Florida Gators: A.J. Johnson

SEC's lunchtime links

March, 12, 2014
Mar 12
12:00
PM ET
Hard-working reporters put in some long hours for the NFL's first day of free agency. It was so packed with news, it was almost like a mini national signing day.

SEC's lunch links

January, 8, 2014
Jan 8
12:00
PM ET
It's Johnny Manziel's big day! Will he or won't he leave Texas A&M to go to the NFL? Start biting those fingernails now.

Our All-SEC second team choices

December, 17, 2013
12/17/13
2:00
PM ET
On Monday, we gave you guys our All-SEC first team. Today, we thought we'd unveil our second team for 2013. There are so many guys in this league who deserve recognition that we just wouldn't feel good about not having another team to give props to during the holiday season:

OFFENSE

QB: AJ McCarron, Alabama
RB: Jeremy Hill, LSU
RB: Mike Davis, South Carolina
WR: Jarvis Landry, LSU
WR: Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri
TE: Hunter Henry, Arkansas
OL: Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt
OL: Justin Britt, Missouri
OL: A.J. Cann, South Carolina
OL: La'el Collins, LSU
C: Reese Dismukes, Auburn
AP: Todd Gurley, Georgia

DEFENSE

DL: Kony Ealy, Missouri
DL: Chris Smith, Arkansas
DL: Ego Ferguson, LSU
DL: Markus Golden, Missouri
LB: A.J. Johnson, Tennessee
LB: Avery Williamson, Kentucky
LB: Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
DB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
DB: Andre Hal, Vanderbilt
DB: Chris Davis, Auburn
DB: Taveze Calhoun, Mississippi State

SPECIAL TEAMS

PK: Colby Delahoussaye, LSU
P: Drew Kaser, Texas A&M
PR: Christion Jones, Alabama
KR: Christion Jones, Alabama

Alabama leads coaches All-SEC team

December, 10, 2013
12/10/13
5:00
PM ET
The SEC coaches have spoken, and Alabama has once again taken over their end-of-the-year All-SEC team.

The Crimson Tide led the rest of the league with nine representatives on the coaches' teams, including an SEC-leading five first-team selections. LSU followed with eight total representatives. Texas A&M had four first-team members, while Auburn and Georgia both had three each.

Twelve of the league's 14 teams had at least one player on the first team, while every team was represented on at least one team. Coaches weren't allowed to vote for their own players.

Here are the coaches' first- and second-team selections:

First team

OFFENSE
QB: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
RB: Tre Mason, Auburn
RB: T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
AP: Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
TE: Arthur Lynch, Georgia
OL: Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
OL: Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
OL: Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
OL: Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt
C: Reese Dismukes, Auburn
WR: Mike Evans, Texas A&M
WR: Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt

DEFENSE
DL: Michael Sam, Missouri
DL: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
DL: Dee Ford, Auburn
DL: Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina
LB: C.J. Mosley, Alabama
LB: Ramik Wilson, Georgia
LB: A.J. Johnson, Tennessee
DB: Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss
DB: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
DB: E.J. Gaines, Missouri
DB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida

SPECIAL TEAMS
K: Marshall Morgan, Georgia
P: Drew Kaser, Texas A&M
RS: Christion Jones, Alabama *
RS: Odell Beckham Jr., LSU *

Second team

OFFENSE
QB: AJ McCarron, Alabama
RB: Mike Davis, South Carolina
RB: Jeremy Hill, LSU
TE: Malcolm Johnson, Mississippi State
OL: La'el Collins, LSU
OL: Antonio Richardson, Tennessee
OL: Justin Britt, Missouri
OL: Anthony Steen, Alabama
C: Travis Swanson, Arkansas
WR: Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
WR: Jarvis Landry, LSU
AP: Marcus Murphy, Missouri

DEFENSE
DL: Anthony Johnson, LSU
DL: Chris Smith, Arkansas
DL: Ed Stinson, Alabama
DL: Trey Flowers, Arkansas
LB: Lamin Barrow, LSU
LB: Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
LB: Avery Williamson, Kentucky
DB: Andre Hal, Vanderbilt
DB: Chris Davis, Auburn
DB: Nickoe Whitley, Mississippi State
DB: Kenny Ladler, Vanderbilt

SPECIAL TEAMS
K: Michael Palardy, Tennessee
P: Cody Mandell, Alabama
RS: Solomon Patton, Florida

-- (*-ties)
Now that our annual preseason countdown of the SEC's best 25 players is complete, I think we can all agree that there were no glaring omissions and that no deserving players were left off the list.

Yeah, right, and Texas A&M will be selling autographed Johnny Manziel jerseys at games this fall.

The truth is that it's impossible to pick just 25 players in the SEC. After all, there were a record-63 players from the SEC taken in the 2013 NFL draft. So, yes, there are plenty of great players in this league who didn't make our list. There were in 2012, and there will be again next season.

There's always a little projection with the preseason list, and when you're doing one of these, it's hard not to give priority to quarterbacks and offensive and defensive linemen. That's why eight of the top 12 spots were occupied by players from those three positions.

Five of the top 11 players were from two-time defending national champion Alabama, which led the way with six players total on the list. Georgia was second with four players, while Florida and Texas A&M each had three. The most popular positions were offensive line -- three tackles (Jake Matthews, Cyrus Kouandjio and Antonio Richardson) and one guard (Gabe Jackson) -- as well as wide receiver (Amari Cooper, Jordan Matthews, Donte Moncrief and Mike Evans).

And as a testament to the younger talent in the league, seven sophomores were selected, and three of those were in the top 10.

There were so many tough decisions on who to leave out, but below are five players who just missed the cut. They're listed alphabetically.

Dante Fowler, Jr., DE/OLB, Florida, So.: The Gators' defensive front should be scary good this season, and Fowler is a big reason why. He's in much better shape than he was a year ago and will be a force getting to the quarterback from his hybrid "Buck" position.

Adrian Hubbard, OLB, Alabama, Jr.: The Crimson Tide want to generate a more consistent pass-rush this season, and Hubbard has all the skills to go from a good player to a great player. He's potentially a 10-sack player if he stays healthy.


A.J. Johnson, LB, Tennessee, Jr.: Johnson led the SEC with 138 total tackles last season and also pulled some double duty as a short-yardage specialist at running back. The challenge for him this season is to make more plays to help get Tennessee off the field on third down.

Denzel Nkemdiche, LB, Ole Miss, So.: There are a pair of Nkemdiches on the Ole Miss campus now, and while everybody in Oxford can't wait to see what kind of impact Robert has in his freshman season, Denzel has already proven that he's a big-time playmaker with 13 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles last season.

Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas, Sr.: One of the premier centers in America, Swanson should be an excellent fit for Bret Bielema's power running game. He's athletic enough to get out and pull, but he also more than holds his own in pass protection.

Ranking the SEC linebackers

July, 9, 2013
7/09/13
4:00
PM ET
Now that you've seen where all the SEC linebacker units rank, let's check to see who the top 10 linebackers entering the 2013 season are.

This had to be one of the toughest lists to come up with, but here goes nothing:

[+] EnlargeC.J. Mosley
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesDespite splitting reps, linebacker C.J. Mosley still managed to top Alabama in tackles last season.
1. C.J. Mosley, Sr., Alabama: Last year, he was considered one of the best linebackers in the country and might have been a first-round draft pick in this year's NFL draft if he had opted to leave school early. The Butkus Award finalist had to share time last year, but still led the Crimson Tide with 107 tackles and was second with four sacks. He should be even better with more time on the field this fall.

2. Jordan Jenkins, So., Georgia: Even though he was a backup last year, Jenkins was second on the team with five sacks and 23 quarterback hurries. Now he's taking over Jarvis Jones' position and has all the skill to be an elite pass-rusher in this league. He learned from one of the best in Jones, but might be even better suited for the position than his predecessor, which has to scare opposing offenses.

3. A.J. Johnson, Jr., Tennessee: Johnson was one of the hardest working linebackers in the league last year, leading the SEC with 138 total tackles. Sixty-three of those tackles were solo stops. The change to the traditional 4-3 scheme should help him, but Johnson also looked to become even more focused this spring. Johnson's next step is becoming a real field leader for this team.

4. Adrian Hubbard, Jr., Alabama: Nick Saban wants his front seven to get to the quarterback more, and Hubbard is expected to be even better at that this fall. He led the Tide with seven sacks last year and 11 tackles for loss. Hubbard and his coaches want more. Hubbard has great speed off the edge and can make plays all over the field. A big year could push himself into position to be a top draft prospect at his position.

5. Lamin Barrow, Sr., LSU: Kevin Minter might have been the star of LSU's defense last year, but Barrow was extremely productive with his 104 tackles, including 52 solo stops. He also had 7.5 tackles for loss, broke up five passes and recovered two fumbles. Barrow is the quarterback of LSU's defense and shouldn't have any problem dealing with more responsibility now that Minter is gone.

6. Antonio Morrison, So., Florida: Morrison served as a backup for the Gators last year, but started three games and registered 34 tackles and a sack. The coaches are expecting even more from the rangy and hard-hitting stud, as he moves to middle linebacker. He'll now be relied upon to be the quarterback and captain of this defense, meaning he still has a lot of growing to do, which showed after his offseason arrest.

7. Benardrick McKinney, So., Mississippi State: Quietly, McKinney had a very impressive year with the Bulldogs last year. He was eighth in the SEC with 102 tackles. He also registered 45 solo tackles and had 10 or more tackles in four games last year. He's the anchor of Mississippi State's linebacking corps and should catch the attention of a lot more people this fall.

8. Denzel Nkemdiche, So., Ole Miss: He was one of the biggest surprises around last year and earned second-team All-SEC honors after leading Ole Miss in tackles (82), tackles for loss (13) and forced fumbles (four). He also tied for the team lead in interceptions (three). Nkemdiche isn't the biggest player, but he can play all the linebacker positions and has the athleticism and speed to cover a ton of ground on the defensive side of the ball.

9. Ronald Powell, Jr., Florida: He missed all of last season after suffering two ACL injuries, but the word out of Gainesville is that he'll be fully ready to go when fall starts. His dedication to rehab and his humbled approach have his coaches and teammates excited about his 2013 season. He was playing his best ball before he was hurt last spring and if that Powell shows up this fall, he should be one of the top pass-rushers in the SEC.

10. Kwon Alexander, So., LSU: A broken ankle cut Alexander's freshman year short, but the coaches are very, very excited about his potential. He doesn't have a lot of stats to live off of, but he might be the most physically gifted linebacker in LSU's stable. He covers a lot of ground and should be a big-time playmaker for the Tigers.
In order to make a stand in the SEC, you have to have a strong front seven. It starts with a stout defensive line, but don't forget about those cats behind that front line.

Linebackers need love, too:

1. Alabama: For starters, "Linebacker U" will enter the 2013 season with three linebackers -- C.J. Mosley, Adrian Hubbard and Trey DePriest -- who started 10 or more games last season. Then there's Xzavier Dickson, who started seven games at the rush-end "Jack" position. All four played in every game last year, making play after play. Mosley was considered one of the nation's best linebackers and could have opted for the NFL early. He'll get even more time with Nico Johnson gone. Hubbard is the team's top pass-rusher, DePriest has transformed into a top linebacker prospect in next year's NFL draft and Dickson is versatile enough to play linebacker and on the line. There is also a ton of young talent to watch, starting with sophomore Denzel Devall, who could really break out.

[+] EnlargeLamin Barrow
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesLamin Barrow should replace some of the production the Tigers lost when Kevin Minter moved on to the NFL.
2. LSU: Kevin Minter might be gone, but the Tigers still have some quality players roaming around the position. Lamin Barrow will anchor the group and is coming off a season in which he registered 104 tackles, including 52 solo stops. He's getting a ton of NFL love and will get help from very talented sophomore Kwon Alexander, who only played seven games, but would have seen plenty more action if hadn't suffered a broken ankle midseason. Alexander could be primed for a huge season and might be the team's best linebacker. Senior Tahj Jones only played in one game last year because of academic issues, but he'll have every chance to start outside. Sophomores Deion Jones, Lamar Louis and Ronnie Feist all saw good time last year and will be in the rotation along with incoming freshman Kendell Beckwith, who could immediately push for a starting spot.

3. Ole Miss: The Rebels work in that 4-2-5 defense, but have a lot of talent at linebacker, starting with big-hitting senior captain Mike Marry, who has 22 career starts and finished last season with 78 tackles with 10.5 for loss. The pleasant surprise from this group last year was Denzel Nkemdiche, who was a second-team All-SEC member as a freshman after leading Ole Miss in tackles (82), tackles for loss (13) and forced fumbles (four). The thing that makes Nkemdiche so valuable is that he knows all of the linebacker positions and covers a ton of ground with his speed. Long-time Rebel D.T. Shackelford is back after two knee surgeries, but had a very good spring and should provide quality depth and excellent leadership. Then you have talented reserve Serderius Bryant, who could start at a lot of schools. Don't forget about the hybrid "Husky" position that will feature top recruit Antonio Conner.

4. Tennessee: The Vols bring back the league's top tackler in A.J. Johnson and excellent pass-rusher Curt Maggitt, who had his 2012 season shortened because of injury. He should be back to full health this fall, but could move to defensive end. Johnson has a chance to play his way into the first round of next year's NFL draft. Senior Dontavis Sapp doesn't have a ton of experience, but was a star this spring and has the ability to play any of the linebacker spots. Four senior backups return and have combined to play in nearly 140 games. The only problem is that they've also combined for just one start. Senior Brent Brewer also moved from safety to linebacker to give the Vols a lot of speed on the outside.

5. Florida: The Gators lost two valuable players in Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins, but they still have a ton of young talent to work with, starting with Antonio Morrison. He ran into legal trouble this summer, but he has a chance to be an All-SEC player after moving from outside to middle linebacker. Dante Fowler Jr. and Ronald Powell will rotate at the hybrid defensive end/linebacker "Buck" position, but Powell could see more time at strongside linebacker. If he's healthy after his two ACL injuries, he could be an elite pass-rusher. Hard-hitting and dependable Michael Taylor left spring as the starting weakside linebacker, while freshman Daniel McMillian had an outstanding spring at the Will position. Fellow freshman Alex Anzalone was a top recruit in the 2013 class and should vie for plenty of time, while vets Darrin Kitchens and Neiron Ball will push for starting spots.

6. Vanderbilt: This was supposed to be a concern for the Commodores last year, but it ended up being a strength. Do-everything leader Chase Garnham is back, along with his 43 solo tackles, seven sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. He's the heart of the defense. Hybrid linebacker/safety (Star) Karl Butler returns and should continue to put a lot of heat on opposing backfields. He registered 11.5 tackles for loss last season. Sophomore Darreon Herring has to replace the very reliable Archibald Barnes, but saw plenty of time last year as the Commodores' top reserve at linebacker. Sophomores Larry Franklin and Jake Sealand provide good depth after seeing significant time last year.

[+] EnlargeBenardrick McKinney
AP Photo/Don Juan MooreBenardrick McKinney was named to the Freshman All-SEC Team following last season.
7. Mississippi State: Starters Benardrick McKinney (102 tackles) and Deontae Skinner (62 tackles) return, giving Mississippi State a very sound foundation to work with. McKinney was quietly one of the league's top linebackers last year and could be even better this fall. Veteran Ferlando Bohanna, who has tremendous speed, will provide good depth, and the staff is excited about the versatility junior Matt Wells has. Losing Chris Hughes this summer hurts, but the Bulldogs will be able to cover a lot of ground with this group of rangy, athletic linebackers.

8. Georgia: Like every defensive position, the Bulldogs lost a lot at linebacker, but there is some promising young talent that should get better as the season goes on. Everything revolves around sophomore Jordan Jenkins, who could end up being an elite pass-rusher after learning under Jarvis Jones last season. Jenkins was second on the team in sacks last season with five and should be even more disruptive in Jones' old spot. Junior Amarlo Herrera started nine games and will be the captain of the unit inside. Junior Ramik Wilson had a very good spring and has found his spot inside, while sophomore Josh Harvey-Clemons will play some linebacker when he isn't at safety and has a chance to be a star. Sophomore James DeLoach also had a very good spring outside. Freshmen Reggie Carter and Ryne Rankin will also have ample opportunities for good playing time this fall.

9. Kentucky: Having Alvin "Bud" Dupree moving to defensive end hurts, but the Wildcats still have two solid options returning in Avery Williamson and youngster Khalid Henderson, who has playmaker written all over him. Williamson enters his senior season with 194 career tackles. Finding someone to take the other linebacker spot is the goal of fall camp. Miles Simpson started 11 games and had 70 tackles last year, but has to be more consistent. Junior Kory Brown and sophomore Josh Forrest will compete for that spot too and might be more athletic, but they lack experience. Malcolm McDuffen still hasn't reached his potential and Demarius Rancifer has decided to transfer.

10. Texas A&M: The Aggies lost starters Jonathan Stewart and Sean Porter and are now surrounded by youth. Veteran Steven Jenkins is back, but he missed spring practice due to offseason shoulder surgery. He had time to work with junior college transfer Tommy Sanders, which will help a lot this fall, as he vies for a starting spot outside. The Aggies will have to rely on youngsters at linebacker, but junior Donnie Baggs looks like he'll start at middle linebacker. But after that it's all about newcomers, including new linebackers coach Mark Hagen. Freshmen Reggie Chevis and Brett Wade both went through spring practice, which helps, but expect growing pains from this unit.

11. Missouri: The Tigers are fortunate to have senior Andrew Wilson and his 23 career starts back, but there isn't a lot of experience beyond that. Wilson has also led the Tigers in tackles in back-to-back seasons (79 last year). Donovan Bonner, a senior, and Kentrell Brothers showed flashes this spring, but both have to be more consistent. The same goes for Darvin Ruise, who entered the spring as a starter and played primarily on special teams last year. Keep an eye on freshman Michael Scherer, who has the talent to be a stud. There is athleticism here, but tackling was a major issue with this unit last year.

12. Arkansas: The Razorbacks return veterans A.J. Turner and Otha Peters, but the best overall player at this position might be junior college transfer Martrell Spaight. That could be both good and bad, but the fact of the matter is that Turner and Peters have to improve and get over their injuries from the spring if they want starting jobs this fall. Senior Jarrett Lake had a good spring and could be the leader here. Freshman Brooks Ellis could make an immediate impact too. Experience is a bigger issue than talent with this unit. Also, the staff could spend the preseason moving everyone around.

13. Auburn: This unit really struggled last year with getting lined up right and making tackles. There should be improvement with Ellis Johnson taking over the defense, but players need to get better. Star hybrid Justin Garrett had a great spring and could be primed for a breakout year. He can play in the box and cover, so he'll really help this unit. The good news is that Johnson needs just two linebackers for his 4-2-5 scheme. But those players have to perform. Sophomore Kris Frost made strides this spring and Jake Holland is experienced, while Cassanova McKinzy and JaViere Mitchell should vie for the other linebacker spot.

14. South Carolina: The Gamecocks lost their entire two-deep at linebacker and had to move tight end Kelvin Rainey to linebacker to help with depth. There are a lot of bodies, but the experience is really lacking. Sophomore Kaiwan Lewis made strides this spring at middle linebacker, while junior Sharrod Golightly left spring with the edge at the hybrid Spur position. Freshmen T.J. Holloman and Jordan Diggs will compete for time this spring, but, again, they have no experience. Sophomore Cedrick Cooper missed spring while recovering from knee surgery, but should start at weakside linebacker.
It’s Rankings Week at GatorNation. Every day we’ll rank some aspect of the Florida football program heading into the 2013 season. Today we’re ranking the top 10 defensive players the Gators will face this season. On Thursday we’ll rank the top 10 UF freshmen that have the chance of making the biggest impact in the fall.

Ranking the defensive players

1. DE Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina): Clowney (6-feet-6, 256 pounds) is arguably the best player in the country and is even mentioned as a Heisman Trophy favorite as a defender. He had a mammoth sophomore season in which he was second in the SEC in sacks in 2012 (13.0). Clowney can’t be handled one-on-one because he’s so athletic and quick, but even with help he’s nearly impossible to stop.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Film study: Gators vs. Tennessee 

September, 16, 2012
9/16/12
3:00
PM ET
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Here’s an analysis of three key plays in Florida’s 37-20 victory over Tennessee on Saturday.

Trey Burton’s 80-yard TD

video
The score: Tennessee leading 20-13 with 3:27 remaining in the third quarter.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Now that we've ranked the SEC's linebacker groups, it's time to take a look at the league's top linebackers.

Past rankings:
Here are our top SEC linebackers:

1. Jarvis Jones, Jr., Georgia: Talk about an SEC debut. Jones jumped right into his first year of football with the Bulldogs by leading the SEC with 19.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. He possess one of the nation's fastest first steps, has thirst for ruining quarterbacks' days and has the ability to move all around the field to make plays.

(Read full post)

There won’t be any shortage of outstanding linebackers in the SEC this season, and a few of the teams are absolutely loaded.

In this era of hybrid roles, sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish whether somebody is a defensive end or an outside linebacker. The same goes for that outside linebacker/safety position we’re seeing so much of these days.

[+] EnlargeNico Johnson
Kelly Lambert/US PresswireSenior Nico Johnson will lead a strong group of linebackers at Alabama this season.
Here’s a look at how we would rank the linebacker units in the SEC heading into the 2012 season. It’s clearly a position of strength, which means even those teams ranking in the bottom half of the league are plenty stout:

1. Georgia: It starts with senior outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who led the SEC in sacks (13.5) and tackles for loss (19.5) last season. Junior Alec Ogletree is just as disruptive on the inside, and the Bulldogs have quality depth inside with seniors Michael Gilliard and Christian Robinson. Senior Cornelius Washington could end up playing some at both end and outside linebacker.

2. Alabama: Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw are both gone, but senior Nico Johnson and junior C.J. Mosley return as two of the top linebackers in the SEC. Mosley might be the best coverage linebacker in the league. The Crimson Tide have also recruited like mad, and younger players such as sophomore Jack linebacker Adrian Hubbard are ready to make their move.

3. Florida: Senior Jon Bostic and junior Jelani Jenkins are back to form the nucleus of a Florida defense that should again be one of the top units in the league. They racked up a combined 169 tackles last season. Senior Lerentee McCray missed time with a shoulder injury last season. With Ronald Powell recovering from an ACL tear, McCray factors in at the hybrid Buck position on the outside.

(Read full post)

The 2012 Butkus Award watch list includes 15 SEC linebackers.

The Butkus Award honors the top linebacker in college football annually. The last SEC player to win the Butkus Award was Alabama's Rolando McClain in 2009.

Here's a look at the SEC linebackers on this year's watch list:

(Read full post)

ESPN’s GatorNation brings you the 30 things you need to know about Florida’s upcoming 2012 season. For 30 weekdays we’ll preview games, talk about trends, spotlight players and positions, and give you pretty much everything you need to know to be ready for the season before the Sept. 1 opener against Bowling Green.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- GatorNation is previewing each of Florida’s 2012 opponents. Today is Tennessee (Sept. 15 in Knoxville, Tenn.).

[+] EnlargeJon Halapio
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackFlorida guard Jon Halapio sets to block Tennessee's Malik Jackson during last year's game in Gainesville, Fla.
TENNESSEE

2011 record: 5-7 (1-7 SEC).

Coach: Derek Dooley, third season (11-14); sixth season overall (28-34).

Series record: Florida leads 22-19.

Top returners: QB Tyler Bray (1,983 yards, 17 TDs, 6 INTs); WR Da’Rick Rogers (67 catches, 1,040 yards, 9 TDs); LB Curt Maggitt (56 tackles); LB A.J. Johnson (80 tackles).

Did you know? Tennessee’s loss to Kentucky last season was its first to the Wildcats since 1984.

(Read full post)

Top surprises in the Eastern Division

December, 22, 2011
12/22/11
3:00
PM ET
Now that you've seen our SEC West surprises from the 2011 season, it's time to take a look at the surprises in the SEC East:

FLORIDA

The offense didn't take a step forward: Even though quarterback John Brantley appeared better suited for Charlie Weis' pro-style offense, the Gators didn't look much better after last year's ugly offensive output. Things looked better during the first four weeks, but the more SEC defenses the Gators saw, the worse they got. A complete turnaround wasn't expected, but improvement was and Florida just didn't have it.

Weis leaving for Kansas: Staying with the offensive theme, Florida received quite the surprise when Weis left Florida to take over as Kansas' head coach. People around the program were pretty surprised when they received the news, but it seemed especially odd considering how outspoken he was about staying at Florida for the long haul.

(Read full post)

Did you know? Week 10

November, 4, 2011
11/04/11
8:00
AM ET
Some notes about the SEC that you might not have known heading into Week 10:
  • This season, the SEC has had eight teams ranked in the AP top-25 poll a total of 59 times after the first 10 weeks — above the league's average for the past five seasons.
  • Using the latest published depth charts from the 12 SEC teams, South Carolina has the youngest offensive starting lineup and the most experienced defensive starting lineup in the league.
  • Using a numerical formula of 1 point for freshmen, 2 points for sophomores, 3 points for juniors and 4 points for freshman, the Gamecocks average 2.33 on offense and 3.45 on defense.
  • The most experienced offense is Kentucky at 3.25, the least experienced defense Florida at 2.36.
  • On defense, there are just eight freshman starters in the SEC, three of them at Tennessee. On offense, South Carolina starts four freshmen and Ole Miss three.
  • Mississippi State starts six seniors on offense, followed by Alabama, Kentucky and LSU with five each. On defense, Arkansas, Kentucky and South Carolina start five freshmen each.
  • Alabama has started slowly in the first quarter this season, but has quickly turned things around and finished strong. The Crimson Tide have outscored its opponents 243-25 in the final three quarters of games this season after holding just a 72-30 edge in the first quarter. The disparity has grown even wider over the past six games, when Alabama owns a 44-27 scoring edge in the first quarter and a 196-10 edge in the final three quarters. Alabama has outscored its opposition in the second half of the past six games by a score of 142-7, but has not allowed a second-half point in the past four. Arkansas, in Week 4, was the last team to score against Alabama after halftime.
  • Arkansas has won five consecutive games against opponents from the SEC Eastern Division, the longest winning streak against Eastern Division foes in school history and the third-longest current interdivision win streak in the SEC. Arkansas’ previous record for consecutive games won against the Eastern Division was three (1992-93 and 2006). Arkansas is off to its best start under Bobby Petrino and is 7-1 for just the third time since joining the SEC in 1992.
  • With its victory over Ole Miss, Auburn has extended its Jordan-Hare Stadium winning streak to 13 games, its longest at home since winning 13 in a row from 1993-94. It is tied for the sixth-longest home winning streak in school history. The Tigers are 25-4 in night games (5 p.m. or later) at Jordan-Hare dating back to the 2000 season.
  • Florida quarterback John Brantley returned from injury to start last week against Georgia, throwing for 245 yards and a touchdown. He averaged 20.4 yards per completion, the highest of his career as a starting quarterback. The mark is the highest in the SEC and eighth-best in the country this season for quarterbacks with a minimum of 10 completions). In his career, the fifth-year senior has completed 332 of 541 passes (61.4 percent) for 3,893 yards and 25 touchdowns, with 14 interceptions and a passer rating of 131.9.
  • Georgia senior Brandon Boykin and junior Branden Smith are seeing action on defense, offense and special teams this season. Boykin has four career kickoff returns for touchdowns, and against No. 5 Boise State, he had an 80-yard rushing touchdowns on his first career carry. He had a school-record seven kickoff returns and tallied 198 all-purpose yards against No. 12 South Carolina. Smith and Boykin split time as punt returners while Boykin is one of the top kickoff returners in the nation.
  • Kentucky seniors Danny Trevathan and Winston Guy are the SEC’s top two tacklers. Trevathan charted a career-high-tying 17 tackles last weekend and is now the league’s top tackler with 94 to Guy 's 83. The duo are tied for fifth and 16th, respectively, in the nation with 11.75 and 10.38 tackles per game.
  • LSU went the entire month of October without a turnover. The Tigers have turned the ball over just three times this season (two fumbles, one interception), with their most recent turnover coming in the fourth quarter against Mississippi State in Week 3. LSU has gone 336 offensive snaps, 59 possessions and 174 minutes and 52 seconds of possession time since its last turnover. LSU has given up just 41 points in the first five SEC games, the fewest since 1985, when the Tigers also allowed 41 points in their first five league games. LSU has won 17 consecutive games when winning the turnover battle. Under Les Miles, LSU is 33-4 when forcing more turnovers than it gives up.
  • Six true freshmen and three redshirt freshmen have started for Ole Miss this season. True freshmen have made a combined 18 starts, while redshirt freshmen have made a combined 10. Freshman wide receiver Donte Moncrief is tied for fifth in the nation among true freshmen with four touchdown receptions.
  • Mississippi State has won nine consecutive non-conference games dating back to head coach Dan Mullen’s first season in 2009. Mullen’s teams have posted a 10-2 non-conference mark, with a pair of losses in 2009 to nationally ranked Georgia Tech and a Houston team that received votes in both polls the week of the game. The Bulldogs’ 10 consecutive out-of-league wins marks the longest such streak since an 11-game run from 1989-91.
  • Junior wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (167 receptions for 2,748 yards) needs just 33 yards to match Kenny McKinley (2,781) as South Carolina’s all-time leader in receiving yards. He needs three catches to pass Sterling Sharpe (169) for second all-time in career receptions. He also needs three touchdown catches to tie Sidney Rice on the school’s all-time list for touchdown receptions at 23. Jeffery is also tied for first at South Carolina with 11 100-yard receiving games and is sixth in school history with 16.5 yards per reception.
  • Three of Tennessee’s six leading tacklers are freshmen in A.J. Johnson (1st with 57), Curt Maggitt (fourth with 34) and Brian Randolph (sixth with 31), making the Vols the only team in the country with freshmen as three of its top six tacklers. Tennessee is the only team in the country with two true freshmen among its top four tacklers. In fact, there are only a pair of schools – Miami (Fla.) and Army – that even have two in their top six.
  • Vanderbilt’s Casey Hayward knocked down six Arkansas passes last weekend – tied for most in any one game in the country this season with Duke’s Matt Daniels, who did it against Richmond. Hayward was named this week as one of 15 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation’s top defensive back. Hayward is tied for fourth nationally with five interceptions and is the SEC active leader in career picks with 13.
  • Mississippi State is 27-16 against non-conference foes since 2000 and has a nine-game win streak against out-of-SEC competition.
  • South Carolina and Arkansas are 1-2 in the SEC in non-offensive touchdowns scored this season. Carolina has five (four defense/one punt return) while Arkansas has four (one defense/one kickoff return/two punt return) and tied with LSU and Vanderbilt.
  • Florida leads the SEC with 291-game scoring streak. The last time Florida was shut out was Oct. 29, 1988, when it lost 16-0 to Auburn.
  • South Carolina is 3-0 in SEC road games this season. The Gamecocks have never gone 4-0.
  • Vanderbilt’s scoring drives average 6.77 plays, fewest in the SEC.
  • South Carolina is 21-37 against the Western Division and Arkansas is 24-34 against the Eastern Division. Arkansas has won five in a row against the Eastern Division.
  • Ole Miss’ Brandon Bolden is the SEC’s second active leading rusher with 2,426 yards, trailing active leader Trent Richardson of Alabama by only 14 yards (2,440).
  • Georgia leads SEC with 21 scoring drives of less than two minutes.
  • South Carolina is second in the SEC in holding opponents to three-downs-and-out at 42.5 percent (45 of 106).
  • Georgia sophomore QB Aaron Murray is already SEC’s leading active player in total offensive yards (5,077), completions (344), TD responsibility (48), TD passe (42) and passing yards (4,871).
  • Tennessee is one of four SEC teams not to allow a non-offensive touchdown this season (Alabama, LSU and South Carolina).
  • Georgia has scored first in seven of its eight games this season, second in the league to LSU, which has scored first in all eight.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Scene and Heard: Top 10 Predictions
In a conversation with ESPN's Antonietta Collins, national recruiting reporter Gerry Hamilton breaks down the recruiting momentum building at Auburn and offers predictions for where the top 10 recruits will commit.Tags: Trenton Thompson, Kerryon Johnson, Jeffery Holland, Martez Ivey, Torrance Gibson, Cece Jefferson, ESPN 300, RecruitingNation, high school football recruiting, Gerry Hamilton
VIDEO PLAYLIST video