Florida Gators: Mississippi Rebels
Alabama Crimson Tide
What they are selling: What's not to sell? Alabama is coming off back-to-back national championships, and the Crimson Tide had nine players taken in April's NFL draft, including three in the first round. For the critics who say you won't play early at UA, ask T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper how much they contributed as freshmen.
What they are missing: Although they won a national championship, the Tide didn't generate much pass rush last fall, and they had trouble containing freshman sensation Johnny Manziel. Also, they need to rebuild the offensive line, a unit that anchored the offense last year.
What they are selling: New head coach Bret Bielema runs a completely different offensive system than the previous two Arkansas coaches. The Razorbacks are selling an opportunity for freshmen to come in and earn playing time early in their careers.
What they are missing: The Razorbacks signed only one offensive lineman, Denver Kirkland, who was rated a four-star prospect or higher last year. In this run-heavy system, look for Arkansas to focus on landing talented players along the offensive line.
What they are selling: It's a new regime for Auburn, but there's a familiar face running the show. New head coach Gus Malzahn knows the program from his days as offensive coordinator. He's already shown the ability to recruit, stealing ESPN 150 linebacker Tre Williams away from the Tide. There's a sense of excitement on The Plains again.
What they are missing: Malzahn filled out his first recruiting class with playmakers, but Auburn needs to build up front on the offensive and defensive lines. No matter what offense you run, if you want to win in the SEC, you need to be able to compete up in the trenches.
What they are selling: With no proven wide receivers on the perimeter, Florida is attempting to sell early playing time at the position. A chance to play for one of the best defensive minds in college football in Will Muschamp is another selling point to defensive prospects.
What they are missing: Production on offense. After finishing 114th nationally in passing offense, it will be hard to sell playing time to wide receivers without an explosive passing game in place.
What they are selling: Freshmen, if they're good enough, play early at Georgia. From running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall to offensive tackle John Theus to defensive end Jordan Jenkins, several freshmen Bulldogs made major contributions on a team that was a few yards away from making the national championship game.
What they are missing: Georgia has brought in four top-12 recruiting classes in the last four years. Depth might become an issue for some recruits, but Georgia has certainly shown a willingness to play younger players.
What they are selling: After finishing 2-10, Kentucky fired coach Joker Phillips. New head coach Mark Stoops is offering a fresh start and a chance to help build Kentucky in to a contender in the SEC East.
What they are missing: Plain and simple -- tradition. Sure, Kentucky is full of basketball tradition, but the success on the hardwood completely overshadows the football program. A record 50,831 fans attended the Wildcats' spring game, so the interest level is certainly headed in the right direction.
What they are selling: An unprecedented 10 underclassmen declared for the NFL draft. LSU is selling the opportunity, not only for early playing time because of the departures, but a chance to make it to the NFL in three years.
What they are missing: Because of all the departures, there are some holes on both sides of the ball. Depth is now an issue at running back and LSU will need to replace Eric Reid, Kevin Minter, defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, defensive tackle Bennie Logan and linebacker Kevin Minter.
Ole Miss Rebels
What they are selling: Ole Miss landed the No. 5-ranked class in the country, including No. 1 overall player Robert Nkemdiche and No. 1 offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil. Look for Ole Miss to sell recruits on the opportunity to help build something special under head coach Hugh Freeze.
What they are missing: Freeze brought a creative and innovative offense to the SEC, but the defense is still a work in progress. Ole Miss finished 12th in the SEC in pass defense and will need to continue to build depth in order to compete for the SEC West championship.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
What they are selling: Only 11 of 22 starters return for a team that finished 8-5 last year. The Bulldogs offer recruits a chance to play early and play in the best division in college football.
What they are missing: Mississippi State returns its starting quarterback Tyler Russell, but who will he be throwing to? Last year's four leading receivers, including Chad Bumphis, are gone. Look for the Bulldogs to focus on offensive weapons in this recruiting class.
What they are selling: The Tigers return 14 of 22 starters on a team that went 5-7 in its first year in the SEC East. Missouri runs a fun and innovative offense that is sure to attract recruits, and there is certainly an opportunity to play early.
What they are missing: The defensive line is probably the most critical area on any defense in the SEC, and the Tigers lost their best lineman in Sheldon Richardson. Mizzou must find a viable replacement for Richardson and linebackers Zaviar Gooden and Will Ebner.
South Carolina Gamecocks
What they are selling: The Gamecocks have been dominant on defense over the last few years, and a strong line is a big part of their success. South Carolina is selling an opportunity to be the next Jadeveon Clowney and be a part of one of the top defenses in the SEC.
What they are missing: Hard to believe, but head coach Steve Spurrier needs help at wide receiver. The Gamecocks signed only one wide receiver in their 2013 class. They have young bodies, but not much depth or production from the returning group.
What they are selling: A fresh start under new head coach Butch Jones. Since 2011, Tennessee has finished with the No. 13, 21 and 29 recruiting classes in the country. There plenty of holes to fill, and any incoming freshman will have plenty of opportunities to earn a starting spot.
What they are missing: Tennessee lost wide receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson to the NFL draft and must replace their production on the outside. The Volunteers are also thin in the secondary and will look to recruiting to plug some key holes on defense.
Texas A&M Aggies
What they are selling: There is a lot to sell a recruit on at Texas A&M right now. An explosive offense which led the SEC in total offense by more than 100 yards a game, Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and a team that went into Tuscaloosa and handed Alabama its only loss last season.
What they are missing: There are still some holes to fill on defense. The Aggies finished with the No. 8-ranked defense in the SEC and the No. 10-ranked pass defense in the league. They also need to replace talented defensive end Damontre Moore, who is now in the NFL.
What they are selling: Head coach James Franklin has taken Vanderbilt to a bowl in two consecutive years, and the Commodores are bringing in a solid recruiting class. Selling recruits on an opportunity to play at Vanderbilt during one of the best eras in the school's football history is enticing to high school recruits.
What they are missing: Vanderbilt is not yet on par with other SEC schools as far as facilities. The Commodores, though, are certainly headed in the right direction. A new indoor practice facility is being constructed, and stadium renovations are in the planning stages.
In a story that alleges a culture of rule breaking, drug use, and other issues at Auburn that was posted on the web site Roopstigo.com, former Tigers safety Mike McNeil said Muschamp gave him $400 after he had a bad practice in 2007. Muschamp denied the charges in the story written by former Sports Illustrated and New York Times writer Selena Roberts.
He was more emphatic about his denial when he made his first public appearance since the story broke last Wednesday.
"I’ve already responded to that and really there’s nothing to dignify any other response other than exactly what you read," Muschamp said. "Exactly what you read."
Muschamp was not quoted in the story. He denied the allegations through a school spokesman.
UF picks up a QB
The Gators added some help at quarterback on Saturday when former professional baseball player Chris Wilkes told Muschamp that he would be attending UF.
The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Wilkes said via text message that he plans on enrolling in May. He will not be on scholarship.
The 23-year-old Wilkes signed with Ole Miss in 2008 out of Orlando (Fla.) Dr. Phillips, but instead chose to sign a contract with the San Diego Padres. Wilkes, who was a 22nd-round draft pick, never advanced past the Double-A level. He went 16-13 with a 3.57 ERA in five seasons as a right-handed pitcher.
The Gators will have six quarterbacks on the roster in the fall. Jeff Driskel, Tyler Murphy, Skyler Mornhinweg and Max Staver will be on scholarship. Wilkes and Jacob Guy will be walk-ons. Wilkes is expected to compete with Murphy and Mornhinweg to back up Driskel. Staver is likely headed for a redshirt.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
On the football front, the Gators got some bad news early in the week when reserve offensive lineman Trip Thurman suffered a shoulder injury that UF coach Will Muschamp said appeared to be severe. Thurman’s injury left the Gators with only five healthy scholarship offensive linemen, and that is forcing them to alter their plans for the spring game.
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsLoucheiz Purifoy has moved back to defense for now, but he's not done with offense for good.
Cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy finished his time at receiver and moved back to defense. The decision to try him out on offense was made because of the lack of production from the position since the 2009 season. And with freshman early enrollee Demarcus Robinson sidelined for a week with a sprained ankle, it doesn’t appear likely the Gators will get any answers at the position this spring.
SEC blogger Chris Low took a look back at some of the most memorable upsets in SEC play over the past 35 years. Ole Miss’ victory over Florida in 2008 -- which spawned Tim Tebow’s promise and was the catalyst to the Gators’ national championship run -- made the list.
On the recruiting trail ...
On the recruiting front, Derek Tyson put together his weekly mailbag, which included information about offensive tackle David Sharpe (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence), ESPN Watch List safety Quincy Wilson (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./University School of Nova South) and ESPN Watch List linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County).
The 6-foot-4, 305-pound lineman chose Florida over Alabama.
Reed, who previously had been committed to Ole Miss before officially decommitting last Thursday, joins two other defensive tackles in Florida's class: commit Caleb Brantley and early enrollee Darious Cummings.
Reed, Cummings and Florida defensive tackle Damien Jacobs all attended EMCC.
Some were obvious. Some weren’t so obvious.
Either way, it was another banner season for the SEC, which produced its seventh consecutive national championship and became the first conference in history to have five of the top 10 teams -- 1. Alabama, T-5. Georgia, T-5. Texas A&M, 8. South Carolina and 9. Florida -- in the final rankings.
Sit back and enjoy.
Alabama’s repeat: Rebounding from a November home loss to Texas A&M, Alabama became the first team since Nebraska in 1994 and 1995 to repeat as national champions with a 42-14 battering of previously unbeaten Notre Dame in the Discover BCS National Championship. The Crimson Tide mauled the Irish physically and scored touchdowns on each of their first three possessions. The game was over by the time the second quarter began, and Alabama’s historic run had officially become a dynasty. The Crimson Tide won their third outright national title in four years, the first school to accomplish that feat since Notre Dame in the late 1940s.
John David Mercer/US PresswireJohnny Manziel was at his finest in Texas A&M's upset of Alabama.
Mosley’s tip: Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley got just enough fingers on the football to deflect Aaron Murray’s pass in the final seconds of the SEC championship game. The ball careened into the hands of Georgia receiver Chris Conley, who slipped to the turf at the Alabama 5-yard line as time expired. Alabama survived 32-28 and earned the right to play for another national championship in one of the most exciting SEC championship games in history.
Clowney’s hit: They’re referring to it as simply “The Hit” in South Carolina. The Gamecocks’ all-world sophomore defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney, leveled Michigan running back Vincent Smith, sending both Smith’s helmet and the ball flying. Clowney snatched the ball up with his left hand in one of those plays that becomes even more jaw dropping every time you see it.
Miles’ outburst: LSU coach Les Miles has been must-see TV for a long time now. But do yourself a favor and go relive his “What a game!” performance during his news conference following LSU’s 41-35 victory over Ole Miss. An emotional Miles even dropped an F-bomb and then implored fans to thank the "spectacular group" of LSU players with this memorable line: “You go find them, throw your arms around them and give them a big kiss on the mouth ... if you're a girl."
Screen to Yeldon: With Tiger Stadium roaring, Alabama awakened offensively in the final minutes, and quarterback AJ McCarron led the Crimson Tide on a game-winning drive that was capped by a 28-yard screen pass to T.J. Yeldon for a touchdown with 51 seconds to play. McCarron was 1-for-7 for 0 yards in the second half before that final drive, which allowed Alabama to escape 21-17.
Franklin’s hug: Vanderbilt’s 38-24 win over North Carolina State in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl earned the Commodores their first nine-win season since 1915. Afterward, a Vanderbilt fan made his way into the news conference and thanked second-year coach James Franklin for what he’d done for the program. Franklin stopped the news conference, gave the fan a big hug and told him thanks for sticking with the Commodores. “You’re due for this,” Franklin exclaimed.
Support for Lattimore: No moment was more tear jerking, and yet, heartwarming than the injury to South Carolina star tailback Marcus Lattimore this season. Sadly, Lattimore blew his knee out for the second straight season in the 38-35 win over Tennessee. As he lay on the field in pain after going down with the injury, players, coaches and support personnel from both teams surrounded Lattimore on the field in a touching show of support. It's the kind of thing you rarely, if ever, see on a football field and says volumes about the universal respect Lattimore has as a player and as a person.
Jones' strip: Great players make great plays, and Jarvis Jones' strip of Florida tight end Jordan Reed was the play that sent Georgia to the SEC championship game for the second straight year and kept Florida at home despite a huge turnaround for the Gators this season. Reed was motoring for the end zone with just over two minutes to play in Jacksonville, but Jones was able to punch the ball loose inside the 5, and the Bulldogs recovered in the end zone. It was one of two forced fumbles for Jones, who also had three sacks in the 17-9 win.
Ole Miss' resurgence: The Rebels entered the season with a 14-game SEC losing streak. But under the guidance of first-year coach Hugh Freeze, they scrapped their way to a 7-6 season, which included a resounding 41-24 win over rival Mississippi State in the regular-season finale after three straight losses to the Bulldogs. The Rebels then followed that up with a 38-17 rout of Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl. Hotty Toddy!
Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech and Mississippi have come in, and from the 5-foot-9, 196-pound running back's perspective, that is plenty of a good thing.
"I am willing to take anything," Choice said. "I am just happy at least some people are interested in me. It is a great honor and I am very blessed to have some schools looking at me."
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
The ESPN 150 wide receiver says the Rebels are in his top three with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. He will take his official to Stillwater on Jan. 11.
“My recruitment got pretty wild there for a couple of weeks, but once I starting talking with the schools I was most interested in and put together a top three everything settled down,” Treadwell said. “I don’t expect any schools to challenge those three, but we’ll see.”
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
Can the SEC better that mark this season? We’ll start to find out Dec. 31 when Vanderbilt takes on NC State in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.
Here’s a look at the best-case/worst-case scenarios for all nine SEC teams this bowl season:
Best case: The stakes are once again sky-high for the Crimson Tide. With a win over Notre Dame in the Discover BCS National Championship, they claim their third outright national title in the past four years, which hasn’t been done since Notre Dame’s run in the 1940s.
Worst case: The Irish clamp down on the Tide defensively, and Alabama simply can’t move the ball in a loss that snaps the SEC’s streak of national championships at six in a row.
Best case: The Gators win their first BCS bowl game since 2009 with a blowout win over Louisville in the Allstate Sugar Bowl and head into next season as perhaps the team to beat in the SEC.
Worst case: Some of the same offensive problems that plagued the Gators throughout the season flare up again, and they suffer the humiliation of losing to a Big East team.
But without a quality staff, a head coach isn’t going to survive very long in this league.
So as we look back on the 2012 regular season, let’s pay tribute to 12 assistant coaches who separated themselves from the rest. Each of these guys made a huge difference in their development of players and units.
We’ll call it our “Dandy Dozen” of SEC assistant coaches, and they’re listed in alphabetical order:
Mike Bobo, Georgia, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks: A finalist for the Broyles Award, Bobo has the Bulldogs ranked in the top four in the SEC in both rushing and passing offense. They scored 28 or more points in 11 of their 13 games, and did it with an offensive line that was both young and unproven when the season began.
Burton Burns, Alabama, associate head coach/running backs: Despite injuries to Dee Hart and Jalston Fowler, Alabama didn’t miss a beat in its running game. In fact, Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon became the first two players in school history to each rush for 1,000 yards in the same season.
John Chavis, LSU, defensive coordinator/linebackers: Like clockwork, Chavis just keeps on churning out rock-solid defenses at LSU. The Tigers are No. 8 nationally in total defense and No. 11 in scoring defense, and that’s despite losing their top playmaker on defense (Tyrann Mathieu) in the preseason.
D.J. Durkin, Florida, special teams coordinator/linebackers: When you play as many close games as the Gators did this season, you better be good on special teams. They weren’t just good. They were excellent in all facets, which is a credit to Durkin and the job he did in coordinating the entire kicking game.
It was Vanderbilt, which won eight games for the first time in 30 years. The Commodores averaged 37,860 for home games, which was a 15 percent increase.
The largest decrease for an SEC school was Kentucky, which averaged 49,691 fans and dropped 17 percent. The Wildcats finished 2-10 and fired coach Joker Phillips.
Tennessee also experienced a 5 percent drop in attendance. The Vols averaged 89,965 fans in what was their fourth losing season in the past five years. Derek Dooley was fired after three years on the job.
Even Florida, which went 11-1 and is headed to the Allstate Sugar Bowl, saw its home attendance drop by 2 percent.
The SEC led the nation in attendance with an average of 75,444 fans per game, but that was the league's lowest mark since 2007.
As Solomon points out in his piece, a face-value ticket for an SEC game reached $100 for the first time this season. The most expensive SEC ticket four years ago was $65, and that was the Alabama-Auburn game.
Below is a rundown of attendance figures for all 14 SEC schools:
- Alabama: 101,722 (minor decrease)
- Georgia: 92,723 (minor decrease)
- LSU: 92,626 (minor decrease)
- Tennessee: 89,965 (5 percent decrease)
- Florida: 87,597 (2 percent decrease)
- Texas A&M: 87,104 (minor decrease)
- Auburn: 82,646 (4 percent decrease)
- South Carolina: 80,001 (1 percent increase)
- Arkansas: 68,046 (2 percent increase)
- Missouri: 67,476 (9 percent increase)
- Ole Miss: 57,066 (1 percent increase)
- Mississippi State: 55,628 (minor decrease)
- Kentucky: 49,691 (17 percent decrease)
- Vanderbilt: 37,860 (15 percent increase)
Ole Miss is the leader for Laquon Treadwell (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee), but the remaining teams in contention are starting to take shape.
Treadwell told WolverineNation writer Tom VanHaaren on Wednesday he will take his last four remaining official visits to Florida, Michigan, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. He also confirmed a tweet Treadwell posted Tuesday that Ole Miss is his No. 1 program.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
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.
If you think everybody else in college football is tired of seeing the SEC win all the time, try taking the temperature of fans in Baton Rouge, La., or Athens, Ga., or Auburn, Ala., over how tired they are of seeing Alabama win all the time.
The Crimson Tide will be chasing history Jan. 7 in the Discover BCS National Championship game against Notre Dame when they go after their third national title in the past four years. The last team to win three outright national titles in a four-year span was Notre Dame in 1946, 1947 and 1949.
An Alabama victory in Miami would mark the seventh consecutive national championship for the SEC, which might have been as balanced and strong across the board this season as any of the seasons during its national championship run.
The final BCS standings looked more like the SEC standings. Six of the top 10 teams were from the SEC, and all six won at least 10 games.
And talk about beating up on each other.
Texas A&M, in its first season in the SEC, waltzed into Bryant-Denny Stadium and upset Alabama 29-24 with two weeks remaining in the regular season.
Georgia lost by four touchdowns to South Carolina back in October, but rebounded to make its second consecutive appearance in the SEC championship game. It wasn’t until the final play that Alabama’s 32-28 win over Georgia was decided last weekend in Atlanta.
Florida is headed back to a BCS bowl for the first time since 2009 thanks to a transformation in Will Muschamp’s second season that saw the Gators go from being soft at times in 2011 to one of the most physical teams in the league this season. Florida will meet Louisville in the Allstate Sugar Bowl after collecting four victories over teams that finished in the top 12 of the final BCS standings.
On big-game weekends in Tallahassee, Fla., hotel rooms are hard to come by. And when time is limited to begin with, due to games on Fridays and the subsequent travel, travel plans become difficult.
Such was the situation for the ESPN Watch List offensive lineman who had to leave before the game's conclusion.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider