Florida Gators: Tyrann Mathieu

Ultimate 300: SEC's top classes 

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
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The SEC has dominated the recruiting world over the past several years. Since 2008, the SEC has had at least three schools finish in the top 10 of the ESPN recruiting class rankings each year. Last year, the conference had an impressive six schools ranked among the top 10 recruiting classes in the country. This year is much of the same, as seven SEC schools are ranked in the top 10.

Here’s a closer look at the five best recruiting SEC schools in the Ultimate ESPN 300.

DBs from SEC blanket combine

February, 22, 2013
2/22/13
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Several of RecruitingNation's SEC sites took a look this week at the players headed to the NFL combine, which begins today in Indianapolis, and other predraft camps. Click here to read the entire predraft series. Today: Defensive backs and special teams.

Florida Gators


The Gators might have another first-round pick in today’s group and two other players who might not get drafted. S Matt Elam has been projected to go late in the first round -- most often to New England with the 29th pick -- after a junior season in which he was named an All-American. S Josh Evans and K Caleb Sturgis might very well not get drafted in April. Sturgis is one of the nation’s top kickers, but some teams are reluctant to draft kickers even in the later rounds if they have other needs. Then again, there are the Jacksonville Jaguars, who drafted a punter in the third round.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- To get the most in-depth information on No. 4 LSU, which plays at No. 10 Florida on Saturday at 3:30 p.m., GatorNation turned to GeauxTigerNation's Gary Laney. We asked him five questions about the Tigers:

Q: Wasn't Zach Mettenberger supposed to be a significant upgrade from Jarrett Lee/Jordan Jefferson? Why has he not been better?

[+] EnlargeZach Mettenberger
AP Photo/Bill HaberLSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger is 78-of-119 passing (65.5 percent) for 1,016 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. He's also taken 11 sacks in five starts.
Laney: There's plenty of blame to go around and Mettenberger gets his share.

He's lost three fumbles in LSU's last two games and has five turnovers, all either killing drives or setting up the opponent for points. He's taken more sacks than he should by holding the ball too long or scrambling when he shouldn't.

He hasn't gotten help from an injury-riddled offensive line (11 sacks, the same number LSU's vaunted pass rush has produced) and the receivers have been prone to drops, bad patterns or blown assignments. It's added up to mediocre numbers, at best.

Q: Why has the offensive line struggled so much in pass protection?

Laney: The loss of Chris Faulk at left tackle has been huge. I'm not convinced that switching starting right tackle Alex Hurst to left tackle is the right answer for a position that requires the lateral movement Hurst does not seem to possess. LSU is hesitant to try sophomore left guard La'el Collins, formerly rated as one of the nation's top two prep tackles coming out high school, there because he has his hands full already trying to learn left guard. And Josh Dworaczyk, the former starter at left guard before he missed 2011 with a knee injury, might simply not be the dominant guy you need to block the other team's best pass rusher.

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SEC power rankings: Week 1

August, 27, 2012
8/27/12
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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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State of the conference: SEC

August, 17, 2012
8/17/12
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The watch is on around the rest of the country.

When will somebody other than the SEC win a national championship?

The SEC will look to extend its streak to seven straight BCS national titles in 2012, and the two teams most likely to keep that streak alive are the usual suspects.

Alabama has won two of the last three national titles, and LSU will also start the season in the top 3 of the polls after going 13-0 last season and then losing to the Crimson Tide in the BCS National Championship Game.

The SEC’s critics insist that it’s top-heavy and that it’s really a league comprised of two or three heavyweights and a lot of mediocre teams after that.

But when you look deeper, the parity speaks for itself.

Nobody has repeated as SEC champion since Tennessee in 1997 and 1998, and four different SEC teams have won national titles during the league’s current streak.

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HOOVER, Ala. -- The 2012 SEC media days All-SEC team was announced Thursday, and LSU led the conference with the most first-team selections with seven. The media has voted for a preseason All-SEC team and predicted the order in which each team would finish since 1992.

It should be noted that the media has only picked the correct SEC champion four times since 1992. Those correct picks were Florida in 1994 and 1995, LSU in 2007 and Florida in 2008.

Here are some notes from the league on the All-SEC team:
    [+] EnlargeMarcus Lattimore
    Daniel Shirey/US PresswireSEC members are expecting big things this season for South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore.

  • The 222 voters is an all-time high for SEC media days. The previous high was 177 voters in 2010.
  • South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore was the leading vote-getter this season with 201 of 222 votes. He is the fourth running back in the past six years to be the highest vote-getter (2007 – Darren McFadden, Arkansas; 2008 – Knowshon Moreno, Georgia and Percy Harvin, Florida; 2009 – Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes, Florida; 2010 – Mark Ingram, Alabama; 2011 – Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina).
  • Lattimore (2012) and Jeffery (2011) have been the leading vote-getters the last two seasons.
  • Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones is a three-time member of the SEC media days first team
  • South Carolina has had a sophomore make the media days first team for the third straight season – Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina, DE (2012); Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina, RB (2011); Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina, DB (2010).

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Tyrann MathieuKevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesTyrann Mathieu tops the list of explosive and dynamic SEC cornerbacks.
Think back to some of the top cornerbacks who’ve come out of the SEC recently.

Just in the last three years, Morris Claiborne, Stephon Gilmore, Dre Kirkpatrick, Patrick Peterson, Joe Haden and Kareem Jackson have all gone in the first round of the NFL draft.

There could be a few more first-rounders on the way.

Here’s the way we would rank the SEC’s top 10 cornerbacks heading into the 2012 season:

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It's almost time for hundreds of media folk to pile into a swanky ballroom and kick off another year of SEC media days.

The festivities begin Tuesday at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala., and last until Thursday afternoon. The event serves as the unofficial kickoff to SEC football season.

So what should we be on the lookout for this year?

Well, the biggest news is all the star power that won't be making the trip. Two of the league's top rushers -- Marcus Lattimore and Christine Michael -- won't be in town. Yes, they are both coming off season-ending injuries, but so is Arkansas' Knile Davis, and he'll be in attendance.

One of the league's best, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray won't be in Hoover, either. Nor will Bulldogs wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell.

Some other big names not on the list include Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and Missouri quarterback James Franklin.

There are a lot of interesting storylines revolving around all those players, who serve as faces for their respective programs, and it's disappointing that they won't be around this week.

However, some quality names are on this year's roster, including Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones, Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones, Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, Texas A&M linebacker Sean Porter, Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray and South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw.

I'm sure they'll all have plenty to say and should keep us all entertained.

Here are some other things to keep an eye on this week:
  • If you're coming into town, make sure you bring your protective gear for Thursday. That's when Alabama's up, and you'd better believe the lobby will be jam-packed with Tide fans. They come out in full force and expect things to be even tighter this year after that championship.
  • Arkansas players will have to answer a lot of questions surrounding their former coach, Bobby Petrino. How much of a distraction will his exit be this fall?
  • Also, what will new Arkansas coach John L. Smith say? He sure knows how to make a news conference exciting, so don't expect anything to be different in front of all those SEC scribes.
  • One coach not afraid to put on a show while at the podium is South Carolina's Steve Spurrier. The Head Ball Coach has been chirping this year, and he probably won't stop in Hoover.
  • Last year, there were a lot of questions about the quarterback talent in this league. This year, that isn't the case, as the league is as plentiful at the position as it has been in years.
  • Although only Davis will be in town, expect a lot of talk about three of the league's best running backs all coming off major, season-ending injuries.
  • Georgia has had an eventful offseason away from the field, and it's time to see how players and coach Mark Richt are feeling about all of the silly distractions. Also, what's in store for the Bulldogs' running game now that Isaiah Crowell is gone?
  • I wonder how many times Nick Saban and his players will be asked questions about comparisons to the 2010 team. You know how much Saban loves comparison talk. ...
  • Tennessee coach Derek Dooley should field a lot of questions about his job security this week. Regardless of how you feel about the time he's had and all the issues he's had to deal with, his seat is hotter than ever.
  • Texas A&M and Missouri are now officially members of the SEC. How will their players and coaches react to being surrounded by all those SEC writers? And how many more questions will they get about adjusting to their new conference?
  • LSU was on top of the college football world until last year's national championship. The Tigers bring back a boatload of talent, but can they finish things this year?
  • The good news for Auburn, South Carolina and Tennessee is their coaches won't have to deal with NCAA questions, unlike last year.

The SEC's preseason All-Star teams

July, 16, 2012
7/16/12
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Some of my best childhood memories go back to the Major League All-Star Game and sitting around and watching the Midsummer Classic with family members.

That’s what we did last week at our house.

So in keeping with the All-Star theme, we’ll select a preseason SEC All-Star team with the East going up against the West.

Who would win?

EAST

Offense
Defense
Special Teams

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The SEC leads the nation with five players on the preseason watch list for the 2012 Jim Thorpe Award, which is presented annually to the nation's best defensive back.

LSU, which owns the past two Thorpe Award winners -- Patrick Peterson (2010) and Morris Claiborne (2011) -- leads the SEC with two players on the watch list.

Here are all five SEC players on the Thorpe list:
For a complete look at the Thorpe watch list, go here.
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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The watch list for the Bednarik Award was announced Monday, and Florida DL Sharrif Floyd was one of 15 SEC players making the cut for that award, which goes to the nation’s top defensive player.

Alabama and LSU each had four players on the 65-player list.

Below is everybody from the SEC who made the cut:

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SEC media days lineup unveiled

July, 1, 2012
7/01/12
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The SEC has announced the lineup for SEC media days on July 17-19 in Hoover, Ala., and the big news is the number of star players who won't be attending.

In fact, if you came up with a top 10 or top 15 list of the SEC's biggest stars for the 2012 season, as many as half of those players aren't scheduled to be on hand for the SEC's annual preseason spectacle.

Among those not scheduled to attend: South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, Tennessee receiver Da'Rick Rogers, LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery, Missouri quarterback James Franklin, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Florida safety Matt Elam and Texas A&M running back Christine Michael.

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Gators game preview: LSU

June, 22, 2012
6/22/12
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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 LSU (Oct. 6 in Gainesville).

[+] EnlargeLSU's Brad Wing
AP Photo/Steve FranzLSU punter Brad Wing was just one source of embarrassment for the Gators last season.
LSU

2011 record: 13-1 (8-0 SEC), lost to Alabama 21-0 in AllState BCS National Championship Game.

Coach: Les Miles, eighth season (75-18); 12th season overall (103-39).

Series record: Florida leads 30-25-3.

Top returners: RB Spencer Ware (707 yards, 8 TDs); WR Odell Beckham (41 catches, 475 yards, 2 TDs); DE Sam Montgomery (49 tackles, 9 sacks); CB Tyrann Mathieu (76 tackles, 2 INTs).

Did you know? The Tigers have three players -- Montgomery, DT Bennie Logan and DE Barkevious Mingo -- who are projected to be among the top 15 picks in the 2013 NFL draft should all three decide to come out early.

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Low's top three SEC game atmospheres

January, 18, 2012
1/18/12
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We get asked all the time where our favorite stops are in the SEC, and a lot of times, that depends on the season.

And with Edward aboard now on the SEC blog, we were able to get out to more games this season than ever before.

We both agree that the Allstate BCS National Championship Game was the best atmosphere of the season for obvious reasons. For one, the game was in New Orleans, and the scene in the French Quarter leading up to the game went way beyond festive.

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