The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: Georgia fans have had to watch rivals Auburn and Alabama crow after recruiting victory after recruiting victory the past few months, but Bulldog fans got a chance to thump their chest some after landing two of the nation’s best 2016 prospects Saturday after its Dawg Night camp. But will those commitments stay true for the long haul? Plus, Penn State’s James Franklin remains hot on the recruiting trial.

Dawg Night is considered the marquee event for Georgia Bulldogs recruiting. While Mark Richt and staff added to their 2015 class following Dawg Night on Friday, Saturday proved to be a huge day for the Bulldogs in 2016 after securing commitments from two of the top targets on the board: ESPN Junior 300 quarterback Jacob Eason and ESPN Junior 300 offensive tackle Ben Cleveland.


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Nine SEC players were among the 50 from across the nation included on Friday's watch list for the Walter Camp Award, which goes to the player of the year in college football.

Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Alabama's AJ McCarron were among the five finalists last season, with the award eventually going to Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.

This year's list of SEC watch list members include multiple players from Alabama and Georgia. Here's the full SEC list:

DB Landon Collins, Alabama
WR Amari Cooper, Alabama
RB Mike Davis, South Carolina
RB Todd Gurley, Georgia
DB Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
QB Nick Marshall, Auburn
DB Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss
LB Ramik Wilson, Georgia
RB T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
Now that you've seen the media's preseason All-SEC team, and Chris' ballot, it's time to see what I cooked up after a week of fun in Hoover, Ala.:

OFFENSE
QB: Nick Marshall, Auburn
RB: Todd Gurley, Georgia
RB: Derrick Henry, Alabama
WR: Amari Cooper, Alabama
WR: Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
TE: O.J. Howard, Alabama
OL: Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M
OL: La'el Collins, LSU
OL: Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
OL: Corey Robinson, South Carolina
C: Reese Dismukes, Auburn

DEFENSE
DL: Dante Fowler Jr., Florida
DL: A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama
DL: Chris Jones, Mississippi State
DL: Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
LB: Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State
LB: Leonard Floyd, Georgia
LB: Curt Maggitt, Tennessee
DB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
DB: Tre'Davious White, LSU
DB: Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss
DB: Landon Collins, Alabama

SPECIALISTS
PK: Marshall Morgan, Georgia
P: Drew Kaser, Texas A&M
RS: Andre Debose, Florida
AP: Christion Jones, Alabama

East
1. South Carolina
2. Florida
3. Georgia
4. Missouri
5. Tennessee
6. Vanderbilt
7. Kentucky

West
1. Alabama
2. Auburn
3. Ole Miss
4. Mississippi State
5. LSU
6. Texas A&M
7. Arkansas

SEC Champion
Alabama
The extended version of SEC media days is behind us, and we've seen the way the media voted in terms of picking the champion and the preseason All-SEC selections.

Alabama was the pick, which given our track record, might not be the best news for the Crimson Tide. As Nick Saban so willingly reminded everybody, it's not like the media has had a crystal ball lately when it comes to picking the SEC champ. Only four times in the last 22 years have the media correctly picked the SEC champion at the SEC's preseason shindig.

Maybe this is the year we start the kind of streak John Wooden would be proud of. Here's a look at the selections from SEC media days this year.

Below is my own ballot, and Edward will unveil his later today after he finishes breaking down tape from all of the World Cup matches (or are they games?).

OFFENSE
QB: Nick Marshall, Auburn
RB: Todd Gurley, Georgia
RB: Mike Davis, South Carolina
WR: Amari Cooper, Alabama
WR: Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia
TE: Hunter Henry, Arkansas
OL: Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M
OL: Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
OL: La'el Collins, LSU
OL: A.J. Cann, South Carolina
C: Reese Dismukes, Auburn

DEFENSE
DL: Dante Fowler, Jr., Florida
DL: Chris Jones, Mississippi State
DL: A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama
DL: Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
LB: Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State
LB: Leonard Floyd, Georgia
LB: Trey DePriest, Alabama
DB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
DB: Taveze Calhoun, Mississippi State
DB: Landon Collins, Alabama
DB: Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss

SPECIALISTS
PK: Marshall Morgan, Georgia
P: Drew Kaser, Texas A&M
RS: Marcus Murphy, Missouri
AP: Christion Jones, Alabama

EAST
1. South Carolina
2. Georgia
3. Florida
4. Tennessee
5. Missouri
6. Vanderbilt
7. Kentucky

WEST
1. Alabama
2. Auburn
3. Mississippi State
4. LSU
5. Ole Miss
6. Texas A&M
7 Arkansas

SEC CHAMPION
Alabama
HOOVER, Ala. -- It's like SEC media days just started.

Well, not really. Four days of a nonstop influx of SEC information could knock Todd Gurley off his feet. It was a fun week, but now it's over, and it's time to shift our attention to fall practice. It's just a couple of weeks away!

As we inch closer to the regular season, let's take one last look at the week that was with five takeaways from what went down in Hoover:

1. Alabama has something to prove: Buried in some Texas-sized talk you'll find something else that gets under Nick Saban's skin: The way his team finished last season. After being picked by just about everyone to win the BCS title, the Alabama Crimson Tide lost its last two games of the season, including getting run out of New Orleans in a Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma. So while Alabama was picked to win the West, this team is still hurting after how last season ended. "We have to reestablish our identity as a team at Alabama," Saban said. "It's going to take every player to have a tremendous amount of buy-in for us to be able to do that." The team has to do that for an entire season. It has to listen, and it sounds like that's happening so far. A Saban-coached team filled with five-star talents is hungry and upset? That bodes well for the rest of the league ...

2. Will Muschamp doesn't feel the heat: Months after coaching one of the worst seasons in Florida Gators history, Muschamp is ignoring the toxicity surrounding his program. When you go 4-8 at a school like Florida, your seat will be engulfed in flames, but Muschamp is keeping his cool and focusing on his team during a critical season for the program. "I think you combat the hot-seat talk with having a good team and winning games," Muschamp said. "Control the controllable is always what I've said. ... That's coaching our football team, developing our football team. There was never any time in my mind that I didn't think I would be retained." Muschamp, whose team is breaking in a new spread offense and getting healthier, added that he expects his team to have "an outstanding year."

3. Vandy and Kentucky don't lack confidence: The Vanderbilt Commodores are breaking in a new coach and the Kentucky Wildcats are looking to build for the long term in Year 2 with Mark Stoops. Both teams have a ton of questions entering the year, but representatives from both programs oozed confidence and even some bravado. "Our team is a team of probably no-name young men who have a chance to do something great," first-year Vandy coach Derek Mason said. "It's talented across the board. I think our opportunity to compete for an SEC East title is now." James Franklin who?

For Stoops, he isn't dwelling on the past because he's pretty amped about the present, and possibly the future. "I'm excited about this team," Stoops said. "This team has worked extremely hard. They've done everything we've asked them to do. ... Our players have put in the time. Our training staff has done a great job getting them prepared. We're physically better. Hopefully that will translate to more wins." Stoops isn't ready to say he has a bowl team, but he promises it doesn't lack any heart or fight.

4. Richt and Spurrier like their teams: While Saban scolded the media about its decision to pick his team to win the SEC, Georgia Bulldogs coach Mark Richt wasn't thrilled about being ranked second in the SEC East. "Obviously, what's important is what happens at the end of the year. Earlier I got asked that question. I said, 'I'm not happy to be named No. 2. I'm not going to start cheering that 'We're No. 2.' I think in the end it's going to be Georgia."

And he wasn't kidding. He really likes returning an offense that averaged nearly 500 yards and 36.7 points per game that could only get better with some healthier components returning, and he thinks his defense will play smarter. The addition of new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has Richt excited. And when Steve Spurrier comes out and praises his team within the first minute of his introductory news conference, that means he likes the guys he's coaching. South Carolina's offense is loaded, but the defense has questions in the secondary. Spurrier doesn't seem too concerned, though.

5. The future is now in Baton Rouge: One of the most talked-about players of the week wasn't even in the building. Heck, he hasn't even played a snap of college ball. But LSU freshman running back Leonard Fournette was compared to Michael Jordan and was said to have the talent to be the best player to ever play at LSU. Those are quite the compliments to pay a freshman, but Tigers coach Les Miles and Fournette's teammates believe he can live up to the hype. "He has been compared to Adrian Peterson," LSU running back Terrence Magee said. "To be honest, I think it's the only guy that's playing the running back position right now that you can compare [Fournette] to." He wasn't the No. 1 recruit in the 2014 class for nothing, and Fournette should make an immediate impact in an offense looking for a bellcow back to replace Jeremy Hill.
Mark Richt
AP Photo/Butch DillGeorgia coach Mark Richt said that if the College Football Playoff is expanded beyond four teams, the regular season would have to be shortened.

HOOVER, Ala. -- The College Football Playoff will be centered on four teams, but coaches are already thinking about expansion.

The sport's new end-of-the-year playoff format currently has a 12-year lifespan, but in the event that more teams are added and more games are played during the college football season, some SEC coaches think the regular-season structure should be looked at and even shortened.

"I would hope that if it expands beyond this, we gotta look at the regular season," Georgia coach Mark Richt said as SEC media days concluded Thursday. "I think you have to reduce the regular [season]. A lot of people may not agree with that."

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze agreed with Richt, saying college football would have to cut into the regular season for the well-being of the student-athletes participating. Alabama's Nick Saban didn't exactly take a side on the matter, but he did say that if expansion comes, the sport should consider the toll more games would put on players.

"Not having thought much about it, I do think that for college players, with their age, with their responsibility to academics and the things they have to do that we're pretty much closing in on the limit of how many games they should be playing and how we can still fit them in," Saban said. "In our league, you'd have to win 15 games to win [the national championship in a playoff]. If you expand the playoff, you'd have to win more than that."


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HOOVER, Ala. -- It’s been eight months since last season's Georgia-Auburn game and the "Prayer at Jordan-Hare," but that play and that game are still fresh in the minds of many UGA players. They still can’t believe what happened.

“Yeah, it was crazy,” Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley said. “Just the way that game ended. It’s one of those plays you see on TV, and it just happened to you that game. There’s just nothing you can do.”

[+] EnlargeRicardo Louis
Shanna Lockwood/USA TODAY SportsEight months later, Georgia players are still trying to put Ricardo Louis' game-winning touchdown catch behind them.
“Nobody has really ever seen anything like that happen,” Georgia linebacker Ramik Wilson added. “Only on TV or another team. So it was hard, hard to accept. It was very unfortunate.”

The play everybody remembers, the one that can still be seen on sports shows -- it was up for best play during Wednesday’s ESPY awards -- is the 73-yard touchdown pass from Nick Marshall to Ricardo Louis on fourth down that put Auburn ahead late in the fourth quarter. The ball was batted in the air by a pair of Georgia defenders before Louis pulled it down in stride on his way to the end zone. But what people forget is the fourth-quarter comeback executed by the Bulldogs. It’s why head coach Mark Richt has no regrets when he looks back at the game.

“Our guys played their guts out,” Richt said. “You’re down 20 in the fourth quarter and you come back, rally at Auburn to take the lead. That was the greatest comeback in the fourth quarter in the history of the program. It’s just we didn’t win.

“We almost came back and won even after they scored. We went down the field again. I mean, what can you say? What can you say to the guys? Other than 'You guys were awesome.'”

Richt added that Auburn’s last-second win over Alabama two weeks later helped take some of the sting away from their game.

“Misery loves company,” he said.

The good news for Richt and the Bulldogs is that they get Auburn at home this season, and a number of players have already circled the Nov. 15 game on the schedule.

“It’s a game we look forward to playing,” Gurley said. “We haven’t played them at home in like two years. I never got a chance to play them at home. They’re coming to Athens this year. That’s going to be an exciting game.”
Roughly one out of every five players on Thursday's Doak Walker Award watch list comes from the SEC.

The conference did not have a finalist for the award, which goes to the top running back in college football, last season, as winner Andre Williams of Boston College and finalists Ka'Deem Carey (Arizona) and Bishop Sankey (Washington) hailed from the ACC and Pac-12. And of the 10 semifinalists, only Auburn's Tre Mason and South Carolina's Mike Davis came from the SEC.

That could easily change this season since the league is brimming with star-caliber tailbacks, as evidenced by the 11 SEC backs on the Doak Walker watch list, led by the two players whom the media selected to its preseason All-SEC first team this week at media days: Todd Gurley of Georgia and T.J. Yeldon of Alabama.

Here is the full list of 11 SEC candidates out of the 53 total players on the watch list:

Tra Carson, Texas A&M
Alex Collins, Arkansas
Mike Davis, South Carolina
Todd Gurley, Georgia
Derrick Henry, Alabama
Terrence Magee, LSU
Josh Robinson, Mississippi State
Kelvin Taylor, Florida
Jonathan Williams, Arkansas
Trey Williams, Texas A&M
T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
[+] EnlargeKeith Marshall
Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesGeorgia's Keith Marshall, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury on Oct. 5, has been cleared for contact for preseason practices.

HOOVER, Ala. -- The Georgia Bulldogs will be getting a couple of key pieces of their offense back in time for the season.

Coach Mark Richt said on Thursday that junior running back Keith Marshall, and junior receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley are recovering from ACL injuries they suffered last season and will go through fall practice, which starts in early August.

Marshall and Scott-Wesley both suffered their knee injuries in Georgia's 34-31 win over Tennessee on Oct. 5. Mitchell suffered his injury early in the Bulldogs' season-opening loss to Clemson.

Marshall started running this spring, but is cutting and will be able to take contact during preseason practice.

"Keith looks great," Richt said during the final day of SEC media days. "I've watched him run straight ahead; he looks outstanding in that area. I don't know if he'd say he's 100 percent today, but he has no limitations whatsoever in his training. He can run routes, he can pass [skeleton], he can do anything.


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SEC Media Days Live (10 a.m.-4 p.m. ET)

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
8:00
AM ET
It's the unofficial start of college football season as media events kick off with the biggest one of all, the four-day SEC circus in Hoover, Alabama. Keep this page open throughout today's proceedings as we bring you all of the latest from our array of reporters, who will cover all 14 teams at the event.

 
HOOVER, Ala. -- The fourth and final day of SEC media days will likely be a circus with Alabama coming through, but there will be no shortage of storylines on all four teams in attendance Thursday. Let's take a look.

Georgia (10 a.m. ET): The expectations are high for this team, but if you ask Mark Richt who he has left in the secondary, it might take him a minute to respond. Josh Harvey-Clemons and Tray Matthews were both dismissed from the team, and Shaquille Wiggins transferred away from the program. That leaves the Bulldogs extremely thin on the back end, but star linebacker Ramik Wilson, who will be on hand Thursday, is back for another season. Wilson led the SEC last season with 133 tackles. On offense, it's all about Todd Gurley. If he's healthy, he's one of the best running backs in college football. However, Aaron Murray is no longer there, which means it's now up to Hutson Mason to take the reigns at quarterback. Between questions about the dismissals and questions about Mason, Richt will be plenty busy Thursday.

Ole Miss (10:30 a.m.): Are the Rebels ready to take that next step? Hugh Freeze surprised everybody, including himself, when he led his team to a bowl game in his first season, and he was able to duplicate that success last year. But with veteran quarterback Bo Wallace returning and 10 starters back on defense, a bowl game might not be good enough this season. They have the talent and experience to compete in a stacked SEC West. The other major talking point for Thursday will be the sensational freshman class from a year ago. The likes of Tony Conner, Evan Engram, Robert Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell and Laremy Tunsil are all a year older, which is good news for Ole Miss fans but bad news for opponents. Treadwell, in particular, could be in line for a huge season with Donte Moncrief now in the NFL.

Alabama (12:10 p.m.): This edition of SEC media days will have a different feel for Alabama if for no other reason than the Crimson Tide aren't defending national champs for the first time in a while. How will the team respond to losing back-to-back games to end last season? And, maybe more important, how will it deal with the manner it lost to Auburn, falling to its bitter rival in the most dramatic way possible? Alabama coach Nick Saban will no doubt have an eye toward the future and the redemption it holds. But first he'll have to answer questions about a rebuilt secondary, two new starters on the offensive line, and the biggest question mark of all -- quarterback. It's safe to assume the starting job is Jacob Coker's. Just don't be surprised when Saban scoffs at the assumption.

Kentucky (1:40 p.m.): Recruiting, recruiting, recruiting. If you're looking for a main storyline to follow with the Wildcats on Thursday, it's how well Mark Stoops and his staff have done on the recruiting trail and how that's beginning to pay dividends on the football field. The top-to-bottom talent isn't quite there to compete with the upper echelon of the SEC yet, but it's on the right path. And maybe with a few surprise players and a break here or there, Kentucky might play the role of spoiler in 2014. Za'Darius Smith and Alvin Dupree are two of the more underrated defensive players in the league, and Jojo Kemp and Javess Blue are two similarly under-the-radar playmakers on offense. Nebraska transfer Braylon Heard could provide some much needed depth at tailback, and Drew Barker has the skill set to play immediately at quarterback as a true freshman. But how will Stoops put all those pieces together? His program is improving with each recruiting class, but it needs time to mature.
We're nearly finished rolling out the college football award watch lists. By the end of the week, the lists for 14 of the biggest awards will be public knowledge.

Today's watch list is for the Davey O'Brien Award, which goes to the nation's top college quarterback.

The SEC accounted for two of the three finalists for the award last season -- Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Alabama's AJ McCarron, with Florida State's Jameis Winston winning -- but both SEC finalists are earning NFL paychecks these days. Their departures are part of the widespread quarterback turnover that has taken place in the conference this season.

Nonetheless, the SEC still boasts five of the 39 quarterbacks on the O'Brien watch list, and Georgia's Hutson Mason is the only member of the group who is among the conference's many first-year starters.

Here's the list:

Jeff Driskel, Florida
Nick Marshall, Auburn
Hutson Mason, Georgia
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Bo Wallace, Ole Miss
video

HOOVER, Ala. -- In a move to further protect players from dangerous hits, the SEC has defined a "strike zone" from below the neck to above the knees in which an unabated defender may attempt to tackle an "offensive player in a passing posture."

"This is a player safety issue," said Steve Shaw, the SEC's coordinator of officials.

Shaw, who spoke at SEC media days Wednesday, said the rule to protect quarterbacks from being hit below the knees will be enforced regardless of whether the hit occurs inside or outside the pocket. A penalty will not be called, however, if a defender is blocked into the quarterback.

"When a player is under his own power, he's directing his hit and he chooses to go low, that is going to be a foul," Shaw said.

"This rule change, I think, will create the player behavior change."

Shaw also touched on last season's controversial targeting penalty in his address, calling it "the biggest change of my officiating career."

Last season, the NCAA changed the penalty for targeting defenseless players with hits to the head by adding an ejection to the 15-yard penalty.

"What were the results of that?" he said. "Well, first of all, let me say we simply had to change player behavior for the good of the game. I believe we started to see this type of player behavior change that we were looking for."

Shaw said "the trend is good," citing fewer targeting penalties in the second half of last season. Shaw said 14 targeting calls were made in the first eight weeks last season and only five after that.

One change to the rule is that both the ejection and 15-yard penalty can be overturned if officials decide upon review that the foul was incorrectly called.

Shaw did point out, though, that the 15-yard penalty will stand if another foul occurs on the same play.


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SEC Media Days Live (10 a.m.-5 p.m. ET)

July, 16, 2014
Jul 16
10:00
AM ET
It's the unofficial start of college football season as media events kick off with the biggest one of all, the four-day SEC circus in Hoover, Alabama. Keep this page open throughout today's proceedings as we bring you all of the latest from our array of reporters, who will cover all 14 teams at the event.

 

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