Florida Gators: Anthony Johnson

Five things: Florida at LSU

October, 12, 2013
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It will be a battle of wills when LSU and Florida meet in Death Valley at 3:30 p.m. ET. The Tigers have a powerhouse offense while the Gators sport one of the top defenses in the country. So who gives? We'll find out soon, and in the meantime, here are five things to watch in Baton Rouge, La.:

1. Revenge factor: LSU watched its hope of an undefeated season end swiftly and soundly last year, when it lost a heartbreaker to Florida on the road. Mike Gillislee ran for 146 yards and two touchdowns and Zach Mettenberger barely moved the needle at quarterback for LSU, throwing for 158 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. But that offense seems like a distant memory now as offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has breathed new life into LSU's passing game. With largely the same personnel on offense as a year ago, it's safe to assume that Mettenberger & Co. will look at this game as a statement of just how far they've come.

2. Slowing LSU's offense: Will Muschamp and the Florida staff have an unenviable task ahead of them. Do you double team Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry and risk not having a safety near the line of scrimmage? Or do you play man, pull down an extra defender in the box and try to stop Jeremy Hill? Truthfully, there may not be a right answer, not while Zach Mettenberger is throwing the ball like he is. But Florida might have the best chance to solve the riddle of LSU's offense thanks to its depth at cornerback with Loucheiz Purifoy, Vernon Hargreaves and Marcus Roberson.

3. Time for Tyler: Tyler Murphy wasn't supposed to be in this situation, but here he is. When Jeff Driskel went down, it looked like Florida's hopes went down with him. The offense was already stagnant and Murphy was so green under the collar. But Murphy has played well since taking the reins. He's completed 77.5 percent of his passes and has thrown four touchdowns and just one interception in his last two games. But those defenses he's faced, Kentucky and Arkansas, don't have the talent of LSU's. On the road, the challenge will be even greater.

4. But who will he throw the football to?: The Gators' lack of playmakers at wide receiver has been well documented. And if Florida is hoping to change that narrative, it will have to come today against an LSU secondary that has shown some vulnerability. Trey Burton has seen time at almost every position on offense, yet he still leads the team with 22 catches. But he'll need help from speedsters such as Solomon Patton, who has a team-high 348 yards and four touchdowns receiving.

5. Will LSU's defense finally arrive?: LSU coach Les Miles can hang his hat on a three-point second half against Mississippi State all he wants, but it's impossible to ignore the nearly 500 yards of offense the Bulldogs picked up on his defense. While nobody is questioning the talent of LSU's defense, led by tackles Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson, the unit as a whole is showing too many of the tell-tale signs of youth. Missed assignments and poor execution have plagued the Tigers, who are allowing an average of 367 yards and 24.7 points per game.

SEC lunchtime links

August, 29, 2013
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The wait is over; college football season is here. The first games of the 2013 campaign kick off tonight with No. 6 South Carolina starting things off by hosting North Carolina at 6 p.m. ET. Here are some links from around the SEC to get you ready:

Multiple top 10 recruits no guarantee 

June, 21, 2013
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As Michigan looks to add to a No. 1 recruiting class Insider that already includes No. 2 Jabrill Peppers, we look back at other schools that landed multiple top 10 recruits fared in those players' tenures. While Alabama hit a home run in 2009 -- landing future first-round picks Dre Kirkpatrick and Trent Richardson -- others have seen mixed results.

[+] EnlargeJoe McKnight
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesJoe McKnight never quite reached the lofty expectations placed on him as the No. 1 recruit in USC's stacked 2006 class.
2006

USC Trojans
Vidal Hazelton (No. 3 recruit) Taylor Mays (8), Antwine Perez (10)
The trio signed with a USC program that was coming off back-to-back BCS title game appearances, but their reality ended up being a pair of transfers and a final game for Mays in the Emerald Bowl. Perez played sparingly as a true freshman and then transferred to Maryland. Hazelton was the leading receiver for the Trojans in his sophomore year with 50 catches but transferred to Cincinnati after his junior year. Mays stayed all four years and earned All-American status before being drafted in the second round of the 2010 NFL draft by the 49ers. -- Garry Paskwietz


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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.

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Manziel/ClowneyUSA Today SportsTexas A&M's Johnny Manziel and S. Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney are top 2014 NFL draft prospects.
The SEC had a record 63 players selected in last month's NFL draft, including 12 in the first round.

I'm not sure it's realistic to expect that kind of haul next year, but it's never too early to start looking ahead to the 2014 draft class.

So, similar to a year ago, I've come up with our list of the SEC's top 20 draft prospects for 2014.

This isn’t a mock draft. Likewise, it’s not a ranking of who I think will be the best players in the SEC next season. Rather, it’s a projection of who will be the most coveted NFL prospects from the SEC when the 2014 draft rolls around in April. In coming up with this list, I’ve talked to several draft analysts as well as NFL personnel, SEC coaches and others who are clued in to the whole draft process.

Some players will obviously play their way onto this list next season, while others will play their way off it. Injuries undoubtedly will be a factor, and then occasionally, guys will come from nowhere to be first-round picks.

Among the prospects I nailed this time a year ago were Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, Alabama offensive guard Chance Warmack, LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo and LSU safety Eric Reid.

Among those I missed the boat on were Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker.

I had Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson No. 1 overall and South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore in my top five. So it never goes exactly the way anybody predicts, especially 11 months before the draft.

Here goes with our 2014 list. Again, we’re not suggesting all 20 will go in the first round or even the first two rounds. It’s simply the order we think they will come off the board in next April’s draft and includes only draft-eligible players:

1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina, Jr.: The ultimate game-changer on defense, Clowney would have been a first-rounder had he been draft-eligible after his freshman season. Clowney then excelled in 2012, elevating his status as the 2014 No. 1 favorite.

2: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama, Jr.: A potential top-five pick in next year's draft, the 6-foot-6, 310-pound Kouandjio is everything you're looking for in a left tackle.

3. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M, Sr.: We know Matthews has the bloodlines, but he also has the game. He's shifting over from right tackle to left tackle for his senior season.

4. Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee, Jr.: The man they call Tiny has the size and athleticism to be a franchise left tackle. Clowney said Richardson was one of the best tackles he faced a year ago.

5. Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU, Jr.: There's a reason they call him Freak. They just seem to breed great defensive linemen at LSU, and Johnson is next in line.

6. Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida, Jr.: He's a pure cover cornerback with good size and an explosive athlete to boot. The Gators also will play him at receiver next season.

7. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M, RSo.: Yes, Manziel is shorter than the NFL typically likes its quarterbacks, but do measurables really matter when you make as many plays as Johnny Football does?

8. Dominique Easley, DT, Florida, Sr.: Easley is fully recovered from the torn ACL he suffered at the end of the 2011 season. He's sliding inside to tackle next season and will be a force for the Gators.

9. Adrian Hubbard, OLB, Alabama, RJr.: We saw his ability to get to the quarterback in flashes last season. Look for Hubbard to take that next step in 2013 and become a premier finisher.

10. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama, Sr.: As the saying goes, he's a football player. Mosley is a sure tackler. He's excellent in coverage and is always money whenever Alabama needs a big play.

11. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama, Jr.: In the past four drafts, Alabama has produced four first-round selections in the secondary. Clinton-Dix could be the top safety off the board next year.

12. Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M, RSo.: In his first season in the SEC, the 6-5, 225-pound Evans was sensational with 82 catches and 1,105 yards. He'll be even better his second time through.

13. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama, Sr.: Sure, he's been surrounded by great talent, but McCarron also has an NFL arm, delivers in the clutch and takes care of the football.

14. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt, Sr.: The 6-3, 205-pound Matthews is so smooth that he makes it look easy. And talk about productive. He averaged 109.6 receiving yards in eight SEC games.

15. Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss, Jr.: One of the more underrated players in the SEC, the 6-3, 215-pound Moncrief has a knack for finding the end zone with 14 touchdowns in his first two seasons.

16. Daniel McCullers, DT, Tennessee, Sr.: This mountain of a man (6-8, 360 pounds) is still developing, but he should make an imposing nose tackle for a team that uses a 3-4 defensive scheme.

17. Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida, Jr.: The "other" Florida cornerback also has big-time skills and was second in the SEC in passes defended last season with 14.

18: Chaz Sutton, DE, South Carolina, RJr.: Clowney will get most of the attention next season, but don't be surprised if Sutton blows up and has a monster senior season.

19: Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State, Sr.: Jackson thought about coming out early this year. He returns as one of the top offensive guards in college football.

20: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia, Sr.: The opinions are mixed on Murray, who's bearing down on several SEC records. His numbers speak for themselves, and so does the way he approaches the game.

Greg Gilmore picks LSU over Florida

November, 8, 2012
11/08/12
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If there were concerns about LSU's defensive tackle depth, Greg Gilmore (Hope Mills, N.C./South View) put them to rest Thursday evening.

The Tigers landed their latest ESPN 150 prospect when Gilmore, the No. 104 player in the country, publicly pledged LSU's 2013 recruiting class live on “ESPN RecruitingNation” on ESPNU.

Gilmore's commitment gives LSU four commitments in the ESPN 150 and 12 commitments in the ESPN 300. The 6-foot-4, 285-pounder, who’s the nation’s No. 9 defensive tackle, is also the Tigers' second defensive line commitment in less than a week after three-star DT Christian LaCouture (Lincoln, Neb./Southwest) joined the class last Friday.

"I'm going to school at Louisiana State," Gilmore said. "I called every coach last night, and it was hard -- it was hard. It was really between LSU and Florida in my opinion."

Defensive tackle was one of the last big concerns for LSU -- which now boasts 25 commitments after Gilmore's decision. The Tigers will lose senior defensive tackle Josh Downs after the 2012 season, and junior Bennie Logan is a likely loss to early entry in the 2013 NFL draft. That leaves Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson as the only battle-tested defensive tackles on the roster for next season.

"With LSU, I liked how they're losing six guys on the front," Gilmore said. "I think I can go in there and I can play early. I don't know how you could not play in Tiger Stadium. I went down there for the Alabama game and it was rocking. I had so much fun down there."

Gilmore chose LSU over Florida and Oklahoma. The consensus opinion since this past summer had been that the Gators and Tigers were the top two contenders for his signature. The final decision came after a busy month that saw Gilmore travel to Gainesville, Fla., on Sept. 22 for Florida's game against Kentucky and an Oct. 27 trip to Norman, Okla., to watch Oklahoma play Notre Dame.

Gilmore concluded the whirlwind tour with an official visit to LSU this past weekend to watch the Tigers' tilt with Alabama.

Interestingly enough, Gilmore's name adds to a surprisingly stocked haul of out-of-state commits for LSU. The Tigers rely heavily on Louisiana talent in recruiting. But Gilmore is LSU's 12th out-of-state commit for 2013. He joins LaCouture and defensive ends Frank Herron (Memphis, Tenn./Memphis Central) and Lewis Neal (Wilson, N.C./James B. Hunt) as LSU defensive line commits from outside Louisiana.
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.

(Read full post)

Now that we've ranked the best defensive lines in the SEC, who are the best individual players up front defensively?

We'll start with the defensive tackles today and come back on Monday and rank the 10 best defensive ends.

Here goes:

1. Bennie Logan, Jr., LSU: Overshadowed last season by eventual first-rounder Michael Brockers, Logan will anchor what should be one of the most dominant defensive lines in college football.

[+] EnlargeJesse Williams
AP Photo/Butch DillJesse Williams had 24 tackles for Alabama last season.
2. Jesse Williams, Sr., Alabama: He has incredible strength and tremendous size. Williams’ move to nose guard from end will make him a force in the middle for the Crimson Tide.

3. John Jenkins, Sr., Georgia: Good luck in moving the 350-pound Jenkins an inch. He made more plays as last season progressed and should be even better his second time through the SEC.

4. Dominique Easley, Jr., Florida: Versatile enough to play inside and outside, Easley is one of the better interior playmakers in the league. The only concern is how well he recovers from last season’s ACL tear.

5. Josh Boyd, Sr., Mississippi State: Fletcher Cox got most of the publicity last season in Starkville. But now that Cox is gone, it’s Boyd time to shine for the Bulldogs. He had 4.5 sacks last season.

6. Sharrif Floyd, Jr., Florida: He’s back at his natural position of tackle and may play some at nose when the Gators go to a three-man front. This should be his most productive season yet.

(Read full post)

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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
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