Florida Gators: Zac Stacy

We checked on the SEC's 3,000-yard passers from 2012 on Thursday, so we're taking a look at the running backs who hit the coveted 1,000-yard mark last fall.

Last summer, we looked at 10 running backs we thought could eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark. The SEC had four players reach 1,000 yards on the ground in 2011, and had nine, including Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, in 2012. I thought it was supposed to be the Year of the Quarterback?

Here's how the 10 running backs we looked at last year did in 2012:

1. Isaiah Crowell, Georgia: Well, maybe if he actually played a down for the Bulldogs this year he might have had a chance to reach 1,000 yards. Instead, Crowell was dismissed before the season and spent 2012 rushing for 842 yards and 15 touchdowns at Alabama State.

2. Knile Davis, Arkansas: Davis said he was 100 percent after missing all of 2011 with an ankle injury, but he never displayed the explosiveness and strength that made him a star in 2010. Davis was still hesitant at times and carried the ball only 112 times for 377 yards and two touchdowns.

3. James Franklin, Missouri: His laundry list of injuries and a banged-up offensive line didn't really help the dual-threat quarterback when it came to running the ball. A year removed from almost getting to 1,000 yards, Franklin rushed for just 122 yards and averaged 1.4 yards per carry in the process.

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What we learned in the SEC bowls

January, 9, 2013
1/09/13
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Now that the bowl season is over, it's time to take a look back at what we learned in the SEC during the postseason:

[+] EnlargeNick Saban
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesNick Saban and Alabama will be among the favorites to win the national title again next season.
1. It really is Alabama's world: For the second straight year and for the third time in four years, Alabama took home college football's crystal hardware. After the first 15 minutes of the Discover BCS National Championship, it didn't even look like No. 1 Notre Dame deserved to be on the same field as the Crimson Tide. Alabama wore down the Irish defense in the first half, and its defense tormented Notre Dame's offense for about 90 percent of Monday night's game. Nick Saban didn't have his most talented team, but he had his squad way more prepared than Brian Kelly did. Saban's way of making sure his players approach every game the same way proved to be excellent again. Notre Dame was completely overmatched, and with the talent coming back in 2013, Alabama should again be the favorite to win it all. Three-peat?

2. The SEC's dominance is still being challenged: Even though Alabama brought home the SEC's seventh straight BCS title, the SEC's perception is still being challenged. Social media has been buzzing with chants of "overrated" directed toward the SEC because Mississippi State, LSU and Florida all fell flat in their bowl games. Mississippi State lost by 14 to Northwestern, LSU lost to Clemson on a last-second field goal and Florida was run ragged by Louisville in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Heading into bowl season, Florida and LSU weren't expected to lose, but they got away from their ground games and paid for it dearly. Still, the SEC went 6-3 (.667) in bowl games, including Texas A&M's 41-13 rout of Oklahoma in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, and Georgia and South Carolina downing Big Ten teams. Only the WAC (2-0) and C-USA (4-1) had better winning percentages, and neither had nearly as many bowl teams. So is the SEC down? Well, while the SEC took a couple of bad losses in bowl season, seven teams finished the year in the Associated Press Top 25, including five in the top 10. The Big Ten and Big 12 had losing bowl records, the Pac-12 went 4-4 and the ACC was 4-2. So, if the SEC is overrated, what are the other conferences?

3. Florida's offensive issues are still a major problem: All season, we wondered what we'd see from Florida's offense. However, for 11 games, even if the offense came up short, the Gators found ways to win. Against Louisville, the Gators went in reverse and never got right again. Jeff Driskel threw a pick-six on the first possession, and the offense imploded from there. Mike Gillislee, who was easily Florida's best offensive weapon, carried the ball just nine times. The Gators panicked, but when they had to pass, they couldn't.

This has to be a major concern for the Gators going forward, because Gillislee is graduating and tight end Jordan Reed declared for the NFL draft. Driskel has to find some major help in the passing game this spring/summer, or Florida's offense will get pummeled again. Driskel's health is now a major concern because backup Jacoby Brissett is transferring, leaving the Gators with no experience behind Driskel.

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No. 4 Florida (5-0, 4-0 SEC) at Vanderbilt (2-3, 1-2 SEC)
Saturday, 6 p.m. ET
Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.
ESPNU

Three storylines

1. Maintain and even keel: This game is sandwiched between LSU and No. 3 South Carolina, so Florida has to be careful to maintain the same emotional level it has had for the past few weeks. The Gators can’t get caught looking ahead to the South Carolina game. Good teams win these kinds of games with little fuss.

[+] EnlargeJeff Driskel
Sam Greenwood/Getty ImagesAfter facing LSU last week, Florida QB Jeff Driskel will have a chance to get back on track against Vanderbilt.
2. Get Jeff Driskel back into a groove: The passing game struggled against LSU and Driskel had his worst game of the season. He had made steady progression since he started his first game against Texas A&M but hadn’t faced a defense as good as the Tigers. He reverted back to holding onto the ball too long and pressed a bit. Offensive coordinator Brent Pease needs to get Driskel going again by calling some short, quick timing passes to get him back into a rhythm.

3. Contain QB Jordan Rodgers: Rodgers hurt the Gators last season with his feet, both as a runner and in keeping plays alive with scrambles. But UF did a good job against Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel in the second half this season after the Gators did a better job of being disciplined in their rush lanes, so that should help against Rodgers.

Gators to watch

S Matt Elam: He had a big game against LSU and made the game’s key play when he stripped WR Odell Beckham after a long gain. He’s having the best season of his career and has become the playmaker the defense has needed in the secondary.

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SEC power rankings: Week 3

September, 10, 2012
9/10/12
9:00
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Another week has gone by and there is even more movement in our power rankings.

The top two teams are still the same, but we have a new No. 3 and there are some changes through the middle (LW: Last week's ranking):

1. Alabama (2-0; LW: 1): Despite what Nick Saban might have told the media, his team deserves all the praise it's getting. The Crimson Tide destroyed a ranked Michigan team in a neutral environment and then shut out a very, very overmatched Western Kentucky team. It could have been much worse in Tuscaloosa over the weekend if Saban didn't take his foot off the gas.

2. LSU (2-0; LW: 2): The Tigers haven't been very flashy, but they haven't needed to. LSU is giving up just 201 yards a game and only 3.47 yards per play. Washington was just another victim when it came to the Tigers' ferocious running game, which has averaged 279 yards in the first two games. LSU hasn't really been tested, but there's no denying that this team is good and should only get better.

3. Georgia (2-0, 1-0; LW: 4): The Bulldogs got a big win in Missouri over the weekend. This team's resiliency has been questioned in the past, but it played at its best in Columbia, Mo., with its back against the wall. Once the Bulldogs get back to full strength on defense, we'll really see how much talent Mark Richt is working with in Athens.

4. South Carolina (2-0, 1-0; LW: 5): Connor Shaw was out and Marcus Lattimore failed to eclipse the 50-yard rushing mark, but the Gamecocks had absolutely no problem overwhelming East Carolina. Dylan Thompson filled in well for Shaw, passing for 330 yards and three touchdowns, while the defense shut down the run. The secondary still has some issues to work out, though.

5. Tennessee (2-0; LW: 6): We're still not sure just how good Tennessee is, but it sure is fun watching that offense. Yes, the quality of opponents can be questioned, but both the offense and defense have looked very good, and there is finally quality depth in Knoxville. Tyler Bray continues to impress with his arm, and he has plenty of weapons to work with. He and his team get a real test Saturday against No. 18 Florida at home.

6. Florida (2-0, 1-0; LW: 7): The Gators squeaked out a win that probably wouldn't have come in the two years prior. It wasn't very pretty overall, but Florida was very impressive after all those second-half adjustments against Texas A&M. This team is tougher and looks more like the physical team Will Muschamp wants. Saturday's trip to Knoxville could really set the tone for the Gators moving forward.

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Depth charts for all 14 SEC teams are out, so let's take a look at them.

I'll handle the Eastern Division, while Chris takes a look at the West later today.

I've added some notes of my own for each team:

FLORIDA

Depth chart
  • The first thing you notice is that "Or" comes up a few times. The quarterback spot is still up for grabs, as sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel will play by quarters against Bowling Green Saturday. The "X" receiver spot has three names by it with Frankie Hammond, Latroy Pittman and Andre Debose competing for that spot. Everyone is still waiting for Debose to be more of a complete player.
  • Both corner spots might appear to be up for grabs, but it would be a shocker if sophomores Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy didn't start. Roberson has the talent to be an All-SEC player at some point, while the staff thinks Purifoy is an extremely athletic player. Also, seeing Antonio Morrison behind Jelani Jenkins is impressive. He's been solid since arriving this spring.
  • You don't see De'Ante Saunders on there at free safety. Will Muschamp said he's battling a hamstring injury and will be out two weeks. Corner Jeremy Brown is also battling a wrist injury and isn't on the two-deep, either.

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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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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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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 Vanderbilt (Oct. 13 in Nashville, Tenn.)

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Danny Murphy/Icon SMINew Vandy coach James Franklin has proven in a short time that he can be a force in recruiting.
VANDERBILT

2011 record: 6-7 (2-6 SEC), lost to Cincinnati 31-24 in AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

Coach: James Franklin, second season (6-7).

Series record: Florida leads 34-9-2.

Top returners: QB Jordan Rodgers (108-216-10, 1,524 yards, 9 TDs; 420 yards, 4 TDs rushing); RB Zac Stacy (1,193 yards 14 TDs); DT Rob Lohr (41 tackles, 5 sacks); CB Trey Wilson (30 tackles, 3 INTs).

Did you know? Vanderbilt has never played in a bowl game in consecutive seasons.

Scouting the offense: Stacy, who holds the single-season school rushing record, is one of the SEC’s better backs, but the Commodores have to develop a passing game to complement him. The WRs are solid, so the only question mark is the development of Rodgers. He needs to be more accurate and patient.

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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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Early 2012 SEC power rankings

January, 10, 2012
1/10/12
2:23
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We officially said goodbye to the 2011 season Monday night and crowned the Alabama Crimson Tide as college football's new champions. Now, it's time to shift our focus to 2012. Here's to hoping the Mayans were wrong:

1. Alabama: The defense will get hit the hardest by graduation and the NFL draft, but Alabama's offense should be better. While it's almost a forgone conclusion that junior running back Trent Richardson will declare for the NFL draft, Alabama returns a veteran offensive line, has a good set of up-and-coming receivers and has some pretty talented running backs to work with, including pounder Eddie Lacy. Oh, and that quarterback ain't too bad, either.

2. LSU: The Tigers might have come up short in the big one, but it's not like LSU is going anywhere. That defense that ranked second nationally was made up by a slew of youngsters. LSU returns double-digit starters next year, including most of its front seven. A major bright spot for this team is that former Georgia quarterback Zach Mettenberger will now get his chance, and has skill that Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee lacked.

3. Georgia: The Bulldogs might return more starters next year than LSU. After surpassing expectations and challenging LSU for the SEC title, the Bulldogs should enter next fall as the favorites in the SEC East. Stud quarterback Aaron Murray returns and so do most of his weapons. With arguably the easiest schedule (again) in the SEC, Mark Richt will be expected to take his Dawgs back to Atlanta.

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Top surprises in the Eastern Division

December, 22, 2011
12/22/11
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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.

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Weekend rewind: SEC

November, 28, 2011
11/28/11
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The regular season is behind us, but the good stuff is still to come.

Time to find out who’s hot and who’s not in the SEC:

GLOWING EMBERS

[+] EnlargeConnor Shaw
Daniel Shirey/US PresswireConnor Shaw brought stability to the QB position last season for South Carolina.
South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw: Calm down Gamecock fans. We didn’t forget about Shaw. The sophomore quarterback was sensational in the 34-13 win against Clemson with a career-high 107 rushing yards while completing 14-of-20 passes for 210 yards. Shaw threw three touchdown passes and wasn’t intercepted, and also ran 15 yards for a touchdown. After everything the Gamecocks went through with Stephen Garcia, Shaw has been a breath of fresh air. He works hard, does it exactly the way Steve Spurrier asks him to do it and plays within himself. It’s a different looking offense with Shaw at the helm, but give him credit for stepping into a tough situation and leading the Gamecocks to just their second 10-win season in school history.

HOT

LSU’s running game: If you really want to know what running the football with a purpose looks like, watch LSU run the ball. The Tigers mash people up front, and they’re so deep at running back that you can’t keep track of who’s in the game. Trying to slow down their running game in the second half is like trying to stop a tidal wave.

NOT

Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino: If you’re an accomplished lip reader, the television cameras caught Petrino mouthing some not-so-nice things while gesturing across the field to the LSU sideline in the final minutes of Friday’s game. The post-game handshake was awkward, too, when it looked Petrino sort of pulled away. Asked if they had words, LSU coach Les Miles cracked, “Not many.”

HOT

Vanderbilt’s offense: It’s hard to believe this is the same offense that went back-to-back games against South Carolina and Alabama without scoring a touchdown. The Commodores routed Wake Forest 41-7 last Saturday and rolled up 481 yards in total offense. It’s been a total metamorphosis, and everybody deserves credit -- the offensive coaches, quarterback Jordan Rodgers, running back Zac Stacy, receiver Jordan Matthews and an offensive line that might be the most improved unit in the league.

NOT

Florida’s offense: The Gators have shown up in this space more than once this season for their offensive ineptitude. Come to think of it, they did last season, too. Surely, it can’t get any worse on that side of the ball in Gainesville, but it’s also difficult to look ahead to next season and make a strong case for why the Gators will be appreciably better.

HOT

LSU’s defense: Even without injured starting safety Eric Reid, the Tigers were dominant in their 41-17 win against Arkansas and the Hogs’ high-powered offense. The Hogs managed just 89 total yards in the second half. LSU’s first-team defense has now gone six straight games without allowing a touchdown in the second half.

NOT

Auburn’s finish: There was a time this season when it looked like Auburn might hang in there and be one of the surprise teams in the league. But the Tigers unraveled down the stretch. Not only did they lose three of their last four SEC games, but they lost those games by a combined 132-31 margin.

FREEZER BURN

The Big Orange Nation: The ground is quaking right now on Rocky Top coming off Tennessee’s first loss to Kentucky since 1984, which ensured the Vols’ second straight losing season. The last time that happened was 1910 and 1911. It’s Tennessee’s fourth losing season in the past seven years, and even though a lot of the fans want to give second-year coach Derek Dooley the benefit of the doubt because of the situation he walked into in terms of player attrition and the NCAA cloud hovering, the gloves have come off after the loss to Kentucky. Several former Tennessee players, some who played on the Vols’ 1998 national championship game, went on a Knoxville radio show the day after the loss and unloaded on Dooley. It’s a broken football program right now, and Dooley’s going to get at least one more year to fix it. But if the Vols don’t make some major strides next season, one more year might be all he gets.

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