Now that the AP preaseason poll is out, we know exactly who will make up the College Football Playoff.

If only it were that easy.

History has shown that preseason polls really don't mean as much as we'd like to think they do. Still, they're fun and give us a nice easel to work with.

[+] EnlargeBo Wallace
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsBo Wallace and Ole Miss could be a threat to sneak out of the West.
As we dive into this poll, you'll see that most of the team everyone is talking about to be in the playoff at season's end are right at the top of the poll -- Florida State, Alabama, Oregon, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Auburn. Only four teams can make it into the playoff, but most people have some sort of combination of these teams.

Good luck with that.

According to ESPN stats guru Brad Edwards and ESPN Stats & Information, "There has been only one year in the last seven (2011) in which more than two of the preseason top-10 teams finished the regular season ranked in the top four."

In short, that means that more often than not, the final four in the AP poll -- which we'll use as a means of determining the fictitious four-team playoff from the past -- started the season well outside of the early playoff sphere.

The same can be said about the final BCS standings of the regular season. Only once since 2006 have two teams ranked inside the top four of the AP preseason poll finished the regular season ranked inside the top four of the BCS standings. Yep, 2011 when Alabama and LSU ranked second and fourth, respectively, and finished the regular season as the top two teams in the country and played in the BCS national championship game.

Since 2006, five SEC teams have started the season ranked inside the top four of the AP poll and finished the regular season inside the top four of the BCS standings. Alabama has done it three times (2011, 2012, 2013) and LSU has done it twice (2007, 2011). Alabama won the BCS national championship twice in that span (2011, 2012), while LSU won it all in 2007.

So this all bodes well for Alabama, which is ranked second in the AP poll. This also bodes well for the SEC in general when it comes to the playoff, because at least one team has finished in the top four of the BCS standings each year since 2006 (remember the seven straight BCS titles for this conference?).

Want to take it even further? The SEC has placed two teams in the final four of the BCS standings in three straight seasons and five times total since 2006, so we can't rule out the SEC double-dipping in the playoff.

Now, the selection committee will make things a little different, as more the human element replaces the computers that were very nice to the SEC. Regardless of the humans and the preseason poll, history has taught us that an SEC outsider will make a strong playoff run this year.

There are eight SEC teams ranked inside the AP preseason poll, and there's a chance that each one will have a big hand in the playoff. But which outsiders have a chance to make a real playoff run? Here are four teams that could make a magical run from outside the top 10:

  • Ole Miss: The immediate talent is very impressive in Oxford, but for the first time in a while, Ole Miss has a very talented two-deep on defense. Quarterback Bo Wallace has to be more consistent, and he'll be working with a healthy throwing shoulder for the first time in two years. Having Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State at home will help. If the Rebels stay healthy, they are a legitimate threat in the Western Division.
  • Georgia: The defense has a lot of question marks, but that offense has the potential to score for days. Quarterback Hutson Mason should have no problem replacing Aaron Murray with the experience and quality talent coming back at receiver and running back. The tests come early with a visit from No. 16 Clemson before a trip to No. 9 South Carolina.
  • Mississippi State: For some reason, these Bulldogs will enter the season unranked (only 22 votes received?). All they do is return 18 starters and the deepest, most talented team coach Dan Mullen has had during his time in Starkville. This could be the year the Bulldogs get over the hump and push for the West title.
  • LSU: There will be a new quarterback, new receivers and there are still some unknowns on defense. A strong running game and offensive line should help a program that has never really needed a huge passing game under Les Miles. That linebacking corps and the secondary have scary athleticism. Watch for a late run by the Tigers.

Flying under the radar?

Florida and Missouri: If Florida figures things out with Kurt Roper's new spread offense, the Gators might take the East with the defense they have. The Tigers lost a ton of leadership and need answers at receiver, but they love the underdog role, and their defensive line and running game are filthy.

Steele: Projected SEC standings

August, 18, 2014
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With the season less than two weeks away, Phil Steele takes a crack at projecting the final standings for the SEC, along with records for each team.

Click here Insider for the full rundown of Steele's thoughts on who will finish where and why, but here's a sample: He likes Alabama in the West and Georgia in the East.
It has been nearly a decade since Florida sat at the bottom of the Big Three in its own state, a situation only made worse by watching bitter rival Florida State win the national championship last season.

But even when Florida State outperformed Florida over the last 10 years, the Gators could always count on being better than Miami.

Now, there is not much to count on at all, no guarantees to be made, no automatic Ws on the schedule. Not after Georgia Southern. Not after a miserable losing season. No guarantees for coach Will Muschamp, either, essentially coaching for his job in 2014.

It is easy to see why Florida State has separated. But where both Florida State and Miami have separated from Florida is in their recruitment and development of skill players on offense, an area the Gators once dominated.

Florida has lacked a dynamic playmaker since Percy Harvin in 2008. That is simply unacceptable for a program in a state the produces enough supremely fast and ultra-talented recruits to fill multiple FBS rosters.

So what has happened in recruiting? Let us take a look back at the players all three programs have signed between 2011 -- when Muschamp signed his first class at Florida -- and 2013. During that time, Florida signed 12 ESPN 150 players at either quarterback, running back, receiver or tight end. Six have transferred.

In 2012, when Muschamp brought in the first class he recruited entirely on his own, he stacked his defense with elite recruits. The only two ESPN 150 offensive players in that class outside the offensive line were two tight ends: Colin Thompson and Kent Taylor. They have both left the program.

Now take a look at what Florida State and Miami have done. Since 2011, Florida State has signed eight ESPN 150 players at the same four offensive positions. The Noles have hit on nearly all of them. Karlos Williams, Nick O'Leary, Rashad Greene, Kermit Whitfield and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston are expected to be All-ACC selections or All-Americans. James Wilder Jr. was drafted a few months ago.

Kelvin Benjamin and Devonta Freeman, four-star recruits out of high school, are in the NFL, too.

Miami has signed nine ESPN 150 skill-position players over the same time frame. While the Canes have missed on some, they have hit on several key players who helped them get to nine wins a season ago. Running back Duke Johnson, receivers Stacy Coley and Malcolm Lewis and tight end Standish Dobard are starters. Receiver Phillip Dorsett, a three-star recruit in 2011, is better than anybody Florida has on its roster.

Muschamp has focused his efforts on building a strong defense, something Miami has lacked over the last several years. While the old adage is that defense wins championships, you need a little more than a rusted-out shell of an offense to win games in today’s era.

That holds true most especially in Florida. Consider the two Gators coaches who have won national championships -- Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer -- were offensive coaches. Each had a quarterback who won the Heisman.

Florida State and Miami have won their championships with terrific skill players -- and Heisman winners -- as well. If we look at what Florida State accomplished last season alone, the Seminoles were stellar on both offense and defense with playmakers at the skill positions all over the field. All three programs have produced equally impressive offensive and defensive players in their championship seasons.

So, it seems, Florida is missing a giant piece to its puzzle.

That is a big reason why the Gators have fallen behind both Miami and Florida State for the first time since 2004. Not even 2004 was as bad as 2013, mind you. Because at least in 2004, Florida beat Florida State and finished above .500.

At that time, Florida was in the middle of the Ron Zook era (or error, depending your point of view), but the down times did not last long. Three years later, Florida won its first national championship under Urban Meyer.

Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley is banking on a short-lived dip, a big reason why Muschamp still has his job. Most believe Florida will be better. But how much better? Foley is putting his faith in a man who has shown equal propensity to win big and lose big.

So the objective for Muschamp seems pretty simple. Improve the offense and win. But we are not talking about merely finishing with a winning record, no matter how good 7-5 looks right about now. Florida must once again flex its power in state.

SEC morning links

August, 15, 2014
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1. The first quarterback race is over. Tennessee coach Butch Jones, who said a decision was coming soon, named his starting quarterback Thursday. It will be Justin Worley. The senior started seven games last year and finished with 1,239 yards, 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He missed the final four games after suffering a injury to his thumb in Week 9 against Alabama, but as GoVols247 reports, Worley plans to take the Vols' quarterback job and 'run with it.' So who's next to name a starter? Across the state, first-year Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason has already said he's going to wait until the first game to name his starter. At Auburn, is it already a foregone conclusion that Jeremy Johnson will start the opener in place of Nick Marshall? And will a true freshman really start under center for either LSU or Texas A&M?

2. Not mentioned above is maybe the most-talked about -- unless you're Nick Saban -- quarterback battle in the SEC, the battle between Jacob Coker and Blake Sims at Alabama. Coker transferred in from Florida State with the size, the big arm and the lofty expectations, but Kevin Scarbinsky of AL.com is starting to think that Sims might actually start the season opener against West Virginia. Saban spoke highly of Sims during the SEC Network's launch ... but he made sure to compliment Coker, too. Some say both will play against the Mountaineers. A two-quarterback system? The last time Alabama tried that it didn't go so well. Maybe Saban and his staff know who the guy is and they're just playing us all. Maybe not.

3. Sad news Thursday as Georgia officially announced that Merritt Hall's football career was over. The junior fullback was medically disqualified for recurrent concussions. The latest incident came last week when he sustained a concussion during practice. The Bulldogs have since moved linebackers Detric Dukes and Christian Payne to fullback where they will remain during the season, but this brings back up the question, how do we prevent football players from sustaining similar injuries in the future? Tackling better? The USA Football organization, the youth partner of the NFL, is sponsoring the Heads Up Football campaign, one that teaches players to tackle an opponent by wrapping their arms around them, rather than ramming them with their heads. It's a start.

More around the SEC
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Now that we've taken the time to look at offensive players who could pile on the stats in 2014, it's time to take a look at the defenders who make this league so scary.

Today, we're talking sacks and who could reach double digits in that category in 2014.

Last year, the SEC only had two players reach that mark -- Missouri's Michael Sam (11.5 sacks) and Auburn's Dee Ford (10.5) -- after three did in 2012 and 2011.

This season, the SEC has a lot of talent and potential within its various front sevens. So how many players do I see reaching 10 or more sacks? I'm going to go with three.

Here's my list of potential double-digit sack artists for 2014:

[+] EnlargeLeonard Floyd
Jeffrey Vest/Icon SMIGeorgia linebacker Leonard Floyd is looking to build off of his strong freshman season.
1. Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia: During his first year at Georgia, Floyd led the Bulldogs with 6.5 sacks and was second with 22 QB hurries. He explodes off the line and is a beast for linemen to handle. He could be the SEC's best pass-rusher in 2014.

2. Markus Golden, DE, Missouri: Overshadowed by Michael Sam and Kony Ealy, Golden had 6.5 sacks last year. Even as a backup, Golden could have left for the NFL after last season. He's back, and he won't be fun to deal with off the edge.

3. Alvin "Bud" Dupree, DE, Kentucky: Get used to this name because he's gotten better each year he's been on campus. After moving to defensive end last year, Dupree had a team-high seven sacks, but feels his game is even better this time around. He has All-SEC written all over him.

4. Dante Fowler Jr., DE/LB, Florida: He can play with his hand in the ground or upright. Fowler can absolutely fly and has tremendous strength to bully his way through opposing lines. Expect him to vastly improve on the 3.5 sacks he had last year.

5. Shane Ray, DE, Missouri: He might not have a very recognizable name right now, but you should hear a lot about Ray in the coming months. He's incredibly fast and athletic. Add his strength, and he'll have no problem zipping past his 4.5 sacks from 2013.

6. Trey Flowers, DE, Arkansas: He'd be higher on the list if there weren't questions about the guys around him. Flowers is a monster, but he had the benefit of working with stud Chris Smith on the other side. He'll have to work even harder this year. Still, Flowers is too good not to at least approach the five sacks he had last season.

7. C.J. Johnson, DE, Ole Miss: A devastating leg injury cost him most of his 2013 season, but he's back and says he feels better than ever. He changes Ole Miss' defense so much when he's on the field and is the Rebels' best pass-rusher. With people keying in on Robert Nkemdiche inside, Johnson should be a menace off the edge.

8. Curt Maggitt, DE/LB, Tennessee: He might not have played last year, but Maggitt is arguably one of the best at his position. He'll play more defensive end this year, but his goal every time he's on the field is to hit the quarterback. If he can stay healthy, he'll do that a lot.

9. Danielle Hunter, DE, LSU: He only had three sacks last year, but Hunter could be a breakout star for the Tigers. Pictures of him from this summer tell me that he's loaded up on the lean protein and hopes to dine on quarterbacks this fall.

10. Caleb Azubike, LB, Vanderbilt: One of Vandy's most athletic defenders, Azubike seems to really be taking to his new position at outside linebacker. With his speed, he could be a terror outside in the Commodores' new 3-4 scheme. He had four sacks in 2013.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- In order for the Florida Gators to rebound from last year's disaster of a season, the offense has to get better.

It's hard to say if a more obvious sentence has been written.

But while most of the offensive talk has centered around quarterback Jeff Driskel and new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, the key might rest with the guys lining up outside, not under center.

[+] EnlargeAndre Debose
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images"I feel like we can be great. We can be the best in the SEC," receiver Andre Debose said.
Driskel is incredibly important to this team's success, but Florida's receivers want the responsibility of carrying this offense. They want Driskel to rest easy while they play hard. Roper's spread approach centers around creating space for receivers, and those players believe they hold the power when it comes to making Florida's offense go in 2014.

“There's no added pressure, it's just on us,” senior receiver Quinton Dunbar said of the receiving corps. “If we make plays, we win games and that's how we want it. We wouldn't have it any other way.”

That might be big talk for a unit that hasn't had anyone catch more than 44 passes or register even 600 yards in a single season since 2009. But this group is oozing confidence. Dunbar might be the leading returning receiver with 40 catches and 548 yards from a year ago, but you'd think the core players of this unit all had 1,000-yard pedigrees with the swagger they project.

"I feel like we can be great. We can be the best in the SEC," fifth-year senior Andre Debose said. “With the offense we have I feel like the coach puts us in a lot of good situations to make plays. I feel like with this offense we'll flourish.”

Yes, this is coming from players who were a part of a disastrous 4-8 Florida team that ranked at the bottom of the SEC in every major offensive category a year ago and was 107th nationally with 170.9 passing yards per game.

The confidence might sound a little premature, but Florida's receivers not only trust their ability, they trust their new OC and his offense. Roper's plan to use more three- and four-receiver sets has players excited.

Last year served as a big black eye in Florida's history books, but players are moving on. The present appears loose and happy, and the players see something special at receiver, even if skeptics loom.

"Since I've been here this is probably the most talented receiving group we've had,” Dunbar said. “I feel like everybody is going to trust each other this year to get better. I feel like we've got depth, and a lot of people can make plays."

One major advantage Florida's receivers believe they possess is an uptempo scheme. The Gators would like to run at least 80 plays a game as fast as possible.

So far, the receivers love it. Sophomore Ahmad Fulwood, whose 17 catches from last year are the second most coming back, said the receivers rejoiced when they heard they were running a no-huddle offense. They might not have the statistics to intimidate opponents, but Fulwood believes they have the speed and endurance to consistently frustrate them because he sees it in practice against a defense that could be one of the SEC's best.

“We've gotten used to putting the defense on their heels now,” Fulwood said. “They used to have the advantage last year, but now this year when we're in practice we give them a run for their money. With the tempo we run at and the tempo they're trying to run at, we cause some stressful times for them.”

Added fellow sophomore Demarcus Robinson: “When we're going fast and the defense doesn't have any time to sub anyone in but we do, that's when we really get them.”

The question still lurking is if Florida has the capable weapons to keep defenses spinning. Dunbar has the experience, but is looking for the big-play gear. Debose has impressive athleticism and speed, but has always struggled with putting things together in games, and he is returning from an ACL injury.

Fulwood's size (6-foot-4, 204 pounds) and speed create matchup problems for defenders on the outside, while Robinson arrived with the title of “instant playmaker,” but caught just five passes last season and dealt with a multiple suspensions.

Maybe redshirt freshman Alvin Bailey steps up or true freshmen C.J. Worton and Ryan Sousa develop faster than expected.

Even with all the talk, there are still plenty of questions surrounding this group. Those questions really won't be answered until the season arrives, but for now, Florida's receivers are creating some believers.

“These guys are staying open constantly and it's really hard to cover them because you have to have your eyes on the quarterback, you have to have your eyes on them ... and you can lose them at times," sophomore linebacker Jarrad Davis said. “These guys are really shifty, really talented and really fast.

“I'm really eager to see what it's going to look like against another team because I think a lot of people are going to have a hard time with this offense.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Andre Debose took a look at the interview table that was set up with his name in front of an empty seat and leapt over it in one great bound.

For an audience of journalists gathered for media day, hours before the Gators opened preseason camp, there was no better way for the Florida wide receiver to show, not tell, everyone that he was completely healthy.

"I'm feeling great!" he said. "I'm feeling real good."

[+] EnlargeAndre Debose
AP Photo/John RaouxAndre Debose said he's pleased to be back in the spread offense again at Florida.
Almost one year ago to the day, Debose tore his ACL in one of Florida's first fall practices. He missed the entire season and was later granted a sixth year of eligibility.

Debose's injury was one of several that contributed to something of a doomed feeling heading into the 2013 season, according to players like running back Kelvin Taylor.

“Everybody kept falling, kept going down," Taylor said. "Just lots of frustration and we got some of our key players going down. When Debose went down it was like, 'Dang, man. One of our captains went down.'"

Always a tantalizing talent with a bright smile and personality, Debose has been an enigma throughout a career that started back in 2009 with Urban Meyer calling him "the next Percy Harvin."

Debose has rarely lived up to that sort of hype. He's seemingly had more injuries than big games, but did lead Florida in receiving yards in 2011 and owns the school record with four kickoff-return touchdowns (also tied for the SEC record).

"We missed his playmaking ability last year," coach Will Muschamp admitted.

This year, Debose's return is one of Muschamp's reasons for excitement in a pressure-packed, make-or-break season.

The coach has high hopes for Debose, whom he says is a better fit in Florida's reinvented offense. The Gators plan to use the 5-foot-11, 189-pound Debose out wide, in the slot and will even get the ball in his hands on speed sweeps.

Debose couldn't be happier. He's returning to the type of offense that once made him the No. 2 high school wide receiver prospect in the country.

"Great offense," he said. "I love the spread. This is what I was originally recruited for here at Florida.

"This is exactly what I did in high school."

Many of his high school peers have long since left college. Some of his fellow top prospects are playing in the NFL. Debose, though, is back with a second shot at a last impression.

Perspective has been easy to come by.

Time has matured Debose, once scorned by his coaches for questionable focus and work habits. His journey has transformed him from a puerile high school star to a 23-year-old man with one last kick at the can.

"I'm definitely not the same person I was five years ago when I was sitting in this same chair," he said. "I've had a lot of humbling experience with these injuries, so I've had a lot of time to sit back and just think and reflect on everything that's happened in my career."

With a clean slate, a new offense and a clean bill of health, Debose was clearly one of the Gators most excited to start a fresh season.

"Oh, I'm very optimistic," he said. "I haven't been this anxious to play in Lord knows how long."

There was one more thing that gave Debose a spring in his step on media day -- he was just a few days from graduating.

"It feels amazing," he said. "I started something and I finally finished it. ...

"I know that I've been through a lot, been through a lot of ups and downs, seen this team be successful and unsuccessful. It's definitely going to be a great experience just to walk off that stage and know that I'm done with the school part."

Next on Debose's college bucket list -- one last chance to pen the final chapter of his playing career.
As we count down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the official start of the 2014 college football season, we're also gearing up for our first trip through the College Football Playoff.

Yes, after waaaaay too many years of being stubborn and different, this beloved sport is finally getting a playoff system to determine its national champion at the end of the year.

Better late than never.

[+] EnlargeLa'el Collins
Patrick Green/Icon SMIThere's strong support among SEC players such as La'el Collins for the new College Football Playoff, but they have different ideas on how big it should get.
There's a 13-member playoff committee, revolving playoff sites and newfound excitement attached to the playoff. Fans, coaches, media members and school administrators have all weighed in on the pros and cons of the College Football Playoff, but we haven't really heard a lot from the players who will actually be partaking in the playoff and throwing their bodies around a couple of more times each season.

What do the players think of it? Are four teams enough? Should it expand? What effect will it have on players' bodies and academics? What about travel for their families and friends? Do they want the playoff at all?

Over the past month, we asked players around the conference to weigh in on the playoff and give us their thoughts on the playoff.

Enough teams?

You were hard-pressed to find a player who didn't agree with FBS football adopting a playoff system. So with that out of the way, we asked players whether they thought four games was enough. The majority were happy with that number.

  • “I think it’s perfect -- a four-team playoff. You get right to the point. If you lose, you go home and there’s two more teams [left]. There it is, it’s simple.” -- LSU OT La'el Collins. (However, when asked about his thoughts on expanding it, Collins said it "would be cool, too.")
  • “I don’t know if there’s a perfect way to do it, but I think that’s a good amount of games. You don’t want to be playing too many in the playoff because then guys’ bodies would be shot and coaches after the season wouldn’t have time to go out and recruit [as much]. They would lose out on a lot of recruiting opportunities.” -- Florida QB Jeff Driskel
  • “Four is plenty right now. ... Right now, four is what it is and I’m happy that that’s what it is. If they end up changing it, then I’ll be happy also." -- Tennessee C Mack Crowder
  • “It’ll be just like high school again, I guess. It’s just one more game. I think everybody will be fine.” -- Georgia RB Todd Gurley
  • “Four teams is better than two, so it’s a good start.” -- Texas A&M OT Cedric Ogbuehi

What if the playoff were to expand to eight or 16 teams?

  • “That might be too much because it’s a hard game already. Playing all those games, there would definitely be more injuries. Four is fine, eight could be cool too, but I don’t think 16 would be smart.” -- Ogbuehi
  • "That would probably be a little too much.” -- Gurley
  • “As players, we don’t think about it like that. We think of it as some players are going to go on and play in the NFL where there are 16 games on top of a playoff and a Super Bowl -- mind you that some of those guys play in a wild-card game. By the time they finish, it’s like 20-something games.” -- Florida defensive end/linebacker Dante Fowler Jr.

What about your life away from football? Wouldn't an expanded playoff eat into your family time during the holidays and conflict with finals?

  • “Fans don’t think about that. Fans don’t think about us spending time with our families or finishing out our classes with good grades. That’s something that they have to take into consideration.” -- Driskel
Travel

A playoff, whether it has four teams or 16, means more travel for players, fans and family members. That means more money out of people's pockets when it comes to transportation -- which is more than likely going to be by plane -- food, lodging, and miscellaneous. And that's just for one game.

Let's face it, some people are going to have to decide between going to the semifinal game or the national championship.

  • “Not every family can make that trip. The fact that there are more games and both are immensely huge games could make it difficult on a lot of families [to plan travel]. I could see that happening. ... It’s not necessarily something that we thought about. But when we look at the schedule and we know how that’s going to play out, then some people have to start thinking about that, and some more than others.” -- Georgia WR Chris Conley
  • “It’s definitely a concern. It’s something that guys’ families are going to have to start preparing themselves now.” -- Collins
  • “You can watch us on TV. As long as we win, that’s all that matters.” -- Fowler

Even South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier thinks players and families should be helped out with travel.

  • “They have to do that now because most of them don’t have enough money to make all those trips. That’s why I think we should give the players and the parents expense money -- $200 to the player, $200 to the parents. Every time we play, here’s $400 of expense money.”
Injury concern?

More games mean more chances for injuries. That's just science. So are players concerned about wearing down?

  • “I just see it as more games, and I love playing games. You can get hurt literally at any point in the season. At the end of the season, some guys are going to be completely healthy, some guys are gonna be beat up." -- Crowder
  • “That’s the sacrifice you make, but it all pays off in the end.” -- Collins
  • “It’s a lot of games, but it’s something that you have to prep yourself up for and prepare yourself to just go. You’re going to have aches and injuries, and things like that, but if you want to win it takes hard work, dedication, blood, sweat, and tears.” -- Fowler

For now, players will go through the motions of the season before they sniff what life in the playoff will be like. It's worked at all other levels of sport, and now Division 1 football is getting in on the act. All these questions and concerns will be approached head-on in the months to come, and we'll see how players' opinions on the playoff change.
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting news across the country. Today’s offerings: A look at how landing Trenton Thompson could help Georgia land even more highly coveted players and who might be next to join the Dawgs' commitment list. Plus, Alabama has the top-ranked class by far, but there's something that could loosen the Tide's grip on No. 1, and our daily tour of the top recruiting happenings on social media.

video

National recruiting reporter Jeremy Crabtree broke down every 2015 college football recruiting class in the FBS. He joins ESPN's Phil Murphy to share the biggest surprise overall and which program could gain momentum down the stretch.

SEC morning links

August, 13, 2014
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1. On Tuesday, ESPN unveiled campaign posters for the top four contenders in the College Football Playoff hunt. Each came with a clever tagline, such as Alabama’s “Process of elimination” and Oregon’s “Look good, play better.” Florida State’s “Dallas to Dallas” was a nod, of course, to the Seminoles opening the season in Big D against Oklahoma State and, hopefully, closing the season there in the CFB Playoff title match. But it got me thinking: What taglines would other SEC programs employ in their bid to make the Playoff? Auburn’s is easy: #AuburnFast. Florida’s could read: No Georgia Southern, no problem. LSU’s might go: The young and the relentless. And South Carolina’s could nod to the Head Ball Coach: Keeping the SEC spicy. There’s a comments section, so go ahead and have fun with the concept.

2. Laquon Treadwell is not a man to be trifled with. Even in practice, he does things that make your jaw hit the floor. Just look at this catch the other day. His Go-Go-Gadget fingertips are just ridiculous. How he corralled that pass is mesmerizing. To me, he seems like a young Joe Horn (without the cell-phone celebrations). He not physically imposing or particularly fast, yet he’s explosive. If he can’t get by a DB, he’ll simply jump around or over them. He's got that knack for getting his hands on the football. Though there are definite questions about the quarterbacks in the SEC, I’m excited to see the crop of receivers. Treadwell and Amari Cooper are clearly at the top of the list. But look out for young studs such as Ricky Seals-Jones (Mike Evans 2.0), Speedy Noil (the SEC West’s long-awaited answer to Percy Harvin) and Malachi Dupre (think of a young A.J. Green).

3. A few weeks ago, ESPNU replayed the South Carolina-Missouri game from last season. You remember it, I’m sure: Connor Shaw comes off the bench to lead the Gamecocks to a furious come-from-behind win in double overtime. It was a doozy. But watching it again, I paid closer attention to the offense under Dylan Thompson. It was a best case-worst case scenario. At times, Thompson was sharp. It wasn’t his fault Mike Davis fumbled twice in the first half. But there were other times where Thompson left you wanting more. I had to rewind and replay his interception at least a dozen times. His footwork and fundamentals were unspeakably bad. It was what you teach a QB not to do. Turns out, he has a little gunslinger in him. Now he’s trying to tone some of that down. That’s good news if you’re a Gamecocks fan. You don’t need Thompson to be Brett Favre. With a stellar group of tailbacks, a strong offensive line and an underrated receiving corps, Thompson needs to simply manage the game. If he limits his mistakes and keeps his defense out of short-field situations, South Carolina has a chance to separate itself in the East.

More around the SEC
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- At SEC media days, coach Will Muschamp was asked when his Florida Gators hit rock bottom in 2013.

Naturally, it involved an injury.

[+] EnlargeTyler Moore
AP Photo/John RaouxThe Gators lost tackle Tyler Moore for the remainder of the 2013 season after a scooter accident Nov. 5.
"On a Tuesday night, it was about 9:30, 10 at night," he said, recalling the night of Nov. 5. "I'm in the defensive staff room preparing third down for the next day. Our trainer Paul [Silvestri] knocks on the door. I come to the door. He's usually not there at 10 at night.

"What do you want?" Muschamp asked.

"Tyler Moore just wrecked on his scooter and broke his elbow," Silvestri said.

The thought that burst into Muschamp's mind was, "You've got to be kidding."

"I can't tell you exactly what I said, but it wasn't good," Muschamp said. "That was at a point where it was just very frustrating."

The final tally by UF officials was 21 injured players who missed a combined 126 games during the 2013 season. There were 15 season-ending injuries, including 10 to starters.

The Gators lost starting quarterback Jeff Driskel, backup QB Tyler Murphy, starting tailback Matt Jones, defensive tackle Dominique Easley (their best player and most important leader), and most of the starting offensive line.

"It was rough," said right tackle Chaz Green, who missed the entire season with a torn labrum suffered in preseason camp. "I can only say it so many times. It was a rough year just going to practice in the training room and you see half the team in there."

Perhaps it was Moore's scooter accident, but at some point the rash of injuries smothered the team's spirit. It quelled any hopes of pulling out of the tailspin that turned into a season-ending seven-game losing streak.

"I haven't ever faced anything like that," Muschamp said.

No one had. Coaches and players just shook their heads, while Muschamp began an offseason quest for answers.

He spoke to medical experts like famed orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. He gathered UF's training staff and strength staff for a full day in his office.

"Honestly, I'm a football coach," Muschamp said. "I'm not a doctor, and I need to sit down and have someone explain to me why this happened.

"... We looked at a lot of stuff, went back and looked at film, looked at training methods. Are we doing the right thing? Absolutely. It just reaffirmed what we're doing."

One decision for fall camp was to cut down on midday practices on days after a two-a-day.

"I think we only have three or four," Muschamp said. "The midday practice was hard from the standpoint of the heat and also weather. Sometimes you get lightning.

"We're going to practice every morning. When we do have opportunities, per the rules, to have a two-a-day practice, [we'll] go later at night and a little lighter than we had been doing before, so it won't be as taxing for the players."

Just over a week into camp, Florida has avoided the big injury. But everyone seems aware of the threat.

Last Thursday, the Gators' first public practice was marred by an injury to the team's best player -- All-SEC cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III -- that turned out to just be a bone bruise.

"Football is a tough game and injuries happen," Muschamp said the day after Hargreaves' injury sent chills throughout his team and fan base. "We had our share last year. We've just got to move forward."

There's a balancing act going on, as players are obviously conscious of injuries but know they can't let up, either.

"[Being hesitant is] the worst thing to do because generally injuries come when some guy is pulling up," Muschamp said. "I feel like we've addressed that with our team and I feel pretty comfortable where we are."

He's also addressed the scooter issue.

"There's been many a night I've thought about trying to ban them, but I don’t know if that’s the right thing," Muschamp said. "Be smart. Let's be responsible. No texting and scootering at the same time. We do have that rule."

Despite his best intentions, scooters and Gators continue to not mix well.

"Keanu Neal got fortunate," Muschamp said. "He had a tire slip this summer. His girlfriend is a gymnast. ... Nothing happened to her. He messed his finger up. She's a lot better athlete than him. I should have recruited her.

"But no, I haven't made that rule. It’s something we emphasize with our players. We tell them about it. They've got to understand being careful. But they can’t live in a glass bubble. You just can't do that."
You can sign all the four- and five-star recruits in the world, but none of that matters if you're not able to fill your needs. RecruitingNation takes a look at 2015 recruits who most fill the needs of each of the SEC schools.


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SEC morning links

August, 12, 2014
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1. Tennessee needed some good news. And on Saturday, the Vols got some as Alton Howard returned to the football field after being absent from the program for spring practice and the start of fall camp. Now, “The past is the past,” Howard says. Let’s hope so. If Tennessee is going to be competitive this season, it’s going to need Howard to perform. Along with Marquez North and Marlin Lane, you’re looking at a good group of skill players on offense. Whoever starts at QB -- and that person could be named soon -- will need their help, especially when you consider the fact that there are no returning starters on the offensive line.

2. On Monday, Travis Haney gave you his four teams that should be in the top 25 of ESPN's Power Rankings. Among them was Mississippi State and Florida, which got me thinking: If we put them in the top 25, who from the SEC would we boot out? Alabama, Auburn and South Carolina aren't going anywhere. And though I'm not high on Georgia (where's the defense?) and LSU (how much can you really count on freshmen?), I'm not ready to throw them out, either. That, of course, leaves Ole Miss and Texas A&M. The Rebs are solid with good skill players on offense and a defense that goes two deep. Even though their O-line scares me, I wouldn't leave them unranked. I can't say the same for the Aggies. They look like LSU without the defense. I love the young wideouts and running backs, but who starts under center? And until I see a single three-and-out from Mark Snyder's bunch, I'm inclined to think last season wasn't a fluke. Things could change, but for now I'm not sold on the Aggies being ranked in the Top 25.

3. Andy Staples had a good story Monday on finding hidden gems on the recruiting trail. In it, he spotlighted Mississippi State linebacker Bernardrick McKinney. After seeing McKinney in person and talking to defensive coordinator Geoff Collins about him last fall, it's a wonder how anyone ever missed on him. But Staples' story reminded me of a conversation I had with Dan Mullen this spring. The gist of what he said was that not everyone can pretend to be Alabama and Florida -- top-tier programs that plug in five-star prospects with other, younger five-star prospects. "We don't get the pre-made guys," Mullen told me, citing Derrick Henry at Alabama. "We take a guy and develop them." With that, the hope is the cycle of turnover aligns every few years where a large group of upperclassmen are contributing. Mississippi State has that this year with a loaded defense and Dak Prescott under center. The question for teams like State -- programs like Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Kentucky -- is how they develop their young guys now and when their window of opportunity opens up down the road.

More around the SEC

SEC 3,000-yard passers for 2014

August, 11, 2014
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The SEC, a league that has hung its hat on line play and the run game, was loaded with top passers last fall.

Five quarterbacks topped 3,000 passing yards -- Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel (4,114 yards), Ole Miss' Bo Wallace (3,346 yards), LSU's Zach Mettenberger (3,082 yards), Georgia's Aaron Murray (3,075 yards) and Alabama's AJ McCarron (3,063 yards).

Only Wallace returns from that group, leaving the SEC with a handful of inexperienced and unproven quarterbacks. Oh, and defenses should be a lot better in 2014, making things that much tougher.

So how many will hit the 3,000-yard mark in 2014? I'll say four.

Here's my list in order of most likely to get to 3,000 yards:

[+] EnlargeHutson Mason
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsHutson Mason passed for 619 yards in his two starts in 2013.
1. Hutson Mason, Georgia: This is Mason's first year as the starter for the Bulldogs, but he knows the offense inside and out and learned a ton from Murray. Having a solid offensive line and a handful of talented, experienced receivers returning should help Mason light up the skies this fall. Mason threw for 968 yards last year in relief duty and after Murray went down with a season-ending knee injury late in 2013.

2. Wallace, Ole Miss: Quietly, Wallace threw for 3,346 yards during his second season as the Rebels' quarterback. While Wallace has battled with inconsistency and a shoulder injury, he finally is healthy and is working with more confidence and zip on his passes.

3. Jacob Coker, Alabama: No, he hasn't been named Alabama's starter or even taken a real snap for the Crimson Tide, but come on, Coker is going to be the guy. He backed up Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston at Florida State last year and threw for 250 yards on 36 attempts. He doesn't have much experience, but he has receiving threats such as Amari Cooper, Christion Jones, DeAndrew White, Chris Black and O.J. Howard.

4. Dylan Thompson, South Carolina: Another career backup, Thompson has thrown for 1,827 yards in his career. The senior spent plenty of time filling in for Connor Shaw in the past, so he knows his way around the SEC. He isn't a runner like Shaw, but Thompson might be a more polished passer.

5. Maty Mauk, Missouri: He went 3-1 as a starter last year when James Franklin was sidelined and threw for 1,071 yards. Mauk has everything you'd want in a starting quarterback, and he'd be higher on the list if there wasn't some uncertainty at receiver. If his chemistry with his receivers really gets going, watch out.

6. Nick Marshall, Auburn: Much more of a runner last fall, Marshall has been working on his passing. During the Tigers' BCS run, Marshall threw for 1,976 yards in a very run-heavy offense. Expect that number to increase with a more confident Marshall under center and more experience and talent at receiver.

7. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State: He's getting a lot of hype after a season filled with nagging injuries, but when Prescott is healthy, he can be a deadly player. Known for his running skills, Prescott returns the Bulldogs' top five receiving targets from last year. Prescott threw for 1,940 yards in 2013.

8. Jeff Driskel, Florida: You'd think Driskel, the nation's No. 1 quarterback recruit coming out of high school a few years ago, would be higher on this list. But multiple offensive coordinators and a devastating leg injury from last year have Driskel low on the SEC quarterbacks totem pole. However, Kurt Roper's new offense fits Driskel better than any offense he has been in, so he has a chance to surpass his 2,271 career passing yards.

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