Florida Gators: LaDarius Perkins

SEC lunchtime links

September, 27, 2013
9/27/13
12:45
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Happy Friday to you all. Saturday is almost here and that means another weekend of entertaining SEC football. Here is some reading to get you ready for game day:

SEC preseason power rankings

August, 26, 2013
8/26/13
9:00
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It's officially game week! We all thought it wouldn't come, but it's finally here, and in just three days we'll have our first college football games of the 2013 season!

And what's a better way to kick off one of the most glorious weeks of the year than debuting the first set of power rankings for the season?

Here's where all 14 SEC teams rank in my eyes heading into the first weekend of the season:

1. Alabama: The two-time defending national champion brings back an extremely talented defense and an All-American candidate at quarterback who will have a slew of weapons to work with. The question is if there's a team not named Alabama that can stop the Tide from winning its third straight BCS national title.

2. Texas A&M: Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel has received all the wrong kinds of attention this year, but as long as he's the Aggies' quarterback, A&M should again contend for the SEC West. Even with an ongoing investigation swirling around Johnny Football and his autographs, it doesn't sound like A&M plans to sit its star for Saturday's opener against Rice.

3. Georgia: The Bulldogs lost a wealth of defensive experience from last year's team, but they still will operate with one of the nation's best offenses. There should be no shortage of points in Georgia's opening matchup against Clemson on Saturday, and it'll provide a nice test for the Dawgs' young defense.

4. South Carolina: There are questions at linebacker and in the secondary, but having arguably the SEC's best defensive line could help mask some issues behind it early. Oh, and Jadeveon Clowney is still roaming around out there. The Gamecocks also should have quite the balanced offense to work with this fall, even if two quarterbacks are sharing snaps at times.

5. Florida: The defense lost some key starters from last year, but it looks like year's defense won't miss much of a beat given the quality reps returners got last year. The offense is still a mystery, especially the passing game, as a consistent receiving target has to emerge. Also, not having running back Matt Jones after the first week would be a major blow.

6. LSU: The return of running back Jeremy Hill and the maturation of quarterback Zach Mettenberger mean the Tigers should have a better and more explosive offense in 2013. It'll help to have a solid line and all of Mettenberger's top receiving targets returning, but can that rebuilt defense help get LSU back into BCS contention this fall?

7. Vanderbilt: Off-field distractions could be clouding the minds of these players, but coach James Franklin has made sure to keep his guys as focused as possible. Expectations are higher than ever, as a very good -- and underrated -- defense returns, while the offense has the potential to be very explosive again. However, if starting receiver Chris Boyd misses time due to his suspension, Vanderbilt could be in trouble.

8. Ole Miss: The expectations are higher in Oxford than they have been in years, but second-year coach Hugh Freeze would like those tempered a bit. Nineteen starters return, including All-SEC candidates Donte Moncrief and Bo Wallace. It's hard not to think the Rebels will build off the success Freeze had in his first year. Depth is still an issue in certain areas, and the start of the schedule is brutal.

9. Auburn: With Gus Malzahn back on the Plains and Ellis Johnson working with the defense, the Tigers have the recipe to be better in 2013. No longer will coaches be trying to fit a square peg into a round hole on offense, and Johnson has proved to be a great at developing talent. Those are two things that lacked in last year's team. Also, Malzahn has said he's very comfortable with junior college transfer quarterback Nick Marshall, who fits his offense perfectly.

10. Mississippi State: Dan Mullen is looking to take the Bulldogs to their fourth straight bowl game. The talent is certainly there to do it, but the road to the postseason will be challenging. Mississippi State has to replace its top four receiving threats and three starters in the secondary, including Jim Thorpe Award winner Johnthan Banks. Having veterans Tyler Russell and LaDarius Perkins working behind a solid offensive line will help, but this team has to generate more pressure from its defensive line.

11. Missouri: The Tigers' SEC debut didn't go well at all last year, but injuries were a major factor. The offensive line is healthier, but communication issues in the spring really hurt the offense's growth. The hope is that the talent at receiver lives up to its potential, while the defense has to make strides at linebacker and in the secondary.

12. Tennessee: New coach Butch Jones has brought a lot of excitement to the program, and he's building for the future. But in the present, a lot of questions remain, especially on offense. So much receiving talent is gone, and recently named starting quarterback Justin Worley has little experience. The defense returns a lot of experience and should be better-suited to run John Jancek's 4-3 defensive scheme.

13. Arkansas: There's no question Bret Bielema's presence in Fayetteville has generated some much-needed excitement, but the personnel has to match Bielema's intensity. Right now, the name of the game is making sure players adapt to Bielema's more physical style. The inexperienced receiving corps has been ravaged by injuries plus a transfer, and the defense still has a lot of questions at linebacker and in the secondary.

14. Kentucky: New coach Mark Stoops has known since day one that fixing the problems at the offensive skill positions was going to be tough. A quarterback has to be found, consistency at receiver must develop, and the running backs have to stay healthy. Defensively, the line is one of the SEC's best, but there are holes at linebacker and in the secondary. A turnaround is possible, but this team has a long way to go.
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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SEC Heisman Watch: Week 9

October, 23, 2012
10/23/12
10:30
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We have a new No. 1, and he's getting more national Heisman buzz as well:

1. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama: People wondered if he could throw when called upon and he did just that against Tennessee. McCarron passed for a career-high 306 yards and had four touchdowns in Alabama's blowout win. He is still one of the country's most efficient passers and is tied for first in the SEC with 16 passing touchdowns. He's one of only two quarterbacks nationally to start seven games without throwing an interception. McCarron has more than 1,400 passing yards and the more Alabama wins, the better for McCarron in this race.

2. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: For the second time this season, a stout defense found a way to shut down Johnny Football in the second half. First, it was Florida, and Saturday it was LSU. Both turned out to be losses for the Aggies. Manziel passed for 276 yards, but threw three interceptions and rushed for only 27 yards. He also was held out of the end zone for the first time this season. Still, Manziel has a chance to get back in this race nationally with strong showings down the home stretch. He's second in the SEC in passing (1,956), second in rushing (703) and has accounted for 24 touchdowns (14 passing, 10 rushing).

3. Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida: South Carolina kept Gillislee in check over the weekend. He carried the ball 19 times for 37 yards, averaging 1.9 yards per carry. The Gamecocks swarmed around him whenever he touched the ball and made his life miserable. There are still plenty more opportunities for Gillislee to make some real Heisman noise, and he'll get a great chance this weekend against Georgia. He's fourth in the SEC in rushing with 652 yards and has seven touchdowns.

4. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia: The bye week was great for Murray. He had a true record-breaking night against Kentucky on Saturday, completing a career-high 30 passes for a career-high 427 yards and had four touchdowns. His 427 yards were fourth best in school history and second best in the SEC this season. His 78.95 completion percentage was a school record by a quarterback with at least 30 completions. Murray is now tied for third in the SEC in passing (1,914) and is tied for first with 16 touchdowns. A win over Florida will definitely give him a boost in this race.

5. LaDarius Perkins, RB, Mississippi State: Another back with dynamic ability in the SEC. Real shocker there. Perkins has flown under the radar all season, but he leads the SEC in rushing (724) and all-purpose yards (1,002). He can hurt defenses so many different ways when he touches the ball. He isn't just a bruiser; he can outrun a few guys out there. He'll get a chance to really make a name for himself with a big day against No. 1 Alabama Saturday.
Now that you've seen Chris Low's top 25, it's time to see what my list of the top 25 players in the SEC looks like.

I'm not perfect, but I'll try to be:

1. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Who has been more exciting than Johnny Football? The Aggies aren't 5-1 without him or his 1,600 passing yards, 676 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns.

2. Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida: He's powering Florida's offense and he's been the SEC's best back thus far. He's extremely explosive and is strong enough to bully his way to extra yards and wear down defenses.

3. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: He's turning into the dominating player we've really been waiting to see. Some think he might be the best player overall in the conference and is pushing to be next year's No. 1 NFL draft pick.

4. Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia: At one time, he was a Heisman candidate, but injuries and double-teams stunted that campaign. Still, he's the SEC's best linebacker, can fly around the field and just feasts on opposing quarterbacks.

5. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama: He's been Alabama's best defensive player this year and can make plays from just about anywhere on the field. He leads Alabama with 51 tackles, has 2.5 sacks, an interception and a forced fumble.

6. Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M: Even though he moved from linebacker to defensive end, Moore has been just as dominant as he was last season. He leads the SEC in sacks (8.5) and tackles for loss (15).

7. Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State: This summer, he said he was the SEC's best cornerback and he hasn't disappointed. He has three interceptions on the season and is averaging just 4.7 yards per attempt in man coverage.

8. Chance Warmack, OL, Alabama: He might be the nation's best offensive lineman and he's just blowing defenders up this season. No wonder Alabama can run the ball so well.

9. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina: He isn't at 100 percent, but he's still one of the toughest running backs to stop in the SEC. It rarely takes just one player to bring him down and he can still wear down defenses.

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What we learned in the SEC: Week 2

September, 9, 2012
9/09/12
10:00
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Week 2 is over with and we feel we know teams a little better now.

Here's what we've learned so far in the SEC:

1. Arkansas' defense isn't ready for prime time: The Razorbacks' defense entered the season surrounded by criticism and uncertainty. In Saturday's stunning 34-31 overtime loss to Louisiana-Monroe, the defense didn't do anything to lessen the criticism and worry. Arkansas' defense surrendered 550 total yards, including 412 passing yards by quarterback Kolton Browning. Browning also threw three touchdown passes and ran for 69 yards, including the 16-yard game-winning touchdown. The Warhawks also converted 6 of 7 fourth downs, including Browning's last scamper. This Arkansas defense was pushed around by Alabama and LSU last year, and was pushed around Saturday by a program that has never beaten a ranked team.

[+] EnlargeAaron Murray
Dak Dillon/US PresswireQB Aaron Murray (242 yards, 3 TDs) and Georgia ended their victory over Missouri on a 24-0 run.
2. Georgia has true resiliency: The Bulldogs walked into a hostile environment at Missouri and left with a big SEC victory. The Tigers threw everything at Georgia's depleted defense, and the Bulldogs responded with a strong fourth quarter, when the defense totally shut down the Tigers. Georgia outscored Missouri 17-0 in the fourth and finished the game on a 24-0 run after being down 20-17 late in the third quarter. Georgia outscored Mizzou 32-10 in the second half. Mizzou might not have been ranked, but this was a signature win for the Bulldogs. Georgia has struggled recently away from home, but the Bulldogs kept pounding away when their backs were against the wall. We saw the type of fight out of a team with the talent to make an SEC title run.

3. This Auburn team lacks true physicality: Gene Chizik talked so much about how physical Auburn's game with Mississippi State would be Saturday. His players obviously didn't get the message. Like Week 1, the Tigers struggled mightily on defense, as they missed a handful of tackles yet again. Mississippi State running back LaDarius Perkins carried the ball only 14 times, but he did a great job of softening up Auburn's defensive line. That gave quarterback Tyler Russell even more time to pass and shred the Tigers' struggling secondary. Offensively, the Tigers just couldn't get anything going. There were too many east-to-west runs that went for nothing, and the offensive line got absolutely no push up front. Quarterback Kiehl Frazier has a long way to go in the confidence department on the field. This team has to toughen up or it'll be a very long season on the Plains.

4. Florida is tougher than it was last year: The Gators' 20-17 win over Texas A&M wasn't exactly pretty, but last year's team wouldn't have won that game. You saw real resolve from this team after being down at halftime. With the way the Aggies' played in the first half, it looked like they might run away with it. But Florida came out looking like a different team and outscored Texas A&M 10-0 in the second half. The defense, which looked lost in the first half, allowed 65 yards and forced four three-and-outs. Quarterback Jeff Driskel stood taller in the pocket, delivered some clutch throws and made some big plays with his legs. The coaches also adjusted on both sides of the ball to wear down the Aggies. This team isn't ready for LSU or Alabama, but it showed that it is turning into more of that blue-collar team that coach Will Muschamp wants in Gainesville.

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SEC power rankings: Week 1

August, 27, 2012
8/27/12
11:00
AM ET
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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SEC post-spring power rankings

May, 18, 2012
5/18/12
11:31
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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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Post-signing day SEC Power Rankings

February, 6, 2012
2/06/12
12:00
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Now that national signing day is out of the way, we're going to take another look at our SEC power rankings.

You won't see any change really, but we have more confidence in some teams now than we did before:

1. Alabama: The Crimson Tide hauled in the nation's No. 1 recruiting class last week and not only did Nick Saban sign a handful of top-rated players, but he met all of Alabama's major needs with the 2012 class. There are a few freshmen who could make early impacts in Tuscaloosa, including athlete Eddie Williams (Panama City, Fla./Arnold), and wide receivers Chris Black (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) and Amari Cooper (Miami, Fla./Miami Northwestern).

2. LSU: The Tigers' class wasn't as highly rated as some recent ones, but Les Miles and his coaches brought in a solid group and there are a few defense players who might see some playing time early. Three starting linebackers need to be replaced and a few freshmen will get their chances. While LSU lost Torshiro Davis ((Shreveport, La./Woodlawn) flipped to Texas, the Tigers brought in ESPNU 150 linebackers Kwon Alexander (Oxford, Ala.) and Ronnie Feist (Edgard, La./West Saint John).

3. Georgia: The Bulldogs needed to get bigger up front and add a couple of playmaking linebackers. Georgia did just that with the handful of athletic defensive linemen signed and grabbed top outside linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons (Valdosta, Ga./Lowndes), who should thrive in Todd Grantham's 3-4. Georgia's offense could be even better this fall with Keith Marshall (Raleigh, N.C./Millbrook) helping Isaiah Crowell, and the wide receiver depth returning.

4. South Carolina: Talk about underrated. South Carolina didn't make much noise at all on national signing day, but the Gamecocks brought in a very balanced class and have a few players who should contribute early to a team that will yet again compete for the SEC East title. Two freshmen to keep an eye on in 2012 are wide receiver Shaq Roland (Lexington, S.C.) and safety Chaz Elder (College Park, Ga./Benjamin E. Banneker).

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