Florida Gators: Devin Taylor

Ranking the SEC's bowls

December, 13, 2012
12/13/12
3:00
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The bowl season is getting closer and closer, and as we all prepare for what truly is the most wonderful time of year, it's time to rank the nine bowl games that involve SEC teams.

This month, ESPN colleague Mark Schlabach took the time to rank all 35 bowl games. We only have nine to discuss here, but some are very intriguing matchups.

Here's how the SEC's slate of bowls ranks from top to bottom:

[+] EnlargeAJ McCarron
Matthew Stockman/Getty ImagesAJ McCarron and Alabama are one win away from another national title.
1. Discover BCS National Championship: No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Alabama (Jan. 7: ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET, Sun Life Stadium, Miami) -- Two quintessential blue-collar football teams will smash into each other for the national championship. This game also features two of the most respected/hated football programs of all-time. People from all over will be disgusted with themselves for having to root for either squad in a game where some big hits and bruises will be given out.

2. AT&T Cotton Bowl: No. 9 Texas A&M vs. No. 11 Oklahoma (Jan. 4: Fox, 8 p.m. ET, Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas) -- The scoreboard inside Jerry's World better have brand new bulbs, because there are going to be a lot of points in this one. The Aggies will be without offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, who accepted the head-coaching job at Texas Tech, but Heisman winner Johnny Manziel and his group of playmakers will be ready -- and rested. Both teams are averaging more than 500 yards and 40 points a game.

3. Chick-fil-A Bowl: No. 8 LSU vs. No. 14 Clemson (Dec. 31: ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET, Georgia Dome, Atlanta) -- One stout defense takes on one of the nation's flashiest offenses. The only thing is that LSU currently has some real bite on offense, so that Clemson defense better make adjustments after giving up 444 yards and 27 points in a home loss to South Carolina. Oh, and if Tajh Boyd thought Jadeveon Clowney was a handful, he now has to face Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo coming at him from the outside.

4. Allstate Sugar Bowl: No. 21 Louisville vs. No. 3 Florida (Jan. 2: ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET, Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans) -- Some people are turning their noses up at this game, but there are a lot of fun storylines. This is a huge bowl for the Cardinals, and coach Charlie Strong was once the Gators' defensive coordinator. Teddy Bridgewater was also recruited by Florida. We've also learned that Florida's offense can be pretty tough when healthy, and a month off should have the Gators in proper form.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida moved a step closer to an SEC East championship by routing South Carolina and former coach Steve Spurrier on Saturday. The Gators didn’t look impressive on offense but -- as usual -- made some adjustments at halftime and were better in the second half.

Here are the good and the bad from the 44-11 victory at Florida Field, which marked the first time the Gators have beaten former coach Steve Spurrier without Tim Tebow on the roster:

THREE UP

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No. 7 South Carolina (6-1, 4-1 SEC) at No. 2 Florida (6-0, 5-0 SEC)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Florida Field, Gainesville, Fla.
CBS

Three storylines

1. Division race: This game won’t officially decide the Eastern Division championship, but it will give the winner the inside track. If the Gators win, all they would have to do is beat Georgia on Oct. 27 to win the title. If South Carolina wins, the Gamecocks would have the tiebreaker over Florida and Georgia. They still have games against Arkansas and Tennessee remaining, and the Gators would need to win out and have South Carolina and Georgia lose another game to win the title.

2. M.A.S.H units: Both teams have been ravaged by injuries and the flu. South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore has a bruised hip and coach Steve Spurrier said he may not start. Plus, DT Kelcy Quarles is doubtful because of a shoulder injury and DE Jadeveon Clowney is bothered by a foot injury. Several other Gamecocks are banged up, too. There’s also been a flu bug that has run through the team this week, and it caused WRs Ace Sanders and Bruce Ellington to miss practice. Florida has five starters recovering from injuries: G James Wilson (eye), C Jonotthan Harrison (arm), LT Xavier Nixon (upper body), DE Dominique Easley (knee) and LB Jelani Jenkins (hamstring). UF coach Will Muschamp said all should play against the Gamecocks, but he has been vague about injuries before. If UF’s players do return, that will give the Gators the advantage.

[+] EnlargeConnor Shaw
Daniel Shirey/US PresswireSouth Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw might not have the track speed of Florida counterpart Jeff Driskel, but he's got a better track record as a passer.
3. Make plays in the passing game: Going on the assumption that Sanders and Ellington have recovered from the flu, this is an area which clearly favors South Carolina. Sanders and Ellington both have 17 catches, but Ellington is the big-play receiver. Sanders averages 9.4 yards per catch while Ellington averages 15.6. Connor Shaw is a dual-threat quarterback -- as is UF’s Jeff Driskel -- but Shaw is a more accomplished passer and is completing 69.4 percent of his passes for 910 yards and 10 TDs with four interceptions. UF is last in the SEC in passing (145.0 yards per game). UF’s biggest weapon in the passing game is TE Jordan Reed (21 catches, 237 yards, one TD), but the WRs have struggled to get separation and to consistently make plays. Frankie Hammond (11 catches) has two catch-and-run TDs of 50 yards or longer, but he’s also got four drops. UF’s wide receivers have a combined 30 catches.

Gators to watch

RB Mike Gillislee: He didn’t put up great numbers against Vanderbilt (67 yards on 17 carries) but he did shred LSU’s defense for 146 yards. He’ll need to have similar success against the Gamecocks.

LB Jon Bostic: Bostic has benefitted from the new strength program as much as anyone. He’s more physical than he was last season and he’s able to shed blocks easier. His play will be key to the Gators’ effort to limit Lattimore.

RB Omarius Hines: It seems like every time Hines touches the ball, good things happen (except, of course, for his fumble against Bowling Green). The Gators are in need of playmakers in the passing game, and Hines should get a few chances on Saturday.

Gamecocks to watch

DE Devin Taylor: Clowney gets all the publicity, but Taylor is a dangerous pass rusher as well. Though he only has 1.5 sacks this season, he has 17.0 in his career. If the Gators pay too much attention to Clowney, Taylor could hurt them.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- No. 2 Florida plays host to No. 7 South Carolina on Saturday with first place in the SEC's Eastern Division on the line. While this game won’t clinch the title, a victory for the Gamecocks (6-1, 4-1) would give them the tiebreaker over the Gators (6-0, 5-0) and Georgia (5-1, 3-1).

Here's five storylines for the game:

[+] EnlargeSouth Carolina's Marcus Lattimore
AP Photo/John AmisSouth Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore has 584 yards and 10 touchdowns in seven games this season.
1. Running game is key: Both teams are built on the running game and both have very good workhorse backs. South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore likely would already have more than 3,000 career yards had he not missed five games in 2011 with an ACL injury. But the 6-foot-2, 218-pound junior seems to have recovered well and has run for 584 yards and 10 TDs this season. He’s a physical runner who moves the pile and doesn’t get stopped behind the line of scrimmage. UF’s Mike Gillislee was a role player his first three seasons but has been fantastic as the Gators’ top tailback this season (615 yards, 7 TDs). The 5-11, 209-pound senior is also a physical, between-the-tackles runner, but he’s also got breakaway speed and a surprising amount of wiggle. Both of them will be fed the ball a lot on Saturday and limiting their impact on the game will be top task for each defense.

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SEC power rankings: Week 1

August, 27, 2012
8/27/12
11:00
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Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

We are just days away from the college football season, so it's time to unveil our first batch of power rankings for the regular season.

A lot goes into our power rankings. It isn't just about how strong teams are right now. We look into our crystal ball as well to get a good read on how each team will finish the season -- before it has even started.

For each school, we look at talent coming back, coaching, roster changes, how teams have looked in practice now compared to the spring and uniform style. Well, maybe not that last part, but you get the point.

Here are our season-opening SEC power rankings for 2012:

1. LSU: The gap between the Tigers and Alabama got a lot smaller after Tyrann Mathieu's dismissal, so this could be viewed as 1A and 1B. Mathieu is a big loss for LSU on defense and special teams, but there is just way too much talent for this team not to make another title run. LSU's offense still has one of the best/deepest running games around and gets an upgrade with quarterback Zach Mettenberger. LSU also might have the best offensive line/defensive line combo in the nation.

2. Alabama: The defending champs lost a lot of star power on defense, but that unit should still be pretty darn good this fall. There could be some growing pains at times, but the Tide should still have one of the league's best defensive units this fall. The offense might be better and more balanced this fall, even without Trent Richardson. There is a good stable of backs, the nation's top offensive line and quarterback AJ McCarron has a little more explosiveness and athleticism to work with at receiver.

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Two pairs of teammates highlight the nine SEC players named to the preseason watch list for the 2012 Ted Hendricks Award, which is presented annually to the top defensive end in college football.

South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney, a sophomore, and Devin Taylor, a senior, are on the list along with LSU's Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, both juniors.

Other SEC defensive ends making the 40-player list were Florida's Dominique Easley, Auburn's Corey Lemonier, Missouri's Brad Madison, Texas A&M's Damontre Moore and Georgia's Abry Jones.
We’ve already gone through the different position groups on offense in SEC.

Now, it’s on to the side of the ball this league is known for -- defense.

More specifically, we examine the top defensive lines, and there are at least five or six in the SEC that would rank among the best in the country.

In fact, defensive line play is one of the things that has separated the SEC from everybody else over the years.

Here’s how we would rank the defensive lines going into the 2012 season:

1. LSU: All you really need to know about the Tigers’ defensive line is that they have three players -- ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo and tackle Bennie Logan -- who may go in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft. Look for sophomore tackle Anthony Johnson to also become an every-down force this season, and sophomore Ego Ferguson could also make his move. LSU is swimming in talent and depth up front.

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The SEC has a nation-leading 19 players on the 2012 preseason watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which is awarded annually to the nation's best defensive player. Alabama leads the SEC with five players on the list, while LSU is second with four.

Here are all 19 SEC players on the Nagurski Trophy list:

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SEC post-spring power rankings

May, 18, 2012
5/18/12
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We're putting spring behind us and looking toward the fall with our post-spring power rankings:

1. LSU: The Tigers had one of the best springs around. Things were quiet off the field, and the offense rallied behind quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Coach Les Miles was very impressed with Mettenberger's play and maturity, and expects LSU's offense to be more balanced with him under center. LSU can still use four or five running backs, as well. Defensively, the Tigers are stacked once again, especially up front with two potential first-rounders in ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo. Questions surround the inexperienced linebackers, but Kevin Minter had a tremendous spring in the middle. On paper, LSU is equipped with the talent to make another title run, and gets Alabama at home this year.

2. Alabama: While the defending national champs saw a lot of "new" faces on defense this spring, coach Nick Saban left happy with where his players were -- but not satisfied. There is still work to be done, especially in the secondary, where the Tide must replace three starters. Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw are gone at linebacker, but the coaches were impressed with how Nico Johnson, C.J. Mosley and Adrian Hubbard played this spring. Some think Hubbard, a redshirt sophomore, could be Bama's top pass-rusher. Offensively, quarterback AJ McCarron is back, more mature and surrounded by a very veteran line. He has a group of younger receivers to throw to, but has at least four quality running backs. Alabama's road to repeating is tougher, with games at Arkansas and LSU.

3. South Carolina: A healthy Marcus Lattimore (knee) at RB makes South Carolina an even better contender for the SEC East crown. His status is uncertain, but the pieces around him are pretty impressive. Quarterback Connor Shaw had an impressive spring, and looks ready to be the passer coach Steve Spurrier wants him to be. The defense is once again stacked, especially up front with ends Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor. There are questions in the secondary, with two new, young starters in Victor Hampton (cornerback) and Brison Williams (safety), while senior Akeem Auguste returns after missing last season with a foot injury. Still, Spurrier is chirping about his SEC counterparts, so you know he thinks he's got a good team this year.

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Now that you've seen the recruiting needs for the SEC Western Division teams, it's time to check what teams in the East needed to focus on when it came to recruiting for the 2012 class:

FLORIDA

Offensive line: There's no getting around how much Florida's offensive line struggled in 2011. Florida doesn't lose a lot from its line, but the Gators need more talent. There are a lot of questions surrounding this position and getting qualities bodies is a must.

Running back: Florida loses seniors Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, and will enter the fall with unproven players in Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown. As Florida continues to move closer to a more traditional/pro-style offense, the Gators also need to add size to the position.

Wide receiver: Again, this is a position in which the Gators need to improve in the talent category. Florida lost just one senior from last year's squad, but unproven players lurk. What Florida needs to get in this class is a true playmaker at receiver. There is hope that Quinton Dunbar, Andre Debose and Frankie Hammond can step up, but some solid competition won't hurt.

GEORGIA

Offensive line: Georgia loses three starters in Cordy Glenn, Ben Jones and Justin Anderson. The Bulldogs would like to add a few more big bodies up front in this class to help with all that unproven depth.

Linebacker: In Todd Grantham's 3-4 defense, linebackers are extremely important. The Bulldogs will likely lose a couple bodies at outside linebacker next year, including star Jarvis Jones, and would like to add a couple of true playmakers at that position in this class.

Wide receiver: Come 2013, Georgia will have taken some hits at its wide receiver depth. There is young talent in Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Conley and Michael Bennett, but veterans like Tavarres King, Marlon Brown and Rantavious Wooten will be gone. Adding a couple standouts at wide receiver in this class would be nice.

KENTUCKY

Offensive playmakers: Whether it comes at quarterback, wide receiver, running back or tight end, the Wildcats need to find players who can make plays when they get the ball in their hands. Kentucky's offense was hard to watch all season because there was no one who could consistently move the ball.

Offensive line: Kentucky loses three starters -- Chandler Burden, Stuart Hines and Billy Joe Murphy -- from its offensive line and needs to load up here in this class. There is a handful of young players at each offensive line position, but the Wildcats need to think about adding more for the future.

Defensive back: Veterans are leaving the Wildcats' secondary, so it's time to stock up. Winston Guy, Taiedo Smith, Randall Burden and Anthony Mosley will all be gone, meaning the Wildcats are in need of adding some depth to both the cornerback and safety positions.

MISSOURI

Running back: Leading rusher Henry Josey suffered a severe knee injury toward the end of the 2011 season and the Tigers have some veterans jam packed at the top of the depth chart at the position. Getting help to add to future rosters would really help this offense as it moves to the SEC.

Defensive line: The Tigers are losing three starters along the defensive line and 10 players from 2011 will be gone by the end of next season. There are some youngsters there, but it's time to getting into restocking mode along the defensive line. Also, this is where games are won and lost in the SEC. Finding more athleticism here is crucial.

Offensive line: Like the defensive line, Missouri will lose three starters here. There are some bodies to fill in for now, but you can never have too many offensive linemen and now that the Tigers are headed to the SEC, getting some bigger, more athletic linemen will be key to survival in this jungle.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Defensive line: The Gamecocks have gotten a ton of production from here lately, but South Carolina will lose two starters in Melvin Ingram and Travian Robertson. South Carolina might want to add to defensive end the most, with Ingram leaving and Devin Taylor getting ready to depart in a year.

Linebacker: Over the next two years, the Gamecocks will lose some quality players at linebacker and even the spur position. A handful of veterans occupy the depth chart at linebacker, so that means South Carolina needs to add a few quality bodies for the future.

Defensive back: South Carolina's depth in its defensive backfield could be considered thin. The Gamecocks are down two starters at cornerback and will lose solid players in D.J. Swearinger and DeVonte Holloman in 2013.

TENNESSEE

Running back: The Vols never figured out how to run the ball last year and will now turn to a group of unproven running backs. Marlin Lane has the talent to excel, but he needs to be more consistent. Finding a couple talented backs in this class would help this position tremendously.

Defensive tackle: The Vols need some help inside, and now that they are moving to the 3-4, getting quality nose guards is a must for Tennessee. Adding some girth inside will be very important in order to improving this position.

Defensive back: Tennessee will say goodbye to quite a bit of their defensive backs in the next couple of years, so getting a head start on adding to players to both safety and corner would be a plus.

VANDERBILT

Offensive line: The Commodores return the bulk of their offensive line next year, but after that, Vanderbilt will be pretty thin and very young up front. Adding four or five bodies to the offensive line would go a long way for Vanderbilt.

Linebacker: Vanderbilt loses one starter, in Chris Marve, here for next season, but the year after will see a lot of turnover at the position, with four rising seniors on the roster.

Defensive end: Two starters — Tim Fugger and T.J. Greenstone — are gone and Vanderbilt will lose a handful more after the 2012 season. Getting some help at this position is another must for coach James Franklin.

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