect nationally. Six of the top 15 defensive end prospects that year signed with SEC schools -- No. 4 Corey Miller (Tennessee), No. 5 Adrian Hubbard (Alabama), No. 9 Corey Lemonier (Auburn), No. 10 Chris Martin (Florida), No. 14 LaDarius Owens (Auburn) and No. 15 Justin Maclin (LSU).

DT: Sharrif Floyd, Florida -- A four-star prospect and ranked No. 25 in the ESPN 150 in 2010. Ranked as the No. 3 defensive tackle prospect nationally. The No. 1 defensive tackle prospect that year was Florida teammate Dominique Easley. The Gators also signed a third top 10 defensive tackle prospect -- Leon Orr -- in that 2010 class.

DT: Sheldon Richardson, Missouri -- Ranked No. 107 in the ESPN 150 in 2009. Ranked as the No. 8 defensive tackle prospect nationally. There were three tackle prospects ranked ahead of him that year who signed with SEC schools -- No. 2 Gary Brown (Florida), No. 4 Josh Downs (LSU), and No. 7 Chris Davenport (LSU).

LB: Jarvis Jones, Georgia -- Ranked No. 59 in the ESPN 150 in 2009. Originally signed with USC before transferring to Georgia. Ranked as the No. 6 outside linebacker prospect nationally. The No. 1 outside linebacker prospect in that class was Manti Te'o. Jones was ranked as the No. 7 overall prospect in the state of Georgia in 2009. Future Georgia teammates Branden Smith (No. 2) and Chris Burnette (No. 6) were ranked ahead of him.

LB: Kevin Minter, LSU -- Ranked No. 133 in the ESPN 150 in 2009. Ranked as the No. 11 outside linebacker prospect nationally. Counting Jarvis Jones, eight of the top 15 outside linebacker prospects that year either signed with an SEC school or wound up at one. Florida got two of them -- No. 2 Jelani Jenkins and No. 8 Jon Bostic.

LB: C.J.Mosley, Alabama -- A four-star prospect and ranked No. 99 in the ESPN 150 in 2010. Ranked as the No. 7 outside linebacker prospect nationally. The only outside linebacker prospect to sign with an SEC school ranked higher was Georgia’s T.J. Stripling at No. 5.

CB: Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State -- Unranked in the ESPN 150 in 2009. Ranked as the No. 27 athlete nationally, one spot behind eventual LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne. Banks, who grew up in the tiny town of Maben, Miss., only received the one scholarship offer from Mississippi State.

CB: Dee Milliner, Alabama -- A four-star prospect and ranked No. 16 in the ESPN 150 in 2010. Ranked as the No. 2 cornerback prospect nationally. Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner was ranked as the country’s No. 1 cornerback prospect that year. Florida signed three of the top 10 cornerback prospects in 2010 -- No. 3 Josh Shaw, No. 5 Jaylen Watkins, and No. 7 Cody Riggs.

S: Matt Elam, Florida -- A five-star prospect and ranked No. 9 in the ESPN 150 in 2010. Ranked as the No. 2 athlete nationally. The No. 1 athlete that year was eventual Florida teammate Ronald Powell. Auburn signed three of the top 10 athletes in 2010. Two of them, Antonio Goodwin and Shaun Kitchens, were part of the 2011 armed robbery of a trailer and kicked off the team. The third was receiver Trovon Reed.

S: Eric Reid, LSU -- A four-star prospect and ranked No. 71 in the ESPN 150 in 2010. Ranked as the No. 7 safety prospect nationally. Reid was one of two top 10 safety prospects the Tigers signed that year. The other was Tharold Simon, who wound up playing cornerback. The No. 1 safety prospect in 2010 was Jonathan Dowling, who signed with Florida and was kicked off the team during his freshman season by Urban Meyer.

2012 SEC regular-season wrap

December, 5, 2012
12/05/12
9:00
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Here we are again talking about another potential national championship for the SEC.

Weren’t we having this same conversation last year, the year before that and the year before that?

In fact, does anybody really remember the last time we weren’t having this conversation?

The BCS Championship Game festivities will again include an SEC team this season, and once again, it’s Alabama carrying the banner for the league.

(Read full post)

On Monday, Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones was named The Associated Press SEC Defensive Player of the Year.

A worthy candidate indeed when you look at his flashy resume. He finished the regular season third on Georgia's team with 77 tackles, first nationally in tackles for loss (22.5) and second in the SEC (fourth nationally) in sacks (12.5).

He also led he country with seven forced fumbles.

Not too bad for a player who battled injuries all year and played in just 11 of Georgia's 13 games.

But this had to be a very, very tough vote. While Jones was fantastic in his second year in the SEC, he had some very stiff competition from the likes of South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, LSU linebacker Kevin Minter, Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley and Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore.

All of them proved to be game-changers and all were worthy competition for Jones.

Let's take a look at their resumes:

Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia (winner)

Tackles: 77 (40)
Tackles for loss: 22.5 (first nationally)
Sacks: 12.5 (fourth nationally)

Making the case for Jones: Every offense that faced Jones had to specifically game plan for him. He just has a knack for finding the ball and making plays. He completely changed the Missouri game with his interception and his sack/fumble force on consecutive drives in the fourth quarter. He essentially won the game for the Dawgs against Florida when he poked the ball out of tight end Jordan Reed's hand just before he crossed the goal line for a potential game-tying touchdown. If there's a play to be made, Jones will find it.

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Tackles: 50 (37 solo)
Tackles for loss: 21.5 (second nationally)
Sacks: 13 (tied for first nationally)

Making the case for Clowney: When you talk to players and coaches around the league about Clowney, just about everyone tends to consider him the league's top player, regardless of position. He might be the most physically gifted defender in the SEC, if not the nation. After taking some criticism for his in-game endurance, Clowney turned his play up in the season's second half. He basically ended Tennessee's comeback hopes with his sack/fumble with the Vols down three and inside South Carolina's 20 late in the fourth quarter. Then he abused Clemson's backfield with 4.5 sacks in the season finale. The sack total was also a Clemson Memorial Stadium record.

Kevin Minter, LB, LSU

Tackles: 111 (48 solo)
Tackles for loss: 13.5
Sacks: 3

Making the case for Minter: He was one of the SEC's most active defenders. He averaged 9.25 tackles per game and even collected 20 tackles, 17 of them solo, against Florida. He finished the season with seven games in which he registered nine tackles or more. Like Jones, Minter is someone who just knows how to find the ball. He has tremendous speed and packs quite the punch when he goes in for a tackle. He also broke up six passes, grabbed an interception and forced a fumble.

Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M

Tackles: 80 (54 solo)
Tackles for loss: 20 (tied for third nationally)
Sacks: 12.5 (tied for fourth nationally)

Making the case for Moore: So, he moved from outside linebacker, had to get into better shape and had to learn a new defensive scheme. Yet, he was even better? For most of the 2012 season, Moore was the most productive defensive player in the SEC. He only failed to record at least one tackle for loss twice and didn't record at least one sack in just three games. He finished the regular season leading the Aggies in tackles and will likely become the first defensive end to lead the Aggies in tackles since Sam Adams had 78 in 1993.

C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama

Tackles: 99 (61 solo)
Tackles for loss: 7
Sacks: 4

Making the case for Mosley: He's one of the most gifted linebackers in the SEC and just figures out ways to find the ball an makes plays. He led the Crimson Tide in tackles by 43 and averaged 7.6 tackles a game. He recorded double-digit-tackle numbers three times this year and he was the one who tipped Aaron Murray's final pass in the SEC championship game that secured the Tide's victory. He has one of the highest motors in the league and has tremendous field IQ as well.

Five storylines: Alabama-Texas A&M 

November, 8, 2012
11/08/12
9:17
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- No. 1 Alabama returns home Saturday afternoon to Bryant-Denny Stadium to face No. 15 Texas A&M. The Tide (9-0, 6-0 SEC) lead in their series with the Aggies 3-1, the last game a 33-10 win by UA in 1988 in College Station, Texas.

Here are five storylines for the game ...

1. Deflate Johnny Football: Johnny Manziel is the key to Texas A&M's high-powered offense. Whether it's his arm or his legs, the Aggies go with him. His ability to prolong plays with his feet and get the ball into the hands of his playmakers are key to his team's success. The freshman is No. 2 in the country in total offense, accounting for 383 yards per game.

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Q&A with Aggies beat writer Kahn

November, 8, 2012
11/08/12
8:46
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In advance of Saturday's game between the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide and the No. 15-Aggies, Texas A&M beat writer Sam Kahn Jr. spoke to TideNation about the matchup and what Kevin Sumlin's team will have to do to be successful in Bryant-Denny Stadium:

Scarborough: Texas A&M has made the transition to the SEC look easy despite a complete overhaul of the coaching staff and a rookie quarterback under center. How has Kevin Sumlin gotten the Aggies to this point and how much of that success is credited to Johnny Manziel?

Kahn: The early success I think is helped in part by the fact that while the coaching staff is completely new, a large chunk of the staff is familiar with each other. Sumlin hired most of the offensive staff he had at Houston over at Texas A&M, strength coach Larry Jackson, as well as a few other staff members that worked with him there, so that continuity has helped. Offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury is a rising star in the coaching ranks and I think there's little doubt that he'll be a head coach of his own in the future. The hire of Mark Snyder as the defensive coordinator has paid huge dividends as Snyder and his staff have done a really good job getting that side of the ball to play above expectations, despite limited depth in a few areas. Manziel no doubt has been a big part of the success. If he was playing like you might expect a redshirt freshman to play, I don't think there's any way they're 7-2 right now. But he has taken care of the ball (mostly), made some amazing plays and the confidence that has combined with his ablity and the personality fit with Kingsbury has been huge for the offense. And I don't think it can be overlooked that the strength of the team, personnel-wise, is the offensive line, which is critical in SEC play. That unit has been stellar for most of the season.

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2012 SEC midseason overview

October, 15, 2012
10/15/12
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The sun sets in the West, but it’s the rise of the East that has been the big story during the first part of the SEC season.

Not since Florida in 2008 has a team from the East won the SEC championship, and it was only two years ago that a three-loss team in the East (South Carolina) made it to the SEC championship game.

In fact, South Carolina was the only team in the East with a winning conference record that season, and four of the six teams in the East finished with losing overall records.

It was a similar story a year ago. Four of the six teams in the East finished with losing conference records.

The “Least of the East” jokes were well deserved.

But as we look ahead to the second half of this season, the landscape has changed.

The first BCS standings were released Sunday night, and three of the top 11 teams were from the Eastern Division. Right there behind Alabama at No. 1 was Florida at No. 2, while South Carolina was No. 7 and Georgia No. 11.

“I think people would say there are more than two teams [from the SEC] that could contend for a national title right now,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said.

And, yes, those same two teams from a year ago are still right there in the hunt, the same two teams that played for the national championship last season: Alabama and LSU.

Alabama has yet to have a close game this season. The only thing that remotely qualifies was the Crimson Tide’s 33-14 win over Ole Miss the last weekend of September. Alabama actually trailed in the second quarter of that game (for 15 seconds), which was the first time the Crimson Tide had trailed after the first quarter in regulation since the end of the 2010 season.

(Read full post)

Hot and Not in the SEC

September, 17, 2012
9/17/12
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Looking back at Week 3 in the SEC through our trusty Hot and Not lens:

GLOWING EMBERS

SEC power: It hasn’t all been good. See Arkansas’ tumble from elite status. See Tennessee’s collapse in the second half last Saturday, and see Auburn’s defense. But a quick scan of the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll shows four SEC teams ranked in the top 7 nationally, including No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 LSU. Georgia is No. 5 this week and South Carolina No. 7. Florida has also moved into the top 15 and checks in at No. 14. For the rest of the country, seeing Alabama and LSU at the top of the polls is probably nauseating. After all, this was supposed to be the year that the SEC’s reign ended, and maybe that will be the case. There’s that vaunted USC team out West that was gunning for the SEC’s big boys this season. The Trojans, though, might want to figure out how to beat Stanford first before moving up to the varsity.

HOT

Joker Phillips’ seat: Losing to both Louisville and Western Kentucky was bad enough for the low morale that surrounds the Kentucky program. But, now, the Wildcats need to somehow find four SEC wins to avoid their third straight losing season. It doesn’t look good for Phillips despite the fact that he’s playing a ton of younger players.

NOT

[+] EnlargeMarcus Lattimore
Zuma Press/Icon SMIStar South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore has been slowed in his past two games.
South Carolina’s run blocking: The Gamecocks struggled to run the ball much of the night in their 49-6 win over UAB. Star running back Marcus Lattimore has been held under 100 rushing yards in each of his past two games. But, then, he hasn’t had a lot of holes to run through. Offensive line coach Shawn Elliott is thinking about shaking up the offensive line for this week’s game against Missouri.

HOT

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron: He’s thrown 152 passes without an interception this season and is third nationally in passing efficiency with a 196.6 rating. McCarron has thrown seven touchdown passes in his first three games and is in total command of that Alabama offense right now.

NOT

Missouri’s quarterback situation: Who’s the quarterback for the Tigers this coming Saturday against South Carolina? Moreover, who do the Tigers want to be their quarterback? The whole deal with Missouri coach Gary Pinkel coming out and saying that James Franklin refused a painkiller injection was bizarre. Franklin’s shoulder was hurting and he didn’t play in the win over Arizona State. Backup Corbin Berkstresser stepped in and led Missouri to the victory. It will be interesting to see how it plays out from here and whether or not there’s any division on the team.

HOT

Florida in the fourth quarter: What a difference a year makes for the Gators, who have outscored their first three opponents this season 27-0 in the fourth quarter. A year ago, they were outscored 72-22 in the fourth quarter of SEC games. Finishing games was a huge emphasis over the offseason in Gainesville, and Will Muschamp’s club has shown some serious mettle in the second half of games this season.

NOT

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray: Not only was he 1-of-10 in the fourth quarter against Florida, but Bray’s body language and his lack of leadership were just as disturbing. He’s a super talent and can really throw the football, but he still has a ways to go before he can ever be considered an elite quarterback. He may get there, but he’s not going to do it by piling up numbers against lesser opponents and then disappearing in the big games when his team gets down in the second half.

HOT

Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore: Georgia’s Jarvis Jones currently holds the unofficial title as the SEC’s best pass-rusher, but don’t sleep on Moore. The Aggies’ junior had two more sacks last Saturday in the rout of SMU and already has five in two games. He’s been pretty much unblockable to this point.

NOT

Ole Miss’ defense: Even in an Xbox game, you don’t give up 66 points and 676 yards of total offense. The Rebels were obliterated by a Texas team that scored on seven straight possessions, including six touchdowns.

FREEZER BURN

Arkansas’ start to the season: Could it get any worse? The 52-0 drubbing by Alabama was Arkansas’ first shutout in Fayetteville since a 7-0 loss to Baylor in 1966. This is a team that had talked openly about winning a national championship in the preseason, but it’s also a team that quit in the second half of the game last Saturday. Senior quarterback Tyler Wilson obviously means a lot to that team, and not having him in the game was a huge blow. There’s no guarantee that he’s going to be out there against Rutgers this coming weekend. So the Hogs might want to find some resolve and also rediscover their pride and do something about salvaging this season before it’s too late. A 1-2 start is terribly disappointing. But it would pale in comparison if the Hogs totally tank and end up with a losing season.

Proving ground: Western Division

May, 25, 2012
5/25/12
5:11
PM ET
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
5/18/12
11:30
AM ET
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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